Into the Woods

I went to Canada, into the woods, and thought I was going on vacation. How wrong I was.

I expected fun, laughter, and trees. I got all of that. Fun was had, in a variety of forms. There was laughter. The grey mists against the deep greens of the trees and floating on the surface of the lake fed the Alaskan part of my soul. The camp site was not as spectacular as I’d hoped and the food wasn’t very good. But it was the surprises…… Oh, the surprises.

Lake Sasamat

Lake Sasamat

The first great surprise was mead. I’d never had mead before. It seemed like every Canadian brought mead, most made their own, and it was good. One new friend is an exceptionally gifted mead maker; his pomegranate mead was divine. It made a fitting offering to the Red Goddess. I also discovered something called St. Germain, which tastes like spring flowers at sunrise.

The second surprise was meeting the founder of the Pomegranate: International Journal of Pagan Studies. Many Pagans are very smart and well-read, but I wasn’t expecting to get my academic geek on.

The third surprise was the rituals. I have mixed experience with ritual. Most of it bad, bland and ineffective. Occasionally, distasteful. Thankfully, the main ritual leaders, the Coru Cathubodua, come from Anderson Feri backgrounds (as do I) and so their style was familiar and welcome to me. The main ritual, while not particularly spiritually profound for me, was perhaps the best ritual theatre I have ever experienced. It was not all that elaborate, rather the simplicity of the ritual allowed the power and beauty of bodies, chant, and fire to express the heart of primal Paganism.

The last ritual I attended was the Women’s Mysteries ritual. I was doubtful. I love being a female bodied, child-bearing woman, but I loathe gender essentialism and the false dichotomy that ‘women’s mysteries’ and ‘men’s mysteries’ all too often entail. I need not have worried. The ritual was beautiful, powerful, profound. I think each woman stood taller and stronger afterward. Another surprise here, besides having positive ritual experience, was that I felt the Blessed Virgin make an appearance. After such a long absence, she snuck up on me and asked that I recognize her. And then the starry crown she wore, bathed in blue, merged with the Red Goddess, and I learned of her/their power of Love. She gave me much to think about, to feel about, to sort out.

Lastly, my single greatest surprise was the community. Community has long been a source of confusion for me. It is a core value for me. I am fiercely loyal and love strongly. The older I get the more I realize just how little we ever do on our own. We rise higher because of the tallest around us, and we all suffer and struggle a little more if those around suffer and struggle. But moving around makes it hard to commit. These days my strongest community are my liked minded friends, but we are spread out over the world, interacting through blogs, email and Facebook. I have missed in person connection something fierce. While I expected to meet new friends, I was not expecting to find what can only be described as a home.

The Canadian Pagan community of lower BC is unlike any community I’ve ever experienced. I was overwhelmed at first. I realized, at 37, that I am introvert. It took me a full 24 hours to feel comfortable. In fact, on my first morning I sat by the fire for three hours wondering why I had come and wishing I was back at home. I felt like I had crashed a family reunion. I felt uncomfortable including myself in other people’s conversations. They all knew each other so well and were so happy to see each other.

And then….. I clicked in. I inserted myself when I could. I chose a few people to go deep with. I let myself be confused. I forced nothing.

While there was a certain amount of cliqueishness and some obvious snubbing (no community is perfect, sigh), I felt an acceptance that I have rarely seen at other similar gatherings. I could be as bold or as shy, as wild or as tame as I needed to be; the other attendees accepted and encouraged each person to have the experience they needed to have.

I also witnessed leadership that greatly impressed me. I saw the strength of this community in their firm commitment to their vision for the Gathering, fully committed to where they’ve come from and their ideals, but equally committed to growing the community and encouraging diversity. The fact that people from as far away as Montana, Minnesota and Arizona have made this group in Canada part of their spiritual community speaks the loudest to me. I already drive 140 miles round trip each month for a tiny community of fellow students and my teachers. Now I ask myself, am I willing to drive 4 hours each way for a larger community?

I don’t know if I want to commit to that. But if I choose to commit to this community, I feel like I would be welcomed with joyful, open arms. I get the strongest sense that if I choose to commit the rewards would be great. I look forward to seeing how these new relationships and connections develop and unfold in the coming months.

I went into the woods, and magic was made, woven, consumed. I went into the woods and did not get a vacation, I found something far more transformational.

 

 

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Further thoughts on being a householder

One of the things I didn’t get into in my last post on being a householder and homemaker was how amazing a spiritual journey pregnancy and childbirth are. I wrote my last post from where I’m standing currently: parent to a nearly 5 yr old and a freshly 2 yr old. Yet, I learned so much from growing, birthing, and sustaining a new life.*

Madonna lactans, Jean Fouquet

Madonna lactans, Jean Fouquet

I found my naturally heady and airy self more grounded and physically present in my body while pregnant. I struggled with the limitations of a growing belly and the way my energy levels fluctuated while pregnant. But the profound mystery of not only containing another living being within my own body, but creating it from out of my own flesh, bone and blood was mind-blowing and theology altering. The messy, painful, miraculous event of childbirth is a dance with death. Breastfeeding is a blur between the sensual and the necessary. Being a biological mother has been the most pagan thing I’ve ever done.

Being a nun or monk would exclude this way of knowing. Being a householder has been my way to engage more physically in this world and this flesh.

My partner and I debate a third child every now and again. I feel in my gut this is what I want. I think with my brain that it is not wise. I admit, as much as I struggle with pregnancy and as much as birth hurts, I want to experience it again. I want that intimacy with my body; I want that powerful feeling that I am a Creator; I want to feel that connection with/as the Holy Mother.

Madonna del parto

Madonna del parto

It’s a little selfish, I admit. The magic of life is intoxicating and beautiful.

 

*I will gladly sing the praises of unmedicated childbirth, midwives, homebirth, and extended breastfeeding, and then back it all up with science. This in no way means I devalue hospital births, c-sections, and formula feeding. Nor do I think that birthing is the most important way a woman becomes a mother. Nor do I think that parents are more spiritual than those who choose not to have children. These are divisive issues, and I feel it necessary to clarify these points.

My thoughts and predictions on the state of the Papacy

I got online yesterday morning and couldn’t figure out why so many people were talking about the Pope. I don’t have too many Catholic friends on Facebook. Was he dead? Many of my friends pay attention to religion in some form. What I found was even more surprising.

At this point, you may be aware that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. From what I understand it’s the first time in around 600 years that’s happened. The last time was during the Schism – a period of time when the Papacy was contested and a second pope set up shop in Avignon, France. It’s not like popes just resign if they aren’t feeling up to the task. This is a job that people keep until they die. So I find Benedict’s resignation many times more interesting and troubling.

Albrecht Dürer's Mater Dolorosa, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Albrecht Dürer’s Mater Dolorosa, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Why troubling? The ROman Catholic Church is struggling. And well it should! In the face of widespread injustice and abuse to children it has turned a blind eye and refused to take responsibility. Its avoidance of justice has cost the Church billions and brought added shame upon itself. I can think of nothing less Christ-like than the papacy. If the popes are to be Christ’s representatives on earth, they are doing an abysmal job. How does a lineage of white, hyper-educated Europeans heading an institution wealthier than many small countries represent an illiterate, poor, anti-estasblishment Palestinian Jewish carpenter?

The deepest pessimist in me wonders what new revelations will come to light in the next 12-18 months. I don’t think Benedict himself is guilty of impropriety. I can’t say why, but that’s my gut. I don’t think he is being ‘pushed out.’ But I’m wary. What new scandal is waiting in the wings?

There is a set of prophecies from a 12th century monk coming up in some discussions about Benedict’s resignation. Supposedly he is the last pope and after this the Church will crumble. If this is the case I will both rejoice and mourn. As I am about many things, particularly in the Christian world, I am conflicted.

I have no love for Benedict. As a graduate student studying theology I had to read quite a bit of then Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings (who he was before becoming Pope). He was and is a legalistic conservative. I deplore the direction he has taken the Roman Church. It is increasingly concerned with its image, its institution and its rules over the lives of women, children and the poor. In my opinion, the Catholic Church is failing its flock.

This makes me sad. The Catholic Church is an easy target if someone wants to Christian bash. The institution has done a lot of horrible things in the name of God and continues to run from justice and mercy in the name of (self)righteousness. But the Church is also really beautiful.

I’ve spent a lot of my adult years reading Catholic theology, from the Church fathers to contemporary thinkers. My academic speciality was the Virgin Mary. I very nearly converted to Catholicism when I was 23 out of a love for Our Lady. The Catholic Church has been the supporter and inspiration for a vast amount of art, music and literature – things I hold dear to my heart. The Church has found a way to incorporate myriad cultures and representations fo the Divine Feminine.

What I’d love to see is the Church revitalized. I’d love to see a much more liberal church. Of course, that kind of radical change takes time and necessarily moves slowly, but I’d love to see the Church even beginning those discussions. I want to see nuns supported, women allowed to be priests, clergy to be married, non-heterosexuals embraced, and extensive humility in the face of and justice for the victims of the sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and others in the Church’s pay.

But that won’t happen. This is an opportunity for that. I see people in the news or on Facebook saying ‘let this be the time!’ But it won’t be. I am pessimistic – realistically so, I think. The Roman Catholic Church has avoided all opportunities for healing and growth. Under Benedict’s leadership the Church has battened down its hatches even more – a defensive position against the modern world.

I also don’t expect the prophecies to be true. I suspect there will be a struggle over identity as the Cardinals choose the next pope. I think there will be a strong push for an African, mostly because that is where the Church is experiencing the most growth (last I read) and because that area is much, much more conservative than just about anywhere else in the Christian world. Ultimately I don’t think the Catholic Church is ready for a black leader. Perhaps a South American? A friend suggested a nice Europeanish Argentinian. That would make a lot of sense.

I’ll be watching and waiting, much like most of the rest of the world. May the ever-loving and always merciful Holy Mother look upon her people with love and strengthen their hearts in compassion and justice. Amen.

(This post was written while listening to Rossini’s Stabat Mater. It is only appropriate that we have a painting and a musical form involving the weeping of the Holy Mother, appropriately melodramatic.)

Honor the Hearth

I’ve actually got a large post brewing in me about vulnerability and writing, but I’ve not had the space to cultivate it. The kids are intensely clingy – all the change of travel gets to them, even though I am so lucky that they travel well. We’re back from Alaska but I’m preparing to leave again tomorrow for another trip for five days. This time alone, to California for a good friend’s wedding. Of course, there is much to be done to prepare myself and my home for my departure.

Which is a great segue into the next Delphic Maxim: honor the hearth (or Hestia).

Few of us have a hearth anymore – that central location bordering an open fire that serves as light, heat, and cooking spot. The hearth is the central symbol of the home, and I love my home. Not just the structure in which I and my family live, though this rental is pretty nice. But I love even the idea of home. While I love to travel and go out, I adore coming home, be it the greater geographical sense and the more personal space in which my family resides. Turns out that I’m a real home-body.

Thinking about ideas of home in society, I wonder if Americans haven’t conflated the idea of home with the physical house. We seem to worship the house, raising home ownership up as the Great American Dream. I can’t speak too much to this, as I don’t understand the recent housing crash or the world of finance, nor have I ever owned a home, but this conflation feels more a lie of capitalism than anything on which to build a life.

For me a home is a place where we take refuge, where we build ourselves up so that we might venture forth into the world. A home is a place of healing, rest, renewal, and all the cycles of life. As some one who has birthed a child at home, I take that cycle of life one seriously! Homes are not just places to store our stuff and sleep, they are places to cultivate our whole lives. In a religious context, this also means erecting places of devotion to our gods. All of our lives are present in our homes – or should be, ideally. I know that not all of us live in safe (or pleasing spaces. [May all who read this post find safety and refuge in their own homes, or may they find new homes where that can happen. Amen.]

I don’t have a formal relationship with Hestia, as a Greek Goddess, but if she is the spirit of the Home then I suppose she and I have been teaming up for a long time. For a long time, the Blessed Virgin Mary was my home goddess. In a way she still is. I have a small nook in the space between the dining and living rooms, where I keep some ancestor photos, a statue of Ganesh, and icons of Mary. For years I lit a candle and asked for blessings on the house and meal I was preparing [May this home be blessed and all who dwell here]. But since moving to this house I have forgotten to light the candle. Maybe it was the shift of the move? Maybe it’s because the altar is out of my view while I cook? Maybe that it’s that I just don’t pay much attention to Mary anymore? I’m not sure.

Ganesh has become the patron ‘saint’ of our home and family. We all make offerings and he is present in statue form in three rooms. It’s not an intimate relationship; I feel a little rude asking for his blessings so often these days – please help us with our finances, keep us safe in all our travels, may all the obstacles to these things be overcome, bless the house, etc. But he wants to be present, and so he is.

There’s a saying ‘a man’s house is his castle.’ I don’t like that analogy as I think of a fortress or some other impenetrable structure, as if the home is again relating to the building, not to those who live there. My home is my ashram. My sanctuary. My refuge. My hearth. I honor it by keeping it clean, welcoming, and a place of comfort. I honor my hearth by honoring myself and my practice and those who dwell within the walls.

May your home be a place of comfort and refuge to you too.

The Annunciation

Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation, one of my favorite Christian celebrations. I know, I’m not in my Christian quarter anymore, but Mary is a special lady and I wanted to mark this day. Seeing as how I didn’t go to church at all last quarter, I decided to take the kids to the nearby church. I thought maybe, just maybe, there would be some mention of the Holy Mother on her day. Of course there wasn’t.

Botticelli's Annunciation

Two blocks up a busy street from our house is Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. It’s a large (all the churches here seem to be compound sized) and rather attractive brick building. I like that the name is Latin. It’s an ELCA branch of Lutheranism which is the more liberal side of things, meaning LGBT people are welcome. The website said they had an organ and a choir, and I’m such a sucker for liturgy with music that I thought this could be a nice experience.

And it was! If I wanted to attend church, I would unreservedly attend here. Great people, beautiful sanctuary, nice organ and singing. They even had activity bags for the kids to keep them occupied. But I’m not Christian and I find Protestant liturgy so incredibly dull. My son was getting squirrelly during the sermon and I was hungry, so we left about half way through.

There was no mention of the Annunciation, no mention of Mary at all. And to think that Luther himself loved the Blessed Virgin! I should have gone to a Catholic church. My overriding thought was ‘Why do I do this to myself? Why do I keep coming back?’ Obviously I need a musical and liturgical outlet.

——

In addition to a tale of my failed attempt at church, I want to share something that I wrote six years. I was feeling more Christian then, but I think this piece still rings true for me even now. It’s a ‘homily’ I wrote about the Annunciation. I pretty much hate sermons and think that church liturgy is no place for them. But I offer you the following:

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

Tomorrow is the Annunciation, the day that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would be with child, that his name was to be Jesus, and he would be the Son of God. In many ways, this story can be seen as just another hokey tale made up by late-to-the-gospel-game Luke. Perhaps like Dan Brown, Luke was inspired by a previous story and needed to spice up the details so as to avoid possible plagiarism lawsuits.

It can also be seen as a patriarchal takeover of a woman’s body. In some feminist circles this is the most obvious way to interpret this story. A male god decides to reproduce, picks a young virgin, and impregnates her without her consent. Divine Rape, one might say. In this light the Annunciation is another example Christianity’s disdain for women. This viewpoint sees Mary’s unimportance as supported by the lack of any mention of her in the other gospels, with the relatively minor exceptions of the wedding at Cana and at the crucifixion proving the point.

I have come to see this story differently. I think this is one story in which early Christianity’s views on women (radical for their time) remain in Christian heritage. Christianity is not known for its feminist agenda, and while many great spiritual men have exhorted Christians to peace or reminded us of God’s preferential option for the poor, in its early days Christianity had a revolutionary new way of treating women. They were to be treated with all respect, not as property, which was common practice of the day. They were given religious freedoms unheard of in the pagan or Jewish traditions of the time. I think that much of this power was left out or deliberately stripped away as Christianity became codified in the early centuries. But there is no denying that hints remain in the New Testament; women are seen sharing in ministry: as deaconesses, as prophets, as apostles.

The story of the Annunciation is one of these passages that hint at us of early Christianity’s respect for women; it gives us a glimpse of how God interacts in the world, and it provides us with another lens with which to interpret Lent and our lead in to Easter.

While Luke never mentions her age, Mary would have been anywhere from 12 to 15 years of age. She was a virgin, betrothed to Joseph. In some unexpected moment she was found alone – not accompanied by a gaggle of girls or chaperoned by a male family member. In this moment God spoke to Mary through the angel. Like all smart women, she was suspicious of this unfamiliar character.

28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

This interaction is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the audacity of God to spring this on such a young woman! Hey, guess what! You’re pregnant! Secondly is the amazing fact that God did not speak with her father, her brothers, or Joseph – all the men that in this age can lay claim to her. He went directly to Mary. She was an autonomous being, she was approached as a person of worth.

Mary, however, remained skeptical. 34″How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Mary questioned God. She didn’t run away frightened, she didn’t instantaneously acquiesce. She questioned, and in return Gabriel answered her; she was not smote for unbelief or heresy.

35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

At any point Mary could have run away, or even have said no. God was telling her what was to be, but she could have walked away. Instead, she looked at the mystery of God and accepted: 38″I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”

This to me is an example of faith and strength, though not a flashy faith, nor the kind of strength that leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Rather it is an example of what is required in those quiet moments when we have to look at mystery head on and make a choice. Mary could not have fully understood what the consequences of this acceptance were going to be, but she chose anyway. No one made the choice for her. She didn’t run home to ask her parents’ permission, nor her best friends’ opinions. She made a choice for herself. God spoke, she questioned, she listened, she chose. She could have said no. Maybe God approached one or two other women before Mary and they said no. We have no idea, but we know about Mary because she said yes.

Because of this choosing new life sprouted where there shouldn’t have been life. A virgin pregnant is rationally absurd. But with God all things are possible! Through Mary’s choosing, in her yes to God, she allowed something new to grow within her. For this reason this story is a perfect holyday to celebrate in the midst of Lent. We are in the full flush of spring. The rains are nourishing the plants; the sun is restoring the earth and all that dwells in it. Celebrating Lent we are making way for the new growth in our lives, symbolized by Easter and the resurrection of Life. In the meantime, we may have to make a choice, or many choices. Do we say yes to this new growth, whatever it may be? Can we question the choices placed before us with the confidence that we are beloved by God and that there is no wrong answer? Mary’s example to us on this day is not one of meek obedience, simply cowed before an authoritarian god. Her example is one of faith and strength, present even in that which is considered weak. We are all called to meet God, to interact with God, and to participate in the life-giving activity of God.

Let us go forward in faith and embrace whatever new life is growing in us this season.
Amen.

Fifteen Years in the Wrong Shoes – part five

This is the final post in my ‘testimony’ series. (You can follow the links to parts one, two, three, and four.)

My family landed in Wales in the early autumn of 2009. It was a grand adventure. Husband had never been to Wales before; I had been once for three days two years prior. But the gods said go, so we went.

The rational reason for our moving to Wales was that I wanted to be nearer to my adviser and the academic community while working on my PhD. My area of specialty was the Virgin Mary, particularly feminist Mariology, and the woman at this particular university was one of the few people anywhere in the world focusing on this type of work. My topic was Marian co-redemption.

My husband and I love to travel and thought this was a great opportunity to explore someplace new. We went over on my student visa and our child was small enough not to be disrupted either in his social life or his schooling. But really we went because we felt ‘called.’

After getting settled, into house, into routine, I started work on my degree in earnest. I had an office which I shared at the top of the religions building. I worked in the mornings and my husband cared for our son, and then we would switch in the afternoons.

I began making some friends. It turned out that there were three other Feri practitioners in Wales (one student, one almost initiate and one Reclaiming Feri initiate). All were within an hour’s drive and one lived two blocks from me. Introductions were made by mutual acquaintances online. My first autumn there I had what was my first ‘definitive’ experience with the gods.

I started to sing with the Church of Wales chapel choir. Even though I was more personally identified with Feri at this point I still kept a toe in the Christian world.

But our time in Wales was our time in the desert. It was our crucible. The university I was a part of was merging with other universities and my department was gutted. My adviser was fired two weeks after I arrived. In the spring I lost my office and had no where to work or store my books. First the library, then my kitchen table. I transferred schools to follow my adviser. I ended up at a much better department at university in London, but there was no way our family could afford to move there, so I may as well have been back in the States doing the degree!

We had very few friends. The community we were in was not the best fit for us. This is not to say that it isn’t lovely and the people wonderful. It was a mutual ill-fit and an acknowledgement that Americans don’t easily fit into the British social scene, that Americans don’t have an easy place in a community carved up by Welsh-English divides, and that a family isn’t a good fit for a university culture. My husband and I spent A LOT of time together. Many of our weaknesses were brought the forefront. Our first summer there was particularly difficult. But by not having any other distractions we were forced to deal with things. We were made stronger as a unit.

My husband started his own business right before we moved. Building up his skills, clientele, and confidence while in a new country after having just endured a very expensive move meant we were barely scraping by financially. That was stressful.

And I got pregnant with our second child. One more complication in the mix!

My academic work was slowing down. My enthusiasm for the work was waning. I was tired of reading anti-feminist treatises – both ancient and modern. I was feeling more and more distant from the Virgin Mary. She wasn’t the focus of my devotion anymore. I wasn’t enjoying singing at the church and I particularly didn’t care for all the Lord-ly, kingly, martial language employed by the Bible readings. I felt really disconnected from all things Christian. Personally, I had given up on the term. I don’t know when it occurred but at some point during that first year in Wales I gave up using that term as a personal identifier. But my academic work was firmly and fully embedded in the Christian tradition.

Deep in winter, fully into my second year in Wales and hugely pregnant I started to wrestle with the idea of quitting my PhD program. The work that had seemed so important, the work that kept getting unexpected assistance when it got stuck, the work that had seemed so vibrant to me, went cold. I thought that perhaps this work had just been the ploy to get us to Wales, to force us into the verdant desert. I did a tarot reading about my degree. That reading revealed that for the sake of my greater spiritual growth I would indeed quit my program.

Now, I not only had to come to terms with shedding an old outdated self-identifier (Christian), but I had to wrestle with the idea of letting go of my PhD program. I have wanted a PhD since I was 12. I don’t know who I was trying to impress, but all these years I’ve felt I’ve had to prove something. To some one. Probably myself. What would I do if I didn’t keep going in academia? Would I ‘just’ be a stay-at-home mother? Oh, there was some internalized anti-feminist thinking I needed to unravel!

I spent a lot of time in meditation in the last weeks of my pregnancy. Our family life mirrored the pregnancy in many ways. Late in our second autumn my husband’s business began to take off. We were wrestling with the big challenges in our relationship and life together. We had little to do except ask the big questions and stew in the confusion.

Then the baby was born. It was a beautiful birth – a safe, healthy and peaceful home birth (a million thanks to the NHS). Spring was spent adjusting to this new addition to the family; I had to physically recover. And figure out what to do next.

And really, this leads me up to my first post for this blog. If not a Christian, what is my practice? If not a grad student, what is my work? This blog has helped me immensely with both of these questions.

The Virgin Mary will always have a place of honor in my home. I feel like she was the vehicle for a stronger divine voice (oh Mary, you are so often the vessel for other divine voices) that has been leading all these years. She was the way I could enter more fully into the Christian tradition, and it was through her that I heard the voice of the Great Mother for so long.

Looking back there was no single point where I decided once for all ‘I am not a Christian.’ It’s been a slow, but not unsurprising, reveal. In some ways it was like being in a quiet, safe relationship (Christianity), developing some new friends (feminism and Paganism) and after a while realizing that I’ve been in love with someone else for a long time (witchcraft).

I spent fifteen years in the wrong shoes. I am grateful I had shoes at all for the journey. I’ve learned a lot from Christianity – language, stories, myth, theological tools and insights, personal practices, such as prayer, contemplation, compassion, discernment, textual analysis, etc. But the shoes never fit quite right and I never thought to exchange them for a new pair. But now I’ve taken that old pair and retired them. I’ve got new shoes on. I need to break them in – or they need to break me in. But they fit better and I’m excited to climb the rest of the way up this mountain.

New home, new altars

Last night’s full moon was the kick in the pants I needed to get all my altars set up! We’ve got all the furniture we’re getting for a while. We’re Officially Moved In to our new home. I decided that I would use the full moon and all the energy from the solar flares – plus I had had a FULL NIGHT’S SLEEP (first one in over a year) – and bless all the altars.

Family altar

This is our family altar. In the passage between the living and dining rooms there is this curved space, where the phone box used to be. I’ve turned it into our house hold altar. The Virgin Mary stands on the left in several forms: pretty prayer card for La Virgin de Guadalupe (patron saint of North America), glow in the dark plastic form, and icon of the Theotokos. I may not be a Christian anymore, but it is her love and guidance that kept me in that tradition for as long as I was and she opened opportunities for me. I am grateful to her and she will ever have a place in my home.

Next is a white ramekin for offerings. I hope to replace this with a nice offering plate, once I find one. We then have a statue of Ganesh, patron saint/god of our family. This was my son’s statue and he offered to the family.

On the far right is the picture of my name-sake and grandmother. I have a little ancestor section in my main altar case, but I felt that family ought to be together! So she is out with us. My son says good morning to her sometimes. But mostly wants to know why and how she died (in a car accident in 1954).

Ganesh on my desk

 

Moving into my office, we have a picture of a corner of my desk. Ganesh did not want to be put in the case. He’s very clear about where he wants to be. This photo is from this morning. I’m burning some sandalwood incense. Around him is a ceramic heart my son made in preschool, a penny for the first offering (I need a plate), and a vial of perfume. The green candle is one I burn while I write and I have the owl standing guard there too.

 

 

Mary's spot on my personal altar

Here we have Mary’s place on the top left of my altar case. Icons and pictures of icons. The triptych up on the wall is the Nativity, Mary with Child, and the Resurrection. Photos on the cabinet that you can’t see are of a statue of Mary at Shrine of St Therese in Juneau Alaska. I have a beautiful wooden rosary, given to me by a friend in Ireland years ago. A bottle of perfume for the Virgin (smells like lilies!), and some rocks that I’ve mentioned before. The flower is fake – let us not speak of it.

 

Mary at the Shrine of St Therese

Finally, we have the body of my main altar case. This is what I see when I sit down. I burn candles in front of it, so I don’t burn the house down. The whole thing is very unfinished. I realize I got rid of so many items when we moved, that I have to start over. Oh darn, I have to hunt for new altar items.

Main altar case

The top shelf has peacock feathers. The middle shelf has some ancestor and Might Dead items. The middle has a picture of Kali, offerings of a fresh clementine and a shot of port. The right side has pictures of the Queen of the Night (ancient Iraqi relief) and Saraswati. Below are books, a wand I never use (I bought it in Scotland, it’s beautiful), my cup and a singing bowl.