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Stop being civil.

When people mock you, physically or verbally attack you, and belittle your passions, your thoughts and your very existence, *you do not have to be civil.*

Many of us — women in particular, but most non-dominant groups — are taught at a young age to “make nice,” to smooth over differences with aggressive white males, ostensibly for our own protection. When they strike, we are supposed to find common ground, and to take it — whether it’s from strangers, people in uniforms or family members.

That’s how they keep power: By colonizing the mind.

So stop. Point out the lies they’re trying to pass off as truth. Point out their insults, and turn their blades right back on them. Speak louder when they try to shut you up. (Ever try to talk over an opera singer?)

When they try to hit you, throw them to the floor — hard. Turn their own weapons and their own energy against them. And don’t feel guilty: If they weren’t trying to hurt you in the first place, they wouldn’t be getting hurt when you turn their energy back.

And not just strangers, or random people on the Internet. It’s even more important to act this way toward verbally and/or physically aggressive people who claim to love or like you, who claim the title of family or friend. But know this: You *choose* your family and friends. Ties of blood mean nothing more than the interlocking strands of DNA, and friends who debate your right to exist and live freely are not friends at all. (Hint: Take out the r and you have the right word.)

Live like a warrior, because you are one.

The night lies heavy now, a starless quilt
that holds the gloom close. Candles in windows
call the errant soul home and light the way.

Know, too, that the geese are still flying south,
writing their great letter in the dawn sky.
See the field mouse creeping across the road.

See the goldfinch and his mate greet the Sun.
Know, too, that She is pushing back the night
minute by minute each sunset and dawn.

clent_standing_stones_winter_sunset

Clent standing stones, winter sunset, by Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

The snow drifts down, light and powdery with the breath of the cold. Dawn tarries and night hurries in.

Now is the time of Meán Geimhridh, what the Henge of Keltria terms the Feast of Rebirth. Traditionally, we honor the Dagda (the Good God, as in “good at everything”) and Brighid (her name has been interpreted as “exalted” or “she who rises”) for this feast day.

If you have Keltria’s Book of Ritual, you’ll notice that they don’t include suggestions for “Grove’s Choice” for the Feast of Rebirth; you’re meant to come up with your own ideas here. Grove’s Choice is essentially the symbolic act at the heart of the ceremony, and is up to the practitioners; since most people operate as solitaries, I like to call it the meat (or tofu) of ritual.

So, what’s my tofu like for Meán Geimhridh?

This year, I’m doing something different: Making a set of prayer beads, according to the instructions set forth in Lunaea Weatherstone’s Tending Brigid’s FlameThe making of the beads is part of the ritual. From my script:

I call upon you, Brighid Bean-Goibhne, Brighid the Smith, for your inspiration in this work. I call upon you, Dagda, the Good God, who is good at all things. Bless my work.

Afterwards, I will immediately use the beads for their intended purpose. Later on in the rite, I will also light candles and chant to strengthen the waxing light, which is something I do every year. The chant (which I always sing, rather than speak) comes from the lore, although the melody is my own:

Peace up to the sky

Sky down to earth

Earth beneath heaven

Strength to everyone

The prayer beads are a new innovation. We’ll see how it goes this year. As I make the beads, I plan to play a mix CD I made for Brighid some years back. (Yes, I do make mix-tapes for the Gods. I also have a Morrigan mix and Aonghus Og mix about.)

In previous years, I’ve tried different innovations. I’ve honored Brighid as the Goddess of the Hearth and the Dagda as the Lord of Abundance by holding the ritual in the kitchen, baking bannock and meditating on the Gods of the Season while the bannock baked. I’ve done a trance-meditation on the light reaching the spiral in the heart of Brugh na Boinne (Newgrange).

When White Cat Grove was more than just me, I also had each member present write a blessing on a slip of paper and put it in the bowl; they included such things as health, warmth, financial security, right livelihood, etc. Here’s the meditation:

Dagda, the Good God, has a cauldron from plenty from which none ever go hungry. He is the father that feeds the tribe, lover and protector and nourisher. The Red One of Knowlege bestows blessings without stinginess, without fail, for all those who seek. And so, in this time of cold, let each of us follow example, granting blessings in a time of darkness.

What blessings does the world need most — you, your family, your Druid sisters? Ask not for yourselves, but as the bestower of blessing. When the Dagda’s spirit moves you, take up the paper and pen and grant four blessings on separate slips of paper. Then fold them and out them in the offering bowl

At the end of the meditation, each of us took one slip to show the Gods’ blessings on our own lives. The rest went into the offering fire.

These are just some of the ways I cook my ritual-tofu for the Feast of Rebirth. Feel free to use any of these ideas, and to share your own!

yule

Photo by Cypresseyes

Name Poem: An exercise

I recently finished Lunaea Weatherstone’s Tending Brigid’s Flame, a truly wonderful book about my matron Goddess. I can’t recommend it enough, truly.

One of the many explorations and exercises Weatherstone recommends is the creation of a name-poem, similar in spirit to the Song of Amergin or the Song of Taliesin. The poem captures your essence of self — your attributes, perhaps the turning-points in your life if you choose to include them — in imagery that speaks to your spirit.

Weatherstone doesn’t go into the purpose of the poem, specifically, but I imagine it can be used to give strength when you are weary and courage when you are afraid. It sings the soul back home, and changes when you feel that you need to change it — like your life.

My name-poem follows. What is yours?

 

I am the fox that escapes every hound

the speckled veery on its forest perch

the tune of a song threaded by birds

 

I am the ink that scribes the words of truth

the artisan of the air, beading words

and music into a vast creation

 

I was born of blossoms in the sun’s heat

the much-cherished daughter of the heavens

who bears a name of ill-repute and boldness

 

I am a warrior of the wind

who lands no blows but sends the opponent

into the diamond net of gravity

 

I am the pale phantom and the noose

whose borrowed name asks: “Who is like god?”

I am the namer and the describer.

 

I am the walker in dreams, the changer

behind the veil of sleep, the traveler

in my coracle of harp string and drum

 

I am a fisher-cat for fierceness

and an owl for grace. I am the great leaves

of borage, the blue stars of its bloom

 

I am an oak tree, a green stone, a stoat,

a spear, the strength of the arm and the foot

I am a priestess of flame and delight

 

I hold the dream-spear of the Red Woman

I wield the sword of the Fisher King

I serve at the altars of all the Gods

the_arts_poetry

“Poetry”, part of the series The Arts, by Alphonse Mucha (1898) via Wikimedia Commons

As part of my spiritual practice, I write a daily poem about things that I’m mulling over, or which have touched me. They are always nine lines — except for the occasional longer poems, when I have the inspiration — with each line typically comprised of nine syllables. (This, too, can vary but typically doesn’t.)

Here’s a selection of my musings over the past week.

North and South

We should have left one another then.

You wanted to own people, although

you cannot admit that now and turn

 

your eyes away with a hot curse when

I bring it up. I was fine with

dirt and factories and spinning mills

 

and all matter of bullshit as long

as we weren’t putting people in chains.

Long years and still the argument persists.

 

After the coup

In the days after the coup, the sky

shone its usual hue of eggshell blue,

above streets with unaccustomed silence.

 

We smile thinly and make our purchases,

wondering beneath our masks: Was it you?

The banners supporting the insurgent

 

no longer flutter, and the powerful

seal their lips shut when we point to their theft.

And everyone wonders: Was it you, friend?

 

Pogrom

Maybe we will sleep again without

half an ear awake for the sound of boots,

the knock – curt, professional – on the door.

 

We cannot trust our eyes to close and then

the world assemble itself into its

usual shapes when they drift open.

 

The neighbor that held the door wields a knife.

Their compliments on your casserole sift –

writing on the sand, washed away by hate

 

Birds’ nests

When the wind and cold steal the rags

from the trees, their branches shiver

to hide their nakedness, their long limbs –

 

and revealed are the nests, twig-twined orbs

in every crotch and crevasse, great

and small with the remnants of eggshells

 

and shed feathers an shit. Winter

reveals the armature of spring,

chaos and death the seed of the song.

 

Notes during wartime

First remember who you were. Remember

all the things you said you wouldn’t do.

Remember who you were before you did them.

 

Remember the things you said when speech

winged as free and far as chimney swifts.

Remember all the facts you learned from books

 

and stern teachers, the ones who challenged you.

But first, remember who you were – and are.

This is of the utmost importance.

 

Before the storm

The skies are bluest before the storm

the day most beautiful before the turn

to darkness and winter and freezing cold.

 

Like a Victorian maiden with her eyes

luminous, her complexion rosy

as consumption settles wanly in –

 

Red skies at morning, sailor take warning:

How magnificent the cresting swell,

the glass cave as it envelopes you!

The rail grinder

The stars come down with the screen of steel -- 
galaxies thrown wide, sound and fury.
The rail grinder pares the iron road
to perfection, if you survive it --

You are melting in the forge, the kiln stoked--
You are broken and remade anew
your impieties crumbling, charring--
You are coal. You are liquid. You are struck

again and again, thirsting for oasis,
a bucket, an ocean, a pond.
When steel meets steel, even the rocks burn.
You are perfection, if you survive it --

The horses race the cursus of your heart
panting, redfaced, burning with sweat. You are
running freely now, hurtling toward the wall
the iron horse that cannot slow, oh!

Eyes cannot assemble the pieces.
The scene: Guernica. Here is your nose
stuck to a knee, a black braid, an eye,
the angles folding like a pocket map--

All the wicks are lit and the pillar
seeps through the cracks in its glass cage. Watch
the wax as it hardens, making shapes --
Your name, written by Madam Tussaud

and a gun. The night horse hurtles toward
the horizon in parallel lines
now gone to flame. Red for recession--
grinding us down, if we survive it
picassoguernica

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. Via Wikimedia Commons

Good People

They are good people: Mind their own business

save for a kind word over white pickets.

They rake leaves promptly and maintain their lawn.

They keep their dogs from barking too loudly.

 

They tithe to the church, go every Sunday

and bring that casserole everyone likes.

The men doff their hats as they pass you by.

The women give gentle waves, like butterflies.

 

In public, always impeccably dressed,

in private always frugal, never loud.

They are good people: All of us say it.

They uphold convention, support the old

 

and rake their leaves as their neighbor is shot.

Make a casserole as their hairdresser

is corralled behind concertina wire.

They silently judge the loud-speaking women,

 

and say: Maybe you shouldn’t wear that scarf.

Maybe accept Jesus. What does it hurt?

Maybe you shouldn’t speak up for your “rights.”

Go home. Rake leaves. Make a casserole.

 

They say: Don’t worry. We will survive this.

The good people always do; it’s the loud

and the brown and the different who don’t

and nothing will change for the good people

 

because it’s the good people uncoiling

the rope they so carefully set aside

in their clean carport. (You can eat off the floor!)

It’s the good people selecting the tree.

 

Don’t worry: the good people are holding

the guns. They care for them, like the mower:

impeccably. The good people keep their

uniforms clean, crisp and fresh in waiting.

Mutter mit Kindern

Nazi propaganda photo: A mother, her daughters and her son in the uniform of the Hitler Youth pose for the magazine SS-Leitheft February 1943. Via Wikimedia Commons