Month: June 2010

Wynn: Some thoughts

Joy: What does it mean to us?

Sunny-colored dish soap? The new gadget in its packaging? The heart-equivalent of bungee-jumping excitement?

Joy: the way the leaves dance in the wind under the gray. The sound of my husband’s voice on the phone, and the wool slippers on my narrow feet. The intense blue of the sky — even as terror unfolded. The patter of rain.

It’s friends laughing over chocolate, the rustle of book-pages, the shine of a cat’s eyes. Joy is solitary in some respects because it comes down to noticing: an individual act, a decision to open one’s self to the facets of the multiverse.

Who is the God of joy? It’s easy to say Aonghus Og, the young son, winged lord of desire. But they all are.

The joy of warriors going into their last battle: the joy of the Morrigan. The joy of right choice, the fulfillment of duty, the keeping of one’s word: Nuada. The joy of the green wilds, or of the kitchen stove with its smells, or the river swelled by the storm — all joy.

It’s an attitude, first and foremost. And perhaps that’s why we don’t recognize or cultivate it in popular culture. You can’t pop a pill for joy, ads from the pharmaceutical industry notwithstanding. Buying the latest gadget might bring you amusement, but not joy. Joy does not spring from lack, and it doesn’t feed scarcity. It negates scarcity.

How do you define joy?

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Nin, and Annie Get Your Gun

Lately, I’ve been musing about Mannaz, the “M” of runelore, the linked hands of mankind. In ogham, I am reminded not of M but of N, Nin the weaver’s beam — which makes this an intercultural consonantal journey of sorts! (Forgive the whimsy.)

I’ve had some difficulties, though, through the years with the human tendency to fret over another’s success or spotlight. It’s the weakness in the weaver’s beam, the weak point where joined hands drop.

It’s often called ego, but I think that’s a misnomer. It’s a perception of inner scarcity, of lack, of the zero sum game.

“We hate it when our friends become successful,” moans Morrissey — a much more famous singer and musician than I’ll ever be, truth be told. Nothing is worth doing unless you’re the top, the center, the crux. Fame or bust.

Personally, I don’t need to be the center or even near the center. Sometimes, it’s good to simply participate and enjoy — to read another’s book, listen to another’s music, attend another’s event — with no need to insert one’s self, one’s ego, one’s self-worth, always perceived as wanting.

Through the years, I’ve known a lot of the “inserters,” people who always need to one-up: You have a nice, new instrument? Just wait — I’ll get the same but better, no matter the cost! You can sing, sure, but I can sing too, even if it’s your gig! It’s your ritual or your reading, but I know I can do it better! So, now, I’ll just step into the center….

Why aren’t you reading this year? Why aren’t you performing? (Insert barely disguised put-down and cue the song from Annie, Get Your Gun….)

In truth, I offer peace-prayers to folks like that. It must be so wearisome to always climb, compare, undercut. How much work that is — to saw through the beam, unravel the tapestry, crush another’s hand in the attempt to impress them with your grip.

The hum underneath, the hidden current, lays us bare: Fame fades and beauty bursts as a bubble. Nothing lasts — not attention, not your physical form, not your ability. It doesn’t matter whether you go gentle into the good night or fight it, clawing the ground every step of the way. Into it you shall go, along with all you have been and all you have done.

But it’s only ugly if you make it so, if you gaze into the bitter glass, as Yeats would have it.
If you see beauty, open your hands and your heart to it. Dance if you are moved, and enjoy the offerings of others without stinginess or fault. Support one another.

Be the weaver’s beam, supporting the cloth of community, the linked hands of Mannaz. You have nothing and everything — be joyful in that.

Midsummer fires

The fire sparked in the fire-dish, set under the oaks near the stone wall. Birds chorused and a curious toad peaked around the tree.

We called, spoken first:

Fertile one, bright one, Lord of the Green, we call you!
Rutting stag and twining vine, the roaring Lord of the Mountains
the Noble One of the hilltops.
We call you, fertile heat! We call you, radiant Lord!
Crowned with green, you are the Tree on the Plain between life and death
Sacred ancestor of all.
We bid you welcome to our grove – welcome, welcome and thrice be welcome.

Arms flung wide to the sun, I sang then:

Fàilte ort féin, a ghrian na’n tràth,
‘S tu siùbhal ard nan speur;
Do cheummaibh treun air scéith nan ard,
‘S tu màthair àigh nan reul.
Tu laighe sìos an cuan na dìth,
Gun dìobhaill is gun scàth;
Thu ‘g éirigh suas air stuagh na sìth,
Ma rioghan óg ina bhlàth. (Carmina Gadelica)

We offered the sounding of the basins, singing over the Tibetan bell. The birds responded in an astounding chorus. We offered a jar of sun-incense, fresh herbs from the herb-harvest, and a sun-wheel woven of honeysuckle, adorned as we sang to the sun. As it burned, we kept singing and Aine’s fire flared up. She peaked her bright face from the cloud — an answer, a joy.

Greetings to you, sun of the season
And you walking high in the heavens
Your steps strong on the wings of the heights
And you the glorious mother of stars.
It is you lying down in the harbor of danger
Without bedevilment and without dread;
It is you rising up on the peaked wave of peace (Aedh Rua translation)

The omens said she was pleased, but Bile felt neglected, and so I offered a giant stick — and I do mean giant — of sage, which pleased him.

Midsummer is song and drumbeat, scented smoke, the flames lit by Aine herself, who drove the breeze and pushed aside the clouds.

A joyous holiday, although I do have to balance it out with more work with Bile. I work with Aine a lot, and Bile very little. Time to remedy that!

Midsummer melody

Lus lies the omen: herb and flame. The smoke of the saining, the green in the sun.

Aine sun-face dances over the green of the leaves. Birds chorus at her foot-steps. Wield the torch high, oh sun! Dance on the hills’ forested crags!

Roll the fire-wheel down where she sets in the sea, the scent of amber and brine, the scent of spice and wine.

Birds chorus and the chipmunks sound their songs. The serpent basks on the stone path. The fledgelings now take flight, darting in the green.

Stop, then, just for a moment. Let the heat prickle your skin, the breeze whisper in your ear. Let that moment stand still, a pause in the dance. Let it last for a minute, an hour, a lifetime.

Page of Swords

J. again. I’ve spent the rainy afternoon writing an article on Brighid as a hearth goddess. If it doesn’t find a home in an anthology, I might end up posting it here. At any rate, today has been a rainy and domestic day, which will soon involve writing the Midsummer rite, making pudding for tomorrow’s voice recital, making music and running in the rain.

I grabbed this piece of poetic musing to share; it was scribbled on a scrap of paper as a way to experiment with new poetic forms. (I forget what this type is called.) It uses images from the tarot, as well as from a series of dreams I’ve had involving a magician, who’s a guide of sorts. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I’m almost liking the bit of doggerel today.

the page of swords, i am
an image on paper
held in my hand
that sorts every future

an image on paper —
you are the Magician
that sorts every future–
i conjure you, silent

you are the Magician
red rose and the white
i conjure you, silent
with sword, wand and flame

red rose and the white
on the altar lie twining
with sword, wand and flame
and my naked desire

on the altar lie twining
meaning and symbol
and my naked desire
runs through your palms

meaning and symbol
and the mastery of it — it
runs through your palms
and spins, a white serpent

and the mastery of it — it
rushes, the gale wind
and spins, a white serpent
devouring itself

rushes, the gale wind
bending them under — and desire
devouring itself
clouds in the storm

bending them under — and desire
bright and sharp, a blade —
clouds in the storm
and o! i am daring

bright and sharp, a blade
held in my hand —
and o! i am daring
the page of swords, i am

my people: sacredness and the ridiculous

J again, from my diary of last September. Once again, pardon the quirky capitalization.

is ritual ridiculous? are Pagans overall?

i’m inspired by Dianne Sylvan’s well-worded blog. and the complete falling out with a friend who insisted Pagans should follow the “norm,” sans men in skirts and heavy jewelry, long velvet capes and incense. sans Gods and magic and other such ridiculous things. in the end, our differences on this point permanently (and heatedly) ended our friendship.

i’ve gone to many the rotten ritual through my 22 years of publicly professed Paganism. ye Gods, Fires Rising was (almost) everything wrong with a Pagan festival — no public sexual innuendo, which would have made the horror complete. i spent one Beltane night in a horse stall in the attempt to evade amorous stalkers. i’ve walked out of rituals (and entire events) in Reclaiming that ended up being political propaganda with a thin veneer of myth.

i’ve dealt with reincarnated aliens, flakes, assholes, players, stuck-up drama-mongers and everything else the fringes of humanity could throw at me. i’ve left entire ritual communities — some with silence, some with acrimony.

and you know, i wouldn’t have it any other way. i love this community. i have a heartfelt sense that these are my people, tacky medieval garments and all.

of course, i’m an odd bird in that i am religiously Pagan rather than socially Pagan. let’s face it: many of the folks who go to public rituals aren’t mystics or spiritually-driven. generally, they share a basic commonality of belief (the sacrality of the earth and the body, a nonjudgmental attitude about sex and “otherness,” or at the most basic, a love for fairies, cats and the idea of multiple deities/a female divine). a lot of people go to circle for social reasons — the same force that drives Christians to their local church, jello mold in hand. it’s not the theology or even the ritual.

but i’m not like that. in my mind, i’m constantly spouting prayers and blessings to the Gods and spirits, even if i don’t do formal rituals. i try to squeeze those in when i can. are my offerings of herbs and mead ridiculous? probably, in a practical sense. Gods and spirits don’t need these things. but the attitude of giving back, of gratitude, is central. so is a certain openness, a mindfulness, a willingness to engage in Beauty wherever it is. and Beauty, with a capital B, is the divine incarnate.

there is a song by Moonrise called “Wartime Lullaby” that brings me to tears when i hear it. it’s simple, and describes the blessings of the land, sea and sky. “blessed be our lives and blessed be our deaths.” you could imagine it sung by a mother hiding in a bomb-out landscape, looking out at a star shining above the carnage — because there is beauty everywhere, even on the battlefield.

i love a religion that spawns such consciousness. i love the kind of people that could make such a song.

ritual appeals to me in its natural symbolism: the scent of sage, the light of flame, the clash of the bell branch. i am a singer first and foremost, and song (via chanting as well as the playing on instruments) is one of the most profound ways i connect with the divine. and so, the rituals i run are filled with song.

i aim for ecstasy: that which takes you outside yourself, your small perspective, and joins you with the large, complex Mystery that is all words joined together, what Donald Engstrom calls the Multiverse.

perhaps i see in even the most misguided of my brethren the thirst for that ecstasy, whether they acknowledge it or no. it doesn’t mean i enjoy the drama or even their ritual. ritual becomes silly, in my mind, when it’s less about connection with the Gods and the community and solely about shoring up the ego. that’s when it fails. but even the failed attempt to engage with the Mystery is beautiful to me. it is an attempt, at the very least, to engage in something larger.

this may seem odd for a Keltrian Druid to say, but heart is everything. i don’t subscribe to the ADF saw that ritual excellence sans heart is what counts.

rituals don’t work for everyone, and neither do spiritual paths. i don’t describe myself as a Wiccan because the ceremonial magic circle with its accoutrements and gender-paired dual divinities don’t sing to me personally. i know how to work magic, but that’s tangential to my path and rarely done; i’m annoyed by faith-paths that seem all about asking, whether it’s asking the Goddess for a new lover or Jesus for a new car.

but not all Paganism is like that. granted, i am admittedly a diehard polytheist. i truly believe in Gods and spirits; i have absolutely no identity as an atheist (although i absolutely understand why people do!) i seek meaning beyond the rational, because strict rationality offers no meaning. it’s the analytical mindset that breaks everything down until there’s nothing but empty space.

ritual, to me, is about fostering relationship (with the Gods, beloved dead and nature spirits) and aligning oneself with the larger universe in its patterns. it can give you the strength you need to go on, the insight you need to make meaning of your life. it’s a structured relationship with the sacred — valuable in the rush of modern life, where there’s no time or place for anything other than feeding the machine.

as my senior Druid says: your time and effort are the sacrifice. and they are. ritual (ideally) shows that time and effort.

well, enough rambling for now. just some thoughts i’m working through, and not a well-thought-out response to Sylvan’s thought-provoking blog.

History Becomes Ledgend, Ledgend Becomes Myth-by Chris G.

As Jenne had mentioned in an earlier post, this blog is intended for the various members of the Druid group White Cat Grove to be able to publish our random musings.  WordPress does not make this easy, however. So I have to sign in as Jenne in order to post.  So here is my first White Cat Grove post. I hope you like it. -Chris

I did not learn the valuable skill of critical thinking until teenage years, and then only began to truly hone it as a not-so-young adult. I have always been a history buff. I learned a few facts on history as I went along. Namely, it isn’t altogether true or accurate. Think about this: can you remember what you did yesterday? Can you recall verbatim many of the conversations you had- even the critical ones? Most likely not, so how do we as a people recall so vividly events of centuries past? We don’t.  What happens is we tell each other the personal stories, then we begin to rehash them so they jibe well with others we like, then it gets further modified into an accepted cannon of stories. Other stories that are accurate (or more so) are rejected. Sometimes out of “respect” or just to avoid offending or annoying cretian people.  And then there is the bit about winners getting to write the histories.  Looking back into history is a bit like looking down into a very deep well. Understanding that the light waves get distorted by the water itself, and that the light cannot penetrate all the way to the bottom. The deeper we look, the less accurate the picture we see becomes.  faulty human memories and the need to appease distort what we see, and the darkness is the bits we forget about.

For instance many psychics have a tendency to bring up countless tales about the Titanic. How so many people had a feeling, dream or premonition and did not get on the ship. When it sank, they declared that they were amazed that they had the hunch of something was going to happen that saved their lives.  I believed this story as it was until the events of September 11th.  Now I myself have lived through an event that has made a big impression on America. At least for the time being. One thing I personally recall that does not jibe well with the premonition myth is that I know a lot of psychics, sensitive and the like. They types one would expect to have had a premonition of something bad about to happen around then.  The Internet had just gone mainstream and people were chatting and posting to newsgroups all over the place about what they were doing and feeling from day to day.

However, nobody was talking about any sense of foreboding, no feelings of “something” about to happen. If anyone mused about the upcoming next few years, they predicted the opposite  of what has happened. Psychics were saying the Aquarian Age was upon us. This ment an extremely good golden age period of enlightened brotherhood had dawned, and that hatred, especially of the religious kind, was dying out.  I have not met anyone who convinced me that they had a genuine premonition that something bad was going to happen prior to September 11.  After the incident, people came out of the woodwork to say variations of “you know, it’s funny, but I kind of had a feeling something like this would happen”  and dup up Nostradamus to say he told us so. I believe most of these claims are spurious at best. And it had me wondering. Could we have just tosses up all these stories of Titanic premonitions just to keep our favorite myth alive?  Psychic  TV shows claim there are a rash of cancellations prior to a disaster involving transportation.  But every mode of ticketed transportation has a number of cancellations before it embarks.

Thinking critically helps to sort out the news too. The oil spill incident that is ongoing shows this. It’s not too hard to spot the tricky camera angles that narrow things down so people get the impression of an army of clean up men busily raking the beach. I noticed in one puzzling image early on when the oil had not yet washed ashore (apparently) there was a gang of men marching by carrying rakes. A replay of the video gave me a moment to spot what was wrong with the photo.  First of all, I know from working with HAZMAT that wearing only half the suit is an OSHA violation. If you need the boots and pants, you need the coat too.  They are wearing white pants. Spotless white pants, while cleaning up oil. They are carrying rakes to rake up goo and tar balls, and the rakes are always clean.  Once I saw a shot of four or so clean suited guys sauntering past a “closed” beach and in the background are sunbathers in bikinis calmly reading books and sun tanning. Yeah right.

Getting back to more esoteric matters, I don’t think critical thinking mixes with religion well. I am reading a book called “The Secret History Of The World” by Mark Booth. He claims he learned all this by talking with initiates from secret societies. He makes one claim that humans evolved not from microorganisms such as germs as scientists believe, but that we humans evolved from some sort of pink vegetable with “waxy” bones. (Pg. 161) Why? This is used to make a logical sounding explanation for the way the Biblical  book of Genesis explains how humans came from a rib. Animals don’t reproduce asexually, therefore we must have been plants at one point.  Hieronymus Bosch once painted a figure of some weird pink thing that looks a hookah.  We believe today that he painted so much bizarre stuff because he may have been eating stale bread which had a mold that causes people to hallucinate. But, no matter: While tripping, he painted this thing {Pg. 161 again) that later occultists decided was man.

The author also makes a broad claim that ” Before the Trojan War everyone shared the same world of thoughts. Others could see what you were thinking. No such lie (i.e. the ruse of the Trojan Horse) would have been possible. People interacted with a terrible sincerity. They had a sense that we have lost that in everything they did they were taking part in cosmic events. ..The date of the siege of Troy is also the date of the first trick in history.”(Pg. 167} Italics by the author. This assumes a lot. I cannot dispute whether it is truly an authentic secret society teaching, but it asks us to skip a lot of logic and think “Oh, yeah, he’s right” rather than consider that there is a lot of stuff unearthed by archaeologists and anthropologists that plainly show that people have always been tricky. Stone Age hunters tricked game into stampeding off cliff edges. Old treaties cut in stone and cuneiform show us that humans could rely on others not knowing what  they were thinking at any given time.