Month: August 2010

kindling the flame in the darkness

It’s easy to rely on the Gods when you’re happy, neutral or even a bit sad. You speak and feel Spirit, listening attentively. You feel Brighid’s hand on your back, the green embrace of the world and its creatures. Angry, you feel the Morrigan’s sword in your hands, her cloak of black feathers. Darker spirits, those with teeth and claws, lope at your side,

In despair’s black depths, however, we are often alone. There is a wall, nebulous but there, we cannot scale ourselves — and no other can scale, divine or human. We feel the arms around us, but not truly; the core part of ourselves remains behind that wall in an unlit room.

I’m thinking of that horrible old joke: How many Jewish grandmothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? “None. I’ll just sit here in the dark.” When we’re in despair, we sit in the grandmother’s worn old chair.

(Nothing against Jewish grandmothers, by the way. Certainly, guilt-tripping is not an ethnically or religiously linked phenomenon.”)

The wall defines despair. Without it, we may be sad, gloomy or otherwise miserable, but we’re still a part of cosmic community. When touched, we can feel.

So, how do you dissolve a wall you cannot climb?

My partner has to remind me of Brighid, gentle Brighid, and how she never fails me and is never disappointed in her priestess. Point out my good qualities on their own, and I won’t hear them inside the room’s acoustics. But Brighid’s fire — or even just the memory of it — is enough to dispel the dark, at least for me.

Dissolving the wall takes patience and support from those on the other side. But it first and foremost takes a light from within — a light sprung from hope, from a deep-seated belief that dawn comes, that nothing is ever wasted in the realm of knowledge and experience. A belief that none of us are disposable, no matter the pundits and the marketing.

How do you kindle your flame in the dark?


a struggle with generosity

Rain — softly slurring down. Greens glow amid the gray. Cold, the waters of the heavens, cows and goddesses unleashed by the serpent’s slaying. Or the Father himself brings it, with the rattle of his club, the rumble of his laugh.

Today, I am pondering generosity. What Maeve requires in a king: no stinginess of heart or hand. Generosity is the taproot of hospitality: giving the stranger all that you have. Brighid, in her later incarnation as Catholic saint, gave her father’s entire household to the poor.

Generosity: what the rain gives us and the earth. It forges relationships with the joy of a gift, and the obligation to give in turn.

It’s a virtue we’ve lost, in our culture of merchants and merchandising. We’ve all turned accountants, suspicious of charity, of someone taking without payment. A zero sum game: if someone has something, then we do not. If someone gives to us freely, then they’re a fool, a weak-heated liberal. (One of the meanings of liberal is generous, truth be told.) And their gift is suspect, because nothing comes without a price-tag; indeed, it’s the price-tag that gives value, meaning.

Generosity weaves the fabric of community and so scarcity functions as the shears, with each man clipping off a piece for himself. In the old days, power was what you could give: the most powerful king gave his subjects the most gifts, and was blessed in turn by the gifts of the earth. Now, power is what you can take — and what you can withhold from others.

I am a fool at heart, perhaps, because I try to be generous. What I have, I will give. Do I fail? Oh, undoubtedly. There is often doubt, resentment and judgment in my heart. I am Brighid’s priestess, after all, and not Brighid herself. I have a hard time with forgiveness; I am generous of hand but not always  — or even often — of heart. Welcome to humanity, I suppose.

Yesterday, I added a lovingkindness meditation to my yoga practice: wishing peace, compassion and love first on myself, then someone I love — followed by someone I’m neutral to, someone I hate, and then the entire world. Three full rounds of this, since three is the magic number according to the Count. (Ah, the spirituality of Sesame Street!) It’s a start.

How do you foster generosity in your life?

a prayer to the Morrigan

A spontaneous prayer from some years ago, but well worth digging up, I think. It may be useful to someone, somewhere….

Morrigan, great queen, I accept.

Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance is the key to the lock, followed by the push, the motion, that lets you out of the gate.

I accept the pain that I feel right now. and that there is no value judgment as to feeling. I feel as I do, and that’s enough; there are no shoulds, no oughts. What have you ever cared for them, painted warrior? Your laughter is the beating of the crow’s wings.

I accept the choices I have made, my mistakes, the times I have turned my head to the truth. I am human, after all. and I accept the choices of others, acknowledged or no.

I accept that this is the right thing, the necessary thing — and that all changes are painful, the shock of birth, the slap on the ass into the light.

I accept that this is the lesson you were trying to tell me, the journey I could not face, the trap of white around me amid the silence of spiders. and so I sent my soul away, buried it, because to keep her would force me to see how I’ve slighted her.

But she’s back now in her roost, by your grace. And the Shining Path that leads my heart is there too, burning under my feet.

I’ll follow it.

A quick update, and of fortune

I’m still here, and still mulling the cosmos.

I’ve just been busy with a family visit and some other issues that have kept me from formulating decent blog entries for public consumption.

At any rate, I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote in December 1998 called “Of fortune.”
a wheel
spokes steel and fast
metallic crank and squeal
of each foot tread of each
cold path long and shining
like a sheet of metal
that is the wheel of our hands
of our fashion

another sways slow
and stays in place
inefficient in its clockwork
woven of dogwood
of dirt, of pine
a snow spoke
a rain bolt
there is no word
but a fall
into the black and beautiful

Harvest Song: my Lughnasadh offering

Come, the harvest – with its gold
braceleting the furrow.
The dowry of mankind,
warding off the winter

that lurks unseen, a ghost
from a nervous child’s dream.
The gold mother comforts us
with circling arms of grain.

Come, the harvest – the neighbors
call, the bridles jangle,
cart wheels creak – hands that share
work share the stuff of life.

For what is bounty unshared?
It would rot in the fields
without the fellowship
that waters it, kin to rain

and sun. Come the harvest,
with its sweat and its song,
with dollies and dances,
our arms lifting up bales –

hearts forgetting grievance,
forgiving our failures.
The sweat purifies us.
The wagon brings us home.