Saturday, December 3, 2016

Why Mary Matters

We are all familiar with the Biblical story of Mary and her husband Joseph, and the particulars of the birth of Jesus. It is a tale that's been told over and over ( more or less) in the same way for thousands of years by millions of people: how the couple made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay taxes and found themselves without a place to stay upon arrival; how a benevolent inn keeper allowed them to stay where the animals were kept; how Mary gave birth to a child supposedly conceived by the Holy Spirit-the Son of God-destined to become the Savior of a world fallen to sin. And so on and so forth.

Not meaning any disrespect, but if you found yourself yawning just now...well...let's just say you're not alone. We've heard the story so often for so long that it's become rather pedestrian and routine. Time for a cup of coffee and a cookie to keep the eyes from glazing over.

For all the holy hoopla surrounding Christmas, every account of Jesus' birth is astounding in it's lack of details. It takes several sketchy predictions from the Old Testament and all four of the New Testament Gospel writers to corroborate the linage and meaning of His birth. There is even less factual information about Mary: other than being the daughter of the elderly Joachim and Anne, being betrothed to the carpenter Joseph, the Nativity narrative, a fleeting mention of being a guest at the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine and the Crucifixion, there is scant else said about her in the Bible. This is pretty skimpy, considering the  extensive body of Mariology and Marian devotion in Christian and Eastern Orthodox churches worldwide. While the Christian core of Marian devotion in the West is centered in the Roman Catholic Church and has found its way into dogmatic teaching, the Eastern Church bases its devotion in liturgical rites. Meanwhile the majority of Protestant Christians believe Mary's divine mission was over when she gave birth to the Divine Child. She was,  in effect, historically cast aside and devalued as all women have literally and figuratively been after providing a male heir to continue a linage.

In fact, there is more written about Mary in the Quran, where she is mentioned throughout from beginning to end. She is the only woman specifically mentioned by name in Muslim scripture, where she is considered one of the most righteous persons in the Islamic religion. These texts not only speak to her divinity, but to the sanctity of her humanness. The nineteenth chapter of the Quran (Maryam) is named for her and talks extensively about her life. Her importance in Islamic culture and spiritual tradition is evidenced by the inscription of verses from the Quran relating to her on the walls of prayer rooms in mosques. According to Muslim sacred text, after her birth, Mary was dedicated to service in the Temple under the guidance of the prophet Zechariah, who was her uncle. She had her own special place in the temple for prayer, and was set apart as virtuous prior to the birth of Jesus.  (An interesting aside: the alternate meaning for the word virgin is a woman who devotes herself wholly to divine practice and is unimpeded by the preoccupation of husband, family and home life.  As a single woman she was owned by no man and was not any man's property. She was "of her own" by choice although fully capable of assuming the role of wife and mother if she desired.)

Through an otherworldly gentleness and spiritual nature, virtue, and personal resolve, Mary is the archetype of the All-Mother and is The Creator Mother personified. She is known by an endless variety of names- "Virgin Mother of God","Queen of Heaven","Holy Rose"," Immaculate","Rose of Sharon"- the list is exhaustive. She shares characteristics with nearly every mother goddess throughout history and transcends specific cultures as creatrix and nurturer. (Compare the births of Mithra, Osiris, Krishna, Horus and even the Buddha.) As such, she is the rightful "Queen of Heaven" in a more modern mythos.

I believe there is an ancient memory of the Great Mother in our collective psyche which accounts for  apparitions of Mary world wide. For every individual sighting approved as legitimate by the Church, there hundreds and perhaps thousands that are rejected or go unreported. Although there are some appearances of her that are seemingly incredulous, who's to really say what is and is not real? Entity manifestations often begin in the subconscious as thought forms. It's been psychologically proven  that someone desiring union with a divine entity can invoke the desired result (even if that manifestation is due to hysterical psychosis). To this reasoning, any appearance is valid. Belief in a religious context does not always require evidence other than individual experience; faith is the trust in that experience. In my humble opinion, it's motivation and intention that matters most. I think the Feminine Divine is alive in this world, and it doesn't matter what name we call her. It's how I, as a Pagan, can stand behind the Christmas narrative and the importance of Mary- by putting it in perspective along side the many other Great Mother/Divine Child myths in history. It isn't a form of appropriation from one culture to another as much as a need for the story to continue for all of us no matter who we are.

I rather like the image of Mary as Rosa Mystica, as found in the writings of Saint Brigid, in which Mary herself tells the saint ( I'm paraphrasing here for clarity): "... The rose gives a fragrant odor; it is beautiful to the sight and tender to the touch, and yet it grows among thorns, unaware of its beauty and tenderness. So may those who are mild-tempered, patient, and beautiful in virtue be put to the test in the world. As the thorn guards the beauty of the rose, so does adversity keep us from wrong- doing by the example of its destructive nature." It fits with my definition of the Feminine Divine which equally shares strength and power.

In Pagan theology, we are all God/dess, co-creators who share in the Divine Mysteries of Birth, Living and Dying and everything that lays between them with the gods. As a woman and priestess, I can connect deeply to this, more deeply than when I was a part of a faith tradition founded by men where I was stripped of my inherent worth and dignity and considered second best as a human being. I say these words without anger, because I also believe that to get to the place of spiritual confidence I have today, I had to have gone through that experience. I believe it's true that everything is a lesson. You have to start and leave somewhere in order to make a journey. It is a journey I make guided by the Mystical Rose along a path of my choosing. Here we are joined, and I, too, am Mary. I carry within me the Divine Child of possibility and wonder which is in constant renewal. And I'll tell you a secret: I'm not always enraptured by knowing this, especially when I realize the responsibility it carries. Being a priestess of the Mystery of the Holy Rose has both its exultant glory and its unfathomable burdens. And while I'm being candid, both scare the hell out of me for a lot of reasons.

So in this period of personal discernment in the weeks of waiting before Winter Solstice and Yule, I'm going to work on being a little less scared and less doubtful of my abilities. I'm going to try to be less pessimistic about my fellow human beings, a little more hopeful about the world, and more grateful about all of it. I'm going to remember I have the Divine spark in me, too, and see magick and wonder at every turn. And maybe, just maybe, the Mystery of the Holy Rose will bloom in me.










Friday, November 25, 2016

A Season of Stillness and Waiting

In contrast to the hysterical blowout of Black Friday, the following Sunday is the first day of the Season of Advent, days of quiet reflection and waiting leading up to the Nativity of the Son of God. The Latin word adventus stems from the ancient Greek root parousia, meaning presence or arrival.Usually it's associated with the birth of Christ at Christmas, but I have purposely left this definition vague for reasons explained later. Right now, let's just frame this period of time as 'weeks of waiting'.

Beth Owl's Daughter begun a lovely interfaith tradition for this time of year which is emotionally uplifting. It's a cyber event that I've been participating in for several years now; I find it transformative. It's an excellent alternative to the traditional Christian Advent, and everyone is invited to participate: http://www.owlsdaughter.com/its-time-for-the-2016-global-advent-sun-wreath-prayer-circle/

I look forward to this time of year because it feels like a little otherworldly-a magickal time outside of time. The waiting for the birth of the Divine Child is a space set aside for deep introspection and connection with the sacred. There are a few things I have adapted from the Christian tradition of Advent  and made a bit more universal. It's easy to apply Pagan terms and tradition for these Weeks of Waiting. Allow me to share a past post on the subject with you:https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6786474119988979465#editor/target=post;postID=5457978819530187517;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=5;src=postname


I believe that building toward Yule and the coming of Sol Invictus makes the holiday holy in the best definition of the word; it adds layers upon layers of richness and meaning to The Longest Night of the Year.Within all of these layers of meaning,I still immerse my spirit  in the words of the Anglican Hymn O Come,O Come Emmanuel. It is a translation of a much older Latin hymn Veni,Veni Emannuel, part of the 8th century 'O Antiphons' related to the Magnificat sung during the weeks proceeding the Nativity of Christ. The age of the English text of the hymn is up for debate because there are various versions, but the music dates to much earlier, to 15th century France. The number of verses is also up for discussion and even the order in which they are sung and on which particular Sunday in Advent. (I must admit, when you are walking in procession garbed in heavy liturgical vestments, the 5-7 most popular verses feel like there are hundreds and physical discomfort can become distracting).  But all the same, it does not feel like Advent has begun until I sing this particular hymn.

Thank you, Anglican tradition for instilling in me a love of liturgy and ritual. I truly wish something similar to this music existed within the Neo-Pagan traditions other than the appropriated 'Pagan Carols' we've all heard. While well meaning, many of them are...what's the word I'm looking for? Oh,yeah...corny.  The majority of them lack meter and sound a bit shallow to my ear. That's just me; maybe you like them, and if you do, that's fine. But I still would love to see someone come up with some original lyrics and music that are Pagan-centric and don't sound like hashed-over Christmas carols. ( One standout-the Unitarian Universalist Within the Shining of a Star, which relates the birth of a Divine Child to all children ).

Until then, I'll stick with the Christianized versions that are vaguely celebratory of the Birth of the Divine Child, whomever he or she may be.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Devil Made 'Em Do It

According to recent Catholic news sources, exorcisms are once again on the rise in the United States. According to two popular exorcists, Fr. Gary Thomas and Fr. Vincent Lampert, they can "hardy keep up with the demand".

The two priests claim that the rise in demon possessions are influenced by things like pornography, drug addiction and the lack of competent mental health care in the US. They also have stated that an increase in public interest in Atheism and Paganism are " a doorway to many possessions".

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and 'scientific' consultant to the Vatican endorsed International Association of Exorcists is quoted saying," It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the Devil, but also by a decline in faith and values." He also went on to qualify his observation by saying it was important not to confuse diabolical possession with psychiatric illness. Only one percent of people claiming to have problems with demons have real need of an exorcist", citing that they had "violent reactions to prayer of liberation and to holy water."

Reading this article from the Telegraph brought out the counselor in me, because what Dr.Cascioli didn't mention in his assessment is the fact that some psychotic individuals are extremely sensitive and reactive to sound, tactile sensations, and the power of suggestion. Imagine what is going through the mind of someone who is experiencing a mental disorder where thought, reason and rational perception are distorted. Add to that the disturbing and frightening elements of being surrounded
(and possibly restrained) by several individuals engaged in a ritual frenzy which features hysterically shouting epaulets about evil beings and demons and anointing them with holy water and oil against their will. For someone with that level of mental illness, it's an emotional train wreck that borders on the abusive. More likely than not it would cause them to admit to anything suggested just to make the others leave them alone.

Those in the field have also pointed to the rise in popularity of interest in the Occult ( which they label as 'pagan activity') such as using talking boards 'to summon the dead', failure of the mental health care system, a spiritual void in the lives of Americans, and the diminishing authority of the Church. They blame popular culture for being a gateway that lets Satan into society through sin.

But the hardcore, conservative clergy backpedal their comments when pressed for further explanation of how these things actually work in regard to demonic possession. They rely not on scientific or spiritual research, but regurgitate what the Church has been habitually saying since medieval times- "The Devil made them do it". What a nice little piece of scapegoating by a clergy who have failed to retain membership and control over the members who remain in recent years. Sounds to me like a denial of responsibility by an outdated religious hierarchy being rejected by enlightened people of the modern age.

The reformed edition of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications is a document of litany and ritual used by the Roman Catholic Church regarding demonic possession. The new edition actually warns not to confuse mental illness with possession by evil entities. It removed descriptions of Satan that conflicted with Church dogma ( and sounded down right silly to modern society). Vatican guidelines state several supposed signs of a person being possessed after the elimination of medical explanation have been exhausted: Speaking in an unknown language, revealing things that are far away or hidden, and demonstrating physical strength beyond the norm for the age or health of the individual in question. Included again is a warning  that "these signs are only an indication" and may not be the work of the Devil.
At this point, may I interject that this sounds exactly like what  Pentecostals and Evangelicals refer to as "being of the Spirit of God", a spiritual practise which includes 'speaking in tongues (glossolalia),prophesying, and other spiritual feats-all of which are hallmarks of their faith tradition. I have witnessed charismatic Pentecostals stopping mid-service to engage in a 'deliverance'. The most rabid of the lot find Satan hiding behind every tree and attribute even the slightest misfortune to him.To their minds, nothing happens by chance;everything is either the Lord's doing or Satan's.There is no middle ground. Satan influence Eve to manipulate Adam into from the Tree of Knowledge and thus doomed mankind. Personally, I don't think this illustration speaks very well about God's first human, who looks pretty gullible,weak-minded and reflects poorly on Himself as a Creator. Their literal belief in this event has been comprehensively examined by both Jewish and Christian scholars who agree that it's a moral story meant to underscore the superiority of God oven Man.

It's also a mindset which rather conveniently excuses Christians of any responsibility for their behavior because,"God's in control".

While there are things that are beyond our control, those things are not necessarily caused by the Devil and his minions. Electricity go out while you're reading Scripture? It's a breech of the electrical grid and not cause by a nefarious entity. Sleep through weekly Bible class? Your body needed rest or you ate something that jacked up your glucose level. Car won't start and you miss Sunday worship service. It's more realistically a mechanical issue that requires the attention of a mechanic rather than a priest because you think a demon kept you from worshiping Jesus at your favorite church.

Sadly, this is a world view forged from the fear of the unknown and the "Other", a view which does not joyously embrace the randomness of Life. It is grounded in an obfuscated myth created by those confused by the conflicting attributes of their deity.

As for a 'decline in faith and values', this is nothing new. Numbers in all mainstream denominations have been in a downward spiral through at least the last several decades. Out of all of them, the Roman Catholic Church in particular has had significant losses. According to a 2015 Pew Forum report, the total number of Roman Catholics in the United States dropped by 3 million since 2007 and now comprises about 20% or one fifth of the total population. Much of that is due to dissatisfaction with a church it's members have determined is out of step with the times, and because its leadership stubbornly clings to the belief that they hold sway over parishioners rather than be in ministry together. The stark truth is that many modern Catholics have evolved spiritually and moved on from antiquated dogma. Some in the priesthood stand with their enlightened view, while others still uphold doctrine that is for all intents and purposes obsolete.

What I have cited in this post is verifiable fact regarding the Church's fascination with a phenomenon become obsession, a level matched only by their counterparts in the Middle Ages. Our belief systems have changed so much that it necessary for those practicing extreme Charismatic  theology to come to terms with the fact that the evil in our world is the fault of humans and not supernatural entities. Nor should we finger-point at mental illness which has risen due to lack of available treatment. Collectively, we do bad things to others and ourselves-often in the name of religion. Humans have wrought ruin of every nature upon one another, and it's time we acknowledge that.



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanks Giving

We usually have gorgeously colored leaves in the Autumn, but this year the colors weren't bright: the leaves shriveled and dropped early. We need rain and everything is dry. All the same, I am thankful for the Autumn and it's wonders-crisp evenings, frosty mornings and the deer that come into town to forage. And yes, even the turkey buzzards by the side of the road, for they have their place in the natural cycle. I am thankful to be in a place so close to nature, even though the everyday atmosphere and surrounding attitude of the majority of the population is consistently negative and depressing. Still, I am thankful for the twilight of mornings and the dusk of evening, when it is quiet because in those times I am closer to my own humanity and the Divine.

I am thankful for a few close friends and even more acquaintances, even though most of them are scattered across the US, Canada and as far away as  England the Manx countryside. I appreciate their diverse opinions of what is going on in their part of the world, and mine. We don't always agree, but I learn from their views.

My Pagan community both near and far gives me comfort and support, and again, I am thankful. Social media, as much a bane as a blessing, keeps us in touch and up to date. We celebrate and complain daily and they are wonderful and inspiring when my self esteem needs plumping up, and even when we are at each others throats and embroiled in a passionate argument.

This year especially, I am thankful for the knowledge and skill of  surgeons, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. With out them I would not be here to give thanks.

Although I am not currently taking students in the Craft, I do have this platform at AmethJera's Broom With A View where I can teach and communicate with others. I thank all of you who come across this blog for whatever reason, because it has encouraged me to share these past six years and I have gained some wonderful friendships. I treasure you with the utmost gratitude and it humbles me that you read what I write. ( If there is anything you'd like me to write about, post it in the comments.)

I use this recipe for the following mixture as dry to sprinkle or as incense, steeped in water as a wash, and in oil. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons in a pot of boiling water on the stove for the aroma-which is earthy with a hint of spice- to clear the air. The choice is yours.

THANKS GIVING BLEND
NOTE: Although all of the ingredients listed here are edible, I strongly recommend against consuming this blend. Blackberries often grow along with poisoned oak, and red clover is scientifically proved to be detrimental to those taking hormonal treatments, contraceptives, anticoagulants, and aspirin. Do not directly inhale smoke if you use it as an incense as it may cause irritation to mucous membranes. It is fine to burn in a properly ventilated area.


Equal parts of each; increase to make more.

basil
bay leaves
blackberry leaves- dried
red clover buds and leaves-dried
dill seeds- use dried dill weed if unavailable
flax seed
ginger-powdered

Crush all with mortar and pestle until a fine powder and use as desired.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Have Faith, Stand Firm

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
—John Adams


I look upon the result of the recent US election as an opportunity to examine my faith and beliefs to further define exactly who I am. In the coming months, I might just have to use that definition to express the foundation of my spirituality to others when they are looking for a boogeyman. I believe the next administration will call into question our Constitutional right to be Pagans and Witches. Those challenges to our spiritual traditions will require from us deep understanding, commitment, and perspective. For me, and many others, it will be a journey to greater wisdom from within and an unprecedented closeness to understanding what we stand for as members of a minority spiritual tradition. God/dess help us because we're going to need all the help we can get.

In a climate of  portended persecution our personal beliefs must be solidly identified by us  to fight any opposition or oppression we may encounter. Our beliefs will most certainly be questioned and vilified because we don't fit the image of extremist Dominionist theology. In their short-sighted world, Pagans, Muslims, Buddhists and many other non-Christians are not only "the Other", but an enemy to be vanquished. Their theology mandate that they occupy all secular institutions, which has become a unifying ideology for extremists in the Christian Right. The extremist Dominionist theocracy espouses a warped view of Christian duty to take control of what they believe to be a sinful secular society and eradicate all other forms of belief  through bureaucratic and political means. It has been my experience that they seek to do this because they are more concerned with their own selfishness and personal gain, at the expense of common sense and decency. In other words, humanity be damned-along with the Constitutional rights of everyone else. Within the Evangelistic movement, they are a sick, hateful cult.

In an article posted in 2011 by Salon, journalist Sarah Posner  argues that there are "iterations of Dominionism that call on (extremist) Christians to enter...government, law, media and so forth...so that they are controlled by Christians." According to Posner, Christian Right leadership promoted Dominionism, and the most conservative and intolerant in the GOP courted their religious leaders for the votes of their followers. She added: "If people really understood Dominionism, they’d worry about it between election cycles." Worry, indeed: these where the same people who want to take over our government and rename Washington, DC the "District of Christ", who have articulated that the figure of Columbia atop our Capitol building should be replaced with a cross.

Dominionist extremism is religious nationalism in it's most derivative and deplorable form. They are a specifically motivated group outside of the traditional Evangelistic Church which is so threatened and frightened of the diversity of the world at large that they hide behind their version of Biblical teachings (which incidentally conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ on how to treat others) and a petulant, vengeful God of their own creation who suits their agenda. I think it's very telling and of interest that their obsession with power has lead them to sell out that god for the favor of a provocative demagogue bent on the destruction of the established order of our country.  

The time is now for those of us considered "The Other" to stand firmly against the extremist Dominionist faction and show them we will not be marginalized and abused by their insane desire to grab for the Brass Ring of Power in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. It is now more important than ever to not only reassess who we are as a spiritual people by lending support to one another because we are all fighting the same evil in regard to our religious freedoms and the right to practice as we choose.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Attention Magickal Practitioners: Working For The Common Good-What You Can Do Right Now


Image via Google
I have been sitting here for the last few days trying to take it all in and rationally process just exactly happened in this country on November 8th. Like many of you, I also need to take a personal inventory and make a realistic plan of what I'm going to do after January 20th and for the future.

But for right now, I think we all need to just take a deep cleansing breath and get grounded. What could well happen to dismantle the rights of women, people of color, LGBT individuals and those of us who hold non-Christian Fundamentalist views is looming large as a reality in our future. The tactics that will be used will be subtle and not-so-subtle a form of perverted nationalism dressed in the guise of patriotism that is counter to the worldview of the majority of American citizens as proven by the popular vote.

Following the example set by our ancestors, who gathered in times of crisis, we should gather now. Those who have gone before us looked to their healers and elders for solutions and aligned themselves accordingly looking to their wisdom traditions. In the face of adversity, they stood tall and courageous and we can too. It will not be easy-but it is not impossible or hopeless.

Many of us are by self-proclamation, practitioners of magick of one form or another. Magick, rightly approached, is the ability to harness the powers of Nature to be used to used toward a desired effect or outcome.

(Note: I am using a white pill bottle with a screw on lid. I am planning on inscribing binding runes on the outside of the bottle after it is sealed and placing it far in the back of my freezer.If you use this method, you should choose your runes so they are personalized and carry more of your energy.)

Share freely any way you choose. Your participation is appreciated!

GOOD FOR ALL SPELL
1 - Light a white candle.
2 - Write the following: "I neutralize Donald Trump and Mike Pence from doing any and all harm to women and their health, the L G B T community and their marriage, the animals and our financial stability in the United States as well as globally. Protect the immigrants, people of color and the disabled."
3 - Fold the paper up away from you (symbolizing pushing the energy away from you) and put it in a sealable jar or container.
4 - Concentrate on the intention of protection and neutralization 5 - Seal the container and pour the white wax on the jar to seal it further.
6 - Place the jar in your freezer.



Sunday, October 9, 2016

Grace



Pagans and witches talk a lot about power: power over self and how to bend things to our will. We use visualization and mind over matter, meditation and focusing. Some of us also talk a lot about using the power of the Elements or Nature to satisfy our desires and create change. But do we ever actually focus on seeking and accepting grace? Occultists don't talk about grace too often, but I feel it's an important part of our magickal development.

A few dictionary definitions of grace is to dignify, honor, favor, enhance, ennoble, glorify, elevate, improve. Do you have any more to add? I do.

Sitting in silence is grace. Listening to rain. Hearing crickets singing in the grass. The changing colors of Autumn, animals at home and in the wild. Laughing and mirth. Being of one accord within the Circle. Finding your tribe. Good conversation. Just being alive and being appreciative you are.

Recognizing grace is a form of gratitude, and one of the things that empowers us to speak gratitude.
From what I am seeing in the community, it seems to me that we are loosing our ability to humble ourselves. There is way too much bragging about our magickal abilities, especially when it concerns "being messed with". It sounds to me very much like a child taking a tantrum. Is it really necessary to seek retribution for every perceived slight? I don't think so. Real strength is letting most of it to slid off and not being knocked off course. There are other mundane ways of settling a score-ways that don't include magick. Running for our BOS for every little thing is being lazy. (I'm not talking about when your are actually harmed or threatened, then a working for protection is not unreasonable.) Being humble is not belittling ourselves, rather, it is knowing who we are and being open to learning more-because we don't know it all, and we never will. Knowledge of the Craft is infinite.

Being open and yearning to know the lessons of the Universe, elevating your personal vibration, connecting with the gods is a state of grace. We don't often think of it that way...but it is. Grace is not specific to one religious tradition and it is not church- speak; it is recognizing a gift and expressing thanks for that gift.

True power does not involve influencing the behavior of others or the course of events (once again, not when actually threatened with harm). It is not about control or authority. It is not an ego boost. It is not mastery over others. It is about using your abilities to benefit and heal. It's about acting with discernment. It about  self-mastery, asking for and accepting needed change in yourself....and being open to grace when it appears in our lives.