Tag Archives: Belief

Our Lady of Themyscira

There are people out there who worship superheroes.

I am not one of them.

But after having watched the new Wonder Woman movie, twice, one could almost…,

Oh, I’ve heard all the rationalizations, the misapplied references to Jungian archetypes, the quotes lifted reverently from Joseph Campbell’s books, the endless suggestions that the gods are merely manifestations of the collective consciousness, and that the superheroes, having achieved iconic status within western culture are every bit as valid a target of our mental energies as any of the “old gods”…,

I’m not buying it.

But if that’s your gig, the writers and marketers are certainly happy to sell it to you.

No, the superheroes are not actual gods, but when handled correctly they do have the power to inspire us, to lift us up from our own troubles, and to free us from the limitations which society and gravity would impose upon us, if only for a little while.

And, for a long time now, Wonder Woman has been my favorite.

Oh sure, I started out pretty firmly in the Superman camp.

I mean, what little boy doesn’t want to discover that he has amazing powers due to his secret alien parentage?

But we grow up a bit, we become angsty, our worldview darkens, and we glom onto the Batman, reveling in his trauma induced war against a bizarre criminal underworld.

Or, anyway, that’s what happened with me.

And I still buy his books, along with those of the Green Lantern and a smattering of other titles.

But it gets expensive pretty quickly.

If you’re one of the popular superheroes, a Superman or a Batman, you’ve probably got a dozen titles with your name or image on the cover, including monthlies, crossovers, and one shots.

Wonder Woman really only has the one title.

They say it has to do with marketing decisions, and the difficulty in writing a female lead who will be interesting and popular among young boys.  And sadly, that’s probably a big part of it.

But it’s not just the woman in the title.

The gods are in there too.

And I think that scares the crap out of them.

I love Wonder Woman because, even before they revamped her origin and made her a child of the gods, she was a gift from the gods.  Sculpted from clay by her mother the Amazon queen, she was given life by the Olympian gods, and sent to the world of men as an ambassador of peace.

I have always been perplexed that, in a medium where literally ANYTHING is possible, comic book writers almost never treat the gods as actual gods.  They are invariably aliens with magic seeming technology, livings in some dimension, removed from our own.  Or they are creatures of limited power, created by human thought and belief, languishing in a universe that no longer prostrates itself before them.

The gods are almost never written as actual gods.

Except in Wonder Woman.

For a long time, I thought this must have something to do with the publishing houses not wanting to rankle a largely Christian audience.  But I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard any of my Christian friends complaining about the presence of Hera or Apollo in a Wonder Woman comic.

Mostly they just seem put off by the fact that she doesn’t wear pants.

“She’s dressed like a whore,” one of them told me, a few years back.

Yeah, you try to think the best about a person, and then they make an idiot remark like that.

But for a while there, the artists gave us a Wonder Woman in pants.  And it looked terrible.

Oh how this new movie must be making their heads spin!

So I’ve been eagerly awaiting the new movie, and for the most part it has exceeded my expectations.  But the revelation, in the first few minutes of the movie, that Ares has murdered all of the other gods of Olympus…,

It seems as if the bravery of the comic did not translate so completely to the silver screen.

If the gods are dead, we don’t have to write for them, we don’t have to explain them, we don’t have to be worried that people will be offended by their presence.

Maybe Ares was right, and we don’t deserve them.

But it’s not about what we deserve.

It’s about what we believe.

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Filed under Comics, Culture, Heroes, Modern Life, Religion, The Gods

Truth and Clouds

Lunar Eclipse 2015

There’s a red smudge in the sky to the east.

The Earth’s shadow is falling across the surface of the Moon.

Giant bodies are rolling around each other at stunning distances and speeds.

Together, as they dance, they do this occasional trick with the light, where the one becomes lost almost completely in the shadow of the other.

Almost lost, but not quite.

Because the thin sheen of atmosphere which clings to our globe bends the light, curving it around the edges of the globe and refracting it toward our distant dance partner.

We bend the light around us and the red tinge of a million sunsets and a million sunrises paint our normally pale sister with a ruby hue.

It is a beautiful thing to behold.  I’ve seen it before.

But not tonight, not yet.

The clouds have been rolling across the sky all evening, and the rising moon is little more than a red smudge, nearly lost in the haze.  The atmosphere is the thing that makes the miracle, and often enough, obscures it from our vision.

 

I have many friends and acquaintances who are devout followers of this or that monotheist denomination.  When, on occasion, I have wondered aloud about why, in the face of scientific fact, they cling to literalist interpretations of biblical canon, I have been told that their strength lies in their faith.  If any one part of the Bible is found to be false, they explain, then the whole of it is forfeit, and their faith is for nothing.

This, it seems to me, demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the meaning behind the word.  Any faith that cannot survive in the light of truth is a hollow imitation of belief.

 

The clouds have cleared a bit and the Moon is hanging higher in the sky, a dusky red lantern in the darkness.

I’ve brought my telescope out for the occasion, and it’s finally clear enough that I can put it to use.  The blood-moon of the naked eye is, upon closer inspection, a gradient of hues from orange to deepest maroon.

My cat, weaving her way around the legs of the tripod, sees none of these colors.  For her, the bright white ball has become a dim grey ball.

Do my eyes see the truth of it?  Do hers?

Or does the scientific instrument see things more clearly?

And why would we assume that it must be one or the other?

Especially when there are still so many clouds!

 

For most of the people alive on this globe right now, the gods which I believe in are mere fables, or metaphors, or at best they are Jungian Archetypes which exist as manifestations of the human psyche.

When you spend years of your life, as I have, studying the gods and the mythologies that surround them, you quickly come to accept the fact that most of the scholarship on the topic was written with these biases as their foundation.

It is an unavoidable and perfectly reasonable attitude.

It doesn’t bother me.  It inspires me!

And why shouldn’t it?

These, simple metaphors (if you will), have shaped human art and literature and science for the entire known history of our species.  For almost two-thousand years, they have continued to guide and influence our culture, despite militant, often violent, suppression by the various monotheist orthodoxies that have held power.

If the gods are fictional then that’s pretty damned impressive for a bunch of stories!

Now stop and imagine, for just a moment, that you felt the touch of something that huge and powerful, in your life.  If you count yourself as a believer, would you really need to cling to this idea that every scrap of mythology associated with your deity was true, despite all evidence to the contrary?

 

The clouds are gone.  And so is the eclipse.

I just watched through the big lens as the last of the Earths’ hazy shadow slipped off the rim of the lunar sphere.

Earlier tonight I was using the 20mm lens on my scope, which puts the entire globe on display, but for these final moments I switched over to the 10mm which draws the moon down with stunning detail – craters, mountains, valleys, and the shadows they cast.

The red color is all leeched away by now, of course, and dear Luna is clothed once again in her standard pearlescent garb.

Watching through the scope, I see the last sliver of our shadow…,

…going…

…going…

…and gone.

It is a strange thing to sit there and see the final moments of something that huge, watching it not on television or on some live feed from the internet, but through your own eyes aided only by a couple pieces of glass.  The stark truth of the thing does nothing to diminish the feeling of awe which is inspired by the immensity of the event.

 

I have been challenged, on more than one occasion, to produce some proof that my gods exist.

I can’t even prove that there was an eclipse tonight.

I saw bits and pieces of it.

I’ll wager you did too.

But there were an awful lot of clouds rolling through and most of it I couldn’t see that clearly.

The atmosphere, as I may have mentioned earlier, is the thing that makes the miracle, and often enough, obscures it from our vision.

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Filed under Culture, Mythology, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Spiritual Journey

Owlfoolery (awake after midnight)

It was the sound of a mournful puppy that drew me outside.

I’d meant to be in bed an hour earlier, but I just kept finding excuses to stay up a little later.  I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything, of course.  Just puttering around the house, unwilling to give up on a day that was almost over anyway.

11:58pm.

Ugh!

I’d finally decided that enough was enough, and was locking up, when I heard the noise.

Sad puppy, somewhere down the street it sounded like, making a noise somewhere between a whine and a bark.

I turned the deadbolt on my front door.  Not my problem.

The sound came again, and I turned the bolt the other way.

Stepping out, the night air was cool and moist.

The last few weeks, here in North Texas, have seen more rain and thunder than anything else.  It had rained, on and off, for most of the day, but for the moment the clouds seemed to be minding their own business, scudding their way across a grey sky and a few blurry looking stars.

I stepped out into the middle of the yard, away from the porch-light, and as I did, the strange yelping sound came again, and again – close!  And a strange blunt shape hurdled through the air from the side of my house and landed in the low branches just to my left.

Before I could fully register what had happened, the first shape was followed by a second, which flew past its fellow, and into the branches just a few feet in front of me.  The branches, just an arms length out of my reach, dipped low with an unseen weight, and that strange ‘puppy’ cry sounded again.

I turned back toward the first shape in time to see it launch itself toward and then past the second shape, its course curving through the branches, and coming to rest a little higher and on my right.  Its small, compact shape only dimly visible in the reflected glow of my porch light.  An owl.

Owls!

The second owl launched himself high up into the branches, lost completely to my view, until I heard it land, again to my left, very near to where his friend had first touched down, and the circle was repeated.

Once…,

…twice more, before they vanished off into the night, and I was left there, standing alone in my front yard, grinning like an idiot and truly awake again for the first time in months.

Flying Owl

I listen to a lot of National Public Radio, and a couple weeks ago I tuned into a program discussing studies that had been conducted, showing that emotions are not just things of the mind, but that they possess a physical component.

The claim ran something like this: If you are sad, maybe you slouch and shuffle, maybe you frown, maybe you gesture and speak in a certain manner.  These are the bodies physical expressions of your emotional state.  The unexpected twist, is that according to multiple studies, if you slouch and shuffle, if you frown and gesture and speak in a certain manner, despite the fact that you are actually happy, you will BECOME sad.  The connection between mind and body runs both ways, and the mind will respond to the actions of the body with an alteration in mood.

In the days that have passed since I listened to that program (and for the life of me, I can’t remember which show it was), I have read a number of blog posts, from various writers, which all seem to touch, in one way or another, upon the subject of Orthopraxy versus Orthodoxy.

That is, Right Action versus Right Belief.

Certain religions of a monotheistic persuasion, hold that correct belief (i.e. the one true way) is the foundation upon which personal salvation rests.  From this perspective if you believe in the proper things in the proper way, your actions will follow suit and a glorious afterlife awaits.

On the other hand, if you are found to have committed incorrect actions (sins), the likely cause was your own failure to believe properly, or fully enough, to override your sinful nature.

Polytheists, on the other hand, reject the concept of ‘personal salvation’ and tend to be more Orthopraxic in nature.  When you believe in more than one god, and when the wants and desires of those gods vary, sometimes to the point of being contradictory, believing in anything like ‘One True Way’ is problematic at best.

What’s more, as pointed out in this excellent post over at the Shrine of Antinous, Polytheism is, “Not About Belief. Belief may flow from experience, and may impact practice (in fact, it should!); but, belief does not delimit experience nor determine practice.”

Experience and practice should be the root of belief.

Without action, belief is of little value.

We are what we do, and if we stop doing anything, what are we then?

***

When we act like we are sad, we become sad.

And when, to please others, or to mollify certain hurts among our loved ones, we set aside the things that we do and say, the things that inform our beliefs and make us who and what we are…,

…we sleep, and our beliefs become mere dreams, unfulfilled.

I have allowed myself to fall into this restless slumber.

The connection I once felt with the natural world, and with the otherworld beyond, has faded through lack of use.

I was worried, for a time, that it had vanished completely.

Until a few nights ago, when a pair of screech owls decided to play a game of leapfrog in the trees above me, turning circles around me in the night.  They were only there for a few seconds, and then they were gone, my laughter following them into the darkness.  But they left me awake to something I had almost forgotten.

It is time to start doing things again.

It is time to start being again.

It’s after midnight, and I’m wide awake!

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey

A Friend in Deed

I heard you this time.

I didn’t before.

I couldn’t.

I’d closed my ears to all those who came before you.

But, now…, yes, now I understand how very wrong, how foolish I truly was.

The truth, as you must surely realize, is that I was angry.  I feel like I had been betrayed so many times before, by people who I believed to be my friends.  As I grew to know them, my natural caution fell away.  I offered them my confidence and they turned on me, one by one, exploiting that trust in an attempt to undermine my beliefs.

It seemed as if they just wanted me for their church and their god.

Wasn’t I good enough for them the way I was?

Why couldn’t they just accept me for who I was and for what I believed?

For the longest time now, I’ve felt like the failure was with them.

And so I was angry, and so I was wrong.

The failure was mine.

I know now, that I didn’t understand what friendship really meant.

Because when you truly care for someone, and when you see them engaging in self destructive behaviors, there comes a point when you either walk away, or try to guide them to a better, safer path.  Until now, I’ve always seen it as intrusive ‘proselytizing’, when in reality it is far more of an ‘intervention’.  Still intrusive – yes, but done in love, for the greater good.

I don’t doubt that you’d have done the same thing if you’d seen me drinking myself into an early grave, or wandering blindly off some curb and into traffic.

I should thank you for being such a good friend!

You waited and you watched, undoubtedly hoping that I would find my own way away from the all-consuming fires of hell.  And all this time, as I spoke and wrote about discovering the gods of my ancestors, about the spiritual connection I have felt with the world around us, and about my personal growth as a human being, all you could hear were desperate cries for help.  It must have been painful to listen for so long, and still remain silent.

Finally, you could, in good conscience, tolerate it no longer.  You spoke out because you couldn’t stand the thought of my suffering in an eternity of torment.  You spoke out in the true spirit of friendship.

And for the first time your words touched me, and I understood how very wrong I have been, how unfair.

What I have always seen as an intrusive act, was actually selfless.

Your disregard for my personal boundaries, pure heroism.

The lack of respect you hold for my intelligence, heartwarming.

How could I ever have been so foolish?

In your eyes, you see me as only a true friend could: broken, insufficient, and damned.

Friends don’t mince words, tell me what you really think!

But there’s still time.

If I give up the beliefs and experiences of a lifetime, if I reject all that I know in my heart to be true, and if I purge my faith and replace it with your own, we can be better than friends.

We can be “Brothers in Christ” — and oh what a family that must be!

No.

I heard you this time, and I understand now that the failure is mine.

While ‘I’ might try to intervene if I believed you were in immediate physical danger, I guess I don’t care enough to intercede on behalf of your soul.  Oh sure, I may try to “lead by example”, and I’m certainly willing to explain my beliefs to those who show an interest, but when have I ever taken you aside to explain how very wrong you are in your notions?  Have I ever shown you the proper disrespect?  Have I disparaged your life choices as only a true friend would?

In your need, I have failed you.  I am a poor friend, in deed.

Forgive me.

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

 

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Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Modern Life, Proselytizing, Religion, Spiritual Journey

Looking for Magic?

It seemed as if the rain would never end.  The day had dawned bright with only a slight drizzle, which grew more torrential with each sodden hour.  It pounded down upon the roof, and every time it seemed as if it might have had enough, it pounded some more.

Another awesome Saturday, right?

In those days, I worked something close to “bankers hours” and could count on the luxury of weekends off.  And yet, here I was, stuck inside, prisoner to a thunderous downpour that showed no signs of abating.  Tired of reading, nothing on television and no where else to be,  I opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the 3’x5’ patch of concrete that passed for a balcony in my old apartment complex.

The phrase “wall of water” has never been more apt.  The rain was rolling off the roof above me in a solid sheet, through which nothing of the outside world could be seen.  The visible universe had been reduced to a moving wall of impenetrable grey accompanied by a droning thunder over which no other noise could be heard.

Except…,

Almost lost in the constant roar, I could hear the voices of children.

The sound seemed to be coming from below me and to my right.  Ah, the neighbors kids, two little african-american girls, maybe six and eight.  I’d seen them, now and then, playing around the complex, and here they were, like me, stuck inside on their day off from school.

Were they singing?

“Rain-rain-go-away, come-again-some-other-day,” (softly).

Oh, right.  I couldn’t blame them.

Too bad though, this storm showed no signs of letting up anytime soon.

“Rain-rain-go-away, come-again-some-other-day”.
“Rain-rain-go-away, come-again-some-other-day.”
“Rain-rain-go-away, come-again-some-other-day,” (progressively louder).

I remember smiling to myself.  These kids were determined!

“Rain-rain-go-away, come-again-some-other-day,” (and louder still).

And this is when my humor began to transform into amazement.  These kids were not letting up, their chant (and that is surely what it had become), what growing louder and more insistent.  I tried to lean over the balcony, to get a look at them, but could not without plunging my head into the deluge.  Even as I leaned over the balcony railing in the attempt, I could feel the wood vibrating with the power of the falling rain.

And…, I could feel something else there, as well.

“Rain-rain-go-away, come-again-some-other-day,” (almost shouting now).

I could feel their chant in the wood under my fingers, and then in the air around me, pricking at my skin and running up my spine.  It felt as if lightning were about to strike, as if it were striking already, in slow motion.

There was an energy flowing out of those little girls.  It was coming off of them in waves, filling in all the empty spaces around us and then pushing out…,

“Rain-Rain-Go-Away, Come-Again-Some-Other-Day!”
(demanding – commanding).

“RAIN-RAIN-GO-AWAY!  COME-AGAIN-SOME-OTHER-DAY!”

And then it was over: the chant and the storm.  The echo of their last word still ringing in the sudden silence, but the rain was gone.  The downpour had been stilled completely, as if someone had thrown a switch.

Children's Game or Magic Spell?

Magic.

It’s not a thing we always like to talk about, (or maybe some people talk about it too much).  We either shy away from it, when in mixed company, or we try to explain it unnecessarily.  We spell it differently because Crowley said we should, because adding a ‘k’ at the end of the word will make it respectable somehow.  ‘Magick’ the reasoning goes, should not be confused with the lowly art of pulling rabbits and doves out of a hat.

“Bollocks,” I say.

Magic (and you can keep your lousy ‘k’) is as much about changing our perceptions of reality as it is effecting any real change in the world.  I would go so far as to say that the one is impossible without the other; that we must be able to suspend our disbelief before we may hope to impose our will upon the world around us.

The true magician must be a showman at heart.

Hey, look!  It's Dr. Strange the Sorcerer Supreme and one of the hoary hosts of Hoggoth.

Hey, look! It’s Dr. Strange the Sorcerer Supreme and one of the hoary hosts of Hoggoth.

Still others try to explain magic away, to make it acceptable to outsiders.

“Magic is like prayer,” they will say, to ease the apprehension of the monotheist.

No.  Sorry.  Wrong.

Prayer is like prayer.

When we pray, monotheist or polytheist, we call out to a deity for aid or blessing or simply to honor their mighty names.  If said deity should answer our appeal, the action, the power, is in those called upon.

Magic is not prayer, and we will gain the trust of no one by lying to them.

Of course, the lines are not always so clearly drawn.  Just as we may use the tools of the stage magician, we may call upon the names of deity in our workings.  We may do so to set the right tone, or even to add a little ‘oomph’ and gravitas to the proceedings.

And there are those who take this too far, who think of the gods as little more than power batteries to be tapped at need.  Well, there are people who treat their friends and associates in the same manner, and while they may indeed get ahead in this world, that doesn’t mean I have to respect them.

No, magic is not prayer, and neither is it the manifestation of psychic ability.  Although, again, the latter may be quite useful in the application of the former.  Such ability, when and where it may exist, is another valuable tool in the magicians belt.

But where are these people, who work their will on the world around us?

Does science not disprove them or engineering replace them?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

—Arthur C. Clark

Maybe.

Or perhaps magic is so hard to prove because it is so easy to disbelieve.

We adults must make rules and formulae for everything under the Sun (and the Sun, and the stars and galaxies beside).  The modern day magician is as wrapped up in this complicated reality we have built for ourselves as any engineer or programmer.  What, we ask, are the proper correspondences, materials, elements, positions, foci, tools and time of day?

Conjuring

But the most important element of all has always been belief.

Without belief we fail in our every endeavor, magical or mundane.

Belief is the hardest thing to manufacture in a world that seems set against us.  It is the hardest thing to maintain.  Everything else that we do and need and want, falls short of this one truth.  And it’s so very simple.

“Magic is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”

—Aleister Crowley

But only if we believe.

And to do that, we must learn to be like children.

I’ve seen children, who knew nothing of the rules (meteorological or magical) tell the rain to go away.  I’ve seen the rain, the world, obey them.

If you are looking for the magic in the world, just look in the mirror…,

…and believe.

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Filed under Culture, Magic, Modern Life, Philosophy, Prayer, Religion, Spiritual Journey

Drawing ‘The Tower’

Each morning, before I rise from bed to begin my day, I consult the oracle.

I take a stack of seventy-eight cards,

Shuffle them five times,

Cut the deck,

And draw.

One card, face up, to provide an inkling of the day ahead.

I began this little ritual a little over a month ago and was immediately surprised by how often the same cards came up.  Day after day after day, I draw the same card, only to see it replaced a few days later, by a different (if thematically similar) card.  A day or two pass, and it’s back to the first card.

In one respect it has been reassuring.  The oracle certainly seems to be representative of the patterns in my day to day.  Even if my days have a certain “sameness” to them, what are the odds of pulling the same card again and again, from a throughly shuffled deck?

Check that.  I have no doubt that somewhere, someone is busy calculating those odds exactly, determined to show that the likelihood is actually much greater than I think, and that the whole exercise is a waste of time.

Spare me, oh statisticians, I have better things to do than to listen to you explain that pulling any single card out of seventy-eight, repeatedly, over multiple days, does not represent a pattern.

The pattern, I am afraid, is there to see, and all your calculations be damned.

I wish it were otherwise.

As of late, almost every card I have drawn speaks toward my need to overcome the challenges and adversity in my daily life.

Yes, thank you.  I hadn’t noticed.

My regular readers may remember that a couple weeks ago I mentioned that both my refrigerator and clothes dryer were on the blink.  Additionally, my work days have been exceedingly hectic;  money is tighter than ever;  I’ve had to rule out any vacation plans until sometime next year;  My kitchen sink is thoroughly clogged;  Some unknown animal has been trying to dig up the grave of a lost pet in my backyard;  and on top of all that, Winter is on it’s way and up in my attic there is a furnace that stubbornly refuses to light.

I was ticking off a few of these points to a friend the other night.  I also mentioned that I had arranged to have the refrigerator and dryer serviced the following day and that perhaps, with that done, things might begin looking up.

“Yeah, until you have a car accident,” she joked.

I asked her to refrain from jinxing me.

Actually, I may have shouted.

In any case, the repair guy came and went, and the dryer is now happily fixed.

The fridge?  Yeah, not so much.

Oh, and I was rear-ended on my way to work on Saturday, and only narrowly avoided being plowed into the back of a bus that was stopped in front of me.  My car seems to have taken little damage (remarkable considering what happened to the front bumper of the Ford F-150 that slammed into it), but my body feels like…,

Well…, it feels like I was hit by a truck.

If anyone dares suggest that, “at least I still have my health,” I will surely punch him in the nose.  It’s been that kind of week.

Which brings us to this morning.

Shuffle…Shuffle…Shuffle…,

Shuffle…Shuffle…,

Cut and Draw.

The Tower card of the Rider Waite Tarot Deck

Screw that!  I’m staying in bed.

For those unfamiliar with the Tarot, this is the “your world is crashing down around you” card.  No kittens and kisses here folks.  This card is all about watching whatever castles you’ve carefully built up, go washing away with the tide.

Now my rationalists friends are, I have no doubt, already coughing politely into their fists.

>ahem<

“You can’t possibly believe in the Tarot,” they will say.

And I don’t.

Or rather, I should say that I neither believe nor disbelieve in the Tarot.

Much in the same way that I neither believe nor disbelieve in a barometer.

These things are tools, and handy enough when we know how to read them.  The choice to use them, or not, is ours, but their functionality does not require our belief.

Even so, when the barometer drops suddenly on a spring day in Texas, one would be wise to seek shelter – whatever your beliefs.

The same may be true of certain cards.  In my experience, The Tower is the card that says, “stop pushing against the wind, find a hole, and just ride out the freaking storm.”

And so here I am, hunkering down and waiting for this particular squall to blow itself out.

— Work – Bills – Furnace – Fridge – Sink – Car – Whiplash —

It’s okay.  I can wait.

Because, the good news here, is that the storm always passes.  The Towers that we build up may get blasted into smithereens by lightning sent down from the Fates or the Gods and just blind, stupid luck, but when the smoke clears we may find that we have a stronger foundation upon which to build again.

We are mistaken when we measure our lives by the bricks that we lay down one upon the other.  A better gauge, I think, is our determination to start stacking those tumbled bricks up again, knowing all the while, that eventually we will draw The Tower yet again.

When I start building again, I think I’ll find a way to work in some flying buttresses.

I like them because they’re both functional and attractive.

Now then, where are those cards.

Shuffle…shuffle…shuffle…,

 ADDENDUM:  It did not occur to me, until I had already written this piece, that this is my 78th post on this blog.  That’s seventy-eight posts and seventy-eight cards in a standard Tarot deck.  Simple random chance at work, I am sure!  😀

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Accept Our Sacrifice

What do you believe in?

I do not mean “believe” in the small sense of the word, as in: “I believe in the power of positive thinking,” or, “I believe there is a mouse in the salad bowl.”  I mean what do you BELIEVE in, fundamentally, passionately, all the way down to the very core of your being?  There must be something.

Is it family?

Nation?

Life?

Love?

Gods?

Do you believe in something more, something that makes you who you are and yet exists outside the individual “self”?

Or are your beliefs simply little things that you can sit on a shelf and admire, and then put away when company comes over, to save you the embarrassment.

I have been thinking about a conversation I witnessed many years ago.

Once upon a time I used to enjoy roaming around a variety of online religion forums.  On one occasion I found myself on a Paganism Debate board and I remember following along with a rather rousing debate between a devout Christian (on a mission) and a number of my fellow Pagans of various stripe.

These diatribes usually followed the same pattern: “You’re going to hell…, blah, blah…, worshipping Satan…, blah, blah…, accept Christ as your savior, blah blah.”  It was all very routine until someone pointed out to the fellow that while he was free to believe all that about us, all we really required of him was to be left alone.

A simple enough request, on the surface, but not one that our would be benefactor would grant us.  To allow us to deny God unchallenged, he alleged, would have been a denial of his faith.   His love and devotion for Jesus, he alleged, was such that he would gladly give his life rather than deny his god.

Now this was certainly nothing new.  The Christian who goes trolling through Pagan Debate Boards tends, in my experience, to have a fairly active persecution complex working.  An extreme response of this nature was to be expected.

No, I was put off less by his aspirations to martyrdom, and more by the ridicule he received from my compatriots, in response to his zealous declaration.  Rather than explaining that no one had asked him to give up even so much as his parking place, they told him that his devotion was foolish.

“If someone threatened to kill me if I didn’t pray to their god I would just do it.  Why should I suffer when I can just do what they want me to do?  Our gods just want us to be happy and safe.  They wouldn’t care what we say or do to save ourselves.”

Oh, well sure, that’s okay then.

It’s fine to dishonor ourselves and vilify our gods as demons and falsehoods, as long as we are saving our own skin.

And the gods encourage that sort of thing, do they?

I think about that conversation all these years later and I cringe at how very small we must have seemed.  How empty the arguments and mockery.

I do not think that they knew their gods at all.

Sacrifice.

We use this word a lot.  We make sacrifice to our gods through libations and the burning of incense or candles.  Maybe we give money or time to a worthy cause and we silently dedicate our actions to the gods.

We offer unto them our blood, sweat and tears.  Well, maybe not so much with the blood, we tend to frown upon that these days.  Actually, we frown upon giving up much of anything that would cause us discomfort, and therein lies the problem: we have forgotten what sacrifice means.

It’s not just about giving away things that we won’t miss or that we didn’t really need anyway.  Sacrifice is about giving up something that had real and true value to you, something that you will miss.

It’s about suffering a loss, accepting a discomfort and sometimes it’s even about putting your life and livelihood on the line for something that you believe is worthy of that sacrifice.

It shouldn’t be a totally foreign concept.

Our brothers and sisters give up their lives every day to serve their country overseas.

Just last week we watched as regular folks transformed from spectators at a marathon into heroes, willing to risk their own lives to pull others out of harm’s way.

Before the shock of those events had passed, first-responders here in Texas were consumed in an explosion as they tried to hold back the flames of a raging chemical fire.

We honor these sacrifices.

How strange that we can find value in risking our lives for our friends, our neighbors and even for strangers we have never met, but we will deny our own most fundamental beliefs.  Because to admit that we are different, that we worship many gods instead of one, might bring scorn from our family, friends and employers?

“Admit” — as if our beliefs were something to be ashamed of?

Certainly there are those who think we should be ashamed of ourselves for believing as we do.  How much stronger do we make them when we hide ourselves away, deny our gods, practice our rites in secret, all the while fooling ourselves into thinking that our little sacrifices are worthy compensation?

If we want society to honor us, our employers to treat us equally, and our families and friends to love and respect us, we have to show them all that we respect ourselves first.

No one wants to suffer needlessly, but it is important that we do this.  No minority group has ever won a place in society without a heaping dose of pain and suffering.  The more of us willing to share that abuse among ourselves now, the easier it will be for those who will come after.

And more and more of us are doing exactly that.

We stand up in the light and honor the sacrifices of those who came before us.

We hold out our hands and ask that you join us.

I am in no way affiliated with IPCOD except insofar as I like their goals.  Maybe I should be.  Maybe you should too!

I am in no way affiliated with IPCOD except insofar as I like their goals. Maybe I should be. Maybe you should too!

May 2nd marks International Pagan Coming Out Day.  Coming, as it does, on the heels of Beltane, itself a celebration of new beginnings and coming together, IPCOD is a splendid opportunity to take those first steps in being open with others about your beliefs.  The more of us who are open about who and what we are, the more quickly we can create a society that will truly accept us and our beliefs.

Being open does not come without risks.  Every closeted Pagan has his or her reasons for remaining so.  I simply ask you to weigh those reasons against the power of your belief and decide for yourself which is stronger.

If we put ourselves out there, if we run toward the flames and the smoke, we can make ourselves strong for those who need us now and in the years to come.  We can pull them out of harms way and into the light of a better day.

And may the gods accept our sacrifice.

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Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Proselytizing, Religion