Tag Archives: Goddess

Her Shadow in Wings

The sun, glaring down from a faded sky,
Finds me perched in a high place,
Hammer,
Nails,
Shingles,
Hot asphalt burning my knees,
As I kneel,
An unwitting pilgrim,
At the heel of a solar god.

Relief, unexpected and fleeting,
As shade passes over me,
Accompanied by a cool breeze,
My gaze drawn upward,
To a raven wheeling against the Sun,
The poetic impulse takes me,
And I am awash in a sudden flood of verse,
Until my balance wavers,
Dangerously…,

And the moment passes,
Eyes down and the sun on my back,
I return to the task at hand,
But a single phrase lingers still,
“Her shadow in wings.”

 

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Filed under Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Journey

Homeless

I’d just pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and into some mild traffic, this was early last week, when the passenger side window of the car in front of me opened and ejected what looked like a wadded up fast food bag, which came to rest on the grassy slope beyond the curb.

There was no way I could pull over to pick it up, and no way to properly express my outrage to the uncaring occupants of the vehicle in front of me.

The litter was just there, a little blot of ugliness in my both my rearview mirror and my stomach.

I found myself wondering in what sort of condition those people keep their home.

What, I wondered, was their problem?

Why not just dispose of the thing properly?

I called these folks “uncaring” a moment ago, but I don’t know that I believe that.  There has to have been some thought process, some mental calculation that would compel a person to open her car window and cast her refuse into the street.

I imagined these people as horrible slobs, leaving a trail of filth in their wake wherever they go.

But maybe they just didn’t want that trash in their car, they could, I supposed, be incredibly tidy, within their own four walls.

And there, in the midst of my conjecture, I think I may have hit upon the element that I was missing.

Home, for most people, is what we own, an area bounded by fence or walls that belongs to exclusively to us.  Everything beyond those walls is outside, outside of our control, outside of our responsibility.

I don’t really see things that way.  Walls and fences have their uses, sure, but they are temporary things, in the grand scheme, and land ownership even more so.  The land does not belong to us, we are only its caretakers.

It is, I think, far more realistic to say that we belong to the land.

And so, last Sunday when I saw garbage indiscriminately flung into the street, it felt like a blemish upon my home.

Two days later, nearly half our population flung garbage into the presidency, and for the first time in my life, I felt homeless.

In the days that have passed since that seemingly endless Tuesday night, my emotional state has shifted from anger to despondency and back again more times than I can count.  I’ve listened to the speculation about the why’s and how’s, I’ve looked through the sorry demographics of who did and didn’t, I’ve listened to the explanations from those who voted for him, and I keep coming up with the same calculation that accounts for that wadded up bag on the side of the roadway.

This society is infected with a strange breed of selfishness that prevents us from truly seeing and empathizing with the world beyond that little patch that we imagine we own.

The problems and concerns of others, their very real fears about the future…, well, that’s on them, isn’t it.

And I don’t know what we can do about that attitude.  I don’t know how we can broaden the perceptions of people beyond themselves, except to continue to be who WE are, to continue to live in their world, and to open their hearts, one by one.

I suppose it would be easier, if I could just shut my eyes to it, but I can’t.

I wouldn’t want to.  I remember when I saw the world like they do.  I remember that, although less painful, it was a pretty empty way to live.

The anger is still there, but it’s at low ebb now.

The despondency, I’ve mostly replaced that with determination.

But I worry for my friends, many of whom are likely facing hard times ahead.

I worry for those of us who practice alternative religions, now that the evangelical movement has friends in high places, who have already expressed profound misunderstandings about both the Non-Establishment Clause, and simple human decency.

Mostly though, I worry about the land.

My ancestors believed that we were all a part of the land, and that the land herself was divine.

When they chose a king, he was symbolically married to the goddess of the land.

The success or the failure of that marriage could be seen in both the fruitfulness of the land and the prosperity of the people.  A disrespectful king could bring blight to the land and ruin to the governed.

Although the actual rituals of this marriage have not been practiced in many centuries, and never on this continent (so far as I know), I do believe that some vestige of this relationship, however unknown to our leaders, must still remain.  And the thought of it, of that man in THAT spiritual role…, frankly, it makes me nauseous.

Somehow, I don’t think a man with a reputation for using women and a well documented disdain for environmental protections will be the font of a bountiful union.  And if things go too badly, the goddess of this land may very well blame the society that put him there.  We may find that we are all homeless.

Goddess Statue

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Traditions

Maybe (a prayer)

Maybe they danced,

Talked,

Caroused,

Flirted.

Maybe they couldn’t stand the crowd and longed for the trip home.

Maybe they felt the pulsing energy around them and couldn’t tear themselves away.

Maybe…,

I don’t know.

I didn’t know them.

But I know they were beautiful.

And I know that they found beauty in each other,

And in the love and freedom that surrounded them.

And they died for it.

They died,

Because some people…,

Maybe just a few,

But too many,

Can see only ugliness in that which they do not understand.

So their lives were cut short, their spirits released.

And I wonder which God will step forward to shelter them?

Which Savior?

Which Prophet or Saint will guide their way?

If none of theirs, then I offer mine.

Freely.

May the fair Goddess on black wings guide them swiftly to better shores then these.

As worthy as any soldiers, these spirits, slain in someone else’s war.

Let her keening rise up until the heavens crack.

Until all the priests,

And the politicians,

And all who trade in fear and hate,

Have fled at last beneath the shadow of their empty pulpits.

And then,

In the quiet that follows,

Those who have eyes to see beauty,

In all of its wonderful diversity,

Will be free to dance,

And to love,

And to live,

Finally without fear.

That, my friends, may be too much to hope for.

But is such a thing too much to pray for?

It may be.

But if enough of us raise our voices,

If we join our cry with her’s,

And all the gods hear us,

Maybe not.

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Filed under Death, Modern Life, Prayer, Religion, The Gods

The Disillusioned Pantheist

Our story begins only a few weeks ago, as a desperate soul posts on a Pagan forum looking for guidance from her fellows.

“I am a Pantheist,” she explains, “and I believe that the Earth is our goddess.  But lately, I’ve noticed so many bad things happening, like storms and droughts and earthquakes that hurt people, and I’m starting to wonder how she can really love and care for us when all these bad things keep happening.”

The answers that followed, for the most part, struck upon a singular theme: Nature lives in perfect harmony, but people have disrupted that delicate balance, and so ‘bad things’ happen.

Some of those answering even went so far as to suggest that monsoons and earthquakes and the like were Gaia’s punishment upon mankind for our collective transgressions against the natural world.

However surprising it may be to see so many self professed Pantheists borrowing lines from Pat Robertson (Hurricanes as God’s wrath against the sinners, really folks?) it’s the whole “nature loves us” thing that I always find so astonishing.

Have any of these people ever been outside?

I mean, have they really, REALLY been outside, to where the wild things are, and not just some quick jog around their perfectly groomed little neighborhood?!

Because, whatever one’s beliefs about the divinity of the natural world, the one thing that should be abundantly clear after even a casual observation of the natural order of things, is that Nature is NOT nice and it does not love you.  Most of that ‘perfect harmony’ stuff that folks keep talking about, involves this critter working overtime to kill and eat some other critter, and on, and on, right down the line from whales to the most microscopic of organisms.  If the Earth is a goddess, she is a hungry one who consumes her own children with a relish that would make even old Kronos blush.

Now, as a Celtic Polytheist, I see a world where the Land, Sea and Sky are inhabited by many spirits of one kind or another.  Our ancestors worked hard to placate the less friendly of these, and to venerate the more cooperative ones.  It should come naturally, to one of a polytheistic mind, to understand the natural world as a multiplicity of sometimes opposed and competing forces.

But leaving aside the mythology for a moment, if you want to really understand our relationship with the natural world, I suggest reading Michael Pollan’s ‘The Botany of Desire’.

Early on in the book, Mr. Pollan urges us to observe history from a plants’ point of view, suggesting that instead of viewing the rise of agriculture as one of the great achievements of Humankind, “It makes just as much sense to think of agriculture as something the grasses did to people as a way to conquer the trees.”

And THAT is the nature I see when I look outside my window, and that’s what I find when I go hiking through the wilderness.  A nature that is so conniving in its manipulation of the human animal, that the vast majority of us live our entire lives under the illusion that WE are the ones in control.

And for all that, I still love it.  And it is an honest love, without all the pretense of a peaceful and harmonious world that loves me back.  Sometimes, it is the unrequited loves that are the best.

Now get out there and breathe some fresh air.

Take a hike through the woods.

Swim in the ocean.

Climb mountains.

There are spirits in the Earth.

And you can be one of them!

Mountain Dawn

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Death, Mythology, Nature, Philosophy, Religion

All Beings in Moderation

I woke up a half an hour ago, but I’m pretending to be asleep still.

My eyes are closed, my face pressed into the pillow, my breathing steady, I’m giving every possible indication that I am still unconscious.  If I fake it well enough, maybe I’ll stumble into the real thing, at least until my alarm goes off.

So I burrow deeper into the pillows, and I cast my mind back, trying to find the ragged edges of departing slumber.  And instead I realize that there is sunlight on my face, streaming through a gap between the curtains.

Áine, the goddess of the Summer sun, rules the daytime sky from dawning Imbolc to the last light of Lughnasadh.  She is said to be mistress of both love and fertility, but on mornings like this, I suspect she has a bit of a cruel streak.

“All right, I’m up already.”

—•••—

Okay, maybe I’m not all the way up.

I’m sitting in bed, trying to bring the words on my phone’s screen into focus.

I really do need to get these eyes of mine checked.

Or maybe not.  Most of what I’m reading are news stories detailing violence abroad and discrimination closer to home, most of it perpetrated by people whose motivation is their impassioned belief in one of the more popular middle-eastern gods.

At issue are differences in the specific hows and whys of religious practice, which I must admit, seem minor to this outsiders eyes.  That, and some differences in opinion on who sleeps with who, seem to be the impetus behind some very unpleasant behavior.

One would think that the belief in a single god would bring unity rather than strife.

—•••—

I shuffle the cards five times, cut the deck, and lay down a single card which will be the ‘theme’ of my day.

0 – The Fool.

There he is, about to step blithely off a cliff and into the unknown, his few possessions at his back, and his loyal companion running along at his side.

Today, it seems, will be a day of journeys, of mysteries explored and unexpected detours taken.

—•••—

There is a high whine in the air as I pass the weed-whacker over the tufty grass in my front yard.

Arc left – half step – arc right – half step…, it is a strange little dance, with it’s own beat, and I find myself humming lightly in cadence.  It is a hymn of sorts, though wordless, which I offer to the land spirits as I go about my work in the yard.

My relationship with the land is not one that the ancestors would have recognized.

I grow no crop.

There are no grazing herds.

I simply maintain what society has determined is a tidy appearance to my particular plot of land.

The ancients knew the names of their local spirits, knew their habits, their likes and dislikes.  The relationship with the land and its invisible inhabitants was a matter of life and death.  But today, for most of us, there is no relationship there to speak of.  We live on the surface of the land, with no thought of any deeper connection.

In my travels I have discovered that some places are more “talkative” than others.  The spirits which I feel around my home, when I feel them at all, are quiet and watchful.  Sometimes I think that they are suspicious of my attempts to speak with them.

And so the wordless song, to sooth their feelings, if I may, as I work at lowering the grass.

—SLAP!—

Almost lost the weed-whacker in my efforts to reach the biting insect on my arm.

I may have spoken out of turn.  The mosquito crop is coming along quite nicely.

—•••—

The Morrígan stares back at me from atop my home altar.

Agent of change, of war and challenge and conflict, she who collects the souls of the dead, prophetess and raven goddess, for some reason my gaze is drawn to her this morning.

I smile and glance up at the Tarot card, the wandering Fool, who rests near her.

So, it’s going to be one of THOSE days, huh?

Well, I’m gonna be late for work, if I don’t get a move on.

And as I lock up the house and head to my car, I hear the caw of ravens in the distance.

—•••—

I slog through the first half of the day until it’s time for lunch.  A few of my co-workers called out today and most of my customers seem to be on the grumpy side, so things have been pretty hectic up to this point.

But now I’ve got an hour to just sit in my car, under the trees and polish off that sandwich I’ve been longing for the last hour or so.

I pull out my phone again, and dip into social media, just to see if anyone has posted anything interesting.

A friend of mine wrote, “Writers romanticize everything, I know this because I am one.”

Hmmm…, I’ll have to think about that.

—•••—

I know that I won’t remember any of my other customers when this evening is over, but I’ll remember her.  Tall and tan and perfect in all the ways of a sun-touched goddess, and with a playful smile that isn’t just put on for show, I can see it reflected in her eyes when she laughs.

And I think I just caught myself flirting – if only gently.

As we speak I began to hear the sound of bark being torn from trees by restless antlers; beneath my feet I feel the thrumming of hooves pawing at the earth.  In the primeval forest that stands just beyond our limited mortal perception, the woodland god is waking from his slumber.

“Sorry, sorry, false alarm, let’s just focus on the job at hand!”

The feeling of disappointment washes over me like a wave, followed by the sound of retreating hooves and then a distant crash, the echoing fall of some unfortunate tree, splintered and broken, in a moment of irritation.

—•••—

I’m home after dark.

I feed the cat, and then myself.

I sit for a while, watching a little television as I digest and allow my mind and body to unwind after a busy day.

Before bed, I take a brief walk in the backyard.  The moon is hanging in the east, nearly full, and the cat is moving along at my feet, a shadow among shadows in the moonlight.

I’m about the head back in when I hear the owls again, making that same lost puppy sound that first caught my attention a couple weeks ago.  I spend the next several minutes watching them hurtle to and fro, over my head and across the yard, to the neighbors and back again.

As I watch them I think about the comment I’d read earlier in the day, “Writers romanticize everything…,”.  Maybe that’s true; it certainly fits with the world as we have been taught to understand it.

But what if the world is filled with a romance all its own, comprised of infinite layers of truth and perception, perfectly nested, each within the other, most of which we pass on our journey, never the wiser.  And writers, along with those artists of a more visual nature, are simply able to bring out the romance that we would otherwise miss, because our art requires us to both see and express the world in terms our audience can understand.

—•••—

The house is locked up, and I’m for bed.

I take a last glance at The Fool, resting there on my altar, and I am forced to smile.

The punchline, of course, is that every day is a journey into mystery and the most important thing we can do is to recognize that fact and take in the scenery we pass along the way.

One last glimpse at the online world and I’ll be done for the night.

Ahhh, another post on my wall, this one extolling the unlimited virtues of surrendering to that ‘one’ merciful god.

Sorry friends, but looking at that news feed, again and again, day after day, I’m just not seeing the benefit in dedicating myself wholly to just the one god, or to any single perception of truth.

I think the healthier choice is to live a modest lifestyle and to honor all beings in moderation.

Now then, until the morning comes, I wish you a good night.

Plato Quote

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Filed under Art, Modern Life, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

Lift up the cloak

There are stories hidden within stories.

The monks of Ireland once wrote down a tale concerning a holy woman who went before the king of Leinster, asking for a plot of land upon which to build her convent.  The king, though amused by her request, was not of a giving nature, and she was denied.

Dismissed though she was, she favored him with a smile and tried once again, this time asking if he would not offer her at least as much land as her cloak might cover, when laid flat upon the ground.

Feeling himself mocked before his men, he laughed, as if sharing in the joke, and agreed to her terms.  And it was, after all, only a very small cloak.

Removing the cloth from about her shoulders, she held it tightly by one corner while instructing her young students to grip the other corners and to pull the cloth out as far as it would stretch.  The girls did as she asked and, to the amazement of the king and his party, the great cloth trailed out behind them as they backed, first walking, then running and leaping away, over distant fields.

As the cloak spread out before them, the king knew he would soon be bound by his promise to give up the whole of his kingdom.  And so he cried out, begging the young woman to stop, and offering her all the land she had originally asked for.

And so the matter was settled.

The woman in the story is Saint Brigit of Kildare, who is said to have roamed the emerald isle from the late 5th to early 6th century C.E., and whose feast day on February 1st, has only just passed.

Bride Cloak

There are stories hidden within stories, and sometimes, there are gods hidden within saints.

There is much evidence to suggest that the the woman venerated today as “Mary of the Gael”  is actually a modern reflection of a much earlier goddess — Bríde the ‘exalted one’, goddess of both hearth and forge, inspiration of poets and sacred flame of ancient Ireland.

With that thought in mind, imagine the same story, only stripped now of its hagiographic trappings…,

Imagine the cold fields and forests of that long ago time, still covered in the frost of the long winter.  This is the dead half of the year, when the doors to the House of Donn are thrown open, and its king holds sway over all the land.

But there is movement in the fields and valleys.  A goddess walks upon the earth.  She opens her arms, trailing her long cloak behind her, blanketing the fallow soil with the first warmth of spring.  And while the cold wind still whips above, in the deep places there is a stirring, as the seedlings of the new season begin their journey upward, where they will eventually burst free into the light of the sun.

The season of death is over and soon, the king of that realm must surrender his lands, once again, unto the living spring.  If you listen, you can still hear a gentle laughter carried on the breeze.  Step outside and turn your face to the sun, and you can’t help but feel the warmth of her smile.

The stories that we tell and pass down make up a great tapestry, a cloak of sorts, that we pull with us, covering all the lands and binding us together.  Lift up a corner of that vast cloak, and you will find truths hidden there, waiting to be discovered.

Lá Fhéile Bríde is upon us, yet again.

May it find you warm and happy!

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Holidays, Ireland, Mythology, Religion, The Gods, Traditions

Salvation – with a shot of espresso.

My friends are all believers.

I see them daily, offering their praise, extolling the blessings and virtues of the one.

I walk past the holy place on my way to work, and I see them within, tithing their hard earned currency in the hope that they will find ease and comfort to take them through the day.

And what a comfort it must be, for the faithful, to see their brothers and sisters sharing in the holy communion throughout the day.  I find myself watching them with a certain envy.  They seem so very sure of a truth, which, while obvious to them, I am unable to share.

And it is not as if haven’t tried.

It’s not as if I don’t want to believe.

Oh, how I wish I could.

Because it would be so much easier, when I am in doubt, or depressed, or in those moments when exhaustion threatens to bring me down, if I could simply bow my head and drink in the warmth and peace that so many others enjoy.

I have tried, I really have, but conversion is simply not an option.

And though my friends and neighbors, with naught but goodwill in their hearts, continue to proclaim the good news, I must find my salvation elsewhere.  For the Dark Goddess which they worship, always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The Dark Goddess

This weeks blog post brought to you by my new neighbors, who kept me up all last night with their loud party music.  If ever I wished I could abide the taste of coffee, it is right now, as I sit here trying my best to focus on the empty page before me.

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Religion