from Thursday to Friday…ground, center, focus

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bonfire of freedom

If you have been reading this blog for a few months (or longer, bless you!), you know that my community spent rather a lot of sweat equity in convincing/persuading the county school system to follow the law where religion in public schools in concerned.  We are grateful to our allies and friends at Lady Liberty League, Americans United, and the ACLU for helping us “keep the faith”–or perhaps I should write–keep the inappropriate use of faith out of tax-payer supported schools.

The superintendent created a Faith-Based Leadership Advisory Council and that group is meeting this summer to guide the process of training school staff in what is and is not legal. We will be policing the system for the foreseeable future but I don’t see any way around that. I also suspect that the fall will see a widening or our horizons as neighboring counties face similar situations.

In the meantime, Mother Grove has continued with our year-long clergy “finishing school”.  I write that because the women who will be ordained in August have been working in these earthy fields for many a long year, have studied with private teachers, are writers and professionals and priestesses.

But this process has been designed to prepare them for ordination as Mother Grove clergy–a thing that is both similar and different.  One reason it is different is that this set of women is being ordained to serve this temple and one of those acts of service will be performing rites of passage, including marriages.

So I was saddened today to read Literata’s account of her recent encounter with the Clerk of Court in Arlington, Virginia.  Here’s a link to her blog post–

http://worksofliterata.wordpress.com/

After reading about it, I got to thinking–something I do sometimes. I’ve been doing interfaith work for a long time.  In fact, I was part of an interfaith peace program only last night. Early on, it seems like I was always hearing murmurs and intimations that what I practice isn’t a “real” religion.  Too new, no holy book, no central authority, no hierarchy.  Poor Wicca!  It hardly matters that we have congregations that we serve and rites of passage that we plan and execute, often under difficult conditions.  We have holy days and rituals and we visit the sick and the incarcerated.

But there’s that litany of problems listed above.  Add to that the wrinkle Literata discovered–you have to have a building to be a real religion.

(That reminds me on an old joke–what’s the difference between a cult and a religion?  A cult isn’t big enough to have its own university and football team.)

The problem is the same one we dealt with in the school situation, the same problem we face with “same-sex marriage,” and that we face when corporations don’t want to offer their female employees insurance that conflicts with the corporation’s religious sentiments. It’s that pesky Establishment case in the goofy First Amendment.

It’s a nation that gives lip-service to religious freedom but isn’t very good at including everyone in that notion.

This is the United States and people like Literata shouldn’t have to do all the work of being a clergy person (in a religion that doesn’t usually pay its clergy) while also proving that hers/ours is a real religion.

I hope she gathers her allies and sues the pants off the County of Arlington.  Enough is enough.  Either we have freedom of religion and from religion, or we don’t.

And if we don’t, then perhaps we need to call a Continental Congress and draft a legal statement that grants that to American citizens.

What a novel ideA.

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I See the Moon

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I wasn’t going to write here today because I have been writing on and off all day, finishing a piece-for-hire and laboring in the fields of my next book.

But I went to my friend Hecate’s blog and thought I had a little wit left in me.  Hers is, as always, beautifully written.

http://hecatedemeter.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/holding-a-dying-planet-in-my-arms/

I sat at my altar tonight, too, and thought of the heat that is predicted for my little corner of these old hills. We had such an early and productive spring, there could be no doubt that summer would be fierce and lingering. Even as the flats of Florida flood and gatorize and the peaks of Colorado burst into easy flame, I am plotting to water the garden with saved rain and to add mulch where it is needed. The garden is too lush and so near real productivity now–it seems unfair not to give it a fighting chance.

But what sort of chance is there for a land–this land, our land, the Motherland–when our leaders seem to care not a fig for it.  It is to be owned and re-sold at a profit.  It is to be paved and leveled.  It is to be fractured by the fiercest of waters, laden with toxins we can only guess.

I think those of us who love it, who love Her, must work even harder, must be more diligent, must write more and speak more and love more.

Because our “leaders” are bent on destruction and slaughter, on devastation and waste. They have no vision and no desire to develop any.  They are the worst of us and they have authority over us. Here in NC, our Governor is considering a bill to begin fracking for natural gas. And even if she rejects it, the “leaders” in Raleigh have the money and power to do what they will.  In our name.

In our name.

I think of the fires and the water, the broken crust of the only planet we have. There are not curses strong enough, nor hexes wild enough to bring justice.

Cider Dreams

from this–

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to this–

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I have a couple of bushels of apples to process and made a good start on them today.  We don’t have a cider press–that will be amended, I hope–and so apples have to have all the yucky bits cut out and they are peeled and cored and go into the freezer to be juiced when they’ve all come in.

The MacIntosh always comes in at the end of June/beginning of July but the old Cortland doesn’t ripen for another month. I want them both in the “estate” cider, so I can afford to be patient.  We’ve also been picked lots of berries and today we got our first banana pepper. Delicious!

I posted on Facebook today that I was diving into the “middle” harvest and a friend asked me what that meant.  It’s the harvest between the big spring harvest and the big fall harvest and it means that garden food starts to be plentiful again.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, eggplants and more–all starting their ripening time. Their delicious time.

We just passed the Summer Solstice and are now in the declining part of the agricultural year.  Though it is many months away, we begin to dream of cooler weather and packed larders–putting as much by as we can for the winter to come.

We look back so often, we Pagan folk.  We speak with reverence of our Ancestors and the old days of the movement.  We frequent Renn Faires and belong to SCA cantons.

But we are also always looking forward, thinking of the next holy day, the planting, the harvest.  We are dreaming of community centers and temples and intentional green communities.

We stand like the famous statue of Hekate who looks in three directions.  With our feet firmly in the brown rich Earth, our ears tuned to the voices of our Ancestors and our eyes squinting into the sun of the future. I don’t know how we manage it except I’m not sure we perceive time in the same way the dominant culture does.  That spiral in/spiral out thing allows us a circular and non-linear appreciation of the time that surrounds us.

Even now, I’m thinking about putting down the cider–and also dreaming of the crisp, sweet taste of it when it has finished fermenting.

What if the “Divine” is plural? Or female?

After 911, our spiritual community came together to offer comfort, to be a benign and gentle presence, to merely sit among people who were as shocked and sad and angry as we were.  It was a good time for interfaith work because we all felt the call to do more, to be more than our individual congregations.

In fact, Asheville was one of the first places in the country to have a truly multi-faith National Day of Prayer event.  Most NDPs consisted of a lot of Protestants, an occasional Jew, maybe a Catholic. It’s somewhat different now, in some places–thank goodness!–but some folks did and do interfaith more as interdenominationally Abrahamic, which is more interfaith than the usual splash of Protestant Christians but doesn’t begin to touch the range of spiritual traditions that are this–and many–communities.

We had a long and good interfaith meeting this afternoon–this is a very focused and heart-felt group. But we got onto the notion of a moment of silence and I mentioned that a moment of silence should not be introduced by saying–now bow your head for a moment of silence.  Because then it probably isn’t a moment of silence you’re encouraging but a prayer.

That engaged us in a discussion of the notion of a moment of silence and one of our number said he’d actually prefer if everyone just got to pray briefly out of their tradition. Which is fine, I suppose, if there are only a couple of traditions present.  But that is never the case and who is going to be in charge of seeing how many traditions are present and who’s going to police the whole thing and…

It’s easy to see why a moment of silence is the politic and efficient thing to do.

I’m often in groups who assume that it’s okay with everyone if you say a general sort of prayer to a general male sky god. Which doesn’t work for me, of course. And sometimes the more culturally sensitive will opt for “O, Divine Presence”  or “Spirit of Love” which implies that this divine being is singular and I (and many others) think in terms of a plurality of divines.

When that wonderful interfaith group came together on the first anniversary of the World Trade Center/Pentagon horrors, we tried our best to come up with a prayer that everyone was comfortable hearing and saying.

And we couldn’t do it.  Well-meaning and well-mannered as we all were, there simply wasn’t a way of creating a generic prayer.  By the time we’d gotten all the specifics out, it was bland and useless.  It certainly didn’t satisfy any of the needs of that sweet group and I’m pretty sure the Divines were having a good laugh at us even attempting it.  A gentle laugh, because they love us and know we had good intentions.

It ended up being a gentle, loving program and there were several prayers and some poems and music. Everyone went away glad we had survived, sad about what the anniversary meant and I don’t think anyone went away feeling oogy about some bland insulting prayer.  Mostly because we didn’t do one.

There’s a global group called the United Religions Initiative that I’ve been involved in off and on for over a decade.  The premise of the group is that one makes peace in the world by figuring how to make peace amongst the world’s religions.

One of the ways to do that is to let everyone stand firmly and happily in the spiritual tradition that sustains them and to share their collective knowledge from that empowered and loving place.  I like that idea.  You talking about your spirituality should be an excuse for me to learn something new or to see a new friend glow from the best of their spiritual tradition shining forth.

And if you have some cool clothes you wear or can teach me a few words in a different language, I like that, too.

As long as we come to the circle with the understanding that we are not there to change other people’s minds and bring them to some “one true religion”, we are usually okay.

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My friend MariJ…

My friend MariJo once said of me that I am the whitest white woman she knows.

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What I know is that hot weather is really hard on me.  When I was a much larger woman, I was sweaty and peaked during the hottest days of summer. About a decade ago, I lost a bunch of weight and was hopeful about two thing (aside from getting healthier, of course, which was my main goal)–I would have slimmer ankles and hot weather wouldn’t be such a debilitating factor in my life.

Alas, neither was true, as it turned out.  I still have big thick ankles and summer is, in fact, even harder on me than it used to be.

I grew up in the mountains that were humid in the summer and rainy–a deciduous rain forest where we only watered the garden when we planted plants in it.  That is no longer the story in Appalachian summers where we can expect the temperature to hover in the 90s in the dog days of August and the humidity doesn’t seem to be affected by the lack of daily afternoon rains.

Earlier this week, I got over-heated and it has affected me for days. Yesterday I started getting a lovely rash–whether it is hives from stress or a heat rash doesn’t matter as much as the livid stripes that decorate parts of my pasty anatomy.

I was all covered up for the Midsummer ritual today–dark glasses, sun hat, oversized white cotton shirt. But I still got puny by the time we were finishing up and I came home to take a nap.  Yes, a nap.  And it was grand.

As the year turns now to shorter days and longer nights, I find myself longing for cool days and cooler nights.  And if I actually take the time to unpack my summer clothes, I may find that getting through the rest of summer is actually possible.

Sunscreen, hat, cover-ups–summer among the pasty Euro-tribes.

Maybe I should move to Seattle.

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In the Cool of the Evening

I don’t do too much weather work any more.  I tend to let Mother Nature decide how things are going to be and then I deal with it.

I had an appointment scheduled for 2 today and my client was running late, so I sat outside a local grocery store w/cafe and enjoyed the breeze.  I often bring a notebook with me, just in case there is some time to write. But today I was a little lackluster and merely sat there, practicing my deep breathing.  After a moment or so, I closed my eyes.

And then I called a storm.

I put myself through a meditation I’ve done in the past and got to a deeply relaxed state. Ah, that is nice, whether you are doing a little job of work or not.

But then I thought of what happens after this reading and meeting this client.  Going home to water the garden.  Watering can by watering can–a good workout, to be sure. But, as I said, I was feeling a little puny and was not looking forward to more exercise.

That’s when I made the decision to see if I could still do it.  Did I still know the smell and the charms and the…magic of all that.

I am pleased to report that my rain barrels were again full when I got home and the garden was well-watered.

More cucumbers, more tomatoes, more peppers.

And I didn’t have to carry water. Today, at least.Image

one of Tom’s bees, in the fresh catnip

Days as Long as Weeks

We’re moving towards the Summer Solstice and the days are stretching themselves out until the solstice arrives.  I love waking to the sound of the mockingbirds and crows in the yard and to stepping out of a 7 o’clock meeting after two long hours and finding that the sky is still a little bright in the West.

The last week has been incredibly full–routine doctor visits, extreme gardening, mailing copies of my little book to all the folks who had preordered it and meeting with my private students.

All leading up to the funnest Friday night–when the good folks at Accent on Books held the official launch party for “Staubs and Ditchwater.”

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My friend Daystar came over in the afternoon (after work) and we created some crudites platters. My daughter made a chocolate carrot cake in the shape of a book and decorated it with marzipan leather britches, a book mark and a yellow chicken foot.  We made little biscuits and a gallon of my Aunt Irene’s sweet tea.

I didn’t count heads because I was too distracted but friends said there were about 100 people there.  Certainly I saw a lot of people who mean a lot to me and we sold out the first printing of the first edition of the little book.

Hooray!

More have been ordered through the publisher and I am now planning a limited tour of bookstores in the area.  I’ll post that at my website  www.myvillagewitch.com as I charm folks into having me at their stores. I have press packets to send to a couple of my favorites, so I’ll keep you posted on that.

This morning was my morning at Mother Grove.  It was a meditation morning so I went in early, tidied the altars, set out fresh tealight candles and lit some rich incense.  I listened to a recording of Annelinde Metzner’s beautiful concert “In the Mother Grove” as I moved through the altars, moving amongst the Goddess images, lighting candles.

I always start in the North, at the main altar, and move deosil as I light the East, the South and the West. I touch the Goddess images–from our fat and powerful Cog Woman to porcelain Tara, to fiery Brigid to the long-necked and ebony Osun in the West.

I go to the Ancestor altar last and spend time with Them, in love and honor. I run my fingertips along that big shed snakeskin.  I smile to think of the sugar skulls and the BVMs that set on different shelves, adding to the bitter-sweetness of priestessing to the Dead.

Our air conditioning hasn’t gotten installed yet so the chapel space heats up quickly with the candles.  When the people had removed themselves for our after-Temple coffee talk, I blew out the candles in reverse order–West to South to East to North. I left the Ancestors for last and patted the round basket on the top shelf as I made sure the candle in its red glass votive holder was out.

It was a sweet ending to such a busy week.

Or was it the beginning of a week that is coming with the dawn, and the noisy mockingbirds?

Our understanding of time is so…inadequate, don’t you think?