An Immodest Proposal

At the recent Sacred Space Conference in Maryland, I was fortunate to attend a ritual that was created by Literata Hurley with assistance from Hecate Demetersdaughter.  In it, we invoked the national Goddess of our land–Columbia, in her aspect of Athena.  She stands there atop the dome of the capitol, robed and armed, her headdress an eagle’s head and plumage.  No “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”–Armed Freedom (as She is sometimes called) is resplendent in her martial attire.



a postcard of Armed Freedom on my home altar

It was a powerful ritual, with several aspects of great Athena present and accounted for.  (I’ve always been partial to Her–She was the first Divinity I ever honored.) And it got me thinking, as one does after a good ritual experience, about the evocation and invocation of the Divine Protectors of our land, the official Ones, the State-sanctioned Ones.

What if we created a Cult of Columbia, centered in the nation’s capitol?  Easy to imagine that because it’s already happening…birthed by some remarkable women. But what if each one of us researched our own state to find out if there is a Divine Protector that has been present in the halls of power since our colonial beginnings?

For those of you who are polytheists, may I suggest you go to your official state website and see Who may be hiding in plain sight on your Great Seal or state flag.  Here in NC, we have Liberty and Plenty.

Now, imagine that I and a group of co-religionists create a cycle of worship activities devoted to these State Goddesses. And suppose that you and a group of your co-religionists do the same thing in your state.  And now imagine that on particular days (4th of July, maybe), we link up ceremonies with the “home temple” in DC and we all invoke and evoke these powerful Matrons in defense of the helpless, the small, the unheard, the disenfranchised.

Yeah, I like it, too.  Shall we?

Who’s on your state seal?

A Dubious Balance

(This post is for my other blog at Witches and Pagans. I’ve been locked out for some reason, so I’m parking it here. )

For most of us on the East Coast, this has been a long, wintry season to be sure. And I’m certain we are not done with weather yet, March having come in like a wee lamb. We are ready–more than ready!–for spring to arrive in the hills and the hollow places.

I follow a path that teaches me that spring arrives with the snowdrops, in the dark drear beginnings of February. I have learned that spring is still a terribly changeable beast and filled with chaos and longing. When I observe the Vernal Equinox, it will be as mid-spring–just as the Winter Solstice is mid-winter–and I will know I am halfway to Summer, at Beltane.

Most likely, I will balance an egg tomorrow, for fun. And I have a funny package ready to send to my daughter and her beau, to celebrate the season. As you can see from the photo above, the hellebores that are commonly called Lenten roses are blooming in the yard. The daffodils are blindingly yellow this year and the crocus are larger and lusher than in years past. Some things need a long cold rest to do their best work.

This balance thing, though…I think we get hung-up on it sometimes. Make it too important, an odd kind of goal with a load of (if you’ll pardon the expression) magical thinking attached to it. Balance always makes me think of an old-fashioned teeter-totter–a scary/delightful playground denizen that is likely to be considered too dangerous for today’s young ones. Equal weight on both sides keeps the teeter-totter both balanced and moving, something we also forget when talking about balance.  It isn’t stasis. Balance isn’t coming to a perfect place and staying there forever and ever, unmoving.

We are moving into the real working beginning of the agricultural year in the southern highlands of the Appalachians. I cleaned out my garden bag tonight and have been pruning, sharpening tools, sorting and buying seed.  I got broccoli in during the last waxing Moon and planted some greens.  I feel like an actor ready to step onto the stage.  What is that wonderful speech from Henry V?

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot! Follow your spirit…”

That is how the Equinox feels to me–as though I am leaning forward, into this rich and work-filled time. I am eager to leave the winter behind me and to get out into the world of soil and manure and food so fresh it is beyond compare. There is sweat in this season, and joy, and companions in the fields. For a few moments, I live in Hardy country–a land of magic and terror, of hares and ancient tended earth.

As we turn to face the confusion of the news feed–where is that plane?  how far will Putin go? can no one save the people of Syria? will no one help the water-poisoned people of West Virginia?–there is comfort in the simple homely acts of garden and byre, of tree and leaf, of propagation and weeding. It is holy work, this work of hand and back and heel of foot. It may be the holiest work of all.

Blah blah blah Sacred Space blah blah blah Sacred Space

I feel as though I’ve been writing about and talking about the conference for days…days!

It’s because I have.  I had such a good time and met some very fine people.  I got to teach and talk–two of my favorite things.  And some of my favorite people have said some really nice things about me and I’m going to share them here.

Hecate Demeter’s Daughter  wrote this–

and then she wrote this–

And if you don’t follow her blog, you should, because she is always brilliant. Always.  And she was very kind to write those things and–full disclosure–we are friends, as well as colleagues, and I love her.

I have also interacted with Jason Pitzl-Waters over at the Wild Hunt for many years but only met him at this conference.  As I posted on Facebook–he is just as smart and funny as you thought.  Anyway, we had a good time at the con and he wrote this thing that made me cry–

…and it includes a recording of the panel discussion where I got to hold forth with Linda Ours Rago (one of my great inspirations) and with Orion Foxwood, whom I had met on a couple of occasions but didn’t really know.  He was a dollbaby, by the way, and has been so supportive of my book.

So I am all floaty and giddy about all these nice things people are writing and about the conference itself, where I got to hang out with my buds Diotima Mantineia, Star Bustamonte, Amy Blackthorn, as well as Macha Nightmare, Selena Fox, Gwendolyn Reece and so many more.

Today, though, I spent a good amount of time in the garden, getting myself back to basics, back to land and soil.  We worked in our little pocket community garden where we said farewell to the beautiful old rosemary that didn’t survive the winter and to her sister lavender which ditto.  And I got to garden with a very fine young gardener named Charlie and his mom Jennifer.

So…the nettles are starting to rise and all is well, if still a bit giddy, in my little corner of the world.


Sacred Space Conference–There and Back Again

Home again, children, from my third adventure at Sacred Space Conference in the DC borderlands of Maryland. The plans had been confirmed some months ago and Diotima, Star and I headed northward at 5:30 Thursday morning in a Subaru jam-packed with clothes, coolers of food, books to sell and all the props and handouts for the classes that Diotima and I were teaching over the course of the three days we planned to be there.

The trip north was relatively uneventful–filled with chat and laughter and serious discussions of new business ventures. We knew we’d be seeing some old friends at the hotel and also hoped to meet some of the people we only knew from Facebook. We were ready to cram every available minute with networking and talking about this thing that is the Pagan community.  And we really did.

We made pretty good time and got to our destination before dark but whipped around by a brisk and face-chilling wind. Naturally there were no luggage trollies available so all that Subara-filling stuff had to be hauled upstairs a load at a time. We are strong though and a little giddy from lack of sleep and 9 1/2 hours on the road, so we managed it perfectly well. We got settled in, ordered the fridge we thought to room came with and started unpacking all that food and booze and distributing our luggage throughout the little room. We ate some of the food we’d brought with us but had missed the Opening Ritual.

I put on my ritual robe, cords and stole and went down to one of the ballrooms to help with the Brigid healing ritual that was to be conducted by famed Pagan activist and organizer Selena Fox.

More on that, later.

Tomorrow, as I have done for many years, I will celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I won’t call it St Snakes Day or complain about symbolism of snakes, I will celebrate it because some of my blood, my heritage, is Irish.  I have corned beef cooking now and will start the day with some yummy “Irish” coffee.  This day always reminds me of a funny book from a few years ago–How To Be Irish Even If You Are.

Also, you should read Around Ireland with a Fridge. It is a funny, funny book.