a poem

Before October Comes
For Diotima
2014

Witches are stirring in their
dankly decorated caves.

Their time is here now.

Jaunty feather is tucked
into the old hatband.
Best robes are shaken out
and mended.

The cider is in its bottles and
herb bundles
droop from the
ceiling beams.

We keep our calendars close
as the days fill.
Dusting, sweeping—yes, that is also
what brooms
are
for.

There is a talk to give,
a classroom to visit.
The UUs need a sermon—
light or deep this year?

The quest continues
for the bag of
Mellowcremes that holds
brown black cats
and honeypots
and Moon faces
and stubby Witches.

Is it Fall Mix or Autumn Mix and will the witches
even be there this year
or have they been finally
banished
from their friends?

The churches raise money with vast oceans of
saleable
carveable
inedible
pumpkins
which doesn’t seem fair
really.

Rituals are created and
venues found.
Classes and
media calls and
patient explanations
of history
of rights
of images so old
their language
is forgotten.

And still the graves of
my people here
want my attention,
waiting patiently for
their decoration
of green beans
and chicken
and coconut cake,
longing for their whiskey perfume.

Tower Time, Document Two: Going to Ground

Tower Time, Document Two
Going to Ground

Early in the Gulf of Mexico oil well disaster–when it was apparent that the problem would not be solved quickly–a small group of women gathered in the small Temple. They brought rum and watermelon and the room soon filled with clouds of rich incense. Chants for Yemaya began softly, rattles were gently rattled. As the spirit of despair was tamped down and the strands of joy and connection wove themselves into the singing and the smoke, the chants grew stronger. The dancing which was little more than rhythmic stomping began. The Beloved Crone seemed to be speaking an unknown language, as water bottles were chugged and offerings were made to Ancestors and Deities. The woman nearest the altar–the one who had issued the invitation–muttered prayers and knelt on the floor, singing the holy names. As she had promised, she flung herself full-length in front of the wooden altar and begged the Sea Goddesses for mercy. The singing and chanting continued for some time, until the participants were dry and tired, eyes streaming tears of grief and too-much-smoke.

Sometimes when we pray, we forget that prayer is not simply sending our best intention into the Universe. For those of us who see the Ancestral Goddesses as non-corporeal beings who have some authority and ability in the world of the world, the prayers and the singing honor Beloved Ones who are near us, but are not us. The invocations in which we implore them to fix our lives or clean up our messes or show us a way through are requests and bargainings. We understand that we have a part in this relationship but we do not have control. We are not the boss. We are participants in an ancient cycle of creation and destruction and re-creation.
And sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is–you got yourself into this and you and your people are going to have to fix what you broke, you are going to have to take personal responsibility and get yourselves out of it.

Our community is far away from the horror and ineptitude that was the Gulf disaster, high in the southern mountains. But we are none of us “away”, are we? We are all connected–physically, spiritually and electronically. We know that today’s oil slick is picked up by next month’s hurricane and deposited in our organic gardens, on our longed-for heirloom tomatoes.

We work ourselves into a frenzy of grief and guilt and spiritual activity. We open ourselves to the sorrow and anger, and filter it as best we can. We meet for coffee, and walks, and we talk for hours on the phone. Gentling the community in its outrage, cushioning it from outright despair. We are blown about by the winds and waves of all that assails us and sometimes the only place to go for succor, for comfort is away from the computer and the phone and the endless cups of coffee. To the garden, to the woods, to the earth.

There’s an evocative expression that has become a keystone for my work in the community of late. The phrase “going to ground” has taken on new significance as we stand in this challenging Tower Time. To “go to ground” is to run pell-mell back to the den or burrow, to find someplace safe to hide. To make a run for it. Foxes do it. Rabbits do it.

Since the earthquakes that ripped through Haiti in 2010, there has been a series of human-made and natural disasters that have been unremitting in their intensity and we have been subsumed in the wake of them.

How many times have I forgotten–forgotten!–the people of Nashville, TN who were inundated literally with the rising waters of the Cumberland. There have been storms and volcanoes, floods and bombers. One after another, a laundry list of devastation that can barely be acknowledged, much less comprehended.

In my community work, in my social networking, in counseling seekers with Mother Grove congregants, I have been calling the times in which we move Tower Time. I imagine that the vast foundations are cracking and we are in the top of the Tower, where we must leap outward or be crushed with the weight of this six thousand year old system in its death throes.

Tower Time–we must engage or perish, We cannot remain untouched, uninvolved because it does involve us. All of us. But the overwhelming-ness of it–how do we find the wings to fly from the Tower? How do we glide away from the mess and the pain and not look back to those falling faster and faster?
We don’t. We can’t. It is not in our nature. And so we bear the wounds and we keep on, even as we feel the spiritual life-blood leaking out, only to be replaced by ennui and despair. In our circles, we call for “grounding” : we speak the words of guided meditations in which roots grow from our feet and sink, gratefully, into the Earth.

Grounding. Going to ground.

We are furry mammals, warm animals, wounded animals. We have tried to think ourselves out of this mess. We’ve tried to ritualize ourselves out of this mess. But you know what a wounded animal does. A rabbit or groundhog or badger? They go to ground and lick their wounds. They hide in their burrow, in the very womb of the Earth and they take time to heal and regroup.

I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand, that we run away from our spiritual responsibilities. I’m advising that when the going gets too much for you to bear, you remember that you are a warm animal and you have a special option because of that. You can go to your burrow to recuperate and lick your wounds. Then you can return to your community renewed as the clever and powerful badger that you are.

Finally, here’s my advice to a friend who was feeling ungrounded, displaced, abandoned by Goddess and community. I offer it here for you, with a few additions and points of clarification, if you have need of grounding. Here is a too-brief check-list of possibilities, if you are finding yourself in the midst of the falling Tower, unable to do more than gasp as the earth rises to meet you.

–Have you set an energy trap?
–Have you set wards? Are your shields up? If you can’t do that, let your community know and they will shield you until you can.
–How is your altar?
–Go out to your land and ask for help. Invoke your Ancestors and the land spirits. Take an offering. Bring some of the dirt in with you. Put it in your pockets, on your altar.
–Brick dust at the secondary entrances to the house–windows, back door, crawl space door. Not a line, just a drop.
–White dust at the front door–can even be baking soda. Salt works, too.
–Light a rue candle, if you have one.
–Spend time outside, sitting on the dear old Earth.

The best advice I have is “go to ground”. Earth everywhere. Dirt, dirt. Then evaluate and see where you are.

Go to ground, sisters. Earth everywhere.

It’s Tower Time.

Tower Time Document One– A Knowing, Cassandra-like

Prologue
This may seem like a bit of an anti-climax after all these years of warnings and thoughts and predictions about this Tower Time business. I’ve decided to create thematic documents, so I can add information as it comes up or as experiences should be recorded. I hope these are helpful to you as we navigate the times that are our times. So please consider this a first edition.

Tower Time Document One
A Knowing, Cassandra-like

I feel I owe you all a slightly more thorough explanation of “Tower Time,” a phrase I have been using somewhat cavalierly for a decade or more and one which I find myself using with increasing frequency.

I don’t remember precisely when it began, this quiet knowing that has grown, for me, into a certainty. It began with a pinch of insight, a glint of what was happening globally reflected in local events. It was more than a lack of harmony, of simple chaotic modern life—this feeling hinted at larger activity, a shift in the zeitgeist, a disturbance in the Force.

This early knowing pointed obliquely to the old dream of every old feminist—the Collapse of the Patriarchy ™. Since our fiercer days in the long-ago 1970s, many of us have modified our speech—often because people refuse to understand that Patriarchy ™ is a system or a set of systems and is not merely angry women being mad at and blaming men. We now talk about Hierarchical, Top-Down Systems—HT-DS, for those of you who must have an acronym for everything—and that’s the language I will use here. But for those of you who still call the Patriarchy ™ by its oldest name, you may translate HT-DS to “Patriarchy” and you will be accurate.

Tower Time is named for the card in the Tarot deck, of course, specifically the Smith-Waite deck (which is the one I’ve been reading for more than thirty years). The Tower is one of the more direct cards in any reading and it lends itself to these times.

We—you and you and me—are living in a time of dramatic transition. The West is transitioning from the Age of Fossil Fuels, not gracefully, I might add. We as a planet are experiencing the most recent in a series of mass extinctions. We have moved into a post-Industrial Age—what the brilliant John Michael Greer calls “the deindustrial world”—where we collectively have lost the willingness to grow our own food and not piss in our water source. Whether or not you believe that the climate is changing globally through human agency is completely immaterial to me but I believe it is occurring and we lack the political will and the political power to override the interests of business and industry (and, let’s face it, the dominant culture) to mitigate that in any way.
The clear knowing that I felt has grown more insistent in the intervening years. It is this: we are living in times when these massive, ancient and toxic systems, that have both created civilization as we know it and doomed it, are crashing under their own weight of history and grief. It is the death throes of patriarchy that we are experiencing and it will die as it has lived—in violence and oppression and injustice and death.

I did mention that this may be difficult to absorb, didn’t I? Many people nod and express their own sense of the rightness of this information. Others refuse to believe it, pointing—quite accurately—to the many instances in history where a group of loonies has believed it is the end of the world. I won’t engage in argument with you or read long reports that have come from dubious media or academic sources. This is intuitive—that is the very nature of a knowing. You are free to believe or not, as befits your sense of the current time and your knowledge of history and as that sense dictates.

Here’s a thing I do know. This is the time we were made for and one of the reasons we’re here. Tower Time.

Religion as empire, state as empire, education as empire, healing as empire—all are recalibrating in their individual descents. Each of us is in our personal place as the Tower erupts and crumbles. Some of us stand on the top, blissfully unaware that anything long-term is occurring below our feet. Some are trapped amongst the turrets, calculating a way off. Some have flown away and are gone to wherever and whatever comes after this life, after Matter has become Spirit. There are rock-climbers who are testing hand- and foot-holds as they work their way down the walls to perceived safety. Some are among the rocks at the base and some are out of sight, gone on to do the new work.

Because there is new work and it is past time to engage in it. Our work during the collapse is to not stop there, gawking at the impending calamity. We are charged—and many people are deep into this work—with creating new systems, systems that are genuinely cooperative, nurturing, sustainable and of greatest importance, resilient. There are groups that are forming in some areas to learn new/old skills, to get going with the new times. But they often bog down in meeting after meeting, talking through modes of governance, of how to hold a meeting without Roberts Rules. Remind them that time’s a-wasting and that talk can happen while food is being planted or tended or preserved. Decisions can be made while looping rugs and milking goats. If your group is dreaming big dreams but spending most of their time arguing protocol, you made need a new group. Because it is happening now. There isn’t some future Big Event that is looming on the horizon that marks the Beginning. It’s here.

As I sat with other gardeners around a fire a few weeks ago, I realized something it–if you have been waiting for the other “shoe” to fall, for the crap to hit the fan, you can stop waiting. It’s here, friends. Time’s up. We are in it–whatever it is. Continue gathering your allies, holding those you love close, planning, working, playing and thinking. But make no mistake, it’s here. Tower Time. Put on your game face and keep your courage up. These are the times we were made for.

Per ardua ad terra!