Flags, Rainbows and Hoop Skirts

I’ve been busy working on my new book and raising Hel over on the Facebooks.  Thought I’d share…

All y’all need to chill the Hel out. There is some grieving to do, and some beans to freeze, and plans to make for how we live when all this mess is finally crashed and done. Hurting each other out of anxiety and fear is not honorable, and it won’t feel good in the long run. Threatening each other, shaming each other, guilt-tripping each other because you are exercising the freedom that is ours to exercise, that’s not helpful, is it? Try to see the point of view of The Other, just try. And try to love the people who seem most unlovable. It’s good exercise. Also, ground yourselves and get your shields up and you won’t feel so off-kilter. And don’t forget–iced tea. It’s a sacrament.

Time–past time–to have civilized discourse on this debilitating war that has haunted us for 150 years. I have no idea how that can even happen at this point but it’s what must be done. It’s been handled shallowly, angrily, piss-poorly since Reconstruction. War. Triumph/defeat. Analysis. Reconciliation. Healing. Redemption.

This is how it works to be a Southerner, with Scots-Irish roots: the more you tell me how awful Southerners are, the more gloriously Southern I become. The more you tell me I can’t do something, the more I want to do it, flaunt it and inspire you to do it, too, by the flair with which I flaunt your rules. Appalachian culture is pretty different from other Southern cultures but I look damned fine in a hoop skirt. And I’m a good shot. Word to the wise.

Go, SCOTUS–Wonderful! Now can we really look at marriage and get religion out of it at the governmental level? That would be fine, too. Happy day!

So. Much. Equality. Now, can we have equal rights for women? How about that? Have we waited long enough or do you require a few more centuries of systemic and systematic oppression? Just let us know, we’ll be right over here, knitting (in between making sandwiches). ‪#‎FFS‬ ‪#‎ERA‬ Yeah, I’m looking at you, Hise.

On Clementa Pinckney–Blessed be the good man, his family and the others who perished with him through an act of terrorism and hatred. I question the timing of the release of the SCOTUS decision, so I am reminding myself of…other events this morning. What is remembered and honored, lives.

On the President singing “Amazing Grace”–

I am waiting for the day when the President does a touching rendition of “We All Come From the Goddess.” I suspect I shall wait for rather a long time for that. But I still remember the day I stood in a sweltering Lafayette Park in DC and listened to the powerful reaction of the crowd when I finished my remarks with–And may the Goddess bless America!

That’s all for now. What are you stirring up these days?

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“Celebrate Wildness” — an illustrated look at Feraferia

A friend and teacher (though she may not know that) asked me to read a book and review it on my blog. I agreed at once because I love books and the subject of this one is near to my heart these days—engagement with the Unseen as goddesses/Divines and as land spirits.  As my spiritual practice simplifies and deepens, I find these two sources of wisdom to be of profound interest to me. And this book was about the union of those two things in the spiritual system called Feraferia. I had heard of it before but only knew a little about this “faerie faith.” Yum—two of my favorite things: learning something new and reading a book. Win-win.

And it was. I sat down with my electronic copy of the book– Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path by Jo Carson—and first I read the Introduction and then I went through the whole document, looking at the pictures which are by the now-deceased founder of the movement, Fred Adams. Then I went back for this, which you may find helpful in understanding what this book and Feraferia are all about–“Feraferia, a Statement of Purpose—by Fred Adams, 1967 The paradisal fellowship of Feraferia promotes the loving celebration of wilderness mysteries with grace and faerie feeling. Our goal is the unification of ecology, artistry, mythology, and liturgy. In such love-play-work humanity may achieve reunion with Great Nature, ourselves, and our own souls, before and after the transition called death. The Feraferian vision includes new inspirations and new combinations from the most ancient wellsprings of the Goddess and her realm of the Gods. They remain our guarantors of universal consciousness and eternity for each unique soul.” Doesn’t that sound remarkably sweet, given the state of the world today?

And the central Divine Figure seems to be Kore, who may be familiar to you from the Kore/Persephone/Demeter myth cycle.  Lady Svetlana, who is the co-founder of the movement (she was Adams’ domestic partner), describes it— “Kore has many forms, and Feraferia loves and celebrates her as both the ineffable center of the universe (Arretos Koura), and also as the glorious Goddess of Earth, Gaia.”

The book consists of many small essays about various aspects of both practice and thealogy, interspersed with charming drawings. I really like the making of the “faerie ring henge” essay which has the immensely practical set of instructions about jabbing a stick into the middle of where you want your circle, tie a string to it and walk in a circle to mark the circumference. I’m a simple country woman, as you know, and this appealed to my sense of ease and rightness.

And this brought me a chill. I knew I’d adapt it for my own uses and I suspect many of you will, too– “A Goddess Prayer to Restore Any Place in Which You Find Yourself to Its Original Wild Harmony With your finger or a natural object such as a twig, trace an equal-armed cross over the ground… Then trace an upward expanding spiral from the center of the cross. When you have finished raising the spiral expanding from center, intone the following: “I (we) return this place to the Earth, Earth to Earth in sovereign Queendom of Earth. May the Goddess dwell here in the fullness and majesty of her being and radiate her timeless memory of love into every heart for the benefit of all beings. Ho! So be it!”

It’s like cutting the loaf of soda bread to let the faeries out—I love it.  I may have to lose the word “Queendom,” however, peasant that I am.

I find some of the ideas in this book a little dated—or do I mean they seem too idealistic in the current age of the modern Pagan movement? We are terribly jaded now and tend to look askance at idealism in any form. So I recommend this book because it may give you a breath of fresh inspiration about what is possible when you live in harmony.

I feel sure that, after this review, members of the national Pagan community will let me know all the flaws in the Feraferia community and how it can’t “really work.”  But who wouldn’t love the “Phytala”—the symbol of the faith—a plant mandala or the idea of Goddess as Merry Maiden? Or this– “The images and feeling tones of faerie faith provide patterns for how to live on earth. The Fay…are a model for living intimately with nature rather than dominating it.” And couldn’t we all use a pathway for achieving that?

Author Jo Carson did a film about Feraferia. “Dancing With Gaia; Connecting With Earth Energy, Sacred Sexuality and the Goddess” premiered at the Fairfax Documentary Film Festival in April 2009. It is available at dancingwithgaia.com.  Learn more about Feraferia at feraferia.org

In a world gone cold and dark with the transition and collapse of these old and toxic systems, this book will remind you of what we once were and what we could be again.

Details—as always, I recommend you contact your local indie bookseller first and ask them to order it, if they don’t stock it. Walk your talk, friends. Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path by Jo Carson Art by Fred Adams Foreword by Carroll ‘Poke’ Funyon Photography by Jo Carson Publisher–Natural Motion Pictures ISBN 978-09916470-1-9

Midsummer Dreams of Justice and Peace for the UUCSV

Thank you all for inviting me back here—it is always a pleasure to stand here and look out over this congregation. And to be here on the longest day of the year is even sweeter. And it’s Father’s Day, too.  Let’s take a moment and honor the daddies—those in the room and those in our hearts.  (applaud)

A church—a place for weaving community and unlocking the keys to equity and justice, for honoring the Divine however you reckon that—is sometimes called a sanctuary. But Emanuel AME in Charleston was not a sanctuary on Wednesday when a gunman rose and took the lives of 9 people, leaving a little girl to bear witness, to “tell the story.”

How do we reckon with that?

It was my pleasure and my privilege to sit in a pew at St James AME in downtown Asheville on Friday and listen to the heart-opening words of their pastor—who grew up in Mother Emanuel and was leaving after the service to go to Charleston. There was so much grief there—and hope and love and genuine goodness. I sat with clergy-folk from the UUCA and we spoke quietly of another shooting and the effect it had had on them. How do we hold each other in that kind of triggering—for most of you hold the memory of 2008, of a shooting over the mountains in Knoxville TN at the Tennessee Valley UU Church.

I invite you now to reach out to the people on either side of you—by either taking a hand or catching an eye—and remember how precious the bond of community is. And to acknowledge that church is also a place that requires us to be thoughtful and courageous…and to exercise the beauty of compassion and unrelenting love. We are called now to redefine our places of worship where transformation is also on the agenda—and change for systems that are so completely broken.

I’ve stood here and talked about Tower Time and the celebration of various holy days on the ancient calendar called the Wheel of the Year. We’ve played around with the sanctity of candy corn and some of you may remember the Winter Solstice celebration where we rearranged all the pews and started out in the dark.

So, it’s a big day today, literally. Midsummer is often celebrated in my community with picnics and bonfires, and we sometimes stay up the night before, holding vigil for the shortest night. I wanted to engage you all today in a reverie of summertime, a remembrance of summer’s past and to beg you to enjoy the richness of life all around you, even if your obligations require you to continue your work on behalf of justice and peace and equality. I had planned to honor the fruits of your labor as advocates and allies, as kith and as kindred. But life intervened this week and there may be better things for us to discuss, to engage.

In English folklore, there is a great battle that takes place on each of the Solstices. The Oak King and the Holly King battle for primacy. In “The White Goddess,”  by Robert Graves, the Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. At this time of year, blessed Midsummer, the Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest. The Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the Autumn Equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King’s favor and his prowess peaks at the Winter Solstice and afterwards declines, and the cycle continues. It’s a convenient mythological explanation for the cycling seasons and also gives tribute the old warrior cultures of Old Europe, a culture from which many of us descend.  This twisting, fighting metaphor for something so naturally slow and evolving seems harsh to our modern sentiments. But our own internal struggles with what we should do and what we want to do are mirrored in this myth. And the consideration of our internal selves with the limitations set on us by the hierarchical and toxic systems in which we live our lives brought me to a thoughtful place.

Last week, a woman who has self-identified as a Black woman was “outed” by her parents, who say she is, in fact, white.  A firestorm ensued in the media, and in parts of my community we are also trying to find loving and thoughtful responses to the trans community, made manifest again in mainstream media by the very public transition of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn.

What does it mean to feel you are something on the inside that is not reflected by your outward appearance?  And because I tend to see issues like this in mythological or metaphorical terms, I began to think about the people I know—myself included—who choose to hold back all that their insides dictate because it would be at the least unacceptable and at the worst, dangerous.

In NC we are dealing with elected officials who are relentless in their schedule of rolling back generally accepted freedoms, demolishing the social safety net, marginalizing citizens’ input and agency.  When we demand change, we are told that our only recourse is to not vote for those people again. But many of us didn’t vote for them this time, did we? And due to the fine-tuned redistricting that has come to be called gerrymandering, we may be looking at a generation of restructuring that will have us living in a state very different than the one we knew only a decade ago.

So what are we to do?

We read the news on the migrant situation nearly world-wide and watch with horror as sinking boats filled with refugees drag across the Mediterranean or the China Sea. With no clear path to immigration in our own country, we can only watch with disgust as politicians in both parties use the lives of ordinary people to further their own political agenda.

So what are we to do?

There are fires in Alaska. The black rhino is being hunted to extinction because its horn is thought to cure a hangover. California is out of water—though water is still being used there for hydraulic fracturing. Texas wishes it could give California all the excess water it has been given. The systems of this life-sustaining planet we call home are morphing, changing into places where life as we have known it may no longer be possible.  Even the Pope has released an encyclical on the condition of the environment.

So what are we to do?

That font of wisdom and useless information Facebook suggested this to me earlier this week.  Say how you feel, leave the job you hate, find your passion, love with every ounce of your bones, stand up for things that matter, don’t settle, don’t apologize for who you are.  Be brave.

Take a deep breath, friends. Ground yourself into the bosom of the Earth. Now, from this place of strength and relative safety, open your heart to those in need of your goodness, your strength. Speak gentle words to those who need them….and kick the rear-ends of those that need that, too.

The world is aswirl with chaos energy right now. We always have choices then but the two obvious ones are ground and hold–or ride the chaos. What we do tends to be determined on how strong we feel at the moment. Going to ground like a little furry critter is always a good option. Engaging the Powers—speaking truth to power—is the work of determined and often desperate souls for whom justice seems an indistinct possibility.

In times of grief and fear and fury, it has sometimes a comfort to sit with our own past and with those of our forebears, to remember what life was like when you grew all the food you ate, had no control over how many children you would bear, were ruled by custom and culture that considered those hard lives to be of less value that the lives of their “betters.” We find blessing in such communion, as our reflections on their lives bring us wisdom, strength, vision.

One thing I have learned in my life is that nothing is a binary. It is neither the one thing nor the other. You can stand in solidarity while lamenting the burning of the city, the culling of the innocent. You can hold many emotions at the same time or sequentially–fear, fury, grief, longing. You can feel traumatized and triumphant. This is complicated, this time of change and growth in which we are engaged. You are free to feel what you need to feel as you sort through the events in our world. And if you are overwhelmed with a desire to help, look at your community and see if there are people who are hungry–because they are there. Look to see if there is land that needs protection–because there is. You can help. You can feel. It’s ok to do both.

If you are overwhelmed with a desire to help, look at your community and see if there are people who are hungry–because they are there. Look to see if there is land that needs protection–because there is. You can help. You can feel. It’s ok to do both. Think of your friends and colleagues who have been triggered by recent events–check in with them. Check in with the people who are always strong but now are quiet. Send them your good love and attention.

In these times, we are the seeds that are awakened by fire. It’s up to us to go into the forest that is Baltimore and Ferguson and Pine Ridge and Oceana—and Charleston– and bring the green of renewed and renewing life. The people on the ground in all these places have been told to be patient, let the system work, calm down, wait. What is happening now is that the real people who live real lives in these real places have reached the perfect point of despair. Some of us have been there, too–and it would have taken only that rush of clear destructive energy to bring the change. Certainly there are other ways to achieve change–but they are intentionally hobbled by so many things so deeply ingrained in our culture. It is worth it–thinking this through, being articulate. Because it won’t stop in Baltimore, or Ferguson, or Charleston.

Sometimes what we are doing is kindling past the apathy of culture and life. Sometimes we are lighting signal fires to let the next generation know that we care about the world we are leaving to them. Sometimes fire is light, sometimes it is heat, always–in its wake–there is renewed life. I always take Nature as my teacher and I think about forest fires–the terror, the destruction, and the aftermath of livid green. It is all a cycle, you know. The Great Cycle. Creation/Destruction/Creation.

We stand at a liminal time– as the Oak and the Holly King do—between the rising energy of the longest day and the falling energy of the months to come. Thresholds are important for us culturally, of course, but for those of us who truck with the Unseen, there is power and melancholy in these times of shifting space and time. Hold the ragged edges of your hearts together today. Pull the tatters of your soul into some semblance of your sacred garment. Straighten your back, stand tall, look forward. All is exactly as it seems, and yet…everything is a shadow. Ground deeply, breathe into your belly. Seize the power of the moment and remember we are strong because we stand together down the generations, across the veils, in harmony with the Earth.

That’s all for today.  Except this–

Fear not. Fear not. These are the times we are made for.

The Retro Pie Contest

For a couple of years now, I’ve wanted to attend Barbara Swell’s Retro Pie Contest but one thing or another kept me from it.  This year–thanks to young Mr. Martin of West Virginia–I had an idea for an unusual pie and I was determined to get to the contest.

Tricky because it was a fraught week–death of a friend, long and stormy return from St Louis, another full day of travel on Thursday, a wedding on the day of the contest.

Still, I thought I could manage it–and I did!

It was Great Fun.  I haven’t uploaded my pics yet so will do that later.  I didn’t win anything but a couple of people who didn’t know me said they liked it and it was mostly eaten at the end of the day.

Here it is–

Smoky Mountain HooDoo Pie

(a fragrant Appalachian egg pie that’ll put a spell on you)

I adapted this recipe from a standard quiche recipe because I wanted to see what ramps and stinging nettles would do to the rich eggy goodness.

Crust

(adapted from Mollie Cox Bryan’s wonderful Southern pies book, Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies)

2 cups Martha White plain flour, sifted with

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco

About 7 tbsps of ice cold water

Chill the Crisco. Gently work it into the sifted flour and salt mixture. When the fat is incorporated, place the mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then add in the water, one spoon at a time until it easily incorporates into a ball. Put that in the freezer for half an hour. Roll it on a cool board with a cool rolling pin. Move into a 8 or 9 inch pie pan and crimp the edges. Prick the crust with a fork, add a sheet of parchment paper on top and put pie beans on the paper. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and take out the beans and paper. Return to oven to parbake until just turning a light golden color. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Filling

Clean and chop a good handful of young ramps—about ¾ cup worth. Put 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron pan on low heat and when the butter has melted, add the chopped ramps. Cook them long and slow. After about 10 minutes, add in ½ cup of dried stinging nettle leaf, chopped. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and return to low heat. Cook until nettles are soft and pliable.

Grate ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese

In a bowl, stir up 4-6 large eggs (depending on the size of your pie plate). Add salt and pepper to taste. Add in 1 cup full fat buttermilk and ½ cup of half and half. Stir.

Pour the egg mixture into the parbaked crust. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Add the ramps and nettle leaf on top of that and pat it into the egg mixture with a fork.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the eggs have set in the middle. Cool.

Topping

1 cup sour cream

½ cup full fat buttermilk

3 tablespoons “corn”

Chill before using.

After the pie has cooled to warm, garnish with a dollop of the topping and a little sprig of ramp greens, and serve a slice of pie with a salad. If you don’t have any “corn” or are teetotal, you can do without it in the topping.

Byron Ballard

As Mercury goes direct…

We stand, friends, at a liminal time somewhere betwixt spring and summer, between school and summer break, between one place and another. Thresholds are important for us culturally, of course, but for those of us who truck with the Unseen, there is power and melancholy in these times of shifting space and time. Hold the ragged edges of your hearts together tonight, my dears. Pull the tatters of your soul into some semblance of your sacred garment. Straighten your back, stand tall, look forward. All is exactly as it seems, and yet…everything is a shadow. Ground deeply, breathe into your belly. Seize the power of the moment and fear not. Fear not. Remember your practice–grounding, Ancestors, land spirits, the Divines, your tribe. We are strong because we stand together down the generations, across the veils, in harmony with the Earth.