This poem speaks to me

The Myth of Innocence
Louise Gluck

One summer she goes into the field as usual
stopping for a bit at the pool where she often
looks at herself, to see
if she detects any changes. She sees
the same person, the horrible mantle
of daughterliness still clinging to her.

The sun seems, in the water, very close.
That’s my uncle spying again, she thinks—
everything in nature is in some way her relative.
I am never alone, she thinks,
turning the thought into a prayer.
Then death appears, like the answer to a prayer.

No one understands anymore
how beautiful he was. But Persephone remembers.
Also that he embraced her, right there,
with her uncle watching. She remembers
sunlight flashing on his bare arms.

This is the last moment she remembers clearly.
Then the dark god bore her away.

She also remembers, less clearly,
the chilling insight that from this moment
she couldn’t live without him again.

The girl who disappears from the pool
will never return. A woman will return,
looking for the girl she was.

She stands by the pool saying, from time to time,
I was abducted, but it sounds
wrong to her, nothing like what she felt.
Then she says, I was not abducted.
Then she says, I offered myself, I wanted
to escape my body.
Even, sometimes,
I willed this. But ignorance

cannot will knowledge. Ignorance
wills something imagined, which it believes exists.

All the different nouns—
she says them in rotation.
Death, husband, god, stranger.
Everything sounds so simple, so conventional.
I must have been, she thinks, a simple girl.

She can’t remember herself as that person
but she keeps thinking the pool will remember
and explain to her the meaning of her prayer
so she can understand
whether it was answered or not.

A peek along a pathway of devotion

When I was a newbie Pagan, I was like most newbies. Thankful that I had finally found a belief system that spoke of things, that I had always felt. I was grateful that here at last, was something that made sense for me and how I saw the world. So I took it on faith and adopted this pathway, that felt so right to me

However, like most newbies, I didn’t even know how to begin to practice my new religion. So I gathered books, I read the basics; I learned about the Sabbats and Esbats and learned to cast circles, learned candle magic, learned the uses of the ritual tools (though I had no tools when I started). I learned about the Goddess and the God, which to my delight, I found that the names they were called in the so-called myths, could still be used.

I didn’t come to the idea of personal devotional acts until I had been practicing for a year or so. My first devotional action was a prayer that I was supposed to say once a day. No rule book or anything said I had to, but it was what I wanted to do. ( I will say, prayer throughout this missive, as the concept of prayer does not belong to any ONE religion )

Anyway, I say supposed to, because it didn’t happen a lot of the time. 🙂 Life would get in the way; ( or rather I let life get in the way ) I’d have some minor mundane ( the day to day world stuff ) thing happen and I’d forget to do the prayer. Or I had family come over to visit and the prayer would be forgotten. In the beginning, sometimes weeks could go by, before I remembered my own self promise, of creating a more devotional practice.

When I self-dedicated however, ( when one commits themselves to the Gods ) one of the things that changed, was how I approached devotion as a whole. I set reminders to myself to say prayers at least once a day, twice if I felt the need, but once a day at least was now mandatory, to my mind.

I noticed that I felt better when I held to the schedule I had created; I was happier, my days seemed easier and less stressful. I felt more grounded and more in tune with the world. And not incidentally, with the Gods. ( I was still learning about them, at that time. )

I noticed that my Esbats and Sabbats felt more connected to me too. ( Sabbats and Esbats are the days we hold bi-monthly rituals. New moons, dark of the moon, or the high holy days ) Before, when I was a new comer, they were just days to celebrate. Days to cast a circle, speak a few words, and oh yeah… eat some cookies and grab an extra Pepsi. But if I forgot to do one (which happened), it was all right.

After I self-dedicated however, the Esbats and Sabbats became be much more important in my life. They became times to stop and contemplate, quiet times of reflection about my life and those around me. If I forgot one, I was very angry with myself.

As I learned more, I found myself praying twice a day more often than not, as I had first intended, morning and night. I felt like it bookended my day, and gave me a sense of connection that extended beyond the Esbats and Sabbats.

Something else started to happen as well.

I found myself really watching the news and shows like America’s Most Wanted, for example, and when there was a murder or someone gone missing, I would send up a quick prayer for that person, their loved ones, the alleged perpetrator(s), and their families.

When someone on Facebook posted that they needed prayer or good energy for someone or something, for example: I would say a prayer right then, and include them in my daily prayers there after. I would add their names to my prayer bowl.

( Which is any sort of bowl, typically placed on ones altar space, that you fill with tiny slips of paper with the names and needs of those you wish to pray for. These slips, are then commonly burnt at the Sabbats, giving them up to the Gods with the smoke, and you start filling the bowl again with new needs and prayer requests.)

These actions by the way, are almost a reflex, of see a need and automatically send up a petition for help, say blessings, send healing, another paper to the prayer bowl.. Etc.

Now we move on down the road a bit … A few years after my self-dedication, I made contact with those who would become my patron deities ( or rather they made contact with me ) and They made it clear to me, that more was needed from me.

I was unsure if I wanted to take that step, but a series of dreams, plus a sign that literally dropped into my hands convinced me, that yes, this was the thing to do. Shortly thereafter, I dedicated to Them.( For what I thought would be a short time. Silly me 🙂 as They had other plans for me. )

To add to my knowledge and understanding, and to bring a sense of deeper devotion, I bought books of devotional prayers. In my case it was ones that are said in the morning, afternoon, evening, and at night, This book is called, the book of hours, Pagan style. Please contact me if you would like the name of the author.

Another change is, that I found myself praying or expressing thanks during “non-devotional times” as well. Like going to the store, saying thanks that I could afford to buy food or making dinner, to bless the food for all who would partake of it. And others, but all so called .. Mundane events, that I found myself doing, prayerfully.

I also noticed, that every time I hear or see a fire truck or an ambulance, I say a blessing on the suffering person(s) and on the first responders, to say thanks and keep them safe. I find myself saying prayers for the souls of animals killed on the highways and on the streets, to send them peacefully over the Rainbow bridge.

Understand, it is never a chore to do these things. I have never felt forced to do them by anyone or anything. Is just that doing them feels good, feels “right” like I am making a difference.

Back in May or June, I had a clear vision, for lack of anything better to call it, of a bracelet. It was so clear and so real, that I could feel its weight on my wrist. I knew I had to have this, absolutely had to.

My teacher makes jewelry, and I told her of my total conviction that this bracelet was meant for me. She listened to my impassioned speech and suggested that it was perhaps a sign, that it was time for a deeper commitment to my patrons.

So she made the bracelet for me and when I received it, I found she was right. I was ready, and took on the deeper commitment. I became fully bonded to my patrons, meaning that I am Theirs, to do Their work or whatever is required of me, for the rest of my life. This is not a choice one makes lightly.

Since I did that, even more changes in devotion have happened. I feel as though my whole day is a prayer now. I wake up with prayers. I shower and dress with prayers. I watch television and go about my day with prayers.

My life now is anchored by prayer and what services I can offer. Whether it be a prayer, sending healing, or just a sympathetic and caring ear, I offer whatever is needed as I see the need, as fully and deeply as I can. And I give thanks to the Gods, that they find me fit to be a small part of their grand design for the Great work of uplifting all of Mankind.

Thank you for letting me share this condensed version of my walk down the sometimes rocky road of commitment and devotion, on the Pagan path. Blessed be to all who read this and May the Gods smile upon you.

Karma: my thoughts

Something my sister did a few days ago got me thinking about karma.

Colonel Crazy’s girlfriend braided my hair for me. It’s great, and I’m thankful; thanks to her I don’t have to worry about my hair for a while. So after it’s done, I’m swinging it around, getting used to it (I haven’t had braids for a couple years) and in comes the Bestower of Righteous Silliness.

“Look! [Colonel Crazy’s girlfriend] did it for me. I love it, isn’t it nice?” I say to her.

BoRS looks down her nose at my hair. “Well, it’s better than it normally looks.” Imagine this said in the most disgust-filled tone you can.

The insult to my normal hairstyle aside (BoRS is always making snide comments about the way my hair looks), Colonel Crazy’s girlfriend is standing right there when BoRS says this, and if looks could kill, my sister would have been dead on the spot.

I mean, really? Who says things like that–and with the person who did the job (some 3 hours work, I might add)–standing right there? BoRS swans out after this, leaving me, Colonel Crazy, and his girlfriend scowling after her.

Later, I went to Colonel Crazy’s girlfriend and assured her that I love my hair, that she did a great job and that I’m very thankful to her for doing it. I told her not to worry about BoRS; she has a low opinion of my hair in general, except when she does it.

Colonel Crazy’s girlfriend shrugged and said, “I’m not worried about her; she’s just a hater. Karma will get her.”

*********                                 **********                               ***********

Now, my family doesn’t profess to believe in karma–though one of my mom’s favorite sayings is : “What comes around goes around.”

I have heard karma defined simply as experience. The Hindu definition of the word is “action”, if I recall correctly (if one of my readers knows differently, please enlighten me). Most people I know think of karma as some mysterious thing that will pay you back the same way you wronged someone else. For example, if you hit somebody with your car, you’ll be hit by a car at some point.

I don’t believe it works quite that way. Using the example of hitting somebody with your car, I think you won’t necessarily be hit by a car, but something as bad will happen to you.

Karma works because the Golden Rule is a real, universal law: treat others the way you want to be treated. Put out good in the world, and good will return to you. Not in the same way you put it out there, but it will return to you. The reverse is also true: put bad out there, and bad will come back to you. Again, not the same way you put it out there, but it will come back (and it seems the bad returns quicker than the good, in my experience).

That’s my thoughts on karma. I’d love to hear others, even if they disagree. 🙂

Samhain and semantics

Samhain is my favorite holiday. I mean, really and truly. I had to be the only kid I knew who rated it (though I called it Halloween when I was a kid) above Christmas.

So it really grates on my nerves to hear the usual stuff that gets spouted off this time of year.  The admonishments to keep your cats (especially black ones) inside, the scare tactics, the crappy “real histories” of the holiday that some Christian stations bat around.

The thing that really gets me is the effort that some churches are going to in order to “take back” the holiday. The Bestower of Righteous Silliness and her family are members of a church that’s advertising that.

BoRS’s church has “Harvest Celebration”s every year. I went to one a couple years ago, and yeah, it was the same stuff we used to do for the holiday as kids: dress up in costumes and nab ten times our weight in sugary goodness, except it was on the church grounds.

After blinking at the huge banner that proclaimed it was a “Harvest Celebration” and observing the usual trick-or-treat madness going on around me, I asked BoRS why they changed the name.

“Because we want to show people that this has nothing to do with that evil devil holiday,” was her answer.

Oh, really? Kids and grown-ups are dressed up in costumes, there are little stations all around the church parking lot, and at each station the kids say “Trick or treat!” and present their bags to be filled with said pounds of sugary goodness. But what I’m seeing has nothing to do whatsoever with the holiday that you say is an evil devil day?

Right. Please tell me what the difference is, as I see none.

Is the difference that it’s on the church grounds, and so none of those “devil” influences can possibly sneak up and grab the unsuspecting party-goers as they get candy? Granted, it’s safer than going door-to-door to get the candy (though that was part of the fun for me when I was a kid). If that’s the reason, then say so. But why go through the craziness of a name change?

I’m not even going to touch the craziness of the statement that Samhain is evil and has to do with the devil, except to say this: it’s not and it doesn’t. Do some research.

If you want to protect the kids and yourselves from the day’s “evil influences”, why are you celebrating the day, anyway? That makes no sense to me. The day is so bad and evil, but you’re having the celebration of the bad, evil day on your holy ground!

Rant over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

My Sister has Changed–Nope, False Alarm

I sat BoRS’s kids for her today–for money this time, not as a favor for my mother. The money came at a good time for me, as I really needed it to get some necessities.

That’s not why I’m writing this, though.

While bringing me back home, BoRS asked me some questions about paganism. And she was really listening to the answers! Join me in a collective gasp of shock, ladies and gentlemen.

As we were about five minutes from my front door, I gave the barest overview I could (a  few quick sentences about what I believe, who I worship, the holidays), and she didn’t condescend, or say I was was wrong or foolish or anything. I kept staring at her because I was sure she had been replaced by a pod person. 🙂

She pulled up into the driveway, and said that she wanted to know me, as she felt like she didn’t know me at all. She said that if I died today she wouldn’t know just what to put into my obituary.

I was feeling really shocked and very touched (even though I was still wondering if she was a pod person or not), and told her that I’d answer any questions she had. I thanked her for not snapping at me or yelling or quoting the Bible at me or any of that, and she said that doing that wasn’t the way to get to understanding people.

At this point my mouth was on the floor almost. I was seriously considering changing her nickname on this blog, that’s how shocked I was.

But she ruined all the good opinions I was reforming about her.

First she started by saying that she knew that I’ve never experienced God, not “really”.  She said that her God was awesome and almighty and all powerful, and my God–“or whoever it is”–that I worship was false. She said that I’d never really given Christianity a chance–that I was a child when I gave up on Christianity. FYI: I was 16 when I decided to not be Christian anymore; a minor yes, but I had done years of study of other religions and talked to many people before I made my decision.

She ended with this sally as I was getting out of the car: “It’s my duty as a Christian woman to see that you are brought to the light of the glory of God. You are lost and you don’t know it. If I have to listen to all kinds of crazy things, I have resolved that I will witness to you, and you will be a good Christian before I leave this earth!”

Poor woman’s going to be in for a long, fruitless fight, I say.

Just Another Path up the Mountain: A Story

I went to a christening on Saturday. My mother’s immediate supervisor had a baby and asked her to be his godmother. My mother was honored and touched, but as her supervisor is Catholic and my mother has never been to a mass, she was a bit worried about how to act and what to do.
I assured her that the priest wouldn’t break out his holy water and drive her out, and gave her the basics on what Catholicism is and the things they do in general. I have been to Catholic masses and even went to a Catholic school for a bit, so I wasn’t worried about offending or being lost.
When we entered the church, I approached the altar where there was a statue of the Virgin Mary. I bowed my head and said a quick prayer for the blessing of my new godbrother, then went on to look for a place to sit.
“Why did you do that?” my mother asked as she sat with me before the service started.
“I just said a prayer,” I said.
“But that was the Virgin Mary, right?”
“Yeah,  so?”
My mother looked a bit confused. “But you…aren’t Catholic.”
“Nope,” I assured her.
“So…”
“So I said a prayer.”  Seeing the confusion deepen on her face, I said, “The Goddess doesn’t care what name you use for her; she is still our Mother. She’s Mary here, but that’s only one of her faces. I usually call her by other names, but since I was asking for blessings on my new godbrother–whose parents are Catholic–why not call on her in the aspect that they would?”
My mother blinked.  “But you don’t believe in this!”
“I’m not Catholic, no,” I said. “But I believe in the Mother.  Mary is just another way to see her.” Then I smiled. “This is just another way up the God mountain, Mom. Trust me; this path and mine are a whole lot alike.”

Rambles in the Early Morning

I’m supposed to be sleeping right now. I thought I would be, but my brain has decided to yammer on for a while yet.

I did go on to get a minister’s license, so now I am a legally licensed minister. It’s settled some for me, but it still feels new.

It feels weird to realize that now I have myself a title.  I didn’t become a Pagan to gather titles, so I’m trying to come to terms with this new reality.

No, I don’t regret it. It was the right step. But it’s a huge responsibility that I’ve decided to shoulder. And now I wonder if I can do it.

I am simply myself. I don’t know if being just myself will be enough for these next steps.  I keep feeling like I should be something more. I don’t know what more, just that I should be more.

I guess I feel unworthy. Fine time to feel unworthy, huh? It’s done already. I feel like saying, “Are you sure?” to the gods.  They are; I know it. I wish they didn’t trust me so much.