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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Back to Basics

As my family prepares for Lughnasadh by building a fire pit -- digging the area, laying a foundation of bricks and gravel -- I'm reminded in these tasks of returning to the foundation of my practice.  I mentioned in my last post how I reconnect when it's been a while since I honored the sacred: at times of reconnection or high stress, I go "back to basics," which for me involves simple steps in grounding and meditation. Whether these tools are foreign or familiar to you, I'd like to walk you through my process, using tools from a variety of traditions.

Step 1: Breathe

This is also my Rule #1 for all the challenges I meet in life, and I teach my children this as well.  Sit or lay in a comfortable position, and take a deep breath.  Let it fill your chest and abdomen, causing both to rise.  Inhale to a slow count of six, hold the breath to the count of two, and exhale to the count of eight. Repeat two more times, and then breathe normally, but remaining focused on the process. This mindful breathing has been scientifically verified to alter brain chemistry, which can ease stress, reduce cortisol, affect the heart, and improve certain medical conditions (see research by Herbert Benson for supportive studies).

Step 2: Ground

Sometimes I feel I could float away, at other times I feel disconnected from Source and Spirit.  If you have that head-in-the-clouds feeling either from distraction or stress, and need to focus, moving from the deep breathing exercise to this will help.  Imagine your legs and coccyx (tailbone) are the roots of a great tree. Inch them down into the soil, reaching for the bedrock below. Do this until you feel fully connected to earth energy (if you feel daring, you can even reach your tailbone root all the way to the core of the earth, drawing from the center and the molten rock between).  Draw energy up from the roots and feel it filling you from your toes up to your head.  While doing this, I combine grounding with ...

Step 3: Awakening the Chakras

As I draw energy up from the earth, I imagine it being guided by twin snakes.  They join and cross at each chakra.  So, first, it's the root chakra of security at the coccyx, often shown to be red.  As the snakes enter my field of energy, they break through any blocks I might have.  As it opens, I see the red glowing around me.

They move up to what the Japanese term "hara," the point two fingers' width below my navel. This is the sacral chakra, orange in color, and deals with sexuality and abundance. From there, I move the energy up, with guidance from the snakes through the rest: solar plexus (yellow, confidence), heart (green or pink, love and compassion), throat (blue, communication), third eye or pituitary (indigo, intuition, wisdom, decision-making), and then the crown (purple, spirit and bliss).

From there, I reach up my arms in a V, much like a tree's branches reach for sunlight, and I draw down white light from the stars through my crown, letting it blend with the earth energy flowing upward through me and sending star energy back to the Earth.

If I layered them all in my mind, I'd look a bit like a tree, a little like a  caduceus, and a bit like a glowing rainbow torch.  Silly though the images might seem, especially all together, these steps have gotten me through PTSD flashbacks, overwhelming challenges (which proved to be surmountable), and a host of minor episodes of disconnection over the last decade.  They've also helped me in gaining greater clarity and deeper insight during shamanic journey sessions.

Our fire pit still needs a lot of work before completion, but so long as we take each step with serious intent and give it the attention it needs, we're sure to have a lasting structure around which we can build memories that celebrate life and the people around us.

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PaganNewsBeagle Earthy Thursday July 31

Today, we've got seven stories about Earth, her people, and our spiritual paths. Enjoy!

An underground greenhouse promises year-round veggies. Have you heard of this? Would you try it?

In Britain, the couple who built the "hobbit house" are still fighting to keep their dream alive.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Time for a Corn Harvest Festival

Lughnasadh is all about the corn, and I am not referring to the effectively creepy Stephen King short story. You simply cannot celebrate without featuring this sweet juicy veggie in some way, shape, or form. Instead of reserving it as an afterthought or side dish, place it front and center and celebrate it! There are many local and small-town corn festivals that you can attend. That way everything is ready-made and ready-to-go. One of the oldest in Wisconsin makes its home in Sun Prairie. According to their Chamber of Commerce website, its humble origins date all the way back to 1953. I do have fond memories of munching the delectable cobs as a youngster there. You could douse them to your heart's content from salt shakers hanging from the tops of tents. The Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival has now extended to four days and serves some 100,000 corn enthusiasts. There is a craft fair, parade, tractor pull, music, contests, and all the corn your can eat. Make a road trip of it with your favorite corny companions, and spend the day in farm country. Even if you don't plan to attend them all, it's fun to peruse the different websites. You can view pictures of people dressed as scarecrows and enjoying the harvest activities offered in each locale. 

The Corn/Grain Moon will be making an appearance on Sunday the 10th, and this is indeed an ancient food honored by Aztec and American Indians. To get you in the mood, I have a healthy recipe to sample, since it is a Lammas classic combo of bread and corn:

PARMESAN-CORN BREAD MUFFINS

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I'd like to imagine that starting a coven is a completely organic process.  Perhaps a few friends get together and decide that it's time to form a coven or at least begin operating as one.  On the traditional side it's easy to imagine a Priestess and Priest recently elevated to Third Degree and hiving off to form a new coven, perhaps taking a few of their old coven mates with them in order to do so.  Both of those scenarios sound better then how our group started.  Our coven began with a question:  "who should we invite over for ritual?"  

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We started our circle by inviting the very few Pagans we knew who lived within eight miles of us, we then cast our net a little further extending an invitation to the small handful of people who had bent over backwards to help us adjust to life in Northern California.  The only real limitations we put on things was not inviting anyone we knew who was actively involved in another non-public circle or coven.  We weren't looking to lock those folks out, we just don't have a lot of space, and we were looking to pick up the folks who were currently circle-less.  

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PaganNewsBeagle: Watery Wednesday Community News July 27

In this installment of the PaganNewsBeagle (Watery Wednesday Community News) we have an interview with the Patheos Pagan blogmistress, musings on that most British Pagan institution: the pub moot; an interview with Hellenic polytheist author Tony Mierzwicki; and news on changes at Paganesque festival "FaerieWorld."

Meet Patheos Pagan blogmistress Christine Hoff Kraemer!

Explore that venerable (but waning?) institution the Pagan pub moot.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Morning-Star.jpg

This is next divinity from the Atheist’s graveyard (#20) is one that I really was not looking forward to researching, more less writing.  Add in my long and repeated bouts of insomnia just to make things more…interesting.  Lucifer.  The word means ‘bearer of light’, a Latin translation of the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘morning star’, otherwise known as the planet Venus.  He is the Devil of the Christians, a god of Venus to the Greeks and Romans and a deity of enlightenment to the Luciferians to only name a few.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Culture of the Imagination, Part 3

Last month, I wrote about the psychological dynamics behind the sacred spaces we create together and the ways we might utilize the power of sacred space to create a better world. This month, I'll be writing about what happens when the people to whom we have given power abuse it, and in doing so weaken both the internal and external cultures of the imagination we've worked so hard to build. Specifically, I'll be writing about the work of Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB), its influence upon a generation of Pagan women and the destructive effects of the recent pedophilia allegations against her.

The younger Pagans among you might not recognize the name, but if you're a Pagan woman of a certain age, you'll remember that MZB is the author of a much-beloved novel called The Mists of Avalon. This novel tells the Arthurian story from the point of view of its women and follows the life of Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan le Fay. It was released in 1983, just a few years before I left an abusive family of Jehovah's Witnesses to live with my grandmother, who was also a Christian conservative. An avid reader, I found the novel in 1986, and it changed my life in ways that echo even now. It was the world I wanted to live in; a place where women existed in community with one another, where they wielded the ancient power of the divine feminine, where the sacred was protected from the mundane. Because of that book, I was drawn to Western European Paganism, and then to Celtic Pagan spirituality, and then to a degree in Celtic Studies, and then to Cape Breton. In a very real sense, The Mists of Avalon shaped my own culture of the imagination and helped make me the woman I am now.

Many women of my generation came to Paganism with The Mists of Avalon in one hand and The Spiral Dance in the other, so many the experience might well be called a cliché. Separately, these books showed us how a community that valued the feminine divine might look and how it might operate in the world. Together, they were a heady recipe for transformation and empowerment. I certainly cannot imagine what my life might have been like without their influence, and while I have fallen out of touch with all of the young women with whom I shared The Mists of Avalon in particular, I do recall that one of the young men from our crew read the novel to his daughters in the years that followed. So for me and many other Pagan women my age, it was no mere novel. It was the foundational landscape of our internal Avalons, and as I've previously written, those internal landscapes help to shape the cultures of the imagination we create together as Pagan communities.

So it was especially devastating to me, and I'm sure to many other Pagans, to learn the author of that imaginary Avalon wasn't the woman I hoped she had been.

Early in June, Tor.com posted a birthday tribute to the late MZB. Shortly thereafter, the post was removed because it neglected to mention her husband Walter Breen's trial and conviction for child molestation. In the fallout from this incident, I learned for the first time that an author whose work I loved had been married to a man well-known in the speculative fiction community as a pedophile. Worse, she had equivocated during his trial with a string of what appeared to be carefully-rehearsed "I don't recalls". Then on June 10th, Deirdre Saoirse Moen posted a blog entry containing Moira Greyland's allegation that MZB had physically and sexually assaulted her and other children for many years. Moira Greyland is MZB's daughter. With permission, Moen posted two poems Greyland wrote about her mother, and they are the stuff of nightmares.

MZB has been dead for nearly fifteen years, so she isn't here any longer to defend herself. However, there is ample record of her self-defense in the way of court testimony online, and it is important to remember that MZB's children and the adult survivors of Walter Breen's abuse have the right to speak about their own experiences and be viewed as credible reporters of their own lives. But while I am linking to the relevant information at the end of this post and have drawn my own conclusions about the matter, it isn't my intention to discuss the facts of the case here. Rather, I want to address with you what happens to us when the people who help to shape our internal and external sacred landscapes fall so far from grace.

It can be perspective-shattering, but the first step toward integration of the experience might be to acknowledge that we are the people most responsible for our internal and external lives. The Mists of Avalon was MZB's novel, but I was the author of its place in my heart, and so it is with every book. Once they leave the hands of their creators, they belong to the people who read them. The same could be said for any powerful work that shapes our lives, so it's important to claim and hold sacred the pieces of that shaping which belong only to us. From there, we can negotiate the place a flawed person's work comes to occupy in our lives. I'm not a great fan of the 'separate the artist from the art' advice, but your mileage may vary, and from time to time I do still read the work of authors whose personal lives and opinions I find distasteful. Finally, as a result of this integration, our internal and external cultures of the imagination can begin to heal so that we continue to be nourished by them and to nourish others with them.

Having said this, there are things that can stand in the way of this process of acknowledgement, integration and healing. Dishonesty with ourselves about the nature of the people in question can lead us to justify or excuse their behaviors in order to protect the influence they had on our lives, but that instinct for self-preservation often comes at too high a cost. Conversely, self-honesty doesn't require that we publicly condemn the people we once admired; it only requires that we tell the truth to ourselves and to others, when asked. In my case, I don't have to defend MZB on the grounds that she cannot defend herself, I don't have to malign her daughter's testimony and I don't have to engage in other evasion techniques in order to preserve the Avalon her work helped to create in my spiritual consciousness. I only need to look at the evidence, make an honest evaluation and move forward, however painful the movement might be. With time and care, my Avalon will remain intact, and my commitment to the creation of communities that honor the feminine divine will remain strong, since both of these things are part of me no matter how MZB behaved during her life.

Why is this so important? Because Marion Zimmer Bradley isn't alone. There are many people more directly associated with the wider Pagan community whose leadership we valued and who fell from grace. In some cases, that fall has indeed been an arrest on pedophilia charges, but in other cases the flawed behavior has been less egregious and gone unchallenged for years, even decades. This means these people are shaping the internal landscapes of others, which in turn shape the cultures of the imagination those others help to create in the Pagan community, where they might do harm along the way. And so the cycle repeats. This is why we must treat our Pagan leaders and writers honestly, just as I have endeavored to treat the allegations against MZB honestly. Without that honesty and the courage of our convictions, we cannot nurture a healthy internal landscape, nor can we cultivate a healthy community.

I hope you've enjoyed my three-part discussion of the culture of the imagination; its place in our hearts, the way it empowers Pagan communities and the challenges it can face. Merry Lughnasa! May you reap a bountiful harvest.

*Jim Hines' Blog Entry
*Marion Zimmer Bradley: It’s Worse Than I Knew
*Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives, All Right
*CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
*TIMELINE OF EVENTS
*Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child abuser – says her own daughter
*Tor.com Yanks MZB Birthday Tribute

And finally...

*Thoughts on Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Danielle Blackwood
    Danielle Blackwood says #
    This was a brilliant poignant piece, and appreciated your academic tone yet accessible writing style. I also was unaware of the a
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    She mentions a little girl earlier in this tribe, and then writes how she is raped by an old warrior. Yikes. I forgot about that
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks for posting this. I had not been aware of the information you cite. Child sexual abuse is always wrong and covering it up i
  • Deirdre Saoirse Moen
    Deirdre Saoirse Moen says #
    To answer your question, a number of people have brought up The Catch Trap as one example of problematic representation of statuto
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Thanks much, Deirdre. I, myself, am not quite ready to read any more of her work at present.

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