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Interview with Tara Miller
This is an interview between myself and Tara Miller. Tara is a blogger at Patheos for the Staff of Asclepius, and is also the editor of the Anthology Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, which has just been released by Immanion Press. I thought it would be interesting to interview her and learn more about the anthology. Disclosure note: I am the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press, but I think that the topic I've interviewed Tara about is one which needs more awareness in the Pagan Community.
1. Taylor Ellwood: What are some common misconceptions around spirituality and people with disabilities? How do you address these misconceptions?
Tara Miller: Several of the contributors said they were told if they believed enough in being healed or had more magical power they would be healed of their disability. Another misconception is that people, like myself, who are born with a disability, have it because they were meant to learn a lesson in this life.
Both concepts are very hurtful to say to someone. We didn’t choose this in another life or this one. We do what we can to more forward and find joy beyond our struggles.
Since I am unable to have children, I get a lot of offers from Christians to pray for me. They are convinced God can perform miracles. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in some Divine intervention. What I usually tell the person is I’ve been praying for plenty of years and if it was meant to happen it would have by now. So the best way to handle it is to simply say thanks, after all we can use as much help as we can get, or to be totally honest and tell them how you feel.
A friend of mine on Facebook pointed out that when someone says “hang in there, it will get better” or “are you doing any better now” they are asking a harmless question but they don’t understand a chronic condition means it isn’t going away. The days when she is stable are better than the days when the bottom falls out. It’s the same way for anyone with a chronic condition. They have to do what they can on good days and rest when they are in pain.
TE: Tell us a bit about you and your spiritual journey. How did you come to be where you are?
TM: When I was in the third grade, I severely broke my ankle. I had to lay in the ER for hours before the doctor could admit me for surgery. My mom taught me a meditation to shut out the pain. After that, I began meditating on a regular basis as part of my Christian religious path. As I grew up it would be out in the woods behind out home in the Ozarks or before bed. I learned that there was a Divine presence throughout all things. A Divine presence in nature.
One night I was contemplating why a loving God would send people to hell for all eternity. It didn’t make sense because eternity was a long time. I distinctly recall Him saying “I don’t. Let me introduce you to someone.” That’s when I saw the Goddess for the first time. She was dressed in silver and blue. I freaked out and wondered if I was being tricked and both presences where evil. But that of course was my Christian background kicking in.
Eventually in my early twenties I got over my fear and embraced the Goddess, especially in Her form of Gaia. I dedicated myself to her in the early 2000s. Five of us went to a lake that we were drawn to. A storm stirred perfectly over the park. We ran across the levee sliding in the mud as lightning struck around us. Not a smart thing to do but we felt the Gods wanted us too. At one point there was a clash of thunder and I fell to the ground kicking and screaming in the mud. “They’re raping her! They’re raping her!” I screamed. I was seeing plows tearing at the earth. People gathering food until she could provide no more. It took a minute for the people in the group to understand what was going on. It was a very powerful experience for me. I’ve been dedicated to Gaia ever since.
TE: What is Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul about as an Anthology? How does it represent Pagans with disabilities?
TM: The anthology gave Pagans with disabilities, addiction, and illness a chance to write their personal experiences. Those are all “categories” where people are stereotyped. Instead of this part of the Pagan community feeling ignored, they can finally raise their voice and be heard.
TE: What role does your disability play in your spiritual work?
TM: That is a very complex question. In my opinion, physical ailments do affect ones spiritual development. Part of being a magician is caring for and centering your body, mind, and spirit. Having a disability isn't an uphill battle when it comes to magic unless you aren't taking care of your medical needs. With my depression and PTSD, I have to do small mental practices to manage my mood several times a day. Mainly it's closing my eyes and clearing my thoughts for several minutes. This has sharpened my mind incredibly so that I can almost instantly fall into a trance for magical workings. When I forget to do my practices daily, my spirit suffers and it's easy to become depressed. It's like falling into a never ending black hole and when you end up there you can manifest some very dark thought forms. Much like those Dion Fortune wrote about in Psychic Self-Defense.
TE: What are some future projects you plan to work on?
TM: I would like to write a book about Gaian Neo-Paganism. It would cover Her Greek mythology, ancient worship and modern worship. There are also connections between the biologist Lovelock’s theory that the earth is a symbiotic organism with Oberon Zell Ravenheart’s essay in the Green Egg. Oberon is one of the founders of Neo-Paganism.
I have an idea for a series of children’s books. It’s about a young girl who befriends an elderly woman who lives at the top of a mountain like island is the middle of a lake. She discovers that the small mansion is secretly an inn for magical creatures because it is between the material world and other realms. In each book she discovers something about one of the four elements and finally Spirit. Mainly right now it’s a couple of huge binders of notes and images in my head.
TE: What do the symbols on the cover mean?
TM: The symbols around the person represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit. They are a visualization of the title of the book Rooted in the Body (material world), Seeking the Soul (spirit above and around). That’s also why the person is holding up a caduceus, the symbol of healing and a tool of Hermes.
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