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Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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Some Musings on Growth

I have sat down many times in the last six weeks to write but never quite got there.  My last post was between Samhain and Winter Solstice, and now it is fast approaching Imbolc/Brigid.  It could be the way the cancer itself makes me tired, or the treatment that makes me even more tired, or the morphine I’m using for pain management that just makes me blissfully unaware of the passing of time. I am sleeping 12-14 hours a day, sleeping is healing. Somehow it is fitting that my body is paralleling the experience of the land Herself here in the Northern Hemisphere, after all between Samhain and Imbolc is time for quiet, for darkness, for the death of what grew last year being composted and metabolized so that new growth can happen as we move toward Spring.  


Unfortunately what happened in my body was growth in a dramatic and unhealthy way.  Cancer is growth out of control.  Growth that crowds into spaces too small for so many cells, growth that then endangers the cells and organs already there.  Through my morphine haze I see that - that growth out of control in my own body and with my witch sight I see it as a microcosm of the growth out of control in the larger world, too many humans and their byproducts and infrastructures crowding into places that can’t naturally sustain the density, too much “stuff” crammed into closets, landfills, large patches of plastic floating on the ocean.


The immunotherapy I am doing at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) is amazing and seems to be doing what it is designed for, helping my own immune system deal with the cancer.  It turns out that cancer cells come and go in our bodies all the time.  Cancer cells show up in normal bodies and don’t have the sense to stop multiplying even when they are overcrowding and infringing on necessary organs.  In healthy bodies with well working immune systems, the body self corrects, tagging those cancer cells and sending in our white blood cells to clean out the unnecessary cells.  The parallel between a normal body and the body of The Earth is that it is a natural process that should take care of itself.  If everything is working well and together then the problem doesn’t get out of hand, a few cells gone awry are easily cleaned up.  With conscious planning and tending and awareness of the whole the same can be said of the Earth, there are lots of self correcting mechanisms in place to help with the overcrowding of plant and animal species and their byproducts.  But sometimes things get beyond the point of the natural cycles being able to self correct and we have cancer that becomes life threatening to individual bodies and our larger collective body.  I have a very wise friend, Copper Persephone, who is also dealing with stage 4 cancer in her own body, she writes: 


“I am not angry at the cancer its self. For me, cancer in general is a message and a natural consequence of the way humans and particularly large companies have poisoned the non-human beings we share this earth and are interdependent with. The cancer is growth out of control, a mirror for the human species. Those of us with cancer are not in this state only because we ate the wrong food or didn't exercise enough or thought the wrong thoughts.  We are the canaries in the coal mine, shouting out the warning to those who continue to pollute our food, water and air.”


Even when we try to fix what has gotten out of control there are usually unintended consequences.  My immunotherapy worked so well and so fast that tumors in my lungs began to shrink and even disappear, a very good thing that had my oncology team, family and friends, and me, doing dances of joy.  However, the sudden overload of dead cancer cells in the large tumors in my cheek and lymph nodes in my neck was too much for my white blood cells to handle all at once and so bacteria took over and caused a serious infection that put me in the hospital for the first week of 2018.  Even when we try to correct on an individual level or a larger community, regional, national, or global level there can be unintended consequences with trying to correct the initial problem.


And so here it is in the Northern Hemisphere almost Imbolc/Brigid again, a time when growth naturally begins anew.  I continue to work with my oncology team, my spiritual allies, my family and friends, my own body, to do what we can so that what germinates and grows are healthy cells growing where and how they should for the good of my whole body.  May we as communities, regions, nations, and a whole global body do what we can so that what germinates and grows as the wheel of the year continues to turn is also healthy, growing where and how it should for the good of the whole Body.

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


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