Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving? Or a Day of Mourning?

Post image for National American Indian Heritage Month

Note: I will be borrowing liberally from the post of a good friend.  All quotes are hers, and her original, brilliant post can be found here.

After talking with a good friend, I recently decided to change up my holidays a bit.  I've been attempting to follow the wheel of the year this year, adding feasts that are mostly found in some kind of ancient tradition (even if not every tradition celebrated every feast).  I love the idea of finding reasons to celebrate throughout the year that have meaningful things to celebrate: fertility, harvest, departed ancestors, rebirth, etc.  There is so much to remember, so much to integrate into my cycle of living.  Time becomes more of a spiral, and less of a long, straight line with the scary unknown at the end.
One of the changes I've considered is quite recent: after talking to Tree, we have decided that celebrating Mabon and Thanksgiving is somewhat redundant.  Also, Thanksgiving is a celebration that commonly portrays a fictional account of our history.
"Turns out, actually, that the original Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag nation was not in November of 1621. More accurately, that communal celebration was held around August or September–the traditional time of harvest for northern latitudes. In that case, if Americans want to honor that celebration, it would be more appropriate for them to celebrate the harvest at the traditional harvest celebration known as Mabon."
"Hey," you say to me, "there's nothing wrong with being grateful.  It's a good time to get together with friends and family and stuff our faces with delicious things."  Oh, I agree--there's a time and a place for that.  Though I think it's disrespectful to God/dess to waste the food we've been given by purposely overeating.  But I'm sure the Native Americans we so often think of as the friendly equals of our ancestors would have loved to spend that November with their own friends and family.  Just surviving, even.
"Within 17 years of the harvest feast between the settlers of the Mayflower and the Wampanoag tribe, relations deteriorated to such an extent that the Wampanoag lost their political independence and much of their homeland. By 1676, their chief had been killed and his son and many other Natives were sold into slavery. Today, the Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder of bloodshed and betrayal, which is why each year they gather around the statue of their fallen chief and hold a vigil in the memory of their ancestor’s struggles and the loss of their land."
I wish that I could join that vigil, but I am not located anywhere near that tribe.  So instead, our home will be observing Genocide Awareness Day instead of Thanksgiving.  We will probably eat a simple meal based around fish (something the Wampanoag tribe ate a lot of), and donate the money we would have spent on a turkey and all the fixings to a charity (which I have yet to choose) that supports people affected by the ravages of imperialistic aggression.  We are grateful, and we have been given much.  I believe that an appropriate celebration includes feeding the hungry, and alleviating suffering.

Some more ideas:

"1. Place a candle in your window sill in remembrance.
2. After your Thanksgiving meal, take a walk through your neighborhood with family and friends while carrying lit candles.
3. Instead of a large feast, prepare a simple meal to share with family and friends and donate the remainder of what you would have spent to a any number of organizations that are working on human rights issues.
4. Each year, choose an organization or effort to which you can donate or volunteer around the Thanksgiving holiday. Invite children, family and friends to join with you in these efforts.
5. Organize a vigil in your community or neighborhood during the week of Thanksgiving.
6. Blog, tweet and facebook about the true story of Thanksgiving and what you do to remember societal injustice.
7. Instead of Black Friday deals at major retailers, shop local and free trade to ensure that your purchases are not produced by exploitation of laborers, or check out the WAVE Holiday Shopping Guide for online shopping options."

This year, I'll be taking a candlelit walk around the neighborhood, perhaps with some pamphlets or cards to hand out to people with information on charities they can donate to.  It's my way of showing gratitude in the most authentic way I can think of.  How will you show your gratitude this year?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If Heaven has a Speakerphone...

We've been told that we shouldn't pray to Heavenly Mother. We've been told that we don't need to pray to Her, because She can hear whatever we tell Father.

The one in heaven is probably white. Or gold.
Alright then, I'm beginning to picture some kind of speakerphone arrangement:

And if there is a speakerphone in heaven, and they are both listening, then why does it matter which name I say when I call?

Because sometimes a woman just needs a heart to heart with another woman. It's not a lack of love for our fathers or for men in general. It is a need to connect with someone who is like ourselves: someone in whose image we are made and like whom we expect to become.

 Mama, can you hear me?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Everything is Holy Now

I heard this song recently, and it has struck a resonating chord with me.

(and if you are the sort who doesn't want to watch a 5 minute video, in spite of the powerful message that I promise is in it, the lyrics are the italicized parts throughout this post.)

Of course I have always known that sacredness, and communion with the Divine can be found in nature; that was one of the things that drew me to paganism. Prophets throughout the ages have gone into the wilderness, upon the mountaintops, or into the forests to talk with God. Obviously assorted locations and objects have been deemed holy or sacred by various religions over the centuries too.

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

I asked my 11 year old son how much of the world he thought was holy. He thought about it for a few minutes, and said "well, there are a lot of shrines in Japan and stuff, so maybe 0.05%"
I told him about how trees are an ancient symbol of the Feminine Divine. He thought for another minute, and then said "so maybe 10-15%, because they have cut down a lot of trees, plus there are deserts and stuff."
I asked him if he thought God could be in the ocean. If he thought God could be in the mountains. If he thought God could be in the wind.
"Oooh," he said "holiness can be everywhere huh."

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Indeed, I believe so.

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

My son  has been studying biology this year in school. He loves to chatter on to me about mitosis and photosynthesis and the other things he is learning about. I have always found these things impressive, but when they are presented in a textbook they seem mundane...just another vocabulary word to learn for the test. But take a step back and think about what they really are. Indeed, they are miracles.

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

It is not just that we can sense the holiness of Deity when we see that glorious sunset. The sunset itself can be holy. It is not just that we can feel a closeness to Deity when we sit in the forest, listening to the birds and streams and smelling the dirt and pine needles. The birds and water and dirt and pine needles themselves are holy. It is not just feeling a closeness to heaven when we look at a new baby, but the baby himself is holy. In fact it is not just nature and babies and "good people," but we are all holy. We all have a godseed in us, the potential to become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. For small times (or lifetimes) we may not live up to that potential, we may not let that holy spark shine, or we may not know how to let it shine (some of us may not even realize that it is there), but that does not change the fact that it is there.
The sunset is holy.
The sea is holy.
The trees are holy.
The animals are holy.
Our children are holy.
We are holy.

Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done

Obviously this is probably a bit of a paradigm shift for you, it was for me. But to perceive everything as inherently holy, everything as inherently a miracle, that adds a whole new richness to my life and to my spirituality. When holiness and sacredness were things that had to be found, or sought, they seemed "too special," like the china that my Mother in law keeps in the cupboard 363 days a year, and only gets out for Christmas and Easter. But when sacredness surrounds me every day, it does not cheapen the holy, rather it raises my everyday to a higher plane.

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now

Friday, November 4, 2011

Another look at Jena

This gorgeous story was written by my dear friend Jena.  I find it much more realistic than the biblical version.

“Hawwah, my daughter... awake and arise.”
The warm, familiar voice stirred the young woman from her sleep.   The night air was humid and warm around Hawwah as she opened her hazel eyes in the darkness.  Moon shadows played across her dark bronze skin as she sat up in the wide crook basin created by the spreading branches of the tree she and her husbad had chosen for the night.  She glanced at him, seeing that he slumbered still.  The voice had not awakened him.  Nor did he stir as it came a second time, softly beckoning her.
“Coming, Mother.”
Hawwah slipped between two boughs thicker than her round hips and climbed to the ground.  She turned as her feet met the spongy leaf litter around the roots, following the direction from whence she’d heard the voice.  The grove was thick with the sweet smell of ripe fruit and dew-dampened grass, her legs leaving feathery swirls in the mist that clung near the ground as she made her way toward the lowering moon.  Skirting a final tree, she heard her name once more.
“There you are, my dear Hawwah.”
The woman before her stood a little taller, her skin the tones of madrone wood and her hair the colors of late autumn.  She emanated light in such a way that the moon beyond her appeared to be her mirror.  Hawwah smiled and ran to her, being received into her Mother’s loving embrace.
“Why are you here, Mother?”
“I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you.  You and Adam have both grown very smart and capable and good.”
“Thank you.  We’ve been trying very hard.”
“You have, and your Father and I are very pleased.  However, there is something bigger yet in store for you.  Come.  Follow me.”
Mother led Hawwah through the trees, further into the west, further into the densest portion of the grove.  Hawwah brushed her palm against the bark of each trunk she passed it, gazing up into the blue and silvered boughs, guided onward by the radiance of Mother no matter which way she looked.  Soon, the trees came so closer together that she had to weave between them, twisting and bending her hips around  the lowest branches to avoid them.  Just as the way came near impassable, the forest opened up into a round clearing with the moon just touching the opposite canopy.  In the center of the clearing stood a loose circle of six fruit trees: three of one variety, three of another.  Hawwah turned to give her Mother a questioning look.
“Do you know where we are, my daughter?”
“I do.  This is the part of the grove we were told not to enter, and those are the trees we’re not supposed to eat from because they would hurt us.”
“That is correct.  Your bodies were not able to withstand their strong medicine when you were younger.  Now, you have grown and matured, and you can endure it.”  Mother approached the trees, slowly circling them as Hawwah kept in step by her side.  “You are both strong and able-bodied, but you are also strong in mind and spirit.  You have been diligent in your learning and your observations.  You’ve made some very smart connections, and you’ve been obedient to the rules We have given you.  The time has come, however, for you to take the next step.”
“The next step?”
“I have noticed your growing frustration.”  Mother smiled.  “I understand.  You want to go beyond this valley and see the world.  You have seen the small huts in the hills past the ridge line--yes, I know you’ve been up there--but you’ve been very good and have remained here, where it is safe, where you have grown.  You will have all the more advantage when you leave this place.”
“We’re leaving?”  Trepidation and excitement fluttered up through Hawwah’s chest, lending a quiver to her voice.
“If you choose to, yes.  You are ready.  Adam is ready.”
“Adam does not wish to leave.  He likes it here, too much.  It is an easy place to live and very beautiful, and we both love to be so close to you and Father.”
“I know, my child.  I know.  But it is time to move forward.  It is time to explore, to meet new people and learn new things.  This is what you were made to do.  This is what we have prepared you both for through all these years.”
They had come full circle and Mother stopped, turning to reach up and pluck a fruit from one of the trees.  “Here.  This will be my gift to you, and in turn, it will be your gift to Adam, and from you both it will be your gift to the world.”
Hawwah took the fruit, her fingers running across its taut, leathery, crimson skin.  She examined its surface a moment before returning her gaze to her Mother.  “We will not be able to return, will we?”
“No, my dear.  Not in this lifetime.”
“Can we still talk to you and Father?”
Her Mother smiled, her lips pressing tightly together and her eyes suddenly brimming with tears like starlight.  She hugged her daughter tightly, folding her close against her shoulder and bosom.  “Please!  Yes.  Please do.  Oh please never stop talking to us, my dear one.  Tell Adam never to stop talking to us.  Tell your children never to stop.  We love you so much, Hawwah.  You are our precious ones.  You have such important work to do.  The people out there need you so badly.  They are just as precious to us, but theirs has been a very, very different path.  You two, you are our beacons.  The others, they cannot walk with us as you do.  They do not know us as you do, not yet.  You are to teach and instruct and help and raise wonderful, beautiful children and tell them all never to stop talking to us.”
Hawwah’s own tears stained the glimmering silver fabric of her Mother’s robes as she clung to her.  She didn’t want to leave this place where she could be with her Parents.  She wanted to stay, but Mother was right.  She yearned for the land beyond the horizon, for its sights and its people.  She longed to hear their songs and their stories and learn their ways and taste their food.  She wanted to know them.  She could not do that by staying in this valley, no matter how safe, easy, or pleasant.
Several minutes passed as the women embraced before the moment came when they both loosened their holds at the same time.  Hawwah looked at her Mother and heaved a sigh.  The moon had fallen far below the tree tops now.  Behind her, the first bird made its chirp and trill.  Dawn was coming.  She knew that it was time to return to Adam.  She looked again at the fruit in her hand.  “How do I open it?”
“You must pierce its skin with your nails.  Inside you will find its seeds.  They are bittersweet, but they are good medicine.  It is your decision when to eat them, but do not let the fruit rot with your hesitation.”  Mother leaned forward and kissed her daughter on her crown and again on her brow.  “I love you, Hawwah.  Deeply and forever.  Never forget that, my daughter.”
“I will not forget, Mother.  I love you, too.”  Hawwah took her first steps backward, back to the east, back toward the edge of the trees through which they had passed before.  She knew she must leave Mother there, but she kept her gaze upon her as long as she could before making her careful way back through the sea of branches.  She clutched the fruit to her bare chest, whether to protect it or be protected by it was hard to say, holding it there even as she began to run when the trees thinned out once more.
The growing light of morning washed everything in a dark gray as she returned to the tree where she and Adam had their nest for the night.  The stem of the fruit was held in her teeth to free her hands as she ascended into its branches and settled herself again beside her sleeping companion.  He wasn’t even aware of her absence.  She smiled at him, admiring his strong brow and full lips, and the curly black hair that she couldn't help running her hand over.  Her dear, sweet, good Adam.
It was her touch that finally roused the man’s faculties enough to open his eyes enough to see her, giving her a sleepy smile.  “You’re up early.”
“I went for a walk with Mother.”
“Mmm,” he muttered, interrupting himself with a yawn as he flopped an arm across her crisscrossed legs.  “Fun?”
“Not really,” Hawwah said quietly.  Adam’s eyes opened more and he looked up at her.  “I always enjoy being with her, but it wasn’t very fun.”
“What did you do?”
“She led me to the think part of the grove to the west, to the clearing where the trees are that we’re not supposed to use.”  Hawwah looked at the fruit in her hand.  “She gave me this.”
Adam sat up, inspecting the object in her hands by the growing light.  “Is that... one of the fruit that we were told would hurt us?”
“Yes.  Mother gave it to me and said we were strong enough for it now.  She said it was up to me when to open it and eat.  I think... we will have to leave this place once we have.”
“Father told us not to eat that fruit, that we would die after eating it.  I don’t want to die.  And I don’t want to leave.”
“Mother said we’re ready.  She said we’re strong enough, so maybe it won’t kill us.  She said we’re supposed to go out into the world and meet the people that are out there and teach them about her and Father, and be... beacons, and have children and teach them, too.”
Her reasoning didn’t seem to set him completely at ease, but he was listening.  “I don’t know...”
“Adam... I love you.  You love me.  Mother and Father love us both, and they love those people.  They made us for this.  We’ve been prepared.”  She placed her hand over his.  “It’s time.”
“I’m afraid.”
“I am, too.”
Adam considered in silence a minute longer.  Around them, the songs of birds were growing in enthusiasm and volume as though willing them to break open the fruit.  At length, he met her gaze again.  “It is your decision.”
Hawwah nodded, taking back her hand.  She eyed the fruit one last time before digging her nails into its flesh.  Bright red droplets squirted out, staining her fingers.  Both of them jumped and Adam grabbed her hand.  “Are you hurt?!”
“No,” she assured him, taking her hand back gently and peering at the liquid.  “I think it’s just the juice.”  She dug into the skin again, pulling it back to reveal a tight cluster of brilliant red seeds.  More of them burst as she tried to dig them out, splattering them both and drawing out nervous giggles.  Finally, she held a small handful in her fingers.  They were like nothing she’d ever seen.  She gave Adam a brief glance before tilting her head back and dropping a few into her mouth and biting down.
Bittersweet was right!  Hawwah’s face crumpled in a surprised wince.  The flavor was so strong at first, she wondered if she’d somehow been strung by an unseen insect.  Adam watched her with alarm as if incredulous that she expected him to partake as well.  After a moment, though, the sharpness began to wear off and she could taste the sweetness of the juice as well.  It was still a potent mixture, but not as tart as the initial shock.  She held the remaining seeds out to him, resulting in a vigorous head shake of refusal.  Hawwah gave him a look, pointedly swallowed, and kept the hand out.
“Go on.  It’s not that bad.  It’s actually.... it’s good.”
“No, I watched your face.  I’m not eating that.”
“I was just surprised.  Eat.”
“Look at me, I’m not making the face anymore.  See?”  She dropped a couple more seed in her mouth and chewed.  It was much easier now that she knew what it was.  “There.  I promise.  It’s good.  You just have to get through the shock.”
His expression remained uncertain, but he finally consented to take the seeds.  still, he hesitated.
“Eat, Adam.  I’m not going into the world without you.”  The young man sighed, bracing himself, and threw the seeds into his mouth.  Hawwah smiled, watching his face now as he went through the same experience.  “Thank you.”
“Anything for you... even that.”
Hawwah laughed, digging her fingers into the fruit again for more seeds.  They hadn’t eaten more than a dozen seeds each when they heard another voice through the trees.
“Adam... Hawwah...  please come to me.”
“It’s Father.”
The young pair looked at each other, Hawwah’s gaze dropping to the fruit in her lap.  It was time to go.  The uppermost leave above them were taking on a delicate pink tinge as the two of them descended, preparing to go meet their Father.
“Wait,” said Adam, taking Eve’s hand and leading her to a nearby tree with its wide lobed leaves.  “If we have to go out in the world... we should wear something like Father and Mother do.  If we’re supposed to teach people how they are, we should dress like them, right?”
“Yes, I agree.  Let’s hurry.”
It took them several minutes to pull off enough leaves to cover most of their bodies, and crudely stitch them together with long blades of grass through holes poked through with a small, sharp stick.  By the time they made their careful way, hand-in-hand, in the direction of Father’s call--praying the whole time that their leafy robes would not disintegrate around them--brassy light spangled the forest floor ahead of them and they again heard their names called from the east.  The patches quickly grew in size as a wide field opened before them and the sunrise beyond it.  As with Mother to Eve, Father stood before them, radiating his own golden glory that made the sun a more reflecting disk.  His brows were raised at the sight of them, an amused grin barely restrained from bursting across his face.
“Well.  Where have you two been hiding?”
“We heard you call us, Father, and we thought that we should dress ourselves,” Hawwah replied.
“Did you then?  I see.”  A low, mirthful chuckle bubbled up from Father’s throat as he turned aside so the two of them wouldn’t be squinting into the sun.  They could look on him alone much more easily.  “And who told you that you should do that?”
“No one told us.  We just thought... well...”  Adam couldn’t bring himself to say it, and Father’s grin softened in understanding as he nodded.
“You have eaten the fruit of the tree you were forbidden from, then?”
“Yes.  Hawwah brought it to me this morning and I ate.”
“You made the decision so quickly?” Father asked, turning to his daughter.
“Mother told me we were ready and that we were made for this,” she replied, squeezing Adam’s hand for reassurance, “so I decided that we should eat.”
Father reached out and cupped her cheek, stroking it with her thumb.  “Because you have been so ready to move forward, you shall be greatly blessed with the gifts of motherhood which you shall need in the years to come.  And because of your patience with Adam and your unwillingness to leave without him, I bless you with the strength of unconditional love throughout your life, deeper than you even now know.”
Hawwah laid her hand over his and turned her face to kiss his palm.  “Thank you, Father.”
Father turned to Adam, placing his other hand on his cheek.  “Because of your steadiness and obedience, I bless you with strength to help provide for your family.  Because you have been wise enough to listen to your wife whom you love, and follow her in her willingness to progress, I bless you with greater wisdom and ingenuity to help you solve the difficulties which you shall face out in the world so long as you live, until you both return to rest with your Mother and I.”
Adam bowed his head, placing his hand on Father’s shoulder.  “Thank you.”
Father pulled them both close to his chest and the three of them hugged each other.  A moment later, Mother appeared, joining their circle in the bright morning light.
“This is the end of your time here in this pleasant valley, our beloved children,” Father said after some minutes’ interval.  Hawwah and Adam pulled back, allowing Mother to move forward and stand on her husband’s left.  She took in their leafy attire with a soft, sobbing laugh.
Eve smiled through her tears.  “We want to make you proud.”
“We are, sweet ones.  We are.  And your instinct to dress to represent us is wonderful.  However, I believe I have a solution that is a little more protective and durable.”  In her hands appeared a stack of folded skins, which she held out to them.  Adam took one and handed it to Hawwah, then the other for himself.  “These are for you to wear as you represent us to the people you will meet.  They were made from the skins of young sheep and the sacrifice of those sheep is to stand as a token of the sacrifice which will occur one day in time to come that will redeem all people.  They are to remind you of who you are, and who we are, and to provide protection from the world.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
“Thank you.”
“May they always be a blessing to you both.  Remember how much we love you.  Remember that you were made for this.  Remember to speak to us, and we will speak back.”
The world shifted around them in a swirl of color.  The field lay far below to the west, seen in the distance from the ridge where Adam and Hawwah suddenly stood, alone.  In the hills to the east, plumes of white smoke rose in clusters across a vast landscape of rolling hills and rock formations.  Hawwah looked back over her shoulder, gazing down into the valley they had called their home for so many years.  Behind them stood a sheer cliff and to each side were crags and boulders.  They could not enter the valley again.
She turned her beloved once more.  Adam sighed, and gave her a brave and loving smile.  “Let us go forward.”  He lifted her hand to kiss it, and she smiled in return.
Together, they moved eastward.