“Our Father who art in Heaven” becomes “Our Mother whose body is the Earth.” Transcendence of the earth and the body are replaced with immanence, suggesting that the earth and the body are good. Our mothers’ bodies are the source of our lives. Our Mother’s body is the Source of all life on our planet. The earth as the body of the Mother is a very ancient conception. Process philosopher Charles Hartshorne says that the earth as the divine body is the best rational model for understanding the intimate relationship of God to the world.
I just returned from a Pagan festival in Tennessee. This is the first overnight event that I have gone to post Covid pandemic and also the first Pagan festival that I have ever been to. Pre-pandemic all the events that I have gone to have been Women’s events and gatherings such as Gather The Women Annual Gathering, ALisa Starkweather’s Daughters of the Earth, Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference and others along those lines.
They pretty much all had a Pagan dusting to them because anything where you find the Divine in the Feminine and in the Earth, rocks, crystals, herbs, the stars, and populated by people who live closer to the Earth, avoid crowds, are empathetic, well, you’ve got Pagan leanings.
But I shied away from the word ‘Pagan’ for a long time, because I grew up Catholic and even though growing up in a very waspy suburb of Dallas, I did not give it much thought at all, I have since realized that the undercurrent of my belief system was that Pagans were evil, animal sacrificing, overly sexual, devil-worshiping and otherwise just something to be avoided.
This kind of prayer is said during the dark months when shadows are feared and the nights are long. I use it at the solstice or the full moon before the winter solstice, a fire festival. But it can be used any time during the dark months. There are good reasons for this kind of prayer. It is so important to acknowledge our shadow and to invite him/her in as a friend, not as an enemy. Otherwise harmful projections occur as we place undesirable qualities that we can’t own onto others.
In Indigenous traditions there are always masked personages that act out these shadow qualities in sometimes very humorous or scary ways. The Tewa have a masked dancer who uses a whip to strike the ground. In central Europe masked dancers walk the streets creating havoc in rural areas even today. These figures are acting out the shadow in us all, keeping it present so this energy does not go underground where it can become quite deadly.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.
Every November I begin to create stories inside. Except for going into the woods to tip balsam and making wreaths I never know what else I might decide to do, but by the time I have finished I know what the images are saying! This is a poem about the stories I created this year. With the silence of winter soothing me I begin this kind of play without awareness and without a goal…I love this idea of story being told through image.
Last Friday my oncologist gave me the best birthday present I could have imagined. (My birthday was 7:30 pm last night December 20, California time.) Without going into details, my latest CT scan was so much more positive than the last one that it feels like a miracle. I have reason to hope.
Today I am full of gratitude. I am grateful to my doctor Dimitrios Mavroudis who is the head of Oncology at the University of Crete and at the Pagni Hospital in Heraklion. I am grateful to medical science for the chemotherapy that is healing my body.
I am grateful for the national health system of Greece that is covering the cost of my treatment because I am a Greek citizen even though I never contributed to the national health insurance.
I am grateful to the nurses at the Pagni hospital who are unfailingly kind as they take my blood and regulate my chemotherapy.
Machig Lapdron, female Tantric Buddhist mystic and lineage founder
I’ve just returned from an illuminating trip to Bhutan, high in the Himalayas. Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom and the world’s youngest democracy.
On our last full day in this enchanting land, my husband and I drove with our guide over the nearly 4000 meter pass of Chelela and into the Haa Valley which doesn’t see that many tourists. Our goal was the Hermitage of Juneydrak, where Machig Lapdron (1055-1145 CE), the famous female Tantric mystic, master, and lineage founder, once meditated.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to give the invocation for a luncheon at my university. Baylor University was celebrating our presidential inauguration and there were several events leading up to the installation of the university’s 15th president. The inauguration was historic because it ceremonially marks the beginning of a term for our first female president, Dr. Linda A. Livingstone.
As I write, it is a year after Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election for President of the United States of America. Like many of us, I’m still coming to terms with the choice my nation made, and how we came to it. I’m thinking about women in leadership, especially occasions such leadership marks a first, a departure for an institution or system marked by male privilege.
What does it mean when an institution is willing to deviate from its long-established patterns of leadership and entrust its governance to women?
Kavannah is a Jewish concept meaning intention or motivation, perhaps most associated with Hasidism. Hassidism teaches that prayer and the fulfillment of mitzvot connects one more with the Holy One if the right state of mind is cultivated before participating in said activity. While going through the motions (prayer, mitzvot, etc.) is important and still technically fulfills the mitzvot, it is not as spiritually beneficial to the individual as is doing those tasks with kavannah. Praying and fulfilling mitzvot within a certain mental space more fully connects you to the divine. Judaism is not alone regarding this religious insight. Clearly there is something to it.
Recently I have cultivated a meditation practice. I only meditate for about 20 minutes, usually taking a comfortable position on a sunlit patch of carpet near an open window in the late afternoon when no one is home. My meditation is simple. It just consists of being aware of my breath, feeling my body, and a chant. The chant for this week is what I would like to share. It is a chant of help and self-compassion that may nourish you as it has me.
Camakam is a Vedic chant that comes from one of the four Vedas, Yajurveda, meaning prose mantra (yajus) and knowledge (veda). I have come to knowledge of a portion of it through Nicolai Bachman’s audio Chants Asking for Help. It is a prayer for the fulfillment of wishes, the description to this one says. Below is a sample with the translated lyrics in italics:
A few days ago, I received a private message from an old friend who’s now living and working in Taiwan. We hadn’t corresponded in years, but he had heard about the recent shootings in San Bernardino and wanted to check-in after realizing that this was second set of mass shootings that I’d experienced so close to home (i.e., I live in a city just west of San Bernardino County and was faculty at Virginia Tech in 2007 during what became known as the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman in U.S history).
ANJEA is an Australian Aboriginal fertility Goddess. She is an animistic spirit known to the tribesman of the Pennefather River, Queensland, Australia that is located on the Western Cape York Peninsula.
My mother-in-law is currently in hospice and expected to cross over any time now. My wife is with her. Those two sentences alone—since I am a woman writing this blog—signify historic/herstoric change. I am a woman and I am writing about my mother in law and I am writing that my wife is with her. We are in a sea change regarding gay marriage. I will be allowed bereavement to go with my wife, when the time comes, for the services.
What has not changed in my life is my dependence on traditional prayer. Although I am a witch/Wiccan, have done all kinds of meditation from Transcendental Meditation, and Buddhist chanting, to visualization, spell work, and New Age affirmation—when push comes to shove as they say, I get out the Rosary.
The other night, it was close to 11:00 pm and I was finally enjoying my own little ‘midnight’ snack and a healthy dose of reality TV when I got a phone call from a cousin I haven’t heard from in quite some time. He is in the East Coast and it seemed too late for a leisure phone call from him. So I answered in a panic, yet, all he wanted was to say “hi” and to talk a little bit about the obligation of a Muslim to pray the five daily prayers. OK, this is odd, I thought, but I guess I could entertain this topic for a few minutes. Might be better for me than the junk TV I was winding down to anyway.
We chatted for a few minutes and he started to get very heated about the requirement of the five daily prayers. To back up a little, let me paint a quick picture of this eccentric cousin of mine. He is smart. A New Yorker. Middle-aged. He has studied at prestigious universities, has traveled the world, and even delved into religion so much so that he used to give sermons on Fridays, the holy day of the week for congregational prayer in the Muslim tradition. His main question for me, “Do you really believe in the flying white horse story?” Continue reading “Stop. Drop. And Pray. by Valentina Khan”
The news of late has been terrible. I read about the following headlines yesterday (July 17, 2014):
1. A Malaysian Airlines passenger plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers aboard. Both the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russia separatists have denied responsibility and it is still (at the time of this post) too early to assess blame. I feel for the families and loved ones of those lost, the people in the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine, and Malaysian Airlines for the tragic year they have already undergone. Continue reading “A Prayer for our Broken World by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”
One of the inspirations for the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete was the spiritual power and energy I felt at the monastery of Paliani with its Sacred Myrtle Tree. The Panagia, She Who Is All Holy, is said to live in the tree, and the nuns who tend the tree follow customs far older than Christianity. When I first visited Paliani, I asked Her to heal my broken heart and help me find my true love.
Over the years, I have offered many other prayers: for my books and tours, for health, for citizenship that would enable me to stay in Greece. I tell other pilgrims that the Panagia of Paliani has performed many miracles and repeat the story of the doctors who desperately wanted to have a child, who had tried everything, and who had a son a year to the day after making a prayer at Paliani. I point to the many “tamas,” including gifts of precious jewelry, crutches and body braces that have been given in honor of the power of the Panagia of Paliani.
In the fall of 2012 one of our members prayed that a heavy flow of menstrual blood that often lasted for more than half of every month be stopped so that she would have the strength to participate fully in the pilgrimage. She had been bleeding for 5 weeks when she came on the tour, and her bleeding stopped the moment she touched the tree. Continue reading “GIVING BACK TO THE MOTHER by Carol P. Christ”
In June, my friend, Shifra, and I became Co-Chairs of the Ritual Committee at our shul. During the past few weeks, we have occasionally turned to one another and said, “I can’t wait for the High Holy Days to be over!” Then, we have paused realizing what we have said and have sworn that we didn’t mean it. We don’t. Truly, we don’t. But we are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of detail required for the days to go well. There are babysitters to find, flowers to pick-up and drop off and pick-up again, kiddushim to organize, chairs to arrange, musicians to contact, mahzorim to bring up from the basement, bulletins and programs to coordinate, volunteers to recruit, parking to find for Tashlich, carpets to be cleaned, pianos to be tuned and so much more. Thank G-d there is a committee and a community to help us, but we still have much of the organizing and synchronizing to do. It’s a lot for two people who also have jobs, family and other responsibilities to fit in as well.
What concerns me more than anything in all of this organizing and busyness is that I won’t be personally prepared for the High Holy Days. These days require personal, spiritual and relational work which all takes time. I can’t show up on Yom Kippur morning and expect to have an amazingly deep spiritual experience if I have done nothing to prepare myself for it. To me, this would be the irony of all ironies: the one who has spent the past three months making sure the shul is ready isn’t prepared herself. Since the last week of August, I have been setting aside time away from the details to make sure that doesn’t happen. Within the personal work I’ve done, I have found two inspirational and meaningful reflections which I’d like to share with you. Continue reading “Two Reflections for the New Year: 5774 By Ivy Helman”
Like most Americans, I hold the overblown belief that a book about my life would be worth reading. And, like most Americans, I have had the gumption to title it before I’ve even lifted a finger. It’s called “Should I Be Praying Now?”
As if you’re surprised, it has an obnoxious subtitle that helps marketers at Barnes & Noble know whether to put it on the Christian living shelf with the likes of Beth Moore or drop it behind the David Sedaris memoir with the naked barbie on the cover. It will read, “Moments of indecision during mealtime, bedtime, teeth-brushing, love-making, test-taking, baptisms, funerals, and the opening few minutes of small group.” It’ll be like Anne Lamott’s “doesn’t that make you feel better about your own spiritual life” kind of writing but more pedestrian. Continue reading “This is Why I Don’t Pray by Erin Lane”
“I never told my grandmother I was gay. I’ve often wanted to visit her grave, clench my hands together, and pray that she forgive me for betraying the trust she instilled upon me long ago. However, even today, I cannot bring myself to make that trek, up the hill into the countryside where her ashes lay below the ground.”
I haven’t dreamt of my grandmother since her passing one hot summer July evening.
The night, and the days that followed, continue to be a blur. However, as my family members continue to see her in their nightly visions, I, go on unabatedly longing to see and hear the voice of a woman who made me feel the presence of the divine with each passing story.
My sister saw her in a dream when she was buying shoes, my mother has seen her multiple times when she would be undergoing a particularly stressful situation, and I, left alone and oftentimes wondering through an abyss of loneliness and disarray, wake up each morning wondering why, I am left all alone. Continue reading “Visions of My Grandmother by John Erickson”
Becoming a Godfather was more than just a reentry into the Catholic traditions I had long given up but rather a journey back in time that would grant me the ability to rewrite the wrongs I felt as a kid growing up in a tradition I not only didn’t understand but also didn’t feel like I belonged in.
I often wondered why I wasn’t asked to be the Godfather of my niece and nephew. It made perfect sense to me that I would be the best person to guide and provide spiritual care for either of them as I was the only member, in both my family and my brother-in-law’s, getting a PhD in Religion. I didn’t think there would be much to it. I would go, hold my nephew, and watch a priest pour water over his head, and then go and enjoy some very sugary cake in my sister’s backyard.
On August 18th, 2012 my wish came true and I became the Godfather to my sister’s second child, Drew. I had always believed that there was nothing to being a Godfather. That it was a title in name only and a tradition that many individuals bestowed upon members of their family as ritualistic habit rather than a sacred institution of spiritual care and upbringing. Boy, was I wrong. Continue reading “8 Simple Rules for Being a Queer Godfather by John Erickson”
Spiritual Power is arguably the most dangerous power of all. In the wrong hands, it gives the power to make judgments even about the eternal fate of another person. It needs a sign on it at all times saying, ‘Handle with extreme care.’ The greater the power a person exercises, the more need there is for checks and balances before it is used and accountability after it is used.” – – Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
May 6th, I addressed the issue of abuse of power in the Catholic Church and how we seem to be unraveling any kind of progress made since Vatican II. Since writing that article, the Leadership of the LCWR met with Vatican Officials and expressed their concerns openly. A dialogue occurred and left no resolution, just information that the leadership will discuss with the community at their August meeting. That meeting will reveal their next step in this controversy – concede and follow the conditions and rules sets forth by the CDF or disband and form a new religious community or maybe there will be another option revealed.
I have to ask though – Was this a meaningful meeting or was it meant to pacify the Sisters and their supporters? Will the Vatican change its stance? Certainly, the U. S. Catholic Sisters have not been
pacified, nor have their supporters. For example, there is a “Nuns on the Bus” tour traveling around the United States, prayer services for the Sisters, #nunjustice and #whatthesistersmeantome campaigns on Twitter. Even the Women’s Ordination Conference delivered a petition containing over 57,000 signatures to the Vatican in support of the Sisters. Certainly, the support for the sisters and their mission is not dwindling, but growing stronger every day.
As for the Vatican, a change in their position is doubtful, but we can continue to pray. I am, however, very discouraged by a statement attributed to Pope Benedict that indicates a desire to have a smaller more faithful Church of Catholics then a large Church of people who do not adhere to Church Teaching – seeking out a small, strong, holy community.
Obviously, it is my hope that this statement was taken out of context, but I have to be honest and say
that my hope is filled with doubt. This is not the first time I have heard clergy make this statement. Priests have made this statement in my presence – wanting a more faithful flock and dismissing those that do not adhere to their interpretation of Church teaching. This stance does not bear fruit, but is rather a power play – a play that can be called many things – misogynist, arrogant, non-pastoral, cold-hearted, and frankly un-Christian. It also plays with a person’s spiritual fate and in many cases their soul. The psychological impact of something like this is dangerous for some. Some ordained will go so far as to withhold sacraments or even compromise the person’s status in the Church, including their role in ministry, for the sole purpose of inducing compliance – a tactic that dates to the medieval period.
As a new mother, something that is constantly on my mind is how to teach my daughter morals and values. She just turned three and has a strong awareness of what is going on around her. Her vocabulary is vast and continues to grow daily. I know that if I don’t start teaching her values now, I am missing out on an important opportunity.
Although I was raised Catholic and consider myself a “cultural Catholic,” I am uncomfortable with Catholic traditional prayers because of their lack of gender inclusiveness, among other things. We don’t attend church as we have not yet found a community that we feel is a good fit for our family.
“As we approach Memorial Day Weekend (and the militaristic patriotism it promotes), as the 2012 election cycle heats up, and as I meditate more deeply upon my and my country’s many riches, one of [Walter] Brueggemann’s prayers in particular spoke to me.”
Blessing the Source of Life harks back to the time when shrines were built near springs, the very literal sources of life for plants, animals, and humans.
The prayer “As we bless the Source of Life, so we are blessed,” based on a Hebrew metaphor which refers to a water source and set to music in a Jewish feminist context by Faith Rogow, has become one of the bedrocks of my Goddess practice.
In Minoan Crete, seeds were blessed on the altars of the Goddess and the first fruits of every crop were returned to Her. The ancient Minoans piled their altars high with barley, fruits, nuts, and beans, and poured libations of milk and honey, water and wine, over the offerings they placed on altars. Evidence of these actions is found in the large number of pouring vessels stored near altars.
I attended a service at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, MA two Fridays ago. During the service, Rabbi Shoshana Perry spent a few minutes addressing the last word of a Hebrew prayer found in the Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah. It was translated in the siddur as “God rested” but the Hebrew word used was vayinafash, which comes from the word nefesh, or soul. The prayer emphasizes on the seventh day that God did not rest as much as God took time out to re-soul. Rabbi Perry believes that our Shabbat should be spent doing things that help us also re-soul.
Initially, I spent quite a long time considering why God would need to re-soul and what exactly God would do to re-soul. When I realized the futility of trying to sort that out, I moved a little closer to home: what do I do on Shabbat to re-soul? I was quite overwhelmed trying to answer this question as well.
Traditionally, Shabbat is about study, rest, prayer and family among other things. In fact, many Jews avoid creative processes like writing, cooking, painting, driving and working because God rested from creative work on the seventh day. (Incidentally, our creativity is also how we are considered to be made in the image of God). Part of the reason this idea struck me so deeply is because I often find painting, cooking and writing rejuvenating. Continue reading “RE-SOULING ON SHABBAT BY IVY HELMAN”
Originally, when ritual was still part of everyday life and everybody talked to gods and goddesses all the time, we spoke to them in everyday words. As time went on and priests assumed more power, however, exalted language and fulsome invocations arose, and pretty soon only the High Priest could speak to God Most High. We common folks were allowed to pray, of course, but the important prayers were uttered by the priests.
During the European Renaissance and all the way up to the 19th-century occult revival, it was thought that the gods spoke Hebrew and Latin. Ceremonial magicians wrote rituals in these languages or made up other highly esoteric languages like crypto-Egyptian, quasi-Sanskrit, and Enochian (the “angelic language” of the Elizabethan Dr. Dee). If you read books on high occultism, you’ll see scripts in these languages. Trying to pronounce the words can be like trying to unscrew the inscrutable.
Fortunately, we discovered that it can be dangerous to invoke an invisible power in a language we can neither understand nor enunciate properly nor improvise in. As anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows, boners come easily and can be very embarrassing. Worse, some powers may become angry if we mispronounce their names … or we may not get who we intended to call. Like the modern Roman Catholic Church, occultists, ceremonial magicians, and witches have generally adopted the vernacular. Continue reading “How to Talk to a Deity* By Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.”
I’m not generally an eye closer during prayers. Nor am I an arm folder. If I’m in a public space like my Mormon church, I tend to slightly bow my head so as to not make any other non-eye closers uncomfortable. I’m not a very consistent personal prayer, but when they do happen, most of them occur as I lie in bed before I sleep. I’m not a kneeler, either.
I’ve not ever thought much about this before, but now that we have a five year old, I’m seeing my child being taught prayer postures by his Sunday School teachers that don’t resonate with me personally. It’s caused me to think a little more deeply about why I don’t conform to typical Mormon prayer posturing.
I found an article* about eye positioning during prayer helpful as I thought about this question. According to the author Thomas Ellis, members of Abrahamic religions tend to view deity as an “intra-tribal rank superior.” In other words, the same way these ancient people approached their social superiors with supplications, they approach their deity with supplication. This usually involves lowering the eyes and head in order to not appear challenging or demanding. Contemporary Mormonism seems to fall into this category.
One exception to this generalization about Abrahamic religions is Marian worship. Catholic or Eastern Orthodox adherents tend to approach Mary with a direct gaze, seeking out visual reciprocity. They often look at icons and pray to her simultaneously. The submissive lowering of head and eyes is not present. Ellis postulates that this is because these adherents are approaching deity not as an “intra-tribal rank superior” but instead as an “attachment figure,” just as babies and young children approach with eyes open the loving mother or father.
Interesting. Does my lack of desire to close my eyes and bow my head mean that I think of deity more like Catholics think of Mary? Do I approach deity as loving parents**, rather than social superiors? Do I want to emphasize our similarities and talk to them as loving friends, rather than focus on the vast difference of our hierarchical positions?
Yes, I think I do.
*Natural Gazes, Non-Natural Agents: The Biology of Religion’s Ocular Behaviors” by Thomas B. Ellis in the book The Biology of Religious Behavior
**Mormons believe in both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, though Mormons are instructed to not worship her or pray to her.