Tag Archives: paganism

non-olympic torch on an almost wordless wednesday

my first video for wordless wednesday. this is one made by my friend carol during a lovely women’s weekend we both attended at cascadia retreats in roberts creek on british columbia’s sunshine coast. by luck, we chanced upon an up helly aa celebration which, i found out, is europe’s biggest fire festival.

that’s my kinda torch.

talking about spiritual experiences

a while ago evan asked the question how do we talk about our spiritual experience? we had a little discussion about that here.

what still remains to be done, however, is for me to actually tell you about my spiritual experiences. let me offer up two stories, and then perhaps you will contribute one of yours, too. let me also, once again, repeat my now almost broken record: spirituality is what you define it to be (maybe this post helps clarify that a bit)

whenever i try to remember my first intense spiritual experience, there is one glimpse that i come up with. “glimpse”, come to think of it, may not be such a bad word to describe certain types of spiritual experiences generally; it’s a little blip that quickly passes through the retina of our consciousness and then it’s gone – but it leaves a lasting impression, a sort of afterimage that never really goes away.

i don’t even know what the occasion was, all i remember is walking on the dirt road that led from my grandparents’ house to the dairy farmer, maybe to pick up our daily can of milk, and all of a sudden the thought struck me how much i wanted my best friend, who was jewish, to convert to my lutheran faith. knowing me, you might find that strange; i espouse quite a radical multifaith view here, as you know. even at the age nine that this happened, i was already well aware of ecumenic ideas because they were important to my grandparents (my grandfather was a lutheran minister). what was going on, i think, was not so much that i felt that her (unpracticed) faith was wrong and mine right; the force of this experience had more to do with the love for my friend and the great spiritual nourishment i received; i wanted to share this with her, i wanted to “break bread”. even now as i write this, i have tears streaming down my face. i am very grateful that my friend and i, after nearly 50 years of knowing each other, are still close. (and no, she hasn’t converted, and that’s just fine with me.)

fast forward to now, a few weeks ago. once again, i was out for a walk. either at the outset or some time during the beginning of the walk, i intentionally wanted to move into a keen awareness of the sacred. i let myself drift this way and that, letting my feet follow whatever path seemed the right one. i decided to walk down the block where years ago i had had a glimpse of reality, a minute or two of kensho. it was very different now: the street was not as everyday-familiar as it had been when i had lived at the end of that block; it was night in late fall, not a sunny summer afternoon.

i consciously pulled myself away from wanting to experience kensho again, just wanted to expose myself to – i don’t know what. there was just a sense of wanting to open up to something “there”, and wanting to be as open as possible to whatever, maybe nothing. this desire in itself was strong and expansive. then i remembered one of my favourite city magick exercises: to walk along a street, trying to connect with the life of everything you encounter along the way. this here is not just a bunch of walls with windows cut into it, it’s a living, breathing house with real people in it who fight and read newspapers and laugh and put on pajamas. and this here is not just a green something but a plant with a history from seed to tree, a living being that craves sunlight and rain, good soil and clean air. somehow, from this it was natural to turn to the energy of everything around me. i walked along the block, saying to myself, with ever increasing delight, “house energy, wet leaf energy, loud car energy, rain drop energy, rock energy, maple tree energy, sidewalk energy, siren energy …” i felt – full.

…. hard to come up with anything else to say after this …

carried through the year by the we’moon calendar

we'moon calendar imagei am a huge fan of the we’moon daytimer. to this day, i see as one of the perks of quitting my job as chief cook and bottlewasher at the skills connection the fact that i didn’t need a huge appointment calendar anymore and could go back to using the we’moon daytimer.

we’moon is a work of love, put together by the we’moon collective, who have created this bestselling daybook for 28 years now. it brings poetry, art and magic into my day, every day. each page is graced with poems, colourful images, information on activism, and interesting names for the days of the week.

i haven’t quite figured out the system yet but what i do know is that every year, they cycle through four languages. for example, this week is spanish, the next swahili, then quechua and hawaiian. there is also detailed astrological information – right now, the moon is in gemini, if i’m not mistaken. astrology is not something i’m very interested in but this book brings me closer to it.

we’moon also puts the year in the context of the pagan calendar. each festival gets a page. the next one, of course, is beltane or may day, one of the two major pagan holidays.

beltane is a feast of flowers, affirming with erotic scents of honeysuckle and rose that summertime is near … in ancient times, humanity made offerings and expressed appreciation for this natural beauty in rituals of sexual ecstacy and joyful abandon.

if you have to go to work, at least take flowers to your co-workers and tell them ahout the real meanings of may day!

aaah, after this harsh winter, i can’t wait for the scent of honeysuckle … and i’m looking forward to bringing flowers to my friends!

this is one of the things that this calendar does for me. it not only helps me organize my time, it also focuses me a bit on the deeper meanings of the wheel of the year.

every little detail in this book is lovingly put together. another thing i like is that the year is divided into the thirteen weeks that make up the 365 days, and each one of these sections has a theme. each one of these cycles is in tune with the topic for the whole year (“at the crossroads” for 2009). right now, we are in cycle 4, entitled “women taking power”. on the page for april 4 and 5, we read

women carry the ancient knowledge of the divine feminine deep within the cells of their being, the grandmothers say … we must be strong and walk in our innate knowledge and power under the protection of the four directions. with the world on the brink of destruction, women must wake up this great force they possess and bring the world back to peace and harmony. when women and men set in motion this enormously transformative feminine force of unconditional love they carry within, great healing and change will come about.

“my computer is my horse” – isabella’s artist statement

an image of murnay by kandinskyyesterday, sarah luczaj talked about her experience of the connection between therapy and creativity. today it’s my turn. i dug up an artists’ statement i wrote three years ago, and which still holds true.

i write and perform poems, and as a counsellor, i accompany people on their journey as they perform the art of living their lives.

what materials do you use?
the materials i use are my body and soul and mind, my voice, my eyes, my ears, my hands; i use a computer and pens and paper.

how do you use these materials?
i use my soul to sense the numinous and the intangible; my intuition is a tool of soul. i use my mind and soul to understand, to make connections. i use my mind to analyze and to articulate. i use my voice to talk in many ways – quiet, loud, asserting, questioning. i use my voice to laugh. i use my eyes to read (faces, situations, letters) and to see beauty, and simply to appreciate. i use my ears to hear and listen. i use my hands to touch, to write, and to gesticulate. and my computer is my horse, just like my forebears needed horses to do anything important in their lives. i love the feel of pen on paper.

what is your work about?
the centre of my work is the word. i play with word to listen, understand, talk and write. word is the way in which i mostly interact with others. i see word as a medium, not just as a vehicle to shuttle bits of information back and forth. word is a sensuous medium, it has visual and auditory shape, it carries vibration. every word, as it is pronounced, has a certain feel in the mouth, in the chest, in all of the body. word has connotations, and they shimmer and scintillate, always right there, always out of reach. i love the paradox of word. oh, and the things that happen when we string words together into songs and sentences!

who are important influences on your work?
important influences are dostoevsky, dr. seuss, and e.e. cummings, and the german novelist/playwright franz xaver kroetz; psychotherapists virginia satir, andrew feldmar and scott miller; musicians/composers bach, bob marley, glenn gould, and miles davis; and among visual artists, kandinsky, picasso, and my father, the german painter, juergen von huendeberg.

what they have in common is a fierce and focused passion that drives their work, and the ability and desire to speak to their audience without compromising the quality of their art. however, these are only the ones that come to mind easily, right here, right now – i am deeply grateful to the continuous flow of inspiration that comes to me from artists of any discipline, in any form and shape.

where does the spark come from?
one of the most important things in my life is to be open to that voice and feeling that is deep inside me – to be open to it, to hear it, really hear it, and to respond to it. that voice is the spark of life, the voice of original creativity, and it forms my core. it is the numinous, the divine, the mystical.

when i interact with the more formal manifestations of the divine, it is easiest for me to go to buddhism, to my lutheran roots, to pagan ritual, and to remember the philosophy of 12-step programs.

the image of kandinsky’s painting of a street in murnau, a little town in bavaria, is courtesy of dalbera

blogathon: vancouver magic

okay, here’s another book: city magick, by christopher penczak. it contains some wonderful ideas and exercises about how to experience city environment in a new, reverent and magical way.

i feel very ambivalent about some aspects of city environment. for example, a few years ago, when a huge forest fire raged in kelowna, i was struck by the similarity and difference between the ravages of nature and the ravages of development. on the hills, the fires were consuming plants, animals, houses, streets. in the city, a new development had just consumed my favourite walking spot – a large piece of agricultural land, steeped in the typical semi-urban wildlife we find in smaller cities: a willow tree, a rain ditch, birds nesting in the bushes … instead of all of that, there were now rows upon rows of uni-coloured new houses, surrounded by a uni-coloured concrete wall – very depressing, and it seemed so dead.

it occurred to me that a few months after the fire, new life would spring up, fertilized even by the fire. but what kind of life would spring up in this new housing development? how long would it take for ANY kind of new plant and animal life to spring up there?

despite such misgivings, there is life and magick in the city. not only are there all these wonderful little undiscovered nature spots (the area across from van dusen gardens on oak street here in vancouver is my latest discovery) but the “truly” urban experience, with all its concrete and lights, can be a magical experience, too.

here is an idea inspired by penzcak:

walking the sidewalks.

industrial magic in vancouver

after a little meditation and setting an intention about how you want to experience your environment, set out for a walk. you may even dress in a particular way to underline the intent. for example, if you want to experience the city’s light magic, you could wear bright colours.

take a map with you and start walking. as you do that, keep checking in with yourself so that you’re aware of your physical and emotional state. when you’re drawn to a sight, smell or sound, stop. experience it. ask what this experience is about. what’s the story of the smell, sight or sound? its energy? does it feel good, neutral, threatening, strange … whatever? when you encounter a negative energy, make sure to let it go so that it doesn’t stick. (if you’ve never practiced that, talk to someone who has experience with it – you can also learn something from this web site). what is your environment telling you? the trees, the buildings, the streets, the grass? who are the people living, loving, lounging, labouring there?

you could do this alone or with someone else. the someone else could be there with you in person or just in thought. i’m thinking i’d like to do this with our old dog blue, dead now so many years, whom i still miss.

when you find an interesting spot, you can mark it on your map. this could become your magical map …

when you get home or otherwise need to re-enter the “normal” city, make sure you mentally finish this experience. otherwise the trance-like state that you acquire in such an experience might linger and disorient you. i have done walks like that (although not EXACTLY like that) and every time they were an unforgettable experience.

have fun!

canadian mental health association

this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, email me or use this URL: www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=d2252. you should be able to get there by clicking the link; if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps.

thank you for visiting, reading, commenting and, if you can, donating!

(image by brendan wilkinson )

frozen pea post: a beltane blessing

flowers for beltaneyesterday was beltane, one of the two most important holidays in pagan traditions.just as hallowe’en marks the time when we slip into the darkness of winter, on beltane we celebrate opening the door to the joys and exuberance of summer.

i’d like to dedicate this beltane to all women with breast cancer.

i imagine an end to the wintery weariness that comes with chemotherapy, radiation and all the other medical procedures – and the blossoming of fresh energy, ebullient laughter, and renewed pleasures in your bodies.

let’s have a handfasting between your bodies and the flaming red, bursting energy of tulips, the sparkling green of the new grass, the elegant white of plum blossoms!

come, let’s hold hands and jump over the beltane fire together, leaving behind pain and the cold grip of fear!

beltane is about fertility. the fertility of sisterhood, holding each other, holding on to each other, holding each other up, growing in our circle much more than what we can create each one by ourselves.

(this is another frozen pea friday post, in support of the breast cancer recovery and work of susan reynolds and those she inspires to help end breast cancer. ***** image by stephie)

easter, eostre, ostara

eostre http://www.vrouwengeschiedenis.dds.nlwikipedia on the origins of easter:

the modern english term easter developed from the old english word eastre, which itself developed prior to 899. the name refers to the goddess eostre, who was celebrated at the spring equinox, and has cognates in old high german ōstarÅ«n, plural, “easter” (modern german language ostern). the old english term eastre ultimately derives from Ä“ast – meaning the direction of east. this suggests it originally referred to a goddess associated with dawn. corresponding traditions occur with the roman goddess aurora and the greek goddess eos.

eostre is sometimes derived from the proto-germanic root *aew-s, “illuminate, especially of daybreak” and closely related to (a)wes-ter- “dawn servant”, the dawn star venus and *austrôn-, meaning “dawn, east” (compare ostar-rîchi “eastern realm, austria“), cognate to the names of greek eos, roman aurora and indian ushas, all continuing proto-indo-european *hausos.

there is no certain parallel to eostre in north germanic languages though grimm speculates that the east wind, “a spirit of light” named austri found in the 13th century

according to bede (c. 672735), writing in de temporum ratione (“on the reckoning of time”), ch. xv, de mensibus anglorum (“the english months”) the word “easter” is derived from eostre, an anglo-saxon goddess of spring, to whom eostur-monath, corresponding to our month of april (latin: aprilis), was dedicated:

15. the english months.

in olden time the english people – for it did not seem fitting to me that i should speak of other nations’ observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s – calculated their months according to the course of the moon. hence after the manner of the hebrews and the greeks, [the months] take their name from the moon, for the moon is called mona and the month monath.

the first month, which the latins call january, is giuli; february is called sol-monath; march hreth-monath; april, eostur-monath; may thrimilchi…

eostur-monath has a name which is now translated paschal month, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. now they designate that paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

what is secure in bede’s passage is that the lunar month around the month of april in the julian calendar was called eostur or similar; in vita karoli magni einhard tells, that charlemagne (c. 742 or 747 – 814) gave the months names in his own language and used ‘ostar-manoth’ for april.[6] some critics who question bede’s account of a goddess suggest that “the anglo-saxon eostur-monath meant simply ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings’.” it should be noted that old high german ōstarÅ«n is plural, as it is in aelfric‘s hexameron: “and ne beoð næfre eastron ær se dæg cume ðæt ðæt leoht hæbbe ða ðeostre oferswiðeð

in 1835, jacob grimm (1785-1863) published deutsche mythologie, a collection of german myths and oral histories, including a two-and-a-half page commentary on a goddess ostara.

grimm recalls bede’s account of eostre and states that it was unlikely that the man of the church would simply have invented a pagan goddess. from the anglo-saxon month name, he then reconstructs an old high german equivalent, *ostara:

“this ostarâ, like the as [anglo-saxon/old english language]. eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.”

grimm also notes various accounts of the name of the easter festival in old high german, like ôstertagâ or aostortagâ. according to grimm, these were plural forms of ostara, since the festival would have been celebrated on two days.

grimm’s commentary does not mention any easter eggs or easter bunny customs, the only easter custom he mentions being easter bonfires (osterfeuer), a long-standing german tradition, attested since 1559.

ostara is also one of the names of the mother-archetype in the psychology of carl gustav jung.