Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! And to the others out there, Joyous Yuletide, Happy Hanukah, Feliz Navidad, Blessed Bodhi Day, and I'm sure I missed some. May the holy day which you celebrate be full of love and laughter, joy and family.

This year, I celebrated Christmas as a burgeoning Christian. Don't panic; I'm not giving up my gods in the least. Hecate and Dionysos, Aescelpios and Nyx and Persephone, Hades, Hestia, Zeus and Hera are all still vastly important to me. I am Hecate's priestess, and will never give that up. She is my Lady, and always will be. However, last Christmas I had an epiphany of sorts (that's a joke, btw), and I had a somewhat mystical experience with Jesus in the Sanctuary of the church.

I've learned over the years not to ignore god calls, even when they seem really odd to me. The sum of my experience would be, "Jesus, why are you calling ME? You've got thousands of followers. Why me??!" and the answer, "Because you can." Can't argue that.

So last night when I went into the Sanctuary for our Christmas Eve service, I went in not as an outsider but as one of the congregation. I admit, there's something lovely about people grabbing you and hugging you, and taking time to say Merry Christmas, and then whispering, "...and happy Yuletide to you, too!" They cared enough to reach out to me, and to meet me half way. My heart was as full as it's been in months, last night. As I watched the people arrive, I was shocked to see every pew filled. I've never seen it so full!

As the opening carol was sung, as everyone stood and raised their voices in harmony, there was such a feeling of rising love, of energy unbounded, of joy amidst the realities of the sorrows and griefs of the world. No one there pretended the darkness didn't lurk outside somewhere, but it was put aside for an hour, while we shared together in a communion of souls.

I have begun to understand a bit about the mysticism of Christianity. I've had a fascination with it for ages, since I was about 17 or 18. I love the "smells and bells" of Catholicism, for instance, even though it definitely isn't MY tradition. I read the Gnostic texts with great interest a number of years ago, and have studied the Gnostic beliefs over the past 20 years. It begins to come together, thanks to my seminary training and the Christians I have come to know and love.

Last night, we celebrated the god become man. Those of us who follow the Greek and other pagan beliefs might think that sounds quite UNmiraculous for the time period, and to a certain extent it's true. There were many examples of parthenogenesis between two and three thousand years ago. The gods produced half-breed offspring like rabbits, if we follow the myths as fact (which I do not, btw).

Jesus, Emmanuel, though, is different. He is not God. He is not Man. He is not offspring of God and Man, either. He is God become Man, fully both, completely and wholly. He came into the world the same way any of us does, via the division of cells and the growth of child in womb. How the child got there is part of the Mystery, but honestly doesn't really matter. I'm sure the gods are capable of using human agents when necessary, but that does not detract from the divine nature of the child.

He was born, whether in a manger or a barn or a cave (depending on the version of the myth you follow)  doesn't matter, either. He was born, just like you and I, through the process of labor, squeezed through the birth canal of a young woman only recently old enough to bear children. Unlike young women today, she probably had a good idea of what she'd be going through; women attended other women during birthing then, and they saw humans and animals laboring and birthing long before it was an issue of reproduction for themselves. Still, how frightening to be without her parents, just with a young man not yet her husband in the eyes of the law.

He fed at her breast, just as other infants. He played, just as other toddlers. He had to learn to walk and talk, to throw a ball and play games, to perform a trade just as other children and young men. He grew in stature and power, a good man with humble beginnings. He didn't start his ministry until he was about 30 years old, which means from age 14 to 30, he probably worked with his father or some other man nearby, earning a living and doing what other men of his age were doing. He might have had an inkling of who and what he was (certainly by the time of the wedding at Canaan), but he took those early years to just BE a man. Even the unofficial stories are few and far between.

Yet always, inside that strong male exterior, the god lurked. His divinity was hidden, wreathed in the flesh of his mortal body, but it was still there. It was there the day he was born, the day that his mother gathered him into her arms and held him at her breast and gazed at his pinched and wrinkled face. Could she hear the god voice as he squalled the mortal, truly infant sound of a young baby? Did it matter in the least?

Whether you celebrate the birth of the Sun or the Son (or both, as I do), this is a holy time of year. Midwinter is with us, and the bleak, dark days are on us. Snow flies, cold nips at us, and the windows fog with ice. But there is always the Divine, in whatever form or by whatever name you call. The Light comes back to us at this dark time, bringing hope to a black and often sorrow filled place.

May that Light be born within you. Eternally, the Light comes back, year after year, and yet is always with us, too. Welcome the Light into your home, into your heart, into your life. Embrace it with all your being. Let your soul be bathed in it, cleansed, purified, opened to the wonders of the world.

Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice and Dark Times

We all go through Dark Teatimes of the Soul. That's where I am now. I don't feel spiritually bereft, as I have in years past. I have the sense of my gods around me, although it isn't quite as personal as when I'm actively working with and for them. However, right now I'm trying desperately to take care of myself, to keep my mind and soul from shattering under the pressure. I think the idea is to end up with a diamond rather than sand, but I guess we'll see what happens.

Today, for the past several weeks in fact, "I feel . . . thin. Sort of stretched, like . . . butter scraped over too much bread." I don't like feeling this way. It causes me to retreat, to pull back from those around me as I try to marshal my strength. It makes me much less effective as a minister, or even as a student. It surely makes me less effective as a parent and spouse.

I'm struggling over the concept of "lying." To me, lying means:

lie
n.
1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.


Makes sense to me. A statement that is false, presented as truth. Something meant to give a wrong impression. So... if someone says to me, "I do not like X; it makes me ill," and I act on that statement in good faith, it is (if I understand this definition correctly) a lie to later have them say, "I love X; I never want to be without it." Is that not a lie?

The mediator last night spent a LONG time explaining to me that having one person say two diametrically opposed statements is not a lie. It just means the person has changed their mind. She also said that my stating that I feel as if I've been lied to about X, and please explain which of the two viewpoints is the lie, is against our Ground Rules. I broke the ground rules because I put words into someone else's mouth by saying the above.

About that time I basically shut down. The mediator was not, I feel, listening to me. Other people were allowed to interrupt me (but I was not acknowledged when I held my hand up politely to comment when someone else was done). I was not included in all of the "go rounds" the circle to share. I gave up; what is the point of mediation if only one side is being given precedence? If only one side is really being heard?

I have to continue going to the mediation. I agreed to. At this point I feel it's not only a waste of time, but that it's a way for other people to railroad me into doing things their way. I feel put upon and pushed into a corner.

All this on the night of the full moon in total eclipse at Solstice. Whee.

I'm so tired. I'm sick, in heart and soul and body. My head hurts. I'm feeling... desperate. Longest Night is over... but my longest night is yet to come. When they try to take away my home, my land, my shrines, my spirit... That's still to come. Frankly, I don't want to be around to witness it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Preparation

This is from a wonderful site called Following the Star, which I have been visiting each day of Advent.
Where do we turn when life seems upside down? Usually we go to someone we trust, who has been there. The angel had told Mary about Elizabeth’s miracle, so it makes sense that she went to see her. Elizabeth was perhaps the only person who would believe her, understand and celebrate with her. Mary probably expected a warm welcome, but this? Imagine what Mary felt at Elizabeth’s greeting; overwhelmed, but surely relieved as well. 
Elizabeth’s declaration confirmed what the angel told Mary. She knew immediately that she didn't have to explain anything or try to convince Elizabeth. Elizabeth was rejoicing with her from the first moment. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for several months, with lots of time for conversation and processing, and lots of time to prepare for going home with a visible pregnancy. This time was crucial for Mary; it strengthened her for the road ahead. Elizabeth was another divine gift to Mary. God provided a confidante who loved her, validated her experience, shared her joy and helped equip her for the difficult days ahead.
Amy Derrick
What this made me think of was time when I need to  go into seclusion, when I need to hole up with a friend or family member to gain strength for fights ahead. It's yet another version of the waiting, the *advent* for birth. While the virgin birth isn't a new story by any means, it's a poignant one. It makes us think about babies and birth, about inevitability and "what must happen." After all, once you're pregnant, it's ALL waiting. There is no stopping it, short of violence. You wait, you grow, you internalize, you meditate and mediate. Whether it's the birth of a child, or an idea, or a painting or song or novel, matters not one bit. Birth is birth, and it's sometimes painful, often messy, and yet at the end of it it brings such great joy amidst the tears.

Blessings to all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sock Dreams

Freaking incredible. I want them ALL. Thanks to Dianne Sylvan for the head's up on this one!

Welcome to Sock Dreams, the place for those who have knee high sock kinks, like mine. If you ever want to make me happy, buy me something from here. Anything, really. See, I don't wear nylons, stockings, or tights. I never did like them and when I discovered knee high socks, I fell in love. Only I'm not built like a stick, and so the Wal-Mart and Target brand socks generally don't fit over my calves. It hurts, because sometimes the socks are really cool.

But not like these socks at Sock Dreams. They have AWESOME socks. Like the Textured Striped Knee High (check them out in white, whine, whimper). Or the Sock It To Me Multi-Stripes (omg they're gorgeous). Or for the Hera lovers out there, the Peacock Feather Knee High sock.

What's not to love? Go browse. I wouldn't want to interrupt your shopping... ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thoughts on Hannukah 2010




Hannukah did not go exactly as planned, this year. Normally we pull out the Hannukiah and have candles for it, and we do it all properly and let the candles burn down each night. This year, though I asked, no one was able to get me Hannukah candles. I felt thwarted, and almost gave up, but then I realized that if Jewish men and women could find a way to celebrate Hannukah in a concentration camp with NO candles, then I could surely manage to do so in my candle-filled home. The end result you can see above. 

Was it perfect? No... I didn't let the tea candles burn for hours each night as I only had eight of them and once they were gone they were gone. So I re-enacted the miracle of Hannukah by lighting my candles and being surprised that yes, they did last the full 8 days. In a way, it was extremely meaningful. On a personal level, it was brimming with emotion for me.

This year, the kids were not involved in my Hannukah celebrations. I chose to light the candles alone in my room, and I did them late at night after everyone was in bed, which is far from traditional (it's supposed to be done at sundown). However, by doing it that way, I had privacy and I was relaxed, and ready... instead of rushing or stressed or upset. 

I spoke the traditional Hebrew prayers, then an English translation of the Hebrew. Then I just... basked in the light. I tried to feel the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days. I tried to pull in the light of God to my soul. If it were summer and daytime, I'd have been sun worshiping. 

The last night, which was Wednesday evening, was sort of bitter sweet. Gray was in the bedroom with me, and as I lit the last candle and looked at it, I sat down to talk with him. We reminisced about the last day of Hannukah 2009, when he was employed in a great job, making enough money, and we went to Washington, DC for his company Christmas party. We were snowed into our hotel, and had to spend an extra day lounging around in warmth, eating left over Greek take-out and generally just being around one another. It was a very good memory.

I have tried to hold the light this year. I have faltered at times, but I keep getting up. I'm not giving up. I am a light in the darkness.