Inviting Your Enemies

I’m not Catholic, but I pray the rosary. I had been intending to learn the prayers and explore the process (very intellectualized, I know), and then my father got very sick. On the weekend that he was receiving a risky treatment simply to try to save his life, I picked up the rosary and my little booklet into which I had scribbled my versions of the rosary prayers, and I learned. In desperation and need of grounding and comfort, I began to say the Aves and the Love Prayer (the Our Father), holding desperately to the beads. When I had no words for the mix of terrible anxiety and holy presence I was feeling, I walked the path of the beads.

Perdita Finn and Clark Strand, in their book The Way of the Rose, speak about holding the beads as holding the hand of The Mother. Comfort and peace and tenderness upwelling in the midst of whatever life is bringing: crisis or joy, or the quotidian rhythms of the day.

Here is my version of the Our Father. It changes every once in a while, as praying it brings me new insights into what I mean when I say the words. I’ve gotten a little wordy on the sign-off, but that’s my own flourish. It feels right to me:

Oh Love, which imbues the cosmos, Holy is thy name.
May thy realm come. May thy will be done,
here on earth as it is in the heavens, and within the sacred circle.
Grant unto us this day what we need to survive,
and lead us ever into right relationship with you and with others and with the all.
Keep us from walking in paths of destruction, and deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Wisdom and the Vision and the Virtue,
the Promise and the Presence and the Peace,
the Glory and the Story and the Song,
both now and forever. Amen.

Lately, when I say the line, “Draw us ever closer into right relationship,” I see in my mind’s eye several of the people who have hurt me. Of course, I mean them when I pray that line–still, they intrude upon my peaceful prayers. Today, when it began to happen, I invited them in. I had also been thinking about how this is the day of the Archangels, the Feast of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. And so, instead of simply holding the idea of being drawn into right relationship with them, I asked the archangels to invite their angels to witness my prayers.

It feels really weird to write that, but it felt so right in the moment, and continues to feel right. My rosary prayers also became more lively, more awake, more focused. I felt safe (who doesn’t feel safe when surrounded by angels and Mother Mary?). It feels like the line in the Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” I’ll admit, when I got to “Keep us from walking the paths of destruction,” I found myself talking very directly to their angels, and “Deliver us from evil” has a new sort of ring when you say it in presence of the angels of people who have harmed you.

I don’t know whether there will ever be reconciliations and restorations on this plane. I’ve walked away from that door. I won’t wait around for that to happen, and making it happen will take a great deal of work on someone else’s part at this point. But I might continue to invite their angels to the table of my prayers.


Gratitude List:
1. Angels
2. Art
3. The rosary
4. Always something new to learn, some new way to deepen
5. Celebrating thirty-two years with my soul-mate. Such a good, good man.
May we be draw ever into right relationships.


“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” —Maya Angelou


“Sometimes it seems as though the Wildest One (you might call her God, or the Universe, or Love) is actively meddling in the affairs of mortals, like I am given a thing to learn, and then immediately after am handed the situations necessary for practice and integration.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“You don’t need to attend every argument you are invited to.” —anonymous (possibly Zig Ziglar


“It’s hard to be mad at someone who misses you while you’re asleep.” —Calvin, of Hobbes (Bill Watterson)


i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings;and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any– lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
―e. e. cummings, read by Anne Marie at our wedding on this day in 1990


“To live a creative life,
we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
―Joseph Chilton Pearce


“If music be the food of love, play on.” ―William Shakespeare


“At the still point, there the dance is.” ―T.S. Eliot


“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” ―Leonard Bernstein


“To speak about that location from which work emerges, I choose familiar politicized language, old codes, words like ‘struggle, marginality, resistance.’ I choose these words knowing that they are no longer popular or ‘cool’ – hold onto them and the political legacies they evoke and affirm, even as I work to change what they say, to give them renewed and different meaning.
I am located in the margin. I make a definite distinction between that marginality which is imposed by oppressive structures and that marginality one chooses as site of resistance – as location of radical openness and possibility. This site of resistance is continually formed in that segregated culture of opposition that is our critical response to domination. We come to this space through suffering and pain, through struggle. We know struggle to be that which pleasures, delights, and fulfills desire. We are transformed, individually, collectively, as we make radical creative space which affirms and sustains our subjectivity, which gives us a new location from which to articulate our sense of the world.”
From the essay: ‘Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness;’ From the Book: “Yearnings: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics” (1989 ) by bell hooks

Grabbing the Throat

My apologies for the unsettling photo, but I’m using it to help me exorcise a dream.

In the dream, I and three friends are moving our things into a room where we’ll be staying. Our beds are laid out in a rectangular pattern, so there’s sort of a room within a room. Suddenly we realize that there are snakes under our beds: several really large and a couple small ones. Their bellies are creamy yellow, and their backs fade back and forth between blue and green, with some patches of orange in the lines between belly and back.

We leave the room and someone comes to get the snakes out. I remember in the dream telling myself (and this might be my conscious mind intruding) that snakes actually represent all sorts of good things and there’s no reason to be afraid of them, but I was. I was terrified. (And snakes ARE a powerful symbol, holding many different ideas. And even though I like snakes, I can’t ignore the startle factor.)

When we get back to the room, we check for the snakes, and they seem to be gone, but when I go to lift my stuff, the largest one rears out, fangs beared, and lunges for my throat. I manage to put up my hand to grab its throat, and then the image freezes.

Just before I woke up, the image was frozen for what seemed like seconds, with the snake lunging with immense fangs toward my throat, and me grabbing it by its throat.

The Dream-Mother speaks:
Who gets to tell your narrative? If you don’t actively cultivate your story, speak your truth, interpret for yourself the life you have been living, others may begin to control that narrative. There is danger in letting others control your story. It make take some active and powerful work to keep your own throat safe so you can interpret your story.

You cannot control how others see your story, but you need to take great care that you don’t let others’ interpret your story in such a way that you begin to believe their version.

Also, acknowledge your fears. Simply telling yourself and others that you aren’t afraid of snakes does not make it so.


Gratitude List:
1. My supportive colleagues. I’ve landed into a tender community.
2. Speaking my truth. Interpreting my own story instead of letting others tell me how it should be interpreted.
3. Cool fall weather.
4. All I am learning as I learn to pray the rosary.
5. How the world is alive. How everything speaks. Everything listens.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Self care is not an individual act; it is a collective act.” —Yara Sallam


“The enemy of a love is never outside, it’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.” —Anaïs Nin
***””
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” —Frederick Buechner


“To live by a large river is to be kept in the heart of things. ” —John Haines


I haven’t yet read The Shack, but this passage makes me think I oughta:
“I,” she [the Holy Spirit] opened her hands to include Jesus and Papa, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active and moving. I am a being verb. And as my very essence is a verb, I am more attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing, and on and on. Humans, on the other hand, have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules. Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless ‘I am’ there are no verbs and verbs are what makes the universe alive.” —Wm Paul Young, The Shack
****”
Thomas Merton:
“There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist. . .most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work. . . . It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her). . .work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”


“I can’t control the world, but I can control myself. And you are not going to coerce me into hating.” —Ruby Sales


“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.” —Mark Strand


“A characteristic of feminism is to think twice about what you know.” —Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi


“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” ―Iain Thomas (not Vonnegut, as everyone says)

Hermit

The Hermit, from The Brightwing Tarot by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

The way out is the way in.

Recently, I have begun praying the rosary. I’m in the middle of a 54-day novena, praying along with a group of others for our heart’s desire. I’ve been praying that I may live wildly and freely, unbound by others’ expectations and boxes. I can feel this prayer working and growing within me every day. The saint that we’ve been focusing on during this novena is St. Thecla, who listened to the apostle Paul and herself became an evangelist. Her story is told in the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla. Thecla was captivated by Paul’s preaching, particularly with his ideas of celibacy, which seemed to offer her freedom from an arranged marriage and the Roman ideas of respectability proscribed to young women of her day. Instead of being caged within her proscribed gender role, Thecla became a wandering preacher, wearing men’s clothes, and living on her own terms.

I’ve been thinking about St. Thecla quite a bit lately as I have been considering the tarot. The eighth card in the Major Arcana is Strength, which traditionally features a young woman closing the mouth of a lion. In St. Thecla’s story, when she refused the advances of a prince of the city, she was thrown to the lions, but they would not harm her, and one female lion actually protected her from the others. Thecla, like Strength, is portrayed in the company of lions, not dominating them, but quietly present with them.

Later in her life, having survived several attempts by powerful people to have her put to death, she withdrew from human society and lived in a desert cave, as many of the church’s early mothers and fathers did, where she ministered to people who came to visit her, and performed many miracles of healing.

So today’s Tarot character, the Hermit, is also reminiscent of St. Thecla. The Hermit withdraws from the hustle and bustle of society in order to focus and think, to pray and contemplate, to do inner work.

The way out, they say, is the way in.

The Hermit is a special kind of activist, an inner activist, who anchors and focuses the work that must be done through prayer, contemplation, generating healing energy, developing wisdom–not hoarding it. The Fool comes to the Hermit in the wilderness to learn to anchor and channel energy, to balance outward movement with inward contemplation. The Hermit is always portrayed carrying the light of their own inner wisdom in the wilderness. The Fool comes to the Hermit and learns to find the fount of Wisdom within.

One of the lessons I still carry from my college days was one a group of our professors worked hard to help us explore: that the work of the activist to create social justice must be balanced with inner work. Contemplation feeds action. Action enriches contemplation.

If you’re a Hermit, don’t give into feelings of shame that you aren’t doing more active work in the world. Do the work you’re called to do. Anchor energies. Pray. Find wisdom. Welcome the seekers. Be a refreshing fountain where your beloveds who are at the front lines of activism may come and receive your healing calm and wisdom.


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird
2. Holiness everywhere. In the Aenid of Virgil is the phrase: Incessu patuit dea. The Goddess is revealed as she passes. Everywhere you turn, She is there.
3. Wide and welcoming tables, and the people who work to create them.
4. My colleagues are so incredibly supportive and welcoming.
5. Cats
May we walk in Beauty!


“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver


“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
Listen.”
―Rumi


“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
―Carl Jung


“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
―Mary Oliver


“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
―Hafiz


“Our space was a home because we loved each other in it.” —Barbara Ehrenreich


“A lot of what we experience as strength comes from knowing what to do with weakness.” —Barbara Ehrenreich


“There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.” —Barbara Ehrenreich

New Poems

Inquisition
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

We require that you speak into your
misalignment with our doctrine.
Also, do you float when ducked, or drown?
Do you truck with Satan?
Or run naked in the moonlight?
Do you own a speckled hen?

Please tell us which of the following are true:
You commune with fairies.
You read people’s fortunes in the cards.
You talk to trees.
You have a one-eyed cat named Old Scratch.

Tell us about that wart on your chin.
Do you have a roving eye?
Do you claim to sweep the cobwebs
from the sky upon your broom?
Do you own a cauldron?

Your neighbor says you threatened him,
you killed his cow and fouled his well.
He says you are a danger to his children.

How combustible are you?
For instance,
how long will it take, we wonder,
for your life to go up in flames?

Will you renounce the path of inner knowledge?
Denounce your friends,
your unmentionable activities?
Will you use our chosen names for God?

Sign this confession,
this creed, this code,
this doctrine of belief.
Explain your heresies
and offer us an actionable plan
for self-correction.

This is an ambush.
The story is rigged.
We’ve seen you in our visions
when we kneel to pray,
flying free and far from here,
no longer troubling our status quo.

Again, we ask:
When we duck you,
will you float or drown?


What I Want to Tell the Bullies
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

You’ve made your god too small,
clothed him in your own cast-off suits,
put him in a little box
and now you claim to worship
the poor little thing.

But the one whose name you wear
had a thing or two to say
about your kind of sanctimony:
Brood of vipers.
White-washed sepulchres,
the hypocritical teeth of your Sunday smiles
hiding the mouldering flesh of your lies,
and the dust and dry bones of a faith
that should be lush and living,
but which you killed so you
could set yourself up as god-kings.

What you worship
is simply a reflection
of your own self-righteousness
and power.

You’ve taken the word of Love
and turned it into a purity prison,
a death cult, an excuse
for your own violence and greed.

Jesus never burned a witch,
refused aid to the ailing,
or excommunicated someone
for loving who they loved.

The Holy One will not be caged.
The god-bird you thought
you’d caught flies free,
inviting all who Love to follow.

You did not cage or break me.
I followed the Bird.


Gratitude List:

  • Cool weather
  • Tomorrow begins in-service for my new job!
  • All my beloveds
  • Hidden patterns
  • The Holy realm of the senses

May we walk in Beauty!


“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” —Salman Rushdie
*****
“I used to say, ‘There is a God-shaped hole in me.’ For a long time I stressed the absence, the hole. Now I find it is the shape which has become more important.” —Salman Rushdie
*****
“Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.”
—Hafez
*****
“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.” —Hildegard of Bingen
*****
“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” —St. Hildegard of Bingen
*****
“The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change.” —Howard Zinn
*****
“Dominance. Control. These things the unjust seek most of all. And so it is the duty of the just to defy dominance and to challenge control.” —Robert Fanney
*****
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” —Alice Walker
*****
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” —Alice Walker
*****
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.” —Alice Walker

Fifty-Five

Today is my birthday. I’ve been here 55 years now (<–link),
beginning at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.
To Shirati, Tanzania, when I was ten days old, where I met my father for the first time.
To York PA, back to Shirati, to Philippi WV, to Ephrata PA, and then to the messy all-over-the-placeness of young adulthood, and now back in York County, PA, for 20 years.

Here are some 55 Facts and Notes:
The number given to asteroid Pandora is #55. I am Pandora’s progeny–I can never leave a box unopened.

The number 55 is apparently a lucky number for the astrological sign of Leo. Roar!

In Mathematics:

  • 55 is the product of the smallest sexy prime pair (although I do not know what this means, I too am small, and sexy, and in my prime.)
  • 55 is the largest triangular number in the Fibonacci sequence (again, I know not what this means, but I am large, and I like triangles.)

The element Caesium has the number 55 on the periodic table. According to Wikipedia, Caesium is “a soft, silvery-golden alkali metal with a melting point of 28.5 °C (83.3 °F), which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at or near room temperature.”

In Numerological terms, my soul number is 5 (add the digits in 8.10.1967, and keep adding digits together until you get a single digit), so 55 (five and five) feels like a good strong year for me. In the tarot, the fifth major arcanum card is The Hierophant, which symbolizes the passing on of knowledge and traditions—I like to think of that as the Teacher. So I am going to take that as my personal charge for the coming year and double my efforts to be an effective and compassionate teacher.

The number 5 breaks out of the stable solidity of the 4, offering new opportunities for growth, but also the potential for conflict and instability. I go into this double five year with my life shaken and stirred (boy howdy!), ready to find my new balance, eager to grow and change and Become more me.


Gratitude List:
1. My father’s relative health. July was a difficult month for our family. I am reminded to treasure every moment with the people I love.
2. Walking with a good friend on woodsy trails this morning: Hackberry trees, smell of fox (pervasive in those woods), teasel, wild mugwort, wild hibiscus, the Little Conestoga Creek, and dogbane. Mostly: good, easy conversation and companionship.
3. Monarchs. I know they’re heading onto the Endangered Species List. Grateful to see so many here where we live.
4. Scent of fox is a reminder of the story of Foxwoman, told by Martin Shaw. Reminder to know myself, to know my wildness, to trust my dreamingself.
5. So many delicious birthday blessings! I feel delight and strength and hope, and such a connection with so many people whom I have known, both in person and online. So much love!
May we walk in Beauty!


Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
what happens
with a love like that —

It lights the whole
world.
—Hafiz


“The Seven of Pentacles”
by Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.


“Life…is a wonder. It is a sky laden with clouds of contradictions.” —Naguib Mahfouz


“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.” —Coco Chanel


“By virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred.” —Teilhard de Chardin


“Soul of my soul … be water in this now-river.” —Rumi


“You are the Soul of the Soul of the Universe, and your name is Love.” —Rumi


“There is one masterpiece, the hexagonal cell, that touches perfection. No living creature, not even human, has achieved, in the centre of one’s sphere, what the bee has achieved on her own: and if intelligence from another world were to descend and ask of the earth the most perfect creation, I would offer the humble comb of honey.” —Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life Of The Bee, 1924


“It’s not only those who have succumbed to hate who have to change. We need to learn to love bigger, to bring them back.” —Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


“If it is bread that you seek, you will have bread. If it is the soul you seek, you will find the soul. If you understand this secret, you know you are that which you seek.” —Rumi


“In these cataclysmic times, living in what Michael Meade calls the ‘slow apocalypse,’ despair can be dangerously seductive. Our lives may feel inadequate to the terrible momentum of our times, but it is in those moments that we must remember the difference between despair and grief.

“While despair traps us in the bog of despondency, grief carries us into life. Grief calls us into a deeper engagement with those things that we love. And even as we are losing them, grief wants to exalt their beauty.

“If we let grief move us into expression, it will sing the blood into our songs, colour the vividness into our paintings, and slip the poetry between our words.

“Rumi says, “All medicine wants is pain to cure.” And so we must cry out in our weakness, our ineptitude, our beautiful inadequacy and make of it an invitation that medicine might reach through and towards us.” —Toko-pa Turner

Season of the Witch

I read a lovely reflection this morning by someone who said the root word of crone is crown, the root of hag is hagio (wisdom), and the root of witch is wit.

I’m not sure where this author did her etymological research, but a cursory etymological study indicates these to be folk cognates rather than actual word lineages. I like folk cognates, a la Mary Daly. Folk cognates add layers of richness to the living nature of a word. Folk cognates help to deepen our personal internal associations with words. As I enter my own cronetime, I will go crowned by my white hair rather than as an old ewe fit only for carrion (the actual root, which gives us an historical glimpse into attitudes towards old women at the time the word began to be used to denote older women). Though even carrion is a holy mystery, giving life and well-being to the next generation, so I do carry that original etymology in the layers.

I also like some of the actual etymologies of the other two. Witch comes from the Old English “wicce” and “wicca,” sometimes defined as crooked. It seems to be associated with the Old English “wigle,” a term for divination. And now I want to go searching to see if witch and wiggle are associated at the root. Combining actual and folk etymologies, a witch is a crooked, witty, dancing diviner. Shimmy on, friends!

My favorite actual etymology in this group is hag, which comes from the Dutch and German words for witch: “heks” and “Hexe.” These, in turn, are related to the roots of the word hedge, which is the ancient boundary between the wilds and civilization. Midwives and healers would cross hedges into the wildlands to find herbs and remedies. Witches and hags straddle the space between the world of civilization and the world of the wild, threatening the patriarchal status quo and the rush to civilized progress (the same rush which is driving us toward planetary destruction). Witches and hags are marginal, fringe-workers, edgy. And, adding in the folk cognate with hagio, they’re wise women.

One more, since autocorrect keeps offering me “weird” when I type “word.” Weird, which we define as strange, and use to Other people, comes from the OE “wyrd” which means destiny. Shakespeare called his Macbeth witches “weird sisters,” suggesting that they were bound up in the fatalism of the play. Taking the folk etymology that my autocorrect keeps offering me, we can say that language, perhaps, is destiny, that words are weirds, that words have import and power (magical perhaps) in the effects they have on listeners and readers, writers and speakers.

Not long ago, someone used one of these very words to shift my weird, in a deliberate attack. I was publicly called a witch, as an attempt to shame and harm me. In the end, the accusation cost me my job at a Christian institution.

I knew many of these word lineages when I was victimized by the cyberbully, so the word did not hurt me–it was the way the attack played out. The word was used to harm, as these words and so many others are intended.

Perhaps I need to just as publicly claim the word for myself.
I’ll straddle that hedge between civilization and wildness.
I’ll wiggle my crooked dance, and keep an eye on the future.
I’ll claim my wit and my weird.
I’ll be crowned, and witty. Wise and holy.
I’ll even offer my croneself as nourishment for the coming generations.

You may call me a witch, a hag, a crone. Those words will not hurt me.

Strength

Strength, from The Brightwing Tarot Deck, by me and AI.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

So much of the work of The Fool in this journey through the major arcana of the tarot is related to deepening the understanding of the ego. Meet this mentor or wise person, humbly learn at their feet, and joyfully integrate this new learning into the ego, building and nurturing your identity as you go.

“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Today’s step on the pathway is Strength. How does your ego integrate the concept of strength? The traditional card is an image of a woman closing the mouth of a lion, not with angry force, but with the power of her ego-engagement with the lion. Her strength does not brutalize or dominate the lion, but meets it head on, trusting that she is a match for the powerful creature in her presence. The Brightwing card shows a woman and a leopard contemplating a mountain, a meeting of daunting and powerful beings, all in balance and equal engagement with each other.

When strength gets muddled with force, our intention to be strong can get focused outward, harming others with our domination and power rather than finding Strength within. Often the people who dominate and force others to their will on the outside are people with very little inner strength, whose egos run roughshod over the lives of others.

What The Fool learns at this stage of the journey is to meet challenges with inner strength instead of outer force, to stand up for her own needs and desires without trampling the needs and desires of others. She becomes a safe space for herself, and for others. Her ego is so intact, so solid, that she does not need to do harm in order to command the situation.


Gratitude List:
1. The Truth-tellers
2. Chicory, day lily, Queen Anne’s lace, buttercup, summer flowers
3. Wise friends
4. Nurses
5. Summer
May we walk in Beauty!


“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” —Richard Rohr


Marc Chagall: “In life there is a single color, it is the color of love.”


“Each of us faces a time when the holy well within needs tending. When we’re no longer able to bestow blessings on others because we’ve overgiven, or when something precious has been taken from us, or life’s demands are too great on our fragile system. But when the moisture goes out of our lives, and we’re no longer able to see beauty or converse with magic, we must ask ourselves how we can replenish our well-ness.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“We never belonged to you. / You never found us. / It was always the other way round.” —Margaret Atwood


“Would you like to have an adventure now, or would you like your tea first?” —JM Barrie


“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” —Zora Neale Hurston


“. . .The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth…” —Carl Jung


“Listen. . .with the ear of your heart.” —The Rule of St. Benedict


“It’s always the beginning of the world.
Even if you don’t call yourself an artist, you have the potential to be a dynamic creator who is always hatching new plans, coming up with fresh ideas, and shifting your approach to everything you do as you adjust to life’s ceaseless invitation to change.
It’s to this part of you—the restless, inventive spirit—that I address the following: Unleash yourself! Don’t be satisfied with the world the way it is; don’t sit back passively and blankly complain about the dead weight of the mediocre status quo.
Instead, call on your curiosity and charisma and expressiveness and lust for life as you tinker with and rebuild everything you see so that it’s in greater harmony with the laws of love and more hospitable to your soul’s code.” —Rob Breszny

Moving Forward

The Chariot card from Brightwing Tarot

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

Once, I was telling a wise woman about something that was hurting me, a situation of betrayal and injustice. She paused and gave me her wise questioning look and said, “What do you need from X in order for you to release your resentment?”

I was a little shook. Yes, it is my resentment, I thought, and it belongs to me. Why do I want to release it? It had become a defining element of my sense of who I was in the context of the conflict. I had put on my resentment like an article of clothing , almost like a fashion statement that expressed my sense of who I was. But: Of COURSE I wanted to release it! I knew that holding onto it would just keep me caught in the past, unable to truly move forward. The question itself led me to begin doing the work of releasing the resentment, of stepping forward.

This stepping stone in the Fool’s Quest has the Fool taking responsibility for their journey, and moving forward, consciously and with spiritual will. We cannot move forward if we are mired in the past. In the traditional card, a royal person (representing someone who is using consciousness and enlightenment to guide their movement) is driving a chariot pulled by sphinxes. Sphinxes, from ancient times, represent canny wisdom and knowledge, the ability to think around a problem to solve a riddle. The black and white likely refer to the polar tug to reach enlightenment through thinking and spiritual striving and embodiment. One pulls downward, and the other pulls upward, and this balanced motion is the key to the movement and change that The Chariot card requires.

Jewish mystical tradition uses the symbol of the Merkabah (called the chariot) to symbolize this balanced movement. The Star of David is a two-dimensional representation of this balance–one triangle pointing upward, the other downward. The Merkabah is this image in 3D: an upward-pointing pyramid interlocked with a downward-facing pyramid. The Merkabah is the chariot that the prophet Ezekiel saw in his visions, the Holy One’s chariot, pulled by angelic creatures.

My own card is a representation of the Merkabah, that holy space of conscious awareness, the balanced spiritual striving and the embodied awareness. I was unsatisfied with all the versions the AI gave me when I used the word chariot in a phrase, but when I used Merkabah, it suddenly began giving me mystical and movement-filled images.

For me, in the story of the wise woman and the question about releasing resentments, the conscious act of exploring that question started the chariot moving. The wise woman was the sphinx I needed, asking me a riddle that startled me into thinking in a different way. And today, perhaps I can again begin to release my hold on the past, so I can hang in the space between my embodied experience and my spiritual striving, and move toward a future which I envision.


Gratitude List:
1. Stepping back into Daily Art Practice.
2. That cardinal out there, shiny red beacon on a rainy day, and liquid notes falling through the air like raindrops.
3. Cool June days.
4. People who ask the right question at the right moment.
5. Moving forward. Getting unstuck.
May we move forward in Beauty!


“The wisdom is already within you. The gift of that wisdom was given to you many years ago when you were young. An awareness of the Spirit. A curiosity about the sacred. You were born with the light already in your soul. Over many years your insights into the holy have matured and developed. You have grown through experience to understand even more deeply the many layered reality in which you live. Now the vision of your inner self looks out onto an endless star lit sky. You have a deep wisdom on which to rely and learnings to come that will strengthen you even more.” —Steven Charleston


“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.
Perception is not reality.
What appear to be faults in others may actually be reflections of our own emotional afflictions.

Remember the way people treat us is their karma.
The way we react is our own.”
—Trulshik Rinpoch


“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.” ―Granny Weatherwax, Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


‪”Nature is real and vital. Wealth is neither. How is it we grant imaginary dragons the power to breathe real fire?‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don’t, it may drench itself out in sorrow. You special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person. It’s up to you.” —Joan Baez


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
―Leymah Gbowee


“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” —Dr. Seuss


“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” —Nelson Mandela


“Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.” —Wess Stafford


“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” —Fred Rogers


“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” —Nelson Mandela


“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” —Frederick Douglass


“When you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“I have said this before, and I will say it again, The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.” —John Lewis

Anam Cara

Anam Cara card from Brightwing Tarot.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. My use of the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development has recently caused some shifts in my life. What people do not understand, they often demonize, and my use of the tarot has caused people in my community to doubt my truth and goodness. Instead of giving in to the scandal and shaming, I have decided to publicly explore the rich terrain of this tool for inner wisdom that I have been studying since 1992.

The sixth card on the Fool’s Quest is the Anam Cara, traditionally known as The Lovers. While I am completely comfortable with the simple meaning of this card as a reminder to look to the balance of romance and sexuality in one’s life, I think this card is much more layered. We humans are complex and multi-faceted, and reducing the love balance in this card to sexuality and romance feels too simplistic.

The Irish poet (and former priest) John O’Donohue began using the term anam cara, or Soul Friend, to express the deep level of friendship that extends beyond the surface, that meets emotional needs, but also enriches and nurtures emotional and spiritual growth. Hopefully you have one or more of these people in your life, people who integrate you, make you feel more whole and complete, not because they fill a void within you, but because they believe in your capacity to be always more fully yourself. And people for whom you can reciprocate.

At this stage in the Quest, after the Fool has learned skills and mysteries and knowledge, you (for you and I are the Fool) draw to yourself the Anam Cara, the friend who can spur you to deeper understanding of yourself in the world, one who listens and engages and challenges you. Blessed are you if you have found such a person or community in your life. The Anam Cara, I think, is different than a loving teacher. That was our last card. This is someone who is on the journey with you, experiencing it with you. You teach each other, smooth each other’s sharp edges, share openly about your bitters and sweets. You love deeply and openly, reciprocating, sharing, mirroring.

This person may indeed be your lover, but might as likely be a friend or group of friends. How can you nurture these sorts of deep, give and take, committed relationships in your life?

Can you be your own Anam Cara? To some degree, I think that’s part of the point of this quest, to meet that deep inner self that gets hidden under all the masks and veils of everyday existence. Perhaps it’s only in truly meeting and knowing my own inner Anam Cara that I can be openly available to engage others at that deep level as well. And, as Aristotle pointed out, friendship is a mirror in which we see ourselves, so having strong, loving, soulful relationships helps us to see ourownselves more clearly and deeply, so the path outward–toward another–is in this case the path inward–toward deep inner knowing.


Gratitude List:
1. Soul Friends, mirrors, companions on the journey
2. Lunch with two former students yesterday. What marvelous humans! Their lasting friendship is inspiring. I’m so grateful they included me in their time together, so grateful our paths crossed so many years ago, and again today.
3. I signed the papers! It’s official. I’ll be teaching at The Janus School this fall as a Humanities teacher. I may be teaching some science and social studies (thank you, Waldorf School, for that experience), as well as language arts–using my background in reading and writing instruction. Classes are small. The philosophy feels like a good match for me. I love that this is a position that will both draw on my skills and offer me new challenges to learn and develop.
4. The travelers. So many of my online friends are traveling these days! Lots to various places in the UK, some to mainland Europe, others throughout the US. Because I can’t be traveling to those places at this point, I am delighted to be an armchair traveler, exploring the world through their eyes.
5. Faces in the Green. Do you ever find yourself idly gazing at a tree or a group of trees, and suddenly see the faces? I can’t often intentionally start looking for faces in the woods, but when I’m not thinking about it, I’ll suddenly see a face or series of faces, and when the breezes are blowing, like now, they seem to be talking. There’s a name for it, which I always forget, for noticing faces in objects and environments.
May we walk in Beauty!


“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” —Eckhart Tolle
*****
“We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own—indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.” —Wangari Maathai


“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” ―Eleanor Roosevelt


“Do you not see how everything that happens keeps on being a beginning?” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion A filling up.” —Anne D. LeClaire


“To me, every hour of the day and night
is an unspeakably perfect miracle. ” —Walt Whitman


“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.” —Etty Hillesum


“Am I killing time, or is it killing me?” —The Middle Brother Band

The Teacher

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Journey, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. As I work on creating my own deck with the help of an online AI image generator, I am renaming some of the cards to unthread the gendered nature of the older titles, but holding the images and ideas I have learned in twenty years of studying the tarot carefully in my center while I consider their significance.

I have been struggling to meditate on this one because of my own recent pain. For so many years of my life, I have identified as a teacher, and since early April, I have doubted that path, considered other options as perfectly viable options for my future, and finally, returned to The Teacher as my primary vocational destiny. It came clear to me one morning, just after I celebrated the graduation of the senior class I was unable to finish teaching. Being among them, even after the grief and rage of this loss, reminded me of the thing that brings me most alive. And so, I said Yes to a small school that has offered me a position as a Humanities Teacher. I am feeling satisfied and grateful. I have not yet signed the paperwork, so I won’t give details just yet.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, this card is the Hierophant, a figure in the clothes of a bishop or pope, holding up a hand in blessing. The idea that comes with this card is the passing on of tradition. But it looks so patriarchal, I just struggle with it. As I worked with this card with friends, we came to see that this isn’t inherently about passing on the patriarchy, but about passing on knowledge and history, nurturing ideas and critical thinking. This is, to me, The Teacher.

I’ve spent so many years of my teaching life saying that I could probably be happy in any profession, that it’s not necessarily the profession that I love. But I realize that I have been fooling myself. Here’s another thing: One playful thing you can do in working with the tarot is to find your Soul Card. Take your birthday: Add the year to the month to the day. Mine is 1967+08+10=1985. Then add the digits together: 1+9+6+7=23. If it’s more than 22, add those together: 2+3=5. Your number, between 1 and 22, is your Soul Card. This is your soul’s work. It always bothered me that my Soul Card was The Hierophant, and I have sought out other, more helpful interpretations, and now, as I settle on my own extension of the meaning of this card as The Teacher, and realize that the vocation of Teacher is truly part of who I am, I can breathe a little better.

As I worked with the AI on this one, it was very important to me that my input would cause the AI to create the image in a natural setting because I think that the most pressing issue underlying everything we do and teach today must include a sense of the importance of knowing and protecting the Earth.


Gratitude List:
1. Settling into my vocation. When I have signed the paperwork, I will say more, but for now, I am deeply grateful and delighted to have found a teaching position for the fall!
2. Cool mid-June. I struggle with really difficult allergies from mid-May until mid-June, so during what are the most pleasant temperatures of the late spring, I keep indoors with doors and windows closed. When I emerge from the allergy fog, the season has usually turned hot. I am so grateful for these cooler days when I am emerging and able to live out of doors again.
3. Kindness. Tenderness. Gentleness.
4. Poppies. I still don’t have any of my own, but I LOVE walking and driving past other people’s gardens, especially when the poppies are blooming.
5. Truth. Veracity. Impeccability. People who can humbly speak what they know to be true without having to shift the narrative in order to defend or aggrandize themselves.
May we walk humbly, justly, and kindly, in Beauty!


“We are so brief. A one-day dandelion. A seedpod skittering across the ice. We are a feather falling from the wing of a bird. I don’t know why it is given to us to be so mortal and to feel so much. It is a cruel trick, and glorious.” —Louise Eldrich


“A man who does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. And a man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man.” —Henry Ward Beecher, social reformer and abolitionist (1813-1887)


Here’s the best way to see a thing: catch
the edge of light
that burns
around its opposite, that
which it would otherwise
obscure.
—Mark Bibbins


I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone.
How to believe the legends I am told? …

I turned your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore—
Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place!
That is the gift I thank Medusa for.
—May Sarton, “The Muse as Medusa”


“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” —The Mad Hatter


“When you look at what is happening to our world—and it is hard to look at what’s happening to our water, our air, our trees, our fellow species—it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible.” —Joanna Macy


“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time.” —Joanna Macy


“And I consider myself a skeptic, but Lord, I’m an optimistic soul.” —Rising Appalachia