Definition

I’m trying to get at the idea that women and others who refer to themselves as witches very often do so because in the first place they have been marginalized because they cannot be pinned down in the rigid categories of the religious establishment. The label or identity of witch does not necessarily mean that one situates herself outside the bounds of church or religion, but that her spiritual practices or ways of seeing the world and the holy are threatening to the religious status quo. Witch may be a chosen identity marker, but it may also be an identity conferred by religious dogmatists. Although I have been revising and re-revising, it still feels to me as though this is a poem in process.

Witch (noun) wich,
SEE ALSO HERETIC,
a word used by the spiritual gatekeepers
within religious and social establishments
(no matter how nominal their own piety)
to denote those who cross the hedge
between the status quo and the wildlands
of spiritual inquiry.

the witch is an excuse
the witch is a scapegoat
the witch cannot be catalogued
the witch will not denounce her truth
the witch disrupts the proceedings
the witch does not offer herself up
to be easily understood

What they do not understand,
they call the Devil,
and banish and punish and shun.

When difference is disciplined,
how do the tamed ones
manage their sameness?

What they do not understand
is that they will snare themselves
in their own rules of order.

For when one question is proscribed,
who knows which questions
will lead to the mine field?
Better to eliminate questions altogether.

the witch is feral and free
the witch is both/and
the witch is a shapeshifter
the witch will ask a thousand questions
and expect more questions in response
the witch has already given herself a name


Gratitude List:
1. A winter-bare tree filled with crows in a drizzling mist
2. People who trust my essential goodness and don’t require me to prove my piety
3. Lunch and good conversations with beloveds
4. The joy of the last week of school before vacation
5. Clean windows. (It’s been a while. Don’t judge.)
May we walk in Beauty!


“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to all.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman


“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver


“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The insects and birds and animals are singing themselves into being; this autumn land is dreaming and I am part of that dreaming.” -Sharon Blackie


“I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” —Emily Dickinson

Don’t Adapt

“Resist,” by Beth WK and the Wombo Dream AI. Poetry prompt: Adaptation–from Robert Lee Brewer at Writers Digest.

They will tell you you’re stronger
if you just adapt, just accept their maps
and guidebooks to the town called Normal.

How long will it take,
oh, how long will it take
till you’ve shaped your soul to the prevailing patterns,
till you’ve taken on cruelty as the modus of operation?

And when you’ve accepted your own degradation,
how long yet till you’re doing it, too,
till you’re telling the world
it’s just a song called Survival?

Oh, don’t give up your heart,
don’t learn their brutal tune,
don’t follow the marching orders
when your number is called.

Let them call you heretic, rebel, and witch.
Don’t let them make you afraid.
Keep your golden soul shiny,
keep your spirit intact.
Don’t adapt. Don’t adapt.


Gratitude List:
1. Contemplative donkey munching thistles in a field
2. The Moon!
3. The web that connects us all
4. A deer in the dawn watching me watch him
5. Breaking out of boxes of expectation
May we walk in Beauty!


“The stories I’m trying to write, and which I want to promote, are stories that contribute to the stability of my own culture, stories that elevate, that keep things from flying apart.” —Barry Lopez


“What the world wants, and people need, are people who believe in Something—Something that will lead them to the good, the beautiful, the true, and the universal.” —Richard Rohr


“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” —James Baldwin


“I am not talking about giving our hearts over to despair. I wonder if we can train our hearts, intentionally, like athletes who train for a marathon, to bear the load without crumpling under the weight. I think that’s what the children need from us, for us to bear them, bear the stories, hold them as though they were our own, to be prepared to act at any moment for any one of them within our reach. I think the times call for hearts strong enough to be tender, to bleed without weakening, to rage and protect and pray and hope without numbing out.

“I don’t think it has to be a choice. We don’t have to choose between the closed heart and the broken heart. We can be awake and yet not despair. It’s worth a try.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“If we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is in women.” —Desmond Tutu


“Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” —Alice Walker


“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” —Marcus Aurelius


Found on a T-shirt: “I am totally happy and not dangerous mostly.”


“Part of the tragedy of our present culture is that all our attention is on the outer, the physical world. And yes, outer nature needs our attention; we need to act before it is too late, before we ravage and pollute the whole ecosystem. We need to save the seeds of life’s diversity. But there is an inner mystery to a human being, and this too needs to be rescued from our present wasteland; we need to keep alive the stories that nourish our souls. If we lose these seeds we will have lost a connection to life’s deeper meaning—then we will be left with an inner desolation as real as the outer.” —Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


Adrienne Rich: “When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility of more truth around her.”

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

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.

Through the Veil

Tonight is the Hallowed Eve, the Holy Night, the opening of the veil into the Holy Days of All Saints and All Souls, a time to reflect on our mortality as we remember those who’ve gone before: the wise and compassionate ones, the givers and doers and makers, and the beloved ones who are no longer with us.

We all reach that doorway, in the end. The tunnel with the bright light, the voices calling, the shedding of the body. And so we remember to enjoy it while we have it, to wear these mortal clothes with as much delight and passion and wisdom and kindness as we can muster. To be like our saints and our beloveds. To carry their legacy within our own mortal bones.

We look the leering skull in the face and say, “Someday, yes. But not today.” Instead of running from the skeletons of memory and loss, we dance with them a while, drink a toast, and bow to respectfully, knowing we too will someday be the memories our beloveds dance with.


“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses,
And all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.” –Mother Goose
*
Marge Piercy:
Forgive the dead year. Forgive
yourself. What will be wants
to push through your fingers.
The light you seek hides
in your belly. The light you
crave longs to stream from
your eyes. You are the moon
that will wax in new goodness.
*
“Surrender is not passively resigning yourself to something. . .it is a conscious embracing of what is.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
*
The wheel turns.
The harvest is in.
The veil parts.
We walk into the dark time.
Dream well.
Bright Blessings.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” –C. S. Lewis
*
“When you think everything else is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot.” –Dalai Lama


Gratitude List:
(Some of these are a little goofy, perhaps, but they were all part of the sweet simple delights of the day)
1. When you’re singing a song to the cats, and when you pause, one of them comes in at exactly the right moment and pitch.
2. When you’re walking down the street in Wrightsville, and a tiny little Elsa-person looks up and says with gleaming eyes and gusto, “Hello, Witch!”
3. This night of the year when whole communities create fun for children.
4. That bush on our walk through Wrightsville, with the yellow flowers, like a bit of the tropics on a cold October night.
5. Tuesdays.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Witch’s Cottage

This weekend, we spent a lot of time with the Legos. I decided to tear down my apartment building and build a witch’s cottage. I looked at pictures of a Lego fairy tale cottage for ideas.
      
The front of the cottage, looking out toward the swamp, where the gang is birding and boating and enjoying the day. And the rear of the cottage, with the requisite spiderweb (it IS a witch’s cottage).

           
The sides. Yes, there’s a rat in the flower garden. The baby dragon, an owl, and Michael Birdboy live on the roof.
     
Jasmine and Robin have tea in the dining room and discuss their morning bird sightings. Raine and Marie and Midge warm up by the hearth

Gratitude List:
1. Kings: The Kingbird that flew beside us all the way past the cow meadow at the top of the hill, and the Kingfisher that swooped across the street and into the sycamore tree today.
2. Hannah’s quilt in front of the sanctuary these last few weeks. I love the way her grandmother used straight lines to suggest curves.
3. Tender-hearted people
4. Two more weeks
5. Three weeks until the beach. Five weeks until my Solitude Retreat. I am trying something different this year. Last year, I was serendipitously there at the same time as a friend, and we finished our time there with a long chat. This year we are intentionally going at the same time, and planning some processing time together.

May we walk in Beauty!

Today’s Task

IMG_0463

Today has a singular work,
a quest that only you can accomplish,
a riddle that only you can solve.
What is the knot that you will untangle?
What missing piece will you add to the puzzle?

In the story, you enter the house of the witch
and she gives you three impossible tasks,
problems that you must solve
with heart and ingenuity
and a little help from a friend.
What has she asked of you today?

Gratitude List:
1. Tweaking.  Trying until you get it right.
2. Fun with First Graders.  Yesterday’s field trip was delightful, even when the bus broke down.
3. My children’s wise and caring teachers.
4. Good stories.  Well acted.  Well told.  Well lived.
5. How the heart seeks what it needs.

May we walk in Beauty!

Beginning with Poem-A Day

November Poem-a-Day Challenge.
Day 1 Prompt: Write something about matches. 
Oh my.  Here goes:

Then there was the one about the witch
who walked into a bar
in search of a match.

I don’t recall the punchline, though
I know she’d lost her broom,
and snow was in her hair.

Perhaps she’d lost her wand as well,
forgotten the Latin words
for ignite, combust, enkindle.

I heard she called a taxi
before she wandered out into the wind,
leaving behind her the scent of sulfur and jasmine.