Friday, 30 April 2010

May Eve

Today is the eve of Beltane, the cross-quarter day that marks the passage from winter to summer, and the mid-point between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. It is a very green time, when the earth laughs in leaves and flowers, when the air is fragrant and soft, when all is lush and fecund and heady with possibility. Nowadays it's often celebrated with bonfires and Maypole dances and revelry of a non-family-friendly nature. For many modern neo-pagans, Beltane is a celebration of fertility, of union, of the joining of Goddess and God, man and woman, earth and sun, to bring forth the ever-renewing promise of--well, of everything: of life and light and love. It's a joyous time, the counterpart of Samhain's dark sorrows. And of course, it's the promise of joy coming around again that makes those sorrows bearable, isn't it?

I've lost the name of the artist who created the lovely painting to your right--literally, within the last five minutes; when I tried to find the source image again, it wasn't where it had been when I'd Googled it up just minutes before. So now I'll leave you with a seasonally-appropriate lyric, before it too vanishes into the May Eve mists: Cup of Wonder, written by Ian Anderson for Jethro Tull:

May I make my fond excuses for the late-ness of the hour;
But we accept your invitation, and would bring you Beltane's flower.
For the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley will heed this song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady and pass the plate to all who hunger.
And pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.
And pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

Ask the Green Man where he comes from, ask the cup that fills with red.
Ask the old grey standing stones who show the sun his way to bed.
Question all as to their ways, and learn the secrets that they hold.
Walk the lines of Nature's palm, crossed with silver and with gold.
Pass the cup and pass the lady and pass the plate to all who hunger.
And pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.
And pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

Join in black December's sadness, lie in August's welcome corn.
Stir the cup that's ever filling with the blood of all that's born.
But the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley will heed this song that calls them back.
And pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.
And pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Senenmut and the Chamber of Secrets

Lovely article here on Pharaoh Hatshepsut's advisor Senenmut. The Google translation is a bit odd in spots, so if you're at all fluent in Spanish you might want to read the original.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Spiritual Tourist, Home Again

So I'm home again, after a week in St. Augustine, and it was good, as it almost always is. After well over a decade of annual treks, it's become a place of pilgrimage for me, and never mind that the town is as Catholic as can be; it's still a comfortable place for me.

I've been on the road for about 13 hours, so I'm very tired and have cats that need some attention and some pyramidiocy on TV that needs to be yelled about. More later!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sign of the Times: Eternity

Yesterday's church sign message was this:

I can't end it all
I'll still have to face eternity

My initial reaction was along the lines of "what is this I don't even--" but I soon copped a clue. This was a mildly more subtle way of saying "Guess what, sinner? THERE IS NO ESCAPE. Life sucks? Kill yourself? YOUR AFTERLIFE WILL SUCK EVEN HARDER."

Now, if I'm being completely honest, I have to say that I'm agnostic on the subject of an afterlife; never having been dead, I can't tell you what happens next. However, as there is no compelling evidence that I've found to support the empirical existence of an afterlife, I tend to operate on the assumption that this life is, in fact, the only one I'm going to have. (That was a very pompous pronouncement. I think I'm channeling Scully this morning. Woot!) And quite frankly, if that life became insupportable--think terminal horrific illness insupportable--I might well seek to end it, and I do and will always support the rights of others to do so. It's ridiculous to worry about a hypothetical eternal ever-after when the right now is unbearable.

The idea of an afterlife seems to be rooted in ego-attachment, the inability of the self-absorbed to conceive of a world without their presence in it; but the world was turning long before you or I existed, and it likely will continue to do so long after we have ceased to be. To my mind this is all the more reason to make this life count, and to be the best possible person in all the ways that matter. There are many, many things in life that I wish I had done differently or at all or not at all, places I wish I'd seen, people I'd prefer never to have known, whatever; that's life, no one gets out of it alive, and anyone who makes it to the end and claims to have no regrets is probably a liar. All the more reason to be conscious and mindful every day of what you're doing and how it's going to ripple out and affect you and your world and the people in it. Do I do that? Not so much as I'd like. Do I fail at that? Every damn day, in some way. Is it still my goal? Always.

Eternity is now, and life is right here. If a door has closed, open the window. You don't always have to end it all to start again. (I'll stop here, lest I drown us all in pithy aphorisms.)

Thursday, 8 April 2010



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~
(Echoes of Memory)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Past-Life Payback

"Karma" through reincarnation: Being punished for something you don't remember doing in a life you don't remember living.

Sorry, but I don't think that's how it works!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Resurrecting Gods

In keeping with the themes I touched on, however awkwardly, in my previous post, I bring you a link to Dr. Jean Houston's essay The Ritual Mystery of the Resurrection. It seems appropriate for a brilliant Easter morning when the world beyond my window is fairly bursting with renewed life. :)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Sorrowful Mysteries

In the calendar followed by the liturgical Christian denominations, this is Holy Week: the days leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. Sacrificial, dying and resurrecting gods are familiar to us from many cultures, the celebrations of their stories most often closely tied to the agricultural cycles of their places of origin. I was feeling a bit wistful earlier, wondering how it felt to be a literal believer in Christ or another deity, to the point of really deeply engaging with the mythos on an emotional, visceral level. I thought at first that such a feeling would be very alien to my nature--until I realized that it was anything but. I engage on that level frequently, just not in a religious context. Let me explain.

I'm one of those annoying vaguely neo-Jungian types--and you can blame that on my educational background if you like, or on some other personality defect--inclined to blithely spout off about archetypes and symbols and other infuriating buzzwords. While I love the concrete in regular life, spiritually I'm all about the abstractions, baby. It does make it hard for me to grok the soul-deep ecstatic experiences that others claim to have, though I'm comfortable enough just marking that down to differences in our wiring. We're not all designed for the same experience of the sacred, and that's less of an issue for me than it is for those who find my skepticism off-putting or dismissive. (For the record, I rarely mean it that way.) Thus, not being a religious literalist, I am rarely deeply emotionally moved by myth, though of course I can find it very inspirational and meaningful. But who says it has to be a religious myth?

This is Agent Scully; you may remember her from The X-Files. To say that I was and am an XF fan is to also note that fire burns and water is wet. Agent Scully, in this photo, is not happy; she has just discovered the corpse of her partner, Agent Mulder, in a field beneath a tree. (A similar thing happened to Isis, when she sought out Osiris' body and found it lodged in a tamarisk tree.) I was deeply engaged with and emotionally invested in the Mulder/Scully mythos, and I suffered along with them through many years and many changes. And when Scully--as channeled by Gillian Anderson there--fell to her knees and screamed "NO! This is not happening!" as if the words were being ripped from her along with her still-beating heart, I too wept, and agonized along with her, and knew vicariously the viciousness of loss. Through Scully, I came to understand the mourning of Isis. Through Scully, I came to understand grief and love just a little bit better, in ways that I had not yet had to face.

Those of us who become involved in fandom are engaging with myth on a daily basis. Those myths may be secular in intention, but what they express to us becomes spiritual in scope. Through myth we examine ourselves through others, we rehearse for those pivotal human experiences yet to come in our lives, or try to recapture those that have already passed.

Whether or not the myth that moves you is of ancient source and religious intent, or as new as next week's episode of a powerfully moving series, does not matter. Let me repeat that: it doesn't matter. What matters is you, and how you engage with the material, and what it means to you--how it moves you, what it makes you think, how it makes you feel, what kind of a person you discover yourself to be because of it. Those are the real mysteries. Agent Booth and Dr. Brennan over there aren't looking too happy themselves, though I daresay they're in better shape than poor Scully; I'll participate in their mythos as it unfolds and find lessons for myself therein. You might take something away from tomorrow's Caprica, or from seeing Avatar again, or from a marathon of Deep Space Nine on DVD. Myth is not restricted to specific times or cultures; it's alive and flourishing within us and all around us, in our popular culture just as surely as it is in our ritual circles and our history books and our churches. The real mysteries transcend all of those things, and are found when the divide between the without and the within fades away.

And in that moment, the Sorrowful Mysteries turn joyous.