Poem: Blessing of the Sun

Standing in the meadow
The sun high above
It reaches all around me
No surface is untouched

The light touches my soul
It reaches every piece of me
The brightness radiates
Blessing my sight with clarity

The light touches my past
I see that which was kept hidden
The light touches the present
That which is true for me now

I see now, the many sides
How multifaceted gifts are
Life grows in many ways
Always nourished by the sun

Now understanding,
It’s time for gentle rest
Hearts open, accepting all that is
I am thankful and happy

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Shifting and Shedding Skin

I lost my title of “Documentation Subject Matter Expert” at my place of employment a couple of weeks ago.  The title and duties were a holdover from the previous position that I held in the company, but I still did them.  But because I have been at my current position outside that department for several years now, it was time to let those duties go.  However, when I did, I was surprised to find a sense of loss.

It was cool to be a Subject Matter Expert, but there was a lot that went with the job.  On a monthly basis I had to teach classes on documentation.  I also was ‘on call’ when I was ever at work to deal with questions and issues.  This meant that the role regularly bit into my time to do my current job duties.  And unfortunately, it just got to be too much.

The whole thing reminded me of a hard lesson that I feel like I’m still learning.  This particular lesson started for me once I got back into the pagan community on a more active basis.  I have a lot I can offer people, so I wanted to jump right back into a role of teacher or priestess pretty quickly. But it never really developed for me to do so, and I found that very frustrating.

I came to realize that while I had a lot of experience, knew how to steer and work with a group (and had done so many years previously), doing those things weren’t a good ‘fit’ for me anymore.  I had committed to too many things that I needed to take on for myself.  So adding teaching a study group or even having an individual student was something that I just didn’t have time for anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I still feel I am an elder, and I absolutely help people on their paths by my intuitive readings, but I’m not the one who leads the entire group.  At least not right now.

The realization of this is something that was akin to my losing my work title, but it hurt a lot more.  I am very proud that my previous forays into pagan communities had consisted of my being the one writing the rituals and the lessons for the coven to follow.  I led the cones of power, the chanting and spell casting.  But those things weren’t my calling anymore.

Looking back, so many of my previous posts on this blog have dealt with roles and titles, how they fit and don’t fit, what they actually represent, and the work that you take on should you accept one.  Perhaps were so many posts on this because  I was still trying to find where I fit in.  But in order to figure out where I fit in, I needed to understand what those roles and titles meant as well as let go of my assumption of jumping right back into a place where I was previously.

In other words, it was finally time to shed my old titles and roles so that I could grow into new ones.  Just like the Pagan community as a whole has evolved and become so much bigger than what it was.

I don’t think I’m alone in assumptions about roles and titles. I think that there are frequent assumptions made by newer pagans as well as us ‘old-timers’ at roles that we think or expect we need to be in that actually aren’t true.  I’ve met many people who automatically assume that they are meant for a specific role in the pagan community only to find that they were mistaken. And now, years later, they have found something that better suits who they are as a person.  I guess it was time for me to do the same.

I am not really sure if there is a name or label for what it is I do; there are so many facets to it now that I think only the label “elder” would encompass them, but that title in itself is very generic.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  And perhaps I need to consider not even looking for a specific role or title anymore.  Maybe I just need to be me, focus on that which I need to focus on for myself, and let things move forward as they may.

And speaking of shedding, I have updated my ‘about me’ page to better reflect who I am and what I feel I do.  I think it fits very nicely now.

 

To My Christian Friends

Perhaps this yet another post that was a ‘long time coming’ (That seems to be the start of a theme of posts for me.)

Things I yet again thought I had dealt with are still coming up and bugging me to the point where I finally have to start writing…AGAIN.  And while with this particular subject I would normally just start writing in my personal journal and not post publicly, I’m starting to believe the subject matter needs to be discussed more openly, and thus, has become another blog post.

The subject is Christianity.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christianity lately.  I’ve frequently shared articles on my Facebook page regarding the work of Pastor John Pavlovitz, more specifically, about some of the shared truths that he and other Christian pastors write about.  I’ve also gotten angry and written posts about how broken Christianity feels like to me (a post that upon retrospection, feels more like a rant than anything, but it still needed to come out at the time).

I was happy when one of my posts sparked discussion, and something from that discussion stuck with me.  It was a Facebook post where one of my other friends, a Christian gentleman, started to speak about how frustrated he was that he couldn’t speak about his religion and the comfort it gave him without being bashed about the ears by people who were expecting the next words out of his mouth to be ‘come to my church and see..’

So I guess I’m not the only one who feels oppressed.

I think the deep introspection of the past several months has caused me to realize that I need to speak my mind, but not just throw words at the topic to vent, like I did in the broken religion post.  I need to talk about how I still hurt, how I have issues thanks to someone’s interpretation of Christianity, but how I still recognize that Christianity as a whole isn’t that bad.  And maybe my being public about things might allow someone else who has some of the same issues to at least think about it.

Yes, you read that right.  I’m a non-Christian that doesn’t think Christianity is that bad.  Seriously.  The concepts of loving another as yourself, not judging another, taking care of the poor, even the discipline of going to a church and prayer are all good things.  In fact, the concept of faith is something I learned in Christianity that I keep with me even now.

But just because I don’t think Christianity is bad doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a lot of anger to deal with because of my upbringing in the church.  The fact of the matter is a great majority of people today were born into some semblance of Christianity.  Many of these people have issues because of that upbringing, and they still carry a lot of anger and resentment toward the entire religion because of said issues.  And I’m still one of them.

But – confession time – I don’t WANT to be someone who has issues with Christianity.  I want to be able to say that I can dismiss the stupidity of certain Christian followers and accept that which is good.  I want to be able to sit down with the gentleman I spoke about above, have a pint and enjoy a good conversation about how our lives are so much more enriched because we BOTH have faith in something more powerful than we are.  There is common ground here that I think is rich with opportunities for bridge building, and I’d love to have those conversations to see what specifics we do have in common.

Although I long for conversations like these, I wonder frequently if I will ever be able to have them.  A good conversation means egos, anger and any suggestions of ‘conversion’ need to be in check.  But still, many Christians I speak with find it their duty to convert heathens like me to the ‘one true’ way.

Come to think of it, now that I am someone who just opened myself to the possibility of sitting down with a Christian to talk about religious practice, or how I read the blogs of Christian leaders, did I just open myself up to people who think I am ready for conversion?  Possibly.  (And if so, I’ll give you the same response I’ve given throughout my life; No.)

Now I can’t do anything about people who feel like it is their duty to convert, but I do know that if someone whose underlying belief is to convert people because their religion is the ‘one, true way’, then you will never be able to have an open heart discussion with them.  The fact is that if someone believes truly in conversion, you will never know if what they say is from their heart, or if it is in the attempt to make you a convert.  And it makes everyone who opens their mouth to say the “C” word in any form or fashion suspect.

And the main sticking point of my anger is right around that ideal of conversion.  I call the root cause of that conversion issue the ‘fear of God’ syndrome.  People feel like they need to convert because the fear of God is something that is instilled in every young Christian in school.  You get raised with this idea that God is so nice, supportive and gentle until you do something wrong and don’t apologize.  Then this God becomes a vengeful being that shames you to eternal pain for the rest of the existence of the world because you dared to do something he didn’t like.  And when the young Christians get to the ripe age where they start to think for yourself – everyone goes through this crisis of faith and either learns to conform, or become like me and recognize things can be different. And if we truly believe in our heart that things can be different, we now get to deal with this fear of angering this vengeful God.  And that was the thing that screwed me up the most; This fact you could be doing the exact same things that the Christian God teaches AND STILL go to this eternal frying pan because you don’t do it in his name.

kenny-yolo_o_514748(Images flash in my mind of the South Park episode where the kids freaked out every time they did something they thought was a sin and had to run to church to confess it. Poor Kenny!)

Perhaps some Christians are aware of how conceited it sounds that some put the Christian faith above others.  But many don’t.  Instead, they relish in it.  It’s a perfect place for their egos to thrive and grow; as NOW they have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to put everyone underneath them because only THEY and THEIR friends and family are CHOSEN ones.  And it’s those people that have poisoned it for everyone.  For me, who wants to reach out, and for others, like my friend who is tired of being punished for crimes he didn’t commit.

And people wonder why some of us go out of their way to avoid anything that has any Christian leanings.  It’s because the true reason for the speech or action regarding Christianity will never be known.  Are you one of the idiots trying to gain power?  Are you someone who’s trying to ‘hook’ more souls for your Christian God?  Or are you someone who is just sick and tired of the whole mess some people have made of the Christian glenda.jpgreligion and want to just have a good conversation about faith and how it can truly move mountains no matter what you believe in?

In short, “Are you a Good Christian, or a Bad Christian?” I ask, as I hold my ceremonial drinking horn. (I gave up the wand – and the athame might scare people.)

I jest.  But if I don’t jest I might get mad again.  And I don’t want to be mad.  Sure, I’ll have to talk about my hurt for a while longer.  And perhaps I’ll have that pint and hear about another’s hurt and how they feel just as oppressed.  But what is more important is that I want those good Christians to know that my anger isn’t directed at them.  There will be things I post – Stuff that needs to be said, to use the title of Pastor Pavlovitz’s blog – but I don’t do it to directly make someone else feel uncomfortable.  I do it to heal.  I do it to express how much anger I still have left within me.  I do it because someday, I don’t want to have that anger.  I want to shed that anger and pick up that pint and talk about how excited I am to share my practices with another person.  I want to share about how my faith in my Gods makes me feel connected to everyone around the world, how we all need to respect each other.  I want to talk about how when I make a mistake I have to do more than just confess it.  I want to talk about how I don’t bow to my Gods, just as I don’t bow to my boss, my mentors, my teachers or my husband, but instead I show respect in other ways.  I want to share how my vows to be a better person mean I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and force myself to do more to raise my energy and understand my fellow human being better.

Now, more than ever, I truly believe we need these bridges built between communities.  Bridges are the only way we are going to understand each other, and once the understanding is there, compromise is possible.  We see every day how non-compromise is causing trauma and pain and fear.  And if it means having more semi-open conversations before we can get down to business, then I am all for it.

To Carry a Pipe

It’s been about two years since I was gifted a personal prayer pipe.  And in all that time I’ve had a pretty healthy fear of it’s power.

Well, at least I thought it was a healthy fear.

As someone who can’t document my Native American ancestry, some may consider my want to carry a pipe as sacrilege.  And others may say that even though I’m native, because I didn’t grow up within the native culture that I am disrespecting the pipe by even owning it.

This is something that I have fought against for a great deal of my life, and I know I’ve spoken of it here many times before.  Growing up, when I would find new information on my spiritual heritage I became very excited.  A new book, contact through friends with tribal elders, a new nugget of wisdom to ponder and treasure was something that comforted me.  But continued searching would most inevitably lead me to others within the native community who would bash what I had found; claiming either that the teachings were watered down or not true teachings at all.  I went round and round like this, until early in the 1990s when I finally just gave up and tried another spiritual path. But the native ancestry always called me back, even though for many years I was afraid to answer the call.

Fast forward to several years ago when the pipe came into my life.  Here is where I thought I would finally get somewhere; that I would finally be able to fit the pieces of what I learned so long ago into my current practices.  Here, I thought, through working with the pipe I would find more about my ancestry and how I could become a part of it. The naysayers and limited information still remained, however, the root cause of that problem changed.  When I thought it was the naysayers that still held me back, it was something different.  It wasn’t because they judged me as unworthy.  I was judging me as unworthy.    I didn’t find myself native ‘enough,’ or worthy and strong enough to hold such a valued item.  All of the talk from those that I looked up to years and years ago stuck with me, and not in a positive way.

I didn’t realize this problem until this past evening, while on a phone call with a friend who is dealing with the same issues.  My friend is someone who I trusted, and who gave me advice about the pipe before.  So when I asked him more specifics about how he worked with his pipe, I think he realized what it was I was dealing with, and therefore he opened up to me more than he had in the past.  He told me about his own fears; that in the past he never felt like he was ‘enough’ of the blood for his pipe.  He spoke about his fears of being judged by peers in the community, or his fear of being called insensitive and unworthy outright.

When I heard about these fears, I was shocked.  This is a man who is respected in our local native community, someone whose mother is full blood, and here he is telling me he didn’t feel like HE was enough?  I have seen many things that this man has done for the native community.  I have seen this man rescue older pipes that have fallen into hands who did not know what they had.  I have seen him lead spirit fires.  Yet here he was, saying he felt like he wasn’t enough to hold a pipe.  How could this be?  Even now, after the conversation I’m still in a bit of shock.  But now I understand why he and I have felt this way for so long.

The whole issue that repeats itself for many people like me (and for him), who are called to do the work of a pipe or to walk the ‘red road’.  We become afraid of doing so because in some form or fashion we have been told that we do not carry the proper paperwork that we are told we need to allow us to walk within Native spirituality.  Or we are told that we can walk some of the road, but we will never be allowed behind the ‘buckskin curtain’ to know the true ways that we seek so desperately in our hearts.

I am not saying what full blooded Native Americans do is wrong.  What I am suggesting is that there is more malice towards some of us that are mixed than perhaps there should be. Those who love their traditions dearly and want to see them continue just as they are may not be looking at the full picture of the world becoming a global community.  Or perhaps instead of wanting to embrace that global community, they feel that they need to protect the purity of the teachings to ensure they are kept alive.   And while I fully understand some teachings are only meant for specific people, some teachings can be shared – NEED to be shared – for the good of the global community.  This means that those who have pressed for so long to keep these teachings under wraps and only available to a select few may need to reevaluate some of the things that they hold as secret.  And perhaps, in their zeal for keeping things secret, they may be doing more harm than good, as they have done in the past with me, and with my native friend.

I am going to say again, I don’t feel like going to the other end of the spectrum would be of any benefit.  Opening up ALL of the teachings is also not the solution here.  Already we have seen people use even small pieces of the teachings for personal gain, something that I doubt the elders and spirits ever wanted to happen.  And worse, others have used the teachings to invoke power over others.  The teachings must be protected from this just as much as other people must be protected from this abuse.

Another point to consider – the ceremonies of the pipe are very sacred.  The knowledge needs to be treated with the same respect that the pipe itself is treated with.  Flooding the world with this knowledge would not be respecting either one, and would only make the entire ceremony and pipe useless.   And with as dire need as the world has right now, by putting these things out there for everyone to see is to remove some of the sacred from this world.  We would also lose another very important tool of community, healing and strength. The pipe goes to they that treat it with respect, and those who are willing to stretch themselves to do good in the world.  This I understand now.

My native friend talked to me about his own fears for a long time.  Then he told me how he how there was a reason why I was called, just like there was a reason I was having the conversation with him.  There are reasons for why things are as they are.  It didn’t matter whether or not I was full blooded, or even if I didn’t have any native blood.  The reasons for the pipes coming out into the world can only really be guessed at.  But they ARE coming out. That is the truth of the matter.

And he went deeper with this truth:  The pipe came to ME.  The call was there, and I answered it.  And because the call was there, and this pipe came to me, I was meant to carry it. And as long as I give it the proper respect and do my best to continue the tasks I have been charged with, that is what truly matters.  And that was what I was not doing before we had the conversation.   I THOUGHT I was giving it proper respect, But further introspection made me realize that the ‘respect’ that I was giving was actually fear.  For too long I had confused ‘fear of’ with ‘respect for’ the pipe.  So instead of respect empowering me to utilize what I had been given, I was frozen in fear of the pipe and its powers.

Regarding the entire situation, with mixed Natives and full blood Natives, I don’t know the way forward.   I am not in any place to suggest any path for the tribes to follow.  But I do think that we have to learn to understand situations where Native teachings are being given on a case per case basis. We need to learn to stop condemning that which we come to learn about in a respectful manner.   But more importantly, and for me personally, we need to learn to look inside ourselves and undo the damage that was done.  It doesn’t matter if the damage was done 20-30 years ago or just yesterday.  If we feel called to learn to carry the pipe, we must consider that pull seriously, no matter what lineage we have in our DNA.  And we must not be deterred from that duty should we choose to follow our hearts.  To carry a pipe is to bring hope to people, to bring blessings and to bring a powerful vehicle of prayer and intersession.  We cannot turn away this call lightly.

After the phone call with my friend, I felt compelled to journey.  So after the appropriate measures were taken, I journeyed to meet my Gods and to discuss with them what it was that I had learned.  I discussed my fears, my hopes, and their expectations for me.  I was given cleansings and some appropriate trials.   Finally, I was allowed to be a part of a pipe ceremony where I was spiritually given the pipe whose physical form laid beside me as I was doing my journey.  I was also given more instruction on the pipe ceremony itself and how I was to utilize that ceremony.  Today, the fear has subsided some, but I know that I may still have work ahead in order to deal with it better.

Moving forward, I have been given plans on when I am to keep ceremony, and how to work with the pipe outside of ceremony.  And most importantly, I have accepted it much more deeply into my life than I had before.  Now my hope is that someone else may read my words and get some solace out of what it is that I have gone through.

Picture from Deviant Art

The Awe of God

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my growing up lately.  I think it’s necessary to do at times; you need to re-remember the good, and deal with the bad so that it doesn’t affect your life moving forward.

And as I remember my life as a child, one of the things that pops out to me the most is how awed I was of the concept of God.  Even at a young age I could feel divine energy all around me, and it was fascinating.  I remember being in church at a young age, wanting to do so much more than just sit in a pew and sing to honor the God that I felt so strongly.

Now that I am in my fourties, I am thankful that I feel this spirit of awe even deeper.  I am free to understand and worship on my own, and because of that I have done a significant amount of research into what type of devotion to God is right for me.  And I’m very glad I have done so.  I remember my father being upset with me asking questions so long ago.  It was almost as if he felt that if I learned too much, if I studied religions too deeply that I would lose the faith I had in God.  

But what really happened was quite contrary to that.  I’ll give an example to explain.  

As I sit here, typing this out, I’m watching my cat walk back and forth across the floor, picking up the bits of bacon my husband put down for him from our breakfast.  I understand how he walks, the connection of the muscles connected by tendons to bone, the nerves firing, making the muscles contract and relax.  I know how he exists, and I’m awed at the marvel that is the life going through his body.  That life, in my belief, is there by divinity. And even if I no longer believed in a divine force, my cat is still a marvel of ingenuity that is worthy of awe.

I think those of us who forge our own religious path sometimes lose the spirit of awe, and that is sad.  We are more apt to focus on specifics about pantheons, ancient writings, specific practices and disciplines to grow our own awareness and energy that sometimes we done stop to think about the fact that all of this creation just…exists, and it does so without us.   And that is worthy of looking at things with awe.  

Awe to me makes things holy.  It gives me a reason to continue to learn, and strive to be the best person I can be.  If I am worthy to live in a world that was built with wonders and energies and life, then I must learn to be the best person I can be in this world in order to give back – to say thank you for the awe that I feel.