Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Ages

The question of if and when one is a Crone has fascinated me for a long time.  I’ve had many a Pagan tell me that a year and a day after menopause is the moment one becomes a Crone.  Well, that would have had me Croning at age 46!  I wasn’t ready then, nor was I a decade later.  Now, as I approach my sixties (along with others in my Coven), I am beginning to feel a little more of the understanding and wisdom—I now know for certain—I lacked, at age 46. In fact, I have long been of the opinion that all stages of human development are organic in nature and, thus, are as unique and individual as our DNA. However, there are, in my opinion, eight specific Ages we go through during the course of a lifetime.  I call them, “The Ages”! and, as I said, there are eight of them.  Let me explain…

But, before I get into the specifics, let me first say that there are no lines of demarkation.  In fact, this is the very reason I do not specify any particular age or milestone at any particular time—because we are all so different—but, I’ll get back to that a little later.  For now, here are, The Ages:

1. The Age of Innocence

  • Akin to Imbolc on the Wheel of the Year
  • We are all born innocent—a blank slate, if you will.
  • Our very survival depends on those who care for and nurture us.
  • Our needs are basic and, for the most part, quite demanding.
  • Our understanding of the world around us is basic and quite limited.  At first!
  • But, as we begin to recognize voices and faces and the touch and smell of our family/caregivers, etc., the first blush of the light of our future personalities begins to shine.

2. The Age of Development

  • Akin to the Spring Equinox on the Wheel of the Year.
  • At this stage of our lives, we begin to develop rudimentary skills, such as, for instance, walking and talking, riding a bicycle or operating a pedal car.  This Age lasts, for many of us, through the time when we learn to count, read, or write.
  • We begin to develop a sense of self.
  • Also, a stronger bond with family and loved ones.
  • Formal schooling often begins during this Age.
  • Our personality is being developed now; along with our nature.
  • Skills we began to learn in the Age of Innocence are honing and we are adding new skills daily and, often, at a rapid pace.

3. The Age of Understanding

  • Akin to Beltane on the Wheel of the Year.
  • Somewhere around puberty, we begin to understand things differently and independently.
  • Hormones run wild and, quite often, so do we!
  • We begin to understand things we simply “believed” in the prior Ages.  (Santa Claus looks different to us now, for example.)
  • This is a time when we are more apt to begin the process of separating from those who parented us and identifying with a peer group.
  • We are often very idealistic and, frequently, the first stirrings of the fire of idealism kindle within us.
  • This is a time of awakening sexuality and an early understanding of matters related to it.
  • The seeds of our future self are beginning to germinate now.

4. The Age of Energy

  • Akin to Litha on the Wheel of the Year.
  • Now begins the long, hot, “Summer season” of our lives.  We often raise children, have a career, make a home for ourselves, build a business—or, do all that—and more, at once!  This is the time when we tend to be acquiring things—such as cars, houses, families, and experience.
  • We come, at this time of our lives, into full bloom—character-wise, personality-wise, skills-wise—in short, in a multitude of ways.
  • We often make, follow through with and/or finalize decisions about matters such as parenting, marriage, career or vocation.

5. The Age of Wisdom

  • Akin to Lughnasadh on the Wheel of the Year
  • This is the time when we begin to see signs of our own burgeoning wisdom.
  • Now, the fruits of our labors in the prior Ages are becoming apparent to us.
  • We often become “the voice of reason,” or are seen as the “glue” in a group; such as family or friends.
  • When we reach this Age, we have the benefit of a great deal of hindsight… and, for many of us, we can also see, with a great deal of clarity, either what we are facing in the final three Ages or, simply that we have only two living Ages left—even if we don’t think of it that way!

6. The Age of Mortality

  • Akin the Autumnal Equinox on the Wheel of the Year.
  • Now is the time we acknowledge and face our own mortality.
  • By this Age, we have seen our fair share of death—in all forms—either personally, from loved ones, or impersonally, to those we did not know..  From those who perished young, or succumbed to sickness, accident, war, or even murder or suicide.
  • Loved ones are often becoming more important to us than things, possessions, or even petty differences—the tendency is, to become more mellow in this Age.
  • The Age of Energy is well behind us now.  The fire is not out, but it is waning.
  • If we have not already done so, we often make out our Wills or make our final wishes known in some way.

7. The Age of Simplicity

  • Akin to Samhain on the Wheel of the Year.
  • The time of our lives when we, perforce or by choice, tend to scale back and simplify.
  • Perhaps we go into Assisted Living, a nursing home, or just a smaller home.  Maybe we sell our home and rent.  Whatever makes maintenance and upkeep easier on us and/or everyone else.
  • This is the Autumn of our lives… the time when things are falling away slowly but surely and we are drifting, as would a leaf from a tree, toward the—inevitable—end of our lives.

8. The Age of Mystery

  • Akin to Yule on the Wheel of the Year.
  • Just about everyone has an opinion as to what happens to us when we die.  Thus, I refer to death as the Age of Mystery—it is the final season of our lives.

The lovely and, sometimes confounding, thing about The Ages is how fluid and individualized they are.  One can be in more than one Age, in more then one aspect of one’s own lifetime or development at once, for instance.  We all live and die at different times and at different stages of our development and, the circumstances of our lives often impact the nature of our development along the way.  An example of this would be a severely abused child.  While the child may grow up all the way into the Age of Wisdom, a part of them may be “stuck” in their youth, never having had their (healthy) Age of Development fully realized.  Similarly, their Age of Understanding may have been warped by unhealthy experiences, which, in turn, will impact all the subsequent Ages if not addressed and resolved successfully.

So you see, we all of us, with no exceptions, enter and leave different Ages at different times in our lives and, sometimes, even go back to re-visit a prior age or, even remain in a given age while simultaneously moving on to the next one.  Why is this?  We are all individuals.  Wonderfully complex, complicated, and whimsical individuals who live according to free will, not specific timelines or rules!  

Now, this may be a little interesting, but, in a practical sense, how does it help us?  Well, here are a few things to keep in mind…

  • Just because a person may be old enough to be in a certain Age, does not mean they are magically and automatically there!  (e.g. A young person may have reached puberty, but this does not mean they have sufficient self understanding to immediately and safely become sexually active.) 
  • Ages can—and usually do—overlap.  However, as much as one can, of course, see a need to simplify and do so, in, say, the Age of Understanding, the likelihood that one is doing so for the same reasons one would in the age of Ages of Wisdom, Mortality, or Simplicity is slim at best.  
  • It can sometimes be helpful to remind ourselves that not every Crone or Sage is wise and not every Maiden or Youngman is foolish!  It is a wise Pagan who takes note of the Age someone may be in, but does so while holding stereotypes or judgements at bay.
  • I have said it before, but it always bears repeating:  Ignore the “Judge Not” crowd!  Judge people, situations, and circumstances—even making snap judgements where appropriate.  (Failure to heed this, could one day, cost you big—up to or including your life.)  But, never judge harshly, with bigotry, or malice.  
  • Celebrate every Age for the wisdom it holds.  
  • If you look down your nose on what you perceive to be a prior Age, you are not in the Age you think you are.

So, in what Age are you?  Personally, I am a burgeoning Crone, in my Age of Wisdom—who can see the Ages of Mortality and Simplicity all too clearly!


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My Walk With The Bear

He stood, a bear, lumbering out of the deep, dark woods of silence--he rose slowly and purposefully, positioning himself between the offending neurologist and myself.  “She’s had enough for one day,” he said quietly, and I felt his arms, warm and familiar, encircle my body, holding my tremors at bay, absorbing my misery like a sponge.  I sobbed uncontrollably and barely noticed as the doctor--essentially, dismissed--left, placing his business card on the cart beside us.  “I don’t think I can get my pantyhose back on,” I finally whispered, my voice halting, my jaw stiff with emotion.  I lifted my head from his chest, leaving a slimy patch of despair on his shirt and wiping free--with the back of my hand--the thread of saliva that joined us like an umbilical cord.  “It’s not that cold, you won’t need them,” my husband assured me.
He was wrong!  
Cold, I have learned in the 13 years since the day I was diagnosed, can aggravate my Parkinson’s symptoms more than most things and, on that day--a frigid day in January, 2003--it hit my legs like the icy slap of death itself.  “It’s f-f-freezing,” I stuttered.  “Yeah, I noticed that too,” he said, grinning at me with that familiar and all too welcomed twinkle in his eyes.  
He’s always been able to make me laugh, my husband.  But there was no laughter in me that day--no joy, very little dopamine, and absolutely no hope.  I wanted to smile back, but all I could manage was a further slump to my already defeated shoulders and a shaking withdrawal of my heart into the now fragile support of my backbone.  At least, that’s the way it felt to me.  Odd thing, since I had, just an hour earlier, walked with my customary confidence and self assurance into the hospital for testing--confident, but harboring a secret.  A secret that was now fully out in the open and no one could have been more surprised by it than I.
I had dismissed the tremor in my right leg as a pinched nerve for over a year.  But then, the tick in my right thumb began and, when I could ignore it no longer, I decided on a home remedy: I Googled it.  Starting with my worst fears first, I ruled out Multiple Sclerosis (my Aunt has MS, so it was top on my hit list of fears), then worked my way from there, finally resting at the impossible after ruling out everything else I could think of: My symptoms pointed directly at Parkinson’s Disease.  Surely not?  I even Googled Panic Disorder and Restless Leg Syndrome, but every rabbit warren of hope I tunneled down kept directing me right back to the Mad Hatter I was coming to suspect was at the root of my problem.     
Later that day, I had an unexpected daytime visit from my mother-in-law.  We were drinking tea and chatting when, without warning, the full gravity of my suspicion filled me with terror and spilled over in hot, burning tears, scarring my cheeks with invisible track marks.  “I think I might have Parkinson’s Disease,” I blurted out, squeezing my eyes closed in an unsuccessful attempt at staunching the flow of tears.  “How can I do this to Wayne?” I asked, weeping and hanging my head in shame, “how can I put him through this?  No husband deserves this, most especially not mine.”  I cried that day, not for me--but, for my husband.

My husband?  Yes.  Because, he was my partner, my Consort.  In my world view, he did not deserve this.  I had no right to "inflict" this on him.  
“Why on earth do you think you have Parkinson’s Disease?” my mother-in-law asked.  I told her about the tremor in my leg and the tick, tick, tick in my thumb (which was by then, in fact, a full--if intermittent--pill rolling tremor), and the Google search that screamed Parkinson’s! at me like a personal cyber obscenity attack every time I looked at symptoms.  She said, “Oh, no, surely not.  No… I have no doubts it will be something quite simple and quite treatable… Perhaps it’s Restless Leg Syndrome?  I’m sure it’s nothing serious…  You’ll see, the doctor will find out what it is.”   
“Perhaps you’re right,” I said, but I only did so, because I could not face the specter of a diagnosis like that any more than she could.    
I thought I could will it away.  Wish it away.  Hope it away.  But, I ended up facing it head on--albeit against my will--about a month later when I saw the neurologist  my GP referred me to.  I was scheduled for a nerve conduction test but, as it turned out, I didn’t have to have one.  A few questions and a physical exam were all it took for the doctor to pronounce my life sentence.
Before I even went there, however, something told me I should not attend the appointment alone.  I had heard a nerve conduction test could be rather painful, so I asked my husband to come with me. But, it was more than a fear of physical discomfort that prompted me to take Wayne--my second backbone--along, it was the secret I was keeping deep inside, while at the same time hiding so deftly from myself.  Which is how I came to be sitting in front of the neurologist that day, hearing the words, “You have Parkinson’s Disease,” and how I came to be--quite ludicrously--defending myself...   
An “attack” on the senses can only be met with a rapid fire response.  I launched my own attack, “No, no, no, NO, NO!”  My opponent was unfazed, “You have Parkinson’s Disease,” he responded calmly, dispassionately.  I fired a counter attack, “Find something else!”   “There is nothing else,” he said, “you have Parkinson’s Disease.”  Now I was getting mad, “I said find something else… tell me to take two of these and call you in the f#*$@*g morning!” I said.  He slowly shook his head--and I let go with a salvo of profanity.    
But, it was no use, my opponent would not budge.  “And,” he said, “I don’t think I’m telling you something you hadn’t already guessed.”  “But, that’s not the point,” I stabbed back, sobbing now, “you are supposed to find something else.  You  are supposed to make it right.”  But, suddenly, my shoulders slumped, my head went down, I gave in, defeated.  “How certain are you?” I asked, the question coming softly, muffled by my hands.  “One hundred percent,” came the gentle, but firm, response.  The fight left me then, I simply sat there, weeping. 
This--blessedly--is when The Bear stirred.  Slowly, deliberately, he came to life.  He stood, as if uncurling himself from hibernation, stretched his shoulders back, then stepped between me and the offending doctor--at precisely the moment he was needed.  His intervention came not a moment too soon, nor a moment too late--and I needed his strength more than anything in the world right then, because I had not a single scrap left of my own.  He stood with his back to the doctor, effectively shielding me from my nemesis, my fear, my pain.  I sank into his arms and shook there, as much from gratitude as the symptoms that were, by then, already quite familiar to me.
I have always been a fierce woman.  Strong and capable.  The person everyone counts on, depends on, calls when the chips are down.   But not that day.  No, that day, I was defenseless and easily bested by four simple words: You have Parkinson’s Disease.  And, had it not been for The Bear, lumbering out of the corner, standing strong and uncompromising between myself and the harbinger of my fears, I believe I might have shrunk away to nothing that day, right there on the gurney, clad in nothing but a paper gown.
Since then, The Bear and I have faced everything this disease has lobbed at us--from medications that made me vomit and lose bladder control, to vision problems, incessant loss of sleep and even brain surgery--and it has been far from easy.  But, we watch each other’s backs and, when one of us can bear it no longer, the other shoulders the burden.  And, we laugh together.  A lot.  We are long since past the point of pretense or denial, but we do not dwell on it either.  We still occasionally grieve, feel sorry for ourselves, and get angry about this thing but, in the final analysis, together, we are fearless, shameless, and happy--not all the time and not always at the same time, but certainly, most of the time.     
Then, there are my friends... but, they are a beautiful story for another day.  This day, my story comes down to four simple words: 
I have Parkinson’s Disease.
The postscript to this story, however, is that this disease has a largesse of spirit that knows no bounds!  It brings with it the gifts of compassion, understanding, patience, serenity, acceptance, comfort, perseverance, and optimism--to name but a few of the blessings Parkinson’s has given me.  Sure, I’d rather have received these gifts by way of winning the lottery but, so long as the gifts come, I’ll not complain about the source.   
I was 45 when the words were spoken to me and, on that day, in that place, I had no room for hope, only helplessness and fear.  So much has changed since then.  It took a few years for me to realize that my disease might slow me down, but it was probably not going to kill me (yet, anyway).  It might complicate my life, but I would have a life.  I would face it every day, but I would not dwell on it as a day-to-day thing.  Rather, I would be able to put it firmly in its place: A fact of my being, but not the only fact, not by a long shot.  

Most of all, perhaps, my grief over my husband's role in this has abated--somewhat--I still struggle with it sometimes, but I have come to understand that we are Handfasted together, he and I, (thirty-three years tomorrow, as a matter of fact!) and the knots of love that bind us together so tightly, have not and will not be undone by something as powerless over us as is Parkinson's Disease.  

In the dozen or so years since my diagnosis, I have learned that for me...  Fear, gives way to courage.  Anger, succumbs to grace. Doubt is bested by certainty.  And, time?  Well, time changes everything, so bring it on, Parkinson's, The Bear and I are ready for ya!       
Blessed Be,

Monday, June 1, 2015

Walk Your Circles With Care

Walk the Circles of your Life gently and, with purpose.  Know, always, that these Circles shall close around you one day and resolve themselves whether you are complicit in that resolution, or not.  

The Circles of Life rotate around and within our consciousness constantly—there is never a moment that a Circle is not in rotation or that we are not a part of a Circle.  Usually, we are part of many, many Circles because this is The Divine Truth… Every being and every thing in creation is part of the great Circle of Life.  We are so, because we are learning together.  The very fact of living and dying is a Circle that resolves and re-starts again over and over—and, we CSC Pagans, call this Reincarnation.

If you behave kindly and with compassion in your Circles, the fact of your kindness and compassion shall, some day, come around to you as you gave it—closing the Circle and making it complete.  The same is true for unkindness and cruelty—what you start, will eventually Circle back to you.  I know it doesn't always seem that way but, eventually, it always works that way.  After all, the person who takes and takes in one lifetime, without regard for the feelings of those he takes from, for instance, has many more lifetimes to find himself being a person from whom a lot is taken. 

This, some refer to, as the Principle of Karma.  Well, that’s one way of defining it, yes.  Another, would be to define life itself as a Circle within a Circle within a Circle… and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.  But, why are Circles important?  Why should we care about Circles, what are they for, and where, if anywhere, are we in them?  

Well, let’s explore…

For one thing, circles are tidy things.   Even when they distort, becoming sort of ovoid or oddly shaped, the Circle still has a beginning and an end—but at the same time, no beginning or end at all.  How can this be so, I hear you asking?  (O.K., I don’t actually hear you asking, but I’m hoping you are asking, anyway.)  And, (ask or not) I'm going to tell you…

To start something, is to start a Circle… is to join a Circle… is to perpetuate a Circle… is to end a Circle… Is to begin a Circle over again…


O.K., here’s the thing:  Everything we do, say, think, feel… well, you get it, everything about the human condition is part of a Circle.  It may be the beginning of a Circle, or mid point in a Circle, or even the point at which the end of a Circle meets up with the beginning of a Circle, but everything is part of a Circle.  

Here’s an example:

You grow up on a street with myriads of hidden secrets.  At number 56, abuse and molestation.  Around the corner, more molestation and abuse.  Silent children.  Silent parents.  Some kids see things, some kids hear things, some adults—see the same things, hear the same things.  But, the conspiracy of silence is endemic and pervasive, and the culture of politeness so ingrained and set so solid to the core that nothing is said and nothing is done—and so the abuse goes on.  Day after day, year after year after year…  Until, one day…

All the children are grown.  Some parents have died.  Some siblings have died.  Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles—now, gone.  Everyone has scattered, as people are wont to do, to the four corners of the earth, it seems.  And, the children of yesterday, who are the Grandparents of today, begin to awaken and start to seek each other out.  When this happens, secrets are let loose.  Whispers, perhaps, at first.  But, ultimately, they roar with the cacophonous sound of shackles breaking free and phrases such as, He did this to me, and, I was abused in that house forty-five years ago, and, sometimes, I refuse to keep the secret a moment longer are shouted from the rooftops, rattling the long hidden cobwebs out of the rafters of history and making the air clear again, for decent living.

So, where did the Circle begin?  Where did it end?  When did one join it, or another leave it?  Who is responsible for the Circle they all live in?  Is anyone?  Are they all?  Dizzying questions…

And, there is only one answer:  The Circle began at creation, we are all part of it, all responsible for our part in it, and only The One knows if or when The Circle will ever end.

So, what does this mean to you?  Me?   Us??  

Well, not to appear flip, but it brings us, ahem… Full Circle.  As I said at the beginning:  

“Walk the Circles of your Life gently and, with purpose.  Know, always, that these Circles shall close around you one day and resolve themselves whether you are complicit in that resolution, or not.”  

Blessed Be,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ten Things I Know...

1.  We are all eternal beings who live many lives.

2.  I believe item #1 to be true because everything in the known Universe has been created the exact same way--myriads of eternal beings that live many lives. We can see evidence of this in everything from the cycle of the Seasons, the cycles of the Sun and the Moon, the tides, and even the movement of the planets in all the known solar systems. 

3.  Every example of existence we have is as follows: Something comes into being, it grows, evolves, ages, or wears out--then, it changes form and returns as something else. Take, for instance, the Sun: It rises every morning and sets every evening. After the Sun sets, we can no longer see it, but that does not mean it no longer exists, it only means that it is gone from our sight. Come morning, it returns - to live a new day - a new Sun, if you will. We have all these wonderful examples of how everything in the known Universe was created to be--and yet we have no examples of anything coming into being and then, for any reason, transitioning into a place of eternal fire or pain--either as a matter of course or a form of punishment.

4.  Given that we are eternal beings and given that we have no evidence whatsoever that we human beings were created to be any different to anything else in creation, it stands to reason, then, that we reincarnate and are born to live over and over again. But, why would it be this way?

5.  I believe we reincarnate because it is the only fair and equitable way to give every soul (or, as I call it, spirit) a chance to have a well rounded human experience. In other words, we all get to experience (if we need or want to) wealth, poverty, sickness, ill health, love, hate, loss, mental illness--in short, the vast array of human experiences that go to make up the complex human beings we are.

6.  There is absolutely no evidence that, when we die, we are judged and sent, pursuant to the results of that judgement, either to a place called Heaven or a place called Hell. But, why would this be so?

7.  It would be so, simply because, were it not to be, it would be unjust, cruel, unfair, and a source of imbalance in the Universe. But, what then, does this mean to us, in this life?

8.  It means that some of us are living harder lives than others. It means that, some lives may appear 'charmed,' while others are 'cursed.' It means that some children have wonderful parents, others, not so much. It means that The Creator does not cause suffering, nor end suffering. The Creator no more awards one person a miracle than penalize another with tragedy.  It means that we are guaranteed only one thing…

9.  That our lives shall have a beginning and an end. Nothing else is guaranteed in-between. Everything that happens in life, is simply the result of choice or chance…

10.  Think of it as if we are a tennis ball and The Creator, at the time of our birth, sets us to rolling down hill. The only guarantee we have is that we will begin rolling (or, be given life) and we will, ultimately, reach the bottom of the hill (or, reach death). Everything else on the journey of our lives is a matter of choice or chance. Perhaps we will have a soft, gentle roll, supported by a bed of thick grass. Perhaps our ball will roll into pebbles, then grass, then flowers, then a pond, then a pile of animal droppings... Or, perhaps we will direct our own roll into bushes, or flowers, tall grass or weeds. Well, you get the general idea. The only guarantee we have is that we will begin the roll of life and end the roll of life.  Everything else on the pathway our life takes is the result of personal choice or random happenings--and, random means random--not instigated, influenced, or micromanaged by The Source.

As all my students know, I recently lost my beloved little pup Hannah.  Hannah was twelve, paralyzed, and quite the most lovely little girl imaginable.  I will commune with Hannah's spirit again, this I know, because as I have said, we are all eternal beings who live many lives.  

Sleepy, on vacation.
Nap Time.
In the music room.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Few Facts About Well Meaners

We hear the usual, soothing words that often do not soothe at all… “Grieving is a process…  Healing comes in time… This, that, or the other thing will bring closure/healing/peace… All you need is faith…” and so on and so on.  But, the plain truth is, it simply comes down to this:  We choose to survive, or we don’t.  And, we make our choice for any number of reasons--good, bad, or indifferent--understood by others or not.  We make our choice consciously, or simply on autopilot, steered most often by overwhelming emotions--emotions that either drive us to take our lives early, or put one foot, often agonizingly, in front the other.  Depression, chemical imbalances, and genetic components cannot be ignored here either and this is neither a “good thing,” or a “bad thing,” it is simply the thing that results out of our own coping abilities.   

Let me just say this:  There are no simple or easy pathways to healing grief--and, some grief cannot be healed at all, only lived with.  There are also no defined pathways to “healing” grief--and this is what makes helping someone through their personal grieving process so very difficult--because it is so personal.  

Perhaps the most painful suffering to witness, is that of the innocent, the fragile, and the  helpless--or one possessed of all these things--most often, a child.  It’s certainly no good telling a child that things will be better when they reach a certain milestone, when they “grow up,” or “in time,” or, “when the sun comes up.”  Often, for a child, November may as well be a hundred years away from Christmas and “in a minute” may as well be a thousand years away from the present moment.  But what if your child is ten?  Twelve?  Seventeen?  Time is relative to so many variables and it may seem to “heal all wounds,” but, sometimes, not even the passage of time can erase a soul-deep injury.

So, how do we soothe our children, much less ourselves, or our loved ones, when unimaginable pain comes to visit?   Well, to start with, it helps to understand that what may be all but trivial to one person, may be an irreparable wound to someone else.  This spans the gamut of grieving from the loss of a family member (“he/she lived a long life” ), to the loss of a companion animal (or, as some would think, “it was just a dog”) to schoolroom bullying (often devastating to a child, but nothing more than “sticks and stones” to others).  

Well, first off, do not force-feed anyone to swallow pablum, simple answers, or unwelcome religiosity--and, second, do not assume that you know what is best for someone else.  Thirdly, have the good sense to seek help (professional or otherwise) when you find you are in over your head. 

The fact is, comforting the emotionally wounded can be as much art form as anything else and you either have a talent for it, or you do not.  Don’t overestimate your talents!  Sure, most of us want to soothe the pain of others, but the simple truth is that we are not all good at doing so… in which case, sometimes, silence truly is golden.  It is usually better to admit candidly and kindly that you have no words or you do not know what to say than to open your mouth and compound despair.  

I can hear you now, “Winnie!  This is a Pagan Blog, talk about the Pagan way, not general clap-trap!”  O.K., let’s wade in then…

Grieving, loss, pain, and emotional anguish are universal human experiences--they are not the exclusive life experiences of any one group or religion.  So, what to do when some well meaning person of another faith or group tells you something along the lines of, “if he/she was right with the Lord, they’ll be in heaven!”  Or, “trust in the Lord and all will be well… you just have to have faith.”  Or, “it was God’s will.”  (What??!) 

The fact is that, quite often, Well Meaners (as a friend of mine once coined the term) are people who say things they really think--believe, even--will help someone else when, in fact, all they do is cause the person they are trying to help  additional pain.  The further fact is, it seldom helps to hurt the Well Meaner back--no matter how much we may want to.    

A few facts about Well Meaners:

  • Well Meaners usually mean no harm.
  • Well Meaners often cause irretrievable harm.
  • Well Meaners can be of any group or religion--including your own!
  • Well Meaners usually have no sense of the pain they cause.
  • Well Meaners are often insensitive brutes--but, not always.
  • Well Meaners are more likely to be offended than enlightened if you politely try to point out their well meaning ways.
  • Well Meaners are often full of inappropriate advice that they dish out uninvited.
  • Well Meaners are often kind, loving people.
  • Well Meaners often expect you to pray with them--in their way, to their Deity, heedless of your feelings or the nature of your faith.
  • Well meaners often assume you share their religious convictions.
  • Sometimes, although Well Meaners do actually mean well, they are in fact bigots, racists, misogynists and/or raging homophobes or sometimes, all of the above.

So, what is the best way to handle a Well Meaner?  If you can stomach it, say something polite and honest and then get away from them with all haste!  If not, just get away.  Resist the oft overwhelming urge to lash out at someone like that in what you might feel is like-fashion--remember, these people mean well.  Try to respect that.  If you give them an unexpected tongue lashing, likely all you will accomplish is to foster a sense of utter confusion (or even pain) in a person you intended to “set right.”  What, ultimately, does this do?  Yup… gives you Karmic repercussions to deal with (like you need that on top of all else!)   The best course, then, is to say as little as possible and let the Universe take care of any lessons the Well Meaner has coming.

But, what to do if the Well Meaner is causing more harm than help and will not take your well placed hint to knock it off and just go away?  Like, for example, at the funeral of a mutual loved one?  Or, someone trying to tell you that your “gayness is just a phase that you’ll surely get over as soon as you come back to Jesus.”  This can be tricky, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to knowing if/when/how and how much to stand your ground.  Weigh the consequences.  Weigh harm against good.  Seek out, in short, The Pathway of Least Harm.  Be sensitive and thoughtful without being a martyr (there is rarely anything to be gained by needlessly throwing yourself on your sword).

When it comes to school bullying, there are rarely Well Meaners at work there--just kids and/or adults who actually mean harm.  So, be proactive, firm, and ready at a moments notice to take whatever action is legal, moral, and necessary to stop the problem.  It may even come down to swooping out of the Broom Closet and admitting that you are raising your child in a Pagan household--and then being prepared to either change schools, home school, or take legal action if the problem persists.  (If you think you need some good, solid Pagan advice on that score, you could start by contacting the Lady Liberty League, a link to which can be found on the web site

It is seldom easy navigating the world if you are different and, in the final analysis, if you are Pagan in our society, that probably qualifies you as “different” by just about anybody’s standards.  But, being different for whatever reason, does not mean you should also be a victim.  Do not misunderstand me when I say that, sometimes, retreat is the best option--it is only ever the best option when it is the pathway of least harm, not simply when it is (or seems to be) the easiest option there is open to you. There are times when the longest, toughest road is the right road to take.

Blessed Be,


Monday, August 27, 2012

Matters of Magnetic North

The direction a compass needle points is due North--this is known as Magnetic North.  At least, that’s the general idea you’ll get about compasses and matters related to direction and such if you look the subject up on the internet (it’s interesting stuff, you should research it if you aren’t already in the know).  But, today, for purposes of this discussion, I’m going to be talking about your Personal Magnetic North.  (Yes, I did say your Personal Magnetic North--because we all have one and we are all subject to the pull of it--even if we don’t know it.)  And, what exactly is a Personal Magnetic North?   Come on, let’s explore…

You’ve all heard me talking about Living In Your Truth, so I shan’t natter on too much about that now, however it is important to understand that Living In Your Truth means living truthful to who you are, not simply, “telling the truth at all times.”* The odd thing about Living In Your Truth is that, inasmuch as we should all strive to live in our Truth every day of our lives--therein lies the oddity--in a sense, we all do live in our Truth, all the time, whether we know it or not.  Furthermore, it is living in our Truth that shows the world what our Personal Magnetic North is

Confused?  Come on, we’ll dig a little deeper…

In much the same way as a compass is drawn toward North by magnetic pull, so we, too, by our very nature, are drawn to behave in ways that make up the totality of our Truth.  This, I call our Personal Magnetic North.  It’s actually a fairly simple concept.  I’ll give you an example:

Good people sometimes do bad things.  But, if they truly are inherently good people, they cannot help but try to set their wrongs to right.  Conversely, bad people sometimes do good things--and, if they are inherently bad people, there is either an ulterior motive behind their act of goodness, or else it was an anomaly of behavior that will very swiftly be replaced by customary bad behavior.   

So, what does this mean, exactly?  That we are all slaves to our Personal Magnetic North, drawn inexorably toward behaviors we cannot control?  Absolutely not.  But, we are, as a general rule, drawn toward behaviors we have no real desire to change.  This, we tend to think of, as what we call human nature.  But, I think of it more as an individual thing than a blanket “human” condition.  In other words, it’s not so much that all human beings are drawn to behave a certain way, but rather, that each person is drawn to behave in their own unique and individual way--a way they keep coming back to time and again.  (To quote Jessica Rabbit: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”)

Now, if we keep this “truism” in mind--that Personal Magnetic North is resistant to change, but can be changed--we can have a working shot at changing our own Magnetic North, or influencing the set point of the Magnetic North of those in our Soul Circle.  Most notably: Our children.  And why so specifically our children? Because, our moral compass is not fully set and functioning on “auto pilot” until our brains are fully formed--at about age 25.  This is BIG, because it means that when we are raising our children, we should be constantly mindful of the fact that everything we do around them, with them, and even near them, is contributing to the grounding of their Magnetic North--and the older they get, the more set it will become--and the more set it becomes, the harder it will be to change later on.  Further, once it is set, only the individual has any say in, or can change their own set point.  

Another example:

A child growing up in chaos and abuse, with no influence in any positive direction, invariably grows up to repeat the pattern of chaos and abuse as an adult.  We see it time and again... In simplified terms, battered mothers raise abusive/abusable children and violent fathers raise violent/victim children.  It can be either, either-or, or both, but it is almost invariably one or all of these outcomes.  But, if there is any one variable--a grandparent say, or a mentor--who gives by example a different, more desirable grounding point, then there is a chance the child will not grow up to repeat all the behaviors of the parents, but rather some or all of the behaviors of the grandparent or mentor(s).  If the influence is strong enough, the child will be drawn to the positive, rather than toward the negative or destructive.

Sometimes (although, this is rare) a child has no external influence at all, no reason to set their own Magnetic North toward positive behaviors and, yet, they do so anyway.  Why would this be so?  What is the catalyst for these children?  Well, this is where we get into reincarnation and the influence of the Collective Magnetic North--and, Karmic ebb and flow.  These exceptional kids are born with their Magnetic North already partially set--it is part of their individual soul journey.

What?! (Oh come on, you know me, I’m drawn to ferret out the hidden layers and lay them bare--it’s, er, part of my programming--blame my Personal Magnetic North.)  Look, it all comes back to the title of my Blogspot: The Circles of Life.  All of humanities’ behaviors function in circles, constantly ebbing and flowing in and out of one thing or another, starting at one point, coming full circle at another.  And it makes no difference if we are incarnate or in spirit--if we are at a certain place of development, it is imprinted on our spirit (our soul, should you prefer the term) and the more lifetimes we live, the sooner and more readily we swing back to the Magnetic North we have established over a long period of circular existence--in short, we are often born a certain way. This explains why some kids are inherently good, positive, optimistic, glass-half-fullers, where others are the diametric opposite: negative, glass-half-emptyers all the way!

The challenge, for enlightened human beings, is to be constantly mindful that we are set to draw toward our Personal Magnetic North and, because of this, are obliged to constantly seek to identify what that pattern of behavior is and, if it does not serve our spirit well, or the spirit of others--to set about changing it.  Now, this can be a tough and tricky proposition.  It involves, at the very least, constant vigilance to the sound of our inner voice.  We may not think we have one or are listening to it but, make no mistake, we all have one, are constantly engaged in listening to and hearing everything it says and it’s influence can be immeasurable, but we can shut it up or make it talk differently if we are determined to do so!   Also, we can use our knowledge of Personal Magnetic North to help us better understand the behaviors of others and even predict their future behaviors, based on the sum total of their past behaviors.  By this I mean, if a person is in their fifties, has always resorted to lies, thievery, trickery, and cheating to get what they want, it’s a fair guess that their Magnetic North is set to that kind of behavior.  Now, they could change, however, no matter how promising any “turn around” they have might be, it’s a fair assumption that they will, sooner or later, return to what they truly are.   If you are mindful of this, you can protect yourself from undue harm, even if it is your Magnetic North to see the good in people and give them another chance or the benefit of the doubt.  No one says you shouldn’t give them another chance, but don’t give them the pin number to your bank account!

So, let’s go back to the idea that we all live in our Truth at all times.  How can this be?  We all have situations where we do something or act a certain way when it is contrary to what we actually want, because we are living in something other than our Truth.  Then, we recognize it, address it, and make necessary changes.  That doesn’t sound much like living in our Truth all the time, does it?  Well, the reality is, it’s the way we get into the situation in the first place and the manner in which we respond to it in the second place that is the aggregate of our Personal Magnetic North.  Let me illustrate with a final  example:

My husband is a hard, hard worker.  Actually, his Magnetic North in that regard is to work until the job--whatever the job is--is done, no matter how long it takes, how heavy the toll on him, his body, or his personal life.  I, as his wife, am generally very supportive of his career, his ambition, and his passion for his work.  But, for both of us, there are times when the long, long hours, the endless business trips, and the overwhelming fatigue get too much.  At such times, what do we do?  We put our heads together, plan a vacation and then… work damned hard to see that we get it!!  

It works like this:  He is a hard worker by the nature of his Magnetic North. He works endlessly hard, long hours.  Eventually, the grueling pace gets too much.  We identify the problem and resolve to change Magnetic North in this area and actually rest up a while.  So how do we accomplish this?  By going right back to Magnetic North and working ourselves to death to get a week of vacation!    

The fact is, we humans are infinitely complex, multi faceted beings who can confound ourselves and others at every turn.  There are no hard and fast rules to the behavior of any human or collective group, however there are guidelines we can follow to help us evolve ourselves and understand the evolution--or lack thereof--of others.  A fundamental understanding of Living In Your Truth and the nature of Personal Magnetic North can go a long way in helping to traverse the human journey with greater ease.  Think them through--ponder all the deeper ramifications of these teachings--and you will see that they are replete with layer after layer of possibilities, pitfalls, and hope.  Use this knowledge wisely and you will come, perhaps, to a greater understanding of yourself and others at a swifter and less painful rate.  

*Note: If you’re interested and you missed it, you can always read previous Blogs for more information on the subject of Living In Your Truth.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Triplicity of the Divine

The first funeral I remember being aware of, I did not see.  It was early on a Saturday afternoon, I believe, when the funeral procession began its slow, dignified journey down our street.  I was about eight years-old at the time and, since I’d never seen a funeral before, I jumped up to peek out the window to watch the procession pass.  
For a woman whom I thought, at that time, was worn out, slow as a snail, and just plain ancient, my Grandmother was out of her chair, drawing the curtains and instructing me to sit down, be respectful, and be quiet, so quickly, I was stunned into immediate compliance!  But, still, my mouth shot open to ask questions and, just as swiftly the look on my Grandmother’s face, the slow shake of her head, and the downward cast of her eyes told me to hold my tongue and keep it that way.  Nanny folded her hands in her lap and lowered her head.  I copied her, but I was squirming in my seat with curiosity and kept canting my eyes toward the window to see if I could catch a peek through a crack in the drapes.  We sat there for about five (long, long, agonizing) minutes... waiting and waiting (I later found out) for the funeral director to end the funeral march (a slow walk, one foot directly behind the other, from the point of departure to the first junction in the road) and get into the hearse.  I remember hearing the clock ticking in what appeared to be suspended animation and it seemed to me that everything had become stuck in the time it was measuring, like treacle pouring from a spoon.  
Then there was the one and only time I remember meeting my Great Great Grandmother.  I had no interest in such a meeting, I can tell you.  “Must I?” I asked my mother.  Not only was the answer an instant and very firm, “yes, you must!” but it came with some other very specific instructions, too…
  • You will be respectful.
  • You will pay close attention to Great Gran--attention to everything about her--the way she looks, the way she talks, the things she says.
  • If she does not look, smell, talk, or behave the way you would expect her to--keep your mouth shut about it!
  • Be polite.
  • Be attentive.
  • Eat nicely and treat her china with care!
“Oh, for crying out loud,” I remember thinking, “she’s just an old lady, why all this fuss?”
Why indeed?  
At the time, of course, I had no idea why my Grandmother would be so particular about funeral etiquette for a complete stranger--or why my Mother was so insistent that I remember everything I possibly could about my Great Great Grandmother--a woman my Mother knew full well I’d likely never see more than once in my entire life.  These things seemed like “silly old people stuff” to me.  Because I was young.   Mercifully, I have since outgrown that.
It is, perhaps, easy to grasp the concept (academically at least) that wisdom comes with age, but the real truth--the hidden secrets of wisdom--are privy only to those who have actually reached their Age of Wisdom.  And, if you are one of my students, right about now you are saying “Whoa!  Slow the broomstick down there Winnie… what’s all this ‘their’ crap?  What happened to THE Age of Wisdom??!”  (Or, words to that effect--my students are generally more articulate than my dramatic license would seem to imply.)  
O.K., so Wisdom, obviously, is not granted to us at a certain age like the tooth fairy dishes out money when your baby chompers fall out.  Wisdom is not a rite of the passage of time, anymore than good sexual judgement is a rite of the arrival of puberty.  Wisdom is far trickier than that!  It sneaks up on a person, gradually insinuating itself on the consciousness, smoothing off the rough edges of bloody mindedness, gently broadening the constricted passageways of narrow mindedness, and bringing to flower the buds of old ideas, bearing new and totally unexpected fruit.  Some, of course, move more swiftly along this transitional path than others, but this is due, in large part, to the influence of Reincarnation, Karma, and a multitude of other things that also become more clear as we age.  
The thing is, Triplicity is the key.
What?!  (I hear you asking.)  O.K., Winnie, where did that come from? Well, let’s take a little walk and I will explain…
As Pagans, I’d hazard a guess that we’ve all heard of The Maiden, The Mother, and The Crone, right?  After all, it’s the model of Triple Deity that drives the spiritual reality of many a Coven, many a Solitary Practitioner, indeed, many Pagan groups of all kinds.  But, what do we call its counterpart?  What is the archetype of the masculine form of Triple Deity?  
At this point, I usually hear a student yelling, “Well, duh! The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit--just ask any Christian, they’ll tell ya!”   And, they would be right--for Christians.  Furthermore, if they said this model of The Divine is perfectly correct--for Christians--I’d be giving them a high five pointed star.  But, why does it not work as a model for The Divine for us, for we CSC Pagans?  Because we see the Divine as we see ourselves--reflected in the image of.  
Grrr… Of what? Winnie!  There you go again (I hear you say), messing with our heads!  (You’re very loud today, I like that.)   
Maiden, Mother, Crone.  Beautiful and balanced: The Triplicity of the Divine Feminine.  No matter where we are on the Wheel of Life, we are all possessed of the Divine Feminine--male or female, old or young, gay or straight--we are all a reflection of The Goddess.
We are also, equally, a reflection of The God.  The terms I use for the God aspect of Triplicity are:  Youngman, Father, and Sage.  Beautiful and balanced.  The Triplicity of the Divine Masculine.   Just like the Triplicity of The Divine Feminine, we are all of us--no exceptions--also possessed of the Divine Masculine--male or female, young or old, gay or straight--we are all a reflection of The God.  
But, what has this to do with funerals, old ladies, and all the other stuff I’ve been prattling on about?  One word: Respect.  Come on, let’s put it all together…
All those years ago, when my Grandmother was admonishing me not to peer out the window to gawk at a passing funeral, it came down to this:  A Crone (my Grandmother) was teaching me (a child in the Maiden years) to respect the pain of the grieving.  She was teaching me how to become a Crone myself one day. She was showing me that the rituals of life are important and to be deeply respected, just as we are to respect The Divine.
When my Mother was telling me, in no uncertain terms, how to behave in front of my Great Great Grandmother, she was teaching me, among a plethora of other things, a vital lesson about respect--but not just for Gran, but for my Mother as she is now and, for my own aging process the way my Mother was wise enough to see it would one day be for me.  She knew, thanks to the benefit of wisdom, that the day would come when I would wish I could remember the last time I saw Gran, the one and only time we took tea together, how she looked, talked, behaved--who my Gran was.  Blessed Be that “silly old people stuff,” because it was thanks to the wisdom of my Mother that I now have any memories at all of taking tea with an old, old lady when I was a wee girl…
She had soft, white, cotton candy hair and kind, gentle eyes.  Her body was frail and I swear she looked like she would snap like a toothpick at the slightest touch.  But, she wore a dainty floral dress and held her china teacup with such care and elegance that I thought she must surely be Royalty.  She was a Crone.  A beautiful, serene Crone who taught her daughters well.
To this day, I always wear a hat to a funeral, take tea in a china cup, and vigorously teach respect for the Crone and Sage to the young people in my Soul Circle.  We Pagans should set a strong example for the young we raise, we should teach our children to value the wisdom of the elderly, and we can do this best by setting the example.  It is simply not enough to tell our children to show respect, we must diligently show respect ourselves, we must scrupulously show good manners ourselves, and we must honor the Wisdom of the Ages--out loud, out proud, and fully Pagan!