Pray

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Gods are Watching
original photo by athena

When we pray, we express many things.  At the very least, we affirm our belief in a higher power watching and listening. And when our prayers go beyond praise and thanksgiving, asking for intervention, we are assigning it both will and the power to act, affecting events in our world.

So pray and believe, because we need gods. They add meaning to the world, and they remind us that we can be held accountable for our actions, even when nobody else is watching.  They are watching, and they care what we do and why.

God is a Disco Ball

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Disco Ball
Original Photo by Gerhard Seyffert

“God is a disco ball…and every mirrored facet of that ball is a different religion.”
-Krista-

I like this, though I think God is the light hitting the ball. And God is everything the light shines on as it reflects off the facets of the great cosmic Disco Ball. Oh, and the shadows. God is the shadows, too.

Emily’s Dream

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Kitchen Sink

Chapter Ten

Emily feels a cold chill climb up her spine, feeling like she has been here before. And then she remembers, this is the dream, and it has once again taken a turn, a terrible turn. There is blood everywhere, on her sword, on her arms, and on the bodies that surround her on a vast, dry plain. She sees the same mountains in the distance, the same river at her side. She turns and sees the same city, in smoking ruins, behind her. And everything is draped with curling smoke and quiet death.

She begins to climb over the bodies, heading for the river, her only thoughts are for the relief of the cool water washing the blood from her body. All so familiar. At first, the bodies she climbs over are her enemies, decapitated, shorn in half, or bludgeoned beyond recognition as human. Then, as she gets closer to the river, she recognizes her own men, all rended the same as her enemies. She slows and looks down into an unblinking face, his body draped over others like a rag doll, his body crushed. She stops as the memory strikes her, his confusion, his terror as she staves in his chest with the pummel of her sword. Faltering, she remembers the lust, the thrill, and the carnage. She remembers the need, a thirst for death, any death.

Falling to her knees, she remembers 20 years of war, moving from country to country, leaving nothing but silence, stillness and ruins behind. This was the final battle, these were the last people on earth. It’s over. She leans forward and, eyes bright with tears, pulls the dead man to her, hugging him and crying into his matted hair.

“I didn’t want this,” she whispers to him softly. “I thought I could change it.”

She feels the chill in her spine again, and remembers. “This is the dream,” she says out loud. “It’s not real! It hasn’t happened, yet!” she yells to the sky, still clutching the dead man to her breast.

She looks down again, into his lifeless face, then closes her eyes.

“I’m in my bedroom. I’m just asleep. This is just a dream. I’m just asleep,” she says, slowly rocking back and forth, still clutching the dead man.

It doesn’t work. It never works.

Gently laying the man back down, she closes his eyes and stands up. Opening her eyes and turning, she stares at the river, it’s cool deep waters moving slowly past. Now alone in the world, she slowly makes her way over the newly dead until she reaches the banks, watching swirls of dark blood flow along the edge.

With one last look back at the blood soaked plain, she begins to walk into the river, discarding her sword and armor as she wades into the water. When the river reaches her neck, her head barely above the surface, she lets herself fall forward, floating face down, letting the current carry her towards a distant sea.

At first, it is peaceful, cool, and her tension drains as she floats, eyes closed, listening to her own heartbeat in the muffled silence under the water. Then her body begins to rebel, her lungs burning for air. Air, air, it’s all she can think of, but she fights it and stays face down. With a last great effort, she forces herself to open her mouth and breath the water, her body so desperate for air that, for a brief second, it complies. Convulsing, she chokes on the water, feeling it like fire in her lungs. Still, she remains face down. She knows what the alternative is. The world gets darker, the fire in her throat and lungs not fading, but becoming thinner, further away, as if it is happening to someone else.

A Bad Dream
Photo by Inessa Emilia

She wakes up in her bed, trying to scream and breath at the same time, her heart pounding out of her chest. Gasping and coughing, she rolls out of the bed and falls to her knees beside it, retching putrid river water. After a few moments, the coughing and retching subsides.  Her body  back under control, she slowly falls sideways, curling up on the floor by the bed, spent.

“That’s not how it will be,” says a quiet voice, a silhouette in the open doorway.

Emily begins to sob, her shoulders shaking softly. The sun has just begun to peak through the eastern window. The dark figure is gone from the doorway.

“I don’t want a destiny,” she whispers.

Wolf Moon

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Ritual

Wolf MoonThe Wolf Moon is an old name for the first full moon in January, maybe coming from a time long ago when we listened to hungry wolf packs howling outside our villages. One way we conquered our fear of a mysterious and terrifying world was to invoke that which we most feared.  The idea was to bring these entities into our midst in a safe environment, so that we could understand them, and maybe even talk with them.  Ritual invocation allowed us to find out what was expected of us, so we could live in harmony with the world and avoid angering the powerful entities we share it with.

Now, when the howl of the wolf is rarely heard, and most believe the world is not so very mysterious, I think we can still benefit from these old practices. Invoking the spirit of Wolf while standing under the Wolf Moon can be a powerful experience, and though we no longer fear the wolf pack, there is much we can learn from them.

What is a Ritual Invocation?

At the very least, it is a way to feel closer to deity and affirm our beliefs. At most, it can be an experience that you can’t really explain. Ritual invocation typically follows the same pattern, regardless of what we are invoking.

  • Create a safe space and clear your mind.
  • Invite the entity into yourself.
  • Speak as the invoked, with declarations and charges.
  • Release the entity from yourself.
  • Thank the entity, committing to keep its charges.

What is Wolf all about?

Free Spirit: Express who you are; Embrace solitude.

Community: Revel in the love of friends and family; Align with others for great success.

Finding your Way: With heightened senses and intuition, never get lost; With stamina and perseverance, never give up.

So… Wolf will help us balance individuality with society, and wolf will help us find our path, and travel that path no matter how difficult.

Where?

Find a safe, private space where you can do this without feeling self conscious.  If you will do this in a group, make sure it is a group you feel very comfortable with. If the space is outdoors under the moon, all the better, but indoors is fine, too.

Take a moment before you begin and draw or walk a circle around your space.  As you draw or walk, imagine the circle as an outer wall that blocks out anything you do not invite to cross it.  Keep that barrier in mind as you perform your ritual, pushing thoughts of your life outside the circle away during the ritual. Your circle is your sanctuary.

Invoking the Wolf

Arms Crossed – Invite the Wolf

Spirit of the Wolf, You are the pack and You are alone. In the dark of night, You walk the hills, singing your lonely song to the Moon, filling us with your solitude. I ask You, O Great One, to honor me by joining with me, and allowing me to feel Your presence within my heart.

Feet apart, arms raised, open for the Wolf’s spirit to flow into you – Speak as the Wolf

I am the Hunter, the One who stalks, the One who howls. I am the scent in the air, the heat of pursuit, the flash of white teeth, the blood on the gound.

Spread your arms and feel the wolf stretch within you, lean, strong, feral – Speak as the Wolf

Honor me this night of the Full Moon in lonely vigil! Remember that I am strong in my own  company, alone. I am the strength to stand apart!

Honor me by sharing your heart! Remember that the pack makes us strong, that love and trust is our world. We have been together since the moment we were created.

Honor Me as you hunt, for I am the Wolf! Honor me as you marvel, for I am the Pup! Honor me as you gain wisdom, for I am the Eternal.

Let there be balance and strength, wisdom and community, intuition and courage within you. If you need Me, call upon Me and I shall come to you, for I am within you, always.

Hug your arms to yourself and feel the power of the Wolf within you – Speak as the Wolf

I run through the rolling hills, I howl from the moon soaked spires, I hunt under the mighty trees of the forests, and I watch with exhilaration as Life races forward.

Be true to Me, honoring that which I am, and I shall be true to you in return.

Relax your arms and take a deep breath, releasing the Wolf as you breath out. – Thank the Wolf

Spirit of the Wolf, You have shared your presence, and I still feel your loneliness and your strength in my heart.

I will be true to you, embracing solitude, reveling in love, and following my true path. I thank you for sharing these virtues with me tonight.

With harm to none, so it shall be.

What now?

Take a moment after you finish to release or unwind your circle by erasing it, or walking it in the opposite direction, letting thoughts of grocery lists and oil changes back in.  Also, have a snack.  Few things bring you back to earth more than a nice piece of cake and a glass of milk.

Now, wherever life takes you and however things are there, just reach down deep into your heart and you will feel the wolf there, helping you find your way.

Namaste

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Soapbox

NamasteYou place your palms together in front of you with your fingers pointing up, and with a light bow, utter the word “Namaste” to someone you meet. They return the greeting and, even if you are not sure what it means, you feel just a tiny bit more peaceful.  Originating from the Indian subcontinent, it spread throughout North America by chartreuse micro-bus in the 60’s, and has since settled in for the long haul in community center Yoga classes. Though it seems like just another nice, if slightly exotic, way to say hello and good bye, it is much more.

It started out as a more formal, Namaskaram, which means Bow (Namah) and Form (Kar), honoring the shape the other person presents.  Implied, though, is recognition that our shapes in this existence are just surface forms on an underlying reality (Maya), and that underneath that surface we are all part of the One ultimate essence (Brahman).

The more common term, Namaste, means Bow (Namah) To You (Te), honoring the essence of you rather than your manifest form.  It has been defined in Yoga class as “The Divine within me Honors the Divine within You”, which is a very nice thing to say.  Here in the south, we might define it as, “Tell your Soul my Soul says Hey”. Imagine a world where we were all that casually and easily in touch with our own divinity, where we see ourselves and all around us as part of a larger whole. I am guessing the evening news would be downright boring. If only.

Faith Based Atheism

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Coffee Dialogues

Atheist: So, you believe in ghosts and gods and magic?

Animist: Yes.

Atheist: It’s nonsense.  Only science is real.

Animist: What do you mean by “science”?

Atheist: Things I can see and touch.  Things that are real, that can be proven.

Ghost in the Coffee Shop

Animist: So, what if you saw a ghost?

Atheist: I wouldn’t. There is no such thing.

Animist: Humor me.  What if you did?  What if the ghost of someone you know has passed on wandered into this coffee shop right now?

Atheist: That’s impossible.

Animist: Sure it is, but what if it happened?  You watch them walk in the door and come over and sit down with us right here.

Atheist: Then there would have to be some other explanation than “ghost”.  Maybe I’m  hallucinating.

Animist: And if I see the ghost, too, the three of us sitting here and having a conversation?

Atheist: There still has to be another explanation, because there is no such thing as ghosts.

Animist: So, even if you could see and talk to this ghost, you would still be convinced it wasn’t real.

Atheist: Yes.  Because it can’t be.

Animist: Based on what?

Atheist: It just can’t be.  I don’t need to prove that ghosts don’t exist.  They just don’t.

Animist: So, even confronted with a personal experience with a ghost, you would still refuse to believe in them.

Atheist: Of course. There is no such thing.

Animist: Your faith is impressive.

Atheist: It’s not faith!  Everyone knows there is no such thing as ghosts.

Animist: Not everyone.

Atheist: Ok.  Fine.  Everyone who doesn’t believe in nonsense.

Animist: So, if someone disagrees with you on this, they are wrong?

Atheist: Yes.

Animist: And if they have seen ghosts?

Atheist: They are mistaken, lying or insane.

Animist: So you believe there is no such thing as ghosts, and any evidence to the contrary can safely be ignored, and anyone who disagrees with you is mistaken, lying or insane?.

Atheist: Yes, because there is no such thing as ghosts.

Animist: That doesn’t sound very scientific.  In fact, it sounds like the opposite of science.  You can’t just ignore all evidence that doesn’t support your hypothesis.

Atheist: The existence of ghosts is not a hypothesis.  It’s nonsense.

Animist: Well, that clears that up, then. I suppose you are pretty sure the world is round, too?

The Certainty Principle

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The Certainty Principle:  Consequences are directly proportional to certainty.  

The more sure you are of anything, the more devastating it is when it turns out you are wrong.  It’s not the certainty itself that does the most damage, it’s what you commit to, when you are so sure.

Very Cold RosesMy wife and I have a saying, now, based on a juicy piece of silliness early in our relationship.  “I’m run-around-the-house-naked, sure.”  The way it happened was… I was certain a song was by Kansas.  She was certain is was by Styx. It was my idea to say I was so sure that I would run around the house naked if I was wrong.  This is how I found the rose bushes behind her house.  It was dark. It was February.  In Maine.  Since then, I have only rarely been run-around-the-house-naked sure of anything.

This principle applies to most things in life, from investments to politics, from religion to love. I am not saying you should be cynical and never commit to anything.  It can be both noble and rewarding to commit with all your heart and soul.  I am just saying it should not be done lightly, and always with your eyes open, prepared to at least accept the consequences if you are wrong.

To admit your own fallibility, but commit anyway, shows courage. The other thing, absolute certainty with complete suppression of doubt, is just blind, stupid fanaticism, which is ugly. So go ahead, when the occasion is right, be certain, have faith, be run-around-the-house-naked sure, but know you may find some rose bushes the hard way. That kind of commitment is brave and beautiful.