Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Journey to Paganism Part I

University Jen
I was pretty happy to have that degree

The road to one's true spiritual path is sometimes long. I thought I should record it for posterity. A girl I was close friends with in elementary school wrote to me a few years ago. She expressed her new found Christianity and I decided to explain to her my discovery of Paganism. In her next letter I knew we had a problem when she said: "so you turned your back on God..." There are some people who are not capable of seeing their religion objectively, I try hard to not be such a person.

I was raised a United Church Protestant in rural Quebec. The church we attended was at the end of the lovely dirt road we lived on. It was/is (its still there) one of those simple, white with green trim buildings. Two isles leading to the pulpit, a small choir area and a typical side lit portrait of Jesus that hung on the wall behind the ministers head. I went to Sunday school and really liked hearing bible stories, singing hymns and just being dressed up and with people for a few hours. I participated in the church and talked to God often. When others prayed in church and would bow their heads I felt that was wrong. I wanted to look at the portrait of Jesus. I didn't feel like God wanted me to be meek or fearful. There were many things about Christianity that did not fit for me, even at a young age but I ignored them and took only what I liked about the religion. This method worked for me until I entered University.
In my second year of University I took a Woman Studies class. I had always been one of those women who said: "I'm not a feminist, but..." I had conformed to the view of feminists that is stereotypical in North America; man hating, angry women. Taking that first Women Studies class changed who I believed myself to be. So much rang true and spoke to the deepest part of my self. And the phrase "The personal is political" made sense to me. The interconnection between all parts of self and how the outside world related back through that. I worked a Women Studies class into each following semester. And the more I read feminist theory the closer I came to the Goddess Spirituality Movement through images of Goddess art. I was pursuing a degree in Fine Art. My art began to reflect my journey. I was re-inventing myself. Stripping away years of society's conditioning to find who I really was. This period was during my early twenties. I think your early twenties are when you have the chance to find out who you want to be. I had several good friends who were also in this place of self discovery. There were many shared books, and discussions over tea.
I read Judy Chicago's autobiography called:Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist (1975) which was really important to me. I remember feeling so inspired by her and her work. I read, wrote essays, took seminar classes and deconstructed the layers of "Disneyfied" helpless woman waiting for her Prince that had chained me to a specific view of the world. As this chain was breaking so was my ability to call myself a Christian.
The history of the religion, the values it upheld within other denominations, the hypocrisy and the shear lack of probability. I pulled on thread after thread of issues that did not resonate with who I wanted to be, and in the end Christianity and I had lost our friendship. The figure of God, the idea of God as an outside all controlling force was gone. The universal feeling of something magical that sparked life and existed after death remained. What I needed for myself was a language to use about my spirituality that made sense to my soul. So as any student of life would do when in search of answers I headed to my local book store.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Squirrel and Stephen Harper

I currently have two pet peeves in my life, the squirrel that keeps stealing plants from my garden and Stephen Harper's "Use it or Lose it" philosophy. I can't be too upset with the squirrel because it is just following its primitive urge to store food for the winter, Stephen Harper has no excuse. The Conservative government announced today that they are going to "geo-map" Arctic resources. There is gold, gas, oil and diamonds just waiting to bring Canadians bounty or as Harper says: "Canada's share of this incredible endowment will fuel the prosperity of our country for generations". I wonder if Mr. Harper has his head under some big rock somewhere. Generations? Why not spend 100 million dollars on something that will really last generations...sustainable energy, technologies for the future, or cutting green house emissions? While local government officials in the Arctic welcome the idea of development I am very skeptical that these resources can be removed in a sensitive environmental manner. Eco-systems are so fragile. Do we really need more diamonds to add to the stockpile that already exists? Diamonds are not even rare they are horded to make their value stay high. The only reason that we are rushing to do this is to quell the political debate over ownership of the north. Or as our government so lovingly refers to it "sovereignty". Here is the full article I read on this announcement. Hearing about this today really set me onto a negative path. The current government really has no mandate that I can relate to. It really makes you want to yell at the t.v or computer screen...(which I did and my son gave me a funny look and he's only 8 months old).

My other issue is one that I'm trying to evolve my thinking with. I love my little garden. It has been my spring/summer project this year. I will post a more detailed write-up about it in the future. I have tried really hard to make it interesting and fun. I planted it with the intent of making a Fairy Garden, which I did do to some extent, but I planted other plants that don't specifically appeal to the fey. One of the none specific plants is a very hardy and plentiful Hen & Chicks succulent. I've had the Hen for years now, and this plant has grown from one small pot to two and I bordered my garden with them this year. For some reason a black squirrel living here loves to pull the chicks out of my garden and take them to his home. As a pagan I am trying to go with nature on this one. The squirrel is only fulfilling his primitive urge to store food. Who am I to deny his survival this winter?
But my pride says: hey squirrel those are mine! I planted them with love and have watered them in dry weather, I've moved three times carrying them with me. Leave them alone. I have thought of only one solution to this problem, leave something for the squirrel that is more appealing than my chicks...chestnuts? breadcrumbs? apples? I have no idea what he'd like more. And to be honest leaving anything else might attract more attention so I have to resign myself to sacrifice my chicks. Farewell.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Our Secret Place

Ok...well maybe not so secret. Today I had an urge to talk a walk with Ky. I wistfully wished that there was a trail through some trees and a bench to sit on near by. My neighborhood walks had uncovered no such perfect place as of yet. So we set off and walked down the street further than we ever had. We passed many houses, empty lots being developed and big machinery working loudly... and then we found our place. A lovely vine covered entrance, a path winding along a stream. Birds singing, trees towering over us. It felt like a gift, it was a gift. Ky was drowsy and I was entranced. We saw no one else on the path and stopped when we reached a grassy footpath that was not stroller friendly. On the way back we listened to the water on the rocks and then stopped to sit on the one bench. The universe/Goddess really can be that giving...ask and you shall receive. I almost turned around when a huge dump truck was obstructing the sidewalk, but I did not and I'm really glad that I just kept going. I look at events like this a life lesson. Don't stop when something gets in your way. Your goal might be on the other side waiting for you to persevere.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


How does one equate a baby getting nourishment from a breast with obscenity? In the last week there has been two "Nurse-In" protests in two stores spurred by mothers being asked to leave the stores due to breastfeeding their babies. I did not participate in these protests, one because I did not hear about it until it was done and the other because it was in another province. This blog is my form of solidarity and protest. Having just watched the movie "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" directed by Kirby Dick I think there is a huge problem with the way women's bodies are viewed in North America. What the film uncovered is that sexual content in films where a woman is showing pleasure is most often considered X(now labeled NC-17) rated. Decapitation, blood and guts can be rated R but a women enjoying an orgasm is rated NC-17. This problem is not new to me, I have witnessed it time and time again on many levels. Women are objectified but kept contained. We can be sexual objects but not display pleasure, we can be self-sacrificing mothers but are asked to isolate ourselves while feeding our hungry babies in shopping mall restrooms. The double standard that is placed on us is unacceptable. There is an earthy aura about a breastfeeding woman. She is grounded. From her body she has birthed this baby and from her breasts comes the nourishment that all mammals give to their young. Milk. Evolution developed breasts for the suckling baby. Some women derive pleasure sexually from their breasts as well. Most women have long and sordid histories with their breasts. They love them, hate them, wish they were bigger, smaller, rounder or more perky. But the sexual part of breasts is a by-product. They were made for feeding. Some women by choice or circumstance never use them for this, regardless that is their primary function. There is nothing offensive about that. I remember when my colostrum started to come in before my son was born, I was so excited that my breasts were finally functioning as nature made them to. I was somewhat in awe of them. I could feed another being from my body. I wish with all my heart that if someone takes offense to a woman breastfeeding in public they would take a minute to reflect on where that feeling is coming from. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with their own body image, or maybe they were raised with the idea of the naked body being shameful or wrong. In their heart of hearts if they would move beyond that feeling for a moment and think with their primal brain I'm sure they could see the true nature of the issue. A baby on a breast is as natural as a forest, a river or a field of grain. Do not ask women to lock ourselves away from society to feed our children. We deserve to be out in the open where everyone can see. We deserve to be proud of ourselves for the work we do......raising the next generation and giving them the best start we can. I have never had a more positive relationship to my breasts than I do now. Breastfeeding is not easy, it was painful at first and my son and I had to learn how to nurse together. But we prevailed and after 8 months I am proud of the work my body does to feed my son. I grew him, birthed him, and now I nourish him. I nurse him when he needs milk, whether that is in our home, in the park or in the mall. I support all mothers who choose to breastfeed, and I choose not to condemn those who do not. Mothers need support in all their forms and choices not judgment. I thank the countless men and women who support breastfeeding mothers. North America needs a revolution............... Let us remember that we are mammals, and our young need our milk. Women's bodies are not objects they are the vessels through which humanity is born. We will not be meek and we will not hide away, for we nourish the future with our strong and amazing bodies.