Monday, September 29, 2008

Women supporting Women

I've been out of the blog world for the last week. I was preparing my best friend's Blessingway. For anyone not familiar with the term a Blessingway is a special ritualized party celebrating the passage from maidenhood to motherhood or the next phase in motherhood. It is a more mother focused event and not as gift oriented as the traditional baby shower. I will post a specific entry about the party at a later date. But in the essence of supporting women I wanted to post about two organizations that I came across this week.

The first I read about at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. Amy wrote about a recent party/meeting she attended in which the Moms discussed their efforts in raising children and living green. The EcoMom Alliance was founded by Kimberly and is "a grassroots, global movement propelling a sustainable future and helping to reduce the climate crisis". The website is great with lots of ideas for gathering Mom's together to work towards a positive eco footprint. I joined the online group and am looking forward to sharing this with Moms in my area as well. I do believe that if Moms everywhere united on this issue, we could change the world, because frankly moms can do anything!
The second organization is called Women for Women International. Many of you may have heard of this group before as they have been featured on Oprah and 60 minutes. I think they are worth a deep look for anyone interested in the empowerment of women and how women(and their children) are affected by the ravages of war.
They "mobilize women to change their lives through a holistic approach that addresses the unique needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments". Writer and activist Alice Walker narrated this heart wrenching but wonderful ad which I would recommend all to watch. Many of these women were raped as a war act. The stories of their survival are incredible and give any North American woman insight into the misogyny and in-equality that is rampant in the world today. Currently I do not have the funds to sponsor a woman, but it is something I will do in the future. Both sites have blogs which have great information as well.
Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins and friends, what happens to one of us touches each of us...our souls are part of the collective of this planet. We can make a difference together, united we are unstoppable.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Journey to Paganism Part II

My first outing as a witch

If you are just tuning into this story here is part one.
After an afternoon tea at a typical small town University coffee shop I stopped into the local book store. For such a small town they had a wonderful bookstore. I wandered to the Spirituality section. Out of the many titles the one that spoke to me was called Book of Shadows. For anyone who has not read this book it is written by Phyllis Curott, Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess is Curott's story. As I read this book I found a language that made sense to me. My connection to nature, my belief in revering the source of life, and the patterns that move with the earth and the universe. What I connected with most were the correspondences between the elements and the cardinal directions. Air, Fire, Water and Earth, East, South, West and North had been surfacing in my art work for years. Since I was studying feminism I was looking for a more balanced view of the essence of spirit. The patriarchy that had ruled western society for the last 6000 years had negated the female aspects of the divine. I saw the beautiful lessons in Maiden, Mother and Crone. Honouring the stages in women's lives and revering them.
This book was the beginning of my pagan journey. I read voraciously informing myself and blasting open layers of conditioning that Christianity and popular culture had made on me. This process was not easy, I questioned everything. Along the way some people close to me were forced to endure the exploration. Some rolled with it, luckily some were also going through it, others challenged me which in the end was helpful in my reconstruction.
I read Book of Shadows in the summer and followed it with The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. In the Reclaiming tradition and her lovely way of writing I found a language that was less formal and more inclusive than Curott's.
That fall I did several rituals with friends and tried my hand at creating a Wiccan/Pagan practice in my life. These explorations led me to understand more about the labels and titles in the pagan community. It is hard to not get convoluted when talking about the whys in different terms etc. And I am obviously writing this from the perspective of the informed reader. So anyone who is new to the craft and reading this may need to research some of the terms and jargon that result. Please keep in mind that I am recounting my own personal story and not trying to insult any one's reasons for the terms they use on their path. That goes for my rejection of Christianity as well.
As a feminist I responded to the female principals in Paganism. I do not believe in ignoring the male principal though. The balance of male and female is important to me, I have never practiced with men in a small coven setting, but I honour the male aspect of the God, the Green man and his myriad of faces. I do not believe in outside deities but in the archetypal essences of Gods and Goddesses. They are lessons, guides and markers on which to mirror your own conduct. I sometimes refer to the earth as Goddess, but the universal spirit is both male and female and neither at the same time. The term witch is one that I have always liked. Despite the negative views of witches, I respond to the word on a sub-conscious level. I can't even articulate why I love it, the word has power to me. All the ways you can misconstrue the word, just makes it stronger to me. It resonates on a deep level for most people, one of fear to some and yet that does not make it a "bad" word to me. So while I would call myself a witch, I would not call myself Wiccan. Now I am aware of the debate in terminology in the Pagan/Wiccan community on this issue. Some feel you can't call yourself a witch if you are not Wiccan. I find Wicca to be too constricting to me, too ordered and set with rules. The soul of ritual to me is spontaneity, true intention and a focus on making an authentic effort. Reciting the proper lines, and lighting the green candle before the red is not something I stress over.
So I call myself Pagan in the definition based on the old meaning of "from the country" and in the Neo-pagan sense of reclaiming the spirituality that I believe my ancestors followed before conversion to Christianity.
By the time I left University and moved to the West Coast of the country I had reached these definitions within myself and felt comfortable with them. Much has developed in my Pagan practice over the years here. I joined a group of women, was with them for several years and participated in some wonderful rituals. I eventually left the group (I go into more detail about why in my Witch's Voice article) and have been solitary for the last two years. This has worked out all right for me. I do participate in some larger community gatherings, and sometimes do rituals with friends. I consider my path an ever changing and evolving one. Nature and its rhythms is my guide. Science and environmentalism are also part and parcel of Paganism for me.
I still read many books about the craft, and attempt to make every day a spiritual one. It is not easy with a young family to care for, but I can't be perfect so I do not let myself try to be (most of the time).
Life is precious...and short.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Art of the Month: September

Goddess and The Wheel, 2001, acrylic & embroidery on canvas

This is the inaugural edition of Art of the month. I thought it would be fun to share my past art and give myself reasons to keep producing(the motivation is often lacking).
This piece was in my graduation show from University. The image was inspired by the "fertility" Goddess images found all over the world like the Goddess of Willendorf. I found the metal circle and thought it would be fun to make a circular piece. I painted the image of the Goddess and embroidered eight section dividers to represent the wheel of the year. I've hung her in my bathroom and love that I get to look at her every morning. A co-graduate in the show loved this piece so much that she asked for a copy. I found a tiny brass ring and made her a smaller copy. So somewhere out there my friend Christine has her sister.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Family and Summer's Farewell

Today I dropped my parents off at the airport. They were here for a week visiting from back east. We loved having them here with us. It is so nice to spend such quality time together. We took a Harbor Cruise, visited the UBC Botanical Garden and went to Whistler. It is hard to live a 5 hour plane ride away from them, but as my father said several years ago when I considered moving home: "You have to be where your life is..." and my life is here. I consider the end of their visit as my cue to say goodbye to summer. With that I have posted the photos of my little witchy places in my home. These are the summer places which will be changed this weekend. Soon the house will be full of autumn and Halloween. The inspiration for this post comes from a blog I frequent; Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom. This is the post that began the idea for me. Check out the original and pass it on.
My kitchen witch, a gift from my Mom years ago. And elemental objects: feather (air), shell (water), stones: carnelian & aventurine (earth), candle (fire). My happy little altar.
Seed pods, dried lavender, and a crow feather found in the season, my newest treasure the Goddess candle holder, and the iris cloth that is a vintage handkerchief. These sit on the kitchen table.
My journals which sit on the shelf with my elemental altar. My day planner, my Book of Star Shadows (now full), my Book of Leaf Shadows, my garden journal and my Celtic Devotional by Caitlin Matthews.
Our family charm. I made this with beads, a long glass ornament, some small bells, and the ten of cups mini tarot card that I received at a Pagan Gathering several years ago. It depicts a family of four happy and dancing in the country side. I consider it to be a wish for our family. I also included four star charms for protection; one for myself, my husband and my son and for the future soul we hope will join us in a few years. It hangs in the entryway of our home to keep us safe.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Artful Pillows: Summer

I found this fabric at Value Village. It is shear with the blue cotton underneath. I loved the Goddesses and thought the colours contrasted well with the other patterned pillow.
The patterned emblem was embroidered from an iron on transfer. I have a whole box full of retro iron on sheets.
This pattern's colours reminded me of summer sunsets and echoed the emblem on the "summer" pillow.

Wow, it took more than 2 months to get these puppies together. I was happy to get them done before the Autumn equinox. Summer is really such an active time that sewing indoors is not top priority. Regardless the Summer edition is done and I'm happy with the result. I'm hanging on to the last days of warm weather with all my might. I love fall, but until the equinox I'll stick with the summer colours and decor, just for a last dance with flowers, sunshine and flip flops.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Beautiful Poem

I just had to share this. It is in the new issue of Mothering Magazine (pg. 58, Sept-Oct 2008)
If anyone knows anything about this poet please let me know.

the woman speaks of birthing
After Langston Hughes's The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by Margaret Arabella Kenney

I've known birthing
Before creation
And older than the labor of mankind
My womb is the mother of life
I carried Adam when seeds
In the garden were gestating
I pushed the head of Cronos from
Between my legs and swaddled
Him in the sands of time
I was midwife to the moon and
Made her crib in my lodge
I wailed with Demeter's chorus
When armies stole children
Killed the land
And I've seen her barren lap
Turn poppy red with birth
In the spring
I've known birthing
Before god became a man