Season of Healing

horussetfMy world shifted yesterday when I heard the presidential election results.  Through Vietnam, the killings of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, Watergate, even, yes, 9/11, I never felt the fear that I do now.  It is not Trump that I am afraid of; it is the millions of people amongst whom I live, who feel that he represents their needs and desires.  How can I be safe or content living in such a starkly-divided country?

First, I have given myself time to grieve.  It feels like the death rattle of the democracy I hold dear, and like any death close to me, I have tried to be gentle with myself this week.  I cried, I slept, I prayed and reflected, I ate a little chocolate.  I let some friends know that I support them during this time when they feel vulnerable because they are Muslim, gay, female, black, or simply liberal.  But best of all, a local television reporter asked me to be interviewed as a faith leader on how we go forward from here.  I found that being forced to give a cogent response was very therapeutic for me.  Since local news must reduce long statements to a few seconds of sound bites, I am sharing here the rest of what I said.

First, I follow a Pagan religion which is based on ancient Egypt, where the concept of maat, embodied as the goddess Maat, was the bedrock that kept Egyptian society in place for more than 4,000 years – just a bit longer than our fledgling American democracy.  Maat basically means balance, truth and justice.  It feels as if America is wildly out of balance right now.  Pundits shout over each other on CNN, Fox News figures unabashedly “report” stories which are not true, and NPR struggles daily to be a voice for all without being accused of so-called “liberal bias.”  Some candidates campaigned by promising to gridlock anything their opposing party might try to accomplish in the next Congress, without thought to the lives counting on both parties to collaborate.

So I prayed to Maat on the morning after the election.  I asked why, and what do I do now?  Her face was stony and severe, and I felt the difficult nature of her impartiality.  She is neither angry nor compassionately disposed, but rather she is steadfast, a compass for those of us who feel lost at the moment.  I realized that in the coming years she will teach us hard lessons – all of us, liberal and conservative alike, and it is unlikely to be painless.

Years of dogged interfaith involvement has convinced me that the most important skill my society needs at this time is the ability to hold respectful conversation with others with whom I may have absolutely nothing in common.  Often, friends from other religions will smile and state, “We all believe the same thing but have different words for it,” and I stubbornly say, No, we do not, and we are different, but that is a beautiful thing.  It’s what makes America so beautiful and strong – not the ways we are the same, but the ways we can come together in our differences.

But this election challenges my ability to do the very thing I’ve been preaching for so long.  I told the reporter that this new world challenges me to go even further.  I wonder how I will do it.  I know that simply making time to be with others different from me – listening, sharing a meal, talking, listening some more, repeating this over and over again – is how we have made gains against racism, sexism and xenophobia in my lifetime.  We are so sharply divided at the moment that we must need to do more listening and talking with each other.

How might that turn out?  We know that sometime in the dim past, Egypt was divided into the Upper and Lower kingdoms.  They were famously united following an epic battle between Horus and Set, Horus representing light, right and might, Set representing dark, power and cunning.  Interestingly, Egyptians did not dislodge Set from their pantheon of deities.  Instead, they found an appropriate role for him which drew on his unique strengths in a way that contributed to the overall good.  I long for an America which can appreciate what all our factions bring to the table, as long as it is grounded in both compassion and sound thinking.

maatshrine2smallIn ancient Egyptian iconography we find a famous image of Horus and Set uniting the two kingdoms even as they pull against each other.  This dynamic of creative tension keeping affairs in balance is the very basis of our democracy with its separation of powers.  We will never stop pulling against each other, but between us is the reality that we create together.  If one destroys the other, both fall.

As I continued to pray, I remembered some of the great peace-workers of my time: Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and then so many thousands more who are unnamed and usually un-remembered.  They did not waver in their personal calling to do good despite wars, unrest and troubles all around them.  Asked by the reporter what I would do now, I said that I would re-dedicate myself to my calling to serve others and make the world better.  I’ve made it through several hurricanes already, and I have a good compass.

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Finding Eden Again

For some of us Feraferia is like a fairy tale, a half-remembered dream, a story we once heard from Adler (Drawing Down the Moon). We heard just enough to feel both curiosity and mystery, but had no access to the reality of Fred and Svetlana Adams’ cosmos of nature-inspired beauty become spirituality.

Celebrate Wilderness Front Cover w Blurb6 copyJo Carson’s new book, Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path, brings the dream into beautiful focus, limned as it is with Adams’ visionary paintings. It also opens Feraferia ideas to a wider audience, explaining not only the history of the small movement, but articulating a Feraferia theology and sharing daily and seasonal practices.

Adams’ genius was to fuse his own artistic outlook with classical mythology and the emerging social trends of his day – feminism, environmentalism, and new religious ways such as Paganism.  On canvas and in ceremony he found outlets in which he could evade the ever-encroaching post-industrial societal grime while putting forward a vision of beauty as Kore, queen and self.

I happen to be one of those who went “back to the land” in the early 70s, imagining myself to be embarking on a way of life that would be both cleansing and enriching. Isolated on a small farm in western North Carolina, I pored over my Foxfire books and my first edition copy of Living On the Earth (Alicia Bay Laurel) for practical advice on how to live differently from my parents. I imagined myself to be returning to a purer, more “honest,” lifestyle, one that would support my mystical approach to religion.

That experiment ended about twelve years later with a nasty divorce, but the dream still lingered, beckoning from quiet depths like music from a fairy circle.  Only in midlife would I learn of the Pagan movement and of Feraferia.  Even then, Adler’s account of her visit with the Adams was marked by a Monet waterlilies softness. It was tantalizing but remote. Celebrate Wildness breaks through by making the Feraferia vision accessible to anyone, anywhere.

Of course, not everyone finds Feraferia to be their cup of tea.  Adams’ picture of the Goddess more often resembles an updated Vargas pinup with perky breasts and luxurious hair than it does the prehistoric images popularized by Marija Gimbutas, such as the Willendorf or Laussel Venuses.  In Adams’ Feraferia, youth is the ruling ideal, returning over and over again like Persephone in the spring.

Since we all die, renewal is at the heart of many religions; we can hardly fault Adams with selecting an iconography which showed the goddess at her prime.  In that respect, he foreshadowed the growing American obsession with youth, health and fitness.

Whatever your image of renewal, Carson has gracefully captured the gossamer vision of an idyllic life.  In doing so, she reveals an artistic legacy as well as a Pagan tradition that others – perchance dreamers, themselves – may adopt as they weave their own world of beauty.

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Sex, Lies and Cults

My friend is the survivor of a daring escape from a religious cult.* From time to time she sees herself on an old 20/20 rerun; the first time I watched it with her I could hardly believe that my spirited, independent, savvy friend could have let every aspect of her life be controlled by this group. She’s not so unusual, though. Turns out that any of us, including Pagans, can find ourselves the prey of charismatic manipulators.

screceryThe Pagan community, feisty though we might be, is particularly susceptible to cult-like deception. For one thing, it’s in our Pagan nature to be more idealistic than most. If someone has an exciting vision of the future, we want to believe it can be true, soon convincing ourselves that we can trust this new person. Add to that our proclivity for hiding from the world and you have a recipe for trouble. Modern Pagans accustomed to stories about the “burning times” and told that openness about their spirituality will have dire consequences have a history of falling for the “them and us” lie.

Wherever secrecy and opacity trump community values, whenever we think that it is more important to hide ourselves or our group from the rest of the world, dysfunction can then grow rampantly, like black mold in a damp basement. Ever since I came to Paganism, myself, I have encountered cons, child molesters, abusers and others circulating freely or moving from group to group. If exposed or confronted in one locale, it has been easy enough for them to move on to another group just down the road, knowing that overall communication is so poor and that Pagans prefer to circle the wagons rather than scrutinize one of their own. I see that my friend, Macha, has just posted a new column called “The Tyranny of Secrecy” over at

If you are as old as I am, it only seems like yesterday when a wonderful group doing greatdeception things for the poor moved far away from the public eye and then committed a mass suicide (The People’s Temple, Jonestown, 900+ dead, including nearly 300 children). Before that, I well remember a talented man with a progressive idea for modern ministry who came to my former elders for advice before sucking up the life savings of uncounted seniors and unwitting devout people (Jim Baker, PTL Club, and – for the record – my elders told him it was a bad idea). More often, cult leaders simply waste our time, burn out our emotions and drain our bank accounts before moving on to greener pastures. Those left behind are the lucky ones, but they may spend a lifetime wondering what hit them, let alone healing and recovering.

Isaac Bonewits created an outstanding checklist, his “cult index,” which I strongly recommend to everyone, leader or not.  But the short version is this – here are the most common signs that you are being courted by a cult:

Money – Sex – Isolation – Control

Money – No ethical leader will have you sign over your paycheck, property and assets, savings or insurance policy to her. If your money seems to be going into a black hole, stop giving it now. If someone says they are tax-exempt, you have a right to see their IRS Letter of Exemption and to check on their standing with the Secretary of State.

Sex – Even though Pagans embrace quite broad expressions of sexuality, there are still boundaries we must maintain for our own safety and mental health. Nearly every cult out there has a leader or leaders who help themselves to (often exclusive) sexual access to the women in the group, especially the young ones. Sex is certainly not bad, but when people break the law or use sex to control others, they are predators. When children are the result of this sexual access, they are too often then enmeshed in the sick dynamic of the community.

Isolation – Think communal living away from the pressures of the rest of the world is a great thing? Maybe. But what if you find yourself with no money, no phone, no car, no privacy, and you just want to talk to an old friend or family member? Are you free to come and go? Free to change your mind? I’ve been there, and it has taken me a lifetime to get over and then past it.

Control – Good leaders do not have a problem with our positive scrutiny of their motives and background.  Good leaders do not insist that only they can speak for the group. Good leaders don’t choose our job or sexual/life partners for us. A good leader encourages continued growth, development and expansion of others. A good leader identifies and trains her possible future replacement.

Spirituality can make strange bedfellows, but we should still insist on a safe community, one which aids our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” If you have questions about a situation, take a step back, turn to someone you respect who is outside your close circle. If someone makes you uneasy, look closer, check their stories, make them earn your trust over time, rather than handing everything over. If you realize that you are already in over your head, reach out for help in the best way you know how. If you have been the victim of crime, including sexual assault, fraud or domestic violence, don’t think twice about going to law enforcement, who now (in most states) have active victim advocates working alongside them.

This is a nasty subject, one I’d rather not have spent my afternoon writing about. But now and then I get a reminder that as long as Pagans are human, we must be vigilant. Please share this freely by any means you have. You never know whose future you may be saving.

*In this article, I use the word “cult” to refer to a group which uses its ideology to control, manipulate and otherwise violate members. Note that academic use of the word “cult” simply means a system of beliefs and ritual, often religious.

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Blood Done Sign My Name

Sometimes we forget that we have been part of history making, or that we stood side by side with the great ones of our generation. The waves some of us made were very small ripples in tiny ponds, but they were important, though I know I never took thought for the history of it back then. We were driven by the ideals of youth: justice, equality, a better world for all, regardless of our color or background.

I knew the movie Blood Done Sign My Name would be good because it was written and directed by Jeb Stuart, the same screenwriter for such blockbusters as Die Hard and The Fugitive; what surprised me was how much I enjoyed it.

Few films have taken me back to my North Carolina youth as this one did with its nuanced blend of acting and documentary. When leaving the theater I blinked in the March afternoon sun, wondering how it is possible to have started out with such hopes and arrived to the puzzling and still-divided place I now call home. For, though South Carolina has seen a lot of water over the dam since the days when Carroll Campbell was said to have toppled a bus full of blacks and Strom Thurmond denied his daughter Essie, I left my native state believing that the tide was turning and found that I had stepped back in time.

My very first night in Columbia I drove down Assembly Street, heart racing with anticipation about this big new place. The State House was beautiful in the early spring night, but the Confederate flag on top of the dome made me gasp in disbelief. Weeks later I was embarrassed to notice elderly black men avoiding eye contact when we passed each other on the Main Street sidewalk. But in 1986 these were only the surface symptoms of a malaise which slowly revealed itself over the years that I uneasily settled into my new city. Layer upon layer of dysfunction nearly convinced me that racial harmony was not possible in this state.

But back in high school I still believed I could help make a difference. In our junior year a much-loved black male senior was unjustly (I am convinced) accused by a vindictive white female student. There were no witnesses, and he was expelled just two weeks before he would have graduated with honors. A star athlete, I feel sure he must have had college scholarships waiting on him. Much of our small town, Gastonia, was incensed and rumors began to fly about black unrest and violent repercussions.

My good friend and classmate Jeb Stuart invited me to attend a community meeting that week at a local black church. My parents were frightened for my safety, but Jeb’s father, a Presbyterian minister, called to reassure them that this would be a good experience for me and promised we would be safe. Jeb and I sat in a room filled with angry, shouting people, the only whites present, at least to my memory. It was my first time being a minority with no voice, sitting near the back, being politely ignored.

That night I had the good fortune to witness grassroots activism at its best; in that room emotions were vented, ideas discussed, and leaders reminded the group that they must set a peaceful and dignified example. No doubt someone referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, though I would not at that time have recognized his words or appreciated the power of his nonviolent philosophy.

Just before graduation the expelled student turned up at school, slipping in to tell friends goodbye. I was confused and hurt when my happy greeting and hug were shunned. Eventually, when he saw that I refused to leave the room, still dabbing at my eyes a good half hour later, he came over and told me his side of the story. He was black, she was white, the principal was never going to hear him, and so he could never again, the rest of his life, speak to a white female. He explained that he should not be seen speaking to me and that he wished me well.

That was the last time I saw him. We did not have cell phones or email at that time, and I’d never even seen the homes of my black classmates. At a high school reunion in 2004, I was unable to learn what had become of him. I have never been able to forget that young man. His name was Michael Davis. I speak it now to remind those of us who remember, that justice was not done.

After high school we went different ways, my path taking me to the mountains and a rural, isolated life for some years. I lost touch with all my old friends until the past year or two. One I never forgot was 17-year-old Jeb, who showed me another world, one from which my parents had carefully shielded me till then. Jeb had been paying closer attention to the news, though, for years before our adventure. Troubled by the 1970 Oxford, N.C., racial killing, Jeb never forgot that there was another story that needed to be told, and he came back home to Gastonia last year to shoot the film Blood.

Here where the Civil War started, where so many are the descendants of former slaves, there has been virtually no publicity about the movie, and my husband and I were the only two people in the theater. Perhaps there just wasn’t the budget to promote it outside of North Carolina. I am afraid it may pass on before others can be inspired by its message.

The New York Times has praised Blood as moving beyond the white-dominated themes of films like To Kill A Mockingbird. The story is focused squarely in the black community, and the primary white character, Methodist minister Vernon Tyson, mainly looks on anxiously at the events unfolding around him. Although he causes a stir in his congregation by inviting in a black minister, and teaches his children to stand against racism, Tyson, no Gregory Peck, does not provide the solution. Rather, a young Ben Chavis emerges as a nascent community leader under the encouragement of out of town activist Golden Frinks, “Mr. Civil Rights,” and the people start their own small revolution.

This is the lesson I learned after moving to South Carolina. It was time for whites like me to yield the floor to those blacks I wanted to help. They didn’t always need my help, after all. The Ben Chavis’ and Golden Frinks’ of this world blazed new paths for the younger ones who came behind them.

But I feel the bitter aftertaste still lingering here where the Confederate flag has flown since integration. We live with the sad legacy of having avoided change for so long – people who feel defeated and tired, whose anger has simmered down into grudging daily half-participation in our still-flawed, still-racist society; young adults who don’t remember that their grandmothers and great-grandfathers were not allowed to vote and don’t bother to do so themselves; and growing ranks of disenfranchised youth who channel both their anger and their ennui into gang activity.

Blood Done Sign My Name reminded me of a time when hope drew us to our feet, made us march, made us reach for a hand which looked different from our own. I was never so happy as last November 10th when I stood in line for hours to vote, a wave of young black men and women all around me. We grinned at each other foolishly during that long wait, sensing that we were about to make history. I hope some of them will go stand in line to see Blood Done Sign My Name.

(Originally published by The State newspaper, March 10, 2010.)

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The Bounds of Self

dreamtimeIf we are one with the universe, what is it that is “we”? If we wish for unity, what happens to the strength afforded by our diversity?

Twice recently I’ve run across comments about recognizing the edges of our self as I read two very different books. One is Book 4 of The Early Sessions of the Seth Material, transcripts of Jane Roberts’ sessions from 1965. The other is The God Gene by geneticist Dean Hamer, also the author of The Science of Desire. Here’s what caught my reading eye:

“While pain is unpleasant it is also a method of familiarizing the self against the edges of quickened consciousness. Any heightened sensation, pleasant or unpleasant, has a stimulating effect . . . It is a strong awareness of activity and life.” (Roberts, Session 164)

And from Hamer, speaking about peak experience such as those experienced during deep meditation or while under the influence of an entheogen (e.g., psilocybin, mescalin): “The key feature of peak experiences is a sense of wholeness and unity with the universe, with everything and everyone. There is an effortless letting go of the ego, a going beyond the self.” (Hamer, page 20)

nautilus fantasyHamer tells about his and others’ studies to try to determine whether humans are genetically-predisposed to spirituality. Subjects in the studies were questioned in such a way as to identify a degree of self-transcendence, which Hamer defines as, “[A] term used to describe feelings that are independent of traditional religiousness. It is not based on belief in any particular God, frequency of prayer, or other orthodox religious doctrines or practices.” (Hamer, page 18)

Part of our teaching in the Osireion tradition is that life is both immanent (physical here and now) as well as transcendent. Seth was adamant about working to achieve better communication between what he called the inner self and the outer self. He expressed the opinion that Eastern religions had done a good job of learning to reach the inner self, but had done so at the expense of the outer self, as evidenced by the deep poverty of countries like India. I hardly need remind Palimpsest readers that Western culture has erred in the opposite direction, centering our existence in the body, the earth and disdaining to accord equal status to that which cannot be captured by current scientific methods.

For some of us, the balance is tricky. In my childhood right up to middle age, I experienced the perception of something beyond me with longing and loneliness. I desperately wished to understand that which I could not see, intensely wanted to see beyond what was apparent. I know people who cut themselves, people who become addicted to various things from heroin to sex to pain, people who flirt with danger, all in an effort to feel the bounds of self, to know who they are. I know lots more who settle for hunkering down into dullness, avoiding crisis but giving up on fully living.

lunareclipseFor me, achieving balance has been a process of learning to feel those edges of who I am at the same time that I relax into being comfortable with knowing that the boundary is artificial. I think of the boundary as more of a transition zone, because I do believe I am part of the all. But I also understand the uniqueness and value of my own individual clump of consciousness. Accepting both the immanent and the transcendent has eliminated a lot of my inner unease. I now more easily ride the waves of life that can seem huge, threatening, in one moment, and innocently calm the next. Bobbing in the primordial waters I feel one with them, but I also delight in the world contained by my own skin.

Hamer, Dean, The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes, Doubleday, 2004.

Roberts, Jane, The Early Sessions: Book 4 of the Seth Material, New Awareness Network, 1998.

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Tipping Point of Plenty

earth3What if we reached the tipping point? No, not that one, not the apocalypse or anarchy. What if we all kept doing kind things, looking for and giving love, until one day a spark is lit and the universe is joined in the rapid fusion of peace?

A billboard by the road today reminded me of some excesses of recent years – a bra studded with diamonds, cocktails containing real gold, novelty burgers and steaks large enough to feed a village for days. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with jewel-encrusted lingerie, but it suggests to me that there is plenty for all of us in this little planet.

With that thought, I could see it – harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust, Aquarius . . . no, really, I could feel the potential. I want to remember that feeling and recall it every day. Because I believe that what we think comes to pass, powered by our emotions. My intent to see a happy, prosperous world is even more powerful when I have this vivid image inside me.

So, I’m writing it down here first. There is more than enough abundance for everyone. We will only use up our planet if we believe so. I believe we can feed the hungry, heck, that the hungry can turn around and feed me someday. More than this, there is abundant healing, bountiful happiness, and deep, rich peace. Keep seeing, keep believing, right over the tipping point.

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Lighting Another Torch

priestessespassingtorchOsireion had a special day yesterday. One of our members has spent the past year doing individual work to learn more about the role of priest. The culmination of that year was a “crossing the bridge” ceremony in which she met challenges by each of us and stated her intentions for service. We affirmed our support in her, empowered her energetically, then got down to the business of celebration with a covered dish meal and gifts for the new priestess.

Most who know me have heard me state often that true leadership consists of helping others discover their own talents and put them to use. As Osireion’s leader, I feel deep gratification when someone who originally came to me as a young student now takes up the mantle of responsibility. And she does it so gracefully, with a becoming blend of confidence, humility, and maybe a bit of awe at the path she herself has chosen.

Kermit said, “It’s not easy being green,” and it sure as heck isn’t easy leading. Just the idea that someone else might be leading them sends many Pagans into tantrums of indignation. They confuse visibility with ability, mix up notoriety and a good reputation, and most definitely have not learned the difference between control and guidance. Personally, I favor the leading-by-example mode, since I’ve had to endure my own share of psycho-bosses, -friends and -ministers. With that kind of experience under my belt, it’s easy to see what I don’t want to be like. Mostly, at the end of the day I realize that someone has to pick up the tools and get busy building or there won’t be anywhere to go when the weather turns cold. So I start sawing and hammering, and I show others how to do it when they come along and show an interest.

Our new Osireion priestess exemplifies many of the qualities I’ve wished I’d done better during my life: graciousness, kindness, a sense of humor, earnest self-reflection as the way of spirit. She has her vision fixed on Ma’at, so I know she will go far and carry balance and healing wherever she may go in the years to come.

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Getting the Whole Story

Senses, inner and outer, we all know as the pathways by which we receive information. Mostly, we take outer senses for granted, unless we lose one of them through illness or accident. This morning I’ve taken the laptop and a footstool to a comfortable chair by the open back door. From this vantage I can enjoy the cacophony of birdsongs, the soft ringing of chimes in the breeze, a slight rustle in the trees. I smell the woods, the irises and Confederate Jasmine, feel the coolness which I know will be warmed soon by Ra’s bright rays.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappiest running in the woods as a child, I took these things for granted, but I wanted to know more. I suspected that the birds had messages for me, desperately wanted to track something like an Indian, and felt a personal responsibility to learn the names of trees, birds and constellations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALittle wonder, then, that I accepted with ease the idea that there are other ways of perceiving, those which Seth called the “inner senses.” Once I learned about the occult world I hungrily gobbled up anything I could find, haunting the 100s section of the local library, but I still thought of ESP as something exotic, something other people had, not me. That did not stop me from wondering, longing to see the invisible reality that I could feel, but not quite reach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I find myself in a Pagan spiritual culture which encourages me to push the limits of my senses. I am free to both listen carefully to the earth voices, and to go to my quiet inner space to see what will show itself there. It’s easy to see how the wise crone archetype came about; I was too busy with my own drama during the first half of my life to properly observe those nuances which signal an inner communication. Then there have been the times that emotional anguish itself triggered a vision or message. One never really knows how it’s going to come, hence the need to cultivate awareness, take time for deep listening, both without and within.

Wisdom seeps into us in like a spring thunderstorm, some of it in gentle patters, which may suddenly give over to booming downpours, then unexpectedly part the way to reveal brilliant sunlight or even a rainbow. Listen to your inner senses today so you can get the full story.

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Bamboo Soul

(from my homework for class this semester)

A few years ago I made an extravagant purchase, one small black bamboo plant. I paid $50 for this plant, which was then difficult even to obtain. We have nurtured that first plant until we now have several plantings around our perimeter. Suddenly last week a small army of thick asparagus-like shoots appeared one morning. Each day they grow at least six to twelve inches. Deer have nibbled on a few of them, ending their brief lives, and my husband has transplanted several. He brought me a broken-off stalk so that I could share his admiration for its lovely detail. I was also inspired, enough to do a pen-and-ink drawing that night, just for the simple pleasure of it.

bamboocompositemediumLike the bamboo shoot, my soul is the emergence of a whole new life from an original root of some kind that I cannot see. It waits in the dark for its fulness to come, then expresses great exuberance for the opportunity to burst into the light of day and grow into something that did not exist before. The bamboo shoot, like my soul, is a succession of endless layers, each emerging from the protection of the previous layer, all of the layers encouraging the ongoing development of the life core that protrudes at the top.

blackbamboodetail2Of course, this is bamboo, and whatever boundaries we may think we have with the neighbors or our own lawn, these surges of life are always a surprise, no matter how eagerly we watch and wait for them. What we know, however, is that our land is very happy when it bursts with life as it has this spring.

My soul is my own core life force, the vitality which expresses itself as Holli and in Holli’s body and mind. If only I had gardened earlier in life, I might have better understood the hidden nature of my roots, the need to nurture, to be patient. In my own tradition we observe an annual ceremony commemorating and reenacting the mysteries of Osiris. In the time of the ancients at Abydos, priests would have put seeds into a mummy case full of dirt, watered it and put it away in the dark, returning in three days to reveal the sprouted grain. This was, and is, no secret, but the mystery lies in seeing ourselves as a similarly miraculous germination.

For some years I tried to conform to an image of myself that I thought would be acceptable in my profession. It was successful, to some extent, but I never felt as happy as I have since allowing my authentic self to emerge. Increasingly, I see that by letting the seeds germinate in secret, then nurturing them and following them where they will come forth (like the bamboo in my yard), I am becoming more effective, more joyful, more – everything. The sowing requires that I collect experiences; the nurturing calls on me to meditate, practice simple devotional acts, and cultivate relationships with those around me.

blackbamboodetail1Recently, I was dismayed to learn that I had been mentioned in a scholarly article about theology. It was a surprise to find even a small discussion of an intimate part of me exposed to the hypercritical and analytical academy. Yet, at the same time my Osireion members are urging me to tell our story, to share our tradition in writing, so that others may have access to our experiences before we leave this world. I plan to do that writing this year. Perhaps the seeds that I sow will be carried abroad to lie in secret, then grow in a new garden. The group agrees that such propagation is not necessary for us to feel that our own experience has been valid and valuable. But it’s in the living nature of humans to seek new venues, express ourselves in new forms, and offer what sustenance we have to others along the way.

Whatever becomes of my own harvest, and whatever the outcome of its dissemination, I return to the cycle of growth, rest and rebirth which is the wisdom of the earth, there for me each day. This is my soul work.

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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way


Not funny haha. As I recover and dig out from under the happy intensity of the Sacred Lands symposium, my plan was to sit down this evening to catch up on homework. The bombing in Boston has been on my mind, as it must be for most of us. Then I went into town on an errand after lunch. On the way back into my neighborhood I came upon a small group of people by the road. Two were calling 911 and one was sitting with a woman on the ground who I witnessed have a seizure, struggle to breathe and then become glassy-eyed, grey and still. I stood by as EMTs arrived and quickly did their work and took her off in an ambulance. I will probably never know who she was or what happened to her, but I have been with several people within hours or days of their death and this looked all too familiar.

deathangelWhile on the scene I was calm, helpful and respectful. There seemed to be nothing tangible that I could do, but I felt that I gave a ministry of presence. But when I got home I collapsed in tears. I felt that I had come face to face with my own mortality (only this morning I began taking a cholesterol medication). I believe that there are lots worse ways to leave this world than to suffer an apparent heart attack on a gorgeous spring day while walking after lunch with a coworker, as this woman had been doing. Sobering, sad, nevertheless.

Sobering because it was unexpected, sudden, just like the bombing yesterday. Once more, I am reminded of Maat’s balance, the trembling of the fulcrum while it hesitates over which side of the scales to let fall. In response, I remember to pause, breathe, feel my own aliveness, acknowledge its trembling vulnerability, then continue with life, understanding that what is born must die, and what dies will be reborn.

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