Episode 2 of Podcast is UP!

Thanks to everyone for listening to the show! I have uploaded the newest episode on the static page of The Podcast , but I will upload to a post too to see if it's easier for everyone. Leave some feedback, let me know which you prefer, and see some of you at Pantheacon. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Episode2_Praxis.mp3"][/audio]

 

 

The Yuletide Crèche

Christmas was my favourite time of year as a young Catholic girl. It was really the only part of the year I actually liked attending mass. Our church would be decorated with swags of evergreens, filling the air with a smell of frankincense and forests. I sang in the church choir one year too, accompanied by a grand piano and violin for midnight mass. The intimate ritual of family Advent, with the candle lighting and quiet prayers, was always accompanied by some kind of dessert or treat made by my mother. The best part, in my secret pagan heart, was stories of the Nativity. All these wonderful and magickal characters captured my imagination: the Virgin, the miraculous Baby, an Angel, the Star, the traveling Magi... all waiting in anticipation. It was also very confusing as a naturally inquisitive person: where does Santa come in? How did Joseph feel about his new betrothed already being pregnant with child? And by an ANGEL, no less? Pretty heavy stuff, even for a 9 year old. I would sit under the glowing Christmas tree, we always had a real one, and look deeply at this little crèche my mother had purchased before I was born. The little stable held within some animals and all the participants of the winter mystery, including a cute little baby Jesus in a manger; sometimes us girls would use our finger to 'rock' the infant God, soothe and console Him. It was rustic looking and realistic, not at all like some of these garish things made in China these days. There was a wind-up music box in the back which played “Silent Night”. Of all the Christmas things, all three of us girls loved this Nativity scene the most.

Over the years the holidays changed, as it always does when we grow older. The hardest part wasn't letting Santa go (I was actually told VERY early on the truth of this devil), it was the complete discovery that my parents were fallible humans. They split up on Christmas Day, my youngest sister's birthday too. Right there at the dinner table, my mother told my Dad she was done. Now, I knew this was coming...she had said something a few days earlier whilst folding laundry together. But she promised to wait until after the holidays. I wasn't sad, in fact I fully supported my mother's decision. Even at the ripe old age of 12 I knew my parents weren't good for each other. Mom got drunk (they both rarely drink, still) and fell asleep in my bed. Which meant I shared a bed with Dad, who cried all night. It was the first and last time I ever saw my Dad cry, all 6'4” of him. When he finally was quietly snoring, I lay there and prayed to God. I was thinking about how my parents told me divorce was a sin, and the church did not allow it. Would I still be allowed to go to church? My Confirmation was coming up too, did I even believe in God? Then all those questions and doubts I had hidden away in my heart, that I dared not consider, came rushing up. I questioned all religion afterwards and my spiritual search officially began.

But every Christmas, even as an adult, I got out that crèche to ponder these mysterious questions. I remember the early joys of Christmas and try to recapture the spirit of the season. Unfortunately, a slacker ex-boyfriend allowed a storage unit's fees to lapse whilst I was abroad, and the crèche was lost. A lot of my childhood collections of books and toys were lost too, but nothing hurt so much as that old, breaking Christmas scene my mother had trusted to my care. Then 10 years ago I moved in with my boyfriend; his mom loaded me down with all his Christmas stuff from childhood too... low and behold, he had the exact same crèche! Yes, one of the animals was missing, but I didn't care. When I wound up the music and heard those familiar metal notes, tears came streaming down my cheeks. It is only now, when our daughter enjoys looking at and playing with it every year, does my husband understand why I wept that day.

Our family creche. Princess Merida is our daughter's addition to the nativity scene.
Our family creche: Princess Merida is our daughter's addition to the nativity scene.

 

PBP: “Y” is for Yahweh

“Yahweh, I know you are near. Standing always at my side.

You guard me from the foe and lead me in ways everlasting.”

- Lord You Have Searched my Heart by Dan Schutte (communion hymn)

Yes, I was a Catholic at one point in my life... but left before confirmed. I knew Yahweh was not the one for me very early on. My mother likes to tell a story about when I was a toddler living in Hawaii. I almost remember the moment.... my memory can go back far. I came to my mother and told her “Mommy, God is knocking on my heart”. She asked me “So, what are you going to do?” I smiled and replied, “Let Him in”. There was a huge weight that fell on my chest; this I recall because it feels the same way even now.

I was always afraid of this moment coming, after hearing and seeing hippies speaking in tongues at the beach during some religious excursion my rebellious mother took me to. She was trying to run from her roots for a while (and still does), but I think this was the best thing my mother could have ever given me. I had witnessed people being 'saved', even traveled to Alaska with a church member without my parents when I was 4... I remember that too: the Anchorage Zoo, playing with kids, no snow was disappointing. The flight was long but the military airlines always took very good care of us kids. Even when I was older and much more skeptical, I reached outside the confines of my Neo-Gothic church built of red bricks. Our tiny town has this church with beautiful spires, flying buttresses, huge stained-glass windows, murals of the twelve apostles on all the ceiling panels with their names in Latin, and the high altar gilded in light, sliver and gold. You would never think a cowboy town in Northern California would have something so wonderful. I really loved the peacefulness of Jesus, the comfort of Mary, and the obscurity of Joseph... but was afraid of Yahweh. The Father God, the highest, creator and destroyer of the Universe on a whim. The Old testament was always rallied about in these other churches I visited with friends or paternal family members (Jehovah's Witness, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist).

"The Deluge", Frontispiece to Doré's illustrated edition of the Bible. Based on the story of Noah's Ark, this shows humans and a tiger doomed by the flood futilely attempting to save their children and cubs.

The problem was in realizing these were two different Gods. Almost like my own Father, Yahweh was firm in His love and very much a disciplinarian. Mom was the softness of Mary, but the purity and wholesomeness of Her is something every Catholic girl tries and fails at attaining. I asked the wrong questions, unsatisfied with answers: If God loves us so much, why does He keep destroying the world and His children? Why is 'original sin' all Eve's fault? Why can we pray to saints and Jesus with it not being considered a broken commandment? After leaving home for college, I got my answers as I delved deeply into Religious Studies and doubled with Humanities, trying to answer these riddles. It never did make sense except that I wanted nothing to do with the lot of them.

Yahweh still knocks at my door, over and over, especially during the Christmas season. The Ancestors egg Him on, my blood screams to talk with Angels of the Highest Orders, but for reasons not fully understood I have taken control of these urges. It has been especially apparent since I have begun a regular routine of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). Last year my experiments with Thelema, Crowley and Magick began with doing this most basic, and effective, ritual. At first I really fought the urge to stop, as the uncomfortable feelings surrounding the names of God from the Judeo-Christian lineage played with the childhood memories of the wrathful Jehovah. So many people come to witchcraft and Pagan religions with the Christian baggage they claim wanting to leave behind. Instead they intend on pigeon-holing mysticism and occult teachings into a religious organization comparable to the very ideologies they 'left behind'. After doing the prayers backwards, know that the past is dead. (Our Father).

After weeks of daily LBRP, I meditated on the Archangels I was invoking to surround me. I wondered, how could I sense them when I didn't believe? Re-examining this, I considered they were more like Buddhas: a strong presence there of intent. I had also been intoning the name of my Goddess, Hekate, at my heart in the beginning and end (instead of Crowley's Aiwass) of each ritual. For me, no other presence was allowed to stay without Hekate's permission, as She is the sentinel in all my workings and devotions these several years. With Her in my center, as the middle pillar I become Her axis mundi... Yahweh has no place here. His Angels, Saints, Prophets, Worshipers are all held in the same esteem as any religious person or entity I encounter; with caution and from a distance. With Hekate, I was able to face my fears of Yahweh and be firm in my choices with whom I share sacred space with.

There comes a point in our paths when we can make a choice in whom to serve. We have free will, no matter what our beliefs concerning destiny or pre-destination are in our personal philosophy. We are always given the decision of accepting friendship with a person, so why not a God? I don't invite the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons into my home, and so I “just say no” to Yahweh as well.

Pagan Blog Project: “F” is for Francis

It has been a historical week in the world of religion... a new Papal authority was elected to the Roman Catholic Church. He is a gentle and humble Argentinian monk who took the name of Francis, after the famous Saint Francis of Assisi. Although a Jesuit priest (“God's Marines”, an Order dedicated to social justice and usually highly educated), the new pope is taking an interesting stance on the Catholic Church's role in the world right now. Professing a need for humility and smallness, the Franciscan theme to Pope Francis' approach is inspiring. Promoting peace and poverty, the Franciscan order was founded in 12th century Italy by a man named Francesco di Pietro di Bernardon. Coming from a wealthy merchant family, Francis eventually went on pilgrimage to Rome only to be changed forever during the journey. He lived amongst the poor and downtrodden, tended to lepers, experienced their sorrow and desperate faith. Francis was inspired by a sermon he heard from the book of Matthew, in which Jesus tells his followers to leave behind coin and comforts, to seek the ascetic life of non-attachment. Francis returned home to preach in the streets, delivering his message of simplicity and the kingdom of heaven for everyone. His followers and Francis wandered the countryside, sleeping amongst the trees and animals, joyfully singing praises in their extreme poverty. A friend to Francis, Clare who was also from Assisi,  was so inspired by his work she ran away from home to follow him and his teachings. Francis helped to establish the Order of Saint Clare, or the “Poor Clares” as they are referred to; a cloistered order of nuns who live in poverty and shut off from the world, contemplating God and the peace.

Saint Francis of Assisi, Coyoacan Chuch, Federal District, Mexico

Now, these stories are very familiar... thinking about it this last week, I am reminded of the story of Buddha; his wealthy comfortable upbringing and the suffering he welcomed to integrate with his already extreme practice of spirituality. And like the Buddha, Saint Francis has a tremendous connection with the natural world. There are several stories about his encounters with animals: preaching to birds, making pacts with wolves, he was a wild mystic and shaman of sorts. Saint Francis created the first nativity scene, which is probably why there are so many animals fitting in those stables. He was also the first person in Catholic history to receive the stigmata; a miraculous replication of Christ's wounds inflicted during his passionate death.

So why do I toss aside much of my Catholic background, yet still cling to SOME of these Saints? Because in a way, they are like demi-Gods... just as our Gods and Goddess, Spirits and Nature Devas were ALL human ancestors from some bygone era, so too will the “new” spirits become deified. People pray to Saint Francis, his presence is seen in many garden themes, often depicted with birds, animals or the olive branch of peace. As a baby Pagan, I wanted to become like Saint Francis, to throw off all ties to the world, run out into the woods or wastelands like Saint John the Baptist and live on honey and locusts.... to live in peace, sharing with all who come before me, but especially the sick and miserable. But then I grew up and realized this was not the path I was to live. I have been this person before, and although I long for the life of a renunicant, I think the new Pope Francis is taking the Middle Path: asking for the participation of all Catholics in this vow of spiritual 'poverty', to get back to the basics, and heal the hurts so deeply inbeded in the rock of Saint Peter. I have high hopes for the changes and challenges facing this new Pontiff. I pray the teachings of Saint Francis shine through and speak beyond the borders of Catholicism... it is a message and prayer for all faiths.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.