The Goddess, The Maiden

The Goddess, The Maiden

 

The second aspect of the Goddess is that of Mother. As previously stated among her names by which she is called are the Great Mother and Mother Nature which signifies her worshippers believe her to be the Mother, creator and life-giver to all of nature and to every thing within.

This at first may seem confusing to many within the Christian Age where the Father God is claimed to be the creator. What many are not aware of, but more are becoming so, is that the world passed through a matriarchal age before the present patriarchal one. There is ample archaeological, historical and anthropological evidence of this. The previously mentioned findings of numerous female figurines and drawings in many locations supports the fact that during such ancient times the female was very honored. The depictions self-fertilization and women giving birth states the Goddess has been very honored for motherhood.

Seas, fountains, ponds and wells were always thought as feminine symbols in archaic religions. Such passages connecting to subterranean water-passages were often thought as leading to the underground womb. Currently science partly substantiates these archaic beliefs. It is known that hugh quantities of microscopic plants and animal live close to the ocean surface. Upon this sea life’s death its shell remains settle to the ocean floor, and when studied through accumulations of sediment core samples, which represent millions of years of sea life, they provide a continuous history of the earth’s environmental stages. To this extent the ocean, which seems to contain the beginning stages of life, may be thought as the Mother’s womb. “And water, like love, was (is) essential to the life-forces of fertility and creativity, without which the psychic world as well as the material world would become an arid desert, the waste land.”

This idea of the Goddess or maternal womb is embedded in history. It was and is symbolized by the ceremonial bowl. When used in the Egyptian temples as the temple basin it was called the shi. In Biblical times it became the brass sea in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 7:23-26). Such bowls or vassals were used for illustrations, baptisms and various purification ceremonies. Although the Christians often fail to disclose that the holy water fount still symbolizes the womb. This symbolically is true since the water is to bestow blessings or grace upon the one which it is sprinkled upon, or who sprinkles it upon himself, and this grace supposedly comes from Jesus Christ who came from the womb of Mary.

Although, in the ancient maternal temples this womb-vessel was very much respected for its inherent fertile power. Its holy waters were revered as they were considered spiritual representing the birth-giving energy of the Goddess.

Throughout the history of Goddess worship, witchcraft, and currently in Neo-pagan witchcraft the cauldon has been a feminine symbol associated with the womb of the Mother Goddess.

All Christian sects have not thought of God as just masculine. This is especially true of the Gnostics. It is in the Apocryphon of John one sees the apostle John grieving after the crucifixion. John was in a “great grief” during which he experienced a mystical vision of the Trinity:

the [heavens were opened and the whole] creation [which   is] under heaven shone and [the world] trembled. [And I   was afraid, and I] saw in the light…a likeness with multiple   forms…and the likeness had three forms.

To John’s question of the vision came this answer: “He said to me, ‘John, Jo[h]n, why do you doubt, and why are you afraid?…I am the one who [is with you] always. I [am the Father]; I am the Mother; I am the Son.'”

To many this description of the Trinity is shocking, but it need not be. What so many forget, or do not realized is that the New Testament was written in Greek; whereas, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word meaning spirit is ruah having a feminine gender, but the Greek word for spirit is pneuma having a neuter gender. Thus the Greek language, or to be more specific a change in language when writing the New Testament, virtually made the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, asexual. It also, when accepted by the orthodox Christian Church, eliminated any femininity concept of God. Also Mary is held to have remained a virgin by Catholics and some Christians because Matthew in his gospel used the Greek word parthenos, meaning “virgin,” instead of almah when referring to the virgin birth of Jesus. But, the Gnostics did not adhere to the orthodox teaching. Possibly one reason was that many of the Gnostic leaders, particularly Simon Magus, were of Greek or Samaritan heritage, and within these heritages polytheism and feminine deities were known and accepted, also they knew Hebrew. Therefore they kept the feminine meaning of the Holy Spirit which remained in their sacred writings and interpretations.

In The Sacred Book one reads:

…(She is)…the image of the invisible, virginal, perfect spirit…  She became   the Mother of everything, for she existed before them all, the mother-father  [matropater]…

In the Gospel to the Hebrews, Jesus speaks of “my Mother, the Spirit.” Again, in the Gospel of Thomas “Jesus contrasts his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, with his divine Father–the Father of Truth–and his divine Mother, the Holy Spirit.” And, in the Gospel of Philip, “whoever becomes a Christian gains ‘both father and mother’ for the Spirit (rurah) is ‘Mother of many.'”

In a writing attributed to Simon Magus it states:

Grant Paradise to be the womb; for Scripture teaches us that this is     a true assumption when it says, “I am He that formed thee in thy mother’s     womb” (Isaiah 44:2)…Moses…using the allegory had declared Paradise  to   be the womb…and Eden, the placenta…

“The river that flows forth from Eden symbolizes the navel, which nourishes the fetus. Simon claims that the Exodus consequently, signifies the passage out of the womb and the ‘the crossing of the Red Sea refers to the blood.'” Sethian gnostics explain that:

heaven and earth have a shape similar to the womb …and if…anyone  wants   to investigate this, let him carefully examine the pregnant womb of any  living   creature, and he will discover an image of the heavens and the earth.

In scriptural writings we find standing at the foot of the cross at the time of the crucifixion three Marys: the Virgin Mary, the dearly beloved Mary Magdalene, and a more shadowy or mysterious Mary. “The Coptic ‘Gospel of Mary’ said they were all one. Even as late as the Renaissance, a trinitarian Mary appeared in the Speculum beatae Mariae as Queen of Heaven (Virgin), Queen of Earth (mother), and Queen of Hell (Crone).”

Within modern culture these roles of Goddess and Mother are seen to be reemerging. While the psychanalyst Sigmund Freud down played the emergence devotion to the Goddess as infantile desires to be reunited with the mother, his theory was challenged by C.J. Jung who described this emergence devotion as “a potent force of the unconscious.”

Jung theorized that “the feminine principle as a universal archetype, a primordial, instinctual pattern of behavior deeply imprinted on the human psyche, brought the Goddess once more into popular imagination.”

The basis of Jung’s theory rested on religious symbolism extending from prehistoric to current times. His archetypical concept is that it is not “an inherited idea, but an inherited mode of psychic functioning, corresponding to that inborn ‘way’ according to which the chick emerges from the egg; the bird builds its nest;…and eels find their way to the Bermudas.”

The biological evidence of Jung’s archetypical concept indicates the psychological meaning. Although the psychological meaning cannot always be as objectively demonstrated as the biological one, it often is as important or even more important than the biological one. It lies deep within the levels of personalities, and can elicit responses not possible by mere abstract thinking. These responses energize and deeply effect persons. “Jung believed all religions rest on archetypical foundations.”

This does not necessarily mean that all or every religion originated from an archetype, but rather the archetype on which most, if not all, religions were and are based is the deep felt (italics are the author’s) need within the people for their particular religion. This need is what brought forth the religion. There are various views on the causes this need arouse, but “Jungians have espoused the Mother Goddess as an archetype, a loadstone in the collective consciousness of both men and women to be minded of psychological wholeness.”

Many men have expressed the need to return to the Goddess, indicating that this is not only a woman’s search or desire. “English therapist John Rowan believes that every man in Western culture also needs this vital connection to the vital female principle in nature and urges men to turn to the Goddess. In this way men will be able to relate to human women on more equal terms, not fearful of resentful of female power. Perhaps this is how it was in prehistoric times when men and women coexisted peacefully under the hegemony of the Goddess.”

To many men in Neo-paganism and witchcraft sexism seems absurd and trifling. If all men were honest they would admit that they would not be here if it were not for their biological mothers. Sexism immediately disappears when this fact is agreed to. All human beings are sexual, and sexuality propagated, although at times it would seem the Christian Church would have liked to dismiss this fact completely. But, the fact cannot be dismissed because, again, according to Jung this biological fact is also imprinted as the archetypes of anima and animus upon the human unconscious. They represent the feminine side of man and the masculine side of woman. As behavioral regulators they as most important; for with out them men and women could not coexist. When the two unconscious elements are balanced harmony exists, but when there is an unbalanced over masculinity or femininity is exerted.

Most people admit we currently live in troubled, if not, perilous times. Both our species and planet are endanger of extinction. Our customary religions and governments seem stifled if not helpless to solve all of the enormous problems which confront us. Perhaps many are feeling the urgent need to cry for help to the Good and Divine Mother asking her to please clean up her children’s mess, or wipe up their split milk before it’s too late.

The Goddess, The Virgin

The Goddess, The Virgin

The Virgin is the first aspect of the Goddess that dates back to Grecian times. “Holy Virgin” was a title for temple prostitutes, a duty of the priestesses of Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite. The title itself did not mean virginity, but it simply meant “unmarried.” The functions of these “holy virgins” was to give forth the Mother’s grace and love by sexual worship; to heal; to prophecy; to perform sacred dances; to wail for the dead; and to become Brides of God.

The Semites, and parthenioi by the Greeks called children born of such virgins bathur. Both terms mean virgin-born. According to the Protoevangelium, the Virgin Mary was a kadesha and perhaps was married to a member of the priesthood known as the “fathers of the gods.”

There is an analogy between Mary’s impregnation and that of Persephone’s. The latter, in her virgin guise, sat in a holy cave and began weaving the great tapestry of the universe, when Zeus, appearing as a phallic serpent, impregnated her with the savior Dionysus. Mary sat in a temple and began to spin a blood-red thread, representing Life in the tapestry of fate. The angel Gabriel came to Mary, telling her that the spirit of the Lord would over shadow her and she would be with child. (Luke 1:28-31) This child was Jesus Christ, who many call savior.

In the Hebrew Gospels the name Mary is designated by almah which means “young woman.” The reason that Mary is held to have remained a virgin by Catholics and some Christians is because Matthew in his gospel used the Greek word parthenos, meaning “virgin,” instead of almah when referring to the virgin birth of Jesus. Also almah was derived from Persian Al-Mah, the unmated Moon goddess. Another cognate of this term was the Latin alma, “living soul of the world,” which is essentially identical to the Greek psyche, and the Sanskrit shakti. So the ancient Holy Virgins, or temple-harlots, were “soul-teachers” or “soul- mothers.” Thus comes the term alma mater.

For the Goddess So Loved the World

For the Goddess So Loved the World

Author: Jeffe
It had always been my dream to own my own house, with a yard and lots of trees. To have nature in my backyard, teeming with life, and a garden of vegetables I would tend to feed my family. It would connect me more to the Earth, far more than did the apartments and condos I’d been living in for the better part of two decades. But such conquests often come with doomful forebodings.

“That lawn isn’t going to mow itself, ” my Dad warned. “And just wait until the snow starts piling up!”

Dad had been there. Nobody’s quite sure where “there” is, exactly, but one look from Dad told me I’d know I was “there” when I got “there.” Shoveling snow with my father is actually one of my fondest memories of childhood, but therein lies the difference between a child’s memory and an adult’s. I remember it as playing in the snow with Dad, and Mom serving us hot cocoa when we came in. For Dad, it was hard work. These days, my father still perceives nature as work, while I see it as divinity.

This thirty-something Pagan, yours truly, hasn’t always been a city dweller. My graduate studies began at age nineteen, plucking me from the country home where my Mom and Dad raised me. My studies were followed by instructor and professor positions at several universities, all of them in the middle of cities. I lived in a series of apartments and condos. Nature had become a destination, an excursion, a break from the norm. I longed for it to be part of my everyday life again.

Shortly after Samhain of 2008, I finally got my house wish. My wife and newborn son and I moved into the first house we’ve ever owned. We had navigated the troubled waters of the depressed housing market to find a good deal on the perfect house in an area with award-winning schools. If you look up our house on Google Earth, you’ll see our yard has by far the most trees for blocks around. Squirrels, birds, rabbits, raccoons, and at least one groundhog are regular visitors. Ducks and crows pop in from time to time. Of course, most of them enjoy my garden a little too much, and apparently there’s a neighborhood skunk who likes to dig up grubs in the yard at night, but that’s alright – I’ll take a little bad with the good.

During the unpacking process, our computers had emerged first, a necessity since my wife and I both teach for a living. But we had yet to set up wireless or any other office stuff. Just on a lark one evening, I tried to search for a local wireless connection. With a little luck, I might be able to piggyback someone else’s signal long enough to check my work e-mail.

There was one wireless network available; a secure networked named “John316.” Perhaps the most famous Bible verse of them all. The verse well-known for its appearances in sports arenas. For its mystical ability to change the course of a football or baseball in mid-air.

“Oh great, ” I thought. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will have high-speed internet.” Like many eclectic Pagans, I’m actually quite well versed in the Bible, as well as numerous other spiritual texts. Blame it on a Catholic upbringing, or several Theology classes in undergraduate school. I like to keep as many doors to wisdom open as possible.

I thought it was a tacky name for an Internet server, until I remembered the numbers of Witches and Pagans I’d met who’d named their pets Merlin, or Lilith, or Hex. Glass houses and all that. I pictured the neighborhood in my mind, and narrowed it down to three houses close enough for their wireless signal to reach us. There were no outward clues to spoil my shell game of “Find the Evangelical, ” but I was sure I would learn soon.

I confess to having felt a little apprehensive about my new neighbors. As a mathematics professor at a Jesuit University, I’d met more than my share of avid Evangelicals. One year, after introducing myself and handing out the syllabus on the first day of class, I asked the class if they had any questions. One student stood bolt upright and asked, “Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

“Um … does anyone have any ‘math’ questions?” I responded.

Call it an irrational fear, but I admit that it hung in the back of mind, for weeks to come: that being open about who I am and how I live might make me target. Not a target of violence, mind you, but a target of general disdain. The “black sheep” of the neighborhood. I envisioned my children someday being gawked at or picked on by the other children at the playground.

There is certain vulnerability inherent in the practice of a religious path that differs from the community norm. It takes courage to be yourself amidst strangers.

A few months passed, and I had enjoyed Yule, just before celebrating Christmas with the rest of family (everyone else in my family is Christian, Catholic mostly) . It was early January when the first monster storm of winter hit the Detroit area. My northern suburb tallied fifteen inches of snow, which came in three nearly equal waves over two days. My shovel was about to get some good use.

I soon learned that it takes me about 30 minutes to shovel 5 inches of snow off my driveway and sidewalks – quite the workout. For those who live far enough South to have not experienced the joys of snow shoveling, let me explain the effort involved. From a standing position, bend over and pick up a bowling ball. Then stand back up and toss it several feet to your left. Repeat this continually for 30 minutes. A quick tip – toss half of the balls in each direction, to even up the back strain.

When it was time for the second round of shoveling, I bundled back up and stepped out into the garage. My wife was out and my son had just settled in for a nap, so I put the baby monitor in my coat pocket. As the garage door went up and I put my boots on, I noticed curtains moving in the window of the large house across the street. I tried not to notice that I was being watched, and set to my labors.

A few minutes into shoveling, out came the neighbor, similarly bundled and pushing his new snow blower. I waved hello and he waved back. By the time I was halfway done shoveling, he had completely finished removing all of his snow, about twice as much as mine, without much effort. I pretended not to notice as he went back into his garage for a few minutes, talking to someone just out of sight, looking over at me now and then.

Finally he came over, with the blower, and with a few arm gestures asked if I’d like some help. I was happy for it, and together we quickly finished off my shoveling and did a little of another neighbor’s. I shook his hand and invited him for a warm-up coffee, and we introduced ourselves. I can’t remember his name, possibly because this is the only time we’ve ever spoken – I’ll just refer to him as “John316.”

John wasted no time and immediately started talking about the Bible Study his family had hosted the night before. I smiled as I poured the coffees. It quickly became clear that he had what I jokingly refer to as “Jesus Tourette’s” … the inability to have a two-minute conversation without mentioning Jesus three times. It’s the Christian version of “Pagan Tourette’s” … I define this as the inability to attend a Pagan meet-up in normal clothing and without mystical jewelry or flair.

John began steering the conversation in ways intended to draw out whether I was a Christian. I probably could have nimbly avoided his transparent attempts for hours, but I decided not to torment him. I let him know who I am. To blunt the trauma suddenly apparent on his face, I told him that I have a lot of respect for Christians who do Bible Studies. And that’s the truth.

Anytime people get together and talk about their faith and its literature, and then think about the moral and ethical implications, they are far more likely to learn something than if they just listen to a preacher. We could all take a lesson in that.

I have to say I enjoyed the conversation immensely. It’s so rare that I get to talk to someone about a spiritual text that we’ve both studied profusely. Any awkwardness was probably from the difference of our viewpoints. For him, the Bible is indisputable truth, laying down the laws and guidelines for the one true path to salvation. For me, it’s a storybook full of Middle Eastern history, both pacifistic and militaristic philosophies, poetry and prose, and fables that sometimes bear pearls of wisdom.

And let’s admit it, the book of Revelations is just plain cool.

He never discussed anything about Paganism, or Witchcraft, or the occult. He wasn’t interested in my faith at all – he just wanted to tell me about his, on the assumption that his way should be everyone’s way. And that’s fine with me. Pagan tolerance and acceptance means letting people be whoever they need to be, so long as they aren’t harming themselves or others. He was doing me no harm; in fact, from his perspective, his intentions were noble and good.

John needed to “witness” to me, so I let him. I think it’s important, as Pagans, to recognize that there are no wrong gods or goddesses, so long as their worshippers use them to try to become better people.

Our back-and-forth banter continued for about forty minutes. He seemed excited to meet a non-Christian could talk about obscure parables, the authors and histories of the lesser known books, and of course the “End Times.” But he also seemed a little angry that I could have studied the book so thoroughly without accepting it as absolute truth. It was as though he wanted to like me, but couldn’t accept me because I don’t fit into his working definition of “good person.”

Finally, perhaps mercifully, my son woke up from his nap. John shook my hand, thanked me for the coffee, and left.

“Have a blessed day, ” he called over his shoulder, with a tone of irritation and resignation, as he pulled the door shut behind him.

“Blessed day ever, ” I thought, wondering whether I’d made a begrudging new friend.

Apparently not. We haven’t spoken since, and he seldom returns a wave.

His wife once approached my wife, to gossip about that awful Mr. Obama and all the bad things he has planned for our troops. My wife, to her credit, exhibited amazing restraint.

“I feel like they’re constantly judging us, ” my wife has told me, on more than one occasion.

That’s a strange thought, considering that John and his family never interact with us in any way. But I feel it too. It’s hard to say how much of it exists just in our heads. I can’t help but wonder what discussions they have about us. I have the feeling that they look down us, but the irony is that by making this assumption about them, I am in fact passing judgment on them.

It saddens me somewhat, but I take comfort in the little, normal rivalries we neighbors have. John’s lawn is a point of pride for him, and my yard is an altar for me. I see him on his porch sometimes, watching me gather up fallen twigs before I mow the lawn. And in the winter, whenever it snows heavily, he seems to wait until I’m shoveling before he starts, just so I can see him finish faster and more easily.

I catch a shadow of a smirk on his face sometimes, as though he’s thinking, “Look how easy it is when you have the right tools.” In my head, I respond, “Look how nice it is to exercise and be in shape.”

And that’s terrific! That’s normal neighbor stuff. I take it as an affirmation that I’m not considered a pox on humanity.

Tolerance doesn’t always begin with a welcome basket and an invitation to dinner. Sometimes it begins with a few people being just as irritated with each other as they are with everyone else. That’s human nature, and it’s messy, and sticky, and beautiful. Amen.


Footnotes:
The Bible, John 3:16 (paraphrased)

Christian Witchcraft: What it means to me.

Christian Witchcraft: What it means to me.

Author: Pall Tryggr Ageirr

Keep in mind that I am still a seeker, but I believe that I have found a path that speaks to me. Combining my belief in Jesus Christ, and the comforting Holy Spirit (though I see the Holy Spirit in a feminine aspect and as such refer to her as the Mother Holy Spirit, or lady Holy Spirit) , With Pagan ideologies and practices. More specifically I am interested in general Paganism, The Greek Pantheon, The Nordic and Celtic traditions, Wiccan theology, beliefs, and practices, Native American Spirituality/Shamanism, and the art and practice of magick. I am also interested in the Jewish Qabbala and Gnosticism (an unorthodox sect of Christianity that was systematically stamped out by early fundamentalist.)

In essence I am an eclectic since I combine belief systems. I prefer the to label myself as a seeking eclectic Christian Witch, since we as humans have this condition to want to label everything. I grew up in a heavily Christian background, but I questioned a lot of it, and I always felt like other religions and spiritualities have certain truths to them. I am a subscriber to the tree theory which is as follows: The roots of the tree is the unknowable divine energy you cannot see it but you know that it is there. Then there is the tree trunk which manifests to some people as a God or a Goddess or sometimes both…it manifests to me in the form of a God and Goddess. They are two separate entities but they come from the same source – some people will tend to stop there. But if you go on up the tree to the branches that is each individual pantheon (Greek, Roman, Nordic, Celtic, Egyptian, ect.) * I believe other religions can fit on there as well – examples: Christianity, the Jewish faith, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, ect.* and then if you go even farther to each little twig that is each individual god (s) and goddess (s) . They are all separate yet they flow into the one divine energy.

I whole heartedly believe that mainstream Christianity today is not was Jesus Christ envisioned 2,000 + years ago. I do try to read the Bible as often as possible, and I do believe that it contains good examples to try to live by, but I also believe that it has been “translated” way too many times to suit man’s political agendas of the times. I believe the early Christians after Christ died on the cross, became corrupt and tried to pervert teachings to suit their needs.

Thoughout the gospels Jesus teaches about friendship, tolerance, love and kindness. Things that I rarely see exhibited by Mainstream Christians today.

I do believe Jesus Christ was a profound teacher and a messiah, but I am also a Goddess worshipper. I worship the Mother right along with the Father. I believe in Magick, and I believe it is another valid way to attune with and interact with the divine. As well Magick is another valid form to help affect changes in my life for the better, I believe it is a gift from the divine and as such it should be utilized. I am also a nature worshipper, because divinity created nature and us, therefore nature as well as us humans contain little sparks of divinity. I am mystical, and my spiritual cup runneth over, in ways it never did wheh I was a practing Baptist Christian. I believe that if Jesus Christ was alive today then he would be the witchiest Christian Witch of them all.

When I started this path I thought Christian Witchcraft was in the minority, but as I continue with my studies and down my spiritual path of choice I find more like minded people like me everyday.

We may never be totally accepted in Pagan circles, because Pagans have been persecuted thoughout the centuries by the right-wing Fundamentalist Christians, so the mere mention of Christian influenced spirituality may send some people the wrong message. And on the reverse side, to the right-wing fundamentalist Christians we are seen as heretics, who are misusing the gospels, and who are perverted and in league with the devil because of our magickal and mystical sides. But we are here, and we follow what our hearts, minds, and spirits tell us to do, we do not care about religious dogma, instead we do what we feel is right in our hearts, we worship the God and Goddess and all of their creations and try to use all the things they have given to us. We also rely on the comforting Mother Holy Spirit in times of great sadness, and we try to strive to live by the teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ, and show everyone, Pagan or Christian, or agnostic, or atheist, or Islamic, or Buddhist – just how Christ like we are.

We are loving, and kind, and gracious, and forgiving, atleast we try to be, we are still human we are still flawed we make mistakes, but We listen to our hearts and try to do what we believe is morally right – and we never tell anyone that they are wrong for any spiritual or religious belief they may have, instead we celebrate the diversity.

This is what being a Christian Witch means to me, and I love every second of being one, I honestly have never felt more spiritually fulfilled.

I am still a seeker, yes. But arn’t we all? we should never stop learning.Each day I find something new about myself, my spirituality, and my craft.

Alot of people may not agree with what I have to say, or may not agree with my chosen blend of paths and spiritualities – but this is the blended path that has called to me and I feel this is where I am supposed to be. I do not care about religious dogma, instead I follow my heart and let my spirit and the divine energy ( the Lord and Lady, each individual God and Goddess, Jesus Christ, and the Mother Holy Spirit) Guide me to where they want me to be.

For the Goddess So Loved the World

For the Goddess So Loved the World

Author: Jeffe

It had always been my dream to own my own house, with a yard and lots of trees. To have nature in my backyard, teeming with life, and a garden of vegetables I would tend to feed my family. It would connect me more to the Earth, far more than did the apartments and condos I’d been living in for the better part of two decades. But such conquests often come with doomful forebodings.

“That lawn isn’t going to mow itself, ” my Dad warned. “And just wait until the snow starts piling up!”

Dad had been there. Nobody’s quite sure where “there” is, exactly, but one look from Dad told me I’d know I was “there” when I got “there.” Shoveling snow with my father is actually one of my fondest memories of childhood, but therein lies the difference between a child’s memory and an adult’s. I remember it as playing in the snow with Dad, and Mom serving us hot cocoa when we came in. For Dad, it was hard work. These days, my father still perceives nature as work, while I see it as divinity.

This thirty-something Pagan, yours truly, hasn’t always been a city dweller. My graduate studies began at age nineteen, plucking me from the country home where my Mom and Dad raised me. My studies were followed by instructor and professor positions at several universities, all of them in the middle of cities. I lived in a series of apartments and condos. Nature had become a destination, an excursion, a break from the norm. I longed for it to be part of my everyday life again.

Shortly after Samhain of 2008, I finally got my house wish. My wife and newborn son and I moved into the first house we’ve ever owned. We had navigated the troubled waters of the depressed housing market to find a good deal on the perfect house in an area with award-winning schools. If you look up our house on Google Earth, you’ll see our yard has by far the most trees for blocks around. Squirrels, birds, rabbits, raccoons, and at least one groundhog are regular visitors. Ducks and crows pop in from time to time. Of course, most of them enjoy my garden a little too much, and apparently there’s a neighborhood skunk who likes to dig up grubs in the yard at night, but that’s alright – I’ll take a little bad with the good.

During the unpacking process, our computers had emerged first, a necessity since my wife and I both teach for a living. But we had yet to set up wireless or any other office stuff. Just on a lark one evening, I tried to search for a local wireless connection. With a little luck, I might be able to piggyback someone else’s signal long enough to check my work e-mail.

There was one wireless network available; a secure networked named “John316.” Perhaps the most famous Bible verse of them all. The verse well-known for its appearances in sports arenas. For its mystical ability to change the course of a football or baseball in mid-air.

“Oh great, ” I thought. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will have high-speed internet.” Like many eclectic Pagans, I’m actually quite well versed in the Bible, as well as numerous other spiritual texts. Blame it on a Catholic upbringing, or several Theology classes in undergraduate school. I like to keep as many doors to wisdom open as possible.

I thought it was a tacky name for an Internet server, until I remembered the numbers of Witches and Pagans I’d met who’d named their pets Merlin, or Lilith, or Hex. Glass houses and all that. I pictured the neighborhood in my mind, and narrowed it down to three houses close enough for their wireless signal to reach us. There were no outward clues to spoil my shell game of “Find the Evangelical, ” but I was sure I would learn soon.

I confess to having felt a little apprehensive about my new neighbors. As a mathematics professor at a Jesuit University, I’d met more than my share of avid Evangelicals. One year, after introducing myself and handing out the syllabus on the first day of class, I asked the class if they had any questions. One student stood bolt upright and asked, “Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

“Um … does anyone have any ‘math’ questions?” I responded.

Call it an irrational fear, but I admit that it hung in the back of mind, for weeks to come: that being open about who I am and how I live might make me target. Not a target of violence, mind you, but a target of general disdain. The “black sheep” of the neighborhood. I envisioned my children someday being gawked at or picked on by the other children at the playground.

There is certain vulnerability inherent in the practice of a religious path that differs from the community norm. It takes courage to be yourself amidst strangers.

A few months passed, and I had enjoyed Yule, just before celebrating Christmas with the rest of family (everyone else in my family is Christian, Catholic mostly) . It was early January when the first monster storm of winter hit the Detroit area. My northern suburb tallied fifteen inches of snow, which came in three nearly equal waves over two days. My shovel was about to get some good use.

I soon learned that it takes me about 30 minutes to shovel 5 inches of snow off my driveway and sidewalks – quite the workout. For those who live far enough South to have not experienced the joys of snow shoveling, let me explain the effort involved. From a standing position, bend over and pick up a bowling ball. Then stand back up and toss it several feet to your left. Repeat this continually for 30 minutes. A quick tip – toss half of the balls in each direction, to even up the back strain.

When it was time for the second round of shoveling, I bundled back up and stepped out into the garage. My wife was out and my son had just settled in for a nap, so I put the baby monitor in my coat pocket. As the garage door went up and I put my boots on, I noticed curtains moving in the window of the large house across the street. I tried not to notice that I was being watched, and set to my labors.

A few minutes into shoveling, out came the neighbor, similarly bundled and pushing his new snow blower. I waved hello and he waved back. By the time I was halfway done shoveling, he had completely finished removing all of his snow, about twice as much as mine, without much effort. I pretended not to notice as he went back into his garage for a few minutes, talking to someone just out of sight, looking over at me now and then.

Finally he came over, with the blower, and with a few arm gestures asked if I’d like some help. I was happy for it, and together we quickly finished off my shoveling and did a little of another neighbor’s. I shook his hand and invited him for a warm-up coffee, and we introduced ourselves. I can’t remember his name, possibly because this is the only time we’ve ever spoken – I’ll just refer to him as “John316.”

John wasted no time and immediately started talking about the Bible Study his family had hosted the night before. I smiled as I poured the coffees. It quickly became clear that he had what I jokingly refer to as “Jesus Tourette’s” … the inability to have a two-minute conversation without mentioning Jesus three times. It’s the Christian version of “Pagan Tourette’s” … I define this as the inability to attend a Pagan meet-up in normal clothing and without mystical jewelry or flair.

John began steering the conversation in ways intended to draw out whether I was a Christian. I probably could have nimbly avoided his transparent attempts for hours, but I decided not to torment him. I let him know who I am. To blunt the trauma suddenly apparent on his face, I told him that I have a lot of respect for Christians who do Bible Studies. And that’s the truth.

Anytime people get together and talk about their faith and its literature, and then think about the moral and ethical implications, they are far more likely to learn something than if they just listen to a preacher. We could all take a lesson in that.

I have to say I enjoyed the conversation immensely. It’s so rare that I get to talk to someone about a spiritual text that we’ve both studied profusely. Any awkwardness was probably from the difference of our viewpoints. For him, the Bible is indisputable truth, laying down the laws and guidelines for the one true path to salvation. For me, it’s a storybook full of Middle Eastern history, both pacifistic and militaristic philosophies, poetry and prose, and fables that sometimes bear pearls of wisdom.

And let’s admit it, the book of Revelations is just plain cool.

He never discussed anything about Paganism, or Witchcraft, or the occult. He wasn’t interested in my faith at all – he just wanted to tell me about his, on the assumption that his way should be everyone’s way. And that’s fine with me. Pagan tolerance and acceptance means letting people be whoever they need to be, so long as they aren’t harming themselves or others. He was doing me no harm; in fact, from his perspective, his intentions were noble and good.

John needed to “witness” to me, so I let him. I think it’s important, as Pagans, to recognize that there are no wrong gods or goddesses, so long as their worshippers use them to try to become better people.

Our back-and-forth banter continued for about forty minutes. He seemed excited to meet a non-Christian could talk about obscure parables, the authors and histories of the lesser known books, and of course the “End Times.” But he also seemed a little angry that I could have studied the book so thoroughly without accepting it as absolute truth. It was as though he wanted to like me, but couldn’t accept me because I don’t fit into his working definition of “good person.”

Finally, perhaps mercifully, my son woke up from his nap. John shook my hand, thanked me for the coffee, and left.

“Have a blessed day, ” he called over his shoulder, with a tone of irritation and resignation, as he pulled the door shut behind him.

“Blessed day ever, ” I thought, wondering whether I’d made a begrudging new friend.

Apparently not. We haven’t spoken since, and he seldom returns a wave.

His wife once approached my wife, to gossip about that awful Mr. Obama and all the bad things he has planned for our troops. My wife, to her credit, exhibited amazing restraint.

“I feel like they’re constantly judging us, ” my wife has told me, on more than one occasion.

That’s a strange thought, considering that John and his family never interact with us in any way. But I feel it too. It’s hard to say how much of it exists just in our heads. I can’t help but wonder what discussions they have about us. I have the feeling that they look down us, but the irony is that by making this assumption about them, I am in fact passing judgment on them.

It saddens me somewhat, but I take comfort in the little, normal rivalries we neighbors have. John’s lawn is a point of pride for him, and my yard is an altar for me. I see him on his porch sometimes, watching me gather up fallen twigs before I mow the lawn. And in the winter, whenever it snows heavily, he seems to wait until I’m shoveling before he starts, just so I can see him finish faster and more easily.

I catch a shadow of a smirk on his face sometimes, as though he’s thinking, “Look how easy it is when you have the right tools.” In my head, I respond, “Look how nice it is to exercise and be in shape.”

And that’s terrific! That’s normal neighbor stuff. I take it as an affirmation that I’m not considered a pox on humanity.

Tolerance doesn’t always begin with a welcome basket and an invitation to dinner. Sometimes it begins with a few people being just as irritated with each other as they are with everyone else. That’s human nature, and it’s messy, and sticky, and beautiful. Amen.


Footnotes:
The Bible, John 3:16 (paraphrased)

April 6 – Daily Feast

April 6 – Daily Feast

These are times when it pays to take a second look – to really pay attention to those things that cross our paths. We may have already missed a wonderful experience by hasty judgment. When quick judgments are made from a limited point of view, the good qualities of anything are hidden. It is essential to look beyond first impressions if we are ever to find a rare jewel. Even Galun lati is helpless to send us blessing if we are dull of spirit and incapacitated by our own smart minds. In our “expert” attitudes, we sometimes allow the very things that would make us peaceful and happy pass by without lifting a hand. Wisdom is being able to see quality in the rough – and then being gentle and patient enough to shape it to perfection.

~ How can we trust you? When Jesus Christ came on earth, you killed him and nailed him to a cross. ~

TECUMSEH 1810

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

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Daily Feast, Elder Meditation, & Think on These Things for 4/6

  April 6 – Daily Feast

These are times when it pays to take a second look – to really pay attention to those things that cross our paths. We may have already missed a wonderful experience by hasty judgment. When quick judgments are made from a limited point of view, the good qualities of anything are hidden. It is essential to look beyond first impressions if we are ever to find a rare jewel. Even Galun lati is helpless to send us blessing if we are dull of spirit and incapacitated by our own smart minds. In our “expert” attitudes, we sometimes allow the very things that would make us peaceful and happy pass by without lifting a hand. Wisdom is being able to see quality in the rough – and then being gentle and patient enough to shape it to perfection.

~ How can we trust you? When Jesus Christ came on earth, you killed him and nailed him to a cross. ~

TECUMSEH 1810

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – April 6

“Everybody should pray together, cheer along, root along. That brings the circle together. Everything is together.”

–Wallace Black Elk, LAKOTA

Life on the Earth can sometimes be very complicated. Sometimes we think we are alone in our problems. Sometime we even withdraw. Then the problems become even more difficult. We need to watch out for one another, to care for one another, to pray together, to encourage one another; and we need to support one another. Behaving in this manner will bring the circle together.

Great Spirit, today, let me support my brothers and sisters.

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‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Surely there is nothing so peaceful to the eye as the quiet, soft-hued hills resting in the autumn sun. We think if we could only get to those hills we could walk in the warmth of that sunlight and feel that peace in every nerve and muscle.

But so frequently we are unable to follow our wills. We are forced to sit where we are. And the very thought of being bound to this spot sometimes makes us restless, perhaps beyond reason. It creates a feeling of panic, that life will never be peaceful.

And then we look up into the limitless sky and see the depths and immensity of the universe, and we know that nothing binds us. That is, unless we want to be bound.

If we were to go to those hills, there would be others in the distance that would look as inviting. To hunt for peace outside ourselves is to ever be in search, and so to be bound again. But to loose that infinitely beautiful truth that peace is never there or there – but here, within me.

Most of us are lovers of familiar things. We love the routine of living, the security of knowing what is going to happen at a certain hour on a certain day. We love the knowledge that we will continue to love others even though we may not like what they are doing at the moment. We find great peace in knowing others will continue to love us even when we’ve been foolish.

The exciting and livable life is not always one of being on the go, being in entertaining places. The real life of life is not spangles that glitter and one continual round of gaiety.

Life is contentment, living in depth with a genuine love for work seasoned with recreation and freedom to worship where we choose and to pursue our talents as we please.

English author Samuel Johnson tells us that the fountain of content must spring up in the mind; and they who have so little knowledge of human nature as to see happiness by changing anything but their own dispositions will waste their lives in fruitless efforts.

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Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.