Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interfaith Report -- Religious Leaders' Gathering

Green Gulch Farm & Zen Center
Last month I attended one of MIC’s religious leaders’ gatherings at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, California.  As is customary with these gatherings, three leaders from three different religious traditions spoke on the same topic or theme, followed by small group discussions and Q&A with the presenters.

At this gathering, we explored and shared “how we can speak from our different faith perspectives in a way that not only honors our similarities but also honors our diversity and places of disagreement.”

The Rev. Stephen Hale of Green Gulch Zen Center said Zen teaches practitioners to honor the similarities and differences of all faiths.  Zen also stresses impermanence and seeks to end suffering.  With respect to theism, trying to prove or disprove the existence of God(s), efforts are futile because “ultimate reality is beyond comprehension.”  Rather, one’s efforts are better expended in cultivating and acting with kindness, generosity, and compassion towards all.

Moina Shaiq
Moina Shaiq, President of the Tri-City Interfaith Council and founder of the Muslim Support Network, has dedicated her life to dispelling misunderstandings of Islam and its followers.  She maintains that all religions and their practitioners are different so we must look beyond exterior appearance.  She advocates getting to know one’s neighbors in the surrounding area of forty homes in diameter 

Neighborly neglect seems more the norm in contemporary society than in earlier times.  Nowadays people focus on careers and acquisitions, and families relocate more frequently, in my view.  I think her suggestion is a good one.  We humans fear what we do not know, so the obvious remedy is to listen and learn, and to reciprocate.

When queried about the prescriptions, prohibitions, and exhortations in sacred text, she responded that one is judged based on piety over obeying texts.  This statement directly contradicts the interpretations of the precepts of the Koran by those who seek to eliminate or convert all non-Muslims by jihad.  I welcome Moina’s alternative views.

Rob McClellan
The third speaker, the Rev. Rob McClellan, Senior Pastor at host congregation Westminster Presbyterian, said that when he was at Reed College in Oregon, either he or a group with which he was affiliated issued an apology by testifying to all the wrongs done in the name of religion.

Generally speaking, I love these opportunities for religious people to share their views, beliefs, and experiences in an appreciative, non-judgmental milieu of multi-faith colleagues.  I’m grateful to Stephen, Moina, and Rob for their sharing and to Marin Interfaith Council for providing the opportunity.

[Please bear with me, readers, because since my stroke I cannot write clearly and quickly.  I’m interpreting some sloppy notes, hoping they are accurate.]

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Charlie Murphy -- Hail the goer!

Earlier this month I got the sad news of Charlie Murphy’s passing.  This was not unexpected, since we knew that he’s been ill.  I have been including him in my devotions to Brigit for many months.  Still, it’s a shock when the time comes.

I knew Charlie fairly well from his early collaborations on Reclaiming Spiral Dances and other Reclaiming activities, and though we seldom saw each other out of that context, I always felt a connection between us.

On one of his early visits to the SF Bay Area he opened the Spiral Dance ritual with a rousing rendition of his song, “Burning Times .“  That particular production took place in the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.  He and I walked as a pair in the opening procession, and I told him that he was about to participate in a rite that really showed how to honor our gods and our Beloved Dead.  After the ritual, he agreed.

I’m not sure if it was during that visit or another, but we spent one beautiful sunny day together in North Beach where I then lived.  Over the course of the day, Charlie and I climbed up Telegraph Hill to the base of Coit Tower.  There, overlooking our glorious Bay Area, he taught me a new song he would soon be recording.  It was “Calling on the Spirits.”  One phrase from that song in particular I have had occasion to use again and again over the years:  “With visions of the past and memories of the future…”[1]  I even used it as the title of a panel on NeoPaganism in California in 2005.

Charlie and I had lost touch for some years until we became reacquainted on Facebook.  I did not know his husband or family, only Jami Sieber.  I extend them my condolences over the loss of their loved one, such a remarkable man loved and esteemed by many.

The other song Charlie wrote that I have disseminated far and wide is “Light Is Returning “ Its appeal crosses religious boundaries, a characteristic I’m always on the lookout for in my work in the area of interfaith relations.  When my local Marin Interfaith Council offers a multi-religious celebration of light, I offer reflections on Midwinter and the light in the dark from my Pagan perspective.  After that we conclude the entire ceremony with a lively rendition of “Light Is Returning.”  Everyone in the room, of whatever religious persuasion, sings this song together.  This, to me, is one of Charlie’s lasting legacies. 

I am grateful to Charlie for enriching my life.  May his contributions, his voice, and his unique magic live on.

[1]  It’s on the Canticles of Light album which can be purchased on the site of Charlie’s longtime collaborator and friend cellist Jami Sieber here.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Creating a New Oracular System

The Green Pulse Oracle

Frequently people ask me what I’ve been doing.  Well, one of the projects I’ve been helping my friend Jo Carson to brew is a new oracular system that’s never been seen before.  The late Fred Adams, founder of a religion he called Feraferia, chose Jo as his literary executor, and I must say it’s a testament to his foresight that he selected Jo; she’s taken his entire archives, which are extensive, and has been working on bringing his teachings alive and making them available to others beyond the Southern California birthplace of Feraferia.

For readers who may not know of Fred, he had a visionary experience of what he called the Goddess in 1956, and thereafter dedicated the rest of his life to bringing awareness of Her into the contemporary world.  He formally introduced the religion he called Feraferia in 1967.  Its symbol is the Phytala.  The periodical that he published and illustrated he named Korythalia, describing Feraferia thusly:

Feraferia is a Pagan fellowship for the erotic celebration of Wilderness Mysteries with Faerie style and grace, and for the lyrical unification of ecology, mythology, and sacrament.  In such play-love-work may women and men be reunited with Great Nature, each other, and their own beings...

Beginning circa 1970, Fred began amalgamating his understandings of various writings, divinatory systems, and symbols into his own unique set of symbols.  Drawing from the Tarot, the Celtic Ogham alphabet, the Chinese I Ching, astrology, and especially the Tree Alphabet Calendar as articulated by Robert Graves.  Originally called the Axerian Hieroglyphs by Fred, this nature-based system is now called The Green Pulse Oracle, the phrase “Her green pulse” taken from one of Fred’s poems.

In an effort to make Fred’s research available to the public, Jo has taken these massive amounts of notes, diagrams, marginalia, and such and synthesized them into the more accessible form of this Green Pulse Oracle.

We felt we needed something tangible to use in divination. Jo and her artist husband, John Reed, began by creating a set of cards, pictured below.

The idea is that they can be consulted, like the Tarot, the Ogham, or the I Ching, to help people get a sense of the forces and influences at play in a given situation.

John Reed then undertook the task of turning the symbols into three-dimensional markers.  First he began making prints of real leaves to use as markers, with the leaf pattern on the reverse and the glyph on the front.  They were pretty, but didn’t lay flat and were made of fired clay, which would have been heavy, easily breakable or chippable, and difficult to manufacture on any scale beyond an individual custom-made set.

Still, the leaf shape appealed to us and was in concordance with a system based on trees.  John experimented with thin pieces of wood, cut into a vesica piscis (Latin “bladder of a fish”) shape.  This shape carries many associations in sacred geometry, including the union of male and female, and the vagina, and is said to be a “source of immense power and energy.”  As Jo said, “We liked the idea of calling the markers ‘Leaves,’ since the system is based on the Tree Alphabet Calendar.”

In the photo above, you can see the wax version, prepared for using on ceramic markers, featuring the glyph called Ailm.

“Ailm” correlates with the Water element, the Moon Tarot card, the Silver Fir, Palm or Elm tree, birth and cosmic stimulus, the number one, the vowel A, Winter Solstice and Yule, and with the ocean deeps.

The second marker is a wooden “leaf” with the Ailm glyph burned into it.  The following leaves show test versions of the Feraferia Phytala design that will be on the reverse of all the leaves.

An explanatory book, featuring lots of Fred’s artwork, will accompany The Green Pulse Oracle.

The work of correlating Fred’s voluminous writings and notes, and fortifying it with independent research, is tremendous.  Jo is doing the heavy lifting while I am serving as consulting editor.  I find this project fascinating and engrossing, and I’m delighted to be in on the ground floor, as it were, in creating a brand new oracular system.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kith & Kin

Upon my initiation as a Witch, I swore a vow that I assume many others have also sworn, which is to always protect and defend “my sisters and brothers of the Art.”  Now I’m wondering over the longer term exactly what that means.  Or what it might mean to me.

Who are my sisters and brothers?  Who are my kin?  This is a topic worthy of further exploration.  However, while awaiting that further exploration, I want to speak of my main takeaway from the 2015 Parliament of World Religions.

That is the notion of kinship.

I wasn’t as acutely aware of kinship, and its depth of meaning, when I was younger.  Now that I’ve experienced more turnings of the wheel, more dyings and birthings, more deaths and births, more souls leaving this plane of existence and more entering, I see kinship from a broader and longer perspective.

Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples

When I go to powwows (from Narragansett pow√°w ‘magician’ (literally ‘he dreams’)), which are held regularly in San Quentin State Prison where I volunteer with the Wiccan circle under the sponsorship of the Native American chaplain, I hear all people addressed with terms denoting kinship.  Older people such as myself are called “aunties” and “uncles,” elders are called “grandmother” or “grandfather.”  Younger folks are addressed as “sister,” “brother,” or “cousin.”

I experienced this again at the PWR, where there was a fire kindled by members of various indigenous peoples from around the world (the USA, Canada, Nigeria, New Zealand, Greenland, Lithuania, et al.).  At their various presentations and at the Indigenous Peoples Plenary, I heard similar references.

Black Churches

The same is true of much of the African-American community, as well as, I would assume, in the societies in Africa where they originated.  In Black society, particularly in churches (which are generally Protestant Christian), such forms of address are common.  We are all sisters and brothers.

Philosopher, scholar, and activist Cornel West both refers to and addresses everyone as “Sister” or “Brother.”  Barack Obama is “Brother Barack” and I am “Sister Aline” (or “Sister Macha”) to him.  (I introduced myself to him in an elevator lobby once, meaning to tell him what a fan I was, and he hugged me, said how wonderful it was to see me, though we hadn’t met before, and called me Sister.)


Quakers (Society of Friends) in general have in the past addressed one another as sister, brother, or friend.  In the 1945 Jessamyn West book The Friendly Persuasion, later made into the film Friendly Persuasion, Friends referred to each other by the kinship terms of sister and brother.  A biography of Betsy Ross, purported maker of the first American flag in 1776, also uses these terms for members of the Philadelphia congregation to which she belonged.

The Friends have a complicated history as a religion, as in fact most religious movements do.  Paganism(s) is certainly no exception.  Currently this practice of addressing other members in kinship terms has fallen away.

Notions of Kinship within Contemporary Paganism

Often I’ve referred to different individuals as my “witchkin.”

Other terms heard amongst Pagani are “tribal” and “clan.”  The former is often used in a utopian way to reflect the sense that we have found our own, or have “come home.”  Yet it’s also seen in a negative light when used in the context of nativism and xenophobia.  I’d like to see those notions discussed further, but for now my take-away from the Parliament is remembering our interdependence by considering ourselves kin.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Claremont Pagan Studies Conference - III (2016)

Dike Astraea in Vermont
This year's theme was Social Justice.

Sunday, January 25

Keynote:  Nikki Bado, “The Athame Cuts Both Ways: Pagan Responsibility and Social Justice” 

Through the modern miracle of electronic communication, Nikki was able to speak to us from the facility in Iowa where she was recovering from surgery.  I usually have a chance to visit with her at the AAR, but due to travel – she worked for a while in Japan – and health issues, she’s been unable to attend for a few years, and my not attending the last one because of a recent stroke, we haven’t seen each other in some years.

I love the title of her talk (even though I see the double-sided blade of the athame as a piercing, pointing, thrusting, stabbing tool rather than a cutter or slicer).  The root Craft tradition from which I sprang places a high value on expressing one’s spirituality, in part, in political and social involvement.  In a word, activism.

Nikki articulated three areas in which Pagans could serve their communities well in the area of Justice, the theme of this conference.  Nikki’s “3 Rs” are Religious Literacy, Respect, and Responsibility.

Religious Literacy:

The first is religious literacy.  Religious literacy is not something that Pagans learn in classes, study groups, or ritual work.  Nor is it, in general, taught in public schools, Ignorance of such common Biblical phrases such as, “as old as Methuselah,” or the distorted translation of “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” diminishes one’s fuller appreciation when such phrases appear in literature, or even in everyday speech. 

One Biblical quote, from the book of Ecclesiastes, is very common, and has the advantage of working for nearly everyone, Pagans included, since it reflects the Wheel of the Year as well as the five stages of life articulated by Robert Graves (birth, initiation, consummation, repose, and death):

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

Yet how many know its source?

Neither are theological notions of immanence and transcendence paid much heed in standard secular education.  Who ever emerged from an American high school knowing the concepts of, and differences among, monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, atheism, and henotheism?

Pagans, on the other hand, arrive upon a Pagan religio-spiritual path after plenty of searching and sampling.  Few Pagans were brought up in practicing Pagan households. (This is true of adults, and less true for Americans, especially those reared in metropolitan and/or academic environments.)  So we learned about various religions on our own.  I think it’s fair to say that Pagans generally have greater knowledge of non-Abrahamic religions than most people have.  I’ve also learned a lot through my involvement in interfaith.  I wish I could say that curiosity about religions that are not one’s own were more in evidence within the mainstream.


Which brings us to the second topic Nikki addressed, respect.  Again, speaking in generalities, and more particularly from the point of view of my own vintage, Pagans are countercultural.  Our movement in many ways grew in the soil of the 1960-70s countercultural revolution (hippies), which evolved from the Beat Generation, preceded by Bohemianism, itself preceded by Romanticism.  As such, our religion(s) is oppositional in nature.  Which tends to make us disdainful of the orthodoxy and dogmatism of mainstream religions with their established institutions.

This disdain had its place in the arc of growth, but is less serviceable as one matures (both personally and in terms of religious thought and practice).  It loses its usefulness in the pluralistic society in which most of us live today.

Speaking for myself and other Pagan colleagues who involve themselves in interfaith (more aptly, “inter-religious,” since Paganism(s) is not based on faith or revelation, rather, on experience), I have scrupulously observed this convention.  I only wish some of my non-Pagan interfaith colleagues were less presumptive about belief.  (See the last section here.)


The third R is responsibility.  To illustrate these ideas, she spoke of the care we must take to avoid cultural appropriation.  We need to be mindful of unconscious racism.  We need to remember some nations’ tendency towards colonization.  A good rule of thumb if you’re not sure of the provenance of a practice and accepted use is to ask, “May I?”

(Dr. Sabina Magliocco offers a useful overview on “Folklore, Culture & Authenticity.”  Note: Video is longer than one hour.)

Nikki also referenced Kareem Abdul Jabar and the Skeptics dictionary.  I’ve found this to be an excellent resource, if a bit cynical.

Kahena Dorothea Viale, founder of the Claremont Pagan Studies Conference -- praise be her name! – spoke in “Kali Dancing in Justice,” about the value of dance as prayer, and as a fun and healing activity, regardless of grace and skill.  Better, of course, when a dance has grace and skill of expression, but valuable to the dancer in any case.

 Joseph Futerman spoke on “Justice, Fairness, and Balance in Polytheistic World.”  He pointed out that the Universe is without justice yet infinitely fair, and cited Albert Einstein’s quote that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”  (The Born-Einstein Letters 1916-55).  Abstract justice is human notion.

He said that balance is a vector, not a still point; it’s motion.  Therefore, when it comes to Justice, we are better served by applying a vector instead of a scale, as shown in ancient images of the Titan Themis, Egyptian Ma’at, and Lady Justice herself.

In the field of Logic, “a statement that is true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form.”  Joseph claims that most human thought is “monotautalogical,” yet justice involves a feeling between two entities and therefore “polytautalogical.”  Justice is non-institutional (although often institutionalized in terms of having legal and court systems), individual, community-based, and direct.  (I apologize for what may be misperceptions or imprecise descriptions of this talk.)

Ma'at Weighing the Heart
 Joseph also mentioned the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic concept of weregild (“man price“), and the notion of reparations in general.  Reparation leads my thinking towards current efforts at restorative justice within our criminal justice system.

Although I don’t feel qualified to comment knowledgeably on chaos magic, I merely mention that Joseph, who himself practices chaos magic, included it in his talk, and his citing of servitors, egregores, and fetches.

* * * * *

My accounts of these presentations do not address every talk.  They are recountings of those that had the strongest impression on me.

Lady Justitia presides in Rome


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Claremont Pagan Studies Conference - II (2016)

San Quentin State Prison, Marin County, California

This year's theme was Social Justice.

Saturday, January 24, late afternoon session:

Journalist Marsha Scarbrough, in a talk called “Calling on the Orishas to Heal Racial Injustice,” spoke of the African teachings she received and the ritual work they did with the Orishas.

Herleena Hunt, “The Social Injustice of Mass Incarceration of People of Color: Can This Be Changed?  Herleena, an employee of the Amity Foundation which serves in five California state prisons using the Therapeutic Community (TC) model, works directly with inmates within the prison system, assisting them with acquiring a GED, counseling, and reintegration into society as productive people.

Unlike Herleena, those of us who volunteer with religious communities within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR), as I do with the Witchen circle at San Quentin, are prohibited from having personal relationships with inmates, or in fact knowing anything about their personal lives or the convictions that resulted in their incarceration.  Nor are inmates permitted to know anything personal about us volunteers.  I tried to explain the opacity of prison administration in my talk called “Into the Labyrinth: Finding the Way as a Volunteer in Abstruse Prison Culture.  For those who’d like more information, I’ve written six blogs about that work beginning here.

People tend to “find religion” after they been imprisoned, not necessarily before they entered.  Few are from Pagan backgrounds.  They explore Pagan paths in prison.  Now, due to recent federal court orders to alleviate overcrowding in the prisons, more people are being released.  The important thing to look at is how these people are integrated into Pagan society when they found a Pagan path on the inside.

I had prepared a decent PowerPoint and had notes about what I wanted to say, but in the event I just winged it and talked.  The entire late afternoon session of three presentations generated plenty of discussion, which I anticipate will continue online and at conferences and elsewhere in terraspace.

Sunday, January 25

Hannah Epstein opened with “Pagan Clergy and Unpaid Emotional Labor.”  I’m sure that all of those who run groups, circles, and covens, as well as those of us who volunteer in our communities on behalf of Pagans in interfaith and secular contexts, can sympathize.

Ayamanatara’s presentation was called “Synthesizing the Dark Goddess and the God of Light on the Internet to Effect Social Justice.  She spoke about technical stuff that was beyond me; however, she did suggest some remedies for too much involvement in online communications and too much time screen-gazing.

Lilith Nightsong’s talk was not listed in the program and I’ve forgotten the title.  However, she introduced those of who are older and/or technologically challenged to several terms and related internet phenomena which we’d be well advised to learn better.

Kimberly D. Kirner, who usually presents more scholarly offerings, this year spoke of her cross-identity as a Druid in service of justice in “Art, Study, and Service: Being a Druid and an Anthropologist Working for Justice.”  In particular, she offered a Druid prayer, evidently one commonly used, that I want to take to the San Quentin circle.

Mark Cedar Love-Williamson, in his talk called “The Activist Witch; the Virtuous Witch,” spoke about moral foundations theory, citing a book called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt.  He claimed morality is not rational, but rather it is intuitive.  He referenced LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), “a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice.”  Mark said that moral elevation is when you see a good deed.  He cited a website called  I surfed around this site and registered on it.  I found it interesting enough to plan to return and explore it further.  I suggest that you who read this might also find a visit to a worthwhile investment of your time.

Mark continued with a list of Pagans whom he considered “virtuous activists.”  At least one person present who knows me well noticed that I had become agitated.  I will say a few things about that. 

One is that when you’ve been around a while, you develop histories and you know people for more than just their public persona.  Such is the case with me at some of the activists he sees as exemplary.  Some of our histories are personally painful to me, accounting for my discomfort. 

Another is that we all live in a society that emphasizes celebrity.  (See “BNPs, PPPs, & Leadership.”)  Paganism is no exception.  We do tend to look for ‘leaders.’  I’m not judging that tendency negatively or positively, simply noting its prevalence.  Annie Waters insisted that I “really oughta get it out.”  I did want to say something, but I wanted to be constructive.  I didn’t want to model a sulking person nursing her bruised ego; nothing is served by doing that.  So when the facilitator of the Q&A section called on me, I spoke to the issue of the culture of celebrity society-wide as well as in our Pagan communities, and cautioned people to keep in mind that everyone – you, me, celebrities – has feet of clay.  Just sayin’….  As it happened, I don’t think everyone was aware of the impetus of my comment.  No matter.  I felt okay about what I said and how I said it.  No direct criticisms, no accusations, no personal histories, and no ad hominen attacks.

[To be continued.]

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Claremont Pagan Studies Conference - I


Longtime pal Anna Korn and I shared the long drive to the Los Angeles area for this annual event that feeds my soul.  I’ve attended several times since I was invited to be a keynote speaker in 2009.  Last year was the first time Anna went now that she’s retired.

I find that this precious little conference (about 50 people) strikes a good balance between the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, which draws thousands of participants from all over the world and of which Pagan Studies and related sections (Religion & the Environment, Goddess Studies, New Religious Movements, Ritual Studies, et al.) are only a small part, and PantheaCon, which draws a general Pagan public, features a small number of scholarly presentations, and often tends to elicit fractiousness about one or another issue each year.

Each year presenters explore a theme.  This year's theme was Social Justice.

Saturday, January 24

Armando Marini, “Murtagh An Doile,” a co-founder of the Pagan History Project gave an appropriately historical talk on “Elitism and Identity Formation in American Craft and Paganism: A Historical Perspective” in which spoke knowledgeably about the underpinnings of contemporary American expressions of Pagan thought and practice found in Freemasonry, fraternal orders, early folkloric studies, as well as the spiritualist movement in 19th century America and the “goddess movement” of the 1970s.  Always fascinating to me, and always too brief.

Kellen Smith followed with a presentation of her doctoral study on “Feminist Spirituality: From Counterculture Revolution to the Feminist Movement.” Listening to her talk was like hearing one’s personal political history.  Among her visuals were images of key, dare I say “ovarial,” books such as Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman (1976, when I received it as a birthday gift and it turned my thinking around), Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949), and Elizabeth Gould Davis’ The First Sex (1971), along with photos of the actions of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), among whose NY members was Robin Morgan, editor of another germinal anthology, Sisterhood Is Powerful (1970).

Kellen had difficulty locating feminist periodicals from those years.  I mentioned that I had sent lots of old issues of WomanSpirit, Women of Power, Calyx, Lady-Unique-Inclination-of-the-Night, Chrysalis, Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, and others whose names escape my senior mind at the moment, plus a few more contemporary ones like Bitch and off our backs, to the New Alexandrian Library in Delaware.

As it happens, after my early months meeting with a consciousness raising group – that’s what we called those intimate women-only weekly gatherings where we shared aspects of our lives not normally discussed, offered sympathy and support, and analyzed how we saw our experiences in society – I joined with others to form the San Francisco Women’s Studies Collective.  Out of that group, three of us (Sandra Butler, Carolyn Shaffer, and myself) created a resources list of feminist books and other publications and resources.  There wasn’t a very long list then, maybe six double-sided typewritten pages.  We sold photocopies of it for cost (something like 25 or 50 cents).

Marie Cartier, Preview of The Homofiles, a documentary co-produced with Kimberly Esslinger.  We viewed the trailer which had fascinating interviews of Lesbians both in and out of the closet.  Marie has presented papers at past Claremont gatherings I’ve attended and I’ve always enjoyed them, and more importantly, I’ve learned things I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Keynote: Gus DiZerega, “Rethinking Social Justice in Accordance with Pagan Values” Gus spoke enthusiastically about Aristotle, James Madison and the Federalist Papers, specifically Federalist Paper #10, and John Locke as forefathers who wrote about issues of justice.  I didn’t take notes because I haven’t yet regained the ability to write legible handwriting since my stroke in July.  However, I did manage to write down an African proverb he cited that I think is worth quoting here:  “I am because we are.”  As someone with a ‘relational’ personality and worldview, this proverb resonates strongly in me.

Wendy Griffin, ‘The New Telling”:  Last year Wendy gave a presentation on Paganism and the state of our home Earth that elicited tears from everyone listening.  This year she had reworked some of that data into a story.  She began with a framework of the Triple Goddess, saying that the Maiden asks, “What about me?”  The Mother asks, “What about the children?”  And the Crone asks, “What about the planet?”  She also cited The Journey of the Universe, by Thomas Berry, and works on eco-consciousness, specifically a film, by Yale professor Mary Evelyn Tucker.  Mary Evelyn and her husband, John Grim, founded the Emerging Earth Community.  (Small world: Way back in 1998, John and I were both participants in the Biodiversity Project Spirituality Working Group, a small gathering of religious and environmental leaders, in Madison, WI; our work informed the publication of Building Partnerships with the Faith Community: A Resource Guide for Environmental Groups.  Unfortunately, the Biodiversity Project is no longer, nor is the guide available.  The current webpage of The Biodiversity Project is a different entity.)


Annie Brigit Waters followed Wendy with “Sustainability Must Embrace the Sacred.” Annie is an active member of the Grange in Willits, California, way up in rural Mendocino County.  Mendocino County, center of Ecotopia, is a far cry from the cornfields of Iowa and the fields of the Midwest where the Grange (National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (formed as a national organization with a local focus in 1867 right after the dreadful American Civil War) movement had its earliest chapters. 

Annie explained that the notions of Unity, Liberty, and Charity are its underlying values.  Although women have been equal members since the inception of the Grange, the founders were seven men.  They chose three Latin goddesses to symbolize their values, or as I would see it, as the matrons of the organization: Flora, Ceres, and Pomona.

Grange halls around the country contain art and decorative architectural embellishments featuring imagery of sheaves of grain, baskets of apples, cornucopia, and Romantic images of these goddesses.

I’m given to understand that the founders of the Grange wrote a series of rituals that in some way incorporated these goddesses.  I haven’t been able to find any online.  Regardless, however, what especially thrills me about Annie’s work with the Grange is her creation and performance of rituals devoted to these three goddesses.  These rituals can bring participants and viewers into new relationships, new understandings, new reverence for the gifts to humans that Flora, Ceres, Pomona embody. 

[To be continued.]