Making Meaning

Public Service Announcement

For those who don't know me as well as others: I talk about supernatural and spiritual things a lot, and I use my preferred language to do so. That does not mean I expect everyone to accept what I say, agree, or believe the same things. I am perfectly comfortable with multiple ways of looking with the world.

So if I do that, understand I'm just speaking about my experience as I choose to interpret it, and I don't mind if people translate that into "Erica has an active imagination and the psychological need to believe in the supernatural even though there's no proof whatsoever." I really don't. I hope that when I do it, it's not oppressive or comes off as if I'm expecting people to accept it. It's just that I get excited about stuff I'm into and I like to talk about it.

I tend to think many of us as human beings have common experiences, but choose to interpret them or describe them in different ways according to their world view. My brand of belief does not require belief by others, and it is flexible enough for me to always hold disbelief and skepticism at the same time, recognizing that I"m making a deliberate choice. :)

I also affirm other peoples' experiences in their preferred language. If someone tells me Jesus told them such and such today, my response will be, "Cool!" And while I am not quite adept at putting myself into athiest shoes, I have much admiration for people who do not need to believe in supernatural forces, in order to find beauty and inspiration in the world.

I find their world views balancing, and since people like me always have moments in life where our chosen beliefs can't seem to help us, it comes in very handy to know how to find inspiration without a cosmological mythology. Sometimes the most important spiritual experience is to be present in the world, as it is, with what you can see, touch, explain, and prove, to the exclusion of distracting meaning-making. There's nothing "less" spiritual about this.

I guess that kinda DOES make me a Unitarian Universalist, *tech*nically. But I prefer to identify spiritually as a neo-pagan who just happened to be adopted by the UU tribe. :)

Practice Taking Risks

Okay, I don't consider myself in a position to preach. I really don't. I just know what *I* strongly believe and that's it...and I listen to others. So, this week, I'm in charge of the service and the topic of the month is "risk."

I just saw a colleague post about reminding a man not to refer to his female assistant (?) as a "girl." And I'm sure this was completely unintentional and there's nothing at all wrong with him and he probably, hopefully, appreciated having his attention brought to this. My colleague, understandably, felt a little embarrassed.

Here's my approach to this kind of thing: How are we ever going to stand up for the big things, when something's really at stake, and act in the moment, if we don't *practice?*

Like physical self defense, sometimes social risk-taking, standing up for what is right, has to become automated. Or it just won't happen. Knowing what you believe is only halfway there. It's a huge step, but then there's at least another one, and that's acting on it.

Because I believe this so firmly, and I hate being caught in a situation where I later think about how I wish I could have acted, or helped (and sometimes no matter what you can't), I make it a point to practice with smaller, seemingly less significant opportunties.

It's not about nit-picking. It's not about being overly sensitive, or making a "big deal" about something that wasn't meant to be a big deal. It's not the incident itself that should be weighed, but its usefulness in practicing. That's a different value judgement, and much easier to act from, then trying to judge every situation on a case by case basis.

All of us, but especially women and girls, do this thing where we get stuck trying to weigh the worth of an event. We're sitting there trying to figure out, from scratch, where the bar of "okay, THIS is a big deal" is on the nebulous spectrum we never seem to understand...WHILE something is happening, and long after, when it's too late to do something about it.

Some friends this week have been talking on Facebook about their experiences with abusive relationships. Horrific stories. Fascinating examples of manipulation and human sickness. I had a new appreciation for the fact that without knowing what you believe, or in this case, what to look for and notice, it is very easy to go from mild gas-lighting to suddenly a horrible situation that literally puts your life at risk...and scars you forever.

I know a little about what some "abuse" looks like in small forms, so I speak up at the seemingly little stuff. Comments that I don't agree with. Attempts to put me down, or coerce me to do something. Letting people know when I'm pissed at something, instead of hiding it or swallowing it and trying not to let it show. I'm firm, and yet not combative.

But since I have not actually been in THIS situation, I realize anew it would do me well to learn more what the flags are...because you can't see things when you're IN them. only if you have the markers ahead of time, can you know what to look for on the landscape. Looking at a map, and being IN the map, are two different perspectives, and exist in different dimensions.

Now, I've made mistakes. It is rare, but recently, I made one. I misjudged a man and had to go back and apologize, very, very humbly. I did, and he forgave me. But though I'm sorry I hurt his feelings, and I really did, I am not sorry that I acted on my beliefs. It's good for him to know that he can be misjudged, because sexism and harassment are serious problems and exist. Maybe he can contribute to doing something about it, if he doesn't want to live in a world like that. Mistakes can be corrected. Harm cannot always be corrected.

So...I haven't lived on this earth long enough, nor experienced lack of privilege enough, to really believe I have much worth to talk about when it comes to taking risks. But since I have to anyway, that is one of the points I will be bringing up: the importance of practice.

The little things *do* matter, people. We should never feel silly for caring about them. The worst that can happen is people don't get it and are annoyed with you. And guess what....people are going to think whatever they think, ANYWAY. Is that really so bad, if you know what you believe, and have the peace of knowing that you act on it? Wouldn't it feel better to be thought of as "that" person, when you've actually done something, not just because you timidly spoke and *suggested* something?

I admit I actually enjoy saying, "I disagree," when someone makes a comment that is upholding an oppressive, harmful belief. They don't have to understand...I don't need to convince them. i respect them. But it's good for them to know that someone might disagree.

If I stay silent, they will go through life believing that what they said was acceptable, because no one else seems to find it UNacceptable. And it is not my job to make sure someone who takes a risk by stating an opinion falls back on as soft a cushion of disappointment as possible. They took a risk; they can handle the consequences. I literally will say this sometimes only for the record. For the record, everyone does not agree with or endorse that opinion, but you're welcome to have one as long as you understand that.

Anyway, I wish I could say this more articulately and do a better job of being inspirational here. I just want to affirm for ANYone the value and rightness of caring and speaking about things that seem to have minimum consequences.

The little things are guilding over the big problems. Our rape culture, for example, extends from simple jokes, unconscious victim-blaming and mixed messages about gender roles all the way to the very worst. They may not be the same in degree, but they ARE connected. They are of the same nature, stem from the same problems. To respond to one less in degree is to contribute to lessening the worst that can happen.

Be strong. Know what you believe. And practice. Practice. Practice. You're not going to hurt anyone. Everyone will be all right. If you practice, you're less likely to overdo it when something big happens and you make a mistake, because all that anger and surge of emotion and years of not speaking out comes to the surface and crucifies whoever happens to be standing in the way that day.

But with practice, that energy flows more easily, and the mistakes don't have to be that harmful. The more we practice something, the better we get at it. NEVER berate yourself for standing up for what you believe, large, small, or miniscule. It's just being consistent, that's all.

Remember that poem that went around a few weeks ago, calling out how people look back at the Civil Rights movement, and firmly believe they would have marched with King, they would have seen very clearly what was wrong and what they were called to do, and yet TODAY, when we face identical situations, it is hard to get up and going, hard to see it the same way.

So people sit on the sidelines. And comment. And shake their heads, and tell protestors how they should be protesting, when they've never so much as held a sign themselves. I focused on women's issues here, but this is true for everyone. We all need to trust ourselves and value ourselves enough to be willing to act, and yes, without thinking. Thinking feels like acting, but it's not. Practice can help tell the difference, and hone the degree of appropriate reaction.

Afro-Latina

Gratitude to Marisol Caballero for introducing me to the term "Afro-Latina." (Yeah, I probably should have known it, but I didn't.) I think this year I'm going to resolve to RECLAIM that identity. Usually, when I see things like this in the news about Latinx, I feel like it's not about me...and that if I try to connect with it, that says something bad about me. But THIS article does not feel this way. It feels right in my blood. I know for a fact that we had "brujas" in my family, and that's what they were called.

On BOTH sides of my family, I am Afro-descendant. Double f*&(&g Yoruba, man. (Not that I actually know that but PROBABLY Yoruba. LOL) And...although I have not expressed this to my family, and probably won't, I sometimes think that one "reason" I went from Christian to pagan and witchcraft is because the Latin people in my family all rejected that part of their heritage. And with good reason from their perspective, and I absolutely respect that.

But I grew up with stories of how gifted my mom and aunt and recent ancestors were, stories that fascinated and terrified me. And they are STILL like that...gifted, but want nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, I, who don't really see myself as gifted in the same way or nearly as sensitive, am the one who went the other direction. I even studied folklore and music and culture, so that it so happens I am able to look into these things and research my cultural history, if I so choose.

So...though i can't necessarily feel them, I like to think my ancestors conveniently found a way to make sure the heritage did not get completely lost. Borrowing from that Jewish story of generational religious heritage, I may not know the sacred place, or the tree in it, or the prayer I'm supposed to say, but I can pray.

And so now we have the whole diverse package. The Christian and the pagan are both part of my family, not one or the other. Christian is also on BOTH sides of my family. :) ANYway, I love this article. I love that it's giving me the rare experience of feeling it is connected to and about ME, in some way, and not that I'm an outsider looking at something exotic.

I do not need to claim Latina identity because I need to add something "extra" to being Black. I know some people think that, and some people DO that. But that is not why. I am happy to be black. I am happy to be the color of the coffee I drink and beautiful in my own completely unique way. I'm happy that I HAVE an ancestry...THAT'S what matters. I don't care which one it is. I just want one.

I need to claim Latina identity, because my ancestors need me to, and my heritage and spiritual practice needs me to. I need it to be whole and to be connected with them. So i think maybe I'm finally at a point in my life where I'll actually make a little more effort, and stop pretending like it's something I should be embarrassed about. :) This article just makes me feel a little sparkly and happy, so I knew it was a good thing I came across it...particularly in these times.

Goodbye To My Abuelita

My abuelita died this morning.

Or rather, has rested, a much deserved rest after a difficult life. This is my goodbye; the piece I wanted to write months ago.

She raised me as a little girl, until about the age of seven when we moved. I was born in Boston and I remember my funny, little grandma always being there. She would talk in Spanish and taught me some songs, and it used to make her laugh to have me sing them...badly. She was feisty. Once, she jumped off of a piano bench to prove that she still could; I had been trying to describe to her the difference between flying and gliding.

“Oh, you think I can’t jump??” She’d said. It was the story for years to come, among others...stories we told about how funny she was. She was funny, I think, because she had to be; I don’t think she always tried to be, but she was good-natured; life is rough and for her it had been particularly so, ever since she’d come to New York from Puerto Rico, and even back then, in her childhood, on my ancestors’ island. A place I have never been.

We left, as I said, when I was seven.

From that time on, I think I never knew where my home was. I have been trying to get back to it ever since, and that is why I never want to be far from family.

Here’s how I came to realize this:

A few years ago, I was doing a chakra meditation, a practice I did frequently at the time. I always had this funny sense, as I pulled my awareness up from the root to the crown, that there were some chakras I felt more strongly than others. My weakest one by far was my heart. At the time, I think I shrugged that off and maybe was even a little proud of it, as if it somehow confirmed I was not a sentimental, “heart” person. Silly, to think about it.

But one day I decided I wanted to know if there was a reason. I got the idea from a funny place; the cartoon show, Avatar: The Last Air-bender. My husband and I watched it religiously. It influenced me a lot but also expressed and resonated with me.

One of the episodes I returned to in my thoughts was the chakra episode. As the avatar is guided through them by his guru - he’s just a kid - he stirred his walking stick in a stream where the water had pooled and gotten stuck in a few places. Like the stream, there were certain things that blocked the energy flowing through the chakras, and so the avatar was introduced to them, and released them.

I had been delighted that the show was talking about so many things I knew something about, but I did not know a lot; I was solitary, and had no teacher, so I found inspiration wherever I could, and my practice and spiritual journey is made up of many such memorable moments of clarity.

I wondered, could something be stuck in my heart, and that’s why I have difficulty “feeling” it?

So I went through my meditation, feeling my way up through each center, becoming aware of the distinct sensation of each. When I got to my heart I stopped, and sort of “felt” around. I would say, I wondered around it, almost as if I’d asked myself, if there were something blocking my heart chakra, what would it be? And there it was.

My grandmother’s eyes...were full of tears. They did not spill over...but she looked sad in a way I was not used to seeing adults look; she did not try to hide her sadness. It was as if we shared the exact same sadness, the same heart, the same despair.

When we moved, I didn’t know anything about what a new life would be like. I had never really been anywhere else, and of course it had not occurred to me that I ever would be. So it was truly traumatic when we left Boston for North Carolina; exciting, but also traumatic. Moreso than I realized, than I ever let myself remember, because I had to be strong to survive, and I did not think there was anything I could do with those feelings. So I talked about them very little and pushed them down. But I think I was grieving for a long time.

I remember hugging my grandmother when we said goodbye, the car running, my mom, dad and little brother already in it, as I remained, sobbing openly as only children can do. We let go of each other, and the last thing I saw of her was her sad, sad eyes, saying goodbye, as we were taken away from each other.

We had no choice; no one did. My father had to go where the work was, and finding work became increasingly difficult in the years that followed. Everyone was traumatized. I have no idea how, though. We didn’t talk about it much. I wonder now if we should have. But I didn’t know any better, and maybe no one else did, either...we were all just trying to survive in a new life.

As I paused in my heart, feeling around, her eyes swam up into my inner vision, her eyes full of sadness and loss, a kind of hopelessness.

And then the tears came, my tears. They spilled over. Oh, did they ever spill over. And I cried...hard. I cried so hard I could not ever remember having cried that way before. And it felt like I would never stop; my insides were emptying, like vomit, being pulled through and from me, being pulled inside out. I don’t know how long I sat there crying that hard, but at least an hour. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It was grief. Grief that I had never expressed, and loss I had never acknowledged.

It’s not that we never saw her again; we did, many times, after that. She even lived with us for a while. But when I was little she had been a fixture in my house, had helped raise me, had helped me, and my mother, be connected to our Puerto Rican heritage, something no one ever saw or acknowledged or allowed us to celebrate once we moved to parts of the country where people don’t understand anything but “black” and “white.”

So I was growing up apart from her, and while I saw her, it wasn’t the same. We had lost something, and we could never get it back; there had been a break instead of a seamlessness in our relationship and shared experiences. She was now a “relative” we went to visit and who visited us sometimes. Not my closest family, living in the same house, as families used to live.

Over the years, she began to show signs of dementia. I have not counted; my mother probably has. By the time I was in college, she was starting to have moments of forgetting who I was. Once she did not believe I was my mother’s daughter, or that my dad was her husband!

I had wanted, growing up, for her to live long enough to see me married. She did get to meet my husband eventually and briefly, but I doubt she remembered him. But that’s okay; she lived to meet him and to see me grow up and be on my own.

Then the years continued, and her mind and body began to fade together. I remembered her plump and cozy; she became thin and gaunt. She sat mostly in a wheelchair, but she was still feisty...she would often try to get out of it, or move it forward with her tiny feet if we weren’t going fast enough for her. She was still so, so funny, in the way that only she could be in the saddest of times. Right to the very end.

I did not see her much in the last 10-15 years. By now, lucidity was pretty much the exception, but it happened. Then, sometime this year - was it the fourth of July? - I can’t remember, or maybe my mother’s birthday. But anyway, I was home with my parents, and a bunch of family came unexpectedly. I found out my grandmother was coming and I was so looking forward to seeing her...I knew now things I needed to say to her, like “I love you,” “thank you,” and goodbye.

I heard her before she was rolled into the house; she was babbling loudly outside. She did that a lot. It was really funny but of course I wondered if she was upset. I hoped not. I hoped she was not always unhappy and confused, but I have no way of knowing.

When she came in, my tiny grandmother, her silvery-gray, beautiful hair, had been been pulled back tightly into a tiny cute bun at the top of her head. Not a single hair was out of place. That was the way she’d always done her hair, too...never a single hair out of place. Impossibly, immaculately neat.

She was watching everyone talking on the couch and coming in and out of the room, and I was watching her. I called her a few times, saying “Grandma.” Then, I said, “Gloria” as firmly as I could so she could hear me. Her head whipped around and looked at me, her eyes piercing, trying to figure out who this new person was who was calling her by her first name as if I were someone she should remember.

I told her who I was, using Spanish as much as I could. I still know a little of it. I don’t speak Spanish; but it is there in my tongue, coming up quickly, almost easily, the minute I try to think of a word in Spanish. It is there. It is my language, just as English is, though no one ever saw me as Latina once I’d left the New England area, until I learned to forget that I was Latina, or hide it, because somehow to claim it seemed wrong, as if i did not deserve it. I was not a real Latina. I never was.

I sat with her the rest of the evening. I helped her drink some water with a sippy cup, and later to eat some food, some Spanish rice and meat and beans. I don’t know how she was able to digest it, and her teeth were so aged I wondered how much longer they would last. I marveled that she could eat solid food. I rubbed her back and kept my hand on her always, trying to keep physical contact, to tell her that I loved her, that I was someone, whether she remembered or not, who loved her, with all my heart.

As we sat in the kitchen eating, she looked at me, her eyebrows furrowed, that sharp expression in her eyes again. She asked me, “Por que something-something-something conmigo?”

“Why am I sitting with you?” I asked, and she nodded; this had been her question.

Using my phone, and the translation app I had on it for practicing Russian, I typed and read a few phrases to her that I really needed to say, and hoped she would understand:

"Because you are my grandmother. I love you. You took care of me when I was little. You taught me this song, remember?" And I sang what little of it I had from memory. I continued to try to read my phrases and then she said, suddenly, “Recuerdo.”

I remember.

She remembered me. A few hours later, she left, going back to my aunt’s, my mother’s sister, where she had been living the last years of these late stages of dementia. I felt that place in my heart, that deep place, once hurting, that felt grief for all the years I’d lost when I might have gotten to know her better, grown up with her, been in her life all along. This didn’t necessarily make up for it, but...somehow, it brought things to a close. It was, I knew, very likely my goodbye.

I am so, so, so, so glad I went there, and spent that time with her. I am so glad I did not let her strangeness cause me to hesitate, and instead I still felt, as her grown-up granddaughter, that she was mine, now to take care of, as she had once taken care of me. Maybe it was only for a couple of hours...in the entirety of our lives, spent so far apart, but I did it. I told her I loved her, and I remembered her. And she remembered me. It was enough.

I had a feeling it was very likely I might not see her again after that, so I was prepared to consider that day my goodbye, if that should be the case. Turns out it is.

Now my grandmother is...with the Lord, as my mom puts it. I don’t doubt that. Somehow, I don’t, regardless of my beliefs. I believe that, easily, just as I believe, easily, she is now with my mother, and her other daughter and son, and with her grandchildren and great grandchildren now, and with me.

Estabas dentro de mi corazon todo el tiempo; Se que siempre estaras conmigo.

You were within my heart, all along. I know you will always be with me.

Saturn

I’ve been drawn to Saturn lately, as I incorporate working with the planets into my regular spiritual practices, and into the relationships I am building in the spirit realms. I feel an odd fondness, almost warmth, toward Saturn right now. I am not totally sure why, but I do know I find some kind of satisfaction in resolving feelings of apprehension into genuine appreciation, when it comes to spirits, deities or energies that are typically feared or dreaded. I guess it’s a little like making friends with the monster under your bed.

ANYway!

So I am developing an appreciation for this planet and the god for whom it is named, and the power of “weightyness” it embodies. The first time I invoked Saturn the planet, maybe a month ago, I felt a heavy sense of weight all around me. I was very satisfied with the communion, but afterward, I flopped down on the futon and found I could not move…I was so tired and heavy! I remained that way for about 45 minutes. Since then, when I invoke Saturn, I politely ask him to remember to arrive “gently.” It has seemed to help.

As the lunar new years and the solar new year have drawn near and passed, I have been thinking about will. The lesson I am learning in my fledgling attempts at meditation practice is that the actions and choices I make all come down to will. If I think I want to pick up a new habit, aim for a goal, or practice and learn a new skill, but I don’t actually make any movement to do so, I realize there must be something else my will considers more important.

I learned this year that I had many illusions and shadows of what I thought the life I wanted would look like, and the thing was, the fundamental desires were real and generated by my will, but the attempts to act on them were all confused by surface illusions and secondary desires, namely, the desire to simply arrive at perfection in whatever current pursuit, but not be willing to embrace the process of being a beginner and having more realistic goals.

As meditation has helped me separate my emotions and habitual thoughts from my will, the person I actually am, I am starting to appreciate the importance of knowing one’s own will. I used to think it was a little cheesy, the way magicians and sorcerers talk about “will,” sounding as if they are touting or forcing themselves to imagine that they are somehow more powerful than anything else in the universe. It seemed a little arrogant, forceful, and inauthentic.

But I understand better, now. To know your own will is actually to humble yourself in a way, because the process for doing so is to realize and accept that all those momentary feelings and impulsive beliefs constantly running through the wiring of your being are not in fact all that important at all. (This is not to say I do not value emotions. Rather, I have sometimes, I think, valued them to a fault. Everything has its place.) The result of getting to know your will, though, is also a sense of confidence, calm and groundedness.

Groundedness! This made me think Saturn was a perfect energy to work with for better knowing my own will and allowing it to direct me rather than impulses and habits. Below is something like what I remember praying when last communing with Saturn. The words in brackets are those I would likely say if communing with Saturn on Saturday or in the planetary hour of a given day.

Saturn, Saturnus, I call to you.

I call to you, spirit of the planet Saturn, and intelligence of the planet Saturn.

And I call to you, Saturnus, the god for whom that planet is named

[on this, your holy day, in your holy hour]

And to all those beings and spirits you command

[and for whom this day/hour is sacred].

at this point I made an offering of incense before continuing

Help me to know my will.

Let my will be an anchor that weighs me down,

That grounds me in reality.

Let it act as my guide toward my desires/goals.

Let my desires/goals have substance and be grounded and weighted in what is real and true.

Help them to have form and shape,

And my practicing of discipline to come from my will and nothing else.

Thank you for the realm you command

I honor your power to give weight to things,

To restrict and give form.

Bless my endeavors.

I am enjoying getting to know you; thank you for spending this time with me,

and for accepting my offerings.

For someone like me, a dreamer often carried off by my imaginings and my ability to be creative, an anchor of groundedness feels like it could be very important and helpful. I hope to discover this, as well as the directedness (?) of being guided by my will, once I know it and am familiar with it, can distinguish it from surface and illusory, temporary and false desires. I suspect that it will have a streamlining effect, cutting through on a more direct path instead of one that pulls this way and that, which is often otherwise my natural way of “feeling through” things. My will has always been there, making things happen; now I hope to work with it more intentionally, to work with it rather than in spite of or at odds with it.

Things I Wish Other Religious People Knew About Paganism

I recently had the opportunity to attend an interfaith conference of religious educators.  Most of this group consisted of followers of Judaism and the largest denominations of Christianity.  They had only just begun to make connections with Buddhists and Muslims, and I supposed they would probably need time to get used to broadening the tent before being asked to encounter too much of the unfamiliar.  But sometimes things don’t work that way.

I was not, for example, only there as a Unitarian Universalist professional; I was there as a pagan, for which I was not sure they were prepared.  And yet, when I was asked to name two things of which I thought others might have “holy envy” about my religion, I wanted to tell them.  After a few people took their turn, I finally had an opportunity to share what my experience of paganism meant to me. 

It’s not a question I’m often asked.  I think people don’t believe there’s much more to say about it, or think they already know what it is and don’t need to hear my version.  But I’m a person of faith, too; passionate faith.  I wanted them all to know how much I was just like them.  Having realized I’d put it into words for the first time, I wanted to remember in case I was ever asked again.

So here they are, the things I wish other religious people knew:

Pagans can have personal relationships with that which others call “God.”

I had been a very devout Christian growing up, and a personal relationship with God - and later Jesus, when I was led to incorporate him into my idea of God - had been a real part of my formative years.   In fact, that relationship never ended.  It’s just that now, as I told them in truncation, it’s with “thousands” of emanations of God, instead of just one.

For me, the Divine exists in nuances; just as among any number of like human beings, each one has a completely unique personality and set of experiences.    Getting to know “the gods” is fulfilling, exciting, enrapturing, ecstatic. 

And I never get tired of it.  Each of the gods and goddesses, every spirit of land, tree, air, every angelic being, and the endless, numerous emanations of All That Is, is simply a new stream in which to taste the divine force of life, experience the sacred, touch and return to God. 

This is not an explanation of pagan cosmology, by the way; pagans are quite varied where that is concerned.  I just mean this to be the poetry of my experience in relationship to the Divine.

Pagans hold as sacred both the dark and the light, that which seems holy and that which seems profane, things of the body as well as things of the spirit. 

It is a long journey for anyone who tends, spiritually, toward asceticism, to get to a place where the messy, imperfect, aging, sexual body is just as sacred as the supposedly perfect, immaterial spirit.  But my love and celebration of the body is as much a part of my life as was once my shame of it, and of anything that involves pleasure for pleasure’s own sake.

 I do not reject the pleasurable to find the Divine in some internal desert, as if the Divine is not a part of the dirt and the earth, the sand and the wind and the mud and the rain, the blood and vestibules and muscles and nerves and hair and fur. 

I embrace the Divine in the ecstatic pleasure of just being alive, and all the wondrous experiences that make a life.  I am thankful for the uplifting of the body through its sacred ability to express the Divine in a material world.  God is not to be encountered only in retreat from pleasure; pleasure is often exactly where God is found, if you stop to notice it.

And the same can said for embracing those “negative” emotions of ours, those things out of control, that come from the shadow of the subconscious.  We know these destructive emotions serve a holy purpose.  It is appropriate that most tarot decks have a Tower card (Tower of Babel?), which people dread seeing, because it means what you’ve been building was either an illusion, or no longer serves you. 

Paganism is filled with many of us who still struggle with the idea that the best answer to everything is to be more than human, when being human is what we’re here to be.  But the point of working in earth-centered systems and of any system of magick, is that you are responsible for your own actions. 

We are not children, with a divine parent keeping us from doing something “wrong,”  or someone who knows better than us.  We must discern right and wrong according to our own conscience.  Despite all our protestations, we can actually be trusted to arrive at the “right” conclusions.  But there’s another critical piece to that:  Because we are sovereign over our choices and actions upon the world, we’re keenly aware of our responsibility for the consequences they can have.

In learning to claim my own power, to live without someone who has all the answers and can tell me what to do, to understand that divine Guidance is following my lead, and not the other way around, I am more whole, empowered, and grown up than I have ever been in my life. 

And that’s really it, the things I chose to share with those who were listening to me talk about paganism.  I have no idea how they received it, but actually being allowed to talk about it felt like re-joining a tribe.

I belong among people of faith, because I am a person of faith.  So do all pagans.  It would be nice if there were a seat at the table for us, but now and then I suppose we need to learn to invite ourselves. 

Bio: Erica Shadowsong




I’m a storyteller and Unitarian Universalist religious education professional.  I’m spiritually a pagan, and I have also been a Christian.  I’m a singer and musician, writer and artist, and I use the word “artist” as Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way uses it, to denote a sense of spiritual path, not simply a profession or activity.  I am every inch an artist, and in college, I was a student of folklore. 

Folklore is what led to the connection of everything I do in my life, and especially storytelling.  What little I learned of folklore as a discipline was what gave depth and rootedness to signs, symbols, archetypes, colors, rituals, habits, music, behavior, story.  The very deepening I have always sought in spiritual practice and relationship with the Sacred has often been found by applying the folklore lens as a tool; by assuming that everything has meaning, vital meaning, I believe one will always find that the breadcrumbs actually aren’t there by accident.

Blessed synchronicity.

I’m a storyteller, and so are you.  Meaning making is what we do, every second of every day…or at least, that’s what I believe.  I invite readers to join me in exploring the rich meaning of the mundane, the foolish, the desperate, the epic, the childish, the imaginative, the explorative.

Influences and Interests
world religions, neo-paganism, folklore studies, studies in applied storytelling, The Artist's Way, The Psychic Pathway and intuitive pathworking, music as a healing art and sound healing studies, world mythology, sacred texts, ritual, activism

Roles
Director of Religious Education (Unitarian Universalist)
Professional Storyteller, spoken word, poet, singer and songwriter, acting and historical reenactment enthusiast
blogger, wizdUUm.net

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