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.


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.

How I Pray

Sobonfu Somé, Parabola 2014

I pray in many different ways.
The clarity of my intention is the beginning of my prayer.

In my tradition, every breath I draw is a prayer. Every time I inhale and exhale, it is a prayer.
And so, how conscious are you when you are breathing in and out? How conscious are you when you are walking?
How conscious are you when you are singing? How conscious are you when you are angry?
I pray in the way that I show gratitude, love or compassion. I pray alone and in community.
I pray with my thoughts. I pray with my body.

I pray in the way I speak to people.
I pray to various elements of nature-
the trees, the animals, the water, the rocks, the earth, the fire....
I pray to my Ancestors and all the Divinities.
I pray simply, with passion, humility, clarity and grace.

I pray in the way I welcome and bless people . I pray with whatever emotions come my way.
I pray with sincerity and with strong belief that what I'm praying for is going to manifest.

In my tradition, whatever you say is a prayer that you send out, Because sound is a powerful force that brings the hidden to light. And when you pray something is going to say Yes.

So each moment of my life is a prayer.
Each moment I reflect on myself, on the world and other people is a prayer. How I interact with people and how I deal with my thoughts is a prayer.
How genuine am l?-is a way for me to pray.

For me, all these things are sacred and are messengers, and can take my heart cries, which are my prayers to the Divinities.
This is the power of how I pray.

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. 


By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Nov 1, 2007

Into this place may we come
To share, to learn, to speak, to listen,
And to grow together in the spirit of peace and harmony and love.

A few years ago I was looking through a small book that included pictures of words that have been carved into the sides of buildings.
Most of them were simple and trite things, but one thing written on the side of a building in Dayton, Ohio struck me.

You are a part of everyone you have met.

It struck me, and I stopped and thought of that for the rest of that day, and many times since.   
I came up with two things I believe to this day:
Everything I do does mean something to everyone I meet.  I decide whether that is good or bad for the others I meet.
Even here in Second Life!

But one other thing I realized, and is significant for this first day of November:
Everyone I have ever known is a part of me.


All societies, ancient and modern, note the passing of the longest and shortest days of the year, and some even celebrate the equinoxes.
These days are significant because they signal large changes in weather; the seasons.
In the ancient northern European calendar, the mid-season days were also celebrated,
for the ancients thought that during these times the barrier between the real world and the spirit world was thin.

A thousand years ago, the Church's ability to incorporate the ancient rituals into the new religion
aided the successful spread of Christianity in Europe.
The three-day-long mid-spring and mid-fall celebrations of the ancient Celts, the two most important holidays in their calendar,
partly survive today as Easter ("Eostre" being the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn), and All Saints and All Souls Days.
The Celts call this time "Samhain"--the end of the "light half" of the year and the start of the "dark half".
The spirits are free to mix with the living, and the people would celebrate the lives of those who passed on before.
Just last night many communities had children walking around the neighborhood dressed as spirits, playfully re-creating
this mixing of the spirits of the dead in the land of the living.

Mexican culture has taken this a step farther; Dia de Los Meurtos is celebrated November 1 and 2.
This celebration may have roots in ancient mesoamerican culture.
Graves are decorated, and stories are told.
Some of these are stories of family and friends and the good things they did when they were alive.
As Octavio Paz has written:
   "The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips.  
   The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it;
   it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.  
   True, there is perhaps as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away:  
   he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony."

Our Western tradition is to focus our memories of those who have died in the time just after their death.
This is entirely appropriate, and is an important part of the grieving process.
But it is also important to remember those who have died at other times, for as we remember them they still live in our hearts.

This past Sunday in my RL church we took some time during the service to remember those who have died.
Not just in the past year--perhaps it has been too soon--but also those who have been gone for some time.
Let's take a few minutes to think about someone who has touched us, and we haven't thought about for some time.

It's is also a tradition in my church to say out loud the names of those who are still alive in our hearts.
If you feel comfortable, please share the name of a few people who still fill you with joy though they are not here.
You can add a line or two--barely enough space I'm sure--to explain one thing that makes them make you still feel special.

Pagan Holidays


Yule (Dec 20-23) - Winter Solstice.  Yule is the time of greatest darkness - the shortest day and the longest night of the year. It is also associated with the rebirth of the Sun and Light. The solstice marks the beginning of the Solar new year.

Imbolc (Feb 2nd) - End of winter.  A day to celebrate the first glimpses of Spring It is also dedicated to the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Time for spring cleaning and new starts. Traditions: Burning fires and candles, cleaning, making a bed for Brigid.  Also celebrated as Groundhog Day.


Ostara (March 19-22) - Vernal Equinox.  The first true day of Springtide. The days and nights are now equal in length, with the days getting longer and warmer. A good time to plant the seeds of long-term goals. Eggs and bunnies symbolize new birth and new life.

Beltaine (May 1st) - End of spring.  Beltane is a celebration of fertility, growth, love and passion. The Land is ripe and fertile. The focus is on joy and happiness. Traditions: Dancing around the May Pole, lighting bonfires.  Also celebrated as May Day.


Litha (June 19-23) - Summer Solstice. The days of the first harvesting of herbs as the Earth now begins to share her bounty. This is the longest day and the shortest night; it is traditionally celebrated by a fire festival. The season between the planting and the harvest, June is also the "traditional" month in the West for handfastings and weddings.

Lughnasadh (Aug 1st) - End of summer.  The First Harvest. Plants are 'setting their seed" already for the next year as the cycle of Nature continues. The spring-plantings are beginning to come to fruition. Much of the symbolism for Lammas revolves around grains and bread. Traditions: Bread baking, making corn dollies.


Mabon (Sept 21-24) - Autumn Equinox. The Second or Continuing Harvest. The days and nights are equal once again, gardens are in full bloom and heavy with nature's bounty, and the weather grows colder as winter approaches. Traditions: Making and drinking of wine, Rituals of thanks and sharing with the less fortunate.

Samhain (Nov 1st) - End of autumn. The Last Harvest. Festival marking the transformation of life to death - the end of the agricultural year, departure of migrating and hibernating animals, and decay and death of vegetal and animal life. Observed by remembering departed ancestors and contemplating one's own mortality. Samhain marks the end of the Pagan year.  Also celebrated as Halloween.

When a Divine Spark Goes Dark

We were talking about yesterday's shootings at Virginia Tech in the office today. Over 30 people killed. Worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Shades of Columbine. Someone mentioned Kent State.  For me, what came to mind was stories of a guy in a clock tower in Austin TX.

It is a credit to my UU colleagues that while we expressed great sorrow for those killed, and especially for those left behind to grieve the loss, none of us vilified the shooter. No talk of evil, etc.

Still... I wonder... what makes a person want to kill a bunch of people that he doesn't know?

I am grappling with our belief in inherent worth and that each of us carries a spark of the Divine.  How can divinity wreak such evil?

Not long ago in church I tried to expand upon the analogy of the flame - our divine spark, our inner chalice.  Fire needs fuel to grow - it needs connection.  The easiest way to extinguish a flame is to cover it, isolate it from the oxygen around.  Even when battling large forest fires, where it would be impossible to cover or isolate from oxygen, the strategy is to dig fire lines and otherwise isolate the flames to keep them from spreading.  In isolation a flame dies.

In social isolation our divine spark dies as well.

That still doesn't explain why one would kill so many others.  When one is so isolated from the rest of divinity, suicide is understandable but why violence towards others?  Even in the dementia that comes from rage and desperation, there is still a kind of rationale, even if it only makes sense to the killer.  To think otherwise is to deny that person's worth.  What did the shooter hope to attain by his actions?

The only answer that I can think of comes from the amazing movie Crash.  In it a character describes feeling so socially isolated that one might intentionally crash into another just to feel the connection.  For one brief moment, as he was impacting the lives of others in the biggest way possible, did he feel more alive?

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