dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
Remember what I was just saying about how this episode of hypomania, and indeed the recent years of my life, have lacked religious feelings? After a badly disrupted night's sleep (I have a cold), and the first in a week without Saphris, I just glanced at a page, saw this Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, and felt my generator sparking:

It's a sundisc, with rays of light coming down. I know the image from complex diagrams like this one:

The sun god, travelling in his sky-ship, sends down rays of energy that revivify the dead.

I feel like I want to nurture that image. Which would mean nurturing not just positive and sacred feeling, but potentially an elevated mood. Uh oh. How do I stay happy and busy, up but not too far up?

(For those of you who are curious: the black disc in the ship is the sun, with the goddess Maat, representing cosmic order, sitting in the front. Beneath that is the hieroglyph for "sky", with the sun-god's falcon head poking down, emanating what look (to me) like hours of the day and night and general beams of light onto a mummy, which is protected at head and foot by the goddesses Isis (left) and Nephthys. The sun and his rays are also protected by goddesses, in this case Nekhbet (the vulture) and Wadjet (the cobra). This is an image of the dead person safely tucked away in the netherworld, given eternal life by the creator god, and participating in the creator's activities. All is as it should be. The picture comes from the book Egyptian Religious Texts and Representations by Alexandre Piankoff and was redrawn from a funerary papyrus in the Louvre.)

ETA: Aw yiss, this is what I'm talking about. (The rays are turning into multicoloured flowers.)

(The stela of Lady Taperet, also at the Louvre.)

dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God' (The Independent, 31 January 2015). "Now, if I died and it was Pluto, Hades, and if it was the 12 Greek gods then I would have more truck with it, because the Greeks didn’t pretend to not be human in their appetites, in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness... they didn’t present themselves as being all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, all-beneficent, because the god that created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac."

Indigenous youths 24 times more likely to be in detention, Amnesty International report finds (ABC, 2 June 2015) | Fact Check: Amnesty International claim on 'shocking' Indigenous child incarceration rates checks out (ABC, 19 June 2015)

Australian prison population grows 20 per cent in last decade (SMH, 29 January 2016)

Children from Indigenous communities more likely to suffer unintentional injuries, study finds (ABC, 19 February 2016). "We're not sufficiently investing in appropriately targeted preventative programs for Indigenous children."

'Blackbirding' shame yet to be acknowledged in Australia (SMH, 3 June 2015). For most of my life I thought slavery was something that other countries had done. Only in recent years have I learned about the work we forcibly extracted from Indigenous Australians and South Sea Islanders.

White man in the photo is the 'third hero' that night in 1968 (San Francisco Globe, 9 June 2016). Australian Olympic athlete Peter Norman, his gesture of support for John Carlos and Tommie Smith as they made their Black Power salute, and what it cost him.

The McDonald's Hot Coffee Case (Consumer Attorneys of California Web site). "It is the case that gave rise to the attacks on 'frivolous lawsuits' in the United States. Almost everyone seems to know about it. And there's a good chance everything you know about it is wrong."

TSA's 95% failure rate shows airport security is a charade (Los Angeles Times, 5 June 2015). It's just for show.

A Social History of Jell-O Salad: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon (Serious Eats, 29 August 2015)

Are you a grammar pedant? This might be why (GA, 29 March 2016). "Introverts, it turns out, are more likely to get annoyed at both typos and grammos." Not this little black introverted duck. Mistakes happen. The nitpicking is far more irritating.

Finally, on violence.

If ya think that's all of the backed-up links, you are sorely mistaken. XD
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
.. always full of interest, particularly when it comes to what we may reasonably call my religion, which is Eclectic Wiccan with a Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian influences and a large dose of Zen Buddhism. I like to observe my spontaneous responses to religious and philosophical questions raised by the letter writers.

Quoth one in the 24 May 2014 edition: "religion instils a fear that god is watching everything we do". Wicca doesn't really have a concept of sin or damnation - although I did apologise for throwing out some takeaway containers this evening instead of recycling them, as if doing so guiltily under a disapproving supernatural eye. Perhaps I've absorbed that idea from the surrounding culture, just as much of my swearing is filthily Christian.

Here's another, about "the use of unclaimed bodies for medical science... One would have to look long and hard to find a more straightforward and sensible use of an unclaimed dead body, yet here [in an article in a previous issue] we have an educated person who takes issue with this practice since, rather obviously, there has been no informed consent." Now there are various counter-arguments, such as the idea that the body is property, and the possibility of the body's being claimed by grieving relatives too late.

But the thought popped straight into my head: the body is sacred. That's a very basic idea in Wicca, and in Neo-Paganism generally. In a previous posting I talked about "the well-being of bodies"; imagine living in a culture which held that as its highest goal, one which above all valued safe water and good nutrition, adequate medical care, and freedom from violence for everyone. (Imagine living in a culture where the use of the hand or the penis to cause harm is seen as a desecration of the perpetrator's body!) Out of these values arise the idea that a corpse is not a natural resource, like a tree or a coal vein, but part of a person. For the letter-writer, corpses are presumably a massive scientific resource only going to waste because loved ones and indeed the dying themselves are blocking their use.

The question now becomes: is this my thinking because it arises from Wiccan ideas, or is it just a a gut reaction to what seems like a heartless attitude, and I've rationalised it with Wiccan ideas ex post facto?

ETA: Three images just came into my mind. One, from the South Korean movie Brotherhood of War; at the beginning, remains are being excavated from a Korean War battlefield, and in a brief shot we see that at the site of each discovered body is laid a white chrysanthemum. Two, also from SK, but from the news: the recovery of hundreds of bodies, most of them teenagers, from the sunken ferry the MV Sewol. Each body was placed in a coffin, draped in a flag, and saluted. These gestures of caring and respect remind me of my paternal grandparents' Catholic funerals, at which the grandchildren were invited to place an object atop the closed coffin. I remember placing my hand atop my grandfather's coffin for a moment, too. Clearly, for very many people, even a stranger's corpse is more than just a convenient collection of organs.
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
The introduction to Melissa Raphael's 2000 book Introducting Thealogy naturally talks a lot about the body and the embodiment of experience, by contrast with the disembodied abstractions of traditional religions for which the body and especially the female body are profane: "the female body is sacred; it incarnates the Goddess to such a degree that sacred space is simply that which the body's being-there sacralizes"; it can be "celebrated and revered" "as a part of that divine female body which is the earth or nature itself".

These are familiar ideas, but the sentence that struck me hard was this: "The well-being of bodies becomes a sign of the health of their spiritual, political and ecological environment."

Imagine a world based on that value system - one where the well-being of bodies (and minds, as Raphael makes clear) is the goal and the measure of a culture or society. The more you think about it, the more staggering it becomes, the more institutions it consumes - pollution, bombs, detention centres, hospital queues, addiction, clean water, guns, homelessness, even junk food - the list just goes on and on. This could not be a world in which society decries sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and simultaneously tolerates them.

I am powerfully reminded that, despite criticism that Goddess feminism is a distraction from "real" politics, it is in fact profoundly political.
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
"To say that the world is entirely comprised of combinations of one hundred or so elements does not in any way deny the infinite multiplicity of all the things in the world, nor does it produce a set of bloodless generalizations. This is because the manifest, diverse phenomena of the world have been reduced to a lowest common denominator, which then becomes the basis for a set of lawful and regular rules of transformation that indeed are capable of generating everything in the world, and of actually producing new things."
— Paul Roberts, The Tibetan Symbolic World: Psychoanalytic Exploration (quoted in John C. Wood, When Men Are Women: Manhood among Gabra Nomads of East Africa)
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Something I really want to find again is the historical story of an accused witch, pursued by a mob (probably intent on ducking her), who fled to the grounds of an estate - perhaps the local manor? - and was given sanctuary there. That's not much to go on. But I envy the major religions' stories of caring for refugees - the holy family's flight to Egypt is an obvious example - and I really want a witchy version. (Pretty sure I read this in one of Macquarie University Library's books on the witch hunts, but that's a lot of books to sift through...)
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
"Four thousand years ago in Hindu mythology they already had a character who invented the concept of [art forms] co-existing and it wasn't separated into sections just for monetisation... In the present world it's really similar, because all the technology and tools we've created allow people to experience everything at exactly the same time. So you have a laptop and watch a movie and listen to music and you're looking at a Tumblr; you're communicating all the time and the way you output and input information has completely changed. Everything's sped up to make that point that things can't be separated – and it's just a matter of time until human consciousness catches up to that concept, that everything can co-exist and everything is basically one thing."
- Musician and artist M.I.A. re the goddess Matangi, a fierce and dirty form of Sarasvati, patroness of music, art, language, and learning.
dreamer_easy: (*goddess moon)

Describing the work of his fellow anthropologists, Victor W. Turner wrote in The Ritual Process (1969):

"Most of these thinkers have taken up the implicitly theological position of trying to explain, or explain away, religious phenomena as the product of psychological or sociological causes of the most diverse and even conflicting types, denying to them any preterhuman origin; but none of them has denied the extreme importance of religious beliefs and practices, for both the maintenance and radical transformation of human social and psychical structures."
I've seen the sort of thing he describes more than once, in older literature about ancient religions - a slightly embarrassed disclaimer that the Greeks or Egyptians, however profound and lofty* their thoughts, can't compare to The Bible. But Turner's point is that the question is not whether the specifics of religion are true, but that religion is crucial for the way we organise our civilisations and the insides of our skulls.

I am getting a very direct lesson in this in dealing with Frank's serious illness. I know - in that deep and satisfying way which is not willful blindness - I know that someone will continue to look after the little guy when Jon and I can no longer take care of him.

Of course, "religion" is a rather complex concept itself. Projecting Abrahamic ideas about the divine onto, say, Aztec culture, or even Egyptian culture, often produces nonsensical results. My understanding that Frank only has to ask Bastet to show him the way sits alongside my understanding that Frank's awareness and personality are dependent on the matter he's made of and will go when it goes, and alongside my understand that Frank never began and will never end, any more than the sea begins or ends as a wave rises and falls. These ideas are mutually exclusive, according to Western logic. But these are not irrational ideas. Thinking I could cure Frank's cancer with garlic juice would be an irrational idea. These are non-rational ideas. They're not fairy stories I tell myself to make myself feel better (the latter two certainly don't, and the one about the sea is terrifying), but they orient me, guide me, give me ways to think about and process what's happening.

We can't write Frankus off yet - we're still waiting for the results of tests and a new treatment. But eventually, Bastet will pick Frank up and pop him in her basket, with the other kittens. I'll see him there again one day.

* Do you see what I did there? Clever me!**
** I'm hypomanic today. It's been a great help to have the support of the local fluorescent petals - no joke.
dreamer_easy: (Default)
"We live in an age of instant gratification. Spirituality represents the opposite to this in giving no immediate feedback but requiring, instead, a disciplined approach leading to long and silent growth."
- Sarah Anderson, Introduction to The Virago Book of Spirituality, 1996


Jul. 31st, 2012 11:36 am
dreamer_easy: (Default)
"The hideous forms or archetypal images rising full-blown from Tiamat's collective unconscious may be looked upon as compensatory devices designed to help her deal more effectively than earlier with the crises she faced. Personifications of rage and hatred that manifested themselves in the form of serpents, dragons, or scorpions may be looked upon as shadow forces representing the 'dark, unlived side of her unconsciousness'... Like talismans, amulets, or antibodies, shadow forces frequently take shape in time of need to help the individual struggle against harm."
- Bettina L. Knapp, Women in Myth, State University of New York Press, 1997.

The Mesopotamian goddess Tiamat, avenging her husband and defending herself, creates an army of monsters. I don't have much of a grasp on Jung, but I recognise me old cobra in the above. Hiss!
dreamer_easy: (Default)
I think it's in Image of the Fendahl where Leela says, "My tribe has a saying: if you're hurt, look for a man with scars". This invented proverb has long helped me make sense of my life. Call it a divine plan, or call it finding meaning in events: the reason I am ill in so many ways is so that I can learn how to help others when they are ill. Nobody escapes illness; it's an inevitable feature of a universe that literally wouldn't exist without imperfection. I've just had more practice at it than some (and less than others).

To boil these cosmic speculations down to a concrete example: if I didn't have diabetes, I wouldn't have been forced to overcome my fear of needles, and I wouldn't be able to give Frank his painkilling injections.

Because I'm so trashed so much of the time, I'm never going to be a Florence Nightingale, nor a mother. During Frank's weeks of sickness, I've often found myself thinking that even looking after a cat is too bloody hard, financially*, physically**, and emotionally, and that, once the boys are gone, that is it, I will never get another pet.

The awful thing is, I think I might actually be good at this.

* Insure your pets. Insure your pets. Insure your pets. (We'll be fine, thanks to Frank's bank account - and thank gods, because you do not want to be making decisions based on cost.)

** Jon is providing all kinds of essential support - especially keeping the laundry going! Frank's ability to get cat food, water, drool, Flagyl, and poo all over everything is proving prodigious. :)
dreamer_easy: (glory 4)
For anyone who may be curious about my religious beliefs, this transcript of an ABC radio doco, Pagans Among Us may offer some insight, for example, this explanation from Ronald Hutton: "The sources of authority lie very much in themselves. There are traditions in Paganism of how you work, but they don't depend upon sacred texts, they don't depend on the idea that goddesses and gods gave human beings rules and orders. They depend upon sets of rituals that enable those who practice them to get very often a very real sense of direct contact with the divine. Whereas religions of the book have traditionally said, 'this is what you should believe', Paganism today tends to say, 'this is how you can encounter the divine. Now it's up to you to work out what you believe about it.'"

If you listen to this segment of RadioLab's The Good Show, you will hear an explanation of the mathematics of grace.
dreamer_easy: (yellow 1)
May heaven tell you: that's enough now.
May the great gods calm your mood.
May your throne say: sit down.
May your bed say: relax.

(After Enheduanna.)
dreamer_easy: (witch)
With the greatest respect, Z Budapest, the Goddess made sexual diversity. She made it in the same playful, creative spirit in which she set off the Cambrian explosion. Why would a Goddess who could cook up ciswomen, transwomen, intersex women, genderqueer women, straight women, bi women, gay women, asexual women, fertile women, infertile women, girls who become boys at puberty - the list goes on - want us to throw some of the flowers out of that bouquet?

If there was some sort of history of transwomen disrupting "women-only" events - through their own actions, not just by being there - I could understand this insistence on excluding them. As it is, it seems more like a canon argument: arbitrary and ultimately pointless. The definitions you offer, Z - ovaries, womb, menstruation - don't apply to hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of "women-born women".

Chances are I'll never find myself invited into an event from which transwomen are barred. If I ever do, for the duration of that event, you may consider me a man.

She changes the left side into the right side, she changes the right side into the left side, she turns a man into a woman, she turns a woman into a man. She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes.
dreamer_easy: (violet 5)
"Devī, by her very nature as the embodiment of power, is both creative and destructive; dangerous, yet necessary for the dynamic maintenance of life. Life is won out of death. Accordingly, her violent, horrific side cannot simply be jettisoned or ignored, nor can it be wholly subdued through the process of domestication - a process that if fully realized would substantially deprive the Goddess of the power necessary for energizing the life-death-rebirth cycle. At the same time, the Goddess' involvement in death and rebirth surrounds her with blood and pollution."
- C. Mackenzie Brown discussing the all-encompassing and therefore paradoxical nature of the divine in The Triumph of the Goddess, 1990
dreamer_easy: (moon)
Hatred in the Hallways: HRW responds to the bullying of gay American kids. Links to their 2001 report and suicide prevention resources.

One of the things that's struck me while doing my homework on Islam is its non-hierarchical structure, compared to more familiar religions such as the Catholic and Anglican churches. Rather than pronouncements handed down from the top which everyone's supposed to go along with, you can go to any alim or Islamic scholar and ask for a ruling. I think this one reason Westerners get confused; we expect a single "Islamic" view, and instead discover a plethora of denominations, schools, and individuals, all opining away. (That's what a fatwa is - the opinion of a religious scholar, nothing more.)

Now I don't want to overstate this comparison, as there are very profound differences, but my own religion of Neo-Paganism is also largely non-hierarchical. This was brought home to me when I tried to find out whether I could, tongue-in-cheek, call myself a mushrika. Google promptly produced several different definitions of the term and who it could be applied to. (It's clear I'm going to have to hit the books some more over this one!) There's a saying: "twelve witches, thirteen opinions", and I think the same may be true for the ulema. :)

This brings me back to Ms Moon:
"The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom."
Again, it's hard to know exactly what Ms Moon has in mind here. But this idea that Islam is ultimately incompatible with freedom, especially for women, is paralleled in some Pagan thought, particularly in the Goddess movement. Some feminists are working hard to reform traditional religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Other have given up on the Abrahamic faiths as being inevitably, hopelessly oppressive, particularly for women, and have turned to Paganism as an alternative. (And quite a few people fall somewhere between the two camps.)

I thought of this when reading a Pagan response to the dreadful tragedy of gay kids taking their own lives, which several recent well-publicised examples have suddenly brought into the spotlight. That response draws in turn on a Baptist minister's call for theological change from an unspoken model where "God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below."

It's tempting to satirise some of Ms Moon's points by showing how well they apply to Christianity, her own religion, just as well as they do to Islam - to say, with some Pagans, that Christianity is incompatible with freedom, especially for women. Personally, though, I haven't given up on the Abrahamic faiths; even a glance at their histories shows how capable of innovation they are. Besides, they're not going away any time soon.

But I do want to say, with Jason at the Wild Hunt blog, that "... it is more important than ever for us to make it known that our alternatives exist. To be visible and to make common cause with those who are told to hate themselves by the dominant faith lens."

I can't speak for every Neo-Pagan or Wiccan; no-one can. I can tell you, though, that the goddess I worship, Inanna, is the patron of all sexuality. In the Mesopotamian hymns and tales she's a macho warrior and a new bride. Her clergy (as best we can tell) included gay men and cross-dressers. As the evening star, she's compared with a sex worker, hanging out of the tavern window looking for business! She's not a mother goddess; she's a goddess of sex, and without her, nobody can bothered with it. Starhawk says that the lovers taken from us by AIDS are her martyrs. She's the reason I've blogged so much about sex education, reproductive freedom, and freedom from sexual violence. If you are a slut, a fag, a queer, a whore, a tranny, a monogamous heterosexual, or a hopeful virgin, this goddess, who was worshipped for thousands of years and who has burst back to life, wants to gather you up in her huge multicoloured bouquet of life and love and joy. (Heck, if you're celibate or asexual, jump on in. It's a big bouquet.)

Jason blogs: "My 'something else' is the modern Pagan movement, but it isn't the only 'something else' out there." Hold on. Don't give in. You're part of nature too, and God loves you. You will find friends and a safe place to be yourself. Reach out for help. Don't give in. Hold on.
dreamer_easy: (goddess lioness)
The Indian goddess Durga is heavily armed, rides a man-eating tiger or lion, and is typically depicted in the midst of a butchering a demon. Despite this excitingly gory context, Durga's face is generally composed, calm, and smiling - not a hair out of place. This has long puzzled me. At LACMA earlier this year, I saw this stunning Javanese Durga; I guessed that her serenity showed that the battle was over except for the coup de grace. But no - everywhere I look, I see these amazingly chilled-out images of Durga, smiling serenely as she wreaks bloody havoc. In my mind she's a reflex of those thrilling, gleefully violent Middle Eastern goddesses, like Inanna and Anat, who are far from calm and blissful as they carve up their foes. What gives?

So I woke up in the wee hours with the usual insomnia, and started perusing my mate Steven's copy of the magnificent catalogue for Goddess: Divine Energy, an exhibition we saw together a while back. And I'm looking at all these tranquil Durgas, and it suddenly hits me: she's not calm because she's winning, she's winning because she's calm.

Partly, it's confidence. This goddess combines the power of all the gods; for her and Kali, mowing down an army of demons is child's play, so naturally she doesn't break a sweat. But partly, it's sheer poise. She's balanced, focussed, undistracted, and crucially, unafraid.

So this is the epiphany I had, looking at Durga's calm face: until I get my anxiety problems sorted out, I can't really get anything sorted out.

I've had Panic Anxiety Disorder for most of my life. Sometimes I've had it under control, at other times it's quietly crept out and made important things next to impossible: everything from talking to strangers to travel to surgery. It's the reason I'm not at WorldCon right now: my head simply exploded the day before we were due to leave.

I can't talk, think, pray, or work myself out of this non-stop fit of nerves. I can't ignore it, bulldoze through it, or get through it on tranks. Basically, until I fix it, every other effort - health, social life, travel, you name it - is like trying to build a house on sand.

Fortunately, I know exactly what to do: I have a bunch of tools for stealing anxiety's thunder. I just need to quit procrastinating and put them to work.

Mother Durga - I don't know how to pray to you, how to meditate on you, what spell to use, what talisman to hold, what gesture to make. I know so little about you... the only thing I do know is that seeking your protection and following your guidance will end my suffering. - Shri Adi Shankaracharya (my paraphrase)
dreamer_easy: (goddess lioness)
Frank's out of surgery and resting comfortably. They took lots of samples of his insides; we'll have results during the next week or so. I'm (a) relieved, of course, and (b) having horrible first year zoology flashbacks.

I have done a brave but foolish thing, viz, made a solemn vow before two of my gods that I won't buy any more books this year. It's an offering: the money saved, which will probably be hundreds of dollars, will help pay for Frank's treatment. (It's not like I don't have a houseful of unread books!)
dreamer_easy: (goddess moon)
Finally got around to something I've wanted to do for years: compared Starhawk's splendid chant "Barge of Heaven" with the Sumerian original. (Yes, that's how exciting my life is. :)
dreamer_easy: (goddess moon)
The Symphony of Science. Watch and listen, in this order:

The Poetry of Reality

We Are All Connected

and then

The Real You

From Richard Dawkins to Alan Watts in three steps!

(These rather lovely works will tell you a lot about my own spirituality, especially the sheer exuberance of living in this clever universe of ours.)


dreamer_easy: (Default)

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