March 29, 2006

Personal Reflections for the New Moon.

Though I have been meaning to update this blog with a new post for the past week, it seems that I have no one topic of any substantial length to discuss, but rather several smaller personal reflections that I decided I might share. I realize sometimes this on-going journal gets bogged down with heady intellectual and theological discussions, while at other times it is given to sudden flights into the realms of inexplicable and unexplained poetry. For once, then, I would like to share bits and pieces from my practical, daily life, to give you, dear reader, some perspective and insight into how my own journey is going. Hope you enjoy.

Dew & Ash: A Book of Pages

Having received a gorgeous green, weathered, faux-leather traveler's journal for Christmas, I decided a few months ago to dedicate it to poetry, inspiring quotations and excerpts, and short observations and lists from my Craft and path. Something similar to a Book of Shadows, from which I might pull appropriate words for ritual or contemplation, but distinct from my personal journal, which is usually verbose, unorganized and uninspiring. Before I'd made this decision, however, I'd written in this journal, on the very first page, a short verse by Hemingway:

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

Mostly because I thought the poem was witty, but also because I was feeling bitter and sarcastic (albeit in an amused way) at the time. I realized afterwards that this was probably not the best dedication for a new book. On the other hand, perhaps it would serve. In a sense, I needed to express and in some ways banish these feelings of repression, misdirection and pressure (things that, in the end, were keeping me from even beginning to use this beautiful journal, demanding of myself inspiring words and then chastising myself for poor handwriting and banal poems, among other things). And so, today, on the new moon, I put a definitive box around this poem on this first page, acknowledging but containing those feelings, vowing not to allow them to overwhelm me but to serve me well by reminding me to laugh and maintain perspective. I then carefully scribed my formal dedication, an excerpt from a poem by Neruda:

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Amazingly, this simple act (while burning some sorely missed Frankincense and Myrrh incense for purification and grounding) shook me free of my somewhat sad and frustrated mood, which had been clinging to me all morning. I have taken the first step towards that romantic vision of my ideal magical self, sitting peacefully among the trees, rocks and streams, worn book of verse in hand, singing with the soul songs of the world.

Dew & Ash: More on the Role of Texts

I call this new journal my "Book of Dew and Ash," rather than my "Book of Shadows" (or "Book of Light," as many Christian witches have preferred). Perhaps it is because I am just not moved by cliches and the term BoS has become an all too familiar description that does not stir me to the fear or fascination that must have captured the attention and imagination of witches and non-witches earlier in the birth of Wicca. Instead, I recall dew--"gem of the earth and sky begotten" as George Eliot described--that mysterious and sweet substance that lingers in the field during the threshold hours of dusk and dawn, made of the same stuffs of which our own bodies are made, water condensed around bits of dust and reflecting both the heights of heaven and the depths of seas in its form. I recall ash--to which Leonard Cohen compares poetry, the ash of living well--as that earthy interconnection to which we each return, the heart of each fire and the ink with which we might write on the white rocks of coals grown cold. For me, a book of poetry and song is not mere shadow, nor is it light itself, but the strange footsteps which point elsewhere, the sweet and dirty remnants that speak softly, "This is true, this happens, this is real, and this is what remains when it has passed..." From the dew, new seeds may drink and grow. From the ash, new birds of fire and inspiration rise. But in the end, such texts are merely texts, only words strung on an otherwise empty page, until given life again by our reading and contemplation, our songs and dancing.

Wild with Sun

I have found recently that the passion sparked in me several months ago for studying complex ritual and high magic is slowly conceding its place to a longing to be outdoors and wildly informal with praise and the new spring. I find it interesting to witness, note and later reflect on our own patterns and cycles of learning and development. During the winter months when the world seemed unfriendly towards my body, ready to bite off my nose or ears with each breath of wind, I found myself drawn more towards indoor ritual, learning to carve out a warm, bright sanctuary in the corner of a dark bedroom. While my body and the world seemed stilled by winter, I found it easy to reinvigorate my ritual and worship with challenging formulas and complex visualizations of pulsing light and heat.

Now, perhaps it is only my still relatively undisciplined mind, but I am tired of study and concentration. I am infected with a feverish desire to go wild, to forget everything I know and open myself up to the instructions of the sunlight, the warm breeze, the heavy-scented rains... The crocuses, which are blooming now in earnest in the front garden, need no elaborate ritual to know their own opening; the robins have no complicated instructions but easily choreograph their field-wide seeking in the still hard ground for seeds and worms. I want to be so intuitive and free. And perhaps this will change again, as we reach the heights of summer and my body calms back down, more happy to be held within more formal circles of magic and praise. For now, my pulse and breath declare the world and the season to be my sacred circles, already cast perfectly by the rising and setting of the sun, moon and winds, both too big for me to bother inscribing and wide enough that the freedom they give is more than enough.

On Purity and Freedom

On a final and more personal note, I find myself in an interesting situation concerning romance. Spring is, of course, a wonderful time for new love, as well as the renewing of well-worn ties. Earlier I committed myself to singlehood for an undetermined length of time, in order to prepare myself to better receive the love that I eventually hope to receive. This on-going work of crafting myself into my ideal self in order to better welcome my ideal mate is more complicated than I expected and is bringing to the surfaces issues I never expected to face. One of these issues is that of freedom. Although I have always believed deeply that loving another person was a taste of freedom itself, I realize that most of my past relationships have been wrought with pressure and constraints. I thrill at the thought that, at the moment, I am unattached and so utterly free to love anyone and everyone, to enjoy another's company without any hint of guilt or any lingering worry after we are parted. I also begin to see that it is possible to conceive of a relationship in which this feeling of ultimate freedom is a pillar of shared love, rather than a side-effect of unrequited affection. Such a realization gives me strength and shows me that I am, in some ways, making progress in the realm of loving myself as uniquely free, instead of always imagining myself as part of a package which is always at risk of being broken apart.

On the other hand, last night I had a disturbing dream which brought to my attention an issue I hadn't expected--my fear of my own impurity. In this dream, I was sexually assaulted (though not fully raped) by a man who had initially been my friend and whom I had invited into my home in trust. After the assault, I was confronted by a person who has been in my thoughts and affection a good deal recently and with whom I treasure that happy freedom and innocence of unattachedness. I suddenly found that not only did I care deeply what he thought of me, but I was devastated to learn that he thought of me as dirty and damaged, as foolish and impure. The openness and strength that I had always thought were qualities which had allowed me to overcome a very similar situation of sexual assault in my past--which had allowed me to love even those who have rejected me and to always be ready and willing to open myself to love again, even if it meant being hurt--now appeared to me as flaws and sins, the very source of my impurity rather than its remedy. This dream shook me deeply, and I woke up feeling violated and not myself. It was as if that wonderful freedom I had slowly been discovering had revealed a dark shadow-self of grime and infection. Instead of rejoicing in my ability to love others without condition or romance, I felt burdened by the weight of shedding those ties for the sake of a future ideal relationship. After all, why should someone value my love if it is given out so freely? Was I as dirty and sterile spiritually as a porn star might be diseased and worn out physically by too many lovers? Would I have anything left to give to my mate, and would he accept it?

It's strange that I never felt these worries or regrets before. I have grown so much from each of my relationships. And already, the fears lurking in this dream have subsided as I have written of them. In no small part, they were also banished when I re-read and contained that verse by Hemingway. For the cynicism that one cannot be both innocently free and spiritually clean is the same cynicism that mocks the very constraints it cannot shake. The age demands that we love freely and yet insists that to do so lessens the value of each relationship. Of course, intellectually I know better. I know that we are damaged by the regrets and pain that we hold onto, not those traumas of the past which we overcome and see through into love. I realize that it is not the free-flowing stream which gives rise to decay and stagnation, but the creek clogged with weeds and mud. And I know that even these weeds and mud harbor life which is both beautiful and messy, and that this kind of life, too, can be free and clean in its own way.


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