August 2012

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August 4th, 2012

My Lammas Writing

Something I have struggled with since I entered the pagan path is holidays. What do you celebrate and how do you celebrate it? There's always kind of a wheel of the year-ish cycle, but how and why seem to change all the time.


It's Lammas which for me is more of a planning reflecting time than a holiday. As the first sign of the harvest, it signals to me to look back on my past year and see what I've been building, harvesting and otherwise growing. What are my first crops and what can I plan to harvest through out the rest of the fall? What will I be working on longer than the year and what comes into my silent meditation and reflection following Halloween? Here's the yearly review of what I have and what may come with me.


At Halloween I was deeply attached to a man whom I claimed I wasn't dating and who claimed not to be dating me. In reality I was on the brink of love with him and he was on the brink of the same by January. The whole thing failed to launch then and again in April/May when we picked up again briefly.


Late April early May, I started dating another man, and am still seeing him. Emotionally, I don't know how deep things run. I care for him and hold a lot of affection for him. I think I could love him, but my feelings right now are in flux over him. We haven't really had enough bonding time for it to be a bone deep hum. It's something I see growing in the field and am looking to nurture further. I'm already planning some of the bonding possibilities to see if we will be lasting or if I just like traveling with him. I do think there's more but my own uncertainty, the newness of the exploration, and lack of really deep connecting moments is going to hold me back and hold him back for that matter. I know what I need to do to cut these hang ups and I plan to have a better idea by Halloween, if all goes well, I'll have plenty of time to reflect and continue to work on this relationship through winter holidays as well.


Work wise, I was working a terrible job I hated and was looking to quit in October. I was hired on to a better company in a better position with better money and benefits and a competent nice boss. My evaluation is happening now, fingers crossed that all my building and growing goes well.


Friend wise, my landscape is sparse, has always been so. I recommitted myself to communicating with my best friend and I write to her now something of substance about twice a month.


Writing wise, I'm actually partaking in typing and jotting notes, so that's more than I was doing in October. It feels like everything is improving and I'm slowly fighting back bad grammar habits. It's like blazing a path all over again. I want to focus on different writing styles and formats. Something I'm struggling with in particular is being able to remember which person I'm writing in. I don't want to swap from “I” to “one” to “you”, I just want to pick one and run with it. I also want to refocus on tenses and stop slipping between the past and present. I won't be up for writing a novel in November, but I'd like to think my blogging, tarot readings, letters, and journals will improve. I would like to be able to write or attempt to write poetry by December too, but I'm still no sure that's in the cards.


Religiously I followed my usual cycle. I was strong in faith during Halloween. Huge parties and reveling for me, I know most pagans were busy being somber and serious during Halloween and scolding all the wayward pagans who see Halloween as a last year end celebration. The last feast, before keeping our heads down in an quiet and unpredictable winter, any I decided then that those pagans could win the most somber award. Don't tell me how to practice or that my practice takes away from yours and I'll be sure to do the same thanks.


The winter quieted me some, I did more hibernation than reflection this year than in past years, but with the work schedule I had, the demands of the man, and my desire of oblivion who could really fault that I had no time for writing down most of these reflections, meditating or beginning the process of character building that should come from some of those thoughts? I made strong in roads in February where I picked up yoga and gained free time which really jump started my prayer and further examine my revelations. It granted me time to make pilgrimages and worship out and about Alabama. It gave me time to consider my morals and blog some on them. I'm in the process of blogging on the Delphic Maxims, and I put in my own contribution to the pagan values month in an original tarot inspired post. I'm going to continue with the Maxims even though it does seem like others have dropped the blogging party for the time being. I've also begun to write responses and thoughts on other's religious posts and I think that is going to become part of my religious practice/ internet controbution.


This year I've been able to truly commune with my Gods as I saw best through rituals, meditations, and prayer. I feel more connected to Gods than ever before and I better understand some aspects of my place and practice. I have a more structured and comprehensive practice than I've had in previous years and I'm finding Gods have been particularly helpful in giving me more to contemplate and more inspiration on how to practice.


Other new areas are blossoming in my life which I'm trying to think of how best to grow. Having local Gods now, for example, makes me consider the limits of my God's influence. Ze is a local God centered in the Huntsville location whose reach I know extends into Madison, at least where I currently reside and where I'm looking to move to. I'm uncertain about whether Ze has any power where I work. I know Ze has an awareness of what goes on, but as I believe Ze is centralized around Big Spring, a natural limestone spring at Big Spring Park, I'm uncertain of how far that reaches out. I think Decatur/Trinity is a tricky transitional place where Ze has some influence but not the same as closer in to Huntsville. It's occurred to me that there are border places where Gods share responsibilities. Where I work is so close to the Tennasse River I wonder if that God has primary responsibility over what's on the banks with land gods taking a secondary position. The feel in the Decatur Trinty area is certainly different, though not hostile. This and some experiences I've had with other land Gods is something I plan to keep exploring and further understanding.


I feel far more connected to the land now that I have ever before, and it has turned my practice more environmental. Instead of simply using the wheel of the year and the harvest cycle as a metaphor, my surrounding land is actually mostly farm land and I'm learning a lot about the plight of farmers this year as we're suffering a serious drought.


I find myself praying for rain. I feel pulled to collect rainwater for various ritual use. So far I have been given three specific new rituals straight from my Gods to use rainwater for.


I have been pulled to meditation and contemplation near rivers, streams, marshes, swamps, ponds, retaining ponds, and man made ponds. Water and green growth weight deeply on my mind right now, even though I am personally barely effected by the drought.


Fast on the heels of this growing awareness for the physical use of the land, the common climate, and whether things are going well for farmers is the question of how does this affect my Gods. My city God has some farm land and some conservation land in Zer domain, but Ze's stronghold is a down town suburban area. There are some water restrictions for the county and certainly there is wild life suffering as much as people, but all of this seems as if it could be inconsequential or at least far more damaging to humans than to a God or Gods. I get the impression that while the drought is a consideration and not good and has Their attention, its not the primary focus on Their plate.


I'm also coming to learn about River Gods and tree spirits and why one is a God and the other a spirit. It's interesting but doesn't belong in words just yet.

Delphic Maxim#7: Perceive What You Have Heard

While this is a maximum I struggle with, I certainly think it’s crucial to Paganism full stop. One defining aspect of paganism is that we all strive to be more conscious in our daily lives. There’s a couple of key things one has to do if one plans to be an active participant in his or her own life and the world around his or herself.


First one has to pay attention to what’s going on or listen. There’s a ton to observe, hear, know, explore, and discover. Open one’s eyes, ears, mind, and heart and all sorts of new information, thoughts, and experience will traipse in.


Second one has to interpret what one sees and hears. For example, a co-worker may sigh a lot but is that because she’s sad, bored, frustrated, has a medical problem, or something else? These little cues are things one can pick up on, inquire about, or in some cases simply make a judgment on in one’s own mind. Step two is also known as perceiving.


Third, once one has observed and interpreted one’s surroundings, one needs to respond in a thoughtful and reasoned manner. The thing is that if one doesn’t first listen and second stop and interpret what one is observing, there is absolutely no way to make a thoughtful, reasoned, and conscious decision regarding the world around oneself. There is no magic, intention, or depth to life without these first two steps.

Exorcism, Demonic Possession, and The Aurora Shooting, An Ongoing Conversations

For the past two weeks there's been a discussion regarding whether the Aurora shooter (his name left off intentionally thanks to a interesting suggestion from Steven T. Abell http://www.patheos.com//Pagan/Wallowing-Obscurity-Steven-Abell-08-02-2012.html) is possessed. I have been reading the articles but trying to hold back from writing anything in the conversation. There are some very good and talented bloggers who have thrown their two cents in. They've brought there perspective to the table, and it's taken me some time to realize that while I appreciate their writing there perspective is not a better articulated version of mine on this occasion. I actually have some considerations that I haven't read yet. I was still hesitant to write and post my thoughts on this topic, but it seems all my other ideas on what to write won't come out until I've dealt with some of my concerns on this topic.


I have several problems with the Catholic version of possession and exorcism in general. I think Jason Pitzl-Waters explains very well in his article, “Why We Should Reject The Demonic Possession Narrative” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/07/why-we-should-reject-the-demonic-possession-narrative.htmlrejecting, why an exorcism narrative considering Catholic possession is dangerous to minority faiths, especially an that practice magic or divination. He sums of my feeling of foreboding generally regarding both accusing people of demonic possession and exorcisms. Pitzl-Waters as always gives lots of connecting pieces that show the many different ways this practice and the attitude it demonstrates is dangerous in he present in the west and in other parts of the globe. To name one more, I'd like to point out the case of Anneliese Michel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anneliese_Michel and how these good intentions to drive evil out can and do directly hurt or kill the people they are trying to help.


While I admire Pitzl-Water's work and find his article well written and informative, I don't find it applies as directly to the Aurora situation as I would like. There is no question that the shooter is guilty of terrible crimes, unlike his examples of innocents who've been hurt through Christianity's hunt to destroy a perceived evil. There is definitely evil going on in the shooting of innocent Aurora movie goers.


I found Mark Shea's response to Pitzl-Waters' article titled “Interesting Conversation about Demons” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/07/interesting-conversation-about-demons.html

hostile, aggressive, offensive, and intentionally obtuse but it had one specific excerpt that speaks towards a difference between the other connections Pitzl-Waters makes and the current conversation regarding the Aurora shooter. Shea writes “Seems like the sensible thing, when confronted with an obviously demonic act, is to ask people familiar with the phenomenon of the demonic (ie. exorcists) if there might be a reason to do an exorcism.”


To be clear: I don't agree with Shea that there is need to look into exorcism or possession but I do agree with him that the presence of a violent, cruel act we do not understand committed by a person who seems to have been fairly ordinary until this point is jarring for society as a whole. It's not something we understand right now and are struggling to come to terms with. Accusing this shooter of demonic possession is difference specifically because of the the evidence of violent crimes and this aspect of the story is not covered in Pitzel-Water's article.


So here are my additional reasoning to reject considering demonic possession in the case where an evil act has been committed.


First, if one is possessed by demons or under demonic influence then one is in theory not in control of his or her actions and therefor not guilty of any crime. I have a hard time coming to terms with releasing someone from responsibility for an attack that was so clearly premeditated and thought out. Even if the man had a psychotic break of some kind this sort of planning (from how he executed shooting to how he booby trapped his house suggest both that he had an intent goal and he knew others would try to stop him). I would and do reject the idea of demonic possession simply because I believe he is responsible for his actions and possession would liberate him from any form of that in a way even mental instability would not.


Second, we've only just scratched the surface of the Auroa shooting. We know what happened, but we're still trying to piece together why it happened and what to do regarding what happened. There is real, honest, and solid investigations going on that to me, need to be exhausted before we turn to the supernatural. Why are we jumping to the unseen when we haven't finished exploring the tangible?


The opening of Fr. Dwight Longenecker's article “The Aurora Murders and Demonic Possession” (http://www.patheos.com/Catholic/Aurora-Murders-Demonic-Possession-Dwight-Longenecker-07-24-2012.html) is offensive to me where he takes urban legends and common technological failings and holds it up as proof to consider demonic possession. I reject even considering that a fictional character, the Joker, has demonic influence that may have killed Heath Ledger and now influenced another person. I reject that a suicide which happened after Ledger starred in a Batman movie and the shooting which unfortunately took place during a showing of a different Batman movie could in any way be connected via some supernatural evil that feels what, kindred perhaps, towards the persona of the Joker.


Worse Longenecker goes on to ask rational thinking people to consider possession because: “There was a weird phone message with bizarre guttural voices and moans.” Welcome to every stereo typed horror movie or supernatural thriller that involves possession or communication with the dead/ the otherworldly. Static or some form of signal interference or background noise clearly indicates something “other” being present and every time I have bad reception I should consider whether there's something rotten in the state of Denmark so to speak.


I'm being snarky and sarcastic, but I seriously do wonder about the stability of people who suggest otherworldly evil on these terms and who ask others to consider it. When Mark Shea derides others, specifically Pitzl-Waters and his pagan audience, for not keeping an “open mind” to possession based off of the evidence Longenecker presents, I can' help by goggle a little. Whatis there to consider but that some people would prefer to consider anything other than the idea that ordinary people can and do horrible unexplainable thing?


Beyond entertaining an absurd idea simply because it's one the United States majority faith wants us to, what is “sensible” in contemplating possession? Beyond that, the exorcism that Shea wishes the state would do if necessary (but as we aren't “civilized” enough for that he urges a grieving family to pursue tat end), brings us to unpalatable outcomes. It could easily lead to a possibly traumatizing/deadly results for someone who's mentally unsound. Or, if the USA were as “civilized” as Shea wishes, it could lead to a priest lighting incense, chanting/praying and releasing a sociopath back out into society. I bounce between the two extremes because we do not know why the shooter did what he did or what his mental state is. I only see bad possibilities going down this road though regardless of the surrounding details and therefor see no reason to consider possession. I am truly baffled as to what Shea and other Longenecker supports wish to gain in pushing a demonic agenda on us.


The third reason I reject a possession narrative is because of where it will lead. By this I'm asking: What will we do if we decide the shooter is possessed? Do we respect that person's right to participate or not in religious rituals as he may not agree to an exorcism, or do we steam role him because the “demon” is controlling him? Do we allow the man to have an exorcism and then release him back into the world or is this a practice only for his spiritual good where he will remain in prison either way. How can you be sure his motives to agreeing or disagreeing and do those motives matter? If the shooter really was possessed how did it happen and after exorcism how do we keep an already weak man from falling victim to evil again and doing something equally terrible?


If the shooter is deemed incapable of making a yes or no decision, do we turn that control over to his parents? Do we have to stand by and watch groups exert pressure on the family for the rights to exorcise their son? Will we see if they crumble to a false promises of returning the quite smart kid they loved to them if they would just let them kick out the evil that controls him now? Will they parade out a panel of “experts” they have that include both priests as well as doctors and psychologists who will pretend there is good science here as well as spiritual healing? That's cruel and manipulative in the highest degree. Even if one can't get worked up about the trauma the shooter might endure, who's cruel enough to do that to a family that's grieving and reeling from shock?


What part does the state play in this whole possession narrative scheme, and if they allow for this, what does it say about other minority rights? I know we're talking about a violent offender now, but if the Catholic church can make a case that static and the possible involvement of a fictional character makes someone “possessed by evil” and in need of an exorcism, then what other activities would be enough to qualify one to be “possessed by evil”? I don't want my country to begin sanctioning one religion's world view of evil or possession even if it's only in the case of someone who commits a violent crime. It's a slippery slope I'd just as soon keep off of.