Who is this person?

November 22, 2008

Cairril Adaire is my performance and pen name, devised while doing numerology during physics class many moons ago. I did not get class credit.

My central passion is {ahem} to create transformative experiences through the performing arts. This intertwines the two strands of Cairril-ness, music and spirituality, into an endless dance like the ribbons of DNA.

But it’s not all about priestessing someone through a mind-blowing experience that initiates them into a new kind of awareness, though that happens sometimes. “Transformative experiences” include laughter, nostalgia, silliness, and the ever-popular “things that make you go ‘hm.'”

I sing, I act, I dance like a spaz, I write (music, scenes, and non-fiction), I lead, I priestess, and I collaborate. I am forever in search of what I experienced in my formative years: a community of peers where we challenge each other to greater creative excellence and have fun while doing so.

Why is this blog here?

I want to acknowledge my creative self, have something to refer people to for the Cairril Adaire me, and also have a place where I can blather freely and not have to worry about my day job.


Demeter, Kore/Persephone, and mental illness

June 16, 2017

Crystal and I facilitated a Circle on the Goddess and mental health at The Hive a month ago or so and I tackled some of the deep stuff with this investigation of one of the greatest myths of all humankind.

Note: The Greek pronunciation is as follows: “Deh-MEE-ter,” “KAW-ree,” “per-SEH-fo-nee,” and “HEK-uh-tee.” Contemporary Pagans often mispronounce these names. IMO, if you’re going to be working with these goddesses, the least you can do is learn how to pronounce their names correctly.

DEMETER AND KORE/PERSEPHONE STORY

This is one of the oldest Greek myths and one of the most continually told. My summary below is a way simplified version focusing only on the goddesses in the story for purposes of the Circle.

Demeter is the goddess of agriculture and spent her days teaching its arts and tending to the grain. Kore, her daughter, loved to play with the nymphs nearby and collect flowers. One day while playing she saw a narcissus and was captivated — she had to have it! She plucked the flower — and suddenly a great rent opened in the earth and everything shook. In a flash a golden chariot led by four black horses came bounding up from out of the earth. There was a man in the chariot and he seized Kore and took her back underground with him. The earth healed; there was no trace of her passing. All that remained was the echo of her screams as she was taken.

Demeter was working in the fields when she heard Kore scream. She ran, calling out Kore’s name, asking everyone she met if they’d seen her daughter, but to no avail. With mounting terror she began to try to find Kore, despair eating away at her heart. At night she burned torches and kept searching. For nine days and nights she searched for Kore, dressed in black, torches burning, but to no avail. She sat on a stone in silence.

On the tenth day Hecate, goddess of the crossroads and witchcraft, came to her and told her that Kore had been seized by Hades and taken to his kingdom in the Underworld and was now prisoner. Demeter knew then that all was lost. She fell into even deeper despair and began to wander aimlessly.

One hot day she rested on the side of a well, where she was approached by a young woman who got her a position taking care of queen Metaneira’s son in the palace at Eleusis. Demeter shook off her despair and took the boy to her heart. She decided to give him immortality and fed him ambrosia and nectar. At night, she placed him in the fire to burn his mortality away. But one night the queen came in while Demeter watched over the baby in the fire and began shrieking that Demeter was trying to murder her child.

Demeter was PISSED. She threw off her rags and revealed herself in all her splendor, and was recognized as a goddess. She demanded that the people of Eleusis build her a temple, which they did in short order. She took up a seat in the temple and then went into a deep catatonic state. As she did this, all the food on the earth began to die. The grain dried up in the fields, the fruit would not ripen, gardens went dead.

As this went on, the Olympian gods grew anxious and tried to get Demeter to snap out of it. When they realized nothing was working, Zeus sent Hermes to the Underworld to get Kore. Mother and daughter were united and the earth flowered again. All was well.

That’s Demeter’s part. Let’s look back at what happened to Kore.

When Hades seized her and took her to the Underworld, Kore lost it. In most of the written accounts, Hades raped Kore. This is really endemic to the Greek patriarchy and it’s up to you whether you want to go with that account or with the older one where Kore was simply abducted. There are things to learn from both accounts.

Kore had never known a hard day in her life. Every day had been filled with her mother’s love and guidance, with sunshine, with flowers, with laughter, with play. Now she was ripped from everything she knew and held captive in a room in the dark and creepy Underworld. She screamed and thrashed for a long, long time. And after that came a time of stillness, similar to catatonia. She was just—gone.

Time passed. Hades brought her food and drink every day but she did not respond. Then he left her door unlocked. Then he left it open. No change.

This went on for some time. Then one day, she moved. Just a little. She blinked. She moved her toes. She stretched her fingers. She began to come back to herself. But she felt numb inside.

After a few days she got up and started looking around, taking in the different sacred sites of the Underworld and seeing how it operated. After some time Hades came to her and told her he loved her and wanted her to be queen at his side. She turned away and walked off silently.

More time passed. Kore grew more restless in her wanderings. Against her will traitorous thoughts of what she could do as queen entered her mind. And could she love Hades, both the god and the realm? She knew she wanted nothing more than to see her mother again, but what if she were trapped here forever?

As the days passed her mind grew more active and she thought more and more. And then she planted a garden of hellabore and other plants of the Underworld. She used shining gems to line the edges of her plots. As she buried her hands in the earth, she felt life coming back to her. And with life, came clarity. She would choose.

At the appropriate time Hades brought her food and drink as he always did. “Wait,” she said, and he stood silently. Very deliberately she cut a pomegranate in half and ate six seeds. “You may call me Persephone now,” she told Hades. “I will marry you, and I will be queen of this realm.” As she tasted the pomegranate seeds and claimed her new name, she felt a sureness come over her. And with that sureness, life. She had made it through. She claimed her life.

Some time later a messenger from Zeus arrived and told her she was free to come back to her mother. Persephone leapt into the chariot, called Hades to her side, and rode up to the surface. Mother and daughter fled to each other and held each other tight, sobbing. It felt so good to see the sun again. And how she had missed her mother! But strangely, she felt different now. Her mother kept repeating her old name until Persephone said “You must call me Persephone now.” Demeter drew back and for the first time saw her child, no more a child but now a woman.

Persephone told her she had eaten six pomegranate seeds. While Demeter was horrified, since she knew what this meant, Persephone was calm as she said, “I ate six seeds of the Underworld, which means I will spend six months of each year in the Underworld with my husband as queen. And the other six months I will spend here with you.”

At first Demeter was aghast but after the other gods and goddesses chimed in and she grew more used to the idea, she accepted it. She gave the people of Eleusis the Eleusinian Mysteries, a set of religious rites that promised joy in life and no fear of death. These rites were the primary religious ritual in Greece for two thousand years.

DEMETER AND PERSEPHONE, DECONSTRUCTED

The story of Demeter and Persephone is very famous, has been re-imagined countless times, and can be used as a metaphor for just about anything. For me, I have used it as a way to understand my mental illnesses. You may also feel so called. So let’s deconstruct the story and figure what’s going on.

The story starts with Demeter and Kore. Demeter is a mother goddess and Kore is practically a nymph, filled with the joy of living moment to moment. She doesn’t have a job or work the way Demeter does. When she sees the narcissus flower, she is entranced by narcissism, which is a condition whereby you are extremely self-involved. You are fascinated by yourself and don’t really care about anyone else. She plucks the narcissus, choosing narcissism, and all hell breaks loose — literally. She is ripped from her known way of being. Being simply abducted is a gross violation, but if you tell the story that she was raped, it’s even more horrific when you consider the carefree girl she was.

So let’s leave her there are go back to Demeter. Demeter first acts like any parent — she searches for her daughter. This is the search we as adults all go on for our innocence. We yearn for simpler times when we had fewer cares and responsibilities. In the waking world, this may mean that we take a day off work which then becomes several days and then becomes weeks until we’re fired. We just drop everything and go searching for something else.

At the end of the ninth night, Demeter has given up hope. She thinks she’s hit rock-bottom. But no, here’s Hecate with the awful truth — her daughter will never be returned to her again. This is where we realize that we can’t get in touch with that inner innocence. We fall into the pit of depression and begin, like Demeter did, to wander the earth so to speak. This can be a mild depressive episode where all color leaches out of the world. We can’t seem to hold onto anything. We stop sleeping, we either stop eating or start bingeing, we lose our sex drive.

But then Demeter gets a job. And it’s taking care of a baby to whom she decides to give immortality. What is she doing? She’s trying to make another immortal Kore. She is going to force the issue and make reality conform to her demands. She is refusing to accept her life and believes that through sheer force of will she will feel better again. In my own life, some of my most damaging behavior comes about when I am whipping myself to get better, get better, get better. This is what Demeter’s doing — she’s trying to force things into place.

But then she’s discovered and she gets PISSED. For me, this is that moment where I say, “GodDAMmit!” We’re just so frustrated that we can’t make anything happen. We’ve tried as hard as we can but we can’t get anywhere. We may not demand a temple be built for us, but we find a place of stone and we go in it for good. We become catatonic. We are in a severe depression, bordering on a psychotic state. It may be a complete dissociative state. What we know is that everything is bleak, there is no purpose in life, and everything we encounter is dust in our mouths. Or maybe it’s bad enough that we are no longer there at all — we have entered what in the vernacular is called madness. In the waking world, we may be hospitalized and given medication.

After she’s reunited with Persephone, Demeter bestows the Mysteries on Eleusis, “that which gives joy to life and takes away the fear of death.” She has gone through the depths and come out with wisdom to share. She has become the “wounded healer.”

So let’s leave that there and go back to Kore. She is locked in a dark room in the creepy Underworld and as far as she knows she’s there forever. Whether she’s been abducted or both abducted and raped, her life will never be the same. Many of us are survivors of some form of sexual or physical assault and we all have our own ways of coming through that. But regardless of the trigger for Kore’s experience, she is now thrashing and screaming, completely out of her old way of being. She protests and rages against everything that has so suddenly and cruelly been taken away from her. But it’s more than just a rage — it’s savagery. It’s animalistic. It goes beyond just being pissed off. It’s chthonic. Primal.

But at the end of it she’s spent. And she, like Demeter, falls into an extreme depressive and even mad state. I have always felt that Kore had it tougher than Demeter. Perhaps that’s because I identify with her so closely. Your experience may differ. But both these goddesses experience being outside consensual reality.

It takes a long time for Kore to come out of it. In the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s Descent, when Inanna comes back to life in the Underworld, it’s because water and food are brought to her by demigods. But the Greek myths are pretty silent on Kore’s processes, so I have imagined what they are based on my own experience.

As anyone coming out of a severe depression knows, it’s often a slow process of awakening. Yes, there are times when one day we can’t get out of bed and the next we are up in the morning and going about our business, but in Kore’s case she’s been severely traumatized so her healing is a process.

She wanders, as we so often wander in our healing process. Unlike Kore, we often work with therapists, medications, and Goddess, Goddess, Goddess to find our way. But for Kore, it’s when she puts her hands into the earth that her soul is really touched. She wakes up to the possibilities around her. For Kore, it’s time to move into the next phase of her being. In the strictest terms, she’s changing from a child into a woman, but for us it’s more likely to be our next stage of development.

So. The pomegranate. The Greeks are very vague on this. And conflicting — I’ve read she eats three, four, or six seeds. You know now that she spends a month in the Underworld for every seed, so on the surface this is a story of how long winter lasts, when Persephone is withdrawn from the earth. I chose six not for historical accuracy but to reflect my own spiritual path. Anyway. The big question, the question that none of the Greeks answer, is: why did Persephone eat those seeds? She’s a goddess — she eats ambrosia and drinks nectar. She doesn’t eat human food. So why does she eat them? Does she do it unconsciously or consciously?

I choose consciously. I like to see her as an agent of change in her own life. She chooses to eat the seeds because she knows what the consequences are. And she wants those consequences. She doesn’t just want to frolic and play anymore. She wants a vocation, she wants a path of her own, and she wants to seek the ways of justice and mercy as a queen. Oh, and she wants a groovy husband. You can skip that bit if that’s too Hearst syndrome for you.

So she eats the seeds and she takes on a new name. “Kore” means “the maiden” but “Persephone” means “to destroy” and “wise.” Quite a combination. For me, choosing a new name and a whole new life means Persephone is stepping into her power. I call on this myth when I’m going through a life change and I need the courage and the clarity of mind to release my overwhelming anxiety and depression and step into my power. It is only then that we see Persephone moving into adult life. For me, I want that agency. And the thing that touches me the most about this story is that Kore is violated in the most fundamental ways we can imagine, and yet from that place of violation she CREATES. That, to me, is women’s power. We can dig down within us, deeper than any pain, and find that deep core of inner knowing and create.

There are a few stories of Persephone in her role as queen but for me, the takeaway of Persephone’s life is that she now moves between the upper world and the Underworld effortlessly. She takes the newly dead by the hand and shows them to their place. She provides justice and mercy. And she knows days of sunshine and flowers, too. She moves through all the aspects of life smoothly, gently. She may have deeply disturbing days but she moves through them. She isn’t untouched by them, it’s not like she’ll never be depressed again, but she is now part of a cycle. For those of us who live with chronic mental illness, Persephone is a model of how to balance our moods and minds-bodies-spirits. She is a walker between the worlds, able to deal with all states of being. Persephone’s transformation in the underworld prepares her for ecstatic spirituality and shifting states of consciousness, as well as development of psychic abilities. Persephone becomes the wounded healer.


Me, me, me, and a little bit of me

June 5, 2017

sometimes i feel like i’m disappearing. so over the last 9 months or so i’ve been writing this on my phone (please excuse the lack of caps). it’s completely self-indulgent, probably boring, and just an attempt to state who i am to the universe. i will update it with more fascinating details as i think of them!

cairril5

i was born and raised in a white, middle class suburb of chicago. in “chicagoland.” which, if you’ve grown up near that glorious city, you know sounds a lot better than it actually is. while there were latinos in my class, there was only one african american, and he was deaf. i didn’t know any jews and certainly no muslims or any other minority faiths. i was raised catholic and everyone i knew was christian or (a few) “no religion.” i was not raised for a diverse world.

i am white. being privileged, i often don’t think about it. then i see a POC and i’m unthinkingly thinking, “a black person!” and then i’m tearing my carefully coiffed hair out in despair that i will never be able to root out my inherited racism. since black lives matter came on the scene, i’ve been reading books regularly on race, class, and gender to try to change my consciousness. it’s slow going. institutionalized isms suck.

i am either 5’5” or 5’6”. no one seems to know. perhaps it’s the hair. i have an eating disorder which makes my weight swing by 50 pounds depending on whether i’m starving or bingeing. my lowest weight was 109, but i’ve been bingeing over the last six months. it’s a big challenge.

i am a singer. i am a Witch. you can strip all else away and find these two things at my core, two strands of DNA. i didn’t know about the Craft until 1989 but it was a homecoming. i have never doubted my path. i have sung since i was born. went professional at 11. got into IU’s music school when it was number one in the country. it tore up all love of music i had and i stopped singing for five years. getting my voice back is entwined with my spirituality and now it’s in its rightful place.

i am pansexual, though i usually just say bisexual because it’s easier. i used to be hetero but when i was in england on my internship when i was 23 i started falling for the glorious liz, goth grrrl of my dreams. i sat in my room one night and investigated these feelings, feeling the old arguments against same-sex relations come up and then…i saw clearly that those were all based in a religion i no longer believed in and they just floated away. my darling liz leaned towards me but fell for a boy before i could gather the nerve to ask her out.

these are some of my heroines.

my mom wanted to name me amy but her mother (grandma mclaughlin) lobbied hard for “carol.” i was born on 23 december, so i became a “christmas carol.” a remarkably appropriate name. “to carol” means to sing and dance in a circle. very me. then i had a nervous breakdown at 18 (a real one; psychosis) and in the midst of it the spelling “cairril” came to me. i would say it was given to me by the Goddess but i didn’t know about Her then. i just knew i had a new name. i legally changed it the following year. it’s very close to an irish spelling so i just tell people it’s irish, but it’s actually unique. as far as i can tell, there’s no other person on Earth with that spelling.

i was an empath until 2000. it wasn’t just that i felt intense sympathy. it was more the sci-fi meaning, where i could actually feel what other people were feeling, usually people i had a close relationship with. i would get hit with something out of the blue and have to start making phone calls to friends to see who’d just gotten bad or good news. since a trauma in january of 2000, i don’t feel much of anything anymore.

following on that, i do still have what i call physical empathy. when i look at someone, i involuntarily feel what their body feels like. or i guess, what my brain imagines they feel like. so i hate watching westerns. everyone is so filthy and sweaty i end up feeling skanktastic. i don’t know of a name for this condition and i’ve never seen it described anywhere else.

i experience multiple realities at once. one of my least favorite questions is, “what’s real?” i call your reality “consensual reality.” we agree that a table is a table, a door is a door. but color? sound? intent? i experience these things in multiple ways and consensual reality often comes up short.

following on that, i have synesthesia, which is a condition where more than one sense gets triggered by a single phenomenon. so i hear what i see and i see what i hear. that makes for a very noisy head. i am super-sensitive to noise but the type of noise determines whether i go into complete meltdown or dance like a loon. a live auction sent me running from the room once.

i am of primarily german stock from the great 19th century migration, with a healthy dose of irish from the famine and lots of english and some polish thrown in. and i somehow ended up with 2% north african ancestry from the 18th century! i love surprises. i have four ancestors who came over on the mayflower so i feel “ethnically” “american” too. i am way into genealogy and have traced several lines back to the 15th century. one ancestor, nicholas wylder, was a german mercenary who fought with henry tudor against richard iii. no, nicholas! we needed you on the other side! i have slaveholders among my ancestors (i want to do more research there) as well as heretics and an accused witch. we are a rambunctious lot with a LOT of strong women.

i am the spinster aunt of eleven nieces and nephews, some of whom i’m close to. i am goddessmother to two incredible girls i’d be proud to call my own. friday afternoons are ours.

i am not a fan of fine art. art museums bore the hell out of me. the impressionists and modernists are the worst. i love ancient egyptian and celtic art because of the religious component. i am intrigued by a lot of early 20th century european art (vienna secessionists particularly) but the only “real” artist that gets me is kathe kollwitz. i like art that makes me FEEL. i want a reaction. i want intensity. landscapes just don’t cut it. speak to me, transform me!

the core of my spiritual belief is tiocfaidth an samhradh: “summer will come.”

i am a capricorn near the cusp with sagittarius with five planets in virgo, which basically means i will organize your ass off. i am very capricorny, focused on work and money and tenaciousness, yet i have the sagittarius streak of passion. i also think of this as my german and irish sides. mostly i think of myself as goaty grrrl.

i am proud to identify as a feminist. in the last few years i have worked on my understanding of intersectionality and believe that’s where the real juice is.

i love love LOVE to dance. back in the day when the drovers would come to second story i would be practically on the stage, thrashing all over the place, dancing with every part of my body. i used to be able to be really physical. you can see on the video for ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘round from an MLK Day performance kaia did. but then my psychiatrist put me on a new med to help untangle my thoughts in the morning so i could be more functional. now i can’t dance anymore the way i used to — i stay very confined and uncreative. i also have a harder time conducting. don’t get me wrong, i like being able to get out of bed in the morning, but i do so miss that utter abandonment unto the music.

i graduated from IU phi beta kappa. this has had zero practical impact on my life.

tarot me

these are from robin wood’s tarot deck. the High Priestess is an aspect of me i am always striving to grow. she has knowledge and vision. she is of the Moon, not harsh like the Sun, and she is halfway between light and dark. she easily draws on intuition and balances mind and spirit. she is confident, curious, powerful. Queen of Swords helps me with my social anxiety. she shows me how to extend the hand of friendship while having the sword there to protect me should i feel threatened or too scared. and Nine of Pentacles describes much of my life: me tending to my beautiful garden, with a falcon to send out and bring back news of the day.

i love being with women. at least in bloomington, and with my sister’s kith, there’s an automatic goodwill there that allows us to talk about real things in an authentic way. i’m generally leery of men because of the abuse and harassment i’ve survived. but once they prove themselves safe, i can bond with them. it’s just that they have so many grabby brothers…

i consider girls girls until they’re 16, when they become young women. around age 21 they are women. i deTEST calling women “girls.” it always makes me think of those black men on the picket lines in the civil rights movement with signs saying, “i am a man.” we are women. we are free to make sexual choices. we are free to make all kinds of choices. infantilizing women is patriarchy at its worst.

i have had three soulmates, but the most important of my handfastings was with my self.

i find the Pagan categorization system of “maiden, mother, crone” extremely tiresome. inspired by goddesses in older women i’m experimenting with the system “child, young woman, mature woman, wise woman.” though i hate fours so i’m exploring a fifth dimension, a sort of meta-female, but that may end up too binary. i was inspired by jailbreaking the goddess and believe it’s a watershed for the next generation of Paganism but why the hell did she have to use latin names for the Goddess, the most patriarchal language ever?? my concepts are a work in progress. stay tuned. i was inspired by a nietzsche quote i read recently about approaching existence with “ecstatic honesty” so that, at the end of your days, you will want to live all your days over and over throughout eternity. it ends up being similar to mindfulness but really, how excited can you get about “SEE the raisin, FEEL the raisin, TASTE the raisin”?? so i am experimenting with total honesty for now, with hints of ecstaticnaciousnous (more will come later) and have had some really good results. i love truth anyway, so it’s about being completely truthful about where i am in the moment. promising.

i am terribly self-conscious about my teeth. on the other hand, i love to tell the story about how i got hit in the mouth with a softball which permanently knocked one of my front teeth back. and i love that the unladylike gap between my front teeth comes from my paternal grandfather. when i look at that gap, i smell his pipe and see him doing crosswords and hear him yelling, “babe!” to my grandmother. that little gap says, “hi, granddaughter! i see you!”

when eating at home, i try to keep each meal’s cost under one dollar.

my earliest memory is pre-verbal. i was in an automatic swing chair in the kitchen of our house. my mom and another female relative (aunt dolores?) were moving around me, working and talking, not paying attention. i wanted out. i stretched my legs as far as they would go but my toes couldn’t reach the ground. i wrestled with the strappings. nothing worked. i wanted out, out, OUT! it is still a recurring theme in my life — “i don’t want to be here. take me anywhere but here.” it’s not healthy.

i blush easily.

i am a priestess of brighid and lifeanddeath. i was initiated by them during a deep healing ritual on may 15, 1997. brighid is the irish goddess of poetry, smithcraft, and healing. i also think of her as a professional woman, not defined as maiden-mother-crone. the lifeanddeath initiation was not one i wanted but it wasn’t up to me. it means facing death and all darkness and weaving it all into the shadow and light of the world. it has a lot of consequences.

my middle name comes from my maternal grandfather, a second-generation irish-american who was a prince among men, according to all the stories. he didn’t talk a lot but had a great sense of humor, worked very hard, and loved children dearly. he never had a lot of money, so he would take my cousin tom on a bus ride around hammond every now and again to be able to do something special together. grandpa mclaughlin died before i was born but i call on him all the time in my relationships with the ancestors. what i would give for a bus ride with him…. i was named after him (he was leo; my middle name is lee).

i am a Walker Between the Worlds. i shift states of consciousness very easily. this is not always helpful. like when i’m driving.

i have two secrets. i think. i don’t tell every single person every single thing about me, but i live my life OUT LOUD.

when i was in eighth grade my friends and i dressed up in blackface for halloween. i was kunta kinte and my bestie was kizzy. we laughed and laughed. oh, those hilarious black people with their crazy hair and outlandish names! to this day it infuriates me that no one in that soulless white middle class hateful town responded with anything other than laughter.

if i were in hogwarts, i would be in either ravenclaw or gryffindor. if i were reincarnated (i won’t be; i don’t believe in it), i want to be an otter because i’d get to swim all the time and be clever with tools and play all day and hold hands with my friends while i sleep. if i were in the hunger games, i would kill kill kill in order to survive.

i am the youngest of six children. so there were 8 of us in the family crammed into a 3-BR house (my dad fixed up space in the basement for my brothers), always making noise and getting into each other’s faces. now i live alone and work for myself, which means everything is quiet and in its place and no one gets in my space. it’s lonely. and other times not.

i would love to go to berlin, vienna, prague, anywhere having to do with ancient egypt, rome, crete, anatolia, more into wales, and all over ireland/eire. i would love to return to wiesbaden, germany, and i can of course never get enough of england and scotland. lacking independent wealth, i’ll never get to most of these places. sadness.

i am driven by incredible willpower. seriously, you’ve never met anyone with a greater sense of will than i have. somewhere inside of me is a toddler with her little hands balled up on her little hips yelling, “I AM!” when i was growing up people used to call me a mack truck and they should throw themselves out of the way. i go after what i want.

my guilty pleasure is majesty, “the quality royal magazine.”

sometimes when i’m just puttering about the house i’ll suddenly yell “LA!”

i think THE quote for the 21st century is from rodney king: “can we all get along?” i think the boomers had it all wrong when they said, “all you need is love.” we’re not all going to love each other. not gonna happen. but we can, if we try, just get along. be civil. that to me is a more realistic goal. and one, i fear, we will not reach.

i identify with salieri in the movie “amadeus.” i have a deep, deep, demanding desire to do Great Things yet i do not have the tools. i HATE it when people say, “you have so much potential!” it’s SO maddening. what good is potential when no one wants what you have to give???

i want to learn how to execute the perfect curtsey.

i have a variety of brain diseases: generalized anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, psychosis NOS, dissociative identity disorder, developmental trauma disorder. i have blogged about these things at length. i have 13 posts under “mental illness” in the right column of this page (see the link??). “shakespeare and depression” is on of my faves. my mental illness is inherited and a product of my upbringing and traumas, both developmental and acute. my brain diseases are a constant focus of my thinking. maybe because it’s my brain talking???

i am an intense person. i live in baz luhrman’s moulin rouge. that’s how intense life is to me.  i’d much rather scream my head off at a rally than set politely in a church listening to someone prettily preach about justice. i am uppity. i am rude. i interrupt. i listen intently. i work hard. i laugh hard. i trance hard. i dissociate hard. i drive fast or stop suddenly. i crank the jams. i love fiercely. i am prone to violence in the privacy of my home. i believe you’ve got to stand up and TAKE the power. MAKE it happen. i dream big. i plan intensely. I LIVE OUT LOUD.

on a ferry from rotterdam to england i pressed myself to the prow, wind skinning my head, grin splitting my face. in whitby, england (the setting for stoker’s dracula), i walked the one-mile pier into the north sea and screeched, “i’m here!!” into the screaming wilds of wind and sea. on a scottish mountain i reached the summit in the night and leaned into a wind so strong it blew my eyelids back upon themselves. i LIVE for this shit. it’s so completely luhrman, so huge, a stage big enough for my towering passions. it’s LIFE, in shrieking technicolor.

i hate wind chimes and drum solos.

my fave books are pride and prejudice by austen, kabuki: circle of blood by david mack, gone with the wind (so feminist though so, so racist) by margaret mitchell, peter the great by robert massie, gloriana by mary luke, barbarians by terry jones, the little house books (i’m related to almanzo wilder), mrs mike by benedict and nancy freedman, traitor by matthew stover, ordeal: the story of my life by queen marie of roumania, the highland clearances by john prebble, the house at pooh corner by a. a. milne, leaving mother lake by yang erche namu and christine mathieu, and on and on and on. i read at least one non-fiction, one fiction, and one Pagan book at once so i have a book for every mood.

i am a huge star wars fan. princess leia changed my life.

my parents taught me responsibility, thrift, hard work, excellent manners, and to think for myself. they have had reason to regret the last.

i want to be a Pagan nun: live in community where intense faith is put into transformative action by working with the less privileged. i want a constant, joyous, tangible celebration of faith.

i’ve been to europe six times, three times by myself. on my first trip my best friend and i stumbled upon avebury, a then-unknown tiny village in the middle of an ancient stone circle. it’s part of a vast complex, from the wooden “sanctuary” circle that was built on a hill 4000 BCE to silbury hill, the largest human-made mound in europe, to the west kennet long barrow, a five-chambered burial mound, to “the avenue,” a mile of monoliths tracing a path back to the circle. i felt incredible power in the long barrow. i got “graveyard hands”: placing one hand on a stone in the “head” chamber, i saw all the flesh blow away till only bone remained. from that moment on the area in general and the barrow in particular have been the center of my spiritual universe, and my most important life commitments have been sealed there. i live for the day when i can return.

when i don’t like what’s happening around me i will often dissociate. i go into a detached state where i lose time and “come to” later having no idea what i was doing or how the time passed. this is DID. people on the extreme end of the spectrum have distinct personalities that don’t know of each others’ existences but i’m not that bad. i just go into this grey space. it used to be a lot worse – since my semi-retirement i’ve had so many things to enjoy that i’m not nearly in as much psycho-spiritual pain as i used to be. the grey is also a product of depression, which i’ve had since i was 14. but as i said, i’m doing much better these days and am making good progress in therapy.

i take 19 pills a day to maintain mental and (less so) physical health. i am a slave to my meds; if i forget to take them i am a complete basket case. i HATE feeling so vulnerable.

i wanted two daughters. i gave up living in england to come here and have them close to family. my best male friend and i promised we’d have kids if we were still single at 30 but he wasn’t. i tried to sell my eggs as a desperate last attempt but i missed the deadline by three weeks (i blogged about that (a little) here). now i have no daughters, unwanted eggs, and a really strict immigration policy in england. not all capricorns get to execute their plans. there are no words to describe the constant ache of childlessness. it is an ocean of grief i can never get across.

i hate to cook. i love to bake, especially while singing along to the smiths at the top of my lungs.

i don’t remember names and faces. if i’m being introduced to someone, the first letters of their name fly out of my head even before the rest if their name is said. i’ve even forgotten the names of people i’ve had to dinner at my house. mytherapistlynn attributed it to PTSD. it’s hardest with normal looking people. you all look alike. i eventually recognize faces after a LOT of exposure in close succession but names can escape me for years. so i live in this hell where people CONSTANTLY say hi to me and i have no idea who they are, if we’re casual acquaintances or have shared soul-bearing confidences. my default is to look Impressively Busy, give them a big smile and a “hey!” and sometimes a “how are you?” as i breeze past them. i HATE it. i feel like i am not respecting others. i feel so ashamed. and i’m so easily recognizable…. it’s hell.

my favorite disney villain is maleficent (the original). such a badass.

my favorite disney heroine is belle, because she’s smart and strong and brave and learns to love.

i love playing charades. i am really, really good at charades. i also love canasta, bullshit, spoons, cards against humanity, and any game where everyone can have a good time. highly competitive or strategy games are not for me.

i don’t eat any vegetables. any.

i have a number of invisible maladies that keep me in constant pain. bad knees, bad hips. i broke my lower back when i was 15. i have carpal tunnel syndrome (which is why i so frequently write lower case — fewer finger movements). several car accidents have ruined my lower and upper back and given me permanent whiplash. no one knows how much pain i’m in – i have a high pain tolerance and i think like an 8-year-old and believe i’m invincible. but beyond that, i have a deep-seated need to look completely competent and in control at all times. a lesson learned young and never forgotten.

my sense of humor and sarcasm are deeply indebted to bugs bunny. the later “sophistication” of my humor (if you can call it that) is pure python.

i am introspective and a terrible introvert. every night i write the day’s doings and my thoughts and feelings in my journal along with 1) a positive facet of myself on display that day, 2) the answer to the question “do i know who i am today?, 3) a positive memory, and 4) a prayer. takes me an hour but it calms me down, empties my mind, opens my psycho-spiritual self, and helps anchor me to my own life. spending so much time alone and dissociating means i can get lost in the blur of my days. at special anniversaries and holidays i go back and read chunks of my journal to see who i was in that snapshot of time. i try to see patterns and learn so i can grow.

in the 90s when i was a Very Important Pagan i was interviewed by the new york times for their religion section. the reporter was super easy to talk to, which made me relax. this is unfortunate, because when he asked me how many Pagans were in the US, i said something like, “my guess is around 100,00, though some of my comrades wish it were a lot more.” comrades! comrades! now everyone thinks we’re communists! brill move, cairril adaire.

i’m terrified of flying. i try to be the last one on and the first one off. i know you’re more likely to die in a car accident but at least it would be quick. you wouldn’t have 30,000 feet to think about it. turbulence terrifies me no matter how many xanax i pop. on the takeoff from phoenix there was so much turbulence i clutched andrew’s hand ’til his bones ground together and i was literally a hair’s breadth from screaming at the top of my lungs get me the hell off this plane!!!! traumatizing. trying to land during a thunderstorm over LAX there was this huge BANG and the whole plane dropped enough that i slammed into my safety belt. there was complete silence in the cabin for a Very Long Time (classic example of the mammalian freeze response) until the captain rather laconically said, “you may have noticed we had some static discharge.” uh, yeah. the truth which he neglected to tell us was we’d been hit by lightning. these things happen and i say never again and i looooong for bullet trains across the country but alas, alack, and alaska, i find myself getting frisked by the TSA once again.

i drink 3-4 gallons of milk/wk and 4-6 liters of water/day.

my two biggest character flaws are impatience and insensitivity to others’ feelings. i get enRAGED when i have to go at a slower pace. voice-prompt tech support lines leave me yelling into the phone. waiting to be picked up or for phone calls causes massive anxiety attacks. i am not about the journey; i am all about the destination. as for others, i am practical and painfully blunt. not surprisingly considering i spend literally 99% of my time with no one but my cat, i say things that hurt people’s feelings. it’s agony. i make the best apology i can, come up with a plan for how i can meet their needs better in future, and then wallow in the feeling of churning stomach and veins on fire and i am damaged goods and a horrible human being and i should never talk to anyone because all i do is hurt people. i hate myself.

possibly my best characteristics are i am brave, loyal, honest, compassionate, and deep. maybe.

we had five rules to follow before we could do anything when we were growing up: teeth brushed, hair combed, bed made, breakfast over with, and get dressed. on saturday mornings i got up before everyone else to watch bugs bunny and ate breakfast while i watched. i couldn’t POSSibly brush my teeth until after i finished breakfast, and i wouldn’t DARE wake my sister (with whom i shared a room) by getting dressed or making my bed, so i pretty much ignored the rules whenever i wanted to.

i have over 23 days worth of music in itunes of almost every variety. i move between maria callas, the cure, billie holliday, rasputina, ricky martin, little cow, alexander rybak, voco, everclear, patsy cline, the gap band, cake, javiera y los imposibles, the black keys, music of the baroque, karolina cicha, the clash, clarence gatemouth brown, cab calloway, trio mandila, flogging molly, portishead, and more easily.

when you tickle the inside of my arm, the side of my tongue itches.

i have the world’s most sweet-tempered cat: sasha. she is the perfect companion for me. she never tries to run outside, she’s patient and loving and CUTE and just the right amount of playful and never pees on the furniture. i love loving her.

i quick-tempered and tempestuous, possibly the same as my great-grandmother jenny mullane mclaughlin, who was know for her irish temper. i’m not afraid to yell when frustrated. working with technology is maddening. i get so angry and frustrated i can’t think straight. it doesn’t take much to set me off. usually comes down to my not being able to do what i want.

i will hold onto the oxford comma to my dying day.

i am single. that makes me a ms. not a miss. not ever a miss. and not ever a mrs. if in the highly unlikely event i got married, i would still be a ms. that’s the whole point of it. why should women have a prefix that denotes their marital status? it’s a holdover from women as property. i’m no one’s property. i belong to me. and the Goddess. i am ms.

i can flare my nostrils at will.

i am celibate. i blogged about that here.

i am a lover of shakespeare’s plays. not sonnets, only plays. i inhale them. the language! once i read so much i started dreaming in shakesperean english. i watched all the BBC versions from that series they did in the ‘80s and fell in love with the winter’s tale. my fave movies are the richard III with ian mckellan, branagh’s much ado about nothing and his breathtaking hamlet, david tennant’s hamlet except i hate the security cameras and patrick stewart’s shrug, and baz luhrman’s romeo + juliet, which makes me SOB every time i watch it even though the traditional play bores me to a coma. i want to play volumnia in coriolanus, gertrude in hamlet, rosalind in as you like it, the goth queen in titus andronicus, lady capulet and mercutio in romeo and juliet, paulina in the winter’s tale, and especially margaret of anjou in henry VI parts 1-3 and richard III!

even though i wear almost nothing but black (with a splash of white now and again), my favorite colors are actually jewel tones. they make beautiful sounds in my head.

apart from hello and thank you with store clerks, usually i spend just over 6.5 hours a week interacting with other humans face to face. the rest of the time i’m on my own.

i haven’t felt emotions besides things like loneliness and anguish since 3 jan 2000, when The Bad Thing happened. mostly i live in a grey zone. sometimes i feel the physical effects of a positive emotion such as increased energy and a lightness to my body, but the actual emotion isn’t there. i do sometimes feel love when it’s very strong but it’s like there’s a filter that keeps me from experiencing the fullness of the emotion. that’s dissociation and depression. i do laugh a lot. loudly.

i think leonard cohen’s hallelujah is one of the stupidest, most boring songs i’ve ever heard. i realize this is blasphemy.

i am an atheist. i don’t believe in an afterlife. i suspect there’s a part of our selves that for lack of a better term we call soul, but it transforms into different energy at death. we just decay at death — return to the Mother.

i detest alcohol. i have seen it destroy too many lives of people i’ve loved. i cringe at the sight of it. the smell makes me physically ill. if i had my way, all alcohol would disappear from the planet, never to be seen again.

i am a survivor of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, in every decade of my life. men have not always been kind to me.

i am a politics junkie, mostly national, then state, then international, then local. i know very little about local affairs, which is ridiculous considering my belief in grassroots organizing. but Big Issues fascinate me and i like to understand those mass currents. i have always been more interested in fiction that includes politics (like the hunger games) than that which doesn’t. i suppose it goes to my favorite question for life: “why?” this is followed closely by: “how?” everything else falls far behind.

i have a violent past but am committed to nonviolent civil resistance.

i adore movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s. so many strong women. so much snappy dialogue. and towering passions that last through years of troubles rather than today’s romances which start at the very end of the movie or book. my faves are it happened one night, now voyager, gone with the wind, little women (june allyson), the thin man, to have and have not, the philadelphia story, the big sleep, random harvest, the adventures of robin hood, and oh, so many more.

i love british cuisine. fish-n-chips under a heat lamp for too long and chocolate hobnobs (one nibble and you’re nobbled) — yum!!

i began my business with a prayer in 2001: “let me put my talents and skills in the service of the greater good.” and i have done that. i have chosen to work with organizations and businesses that in some way make life better. i don’t do any work for the military. and my motto has always been, “if the world goes to hell, i want bloomington to be the last place standing.” in my small way, i help my clients make a little more money so they could help bloomington thrive. if i work with a client whose business i’m not completely in favor of (but not so much that i won’t work with them), i donate a percentage of my profits from their job to a charity in direct opposition to what they’re doing. so my work is still in the service of the greater good.

i love bed. i love being all toasty warm and comfortable, my back finally not hurting so much, curled up with a great book with a candle lit on my altar. and on sunday mornings reading the paper in bed. and every morning that i can wallow in pain-free comfort for half an hour or so before getting up. and lying down for a 40-minute cat nap in the afternoons. and writing in my journal. and spending such lovely time with my friends on facebook via my laptop. i love staring off into space vaguely centered around one of my altars, cocooned in warmth. there’s no other place i’m so pain-free except for when i’m on my land or in a hot tub. oh, and when i took lovers i adored spending hours in bed talking, laughing, and reading to each other. sigh. i love bed.

i believe judy garland was the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. there were those who exceeded her in technical ability but she was not only a triple threat (dance, act, SING), she knew how to put on a GREAT show.

a regret from k-12 education: i never had a food fight.

i believe in agitating and protesting and speaking out because it is the right thing to do. i also believe it has the potential to bring about social change from the grassroots up. but i speak because i will not remain silent in the face of injustice. i have blogged about that here.

i reject the terms masculine and feminine. they are outmoded and heterosexist. i was constantly pressured to be more “ladylike” when i was growing up. that meant feminine. that means passive, receptive, nurturing. well, guess what, i’m a loud-mouthed, sarcastic, bull-in-a-china-shop full-on woman and i call that feminine. if we’re going to equate femininity with being female, here’s your new definition of feminine. i am all woman, all the time. don’t try to water me down.

kaia, kaia, kaia. world vocals and percussion from the raucous to the sublime. seven women taking you on a dizzying ride through life, death, politics, sex, seasonal rounds, and more more more. i started it in 2004. at times it has been the only thing keeping me alive. if the stars would align correctly, i would be singing this incredible music with these incredible women all. the. time.

i have four foundational beliefs:

  1. there is no immortal or supreme being of any kind. we have one life and when we die, we’re dead. there is no afterlife.
  2. humans are capable of profound change.
  3. there is more going on than our five senses comprehend and NO ONE has the bead on that reality.
  4. love is the best thing.

i am impassioned, completely impatient, angry, deeply spiritual, anxious, driven, depressed, curious, brave, dynamic, compassionate, sarcastic, funny, i have a big laugh and a sharp mind and tongue, i’m self-reliant, smart.

i love to learn. the sound of synapses firing is a total rush to me.

i green eyes and brown hair with red and gold highlights, dyed natural blue black since age 19, now streaked with grey.

i have thought about suicide every day for the last five years.

i inhale books on history, particularly those about powerful women in turbulent times and the relations between church and state. my heras are elizabeth i of england and pharaoh hatshepsut of egypt. i have read extensively on western europe 10,000 BCE-1604, 1890-1945, and early 20th century america.

in this life, i fear only rape and losing my mind, maybe because i’ve experienced both. after my death, i fear only being forgotten.

i get my news from PBS, BBC, CNN, al jazeera, the guardian, wtfjusthappenedtoday, facebook, the daily show, and last week tonight.

i have voted for every political party.

on my birthday i scream along and dance to everclear’s santa monica. it used to be directed at my ex-fiancé but now it’s just fun.

i still cry over princess diana’s death.

independence day is my favorite secular holiday. i read the declaration of independence, the bill of rights, FDR’s Four Freedoms speech, and other civic-minded inspirational works. i love the parade, which is this total cross-section of bloomington and a place to crush small children while fighting over tootsie rolls.

the lotus world music and arts festival is the high point of my year. all that fabulous new music! it lights me on fire. my delight is doubled because my sister and her daughters come down for it and we’ve developed all these traditions to make every moment fun. Goddess, how i love these women. kaia has also been mainstage performers there twice, which is a total honor and high. i am a rock stah!

i walk super fast. even when i was among the milling throngs on campus, no one ever passed me unless they were jogging. likewise, i love to drive fast. when i can get away with it, i drive 100 mph on I65. i rarely even notice speed limits. i drive fast because the longer i drive, the more pain i’m in, i love the feel of speed, and i’m so bloody impatient i hate the downtime between starting point and destination.

my largest audience for singing a cappella solo was over 22,000 people at comiskey park, home of the white sox. i was 17.

i left my parent’s house when i was 18 and never moved back. it pains me to visit that town, where my sisters still live. i hate hate hate it. flat, asphalt everywhere, chain stores, constant driving (in bloomington i walk almost everywhere and drive only two days a week). absolutely nothing to do but go shopping (ugh). all the worst of america. the opposite of my beloved bloomington, the home i moved to in 1986.

bernie sanders is the only politician i’ve ever believed in. i liked paul tsongas for a while until the stupid “pander bear” crap he pulled. i believe in bernie sanders. he fights for what i want.

i am lucy van pelt.

i wrote a book in the ‘90s called of death, the universe, and hanging men: suggestions for change but no one picked it up. then gloria steinem came out with a similar theme that was much better so i gave up. my focus was on change from the personal to the societal. i have long wanted to write history: the interesting bits, a book comparing the relationship between thomas beckett and henry I with thomas more and henry VIII, and another putting the scholarship and theories about richard III side by side so you could come to your own conclusions about whether he was a good guy or bad guy (i lean towards good).

proudest moments of my life:

  • don: in the late 1980s i worked at mcdonald’s as a crew chief. one day i saw a new man in the back, about 65 years old, being “trained” by some young huffy grrrl. she kept yelling and flouncing. i finally swapped places with her and just slooooowed everything down. every single step of the process is carefully thought out at mcdonald’s so it was just a question of helping him learn the individual steps and then seeing the gestalt. he learned right away. and he told me connee boswell was disabled, something i never would’ve known otherwise. it’s one of the few times in my life i can remember being patient and i patently improved his quality of life. i love that i was able to do that.
  • Pagan freedom: i founded the Pagan Educational Network in 1993 to “educate the public about Paganism and build community.” it kicked ass. i worked with national organizations (more on that later) but our members were all grassroots activists with triumphs great and small. i worked with the officials for state prisons to come up with the guide for Pagan religious practices in the system. one july 4th i went down to the post office box and found a letter from the head of a smalltown prison saying, “i wanted to let you know that Prisoner X now has the freedom to worship as he chooses.” one of the proudest moments of my life. religious freedom for my people. and on independence day, at that.
  • pallbearer: at the last minute my mom asked me if i wanted to be a pallbearer for my paternal grandmother. it was incredibly moving to undertake such a sacred task. and there have been so many funerals where i’ve been barred from this because i’m female. it was humbling and loving.
  • person X: i saved the life of someone close to me, someone i love very much. they were at a total low point, ready to kill themselves, and i offered them safe harbor and support until they could get back on their feet. the four most important days of my life.
  • the summit: in march 2001 i hosted the first-ever summit of the leaders of almost all the major national Pagan organizations in the united states. this is a HUGE deal. it had been attempted off and on since the 60s but no one had been successful. isaac bonewits broke the damn with a personal letter to the invitees telling them how he believed in this summit and was making the commitment to come. we were together from friday night to sunday night in a frenzy of activity and communion, focusing not on beliefs but on the structural problems facing our organizations and how to overcome them. it was an incredible success. it spawned regional summits across the country for at least ten years afterwards. i believe it would’ve changed the course of the Pagan movement if three planes filled with 19 hijackers hadn’t changed everyone’s focus to interfaith work in september of that year. it was incredibly significant and i am so proud of it.
  • my first political rebellion: in 1984 famine was sweeping africa and i was swept up by bob geldof. i felt the cause incredibly deeply (as only a teenager can) and proposed that we end our school christmas concert with feed the world. the older, fuddy-duddy choir director forbade it (“we always end with the same song, it’s TRADITION”), while my new fabulous choir director (aided and abetted by the auditorium director) gave it a go. so on the down-low we organized people from both choirs and at the end of the planned program swarmed the stage and sang along with feed the world blaring from the speakers. mr Old was apoplectic but i was on a huge high, victorious with a good cause. i had never rebelled against authority so openly before and am proud of my high school self for doing it. the only downside is we raised a paltry $250 for CARE. fucking highland, indiana. i hate that place.
  • my first priestessing gig: i was asked by a co-worker to priestess a stealth Pagan handfasting/wedding. no one in the couple’s families knew they were Pagan, so they were holding the ceremony in beck chapel on campus and had written the whole ritual themselves with little code words in it so it would just seem like a standard beautiful ceremony. i remember standing on the dais looking down the aisle to the bride as she began her entrance and i was just swept with power and pride that my spiritual ancestors would have been tortured and burned at the stake for daring what i was doing (standing in the place of a man and exercising spiritual power), and Here I Was. such a feeling of history and gratitude that our people had made it. and feeling so blessed that i had the opportunity.

i swear. a lot. and i like it.

this is my life’s purpose: to bring fire.

i used to have a deep, commanding speaking voice. now it’s higher, thinner, and impossible to hear at parties.

i have a green burial plot at white oak cemetery on 7th street with my headstone already made. in nice weather i love to go down there and lie on my grave. i find it so comforting to know that, even after all living memory of me has passed from this earth, there will be this curious gravestone in the “grave garden” (as goddessdaughter #1 calls it) that lasts for hundreds of years. i love lying down and imagining pulling the sod over me like a blanket and going to sleep forever. just lay all the burdens down and REST. return to the Mother in the physical sense. so, so comforting. what is remembered, lives [this phrase originated with my tribesister Angie Buchanan and has traveled far beyond the Pagan movement. thank you, love].

all my nicknames growing up were male (tarzan, rhett, james bond, etc)

i have the perfect house. it looks like a monopoly house only it’s blue-grey. it’s a little grandma and grandpa house with everything comfy, lots of big open spaces in 960 sf, lots and lots of light, incredible hardwood floors, a curve on top of the entry to the hallway, a big kitchen, whole-house sound, a wonderful paint kaleidoscope, and the world’s most kickass couch. everywhere i look in my house i see something Pagan – a figurine, an altar, a poster – everything fills me with connection to Spirit. AND! in addition to all this, i have an aMAZing temple set up in my bedroom with absolutely everything i need for absolutely every type of ritual. i love love luuuurve it!!! my house sets on the best-kept secret in downtown bloomington: The Land. 150’-deep lot with a high white PVC fence around it and all native plants inside — lots of trees and about twelve million virginia sweetspire shrubs because those are my favorites. there’s a big open spot close to the house perfect for a wading pool for the goddessdaughters and a firepit for my sister and nieces, and the back half is dedicated as a nature sanctuary. each tree was dedicated to a particular ancestor and i threw in a dead fish when it was planted in honor of squanto, the native american who helped save the lives of my pilgrim ancestors. my sister says my Land is like a park. it’s very restful. when i have any sort of emotional turmoil (pos, neg, in between), i throw myself down on sweet Mama Earth and she just takes it all away and gives me equilibrium. i love to feel the different trunks and leaves of all the different trees. i have cloth ribbons tied to my big ancestor ash and i leave incense offerings. Gods above and below, i have it good.

i’m self-conscious about eating in front of people i don’t know very well.

i love being a woman. i grew up contemptuous of women because of family dynamics but after reading my mother, my self and taking a women’s studies course i came to fall madly in love with my womanness. i love the community that can quickly be established by women. i love how we support each other. and in some ways, as a female Witch, i enjoy being largely invisible to the dominant culture because it gives me the greatest freedom to be myself. patriarchy sucks for women but at least we privileged ones can carve out little enclaves of cackling sisterhood. men under patriarchy – hoo! i feel sorry for them. so much pressure to conform. only one way to be. your only freedom is the color of your tie. i celebrate Pagan men, who so often examine and reject patriarchy and consciously create safe spaces for women and men alike. but i will always instinctively trust women at first glance over men. maybe if men would stop assaulting me that would change. but for now i am perfectly thrilled with my wimmin tribes.

i am an amateur genealogist and family historian. i can never get enough of learning about my ancestors. in ritual i feel them at my back, supporting me as i lean over some chasm. in therapy they are always present to lend a hand to wounded parts. i love my people.

i am a puppy when it comes to touch. while in reality touch is limited to hello-and-goodbye hugs, i thrive on holding hands, having my back petted, my feet massaged, spooning!, my legs stroked. i love piling up with people i love, putting my head in someone’s lap, holding someone’s feet in mine. i feel more real. more rooted in physical reality. but in consensual reality i live almost entirely in my head, my body too pained to bear.

when i first learned about christopher columbus i was disgusted. we call the indigenous people of this country “indians” because he was an idiot and thought he was in india?!?!? it was infuriating. this was what, fourth grade? and i’ve never gotten over it. i recognize some tribes embrace the term but i am just too angry and frustrated to respect that. what if some white guy stumbled upon me and called me argentinian? ridiculous!

princess leia changed my life. raised catholic, i was no virgin mary, meek and mild. princess leia showed me i could be fully myself and fully female instead of having to choose “whether she’s going to be a boy or a girl.” i wrote about that a little here. as an adult, xena exploded on my consciousness and her whole world is one i draw on frequently in therapy and spirituality. when i need courage i sing her theme song. when i need wisdom i watch “the debt” or “the bitter suite” or any of a number of other episodes. i identify with xena as a flawed fighter seeking to redeem herself and i set at the feet of gabrielle to train myself how to act from compassion. search on “xena” at irishsparks.com and you’ll see what i’m going on about.

i adore the olympics. not so much the sports (women’s gymnastics and figure skating are the only things i watch), but the opening and closing ceremonies, the background pieces on the host country’s culture, and seeing excellence. it is such a creative jolt for one thing but it’s also the closest we’ll ever see to “dancin’ in the street” — everyone coming together from around the world to celebrate diversity and unity. love it!

emma thompson is the best actor/actress alive, hands-down. she is absolutely brilliant and chooses great vehicles. you will never convince me otherwise. viva, emma!!!

i take up space. physically, psychically. there is no getting away from me.

i’ve picked up colloquialisms from everywhere i’ve lived. everyone makes fun of me for saying, “aboat” instead of “about” but i picked it up in england and never lost it. likewise “ring me” (“to call” means someone stopped by), come round, postbox, post, whinge, crisps instead of potato chips, icing sugar instead of powdered sugar, brolly instead of umbrella, etc. from southern indiana i have picked up “you all,” the dropping of “to be,” as in “she needs dropped off” rather than “she needs to be dropped off,” and setting instead of sitting. while i’ve lost most of my region rat extremes, i do occasionally cringe at the flat, piercing, obnoxious vowels that come out of my mouth. i can still pronounce like julie andrews when singing broadway songs but sadly lost my much-loved ability to do any accent when i started taking saphris. and half my lexicon comes from the georgia nicolson books by louise rennison. i luuurve them.

i love diversity. i was reading the first chapter of trans bodies, trans selves and got totally stoked at all the different terms that people use to define their sexual orientation and gender identity. what a complex, exciting world! and i love the darkening complexion of america. by 2044 whites will be a minority in the US. i get really excited about living in a truly multiethnic society. just think of how much we will learn! how we will grow as our prejudices get challenged! absolutely thrilling.

this is the post where i named the man who raped me when i was a child.

someone once loved me enough to want to marry me. i blogged about that here.

i could go on (believe me, there are enough people in my self that to describe all my facets would take the rest of my life), but this is already going to be a total bitch to scroll through. so enough. i leave you with a list of some of my most-played music. i am a singer. i am a Witch.

itunes - top plays


Why I protest

February 16, 2017

activism is not an event, it’s a daily commitment.
normalize advocacy

i have been involved in protest movements since i was 17, when my principle concerns were the nuclear arms race and political prisoners. i moved into anti-apartheid and anti-colonial work shortly after. i’ve repeatedly been let down by the traditional Left but i go where the people are or i go alone – i must resist.

i am least interested in whether a mass protest achieves concrete results right away. that rarely happens. and it’s not the point. the point is to build a movement that lasts and grows over time so its cause can no longer be avoided.

look at all the progressive movements of the early 20th century, the civil rights struggle, the protests against the war in vietnam. they all took time. they all took commitment. and they took repeated actions by a wide swathe of society to get results. that’s how mass movements work.

the immediate effect of mass rallies and the like are to change the narrative for the day; this is what happened with the 2017 women’s march in DC and elsewhere. and if the protest/rally is large enough, or widespread enough, it remains a marker in the news that reporters keep referring back to. why does bernie sanders still get so much coverage? because large numbers of people got off their butts and went to his rallies. these are the kinds of results you can see.

[while i find anything related to the bible extremely tedious, i’m including this for my parents and other christians. do you think the money lenders in the temple stopped lending money after jesus trashed their space? no. then was jesus doing something utterly pointless? seems weird for the son of god. and for the church to think the story important enough to keep in the bible. protests matter.]

i protest because i am a doer. i must ACT. i feel so much physical pressure building up inside my body, so much psychic dissonance, that i MUST take action. sometimes that’s going to a rally or a march. sometimes that’s standing alone on the corner of kirkwood and walnut holding a sign. sometimes that’s singing peace songs alone to agitated cops. i pick actions that are committed to nonviolence. i pick actions where i will be educated. but i ACT.

i protest because the children and young women in my life are watching. i want them to know they too have a voice, that they have power, that they matter. and i want them to be conscious of the power of solidarity so they can take strength from it when they are most bowed down.

i must resist. for my self, my spirit, my soul. i could not live with myself if i just said, “this has nothing to do with me.” i believe that each step towards freedom for one group without privilege is a victory for all. i believe in the morality of resistance. i don’t want anyone coming to me 30 years from now and asking, “where were you when the world needed you?”

i resist because it is the right thing to do. i believe in goodness. i believe it is a process. i believe we have to work at it to grow and become more human. i want to be good. i want to walk the path of justice, equality, wholeness, diversity, and freedom. this is what i’ve chosen for myself. so whether you stand with me or stand aside asking, “what’s the point?”, i will resist. i resist because it is the right thing to do. a better world is possible.

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i wrote this on my phone, so please excuse the lower case.


Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, and me

January 9, 2017

I was on holiday in California when I got the news that Carrie Fisher had gone shining. I didn’t want to ruin my holiday groove so I buried my feelings until I got home.

I was 10 years old when Star Wars came out. Princess Leia just exploded off the screen. I’d never seen a strong woman onscreen before. Films during the ’60s and ’70s showed women as victims or men’s appendages if they showed up at all. I couldn’t identify with any of them. But when I saw Princess Leia, I saw courage and grit and power and sarcasm and resourcefulness and a clear, principled will. Here was something I could identify with! She had a huge impact on me. And Carrie Fisher was spot on, save for the occasional English accent wandering in (in books, they say she was mocking Tarkin, but I feel like that’s trying to cover up a bad directorial decision).

I have seen A New Hope probably 50 times and she is still a revelation to me. And when she reappeared in episode 7, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. In the expanded Star Wars universe, Leia is one of the only Jedi who is never even tempted by the Dark Side. She has a clear moral compass and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring peace and justice to the galaxy. She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she’s no one’s fool.

So that’s a little about Princess Leia. Many years later Carrie Fisher did a one-woman show that was translated into a book I read: Wishful Drinking. In it, she talks frankly—really frankly—about mental illness and her experiences with treatment. While she first entered my life playing a fictional heroine, now she was a heroine in the waking world. Instead of speaking in hushed tones about her challenges, she is sarcastic and funny and informative. She helped me see that I didn’t have to be ashamed of my own mental illnesses, and she gave me courage. And a new hope.

As I write this I realize how paltry the words are in comparison to the vastness of my thoughts and emotions. She burned brightly, fiercely, and I owe a part of my self to her. Thank you, Princess. Thank you, Carrie. Go shining.


A story from my father

January 9, 2017

Every summer until I was 15 our whole family went on a camping trip somewhere in the continental United States. There were long hours spent in the car, with everyone passing food around that Mom pulled out of the cooler in between her and Dad’s seats. We’d finally get to a destination and spend a torturous hour or so setting up camp. Then my Dad liked to walk the perimeter, getting his bearings. I get that from him.

My favorite part of any trip was after a long day of sight-seeing and dinner when my brothers would build a Boy Scout-sanctioned bonfire and we’d gather around in lawn chairs, mostly quiet. I would beg my dad to tell a story (he was so good!) and sometimes he’d oblige. This is the only story I can remember.

Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in a small cottage. Some nights he liked to travel the road down to the village pub and nurse an ale. There was one dark night where he’d stayed too late and he mentioned to the bartender that he planned to take a shortcut through the woods. “Oh, no!” cried everyone in the pub. “Don’t take that shortcut—it’s dangerous! There are monsters in the wood!” The man laughed and pushed his way out into the cool, dark night.

He headed out on the path that ran through the woods. It was a quiet night and dark, so he had to pay attention to where he was going. He’d been walking for some time when he suddenly came across a giant egg in his path. It seemed to glow. Well, he scratched his head and he tapped on it and he tried to imagine what it could be, but nothing obvious came to mind. Suddenly deciding, he rolled the egg down the path in front of him and pushed it inside his cottage. He made a few more attempts to figure out what it was but gave up, its being late and all.

The egg stayed quiescent for days. But one night he heard some tapping sounds and as he whipped his head around from the hearth where he was cooking his stew, he noticed that the egg had started to crack. Holding his breath (and the ladle in one hand), he slowly approached the egg. The whole thing quivered and suddenly the top split open. Before he could even comprehend what was going on, a small goblin popped out. Then another. Then another. Soon there were six small goblins in his cottage, and they were immediately completely out of control.

With screeching voices they bounced all over the cottage, upsetting his table and chair, pounding on pots and pans, smashing plates, and more. He alternated between ducking thrown objects and yelling at them to stop. Nothing worked! He watched in horror as his neat little cottage descended into chaos.

For days and nights his life was a nightmare. It seemed like it would never end. Even when he collapsed from exhaustion he was aware of the goblins bouncing on him, pulling at his hair and tweaking his toes. He was at his wit’s end.

Then one night while chaos reigned around him the hearthlight went out. He got a candle  and a flint and, with many interruptions and much frustration, he finally got the candle lit. Suddenly there was complete silence. The goblins stopped their screeching and smashing and tearing and slowly crept towards the flame. Astonished, the man set his table upright and placed the candle on it. The goblins, completely fascinated, drew close and stared at the flame. All was quiet. The sudden silence after so many days of bedlam sounded loud in the man’s ears. He stared at the goblins for a long time, but they only gazed quietly at the candle, mesmerized.

From then on, whenever he could he would light a candle and place it on the table for the goblins to gather around. And it was in this way that he began to reclaim his shattered nerves and bring some order back into his life!

+ + +

When my dad told this story, it was like magic. I could see it all so clearly in my mind. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I suddenly realized: there were six goblins. There were six of us kids. My dad was talking about us! He was talking about how we were so noisy and boisterous but would settle down and all stare quietly into a bonfire like goblins under a spell.

It still makes me laugh to think about that. He was absolutely right—he was a man who liked order and peace and here he was with six kids bouncing off the walls. I have no idea how he and my mom survived! Goddess knows I love my peace and order, too, and my goddessdaughters sometimes tried my patience mightily as they created chaos in my neat little house when they were young.

So there you have it. Any parent’s story. I love it!


Sex and sometimes love

December 4, 2016

I haven’t had sex since 2002. And I don’t miss it.

Gods above alone know how I could have survived so much sexual abuse, assault, and harassment and yet ended up with a sex-positive view. I love sex. I love intimacy. I was fortunate to have, on the whole, good lovers. But then, something went Terribly Awry. This story is not an invitation for you to invite me to have sex with you. Please pay attention.

My last lover was impatient and our relationship was completely fucked up. I knew we shouldn’t be together after our first night but he wore me down with arguments until he finally found my Achilles’ Heel: “Think how old you are now. How many more chances are you going to get?” Good basis for a relationship, eh?

The last time we slept together he might as well have been masturbating for all the difference it made that I was there. I knew he didn’t like my more creative style so I swallowed my disappointment and just endured. Gods. Wretched. It’s hard to know if I was just responding to patriarchal conditioning and submitting to my man or if I genuinely felt the poor guy should get a break. But it sucked for me. And he broke up with me shortly thereafter.

I spiraled into a depression. No surprise there. But the fucked-up-edness of our relationship didn’t stop when he broke up with me. He still rang me three or four times a day. I went to his condo several times a week to take his dog for long walks and cry into his ruff. And I’ll admit, once I suspected my ex was seeing someone new, I went through his drawers until I found the condoms I’d bought for him when we were together and took them all away. Childish, but devilishly satisfying. Why should I pay for his sex?

Did I mention things were fucked up? I would drag myself to my computer in the mornings to check for work email, sobbing, then crawl back to my bed and watch Lord of the Rings on my laptop, sobbing. As 11am approached my anxiety would shoot through the roof and my heart would pound and my chest contract and my hands sweat and my mind run as I desperately tried to think of how I could entertain him. And sure enough, at 11 on the dot he would ring and say lackadaisically, “So what’s going on?” Then I would try to delight him with trivia or gossip and play the sexy fetch. I was terrified he’d find me boring. I performed. Terrified. Until the phone call ended and I would collapse back on my bed sobbing. This would be repeated at 4 and 6 and sometimes 9. Every day. And if he was road-tripping, he would ring me at the start and expect me to talk him all the way home from Fort Wayne. So I did.

At the same time I was executing A Plan I’d devised in the week after we broke up. I am excellent with plans. I am a Capricorn. I live for plans. And this fabulous plan was that I’d take 3 months to get my head together, 3 months to build a wider circle of friends, and then I would try blind dating. At this point I could tell a hilarious story about the only blind date I’ve ever been on, but let’s stay focused on how screwed up I was. Surely if I got a new therapist I could be well in 3 months, right? And another 3 months is plenty of time to make friends in! And no, I don’t “date” in the traditional sense, I only have relationships, but just because it’s a really bad idea doesn’t mean it won’t build character! C’mon! Execute plan!

So I found a new therapist but my behavior didn’t change. My depression got worse. My anxiety got worse. Every time I expressed concern that I didn’t seem to be getting better she’d have some Buddhist maxim for me. I’m not a Buddhist. How were these things relevant? They weren’t. But I couldn’t see that. I thought that if I just tried harder, I would understand more, that I would feel better.

The first 3 months flew by. Then I hit Match.com to meet prospective friends. I didn’t put a picture up because I’m instantly recognizable and I didn’t want that vulnerability. So even though I said in my profile I was ONLY looking for friends, almost all the men who contacted me badgered me for a photo and when can we meet when when how’s now what’s your problem why not NOW? Tedious men.

I met up with about seven people ultimately from different walks of life, some male and some female. I seemed to hit it off with several but I was being very calculating in how I presented myself. I still spent most of my time sobbing but when I connected with these people I was oh so diverting. Funny, smart, sarcastic, deep, shallow, whatever the occasion demanded. But I wasn’t real. And I think they saw through that. So one by one I lost them.

As the months went by I became increasingly mentally ill. This is still with 3-4 phone calls a day from the ex, by the way. I was screaming a lot. Throwing things, hitting things. Not cutting, surprisingly. But seriously ill. I told my therapist I no longer felt like I had a self and she told me how great it was, that I was having a Buddhist enlightenment experience. Looking back, I know I was going insane. But in the moment all I wanted to do was try harder to be what she wanted.

Lots of things happened. Bad things. I fell.

There was a morning where somehow I ended up on the floor in a fetal position, babbling away, perhaps in gibberish. I say this now because I lived through it. At the time there was only unconsciousness. At some point a pinprick of light appeared along with the words, “This is not rational” across my black internal mindscape. It went away immediately. An indeterminate amount of time passed, me babbling away in total mental darkness, and the light and words came again. This happened repeatedly until the light held on long enough for me to realize where I was and what was going on. And that light was right, this was definitely not rational.

I lost my mind. Not in a metaphorical way. Not in an exaggerated way. I went insane. All conception of “I,” of “me,” of “Cairril” was lost. It was not an abyss. If there’s an abyss, there’s a you to observe the abyss. There was no me. There was nothing. And that’s not all that was happening. It was, however, the worst.

I fear only two things in life: rape and insanity. And while technically I’ve never been raped I had now gone insane. I can’t explain the terror. The vulnerability. The realization that at any moment you can lose all that makes you you. You think you can control it. You’re reading these words, you’re perhaps thinking, “Well, if that happened to me, I’d [fill in the blank].” I tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is so far beyond most people’s experience that they can’t comprehend what it even means.

My great-aunt Mary was made a ward of the state and put into an insane asylum in the early 1920s after a fever caused brain damage. I never knew she existed until one day when I was about 15 my parents said, “We’re going to see Aunt Mary.” I’m like, “Who’s Aunt Mary?” They just said she was in a nursing home and would probably be speaking in German. When we got there I saw a little old lady hunched over in a chair babbling in some kind of language, but it sure as hell wasn’t English. We left. And we didn’t talk about it. She died about a year later and we went to her funeral. And we didn’t talk about it. It was like it never happened.

Aunt Mary’s father, my great-grandfather, went insane on his 60th birthday the year after Mary was put away. The family tried to care for him but soon he, too, became a ward of the state. Mary spent 60 years in asylums. Great-grandpa Ruth spent his last 13 years in the Longcliff Asylum for the Insane in Logansport. And no one talked about him. My mom, his granddaughter, didn’t know anything about this until her sister told me in the 1990s. He’d been disappeared.

And as if that wasn’t enough tragedy for that family, Mary’s brother, my great-uncle Leo, loved a girl in Wisconsin. He proposed. She turned him down. So he drove his 1938 Mercury coupe down a back rode and shot himself in the heart. It was front-page news in Wisconsin and in Indiana. The family tried to deny the story because of the shame involved but all the evidence pointed to suicide. So he got disappeared, too.

I learned this stuff from my Aunt Dolores, who didn’t speak in hushed tones behind her hand. She just talked about it the same way she talked about playing Canasta. She wasn’t afraid of it. But my parents were. My mother had been told by her mother, “Don’t ever tell anyone about Aunt Mary or you’ll never get married.” That was totally a product of society, not a character flaw of my grandma’s. It was a terrible scandal to have mental illness in the family. We live with that prejudice still.

That morning on the floor made me realize that no, this was not a Buddhist enlightenment experience, this was insanity. And something must be done. Insurance was actually helpful for once and they got me into a couple places to be evaluated. At Bloomington Hospital the bored doctor asked, “Do you want to stay?” I said, “Should I? You’re the doctor!” He just said, “Well, if you’re a danger to yourself or others…. No? All right, sign here.” When I pulled my car out of my parking spot and headed down the garage ramp I pressed the gas to the floor, my eyes glued to the concrete wall in front of me. At the last minute I remembered that I was going to be evaluated by a different hospital, so I slammed on the brakes.

At Meadows Hospital they didn’t want me to leave at the end of the evaluation. They were practically strapping me to a stretcher (not really, but that’s what I was afraid of). By this point I had stepped outside my brain and Great-grandpa Ruth had walked in and was doing the talking to them. I was having his flashbacks. At one point someone stepped in and, without a word, snapped my picture. I started screaming. I have the photo Longcliff took of August Ruth when he was admitted. And he looks like a crazy man. So here I was in an asylum having my own experience of being photographed and simultaneously having his experience of being photographed.

I was psychotic. Also suicidal, but that was so common with me it seemed normal. But my brain no longer functioned the way it was supposed to. I remember when the nurse was going through my stuff to pull out anything potentially harmful. I’d ask him, “Why are you taking that out?” and he’d tell me why. Before the first word was out of his mouth I’d forget it so I’d repeat the question. Over and over. I just couldn’t hold onto the English language anymore. Bless him, he was perfectly patient. But it was terrifying to be unable to communicate. It was terrifying to keep slipping out and having Great-grandpa slip in. It was terrifying to think they’d drug me up or give me electroshock treatments or, Gods above, wall me away so my family could pretend like I didn’t exist. I was terrified of being disappeared. I still am.

This is a long story. A lot happened. The happy-happy-joy-joy part is I got diagnosed and was put on meds that actually stabilized me. I continued to have psychotic episodes for three years after Meadows but slowly clawed my way back to sanity with the help of good doctors and therapists. But let me tell you, the whole experience put me off the idea of having relationships.

Remember sex? Where we started? This is my point: in my mind, being in an intimate relationship and having sex became connected with psychosis in my mind. To even start a friendship is to risk madness. And in the maelstrom before I went into Meadows, on some deep level of my self I swore I would never go through that again. I’d kill myself first. So to go on a date or even to start a friendship means I’m taking both my sanity and my life into my hands.

Is it any wonder I don’t miss it?

 

At the same time:

I believe in intimacy. I believe in sex. I believe that such things can make you a better person. They can make you stretch, make you grow. They are fun. Like when your lover puts their cold feet on your warm ones and laughs hysterically as you shriek and pound on their chest.

How wonderful is it to be held when you feel happy? When you feel grief? When you feel lonely? I don’t get held anymore. I get hello and goodbye hugs sometimes, and with my sister there’s the communication of “I love you so much I don’t want to let you go” but for the most part my life has become a touch-free zone. It’s hard for me to believe that most of my life was spent as a puppy cuddling up with other puppies. I love touch. But now it’s dangerous.

No one tickles the inside of my elbow anymore to make the side of my tongue itch (it’s true!). No one pets my back. No one breaths my name in my ear.

I was raised a good Catholic girl and was not going to have sex until I got married. After I stopped believing in God I still wanted to wait to have sex until I was in love. But time passed. And passed. And passed. And while I was having relationships, I was not having love. So I got tired of waiting. My first sexual experience was with my best male friend. I highly recommend it. No pressure. Total comfort. Easy conversation. Tenderness and compassion and laughter. A different way of saying, “I love you.” It was a wonderful introduction.

I have been very fortunate to have had lovers who were on the whole kind, passionate, sensitive, respectful, and fun. People with the breadth of styles so at times you just throw the other against the wall and at other times you take all night. (Ah, the joys of sex with young men—stamina!)

And with my almost-husband, I was able to explore the power and magic of spiritual sexuality. Some of the most profound experiences of my life happened while making love with him. Our bed was sacred space. I didn’t have to invoke the Goddess, I was the Goddess. I was pure love taken form. So was he. And we gave and took equally, generating a golden helix between our hearts. Pulsing with the deep, deep love that fuels the universe. Love that infused every atom of our beings and bound us more deeply than any external cord. Our bodies were love. Our spirits were love. And there was no separation anywhere.

I haven’t had sex since 2002. And I miss it.


Immanent Goddess ritual

November 4, 2016

This is the ritual I priestessed at Daun Fields’ wonderful and welcoming Sunrise Hive. It came out of my frustration with Pagans’ so frequently looking outside themselves for the sacred, and how many of us women still hate our bodies. Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon talked about the Church of All Worlds, where they greet each other with, “Thou art God” or “Thou art Goddess.” Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance was my third Pagan book and she talked about immanence at length. It’s an empowering practice and it unifies the self with all of Gaia.

***

Intros: Introduce yourself and your matron goddess, describing some of her main attributes.

Something that is “immanent” is “indwelling, inherent.” Something that is “transcendent” (which is the type of deity most of us were raised with) is “over, above, beyond grasp.”

Starhawk, in Dreaming the Dark, defines immanence as “the awareness of the world and everything in it as alive, dynamic, interdependent, interacting, and infused with moving energies: a living being, a weaving dance.”

The split between immanence and transcendence, and the split between body and mind, can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Around 360 BCE Plato wrote Phaedo, a Socratic dialogue. In it we find such gems as:

  • The soul of the philosopher greatly despises the body, and avoids it. It thinks best alone by itself by avoiding so far as it can, all association or contact with the body.
  • So long as we have a body, and the soul is contaminated by such an evil, we shall never attain completely what we desire, that is, the truth.
  • Purification consists in separating, so far as possible, the soul from the body

Clement, Origen, and other early Christian church fathers saw the body as evil because of its needs for food and sex. The body became linked to Eve and Adam’s Fall. St Paul and other early Church writers link women with the body and disgusting sin. Gnostics saw the flesh as evil, animated only by a divine spark within. In the Middle Ages we see body-hatred manifested through fasting, flagellation, hairshirts, and sleep deprivation. Perhaps one of the greatest breakthroughs Goddess women make is when they reach radical acceptance of their woman bodies.

Even as Pagans, we tend to see the sacred “out there” (trees, sea, fire) or “in here” (trance, meditation, spark). What about everything in between?

Our Goddess is not a transcendent mountain god like the Abrahamic god. Our Goddess is immanent. She is all-pervasive. She is you.

The Goddess is you. You are Goddess. Your flesh. Your bones. Your voice. Your eyes. Your coughing fits. Your hayfever. Your pee. All that is natural is the Goddess. All that is natural is holy. The Goddess isn’t in these things, she is these things.

***Break for questions ***

Invite the Quarters:

East: Breathe loudly in and out

South: Rub palms together fast

West: Slide your hands over your arms like water

North: Stomp!

Cast the Circle:

Visualize a sphere of white light springing up from us and encompassing this whole floor of the building, the space above, the Earth below.

Close your eyes and travel to your matron Goddess. [My technique is to lie down on a cloud and descend gently and slowly over the edge of a cliff, changing colors from yellow to orange to red to green to blue to violet so you end up on the ground surrounded by violet light.] See your surroundings, look at your Goddess’ clothing, coloring, her aspects, etc. Make it as clear as you can by engaging sight, sound, smell, hearing, taste, touch.

See how your matron Goddess’ attributes are your attributes, too.

Then see her come nearer, facing you. She changes shape until she is exactly the same size as you. She turns her back to you so she’s standing right in front of you. You step forward as she steps back. You are one.

Feel suffused with her energy. Feel how her qualities resonate with your qualities. Then see how you embody those qualities, how they are as much your attributes as hers. You are one.

All rise and stand in a circle, holding hands. Taking turns, state your name and one of your Goddess attributes. The rest of us then respond, “[Name,] give us [attribute].” (For instance, I say, “I am Cairril, and I bring courage.” Everyone responds, “Cairril, give us courage.”)

Go around the Circle. It’s okay to duplicate attributes. Smile at each other and feel the power of our immanent Goddess selves. When you’re done, squeeze the hand of the person next to you. When everyone is finished, bring your held hands to the center of the Circle. Start toning on a low note and as you raise the pitch higher, raise your arms up until you are at the top of your range and stretching up. Then take a break! (Remember, your pee is sacred. Those feet that take you to the drinking fountain are sacred.)

Come back to the Circle and pick up a small food item. Ground yourself by sending shoots into the Earth from your root chakra. Feel your body weight against the floor and feel the Earth supporting you. Feel the holy energy exchanged between your sacred self and the sacred Earth.

I am going to say a five senses prayer. With each sense invoked, utilize it with your food item. If it’s “sight,” really look at your food and revel in how it’s sacred, but also how your sight itself is sacred. It is all Goddess. Thou art Goddess. I am Goddess.

Five Senses Prayer:

I praise the Gods who infused in my head
Soul and reason both
And who imbued me with my senses
Air and earth, water and fire.
One is for seeing.
Two is for touching.
Three is for hearing.
Four is for smelling.
Five is for tasting.

Eat mindfully, taking in all your sensory input. Let the food ground you. Then you can relax!

Sharing circle: what was your experience like? What messages did you receive? How have your perceptions changed?

Housel! Journal, chit-chat. Open the Circle.

***

It is my hope that women in particular will find this ritual helpful in coming to radical acceptance of their bodies as sacred. But for all who participate or adapt this ritual, I hope it opens you up to how sacred and powerful you are. Thou art God. Thou art Goddess.