celebrating the power of myth
at Christmas

While my Catholic upbringing did not manage to keep my faith alive, it did, however, instill in me a connection to the power of myth. Well, in truth, Joseph Campbell was a bigger influence in that arena, but the point is that I am enamored of myths of all kinds. Hence, this little altar that I have always set up in one form or another.

This one features a porcelain statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that originated in Lourdes, France, sometime in the 1920s and was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me; my mother’s statue of St. Anthony that I keep around to focus on when I can’t find something I know I put somewhere but can’t find; a reproduction of the ancient Venus of Willendorf statue; a traveling Buddha given to me by my former/late husband; and a miniature Kwan Yin cameo. Off to the right, hanging on the wall is a representation of African goddess Acua’ba given to me one Christmas by my son.

Each of these icons has a personal meaning for me, and, while I do not make sacrifices on this “altar,” (as the definition indicates it is used for), I do on occasion stop in front of it and let those deep memories and meanings move through me. It’s the closest to prayer that I come, being an atheist.

Each year about this time, I seem inclined to post something somewhere that refers to the ancient pagan origins of Christmas. Inevitably, someone from my Catholic past feels inclined to take issue with my insistence on the difference between fact and myth.

Like Carl Sagan, I can feel awe without having any kind of faith. Like Joseph Campbell, I can feel empowered by myth without needing to believe. I guess that’s hard for some people to understand.

Contrary to what I have been called, I am not a “hater;” I am tolerant of all faiths that have humane values. I just don’t subscribe to any faith-based system myself.

And, at this time of year, I am reminded of the myths surrounding the birth of Jesus, in addition to always being surprised at how little critical thought “believers” give to what they believe.

But I guess that’s what “faith” is: belief without factual evidence.

And so I remain faithless but awed and empowered nevertheless.

there’s a woodchuck in my chakra

My woodchuck totem is a metaphor, a symbol, a visual representation some part of me that is “woodchuck-like.” (See earlier post.) She arrived as my totem animal for my third chakra, offering to be my metaphorical guide along my current meandering path. Whether the woodchuck chose me or I chose the woodchuck is irrelevant to how the metaphor might empower my thinking and feeling. That’s how these things work.

The third chakra

is located in the region of the navel, and is represented by the element of fire . The form is ….. triangular, the seed syllable is ram. It is a ten-petaled lotus. This is the chakra of digestion[emphasis mine], manifestation and power. The ego can manifest itself for good or harm through the power of the navel chakra. It is the one that gives us the sense of generosity, complete satisfaction and contentment.

Whether such a chakra physiologically exists or not is irrelevant, although….

Regardless of whether you believe in chakras, and whether you’re convinced by the ideas in the pages that follow, the journey offers its own reward, introducing a perspective sometimes lacking in our collective conversation.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, science has expanded in startling and important new directions. Chaos theory, quantum mechanics, genetics, cosmology, emergence, consciousness studies… All these disciplines have moved science forward, but they also hearken back to concepts and principles from the earliest days of recorded history.

The i-Ching’s 64 hexagrams correspond to the 64 informational sequences encoded into human DNA.iii The significance of this correspondence is subjective, but its existence is not. Spiral structures are embedded in the universe of physics, but they are also omnipresent in spiritual art and sacred geometry.iv Chaos theory provides a scientific framework for how everything is interconnected, a recurring theme in Eastern spiritual systems. The Eternal Tao is now considered relevant to everything from physics to corporate management… even Winnie the Pooh.v

You can vigorously debate the importance of these correspondences. You can endlessly argue about how specific principles play out in the real world, or how they don’t. But regardless of your world view, these parallel structures are important because they demonstrate that both sides of the divide are concerned with the same mysteries.

The article from which the above quote was taken is part of an unfinished book but is worth reading to get some idea of the connections between science and old spiritualities, between what we know as fact and how various spiritual traditions echo these facts in myth and metaphor.

For purposes of my current journey to get off generic Nexium and stabilize my digestive system, the third chakra becomes the mythic landscape though which I will metaphorically travel toward physical health, with my metaphorical woodchuck as my guide.

Thus is the mind/body connection. At least for someone like me for whom poetry and symbolism and metaphor and meditations have been known to work psychological magic.

An interesting aside I found out about charkras (on the site linked above) is about “The Void.”

Surrounding the second and the third chakra is the Void which stands for the principle of mastery (guru principle) within us. In many spiritual traditions, this area is the “ocean of illusions” that needs to be crossed with the help of a spiritual guide. When the Kundalini is awakened and passes through the Void, this principle of mastery is established within us. Thus, you become your own guru, your own spiritual guide since you can feel on your fingertips all your subtle problems and have the power to cure them using your own Kundalini. Moreover, establishing this center helps us get rid of all our habits, laziness, gross attachments, and everything that enslaves us in a way or another: we become our own master. Following false “gurus” who are more interested in power tricks or your purse can damage very much the Void area.

Finally, as I was searching aroundthe interwebs for information on woodchucks, googling for “woodchuck dance,” I found this post that is just delightful! (Makes me wonder what meaning that woodchuck metaphor might have had for that guy.)

kick-assing at age 71

It’s hard to kick-ass at age 71. And there really aren’t many role models out there for someone my age.

Oh, I don’t mean people who jump out of planes at age 100 or scuba dive at age 94. All of that is all well and good, but risking my life for fun has never been one of my turn-ons. My risks tend to be sendentary and verbal. (Like, that’s a surprise.) I guess that’s why I’m such a fan of contemporary television’s Harry’s Law. Now, there’s a role model for me (even though she’s youngER.)

Aside from good ol’ Granny Weatherwax, however, there are really no older fantasy kick-ass females, probably because older women are not considered sexy. Hell, we’re usually not even considered attractive by standard standards. And young, attractive, and sexy is what kick-ass females are “supposed” to be — or at least that’s what the fantasy sub-culture artists believe.

There’s a complex and intelligent online discussion about “sexy geek girls” going on among members of the fandom subcuture — the ones into who love fantasy writings, go to fantasy and comic conventions, and find it empowering to “cosplay.” (I’ll bet few of my readers know what that word means.) The worthwhile discussion is spinning off from a panel discussion at the recent San Diego Comic-Con called “Oh You Sexy Geek!”

The only reason I know about the convention or the panel is because I follow my son’s tweets, and he was a photographer there. And I’ve been tooling around the web leaving my comments here and there about my take — not on whether girl geeks are/can be/should be sexy, but rather what priority should (IMHO) flamboyant “sexiness” be for young women, geeks or not, fantasy or real.

Anyway, here’s what I said in one of those comments:

I’m speaking/writing as a somewhat marginalized geeky female (71 years old) who has been a fan of powerful kick-ass, attractive (notice that I didn’t say “sexy”) female characters since I discovered the original Wonder Woman back in the 1940s. Halloween was my favorite holiday long before there was such a thing as cosplay because I could dress up as Barbaraella or Xena or a vampire (depending on the decade) and not be considered a fruitcake (now, there’s a dated word!) This whole discussion has drawn me in because I also fought in the feminist wave back in the 60s and learned much from the struggle of us females to balance the power of our sexuality with the power and respect that we deserve to have in the realms of social , political, and personal relationships. It’s a little too easy for us females to confuse limited sexual power with the other kinds, and, for whatever reasons, unenlightened males too often get off on all of the sexist implications of the Slave Leia kind of sexiness. And while being sexy is not a bad thing, it needs to be kept in perspective. An it’s not all all the same as “attractiveness,” although the two can overlap. I understand why male comic artists pander to the adolescent fantasies of pubescent males, but I nonetheless urge all of you attractive geek chicks to keep pushing for less emphasis on the visual sexiness of female comic book heroes and more on their strength, independence, and overall attractiveness. (At least more realistically proportioned and less exposed boobs and butts!) I look forward to watching the evolution of the geekgirl con, especially the panel on how to raise geeky kids. (Since I already seem to somehow have done that – both male and female. And they are both feminists as well.)

Anyway, to satisfy my curiosity, I did a search for “unattractive kick-ass female characters.” I found this one on this site:

Now, to me that’s a female fantasy hero!!!

Or this

Or this.

I wonder what they would look like at age 71 or older. (More like Granny Weatherwax, I suppose.)

I also suppose that I was spoiled by having the early Wonder Woman as my fantasy. There was only one like her, and she was a life-long positive inspiration for lots of the comic-addicted females of my generation. She inspired us to become the strong-voiced women we are today. I wonder if the sexy young geeks of this generation will feel that way about their current fantasy females 40 or 50 years from now.

I mean REALLY???!!

woodchuck meditation

Groundhog medicine urges us to clear away destructive thought patterns and habits, so that we may be able to delve into the deepest mysteries of life and the Universe. Groundhog energy is about as deep as you can go without actually dying.

A chubby woodchuck
in the middle of an empty parking lot
stops to watch me walk in circles
around a June afternoon
awash in dandelion seeds
and gently dappled sky.

He twitches his nose,
ambles a few more steps
sits on his haunches,
rests his paws on his full belly –
a curious and patient and satisfied

“The soul needs its burrow,”
the woodchuck says,
“a warren to wend a way
through the solitary earth,
some private ground to hog,
a place safe to spend
that deep season of wonder.”

And, with a fanciful last twitch,
Buddha leaves the spotlight,
his coat a slow and sensuous shimmer
along the grave pavement.
Without looking back,
he disappears into the grasses
between the shadowy sumac,
leaving me to wander
toward my own way

c elf 2003

headology or not: whatever works

I used to make magic. Well, magical symbols. Headological symbols. Usually filled with feathers and beads and runic rhymes. But not always. Sometimes they were virtual cut and paste. Hey, whatever works. (Some links on that 2003 post no longer work.)

From here:

It has been said that the difference between headology and psychiatry is that, were you to approach either with a belief that you were being chased by a monster, a psychiatrist will convince you that there are no monsters coming after you, whereas a headologist will hand you a bat and a chair to stand on.

It’s been a long time between synchronistic symbolisms. And now it’s spring. And now it’s time, says my Granny Weatherwax self.

This for b!X: to bring good fortune, help dreams come true. As real as headology. It will be mailed tomorrow.

A circle fashioned of the flexible willow in our front yard and the ornamental tree planted in the back yard in memory of his father, covered in the colors of Scopio (black) and Luck (red). Two feathers from his nephew’s collection. A ring threaded with amber and coral brought back from Poland by his grandmother. And in the center, a jade carving that belonged to his dad connected to an “old woman” milagro.

A talisman.

Because, you never know.

24 is a good number

My son-in-law says it’s his lucky number, so he and my daughter were married on May 24th, fourteen years ago. I hope that they had a Happy Anniversary today. I made dinner — spicy glazed shrimp over pasta with a double chocolate mouse pie for dessert. I even did the dishes (that’s usually my son-in-law’s job). And my grandson dressed like a waiter in a fancy restaurant and poured the champagne, served the dinner and dessert, and cleaned the table after.

It was a nice day all-around, even though it was muggy and the mosquitoes were out having a great time.

I’ve always wanted to grow calla lilies, and today my daughter planted the pot of them I bought last weekend. I couldn’t resist buying them because it was the first time I had ever come across a whole blooming pot of them for sale. I might have liked a different color, but those were the only ones available. They won’t last through the winter in our planting zone, but I’m going to try to remember to dig up the bulbs and bring them inside during the fall. I really do like calla lilies. (duh)

All the rain we’ve been having has really stirred up the growing green. When they bought this house, I sent them an odd tree I had seen somewhere called a “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick.” From here: This shrub reaches a height of 8′-10′, with a similar spread. The flowers of Harry Lauder’s walking stick are yellowish-brown “catkins,” as on pussy willows. The blooms appear in early to middle spring. However, this shrub is not grown primarily for its blooms but for its unusual branching pattern, which is indicated by its other common names: corkscrew filbert and contorted hazelnut. For as you can see from the picture, its branches contort themselves in every which way, resembing corkscrews.

Right now, ours is only a couple of feet tall and is covered with spring leaves. But in the fall you can see the screwy branches. In a few years, it’s going to be a real eye-catcher around here.

Our gardens around the house are fun and funky, evolving as the spirit moves one or the other of us. I’m rather partial to the little troll house that sits in the middle of a section of flourishing green at the end of a little path. No one seems to be living there yet, but, certainly, any on of our resident chipmunks would be welcome to move in.

Meanwhile, over where I put a bird feeder so my cat can sit on her perch and watch the activity out her window, a male grackle visits several times a day. I’ve never had a grackle feed at a feeder; they usually just eat what falls on the ground.

This and more from here:

Although the grackle is often considered part of the blackbird family, along with crows and starlings, it actually is not. It is part of the meadowlark and oriole family of birds. It is a large black bird with an extra-long tail. About its head and shoulders are iridescent feathers that change from blue to green to purple or bronze, depending on the light.

This coloring often reflects a need for those to whom the grackle comes to look at what is going on in their life differently. It says that situations are not what they appear to be and you may not be looking at them correctly–particularly anything dealing with the emotions.

Keep in mind that black is the color of the inner and the feminine. The purple and bronze coloring about the head especially usually indicates that emotions are coloring our thinking process. The grackle can help us to correct this.

Spring. Newness. Hope. Magic.

Ode to Opal

(For lack of anything else to say, I’m posting here a poem a day….)

Ode to Opal

The opal, they say,
scatters the heat of the wearer,
turns her fickle, they say
(if she is not centered)
– like light in moving water,
like water on warm stone.

(Let her who wears it

The opal, they say,
is partly water,
softer than crystal
(though not as clear),
smoother than pearl
(though not as soft),
as fragile as a heart
nearly mended.

Break it and it bleeds —
water scattering light
like dreams at dawn.

(Let him who holds it

The opal, the say,
attracts joy, love,
creative spirits
that fire the heart,
sends from its center
the magic of all other stones,
– an irresistible call
to iridescence.

1992 c elf

of wild violets and whale tales

Our lawn is adorned with wild violets.

Most people treat them like the weeds they are categorized as. Others, like us, welcome them into our yards:

….it has chosen to live here and delight my senses. And be a host to the lovely fritillary butterfly.

For violets suit when home birds build and sing,
Not when the outbound bird a passage cleaves;
Not with dry stubble of mown harvest sheaves,
But when the green world buds to blossoming.

~Christina Georgina Rossetti

As with so many ideological positions that humans embrace, there often is no right or wrong. Wild violets are weeds. It is OK to enjoy them, ignore them, or eject them. Whatever works for you.

What works for us is letting them grow wherever they want and then mowing them along with lawn AND transplanting them where they make beautiful borders or mounds in strategic places. I just transplanted some to grow at the foot of our little sitting Buddha and to top off this goofy head/planter that guards a little side garden plot.

I wonder if they’ll grow happily all year in a globe of water, the way my Prayer Plant and various ivies and vines do. I’ll probably give it a try.

(If you are interested in prayer plants and the correct way to grow them, you should read this.)

Which leads me to the tale of the whale.

While I do not believe in a god of any kind and, therefore, by definition, am an atheist, I do believe that there is a wisdom — a kind of energy — deep down in each of us with which we easily lose touch. Or maybe we never actually found it to begin with.

And, it’s possible (given quantum mechanics stuff) that such wisdom is connected somehow to everything else in the universe. What I call wisdom or energy, many people call SPIRIT. But that word conjures something close to a being, and so even that word doesn’t work for me.

So, where does the whale come in, you might ask.

There have been times in my past when I felt in touch with that inner wisdom, that energy. (If anyone was able to explain that feeling of connection it was Carl Sagan:)

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”

“Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.”

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”

So, in my pursuit of what I have lost touched with, I’m seeing a therapist who uses “active imagination.” I have engaged in this practice many times before in my past and have found it useful, helpful, and creatively engaging.

One of narratives that can be introduced into an active imagination exercise is the “Personal Totem Pole,”, a technique developed by Dr. E.S. Gallegos. I participated in a Totem Pole workshop that he led more than 25 years ago, and I still remember how the experience energized me and helped me to begin resolving issues that I had with myself.

Oh yes, the whale.

Well, that’s the image that appeared in my chest (my heart chakra), where I have been physically feeling a great deal of constriction. Apparently, the whale is not the usual image associated with the heart chakra, but there he was, looking more like a Disney cartoon than a real whale.

The thing about these “inner journeys” is that whatever comes up is the right thing to come up. So, a cartoon whale is as valid and as powerful as the image of a singing humpback.

So, now I both spend meditative time with this whale as well as time googling around for information about whales in general and whales at totem animals. I also popped over to Itunes and downloaded some whale songs. Sometime this week I will dig out and again watch our DVD of Whale Rider.

The process that starts with a guided imagery/active imagination exercise fascinates me. It takes me down learning paths I never would have gone otherwise. It uses my affinity for symbols and metaphors to stimulate journeys into my unconscious that always wind up unleashing some of that inner wisdom/energy that is hard to consciously tap into.

With wild violets and whales, I launch myself into Spring.

turnaround fantasy

The following is my response to the visual prompt of Magpie Tales #58. Go to the site for links to the responses of other writers.

Turnaround Fantasy

In my dreams I saw a warrior,
caped in scarlet velvet,
with eyes as green as spring mischief
and legs as strong as the golden mare they rode.

The warrior ranged the ragged cliffs
above a raging sea,
rescuing damsels in distress
and returning ancient thrones
to rightful heirs.

And when the moon was full,
the warrior would ride to the village
and make music, and laughter, and
even, love.

And, one one of those moonfull nights
I asked the warrior:
‘What do you seek?”

And the warrior answered:
“I seek a knight in shining armor,
with eyes as daring as the autumn seas
and hands as gentle
as the brush of his stallion’s silver mane —

A knight who rides the wooded hillsides
and rain-washed valleys
rescuing damsels in distress
and returning ancient thrones
to rightful heirs.”

in the startling shadows,
I saw a dark longing
drown the mischief in her eyes,
as the warrior turned
to face the moon.

(copyright Elaine Frankonis)