2015, Aging, Thoughts

A Few Thoughts on Aging and Paganism

This is a repost from an earlier blog post at Daughters of Eve.  With my grandmother’s death earlier this year, the subject is even more timely now.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daughtersofeve/2013/04/a-few-thoughts-on-aging-and-paganism/

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Lately, I  have been thinking of what happens when we age. I watch my mother, her gait slowed by arthritis, chronic illness, and the effects of a life ravaged by urban living and the urgency of our modern times. She is Christian. She can find any place she wishes in a variety of Christian denominations, should she wish to enjoy assisted living or even a nursing home in a Christian-positive religious setting.  Yet, when my time comes, as I know it will, where will I go? As a witch, as a pagan, as a lesbian, there are few places for us. As a witch of color, there are even fewer places.

I have observed the vagaries of aging in our society through the lens of assisted living and nursing home practices during the past ten years. I have watched how those who manage and interact with the aged on a day to day basis treat those who age. The administrative detritus that swamps the nurses, aides and staff build on a daily, monthly and yearly basis to the point where the aged are no longer individuals, valued for their wisdom, but bodies, numbers and problems.

Privacy and rights that many of the able-bodied and young take for granted erode during the process of a slow decline in the present state of assisted living and nursing home facilities. For each vibrant ninety year old who lives at home, drives his or her on car and amazes the world through the maintenance of an ordinary life, there are dozens of aged who are simply marking time in a listless, institutionalized existence.

As Pagans, we embrace free will and  the freedom to do as we please. We enjoy festivals, gatherings, rituals and the beauty of honoring nature, Earth and the Gods who exist around and among us.  We have made great strides in coming out of the closet as individual religious traditions under the common umbrella known as Paganism.  Soldiers’ tombstones can now be marked with a pentacle. Clergy are more frequently granted access to Pagans of all religious traditions in hospitals and in prisons.  It is not perfect;however, it is progress.

Yet when one looks around at Pagan gatherings and festivals, there is a segment that is greying. Current crones and elders in their fifties and sixties soon shall become the blessed guides of wisdom in their seventies, eighties, nineties and beyond.  The gods grant us time to learn, to enjoy and to embrace the world around us and each other. We speak of personal responsibility to ourselves and to the the larger community of Pagans. If we truly wish to continue and to prosper, even as those of the first and second generations raise third, fourth and fifth generations, then we need to honor a placed for the aged among us, as we do the young.

We are saddened when a crone or an elder passes. I have observed recent obituaries in our local PNC. None of the elders was over 65 or 70. As I care for my own mother, who has passed that age, and my nonagenarian grandmother, who recently passed on, I think of what can be done now, so that those whose mundane lives will be dependent on non-Pagans will have a home to embrace and enjoy as Pagans.

We are many and widespread throughout the world.  Perhaps there might not be a senior building, but perhaps a series of homes, places there are wheelchairs and eldercare friendly. These spaces would have wide doorways, lower countertops and shelving units, and companions  who share earth-based and nature based values. Companions can be paid and volunteer. They can live onsite or off. Ritual would be a common occurrence, bi-monthly or more as moons and sabbats allow.  Eldercare friendly ritual materials would be a common sight. Unlike the current system of care for the aged, where activities are subtly or openly monotheistic and primarily Christian or Jewish based, a new system based on the variety of religious traditions would be permitted.  Given the nature of some in the Pagan community who are also LGBTQIA, there would be room for those who affiliate with both groups.

Will there be costs and questions of how to finance such an an undertaking, as well as where to locate it? Absolutely.  I used to teach a course called “Voices on Aging”.  One of the final projects that I would give to students was the challenge to design a greenhouse, an intentional living community for the aged.  Only one student ever included an actual greenhouse for plants because she farmed. Her idea of an intentional community included giving back to the larger community with a food bank consisting of fresh, greenhouse-grown vegetables.

In a model greenhouse, crones and elders are not tagged or institutionalized, but thriving in an emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually nurturing environment. Such communities can include care centers, hospitals and joint community centers to encourage interaction. The benefit of the greenhouse approach opposed to current standards is the emphasis on avoiding isolationism and the encouragement of freedom for those who live there. This would not be a place, similar to one Midwestern home my student described, where you could look out back window of the assisted living facility and see the cemetery where you would eventually be buried and the nursing home where you might stop along the way.

This is a place that considers the economic reality and the rights of those who only have social security as being equal to the rights of those who have several hundred thousand set aside for retirement. In each case, students were required to figure out how such facilities could be reasonably financed.  For some partnerships with local and state governments in addition to plans that start 10 to 30 years before a resident expects to enter are solutions. For the more able-bodied, bartering services, time and resources to support the cost are options.  For some greenhouses, private pay with a small circle on private land was the key.  There is more than one method and more than one location.

I live in a cold weather state, blessed by winter four to five months during most years. I was not surprised at the range of student suggestions for greenhouse communities set anywhere south of I-10, in the desert, or close to vibrant locations that cater to retirees, such as Ithaca, NY. Other potential locations could be close to educational communities, good quality and inexpensive medical facilities and a plethora of family.

Each time I leave my adopted home and return to the temperate climes of the mid-Atlantic region, I think of these things. My nonagenarian grandmother had her sights set on the century mark, in a monotheistic facility. She ended her days in such a place, without the concerns that those who are Pagan have. I hope that in the coming years, each of us will find a place where we can freely and openly commune and identify as Pagan.

This was just to get the ball rolling.

What are your thoughts?

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

A Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Ptah and Lady Diana Lucifera

Lord Ptah, Lord of Eternity!

As Grand Architect and Preserver of World Order,

you see the large scope, the grand plan

and use structure and dexterity to create.

You see the big picture,

the safety of all,

and the long-term creations of those on this plane of existence.

You are one of a trinity for inventors, artists, and craftsmen,

along with Lord Hephaestus and Lord Vulcan.

Great listener, you are the internal fire that provides sustained nourishment during long projects.

When a chapter isn’t working,  when the plan misses a critical piece,

your calm whisper, your insistent nudge reverberates in the soul

a reminder of the overall plan.

It is not the part, but the whole.

Foundation, discipline, and manifestation result in creation, the sacred purpose, the gift to the world.

Divine Artificer,   I dedicate myself to the path and discovery of the plan and I thank you for your presence in my life.

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Hail Diana Lucifera!

Goddess of the Divine Feminine, you have taught me to embrace the positive side of being feminine.

Bringer of Light and Understanding, your touch and your words note that the feminine current is not for women only, but for all adherents.

When I have acted in a clingy, negative, and childish manner in the craft, it is not the Positive Feminine, but a deformation of what could be. If the positive creates and unifies, the negative destroys by having too much of a good thing. You have helped me to understand when endless demand deteriorates gains into deep wounds and losses and when excessive order erodes into mania and rigid control.

Through your guidance,  my understanding of the feminine is both overt and covert.

I ask for your continued blessings and seek to maintain and to understand the balance between the Goddess and God parts of myself.

Lady and embodiment of the feminine current, your power seeks and grasps all who are willing adherents – men and women.

As you have reminded me often, full knowledge of the feminine is not limited by gender.  Purification requires the strength of the feminine and the masculine currents. With your tutelage, I seek to continue to strengthen in the feminine current, as I work with others to fortify myself in the masculine current. Both are necessary, and for a long time I ignored one for the other.

Revealer of the Eternal Feminine, at this most recent dark moon, I re-dedicated myself to the path of internal and external knowledge through  your wisdom and guidance.  You are the moon, the light, the unconscious,  and a balm for the part of my soul that needs healing.

I thank you for the light that you have brought and continue to bring into my life.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Hephaestus and Lord Vulcan

Lord Hephaestus, one of the forge and creativity. You do not mince words.

Stick to the grindstone a bit a day – This will get you to more.

Stick to the grindstone. Come back with product. I speak no more – not of this.

And when I have seemed stuck you remind me: I have spoken little because you have done little.

Lord Hephaestus,  are the fire of creation that feeds the bellows of my heart. When I write, I create product.

Work.  You are one who demands much, the contribution. You demand individual choice.

Work hard at your dreams, you say.  I cannot tell you what they are. I can help with them.

When I have wondered about my journey, my path, you remind me:

Beneath each person is a polish that is chipped. We are known through our imperfections.

Each creator or creatrix owes you a great deal. Creativity is love. Creativity requires discipline and commitment.

When we work with form and shape, it pleases you. We are making efforts as works of Gods, as mageia.

Ritual is work. It is craft, it requires devotion and the fires, the fuel that come from the internal forge.

In devotion to you, my creativity is my crown.  As you have said, it is to be treated with care and constant cleaning. Cleaning the physical workspace and the mind. Cleaning in conversations with others, and cleaning as a means to push forward.

To clean is to create rather than to let fester the wounds of sullenness. To do what I do with joy, this is what you state as the tribute to you, God of the Forge and Creativity.

The grindstone may be bloody, yet blood is sloughing off unneeded excess. Each task completed paves the way to wholeness.

Strength is gained through repetition, yet work is not mindless drudgery.

As you have noted: “I may seem to bludgeon about in my forge, yet each item has a purpose, a gift; each turn of the wheel, swing of the hammer or push of the instrument is from strength, devotion, and love.  I love what I do. Do you?”

To that, I answer that yes, I can truly say that I do love what I do.

It is this realization that I hold fast as I speed down highways, the joy wielding the combustible engine in my  heart and hands.  This knowledge strengthens me as I help others on their personal journeys, through the instrumentation of the keyboard or the invisible fibers of the conventional phone system.  In our contemporary mundane world, work  is not glamorized, except when it is considered monetarily successful. In your worship, I have learned that each task done well is a tribute to you and to the process of life, regardless of the material gain.

Strength through repetition. This has been a hard, but necessary lesson learned.

I thank you, Lord Hephaestus, for your quiet counsel, and your keen insight from the heat of the forge.

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Lord Vulcan,

I call upon you during the season of Brunalia, as the light is still in its early waxing stages.  The heat of the south is your territory, the hammer and metalworking your symbols. As inseminator, you represent the spark of fire, of life, of fertility.  In dedication to you, I ask for your continued guidance in understanding the fire used in the arts, in alchemy, in the transformation of creative potential that resides within.

Fire destroys, creates, nurtures, and transforms.  The saying, “to burn a bridge” often indicates a point of no return, when the past cannot be retrieved.  At times, I’ve burned bridges when it has not been necessary, and left some standing that should have been blasted out of the water. I ask for your guidance in wielding the destructive and transformative nature of fire in the same manner that I have learned to create and to nurture, to offer as sacrifice and to use for cooking.

When your time comes in August, I look forward to seeing you in the fires and through the smoke. We harvest, we destroy, we celebrate.

I thank you and look forward to learning more with you.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Okeanos and Lady Tethys

Hail Okeanos!

I remember the days, as a new initiate, spending time hearing you

at night until four or five in the morning.

No one told me that your power could (and did) keep a person awake,

even though the nearest ocean tide was well over a thousand miles away.

Your presence reminded me of travels in Vladivostok, where your smell and

your abundance surrounded me.

A child of the Atlantic, I knew you then, long before the call came.

You were alive for me at the Pacific, which has a feel of roughness that belies its name.

Eight years ago, your power curled around me nightly, reminding me that  the world, no matter how large, is small in comparison to what is beyond our immediate comprehension.

Each dip, each trip to see you in physical form was another opportunity

to savor, worship and revere the depths of emotion that flow within.

At times, it was too much and then, you would remind me that one day

some how,

I would understand the whispers and thoughts

without losing too much sleep.

I missed you so much and waited.

Then, five years ago, I saw you again, but it was not time. There was too much happening.  I tossed a coin or two into a fountain beneath a big statue in your honor. Through the cold marble, I just could hear your whisper…

After all, we are mostly water.

There is an emotional growth cycle for every witch with his or her gods. With you, it was absence and hearing the lure in the shells that surrounded me that forced growth and eventually called me home – to you.

Yesterday was the first time in a very long time that I felt the call luring me

to remain awake, to drown in the depths of Okeanos, the ocean-god of many gifts.

Now, it’s okay. I have the strength to know when the emotional flow from the Atlantic and the fierce waters of the Pacific need balance within and without.

I thank you for that and reaffirm my devotion and worship to you.

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Lady Tethys, Consort of Okeanos and Mother of Rivers,

I have called upon you as purifier, both in the past and at present.

You help to ease and wash

away the spiritual pain and burdens.

Water always has been a cleansing, renewing force.

To purify is to bring awareness to a situation.

It is not always pretty or neat or well-organized.

There is a flow, like liquid without a container.

As Dark Mother, when things need to come out,

you are a powerful force for change.

May your healing power, with the vastness

of the many bodies of water on this planet continue to

bless and heal those who call upon you.

Thank you for your guidance,

your presence in salt water, and the calm voice that

reminds all who care to listen of what is truly important:

discipline, devotion, and dedication.

We see water as emotion, wild, unrestrained and the opposite

of those three, yet the strength lies in knowing

when to be restrained and when to cut loose.

You help with that and I thank you.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Poseidon and Lord Neptune

Hail Poseidon!

Lord of the earthly realm between Zeus’s sky and Hades’ underworld,

I feel you in the rain that falls upon the earth, the moisture

providing a reminder that you deal with the emotions, the waves

that reside within each of us.

Earth-shaker, you wield the powerful trident.

Protector of cities and those whose heart is sea-bound

worship you and are devoted to your presence.

Horses who swim through the waters from Assateague Island to

shore stand strong, proud, sturdy. They are blessings and

companions to human-kind.

The dolphin as messenger still speaks to us in a language

we strive to understand at times.  The crisis of the waters

is relayed by the many fish who swim the seas.

We hear the rumble of the earth in the east in Nepal, in

the west in California, and in the south in Chile.

All are reminders that when the earth shakes,

it is a call to listen.

I am grateful for the blessings of balance and the understanding

of the tides and swells that deep emotion wreak upon the

human soul.

In your mercy, you come in dreams, you calm

through water, and you shake through sudden realizations.

Thank you for your gifts, your presence and the knowledge

granted to us, if we only could feel.

Lord Neptune,

We rejoice in your presence each July at Neptunalia,

as we enjoy great merriment during the hottest time of

the year.

God of the racing horse,

Ruler of the tiny waters, the springs, the rivers,

and the larger ones, the rushing seas,

we play in the waters, and revel in the feel of the

the water.

It is life and renewal.

There is a place for fun and practicality.

As we prepare for the harvest, have we cleaned out

what is no longer needed? As we relax under a tree in

a hammock, have we nourished the soil beneath as well

as within the self?

You remind us of the grounding nature of water, its

practical purpose and the human need for liquid nourishment

on all levels: physical, spiritual and emotional.

I thank you for these lessons and gifts.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

A Dedication to and a Rumination on Lady Ma’at (Law) and Lady Themis (Order)

Today was rather interesting. My dedication is to learning and understanding the spiritual law that guides our tradition, our faith, and our adherents. Divine anger rightly is shown towards impiety. When I think of you, Lady Ma’at, some words that come to mind include balance, discipline, and law. When I think of you, Lady Themis, order and law (as justice) come to mind. I thank you both for your intercession today regarding a life matter and the reminder that order is not a dirty word, nor is law, or discipline for that matter. I have learned that tenacity and determination can be the companions to the desire to maintain order, one’s own ethical standards (personal law, code of honor, or belief), and discipline.

Recent terrestrial events, at times, limit the use of the word “law” to its narrowest point, yet when we pray and ask for your intercession in matters of spiritual and human justice, there is law on a physical level, a spiritual level and an emotional level. For a time, I did not distinguish between these variations.  In getting to know you, Lady Themis, I have learned to be careful in asking for justice. It is not like television or a simple yes or no response: Themis, in terms of justice, can cut in many directions. When I ask, my hands had better be clean, lest the consequences fall on me. Lady Themis is careful, and in my devotion and worship to you, I have become more cautious in certain areas. Do I have a long way to go? Definitely. As a passionate person, there are times when my emotions over-rule my mental understanding of a situation; I become more pathos in tone than logos.   When I come to you, order is brought to the forefront; if I ask for a determination, my own actions, as well as those of others will be examined. At times, you have been kind, challenging with questions that clarify what I might not have considered. I want to continue on the path of learning justice and balance.  I rededicate in my relationship with you to listen and hear your words that you place carefully near my ears as I sleep.  You are not in a rush, and too often, I have been.

On the other hand, my relationship with Lady Ma’at has been a bit more on the personal side, using prayer and meditation to calm the inner turmoil. Discipline requires faith and follow through, you reminded me years ago. Anger can be good (and here is why). What have you asked for? Being with you reminds me that often, as witches, as mageia, we get exactly what we ask for – and then decide that we don’t know what to do with it.

You are law, you are strength, you are courage to face the most wondrous and difficult decision that each person embraces daily – free will. Through your guidance, I have learned that the personal responsibility as stated in “The Witches’ Law” is one of the most challenging and rewarding choices that any person can have. We choose free will each day, and we blossom or wilt away from the consequences of this choice.  If the first tenet or commandment of our tradition is to create, the backbone of what each of us believes is the willing and full embrace of free will. If innocence or lack of knowledge is the path of least resistance, then the acceptance of “The Witches’ Law”, and in particular, the lines “Thou hast no right but to do thy will./ Do that, and no other shall say nay”, means that we choose to accept knowledge and the consequences of what we say, feel, think and do.  This is so incredibly powerful and, at times, scary as hell.

So, I reaffirm to you, Lady Ma’at, my devotion and willingness to walk this path with my eyes wide open, with my ears alert, and with my senses fully alive in order  to take in and make wise decisions with the information present on all levels.  I have and continue to learn to be responsible for my mind and my heart; my deepest gratitude for the blessings and continued gifts of purification.

Thank you both for being a part of my life.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

A Dedication to and Rumination on Lady Demeter (Harvest) and Lady Ceres

Hail, Demeter!

Lady of the harvest, the law, and the infinite loop of growth and destruction, of life and death.

The busy, maternal, productive day yields its fertility in warm breezes,

the feel of solid earth beneath my toes.

As you have reminded me, you do not raise weak saplings, but strong oaks,

hearty wheat, and strong plant stock.

You taught me to trust in what is and to make it a habit to answer the

question being asked, to strengthen what lies within and without.

So often the mundane requires a slight of hand,

be it in office politics or neighborly greeting.

The question being asked, far too often, may not be the actual

question that lies beneath.

You remind me to look past the shade and gather true abundance

that is earned, understood, and deserved.

Each year we celebrate, learn and delve into the mysteries

shared with those of ages past.

I thank you, my lady, and embrace the quiet necessity of regular harvest,

the law, and the seasonal dance of death and life –

Each fall and spring

from your lips words of wisdom

enlighten and bring recall to those who seek understanding

of the mother, the one who helps the crops grow in beauty,

the one who stands tall and straight.

Lady Ceres,

it is you who rules physical nourishment, the rites of marriage and

fertility of the womb,

and you who protect the commoners, the laborers, those who toil

with honesty and just measures.

My maternal day reminds me that you guide and help mothers,

all mothers who are devote to their young.

Those who trespass or violate the earth suffer your wrath;

as protector you are fair, yet accept the blood sacrifice when necessary.

There is much I have to learn about you and I re-dedicate myself to that journey.

When you speak, Ladies Demeter and Ceres, it may be brief, but it is always fruitful. Your words fill my soul with purpose,  like the purple flowers that rest outside my door.  I thank you both for your support, for your blessings, and for your revelations. Any act of mothering, of law, and of standing up to a variety of tests comes in part through your guidance and wisdom.  Thank you.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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