Happy Earth Day, Earthlings!

No, I’m not writing this post from the perspective of outing myself as an extraterrestrial, although, to quote the character of Harry (marvelously played by Alan Tudyk) on the hit SYFY Channel series Resident Alien, “I hear they’re pretty cool!” 🙂

Earth Day: Cause for Optimism, Cause for Despair

Every Earth Day brings up a whole host of emotions for me: on the one hand, I feel gloriously optimistic and tremendously inspired by the passion of climate change activists, especially galvanized young voices on the vanguard of the movement such as 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her peers. There’s no denying that in the past decade or so here in the US, environmental, climate change, and habitat/resource conservation issues have definitely risen to the forefront of the collective consciousness, economically (feeling greater degrees of empowerment as consumers to align our shopping choices with our personal values) and politically (where these issues are, unfortunately, vehemently debated across party lines, of course). From the social justice angle voiced by BIPOC activists denouncing the overt, systemic racism behind decades-old policies of polluting communities of color and the sacred lands of First Nations Peoples to the more personal economic and health angles of looking to maximize energy efficiency and reduce waste in the home while opting for organic foods on our plates (and even growing our own produce), more and more people are, thankfully, thinking about and acting upon a desire to promote sustainability. (Today’s Google doodle, screenshot below, made me applaud and cry tears of joy!)

Screen Shot 2021-04-22 at 3.46.04 PM

On the other hand, since I aspire to live every day as Earth Day with my conscious choices, I also feel a world of despair weighing on my heart. The plain facts of the case are that we’re all crowding ourselves on an increasingly fragile planet with drastically shrinking resources. Our late-stage global capitalism exudes a rapacious appetite for destruction, laying waste to swathes of Amazonian rain forest with illegal logging (China can’t get enough timber) and drying up entire rivers in Chilean villages so life-giving water can be rerouted to corporate-owned avocado orchards (watch the Netflix documentary Rotten if you haven’t already; it’s a disturbing eye-opener of the ugliness in global food production). I seethe with rage. I feel sick to my stomach. I often cry in states of deep despair when I watch the YouTube videos of my favorite evolutionary biologist, Dr. Guy McPherson. In his ocean of data pertaining to mass extinction events and what he terms “near-term human extinction,” he soberly tells us that our efforts to save the planet, while stemming from noble intentions, amount to “too little, too late.”

That’s despair and tidal waves of hopelessness stemming from the macro level. At the micro level, to give but one example, when I see how my neighbors repeatedly throw litter around in my neighborhood (in front of one park in particular), often from their cars as they careen down my street at outrageously high speeds, I feel the heaviness in my chest and tightness in my throat that is the same visceral response I have to grief. Since the pandemic began last year, it’s routine for me to have latex-free disposable gloves in my purse or in my pockets, so I invariably make a beeline for the garbage I see strewn about and take the time to dispose of it in the closest public trash can I can find. But I can assure you I am grumbling very misanthropic thoughts under my breath as I do so! I think a part of me wants the human race to die off because we in Western societies have been, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution at least, such ungracious guests in our Earth Mother’s house! Like the brilliantly visionary Tool song “Aenima” informs us, “The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.”

It’s painful.

We live in very challenging times and it seems like we’re on the fast-track, collectively, to devolution, not the vaunted “progress” that our misplaced faith in technology as the ultimate savior tricks us into believing.

What’s a Witch to do?

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My Experiences at Green Spirit Festival 2017

No matter how dedicated we may be in our service to our Deities and spirits, and the communities in which we live and serve, I find that it’s good to periodically take time out for a spiritual battery recharge. It’s all the better when that experience can be accompanied by a drastic change of scenery, one that squarely situates you in Nature’s nurturing bosom for a few days, allowing you to simultaneously connect with unfamiliar/non-ordinary terrain and with your own inner resources of flexibility/willingness to endure hardships, physical strength and stamina, and the commitment to be fully present in the moment. Those are the reasons why I like camping (in “primitive” conditions) so much, and why I couldn’t pass up the chance to attend this year’s Green Spirit Festival in southwest Wisconsin. Sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, this annual festival affords community celebrants the chance to create an intentional Pagan village for a three-day weekend, attuning to the land and nourishing the body, heart, mind, and spirit with educational workshops, nature walks, communal rituals and home-cooked meals, at least one handfasting, a major mugwort harvest, a concert from Celtic folksinger and comedienne Celia, Tailteann/Highland Games, a candlelit labyrinth meditational walk at night, and joyous socializing with members of your Tribe that you’d be hard pressed to connect with in person at any other time of the year.

This year’s Green Spirit Festival occurred from Friday, July 28 to Sunday, July 30. It was the spiritual battery recharge experience I was seeking and so much more. It’s taken me a full week to process my experience internally and to integrate its manifold benevolent effects spilling forth, Ace of Cups style, into all aspects of my life, giving me added reason to give profound thanks not just for this Sabbat season of Lughnasàd, but for the Sacred Time of celebrating my Kemetic Gods’ birthdays in that liminal period known as the Epagomenal Days in the ancient Egyptian calendar, that which divides the Old Year from the New.

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Some Thoughts on This Evening’s Final Uranus-Pluto Showdown

Well, folks, the 7th and final exact hit in the protracted Uranus-Pluto square is timed for 8:50 p.m. Chicago/Central Daylight time. This “exuberant” (to borrow the euphemism Rev. Selena Fox uses to describe unruly children at public Pagan gatherings) planetary aspect has been with us since 2012, and revolutionary Uranus in Aries and transformative Pluto in Capricorn have more than done their duty in illustrating profound dysfunction in the various systems we live under–governmental, financial/corporate, societal. (Pluto, in particular, is a planet dedicated to exposing secrets.)

Uranus in Aries at an exact 90-degree square to Pluto in Capricorn. Image courtesy of www.templeofthejaguar.wordpress.com

Uranus in Aries at an exact 90-degree square to Pluto in Capricorn. Image courtesy of http://www.templeofthejaguar.wordpress.com

The key words coming from both planets in their respective signs are “dismantle” and “restructure.” Uranian energy is like The Tower card from the Tarot: a zapping, instantaneous demolition crew knocking down what no longer works/has served its purpose. Let’s-cut-the-bullshit Pluto in Capricorn detonates with the force of a nuclear blast (think of how Robert Oppenheimer, before testing the atom bomb for the first time, quotes the 11th chapter, the  “Viswarupadarsanam,” of the Bhagavad-Gita, citing Shiva’s declaration that “I have become Death, Destroyer of Worlds”–that’s Plutonian energy in a literal and figurative sense), asking us how we’re going to birth new selves and structures into being, ones that can adapt to the New Normal.

These are energies that make people uncomfortable because of the sweeping changes they bring. In fact, the last time that Pluto and Uranus met was in the mid-1960s, setting the tone for the dramatic cultural and political transformations that occurred in the U.S. and around the world: second-wave feminism, the Civil Rights movement, anti-war protests amidst an escalating Cold War, political revolutions (Kennedy’s assassination, and further down the line, the Watergate scandal was hugely Plutonian given the element of exposure).

Narrowing our focus to the past three years of this planetary square (Obama’s second term, for those of you who are counting), we’ve had an Arab Spring, a resurgence of Cold War rhetoric and saber-rattling between Washington and Moscow, the mounting ecological devastation of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, various harrowing incidents (read: the shooting of unarmed black male youth) bringing to light (there’s that Plutonian spotlight) the egregious imbalance of power tied to race, class, and gender issues in the U.S., the alarming rise of the Islamic State and its heinous killing spree (cultural, religious genocide) in the Middle East and concomitant destruction of world heritage sites, and global economic volatility (the “austerity measures” the EU demanded of Greece, as one example, not to mention our own $13 trillion debt and counting to China) and instability, with talks now of countries like Hungary and Iceland vowing to pull out of the EU, to name but a few events. I’m sure you can think of more.

But as the great occult axiom from the Emerald Tablet imparts, “As above, so below; as within, so without.” That the motions of the planets impact vibrational levels experienced by people on earth at the collective and individual level is the underlying principle of astrology. Think: How has your life evolved in the past three years? What dramatic changes have you undergone? I’ll wager you’ve gone through some life-altering ones during this span of time.

Pluto the planet and the Earth Sign of Capricorn are all about power: consolidating it, manifesting it in the public sphere. (Capricorn rules the 10th house of career/public life.) Who have you become/who are you in the process of becoming on the World Stage? How are you being perceived by the world at large? How does your sense of vocation fit into it? Are you in a position to share the gifts that you’ve been given with others? This is the time to showcase your leadership in an inspirational way, to reclaim (if you’ve lost it) your sense of personal power and use it in the paradigm that Starhawk calls “power-with,” not “power-over” another

And that’s just it: we need to think collectively, about the imprints our thoughts, words, and deeds leave behind. Be mindful of a ripple effect you create, even in the most seemingly mundane of moments, for that is where the magic lies. It could be something as simple as greeting a stranger in the elevator of the office building where you work, holding a door open for a mother struggling with pushing a stroller inside a restaurant’s entrance, offering a person with disabilities your seat on the bus. Little moments of kindness can turn a person’s day–and perspective–around for the better in an instant. The new Uranian-Plutonian paradigm calls for interrelatedness.

Of course, as with the advice given by flight attendants in the emergency preparedness demos before your flight takes off, it’s best to have your own proverbial oxygen squared away before you can lend a hand to your seatmates. As this planetary square is a very intense one–and note that it happens just four days before the Spring Equinox Total Solar Eclipse, which brings its own high-intensity energy levels–it’s very important to make self-care your top priority. Eat nourishing foods, and try to limit your caffeine intake. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Go for walks and let your feet connect with earth energy: stabilizing, grounding. Exercise in other ways, especially in methods that showcase a mindfulness link with the body’s movements, such as dance, yoga, t’ai chi, other martial arts. Surround yourself with positive people who love you, whose interactions leave you feeling energized and content, not depleted and defeated.

Those are the basics of self-care. For those on a spiritual path, especially a Pagan one that features devotional practices at its core, turn to your Power(s) for help. Pray for the removal of obstacles in your life, that the Uranus-Pluto square helps you clear away effortlessly (and hopefully gently!) that which is no longer aligned with your highest good. That the new Self you’re birthing into being (Plutonian rebirth, the phoenix from the ashes) consciously moves forward as a more fitting receptacle of Divinity. Stronger yet more humble. More aware. More generous and helpful. Fully attuned to the rhythms of the interdependence of all beings.

This past weekend, now that the snow has mercifully melted here in Chicago, my Bodacious Beau™ and I began to clear away a lot of debris in and around our humble home, starting with the east-facing balcony of our condo and the veggie and flower garden we have there. Happily, the potted rose from my birthday last September managed to stay alive over the winter in our kitchen, so we transferred it outdoors and repotted other plants as well (rosemary, oregano, hyacinth, spider plants, “hot cakes” seedlings). The black pansies we bought at a local nursery were potted together as a devotional act for Hekate: Goth flowers for the win! And all that sweeping away of gunk and reorganizing that we did really amounted to an effect that’s so refreshing, such a big “Ahhhhh!” every time I walk by the patio door. (As Stephen King would say, it’s become a “sweet spot” of our home.) It’s also a perfect metaphor for the Uranus-Pluto square too: out with the dead, the detritus, and in with the green shoots of new growing things. As we used to chant at Imbolc in my Gardnerian coven (whilst sweeping the ritual space widdershins with our besoms):

Thus we banish Winter

And thus we welcome Spring

Say farewell to what is dead

And greet each living thing

Thus we banish Winter

And thus we welcome Spring

 As the energies of this Uranus-Pluto square rely upon death as the necessary precursor to rebirth/renewal, it’s also been a good time for Dan and I to take morning and evening strolls in the local cemetery, leaving offerings for Hekate, Hel, and the spirit children that died with their mothers in the poorhouse at the Read-Dunning asylum for the criminally insane. On Saturday evening, we even went to fly a kite with the intent of sharing joy with the ghost children, as there was a nice (and apt) strong breeze from the north and kite flying brought out our own inner children in full force. There’s an example of interrelatedness right there: the worlds of the living and the dead reinforcing one another. Death and life, the two sides of the same coin.

Life is breath, and so I suggest we all take a series of deep breaths and set our intention on the new Wyrd we’re weaving together as this final Uranus-Pluto boxing match gets underway. It’s Go Time!

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Sekhmet and the Ma’at of Letting Go: Reflections on My Sekhmet Ritual at PSG 2014

Editorial Comment: I am extremely pleased that the essay you’re about to read below has been accepted for publication in Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s forthcoming anthology on the goddess Sekhmet entitled Daughter of the Sun: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Sekhmet. My essay is being published under my legal name and I will retain all copyrights to it. The book is being released next month; I’m so excited!


 

“Sekhmet and the Ma’at of Letting Go”

Just prior to leaving for the 2014 Pagan Spirit Gathering, held June 15-22 in Illinois, I had been seeing, due to its popularity among several of my friends, a recurring post on my Facebook News Feed—one that irked me.

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