A Brief Thought for Cuivanya

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In reviewing the Chapel’s Cuivanya article this morning, a small passage leapt out at me:

The transition to agriculture was fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. It was a part of the increasing materialization of maid: her becoming more and more a creature living on the physical plane.

But this in itself was spiritual: part of the process of cosmic manifestation. The rituals of agriculture were rituals first and practicalities second. They represented a new spiritual orientation for earthly life which remains with us to this day.

Back in the 1960s, an anthropologist named Marshall Sahlins delivered a paper in which he argued that “primitive” societies, such as the Bushmen of Africa or the Australian Aborigines, should not be understood as economically underdeveloped. Drawing on extensive fieldwork studies, he showed that such peoples do not, as had been commonly assumed, live always on the brink of starvation fearing for their livelihood, but that they instead follow what he called the “Zen road to affluence, which states that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate”. Whereas Western societies understand human material needs to be vast, if not infinite, and productive capacity to be limited, “primitive” societies, Sahlins claimed, understand human material needs to be relatively small and well provided for by the environment. By desiring little, they satisfy their desires easily and manage to provide their basic needs in between fifteen and twenty hours of work a week, leaving a far greater percentage of their time to “leisure” (though this includes communal food preparation and similar activities, since these cultures have no strict work/leisure distinction).

Sahlins’ theory is not uncontested, but it is strongly argued and remains a viable viewpoint in anthropology today. One of its great difficulties, however, has been the need to reimagine the transition to agriculture. Before Sahlins, it was commonly assumed that agriculture had been widely embraced because it lessened the amount of time people had to spend looking for food and made their supplies more reliable. It is now entirely possible that this is not only untrue, but actually inverted—that agriculture requires many more hours of labor to supply the community’s needs.

So why did people all over the world come to embrace (or develop independently, as appears to have happened in Papua New Guinea) a markedly less “efficient” means of food production? There are several good theories, including the relatively compelling argument that it allows greater concentrations of population than are possible for nomadic hunter-gatherers. In all likelihood, there were a variety of factors involved, which may have varied slightly from place to place.

Perhaps one of them, however, is indeed that agriculture was a ritual craft suited to the needs of the age and which had, of necessity, to involve all the surface of the earth that was capable of it. Perhaps the appeal of agriculture was not that it made life easier, but that it made life more meaningful within the conditions in which human beings had come to live, and that was worth making life harder.

Cuivanya rituals are somewhat less defined than the customs for many of our other holidays, but they often involve doing something quite ordinary in a harder way: baking our own bread instead of picking it up at the bakery, or harvesting from our fading summer gardens the produce we could have bought at the store. In many ways, the grocery market is the basis of a new hunter-gatherer culture, in which cash and credit cards have replaced slings and arrows. Yet on Cuivanya, we too turn away, if only for a moment, from efficiency for the sake of meaning—for the sake of understanding, however dimly, the ways of the first sower and the final reaper (as the Chapel’s article describes the Dark Mother). We commit ourselves to honoring a whole cycle of life and death with our own hands, even if it is figured only in flour-covered fingers at last pulling the risen loaf from the coals.

And perhaps it is in the sweat of our brows that we, like our ancestors before us, can taste the Divine Life.

Happy Cuivanya, everyone!

Of Commandments and Condemnation

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Over on Déanic Tumblr, there have been quite a few questions posed lately on what is permissible or impermissible in our religion. There has been a general reticence to give very definite replies, which is understandable and appropriate. The Chapel and the Daughters both routinely recuse themselves in such cases, noting that they are not ecclesiastical authorities and thus not empowered to formally set rules or interpretations for faith communities. The same could be said, at this time, about most (probably all) of us. Certainly, no one should represent themselves as some kind of Filianic pope whose word is law for Filianists. Discretion is here, more often than not, the better part of valour.

There is, however, a practical sense in which it can help others and ourselves to clarify which acts are broadly consonant with the teachings of our faith and which are not. It has been rightly pointed out that Filianism is not a legalistic religion, and instead promotes a virtue ethics; still, both the faithful and outsiders will invariably have doubts about which actions are aligned with those virtues and which are not. If that were not so, our foremothers would not have written hundreds of pages over more than forty years addressing a wide range of cultural, psychological, political, economic, and other issues from a Filianic perspective. This is especially important now that most of us, in addition to being generally “modern”, were actually born in the decades of darkness, and so are even less able to rely on many of our reflexive ways of reasoning than were our foremothers’ contemporaries.

I am known to be an advocate for a rigorous discipline of Matristics—study of the writings of our Madrian, Aristasian, and Chelouranyan foremothers and reliance upon their teaching as a guide for the practice of the faith. They did not always agree on all issues, and they certainly did not address all issues, and this leaves wide spaces open where contemporary Filianists may engage in the liberty of courteous and informed discussion, and even dispute. Even regarding issues about which I have strong personal opinions, I have affirmed the principle that, where our foremothers left us no clear direction or teaching on a given topic, any position which can argue a sound case from the Scriptures and the Matristic record may be considered perfectly orthodox.

Lately, however, I notice that there is a reticence to make statements of a definite Filianic “position” even on issues where our foremothers appear to have established clear precedent, apparently for fear of being exclusionary. When it is suggested that our tradition prohibits or discourages X, it seems to be treated as a counterargument to say that a person who does X can still be a Filianist.

These statements, however, are not opposed. To say that X is discouraged, or even outright condemned, by Filianic teaching does not imply that someone who does X cannot be a Filianist. I scratched my head a long while over why people kept seeming to leap to this conclusion, until it occurred to me that a majority of Filianists come from cultures in which Protestantism is the dominant religion, especially Anglicanism and its historical derivatives. At crucial moments in its history, the Anglican tradition was heavily influenced by the teachings of John Calvin, most famous for his theory of predestination—in simple form, that all human beings had been assigned by God either to heaven or hell before the world even began. Calvinists were very conscious of themselves as the “elect” whom God had chosen, and so were quickly faced with the difficulty of explaining those who had returned to Catholicism or otherwise rejected Calvinist practice (this was an especial issue in England, since the Anglican church never fully embraced Calvinism and continued to harbor large numbers of people sympathetic to Roman Catholic teaching). Their solution was the doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints”, which held that those whom God had called would endure to the end, and that if someone did not, this was proof that they had never truly been elect in the first place.

The theology behind this has some subtlety, but the popular understanding of the doctrine quickly descended into a hyperjudgementalism in which people assumed that they could determine someone’s salvation (or lack thereof) by the blamelessness (or lack thereof) of their life. Where Calvinism was strong (as among certain factions in England) it was often de facto the case that someone committing a sin was revealed as unelect, and thus beyond the purview of God’s love.

This idea has powerfully influenced Anglo-Saxon culture (particularly in the United States). I hope it goes without saying that there is no comparable concept in Filianism, but it must be mentioned that there isn’t a comparable one in Catholic/Orthodox Christianity, either. Back in the fourth century, there arose the Donatist controversy, in which some Christians (the Donatists) argued that those who had denied being Christians during the Roman persecutions were sinners who had placed themselves outside the salvific protection of the Church. St. Augustine, in response, reminded them that St. Peter himself had denied Christ three times, and argued that the Church was not meant for saints, but for sinners. The Church, in Augustine’s view, meant nothing if it was not a path of reunion for those who had alienated themselves from God.

We may never know for certain why the Madrians thought so highly of “Sai Paul” as to bestow that high honorific title upon him, but one does wonder if it didn’t have to do with his rigorous defence of the idea that, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is certainly Filianic teaching. Just as “all sweetness is the far-blown scent of Her Sweetness” (1 Teachings 10:15), so too all our transgressions are the reverberation of our first turning from the Mother. In contrast to some other doctrines, Filianism does not hold that we fell away by accident, or descended on a mission, but that we turned “in the infirmity of [our] sovereign will” (Filianic Creed) and “frowned also on the laughter of [the] Mother’s heart” (1 Teachings 8:11)—an action identified with kear itself (v. 8). It was after having committed this ultimate sin that the Daughter gave Her life for us. She did not die to rescue those who were perfect, or even those who were earnestly striving toward perfection, but those who had deliberately turned away from perfection and had spurned the Mother’s joy.

If it is for such as these that our Lady suffered Herself to be slain upon the Pillar of the World, how could any of us imagine to reject them? How could any of us look down upon them while recalling that they are we? Every day, I do a thousand things that are opposed to Filianic teaching—thinking uncharitable thoughts, cutting corners on tasks, engaging in fruitless disputes, and much worse. I am still a Filianist, and God be praised, no one has moved to expel me yet.

Of course those who transgress Filianic teaching are still Filianists. Of course they are still children of Dea. Of course our Mother loves them. If it were not so, the Janyati would be the whole of the Ekklesia. To say that Filianism teaches against X, or even forbids X, does not, and indeed cannot possibly, mean that those who do X are banned by the faith or shunned by the faithful. Even in the strictest interpretations of Aristasian thought, there has never been a caste of untouchables.

It remains important, however, to be clear about our teachings and about their implications when applied to the practical questions of people’s daily lives. It is important for ourselves, so that we may always be spurred toward greater perfection in following our Lady. It is important for outsiders, so that their idea of our faith may be accurate, founded upon our understanding instead of their own imaginings. It is important for those seeking and struggling, so that they are given the clarity that will strengthen them in their resolve for self-improvement and the overcoming of kear. It is important for the whole world, so that whatever small, practical steps may be taken for the restoration of thamë can be taken.

We need not be draconian about any of it. I have always appreciated the approach of the Hassidim to the keeping of the Law. They did not deny any of the 613 mitzvot—the commandments that God gave to Moses. They did not rationalize any of them away, or sublimate their plain meaning to esoteric interpretations (though they certainly appreciated the value of esoteric layers of meaning on top of literal observance). They never for a moment suggested that God’s expectation was anything less than perfect obedience to the whole of the Law, for how could the One Who is Perfect demand anything less? What they did do was to keep firmly in mind that (as the Hebrew Bible so thoroughly and repeatedly attests) God did not love Israel because Israel kept the commandments; rather, the commandments were given because God loved Israel.

Hence, the Hassidim held that the full strictness of the Law in all its multifarious outworkings in daily life could be robustly affirmed without condemning any given Jew to perpetual inadequacy. God demands a perfect obedience, but does not expect us to achieve it completely today. They encouraged their followers to start small, and to choose which and how many mitzvot to keep according to the dictates of their own consciences, between themselves and God, and to grow in their observance as they felt ready. Some would keep hundreds of mitzvot quite scrupulously, while some might keep only a few, and then with far from perfect thoroughness. None was to judge another, for being Jewish was not understood as a destination at which only the tzadikkim (righteous teachers) had arrived, but as a journey with God through the wilderness, in which the steps of all are halting, no matter how wide or narrow the length of their strides.

It seems to me that the Madrians followed a very similar principle. They spurned synthetic fibers. They declared electric lights athamic. Sister Angelina described a television in a house as a “shrine to Irkalla”. They urged Filianists to stop reading the news and to rid their homes of plastic. This, remember, was in the 1970s—the age of polyester and disco lights. As often as these admonitions came, however, there came also qualifiers. If a maid could not cut off popular media entirely, she might reduce it as she could. If she could not rid her home wholly of plastic, she might still remove it where it was practicable. No one, the readers of The Coming Age were assured, was going to be damned for flipping their light switch. The Madrians never saw the Ekklesia as an encampment on the summit of the Holy Mountain, but instead seemed to view it as the safety rope binding those with the least sure footing to the ablest climbers. There was nowhere, not even in the deepest cave at the mountain’s base, where one could not grasp hold of a rope tied, somewhere in the high clouds swirling at the lofty peak, about the waist of all the Heras and Janyati.

Let us not fear, then, to address the concerns with which we and others live in a broken world, or to seek clarity regarding the application of Filianic teaching, for it is not the teaching that is the fiery rose at the heart of the labyrinth, but our Mother, to Whom the teaching but prepares the way. It can condemn an act, but it does not judge the actor, who passes on instead to the final bar where our Lady sits, saying, “Take heart, though you have turned from Her. For She has not forsaken you, neither are Her eyes filled with anger.” (1 Teachings 4:4)

A Gratitude for Chelanya

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“Eternity” is a very misunderstood word. For many, it has been debased to a mere synonym of “forever”—time without cessation. In truth, it is not time at all, but being beyond time. Eternity has no duration, but hangs timeless upon the coronet of our Lady. To realize this is in many ways—in most ways—a great comfort. It is to realize that Eternity is not something we wait for, but something that already is. It is to realize that Eternity is not elsewhere, but is wherever we put forth our hand and, by Her grace, draw aside the veil of matter. It is to realize that there will never be monotony in Eternity, for all things there are always new in the moment that is not time, but is “the timeless spring wherein time’s mighty river hath its rise” (1 Teachings 2:5).

Yet there is foreboding that must attend this timelessness for all of us who are not yet whom we would be. We must fear to apprehend a plane with neither motion nor yet change when we apprehend the kear within ourselves and wonder whether timelessness should mean that we have no time to bridge it. It is in this reflection that I have lately sat, as the festival of rebirth and regeneration has come upon me and again passed away—a thing unthinkable in Eternity. Unthinkable there also, however, is that it should come again.

It can be hard, amidst the sufferings of the world, to understand the wisdom and the grace of our Lady as Sai Maia, but I feel I understand it better when I recall that the illusion of time has given me many chances at something that comes, in truth, less than once—many points at which to touch something that, in truth, is never touched nor let go of, but which has ever been and ever shall be enfolded in our Lady’s hand, which is the only hand there truly is.

Eternity knows no coming and no going, yet the gift of time’s illusion has given all of us, who have gone out from our Mother’s heavenly embrace, the chance to come to it as well—again and again if need be, and the need often is. As we contemplate the ear of corn, how painfully aware we must all be of the many times that we have had to die and be reborn—a death, one might well think, for every single thorn that has grown round our hearts (1 Teachings 10:9–10); a thousand deaths to prune away but one tendril of that wicked vine. It is a thing that takes time.

So I am grateful for these passing hours that weigh, at times, so heavily upon me. I am grateful for the fleeting seconds that whisper of my death. I am grateful for the Sisyphean round that brings me always to the same points upon the wheel’s rim to face their burrs, which are but slowly worn away. For all these turnings I am grateful, though like John Barleycorn I am milled down in them and scattered to my grave (cf. Mythos 7:20), for I know there is a silence waiting somewhere in which even now, though lifetimes pass before I know it, my Mother’s hand reaps in full my harvest (cf. Mythos 7:19).

Working with the Siani

In a recent Tumblr conversation, it was mentioned that it is a great shame that so little is said in our teaching about fairies. Indeed, if we exclude mentions of the Star Fairy, I think I can count on one hand the number of Madrian and Aristasian documents that mention them, and the only distinctive point of information of which I am aware is that the Filianic term for them is siani. That they are little acknowledged, however, does not make them unimportant.

Today, on our way home from the park, my three-year-old son asked to stop and pick a flower for his mother, which has become a common occurrence in the last couple of weeks. On this occasion, however, I told him to go choose one from the meadow and then wait until I told him what to do next. He bravely charged into the tall grass, placed his hand on the stem of a bright purple bloom, and then dutifully held his position.

“Now,” I said, “you need to ask the fairies if it is okay for you to take it.”

“Okay I take it?” he repeated, and then, without a moment’s hesitation, he grinned and nodded, “Oh, yes!”

At this stage, the ritual is mere formality. As he gets older, however, and grows in awareness and patience, my hope is that this little acknowledgement will teach him how to listen. I was an adult undertaking the study of Druidry before I learned that one can, indeed, slow down enough to hear the response of a tree, or a flower, or a stone—that there is an awareness that most modern people (at least in Europe and North America) have never cultivated, but which can still hear our Mother’s echoed laughter, bright and conscious and alive, in the being of each thing that exists. I have had trees offer their leaves or fruits for some good work, or refuse a request for good reasons; I have even had them offer unsolicited advice.

One can say one is talking to trees, or perhaps one prefers to think of it simply as making silence and stillness for the still, small voice within to speak. It really makes little difference to the grander point, which is that the effort at this awareness—this ability to simultaneously turn deeply within and open oneself wholly without—builds one’s capacity to discern. At three years old, my son can listen for the wishes of the fairies who tend a flower and it may seem a small thing, but that same skill, well-honed when he is thirty, will hear the wishes of his own heart. Fortunate indeed is the maid who can do this deceptively unsimple thing.

Thus may it seem that a small matter prepares for a greater, but I do not really believe that to be true. Our Lady assures us that “not a … grain of sand shifts in the desert reflecting not some spiritual truth; neither does a star fall in the farthest corner of the cosmos without an inward meaning.” (1 Teachings 11:28–9) What, then, can it mean to pluck a flower that has not greeted springtime with austerity (3:8)? There is a world of gravity in the plucking of a flower—the death of what is beautiful and visible in order to reveal what is invisible and still more beautiful—that I can only truly conceive in the sadness of the little fairy who grieves the blossom she has tended, but who gives it freely that the heartbeat of a child may be completed in expression.

When we get home, I watch my wife’s face as she receives the gift, and it seems to me that she is a flower, or is, perhaps, revealed as a far-strewn petal of that rose we lately honoured at the summer’s height. She takes the tiny stem from a tiny hand and leaves it on the altar at our Lady’s feet, where it lies dead at the very fount of Life. Yet I perceive it now alive as I cannot imagine, and all worldly life seems death beside what has been thrice-offered in this way.

I have no clever flourish to conclude this—no subtle turn or clinching argument. I have only the image of a fairy, sparkling in tears that run in sorrow and in joy as she yields up her treasure to a giant hand that is yet small by any other measure, but which will yield it in turn to a greater, and thence the Greatest still, that it may be placed again at the very centre of that fairy’s being—the place within herself that she had always longed to take it, but could not while it yet lived.

I have only this image to which my words can do no justice, and that is exactly why the siani are important.

 

Edit (22 July 2017): Thanks to @hearthshrine for digging up the reference for the term “siani”.

Of Rosa Mundi and Mascûls

I find myself coming somewhat late to engage with the Janites’ “Humble Admission”, which sufficiently incensed Glenn King to prompt his withdrawal from the Déanic community altogether. My delay in addressing it has had to do with many other demands on my time, including locating previously unavailable Madrian documents for upcoming addition to the Archive, as well as two major projects which it is to be hoped will bring some positive academic attention to the legacy of Madrian/Aristasian thought and, in the process, spread awareness of Déanism/Filianism. In looking up from this work on behalf of the community to find that certain major representatives of that community now regard me as outside the scope of its revelational grace is both disconcerting and hurtful.

I wish to be very, very clear about two things. First, I am on record for my affirmation of the importance of both Feminine Essentialist philosophy in the abstract, with its insistence on the primacy of the feminine in the nature of both divinity and the cosmos, as well as my affirmation of the practical corollary that positions of formal spiritual leadership in the Déanic community should be restricted to women. (I endeavor, as an act of service to Dea and to the community, to be a proficient and useful scholar of the faith, but I would never dream of setting myself up as someone’s ranya, or styling myself as a “Déanic priest” or any similar nonsense.) Second, I unequivocally affirm the right of women to establish groups open to women alone, and do not countenance any effort on the part of men to label such a practice as exclusivist or sexist, or to demand admission to such groups. The Daughters of Shining Harmony, whom I hold in the highest regard, maintain such an all-feminine group, and I am grateful that they do for the work which has come out of it. If the Janites wish to restrict membership or participation in their order to women only, I respect that decision entirely and say ‘more power to them’. As I have never been formally involved with the Janites anyway, I can see no reason why such a move on their part should trouble me.

The statement they released, however, is not simply such a declaration about their order. It presumes, rather, to speak to Dea’s own intentions in the giving of the Scriptures and to authoritatively interpret them with respect to the matter of their intended audience. To declare, as their statement appears to do, that God has not given the Scriptures to Tellurian maidkind as a whole, but only properly to half of us, is exclusivist and sexist.

It is also historically untenable. It is unquestionably true that the Madrians restricted the priestesshood and all other positions of religious leadership to women. It is also perfectly clear from their writings on both the ancient matriarchal past and on present conditions, however, that the Madrians always regarded Déanism as a religion for men as well as women (at least, from that point in history when men were supposed to have originated). Numerous accounts bear witness to the involvement of men in non-leadership rôles from very early on, and more than one of the earliest attested congregations were mixed. Sister Angelina was a regular contributor to a variety of countercultural magazines, appeared on local radio on a number of occasions, and gave the closing address for the 1979 “Re-Emergence of the Goddess” convention in Kensington; none of her published letters or recorded statements that I have found suggest a restriction of Déanic teaching’s relevance to women, and her statements in fact often suggest that Dea’s renewed self-revelation in Her original feminine form is a mercy to the whole world—men as much as women.

Aristasian thinkers, for their part, always held firmly to Aristasia’s women-only character, but they were broadly supportive of related movements that attempted to include men in the same intellectual currents (such as the Romantians). In more recent times, the Chapel has not only clearly stated its belief that mixed congregations are permissible, but it has gone so far as to wish well to such endeavors. The assertion of the Janite statement—that the Scriptures’ speaking of maid is not meant to apply to men at all and that the religion is irrelevant to them—has no precedent of which I am aware in Orthodox teaching.

It saddens me to have to take up the bulk of a Rosa Mundi post merely defending the idea that God has spoken in the Scriptures to me as much as to my co-religionists. I know the movement of my own heart, however, and I know the feeling of our Lady’s hand when it rests upon it. She speaks, saying: “For the Spirit is One, and I am the Spirit, and you are the Spirit also, in the innermost temple of your heart. And She who is the Spirit, My Mother, holds out Her hands to you in happiness beyond all knowing and joy beyond expression of all words,” (1 Teachings 10:12–14) and I know that She speaks to me.

I am not an eavesdropper. I am not an uninvited guest. I am a child of my Mother, and my soul is a princess making her way home. Perhaps she has farther to go than many others. Perhaps her face and body have been marred by the thorns of khear in especial measure. Yet still my Mother calls my name in the night, and I will not be told that I have but misheard the similar name of another child. I will not be told that I have braved the forest by mistake.

So on this Rosa Mundi, when my little son (who will turn three on Sunday) helped me pick a rose for the shrine, and yelled out “Haya Annya!” while I lit the first fireworks he has ever seen, I will give thanks and praise to my Mother that She has remembered me and others like me, that She has sent a mercy of comfort and of guidance down upon the whole Earth, and that She has wrought a temple from even my stony heart, and hewn it in the shape of a rose (v. 27).


Update (12 July 2017): More recent statements by the Janites have changed their wording and now, “affirm that the scriptures were written for a matriarchal society. Of course, they may be used and read by everyone who loves Our Lady. It is only when they are taken out of their matriarchal context, that they are being misunderstood.

“The Filianic/Madrian religion is a feminine religion and Madrian men understood and accepted this. They understood that the Madrian religion was a matriarchal, feminine religion presided over by females.”

This formulation, of course, is wholly accurate. The earliest Déanic/Filianic communities were indeed matriarchal, and held matriarchy to be the primordial condition of humanity. To remove them from a matriarchal context (as opposed to an all-female context) would be a gross distortion, and render an understanding that, whatever else it might be, would not be Déanic/Filianic. My objections given above to the previous Janite statement no longer apply to this more refined wording, and I am very glad to see a consensus apparently reached that acknowledges the legitimacy of men’s participation in the faith and the applicability of Scripture to them, while uncompromisingly affirming the matriarchal nature of the Ekklesia and the restriction of formal leadership rôles to women.

The Year of Sai Vikhë

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With the approach of Rosa Mundi, we are also approaching the one-quarter mark of the Year of Sai Vikhë. Of all the Janyati, Sai Vikhë may be the one whom I have had the most difficulty relating to, as I was raised in a military family and anything redolent of that ethos has a strongly off-putting effect on me. It is said, of course, that the militaries of the Motherland are quite different to those of our own time and plane, and certainly nothing of the savagery and inhumanity of modern Tellurian warfare should be ascribed to Sai Vikhë, but even being aware of this on a conscious level, the imagery and metaphor of armed conflict have posed a significant barrier to me in approaching Dea by this face.

Partly because I think it important to work on my own limitations, and partly because I began this year (and continue) facing many personal and professional challenges that require courage, focused will, and (courteous) assertiveness to overcome, I made it a point to take advantage of Sai Vikhë’s patronage of this year to try to forge a relationship with her. This has involved nothing grandiose, but simply a deliberate effort to remember her during my prayers and to meditate upon her symbols. The results of this already have astounded me, and I wish to share them with all of you for your encouragement.

All my life, I have a had a dreadful fear of heights—not paralyzing, but enough to be deeply uncomfortable in a variety of mundane situations. One of these, which I managed only with considerable effort, was taking my son on the amusement park rides at the Mall of America—most particularly the innocuously-named Guppy Bubbler, which rises about forty feet while spinning its occupants around in seashells. To my two-year-old, this is tremendous fun. To me, it was a white-knuckling brush with infinity.

Back in April, as the sweat started to build on my palms at the top of the ride, I prayed, asking Sai Vikhë for courage so that I might be freed from my fear and not model it to my son. Instantly, my fear vanished. Still swirling around forty feet in the air, I was completely at ease. I have taken my son many more times since—and even taken him on the three-story-tall Ferris wheel—without the slightest anxiety or discomfort. After nearly thirty years of serious acrophobia, I can only regard this as a miraculous cure in the finest medieval tradition.

I gave thanks for this over the following weeks and, during a meditation back in May, received what might be termed a vision of Sai Vikhë—not that she came and stood in my living room, but more in the sense of having an icon communicated directly to my mind. I wish that I had the talent as a visual artist to produce it—the great winged figure aloft in a mass of cloud, her body perfect motion and her crimson robes perfect stillness, her outstretched arms bearing the flaming sword before her as though she were about to strike and to hold up the sky at the same moment and by the same blade, her knees swept forward like the talons of a falcon though her bare feet hang gently as drooping roses beneath, her blazing tiered crown of gold an image of perfect order atop a maelstrom of onyx hair, her face in unrelenting focus even as the kohl around her almond eyes seems swept back to a point by the force of the wind and her unfathomable speed. It was an image that, like the best Hindu depictions of Kali, made her ferocity beautiful and her power somehow touching. Even many weeks on, I can see it again perfectly within my mind, with all the detail of a pre-Raphaelite painting. It has been a tremendously heartening gift.

Then, last week, the third sign. I have been contemplating for some time getting a physical rosary on which to pray, rather than simply counting through the repetitions as I have hitherto been doing. On Friday, I found myself teaching at a Catholic school on the last day of their school year, only to discover at the end of the day three rosaries (which had been distributed to students earlier) abandoned on the playground after everyone had gone home. They were not fancy affairs in the least—just simple knotted strings strung with plastic beads—but one was a brilliant red, with a medallion of Our Mother holding what the Catholics call the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” (Her flaming heart pierced by a sword). In Sai Vikhë’s color, and bearing her sacred weapon, I knew straightaway that this had come to me by providence. I returned the other two to the church supply and kept the red rosary, adapting it to Déanic use by trimming off the Crucifix and the other beads below the medallion save one (for reciting the Rosary Prayer before beginning the rosary proper).

I cannot put into words how touched I have been to have my humble efforts thus responded to. Sisters and brothers, take heart to call upon the commander of the hosts of heaven if you have need of her strength or her courage. She is always present with and for us, of course, but her year is such a blessed opportunity to know her and to seek her aid. All of us have demons that we must face, but at this time most of all have faith in the promise of the Scriptures, that “the radiant Janyati of heaven stand ready to defend the soul when she shall cry upon them.” (1 Teachings 11:26)

Vive la Reine!

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14 Maia 160 a.L.

One of the little customs I keep at every feast and festival is to read the Chapel’s article on that particular celebration (which is made easier by following them on Facebook and Twitter, if you haven’t already). For me, this is a kind of substitute for attending a local service (because there isn’t one) and hearing a sermon on the day. As I read the Chapel’s piece on Exaltation, however, I had in mind several recent conversations I have had with others in the community about the importance of building on-the-ground congregations, and so I could not help but read it with the voice of a priestess or a chantress in my head, imagining what it would be like to sit side-by-side with others and hear the words expounded by a knowledgeable teacher. I could not help but imagine, as I looked at the lovely photograph that attends the article, what it would be like on such a bright spring morning, having been thus initiated into the mysteries of the day, to rise from our seats amidst the birdsong and to walk together onto the green outside the dachara* to dance the maypole—hands clasped not only in spirit but in flesh, the spectral symbolism of the ribbons made tangible in silk or linen. It is a dream that I know, both from my own experience and from the conversations that I have had with many of you, can be hard to keep alive in solitude, and yet it is somehow very close to the essence of life itself. And so, on this Exaltation (which is cold and rainy here in Minneapolis), I want to offer to all of you, and to myself, a couple of hopeful reflections.

First, and most important, our Lady is crowned. Time and space and the Pit may all range themselves against us, and it may seem as though our community, small and scattered, is at their mercy, but the truth is that they are in Hers. We may be a long way still from fulfilling Her commission to take the Good Doctrine to our sisters and brothers all over the earth, but She has already brought the saving peace of Her rule to them. Our work in this world is important, but the success of our limited efforts is not the measure of success.

Second, our limited efforts accumulate, and the timeline for their success is long. It is forty-four years since Lux Madriana was founded and the first public efforts were undertaken to bring the faith of our Mother God back to the world. By comparison, this is the equivalent of the Christian year 77, at which time the sect was still too small to merit imperial persecution, with tiny pockets of believers still mostly gathering at synagogues. There was no canonical collection of the Christian Scriptures, and in all likelihood neither the Gospel of John nor the Book of Revelation had even been written yet. Forty-four years after Abraham was called out of Ur, all the Jews in the world were still just the members of his immediate household.

All God’s works have humble beginnings, and it takes long years to grow a mustard seed into a tree. As difficult as it often is to envision the distant fruits of our efforts, I promise you, sisters and brothers, that every blog post we write, every talk we give, every question we respond to from an interested seeker, brings the communities we are seeking closer to manifestation.

Amidst the first humble unfoldings of the leaves, and amidst the splendour of the light of our Lady’s coronation, have patience, dear ones, and have faith.

*In Madrian writings, a dachara is an open-air pavilion with a life-sized image or statue of our Lady at its center, used as the focal-point of public devotions in small towns or villages.

Into Her Divine Hands

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☿ 23 Culverine 160 a.L.

I have gone on record many times as an advocate of the use of fixed, formal liturgy—not to the exclusion of more spontaneous, informal prayer, but as a stable foundation upon which the sudden movements of the heart may erect additional structures. One reason for this is that I feel there is tremendous value in re-visiting the same text regularly and in permitting the mind to probe it with ever new shifts of emphasis and intonation. Even the shortest of prayers is found, after months or years of repetition, to be a cornucopia of meanings and wisdom, in keeping with the sage observation of the apprentice weaver that, “There are two meanings to everything and three meanings to most things…” (TCA 8: 9)

My every day begins with the Madrian Morning Offering, the opening line of which declares: “Celestial Mother, grant me this day that every work I do may be as lovingly and as well-performed as though I were to give it into Your divine hands.” When I began saying this prayer, I read the work as being mine, and Her hands as being its destination. Knowing my own feebleness in many areas, of course, I know that, of myself, I could not make any of my actions as perfect as I would wish them to be in presenting them to Her. Hence, I pray for Her help in making all that I do an offering fit for my Lady. (Of course, our Mother accepts even the homeliest of gifts from Her children; the demand for excellence in them comes from our own hearts out of love.)

This reading seems to me still a perfectly valid one, but as I have repeated the line more I have come to think that there is a second, equally valid interpretation, in which the work is mine to surrender, and Her hands are the superior means. As I recited the words one morning, I thought of Krishna’s teaching in the Bhagavad Gita: “Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, and without desire for gain and free from egoism and lethargy, fight.” (3:30) In this reading, the work becomes loving and well-performed not so much through a gift of grace that enables me to make it so before presenting it to my Lady but because, in presenting the work at its outset to Her for the doing, it becomes lovingly and well-performed as all Her works by nature are. In this reading, I recuse myself as the actor, and instead render myself transparent as the vehicle of Her action, in accord with the words of our own Scripture: “Seek not to conquer kear alone nor cleave alone to Good, but open your heart to Me, and let Me live through you…” (1 Teachings 8:19)

PS: I always prefer, of course, to draw on the indigenous resources of our own spiritual tradition, and so might have turned first to the words of The Secret of the World, yet I found that my first instinct had not been wrong in this case, for only a couple of days after this thought had first struck me, I was reading through an old Madrian text called The Inner Meaning of Chess, and ran across the following intriguing passage: “The same symbolism is implicit … in the legend that Inanna entered the chariot of an Amazon princess to speak with her on the eve of a great battle, a legend whose form and essential teaching have been patriarchalised and largely preserved in the Bhagavad Gita.”