Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ways of Knowing: Advent, Tarot, and the Moon

I feel, so often, that my self is kind of a strange dichotomy. I am in seminary, currently on a path toward Christian ordination. The rhythms of the liturgical year are etched deeply in my soul, and right now it's Advent, the Christian pre-Christmas season of darkness, preparation and waiting. Yet the rhythms of the earth & sky are embedded in me just as deeply, and the Winter Solstice means even more to me spiritually than Christmas does.

I'm pretty sure both of these attachments and longings point toward a mystical core deep inside of me that's been papered over and stepped on and plastered and bricked up by the rationalistic-logical world of patriarchy. But layer by layer, I'm unearthing her. Through connections I've made in seminary and outside of it, in spiritually-oriented women's circles, I've begun to embrace a femme epistemology. Femme is a kind of queer femininity, and epistemology means a way of knowing and learning. It means I am turning to unexpected sources to discover and discern the Voice of the Holy, seeking something authentic and true to my whole self.

One of the paths I've rediscovered on this journey is divination, particularly Tarot cards. I'm not going to go deeply into the why and what of Tarot right now, but suffice to say this is not about fortune-telling, but about tapping into my own inner knowings, dreamings, wonderings. It's about holding up a mirror to my subconscious self, and letting her have a conversation with the rest of me. I've dabbled in Tarot off and on for the past decade, but my experiences in seminary have given me a deeper, richer grounding, and I don't think it's going away this time.

Another piece of femme epistemology I'm becoming reaquainted with is moon cycles. Attending the phase of the moon is one of many ways to be attuned to the natural world, and as I sync myself to its rhythms, I use awareness of each phase as an opportunity to investigate myself, my goals and dreams, my work, my life. At the new moon, I set intentions, and at the full moon, I (try to) release old shit: that which no longer serves.

All of this is to say that this past Sunday, after a wonderful evening in church (with temporary tattoos! Mine were tarot-related, natch, and everyone was super-interested), with the light of the full moon, I turned to Tarot to ground me in myself, to explore who I am this minute, why, and whither. Since I still consider myself quite a novice, I was surprised to find myself "inventing" a tarot spread!

I began preparing for my read with this spread, which I found via google search last month. But as I began shuffling my cards, holding the questions for each position in my mind, I heard the questions change, shifting slightly to encompass other pieces of my spiritual life (Advent!).

After I laid out my cards and read over their "assigned" meanings in my books (yeah, still learning), I found myself with a message for myself that was whole, powerful, and clear. It was stunning, even after months of learning that Tarot does, in fact, help me to hear the voice of the Holy. I knew right away that I would come here and share my spread with you.

May it be a blessing.

My three-card read, using the Wild Unknown Tarot deck, along with my December guiding card (top, from Tarot of the Sacred Feminine) and one that fell out during my shuffle, which I trusted to have something to say that helped shape the tone of everything else in my spread. I definitely recommend the practice of attending to jumping cards!


Advent Full Moon Tarot Spread

This spread is all about perspective.
Lay out three cards any way you like. I used a simple line.

Card 1: Complexify
The full moon can shed light on many things, and usually we eagerly seek illumination. The gifts of the season of Advent, however, come in darkness and stillness. In this full moon, we seek light that dances like fire, reflecting our inner truth but also creating as many shadows as it dispels.

Where might you have too much harshness in your life?
Where have direct, bright lights flattened out your subject, and how might you complexify it?

Illuminate for me, Goddess of Shadow, those places flattened by glaring brightness. Gift me with the complexity and depth of shadow, as well as eyes to see the sparkling of the snow by the light of the moon.

Card 2: Open
The full moon is a time of release, and we usually think of letting go of things. Material goods, projects, sometimes people. During Advent, we remember Miriam, who almost certainly had plans for her life that didn't involve becoming an unwed teenage mother. Yet when the Angel appeared and told her she would be the Mother of Jesus, she released her desire to control every aspect of her life and instead Opened to cooperative work inside the situation that was handed to her.

What are you struggling to keep under your control?
How might you create inner space to allow, to prepare yourself to receive gifts you didn't expect?
What do you need in order to enter into an open relationship of co-creation with the rest of the forces of the Universe?

Create in me a new heart, O Mother of All Things, and fill me with the spirit of Miriam. May I be open and ready to receive all the glorious gifts of this life as I enter into the project of Creation with You.

Card 3: Grace
At the full moon, we may look back at the seeds we planted last season and expect to harvest them. Sometimes we can, but as the "Open" position reminds us, things don't always manifest as we expect, no matter how much control we think we have over the situation. Grace, here, is the possibility for any situation to be transformed into beauty and joy. It is the knowledge that no matter what has happened, wonderful or painful, bountiful or sparse (or any other combination), there is always a path (or several!) forward toward goodness. It may not look the way we expect, it may not be the path we thought we wanted, we may have to make twists and sharp turns, we might even find ourselves back at what feels like a beginning, but all things are new every moment, and Grace is ever-present, in many different possible paths.

Do you feel like you've been waiting forever for something that has not come to be?
Where can you look for the Grace of possibility as you move forward into the darkness?

Spirit of Life and Love, enlarge my vision beyond all expectations. Guide the transformation of my soul and travel this spiral path with me.

Amen, and Blessed Be.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Two Jesuses, a Good Friday reflection

Originally published in the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship's Holy Week email series.

From Matthew 27...
“At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. … 
The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” 
And they said, “Barabbas.” 
Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

Did you know there were two Jesuses facing crucifixion on what has come to be known as Holy or “Good” Friday? Barabbas, a fellow rebel against the Roman powers, appears in all four gospel stories, but only in Matthew 27 do we get the proper name of this man, whom Pilate releases.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament explains that Barabbas means “son of a father.” Christ, or Messiah, is a title meaning “the anointed one” and is used to refer to kings in the Ancient Near East, whose power was consecrated by anointing with oil.

Of course, Jesus Christ wasn’t a king, but the writing above his cross tells us all we need to know. “Jesus, the King of the Jews” is crucified. Jesus, son of a father, so defined by a relationship, is released back to the people.

The gospel of Matthew is dated around 30-40 years after the time of the crucifixion, at a time when the Christ movements were building. The author knew, to a certain degree, how things would turn out. We, then, can imagine this scene as a moment of foreshadowing, wherein Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Christ represent not two distinct humans, but two facets of humanity, two ways of being human, two ways of fighting for justice: with hierarchical power, or relational power.

The death of Christ was a transition moment for his people--a devastating, painful moment. Until the crucifixion, they still imagined the hierarchical power of a king could save them. Only when that power was given over for crucifixion was an opening created for relationship to be realized as the true path to justice. Building relationship within and between sects took decades, took centuries, is still not finished.

And on Good Friday, we don’t know that the work will succeed. Christ is written in the gospels as having full knowledge of the divine plan, but we do not. Still, we must forge ahead. We must hand hierarchical power to the executioner and demand that relationship be set free.

Prayer:

Spirit of Ever-Becoming Life, turn us back toward one another that we may travel toward the cross together. May we who imagine power to be our birthright find the strength to sacrifice our privilege in service of relationship. May those relationships sustain us as a people through the dark nights that follow and provide a new foundation for our collective future. May our children’s children’s children reap the rewards and live the life that was always meant for us. Amen.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Making room

Darling, is there room for me?
Or are you all full up?

Full of pain
Full of sorrow
Full
of regret

The desert is sapping you
wringing you out
Your thoughts pour forth
as you wander
You lament out loud
your sorrows
You sweat and cry
until you're empty

Only now
after you've exhaled
is there space in your lungs
in your heart
for me

For breath
For love
For hope
For life

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Breath work

Sweetheart, breathe
In. In. In. In.
Hold it now

Hold

Hold

Hold

Out now, quickly
Out some more
Get it all out.

Good. Good.
One more time.
Back to the beginning now.
---

When you're ready
Come back here
Quietly return

You'll be ok
We'll be ok
We just have to
keep breathing.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Thirst

Honey, I hear you
praying for rain
But the dry heat
will not relent

Lying prostrate
utterly spent
You stare into the sky
and curse the wind

It answers back:
Who told you
you must wander here?
If you're thirsty
Dig.

Impossible. Unbearable.
But find the hope
that fueled your prayers
Let that drive your action

You scratch at the sand
(until your fingernails tear)
and it begins to give way
to chalk, then clay

The mud
clings to your hands
It is so messy
and you
are so tired

Rest, my love
You've done the work
All that's left is to wait
by this hole
as the water seeps up
and in from the ground
collecting at the bottom
of your little well

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Enough

Darling, it's time now
Understand:
You have enough
You are enough

And you can't do it alone

The desert will be treacherous
You know this, and you're prepared
You've stocked up with critical supplies--

Burn cream, bandages, antiseptic
Your bag is overflowing
and you're still packing
Determined to be able
to handle any wound

Darling,
that's enough.
You have enough.

You can't carry any more.

I've stocked up, too
for the dangerous desert
For hot, dry days
and freezing nights

I have enough water for weeks
My bag is overflowing with food
I've even packed a blanket
that can turn into a tent

But should I be injured
my wounds will fester
I have no bandages, no cream
Despite all this water
I'll die in the desert

I can't make it alone

I need you, darling
And you need me
Bandage me up
and drink of my water

We can do this
Together

Friday, March 3, 2017

Not ashes

Sweetheart, I know
You have been traveling
such a long time

You came through fire to get here
and so there is no going back
But you don't have a map
and all that seems to be ahead
is more terrible desert

Sweetheart, I know
You wonder how you can go on
When you already feel
so scorched and broken

But what you have to understand is
You're not ashes yet

I cannot promise you
there'll be no more burning
But I can tell you
you won't travel alone