About That True Cross?

This blog’s sub-title is a warning about taking care what you worship.  While I did some weekend grocery shopping this weekend, a chatty man in line in front of us kept talking to me about the stack of sweets he was buying “for Fellowship tomorrow morning”.  He meant Sunday, of course.  I was a bit mystified why he was so cheerily companionably chatty to me – a perfect stranger.  Walking past the jewelry counter on my way out, I caught my own reflection – ah, it was a “failure of attention to detail” I think.  I was wearing a silver necklace from a dear friend in Ireland.

2016-11-19-0001It was made for me by a silversmith there in the “olde country” of Ireland.  A place that knows lots about crosses, crucifixes, and women.  I wear this necklace because as near as I can tell about years of studying, observing, or trying to practice, (and finally running away from at all possible speed) the only ones I can tell you for sure get crucified practically daily ARE women.

If being a Christian means following Christ, some logical constructs would say that means following him to the cross?  Most women’s lives would make them Christian as all get out by that definition.  They suffer, they self-sacrifice, they bear the load for sinning men ALL the time.  I cannot be Christian, I never “found” Jesus.  I found Marian Catholicism and the idea of a nigh divine Female was what lit the candles in my brain.

Soon we will be inundated by stories of Mary’s “submission” to the Divine.  We will be told how perfect she was doing so.  To me, that part of the story always sounded like an abuse of power — I mean, for pity’s sake, even in the old ancient pantheon tales — everyone knew girls who told gods “No” didn’t fare very well.   Women have been being told to submit to presumably more holy dicks <snerk> ever since.  If the “only” divinity still “standing” is male, “Hey Girlie,” you better be f’ing submissive or else.

Women are already being given plenty of messages about how submissive they need to be or else in Trump’s America.  A woman in a headscarf for health reasons, not religion, has her car vandalized in a national park.  No, the misogynistic bigots are not emboldened at all by the election of someone who likely thinks the height of charm is groping you in the elevator.  Every woman in America should wear a headscarf.  There should be a day or a week picked — and every woman should wear a headscarf.  Or maybe it should be utterly random?  What if every American woman just picked two or three days of the month to wear a headscarf?  Would it confuse the bigots, the idiots?  I know pagan women of some goddess-centric traditions who both scarf and veil.  I often wrap my head and neck in one of many scarves I own because of my cold-plagued touchy fused vertibrae.  How long before some jerk tries to put me on his personal cross for doing so?

Well, hey, I’ve got the necklace for that.  And some pointy boots I know how to use.

 

 

The Descent/Ascent of Innana? Part One

Vertical Roses 1It is a popular myth – the Descent of Innana.  It has been interpreted again and again.  I’ve read the story, I’ve read the interpretations, I’ve even read some rather artful re-writes (like Vellum and Ink) of this tale.  They all intrigued and troubled me, like something quivering in my memory and consciousness and not ready to be born yet.  Innana, a goddess of love and sex and beauty, descends into the Underworld ruled by her sister.  She goes through seven gates (note the seven roses  to the left), sacrificing more of her power and self until she is hung (up to dry?) like a corpse.  She is rescued by loyal retainers, in the end — those she entrusted sufficiently.  She sacrifices her husband Damuzi to be freed from the land of the dead.

This myth and that picture have possessed me equally for the last five years.   Innana went to the land of the dead to increase her power.  She did not go, like Orpheus – to recover a lost love.  She was not the first deity “hung up” either – Odin hung nine days upon a tree for wisdom and the magic of runes.  She had the foresight to arrange her own retrieval.  Rank as a goddess has its privileges?

I’ve come to think, now that youth has fled and lonely sleepless nights without crying children no longer distract me, that all women do so descend.  We begin, perhaps goddess-like and yes, putting on mascara/heels/mini-skirts that say “Come, Men, come!”  Or for some of us, “Come, Women, come.”  We begin with a sense of power, a red of the “come and fuck me” variety that is so sure of itself, like that first glorious rose, with blood-hued thorns to back our game!  We take our first (high heeled?) step into love.  We are bold, we believe in our power and invincibility?  We never imagine love demands a sacrifice.

When does that vivid blossom that is “us”, “you”, or “me” first begin to fade?  With a few rejections under our belts?  Or a rape?  Or the rabid reaction of a rejected suitor?  I was tough, I went through a half dozen emotional/sexual entanglements and an abortion without losing a “crown” or a jewel of my self-confidence.  I married a man who plainly stated a month prior that I was not good enough for him — he had a bad case of “the perfect woman” going.  I was woman and ready to roar, sure I would win him over.

And I did.  But.  There is always a but, and that began to bleed the color from my petals.  Married, soon accidentally pregnant – we joked that I got knocked up from a hot look.  As rapidly not pregnant, again by accident — by “miscarriage’, the medical “spontaneous abortion” that meant any plans to have a family might not be as simple as choosing the proper time.  I was told to reproduce while young or risk never succeeding.  I didn’t want children yet, but my husband did. I didn’t want children at all, the world didn’t look fit for people I would love in excess of my own well-being.  But my timetable of if and/or when vanished into urgency.  Coral is a nice color, even if not red, right?

So, children — two in rapid succession.  My plans for a military career hit the rocks.  I had a supervisor who made my life hell, trying to force me out as he felt pregnant (or even married) women had no place in “his” Army.  We women were there for the fucking: married and pregnant chicks were not wanted!  The Army had a lot invested in my linguist/analyst self.  I had a lot invested in my analyst self!  I fought, I won — my supervisor was given the Army equal of a restraining order.

But I was exhausted and the Army itself bleached my dreams next.  They demanded a “parenting plan”… this was a new thing telling me we had to be ready to send our tender progeny to others so both of us simultaneously could be sent to dangerous places.  Neither of us liked our parents.  We didn’t like how we were raised.  I extended my first tour of duty, casting about for solutions or a change of military occupational specialty that might save me.

Every door that would be a solution slammed in my face.  So, they will save a parent’s last son from battle death — but will not consider saving even one of a child’s parents?  I felt so betrayed.  I felt sure if the Women’s Army Corps had not been disbanded and handed to the Regular Army like a gift wrapped present, this never would have been what happened to my career.  My husband was older and had more rank and time in grade.  I left the military and found myself blush pink with dismay at my sudden financial dependency.

The pink faded fast, into ashes of roses in rain.  In “dependent quarters” with other wives for neighbors, I was a bit of a pariah — being a former female soldier, I was told I was “that whore our husbands fuck.”  So much for female solidarity.  I took jobs.  I worked at post libraries, I was a newspaper editor.  An unexpected third pregnancy ended that job, as my fragile (now) middle child came apart on the baby’s birth.  She stole, she lied, she went full-on Electra on her baffled father, she tried to kill her infant brother.  In the newspaper I wrote an article asking why child care workers were paid so poorly.  I was told by the publisher to retract the article. I refused and was told it would not be published, I quit and went home to tend my aching breasts, my troubled daughter, and my delightful surprise baby.  I was not the frightened new mother, I was almost ready to think that life in black and white was better than those splashy colors.  Because motherhood was so much more fun this time, not juggling jobs and other things.

But I really feared the color of hope had bled out of my life when I attempted to use my GI Bill — I had to hurry by the time I got my kids in school.  The Viet Nam Era version said you had ten years after the end term of service.  I had barely three years left to get my Batchelor’s degree.  I applied credits for Army language school, and for EMT training and odd classes grabbed here and there.  I got my Associates degree in one year, “challenging” classes like mad — paying and taking the final for winner take all grades.

But then my husband left the military.  Civilian life was a real shock to his PTSD’d self.  We suddenly needed two really good cars, he needed thou$ands in suits, ties, and civilian shoes.  My daughter was having her school call me several times a day; she would pee her pants rather than stay in school.  Counselors refused to believe there was a problem, we were good parents they said – it would wear off.  But the phone kept ringing.

I rebelliously and resolvedly bought my 22 books for my first semester at Evergreen State University.  I attended my first week of classes.  One of my professors, during an “uptake” interview, after discussing my military time, told me what a “sexy image” it was to think of me leaving the firing range to breast-feed my first son on my lunch break.  I was appalled.  Then they said every other week, there would be no class — that was for research and homework.  In places like libraries in San Francisco.  

My good gods.  Who the hell did they think their students were?  I could barely cover tuition and books with my GI Bill, it had no stipends then.  Childcare came out of a shrunken household budget from my husband’s check.  I got a part time job.  I did volunteer work on weekends.  I was definitely white with exhaustion from ‘having it all’.  And I was in the ER with angina three times in one week.  The doctor signed my “let her go before she dies” order.  The school gave back the GI Bill money so Uncle Sam wouldn’t come after my impoverished, ventricular tachycardia-ing self.  I went home, again.

I had a nervous break-down; my world turned black.  I got up in the morning and made lunches and put kids on buses.  I laid back down in my bed and stared at the ceiling all day long.  I wept.  I would never have a college degree.  I would be financially dependent on a man.  I was ashamed.  I got up  and made dinner on auto-pilot and went back to bed.  My husband didn’t seem to notice.  My kids thought running riot was great.  It took me six months to ascend to the ‘new normal’.  I became functional, but the only red in my life was occasional flashes of fury and rage.  I dressed in black for the consistency.

We remodeled the house.  A ladder broke under me as I worked, dropping me and blowing four of my seven cervical disks out of place in my spine and breaking a rib.  My doctor told me my “rib wasn’t broke, silly girl, and that neck pain is ’cause you carry to much tension in your neck.”  I argued for three years, only after finishing the house job.  My rib would snap and re-break, making me run to the bathroom to vomit in pain and nausea.  But we finished, it was lovely.  It was six months before my exhaustion and depression lifted enough to notice the improvements all actually worked.

I had two spinal surgeries to fuse my neck so I could keep use of my left arm and hand.  I fired my doctor and did without one for about ten years.  I tried a female doctor.  She told me I was “obese” because I weighed 15 pounds more than I did at age 20 when I joined the Army.  Everything, she said, was my own fault for being “an obese American.”  I told her off and left her office.  It was five more years before I sought medical care again.

In the meanwhile, my husband’s PTSD was devouring him.  In 2011 it erupted like the Minoan island of Thera — swamping every bit of our life in hot ashes and tidal waves of emotional chaos.

How much could I keep sacrificing on love’s altar?  Me, the “polydeist pagan” who never even thought about Aphrodite — or Innana?  I was Athena’s and Hekate’s and wanting to run in the woods like Artemis.  What did I believe?  I believed in humanity.  I was a feminist, but not one that would throw a wounded man under the bus for my own pleasure and peace.

So, I retreated, alas not gracefully, to a smaller building on our property.  I barricaded my battered black heart (of innocence?) if not my door.  My husband, who had wanted to be “free as at 18” was shattered by my decamping.  (Note: at 18 he was on his way to Viet Nam with a death wish, scarcely “free.”)  He had a habit of asking for one thing, but inarticulately wanting something completely different.  But I wasn’t concerned with what he wanted, just then.  I was in trouble.  I wanted to run and far and fast.  And there was no place to go.

I was an analyst.  So I analyzed my situation.  I woke in the morning, fed and freed the pet ferrets, who loved the new digs with no doors – just one big crazy room.  I drank coffee, I read.  I stayed up all night and ate midnight mac and cheese.  I ritually burned copies of my marriage certificate.  I sold my wedding bands and bought black leather boots.  I cried.  I laughed.  I shouted and threw things.  I did arts and crafts to send to friends.  I did Netflix binges lasting weeks.  I practiced magical arts.  I let the gardens die, except the roses.

And my back hurt.  Yes, definitely feeling that meat hook through the spine between my shoulders.  I passed, naive and honest, through gates of loss – leaving my own blood on every thorn along the way.  I forgot to tell anyone to come save me.  I am not a goddess, damn it.  A bit more like Odin — I was hanging and nobody else was coming for taking me down.

Part Two of this “entirely too much information” post soon.  But yes, this “Innana” WILL ascend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Month – Fourteen – Steeplechase Part 2

(This is taking longer than I thought….)

maenad

Steeplechase – Part Two

Running away where does one turn?

Does it matter if Jesus did live and die?

Another godling of promise or accrused demigod?

Like Horus, Hercules or Dionysus?

Or humane messenger like the Buddha,

Speaking of freedom and love like fair Krishna?

Every love and blood-drenched effort foiled,

Message lost, seduced by power and greed?

 

Into history’s sheltered darkness I fled,

Apostate, heretic, tear-stained seeker,

Solitary yet never quite alone in the night,

Philosophy was my truest companion,

Lighting my way while illuming abattoirs

Of “faith” to un-school my naive heart,

The warmth grew behind my eyes,

Seemingly an invisible hand pushed me onwards.

 

I sought what went before the Angry Father,

Or any “one true god” to find the idols,

To dust off the Divine Feminine, She

Shrouded in time like an Afghan child-bride,

I traced the softness that became Mary,

Rediscovered fierceness guarded by lionesses,

Reveled like a maenad with bloodied lips,

Killing, in my dreams, both men and monsters!

 

Restored to myself and crowned with power,

I danced sword in hand, hair rising!

To a new pinnacle I rose to look about me,

My heart breaking, bleeding at the sight —

Women degraded into forging their own chains,

Upholding the “faith” that enslaves all?

Promised pie in the sky to hide the hell that is now?

God their Father made the Father of Lies!

(More, hopefully an end — tomorrow!)

 

Poetry Month – Six

broken goddessesLet’s set aside haiku for the day, shall we? I am in personal turmoil of late and the public life of my country makes me writhe. So a poem is one I wrote over two years ago  (and may have published before on Experiential Pagan or Herlander Walking) – a rather incoherent charging rant—but the pain seems new again.

 

Broken Goddesses

Roadside by a field in France – a photograph,

Mary listing, halo shattered by artillery,

An American billboard a century later,

Woman’s face defaced – paint spattered,

In Afghanistan, any time at all it seems,

Women effaced in shrouds of blue.

Seattle, New York in fevered beds – cold bodies!

Women, dead with a needle in the arms,

Umbrellas in the rain – painted signs running wet,

Abortion clinics , fewer and fewer and Death waits,

Ferocity once abated seems to reign anew:

Women face a beat-down, a beat-back, a back-hand!

 

And oh — the tiny turquoise bits, carven frozen dance!

Broken armed by a clumsy jeweler –

Flawed, flawed.

Did we ever dance so free to cymbals and drum?

Was it all stories before an unnamed fall –

Fallen, fallen.

Did we never bear each other in our arms, on our breasts?

Sisterhood lost in “brotherhood” to Big Brother –

Bigger, Bigger.

How did it get so fractured, this shared humanity?

That men win most when women lose all –

Counters, counters.

In a game of going broke, all in for the Loss,

Twas not Lucifer thrown from heaven, but –

Goddesses, goddesses!

Half the face of humanity shattered – Divinity drained,

Climb back the Stair!

Take back the Chair!

Enthrone, enthone!