July 2010


When my colleague told me about the piercing that happens in a Sundance, all my senses started to tingle. I’m sure some of you picked this up when I described the Sundance ritual. It just shouted at me and I wanted to come back and discuss about the symbolism behind it.

The participants of the Sundance get pierced and hung from a tree. This is a powerful symbol that keeps coming back through the ages. Of particular interest to us is the Crucifixion, but there are also other occurrences in mythology, like the god Odin who was hung from a tree and got his eyes pierced by a bird. There is the hanged man that is featured in every Tarot deck and I am sure there many others. (If you know of others, please write a comment for the benefit of all) Whenever a symbol this powerful keeps coming back, it is well worth taking a look at it to see what the Universe is saying through it.

I was always puzzled by the prominence of the cross in our sanctuaries. Why should a symbol of such violence be so prominent? I always thought that the fish or the Cup and Bread would make a better symbol for our faith. I think the prominence of the cross comes from the early glorification of martyrdom. The life of the early Church was marked by persecution, first by the Jews and then by the Romans. Dying as a martyr became a symbol of being united to Christ in the most ultimate way. So, it makes sense that the cross became such an important symbol.

Let’s go back to the ‘pierced and hanging from a tree’ bit. Jesus could have been killed by any number of ways: lapidated, speared, thrown off a cliff… The act of crucifixion is important. It keeps coming back so there is an important message in this specific symbol.

A couple things come to mind:

First of all, the position on the cross is one of total surrender. The victim cannot crouch and huddle to avoid pain and death. He/she is completely open, chest forward to face what is coming. Then, there is the ‘piercing’ aspect, something goes through the body. It seems to say that to move to the next level of being, you have to face the destruction of the body.  It’s like I mentioned on the last post: You have to face your ultimate fear, the fear of death, head on, willing and in complete surrender. That is how we can transcend our human nature and become divine! How tremendous! If we believe the Christian myth, that is how we are freed from the holds of death. Buddhists teach the same idea: you achieve enlightenment by being unattached to the body and by not fearing death. The difference is that for us, Christians, this teaching comes in the shape of a cross.

I’ve been reflecting on these symbols for many years. When I say that my vision of Christianity has changed since walking the Pagan path, this is a perfect example.Whether the Crucifixion is an historical event or not does not take away from the symbol it carries. The historicity matters less than the symbolic teaching it carries, a teaching that is apparently universal.

I have waited many years to have a discussion with people of like mind. What are your experiences of this great Mystery?

Blessed Esbat everyone!

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I went to a Sundance yesterday afternoon here in the Cree community where I live. It touched me on so many levels that I’m not sure where to start. I invite you to look into the meaning of the Sundance ceremony. I don’t want to explain something that I don’t understand fully. It spans a few days and is composed of different rituals. I was there for only one hour, so I don’t want to go into any deep explanations of the symbolics and of the purpose of the Sundance. I only want to tell the story of what I witnessed there.

I witnessed the most powerful event of healing of my life. I saw a people reconnecting with something deep and forgotten. I saw people exposing their hurt and reclaiming their power. It was a beautiful thing to see.

The way the Sundance was set up was like this: There is a central tree planted in the middle of a circle made of smaller trees. These trees are tied together with branches so as to make a tight circle. Unless you are standing in front of the entrance, you cannot see inside because of the trees and their foliage. There is an outer circle and an inner circle of trees and people stand within this corridor. At the entrance, there are some branches continuously smoking to fumigate the entrance. Whenever people go in and out, they clean their feet by passing them through the smoke. Men are on one side and women are on the other. It made me smile that Natives also use a circle to contain their ritual.

Like I said, the Sundance is composed of many different rituals. What I witnessed was the piercing of three women. What happens is that a woman decides to get pierced to let go of some pain or tragedy or to bear someone’s difficulties in this sacred ceremony (Correct me if I’m wrong here. That’s the way it was explained to me.) So, the woman gets pierced with small pieces of wood over the shoulders. The pieces of wood are then tied to ribbons that are attached to the central tree. While this is happening, people around are drumming and whistling and dancing and they raise their hands to the tree. It was such an amazing thing for me to see. I knew a few of the people there. I am so used to seeing them in mundane tasks at work that to see them here, dancing and raising their hands to the tree was a true revelation. They became powerful, they were connecting themselves to something so great and rich that the little people that they are in their daily lives was but a shadow. As I witnessed this, something spoke straight to my heart. It said: I am pagan. Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew this to be true with my whole being. No matter how much I am attached to my Christian tradition, it was so clear that I believed in what was happening in front of me. I believed in reaching deep within and finding you power and raising you hands to the sky and being filled to the brim with what came from it. I believe that with all my being.

Then I listened to these women sobbing and holding on to the tree once it was over. Sobbing in pain, but I think also in liberation. They had walked right up to the pain and had looked fear straight in the eye and had not wavered. Pain is a big heritage in Native communities. So the pain that these women feel is very real and it is often a daily occurrence. To face up to that and show to the world that they will be victims no more, is the mark of the true warrior. Only a ritual of this magnitude can truly bring you that close.

In the car on the way back, another revelation filled my mind. I thought about these women who stood up and faced their fears without flinching. Something inside me said: Be that person. It became clear that the best person to teach me that was Jesus. He was the one who did that best, looking to the fear and walking straight into it with complete surrender. In my experience of this world, he is the one that can best show me to be that person.
Please, a side note: As I was listening to the stories of the women that were getting pierced, I got very angry because I felt that the root of all the hurt these people were facing was indeed Christianity. I got angry at the hypocrisy of the Church. I got angry at myself for not having the will to walk away from it. So, to bring Jesus back into this at this point of the story makes it sound like everyone should turn to Jesus to be saved. It is not my view at all! Following Jesus feels familiar to me, much as someone else will follow Eagle or Gaia. For me, he personifies this lesson that I want to learn, his person and his example do that, not the man-made doctrine that we are told to follow. Him. That’s all. I hope this point is clear to everyone.

So, the two lessons I took home were that I am pagan more than anything and that my best guide to find my personal power was where I had always found it: in my lord Jesus.

I’m sure that all you Christian pagans out there have picked up some very important pieces of symbology in the rituals outlined above…. Well, this post is long enough and a little suspense never hurt anyone. So, I’ll be back for a little Christian mythology very soon.

I’ve been promising to write about magic and prayer for a few days now. Well, here it is.

Someone asked me in an email what is my take on the relationship between Magic and Prayer. Well, Magic is like praying in another language.

When you pray, you use words to convey your need of the moment, or to explain what is happening to you or to offer praise and worship to the Divine. When you use Magic and ritual, you use words, but you also use a whole array of symbolic language that transcends the thinking part of the brain that is used during speech. You use gestures, movements, symbolic objects, pictograms, gemstones, incense, herbs… You create an event, instead of just relaying information through words. You bypass all that logical stuff and dig down into the core of what it means to be human. We have had this faculty of creativity long before we had coherent speech. Whereas language differs between regions, symbolic representation is universal. Anyone who speaks more than one language will agree that there is always one language that expresses certain ideas better than another. That is because language is not always that precise and this is especially true when you get to concepts relating to the Divine. But the symbols we choose during magic relay all that information. When I choose to place a stone in my north quarter to represent the earth element, it says something different than if I place a plant. No words can really describe that difference as well as those symbols can. And yet, you all see that the difference is substantial. So multiply that by every possible combination of symbols you could choose and you get a system that is infinitely more precise than any language. What’s more, it is also intuitive and creative in the most fundamental of ways. When Jesus said that we are all sons of God, I believe that that is what he meant. We all have this ability to create and summon from the Source of Life. We only need to develop the ‘language’ to do it.

It takes years of practice to develop this sense of ‘talking’ symbolically and to tap into the well of our own symbolic mythology. We all have symbols that speak to us. Some of us talk ‘tree’. Others talk ‘animal’. Others prefer to talk in pictograms or by gestures or by sounds. Of course, we always end up mixing all these up, but it is the task of the Witch to delve into her symbol back pack and pull out the symbols that fit her in this particular moment, for this particular need. It is the mark of a true Witch to be able to depict what her need looks/feels like, rather than just saying it bluntly with words.

I hope that I am conveying what an art weaving Magic truly is. It is not just about putting objects on an altar. It is about taking the souls of those representations and molding them into a brand new creation. Your creation, a creation that no one else has ever created or ever will. The infinity of that potential is as great as the Great Source itself.

As you may have read on a recent comment, my life as an author, mother of two small kids and aspiring blogger is quite hectic. One of my friends had once named me ‘The one who refuses to be bored’, so I’m not complaining about the busy schedule. Can you really complain when your life overflows with blessings?

But, I thought that this time, I would let you guys do the writing. I got a question by email about magical names.

Do Christian Witches have special names like some Pagans do?

Well, I cannot talk on behalf of Christian Witches the world over. I can say that I do have a craft name that I use sometimes in specific circumstances. I also have a sacred name that I use when interacting with the Divine. No one knows this name. Both these names were revealed to me as I walked through my sacred space, asking my guides to whisper my name in my ear. I decided to use my birth name mostly because it is the name of my grandmother and I feel that there is this strong ancestral link in it, a reference to matriarchy that I want to preserve. So, you will not see people call me by another name than Adelina, although I do have names that I use from time to time, when I need to tap into that special power associated with the name.

So now you do the writing. Do Christian Witches have special names? Do you use a special name? If you would like to share it, please feel welcome to. If not, just let us know if you do and maybe how you found out what it is.

Merry blessings!

Adelina

We went walking on the side of the Great River (La Grande) that gives its name to the little community where we live. The temperature had dropped suddenly to 10 degrees and the fog was rising off the water like a scene from a dream. I held the little hand of my son in my left hand and the hand of my daughter in my right. We walked up the hill that overlooked the river and I had the sudden vision of walking in the heart of a great hall.

I felt the warmth of their little hands and something whispered in my head:

This is the gift that She gave me.

 

She…

I looked around and wondered who ‘She’ was.

Was it the great river, flowing steadily forward for millennia, unstoppable and majestic?

Was it the land of the Cree, where we had become parents and where we were living the greatest adventure of our lives?

Was it the grandness of nature that surrounded us so completely?

Was it the Great Goddess, fertile and of abundant?

Was it the Great Source from which all blessings flows?

Looking out at the grandness of nature, surrounded by my greatest treasures, it was clear that all those things were wrapped up into that little word.

She…

The one who nurtures, the one who soothes, who defends and protects and gives beyond measure.

The one who envelops you with a grandness that you can hardly bear and shows you, how to connect with everything there is to become more than you have ever imagined.

She, the wind in your hair and the smell of the times, the water flowing through your veins and through the world in a slow pulsing rhythm.

She who loves and gives back to her children the lessons they need to learn if they sit to listen.

What blessing to live in her presence.

I was planning to write a little something about magic and prayer. But then, I read a comment about the book on amazon.com and I thought I should write a little something about that. First of all, there was a beautiful comment quoting the book as groundbreaking work. Thank you very much to the author of the comment. Then there was a comment entitled ‘Delusional!’ Great! Then I found another book review with some stark criticism of Christian Witchcraft. You can check it out for yourself right here: http://groups.google.com/group/alt.religion.wicca/browse_thread/thread/cf0b3600cdf1076f The author does show respect for the need to find balance within a spiritual path, no matter what that path may be. The criticism of Christian Witchcraft is quite harsh nonetheless.

I was debating whether to post comments. I haven’t at this point. I’m a fervent supporter of freedom of expression. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. And I am not personally hurt by this. I know who I am and I know that I am not alone. The beautiful emails that I am receiving are a testimony to that. Still, it is the first time that I get negative remarks regarding my spiritual path. It was inevitable, I guess.

I knew that the book would spark controversy. Somehow, I was prepared to face the wrath of the Christian front. Well, it appears that it is the Pagan side that has reacted first and that vehemently opposes the merging of anything Christian with Witchcraft. Most probably, news of the book’s publication has not reached the ears of Christian fundamentalists yet. But, the criticism is not so much about the book as about the whole concept of Christian Witchcraft as a valid spiritual path.

I don’t want to put a negative spin on the whole adventure that is the coming out of the book. I think that for many, it is a sort of homecoming and nothing should dampen that. I just thought that this might be an opportunity to share the reality of what it means to be practicing a spiritual path that may be criticized by both Pagans and Christians. Like I said before, it has never really happened to me. I have felt nothing but respect from the people around me, even if they disagreed with my practice.

So, I want to hear from you readers, whether on the critiquing side or not. Do you face open criticism or discrimination? Do you think the place where you live has an impact on the way you are received by others? Do you find that people are generally respectful or not?

Thanks for sharing. I’ll come back to magic and prayer very soon, because living our path is what matters most, no matter what that path may be! BB