Monthly Archives: May 2007

Musings on Vocation

Nexus Cordis As a teacher and student, I like to start my explorations into a topic by defining my terms and looking into the origins of key words. I won a season of Lincoln-Douglas debates on my defining “revolution” to exclude the American Revolution, thereby not allowing my opponents to justifying their arguments using that war. Mean? Yes, but high-school forensics is a take-no-prisoners sport (of a type I no longer engage in).

I do not fully intellectually grasp a concept until I have contemplated the language we use to communicate that concept to one another. Writers use words with assumed meanings and connotations, and subtly manipulate words to sway their readers. Discerning readers can deconstruct a writer’s usage of certain words to gain insight into the writer’s biases. As an exhibits editor, I have to bring this word play to conscious awareness and examine the impact of individual words on our museum visitors’ comprehension. Add to that fun mix the fact that, in normal conversation, we tend to use words in idiosyncratic ways – each of us meaning slightly different things but using the exact same words – paving the way for so much misunderstanding and fighting.

So, it should come as no surprise that I would start my annual project for Reflections Mystery School by reviewing the key term of the paper: vocation.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, vocation refers to a regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified; or an inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling.

Of course, I just had to go over to the thesaurus and take a peek. In addition to duty, lifework, and mission, I could say that my vocation is my bag, baby. It’s what I do. It’s my thing. Of course these are all informal or slang uses. But if you say it with an Austin Powers emphasis…. OK, maybe it’s only funny in my head.

Now, what I find more interesting is that one of the antonyms for vocation was fun. Hmmm…not fun. I can definitely understand that. What brought me to begin walking my path consciously was clinical depression and a crisis of faith. Life itself tasted like ashes in my mouth, and I felt completely alienated from the divine connection I had previously experienced. After a year of secular therapy, I had the clarity to decide to start working on myself spiritually. While I have grown and learned so much, and had periods of great joy, and much humor with those with whom I travel, the work itself – not so much fun. But I look forward to the work. I am finding more joy in embracing the wonder in freshly exploring new realms and in wielding my skills and expressing my talents. So, that is fun.

From Etymology Online, the word vocation used to describe a “spiritual calling” comes from the Latin vocationem (literally “a calling”) from vocare “to call.” Call has its roots in Old Norse kalla “to cry loudly” and the Proto-Indo-European base *gal- “to call, scream, shriek.”

Which leads me to wonder who is calling whom? Is the Divine (in their myriad manifestations) calling to me and hoping that I will hear and act? Am I am wandering in the wilderness shrieking out in the hope that the Divine will respond? Are we calling to each other in our own languages, reaching out to embrace each other in life and love? These are questions I will sit with for a while without jumping to conclusions.

Taking a page from Jeff Lilly’s blog Druid Word of the Day. I wanted to look at vocation’s phonosemantics: how the sounds of the word contribute to its meaning in subtle ways.

So, taking bits and pieces from many of Jeff’s entries and with apologies if I mess this up…

The “v” may indicate a vibrating energetic boundary, which is grounded by the long “o”. The hard “k” sound acts as a container that is expanded and extended by the long “a”. The encompassing, living energy of God Herself (in the sense that Thorn uses the term to refer to “The Limitless”), moves down the Tree toward our physical realm, while the container that is the human heart and spirit reaches upward to the other realms and is expanded in the process.

The “sh” sound where they meet is a border, a moment in time and space where there is strong turbulence before the energy is released into thought by the short “u” toward the noble goal of “n”. Actively seeking conscious connection with God Herself, whether I am making or answering the call, brings me to my personal edge of the Abyss. When I make that leap of faith beyond my rational human senses, the energy of manifesting is released toward the noble goal of living my life fully.

Wow! I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up with this entry when I started. I think I need a cigarette…oh wait, I don’t smoke.

[tags]vocation[/tags]

Honoring our Ancestors

Yesterday, I took off work from my government job to trek across town and join a small crowd of 25 people who gathered at Arlington Cemetery to dedicate the new headstone of Abe and Rosemary Kooiman. The day was perfect — warm and sunny with a cool breeze. Many of us knew one another through our work in the community with Rosemary over the years. We hugged and kissed. Some of us took our shoes off to walk in the grass as we approached the circle that naturally formed around the headstone.

Kooiman dedication ceremony

Abe and Rosemary’s daughter, Kathleen (in purple), led the simple ceremony. People stepped forward to speak about how proud they were to know the Kooimans who had done so much for so many over the years. Representatives from Circle Sanctuary, the Military Pagan Network, and the Sacred Well Congregation spoke about the ten-year fight with the Veterans Administration to get the pentacle on the headstones.

Kathleen checks the time

I learned that Abe, being a WWII vet, is the eldest recipient of the pentacle, and Abe and Rosemary are the only couple. There is another pentacle headstone to be installed at Arlington in about a week or two — but I didn’t catch the name of the person who it commemorates.

I didn’t know Abe at all really. By the time I met the Kooimans, he always seemed to me to be more of a silent partner to Rosemary’s very fiery character. Quiet and solid was my impression of him, although from what folks said yesterday he had a wicked sense of humor. Rosemary supported me as a young priestess, even though I was not of her tradition. Her words, her presence, and her actions gave me that extra boost of confidence to keep doing what my heart told me was right. She once said to me about being a priestess: “If you’re doing the work, claim the title,” and “don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do the work because you already are doing it.”

The first official pentacle at Arlington

May I inspire and support the next generations as Rosemary inspired and supported me. Never have I seen a pentacle look as beautiful.

[tags]Arlington Cemetery, pentacle, community, Rosemary Kooiman[/tags]

Wrestling with Magic

“Yes, I create magic,” I told the teenagers in the Comparative Religions class I talked to on Monday. I really didn’t want that question to come up, but the teacher asked me. I tried, but plainly faltered. No one who never experienced some type of magic will ever be convinced by me that it exists.

I hate talking about magic, especially with people who have no experience with it. I have never been that good at wrapping words around what, for me, has always been a visual, kinetic, and visceral experience. Magic is a part of the Mystery, over which words slip and slide, but can find no firm purchase — one of the reasons I have never “taught magic.”

Many people completely misunderstand the concept of magic. For years, I thought of magic as something separate from my daily life, separate from my spiritual practice — something you did in a set way, something you only did in circle. I was (and am) uncomfortable calling myself a witch. It seemed to have the wrong focus for me and to set the wrong expectations in others — at least expectations that I did not want to deal with. The word “pagan” has its own set of connotations, but those I could talk about without problem. I have even said, “Oh, I don’t do magic, but I know others who do.”

But in reality, I do magic all the time. I see magic. I feel magic. I pull magic from the world around me and set it in motion. When I see the trees shimmering in spring, that is magic. When the birds sing to my heart, that is magic. Or at least, when I give meaning to those experiences and use them to guide my life, that is magic. I have been relearning what magic means in my life and how to experience the natural flows of that energy through my connections with others and the world around me.

At Beltane this year, a small group of us gathered to embody the elemental forces of creation and weave the magic of creation and manifestation through dance and song. As the Center, my role was to hold the container for the magic to happen. I initially moved around the perimeter of the dance as being in the physical center might end up with me wrapped in May ribbons. But once the dance started, I quickly noticed that the pole was pulled this way and that, and was in danger of being toppled. So, I moved to the center and held the pole up while the forces of nature danced and pulled and whirled around me. In my hands, I could feel the push and pull of these forces bend and shake the pole. As the center, it was my job to hold the intent, to wield the strength to keep one element from taking over or moving us from center. And I laughed. The Center is the Witch, who directs the elemental forces of this world toward a purpose. This is why your Will must be strong — all the different forces are doing their own thing and could easily pull the entire working away from your intent.

I told the kids on Monday that magic was an active form of prayer in which you are co-creating reality with the Gods. That sounds so easy, but at Beltane, I got a taste of what that really means. I wrestled with magic. And perhaps, I am ready to begin teaching people some of my moves.

[tags]magic, witch, Beltane[/tags]

Connections and Inspiration

I went to Arizona last fall for a combo vacation/elopement/honeymoon. We traveled to Phoenix, Tuscon, and Sedona, but my favorite stop (besides getting married or hiking up Bell Rock) was the little Mexican import store Suenos, where I danced with glee at finding inexpensive Day of the Dead statues. I decided to buy some Loteria cards. The images and colors struck me as being potentially useful for future collages and such.

Old Mermaid Sanctuary

I showed the Loteria cards to my dear friend Ryni. Upon seeing the card of the mermaid, titled Sirena, she told me that her father used to call her that. So, I decide to create a shrine for her using that image as a central element. Ryni and I also have a strong bond to water, so a mermaid/water shrine seemed a natural fit.

Soon thereafter, I stumbled upon Kim Antieau‘s web site through Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaia Tarot Artist’s Journal and read all about the Church of the Old Mermaids. I was entranced, and immediately went to Ryni (who as of yet does not have a blog!), to tell her about the Old Mermaids — they were right up her alley. But she had beaten me to the punch, having learned about them and their sanctuaries through her own hyperlinked travels.

Old Mermaid Sanctuary

It seems a foregone conclusion that the shrine morph into a Old Mermaid Sanctuary. The interior of the box came together swiftly. When I saw the original of the image I used for the exterior, I immediately saw a mermaid rather than a girl on her tiptoes. But the first iteration of the exterior did not come together at all. There was something wrong with it.

Playing on the Internet at work one day, I came across a map with the words “Arroyo de Agua.” Yes!!! Use maps as the background!!! I looked for map sources that would fit with the split between the Old Sea and the New Desert.

Old Mermaid Sanctuary

This Old Mermaid Sanctuary now lives at my friend’s house. Every new moon, she reaches into the box and pulls out a curled scrap of paper. Each holds a suggestion from the Old Mermaids.

I love it when the labyrinth of life leads me to such beauty. Thank you, all you wonderful, talented people who inspire me.

[tags]artwork, digital collage, church of old mermaids, mermaid sanctuary, Kim Antieau[/tags]