The God as Superhero, Part III

Continued from previous post…

Ganesha is my copilot.

Ganesh as co-pilot
As you can see, I don’t drive anywhere without him.
.
And yet, I know very little about Hinduism and its pantheon. Decades ago, when I first came across Ganesha, he was, indeed, a very foreign critter to me. A close friend of mine got his PhD in Medieval Indian history, speaks fluent Hindi, and definitely knows his Vedas from his Upanishads. He convinced me that Ganesha would be a good god to pay attention to since he’s the remover of obstacles, the god of wisdom and knowledge, and facilitator of all new ventures–whether it’s a short trip to the store, the start of a new creative project, or a business agreement. OK fine, I thought. But I wasn’t what you’d call a devotee. Demeter and the rest of the Mt. Olympus gang were all the deities I figured I needed. But there was something totally sweet and engaging about the fat, elephant headed god. He appealed to my sense of whimsy. And so, when someone gave me a Ganesha decal, I stuck it on the rear passenger side window of my blue station wagon. I am a careful driver, but the roads are crazy and I need all the help I can get.

Little did I know what a powerhouse that cute little deity actually was.

Ganesha is the son of Pravati, the mother goddess of love, fertility and devotion and Shiva, god of destruction and regeneration. His brother is Kartikeya, leader of the celestial armies. Outside of Quan Yin, Ganesha is probably the most popular pagan deity in the world. His devotees range from hundreds of thousands of traditional Hindus*, Jaines, and Bhudists to a vast number of garden variety American spiritual seekers. His image is everywhere.

Ganesha

And there are tons of stories about him. As with any deity of any pantheon, even the ones about the same event vary drastically from place to place; and India is a huge country and people everywhere love to make a good story even better. My favorite story is about how he got his elephant head. I have several friends who are yogis and they all tell a different one. This is the version I tell:

Once upon a time Shiva went on one of his a long retreats, leaving Parvati home alone. One day, before she took a bath, she rubbed her body with turmeric (some say sandalwood) paste. As she reGaneshlaxed and waited for it to dry, she scraped some of it from her body and formed it into the image of a small boy. The Goddess breathed life into him and told him to guard her bath from intruders. Unfortunately, Shiva arrived while Parvati was still bathing and demanded that the boy step aside so he could greet his wife. The boy, unwilling to go against his creator’s orders, bravely stood his ground against the mighty god of destruction. Shiva, of course, lost his temper and lopped off the boy’s head. When Parvati emerged from the bath she was furious. “That was our son!” she said. “Fix him.” A contrite Shiva ordered his gana (close followers) to go out and bring him the head of the first being they found that was asleep and facing north. They returned with an elephant head and Shiva, god of regeneration, attached it to the boy and named the elephant headed being Ganapati (leader of Shiva’s followers) or Ganesha. And everyone was happy.

 

Ganesha’s elephant head reminds us of his wisdom and strength. My favorite images of him show him dancing and he always has sweets—Ganesha loves sweets, especially chocolate. He has only one tusk and there are a variety of stories explaining why. If you look closely at my dashboard Ganesha you will see that he doesn’t have any tusks. This is because he got knocked onto the floor and his one remaining tusk broke off.

 

Ganesha_002

His vahana (mount or vehicle) is a rat or mouse. Some say this is because he originated as a rural deity and kept the rats from the grain. Others say it shows the humility of this great god. I have a different theory. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and the basic obstacle that we all have is fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt was right on when he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Everyone knows that elephants are deathly afraid of mice, But Ganesha has obviously conquered his fear and actually turned it into an asset. A perfect lesson for the remover of obstacles to convey.

His other prominent  feature is his belly. It is big because Ganesha is Lord of Everything. He contains all that is, was, or ever will be.

OmThere is a Upanishad verse which states, “All this world is of the form ‘OM’. The past, present and future are all ‘OM’. And whatever transcends the three divisions of time, is also ‘OM’. And so Ganesha is the embodiment of this most powerful and sacred of sounds. Even the glyph for ‘OM’ resembles his profile, especially if you turn it upside down.

Ganesh,_Om

But there are many powerful gods. Why is Ganesha so widely beloved?

Because Ganesha delivers—big time. As I am constantly discovering.

Years ago I was driving down Fremont Street in Portland, Oregon with my Ganesha decal in the back window. A woman began backing her car out of a driveway in front of me. She looked right at me, and continued backing out. I was going 30 mph and she was only a few car lengths away. “Oh shit,” was all I had time to think before the world went pitch black and became very, very busy. When I came to I was still continuing down Fremont, but the woman in the car was now behind me, petrified, her mouth wide with terror. I distinctly heard a huge sigh of relief from the back window.

From that day on I became a devotee. Genesha gets all the chocolate he wants as well as lots of love, admiration, and gratitude.

And then there was the time I was driving up to Seattle for a work weekend. I had a client scheduled for 2:30. It was about 11am and I was just north of Olympia when I stopped for gas. I stuck the fuel nozzle into the tank opening and hurried back in the front seat. I had had electrical repairs done and nothing on the dashboard worked; so I got out the manual and figured out how to reset everything while the tank was filling. When I was done, I put the nozzle back, closed the tank, and headed toward Seattle. About a half hour later the engine died. I was in the left hand lane and so had to pull off the freeway to the left. The gas gauge read empty. I had been so preoccupied that I’d forgotten to actually start the pump. I looked at Ganesha in total panic. (By this time he was on the dashboard, as pictured above).Ganesha_001

His wise, patient eyes returned my manic stare. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I can’t help stupid.”

“Yeah, yeah, that was really stupid,” I said, “But can you help me out now?”

“No problem,” he replied.

I hit the flashers, jumped out of the car and started pacing frantically. I had gone back and forth maybe five times when a car pulled up behind me and a man got out, cell phone in hand. “What’s the problem?” he asked.

“I’m out of gas.”

“Ah. I have about two gallons in the trunk. That should get you to the nearest station.”

Who carries gas in their trunk? Isn’t that supposed to be dangerous? And what are the chances that that person would be close behind me and would actually pull over on the left-hand side of an insanely busy freeway to help some idiot woman? I paid him for the gas and gave him a huge hug. He and Ganesha are my heroes.

A few years after this incident I had a brainstorm. I usually buy a really good chocolate bar and leave it on the dash next to Ganesha for a few days. By then, he’s done with it and it becomes, what the Hindus and Sikhs call prasad—food for the worshipers. Unfortunately, in the summer the chocolate melts really fast and Ganesha’s treats didn’t last long. Elephants like peanuts, I thought. Why not give him m&ms chocolate covered peanuts? They would keep better, and if he didn’t like them, I had no doubt that he would tell me. I poured some into a small bowl and set them on the dash. A few days later, when I figured he was done with them, I snitched one. Before I even got it to my mouth I heard: “Those are mine!”

I put it back with profuse apologies.

Last September my husband’s leg suddenly got very red and swollen and his temperature shot sky high. The immediate care facility doc told me to drive him directly to the emergency room. On the way there I caught the distinctive scent of peanuts and chocolate. I looked over and saw my husband munching on an m&m with blissful smile on his face. The first one I’d seen that day.

“Those are Ganesha’s,” I said, remembering the rebuke I had received.

“We’re having a party,” Craig replied. I heard Ganesha’s rumbling chuckle.

It didn’t surprise me at all that the God would share his treats with someone who was very sick and very worried. It made us both laugh.

Thank you thank you thank you, Lord Ganesha.

And now you know why Ganesha is my co-pilot and why I won’t drive anywhere without him.

To be continued…

*”All Hindus worship Ganesha regardless of their sectarian belief,” says D N Singh in A Study of Hinduism. “He is both the beginning of the religion and the meeting ground for all Hindus.”

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The God as Superhero, Part II

Continued from previous post…

The first time the God swooped in and saved my butt happened years ago during my Junior year at Michigan State University…

Michigan State campus is huge. My dorm isn't even on this map. It's on Shaw Lane about a quarter mile past Bogue Street. Most students buy a bus pass or ride a bike if they want to get to class on time. image by: www.fashionmode.me

Michigan State campus is huge. My dorm isn’t even on this map. It’s on Shaw Lane about a quarter mile past Bogue Street. Most students buy a bus pass or ride a bike if they want to get to class on time.
image by: www.fashionmode.me

I had just gotten out of a Vertebrate Zoology lecture and was walking down Shaw Lane to my next class, totally oblivious, with visions of reptile anatomy swirling through my head. As I stepped off the curb to cross Bogue Street a hand grabbed the collar of my down jacket, lifted me up, and deposited me back on the curb right as a huge campus bus zoomed by, just inches from my nose.

“You didn’t want to do that,” said a man’s voice.

He was standing beside me. The only thing I remember about him was that he was a generic 1970’s university student dressed in a down jacket almost identical to mine.

“You’re right, I didn’t,” I remember saying. I was in total shock as I stared dumbly after the rapidly retreating bus. When I turned back to thank my savior, he was gone. The sidewalk was packed with students were hurrying by me, completely oblivious to the fact that I’d almost been flattened to a bloody pulp, but he was nowhere to be seen.

At the time, I figured he was just a shy, modest person who didn’t stick around for thanks; but looking back on the incident I honestly don’t think this was the case. I have had other encounters with the divine since then, and they all had the same surreal feeling—as if time had stopped and the world around me had been rearranged. I could swear that that bus was halfway past me by the time my feet hit the curb. There would have been no time for even superman to get me out of its way. And I wasn’t yanked back—I would have felt my jacket pressing on my neck and armpits. It felt like I was levitated. And why, after nearly squashing me, didn’t a professional driver stop or even slow down? And why hadn’t anyone on that busy sidewalk noticed my near death? And why can’t I remember anything about the young man who saved my life except that his down jacket looked just like mine?

As far as I’m concerned, it was The God. My number wasn’t up yet and he was making sure I stuck around to do whatever it is/was I needed to accomplish in this life. And for that, I am eternally grateful to Him.

Think back on your life and I wouldn’t be surprised if you remember an event similar to what happened to me. I believe that the Gods walk among us disguised as everyday people, and at some point or points, whether we’ve noticed or not, we have all been touched by The God.

image by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome

image by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome

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The God as Superhero

 

Zeus: Superhero or Male Chauvinist Pig? From "The Age of Myth"

Zeus: Superhero or Male Chauvinist Pig?
From “The Age of Myth”

Back in the 70’s, when I was a baby witch and just figuring out the difference between a pentagram and a pentacle, pagans generally ignored the God. After all, we had become pagans to get out from under the stern, patriarchal thumb of the Judeo-Christian God and weren’t about to make the same mistake again. We were drunk on the amazing “new” concept that, as Merlin Stone* assured us, God was a woman. The God, when we deigned to mention him, was described as Her consort.
Even as late as 2000, when I was going over my Wicca 101 syllabus with my students, one very young woman commented, “I see we have a class on The Goddess; why don’t we have one on The God?”
I was speechless.
This was a glaring omission. I was ignoring half the pagan pantheon and hadn’t even realized it.
Bad Witch.
Needless to say, from that time on, my course included a class on The God.

The God and The Goddess energies and concepts are quite different. The Goddess is associated with the Moon, which, in modern western paganism is regarded as the archetypal feminine. She waxes and wanes from maiden to mother to crone archetypes every 29 days. She forms the undulating backdrop to our lives, always there in the appropriate form, offering comfort, solace, inspiration, or a swift kick on the backside. She is constantly changing, but she never dies.**

Moon_Phases

But there are some Gods who actually die:
Osiris, the Egyptian lord of the underworld, was killed by his brother Set and cut into pieces, and scattered up and down the Nile. Isis found them all (except for his penis), reassembled them, and brought him back to life.
Dionysus was torn apart and eaten by the Titans. Only the heart remained, which Zeus, his father, inserted into his thigh and rebirthed him.
Adonis, beloved of Aphrodite, was killed by a wild boar sent by either Artemis or Ares, depending on who you talk to. He died in Aphrodite’s arms and she sprinkled his blood with nectar, rebirthing him as the short-lived anemone flower.
Quetzalcoatl, Aztec god of death and resurrection, was tricked by Tezcatlipoca into becoming drunk and sleeping with a celibate priestess (in some accounts, his sister Quetzalpetlatl) and then burned himself to death out of remorse. His heart became the morning star.
Jesus died on the cross to save his believers from their sins and was resurrected three days later. He has heavy solar connections , so The Catholic Church scheduled his birthday on December 25, just a few days after Winter Solstice.
Ra, the Egyptian sun god, travels each day in two boats. At sunset he dies and travels in his night boat through Duat, the underworld. At dawn, he is rebirthed by Nut, the sky goddess, and continues on in his day boat to sunset.
Attis, the son and lover of the goddess Cybele, went mad and castrated himself. He was reborn as the pine tree.

The God, the archetypal masculine principle in modern paganism, is associated with the Sun; and it comes as no surprise that several of the above Gods are solar deities. The Sun is born at Winter Solstice, reaches his peak of power at Summer Solstice, dies at Samhain, and is reborn at Winter Solstice. And so the God archetypes feel the vigor of childhood at Spring Equinox, the power of maturity at Summer Solstice, The wisdom and weakness of age at Fall Equinox, the fear and ecstasy of Death at Samhain, and the traumatic victory of rebirth at Winter Solstice.

God_Cycle

Because the God archetypes suffer and rejoice right along with humanity, I would like to think that this links them to us heart to heart. And they’re guys, right? And if they’re like the guys I know, when they see trouble they are quick to leap in and fix it.

And in my experience I find that this is indeed so. Over the years, when the shit has hit the fan, various Gods, have stepped in and literally saved my life. They are my superheroes, and I am eternally grateful to them. Those stories will follow in my next few posts.

I firmly believe that the God has saved all of us at one time or another. Anytime someone “sees the light” and changes her life, the God in one or another of his archetypes may have been responsible. And many of us have had times when we nearly died. Perhaps we can’t say exactly which God saved us, but we know, deep in our hearts, that it was a divine intervention. The ancient Greeks believed that it was not at all unusual for a god/dess to temporarily possess a human and cause him to act as their agent. I would suggest that the person who inspired us to change our lives or saved our butts in those times of near death may have been The God in human disguise.

Think about it.

I’m sure everyone can remember at least one instance in their lives when this may have happened. And if you can think of one, I would suggest that there are other not-so-obvious instances.

I believe that these miracles are constantly happening to us and all around us. Unfortunately, we are too distracted by our mundane lives to even notice.

Every Winter Solstice The God, Our Superhero, is reborn. Take this time to offer him your heartfelt praise and gratitude.

waypastnormal.blogspot.com

waypastnormal.blogspot.com

For unto us a Sun is born…***

A Warm and Blessed Winter Solstice to All

To be continued…
*Merlin Stone wrote When God Was a Woman in 1976. It had been published earlier in the UK under the title of The Paradise Papers: The Suppression of Women’s Rites, and was one of the books that inspired the resurgence of paganism in the Western World.

**Yes, I know there are solar goddesses and lunar gods. The one who comes most readily to mind is Isis. But she is such an ancient and venerable Goddess that she’s the goddess of everything, so of course she’s a sun goddess and is the exception that proves the rule. But she is also seen as a lunar goddess. And yes, I know that the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, died and was reborn. But again, she is another ancient, venerable goddess of everything.

***Misquote of Isaiah 9:6

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Take an Ancestor Out to Dinner this Samhain!

Samhain_poem

Ah Samhain.
My favorite holiday.
It’s the time of “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night.”* It’s also a bit easier to talk to our ancestors now. They are there, just on the other side of the veil. And they are eager to speak with us. Most just want to say hi and send their love, but others have messages, questions, and issues. I have found that communing with my ancestors is not only emotionally rewarding, but also helpful in a practical sense. And so every November first, after the excitement of Samhain, we throw a Dumb Supper for those who have gone before.

It’s actually quite simple.

• Fix a nice dinner.
• Set a festive, seasonal table with one extra place for your ghostly visitors.
• Light the candles.
• Cast a strong circle that will allow only friendly spirits in.
• Greet your ancestors and invite them to dinner.
• After the greeting no one speaks until the meal is finished.
• Serve up the feast. Fill your visitors’ plate and pour them a glass of wine.
• Sit down and eat and still your mind.
• Listen.
• When the meal is over, tell each other about your conversations.
• Close the circle.**

These are just a few of the conversations I’ve had:
• The Samhain after my Father passed he came to our dumb supper. I felt him appear behind my right shoulder. He said “Well, hello!” It sounded and felt just like him. I felt a warm wave of love.
• A few years later Daddy arrived with the message “Get your money out of the God-damned bank!” We later checked our investments and realized that the bank was charging exorbitant fees, so we did as we were told.
• My husband’s cousin committed suicide, and one Samhain he arrived at the Supper and begged me to find a part of his soul that he’d lost. I had just read The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner (Coincidence? I think not.) and attempted the retrieval while I sat and stared at my pot roast. He said it worked.
• A friend’s father showed up and asked me to tell her he needed to talk to her. I relayed the message.
Samhain_feastThe time of Samhain is potent and full of spirit. It offers us communion with those who have gone before. All we need to do is be still and listen and understand that what we hear is real. We’re not making it up.

A blessed Samhain to all.
*From a traditional Scottish prayer
**I bury the ancestor’s food and wine in the garden. Composting it would be OK too.

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Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

In the July/August 2014 issue of The Atlantic Sarah Boxer wonders “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?”

And they are, you know. Bambi, Nemo, Snow White, Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, Aladdin, and almost any other cartoon main character you can think of is a motherless child. In fact, Ms Boxer challenges her readers to “show me an animated kids’ movie that has a named mother in it who lives until the credits roll.” There aren’t that many. The Lion King, Coraline, The Incredibles and a few others come to mind.

However, she doesn’t try very hard to answer her own evocative question. She gives a few lame answers like:

  • The unfolding of plot and personality depends on the dead mother.*
  • The dead mother is psychologically good for the child because it allows him/her to preserve an internal good mother (even if the natural mother hadn’t been all good) and allows him/her to direct all his anger at the step mother.**

I can think of better answers than that!

As a writer, it’s obvious to me that children with living, loving parents are unlikely to be out in the cold having exciting adventures. They are at home learning how to be happy, productive members of society. And then there is the first commandment of fiction: “Torture thy Protagonist.” One of the cruelest things you can do to a child is take away his/her mother.

And as a pagan, it’s obvious to me that The Dead Mother is a metaphor for the state of modern Western Civilization. Judaism, then Christianity, and last but not least, Islam have all taken away our Mother. It was  easy for them because these dominant religions of Western Civilization are all monotheistic, and each of their gods is a man. And they are all manly men, stern fathers who expect single minded devotion from their followers. In a nutshell, that’s a simplistic explanation of what happened to the Goddesses of Western Civilization.*** This link on the Goddess in Christianity and Mary Magdelene gives some quick background information on a subject that that could fill a library.****

The_Virgin_Mary_and_Baby_Jesus Image from CGFAI can name only one still thriving, universally popular goddess; the exception to the Dead Mother syndrome that  proves my point by illustrating how much we need our Mothers. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the goddess that the Catholic Church hasn’t managed to do away with. Of course, the Church denies up one side and down the other that she is divine, (see previous post: “The Virgin Mary, Isis, The High Priestess, and the Empress”) but you’d never know it from the way Catholics and a fair number of non-Catholics the world over worship her, and the amount of fabulous art devoted to her. When we were in Italy it seemed like every other block had carefully tended, flower bedecked BVM shrine. The Lady is definitely satisfying a strong need that the stern patriarchs of monotheism and even sweet Jesus can’t.

And just what is the attraction of the Mother? Well, let’s put it this way: A come to Mama moment is much more comforting and nurturing than a come to Jesus moment. Both have their place, but our lives are difficult and painful and we need comfort and understanding more often than we need the hard facts of life shoved in our face. The Goddess nourishes our emotional, intuitive, creative, and magical sides, and in a primarily God based society this doesn’t happen nearly often enough. As a result we tend to ignore our children and elders, live in emotional isolation from each other, fight wars at the drop of a helmet, pollute the earth, and value money over spirit.

There, I’m done ranting. To me it’s a no brainer. The Cartoon Mothers are dead because our culture has killed its own mother. Kill a child’s Mother and you create pain and conflict in that child’s heart. Kill the Mother in a story and you have a plot that resonates strongly with our culture.

I would have set the article aside at this point if Ms Boxer hadn’t asked a second even more intriguing question: Why have children’s movie makers not only continued to kill off the Mother, but have also replaced the wicked step mother with—ta da!—the perfect Father? To quote M

Marlin, Nemo's eventually perfect father

Marlin, Nemo’s eventually perfect father

s Boxer: “He may start out hypercritical (Chicken Little) or reluctant (Ice Age). He may be a tyrant (The Little Mermaid) or a ne’er-do-well (Despicable Me). He may be of the wrong species (Kung Fu Panda). He may even be the killer of the child’s mother (Brother Bear). No matter how bad he starts out, though, he always ends up good…

Quite simply, mothers are killed in today’s kids’ movies so the fathers can take over…The old fairy-tale, family-romance movies that pitted poor motherless children against horrible vengeful stepmothers are a thing of the past. Now plucky children and their plucky fathers join forces to make their way in a motherless world. The orphan plot of yore seems to have morphed, over the past decade, into the buddy plot of today. Roll over, Freud: in a neat reversal of the Oedipus complex, the mother is killed so that the children can have the father to themselves. Sure, women and girls may come and go, even participate in the adventure, but mothers? Not allowed. And you know what? It looks like fun!”

Barnyard Ms Boxer goes on to suggest that this trend is a last, desperate, chauvinistic attempt to reestablish a kinder, gentler patriarchy. She is chillingly convincing. As a disturbing exhibit A she directs our attention to the movie Barnyard (Paramount/Nickelodeon, 2006), in which Ben, a father bull teaches his ne’er-do-well, motherless son, Otis, how to be a man. In this movie, when a bull stands up on his hind legs like a human, instead of the expected very Full Monty, he flashes a prominent, pink, full udder. Yes you read that right; I’ve even included a picture for your further elucidation. The message of this flick seems blatantly obvious. Who needs a mother? Men have it all.

But this conclusion doesn’t feel right to me. I’m not ready to label Disney Studios and the rest of the children’s movie industry as male chauvinist pigs. The early Disney Movies were mostly fairy tales and fairy tales are essentially folk tales that have been told and retold. In other words they are old and probably predate Christianity. In other words, they are pagan with Christian overtones. The goddess appears in these movies in three forms, the triple goddess of modern witches. She is the maiden (usually the heroine), the mother (usually dead because the Christians killed the mother goddess) and the crone (usually the wicked witch or evil sorceress—the goddess is hard to kill completely, but easy to demonize). So the first successful children’s movies began with this formula, and Hollywood is loathe to part with a successful formula. It gets used over and over and over again. Thus we have all the dead mothers and hapless heroines and wicked female villains in children’s literature and movies. And you gotta admit, Disney had some knock-your-socks-off female villains. Definitely strong feminine role models. They are my favorite Disney characters.

Maleficent, in "Sleeping Beauty"

Maleficent, in “Sleeping Beauty”

Margaret Starbird pushes this idea a bit further. (see link) She claims that Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid, “is much more than a fairytale for little girls. Rather, she is a powerful metaphore for the plight of the “Sacred Feminine” over the last several thousand years of western civilization.” Ariel is Mary Magdelene, the lost bride of Christianity, who has risen up from the watery depths of our subconscious and onto dry, logical land. “It is interesting toLittle_Mermaid_Georges_de_la_Tour_called__Magdalen_with_the_Smoking_Flame._ note,” says Ms Starbird, “that in the Disney film, it is not Ariel who needs to be saved, but rather it is the “handsome Prince” who is in deep trouble, shipwrecked and dying (the condition of the partriarchy at the dawn of Aquarius??)” Interesting, I thought, but she seems to be stretching it a bit. But then I came upon what for me was the clincher in her argument. Ariel collects many human artifacts and one of her special treasures is a painting. Now of all the possible works of western art Disney studios could have chosen to portray, they chose a painting by Georges de la Tour called “Magdalen with the Smoking Flame.” Perhaps there is an underlying message in The Little Mermaid after all; if so, it is distinctly feminist and definitely not patriarchal.

If we begin with my premise that the Mother is dead in children’s movies (and also quite a bit of Western Literature) because the Goddess was eliminated from our culture with the advent  of the patriarchal monotheistic religions, we can reframe the issue of the perfect father and come to a different conclusion.

In the United States, the Goddess is alive and becoming stronger every day. According to the US Census Bureau the number of witches willing to come out of the broom closet and actually admit to being witches has increased astronomically. They estimate that in 1990 one in every 22,000 Americans was a witch, but in 2008 one in every 667 Americans was a witch, and I have no doubt that the number is even higher today. And this is only witches, not neopagans, Asatru, Hindu, Unitarian/Universalist, or other Goddess worshipping religions. Christianity still dominates our culture, but the numbers are decreasing slightly. In 1990 one in every 1.16 people said they were Christian and in 2008, the number dropped to one in every 1.32 people. This number, of course, includes Catholics who, as I have shown, actually do worship the goddess in the form of the BVM, and all the other Christians who include the Goddess in their worship in some way or other.

AnimaAnd with the popularization of Jungian psychology, the the anima, or feminine part of the male psyche, and the animus, the masculine part of the female psyche, have become household words, and the idea that men have emotions and feelings and that women have no problem being tough and logical pervades our culture.

The film industry has been well aware of these two trends for at least the past few decades, and, I would suggest, has helped to fuel them. So why would it suddenly go all patriarchal on us? I’m not saying it hasn’t, Ms Boxer is most convincing, I’m just sayin’ that maybe, by presenting us with all these perfect fathers, the children’s film industry is encouraging men to get in touch with their inner woman, their emotional, nurturing, intuitive side and for women to get in touch with their inner man, their logical, assertive, powerful side (Yes, there are many flicks about amazingly strong women). This way our children will have not only powerful female role models, but also emotionally intact, nurturing, intuitive male role models.

The Goddess never died, she is present in each and every one of us, male and female, as is the God. What better way to bring her back into our hearts and consciousness than by presenting grieving fathers learning to be both a mother and a father to their bereft children?

What do you think? Is our film industry controlled by patriarchal misogynists or new age feminists?

 

*Carolyn Dever, Death and the Mother From Dickens to Freud: Victorian Fiction and the Anxiety of Origins, 1998.

**Bruno Tettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment, 1976.

***Actually, we can’t blame it all on monotheism. Paganism was turning patriarchal long before Abraham was even a gleam in his father’s eye. But at least pagans had goddesses.

****Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman, Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, Monica Sjoo, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet vs. the Goddess, and many more.

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Lions and Kerubs and Sekhmet, Oh My!

 

Image by Delun

Image by Delun

The Sun is now in Leo, and of course, this biggest, most important planet of the Zodiac rules the most egotistical sign of them all. In astrological speak, the sun is at home, and not surprisingly this is the hottest part of summer in most places in the northern hemisphere. In the coastal Pacific Northwest that means that it’s usually pleasant and sunny, but here in Portland we occasionally feel Sekhmet’s scorching breath. I was sweltering at my computer last week during one of those occasions when I came upon an email from Adam reminding me (and everyone else on the Hermetic Society google group) that August 7th  was this year’s Leo Kerubic Point. That’s lovely, I thought, what in blue blazes is a Kerubic Point? Adam, never one to leave his readers in ignorance, went on to inform us that the Kerubic Points are the midpoints between the cardinal points of the zodiac, the Solstices ( 0 degrees Cancer and 0 degrees Capricorn) and the Equinoxes, (0 degrees Ares and 0 degrees Libra) which means that they are the midpoints of the fixed astrological signs—15 degrees Taurus, 15 degrees Leo, 15 degrees Scorpio, and 15 degrees Aquarius. They are symbolic of  the four elements, the four cardinal directions, the archangels, and the gospel makers. They also should be the dates of the cross quarters of the Wiccan liturgical calendar, but they aren’t—Beltane, May 1, Lughnasadh, August 1, Samhain, Oct 31, and Imbolc, Feb 2 are the dates modern Wiccans celebrate the cross quarters.

Wheel_of_the_Year,

I’m not sure, but I have a feeling in my bones that this discrepancy happened along about the time Europe switched in fits and starts and country by country from the Julian to the Georgian calendar. Any way, the Kerubic Points are mid points, and when you are smack dab in the midst of something you are in either a place of power or deep doo doo. Magicians, being eternal optimists, insist that mid points are power points, perfect times to perform magical works that would benefit from an extra kick from the Multiverse. These midpoints are so important that the creator/s of the tarot saw fit to use them to tack down the quarters of two major arcana cards, The Wheel of Fortune and The World.

Wheel_of_Fortune2011-04-14_1727The_World

But I was still not content. Why do they call them Kerubic Points? A quick internet search satisfied my curiosity. Kerubs, or Cherubim* support the Mesopotamian Tree of Life which grows in the center of Paradise and supplies the world with life giving water. They are also depicted supporting the thrones of kings and deities. There are four of them and they are associated with the four fixed signs of the zodiac, the living energy of the tetragrammaton, and the four gospel makers. And they have no resemblance to what we call cherubs. All was now clear to me and my mind was temporarily at peace.

 

This is a Cherub. It's a chimera with the head of a man (Aquarius), the body of a bull (Taurus) the wings of an eagle (Scorpio) and the tail of a Lion (Leo).

This is a Cherub. It’s a chimera with the head of a man (Aquarius), the body of a bull (Taurus) the wings of an eagle (Scorpio) and the tail of a Lion (Leo).

Sekhmet

Sekhmet with solar disc

So, we are now in the midst of the sign of Leo. Its symbol is a male lion, but when I think of lion power I always think of female lions, the hunters of the pride, and the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Almost every pagan feminist I know has a statue of Sekhmet or a piece of jewelry depicting her. She is not your sweet mother goddess. Her name comes from the Ancient Egyptian word “sekhem”, which means power, and she is called “(One) Before Whom Evil Trembles”, “Mistress of Dread”, “Lady of Slaughter” and “She Who Mauls”.  She is the evil twin of Hathor, the goddess of joy, music, dance, sexual love, pregnancy and birth. But Sekhmet is the ultimate defender of Ma’at, Justice, and is often viewed as the champion of the underdog.

 

Whenever I think of Sekhmet I think of one of my massage clients. Frieda (not her real name) was a successful business woman who quit and now teaches business at a local university and works for a nonprofit company, traveling all over the world and training people in third world countries to become entrepreneurs.** One day she arrived at her appointment in a state of total exhaustion. A friend of hers was dying of cancer and had asked Frieda and several other friends to be guardian angels to her husband and children. Dealing with the untimely death of a close friend is hard enough, but seeing to the physical and emotional needs of her surviving family as well is a nearly unbearable burden. As I massaged her body, I opened my mind in hopes of discovering one of Frieda’s guardian angels or power animals so that I could get them to lend her their strength. Immediately, the room sizzled with power and filled with an awesome presence I was terrified. Sekhmet appeared over my client’s body and glared down at me. The hairs on the back of my neck lifted and my heart hammered in my chest. “Fix her!” the goddess roared. “She still has work to do.”

 

Image by Art of Sekhmet

Image by Art of Sekhmet

My jaw dropped in amazement. There was no mercy or care in those eyes, only power and ambition. This was a goddess with an agenda and suddenly, I was part of it. However, Sekhmet is not my goddess, even though she is the patron of healers, and I don’t like being ordered around in my own office. I reached out to all my power animals, guardian angels, and goddesses and glared right back at her. “That’s what I’m trying to do. If Frieda is so important to you then help me and quit roaring.”

The goddess growled and the room shook. She sat back on her haunches and watched me like I was a wounded wildebeest. Oh shit, you’re lion meat, I thought. She growled again and as she faded from the room a surge of power flowed through my hands and into my client.

I told Frieda that Sekhmet had paid us a visit. “Oh yes,” she replied, “Sekhmet and I go way back.” The gods, and especially the warrior gods, are hard on their champions, but they are usually reasonable.

 

 

But I digress. Back to the Leo Kerub Point. Lissa, another Hermetic, pointed out in response to Adam’s post that today, August 10th, is the second World Lion Day. This is totally appropriate since today is the first full moon after the Leo Kerubic Point. Coincidence? I think not.

I was aghast to learn from the above post that in the past 50 years this magnificent being’s population has dropped 95%. Our world will be a sadder, poorer place if the king of beasts no longer rules the savannah.

Lion_001

*Plural of Cherub. Christians will recognize them from the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Cherubim and Seraphim fall down before the one true god in verse two.

**She is now in the process of retiring.

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Another Ghost Story

Seaside,_OR_looking_south

I recently attended a ritual at the beach with several other women. See Ritual, Waves, and Wedding Magic. One of the incidental joys of the weekend was getting to spend time with and share a room with my niece, Becky.

 

On the last night Becky and I were lying in bed talking about this and that and how the ritual went and I said, “You know, when you called the powers of the west, your wording was so close to the way we call the guardians of the watchtowers* that they all came—not just the west, but every quarter.” As soon as I said that the light in the ceiling fan started to glow softly and then got brighter and brighter. Then it dimmed back, leaving the room in darkness. Becky and I stared up in disbelief. As if to reassure us that we weren’t imagining things, it did it again. Then the fan came on, sending a blast of cold air down onto the bed.

ceiling_fan

“Um, Becky?”

“Yes.”

“Did you turn the light all the way off before you came to bed?”

“Yes.”

We lay there in silence, covers pulled up to our noses, and contemplated the ominously whirring fan.

“Uh, Becky?”

“Yes.”

“Could you go turn it off again?”

“Why do I have to do it?”

“Cuz you’re closest?”

“Oh, all right.”

 

Becky checked the dimmer switch and found that it was, indeed, off. But there was a switch above it that locked both the light and the fan. She pressed it and the fan stopped. My brave niece crawled back in bed and we watched the offending fixture suspiciously. It remained off. We speculated about what could have caused such weird behavior, but failed to come up with a satisfactory explanation. Becky heard someone walking in the room above us just before the light began to glow, but we couldn’t see how that would have done anything. The conversation drifted off to other topics and then Becky went to sleep.

 

I, however, was wide awake. This whole thing might have been just a short in the wiring; but if there was “something” in the room with us, I wasn’t going to sleep until I knew what “it” was.  So I “reached out” and started cautiously feeling around the room and found…

“Grandpa!” See Magic in a Mining Town

He was waving and laughing.

“That was not funny!”

“Oh, but it was. You should have seen your faces. I just wanted to get your attention…”

“Well, you did!”

“…and let you and my great-granddaughter know that I’m one of your guardians. Whenever either of you calls the watchtowers, I’ll be there.”

Tears filled my eyes. “Thanks Grandpa,” I said, and fell asleep.

Dream,_by_Alex_Teuscher

Dream, by Alex Teuscher

When you are between the worlds it’s ever so nice to know that there’s family watching your back.

*When an Alexandrian witch (that would be me) casts a circle she/he calls the Guardians of the Watchtowers at each quarter. The Guardians are spirits of deceased men and women who choose to remain available to magic users and guard their circles and offer aid if necessary. I think that the Guardians tend to adopt witches. I know that the same ones come to our circles and I suspect that Becky and her husband, Nikos, have many of the same ones I do.

Most pagans nowadays call powers or spirits of the East (air), South (fire), etc. to the quarters.This is nice, but the powers are elementals, beings of pure air, fire, water, or earth. They don’t have any real understanding of humans, who embody all four elements, and function strictly as place holders that channel their particular elemental energy into the circle. If they are not dismissed properly, I have known them to stick around and wreak havoc. Water pipes leak, fires start at the slightest provocation—stuff like that.

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