Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Archive for March, 2010

Let There Be Light!

At last, we have electrical power in the barn.

The barn at night

The door and stairs:

And the interior.

Barn interior - with light!

This space will be used for my studio, and also for SWW and other gatherings. We’ve come a long way in the past year!

A Seder? Today??

Today we will be attending a family Passover Seder, even though it’s not quite Passover. This family gathering is a large one, about fifty people, so scheduling can be tricky. At the home of a cousin, all ages will gather, from infants to great-grandparents, for a beautiful and joyous ritual meal remembering the Exodus; the themes of deliverance, humility, gratitude, liberation, and freedom; always a political dimension, usually expounded upon by one of the uncles; delicious food; much love. And a place for Elijah.

The children play a major part, reading from the Haggadah, and singing songs.  Children are very important on this holiday: “l’dor va-dor,” “from generation to generation.”

All the items on the ritual dinner plate have meanings associated with the holiday. The one most people are familiar with is the matzah, the unleavened bread. And there is much lifting of the cup of wine. The home becomes a sanctuary, a place for expressing gratitude, love, and celebration.

Passover blessings!

Easter, Ostara, Bunnies, and Eggs

In doing some research on why the Christian holiday of Easter has that name, I found this information from Wikipedia:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.


Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the Christian festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honor during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month.” The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn-, reflecting the name of the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.  Subsequently scholars have discussed whether or not Eostra is an invention of Bede’s, and produced theories connecting Eostra with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs).

[Jacob] Grimm notes that in the Old Norse Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, a male being by the name of Austri is attested, who Grimm describes as a “spirit of light.” Grimm comments that a female version would have been Austra, yet that the High German and Saxon tribes seem to have only formed Ostarâ and Eástre, feminine, and not Ostaro and Eástra, masculine. Grimm additionally speculates on the nature of the goddess and surviving folk customs that may have been associated with her in Germany:

Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy […]. Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing […]; here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess […].[11]


Citing folk Easter customs in Leicestershire, England where “the profits of the land called Harecrop Leys were applied to providing a meal which was thrown on the ground at the “Hare-pie Bank,” late 19th century scholar Charles Isaac Elton says that these customs were likely connected with the worship of Ēostre.[12] In his late 19th century study of the Hare in folk custom and mythology, Charles J. Billson cites numerous incidents of folk custom involving the hare around the period of Easter in Northern Europe. Billson says that “whether there was a goddess named Eostre, or not, and whatever connection the hare may have had with the ritual of Saxon or British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island.”[7]

The Resurrection Day

So, when Christianity arrived on the scene, what could be more natural than associating the celebration of the Risen Son with the festivals of the Risen Sun? In past years, each Easter Sunday morning a church member has opened her home in the pre-dawn hours for a sunrise service. And we still incorporate bunnies and eggs into this holiday. Religions are organic in their own ways, growing and changing, absorbing elements from lands and peoples along the way.

I am left wondering what Easter will look like in one hundred (or one thousand) years.

Equinox Musings

This was the weekend of the Spring Equinox, a time when light and darkness are balanced, with light on the increase. In ages past, the Spring Equinox was the start of the New Year. The birthdays of many great mother goddesses were celebrated at this time. March 25 is dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Christianity, perhaps related to the powerful birthing feminine energy of this time of year.

Beginnings. Initiation. This is a time for reinvention of ourselves, which may be reflected in our outer lives as we begin afresh. At this place on the Wheel of the Year, I am seeking balance in my life as I move deeper into my work with Sanctuary Without Walls. Part of this process has been passing some of my responsibilities over to others, letting go.

In the Céile Dé tradition, this is the Feast of the New Spears, a time to rededicate ourselves to our callings, the ways we serve and bring the best of ourselves to others. We can renew commitment, or perhaps dedicate ourselves to a new project. (I also tend to think of asparagus when I think of the Feast of New Spears!)

Part of my dedication this Spring, in addition to planning SWW gatherings, has involved the work on the barn, which will provide a meeting place for those times when SWW or other groups cannot meet outdoors. It also will provide a new space for my studio. The interior is almost complete, but we are still waiting for electricity, and we need to sand and paint the floors and stairs.

Moving in? Maybe in April. We’ll see.

A Springtime invocation, part of a call to the directions offered at a ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield, MA years ago:

Come Spirit of the East,

Spirit of Rebirth,

New Visions,

New Beginnings.

Help us to know

that we need not will our fresh starts,

Help us to know

that they will come effortlessly,

with the turning of the Wheel,

as day follows night,


as the sap begins to run each spring.

~ Barbara Haugen

Fresh Beauty, Heavenly

From this morning’s garden:

Snowdrops with Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocuses, March 19, 2010

Crocus, March 19, 2010

At Home, Spiritually

This evening I attended an ecumenical Lenten service, as I did last week at this time. Area churches plan these services for each Wednesday evening of the Lenten season, with area ministers preaching on a given theme at one another’s churches. Soup and sandwiches are offered before each service, creating a time to connect with people from other religious communities.

Beyond my general fascination with religion and spirituality, I particularly enjoy these Lenten services because, of all the Christian services of the year, those offered during Lent are likely to get us thinking counter-culturally  about how we live our lives, about what is really important and foundational, and especially about what we need to release to be able to live more freely, deeply, and in touch with the source of life.

Metaphorically, I’ve been looking to my own backyard, to new spring plant life in particular, to feel my way into the new life that is promised at this time of year. Thus my previous post here was about clearing away winter debris so that new life (snow drops, crocuses, daffodils) can appear. I tend to think metaphorically about these things, seeking out the debris that clutters my life, and finding ways to clear it so that I can be more creative, more forgiving, more loving. This time of year offers me a chance to consciously do that.  Certainly the pre-Easter season is in anticipation of the new life that followers of Jesus find at this special time of year, when his risen spirit is recognized as being within us and among us. I understand resurrection, too, as metaphorical, akin to the cycles of life in nature.

I can’t help it. I was not raised as a literalist.

The church of my upbringing was Universalist (before the merger with Unitarians in the early 1960’s). In the sanctuary of my childhood one could see not only a Christian cross, but visual symbols for Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and more. Our services were Christian in form, but far-reaching in content. That which is learned in childhood is close to the bone.

As I listened to the music and the message this evening in the little Congregational Church I hold dear, I thought about the astonishingly diverse and beautiful ways we each find meaning and purpose in our lives. As we left the church, in the west the last oranges of sunset hid behind the hills. In the blue-black sky, a gorgeous sliver of a moon lay on her back looking up at the stars, while Venus twinkled on the horizon below her. I am grateful that there are many places I can feel at home spiritually. Within and without walls.

Time for Tending

“It’s a question of discipline,” the little prince told me. “When you’ve finished washing and dressing, you must tend your planet.” –  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The sun is shining, the air is relatively warm, and a stroll around the back forty (ha! forty would be nice!) reveals that crocuses and other spring green shoots are fighting their way through winter’s dead leaves and other debris. It’s time to tend, time to move or get rid of the stuff that’s in the way to make room for new growth, within and without. It’s a question of discipline.

From the book The Little Prince