The Beauty of a Warrior

This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VI! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST March 11th.

I’ve never been one of those women who can embody soft beauty or high glamour. There’ve been many times when I wished I could be that kind of woman, but I’m not. Even when I try that look on, I end up feeling silly or like I’m playing dress-up in someone else’s clothes rather than feeling powerful or sexy. It’s like wearing a pair of shoes that’s just a little too small — I feel like I spend most of my time fidgeting and trying to get comfortable, and I just come off looking awkward.

It was this discomfort with glamour and pin-up style femininity that kept me from trying burlesque for so long. I wanted to try it — I love watching shows, and I had so many women friends who had been so empowered by it — but I just couldn’t picture myself doing the coy smiles, the 40’s style clothes, the sugar-sweet femininity that characterizes a lot of the scene. I enjoyed watching those kinds of performances, but I couldn’t imagine myself doing that without feeling foolish — exactly the opposite of what I wanted to feel if I was going to get up and strip in front of 200 people.

Then I saw Adelaide Renegade perform. She wasn’t a soft pin-up kitten — she was a WARRIOR. Combat boots, camo pants, mohawk hair sprayed up to the sky. There was no softness, no coyness there — there was only strength. Only power.

ThatI want to do that.

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Photo by Dee Hill. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth.

It would take me another year to get on stage, but over that year as I prepared to make the leap, I kept that image of Adelaide’s power with me. I wanted to go on stage as a Warrior — to claim my power in a new way.

I’ve always felt most beautiful when I feel powerful. When I’m standing in circle leading ritual for women, when I’m in front of a classroom talking about a subject I know well and am passionate about, when I’m doing advocacy work — that’s when I’m most standing in my power, and that’s when I’m standing in my beauty. I don’t feel powerful just because I look good on a given day — rather, I feel like anything I’m wearing, any way my make-up is, is beautiful when I am standing in my truth and my power.

I feel most beautiful when I am a Warrior.

Burlesque has given me the chance to channel that Warrior Self in a new way. I’m standing in my power and my truth on that stage, because I’ve decided that I deserve to be there even if I don’t conform to what society says is beautiful. When I’m getting ready for a show, layering on the makeup and glitter and clothes (seriously, I wear more clothes to get mostly naked than I do on the daily), it’s like putting on armor. I’m going to battle, going to reveal not just my body but all the magick that lives in me. I’m taking a stand that I deserve to feel powerful and beautiful, and no one has the right to tell me otherwise.

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Energizing Ostara!

It’s March, which here in the Northern Hemisphere marks the beginning of Spring. Back on the Dakota prairies where I grew up, March often blew in like a lion with brisk winds and rains, blowing away the last of the snow and ice. (Though sometimes it brought more snow…) Here in Texas, March comes in a little more gently most years, with warm balmy days and rain. Occassionally we end up with tornadoes and thunderstorms to mark the beginning of Spring, though those will often come closer to the end of the month.

However March manifests, it’s one of my favorite months of the year. The Earth feels like she is taking a long, languid stretch after the cold Winter. Life begins to stir. It’s time to till the soil, to plant seeds, to make ready for the growing season.

ostara-logoI’m excited to offer my Energizing Ostara! course at Mystery School of the Goddess to celebrate the season. This online, self-paced classed features ritual ideas, journal prompts, recipes, and craft ideas to celebrate the season. I hope you’ll come and join me in welcoming the season, the Equinox, and the Goddesses of Spring.

This post is mirrored at my PaganSquare Blog, Third Wave Witch.

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Visiting the Past to Find Hope for the Future

I’ve been on a bit of a feminist thealogy/feminist spirituality history tour of late. It feels like the moment is ripe for a whole new wave of Goddess Spirituality to be born, with the resurgence in interest in Witchcraft born of the #Resistance, plus the newly visible nature of the feminist movement due to the Women’s March. The work of W.I.T.C.H. in Portland and Chicago has also been a reminder of the rich intertwining of feminist politics and witchcraft that gave rise to the Goddess Spirituality I practice . Even though I part ways with many of the movement’s founders on issues of trans inclusion, biological essentialism, cultural appropriation, and more, at my core Goddess Spirituality and Witchcraft are what shapes my life and work and gives them meaning.

I’ve been re-reading The Politics of Women’s Spirituality (1981), edited by Charlene Spretnak. Many women who would become leading lights in the Feminist Spirituality movement, including Carol P. Christ, Merlin Stone, and Starhawk, appear in this volume. Many of them were just starting out their careers as the Feminist Spirituality movement was being birthed — Carol P. Christ’s “Why Women Need the Goddess” had been published just 3 years before, and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance came out a year after that. The move to reinsert women into the male-centered historical narratives that underpin Western history was still young, but in full swing. Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority had yet to appear on the cultural scene. It had been less than a decade since Roe v. Wade.

mini-altarI have to keep reminding myself of how long ago this book was published (though not really that long), and of all the things that had yet to happen and shape American culture and feminist thought when it was published. It is, in many ways, a book of a specific historical moment. It relies on language, largely binary and heavily steeped in biological essentialism, that the feminism I know and practice rejects. But it does so because that was the language of its time — and while many of the women who contributed to Politics have ultimately shown themselves to be trans-exclusionary and essentialist in their thinking, others have gone on to use more inclusive language and practice. I fall (as you know) into the second camp, advocating for a Goddess Spirituality that is inclusive and affirming of all women, and which does not rely on biological essentialism for its central narrative. So I occasionally do find myself annoyed with the language in some of these essays, until I remind myself to take them as a product of their times. (I let myself eye-roll at the writers who I know to be consciously exclusionary, though.)

Even with the problems, however, I think this book is so important for people in the Goddess Spirituality community to read. It is one of the germinal texts of our movement, and the thinking laid out in these essays helps us understand where we have come from and, hopefully, where we are going.

And what strikes me above all is how hopeful these writers were. They truly believed that a better world was on her way. Not just through Goddess Spirituality, but through the building of a women’s culture (however problematic that term might be), through the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (which never has been ratified), through the groundswell of feminist thinking and activism they were witnessing. The flowering of feminist publications, of consciousness raising groups, of social change like Title IX and laws against sexual harassment in the workplace — it was all such cause for hope. They couldn’t know about the backlash against feminism that was just a few years down the line. They couldn’t know about the Reagan years and the growth of the anti-abortion movement. They certainly couldn’t know about Trump. They believed they were the Amazons come to change the world.

It’s easy to look back at that know and find it all kind of hokey and cliche — even the late Margot Adler, in her 2006 update to Drawing Down the Moon, said she looked back on her essay about Feminist Witchcraft in the original and found it a bit idealistic — but I think we should be careful here. Yes, the New Amazon Way did not come to pass — or has not come to pass yet. But the hopefulness, the fierceness, the imagination, and the dedication that the founders of Goddess Spirituality brought to what they did is worth emulating. They may not have enacted culture-wide change, but they left us with an amazing legacy, and the rise of the more general NeoPagan movement in the US owes much to Feminist Witches.

I don’t want to see us return to essentialist thinking about gender, and I want to see us move beyond the TERF thinking that mars our community. I want to see us build a Goddess Spirituality that does help to change the world, and does so in part by welcoming and affirming all those who hear Her call. And I want to channel that hope, that optimism, that I find in the pages of The Politics of Women’s Spirituality so that I can work to create the next generation of Goddess Spirituality.

This post is mirrored at my PaganSquare blog, Third Wave Witch.

 

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New Moon in Pisces

It’s been exactly one month since I wrote in this space.

The past month has been an odd one, though it’s hard to put my finger on exactly why. February is often a month when I struggle with my New Year’s routines, with the goals I have set, with moving out of introspective winter mode and into active spring mode. Even with the occasional 80-degree day, it’s been hard to feel like Spring is coming. Perhaps it’s the sometimes overwhelming sense of foreboding that accompanies every morning’s news, the chaos that seems to be overtaking the government of my country, and the frantic need to do something about what’s happening. Though I chose Flow as my word for the year, I have not found it easy to flow — giving into the current and allowing myself to move with ease is something that is hard for me at the best of times (hence why I need to work with this word and concept) but now when I feel like my activity and my fight is most needed, it’s even more difficult.

mini-altarHow fitting, then, that this New Moon in Pisces bring us the message that it is time to surrender. Not in the sense of giving up our power, of giving up fighting for the things that we believe in, of admitting defeat. No, the New Moon in Pisces calls us to surrender in the sense of allowing the momentum of the Universe to carry us forward. To surrender and let the current carry us, knowing that we will get where we need to go. And to recognize that sometimes our most vigorous efforts to stay afloat can also be what pulls us under, what exhausts us. This New Moon invites us to take a few moments to rest, to allow the gentle waters to buoy us up, to trust. That’s not easy for many of us — it certainly is not for me — but it is necessary if we are to be able to manifest the world we want.

This New Moon invites us to surrender old stories, old beliefs, old scripts, old dreams. This is a moon cycle where anything is possible. But the trick is that we have to let go of our ideas of how things were going to be, of how things are supposed to be, if we want to see those possibilities manifest. Letting go of outdated ideas about ourselves and our lives opens up immense space for new possibilities, some of which we may never have even entertained.

What stories, dreams, preconceptions are you letting go of? What are you surrendering?

 

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New Moon in Aquarius: Where is Your Point of Entry?

It’s no secret that things are hard for many of us in the US right now. Those of us who have been politically engaged throughout our lives are watching as the unthinkable appears to unfold. Those who are newly politicized by the rise of The New Administration (I refuse to speak his name) are confused, frightened, demoralized, wonder what they can do in the face of a seemingly unstoppable enemy. I’ve experienced my own fair share of days that felt hopeless, of long nights of no sleep. I spent most of Inauguration Day in tears of despair.

And then I got up on Saturday and marched — not as part of the huge Women’s March in DC, unfortunately, but as part of a smaller but equally dedicated group of about 3000 in the small city where I work.

Through it all, I’ve struggled to discover what it is that I have to offer this resistance, this movement, this community. My fiery Sagittarian spirit wants to do all the things, but I also know that this is not possible. So what are the things that I can do? What do I have to offer that is uniquely mine to give?

What, as Chani Nicholas says in this fabulous essay on the Aquarius New Moon, is my “point of entry”?

hurricaneThe Aquarius New Moon is concerned with liberation on a global scale. The concern is not with our personal liberation, except for insofar as it is tied up with the liberation of all. The energies of this New Moon are supporting our quest, our movement, our resistance. And in order to use that energy to its fullest, we have to find our point of entry. We all have something to offer — so often when it comes to activism, we assume that if we can’t march or don’t have the ear of powerful people, we can do nothing. But the new grassroots movement in the US, like movements everywhere, shows us that we all have something to give. And it is often our privileges that provide us that point of entry.

For me, the privileges afforded to me by my education are that point of entry. I’ve come to realize that my biggest gift to the movement and to the quest for global liberation is the knowledge I’ve gained. I’ve had access to types of higher education, including two MAs and a PhD, that are not open to everyone. And while formal university education is far from the only way to gain knowledge, I have learned so much about how we work for a just society in those classrooms. But that is worthless unless I share it. My Women’s Studies education, especially, is really only useful if it’s taken out of the hallowed halls of academe and into the street. And so I’m beginning to craft courses in that material on a community level — offered to anyone who wants to take them, rather than only those who have access to a university classroom. (My first course, Feminism Is For Everybody, is an introduction to intersectional feminism and starts February 1.) I will offer my labor to this movement for liberation, and I will offer the fruits of my intellectual labor, because it is the place where I have the most to give.

This Aquarius New Moon, I invite you to ponder — what is your point of entry? What privilege do you have that you can leverage to serve the greater cause? What ways can you give back? If it is daunting to think of “big” ways, what are the seemingly small ways you can support this cause? Remember that your words, your love, your support to other people, are all weapons of resistance.

Together. As we breathe together, we can make a hurricane. We can make a wind of change. Yes, we can.

See you in the street until we’re all free.

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Inspiring Imbolc!

As you’ve noticed, things have been quiet for me the first few weeks of the year. I’ve been grappling with a sense of having left part of myself in the Underworld during a ritual, and the sense that it’s exactly where I need to be right now. I’m exploring what it means to stay there for a while, to discover what the next evolution of my work will be.

In the midst of it all, though, I’ve been building some courses and getting ready for that next evolution. I have had a teaching portal at Mystery School of the Goddess for nearly two years, and haven’t really done all with it that I’ve wanted. One of my major goals this year is to build out that space and make it a true space for connection and learning.

small-imbolc-light-sqPart of that is designing my Getting to Know the Sabbat series, which offers short introductions to each of the eight holidays on the Wheel of the Year. If you’d like to get a taste of these courses, and enhance your own practice, I hope you’ll join me for Inspiring Imbolc! For just $10US, you’ll get a week’s worth of recipes, ritual ideas, journalling prompts, and more! Come play and welcome the season of emergence!

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It’s OK to Ease in Slowly

Conventional wisdom holds that, when faced with a cold body of water, it is better to just plunge in all at once. Jump in, they say, and get it over with. You’ll warm up soon enough. When you ease yourself in bit by bit, you only prolong the suffering. Better to have one massive shock to the system and then get on with the business of adjusting.

This might be true for lakes, creeks, and swimming pools (though I still prefer to inch my way into the 55 degree water in my favorite swimming hole). But when it comes to the New Year, and the goals and intentions we set, I’m convinced that it’s OK to ease in slowly.

It’s easy to get caught up in the New Year’s momentum, crafting a long list of resolutions and goals that all seem totally doable when you’re a few glasses of champagne in and the clock strikes midnight. I know I’ve done it — made boisterous declarations that I would change my life in countless ways in the coming year, worked frantically in the closing days of the old year to fill in this journal page, craft those affirmations, clean out this closet, choose the word or phrase that would guide my next cycle of the Wheel, in a mad rush to have it all in place by 12:01 am on January 1.

This year? Well, not so much.

Red-haired woman sitting in water.This Winter Break, I found that I was too enthralled with my Solstice tree lights, too deeply enjoying the quiet company of my partner and our cats, too contented with the stillness and peace of the season to push myself to meet yet another arbitrary deadline. (My somewhat….casual…relationships with deadlines is a topic for another day. To put it in Gretchen Rubin’s terms, I am a Questioner — I’ll only meet expectations if it makes sense to me to do so.)

Instead, this year, I’ve chosen to ease myself in slowly. I’ve done some journalling. I’ve thought through some goals. I’ve been meditating off and on on my word for the year, but not stressing out because I didn’t have one chosen on January 1. I know it will come to me, as it always does, in its own time, and in just the nick of time. I’m allowing myself to declutter my physical and digital spaces more slowly, more prayerfully — still making progress, still doing the work, but not feeling like a failure because it wasn’t All Done by January 1.

My year is a blank slate, and I’m finding that this approach is somewhat like spending time with a canvas before making the first brush stroke, rather than diving in and painting in a mad rush of inspiration. Neither approach to making art is superior to the other, and neither approach to a New Year is superior. We just have to find what works for us, to create what we want to create at any given time.

Next year may be the year I plunge in, fearless of the shock of cold water that may meet me. But this year, there’s enough on the shoreline to fascinate me that I think the deep water will wait for me while I wade in.

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