Doing the small magics every day,
because many small things become
something very big
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I tried to be subtle ...but I don't know if he got the email. So, I will paraphrase. Thank you, John Michael Greer, for stopping by and reading this blog, and, if its ok, I have a question about the work (lower case, as well as upper case "w") for you...
DH and I went to the Memorial Day Weekend barbecue in our community on Sunday. There were probably a few hundred people there. It was remarkable to me, how many of those people were children, when DH and I bought our house. And now, those children had grown up, and had children of their own. Some, bought houses and stayed in the neighborhood (even in this difficult time in the economy, there are NO houses for sale on our street), some moved away, but came back for the barbecue, so large the event loomed in their childhoods.
The families that DH and I grew up in moved a lot during our childhoods. Not as in the military, frequently, but also without the support of such an overarching organization. When he and I married, when we talked about having children, when we were house hunting, we agreed that we didn't want that for our children-they should have a sense of "place." Our older daughter just finished her second year of college, our younger daughter, her second year of high school. This has been their home all of their lives.
Of course, neither girl was at the barbecue. Knowing that home will always be there means that you have the freedom to leave. I find it all very satisfying.
I’ve started work on the construction of my/the (?) Astral Temple. The first time I tried this I had great difficulties at first, which frustrated me, since way back in my Wicca 201 days, I had to construct an Astral library, which I had no trouble with, and which I still use. I caught myself in the frustration and thought about why the library was so easy and this wasn’t. The answer that I came up with was: here I was given specific visual clues, with the library, I wasn’t. I’ve spent so much of my life in various libraries, I didn’t build this one first by what the place looked like, I built it by the sensation of being surrounded by books, and it was in that way that the physical and visual building came into being.
OK, so I decided to worry less about what the temple was suppose to look like and concentrated more on what it was supposed to feel like, in a very basic and sensual way. First, the Altar in the center had a black cloth covering it. I walked up to the altar and felt the cloth, and the structure of the altar underneath the cloth. And, voila, then I could see it, clearly. I knew that straight ahead would be the east wall of the Temple, so I walked straight ahead. On that wall was a tapestry curtain. I put out my hand, and felt the curtain, felt the stitches in the tapestry, felt the fringe at the edge, and saw the tapestry. I continued to walk, with my hand out. I felt the wall, smooth, cold ashlar stone. I walked, until I got to the corner, and turned. I kept walking until I came to the south tapestry, and again, felt the embroidery, the fringe, and the wall. I kept walking until I had gone all the way around the room. And, as I walked, with my hand out to sense where I was, I could see where I was. I walked the room twice more to be sure of what I was seeing, and then, lightheaded and tired, I closed the Temple, and continued with my evenings work.
The next night, I wasn’t going to go back to the Temple, as I was already exhausted (DH had injured his leg and slept restlessly, which meant I slept restlessly, and then an oak tree next door fell on the neighbors house-the sound was like an explosion and everyone in the neighborhood was up for the day. In one of those not so small miracles, no one was hurt even though the neighbor and her baby were sleeping in the room directly under where the tree hit the house.). But, once I got to that point in the evenings work, I decided to try it again, since it had been difficult the night before, and I wanted to practice. I was very pleased and surprised at how easy it was to get back there. This time, I was able to count the paces along each wall, so I could know the size of the room. I could see the ashlar block that it was constructed of. And, I could see the ripples in the cloth on the altar. I walked around the room once, just to reinforce it, and then closed for the night.
Night three called for an expansion of the exercise. Which was, to get up and walk about the room. Cool. At that point, I no longer needed to trail my hand along the wall to sense the dimensions, which is a good thing, because more furniture is appearing.
Further notes: I’ve given up on the 1 page per day in my notebook-it just wasn’t working anymore. And, next week, I get to finally meet Study Partner #1, in person. He and I have been emailing back and forth for almost a year, now, it will be helpful to finally have a face and a voice to put with the words and tones.
Lately, I’ve been teased by the partial memory of a story that I read as a child. I remember just enough to be intrigued, but not enough to remember how the story went, or even to look it up. If the bits and pieces that follow ring any bells with anyone reading this, please let me know!
What I remember: A man had three sons. I don’t remember if the man was a king or a worthy merchant. The man sent the eldest son out on a quest, but because the son didn’t follow his directions exactly (and I don’t remember what they were), he failed in the attempt. I don’t recall whether or not he was killed. So, the second son went out to complete the same quest, and he, too, failed. There was, of course, a beautiful woman involved. The third and youngest son went out on the quest after the failure of his brothers. So far, all standard. The youngest son succeeded, or very nearly succeeded. He was to retrieve a rose of gold, and did. He collected, or rescued the woman. But, rather than doing whatever he was supposed to do, he unwrapped and looked at the rose, and saw a worm, in the center of the flower, eating it and causing rot. At that point, the woman identified herself as the rose, or the rose as her.
And, that is ALL I remember. DH says that it is vaguely familiar to him, as well. Does anyone else have an idea?
I am now at the point in the Greer book, where, in addition to new work, I start reviewing all that has come before. And, the first thing that I’ve noticed is how I’ve been eased into the volume of work. I’ve been trying to keep my notebook to one page per day. In the beginning, I would have a few lines or a paragraph of notes, but the pages would be mostly blank. Now, I can only keep to the single page per day idea if I write in very, very small print, and I sometimes end up with 2 lines of handwriting per printed line in the note book. For ease of reading what I have done, I may have to go to two pages per day, although for some reason, I really don’t want to do that.
The curriculum has eased me into the subject, in other ways, as well. Being more interested in thaumaturgy than theurgy, AND not coming from a Christian background (whatever the protests about the use of Kabbalah, the Hebrew letters, the religious background of Israel Regardie…due to the religious background and the society from which they sprung, the men, and yes it was primarily men, who formed the background and backbone of the WMT, formed a tradition that appears Christian-at least from the outside), to start with a textbook that leaves out most of the “also used as religious symbols” stuff was a helpful “in.”
My younger daughter had a band concert at the high school tonight. Not the honors jazz band, this was the the full school, just sign up for the class, band. While not the worst school band I've ever heard (that would be the middle school band-they sounded like an oompah band in a traffic accident), clearly, the entire audience was there to cheer on their children rather than for any quality of music.
Sitting directly in front of me was a man with 2 small children, I would say the little boy was five or six and the little girl was maybe 3 years old. Before the band started playing they were very squirmy and noisy, but once the lights went down, the father gathered the little girl onto his lap, and put one arm around the little boy. Once or twice I heard a "shushing" or a "please sit still" from the father.
On the other side of the not very full auditorium, there was an other little girl, about four or five years of age. She was sitting at one end of the aisle, while her mother sat at the other end. Through out the first four songs of the concert (the band director is a very kind man, the concert was short, besides, he has a new puppy at home) this little girl was shouting at the top of her lungs. Her mother would (from 15 feet away) shush her, loudly. But didn't do anything else. At the final song, the mother went and picked up her daughter, causing the girl to shriek and cry. Did the mother take the child out? Of course not, if she did that, she would miss her older child playing in the concert, never mind the effect of the misbehaving child on the musicians or the rest of the audience.
Because when my children were young, I tried to be conscientious about proper behavior and not inflicting my children on other people, I was furious at this mother by the end of the concert. As in seeing red, I know my blood pressure is going up, furious.
When the lights came up, at the end of the concert, I said to the father sitting in front of me, "Thank you for having well behaved children." The intense pleasure on the mans face jolted me out of my furor. He said to his children, "did you just hear what the lady said? She said that you were well behaved. I am very proud that you were good enough that someone else noticed, thank you. Should we stop for ice cream on the way home?" Then, of course, there was intense pleasure on the faces of the two children.
I went home (having collected my rather larger child) in the glow of a good mood.
This, from "Practical Kabbalah" by Rabbi Laibl Wolf.
"A younger evolving Hassid is taught that all the theory in the world is of no use without avoido. Literally, this means "work." The work consists of changing oneself...Avoido is the means by which the student trains the Mind and Emotion flows and behaviors to embody the attributes that the master demonstrates in his life."
Pretty much "The Great Work, "no?
And, it is pronounced, Ah Vo Ee Doh, not Avoid-oh!
The tree peonies and the wisteria are in bloom. The korean lilac is just beginning to have its flower buds open. The peas seem to have decided that they will be recumbant this year-no matter what I do to try to convince them to climb all those nice supports I've given them, they seem to want to crawl along the ground. The spinach and the lettuce have real leaves and I can finally tell them apart from the weeds-time to plant another row of each! The tomatoes will go into the garden tomorrow. The spearmint has escaped from the narrow bed where it was planted, into the lawn, where it is doing battle with the oregano that naturalized in the lawn a few years back-making for a very interesting combination of scents when the lawn is mowed. And finally, all our new, little trees seem to have taken. Those trees were the earth day project for DH and me. We planted 50 Canadian hemlocks in one day-a personal record for us. I'd love to post a current picture of the circle. (I will have to get DH to take a new picture, since his height is required to get the right angle.)
Of all the assignments, readings, lists to memorize, things to learn and absorb, the last thing I ever expected to have trouble with, while working my way through the Greer curriculum was the hebrew. Writing the hebrew, specifically (although I do have issues with his transliteration, too. Decent transliteration is HARD). I learned to write hebrew when I was 7 or 8 years old, but I learned hebrew as a living, conversational language. So, while I learned to read the fancy, printed ceremonial type, I learned to write (and read, too) the script or handwriting letters. To say that the letters of "handwriting" look different from "print" is to say that shorthand notation doesn't look anything like the lettering on the front page of the New York Times. Learning something entirely new is much easier than taking something you know, filing it away and learning it all over again, but differently. Every time I write something, I have to consciously remind myself to not do it that way that I've always done it. I actually find myself consulting a chart, and using a hebrew school primer to teach myself how to write letters in a language that I've known for ....lets just say: decades. I've even taught hebrew (well, as a substitute). The only advantage that I've gotten from that is at least I know where to get the tools to relearn from. So far, I've had not much trouble with the official "will" exercises. I guess this makes up for it.
Jewish funerals are short, (bitter)sweet and for the living. The family funerals that I’ve attended have had services that have lasted about 10 minutes. The Rabbi opens with a short prayer, spends about 8 minutes talking about the deceased, and then closes with another short prayer. Very often, the drive from the funeral home to the cemetery takes longer than the events that bookend the drive. At the cemetery, the rabbi will speak a few words and the coffin will get lowered into the grave. That’s it. And, last Friday, at my Uncle’s funeral, we didn’t even go graveside. It was a military funeral and he was buried at a VA cemetery-it seems they don’t do graveside services, as there is no little space between gravesites.
I’ve been lucky, I’ve never had to attend the funeral of a child, or an adult who died suddenly, unexpectedly, so I don’t know how something like that would proceed. In my (limited) experience, we go from cemetery to the home of the chief mourner, in this case, my Aunt, where shiva will be sat. (And, yes, at this emotional distance, and back in my multicultural/pagan/jewitch home, that is a very strange looking sentence.) Family members change out of their funeral clothing, back into comfortable clothes, and we sit and talk and eat. You can generally tell the mourners from the visitors by how they are dressed. Those who come to offer condolences or pay their respects tend to be much more formally dressed.
I don’t know who arranged the food delivery for my aunt, but it all seemed to have come from Brooklyn, and, as tradition demanded, there was far too much of it. I seem to recall a lot more alcohol after my mothers burial-but that could have been because she was so young when she died, or because it is now so much easier to legally acquire pharmaceuticals. Or maybe it is just the difference between Florida and New York. The other big difference is that we; me, my sister, my cousins, are now the adults. My aunts are now both widows, and my father is the last surviving male of his generation. He seemed to visibly age over the course of this trip.
Traditionally, one sits shiva for ten days. The idea is that people come and keep you company and bring you food and take care of things so you can properly mourn and say Kaddish. I think the “real” reason is so that at the end of the period you are glad to take up a regular life again. After my mother died, I think that I lasted about 3 days before wishing everyone would just go away. On Friday, my Aunt interrupted the Rabbi (not an uncommon thing for a member of my family to do, btw) at the funeral home to announce that she was only sitting shiva for 2 days. She told me later on, that as long as she had all of her children and grandchildren visiting, she intended to salvage something from the week, and enjoy her family.
All in all, I was away for just over 26 hours, in Florida (and outside of the airport) for about 20 hours. It has taken me nearly five days to recuperate. At first, I thought it was just exhaustion, and sadness at the passing of my Uncle. But I think that issue of the passing of the generations may have affected me, as well.
One observation did amuse me. While I was packing to leave, DH noticed that I put three books (plus notebook and tarot cards) in my carry on bag, thereby constituting most of the weight. He pointed out that I wasn’t likely to have much time to read. I agreed, but wanted to make sure that, under the circumstances, if I did have time to read, I would have a book to fit my mood. When I met up with my Dad and my sister to leave for the airport, I found that they had each done the same thing. Among the three of us, we had nine books, three magazines and a newspaper.
And now, I’d like to get back to the life-that-passes-for-normal, please.
The two days in Florida (more details, maybe tomorrow) have really thrown me off schedule in many things. Some can be made up, some can't. The talisman will not be done for tomorrow. Sigh. Off to check calendars for the next appropriate date. And, back to embroidering.
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