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Archive for the ‘Rituals & Spirituality’ Category

Did you know that access to blue space is important for our health and well-being?  Blue space is any visible surface water, which may be the ocean, a river, or a garden water feature – maybe even a bath?  We’ve known for years that having access to green space/trees and vegetation could boost our mental health, but the benefits of blue space are less recognised.

The house in Onehunga where we lived for 16 years had a tiny view of the Manukau Harbour.  It was visible only from the lounge window, but it was a view I always treasured.  From the north windows of our cottage we get a glimpse of the Ōtākaro/Avon River, which I likewise treasure.

Our river view

My weekly beach walks refresh my soul.  I also enjoy the water feature in our garden.  The birds enjoy bathing in it, and Ziggy likes to drink from his ‘mountain pool’.  Water flows everywhere on earth and eventually connects us all.  This idea particularly appeals to me because my daughters live on the other side of the world.  Marion Zimmer Bradley said: All the waters of the world are connected, and where there is water the power of the Goddess flows.

It’s vital that we have blue space
to counteract life’s busy pace

 

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Today is the shortest day of the year, and we can now look forward to seeing a little more light each day, even if the coldest part of winter is still ahead of us.

Matariki star

This year I was lucky to have two winter solstice celebrations.  The first yesterday was a group of nine women who got together for the first time since the rāhui.  We started by acknowledging the fact that Matariki is now visible, and learning the meaning of each of her nine stars.  Then we shared what’s been happening in our lives and what we are looking forward to.

Today a group of seven women met to celebrate the solstice, and again began by hearing the qualities of the nine stars.  We considered what our aspirations might be for the coming year, and made bookmarks depicting these.  My hope is that I can be kind and creative.

I came home to find three emails, each of which require some voluntary work on my part.  Perhaps a good reminder that the winter solstice also marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week.  I might just be kind to myself and leave them to be dealt with tomorrow.

This post finishes with a poem from P. S. Moffat (edited slightly):

When days are darkest
the earth enshrines
the seeds of summer’s birth

The spirit of love
is a light that shines
deep in the darkness of earth

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With dawning feminism I became aware and cynical of the role of the Christian Church in oppressing women.  While I admire and support the basic tenets of Christianity, the operation of the church has often been less than Christian in my opinion.  In the 1970s I was introduced to Broadsheet and became a long-term subscriber.  I took Women’s Studies courses through the Auckland W.E.A., and was encouraged to buy and read The Paradise Papers by Merlin Stone, later re-published as When God Was A Woman.  This book documented how the patriarchy deliberately suppressed female images and symbols over millennia.  I hungrily sought and devoured similar books and discussed my discoveries with friends.

In 1984 Auckland University Continuing Education offered a course on Women’s Spirituality, tutored by Lea Holford.  I dithered, wondering whether this would be for me, and eventually phoned to enrol the week before the course was due to start.  To my surprise it was already full, and I’d missed out.  The next year I made sure to enrol early, and the course was an amazing revelation.  Lea, who came from San Francisco and knew Starhawk, shared knowledge and images that were affirming and wonderful.

There was one man in the course, because at that time the University would not allow gender discrimination in its enrolments.  Several of the students convinced this man that his attendance was not appropriate, and he left.  Many of us wrote to the University to request that such courses be women-only, but I’m not sure what the outcome of this was.

Initiation card

The final session of six included an initiation into Women’s Mysteries.  For me this was profound.  I had a strong sense that I was linking with innumerable women who had similarly experienced the Mysteries over countless years.  I shared this with the woman next to me, and to my surprise she had not had a similar experience.  A group of women from the course agreed that we would meet regularly and share feminist ritual, and thus the group that became Tapestry was born.  Some of us were later involved in organizing a Women’s Spirituality weekend, which was again a profoundly moving experience.  With another woman I facilitated a re-birthing ritual there.  One of the participants told me afterwards that this was especially powerful for her because she was a twin, and the experience this time was uniquely hers.

Juliet Batten offered a W.E.A. course in feminist ritual and I eagerly enrolled for this.  Juliet’s course explored ritual in a more intimate setting, led to an advanced course, and to the formation of the ritual group Cone which I also relished.

By this time I knew I’d be leaving Auckland at the end of 1986, and although it seemed greedy to be in two ritual groups I was keen to gather and enjoy all the experience I could, not knowing whether I’d be able to find similar groups in Christchurch.

Once we’d settled in, I advertised and networked, and found women with similar interests, but no ongoing group until I went with some friends to an Ecumenical Feminist Women’s Conference at Rangi Ruru in 1988, where 150 women gathered for several days.  The majority were or had recently been involved with the Christian Church, but one workshop for pagan women attracted just thirteen – surely an auspicious number.  From this a ritual group was formed.  It’s gone through many incarnations over the years and is still a source of spiritual strength and sisterhood for me and others.

Centrepiece for Summer Solstice 2005

At different times we’ve held large open rituals and joined with other groups.  A North Canterbury group, nurtured by Noreen Penny, co-founder of the Kate Sheppard Women’s Bookshop, was responsible for inviting overseas women to speak and hold workshops, notably Zsuzsanna Budapest and Carol P Christ.

I was pleased on a number of occasions to offer workshops and courses on feminist ritual, sometimes with a friend and sometimes on my own.  Because feminist spirituality was so important to me I was keen to share the experience with others.

All the ritual groups I’ve been involved with have celebrated the eight festivals of the year, solstices, equinoxes, and those in between.  We also celebrate significant birthdays and life events.  Our group’s numbers have declined as some women have moved away, and some have died.  We have not actively sought new members for some time, but it’s good to have occasional glimpses of younger women who are celebrating in their own way.

Image of Ishtar

For me, the experience of women’s spirituality is summed up by this quote from Ntozake Shange: I found god in myself, and I loved her, I loved her fiercely.

 

 

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The Liberal Catholic Church was the denomination I was brought up in.  I understood that it was originally a Dutch Protestant Church, and that it was linked to the Theosophical Society (T.S.).  In both Christchurch and Auckland the Church used the T.S. premises for its services, until the Auckland congregation built their own church in Grafton in 1964.

Liberal Catholic Church of St Francis, Grafton Auckland. Taken 2014.

The N.Z. Church states that it aims at combining the traditional form of worship – with its stately form of ritual, its deep mysticism and its abiding witness to the reality of sacramental grace – with the widest measure of intellectual liberty and respect for the individual conscience.  Both the Church and the T.S. were an important part of my mother’s life, and as a child I usually accompanied her to Sunday service.  I loved the incense and the chanting, and still do.  When I returned to Christchurch in the late 1980s the Church here was still operational and I went a few times, especially near Mother’s birthday.  However by this time the congregation had shrunk to just a few.  Having a particular interest in various forms of the Goddess I was intrigued to find an invocation to Mary was now included, and nuns from the nearby Anglican convent were involved in this part.  Sadly the T.S. building where Christchurch services were held was demolished in the earthquakes and as far as I’m aware there is no longer a Liberal Catholic congregation in this city.

In my Primary School years the Church, or possibly the T.S., had a junior section, known as the Order of the Round Table, and I remember taking part in a ritual which involved bread and salt.

My mother was deeply involved in the T.S. whose motto is There is no religion higher than truth, and she had a keen interest in Eastern religions and esoteric philosophies.  She was also a member of the Co-Freemasons, attending rituals where she wore a long white gown and a special apron.  I’ve talked about this to a male Mason who was adamant there was no such lodge and only men could be Masons, but I know this is not correct, and there is a website for the Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry in New Zealand.

When I was about eight my mother extravagantly ordered a pair of Kirlian glasses.  These were supposed to enable you to see auras.  She got me to stand naked while she scanned my aura, but I don’t think she had much success.  Mother was always fascinated by the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, and we went together to hear George Adamski, who claimed to have had contact with Venusians, speak when he visited Christchurch.  The only thing I remember about his talk was my fascination with his accent which led him to pronounce ‘the earth’ as ‘te ert’.

After we’d moved to Auckland Mother took me to experience church services of various denominations.  I think this was to enable me to make up my own mind as to which form of religion might suit me.  One Sunday we went to the Spiritualist Church where a Scottish medium gave messages from people who had died.  Mother told me she’d done something similar after my father died and had got a message saying it was all a lot of tommyrot, which she said was exactly the word he would have used.

This medium told me I would soon be taking a long trip (this was not long before my first visit to Australia).  I was given a message from someone who said “You don’t know me, but ask them about Elizabeth”.  Mother told me afterwards that Elizabeth was her pet name for her own mother who had died before I was born.  I was convinced by this, but had no desire for further messages.

In 1962 Mother built a home on leasehold land in the Theosophical enclave at Mt St John in Epsom.  Here we were surrounded by people of similar values and interests.  Until 1959 there had been an alternative school there, run on Montessori/type lines, but this had now gone, and most of the neighbours were older people.

From at least the 1960s Mother regularly practised yoga and was a vegetarian before either of these were popular, and for many years she audited the books of the national Vegetarian Society pro bono.

Mother next to Swami Karanunanda, Yoga Weekend, Oratia, March 1970.  Photo: Auckland Star

Wide range religion was habitual
and left me with a love of ritual

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As we no longer have a daughter in our bubble to shop for us, we tried again to organise online delivery, and this time it was straightforward.  Last Tuesday, using Countdown’s Priority Assistance facility, we were able to place an order which will be delivered tomorrow.  As this was the first time we’d done it we weren’t perfectly organised and realised we’d need a few more things, especially fruit and vegetables, before next week’s order.  (I’d forgotten to get mushrooms for my weekend omelettes!)  So, this morning we went to the Supermarket, the first time I’ve been for four weeks.  I am our chosen shopper because I’m less vulnerable to infection than Stephen.  At 9.15am there was no queue, and the shop wasn’t crowded, there actually seemed to be more staff than shoppers.

New World is no longer offering fresh flowers, which makes me wonder how Moffatt’s is doing.  The sunflowers Cathryn bought last week are still looking good, and I wonder what’s happened to the pots of miniature daffodils usually on offer at this time of year.

The only item on my list that wasn’t available was chicken breasts.  There were plenty of drumsticks, but I bought diced chicken instead.

The weather was fine and I decided to walk home, leaving Stephen to drive and unpack our purchases.  It was good to walk somewhere different but disconcerting that the central city streets are so eerily empty.  We’ve often driven past these golden flamingoes on Durham Street, and this is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to photograph them.

Flamingoes at Underground Coffee Roasters

Later in the morning I had a phone call from Fran.  She was a Jehovah’s Witness who would usually be out door-knocking, but because of the Rāhui they’re phoning people instead to check they’re okay.  I assured her we are fine and she asked whether I thought things would get better, worse, or stay the same.  My reply was that I expect them to get better, but it might take a while.  She then asked to share a passage from the Bible with me, and I told her I’m a practising Pagan and not interested, thank you.  Fran said she’d never met a practising Pagan and did we have somewhere we meet regularly?  I said we did but at the moment we’re meeting on Zoom like so many other groups.  It was good to talk to somebody different, and I think Fran thought so too.

After that it was time to enjoy lunch outside on the sunny patio.

With shopping and a kind phone call
the morning did not drag at all

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Day 2 of Lockdown and the streets are eerily quiet.  We drove to the supermarket where there were a lot of vehicles in the car park, but no queue.  Hand sanitiser and trolley wipes were offered and welcome.  I went in to do the shopping while Stephen waited in the car.  The first item on my list was a bunch of flowers because there are so few in the garden at present.

Cheerful flowers

The only goods not available were Barkers Elderflower and Lime Cordial, and Maggi Beef Stock, but there were suitable substitutes.  The checkout operator was someone I hadn’t seen before and she was sheltered behind a perspex screen.  Three cheers for all the supermarket staff working hard in an extremely difficult situation!  I used Paywave to be contactless, but because the total was over $200 I had to enter a pin on the keypad.

Later I went for a walk and was surprised to meet a flock of pigeons on the riverbank.  When I got my camera out they all took off.

Pigeons on the riverbank

The empty streets are reminiscent of a scene after an atomic bomb.  The fact that our household now includes a daughter makes it seem as though we’ve travelled back in time.  The whole situation is surreal and strange, and I haven’t yet quite absorbed the reality.  Autumn Equinox passed unremarkably.  The next festival will be Samhain at the end of April, traditionally a time to honour our beloved dead.  I wonder how many will have succumbed to the virus by then.  Thank the Goddess for Jacinda’s calm kind messages and actions.

The silent streets seem quite unreal
What future fate do they conceal?

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At an introductory session for my Te Reo course I was asked to fill in a form and give three reasons why I wanted to do the course.  I hadn’t thought a great deal about this beforehand (I’m a reflective learner) and put down things like wanting to understand what was being said at meetings and on radio and TV.  Lately I’ve been more carefully considering my reasons, particularly as my commitments for the next couple of months have increased, and I’m less confident of being able to give sufficient time to study.

My desire to learn Te Reo is partly because of my commitment to Te Tiriti and partly because of my desire for a more inclusive society where my values are shared.  On several past occasions I’ve been part of making a treaty-based decision to transfer a small amount of power from Pakeha to Maori, which has always given me a good feeling, as well as building my relationship with Maori.  For some years I regularly attended monthly meetings of Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, and loved the process, energy and ‘wellcomeness’/manaakitanga of these meetings – so different to the way much Pakeha business is conducted.  I’m aware that Te Tiriti is the basis for government in this country.

I’ve done some study, mainly experiential, of Maori Tikanga, and I’m drawn to the fact that their world view is communal rather than individual.  I also love that their spirituality is based on nature and a balance between feminine and masculine.  This is in line with my own spirituality and has a familiar security for me.  I sometimes find the Maori links with Christianity uncomfortable, but this applies in the Pakeha world as well!

I see learning Te Reo as a personal way of helping to integrate society in Aotearoa.  All my voluntary work is based around supporting communities, especially my local geographic community, and I welcome the chance to help bring about a society that reflects my values.  My recent small action for abortion law reform was another such opportunity.

It’s been good to reflect on my reasons for choosing to study Te Reo, and this reflection makes me more motivated to succeed.

Te Reo opens up a door
and I’m encouraged to learn more

 

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Today, the ninth anniversary of the major Christchurch earthquake, I was privileged to again lead an informal commemoration beside the river.  We were pleased that so many local people came.  I’m not sure of the number – at least 40.  Several told me how much they appreciate the opportunity to remember in this way.  Always a poignant occasion, I felt emotional during the two minute silence, and when I tossed a flower into the river while the piper played Abide with me.  I suspect the emotion will always be there on this date.  There’s a woman currently doing a study that suggests there have been changes in the brains of those who experienced the earthquakes.

Afterwards everyone was invited to a barbecue lunch at the Community Cottage.  Rain had been forecast for the middle of the day, but the sun shone, and we sat in the shade of a large gazebo enjoying live music.  The rain, much needed and very welcome, started to fall in the late afternoon.

Later as I sat doing the daily Code Cracker I realised that the first word was seismic, and the word earthquake also featured.  Good to have this oblique extra acknowledgement of the day.

Years ago when I was a Brown Owl 22 February was celebrated as Thinking Day because it was the birthday of both Lord and Lady Baden Powell.  I asked a current Scout leader whether this is still so and he told me they now call 22 February Founders’ Day – not sure whether they still use the day as an occasion to think, but in Christchurch we certainly do.

On this our special day of days
our memories come in different ways

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Spring Equinox was the focus of our celebration today.  This is the time of year when day and night are of equal length, and in the southern hemisphere we can look forward to the days growing lighter and warmer as we head towards summer.

We each shared a personal symbol of balance, then did a meditation that guided us towards whatever we hope to see renewed.  Later we were invited to plant something in a pot to take home.  I was pleased to receive a spider plant to nurture.

Spider plant

I shared an equinoctial poem that I wrote several years ago:

Equinox Entreaty

September twenty-three’s the date
when balance will predominate
that is the special day when light
is strictly equal with the night.

In Aotearoa we can see
the signs of nature breaking free
the trees are full of blossoms and
sweet smells of spring pervade the land.

But on the planet’s other side
in England where my daughters bide
they’re heading for a winter drear
while we get summer over here.

At equinox I like to think
the distances between us shrink
like us they’re poised around halfway
at that mid point twixt night and day.

At this date all the world may share
a perfect balance everywhere.
We pray for peace that it may come
as we share equilibrium.

 

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When my Mother died in 1995 her body was cremated as she wished.  I collected her ashes and when I was asked where they would be placed, was happy to tell the crematorium, and pleased to know this was being recorded for the benefit of future genealogists.

I hadn’t thought to ask Mother where she’d like her ashes to go, and briefly considered putting them in the Avon/Otakaro River which she loved.  However I knew this would be offensive to Maori, and decided that I would scatter them in my garden, knowing she’d be happy with this.  I didn’t want to place them under a particular tree or shrub, thinking that could be problematic if we later moved somewhere else.  My idea was simply that she would return to the earth in a general way.  Mother used to live in a Theosophical community and I remembered her saying that after a senior member died and his ashes were scattered on a grassy slope it felt strange to walk past little piles of ash knowing they were his.  Consequently I gently forked Mother’s ashes into the soil, so they were well mixed into various parts of my garden.

Some years later I was disturbed to learn that pregnant Maori women are advised not to attend any funeral or go near a site where there is any part of a dead body (because they are tapu when pregnant).  I wasn’t expecting any pregnant Maori visitors but was aware that if any came I’d need to explain that my home might not be suitable to receive them.  A few years ago an older man, well-versed in Maori spiritual lore, came to see me to bless a taonga I’d been given, and I told him of my concern.  He offered to cleanse my property and we followed a ritual for this.  It’s good to have had this done, to know that Mother’s ashes can rest in peace, and any pregnant visitors are quite safe.

I like to honour local lore,
and tikanga I can’t ignore.

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