Archive for the ‘Transformations’ Category

I had a strange Lent and an even stranger Holy Week. While I last posted on Holy Saturday, nearly a month ago, the only Holy Week liturgies I attended were Palm Sunday and Good Friday. For the former, I was the narrator for the dramatic reading of Matthew’s Passion Gospel; for the latter, I went to the little parish where I grew up for a taste of old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic religion.

And then I woke up one day and realized that I no longer believed in what was in the Creeds. Actually, it was probably in the shower. I realize a lot of things in the shower. If I actually believed that other gods existed–which I did, and possibly always had–if I actually believed I could pray to Antinous, a deified Greek youth, and get a response–which I definitely did, and had–then I really was not a Christian.

I still believe Jesus was a historical person who lived and died and was resurrected, becoming divine even if he wasn’t pre-existently divine. I believe he was and is a God on the side of the poor, the occupied, the oppressed, the disenfranchised. It’s just that he and I really don’t have much of a relationship. I don’t think we ever have.

My relationship has always been with the tradition, with Anglicanism, with saints like Julian of Norwich, with the music of Byrd and Tallis, with poetry like Donne’s and Herbert’s, with writers like C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot, Charles Williams. Not, ironically, with the God who inspired them.

I’ve been praying and making offerings to Antinous and observing the festivals of the Ekklesía Antínoou for about the last month, with a good deal of personal satisfaction. I’ve started a side Tumblr where I’ve been writing about my experiments with devotional polytheism, Antinous for Everybody. I will still be posting here and hanging out on other WordPress blogs, though.

I feel like I have suffered a lot of losses in the past two years. Yet that has left me extraordinarily free to pursue my religious and creative aims. And I have been blessed with a stable job, good friends, and the company of my pet cockatiel Rembrandt, aka Spanky. It’s a good life.

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I’ve been roaming the blogosphere lately, looking for new writers to read, and by curious chance (or perhaps divine guidance) I came across this post by Cat Treadwell, “Sacred Reading”. Cat, a Druid, writes movingly of reading a book about a woman’s stay in the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky, made famous by enclosing the writer Thomas Merton, and being struck by the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina, sacred reading. Lectio is a slow, ruminative, prayerful encounter with the sacred, primarily in the Christian Scriptures, but also, potentially, in other texts and other ways of seeking meaning.

I myself was struck by finding a pagan Druid writing of Christian monastic life and spiritual practices when I have lately been restless and unhappy after immersing myself in much the same sort of reading for months. Now I was seeking pagan bloggers, druid bloggers, new pagan books.

In early 2013 I transferred my church membership to a new parish (new to me, that is, not to the area) and had contentedly identified myself as Episcopalian, no qualifiers, for the past year. At least, that has been my story. I put books on magic and pagan topics in empty Amazon boxes, determined to give them away, yet somehow they never found their way out of the apartment. My New Hermetics pantacle, my Tarot decks, my tiny statues of Buddha sitting zazen and Isis on her throne lingered in my possession, along with books I never even considered giving up. And since the beginning of this year, more or less, the words of the Daily Office have withered, disconnected from the actual relationship I am having with Jesus, and I have been missing another deity I used to have a relationship with: Antinous.

I have said all along that I think Antinous pointed me toward my Episcopal church and said, “Visit one more time. You’ll see.” I felt that if I asked for his help again, politely, he would be inclined to give it.  He has this in common with Jesus: He does not turn people away, regardless of who they are. He excludes no one. (Jesus’s followers haven’t always lived up to that principle, but I think the Gospels are pretty clear that it was his modus operandi.) And the Bithynian Boy has indeed calmed my anxieties and helped to clear my mind over the past few days.

The truth is, while I’ve been an Episcopalian most of my life, I’m not sure I’ve ever been a monotheist. I remember having two children’s Bibles, one with simple crayon-like drawings and retellings mostly of the Gospels, the other with “religious” paintings of a Protestant kind in which Jesus was, quite bluntly, a blond-haired, blue-eyed hottie. I know I spent a lot of time staring at the illustration of Jesus, naked to the waist, standing thigh-deep in the waters of Jordan at his baptism.

At the same time, I owned or borrowed from the library numerous books on mythology, especially Greco-Roman and Egyptian, and on world religions. There was a lavishly illustrated Time-Life volume I borrowed many times that included a two-page illustration of the Hindu pantheon, done in popular devotional style; photographs of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox liturgies; cool black-and-white photos of Zen monks, and chapters on Judaism and Islam as well. I always read far ahead of my grade level and quickly graduated to the mostly-text books on the adult side of the library, on comparative religions, archaeology, and the ancient world.

As near as I can remember, if you’d asked me what those Greek, Egyptian, Hindu gods were doing now that everybody knew Jesus was The Real God, I would have said something like, “They’re retired now.” They weren’t in charge of everything any more, because Jesus, but they certainly existed. I don’t think I ever doubted that they existed. Maybe all those color photographs helped me to understand that all those other people actually took their religions seriously, even if they weren’t Protestant Christianity.

A chance mention somewhere, on someone’s blog, most likely, led me to look up meanings for the placement of Jupiter in my natal chart, in the sign of Gemini. I actually suffered the old cliche of a sinking stomach as I read that Jupiter in Gemini can be a religious dilettante, attracted by everything, always hungry for new information, but not very likely to settle down with one particular path or practice.

I thought about this, and prayed about it, and finally said to myself, I’ve just turned forty-eight. I could live another fifty years or more. Instead of trying to fight this trait in myself, how about turning a bug into a feature? How about just going with the flow and see where it goes?

So tonight the triptych I made for Antinous, my statues of Buddha and Isis, my stones and feathers, rocks and shells, joined my icons of Christ, the Virgin of Tenderness, and the Trinity on my mantel and on the table below. My best photo of my grandmother is there, along with icons of Julian of Norwich, my beloved spiritual mother these thirty years, and Perpetua and Felicity, early Roman Christian martyrs whom I venerate during Lent. Incense is burning and tea lights are lit, offerings to the holy powers. Tomorrow I will go to church, sing Lenten hymns, hear the Word preached, and receive the body and blood of Jesus at his table where all are welcome. Tonight, I feel calm. In the midst of this topsy-turvy time of warmth and cold, longer days, Lent over here and Purim over there, Ostara and Holi and at last the crocuses are opening, the birds are singing, I finally feel calm.

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It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted here, I see. I’ve been busy elsewhere on the Internet, and somewhat busy with personal upheaval as well. Long story short, my spouse and I separated in January, and I’ve been living on my own for the first time in over twenty years, with the company of my faithful cockatiel Rembrandt (also known as Spanky).

In the past twelve months, I’ve been writing fanfiction, working slowly on an original novel, and holding forth with various opinions on Tumblr, in between reblogging pictures of cute parrots and cute British actors. What brings me back to this blog is that, for the second time in my own blogging tenure, I’ve recently seen someone who was a very prominent pagan blogger publicly return to the Church. And I’ve seen some, not all, of the pagan blogosphere’s reactions to that return, not all of which have been understanding or supportive.

What strikes me funny is that, at least in the most recent instance, I think I predicted this very thing several years ago. The blogger in question is a cradle Episcopalian, and one Episcopalian knows another. The Roman Catholic Church’s hold on its members is proverbial, but the Anglican tradition’s ability to print itself on the mind and heart and soul deeply and permanently is a well-kept secret. Anglicans rather famously go off to be New Agers or Theosophists or Revival Druids or ceremonial magicians, but they also never stop being Anglicans and going to church.

The thing is, in the past year I’ve done the same thing. I am once again a full-time, committed, practicing Christian, an active member of an Episcopal parish. On the Sunday after Christmas in 2012, I woke up and thought, “I’d like to go to church. I’d like to have a proper Sunday after Christmas liturgy.” The parish where my husband was working at the time always celebrated the Roman feast of the Holy Family on that day–a nineteenth-century invention, a celebration of the nuclear family that did not exist in Jesus’s time or for most of history, in most cultures, until the nineteenth century. I wanted something else.

I went to the principal service of the Episcopal church right across the street from our house. I found a new rector who preached engagingly, intelligently, and who invited all, even the non-baptized, to come to the altar for Communion, if they were “hungry for God”. And I realized that I was, indeed, very very hungry for God, and for the carols we sang, and for something in the liturgy, the preaching, the energy of the place that I recognized. As progressive as the liturgy was, a far cry from the old 1928 Prayerbook and 1940 Hymnal in the little church of my childhood, there was something going on in this church that I had first felt in that little church. It was the same current, to borrow a magical term. It was the first indication I had had in over a decade that the Anglican tradition I knew and loved was still alive and well in the Episcopal Church and had not been trampled to death by either extreme liberals or extreme conservatives.

I went back twice more, I think, before I officially changed my parish membership from my husband’s church to my new church, Emmanuel Episcopal in downtown Baltimore. And then my husband and I talked, on the MLK holiday, and acknowledged it was time to part.

The change in religion was not something I wanted to talk about, for a long time. I didn’t know how to write about it. I did not want to be seen as bashing paganism, or demonizing it. I have problems with parts of pagan culture, but I sure as hell have problems with large parts of Christianity, too. The problem with both paganism and Christianity is that human beings are involved, with all their fallibility and their baggage and the capacity for self-deceit. So I didn’t blog about it.

People grow up Christian, or Jewish, or atheist, and it doesn’t work for them. They need something more; they try something else. They become witches, pagans, druids, Buddhists, Muslims. Sometimes they find an alternative that works and stabilize in it; sometimes they don’t. Going back to the Church, for me, is largely a matter of acknowledging that all the other things I tried didn’t work, and the nourishment I thought was no longer available in my native tradition is actually still there, so I’m putting down all the things that didn’t work, with gratitude, and going back to the system that does. I make a pretty good Episcopalian and a pretty poor anything else.

At the time I spontaneously went to church last Christmastide, I had been experimenting with devotion to Antinous for a couple of months, with some positive results. I suspect that it was actually Antinous who realized I didn’t want him, really, I wanted that Jewish guy who became a god, and Antinous who prodded me to get up and go out that Sunday morning, and discover my people and my tradition once again. To the Bithynian god, I am grateful, un-Christian though it may seem. Ave Antinoe! Gratias ago tibi!

And so in my own weird way, I conclude this post on returning to Christianity with a thanksgiving to a pagan god, and hope that some of my readers will stick with me as I begin to write about what makes the Episcopal style of Christianity work for me.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

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For as long as I’ve been able to read, I’ve loved to read about religion. Whether it was my own religion, Protestant (Episcopal) Christianity, or the more exotic forms of Christianity in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, or other religions entirely, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, it was all interesting. I started with picture-heavy tomes on Religions of the World, went on to children’s retellings of Greek and Norse myths, and branched out into adult books on archaeology, mythology, and comparative religion. For most of my life (I could already read when I entered kindergarten), religion has been for me one of the most fascinating things in the world.

When I discovered The Spiral Dance at thirteen, the same year it was published, what I discovered was not just that some people believed in a Goddess, or The Goddess, or gods and goddesses. I discovered that people like me believed in them, worshipped them, took them seriously, right now today. People who were Americans, who were brought up as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who weren’t ethnic or exotic or distant from in time or space. People like me.

As soon as I finished the book, I was quite certain I was actually a Witch, or at least a Pagan, and that I always would be. My observance took the form of writing a lot of bad poetry about spring and fall and my two favorite deities, Athena and Dionysus. Well, I was only thirteen. Then when I was sixteen, my grandmother died, after no illness and a massive heart attack and on my birthday, and within two years, I was back at my little Episcopal church, because there was a new priest there and absolutely no community, no support, in my solitary poetry-writing paganism.

In the last twenty years, I have identified variously as a Neopagan, an Anglican, a Druid, a Magician, and a Buddhist. I have been a member of two different druid organizations, trained in a Hermetic magical system, flirted with Greco-Egyptian syncretism, and taken refuge and bodhisattva vows. I have kept and abandoned and restarted this blog multiple times. I have read not only on Druidry, magic and occultism, and Tibetan Buddhism, but on Zen, Santeria, Wicca, Feri, Reclaiming, Asatru and the Northern Tradition, and Thelema.

In that same period of time, I have been happily monogamously married to one man, my husband, my best friend, my lover. Being sexually and emotional faithful, being true to the traditional Christian wedding vows we made, has not been difficult or challenging in the slightest. Admiring beautiful people and swooning over beautiful, talented actors has not interfered with my commitment to one person and our life together.

A lot of people find long-term sexual/romantic commitment difficult, even impossible. They cheat on spouses, adopt serial monogamy, or try the path of polyamory. Yet they might not have a problem adopting one spiritual path, one system of practice, and sticking to it. I know people who have been Wiccan or Heathen or Buddhist for decades, as contentedly as I have been married. If someone asked me for relationship advice, as somebody with a successful marriage, I would have no hesitation in giving it. But if someone asked me for spiritual advice, well, I have to admit, finally, that I remain in many ways a beginner, because I have never stayed the course and gone deep with anything.

Right now I’m reading Dedicant: A Witch’s Circle of Fire by Thuri Calafia. In the introduction, she describes her system of study in the Craft as a circle of five stages corresponding to the elements: Seeker (Air), Dedicant (Fire), Initiate (Water), Adept (Earth), and Master (Spirit). The Initiate, Adept, and Master stages correspond to the First, Second, and Third Degrees of coven-based Craft. Here is how Calafia describes the Dedicant:

The Dedicant becomes very passionate and fired up about this religion, and begins by learning to use his will as he learns about himself and the Craft.

And the Initiate:

The Initiate (in traditional Wicca, the first-degree) falls in love in a whole new way with her religion as she comes to understand how deep she must go to truly know and love herself and her gods.

Somehow, I have never crossed the threshold from the enthusiasm of the Dedicant to the commitment of the Initiate. I’ve gotten engaged a lot of times but never made it to the altar.

Why is it that a sexual, relationship commitment has been easy for me to make and maintain, but a spiritual commitment nearly impossible? Why does the grass always look greener to me in somebody else’s circle? I don’t have an answer, but this is a question I am going to be exploring for a while.

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This weekend our water heater went on the fritz, and I did not have a proper hot shower between Friday evening and Monday evening (although I did have a hot bath and a few quick encounters with heated water and soap). No doubt that’s why the long hot shower-and-shampoo I took last night, after the heater had been fixed, was utterly blissful, and full of expressions of gratitude to the heater, the repair man, my husband who was home to receive him, etc., etc.

Perhaps it’s also why I began thinking about something that hadn’t really occurred to me before. I realized that I missed Neopaganism, and I started wondering what had happened to it.

What is Neopaganism? you might say. There are thousands of Neopagans out there. Isaac Bonewits said so. We’re not Paleopagan, we’re certainly not Mesopagan, we’re Neopagan!

I don’t actually even hang around the Pagan blogosphere a lot, compared to some–if I may estimate by the number of blogs I read and the number of comments I leave behind–but I keep seeing people say things like, “I’m not Pagan,” or, “I don’t even think of myself as Pagan any more.” The people who are saying those things do identify as Hellenismos, or Asatru, or polytheist, or Celtic Reconstructionist, or Northern Tradition, or any one of a number of traditions that I would have grouped together as Pagan traditions. “Paganism is just an umbrella term,” and obviously there’s not enough room under the umbrella for some people.

I think now that what the I’m-not-Pagan Pagans mean is one or both  of the following. First, they might mean that “pagan” as a designation for “non-Christian” seems to come out of a derogatory use of the word by mostly urban Christian converts in the Roman Empire, directed at a way of life they saw as mostly rural: An equivalent of calling someone a hick, a rube, a hayseed. Or possibly it was a derogatory term used by Roman soldiers to mean a civilian, adopted by the Church as Christians began to think of themselves as “soldiers of Christ”. Or maybe not. But they might just mean that “pagan” is a label for their way of belief and practice that they reject because it was invented by Christians, those other guys.

They might also mean, and this seems increasingly likely the more I think about it, that they are Not Neopagan. They are not part of that alternative religious movement that I remember from the 1980s and 1990s (remember them? the 20th century?), the movement that, however furtively and uncertainly and isolatedly, I myself was part of.

Once upon a time, I believed that all pagans were liberal, left-wing, feminist, environmentalist types. I thought they were tired of religion based on rigid structures that never changed until they crumbled beyond repair; they wanted no permanent temples, no paid clergy, no outside authorities. Everyone could put on a robe (or not) and lead a ritual; everyone could speak to the Powers That Be; a living room, a back yard, an open space in a park, properly cleansed and purified in ritual, were sufficient sacred space. Pagan religion was light and portable, a religion of immanence and improvisation, inspired by the ways of the ancients but not necessarily derived from them, interwoven with high magic and low magic and poetry and craft.

In other words, I thought everyone was part of Reclaiming.

Seillean at Crossroads Companion wrote recently about how everyone has That Book, the one that turns you on to The Path. For him it was Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magick. For me it was, as I have mentioned, The Spiral Dance. It is perhaps not insignificant that I was thirteen or fourteen, a teenager, an adolescent, a girl who had just passed menarche, when I first read a book that glorified women, goddesses, the body, natural cycles, inner power, and poetry. And it was new, brand new, delivered to me from the mentoring hands of the branch librarian who knew how much I liked to read about comparative religion. The inexpressible thrill that Starhawk’s words raised in me was the thrill of knowing that the gods I had read about as phantoms of the past, the gods of Greece and Egypt and the North, were not dead, not far away (like the many gods of Hinduism who looked so colorful in the big two-page illustrations), but being taken seriously by worshippers right now. And religion didn’t have to mean the same beautiful but increasingly hollow words recited week after week (by a man), the same few hymns sung on the same occasions every year (by the women in the choir, while the men gathered around the altar). The Goddess was alive, and magic was afoot!

I wrote a lot of bad pagan poetry in the next three or four years. But bad pagan poetry and books on Goddess spirituality will not keep you going when your grandmother dies, and the center cannot hold, and your mother has a string of heart attacks that look like an ongoing attempt to not outlive her own mother. I went back to church, where there was soon a new rector, some different ways of doing liturgy, men allowed in the choir, and women allowed at the lectern, at least.

Later, in my early twenties, I was back in Neopaganism again, this time with a spouse and interested friends. I discovered Druidry; OBOD was re-forming, and though I couldn’t afford the correspondence course, I could read Ross Nichols and Philip Carr-Gomm and John and Caitlin Matthews. I could take a workshop with R.J. Stewart, could write rituals and host them, could read more Starhawk and take a little weekend workshop on core shamanism and have a shrine and do meditations and….

And bounce back into the church again. And back into Neopaganism. And try this group, and that group, and go back to church and sing fantastic choral music and get the occasional solo and so on, ad infinitum, lather, rinse, repeat.

In the meantime, the World Wide Web was being woven, Internet access was becoming easier, cheaper, and more widespread, I discovered online journaling and blogging, and here I am today–wondering what happened to Neopaganism.

Well, the short version, I guess, is that reconstructionism happened.  Discoveries in archaeology, ancient literature, anthropology, and other fields trickled out of the specialist journals and into popular publications where they could be found by interested pagans who began tracing the articles back to the specialist journals and asking for more. No longer were people content to light a candle, cast a circle, call the quarters, and make a rather free-form offering to the gods; they wanted to find out exactly what the gods wanted and, if possible, give it to them, short of trying to butcher a live animal in an urban living room. (Those on farms and in other rural settings found animal sacrifice more manageable.)

I realize only now that I’ve been watching all of this with a good deal of bafflement and occasional dismay. From my perspective, Reconstructionists were clamoring to have all the things that I wanted to get away from: Buildings that need budgets and maintenance; official authority figures with official titles and official costumes; pre-determined right and wrong ways of doing things; rules! regulations! what, are you people crazy?

No, you all are not crazy. You are creating what you want: Organized, stable, complex religions based on ancient models. But I am here to say that I am not crazy, either, when I say I don’t want paid clergy, official seminaries, and permanent temples. (From my experience as a fairly active Christian for much of my life, I would say there’s no better way to ensure someone stops learning and growing than to send them to a seminary and then ordain them to ministry.) Nor am I “fluffy”; I don’t believe Gardnerian Wicca goes back to the Stone Age,  I don’t believe in a peaceful ancient matriarchy ruined by discontented men who refused to love the Great Mother, and I don’t think the ancient Celts were peaceful poetry-spouting tree-huggers. (Look at contemporary Celts: Poetry-spouting, always, but peaceful?)

A few weeks ago I wondered about where I found myself, what to call myself, and whether to rename this blog. Thanks to my shower musings, I’ve come up with a new title: Retelling. It’s a conscious nod to Reclaiming, the tradition that grew out of The Spiral Dance and the people behind it, Starhawk and her compatriots. It’s also a nod to something I do a lot in private, often in the shower: I retell stories. I recount plot summaries of books I have read or video I have seen; I rehearse incidents that happened to me, sometimes recent ones, sometimes long ago. In doing so, I appropriate the meaning of those stories; I create what they mean for me; I allow them to change, and I allow them to change me.

That, my friends, is what I hope to do here: To tell and retell the stories that have made me Christian, Buddhist, and Neopagan.

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Hello, gentle readers!

On Tuesday morning, I decided to import posts from my newer blog, Notes of a Wayward Anglican (which I shall be deleting). Whatever label I may be using this week, it just makes more sense to me to continue updating this blog, where I have readers and a history and continuity.

Then I called my acupuncturist and asked her advice because I was having spasmodic pains in the center of my chest, right behind or around the sternum. Her advice: “You need to go to the ER. Right now. Go.” I had no sweating, no shortness of breath, no pain in my left arm or my jaw–but I’m forty-six and overweight, and heart attacks do not always present with the classic symptoms in women of my age.

I went. And wound up spending the night at the hospital, wearing a heart monitor and getting my blood drawn at unconscionable hours, and taking a stress test on Wednesday morning.

Diagnosis: Whatever it was, it wasn’t my heart. Perversely, I feel rather healthy after the doctors ruled out so many things that *aren’t* wrong with me: Asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, hiatal hernia. I performed well on the stress test; in fact, walking with my husband last Sunday was probably more stressful in spots, thanks to climbing a couple of hills that were steeper than any treadmill version could be.

I’m back at work today and just got two deliveries at once, so to sum up before I turn my attention back to the day’s tasks, I’ll just say: I am fine, I’ll be seeing my acupuncturist and my M.D. as a follow-up, and I’m probably not done with Druidry, or with Buddhism, or with Jesus and the Anglican tradition. The road goes ever on.

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The First Sunday of Advent was yesterday, a Christian feast that never passes without my attention. It was the feast of title of my childhood church, celebrated with as much pomp and festivity as our little parish could muster. It was also usually the season of the bishop’s visitation; I was confirmed during Advent at the tender age of nine.

I don’t think mainstream Christians are saying much lately about the Second Coming, maybe because it’s all the Evangelicals can talk about. Strangely enough, while the Gospels depict Jesus talking about the kingdom or reign of God, they don’t record his primary message as, “I’m going away, but I’ll be back and then you’ll be sorry.” I should no longer be surprised that a lot of Christian teaching, especially though not exclusively of the Evangelical variety, has nothing whatsoever to do with the plain sense of the Gospels, and yet I am.

In any case, in Advent the Church traditionally looks back to the birth of Jesus as the coming of the long-expected Messiah, looks forward to his return as the King of Glory, and looks inward to preparing for and welcoming his presence in the heart. Jesus will return as King to fix things that are broken, to put things to rights, to make sure that the world works the way God intended it to, that is, on principles of peace, justice, fairness, sharing, compassion, forgiveness. And then we shall all live happily ever after–except for those who don’t want to play fair and share their toys.

The myth of the Return of the King is deeply embedded in Western consciousness, whether as a Christian trope or not. When Tolkien’s publisher split The Lord of the Rings into three volumes, he titled the third one in a way that gave away the plot (Tolkien complained) but tapped into the archetype. It is vitally important that the rightful King be restored to the throne, so that the Free Peoples of Middle Earth can take their places around him, just as the lesser kings of Ireland took their places around the High King in the mead-hall of Tara. It is against the backdrop of that enthronement that Frodo suffers his slow decline and Sam his gradual flourishing; because King Elessar is on the throne, Sam can draw his family close and say, “I’m home”.

The Return of the King is what we are hoping for every time somebody publishes a new novel about King Arthur. There is no end of Arthurian literature, some of it focused on the history, some on the romance, some on the magic and mysticism. The BBC is currently airing its fourth series of the show Merlin, which pairs a youthful Merlin of peasant birth with a youthful Arthur who has been raised as a prince in a Camelot where magic is forbidden; he gets hid on the head a lot so that he won’t notice Merlin has just saved his life by magic, again. I am inordinately fond of this show and its extremely handsome young actors, Colin Morgan and Bradley James. There are moments when, despite being a prat much of the time, young Arthur Pendragon as played by Bradley James really does manifest the archetype of the True King, the one whose place at the center of things ensures peace, justice, and prosperity for all. The show is already hinting that the strength of Arthur’s kingship won’t be in winning battles, but in listening to people regardless of their station and bringing them together.

I love the archetype, but I don’t live in a monarchy and I don’t wish to. (Even if a monarchy looks better, some days, than the plutocratic oligarchy we actually seem to be living under in the U.S.) Nor do I think that Jesus will come back and reward a few right-thinking people and condemn everyone else to eternal punishment for short-term mistakes. In his recent book Apocalypse Not, John Michael Greer traces the myth of apocalypse back to the ancient cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, which was first observed very early in human history, and to the first man who interpreted a recurring cosmic cycle as a one-time historical even: Zoroaster, or Zarathustra. Zarathustra, a priest of the Iranian fire-religion that was very similar to the religion of the Vedas, successfully reformed that religion into a linear monotheism that looked forward to an end time, a shift in the cosmic principles that would be permanent and unceasing. Then his people, the Persians, handed on those concepts to the Jews who lived in diaspora in the Persian Empire… and the book of Daniel emerged, and the apocalypse meme propagated in Western civilization.

What’s the antidote to the apocalypse meme? How do we know that the world will *not* end at the Winter Solstice 2012, just as it did not end in May or October 2011 as predicted by Harold Camping? (Read Greer’s book: He explains why we think it might, and why it won’t.) The antidote to the apocalypse meme, I guess, is to look at cycles rather than lines. Night is always followed by day, winter by spring, sleep by waking. On this basis we speculate that as birth is followed eventually by death, death is followed somehow by rebirth. The point of sunrise slips backward against the constellations; at present it’s still creeping through the sign of Pisces, and won’t cross into Aquarius until around 2600 C.E. After Aquarius comes Capricorn, then Sagittarius, and so on, and when we work our way back to Aries, we’ll just start all over with Pisces, if any people are still here on earth to look at the sky and take notice.

In my own life I’ve started to think of spirals. IF there’s any progress in life, it’s in spirals, in circles that are not closed but a little bit open, in coming back to the same places with new experiences. I come up against the same issues over and over,  until I want to beat my head against the nearest wall, but I’m beginning to remember that neither I, nor the issues, are exactly the same each time; going around the cycle has changed me and the issues and in that knowledge there’s a chance to change further, consciously.

And now I shall leave you with this video from Penelopepiscopal of my favorite Advent hymn:


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