A Curse for Chrissie Hynde

Kali copy

Hi Chrissie,
You don’t know me, but your voice gave me power and comfort in hard times. ‘Mystery Achievement’ was the theme of every escape plan from a sh-t job I made through a succession of terrible, low-paid purgatories I might have stayed stuck in.

I was young at the same time you were. I admire the way you took center stage in a time of desperate competition. Women were making demands, men were trying to protect their turf and somehow you found your way as an artist.

Now I see on social media that your remarks about women and rape are seen as victim-blaming.

I do get your point that women need to be aware of how they may be perceived and take precautions. Back in the day women were carrying little hand weapons like the Kubotan and The Cat, checking on our friends and calculating the relative risk of places we wanted to go and things we wanted to do. The NRA wants us all to run out and buy pink guns, because they don’t recognize any right of citizens to be safe in our daily lives. Victim-blaming is easier.

It hurts to read you blaming your 21-year-old, “naive” self for being the victim of what was clearly a premeditated crime by an experienced predator-

She told the Sunday Times magazine that when she was 21 an Ohio motorcycle gang member promised to take her to a party but instead took her to an empty house, yet she claimed to take “full responsibility” for what happened.

She said: “Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t f*** about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges … those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do.

“You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive.”

Like generals always fighting the last war, we will not be naive to the assaults we have suffered. We will be naive to new and unexpected forms of malice. As long as we blame women and require no responsibility on the part of men, the men with criminal intent will keep finding ways to do harm.

Most men are not rapists, but they won’t stand for women unless we stand for ourselves. Most men are afraid of these guys too.

I was fortunate to attend a talk by a powerful witch, Z. Budapest. She told how a circle of women met to plan action against a serial rapist who was terrorizing their town. One of the women said “let’s surround him with white light.”
“White light?” said Z, “That’s what you send to your grandmother in the hospital.”
She then related how they cursed that man on a dark moon. Z thought his subsequent failed attacks and quick capture by law enforcement was helped by their magic. I can’t argue with that.

I don’t really believe that there’s a Hell for anyone to rot in, otherwise I would be praying to the Christian God that the man who raped you would burn eternally.

But since we only have this world, I hope that he has improved life for the rest of us by ending his own. If he is alive, and capable of remorse, let him spend his days atoning for the harm he has done. If he is not capable of remorse, let his death be swift. May his name be forgotten, or only spoken with a smirk and a headshake. May all he built fall down. May his survivors disown him. May his kind go extinct, when we learn to blame the perp, not the victim, and dismantle the master’s house using any and all tools. Blessed be.

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From Pentecostal to Pagan With Some Side Trips

Testifying of the journey from doubt to true faith, is a tradition in many churches. But we Unitarians are contrary- we walk away from certainty and respect doubt.

We come to Unitarianism not for unchanging doctrine, but for fellowship as we seek right ways to live in this world.

I’ve been blessed in diverse groups- including some who think the others are going to Hell.

My religious education began in Catholic school during the changes of Vatican II. If you don’t know about Pope John XXIII, think Pope Francis. No one can beat Catholics at ritual. Gold, incense, candles and vestments, the Stations of the Cross and flowers for the Queen of Heaven, much of the mystery was lost when the Pope let daylight into the Church.

The school could have used some of that daylight, the nuns practiced corporal punishment until they got it right.

But although our peers had the newest textbooks in their well-funded heathen public schools, we did get the best civics lesson ever

We were ordered to elect a class president. First rule- the president had to be a boy. No one questioned that, it was a truth self-evident. One of the candidates was the class clown, the other was a quiet, smart boy. We never found out whether style or substance would have won more votes, because right before election day Mother Superior walked into the cafeteria and caught the kids talking during lunch- which was forbidden. She flew into a rage and cancelled the election on the spot, crushing democracy with raw dictatorial power. Pretty sophisticated for 8th grade.

Around this time, my mother joined the Catholic Charismatics in their active Providence community.

Catholic Charismatics speak in tongues and wave their hands in the air. The Holy Spirit was moving, inspiring good works and creativity. This being the 70’s there were a lot of autoharps and 3-chord guitar players. People would say that it wasn’t them who wrote that song- only Jesus in them could do this.

Although the congregation was diverse and welcoming, it was assumed that since we were all one in Christ differences could be smoothed over. There were no problems that faith couldn’t solve.

At some point the priest leaders revived the ancient and little-used ritual of exorcism. I think it’s important to know that this is not an uncommon practice even now. Oddball news items about politicians who either literally or figuratively demonize opponents really worry me, because I saw firsthand how quickly groups can slide into the irrational. Troubled people who needed more than a weekly prayer meeting were persuaded they were possessed. People were claiming that they had the ‘gift of discernment’ and telling you they saw ‘darkness in your eyes’. Almost anyone could declare themselves an amateur exorcist. Perhaps it was a sign of God’s mercy that we didn’t push someone into a psychotic break. I hope.

Exorcisms were performed in churches, in suburban living rooms, in the boathouse of the old Aldrich Estate on Warwick Neck, which looked exactly like the set of the 60’s gothic soap opera, ‘‘Dark Shadows’. The most unassuming people, it turned out, were tormented by demons of lust, blasphemy and gluttony. It kind of cast an aura of grandness on common venial sins, and the praying in tongues and screaming was dramatic. No one spoke openly about it, but some of the group were trying to get their homosexuality to go away, or to reconcile themselves to marriages that were better dissolved.

We were ‘high on Jesus’ and like any drug the highs brought lows. My teenage depression was not cured by being prayed over in tongues, clearly my faith was lacking. Petty spats blew up into supernatural battles. People were being people. My mother became severely disillusioned and left for the Pentecostal Assemblies of God.

This was where we first heard of The Rapture. Any moment we would be swept up to Heaven– or condemned to Hell. The terrible events of the 1970’s did not cause fear, but jubilation. It was all as prophesied, signs that the Lord was coming soon.

When our National Guard shot down students at Kent State, the elders said it was Communists and Satan that made the students rebel. When Israeli athletes were murdered by extremists at the 1972 Munich Olympics the church people praised the Lord, surely now The Rapture was at hand. The Church reality was almost a photonegative of the World, anguish and doubt in the World only reinforced the certainty in the Church. I was very immature with no sense of history, but I knew something wasn’t right. People exhorted me to have the Joy of the Lord. I was totally depressed.

Submitting to exorcism did not cure my depression..

But I think the Pentecostal church did, in Pagan terms, raise the cone of power. One time at an altar call the pastor touched me on the shoulder and I felt something like electricity come from his hand. People were ‘slain in the spirit’ and though I know there had to be a physical explanation it appeared that they fell straight backwards onto the hard floor without injury. Feeling this power in different groups taught me that no one owns spirituality, and a display of magic is not enough to make me a believer if you can’t reach me in the mundane world.

In the mundane world the Church chose to trust the gun more than God.

After repeated break ins and vandalism, the pastor set one of the men to guard the church at night. The guard shot the thief in the back as he tried to run away. Then he put him in handcuffs. He was a 17 year old boy from the neighborhood. His mother had tried to get him into mental health treatment. He ended up in intensive care.

The church prayed for him. The pastor was shocked at the negative response he got from the police and the community. He doubled down on the American values of property and guns.

By then I was on a downwardly mobile path. I found a room to rent on Waterman St., right near Jake’s cafe and the College Hill Bookstore. I bought books on Buddhism, which had an appealing tolerance and shelter from the glaring Eye of God and let you do your own thing- at least as far as my Christian mind understood Buddhism.

I was just beginning my independent life when my mother called with bad news. My grandmother, a widow living alone in her house in Washington Park, had been assaulted. A robber broke in and raped her.

My grandmother survived. In fact, she recovered physically, and resumed her life. I think she may have coped by burying the awful memory. She was a strong woman. But the crime was like a death–the death of the illusion that God’s people are under a special protection. The world became an even more frightening place. Providence in the late 70’s was a hostile place for young women, the Journal reported crimes almost every day, and men cruised around looking for streetwalkers, hitting on anyone female who happened to be walking on the street.

Fear led to resistance. I volunteered as an advocate at the Rape Crisis Center. I marched with Take Back the Night. I began to study AiKiDo with the dream of becoming an invulnerable martial arts expert.
No one is invulnerable, but martial arts was very rewarding, even more so when I discovered the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation. In martial arts there is a culture of respect and reverence for the teacher, the sensei. It was at the women’s camp, Special Training, that I first addressed a woman as Sensei and felt something change in my sense of self. The following year I bowed to a Black woman Sensei. That was a deep lesson in real empowerment. Not just integration in the ranks, but in the leadership.

I found a practicing Buddhist community when the Nipponzan Myohoji peace walk came through Providence. I walked with them from Quaker Meeting House to the Khmer Buddhist Society. This was a triple-decker near the Cranston Street Armory. The second floor held a temple where monks in saffron robes prayed before a great golden Buddha. One of the last surviving Cambodian Buddhist leaders, Maha Ghosananda, ministered there to the refugees who settled in South Providence.

The Venerable Maha Ghosananda came to the US from a refugee camp in Thailand. The Khmer Rouge had killed his family and most of his fellow clergy. Friends in the US sent him a plane ticket, which he cashed in to print flyers about lovingkindness to distribute to refugees and guards alike. In Providence he held morning meditation and teaching. I often saw our late senior minister, Tom Ahlburn, there. Tom was a great friend and admirer of Maha Ghosananda who was, simply, a saint.

Although Buddhist thinking and practice helped me along, I was still looking. It was during a few months managing the Dorrwar Bookstore that I discovered Paganism. With some trepidation, because it was forbidden knowledge, I picked up Starhawk’s book, ‘Dreaming the Dark’. It was not so much a new thealogy, as recognizing and validating what I’d always known to be true. I felt like I had lived my life with one leg tied up, and now could put both feet on the ground. Blessed Be.

Some time later when I joined a coven of witches, I saw how deeply immersed I still was in Christian magic.

My sister in law had told me that my little nephew was waking up at night and screaming inconsolably. She was annoyed at my mother for suggesting that she needed to get right with God, lest demons torment her baby. I mentioned this to the witches as we sat in our circle. They looked really concerned. “She should call her pediatrician.” one said. “Yes, let the pedi know.” said another.

Years later I attended a CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) conference at Rowe Camp, and learned a great deal. As a Catholic I just had to do as I was told, and even though I had signed the book at First Unitarian I didn’t really get it. That the congregation makes the church, that ministers come out of seminary and look for a job, that they are regular people just like us. It was in a gathering of witches that I finally understood how churches work. It was there also that I heard the late Margot Adler, witch, Unitarian and journalist speak.

She said, “the challenge of our time is to learn to reconcile the rational and the mystical.”

It’s a blessing to be accepted under the sheltering roof of First Unitarian. It’s a blessing to count among the people I trust, who are on my spiritual wavelength, people from all religions and atheists as well.

Every group I encountered or joined had the same human bonds and conflicts. People believe differently, but we still get on each other’s nerves, or rescue each other, or fail each other just the same. We create our God or gods according to our needs. Some beliefs help us to be our best, others lead us to indulge our worst. I can’t tell my friends who draw strength from fundamentalism that they are wrong. That’s part of what helps them be the good people I love. We’re all in this river together and I can’t tell you what kind of raft to grab onto.

The early days of Occupy Providence four years ago in Burnside Park were lit with the same inspiration as the early days of the Catholic Charismatics. The breath of the Holy Spirit. And when exhaustion and frustration were setting in it was the Catholic Church that agreed to keep a homeless day center open so that the Occupiers could leave without abandoning the allies and friends they had made among the people who lived in Burnside Park.

During the campaign for marriage equality I was devastated to see a massive turnout of immigrant churches organized in opposition. These were some of the same people I had joined in a march for immigrants rights.

But we may find common cause with those churches now in the need for commonsense gun regulation, in the need for our police to act as officers of the peace, in the need for economic justice in all our neighborhoods.

I don’t know if I have faith anymore but I know I’ve been blessed. Lovingkindness will not deflect bullets, but it’s the way to go, because what else is there? Blessed Be.

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Crazy for the Gun

gun shadowAlthough I am not a psych nurse, being more comfortable with diabetes than delusions, all nurses see mental illness up close and personal. Mental illness is neither uncommon nor separate from physical illness. People with conditions like schizophrenia are not necessarily acting much different from the rest of us, especially if they are getting effective treatment. Whether we know it or not, all of us know people who are dealing with serious mental health challenges.

People who are truly disengaged from reality may do things that are self-injurious and have no gain or rationale that others can understand.

In my urban neighborhood there are people who wander our streets in their own purgatory. A family member is lost to us, out of contact. Mental illness causes immense suffering and it’s a shame that it’s used as a slur or a joke.

It’s a disgrace that so many influential voices are using a cowardly attack on the mentally ill to avoid admitting that we all have a social disease. Worse, they prefer to deny and spread it around rather than come clean and seek a cure.

Different cultures have different kinds of crazy. During the European witchcraft hysteria of the 1400’s a book was published that warned men about penis-stealing witches– a belief that got a lot of women killed. Insane by our standards, but not in that society. Is The Hammer of Witches really so different from The Turner Diaries , a book that inspired racist mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh?

Does mental illness explain a pattern of crime where the perpetrators dress up, shout slogans and for the most part target the same kinds of people repeatedly? Does it explain why so many violent men seem to believe they are part of a community of right-thinking patriots? Does it excuse our leaders for failing to demand that anyone who wants to own a lethal weapon owes the rest of us some accountability?

Mental illness may explain the derelict masturbating in public on a park bench, but it does not explain the serial rapist. The kind of premeditated violence driven by hateful ideas is not only sick individuals and will not be solved by locking them up after the damage is done. There will only be more to replace them.

What is needed is a clear assessment of the cultural delusions that enable bigotry to hide in plain sight. A friend described the latest mass killer-

“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” he said. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”

South Carolina still flies the Confederate flag at the statehouse. The governor expresses her regrets with care not to offend her supporters invested in denial about racism and guns.

America is gun-crazy. Every child grows up watching hundreds of dramas where guns bring power and respect, the bad guys are eventually out-shot and other ways to resolve conflict are ignored or disparaged. They don’t see the damage, the wounds that don’t heal, the bereavement that is never outlived. Nurses see that but it’s not entertaining and there’s no happy ending.

Mass shootings boost gun sales, fear is good for the industry.

A gun carries the magic power of every movie cowboy and TV hero. Having one demands a high level of responsibility and good judgment, or else the gun owner is no longer the ‘good man’ but a menace. In spite of this, any attempt to ‘well regulate’ our self-appointed militia is met with outrage. In the wake of many decades of political assassinations it’s an act of physical courage to stand up to the most extreme of the gun lobby.

Only 21 years old, and given one moment to turn away from atrocity-

Roof, 21, has told police that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News.
And yet he decided he had to “go through with his mission.”

Why? Who gave him his mission? Who armed him? He had his problems but he was not some lost soul wandering aimlessly and hallucinating. He had a script and he was armed. The adults in his life enabled him to get a lethal weapon and no one thought his indoctrination into racism was a problem. When America is racist and gun crazy, how will we even know who is a threat? The problem is in plain sight but requires letting go of delusion.

Easier to blame mental illness and the disempowered people who struggle with it.

Image from Good Magazine.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, May 14, 2015

statehouse dawnToday I arrive at age 60. Feels kind of strange, like too many lives behind me. It’s always been one day at a time but that feels more real now.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, April 21, 2015

crocus bee copy

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, April 8, 2015

providence industrial roof photoshop

Wake up, Providence, it’s a sunny day. At least part of the day.

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Joy and Grief

People in my circle of friends are celebrating births, 4 babies in a week. Yesterday a little girl was run over by a bus- one awful moment of everything going wrong.

I drive up Smith St. every day to go to work, would have been there at that time if I had not stayed home sick. Life is conditional, so much out of our control. Perhaps it was wrongdoing, perhaps purely accident. Anyone who is a parent, who crosses a street, who gets behind the wheel can imagine themselves in this place.

Rain is falling on the corner, people will bring flowers, we share the grief, no one knows what the next moment will bring.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, March 25, 2015

Sun

For what promises to be a warmer day, with the fierce North wind retreating and the South wind moving in, a poem from Greenhaven.

Invocation to the Sun in Glory
by Elizabeth Barrette
Picture

Sun Prince come,
Lord of the Waxing Year,
God of the Golden Ray!

Now we lay the sacred feast,
Now we sing the hymns of old,
Now we dance the ancient ways.

Apollo, Tammuz, Belos, Lugh –
Turn Your fair face towards us
And crown us with flowers.
Strike the harp
And play a merry tune.
Shower Your blessings on field and flock

And on all Your followers here.

He is come!
Behold the Sun in Glory!

Brighter days come first, eventually warmth returns. It’s been a long Winter, welcome Spring.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, March 19, 2015

vernal eqinox 15

The March equinox happens at the same moment across the world but is converted to local time. In 2015, it falls on March 20 at 6:45 P.M.

That’s from
The Old Farmer’s Almanac
which is predicting warmer and drier than usual for South of Boston. I so want to believe, but I’ve given up on March and most of April. It’s supposed to snow on the first day of Spring.

The Moon Said This ~ A Poem
March 5, 2015 by Jenya T. Beachy

The moon said this

When she called me out

Out to where she could see me with her one bright eye

When she called me out

For forgetting our date

For not bringing flowers

For not telling her how beautiful she is

When she called me out

For inattention to her trickling silver over the Earth, touching her sister with fingers of light

For ignorance of her fine chorus of crickets, making a song of longing for each other

For insensitivity to her awakening tiny heartbeats in the grass of the night

The moon said this

When She called me out:

I forgive you

She said:

I forgive you

Jenya can be found at the Urban Pagan Homestead, where all the city witches hang out.

Image of constellations comes from Bob Moler, astronomer extraordinaire.

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Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, March 12, 2015

hummingbird feeder

Last year this conceptual landscape sculpture got started a little late. I think the artist imagined that vines and flowers would surge over the white scaffold like a green wave, but it was just some plants.

Might happen this summer, though, the framework is still there under the snow. Tonight is going to be below freezing, but Spring is inevitable and unstoppable.

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