Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Hey, I told you my town was quaint. Looking up the local town website (yes, we have a website) to check if there was any 'official' news (not particularly), I wandered into the list of town officials. Check this out. THIS is how quaint we are, and oh my God I am NOT making these up:

Fence Viewer
Inspector of Milk
Town Physician
Measurer of Wood and Lumber
Moth Superintendent
Field Driver/Poundkeeper whose job is 'to "take up horses, mules, asses, neat cattle, sheep, goats or swine going at large in the public ways, or on common and unimproved land within his town and not under the care of a keeper" and to impound the same. The poundkeeper, who ... is the same officer, is then charged with feeding and providing water to the "beasts" which are in his custody.'


Here is a quaint picture from the center of town, where the local river runs through. Now, you have to understand. This house is a local landmark, an old colonial turned into a saltbox at one point or other; and as far as I know it's always been cantilevered somewhat precariously over the river on a couple of lollycolumns. Usually, of course, the river is much lower, by several feet. Astonishingly enough, this house does have a cellar, on the more landward and less rivery side of things.

And here's one of the other drystone bridges in the town, right by the same saltbox, this one a triple arch, though you can barely see them for the water. The bridge itself was closed to traffic, because the water was so high.

And here, to give you an idea of the major PITA this is all going to be in my neighborhood, is the satellite view of the area. The blue circle (blue for water) is where the bridges over the mill streams gave out (the white in the upper right is water reflecting the sun). As you can see, there are a LOT of people on this side.

Here Comes The Flood

Hi. I live in New England. Massachusetts, to be precise. In an area of the state that yesterday and the day before got oh I don't know something like EIGHT inches of rain.

It's a quaint town, my town, though the local news doesn't seem to be able to get the name right. The one they're using is I suppose technically correct, but certainly no one here uses it. Really we're two villages, of differing names, complete with their own post offices and habits. It's a bureaucratic fiction, my town. But anyway, it certainly is quaint. Unbelievably quaint, in fact, and old, very old, for a New English town, anyway. Old enough that a good number of the important bridges in town have arches made of stone, set dry with no mortar. Little antique bridges that cars regularly drive over and all, since they are on some of the main, old, streets of the town, like the two little arched bridges that went over the mill streams just down the street from me. Cute little things, those drystone arched bridges.

That's 'went', past tense.

They washed out yesterday, something they didn't even do in the '38 or'54 hurricanes. Which is very sad; they were awfully historic, those little bridges. But--

My road, and my neighborhood, are set on a little space of land squoze in between the old mill streams and a larger local river. And though the space is small, there are an awful lot of people over here--there's a whole island community at the end of it as well as a school for developmentally disabled adults.


There is one road in.

Was, that is, past tense. Those bridges were it.

Well now.

Now there is a bit of a way around, but it's not actually a road. There are a couple of ball fields above where the mill stream bridges let go, and a way can be sort of made through there to the main street, behind where the original mill was, though it's mostly flooded and mudded itself. So today they were shuttling people into the rest of town (you know, where the bank, post office, and pharmacy are) in these way cool wicked awesome moon-rover-mud-bus things. Behold the muddy glory:

('So,' I asked the cop who'd driven it, after he'd let me off, 'what color is that thing supposed to be?')

By the way that may look a little familiar, if you saw the national news tonight. One of the stations, I think NBC, flashed a picture of the thing, taken literally three houses down the street from mine, for about two seconds in their piece about the rains up here. I was all OMG THAT'S US!!! at the screen, then it was gone.

Ah, fame. So fleeting.

I don't know how the selectfolk (since we have two selectmen and one selectwoman, not sure quite what that correct plural is) are going to figure this one out. The bridge isn't going to be able to be properly fixed any time soon; they've dumped a bunch of rocks (some really big ones, too; watching the news last night I felt one dropped into place. The noise came down the chimney and shook the house) and some gravel down, and apparently it's at least okay for emergency vehicles, which is good, but not for regular cars, which is bad. But properly building a new one? Years, I'd imagine.

The rumor is that they are going to try to build a temporary but real (as in paved) road through the ball field area. But that too will take some time, with eminent domain, and permits, and all the bureaucratic hoops through which the town will have to jump. And until then? Will they use the moon-mud-busses? How are we going to buy groceries? Without a car it'll be limited to what you can carry and are willing to schlepp home. Now luckily like I said I only live a few doors away; but it's at the top of a hill, which, though it meant this house wasn't flooded more than maybe an inch in the cellar (enough that we did move the litter box so Sir Isaac Mewton didn't have to wade, which, you know, is manifestly unfun for a cat), but it's a real drag, man, to carry stuff up it.

So I don't know. Though today was fun, it's true, with the local kids having the day off from school, and everyone in town it seems out walking to look at the damage, whoa. Almost like the fourth of July, in some ways. Even the cops were in good moods. And luckily I work from home, so I don't have to go somewhere else to work every day.

But how is this ever going to work?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Arianrhod comes up for the second time, the last time being exactly three months ago, on December 29th.

It's a little hard these days to pin down what the Goddess Arianrhod is about, as She's mainly known from the Mabinogion, the Welsh collection of tales written down in the medieval period; though the tales certainly contain earlier legends, they are told within a Christian framework, and so the Divinity of the characters has been ignored and downplayed.

Her name means 'Silver Wheel' or 'Silver Disk'; this has usually been taken to mean She is a Moon Goddess. To me the idea of the Moon rolling across the sky has never made sense, since it obviously doesn't revolve in that manner, so instead I tend to interpret Her as a Goddess of the stars, which do appear to turn in the sky. Additionally in Welsh tradition the constellation of the Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, is called Caer Arianrhod, the Castle of Arianrhod, so She does have some connection with the stars.

The tale in the Mabinogion is that Arianrhod is the mother of Dylan and Lleu; Dylan, the Sea-God, jumps into the Sea shortly after birth, but Lleu, or what would become Lleu, is a sort of shapeless blob that Her brother Gwydion takes and squirrels away to raise. Now, the circumstances of the birth are a bit unusual--Arianrhod is being considered for a position (that of Math's 'foot-holder', whatever that means) that requires virginity; but when magically tested She abruptly gives birth. And ever after, according to the tale, Arianrhod in Her shame and anger adamantly refuses to acknowledge Lleu, Who of course grows up to be a handsome lad. To this end She proclaims He will not have a name or arms unless She give them; these constraints or curses are of course cleverly overcome, as usual in fairy tales. The third curse or constraint requires a bit more of a workaround, but is also overcome: that Lleu will not have a wife from any race of the earth. This Gwydion and Math circumvent by creating a woman out of flowers, the owl Goddess Blodeuwedd, Who later betrays Lleu, setting Him up to be grievously wounded; He is eventually healed whole by the magicians.

It is all fairly convoluted, and the version that has come down to us very much feels like it has some pieces missing. For one, there is evidence that in earlier versions Gwydion, Arianrhod's brother, is the father of Her children. Which sounds horrible by regular human standards; but of course in myth it is a different thing, and may mean no more than that the two were considered equals, like Geb and Nut of Egyptian myth. But it is hard to tell from here. At any rate, I could never understand the why of Arianrhod's obsessive denial of Her son Lleu, and it always felt to me that there was a key circumstance left out. When I thought of Her as the victim of rape and violence by Gwydion, though, things fell right into place (see my version of Her tale here). But, you know, that's just one idea.

Still, intuition is what we have. And I'd argue that intuition is especially appropriate and accurate when used to understand myth, which, though there are of course cultural factors that come into it, does basically come down to a sort of shared dreaming.

So I think that this week may involve sticking to your guns about something, even if you do not wish to disclose your reasoning at this time, and even if you know it will make no sense to the people around you. You do not have to justify anything, and the others are not after all owed an explanation. If you wonder if you have the right, think of it as a boundary that you set with good reason, the workings of which are really no one's business. You need neither apologize nor explain. You have the right to do what is necessary in this situation, and keep the private private. Or it may be that you are being advised that the best course of action is to bide your time this week.

Also intuition may play a part in putting the pieces of a story together. This week may well see you figuring out a missing part of an old (or new) story such that it finally makes sense. Perhaps new information comes up; or, maybe, you figure it out on your own. What incomplete stories have you been holding within you?

And finally, Arianrhod as a Goddess of the revolving northern sky reminds us that the center is a place of quiet and restoration. Finding that center within yourself, perhaps through meditation or other grounding practices, will help you make sense of things this week more readily.

So, then, what does She say?

Her dark hair is everywhere. It is the black space between the stars.

I am Darkness who gives birth to the Bright One.

I am all darkness, and yet all the little pinpricks that shine through nevertheless; and any astronomer will tell you that darkness isn't really dark. The further you go, the more stars you find; there are layers upon layers of light. Though they are too faint for your eyes, still they are there if you know how to look. Seek them out. Seek out the light that makes up the dark. Bless the blades of grass as they push themselves out of the dark earth this spring, as innumerable as the stars. You are surrounded by light, by blessings, if you will look. This is a good time, right now, very positive. The stars are aligning, as they say. Take notice.

And remember it all works out.

What do you think? What does your intuition say? Those of you who are familiar with Arianrhod's story, have you ever wondered why She was so determined to deny Lleu?

References: The Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, by James McKillop.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This was not by request, I swear, though Debra and Hecate mentioned Her as favorites in comments to the last post. It was random, really! Well, for what 'random' is worth, ha.

Sheila-na-Gig is the anglicized version of the Irish Síle na gCíoch, and is the name given in modern times to the medieval figures of woman prominently displaying their vulvas. They are carved into stone, mostly in churches, though occasionally in castles, too; for the most part they are found in the British Isles, with the greatest number in Ireland.

Theories abound as to what the figures mean, some thinking they represent an allegory of lust to warn pious churchgoers; others place them in the catch-all category of fertility figures. In Pagan circles She is usually taken to be some sort of survival of the Earth Mother Who holds open the gate to life and death both, and She is often allied with the Crone.

The meaning of Her name (or title) is disputed, too: the Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (by James MacKillop) gives the meaning as 'Sheila (Caecilia) of the breasts' (I am assuming he means 'Sheila' is an Irish version of the name Caecilia); others point out that 'gig' (pronounced approximately 'ghee') is a slang term for women's genitalia.

I am more inclined to think of Her as a mother figure, or an apotropaic one, Who wards off evil by presenting the reality check of the source of life (and death), much like Baubo, Who relieved Demeter's sorrow when Kore was lost by lifting Her skirts and making dirty jokes (in Demeter's case the reminder was that the gate of death--Kore's abduction to the Underworld--is the same as that of life, and that Kore will give birth to a child in the Underworld. Yes, I've been reading Kerényi's Eleusis). I don't know, though; it is a rare Sheila figure that is depicted with hair, and on many of them the ribs are quite prominent. At the time, however, I drew Sheila-na-Gig as a young Mother, with abundant hair to represent fertility and power. I don't know if I would depict Her the same way now.

At any rate, the Crone, through Her experience, contains all stages of a woman's life within Her; She has been Maiden and Mother also, in the proper times. So I think for this week, which will be the first full week of blessed blessed spring in the north, we are to keep in mind the whole cycle, even as the daffodils begin to come out and the weather warms. Remember that last year's growth and decay have made this new beginning possible. If you are in the south, remember that this year's decay, the things that are beginning to die now, will make possible next year's spring; and also keep in mind that the dying is itself beautiful.

Celebrate your position in the cycle, not only nature's seasons but within the cycles of your life; appreciate where you are right now, but also take time this week to look at the whole. There is a lesson there, something valuable to be learned by stepping back for a moment to look at things from a larger perspective.

Let's see what She says:

Open wide! Ha!

You want everything to be pretty, don't you? Well it's not. I am a crone, surely as the sun sets and as winter comes. You don't know what to do with me, do you? You will follow me in time. Let's hope you figure it out by then.

For now? Rejoice in your health, in your youth, in your warding-off of the end times; admire the crocuses in the yard, the warm earth as you weed the garden. It will be cold soon enough.

That is not meant as warning, or to scare you; it is simply all one, and the distinctions do not, in the end, matter that much. It is like the difference between pink and light red. You may drive yourself crazy for now trying to differentiate the two, but it is in the end silly. Remember that.

It is all one. Everything contains its opposite. All coins have two sides that cannot be separated. The gate to life is the gate to death. It is only the direction traveled that is different, if it is. You forget now, but you have done it many times. So many times. You will remember. It is your birthright. Your deathright.

The Maiden is the Crone is the Mother. This is the truest thing there is.

What do you think of that?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Manannán mac Lir Day

I had it in my head that a few years back Anne Johnson of The Gods Are Bored had reclaimed this day for the old Irish God Manannán mac Lir; but I couldn't quite track down an official announcement on her part, instead finding this interview she did with Him. So now I'm not sure.

At any rate, official or not, I quite like the idea of reclaiming this day for the old Irish Deities, Manannán, the Little Manxman, included. I guess I just can't get all enthused about celebrating the guy who converted Ireland, you know?

Not that I'm actually Irish, myself. Scottish, Welsh, English, sure; but it's like once my ancestors arrived on the isle of Britain they steadfastly refused to get on another boat (well, at least until America was 'discovered', anyway). Perhaps this genetic tendency is related to why I can't swim? It's not impossible.

Who's your favorite Irish God or Goddess? I'm quite fond of Brighid myself, all fire and creativity, but of course She does already have Her own day, February second. Who would you like to celebrate today?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Artemis is this week's Goddess, chosen for the first time. She's Greek, the Goddess of wild things and of birth, and is so old She may well date back to the Neolithic.

Now, you'll have to forgive me. For some reason I spent the early part of this week not just an hour off but a day off (I spent all day Monday thinking it was Sunday, for example, and so forgot to renew my library books, then forgot that this post was supposed to have been done yesterday). And on top of that, right now, though I should be writing a long lovely post on Artemis I'm afraid I'm, well, not exactly feeling up to par physically, to the point where I think I'm going to actually go to bed early, something which is wildly uncharacteristic of me. So, although I don't have anywhere near the energy to do the usual write-up on Artemis for the week, still, since I had picked Her I thought I should at least let you know. Also I felt odd just leaving the card in limbo in an unpublished post.

Perhaps picking this card is relevant; I've always taken it to be a sign that it's time to honor and defend your boundaries, which are in part delineated by knowing where your limits lie. And right now I think I need to go lie down. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow.

In the meantime, why don't you all give an interpretation a go? What does Artemis mean to you? What do you feel when you see Her? What is She doing? Why is She doing it? What does this card say to you about the coming week? What does She say to you?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This is the first time Kore has come up, as Goddess of the Week; She is the springtime aspect of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld in Greek myth.

The usual legend says that Kore was abducted and raped by Haides, the King of the Underworld, taken by force to be His wife, with the express permission of Zeus, Kore's father. Demeter, Her mother and Goddess of the Earth and crops, of course would have agreed to no such thing; and when Demeter found out that Her daughter was gone, She was so outraged by Zeus's complicity She struck the earth with famine, forcing Zeus to make Haides release Kore. It would have been a joyous reunion save for the fact that Kore had been persuaded to eat several seeds of the pomegranate while in the Underworld; anyone who had eaten of Underworld food was bound by Divine law to remain there. With the future of the fertility of the world at stake, however, as Demeter was righteously stubborn in holding out for justice, a 'compromise' was reached: Kore would spend one third of the year in the Underworld, and the remaining two-thirds with Her mother on the Earth.

Her disappearance below ground was said to be the reason for Winter, for during that time Her mother Demeter, still angry, withheld Her gifts to the Earth; but when Kore returned the Earth burst forth in blossom to welcome Her, creating Spring.

None of that, of course, is told from Kore's point of view, is it? She is simply an object to be fought over, among the Gods--it is usually phrased as Zeus 'giving' Her to Haides.

Kore means 'Maiden' or 'Girl'; Her story of death and rebirth formed the thealogical foundation for the Eleusinian Mysteries, which promised those initiated into them a blessed afterlife. What has always struck me about the Eleusinian Mysteries is that though they are at the heart properly women's mysteries, they were taken to apply to all of humankind. It is so often the other way around; men's stories are taken to be representative of all.

The Mysteries proved very popular, which is probably why the story of Kore's abduction is the best known tale of Her; in other tales, however, She is simply the Queen of the Underworld. I have always suspected that aspect came first.

Which I why I painted Her with that looming black background, to represent the Underworld and the cold dark Earth.

Aaron at Theoi tentatively translates the name Persephone as 'Destructive-Slayer'; a translation I've often seen is 'Destroyer of Light.'

She is the force that waits beneath the earth in Winter, slowly growing stronger within that darkness, to come out into the light at last in Springtime. She is the dreams and the visions nurtured over Winter which are manifested in Spring. Make no mistake, though, darkness is Her root; in some tales Styx, the Goddess of the Underworld river, Whose name means 'Hatred,' was considered Persephone's mother, not Demeter. The Underworld is Her first home.

Her appearance this week is hardly surprising, especially following last week's Gaea; or at least up here in New England it's about right, in this the second week of March, as late winter turns its way towards Spring. My front lawn, today, was a mass of pale violet crocuses; but the cold weather is not over yet, and, having lived here all my life, I know better than to declare Winter over prematurely.

So: there are signs of spring all around you at this time. Things are finally coming out into the light, both the literal flowers and the things you create and manifest. It is all beginning to emerge and unfold. But do not take too much for granted; you are not quite out of the woods yet, and there may be a setback or two. Though nothing can really stop the forward progress now.

In the southern hemisphere, though the Earth is only approaching the harvest of the autumnal equinox, and is not fully into autumn yet, there are still already signs of things slowing down. Look for them around you and within yourself; what are you getting ready to let go, or lay to sleep within you? How are things progressing towards the coming journey into the dark?

She has thick hair the color of ash, with a heavy woolen robe trailing behind Her; She is swaddled, cocooned within it, deep in the dark. Her heavy-lidded eyes are of black. What does She say?

This is my home. I emerge only reluctantly into the light. I do not like light.

I am the Destroyer of Light, after all. It is defensive, almost. Some things cannot have light if they are to grow. Or decay. They are nearly the same thing.

Be careful; do not force yourself into the light if you are not ready. There is still time to rest.

To read Her tale, go here.

The very excellent Theoi, as usual.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring is Coming!

I am so very glad that we are into March, now, and that Spring is just around the corner. It's my favorite season (it doesn't hurt, I suppose, that my birthday is in spring). Not that we here up in New England are at all out of the woods yet in terms of the potential for snow, ha! Not even a little bit. In fact I like springtime so much I've painted Eostre, the Germanic Goddess of springtime, twice, the above being the first of the two (in which I cleverly and completely unintentionally avoided drawing Her hands), and the below being the second:

If you like, I've put both up at my Cat and Cauldron store, so you can send out Ostara cards, or get a print to go on your Ostara altar.