Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Wordless Song


In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song 
A song that lives in the seed of my heart. 
It refuses to melt with ink on parchment; 
It engulfs my affection 
In a transparent cloak and flows, 
But not upon my lips. 
How can I sigh it? 
I fear it may mingle with earthly ether; 
To whom shall I sing it? 
It dwells in the house of my soul, 
In fear of harsh ears. 
When I look into my inner eyes 
I see the shadow of its shadow; 
When I touch my fingertips 
I feel its vibrations. 
The deeds of my hands heed its presence 
As a lake must reflect the glittering stars; 
My tears reveal it, as bright drops of dew 
Reveal the secret of a withering rose. 
It is a song composed by contemplation, 
And published by silence, 
And shunned by clamor, 
And folded by truth, 
And repeated by dreams, 
And understood by love, 
And hidden by awakening, 
And sung by the soul. 
It is the song of love; 
What Cain or Esau could sing it? 
It is more fragrant than jasmine; 
What voice could enslave it? 
It is heart bound, as a virgin's secret; 
What string could quiver it? 
Who dares unite the roar of the sea 
And the singing of the nightingale? 
Who dares compare the shrieking tempest 
To the sigh of an infant? 
Who dares speak aloud the words 
Intended for the heart to speak? 
What human dares sing in voice 
The Song of God? 

*
Poem and Painting
by
Khalil Gibran


Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Prayer to the Shekhinah


Come be our mother we are your young ones
Come be our bride we are your lover
Come be our dwelling we are your inhabitants
Come be our game we are your players
Come be our punishment we are your sinners
Come be our ocean we are your swimmers
Come be our victory we are your army
Come be our laughter we are your story
Come be our Shekhinah we are your glory
We believe that you live
though you delay we believe you will certainly come....

When the transformation happens as it must
When we remember
When she wakes from her long repose in us
When she wipes the nightmare 
of history from her eyes
When she returns from exile
When she utters her voice in the streets
In the opening of the gates
How long, you simple ones, will you
Love simplicity, and the scorners delight
In their scorning, and fools hate knowledge
When she enters the modern world
When she crosses the land
Shaking her breasts and hips
With timbrels and with dances
magnified and sanctified
Exalted and honored
Blessed and glorified
When she causes tyranny
To vanish
When she and he meet
When they behold each other face to face
when they become naked and not ashamed
On that day will our God be One
and their name One

Shekhinah bless us and keep us
Shekhinah shine your face on us
Shekhinah turn your countenance
To us and give us peace


From Nakedness of the Fathers. Alicia Ostriker is a renowned poet, essayist, and midrashist, and the author of many books of midrash, prose and poetry, including Nakedness of the Fathers and The Volcano Sequence.


Painting by Arild Rosenkrantz

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

La Loba, the Wolf Woman


There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows in their souls but few have ever seen. As in the fairy tales of Eastern Europe, she seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to come to her place. She calls herself many names: ‘La Huesera’, Bone Woman; ‘La Trapera’, The Gatherer; and ‘La Loba’, Wolf Woman. The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She collects and preserves that which is in danger of being lost to the world.

La Loba parallels world myths in which the dead are brought back to life. In Egyptian mythos, Isis accomplishes this service for her dead brother Osiris, who is dismembered by his evil brother Set. Isis works from dusk to dawn each night to piece her brother back together again before morning, else the sun will not rise. The Christ raised Lazarus, who had been dead so long he ‘stinketh’. Demeter calls forth her pale daughter Persephone from the Land of the Dead once a year. And La Loba sings over the bones.

When La Loba sings, she sings from the knowing of ‘los ovarios’, a knowing deep within the body, deep within the mind, deep within the soul. The symbols of seed and bone are very similar. If one has the root stock, the basis, the original part, if one has the seed of corn, any havoc can be repaired, devastations can be resewn, fields can be rested, hard seed can be soaked to soften it, to help it break open and thrive. To have the seed means to have the key to life. To be with the cycle of the seed means to dance with life, dance with death, dance into life again. This embodies the Life and Death Goddess in her most ancient and principled form. Because she turns in these constant cycles, I call her the Life/Death/Life Mother.

If something has been lost, it is she to whom one must appeal, speak with, listen to. Her psychic advice is sometimes harsh or difficult to put into practice but always transformative and restorative.
La Loba. the old one in the desert, is a collector of bones. In archetypal symbology, bones represent the indestructible force. They do not lend themselves to easy reduction. They are by their structure hard to burn, nearly impossible to pulverize. In myth and story they represent the indestructible soul-spirit. We know the soul-spirit can be injured, even maimed, but it is nearly impossible to kill.
You can dent the soul and bend it. You can hurt it and scar it. You can leave the marks of illness upon it, and the scorch marks of fear. But it does not die, for it is protected by La Loba in the underworld. She is both the finder and the incubator of bones.

~ Excerpt from ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I Am In Love With God’s Daughter




I am in love with God’s daughter.
She smiles at me in the glancing sunlight through the trees
She smiles at me in the tender thrust of an opening bud
She whispers to me from within the perfect singing of the small birds.
She loves me always.

I whisper: why does no one know your name?
I whisper: why are your tales not told?
Why are the stories forgotten?
Why are there no songs?

She sits with me, cross legged
And opens her eyes for me
My heart beating as I gaze into those eyes so soft, so true, so lovely, so loving

She answers me only with her open eyes and says:
You know the tales so true, 
you know the songs so lovely, 
you know the tunes so simple, 
so delicate so precious, 
they are not lost they are not lost, 
they are safe within your unspoken heart. 

Safe within the unspoken night, 
the unspoken moon, 
the unspoken dawn,
we await the unspoken love of man.
Do not worry my brave son, my beautiful son, do not worry ..
The unspoken night is upon us and tomorrow dawns the newly spoken day.

*

from: Song of the Second Wind by Samuel Stillmore

Image: Princess Angelina, "Kikisoblu" 
Daughter of Chief Seattle, 
photograph by Edward S. Curtis

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Journeying Star


The Journeying Star

Oh my heart, my other self;
you who dwell in city or in desert,
or in the cathedral silence of forests,
or close by the sea’s great voice
which is my voice also,
you look up and wonder at my shining.

Do you ask yourself:
what keeps me fixed in the night?
Why do I not journey
like the white and journeying moon?
There surely is heaven enough
in which to move;
there surely is space enough
for me to arc across the dark
above your head.

And yet I remain in my appointed place,
your dependable star,
obedient to your own stillness,
as fixed in my place as you are in yours:
we two are as immobile as mountains.

Perhaps you imagine
that If you remain in your place
then you always can find me;
you look up, and there I shall be:
we two are as predictable as the tides.

And then one night you move.
For the first time you dare
to take a single step,
and wonder of wonders:
I take that step with you.
You begin to walk, you move:
and I move with you.

And so your step becomes a journey,
and I journey with you
towards some promise,
some appointed destiny
some assignation rich with moment
for you and all who journey with you
towards your secret-bright redemption.

But wonder of wonders:
for the whole time you have been travelling
it is I who have remained in my appointed place:
it is you, my heart, who have been journeying;
and still you always can find me,
and I shall be with you
at your secret-bright redemption.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Woman is a Ray of God



The Prophet said that women hold dominion
Over sages and over men of heart,
But that fools, again, hold the upper hand over women,
Because fools are violent and exceedingly forward.
They have no tenderness or gentleness or amity,
Because the animal nature sways their temperament.
Love and tenderness are qualities of humanity,
Passion and lust are qualities of animality.
Woman is a ray of God, not a mere mistress,
The Creator’s self, as it were, not a mere creature!
- Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Rumi looked upon women as the most perfect example of God’s creative power on earth. In Masnavi-I Ma'navi (spiritual couplets), his monumental mystical work, Rumi calls woman, “a ray of God”. “She is not just the earthly beloved, She is creative, not created”. Rumi is one of those rare spiritual masters who, like Jesus, had female disciples. (Masnavi, I:2437)


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Persephone Speaks


I knew
from my dreams of stone temples, death, and
a dark potent God,
that I would go. 

Slipping away from my mother,
I gathered my bridal bouquet from her fragrant fields
and sat alone
where Narcissus blooms,
watching,
waiting
for the earth to crack. 

Nothing….
Nothing moved but the wind on the grasses
and Apollo’s watchful eye.
So I reached for a blossom
and firmly pulled its roots from the soil.
Then,
something. 

Something...
came from beneath
and violently pulled me down...
down through a dark passage
of moist blackness,
and tangled roots,
until I lay beside the underground river, silent and deep. 

He waited for me there in the dim light...
Hades, dreadful Lord of the Underworld.
My mind, racing with fear, voicelessly cried out,
“Oh Gods!  will I die here?”

In the frozen silence
his powerful horses stamped and pulled at their reins,
their hot breath steaming the cold air,
but his eyes were steady and piercing,
formidable,
yet patiently asking,
“Are you willing?  Are you ready?” 

Something….
something made my blood run hot
and I reached up.

He pulled me close with one great arm,
and with the other
drove the chariot
hard into the river
beneath the murky waters. 

I cannot tell what happened in the depths,
you must go there yourself,
but I will say this:
I emerged completely changed.
Pregnant with new wisdom and new life. 

And so, I came into the Land of the Dead as their Queen.
The pitiful shadows there,
rejected and feared by the world above,
moved my heart.

Long I looked upon each one,
that I might understand
the pain of neglected children
wanting only to be seen and heard. 

I looked,
and I listened. 

It seemed only a moment had passed since my descent
when a messenger arrived from Zeus.
Thinking I had been abducted,
Demeter refused to tend the Earth.

Hermes had come to take me home...
a place I’d almost forgotten. 

Knowing I had to go, my dark God did not rage...
as some have reported..
but asked for my return, and in truth,
I had no wish to leave.

But, for the love of my Mother, and Life, I began my ascent.
For the love of my Husband, and Death,
I took the sacred pomegranate from his hand,
ate of it,
and promised him a part of every year. 

I came into the world through a sacred spring,
where the river rises to nourish the earth. 
All was desolate, barren, and cold.
Horrified, I ran to find my mother,
to show her I was safe,
to tell her what I saw.

With each step,
flowers burst forth,
and grass greened.
Demeter had felt my presence
and released the world from Winter.  

I am now a Goddess in my own right
and the world will no longer have eternal Summer,
I will not allow it.
There must be a dying off...
a descent into the shadowlands
to honor what has been lost
or killed...
and a rebirth from the seed of that
dark, moist realm. 

This is the Sacred Marriage of Life and Death.
This is the Secret of Creation.
This is the Eternal Mystery. 


*

by © Marilyn J. Meyer Owen


Painting: The Return of Persephone by Frederick Lord Layton

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Soul-Light


There are many things happening in the world which seem to be moving directly against what we might have hoped for: a more peaceful, more enlightened world. And it can be so easy to feel overwhelmed by events, to feel that we are powerless against such a tidal flow of negative forces. 
We are not.

Our personal power is something which can never be taken from us. It is our personal power that gives us the ability to transform. To realize this is to empower ourselves, and this is when our individual transformation becomes a light to those around us, and in turn to those around them, and the power of this ripple effect expands outwards and transforms the greater world. Yes, these times are difficult, but that is exactly why we are here now. This is the time and this is the place, wherever that place may be, to make our stand and let our soul-light shine, for the darker the shadows, the more fiercely this soul-light will burn. We, all of us, ‘are made for these times’.

Wishing all my readers the trust and soul-power to shine brightly throughout the coming year.





Painting by Wil Lof

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Magnificat


My soul magnifies God. 

What shall I do 
with this quiet joy? 
It calls forth the expanse 
of my soul, calls 
it forth to go singing 
through the world... 
Calls it forth 
to rock the cradles of death gently 
and without fear. 
To collect the rain 
in my spread hands 
and spill it like laughter. 
Calls it forth 
to bear into this world. 
A place where light will glisten 
the edge of every wing 
and blade of grass.
Shine along every hair on every head, 
gleam among the turnings of every wave.
Glorify the turning open of each life, 
each human hand.

*

Christina Hutchins, Maginificat - My soul magnifies God. 
Luke 1:46

Painting Annunciation - detail, by Fra Filippino Lippi


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Shekhinah

        

Where can we find a powerful image of the Divine feminine within Jewish sources? One name for Her which has been with us for centuries is the Shekhinah, the “dweller within.” In ancient times, the Shekhinah was a Talmudic word for the glory of God that rested on the mishkan (the mishkan was the Tabernacle, God’s sacred dwelling space in the wilderness (see Exodus 26-28). The Israelites saw the “glory of God” (kavod adonai) as tangible, powerful, and sacred, a pillar of fire or cloud guiding the Israelites through the wilderness.

According to the Talmud, the Shekhinah, the Indwelling, is the Divine that resides within the life of the world, dwelling on earth with the Jewish people and going into exile with them when they are exiled. While the traditional Jewish image of the transcendent God is male, in the kabbalah, that image has been accompanied by the feminine image of the Shekhinah—the inner glory of existence.

In the Zohar (a medieval mystical work), there are ten facets or sefirot of the Divine, and the Shekhinah (also known as malchut) is the tenth and final one, closest to the created world. She is a mystical embodiment of the feminine, earth-centered presence of God, and was also called the bride of God, the Sabbath, the Torah, the moon, the earth, and the apple orchard. Mysticism depicts the Shekhinah as female, but she can be both female and male. Two biblical figures who symbolize her are Rachel (wife of Jacob and mother of the Israelite nation) and David (shepherd, psalmist, and king of Israel). The Shekhinah rests on those who study, pray, visit the sick, welcome the new moon, welcome guests, give charity to the poor, dwell in the harvest booth called the sukkah, or perform other sacred activities.

The Shekhinah embodies joy, yet she is also a symbol of shared suffering and empathy, not only with a nation’s exile, but with all the hurts of the world. Mystics believe that in messianic times She will be reunited with her heavenly partner and that they will become one. Many Jewish poets of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries have reclaimed her as a powerful feminine image of God.
Yet the Shekhinah as She is portrayed by Jewish sources is not a panacea for all that ails the way we look at God. Until recently kabbalists have considered Her the lowest and most inactive part of the Godhead, the last and least in a series of ten steps of creation.

The Shekhinah embodies traditional feminine traits like passivity and nurturing, and at the same time she is associated with death and darkness. These images, taken uncritically, can be damaging to women and to the male conception of the feminine. To discover the Shekhinah as the full embodiment of the feminine Divine, we must transform her from a stereotype into a living divinity who speaks to us in many different kinds of voices: mother and daughter, old and young, light and dark, compassion and anger, revelation and mystery.

We can rediscover the Shekhinah throughout Jewish text, throughout history, and throughout the natural world. God in the Bible is sometimes mother eagle and sometimes Holy Wisdom crying out in the streets. In the Talmud and midrash, the Divine is sometimes portrayed as a nursing mother or as the (female) twin of Israel. In the Zohar, there are multiple feminine God-images, such as Binah (understanding), also known as Immah Ilaah (the higher mother), who is called the womb and palace of creation, the fountain of understanding, the well of souls. Then there is Lilith, a mythic figure whom the tradition demonized but who for some is the embodiment of sexuality and freedom.

We also cannot forget that the images and stories of the Shekhinah are connected to traditions of the Divine feminine around the world, from the ancient goddess Inanna, who is described as a warrior for her people just as the Shekhinah is in the Zohar; to the Virgin Mary, who is an intercessor in matters of Divine judgment like the Shekhinah; to Kuan Yin of Asia, who embodies compassion for those who suffer, just as the Shekhinah does. Jews have been afraid to acknowledge the Shekhinah’s relationship to goddesses and goddess-like images because of the traditional Jewish prohibition against idolatry. Yet to deny our connection to the Divine feminine as it is expressed and loved by others is to deny our connection to the human, and feminine, religious experience, and to render invisible some of the sources of our own spirituality.

Today feminist theologians and earth-centered Jews have reclaimed the Shekhinah as a unified deity in her own right, dwelling within living things and the earth, seeking peace and promoting human connection, speaking through women as well as men, working through the neglected and invisible, promoting change and healing brokenness. She is the Goddess- an image of the forces of life and the mysteries of creation.

The Shekhinah, for some, is a reminder that there is no division between creation and divinity. The Shekhinah allows us to break through the exclusively male and hierarchical visions of God and imagine a God that changes as we change, that evokes nature as well as the supernatural. When we speak to the immanent Shekhinah, She speaks not to us, but through us, and through all the varied facets of the world.



Jill Hammer 
Rabbi, feminist and seeker.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

At the Heart of the Labyrinth



We begin our journey into the labyrinth. There will be times when it seems as if we are merely retracing our steps, and other times when it is as if we are actually moving farther away from the centre and back towards the outer rim. But always, and in spite of what our senses appear at times to be telling us, we move inexorably closer and ever closer to the centre and what we might discover there.

Unlike walking a maze, which has a variety of alternative paths to follow, and which therefore so easily can lead us into disorienting confusion, a labyrinth, in spite of its many convolutions, has only one path which we may reliably and trustingly follow all the way to the centre. So in spite of its maze-like appearance it is still possible to trace a path from the entrance to the very centre in one continuous line, even though we at times must necessarily double back upon ourselves. The labyrinth is therefore also promising the one who walks it that the centre always will be reached, no matter how many twists and turns in the path might be involved.

So there is a clear difference between a labyrinth and a maze, even though the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The confusion which exists between the terms is perhaps understandable, given the story of the most famous labyrinth in history, the Labyrinth of Ancient Crete housing the dreaded Minotaur which, because of its many alternative passageways, was actually a maze!

This difference between a labyrinth and a maze asks a question of us: the question as to why, when the winding path of the labyrinth is so ultimately predictable in its destination, would we spend our time walking it at all? This question becomes even more pointed when we consider that various existing labyrinths, either carved in stone on a column in Lucca Cathedral in Italy, or inset into a floor in tiles as in the cathedral of Chartres, or even crafted into a landscape with stones or furrows of earth, have no actual ‘walls’ as such, but can readily be viewed by us in their totality.

These true labyrinths have no need for a confusing puzzle. The point is to follow the path itself, to walk or trace out with our fingertips that continuous line leading to the labyrinth’s mysterious heart. It is the sense of gathering energy, of being on the way to something, which is what matters. And just as the form of the Grail is said to change according to who is seeking it, what that ‘something’ is which lies at the centre of each labyrinth will vary according to who is tracing out the path.

For some the winding path will represent a journey which draws them ever inwards to a spiritual truth. For others it will serve as a renewal of vital earth energies, as a reinvigorating of the flow of subtle currents beneath their rhythmic steps. And for others it might express a desire to regain a lost contact, both with their ancient forebears who constructed the labyrinth and with the earth itself. So for our ancestors – and for us – to trace out our steps to the labyrinth’s centre may well bring the prospect of true peace and equanimity when we reach its heart.    




Photo: Hogsback Labyrinth in the Amathole Mountains in South Africa