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As the sun grows hot and bright
And the year-wheel slowly turns.
The veil thins on Beltane night.
And passion’s fire brightly burns.
Arise in lust and join the dance
‘round the maypole one by one
And as the cup is pierced by lance
The holy union has begun.
Leap across the blazing flames
To bless the coming year
The Eastern Gate now opened wide
And through; the Fae draw near.
Those who shine as stars below
Now dance in revelry
In forest, city, town, and grove
By human eye unseen.
We raise a toast on Beltane night
And make our offerings
To elves and faery, shade, and sprite
Within the sacred ring.
The Black Heart of Innocence is something of a ‘holy grail’ in F(a)eri(e) tradition. It is a symbol in our Craft that is said to be the natural state of the soul, unfettered by societal conditioning. In Feri we understand this natural state to be sexual because, in our understanding, everything begins (and ends!) with sex. (Insert Iron Pentacle reference here.) Sex is opening to life-force; the animating principle that in living beings tends to be expressed in a sexual way. Desire that inspires action… Life opening to life, merging with life, to create something greater than the simple sum of its parts.
When we open to life-force we are soon confronted with our own complexes and fears… all the things that we have spent so much time and energy trying to bury. When this comes to the surface this often leads to bad feelings and judgements about others since it is far easier to see imbalances in the behavior of others than it is to look into that mirror and truly see ourselves.
We say this heart is black because that is the “color” of the Void… the night sky filled with stars that contain all possibility. It is like a scrying mirror –shiny, curved, and black– which reveals the unseen… the previously unknown… the mystery. We can’t perceive it directly. In much the same way as with dark matter; no one can really see the Black Heart… it can only be inferred by the influence it has on those around it.
While some have focused exclusively on (a misunderstanding of) the sexual elements of the BHOI some now see it as being an excuse for behavior that is socially suspect or even taboo. It is important to understand that to be in the state of the Black Heart is not the same as simply reacting from our base nature… we acknowledge our deep and sometimes even darker desires and drives… but it is alignment that allows us to express these energies in a way that is healthy or, as is done with Kala, to transform them when necessary.
I have often said that the BHOI burns with the blue fire of compassion… but what does that really mean? The blue fire is a current of energy that we recognize in Feri as permeating everything; it is the life-force that we draw into our lungs as well as that force which is the energy behind all the matter we see and don’t see. It is “the blue ray”; the Will of God Hirself directed through our own. This energy is first and formost connective as it is omnipresent. All things are said to be comprised of this basic energy and so it is through this power that we begin to experience the world not in terms of separation, but in terms of wholeness. It is this holism that leads us into a space of universal compassion, or experiencing the other as self.
Compassion is a tricky concept in our society. We often think of it in the form of sympathy or in offering comfort to those in need. While it certainly can take those forms, true compassion is something more… something deeper… something far more difficult and at times even disturbing.
Compassion can be disturbing?? This is a long way from the simple words of comfort we might share with a friend or family member who is having a difficult time. True compassion asks us to be authentic… and to recognize the oneness of all life. True compassion operates from that aforementioned space of connection. It is empathy… and then right action stemming from that state of being. This is were the disturbing part comes in. Right action can often be speaking the truth that no one wants to hear… or taking actions to protect yourself or another from harm… actions that invariably place us at odds with the intentions and actions of those from whom we feel the need to defend.
Lest we begin to think that the BHOI is simply an excuse to “tell it like it is” or otherwise tear someone down in whatever snarky way in which we are inspired, consider that the BHOI is a state that exists in pre-consciousness; a state-of-being as opposed to a state-of-knowing. One of the reasons we work toward alignment is to be able to access this deeper, primal state while still being able to direct that power in a way that reflects our true Will… which is ALL of our parts in concert; divine, human, and primal. Or as I sometimes like to say, “With open mind, open heart, and open sex.”
When we are in alignment the BHOI is that same sate that has elsewhere been called, “sovereignty”. When we stand in the center of our own aligned self we burn with that blue flame and our hearts beat the rhythm to which our souls can join the universal dance. We stand in our power; not to coerce or control… but to be aware. Our eyes truly open, we see that action –and resistance to action– are as one. By simply being in this state the magic spell has begun, and we often find that resistances fall away, as well as the burning need to act… by simply observing ourselves the Great Work has begun. This is self work on a quantum level… what is observed, changes.
We are all our own divine authorities. If I learned just one thing from my many years training in F(a)eri(e) it is that basic truth, along with a set of tools to make this knowledge manifest. Each of us are asked to wear the Crown of our own GodSoul; our holy daemon. In Feri, the BHOI is us wearing that crown, proudly and soberly, knowing full-well the responsibility that comes with the power it affords us.
Getting to the Black Heart is a lifetime of work. Certainly we can step into this state at times –and this is exactly the point of much of the work in our tradition– but as the saying goes, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” This refers to the deeper state of ecstasy that is a part of this work. Achieving ecstatic states can be useful for our deepening our knowledge… but not so useful for picking the kids up at school, or getting the shopping done. We need to be able to fully embrace the mundane as well as the spiritual in order to live a balanced and healthy life. If we focus exclusively on the “spiritual” (i.e read “transcendent”) then we can often find ourselves walking the path to spiritual addiction; the concerns of our “normal” lives falling by the wayside, such as friends, family, and responsibilities. We need to find healthy ways to embody that transcendence; to fully realize that even the most mundane of tasks are pathways to God Hirself.
Our rites and exercises encourage this state-of being so that we can call upon it when we need to… and then, invariably, something in life will knock us off our center. It is then that we must get up off the ground… dust ourselves off, and try again. With repetition and practice we learn how to return to our center more easily and smoothly than we had in the past; calling back to ourselves our sense of true self so that we can address the world accordingly. Living in that state full-time, I think, is beside the point. We are all human and no one is asking that we give up our flaws. They are, after all, what makes us human and that is beautiful all on its own. We must learn to look into the eyes of God Hirself and see our own reflection in the mirror of Hir eyes. “Behold how beautiful I am!” the Blue God teaches us to say. And in this we must also remember that state of connection… that each of us are also the reflections of God Hirself… and we are beautiful because of our flaws… because flawless perfection, besides being unattainable, is also boring. We are asked now to have compassion for ourselves; even for (especially for) those parts of us that are weak… are “petty” and “unenlightened”. We must have compassion for our own flaws because only then can we have compassion for them in others. Otherwise we often move into a space of condemnation, dominance, and war.
To wear the Crown of our Own Black Heart we must first let all of the ego-driven judgements fall away and simply exist in a space of connection. When we acknowledge the omnipresence of divinity then we are better prepared to operate from this compassion… for ourselves as well as for others. Wearing the crown is to fully accept our own power and to act accordingly. But it can also be a burden… we find ourselves in a precarious place of becoming an example for others… a role to which we may or may not be suited. We must remember to mindfully respond with compassion rather than mindlessly react from ego. And thus begins the practice part of our ongoing work. And on it goes.. and on it goes.
The Royal Heart
by Storm Faerywolf
Heart of coal,
heart of pitch,
heart of onyx,
heart of witch
Heart of warlock,
heart of stone,
Upon the Throne.
So many have been made aware in the past few days of the actions and controversies present at Pantheacon this year centering around gender exclusion and derogatory speech. For those who are not, I point you here, here, here, and here for some different points of view. Because I see all of this as part of an evolving process I am reticent to jump on anyone’s bandwagon of which there are several, preferring instead to cultivate a stance that is centered on loving everyone involved. If those words compel you to judge me one way or another, I invite you to hold that judgment as I am a fallible person just like anyone else. In presenting my words and actions I am decidedly not asking others to adopt my worldview; fully recognizing the necessity of many different approaches. I also humbly ask that you at least entertain the notion that this situation is actually very complicated, though some have chosen to “boil it down” into simplistic notions that, in my opinion, actually threaten the common goals that we all share, which I believe are equality and acceptance.
There is more than one issue at hand; this is far more than simply a case of gender exclusion, although that is a part of the argument for some. For others it is about what has rightfully been called “hate speech”, and a prime perpetrator of such who has held a position of honor and even of reverence to some within the Pagan community. For others it is about tradition… for others, fear… for still others, it is about that invisible privilege that those of us in our communities might share and take for granted. And along with all of this there is anger. Some anger is righteous, but some is just hateful and quite frankly beneath the common principals of human dignity, an extreme position that some might be surprised to find exists on both sides of this great divide.
But even as I speak of opposing sides I am reminded that even this is not that simple. Duality is the very thinking that got us here in the first place and we crossed that boundary long ago into new territories of pluralism and multiplicity.
While Z Budapest, founder of the women’s-only[i] branch of the Dianic tradition, was scheduled to lead her ritual for “genetic women only”[ii], another Dianic ritual was also scheduled, and one that was inclusive of all genders, orientations, and lifestyles. “The Rite of the Bear Mother” was conceived by Devin Hunter, founding member and Head Priest of the Living Temple of Diana, and Yeshe Rabbit, founding member and High Priestess of CAYA and the Grove of Artemis. This ritual was conceived as a means to bring healing to the community after the events of last year. Together these distinct manifestations of the Dianic tradition (the female-only Grove and the gender-inclusive Temple) came together in the spirit of love and cooperation to open to the presence of the Goddess as the ‘Bear Mother’; that fierce and compassionate force of wild nature that protects Her cubs with every last ounce of Her indomitable being. But the very core of that fierce protection is a core of love; the love of mother for child, the love that would give its life for the life of Her child… the love that heals all wounds, that sooths all pain.
As we gathered for our ritual we were told that Z was going to be making a statement about the events, and it was decided that since our ritual was one of inclusion and healing that we would be remiss if we did not open our ears and hearts to what showed promise to be a significant step forward, and one that was not expected. It was decided that we would move into a space aside from both those who sat in silent and respectful protest, and those who had elected to participate in Z’s rite, honoring both for their decisions and projecting a sense of love in the hopes to remind us all that beyond our hurt, our pain, our joy, and our gender, we are all one in the eyes of the Goddess.
Shortly after we arrived, Z did as well, along with another group which included Rev. Hyperion, and they moved into the space across the protestors to stand alongside those who were waiting to participate in the ritual. Z assumed at first that we (along with the other group standing across from the protestors) were standing in support of her; an assumption that was quickly corrected when both Rabbit and Hyperion spoke on behalf of the individual groups, stating unequivocally that they (and we) stood neutral to hold a space of love and to bear witness to the events about to take place.
Some have expressed confusion as to what the different groups were doing there, and I must admit that the presence of the other group at first confused me as well. Where people expected just one group aside from the ritual participants, we were given three, and we were all there for different, yet overlapping reasons. Much like the Occupy movements across the world, there was no central authority, no one position that was being expressed by all. It was spontaneous, organic. It was also loving, raw, peaceful, and authentic. The meditating protestors openly beamed love and thoughtfulness while others openly wept and shared their pain, also a tremendous act of love for the community. I was struck at the bravery of those who chose to sit in respectful silence to show to Z –and to everyone else—just how important these issues really are.
While some have argued that our decision to hold that liminal space of neutrality is akin to “siding with the oppressors” (a stance that I find dangerously close to Bush’s “You’re either for us, or against us”) I think it’s important to point out that a neutral space is a necessary part of the process of rendering justice; we need the space of calm thoughtfulness in order to ensure that everyone is heard. Only then can we engage in right action. Only then can we see the whole picture for what it is. We were there to project love to everyone and to hear and witness Z’s statement. I hold that space in order to hear what transwomen and everyone else has to say. This is a process that requires listening, dedication, and thoughtfulness.
Neutrality does not mean that we have no opinions. I certainly have them. I have been an outspoken critic of Z for some time. I feel that her words have been hurtful –even hateful—and have no place in the new paradigm of love and acceptance that we have been collectively creating as we move into the Aquarian age. She is a Pagan leader and as such she needs –needs— to be held accountable. But she is also an old woman. When I saw her emerge shortly after we arrived on the scene, I saw a woman who was hurt, scared, and defensive. She was confused and very much reacting. I was not pleased with her apology which seemed to me to be more about being sorry for how others reacted to her, rather than for her actions themselves. To me, that is not much of an apology. I was disappointed, but I also felt that this was all we were going to get. Disappointed… but also hopeful, since this was in itself actually a huge step forward. Not enough… but a step.
I don’t think that the answer is to vilify Z. I have seen much anger in the past year, and much more so in the past few days, that is directed toward her. Some of this anger is righteous. I myself have anger on this issue. But I also know that anger and violence (of action as well as of word) will only serve to escalate and infect those wounds that we share. Do not mistake love for apathy. Do not mistake thoughtfulness for inaction.
What is the answer in this? I know only of the first step: listening. It is a theme that has come up for me again, and again. In order to truly heal our wounds we need to be heard, we need to know that our feelings have been truly witnessed. I was there to bear witness… to Z… to the protesters… to those who chose to participate in Z’s ritual. I was there to witness them all… and to them all I send my love. I will not choose the road of hate. While that is an easy road to follow I know all too well where it leads. I choose the road of love.
But even this is just part of a larger process; there will come a time in the very near future where the information has all been gathered, the stories will have been heard and the time then will be to act. But it usurps the process if I were to declare what that action should look like. For now I continue to hold that space of love for everyone who has been hurt as I meditate, gather my feelings, and take a deep look at everything that has come up.
One of the things that really struck me while we were processing into the space was a sign that one of the protestors (who is also a friend) was holding. It read, “ALL women are Real”. This, I think, encapsulates a very important argument that needs to be carefully addressed by those who are more educated on the subject than I am. I am not a trans-person. I cannot speak to the pain, to the joys, to the mysteries of that particular manifestation of the Goddess… what I can speak to, however, is the commonality of the heart. And what I felt was pain. And that pain needs to be addressed, along with ways to ensure that it will not happen again. Z hurt these people… with her words (a powerful tool for a witch, to be certain), with her actions, but most of all with her ignorance. But it is ignorance. And instead of vilifying her for it I will remember one of the most important messages that I have learned in my tradition: to have compassion, even for weakness. I hold a space of compassion for Z, just as I hold that compassion for everyone involved. I will hold that compassion even as we move into the space of action. Perhaps that action will include boycotts, or policy changes, or declarations, or Gods-knows-what, but right now –in this moment—I simply don’t know the answer. We’re still talking about it and trying to figure it all out. All I know is compassion is all I really have to offer right now. And it is my hope that compassion will serve as a foundation upon which we can collectively build a future together in which everyone has a space at the table. Evohe! Blessed be.
F(a)eri(e) priest, BlueRose
Dianic priest, Living Temple of Diana
[i] It seems obvious at this point that a better description might be cis-women’s tradition, a term that refers to non-trans women. It should be noted that not all who are downline of Z adhere to the cis-gender criteria.
And now I am pleased to unveil the final installment of my F(a)eri(e) Goddesses of the Primal Elements series: Sugma’ad, The Well of Stars:
Sugma’ad, The Well of Stars
©2011 Storm Faerywolf
The Goddesses of the Primal Elements are unique Underworld forces that serve as an energetic blueprint for the physical elements that we know of in the Middleworld.
Beyond even the pre-extant elemental forms lies the conscious possibility of them. This consciousness is the Sugma’ad; the Star God/dess. S/he appears in a multitude of forms, most notably a woman with jet-black skin with the head of a lioness and great wings of a bat. In this “teaching visualization” from the Bloodrose line, S/he sits on a throne of polished onyx with the silver egg of creation resting in Her lap. S/he is the primal God/dess of creation; the great cosmic womb from which all things emerge and into which all things return. S/he is life and oblivion all in one; the beautiful and terrible explosion of chaos and possibility.
And now that I’m done with this series… what should I tackle next???