Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Hero


A Week or two ago the friends in my Blog sphere were circulating posts about "Kept" clergy. I managed to keep my two cents to myself until now. One reason was because I personally believe there is a line between professional clergy and professional conjurers, a line I did not see drawn within the volley of posts, a line I myself am not qualified to draw.

As for myself, I have as much right to approve or condemn a person for paying for a Tarot reading or tailored conjure as I do to approve or condemn abortion or same sex marriage, none. But in the area of Clergy I have many firm assertions, specially on the subject of being kept.

I have been a volunteer prison chaplain for over three years, the last two of which I have been volunteering at least twice a month. For the last six months I have added two monthly state hospital visits, at this point I volunteer at least one ten hour day a week in service to the state as a chaplain, for free.

In fact, a while back it was suggested that I submit a proposal for a twelve week religious program. So I did and to my surprise, it was approved and added to the curriculum of a state facility where I have been teaching regularly for some time now, for free. Rest assured, I have no delusions of grandeur. Given the current condition of our local economy I'm not getting hired anytime soon, not while their laying off teachers, guards and many other critically needed staff.

Can you imagine the headline?

I do all of this for a couple of reasons, but the most realistic one is, because I can. I am willing and more importantly I am able. My life style allows me the time, resources and opportunity to do so. But make no mistake, all my bases are covered before I go traipsing off to my prison ministry. I handle my business as a husband, a father, an administrator and so on. Because for all of the reasons I am motivated to be a chaplain, being kept is not one of them.

As a Pipe carrier in a native tradition, your are considered clergy. But there has always been a clear difference in those titles. As a Pipe carrier, I was a servant to the community. I was obligated to perform certain religious services when they where needed. Like many priesthoods, there is a responsibility there, but there was no authority. Unlike most western religious cultural views where the priest is commonly seen as being religiously or spiritually, in charge.

I have brought this concept with me into my ministry, humbly aware of my limitations, a servant, a keeper of the community, not the other way around. Those who can, have the obligation to do. Each of us has our own obligation to fulfill in some capacity. Many contribute, each in their own way.

My personal hero of the month is Heather Deirdre Awen, a few weeks ago she contacted me with questions about donating books and materials for Pagan inmates. We had a great conversation and she ended up donating over thirty books to my Carcer Via program. These books were great, they were in very good shape, they were a very good selection and content, in short, they were valuable.

Now the way things work at the prison is tricky, there are six separate yards, each with their own set of facilities such as library and chapel. So, if you want to donate a book, you have to donate six copies so that each yard gets one or they won't accept it. My way of dealing with this challenge is to create a "church lending library" where my congregants can check them out from me. About six of the donated books went in that pile.

On Friday, the state hospital which currently has two books, one on Wicca and one on "new age spirituality" received the other thirty some-odd books, which they were happy to receive and the patients are even happier to have access to. Its one thing for a Pagan to part with their books, something you don't see much of, but as my wife and I sat on the floor flipping through the books my wife noticed that there was something written in the front of every book. As we continued, we found that Heather had not only selflessly donated her books, not only had she taken the time to drive them to the post office, not only had she paid the heavy price to have the heavy box of heavy books mailed to us, she took the time to write a different blessing inside of each book. Now that's magic. Thank you for your service Heather and all the guys thank you too.

We are the keepers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

THE VIGILIA


It's so subtle, so unnoticeable. It comes on so slowly that you don't realize it has had you until after it leaves you. How ironic that that it is not it's presence that we sense, but it's absence.

For the last few days I have been without internet service. I found my initial response quite disturbing, I recognized what I felt as the symptoms of withdraws.

I constantly wanted to check my Facebook live-feed, check in to see if my favorite fellow bloggers have any new words of wisdom, or lunacy. I suddenly remembered all those obscure things I needed to Google. Oh and I had Seminary homework to submit before the deadline, which always got put off to the last minute because I really don't care for my classes and there are much more interesting things happening on Facebook and Blogspot.

Being cut off and unplugged was very startling. Waking from my dream only to wander around watching everyone else still sleeping. We plug in and tune out the real world, think about it and watch the Matrix again.

Sitting outside, awake and unplugged was illuminating, especially on such a nice spring day.

I have recently received several emails regarding my tradition, by people in other states and amazingly enough, in other countries. I am both flattered and humbled by these requests for more information and material on little ol' me's beliefs and practices. So it is in this context that I will begin adding more entries here explaining various points of my tradition, and here's the first one.

I've decided to start with the Vigilia because it is the foundation of our theology. The name of our tradition is "Veritas" Wicca, which is Latin for truth. This comes from the motto "Veritas Pro Re Natura" meaning "Truth Through Nature." Our tradition is based on this simple premise.

Many, most religions are built upon a sacred text. Often considered the word of God or at the very least, by proxy. But as Pagans (generally speaking) and as Wiccans, we have no universal sacred text. We have what we call "The Gospel of Nature."

So where followers of a written sacred text "read" mere words with there eyes, we "read" the Gospel of Nature with all of our given senses, making the reading of that text wholly experiential. This is illustrated in the Vigilia...

Look, and you can see her beauty in truth through Nature. Breathe, and you can smell the perfume of the Maiden.
Touch, and you can feel the love of the Mother.
Listen, and you can hear the wisdom or the Crone. Taste, and you can savor the the spirit of the Triple Goddess. Veritas Pro Re Nature!

The senses are used to experience deity, as they manifest through the natural world, and are personified by (in this one) the Triple Goddess. The purpose of reciting the Vigilia is to guide us, to use our senses to "tune in" to deity.

Think of it like a Radio. The Goddess is an FM station transmitting an infinite signal that permeates all of existence, at all times. We are all born with a built in receiver, we're just listening to Top 40 on the other end of the dial.

We recite the Vigilia as an invocation over the Chalice, and another over the Blade, just before the Great Rite or other Divine Unions of which such potent fertility produce infinite potential, for those who know, those who will, those who dare and those who remain humbly silent.

There is a distinction between the Vigilia and a Charge of the Goddess. With a Charge of the Goddess, the intent is to "Draw Down the Moon" into a God-form. Whereas with the Vigilia, the intent is to appeal to the presence of deity.

I confess myself somewhat miffed by the concept of summoning the Lord or the Lady into my body, and I equate that to pouring the whole oceans of the world into a shot glass. Once a keen eyed antagonist noticed that while we conducted an impressive invocation, we had failed to perform the proper "License to Depart," and again I found myself vexed by the idea of giving the infinite power of divine providence "permission to leave." And once more, if we could tune in to GODZ FM and establish a resonance, why would you ever want to turn it off?

I was visited by the spirit of Ostara this morning, as I sat outside I could smell the perfume of the maiden of spring. I could feel the rebirth and resurrection of life all around me in the warmth of the sunlight, I could hear voice in the soft breeze as the birds sang in celebration of her return. And in the mist of her resent turbulence, I stand truely humbled.

For those of you who have begun to realize the infinite power, immeasurable wisdom and ultimate truth which has been eloquently obscured by the Veil of the Goddess, I hope this helps.

Blessed Be.