8th November, 2013
Beautiful Colorado has sunk into its frozen state early this year. The exceptionally colourful autumn has been overtaken by the spirits of antartica, clothing the scene from my window in white, gripping everything and squeezing the last life out of it, putting nature down to sleep. I always think of it as Narnia, this frozen lifeless country, because this is the way it will stay now forever, at least that is the way it seems. The Queen of Narnia has cast her spell and left us shivering and shrunken. She is a cruel goddess, this hag of winter, and knows no mercy.
Last week we celebrated Halloween, which is a holiday that to the pagans was a way of dancing with this hag and coming out the other end. They called it in Scotland "Samhain," (with the unlikely pronunciation of Sah-voon) The Christians co-opted it and threw out the goddess to make it a celebration of the saints instead. But you need the goddess when you are trying to survive the onslaught of winter. You need to know that ultimately the earth is kind. The opposite celebration to Samhain was Beltaine at the beginning of May. At that time the hag would turn into the young woman with flowers in her hair (and otherwise not much cover, because she was now the goddess, not of death but of life and regeneration.)
When I was growing up in my evangelical family, all of this goddess talk was considered playing with fire, talking to the devil. And it was playing with fire - each of these pagan celebrations was always accompanied by a fire from the highest geographical point around. On November 5th in Scotland it is "Bonfire Night," and even though it is now celebrated in the name of Guy Fawkes, it originally had to do with the Samhain fire. Nowadays, you burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes in your bonfire, but fire, until it was used by the Christians to burn up "witches," (read druidesses) was not negative, but highly positive. It was one of those elements like water which seemed to symbolise the in-between zone between life and death, spirit and matter. I think you feel this when you stand by a bonfire - it has a magical quality that draws you in, puts you in that timeless zone that all religious feeling is supposed to engender.
So, playing with fire it is, but talking to the devil, not so much. The notion of an evil male anti-god came to Scotland with the first monks. Until then the "horned god," (did the Christians take that notion and run with it or what?) was the companion of the goddess, and good balance of yang to her yin. But if you turn that horned god (horned, by the way, because he wore the antlers of the stag) into evil, you lose the balance that he is there to maintain. And so you get a world out of balance, which is what we have. How out of balance is the argument of big industry that it can't improve its carbon footprint in the interests of saving the planet, because it would cost too much? How big do the blinkers have to be?
I have faith, though, in the Gaia principle, which is what, I think, the notion of the goddess was in reality - the belief that an intelligence (an intelligence closer to nurturing female energy) operates the controls and will redress any imbalance.
Let's build our fires, then, and call upon the queen of fire to hear us, now at the start of her sleep and in May to wake her up and start to paint flowers on the earth again.
The best scene in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,"is when nature takes back Narnia, and all the stone statues come back to life; the snow melts and flowers blossom like they do in nature programmes with time-lapse photography. In this out-of-balance wacky world, we have all been slowly turning to stone. There is no way to get back to our goddess view of the world, because it belonged to a different time and sensibility, but we can see our modern stone-age for what its is, something badly in need of heart. We can stand up against the powers of industry and gun-propagation and exploitation; we can defuse the power of gold by not participating in the madness. That doesn't mean we have to go and live in the woods. In the high mountain woods, you wouldn't survive. But it means re-assessing our gain and what we have lost, understanding who we are as human beings, more than anything else, homo religiosus. Femina religiosus.