Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A righteous man

Over the last couple of days, I have found myself thinking back to a time many years ago when I wanted answers and decided to read the bible from beginning to end. Here was the book I had been assured I needed to accept for my salvation. The book that would show me God’s infinite love and wisdom. Having, a short time before, been knocked into a nightmare spiral through a combination of personal crisis, acid, amphetamine and the book of revelations I felt in need of salvation. So, I opened the book and read. A story of words spoken and they were good and a garden was planted. And then I read on and saw a god who was petty and vindictive – often acting like a child in a tantrum. I read on until the entry of the Israelites into Canaan and this is where I had to put the book down. Genocide upon genocide as they took the “promised land”. Brutality and deceit being rewarded and the perpetrators held up as righteous servants of the lord.

What reminded me of this was a chance sentence that came into my head as I was whiling away my time on Yahoo answers. I was feeling a bit provocative and had typed in a few questions and then typed this “What was so righteous about Lot offering his daughters to the mob?”. And then I started to get angry as I though about how the story encapsulates why I could never accept the abrahamic faiths and why I came to goddess. Lot, nephew of Abraham is a “righteous” man we are told and angels go to visit him to see if there are enough other righteous men to stay the hand of god from smiting Sodom. So, the mob sees these young “men” and demand to “know” them. Whereupon our righteous Lot produces his daughters and offers them instead. The mob turns down the offer, the angels smite them, then god smites Sodom, taking the time out to turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. Later, Lot gets drunk and impregnates each of his daughters in turn.

This is a righteous man. One that I, as a man, am encouraged to emulate. I do not want to. I am not righteous- I am, if not fully aware of all my faults, aware how far short I often fall from what I consider to be right. BUT, to offer young women to be raped by a mob is not something that remotely fits my idea of righteousness. It is indefensible. And, to be fair, it has troubled christian commentators too – one of my answerers treated me to a rather incomprehensible sentence from Wesley.

So, I started to think. How, in this episode did Lot prove that he was righteous? And I put into the context that I have now but lacked when I first stumbled horrified on this episode. The cities of the plain – civilisations that honoured the Goddess – were undoubtedly anathema to the new arrivals and their angry and jealous god. Yet Lot went to live there. Were the people of Sodom matrilocal? Very possibly. So, emissaries are sent to find if he has been corrupted and whether he will side with his wife against his tribe. He passes the test by a graphic demonstration of women as chattels of men and not free agents. His wife, as they are leaving for the desert, looks back at her old home, her old ways – and is killed. Lot then rapes his daughters for they are now his breeding stock. In this lies his righteousness – he has demonstrated his fitness for the new order of patriarchal dominance and his complete rejection of the wicked ways of the cities where women, if not by that time equal, were treated with respect and honour. It is a perfect parable of the new world order that Abraham has been charged with fathering.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Third Budapest Goddess Festival

For 20 months now I have been living in Budapest and it is an incredibly beautiful city – despite having suffered from major destruction and neglect during the nightmare that, for Hungary and its neighbours, comprised much of the 20th Century. Running through it is the River Danube, the river named after the Goddess Danu. Along this river travelled the ancestors of the peoples of Europe from palaeolithic times. In the centre of the river is a yoni shaped island sacred for millennia to the Goddess and now named after a medieval nun and healer named Margit (Margaret). Around the city are hot springs renowned for their healing properties – the old Roman settlement having been named after them “Aquincum”. Above, on the western bank, are the forested Buda hills, where ancient Druids met in oak groves, while on the east is Pest and the Hungarian plain beyond. It is the geographical centre of Europe and the place where east meets west.

Before the Romans arrived here, the land that is now Hungary was inhabited by two great cultures, the Celts and the Scythians. In this year’s festival we concentrated largely on two of the principal Goddesses of this period, Brigid of the Celts and Tabiti of the Scythians. With the former we worked on healing the wounds of the past and with the latter on reclaiming the power of the amazons, who refused to submit to any authority save that which they chose for themselves. They stood for who they were.

(I was reminded of the necessity of both of these qualities - healing the past and having the courage to stand for who you - while walking in the Gay Pride procession two weeks after the festival. I have been on many demonstrations in my life and this is the first one I remember where the police were protecting and not attacking me. And protection was needed for the extreme right – nationalist, neo-nazi, fascist, define it how you will – were determined to show their disapproval with boots and fists, stones and sticks. I do not know what wounds they were nursing that they felt so much anger and hate, but I know that they were deep. It took three hours for the police to control and disperse those who wished violence but I am very glad that they succeeded. I somehow even avoided being hit by one of the hundreds of eggs and tomatoes that were thrown. It was inspiring, however, to be in the company of people of such courage and integrity.)

The festival, however, was wonderful and it is impossible to give more than a hint of what happened. The participants were mainly Hungarian although some were from neighbouring countries such as Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland and Germany and one visitor from as far as Japan. The presenters came from wider afield. From the US came Lydia Ruyle – whose Goddess banners had preceded her for the last two festivals – accompanied by her niece and two granddaughters, Alessandra Belloni – bringing the healing power of the tarantella, and the archaeologist Dr Jeannine Davis Kimball who spoke about her researches into the warrior-priestesses- the amazons?- of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes. From Australia came Anique Radiant Heart whose healing chants formed an essential part of the festival. From Glastonbury in the UK came Kathy Jones, Mike Jones, Lynne Orchard and Natasha Wardle. Kathy and Mike each focussed on the sexual wounds of women and men respectively, Lynne on the healing power of the waters and of Brigid, and Natasha on the Magdalen. Presenters from Hungary were Bori Hoppál who spoke about the long tradition of honouring the yoni, Szilvi Szentesi who focussed on the needs of the children and me who spoke and held a workshop about what I have learnt from my journey with Inanna and how She can lead to the healing of shame.

But what was really important in my view was not the speakers the presentations and the workshops – although they each played an important role but the interactions between the people who were there. Right from the initial sacred drama, written by Szilvia Simon, everybody felt a part of something much bigger. Together, we danced around the solstice fire to the music of Alessandra and a Hungarian troupe of musicians. In quieter moments, we met and talked over coffee and then at other times experienced the deep soul connection that occurred in the healing ceremonies. We felt an excited delight to see the looks of surprise and pleasure as we took Lydia’s “girls” (the Goddess banners) on their third procession through the very hot and busy streets to a ceremony and fruit feast on Margit Island. For all – both ceremonialists and participants - it was an emotional roller-coaster as we learnt to work together in the service of the Goddess. Some things worked better than others but all was done in love and trust. This is what it was all about. After the first two festivals in which we planted and watered the seed, the 3rd Goddess Festival was the one in which the various elements finally came together and we started to reach out to the larger world

Brigid and Tabiti were called and they came. Why this is still a surprise to me I do not know, for I have seen it so often. I am only now beginning to see how deep the healing is and how we are beginning to stand and be seen in our own power. The Goddess of ten thousand (and many more) names is emerging from the millennia of forgetting and coming back into human consciousness. The Budapest Goddess Festival is an integral part of this re-membering.

The festival depended on many people but I just have to mention Kriszta Veres whose vision, courage, focus and perseverance have been essential to the existence of the festival and of the Budapest Goddess Temple. I will say no more than that – except to invite everybody to the 4th Budapest Goddess Festival around the Summer Solstice 2009. Please come. The Goddess movement is very young over here but people are eager to meet Her and work for Her. We know how to have fun. We love to dance. We love to laugh. The new Hungarian priest/esses and lovers of the Goddess are ready to welcome all and to learn from all.

Friday, 25 July 2008

A tale of two books

About two weeks ago, I started to read The Paradise Papers by Merlin Stone. I was sure I had read the book many years ago but remembered nothing about its content. That is, until I opened it and found that I seemed to have internalised so many of its arguments and ideas to the extent that I had assumed they were mine. I would like to hand the credit back to her. Perhaps they came to me via another route, I do not know and it does not really matter. However they came, I was and remain receptive to them. It has been good to revisit the book after all these years and realise now that what I have gained is a level of understanding that – clearly since I forgot so much of the content - I lacked then. I am older, for a start and in the intervening decades have done a lot more reading and met a lot more people. And most importantly, from being an attractive spiritual alternative to the patriarchal religions Goddess has now become a living reality.

Now to come to the second book, which is not dealing with the lies, omissions and distortions of the established religion but the lies, omissions and distortions of our current political rulers. Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is a compelling dissection of global capitalism and its complete reliance on the exploitation of human misery of all kinds whether caused by natural phenomena such as tsunami or hurricane to massacre and torture. I am still half –way through this but am gripped by a feeling of purposeful anger. Here is the pinnacle of patriarchal thinking – that human beings are disposable assets at the service of their, almost invariably, masters. For it is clear that, barring such exceptions as Thatcher and Condaleeza (is that how it is spelt?), Rice, the principle proponents of the doctrine, from Milton Friedman, through Reagan, Pinochet, the Chinese politburo, Yeltsin, and the two Bushes, have been overwhelmingly male.

There are striking parallels between the two books and they are that both describe top-down, power-over, ways of thinking of the world. In the first, Merlin describes how this ideology was born and then became entrenched deep in our collective minds. Naomi, however, is showing how this ideology is now sweeping all before it; from the selling off of the Tsunami-ravaged coastline of Sri Lanka to foreign hoteliers – thereby ensuring that there will never again be fishing villages – to the largely privatised, murderous and deeply undemocratic War on Terror.
This is the reality that I, as a lover of the Goddess, live in. Sometimes I forget. I look back at Nazi Germany and think that it represented the summit of patriarchal thinking. I now realise that the worst crime of the Nazis in the eyes of corporate greed is that they were amateurs. Now we can begin to see how professionals operate. While retaining academic respectability and with the cleanest of hands they are raping the entire world. As they were ordered to do in the books of the old testament.