Grief, part 3: Memorials

Yesterday was All Hallows’ Eve, and it was also my birthday. My grandma died a few days before my 21st birthday. I chose to remember her last night by creating a tiny ancestor shrine.

For me, building my own memorial is a more personal and powerful way to remember the dead than any mausoleum. I visit this sacred object as frequently as I wish, I can modify it any time, and I don’t have to travel to an impersonal headstone to conduct rituals of remembrance (although I have done so many times).
I’ve used the same photo as in my recent post about the story of her death although I have many others to choose from. Her children stand beside her: my mother, who is thankfully still living, and her brother David Sr., who passed away some years ago after a painful struggle against lung cancer.

Memorials like this are observed in many traditions, including the pagan tradition I follow in conjunction with Quaker practice. I honor those traditions today with gratitude.

Blessed be the beloved dead.


Honor to the untamed god

We call you who goes down with the sun into darkness

And arises in light

You teach us that no end is final

You are cut with the grain

Yet grow again

to comfort us with the promise of renewal

(from Reclaiming Collective)

An Internal Process

Motherpeace Tarot Ace of Wands
Motherpeace Tarot Ace of Wands
I’ve posted a few “tarot of the day” recently, and I’ve decided, to my surprise, to discontinue.

The Motherpeace Tarot is amazing. Some of the art is crude-seeming, but the message of the deck is deep internal process and growth. Each card’s interpretation asks you to consider the ways in which self-aware change is possible. I’m still looking at a card every day and discussing with my dear friend, but I’ve only posted the barest detail of the card reading here. I think it’s because the process I’m actively engaged in is an internal one, and frankly not very interesting to share! It feels more intuitive, less quantifiable.

I’ll end my public exploration here, with one of the most enjoyable images of the deck, the Ace of Wands. Huzzah!

Thursday’s Motherpeace Tarot Card

Motherpeace Son of DiscsRight on target!

The vibrant green of this card and the energetic stance of the Son of Discs make this card a welcome one. And look, a little assist from a pair of winged friends.

In the Motherpeace deck, the court or “people” cards are Daughters, Sons, Priestesses and Shamans, corresponding to the traditional King, Queen, Knight, and Page. The deck strives for a sense of the egalitarian and of lifelong learning and progress.

Today’s Tarot

Tarot #1My dear friend Danielle and I have a Motherpeace tarot deck in common, and yesterday we talked about meditation and daily tarot cards as a part of our shared desire for spiritual renewal.

Here’s my card(s) for the day (click to embiggen):

9 of Discs: in this deck, the nine of Discs depicts a woman creating a sand painting in the desert. The card meaning indicates the beginning of a solitary, creative period.

The Hierophant: in most tarot, a representing order and hierarchy. Here, the Hierophant directs worship toward himself and blocks access to nature, “a direct source of information and authority.”

Why Quakers?

I’ve always been a seeker, and a couple of years ago, I realized that personal truths are evasive because we’re constantly changing. On this blog, I’ve written about pagan ideas and observed practices along the lines between paganism and Unitarian Universalism. Each has its beauty (and flaws), and after years of leadership in those traditions, I felt the desire for a radical faith community that would give me space for introspection. I left behind the UU community and its seemingly ever-present infighting in favor of The Society of Friends.

The Quaker practice of sitting in silence together was at once new to me and completely natural and welcome, and the value placed on mindfulness, nonviolence and a non-dogmatic experience of divinity (only sometimes called “God”) met my needs. Does this mean I’m no longer a pagan?

Not at all. Interestingly, the practices have more in common than not.

Walking in Spirit

I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality lately, especially after attending Ostara rites with Reclaiming LA a few weeks ago. Some folks have asked elsewhere what it means to identify as paganish-Quaker, and after my long years as a UU pagan, that’s a very good question.

I’ll just start here, today:


Goddess Temple Kerfuffle Part III

You may recall my post last year about the Goddess Temple of Orange County’s discrimination against trans women. This week, I received news that the Temple is changing their name.

According to a recent post by Medusa Coils (also known as Judith Laura), the Goddess Temple of Orange County will soon become The Goddess Center of California. Along with a new name, a room-by-room refurbishment of the Temple itself and a website reboot, the Temple plans to re-examine its policy regarding the inclusion of trans women in the Temple.

This inclusion currently means the Temple offers a once-a-month service “for all,” but “women-only” spaces continue to be closed to trans women. Central to last year’s controversy was Temple founder Ava Parks’ insistence on the right define “women,” and to exclude trans women on the grounds that they are not true women, not “women-born-women.” This stance denies trans women the right to define their own personhood in relation to the Temple, and frankly, the unsatisfactory solution of services “for all” continues to feel like an empty gesture when both cis and trans women were calling for dialogue.

The new information posted by Medusa Coils comes from a subscriber-only e-newsletter  (that I signed up for before the Kerfuffle but strangely have never received), and it includes the following call to reconciliation:

“Over the years we have had a bit of controversy over our definition of ‘woman’ and our ‘women only’ policy for many events… Beginning this year, it is our intention to identify, name, formally recognize and honor these as-yet unacknowledged genders, creating a sacred place for each in our community.Those (of any gender) who are interested in being part of this unfolding and groundbreaking work, please contact us. You will be invited to join a committee, the intent of which will be to guide The Goddess Center’s gender policies for the greatest good for all.”

It should be noted that this is hardly the first time the Temple has experienced gender trouble. Will something change for the better this time, or is this just a facelift? Will this call go out to the general public, and will the Temple reach out to those who have disagreed with their policies in the past?

I’m a bit skeptical.

What Became of the Kerfuffle

the Goddess Cybele

In late March, I posted an open letter to the Goddess Temple of Orange County concerning a Sunday service which focused on the Goddess Cybele and the delivery of a controversial message: the Temple services for women are not for transgendered women. When the post was picked up by The Wild Hunt nearly a month later, directing attention to my post, a volatile and intense conversation began, which included input from women both trans and cis, as well as some prominent voices from the pagan community and a few feminist bloggers. The conversation went even further into the issue when Ava Park, the presiding priestess of the Temple, joined in.

I appreciate every person who spoke up on this issue.

Two very important things happened: Ava defended her actions and the policy of the Temple in a way that made her stance very clear, for better or worse, and participants in the discussion pointed out the main problem with her stance, that while the Temple has every right to set women-only policies, it does not have the right to define “women” for others.

Second, after a great deal of back and forth, a call for reconciliation went out (twice) from commenter Karen St. John:

“Will you join us in letting us share ourselves and our stories? Lessen the fear and making peace?”

“Has anyone considered the opportunity for dialogue in a trans woman and cis woman only service, bringing together the two groups of women in learning and understanding?”

There’s been no response from the Temple, at least in this forum. I, for one, would like to see a dialogue of this kind. I also invite those invested in the issue to continue the conversation on this post. I’ve closed comments to the previous in the interest of clarity.

I invite those same people, including Ava, to participate in discussion of the issue in another forum. SageWoman magazine is THE journal of Goddess culture, and editor Anne Newkirk Niven contributed this invitation to the post:


I am looking for letters from women for the “Women & Men” issue (SageWoman 84, winter 2012) on the topic of transwomen in female-only ritual space, (aka Z Budapest PCon ritual controversy) 500 words or less, NO HATE SPEECH on ANY side of the issue, please. If you identify as a trans- or CIS-woman and wish to be identified as such, please note that in your letter.

If you’d care to add your voice to this conversation, email SageWoman (editor2 AT bbimedia DOT com) before August 1. Niven has indicated that only the first names and last initials of contributors will be published in the magazine unless you explicitly request otherwise.