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The Village Mind

I’ve been spending a lot of time in recent months thinking, reading, listening to people speak, and ruminating on the topic of community-the communities we have now, the communities that used to exist, and the future of communities.

You may or may not have noticed that things are a bit of a train wreck right now.  Depending on where you live, they may have been a train wreck for all of your life, so I acknowledge that, but even to those of us who felt very insulated, we can see some of the facade of security crumbling away very rapidly.  For those of you who already adapted to that reality long ago, bear with me, because it’s starting to really sink into my brain.

We are all “connected” but still very isolated.  We may be friends electronically with people far away and know nothing about our neighbors, or people in our own larger environment.  Manufacturing has broken down, dispersing communities far and wide looking for work.  School of choice programs often mean that a community may have only a small portion of its residents in the surrounding district.  An increasing decentralization of religion and other institutions mean that there can often feel like less “center” to the community.  Then we have to challenge what community means.man in sun

My thought is that in our culture right now, community has to be intentional.  It may be formed in traditional ways, like in neighborhoods, or not.  Who knows.  It doesn’t matter how we go about it and trying to dictate that will nearly ensure failure.

Because we are often what I would consider decentralized and fragmented, I think we are strangers to many, and though we may be crowded together from house to house, we may be very alone.  We have no shared identity, no shared stories, no shared responsibility, no shared investment in our future.  There is no sense of belonging, of home, and therefore, often no narrative for who we are and what we value together, because for all intents and purposes, we aren’t actually together.  It’s much easier to hurt someone else when they aren’t one of our own tribe.  It’s easier to disregard their safety, or their property or their interests, because they don’t feel real to us.  It’s not personal.  It’s every person for himself.  It’s less important to us to sacrifice for others when we don’t know them enough to care.  It’s less important to us to make sure that our young people have opportunities and our elders have security and dignity because they don’t feel like “ours”.  There is no sense of belonging or “home.”  I would argue that communities that are closely connected harm each other less, are safer, and are happier if there is equity among them.  village

So, I’m calling for us to start working on how we restore the village mind.  I assert that we find our village by finding ourselves, thereby figuring out what role we play in our village.  And then we play it.  That’s why each community may turn out differently; it is made of different members, and that’s okay.  In fact, it’s desirable, because conformity is not a virtue anymore.  It’s rather causing quite a lot of problems.

What could life be like if we formed our village and it looked like thus:

-Our village is multi-generational, and made out whatever group of people comes together naturally, hopefully diverse and beautiful, with a wide range of gifts, talents, and experiences.

-There are people in it that know how to teach skills, teach knowledge, teach the stories of the community, teach the children, teach the adults.  Wise ones, smart ones, clever ones.  The keepers of the knowledge and the keepers of the history.

-There are people in it that know how to heal the body, or an aching heart, or a broken relationship, who can make medicine, who can mend the breaks, soothe the wounds, comfort the weeping, and counsel the lost.

-There are spiritual leaders to provide spiritual care to those who want and need it, to create ceremonies that give context to life, that provide for moments desired by the community, to include birth celebrations, coming of age ceremony, weddings or other unions, “eldering,” and funerals or “crossing over” or those other needs dictated by the community.

-There are village leaders who help make big decisions of import, selected by others of the community, and who train the next generation of village leaders.

-There are caregivers who particularly are called to look out after the well being after the young, and perhaps the old.

-There are protectors, warriors or guardians, who keep an eye on systems of safety for everyone in the community, not to enforce, but to truly protect

-There are the “makers,” the growers, the inventors, the problem solvers, the fixers- all of those minds that can make something from nothing, or fix something that was broken, to create food or art, or equipment, or things of utility.  The builders that create the foundation on which we carry our our lives.

 

All of the above things are things we already have in our own towns or cities but we are fragmented at this time. We are broken apart.  The village is either institutionalized and impersonal, or dysfunctional or just absent.  So we need to form our own-intentionally.

To do that, we need to know who we are, and we need to help others figure out who they are, and then we all need to figure out what role we play in the village we assemble.  Then we assemble it.

community 1

Things around us may go right to hell in a hand basket in our greater culture (or already have) and institutionalized systems may fail.  Or, perhaps we can just do better without them.  In either case, my vision is of the intentional village; the family of our choosing, the community of our making, with the members we gather together.

I will be writing more about my vision for the roles in the intentional village in coming posts and hope we all find bits of ourselves in those discussions.  We may be suited to one or more of those roles.  We may already be in them, or we may be ready to emerge into them.  It may be a time of our great becoming.  I hope you will come along as we explore.

Remember who you are.

On an eclipse

Tonight’s pure white silver moon is a coin dropped in the well of cosmic waters.  Wrapped in my cloak and lying on moist earth, I dive in, and I am the well maiden, guarding mysteries of the deep.  A jeweled sword is in my grasp for any brave enough to reach for it.

Soon, too soon, I creep back across illuminated grass, its wetness leaving secret footprints up the walk to my domestic world again- and I sleep with dreams of grails, and heroes kneeling at the altar of the eternity I weave by hand from my whispers and strands of my hair.

When real life just really wrecks everything, and other thoughts

Last night, I tell you, the air was full of spirits.  I walked outside into the darkness with my dog for his last outing of the night and the misty thickness wrapped around me like velvet.  I could see out into the meadow beyond that it was likewise thick with mist.  More to the point, I couldn’t see out into it at all.  The mist was like a living thing, swimming along the blades of grass, and wildflowers, into my yard, and across my face and hair.

In the corner of the yard where trees cover the boundary between my space and the park came cracking, just a wee bit, like branches under the feet of wildlife.  I paused and looked down at my dog who paused long enough to look at me and try to figure out why I wasn’t wandering around.  He heard nothing, or if he did, he was supremely uninterested.  Therefore, I’m quite sure it wasn’t a deer or another critter or he would be after it like a shot.  It was something more interesting.crescent

I looked longingly into the misty dark where something out there wanted to play.  I wanted to as well.  I could feel the wildness well up into my chest and my pulse speed up just so slightly in my ears in readiness to run for that field, through that field, listen to it, dance with it, speak to the spirits of the night.  The grass was so soft and dampened under my bare feet.  The earth was so rich.  The spirits were waiting.

Then the litany of “I have to” sentences came and crushed wildness right out of me.

I have to get the dog inside

I have to wear appropriate clothes if I intend to go out there

I have to wear bug spray because there are ticks

I have to be aware that I’m a woman and 34 acres of darkness isn’t too safe

I have to get to bed

I felt all of my social programming completely defeat me, and the eagerness drain right back down through my feet sadly into the earth.  I felt all of the “be realistic” and “be an adult” and “you have responsibilities,” come and ruin everything.

Truth be told, if I were unmarried and childless, I would have ignored most of that list.  Sure, I’m not okay with the tick thing but putting on pants and bug spray would solve the only two “have to” items I cared about.  In would go the dog, and out I would go, to dissolve into the foggy dark.  I’m not afraid for my safety, and I was not tired.

Things change after marriage and kids, though.  At least, they did for me.  While all of the household was perfectly safe and I was not needed, I would have to inform  my husband that I’d be out for a bit.  No problem.  However, being very practical, he would ask me to bring a flashlight and bring one of the two way radios in case I need to call for help, and don’t forget that bug spray, and isn’t it a little late for this, and shouldn’t you be getting to bed? Etc.  He would say all of the stuff I had already said to myself because the real world “have to” list is a real thing.  Grown women don’t run around in 34 acres of dark fog alone at night when they really should be in bed. What kind of example does that set for the kids?   Alleged maturity.  It ruins everything.

I’m not an idiot; I wouldn’t do something that was honestly dangerous. I do know the difference.  But I’ve been “adulted” and civilized and constrained.  I walked back into the house.  I whispered goodbye to whatever was in that back corner under the trees.  I got into bed and I wondered, am I living authentically? Nope.  How many nights of full moons or eclipses or tree frogs or falling leaves have I denied myself due to the real or perceived pressure of “real life and responsibilities”?  So many.

When did I allow this all to happen?   There’s a reason the kids are happier.  They are more free. I can have them come inside for the night, but their hearts don’t give up on the dream of what it will be like when they’re grown and no one makes them come inside.  Apparently I parent myself right into bed even though I’m finally free to do as I please, and have been for a long time now.

So now I added a “have to” to my list.  I have to figure out how to fix all that.  Wish me luck.

 

 

 

From chaos comes witchery

My Dears:  I was just cleaning my ritual room.

I was pretty agitated through this substantial task, because the whole big thing was a train wreck.  Chaos fest.

So as I gathered up and put away every jar of herbs, every vial of oils, every pen and bit of paper, the random charms and spilled garden soil, crystals, feathers, and stray poplar buds, I realized, “It got this way because magic was afoot.”

Big magic in my wild world doesn’t consist of perfectly painted or chalked out symbols on a mysterious, immaculate temple floor or hooded, robed people chanting the ineffable names of who knows what, wreathed in candlelight and swimming in the smoke of rich incense.

While that does sound kinda fun, that’s not what big magic looks like in my kingdom.

Big magic looks like herb bits everywhere, and a candle dripping wax over there on the altar cloth that will take me forever to get out.  It looks like charms, twine and stones and roots,  feathers, and drops of my blood.

It’s mixed in with hand drawn personal sigils and my squirrely penmanship I can’t quite read- but it’s okay because I don’t need to.

aesthetic kitchen
not nearly this pretty….

Big magic smells like extremely fragrant oils I just spilled right in my lap and for sure on the carpet.  It smells like my hair starting to burn because I bent too close to the candle to reach for the water from the holy spring.  It smells like the lavender in the bowl to my left and dusty angelica powder.

Magic tastes like sticky honey in a jar with prayers tucked in, or pennies in chalices of water or corn meal and salt all over my table top.  It looks like my mom’s thimble collection in her china cabinet next to little bottles of my “come to me” oil, a half burned novena candle, ashes of incense, and a handful of skeleton keys.

My magic sounds like the wind outside my window, a dog barking down the street, the crackling candle flame, and precisely the right song coming through my earbuds to which I hum along- probably off key.

Wild magic feels like creeping up the stairs and the hot shower when it’s all done and the exhausted sigh because privacy only happens when it’s way past my bed time.  It feels like my eyes fluttering shut, and my skin on smooth bed sheets.

Magic feels like sweet secrets that are gone by morning.

Yes, there’s a mess to clean after enchantment has been brewing.  The disaster is sublime.  My witchcraft is not pretty enough for instagram.  I walk between worlds, whispering incoherent things with my hair in a messy pony and probably wearing pajamas. Yet, when I return later to find golden threads of magic I have woven in between all of the bits of chaos, I know it has flown true.