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The Greening

Every year it surprises me. Saskatchewan winters are long and hard, beginning in November and not really done until well into April. That’s a lot of snow and cold, grey skies and skeletal trees. Toward the end, the snow melts away and the ice releases its grip on the lake, but things still feel dead … muddy and spent.

So it always surprises me when the Greening comes. The grass inches from brown to emerald. The trees and shrubs seem to produce a green haze, then suddenly give birth to a riot of foliage. The geese and pelicans return from the south, and the cattle shake off their winter lethargy. And beneath each of these signs of early summer moves a silent current, and underground stream of Life, flooding its way to the surface through a thousand hidden springs.

At our last full moon ceremony, a week into the holy tide of Beltane, and well into the fifty days of Resurrection, we celebrated the presence of this Life-Force by invoking the teachings of a 12th century abbess. In the Rhineland valleys of medieval Germany, Hildegard von Bingen grew, along with herb gardens and holiness, a brand new theological term. Viriditas she called it: the Greening Power of God. Then, as now, it was a startling and even revolutionary neologism. But for this Sybil of the Rhine, later to be named a Doctor of the Church, viriditas would become a key theological and spiritual vision of the life-giving power of Godde’s Spirit in the Earth. Listen to what Hildegard says:

I, the fiery life of divine wisdom,

I ignite the beauty of the plains,

I sparkle the waters,

I burn in the sun, and the moon, and the stars.

With wisdom I order all rightly, and above all I determine truth.

I am the one whose praise echoes on high.

I adorn all the Earth.

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.

I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.

I am led in the Spirit to feed the purest streams.

I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.

I call forth tears, the aroma of holy work.

I am the yearning for good.

For a ChristoPagan like me, viriditas is one of those magical words, a bridge between two theological worlds. It links the enchanted cosmos with the fecund Christ, and hints at the miraculous presence of Sophia, Holy Wisdom, incarnate in the flesh of the Living Earth.

Viriditas … the Greening Power of God. May you know Her fertile healing, this day and forever.

Blessed be.

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I know, right? I’m in the wrong season. Bones are for Samhain, when the Wheel turns us toward the dark, and we contemplate our mortality, gazing into the shadowed eye-sockets of a bleached skull. Bones are not for spring, not for warm weather and shoots of green and vernal bunnies. Bones are a bit macabre for that, yes? … I thought so too.
But here on the farm we have a black dog named Shadow, who has a love affair with bones. Throughout the late fall and winter, while the butchering season endures, Shadow delights in raiding the slaughter-pen for all types of cast-off body parts: hoofs, pigtails, chicken heads, whatever. And for some strange reason she drags them all into our front yard.  Now, if you know Saskatchewan winter weather, you know that we rarely lack for a blanket of thick white snow. For four and a half months of the year, the garth looks pristine. But come snow-melt, a whole other world is revealed. Rich black earth, tender sprigs of green herb, and yes … bones. A whole winter’s worth of Shadow’s favourite bones.
As a ChristoPagan priest, I don’t find this at all surprising (though the sight of all those bones can be a bit unsettling). As I write, we are in the middle of Holy Week in the Christian year. It is a time to reflect on the precarious paradox of life-in-death and death-in-life. Not long ago, the lenten lectionary provided the oracle of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. The Jewish Passover of this month’s full moon recalls an ancient liberation from a genocidal bone-land of slavery and oppression. And the Christian liturgical trajectory points toward Good Friday’s Golgotha, the place of the skull. Bones, bones everywhere.
But are we really surprised by this? Pagans and Christians and Earthlings of all stripes, we know that death and life are intimately connected. Winter’s bones, subject to the elemental cleansing of the bonfire (bone-fire), become fertilizer for the soil. Fecundity, both spiritual and physical, springs from the dead particles which compose both living soil and soul. Eostre’s resurrection and new life are profoundly dependant on the reality of death and decay. The two exist together, or not at all.
So how about you? Any bones in your yard this spring? Any death or grief or bondage or sorrow that you need to acknowledge in this season of rebirth? Don’t be afraid of those dry bones: take them in your hands, and hold them up to the cleansing power of the Sun. The healing of the humus begins with the season of the bones.

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Back online!

Well, I’m not sure why, but this past couple of years have seen my Sophian writings slow down to a trickle.  I think perhaps that getting the Christian Animism book published took more out of me than I thought!  But my spiritual practice has been evolving, and my thoughts have been perculating.  With our family’s commitment to sink roots into the farm has come a deepening of relationship with this particular landscape, this lake, these farm-spirits, these fellow creatures.  It has been a great honour for me to become the chaplain of our farm community, and my hope is that I’ll be able to share a bit more about what that looks like on the ground.

I’m also very happy to announce that I’ve been invited to be a ChristoPagan contributor to “PaganSquare”, the online reflection forum of Witches and Pagans magazine.  Look here next month to find my thoughts.

In the meantime, Godde bless you and your tribe, and enjoy this season of Imbolc as the light continues to grow…

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Christian Animism

Hoorah!  It is finally out!  Thank you to all of you who have supported this project through the many years of its writing.  My book on Christian Animism is here.

I’m now in the process of setting up some readings and workshops, so if you know of anyone who might want to work with this material, please let me know!

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Christo – what???

As someone who keeps track of evolving trends in religion and spirituality, I’ve noticed that there is a (relatively) new term floating around these days: ChristoPaganism.  Because this is still a very fluid designation, the following reflections are not to be taken as definitive, but rather as my own take on this new phenomenon.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well!

ChristoPaganism is a new religious movement comprised of individuals who self-identify as both Christian and Pagan.  As a hybridized faith, ChristoPaganism is often denied and/or rejected by both Christianity and NeoPaganism, and ChristoPagans tend to be reduced to silence in both “parent” communities.  ChristoPagans can be Christians who adopt, adapt, and practice various facets of NeoPaganism (such as magic, fairie-lore, Goddess thealogy, spiritual ecology, animism, runework, crystals, etc.), or Pagans who feel a strong connection with Jesus, Mary, the saints, and other Christian figures, and include these relationships in their spiritual practice.  While not a well-defined body of belief or practice, ChristoPaganism may be viewed as a sphere of overlap between the two religious traditions, where each respects, understands, and mutually transforms the other in positive ways.

As a zone of peace between two antagonistic traditions, the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia attempts to share the abundant grace of Jesus’ love with NeoPagans, and the magical cosmology of NeoPaganism with Christians.  With respect and mutual understanding, there is transformation, healing, and love.  May it ever be so: Amen.

 

Elvenkind    Another way of understanding ChristoPaganism is to think of it as a form of “Elven” spirituality.  In Tolkien’s legendarium of Middle Earth, the Elves (or Quendi) are the Children of Illuvatar (God) who are the most naturally magical, and in touch with the realm of the angels (the Valar in Valinor).  For a number of different reasons, some people here in the “real world” bear a strong spiritual resemblance to Tolkien’s Elves.  Usually these people are highly sensitive, psychic, intuitive, visionary, “dreamy”, artistic, intellectually precocious, and insatiably curious, especially about things pertaining to the spirit world.  In more modern “Harry Potter” parlance, these are the “magical” rather than the “muggle” folk.

Institutional religion has never been altogether comfortable with Elvenkind.  At worst, those of Elvish temperment have been driven out as heretics or burnt at the stake as witches.  At best, there has been an uneasy tolerance for those with psychic gifts and mystical tendencies.  These days, I’ve seen a tragic exodus of “Elves” from the church, with many finding a more hospitable home in Wiccan, Druid, or other NeoPagan communities.  The wisdom and the welcome they find in these traditions is powerful and real.  But in this migration, the church is losing a precious gift and treasure.  The Elvenkind are people of angelic blessing, uncomfortable as this may be for some.  The church neglects her Elven children to her own peril.

The Ecumenical Companions of Sophia strives to be a safe and welcoming refuge for Elvenkind in the church.  If you suspect that you may have “Elvish blood”, if the Rune of Sophia resonates with your spirit, please be in touch.  You are not alone.

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a book, coming soon!

Greetings from the country, and many apologies for such a long gap since the last post … life happens!

So here’s my good news: I now have a contract with Christian Alternative Books (a UK press) to publish my monograph on Christian Animism.  If all goes well, late spring or early summer 2015 will see its release.  It has been a long time in the works!  Many thanks to all those who supported this writing in so many different ways.  Once it is out, I’ll be trying to organize some launches and readings, and then promote the book as a way to introduce the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia (and Sophian Druidry) to the wider public.

Lots of work, but looking forward to it!

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Weaving Wyrd

Shalomstead

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Well, there it is: the loom. We brought it from Saskatoon, set it up in our bedroom, and watched it gather dust, until now!

Over the past couple of days, my wonderful and mystical Aunt Jacquee sojourned with us and shared her years of craft-wisdom with myself and our good neighbour Judy. Jacquee worked with us for a goodly number of hours as we wound warp, dressed the loom, and began to weave. What an adventure!

For decades, I’ve been fascinated with weaving, ever since I read a passage in The Book of Three which described one of the heroes weave together some blades of grass, while simultaneously enchanting it to become a magic net. I’m not sure why, but the image stayed with me, and the language of “warp and weft” grew into a powerful metaphor for something big and mysterious in life. Something Spirit-woven.

I encountered this type…

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