Saturday, December 1, 2012

Celebrating Hanukkah

This year, my family is planning to celebrate Hanukkah, largely because of our study of the Book of Mormon that teaches us that we are of the House of Israel so in a sense the story of the Jewish people is the story of our people since the people of God are one family. In teaching children about culture, history and religion, Hanukkah is a great hands on way of learning a Bible story and honoring miracles, God, prayer, temples and covenant-keeping people.

Here is our plan:
Night 1: Open the Menorah and Light the first candle, listen to the prayers.
Night 2: Read a story introducing Hanukkah and its origins: The Story of Hanukkah
Night 3: Read a story introducing Hanukkah and its traditions: Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah
Night 4: Gift Dreidels and play the dreidel game
Night 5: Gift small sacks of chocolate gold coins
Night 6: Gift small bags of money
Night 7: Gift Hanukkah cookie cutters
Night 8: Gift books about the next holidays we will celebrate: Winter Solstice and Christmas.

Obviously, each night the appropriate candle will be lit and the prayers will be played.

For our daily storytimes, I found a couple of books of Jewish folklore at the library and will read a short story a day.

Hanukkah starts on Dec 8th this year. In Sammy Spider's book, there are recipes for latkes and jelly filled rolls so we will experiment with those recipes, and of course bake cookies with the cookie cutters.

Last year, on the fourth night of Hanukkah, I had the privilege and blessing to attend a birth of a baby to a Jewish father. The mother was in labor at the traditional time to light the candle, but it was not too late after the baby was born and the midwives (myself included) were packing up to go. We all gathered together; while the father knelt with his new baby in his arms and said the prayers and lit the candles. It was beautiful and I felt the profound sweetness of the moment.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bedtime story

There was once a young ballerina who loved to dance. She knew many techniques and steps and could do them quite well. When she danced, the techniques flowed from one to another with such ease it was like body was telling a story. She could dance her emotions and feelings with such grace and when she danced, she felt very joyful. However, this was her experience when she danced alone, with no one looking. Whenever there was anyone around her, she got very shy and she found it very difficult to dance with the ease, grace and confidence she felt when she was by herself. Her stage fright caused her a great deal of stress, especially when it came to performing with her dance school or when demonstrating her skill to her teachers. Even her parents watching caused her to feel quite shy.

One day, she decided to pray for help overcoming her shyness. She prayed to her Father and Mother in Heaven and asked them to help her dance in front of other people the way she knew could when she was alone. As she listened in stillness at the end of her prayer, she felt the words come into her mind, "You have a talent that should not be hidden. This is your gift to share with the world and you are called to this work. Your dance will be an instrument of joy to others."

With that, she realized her purpose to dance and perform, to share her talent with others and in this particular way, she would bring joy and add something lovely to the lives of those who watched her perform. In time, her dance flowed just as easily from her body when she danced in front of an audience as when she was dancing alone.

As she matured and her acclaim grew, she also felt called to teach others to dance in the way that came so naturally to her. She realized providing a beautiful display of artistry was nice but that teaching others to develop the skills for them to feel the joy she felt while dancing was even more meaningful.

She became well-known for not only her own joyous and beautiful performances, but as a kind and wise teacher of dance to her community.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Be Unafraid to Dissent--If We Are Well-Informed

"We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to
dissent -- if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression." ...

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts." 

"Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We should all be interested in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue to explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration.

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts."

-Hugh B Brown  Brigham Young University, March 29, 1958.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The missing symbol

"[I]n fairy tales, to loosen the girdle, undo the knot means to begin to understand something previously closed to us, to understand its applications and uses, to become mage-like, a knowing soul."

When it comes to aspects of the temple, there are many symbols that I have pondered over for years. I was first endowed in 2004 and have gone back to the temple to do proxy-work but also because I have enjoyed the process of pondering and figuring out the symbols there. Recently, I posted about insights regarding the veil worn by women as well as the hearken covenant. As I was reading WWRWW, I came across the meaning of a symbol that I had been missing an explanation for--that of the girdle. Right there on page 156.

I have to think that this symbol might have been more easily understood of nineteenth century Latter-day Saints who were likely more versed in fairy tales than their current day counterparts. Another reason to educate people from the classics rather than textbooks...

Of particular interest is the concept of becoming "mage-like, a knowing soul" because that is the purpose of the temple ceremony: to know God, in fact to know so much about the nature of God that one is prepared to be like God, priests and priestesses, kings and queens. When tying the girdle on the second time in the temple, it then becomes a symbol of advancing light and knowledge, moving from one level of understanding and ability to another. Once that change has been made, one is prepared to enter into the presence of God.

I love that I am at a place in my spirituality where I am unlocking these symbols and ideas. I had always wondered how it had been done. My approach may be unconventional but I'm so glad that it is working for me. 


Welcoming the New Girl

I am remiss that I did not post this here earlier but it has come up in recent days. I heard that there is going to be a gathering of LDS women to talk about ways to plan and execute a blessing ceremony like the one I did and then the topic came up again over at the Exponent about ways that LDS women can be priestesses in their homes and lives. Here on my blog I tell a more personal journey to priestesshood that is separate from the church. The opportunity to welcoming a my new baby girl into my family was one of the first I've had since I started walking that path.

Originally, her blessing party was supposed to happen with her still inside me and it was going to be a mother's blessing for me in preparation to childbirth. Alas, she was born a little earlier than I anticipated. I was pleased to still have the party and with the help of some wonderful friends, I did very little in preparation for it (i.e. I showered and fed a baby, and made a phone call or two to order things for the party).

The prayer circle was so touching that I wanted a way to record it and share the words spoken with Elizabeth as she grew up. Click on the link below to view the book I look forward to sharing it with her as she grows older.

Welcoming the New Girl: a Photo Book and Slideshow




Thank you for being a part of welcoming my newest daughter as a reader of my blog. I hope you will add a hope/prayer/blessing/wish for her in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2012

WWRWW

Evidenced by my earlier post, I am reading the book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. The author of it says, "Because the work cannot be read in a week or a month, it lends itself to being studied. Take your time reading it. Most people read it the way it was written. A little at a time, then go away, think about it and come back again."

Much like scripture, I dare to say. Due to the nature of the book, I am finding that I am indeed reading it like a great influential work that requires note taking, reflection and recording quotes. This what I intend this post to be, much like I did with the Book of Jenne and Carolyn--I will record thoughts and feelings I wish to retain. I will also be able to use the link here to share my thoughts with the book club I'll be participating in.

The book is structured as a compilation of stories  followed by the author's analysis and interpretation of the symbols in the story. For this reason I will put a bolded heading with the name of the story at the top, followed by links to posts with my reflections on that story and quotes that inspire those reflections.

Bluebeard

An uncomfortable parallel
The dark man

Vasalisa 
Gnashing of Teeth
Witchy Women
Life and Death Natures


Manawee


Skeleton Woman
The missing symbol


Life and Death natures

One of the aspects of observing the moon that I like to investigate is the symbolism of the dark and light phases of the moon. Just as there is a wild and a tame side to women, there are dark and light aspects of ourselves as well. In magic or mystical thought, one can meditate on the dark aspects of themselves around the new moon or on the light aspects around the full moon.

Of course, when it came to page 107 in Women Who Run With the Wolves, I geeked out when it came to the description of the life and death natures of the colors used symbolically in the story depicting the horsemen in the story of Vasalisa.

The black, red and white horsemen symbolize the ancient colors connoting birth, life and death. These colors also represent old ideas of descent, death and rebirth--the black or dissolving one's old values, the red for the sacrifice of one's preciously held illusions, and the white as the new light, the new knowing that comes from having experienced the first two.
First off, baptism symbolism= cool. Secondly, the connection between more Eastern thought of enlightenment being attained through a spiritual journey= also cool.

Continuing on with page 107,

The colors in the tale are extremely precious, for each has its death nature and its life nature. Black is the color of mud, the fertile, the basic stuff into which ideas are sewn. Yet black is also the color of death, the blackening of the light. And black has even a third aspect. it is also the color associated with the world between the world which La Loba [who you will remember from Chapter 1] stands upon--for black is the color of descent. Black is the promise that you will soon know something you did not know before.
She goes on to describe red as the color of spilled blood and the draining of life from a body, but on the light side, it is the color of arousal, sensuality and desire.

My favorite aspect of the color red she describes is the red mother, "She is the watcher of "things coming through" She is especially propitiated by those who are about to give birth, for whosoever leaves this world or comes into this world has to pass through her red river. Red is the promise that a rising up or a borning is soon too come."

For this aspiring midwife and birth geek, yes. Yes. Red is sacred, red is life. Its for that reason that I incorporated the color into the first quilt I made for my son. It is also why I love this verse from the Pearl of Great Price so much, "inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten (Moses 6:59)." It is seen that birth symbolized by our mother Eve is the balance or foil of our re-birth through Christ. That together, the male and and female bring us to eternal life (as the verse goes onto state). Together, both are worthy of honor and remembrance.

To round it out, the light side of white is likely the most familiar. From WWRWW,

"It is the pure, the pristine. But it is also the color of soul free from the body, the spirit unencumbered by the physical . It is the color of essential nourishment, mother's milk. Conversely, it is the color of the dead, of things that have lost their rosiness, their flush of vitality. When there is white, everything is, for the moment, tabula rasa, unwritten upon...."

I learned the dark side of the color white when I was a youth and I was asked what my initial impressions are of being in a white room with blank walls and no windows. While others around me named peace, comfort as their response, mine was panic. The white felt oppressive, blank and like death. White made me think of nothing, non-attachment and the thought was terrifying. While Eastern thought would say that the goal is non-attachment, I'm still not sold on the idea. I believe too fiercly that life is about forming attachments through love, with spouse, with children, with friends, with family. Otherwise, life is a waste of loneliness. I do not see how coming to earth to be unattached makes any sense. If anything it is a distinctly male perception that cannot hold true for the women those men relied upon  to perpetuate their existence.

The author also states the colors red, black and white are elemental colors, used in alchemy. It makes curious to learn of other light/dark dualities for other colors. Green's dark nature isn't coming to me quickly, though blue does. The sky evidences to me of the light blue of day and the dark blue of night and all the attendant symbols associated with night and day.