The Goddess, the Broom and the Barred Owl, Part 2

The Goddess, the Broom and the Barred Owl, Part 2

Blodeuwedd embodies the spirit of the trickster. She is herself literally the work of trickery and artifice. Her physical body is not a unity, but a cobbled-together assortment of twigs and blossoms given a kind of unnatural animation through the magic of Gwydion. And although she is designed by men far more powerful than she is for one specific purpose — to serve as Lleu’s wife and queen — yet she thwarts that purpose through lies and deceit, following the call of her own hunger, her own passion and desire. As a result she is cursed, like so many other trickster figures, to aimless wandering in the wilderness, a social outcast. She is both subhuman and superhuman, both bestial and divine. She is the thief who steals away the beloved from the rightful king, except that it is her own self that she steals away — is this theft, or reparation?

Either way, this is a goddess familiar with dislocation and disconnection, and one who embodies within her very being the ambivalence of human technology and how it mediates our relationship with the natural world.

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The Goddess, the Broom and the Barred Owl, Part 1

The Goddess, the Broom and the Barred Owl, Part 1

As an animist, my relationship with the gods is rooted in my relationship with the land and its many beings. Yet so many of my gods are in exile from the lands of their origins.

What does it mean for an American living in the Pacific Northwest to worship deities of Ireland and Wales? In part, it means that many of my gods are — like myself — pilgrims and strangers in a new world, still finding their feet and learning what it means to move in this new land with grace and respect. Their lessons today are often lessons of ambivalence, dislocation and longing. For me, no goddess has been more insistent in her teaching than the flower-faced maiden, Blodeuwedd.

Who is Blodeuwedd? She is a goddess of dangerous innocence, an innocence so pure that it threatens to undo our easy assumptions about the world and our place within it.

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The Nature of Fog

The Nature of Fog

It’s a quiet, foggy morning here in Seattle, and I’m thinking about ontology — the philosophical study of the nature of existence. There is something deeply dissatisfying about a choice between reductionism and hierarchy, for both seem to me equally wrong. Although in naturalistic philosophy hierarchy no longer needs the divine sanction of a god to justify it, the supremacy of human culture and human consciousness remains unchallenged, the assumed pinnacle of evolution, with the masses of quarks, quasars, oak trees and elephants relegated to the same old mindlessness of mere objects, only so much stuff.

But rather than go into any more detailed analysis of these dense and sometimes unwieldy philosophies, instead I want to talk a little bit about fog…

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The Pulse of Autumn

The Pulse of Autumn

Why should our communion with the beloved dead depend on the coincidental turning of the Earth on its axis? Why should we not always be in touch with those who have crossed the threshold, in touch with our own mortality and death? One might as well ask why the angle of the sun should sometimes grace the crocuses and wet new buds of spring and at other times drop down heavy and hot into the deepest reaches of summer lakes, why childhood should burst with curiosity and buzzing movement and adulthood settle into the long, gentle pull of days one after another beneath a bright, cool sky. The truth is, I suspect, that there is no Other-world. That we live in this one world, together with the dead and the long-departed, drinking in the same gulps of breath as they once drank.

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Why I Cannot Tell You About My Gods

Why I Cannot Tell You About My Gods

When my friend Carl McColman says that language is tricky, and that God is bigger than the limits of the human mind, we might imagine our words are just so many rigged-up rubber bands, paper clips and packing tape with which we are, MacGyver-style, trying to capture a wild and mighty wind.

Yet our words are our own breath given form by our body and its movements, and where else have we drawn that breath but from the winds themselves? Our speaking is a shaping of the wind within us, released back into the wild to work its way into someone else’s body, moving with the ebb and flow of sound waves, pressing in against their eardrums, stirring the tiny hairs of their skin.

To talk about language this way is to break out of the metaphor of objects and containers, and to see words as experiences in themselves.

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Biophilia: On Love and Nature

Biophilia: On Love and Nature

Our relationship with nature gives rise to a paradox, in the same way that love creates a paradox. The paradox of love closely parallels the on-going struggle we have with the question of whether we are a part of nature, or separate from it. When we think of nature as our beloved, we discover that the answer is in fact: both.

To be a nature-lover is to recognize this paradox: when we love nature, we see that our love both unites us with and differentiates us from what we love. In this way our love of nature affirms the most basic truth of our experience as self-aware creatures: that we are both a part of and apart from the world around us, that we are both whole individuals ourselves, and united in a whole that transcends our individuality.

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