Holy Wild, Poetry & Music, Rite & Ritual

Holy Adoration: Fire as Prayer

This post originally appeared on Holy Wild, at alisonleighlilly.com


“How do I pray without fire?”

– question asked once in a dream

Just the sound of the word reminds me of fire: adoration, the heart aflame.

This is the first kind of prayer I ever really learned. The prayer I come back to again and again.

burningwaxsticks_CaitlinDoe

The strike of the match on the box, the scrape, the hiss — and then the little wick of the candle catches and holds…

This moment, this motion — it is a word in itself, a softly-spoken mantra of devotion. Shivering there, changing a little from one second to the next. Sometimes wavering. Sometimes utterly still. Swaying around its center of gravity in the wake of my breathing-out and breathing-in again.

It is enough: to sit before the altar each morning, to light the single flame, to watch it catch and hold. It is enough to show up to this act of intention. Without the need to grasp what cannot be grasped. Without the need to name what cannot be named.

To hold my heart like a candle wick, steady, upright, held open to the presence of my gods.

To hold my heart like fruit, or a flower, or a handful of seeds in an open palm, that they might arrive — might alight so gently, their touch barely felt — enticed, invited, uncompelled. To be eaten as the earth will one day eat me, slowly, bone by bone…

But then: sometimes it’s not enough. All this gentility — this steady, quiet kind of praying. The little bent wick sunk in its pool of wax, rooted in place, giving itself only just a little at a time.

“Let us pray with a good fire,” the Druids say.*

And so I pile up the kindling, some of it still wet from the rain. Under its skin, sap hisses and snaps where the fire licks it clean. Smoke slithers out between the splinters, unwinding upwards like incense. The husky whispers of my more selfish desires. I give it all to the flame.

It can take a long time for the damp kindling of my life to catch fire. I might sit for an hour making my inadequate offerings, poking here and there, wincing when a bit of wood shifts and suddenly the flame sputters out, suffocated, all but lost.

It is a ritual of unwavering attention, this kind of prayer. Arranging and rearranging, gathering in, working with what I have, trying to make room — opening up space for the fire to breathe. In a world that insists we fill every spare moment with progress, or at the very least a busyness that approximates it. It can feel like a radical thing to make space in my life for waiting and failure and stillness, to open up my lungs in song to my gods and let them breathe me empty.

It is not as clean and easy as a candle flame. It is the kind of prayer driven by longing, by frustration, by unrealized vision…

Until finally, I have sat before the smoking embers long enough, watched the wood turn first charred black and then white with a loose skin of ash. Watched the flame slip along each thin twig as if along a twining labyrinth of praise and recrimination, watched it run its course and meet its end and flicker out again. Until my whole body, my whole being has grown quiet and raw and I think, This is it, I have given everything I have and it hasn’t been enough…

And then, the moment I realize I was wrong.

blueflame_TracyRhodes

Sometimes what I want is a wild fire. A fire that roars. A fire that beats at the air with its bright fists clenched. Sometimes I want prayer like a fire that claims everything it touches. Prayer that ripples out across the rough dark surface of the world like music spilling down endlessly from the night sky, carrying the stars with it. Prayer that rolls over the vaulted ceiling of the heavens with thrilling impossible lightness — a fire round and hot like laughter, dragging the lush purples of faraway galaxies in its wake.

Prayer that turns over into adoration — into a joy that burns so hot, it blossoms like a blue flower inside every thrumming ember, unfolding its quiet petals one by one. As still and steady as an open palm.

Sometimes what I want is to give my whole life over to this adoration, to the hunger of the ones I love.

To be so bright inside that you cannot look, and cannot look away.

The Sufi poet Hafiz writes:

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy…

You cannot get there with a candle flame. You cannot get there by wanting to be useful, reliable and tame.

You can only open your most secret heart like a furnace door, smoky-dark and so hot that to touch it — even for a moment — will leave a mark.

Only know that nothing is so precious it will not burn.

whatdoyousee_EileenMcFall


* Though they stole it from Hinduism.


Photo Credits:
• “burning waxsticks,” by Caitlin Doe (CC) [source]
• “Blue Flame,” by Tracy Rhodes (CC) [source]
• “what do you see in the flame?” by Eileen McFall (CC) [source]


This post originally appeared on Holy Wild, at alisonleighlilly.com

Featured, Holy Wild, Poetry & Music, praxis

Holy Adoration: Fire as Prayer

“How do I pray without fire?”

– question asked once in a dream

Just the sound of the word reminds me of fire: adoration, the heart aflame.

This is the first kind of prayer I ever really learned. The prayer I come back to again and again.

burningwaxsticks_CaitlinDoe

The strike of the match on the box, the scrape, the hiss — and then the little wick of the candle catches and holds…

This moment, this motion — it is a word in itself, a softly-spoken mantra of devotion. Shivering there, changing a little from one second to the next. Sometimes wavering. Sometimes utterly still. Swaying around its center of gravity in the wake of my breathing-out and breathing-in again.

It is enough: to sit before the altar each morning, to light the single flame, to watch it catch and hold. It is enough to show up to this act of intention. Without the need to grasp what cannot be grasped. Without the need to name what cannot be named.

To hold my heart like a candle wick, steady, upright, held open to the presence of my gods.

To hold my heart like fruit, or a flower, or a handful of seeds in an open palm, that they might arrive — might alight so gently, their touch barely felt — enticed, invited, uncompelled. To be eaten as the earth will one day eat me, slowly, bone by bone…

But then: sometimes it’s not enough. All this gentility — this steady, quiet kind of praying. The little bent wick sunk in its pool of wax, rooted in place, giving itself only just a little at a time.

“Let us pray with a good fire,” the Druids say.*

And so I pile up the kindling, some of it still wet from the rain. Under its skin, sap hisses and snaps where the fire licks it clean. Smoke slithers out between the splinters, unwinding upwards like incense. The husky whispers of my more selfish desires. I give it all to the flame.

It can take a long time for the damp kindling of my life to catch fire. I might sit for an hour making my inadequate offerings, poking here and there, wincing when a bit of wood shifts and suddenly the flame sputters out, suffocated, all but lost.

It is a ritual of unwavering attention, this kind of prayer. Arranging and rearranging, gathering in, working with what I have, trying to make room — opening up space for the fire to breathe. In a world that insists we fill every spare moment with progress, or at the very least a busyness that approximates it. It can feel like a radical thing to make space in my life for waiting and failure and stillness, to open up my lungs in song to my gods and let them breathe me empty.

It is not as clean and easy as a candle flame. It is the kind of prayer driven by longing, by frustration, by unrealized vision…

Until finally, I have sat before the smoking embers long enough, watched the wood turn first charred black and then white with a loose skin of ash. Watched the flame slip along each thin twig as if along a twining labyrinth of praise and recrimination, watched it run its course and meet its end and flicker out again. Until my whole body, my whole being has grown quiet and raw and I think, This is it, I have given everything I have and it hasn’t been enough…

And then, the moment I realize I was wrong.

blueflame_TracyRhodes

Sometimes what I want is a wild fire. A fire that roars. A fire that beats at the air with its bright fists clenched. Sometimes I want prayer like a fire that claims everything it touches. Prayer that ripples out across the rough dark surface of the world like music spilling down endlessly from the night sky, carrying the stars with it. Prayer that rolls over the vaulted ceiling of the heavens with thrilling impossible lightness — a fire round and hot like laughter, dragging the lush purples of faraway galaxies in its wake.

Prayer that turns over into adoration — into a joy that burns so hot, it blossoms like a blue flower inside every thrumming ember, unfolding its quiet petals one by one. As still and steady as an open palm.

Sometimes what I want is to give my whole life over to this adoration, to the hunger of the ones I love.

To be so bright inside that you cannot look, and cannot look away.

The Sufi poet Hafiz writes:

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy…

You cannot get there with a candle flame. You cannot get there by wanting to be useful, reliable and tame.

You can only open your most secret heart like a furnace door, smoky-dark and so hot that to touch it — even for a moment — will leave a mark.

Only know that nothing is so precious it will not burn.

whatdoyousee_EileenMcFall


* Though they stole it from Hinduism.


Photo Credits:
• “burning waxsticks,” by Caitlin Doe (CC) [source]
• “Blue Flame,” by Tracy Rhodes (CC) [source]
• “what do you see in the flame?” by Eileen McFall (CC) [source]

Holy Wild, News & Announcements, Theology

Mystery of the Many: In Silence and Song » Nature’s Path

meditation_altarThe second installment of my UU-Pagan series, The Mystery of the Many: In Silence and Song, goes live today over on the Patheos CUUPS blog! In it, I tackle a topic I’ve long been pondering, how polytheistic mysticism differs from the ways we usually talk about the divine mystery and the purpose of spiritual community in a mostly-monotheistic Western culture:

One thing that is not explicitly listed as a UU Principle, however, is ambivalence — though from what I’ve seen of our quirky community so far, it probably should be. For me, sacred ambivalence, the holiness of liminality, is a principle that pulls me into its orbit again and again. I can’t escape the drag of uncertainty, the uneasy knowledge that whole-hearted, uncritical commitment to even the most well-intentioned values can sometimes lead us astray. While the Seventh Principle encourages UUs to respect the interdependent web of all existence and to value the diversity of that web — a beautifully polytheistic attitude, you might think, which should warm the cockles of any Pagan’s heart — in some ways this diversity is still often framed as just so much quantum foam floating on the surface of a vast unifying silence that transcends and subsumes all things. Call it God, or Spirit, or Mystery, or whatever you like. Scratch a Universalist, and usually you’ll find they bleed just like a monotheist.

For centuries, the search for a God that is utterly transcendent and wholly other has inspired spiritual seekers to head out into the wilderness. The silence of the mountain peak, the emptiness of the desert, and the darkness of the cloud of unknowing, have all been recurring images of Mystery at the heart of a contemplative Christian life.

But I have been to the desert, and it is not empty. Even in the absence of other humans — perhaps especially in their absence — the desert comes alive with even the slightest fall of rain, and its diversity is revealed. At dusk, the weird and wondrous creatures hidden beneath the sands all day to escape the heat of the relentless sun finally come out to explore. I have been to a handful of mountaintops, and every time their height only serves to reveal sweeping vistas of landscape unfolding around me in all directions: valleys and forests lush with variety, oceans murmuring in an always-shifting soup of life in which dwell the largest living things on earth as well as the microscopic organisms on which they feed. Even in the depths of winter, the darkness does not have its final say, but snowfall illuminates the shadows with reflected starlight.

My lived experience of progressive values leads me to the conclusion that it is not a unity of agreement that we are seeking, but the freedom to disagree in a multitude of astounding and beautiful ways, each seeking our own paths.

How do we cultivate spiritual community in the face of this diversity? I think UU offers some surprising alternative approaches….

You can read the full article here. And look for Part 3 coming in February…

Holy Wild, Muse in Brief

A Steampunk Meditation for Self-Transformation

Today I have a guest post up over on Nimue Brown’s ever-inspiring blog, Druid LifeSteampunk Meditation for Self-Transformation, a blending of Victorian-era esoterica and glibly modern steampunkishness inspired in part by the ancient Three Cauldrons of Poesy. Here’s an excerpt:

What are the Triple Springs? Although the recovered manuscripts are far from complete and I have been unable to find any single, conclusive description of the Triple Springs among the documents as yet, my impression is that these “centers of energetic rotation” are similar to what we might now call “chakras.” This concept of there being energy centers in the body is found in many different spiritual traditions, including the chakras of Hindu metaphysics, the dantian (also known as the Three Cinnabar Fields) of Taoism, and the Three Cauldrons of Poesy described in ancient Celtic poetry. Descriptions of the Triple Springs elsewhere in the collected manuscripts of M. Collwaters suggests an alignment which places the lowest Spring just below the navel, the middle Spring in line with the heart in the center of the chest, and the highest Spring on the brow or crown of the head.

The meditation (and yes, it works) is my latest contribution to the anarchic, silly, and in no way secretive Secret Order of Steampunk Druids, which coalesced sometime back in 2012 between sips of tea and chap hop battles.

If you're not a member of the Secret Order of Steampunk Druids, well -- why the hell not?
If you’re not a member of the Secret Order of Steampunk Druids, well — why the hell not?

Looking for more on Steampunk Druidry? Here’s a collection of previous posts that I’ve been able to cobble together:

If you have a post you’d like to contribute to this illustrious and growing body of work, let us know!


Also, on a more personal note, people living in the UK make me feel lazy. Here I am, sitting at the computer still in my bathrobe sipping my morning tea, while Nimue has already been up for hours and is probably just settling down to her evening tea!

I mean, seriously? 9:30 AM is far too early for it to be 5:30 PM!
I mean, seriously? 9:30 AM is far too early for it to be 5:30 PM!

Photo Credit: “Steampunk Worlds Fair” by Anna Fischer (CC) [source]

Holy Wild, justice

Steampunk Shamanism & Cultural Appropriation

It’s come to my attention that my recent post on the magic and mysticism of steampunk is causing some controversy on Facebook and Tumblr, and a few people have stopped by to share their thoughts and ask questions (albeit pretty sarcastic, rhetorical questions) that I’ve tried my best to answer in the comment thread.

I wanted to take some time to highlight that now, and to share my own thoughts about cultural (mis)appropriation and syncretism, particularly as it pertains to steampunk.

To begin with, I feel like I’ve stepped on a hornets nest of controversy that was there before I even arrived on the scene, and now I’m getting stung. In retrospect, though, this is no excuse — the ground is just the kind that might shelter a hornets nest, and I should have been watching my steps more closely to make sure I wasn’t treading thoughtlessly and causing harm. So I want to begin with an apology to anyone who has felt personally offended or hurt by my post. Please know that it wasn’t intentional.

From what I can gather, the steampunk aesthetic already has a reputation among some for being appropriative of other cultures. I am, admittedly, not actually very big on the steampunk scene, and so I wasn’t aware of this reputation. But like I said, that’s no excuse for insensitivity — I’m thankful for this opportunity to learn and think more deeply about this particular aesthetic and all its many implications. I hope that those of you who have arrived here angry or offended will have some patience with me as I explore where I was coming from when I wrote my original post, and where my thoughts have led me since.

When I wrote “The Gears of Chance,” I was thinking of steampunk primarily as a way of reclaiming an imagined future-past in which many of the mistakes of the industrial revolution and the Western addiction to oil (including not only the ecological and environmental damage, but also the imperialism and colonialism that the industrial revolution helped to make possible) were mitigated and circumvented, and creative alternatives like steam and wind power were captured by the inventive genius of skilled explorers and intellectuals. That, to me, was the “steam” part of steampunk — an ecological response of imaginative and sacred ambivalence to modern industrial culture, in which we acknowledge the advances we’ve made while still regretting (and, through fantasy and invention, try to explore alternatives to) the damages those advances have caused.

The “punk” part of steampunk was, for me, a concern for social justice that subverted the rigid social norms of class and gender found in the Victorian and Edwardian eras of European history. Modern steampunk’s creative blending and combination of historically “upper class” and “working class” clothing and style subverted the strict class distinctions that were enforced at the time. A similar approach to stereotypically male and female styles to create deliberately ambiguous or transgendered aesthetics in modern steampunk was a form of ritual “deep play” (in the postmodern sense), exploring the fluidity and complexity of gender and subverting the strict polarity that separated men and women in Europe for hundreds of years. (The Victorian era, especially, is known for its prudish sexual repression, particularly directed at women.) By playing with and intentionally subverting the social norms of the past regarding class and gender, I saw steampunk as deeply concerned with social justice in the same way it was concerned with ecological responsibility and sustainability.

But that’s not to say that steampunk doesn’t embody a certain ambivalence of its own. This is best captured in my favorite modern steampunk novel, Lev AC Rosen’s All Men of Genius, in which an upper-class girl dresses up as a man in order to trick her way into a renowned scientific academy. Rosen’s novel deals deftly with all of the social conflict and ambivalence of the Victorian and Edwardian historical periods that steampunk draws on for its aesthetic, and challenges the assumption of man’s control over nature even while celebrating the creativity and inventiveness of scientific study and technological innovation.

It was in this spirit, as a Pagan and animist who holds deep reverence for the natural world and appreciates the ambiguous role of science that gives us both appreciative insight into and destructive power-over that world, that I wrote about the “steampunk shaman.” Shamans and trance-workers in many cultures around the world and throughout history have occupied a liminal place in their communities, challenging social norms through their spiritual work. In many cultures, the shaman was one who suffered a particular illness or deformity, and that sickness was a sign of the shaman’s power and the place they occupied, a manifestation that they were already partly attuned to the spirit world. Shamans, ecstatics and mystics in many religious traditions have sometimes dressed in clothing of the opposite gender (or gone partially or fully unclothed), undermining community expectations about the rigidity of gender and sexuality. Shamans all over the world communicate with the spirits of plants, animals, landscapes and the elements through ritual, trance-work and other forms of ecstasy (including sometimes the use of entheogens), for the benefit of their community. In the steampunk aesthetic and its emphasis on skilled invention and creative genius, I saw a similar appreciation for the techniques of working with the material world and its living spirits in ways that could transform society, but which remained respectful of the natural world and its raw elemental power. The use of fetishes (objects of power that connect us to the natural world and the artifacts of our own culture) is a natural extension of a religious perspective that sees the physical world as imbued with spirit.

None of this, to me, is cultural misappropriation. Shamanism has arisen in many diverse forms all over the world even among cultures that have had no direct contact with one another. My theory is that steampunk is one such example of a new, emergent form of shamanism indigenous to modern Western culture, which is uniquely adapted to handle the ambiguities and uncertainties of a modern, industrialized society seeking a reconnection with the natural world. Although the word “shaman” can be controversial, most people no longer use it to mean only the traditions of ancient Siberia, but instead to refer to any similar role or function in the many different cultural contexts all over the world and throughout history. In this case, the role I wanted to explore and articulate was best described with the word “shaman.” (I considered using “priestess” or “mage,” but neither of those words capture the specific role of the shaman or trance-healer as a liminal presence in the community who mitigates between this world and the spirit world.)

I want to make myself very clear: Although I appreciate the vital role of respect and appreciation for cultural context, I do not believe that any one culture “owns” shamanism, any more than I think any one culture “owns” religion, or science, or soccer. I do not support the belief that white people should be prevented from exploring and developing their own culturally-appropriate and contextualized form of shamanism simply because they are white.

That said, the question of cultural misappropriation is still a very big deal in the steampunk aesthetic, for one very obvious reason that I overlooked in my last article. And that is: it draws on eras of European history that were themselves deeply colonial and appropriative. Some of the defining features of the Victorian and Edwardian aesthetic were their incorporation of cultural artifacts from the indigenous peoples they conquered and colonized. Compounded by inventions that allowed for greater communication, globalization and technological progress, they were times when social justice often took a backseat to exploitation and consumerism (much like today, in fact) — and this included the “consumption” of aesthetically appealing aspects of other cultures without respect or regard for their meaning or context.

As Jaymee Goh pointed out on Twitter:

To recognize the heinous colonialism of the VIctorian era within steampunk requires respect for indigenous peoples. Steampunk is not rooted in European history, but in alternate history. Hence we expect greater sensitivity of such issues.

Jaymee (who writes a blog devoted to deconstructing narratives of colonialism and imperialism within steampunk) is absolutely right and calls attention to the very important fact that steampunk is alternative history, not history itself. Yet by drawing on these historical eras, steampunk evokes the ghost of colonialism and cultural insensitivity that are still very active in haunting us today, and we have to be very clear in dealing with those ghosts if we are to move forward with mutual respect and understanding. Jaymee probably assumes, because I am a white Westerner, that I am insensitive to the issues of continued cultural misappropriation and oppression directed against indigenous peoples — and she has no reason, based on reading only a single post of mine, to think otherwise. I don’t fault her for that. If anything, it goes to show just how important cultural context is, and how we can have misunderstandings and disagreements even among people who are all working for the same cause of social justice.

I think that steampunk — as a punk-aesthetic that deliberately seeks to confront and undermine social injustices — can handle (and work to redress) the inheritance of European colonialism in a healthy and respectful way. But it can only do so if people like me, who talk and write about the steampunk aesthetic, are careful to acknowledge the harm that has been done in the past by white European colonialism and cultural misappropriation. I failed to do that in my last article, which was a mystic-mythopoetic exploration rather than a cultural analysis of the steampunk trend. For that, I deeply apologize, and I hope that some of what I’ve written here helps to clarify my position.

Steampunk isn’t going away any time soon. It speaks to a deep ambivalence that many of us hold about the modern, industrialized cultures that we live in — societies in which computer technology seems each year to get more obscure and esoteric, in which skill and creativity are treated as less important than fame and wealth, in which ecological damage and environmental destruction persist despite our vast scientific knowledge about how the ecosystems of the world work and our own role in that destruction, and in which strict gender and class norms are often subtly (or not so subtly) reinforced even in the same breath as we congratulate ourselves on our diversity and tolerance. Steampunk looks back to the historical roots of modern culture in the generations before the first world war, picking at old scars and still open wounds, exploring what went wrong and what we might have done differently. It is absolutely vital that we engage in that process, even in the face of ghosts we would rather leave undisturbed.

The shaman, in all cultures, is the person who stands on that threshold of time and space, who enters the world of spirits and strange creatures, who has dealings with the ghosts of the restless dead, who seeks after the soul-shards that have been torn off and left behind through past trauma — and he or she does that work in order to restore the community to health and wholeness. I think that steampunk can open the door to this kind of sacred work. If we are careful, and respectful, and undertake that work with love.

Holy Wild, Rite & Ritual

The Gears of Chance: Steampunk Magic

I turn the gears of coincidence, I turn the gears of chance.
This is my magic: the fulcrum, the lever, the steam, the fire, the dance.

Chronospheres

The Clockwork Universe

We turn through a world of tension and pressure, movement and poise. Cycles within cycles that turn together, their teeth in rows — the still center of being, that emptiness around which every gear circles.

This is the clockwork of the universe, a shining mandala of interconnection and interrelationship.

The delicacy of craftsmanship expressed through the primal forces of the elements: forged metal, fire, water, steam and space. All these have their place, turn their way, in an intricate dance with one another.

This is not the Old Man Watchmaker’s dull work, some bauble set loose after a few quick windings to tick quietly in a pocket until it softly runs down.

This is a dance of power, a great engine of spirit churning. The hum and whirr of gears and springs, the hiss of steam, the roar and crackle of flame, all these are the melodies that make the Song of the World. A mandala of turning cycles and spirals, glimmering, polished and slick with grease. The work of soul is to keep the dance going, to slip into those spaces and join hands in the dance.

The Steampunk Shaman

The steampunk shaman knows the intricate patterns of the dancing world. Her wisdom penetrates the delicate work of friction and force, knowing exactly when to introduce the slightest pressure, and where, and how hard. Time Travelers PicnicNo brute or bully pushing her will onto the world, she turns, she gives way, she waits in the center of stillness and open space, waits for the gears to shift into alignment.

When her work is done, you might say it was all just coincidence, the wheels of fortune spinning out through inexplicable chance. This is the work of the steampunk shaman: she turns the gears of coincidence. Through creative nonaction, all action is done.

Like shamans of the ancient times, she dresses herself as her animal kin: leather and silk and feathers, fetishes and objects of power woven into her garments and hair. Practical, worn soft, stained dark here and there from the hard work of dirty hands. Delicacy married to hardship, beauty contrasted with sweat. She plays in the polarity of gender and class.

When she moves, the buckles of her boots clink like the sound of far-off bells chiming in some otherworld. She wears the chains and charms of her trade, delicate gems set in polished metal imitating the gears and springs of the clockwork universe, an ornamental mandala, meditative adornment.

These are objects of power and transformation, too: the artificial eye, the brass mechanical wings. The blending of humanity with the elements of earth come alive at a touch — the hard gleam of metal and the transparency of glass.

The Alchemy of the Forge

Magic is the work of transformation. The steampunk shaman knows the transformative work of the forge. She brings together will with love, ferocity with joy, as fire meets water in the darkness amidst hot sparks of light.

blacksmith: spiral on fireFrom the forge of her soul, will and love arise mutually tempered, sharpened to a point — a blade that will never go dull. Like the butcher who cleaves precisely between flesh and bone, slipping his knife into the emptiness within all things, she moves through the clockwork world with power and purpose, always sharp, poised, polished to a smooth edge.

Just so she also knows the mystery of the inventor’s workshop, of steam and pressure. She is friend to the elements, to fire and water — and the polarity between them from which tension arises into creativity, necessity into invention. She brings together will and love into fierce joy, held in careful check by a trained and skillful hand.

Her wisdom penetrates the delicate work of force and friction, knowing exactly when to release that pressure, let slip that quick hiss of steam that will turn the gears of chance and move the world.

Spring, Tension and Ritual Time

Time, too, is a spiral, the turning seasons and cycles spinning past, never quite repeating in their steady, interlocking motions.

Yet the steampunk shaman stands with one eye fixed, turned to that strange beyond-time. She watches the seconds sweep past as a hand across the face of the world, a thin wand turning around a central axis.

This is the dreamtime, this is the time of myth and ritual. Here and now, day and night flash past, millennia span no more than a blink of the eye, and the present expands as a presence whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere.

The steampunk shaman in her magical work enters the dreamtime of spring and tension, winding her circle about herself with a few steady turns. All time is now-time, past and future condensed, held together by the tension of her will. She compresses the spiraling spring of time into a perfect unending circle of space, marked off by the horizon, screwed tight to the axis of the world.

It is in this circle that she holds her power ready, moving delicately here and there, tinkering in the emptiness of the spacious present. Love and will build to fierce joy and power contained within the dreamtime of her magical work — she knows, in her wisdom, just when the release the pressure, to let the power go.

And when she does, the circle unwinds her will into past, present and future, time springing back into shape to move the world anew.

When her work is done, you might say it was all just coincidence, a series of events begun long before the magical act itself was even conceived. You might say it was simply the wheels of fortune spinning out through inexplicable chance.

This is the work of the steampunk shaman: she turns the gears of coincidence. This is her magic: the fulcrum, the steam, the dance.

one eye on the time


This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project 2012.
Why not join in?


Photography Credits (under the Creative Commons license):
– “Chronospheres,” by Gita Rau
– “Time Travelers Picnic,” by Anna Fischer
– “blacksmith: spiral on fire,” by Bernat Casero
– “one eye on the time,” by Scribe