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Echoes of the Ancestors: Wise Words for Living

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At the Vortex of Healing

Your Spiritual Vision Quest

"Suffering alone brings no vision, nor does courage, nor does sheer will power. A vision comes as a gift born of humility, of wisdom, and of patience. If from your vision quest you have learned nothing but this, then you have already learned much. Think about it." -- from "The Vision Quest" by Lame Deer

Lame Deer's tale is about a Vision Quest, a rite of passage for many Native Americans. You don't have to be Native American to go on a Vision Quest, and a Vision Quest doesn't have to be a single event in a person's life. Our personal Vision Quest can be a continuous journey, a process in which we try to become more aware and enlightened, a quest to perfect our spiritual selves.

Sometimes we fail to learn important lessons because we think we have learned so much that we have become an authority on a subject. This is a dangerous assumption, especially when it comes to matters of the spirit. Life seldom lives up to our expectations if we are inflexible and unwilling to look for the hidden meaning behind appearances. A little humility is essential so we don't take what is seen at face value and become blinded to the gaps in our knowledge.

We must also avoid thinking that because we see things a certain way, that is the only way to see them. Different perspectives can yield quite different views, and putting as many perspectives on a subject together as possible can reveal much more of the whole truth. Ask others what they think -- you may find words of wisdom from the most unexpected sources.

Always remember that learning is a journey, not a destination:

"Now that we know what we know, there is so much more we need to know...life is truly a journey and a blessing." ~ Paul Signorino

-- Cat

The Love that Moves the Sun

In his book, God: A Guide for the Perplexed, author Keith Ward has written about the development of religion -- from the god-worship of the Sumerians, through the Greeks, the Hebrews, and up to early Christianity. He finds common themes throughout cultures, and reveals many surprises about the origins of various items of modern dogma. In the chapter, "The Love that Moves the Sun," he discusses the problems that occur when religious law dominates society and the history of how man has struggled to determine essential rules for living and to find a balance in applying them. In his examination of religious law vs. secular morality, he finds that answering the underlying question of why we were created to be essential to determining the purpose of our lives:

"In early Sumerian myths, the gods made humans to take on the hard work of tilling the fields so that they could feed the gods. This sounds rather crude, as if the gods needed food that only humans could provide. However, it is unlikely that the ancient Sumerians lacked the intelligence to notice that the gods never really ate the food they placed on the altars. It is clear that the offering of food in sacrifice was basically a symbolic act, not a literal feeding. The 'work' humans had to do was to till the fields, to make the earth productive, to care for the environment and render it fruitful for life. 'Feeding the gods' is a way of saying that the gods give humans the responsibility for caring for the earth and making it fruitful. Then, out of that abundance, produced by human effort, some of the fruits -- in the form of corn or cattle -- would be offered to the gods, as token of thankfulness and loyalty, but also as a sign that the gods, as a token of thankfulness and loyalty, but also as a sign that the proper human work of making the earth fruitful had been carried out.

The ancient Hebrews agreed with the Sumerians that the gods made humans to cultivate the earth and make it fruitful. But there might be another reason for making humans... While God might not need food, and might not need human help in achieving the divine purposes, perhaps there is a sense in which God needs, or at least desires, companionship or personal relationship.

Why do human beings have children? Sometimes by accident, of course. But many actually choose to have these noisy, troublesome, irritating entities. We don't have children so that they can be our slaves, or to bring us food. We have them very largely because they help us to express an important part of our natures, which is the ability to care for and enjoy the personalities of others. We care about them, the way they grow, their interests and difficulties, their pleasures and pains, and the complicated ways in which they interact with us. We express our love in helping other little persons to grow and develop in their own way, while sharing their own lives freely with us and letting us help them to become themselves."

Maybe then, the author writes, we should not consider ourselves as slaves to the gods, but that we are their children. He writes that we are "beings who enable God to express love in helping us, watching us develop our own natures, and taking pleasure in the good experiences we have in our little lives."

"That is why God cares about what we do -- because, like any good parent, God wants us to be ourselves, to grow and flourish and live well as human persons. Being moral, therefore, is a matter of obeying God, and finding our proper fulfillment in helping to realise the divine purposes. Naturally, fairness and neighborly love are essential parts of such a morality. But there is more to it, and the most important part of the good life is to grow in relationship with God, to feel and know and be filled to overflowing with the love of God."

How does this affect us as Pagans? Well, for one thing, it shows us that it isn't enough to know the phases of the moon, the signs of the Zodiac, and what crystal corresponds to what energy. We need to cultivate an understanding of the qualities of the gods and goddesses we worship, and to cultivate those qualities within ourselves. If love isn't the dominant quality we find, we should rethink who we are worshipping, unless we want to perpetuate the stale tradition of being merely slaves to our gods. We don't worship Yahweh, the Hebrew god, and therefore, aren't obligated to observe the Hebrew laws handed by him to Moses (the ten commandments are only a small part of those law), but we are still under moral obligation to fulfill the purpose we were created for.

As modern people, we have the benefit of hindsight, we are gifted with knowledge of the multitudes of people who came before us, and empowered to examine their gods and goddesses and how they were worshipped. We've rejected the lack of acknowledgment of the feminine and our place in nature within the strict monotheism of Judaism and Christianity -- but what good is it to simply try to re-enact the worship of the gods and goddesses of our ancestors? We should learn from them and apply their wisdom to our lives, but we must accept that we are modern people and embrace evolution. Their ways had their limitations too!

We are free -- not to keep repeating rituals 'as they've always been done,' for that is not freedom -- to evolve. We have freedom to adapt the knowledge of the ancestors to our own belief systems, to incorporate modern worship solutions in light of evidence of how ancient beliefs and acts fell short of giving our ancestors love, peace, and prosperity. the things we hope to achieve. We can take what is valuable within old traditions and discard ideas which are limiting, self-destructive, or harmful to others -- just as we have in our rejection of monotheism. We are free to discover new ways to apply old values in order to achieve our full potential and find self-fulfillment with consideration of our place in the world.

We can have the best of all worlds.

-- Cat, the Editor

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, written by Keith Ward, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 2002

Elder's Meditation of the Day:

"Praying to seek a vision, to seek truth is always right. Truth builds upon itself - as the true mark of a warrior who conducts himself/herself accordingly - so that its beauty may shine in the faces of our children." -- Barney Bush, SHAWNEE

We move toward and become like that which we think about. What we think about creates our vision. If our thoughts are wise and good, then our vision becomes strong and truthful. If our thoughts are junk, then our vision becomes contaminated, so it's important to be aware of what we are thinking about. As I live my vision, my children watch and they will live their lives the same way. We need to live the walk of the Warrior. We need to walk in beauty and respect.

Oh Great Spirit, give me a vision for today. Let me see truth. Let me walk in beauty. Let my heart guide me in truth. The law says the truth shall set you free. Let me be free today
. 2003 White Bison, inc.

Wise Words About God

"God is in the water of the lake; he is also in the cracked bed of the lake, when the lake has dried up. God is in the abundant harvest; he is also in the famine that occurs when the harvest fails. God is in the lightning; he is also in the darkness, when the lightning has faded... Brothers and sisters, you pile up stones to make shrines, imagining that God will make himself present there. Then you are surprised when these shrines do not ease your cares and worries." ~ Hallaj, "Tawasin"

"I've noticed that a lot of people are uncomfortable with silence -- they don't know how to be quiet and yak non-stop. I think God only talks to people in silence... which explains why most people can't hear him." ~ Darlene C

Balancing the Book of Life

  • When I was born, a book was made
  • In which I enter credits and expenses.
  • If I take in more than I give,
  • I must account for the difference.
  • If I give more than I take in,
  • I must account for the difference.
  • If I do not live in balance,
  • There is no end to the questions
  • I must answer. But there is a way
  • To end all this weighing of debt
  • And credit: to meditate upon Kali,
  • To picture the dark Goddess in the mind.

~ Indian Poet, Ramprasad

In the service of the Goddess, the most important thing is balance. One who takes too much upsets the intricate system of nature. A pond cannot long remain in balance if algae grows out of control. A land cannot long remain productive if we take its nutrients without replenishing them.

But one who gives too much is also unbalanced. Today, women are more inclined to be too giving than to be too demanding. Many live in a state of exhaustion from meeting others' needs, yet console themselves that they are doing good. But does a flower burst into bloom without enough nutrients, without the right amount of light and water, without the exact degree of comfort in the air's temperature? Meeting our own needs will keep us in balance so that we can continue to give and care for others. ~ Patricia Monaghan

From The Goddess Companion and GrannyMoon's Morning Feast

Dove

On Loss and Opportunity

"[This is] what the Sioux Chief said when the tribe was watching the white men take riches out of the Black Hills. "The whites think they are getting rich by digging in the hills, but the Sioux are rich from looking at the hills." -- Joyce Sequichie Hifler in When the Night Bird Sings

"We have often heard it said that God never closes one door unless he opens another. It is a great comfort to know we never really lose when we believe, for any defeat can be turned to good if we will absorb the lesson in it. And yet, how often we refuse to go through that door that has been opened for us. It is so much easier to stand back and wail about the closed one. There seems to be a certain amount of glorification in defeat. Sometimes a door will close for us because that particular one would have caused us more unhappiness, but it never closes for punishment. God is love -- and love does not punish, nor does it have any power but to give what is right and good for us. With this knowledge we can walk with grace through those doors that open to us." ~ Joyce Sequichie Hifler

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