Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nashville here we come: words, music, mystery

Maeve thanks everyone for their enthsiastic response to her blog. She will be back, and she will address all suggested topics including shamelessness and another topic that is a too complex to put into one word. The gist is how Jesus could choose her (a brazen out-spoken pagan Celt) despite what the church subsequently teaches about salvation. She might not know the answer, but no doubt she will have something to say. Thanks for the topics! Keep them coming.

Today it is my turn, and I have a story to tell. My dear friend and combrogo Tim Dillinger www.timdillinger.com has already told his side of the story more than once on his blog--and on stage! I wonder if he knows what an impact he has had and is having on my life and work. I will do my best to make it clear.

Who knows where the story really begins, why I had to write, why Tim had to sing. Maybe there is no why, and no why to Tim's heart being broken. Let's begin with his going to the library on one of the most terrible days of his life. Maeve must have been on the alert. She managed to get her big fat book to jump off the shelf into his hands where it stayed, Tim claims, for the next eight months. When we get an accurate count of how many times he has read The Passion of Mary Magdalen, we will be contacting the Guiness Book of World Records.

In early 2009, Tim wrote to my publisher, requesting to do a podcast interview for "Out the Box" http://outtheboxwithtimdillinger.blogspot.com/. We set a date in March. Meanwhile I scoped him out and got his CDs "Love is on My Mind" and "The Muse," which I urge you to do, too. From the first note he sang, I knew Tim was soul kin, and I am now going for the Guiness Book of World records myself for the number of times I have played his CDs. How to describe his music? His gospel and classic soul roots are strong and deep, but his expression is unique to him and his puts his whole heart out there. Listen, you will see what I mean.

When we met in Harlem on a cold windy day in March, we already knew each other's work intimately. The first words Tim said to me were: "I remember," the beginning words of a song he wrote long before he read Maeve's words about re-membering. He was wearing a winged Isis T-shirt with the same words on it. Yes, I also remembered. We had our interview at the Shrine, a venue in Harlem where he was appearing later that night with David Sosa and Kare Alford--the three of them are now Soulkiss. More on that in a bit.

During the interview, I sang the opening paragraphs of The Passion of Mary Magdalen. "Oh!" he said. "You can sing!" And it turns out that Tim can write! Not just songs but he had already written a memoir called Snapshots (check his website) and he has now embarked on his first novel. It is for him to talk about that. I will just hint that, between us, we may just re-write the Bible, or at least some juicy chunks of it.

Since that day we have stayed in touch and visited. (Tim and David both came to my place for Beltane and with great good nature sang endless rounds of "Oats Peas Beans and Barley Grow" in exquisite harmony as everyone danced the Maypole). And I had the immense joy of seeing Soulkiss live at The Triad this June when they began their busy summer tour season. Going to a Soulkiss concert is an ecstatic, soul-shaking experience. Don't miss the chance. They'll be at Don't Tell Mama with Charlene Moore in NYC October 23 & 30. Reserve now: http://www.donttellmamanyc.com/reservations.php

I did not get to see all the Soulkiss shows that summer, but I tuned in to the live podcast of their Kulak's show in LA, and was introduced to Patsy Moore, Myrrh, Susaye Greene, and Michael Micshaw (sorry if I spelled Michael's name wrong). When I was on tour in San Francisco I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea (the Godsistah!). I look forward to meeting Reba Rambo McGuire and Charlene Moore. Wherever Tim goes, he connects people, he creates community, and not just any kind of community but joyous, soulful community. He lives in Temple Magdalen, Maeve's place, where everyone is welcome. And if you have a conflict, open your mouth and sing it--till you burst out laughing.

I may not have had the worst day of my life this summer, but it has been a difficult time, as some of my past blogs will attest. Tim's friendship and the camaraderie of the combrogos has made a huge difference. I cannot remember how we decided that I would be making a recording of the songs I've composed for The Maeve Chronicles. I believe it was Tim's idea, and it was definitely Tim's idea to go to Nashville where he has done all the work of finding an affordable studio and an excellent and trusted musician to help set the songs. He's heading out this Friday, and I will meet him in Nashville this Sunday, October 4th. We'll be in the studio on Monday morning to begin work on the MaevenSong CD. We hope to have it ready to go before Christmas.

Words and music. One leads to the other, one is the other, or can be. A note on mystery. Whenever I am discouraged about the progress of my work in the world and the state of the publishing industry, I remember this chance or not chance meeting, a book falling into the right hands at the right moment, a meeting that has helped two people feel encouraged in their lives, in their work, in their joy. A meeting that is engendering more stories, more songs. And so it is.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Maeve on Daughter/Mother Equinox

First, thank you to everyone who read my first blog and left comments. (Is there a derivation for the word blog? Eliz just looked it up online. Web log became We blog? Here is an alternate derivation. "Blabber" plus "Falling off a Log" equals blog.) Anyway, it is good to know I am not just talking to myself, although I often do, and there is nothing wrong with it, especially if you are a good conversationalist. So keep that in mind.

I am pleased that several people suggested topics, and the first two balance each other, so as today is Autumn Equinox, I am going to write on both daughters (Maeve, what would you say to my two daughters, ages eight and seven?) and mothers or the Mother (Maeve, write about serving the Mother). And speaking of mothers and daughters, let us not forget Demeter and Persephone. There is some scholarly dispute about the actual timing of Persephone's descent based on when grain came ripe in the ancient Mediterranean world. But here in the Northern Hemisphere, things are beginning the journey to underworld: sap into root, seed into ground, snakes and bears and other creatures to earth. Day is tipping into night.

Back to the daughters, ages eight and seven. Most of what I would say to you, I think you know already. The main thing is not to forget as you get older. Love yourself from the inside out. Enjoy yourself from the inside out. Know yourself from the inside out. What do I mean by that? Be inside your own skin and don't worry about what other people see or think. Find something that makes you happy to be yourself--running, skating, jumping from rock to rock, swimming, dancing, singing, drawing, writing, climbing trees, or just lying on your back and staring at the sky. Know that pleasure in being yourself and know that no one can take it from you, no matter what. Make friends with trees and animals and rocks. I am sure you already have. Just remember: you can have those kind of friends all your life, and they will help you when times are hard. Find people that you can trust in the same way. People of all ages, younger than you and older, old. It is good to have fairygodmothers and fathers and fairy grandmothers and grandfathers. Then when you are older, you will get to be a fairygodmother, and that is wonderful thing.

Now I will tell you a little about myself as a daughter and a mother. (Some of you already know a lot about me from The Maeve Chronicles; others, here's an introduction). I was the only daughter of eight warrior-witch mothers. We lived on an island in the Otherworld (which means you can only get there if the conditions are right). I think it might be fair to say that I was spoiled, but in a good way. My mothers were pleased with me, and I was very pleased with myself. They taught me all kinds of things about animals and birds, fighting, chariot racing, and best of all weather magic. There were some things they forget to tell me till too late, but that is the subject for another blog. My fairygodmother was an old, old woman called the Cailleach. She took over teaching me when I was about thirteen, and my very first lesson involved a journey underground. She also taught me to speak all the languages I would need to know how to speak.

I loved her, and I loved my mothers, and I loved the goddess Brigid (or Bride) from who we claimed descent. But did I serve the mothers or the Mother? I have to admit I did not. Not consciously, anyway. I took them for granted, like the air and the earth, the sun, sky and sea, which are also worthy of our care and reverence. When I was a teenager at druid school, there were some long suffering priestesses that had charge over the female students, and another old woman named Dwynwyn who helped me save life of the boy I loved. But the concept of service had not entered my consciousness and did not until years later.

Fast forward to Rome when that immensely self-impressed, self-possessed little girl had fallen on hard times, lost her freedom, become a slave. Enter the all sovereign, all-compassionate Isis who called me to her service as a priestess and a healer. I answered, at first reluctantly, but with deepening and lived understanding of the goddess's own long, bitter journey. Even then, I did not serve Isis as the mother goddess, but as the lover goddess, who searched the world for her lost beloved, even serving for a time as a sacred prostitute. When I founded my own holy whorehouse, we received the god-bearing stranger in the name of Isis.

How did I come to love and serve the mother? In a very particular, human way. I became the mother of a daughter I adored with the strength of eight mothers, a daughter who vanished for a time, just as Persephone also disappeared from her mother's sight. I also became a daughter again, not of my eight mothers, but of my mother-in-law Ma, Miriam, aka the Blessed Virgin Mary, who swore that whither I would go, she would go, and that my goddess would be her goddess. If you want to know the truth, I was none too pleased with the responsibility at the beginning. But by the end, I did put myself in her service, and through her, in service to the Mother of all. (See my Hymn of Ma of Ephesus in Bright Dark Madonna).

It is getting close to the actual time of Equinox, so I will bring the blog to a close. Before I do, I want to say this about mothers and the Mother. There is a correlation between the way we treat mothers and women, and the way we treat the Earth. When we expect them to give without limit (when we, as women and mothers, refuse to set limits) we get ourselves into the mess we're in today. We exhaust her and ourselves. Mothers, children, it is time to give back to the Earth. Time to let her replenish and renew herself. Time to remember that we also need to stop, be quiet, let the sap sink into our roots, go into the nourishing dark and rest.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maeve's first blog: on the Nature of Reality

I am not a philosopher, so don't get worried. I am not about to hold forth on epistemology. (I only recently learned that word, and I just had to use spell check to make sure I got it right; BTW I do not identify myself as a luddite; I am so before and beyond all that.) As to philosophy, I never got very far with the Greeks Joseph of Arimathea forced me to read when he did his damnedest to turn me into hetera (is that the singular?) instead of a plain old whore.

Lots of people have a problem with the word whore, and I hope you are not one of them. I like the word, and I intend to use it freely. I just asked Elizabeth to look up its derivation. Its root (don't ask me to explain roots) is ka with a flat line I don't know how to make over the a. The Germanic word derived from this root means "one who desires." In Latin this root leads to carus, dear, and from this Latin word come some lovely English words: caress, charity, cherish. And let us not forget good old Sanskrit, kama, meaning love, desire, hence the Kamasutra. So please, dear readers, next time someone calls you a whore, smile and say: "Why, thank you. I am flattered."

Back to the nature of reality, specifically mine: I am a fictional character. At least that is what Elizabeth answers when people ask me if she is channeling me or when they doubt the historicity of a redheaded Celtic (not to mention gentile) whore ending up with Jesus, even marrying him (which is something Elizabeth tried to talk me out of doing. She said it ruined her archetype, the whore archetype. And I said to her, what good is an archetype if you can't ruin it?) So as a fictional character, am I real or am I imaginary? And is imaginary in fact the opposite of real?

I don't like to compare myself with G-d in any way, not just because of my humble nature but because I never got along all that well with The Unpronounceable One. I do recall a theological argument (can't remember whose) that went something like this, if G-d didn't exist, we would have to invent G-d. Leaving the question of G-d aside, I would venture to say that perhaps fictional characters are like that: once imagined, they do exist--often independently of their authors and of their fictional contexts. Many people who have come to know me through The Maeve Chronicles, now have their own conversations with me about their own lives, including Elizabeth.

It's the middle of the night. Maeve? I hear, Can I talk to you? Yes, I always say. Elizabeth has spent the past eighteen years listening for my voice, living my story with me, so the least I can do is listen to her troubles (even though they tend to be repetitive, not nearly as exciting, and very much in rough draft form). Elizabeth once admitted to these conversations at a book event. "I see," one woman said, "so you have an imaginary friend." I do not really mind being called imaginary. When Elizabeth first got to know me, I was a 20th century woman named Madge, and it was not lost on either of us that Elizabeth drew my portraits with magic markers. Magic, imagination, what better gifts could any magi present?

Elizabeth, who is more tactful than I am and does not like to give offense, recently came up with another answer to the question of whether or not she channels me. "She is a real archetypal force, and she comes through me in this particular way, because of my particular gifts." Elizabeth relies on the word archetypal too much. But I like the idea that I am a real force, one that she contends with, as I contend with her. We are both affected and changed by each other, as anyone is by any relationship.

Now as to whether or not I am the real (as in the only & historical) Mary Magdalen, let's leave the question for another day--or maybe never. Blogging is a 21st century form and a bit disorienting for someone who spends most of her time in the 1st century. If you would like me to blog on with my bad self, please give me some juicy topics. That's enough about reality for now. I'm off to the imagi-nation.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reclaiming the Power of Oracular Speech

We have all heard the saying: Money talks. In a pending case, Citizens United vs the Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court will rule on whether or not money is speech. If money is so defined, then there will be no longer be limits on donations to political campaigns lest those who choose money as their language have their freedom of speech curtailed. "Who" includes corporations. There is a precedent dating to the 1880s that defines corporations as legal persons. If money is ruled to be speech, John Dough, as I call this corporate entity, may be the only one whose voice is heard.

If I were to argue the upcoming case (which as I have never before even written a political blog it's as well I am not) I would ask the justices to consider these questions: if money is speech, what is poverty? If money is speech, are those who don't have any consigned to silence, and is that not a form of censorship? If money is speech, what about it is free and how can its freedom be defended?

I spent Labor Day weekend at the annual fellows meeting of The Black Earth Institute: connecting earth, spirit, and society through the arts. (I am a fellow of the institute, but here speak only as myself. I encourage you to visit the website to learn more http://www.blackearthinstitute.org/ ) A diverse group of artists, scientists, sociologists, and historians gathered on a farm in the driftless area of Wisconsin where our hosts are helping to restore native prairie grasses and oak. The institute was founded in 2005 partly as a corrective to the commodification and trivalization of the arts. Poets, prophets, oracles, griots in a wide variety of cultures once had a responsibility to call the powers that be to account. Their speech was potent. There are stories of druids who could blister the skin of a king with their verses. Our contemporary culture tends to celebrate only celebrity, to reward a few with extraordinary wealth while the vast majority of writers and other artists remain obscure and underpaid.

Falling into this latter category myself, I found it heartening and inspiring to meet with a community of people who are concerned with more than making their own voices heard. Many among us are true oracles speaking not only human truth but the truth of the wolves, the truth of the soil, the truth of the water, and the complex truth of interconnection between all life forms and the elements that sustain us. I feel challenged and encouraged to learn from my fellow fellows, to break out of the isolation of despair, to join with other voices to make a fierce and joyful noise, to reclaim the power of oracular speech.

As a luddite (someone recently offered to help me smash my computer) I have long resisted the blogosphere and twitterland. But my recent forays have made me reconsider. It could be argued that we are all just talking to ourselves, parallel speech, so to speak. But I see evidence that people are talking to each other--and listening!--exchanging not only ideas and information, but humor, comfort, and camaraderie. And however new this form of speech is, it is free to anyone with access to a computer. (Bless the public libraries.) Money does not speak here. Human beings do.

With instructions from a friend, I finally figured out how to install a subscription widget. If you subscribe, this blog with be delivered to your email address. I only blog once a week, so not to worry that you will be inundated. And I promise it will be Maeve's turn soon. Maybe next week.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not According to My Plan

I had planned (yesterday, actually, blog Tuesday) to ask Maeve to write a funny upbeat blog on being a fictional character. That may yet happen.

Instead I spent yesterday afternoon climbing a mountain with a new much younger but very wise friend. Many wonderful things happened. We made tobacco offerings to boulders the size of whales. We met a tiny blue-eyed snake who consented to let us hold her or him in our hands. An owl flew over us. Ravens made oracular pronoucements. When we got to the top, vultures and hawks circled above us, their shadows wheeling over a rockface riddled with crevices over thirty feet deep that sent up breaths of cool, damp air.

In the course of four hours or so, we enjoyed long talks and long silences. One of our many ponderings was on commitment. Someone had said to him that if you make a commitment, then a plan emerges. But without a commitment, there is no plan. I thought about my life, some thirty years longer than his, and I realized that I made a commitment to writing at very young age. I was ten when I knew I wanted to write, fifteen when I began a daily writing practice, twenty-two when I began writing novels, which I have been doing now for thirty-three years.

I have kept my commitment to writing. But my corresponding plan does not (from my point of view) seem to be working out. It was a simple plan, really, quite obvious and unoriginal: to become a widely recognized, successful writer, to be able to sustain myself financially with writing, and if possible (dear god/dess) to be on the NYT bestseller list. Would the #1 spot be too much to ask? (And don't think I haven't prayed for that.)

I don't want to go into my publishing history here or anywhere. Suffice it to say that despite the best efforts of my current publisher and my own frankly herculean or sisyphissian (sp?) efforts, my publishing future is uncertain, as is the future of publishing itself. We are all caught up in huge societal changes. I do get that it's not about me. But part of me is still stunned, wondering: what happened to the plan? And if that isn't the plan, what is? And whose plan is it?

Yesterday I felt that question, or the pain that has accompanied it, absorbed into the rocks, drawn up by the warm sun into one of those rare perfectly blue skies. There was a moment when, in the midst of this wild place, we heard sirens in the distance, as if two distinct worlds had overlapped. Maybe that moment stayed with me, because that is my reality. I am alarmed and grieved that my plan hasn't worked and so much has gone wrong in our suffering world, and I am also connected with something ancient and deep that is not alarmed, even though rocks may tumble, huge cracks open, lives and life forms come and go.

When I can let go of my own plan, however reasonable it may be, I sometimes get glimpses of another plan far more intricate and elegant than I could ever have conceived. Maybe it doesn't matter whose plan it is. Maybe plan is too small a word, a four letter word and far from my favorite. There is more to say, but the words aren't coming now. Thanks to my friend Yehoshua for our rich exchange on and with the mountain and to all my combrogos. Tim, I need to dedicate a whole blog to you and our story. I'll close with words from Dwynwyn, one of the crazy old wise women in Magdalen Rising.

"Choose blindly with your eyes open. Walk and whistle in the dark. You're not the whole story, only a part. Even the teller is changed in the telling."