The Raging Storm

Where to begin. There is so much swirling around me and within me at the moment, that I seem to fade into the background noise.

Who in their right mind would want be front and center to all of this ... madness and chaos?

I want to hide. I want to run away. Surely there is a place free from this ... storm.

But I have no place to hide, no where to run. It is too wide, too deep ... can’t get over it, around it or through.

So now what?

When I look around at the outer world I see signs of structural and ecological decay. I see our cultures carrying the contagions of neglect, abuse and alienation. Where there should be guilt, I see conceit. Where there should be accountability, I see a deficiency of outrage or shock.

But I also see signs of wellness, the evolution of holistic systems, and the reconnection of mind, body and soul. Where there is pain and conflict, I see attempts at reconciliation. Where there is fear and loneliness, I see signs of cooperation and connection. Where there is hunger and spiritual thirst, I see nurturance and spiritual depth.

So life is not without its salves.

But it is turbulent nonetheless. For every Apostolic reformationist, there is a Pagan permaculturist -- or at least I hope so. But the storm itself never recedes.

And so I retreat. Into the private world of my own makings. And here too, the storm rages.

My home is falling apart around me, my medical bills are piling up, my finances are dire and my schedule is too full given all the physical limits I have to endure.

But still ... for every sorrow, there is hope. For every pain, there is laughter. For every worry there is joy. But the storm still rages.

So I retreat into the work. And here finally there is calm. There is silence. There is softness, a place to rest. And here within my work, I breathe ... shallowly at first, then deeper as I return to grace.

But then I am conflicted. Why does peace for me exist only in the places between? Why can’t I bring this peace with me? What use is this bliss if I cannot bring it to bear within the worlds, the people, the pain, the decay and the fear. What use is my serenity if it is outside of the very worlds I occupy.

So I surge forward into life bringing with me all the bliss, peace, silence, softness and generosity I can muster.

And yes, I still stand in the midst of the madness, but I am not afraid. I rest within the swirls of chaos and I surrender to it.

I am one with the pain, the loneliness, the decay and the conceit ... and I am filled with peace, outrage and compassion. I am angry and I am delighted, I am grieving and filled with hope, and I am silent and screaming.

It is so easy to retreat from it all. It takes a bit of madness to face the abyss .... and smile. And I am grinning like a Cheshire cat as I surf the currents spilling tears over all I see and sense.

I am crying for all the pain and I am crying for all the beauty. May my tears bring moisture to the thirsty. And may my ramblings bring nurturance to anyone suffering in the storm’s wake. Let us join hands and ride this wave together. For in all of this chaos, remember that you are not alone.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 10/03/2011 - 6:20pm.

Moment to Moment

Lately it has been difficult for me to live in the moment. I talk all the time about how living in the moment is what we should aim for as spiritual seekers. It is just that it is currently difficult for me to return to the now.

In the now there is pressure, deadlines, commitments, sorrows, pain and confusion.

Off in my la-la land, there are mountains to climb, and stretches of forest to explore. In the future, there is passion and adventure.

But right now, I am not feeling much passion and I openly groan at the slimmest hint of leaving my house.

Really? Now?

Can’t I just lay down for a bit longer? I am so tired of all this “schtuff” happening all around me.

I feel like I am standing in the midst of swirling winds and debris. And all the debris is from my life and it is all yelling at me.

“Do this now!”

“This is late!”

“You meant to have this done by now!”

“What are you waiting for?”

“People are depending on you!”

“Get with the program!”

And all I want to yell back is, “Bite ME!”

But then I remember … this is not about being in the now. This is about being in the Manifest realm. I love to swim in the ethereal, the astral and within the unknowing. But here on earth, I have things to do, people to meet and places to be.

A dear friend once told me that returning to earth for me felt like a trip through the underworld. And she is right.

As I sit with this insight, I slowly remember how coming to the present moment use to feel like for me. And as I slow down the moment, expanding my sense of now, once again there is peace, calm and openness. And of all the sounds around me, no one and nothing is yelling at me.

Now this is the grace I recall. And all I had to do was remember … and open.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 5:57pm.

Pruning the Azaleas

This past Saturday was spent out in my yard. I wanted to finally pull all the vines off of my poor azalea bush by the side porch. Over the years, it has had its beautiful pink blossoms obscured by the green of the invading vines so often that whole portions of it seldom see the light of day.

I start at the bottom near the stairs into the temple. I pull up several roots with twisted vines spiraling out in all directions. I climb up to begin cutting vines here and there knowing it will now be easier to pull out the other ends at the far side of the bush.

I find my self following the vines down into the heart of the plant, weaving my fingers through branches and smashed blossoms hoping to avoid cutting living growth.

But then we find some are so wedded to the azaleas, we cannot help but cut off the lost portions. Finally we are at the bottom of the plant. And now as we grasp at the roots and dig into the soil, we find that yes the bush itself must be pruned so we can get closer to the core.

So we begin judiciously cutting just those that obscure our path. But soon, the pruning reaches higher as we clear a path to the source of the infestation.

After a while, the last root is cleared.

But my poor bush, it seems so open and vulnerable now that we can see its inner structure.

“Now there can be new growth”, my compatriot reassures me.

I nod in assent, but the sadness seeps out of my pores.

Yes, there will be new growth, but till then she will look so small and brave.

--

And if you think I am talking only about my azaleas, you have not been paying attention.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 2:42pm.

Identity (Crisis) Stage Two

I have been struggling with what to call myself for over the last couple of years. I posted a question on Live Journal several years ago that spawned a rich discussion, but still left me scratching my head. Am I a witch, a magician, a shaman, a mystic, an oracle, a priestess or something else altogether?

Recently, I had settled on “wiccan mystic” after using “shaman and mystic” for a few years. But now I am once again grasping at straws.

This all came up recently at the urging of my mentor, Dr. Michael Conforti. He wants me to drop all the qualifiers that reference my religion, my role in the tradition or any of my in-born traits (like psychic or healer). He thinks they unduly restrict my audience and leaves me in a small niche within the marketplace of ideas.

He said something that made me think as well as laugh really hard. He said, would you ever hear Elie Wiesel introduce himself saying, “Hello, I am a mystic and a Jew?”

I laughed and said, “Well, maybe he should!” But I of course understood what Conforti meant. Wiesel’s message transcends his spiritual orientation and ethnic background. And although we all know he is Jewish, he doesn’t have to declare it in order to be heard. *1

So why am I declaring my religion and spiritual orientation? Do I think that I would not be heard otherwise? Do I think that no one would notice unless I spelled it out for him or her? Am I using it as a smokescreen to hide behind?

I have no idea. Sigh …

But I am old school, I shout back in defense. I call myself black or African-American because I am proud of my African heritage. I call myself Cherokee and Irish for the same reasons. I declare myself a witch and a bisexual because I believe that doing so may help make it safe for others. I own my disability and my tough urban background because I am not ashamed of who I am or where I am from. In fact, a lot of my self-descriptions are matters of pride, a stand taken in the face of oppression.

I say to the world, “This is who I am. Deal with it!”

But is this something that is still needed? Does the world not know who and what I am? If you read my words, attend my classes & rituals, or see me walking down the street, what else really needs to be said?

Michael Conforti is also from a tough urban upbringing. And when he opens his mouth, you can sometimes hear it. But you also hear his scholarship, his brilliance and his passion.

Does he have to express his roots as in “I am a Catholic and a Brooklyn born Sicilian”, in order to exhibit his pride?

Conforti and I have been discussing one of my father’s precepts -- respect or fear. “If you do not show me respect, you will have cause to fear me.” I have lived out this precept most of my life. In fact, I now realize that I fall back on generating fear as defense mechanism. I am uncomfortable being seen as tame or harmless. But as I age and my physical limits grow, it is getting harder for me to effectively live with this as an operating principle.

So now, I use the moniker of witch to generate fear, suspicion and surprise. (And other various tools of the inquisition!) Which is kind of silly at so many levels. I mean, I am a large black woman with a booming voice, what else do I truly need to shock people anyway.

What if I shocked them instead with my scholarship, my intellect, my passion and my humor? What if I stopped trying to frighten people and instead just focused on expressing my thoughts, ideas and musings?

In many ways, that is exactly what I have been doing for the last two decades. So why is it so hard to craft a self-description that is in-line with how I actually present myself?

I don’t know. But I am a lot closer now that I have begun to think about it critically.

So who am I?

  • I am a teacher, a blogger, an author, a web designer and a singer/songwriter.
  • At some point, if I am successful, I will become a certified archetypal pattern analyst.
  • I am a mystic and a pagan.
  • I started a school, a ritual group and a spiritual tradition.
  • My ancestry is African, Cherokee and Irish.
  • I am bisexual and I self identify as queer.
  • I have academic degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.
  • I worked in the telecommunications/internet technology field for 25 years.
  • I spent over forty years as an activist in the black nationalist, communist, labor, feminist and other political/social justice movements.
  • The mountain and river of my birth are both called Anacostia in the city of Washington DC.
  • I returned to DC in 1990 and bought a home.
  • And my name is Katrina Messenger.
  • And I am so much more than all of this …

All of these statements are true.

Which of these, if any, do I use as my calling card to the world?

--
1.What is funny is that the Elie Wiesel page in Wikipedia does exactly what Conforti says not to do. The opening line is, Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel is a Romanian-born Jewish-American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor. Considering that it was probably written by someone other than Wiesel, it's still kind of amusing.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 05/16/2011 - 8:10pm.

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Recent comments

  • Nephthys (not verified)

    I've been with Firefly for a number of years, I recently left my position at The Firefly Community to pursue other dreams but to be clear how much I was involved before I address the statements made, I was a teacher, Priestess, member of the Inner Circle of the Council of Elders, Course Contributor, Clergy, Delegate and Divination reader so I was quite involved with Firefly on many levels.

    I am offended by your statement that Firefly is cultish. Given my involvement as listed above I can safely say that Firefly members are not cultish in behaviour nor is Firefly cultish in of itself. I am no longer involved with Firefly in any strong capacity other than that of a student so I can also safely say this is not coming from a blind faith position. I will be the first to admit that part of the reason I left Firefly was because I did not agree with some of the changes Lady Iris intended to make, that being said, I don't support the idea that abuse should be turned into a political statement.

    I don't know Sean and I am not close to Lady Iris (I live in a different country) and have not commented on the situation with her marriage but some of his behaviours are reprehensible. If a President did this he would be impeached and booted so I fail to see why it should be ignored and relegated to 'personal marital issues' when behaviour like this is indicative of larger psychological issues. If Sean Bennett is allowed to use and abuse women in this fashion, eventually he would work his way through the single ladies in the OHF and what would you be left with?

    2 years 2 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I for one have been pondering this question. Iris did highlight a valuable point - how are checks and balances established to prevent potential abuse and to air concerns. These are hard lessons that groups need to learn.

    Without denying people their agency, how do you set up a system that will prevent abuse by other members? How far does a group go to ensure the mental and emotional safety of the adult members?

    For example, I know with my disability (brain injury), I would deeply resent being told that the group is looking out for my best interests. It would seem to be paternalistic on the group's part to assume that I cannot fend for myself. But because of my disability, I can be easy prey for a con-artist. How do you solve a dilemma like that? Can this be encoded or is this sort of thing too nebulous to pin down?

    2 years 3 weeks ago
  • Virginia Carper (not verified)

    I have a traumatic brain injury.

    That being said, I got caught in the cross-fire in the Firefly Campaign, since I did not get with the program - i.e. Firemoon was abused by a sexual predator, who for the sake of the community had to be removed. I was shocked at how this mantra was repeated over and over everywhere it could be. I was shocked at how the Firefly folks did not identify themselves as they sought to achieve their goals. It left a poor taste about Firefly in my mouth since I started to regard them as "cultish", incapable of independent thought or discussion. Also it disturbed me how the Firefly folks who had nothing to do with DC, carried water in the campaign as well.

    Since I had lot of free time, I researched the consistent posters and everything I could find, and an disturbing picture arose. The one you described of a one-sided campaign to achieve a stated end, without proper identification or perspective.

    As for the brain injury - I got raked over the coals for making light of the issue from an avowed healer, who thought my injury was a ruse. That scared me into thinking that perhaps my impression of the "cultishness" of the Firefly group was true. (I know cult is a loaded word, but I cannot think of the word that would indicate a group of people, emotionally inflamed with one mission in mind, and not allowing any dissent.)

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)

    Katrina,

    I am so sorry that we have not met yet since it so obvious from your comments that you are a close personal friend of Iris’s and know all there is to know about the situation from a front row seat. I mean, after all, one who has seen a woman four months pregnant, losing weight and physically appearing to not be pregnant would of course understand the emotional, and yes, physical stress she was under. But of course, since you were there I don’t need to remind you of that. So lets move on to the rest of the story, you know where her husband chose to have unprotected sex with someone else, who I am sure was a complete virgin and posed no risk to mother or child, and then husband went home to engage in carnal activities with his wife, confident that his unborn child was never at risk. Yes, I am sure that all of your female students understand why you are firmly in the husband’s court. After all, it’s always the woman’s fault when marriages go bad. Or at least that is what I seem to glean from your article. Yes, I am Firefly, and I was one of the one’s chosen to help this woman after she was victimized by this predator who seems to have persuaded the pagan community that it is acceptable to treat not one, not two but at last count four woman as though they were simply a means to his end. And BTW I know she attempted to alert the community to her situation and apparently no one felt it worth even a cursory investigation. Oh yes, one more example of us not wanting to rock any one’s boat. I will tell you that in response to her story, several other pagan women have come forward with similar stories of abuse reported to the male members of a community met with similar disdain and an obvious desire to hide this type of behavior. Do I believe it happened this time, yes; do I believe that this community is willing, no matter the cost, to hide this type of behavior, yes. No one wants to call attention to the pagan community because we already have an undeserved stigma. But that does not mean we should allow behavior none of us condone simply because we are afraid of controversy. If one of us needs be sanctioned, then we either stand and sanction or accept the stigma so many would place upon us. We need to “police” our own. When four and probably five women come forth and tell the same story of predatory behavior against women we either act or fold the tents and go home. So I suggest you talk to all of them before you post any more pontifications. I also realize you can never post this but we both know you will have read it.

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Cara Schulz (not verified)

    Hello Katrina,
    Although we know one another, mostly online but also when we met at Sacred Harvest Festival, for your readers let me note that I'm the Managing Editor of PNC-News and the Co-Editor of PNC-Minnesota. I was the primary author of the PNC-News statement that you are writing about.

    The persons who contacted me asking when PNC would cover this were not Firefly members. Most were not local to DC, but were Pagans and polytheists in other parts of the country who had donated to the Pagan community center in DC and naturally had an interest in it. Why would they contact me? Because I'm the Managing Editor and people often contact me to ask if PNC is covering a story or to request that we cover a story. That's how we get many of our articles - through our readers.

    As for why PNC-News put two different situations in one statement, it's because they are related in nature and both needed to be addressed promptly.

    If anyone has any questions, we encourage them to contact us and ask them.

    2 years 4 weeks ago
  • Kat, Emralde (not verified)

    Thank you for this perspective. I very much appreciate the voice of the elders as I struggle with my own (not-voiced) feelings about this situation and its outcome.

    2 years 5 weeks ago