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Submitted by katrina on Mon, 05/02/2011 - 6:54pm.

In the Spaces Between the Words

The 2011 Reflections Mystery School book study is Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. This year we are responding to portions that move us from his 10 letters by writing our own letters. Our letters can contain prose, poetry, songs, images, ... whatever. Here is my first letter to Rilke.

“Things are not all so comprehensible and utterable as people would mostly have us believe; most events are unutterable, consummating themselves in a sphere where word has never trod, and more unutterable than them all are works of art, whose life endures by the side of our own that passes away.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Letter 1

Washington, March 18th, 2011

Dear Sir,

I read your letter with much delight this evening. I am taken with a simple passage in the first paragraph. Although it seems to do a disservice to your entire exquisite note to stop as I have done to remark on a single opening entry, I confess that I presume to take my time in responding your letter as one slows down to enjoy a favorite confection.

I have walked around my fair city with your words twirling within my thoughts. What if it is true that most of life is unutterable? What if my penchant for self-narration was blinding me to an enormous well of beauty that surrounds my everyday life?

My heart swells with the notion that life is meant be lived, not spoken. As a writer, I adapted a mode of living that had me living in the words and descriptions of all my unwritten stories, essays and lectures. I now wonder if the words themselves have obstructed me from the essential but unutterable experience of being at one with the world.

I choose now, dear sir, to check my prose filled arrogance. I seek to participate in that life of art that “endures by the side of our own.”

Yours in respect and gratitude,
Katrina Messenger

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Fri, 03/18/2011 - 8:48pm.

2011 Cherry Hill Commencement Speech

On Saturday, February 26, 2011, Cherry Hill Seminary held its first ever graduation ceremony at the Sacred Space Conference. I delivered the following as my commencement speech. It was an honor and a privilege to participate in this historic event.

Often we encounter moments of wonder without noticing. We see a rainbow over the water and we do not even stop and stare. We see the top of the mountain poking through the clouds and we miss our stairway to heaven. A flower opens its inner bud and we are too busy, in too much in a hurry to appreciate its final unveiling.

I wonder sometimes if we even notice the beauty, majesty and mystery that surrounds every single day. It is our collective loss when we are absent from the everyday miracles that surrounds and infuses our lives

But today we have an opportunity to pause and reflect during just such a moment. We have set aside this time with an intention of being present and aware of the meaning of this within the lives of these graduates yes, but also within the cultural journey of our diverse intertwining communities.

I have witnessed such moments before in my life when as an African American I was able to attend African American studies courses at Howard University taught by African American professors. I have had friends and colleagues who have shared with me the delight of studying Women’s Studies at a Women’s college from Women professors.

So I truly GET what it means to be a pagan in a pagan seminary studying our own culture, liturgy, history and scholarship from pagans.

It is so important to be mirrored and mentored by our own. Now of course, you don’t have to be an African American, a woman or a pagan to mentor us, but sometimes, every once in a while, it feels so good when it is even possible.

And that is one of the wonders of this moment today. We are holding a pagan graduation ceremony at a pagan conference for OUR pagan seminary. Do you get what that means?

My parents were part of the community that built my neighborhood Catholic school when the Catholic school in our area would not admit blacks. Those black World War II veterans took it upon themselves to build the best school possible for their children. Years later at the first graduation, those working class parents stood proud as they collectively acknowledged and welcomed those first graduates.

I can imagine how they felt, proud and hopeful not only for their own children but also for what they together had accomplished. And that is exactly how I feel today, and I bet many of you feel the same way. Yes, we congratulate each of the graduates, but we are also proud for us as a community.

We need to soak in this moment for a while … until it begins to dawn on us how much this means for every single one of us.

But then, this moments doesn’t just belong to us as a community, it also belongs to Cherry Hill Seminary. Cherry Hill has all these years attempted to fill a hole within our vast and diverse community. It wasn’t just to provide a quality education, or bring together world-class instructors – oddly enough that is pretty easy to do. Just look at this conference and others like it that occur all year long. No, they had the vision and foresight to identify a need for professionally trained clergy. Every major religion in this country had a seminary of some sort that awards divinity degrees, except for pagans. Cherry Hill stepped up and met that challenge.

We should be proud of Cherry Hill Seminary and all the academics, clergy and other professionals that founded, supported, guided and today keep it moving forward. We should donate to Cherry Hill and we should encourage our up and coming clergy and academics to consider them.

Will everyone who works at and for Cherry Hill please rise. Let’s support these people and let them know just how much we appreciate all they do for our community everyday.

And so I have honored this moment and Cherry Hill, now it is time to honor the graduates.

It is customary at graduation ceremonies to offer advice to the graduating class. And this advice varies from being pretty straight forward to being funny and off color – I am capable of going either way. In fact some of the suggestions I received were surprising even to me. And for a drink later, I might share some of it with you.

Because right now I need to rein it in just a little … a wee bit … because I do have some important advice I need to share.

Mostly because I think you know for example, what color snow to avoid, and what not to do directly facing the wind. I think you know how to both cross the bridge and pillage the village before you burn them.

So I am going to stick to the stuff you may not know, and if later you feel you lost out due to missing the standard graduation advice component, complain to Maggie and she will gladly refund your graduation advice surcharge – no questions asked.

Because first I need to tell you graduates what you represent to all of us before I tell you what you need to do going forward. So here it is ... brace yourselves.

You are our future. That’s it. You are our future.

Normally we say these words to the young and fresh faced graduates who have not yet clearly stepped into the real world. But it doesn’t matter how old, or how experienced you are. For us, you represent our future.

Because you are the ones that sets the bar of how high, how far, how good, how smart, how committed, how serious we can be as a community.

You are our future.

You are our highest potential.

And of course, it is not just you, it is also all the instructors and administrators. But you are the product of this system they collectively fostered. And from you we expect the best and the brightest.

You are our lights of the coming dawn.

You are our future.

You mirror back to us our highest potential and because of this, you are our ticket to the future.

But that can be a heavy burden, acting as projection screens for our brightest shadow. How can you possibly carry it? It is so deep and so vast it might obscure your humanity or dampen your own brilliance.

I know a little about his because I personally carried such a bright projection for a large part of my younger years and I know the cost and the struggle associated with it. So I am here to tell you what you need to do with all this hope and with all of these expectations.

You need to show us who you really are.

If we can see the real you, you will be able to teach us how to be ourselves in return.

You who carry the future, you to whom we expect so much, your job is to help us find that same hope within ourselves.

And you do this by most of all just being yourself.

And you will know when and if you are successful.

You will know if you have made a difference.

You will know if you got it right if and when you get to the future you find yourself walking side by side with all of us.

Good luck, and Congratulations!

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 02/28/2011 - 4:04pm.

Descent: A Journey for Women on Sale!

DescentDescentStarting today, my new book, Descent: A Journey for Women goes on sale.

My hope is that this book will provide a map to the territory of descent myths. Using this map, a woman can determine which descent pattern is present within her life and find the support she needs to spiritually awaken.

From the Preface:

Throughout human history, a sacred timeless path has called to women over and over again, the path of descent. And unlike the hero's journey where at each juncture the hero attains gifts, tools, or allies, the descent journey asks us to relinquish our hard won trophies, shatter our deeply held convictions, dissolve our ego-supporting illusions, and surrender our very innocence.

Available in my Storefront or by clicking the above image.

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Thu, 02/17/2011 - 3:59pm.

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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 3 weeks ago
  • Kali Firemoon (not verified)


    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 3 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 3 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