Tuesday, 21 September 2010
My daughter and I went to see Starhawk last night at St James’ Church, Piccadilly. I enjoyed and was grateful for how ordinary Starhawk was: she didn’t offer to Change My Life, she hadn’t seen angels as a child or been given Deep Teachings from otherworldly beings that compelled her to pass Ancient Wisdom ™ on to us. Instead she spoke about permaculture, paying young people to grow vegetables rather than sell drugs and finding people from their own communities to teach instead of parachuting in naïve idealists. She spoke about fungi and microorganisms that thrive on and neutralise pollutants.
My girl was mildly disappointed by the talk. In her own quiet, sceptical way she wanted to be immersed in magic and ritual, to hear a great leader speak about Goddesses and power, learning how to access internal authority and effect change both externally and in ones own essential nature.
Which was what Starhawk spoke about but in such grounded terms and in such an ordinary manner that a young person had to retune away from the hyperbolic ad-speak of so many ‘alternative’ presenters to tune into the regular, everyday voice of someone who has been doing something that works for them and for people who don’t share or care about their philosophy. Disenfranchised young men probably couldn’t give a stuff about theories of interconnectedness and would rather shoot themselves dead than invoke the Goddess but can see the practical value of making a profit from something legal and useful in which they have a personal investment.
My appreciation of Starhawks talk has grown during the night as the experience settled into me. I, too, love a peak experience but the more I see people manufacturing them – the desperate ‘shaman’ disinterested in everyone other than the person with power, the dreadlocked white woman who must howl, the catastrophically anxious Reiki flower essence practitioner – the more precious and illusive such experiences become. I didn’t experience euphoria last night and a small part of me was disappointed; I wanted to break my heart open in the company of my daughter who would simultaneously experience an awakening and homecoming into my own religion. It didn’t happen.
But we walked through London arm in arm under the almost-full moon, she listened as I explained that Paganism is, if it is anything, about Being Here Now, becoming a grounded, practical person concerned with and part of the natural world. Any damn fool can buy a cheap fake turquoise bracelet and jump around under the title Earth Warrior, but it takes a different mindset to plan and grow a garden, a family, a home, and to be of use to people who don’t want to see divas but do want to eat. Sometimes, perhaps, pretending to see angels is an fledgling part of that mindset.
So this week contains both the autumnal equinox (let's just call it the autumnal equinox rather than impose a medieval boys name onto it for no good reason) and a full harvest moon. I wish you a good yield from this years work, a continued gathering of fruit and root and shelves filled with glowing preserves and stored abundance. I wish for us all an understanding of the vital importance of the mundane as well as a yearning for the transcendent, and a dark green appreciation of the immanence of the ordinary.