Sacred Cells: Embodying the Feminine Divine

Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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Pollyanna of the Apocalypse Makes Soup

On Thanksgiving I began a spell to nourish family and friends, witches, pagans, and christians, neighbors and strangers through the shortest days and longest nights of a stunningly painful year careening to its end.  On Thanksgiving I began to make soup.

 

Usually I take a very long view of history (at least for a human).  I tend to see the crumbling of current systems and institutions worldwide as the inevitable “arc of the moral universe bending toward justice” (although in a much more circuitous spiral than I had believed as a young activist), which is why a colleague dubbed me Pollyanna of the Apocalypse.

 

As Pollyanna of the Apocalypse I am very clear that as a queer person living in a cisgender woman’s body I am far better off than I would have been 500 years ago, or 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago.  I am very clear that although institutional racism, transphobia, religious intolerance, xenophobia, and environmental destruction in the service of profit still stand, that on the whole life is better for our children than it was for our great-grandparents.  I am very clear that as a species humans have statistically far fewer violent personal interactions or even national conflicts than at any other time in human recorded history (even though it seems like there are more because we now have the technology to know about them immediately and from all parts of the world).

 

But despite all the things I am very clear are better, this year seemed particularly trying even for Pollyanna of the Apocalypse.  A myriad of personal tragedies befell friends and family.  Plants, animals (including human animals), and whole ecosystems experienced devastating weather events around our planet because of the escalation of climate change.  War and political unrest caused thousands to flee their homes.  In my country, the USA, we experienced the most painfully angry, intentionally dishonest, and glaringly revealing election cycle that I have ever lived through.  Even friends and family whose candidate “won” were in a sorry state of fear and anxiety, and those of us whose candidates “lost” took to the streets or huddled in our homes for fear of what was to become of our queer communities, hispanic communities, black communities, muslim communities, women’s health and choice, and the health of the Earth Herself.

 

So, on Thanksgiving, I began my spell of nourishment in the face of fear and tragedy, devastation and unrest, pain and loss.  This particular spell began with my cousin Daymon, my brother Andy, and me in my kitchen cooking much of the Thanksgiving feast for our large and wild family of blood and choice.  Later that night I set the turkey carcass with all its cooking juices, as well as the cooking juice from our ham, and some left over venison mince meat slurry, riotously boiling on my stove.  I gave thanks to the animals whose life force gave strength and nourishment to my broth and prayed that those of us who drank it would honor them by living in healthy and sustainable ways with the Earth.  I added whole heads of garlic to my broth to shore up depleted immune systems.  I added salt for cleansing, pepper for protection, and other spices to restore vigor and inspire visions, dreams, and hope.  From my local farmers’ market I added greens and vegetables full of nutrients for physical healing and repair. I gave thanks for the people who planted and tended and harvested these ingredients.  I gave thanks to the Elementals that helped each ingredient grow: Earth, Air, Water, Fire and the Mystery at the Center connecting all things.

 

My spell, my broth, bubbled and simmered for three days while my family of blood and family of choice came through the kitchen eating left over mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, mince meat pies, and making turkey and ham sandwiches.  The smell was intoxicating, invoking all the things that happen when family of blood and family of choice gather together:  tense moments, wild silliness, conspiratorial whispers, generational teasing, political debates, sweet revelations, old relational wounds healed imperfectly (but often still itchy), and, in my family of blood and choice, deep love in spite of and because of it all.

 

Over the next four weeks I made two hearty batches of spell infused soup to nourish my communities. As a christian witch living in the Northern Hemisphere, the long sacred dark nights of Advent with the Winter Solstice in its midst are a time of waiting in the blessed dark, a time of feeding and nurturing what is to be born, a time of nestling in and protecting the incarnation and embodiment of all that is holy and divine filling our bodies and stirring in the womb of the world.

 

When my Reclaiming Witch community (witches of all genders and generations) gathered for the Winter Solstice I took a batch of spell infused soup to feed those who were priestessing the ritual (in our tradition we use the word “priestess” as a verb).  Standing eating soup, a friend and I traded stories of family strife because of the election.  I spoke about uncomfortable interactions I’d had with one of my step-brothers around the truth of something he’d posted in response to a question I’d asked on social media.  Yet, face to face my step-brother and I ultimately found common ground in our care of family, and the venison in my soup was a bit of an unexpected peace offering from him when I’d visited before Thanksgiving.  Then, right before our Solstice ritual began one of our elders, who had just arrived back from the prayer and activism and ceremonies being done by the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, stood and ate a cup of soup.  It was a joy to feed her, to nourish her with this spell of soup before she and others led us in a powerful trance and spiral dance invoking the council fires of our ancestors and raising a cone of energetic power to nourish our souls, our activism, our communities, our world.

 

I made the last batch of spell infused soup for a spontaneous gathering of witches, christians, neighbors, and family at my home on a night between the Solstice and Christmas.  The invitation read: “Please drop in for a hug, a conversation of hope and blessing, some homemade soup, a cup of cider or wine (or a shot of whiskey), eat a cookie and light a candle on my home altar with a hope or blessing for the space among and between all of us as friends, as family, as a community, a nation, a world. If you have children or grandchildren bring them by so they can light a candle for their world and their faces can gladden my heart.”  A steady stream of people came and went sparking unexpected conversations among folk who were old friends, or had just met.  The soup nourished them all, the candlelight shone into the world with hope and blessings.

 

Blessings and hope to you - may you have the nourishment you need as this new year unfolds.

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.

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