One Saturday when I was chatting with the Native American chaplain who sponsors our Wiccan circle at San Quentin, he handed me a book.He’d received it from the Jewish chaplain who’d been our previous sponsor.Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, by Catherine Edwards Sanders.I said I was unfamiliar with the author and had not heard anything about it, although I generally keep half an eye open for newer Pagan publications.
He casually mentioned that according to this book, and according to the chaplain who gave it to him, ostensibly for the small library we keep in the Wiccan storage locker along with our ritual supplies, Wicca was for women and had little relevance here in an all-male prison.Not that he thought that, but that the book made that case.He gave it to me to take home.Book sl-t that I am, I took it, thinking that with all the reading material stacked around my house awaiting my attention, it would be very low priority.
Žemė, “Earth.” Pendant: amber (with vegetal inclusions), 2¾' x 1¾'. George Romulis, 2012
George Romulis, at 93, has been working amber for more than 70 years. He is an emeritus member of the Riga Amber-Workers Guild and one of the living treasures of Latvia.
This stunning pendant, titled Žemė, “Earth”, fits neatly into the palm of the hand, but its clean lines and boldness of form give it a striking monumentality; it feels larger than it actually is. It is also profoundly female. We all know these lines; we've seen them many times before: in the bodies of the women around us, as in what our coven kid Robin used to call the “clay ladies” of ancient Europe and the Middle East, here elegantly stylized but readily recognizable nonetheless.
I was married five years ago. Now I am not. My divorce was awful (surprise). My ex-husband was abusive. I had a bad experience in bible college. I was hurt by the church.
When I talk to Christians, I inevitably face a myriad of questions about these experiences, followed by condolences and apologies and reflections of how sad and hard it must have all been. It was sad and hard. And in the years that followed I have healed, I have learned, I have grown, I have fallen in love, with wonderful people, with my life, with my community, with Spirit, and with myself. I am happier now than ever before. My life is not a collection of knee-jerk reactions to pain.
I'm a Jungian and an eclectic Neopagan, which means that I am doubly vulnerable to charges of cultural appropriation. Jungianism and eclectic Neopaganism are criticized for their borrowing of symbols from other cultures for a variety of reasons. First, the removal of religious symbols and practices from their cultural context may be seen as trivializing. Second, the adoption of the traditions and practices of another culture may be seen as a form of cultural theft, and another form of Western colonialism. In many cases, these charges are well-founded, but I don't think it is fair or accurate to condemn eclecticism automatically as either trivializing or as cultural theft.