30 April 2008

Are you ready for the next installment? I am in the Budapest airport coffee shop with WiFi and a wall plug. Hooray!

The four of us visited Wahat al Salaam/Neve Shalom/Oasis of Peace, the intentional Arab Jewish Christian village after the workshop at Adamama.

This village is on a hillside overlooking a valley with a long history of battles. The land was granted to the village by the monastery that owns a lot of the land in that valley. This happened in the 1950’s I believe. We had been invited by the wonderful woman we met who came to the drumming with her son (I don’t use names in my blog) and it was a real pleasure to sit with her, drink tea and eat brownies, to see her family’s beautiful very Arabic marble with archways and fruit trees in the home which she designed, to meet her husband and sons, and see her mother’s paintings. We discussed the workshop we’d just experienced, saw her collection of Goddess figurines from Europe, India, and the middle east, and relaxed. We four were sleep deprived, I was coming out of sickness, and we were all in workshop re-entry. Her neighbor came to visit and asked many interesting questions about magic, witchcraft, and Reclaiming, and then she told us about the House of Silence, a building in the village made as a place for people to go and express themselves in whatever tradition(s) they observe. We all jumped on that and wanted to see it so our hostess took us there. It is a large egg shaped concrete space with a stone floor and the most amazing acoustics. Every sound is amplified. You can sit and listen to your heartbeat. The four of us started to tone and chant and sing and it was so beautiful to be in the sound, to feel it move through me, and to hear the harmonies. It was perfect after the workshop, and to be in that place on the hill looking out at the valley and hills and city in the distance was very moving; the beauty, the contradiction of land and industrial sites in the distance. I will return there. Our friend let me know very clearly that I was welcome to come stay with them anytime, and made a point of letting me know she meant it, and was not just saying it as a courtesy. Her generosity is a beautiful and moving gift.

This village has 55 families there, a guest house and café, a library and more I did not see. Currently there are 300 families on a waiting list to move there. The municipality which governs the village will not allow them to build more houses. They will not allow the correct name in Arabic to be on the signs. Even in a peace oasis beaurocracy and fear have a grip. I am relating what I experienced and learned, which is a tiny fraction of what there is to experience and learn there.

I said to our friend, before I met her husband that he must be a very interesting man to break so with tradition. This is a modern home, and our friend is an accomplished academic, not easy for a woman in Arab culture. She said to me “Yes he is extraordinary, and we are Palestinians who do not do provocative things so we are not perceived as a threat.” That was interesting to me, and kind of sad too. The sadness was about the cloud of suspicion that can exist around people because of their ethnicity, or religion, or skin color, or whatever.

Our visit was short as it was night, we were tired, and we still had another friend to meet for dinner. I don’t feel that this writing does justice to the quality of the visit or the people or the place, so as you think about what I’ve written and the tone of my experience, multiply the beauty I have written about by a factor of 10.

28 April 2008

Saturday we finished our workshop at Adamama. This started Wednesday afternoon and concluded Saturday before lunch. Adamama is a permaculture farm in the south of Israel. The nearest town is Netivot. This is just east and slightly north of Gaza, so occasionally one hears bombs. We had our big workshop there last year as well. This year the workshop was called Aspecting and Shapeshifting.

Tuesday evening, before the workshop, a bunch of folks gathered at a very amazing horse rescue home for an evening of drumming for peace. More on that shortly.

Wednesday the heat wave started. When I say heat wave I mean temperatures around 43 or 44 C, which is between 105 and 110 F. This was uncomfortable for me on Wednesday, but by Thursday it began to be debilitating, and by Thursday evening I was quite ill, with a high fever, sore throat, body aches etc. Basically, the flu. By Friday afternoon I was nearly unable to function and stopped actively participating in the workshop. Saturday morning I was much better and by the time we devoked our circle I was better still. Of course I had invoked fire on Wednesday, and when I devoked it on Saturday the fever left me completely. And people say there is no magic in the world. Hah!

The drumming was sweet. The intention was drumming for peace with Jews and Arabs. In my naïveté I had hoped that there would be more of a “mixed” crowd. There were two persons at the drumming who are Arab, a woman who had come to a workshop the previous week, and her son. I mentioned them in a previous blog entry. The little boy is around 4 or 5, a real cutie who played with the dogs, and danced around. His mother drummed and watched him a lot as he was sometimes a little close to the fire. This is a very wonderful woman who I will write about more shortly. The other people were mostly 20 or 30 something “Jews” pagans, most of the people who would attend the workshop starting the next day, and two of my land mates (a couple actually) from California, one of whom is Israeli.

Now something I am coming to understand more is that here, an Israeli is either a Jew or an Arab, even though “Jew” is a religious designation and “Arab” is a cultural identity. One can be an Arab Jew, Christian, Muslim, or even Pagan, but if you are descended from Jews and you are Israeli then you are considered a Jew as your cultural identity. This is the only place where the name of a religion is inseperable from the cultural identity. This use of language is powerful in defining and in maintaining a sense of difference. The Jews who moved here to make a homeland and later founded the state of Israel were doing so under duress because of religious persecution, so the need to affirm identity and to have a place of safety were deeply intertwined, which has led in part, a few generations down the line, to the current set of conditions.

The workshop itself was intended for experienced practitioners of magic, so the material was predicated upon the ability of the participants to manage their energies and consciousness. Wednesday afternoon and evening was focused on arrival, intention setting, all the beginning stuff you do in a workshop. Thursday morning we worked with aspecting, which is the process of making space for and inviting deity or another presence (i.e. love, unity) to come into one's body and inhabit it for a (usually brief) time. Sometimes a person feels called to invite in a particular deity or sometimes a person calls to a particular presence, perhaps an ancestor, or an element. This worked well. I tend to stress the “health administration warnings” (as one participant put it) involved with this work because I take it very seriously. I view aspecting as a very useful tool but one which is actually not needed often. The reason for teaching it to this group is that these folks wanted to deepen their skill levels. These people are priestessing in the world and as they are mostly young people, they are especially aware that they are in training for what is to come in their lives, in the world. And this is Israel! There is a lot of magical work to do here!

By the time this piece of work had finished it was so hot, it was not possible to continue with focused work. The woman who co-taught the workshop with me (a truly fantastic priestess and teacher who taught with me last year as well) and I had planned for the afternoons to be break time and ritual planning for the evenings, since we knew it would be hot. We just didn't know it would be so hot.

This was the second unseasonal heat wave of the year. Usually Israel gets winds from the east, from the desert, as heat waves starting in May. This year the first one was in March and the second one in April. Last year we had the first heat wave of the year during our workshop at Adamama, make of that what you will. In any case, climate change is apparent here.

The group (those who wanted to) met Thursday afternoon to plan the ritual for that night, and through a process of dropped and open attention came up with a pretty amazing ritual intended to shift perspective on one's relationship with duality, working with the history of this land and Goddesses from Babylon and Egypt, Ishtar and Black Isis respectively, in aspect.

It was, however, so hot, that we decided not to do the ritual, or anything else, that evening. I went to bed early in the little cob dome house I was staying in, and had a night of deep sleep and lots of fever and sweat.

Friday morning I felt significantly better, and we did a morning session of shapeshifting; moving consciousness into different forms. People worked with fox, butterfly, fly, flower, and other natural beings. By mid day though it was very hot again and I was not doing well at all, so after lunch it was suggested that I be taken to the B & B where one of the participants was staying, about a kilometer away, so I could nap in a cooler space, before we finished planning the ritual. The group also had their own Beltaine ritual to plan, which will happen after I leave Israel. I napped, it was good, we planned ritual, and then I felt again so sick that it was clear I would not participate in the ritual. All along my internal dialogue had been about whether or not to deep witness this ritual, and while I participated in the creation of the ritual plan and felt very interested in it, somehow this wasn't my ritual. This was for the people living here. This intense magic, summoning and asking for help from two Goddesses to a mud house on the edge of the desert, near a war zone, to work on issues of duality and shifting awareness, needed to be made by people of this place. I am a visitor. I come to offer what I can, and willingly to sacrifice, in this case my comfort and temporarily my health, and the work was not mine. So I went to sleep and did not attend the ritual.

The next morning I felt a lot better, and people told me about the ritual. I am not going to write the details they told me because that is theirs to tell, and I wasn't there, and that was clearly part of the magic. Suffice to say that this ritual went deep and was not easy or comfortable, and fear was transformed. This was not living room magic. This was on the edge of the world magic. And all the tools we worked with last year in our workshop, and this year, and the work people have done before and during this year, all were brought to bear.

We spent Saturday morning debriefing from the ritual, making sure the aspected deities were completely gone, and integrating the work, preparing people to leave. We had lunch and then we left, but not before visiting with the woman who made the amazing Earth Shrine cob building where we did our work. She is the priestess of that place and lives 10 meters away up a little hill.

Four of us left Adamama together to visit Wahat al Salaam/Neve Shalom/Oasis of Peace, the intentional Arab Jewish Christian village not far from Jerusalem. More on that next posting.

21 April 2008

Dear Mira:

I know you are not a hater. I know you are a beautiful person who loves, who is doing their best to grow and learn and who wants peace. What you wrote moved me. We are really all in this together endeavoring to find our way to truth and healing and love and peace. And this process of transformation which I personally am experiencing, which we as a world are in together, is confounding and can be confusing. As you said before, there are not simple answers. Even the questions are not simple! I want you to know you are not in this alone!


18 April 2008

I feel I must respond to Mira's comment.

I am not saying there are not terrible acts perpetrated by both "sides" in this conflict. I am also not faulting anyone who doesn't choose to cross the green line.

Something I have learned living in the racist US is that when an oppressed minority retaliates, while it may be truly terrible, it is somehow different from when a powerful majority perpetrates a terrible act. An ongoing argument or discussion regarding race in the US has been...can african-americans be called racist when they hate euro-americans, given the history of euro-americans oppressing african-americans? The context plays an important part in how we view events.

There is a child's game called "Who will stop the hurting?" where kids take turns punching each other, harder and harder, until finally someone chooses to stop. It seems to me that it is incumbent upon the strongest to stop punching first, even if they end up taking the last punch. Maybe that is naive of me, or too idealistic. I don't know how else to see it though.

Mira I do not in any way mean to diminish the pain and suffering of Israelis who are hurt or injured or who lose loved ones. I do think, though, that the one with the most weapons and the most force at their disposal has got to be the one to stop the fight, to extend the olive branch. Otherwise it just keeps going, as it has for so long.

17 April 2008

Last night we had a workshop which was new, something I have never tried to teach before, based on a dream I had many years ago. The gist of the dream, what I was attempting to communicate last night, is that everything is love; all matter, all of the universe. I didn’t do a great job of communicating this, but the real reason for the workshop was something else, which became clear.

The promotion for the event was not particularly effective for a number of reasons. Only two people responded that they would come, so we ended up doing it at the home of one of the organizers rather than at the spiritual center where it had originally been scheduled to happen. The two women who came are Arab women. One of them has been working as a therapist. She is currently in the process of transitioning to different work. The other woman works as a professor at university teaching gender studies to jews and Arabs, which is no small thing!. This woman lives in the only village in Israel which is an intentional community of jewish and Arab people. It is called Neve Shalom, which means Oasis of Peace.

The discussion that happened, after I presented my material, was really amazing. I mostly sat and listened, realizing that I know nothing about Arab culture. I didn’t know about pre-Islamic Arab goddesses. I saw that I don’t even know what it is I don’t know about Arab culture and her/history. It was humbling and I feel so honored that these two amazing women came to a workshop taught by someone named Baruch, clearly a jewish name, to the home of a stranger, to learn about something relatively obscure. They had read the book of one of the people who host and organize my workshops, a priestess here in Israel who is of jewish ancestry. She teaches magic in Israel; not new age “pop” magic but Reclaiming and other practice of the craft, which is also very unusual in this “jewish state.”

We invited them to come to the Drumming for Peace event happening next week and the woman from Neve Shalom said she would come and would also invite people from her village. I am SO looking forward to this! This is what I was hoping would happen. I have been wanting to meet and connect with Arab people here, and not found a way to do that with my Israeli friends. There is such a deep racism here against Arabs, and the government promotes so much fear and maintains the sense of difference. Most of my friends here are afraid to cross the green line (the line drawn by the 1967 war) because they have been told they will be arrested, or they will be killed if the go to the other side of the line, so I haven’t found anyone willing to go with me across the line.

Last night was the beginning of friendships (I hope!) and connections. Now my dream of somehow participating in peace work here begins to manifest, to take shape. Where this will lead I don’t know, and I am very excited to find out! I am very small in this. Small as in young to it, and a small singular person, while there are actually many people here who live peace work.

13 April 2008

Israel! It's hot. I am in the north where it is surprisingly green though I am told it has been a very dry winter. We did a workshop yesterday on ritual skills that culminated in a ritual that was pretty amazing.

This is a short entry as I am sitting outside a McDonalds in Karmi'el using my (lousy!) battery.

I am moved to tears often here. The people I am with are beautiful and working hard to grow and learn and contribute. Energy moves through me here. I never wanted to come to Israel but there is no denying that this is a power spot on Earth, and I feel it.

Today I am 48. I spent time thinking about my mother who gave birth to me 48 years ago today, and the amazing journey I have been on ever since.

I am filled to overflowing with love and gratitude. It may sound corny, but it's real and such a gift.

09 April 2008

Tomorrow I fly to Israel. The day starts with an early bus (which I won't miss this time!) then a train to Milano and then on to the airport and to Budapest then Tel Aviv.

My mother's grandparents were from Budapest. My fathers parents were from somewhere in the AustroHungarian empire (as it was called then) so not too far. One of my brothers has lived there with his family. I will have 2 hours in the airport but it's still closer than I've ever been to my ancestor's bones.

It is raining in the mountains today as it rained yesterday; light drizzle and clouds shrouding the peaks.

I've been recording and editing episodes of my new radio show "Stories from the Road" which will hopefully start to air on http://wbkm.org sometime in the next month. I will post the time slot when that's been finalized. These episodes have been really fun and emotionally satisfying to make. It is also a process, becoming accustomed to talking to my computer. My intention is to relay not only the story but some of my feelings about the experience. Each episode is followed by a song or two which I have chosen for relevance. I think these will move people in some way.

07 April 2008

This morning I woke early so I could take the 7:00 bus (one of two per day) to Albenga. I managed to miss the bus...I thought it would come on the other side of the road than it did...duh...so I walked a couple of km down the mountain and then hitched a ride to Albenga. The guy who picked me up dropped me off a few km from the center of town so I walked, which felt good.

The bus back to Vesallo happens at 12:55 and again at 18:30. Before catching the earlier bus I walked around Albenga's old city parts of which date from ancient Rome. I bought food. I sat at the station and waited for the bus.

I was sitting on a cement bench leaning against the urn at the end with my legs stretched out on the bench. A motorcycle cop drove by, stopped and glared at me. I put my feet on the ground and then he drove off. Wow. That was weird. Maybe I was violating some etiquette but most likely the cop was just uptight and being officious, as many uniformed people often do.

A correction...I am in the village of Vesallo in the town of Castelbianco in the province of Savona in the region of Liguria.

I leave for Israel on Thursday. truthfully, I am feeling a bit daunted by the intense set of workshops I'm scheduled to do. I feel a little shaky. I cranked through a lot of energy in March and self doubt rears its head now.

I know the work and I know I can do it, and there is ample reassurance from the invisible forces that I am on the right path, but I am not feeling strong today. The sadness is flowing. I know from experience that this makes space for more to move through me, and is in fact part of the process of creativity, but it doesn't feel good at the moment. I miss my friends. I will be with friends again soon.

Odd as it may be, I seem to have become an extravert. People who have known me for a while will laugh. I appreciate time alone for quiet and for creative work, but I really enjoy most things more when sharing the experience with a friend. With family really...and I count a lot of people as family. I guess one of the things that brings up the sadness is being around a lot of people and not sharing that sense of family with them in some open way. I'm kind of like a little kid that way.

05 April 2008

Here are some more photos!.

03 April 2008

Wow. I am in Italy in a stone house on a hill facing a valley of steep cliffs and ancient terraced herb and tree gardens.

The journey was intense. Train from Schiedam to Amsterdam, train from Amsterdam to Milano through Bonn and Frankfurt and Mannheim, Basel, Vienna...all places I have heard of all my life and not yet visited. Chloe the cat had some rough times with the travel until I figured out (with encouragement from a friend thank you!) to use the leash halter thingy I have. She rode in my lap from Holland to Italy and that was fine. Schlepping the disintegrating duffle tied together with rope weighing 50 pounds and a drum bag and a computer knapsack and a cat in a cat cage...this was challenging, but we did it!

I went to the TIM store in Milano station and got a gsm phone and a usb internet modem similar to the one I have in the US, so I can do my online work here. Woo hoo!!

Here are some photos.