One Mama’s Musings on Earth Based Celebrations
Last Sunday, on the day of the New Moon in Scorpio, two of my friends came over. My husband lit the fire pit in the backyard. It was a beautiful fall night with a hint of crispness in the air.
While my husband watched our four children, my friends and I did an earth-based celebration. We held hands and sang:
There is a Secret One Inside
All the Stars and All the Galaxies
Run through your hands like beads
I actually felt a bit silly. My new neighbor in the back put out her trash and seemed to linger a bit longer. “Oh great, what is she thinking?” I thought to myself. When I have a chance to introduce myself, I will have to gauge how weird she thinks I am.
But I also closed my eyes and listened to the night and the fire crackling. I smelled the incense and sage that my friend had lit. Felt her dry hands and thought that I should tell her later she needs some moisturizer. Then I thought of all those things her hands do on a daily basis: diaper changes, plate washing, food preparing, clothes changing, head patting, hugging. No wonder they are dry and in need of some care.
It was nice out back. It was quiet. Except for when my four year old stuck her head out the back door, and yelled, ‘”Mommmmm–Meeeee. Mammmaaaa!”
My ten year old’s hand quickly guided her back in and locked the door.
I need this, I thought to myself. I need this camaraderie. I need this reverence for nature, and the cycles that march on constantly, just like my life through endless laundry, cooking and taxi rides.
Before the celebration, as I was looking for information on New Moon ceremonies, I found the following on a Jewish site about New Moons:
The moon that reflects the light of the Sun confirms throughout the month, as it waxes and wanes, that the created order is not chaotic. Its visible rebirth each month is very orderly and precise but not absolutely predictable. Therefore, each month has a degree of expectancy about it.
Yes, I like that paragraph as I think that it describes life accurately. It is change and unpredictability but it is also cycles and hope and stability all mixed into one.
Then I got an e-mail from my mother. She wrote, “seems to me you have given up on God, Mary and Jesus and taken up with the occult.”
As a good Catholic girl (okay I have not been that good of a Catholic girl, but that is another topic), this statement produced an immediate visceral response: a fear-driven, gut-felt reaction loaded with childhood stimuli. Warnings that the Ouija board was forbidden because it was tempting the devil and his demons.
“No way, Mom!” I thought.
Jesus and I are tight, really, closer than we have ever been.
I really dig him. Sometimes, when I meditate, I close my eyes and picture him. Jesus, the epitome of Love: wise, compassionate, non-judgmental. I put my head on his shoulder and there is no other shoulder I would rather lean on. I see him as Pure Light, and there is this indescribable, incredible feeling of Peace.
And Mary? as a mother of four myself, I have nothing but respect for her. I often say the Rosary, and it is in honor of her.
I fought the urge to reply immediately with a resounding denial. But I first wanted to be sure what I was denying.
On Wikipedia, occult is defined as knowledge of the hidden or paranormal as opposed to knowledge of the measurable usually referred to as science. Paranormal is defined as very strange and not able to be explained by what scientists know about nature and the world.
It seems that the Christian aversion to the occult stems from several aspects. First is this “hidden” knowledge as, like the Ouija board, it is believed that anything occult may reveal information which should only be in God’s hands, and thus it is a tool of Satan.
However, as we learn more and more through science, we are able to “measure” more and more. For instance, we now know that planets are not actually in retrograde but they are on different race tracks than earth so that when they start an elliptical turn, they appear to be going backwards.
But someone had to first look at all these planets, notice that some “stopped” sometimes or went backwards and then think to themselves why and pursue this. Were they pursuing the occult?
Isn’t that exactly what science is: a pursuit of the unknown or hidden?
Exactly at what point does it become science and no longer paranormal? The rate of discovery nowadays is astounding and with technology’s ability to see and measure things that never could be measured before, so many things that would have been considered paranormal are now normal.
I think the majority of us can say that we have come to a point in time where science and religion can co-exist, albeit hesitantly at times, but admitting the benefits of both.
I would make a fair guess that it is not the observation of the moon and the sky and nature that my mother objects to, but it must be the singing and dancing since this can be seen a form of worshiping, and the First Commandment clearly says: Though shalt have no other Gods before me.
If I celebrate the cycles of the moon am I making the moon a deity? I don’t think so. I am not praying to the moon. I am showing gratitude towards nature.
And I am a believer in One God.
But here is the thing. I also believe that the One God can be found In Everything. Hence ’Namaste’, the God in me recognizes the God in you.
Which led me to think about George Fowler the author of “The Dance of the Fallen Monk.” As a former monk, Fowler writes:
A more developed level of insight, witnessed to by the mystics and spiritual masters of the race, tells us that we are invited to grow beyond all such storied details as sin, threats, blood payment, unending fire, pearly gates, golden streets. Both Santa Claus and salvation stories have deeper meanings than what they deliver when heard only literally. I am no longer willing to stop at institutional Christianity’s “Come and be saved” presupposition. I would suggest something more along the lines of the spiritual tradition of the race: “Let’s get beyond all these religious stories and wake up to see and experience Reality as It is.”
This resonates deeply within me. For just like you tell your children about Santa Claus, you also give them the white-haired male version of God in heaven, but when they mature, you explain that things are not so simple nor black and white.
For just as I cannot believe that a man like Gandhi would go to Hell because he had not accepted Jesus as his personal savior, I also do not believe that I am communing with the Devil if I dance in a circle, throw my hands up in the air and give thanks to the earth, sun, moon and planets for their life sustaining cycles.
Which leads me to a third objection that links anything of an occult nature to devil worship.
Wikipedia describes the devil as a “supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind.”
The devil is evil which is: hatred, murder, rage, violence, jealousy, anger. Negative emotions and actions that harm others.
My friend Genis does these Earth based celebrations. Her passion is the Dances of Universal Peace first created by Samuel Lewis (born 1896-1971). She does these to honor cycles in nature such as the equinoxes and the moon.
From Lewis’ original body of about 50 dances, the Dances of Universal Peace have grown to more than 500 dances. Celebrating the sacred heart of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Aramaic, Native American, Native Middle Eastern, Celtic, Native African and Goddess traditions.
The second song that we sang was entitled “Hokhmah” which is a Hebrew word for wisdom. As you sing this song, you reach down and gather from the Earth as you are saying ‘Hokhmah’ and then you release upward saying ‘Allatu’.
Again, once I get beyond my silliness and fear of looking stupid, I was reminded of Tai Chi where you gather the energy in between your hands as if holding the Earth. You then release this positive energy to the world wishing all well.
In all of the dances I have learned so far, they have all been benevolent reminders and celebrations of gratitude that we are all linked and One. Hardly sounds evil to me.
The last aspect of the occult would be its use of secret rituals. As the word “occult” also pertains to any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers. There are no initiations to the Dances of Universal Peace. As I mentioned before, the Dances make use of a wide range of different spiritual practices and are readily accessible to all.
So in all of these aspects, pursuit of the hidden, worshiping something other than God, or being initiated into a secret society, I can confidently tell my mother that no, I am not pursuing the occult.
However, in one definition, I did connect.
Wikipedia also says that Occultism is concerned with the nature of the “thing-in-itself.” This is often accomplished through direct perceptual awareness, known as mysticism.
Mysticism, according to Wikipedia, is the “pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.” It goes on to say that mysticism usually ‘centers on practices intended to nurture those experiences.
Yes, that could be what I felt we were doing.
So how does mysticism differ from religion? Religion is a framework in which to find God.
Even Jesus himself said that if you blindly follow the prescripts of a religion but lack the heart or intent, than you are committing a folly.
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.
Mark 7:6-7 (New International Version)
If dancing in a circle holding hands and singing is how I find and honor God, does it matter if it is occult or not?
The next sentence of my mother’s e-mail was: “What lessons are you teaching your kids?”
Occult? Maybe, maybe not. I hardly think it matters.
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Assistant Editor: Kristina Peterson / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Taylor Leopold/ Unsplash