Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Queen’s Chronicles: SPOOKY GREETINGS

I extend all manner of spooky greetings for these three days of the dead:

October 31 Halloween
November 1 All Saints Day
November 2 All Soul's Day or Dia de los Muertos.

Halloween descends from Samhain, the most significant holiday of the Celtic calendar. Being a pastoral people, the Celts counted their seasons according to the needs of their cattle and sheep, rather than the agricultural seasons that farmers might mark. The year was divided
into summer, when the herds are led our to graze, and winter, when they were brought back home again. Samhain, the day when the cows came home, was considered the first day of winter and also the first day of the new year.

Samhain exposes a crease in time. A fissure between summer and winter. Between the old year and the new. During this period, the dead have easy access to the living, and are likely to pay a visit. Just as the herds returned home to the warmth and security of the hearth in winter, so too, must the ghosts of the dead want to be cheered by familiar surroundings and loved ones. Certainly one owes the same hospitality to the ancestors as one gives to the animals!

For hundreds of years Christian missionaries tried without success to suppress Samhain and convert the Celts. In the eleventh century, Odilo, abbot at Cluny, claimed this heathen death feast for the Church. Hallow Tide, Holy Time, is a three-day feast -- All Hallowed Eve, All Hallowed, and All Saint's Day -- during which prayers are offered for Christian saints and souls, and only for Christian saints and souls. All others, those doomed souls whose burials were not consecrated in Christ, return to Earth on the eve of All Hallow’s to haunt the living. Menacing demons and flying witches along with their trusty black cat sidekicks, the persistent practitioners of the pagan religion, were also thought to be out and about and up to no good.

The potato famine of 1846 sent a million Irish immigrants to the United States. They brought with them their ancient Celtic customs, among them the feast of Samhain, which, as good Catholics, they now called Hallowe'en. This shadow festival of soul survival struck a responsive chord in the American people who instantly adopted it. To this day, Halloween is celebrated in some fashion by practically every person in North America. Sales of decorations and goodies rival the lucrative Christmas season.

We modern Americans rarely -- if ever -- think about death if we can possibly help it. We like to watch it on a big screen well enough, or perpetrate it on innocent populations overseas, but in real life, we just don't do death. Which is why I think Halloween has become so popular. It offers us a way to engage with our natural fascination with death in a way which is scary yet superficial. At Halloween we get to acknowledge our fear of death while still having a good time.

All best blessings,

xxQMD


To read about Halloween in more depth, check out my book, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles & Celebrations at: www.DonnnaHenes.net

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Queen’s Chronicles: EARTH ATTACKS MOON

“Of all the creatures who had yet walked on Earth, the Man-apes were the first to look steadfastly at the Moon. And though he could not remember it, when he was very young Moon-Watcher would sometimes reach out and try to touch that ghostly face rising above the hills. He has never succeeded, and now he was old enough to understand why. For first, of course, He must find a high enough tree to climb.”
- Arthur C. Clarke
2001 A Space Odyssey



Well, we Earthling Moon-Watchers built ourselves some really tall trees so that we could get to the moon. Rocket-propelled trees to carry us through space. And so we got to the moon.

No sooner did we land there than we set about trashing it. In the short time that we have been visiting our attendance upon it, we have left over twenty tons of debris — biological, atmospheric and manufactured — on the surface of our once pristine satellite.

Here are just some of things we left to litter Lady Luna: flags and dedication plaques from each moon mission, video cameras at the launch sites, sensitometers, the launch legs for the lunar module,
geologic tools, laser reflecting mirrors, the lunar rovers, a gold plated extreme ultraviolet telescope, a Tesco super market shopping cart, several Apollo backpacks, and three golf balls.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we have reached new highs in our lows. At 7:30AM EDT on Friday, October 9, 2009 the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission, will fire a Centaur rocket into a crater at the South Pole of the moon which will act as a “heavy impactor” crashing into the lunar surface at nearly 6,000 mph sending a debris plume of 300,000 to 350,000 tons of material from the crater floor over 30 miles high.

A second sensor satellite will then drop down into this plume analyzing its contents in the hope of finding water. The result of this search will ultimately determine how realistic a full-time base on moon can be.
After the booster rocket hits the crater, blasting out a hole 90 feet deep, the shepherd will follow through the plume. After analyzing the plume, the shepherd craft will itself slam into the crater four minutes later, creating a second hole 60 feet deep.
According to NASA, this crash will be so big that we on Earth may be able to view the resulting plume of material it ejects with a good amateur telescope. The operation will unfold live on the Internet, as well as under the watchful eyes of dozens of amateur and professional astronomers and orbiting observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Water on the moon has haunted us for years," said William Hartmann of the Planetary Science Institute. "It's all part of humanity's quest to understand our nearby cosmic environment." Yeah, right, understand it so we could rape it.


"Who (said the moon)
Do you think I am and precisely who
Pipsqueak, who are you

With your uncivil liberties
To do as you damn please?
Boo!

I am the serene
Moon (said the moon).
Don't touch me again.

To your poking telescopes,
Your peeking eyes
I have long been wise.

Science? another word
For monkeyshine.
You heard me.

Get down, little man, go home,
Back where you come from,
Bah!

Or my gold will be turning green
On me (said the moon)
If you know what I mean."
- Robert Francis


Yours with heartsick, heartfelt blessings for Mama Moon,

xxQMD

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Queen’s Chronicles: 911 EMERGENCY ALTAR

September 11, 2001 found me far, far from home in a picture-book cabin on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. I had been making my long-anticipated way to the Gaspé when the horrific news crashed in upon my idyll, turning that perfect piece of paradise into a surreal hell, a fantastically gorgeous jail house cell from which I helplessly watched my city being destroyed live on Quebequois TV. “Etats Unis Attacqué,” it screamed. “C’est la Guerre.”

The phone lines were down. There was no internet access. The borders were sealed. I couldn’t call. I couldn’t help. I couldn’t come home. I couldn’t do anything. But I desperately needed to do something. Something positive. So I decided to create a memorial altar.

I borrowed my landlady Claudette’s large white plastic Our Lady who was normally employed to block the small dirt road that ran through Cabines Sur Mér property yard. I took Her to the edge of the land and placed Her among the ancient gray rocks bordering the great river running by. Wild rose bushes, heavy with hips, bowed at Her feet.

I just happened to have a bottle of holy water with me which I had collected only two days before at the pilgrimage site of Sainte Anne de Beaupré north of Quebec City on the opposite shore. This water has been associated with thousands of healings over the centuries. An important component of my Healing Waters of the World collection that I use it in my ceremonies. The original purpose of this trip was to refill my depleted supplies.

I had a small traveling candle that Miriam had given me a couple of years before. I had carried this with me in my toiletry bag on several trips to Paris, but had never felt moved to light it. I put the fire into a glass and set it next to the glass of healing water. In a third glass I arranged a bouquet of the yellow, white, and purple wild flowers growing in the earth around the cabin.

The fourth glass on my makeshift altar was a container of a different sort. At the bottom of my amulet bag I found a small reflective crystal that had been part of the sunrise to sunset vigil for peace that I had organized at the World Trade Center on the Summer Solstice 1999. It had absorbed the solar energy of the longest, lightest day of the year. I always carry it to help me see the light when times are dark.

I had a very long ritual relationship with the World Trade Center. For a quarter of a century it was my own private/public shrine, an urban Stonehenge for an urban shaman. Eighteen of my 26 Spring Equinox Egg Standing events have been held there. That means that 6480 eggs have stood on end in the shadow the Twin Towers. About double the estimated number of presumed dead.

On that black day I wondered about the fates of all of the building staff people whose names I never knew who have helped to set up and facilitate our public seasonal ceremonies over the years, and I prayed that they were all safe. And I prayed for the thousands of people in those buildings who have added their energy to our celebrations.

Also in the medicine bag was the dog tag with the peace symbol on it that Tommy Sullivan, R.I.P, wore when he was serving as an unwilling sailor during the Viet Nam War. Last, I offered a shriveling red rose hip that was going to seed. May the seeds of the rose be those that we sow.

I sat on the rocks all day, the African River Orisha Oshun by my side, washing my fears away.

I chanted and chanted for peace.

Chant for Peace.
Chant for Peace.
For Peace on Earth.
For Peace on Earth.
Chant for Peace.
Chant for Earth.
For Peace on Earth.
For Peace of Mind.
Chant for Peace.
There’s a Chance for Peace.
A Chance for a Change.
For a Change for Peace.
For a Change for Earth.
Chant for Earth.
Chant for Peace.
Chant for Us.
Chant for Peace.
There’s a Chance for Peace.
Still a Chance for Peace. S
till a Chance for Earth.
Still a Chance.
Still.

There is still a chance for a change. We must be that chance.

With best blessings for reverence, respect and peace,

xxQMD

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Queen’s Chronicles: BEGIN AGAIN

Fall always feels like New Year to me. It carries so much more significance than does January 1. The first crisp hint of a chill in September always shakes me out of my summer lethargy, wakes me, makes me more alert. It focuses and concentrates my attention. I can smell the possibilities of a fresh start in the air.

Reinvigorated by the sunny days and laze of summer, life now begins again in earnest in schools, government agencies, cultural institutions and businesses across the country. There is an unmistakable aura of enthusiasm and energy in the air, a palpable sense of intensified determination. This annually renewed resolve seems so much more natural than the resolutions we make at the turn of the calendar year.

Fall jumpstarts everything, including itself. Labor Day has become the popular indicator of autumn, rather than the equinox, which occurs three weeks later. In the same way, Memorial Day, which predates the solstice by three weeks ushers in the civic summer season. By this reckoning, school starts in the fall.

Most of us have been indelibly imprinted with the excitement and optimism of the first day of school. There is nothing quite so inspiring as buying blank notebooks, pencils you have to sharpen yourself and some brand new white blouses. So clean, so fresh, so hopeful.

The Jewish New Year falls in the fall. My memories of the High Holy Days that I celebrated as a child with my family have little to do with organized religion. Rather, I remember a domestic sense of auspicious new beginnings: major house cleaning, usually a new outfit to wear to temple and best of all, we ate off of the good china with the real silverware.

I think of my birthday as being in the fall, but it is actually three or four days before the equinox. Our birthday is our own personal New Year. It is an annual reunion that we have with ourselves, and attendance is required. Our birthday is our periodic opportunity to take serious personal stock. “How am I doing?” as old Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, would always ask. Like any new beginning, our birthday is an ideal time to sharpen our priorities, realign our perspective and rededicate ourselves to living the very best life that we can.

How old! and yet how far I am from being what I should be....I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study....to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and strive everyday to become less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wils (sic) it, I’m someday to become!

- Princess (Queen-to-be) Victoria of Great Britain
In her diary on her 18th birthday

Every Autumn I take time out of time to evaluate my past experiences and actions and to prepare myself mentally, physically and spiritually for the coming year. I usually retreat to some extent and fast to some degree during the two-week period surrounding my birthday. The new and full Harvest Moon, and the equinox usually coincide.

This experience is intended to center me and slow me down. It is my birthday gift to myself. During my fast/retreat I devote myself completely to cleansing and centering myself: body, mind and spirit in readiness for the future. I rinse my system with fresh water and teas, I clean my house and altars and I use yoga, meditation and t’ai chi to flush my mind clear of the mental detritus that I have accumulated.

Since the early 1980’s, I have kept a birthday book. Therein, I ritually record an accounting of the past year. I process my impressions and my life lessons. How have I grown? What have I learned? And what is it that I just can’t seem to get through my thick skull? I plot my progress. I ponder my possibilities. I pour over my problems. I plan my goals.

This civic fall also marks the eight-year anniversary of September 11. Let us mark this propitious time by reflecting honestly upon our vulnerability in today’s terrifying political/economic climate, our culpability in the deadly repercussions that arise from our own chauvinistic attitudes and deeds, as well as our impressive individual and communal capacity for extraordinary acts of courage and devotion.

May this new season signal the beginning of a new era of planetary peace and plenty for all.

With best blessings for a new beginning,

xxQMD

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer has become intolerable for me. It is just too damn hot and I am miserable, sweaty and cranky, much of the time. But when my little pooch Poppy starts panting in the heat, her little pink tongue drooping out of her open mouth, I know the Dog Days of Summer have arrived.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is sizzling at its most intense right now. This is the horrid weather when, according to Noel Coward, only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day sun.”

The term “dog days” was coined by the ancient Romans, who called these hot and humid days caniculares dies or “days of the dogs” after the star Sirius, Canis Majoris, the “Greater Dog,” which is one of the hunting dogs of Orion, the Hunter in the constellation that bears his name. The ancient Egyptians named Sirius the “dog star” after their god Osiris, who was often depicted as having the head of a dog.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that it was once thought that it produced heat. In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun, and beginning in July, the two stars are in conjunction. In the latitude of the Mediterranean region, this period coincided with sweltering days that were plagued with disease and discomfort.

The Dog Days are officially counted as 20 starting days before the conjunction and continuing to 20 days afterward which spans July and August, which are hottest and muggiest part of the season. The ancients believed that the heat from Sirius added to the heat of the sun during this period of conjunction, created a stretch of especially hot and sultry weather. Hence, Dog Days.

The conjunction of Sirius with the sun varies somewhat with latitude. And the “precession of the equinoxes” (a gradual drifting of the constellations over time) means that the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Egypt and Rome. Today, the Dog Days occur during the period between July 3 and August 11.

Although the Dog Days are certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. Nor is summer’s heat in the Northern Hemisphere caused by our proximity to the sun. Earth is actually furthest away from the solar heat lamp in summer. But, because of the tilt of its axis in relation to the sun, we are blasted by a direct hit of fiery heat.

As I write this, the heat index is upward of 115 degrees. This summer is especially bad, with extreme heat waves sweeping much of North America. Our tempers are on boil and even the most innocuous disturbance is enough to send us over the emotional edge.

The entire planet is heating up right now. Literally. Global warming is playing havoc with weather patterns, which in turn, affects all plant and animal life. The debate about the greenhouse effect is also revved up to high.

In fact, all disagreements are reaching a boiling point, as is evidenced by the ever increasing and escalating geo-religious-cultural-political-economic conflicts around the globe. The world seems to be populated by a pack of wild rabid dogs fighting over scraps.

Time out!

Cool down!

Let us turn our attention to positive solutions and focus our thoughts and actions toward creating peace. Peace of Mind. Peace of
Heart. Peace on Earth. There is still a chance for peace.

With best blessings for keeping it cool,

xxQMD

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Queen’s Chronicles: LAMMAS BLESSINGS OF BREAD

August 2 is the exact halfway point of summer. The Summer Cross-Quarter Day was celebrated by the Saxons as Hlaf Mass, “Feast of Bread,” and by the Celts as Lughnasadh, Commemoration of Lugh. Lugh was the grain god, son of Mother Earth. Every August he was sacrificed with the reaping of the corn only to be born again in the new shoots of spring exactly as the Egyptian, Osiris, had
been. At the moment of death, according to Egyptian scriptures, a person is also a kernel of grain, “which falls into the earth in order to draw from her bosom a new life.”

Loaf Mass and Lugh Mass evolved into Lammas, the Druid corn feast, one of the four cornerstone festivals around which their year revolved. When the Church adopted, co-opted, Lammas, it was referred to as Lamb's Mass in commemoration of St. Peter in Chains, and the practice of the offering of the first fruits on the altar remained exactly the same.

Traditional celebrations of the first corn were observed on August 1 or 2 in many cultures. Named for Juno Augusta of Rome, August was particularly sacred to the Goddess Who Gives All Life and Feeds It, Too. It was considered for this reason an especially propitious time to be born. To this day, when a Scot says that someone was born in
August, it is a compliment in praise of skilled accomplishment, with absolutely no bearing on the person's actual birthday.

The Midsummer Cross-Quarter Day is the only one of the four, which is not still actively celebrated in our contemporary culture. Midsummer is celebrated in Europe, but there it refers to June 21, the first day of summer and not the middle at all. Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream” actually takes place on the Summer Solstice.

The only living vestige of Lammas in the United Stated is a rural holiday called Second Planting. But unless you read the Farmer's Almanac or belong to the Grange or 4H Clubs, you would have no reason to hear about it. It is celebrated exactly as Midsummer has always been celebrated. The first grain is harvested, threshed, milled, baked into bread and cake, and then shared in community. After a night of feasting and dancing, work starts again at first light planting the second crop of summer wheat, which will the mature by the fall harvest.

How can we, separated from the agricultural process by city and century, appreciate the atmosphere of the season which surrounds us, but which we cannot see? What is the Goddess of Good Grain to us of the boulangerie? The patisserie? We who buy our grain in bags, in boxes, premixed, pre-measured, prepackaged, prepared; sown, grown, harvested, hulled, milled, by someone else, somewhere else. How can we identify with the earth values taught by Terra Mater during this time of year from where we are held captive in the synthetic heart of the pop tart culture which claims us?

Well, we can behave, as they say, as if we were born in August. We can, in fact, become august — wise and generous and gloriously noble, each in our own chosen paths. We can hone our skills as the tenders of Mother Earth. We can hoe our row. We can carry our load. We can break bread together. We can feed the hungry.

We reap what we sow.

With best blessings of bountiful bread,

xxQMD

For a more detailed explanation, refer to my book, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations. It is available on my website, www.donnahenes.net

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mama Donna Blesses the Fleet

video


Mama Donna Blesses the Fleet on River Day, June 5, 2009, the kick off of the Quadricentennial Celebration of Henry Hudson's Voyage sponsored by New York Governor David Paterson. Music by the Midshipman Band of Long Island. Video by Yana Kraeva.