Spirituality

Opiate of the masses.

Honouring queer and non-binary forms of nature

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King Penguins, photo by Liam Quinn

King penguins, photo by Liam Quinn

The need for a form of nature-worship I could relate to. A strong interest in social justice and inclusivity. My best friend’s gay cat. All of these things played a heavy part my interest in queer, gender non-conforming, and non-binary forms of nature. I had originally intended to include this as a small section of my article “God, Goddess, and Other: Fertility faiths and queer identities,” but I quickly realized it would take much, much more space than that to do the topic justice.

And the topic definitely deserves a lot of education and research. (In fact, the more I’ve done, the more I feel I need to do!) Humans, I think, have a tendency to assume that other creatures are like themselves unless they prove otherwise. The study of many of the animals I will discuss has been filled with misunderstanding and inaccurate information, partly from a lack of technology for many years (the ability to study DNA has exponentially increased our understanding in just the past few years, which I am very grateful for) and partly due to restrictive ideas of what “male” and “female” entail, and a lack of recognition for sexes outside that binary. This article seeks to remedy that, honour these life forms for their differences instead of glossing them over and help others find ways to incorporate them into their practice.

Before I go on…

I’d like to give a small disclaimer: This article is by no means exhaustive, and though I’ve tried to include as many perspectives as I could, I’m almost certain that there’s something I’ve missed. Also, keep in mind that some parts of this article are written from the perspective of lesbian sexuality and non-binary gender, because that is where my personal experience lies. If you think I’ve missed something important, or if your gender and sexuality give you a completely different perspective, I would love to hear about it! Continue reading


God, Goddess, and Other: Fertility faiths and queer identities

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Monticello Gardens and Pavilion, photo by Mr Tin DCI was Wiccan for several years. It was my first exposure to Paganism, as it is for many people. I enjoyed feeling connected with nature, I was happy to find a faith that didn’t shame me for having a vagina, and of course, like most geeky 11-year-old girls would, I relished the feeling of empowerment that knowledge of magick brought.

It wasn’t long before something in me I couldn’t quite identify began to butt heads with what I was reading and practicing. There are many aspects of the Horned God I felt (and still feel) a connection to, such as his associations with wild nature, magick, and the death and rebirth cycle, but I felt discouraged from exploring these ideas because they were deemed “masculine.” Instead, I tried to explore the mysteries of the Goddess as I felt I was “supposed” to. Despite being young, I felt unable to relate to the Maiden, and I felt stifled by the seeming inevitability of becoming a Mother, then a Crone — neither of which particularly appealed to me. It was also around this time that I began to realize I was gay, which only served to intensify my feelings of alienation. How could a spiritually necessary “union of opposites” occur when I didn’t even find my so-called “opposite” attractive? Continue reading


How to build an ancestor altar

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Candle, photo by ZeHawkI stood before my unused sewing table, where I was to build my first ancestor altar. I thought of what I might put there: a photo of my birth parents, certainly, and two metal Peruvian figurines, a man and a woman, to honour my karmic roots to Peru. What else held meaning for my ancestors; what might make them feel at home? For my birth parents, two treasured old compasses that belonged to my father and a favourite hamsa necklace of my mother’s. For the Peruvian folk, an offering of corn meal and tobacco, and palo santo, a Peruvian wood incense. To symbolize the ancestral wisdom I wanted to access, two small plastic skulls; and to honour my shamanic path, pieces of wood from a tree struck by lightning on the property of one of my shaman-sisters (being struck by lightning three times is believed to be a call to that path).

In shamanism you learn fairly quickly about the constant presence and influence of the ancestors, their legacies — both gifts and wounds — and why it behoves you to pay your respects and enlist their help. Yet no matter what path you’re on, a relationship with your ancestors can benefit you. Continue reading


How to plan a pilgrimage

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Hiking, photo by True New Zealand Adventure

 

A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred site. It can demonstrate the depth of your devotion, be it to your deity, your community or to yourself and your practice. It is a key feature in many religions, such as Islam, which mandates that everyone of able body conduct a pilgrimage to Mecca.

In this technological age, there are few places that cannot be reached in relative ease and comfort. For a pilgrimage, however, the journey is as important as the destination. Continue reading


Mysticism: Nature or Nurture?

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Subaquabus, by Kennington Fox“No spiritual development begins without that person having a mystical experience,” claimed my friend Hans in recent conversation. We had been discussing mysticism and he made a few points that made me pause. He continued, “Mystical experience connects a person to the higher states of being. Without this, no one make any serious progress on the spiritual path.” I thought this was a rather provocative statement and asked him to clarify. He said that only once someone has tasted the ultimate can they really begin to direct themselves and their actions towards it. Until then it is like trying to create a trail with no guide or point of reference in sight.

I must admit I was taken aback by such a frank assertion, one he was quite adamant was universal. Additionally, I take seriously Aleister Crowley’s warning about the ways mysticism can delude a person and have thus always been suspicious of it. I pointed out how Crowley noted that mysticism was all subjective and lacked any kind of objectivity. Hans countered that this is wrong and that all true mysticism connects to a universal higher reality to which all humans share access. Humans, he claimed, were “wired” for these mystical states. He then pointed to all the great religions and mystics and said they all went up different paths to the same mountain peak.

I asked then, why did each of these mystics have such different responses to the same experience. Why did Jesus appear as the sole son of God after his time in the desert while the Buddha, Mohammed, Theresa Avilla, and so many others had different responses? Continue reading


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