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I’ve Been Thinking: Healing and the Feminine Semidivine

18 Nov

Been thinking a lot about Christmas today.

(I will warn you that this post is suuuuper wobbly, and the title is the most coherent part of it).

I always loved Christmas. It was my favorite holiday, aside from my birthday, for most of my life. The last sixish years it’s been wrapped up in a lot of really terrible feelings of sorrow, regret, exhaustion, severe anxiety. It has brought meltdowns, breakdowns, vaguely suicidal tendencies, and crippling depression, but I still cling to the idea that I love it. I hate the cold and the dark, so I’m super into a celebration of light. I hated school when I was in it, so hey! Vacation. I love giving and getting presents.

Mostly, I love Christmas music. Like, a lot. A lot. 

I was a choir nerd, a band geek, a theatre jerk, and a preacher’s kid, so for me Christmas music usually started in September, and I was lucky enough to be exposed to some really astonishing seasonal music. Shit you don’t hear on the radio. Deep cuts, if you will. I still love Christmas music–I make a lot of money every year as a professional Christmas caroler. I just released a Christmas CD, which I recorded in June. When I’m very, very stressed out, I find that 16th century sacred choral music will help me calm down a bit. Today I started building a couple of Christmas playlists, and as is probably to be expected, I ran into Mary Did You Know, aka “Mansplaining Christmas: The Musical.”

TO BE CLEAR: Mary was aware, this song is theological garbage and downplays her bravery and intelligence in the interest of glorifying “innocence,” but I’m not here to bitch about it.

Despite it being crap, it’s been stuck in my head all day (with the exception of the four hours I spent listening to different versions of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence). Fortunately it’s not the only Christmas song about a woman. Most Christmas music about a woman–granted, it’s about a woman giving birth, which I was never interested in, but Christmas is ultimately Mary’s story. Joseph is totes a good dude, and there’s a lot more room to talk about him, and Jesus obviously has a featured role, but the heavy lifting goes to Mary (and Elizabeth, to a lesser extent). And as it gets dark outside and my uterus continues its cycle of bloody revolution, I find myself thinking about what kind of person would be able to handle being Mariam without losing her ever-loving mind.

Joan of Arc was my favorite saint growing up. I wrote several reports on her. I had several of her medallions. I didn’t grow up Catholic, so why did I have a favorite saint at all? More to the point, why was my favorite saint one who didn’t live to see her 20s because she was burned at the stake? I don’t know. I’m into dramatic epics and always wanted to believe my life has a big, grand purpose, and I admire bravery. As I lay here almost paralyzed by fear and indecision, I cannot imagine what sort of person would be capable of being Jehanne.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those two ladies today. The focus on their virginity never sat well with me (I get that a spontaneous virgin birth is miracle, but the centuries of veneration has very little to do with miracles and everything to do with purity culture, and TO BE CLEAR that’s bullshit), but otherwise they always struck me as pretty great. “I know what I’m here to do, I’m going to do that thing with aplomb, and none of you will stop me. This is who I am. I’m good enough for The Big Guy, it can be good enough for the rest of you bastards.”

I admire people who know what they’re meant to be doing. I used to know, or think I did. The last time I had to make a decision (what to get in my burrito), I panicked for almost a full minute.

Anyway, today I’ve been thinking a lot about them.

I kind of fell apart when my grandmother was dying, and I haven’t been back to church in years. The last time I was in church I wept so hard I almost hurt myself. I grew up in church: singing, ringing, reading, teaching, eating, wasting time in my mom’s office, stealing communion wafers, skipping youth group to write fanfiction in the bathroom with my bestie. We were there twice a week, every week. I read the book twice (including all the begats), I did my research. I put a lot of time and thought into what I believe. I still believe, but believing hurts. I’m not worried–I was for a while, but then someone reminded me that God is big enough to comprehend even the most incomprehensible anger/grief/fear/pain, even the pain I can’t comprehend myself, and will still be there. It hurts less. But it still hurts.

I’ve been thinking a lot about incomprehensible grief, and courage, and being loved. I’ve been thinking about the aspects of feminine divinity that are missing from too much of mainstream Christianity, prompting generations of worshippers, desperate to see ourselves reflected in our God, to shift a little divinity to a thousand female saints.

While I wait to think about God some more, I’m thinking about these two women. Girls. Lady-persons. I’m just thinking about femaleness as strength, of femininity as expressed in two totally different but equally valid ways. I fought for years against the idea of God as solely male, because 1) I want to see myself truly reflected in the God I believe created me in Its image, and 2) it’s theologically questionable, and 3) sometimes I need a father, and sometimes I need a mother. And a crazy bachelor aunt.

Sometimes I need a couple of ladies who take no shit and give no fucks and walk confidently into the future. So as I get ready for Christmas, whatever Christmas means to me this year, I’m thinking about them.

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Gifts for the Ren Faire Participant In Your Life

4 Dec

It’s almost Christmas! You’d never know from the weather ’round here, since it’s like 75 outside, but I just looked at the calendar and it! is! almost! CHRISTMAS!

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Christmas is my favorite holiday. This is true for many reasons, among them Jesus, carols, wassail, Spree-flavored candy canes, and cheap-ass holiday cookies. But food isn’t the only thing I love about Christmas! I also like gifts!

Gifts are awesome. I know that; you know that. So let’s talk about gifts for the ren faire participant in your life, since I know all of you have at least one faire performer in your life.

Which is to say, me.

Ahem.

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May all your Christmasses be glittery

25 Dec

When I was in middle school and high school, we went to a church that put on an outdoor Live Nativity pageant every year. It was a big damn deal. Probably a third of the church members were involved, whether performing or making costumes or narrating or wrangling the five dozen kids and sheep and donkeys. The costumes, props, and set pieces took up the entire attic of the enormous Victorian house that was the parsonage once upon a time. The pageant ran two or three days, multiple shows of about an hour and a half, and afterwards there was an enormous party at the TGI Fridays one of the members owned. For a kid who loved theatre, Christmas, and TGI Fridays, it was the single most awesome way to get into the Christmas Spirit.

It also involved an ass-ton of glitter, which is why I liked it.

I spent the vast majority of my years in the Live Nativity as an angel in the Heavenly Host that announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flocks by night. The angel group, mostly made up of little girls, was led/choreographed/rehearsed/wrangled by the Head Angel, widely considered (by me, which is the only opinion I am concerned with) to be the Archangel Gabriel. It was also one of the choicest of all the roles for teenage girls, right up there with Mary and a dancing girl in Herod’s court. As Mary was usually played, for reasons unknown, by a much tinier girl than me (I’m 6′ tall and broad of both chest and shoulder), and did not get to wear any glitter at all, and the dancing girls also wore no glitter, and also were only in one brief scene, I felt my choice to stick it out until I got to be the Head Angel was the correct one.

Not only did the Head Angel get to be the star of the announcement scene, which was easily the most spectacular bit of the entire spectacular extravaganza, but she also got to stand on top of the stable (or behind the baby Jesus if she so wished, but I usually sent the little angels down to do that because it was just so fucking precious) for the entire end, looking fantastically pretty and covered head-to-toe in sparkles while the narrator joyfully intoned from Isaiah over the loudspeakers and everyone gazed reverently at Baby Jesus, by which I mean they gazed reverently at the Head Angel, because for fuck’s sake, how could they not? Her costume was made of lamé and tinsel, and had elastic fucking sequin trim. And the glitter. I must have used a pound of that shit at every performance.

I tell this story for two reasons. One, it’s Christmas Day, the gifts are all opened, the kitties are asleep, and I’ve got nothing to do but watch Die Hard and try to decide if I have the energy to get up for more cookies. Second, I want to provide some context for what you’re about to see.

The Radically Tacky Christmas Wreath of Comfort and JoyTM is a work in progress. I’ve had it for a couple of years now. It was pretty horrible to begin with, a red and green concoction of cheap shiny plastic that I got at God knows where, but then I started adding shit to it. Gold tinsel. Plastic icicles. A hideous and slightly stinky faux-velvet ribbon. And this year, candy-cane colored straws and a sleigh-shaped ornament, because that’s what I had to hand. Next year I’m thinking googly eyes and a nativity scene made of Legos.

So in the spirit of Christmas, which for me will always mean as much tacky, sparkly, glittery shit as I can squeeze into my house and onto my person, I present this creation, which may be the masterpiece I spend most of my life perfecting, a la The Lord of the Rings or Once Upon a Time In America or perhaps even Monet’s Water Lilies.

I hope your day is full of sparkles and joy.

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