The Banishing Dance

This was inspired by the last time I ran through my negativity banishing musical meditation. 

CONTENT WARNINGS: nsfw text, sex mention, sex
magick, sacred sexuality

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The
Banishing Dance

by

Rev.
Constance Antinoë Magdalene
McEntee

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It
had been a long time since I went clubbing or dancing. Depression and
a flexible mobility disability will do that to you. I decided to use
my cane instead of my wheelchair and if dancing with the cane was too
hard on my body I’d use the wheelchair next time.

I
was mostly people watching and grooving, sitting at the bar so I
wouldn’t have to walk far when I got thirsty. And I was being very
careful with what I was drinking. lack of strength in one’s legs
and drunkenness do not mix. The music was a good mix of stuff from my
youth, newer stuff, and older stuff. Most was uptempo, but
there were always those who would slow-dance to just about anything,
like those two middle-aged gay men slow dancing to There is a
Light that Never Goes Out
. Oh, God, they were adorable! Singing
to each other, swaying back-and-forth in each other’s arms. I
couldn’t help but smile even as I wished for somebody to dance
with. If a partner was able to steady me, I could slow-dance without
my cane.

“Can
I buy you a drink?” this ageless man said. He
hadn’t taken a seat and wasn’t leaning on the bar next to me.

“That’s
an old, direct line,” I said, “But your distance suggests you’re
either a pickup artist or you’re genuinely respecting the
possibility of a rejection.”

“If
this where I’m supposed to say something smooth, I’m gonna fail,”
the guy said, and I still couldn’t decide if his charm was real. “I
think you’re beautiful, you’re grooving in your seat and look
like you’d like to dance. But the pink cane makes me think
you’re not feeling up to dancing.”

If
it wasn’t for the fact that I was people watching in a nightclub
with said cane, it would almost be
stalkerish of this guy. But at the same time, he was spot-on.

“Kahlua
and cream,” I replied smiling. “I’m Dana.”

Gently
shaking my hand, he introduced himself. “Mel. My I sit here?”

“You’re
buying me a drink.”

“Yes,
but that doesn’t ‘buy,’ for lack of a better word, the right
for me to sit next to you.”

Please
don’t be a woke misogynist
, I
thought to myself.

“I
would be delighted to share your company,” I replied as if I was in
period, penny dreadful novel.

Mel
was an easy and awkward conversationalist. I was really starting to
think he was genuine, and not a creep at all. It was always so hard
to tell, if I were to go by the stories of others. I really hadn’t
had all that much experience with men. Well, not dating experience
with them. It could be argued I grew up as one of them before my
transition, though I’d describe it differently. My experiences
dating men, albeit limited so far, had been mostly positive. A lot of
what I heard from other women, trans and cis alike, was a mixed bag.
Since it seemed bad experiences were common, it made me wary. And, of
course, that bothered me as women like me were called “traps.” It
felt odd to judge an entire group of people in much the same way the
group I was a part of was judged.

Yeah,
all that ran through my mind while we talked at the bar, song after
song thundering around us. Mel didn’t seem to be trying to open my
legs with alcohol, and when I requested a glass of water instead of
another mixed drink, he didn’t try to talk me into more booze.

He
must have noticed the way I perked up when All Night Long
by Peter Murphy started playing because he asked, “Would you like
to dance.”

“I’d
love to,” I replied. “But I don’t know if I can.”

“We
can slow-dance, if you like.”

“Okay.”

He
stood first, offering his hands to me. As soon as I touched them, it
was as if the pain in my hip and knee were suddenly gone. Looking
into his eyes, I swear I saw blue flames.

“You!”

“Good
evening, priest. Shall we dance?”

“My
king,” I said, smiling up at the Blue God.

“My
lady,” he replied. My hand in his, Mel led me to the dance floor.
And in his arms, we danced. “We don’t need to be touching for you
to be pain-free. But I understand how the minds of mortals can work.
I know there are those who wouldn’t judge you for slow-dancing.
They’d simply assume I was helping support your weight. But if it
looked like I wasn’t holding you up, they’d accuse you of faking
with your cane.”

“I
don’t mind you holding me,” I breathed.

“So
mote it be,” he smiled.

I
was dancing! Yes, it was because the Blue God was here, but I was dancing! It was a lovely
thing. I hadn’t been planning on staying until the club closed at
two, but that’s exactly what ended up happening. The Blue God had a
hotel room nearby, and he had asked if I would like to spend the
night with him.

This
was the Blue God. The Peacock King. He would top me in all ways if I
didn’t top him back or set clear boundaries. Relationships with
supernatural beings could be tricky.

“I
will spend this night with you,” I said, both accepting his offer
and clearly setting a boundary at the same time.

I’d
never had sex with a god, or a goddess, before. And here in the real
world I was still pre-op. But in the bed of the Blue God, my body took
whatever form I desired at the moment. How much time between arriving at his room and sunrise did we spend making love and having sex? Was it really
the whole time? I didn’t remember taking any time to sleep, and yet
I felt like I’d been dozing on his shoulder for at least a little
while before sunlight began pouring through the window.

“Good
morning, priest.” He kissed me again, and then I did indeed fall
asleep.

When
I next awoke, I was in my own bed in my own modest apartment, and
only shortly after sunrise. My body was as it was originally, but I
was still in what was unmistakably the afterglow. And it was one hell
of an afterglow.

Though
I woke alone and in the mundane world, for a time my negativity and
physical pain had been banished. I guess I should go dancing more
often.

Sermon: Exile, Adversity, and Reconciliation

image

There
is a painting called Mary Consoles Eve by Sr. Grace Remington of the
Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance
. It has a golden-yellow
background, and foliage of what looks like pear or quince branches from both
bottom corners up to form an arch above the two women, who are both shown in
profile. Eve is on the left, nude but with extremely long hair draped about her
body, holding what looks like an apple to her breast with her right hand. Her
left hand is outstretched to touch Mary’s very pregnant belly, and Eve’s gaze
is fixed on this belly. A serpent coils around Eve’s left calf and right ankle,
which is positioned ahead of her left.

Mary,
dressed in a white robe and blue veil, stretches out her right hand to touch
the side of Eve’s face, looking directly at the other woman. Mary’s left hand
grasps Eve’s right on her belly. The serpent’s head is upside-down, under
Mary’s left foot. While the look on Eve’s sorrowful face seems to say, “I’m so
sorry I put you in this situation,” the calm look on Mary’s face seems to say,
“Don’t worry: it will be alright in the end.”

The
reading from Genesis today details what happened after Eve shared the forbidden
fruit with Adam, fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Life and Death. Adam
blamed Eve, who in turn blamed the serpent: Satan. All three of them are face
consequences for their actions (Carr, 2010, pp 15-16). In Psalm 130, God is
addressed as if far away, as if to lament the distance created as a result of
two disobedient mortals, one possessed snake, and the sins of the psalmist
themself (Clifford, 2010, p. 880). And then we come to Paul and Second
Corinthians. Now I’ll admit it: I struggle with Paul. A lot of his writings
just rub me the wrong way. Here, he says that enduring suffering and adversity
brings us closer to God (Wan, 2010, p. 2030). Finally we have Mark, who tells
that overcoming adversity brings us new life. I would add to that, it brings us
to a new lifestyle as well, as we live in the New Community born of
Christ’s guidance (Horsley, 2010, pp. 1797-99).

During
my short time at seminary, I quickly earned the reputation for being an
adversarial theologian. But almost more importantly, I’m a practical
theologian. I look at these readings and wonder how they can be applied to our
lives in these current times. The themes seem to be exile, suffering adversity,
and reconciliation.

So,
when have we been exiled? When have we exiled others? What might be some
examples?

  • Cissexism (transphobia) and heterosexism (homophobia, lesbiphobia, biphobia, queerphobia, and the like)
  • Racism and colonization
  • Misogyny and ageism
  • Classism and ableism

These
things are all ways in which we have been exiled and have even exiled others.
These aren’t necessarily done against us as punishment for some transgressions,
though.

That
said, we’ve certainly heard that we often make our own exiles worse through the
things we do and say. I’ve been told by living openly as a transgender person,
as a person who is queer, as a person whose religious practice—I’m a
Christo-Pagan—is less than pure, that I make my own exile possible, even
aggravating it by not changing who and what I am. If we respond to our
oppressors with any tone of voice than what the Pagans call “perfect love and
perfect trust,” we’re told we make our exiles worse. We here things like, “So
much for the tolerant left.”

We’re
told that suffering builds character. My personal joke in response to this bit
of problemetic theology is, “Well, I’ve gotten this far in life without
character. Why would I need it now?” Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I
learned that suffering was the way to joy. That might not have been exactly
what they were teaching, but it’s what I learned. The more suffering we
endured, the more God was with us. This was said to be true because we were supposed
to pray when we faced adversity. This praying, this asking for help would bring
us closer to God. Or, so the theory goes.

But
as I said, I’m a practical theologian. What does this mean? I know we’re not
supposed to answer a question with a question, but an answer might be: “When
might we ask for help among those around us?” We are the Body of Christ here on
Earth. When we turn for help to those around us we encounter Christ in them,
and when others turn to us for help they encounter Christ in us.

There
might be times when we feel that we’ve cut ourselves off from God. The psalmist
reminds us that God’s love is steadfast. Paul reminds us there is help in
Christ. We are the Body of Christ on Earth, and Christ is part of the godhead.
Let’s call out to each other in our times of exile, and answer the cries for
help from others in their exiles. Doing so is practical theology. To paraphrase
the prophets Lennon and McCartney, “[We] get by with a little help from [our]
friends.”

And
I think back to the painting Mary Consoles Eve. It’s a work of art that
ties today’s readings together. Eve seems guilt-ridden for having been
instrumental in what many Christians call the Fall. She hasn’t necessarily
asked for Mary’s comfort, but she’s getting it anyway. And Mary, answering the
call to be the mother of Jesus, is instrumental in defeating Satan and undoing
the Fall. Between these two women and from these two women, we experience the
help and power and community that is the Body of Christ, both in the receiving
and the giving. Eve attempts to offer some measure of comfort to Mary with her
apologetic gesture, and Mary offers consolation to Eve in return. Both women
know they will suffer because of the Fall, and they reach out to each other
knowing that the New Community will be born of them, too. This is practical
theology.

Amen,
and blessed be!

______________

Sources:

Carr,
David M. “Genesis.” In The New Oxford
Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with Apocrypha
, edited by
Michael D. Coogan, pp. 7-80. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Clifford,
Richard J. “Psalms.” In The New Oxford
Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with Apocrypha
, edited by
Michael D. Coogan, pp. 773-894. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Horsley,
Richard A. “The Gospel According to Mark.” In The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Edition with
Apocrypha
, edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 1791-1825. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2010.

Wan,
Sze-kar. “The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.” In The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised
Standard Edition with Apocrypha
, edited by Michael D. Coogan, pp. 2025-39.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

The Vine: The Paraclete and The Tetrad++

[image courtesy revjohnkc.blogspot.com]

Friday, 25 May 2018

I’m really getting a lot out of The Vine at Grace Cathedral. These Wednesday evening Masses seem to use the lectionary for the Sunday preceding. So the Gospel reading used for 23 May 2018 was the selection from John about the Advocate, which is the common translation of the Paraclete.

I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the woman who preached that evening, so I can’t name her here. I ask permission before naming folks in my blog posts anyway, and I just wasn’t thinking that far ahead when I was talking with her after the Mass. But, she had offered various definitions for Paraclete, saying that the closest English translation would probably be, “the one called to our side.” This really spoke to me.

Her sermon illustration revolved around a women’s jail ministry she’s a part of. She talked of how the women in Pod D of the San Francisco jail reacted to the idea that the Holy Spirit is usually represented by a divine feminine energy. The women were amazed and uplifted by the idea of their bodies being seen as godly, as the Paraclete could be seen as a sort of spiritual doula or midwife.

I found this odd. I’m transgender: designated male at birth and raised as a boy even though I always felt something was not quite right about this. But never in my Christian life, as a Roman Catholic child or as a Protestant adult, had I ever thought of my gendered body as being reflected in divine imagery. The idea that God made wo/man in his God’s image never really “clicked” for me regarding gendered anatomy. Apparently this is not necessarily the case for others, as evidenced by the story of these women reacting to the idea that their bodies were images of God.

The first time I ever thought that my gendered body could somehow be reflected in divinity was when I attended a ritual at PantheaCon 2013, a ritual devoted to The Tetrad. The Tetrad was a four-being deity group in which all four beings are transgender in one way or another. That group is now known as The Tetrad++ as the priest who divined them divined two more beings. Of the six beings in the Tetrad++ (Panpsyche All-soul, Panhyle All-body, Paneros All-love, Pancrates All-power, Paneris All-strife, and Panprosdexia All-acceptance) transcend gender in very specific ways. So while I can certainly understand being taken in by the idea of my gendered body being holy, I really don’t experience that in Christianity. The closests might be in “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven,” but even then that’s not so much divine as it it pledging one’s body to the divine, to me.

But, this is just one of the reasons I’m a Christo-Pagan. My soul is fed in different ways by my different faith traditions. It’s not that The Vine this past Wednesday didn’t feed me, it’s just that part of the sermon didn’t quite work. And that’s okay. We come to worship, take what we need (which isn’t necessarily the same as what we want) and leave the rest.

Amen, and Blessed Be!

Memorial Day 2.0

Normally, I try to avoid going to church around the times of national holidays such as Memorial Day. Those days can come too close to blurring the line between church and state, if not crossing that line outright.

But this year, I’m all for it.

This Memorial Day, let us lift up and remember all victims of mass shootings, particularly the nation’s schoolchildren who think of these things in terms of Not If But When. And while we’re at it, let’s up lift up the survivors of mass shootings on Veterans Day.

It’s only May, and so far more children have died at school in this country than US military personnel in actual combat zones (Snopes, Politifact).

I’ve been told that we should keep Memorial Day and Veterans Day worship services for military personnel only as, “We have the other 50 Sundays of the year to memorialize civilian victims.” Only, we don’t. There isn’t a national day of mourning or atonement for these victims. And, here in this very country, we have civilians dying in greater numbers than our military personnel.

When people join the military, they do so knowing that they will be in danger. They choose to put themselves in harm’s way for the love of their country. But, we have people in this country who are dying without choosing to accept this risk. Whether it’s children in schools or unarmed persons of color confronted by police, this country is a huge war zone. And this war zone’s dead and survivors should be recognized as such.