Sunday, April 25, 2010

Film: The Maid - Three Perspectives

I recently saw the film The Maid (made in Chile, in Spanish with English sub-titles) at Film-O-Rama, sponsored by the New Orleans Film Society and the Prytania Theater. The Maid is excellently acted and well worth seeing. It also beautifully illustrates the principle that different people can enter the very same situation and experience it very differently.

The Maid takes place in the home of the Valdes family. They are six: mother, father, and four children - the eldest two being teenagers. The Valdes family has a live-in maid, Raquel, who has been with the family for twenty years and is now in her early forties. Raquel has a well-established position within the household, and the Valdes family is certainly well-intentioned toward her. Nonetheless, Raquel has become burnt-out, increasingly grumpy, and subject to headaches.

Senora Valdes, seeing this, decides to hire a secondary maid to help Raquel. Upon hearing that a secondary maid will be arriving, Raquel feels insulted. She determines to drive away any secondary maid by making that maid's life difficult.

A succession of three secondary maids come to work with Raquel. In each case, Raquel does her best to make the secondary maid feel unwelcome. When the secondary maid speaks to Raquel, Raquel remains silent or answers questions in monosyllables. When the secondary maid goes outdoors to tend to something in the yard, Raquel locks her out of the house. When the secondary maid uses the bathroom, Raquel immediately disinfects it. Each of the three secondary maids encounters this same behavior from Raquel.

  • MERCEDES. The first secondary maid, a young girl named Mercedes, responds in this way: RAQUEL IS MEAN AND POWERFUL. I WILL FEAR HER. Mercedes eventually quits.
  • SONIA. The second secondary maid, a middle-aged amazon of a woman named Sonia, responds in this way: RAQUEL IS MEAN AND THINKS SHE IS POWERFUL. I WILL FIGHT HER. Sonia, too, eventually leaves.
  • LUCY. The third secondary maid, Lucy, responds in this way: RAQUEL IS HURTING AND VULNERABLE. I WILL LOVE HER. Lucy's love, by the way, is playful and humorous. Lucy disarms Raquel with her quirky sense of humor.

Lucy's love transforms Raquel.

This is not the only message of the film. The Maid also explores the Latin American system of servitude in which a woman gives her whole life in service to a family. Despite a family's best intentions toward their maid, the maid will never enjoy the privilege of membership in the family or in the higher social class to which the family belongs. She will always be the servant, the maid.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Druidry: The Energy Body

Druids work with energy, starting with one's own energy body, that is to say, the field of energy that surrounds one's physical body.

You can learn to feel your body energy by rubbing your palms together briskly, then holding your hands, palms facing, just a few inches apart. You will feel a tangible energy field between your palms. You can continue to feel this energy as you move your hands farther and farther apart. Having practiced this, I can now feel the energy field no matter how far apart I place my hands, even without the initial brisk rubbing of palms.

You can also become aware of your full energy body by focusing on each part of the body in turn, starting with the feet and moving the energy, bit by bit, up to the head. With practice, once the energy moves from feet to head, you can enjoy the feeling of your whole body pulsing with energy. The sensation is a spacious one, as though your body extends outward into an energy field, or as though you are composed not only of your ordinary body but also of an energy body surrounding it.

The idea in Druidry is that this energy body is very real. Working with the energy body simply by becoming aware of it and experiencing it in this way is healing. It is also a good way to open and develop the chakra energy centers at a natural pace.

Druidry: The Myth of Taliesin

The story of Taliesin seems to be the main myth that one works with in the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. It is well to keep in mind that a myth is a story that may not have happened in the way things ordinarily happen in space and time, but it is nonetheless true.

Here is an outline of the Myth of Taliesin.

  • The Goddess Ceridwen, who lived by Lake Bala, had two children - a lovely daughter named Crerwy and a misshapen son named Afagddu.
  • Ceridwen determined that, if her son, Afagddu, could not be handsome, at least he would have the gift of inspiration.
  • Ceridwen traveled to the wise Pheryllt in the mountain city of Dinas Affaraon to obtain a spell that would insure the gift of inspiration for Afaggdu.
  • Upon returning home, Ceridwen gathered the ingredients for the spell and found the young boy Gwion Bach and the old man Morda to tend the cauldron in which the spell ingredients were to brew for a year and a day, cautioning Gwion and Morda never to taste of the brew, for the first one to taste it would receive the gift of inspiration - and this was reserved for Afagddu.
  • Just before the hour when Adagddu was to taste of the brew, the cauldron began to boil over, and three drops of the brew fell on young Gwion's thumb, scalding it, so that Gwion quickly put his burned thumb in his mouth - thus becoming the first to taste the brew that should have gone to Afagddu.
  • Ceridwen, enraged, chased after Gwion, and both went through a series of shape-shifts: Gwion became a hare, Ceridwen a hound, Gwion a salmon, Ceridwen an otter, Gwion a bird, Ceridwen a hawk, Gwion a grain of wheat in a huge wheat pile, Ceridwen a hen who picked out and swallowed that very grain.
  • Gwion grew within the womb of the Goddess Ceridwen and was eventually born to the Goddess, who placed the baby Gwion in a leather bag and cast it into the sea.
  • The wood-dweller Elfin found the leather bag and the child inside, and took the child - renamed Taliesin - home to raise with his wife.
  • At age thirteen, Taliesin saved his foster father, Elfin, from the prison of King Maelgwn by out-performing all the Bards in King Maelgwn's court.
  • Taliesin became known as the finest and wisest Bard of all.

This myth is an oral tale, passed down verbally for centuries, before finally being written. As with any piece of oral literature, the Myth of Taliesin comes in various versions. Each teller of the myth told and embellished the tale in his or her own way. In oral literature, there is never "the one true original version." I like this. I can become a teller of this myth myself and make it my own - as can anyone.

Druidry: The Home Blessing

It is a beautiful thing to bless one's home. It is good to bless your home upon moving in and then perhaps once a year. These are some benefits of a home blessing.

  • It encourages you to think of your home as a sacred place.
  • It reminds you that God is present in your home.
  • It reminds you that the activities that go on in each room of your home are sacred.
  • It reminds you to be grateful for your home.
  • It reminds you to share your home with others through hospitality.
  • It can unite family and friends in celebration.
  • It helps you to feel at home in your home.

It seems that Christians could benefit from a home blessing as well as Druids. It would be wonderful if this were offered regularly to people moving into new homes.

Druidry: The Grove

Trees are very important to Druids - all trees and especially the oak. Druids love trees. Here are some neat things I know about trees.

  • Trees purify the air.
  • Trees give us shade.
  • Trees provide a home for birds and squirrels.
  • Trees let us climb them.
  • Trees are simply beautiful.
  • Trees can be incredibly old.
  • Trees are alive and full of energy. If you sit with your back against the trunk of a tree, you can feel the energy of the tree.
  • Trees heal.

Druids love to be outdoors and to hold rituals in groves. They encourage the planting of trees. Druidry is full of tree lore, but I don't know much tree lore myself.

Besides spending time with actual trees, Druids also encourage the creation of one's own inner sacred grove. This is a grove built in one's imagination, to which one can retreat at any time. The inner sacred grove of the imagination is a real grove. It's not physical, but it is real.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Druidry: An Introduction

I became interested in Druidry several years ago and have found it to be a wonderful complement to Christianity. The Druidry materials I have worked with come from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. This is their website:

Druidry as taught by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) can be practiced as one's sole or primary spiritual path, or it can be combined with another spiritual path or belief system, such as Christianity or Buddhism.

Below I will discuss what I find beneficial in Druidry, based on OBOD's introductory materials. All of these points are compatible with, and some even parallel, Christian teachings.

RE-CONNECTING. Druidry is a way of re-establishing lost connections in three areas. In each area, we first re-establish a connection, then we spend time inter-relating, and finally we enter and enjoy a deeper communion.

  • With Nature. Druidry focuses on the rhythms of the seasons, on spending time outdoors, on the four directions, on knowledge and love of animals and plants, especially trees. The preferred place for a Druid ritual is a grove. This is an important antidote to the personal tendency to spend time in sedentary indoor pursuits at work and at home (certainly true of me) and to the wider tendency to pollute our world to the extent where it may well become unlivable.
  • With the Divine Source. Druidry honors the Divine Source - God - and offers rituals and practices that make God's presence real for us. I would say that Druidry does not ask us to believe in God but to experience God. For me, this experience is not spectacular but very quiet and subtle. Druidry also leaves open how we envision God. Most Druid rituals honor God as both male and female, though an individual Druid is welcome to honor God as exclusively male, as exclusively female, as a being who is neither, as multiple deities, or as an impersonal force. For me, envisioning God as female as well as male is extremely important.
  • With one's own Soul. I very much resonate to the concept of a Superficial Self who can be blown about by external events and inner emotions and of a Deep Self, or Soul, who carries my wisdom and who simply is. At any given moment, I can act from my Superficial Self or from my Deep Self. But I can only act from my Deep Self if I am connected with my Soul. Druidry offers ways to make and strengthen that connection and strongly emphasizes personal responsibility for choices.

SEVEN GIFTS. Druidry offers seven gifts.

  • Philosophy. Druidry is a philosophy that sees our world as sacred and all reality as one. The spiritual and the physical are not separate, but form one whole. Our physical bodies are sacred, as is life in all its forms. (Druids leave it up to the individual whether or not to eat meat, though a Druid would oppose the inhumane practices of factory-farms. Most Druids also would not hesitate to swat a mosquito.)
  • Nature. Druid rituals and celebrations revolve around the cycles of Nature and are most often held outdoors.
  • Healing. Druidry emphasizes healthy living practices, which lead to healing. I have recently changed my eating habits to center around lots of fruits and vegetables, along with some whole grains and such proteins as lean meat, fish, lowfat cheese, lowfat yogurt, and nuts - and I certainly feel much better.
  • Life Journey. Oh, I find this so important. Druidry offers rituals to celebrate important life passages, even the ones our society often ignores, such as entrance into puberty.
  • Other Realities. Other realities are other ways of seeing, beyond our ordinary everyday mentality. Our ordinary everyday reality and these other realities actually form one overall reality, but since we don't usually function in these other ways, they seem to us to be other realities. Druidry honors these other ways of seeing as well as our ordinary everyday way. A simple example from another reality is auras. Most of us don't see people's auras, but some individuals do see them. I myself don't see auras, but I have a few friends who do.
  • Creativity. Druidry celebrates the arts and encourages creativity in all areas of life and work.
  • Magic. I am not yet sure what this means within Druidry, as I haven't seen anything specifically about magic in the materials I've read thus far. I do know that magic is often misunderstood by people of mainstream religious faiths. As I understand it, magic is directing natural but little understood energies to manifest a desired result. I think that people can tap into those energies unawares when they desire something deeply, turn their own energy whole-heartedly toward fulfilling that desire, and find that circumstance after circumstance starts lining up in their life in fulfillment of what they desire. Those who practice magic have developed very conscious and specific ways to do this.

I will also mention that OBOD recognizes three grades: Bard, Ovate, and Druid. Traditionally, Bards are singers and poets, Ovates are healers and prophets, and Druids are philosophers and teachers. The OBOD materials I have worked with are for the Bardic Grade, where the focus is on self-knowledge, personal growth, and creativity.