Weaving A Life

 Weaving hands and earth in ritual on Ohlone land. From the film: Release from Identity Control by Rebekah Erev & Wu Li Leung

Weaving hands and earth in ritual on Ohlone land. From the film: Release from Identity Control by Rebekah Erev & Wu Li Leung

As Spring is teasing us at the beginning of March, we’re listening to plants, the wind, and flowers, to receive sweet messages. In the same way, we can also listen to our bodies for information. Our bodies are made up of the same literal substance as everything else we see in the natural world. We are all a part of this miraculous web.

Literally. When we get down to the atomic level, everything is made of the same stuff. It’s an illusion that we are separate. Our ancestors knew this. I think the concept of god was developed by humans because we were just so damn amazed at the presence we were experiencing. Because we were gifted a mind, aware of our experience, we needed to conceptualize what we were experiencing. Thus, god.

But the concept I think our ancestors were trying to explain was much more vast than common conceptions. It was more like an experience of being a part of an intricate woven system, where we were both the weavers and being woven. When we can experience this connection, of co-weaving, we can build on a foundation that was gifted to us when we were born.

Weaving a life is embracing our unique abilities and offerings. When we understand physically how we are both completely unique and completely the same, it’s liberating.

I basically see our similarity coming down to one simple concept: pain.

Pain, the most motivating feeling on the planet.

Pain motivates us to change. Change is the essence of life. In the weaving of our life, if love is the weft, pain is the warp.

We work for justice because we understand our own pain to be universal. EVERYONE is in pain. A lot of pain. And we want to change that.

As far as I’ve discerned in my tiny life so far:

  1. Our capacity for joy is completely related to our ability to sit with pain: ours and, others.

  2. Pain is relative to one’s own experience. What’s painful to one person may be minor to another. Everyone has different thresholds depending on a million factors of experience, circumstance and the physical manifestation of the body they were born into.

  3. Pain is related to circumstance. It’s none of our business (as in, we didn’t consciously choose our physical, mental, and nuero functioning abilities). We don’t have control over our race, gender, sexuality, or class we are born into either. We live in a world that systematically treats people differently related to these things. They affect our level of pain because of how we are treated by others, our access to medical treatment and our resources for self-care and family care.

  4. Having experiences where we understand that you can live through pain creates resilience. Experiencing atomic memory (the memory that lies in our cells) of our ancestors living in us and the pain they went through, can also help build this resilience.

  5. When we unite with others to liberate their pain, it gives us more resources to live with our pain. In a world that is often unjust this is what freedom can look like.

  6. As many in disability movements talk about: We are all moving towards disability. We are all getting older. Our abilities change as we age. We are all fragile human bodies vulnerable to chance. Our abilities (and our lives for that matter) can change in the blink of an eye. Although having access to money and living in industrialized countries lessens the chance dramatically: It is still very possible. No one is immune to the cold hard fact of having a body.

  7. How we treat our own bodies mimics how we treat the earth body. We can feel her pain and she feels ours.

Protect Your Joy

Please. Please protect your joy. You are a precious universe, you in this body, at this time, on this planet.

In this time of the new moon, you have the opportunity to let go of self-criticism, blame and taking on more responsibility than is yours. Pine is a tree that can support you to take responsibility for what’s yours and then, to move on. This tree that stays green through the winter months reminds us of the verdant growth our hearts are capable of when we focus on joy. Our self-critic doesn’t leave much room for glimmers in our eyes and bursts of laughter.

The best, most effective way of protecting our joy is by cultivating more joy. Noticing in our days when we find those singular moments. I notice them in the sound of the rain, the warmth of my bed, petting a kitty, noticing the lush green of a plant, laughing at myself and joking with people on the street.

Adar, this month we are entering, is the month of joy in Judaism. The bubbling up of sap, leaking from the trees comes on in Adar. Things get sticky, in a good way. Purim, is the holiday of satire and gawdiness and falls in Adar. It’s a holiday to get so mixed up, you forget right from wrong and dance so hard and laugh so much your body exhausts itself into deep lucid dreaming.

Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar! Chodesh Adar Tov!

Practice: This month, before you fall asleep at night, remember three moments of joy from your day. Bring yourself back to those moments, letting the sensations hum over your body, filling your senses with a feeling of joy.

Blessing: May this month bring unabashed joy. May you express your joy with wild abandon! Walk down the street singing! Wink at a child in line at the grocery! Hug a tree! Tell bad jokes! Tell good jokes! Make sweet love to the universe!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month. Rosh Chodesh has ancient roots. This monthly celebration falls the day after the new moon, when we see the first sliver of the moon in the night sky.

Visit my website for more information on Rosh Chodesh and my suggestions for DIY (do-it-yourself) ritual, here.

Shvat 2018: Manifesting the Tree Bodies and Tu’b’shvat

The sap is rising dear ones. Can you feel it in your body? Can you feel it in the trees? Happy Tu b’Shvat! Next Tuesday night is the beginning of the New Year of Trees. In Judaism we have four new years within the calendar year-- which means we’re always getting a chance to begin anew and renew our intentions! Or, if you missed one of the new years, you get three extra chances. Thank you Judaism for always having our backs.

Today is a sunny, gorgeous day in Philadelphia. Thank you goddess! The park by my studio has been locked, but today they opened it so I could get away from the EMF’s (Electro magnetic field emissions from mobile phones and wifi) and hug a tree. I’ve been working with the oak tree body/spirit since September and I love this epic beauty that’s home to so many squirrels and birds, insects and earthworms, spores and fungi and all the humans who walk by.

The spirit of oak is grounding, faith-building, and steady. It is helpful for letting go of worries, building resilience in hard times, and is a connector to our ancestors. In Judaism, it is a symbol of strength and the possibility of growth when things have been destroyed.

This time of year we are deep into winter, we’ve been hibernating. This time of rest and going inward gives us a chance to lay down the roots for what will come alive in the spring. I am seriously into this living with the seasons again. Although the Instagram-induced fantasies of sparkling San Francisco Bay water are ever present, I am grateful to remember the gifts of the cold, and the dark.

I’ve found a home, and after being very transient (to say the least) for the last year, this stability is everything. I love falling asleep in a comfortable bed (the same comfortable bed, over and over again, the same comfortable bed), knowing exactly where the tea is kept, being able to host people and not having to worry about MOLD. Simple things.

In this time of celebrating trees I also am focusing my prayers towards Palestinian people whose lives have been tragically affected by the Israeli government cutting down a big source of their sustenance, olive trees.

There is a teaching in Judaism that when the Jews were liberated from slavery and the Red Sea parted, fruit trees bloomed and birds landed in them, singing the Jews into their liberation. This Shabbat is Shabbat Shirah, the “Sabbath of songs” and there is an Eastern European tradition of feeding birds and the tale of crossing the sea is chanted.

Today I am making a donation in honor of healing and Palestinian self-determination by supporting Palestinian refugees with UNRWA. May we soon know the day when we can sing Palestinians into freedom.

I love Cannan, a Palestinian company for olive oil!

I also love this art by Micah Bazant and prayer by Rabbi Brant Rosen.

Forever grateful to Rabbi and Kohenet Jill Hammer for her wisdom in the Book of Days, a constant reference.

Tevet 2018: Blame Everything On Patriarchy

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You’ve been a year 2017. I send you off on the wings of Shekinah (Jewish name for feminine aspect of god) via the wings of a tawny owl. Off you go, into the frost of winter. You aren’t my year (the Jewish year follows the moon and began in September) but you are a placement of time many of us have been forced to acknowledge.

In many ways 2017 was the archetype of patriarchy we all want to see go. Bye bye buddy.

In Celtic tradition (I’ve got that ancestry on my pop’s side) owl, calilleach-oidhche represents a wisdom that turns disadvantage into advantage. The owl uses night to her advantage, a time many have come to fear during patriarchies rise. We too are using what we have been told to fear, to our advantage.

We’ve been told to be quiet but we’re being loud, fierce in our love. More than anything I am inspired by the uproar and force of movements to transform racism and our relationship with earth, movements based on dreaming alive what’s born in our imaginations, that our ancestors and future generations are whispering to us. Movements based on truth telling of horrors to claim a stake on love, justice and healing. I have eternal gratitude to the black, femme, indigenous, trans, fat and disabled people who are the core of our movements. Thank you.

The snake teaches us that our soul dies and is reborn within our lifetimes. It is a sexual energy that literally brings us alive and this energy also goes with us to death. As awful as things have been this year, on Turtle Island (North America) many of our literal ancestors have survived and thrived through intense horror. Some of my literal ancestors have also been the agents of destruction. I feel my work in the world is to transmute the legacy of destruction and activate the legacy of resistance and resilience.

The snake is a symbol of sexual power and the beginning of life in many traditions. Like DNA, the snake is life. Snakes have gotten demonized because of patriarchy. Just think about the snake in the Garden of Eden. That was an attempt to bring down the snake goddess and matriarchal goddess worship. Welp, it worked for many years but now we are taking it all down now!!!

One interpretation from the end of the Sefer Yetzirah (the precursor to the kabbalah, a Jewish mystical text) is that planet earth hangs from a serpent. 4,500 years ago the pole star was in Draco’s tail. The Roman myth of this constellation is that Minerva, goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare battled this serpent and threw him into the sky. Draco is the constellation by the north pole, this is perhaps the constellation from which we hang. I love this mythology of the earth hanging from a serpent whose been thrown to the sky by a warrior goddess.

These are my thoughts behind the symbology of the Moons 2018 image:

The hands: The hands on the dagger are in positions some of us use during sex. When we receive sexual pleasure we have an opportunity to invoke the divine. Divinity meaning whatever is significant to you personally. What happens when we create space for the divine to be present during pleasures? We cross our fingers as an invocation for luck, good things. What we embody with our hands we symbolically and metaphorically make manifest in the world.

The moons: New moons and full moons, each in opposite bodies. Moon bodies in serpent bodies. Symbolizing the light in the dark and the dark in the light. Life and death in each other, cycling, wrapped up in each other. Following the cycle of the cold rock in the sky body to fully experience the rapture and pain of our own earth bodies.

Saturn: Manifesting with responsibility, honoring the integrity of our dreams and our destiny, our daily routines, the work of taking steps, being patience, and seeing the bigger picture over small indulgences, details.

The sword: Using our fire, our passion to draw boundaries. Creating boundaries by becoming more and more of ourselves, more embodied in our creative, sexual energy. Cutting through bullshit. The best boundaries come from being ourselves, unapologetically. If you give zero fucks, even if you get fucked with, you still have yourself, your sense of connection to who you are.

The tongues: Sensuality, pleasure, made in the shape of a vulva. Intention in how we come together, join with each other in our creative/sexual desires and dreams. Tasting all of what life has to offer.

The serpent/draco/snake creatures: wrapping themselves around the sword in a figure eight, the mark of eternity. We touch eternity when our boundaries are clear.

The whole shebang: The Caduceus-looking image of this whole piece is actually a reference to an ancient Sumerian goddess, Ningishzida (not everyone agrees she is a goddess, some think she was a god) a deity of plant life and the underworld. When beings (plants) die they go to Ningishzida’s underworld. As parts of us die, they go to a place protected by a goddess who transforms the dead into new life. Many Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) speak of the words of the torah (bible) being black fire and the space in between the letters as being white fire. This image is painted in black and white to represent the fire visible and the fire inside, that which is not visible.

 Taking in 2018 like a priestess. 

Taking in 2018 like a priestess. 

 

This has been an extremely difficult year for me personally as I know it has been for many. I’ve moved a handful of times, once cross country as a single person, once because of a fire in my home and once because of a terrible mold problem that was affecting me neurologically and physically. I’ve supported my chosen family and a child through an extremely scary abuse situation, been severely depressed, participated in and ended a dysfunctional relationship and struggled with chronic health issues.

I’ve also accomplished things that I never thought were possible. (I know this is true for many of you too. And honestly, going through the hard stuff is a huge accomplishment as well.) Things I never even dreamed about. I’m directing and producing a film about queers and the Jewish ritual of water immersion, Queer Mikveh Project. I went to Toronto this past month to shoot for it. I had a residency and show in Oakland at CTRL+SHFT before I left California. I have reconciled that not all my childhood dreams will come true but the dreams of my soul are unfolding in real time. I have embraced that at almost 40, I am single and am going to try and get pregnant this year. I have worked to support the acknowledgement of an ancient Ohlone (name given to indigenous people of the SF Bay Area by Europeans) and Lisjan site (and taught my “soulmate” kid friend who I homeschooled about it and she created the most awesome zine about it ever!). I’ve been rejected by grants and artist residencies that I put my heart into. I’ve felt a depth of gratitude for friends, family, my resilience, liberation movements and community. And, I am committed to loving myself as I am, with more dedication than ever before.

This year I commit to and continue to commit to:

Being authentic in all aspects of my life.

Being vocal about injustice and taking action in my community, nationally, and internationally.

Having more fun and letting my freak flag fly!

Standing beside Palestinians in their self-determination.

Uplifting, listening to and supporting Indigenous people of Turtle Island to receive reparations.

Loving my earth body and our Gaia body. Listening to our lullabies and tantrums.

Expressing my gifts and sharing them with the world.

Reading more books by black feminists and following their lead.

Supporting and aligning with those on the inside in the fight to abolish prisons.

Keeping a budget.

Writing more and making more art.

Learning more about Jewish rituals around death.

Teaching.

Finishing my second deck (which I have begun!)

Watching more T.V. and movies (I really need to do this!)

Spending time with people I love.

What do you commit to?

How can I support you in your commitments?

Anything you want to brag to me about?

Sivan 2017: We All Wanna Get High

Damn. This is my one year anniversary.

It might seem insignificant to some of you. But for me it’s huge. In my world, I’m killin it. It’s important to celebrate these victories. In a world where Tr**p kisses the wailing wall and makes billion dollar deals on the backs of billions of people, we need to celebrate ourselves and each other. What did you do today, this week, this past year that you’re proud of? I'm proud of you for lots of things, big things. But it could have been something simple like saying thank you or smiling at someone who needed some brightness in their day, when you were completely not in the fucking mood. Well, you did it anyway. And that’s awesome. You are awesome. You are. My accomplishment of the moment, I did this newsletter (translated here into my blog) for one whole year. (I bet you weren’t expecting that to be my anniversary brag. Welp, it is.)

WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!

The year has flown by. It’s literally like this hawk I saw last week at Baker Beach while scoping out the next Queer Mikveh location. She was flying and flying in place. She seemed like she wasn’t moving, but she was. She was just catching the wind, to keep herself steady in place while she very strategically eyed her prey and then dove down and attempted to catch a mouse or a hamster or a nutria* whatever it was, it was something delicious. I feel like in many ways I’ve been staying in place, relying on the natural elements, the natural course of life, the natural human desire to live, to carry me. But, I AM READY. GIVE IT TO ME WORLD. And just so you know, that hawk didn’t catch that animal but she was ready! So the point isn’t to get it. It’s to fly and enjoy the ride!

One of many things carrying me right now, is my deck. I still enjoy the journey it’s taking me on. I use it every day. I hear from many of you, it is serving you as well. I love hearing about your revelations and simple moments with the Moon Angels. I still care about sharing it as much as the first day it was born. You give it new life every time you find inspiration, comfort and joy. Every time it’s with you when you shed a tear, every time you lol**. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. That intimacy is what’s going to save this world.

I love all of you! Thank you for reading! Thank you for fighting the patriarchy! Thank you for being you, exactly as you are! Thank you for noticing flowers! Thank you for making art! Thank you for remembering the ancestors of this land! Thank you for living, for breathing, for blinking your eyes. All miracles in the face of the bullshit we are facing. We are facing it together.

*For anyone who’s never lived in Olympia Washington or Argentina, I hope you googled nutria.

**My mom signs every single text she sends me, lol. Which cracks me up, of course. Recently she told me, it doesn’t mean, “laugh out loud,” it means “lots of love.” Oye. Even more hilarious. I cannot even describe my level endearment for this woman.

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We are coming to the close of this thing in Judaism we call, counting the Omer. To be honest, I planned on writing about this every week. But you know what?! I had to move out of a moldy apartment and look for a new (mold free, affordable) place in the San Francisco Bay Area, no small feat. On top of that, my chosen family are in crisis which involves a four year old. So, this whole counting the Omer thing has taken on a new meaning this year and goddess knows, I didn’t have the time to write about it. But I got a few last morsels of wisdom for ya. Read on comrades, read on…

The day to day challenges of staying hopeful and alive in a country on the verge of collapse are significant. Yes, I still think in 50 years we will have fully entered the turning, the “Age of Aquarius” but it’s a rough ass road to get there and people are dying and suffering with intensity at the moment. This pain has probably brought a lot of you to your knees. This is what I learned from counting the Omer (so far) this year…

Chill the fuck out.

Shavuot, the holiday of revelation, is the last day of counting the Omer, it’s coming up, May 30th. It’s also the holiday of wisdom (it’s the day the Jews received the torah, the bible, the story). So of course, as a Capricorn, I’m into it. But also as a Capricorn, it’s difficult for me to follow the prior advice I just dropped for you.

How can you chill when the world is as it is? When I say chill, I don’t mean, do nothing. I mean, stop trying to do it perfectly. Mess up. Sob. Fall apart. Reach out for help. Get high (whatever that means for you, a sober or reefer kind of high). Dance like there are banana peels all over the floor. Laugh until you pee yourself.

Maybe not the kind of revelation you (or I) was expecting to get from counting the Omer but it’s what I got.

My blessing for you: My blessing for you is the same as my blessing for me. May we try less, follow our hearts more, let go, let the knowledge of living fuel our bodies to expression. May we be forever more weird and wild, care less what others think and act more like our 75 year old selves would have us act. That’s it, amen.

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This time last year I was making videos of all the cards for Hebrew Priestess TV. The very first one I made was this one, Hugging Diamonds. This card is a call to make what you see into something you love. To intentionally notice who and what you love. I wrote you a poem in honor of you and everything you see, that is a reflection of you.

You.

You see the sky.
You smell the sky.
It’s grey and soft and beautiful. The rain may come, it may be haze or smog. But your eyes are seeing it.
Moisture enters your nose.
All this means something about you.

You.

You hear a song.
It sounds good.
You feel the vibration in your body. You move. You breath. You want to dance or you dance or you want to keep listening.
Sometimes you cry.
All this means something about you.

You.

You smell a flower.
It’s color enters through your nostril. You are now, in this moment learning about impermanence.
You may talk to it, find out if it wants to come home with you.
It might say no. You are ok with that. Or, you’re not.
All this means something about you.

Mirrors are everywhere. You gonna see a grey hair as a blessing? If you hate it, it’s your fear of death and a societal obsession with youth. It just means you are human if you hate it. It just means you are human if you love it. It just means we are all dying, a little more, everyday.

Week 2: The Week of Strength and Judgement

  Me blowing glass at the glory hole. That’s what it’s called, a glory hole.

Me blowing glass at the glory hole. That’s what it’s called, a glory hole.

This second week of counting the Omer (check my post from a few posts ago about what the Omer even is) week I get out my anger at the bible for being so mean to women. I reflect on their stories and giving them the due respect they’ve been crying out through my cells for.

What does it mean to be strong? (Besides blowing molten glass through an iron rod. Yes, that used to be my job.) What does it mean to make wise judgements? (like besides eating breakfast. Although that can be very major sometimes.)

This second week of counting the Omer I’m inspired by the strength and discernment of the biblical women who took it in the ass for many of us who were to come. I assume before the time taking it in the ass was a positive since the bible set the tone for the antithesis of sex positivity.

This week I’m also feeling my body move, literally. I moved out of my mold stricken apartment and am still feeling the affects of it. Neurological and physical effects. I can’t believe I lived in that friggin apartment for three years. Yesterday a friend asked me if living in brain mold fuzz might have been beneficial. Maybe. Only in the way that ignorance can be bliss. That shit always catches up to you. But it ain’t nothing compared to the what the female’s in the bible went through.

4/18 - Day 8: Chesed she'begevurah, Love within Strength

Eve. First woman ever to disobey god, setting the tone for the rest of humanity! But she gets punished and has to live a regular life setting the tone for the rest of us. She has a pretty rough life too, her second son is murdered by her first son and she’s in hella pain during childbirth. But this woman keeps on keepin on. She keeps loving and living. That’s why she is our matriarch for today, to continue with a heart of gold even though you’ve basically been the first person to live a regular life takes strength.

4/19 - Day 9: Gevurah she'beGevurah, Strength within Strength

My favorite, Vashti: labeled a hoe (which, what the hell is wrong with that? It's actually a compliment people.) for saying no to the king epitomizing strength within strength.

4/20 - Day 10: Tiferet she'beGevurah, Compassion within Strength

Deborah: sits under a palm tree and claims her glory by going into battle with her counterpart Yael and basically kicks ass killing the enemy and then sings a glory song about it where she has a huge amount of empathy for the mother of the man they killed (even though it had to be done) She shows compassion within strength. Then she smokes a bowl.

4/21 - Day 11: Netzach she'beGevurah, Endurance within Strength

Today the counting of the Omer is about Dinah, Who's never given a voice even though she's raped and has to give up the child of the rape. We show our own endurance within strength when we have a voice and tell our own stories of survival.

4/22 - Day 12:  Hod she'beGevurah, Glory within Strength

The glory of beginning after tragedy. Yemima (Bright Day), Ketziah (Cassia Tree), and Keren-happuch (Horn of Eyeshadow) all inherit land in a time when only the boys got it. Through this strength they are given the glory of determining their own destinies. Plus, Keren-happuch is the coolest name ever (definitely naming my daughter Horn of Eyeshadow).

4/23 - Day 13: Yesod she'beGevurah, Connectivity Within Strength

She’ilah (questioner) is the most amazing woman in these stories. Her dad Jephthah get some convoluted message from God that he should kill her. He’s seriously fucked up. She does so many things to show him he shouldn’t kill her. Does he listen? No. But she rally’s her lady friends around her to celebrate her and her life. Then when her asshole of a father murders her, she

4/24 - Day 14: Malchut she'beGevurah, Majesty within Strength

I would love to know what the standards of beauty were in biblical times because Leah is always talked about as not as beautiful as Rachel. But dude, Leah gave birth at like 90 years old after birthing many more kids before that. Despite not being loved by her husband she’s resolute about being happy. She wants to be remembered for that. That’s majestic. I’d put a ring on it, Jacob was bananas.

The Jewish Month of Iyyar: Making a Home of Honey

Happy Rosh Chodesh Iyyar! Happy new moon! 

COMING OUT OF THE MOLD! It’s might be better than coming out of the closet. Although in this case the mold was literally coming out of my closet. So, there you have it folks, the irony of my existence.

Anyway! I got out of my moldy apartment and I got my email working (After 9 days! Blowing you a kiss on the wind to Mercury Retrograde). Bowing an apology to all the delayed responses! Eternally loving my dear mother for helping me do this move, love you forever mom!

I’m alive! I love each and everyone of you. Really, I do. I hold my newsletter readers near and dear. Yes, you! So thanks for bearing with me as my brain comes out of the mold cloud and my body gets up to speed from such an exhausting move.

It’s that time of year, the counting of the Omer time of year. And I’m writing about it. On Instagram @rebekaherevstudio and here, on my blog. Find out more and what it even is, here. In a nutshell: It’s a simple (yet extremely complicated!) guide to becoming a better human.

Bring on the month of HEALING! And GROWTH! It’s no mistake that Iyyar and the astrological sign of Taurus line up. In Judaism Iyyar is a time of healing and Taurus with her deep commitment to pleasure, security, good times, the earth, growth and good solid love, abundance, fertility and sensuality have the potential for a month of healing that’s lasting.

How are we going to heal? We’re following the bees lead and doing it with joy.

Imagine living with all your buddies sharing a common hum your whole life. Imagine going from flower to flower enjoying the beauty and sunshine, where your life is imperative to existence. Imagine going back home ingesting the pollen and TRANSMUTING it back into honey.

That’s what I say we do during Iyyar. Everything we see, everything we touch is a flower. And we make it into honey.

I’m staying with a friend who has a million flowers in his yard. There is a hive literally right outside my door. The native bees (these tiny adorable mysterious flying creatures) and the honey bees are drunk on pollen.

My inspiration.

My blessing for you: Onward to a love affair with bees. Give freely like the bees, being of service and being a pleasure to all you encounter. And may that come back to you tenfold.

Card for the Month:

Cali #7

This is the card for the month again, I guess it’s still all about California. And with me, it's always about joy. And going after dreams even if it pains your heart to do it. Because it pains your heart even more to not do it.

From the Moon Angels / Malakh Halevanah Oracle Deck:

Sun God. Open Wide. Rocks. Sand. Flowers. Desert. Comets. A new day. Drought. Ocean.

The joy an old dog feels running even though it hurts. What it must feel like inside that dog’s heart.

Week 1: The week of Love

Aaaaaahhhhhhh love. Who doesn’t love love? The first week of the Omer starts us off with love because love comes first, always. Love wins in the end, always. The truth of existence is love. By building our love. our love of the sky, our love of our hands, our love of the glow in each others eyes, our love of the movements for liberation. (see my Instagram posts for more details on each of this first week of Luuuvvv and flower essences for each of the days @rebekaherevstudio)

4/11 - Day 1 Chesed she'beChesed Love within Love

Pure love. Love inside love inside love. Like the petals of a rose, going deeper and deeper.

4/12 - Day 2 Gevurah she'beChesed Strength within Love

The rose bud is also very strong, holding the actual strength of potential.

4/13 - Day 3 Tiferet she'beChesed Compassion within Love

The generosity of love. Love for those who have hurt us the most. Love for ourselves, the one it is often the most difficult to have compassion for.

4/14 - Day 4  Netzach she'beChesed Endurance within Love

When apathy hits, how do you endure? What lifts you up? Keeping the faith, persistence. The essence of wild roses lifts up your body and soul.  

4/15 - Day 5 Hod she'beChesed Glory within Love

The glory of existence.

4/16 - Day 6 Yesod she'beChesed Connection within Love

Connection to the center of ourselves and therefore everything.

4/17 - Day 7 Malchut she'beChesed Majesty within Love

The royalty of love, the majesty is when we feel the fullness of there being enough. We are enough.

An Introduction to Counting the Omer

 Ancestral Knowledge: A painting I did 15 years ago representing three generations. The figure is my grandmother, the lilies are my mom's favorite flower and she planted them in the yard of the house I grew up in, the whale is me (even though I'm not a huge Orca whale fan) because I love whales and lived in the Northwest for 13 years. 

Ancestral Knowledge: A painting I did 15 years ago representing three generations. The figure is my grandmother, the lilies are my mom's favorite flower and she planted them in the yard of the house I grew up in, the whale is me (even though I'm not a huge Orca whale fan) because I love whales and lived in the Northwest for 13 years. 

First of all, what the hell * is counting the Omer? And why would you be interested in it as a Jew or as someone who isn’t Jewish? It’s a biblical tradition of setting aside one sheath of barley for each of the days between Passover and Shavuot (the holiday where the “revelation” aka torah is given). On Shavuot you’re supposed to sacrifice (aka not eat and instead, burn) the barely.

It’s a strange tradition and therefore I’m interested in it. I’m interested in things that don’t quite make sense. I’m interested in ritual, things we as a people keep doing. I’m interested in ritual that involves the earth and I’m interested in any ritual that helps me grow as a person. I’m also interested in ancestral knowledge and the mysterious ways we carry knowledge in our atoms.

So, I’m going to be making art, Instagram and blog posts about this Omer. (I’m also a Capricorn and love any and all things related to order and counting - insert monkey with hands over eyes emoji.)

The main sources for my reflections on counting the Omer are from:

1. My life, observations, experiences, influences.

2. The Kabbalistic teachings about the refining of moral character based on the tree of life and the sefirot. (it’s a Wikipedia link, super basic)

3. One of my teacher’s, Rabbi Jill Hammer’s book, Omer Calendar of Biblical Women. I’m not big on the bible but the basis for much of my spiritual work is about re-remembering history from a feminist lense (an intersectional feminist sense) and I like her focus on counting the Omer by interpreting stories of women from the bible, a wonderful way to re-remember.

So first of all, let’s remember that the people in the bible were people of color, modern Christianity and Ashkenazi Jewish culture tends to forget that and whitewash everything. Secondly, let’s remember that most of the stories of women and gender queers lives aren’t very explicitly mentioned. Let’s also remember that the bible is a long elaborate novel and not necessarily how people lived.

That all being said, my interest in the bible or the Tanakh is in archetypes. The Tanakh is a character in and of itself. The characters have become modern archetypes for the Abrahamic (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) religions. Because a colonialist, mostly misinterpreted (at least according to Jesus’s original teachings) Christianity has cut a deep penetrating wound into our society, the archetypes also have made an imprint on our understanding of life.

In re-remembering the archetypes we have the opportunity to make new imprints on our cells and collectively change our society. Like second wave feminism (a very limited but important part of the story of feminism) said: the personal is political. As we change ourselves and our cells, the world changes.

As the brilliant Octavia Butler said,

“All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

is Change.

God

is Change.”

 

*Jews don’t believe in hell, just using it colloquially. ;)

 

The Jewish Month of Nisan: Freedom, I Won't Let You Down 

There’s is scientific proof that that the story of the Red Sea parting in Exodus is actually, really true. It’s a tale of the earth and her peoples working together to create seismic shifts, the kind of changes that build epic stories, that we tell for generations.

If Nisan is the month of happiness (which, it is), then happiness is inherently linked to liberation (which is true happiness). Because one of the most important holidays in Judaism falls in Nisan, Passover (which is all about liberation ;).

Last month I went to Joshua Tree for the first time to see - super blooms. I was most taken with ocotillo, a plant I’ve been taking in tincture form for years but never met in the live real life. The essence of ocotillo helps us to feel secure in unconditional love and through that security, allow our actions to spring from love, not obligation. Action from love, not from the binds of what we think we should do. That is liberation.

When we work together with this spirit, collectively and individually we have the potential to weave together a story of miraculous proportions.

You know what magic is? It’s lifting up the good that exists and bringing it to higher consciousness. Magicians, witches, priestesses, brujas, bring attention to what already exists. We make what’s good, gooder (better-whatever, I’m lifting up lots of different ways of speaking English!). That’s why social justice work is magic, it transforms problems by bringing to light the truth of love. This journey is not for the faint of heart dear ones! It takes courage and perseverance to create these seismic shifts. As the beloved George Michael may his spirit be uplifted sang, “Freedom, I will not give you up!”

My blessing for you: May you choose liberation over and over again and may it lead you to loving action, loving embraces and a deep trust in your commitment to truth.

 

Ok everybody. I predicted the card I’d pull for the month. I picked it earlier today and then I knew I’d pick it again for the card for the month. Boooooobs. I cannot get away from this topic!

Recently I’ve been witnessing some beautiful embodiment of friends getting breast reduction and augmentation surgery and I’ve witnessed similar experiences with friends getting top surgery in the past. Not everyone wants the chest they were born with, not everyone has the boobs they want and some people want a rack who weren’t physically born with one. Giving people options about this is one of the main beauties of modern science.

But it’s not an option for most trans people because as a country we are just barely beginning to recognize trans rights. Having accessible, safe healthcare that includes hormones and surgery if one desires that and practitioners who understand trans issues is just a basic right. Black trans women are the most affected by our lack of education and services. This year we see this in the murders of Mesha Caldwell, Keke Collier, Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, all murdered since the beginning of 2017. This is also reflected in the number of black trans women who end up in prison, an extremely skewed number compared to other groups and in a severely violent environment for them. Let’s commit to lift up the work of trans women of color and follow their lead in our work for liberation.

For Nisan half the funds from the Boobs Poster support TGIJP (Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project). From their website: “The mission of TGIJP is to challenge and end the human rights abuses committed against TGI people in California prisons, jails, detention centers and beyond.” Buy a Boobs Poster or support TGIJP directly.

The Jewish Month of Adar: Make a Decision: Increase Joy! 

Sometimes we need bitter times for the real joy to emerge.

Adar, is basically the Jewish month to party hard. Purim, the holiday of blurred lines and getting down and dirty falls in Adar. There’s a teaching that you’re supposed to get so drunk you can’t tell the difference between right or wrong. Honestly, there’s something very bitter about this to me. As a Capricorn I have a tendency towards control (that’s putting it lightly) so it’s daunting (and often calculated) when I let go.

This year I will be in a prison on Purim. For the last nine months I’ve been participating in a restorative justice circle for survivors of sexual abuse/harm (another root to my control issues). The facilitators of our group are running a similar group in a prison with perpetrators and survivors of sexual abuse/harm. Mid-March we will be spending a couple days in the prison with them doing healing work.

It’s been a huge process for me to be a part of this group and enormously healing. It feels very in line with Purim. Purim is a story of restoring justice. The Jews are threatened to be killed and a new queen, Esther, comes out as Jewish and saves them (with the help of her uncle). That’s a very pared down version. But basically Esther turns a shitty-ass situation into something beautiful but listening to the deepest part of herself and taking an enormous risk (like she could have gotten killed too when she came out as Jewish). But Esther had to make a decision, she could have stayed in the closet as a goy. But then all the Jews would have died and I guess she decided that would, be horrible.

That decision can be the most difficult part. Lemon blossom flower essence is good for this. It can help you relax mentally leading to more clarity and balance.

So I ask you: What are you going to do with your lemons?

My blessing for you: Tall glasses of lemonade.

California has always been mythical in my imagination. I guess it is for many people. Growing up it was the place my grandparents had lived and it held a spark in my dad’s eye. If my father, the conjurer of all things magic in the world held a soft spot for California, then it must be made of dreams.

Now, I live on this land. I live on Ohlone territory in Berkeley, California. Down the street from where I live is a sacred Ohlone site, a shellmound that was a burial site (among many other things). Currently it is a parking lot but it’s been bought by a developer. If it’s built on the likelihood of it returning to what the Ohlone would like is very slim. A wonderful resistance has been building to interrupt the construction and honor the vision of what the Ohlone would have it be. (Find out more about how to support this movement and Indigenous women- led organizing.)

This local action is an example of aligning collective and individual dreams. They may look different from our childhood dreams but when we feel into our essence, the real dream that all humans are actually looking for, is liberation. We want to surpass the confines of illusion and experience a collective liberation. No body is free until every body is free. Real magic happens when we embrace this and work to make it happen.

The Jewish Month of Shvat: Fall in Love with a Tree (or be one)

We are fully into this Hebrew month of Shvat. The archetype for the month is the lover, the ahavat. It’s also the month that holds my favorite Jewish holiday, Tu B’Shvat, the new year of trees. (Great thing about Judaism is we have four new years within the year.) Falling in love with trees is a good thing to do amidst this mess we have shoveled ourselves into. A tree is flexible, grounded, stable, makes nice noises in the wind. A tree is the conduit between earth and sky, it likes gravity but contemplates the reality of the existence of infinity by reaching to the heavens.

This month of the trees, may you have renewed growth and vigor! Jill Hammer says the teaching of the trees this time of year is  “shaking off their slumber and awakening to growth.” Awaken dreamers!

With our awakening from sleep we are going to need some support, it’s a rough transition. And that, is where my current plant obsession, pennyroyal comes in. (Plus we may need to rely heavily on it -without over harvesting- in this current administration because it can induce miscarriage -- only use with consultation from a trusted herbalist or midwife.)

The flower essence of Pennyroyal supports you to stay strong and ward off negative energies. We need you so badly right now pennyroyal! Because it isn’t just about standing strong in your center, it’s also about remaining calm, at ease and in peace. And what better way to be a lover than to be upright in your integrity, focused and calm.

Pennyroyal as an essence is a remedy for trauma, abuse and shock. Many of us are feeling that right now as we move into this second week of regime change.

When I talk about being a lover I mean both as a romantic partner and a lover of life, a warrior in the resistance. As a Capricorn integrity is very important to me. Being in our integrity we can stand upright using our bodies like the trees and plants. Any look upward can jog our memory to our celestial roots letting the grace of gravity hold us to this magnificent rock tumulting itself through what mostly exists in the universe: space.

My blessing for you: May you feel your feet on the earth rooting down to the hot center. May you awaken to the heat coursing through your body like liquid fire, reminding you of the sap rising in the trees. In this rising with arms open wide, may you dedicate yourself to a love affair with the stars, trusting in your unique path.

 Organize Card #20 from the Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah Oracle Deck

Organize Card #20 from the Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah Oracle Deck

One way to cast spells is to organize. Our ancestors have been doing that for millenia. A spell can be as simple as a calling one of your representatives. You can also make magic by attending a protest, working on a committee with an organization you feel passionate about, making art, sending a letter of appreciation and support to your local mosque or donating money.

Magic is in the framing and intention.

In this time we need all the organizing we can get. It’s about doing it. And doing it again. And going back and doing it again. If we frame our organizing as magic, it will hold that much more power.

Here’s to the magic of organizing with love, for the resistance.

The Jewish Month of Tevet: The Beginning of Our Golden Year

 
 

Aaaannnndddd...that’s a wrap people! Goodbye 2016. Later. Bye. Bye. Goodbye. Seriously, goodbye. 

From Aleppo to Ghostship to Carrie Fisher, this year has been. It's been. Sometimes you can process your feelings by crying or yelling or laughing and feel better. And sometimes it's 2016 and you just feel shitty, for a long time.

The thing is...we made it people. We're still here. We're alive. We made it through a collectively horrifying year. We've gone through the stages of grief (or at least some of them): denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Wherever you are, it's ok. You 100% deserve to be living. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We need you now, more than ever. We also super duper need each other. 

The thing about hard times is they bring us together, our movements are growing stronger and we have the opportunity to build with more depth and energy. How will you grow with the people you love in 2017? First being you. Then your friends, family, community, country, planet. 

Tevet: Our Golden Year

The Jewish month of Tevet begins at the end of Chanukah. I love this. I love that the beginning of a new year lines up with the end of a slew of golden lights representing miracles we would never expect. We all have the power to collectively create a reality that's filled with the glow of unexpected rising resistance and beauty.

As we all know, sometimes the love of power reveals itself in terrible ways. This pisses us off. This, is potentially very good. Tevet, is the month of anger. Anger can be a very motivating force to move us into action. Anger can transform us or, it can deplete us.

We need protection so the anger doesn't turn on us and instead fuels our power. Tumeric is a very good remedy for transforming anger. I've been taking my friend Lizanne Deliz's (Eye of Crow Herbs) Tumeric Oxymel to help with this. (You can see from the almost empty bottle it's very good!) Golden milk is also blessing my table these days. Tumeric helps to reduce inflammation and keep our digestion smooth and strong.

My blessing for you: May the qualities of grounding, protection and transformation be the root of moving with focused anger to bring about justice to make this a golden year of miracles. 

Miracles of 2016

Good people, let’s focus on some good things from 2016. Let’s feel good, for a moment about what went well.

  1. Fingers crossed emoji now exists.

Ok, I can end my list. That’s great. That’s enough to keep the fires burning for a long time. Thank you emoji programmers who just caught up with the most necessary hand emoji we have EVER needed. Fuckin, how did that take so long? But yay, for now.

Ok, now for all the other miracles!

2 The DAPL pipeline was stopped because of the leadership of youth and elder indigenous people.

3. Lots of hugs were given to people we love.

4. Lots of meals were eaten together.

5. Harriet Tubman is replacing a patriarchal asshole on our $20 bill (hey money is energy peeps).

6. Bernie almost became president. Yes, I believe this to be true.

7. After 2 years we finished up our version of DIY Art School (formally DIY MFA) -- listen to the podcast on Congratulations Pine Tree here (episode #106).     

8. Cultural icons like David Bowie lived and died and changed our lives. So did Prince and Carrie Fisher and Sharon Jones (just heard her Chanukah song, best Chanukah song ever.) and George Michael. It's a reminder of how close those who pass can still be to us. 

Card for the Month:
Go!
(Yiddish: Gay! Yes, go is gay in Yiddish.)

This is the first month of the beginning of the Gregorian year. It's time to move our asses and get up and go. In all regards. Begin your resolutions dear ones. Including a greater love for yourself. Isn't that the root of all resolutions?

I would assert that self love is not an isolated event. I think there's a cultural understanding of self love and self care as taking time for "yourself," with baths and spa days and nice meals. There is nothing wrong with that kind of self love. It's completely necessary to take care of yourself, everyone deserves and needs that.

The Jewish Month of Kislev: Darkness My Old Friend

IMG_1001.jpg

We need the help of our ancestors, the help of all the benevolent ancestors of this earth. Those who have faced the most adversity have the most to offer us about making resilience beautiful and in alignment with love. I think that is why many have really supported the efforts of Standing Rock. And in the tradition of Kislev, we remember the stories of resistance.

Cedar is a tree of many of our ancestors. The smell, texture, the smoke of cedar are grounding. The sight of a cedar tree eases our eyes with it’s beauty. Even in the cold, cold months it stays green to enliven and brighten our spirits. The energy of the tree is like an ancestor--deep, present, grounded, full of vitality if we chose to tap into it.

This is like the dark. The dark time of year is a gift because it’s so much easier to tap into our own depths in the darkness. Most of the universe is dark. Though our skin is exposed to light and we see an outside world of light - the inside of us is completely dark. Yet that is where most of our functioning exists. Our organs, our brain, our genitals are shrouded, protected by darkness. As soon as we close our eyes, we’re invited into this mysterious, exciting place of dark and imagination.  

My blessing for the collective: May there be a global turning to center Indigenous voices and leadership. May our love of clean water be greater than our love of convience, progress and cultural amnesia. May we wake up to the memory of our heart, which has neurons in it, to use it as our brain.

Card for the Month: Veils (Yiddish: SHLEY-ers)

As we move into the end of the gregorian year and into the darkest time of the year, we’re given the opportunity to face what may have been obscured or hidden below layers because it’s been too painful to look at. However, with the recent election the scab of our dwindling democracy was peeled away and the wound is infected, bleeding, throbbing. 

There’s emotional pain but there’s also the pain we feel in our bodies. This is often a veil to something deeper. The physical pain covers up and hides the spiritual and pain of the world we all hold on some level. This pain in our bodies can also hide from us the beauty and bliss of the world.

Beyond the veil of pain is beauty. For me, my pain gives me an opportunity to feel the beauty of life. (That’s in a good moment. Sometimes I’m like FML for several days of the month because of endometriosis.) We can’t experience joy without pain. There’s an acuteness, a vividness to life I experience after an episode of pain.
 
Veils are things that obscure something else. I’ve often heard, we are spiritual beings living in physical bodies. So, in this way our bodies are veils but they are also tools, an opportunity to stay tethered to the earth with our physical pain but also with our joy of earthly things. Ah, to have a body, to have sensation, to be alive.

The Jewish Month of Cheshvan: Welcoming the Darkness

horsetail.jpg

Horsetail’s magical properties: boundaries, staying firm to commitments. What a great herb to use to support new year’s resolutions. To affirm the habits we vowed to fulfill in the new year. Image source: Arrow Ami

The Hebrew month of Cheshvan is upon us as the moon’s darkness comes into the light. After a month of holidays and celebration, Cheshvan is often called the “bitter month.” It’s also the Libra time of the year (‘Moznayim’ in Hebrew), when we have the opportunity to balance ourselves and habits before the coming winter months.

Maintaining boundaries, staying firm in our commitments, and the endurance to do so are some of our biggest work living in a capitalist patriarchy. In Cheshvan, we make a descent into the darkness at the center of our beings. We are offered the structure of the darkening days to go inside and experience our depths. Our depth is our line of ancestors, the myriad ancestors we come from.

Horsetail, the plant in the picture above, is one of our ancestors. It’s a plant that’s been around since the dinosaurs, when it grew to the size of large trees. It’s associated with Saturn, the planet of endurance, self-control, protection and overcoming challenges. Back when blacksmiths worked closely with alchemists, horsetail was used to give magical strength to swords and armour. So, use it this month to strengthen your own boundaries and cut through bullshit to get to the heart of the matter. It makes a delicious tea; make sure the plant is from a clean area, since it absorbs pollutants easily.  Though tasty, it can have the flavor of bitterness, but also gives us a sense of balance. I believe our ancestors want this for us and they are living in us as we grow on our path.

My blessing for you: In the darkening days may the beauty of fall lay on your skin and be a protective encasing for the glorious fight you do every day to be more and more of yourself.  

 

A friend recommended this video of Thich Nhat Hanh exploring the idea that even our thoughts are our ancestors and we have the ancestors of plants in us. Take a look...

Thanks to angelorum.co for the information about horsetail.

Card for the Month: Extinction

(Yiddish: OYS-shtarb)

The last couple weeks, as the moon has waned, I’ve had the urge to get rid of stuff. My grandmother’s pink chair, many of my most treasured items of clothing. I haven’t gotten rid of the chair yet (don’t worry mom, I’ll consult you first), but I am having a strong urge to let go. But I haven’t, yet.


This time of year the natural world is going through her biggest time of letting go. The leaves falling to the ground, dead, are in complete symbiosis with the cycle of life. Their death is necessary for the trees to grow again. We as humans watch the leaves fall in tons; we essentially watch the earth fall from the sky. In witnessing the heavens fall, the dying leaves become our archetype for the connection between heaven and earth. The leaves aren’t afraid to die because they know their death is a part of their life. What would it be like to have a faith like that? To believe that in the letting go of an object, a habit, an emotion, a person, there is power that gives us life.

The Jewish New Year: Under the Blanket of Tishrei

Image of a 1400 year old ginko bilboa tree in Xi'an, China c/o TheDailyMail.com

On Rosh Hashanah morning this year, I woke up to go to services. But something kept me from getting out of bed. I stayed under the blankets, pet my cat for awhile in the dull morning light, happy to be alive. I felt myself wanting to fall back asleep, which I never do, but that morning, I did. During that second slumber I had the most wonderful dream where I felt completely lucid and awake. In the dream, I looked out the window of my apartment to a soft pink hue and a huge ginkgo tree with huge bright orange leaves. The leaves were the color of California poppies and glowing. Their luminosity hung from the tree and the fallen leaves made a pattern on the ground. I awoke feeling I had been visited.
 
Of course ginkgo biloba trees don’t turn orange when they turn; it’s more of ayellow. I did a little research and found that some living ginkgo trees in China have been dated back 3000 years, making them the oldest living specimen in the world. They also bloom at night and shed their blossoms quickly as if they are celebrating the wonder of life in secret. And, they grow breast looking bumps on their trunks. (.)(.). So of course I became fascinated by this ancient tree. 
 
I take ginkgo everyday in my herbal tincture but had never before dreamt of the tree. It’s good for memory, and  it made me think about wisdom. What humans consider wise now and what we’ve considered wise at other times in history. I believe the plant came to me to remind me the wisdom of who we really are. That on the birthday of the world my brain, in collaboration with the ginkgo was reminding me of the ancient DNA that makes up who I am and all of creation. That the secret of life is not complicated, and is in the simplicity of a tree that stands steady, blossoming in secret, nurturing with it’s trunk and creating a blanket of leaves that will return to nourish the soil. It’s a truth the tree stands for, but also what we can stand for.

The theme for this month is coming back to your truth. I listened to my truth and went back to bed and dreamt about this healing remedy. By listening to my truth I received the medicine I needed. 

My blessing for this month:

May you listen to your waking and sleeping dreams and allow them to whisper to you the antidote you need.

Card for the Month:
The Impossibility of Conformity
(Yiddish: um-MEG-LEKH-keyt fun mit-halt-eray)

We are all striving for a sense of belonging, a sense that we are part of something greater.
 
Conformity and belonging are distinctly different. But capitalism banks on their similarities to conspire to make you and all your friends feel like shit. That’s why developing and nurturing a sense of belonging within ourselves is a revolutionary act and pairs well with self-love.

The reality is: it’s impossible to conform. As much as we try, we can’t. To face up to the reality of conformity is to admit our humanity. We are each a completely unique imprint on the universe. Yet, we all have the same DNA, so essentially we’re exactly the same.
 
In Judaism, now is the beginning of our lunar year. With the moon guiding us, we begin again. How might we counter capitalism’s grip? By looking to each other’s faces, feeling each other’s distinct hugs and seeing diversity, appreciating the quality we feel somatically with each individual in our lives, and then looking to the moon to remember: we all look at that moon, we all feel her rhythms inside of us.

The Jewish Month of Elul: The Double Rainbow of Your Lifetime

 Gettin' figgy with it. (Yes, I said that).

Gettin' figgy with it. (Yes, I said that).

I stayed with my cousins last week and their abundant green fig tree. The fruit was oozing and drooping (there’s another analogy but I’m not going there this time folks). My cousin was up early every morning putting away fig jam. That’s Elul. Cooking it up and, sealing it up.

In Elul you stir the pot and begin to prepare the dish you want to be served in the coming year. You get to use all the hard moments, the times you missed your mark and transform them into sweetness. Your preparing your jam.

 
 

Dudette, my cousin made fifty jars! That’s essentially a jar a week. Sweetness everyday for your gf toast that you can eat with joy knowing all the hard work you put into it!

In Elul we blow the shofar, the ram’s horn every day. This sharp, horned, fleeting, piercing, screeching, deepening call awakens our spirits. It says: Wake up people! Be alive! Climb out of your despair! Have courage! Turn! Turn away from what does not serve! Turn towards the true desires of your soul! Commit to living a life more aligned with your value!

You do all this preparation to answer the call of your beloved, who you will meet on Yom Kippur (more on that next month) to spend one precious day embodying the eternity of your true essence. Deep I know, the ultimate cliffhanger for next month’s blog post ;).

Your beloved is everything that came before and everything that is to come. It’s your ancestors, your time in utero, your birth, all the days of your childhood, all of your relationships, all the feels you’ve felt. If you are embodying your beloved it’s also all that is to come, your dreams, visions, what’s to be held in your hands.

 Elephant in utero.

Elephant in utero.

The basic format of Judaism is similar to most spiritual or moral practices. We take the same steps. And Elul is our time to reflect and prepare for the coming year.

Here are some tried and true suggestions for working Elul for your most beneficial growth:

  1. Say it loud. Tell someone you trust what you did, talk it through and seek counsel. This applies not only to ways you’ve hurt others, but yourself as well.

  2. Fix up your mistakes. Apologize and find support to change your behavior (only apologize if it won’t hurt the other person or yourself).

  3. Give. Do things to get out of your own head, free yourself with this.

  4. Move on and seal it up. Turn turn turn towards what is true, what is good. Wind up like a top and keep the momentum going.

Good luck! You got this you champion queens!

 
 
 
 

Card for the Month: Love (Yiddish: LEEB-shaft) 

Love. The love card.

Speaking of unforgettable double rainbow experiences...What we see is what we can love. But how to love what we cannot see? This is the month of the unknown love.

As the last dog days of summer are upon us we have our final adventures. We can use the emotions of fleeting and unabandoned freedom to support our unknowingness. This month may seem very foggy. Our task is to bath in the fog as if it’s the divine’s breath coating us in her delicious lull. To receive the vision of love with faith because we can’t actually see the love this month.

We have to feel it.

The Jewish Month of Av: Love and Destruction

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s a running theme of contradictions in my Rosh Chodesh reflections. Holding the oys and joys. This month of Av has an intensity like no other, in my humble opinion! 

Av is a lot about death (and also--wait for it--love). There has always been death and destruction on this planet. And, since patriarchy made it’s way into our reality, oppression. It’s been an intense last couple months, with the Orlando tragedy, the killings of Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines and Philando Castille by police, as well as multiple incidents of violence in Syria, South Sudan, France and Turkey. It’s left many of us shaken with grief and with renewed energy toward action and working for justice. 

In Judaism we celebrate the holiday of Tisha b’Av in the month of Av. This holiday marks the anniversary of two separate destructions of the Temple. I’ve been thinking so much of a quote by artist Lauren Bon: “Artists need to create on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy.” Destruction and creation are eternally caught up together.

Nettles hold this contradiction in plant form, growing where there has been devastation. A burnt down house, an uprooted forest and then they can do their healing. Though the season has passed, I saw nettles gone to seed by Strawberry Creek in Berkeley last week. They stuck in my mind as an analogy for the month of Av. We’ve been stung. Capitalism has stung each and everyone of us; it’s a nightmare on our street. We are all connected like spores of a two mile long mushroom. How are we going to make art from the sting? How are we going to hang out long enough to plant and nurture the seed?

 

 Av, the opposite of a LTR.

Av, the opposite of a LTR.

Av gives us another holiday that may be the key, Tu b’Av. This is the holiday of love. Ahhhh, the soft, tender embrace of love. In ancient times people would go out into the fields on Tu B’Av to find their love. The story goes that everyone would pool their white clothing together and mix them up. That way the poor and rich could not be distinguished by what they were wearing, it was mixed up. Of course there is a heteronormative version of this story but here’s my interpretation / how I choose to remember the story:

All genders of people would put their clothing in a big pile. Who ever chose to be the chosen or the sought after would pick something to wear that was not theirs. If one was poor, perhaps they would choose something fancier, if they were rich perhaps they would choose something more humble. But it was each person’s choice. Then, they would go out into the fields, dancing. The mating ritual would begin. Some would experience a one night stand that felt like eternity, others would find their life partner. But love would be the focus and merry meeting would be just as sweet as merry parting. Bodies of love, dancing, playing, sexing. The original anonymous sex, not knowing a thing about the other person. Trusting the pull, the embrace, the spores of connection.

We can make art and love at the same rate that patriarchy (and all that falls into that category-racism, sexism, ableism, classism, xenophobia) is seeking to destroy it.

My blessing for you: Surrender to the sting. Go through the grieving of destruction. Then, wait for the seed. Put it inside of you. Let your creative love be the prayer that you grow.


Card for the Month: Poop on a Stick / צואה אויפ א שטעקן / TSOY-eh oyf a SHTEK-n

"Making something out of nothing."

Hey everybody, everything’s been pretty poopy recently. Poop, poop plop. Goddess almighty, I have been feeling it! Recently a teacher of mine posted the Poop on a Stick card on her facebook page. Someone’s comment was that the card looked like a diagram of the Kabbalistic teaching about tzimtzum. I loved this!

Turnin’ poop into compost, people.

Tzimtzum is the teaching about the beginning of time. A.K.A. the Big Bang, quantum leap etc etc. In the beginning of time there was only the infinite filling all of existence which was totally non-existence (getting existential over here). When the will to create began, a contraction and expansion happened simultaneously. Within the contraction everything existed, in one tiny point. But it needed to expand in order to express itself completely.

I made this card to express some of the most poopy, uncomfortable experiences in life but it’s really all in how you look at it. Holy Shit.

 

The Jewish Month of Tammuz: Joy and Pain (like sunshine, what else, and rain)

 WITHERING ROSES

WITHERING ROSES

Sixth grade (stay with me on this metaphor people): a time of unsurpassed joy and excruciating pain. In my first year teaching public school I was handed, sixth grade. I used to tell people, “They are feeling things they’ve never felt before, they’re thinking things they never thought before. Hormones are intense.”

Teaching sixth grade for the first time is only comparable to being in sixth grade for the first time, lemme tell ya. We talked about gender, racism, death and, how to format an essay. (Oh the wrath of the formatted essay!) My own experience of sixth grade included my first need for deodorant, heavy acne and accidental discharge; among other perils! All of which to say, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s song (which they sampled from Maze), Joy and Pain that came out the year I entered sixth grade, 1989, was deeply appropriate.

What you might ask does sixth grade have to do with the month of Tammuz?!

In the U.S. it is now summertime. Freedom from (for many of us as youth) the confines of public school and wide open time. But for many, as hurtful as public schooling can be, it also provides a structure and a summer without structure can be confusing, at best.

Our ability to feel pain is matched to our ability to feel joy.

It's all about joy and pain. But it's kind of more about pain right now. Tammuz is the Hebrew month of mourning. The time traditional Jews remember Jerusalem's walls falling to Rome and enter a three week period of mourning. To those of us who had summer's off from school as youth, it might seem counterintuitive to associate summer with a time of mourning. But the time without structure and long hot days did have pain in it, for some of us.

Think about it. The depth of summer: the rose petals fall to the ground, the stream beds dry up, we ache for cold drinks to quench our thirst, our bodies want nothing more than the relief of ocean, river, lake. There's a lot of unsatisfied yearning and potentially, pain. 

On my walks around the neighborhood I've been stopping to smell the last of the roses. Oh that smell and it's encroaching disappearance! I want to collect all the fallen petals and save them, for something! This impetus reminds me of the blown glass vessels of Roman times, tear catchers. The petals are like teardrops to save in a bottle.

In Roman times tear catchers were all the rage and in Victorian times they made a comeback. As a former glass blower (yes, in my past life I was a glass blower) these little blown vessels to hold our tears (with special seals so the tears would evaporate!) are an intriguing analogy to the month of Tammuz. In this time of mourning we have the opportunity to collect our tears, our emotions of grief. The heat of summer is like the special seal on the vessel; allowing the tears to dry up, to evaporate. As the grief leaves us, we are left with the salt of our tears. And what is salt but the key to bringing out the most potent flavor of life?

My Blessing For You: May the angels of sunlight and the angels of tears comfort you as you let the pain exist and transform, as it falls away. 

Card for the Month:
Cycles: (TSI-klen, Yiddish)

 

"Day / Night

Death / Rebirth

Fall / Winter / Spring / Summer

-excerpt from the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah book, Cycles #18

In this time of summer we are harvesting and preserving fruit, hanging like sagging boobs from the trees. It's right there, wanting to be picked, to be licked, to be tasted. There is deep satisfaction in the devouring of ripe fruit. But there is also sadness as we watch the trees empty.

Easy come, easy go.

Some of the ripe, rotting fruits also drop to the ground, never touching our lips. But the earth absorbs the nutrients, the animals eat those fruits. They then poop out the seeds and a new plant begins its next life.

What goes, comes again, what dies is reborn. There must be death for there to be birth. Take it easy dear people of the earth. You get lots of chances, lots of turnings, lots of seasons. Let yourself go through the whole cycle. Please.

Happy Summer.