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The Goddess and Katrina, Rita, Wilma…

On August 20, my brother-in-law was killed in a car crash. Five days later Katrina crashed across the Gulf Coast, devastating hundreds of thousands of my brothers and sisters, many of whom suffered undreamed-of horrors followed, for some, by the release of death.

My sister, to salve the sting of life, has burrowed deeper into her Christian-right religion, and I've vowed to listen to her — even through her long exegeses of Biblical passages; of her happiness knowing her husband's in heaven; of how often she's reading the Bible (multiple times daily); and of how many minor miracles God has sent to show he cares.

My sister and I reached a truce years ago about religion, so we typically avoid the topic like a city sewer center. Now, of course, it's different: she's in pain, and for her, fundamentalism is the balm that eases that pain. So when she bubbles on about The Lord, I listen. I hope the Goddess maintains a point system, because I feel I've racked up a few.

I never mention the Goddess to my sister anymore, especially not now that she's in pain. But if she could listen about my Goddess, what would I say, I wonder, to comfort her? And what is the Goddess telling me to feel and do about the Katrina catastrophes — both natural and social?

I can't answer these questions. And from what I can tell, the Goddess community can't either. On my weblog, I've tried to give readers spiritual help handling the horror of Katrina — an invocation they can use, a ritual. But when I looked around the Web for something else to offer, I came up empty-handed. Even Starhawk, one of my guiding lights, lamented Katrina but offered no specifically-Goddess wisdom about coping. In writing about Katrina on her website, at least as of September 4, Starhawk hadn't mentioned the word "Goddess."

Mind you, I don't fault Starhawk. This is simply an area I feel the Goddess community, up to this point at least, has neglected. But how good is a religion that's mute in the face of crisis? That fails to direct us in times of trouble? (Do we pray? Hold ceremonies? Invoke?) That fails to guide us regarding social behavior, and the proper ways of viewing ourselves, of loving ourselves and others? That doesn't tell us whether, how, and how much to help others in crises; how to suck up strength, and how to medicate for suffering and pain?

We Need Models for Behavior

What I want is a clean, clear model that demonstrates in a heartbeat how to treat others in any specific situation. In my opinion, a logical model is the mother. But not just any mother. Mothers in most of the industrialized world have been so damaged over the generations that we can't always count on them to be healthy models of behavior. But it's still possible, I believe, to find healthy mothering going on — in the animal kingdom. And I believe those healthy animal mothers shower us with endless clues about how to respond in healthy ways to ourselves and others.

Healthy mothers love their children unconditionally. The lesson: we should love ourselves and others unconditionally.

Healthy mothers express anger and immediate action when their children are harmed. The lesson: we too should express immediate anger and action when our human siblings-under-the-Goddess are harmed.

Healthy mothers love their children equally, no matter if one is a violin virtuoso, another an albino, and another the color of rich, dark earth. All are showered with equal amounts of affection, food and shelter. No one needs to compete for mother's love - or for jobs, housing, or medical insurance. The lesson: Everyone deserves love, everyone deserves equal love, and we should rely more on cooperation than competition in doling out scarce goods and services.

The Healthy-Mother Rule

To use the Healthy-Mother Rule for good answers to life problems, simply ask yourself, "How would a healthy mother treat her child/ren in this situation?" The answer describes how to treat others in that situation. Here's the code: We are all children of the Goddess; therefore we are all siblings; we treat our siblings as mother treats us.

statue of lioness with cubsTake, for example, Gulf Coast inhabitants who lost family, home and jobs. A mother sees her children suddenly robbed of everything. Her response? She holds, rocks, and soothes them all, simultaneously. If she's an animal mother, she may spend hours grooming them as they snuggle close. To the best of her ability, she replaces what her children have lost. She gives equally, never more to one than others (unless, of course, one needs more at the time). The lesson for us: we need to hold, rock and soothe our Gulf Coast siblings. All of them. We need to replace their food, water, homes, and jobs and nourish their mental health. I don't care how much they had before; now they must be given what they need.

Here's another example. What should my response be to the sick and helpless feeling that washes over me when I see so many hurting so many, in so many ways? When I can't, for example, exorcise haunting images of my siblings caged and dying in the New Orleans Convention Center. When I hear stories about my top national government officials shopping for shoes and playing guitars while they almost certainly knew my siblings were dehydrating and dying in shock and sweltering fear. Using the Healthy-Mother Rule, the first thing I do is ask what a healthy mother would do in this situation. Suppose, for example, a mother bear sees half her children panicky because the lion pack across the valley is mauling their siblings. (The pack will most likely come next after the mother and her remaining cubs, by the way.) What does mother do? She might advise her remaining children to stick together so she can lead them against the pack. She might warn them to sharpen their wits before the attack, and to remember that she loves them. She might remind them to stoke but maintain perfect control over their anger, and to sharpen their courage, as she has taught them.

This, then is what we Goddess people must do. We need to lead (or follow) others in a concerted effort to round up the bad guys (who, by the way, will very possibly be coming after us next). We need to act like a close-knit pack. We must play leader if that's our calling, or follower if that's our ace of spades. Our enemies, after all, work in well-oiled units, and I believe that's a great deal of their strength. I know a father who's adamant about educating his daughters in team sports — he feels it'll give them a leg-up in a world dominated by corporate and other entities, in which teams form the basic building blocks.

We need to sharpen our courage (even if it's only snatching chances to leave our comfort zones regularly) and our wits. And we need pack leaders willing to love us fiercely, as mother loves her cubs. Last, we must continue to refine our abilities to sharpen our anger into a tool for good, without allowing it reduce us to a pile of cinders in the process (I still have work to do on this one!). Perhaps if we possess models that allow us to work well in loving, sibling-like cub packs (brownie packs?) we'll be able to stand proud in the face of tragedy, like the mighty force we know we are.

Graphics Credits

  • red sky at morning, sailor's take warning: a Hurricane Rita sunrise, courtesy of George A Shealy Jr and stock.xchng
  • statue of lioness and cubs, courtesy of Mike Swope and morgueFile
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