Month: June 2014

Calming Down

This helped:

For me, some of my super-loving very well meaning friends that really want to see me living in San Francisco (some from a lack of being informed/absence of curiosity about how much Minneapolis/Saint Paul really has.) Other equally well-meaning loving friends want me to stay. We’ve made the decision – Mike and I both go. He functions better when I’m around to kick his ass and get him off multi-player games.

So now I’m sitting back and looking at how this could be good for me. But this means I first have to acknowledge the real problems: San Francisco is Silicon Valley now – it doesn’t cater to me. In fact, I’m exactly who it’s tried to get rid of. I just happen to be married to exactly the kind of person the area is now trying to attract. I’m extremely put off by how young the area is collectively – when a place that expensive has that many twenty-somethings roaming around, something is wrong. There’s overprivilege stinking to the high heavens. I saw a five year old wearing Google Glasses and that’s just one example of how the place is proportionately out of whack. Stuff like that kills kids’ capacity for empathy. Just look at what it’s done to adults. When was the last time you actually looked another adult in the eyes? Probably before you bought that SmartPhone.

So here is what I know is good:

  • the historical society. Any group that does suffragist speech re-enactments is inherently awesome. Mike trundled me off for fear they’d recruit me on the spot.
  • the YMCA Bay area membership means I can get in pretty much all the types of physical activities I want in a sort-of no-pressure environment. There’s even a bellydance class But there’s the negative weighing on me: larger women aren’t common in San Francisco at all. Exactly how much time am I going to spend batting off people making idiotic, entitled comments about my body and by inference, the rest of me?
  • Berkeley and Stanford both have really appealing continuing education programs for writers. Berkeley’s is online – meaning no one will be reminding me every ten seconds they went to Berkeley. Stanford’s is tempting, but it requires that I go to Palo Alto. Palo Alto is not a place for decent, humane people – or for me. On the other hand, most universities are a separate universe from the towns that have them. So that could be an unknown, even if I would dearly love to repeatedly slap the one current Stanford student I do know.
  • There are multiple writers’ collectives and programs out there. None are quite as  solid as the Loft but most are much more affordable.
  • I have heard that the Pagans of the Bay Area are awesome. I have liked the one person I met from there. I will see. There are plenty of metaphysical shops. I already spotted the hole in their organizing techniques and it comes from old school thinking that was new school three years ago. (So it’s not a terrible thing, but it’s a thing.) What is that thing? At least one major “meet the Pagans” site neglects to mention any specific locales. Bay Area is a colloquial expression – people moving to the area or visiting it aren’t going to know to call it that. It will help, given how transient the area is, to actually list the areas “Bay Area” refers to on the site.
  • I did email and mention this would help searchers like me. We’ll see if that helps.
  • I am, in fact, less fearful walking around San Francisco than I am Minneapolis. It’s extremely difficult to express why without sounding like I’m blaming a person for a situation – or excusing a person when there’s no excuse. Misogyny is far more rife in Minnesota than in California. Of course, body judgment is pretty much there so that’s a whole other problem I’ll have to develop yet more tools to handle.
  • Panhandlers. I hate them everywhere, so that’s equal.
  • California is really pushing the electric cars. San Francisco does not have an electric vehicle organization the size and strength of Minnesota’s. Transience? Passivity?

I am told everyone kind of sticks to their city out there. It is kind of true here but not really, not exactly. I wander to both sides of the river pretty easily and regularly – of course, the population and land mass is significantly smaller so that’s easier to do.

I think this has been what’s bothering me about all this Bay Area stuff – the community feels kind of weakened. I should love it. I should. I love Portland, I love Minneapolis. What is my problem with San Francisco aside from my perpetual fear that my body will divide me from human decency again? I know why on the surface – but does that mean that there are people with strength and interest hiding in the more affordable suburbs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jumping to the Conclusion

So, without diving too deep into it, Mike and I are moving to California. I can’t say I’m 100% thrilled. I’m not even 50% thrilled. While I did enjoy lunch with one awesome person out there, for the most part this is going to be a period of my life that involves a lot of grit teeth. I don’t do anything without four or five reasons – and the reasons are good, and I have to grudgingly accept them, even though not a single one involves me in any way shape or form. So I will move while thinking all sorts of bitter things about big companies being so big they feel entitled to fuck up little lives. But then, I’m not a person to Mike’s coworkers. That was obvious when he arranged for me to be right in front of them. I’m an obstacle, an inconvenience, someone to babble at about biking and hiking and all sorts of things I never asked about that I may myself do that I DO NOT want to have long conversations about…because they’re boring and more about showing off than about being.

But I’m stuck with it and so I’m kind of withdrawing and handing over to Mike. Maybe I’ll be happy there but probably not. I’ll be a beautiful fat woman near an ocean surrounded by a very shallow pool of humanity. Mike’s “smart” friend out there is an ass; I suspect he’s typical.

So happy face time. It’s not like I really have a choice, not in my financial situation. I have no independence. I’m stuck with this.

So sorry San Francisco, I’m going to be the newest addition to your gentrification problem.

Rajchel-Gonzo Frisco Night 1

San Francisco, night 1.  Actually, staying in a suburb. Millbrae is to San Francisco as Bloomington is to Minneapolis. It won’t be the only parallel, I’m sure.

Impression 1: litter. Litter on the roadside. Litter in the brush. Litter used to obviously make someone’s home on a patch of busy highway. The litter stops abruptly when we come to the hotel – literally, at the gates, as though some mysterious repellent fends off windblown bits of paper and tubes of random hardware adhesives. They need to share this spray.

I suspect this spray is paying someone to clean that shit up.

Mike took me to Mission District for dinner; for some reason I thought he’d already been on one of his trips out here in early spring. The BART line seemed OK, a little old, but well-kept, but on the walk to the station again with the garbage everywhere. The sun had just started to set when we boarded the train; we passed through a tunnel still in twilight and came out the other side with the sky dead black. It startled me – and also answered my eternal question about Buffy the Vampire Slayer of why California?

I realize that landfills are a lousy solution and incinerators the worst possible idea for this state. But jeez, there was a lot of compostable stuff I saw lying along the roadways. I began to look around a little desperately for an Adopt-a-Highway sign. Roads in California are all orphans in need of care. There must be some urban spirit, some mother Theresa of roadways, to invoke in these situations.

My first impression of Mission District was to turn around and get back on the train. Garbage everywhere. Restaurants opened sporadically – it looks like many people in San Francisco, like the people of Paris, eat only after the sun sets. Mike brought me into one café that is supposedly “very Mission.” It paralleled the Hard Times Café, with the Hard Times coming out superior – truly an unexpected win.  It was entirely too small. It was only white people there, in various phases of hippie and hipster.  People peered into my face, looking for something – perhaps because I was definitely not a regular, perhaps something else. There’s always a certain amount of staring when I travel and I ignore it but something about this combined with jet lag set me off.

I told Mike harshly on the way out that based on the impression I had of San Francisco so far there is no way in hell I would waste my energy living in such a place. We then turned a corner and lo – barely a single piece of garbage touched the ground. We started across the street to a tapas bar, went into a French restaurant instead and I got to enjoy service from a French Waiter who did not argue with me about the order in which I received my coffee. I just had a three cheese platter with fruit and pistachios – light and refreshing. Mike had a burger and got embroiled in a text discussion where all sorts of interesting things were said about me based on my being white, female and of “lesser” education than the men discussing me. I drew from my “lesser education” to make my opinions known and there was a backdown. But the underlying attitude is there – and my memory is long.

Mike took me on a way out of the Mission District that was less littered. I counted 7 churches very close to the severely littered streets, and noticed a K-12 school. All that church and education – and a supposedly dense environmentally focused population – and no one thought to clean things up?  Bored kids in need of an Earth Day project? Churches, seeking to teach their congregants through practice the art of true service to the community? I saw none of that and could only pose one question to the universe before me: What the ever loving hell?

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Walgreen’s as I forgot to pack my very depleted rescue inhaler. Alas, I will almost certainly need it here. There is both pollen AND not enough oxygen produced by plants to filter it here. We will have to call in the morning – the pharmacist did his best but could not fix the problem. A friendly chat with the store clerk revealed that alcohol may be sold until 2 am in California; that sales taxes are obscene on a Chicagoan level and that he seemed quite versed in the features of our hotel.

Mike decided to try out the Lyft service; it was quick, the driver was friendly and amused in a detached way at my jet-lagged insistence I was going to find a way to get San Francisco and the California highway department on this whole litter situation. Gangs, whatever, there’s no great solution yet. But c’mon, litter is a controllable issue.  So now Mike and I are confirmed mustache riders.

We made it back to our rooms, Mike to do whatever it is he does so much of on his computer and I to take a shower, try to stretch out my sciatica issues and to layer on as much lotion as the desert will allow.

Too tired for now and will need room to think.

 

This is the core conflict of this trip: it’s not for pleasure. People keep asking me for the pleasures I plant to partake in and the truth is none. None of this trip will please me and I am not obligated to be pleased, though Mike is hoping being here will persuade me. Our calendar has already filled with acquaintances of Michael’s; I am hoping to find time to meditate, separate my ego and set it down somewhere so I can deal with what comes my way from the best place possible. There are just too many pressures this time.

No, this is a fact finding trip, the facts organized according to what I consider important. Mike has done his fact-finding. To his credit, he has brought me here to do my own. But how I go about this is intrinsic to me and utterly foreign to just about everyone who has attempted to talk to me about this.

The popular vote is that we move here. I had not set out a ballot.  I have had many an unsolicited opinion. I have not said to anyone “What do you think?” or “Where should we go?” If I’m going to live here, I alone should be asking myself those questions.

I have learned that when something is popular, it is probably wrong. Everyone has a context for what they’re saying to me; perhaps this is payback for the many times I have waxed rhapsodic and pushy about hidden features of Minneapolis.

And here I pause to allow the one piece of genuine bitterness I have in me to flow out – I am forever the person designated to make hard decisions between right and popular. While I know yelling “it’s not fair!” is a useless act, sometimes a little fist shaking loosens some knots in the back.

We’ll see if I can get conversant with the land that is California and the city spirits of the Bay area tomorrow evening. That, and I’ll see if I can get some fucking time to work.

Also, I am still recovering from US Air keeping us on a plane for two hours while they fixed a broken chair. Those of us in front seats were just kind of stuck there.

All this Artist’s Way stuff: here’s the payoff

So I started the Artist’s Way in 2008, mostly as a sort of me-too with Xiane and Cassidy and Angelique, two being women in the Etsy beauty products guild I was in. It’s one of those situations where life definitely has a purpose – the beauty stuff was a huge diversion from what I knew I was supposed to be doing.  This 12 week series turned into exactly the kind of guidance I needed because it made me pause and look not just at my creative habits but at my entire life.

The Artist’s Way proved so helpful I moved on to Finding Water. Then on to Walking in This World. Then I just kept going…and only this year have I sort of caught up, with the Artist’s Way for Parents sitting on my Kindle despite my not having children.

The small steps, the daily work, the wisdom – for me, it helped. Because now I have my first published book to show for it:

darw_book_cover

At last, it’s out – and it would never be finished without my adherence to the Artist’s Way path. You can get your own copy at Amazon or any other bookstore your heart desires. You may want to ask your favorite indie bookseller to order a copy.

But… it’s out. I did it.

And after I post this I’m going to work on the next two books I have contracted.

Filed under: Struggles

the Sacred Mystery of Denial #paganvalues

This entry is part 15 of 16 in the series Sexual-Violence-Ed-for-Pagans

The agrarian mysteries conferred the secret of the vine. Ecstatic mysteries the secret of sex and reproduction. The Mystery of the 2 x 4 is when the universe clobbers you after trying to show you gently what you needed to know several times. Sacred consent, sacred sex, love, joy, passion, death, survival, healing, sharing, compassion – we’re all about it.

But there is another mystery. It’s actually a Mystery of light – but we have come to treat it like a shadow.

It is no shadow.

The Mystery of Denial is how we keep light when dark would overcome us. It is how we choose dark when our life is spent and we have no more to give to the light.

It is how we are able to change paths and pursue our truths – rather than be overwhelmed by a truth that isn’t ours to live out.

Denial is our gods-given right to refuse. It is the manifestation of free will; saying no is how we know that we are free.

We may choose to live when we are given a crippling disease that removes any quality of life. But our choice to refuse to is also sacred.

We may be offered the pleasures of the flesh – but we are meant to be free to refuse them. We may have those pleasures requested of us, for selfish or shared pleasure – and it is a sacred duty for the asker to accept a refusal, as this is the play of free will upon the earth.

We may be asked for money, for food, for shelter, for things trivial and significant. We may give and this is sacred. But refusing to give is, too, sacred.

No is not the enemy.

No is simply our guardian, our tool to mark what is ours upon our person.

The word no causes the mind to cloud and the throat to tighten. But it should not.

When you master this mystery, you will relax upon hearing it – because no simply means to take another path, until such a time as your path is also to say no.

This is the sacred Mystery of Denial; if we are truly life affirming, we must have room for this negative.

Remodeling the Witch’s Pryamid #paganvalues

To many, the very idea of recalibrating "ancient wisdom"  must really hit the heresy bone. But really, if Wicca and other Pagan religions that draw from the tenets of Wicca are non-dogmatic as they claim, then it’s high time to walk that walk. The very point of being non-dogmatic is that when we find ourselves in situations where our stated values perpetuate evil instead of good, we change those values. Any values system worth adherence must stand up in the real world and to do that long term requires change.

 

And this is why I am suggesting that we alter the Witches’ Pryamid/Pillars of the Magus just a little bit.

 

For those who may not necessarily be familiar, the Witches’ Pyramid is a call to magicians of any faith to master  the following four qualities/practices. In Wicca, each is assigned to an element, alongside the Greek humors and many other associations.

 

They are:

To Know

To Will

To Dare

To Be Silent

 

The one which merits revision at this point is To Be Silent. This is not because silence is wrong; it’s because as recent sex scandals in the Pagan community have revealed, it is much too easy to interpret this too literally and under the wrong definition. The Burning Times misinformation led many 20th century witches to shape their modern beliefs in reaction to a time that did not really exist (heretics were burned. Witches – i.e. herbalists, usually Christian, were hanged. The Inquisition did other things.)

 

Silence has become a deadly tool of evil, though when it was brought into Wicca it was meant as a way of preserving the good. The intent of silence was to first of all, honor the secrets of others. Those secrets meant names, the identifying details of lives of coven members and people that came to us for help.

 

It did not mean the Mysteries – that ban was lifted when Gerald Gardner was called to publish his books. I have deep quibbles with Gardnerianism, Alexandrianism and any asshat that throws around the term "NeoWicca" as though the Gardnerian and Alexandrian labels don’t make that clear enough. But even so, Gardner is, albeit very indirectly, a spiritual ancestor to me the way Mary Magdelene and John Calvin are to Protestants. ((I am not saying I am lineaged from Gardner. I am adding it because someone always on the alert for ways to injure their own butt will misconstrue the statement if I don’t footnote it.))  Mysteries have a way of being self-protecting as they are things you only get by living them, agrarian and bodily Mysteries alike. It did not mean magic, per se. Sharing magic and magical techniques is no different than teaching a person how to clean a gun or handle a knife. What that person shoots or cuts with it is in fact not connected to your karma and to think it does suggests a God complex. If we have free will, so do the people we teach – and controlling them rather than observing whether they live the path while using the skills is in itself an ethical violation.

 

Silence meant knowing when to hold the tongue, when to listen, when to observe.

Instead, it has been used to keep secrets for the sake of power alone, or to say nothing when evil plays out before your eyes.

 

Silence is now a tool of oppression when it was meant to be a tool of wisdom.

 

It is not the fault of silence, of course. The fault lies with our shared understanding of it.

 

So I propose a change to the pyramid – not in intent, but in word choice. Words, after all, have power and sometimes words change meaning and thus their powers change. So it is with silence.

 

Instead of To Be Silent I propose the Witches’ Pryamid say To Discern.

To Know.

To Will.

To Dare.

To Discern.

 

Discernment does what silence once bid: observe first. Understand. Recognize differences subtle and overt. Make decisions based on careful distinction, on an understanding that absolutes only work well in fiction.

 

If you see a violent situation play out before your eyes, discernment bids you to understand it. Is this a repetitive situation? The first time its happened? Is this merely the first time you have seen something happen? What were the circumstances? How will strangers be affected by your decision to act or not act?

 

If you are unconcerned with how people you don’t know are affected, why? Is that really a functional moral system? What if you replaced the word "strangers" with "innocents?" How does it look to you now?

 

Discernment will help you consider the consequences of your actions and the actions of those you observe; it is applied with a commitment to the greater good.

 

Ah silence, you are not at fault. But because we so little understood you, it is time instead to Discern.

All Acts of Love and Pleasure #paganvalues

So, for those of us that are Wiccan ((eclectic Wiccan, not NeoWiccan, asshole))  we often refer strangers to the Wiccan Rede as our expression of a moral system. Except it’s not; in practice it’s more PR tool than guideline. Either it’s treated too casually with more focus on the “do what thou wilt” than the “harm none” or it’s  taken too literally. I’m pretty sure the original author of the Rede would be horrified to hear one man I knew took a beating because he applied “harm none” without further discernment.

The ultimate Wiccan values statement is not the Rede, it is Doreen Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess ((used per the Creative Commons license issued by her foundation. Pretty sure it’s far too late for no derivative works, says one of the many poets that have indeed derived from the Charge. Does a blog post discussing it constitute derivative work or academic discussion?)) Yes, it is referenced as liturgy and used in one the heaviest of the heavy coven-based Wiccan rituals that is, but, outside of circle, it is just as powerful: it is a description of how Wiccan adherents should conduct themselves.

I’m going to go through this phrase by phrase with my own understanding of it.

1)Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.

Aside from an introduction, for now I’m going to set this one aside. It’s a complex issue and I am heretical in that I don’t believe all the Goddesses are as one Goddess – but a few are comfortable forming a union, or maybe a social sports league. This is an expression of my personal experience with the divine and most certainly not specific to Wicca. Just me.

2)Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full,

First, it suggests religious gathering/ritual once a month. It also recommends asking for help with your needs once a month. That seems about right – in a give-and-take relationship once a month is a reasonable exchange for help on both sides. The full moon is preferred. It doesn’t need to be at night, just during the full moon. Night just cooperates with most people’s work schedules. Since this itself is derived from a passage from Aradia where similar words were addressed to slaves, the implication of night would also be about safety in secrecy – which, in a society where slavery is mostly metaphorical is not necessarily the case.

3)then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.

So there does need to be a bit of worship worked in. It’s a give and take – but to adore someone, you generally need pretty words and pretty things, whether it’s a libation, a spritz of perfume or a lot of sincere if horrible poetry. (Valiente was a wonderful poet. I am speaking of what the poetic average just is in general.)

The location, according to this, should not be public. This is an area with rich possibility for exploration and debate. Some read this as an edict to stay in the broom closet (keep it unknown that you are Pagan.) Since this text is itself a derivative work, inspired by Charles Godfrey Leland’s Aradia factors into the shape of this intent.

Since Aradia is the tale of an oppressed population in Italy saved by the Goddess Diana, led by a female Christ ((the literal meaning of Christ is “anointed” and thus in this case it is a generic term for a mythologized savior))  named Aradia, it makes sense that these oppressed people would be admonished to hide their doings. It seems possible that there may have been some sort of culturally required break in work patterns at the time of the full moon as well. An enslaved population most certainly needs to keep any organizing and educating doings a secret. So for those that subscribe to the Burning Times motif, secrecy intended steps to avoid persecution.

There is yet another perspective on this, and one I am more inclined to in terms of what is current in society. This admonishment for secrecy aligns with a little-practiced Christian value expressed in the gospel by that more famous Christ: praying only in secret.   From Matthew 6:5-8:5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

While some Wiccans believe God/ess is ominpresent but not omnipotent, requiring prayers to actually be spoken, most likely appreciate treating faith as something very intimate between the self and the divine, rather than a decorative accessory of public morality.

4)There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.

This is a little more complex. Certainly those who practice Wicca or other forms of the Craft learn plenty witch-to-witch. But this line also suggests why Wicca is a Mystery religion. Direct contact with the divine is often instructive; since most rituals involve some sort of direct communion/interaction, it also results in information imparted to that person about how to better practice magic, or how to solve one of life’s vexations or simply how to heal a wound. Miracle healings, while not unheard of, are fairly rare in the Craft; however, understandings of steps needed and work required to heal being acquired in a vision or similar spiritual experience during Wiccan ritual are very common. These visions and information sessions do seem to come over the strongest signal during the full moon.

5)And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.

By the time Valiente wrote this slavery had already disappeared from the United Kingdom and the United States. Again, because the Charge is itself a derivative work it’s necessary to look at the conditions of the feudal peasants to whom the charge of Diana to Aradia is addressed. Feudal peasants were bought and sold with the land they lived on so yes, they were fundamentally slaves.

But who might Valiente have spoken of? While some might well argue women, bucking against the restrictive conditions of the 1940s and 50s, it’s important to remember that she wrote this for use by both men and women. The question is raised then: who back then saw themselves as slaves? What do we consider ourselves enslaved by now? Given that slavery and human traffic is as virulent as it has ever been, what does the spiritual practice free us from?

The way this is phrased, it suggests that we are most enslaved to our social statuses. It’s not just the wealthy among us that cling to those identities. There is a certain fierce pride to those who wear symbols of poverty, whether it’s shabby clothing or “ghetto” whatever. By shedding the clothing we are no longer influenced by those social symbols.

But that’s only for those of us willing to shed clothing. This is also why the pseudo-choir robe is so popular among Wiccan covens that don’t go skyclad. A single garment that looks like it came from the church choir bad boy is uniform enough for other coveners not to be able to identify telltale signs of social status – in those robes your best guess as to how much power a person has comes from the manicure and that’s easy to fake out by anyone with skill and an emery board.

For those of us, like myself, that eschew both nudity and choir robes… eh, we’re bad Wiccans, I guess. But I feel a lot more free in my jeans than I do with my rear hanging out or wearing a robe that I will set on fire in 3…2…1…

For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.

The simple explication: worship of the God/dess is supposed to be fun. This concept may be the most anathemic concept of all to conservative religious believers.

It also means that the Goddess wants us to experience happiness, rather than providing constant, loud demonstrations of pious misery. The God/dess loves us and loves all beings – not just the ones she has issued the charge to – and she wants everyone to be happy, not just her chosen witches. This is an artfully crafted statement – it embeds happiness as the highest value, while making love for those different from ourselves – or at least, recognizing her love for them – as equally important. The God/dess doesn’t care if someone is one of her witches or not – she loves that person all the same.

Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.

Shakespeare, Hamlet: “To Thine Own Self Be True.” But this does level up on the idea that it is important to know yourself and act in accordance with your own interests. This also levels a powerful edict: do everything you can to be your best self, always. If you say you have a system of moral values, live them. Life will challenge these values all the time – live them anyway.

For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen [sic], which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.

This is where Valiente veered away from the Aradia adaptation, calling upon Celtic and British mythologies. Whether or not it was her conscious intent she did make Wicca explicitly Celtic with this line. The Land of Youth is a specific epithet for a sort of Celtic heaven known as Tir na Nog. It was believed that in that land everything was youthful and abundant forever. The Cauldron of Ceridwen refers to the Cauldron of a specific crone goddess –  in that cauldron boils all wisdom. Whatever goes in the cauldron is changed forever. The Holy Grail is, in this case a dual Pagan and Arthurian/Christian reference: while Christians see the Holy Grail as the cup Jesus Christ drank from at the Last Supper, Wiccans see the cauldron as an embodiment or perhaps aspect of the grail.

I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart.

Again, this suggests she just wants everyone to be happy. Also, that happiness is sacred. If she is the source of good in the world, then seeking real happiness is also a source of good in the world.

Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and

I think “eternal” is a later addition. But knowledge of the spirit in this case refers to two things: self-knowledge, an understanding of the self so that you know what your best path to happiness is and also knowledge of the human nature, that you become aware of the maladies of body and mind that keep others from their own true paths.

beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before.

Yes, this suggests an afterlife and the way it suggests it effectively differentiates Wicca from other types of Paganism and polytheism. Wicca believes in a pleasant afterlife and in a reunion with loved ones. This implies a meeting with ancestors but it’s kept vague. Other Pagan and polytheist beliefs tend to have unique takes on an afterlife from none at all to very specific realms of reward and punishment. This makes no mention of the Summerlands, the popular term for Wiccan “heaven” though that’s a fit, too.

Nor do I demand sacrifice,

Sacrifice is one of the most discussed concepts in all of Paganism and again this is what makes Wicca different from other Pagan and polytheist religions. Before I go further let me make this clear: these are not the sacrifices of horror movies. The majority of sacrificial practices today strongly resemble backyard barbecues. Think about that when enjoying some grilled chicken in a backyard. Wicca explicitly does not engage in sacrificial rituals. There are no animals offered, nor is anyone required to abstain from any pleasure for any reason.

Sacrifice is, however, different from offering. Offerings are routine and good manners in general. As we offer drinks to our guests so we pour libations, or burn incense or candles, or put out small pieces of food for the God/dess. It’s an extrapolation on the concept – and it’s also an important anchor to Wiccan religious ritual.

for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.

It’s unclear whether Wiccan environmentalist consciousness was sparked by this. That seems like something that came along later on. This does make it clear that all living things are her children – not just the witches – and “my love is poured out upon the earth” suggests that all living things have some of her essence upon them. It could be argued that all living things are actually the God/dess. as her presence infuses absolutely everything with no regard to what humanity considers good or evil.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe;

This is still interpreted as the same Goddess or simply another aspect of the same Goddess. That perspective is part of Wicca’s liquid monotheism/duotheism. It is arguable that the Star Goddess is part of a double or triple pantheon and is actually a separate Goddess altogether.

I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire,

This is a reminder that the God/dess is all of nature – and makes it clear that yes, that means she includes us. She is the force that gives us desire, that is what is behind our state of constantly moving on to the next want once the last one has been sated.

call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.

This is an interesting ritual trick – yes, it calls coveners to stand up if they are not already. But it also turns the invocation of the Goddess into an invocation of the Wiccans present.

For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return;

The God/dess is everything and is in everything. This line suggests both animism and gnosticism at the same time. Even the heaven/afterlife she promises is her – to die is to be in her because she is all.

and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.

What the Goddess wishes for most is to see each creature attain its bliss – and that bliss is again promised in the afterlife. “Beloved of gods and mortals” is curious – it seems to acknowledge that there are other gods outside of the Goddess. She has stated that she is all living things; this suggests that the gods are included in that as much as the mortals are and in much the same way. So the gods are not aspects of the Goddess but they are made from her (and yet, paradoxically, they ARE aspects of her because they are made from her.)

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.

This may be the single most upheld line of the Charge. It is the reason that Wicca has come to welcome all sexualities and all acts of consensual sexuality. There is a powerful moral key embedded in this seemingly permissive line: love and pleasure are not separate concepts: to be a ritual to the Goddess, love AND pleasure must BOTH be present in all parties for the act to qualify as sacred. The love need not be the romantic love of popular conception but it must be at minimum a cherishing and appreciation of the lover at hand.

And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

This is a call to balance with the intent of preventing a dogmatic approach to spirituality.

And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

The path to the divine is an inner path, not an outer one. As you know yourself and come to recognize yourself as sacred, as part of the Goddess, you will also come to connect to the Goddess and actually recognize her outside of yourself.

For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

 This is both the beginning of an individual’s life and the beginning of all that is and ever was. When you stop desiring you will come to the Goddess, but in an “embrace the desires” way rather than in the Buddhist “rise above your desires” sort of way.

This is poetry, yes, but this is also the original Wiccan values statement. Every line is packed with meaning and that means every line may have a different interpretation from what I have set down here. But it is important to understand it, because it actually has more explicit calls for pleasure-loving moral behavior than the Wiccan Rede itself does.