Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2020

Drawing on the unicorn tapestries at The Cloisters, the medieval branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Mason hauntingly scripts the narrative of the unicorn, the mystical creature pursued by a band of hunters in the “The Hunt of the Unicorn” in her evocative latest.

The chapters alternate between the firsthand account of the unicorn and the young monk from the abbey. With language both evocative and fresh, Mason brilliantly brings to life an evocative, imaginative vision of life in a medieval European abbey. Emerging stronger for her late coming understanding of her vanity and gullibility, the unicorn makes for a haunting protagonist. The ingenious, gentle, and perceptive young monk is equally convincing.

Incorporated in the narrative are theological arguments about true love, homosexuality, chauvinism, conceit, empathy, passion, religion, and salvation. 

Mason has delivered a winning tale. Lovers of literary fiction will be rewarded.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

Read Full Post »

“It takes a village.” I can totally relate to this saying but the reading that I did last night, for my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery, really brought it home.  I did the reading with the Blue Marble Bookstore and with Louis Greenstein who just published his novel The Song of Life (from Sunbury Books).

The reading was instigated by my publisher Adelaide Books.

Louis and I met at The Penn Book Center in 2019 when I read from then recently published novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. We just happened to publish books at roughly the same time this year and ended up writing blurbs for each other’s back covers.

The reading which was held virtually was attended by more people than could fit in the room at the bookstore.  Many, including old friends (many of them writers) who have been important to my development as a writer and new friends ( including those from my community from the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration) came from areas far away which they could do because the reading was virtual.There was even someone there from Thailand — where it was seven a.m. So we even had a guest from the future!

Among the amazing things that Louis said was it’s important to support our local bookstores (and our other local businesses).

Our books can be ordered through the Big Blue Marble Bookstore by clicking here.

Read Full Post »

On Monday December 28th at 7 to 9 p.m., I will be reading virtually with Louis Greenstein at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore. Louis will be reading from his new book The Song of Life (Sunbury Press 2020). The Big Blue Marble Bookstore is in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia but thanks to technology you can attend the reading from almost anywhere.

To register for the free reading, go to

In The Unicorn, The Mystery, we meet a unicorn who tells us the story of the seven tapestries, called “The Hunt of the Unicorn” from the 1500s on display in “the unicorn room” in The Cloister in Manhattan, now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tapestries tell the story of what is still called an “unsolved mystery.”

Read Full Post »

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click on the following link:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

The Unicorn, The Mystery — a Zoom #reading on December 28th — click on the following link:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/the-unicorn-the-mystery-a-zoom-reading-on-december-28th/

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, click on the following link:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/a-perfect-mind-segment-of-they-published-in-blazevox15-amreading/

Read Full Post »

The three kings appear to have been in a thruple. I believe it to be true. Actually, it must be true because I learned of it on Twitter.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

Read Full Post »

I was honored to find that The Unicorn, The Mystery received the BookView Review Gold badge.

To read the excerpt that was just published on the BookView Review scroll down past the review.

From the Blurb:

“In The Unicorn, The Mystery, we meet a unicorn who tells us the story of the seven tapestries, called “The Hunt of the Unicorn” from the 1500s on display in “the unicorn room” in The Cloister in Manhattan, now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tapestries tell the story of what is still called an “unsolved mystery.” The story is set in an abbey in France not far from the barn in the countryside where the tapestries were discovered. Pursued by a band of hunters, the unicorn is led along by observing birds, smelling and eating the abbey flowers and fruits (including imbibing in fermented pomegranates), pursuing chaste maidens (there is one in the tapestry) and at times speaks to other animals such as the majestic stag.

Buy now

The following is from The Prairies Review:

Eloquent and sophisticated.… poignant and full of philosophical observation.

Drawing on the unicorn tapestries at The Cloisters, the medieval branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Mason hauntingly scripts the narrative of the unicorn, the mystical creature pursued by a band of hunters in the “The Hunt of the Unicorn” in her evocative latest. The chapters alternate between the firsthand account of the unicorn and the young monk from the abbey. With language both evocative and fresh, Mason brilliantly brings to life an evocative, imaginative vision of life in a medieval European abbey. Emerging stronger for her late coming understanding of her vanity and gullibility, the unicorn makes for a haunting protagonist. The ingenious, gentle, and perceptive young monk is equally convincing. Incorporated in the narrative are theological arguments about true love, homosexuality, chauvinism, conceit, empathy, passion, religion, and salvation. Mason has delivered a winning tale. Lovers of literary fiction will be rewarded.

The Unicorn, the Mystery: A novel

By Janet Mason

Adelaide Books

Buy now

Pub date October 7, 2020

ISBN 978-1953510259

Price $19.60 (USD) Paperback, $7.60 Kindle edition

In the Beginning

(Chapter One)

“There is too much blood.”

The child pointed to the bright red blood dripping down my otherwise pure white side — and to the gash my horn had gouged in the side of the hunting dog. I do not normally hurt other animals – or humans for that matter – but the hound belonged to the hunters who had trapped and cornered me with their long javelins.

“That man is bad. I can see it in his eyes,” continued the child.

The child had a point. The man’s eyes are flat and glittering. Even as he points his javelin toward my head, you know that this kill – if it comes to pass — will not be enough for him. He will want more. I can see this but even now I still wonder – why would anyone want to capture me? Why didn’t they just leave me alone? Was I that important?

To distract myself from being bored, I watch the groups of people that pass through this room.

Today, the most interesting person in the room is small and is wearing a shiny and long magenta dress. I’ve heard little girls so adorned called princesses. Really, they are imitating a time long gone, and they are re-living a myth. It’s true that in my day princesses lived in castles.  But little girls were not passive. They had to be bred to be passive. The myth makers thought that they would make future little girls passive through the repetition of fairy tales. But young women did not dangle their long blond locks from towers and wait for the handsome prince to come and save them. They did not sit beautiful behind locked doors, waiting to be rescued.  They may have had to do it in secret, but many princesses developed their muscles. They learned to use javelins, shields and spears. They unleashed their power — even though they were frequently opposed and overpowered. I hear the tradition continues – despite the myth. This little princess may free me from the tapestry to tell you my story. Just remember that it is a real story — not a fairy tale.

I am going to start in the middle of the story of how they captured me. I’ve always wondered myself. How was it possible? Part of my legend and lure was that it was impossible to capture me. But this was not always true. People have hunted my kind for many reasons. They may have claimed that they were chasing my horn which they fancied as imbued with all types of powers. My horn was said to be a cure-all for everything, including mortality – as if that could be cured. They were especially keen on insisting that a ground-up horn from my kind acted as an antidote to poison. This was an untruth of course. Everything was false. They were chasing that which cannot be caught.

Let me start at the beginning – or rather in the middle. Of course, I defended myself. What other choice did I have? I see in this tapestry, that I am cornered and there is blood. But I am still surrounded by beauty. There is a stream flowing in front of me. Another day, I would have bent my head, lowered the tip of my horn into the stream, and cleansed it so the other animals could drink.

There are a few birds: the common gray goshawk, the noble falcon with its long wings who is not taking any notice of the hunters behind me as it stares down at the stream; and several types of ducks, including the mallard with its regal white ring circling its neck. Far in the background, at the top of the tapestry, is the pomegranate tree I have just eaten a ripe fruit from before I wandered away. To tell you the truth I was savoring some fermented fruits on the ground – which always makes me feel a little giddy. That may be why I didn’t see the hunters come up behind me until it was almost too late.

My hindquarters raised, I was poised to jump over the stream. The person who did the drawing for the tapestry maker caught me between galloping away and the moment when I realized that I had to give a swift kick, with both of my rear legs, to the hunter behind me. He was so close that I could feel the steely wind from his javelin on my rear quarters. As I mentioned, I am not usually aggressive. But I do like to be alone. It seemed that these hunters — suddenly surrounding me, with their javelins, bugles, and dogs — wanted to disturb my solitude and more.

I am surrounded by flowers:  white lilies, wild red roses, St. Mary’s thistle and my favorite, the pungent stock gillyflower. I can smell their mingled sweet and spicy scent. I see the blurred colors of lavender, pink and white as I gallop by. Nonetheless, I could still tell that the throng of hunters, that was gaining on me, meant to do me harm.

Now that I have time to really look at the scene depicted in this tapestry, I see that most of the men wear brown cloaks atop red tunics. Three of the men wear shiny blue cloaks crinkled like crushed velvet. All are wearing hats — more than a few are red, others brown — perched on their heads. One man, standing in the back, the man with a bugle hanging on him, wears a fancy red hat with a feather plume curling up from the brim. He holds his javelin straight up with the wooden pole near the ground. He looks down like he is musing. A poet, perhaps? He appears to be someone who thinks he is above the fray. Given his fancy dress – and the fact that there was always a hierarchy, he could be a representative of the King. It is said that the King represents God. If it is true – as I’ve heard it said — that I was a symbol of the son of God, then why would He want me captured? Wouldn’t He want me left alone to be part of the beauty of nature? There is so much in this world that doesn’t make sense.

I remember being in the grounds of the abbey. I was drawn there because there seems to be more room for solitude. The village inside the stone walls of the abbey was quieter and the people more contemplative. There was a church and a pig trough. The well was frequently unattended, so I could drink to my heart’s delight. There were more likely to be virginal maidens here – especially in the nun’s quarters – than other places. In the village that I had to pass through to get here, there were no virginal maidens at all. I had wandered into the burial ground, thinking that I could find some solitude. But then I had to flee from the people living there in makeshift tents and women plying their wares – and I do mean all their wares.

At the top left of the tapestry, behind the trees, the cherry, the pomegranate, the walnut, the bushy oak, is a castle in miniature. On the middle tower, a red triangular roof that appears tiny in the distance flies an equally small flag, a triangle with a point on the end. Perhaps the castle is within view of the abbey to remind the holy ones – even the Bishop – that they work for the King.

I admit that I was afraid of the hunters. I was especially concerned about their intent to invade my solitude. But I was not fearful of going to the castle, because I heard that the princess there – the king’s only daughter – was a warrior princess. She was a beautiful and virginal maiden. Surely, she would save me.

At the very top of the tapestry is a cerulean sky that has never seen smokestacks. The air was clean then. The forests were new, the land almost untouched by human hands and machines that were yet to be invented. The mountains smiled upon us. Everyone believed that I existed. It was undeniable that the earth was as alive as you or I. I could see the breath of trees — the vibration of everything.

I was found and captured – my story stitched into the warp and weft of centuries. Most of the threads are common and natural such as linen and cotton. But some of the threads are metallic. The glitter is magic — not only the stuff of my life but of yours too. These are the years that led to yours.

There were so many javelins coming toward me that I couldn’t stop to wonder then. But I do now. Who struck the final blow – if indeed there was one? Was it my human friend? I think of him as my friend, because he was the closest I’ve ever gotten to having a human friend. (I’ll tell you about him later.)  I’m not saying that I was above reproach. Perhaps no one is ever really innocent. Looking back on that day, I realized that many wanted me dead. But I did not understand why – or perhaps I should say I refused to. To tell you the truth, I never thought of myself as dying. I know it is inevitable, but perhaps I was too vain. I thought that what happened to all other beings wouldn’t necessarily happen to me.

I found myself musing and arranging words that came tumbling out:

“You will find that I am the creature written about in holy books, and the one associated with evil.

You will find that I am the rareness that is everywhere.

I am many. I am one.

I desire to be alone — yet I am always with you.

Wise men have written that I cannot be taken alive. Others say I am dead.

Worse, others deny that I ever existed.

Why do you belittle me, when I am wiser than thought?

I am the revered and the scorned one

I am the one who is always seen and the invisible one.

I am your purity, your hallucinations run wild.

I am said to represent your salvation – with my one horn.

But I existed long before this was said.

My will extends further into the future than you can see.

I am in the clouds above you.

I am the darkness of the woods.

I was captured, but I am free.

I answer to no man.

Even as you deny me, I am you.”

Chapter Two

{excerpt)

It all started innocently enough. That’s what I used to tell myself. Although when I think back on it, I have a nagging doubt.  Maybe it wasn’t so innocent. I knew he was spying on me. I pretended that I did not see him behind the bush. Instead of running away, I slowly walked to the nearby pond, bent my head, and admired my reflection. I kicked up my heels and pranced. My kind is known to be vain. I am no exception. 

I knew I was being watched. I knew it was the same one who was watching me. I never thought there was any harm in making him desire me. We were different species. I knew that nothing could happen between us. But I admit that I liked being admired.

That day in the clearing when I saw him gazing at me with intense desire, I felt powerful but, at the same time, had a sensation that felt like the earth was sinking and might soon open and swallow me. I see now that I knew then that it was the beginning of the end. I had wandered into the clearing quite by chance. I remembered that the sunlit grotto was edged with stands of birch trees. Their snow-white bark the same color as me, I usually hid behind them easily. But I wasn’t thinking of hiding that day. If I was thinking at all, I was thinking about the grotto and how I loved sitting in it and basking in the sun. When I looked up, I would see towering pines framing clear blue sky.

This clearing was my favorite place. I must have known that I was walking toward it. But at the time I really wasn’t thinking about where I was going. I just ambled through the undergrowth of the forest – admiring the curling fronds of the ferns. When I arrived in the clearing, I kept walking until I felt the sun shining down on my shoulders and haunches. I knelt down in the middle, with my front legs extended so that I was resting on my hooves. Then I relaxed. I closed my eyes and felt the sun’s rays warm my outsides and enter my insides too. For a moment I felt totally free – as if I were made of sunlight. Then I sniffed and caught a human scent. I opened my eyes and saw him gazing at me.

I should have fled. I would have ordinarily. Maybe I needed to prove to myself that it was my right to sit in the sun and shimmer – no matter what. But now that I think about it, I admit that his desire made me feel powerful. He gazed at me with such awe that I could feel it. It felt as if I symbolized something in his mind – like the light of creation.

Maybe in that moment, I was the light that haloed me. But the light falls on us all and emanates from us all. He did not desire anything in me that he couldn’t have found in himself.

I should have stayed outside the abbey walls that day and gone to the land near the castle like I had been planning. A stand of interesting rushes grew near the moat. They had long brown seed pods that were very tasty. I was always very cautious when I was near the castle, because this was the Middle Ages and barbarians in armor riding horses (who looked like they could be my cousins) and shooting flaming arrows could show up any time.

However, I almost never encountered anyone there on the land near the castle — except that one time when I ran into the princess and some other young women. They were jousting in the clearing. The tables were turned then. I was the one spying on them. The princess looked beautiful. Her dark blond hair flowed like a waterfall over the shoulders of her leather tunic. She wielded her javelin and her shield so well – like a muscular wind – that I barely noticed the other young women. I could tell that she would become a great warrior princess, one descended from the Celtic warrior queens – perhaps from Boudica herself.

***

Read Full Post »

A few words on The Unicorn, The Mystery:

The Unicorn, The Mystery has all the big ideas — passion, redemption, guilt, loneliness, empathy, pride, destiny, humility, lust, and love — told in simple, down-to-earth language. The unicorn’s story will resonate with me for a long time.  — Louis Greenstein, author, The Song of Life

Louis and I will be reading together virtually through The Big Blue Marble Bookstore. Click here for more information:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/the-unicorn-the-mystery-a-zoom-reading-on-december-28th/

————

The Unicorn, The Mystery was chosen to be on Q Spirit’s Top 28 LGBTQ Christian Books of 2020.

The Unicorn: The Mystery” by Janet Mason.

Experience a magical, medieval world through the eyes of a unicorn and the heretical young monk who is enthralled by her in this imaginative historical novel. Hunters are out to capture and perhaps kill the unicorn. The monk’s devotion may turn out to be the unicorn’s rescue or her downfall. Like a beautiful tapestry, the novel weaves together theological debate and unforgettable characters, including queer nuns and their secret cat companion. Mason blends myth and history to conjure up a spellbinding vision. The author is an award-winning creative writer and Unitarian Universalist lay minister. Her novel “They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders” appeared on Q Spirit’s list of the top LGBTQ Christian books of 2018. Published by Adelaide Books.

— Kittredge Cherry, publisher of Q Spirit magazine.

______________

The following is from The Prairies Review:

Eloquent and sophisticated.… poignant and full of philosophical observation.

Drawing on the unicorn tapestries at The Cloisters, the medieval branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Mason hauntingly scripts the narrative of the unicorn, the mystical creature pursued by a band of hunters in the “The Hunt of the Unicorn” in her evocative latest. The chapters alternate between the firsthand account of the unicorn and the young monk from the abbey. With language both evocative and fresh, Mason brilliantly brings to life an evocative, imaginative vision of life in a medieval European abbey. Emerging stronger for her late coming understanding of her vanity and gullibility, the unicorn makes for a haunting protagonist. The ingenious, gentle, and perceptive young monk is equally convincing. Incorporated in the narrative are theological arguments about true love, homosexuality, chauvinism, conceit, empathy, passion, religion, and salvation. Mason has delivered a winning tale. Lovers of literary fiction will be rewarded.

The Unicorn, the Mystery: A novel

By Janet Mason

Adelaide Books

Buy now

Pub date October 7, 2020

ISBN 978-1953510259

Price $19.60 (USD) Paperback, $7.60 Kindle edition

________

From The Lesbrary —

The Unicorn, The Mystery is a novel based on a series of seven tapestries titled “The Hunt of the Unicorn.” We follow a (genderless) unicorn through this story, while also getting the point of view of a monk who also makes an appearance in the tapestries. I want to start by saying that this doesn’t have a sapphic point of view character, though the most significant side characters are two nuns who are a couple.

I didn’t know going into this story how religious/spiritual it would be, and I’m not sure I have the background to really understand it. I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering the author is a Unitarian Universalist lay minister who also wrote a book titled THEY, a Biblical Tale of Secret Genders.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/a-perfect-mind-segment-of-they-published-in-blazevox15-amreading/

Read Full Post »


I am reposting this segment in honor of the passing of our beloved cat Felix and in honor of beloved felines everywhere in this world and the next.

This morning, I took part in a Unitarian Universalist summer service. In my talk, I reflected on The Egyptian Cat Goddess the Goddess Bastet (a part of my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery) and on the spiritual practice of gardening.

The link to the YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

The Goddess Bastet Janet Mason

In the summer, I garden.  This is a common hobby for many, especially writers.  It teaches patience, attention, and relentless hope.  Not everything that we plant comes back – especially after a long icy winter.  Not every seed sprouts and not every sprout makes it.  In this way it makes me focus on the positive – on what does come back and on what does sprout.

Being a Unitarian Universalist gives me a spiritual context in which to think about gardening. Many of our flowers attract bees – such as bee balm, lavender and the butterfly bush. And bees, of course, are good for the planet.

Every now and then, a plant from my writing appears in my garden – seemingly out of nowhere but probably from a seed dropped by a bird.  Last year it was a tall flowering weed known as a “sow’s ear” which was also in the manuscript I just finished writing, titled The Unicorn, The Mystery which is set in the 1500s in France.  I was amazed, of course, at the sow’s ear in my backyard.

Recently, I planted catnip.  Cats love our backyard and often we see one sleeping there – most often in the shade of the young hazel nut tree that my partner’s sister sent us. Inside, my office looks out to the backyard where the garden is. Our old cat Felix has taken to sleeping on the inside back windowsill – no doubt protecting his territory.

have long been fascinated by the Egyptian Cat Goddess Bastet. In my novel, The Unicorn, The Mystery, my monk character (who in many ways is a Unitarian Universalist at heart) prays to the Goddess Bastet.

Goodbye Felix

I stepped slowly and softly as if the soles of my feet had ears.  I took another step. A branch snapped under my foot.  I winced. That would never do.  If my beloved unicorn heard that she would assume there was a human nearby – big enough to snap a branch under foot – and hide.  It seemed like I would never find her.  I decided to pray.  But I had prayed to the One God before and it hadn’t worked.  Who would I pray to? Who would help me?

Immediately, the Goddess Bastet leapt to mind. Bastet was an Egyptian Goddess who was half woman and half cat. I knew about her because when I was a boy, my mother would tell me the stories that her father had told her.  He had loved Greek mythology and found out that the Goddess Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, was related to the earlier Goddess Bastet from Egypt who came from the even earlier fierce lioness Goddess Bast, the warrior goddess of the sun.

The followers of Bastet ruled ancient Egypt for a time in the land where cats were sacred.  I remember that my mother’s emerald green eyes gleamed as if she were a cat herself when she told me about the Goddess Bastet who kept away disease and was the protector of pregnant women. The stories she told me about the fierce, soft, cat Goddess Bastet were so vivid that she made me want a cat for my very own pet.

My mother cautioned me, however, not to mention cats to anyone but her. People with cats were looked on with suspicion, she warned me. For some reason cats were looked down on by the Church as wily creatures associated with Satan. Again, my mother told me that it was very important never to anger the Church.

Surely, the Goddess Bastet would help me find my beloved unicorn. She of all the gods and goddesses would understand why I had to find my beloved unicorn to save her.

I closed my eyes tightly until I saw a slim woman, standing tall.  She had very good posture, with the head of a cat.  I knew it was Goddess Bastet, just as my mother had described her.

And so, the Goddess Bastet and other worlds – real, imagined and both – is something for me to mull over as I tend the soil and do the spiritual work of gardening.

Namaste 

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

Read Full Post »


I am reposting this talk that I gave last year to mark the occasion of Hanukkah which this year started on Thursday December 10th and ends on Friday, December 18th.

The talk was a Unitarian Universalist (UU) service that was called “Ringing in the Light.”

I talked about my childhood memories of being touched by Hanukkah and my experiences in celebrating the Winter Solstice and with the Gnostic Gospels. You can see my words below on the YouTube video or read the reflection below that.

pastedGraphic.pngJanet Mason on Light – YouTube Author Janet Mason talks about finding the light through a child memory of a Hanukkah play, celebrating the solstice, and the Gnostic Gospels in a Unitarian Universalist context. www.youtube.com

As far back as I can remember, the light beckoned.

The sun was a ball of fire in the sky.  The light changed into vibrant colors in the morning and the evening.  It filtered through the branches of trees.  The sunlight had, in fact, shined down and helped to form the trees.  So the light was in the trees (along with the rain and the earth).

Even when it was cloudy, I knew the sun was there. Sometimes I could see the ball of sun outlined behind the gray clouds.

The first time I remember being drawn to the light in a religious context was when I was in elementary school watching a play about Hanukkah.

Despite its nearness to Christmas on the calendar, Hanukkah is one of the lesser holidays in Judaism. Hanukkah, also called The Festival of Lights, began last Tuesday at sunset and ends this Wednesday, December, 20th, at nightfall.

When I asked my partner what Hanukkah meant to her, she responded that it is a celebration of survival, hope and faith.

The holiday celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, detailed in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

This victory of the Maccabees, in approximately 160 BCE –  BCE standing for Before The Common Era — resulted in the rededication of the Second Temple.  The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea.

According to the Talmud, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah burned for eight days.

But there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. It was a miracle.

Hanukkah is observed by lighting the eight candles of the menorah at varying times and various ways.  This is done along with the recitation of prayers.  In addition to the eight candles in the menorah, there is a ninth called a shamash (a Hebrew word that means attendant). This ninth candle, the shamash, is in the center of the menorah.

It is all very complicated of course – the history and the ritual – but what I remember most is sitting in that darkened auditorium and being drawn to the pool of light around the candles on my elementary school stage.

I am not Jewish.  I say that I was raised secular – but that is putting it mildly.  My mother was, in fact, a bible-burning atheist.  Added to that, I was always cast as one of the shepherds in the school’s Christmas pageant since I was the tallest child in elementary school.

Also, I had Jewish neighbors – and as a future lesbian and book worm growing up in the sameness of a working class neighborhood — I may have responded to difference and had a realization that I was part of it.

Then I grew up, came out, thanked the Goddess for my secular upbringing, and celebrated the Winter Solstice with candles and music. This year, the Solstice falls on December 21st. The Winter Solstice (traditionally the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year)  is this coming Thursday in the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth – which is where we are.

One of our friends who we celebrated the Solstice with is Julia Haines. Julia is a musician who has performed at Restoration.  She has a wonderful composition of Thunder Perfect Mind which she accompanies with her harp playing. You can find her on YouTube. Thunder Perfect Mind, of which I just read an excerpt, is one of the ancient texts of the Gnostic Gospels.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.  Originally written in Coptic, these texts date back to ancient times and give us an alternative glimpse into the Gospels that are written in the New Testament. They are so important that they are banned in some conventional religions.  And in my book, that’s a good reason to read them.

Reading them led me to think of myself as a Gnostic – meaning one who has knowledge and who pursues knowledge – including mystical knowledge.  The Gnostic Gospels have provided me with inspiration for my writing, particularly in my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, soon to be published by Adelaide Books. And they also inspire me in the novel I am currently writing — titled The Unicorn, The Mystery.

I am inspired by the Gnostic Gospels in part because they let in the light.  In particular, they let in the light of the feminine.

As Julia says in her rendition of Thunder:

am godless

I am Goddess

So how does finding the light factor into my experience of Unitarian Universalism? Later in life, after fifty, I found a religion that fit my values.  I found a religion wide enough – and I might add, secure enough – to embrace nonconformity.

In finding a congregation that is diverse in many ways – including religious diversity – I have found a deeper sense of myself.

And in that self, I recognize that the darkness is as least as necessary and as important as the light.

As a creative writer, I spend much of my time in the gray-matter of imagination.

It is in that darkness where I find the light.

Namaste

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

Read Full Post »

This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show that airs internationally. Click here — http://thisway out.org — to hear the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

Armistead Maupin’s “Logical Family” is a comforting good yarn that combines queer cultural memory with personal odyssey (reviewed by Queer Life and Lit commentator Janet Mason).

Armistead Maupin — in the audio book recorded by the author — reads his often quoted ”Letter To Mama” originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle as part of his Tales Of The City series. Unfortunately the sentiments behind it still apply to too many today so I am publishing it here in its entirety.

Dear Mama,

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write. Every time I try to write to you and Papa I realize I’m not saying the things that are in my heart. That would be O.K., if I loved you any less than I do, but you are still my parents and I am still your child.

I have friends who think I’m foolish to write this letter. I hope they’re wrong. I hope their doubts are based on parents who loved and trusted them less than mine do. I hope especially that you’ll see this as an act of love on my part, a sign of my continuing need to share my life with you. I wouldn’t have written, I guess, if you hadn’t told me about your involvement in the Save Our Children campaign. That, more than anything, made it clear that my responsibility was to tell you the truth, that your own child is homosexual, and that I never needed saving from anything except the cruel and ignorant piety of people like Anita Bryant.

I’m sorry, Mama. Not for what I am, but for how you must feel at this moment. I know what that feeling is, for I felt it for most of my life. Revulsion, shame, disbelief – rejection through fear of something I knew, even as a child, was as basic to my nature as the color of my eyes.

No, Mama, I wasn’t “recruited.” No seasoned homosexual ever served as my mentor. But you know what? I wish someone had. I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, “You’re all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You’re not crazy or sick or evil. You can succeed and be happy and find peace with friends – all kinds of friends – who don’t give a damn who you go to bed with. Most of all, though, you can love and be loved, without hating yourself for it.”

But no one ever said that to me, Mama. I had to find it out on my own, with the help of the city that has become my home. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who don’t consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being.

These aren’t radicals or weirdos, Mama. They are shop clerks and bankers and little old ladies and people who nod and smile to you when you meet them on the bus. Their attitude is neither patronizing nor pitying. And their message is so simple: Yes, you are a person. Yes, I like you. Yes, it’s all right for you to like me, too.

I know what you must be thinking now. You’re asking yourself: What did we do wrong? How did we let this happen? Which one of us made him that way?

I can’t answer that, Mama. In the long run, I guess I really don’t care. All I know is this: If you and Papa are responsible for the way I am, then I thank you with all my heart, for it’s the light and the joy of my life.

I know I can’t tell you what it is to be gay. But I can tell you what it’s not.

It’s not hiding behind words, Mama. Like family and decency and Christianity. It’s not fearing your body, or the pleasures that God made for it. It’s not judging your neighbor, except when he’s crass or unkind.

Being gay has taught me tolerance, compassion and humility. It has shown me the limitless possibilities of living. It has given me people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength. It has brought me into the family of man, Mama, and I like it here. I like it.

There’s not much else I can say, except that I’m the same Michael you’ve always known. You just know me better now. I have never consciously done anything to hurt you. I never will.

Please don’t feel you have to answer this right away. It’s enough for me to know that I no longer have to lie to the people who taught me to value the truth.

Mary Ann sends her love.

Everything is fine at 28 Barbary Lane.

Your loving son, Michael

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »