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Posts Tagged ‘LGBTQ friendly religion’

Note: I recently co-lead a workshop on exploring myth in words and visual art at the Art Room in Philadelphia where I read the following excerpt of my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. The YouTube video is below and under that the text of my reading — which features the biblical version of Ruth and Naomi. There is a lesbian tradition of linking Ruth and Naomi together as lovers. (Ruth and Naomi are frequently pictured embracing.) And the writer and Biblical historian Gore Vidal agreed that it looked to him like Ruth and Naomi were lovers. I know it certainly informed my vision of traditional religion — and I’m honored to pass this tradition along.

 

 

 

Tamar looked down on herself. Her body lay on her bed.
Tabitha was at Tamar’s side. Her eyes were wet. Tamar knew why her sister was crying. They were almost the same person, from the same womb, from the same egg split into two. They were identical in looks, if not in spirit. They shared the same secret — that of tricking Judah. Zerah and Pharez were still living in Egypt with Judah.
Tamar saw a well-built man, younger but no longer young, dusting sand from his hands. He must have been digging the hole outside. Tamar somehow knew that the hole was where her body would be buried.
Shaggy salt and pepper hair brushed his shoulders. Light circled his head. She remembered that he was the young shepherd who had lain with Tabitha. Tamar had met him several times when he was a boy and his mother had brought him to her tent.
Tamar came back to herself, opened her eyes, and stared at her sister.
Tabitha looked down at her and said, “I am past my bleeding time now, so there won’t be a scandal.”
“Good,” Tamar said. That was her final word.
Tamar took her last breath — or so she thought. But in death, she found that she was breath.
She was the gentle breeze sweeping from her mouth as her lifeless body was put in the ground.
From the sky above their heads, she looked down and saw a small group of mourners. Judith was there. She was wearing her brown and white striped robe. It did not look like she was wearing her silver necklaces. A fat tear slid down her face, leaving a glistening trail. Judith was holding the hand of her youngest. She was now old enough to walk and to understand that the woman she had known as “Auntie” was no longer with them. But Tamar was not sad. She felt like herself — only like more of herself. She was the silence. Then she realized that someone else was with her. Aziz. (Her late pet camel) He had gone before her. He had died in the last growing season. She had made arrangements to leave Azizi (the baby camel she adopted when she was still alive) to Tabitha who had matured and was more of an animal person. When she was still living, Tamar had thought of Aziz every day. Now she felt a soft furry breeze next to her. They were together again. She caressed the face of the mourners. She lingered for a moment on Judith’s tear stained cheek. Then, in a gust, she took off across the desert. She had places to go.
Her first stop was the marketplace. She had told Tabitha not to tell Naomi that she was dying.RandN 4 stained glass
She only saw Naomi when she went to her tent to make the camel cheese. But they had struck up a friendship. Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth was left on her own when Naomi’s son had died.
Naomi had confided to Tamar that she loved Ruth. The famine was still bad in the land, and Naomi feared that Ruth might starve since she was on her own. Tamar had known that Ruth was fretting, and that was why she forbade Tabitha to tell Naomi that she was dying.
Tamar was a breeze blowing through the marketplace. She wanted to caress Naomi’s rough face, to thank her quietly for bringing her Azizi and for teaching her to make the camel cheese. But most of all, she wanted to thank Naomi for being a friend. A friend was hard to come by in the harsh desert. But Naomi’s stall in the marketplace was empty. So Tamar flew to her tent and found that she could slip inside the flap.
Naomi was still small and stooped. Tamar recognized her black and white striped robe. But it was no longer new. Time had left it in tatters. Ruth had aged too. Tamar had been right about Naomi’s skin. It had become brown and crinkled like the skin of an almond.
Ruth was beseeching Naomi: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
The two women embraced.
“I will think of a plan,” said Naomi, in her gravelly voice, “so that we can be together.”
The younger woman looked at Naomi with shining eyes. Tamar saw that they loved each other as lovers. The two women began caressing each other so tenderly that they looked like they might create a daughter.

 

 

With They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders, author Janet Mason posits that there could have been a hidden tribe of intersex children, kept under the radar by a pair of savvy twin sisters. Matriarchs Tamar and Tabitha can set the record straight on biblical heroes like Joseph and Jesus, along with other miracles of conception and reincarnation they’ve had to keep to themselves. — Windy City Times

available in bookstores and online where books are sold

Amazon link https://amzn.to/2UgefCb

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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 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.

 

 

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.

godess bastet threeI 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.

 

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 novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (just published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.
Amazon THEY

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