Archive | February 6, 2012

Sacred Space in Los Angeles – Part 1

I thought I’d list a lot of the places I think are sacred spaces around Los Angeles. Some are private and some are public. Some because I think ley lines go through them or fault lines and I’m not sure they aren’t one and the same because they feel about the same. Some because people have endowed them energy by constantly reinforcing the sense of wonder when they go there. They won’t be in any particular order. Just the order I happen to remember them. And a place isn’t sacred just because it’s a public garden, South Coast Botanical doesn’t feel like anything but dead space in most of it.
By sacred space I mean they have something called a “spirit of place” and it’s very hard to describe but if you are sensitive to the energies of natural places you feel it. Some of them are not readily obvious and you have to let yourself sink into them. Others smack you in the face with it. Even the most insensitive can feel it in places like Yosemite or the redwoods. In LA you have to be a little more aware. These are places that draw me like a magnet and that I HAVE to visit every once in awhile.
1. Huntington Library and Gardens. – this one is sacred just because of the people who visit it and the reverence and awe that a lot of people have when they visit it. It also has an awful lot of pagan statuary and shrines set up within the different gardens and exhibits. My favourite areas are the Children’s Garden and the new Chinese garden and the herb, rose and Shakespeare gardens but there are lots of other nooks and crannies like the lily ponds and the Australia garden that pull also.
2. Descanso Gardens – maybe it’s because I have been visiting this site since birth but it has an amazing feel to it. I took gardening and nature classes here starting when I was 6. I’ve hunted pollywogs and chased dragonflies, watched turtles and walked the hidden spiral labyrinth. It used to have a shrine to Kwan Yin but they took it out the year it was a design house and ruined that area of the garden. You can walk under 25-30 ft camellias and towering old oaks, some of whom resemble women if you look at them in the light. I like the ponds and the bird sanctuary and the Native California garden. If you get the chance to visit at night it’s like entering faery land. There is a mountain lion that makes it part of her 6 month route, owls that nest in the high branches, bunnies and squirrels and if you are very lucky, deer. When I couldn’t find any other place open on a Monday holiday and I had to entertain Steve Blamires this is where I took him. I take most of the special people in my life here at some point. I love this place.
3. Franklin Canyon – William O. Douglas Outdoor classroom. A wild place in the middle of LA and I do mean middle. Hidden away under some oaks is the geographical center of Los Angeles. They have a nature center and many hikes. They film here all the time so some of the places are very recognizable such as the opening of the Andy Griffith Show. And you have to be very careful and wear long pants because it’s loaded with poison oak. I suggest strongly going to the nature center first and studying its many guises. The whole place is an energy sink and it’s right off Mulholland and Coldwater Canyon across from the Tree People who are also worth a visit.
4. Brand Park – in Glendale. I spent many years as a child hiking it’s paths and it has the Green Cross statue from the first conservation efforts in the 30’s. It’s in a very small enclosed canyon like a bowl and it holds its space well.
5. Both the camps I worked at in the Angeles National Forest. Both are off the San Andreas Fault. One is stuck to the side of a mountain like a barnacle and the back drops straight down 150 ft into the fault and the other is its own little valley between two peaks with its own clear spring and lake, lots of wildlife and birds and a guardian spirit. In my four years there I saw more colourful birds there than any other camp I worked at. Horse flats a public campground is right across the road and has a lot of the same energy as Pines. It’s where they had Pacific Pagan Gathering for many years when Ellen Cannon Reed was running it.
6. Self Realization Fellowship Gardens and Lake Shrine – A little jewel that takes no time at all to walk around but you can spend hours there in the peace of it.
7. Arcadia Wilderness Park – A little bowl of land high a top Arcadia that has a lot of energy running through it. I like to just go and sit.
8. Hahamonga – used to be called Devil’s Gate dam and the area around JPL. An old Indian area and a very wonderous place to take a walk.
9. Millard Canyon – A hike for those who can boulder but the reward is a waterfall that just lights up all your senses.
10. Henniger Flats – up a long fire road of 16 switch backs is the LA County forestry nursery and fire look out and one of the first camping areas if you are climbing Mt Wilson. We used to do full moon hikes with the GS up here once a year. The kids didn’t complain about the switchbacks because they didn’t notice them and it’s magical to see the lights of LA from halfway up the mountain.
That’s a start for now.

The Pagan studies conference

I had the most incredible weekend. It got off to a bad start on Friday with the job interview from hell. The person interviewing me acted like it was the last place he wanted to be and barely paid attention. The temp company that sent me had said it was a 6 month job and he said it was 2 months and to top it off there was an evangelical missionary meeting with employees in the lobby and they were very actively participating with him. Talk about a hostile work environment for a pagan! It was very scary. I’ve been through that before and it’s no fun.

But it got better from there, we had our coven birthday dinner and that was lovely and fun and felt wonderful to be with my sisters. It’s hard to believe it’s out 26th birthday. 28 years if you count when we started studying together.

Saturday and Sunday I spent out at Claremont Graduate School Pagan Studies Conference. Had so much fun and gathered a ton of information and things to think about.

Connected with a lot of old friends and met a lot of new folks. Also Jeffrey put on one of the best public rituals I’ve ever been honoured to take part in. Perfectly balanced which is very hard to do with folks with as many traditions as people attending. Just perfect!

It was great to have Z Budapest and Hyperion for keynote speakers. They balanced each other nicely and gave a lot of food for thought.

One of the most emotional presentation for me was Drs Wendy Griffin and Marie Cartier’s papers on Lesbian Land. Brought a lot of memories of the West Coast Women’s Music Festival back. I hope they keep expanding on the topic.

Jeffrey Albaugh’s and Alfred Surenyan’s papers were great also. Damn they were all good.

The only thing that infuriated me was the presentation Sabina put on. She doesn’t believe in Family Tradition pagans and thinks it’s just said to provide legitimacy. Uh, No, sorry. I was trained by my grandmother and the whole family knew that it was happening at the time. I also know 2 other women trained by their Scottish grandmothers and they learned a lot of the same things I did. No, it wasn’t formal craft at least not for me. It seemed to be more related to Druidry. I learned how to see the Fae, I learned how to talk to trees and animals as if they were thinking and participating. I learned how to find places of energy and the spirits of place here in Southern California, I learned divination, some ways I’ve never seen anywhere else. I learned magic and the chants to make a spell work and I learned our family’s history and genealogy. I learned that I needed to be creative to be a whole person. Whether it was drawing or painting or making special jewelry or learning to design embroidery patterns and then making them. I learned to bake the family recipes and to use my hands to work dough instead of reaching for the mixer. Unless I had to do it. I also learned that science was a way of answering questions as much as folklore was. That science was a kind of magic too. I learned that having second sight was normal and not the be feared. If that isn’t family tradition training I don’t know what is. I know it wasn’t probably pure tradition passed down exactly the same. My grandmother was always adding to her knowledge and said you never should stop learning and growing.

This wasn’t taught by some one who was uneducated either. Grandma got her college degree in 1910 in what is now UCLA, before women could vote. She went to see the Alaskan Gold Rush in 1906 with a friend, she was 16. She climbed the local mountains. She was also a silversmith, a leather worker and anything else she deemed interesting. She was taking Japanese Cooking lessons when she had her stroke and then it made her so angry she willed her own death. The doctors couldn’t figure out how she died so quickly. I saw the angry in her eyes and understood.

I have to say there were no deities and no initiation and no ethics taught other than to treat other people as I wanted to be treated unless they wronged me. She taught me to respect all people and then every one was equal except for her two blind spots, “the stupid rounded-headed Irish” and anyone related to Robert the Bruce, who killed one of our ancestors in church by stabbing the Red Comyn in the back. Anyway when people say there are no family traditions it makes me a bit crazy.

The conference was on Pagan Identity and all the different things it could mean. And it covered a really broad spectrum. Very cool! Can’t wait to see next year’s theme.

I was on the authors panel at the end with Barbara Ardinger and Gayle Brandeis and we all have very different genres and styles. Because there had been a little heated moment with Z and 2 straight male presenters it had gotten a little uncomfortable energetically and I was up first, I decided to start with a small ritual and it was my flame shift so I lit my candle and sang out Brighid chant and had everyone concentrate on any prayer they wanted to put energy to and read the Brighid’s flame story I wrote. Then I read the first littlest Druid story and I was done. Very fun but I get terrible stage fright even with a friendly audience. Still glad I did it and Alfred asked me to be one of the authors for Pagan Pride and I sold and signed some books. I think we had druids from every tradtion possible and some had never heard of the Druid Clan of Dana that is part of FOI. All good and a great weekend with lots of hugs and good energy and I really needed it. It was amazing to be in such a group of well educated and well rounded pagans that were eager to interact and play.