Magna Mater Festival

April 1 through April 8 turns out to have been the Festival of Magna Mater in Rome — Cybele, the Great Goddess. Now, I don’t wish to suggest we should worship the Great Goddess (since among other things her priests were expected to self-castrate), butthe idea of celebrating an 8-day festival to Mother Earth strikes me as a pretty darn good idea, especially in April when the weather is so pleasant and excellent.

Hymn to Mother Earth
Dedicated to the good sister who crossed over and came back again

Hail, lady, Mother of mortal and god,
from whose fertile loam springs fruit and flower,
who brings forth grass and grain from sand and sod,
who taught trees to grow with grace and power.
At your order, bees toil in their hives,
ants store up food with mighty industry,
robins tug earthworms from urgent ground
tremored by eager seeds beneath dead leaves.
Your realm awakes with newborn verdancy,
and signs of your lusty spirit abound.

In your bones are all your children recalled,
and always do you challenge us to learn
bright choices in our D.N.A. coiled
so we evolve or die at every turn.
Each house and each frail heart on you relies,
and when you tremble and shake in anger
we shudder, and cower, and shie away.
You shield our nakedness with seas and skies
yet turn your face from us, and we hunger –
and when we die, we return to your clay.

Your dredlocked hair holds the great chain of life;
your breasts hold milk enough for every one;
and though your progeny find joy in strife,
slowly we wake to thoughts that we are one —
returning, returning and returning
to you the womb and cradle of all flesh,
who chooses life in all its abundance,
reusing, recycling and churning
every thing that lives in this fragile mesh,
this spiderweb of interdependence.

I can’t help but feel it needs a lot of work. It’s not quite powerful enough to hold eight days of interest, and three verses may not ever be enough, anyway. Still, it’s a beginning. I’m also going to do a similar piece for the Roman festival if the Cerealia, the eight-day festival of Ceres that comes at the end of April. I’m not sure why I’m doing so many calendar-related poems, especially pagan calendar related poems, but I was telling ‘ and my friend Ximon that I was interested in creating a new set of Propers and Ordinaries for myself. One of the things that comes out of my Episcopal training is a desire to have a round of celebrations and commemorations that have meaning to me. Hence, the New Moon and Full Moon sonnets, the seasonal greeting pieces, and pieces like this one.

It also looks like Rectory will let us plan and plant a community garden. I want to hit a bookstore on Thursday night and get some gardening books. I’d love to set out a semi-formal vegetable garden, with veggies in one part, herbs in another, medicinal plants in another, and ornamentals in another. It’s looking like we’ll have 10 or so students in Outdoor Adventures this year, which gives us plenty of hands to do weeding and labor for the next two months while we get the garden going, and the C’s, the McKs, me and , and others will be prepared to put in effort and reap the rewards all summer into autumn. Corn and wheat in small amounts would be cool, but I don’t know what the ratio of plant to produce is, and it may not be worthwhile to bother with.

One of the things I’m worried about is that a lot of plants need pollination, which means we need insects, particularly bees, and most particularly honeybees. It turns out that Connecticut is experiencing a shortage of domestic honey bees, like the rest of the country. Does anyone know where I can pick up a couple of hives and get some honey bees both cheap and fast? I think I’ll have to stop by the Apiary down the hill at some point, and see if we can get some education in bees into our program at school. Practical gardening and agriculture… hmmm.

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