Question of the week: Relationships

A short one this week, since I am in Elora, the village where I grew up, visiting my family for Easter sunday dinner. Since there may well be as many as 30 people visiting today (siblings, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and so on), I am led to think about family relations, and about relationships in general.

In The Spiral Dance Starhawk wrote, “The primary principle of magic is connection”. In her theory of spiritually-motivated political action, she regarded power exercised with other people as non-oppressive and non-domineering (in contrast to power exercised over people). Similarly, Carol Christ wrote in Why Women Need the Goddess that when the Will must be exercised in concert with others, only then is it properly spiritual.

Today’s question concerns spiritually significant relationships. As I sit in the living-room with my cup of tea, surrounded by by brothers and sisters and my parents, arguing about politics, religion, sports, literature, history, and the way of the world, while at the same time turning the points of disagreement into in-jokes that only we understand, it occurs to me that there is more to family relationships than the mere fact of shared genetic heritage. How is it with your family? What do you do together when you gather on holiday occasions like Easter, by which you know yourselves to be a family?

I know, of course, that even this friendly question may generate controversy. Many of my friends (including readers of this LJ) have disclosed to me that their childhoods were full of misery: their parents were abusive and domineering, and the whole set of relationships deeply dysfunctional. For many people, the notion of family conjures memories of sadness, rejection, trauma, and fear. (Ever notice that when people describe the traumas they suffered as children at the hands of abusive parents, they lock their gaze with yours, point their finger in your face, and role-play the part of the abusive parent whilst casting you in the role of the traumatised child they once were?)

So, let me phrase the question this way. What relationship, or set of relationships, constitutes the most spiritually significant relationships in your life? Is it with your friends and neighbours? Is it the people you regularly circle with? If you are a teacher, is it your students? If you are a musician or a performing artist of some kind, is it your audience? Perhaps one of your significant relationships is more animist in nature. It might be with the flowers and herbs in your garden, the trees in your local park, your pet dog or cat, or your artist materials and working tools. I have a friend who is a blacksmith, and he told me that as a blacksmith the most important relationship is with the fire of his forge. What makes your most spiritually important relationship, well, spiritual?

I think I will go ponder these questions while walking in what I like to call “my forest” for a while. It’s been a few months since I’ve walked the land where the spiritual powers that I’m committed to first revealed themselves to me. See you later!

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