Virtues of the Goddess is a series on the eight virtues mentioned in the Charge of the Goddess and their relationship to the sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. This is Part 2: Beauty.
I’ve never seen a purple crocus shyly peeking its fragile bud through virgin snow. Where I live, he have colorful roses into January and the citrus trees are heavily laden with fruit, coloring our land in shades of lemon yellow, lime green, and orange, well, orange. Fresh snow will never make it onto my altar. The winter, with its sabbat of Imbolc, is a hard season to attune to here in California.
Yet, as a native southern Californian and a Witch, I can feel it in the land. It’s subtle, and most people from other parts of the country would never notice it, but there are little signs of winter even here in the LA Basin. The deciduous trees have finally all lost their green. They stand dry and impassive. The darkness arrives early. Not as early as it did last month, but without the beautiful light displays decorating the neighborhoods, it feels even darker than before the solstice.
There are signs, if you know where to look. While this is the time when colder parts of the country long for a return to warmth, we long for the return of the trees, the roses, our famous swallows, and the bees. Our drought-stricken land seems wasted and dead just as those in the east are digging themselves from under a mountain of blizzard-induced snow. The beauty of life is hibernating all around, but is seems far away. We all yearn for that crocus or tulip, that drop of rain, that something that tells us there will be beauty again.
It’s not just in the land. It’s in our culture as well. One look at anything in the news these days is enough to make the whole world seem pretty ugly and drought-stricken. Our politics are ugly, to the point where xenophobia and mindless insults carry the day with large swaths of voters. Every day we hear of another terrorist shooting or innocent black child murdered. Violence and fear seem to surround us, closing in like a Death Star trash compactor.
But, just like this Imbolc season is subtle in California, there is beauty if you know where to look. So many of us were left bereft at some point this month as wonderful artists seem to have passed from this earth in droves. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, the list goes on. Their passing left the world poorer, but their work left it richer. Beautiful reactions from fans expressed how each of these artists had touched their lives began to circulate around social media almost immediately after each passing.
I was never really a Bowie or Eagles fan. Yet, the tributes posted by fans were incredibly touching. They help us remember just how deeply the beauty one artist makes can touch the hearts of others and how each of us finds beauty in something different. I don’t need to know an ounce of Bowie’s music or a single word to “Hotel California” to appreciate how much these musicians meant to the fans who loved them.
Rickman is a different story. I had been watching his career since Die Hard. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I wrote my master’s thesis on Harry Potter. With Rickman’s crossing, I felt what Bowie fans must have felt. I felt the shock and pain of loss, but I also better appreciated the beauty he left in my life and in the lives of his many fans.
In the midst of anti-Muslim fervor last month, Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at the evangelical Wheaton College, began wearing hijab in solidarity with those who follow Islam. She stood up for them, stating on social media that both Christians and Muslims worship the same god. This got her suspended.
Right in the middle of what has been a nadir of relations between Muslims and non-Muslim Americans, Hawkins took a stand on the side of love – and paid the price. There’s beauty there. Many students and religious leaders came out to support her. More beauty. Sometimes it takes the worst to highlight the best.
There are other examples of Muslims protecting Christians from harm and vice-versa. Groups of bikers ride out en masse to protect funerals from the venomous hatred of the Westboro Baptist Church. I’m not saying we should ignore our very real problems an look only at the pretty and shiny things, just that beauty inspires us to go on in a world that seems full of its opposite. These acts of courage are beautiful. Art is beautiful. Tribute to the fallen is beautiful.
The world really does seem horrendous sometimes. Especially lately. Yet, underneath the snow (from what I understand) there are beautiful flowers waiting to break through the ice. Here in California, small green buds will appear on the trees within a month. Light creates shadow, and beauty can stand out against the blanket of nastiness that seems to cover our world. It can be hard to find, but it is still there if you know where to look.
Other posts in this series: