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9/11 One Witch Won’t Forget!

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not really that excited about America. That is, I’m not particularly patriotic. I think most demonstrations of patriotism are closer to fascism. I’m the kind of person who quit saying the pledge of allegiance everyday because it has “Under God” in it…you know who else did stuff like that? The Romans. And Nazi Germany. But there’s something about 9/11 that makes me feel grateful and happy to be in America and to be an American.

My experience of September 11, 2001 was quite different from many peoples. I was 18, and had graduated high school in June. For the previous three years, I’d been saving money for a trip to the United Kingdom, and through a very odd series of coincidences, I was saved from a mess of trouble. My trip was to be 15 days, and I was scheduled to fly from Seattle to New York, and then on to London. A week or two before the trip, I had the travel agent (we had those back then) change it to a direct flight from Seattle to London. When I arrived at the airport with my parents in tow, the plane was grounded due to mechanical failures, and my travel agent pushed the entire venture back one day.

As a result, I was not on an airplane on Sept 11th flying to New York. I was still in Ireland, with a ticket home while everyone else was freaking out. Absolutely, the Gods were looking out for me then.

Because I was on vacation, the company I was touring with didn’t want to ruin our experience by telling us of the horrors at home. I had been in a bus most of the day, stopping and shopping at little towns. I should explain that, over there, by simply opening your mouth and speaking, people know exactly where you are from. So every time I asked a shop keeper where the restroom was, or the time, or where the bus would come from, they would apologize and treat me extremely politely, but with a grave solemnity. It was only at the third or fourth person that I stopped to ask what was going on. They showed me to the TV, and I could see these buildings and it looked like they were on fire. Everyone was speculating–an accident? an explosion? No one thought terrorism. I watched the second plane hit the towers. People in the shop gasped. Someone from my tour group was crying. All the Aussies and Kiwi’s kept asking me how I was going to get home. That was my thought too.

As a result, I barely knew what happened. By the time I returned home, everyone was burned out and grief-stricken from talking about the details. It was all about what to do. There was a cry against terrorism, and I watched my country unite against hatred and desperate to do something and not knowing what they could do.

Over the next couple of years, it was only with the specials on TV coming out that gave me the details. I think because it was so abstract for me when it actually happened, that I didn’t really deal with the emotions of it. It’s been almost a decade, and I still can’t stand to see the footage of the towers falling. 9/11 is more real for me than Veterans day or even Independence day. The emotion is really present for me. I feel for those families that lost someone, I grieve for the people who felt like this was their only option. My heart aches for soldiers and their families who are fighting to keep us safe–my heart even goes out to those families whose soldiers are fighting for our stupid excuses. I hate war, but Athena has taught me that it is sometimes necessary, if done with thought and care. This was wasn’t, or we’d be done by now and Osama Bin Laden would be charged for crimes against humanity.

9/11 is still real for many people, but there is a difference between being angry and scared at being attacked and in taking it out on people. Muslims did not do 9/11 to us FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE did! That is something I’ll never forget. Muslims died in 9/11 because our country honors the fundamental right that people have a right to their religion. America welcomed them with open arms as immigrants and the children of immigrants. Just like they did with my ancestors coming from Germany, Ireland and England. The only difference is about 150 years, but we are all still here together as Americans, and every one of us was attacked that day.

So when I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE burning Qur’ans, it, no offense, gets my panties in a wad. I’m pissed about it! How absolutely un-American (but I’ll support your right to do it, so how American is that??). When I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE booing and hissing at a fellow who wants to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, I’m embarrassed at the reaction of my people. Clearly they didn’t learn what I learned from 9/11. What happened to that Unity? What happened to people being open and accepting and tolerant of other religions? Why does our unification have to be at the expense of someone else? Why does the spread of Democracy have to be so…undemocratic. WTF?

Have you read the Qur’an? Did you know it has many of the same books as the Bible? It has a lot of beautiful poetry. I keep a translated copy next to my Book of Mormon, the Tao Te Ching, and a book about Hinduism. Because being American is about letting every voice have a say, and every person have an equal opportunity for happiness, and it is up to me to learn what these voices are saying and where they are coming from. I protect their right to speak because I know if we can silence one group, we can silence another. Pagans are all about polytheistic plurality. We see diversity as a good thing because diversity in nature makes a healthy ecosystem for everybody. My magic is to stand up and speak. Yes. It is that important.

Read Periodically

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A great way to get to know the Pagan and Wiccan culture is to subscribe to magazines and periodicals that cater to those of us who fancy the magical. They can help you learn the “who’s who” of the Wiccan world, and you’ll pick up customs and etiquette (not to mention find out where to get some sweet stuff!).

In the Witchful Thinking Store, I’ve added a section for magazines and periodicals such as calendars. There are some great ‘zines for organic gardening, green living, homesteading and, of course, tattooing. But there were some great magazines out there that (for some inexplicable reason) I can’t seem to get into my store. But I’m excited about them and want you to know about them anyway!

One of my favorites is Witches and Pagans, the magazine for, well, just what it says. It used to be PanGaia, the magazine for thinking Pagans, but they merged it with one focused on natural magic. The result is a great publication with articles on spellcraft, astrology, Wiccan lore, ethics, theology and the occasional archaeology report. Plus issues focused on magic, music and much much more.

SageWoman is focused on celebrating the journey of women and finding your inner goddess. It is full of rituals and wonderful writing. Some of your favorite female authors have probably written for this publication.

These are all published by the same company, BBI Media, which means you can totally subscribe to them all and save some cash. Some even come electronically so you can save paper (or if you just prefer to archive your magazines on your hard drive). They also have a magazine dedicated to older women and mothers called Crone. So there is really something for everyone. I was able to get that one in the store, so check it out there!

If you know of any magazines or periodicals that Witchful Thinking readers might be interested in, send them to me! I’ll add them to the store or at least share.

Pagan Jokes I

August 23, 2010 3 comments

Some of them are even funny! I snagged and edited them off of here.

From:  NanSanders

How many Garnerians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Can’t say. It’s oathbound.
How many Alexandrians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Same number as Gardnerians.
How many Dianics does it take to change a lightbulb?
That’s not funny!!!!


From: Outpagan Q: What is a male honeybee's favorite magickal item? A: The caul-drone Q: What kind of furniture does a Goddess worshipper prefer? A: Wicker Q: Why did the Wiccan novitiate give up pork? A: She thought the Rede said, "Chew what you will, but ham?--none."
From: Sisterlynx How many Solitaries does it take to change a lightbulb? Who cares!
From: Outpagan A high priest tells his coven member, "Hey, I heard a new fundie joke today." The member replies, "Man, you're always slamming fundies. Why don't you tell us a Martian joke instead?" "OK, Two Martians are carrying their Bibles to church. The first Martian says, 'At the revival last week, I led 15 new souls to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour' and the other Martian says--" "Never mind," says the member.
From: EastLion That's almost as bad as the one I heard about the Dyslexic devil-worshipper. He sold his soul to Santa.
From: Sekhmet59 (Mild slam, but I liked the joke...) What's the difference between New Age and Pagan? About $500.00 a weekend.
From: ASBrowne01 I'm sure you are all familiar with the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac who stays awake all night wondering if there is a Dog....
From: Great Seer The definition of "SAINT": "A dead liberal who is worshipped by living conservatives." (Just something I overheard at a Unitarian service this morning...)
From: SpotedWolf Hey, us dyslexics have a sense of humor, too. The bumper sticker 'Dyslexics of the world Untie" --it works
From: ROOCAT I recently saw a bumper sticker that said D. A. M. -- Mothers Against Dyslexia
From: Beasty101 How many Dianacs does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but that bulb has really got to want to change.
From: Mitheldhae When God Created Men She must have been Drunk and Horny!
From: WITRHAWK How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb??? None.. they call the electrician who's also pagan and keeps the money in THEIR community.
From: Ciorstag How many witches does it take to change a lightbulb??? None -- if a candle was good enough for Gramma it's good enough for me!
From: Rhiahnnon2 I know we are all sick of the "Confuscious say" jokes, but I have to rehash them for this message board =D "Confuscious say man who sits alone in church, sits in his own pew" ***Groan!***** "Confuscious say man who stands on toilet is high on pot" ******Double Groan!!!******
From: Thorolf A personal favorite: How many Asatruar does it take to change a lightbulb? None. The light from the burning monastery is sufficient, thank you. And the old Nordic classic: Why don't Norse pagans perform the Great Rite? Because it's impossible to get a saxknife into a beer bottle.
From: LadyCharis Q: What is a witch's favorite snack? A: PAN pizza
From: Outpagan Q: What's a witch's favorite subject in school? A: SPELLing.
From: Rhiahnnon2 I've got two bumper stickers (I can't use them or the hubby will get hell on base) one says "Life's a witch and then you fly" the other says "Beam me back Merlin" They're not knee thumpers, but I think they're cute :)
From: Outpagan WHY M&M'S ARE WICCAN: * MM = Merry Meet * Round shape for wheel of the year, cycle of seasons * Skins are different colors, but the inside is the same chocolate, because we are all related. * Associations with the colors: Red = South Green = West Dark Brown = North Yellow = East Orange = For the Solar God Light Brown = For the Earth Mother (Copper Woman) * Rotate the M & M: M = 13th letter of alphabet, and there are 13 witches in a coven 3 = Triple Goddess, three phases of moon W = Witchcraft, Wiccan E = Enlightenment, Enchantment of chocolate * "Melt in your mouth, not in your hand"--God/dess's love must be experienced directly to appreciate. Also, God/dess will take care of you. * Sweetness to remind us of how sweet the love of the God and Goddess is!
From: Aarmanda Those are great bumper stickers. I got one from a friend today that has a picture of Barbie dressed all femnist and it says "Barbie gets a Brain"
From: Nosferati Try this one, I ran across it once: ***ERROR #666 HARD DRIVE POSESSED! Load EXOR.SYS (Y/N)*** (actually I stole it from YeloRoz) When that happens, and EXOR.SYS doesn't work, do you 'ascii' a priest? And with spirits, you can get slimed. With a posessed HD, do you get 'gui'ed??
From: ArachneG Here's one you can just about get shot for where I live (Georgia) but I like it anyway: If you can't change your mind, are you sure you still have one?
From: Ausrine Sign in a Wiccan bookstore: "No Shoplifting! Offenders will be Possessed! Second-time Offenders will be Re-Possessed!"
From: VacmClnrMn What is one thing you never have to worry about? Your airplane being hijacked by a group of radical Unitarians. Also, I heard something before about a modern Wicca who used a vacuum cleaner instead of a broom and a 24 caliber instead of a knife (hey, it's still phallic!)
From: EastLion At a store I used to go to there was a parchment affixed to the wall with a daggar that read "Shoplifters will be merrily hacked to pieces!", needless to say, I don't think they had much of a problem.
From: J FoxDavis How do you scare a UU (Unitarian Universalist) our of your neighborhood? Answer: Burn a Question Mark on their lawn.....
From: LdyHawke Long ago when I belonged to an Artists' Cooperative...we had many fragile hand crafted items sitting around on shelves. Since we were located in a local shopping mall we had much foot traffic by parents who saw no need to look after their children much to our dismay. Finally a sign we posted at the door seemed to get our message accross... WARNING! Unattended children may be eaten by starving artists!
From: Mariah Q Q: How many Druids does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: They don't screw in light bulbs, they screw in stone circles. Q: How many Druids does it take to change a light bulb? A: Thirteen; one to hold the bulb, and twelve to drink enough to make the room spin. Q: How many ceremonial magicians does it take to change a light bulb? A: One; he stands still with the bulb, and the universe revolves around him.
From: Axe of Men This is one of the BEST ideas to come out the Pagan Community since including Duct Tape as the sixth element. The following jokes were told to me by a Thelemite, and thus I am completely exonerated from the retelling. How many Thelemites does it take to change a light bulb? None. Crowley never wrote a book about it. What do Thelemites do for foreplay? The LBRP. And... How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb? Depends on what you want to change it into.
From: LdyHawke BumperStickers found on the Information SuperHighway.......
  • Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
  • If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?
  • Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.
  • Heck is a place for people who don’t believe in Gosh.
  • I had my car’s alignment checked. It’s chaotic evil!
  • A squirrel is just a rat with good P.R.

From: Rhiahnnon2 Speaking of Bumper stickers, i just saw these today in my new issue of Abyss. The hubby and I died laughing :D
  • ” I believe in dragons, good men, and other fantasy creatures “
  • “I do whatever my rice crispies tell me to”
  • “Jesus is coming. Look Busy!”
  • “My family is more dysfunctional than your family”
  • “Re-elect Clinton-Gore and their husbands”
  • “God Please save me from your followers”
  • “I have the body of a god: Buddha”
  • “Jesus saves! By using double coupons & shopping wisely”

From: RebeccaMac Lest we forget the sign that was on the wall at the Abyss in Easthampton, Mass., "Unattended children will be sold as slaves."
From: BethMichel as one who can't remember any jokes... here goes - A skeptic goes in to see a fortune teller. "You are the father of 2 children," the fortune teller says. "That's what you think! I'm the father of 3 children!," says the man. "That's what you think," says the fortune teller.
From: Silver Elg I heard these on a BBS here in Phoenix, thought I'd share them...
  • WASP…We Are Sexy Pagans
  • Please hold… All Muse are busy right now, but your insperation is importent to us….
  • Starclad dancing to the drums, Something Wiccan this way comes..
  • The goddess is alive and She ate my homework…

From: JaneRHCB Having been brought up Catholic, I saw a postcard once that I thought was the funniest thing I ever saw. A nun was angrily standing over a sheepish little boy who was writing on the chalk board "a hundred times" as instructed by the nun: "I am peronally responsible for the agony of Jesus Christ." I showed it to my brother who happens to be a Catholic priest and he didn't laugh, and told me to 'be careful..." I'm so glad to see this folder, and that we can indeed laugh at ourselves. So...how long does it take to get over the GUILT for being personally responsible for the agony...oh, never mind.
From: Rowan354 How may light bulbs does it take to change a Gardnerian? None, they can do it all by themselves, thank you very much!!
From: Rowan354
  • witches do it in the moonlight
  • practice safe hex
  • misspellers of the world, unit!!
  • we’re gardnerians…off with your clothes
  • i’m doin my part to piss of the religious right…..r u??

From: Outpagan I am so pleased to see how this folder is growing...makes me laugh every time I check the messages. Has anyone heard the filk version of "Gimme That Old Time Religion"? I first heard it at a political march, but only remember three verses. From the East there is Buddha, He really is much cutah, Comes in brass and glass and pewtah, And that's good enough for me. CHORUS: Gimme that old time religion (x3) It's good enough for me. Have you seen Aphrodite, In her sexy, filmy nighty, Sometimes she can be flighty, But that's good enough for me. Chorus... Then there is the Horned One, Of all the Gods, he's most fun, He likes to hunt in woods and run, And that's good enough for me. Chorus...
From: Outpagan While I'm at it, here's another light-hearted chant for circle use: Hooray for ( or "we love") the Sun God, He is a fun God, Rah, Rah, Rah. Most appropriate for the coming summer months. I'd love to hear a Goddess version.
From: Sekhmet59 Ooh, an old favorite. A few verses of this appeared in Larry Niven's _Dream Park_. Let's see if I can recall them... It was good enough for Isis She will help us in a crisis And she's never raised her prices, So she's good enough for me! (Chorus) It was good enough for Kali Though embracing her is folly She'd be quite an armful...golly! And she's good enough for me! (Chorus) It was good enough for Odin Though those omens were forbodin' 'Til at last the giants rode in, And it's good enough for me! (Chorus, of course...)
From: MIDSUMMER Ankh if you love Isis!!
From: Domesday ::::::::bumper sticker seen in Virginia suburbs near D.C.:::::: Domineering, coldhearted, vicious bitch seeks submissive, warmhearted, caring man for INTENSE love/hate relationship!
From: TempleLuna This is an old bumper sticker: "Sorry, my karma just ran over your dogma."
From: MIDSUMMER this one is a little late. Did you hear, Easter is canceled this year........yeah, they found the body. If you are offended by this one, lighten up its only a joke ( they didn't really cancel easter)
From: Card Lady2 Oh I'm tired of ronald reagan He's too square to be a pagan Let's all vote for carl Sagan 'cause he's good enough for me From my hubby. Also he wants to know if anyone has the compleete version of "plastic jesus" "I don't care if it rains or freezes as long as I got my plastic jesus... Plastic jesus Plastic jesus Plastic jesus sittin' on the dashboard of my car pretty soon you'll have to go You're magnet's ruinin' my radio Plastic jesus sittin' on my car!"
From: J0dawi Possibly original with Wednesday / alt.magick / alt.magick.pagan / etc. Possibly misquoted: (Think B-52's, i think: "The Love Shack" song...) "The Love Law is a little place where We can Will together Love Law 93, ..." And... "Love in the Raw, Love on the Pill."
From: Silver Elg I thought I'd ad some one-liner's I've seen or heard. (mostly taglines..) --- What do ya' call 13 Witches in a hot tub? - Self-Cleaning Coven ----Get a taste for religion, Lick a Witch! ---Best thing about Pagan friends? They worship the ground you walk on...

Eat Me

August 3, 2010 3 comments

I watched Food, Inc. While eating dinner. Then I stopped eating dinner and started crying.

Ya’all may not know this, but I have an aversion bordering on phobia of animal carcass. This includes chicken, beef, pork, etc. that you would get in the grocery store. I know that meat contains many bacteria that can harm me, and am extremely careful of cross contamination. I don’t like to eat meat off the bone and prefer to see it ready to cook and eat. I do eat sushi and rare meat only because I know it has been handled well and am educated in food safety practices.

So watching animals get slaughtered was a bit much for me. Knowing where the meat came from, and how it got there, and how awful it is –it made me sick. The worst was the pigs. And the screaming. I honestly couldn’t tell if they were screaming or if I was.

There is absolutely nothing humane or honorable in our production of meat. That animal is not a creature of the Gods, but a product–nothing more than an arrangement of biology. That’s what a factory system believes.

Our food is being genetically modified and patented. Big corporations are suing farmers out of business or keeping them like slaves, always owing the company to keep up with upgrades. It is inhumane to people as wages are minuscule and people are taken advantage of until they are useless, then thrown away. Upton Sinclair is still relevant in the way we process foods.

I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So how does a small person take on a giant corporation? We vote. With money. I will no longer spend my money to support this disgusting system. I will vote for representatives and legislation which shares my values. I’m going to do my best to eat local, whole food–food that was treated with honor–food that is nutritious, not technological.

If you’ll excuse me, culture, I’ve got a planet to save.

Does your religious beliefs influence the way you think about these topics?

Small Dilemma

July 13, 2010 1 comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

Let me start off by saying I love your writtings everytime I read your articles I race around the house like a school kid .. to tell the wife “guess what she said about this”…lol!

With that I ask a personal question that is troubling me…My wife and I got married about a year ago and she has a son that is 7 years old. He has been living with her mother since she came here to find work and make a home for him but, we want to be a whole family again and don’t know how to go about introducing him back into the family without shocking the childs mind. We are pagan family and her mother is raising him christian and we are afraid of how he would react to the change of life style… her mother has fought bringing him down to us saying we are not stable enough a family for him, but we want to be whole. She has always had an excuse to keep him from us but we want to be part of his life. My wife crys a lot and misses him badly to the point she calls everyday.  How do I bring my family together again? And at the same time keep from scaring the child with culture shock.

Signed,

Loving Pagan Father

Dear Loving,

First of all, thank you for your comment about my writing. You are exactly who I am writing for!

Second, family. I really feel for your wife. It is hard to be away from your child, and the way it is being done, it sounds like a judgment against her, know what I mean? Somehow having her son at his grandmothers says “it’s because you aren’t a good enough mom”. I doubt very much that is what grandma means. The real question here has little to do with religion and has everything to do with what is best for the child.

My question is: who has custody? Who is legally responsible for the boy? It sounds like the arrangement was supposed to be temporary and has become permanent. If grandma has custody, you will have to go through the courts. The courts prefer that children be with their mothers, and are much more enlightened about Paganism than they were in the 1980’s. All you have to do is prove to the court that you are stable and will be good parents. This will be things like no illegal drug use, toys and space for the child, demonstrating affection and some knowledge of child development (that is, you aren’t asking your 3 year old complex questions and expecting an answer, etc.).

If mom has custody, then it should be easier. Grandma might be holding on because she doesn’t trust the situation–has she checked it out for herself? Give her the opportunity to see what a loving family you are, whatever your religion. If you haven’t already, set up a room for the son. Magically, this sets up the expectation that he will come to stay, and makes room for him in your family. Your other children will begin to see that there will soon be a new addition. Have them help put it together.

Create the magical idea of the whole family by including your son in things, even if he is not there. So if the the other children get a new coat, so does your wife’s son. He gets cake on his birthday, even if he isn’t there to celebrate with the family. He’s included in family prayers as part of the family. This sets the intent and gets your side of the family ready to include him. It will help your wife feel more whole.

Find out from Grandma what “stable” means. She might mean financially, but she might mean morally. On one you can change her mind on, but the other you are far less likely. If she does not have custody, remind her–this is not her choice. If she keeps the kid against your wife’s consent, I’m pretty sure that is kidnapping, no matter what state you are in. Go fetch the child yourself. Bring the whole family. Tell Grandma, in no uncertain terms, to pack him up (and then be prepared to pack his things when you get there). This puts less burden on Grandma to do all the work, and shows that you are more than serious about this, and ready to take responsibility. If you get there, and she refuses, call the non-emergency local police, and ask for an escort. The law is on your side, and if it escalates, they can help out. If nothing else, it sends a very strong message. But consider this your last resort. Having the police come is very embarrassing, and might cause trouble for both of you. Still, you need to know that you have that as an option.

I know you are worried about culture shock, but your son is so young, he hasn’t formed a concept of moral right or wrongness. He doesn’t really get religion. He understands structure, love and affection. In an ideal world, you would have Grandma start talking to him about going back to live with mom, and how exciting it will be. When you get your son, have a sit down talk (as much as a seven year old will sit!) and introduce him to everyone in the family. Talk about the rules of the house, such as if he has any chores, how he gets his allowance, what time bed time is, etc. Make special note of any rules that are different: “I know at your grandmas house, you got in trouble if you _____, but here we _____.” You can even approach religion: “I know at your grandmas house, you went to church on Sunday, but here we have a different kind of church, and we go when the moon is full.” Or whatever the case may be. Talk about what consequences will be for breaking the rules, and be firm about them. Give him the opportunity to ask questions about how things are, and don’t put him in timeout for breaking a rule he doesn’t know about. This is all good parenting, Pagan or otherwise.

In my work, I often see kids in split homes, and when they come to the visiting parents home, they throw temper tantrums, are fussy, or break rules they know on purpose. This is part of testing the environment and the parent. Your son might do that. If you are firm and clear, you will nip a lot of later problems in the bud. I’ve found that open and honest communication with children stops a lot of problems. They are more perceptive than we think. At any rate, give the son a lot of affection and attention when he gets there. Do things with him, ask what he wants to do or check out and do it together.

When it comes to Paganism, treat it as a normal thing that the family does– because it is. If you are raising your children Pagan, you can help him create an identity by getting him a pentacle, teaching him to meditate and talk to faeries, whatever your persuasion is. You might consider doing a ritual to welcome him into the family. There are some really great books about family Paganism and introducing children to Pagan ideas. If he asks about why things are different, just explain as best you can that your family is Pagan and different from Grandma’s family. Your attitude about it will go a long way in how the child frames the experience. If you are awkward about it and treat it with shame, so will your son. As always, give him the space to ask questions and address problems directly. Children are skilled negotiators!

Most importantly, I think, let Grandma be a part of his life, but in a normal Grandma way, and not as primary caregiver. You and your wife should set the limits on that, so have Granny come over for the afternoon or the weekend to do things with the whole family. The truth is that being a whole family also means making peace with other generations. Grandma did your wife a huge favor, and while this period is over, she deserves your families gratitude and respect (no matter if you had to call the police or not).

Whatever you do, if you do it in the spirit of Love, and the Best Interest of the Child, you will do right. No one will ever be a perfect parent, and there is usually never quite enough to make a household perfectly stable. But if you do your best, you’ll do right by your son and by the Gods.

Sacred Images?

July 8, 2010 2 comments

I’m always looking for creative ways to celebrate the Gods. In particular, I have altars around my home to invite that energy in, so there is an altar to Demeter, Hestia is in the kitchen, and Aphrodite at the door so naught but love shall enter in. Athena, of course, is next to me at the computer. You get the idea. But the other day, I ran across these: Aphrodite Barbie and Athena Barbie.

And I thought to myself…are these sacred images? Or are these images profaned by becoming so commercialized? I mean, BARBIE of all toys!

I can imagine myself, as a little girl, absolutely LOVING these toys. I wasn’t big on dolls to begin with (I think I had one Skipper doll and a New Kid on the Block as the entirety of my personal collection). But I loved stories, and Greek mythology, and would have enjoyed playing with these dolls. It is only as an adult that I came to believe in the sacredness and truth that the Gods bring to our lives. As a kid, I would have kept my dolls in my toy box, amongst the lost marbles (ha!), Jurassic Park toys and stuffed animals. Only as an adult would I consider putting a toy on a shelf and never playing with it.

And these aren’t exactly toys. You see, they cost upwards of $300, as highly desired collectibles.

Here is the artistic conundrum, then: if pop art is profane, then putting sacred images into pop art should thus profane the sacredness, right?

I dunno. I’m sort of intrigued by this idea of using a toy on the altar. Maybe we’ve gotten too serious about this whole sacred image idea anyway. Who better to loosen it up but Barbie, the fun-loving spoiled perfect beauty. When it comes down to it, isn’t Barbie really Aphrodite anyway? Isn’t the act of playing with a beautiful woman, dressing and undressing her, doing her hair and picking out her shoes just worship of Aphrodite?

And then we have Athena. Isn’t Athena what Barbie isn’t? Athena, like all Goddesses, is beautiful, but she doesn’t use it, even as a tactical advantage. Athena is what Barbie wishes she could be, but can’t. I mean, Barbie can be a Vet or a Pediatrician, but she’s not President, or a Tenured Professor. But the act of playing with Athena Barbie to solve problems and outwit your opponents (that Ken! Always wanting a date! Whatever will I do?!) could potentially be a worship of Athena. I dunno. I’m troubled by it.

Still, I want it for my altar, or for when I have children (let them be girls!) I would let them play with these sacred images instead of the pop culture perfection that is Barbie. They’re a little out of my price range, so I might have to settle for this instead:

From "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Theif" Toy Zeus

What Would Zeus Do, indeed. I bet he’d have a go at Barbie Aphrodite. And I guess I don’t have a hard time believing that a hot Goddess Athena would pop out of his head…

What do you think? Does having the Gods as action figures intrigue or disgust you? Is it sacred or profane? Can you mix the pop culture with sacred culture? Would you put toys on your altars or use them in magical work?

[review] Witches of Eastwick

I know I’m totally behind the times, but I just finished reading John Updike’s “The Witches of Eastwick”. Having never seen the movie (it’s on my to-do list!), I had been enjoying watching a show on ABC called Eastwick, that is sort of like Desperate Housewives with magic. There’s a really great review of the show here. It got canceled, of course, after one season, and I’m not honestly sure if they showed the entire season. There was a break for a few weeks, and I got busy and may not have gotten back to it. But feeling deprived of my weekly witch-fix, I decided to go to the source and picked up the book.

The story takes place in a sleepy town in Rhode Island, in the blossoming era between the 60’s and 70’s. Three women work to find their inner power as they struggle against the small-minded town folk. Being sexually liberated and very in tune with their power as women, Updike manifests them as three types of witches; the Earth mother artist type who can’t can tomatoes fast enough, Alexandra; the young, sexy journalist who seems to be able to get whatever information she wants, Jane; and the musician whose cello playing transports her in rhapsody and moves people, a woman who goes by Sukie. These three women are drawn together by their similar lifestyles of loving other people’s husbands, and have a small coven where they drink, gossip and raise a cone of power.

Along comes a rich man, who buys the big house by the water, Daryll Van Horne, who butts into all of their lives and encourages them to be more. While he is cold, awkward and extremely off-putting, before long he has all of them wishing they were his, which begets this strange polyamorous relationship of group sex, marijuana, spicy food and booze. When Alexandra’s lover dies (well, murders his wife and then hangs himself), leaving his adult children to clean up after his mess, Alexandra invites his kids Jenny and Chris to their sabbat. But the new blood doesn’t mix in as expected, and the three witches find themselves increasingly on the outside of Daryll’s affections. When Jenny and Daryll marry, it all goes to shit as the women focus their malice on a spell that would slowly kill her. I’ll leave the ending out so you can enjoy the book yourself.

In the end, the book is really about making your life what you want it to be. But when our characters figure it out, it doesn’t bring them closer together.

The writing itself was very lyrical and descriptive–something I find to be lacking in much of our modern writing. The author will go into detail about the feeling of nature, making it almost a character,which relates to the other people in the book, and it pulls on these characters in particular:

Easter evening turned out to be a warm spring night with a south wind pulling the moon backwards through wild, blanched clouds. The tide had left silver puddles on the causeway. New green marsh grass was starting up in the spaces between the rocks; Alexandra’s headlights swung shadows among the boulders and across the tree-intertwined entrance gate.

Updike weaves witch mythology together to create something very interesting. He relies on the old medieval witchcraft trials for his rituals and spells, so lots of Latin in the book. His witches are drawn together around a devil-type character which brings the dubachery to a whole new level. He weaves in some more modern commentary on the women’s movement. For example, it seems that in order to become a witch and gain powers, you must be divorced.

As a witch myself, I could understand the closeness these three women feel for each other (I have a small coven of sisters who also meet and raise an informal cone of power). Updike really captures the bond of sisterhood that I believe is unique to women. His women aren’t perfect wives and mothers, but find that their children almost get in the way of their lives. They don’t judge themselves by societies morals and expectations, but do what they want. Yet each one has a place in society; Alexandra’s sculptures of rotund women are bought up quickly by tourists and townfolk alike, Jane’s penetrating eye makes her a smart and quick journalist, and Sukie’s musical ability is tamed by teaching piano lessons and working on Sundays as a church organist around town.

However, there is a pettiness to Updike’s women that bothers me, not that the men are any better drawn. The sisters will turn on each other as fast as they will turn on somebody else, and their grudges run deep and for a long time. The concept of good and evil is blurred, and even characters you like end up doing distasteful things. The book encourages the stereotype of witches that is barely a reflection of what we do today. I wouldn’t have anyone who is concerned about witchcraft read it, because I wouldn’t want them to get the wrong idea. For all the book is fiction, I have to say that I’ve known people in the community to reflect some of these practices.

This is a hard book to put down. The scenes and events flow into each other very organically, and there are very few natural breaks in the narrative. This might be a great summer read for when you are on an airplane and have many hours to devote to your reading. The book, rather like the TV show, left me going “hey! I was watching that!” Luckily Updike returns to these characters in “The Widows of Eastwick”, which came out in 2008 to lukewarm reviews.

At the Temple of Apollo

I stand at the door of Apollo’s shrine–I’m not sure why I have come. Whether I am simply drawn by the energy of this place, or by the serendipity of a short line, I know not.

The Pithia is at the door. She’s the mysterious prophetess of Delphi, and the most powerful women in the world. She invites me to share in her fumes–a heady incense that would take me ages to recognize. It goes straight to my head. She speaks to me, but her words make no sense. By the time she motions me to enter the shrine, my doubt clears and I enter the door. I glimpse the mosaic ‘Know Thyself’ as I commit myself to crossing the threshhold.

Somehow, my frivolous hat with kitty ears seems woefully inadequate to wear when you stand before a god. I couldn’t take it off fast enough.

He is glorious. A young man in a shining chiton of pure white and gold. Clean shaven and well groomed–he looks like that hot professor I never actually had in college. Behind him, a sparse altar with symbols sacred to Him; a vase, a bust of Himself, a crown of laurel, some soil from Apollo’s own birthplace, and several offerings of poetry and writing.

For the scarcity of time, two are allowed inside, and when Apollo the Sun God asks kindly what brings us here, I defer to the woman next to me. She is to be the caretaker and healer of young boys who have seen real trauma and experienced great loss. Boys who have had violence against them and no true father figures in their lives as they were in and out of the system. Suddenly my own desires for Apollo’s blessing seem shallow and contrived. I turn my gaze to the young Sun God, joining in this woman’s beseech, “Lord Apollo, can you heal them?”

“Although I have felt many heartaches and pains that mortals normally bear alone, I am compassionate to your blight where other Gods cannot be. But I cannot heal these young men. I can offer my love, empathy and protection,” he touches the woman, “but you must heal them.”

I can see her breaking down–the weight of such a responsibility is heavy, yet she knows Apollo will be standing behind her, guiding her actions as long as her intention is pure. She straightens herself and seems so brave to me. I know of Apollos loves and losses from my mythological studies. His understanding is real.

He turns to me to ask why I have come. I wring my cat hat and shuffle my feet–I wonder if Hermes has stolen the words out of my mouth, for suddenly I seemed to have more words than I could edit coming out of my mouth at His shrine not fifteen minutes ago. Now I stand before the God of decorum, right action, poetry…and my words and body language reflect none of these things.

“Er, it’s like this…” I begin, “I have all these projects–too many, really. I went to your sister Artemis to ask for her help in finishing what I start. And She said I should see you about, er, getting organized with my writing. Or something.”

That sounded dumb, so I try again, “I’m writing a book, you see. Several, actually. I’m well blessed by your inspiration, my Lord. I just can’t seem to accomplish anything.”

Apollo, the God of inspiration, of song and civilization seems to contemplate me a moment, “Is it one thing you wish to accomplish, or one big thing?”

“It’s huge!” I gesticulate widely in demonstration, “A big idea–a vision–I want to give to the community. It involves several separate writing projects.”

“I see.”

I thought his statement ironic.

“What is the action you must do to begin and sustain this project?”

My mind races–research, interview, find time, support myself, keep the lights on, make the computer work for me…

“No.” said Apollo, reading my mind, “You have to write. What is a book but an accomplishment of chapters? What is a chapter but an accomplishment of pages? Empires and encyclopedias are gained and created by a thousand accomplishments inside a thousand accomplishements inside a thousand accomplishments. Begin with the page. Write what you know. What you put there will be honest, true and perfect for you at that moment. If, when it is done, you find it not to your standards, then you do one of two things: You might honor Athena and delve into research. Or you might honor my sister Artemis, and accept is as practice, and try it again.

“If you are open, I will keep you well inspired, but to become overwhelmed by the big idea and never make accomplishments toward it–that is failure. But looking where you are and seeing how far you have come shows your many accomplishments. It is not a failure simply because you are not at the end.

“The sign above the door says “Know Thyself”, but unless you are a God, it is an impossible task. The goal is to strive toward it. Everything you do something to enrich that is an accomplishment.”

He seems done, but the magic is broken by noisy events outside the shrine. From my place in Apollo’s presence, I peer out the door over the green. I can see Ares stomping away from the shrine he shares with Athene.

“If you would just listen to reason!”

Without a word, but with many grumbles and a flare of cigar smoke, Ares pulls off his armor and kicks it to the ground, piece by piece, and heads straight for Aphrodite’s shrine. He pushes through the long line of worshippers, even shoving Her mermaid attendant out of the way. He swings open the door to Her shrine, and I swear I could see Aphrodite dismiss the Lord of War with a wave of her hand.

Apollo and the other woman and I look out. The young Sun God shakes his head, “My family is so…dramatic, sometimes. O dear. He’s not going into there, is he?”

Indeed, Ares slams the door at the shrine of his lover, and proceeds to a group of Sirens–fierce bird women who would sing to you lovingly as they play with your entrails. Their song lures Him in as they dance and sharpen their claws–the woman and I look at each other with worry.

“Fear not,” Apollo touches our shoulders and invites us both back into his shrine, “If anyone can handle their play, it is my brother Ares. Now, where were we? O yes.”

He blesses us both, and I leave the temple inspired by what I’ve heard and ready to write. But first, there are other Gods to visit. I step out of the shrine into Apollo’s glorious sunshine, and inhale the sweet air of optimism. I spare a glance back for the Pithia, who snakes into Apollo’s shrine–no doubt to drink up the words of prophecy he sends to her. I wonder what my destiny will be, and the outcome of this project. But first, I know, I must write…

Magical and Romantic Partners

April 30, 2010 2 comments

As you know, our boundaries about relationships is different from other peoples. In honor of Beltain I wanted to talk about a specific one.

Very likely, if you are just beginning your magical practice, this won’t be a problem for you, but as your practice grows and your magical identity deepens, you may want to consider choosing a magical partner.

A magical partner is a person with whom you do magical work with. This work could be spellcraft (like a two person coven), service to the community (such as leading a group), doing a Great Work, or a mature teacher/student relationship. A magical partner is someone you work closely with as you grow in the Craft. In Wiccan communities, your partner is typically the opposite gender. It is an unusual relationship when looked at from outside the community.

A magical partnership is not inherently a romantic or sexual relationship, although it can take on the characteristics. A magical partnership is based upon the work you do together, but the nature of the work can be very intimate and emotional, with or without sexual activity. The relationship is very much like professional dance partners.

Some things to consider when choosing a magical partner:

  • Magical practice: choose someone who has the same style that you do, or who magically thinks like you do, or is of the same tradition. Your styles need to mesh and come to some agreement about how you will go about your practice.
  • Your romantic partner: what would your spouse or significant other think about this magical relationship? What are the boundaries? At what point does it become emotional cheating? Think about what energy and parts of yourself you would be keeping away from your partner. Come up with some rules to avoid jealousy–remember that in a serious relationship, your partner comes first. Obviously if your magical partner is your romantic partner, then this is not a problem.
  • Focus and intent: what will be the nature of your work? Will you be working on a project? Leading and teaching the community? Worshiping a particular deity? Working on a particularly difficult psychological problem? Exploring other realms together? You and your partner should be on the same page.
  • On the Outside: how does this relationship look to outsiders? Not that it matters, on one hand, but you had best be prepared for rumors if you aren’t willing to explain yourself. If you are leading a Beltain ritual and one of you invokes the Goddess and the other invokes the God and you spend half the ritual flirting and making out with each other, people are going to wonder if there is anything between you and what your significant other thinks about it. You may tell yourself that it is just ritual and, like actors on stage, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but for the observers, the energy is there and it looks very real.
  • In the Pagan community: while those not in the know about your relationship may be whispering to each other, those in the know in the community may treat you like a couple. For example, they may invite you and your magical partner to a ritual or gathering, and neglect to extend the invitation to your significant other.
  • A magical partnership is very serious: the Karma and energy accumulated in a magical partnership is amplified, just like in Circle. Personality differences, psychological scars and spiritual crisis are more likely to come to the surface quickly in this kind of relationship. Luckily, you have this partner to work through it with! You will experience a deep sense of loyalty, almost like family, that comes from being emotionally intimate with someone else. This relationship is a chance to experiment, and the work you do here is likely to influence how you are in other relationships. In order to experience the best of the other, you will have to give them your best. It is a serious commitment.
  • This relationship has cycles: it begins with a lot of energy, experiences growing pains and conflict, and may eventually end or change form, just like any other relationship. It may not go in the direction you expect, but you will certainly grow and learn from it. Be prepared to commit to it as long as it is productive, and be ready to release it when it is time to move on.

Having a magical partner is a beautiful and intimate way to experience Divinity and do the work of the Gods. But it is a very mature relationship, both personally and magically, and must be thought through just like any other magical endeavor. Rather than searching one out, I think you’ll find that you’ll fall into one naturally as you grow in the community and in your Craft. You will end up working with people on rituals and may find a powerful energetic chemistry between you. You will likely end up partnering with someone you already know–partnering with a stranger is unwise when you consider the possible ramifications.

Paganism and Race

April 25, 2010 20 comments

First let me say that I have always intended that this blog be a place of learning, where nothing is really off the table as long as the discussion is polite. I believe passion and intellect can live together in harmony. I am also working on becoming a better person, and my posts reflect my attitudes and beliefs in the here and now. Of course, people are individuals, and talking about any individual as a whole group is always tricky. So of course I recognize that what I am saying might not be true for all people. But for the sake of the discussion and the idea, I am talking about race and culture–a collective experience that might not be true for each individual. That being said, please, gentle reader, read on!

I was recently reading a post in a private message board about someone’s deep desire to see the Paganism revival become more multicultural. She lamented the fact that there are few people of color who worship with us. She was quite worried that maybe we weren’t being open and accepting enough, which surprised me, given the attitudes of Paganism towards sexual/gender minorities, those with alternative lifestyle, etc.

Um, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but Paganism is about as White as you can get. Our beliefs are based in Celtic reconstructionism, Greek philosophy, occult knowledge which comes out of Western Europe, the witchcraft trials that also came out of Europe, folks beliefs out of the UK and, well, Western Europe.

So why would someone with Chinese, African, Pacific Islander, Indian or Native American ancestry be at all interested in our religion?

Truth is, people don’t convert to our religion, they overwhelmingly see it as “coming home”. What it is is a return to our ancestral roots, to our own White culture. When most of our ancestors came to America, they worked hard to assimilate, which is where we got the idea of the melting pot. After awhile, it didn’t matter if you were from Ireland, Italy, France or Britain, as long as you spoke English. In our race to assimilate (pardon the pun), we forgot our background. But as part of the majority, White people were able to keep to themselves and exclude racial minorities from taking part in the formation of culture. While this happens to a much lesser degree today, one honestly has to acknowledge that the majority of White culture has assimilated Western European values over time.

This will probably be very unpopular, but race matters. Yes, we are all human beings, deserve the same rights, etc. But the truth is that our cultures hold different values. As part of our own White privilege, we aren’t necessarily able to see the forest for the trees, and miss the markers that make our culture different from others. Neo-Paganism is the ultimate expression of that culture.

Take our value of Personal Responsibility. It’s this idea that we should strive to become the best individuals that we can, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make something of ourselves. It means that we are in charge of our own fate.

This idea is entirely Western European, and very very American. Many cultures, even today, don’t share these same values. Take Chinese culture, for example. To them, family is the most important thing, and your birth order determines your role in the family. Older siblings may be required to care for youngsters, and the youngest is required to “be the baby” perhaps their whole life. Consequently, your fate is determined by the needs of your family as outlined by your father.

Many African-Americans have historically been denied equal access to jobs and education–which sort of puts that whole individualized fate thing out of the question. Many see the Black community (such as the neighborhood, or the church) as an important piece of identity. To leave that community, even if it is in your best interest, might be seen as denying your roots. Joining a Pagan community might be understood as assimilating into White culture, and abandoning one’s Blackness. Upon return to their home community, they might be subject to “authenticity testing“, in which the community (often children or immature adults) “tests” them to see if they are “Black enough” to come back to the community. It is a very difficult position to be in.

Pagans and many Americans see personal responsibility as a value that should be embraced by everyone, but by expecting that, we are pushing our values on other people–this is oppression, and obviously not our intent. Perhaps this is why we do not proselytize–to avoid this oppression which, for many, was the reason they left their original religion to begin with.

Paganism is a return to roots, it is a look at our heritage religion before Christianity. So think about this for a moment: If you are Chinese and want to return to your roots, you practice the folk religion of China, or become Buddhist or Daoist. The Japanese return to Shinto. An African-American might turn to the African folk religions, or a blended one like Voudoun. A Native American would look to their tribe and find religion there. There is no need to turn to European roots to fine ones own roots. I believe that is why the Heathens, who celebrate the Norse religion, don’t interact much with the Pagan movement–they have their own movement!

Those are just a few examples of the hardships a racial minority would have in joining the Pagan community. While we welcome those who truly seek our path, no matter what their background, I don’t believe we will ever have a truly multicultural religion for all people. That’s what Christianity tried to do, and clearly that didn’t work for everyone, or else there would be no need for Paganism!

So let’s just accept that our religion is for us, and strive to make it the best it can be in serving the needs of the people actually doing it. Let us strive to remove our blocks and hang-ups about race by working on ourselves and becoming aware of racism and discrimination in society. Let us strive to be open to others without pushing our values upon them, but in respecting that their values have deep roots, even if we don’t agree with them.

So Mote it Be!

*I got the information about culture and race from a few books:

Ethnicity and Family Therapy” and “Counseling the Culturally Diverse

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