I do know that I want to keep imagining a world where conflicts are solved without killing, and one way to do that is to keep on creating a culture of beauty, balance and delight, one party at a time.
Deborah Oak has up a fantastic post about the importance of Solstice parties. I'll admit that I've always believed that my "true" vocation is running a salon. (Sadly, law pays better.) Deborah's description of her Solstice party: I'm happier at my house, which fills with good food, my beloved friends and family, and enough new people to keep things interesting. I take pride that my house is where the children want to be, and last night was no exception. Gingerbread houses were made, too much sugar eaten, and the teenagers talked past dawn, bringing in the new light and the promise of a future.
There was also an 3.5 earthquake and Marion leaned too near the altar and her hair caught on fire. It was put out quickly by my girlfriend, the quintessential butch, and a general prayer went out that these were both portents that the return of the sun would bring small dramas causing no real harm or damage. reminds me of the celebration that our circle had this year at my brilliant friend Elizabeth's home on Capitol Hill. Some time ago, Elizabeth shared how important it is for her that people who come to her home feel welcome, comfortable, accepted. It shows in everything she touches.
I've shared before on this blog how my circle of women has grown this year -- and have we ever -- going from four members to nine. This year's Solstice celebration at Elizabeth's also included two "emeritus" members (women's who've moved on from our circle, but who came back (sometimes with their pets) to welcome the Invincible Sun with us) and -- for the first time ever -- our families. My Son, D-i-L, and Grandson, one of our new members' 16 month-old-son and charming Pagan husband, the members of one of our new members' polyamorous family, N.'s pagan-friendly husband, M.'s five-year-old grandson who is going to rule the world one day given his composure, C's husband who'd never been to anything Pagan before, and tons of family members for whom Elizabeth's discussion, my grounding, my circle casting, our singing of Donna Nobis Pachem, and the magic that we all worked, was their very first ever introduction to what the fuck their loved one gets up to on all those new moons, dark moons, and Sabbats. This was a risk for us -- including familiar strangers in one of our most important Sabbats. Not all of us were wild about the idea. It worked beyond our hopes.
And then, the party. The party in Elizabeth's home decorated with so many gorgeous greens that it smelled like a forest, the party with so many French pastries left over that our emeritus sister, R., of backpack-notices-concerning-Yule-in-VA fame, had to cart them over to S.O.M.E. the next day, the party where strangers hugged strangers, where children ran from loving adult to loving adult, where everywhere you wandered you ran into someone who loved you, hugged you, helped you to celebrate your recent victories.
After a while, the families left and we got down to magic, again, and then slept an hour to two before dawn. Thanks to C. for kindly pretending that, between my coughing and my snoring, she actually ever slept at all.
At dawn, we headed over to a park within blocks of the Capitol (this tickles me) and read Pagan poems, yelled, banged noisemakers, and did everything that we could think of to wake up the lazy, lazy sun. We hung food for the birds on the trees and we drank Irish whiskey from shot glasses made of ice and then broke the glasses. A parkfull of dog walkers studiously ignored us. We headed over to a greasy-spoon and had breakfast before going home to get some "real sleep." A wonderful party. And as Deborah Oak notes, that can be the best magic, the finest act of love and pleasure, of all.
A good party leaves people with healthier immune systems from all the endorphins and connections. It literally does one of the things that I pray every morning that the Goddess will allow me to do: help to repair The Web. It gives children a chance to meet new, supportive adults and allows adults to share food and drink with each other, it creates new connections, establishes a more organized. and at the same time more chaotic, web.
This time of year seems like a good time to post about the Goddess Lakshmi, who represents wealth, light, wisdom, fortune, and (secondarily) luck, beauty, and fertility. She is worshipped by Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, and many modern Pagans. May Lakshmi bless you with abundance, luck, and good fortune!
You know how it is. You've been meaning to shop for gifts, but the thought of the malls this time of year -- crowds, frustrated adults, screaming kids, parking pirates, endless loops of xmas muzak -- ugh.
Here's a better idea, viaA Dress a Day: Changing the Present. (It's a pun!) you can choose exactly what you want to accomplish. For just a few dollars, you can protect an acre of the rainforest or fund an hour of a cancer researcher's time. You can provide a child with a first book, an AIDS patient with life-saving drugs[,] or a hungry family with a nourishing meal.
You can find something good here for everyone that you know. Online. Without getting out of your chair.
This year the Pagan Society in Iceland celebrates the winter solstice for the first time on their own land in skjuhld. A pagan temple will be built there within the next two years.
How cool is that?
“Centuries ago animals were slaughtered at the winter solstice, but we don't do that anymore. Instead we burn a buck or a horse made of straw to symbolize the yule sacrifice,” Hilmarsson adds.
“Welcoming the return of the sun is the real purpose of the Christmas celebration,” Pagan Society member Anna Bergsteinsdttir tells icelandreview.com. “The Christians hijacked this holiday and turned it into a Christian celebration,” she claims.
In the Nordic languages Christmas is known as yule, which comes from old Norse and is related to the word J'dnir, which is one of the names of the Viking god Odin.
“Yule is a heathen tradition,” Hilmarsson says. “In ancient Rome the winter solstice was celebrated with the holiday of Saturnalia, with drinking and promiscuity. But around the year 500 the Romans made a conscious decision to turn the holiday into a celebration of the birth of Christ at the end of December, which had not been celebrated until then,” he explains.
“We don’t mind sharing yule with other religions,” Hilmarsson says. “Some members of the Pagan Society even celebrate Christmas on December 24 with a Christmas tree and presents for the children. But we put more emphasis on spending time together than on commercialism," he adds.
Hilmarsson expects about 100 people to participate in the ceremony of yule sacrifice tonight and everyone who is interested is welcome to join.
I SOOOOOO want to see the Aurora Borealis before I die. I know they can be seen in Iceland. Iceland. I even love the way that it sounds. My mother always told me this story, which may be completely made-up for all that I know: The Vikings discovered Iceland and Greenland Iceland was the much nicer place to live. So the Vikings, being tres clever, called the less-nice place Greenland, so as to get people to go there, and the more-nice place Iceland, so as to discourage everyone else from coming there. And, it worked. At least, that's what my mother told me.
NYTimes has an article about a very cool work of art in Antarctica:
[S]culptor Lita Albuquerque decided to craft an environmental work near this icy outpost meant to be in full bloom for just one day.
Her ``Stellar Axis,'' on a site about 600 feet in diameter, consists of 99 blue fiberglass spheres of varying sizes in a pattern mirroring the paths of stars at the austral summer solstice.
Since the sun shines around the clock here at this time of year, no stars will be visible, but their courses were plotted by astronomer Simon Balm, who also worked on the project.
All the spheres will be in place only on December 22 and must be removed after that.
Among other reasons, the Antarctic Conservation Act prohibits pollution of the continent.
The work's creation is being photographed day by day and the completed piece will be photographed from a helicopter. Its dismantling will be recorded, until there is nothing left but the blank white snow field the artist started with.
WaPo seems to have mastered the art of talking about Winter Solstice religious festivals without ever mentioning, you know, Wiccans, Druids, Pagans, or neo-Pagans. It's as intellectually dishonest and as cowardly an abdication of the truth in favor of placating the xians as I've ever seen.
Merry Yule. In your longest, darkest night, may you still see the stars, the Moon, the guideposts that you need. May you walk through the dark knowing that Spring WILL come, the nights will get shorter and the warm days longer. Turn the wheel. Merry Yule.
The rules: 1. find the nearest book 2. list title and author 3. turn to page 123 4. go to the fifth sentence 5. copy out the next three sentences 6. tag three more
Federal Civil Judicial Procedure and Rules, pub. by Thomson*West.
"Subsection (g) is new. It responds to the reality that the selection and activity of class counsel are often critically important to the successful handling of a class action. Until now, courts have scrutinized proposed class counsel as well as the class representative under Rule 23(a)(4)."
Well, there you have it. That's how boring my life is.
As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview withThe Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."
So if we were absolutely winning in October, WTF happened between then and the end of December? Nothing.
So were you lying to the American people -- again -- when you said that we were absolutely winning? Were you, for mere political expediency, lying to the American people about a war where their children are dying? Just as you admitted that you lied about keeping Donald Rumsfeld?
Are you lying now? How would we know? Oh, that's right; your lips are moving, you mass-murdering, psychopathic, venal, mean, nasty, narcissistic, worthless piece of shit.
Isaac & Phaedra Bonewits have a new book out that I'm planning to read, entitled Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, and Substances to Heal, Change, and Grow.
We had no idea how much we had bitten off a year ago when the publishers first came to us with the idea, “How about a book about all the different kinds of energy that people work with? You know, mana and prana, orgone energy and odic force, reiki and crystal power, chi and ki, divine power and nature spirits, etc.? It would make a great book!”
We wanted to compare all these different sorts of “mystic energies” with what mainstream physicists know about energy, so we could make a stab at determining which of the mystic energies, if any, were properly called “energies,” and which were just relationships between ideas or even metaphors. We thought it would take us about six months to write—hah!
I generally tend to assume that, you know, energy is energy no matter what different names people give to it, so I'll be interested to see what the Bonewits say. And, of course, there's energy in "just relationships between ideas or even metaphors."
The catalog says: This striking species bears large, heavily textured leaflets to 15 inches in length and an intriguing black-purple spathe showing white tranlsucent lines in its throat, plus a long, wiry spadix to 2 feet in length. Truly a captivativng species. Plant in groups of three.
It's a blanket, the deep, early darkness of this time of year. Here we are, just days, really just hours, away from the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and I am wrapping all of this darkness around my shoulders like a big, warm cape. I've been sitting zazen at my altar early and going to bed early, dreaming really significant dreams.
Maybe it's the warm weather that has me loving these weeks so much. Today it was in the upper sixties and, when the lawn crew came to mulch my beds, you could smell the heady scent of mulch from my screen porch -- where I ate breakfast and lunch. Yesterday, I worked in the yard all day in a t-shirt, happy for the extra yard time, telling myself that I'll wait for a cold, rainy day in January to go into the garden shed and "organize." I've decided that the shed, here when I moved in, is one of the things that will have to change the most in order for me to have the garden that I really want. What fool thought that barn-style doors, reminiscent of a stable, would fit in this tiny yard? I want a hobbit hut, a fairy cottage, something much more fey than what I have just now.
On the one hand, it alarms me, this warm weather at Solstice time. And, on the other hand, maybe it's the "new normal." Maybe the daffodils and irises that have pushed up from the ground will die in a cold, February frost. Or maybe they'll bloom in February. I don't know; I am going to find out. I still have green herbs in the herb bed -- sage and parsley and rosemary and rosehips -- that I'm going to pick for my xmas hostess. I once saw the cherry blossoms bloom on a full moon in mid-March across the pool from the Jefferson Memorial. It was one of THE most magical nights in my life, a life that, for whatever else has been wrong with it, has been blessed by magical night after magical night.
I won't hate the warming planet. I won't cry over the lost plants. I will love this Earth in whatever stage she finds herself, however she changes, whatever she does to try and balance things out. Last night I sat at my altar and charged Yule gifts for the women in my circle. The chant that I used is, by now, an old one: "She changes everything that she touches and everything that she touches changes." The climate is changing. In the words of the song, "Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older. And I'm getting older too."
Looking at these warm December days, at the plants that have pushed above the ground "too early," at the predictions for climate change on a scale no human has ever seen, not even our Ice Age ancestresses, I'm reminded of a wonderful story that I read when I had breast cancer. The story was about a gay man, dying of AIDS. His friends kept exhorting him to fight, to, in Dylan's words, "rage, rage against the dying of the light." He asked them to stop. He said, "Please. Don't force me to make an enemy of my own death." That sentence changed my life. I plan to make an ally, a friend, a teacher, a gift of my own death. Perhaps Mamma Earth is doing the same. If she's that brave, then, damn it, I will have to be that brave, will have to match her gift of bravery with my own.
Someone, and I forget now who, said that a witch's job is to help to turn the wheel, meaning the wheel of the year. It's my job to help to turn the wheel in these days, not in the colder days of my many-times-great grandmothers in Sweden and the land of the Picts. Here. Now. These warming times on this easternmost coast of North America, under these oak trees, on this acidic soil, near this live spring, on this ground spongy with water. I'll have to figure out how to celebrate the longest night when it's warm, how to drink strong drink from cups made of ice on a morning when it's not as cold as it used to be, even four or five years ago when i first began to wake at dawn with these women and feed the birds, harbringers of the powers of the East, while making noise to wake up the sun. I think that I can do it, that I can rise to the witching challenge of these times, that I can sail through these changing ocean tides, that I can handle the over-warm seasons of MY life.
I adore THIS Earth, even more than some idealized Earth of my ancestors. I am alive on THIS Earth, the one being warmed too quickly and stripped too fast of trees, flora, fauna, clean air. The one where dams kill the salmon, where windmills kill the birds, where nuclear plants make poison that will last so long as to be forever, where we fire bullets made of spent nuclear material and turn children into new monsters in order to allow old men to make money. This is the Earth that I need to bless, to worship, to magic into being, to make ready for my grandson.
We allowed them to impeach the duly elected president who beat the father, for trivial reasons. We allowed the father's appointees to settle a dubious election result in the son's favor. We have watched them as they created a presidency insulated from popular or congressional oversight in which they have gone so far as to set forth the idea that the president has no obligation to follow the law. They lowered taxes on the very rich to a level not seen in many decades and created an income disparity between the very, very rich and everyone else that is unprecedented in the modern era. They eliminated the single best means of ensuring that an aristocracy will not truly form --- the estate inheritance tax. The ten year campaign to repeal it was bankrolled by 18 of the richest families in America.
Your lynx-eyes, Asia, spy on my discontent; they lure into the light my buried self, something the silence spawned, no more to be endured than the noon sun in Termez. Pre-memory floods the mind like molten lava on the sands . . . . as if i were drinking my own tears from the cupped palm of a stranger's hands.
Let's pretend for a minute that you're rational people who simply have a different set of beliefs and who simply worship a different god -- I'd say a different face of the ultimate divine -- than I do. Let's pretend for a minute that we've both of us gotten over the fact that you used to burn my mothers and anyone whom you could possibly accuse of being one of my mothers. Let's pretend that the current translation of your holy book doesn't instruct you not to suffer anyone from my religion to live and that I don't hold your brand of monotheism responsible for much of what's wrong with the world today and that I didn't run, not walk, away from the brand of your religion in which I was raised.
Let's also, dear xians, acknowledge some basic truths. There are a fucking lot of you. No one here in America is persecuting you. You're free to build your churches all over the place (tax exempt, which is more than this society offers to most of the worship groups in my religion) and to worship as you choose. You don't have to work on your religious holidays and you don't have to worry about being dismissed from a job because of your religion, losing custody of your children because of your religion, or not being able to have your religious symbol on your gravestone when you die.
So, with those premises as our starting points -- and I don't pretend to really believe all of them (the notion that you are rational, for example, gives me quite a bit of pause) -- there's something that I'd really like to say to you.
Stop this shit. Just stop it, goddamnit. Standing next to plastic figures of Mary, baby Jesus and Joseph, two ministers and three members of Congress took turns at a microphone this month to announce a new initiative called "Project Nativity."
"Our hope and prayer is that over the next three to four years, hundreds of nativity scenes will begin to dot the landscape of America once again," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. He said he hoped the temporary nativity scene on a terrace of the Capitol would serve as a "template" for similar efforts.
His project, which encourages Christians to seek permits for nativity scenes in front of public buildings, is just one example of multiple efforts to "take Christmas back." In recent years, there have been rumors of a "War on Christmas" and actual skirmishes over the use of the word in the public square and at the retail counter.
Now, some clergy and devout lay people are shunning secularism and church-state concerns and taking a more proactive stand to remind people of the Christ in Christmas or, as they like to say, "the reason for the season."
Your religious icons do NOT belong all over public property and at public buildings. That's because: (1) you are NOT the only ones here; (2) those buildings don't belong to you; they belong to all of us; (3) not all of us are xian; and (4) the only rational alternative to having no religious symbols/icons on public property is having ALL possible religious symbols/icons on public property, which will STILL be offensive to those who do not believe in any religion nor accept any form of divinity. Put up your graven images in your homes. Put them up on the grounds of your tax-sheltered churches. Put them up on billboards that you rent. Wear them on your own t-shirts. Send them on your own holiday cards. And leave the rest of us the fuck alone.
Your religion has never seemed to care very much what others thought (i.e., to practice even the most basic forms of courtesy and politeness), but I'd like to tell you how "initiatives" such as "Project Nativity" make all the rest of us feel. They make us hate you. They make us feel as if you are bound and determined to stuff your religion down all the rest of our throats, and we don't like it one bit. We don't like it anymore than you'd like it if your tax dollars had to go to support our religious beliefs or if we were always shoving our religious beliefs down your throats. You are not the only religion that celebrates a major holiday at this time of year. Please stop trying to act as if you were. In fact, most of us think that you stole/appropriated/borrowed (take your pick) your xmas holiday from European Pagans in an effort to legitimate your religion in the eyes of the then-majority. And, BTW, most of us get, simply by living in this culture, a whole hell of a lot more of xmas than we can stomach.
Why am I even bothering? You're the people who used to baptize Native American babies, throw them in the air, and shoot them so that they'd "go straight to god." You're the people who are determined to claim my womb for your own feelings of power. You're the people who burn and torture and kill even your own co-religionists who belong to a slightly different sect. You don't care about winning anyone's hearts and minds.
But, if you did, you'd stop this shit. You'd quit pretending to be persecuted when you're in the majority and when you're the ones doing the persecuting and you'd quit shoving your religion (with which, believe me, most of us are already way too familiar) down our throats. You'd practice, for a change, a little bit of the meekness and humility and charity that your purported god purported to teach.
Merry fucking xmas. If I see one of your nativity scenes on public property, I'm going to pee on it and if I can't pee on it I'm going to hex it.
My wonderful friend Angela has a post up with pictures of the lovely altars and shrines that she and her husband have created in their new home. They're gorgeous!
When I moved to my little cottage three years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to set aside a room for ritual work and my altar is there. I loved the process of creating a room for worship, prayer, meditation, and magic.
Do you have altars? Where are they? What's on them?
Jonathan Chait has an opinion piece in today's LAT noting that the fundies are setting themselves up to get punked again. You'd think that six straight years of Republican control of, well, everything that yielded neither a ban on gay marriage nor the criminalization of abortion would have given the fundies a clue that the corporatists are, as Chait says: deeply hostile to social conservatism, and its leaders manage to fool the base over and over again. For "fool" I'd substitute the words "use like a bunch of chumpy, chump, chumps," but, either way, you'd think the fundies would figure it out.
Chait looks at the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls and concludes that: one odd thing jumps out at me: Most of them have expressed deep hostility to the religious right's point of view in the past, and several of them are now insisting that they didn't mean a word of it. I guess it's a good indication of just how twisted a religion the fundies practice that the people courting their votes would rather admit that they're liars than admit that they aren't passionately-devoted sniffers of everyone else's panties. An excellent example of the vote-for-me-I'm-an-outright-liar-not-a-rational-adult-when-it-comes-to-other-people's-sex-lives is Mitt Romney. As Chait reports: Bay Windows, a Boston newspaper covering gay and lesbian issues, published an interview it had conducted with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 1994. Romney, now a leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, had characterized the religious right as "extremists," said he essentially had the same position on gay rights as Ted Kennedy and cast himself as an heir to his moderate father, George Romney, the Michigan governor who walked out of the 1964 Republican convention to protest Barry Goldwater.
Those positions certainly seem believable. Mitt Romney had run as a supporter of abortion rights and legislation protecting gays from on-the-job discrimination.
But he has since reversed both positions, and an advisor insisted that Romney had been "faking it" as a pro-choicer, explaining that he had to do it because social conservatism is unacceptable to the voters of Massachusetts.
That's right. Romney has no problem saying that he lied to the voters of Massachusetts and espoused positions that were actually 180 degrees away from what he really believed just so that he could get elected. I'm not a xian, but I know there's something in that book of theirs about not telling lies. Chait suggests that the fundies might want to consider that if Romney would lie to someone else just to get power, maybe he's lying to them now, but the fundies don't want to hear it. Indeed, social conservatives don't even want to hear about Romney's scandalously tolerant past. Brian Camenker, a right-wing activist who has been sounding the alarm bells about Romney, has gotten a frosty reception from his fellow religious conservatives. " 'Why are you attacking Romney?' " they keep asking him, according to my colleague Ryan Lizza. "He's better than Giuliani and McCain.' " By better, they apparently mean: currently more willing to mouth the anti-sex, anti-woman platitudes that are music to our fundie ears.
Chait suggests that John McCain is also a liar who'll apparently twist himself into a pretzel in order to gain power. Sen. John McCain of Arizona once described religious-right leaders as "forces of evil" and has mused that he would not support the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. More recently, McCain, like Romney, has backed off his moderate statements (not surprising, given the furor they provoked). But McCain is even less credible in his newfound conservatism; only a total naif could believe him now. A general rule of political life is that when a candidate says something unpopular off the cuff and then takes it back in prepared remarks, you can be sure that the original statement is what he really thinks.
So the fundies, who should be more concerned over their own financial plight, over the future of the planet, over sickness and suffering the world over, will continue to vote for the candidate most likely to punk them. Again.
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
In a fairly good editorial discussing the Bush junta's violation of basic human rights and bedrock American values -- and the ways in which the outgoing Republican Congress aided and abetted Bush's evil -- today's NYT makes a startling concession. Discussing how Republican Senator Pat Roberts dragged his feet for years in an effort to cover up the juntas lies that we needed to invade iraq because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction," the NYT notes that: Mr. Roberts insisted that [the investigation that he was supposed to be conducting] cover every public statement by any administration official or member of Congress dating back to 1991. What President Bill Clinton or Senator Hillary Clinton said about Iraq is irrelevant. What matters is what was said by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney — who ordered the invasion of Iraq — and by their aides.
Can you believe it? The NYT admitting that it is the Bush junta -- and not the Clintons -- that needs to be investigated? Would that the NYT itself have been even half as eager to investigate all of the Bush junta's crimes as it was to look into -- and cover obsessively -- every detail of the Clinton's personal finances and personal lives. Yeah, the NYT has broken some stories about the Bush junta. But whether you look at reporters assigned or column-inches printed, there is simply no comparison.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."