I shoot off my mouth a lot about politics, I celebrate living in a circle of witches, I post pictures of pretty plants, I report on living between the worlds, I post poems that rock my world, but if there's anything that I try to do consistently on this blog, it's to remind women to take care of their breasts.
On the first of every month, give yourself a breast self-exam. It's easy to do. Here's how. If you prefer to do BSE at a particular time in your cycle, calendar it now. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
And, I haven't said this enough, but, once a year, get yourself a mammogram. Mammograms cost between $150 and $300. If you have to take a temp job one weekend a year, if you have to sell something on e-Bay, if you have to go cash in all the change in various jars all over the house, if you have to work the holiday season wrapping gifts at Macy's, for the love of the Goddess, please go get a mammogram once a year.
Or: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pays all or some of the cost of breast cancer screening services through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides mammograms and breast exams by a health professional to low-income, underinsured, and underserved women in all 50 states, six U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and 14 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations. For more information, contact your state health department or call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
Send me an email after you get your mammogram and I will do an annual free tarot reading for you. Just, please, examine your own breasts once a month and get your sweet, round ass to a mammogram once a year.
Several years ago, when we were in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, my brilliant DiL bought me a set of Goddess cards by Susan Boulet. (Have I mentioned that Son had the immense good sense and gentle wisdom to marry the kindest, smartest, most elegant, most grounded woman of his generation? If you only have one child, it's great good luck when they marry someone outstanding.) The cards that DiL gave to me have formed a v. intimate part of my spiritual practice. Tonight, at my altar, my hand strayed to the deck and I pulled a Goddess for 2008. I pulled Tlazolteotl.
Here's what Boulet says about her:
Tlazolteotl is a Toltec earth mother, the goddess of carnal love and desire. Like Kali in India, she is portrayed as a horrible, devouring figure yet is also honored as a moving, creative principle. She is sometimes pictured as four sisters (the four ages of woman [an increasingly modern concept as "maiden, mother, crone" becomes too limiting]) who are present at the crossroads of one's life. Tlazolteotl is best known as the Eater of Impurities. Once in a lifetime, a person confessed her worst deeds and sins to Tlazolteotl, holding back nothing. In return the confessor received absolution: no impurity or defilement was too great to be forgiven. Tlazolteotl is that deep part of ourselves that we fear because it is so powerful and unfamiliar. Yet when we touch her through her fearsome countenance, we find absolute mercy. She is proof that anything [that] can overwhelm and destroy us also has the power to heal [us] and [to] grant forgiveness.
Oh, this is going to be an interesting year. "For behold, I have been with you from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire."
After this massacre, we will drop the smallest body bags ever made into Baghdad, they will be made of black rubber with zippers like those we filled in Vietnam, they will be from one to four feet long, for the last mothers alive in Baghdad. They will drift down as thousands of black leaves, after our missiles have burned through water and skin. We will try to drop them before the world can see the remains these last mothers alive in Baghdad will carry from our craters of sand in their broken arms the rest of their lives.
Do you still see the young Vietnamese girl running naked from Hanoi, screaming with horror with her back on fire with Napalm; her sisters running toward her from Baghdad.
Yes, we have seen to the future of Iraq-- these smallest body bags ever made if rolled up tight enough, can even fit inside the womb.
We cannot remove our government of wide graves by ourselves. We will need your help to pull us back from the desert of quicksand beneath their great fleet of knives on fire, to heal we will need your help with the impeachment and the trial of war crimes, with the prison to be built with light. In light. We will need your help to lift these tears of blood from us after Iraq.
This is what we have grown for you. This is what this Empire eats.
For all the women in the world who imagine they need to save everyone else first:
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice-- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do-- determined to save the only life you could save.
When I went to that house of pleasure I didn’t stay in the front rooms where they celebrate, with some decorum, the accepted modes of love.
I went into the secret rooms and lounged and lay on their beds.
I went into the secret rooms considered shameful even to name. But not shameful to me—because if they were, what kind of poet, what kind of artist would I be? I’d rather be an ascetic. That would be more in keeping, much more in keeping with my poetry, than for me to find pleasure in the commonplace rooms.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)
I occasionally receive hate email but more frequently receive ones like this: “I’ve just unsubscribed to your email list. Your website is filled with negative stories and articles, and I need to keep a positive attitude and do what I can to make my world better.” . . . I think that righteous is the word I would use to describe this reader’s perspective. [T]he problem with a righteous attitude is that it often leads to detachment from reality-not unlike Barbara Bush’s comment that she doesn’t want to trouble her “beautiful mind” with statistics about troop or civilian casualties in Iraq. It’s all so American/Judeo-Christian-and, of course, Dale Carnegie: keeping a positive attitude so that we never feel badly about what’s actually happening.
. . .
The addiction to a “positive attitude” in the face of the end of the world as we have known it is beyond irrational-even beyond insane. . . . Usually, having a “positive” attitude about collapse implies wanting it not to happen, believing that it may not happen, and doing everything in one’s power to convince oneself that it won’t happen.
. . .
Derrick Jensen in Endgame, Volume I, states that “The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of any economic system.” (127) He continues:
Any economic system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and really stupid.(128)
Explaining human disconnection from the rest of earth’s inhabitants, Jensen describes the various layers of resistance among humans to their innate animal essence. One of the deeper layers is our “fear and loathing of the body”, our instinctual wildness and therefore,our vulnerability to deathwhich causes us to distance ourselves from the reality that we indeed are animals. In fact, this is one of civilization’s fundamental tasks. Have not all modern societies disowned and genocided the indigenous? And for what purpose? Not only for the purpose of stealing their land, eradicating their culture, and eliminating so-called barriers to “progress”, but because native peoples (you know, “savages") as a result of their intimate connection with nature, are such glaring reminders of humankind’s animal-ness. They are embarrassingly “un-civilized.” Thus, modernity must “civilize” the savage in order to excise the animal, inculcating in her a human-centric world view. For more on this last topic, see Barbara Ehrenreich'sDancing in the Streets.
The consequence has been not only the incessant destruction of earth and its plethora of life forms, but the murder of the human soul itself. Benjamin Franklin said it best after returning from living with the Iroquois: “No European who has tasted Savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.”
Any person who wants to “maintain a positive attitude” in this culture-the culture of civilization that is killing the planet-killing people and things that we all love-that person is not only irrational and deeply afflicted with denial, but he is exactly like a member of an abusive family system in which physical and sexual assault are occurring in the home on a daily basis, but that family member insists on “thinking good thoughts” and resents anyone and everyone who says what is so about the abusive system.
So let’s admit two things: 1) Humans are fundamentally animals. Yes, we are more than animals, but civilization with its contempt for the feral has inculcated us to own the “more than” and disown everything else. 2) The culture of civilization is inherently abusive, and it is abusive precisely because it has disowned the animal within the human. Indeed animals kill other animals for survival, but they do not conquer, rape, pillage, plunder, enslave, pollute, slash, burn, and poison their habitat-unlike those “more-than-animal” beings who seem incapable of not doing all of the above. Conversely, the “more-than-human” creatures respect their surroundings because they instinctively sense that their survival depends on doing so.
. . .
[A] British study at the University of St. Andrews confirmed that elephants keep track of up to 30 absent relatives by sniffing out their scent and building up a mental map of where they are, research suggests. Herd members use their good memory and keen sense of smell to stay in touch as they travel in large groups, according to a study of wild elephants in Kenya. Dr. Richard Byrne of St Andrews noted that elephants have two advantages over humans - their excellent sense of smell and, if their popular reputation is anything to go by, a good memory.
One may argue that an elephant could [not] design a computer, but I ask: What is more consequential, the ability to design a computer or the ability to protect, sustain, and nurture the planet on which one resides? Of what value is the computer if none of us is here to use it?
Civilization, which has never ceased soiling its nest since its inception, has also never understood its proper place on the earth: that of a guest, a neighbor, a fellow-member of the community of life. As a result, everything civilization has devised and which is “unsustainable, immoral, and stupid”, as Jensen names it, is now in the process of collapsing. I ask for an honest answer here: How can anyone tell me with a straight face (or a righteous attitude) that that reality is “negative”? Would the seagull on a Southern California beach with her feet entangled and bleeding in plastic netting left behind by “more-than-animal” life forms tell me that the collapse of what created her plight is “negative”? Would thousands of dead spruce trees in Colorado ravaged by beetles as a direct result of climate change tell me that collapse is a bad idea? Would the plankton and bleached coral at the bottom of the sea which are fading and dying with breathtaking rapidity as a result of global warming, tell me to keep a positive attitude and do everything in my power to stop the collapse of civilization? I think not.
Fundamentally, what all forms of positive thinking about collapse come down to is our own fear of death. Thanks to civilization’s Judeo-Christian tradition and its other handmaiden, corporate capitalism, humans have become estranged from the reality that death is a part of life. Human hubris gone berserk as a result of a tumescent ego, uncontained by natural intimacy with the more-than-human world, believes humanity to be omnipotent and entitled to invincibility. Therefore, from the human-centric perspective “collapse should be stopped” or “maybe it won’t happen” or “somehow humans will come to their senses”. Meanwhile, the drowning polar bears inwardly wail for the death of humanity as the skeletons of formerly chlorophyll-resplendent Colorado spruce shiver and sob in the icy December wind. Our moral, spiritual, and human obligation is to flush our positive attitude down the nearest toilet and start feeling their pain! Until we do, we remain human-centric and incapable of seizing the multitudinous opportunities that collapse offers for rebirth and transformation of this planet and its human and more-than-human inhabitants.
News flash: We are all going to die! Or as Derrick Jensen writes in Endgame:
The truth is that I’m going to die someday, whether or not I stock up on pills. That’s life. And if I die in the population reduction that takes place as a corrective to our having overshot carrying capacity, well, that’s life, too. Finally, if my death comes as part of something that serves the larger community, that helps stabilize and enrich the landbase of which I’m part, so much the better. (123)
Now, I hasten to add that I am not suggesting we select our most intense emotion about collapse, move in, redecorate, and take up residence there. Feel one’s feelings? Yes, and at the same time revel in those aspects of one’s life where one feels nourished, loved, supported, comforted, and in those people and activities that give one joy and meaning.
Had civilization not spent the last five thousand years attempting to murder the indigenous self inherent in all humans, we would not have to be told, as native peoples and the more-than- human world does not, that most of the time, life on this planet is challenging, painful, scary, sad, and sometimes enraging. What our indigenous ancestors had and still have to sustain them through the dark times was ritual and community. Our work is to embrace and refine both instead of intractably clinging to a “positive attitude” in the face of out-of-control, incalculable abuse and devastation.
. . .
Th[e coming collapse] now has a life of its own and is most likely, out of our control. Attempting to abort it or blame other humans is a waste of time and energy.
The question for humans is not: What do we do about collapse? but rather, What do we do with it? It holds inestimable opportunities for rebirth and intimacy with other humans and the more-than-human world, but only if we open to it. Opening to it means opening to our own mortality, which as Derrick Jensen insists, may be part of something that serves the larger community. Perhaps one opportunity collapse is putting in our faces is that of moving beyond our human-centric perspective-our hubris and addiction to invincibility, begging us to humble ourselves and crawl behind the eyes of the more-than-humans as Joanna Macy poignantly writes:
We hear you, fellow-creatures. We know we are wrecking the world and we are afraid. What we have unleashed has such momentum now; we don’t know how to turn it around. Don’t leave us alone; we need your help. You need us too for your own survival. Are there powers there you can share with us?
Indeed there are powers they can share with us, but not until we can let go of our current definition of “positive” and, feeling their pain, finally comprehend that the collapse of civilization may be the best thing that could happen to all of us.
It is a particularly witchy question to ask, not: What do we do about collapse? but rather, What do we do with it? At the heart of all magic is the ability to ask the important question, to name the actual issue, to face and reclaim the gift that lies in the Shadow. And the question: "What do we do with collapse?" does, as Baker suggests, hold inestimable opportunities for rebirth and intimacy with other humans and the more-than-human world, but only if we open to it. But Baker is also correct that, as in all magic, Opening to it means opening to our own mortality, Magic, it's said, is the ability to change consciousness at will. Occasionally, as my dear friend R. noted this morning, the universe helpfully provides our will with a "clue-by-four."
How can you dance with the coming collapse? What gold is waiting for you and for humanity in that coming Shadow? What would you do if you knew that you were going to die and you weren't afraid of being afraid?
Namaste and many thanks to FourLegsGood from Austin, Texas for the amazing gift of a digital camera. FourLegs is a truly amazing photographer, and I'm honored to have FourLegs' camera! I'll be playing around with it this week, trying to figure out what I'm doing. If the pictures around here improve, you'll all have FourLegs to thank!
Today, for the first time, it seems that I can actually sense the extra light. Here in Washington, D.C.,the sun rose two minutes earlier today than it did on the Solstice and sets three minutes later. Five extra minutes of light may not seem like much, but it's enough to boost my mood and convince me, even more so than the arrival of all the garden porn catalogues, that Spring really is coming. Miniver Cheevy, who posts too seldom these days, posts a gorgeous tale that explains why we keep watch on the Solstice.
Not that I'm immune to the garden porn. This will be a transitional year in the garden for me. By late summer I hope to have some landscape designers looking at the yard and giving me plans for a fairly complete rehaul of my yard. So I'm reluctant to plant too much beyond some annuals; the more that I put in the ground this Spring, the more I'll have to move, or lose, once the work on the yard gets going. And some things -- the deciduous magnolia in the front yard, the rosebushes along the side of the house, probably the rosebushes in back behind the porch, likely the hedge of undeterminate species at the end of the driveway -- will likely be having their final year. I'll probably try, AGAIN, to grow violas in the woodland garden in back. I want to grow a lot of marigolds for Day of the Dead. I might be unable to resist adding a few more toad lillies and jack-in-the-pulpits. There has to be some kind of basil that would grow well in my current (not sunny enough) shade garden. And this Fall, I planted bulbs for what's supposed to be a truly black hyacinth. I can't wait to see those in the Spring.
An interesting discussion over at Eschaton about the absolutely hysterical "gift item" that depicts Hillary Clinton as "nutcracker" has me considering the amazing notion that any woman who aspires to a position of power must be harmful to men's genitalia. As far as I know, Hillary's never expressed any desire to "crack" any man's "nuts." It's the simple fact that she wants to lead that makes it obvious, and obviously hysterical, that she's a danger to every man's cock.
And, I wonder what the converse would be. A toy Rudy Guliani that kicks women in the crotch? A "gift item" that depicts Huckabee cutting off women's breasts? A "novelty" Romney that rips off a woman's clitoris? A McCain doll that says, "I want to control women's wombs," whenever you press the button? Where's the Obama doll that depicts him fucking white men in the ass or whipping them and calling them "Toby"? If those items are "beyond the pale," how come the Hillary nutcracker is OK? How come the humor only goes one way?
Would those xmas gifts get the same grudging chuckle as the nutcracking Hillary? If not, why not? Because from where I sit, toys showing Republican men harming women's reproductive organs are far more spot on than a toy based on the notion that Hillary Clinton wants to do damage to men's penises.
I started this blog two years ago today, mostly on a lark, but also to have someplace where I could say exactly what I wanted to say. It's been great fun, so far, and I'm looking forward to the coming year, especially as the election heats up. I've been blessed with really thoughtful readers and some delightful guestbloggers. Thanks for reading, commenting, and linking.
[T]wo new groups have migrated to the Democratic Party -- and provided the basis for an enduring majority coalition.
First, there are women, who used to vote disproportionately Republican. (In 1960, for instance, women backed the Republican Richard M. Nixon, with his 5 o'clock shadow, over the dashing Democrat John F. Kennedy.) But in the 1990s, troubled by the Republicans' ardor for the religious right and opposition to social spending, they began voting disproportionately Democratic -- especially single women, working women and college-educated women. In the 2000 congressional elections, single women backed Democrats over Republicans by a whopping 63 percent to 35. Even better news for Democrats: Women are more likely to vote than men.
In 2007, 86 women serve in the U.S. Congress. Sixteen women serve in the Senate, and 70 women serve in the House. The number of women in statewide elective executive posts is 76, while the proportion of women in state legislatures is at 23.5 percent.
Congress: women hold 86, or 16.1%, of the 535 seats in the 110th US Congress — 16, or 16.0%, of the 100 seats in the Senate and 70, or 16.1%, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In addition, three women serve as Delegates to the House from Guam, the Virgin Islands and Washington, DC.
Statewide Elective Executive: In 2007, 76 women hold statewide elective executive offices across the country; women hold 24.1% of the 315 available positions. Among these women, 45 are Democrats, 28 are Republicans, and 3 were elected in nonpartisan races.
State Legislature: In 2007, 1,735, or 23.5%, of the 7,382 state legislators in the United States are women. Women hold 425, or 21.6%, of the 1,971 state senate seats and 1,310, or 24.2%, of the 5,411 state house seats. More at the Center for American Women and Politics site. And, of course, there has never been a woman president or vice president.
I've posted this poem before, but I love it so much, and it's been on my mind today. So here it is again:
The Bear's Daughter by Theodora Goss
She dreams of the south. Wandering through the silent castle, Where snow has covered the parapets, and the windows Are covered with frost, like panes of isinglass, She dreams of pomegranates and olive trees.
But to be the bear's daughter is to be a daughter, as well, Of the north. To have forgotten a time before The tips of her fingers were blue, before her veins Were blue like rivers flowing through fields of ice.
To have forgotten a time before her boots Were elk-leather lined with ermine.
Somewhere in the silent castle, her mother is sleeping In the bear's embrace, and breathing pomegranates Into his fur. She is a daughter of the south, With hair like honey and skin like orange-flowers.
She is a nightingale's song in the olive groves.
And her daughter, wandering through the empty garden, Where the branches of yew trees rubbing against each other Sound like broken violins,
Dreams of the south while a cold wind sways the privet, Takes off her gloves, which are lined with ermine, and places Her hands on the rim of the fountain, in which the sun Has scattered its colors, like roses trapped in ice.
Light posting for the next couple of days, as I prepare for and celebrate the Winter Solstice with my wonderful circle of completely kick-ass witches and then gather with Son, DiL, G/Son, and a slew of others to eat, drink, open presents, lounge.
This time of year was once quite rough for me. Child of a dysfunctional family, I was often stung most bitterly at this season by the difference between the Happy Families (all the same, as Tolstoy famously noted) and my family, torn, in its own individual way, by pain and strife. No matter how I tried, even out on my own, a young wife and mother, I was never able to quite achieve that Martha-Stewart-Wonderland that America convinced me it was my job to achieve. And, I lost a sister on December 28 one year and a brother on December 24 some years later. It wasn't until I finally began to realize that this time of year is about the Dark, about going into the cold cave without enough food, about surviving -- by hook or crook or sheer, cussed refusal to die -- long enough for the sun to begin to linger longer in the Spring, that I became a fan of the last weeks of December. And, as Sia so beautifully puts it, I've also worked to take back this holiday, back from the xians who want so terribly to completely OWN this time of year and back from the corporatists who want so terribly to make me need to BUY THINGS in the vain hope that they will fill the dark hole of Winter.
Sia: I began to take back the things of the past many seasons ago. That tree for one thing, that World Tree, that's mine. And those bright, hopeful candles are mine again, as well. This is a festival of light, after all. That circle called a wreath is mine, so too, the holly bush. Before I became Pagan, I was always drawn to pictures of a stag standing alone in snow. I'd see this design in different forms over the years and it always spoke to me. Now I know why. And look at that old Shaman dressed in furs. He's mine now, too. He was lost for a time, selling sodas if you can believe it, but he's back again where he belongs. He still brings gifts, but the gifts he offers are very different than the ones I'd known before.
One of the things that age has taught me is: things change. The Wheel of the Year turns. What seems terrible beyond belief and insurmountable now will seem ok and manageable later. The frozen lake will thaw. The leafless forsythia bush will bud. The evil ruler will die and the good leader will emerge. A clueless people will wake up and live up to their potential. Peace will break out and nameless forces for the good will appear at the needed moment. Women will be happy and busy and children and gardens will flourish.
Whatever this time of year is like for you, right now, I wish for you: time for reflection, a willingness to dance in the dark and drink from glasses chipped from ice, a face-to-face sudden encounter with your Fear, time to hibernate, dream, and plan, and great, bracing draughts of crystal cold fresh air to breathe. And I hope that you can see the Sun rise on Sunday morning. I'll be out in the freezing cold with the witches, beating on pots and pans, blowing whistles, yelling, whooping, and shaking tambourines to wake her up from her sleep, to make sure that, one more time, as she has for all of my great, great, many-times-great grandmothers, she decides to linger longer and turn the Winter into Spring. A witch's job, after all, is to turn the Wheel, and round and round the Wheel does turn. If you yell loud enough, I just might hear you. If you listen carefully, you just may hear me beating on my soup pot with my wooden spoon.
Fifty years ago, I was two years old. The Soviet Union launched the "Space Age" by launching Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite. A month later Sputnik II carried a dog into orbit, making that dog the first living being to enter space. President Eisenhower announced the "Eisenhower Doctrine," pledging defense of Middle Eastern nations against communism. Federal troops were ordered to enforce integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Despite a record-setting filibuster by Sen. Strom Thurmond, Congress approved the first significant civil rights legislation since the Civil War. Nice Grand Marnier was bottled specifically with me and NTodd in mind.
A hundred years ago, Maria Montessori opened her first school in Rome. Finland, on my birthday, became the first European country to give women the right to vote. Hundreds were killed in mine explosions. Lots of lovely bungalows were built and filled with Stickley furniture. Nice Grand Marnier was bottled specifically with me and NTodd in mind.
A hundred and fifty years ago, in the Dred Scott Decision, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves cannot be citizens. (Better if they had ruled that citizens cannot be slaves.) Madame Bovary was published. Nice Grand Marnier was bottled specifically with me and NTodd in mind.
We drank to American Democracy. May we have it, one day.
A foundation that has sued the military alleging widespread violations of religious freedom said Tuesday that it has evidence showing that soldiers are pressured to adopt fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
. . .
The material was gathered from Fort Riley in Kansas, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Fort Jackson, S.C.
Examples at Fort Riley, where Hall is stationed, included a display outside his military police battalion's office with a quote from conservative writer Ann Coulter saying, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Another photo from Fort Riley shows the book "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam" for sale at the post exchange.
. . .
Weinstein said materials for a Bible studies course from Military Ministry, part of Campus Crusade for Christ International, teach soldiers that the U.S. military and government are instruments to spread the word of God. The material was found at Fort Jackson, S.C., he said.
. . .
The lawsuit also alleges that Gates permits a military culture in which officers are encouraged to pressure soldiers to adopt and espouse fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and allows a culture that sanctions activities by Christian organizations.
It also says the military permits proselytizing by soldiers, tolerates anti-Semitism and the placing of religious symbols on military equipment, and allows the use of military e-mail accounts to send religious rhetoric.
It's not surprising; xianity has almost always associated itself with armies of the patriarchy and the list of wars fought "in Jesus' name" is a long one. The xian church and the armed forces are simply two branches of the patriarchy and it's not surprising to see them working together.
But it is illegal. It violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is wrong. It's wrong to use the government and the coercive power of the military to privilege one religious group over all others. It is immoral. It's immoral to force people to abandon their religious beliefs in order to serve their country in the military. And, you know, it just stinks to high heaven. Is this really the face that xians want to show to the world?
Those other churches might argue that such a focus on witchcraft is a relic of Africans’ old beliefs, a dangerously pagan preoccupation. But scholars say this is Christianity made profoundly African. Spiritual Warfare considers itself Pentecostal, and like many other Pentecostals, worshipers see the battle between God and Satan, or what they also call the Bible against witchcraft, shaping the world.
“Religion for them is not like in the West,” said Jacob K. Olupona, professor of African religious traditions at the Harvard Divinity School. “It’s not simply seen as meaning and reference to a transcendental order. Religion is seen as something that works. It has a utilitarian view, and people are looking for solutions in different angles and different ways.”
The Spiritual Warfare congregants here said that because their ancestors were not Christians, they were cursed, Africa is cursed and the sins of their fathers are now visited upon all the children.
Angela's trying to do something about an aspect of this problem.
Even in modern cultures these gatherings are still valued for emotional comfort, having something to look forward to at the darkest time of the year. This is especially the case for populations in the near polar regions of the hemisphere. The depressive psychological effects of winter on individuals and societies for that matter, are for the most part tied to coldness, tiredness, malaise, and inactivity. Winter weather, plus being indoors causes negative ion deficiency which decreases serotonin levels resulting in depression and tiredness. Also, getting insufficient light in the short winter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body, off balancing the circadian rhythm with longer sleep. Studies have proven that exercise, light therapy, increased negative ion exposure (which can be attained from plants and well ventilated flames burning wood or beeswax) can reinvigorate the body from its seasonal lull and relieve winter blues by shortening the melatonin secretions, increasing serotonin and temporarily creating a more even sleeping pattern. Midwinter festivals and celebrations occurring on the longest night of the year, often calling for evergreens, bright illumination, large ongoing fires, feasting, communion with close ones, and evening physical exertion by dancing and singing are examples of cultural winter therapies that have evolved as traditions since the beginnings of civilization. Such traditions can stir the wit, stave off malaise, reset the internal clock and rekindle the human spirit.
We sat together at one summer's end, That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, And you and I, and talked of poetry. I said, "A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, Our stitching and unstitching has been naught. Better go down upon your marrow-bones And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; For to articulate sweet sounds together Is to work harder than all these, and yet Be thought an idler by the noisy set Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen The martyrs call the world.' And thereupon That beautiful mild woman for whose sake There's many a one shall find out all heartache On finding that her voice is sweet and low Replied, "To be born woman is to know -- Although they do not talk of it at school -- That we must labour to be beautiful.' I said, "It's certain there is no fine thing Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring. There have been lovers who thought love should be So much compounded of high courtesy That they would sigh and quote with learned looks precedents out of beautiful old books; Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.' We sat grown quiet at the name of love; We saw the last embers of daylight die, And in the trembling blue-green of the sky A moon, worn as if it had been a shell Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell About the stars and broke in days and years. I had a thought for no one's but your ears: That you were beautiful, and that I strove To love you in the old high way of love; That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
The number of states refusing federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.
At least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply, forgoing more than $15 million of the $50 million available, officials said. Virginia was the most recent state to opt out.
Thank the Goddess. The only surprising thing is that anyone rational ever imagined that this twaddle could be effective.
Despite intense (and, ask my friend, R., it's really, really intense and nasty) lobbying by fundie whackjobs and xianists, the trend is likely to continue.
"This wave of states rejecting the money is a bellwether," said William Smith of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a Washington-based advocacy and education group that opposes abstinence-only programs. "It's a canary in the coal mine of what's to come."
"We hope that it sends a message to the politicians in Washington that this program needs to change, and states need to be able to craft a program that is the best fit for their young people and that is not a dictated by Washington ideologues," Smith said.
Smith and other critics said they hoped that if enough states drop out, Congress will redirect the funding to comprehensive sex education programs that include teaching about the use of condoms and other contraceptives.
"I think this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of continued funding of these programs," said John Wagoner of Advocates for Youth, another Washington advocacy group. "How can they ignore so many states slapping a return-to-sender label on this funding?"
I hate abstinence "education" programs for a number of reasons. First, of course, they're ineffective. Telling teenagers, with hormones coursing through their body designed specifically to make them want to have sex is about as effective as telling hungry dieters to just not eat or telling thirsty people not to drink. Sex is a natural biological function and our bodies are made to want it, just as they want air, and food, and water. Throw in a hyper-sexualized society, where 12-year-old girls dress like supermodels and sex is used to sell everything from beer to cars to, well, Viagara and you've got to be on dope to think that telling kids not to have sex = sex education. And the results show that abstinence "education" is lots less effective at preventing teen pregnancy than, oh, say, teaching kids how to use condoms and passing them out to kids every chance we get.
In addition, federal health officials reported last week that a 14-year drop in teenage pregnancy rates appeared to have reversed.
"This abstinence-only program is just not getting the job done," said Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "This is a ideologically based program that doesn't have any support in science."
Second, I just reject the notion that we should be giving teenagers the message that there's something wrong with sex. There isn't. Sex is great. Teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases are the problems. So let's teach kids how to prevent those. Consider another natural function that we're wired to want to do: eating. We don't tell kids not to eat until they get married. Eating isn't the problem; eating is great. Obesity and poor nutrition are the problems. So we have health classes and phys ed classes and science classes and home ec classes to teach kids how to eat and cook healthy food.
Third, and this is related to the second reason, the notion that sex is a problem and should be avoided (at least for now) is a religiously-based idea. My religion doesn't agree. Teaching abstinence almost always slips over into indoctrinating kids into, if not outright xianity, into ideas introduced into this culture by xianity that are directly antithecal to, say, my religion. Xians can tell their own kids, in their own homes, how terrible sex is and why they should avoid it. Public schools should provide information: if you have sex, here's what could happen and here's how to avoid that.
My own Democratic governor, Tim Kaine, in spite of being a devout Catholic, recently added Virginia to the states telling the fundie whackjobs installed by the Bush junta to go pound sand.
"The governor has often stated that abstinence-only education does not show any results," said Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who announced plans to give up the funding last month. "It doesn't work. He's a firm believer in more comprehensive sex education."
Anyone who thinks that state elections don't matter can simply consider whether this would have happened if Jerry Kilgore had won in 2005.
Even more conservative politicians are getting off the abstinence merry-go-round:
"Why would we spend tax dollars on something that doesn't work?" asked Ned Calonge of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. "That doesn't make sense to me. Philosophically, I am opposed to spending government dollars on something that's ineffective. That's just irresponsible."
The reasons given for passing up the federal money vary from state to state. Some governors publicly repudiated the programs. Others quietly let their applications lapse or blamed tight budgets that made it impossible to meet the requirement to provide matching state funds. Still others are asking for more flexibility.
"The governor supports abstinence education," Keith Daily, a spokesman for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D). "What he does not support is abstinence- only education. We are asking to put the money toward abstinence in the context of a comprehensive age-appropriate curriculum."
Most of the battles on the state level are being fought by local affiliates supported by national groups. In Illinois, opponents are planning to launch a campaign next month involving more than 100 state groups to try to sway the governor and state legislature to forgo about $1.8 million in funding.
"These programs are dangerous," said Jonathan Stacks of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. "We're trying to get people across the state to raise their voice on this issue. I think once those voices are heard, the legislature and the governor won't have any choice but to back the will of the voters."
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 . . . ."