Keith Olberman has a point. Bill O'Reilley, who runs around pretending to be horrified over a nonexistant "campaign" to "indoctrinate" children so that they'll won't hate gay people and treat them like shit (no, really!), begs women to engage in threesomes with him. And his idiot listeners are fine with that.
Every year, I promise myself that NEXT year, I'll get my act together in, oh, late August, and make sugar skulls for Samhein. I didn't manage it this year, but for next year, I'm determined!!
It looks pretty easy, and maybe G/Son will be old enough to have fun "helping" me. I think they'd make an amazing Samhein altar, and, as Kathy Cano-Murillo from The Arizona Republic notes, a Día de los Muertos altar without sugar skulls is like a Charms Blow Pop without the bubble gum inside. Inkubus adds that: Sugar Skulls (Calaveras) are a traditional folk art from Southern Mexico used to celebrate El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This is a happy occasion in Mexico. The spirits of the dead are welcomed back . . . home with these beautifully decorated skulls as well as with altars, flowers candles, incense[,] and special foods. Families take the flowers and sugar skulls to the cemetery to decorate the tombs. Sugar skulls are colorfully decorated with icing, pieces of bright foil, [and] colored sugars[,] and usually bear the name of the deceased loved one being honored. If kept dry, the skulls can last a year .
Sure, Samhein is, for me, a holiday of Celtic origin, and Día de los Muertos originates, according to Wiki with the indigenous peoples [of Mexico and surrounding areas] such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mexica, Maya, P'urhépecha, and Totonac. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2500–3000 years. In the post-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina. But that's what I love about modern Paganism: the chance to create a completely syncretistic religion (yeah, I know that, for some, that's a term of derision) that blends together amazing elements from all over the world. And I've always found the beliefs surrounding the Day of the Dead to be, well, pretty Pagan.
Wiki explains that: Some Mexicans feel that death is a special occasion, but with elements of celebration, because the soul is passing into another life. Plans for the festival are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the period of November 1 and November 2, families usually clean and decorate the graves. Most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include orange marigold called "cempasuchil", originally named cempaxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty flowers", in modern Mexico this name is often replaced with the term "Flor de Muerto", Spanish for "Flower of the Dead". These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.
Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels), and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of the dead") or sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrenda food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivity, they believe it lacks nutritional value. The pillows and blankets are left out so that the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico, such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives.
Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes.
How could I not love a holiday that has people building altars in their homes, leaving offerings of alcohol for their beloved dead, and growing marigolds all summer long in order to be able to celebrate the passage from life to death, the turning, to use a Wiccan term, of the Wheel? I've always loved the scene in the movie Frida where Diego Rivera comes, after a long and difficult absence, to see Frida in the cemetery on the Día de los Muertos and asks her to house Leon Trotsky who had fled from the Soviet Union to Mexico. It's night. It's a cemetery. It's completely festive. She grants him his wish (and then fucks Trotsky).
So, that's it. Next year, I AM going to make sugar skulls, and decorate them, and make an altar. Hail Mictecacihuatl! Hail Catrina!
Oddly, I find that more and more of my high holy days require the acquisition of plastic molds. My circle celebrates the rising of the Yule sun by banging on pots and pans and blowing whistles and beating drums (gotta wake up that sleepy sun!) and drinking strong drink in glasses made of ice that we then break upon the frozen ground (see, above, re: waking up the sun).
In a life of unearned joys, being able to live in a circle of amazing women is one of my greatest joys.
I've slept, in Stevie Nick's words, with poets, legends, priests of nothing.
I've been mother to a kind, good, sly-humored young man who has turned out to be, all unmentored, the most amazing father, a great writer, a v. good cook, a wonderful person, and a better son that I ever deserved. I've been lucky beyond luck to have a good and brilliant and kind daughter-in-law with whom I love to spend time. I have a G/Son whose picture I show to my dentist and to strangers on the train and who I knew immediately that I would love beyond imagining. I've lived past breast cancer to hear him say "Nonna," and if that's all that chemo bought for me, well, then, it was cheap at the price.
I've spent a lifetime reading poetry and seeing art and attending the ballet and walking in the gardens and the parks of some of the most amazing cities in North America.
I got to study law and to work for one of DC's best law firms and to handle fascinating, precedent-setting cases in great courts for a fantastic client.
And, yet, I count myself in nothing else so fortunate, in the words of the The Bard, than as a witch, in a circle of women. Tonight, a full moon under a rainy sky, was a confirmation of that for me. Wonderful, unearned things have been happening all my life, but having a circle of women sitting in my living room, eating dinner, drinking wine, relaxing from magic, sharing lives -- that's a gift from the Goddess that I never really expected to receive. Women applying for new jobs, sharing information about obtaining security clearances, renovating homes, going through pregnancy, watching their family members die, dealing with middle school girls who get called "easy," and coping with law firms where the chairman tells sexist jokes -- I count myself so lucky to be inside this swirl of energy.
It's been such a long dry summer. I've watered, and watered, and watered my garden and my trees, getting a water bill that's double last year's. But that's only been to do triage, to try to keep alive my oak trees that were here when the American Revolution happened, to keep the expensive new toad lillies and the ancient rhododendron alive, to keep the moonflowers that Ruth sent to me, and the roses that I bought, and the gardenias that scented this entire Spring, alive.
But this morning, at about five o'clock, I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof. What an amazingly lovely sound. It's been so absent, lately. And, wonder of wonders, this evening, it was still raining. On Wednesday evenings, I get together with some amazing witches and we do ecstatic dance and eat a healthy potluck meal to which we each contribute. Tonight, after dancing and catching up with each other, we had collards and mustard greens, Susan Weed's cancer prevention cabbage and sea weed, garden squash and kashi, and cheese. We ate out on my screen porch and I kept interrupting the conversation to say, "Wow. I love the sound of the rain." My sisters indulged me. The rain is as if the Goddess just kept saying over and over and over again, "I love you. I love you. I love you."
Tomorrow, I'll gather with the women in my circle to do magic for two of us who need magic. Next week, I'll dance on Tuesday, instead of Wednesday, because Wednesday is the high holy day for my circle: Samhein. On Wednesday, we'll eat a dumb supper to honor the ancestors and do divination for the coming year. Magic matters, in my life, and my life is full of magic.
I wish that you could hear this rain, hear the thirsty earth drinking it in, hear the oaks and the datura and the thyme and the sage and the basil and the bee balm and the budelia drinking their fill for the first time in months. I wish that you could smell it through my open windows, dance in it with me under the full October moon, as we move from Libra to Scorpio, I wish that you could see, moment to moment, what it's doing for the thirsty plants.
And life, for the most part, has gone on just as before.
The response to the worst drought on record in the Southeast has unfolded in ultra-slow motion. All summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains sprayed and football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. On an 81-degree day this month, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million-gallon mountain of snow.
By September, with the lake forecast to dip into the dregs of its storage capacity in less than four months, the state imposed a ban on outdoor water use.
This, right up until the baseball bat, is EXACTLY how Miss Thing wakes me up every morning, including the nails in the archival fabric of the bedspread. And, although Son says that I'm mistaken, this is EXACTLY how G/Son says "meow," which is his word for cat. I'm not sure, however, that the artist accurately rendered the "dance of the kitty paws upon the full bladder" which Miss Thing has completely perfected.
Like Lunea Weatherstone, I'm a huge fan of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. The amazing thing is that their scents do smell exactly as described. And I can read the descriptions all night long. Here are some lovely new ones:
THE GHASTLY GARDEN Overgrown oleander, marshy water hemlock, the sugared nectar of carnivorous blooms, putrefying wet greenery, oozing sap, crushed rosary peas, withered climbing roses, and nightshade berries.
THE TWISTED OAK TREE Blackened, rotted oak wood blanketed in moss and choked by a cloak of grasping ivy.
ARCHANGEL WINTER Crystalline, glassy ice whipped by a snowstorm. Piercing ozone, winter darkness. (I really want this one!)
JÓLASVEINAR 2007 The Jólasveinar are the seventy-some offspring of Grýla and Leppalúði, an ogre couple with a taste for chomping naughty children. This impish brood delights in causing discomfort, sowing confusion, and all-out raising hell during the Yule season. Their names are indicative of their malicious intentions -- Strap Loosener, Door Slammer, Window Peeper, Sausage Snatcher, Doorway Sniffer, Icebreaker -- and their creepy natures -- Lamp Shadow, Smoke Gulper, Crevice Imp. The devillish Jólasveinar finally cease their mischief and head for home at Þrettándinn.
Their scent is a mishmash of snow, dirt, Icelandic moss, marsh felwort, and the smushed petals of buttercups and moorland spotted orchids, with the barest hint of the scent of pilfered Christmas pastries.
THE SHIVERING BOY Cold, cold forever more. A winter storm roaring through empty stone halls, bearing echoes of despair, desolation, and death on its winds. The scent of frozen, dormant vineyards, bitter sleet, and piercing ozone, hurled through labdanum, benzoin, and olibanum.
I'm also a big fan of Elsa Peretti and am lately longing for her heavily-promoted round pendant. Something about her shapes is so modern and so organic at the same time.
And, this Spring, I want to plant about 25 of these bat plants in the woodland garden. Surely next year we'll get enough rain, right? I will, of course, always long for far more books that I have time to read.
In just a few weeks, I'll run to Whole Foods to buy this year's Beaujolais nouveau, which I'll drink all the way up to Yule. Speaking of Whole Foods, they've gotten me hooked on Brown Paper Chocolates. I especially like the dark chocolate, zapped by ancho chiles, almonds and aged tequila and the white chocolate fragrant with Lavender, Pimm's® No.1 and Chervil with a cracked pepper and lavender fleur de sel afterthought. A tiny shaving of one of these is all you need, much better than the cheap stuff.
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 . . . ."