As I've noted before, I'm a huge believer in birthdays. Shoot, if you're not entitled to one measley day out of every 365 that's all about you, you, you, well, shoot, that would be silly. You won't find me shying away from birthdays, pretending that mine doesn't exist, going, "Oh, no, I'm too old; I don't have birthdays any more." I LOVE birthdays. I love celebrating my friends' birthdays and letting them know how glad I am that they were born. And I love my own birthday, the merely-hours-away Ides of March (my dad swore that I was born yelling Sic semper tyrannis! I like to think that's true).
So you can imagine my delight when I came home this evening and found a birthday gift from Lenore and Bob in Georgia; but, really, you can't imagine my delight until you read the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book that they sent to me. Gardens for the Soul by Pamela Woods is, I think, one of THE lovliest garden books that I've ever seen, and, as you can imagine, I read a number of garden books. It's imbued with Goddess spirituality and is the witchiest gardening book that I've ever read, and I've read books that purported to be specifically about witchy gardening.
There's a picture of Sternbergia lutea on page 121 that is the emodiment of everything that Rumi tried to write. There's a picture of a germinating seed in damp Earth on page 138 that is everything you've ever thought, or felt, or longed for about Spring. There's a picture of mushrooms and Autumn leaves on page 143 that makes me long, right now, for Autumn, that reminds me why Autumn will always be the time when the veil between Here and Fairy is tissue thin. There's an idea on page 56 that is going directly into the plan for my backyard patio. This is a garden book with a lot of text and I'm looking forward to reading all of it.
So namaste and many thanks to Lenore and Bob for the gift (and the lovely birthday message). I'm going to savor this book for quite some time.
The Obamas have been too busy this week to eat dinner out at a restaurant, but here's the recipe for the "creamless creamed spinach" that WH chef Cristeta Comerford has been making to wow Michelle Obama:
No Cream Creamed Spinach Serves 6
2 pounds baby spinach, washed and cleaned 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 shallots, minced 2 garlic cloves, minced Salt and freshly ground pepper.
1. Blanch half a pound of spinach in salted, boiling water. Immediately, “shock” the blanched spinach in a bowl of iced water. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Puree in a blender. Set aside. 2. In a large skillet, sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent. Add the rest of the spinach leaves. Toss and sauté until wilted. Fold in the spinach puree. Season with salt and pepper.
Dear Ms. Obama,
On Sunday, Son, DiL, and G/Son are taking me out for my birthday to Tap & Vine in near-by Arlington, VA. They have amazing Beef Short Rib Sliders - on two mini rolls with horseradish slaw and crispy fries, which the staff will gladly replace with truffled fries. And, it's v kid-friendly, so the girls would enjoy it, too. You'd love it, and you know that you owe VA some love.
One of the most amazing things that FDR worked into the Works Projects Administration (WPA) was an emphasis not only on building infrastructure, but also on the arts. It's been funny (well, not "funny, ha, ha") to watch the wingnuts flat-out lie over the past six months in an attempt to discredit the WPA.
In 1934, Americans grappled with an economic situation that feels all too familiar today. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the U.S. government created the Public Works of Art Program—the first federal government program to support the arts. Officials in the Roosevelt administration understood how essential art was to sustaining America's spirit. Artists from across the United States who participated in the program, which lasted only six months from mid-December 1933 to June 1934, were encouraged to depict the American scene. The Public Works of Art Program not only paid artists to embellish public buildings, but also provided them with a sense of pride in serving their country. They painted regional, recognizable subjects—ranging from portraits to cityscapes and images of city life to landscapes and depictions of rural life—that reminded the public of quintessential American values such as hard work, community and optimism.
1934: A New Deal for Artists celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Program by drawing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum's unparalleled collection of vibrant paintings created for the program. The 56 paintings in the exhibition are a lasting visual record of America at a specific moment in time. George Gurney, deputy chief curator, organized the exhibition with Ann Prentice Wagner, curatorial associate. The exhibition will begin a three-year national tour in 2010.
Here's a slide show of the art. I'm mad for about a dozen of them (check out Racing) and G/Son would love the train scenes.
I'm pretty fascinated with the fact that, over the last two decades, as xians have grown in political influence, their actual percentage w/in the population has been shrinking. For the past two decades, as xianists have made control of women's bodies their number one cause, as they've shown themselves to be obsessed with gay sex and denying evolution, as priests have been exposed as pedophiles and bishops as enablers, as xians have loudly and forcefully supported warmongers such as George W. Bush, Americans have been saying, in statistically-significant numbers: "No thanks. Not with my Sunday afternoon. Not with my kids. Not with my funeral service." Yet, among those who stayed or became xians, evangelicalism appears to be a growth industry. (Requisite disclaimer: There are lots of wonderful xians in America. Some of my best friends are xian. They haven't been out front and center, they don't get media attention, and they don't, sadly, seem very willing to criticize their co-religionists when necessary.)
I can't think that there's anything but good to come from this report. I don't expect Obama to close his unconstitutional, and expanded, Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. I don't expect politicians to stop kissing xian butt. But I am glad to see more and more Americans saying, "If that's religion, religion's not for me."
As for Wicca, as I was saying to a friend recently, we're basically a religion that doesn't want converts, a religion that would prefer that you go find something else, a religion that stands up and goes "Shhhsss. Shhhsss. Go away. Nothing to see here. We don't want you in our religion." And that's the way I like it. We've grown too much, too fast, IMHO.
One of the findings that interests me the most is captured in this chart from the report:
Gender Composition of the Religious Traditions 2008
% Male % Female Catholic 46 54 Baptist 43 57 Mainline Christian 44 56 Christian Generic 48 52 Pentecostal/Charismatic 42 58 Protestant Denominations 45 55 Mormon/LDS 45 55 Jewish 49 51 Eastern Religions 53 47 Muslim 52 48 NRM & Other Religions 52 48 Nones 60 40
New Religions Movements (Scientology, New Age, Eckankar, Spiritualist, Unitarian-Universalist, Deist, Wiccan, Pagan, Druid, Indian Religion, Santeria, Rastafarian), [and it's pretty damn funny that the authors of the report consider Unitarians, Diests, Pagans, and Druids to be "new" religious movements] Eastern Religions, Muslims, and "Nones" (people who report no religion) are the only categories that report more men than women. And, yet, in all the various "traditional" religions -- where male leaders far outnumber and often claim the entire field from females -- women members outnumber men. It's odd for me, a Dianic witch, to figure out what that means. Are there that many Pagan men? The study says:
Since women live longer than men there are normally more women than men in the population. The current sex ratio or gender balance of the national U.S. adult population is 49 males to every 52 females. Table 7 reveals that there is a split among the religious traditions whereby Christian groups tend to meet or exceed this female bias whereas all the non-Christians in the bottom five rows exceed the national average of 49 percent males. Among the religious groups having more female adherents are the Pentecostals, Baptists, and Mainline Christians of which 56%-58% are females. The most gender unbalanced group is the Nones, those who profess no religion or self-identified as atheists or agnostics. The ratio of 60 males to 40 females is a remarkable result. These gender patterns correspond with many earlier findings that show women to be more religious than men particularly in majority Christian societies. The male gender bias found among the minority religious traditions such as Muslims and the Eastern Religions is due to the high proportion of young immigrant males in these groups.
Go away. Find some other religion. Be a "None." Scat.
Last night, my amazing circle of women came together to do magic beneath the Full Moon.
When we went out onto the deck to, literally, howl at the moon, something howled back. It came from a long way away, and I'm not sure if it was a dog or a wolf, but whatever it was, it heard us, and answered us, and reminded us that we are not alone. Reminded us that, the moment we turn to the dark, wild, misty side of ourselves, the universe is waiting there to answer us.
And, all day, driving to work, sitting at my computer, loading the dishwasher, I keep remembering that spooky, answering howl coming through the mist, and I smile to myself. I smile the deep, secret smile of a witch.
And, if George Bush hadn't broken the economy, I'd love to go to these Omega workshops this summer. I love the star-lit nights at Omega, I love the organic food, I love the lake, I love the stag who came crashing past me near the meditation center.
A couple of random thoughts, not sure if I can pull them together, or not.
Since I posted about Gavin and Yvonne Frost's notion that you can't be a witch unless you surrender control of your sexuality to some "elder" (complete balderdash), I've been thinking a lot about what it was like when I first heard of Wicca. I wasn't especially young or naive, but I was so terribly thirsty for what Wicca seemed to offer, Goddess knows what I'd have done, back in those pre-internet, pre-Amazon.com days, if someone had come along and offered me a big, heaping dose of it in exchange for something questionable. Like Rumi, I might well have said: "I would love to kiss you!" "The price of kissing is your life." Now my loving is running toward my life shouting, "What a bargain! Let's buy it. "
I wasn't sure, back then what "living as a witch" entailed, exactly, but I was 100% sure that, whatever it was, it was what I wanted.
Thorn recently did a podcast with Karen Tate in which Karen discussed, inter alia, some of the daily "routine" tasks that she completes that she considers the work of a priestess: priestessing. And I was thinking about that, today, as well, as I rushed home from work to prepare my home for this week's Full Moon Ritual.
My circle meets in the homes of our members and this month is my turn to hostess. And there are few things in Wicca about which I am AD.AM.ANT, but one of them is the need for ritual to take place in a clean, lovely, calm environment that invites busy women in, reminds them that they are manifestations of the Goddess, gives them space in which to relax, provides them with a genuine opportunity to transition between "mundane" (I hate that word) and sacred space. So, for me, part of the work of a priestess is cleaning up, smudging, setting the table, laying the altar, making my home ready for magic, ready for the Full Moon.
I'm not sure that's what I had in mind when I first read about Wicca, first felt that desperate thirst for the chance to live the life of a witch. But that's what it's turned out to mean, for me. I don't have to sleep with someone ordained by an elder. I scarcely keep a book of shadows. I don't often grind special herbs to make a ceremonial incense. I don't wear a pentacle and my eye make-up is pretty damn conventional. But I will move heaven and Earth to provide a group of busy, Washington, DC career women -- witches all --with a space where they can lay down government, consulting, education, news, family, law, and life and step into a clean, calm, quiet, sacred space in which to do magic. I will do that. Because the Goddess says:
Whenever you have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise.
You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.
May your March Full Moon be a blessed one and may you find the work that makes a Priestess of you.
This morning, on my way to work I could see tiny little crocus buds. When I came home this afternoon: there they were, the first full blossoms of 2009. (The hellebores are still in bud, so, even though they "showed up" first, I'm giving pride of place to the crocus, that flower of Narcissus.)
I saw a morning dove this morning and -- finally! -- a robin this afternoon in my backyard. And, I have the windows open and it's 71 Al Gore degrees in Arlington right now. Thank the Goddess; I'd had about as much windy cold as I could stand.
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 . . . ."