The daisy gardenia bushes that Landscape Guy and I put in this Spring are having a second round of blossoms. Daisy gardenias aren't quite as lovely as the fuller varieties, but they smell just as wonderful and they're hardier up here in Zone 7. Another white flower with an amazing scent is the Aphrodite hosta. Most hostas aren't much for blossoms, but the Aphrodite is great.
One of the more difficult things for me is to discipline myself in the garden to a particular color scheme -- I want some of EVERYTHING -- but I'm glad that I've managed to stick to "White and Really, Really Dark." And I've become an even bigger fan of white flowers than I was when Landscape Guy and I started out. I even love how kind of creepy and Victorian/Goth/Sad they get as they fade.
The Obamas are going to Martha's Vineyard, Chelsea Clinton either is or is not getting married there, (since her 'rents are in Bermuda this weekend, I'm guessing not, but it could be double double secret psyche); it's going to be an interesting week on the Island.
Local businesses and restaurants are quick to get in on the excitement surrounding the presidential visit. "Our local microbrewery will be tapping this weekend 'Ale to the Chief,'" said Gardella.
"We have an 'Obamarita' that has been launched at our local Mexican restaurant, and the 'Beefy Bobama biscuit' was launched at the Farmer's Market this weekend in celebration of Bo Obama coming to the island."
Sadly, the Obamas are renting a Republican estate. More and more frequently, I am forced to conclude: this dude just doesn't get it.
For most of my life, I would feel it: that awareness that, no matter what you did, Summer was going to end, you were going to have to put on shoes, and the time by the creek every day was just about over. The one thing that would make that worthwhile for me was the coming of cool, crisp Autumn days, new notebooks, cracking the spines on new textbooks, a chance to start over, the hope that this year, this year, this year, I could "do better," and "get it all right." You know that you know that feeling.
And, now, it appears to be impacting the Paganii in Blogistan. Livia is remembering what it was like to be a newbie to Wicca, untaught and unaware. And, several of the leading lights of the Pagan Blogiverse are offering Wicca 101 classes. If you live anywhere near Gus, you'd be v lucky to study Wicca 101 with him. Friday a friend and I are getting together to plan our Wicca 101 class this fall. Some time ago I discussed how Pagans nationally lack teachers who have had experience in what they teach. I had thought about starting up a Wicca 101 class this spring, putting my energy where my mouth is. But summer is a bad time to have classes, because so many people are always traveling around.
Fall and winter are better, though for us Wiccans I think it's important to begin before Samhain or after Yule. Similarly, in Asheville, Byron Ballard is teaching 101: I haven't taught a beginning Wicca class in a long time and am teaching one now. It is true that one learns most by teaching something to others. And the class is holding me to the standards I set for them, which is good.
We start each class with a check-in period and then go on to talk about daily practice. They all shared what they'd been doing and then one of them asked me--so how's your daily practice?
Ha, terrible. I'm the worst Dianic ever. I haven't done daily practice in about a week and I would feel so much better if I did.
So--busted by my class.
It's a good thing. BTW, how's yours? Daily practice, I mean.
If I lived in San Francisco, (next year in Jerusalem, next year, in the Holy Land), I'd sign up for Nature as a Sacred Text with Starhawk. Whether we are looking to heal and transform our personal hurts or the huge wounds our society inflicts on the earth and other human beings, the earth herself is our greatest teacher and healer. The ancient Goddess traditions had no sacred texts or dogmas; instead, their mystics learned to read the book of nature. Understanding how the earth's cycles work, how change occurs in nature, and how mother earth designs co-evolving, interdependent systems can help us be better designers of the changes we want to see in our own life and the world. Our connection to earth is our deepest source of hope, renewal, and strength. This course weaves together readings, lecture, and experiential practices from earth-based ritual traditions with insights from permaculture and nature awareness, to open our ears to nature's communications, help us connect more deeply with her great transformative powers, and bring those creative energies fully alive in our lives, homes and communities.
Finally, Lunea's teaching an online class, which is great if you DON'T live anywhere near a meat-space class. Ninth Wave is a year-long journey of spiritual opening and centering. Ninth Wave is not a spiritual or religious tradition – it is an eclectic, Goddess-focused approach that allows each Seeker to explore herself and her own relationship with Spirit. The purpose of this exploration is that the Seeker make meaningful changes in her life, and that her spiritual path and practice become the foundation of all that she does in the world.
I'm a v good student. I love everything about "school" -- the chalk dust, the taking notes, the memorizing (honest, I do!), the research and the writing. I had some amazing teachers growing up, and, like playing the balalaika, that's a gift. Merci, Sr. Michael Anthony, Sr. Tarsisus, Miss Snyder, Mrs. Ichangelico, Mrs. Kaplan, Mr. Lineberry. None of whom, you must trust me on this, expected me to be promoting classes in witchcraft at the ripe old age of 53.
If you're aware of other classes that I've missed, please post them in comments. And go buy a nice, new notebook.
Postscript: Several times a month, I get emails asking how one begins to study witchcraft. Well, we don't make it easy and, IMHO, that's as it should be for a mystery religion. But if you can't take a class, you can read Starhawk's Spiral Dance. Go from there.
I am not Paul Wellstone or Ted Kennedy, I am not Atrios, I am not Amanda. I don't even play in their league.
I'm an old woman and a hedge witch, a Nonna, and an invisible woman. I did a few good things in my life: I raised a wonderful, kind, decent son who is unfailingly uplifting to people who are lower on the ladder than he is, who has a wonderful sense of humor, and who is, in his own turn, a wonderful, involved, patient father. I appreciated Earthly matter as an act of worship. I won an important national case that made life better for ordinary people. But, beyond that, meh.
But like Atrios and Amanda, I want to say: politicize my death. I am an organ donor so that, even in death, I can keep on doing the things that I think are wonderful to do: to turn the wheel, to exchange energy flows with other manifestations of the Goddess, to leave things a little bit better than I found them. I have a living will and a will and my will leaves some money and things to political people whom I value.
What's not to love about a book that tells the story of a perfectly-regimented town, upon the farthest edges of which "stood the last magic forest, and the forest was wild"? And, "In the very heart of the last magic forest lived the last wild Witch. . . . All day long she brewed herbs and leaves and berries in her big magic cauldron, making a healing brew that she fed to the birds and the animals and the insects and the fish in the streams whenever they felt a little low." I don't know about you, but when I find that recipe, I'm going to quit my job and buy a bit of land in the middle of the forest and brew that brew all day long and, once in a while, look up at the sky of green leaves and know, "Now, I'm a witch, doing a witch's work."
When the children from the perfect town sneak out at night and visit the last wild Witch,"'Have some soup,' she would say, and that is all that she would say." But after nourishing themselves with that soup, sometimes, the children would "stay out all night long, drinking the Witch's magic brew and dancing with the rabbits and the deer and the birds. And they weren't even tired n the morning." And you know and I know what it's like to drink that brew and what that dance is like when you've danced it with creatures on both sides of the veil.
And, honestly, how can you not adore a story that ends: "And sometimes at night, when the wind came out of the west, carrying wildness with it, everybody gathered to dance and sing all night long with the deer and the rabbits and the birds. And they weren't even tired in the morning.
So things were not so perfect in the no-longer perfect town.
But they were better.
Like the Fifth Sacred Thing, it's a practical story about how nonviolence can work, and nonviolent resistance is a great tool to provide to every child growing up in the 21st Century. The illustrations by WeMoon illustrator Lindy Kehoe are as magical as the text. I love this book; I can't wait to read it to G/Son.
Starhawk has a new book coming out, and, as a devoted Nonna, I'm delighted that it's a book for children. As Starhawk explains in her also-fairly-new blog, Dirt Worship:
I wrote the story many years ago. I was on a trip somewhere—I think it was Canada—staying in someone’s spare room that was ordinarily their chid’s bedroom, and I read myself to sleep with some of their picture books. One of them was about a Witch, the typical, negative stereotypes, and it made me mad. The next day I was on a beach—somewhere. Too many places—they all blur in my mind but I know it was a beach and I believe it was at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, and I just sat down and wrote the story. It came out all at once, as if someone were chanting it—about the perfect town in the perfect world that fears and learns to embrace the wildness of the last wild Witch from the magic forest. I thought there should be one picture book for toddlers with a positive view of Witches.
And there it sat, in my notebook, for years and years. I tried to get my publishers to publish it—but even in the heydey of Goddess popularity among publishers (a short-lived period in the late eighties, before Harper Collins was bought by Rupert Murdoch) none of them could get their childrens’ divisions interested. Not even Bantam, which published Circle Round, the book I wrote with Diane Baker and Anne Hill on raising children in Goddess tradition.
A couple of years ago, Tina and Barb from Mother Tongue took our Earth Activist Training in Portland Oregon. We were talking about their interest in experimenting with publishing something beyondthe calendar, and I mentioned The Last Wild Witch. They jumped on it—and even though Tina has since left Mother Tongue, Musawa who is the founder and who is an old, old friend, carried on. And now, here it is! The perfect book to read to your Pagan kids, give to your nieces, nephews, and children of friends, to keep by your bedside and read yourself to sleep with when you need a soothing, hopeful fable.
Mother Tongue doesn’t have the resources to send me on a book tour or buy a lot of advertising. They’re a small company and this is a big leap of faith for them. If it does well, they might be encouraged to publish more.
It’s harder and harder to get major publishers to publish Pagan books. They simply aren’t set up to reach niches—although our niche is a growing one. The future for our books—if there is one in this age of the internet—lies in smaller companies stepping up that know how to reach the specific people who might have an interest in the subject.
Here's a description of the book from Starhawk's homepage: The perfect town in the perfect world, introduced in the first pages of Starhawk's The Last Wild Witch, could be Any Town, USA: rows of cookie-cutter houses, everyone governed by absolute rules—and kids who can sense that there's something more out there than just being perfect.
The tale, written in simple language with a rhythm that steadily grows as the story progresses, deals with many issues and questions of deep concern to both children and adults. It touches on the creation of rules, the necessity of some and the arbitrary nature of others, and the eternal difference in worldviews and perceptions between innocence (kids) and experience (adults). It shows how this affects the ways we choose to live: conformity vs. individualism, engineered town vs. the wilds of nature. How do we let the wildness in—into our lives, to our vision of what community means? How do we recover our sense of being part of the natural world? Can we let nature's own patterns inform the way we meet our human needs, so that we can heal and regenerate the world around us?
Somehow, the discussion of the book reminds me of the Hopkins poem:
What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
There's a well-written teaching guide to use with the book. You can order the book from Amazon, but better to go to 100 Fires.
WaPo has a story about a "self-described gypsy," (Goddess, I get sick of this. Would they call someone a "self-described Italian-American"? I've taken the WaPo to task before for referring to "self-described" witches but never "self-described Catholics" or "self-described Hindus") challenging Montgomery County Maryland's laws against fortune telling:
Nick Nefedro didn't need to have his palm read or look to Tarot cards to know that his plan to work as a fortuneteller in Bethesda would fail. His fate was already written: Montgomery County says it is illegal to make money from forecasting the future.
But Nefedro, who says he is a Gypsy, is determined to change that. He has enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union in his year-long fight to overturn the law that calls his livelihood fraudulent. He argues that fortunetelling is part of his heritage and that prohibiting him from working as a fortuneteller amounts to discrimination.
The article notes that recent bans on fortunetelling have been reversed in a number of locations.
In Livingston Parish, La., a ban on soothsaying was found to be unconstitutional in 2008 after a Wiccan minister argued that his passing along messages is the same as a Christian minister purporting to proclaim God's word.
A similar ban in New Iberia, La., and one in Casper, Wyo., have also been overturned in recent years. Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, said it is a legal trend that bodes well for Nefedro.
Particularly egregious is the county's rationale for the law banning fortunetelling: "I don't think it's strange for us to have laws that protect against fraud," said Clifford Royalty, zoning division chief in the Montgomery County attorney's office, adding that "religion has nothing to do with it. He's not made that allegation in the lawsuit."
"The practice is fraudulent," Royalty said, "because no one can forecast the future." Call me when Montgomery County outlaws stockbrokers, financial advisors, people who tell you how much weight you can lose on their diet, car repair mechanics who tell you that your car will fail if you don't get a certain repair, tutoring services that promise to raise your child's reading level, nutritionists who tell you that you can avoid cancer if you eat as they say, and plumbers who tell you that you need a septic system overhaul if you don't want your toilets to back up. And, quick, someone block WTOP, where every damn morning they tell me that it's not going to rain, again, today.
It's worth clicking through to the article so that you can take the WaPo's online poll concerning the Montgomery County law.
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 . . . ."