Saturday, May 15, 2010


Sacrament: 1 : a religious act that is a sign or symbol of a spiritual existence

The evening air along the banks of my beautiful Potomac River is thick with the scent of honeysuckle. Which I finally realize is part honey, part rose, part wild bergamot. I've been trying almost all my life to identify its components.

Driving home along the river this evening, I was reminded of what they say about those who experienced the Eleusian Mysteries: that those who had experienced them no longer feared death. Honestly, if, just a few times in your life, you get to inhale this scent, why should you ever fear death?

And that is how I take the sacraments.

Picture found here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Phila Said

Really. Go read Phila's Friday Hope Blogging.

I especially love this bit:

The world's oldest beehives have been found in a Scottish chapel:
Located in the medieval Scottish Rosslyn Chapel, which dates back to 1446, two ancient hives have been found, skillfully carved in the stone work under the roof's peak. They are thought to be the first man-made stone hives ever found....
The only clues to the hives' existence were flowers intricately carved into the pinnacles -- it is charming that there were holes through which the bees could enter and exit. These were visible from the outside....
Since the hive was so high above the ground, it is clear that no one would be able to reach it to get the honey. It is thought that the ancient stone masons who built the chapel simply wanted to provide a safe location for a wild honeybee hive, protected from bad weather.

Timely, Indeed.

Here's an interesting review of Isabel Allende's new novel, Island Beneath the Sea, which takes place in the French colony that was to become Haiti. Allende's apparently worked in some interesting discussions of Voodoo.

The slave Tété . . .dreams of the island beneath the sea, a paradise where "rhythm is born … it shakes the earth, it cuts through me like a lightning bolt and rises toward the sky, carrying with it my sorrows so that [voodoo god] Papa Bondye can chew them, swallow them, and leave me clean and happy."

Tété, in short, dreams of freedom.

According to the reviewer: Particularly enjoyable are scenes in which the religion of the slaves — a form of voodoo originating in Haiti — mixes with the Catholicism of New Orleans. Tété, who becomes a kind of healer, helps the wife of the plantation manager, an Irish Catholic immigrant, care for a slave they fear is about to die in childbirth. " 'Erzulie, mother loa, help it be born,' Tété prayed aloud [to the voodoo goddess]. 'Saint Raymond Nonatus, pay attention, do not let an African saint get ahead of you,' Leanne answered in the same tone, and they both burst out laughing."

Even Père Antoine, the priest known as the Saint of New Orleans, does not seem to object to this intermingling of faith. In one scene, in which Tété is helping the good father in treacherous conditions, Tété calls out to the Goddess Erzulie, asking her to watch over them in their efforts. "Jesus watches over us, Tété," the priest assures her when he hears her pleas. "And if his attention wanders, mon père?" she asks.

Dear Los Angeles Times, since you capitalize the names of other religions, ("Catholicism," for instance, in the very same sentence) you should capitalize "Voodoo." The fact that it's "the religion of slaves" doesn't give you a pass. This is not complicated. Please make a note.

A Self-Described Newpaper

Here's a pretty short article about the broo-ha-ha in Livingston Parish, Louisiana over some Pagans daring to want to get together. The author does manage to capitalize "Wiccan," but then adds "self-described."

So let's go over this one more time. Unless you refer to a self-described Catholic priest, a self-described rabbi, and a self-described Methodist minister, then you don't call Maeven Eller a "[s]elf-described Wiccan priestess."

It's not complicated.

The comments to the article are worth a look, as well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We Were Young And We Had No Idea How Complicated It Was

May the Goddess guard him. May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family know peace.

The Gulf

What Thorn said.

Picture found here.

Big Ovaries, Baby.

My brilliant friend, E, introduced me to these great women.

I love "I compete every day and I don't need balls to play." Because, you know, I do and and I don't.

And, speaking of women named Elizabeth and of ovaries of steel, may I just say: Go Elizabeth Warren! Go!

Seriously. This Is One Of My Main Missions As A Nonna.

"As basic as reading, writing, and arithmetic." I'd argue: far more.

Also see, e.g., Gus.

No, I Do. No You Don't; I Do!

And, speaking of smiles, this is worth it for the cartoon at the end.

A Religion Based On An Oscar Wilde Quote.

I spent all day arguing against people who have a real penchant for undercutting their own best interests. So I needed a smile when I came home to sit out on my porch, eat dinner, and read the inter-tubes. And I got it here, in this charming description of a young woman converting from Islam to Wicca and explaining it to her parents.

I wanted three things from my religion:

1. A moral code based on the Oscar Wilde quote "some people cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go" – strive to be the first kind of person and not the second

2. A profoundly hedonist approach to life

3. Transcendence – be that through ritual or prayer or eating marshmallows in woodland

Reminds me of the saying on my morning coffee mug: You pray; I dance naked in the forest.


The only thing that troubled me about my new tribe was its propensity to want to organise into groups that then try to get mainstream recognition. I quite liked the lack of organisation and/or dogma that paganism represents.

The lack of any structure, hierarchy (as a solitary person I never joined a coven with a priest or priestess), or rules meant that I was free to do as I pleased. I followed the guidance I received in dreams. I accepted and adopted that which felt true to me and rejected that which didn't. I celebrated the solstices and lived by the moon. It was a time of expansion and magic.

Like the author, I too, like the fluid and "disorganized" nature of Paganism, the lack of structure, the constantly shifting emphasis. My Sun is in Pisces -- two fish swimming in opposite directions -- and my Ascendent is Geminii -- the twins, looking over each other's shoulders with opposite points of view. And, my Matron is Hecate, that Goddess of the fluid, liminal, ever-changing place where change is possible. So it's no surprise I love our lack of structure. Whenever there are questions such as: Is there really only one Divinity with many forms or are there really separate Gods and Goddesses?" I love being able to answer: "Yes!" The prayer that I say every morning includes the line: It's all real. It's all metaphor. There's always more.

And I love the end of the story:

I ordered a raw salad, my mother's jaw tightened.

"Are you a Hindu now?"


"I see. You know you can't have a Muslim burial now?"


"Have you thought what family will say at your death?"

"I was hoping all you elders would die before me." My mother's face visibly relaxed. She even cracked a smile. "Ah, that's true. God willing."

• The author has used a pseudonym at the request of her parents.

I love the idea of using humor to deflect the concerns and that, in the end, the author is still working with her parents on "this issue."

It reminds me, too, of my catholic mother's reaction to my conversion to the Goddess religion. She kept telling me, "Catholicism has Mother Mary and the female saints. That's all that Goddess religion is; you already had all that." And I was always saying, "OK, mom. Whatever gets you through the Mass."

PS. And you know what Dorothy Parker said about Wilde's quotes:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
Dorothy Parker in A Pig's-Eye View of Literature, 1937.

So a religion founded on his philosophy makes sense to me. Plus, it's bound to be a snarky religion and, well, after Hecate, I do adore the Goddess Snark.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

She's A Witch! Burn Her!

Here's an interesting tidbit of an article that ties the increase in witch trials to bad weather in Europe. I wasn't aware of the research discussed (but sadly not linked) in the article. But, it makes sense. As the Little Ice Age impacted crops and livelihoods, the search for scapegoats focused on women -- esp. women with property to seize or women who were vulnerable.

I have to say that I often shake my head at many "modern" -- by which I mean, not from the 1970s and 1980s -- Pagans who are quite quick to run away from various feminist discussions of the persecution of witches in other centuries. That someone may have made a calculation error in the exact number of women killed and tortured as witches hardly seems to me to undo the importance of the fact that it was most often women being burned as witches, and that those burned were often women who were (take your pick) single, vulnerable, uppity, had something worth stealing, etc.

As we head into really bad weather over the coming decades, we Pagans might want to keep the above article in mind. I'm all for being as out as possible, forcing governments to recognize us, etc. But as monotheists demonstrate every time some terrorist attack occurs or some bad weather hits, we're the ones most likely to get blamed.

Do you have a hidey hole? A stash of cash for running? A plan?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Garden Blogging

Iris Chrysographes. One of the prides of my garden.

Tuesday Poetry Blogging

How Killer Blue Irises Spread
By Kelli Russell Agodon

—Misheard health report on NPR

The quiet ones, the flowers
the neighbors said
kept to themselves,

Iris getagunandkillus, shoots

and rhizomes reaching
beneath the fence.
The shifty ones,

Mickey Blue Iris, the tubers

that pretend to be dormant
then spread late at night into
the garden of evil and no good.

They know hell, their blue flames

fooling van Gogh, the knife
he stuck into soil before he sliced
the bulbs in three, nights

he spent painting in a mad heat.

They swell before the cut
and divide of autumn.
An entire field of tulips,

flattened. Daylilies found

like lean bodies across the path.
The wild blue iris claims
responsibility, weaves through

the gladioli, into the hothouse
where the corpse flower blooms
for a single day, its scent
of death calling to the flies.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Monday, May 10, 2010

British Pagan Police Officers Get Pagan Holidays Off

Well, this is totally cool.

In Which Our Heroine Rants

So I'm driving home from work and I have the radio set to WTOP, the local news station, mostly because I want to find out if I need to move the potted brugmansia BACK into the house tonight because May has decided to turn cold (I do, damn it.) And they have on some "experts" to talk about recent and proposed changes to legislation concerning credit cards, including a proposed change that will limit "interchange" fees (fees charged by credit card companies to retailers every time a customer uses a credit card; generally about 2% of the price of the purchase).

The moron "expert" says: well, if the credit card companies can't charge this fee to retailers, they'll just charge it to consumers, one way or another.

Dude. Do you think I'm so stupid that I don't get that the retailers are ALREADY charging consumers these fees? In fact, unless my understanding is wrong, they now have to charge ALL consumers, even those who pay cash, a price high enough to cover these fees, because the credit card companies specifically prohibit retailers from charging a lower price to consumers who pay cash.

Kali fuck, WTOP, could you please just not insult my intelligence?

And, weather every five minutes vs. every ten, esp. if you fill the other nine with this kind of brain-eating stupidity.

Dear Readers: Don't buy stuff on credit unless you're going to be able to pay it all off at the end of the month and you're getting money back or airline miles. That is all. (Mortgages and some student loans excepted, but you didn't use credit cards for those, anyway, at least, I hope.)

May The Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way To The Summerlands. May Her Friends And Family Know Peace.

AP reports that: In a statement Monday, Obama called Horne a most cherished entertainer who warmed hearts with her beautiful voice and dramatic on-screen performances. The president also hailed her efforts to promote justice and equality.

Horne was the first black performer to tour with an all-white band, and she refused to perform for segregated audiences while entertaining soldiers during World War II.

Obama said he and the first lady join all Americans in appreciating the joy Horne brought to their lives and the progress she forged for the country.

Horne died Sunday in New York at age 92.

Horne was an important voice for civil rights for African Americans:

In 1945, during World War II, Horne was scheduled to perform at an Army base in Fort Reilly, Kansas. Horne, unyielding in her stance against racism, refused to perform for the segregated military audience in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen at a USO sponsored show. Horne immediately left the stage headed to the local NAACP office to file a complaint. MGM yanked Horne from the tour, forcing her to use her own money to travel and entertain the troops.

Horne, an outspoken advocate during the Civil Rights Movement and an active member of the NAACP once worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws and [was present] at the March on Washington, and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP. She marched alongside Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss. at an NAACP rally the weekend before he was assassinated, joined 250,000 Americans in 1963 on the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech and met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before his assassination.

By the 1960s, Horne was one of the most visible celebrities affiliated with the civil rights movement. It was reported that the feisty diva once thr[ew] a lamp at a customer in a Beverly Hills restaurant after the customer spouted a racial epithet.

Horne's dedication to the Civil Rights Movement and tenacious fight against racism came as no surprise to many who knew Horne, the granddaughter of a freed slave and a descendent of the John C. Calhoun family. Calhoun, the seventh Vice President of the United States, was a writer, orator and nationalist who began his political career as a politician from South Carolina during the first half of 19th century who made his name with his redefinition of republicanism to include the approval of slavery and minority rights.

Calhoun's concept of concurrent majority, that a minority had the right to object to and even veto hostile legislation directed against it, secured his name within American history when it was later incorporated into the American value system.

More here.

Lena Horne had that almost indefinable quality: real class. It's what makes her rendition of "That's Why the Lady is a Tramp" so deliciously ironic.