Sunday, December 31, 2006

Can You Find Even One Fulcrum In 2007?

In cases where it's not the individual CEO, but the position -- where social framing conditions make it so that most people who would take up that position share the same deadend worldview that would cause them to commit the same atrocities -- where[,] then[,] do we place the levers and the fulcrums? Do we go CEO to CEO, "removing" them one by one? We always hear that the machine-like characteristics of corporations mean the CEOs are simply cogs -- albeit large ones -- in their community-destroying institutions, and[,] so[,] it would do no good to remove them. It's an odd argument to make . . . . There are few who suggest that simply because arresting or killing one rapist does not stop other men from raping, that this means we should not stop whatever rapists we can [--] through any means necessary. Yet when it comes to CEOs[,] the argument seems to hold: Someone else will just take this one's place, so we must not stop this one personally. In fact, we must allow him [it's usually a him] to continue to be rewarded with millions of dollars per year in salaries and stock options. Where are the fulcrums to stop these people, these institutions? Where are the bottlenecks?

~Endgame, Vol. I by Derrick Jensen.


2006 was quite a year. It will always, for me, be the year when:

I turned 50;

Grandson was born: hale, healthy, redheaded, and blue-eyed -- I am with my mother's mother's mother and my son's son's sons.

My circle decided to add new members in a serious, deliberate manner;

I had a wonderful crop of violets for Beltane;

My circle took Pagan Pride week by storm;

I won two big cases in the Ninth Circuit and Jeff Skilling went to jail;

All year long, I didn't get to the mountains. I mean to fix this in 2007;

The oak trees masted;

I began blogging for real;

I saw Son develop into THE most amazing father, ever;

A baby dove got caught in my rosebush and then got free and lived;

I read Derrick Jensen;

A one-sentence essay: "I am Macca," won a UVA student a seat in Larry Sabato's grad student course;

E, D, and I had the "mad hat" tea at the Mayflower;

My black iris flowered;

America stepped back from the abyss;

I pulled Baba Yaga from the Goddess Oracle to guide me through the coming year. This will be interesting;

I carried the amazing Michael Kors bag that, all summer long, got so many compliments;

I didn't buy even one single Hermes scarf, although I have my eye on the one that shows the roofs of Paris;

Son, D-i-L, and Grandson came to my circle's Yule party.

My woad flowered but my dill was abysmal and my black hollyhocks had rust.

We had a bad drought in July and August and I tried desperately (we'll find out this Spring) to keep all the arisemea that I planted in the Spring alive.

D-i-L looked me straight in the eye following Grandson's birth and said, "I had exactly the birth that I kept envisioning. I kept saying affirmations and, you know, those things really work."

I am blessed. May it be so for you.

2007 Tarot readings for the first 10 readers who post their three cards in comments. Check out Lunea's website, in my blogroll, for a lovely on-line tarot.

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging


She had already kissed Antony's dead lips,
she had already wept on her knees before Caesar . . .
and her servants have betrayed her. Darkness falls.
The trumpets of the Roman eagle scream.

And in comes the last man to be ravished by her beauty --
such a tall gallant! -- with a shamefaced whisper:
"You must walk before him, as a slave, in the triumph."
But the slope of her swan's neck is tranquil as ever.

Tomorrow they'll put her children in chains. Nothing
remains except to tease this fellow out of mind
and put the black snake, like a parting act of pity,
on her dark breast with indifferent hand.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Goddess Blogging

Aphrodite, Kallipygos

Aphrodite was the Greek Goddess of beauty, sexuality, lust. The Romans knew her as Venus. Wikipedia notes that her feast day was known as the Aphrodisiac (also referred to as Aphrodisia), which was celebrated all over Greece but particularly in Athens and Corinth. In Corinth, intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshipping Aphrodite. She was sometimes referred to as Aphrodite, Porne, meaning: Aphrodite, the Temple Prostitute, although, as noted above, temple prostitutes were priestesses who helped worshippers to find communion with Aphrodite, so the expression was one of sacredness.

She was also known as Aphrodite, Kallipygos, or Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks. It is in this form that I worship her, as she shows how healthy it can be for women to love their bodies and to enjoy themselves. There are several famous statues of Aphrodite, Kallipygos. Wikipedia tells this story to explain how she came to be worshipped:

"The people of those days were so attached to their sensual pleasures that they even went so far as to dedicate a temple to Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks, for the following reason. One upon a time a farmer had two beautiful daughters. One day these girls, getting into a dispute as to which one had a more beautiful backside, went onto the public street. And by chance a young man was passing by, the son of a rich old man. They showed themselves to him, and when he saw them he voted in favor of the older girl. And in fact, falling in love with her, when he got back to town, he took to his bed and told his younger brother everything that had happened. And the younger brother also went to the country and saw the girls, and he fell in love with the other daughter. And so when the boys' father tried to get them to marry someone of the upper classes, he couldn't persuade his sons, and so he brought the girls in from the country, with their father's permission, and married them to his sons. And so these girls were called fair-buttocked by the citizens, as Cercidas of Megalopolis says in his Iambic Verses: "There was a pair of beautiful-buttocked girls in Syracuse." And so these girls, when they got wealthy and famous, founded a temple of Aphrodite and called the goddess the Fair-buttocked, as Archelaus tells us in his Iambic Verses."

The fact that there was a religious cult of Aphrodite Kallipygos at Syracuse is also mentioned by the Christian author Clement of Alexandria in a list of erotic manifestations of pagan religion. Clement cites the poet Nicander of Colophon, and generously quotes the alternative term (kalligloutos, "with a beautiful bottom") that Nicander used.

Hail Aphrodite, Kallipygos!

Friday, December 29, 2006

What Are You Doing To Get Ready?

I took a class from Thorn Coyle this Fall and it SUCKED. She sat on her ass and did no teaching at all. She let a couple of folks who love the sound of their own voice (with little justification, trust me) talk, and talk, and talk. I mean, if I take two evenings out of my life to take a class from Thorn Coyle, who presumably spent all the time that I spent in law school learning from Victor and Cora Anderson and thinking about Pearl Pentacle concepts while I was learning to write briefs, I'd like to hear what Thorn has to say, at least before she starts in with the Socratic method crap that I hated wasting my time and money on in law school. I talked to a friend of mine who's taken Thorn's intensive Faerie training and she said, "Well, Thorn's bright, but she's an uneven teacher." No duh.

And, yet, there are times when Thorn hits it all the way out of the ballpark. I think that her post from today deserves to be repeated every day, all year long, throughout 2007:

I went to the market, to realize my soul. What I need, I just don't have... - the Clash

What is your capacity during crisis? What is your capacity during sustained crisis? Do you rally, do you push forward, do you organize, do you grow numb, does depression grip you, do you escape into the brightness of fantasy?

I'm asking because I've been trying to think of ways in which we need to prepare. In the midst of the glories of life and all the things I am truly grateful for, there is a persistent current of impending doom. It could be that I listened to too much Shriekback, Crass, UB40, and Sisters of Mercy as a young lass, or it could be that all my psychic friends keep having ominous visions. My Traditional Jewish Christmas of Chinese food and a movie didn't help, either, because the movie was "Children of Men." No, I'm not Jewish, just culturally omnivorous, and the pan-fried string beans were very tasty, thank you.

See, in case you haven't noticed, the US is creeping further and further toward fascism and inching ever (possibly - I'm no economist) closer to complete economic collapse. The current trade deficit of 4.5 trillion dollars, coupled with the rising appeal of the Euro as a new trade standard, coupled with the fact that the US is dependent on cheap goods made abroad (by workers who probably aren't too happy about their conditions) coupled with the fact that foreign countries who have been happy to buy US debt are getting tired of it... Coupled with the visions of gloom by my personal Psychic Friends Network and from most economists... Coupled with a soupcon of global warming (so long, Ayles Ice Shelf)...

I just want to make sure we are prepared. Hopefully the doom won't come to pass and we all will be able to only focus on the things that make us feel happy, wealthy, hopeful, and in love. But if times harsher than these are in order, at least we will be strong. And heck, how bad is being strong in any case? Strong people make better lovers.

And yes, in the larger scheme of things - say five billion years - none of this may matter. But I am part of a non-transcendent religion, and I like living in this material plane very much and don't want to see things further messed up than they already are. And the polar bears likely agree. Now, I'm preaching in this forum to a lot of "alternative culture" people who are already doing most everything they can to live closer to some anarchist ideal, but the words still need saying sometimes.

So: How are you in a crisis? What are you doing to get stronger? Are you doing more yoga? Lifting more weights? Are you looking at your propensity to explode or to hide? Are you figuring out how to bolster your alternative communities into more viable networks of support? Are you learning to govern yourself? Learning to garden? Buying less? Re-using more? Are you learning not to always place the blame on other people? Are you telling your friends how much you appreciate them? Are you crying when you need to and laughing when you wish? Stopping to smell the flowers? Are you spreading beauty as far and wide as possible? Pick two from this random list, or add two of your own. But do them. Two of them. At least.

Doom only spells doom if we let it. We should throw parties in the coming year and go dancing. We should also sit longer spells in meditation and at our altars. We should make it into a wild space at least once, and support those who are defending the last of our wild spaces. We should feed strangers. We should get as physically and mentally healthy as we can.

Have what you need and need what you have. A cold wind may blow, but we can keep each other warm.

Kisses - Thorn

I am part of a non-transcendent religion, and I like living in this material plane very much and don't want to see things further messed up than they already are. And the polar bears likely agree.

I tried, badly, to express this point a month or so ago in comments at Eschaton. I don't care that the Earth, in some different form and likely with less life, may still be here billions of years from now. I care that the salmon are dying today due to damns, and that the nature spirits (fairies) who live in trees are dying at an alarming rate, and that humans have entire industries devoted to sucking up energy to produce things designed specifically to be used once and then thrown away. I care about the real worms who live right now in my back yard and the black squirrels and grey squirrel who are right now engaged in a fight for territory in the oak forest where I live. I care about the arisaema that I planted last spring in my woodland garden. I care about the real water in the real Potomac River that looks pink some mornings and brassy green some mornings and misty grey on other mornings. I care about the climate that my grandson will live in 50 years from now, when he's just the age that I am now.

What are you doing to get stronger?

Thorn's question is one that all of us must ask ourselves. Now, at the end of one year and the beginning of another is as good a time as any. We can see, right now, that we're heading for choppy water. What are you doing to get ready? Turn off the tv; its only purpose is to drug you too long for you to veer off the road to extinction. Turn it off and do what you need to do to get stronger.

We Are So Fucked

Shit. Fuck. Damn.

Meanwhile, we distract ourselves with war. It's what patriarchies do.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

From Greenpeace

Welcome to the World Below

Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth

The Wild Hunt links to a review in The Guardian of Pan's Labyrinth.

'Pan's Labyrinth is a movie about a girl who gives birth to herself into the world she believes in,' del Toro continues. '

Now this is a movie that I want to see, even if del Toro ended his sentence with a preposition.

The review quotes del Toro as saying that, A maze is a place where you get lost. But a labyrinth is essentially a place of transit, an ethical, moral transit to one inevitable centre.

That's an interesting way of thinking about the difference between the two; for some reason, I've always liked mazes better than labyrinths. But several friends have convinced me to try labyrinth-walking over the past few years, and I see what del Toro is saying about a labyrinth as a place of transit, although what you find at the center can vary from one walk to the next and may be less inevitable than del Toro says.

The Wild Hunt also reports that: author Stephen King has made [Pan's Labyrinth] his number one movie pick of the year.

"I happened to see this in July and was completely seduced by its beauty and emotional ferocity. Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Mimic, Blade II) directed, and to call this his best work isn't enough. I think this extraordinary R-rated fairy tale for adults is the best fantasy film since The Wizard of Oz. And while it's much darker than Wizard, it still celebrates the human spirit.

I am so there.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Calling All Creative Types

Completely kickass.
Government of Occupation

What WOULD you do?
Rick Benjamin

We trust what we've buried in the ground. Damn, that's good.
The Lark Ascending - Ralph Vaughan Williams

Maybe there's a lovlier piece of music. But I've never heard it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

When You Sent Him Off To War, You Didn't Care What He Believed. Now He's Served You With His Blood, Grant Him His Dignity.

Via Witchvox, we have several articles on the continued quest. on behalf of slain Wiccan soldiers, to get the Veterans Administration to allow their religious symbol -- the Pentacle -- to be placed upon their memorial markers and gravestones. I've covered this story throughout the year and I'm going to continue to cover it until the courts force the VA to do the right thing.

Since 1978 the armed forces have recognized that they need to make accommodations for service members who are Wiccan. Wiccan soldiers have served in the armed forces at least as far back as the Korean War. Jill Medicine Heart Combs, a member of the National Board of CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) and a National Board member of Pagan Pride Project International spoke about her husband, Gerwin Dee Combs. "My husband is a Wiccan veteran. For the last two years he has been in a VA hospital. He is in a coma and his medical records reflect that he is in a persistent vegetative state. I know at any moment my husband could die and I know he would want a Pentacle on his headstone and as of now, he could not have one."

Jill became visibly more emotional as she spoke, "Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio's 2nd District wrote a letter to me this summer stating that the VA is concerned about the "legal and moral aspects" surrounding VA approval of the Pentacle. The First Amendment of the Constitution protects freedom of religion. It is not the job of the VA to determine the morality of any particular religion, but for the record my husband's religion is moral. I will tell you what is immoral. It is immoral for the VA to deny religious freedom to veterans who have served their country in the fight for freedom."

What's doubly ironic, and sad, about this is that the VA has a list of "approved" symbols -- something that no self-respecting government with a First Amendment should ever have -- and those symbols include religions of which I'm willing to bet you've never heard. The VA even approved a symbol for atheists. But not Wiccans.

If you are an American Wiccan and you volunteer to serve your country and are killed doing so, tough shit. No marker for you.

The State of Nevada, home to slain Wiccan soldier Patrick Stewart, has behaved more honorably than the VA, providing his widow with a plaque engraved with a Pentacle. [T]he Governor of Nevada, Kenny Guinn, intervened and provided a memorial plaque with the Pentacle on it, saying that Sgt. Patrick Stewart had died for his country and that was all he needed to know. At a ceremony to bless the plaque, retired military chaplain and Christian minister, Rev. William Chrystal . . . led a group of Pagan veterans in a salute to Sgt. Patrick Stewart, and then described his own relationship with Sgt. Stewart. He honored Sgt. Stewart's Wiccan beliefs when he said, "I wear this uniform proudly, as Pat's Chaplain and as a Christian minister. I think it was Red Cloud the Sioux who said that there many paths to the Great Spirit." If you haven't watched the video of this event, you owe it to yourself to do so, box of Kleenex in hand. Rev. Chrystal did a lovely, respectful job. I honor him.

Senator Reid's office and the Governor's office were also present. a representative from Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid's office, delivered the following statement, from Senator Reid, "This day is long overdue. Ever since Sergeant Patrick Stewart's death, his wife Roberta has worked to ensure he is properly recognized. I commend the Nevada Office of Veterans Services for making it happen. All of our troops deserve nothing less that to be properly recognized. I will continue to work closely with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that the issue is addressed at the federal level."

Nicholas Vander Poel, Regional Representative for Nevada Governor-elect and Representative Gibbons also spoke at the Dedication: "I remember standing in Rancho San Rafael, telling Roberta if there was anything we could do, please do not hesitate. We did not want to let her down. We were constantly in contact with the VA and we wanted to make sure that Sgt. Stewart was recognized." Following the Dedication, Representative Gibbons released this statement: "Sgt. Patrick Stewart made the ultimate sacrifice defending the freedoms we enjoy, religion being one of them. Sgt. Stewart defended a constitution that said he had the freedom of religion and it was only fitting to see him receive a plaque honoring his beliefs. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Roberta and the family."

My bet is that most Americans react to this story the same way that Joe Soucheray, writing in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press does. Although Joe doesn't know anything about Wicca, and although he can't write about it without cracking a few jokes, for him the bottom line is this: Sgt. Patrick Stewart of the Nevada National Guard died for his country. That's more than all the lawyers and activists always hectoring each other about religious rights have ever done. I don't care whether Stewart's widow wants a likeness of Mickey Mouse chiseled into his stone, much less a pentacle. . . . But Wiccans? . . . I don't know what they do, or what time their Mass starts. All I know is that they haven't caused the world any big problems.

And if they die for us while wearing our uniform, they certainly should have their own proper markers at their graves.

Dear VA, 2007 would be a good time for you to start to act like Americans.

Happy BlogBirthday To Me!

I started this blog a year ago today. It's been a lot of fun for me. I just want to thank everyone who's read it , commented on it, linked to it, and emailed me about it. What a year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Throwing Parties -- All Acts Of Love And Pleasure Are Rituals Of The Goddess

I do know that I want to keep imagining a world where conflicts are solved without killing, and one way to do that is to keep on creating a culture of beauty, balance and delight, one party at a time.

Deborah Oak has up a fantastic post about the importance of Solstice parties. I'll admit that I've always believed that my "true" vocation is running a salon. (Sadly, law pays better.) Deborah's description of her Solstice party: I'm happier at my house, which fills with good food, my beloved friends and family, and enough new people to keep things interesting. I take pride that my house is where the children want to be, and last night was no exception. Gingerbread houses were made, too much sugar eaten, and the teenagers talked past dawn, bringing in the new light and the promise of a future.

There was also an 3.5 earthquake and Marion leaned too near the altar and her hair caught on fire. It was put out quickly by my girlfriend, the quintessential butch, and a general prayer went out that these were both portents that the return of the sun would bring small dramas causing no real harm or damage.
reminds me of the celebration that our circle had this year at my brilliant friend Elizabeth's home on Capitol Hill. Some time ago, Elizabeth shared how important it is for her that people who come to her home feel welcome, comfortable, accepted. It shows in everything she touches.

I've shared before on this blog how my circle of women has grown this year -- and have we ever -- going from four members to nine. This year's Solstice celebration at Elizabeth's also included two "emeritus" members (women's who've moved on from our circle, but who came back (sometimes with their pets) to welcome the Invincible Sun with us) and -- for the first time ever -- our families. My Son, D-i-L, and Grandson, one of our new members' 16 month-old-son and charming Pagan husband, the members of one of our new members' polyamorous family, N.'s pagan-friendly husband, M.'s five-year-old grandson who is going to rule the world one day given his composure, C's husband who'd never been to anything Pagan before, and tons of family members for whom Elizabeth's discussion, my grounding, my circle casting, our singing of Donna Nobis Pachem, and the magic that we all worked, was their very first ever introduction to what the fuck their loved one gets up to on all those new moons, dark moons, and Sabbats. This was a risk for us -- including familiar strangers in one of our most important Sabbats. Not all of us were wild about the idea. It worked beyond our hopes.

And then, the party. The party in Elizabeth's home decorated with so many gorgeous greens that it smelled like a forest, the party with so many French pastries left over that our emeritus sister, R., of backpack-notices-concerning-Yule-in-VA fame, had to cart them over to S.O.M.E. the next day, the party where strangers hugged strangers, where children ran from loving adult to loving adult, where everywhere you wandered you ran into someone who loved you, hugged you, helped you to celebrate your recent victories.

After a while, the families left and we got down to magic, again, and then slept an hour to two before dawn. Thanks to C. for kindly pretending that, between my coughing and my snoring, she actually ever slept at all.

At dawn, we headed over to a park within blocks of the Capitol (this tickles me) and read Pagan poems, yelled, banged noisemakers, and did everything that we could think of to wake up the lazy, lazy sun. We hung food for the birds on the trees and we drank Irish whiskey from shot glasses made of ice and then broke the glasses. A parkfull of dog walkers studiously ignored us. We headed over to a greasy-spoon and had breakfast before going home to get some "real sleep." A wonderful party. And as Deborah Oak notes, that can be the best magic, the finest act of love and pleasure, of all.

A good party leaves people with healthier immune systems from all the endorphins and connections. It literally does one of the things that I pray every morning that the Goddess will allow me to do: help to repair The Web. It gives children a chance to meet new, supportive adults and allows adults to share food and drink with each other, it creates new connections, establishes a more organized. and at the same time more chaotic, web.

A good party is good magic.

Saturday Goddess Blogging

This time of year seems like a good time to post about the Goddess Lakshmi, who represents wealth, light, wisdom, fortune, and (secondarily) luck, beauty, and fertility. She is worshipped by Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, and many modern Pagans. May Lakshmi bless you with abundance, luck, and good fortune!

Changing The Present

You know how it is. You've been meaning to shop for gifts, but the thought of the malls this time of year -- crowds, frustrated adults, screaming kids, parking pirates, endless loops of xmas muzak -- ugh.

Here's a better idea, via A Dress a Day: Changing the Present. (It's a pun!) you can choose exactly what you want to accomplish. For just a few dollars, you can protect an acre of the rainforest or fund an hour of a cancer researcher's time. You can provide a child with a first book, an AIDS patient with life-saving drugs[,] or a hungry family with a nourishing meal.

You can find something good here for everyone that you know. Online. Without getting out of your chair.

Friday, December 22, 2006

World Orgasm Day

There's still time. Don't forget to participate.

Watch the video.
Good Solstice

Horn-ed One.
King of the Sun.

So Mote It Be

Solstice in Iceland

This year the Pagan Society in Iceland celebrates the winter solstice for the first time on their own land in skjuhld. A pagan temple will be built there within the next two years.

How cool is that?

“Centuries ago animals were slaughtered at the winter solstice, but we don't do that anymore. Instead we burn a buck or a horse made of straw to symbolize the yule sacrifice,” Hilmarsson adds.

“Welcoming the return of the sun is the real purpose of the Christmas celebration,” Pagan Society member Anna Bergsteinsdttir tells “The Christians hijacked this holiday and turned it into a Christian celebration,” she claims.

In the Nordic languages Christmas is known as yule, which comes from old Norse and is related to the word J'dnir, which is one of the names of the Viking god Odin.

“Yule is a heathen tradition,” Hilmarsson says. “In ancient Rome the winter solstice was celebrated with the holiday of Saturnalia, with drinking and promiscuity. But around the year 500 the Romans made a conscious decision to turn the holiday into a celebration of the birth of Christ at the end of December, which had not been celebrated until then,” he explains.

“We don’t mind sharing yule with other religions,” Hilmarsson says. “Some members of the Pagan Society even celebrate Christmas on December 24 with a Christmas tree and presents for the children. But we put more emphasis on spending time together than on commercialism," he adds.

Hilmarsson expects about 100 people to participate in the ceremony of yule sacrifice tonight and everyone who is interested is welcome to join.

I SOOOOOO want to see the Aurora Borealis before I die. I know they can be seen in Iceland. Iceland. I even love the way that it sounds. My mother always told me this story, which may be completely made-up for all that I know: The Vikings discovered Iceland and Greenland Iceland was the much nicer place to live. So the Vikings, being tres clever, called the less-nice place Greenland, so as to get people to go there, and the more-nice place Iceland, so as to discourage everyone else from coming there. And, it worked. At least, that's what my mother told me.

It Makes Me Happy

The Unconquered Sun. Merry, merry.

Completely Cool

NYTimes has an article about a very cool work of art in Antarctica:

[S]culptor Lita Albuquerque decided to craft an environmental work near this icy outpost meant to be in full bloom for just one day.

Her ``Stellar Axis,'' on a site about 600 feet in diameter, consists of 99 blue fiberglass spheres of varying sizes in a pattern mirroring the paths of stars at the austral summer solstice.

Since the sun shines around the clock here at this time of year, no stars will be visible, but their courses were plotted by astronomer Simon Balm, who also worked on the project.

All the spheres will be in place only on December 22 and must be removed after that.

Among other reasons, the Antarctic Conservation Act prohibits pollution of the continent.

The work's creation is being photographed day by day and the completed piece will be photographed from a helicopter. Its dismantling will be recorded, until there is nothing left but the blank white snow field the artist started with.

More info on the project here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pagans Are The Reason For The Season

WaPo seems to have mastered the art of talking about Winter Solstice religious festivals without ever mentioning, you know, Wiccans, Druids, Pagans, or neo-Pagans. It's as intellectually dishonest and as cowardly an abdication of the truth in favor of placating the xians as I've ever seen.

Atrios' New Quarters

Eschaton, which for many of us is as necessary as air, light, coffee, and sleep, has a new temporary home. Go here. Thanks, Tena for the heads-up!

Winter Solstice

Merry Yule. In your longest, darkest night, may you still see the stars, the Moon, the guideposts that you need. May you walk through the dark knowing that Spring WILL come, the nights will get shorter and the warm days longer. Turn the wheel. Merry Yule.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Knighterrant tagged me. Here are the rules:

The rules:
1. find the nearest book
2. list title and author
3. turn to page 123
4. go to the fifth sentence
5. copy out the next three sentences
6. tag three more


Federal Civil Judicial Procedure and Rules, pub. by Thomson*West.

"Subsection (g) is new. It responds to the reality that the selection and activity of class counsel are often critically important to the successful handling of a class action. Until now, courts have scrutinized proposed class counsel as well as the class representative under Rule 23(a)(4)."


Well, there you have it. That's how boring my life is.

I'll tag Katrina, Ninth Raven, and Moonbotica.

Well Then What The Fuck ARE We Doing, You Moron?

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."

So if we were absolutely winning in October, WTF happened between then and the end of December? Nothing.

So were you lying to the American people -- again -- when you said that we were absolutely winning? Were you, for mere political expediency, lying to the American people about a war where their children are dying? Just as you admitted that you lied about keeping Donald Rumsfeld?

Are you lying now? How would we know? Oh, that's right; your lips are moving, you mass-murdering, psychopathic, venal, mean, nasty, narcissistic, worthless piece of shit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Dear Jeff Skilling,

Bite me.

No, really, Just bite me.

Oh, that's right. You can't. You're in jail.



In 2006 at precisely 7:22 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on December 21 (00:22 UTC on December 22) winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere and summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

The longest night of the year.

What will you do? How will it affect you?

Real Energy

Isaac & Phaedra Bonewits have a new book out that I'm planning to read, entitled Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, and Substances to Heal, Change, and Grow.

We had no idea how much we had bitten off a year ago when the publishers first came to us with the idea, “How about a book about all the different kinds of energy that people work with? You know, mana and prana, orgone energy and odic force, reiki and crystal power, chi and ki, divine power and nature spirits, etc.? It would make a great book!”

We wanted to compare all these different sorts of “mystic energies” with what mainstream physicists know about energy, so we could make a stab at determining which of the mystic energies, if any, were properly called “energies,” and which were just relationships between ideas or even metaphors. We thought it would take us about six months to write—hah!

I generally tend to assume that, you know, energy is energy no matter what different names people give to it, so I'll be interested to see what the Bonewits say. And, of course, there's energy in "just relationships between ideas or even metaphors."

Monday, December 18, 2006

I Am So Going To Buy A Bunch Of These

Arisaema fargesii.

The catalog says: This striking species bears large, heavily textured leaflets to 15 inches in length and an intriguing black-purple spathe showing white tranlsucent lines in its throat, plus a long, wiry spadix to 2 feet in length. Truly a captivativng species. Plant in groups of three.

The Climate Is Changing And I Have To Change Along With It

It's a blanket, the deep, early darkness of this time of year. Here we are, just days, really just hours, away from the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and I am wrapping all of this darkness around my shoulders like a big, warm cape. I've been sitting zazen at my altar early and going to bed early, dreaming really significant dreams.

Maybe it's the warm weather that has me loving these weeks so much. Today it was in the upper sixties and, when the lawn crew came to mulch my beds, you could smell the heady scent of mulch from my screen porch -- where I ate breakfast and lunch. Yesterday, I worked in the yard all day in a t-shirt, happy for the extra yard time, telling myself that I'll wait for a cold, rainy day in January to go into the garden shed and "organize." I've decided that the shed, here when I moved in, is one of the things that will have to change the most in order for me to have the garden that I really want. What fool thought that barn-style doors, reminiscent of a stable, would fit in this tiny yard? I want a hobbit hut, a fairy cottage, something much more fey than what I have just now.

On the one hand, it alarms me, this warm weather at Solstice time. And, on the other hand, maybe it's the "new normal." Maybe the daffodils and irises that have pushed up from the ground will die in a cold, February frost. Or maybe they'll bloom in February. I don't know; I am going to find out. I still have green herbs in the herb bed -- sage and parsley and rosemary and rosehips -- that I'm going to pick for my xmas hostess. I once saw the cherry blossoms bloom on a full moon in mid-March across the pool from the Jefferson Memorial. It was one of THE most magical nights in my life, a life that, for whatever else has been wrong with it, has been blessed by magical night after magical night.

I won't hate the warming planet. I won't cry over the lost plants. I will love this Earth in whatever stage she finds herself, however she changes, whatever she does to try and balance things out. Last night I sat at my altar and charged Yule gifts for the women in my circle. The chant that I used is, by now, an old one: "She changes everything that she touches and everything that she touches changes." The climate is changing. In the words of the song, "Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older. And I'm getting older too."

Looking at these warm December days, at the plants that have pushed above the ground "too early," at the predictions for climate change on a scale no human has ever seen, not even our Ice Age ancestresses, I'm reminded of a wonderful story that I read when I had breast cancer. The story was about a gay man, dying of AIDS. His friends kept exhorting him to fight, to, in Dylan's words, "rage, rage against the dying of the light." He asked them to stop. He said, "Please. Don't force me to make an enemy of my own death." That sentence changed my life. I plan to make an ally, a friend, a teacher, a gift of my own death. Perhaps Mamma Earth is doing the same. If she's that brave, then, damn it, I will have to be that brave, will have to match her gift of bravery with my own.

Someone, and I forget now who, said that a witch's job is to help to turn the wheel, meaning the wheel of the year. It's my job to help to turn the wheel in these days, not in the colder days of my many-times-great grandmothers in Sweden and the land of the Picts. Here. Now. These warming times on this easternmost coast of North America, under these oak trees, on this acidic soil, near this live spring, on this ground spongy with water. I'll have to figure out how to celebrate the longest night when it's warm, how to drink strong drink from cups made of ice on a morning when it's not as cold as it used to be, even four or five years ago when i first began to wake at dawn with these women and feed the birds, harbringers of the powers of the East, while making noise to wake up the sun. I think that I can do it, that I can rise to the witching challenge of these times, that I can sail through these changing ocean tides, that I can handle the over-warm seasons of MY life.

I adore THIS Earth, even more than some idealized Earth of my ancestors. I am alive on THIS Earth, the one being warmed too quickly and stripped too fast of trees, flora, fauna, clean air. The one where dams kill the salmon, where windmills kill the birds, where nuclear plants make poison that will last so long as to be forever, where we fire bullets made of spent nuclear material and turn children into new monsters in order to allow old men to make money. This is the Earth that I need to bless, to worship, to magic into being, to make ready for my grandson.

Welcome to the dark.

The Aristocrats

Damn, Digby is good.

We allowed them to impeach the duly elected president who beat the father, for trivial reasons. We allowed the father's appointees to settle a dubious election result in the son's favor. We have watched them as they created a presidency insulated from popular or congressional oversight in which they have gone so far as to set forth the idea that the president has no obligation to follow the law. They lowered taxes on the very rich to a level not seen in many decades and created an income disparity between the very, very rich and everyone else that is unprecedented in the modern era. They eliminated the single best means of ensuring that an aristocracy will not truly form --- the estate inheritance tax. The ten year campaign to repeal it was bankrolled by 18 of the richest families in America.

Which Norse God/dess Are You?

You scored as Freyja. You are Freyja! You are the mother of Baldr, and the most loving and compassionate Goddess. You are very spiritiual and caring.













Which Norse God Are You?
created with

Now Who Does This Remind Me Of?

Characteristics of a Psychopath

@ Callous unconcern for the feelings of others

@ Gross & persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations

@ Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty establishing them

@ Very low tolerance to frustration & a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence

@ Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment

@ Marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behavior that has brought the patient into conflict with society.

~From Endgame, Volume II by Derrick Jensen

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

Your lynx-eyes, Asia,
spy on my discontent;
they lure into the light
my buried self,
something the silence spawned,
no more to be endured
than the noon sun in Termez.
Pre-memory floods the mind
like molten lava on the sands . . . .
as if i were drinking my own tears
from the cupped palm of a stranger's hands.

Translated by Stanley Kunitz

In Which Our Hera Writes A Letter To The Xians

Dear Xians,

Let's pretend for a minute that you're rational people who simply have a different set of beliefs and who simply worship a different god -- I'd say a different face of the ultimate divine -- than I do. Let's pretend for a minute that we've both of us gotten over the fact that you used to burn my mothers and anyone whom you could possibly accuse of being one of my mothers. Let's pretend that the current translation of your holy book doesn't instruct you not to suffer anyone from my religion to live and that I don't hold your brand of monotheism responsible for much of what's wrong with the world today and that I didn't run, not walk, away from the brand of your religion in which I was raised.

Let's also, dear xians, acknowledge some basic truths. There are a fucking lot of you. No one here in America is persecuting you. You're free to build your churches all over the place (tax exempt, which is more than this society offers to most of the worship groups in my religion) and to worship as you choose. You don't have to work on your religious holidays and you don't have to worry about being dismissed from a job because of your religion, losing custody of your children because of your religion, or not being able to have your religious symbol on your gravestone when you die.

So, with those premises as our starting points -- and I don't pretend to really believe all of them (the notion that you are rational, for example, gives me quite a bit of pause) -- there's something that I'd really like to say to you.

Stop this shit. Just stop it, goddamnit. Standing next to plastic figures of Mary, baby Jesus and Joseph, two ministers and three members of Congress took turns at a microphone this month to announce a new initiative called "Project Nativity."

"Our hope and prayer is that over the next three to four years, hundreds of nativity scenes will begin to dot the landscape of America once again," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. He said he hoped the temporary nativity scene on a terrace of the Capitol would serve as a "template" for similar efforts.

His project, which encourages Christians to seek permits for nativity scenes in front of public buildings, is just one example of multiple efforts to "take Christmas back." In recent years, there have been rumors of a "War on Christmas" and actual skirmishes over the use of the word in the public square and at the retail counter.

Now, some clergy and devout lay people are shunning secularism and church-state concerns and taking a more proactive stand to remind people of the Christ in Christmas or, as they like to say, "the reason for the season."

Your religious icons do NOT belong all over public property and at public buildings. That's because: (1) you are NOT the only ones here; (2) those buildings don't belong to you; they belong to all of us; (3) not all of us are xian; and (4) the only rational alternative to having no religious symbols/icons on public property is having ALL possible religious symbols/icons on public property, which will STILL be offensive to those who do not believe in any religion nor accept any form of divinity. Put up your graven images in your homes. Put them up on the grounds of your tax-sheltered churches. Put them up on billboards that you rent. Wear them on your own t-shirts. Send them on your own holiday cards. And leave the rest of us the fuck alone.

Your religion has never seemed to care very much what others thought (i.e., to practice even the most basic forms of courtesy and politeness), but I'd like to tell you how "initiatives" such as "Project Nativity" make all the rest of us feel. They make us hate you. They make us feel as if you are bound and determined to stuff your religion down all the rest of our throats, and we don't like it one bit. We don't like it anymore than you'd like it if your tax dollars had to go to support our religious beliefs or if we were always shoving our religious beliefs down your throats. You are not the only religion that celebrates a major holiday at this time of year. Please stop trying to act as if you were. In fact, most of us think that you stole/appropriated/borrowed (take your pick) your xmas holiday from European Pagans in an effort to legitimate your religion in the eyes of the then-majority. And, BTW, most of us get, simply by living in this culture, a whole hell of a lot more of xmas than we can stomach.

Why am I even bothering? You're the people who used to baptize Native American babies, throw them in the air, and shoot them so that they'd "go straight to god." You're the people who are determined to claim my womb for your own feelings of power. You're the people who burn and torture and kill even your own co-religionists who belong to a slightly different sect. You don't care about winning anyone's hearts and minds.

But, if you did, you'd stop this shit. You'd quit pretending to be persecuted when you're in the majority and when you're the ones doing the persecuting and you'd quit shoving your religion (with which, believe me, most of us are already way too familiar) down our throats. You'd practice, for a change, a little bit of the meekness and humility and charity that your purported god purported to teach.

Merry fucking xmas. If I see one of your nativity scenes on public property, I'm going to pee on it and if I can't pee on it I'm going to hex it.


Hecate Demetersdatter

Altars All Around Us

My wonderful friend Angela has a post up with pictures of the lovely altars and shrines that she and her husband have created in their new home. They're gorgeous!

When I moved to my little cottage three years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to set aside a room for ritual work and my altar is there. I loved the process of creating a room for worship, prayer, meditation, and magic.

Do you have altars? Where are they? What's on them?

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

Jonathan Chait has an opinion piece in today's LAT noting that the fundies are setting themselves up to get punked again. You'd think that six straight years of Republican control of, well, everything that yielded neither a ban on gay marriage nor the criminalization of abortion would have given the fundies a clue that the corporatists are, as Chait says: deeply hostile to social conservatism, and its leaders manage to fool the base over and over again. For "fool" I'd substitute the words "use like a bunch of chumpy, chump, chumps," but, either way, you'd think the fundies would figure it out.

Chait looks at the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls and concludes that: one odd thing jumps out at me: Most of them have expressed deep hostility to the religious right's point of view in the past, and several of them are now insisting that they didn't mean a word of it. I guess it's a good indication of just how twisted a religion the fundies practice that the people courting their votes would rather admit that they're liars than admit that they aren't passionately-devoted sniffers of everyone else's panties. An excellent example of the vote-for-me-I'm-an-outright-liar-not-a-rational-adult-when-it-comes-to-other-people's-sex-lives is Mitt Romney. As Chait reports: Bay Windows, a Boston newspaper covering gay and lesbian issues, published an interview it had conducted with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 1994. Romney, now a leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, had characterized the religious right as "extremists," said he essentially had the same position on gay rights as Ted Kennedy and cast himself as an heir to his moderate father, George Romney, the Michigan governor who walked out of the 1964 Republican convention to protest Barry Goldwater.

Those positions certainly seem believable. Mitt Romney had run as a supporter of abortion rights and legislation protecting gays from on-the-job discrimination.

But he has since reversed both positions, and an advisor insisted that Romney had been "faking it" as a pro-choicer, explaining that he had to do it because social conservatism is unacceptable to the voters of Massachusetts.

That's right. Romney has no problem saying that he lied to the voters of Massachusetts and espoused positions that were actually 180 degrees away from what he really believed just so that he could get elected. I'm not a xian, but I know there's something in that book of theirs about not telling lies. Chait suggests that the fundies might want to consider that if Romney would lie to someone else just to get power, maybe he's lying to them now, but the fundies don't want to hear it. Indeed, social conservatives don't even want to hear about Romney's scandalously tolerant past. Brian Camenker, a right-wing activist who has been sounding the alarm bells about Romney, has gotten a frosty reception from his fellow religious conservatives. " 'Why are you attacking Romney?' " they keep asking him, according to my colleague Ryan Lizza. "He's better than Giuliani and McCain.' " By better, they apparently mean: currently more willing to mouth the anti-sex, anti-woman platitudes that are music to our fundie ears.

Chait suggests that John McCain is also a liar who'll apparently twist himself into a pretzel in order to gain power. Sen. John McCain of Arizona once described religious-right leaders as "forces of evil" and has mused that he would not support the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. More recently, McCain, like Romney, has backed off his moderate statements (not surprising, given the furor they provoked). But McCain is even less credible in his newfound conservatism; only a total naif could believe him now. A general rule of political life is that when a candidate says something unpopular off the cuff and then takes it back in prepared remarks, you can be sure that the original statement is what he really thinks.

So the fundies, who should be more concerned over their own financial plight, over the future of the planet, over sickness and suffering the world over, will continue to vote for the candidate most likely to punk them. Again.

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Investigate Bush, Not The Clintons

In a fairly good editorial discussing the Bush junta's violation of basic human rights and bedrock American values -- and the ways in which the outgoing Republican Congress aided and abetted Bush's evil -- today's NYT makes a startling concession. Discussing how Republican Senator Pat Roberts dragged his feet for years in an effort to cover up the juntas lies that we needed to invade iraq because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction," the NYT notes that: Mr. Roberts insisted that [the investigation that he was supposed to be conducting] cover every public statement by any administration official or member of Congress dating back to 1991. What President Bill Clinton or Senator Hillary Clinton said about Iraq is irrelevant. What matters is what was said by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney — who ordered the invasion of Iraq — and by their aides.

Can you believe it? The NYT admitting that it is the Bush junta -- and not the Clintons -- that needs to be investigated? Would that the NYT itself have been even half as eager to investigate all of the Bush junta's crimes as it was to look into -- and cover obsessively -- every detail of the Clinton's personal finances and personal lives. Yeah, the NYT has broken some stories about the Bush junta. But whether you look at reporters assigned or column-inches printed, there is simply no comparison.

Still, it's progress of a sort.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pagan Blogs -- Who Would Have Thought?

Pagans, yours truly included, often lament the dearth of good books for Pagans who have moved beyond the initial, introductory stage. There appear to be hundreds of Pagan 101 books, but it can be a challenge to find books that go beyond that level.

Lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about the disparity between most of (the drek) what's to be found on the bookshelves of your local Border's or Barnes & Noble concerning Paganism and what can (the gems), with some hunting, be found on the web. Sure, there are a lot of pretty crappy Pagan blogs out there. But there are some real gems, as well. This is by no means an exclusive list, but here are some Pagan blogs that I'm ashamed to say I have only recently discovered, but that I think are quite good:

The answer is simple: any notion of a "Pagan community" today is a farce; few Pagans can agree on the color of horse shite, much less on religion, and this is how it should be. There is no need for Pagan "popes". "Organized religion" has shown us that it does not and cannot work, and not a single Pagan would be what they are, if they were satisfied with pre-packaged dogma being disseminated among massive congregations of people. Robin "Ule" Artisson's blog, Cauldron Born is a very recent discovery, but one that I intend to make a regular stop in my daily wanderings. His writing is the best discussion of northern Heathenry that I've ever found, and great-granddaughter of a Swedish immigrant that I am, it's not as if I haven't looked.

I've also begun to check in daily with Sara Sutterfield Winn at her blog, Pagan Godspell. Maybe that's because, as I do, she agrees with both Derrick Jensen and Rob Brezsney. It takes either a very big brain or a very disturbed personality to read both of them and say: Yes.

One of the few actual Pagan 201 books that I regularly recommend is Dianne Sylvan's The Circle Within. Her blog is equally good. Plus, she sometimes posts Mary Oliver's poems, which is a Very Good Thing.

Anne Johnson is the smartest, most authentic Druid that I know. And I've taken classes from some pretty boring, full-of-themselves-needed-to-brag-nonstop-about-sex-with-Pappa-Isaac-but-couldn't-really-teach-just-liked-to-read-Brehorn-laws-outloud-type Druids, believe me. Anne's not one of those. She regularly touches something very deep with her writing.

Full Circle is published too infrequently, but I keep checking back almost daily, hoping for more good writing, insight, admirable thought.

Saturday Goddess Blogging

Sheila Na Gig

Carved on churches in Ireland, Sheila Na Gig is one of my favorite Goddesses, because, to modern eyes, at least, she's so outrageous. Our culture has tons of pictures of women's vaginas, selling those pictures is a multi-million dollar industry. But pictures of old women's vaginas? Well, there are far fewer of those.

Thalia Took tells us that: The Sheila-na-gig is a figure from medieval stone carvings of the British Isles (mostly Ireland), of a grinning woman holding open Her vulva. She is regarded by some as a gargoyle-like figure meant as a medieval allegory of lust, or as a magical figure meant to cure infertility in women, but others have seen in Her an echo of the ancient Irish earth mother.

The word "gyg" is Norse for giantess, in other words, a supernatural or deified female, while "Sheila" is a woman's name, or used as a word for "girl".

The vulva as holy symbol of birth and life is a very ancient idea that symbolizes the life-giving and regenerative powers of the Earth Mother. The image of the vulva has a long history of being carved in stone, and is found all over Europe from the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages. Passage graves were built in the shape of the Goddess, with the passage the vagina, and the tomb chamber itself representing Her uterus. "Tomb" and "womb" were equated, thus ensuring regeneration and continuity after death, in the same way that a "dead" seed is planted in the fertile earth and sprouts up to grow into a complete plant.

Despite the fact that to modern eyes Her pose is "obscene" the Sheila-na-gig is most predominantly found carved in the decoration of churches.

Barbara Walker wrote that: Sheila-na-gig figures closely resembled the yonic statues of Kali which still appear at the doorways of Hindu temples, where visitors lick a finger and touch the yoni "for luck." Some of the older figures have deep holes worn in their yonis from much touching. The protruding ribcage on many examples of the sheila-na-gig imitates the figures of Kali as the death-goddess, Kalika, evidently
remembered in Ireland as the Caillech or "Old Woman," who was also the Creatress and gave birth to all the races of men. Celts generally protected doorways with some female-genital fetish, which is why they settled on the horseshoe, classic Omega-sign of the Kalika. In India it stood for the feminine cosmos within which Shiva ever performed his creative sexual dance, although he was assimilated to the Kalika and given her title of Destroyer.

Derivation of the term sheila-na-gig is obscure. It meant something like "vulva woman." Gig or giggie meant female genitals and may have been related to the Irish "jig," from French gigue, in pre-Christian times an orgiastic dance. In ancient Erech a gig seems to have been a holy yoni; the sacred harlots of the temple were known as nu-gig.

Amy Sophia Marashinsky says that: Sheila Na Gig grins at you provocatively and invites you to join her in opening. Now is the time to open to new experiences, people, places,and things. Now is the time to begin new projects, forge new directions, venture out boldly. The universe invites you to come out and play. Perhaps you've had to contract your energy to deal with a wounding, a grieving, an ending. Or you haven't felt [that] it was safe to to open up. You may have needed a time of seclusion, sorting out, and focusing inward. Sheila Na Gig is here to remind you that a period of contraction is followed by expansion and opening. It is time to nurture wholeness by integrating what the stretching, expanding, and opening will bring.

I find that Sheila Na Gig is a good goddess for Yule. Her thin, wasted, Crone's body almost perfectly symbolizes this dark time of the year. Her open vulva seems to me to be the opening to the underworld, just as the open vulva of our younger mother was the opening to this world. "Come," Sheila Na Gig seems to me to be saying, "Go on out the way that you came in. Step back into the darkness, regenerate, and re-emerge later in a new form." She represents the Mother Earth, that will receive our used-up bodies and turn them into something new; her vulva represents Cerridwen's cauldron. With that understanding of her, i don't find it strange, at all, that she would have been carved over the doors of churches by the still-somewhat-Pagan Celts.

And, via watertiger, we have this.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More Shoes Than Witches -- Whatever

Today's WaPo mentions Pagans, essentially in the usual gee-let's-throw-something-weird-into-the-article way that is essentially the only way that WaPo ever covers Pagans. In an article on the recently-released census report, WaPo notes that:

Membership in Wiccan, Deity, Druid and Pagan sects has been skyrocketing -- up from an unregistered blip in 1990 to more than 350,000 as of 2001 The article couples this statistic with the fact that: We love shoes, 2.1 billion pairs of them, almost all from overseas.

Thanks, WaPo. Fascinating analysis. Note the use of the word "sects," rather than religions. Cute. The report itself calls them "Religious Groups," which is what it calls every other group that it lists from Catholics, to Methodists, to Hindus, to Jews.

The report shows a total of 140,000 Pagans, which I consider to be an overall category, kind of like Christian, 134,000 Wiccan, which I consider to be a subcategory of Pagans (and 33 Druids, again, a group I consider to be a subcategory of Pagans). (I'm not sure what "Deity" means -- perhaps the number of people who identify themselves as believing in a specific diety, such as Pan, or Hecate, or Athena? But then wouldn't almost all religions -- Judiasm, Xianity, Islam, etc. -- fall into this category?) There are 629,000 Unitarians, and my guess is that a number of those folks are Pagans, as well, who find it easier to say that they're a Unitarian than a witch or a druid. To compare, there are 55,000 Scientologists.

It would have been fascinating if WaPo had bothered to do any reporting or analysis of these figures. Why the explosion? Are these religions actually growing at this rate or are people now more comfortable identifying themselves as members of these religions than they were during the earlier census? How many of these new members are Cradle Pagans who were born and raised in their current faith and how many were adult converts? How does the trend in America compare to Australia, where the growth has been almost explosive? How does the growth of Paganism, in general, compare to, say, Evangelicalism, or Atheism, or Buddhism? No answer. Witches and lots of shoes are just funny and weird and that's all that a piece on them is meant to be.


The Bill Of Rights -- 215 Years Old Today

An email from the League of Women Voters reminds me that American's Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791. Happy Birthday, Bill of Rights! You've had a rough couple of years, but you're still the best protection that there is from government oppression. Here's wishing you many happy returns of the day!

As Wikipedia notes: The Bill of Rights is the term used to describe the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These amendments limit the powers of the federal government, protecting the rights of the people by preventing Congress from abridging freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religious worship, the freedom to petition, and the right to keep and bear arms, preventing unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and self-incrimination, and guaranteeing due process of law and a speedy public trial with an impartial jury. In addition, the Bill of Rights states that "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," and reserves all powers not granted to the Federal government to the citizenry or States. These amendments came into effect on December 15, 1791, when ratified by three-fourths of the States.

Initially drafted by James Madison in 1789, the Bill of Rights was written at a time when ideological conflict between Federalists and anti-Federalists, dating from the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, threatened the Constitution's ratification. The Bill was influenced by George Mason's 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, works of the Age of Enlightenment pertaining to natural rights, and earlier English political documents such as the Magna Carta (1215). The Bill was largely a response to the Constitution's influential opponents, including prominent Founding Fathers, who argued that it failed to protect the basic principles of human liberty.

The Bill of Rights plays a central role in American law and government, and remains a fundamental symbol of the freedoms and culture of the nation. One of the original fourteen copies of the Bill of Rights is on public display at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Celebrate the Bill of Rights today! Use your freedom of speech to write a letter to the editor, to the president, or to your Senator. And, have some cake.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Alvin Ailey - Revelations 2

The best cure in the world for the winter blues.

Fuck the Fucking WaPo

The WaPo does a pretty excerble job of reporting on religion in general, and certainly screws up when it comes to reporting on any minority religion. Today, it's Kids Page tries to get all multicultural, but then, somehow, just apparently forgets to mention modern Pagans in an article about, get this, the Winter Solstice. Sheesh. WaPo, you know, Pagan kids read your Kids Page, too. WTF?

For Solstice, Let There Be Lights
Candles Have Been Part of Winter-Season Celebrations for Thousands of Years
Thursday, December 14, 2006; Page C15

Hundreds of years before anyone was decorating Christmas trees or hanging holiday lights, families in ancient Rome used evergreens and tiny candles to celebrate the winter solstice.

The solstice is the date when, because of the way Earth is tilted as it orbits the sun, the night is longer and day is shorter than any other time of the year. (That's in the Northern Hemisphere, or the top half of the globe. In the Southern Hemisphere, daytime is longest during the winter solstice and shortest during the summer solstice.)

The solstice coincides with the start of winter, beginning on the night of Dec. 21 and lasting into the evening of Dec. 22. Here in Washington, there will be only about 9 1/2 hours between sunrise and sunset that day.

For ancient peoples, life was very hard in the weeks leading up to the winter solstice. Everyone struggled to stay warm and to find enough food. Some feared the sun eventually would stop shining. After the solstice, the days slowly grew longer. People wanted to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. They understood that warmer weather was on its way, and that all plants -- not just evergreens -- would soon sprout green leaves.

Historians say it is no coincidence that evergreens and candlelight became important symbols of Christmas and other winter holidays. The themes of Christmas -- Jesus as a source of light and goodness for humanity -- also fit with the solstice season.

Ancient Romans also celebrated the solstice, with a focus on children. The weeklong festival called Saturnalia began Dec. 17 and was followed by Juvenalia, a day to celebrate youth and the promise of new life.

Solstice traditions can be found in many cultures throughout the world. The Hopi Indians spent weeks preparing for their Soyal ceremony, which they believed helped guide the sun's return. People of Iranian descent, including many in the Washington area, celebrate the solstice festival called Shabe-Yalda, which means birthday, or rebirth, of the sun.

Light is also a central theme for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which falls during the solstice season and celebrates a Jewish victory over the ancient Greeks more than 2,100 years ago. Jewish warriors, called Maccabees, drove the Greek army from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Israel, and lit the menorah, a special kind of lamp. It was supposed to burn day and night, as a reminder of God's presence. The Jews had enough oil for only one day. Miraculously, [Jews believe] the flame lasted for eight days. That is why Jews light candles each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

Today, lights and candles remain a popular way to decorate for Christmas -- from trees to Advent wreaths that count down the weeks to the holiday. The menorah is still the main symbol of Hanukkah. And some African Americans light the seven candles of a kinara for Kwanzaa, a celebration of black and African heritage and culture.

Many people from other backgrounds [here's where the WaPo shows that it's afraid to mention Pagans} are adding [I'd have said re-inventing] modern-day solstice celebrations to their December calendars, gathering around bonfires late at night or holding candlelight ceremonies inside their homes.

No wonder it is called the "Season of Light."

-- Debbi Wilgoren


And it doesn't make up for it that WaPo lists some quasi-Solstice events in a sidebar. Pagan kids deserve to read about their religion just as much as do xian, Persian, and Jewish kids.

How To Get Elected While Being Female

Women interested in Congress: Move to where the money is

What’s the formula for getting elected to Congress as a woman? For starters, move to the right district. That includes ones with high incomes and high levels of education. Then throw in some diversity and — perhaps surprisingly — low numbers of households with school-age children.

This formula is part of Barbara Palmer’s “Index of Woman Friendliness,” a tool that predicts which districts are most likely to elect women. The University of Maine professor spoke yesterday at a joint discussion with Women in Government Relations and Women Under Forty PAC — politically charged, diet soda-drinking groups.

Palmer discussed her latest book, “Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling,” which discussed how the factors of incumbency, redistricting and raising a family work against women in elected office.

“It just blows my mind,” she said, that in the 21st century, the world has 85 countries that elect more women to legislative bodies than the United States.

I can't say that these findings surprise me. High incomes and high levels of education tend to go together and, in general, I imagine that, where you find one, you'll find the other. Nor does the fact that districts with low numbers of households with school-age children are more likely to elect women surprise me. Districts with high numbers of school-aged children tend to be districts where people have large families. The only people having large families these days are wingnuts. Who don't approve of women in office.

Crazed Chicks Rampaging Around On Tabloid-Quality Murder Sprees

Twisty has, as usual, a spot on analysis, this time, of the murders in Ipswich.

The Ipswich killer’s upgrade from random violent schlub to a mythic personage capable of waging “a campaign” means a concomitant downgrade for his victims. These people are demoted instantly from human women to ‘prostitutes,’ from ‘prostitutes’ ** to ‘vice girls’. From there it’s just a short hop to ‘heroin addicts’ and finally, to the lowest form of life imaginable, ’single mothers.’ Their first names are always used as if they were children. Tabloids, as Guardian columnist Joan Smith notes with dismay, even allude to their hair color (“blonde Gemma”). It’s as though they were hotties in Hustler rather than murdered women; no report omits to describe the women’s corpses as ‘naked’ or ‘having been stripped.’
. . .

The Sun’s ‘top criminal psychologist’ speculates that “the maniac [has a] history of being dominated by women.” Funny how every single woman on the planet has a history of being dominated by men, yet the world remains puzzlingly bereft of crazed chicks rampaging around on tabloid-quality murder sprees.


Garden Pr0n

The garden porn has started arriving early this year. I just got my Wayside Gardens catalog, which is always full of things that I just HAVE to have. I really don't like rose bushes (they're ugly all year long and only have flowers for a few weeks), but I bought a bunch of these for their color. And they want sun and, Goddess knows, I've very little sunny ground. But, that color.

Weather Prediction vs. Climate Prediction

Michael Crichton argues that long-range weather prediction is impossible because of the chaotic mathematics of weather systems. Most professional meterologists would agree with him, but he is quite wrong when he says that the same is true of climate prediction.

Future climates are much more predictable than is future weather. We know that there is no way to predict if it will, or will not, rain on 2 November 2010 in Berlin. But we can with near certainty say that it will be colder in January in that city than it was in the previous July. Climate change is amenable to prediction, and this is why so many scientists are tolerably sure that a rise of carbon dioxide to 500 ppm, which is now almost inevitable, will be accompanied by profound climate change. Their confidence comes from knowledge of the past history of the many glacial and interglacial events of the past two million years. The record drawn from the analysis of Antarctic ice cores clearly shows a strong correlation between global temperature, carbon dioxide[,] and methane abundance.

~From The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity by James Lovelock

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Luce di Strega
The Wheel of the Year

A witch's job is to turn the wheel. And round, and round, the wheel does turn.

The Eroticization Of Domination

Violence against women and violence agains the Earth, legitimated and promoted by both patriarchal religion and science, are interconnected assaults rooted in the eroticization of domination. The gynocidal culture's image of woman as object and victim is paralleled by contemporary representations that continually show the Earth as as a toy, machine, or violated object, as well as by the religious and scientific ideology that legitimates the possesion, contamination, and destruction of Mother Earth.

Jane Caputi, as quoted by Derrick Jensen in Endgame, Vol. II

Fuck You, Jeff Skilling. Fuck You, You Piece of Shit.

I had a really nice day today.

I woke up and it was raining on all the lovely bulbs that I planted yesterday (well, all the daffodil and allium bulbs; the squirrels, I'm sure, have already devoured the two dozen tulip bulbs).

The nice man showed up on the dot of 7:30 for my annual furnace inspection and pronounced my furnace nice and healthy. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I love the furnace in this house. I don't know what it is, but it makes the warmest warmth and it warms my little house up in about two minutes. Miss Thing loves it even more than I do, if that's possible. Warmth. It's a blessing.

I got to work and had a lovely e-mail from a former paralegal who's doing really well in the world of politics and is loving his life. I did a spot of work.

I took Son to lunch at Agua Ardiente, and had gazpacho, rack of lamb, and naranja poached in Grand Mariner & vanilla ice cream, with a glass of Sangria. Not the best Spanish restaurant in D.C., but better than Matlin & Carvelle's place that used to occupy this space.

Went back to work, went to the gym, came home to my nice (warm!) little cottage and had homemade vegetable soup and a Stoli martini while reading holiday cards from old friends.

And do you know what made all of it 100% nicer? Knowing that Jeff Skilling reported to jail today.

Every day, for the next however many years, no matter what kind of day I have, I'm going to say to myself, "Hecate, Darling. Jeff Skilling is still in jail. Have another martini." And then, I will. And Jeff Skilling won't, because they don't serve martinis in jail.