Saturday, February 17, 2007
Born almost on the cusp of Pisces, Atrios has always impressed me as a true Aquarian.
February 18th is his birthday.
May he enjoy many happy returns of the day.
The community that he (completely inadvertently!) created has nourised and sustained me for years.
May he thrive. May Mrs. Atrios thrive. May their lovely cats thrive. May the Goddess grant him all good things.
Last night, on the dark moon, I put all of my seeds on my altar; it's a big batch. I have seeds that I harvested last year, from my black hollyhocks and from my woad, and I have seeds that I've ordered for this Spring, black violas and dill and black nasturtiums and catnip and peppermint and sage and . . . . Well, you get the idea. Every night as the moon grows larger, I'll charge the seeds, and then, at the March full moon, begin to plant them, some inside in tiny newspaper pots and some outside.
In additon to the Goddesses that I regularly invoke, last night I invoked Demeter, and I'll invoke her every night during this moon cycle. Demeter, Ceres to the Romans, is the mother of grain, of growing food, of ripening fruit, of bounty.
Demeter's name is De, which means earth (the same word as Gaia) and meter, which means mother. She is the goddess of growing things, especially of grains like wheat and barley and millet. Her daughter, Persephone, is the grain itself, so Demeter is the earth giving birth to the grain.
Mythologically, Demeter is the sister of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and Hera, and so, like them, she is the daughter of Gaia and Kronos, Earth and Time. This makes a lot of sense for a goddess of growing crops, because that is exactly what produces crops: earth and time.
Persephone was out picking flowers one day when, with the help of her uncle Zeus, Hades kidnapped her, took her to his kingdom -- the underworld -- and raped her. Demeter was counseled by her fellow gods and goddesses to just "get over it." Good feminist that she was, Demeter would not. Depressed and upset, she stopped the crops from growing; the Earth began to die.
Demeter wandered the Earth, searching for Persephone. For a time, she became a nursemaid and would have made the baby she tended immortal, but the babe's mother didn't understand what Demeter was doing and "rescued" her baby.
In the end, Zeus had to get Hades to return Persephone to her mother in order to keep the Earth from dying completely. Hades tricked Persephone into eating some pomegranate seeds and, as a result, Persephone must spend part of every year in the underworld with Hades. During that time, the Earth again begins to become barren, but Persephne returns to her mother in the Spring and Demeter's delight again makes the crops grow.
The story of Demeter and Persephone was the core of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Honor Demeter this Spring by planting some seeds, standing up to the notion that women and children must suffer in the patriarchy because "that's the way it is," digging in your heels for something that's important to you, or by exercising the ferocious part of yourself.
Friday, February 16, 2007
"President Bush must not be allowed to act without the authority and oversight of Congress. It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the Administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further Congressional authorization. Nor should the President think that the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the Administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority."
On February 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation. The issue in this case is whether taxpayers can bring a court challenge to the Bush junta’s Faith-Based Initiatives. There is some precedent, including Flast v. Cohen that indicates that American taxpayers do have standing to challenge the use of their tax dollars in ways that violate the Establishment Clause.
Whack-job fundies hope to use Hein to weaken or reverse this precedent, leaving taxpayers unalbe to challenge the use of tax dollars to support religions. Oral argument falls smack dab in the middle of a Retrograde Mercury. Heh.
From today's EEI newsletter:
GHG Emissions Up Sharply in Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina
A report released by the Center for Climate Strategies reported GHG emissions were sharply higher from 1990 to 2005 in Colorado, Arizona, and North Carolina, the Rocky Mountain News reported. In Colorado, emissions rose by 35 percent over 1990 levels, with emissions jumping by 65 percent in Arizona and 55 percent in North Carolina. The higher numbers in Colorado were linked to population growth, which caused a spike in electricity demand and transportation.
Wrote the newspaper: "The report found that emissions from electricity generation (37 percent) and transportation (23 percent) account for the biggest sources. It also projected that burning coal and other fossil fuels for power plants will account for the biggest portion of emission increases through 2020." Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, was quoted by the newspaper as saying: "This (report) is our most important baseline of information about what type of actions would be necessary," to cut emissions.
Rocky Mountain News , Feb. 15.
We can't continue to add more and more people to the planet and expect that they won't use energy and create waste, including waste in the form of greenhouse gasses. I'm not very good at math, but even I can figure this out.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The lying little cocksmen of the Repbulic Party oughtent lie about Abraham Lincoln. He'll rile their sleep, he will.
IT is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down,
Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.
A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.
He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:—as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long,
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.
His head is bowed. He thinks of men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why;
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.
The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.
He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free:
A league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.
It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?
Deborah Oak picks up the conversation that Thorn started last week concerning what's lacking in modern-day witchcraft. She writes: Like Thorn, who recently had some great entries on this subject on her blog, I find myself frustrated with the emphasis on “raw power” in the Craft as opposed to in-depth discussions on how our spiritual practice informs and shapes our lives and gives it meaning. As a psychotherapist, it’s sad to me that when recommending books to clients who are in pain and seeking spiritual comfort, I find myself recommending books by Pema Chodron , the Buddhist writer, as opposed to anything written by a pagan. Where is her pagan equivalent or something pagan akin to Scott Peck’s (a Christian) The Road Less Traveled?
Her questions got me to thinking about how Wicca may be changing from what was, for a time at least, an experiential religion to a religion that's written down and written about in books. What I mean is that there was a time when becoming a witch and practicing witchcraft was something that you did, usually via initiation into a coven. To the extent there was anything to read, it was a book of shadows (generally cribbed together recently but made to look as ancient as possible) that might include some spells or a recipe for incense or a ritual or eight.
But the experience of being a witch had far less to do with reading thealogy and much more to do with living the life of a witch. Nowadays, that's changing. A witch is as likely to come to her religion via the internet or the bookshelf at Borders as by initiation into a coven.
There are interesting differences, too, between most mainstream Western religions and Wicca. Unlike, say, Xians and Jews with their Bible or Moslems with their Q'uran, Wiccans don't have a holy book, which is often the starting point for both theology or for books such as Scott Peck's. We also don't have, in general, established churches where people experience religious ritual from the time that they're a child, get exposed to the relevant holy book, and only later, perhaps, become interested in the theology behind the ritual and the holy book.
At least for me, Wicca is much more about reaching states of ecstasy, doing trance, feeling connected to the Earth, understanding and using the power of our minds and our bodies, about learning all that we learn when we dance the spiral dance. Few of those experiences require or can be reduced to words in a book.
It seems to me that the experiential nature of Wicca may account for some of the "lack" that Thorn and Deborah Oak are discussing. Wicca is much more a religion that you do than a religion that you contemplate. Wicca is somewhat akin to the practices of ancient shamans in this way. A shaman might help you to go on a spirit quest, but couldn't really write a book that would do the same thing for you.
That doesn't mean that there isn't a need for the sorts of books, teachers, and discussions that Thorn and Deborah Oak describe. Obviously, a witch who's in pain and seeking spiritual comfort shouldn't have to turn to a xian book. I guess the question is whether she should turn to a book, at all, as opposed to, for example, a ritual, a trance, or a spell. However, I think that there's little doubt that Wicca IS changing, becoming more "normal," even, in some cases, becoming a religion that happens in churches. And as Wicca changes, it's likely that the deficiencies that Thorn and Deborah Oak identify will begin to be addressed.
Artwork found here.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Please join us Friday, February 16th at 7:00 pm at King Street Blues
for the DC PNO [Pagan Night Out]. An informal and friendly gathering for food, fun, and fellowship, the DC PNO takes place on the 3rd Friday of each month at restaurants in the greater DC region.
King Street Blues is a local chain of Southern Dining which started in Old Town Alexandria. Now with four locations, King Street Blues serves creative barbeque/comfort cuisine. Their ribs are some of the best in town, and they make one of the best jambalayas around. They also serve catfish a number of ways, and their chili is awesome! Vegetarians have a few choices, Veggie Tamale Pie, the Patty Jones Patty Melt (veggie burgers), and salads. Their prices are excellent, with most dishes between $8 and $12. They have a full service bar with a number of beers on tap and some good mixed drink specials. Happy hour is until 7 pm, so early birds can mosey up to the bar to get some bargains. For more information on King Street
Blues and to see their menu, go to www.kingstreetblues.com.
By Metro: King Street Blues is located in Crystal City, which is off the blue and yellow lines. Look for signs to Crystal City 1650 Arcade, and the metro exit will leave you mere feet from King Street Blues.
By car: from Virginia: Take 395 to exit 8C towards US 1/ National Airport. Turn left onto Army/ Navy Drive. Turn left onto 12th Street South. Turn right onto South Clark Street. Clark becomes 14th Street. Take a right at Crystal Drive. Continue until you see parking for the shops at 1650 Crystal Drive.
Parking is free for all after 5 pm at the Shops – no validation necessary.
Galway Kinnell could have me. He could have me and he wouldn't even have to play his cards all that right.
Rapture by Galway Kinnell
I can feel she has got out of bed.
That means it is seven A.M.
I have been lying, with eyes shut,
thinking, or possibly dreaming,
of how she might look if, at breakfast,
I spoke about the hidden place in her
which, to me, is like a soprano's tremolo,
and right then, over toast and bramble jelly,
if such things are possible, she came.
I imagine she would show it while trying to conceal it,
I imagine her hair would fall about her face
and she would become apparently downcast,
as she does at a concert when she is moved.
The hypnopomic play passes, and I open my eyes,
and there she is, next to the bed,
bending to a low drawer, picking over
various small smooth black, white,
and pink items of underwear. She bends
so low her back runs parallel to th earth,
but there is no sway in it, there is little burden, the day has hardly begun.
The two mounds of musucles for walking, leaping, lovemaking,
lift towards the east -- what can I say?
Similie is useless; there is nothing like them on earth.
Her breasts fall full; the nipples
are deep pink in the glare shining up through the iron bars
of the gate under the earth where those who could not love
press, wanting to be born again.
I reach out and take her wrist
and she falls back into bed and at once starts unbuttoning my pajamas.
Later, when I open my eyes, there she is again,
rummaging in the same low drawer.
The clock shows eight. Hmmm.
With huge, siilent efforts of great,
mounded muscles the earth has been turning,
She takes a piece of silken cloth
from the drawer and stands up. Under the falls
of hair her face has become quiet and downcast,
as if she will be, all day among strangers,
looking down inside herself at our rapture.
Here's one of my contributions to the war on St. Valentine. I love poetry and, Freya on a frittata, there's quite a bit of love poetry! Some of my favorite comes from Pablo Neruda:
Love Sonnet LXXXIX
When I die, I want your hands on my eyes;
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more;
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.
I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea's aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.
I want what I love to continue to live
and you whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to flourish, full-flowered;
so that you can teach everything my love directs you to,
so that my shadow can travel along in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.
All day long, while I'm getting up, while I'm taking conference calls here at home, while I'm making garlic and whole wheat toast for lunch, while I'm going through e-mails from work, while I'm telling my minion what to do to get the pleading filed, while I'm feeding the cat and shoveling out the car and sitting zazen at my altar -- all day long the wonderful women in my circle are e-mailing each other with recipes for warm stew and plans for Saturday and complaints about work and plans for solitary ecstatic dance tonight. All day long the wonderful women in my circle are calling each other to check on the shut-ins. All day long, while I am alone here in my little cottage, satisfied INTJ that I am, all day long I am living within a wonderful circle of women.
I am blessed.
May it be so for you.
I'm just beginning to recover from the annual push by the Christianist to force everyone to observe the Christianists' winter holiday. You know, the one where they run around pretending to be persecuted because not everyone says "Merry Christmas" every damn time that they sell you a stick of gum or complete a telephone call. Where they scream about not being able to erect their religious symbols all over public land. Where they've come up with lots of cute, if not necessarily true sayings such as: "Jesus Is The Reason For The Season!" and "Merry Christmas: It's Worth Saying!"
So I wonder what the deal is with their complete silence concerning the War on St. Valentine's Day?? They used to be so serious about celebrating the Saint's day! For example, Wikipedia notes that: On St. Valentine's Day in 1349, roughly 2,000 Jews were burned to death by Christian mobs in Strasbourg. These mobs, led by nobles who owed large sums to Jewish moneylenders (usury being a sin for Christians), blamed the Jews for poisoning the city's wells and causing the bubonic plague.
Of course, The feast of St. Valentine was first decreed in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." As Gelasius implied, nothing is known about the lives of any of these martyrs.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the saint whose feast was celebrated on the day now known as St. Valentine's Day was possibly one of three martyred men named Valentinus who lived in the late third century, during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (died 270):
a priest in Rome
a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni)
a martyr in the Roman province of Africa
Various dates are given for their martyrdoms: 269, 270 or 273. The name was a popular one in Late Antiquity, with its connotations of valens, "being strong".
. . .
The Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, compiled about 1260 and one of the most-read books of the High Middle Ages, gives sufficient details of the saints and for each day of the liturgical year to inspire a homily on each occasion. The very brief vita of St Valentine has him refusing to deny Christ before the "Emperor Claudius" in the year 280. Before his head was cut off, this Valentine restored sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer. Jacobus makes a play with the etymology of "Valentine", "as containing valour".
The Legenda Aurea does not contain anything about hearts and last notes signed "from your Valentine", as is sometimes suggested in modern works of sentimental piety. Many of the current legends surrounding them appear in the late Middle Ages in France and England, when the feast day of February 14 became associated with romantic love.
But, as we know, there's been a terrible war on St. Valentine. Nowadays, no one says, "Happy St. Valentine's Day!" No, it's "Happy VD Day!" or "Will You Be Mine!" when we all know that the Saint Is The Reason For The Pink Paint! You never get a card with a picture of a beheaded St. Valentine on it; why, you're likely to get a card with a picuture of Pagan Cupid! In fact, people seem to have completely secularized this holiday! In fact, the day has been taken over by those who are far more interested in getting laid than in losing their haid! By those who are more concerned with being in love than in St. Valentine above! By those who want chocolate and roses more than they want Jesus and Moses! (~Slaps own face~ OK, got a little carried away, there.) And when was the last time that a huge plastic statue of St. Valentine getting beheaded was erected in front of your town hall?
And yet, the Christianists seem perfectly happy to have ceded this holiday to Hallmark and the florists. Come on, Christianists! You're not just going to let evil secularists win this one without a fight -- are you? What's up with that?
Today is my daughter-in-law's birthday. I am the luckiest mother-in-law in the world. My daughter-in-law is kind, smart, funny, generous, hard-working, unflappable, fearless, gorgeous, and brave. She's a wonderful wife to my son and the best mother in the world to my grandson. She's a true Aquarius, and spends her days putting bad guys in jail.
Happy birthday, D-i-L! Many, many, many happy returns of the day!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Writing in a recent issue of NewStatesman, Kira Cochrane explains that:
[Concerning unsafe abortion, a] report published by the US non-profit agency the Centre for Reproductive Rights includes a typical tale. In Breaking the Silence, an anonymous Kenyan health worker recalls the story of a pregnant 17-year-old [whom] he encountered, "a house-help with no money . . . [who] went to somebody to try to remove the pregnancy. And the person she went to did not know the anus from the vagina. He destroyed her anus, rectum, uterus[,] and some of the small intestine. The girl now has a permanent colostomy."
There's a reason that the health worker chose to remain anonymous, a reason which rests, bizarrely, on the political interests and religious beliefs of a man on another continent.
In January 2001, on his first day in office, President Gworge W. Bush issued an executive order that had lain dormant throughout most of the Clinton administration. The Mexico City Policy, more commonly and descriptively dubbed "the global gag rule," had been instituted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, and represented a tightening of the Helms Amendment of 1973, which had made it unlawful for non-governmental orginizations to use any funds granted by the US Agency for International Development (USaid) either to provide safe abortion (in countries where it is legal) or to lobby for it (in countries where it is not.)
The global gag rule allowed the US to use its huge financial clout and budget . . . to take its anti-abortion stance much further. From the moment it was signed, NGOs receiving any help at all from Usaid -- accepting supplies of condoms, for example -- were explicitly prohibited from using any of their other funding to provide safe abortion or [to] lobby for it.
The prohibition goes so far that NGOs which want to keep their Usaid funding aren't permitted to cite statistics on unsafe abortion. Even telling the stories of women who have been maimed by unsafe procedures would be interpreted as lobbying -- hence the shyness of that Kenyan health worker.
As such, in areas where organizatins accept the gag, the abortion debate is skewed, entirely dominated by anti-abortion voices -- just as Bush intended. (In areas where organisations have refused the gag, the effect is often exactly the same, since loss of funds can force them to close.)
The rule is thus fundamentally undemocratic, and also imperialist -- after all, in countries where abortion is legal, it overrules national sovereignty.
. . .
To give a few examples of the havoc this has wreaked, in 2003 Planned Parenthood of Ghana was forced to close down a programme that had been distributing contraceptives and providing advice on HIV/Aids to an estimated 2.2 million Ghanians. The Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia was forced to close a huge range of outreach programmes after losing more than 30 percent of its external funds, cutting staff and reducing volunteer numbers from 1,000 to 90.
. . .
Ironically, it is likely that the policy may have increased rates of abortion. When clincis close "women don't get other sexual health information or contraceptions," points our Louise Hutchins of the UK group Abortions Rights, "so they're more likely to become pregnant again and suffer from sexually transmitted disease."
. . .
[T]he [gag] rule denies women in developing countires "their humanity. It's disrespectful and undignified and it's based on an idea that women are something other than full human beings." While the gag rule stands. Bush's hands just get bloodier. To find our more, visit www.globalgagrule.org.
Cotton Mather died on this date in 1728. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Unfortunately, he left a number of intellectual heirs. And I use the word "intellectual" advisidely.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Mercury goes retrograde on Tuesday and stays there for a long time. Sometime, when you've got hours to spare, Aunt Hecate will tell you the tale of the lost mammogram films.
It happens three times a year; you may as well learn to take a brief time out.
Gerald Gardner, or Uncle Gerald as he is affectionately known to some, died on this date in 1964. I don't know about you, but there are certain historical figures who died when I was a child, and long before I'd ever heard of them, who I find it difficult to believe were actually alive during my lifetime. Gerald Gardner is one of those.
A controversial figure, both before and after his death, Gardner is in many ways largely responsible for the large interest in Wicca today. You can debate forever how much he "borrowed" from the Order of the Golden Dawn and whether he simply made public an ancient tradition or created a tradition out of scraps, but you can't debate his profound impact.
I imagine that Uncle Gerald would be gobsmacked to wander around the web today, seeing hundreds of web-based stores selling everything from mass-produced athames to bumper stickers that say "Pagan Clergy." I suppose that Dianic Wicca, which is what I practice, would disturb him quite a bit. I know he'd bemoan the failure of many of us to always practice skyclad.
One of the other things that always strikes me about Gardner's life is what amazing place names are associated with it. He was born was born at "The Glen, The Serpentine, Blundellsands," near Liverpool. He returned from Asia to live at Highcliffe, on the edge of "New Forest, Hampshire." The coven to which he claimed to have been initiated was the "New Forest Coven." He was a rubber planter in Malaysia and was buried in Tunisia.
So here's to Uncle Gerald, and to Dorothy Clutterbuck who may have had the most influential initiate in all of history, and to Doreen Valiente who did quite a bit to help make Uncle Gerald the man he is (remembered as) today. I'd likely be a wandering agnostic absent their lives and I'm grateful for all that they did.
WASHINGTON - TOMORROW, Tuesday, February 12, 2007, U.S. Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will hold a press conference to discuss the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act which will restore habeus corpus rights, ban torture and uphold the Geneva Conventions. The senators, both members of the Foreign Relations Committee, will discuss the need for these protections in the fight against terrorism. More here.
Call your Senators and tell them they'd better get behind this. There's little that's more important.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
But listen, I am warning you
I'm living for the very last time.
Not as a swallow, nor a maple,
Not as a reed, nor as a star,
Not as spring water,
Nor as the toll of bells...
Will I return to trouble men
Nor will I vex their dreams again
With my insatiable moans.
You can hear the poem read in Russian here. I don't speak a word of Russian, but I've always loved the way that it sounds.