Saturday, July 28, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
If you count the time as I do, we're three mere months, ninety short days, from the end of the year. What did you promise to yourself last year, when the days were growing shorter?
In my amazing circle of women, we've come such a long way, since we initiated four stellar, brilliant, aggressive women into our circle last Samhein. We've done such enchanting magic and we've grown so much closer together. Some of us have taken our health in hand. Some of us have new jobs. Some of us have moved husbands and children into new homes. Some of us have written tv scripts. Some of us have brewed herb tea. Some of us have heeded the messages that Tarot kept sending to us. Some of us have done yoga. Some of us have done Reiki on pets. Some of us have planted herbs. Some of us have held signs at marches, mere feet from the Capitol. Some of us have gone to about a bazillion doctors' appointments. Some of us are batting 1,000 at SCOTUS. Some of us can communicate in words and handsigns w/ grandchildren. Some of us have negotiated leases that involved borrowed bongs. Some of us have hosted national bridge tournaments and purchased new sofas. Some of us are on the verge of quitting jobs, collecting our bonuses, and buying new homes in which we will write great new novels. Some of us are in deep relationship. Some of us have refinished our basements, locci of our underworlds. Some of us wear Jimmy Choo, some of us wear Hermes, and some of us are turning away clients who can't afford us. Some of us shop at Balducci all the time. Some of us are plotting new ways to carve pumpkins. Some of us are celebrating new rain barrels. Some of us have crushed our enemies before us and heard the lamentation of their men.
The Goddess has blessed me in so many unexpected and unearned ways. She has, more than anything, surrounded me with this college of priestesses, with this circle of women that I never in my whole life did anything to deserve. May she do so for you. May she surround you with a circle of brilliant women, with a college of priestesses, with a spiral of flaming female spirits.
What will you do with the last ninety days between now and the end of the year? What is it that you must complete before Samhein? What will it hurt you to have unfinished when you come to scooping out the seeds and gook from inside the jack-o-lanterns this fall? What is the very best use to which you can put these final ninety days?
The Goddess is everywhere.
The celebration has now been absorbed into the Christian calendar, but was traditionally associated with Astghik, the Armenian goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility. The festival’s name is derived from the Armenian word for rose, "vard." Early observers of Vardavar offered Astghik roses and sprinkled water on each other, or feasted near water in the hope that she would provide rain in time for harvest.
Now re-invented to represent the transfiguration of Christ, the holiday is scheduled by the Armenian Church to be held approximately 98 days after Easter.
At Garni, pagan priests placed sacrificial knives in fire, as well as rose petals in earthenware jugs of water, before reading aloud from the Ukhtagir, a collection of pre-Christian folk stories and legends immortalizing Armenia’s pagan gods written by Slak Kakosian, the founder of the Pagan Covenant, one of Armenia’s main pagan organizations. Founded in 1990, the group now claims it has over 1,000 members.
In the group’s events, nationalism and paganism mingle equally. "We are pagans," said 43-year-old Zohrab Petrosian, Kakosian’s successor. "We are Armenians, but we don’t know our true religion. Simply lighting a candle in a church or wearing a cross around our necks does not make us Christian. I’ve been a member of this organization for 10 years, but as an Armenian I’ve been pagan since the day I was born."
"Liberal " white men,
Here's what it comes down to. You're either going to have to support a vagina or black skin this time around. Here's a secret: The colonized realize just what a Hobson's choice this is for you. And we're laughing our asses off at you. We're laughing no matter which way you turn. Have a nice day.
It was always going to come to this. You didn't realize it, but we knew. It was always going to come to this.
Guard the Mysteries; constantly reveal them.
~From a poem by the late Lew Welsh, now a popular Craft saying
The Great Mysteries of Eleusis were, in large party, archetypical of the Mystery religions. According to Karl Kerenyi, when Athens annexed Elesis about 600 B.C.E. and made its Mysteries the state religion of Attica, the Athenians passed a law to protect the secrecy of the Mysteries. This law, however, distinguished two types of secrets, the "Lower" and the "Higher." The "Lower secrets" were those that could be told to another person by word, genture, or whatever; these were called ta aporrheta, "the forbidden," and the law applied only to them -- hence their name. Why didn't the law apply to the "Higher secrets"? The latter were called ta arrheta, "the ineffable," and it was recognized in the law itself that these secrets could not be communicated except by the Mysteries themselves; hence they needed no protection by a mere law.
~From Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I know that I've blogged about this before, but, for me, walking barefoot is an act of love and pleasure, a ritual of the Goddess.
And, all day today, a day when I stayed home from work, I was walking barefoot on the pinewood floors of my 1950s bungalow. I was walking barefoot on the wool Stickley and Jax carpets on my floors. I was walking barefoot on the sun-warmed ceramic tiles of my screen porch. I was walking barefoot on the dew-kissed grass of my front lawn, on the artisemia-planted dirt of my woodland garden, on the sun-warmed bricks that surround my herb bed, on the warm, dry boards of my deck while I watered gardenias and climbing roses and moonflower vines. All day, all day, all day, as an act of worship, my feet and the Earth were making love to each other, all day, all day, all day. All day, I was watering the dry, dry Earth and all day, all day, all day, the Earth was sending amazing scents back to me.
Do you walk barefoot? Where do you do it?
There's an article in today's WaPo that does a good job of explaining, in English, what's happening in financial markets. Here's the take-away:
"When people get scared, they tighten up all over," said A. Gary Shilling, president of the investment firm that bears his name. He said he expects housing prices to fall significantly further. "This kills consumer spending," he said of the credit crunch. "We think we'll be in a recession as a result by the end of the year. And that will spread globally because U.S. consumers still are the buyers of first and last resort for the excess goods and services produced around the world."
It's still not too late to take some steps to protect yourself.
*Quit buying stuff on credit. I mean it. Quit using your credit cards. You don't need 90 percent of that shit, anyway.
*Pay off any debt that you have. Here is how to do this. Make a list of every debt that you owe: student loans, credit cards, car loans, mortgage, etc. Next to each debt, write the interest rate that you are paying. Circle the number if the terms of the loan allow the lender to raise your interest rates. You can find this information out by reading your monthly statement very carefully or by calling the customer service number on the statement and asking them. Pay the minimum due each month on every debt except for the one with the highest interest rate. Pay as much as you can possibly afford to pay on that debt until it is paid off. Then, start in on the debt with the next-highest interest rate. You'll have to watch the debts that you circled to see if the interest rates on those go up.
*Get at least six months' net salary in a safe, liquid place such as a savings account, an interest-paying checking account, or a series of CDs. Take a second job for a while in order to do this if that's what you need to do. Skip your vacation trip this year if that's what you need to do. Sell off stuff if that's what you need to do. You've got to have a cushion as we head into bumpy waters. Having this cushion is what allows you to stay out of credit card debt. This is money that you'll live on if you lose your job, that you'll use to buy a new washing macine if the washing machine breaks, that you'll use to pay bills if you have health expenses not covered by insurance.
*If you can, get a fixed mortgage. If you've paid off all other debt, or all other debt except for low-interest-rate student loans, pay extra on your mortgage. If you have a 30-year mortgage, for example, you can pay it off in 15 years. There are calculators on the web that will show you how much you have to pay every month to do this. You'll save thousands of dollars in interest this way. First, however, you need to make sure that there are no penalties for early payment. Call your mortgage lender and ask.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
THE cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet,
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.
"From The Wild Swans at Coole. W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1919.
Being labeled a witch can still be dangerous for women in the 21st Century.
A women was stripped and brutally beaten with hot iron rods after she was branded a witch and held responsible for the death of a woman in a Jharkhand village, police said Monday.
The incident came to light only after a week when the woman from Dadighagar in Hazaribagh district, about 130 km from here, approached some local reporters Sunday.
Basdeo Manjhi said 45-year-old Chandmuni Devi had used black magic against his wife who died of snakebite on July 14. He complained to the panchayat that ordered that Chandmuni be stripped and beaten with hot rods and sickles.
Chandmuni and her husband braved threats and filed a police complaint against six people five days later. But the police did not take any action either and the couple approached the media for help.
Witch-hunt cases are rampant in Jharkhand. More than 600 people, mostly women, have been killed in last 10 years after they were charged of practicing black magic.
It's all there. The need to strip the witch. The fact that it's almost always women. The need to blame someone for the fact that a snakebite can kill. The refusal of the police to do anything. The elements of this story never change.
Went today with my artistic friend R., aka the best cook in the world, to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast D.C. Wow.
You have to drive through a not-too-lovely part of town to get there, and my sweet little GPS device took me through quite a bit of construction, but once you arrive at the Gardens, it's as if you're a million miles from evertyhing else. The lotus blossoms -- correction -- the acres and acres of lotus blossoms were in full bloom. Huge, dinner-plate-sized blossoms of the palest pink surrounding lemon yellow structures that will become seed pods. Gigantic pointed buds, standing straight up, as if they're about to be launched into the sky. Structurally-elegant seed pods, yellow, green, and brown. Huge, serving-tray-sized green leaves, often with a tablespoon or so of dew sitting in the middle of the leaf, just above the stem. Really, you can't wander here and not have a mystical experience.
Amazingly, we saw bees everywhere, as well as literally dozens of butterflies and a young blue heron, with a neck like a prima balllerina, who let us get up quite close, the better to admire how graceful and exotic she was. We saw a dam that must have been built by beavers.
We wandered into the back of the Gardens to the boardwalk over the Kenilworth Marsh, filed with water lillies, cat tails, white rose of sharon bushes, and a lovely purple-flowered weed that I couldn't identify. The Marsh serves an incredibly important function, helping to clean much of the water that flows through DC before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, our drought is taking its toll on the marshes; many spots were clearly exposed as a result of the lack of water. Lots of water lillies may not make it.
If you're ever in DC this time of year, you should go, even though you'll have to go a bit out of your way to get there. R. and I were discussing a topic that came up for discussion the other day in Comments over at Eschaton: how unusual it's becoming for Americans to spend time outside with each other, especially when they're not at some organized "event." It ties in with quite a few of the points that Barbara Ehrenreich makes in Dancing in the Streets about how unfamiliar most Americans are with the notion of festival, of celebrating with lots of other people. TV keeps so many of us indoors and isolated. But as we used to say when I was young, "We've got to get ourselves back to the garden."
PS Sadly, the receding marsh water shows that some people have thrown soda bottles into the marsh. What kind of a motherfucking dickhead do you have to be to do something that goddamn ignorant? You're in a spot of magnificent beauty and you can't carry your goddamn empty soda bottle back to the parking lot and put it in the trash can? You think that marsh is there for you to throw your plastic Mountain Dew bottle into? It's a good thing for you that I don't know who you are. Because if I did, I would hurt you.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I've tried to explain recently to several friends that Harry Potter's not a witch. No cosmology of Gods and Goddesses. No special reverence for the Earth. No understanding that working spells requires raising power. Etc.
Here's an article that makes a pretty good argument for Harry Potter, or at least J.K. Rowling, being an alchemist.
Alchemy, a sacred science and the precursor to modern chemistry, has a long, if not entirely proud, tradition in literature. Most people know some alchemists tried to transmute base metals into gold; less known is that this physical transformation was intended as a mirror of higher spiritual transformation. Practiced by the ancient Egyptians, it benefited from the scientific explosion in the Arabic-speaking world near the end of the first millennium, and it was adopted by Christians during the Middle Ages. Its precepts of purification and transformation fit nicely with Christian thought.
As the Enlightenment dawned, alchemy lost sway, brushed aside by chemistry and the scientific method. But its philosophical precepts lingered in the arts, where the “alchemical structure” became a key metaphor in Western Europe for the structure of a plot.
. . . In alchemical terms, Harry is the lead being turned to gold.
Two of the primary substances, called essentials, used in alchemy were sulfur and mercury. Harry’s best mate, Ron Weasley, is an emotional, fiery redhead (sulfur). Harry’s other best friend, Hermione Granger, is a levelheaded intellectual. The name Hermione is the female form of Hermes, name of the Greek god whose Roman name was Mercury. Also, Hg is the elemental symbol for mercury. Granger supposes that it is Ron and Hermione who act on Harry in countervailing ways throughout the series, helping him transform.
. . .
Of course, alchemy can be like numerology: Once you’re looking for it, you start seeing it everywhere, even where it doesn’t exist.
But there are other clues that the Harry Potter series might well be hung around an alchemical skeleton. In England, the first book was titled “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” - that stone being the Holy Grail of alchemists. We learn that Dumbledore himself is an alchemist and is great friends with one Nicolas Flamel. This Flamel was in reality a celebrated French alchemist of the 14th and 15th centuries. And then there’s this stray quote from Rowling herself, who said in 1998: “I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy.”
. . .
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jonathan V. Last is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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.
from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver
I've never heard of an abuser saying, "I hit you because I wanted to terrorize you into submission." Instead, he might say, "I wouldn't have hit you if you wouldn't have kept yelling and yelling and yelling at me about coming in so late." The framing conditions caused his violence. If we move this to a larger scale, how often have we heard politicians speak of the necessity of preemptive attacks on other countries (which just happen to sit atop coveted resources)? They rarely say, "I choose to invade this country." Instead, they say they've been forced into this regrettable action by those they are about to subjugate, er, liberate. The Nazis played this same card -- everybody plays this same card -- they only invaded Poland because they had no choice, they only invaded the Soviet Union because they had no choice, they only killed untermenschen because they had no choice. Sigh. It's a terribly dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.
CEOs follow this same logic. If it were up to them, they would keep factories open (not that it's a good thing from the persepctive of the planet, but within the confines of this culture, most people consider it good), pay workers livable wages, maintain solid retirement programs, and so on. But you know how things are. They have no choice buy to lay off workers and move the factories to Bangladesh, where they have no choice but to pay Bangladeshis eight cents per hour (as they themselves pull down a cool million per year, which converts to about five hundred dollars per hour, or more in one minute than they pay a Bangladeshi for a hundred hours). And, if the Bangladeshis complain, the CEOs will have no choice buy to move the factory on to Vietnam. Market pressures, you know. And these same market pressures force them to pollute, to clearcut, to overfish.
I'm sorrry, each and every one of us can say, we have no choice but to destroy the planet. It's really not our fault.
~Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Volume II: Resistance
Monday, July 23, 2007
You cannot destroy a world and live on it. It is only this culture's monumental arrogance, abusiveness, narcissism, and stupidity that causes so many people to believe that they can ignore the needs of the world, that they can manipulate it, that they can poison it, that they can blithely exploit and consume it, that they can take from it without giving back, and that the world will, like a good victim, continue to support those who are killing it, and that it will never fight back.
It doesn't really matter in this case whether you are a mechanistic sort who does not believe that the word can and does and will fight back, or whether you are more of an animistic sort, who, as I do, experiences the world as full of volition. If you're the former, you can talk about ecosystems collapsing and losing their ability to support human (and if you're in an especially expansive mood, nonhuman) life. If you're the latter, you can talk about the planet withdrawing its support for this wretched culture, and fighting back, undermining and ultimately destroying that which is attempting to kill it.
. . .
You know, it's always the same with those who are destroying life. First you ignore the damage entirely. We can kill all the bison we want, you say, and it doesn't matter. We can kill all the passenger pigeons we want, and it dosn't matter. When it doesn't work to ignore the damage, then you deny [that] it's happening. The herds are just as big as they were last year, you say. It's harder to hunt them, but the herds must be just as big. When it doesn't work to deny that the damage is happening, then you attack those who try to tell you about it. You attack their reputations: Oh, they're just Indians, they aren't scientific, they don't know anything about population dynamics. They're just environmentalists, they're too emotional, and you know they'll lie to protect some piece of ground. When it doesn't work to attack the mesenger, you pretend [that] the damage isn't really damage. Who needs bison anyway? And what does it matter if there are a few chemicals in every stream? You already have chemicals in your body, and they haven't killed you yet, have they? Global warming is good, isn't it? When it doesn't work to pretend the damage isn't damage, they you try to blame someone else. The Indians, not the whites, were the ones who overhunted the bison and killed them off. [It's all those Chinese who want to drive cars that are really creating global climate change.] When it doesn't work to blame someone else, and you finally have to acknowledge that you are the one who did this damage, then you say that someone made you do it. You wouldn't have killed the bison excep the Indians wouldn't give you their land, so you had to starve them off. . . . And when it doesn't work to blame your destructiveness on someone else, then the last resort is for you to say that everyone does it, so you cannot be held accountable. . . . It's all crazy. No matter what we say, you've got an answer forit, and no matter what we say, you keep on destroying our home.
~Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Volume II, Resistance
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Off to soak in a tub of olive oil and Black Phoenix scent, while reading Harry Potter.
Here's my prediction and you can laugh at me if I'm wrong. It occurred to me this morning that Hermonie must be the one who dies. She's the Hillary Clinton of Hogworts, "quite the most brilliant witch of her generation." Chicks like that can never be allowed to live.
Wish me luck and discipline; I really don't want to stay up all night. Really.
PS: You know that you want to soak in this. You know that you do:
Witch-herbs, crushed golden flowers, and a man-made-dragon's surly musk lightened by the scent of the blossoms and unearthly incense that clings to the Faerie Queen's hair. Dragon's blood musk, ambergris, sunflower, chrysanthemum, muguet, and rue, with gingered lily, moonflower, bluebell, peony, nightwort, and white rose.
Black Phoenix should make a Hermonie.
My Way (1940)
One goes in straightforward ways,
One in a circle roams:
One waits for a girl of his long gone days,
Or for returning home.
But I do go -- and woe is there --
By a way nor straight, nor broad,
But into never and nowhere,
Like trains -- off the railroad.