Saturday, January 03, 2009

What It Costs To Be A Musician In America

The Wild Hunt reports that Pagan musician S.J. Tucker has been hospitalized. In a country without national health insurance, getting sick can be a truly terrifying experience for musicians, who often don't have private insurance. Check out The Wild Hunt to help S.J.

Update: A wonderful commenter at Eschaton adds that musicians can get insurance here.

My New Name For A Blog

What Thers Said.

Here's both [puerility and insanity], from Krauthammer:

"Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating."

Anyone who can look at dead children and preserve "moral clarity" is a psychopath. Clearly.

Picture found here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

What Does Grounding Look Like?

I don't know about you, but my left brain is a lot stronger than my right brain, and that can make visualization a challenge for me. You don't have to visualize in order to ground effectively, but, in my experience, it sure helps. One thing that helps me get past my crippled right brain is to build up a visual "library" of images upon which I can call. As I've noted before, when I garden, I spend some time examining the roots of the weeds that I pull, the seedlings that I plant, the trees that I love. Here are some lovely images of roots that may help some of you other "Talking Self Types" to ground more easily:

Picture found here.

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Picture found here.

First Of The Month Bazooms Blogging

Ladies! Listen up! Detecting breast cancer early is the key to surviving it! Breast Self Exams (BSEs) can help you to detect breast cancer in its earlier stages. So, on the first of every month, give yourself a breast self-exam. It's easy to do. Here's how. If you prefer to do your BSE at a particular time in your cycle, calendar it now. But, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

And, once a year, get yourself a mammogram. Mammograms cost between $150 and $300. If you have to take a temp job one weekend a year, if you have to sell something on e-Bay, if you have to go cash in all the change in various jars all over the house, if you have to work the holiday season wrapping gifts at Macy's, for the love of the Goddess, please go get a mammogram once a year.

Or: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pays all or some of the cost of breast cancer screening services through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides mammograms and breast exams by a health professional to low-income, underinsured, and underserved women in all 50 states, six U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and 14 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations. For more information, contact your state health department or call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.

Send me an email after you get your mammogram and I will do an annual free tarot reading for you. Just, please, examine your own breasts once a month and get your sweet, round ass to a mammogram once a year.


~Photo found here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Keeping Your Feet On The Ground

When I think about grounding, a part of that concept is what most witches would recognize as daily practice: sitting at my altar, sending my roots deep into Mother Earth, breathing through those roots, achieving a deep sense of groundedness to carry me through my day. And another part of what I think of as grounding looks more like living a well-grounded existence: taking care of my physical body, living in a clean, organized space, managing my finances, arranging my personal situation so that I can live with integrity, getting where I'm supposed to get when I'm supposed to get there, doing what I say I'll do, being able to remain grounded, rather than scattered. That kind of integrity is important for a witch because, if your word and intention aren't any good, as someone once said, in this world, how can you expect them to count for much between the worlds?

I'm often surprised how many people who would never think of disregarding the laws of magic are willing to disregard the other laws of reality. You're disregarding the laws of reality if you live beyond your means, ignore your health, fail to manage the details of your days with at least some measure of grace and courage. I'm not talking about obsessive control; in fact, I'm talking about the opposite. I'm talking about mastery over enough of your situation that you're able to achieve what you want to achieve, rather than spending most of your time reacting to forces beyond your control.

I think it was Thomas Merton who explained that the highly-disciplined day of many religious monastics is actually a springboard to the freedom needed to achieve serious spiritual progress. Few of us will ever engage in that much structure, but I think the point's still well-taken: it's difficult to do serious magic, to grow spiritually, to help to turn the Wheel if you arrive harried and late for the ritual (do not get me started on "Pagan Standard Time" -- ha ha -- rude is rude, and those of us who have been wasting our time sitting around waiting for you aren't amused; just saying), if you're worried about being evicted, if you didn't get enough sleep the night before because you stayed up way too late (again) watching Buffy or playing Wii.

In D.C. Pagan circles, I frequently bump into a lovely young woman who clearly really wants to live a magical life and grow as a witch. She signs up for classes that she then regularly misses because (pick one) she's sick with another bad cold, she's out of money for gas for her car and can't get to class, her dysfunctional SO needs her to bail him out, she just lost another entry-level job because she doesn't show up there very regularly, either, she just got evicted because she had 15 cats living in her apartment even though she signed a lease agreeing not to have more than one, . . . . She volunteers for responsibilities that she then regularly has to dump, at the last minute, onto someone else because she . . . you know. Anyone who's been active in the Pagan community knows people from the same mold. It's not really surprising, when you think about it; people are attracted to ecstatic, magical religions for a reason. But you want to just pull a witch like this aside and suggest that what she really needs to do -- in order to live as a witch, in order to do magic -- is to get her "mundane" life in order before she takes another class, buys another Tarot deck, heads to another festival.

Engaging in the daily practice of grounding, the first kind of grounding that I described above, provides a really good example of what I'm talking about. It, or some intentional practice quite like it, is really the foundation of any magical practice. But it's almost impossible to engage in that practice if you haven't set aside a space and time to do it, if you can't find your altar for all the clutter, if you oversleep, again, and have to charge out of the house in a frantic dash in order to catch the last bus, etc. What it takes varies for each of us, and one witch's well-lived life might look like chaos to another witch. A good test is integrity: are you able to do what you say you'll do, are you able to meet your "mundane" responsibilities, or do you go through your days caught up in a whirlwind that blows you here and there?

No, you don't have to be a black belt martial artist who eats only wheatgrass and tofu. But you have to take care of the physical body that is your vessel for magic on this planet. No, you don't have to have a high-powered job and make a million dollars a year. But you have to live within your means. No, you don't have to live in a palace, or a magical woodland cottage, or a temple by the sea. But you have to live in a safe-enough, clean-enough, organized-enough, comfortable place to which you can retreat and from which you can go forth and do what you want to do in the world. And, no, you don't have to devote yourself to only one activity, but you can't be so over-committed that you never really "do" anything deeply enough for it to change you.

If you don't regularly do this sort of work as Samhein approaches, now, at the end of the secular year, is as good a time as any to take a grounding inventory. What areas of your life are well-grounded? How'd you do that? What areas of your life could stand to be placed upon more solid ground? How will you make that happen?

~Picture found here.

Update: Just to add: I'm completely in favor of living less-than-conventional lives, but it's often even more important to be grounded in those situations. If you choose not to have a "regular nine-to-five" job, good! But it will be even more important for you to manage your finances, to live within your means, to find other ways to provide structure for your days. You might spend lots of time traveling and living away from "home." Great! It will be even more important for you to figure out where, in each new place, you'll ground, to keep your stuff organized enough that you can pick up and go, to pay attention to what you eat, when you sleep, where you can exercise. It's kind of similar to what I say about polyamory. It's great, but it's often even more work than a standard "couple" relationship. At the very least, the work is different enough from what we're "used to" that it can seem like more work. The test, again, is whether or not you're living a life of integrity.

Death Is The Mother of Beauty, Mystical

One of the things I love about Wicca is its celebration of death and decay. Wallace Stevens, in his poem Sunday Morning, wrote:

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

(The Collected Poems, 69)

~Reprinted in Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison

Photo found here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Garden & Cosmos

If you live anywhere near DC, go see this exhibit now, before it goes away. No, really.

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


If it were of any use, every day the gardener would fall on [her] knees and pray somehow like this: "O [Lady], grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning, but you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in, grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants -- I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like -- and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on spirea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. [So mote it be.]" For so it was in the garden of Eden, otherwise things would not have grown in it so well as they did, how could they?

~From The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek, reprinted in Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison.

~Picture found here.