Friday, August 07, 2009

We All Need A Caledonia

My New Name For A Blog

What Diane Sylvan Said.

I, personally, am a panentheist. I believe that God exists within the manifest world, and also beyond it. God is in every molecule and in the space between, as well as all that lies outside of reality. God is the potter and the pot, as well as the wheel and the specs of dust on the floor.

To me, it does not matter what name or face you put on the divine, or how many gods you worship. What matters is that your religion, whatever its name or trappings, makes you a better person and helps you to leave the world better than you found it.

Does your spiritual path help you navigate the emotional waters of life? Does it support your growth and encourage you to think for yourself? Does your god/gods/goddess/whatever lift you up, or leave you feeling guilty and ashamed? Would your god ever ask you to harm someone in his or her name? Would you really want to worship a god who did?

The vocabulary, the altars, the Sunday dresses, the candles and incense, don't matter one lick if at the end of the day your life is not enriched by your spirituality.

Religion and spirituality should be about communion, not separation; connection, not rigid categories and rote. It should bring you closer to spirit, your own soul, and other people.

PIcture found here.

The Family That Eats Burgers Together, Stays Together

Someone in the White House obviously had a hankering for an Obama burger.

First Lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters, Malia and Sasha, stepped out of the Executive Mansion on Thursday for a hearty lunch of burgers, fries, onion rings and milkshakes at Good Stuff Eatery, a restaurant near Capitol Hill. It was Mrs. Obama’s second trip to the restaurant – she dined there in May — and a first for her girls.

The restaurant, which specializes in burgers, served the first family cheeseburgers and its President Obama burger, which comes with horseradish mayo, red onion marmalade, crumbled blue cheese and bacon. (Several members of Mrs. Obama’s staff also joined the Obamas for lunch.)

They also sipped milkshakes – including vanilla, chocolate, toasted marshmallow and the decadent Milky Way malt (with butterscotch, hot fudge, malt balls, custard and whipped cream).

Startled patrons snapped photos and called friends to report the news and the first lady shook hands on her way out, said Felice Robinson, the restaurant’s administrative coordinator.

“It’s really nice to see the girls,’’ said Ms. Robinson, who described the Obama girls as “very well-mannered.” “People are really enchanted by having such young children in the White House.’’

The restaurant’s chef, Spike Mendelsohn, of Top Chef fame, cooked turkey burgers during a child-friendly cooking demonstration at the White House Easter Egg roll in April. He said he was honored to have the first lady as a repeat customer. “I’m part of the family now, what can I say?” he joked.

More here.

Picture found here.

A Witch Takes Responsibility

Wicca is a mystical religious system. . . . Wiccan spirituality . . . requires the practitioner to develop a secure awareness of . . . how choices are connected to consequences. . . . Wicca has autonomy at its core, too. Even in group work[,] each participant is responsible for doing [her] own very [difficult] work to gain understanding and seek appropriate balance in order to be effective. We learn that[,] in Wicca, as in many other spiritual traditions, all the teachers and books and lessons taught by others mean nothing if we don't do our own work and take responsibility for our own progress. Others can't do the work for us and hand us spiritual awakening as something for us to consume. They can show us how they do things [and] talk about the insights they've had, but[,] in the end[,] we must have the realizations ourselves and discover and strengthen our own individual relationships with the Divine and with our inner selves.

~Ben Gruagach in The Wiccan Mystic

Which is a long way to say: And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of all desire.

Picture found here.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


There's a full moon today and at the beginning of the full moon (in Aquarius, while the sun is in Leo -- talk about powerful) we had a lunar eclipse. I came home early today to harvest sage and thyme from the herb bed to make bundles for smudging. This weekend, I'll buy cotton embroidery thread in 4 colors: Green (Earth), Yellow (Air), Red (Fire), and Blue (Water) and will make about three sage smudge sticks and three thyme smudge sticks (yes, sage is more traditional, but thyme is more special to me). I like to make the bundles a bit loose, so that they can catch fire more easily. I'll hang the bundles in my ritual room to dry.

Many people who write about making smudge sticks recommend making a sacrifice to the land in return for the herbs. I harvested these without the assistance of my normal summer anointment of the sacred oil of the Goddess DEET. So I made a serious blood offering to the land (in the form of the tiger mosquitoes who live here) and I have the welts on my leg to prove it.

There's a Wiccan "rule" that one should never use one's athame for "mundane" things such as cutting herbs. I completely disagree, especially with the notion that there are some things that are magical and some that are mundane. For me, it's all real, it's all metaphor, there's always more. (That's from Adler, somewhere). So I use my athame for the first cut, although, afterwards, I use my more effective garden shears.

Later tonight, I'll do some ecstatic dance with a few other witches and eat a magical meal. Then I have a few witch bottles to bury on my Southern boundary. I don't often blog about these "basics" of witchcraft, but they are what make up the day-to-day turning of the wheel.

Resist, Do Not Comply

Monday, August 03, 2009

Just Saying

I Am A Stag Of Seven Tines, I Am A Wide Flood On A Plain

Jensen who's never, as far as I know, studied any kind of witchcraft, provides a pretty good description of what happens to mystics, what happens at the beginning of shamanic experiences. The veils are now perceptibly thinner. What do you see when you open yourself?

I see Indians dancing. I see fires. I see days and nights and years of celebrations and mournings. I see people making love. I see the same for all kinds of animals, all kinds of plants. I see them living, dying, loving, hating. I see generation after generation of human, generation after generation of cedar, generation after generation of porcupine, generation after generation of ant, generation after generation of grasses, mosses, generation after generation of fire.

And suddenly I see even more. I see generation after generation of muse, dreamgiver, demon, walking back and forth between worlds. I see geese and martens and wrentits moving between worlds. I see fires moving between worlds. I see humans moving between worlds. I see the living and the dead.

I see all these worlds being renewed by this intercourse, this movement across borders porous and impenetrable and permeable and impermeable and breathing and alive as skin. I see these worlds winding and unwinding, tangling and untangling like the lovers they are, and I see moments in time, too, winding and unwinding, tangling and untangling like the lovers that they are, too. These worlds, moments, they are not one, they are not two. They are lovers, like any other.

Derrick Jensen in Songs of the Dead.

Picture found here.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Bouquet Of Lilies By The Poetry

Face In The Rain

Appropriate for the weather:

Extra Points For The Cute Title, Though. Bet You Wouldn't Do That In An Article About Xian Prisoners.

While xians far outnumber Pagans in United Kingdom jails (as they do in the UK population), the UK prison service is trying to find ways to accommodate some Pagans. These efforts are important because recognition by the military and prison systems are, maybe sadly, some of the first "official" ways that Paganism gets recognized as a "real" religion by governments. That matters because "real" religions get a host of rights in the US and the UK, from tax exemptions to days off from work for practitioners.

nmates practising paganism are allowed among their possessions a hoodless robe, a flexible twig for a wand, incense and a piece of jewellery. Pagans are also allowed to have “rune stones (wood, stone or clay tablets with the symbols of the ancient Norse-German alphabet) and a bag or box to carry them”. The Prison Service has made clear that the hoodless robe can be used only during private worship in an inmate’s cell or when a number of pagans in one prison gather for worship.

Pagan prisoners are also allowed to have tarot cards but staff say they cannot be used to tell the fortunes of other inmates. Guidance issued to prison staff said: “Some pagans use tarot cards for meditation and guidance. This may be allowed under the supervision of the pagan chaplain. If a prisoner requests to be allowed to retain a part or full pack, this may be allowed, but only following a local risk assessment to determine whether there is any reason to preclude cards. The cards are for personal use only and may be withdrawn if used inappropriately.”

Skyclad, or naked worship, is not allowed under Prison Service rules. Inmates are allowed to select two dates from a list of festivals when they are excused from work. They include Samhain, as Hallowe’en is know in paganism, the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. The guidance to governors also says that pagans can use wine in their worship, but “individual consumption will be one sip only”.

Yet while paganism is recognised as a religion by the prison service, Rastafarianism, which has 340 members in English and Welsh jails, and the Nation of Islam, with six members, are not. Anglicans remain the largest denomination, with 23,000 inmates, followed by 14,000 Roman Catholics.

A part of my religious practice is to read tarot for those who ask me to do so; I don't have two religious holidays; I have 34. Being skyclad is often an important part of my ritual. It's odd the things that terrify those trying to "keep order" in our societies.

Picture found here.

Hammer Of The Witches

This month, Cambridge University Press will publish a new one-volume translation (from Latin to English) of Malleus Maleficarum -- The Hammer of the Witches, first published in 1486. It began like this:

Here beginneth auspiciously the first part
of this work. Question the First.

Whether the belief that there are such beings as witches is so essential a part of the Catholic faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion manifestly savours of heresy,
and it was all downhill from there.

The Boston Globe has an interview with Christopher S. Mackay, translator, and a professor of history and classics at the University of Alberta. The interview is meant for the general public, complete with references to Harry Potter, but Mackay's clearly become familiar with the history of the period.

A one-volume, modern, translation will be convenient, although you can find the online version here.

Listening To The Land

I particularly like this description of developing a relationship with a landbase from Derrick Jensen's new novel because it's so realistic. Sometimes I read about Pagans (nb: Jensen doesn't claim to be a Pagan) who have a relationship with nature and it sounds so effortless. It's not like that for me, at least not most of the time and it certainly wasn't in the beginning. I can be left feeling dejected: I must be doing it "wrong." Maybe I just lack the ability to do this, maybe I'll never be good at it, maybe I should go throw in a load of laundry. Jensen describes the incremental steps by which someone serious about having a relationship with the land can work past some of the obstacles that I think almost all of us face but that few of us discuss in such detail.

I lie face down in a small patch of forest behind our home. A fire swept through maybe a dozen years before we moved in, and the new trees have grown tall in the time since. I smell small plants, and soil and the calming brown smell of duff. I feel plants on my face, and a small stone against my cheek. I shift slightly so it doesn't poke me.

Almost immediately -- literally within two or three seconds -- I have to fight an almost frantic boredom. For all I've written about a relationship with the land, and for all I've tried to live in relationship with the land where I live, I still feel an overwhelming urge to get away to do anything but stay where I am, to do anything but touch the ground. I want to go back to the house, play some poker online, check my e-mail, call a friend. I think about the sound of distant cars on the interstate. I think about the phone bill I need to pay. I think about the celery I need to buy. . . .

I am anywhere but where I am.

It shouldn't be so hard to stay where I am, but it is. What am I afraid of?

I try to bring myself back. I'm not trying to meditate; I've never really liked meditation as such. People ask me if I meditate, if I sit silently with my breath and try to still my mind, and I always tell them I live with trees and butterflies, and I like to sit with them.

That's true enough, so far as it goes, but all of my time touching trees now seems superficial to me, as though I was looking at them and even seeing them as well as I could, but still not seeing them at all.

Lying here, I realize how very scared I am. My frantic boredom is not really boredom, but fear. Of what?

I hear a voice. Not Allison's, but the voice I heard in the forest when I first fell through time. The voice says the same thing it said then: "Don't fight it."

I want to feel Allison's belly against my back, her warmth and wetness against my him She doesn't have to move. I just want to feel that skin to skin contact

The voice says, "Come closer."

I want to feel my face tight against her skin, buried anywhere she can wrap around me, between her neck and shoulders, her arm and chest, her breasts, her thighs. I want to feel my cheek against her belly.


I know what's wrong. I don't know what's right, only what's wrong. I remove my clothes, lie flat on my stomach. I hold my arms and legs tight to keep my weight from fully pressing on the rough surface of the ground and the sharp pine needles.

"Come closer."

I do. I open m arms and open my legs. I press down my hips, no differently, and no less gently, no less intimately, no less invitingly that I would with Allison.

If I am expecting some miracle, it doesn't come. I merely feel myself flat against the ground.

But I do begin to relax, starting with my shoulders, then m arms, then my back, hips, belly. I'm less stiff, more smooth.

I smell the soil, I smell the old needles, I smell the plants. And now mixed with all that are the intimate smells from between my legs, front, back.

And then? Nothing. Not yet.

I see the sun glinting off the torn leaf of some plant whose name I don't know, and hovering near my face I see a tiny gnat whose name I also don't know. I see a fly crawling on a rotting log not far way, and farther off I see a chipmunk take three lightning steps, then stop, tail flicking, then take three more, then stop.

I relax more. My face falls into the ground. I open my legs further.

It's quiet. I hear a blue jay calling as it flies overhead. In the far distance a hawk. In the small slice of sky I can see without moving my head, I see two crows dancing with each other.

I close my eyes. I don't know if I sleep.

When I open then I see a snake. It is maybe five feet from me. It is a garter snake. It doesn't move.

I watch it for a while, then close my eyes again. When I open them the snake is gone.

Finally, I know what I need to say to the land. I say, softly, yet out loud, "Tell me."

It doesn't. I know that it doesn't yet trust me that much. I don't blame it.

I go back every day. Every day I see more, every day I presume more sees me. Every day I lie body pressed flat against the earth and every day I say, "Tell me. Tell me who you are."

I think it's partly that listening at all, even to other humans, isn't a skill that we're taught or that's given much importance in our culture. And, I think it's also, as Jensen asks, a matter of Why should the land trust any of us?

Picture found here.

All Acts Of Love And Pleasure Are Rituals Of The Goddess

"[T]he important thing to me is not and has never been sex The important thing to m is the conversation, and if it's appropriate for our bodies to enter the conversation, as it has been for yours and mine, so much the better." . . .

"I realized long ago," Alison said, that I could never make love with anyone who didn't understand that the dominant culture is killing the planet, or with someone who couldn't make love with trees, rivers, stars."

~Derrick Jensen in Songs of the Dead

Picture found here.