Friday, November 19, 2010

Our Great Mother

Judith reads and sings her book, a must-have for any Wiccan bookshelf.

My New Name for a Blog

What Sia Said.

I already hated flying. In my lifetime, it's gone from a glamourous adventure to almost a mind-numbing pain in the ass. Frankly, I don't care who sees me naked. I'm an old woman who's had a number of surgeries; if it gets your rocks off, well, have at it. And as a breast cancer survivor I've been touched, squeezed, cut, poisoned, and examined so much that it's difficult for me to get too worked up.

But I'm fucking sick and tired of giving up my rights to a bunch of patriarchial nutjobs, made frantic by the fact that some other patriarchial nutjobs attacked a commercial building. Security theatre is for children. And I am not a child.

Kali, fuck; could we all act like Americans for a change and quit letting Osama win?

Picture found here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Daily Practice

I know that I'm a bit of a broken record (now there's a term G/Son's generation won't get) about this, but one of the most important things that a Witch can do is to have a daily practice. One of my v favorite bloggers says that we Witches need to work all the time to answer the question: "What are Witches for?" And, I agree.

One of the things that we're for, IMHO, is for having a daily practice.

A daily practice is a way of checking in (of being in relationship with), daily, with Mama Gaia, your landbase, your watershed, the (perhaps quite tiny) "bit of Earth" of which you are the Witch. When I sit in my altar room and call the Elements, I announce myself: "I am Hecate, the Witch of this place," and by "this place," I mean the less-than-a-quarter-acre bit of Earth that I have delved, planted, laid upon, grounded in, weeded, raked, done magic upon, consumed the herbs grown from, and come to know these past seven years. When I wake in the morning, in the small room in the Northeast corner of my house (now refreshingly chilly and full of reminders of how lucky I am to have sheets, blankets, comforters, socks crocheted by my own grandma), I connect my roots with the roots of the three giant oaks, the two American wisteria, the two temple pines, the three Japanese maples, the many herbs, the gardenias and lilacs, the jack-in-the-pulpits, the drancunculus vulgaris, the toad lilies, and the daylilies that live here with me. I reach out and connect with the squirrels, and chipmunks, and cardinals, and bluejays, and Carolina waxwings, and rabbits, and foxes who live here with me.

When I eat my oatmeal and poached egg, I call upon Columbia, the Goddess of This Place, and Hygeia, a Goddess upon whom both I and my circle of women have called, and I ask for their blessings. I go out and give birdseed to the birds I know and I give coffee grounds to the gardenias. May we never hunger. May we never thirst.

When I go to work, I purposefully drive along-side my beloved Spout Run and my adored Potomac River and I give gifts to "my" Homeless Vet who waits by the entrance to the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge. These are the acts of a Witch.

When I get to work, I stop for a moment and invoke every woman who went before me, working with laws, words, her ability to write, and argue, and persuade. (What my secretary sees: "Just like every morning, she's taking off her sunglasses, rummaging in her purse, and putting on her reading glasses. Just like every morning, she stops, holds her hands over the keys, and then types in her password (just now "elegant editing.")) (What's really happening: Hecate recites her morning prayer: 'I am a manifestation of the Goddess. Mother, help me to grow into my Better Self. It's all real. It's all metaphor. There's always more.' Hecate stops for a moment and invokes Hatshepsut, Druidic women, Boadicea, QE I, Mistress Margaret Brent, Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Athena, Goddess of politics and laws. Hecate invokes Hecate, Goddess of liminal spaces, the space where her words and arguments may create change. Hecate asks Mama Gaia for guidance. Hecate slips on reading glasses, sends reiki to her keyboard, and hits "Open" on the first e-mail of the day.)

At 11:00 and 3:00, my computer gives me a message: Time to get up, walk around and move, create some energy, and change, and movement. I walk the halls of my firm sending blessings to everyone there. "May we serve justice. May Fortuna bless our work." I return and face East, South, West, and North and ground in the zinging and singing and whirring swampy clay of Washington, D.C.

When I get home, I sink onto the rolled-up cotton yoga blanket before my altar, touch my forehead to the wood, and ground. Again.

Having a daily practice gives me the opportunity to connect with, send Reiki to, strengthen, and bless my own bit of Earth. It allows me to do the work of a Priestess, a Witch, a woman of Earth.

I believe, and I may be a crazy old woman but I do believe, that my daily practice does Earth good. And that, more than anything else, is what I am for. I am here to connect with the Earth and to let her know that she has an ally. I am here to connect with a run and a river and to let them know that they are seen, heard, loved, and experienced. I am here to drive over the bridge from Virginia to DC and to let the shining city on a swamp know that her ally is back, to get one v short glance of the statue of Columbia above the capital, and to let this polis know that she is loved in all her marble monuments and all her hidden gardens. I am here to minister to the trees, flowers, herbs, and animals of a tiny spot in northern Virginia and to send shining energy to them.

And that, as Mr. Frost explained, has made all the difference.

What are you for? What does your daily practice look like?

Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Not Even Pagans

A Rappahannock Halloween Festival from Bruce Dale on Vimeo.

Here's an amazing video, sent to me by my dear friend stoat, of a Halloween Festival held by a hunt club in Virginia. That's right. By a hunt club.

How many Pagan Samhein events have you been to that even come close to this?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how often we Pagans "skip" the elements of ritual that appeal to Younger Child. Maybe we, in the words of the LOLcat posters, R doing it wrong.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


"November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring."
- Elizabeth Coatsworth

Picture found here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's More Like a War on Logic

So, I'm already seeing holiday displays at most local retailers. When you build your economy not on the needs of the planet and the true nurturing of humans but on getting people to buy (often on credit) increasingly larger and larger amounts of plastic stuff created in 3rd World sweat-shops, well, it's important to start in as soon as possible on the selling. But this post isn't about the economy.

This post is about the upcoming battle in the "War for Xmas." No, not the "War v. Xmas," that's a fundie lie; there never was and there is no such thing. Let's act like grown-ups for a moment, grown-ups possessed of some simple reasoning abilities and a basic understanding of how language works.

Right around the Winter Solstice, quite a number of different religions have a holiday of some form or another. In my religion, the Winter Solstice (Yule, as we sometimes call it) is the holiday. For Christians, the religious holiday is Christmas, a day (conveniently) located just a few days after the Winter Solstice, when they celebrate the birth of Jesus. Zorastrians celebrate Deygan. In Mali, they celebrate Goru, the arrival of their god, Amma. More: here. Those are religious holidays with, often, deep religious meaning for those who keep them.

And, at the same time, here in America, a secular holiday occurs around the period from December 25th through January 31st. It's not at all religious; in fact it's quite material and commercial. It's about enjoying winter sports such as ice skating or building snow men, about getting together with friends and family, about exchanging gifts, about decorating our houses and town squares (and, yes, our stores), about having a big feast, and, more and more, about watching sports events on tv. This secular holiday is celebrated by people of all different religions and by those who do not belong to any religion and who do not celebrate any religious holiday. I celebrate Yule on the Winter Solstice with the women in my circle and, a few days later, I celebrate the secular holiday with G/Son and his extended family. I get a lot of spiritual strength from doing the work of a Witch -- helping to turn the Wheel -- with my sisters. And, I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing family, watching G/Son enjoy the decorated tree and his presents, catching up via cards with old acquaintances, and being able to pause for a moment before the new calendar year (my liturgical year starts on Samhein, October 31st, the occasion of yet another secular holiday). But I don't imagine that I need to force family members to be willing to celebrate the darkness, as my circle does, nor does, for example, my DiL's mother imagine that she must make me pray to Jesus. So what's the problem?

The problem comes from the fact that the secular holiday often, due to historical developments, goes by the name "Christmas," which is also the name of the Christian religious holiday. (And from the fact that there is a growing xian Dominionist movement in America.)

Now, you know, sensible grown ups can figure this out and deal with it.

We use the word "bank" to describe the place where we deposit our savings and to describe the the sloped ground that borders a stream. And, yet, no one expects the bank president to get upset when people use the word bank to discuss the place where they like to stand and fish, nor do we insist that all bank buildings contain a stream. We use the word "dear" to describe someone we love and the word "deer" to describe a forest animal, but no one insists that you love the deer in the forest or that your beloved is, in fact, a forest animal.

So it's time for the Christians to stop pretending that they can't understand the difference between a secular wintertime holiday and their own religious holiday simply because the same word is used for both of them. Frankly, I'd be quite happy to see a different term develop for the secular holiday, which is what I think has been happening for a number of years with the word "Holidays." (And, again, we don't insist, when someone in mid-December wishes us a "Happy Holiday" that they must mean the Fourth of July, just because the Fourth of July is a holiday). But that's precisely the thing that drives the xian Dominionists batshit insane: How dare the store employee wish them a "Happy Holiday" when they make their purchase! She should have said, "Merry Christmas!" "After all," they say, deliberately conflating their religious holiday with the secular holiday, "Jesus is the REASON for the [holiday] season!"

Really? Really?

Let's forget the fact that the sales clerk is mouthing something she's been told to say and that, honest, having done this job, the only thing that woman really wishes is that she were home, off her feet, and not dealing with grumpy shoppers. She doesn't know you and she's got zero interest in your religion, your secular holiday, or anything else about you. If she were told that one of her job duties was to wish you a "Merry Christmas," she wouldn't care a whit about how your religious holiday went and she'd do it even if she wishes that the baby Jesus had never been born. If she were told to wish you a "Joyous Goru," she really wouldn't care whether Amma arrived, or not. Let's forget the fact that a god whose power is threatened by what a store clerk says or by a secular holiday isn't much of a god. Let's forget how weird it is that you insist that your religious holiday be honored by commercial establishments. And, let's forget the fact that no matter how many times you say differently, America is not a "xian nation."

Let's just talk about acting like adults and recognizing that forcing your religion down everyone else's throat is not, shall we say, the best way to win converts. Let's talk about the fact that it is entirely possible for me to not believe in a friend's religion nor his religious holiday but to, still, in good will, wish him a happy secular holiday and to hope that his religious holiday is full of meaning for him. Let's talk about the fact that it's pretty hypocritical to dump on liberals for being "too politically correct" and then run around policing how people wish each other an enjoyable secular holiday.

Time are tough. A lot of people are out of work, can't afford needed medical care, have lost their homes, are watching their planet die and their kids face a grim future. We could all use a few days of friends, family, whatever feast we can scrape together, a few gifts for the kids, an excuse to build a snowman or watch the Nutcracker (Hecate's least favorite ballet, ever, but, still). Could the xian Dominionists for once drop the pretense that just because two words sound alike they must mean the same thing? Because, honest, you're not fooling anyone; you're just making yourself look absolutely ridiculous.

Dear Mr. President: The Millenials Are Not BabyBoomers. Deal.

Go read the whole thing.

Picture found here.

hat tip: Erin

Not That Complicated

hat tip: stoat

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Teh Maths

Since he started Montessori school this Fall, G/Son has been making really big strides in learning to read and in learning about math. (A fussy former educator, I'm pretty happy w/ just about everything I've learned about his teacher, classmates, and school. Conversation today in the car: Nonna: "I hear that there's a creek at your school." G/Son: "Yes, it's a long walk from my classroom, but long walks outside are good for you, Nonna.")

A world-class worrier, I've never spent a moment worrying about this kid's ability to learn to read. But I am relieved to see his growing ability to think numerically. His dad was v good in math, which just goes to show you that it can't be all genes, genes, genes all the way down, because neither I nor Son's father had much facility with the maths. (Nor can it all be parental nurture all the way down, because the best thing I could do for Son's development as a mathematical human was to say, "Do your homework,"" and "Should I get you a tutor?" and, "Really, did you do your homework?") The only award at Son's high school that came with a check was the math award, which he won his senior year and applied to the purchase of his first computer.

I'm old enough to have grown up when it was definitely acceptable for girls to be good at English, Religion (I won that award every year at my Catholic school. Heh.), and the Social Sciences, but not at Arithmetic, Science, and Math. I come by my own inabilities honestly though, and not as a result of some "I'll be cute and act dumb" decision. My right brain abilities are as retarded as my left brain (and I'm just being honest here) abilities are advanced. I can't place one object in physical relationship to another object if my life depends upon it, and, often, that includes the physical relationship between my own body and the rest of the world. (Can you say multiple sprained and two broken ankles? I knew that you could.) There's a reason why I love ballet but didn't study it much beyond my early teens. I once spent the most intellectually intense hour of my life not figuring out an obscure legal concept but, instead, trying to figure out which rooms in my basement were under which rooms in the upstairs of my house and to be able to "feel" that my answers were right. No musical ability, no ability to draw or paint, no ability to read maps, no ability to sculpt, etc., etc. So, obviously, I honestly lack whatever it is that makes some people easily able to think about numbers. But I do imagine that, had I arrived here with a penis, someone would have been a bit more concerned about the inability of a clearly not-stupid person to do anything vaguely numerical.

Which is all a long way of saying that I'm quite relieved and happy to find G/Son enjoying his exploration of the world of numbers.

This morning, after an overnight at Nonna's house that involved watching Peter Pan (Nonna's inside-her-head-voice: "Someday, you are so going to get the concept of a 'puer aeternus'") , we were driving to G/Son's house, after a short stop for breakfast, and G/Son said to me, "Nonna, what if you have a 1 and a 0? That's not 1, because the 1 comes before the 0. That's ten." And (after thinking for a moment) I said, "That's right; when you write a 1 and a 0 together, it makes 10." G/Son said, "And, Nonna! Do you know what you get if you write a 2 and a 0 together?" Again, Nonna checked herself and said, "You get twenty?" G/Son said, "That's right. Because when the zero comes second, you are dealing with tens. Now, Nonna, ask me about what you get if you write a 3 and a zero together!" And, so, of course, I did and, so, of course, G/Son got it right. And, all the way from Nonna's cottage to G/Son's house, we played games about numbers and, then, in a feat unimaginable in any universe, the child dancing upon Gaia with about 25% of my defective genetic material counted from 1 to 200. What amazed me, and, really, this is the point of this post, and I DO have one, is how much fun this was for G/Son. Every time that he'd get another set of questions right ("What is 8 and 0? Eighty. What is 8 and 1? Eighty-one. What is 8 and 2? Eighty-two. . . . .") G/Son would just beam and, literally, laugh for joy. Whenever we got to a question that involved fives ("What do you get if you write 5 and 5 together?" "Fifty-five!") I would say, "Give me five!" and G/Son would chuckle with glee and slap my outstretched hand. The look of joy on his face was, well, to use a numerical expression, priceless.

If there's anything in the world that I wish for this child beyond good health, which, thank the Goddess, he seems to enjoy, it is joy in learning. G/Son: "Nonna! Ask me another one!"

I don't know what I may have done, in my (clearly) wicked youth or childhood, but, at some point, either Grace just took over or I may have done something good. At any rate, none of the boychilds that I have launched upon the world appear to bear my complete inability to manipulate numerical concepts. And, that is a v good thing.

You know, he goes right directly to my heart, completely w/o passing "go" this golden-haired elf, he does.

Picture found here.

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