Thursday, 23 December 2010

Isis-Hathor

Isis am I, and from my life are fed
All showers and suns, all moons that wax and wane,
All stars and streams, the living and the dead,
The mystery of pleasure and of pain
I am the mother! I the speaking sea!
I am the earth and its fertility!
Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness, return to me—
To me!

Hathor am I, and to my beauty drawn
All glories of the Universe bow down
The blossom and the mountain and the dawn,
Fruit’s blush, and woman, our creation’s crown.
I am the priest, the sacrifice, the shrine,
I am the love and life of the divine!
Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness, are surely mine—
Are mine!

Venus am I, the love and light of earth,
The wealth of kisses, the delight of tears.
The barren pleasure never comes to birth,
The endless, infinite desire of years.
I am the shrine at which thy long desire
Devoured thee with intolerable fire
I was song, music, passion, death, upon thy lyre—
Thy lyre!

I am the Grail and I the Glory now:
I am the flame and fuel of thy breast;
I am the star of God upon thy brow;
I am thy queen, enraptured and possessed.
Hide thee, sweet river; welcome to the sea,
Ocean of love that shall encompass thee!
Life, death, love, hatred, life, darkness, return to me—
To me!

Reprise

Isis am I, and from my life are fed
All stars and suns, all moons that wax and wane,
Create and uncreate, living and the dead,
The Mystery of Pain.
I am the Mother, I the silent sea,
The Earth, its travail, its fertility.
Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness, return to me—
To me!

- Aleister Crowley (from “Tannhauser”)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Yuletide Memories

Ten years ago we were living in our last apartment; the following spring we moved in with a friend for a couple of months prior to buying and moving into our house. For some reason, I've always retained good, clear memories of being in that apartment: the placement of the Isis shrine in front of the living room window, my personal senut shrine in the office/ritual room, things we did and saw while we lived there. It was while we were living there that I took my RPD and my shemsu vows. I started taking belly dance lessons then, though I ended up finding another teacher after we moved, which led to my dancing with the troupe for several years after. I remember that Yule in particular very distinctly; our apartment was on the far left side of the complex, with a line of large evergreen trees veiling us from the street and the pleasant-looking little neighborhood beyond. There was snow that year, and I went out among those evergreens and harvested a few boughs with my boline to decorate the Yule log that adorned our altar. Why that particular memory is so vivid, I couldn't say; but there it is, and there it has been for a decade.

And so now it seems both odd and appropriate that we're back in the same complex, though not in the same apartment. The home ownership experiment is now at an end, and I'm still processing that*; but now I'm back in a lovely, snug (as in one bedroom!) apartment in a complex with every amenity I could ever want, five minutes away from the nicest ice rink in the region, bookstores and libraries and all good things just a short drive from my door. The shift in my life that began in earnest quite literally at Samhain has brought me around to Yule very near that place of which I had such fond associations. There is a deciduous tree (a Maple) beyond my balcony now, rather than evergreens, but it was spectacularly aflame the day we first viewed the apartment (November 1st). I no longer have my Witches Cottage, or the more ample square footage of crap-storage space that the house afforded us, and we have given away truckloads of stuff: to the Goodwill, to a friend who now has the best-stocked pagan shop in town, to storage in my mom's attic, to a reenactor friend who now has furnishings for the 1811 house he's converting to shop space. It's quite bizarre how things progressed so neatly along with the natural cycle of decay beginning near the autumnal equinox, crashing down at Samhain, the dark period following filled with cleanup and mourning, and now we're just past the solstice and both literally and figuratively starting to see some light again. And once the dust has settled and the holidays are past (my birthday is a week and a half off, if you haven't started your shopping yet), I'll be back on the ice for the first time in nearly two years. That is, if I haven't expired from delayed stress reactions by then.

At this time of year, I celebrate both as a generally druidy-pagany sort as well as a Kemetic; Yuletide with mead and Scotch and all the trappings you'd expect, and also the Return of the Distant Goddess. Hathor's return this year has never been sweeter, or more welcome. Dua Hethert, and happy Yule. :)




* by which I mean ignoring it and not dealing with it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Creationist Theme Park!

Wow, Governor Beshear, seriously? I get that it's about potential revenue to be made, but still, it's not like Kentucky doesn't already have a reputation for being filled with backwards dumbassed hicks:

Proposal for Religious Theme Park to be Unveiled

The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Courier-Journal reported Tuesday that the proposal involves a full-scale wooden ark that would include associated museums, theaters, amenities, event venues and outdoor parking. Preliminary indications are that the attraction could draw as many as 1.6 million guests per year and would cost $24.5 million to build.
You all know how fond I am of when religion and government mix, and a gubernatorial endorsement of an unabashedly sectarian enterprise surely qualifies. And even worse, my own personal ethics won't allow me to visit such a venue; while I'm certain the lulz would be epic, I can't stand the thought of my money going to an organization supportive of causes that are to me anathema. That means no dinosaur rides for me.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!



I know it's not always seen as politically correct to celebrate this somewhat problematic holiday, but this year I finally feel I've got some things to be thankful for. In honor of the fact that I've been revamping my diet to be more heavily plant-based, I bring you an antique sacrificial vegetable man:


Hotep Netjer em shabu en imenet her iabyt!

(May the Gods be satisfied with the repast to the right and to the left!)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Burning Questions

I've long since learned that ignoring what is because of what might potentially be is a fool's game; so why do it, in any arena?

The worst, the nastiest, the most deeply damaged and damaging people I've known, and the ones who have wreaked the most havoc in my life, have been people I've met through the auspices of neo-paganism; so why meet or seek the companionship of such people?*

Is that another Bones lesson I'm supposed to be getting: the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result? Granted, Bones was not the first place I ever heard that statement, but it seems a suspiciously well-timed reiteration of it. But then, as Mulder once said, "if coincidences are merely coincidental, then why do they seem so contrived?"

(*This in no way refers to my Kemetic or FOI associations, which have been almost universally pleasant and positive.)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

November 17th

Today is the anniversary of my taking my first college degree (1989) and my first Wiccan degree (1994). Neither of them are doing me any good at this point in my life. :D

Monday, 25 October 2010

Thought for the day

We each apprehend the divine in the way our individual minds are best equipped to do so. If everyone knew this, understood this, and accepted this, things would be very different in the world.

Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

What do you get when you cross anthropology with parapsychology?

A very happy me, that's what:

The Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Just a bit of Poe.

"From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were--I have not seen
As others saw--I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov'd, I loved alone. "

Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, 7 October 2010

At the harvest festival

Earlier tonight, we went to the annual harvest festival that's been held in my hometown since the year I was born. It's a seasonal tradition for me, one of the signs of fall's sure arrival; I even won their pumpkin decorating contest when I was about 10, and still have the cornucopia-shaped trophy I was awarded. It's a street fair, with the usual deep-fried Twinkie (and cheesecake, and Reese's Cups, and Snickers...) and funnel cake booths, crafts and baked goods peddled by smiling church ladies--quintessential small-town stuff. And you never know what you might find.

There was one booth filled with serious Halloweeny goodness, very well-made and aesthetically appealing fiber-art decorations. Among the items available were "potion bottles," each with an affixed label featuring the main ingredient (all of them taken from Shakespeare!) and a mystical symbol. Clearly someone had done a bit of Googling for appropriate symbols with which to decorate witches' potion bottles, because all of them were recognizable, actual occult symbols. And then I saw this


on one of the bottle labels. I complimented the nice lady on her work (it all really was very well done) and we were off. That made me LOL. Oh crafts lady, if only you knew!


We interrupt this Halloween

to correct a misapprehension. We have not been reculed from one (hell, any) of the traditions in which we trained, nor have any of our initiates. Third degree initiates off us are apparently unrecognized, at least locally, because a particular allegedly required element was left out (by which I mean that said element was not put in and then taken out and then put back in and then taken back out and this action repeated--clear enough?) of the ritual. To my knowledge, said persons are still accepted as having been elevated to Second degree--although why anyone would care about being accepted by such a bag of dicks is incomprehensible to me. Why not just be a witch and get on with it?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day Six


I think the witch looks a bit lonely, outside in the cool night with only her cat for company, gazing in upon the people gathered in the warm and well-lit room. (Though what does she expect? She's a witch, an outsider by her very nature. She can't help what she is, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings, after all.)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pride (in the name of pagan)

There are many reasons why my partner and I are no longer part of the Pagan Pride Day project locally, but I can give you a handful of examples:

* 13th generation Hereditary Witches
* People who were "ordained" as prepubescents
* 22-year-old "elders"
* People with an alphabet soup of purchased academic credentials after their names

I am frankly not "proud" to claim any connection to any of the above.

(Also, something has gone awry with my keyboard, which is disallowing the usage of the apostrophe and the arrow keys. I wonder if it might be Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tart crumbs amongst the keys at fault?)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Coincidentally

I found myself just now reading a brief biography of Pamela Coleman Smith. Saw that her date of death was September 18th, 1951; looked up and realized it was midnight--and thus September 18th.

The spooky season is officially upon us.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Seek and Find

It seems odd to me now that I got so far off track as an adolescent, though I know that depression and stress often have precisely such an effect. Still I wish I would have kept sight of what drew me as a child; I might have focused on those things, driven deep into them and perhaps shielded myself a bit better than I ultimately managed, and my life today might have been much different for it.

Not that it changes a damned thing now; hindsight may be brutally accurate, but it's also miserably ineffective.

In any case, as a child, I was a miniature folklorist/anthropologist from a very early age, though I never thought in those terms; as I say, it's a shame, because I might have focused on those things and delved into formal study of them. My parents bought me a set of illustrated encyclopedias when I was barely big enough to hold the volumes, and I spent hours pouring over them. My particular fascination was with the rites and customs of other cultures. Life in small-town Indiana in the 1970s was not exactly rife with exoticism, and my daily life in any case largely revolved around trying to avoid both literal and metaphorical ass-beatings from my alleged peer group. Of course I sought escape in books, and my encyclopedias provided windows into worlds that looked significantly more appealing than the one I inhabited. The simple Sunday services of the nondenominational Protestantism my family embraced in those days held little appeal in comparison to the glossy photos of weird stuff going on in far-flung places: bonfires and incense and idols and feasts and dancing and drums and costumes and masks! I devoured information about--well, about anything other than what I was or could conceivably hope to experience. I felt no ties of ethnicity or sect; I was a whitebread little kid in the polyester world of the 70s suburbs, feeling alien and unwelcome, longing for adventure and identity. Longing for home.

To this day, no matter where I roam and what I throw in with, I always still feel more observer than participant. I almost always feel like an outsider, like a scholar who'd tried to "go native" but not quite pulled it off. I can understand things intellectually without ever getting a good grasp on the emotional underpinnings; I know the hows and the whys and the whats, but I don't seem to feel them, at least not in the ways that others appear to. The end result is what I do feel is frustration and alienation. (Does not play well with others. Not a joiner. Whatever.) At this age, I'm inclined to believe that it's simply how I'm wired, and that I ignore that knowledge at my own peril. I'm by nature a participant-observer, skewed more toward the observation end of the spectrum. I like to limit my involvements, my entanglements. I observe, and I file away bits of information which might be useful later. What I want most in life is knowledge. (Maybe that's why I kept drifting back into the whole G mess for so damned long--the fretful concern that there might still be knowledge out there that was being kept from me. Or maybe I'm just a very slow loser.)

I've been separating myself lately from entanglements that were exacerbating that frustration and alienation, and I feel much better for it. I know who and what I am, what I like, what I'm about. I'm content to be on the periphery of whatever "community" I encounter. I'm myself, and I'm part of a strong working partnership, and beyond that it's whatever may come--I'll take it or leave it as I see fit. These days I'm content to wear labels like "syncretist" and "eclectic" and the other types of words people want to throw at you when they can't quite figure out what else to call you; I draw inspiration from all over the place, and I'm only concerned with finding what works and optimizing it. From that unhappy, broken little girl with no sense of identity or connectedness I've forged a woman with a universalist sense of wonder and wisdom. Had I had a choice in the matter, I'm sure I would have chosen an easier path, but this was the one that was available. I'm still walking it. Have I found what I was seeking? Yes, and then some.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Typealyzer

I submitted this blog to The Typealyzer, and the result should come as no surprise to anyone:

INTP - The Thinkers
[INTP]
The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Today's WTF Moment

Uri Geller bought a Scottish island he claims contains ancient Egyptian treasures. I know, right? But wait: it gets goofier:

Tales of Scotland's ties to ancient Egypt date back to the 15th century, but many regard them as a bit of nonsense. According to the legend, King Tutankhamen's half-sister, Princess Scota, fell out with her family and fled to Ireland and then Scotland, thereby giving the country its name. Some say the alignment of [Geller's island] and two nearby islands closely mirrors the layout of the pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, not to mention the three main stars in the Orion's Belt constellation.


I've heard the Princess Scota legend before, of course, but as just that: a legend, a bit of folklore, a pleasing connection for someone like me who waffles daily between Kemeticism and Scottish folk witchcraft but not something to be taken as fact. So, LOLWHUT is my immediate response. Though wouldn't it be cool if it were true? ;)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Discrimination, Discretion, and Presentation

I was linked via email to this YouTube video of a young man who experienced religious harassment in his workplace, and it's worth the ten minutes of your time to hear his story. I am sympathetic, because I too experienced workplace bullying that was most likely of a religious origin, but at the same time I have to wonder if what he experienced--and what I experienced--was even slightly self-inflicted through lack of discretion.

(I just had an enormously strong flash of deja vu as I typed that; but then, I've been awake for less than half an hour, so I'm enclined to discount all weird brain phenomena until I'm fully conscious.)

What happened to me, over a decade ago now, isn't too hard to figure out. I trusted someone in the office who turned out to have a big mouth and not as open a mind as I'd thought; my web site became known to people with the ability to make my life very uncomfortable, and they did. I found a better job and I left. Could I prove that their behavior was religiously motivated? No; but the timing was suspicious enough that I can think of no other reason. Even had it been absolutely blatant, I would have been disinclined to try to press charges, for how on earth could I have proven anything? Plus, it wasn't like people ganged together to perform an exorcism on me at lunch time, or came round anointing my cubicle with holy water. They were just bitches to me, and when they started falsifying reports to make it appear that I wasn't producing (when I was in fact the department's top producer), I walked. And as much as I blamed them for being bitches, I also blamed myself for forgetting the cardinal rule of trust no one and thinking I worked with intellectual, tolerant people who could handle difference. (There was a transwoman who came to work there, too, and she lasted maybe a week; before she quit she sought me out and told me I was the only person at the place that talked to her like a human being. That makes me sad, and angry, to this day.)

As for the young man in the video, I am sympathetic, but only to a point. Some of you are probably going to accuse me of victim-blaming, but honestly, don't we all have at least some culpability in the way our actions impact our existence? (And shouldn't witches of all people be more cognizant of that than most?) He lives in Birmingham, Alabama of all places; is that a town you associate with religious liberty and tolerance? He has a wicca-focused YouTube channel and states that his tormentors knew of it; how did they find it? Did he speak openly of it at work? Did he wear ostentatious pagan jewelry? Was he an out-and-proud pagan in places where being one of the Hidden Children would have been more prudent? The old saying Discretion is the better part of valor is extremely applicable in these situations; knowing when to speak, to whom, and what the potential costs might be are difficult lessons which all of us on magical paths will eventually face. I don't fault this young man for his learning curve; I can only hope that he'll emerge from his experience stronger and wiser for it.

Lastly, let's talk about presentation, because this has become a big issue with me. I often cringe at the way my ostensible coreligionists present themselves: little attention given to clothing, questionable hygiene, unhealthy behaviors, bad grammar and spelling, etc. In short, an overall lack of professionalism. Pagans won't be taken seriously until they behave seriously--you know, like adults? Just a little? This video opens with bad spelling, then shows us a young man in clothing that says "I don't care how I appear to you." I understand that impulse; I followed it myself for years, with a splendid defiant disregard; but it handicapped me, and I can admit that now. He's got a two-liter bottle of soda in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and those things say "I don't care about my health, or about how I appear to you." And he frankly lost me when he stubbed out that cigarette on the ground (he is speaking in an outdoor setting) and left the butt on the ground. That says "I don't care about my health, I don't care about how I appear to you, and even though I say I'm a member of an earth-centered religion, I don't really care much about the earth, either." I scanned through some of the rest of the video after that, but I was disengaged. And I can guarantee that other viewers who are even less inclined to be sympathetic to a pagan cause than I will have checked out for those or other reasons as well.

If we--all of us who for whatever reason cluster beneath the umbrella of "pagan," willingly or grudgingly--cannot present ourselves effectively, our every effort is doomed to failure. A subculture cannot operate independently of its larger culture; and if it attempts to do so, it has to be aware there will be consequences, and accept them as inevitable. If we want fair and equitable treatment, we must present our case in a way that the larger culture will understand; we need, in short, credible witnesses. (I don't know that I come across that well myself, because I'm obnoxious and obtuse and sometimes insufferably pompous; but the other extreme isn't any more effective.)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Passages

I never met Isaac Bonewits; I knew of him as I know of so many other seminal figures in the modern neopagan movement of which I have been a part now for more years than really seems possible. He has been eulogized at length and eloquently now by those who did know him, so I won't even make the attempt. I have no real belief in or expectation of any kind of afterlife, but even so a return of our physical matter back into the matrix of nature whence we came doesn't seem like such a bad ending for a druid who clearly honored and exalted that matrix through his life and his work. So thank you, Isaac, for helping to more clearly mark the path that others would follow behind you.

Neopaganism is a new religion that's gotten old enough to see its founders start to age, and in some cases, die. That's a startling and sobering thing in itself. Gardner was long gone before I ever heard of any of this pagan stuff, and others like Sanders and Leek and the like passed on while I was still very young. But now I'm older myself, and more aware, and seeing the elders of this movement growing old, growing ill, hits down at that level where the nightmares lurk--as I am now, so shall you become, chilling as an eroding epitaph on an ancient tombstone (in a moss-shrouded graveyard at midnight, and with a vulture perched on top). We see our own mortality writ large in the passage of those who go before us. And even though our various systems that cluster under the "pagan" umbrella give much lip service to the idea of revering death, in the end who doesn't honestly fear the Reaper, just a little? It's not so much the actual death part that holds the horror, but the process of getting there.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Insert Expression of General Displeasure Here.

The past couple of months have been generally disagreeable, filled with fail and things imploding in dramatic (and often expensive) ways. I've backed down off the ledge for the moment, but it's still damned precarious. Time to get my mojo working.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Vacation Necronomicon School Day Two

No homework yet for today, the assignment being a lengthy one: read At the Mountains of Madness--a lengthy prospect--then create an image of what madness looks like. I think I'll do it in colored pencil, and with any luck my scanner will be up to the task of reproducing it.

Not now, but soon. Tonight, mundane tasks of home maintenance call.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Vacation Necronomicon School: Day One

(If you don't know what that means, click here.)

Today's assignment was Dagon (1919), one of Lovecraft's earlier works. In it, the protagonist finds himself cast adrift upon escape from imprisonment on a ship. He reacts at first with bemusement and curiosity, mixed with evident disgust, which turns with striking swiftness to madness when he finds himself faced with creatures at once appallingly humanoid and even more appallingly other. (I would state that his madness seems precipitated more by the creatures' twisted approximation of humanity than by their alienness.) He descends into a sucking morass of suicidal despair equal parts assuaged and fueled by an addiction to morphine brought on by his attempts at self-medicating in the wake of his fearsome discovery.

The principal difference I see between tales of this genre and those of Lovecraft's Victorian predecessors is the appearance of a sort of naturalistic horror; that is, creatures at once blindingly alien and yet somehow recognizable. Far worse than supernatural beings which the rational reader can easily dismiss as mere phantasm once the story has ended, these beasts resemble us just closely enough to make the reader question, if only for a moment, the possibility of such things existing--if only just below the surface of our carefully rational minds. I can think of no more efficient precursor to madness than that.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

In Which I Make No Sense At All, Probably

When I'm wearing my amateur Egyptologist hat, I want all my facts in order, I want evidence lined up in orderly ranks, I want surmise and conjecture and wild supposition to be kept to the absolute minimum. If I'm conducting a Kemetic ritual, you can expect that I will have done my homework well in advance, and that what I'm doing will have some basis in history, all the while recognizing that we are modern people in modern times in a completely different country and cultural milieux and that recreating the ways of the ancient Egyptians would be impossible on nearly every level without a staggering budget and a time machine. When I'm being my regular pagany self, then it's a syncretic free-for-all, and all bets are off. All I can promise is clarity, in the sense that I'll at least tell you of my intentions beforehand if you're going to be a part of the proceedings. I'll never promise you a Kemetic ritual and then cast a Wiccan-style circle, or anything like that (though that could happen if I were to, say, conduct an "Egyptian Pagan" circle or something along those lines). I try to keep my abstract and ill-defined paganity separate from my hardcore Egyptological leanings, though some crossover is I suppose inevitable.

I was hoping if I just ran with this theme I'd eventually come to a point, but that's looking less and less likely, so I'll end this here for now. Expect more blathering along these lines in the future.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Uplifting Messages

The Baptist church marquee was particularly uplifting today. It said

I already deserve Hell

I don't have to do Anything More

(The caps were even more random, but I can't recall them precisely.)

Cheerful, that. Imagine a worldview--imagine a personal state of mind--in which you are so flawed, so inherently BAD, that you believe yourself to be worthy of an eternity of unimaginable torment, simply for having been born. I find that I can't imagine that, actually; that's profound mental illness, not a spiritual system. (Though in my more cynical moments, I am hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two.)

I find that I'm less offended by these screeds than I am filled with a bone-deep sorrow. How horrible must it be to live your life under that kind of internal tyranny. I am deeply, deeply grateful that my mind does not work that way.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Blog Silence

I find myself curiously disinterested in blogging much, these days. It's not that I've nothing to rant about--there's always something to rant about--nor am I particularly depressed or anything; it's more a sense of stasis, of precarious balance between one place and another. I have always been partial to those spaces-in-between, so this place I'm in now is in no way unpleasant; but neither is it very exciting from a narrative standpoint.

There's no identity crisis taking place; I know perfectly well who and what I am, perhaps more so now that I've dropped even the faintest pretense of trying to fit any part of me into a box designed for an utterly alien species. There's no crisis of faith; "faith" as it is generally defined has never played much of a role in my existence. I've been immersing myself in Egyptology lately, coming full circle back to that old and abiding passion and finding that I love it now as much as I ever did. I'll shortly be starting up a course in Middle Egyptian, and if the Gods are kind then before complete decrepitude sets in I'll be able to finagle a way to finance the Manchester University program. I won't be pursuing an advanced degree in Egyptology; I'd have to move elsewhere to do so, and frankly I enjoy eating regular meals too much to consider trying to find work in the field. When I'm ever able to return to college, it will most likely be to either continue my psychology/sociology studies, or to move on into anthro; but that's also for later. For now, Middle Egyptian, along with my FOI program (which will culminate in me designing my own course, eventually) will keep me occupied.

It's the absolute height of summer now, hot as all hell, stiflingly humid, everything feeling swollen and ripe not just with possibility but with eventuality, which is even more portentous and thrilling. (I like that my fandom presses that theme, as well: everything happens eventually and nothing happens but first a dream and this all works out in the end.) The end of this month brings the beginning of the harvest season, though in truth it's an ongoing process: fruit drooping eagerly from branches, tomatoes growing plump and heavy day by day, berries falling readily into waiting hands. May the crops, physical and intellectual, that I've been tending so far this year prove to be as succulent at the harvest.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Midsummer


Maybe it's cliched of me, but I have a copy of this painting; it goes nicely with my living room decor, which is a mix of Craftsman and antique weirdness. It's really quite brilliantly atmospheric, and if you stare at it long enough, spooky as hell. The deceptively warm glow of the fairy* ring around the protagonist's feet stands in sharp contrast to the eldritch gleam of the forest depths behind her. Would you like to wander that wood alone late at night? I didn't think so. Gods only know what's lurking in there. Assuming you make it out of that fairy ring alive, that is; contrary to popular modern belief, the little people of ancient legend were not always kindly disposed toward humanity. Clearly she summoned them with her flute; but that doesn't mean they'll necessarily be inclined to let her leave.


There are woods behind my house, and I'm pleased to report that I've never seen quite that glow emanating therefrom. Of course, I also don't go out deliberately trying to stir up anything that I'm not very certain that I can deal with upon its arrival...


May your Midsummer be a happy one!



* I refuse to use any of the insufferably twee spellings such as faerie or feyrie, dammit.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

You Got Smote! Irony Edition

The 62-foot tall roadside statue of Jesus (also known as "Touchdown Jesus" and "Big Butter Jesus") has been a fixture along I-75 north of Cincinnati for several years now; I've actually driven past it a couple of times while passing through Ohio, and was delighted by the colossal absurdity of the thing. Last night, when severe thunderstorms ripped through the region, the statue was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving behind only its metal framework. An act of God? More likely an act of climate change, which is the prime suspect in the uber-weird weather patterns we're seeing. It is even more ironic to note that the statue was constructed of polystyrene--that is, Styrofoam, a petroleum-based plastic; maybe Mother Nature is pissed off at the bazillions of gallons of oil still spewing into her ocean and decided to put the smackdown on a recognizable symbol? :D

Hope that church had good insurance. I wonder if He'll be back in three days?

Monday, 14 June 2010

Giving a Presentation

I'm planning on giving a talk about modern Egyptian-style paganism* at this year's Louisville Pagan Pride Day. Since I'm also the day's announcer and one of the facilitators of the closing ritual, this may be an example of "biting off more than I can chew."





* It will be a very squinty-type talk, full of facts and history and stuff, because that's just how I roll. I am constitutionally incapable of doing "workshops" that are like crafts day at the mental hospital with everyone making macaroni pictures and calling it Magick, and I also do not do well with presenting the subjective as fact, so I stick with the verifiable. :)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Anubis Controversy

Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken this long for a kerfluffle to arise.

Some Denver residents are troubled by the colossal statue of Anubis that accompanies the travelling King Tut exhibition. One concerned citizen (perhaps the only one?), one Millie Lieberman, had this to say:

"The black on it represents the decaying body. To me it's a very sick and poor representation of what we're all about here in Denver," Lieberman said. "Why would they choose that, out of the whole King Tut collection, to welcome visitors and returning residents to our city?"


(Well, since the entire exhibition is comprised of funerary goods associated with the most famous near-intact Egyptian tomb ever excavated, then having a colossal statue of the pre-eminent mortuary deity seems a very obvious choice.)

A piece posted on the All About Egypt blog picks up the point that most interested me: that some (perhaps the Concerned Citizen quoted above) questioned why a pagan god could be displayed publicly when a Christian cross could not. You can probably hear my head hitting the desk all the way over there, can't you? The response is just short of epic:

City officials said the rule of separation between church and state does not apply here because Anubis is a god from a “dead religion”.


A few thousand Kemetics of various types might beg to differ on the "dead" part, but we'll let that slide. The blinding idiocy of the assertion lies not in questions of living vs. dead religions, but in the difference between an ART INSTALLATION and GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED SECTARIAN DISPLAYS--and that is important enough to warrant a good caps-locking. No government body plopped Anubis on a plinth and commanded He be worshipped, but there are certainly disingenuous sorts proclaiming that the Christian cross erected on federal lands in the Mojave Desert was but a secular monument to dead veterans. (I wonder if they'd defend Anubis if we stuck him out in the desert to look after the dead--that was one of His functions, after all.)

So there's your teapot tempest for today: whining about a statue of a god you don't even believe in setting a bad example of what your city stands for. And yes, in a way, I'm surprised it's taken this long for someone to make a fuss over poor old Anubis, Who has been travelling round the country with the exhibition. Maybe I'm mildly irked that the biggest thing on the horizon when I visit my favorite city is the world's tallest cross; but I've never complained about it to the media.

Religious Lunacy Jumps The Shark

Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast-Feeding. You know, to establish a "maternal bond" between unrelated persons of the opposite sex, so they can be in the same room together or something.

I would say "there are no words," but of course that's not true. There are plenty, many of them obscene, most merely incoherent. What is it about the desert monotheisms that breeds the crazy? Does the heat just bake their brain function out of them?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Doing It Wrong Is SRS BSNS (x-post)

(Note: I had this lovely rant over at my other blog this morning, and I thought it applicable here as well.)

I am withdrawing from dealing, on any level, with what one might call "hardcore" or "fundamentalist" types, depending on the circumstance and/or the subculture at issue. I've finally fully separated myself from the spiritual versions of such, and I've had it with the historical versions as well. Just reading posts on message boards makes me want to punch people in the face, which I suspect would only aggravate my incipient carpal tunnel syndrome (and earn me an assault charge). I used to read certain mailing lists and message boards for the occasional nugget of useful research information, but the ratio of signal-to-noise is such these days that it's just no longer worth it. If I need to know something, I'll Google it, thanks, or go to the library. The clamor of self-styled "experts" just annoys me beyond endurance.

Honestly? I don't care. I don't care if someone, somewhere, is doing something wrong. I don't care if they're casting their circle in a different manner or interpreting some arcane bit of folklore in a new way. I don't care if some other historical reenactor is wearing a machine-stitched garment or moccasins that have cushioned soles or modern eyeglass frames. I don't have time or energy to be bothered with the tempests that people brew daily in teapots for their own twisted entertainment. I'm sick unto death of clench-butts who, waving the flag of "conservatism" or "preserving a tradition", do nothing but drive people away and ruin their experience of something that should have brought joy and pleasure to their lives. If people aren't doing something in the way that you feel it MUST be done, then do everyone a favor and take yourself off to whatever rarified place you can find with others of your level of perfection. Then the rest of the world can get on with enjoying their chosen activities and not feel compelled to punch you in the face for being a complete, utter, unbearable asshead.

I'm a Costumed Interpreter at a museum; that is one of the things that I do. Our costumes are far from perfectly documented historically accurate garments--and that's fine. Take for example the dress I'll be wearing for summer open house. It's beautiful, and it was made for me; it's apple-green heavy satin with a soft, non-shiny finish, with a squared neckline and a bustled train trimmed with cream rosettes. It also has a zipper up the back! In all the times I've worn that dress, or any of our other costumes, I have never had a patron complain of its lack of authenticity; what I usually hear is, "That's such a pretty dress!" If anyone has questions about period garb, I have encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and will happily prattle for hours until you fall asleep or drop dead of boredom--but if you don't, then I say thank you for the compliment and move right along. And yes, I do have a point, and I think I may even be coming near it.

I am not advocating the dispensing of incorrect information; but I am stating quite plainly that there are levels of authenticity, of accuracy, and of perceived "correctness," and not everyone will or can or should be expected to attain to the same level. If you are the hardest of hardcore historical reenactor who despises the presence of "the public" as detrimental to your experience of faux time travel, then don't go to an event where the public can come to watch. If you are the hardest of hardcore trad wiccan or whatever whose experience of the sacred is hopelessly sullied by the presence of those who don't take it as seriously or don't have the same perceptions of what is required, then go do what you feel needs doing in the presence of those who feel the same way. Live and let live, why is that impossible so difficult for some people? If someone is doing something that is not up to my standards (yes, I have them, and yes, they are often quite high), I simply leave them to it, and carry on on my own or with others who are at my chosen level; I don't call them idiots or try to guilt and humiliate them on the internet. And I am frankly mystified by those who do. Why? What on earth does it serve?

Oh my, look at that soapbox; wherever did that come from? ::kicks it back under the table:: If you're wondering, this rant was sparked by reading through a SEVEN-PAGE (at last count) thread on a reenactor board concerning the armageddon-inducing wrongness of a particular maker's moccasin. There are altogether far too many people in the world with far too much time on their hands, which they occupy with internet assery and focusing on inconsequentials. Couldn't you go volunteer at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter or something if you're that bored? Why not make the world a better place, instead of spreading strife and annoyance?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Gods In Unlikely Places

There is a statue of Isis on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa.


She is veiled, and of a vaguely Greco-Romanish style judging by the draping of her robes. At her feet is an inscription in French (see it here) which, if I recall correctly, comes from Apuleius:

Je suis ce qui a ete, ce qui est et ce qui sera, et nul mortel na encore leve le voile que me couvre.

Which translates, roughly, to "I am She who was, who is and who will be, and no mortal has ever lifted the veil that covers Me."

The statue was a gift from the Belgians (thus explaining why the inscription is in French) to President Hoover, for his humanitarian work on their behalf during WWI. She is holding something in her right hand which I can't identify. I wonder if any pagans or Kemetics in Iowa ever visit her, and bring her offerings.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Latest Egyptian Tomb Discovery

57 tombs, mostly 18th Dynasty, have been discovered at Lahoun near Cairo. The oldest of the tombs date back to the archaic period of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. The discoveries are of special interest to those studying the Egyptian religion:

...one of the oldest tombs is almost intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.

In 31 tombs dating to around 2030-1840BC, archaeologists discovered scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the falcon-headed Horus, Hathor, Khnum and Amun, decorating some of the tombs.

Intact burials are exceptionally rare at this late date, most of them having been plundered in antiquity (or later on by the "gentlemen adventurers" of archaeology's infancy). I'm looking forward to learning more about these finds. I wonder if Zahi Hawass will make a Discovery Channel special about this? ;)

Friday, 21 May 2010

Morning Christian Double Header

The sign in front of the Baptist church was succinct, this morning.

Our stalking enemy:

it said;

the deviL

(And yes, that random cap at the end was present; the sign's messages are often rife with random capitals, a stylistic choice that invariably makes me want to gnaw through the restraining straps.)

I wonder what that feels like, to have an Adversary so clear-cut and obvious, an Other onto which blame can always be shifted, an Answer for why things can go so terribly, terribly wrong. I'm not made that way, and so I'll never know; I'm left with the complexity of a life built of choice upon choice, decision after decision, cause and effect. (They are too, however unwilling they might be to accept it.)

Driving on in to work, we passed a van advertising for an electrician. I won't give the name of the company, but I will say that the "t" in the "Electric" half of that name was a big yellow cross. On the side of the van, underneath the company name, was written this motto:

Obeying the code to connect to the power.

I sense a double meaning behind that phrase. On the surface, it sounds like a straightforward reassurance: Yes, our work is up to code, and therefore trustworthy. But I'm hearing a bit of a dogwhistle, too, in words like code and power. The "power" part is easy enough, but to what "code" might they be referring? Maybe the Ten Commandments could be counted as a sort of code of conduct. I doubt they were referring to the Code of Hammurabi, because while it's barbarous tone should certainly be appealing to a certain sector of the Christian world, it was Babylonian in origin, and Christianity has long-standing Issues with the Babylonians. It was all very interesting just the same.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ethical Statements

I highly recommend reading the final draft of the community statement on religious sexual abuse,
as well as reading over the discussion of it going on at the Wild Hunt. For the record, I am very much in agreement with the principles outlined in the statement, wholeheartedly support such efforts, and will become a signatory thereof.

I also recommend reading Sia's declaration of Earthwise Ethics. She covers a variety of important issues and bundles them neatly into one place. Between this and the sexual abuse statement linked above, I can't find a single principle that I disagree with, or that I do not at least strive to uphold even if I sometimes fall short of my desired goals.

Spiritual people, particularly those in leadership or priestly positions, must behave ethically, must set for themselves a high standard of conduct, and absolutely must be willing to uphold and defend those standards and ethics, even when so doing causes personal strife. I say this from bitter personal experience, and I affirm that those experiences have not cured me of standing up for the things I believe in. If anything, they've reinforced in my mind the necessity and importance of taking stands and fighting for abstracts like justice and truth and honor and such. Fighting for Ma'at. Those things are worth fighting for, and what do you stand to lose--the esteem of the unethical? Not such a big loss, that!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Important Things

Religion often seems to skew people's priorities, convincing them that inconsequential things are in fact the most important. The reasons for it being useful to convince people of this are varied, but they generally come back to benefiting someone in a position of power, however tenuous or limited that power. Why some people are willing to be convinced (or to convince themselves) that Certain Things must be done in Certain Ways, no matter how potentially damaging or degrading or even just laughable they are, remains an abiding mystery to me. I don't get it; my brain cannot be contorted into the necessary position* in order for me to comprehend. The Gods do not decree that humans must do this or that or the other thing; humans do. Humans create religious systems to meet their own needs, not the needs of any deity. The fact that human needs are very rarely altruistic where religion is concerned is merely the icing on a very unpleasant cake.

After our most recent run-in with some former co-religionists, these lessons have been reaffirmed in my mind. It made me angry when it happened, because it was a source of pain for people that I care deeply about, as well as being a source of great irritation to me--irritation because I resented having to turn even an iota of my attention to things that were ultimately so inconsequential. None of that shit matters, people. Socio-religious psychodrama serves to satisfy some sick craving in otherwise idle minds; and it is my reasoned and professional opinion that people need to get some damned hobbies rather than waste their time playing at amateur-hour cult leader. It's just--it's sad. I was reading someone else's blog the other day, and she spoke of being berated by a Christian god-shouter and how his desperation struck her as being so incredibly sad that she actually hugged the guy, and I think I understand that. I don't want to hug the former co-religionists--honestly, I'd really rather punch them in the face--but I do feel a certain pity for them. It is sad to see people wasting their time and their intelligence and their abilities on nothing. And at the end of it all, that's really what they're left with: nothing. Because none of the posturings and the pretensions and the pronouncements mean a damned thing in the end. The fate of nations does not rest thereon. Fire will not rain down from the sky because someone thinks someone else is doing something wrong. And no god worth the label would turn even a moment's notice to the ridiculous declarations humans make against their fellows in Their names.

So what does matter? Your friends. Your family. The people you love, and that love you. The condition of the planet on which we live, and what you do that impacts that. What moves you spiritually, which so rarely has anything to do with any particular religious system. I won't invoke the so-called "Wiccan Rede," because it's been done to death, but I will state that there is nothing at all wrong with being a good person, and minimizing the harm you do to others while living your life seems to me to be a reasonable thing. If your religion is requiring you to be an asshole, maybe you should rethink your religion.


* i.e. very very far up my ass.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Clue-hammer of the Gods

As you may have deduced, yesterday was rather unpleasant, albeit apparently necessary--since the smartest people are often the ones that make the stupidest mistakes. Frustrated and fed-up with the situation at hand, I decided last night to distract myself by picking a random episode of Bones on Hulu. I chose a first-season episode that I'd never seen before, sat down to watch it, and was able to spend the next hour being outraged on Dr. Brennan's (and the murder victim's) behalf. The parallels didn't strike me completely until this morning. The victim had been lured in by a couple of s/m cultists who promised her things she wanted and needed (drugs, escape from her parents) but in actuality kept her bound and servile until at last it killed her. Dr. Brennan, on the other hand, had her work and her trust betrayed by a colleague who was also a friend and a lover; he went on to publicly excoriate her on the witness stand and declare that it wasn't anything personal. (I wish she'd punched his face in, which would have been deeply vicariously satisfying, but at least she told him to go to hell.) Brennan was vindicated in the end, and the murderers brought to justice; but even so, she'd still been betrayed, and the victim was still dead.

I'm not going to go into details about what happened yesterday; we got complacent, an old feud rose from the dead, and the rest of the day was spent fending off metaphorical zombies. The pain and frustration it caused were very real, and yet the entire situation is laughable; if you stripped away the names of the organization and the particular identifying details, then laid out the behaviors and actions, these people would be indistinguishable from any other dangerous and damaging cult out there (with the possible exception of a monetary angle; they do have an aversion to that, of a sort). The hardest thing for me to deal with is the fact that I ever for even a moment believed it to be anything else.

It struck me on the way to work today that there were parallels between what had just gone down, and the events in the Bones episode I'd chosen at random. It struck me so hard that it choked me up; I was literally almost in tears, when I realized that out of eleven shows displayed on the screen, each with a one-line descriptor, I'd chosen the one that would have the most relevance to my current situation, and that would resonate most deeply with me and reinforce the conclusions I'd reached. Jeez, it's almost enough to make me...I dunno, believe in stuff or something.

As Mulder once famously asked Scully, If coincidences are merely coincidental, then why do they feel so contrived? Why indeed.

This morning, the next section of my FOI coursework was waiting in the mailbox, just in time for me to begin it at the auspicious time of the New Moon. My inner Sekhmet raged yesterday, and within my mind the streets ran red with blood; but today, she is sated on pomegranates and truth. Temperance, remember? Another word for that is Ma'at. Funny how I didn't make that connection until just this moment.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Declaration of Independence

Wow. What dumbasses we are, seriously.

Remember what I said awhile back, about how we could just be considered Independent Gardnerians and we could own that tradition we trained in and blah-de-da-de-dah? Yeah. Or, you know, not.

Never again. The G-word is hereby expunged from my vocabulary, because if I ever have to endure another day of fuckery such as I have had today, someone is going to die. (Most likely, me, from a brain aneurysm.) Book-smart and people-dumb; that's me, remember? We've gone over this before.

Drop the G-word, but keep the Independent. Details beyond that are superfluous at this moment. And if I forget again some time in the future, someone please remind me?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Thursday, 6 May 2010

National Day of Prayer

As you could probably guess, I'm not a fan of the National Day of Prayer, a blatantly sectarian "holiday" which is also quite blatantly unconstitutional, as in fact a federal judge recently ruled. The day originated in the Red Scare era, when it became de rigeur (not to mention politically expedient) to put forth displays of nationalistic piety lest one be branded a Godless Communist; it's the same era that gave us "In God We Trust" in the Pledge of Allegiance, for example. Click that initial link up there and tell me the current manifestation of the NDoP is in any way inclusive or interfaith. I'm frankly irked that President Obama pandered to the perpetuation of this divisive little artifact, but I'm not at all surprised; even now, it's politically expedient to make nice with the Christian right, which still holds an inordinate amount of power in this nation, no matter how much some of their mouthpieces might like to whine about persecution. If I pray for anything today, it'll be that I live long enough to see a day when relics like this "national day" are no longer considered useful for a progressive, progressing society.

Friday, 30 April 2010

May Eve

Today is the eve of Beltane, the cross-quarter day that marks the passage from winter to summer, and the mid-point between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. It is a very green time, when the earth laughs in leaves and flowers, when the air is fragrant and soft, when all is lush and fecund and heady with possibility. Nowadays it's often celebrated with bonfires and Maypole dances and revelry of a non-family-friendly nature. For many modern neo-pagans, Beltane is a celebration of fertility, of union, of the joining of Goddess and God, man and woman, earth and sun, to bring forth the ever-renewing promise of--well, of everything: of life and light and love. It's a joyous time, the counterpart of Samhain's dark sorrows. And of course, it's the promise of joy coming around again that makes those sorrows bearable, isn't it?

I've lost the name of the artist who created the lovely painting to your right--literally, within the last five minutes; when I tried to find the source image again, it wasn't where it had been when I'd Googled it up just minutes before. So now I'll leave you with a seasonally-appropriate lyric, before it too vanishes into the May Eve mists: Cup of Wonder, written by Ian Anderson for Jethro Tull:

May I make my fond excuses for the late-ness of the hour;
But we accept your invitation, and would bring you Beltane's flower.
For the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley will heed this song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady and pass the plate to all who hunger.
And pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.
And pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

Ask the Green Man where he comes from, ask the cup that fills with red.
Ask the old grey standing stones who show the sun his way to bed.
Question all as to their ways, and learn the secrets that they hold.
Walk the lines of Nature's palm, crossed with silver and with gold.
Pass the cup and pass the lady and pass the plate to all who hunger.
And pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.
And pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

Join in black December's sadness, lie in August's welcome corn.
Stir the cup that's ever filling with the blood of all that's born.
But the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley will heed this song that calls them back.
And pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.
And pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Senenmut and the Chamber of Secrets

Lovely article here on Pharaoh Hatshepsut's advisor Senenmut. The Google translation is a bit odd in spots, so if you're at all fluent in Spanish you might want to read the original.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Spiritual Tourist, Home Again

So I'm home again, after a week in St. Augustine, and it was good, as it almost always is. After well over a decade of annual treks, it's become a place of pilgrimage for me, and never mind that the town is as Catholic as can be; it's still a comfortable place for me.

I've been on the road for about 13 hours, so I'm very tired and have cats that need some attention and some pyramidiocy on TV that needs to be yelled about. More later!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sign of the Times: Eternity

Yesterday's church sign message was this:

I can't end it all
I'll still have to face eternity

My initial reaction was along the lines of "what is this I don't even--" but I soon copped a clue. This was a mildly more subtle way of saying "Guess what, sinner? THERE IS NO ESCAPE. Life sucks? Kill yourself? YOUR AFTERLIFE WILL SUCK EVEN HARDER."

Now, if I'm being completely honest, I have to say that I'm agnostic on the subject of an afterlife; never having been dead, I can't tell you what happens next. However, as there is no compelling evidence that I've found to support the empirical existence of an afterlife, I tend to operate on the assumption that this life is, in fact, the only one I'm going to have. (That was a very pompous pronouncement. I think I'm channeling Scully this morning. Woot!) And quite frankly, if that life became insupportable--think terminal horrific illness insupportable--I might well seek to end it, and I do and will always support the rights of others to do so. It's ridiculous to worry about a hypothetical eternal ever-after when the right now is unbearable.

The idea of an afterlife seems to be rooted in ego-attachment, the inability of the self-absorbed to conceive of a world without their presence in it; but the world was turning long before you or I existed, and it likely will continue to do so long after we have ceased to be. To my mind this is all the more reason to make this life count, and to be the best possible person in all the ways that matter. There are many, many things in life that I wish I had done differently or at all or not at all, places I wish I'd seen, people I'd prefer never to have known, whatever; that's life, no one gets out of it alive, and anyone who makes it to the end and claims to have no regrets is probably a liar. All the more reason to be conscious and mindful every day of what you're doing and how it's going to ripple out and affect you and your world and the people in it. Do I do that? Not so much as I'd like. Do I fail at that? Every damn day, in some way. Is it still my goal? Always.

Eternity is now, and life is right here. If a door has closed, open the window. You don't always have to end it all to start again. (I'll stop here, lest I drown us all in pithy aphorisms.)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Beannacht

Beannacht
("Blessing")

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.


~ John O'Donohue ~
(Echoes of Memory)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Past-Life Payback

"Karma" through reincarnation: Being punished for something you don't remember doing in a life you don't remember living.

Sorry, but I don't think that's how it works!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Resurrecting Gods

In keeping with the themes I touched on, however awkwardly, in my previous post, I bring you a link to Dr. Jean Houston's essay The Ritual Mystery of the Resurrection. It seems appropriate for a brilliant Easter morning when the world beyond my window is fairly bursting with renewed life. :)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Sorrowful Mysteries

In the calendar followed by the liturgical Christian denominations, this is Holy Week: the days leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. Sacrificial, dying and resurrecting gods are familiar to us from many cultures, the celebrations of their stories most often closely tied to the agricultural cycles of their places of origin. I was feeling a bit wistful earlier, wondering how it felt to be a literal believer in Christ or another deity, to the point of really deeply engaging with the mythos on an emotional, visceral level. I thought at first that such a feeling would be very alien to my nature--until I realized that it was anything but. I engage on that level frequently, just not in a religious context. Let me explain.


I'm one of those annoying vaguely neo-Jungian types--and you can blame that on my educational background if you like, or on some other personality defect--inclined to blithely spout off about archetypes and symbols and other infuriating buzzwords. While I love the concrete in regular life, spiritually I'm all about the abstractions, baby. It does make it hard for me to grok the soul-deep ecstatic experiences that others claim to have, though I'm comfortable enough just marking that down to differences in our wiring. We're not all designed for the same experience of the sacred, and that's less of an issue for me than it is for those who find my skepticism off-putting or dismissive. (For the record, I rarely mean it that way.) Thus, not being a religious literalist, I am rarely deeply emotionally moved by myth, though of course I can find it very inspirational and meaningful. But who says it has to be a religious myth?



This is Agent Scully; you may remember her from The X-Files. To say that I was and am an XF fan is to also note that fire burns and water is wet. Agent Scully, in this photo, is not happy; she has just discovered the corpse of her partner, Agent Mulder, in a field beneath a tree. (A similar thing happened to Isis, when she sought out Osiris' body and found it lodged in a tamarisk tree.) I was deeply engaged with and emotionally invested in the Mulder/Scully mythos, and I suffered along with them through many years and many changes. And when Scully--as channeled by Gillian Anderson there--fell to her knees and screamed "NO! This is not happening!" as if the words were being ripped from her along with her still-beating heart, I too wept, and agonized along with her, and knew vicariously the viciousness of loss. Through Scully, I came to understand the mourning of Isis. Through Scully, I came to understand grief and love just a little bit better, in ways that I had not yet had to face.


Those of us who become involved in fandom are engaging with myth on a daily basis. Those myths may be secular in intention, but what they express to us becomes spiritual in scope. Through myth we examine ourselves through others, we rehearse for those pivotal human experiences yet to come in our lives, or try to recapture those that have already passed.

Whether or not the myth that moves you is of ancient source and religious intent, or as new as next week's episode of a powerfully moving series, does not matter. Let me repeat that: it doesn't matter. What matters is you, and how you engage with the material, and what it means to you--how it moves you, what it makes you think, how it makes you feel, what kind of a person you discover yourself to be because of it. Those are the real mysteries. Agent Booth and Dr. Brennan over there aren't looking too happy themselves, though I daresay they're in better shape than poor Scully; I'll participate in their mythos as it unfolds and find lessons for myself therein. You might take something away from tomorrow's Caprica, or from seeing Avatar again, or from a marathon of Deep Space Nine on DVD. Myth is not restricted to specific times or cultures; it's alive and flourishing within us and all around us, in our popular culture just as surely as it is in our ritual circles and our history books and our churches. The real mysteries transcend all of those things, and are found when the divide between the without and the within fades away.


And in that moment, the Sorrowful Mysteries turn joyous.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Stuff Pagan Culture Likes Is Live!

I said I was going to, didn't I? With many thanks to my partner-in-crime, Glaux, Stuff Pagan Culture Likes is up and running. Go and have a look and let us know what you think--and know that if you are terribly offended and behave badly, we will point and laugh at you. :)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Visiting The Lady

Anubis arrives in New York Harbor; Lady Liberty appears to be greeting him.





Friday, 26 March 2010

Spirituality for Sale

Over at Letter from Hardscrabble Creek, Chas Clifton makes a point rarely heard from a modern pagan: namely, that throughout history and across cultures, spiritual ceremonies and services have always come at a cost. Taking money for conducting rites is frowned upon by many neo-pagans (though there always seem to be plenty of them willing to part with cash for "workshops" or to attend festivals where rituals and instruction will be offered). To my mind, having such an extreme aversion to the exchange of cash for services rendered is just as indicative of an unhealthy attitude toward money as would be charging exhorbitant amounts for same. The old adage about fools and their money applies here as in secular life, and if there are unscrupulous charlatans out there eager to part them from it, aren't those fools at least partly responsible for their own actions?

No one likes to talk about that kind of responsiblity, either--and I'll admit to being a bit twitchy myself about banging the "personal responsibility" drum these days, since it's become such a rallying cry among certain political factions that I personally find reprehensible, but I'm damned if I can let people off the hook for making utterly stupid choices. I've made some incredibly dumb-assed decisions in my life, too. Everyone has. But there's dumb-assed and then there's dangerous, and if you're going to go out into the world and call yourself a magician and think you have the ability to shape and change your world, then you'd best be able to demonstrate at least the marginal ability to make rational decisions. It's about the least you can do, and it's a shame that it seems to be beyond so many.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Word to the (un)Wise

A scholar's corpus of work cannot be invalidated simply on the basis of it not supporting your biases or upholding your pet theories. But I do love that the craft has its own equivalent of young-earth creationists.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Stuff Pagan Culture Likes

I think it would be amusing to keep a blog called Stuff Pagan Culture Likes. The idea, of course, comes from sites like Stuff Christian Culture Likes and Stuff Christians Like, both of which were likely inspired by Stuff White People Like. (There does exist a blog called The Stuff Pagans Like, but as it hasn't been updated since last July it may be dead.) The only thing that's stopping me is a vague sense that I might end up being less humorous and more mean-spirited, and I'm trying very hard these days to be, if not nice exactly, at least less consistently negative. I've noticed that I find it much easier to be objective when studying other cultures than when examining my own co-religionists, and it bothers me somewhat. (Only somewhat; there are vast quantities of things and people that deserve a righteous snarking, and I am quite qualified to provide it.)

I'm sure I'd get a lot of hate mail, though, of the "OMG you're so meeen" variety. Or, more likely, I'd receive the kind of response that was often lobbied at me back in the days when I was listmod for a traditional Gardnerian e-list a mail group that has long since closed, to wit: "If you think/believe/feel that way, why are you even here?" Just a veteran of the old internet flame wars, that's me. Online outrage is the same as it ever was.

Stuff Pagan Culture Likes. I do like the idea of it, sort of a humorous sociological study, the anthropology of the absurd. Perhaps I will.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Sign of the Times

This morning, the sign out in front of the local Southern Baptist church* said this:


In the eyes of Jesus,
you're either a sheep or a goat.



Now, this implies a certain value judgment about these two rather different species, as well as presuming a knowledge on the part of the reader about the behavioral characteristics of them. Let's consider, then.


Sheep are docile, herbivorous ruminant mammals, easily led and prone to gregarious habits; they flock, in other words, and are manipulable by their handlers. They are typically more malleable in larger groups; a flock of less than four may exhibit less predictable behavior.


A "sheep person," therefore, would be one content to go along with the crowd, willingly being led by a dominant personality--preferably one dispensing something desirable, be that food (for an actual sheep) or things of a more ethereal nature (for a spiritual sheep). You'll want to play on that herd mentality, though, because if left to their own devices they might wander off.


Goats, on the other hand, are known to be curious and intelligent creatures, difficult to contain and eager to break loose from any enclosure. They love to climb and explore, will eat just about anything, and tussle for dominance in a group situation. They can be trained, but with some difficulty if the goat isn't inclined to be cooperative. They are also associated with sexual licentiousness.


The "goat person," then, would be smart, curious, and disinclined toward being led. Not your best choice for a follower, actually.

In Greek mythology, Amalthea was sometimes depicted as a goat who fostered the infant Zeus in a Cretan cave. She is also associated with the cornucopia or "horn of plenty," which is variously recognized as the horn from which Zeus drank, or the goat's horn which was broken off, filled with offerings, and presented to the god.

I was born under the sign of Capricorn. Make of that anything you like.

You may be more sheepish or goatlike, or you may be something else entirely. Unless you consider yourself to be otherkin (a can of worms which WILL NOT be opened here at PLv3.1) it's unlikely that you feel a strong association with any particular animal. Me, I'm kind of owly. No word as yet on what Jesus thinks of owls.

* The SB Church in my small rural community regularly posts interesting messages on its sign. I pick only the choicest comments to blog about here.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Equinoctial Greetings


If you don't know what spring equinox signifies, I'm not going to tell you. Go outside! (Unless you live where it's still snowing. You can stay inside and curse me for being where it's warm.)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Fragment (Poetry)

More Appollonian than Dionysian, still
I feel the sap rising at the greening of the year,
wake and stir with longings half-dreamed
and the taste of ecstasy honeyed in my mouth.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Springing Eternal


This year so far has been unseasonably, though not unbearably, cold, with temperatures remaining consistently about ten degrees below average. Thus, some of the seasonal markers I'm accustomed to were pushed off schedule. This week, I've finally started to see some progress: not only the daffodil foliage, but the first shoots of my tiger lillies are coming up, along with the few remaining tulips that the squirrels haven't gotten to yet. Today I actually saw the first daffodils blooming out along the main road into town, and at work a few of last fall's pansies have reincarnated. The Bradford pear trees are bursting with the fuzzy greyish catkins that will, in just a few days, puff out into those delicate white blossoms that look so pretty and smell so vile. Up next will be the fragile ornamental cherry trees that decorate our parking lot; the softly fragrant pink blossoms will appear, and I'll become very sentimental and write haiku about them, and then they'll rain down in pink drifts along the curbs, and I'll mutter incoherently about wabi-sabi and the impermanence of things. I love spring.


Usually the crocuses (all right, crocus singular--the squirrels dug up and ate all the rest of them) appear in February, but not this year; I just noticed it yesterday. The weed crop is already coming in nicely. Looks like I'll be spending some time this weekend weeding and clearing up leaves, digging out dead bits from last fall and maybe putting down some mulch.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Luck of the (Scots-)Irish


We were engaged on St. Patrick's Day, 15 years ago. It was a surprise to me. I'd never given much thought to being married, never really considered wanting to be married--or for that matter, anyone wanting to be married to me. I'd even had proposals in my past, albeit of the casual, jokey sort (at least I think they were joking; no rings were presented, and I've always been extremely dense about relationship stuff), but still, marriage was not on my mind at the time. We went out that evening to a hooley, and during the course of events a question was asked, a ring was proferred, and an affirmative was given. (I would point out that this all took place beneath the phallic standpipe of the old water tower, the base of which is ringed with heathen idols classical statuary of gods and goddesses. Appropriate, that.) And that was 15 years ago.

I am wearing green today, but don't read anything into that; I'm very often wearing green. I very nearly chose an orange tunic dress for today, until I heard that there was apparently a move afoot to get pagans to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day in protest of some damned misunderstood something-or-other; that seemed like a bad idea to me, though I couldn't quite remember why (something-something-Orangemen-something-dark-side) until I found a link to this most instructive post which gives a concise explanation. Yeah. Symbols? They mean stuff. It is recommended to know those meanings before engaging the symbols. (For me, it meant nothing other than I like my orange tunic dress and wanted to wear it to be teh hawtness.)

In any case, Naomh Padraig brought about the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, officially at least; there are pagans aplenty in those lands to this very day, though of a modern sort. Some of my distant ancestors came from that part of the world, though I don't have sufficient information to say exactly how beyond the barest of details. I was a heathen child who was painlessly converted to nominal Christianity and happily deconverted in early adulthood. I won't be doing anything special to mark Patrick's day, as the old hooley no longer takes place and I have no desire to go sit in a bar and watch people swill down green-dyed beer and sing Danny Boy over and over. If we do anything to commemorate anything else pertinent to this date, that will be between us.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Hitchens Revises The Ten Commandments

I don't always agree with Christopher Hitchens, but I must concede that he's on to something here:


It's difficult to take oneself with sufficient seriousness to begin any sentence with the words "Thou shalt not." But who cannot summon the confidence to say: Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color. Do not ever use people as private property. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature--why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them? Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly. Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife. Turn off that fucking cell phone--you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions. Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Pagan Periodicals

I was in Borders the other night, and happened to see a couple of the current crop of glossy pagan-oriented magazines that are still in publication. I flipped through first one, then the other, and I have to say I was unimpressed. Not by the production values--on cursory glance, at least, the layouts looked nice and no glaring typos leapt out at me--but by the content. I'm just not interested in reading interviews with self-important, edgy Big Name Pagans, or elementary level how-to articles, or essays on subjects that to me seem tangential at best (i.e. otherkin, sexual practices and preferences, etc.). I don't want to read a lifestyle magazine (for that is what these were); I'm more interested in the whats and the whys than the whos and the hows (or at least, the how-tos). I already know how to live as a pagan. These days, it's the history and sociology of what we are and what we do that piques my interest.

I miss Gnosis magazine. The Pomegranate interests me very much, but it's pricey and doesn't appear at bookstores. There are good quality publications like The Cauldron that cover topics of history and folklore and the cultural context of modern paganism, but again they're not readily available, and unfortunately I don't have a subscription budget right now that would allow me to regularly receive them. I wish any of the local stores stocked the interesting foreign publications, but the local population wouldn't buy them; they'd buy the glossy lifestyle mags if they bought anything at all. And I put those down, bemused, and drift over to the next aisle where KMT and Archaeology could be found, filled with comforting articles on Egyptology.

Yeah, I know: cry moar, snobby girl. ;)

By Any Other Name

Names have power. Knowing a thing's name concretizes that thing, makes the thing itself knowable, gives us a place to begin in our understanding. A name can exhalt or humble, can color our perceptions, can make the beautiful ugly or the plain profound. Most of us have more than one name, even in mundane life, and those of us on occult or pagan paths sometimes have far more names than might seem necessary. But just as we each have multiple titles in life--daughter, son, sister, brother, wife, husband, mother, father, doctor, teacher, minister, and so on--so do we have those names that help shape and define our places in other realms, identify us among our fellow travelers, announce us to our chosen gods.

When I first went online in the early 90s, I used my Craft name as my online name. I'm still known as such to a handful of people whom I've known since then, but I've stopped using that name online for the most part. If you knew it, and knew me, you'd either laugh at the irony of it or be offended that I of all people would take that name. (I pronounce it oddly, for one thing, and while I have my reasons you might just think me illiterate. You might also think me beholden to a particular deity, which I am not. Worst of all, the name has a connection to a practice which I eschew. Why don't I change it? Well, because it's mine, for reasons that have nothing to do with any of that; plus it's on my papers, and inscribed on expensive things that I can't replace.) In some places, I'm also known by my Shemsu name, which was given to me when I took my vows as Kemetic Orthodox. I have blogged extensively under yet another name, and I've got yet another one here at Blogger, since that previous one was unavailable. I tried on two other Craft names early on before I settled on the one I discussed above. I also have a confirmation name from when I was baptized into the EGC a few years ago when I was more actively practicing Thelema.

The Egyptians knew well the power and importance of names. To grant continued immortality to the dead, it was necessary to "make their name to live," that is to speak of them often, and to recite the funerary offering formulas for them. A New Kingdom text tells of how Isis gained power over Ra by tricking Him into revealing His secret name. For those in the esoteric arts and religions, most of which are still misunderstood and mistrusted by the mainstream culture, having your identity revealed in inappropriate situations can reap consequences ranging from embarassment to open harassment. In a very real sense, knowing someone's name can give you power over them.

Ceremonial magicians have long taken on magical mottoes by which they are known; witches, at least of GBG's type, took on pseudonyms by which to be known at larger meetings, with the idea being that if one of them were taken and tortured, they couldn't reveal the true identities of the other witches if they only knew false names. Nowadays, grandiose and pseudo-fantasy character names have become the norm among the pagani, making it sometimes hard to take people seriously. I wonder how many of the Raven SummerStars and Orion BeltSanders in the world put more than a moment's thought into their naming, choosing something they thought sounded cool or witchy rather than something that expressed some part of themselves. I'll concede that if I were to go back in time, I might well choose a different name than the one I'm known by in the circle; but I don't really regret the choice, and do believe it suits me on some level. And if I'm not, on the surface, the person you might expect me to be based on that name, then I'd say you don't know what lies beneath. Maybe you never will; but that's for me to reveal or not in my own time. Your name carries its own secrets, and its own responsibilities.