Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sharing From the Web: Are You An Empath?

The delicious Amber Mysts shared this article from the pagan blog Wiccan Moonsong, and followed up with a similar article from The Daily Om.

Empathy, psychic sensitivity, or even psychic vampirism are issues that many Pagans deal with (or may deal with in the future after constant exposure to the astral plane recalibrates your personal psychic compass), and it's always good to know that there are ways to deal with what can sometimes be an overwhelming gift.  Both these articles are definitely worth a click.

Are You An Empath? at Wiccan Moonsong

Coping with Passive Aggression at The Daily Om

Hybrid Article

Here is a Book Review/Reading Response that the lovely Amber Mysts posted.  It's in response to the book Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by River and Joyce Higgenbotham.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a less-Wicca-centric approach to Paganism.  This is Amber's response to the first chapter of this tome, and I hope there is more to come, as she has provided a great, informative summary.

Chapter One: What Is Paganism 2/25/10

Paganism is a religion; it is a modern religion that has no central hierarchy or dogma, and it stresses personal responsibility and offers a different world view.  Paganism is spirituality and is protected by law.  'Pagan' is a label that identifies you as a person who agrees with one or more parts of Pagan philosophy, and may participate in observances or practices common to Pagans.  There are many traditions that are covered by the Umbrella of Paganism.

• Wicca
• Gardnerian
• Alexandrian
• Dianic, Faery
• Strega, Shamanism
• Asatru
• Eclectic
• Famil
• Celtic Traditionalism
• Druidism
• Santeria
• Voudon
• Ceremonial Magick
• Mystery Traditions
• Solitary
• Blended Traditions

There is no concrete numbers for how many Pagans there are in the world today.  For many reasons we may never know the magnitude of the Pagan Resurgence, one being safety of followers.

Pagans come from all walks of life, they all celebrate what they term, “The Turning of the Wheel”.  This is the flow of the seasons that mark not only the passage of time, but the moments of spiritual significance.  Celebrations are for the Quarter Points of the year: Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox.  These are the solar holidays and mark the beginnings of the seasons.  The Cross-quarter points are celebrated as “High” festivals: Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain.  Rites of passage are celebrated within the Coven and in solitary life: pregnancy and birth, Coming of Age, Handfasting and Marriage, Handparting, Croning and Saging, as well as death.  The Full and New moons are honored.

The most important belief that nearly ALL traditions accept and follow are the concepts of interconnectedness and blessedness.  It is these two concepts that I totally agree with, and which pretty well sum up the basis for my beliefs on a personal level.

Puns Are The Lowest Form Of Humor

"Spellcheck means something different when you edit a witchy blog."
-V

I hate myself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kiss Me, I Support Cultural Genocide

I have a problem with the petition to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday.  This nonsense pops up every year, and every year it bugs me a little more.  Basically, this says to me that there are too many people out there who not only feel the need to drink for twenty-four straight hours, but also want it to be government-sanctioned so that their boss can’t give them shit when they come to work hungover the next day.

Listen, if you want to be drunk, stupid, and reeking of vomit all day and night, that’s fine.  But why not call the holiday by what it really is?  You’re not celebrating the saint named Patrick.  You’re not celebrating Irish culture, unless you really and truly believe that the only two laudable things that ever happen in Ireland are drinking and fighting.  And if you do believe that, please go to Ireland and get eaten by a banshee cuz you’re a fucking moron.

When you think about it, it’s pretty ballsy of Americans, natives of the land that invented the WWE and beer pong, to imply that the true meaning of being Irish is to get bombed on cheap beer and get in a fight with a bouncer.  The 20ish per cent of me that’s Irish?  Yeah, she’s pretty insulted by that.

Here’s a country that gave us James Joyce, the Cranberries, Oscar Wilde, the hypodermic needle, Halloween before it was all Spongebob costumes and “fun-sized” candies, and Liam frigging Neeson.  And yet, every St. Patrick’s Day, millions of Americans manage to forget any actual cultural contributions, in order to get shitfaced in the name of Irish culture without distraction.

And even if you do try and make the lame excuse that you’re just celebrating the patron saint of Ireland by raising a pint in his name, tell me, who exactly was St. Patrick?  If you don’t know, then stop pretending to be intellectual and just drink up.  We like you better when you’re passed out on the floor, you pretentious jerk.

In case you’re wondering, St. Patrick was a British missionary, arguably most famous for his de-snake-ifying of Ireland.  Now since Ireland is an island with no native snake species, what the legend of St. Patrick chasing all the serpents from Ireland really means is that he banished all the native pagan beliefs up to and including Druidic practices that had been in place for thousands of years, to make way for Christianity.  Yes.  You read that right.  The patron saint of Ireland was British dude who chased away all the native Irish culture.*

So let’s be honest.  You’re not petitioning for St. Patrick’s Day.  You don’t want a nationally accepted St. Patrick’s Day.  You’re not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  What you’re celebrating is Get Drunk And Act Like A Jackass Day, but that doesn’t look as nice at the top of your forwarded e-mail petition, does it?





*When I learned this, I immediately regretted wearing green every year to score free ice cream from Stewart’s.  My boyfriend said, “So how did it taste?  Did it taste like… heresy?!”  The answer is, “Yes, if heresy tastes like delicious cookie dough.”

St. Patrick's Day

Amber posted this essay on St. Patrick's Day from the lovely Patti Wigington, the proprietess of About.com Paganism/Wicca section.  Just something to chew on in the weeks leading up to America's favorite getting silly day.

St. Patrick and the Pagan Snakes of Ireland:

St. Patrick is known as a symbol of Ireland, particularly around every March. One of the reasons he's so famous is because he supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland, and was even credited with a miracle for this. What many people don't realize is that the serpent was actually a metaphor for the early Pagan faiths of Ireland. It's important to note that he did not physically drive the Pagans from Ireland, but instead St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle. He did such a good job of it that he began the conversion of the entire country to the new religious beliefs, thus paving the way for the elimination of the old systems. And while it's true that snakes are hard to find in Ireland, this may well be due to the fact that it's an island, and so snakes aren't exactly migrating there in packs.

The Druids/Pagans of Ireland loved their faith and many did not wish to convert. Heavy taxes and liens were levied upon them along with numerous other "forced conversion' methods. The most successful way of converting Pagans to Christianity seemed to be relating the two and showing that they are not so different. one such way of doing this was with the shamrock. The shamrock was a symbol of the Triple Goddess to the Pagans of Ireland - Patrick successfully incorporated it into his religious teachings and it slowly become equated with the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit of Christianity (which some still link it to today).

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in many places on March 17, typically with a parade (an oddly American invention) and lots of other festivities. However, some modern Pagans refuse to observe a day which honors the elimination of the old religion in favor of a new one. It's not uncommon to see Pagans wearing some sort of snake symbol on St. Patrick's Day, instead of those green "Kiss Me I'm Irish" badges - or black clothing instead of the common green.

-Patti Wigington

View this story at About.com

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Gave Up Catholicism For Lent

From the wonderful world of our Facebook group, Amber Mysts brings up the topic of Lent:

So the talk around the office has been about "Lent" and what everyone was giving up!  Now I try to avoid these types of discussions in the work place, it's not conducive to good working relationships.  But when asked for the 5th time what I was giving up I looked them square in the face and without batting an eye said, "Oh, I'm giving up crack and my Mistress!"  They all about choked!  They started razzing me and I told them really if you follow your Bible it specifically states that you should do your fasting in silence and with reverence, not blathering on about it to everyone!  That shut them up quick!  ...Thoughts?  Comments?  Experiences? Anyone!
 Chris responded:

Sounds like they got the message that you weren't interested in the conversation. I never really got the point of a period of denial of just one item or act. Sounds like pain and suffering to learn a lesson. A little harsh, in my opinion. A short fast can cleanse the body and help focus the mind and spirit. Far more useful to my way of thinking. Lent is a comparatively modern invention and isn't a true fast - at least not in recent usage. 
The history behind it is actually pretty interesting. I wonder if any of them know why they eat fish on Fridays instead of red meat or pork...
There are two really great topics present here.  Amber's original post shows that it's not a bad idea to have a battle plan for when that vocal majority starts squawking, especially in the workplace.  It can be difficult to keep the peace and your privacy, especially during the higher holy days.  I happen to love her response; she is my personal hero this week!

I find the idea of Lent fascinating.  Unlike a lot of Pagans, I don't have a background in Christianity or Catholicism, and I have yet to participate in any kind of ritual deprivation.  It took several explanations for me to understand what the point of it all is.

I know of a witch who sometimes fasts for spiritual reasons.  Does anyone else do this or something similar?  What do you get out of fasting or sacrificing an aspect of your daily life?

Out Of Season

It's not quite that time of year yet, but this picture of Chris's Mabon feast from last year looked to awesome not to share.  If we're lucky, there may be some recipes to follow.

"From last Mabon.  Roasted squash soup, hot potatoes with spinach, pumpkin cranberry bread, corn on the cob, and a stone fruit pie for dessert.  Oh, and hot, spiced cider.  Blessed be!" - Chris

STFU, Condescending Teacher

Thanks to L. for sharing this perfectly beautiful article about faith at the end of days.  This is a great reminder to people of any faith that to love is divine and everything else is just details.

CNN.com - My Faith - What People Talk About Before They Die

One Of The Many Reasons I Love This Comic


About Out

A quandary that takes up much of my idle time is thus: if you are lucky enough to be in situation where you may live openly as a Pagan without repercussion, do you owe it to your less fortunate Pagan brethren to do so, so as to create a safer, more knowledgeable environment for them to someday come out into?

For instance, I'm lucky enough that I can be out of the broom closet without getting disowned, fired, or beat up.  A friend of mine is not, because no one in her family, workplace, or social scene is aware of what a real Pagan is.  As far as they know, witchcraft is devil worship or worse; they have no personal experience with an actual Pagan to try and change their mind.  It's simply not safe for her to come out about her spirituality.  Maybe if I and others like me live openly, we can help change the public perception of Paganism.  If we can do that, someday it will be safe for those in hiding to go public.  So because I can, does that mean I am socially obligated to do so?

I tend to feel that the answer is yes.  Yes, I owe it not just to myself to be true to what I am; I owe it to my fellow pagans, so that eventually, the world might be a safe place for them.  Yes, I am obligated to make the word 'witch' mean something other than 'I want to say bitch but my mom's watching.'  Yes, I should live openly because I am one of the fortunate ones who can.

On the other hand, many branches of Paganism have been steeped in secrecy for so long that the secrecy itself has become part of the tradition.  Thus, the old tenant, "To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent."  Most likely, the tradition of secrecy grew out of necessity; back in the day, being thought to be a witch could hold some serious repercussions, and I'm not talking about being snubbed at the PTA bake sale.  Now that many of us here in the Americas can take comfort in the fact that we probably won't be stoned for our religious leanings, is that tradition of secrecy still necessary?  Maybe.  Is it time to cast off that mantle of darkness and bring our faith into the light, or is it better to remain respectful of our roots and keep ourselves to ourselves?  It's an interesting question, and one I spend a lot of time musing over.

Here are some opinions for our contributors.

Do as you will.  If you choose to be "out" about being Pagan, then be respectful about our secret.  If you choose not to announce it to everyone, don't be a dick and ignore the genuinely interested people who ask why you're wearing "that star" and what it means.

-R.
 Sam:
I feel, like every thing in life, it is a personal choice; once being pagan was to be a secret, but then again most things weren't discussed as they are today.  To be a modern Wicca or pagan, you need to accept who you are...  Coming from a Christian family, if you accept who you are, they will too.
 I think Chris puts it best when he says:
Coming out to my family was one of the hardest choices I ever made. I didn't want to hurt them, as to their way of thinking, it's a betrayal and I'm choosing to walk down a dark path, at best foolishly worshiping the created rather than the creator or at worst, an abomination, not suffered to live.

Once I'd made that choice and born the initial shock and hurt, I realized that my parents are good Christians and still love their wayward son, and have chosen to respect my wishes regarding my faith. We're actually much closer now that it's out of the way and in the open than we were when I was growing up and couldn't figure out why I didn't fit in with my own family.

My wife has embraced much of my ways and twined them to her own beliefs and our daughter is leaning toward an Egyptian pantheon - so I have some studying to do! Being out has been a great experience for me, so I've got no bones about letting the rest of the world know. As such, it's my responsibility to be a good representative of what is Pagan.

Not every pagan is that nutjob who sent her former employer a letter filled with salt and a 'wiccan curse'. News pieces like that offend me greatly. We're an oddity and any news about folks like us is apparently worth mentioning our faith as if it's part of the news and then not taking the time to explain what Wicca is - as if the act of this incredibly bright person is representative of what we all are.

Had it been a Roman Catholic who wrote something along the lines of "May the Lord God smite you for firing me!" we wouldn't have heard a word about how "Joe Snuffy, who worships at St Agitha's on Sundays and also attends Wednesday Mass foolishly sent an envelope of white powder and God's Fury to his former employer." We'd have "Local man commits terroristic act, mails white powder and angry letter to his employer. Next, here's sports with Jim Segal! How about those Tomcats?"

There are few news pieces about how we're just regular, everyday people who see the world a little differently. You don't often read about how the Crow Hill Circle got together a bunch of canned goods for the homeless last Mabon. Or how Scott Pruitt has been accepted to be his coven's latest dedicant. A site like this, where the good word gets out is imperative to the public perception of our respective faiths.

For generations our paths have been private and hidden. As a result, most of the public knowledge and opinion is formed by pop culture. WE are not The Wicker Man (OH GOD THE BEES!) or The Craft. Nor are we The Witches of Eastwick. Most of the public is misinformed as to what we are. This is a major obstacle, but one we can overcome by being ourselves and not hiding who and what we are.

Wear your pentacle proudly. When somebody asks you why you're wearing the Star of David, don't roll your eyes and walk away. Take the opportunity to explain what you are. Request your holy days off from work (I need to work on this one myself) and be sure to invite friends to your feasts. Don't be afraid to mention things on Facebook or your other social sites. Love your Gods. You don't have to put a sign in your yard that says Broom Parking or anything. But don't be ashamed of what you are.
 
These are all mature and well-pondered opinions.  Why are you out or not out?  Or, as a still-closeted pagan, how do you feel about this issue?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sorority


Last week, I had a milestone.

It hit me while I was in the tub, mulling over TWM's journal entry.* I was thinking about how he mentions in his story how much I resisted teaching him anything about witchcraft or involving him in any working or ritual. That's a story for another post, but now, here was my little buddy, all grown up and reflecting on his early witchy days. It made me think back to my own beginnings and how far I've come.

From the days when my spiritual knowledge amounted to, 'don't set your hair on fire while lighting the Goddess candle,' I am now confident in my ability to write a multi-participant ritual from beginning to end, and lead it if need be.** From the days when I preached a brand of Wicca I had copied word-for-word from an introductory website, I now find myself more and more deconstructing accepted tenants of belief and asking myself why I believe them and what that belief means to me and my daily life. From days when I wore a teensy, tiny pentacle on a chain long enough to hide under my shirt and spent half my time staring at my chest to be sure my little charm was safely hidden between Bennie and June, I am now open about my faith with my family, my friends, my boyfriend, my colleagues, my classmates, the entirety of the internet, and anyone on the street who asks. From the days when I lit candles and asked for things, now I light candles and listen and feel and be. Point is, at this moment in my life, I know I am still just barely on the upward slant of my learning curve, but I have grown up.

In Smalltown, USA, I was raised agnostic. No one ever sat me down and said, “Look, God's probably not real,” but when other families were saying grace over dinner, my parents were trading anecdotes about whatever wacky thing the Christian babysitter had said that day. We never talk about religion or our own personal faith, although probability says that out of the whole damn dozen of us, I can't be the only believer. I didn't see the inside of a church until I was in high school. And while I didn't get kicked out of Vacation Bible School (ahem, Nuwanda, coughcough), I had such a hard time not giggling through the inspirational songs on the first day that I knew I could never go back. Religion was a shill, a crutch for the na├»ve.

Well.

The cynicism has lasted me well into adult life, but I did began to notice a spiritual bankruptcy in my life, and false start after false start, I eventually found my way into witchcraft. And when I did find my new path, the first people who knew about it were my friends, followed by my mother, then eventually the rest of my family. Although it's not a frequent occurrence, I've had serious conversations about my faith with my atheist brother and father, burned sage with my Jesus-email-forwarding stepmom, and had very long, very drunk conversations with my mom about exactly how many goats will be present for sacrifice at my wedding.*** The one thing I have never done is EVER mentioned my religion to either of my sisters, let alone talked about it at any sort of length. I know they're both aware of what I do; in my family, rumor and gossip passes osmotically from person to person like the Deadly Motaba Virus, so once that shit was out of the bag, I always assumed it was out of the bag in a big way. But since one of my neurotic fears is unwittingly turning into an attention whore, I don't run around going, “Hey, sis! Have you heard I'm a witch? Guess what's up in my witchety witch life lately?!” The topic has never come up.

And honestly, I was glad, and I'll tell you why, albeit a little shame-facedly. I was glad not to talk religion with my sisters because I, public pagan, founder of clubs, waver of athames, reader of Tarot cards, corrupter of precocious minor witchlets, was afraid of what they'd think. Having “the Talk” with my science-minded, physics-spewing boyfriend had been scary enough, and in fact, I'd put it off for a long time because I knew my heart would break if he laughed at me. But my sisters? Couldn't do it. Wouldn't and didn't.

You have to understand something here. My sisters? Yeah, they're my frickin' heroes.

Nuwanda and I often trade tales of hard times and social inequities, and when in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, we'll tell each other, “Just think, WWCD? What would C. (my younger sister) do?” This is because C. is the toughest woman I know. She takes no shit. She lets no one push her around, keep her down, make her feel bad about herself. She is the walking goddess of not giving a single fuck, and if one day I can be as self-assured and capable as she is, I will die happy.

On the other hand, my older sister was my first roommate, my first rival, my first friend, and my first idol. She is my best friend to this day. I followed her around from kindergarten till graduation as often as she'd let me. A large part of my self-esteem is built on the fact that she thinks I'm funny. Once, after a play I was in, she told me she'd forgotten it was me on the stage, and I still hold that compliment as the dearest one I've ever received. I love her. I respect her. And because of that, I feared her scorn.

Which brings me around to my milestone. Last week, my older sister and her boyfriend came to see a show.**** They crashed in my living room, a corner of which is devoted to my altar and library. Every time she has come to visit, my sister has walked back and forth past that altar with barely a second glance. The only comment either of us has ever made about it was when she asked, “Can I put my earrings here tonight?” and I said, “Yeah, sure.”

Last week, out of the blue, my sister took a look at the altar and asked hesitantly, “So... Does all this stuff mean something, or do you just like the way it looks?”

And for a second, even though it's Witchcraft 101, even though I had explained the set-up on numerous occasions, even though it was my freaking altar for fuck's sake, I couldn't answer because I honestly didn't know how.

Finally, I told her that it all meant something, and she replied that she'd always wondered, but had been too afraid of offending me to ask. To which I replied with my greatest, stupidest fear:

I never mentioned it before. I was afraid you'd laugh because you think religion is stupid.”

She reminded me that she thinks organized religion is stupid, and I showed her the pentacle my Frog Hollow Coven girls had made for me, the silver apple stuffed with rose petals, the incense burner (which she recognized, having spotted me 15 bucks in New Orleans to purchase it), and pointed out that there was a symbol for each of the four compass points.

Then we went to Denny's. And that was the end of the conversation I'd been dreading for five years.

Was I unfair to my sister in thinking she'd be too cynical to accept the choices I'd made as valid? Yes. Was it wrong to assume she'd immediately put aside her affection and our friendship because I was dumb enough to believe in not just one god, but multiple aspects of deity? Yes. Had I been selling her short for years because I was chickenshit? Yes.

In the end, did it make any difference? No.

Not on the surface anyway. Not in the sense that now everything has changed and our relationship will never be the same and blah blah blah. Not in the way I feared.

But was a big deal? Yes. The biggest, best deal in a long time.





*I don't always think of underage boys in the tub, but when I do please forget I ever started that sentence. Christ.

**Although I get weirdly high right before grounding and have to be ear-flicked to quiet the giggling.

***One hundred and eight. One for every pre-marital lover.

****If you love musical asskickery, you will love Sirsy. Get on iTunes this minute, and follow it up with Ticketmaster, cuz that's some shit you need to see for yourself.

Christians Are Ruining My Ass

Seriously, I lose 15 pounds and the local Christian school sets up a goddamn bakesale outside Wal-Mart?  They know I can't resist that shit.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Beginning Journey

Okay.  So, this is my first blog post and first time expressing Pagan interest publicly.  Two birds with one stone!

Anywho, I think I should first start out by saying that I was first exposed to Paganism when I was 16, two years ago, by my good friend V.  It was something TOTALLY new I’d never thought imaginable and back then I thought it was the perfect spirituality for me; I still think so to this day.

I knew that the “Christianity” I was growing up with wouldn’t cut it.  First, our family wasn’t really Christian because we never went to church.  Well, maybe the occasional Christmas Mass, if we were lucky and our parents had everything finished for Christmas day.  But outside of that, nothing.  I had no real connection to this God.  So I decided to drop it and wait until something else more suitable came along and so it did.

Just before I was introduced to Paganism I realized something wasn’t “right” with me.  I kept hearing my name being called when no one was to be found.  I kept having to double-take when looking at people because I thought I saw colors hovering above them, and I always questioned why I felt the way I did sometimes when I knew I was completely fine.

I shrugged it off until that fateful day I was cleaning up V.’s front lawn and learned about the Jar of Dirt (without dirt).  After Sam and V. mentioned it I was curious and decided to ask but they dodged the question until my persistence paid off and they cracked.  And that’s when I knew I was on the right path.  We went for a walk down Frog Hollow, where I had never been before, yet felt oddly welcomed by some unseen force, and I told them of the odd events that happened shortly after my 16th birthday.

After my long story they taught me about grounding, centering and shielding and I was rather quick to learn it and put it to good use.  Looking back at it, I’m extremely thankful for that lesson!  It not only has helped me protect myself from spirits, but from other people as well.

After that I participated in whatever rituals I could get in on and have learned from every one of them, no matter how quick they may have been.  My favorite part of them was the look on V.’s face when we were done with them; slightly concerned, but only because I acted like I had three of the biggest, most bad energy drinks out there!

All in all, I have a basic understanding of a certain type of Paganism, Wicca, but would definitely like to expand upon it.  I find comfort in stones and water, and would like to explore healing, ritual, magick, and other spiritual methods with these elements in particular.  I would also like to be exposed to more spiritual activity as well; personally, because I REALLY like meeting new people and spirits are no exception.

I’m not exactly sure what specific type of Paganism is right for me, but the religion as a whole seems extremely fulfilling to me and I’m sure whichever one I choose it will be right for me.  There’s even a Czech-based one!  I’m pretty heavy in Czech with my heritage, which is why this is relevant, by the way.  So 
if anyone has suggestions, please let me know!  Although I still live in my parents’ house so things will definitely be restricted as to what I can do…  But I’ll try nonetheless!

That’s pretty much all there is to know about me as of yet.  But if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!  I generally check my email, fudgebr549@hotmail.com, daily.  So yeah…  Thanks for reading!!

-TWM