Thursday, March 30, 2006


Here are beautiful photos of Wednesday's solar eclipse.

(Via Towleroad)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Good-bye Coca-Cola

Well, I've done it. Three weeks ago I said I wasn't ready to give up my Coca-Cola habit, but last Friday after lunch, by some kind of grace, I decided that that would be my last Coke. I poured the last six cans in my refrigerator down the drain in an ad hoc ritual witnessed by Adonis and the dog. I prayed for help. And I haven't touched the stuff - or even been very tempted - since. I figure that's between 7-10 Cokes that I haven't had. I feel great. Whether it's because of less sugar in my diet, or because I feel a lightness from giving up the drug, I don't know. But I do know that I was feeling enslaved to that stuff, and now I'm free. A recovering Coke-aholic.

I've lowered my risk of diabetes and osteoporosis. I'll probably lose some weight without changing anything else. I'm sticking it to the Man. I'm taking a stand for global justice. But none of these were reason enough for me to quit before now, not because I don't care about all of these things, but because I was hooked. I'm addicted. I used Coke to make me feel better. I had to have it. I'd carry my own stash to parties and friends' houses for dinner. There were certain foods that I could only eat with Coke - no pizza, nachos, fried foods, or burgers without it. It was a rare day when I didn't have at least one can. And sometimes, once I got started, I would have 3-4 cans in a day. Sometimes I would travel with a 24-pack in the trunk of my car. When I was feeling nervous, sad, or tired, Coke would always make me feel better.

I finally decided that I didn't want a substance to have that kind of grip on my psyche and body. It took me a loooong time - years - to come to that decision. I'm just grateful it wasn't a diabetes diagnosis that made me give it up. I didn't hit bottom. I was craving freedom more than I was craving Coke. And fortunately, unlike other drugs, Coke isn't intensely physiologically addictive. (It is addictive, but it's easier to quit than alcohol or hard drugs. I wonder if it's comparable to stopping smoking.)

I think it's important to pray to the Goddess for help, and to have some friends I can call when a craving feels unbearable. A friend recommended that I make this change to my diet, and not attempt any other, for three months. I think that's good advice. I'm proud of myself. It feels like a heavy load has been lifted from my psyche.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New moon in Aries

Wednesday, March 29, 5:15 a.m. EST

Understand that you are necessary to the world. The world is dreaming of something that only you can do. Why fear pursuing and expressing it? If you don't have the courage to fulfill and enjoy your life, who else will? Let the Aries New Moon be a time to revel in a new surge of vitality. Feel the life force quickening within you, urging you toward something only you can do. Keep the channel open!

Dana Gerhart

I hope he's right

Swiped from the Furious Spinner:

It may be when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.
Wendell Berry

Another lesson

Lugh and I took a walk this afternoon in the beautiful 50° sunshine, and despite my attempts at an unbroken power-walk, he stopped to smell his first spring flowers: crocuses and snowdrops. He has a scab on his nose and lip from an altercation with a pit bull friend who's suddenly grown bigger than him yet plays as aggressively as ever. The sore is taking a long time to heal because he uses his nose so much that the scab keeps coming off. Adonis and I follow him around with a pot of herbal healing salve, trying to dab some on his nose when we can. This afternoon Adonis asked me if I thought Lugh was mad at us for allowing him to get hurt. I replied that, first, Lugh doesn't know he's hurt - he's not in pain. Second, dogs can't hold grudges. They live in the present. They don't have a consciousness that allows them to spin stories about past harms - "that damn puppy, who does she think she is, I can't believe my dad didn't intervene sooner, he's so slow" - thus keeping the harms, and the emotions evoked by them, fresh and alive. That's why dogs can risk love, again and again, with an open heart, no matter how badly they've been treated in the past.

Here ends the day's dharma lesson.

Monday, March 27, 2006

All acts of love and pleasure

I just completed a wonderful, powerful weekend at the mystery school, and I feel filled with Spirit and love. The sun is out, the sky is blue, the temperatures are warming this week, and a sweet puppy sleeps by my side. Life is good.

Spicy Cauldron and his partner are in the process of adopting a child. Spicy is such a thoughtful, sensitive soul; I know he'll be a wonderful parent, and his child(ren) will be so lucky to have him. My sister and her husband are also in the middle of an adoption process. They, too, will be loving, nurturing parents. The difference between my sister and her love, and Spicy and his love, of course, is that everyone blesses my sister's adoption, but Spicy has to put up with all kinds of hatred and bullshit because he and his love are gay men. There are people who espouse horrible lies about our gay brothers and use those lies as reasons why gay men shouldn't adopt. [Ha! As if this is news.] The worst and most outrageous lie I've heard - people actually believe this - is that gay men adopt children so they can molest them. The idea is that gay men are pedophiles. This is a lie that also endangers children, since the vast majority of pedophiles are heterosexual men. It breaks my heart.

Many people use their so-called Christian beliefs to justify their hatred of gay men (and lesbians, bisexual folk, transgendered folk, Muslims, Jews, ad nauseam). Of course, there are many, many Christians who actually practice their faith's teachings of love and compassion. They tend not to be the fundamentalists, however. And despite the presence of good people within Christianity, one of the reasons I left (liberal, Protestant, mainstream) Christianity for Wicca is because I couldn't tolerate the wishy-washiness of Christian doctrine on issues of sexuality. My life is too short not to belong to a faith where sexuality and love are celebrated in all their manifestations as the offerings to the Goddess that they are. I myself am bisexual, and that is a good and blessed thing. It is a good and blessed thing to be transgendered, or bisexual, or pansexual, or lesbian, or gay. It is a good and and blessed thing to have a beloved. It is a good and blessed thing to have two or many beloveds. And it is truly a good and blessed thing to bring children into a home where they are valued and loved.

So congratulations Mr. Spicy and Mr. Spicy's Partner. I can't wait to hear who enters your family next.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dharma bum

As all dog lovers know, human beings and dogs are particularly well suited to living together. This is because we have many of the same needs for a healthy and happy life: similar foods, clean water, daily play, fresh air and sunshine, safety and a warm bed, love, companionship, approval, work to challenge our bodies and minds, and rewards - a word of praise, a back rub, a cookie - for a job well done. It may be a cliché, but I really am learning a lot about life from my dog.

It's also a cliché - and I have no idea if this is true - that for some traditions espousing reincarnation, the highest animal form a soul can occupy is human. I may have been a newt in my last life, but the only way I'll be a newt again is if I really fuck up this time around. (Again, this may be a strawman conception of reincarnation, but it's a conception that has currency in the popular imagination of the U.S., at least). I don't see any good evidence, however, that humans are further along the journey to enlightenment than other animals. That looks like blatant androcentrism. In fact, in the case of my dog, whereas I may be more intelligent than he, I suspect he is the more enlightened one.

The official Christian line is at best agnostic about whether or not dogs have souls, whether they can be saved, and hence whether they go to heaven. From a purely androcentric point of view, a lot of us believe that if there ain't dogs in heaven, then it ain't heaven. But disavowal of the androcentric point of view is one of the reasons I left Christianity for Wicca. My dog is far more deserving of heaven than I am. (And yes, I know that Christianity isn't supposed to be about who deserves to get into heaven.)

My dog, Lugh, is my dharma teacher. It's a cute idea, but I mean it seriously. For example, this past weekend we were walking in Prospect Park. Lugh ardently pulled on the leash in his excitement to get to the place where we run off-leash with the other dogs. The pulling looked like it hurt him, as his neck strained forward in his collar and he gasped for air. I said to my partner, "Lugh doesn't realize that life would be so much easier and less painful if he just gave up the struggle. We would arrive at the same place at roughly the same time. It's the struggle that's hurting him."

I've been thinking about that ever since.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy spring equinox!

A happy spring to all!

I've been in NYC for the past five days, making merry and not spending much time at the computer. I'm celebrating Ostara by slacking off and eating red velvet cake.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Reading 'round the Pagan web

It's a gorgeous sunny spring morning in upstate New York, and Adonis and I are at the local coffee shop working side by side on our Macs, listening to the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack. Highly recommended (all of it: spring, coffee, Mac computers, lover - but I was referring to the music). I've spent the last two hours transcribing notes from the astrology reading I had on Tuesday - amazing , powerful stuff, some of which I'll share in upcoming posts. I'm also reading 'round the Pagan web.

Chavala (March 2) writes about her Seattle congregation, Our Lady of the Earth and Sky. I spent some time this week digging around their website, and I'm so envious of all the Pagan resources in the Seattle area. I'd love to be part of a congregation like Our Lady. I'm reminded how, in comparison to California and the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast's Pagan community resources pale.

Kim Antieau has written two moving pieces about her friend, the poet David Johnson, who died on February 21st. The first, written February 22nd, is here. The second was written yesterday. Today is his memorial service. His sounds like a life well-lived, and that is always an inspiration to me.

Joanna Powell Colbert points the way to a wonderful naturalist resource, For all you Pagans who don't know as much as you wish you did about the place you live (like me), this site offers many skills, resources, and exercises to help you. And it's spring! Don't we all want to be out of doors?

Reya Mellicker tells us about how the birds brought springtime to D.C.

Andy, the Kilted Liberal, has been kicking butt with his posts about politics. I especially appreciate this one where he links to a video of someone asking anti-abortion protesters what they think the legal penalty should be for women who have abortions. Short answer: They haven't really thought about it.

Jason Pitzl-Waters was the only Pagan I read who posted anything about International Women's Day (go Jason!) His post contains information about a Wiccan-owned bookstore in Toronto (add it to the list) and feminist Buddhist writer Sandy Boucher (I'm a big fan).

Love reading you all!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Embodied like me

I think that Pagans need to articulate theories of the body (or of bodies). No doubt such theories are implicit in many Pagan writings, but I want theories that are explicit, theoretical, grown from personal experience, and grounded in Pagan theo/alogies. I see my desire as one in line with Jason Pitzl-Waters's regular calls for a more serious and diverse Pagan book market. Pagans have unique perspectives on the body - on sex, pleasure, healing, and our relationship to the earth - that need to become serious contenders in the "marketplace of ideas."

Many people believe that some part of us lives on after the death of the physical body. I believe that. But what attitude, then, should we take toward the physical body? As a Pagan, I believe fervently that the body is sacred and holy, and that if we continue in some fashion after its death, that is no reason to minimize its importance. My body is more than just the vehicle of my consciousness; it is my consciousness. It is me. Insofar as I am a knower and a seeker, I am those things because I am embodied. Perhaps this is another of Goddess's paradoxes: I am essentially my body, but I am not only my body.

Adonis and I have been watching the Showtime series "Dead Like Me" on dvd. It's a quirky, sometimes sentimental exploration of humanity and death, with none of the pretensions of "Six Feet Under." (I know, I know - people love that show. I don't.) The show features a motley cast of grim reapers: humans who have died but who, for reasons unknown to them, and for an indeterminate length of time, have to stay on earth, find a job and a place to live, and gently remove people's souls in the moments before the body's death. The reapers hang out at a diner, where they receive their daily assignments on yellow post-it notes - first initial, last name, address, and time of death - from Rube, played by Mandy Patinkin. Rube is middle management. He also has an appreciation for the finer aspects of being alive, especially good food. In an early episode, he explains to Georgia, the newest reaper and our protagonist, who died when she was only 18, that a benefit of - and perhaps a reason for - occupying reaper-purgatory is to learn to appreciate the pleasures that only life in a body can bring.

When our bodies are causing us pain - whether psychic, emotional, or physical - we may wonder, if we're of a spiritual bent, why we chose to become embodied at all. Why come to earth when life on earth is so frackin' hard? The answer, I suspect, is twofold: life on earth, in a human body, is a source of enormous pleasure; and there are lessons the soul can learn only by being embodied, perhaps many, many times. As a Pagan, I believe that we emerge from the earth, from the bodies of our mothers, and that we return to the earth when our bodies die: from the arms of our mother to the arms of our Mother. The earth is our home and our sustenance, and that is a magical and beautiful thing. As for where we are, if we are anywhere, before we're born and after we die...I don't know. I don't know what the soul's journey is. But I do know, because I feel it in my bones, that the body's journey is not inconsequential to the soul's, and to speak of them as if they are separate only makes so much sense before it descends into nonsense.

I've been thinking about all of these things recently in relation to how I care for my own body. In some ways I care for my body very well, and in other ways I could stand improvement. (Yesterday my astrologer suggested to me that we can't even speak of "the body," as if it is a solid and discrete, individual thing. We each have many bodies - chakra bodies, subtle anatomy as well as gross, etc. So keep that in mind, if you wish.) Recent bloodwork and a meeting with my doctor have reminded me of something I know but usually choose to ignore: my triglycerides are high. The solution, on its surface, is simple: reduce white flour and sugar in my diet, and exercise more regularly. But I have an addiction to Coca-Cola that I find nearly intractable. (It's not, I know.) I need to give it up. I don't feel ready to give it up. And so it goes, year after year. I've recently started lifting weights, inspired by this amazing woman. I'm also inspired by a gorgeous new gym that's opened near me. I want to join, but it's more expensive than the other gyms, and I won't let myself until I'm a much more dedicated gym-goer. (The new gym is three stories wide open, all air and light, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out over the inlet; a spiral staircase connecting the floors; gorgeous new free and machine weights; a private weight room for women; a brand-new pool; gorgeous fleets of aerobic equipment in front of a wall of suspended flat-screen TVs; a beautiful suspended dance floor in the mirrored classroom; a juice bar, a spa.... Amazing.) I struggle with disordered eating. I want to weigh less, and it would be healthy for me to weigh less. But I love my body, and I want to do well by it. I want to be as strong and agile as I can be. I've suffered from chronic pain in the past, and I want to enjoy my pain-free body to its fullest. As I prepare my dog's meals - whole grains, meats, vegetables, supplements - I wonder why I don't feed myself as well. It's all in process, and I'm learning. It's ok, I tell myself. It's ok.

I'll continue all this thinking in later posts. But right now my body is telling me that, at 1 p.m., it's past time for lunch.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The occult shop

Seven Rays, Syracuse's occult bookstore, is closing its doors this spring after many years in business. The closing of independent bookstores in the era of Amazon, Border's, and Barnes & Noble has been a difficult thing for book lovers to witness. I regularly made the long trip to Syracuse to visit its first-rate women's bookstore, My Sisters' Words, which closed a couple of years ago (I sat on the front steps and wept at my last visit). Seven Rays has served as a resource for me, but I've never liked the store. Its collection, though wide - from UFOs to Buddhism - wasn't deep; I couldn't reliably find either the new books or the classics I was looking for. The sales staff wasn't knowledgeable about the books and other products they sold. I overheard many a conversation among the staff while I was browsing, and it was always banal gossip. The herbs they sold looked dusty and old, and I could never get a reliable answer about the source of their large collection of crystals. Sadly, it's hard to mourn the passing of Seven Rays.

It's got to be difficult to run an occult shop or bookstore these days. I can't imagine it's a way to make money. Stores close all the time; I spent a disappointing afternoon in Cleveland trying to track down the stores listed on The Witches' Voice. Word to the wise: phone first. But there are some wonderful spiritually alternative bookstores and occult shops out there. Crazy Wisdom, in Ann Arbor, is my favorite. And if you're in northern Michigan, The Higher Self, in Traverse City, is worth a visit. Other stores in my neck of the woods that look good, but that I haven't yet visited, include the new Avalon Moon, in Delhi, NY (near Oneonta, for you upstaters); and Goddess of the Seven Sisters, in lovely Northampton, MA (crap - the brick and mortar is gone, but you can still shop on-line). I'm also a fan of Moonrise Herbs in Arcata, CA.

Do you have a favorite bricks-and-mortar occult bookstore or shop?