Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A blessed Samhain

This card is from the Druid Tarot, and it's one of my favorite images for this time of year, always on my Samhain altar. Blessings of transformation and wisdom to you all.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Planning a Samhain ritual

I suspect I'm not the only one home tonight planning a Samhain ritual. Tomorrow night I'm holding a small ritual in my home for friends. None of them are Pagans or Wiccans; indeed, I have few Pagan friends. Fortunately, I believe I have a gift for offering the beauty of our path, in ritual, to those who don't usually follow it.

I'm sitting at the kitchen table with stacks of books, my working grimoire (in a fabulous Circa notebook), and a cup of tea. Adonis is in charge of grounding and centering, and cakes and ale. I've written parts, so everyone can participate, for the more structured bits of the ritual: the circle casting, invocations and thanks, and explanations of the holiday. For invoking the elementals, this year I'm inspired by the feeling of the elements in our bodies. (Inspiration: Starhawk, The Earth Path.) To wit:

Feel the solid earth under your body. Feel the weight of your body on the earth. Feel the energy of your first chakra, at the root of your spine, connected to the energy of the earth. Feel the red glow.

Spirits of the north, we welcome you to our circle. Bless us with good health, good food, good sex, strong bodies, right livelihood, and the fulfillment of our material needs. Help us experience our connection to the earth, our home.

Most of the ritual is spent in telling stories of our beloved dead. When the stories die down, we'll sing "Breaths" (inspiration: the Druid ritual at Starwood this past summer).

Listen more often to things than to beings.
Listen more often to things than to beings.
'Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
'Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters.

Those who have died have never, never left.
The dead are not under the earth;
They are in the rustling trees
They are in the groaning woods
They are in the crying grass
They are in the moaning rocks....

We'll do tarot card divination and have cakes and ale. Last year I served pumpkin bread and cider. This year it's up to Adonis, and he's muttering something about corn cakes, which has me worried - but it's not up to me.

Now I'm back to planning and polishing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bippity boppity boo

I've been away visiting my new nephew, who was adopted in South America and arrived home with his parents, my sister and her husband, last Saturday. It was a joyous meeting and reunion at the airport, with two new sets of grandparents, four aunties and two uncles, and assorted cousins, two of whom are themselves adopted. My sister honored Adonis and me by asking us to be the Goddess-parents; my nephew will also have godparents, both of whom are Christian, as his parents are (my sister Lutheran, her husband, Catholic). So call me a Goddessmother, or a fairy godmother. (Alas, "fairy godfather" sounds like a gay mobster, so Adonis will stick with "Goddessfather.")

What does it mean to be a Goddessparent? Well, first it means I welcomed him back and reminded him that earth is a beautiful place, that this is a good incarnation, and that he's safe. We'll hold an earth-based baby ritual for him - not a Wiccaning per se, since he'll also be baptized. I think my most important duty will be to encourage and help him to honor the earth. To tell him stories. Sing to him. Take him camping and hiking. Garden with him and teach him to compost. Give him a membership in an environmental organization.

What else could a fairy godmother do?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ethics, science, and the Goddess

I've tried a few times to write a post about this story, broadcast on the CBS news segment "freeSpeech" the evening of the Amish school shootings a couple of weeks ago. Brian Rohrbough is the father of a boy killed at Columbine; he offers his opinion that school shootings are a result of teaching evolution.

I've tried the snark angle ("science teachers everywhere rub their hands with evil glee"), but it was too easy and unsatisfying. I've tried rebuttal ("evolution doesn't entail that the strong kill the weak; that's a gross oversimplification of the principle of survival of the fittest; fitness is measured by a species's ability to adapt to a changing environment..."). I'm sick of being angry, sick of my own zeal in trying to change the world through force of reason.

Christianity doesn't entail dogmatism, biblical literalism, or other forms of irrationality. But the public face of Christianity in this country too often looks like illogical extremism. Sometime I feel like returning to the mainstream Protestantism of my upbringing just to fight the public face of Christianity in this country. But that's not where my spiritual home is.

Instead of any more snark, anger, or derision - all of which I enjoy perhaps more than I should - let me offer a Pagan counterpoint to Mr. Rohrbough's free speech.

There is no simple answer to the question, why did the Amish school shootings happen? Part of the answer is sexism and misogyny, since the victims were all girls. Part of the answer is the legal and easy availability of guns in the U.S. There are many other reasons, to be sure, some cultural, some more specific to the perpetrator.

How can anyone study evolution and not wonder at the marvels of the universe? Of course, belief in a creator God isn't incompatible with belief in evolution. Indeed, to strip the creator God of the intricacy and wonder of evolution and hand him a magic wand and a seven-day deadline seems to me to insult and diminish that God. Pagans don't believe in a creator God, however. We see the Goddess, dual deity, or multiple deities in nature itself. Science is one way to know the Goddess. The miracle needn't be conjured from some transcendent realm. It's right in front of your eyes.

The "inherent value of life" can be found in nature and in ourselves. There is an emergent morality here. It's not the morality of a stern paternalistic God, the God who says it is right and just for Abraham to kill his son if that is what God demands. (Mr. Rohrbough says that the murder of innocent children is always wrong, but his own religion offers a caveat; when God tells you to murder an innocent child, it's morally advisable to do so!) Pagan morality is grounded in respect, love, and passion for the earth and her creatures. Pagan morality is grounded in reverence for all bodies, including the human body. Responsibility for our actions, for their effects on others and the environment, is central to a Pagan ethics. Acting responsibly can in some cases include aborting pregnancies. We might think that the value of children is increased, not decreased, when they are chosen and wanted, when their mothers actively take responsibility for bringing them into this world. Indeed, around the world there is an inverse relationship between the amount of social support given to children and the restrictiveness of abortion laws. In other words, those countries with the most liberal reproductive freedoms provide the greatest social safety net for their children. Doesn't that say something about the value a society places on children?

The absence of God the patriarch doesn't preclude morality, althought it does preclude morality of a certain kind. And good riddance, say I!

Monday, October 16, 2006


Yesterday I had a craving for kitsch. I went to the craft store and bought a paint-by-
number kit, a picture of pink roses framed in green toile. Paint-by-number became popular in the 1950s and, like that decade, is inescapably kitchy. Popular themes include horses, kittens, landscapes, bouquets of flowers, Jesus, and patriotic scenes, like a bald eagle framed by the U.S. flag. After the craft store I went next door to the grocery and bought the ingredients for rice crispy treats. I'm munching on them now.

The Samhain decorations are up, and the house is cozy. We lit the first fire of the season in our fireplace on Saturday evening and had friends over for wine and cider. Lugh enjoyed all the attention. He went into the bedroom at 10:30, the usual time he and Adonis get in bed, then got back up when he saw the party wasn't over and we weren't coming to bed. He took to snuggling people on the couch. People brought snacks and baked goods and more wine, and we resolved to host such gatherings once a month through the winter.

Now that I'm working normal Monday-Friday hours, I feel like the weekends ought to be one day longer: one day to clean and run errands and two days to relax and read, see movies and friends. I'm having a hard time committing to a book. I'm browsing my way through Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today, Cunningham's book on stone and crystal magic, and Gerina Dunwich's book on spell craft. I've also started rereading Little, Big by John Crowley. It seems the right time of year for it. I leave you with the words that Smoky Barnable sees in a crossstitch sampler at the Junipers' house on his way to Edgewood:

The things that make us Happy
make us Wise.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Books to buy

Here are some new scholarly (hence pricey) Pagan books I want to remember to buy when I'm feeling flush.

Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America, ed. Helen A. Berger (Penn State, 2006)

Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, Hugh Urban (University of California, 2006)

There is also a new scholarly journal out from Penn State UP: Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What I'm reading

Worthy reads from around the Pagan web:

At beliefnet, a fine interview with the founder of the Asatru Folk Assembly, Stephen McNallen. He's an eloquent voice for this little-known, oft-misunderstood Pagan faith. I think Wiccans could learn from the explicit honoring of ancestors that we find in Asatru, Yoruba, and Druidry. I don't hear many Wiccans speak of the ancestors except, of course, at Samhain.

Update (11/17/06): Please see Al Billings's comment, below, about McNallen's tacit acceptance of racism in Asatru. If McNallen is to be taken at his word in the beliefnet article, he doesn't condone racism and doesn't see it as having any place in Asatru. Billings, who has personal history in Asatru, says otherwise. I in no way accept, condone, or tolerate racism or anti-Semitism. They aren't part of any "faith" I recognize. I actively support and work toward the end of oppression and discrimination of all kinds.

Molly of Green Hope Farm offers a lovely essay about this year's flower essence from her Venus Garden.

Is it ethical to not worry and be happy? What binds us to worry and unhappiness? Illusion or truth? Can we unravel this dynamic and find a freedom to love ourselves just the way we are, accept the world just as it is, and know that happiness is a moral as well as joyful choice?
The Alignment Garden helps us know our precise work in world. It helps us align with our divinity so that we can live this purpose. It is not about mind ideas of life purpose but soul truth. It sorts this wheat from this chaff so that we are clear about what is and isn’t our life work and who we are. Don’t Worry- Bee Happy [the essence] supports us to let go of that which is not our work. It helps us let go of the self judgment and guilt that would make us feel responsible for most of the planet’s woes. It helps us to know that being who we are, living the life divinity created just for us, and enjoying this life is not just enough, it is what is meant to be. The concept of judgment is left behind in an experience of grace. And happiness.

Kim Antieau has published the first page of her new, in-the-works novel, Ruby's Imagine, on her site.

Dianne Sylvan has two excellent posts, one on "Advanced Wicca" and the state of Wiccan writing (more of my thoughts on that later) and another on personal spiritual practice and priorities. Dianne's long, intelligent posts are gifts to the thinking Witch and other intellectually curious sorts.

And finally, what do you call a fourth-degree Gardnerian? A Buddhist. For a personal story about the journey from Wicca to Buddhism, read Al's post about his pursuit of mystery.

Happy surfing!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Autumn, pentacles

Welcome to my favorite month of the year! Lugh and I took a long hike in the woods this morning - me in a t-shirt and a wool scarf - and gloried in the crisp air and turning leaves. (Okay, he mostly chased squirrels. Sometimes I sing Goddess chants while I hike so he can find me again after he's run off after some squirrel.) In addition to the busy squirrels collecting acorns and chattering in the tree tops, ducks splashed loudly in the water like children playing. A black and white woodpecker wasn't bothered by my singing, but a blue heron rose up over the water as if I'd disturbed him.

Like most of you in the U.S., I suspect, I've been following the campaign to have the pentacle added to the list of approved religious symbols for military headstones. The issues was brought home to me in a visceral way by this artist's rendering of what the headstone would look like (from Chas Clifton).

Such a simple thing, a symbol, but so potent. I adore the pentacle, but I don't feel comfortable wearing it most places. What does the pentacle symbolize? The stars and the dome of heaven. The element of earth. The human body. Five sacred elements: earth, air, fire, water, spirit. The human being cloaked in divinity. Protection. Mystery. The shining side and the shadow. The womb. An apple - forbidden fruit, forbidden knowledge. Wisdom. The triple Goddess and two aspects of the God. Birth, initiation (maiden), flowering (mother), waning (crone), and death. Love, wisdom, knowledge, law, and power (the "pearl pentacle"). Sex, self, passion, pride, and power (the "iron pentacle"). Interrelationship and interconnectedness. The power to banish and invoke. The five senses. The five-fold kiss. Sacred, holy, necessary.