17 December, 2013

Doesn't It Drive You CRAZY?!

Hey, Readers,

At work, I have two bosses. One is Catholic. The other is Agnostic, Pagan-ish but not practicing. They are great friends, and of course, business partners. They are wonderful! I love them both. I do not name their religions for any sort of commentary on their religious identities, merely to identify them apart from one another and give you a basic idea of where they're coming from in that regard.

My co-worker told me shortly after we met and started working together that she is also Pagan, though not practicing and very new to identifying as Pagan at all. She told me this because, she said, she could tell that I was Pagan. I don't know how she could tell this--the only discussions we'd had that were at all relevant were about tasseomancy and tarot, but whatever the reason, she knew and shared this with me.

Eventually, my co-worker told our Catholic boss that we were both Pagan.
The negative reaction from our boss startled my co-worker, who is not out of the broom closet at all and has never experienced the prejudice or discrimination that sometimes comes with being open about a minority identity such as religion.

Right before Halloween, I overheard my bosses discussing religion and why Pagans celebrate Halloween and Christmas, and why they call it Christmas if Christmas is about Christ. This is when I heard my Agnostic boss say that she is not a practicing Pagan and usually just considers herself Agnostic. I took the opportunity to offer some of my views on why Pagans celebrate Christmas (with our Christian families, usually), and to explain the Winter Solstice/Yule and its difference from and similarity to Christmas, and so on. So we've had some discussions at work about religion. Though our Catholic boss was clearly under-informed or misinformed about some things, I was really happy that she was willing to listen and ask questions. So many people will not even do that. I am grateful for those opportunities.

Today, my co-worker said something about her old teacher, who happens to go to my church, as we learned recently. Our Catholic boss looked very confused. I didn't notice this, but my co-worker asked her what was wrong, and our boss asked, "Pagans go to church now?" I laughed and said "Oh, yeah, I go to a Unitarian Universalist church. It's for everyone. You can believe anything. There are several Pagans at my church, and people of many other faiths." The following conversation ensued:

18 November, 2013

Inversion Aversion

Hey, Readers,

Today I was at my friend Christine's house, and she was telling me about a Facebook page she likes called "The Smart Witch." I haven't looked it up yet, but she was telling me specifically about a picture this person posted which got them a lot of flack from her fans/readers. She had posted a picture of a witch wearing an inverted pentacle. As my friend described it to me, it sounded a lot like a painting I really enjoy, so I looked up an image of it and showed my friend. Sure enough, she said, "That's it, but in the version I saw, her eyes were made to look reddish."

Cauldrón
Cauldrón by Victoria Francés
Cauldrón is a painting by Spanish illustrator, Victoria Francés. At least, I think it's a painting; I'm not sure what medium she uses. In short, I adore her work, have for years, and my dorm room sported several of her pieces in paper print-out form.

In this and a few other of her paintings, Francés depicts the pentacle pendants inverted. Yet, those who know her work will know that in other paintings, pentacles are worn upright. Also, in this very painting, there is an upright pentagram on the cauldron, after which the piece is actually titled. So this is not an instance of the artist not having any knowledge of the symbol, or thinking that it is always inverted, or anything like that. Yet this might beg the question further: If she knows them to be used both ways, why choose to invert them?

Whatever Francés' reasoning, my friend was impressed at how this "Smart Witch" handled the negative comments on her Page after she posted this picture. The author of the page was able to remain calm and simply inform people that there are many reasons why witches DO use this symbol in its inverted form, including that it may be a Second Degree symbol, or represent matter over spirit. For me, looking at this painting, it strikes me that a person may also wear their pentacle this way so that it is upright to their perspective when they look down at it, or so that it is upright when you hold it up in front of you. I have a long-chained necklace which is a clock designed to look like it rests inside a heart-shaped lock, and the clock hangs up-side down so that it faces upright when I pick it up to check the time. Similarly, my compass has a hanging loop on the "bottom." This could be a very practical reason for wearing a pendant inverted if it is more than just decoration, but in fact something that you work with in a practical way.

The main symbolism, though, for an inverted pentacle, is to me, that it represents Spirit Over Matter when upright and Matter Over Spirit when inverted. This is why it has become associated with Satanism, as Satanists are concerned with matters of matter, rather than with matters of spirit. Whenever someone makes a comment about inverted pentacles being Satanic, I am sure to let them know that Satanists choose to use the symbol that way for a specific purpose. It's not that "we" are "upright" as our pentacles and they want to "invert" everything we stand for, it's just simple symbolism and what they want to represent.

As such, I have also personally considered using the inverted pentagram as a symbol to connect more with the Horned God. The symbol was already used in the past to try and associate the Horned God and Paganism as a whole with Satan--you've likely seen those images of an inverted pentagram with a goat-headed being superimposed onto it--so why not use that in a positive sense, for connection, rather than letting it stay something we shun in an effort to dissociate from it? When I mentioned that idea in Magick Class, I DID get horrified looks... from my fellow practitioners! The fear of being associated with this symbol is really ingrained in some people, not because of what it actually means, but because of what society thinks of us and therefore what we try not to perpetuate. People are so quick to say "I'm not evil because my pentacle is this way. If you turn it around, THAT'S Satanism." Not everything is so black and white, up or down.

Could you imagine the reactions if I did start wearing an inverted pentacle? What would the general public think? What would my fellow practitioners think? What would those of you who've read this post think, since you have this information behind it? Would you think twice or more about it before making a judgement? Is there something about it that JUST makes people feel strangely, or have we been taught how to feel about this symbol?

My friend was impressed with The Smart Witch for being able to explain that this symbol is not, in fact, something that people need to get all riled up over and attack her for posting on a witchy Page. I take it just a bit further in letting you know that the image in question is actually a stunning piece of art, done in 2004 by a lovely Spanish artist. I encourage you to always think more deeply about things like symbols, to ask why, to wonder, and to imagine yourself in someone else's position, even if that person is in a painting.

Think: "If I were wearing an inverted pentacle, what would be the reason behind it?"

Blessings~
-C-

21 October, 2013

Magick Class' First Ritual

Hey, Readers,

You may have heard me mention before that I am a co-facilitator for a small group/class hosted by my UU church, which we call Magick Class. The class meets once a month (one month I think we met twice, because it fit everyone's schedules better), and is centered around magickal practice of all kinds and cultures. The class is open to the public, but most people who attend are members of our church or personal friends/family of the church-goers so far. Each month we cover a different topic of interest to the group. As you can imagine, everyone was interested in spellcraft and ritual! But we couldn't just dive in and do a ritual, so we spent a few months teaching the class about some basics that go into ritual and spellcraft: cleansing, the elements, symbolism, and Deity concepts and other guides.

Once we got through the what, where, why, how, and back to who, we thought it was time to do our first ritual as a mixed group! We had all already decided that we wanted to do a ritual for our church, and without giving away too many of the exact details or the exact spell that we did, I want to talk about the general experience of creating a ritual this way, in a group of mixed religious background and belief, and then actually performing that ritual.

Our circle, before the ritual.
We had a meeting last month, September, to plan the ritual. Only six people came to that meeting, including one woman's young daughter (6 years old, or so). We planned the ritual around some bare bones, basic structure, in a process I had read about in The Twelve Wild Swans (which I was finishing at the time). In the book they talk about how planning their rituals starts with the "meat," or "tofu" of the ritual, or the main "body" if you will, and then adds the appropriate opening and closing details around that base. Since we knew our main goal for the church, we started with phrasing that in a concise way that would help everyone remain focused on the goal. Then we had to decide, well, what do we want to DO?!

There was some time where those of us who do magick/ritual more often explained some options for how ritual can go--devotion, celebration, magick, and so on. We shared how some rituals are just honoring something or celebrating, while others include a spell of some kind. The group wanted one with a spell, so we wrote that down on the board. Then we asked what that spell would be, and someone suggested baking bread with magickal ingredients for our purpose, and bread also had to do with our goal. We liked this, and agreed that one person would bake the bread with intent and bring it to the ritual, instead of the baking being the ritual itself. Then I offered an idea of a spell I had done with another group for the same intent, where we blessed items with our intent and kept them or scattered them around. Everyone liked this idea, and someone had the perfect items to bring for us, so we wrote down that we would bless these items using a chant/spell and scatter them around the church building and grounds.

Now that we had the "body" of the ritual, it was time to fill in the details from beginning to end. We decided to cleanse the whole church from the outside in. We talked about how that would be done, with sage and sound. Someone said "I think it would be fun to all bring a special scarf and dance around with them as we move around the church," so we wrote that down. The young girl said "I think we should howl like wolves!" and after someone asked, "What do wolves have to do with it?" someone opened up my Animal Spirit book (which I had with me because we had used it in our previous class and I was hoping to fill people in on what they had missed last month) and read from it that wolves symbolize community, among other things. The qualities of the wolf matched our intent, so we said "Great!" and wrote it down on the board. This is how it progressed. I provided the basic structure, which I told them is not the only way of doing ritual but is the general way that I work personally, and the group offered ideas and then said yes or no to each one. We wrote down how the outside cleansing would transition to the inside cleansing, then into the entrance to the circle. We decided where in the church the circle would be! We decided that each element would be called by a different person or group of people (we were hoping for a larger group than six!), and that I would call The Universe instead of any Deity because that was the most common belief for all the people in the group. We decided the bread would be magickal but also for our Simple Feast/Cakes and Ale, and that someone would bring drink. Then for ease of closing, they asked me to do the thanking/releasing of any energies we called and opening of the circle and extinguishing of the chalice (as we would be bringing in the UU tradition of our Flaming Chalice). We also decided that some of us would get there early to set up the items in the circle so that everything was ready to go.

On the night of the ritual, which was this past Tuesday, my car had broken down so one of the other co-facilitators picked me up at work and we got to the church early to set up. We looked in the church supplies to see what we could use, and found many candles in jars that we decided would form the physical boundary of the circle. We placed printed copies of the ritual order around the outside of the circle, so if anyone forgot what came next, we could look and see. As my friend and co-facilitator placed the elemental items she brought at the four quarters, and her daughter and myself arranged the candles in a circular fashion, everyone started saying how it already felt like part of the ritual, even though all we were doing was setting up. People gradually streamed in, carrying their own elemental representations to add to the circle and the items they said they would bring: scarves, bells, drinks and cookies, and more. We looked in the kitchen to find bowls and cups. I had brought my chalice--a new one I purchased at the renaissance festival--to use as a communal cup, but we wanted others in case not everyone was okay with drinking from the same cup. One of the women had extra scarves, so we used one to decorate the center "altar" area of the circle where we would do the working. We got the Flaming Chalice from the church sanctuary to begin and end our rite. All the pieces came together and people were chatting and having fun setting up. When everyone arrived, we handled the practical things like putting on sweaters since we were starting outside, and going to the bathroom so we wouldn't have to go in the middle of ritual! The total count was eight adults, three teenagers, and three children under 12. Yep, we fit 14 people in that little circle! We were expecting more, but a few people couldn't make it.

My ritual attire was my work clothing, plus my Spider pendant and scarf/shawl.
The ritual itself went very well and was a lot of fun. Since everyone had done the cleansing class the first month, or had been smudged at some other time in their lives, it was easy to start with my friend Moon smudging everyone in turn. Her teenage son played a drum next to her to set the beat, and the rest of us drummed, clapped, or rang bells along with him as everyone was cleansed. When everyone was cleansed, we set off in a sunwise circle around the whole church building, playing drums, clapping and ringing bells, and howling like wolves! We have very understanding neighbors, haha. When we got back to the front door, we had to wait for the whole group to catch up and someone started a chant of "Om/Aum" which everyone naturally picked up. When we all got there, we went inside and cleansed the church from end to end, turning on lights, drumming and clapping and chanting and ringing bells and smudging. Then the lights were turned off as the candles were lit (My friend's son and I were lighting candles, and as he reached to light his stick from a flame I just lit, his stick TOOK my entire flame right out of my candle!), and we prepared to enter the circle. It took a few reminders for us to get the littler kids to not step back outside the circle, but we moved in using multiple circles to cast, called the elements using everyone's original, prepared invocation, and I invited the Universe and lit our Chalice. Then it was time for the spell working and chant, which honestly, the few of us who were there early had written right before! We used a well known chant, We Are a Circle, and wrote a verse to it which stated our intent for the spellworking. We chanted this over the items numerous times, and I had the kids kneel with me on the floor to get closer to the bowl of cleansing water with the items, to pull the energy the adults were raising above us, down down down into the bowl! It engaged them more than when they were just standing, since they weren't able to pick up on the words of the chant. We did this until the energy died down. Then we broke bread and shared apple cider from my chalice or from the individual cups, which I explained was also my new chalice's initiation as it had not before been used! This was our grounding. After that, I did my usual thanking/releasing/opening, which is to say that I improvised based on a basic structure I use, and made it applicable to the group and our individual intent. I referenced back to the chant that we did to solidify it in everyone's minds. Afterward, the circle open, we had more drinks and snacks as we scattered the items around the church in hidden areas. Moon and I took the remaining breads and cider set aside during the ritual, and the ash from the smudge stick, outside as the offering.

During the ritual, we acknowledged issues and gave instruction as it came up. This is a learning group, so we didn't see a problem with things like "Hey, we never decided how we would actually cleanse the items. Should one person do this? Who should do that?" We laughed at our oversight and I suggested a plan of action. "How about I pour the water into the bowl, you add the salts, and then everyone takes some of the items and puts them into the bowl?" As we started that, someone else said, "May I suggest that everyone hold the item in their hand for a minute first, to charge it with our intent, and then put it into the bowl?" And so we did. Then the person who was going to lead the chant started, and I said "Wait, let's make sure ALL the items are in the bowl so they are all charged. Who would like to charge the last items and add them?" Some people reached for them and did that. We passed around a sheet of paper for everyone to read the words of the chant as we tried to pick them up. Things like that! This was by no means perfect, but it went smoothly because we all knew it was a learning environment. When I started to thank the elements, people raised their hands to ask questions first! As I did it, the kids raised their hands to ask more! It was a great experience, and I think everyone enjoyed it because we did it together. It had a plan behind it, so that no one would feel like we were floundering in the dark, but people did improvise and add things as they saw fit, and it worked very well.

Our circle, after the ritual.
So what is the point of this post? I guess, for one, I want to share it because it was a fun learning experience for me as well as for my group. And two, it lets you know a bit more about what I do in my personal life as far as teaching/learning/group work. This is my learning group, whereas I do get together from time to time with an informal circle of witches, which is still eclectic and variable, but everyone in that group has their own personal practice already and identifies as pagan/witch and already knows the basic things we are just getting to learn about in Magick Class. And three, I want it to be a sort of encouragement for those of my viewers/readers who may be concerned about what ritual is, or what it can be. Was this a traditional ritual? Not in ANY sense! But was it a ritual? Of course. And the cool thing is that some of the people who participated in this ritual are pretty much brand new to magick, and they were still able to participate in a way that they felt comfortable with. We built the ritual to fulfill that, from the invocation of the Universe instead of particular deities (which I do a lot anyway, which is why I offered it as an option) to the inclusion of separate drinking glasses. We come from different religious and spiritual backgrounds, but we were able to work together toward a common goal for our church. And we had a great time doing it.

Blessings~
-C-

24 September, 2013

Autumnal Musings

Hey, Readers,

Yesterday, I composed this Tweet:


As hectic as life can be, and as much as sometimes we may really just need a break from it all, I find that I am also extremely comforted by the fact that everything does just keep on going. The days that are hard do not last, but are replaced by new days with the potential to be entirely different. The days that are good also keep on going. No matter what happens, for better or worse, no one can interrupt the cycle of Nature and all that is. Yesterday, I found that thought to be very helpful. I have been having so much fun lately, relaxing and enjoying being away and in another world entirely (Re: my work at medieval and renaissance faires), and I've also been overwhelmed by all that needs doing back at home and online and in my "real world" life. The people who help us, the people who hinder us, none of them can stop the turning of the wheel. No matter what happens, the wheel will turn, the next day will come, the holy days will wax and wane, and we will grow and move onward. Hopefully we also move forward as a whole. But either way, we move, we celebrate, we sing and dance, we live.

And the wheel turns.

Blessings~
-C-

08 September, 2013

Pagan Library Books

Hey, Readers,

In July, I visited a library in a large town--not a city, but a fairly big college town--and was dismayed with the selection of pagan books. When using the computer database to search for keywords, very few things came up when I searched "Wicca" or "Paganism," and none of the titles that came up were available at that library. They also weren't things I had heard of, except for one, which I did end up reading later because my friend happened to have a copy, but that's another book review entirely. Anyway, that library did turn out to have a couple really good pagan books once I looked in person, including Triumph of the Moon and Drawing Down the Moon. They also had some interesting books I hadn't heard of yet. I was confused as to why I couldn't find those titles with the searches I had conducted on the computer; If they didn't come up under "pagan," "paganism," "witchcraft," and so on, then how could people expect to find them?

I think I've stumbled upon an answer to that question in the days since that library visit. For one, I looked at some of the books in the Paganism section at my half price bookstore, and then earlier this week I visited another library to check out what kinds of books they had on pagan paths. Basically, what I discovered is that there are quite a few books that pagans would find interesting at libraries, but unlike at the bookstore where they're on the "New Age" or "Paganism" shelves, books that libraries choose may have sneaky classifications.

As Above, So Below: Paths to
Spiritual Renewal in Daily Life
At the bookstore, I came across this title and chuckled to myself at the way it was classified on the back. Some books have keywords or topics listed in a corner of the back cover, and this one said something like "Body, Mind & Spirit / Psychology," things which are clearly related to pagan spirituality and in a book which touches on it, but not listed as a "Pagan" book. (It was, however, on the cart of new books for the Religion/New Age section of the bookstore.) Of course pagans do not only read "pagan" books, but more and more I started noticing that some books which ARE obviously pagan or specifically about paganism, are still not listed as "Pagan." Here are some more examples from this past week at the library, when I was paying more attention and specifically thinking to take photos and remember how some things were classified.

Before I get to the books, let's take a moment to remind ourselves of what we have to work with. This is what the "Religion" section in a library consists of. The 200s are Religion, in general. The 210s cover philosophy and theory thereof, and the 290s are "Other Religions." The 220s through 280s are all various topics about the Bible and Christianity. So right away, we're all in the severe minority for resources. The 290s are for ALL other religions, and there are a lot of them.

29 August, 2013

A Day at the Art Museum

Hey, Readers,

For my birthday on 16 August, my boyfriend took me to the Cleveland Museum of Art. We spent several hours there, beginning with a lunch at their cafe and continuing through all the available exhibits, from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt all the way up to the modern artists. I used my video camera to take photos of some of the pieces that I was allowed to photograph--most of the modern art is not allowed to be photographed due to copyright--and while I will be putting together a video showing the photos and talking a bit about my journey through the museum, I wanted to share some pictures here. I will not show every single picture in this post, but I will show them all in the video, so when I get that posted I'll be sure to link it here so you don't miss it!

Our wine and glasses
As I said, first we had lunch at the cafe. I had a green bean salad--one of the only vegan options for fresh foods--and opted for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich (despite the bread containing gluten and other non-vegan products, since I am trying to eat vegan as much as possible, but when not possible, I am at least vegetarian). I also had a White Peach Tea (Honest Tea company) and a lemon bar for dessert. But my boyfriend, wine-drinkers as we are, also got us a small bottle of Pinot Gris. They even gave us wine glasses! Not bad for a museum lunch.

The main area of the museum, the "lobby" if you will, is an atrium and contained a few pieces itself. The pieces there rotate. At the time, there were twelve large metal sculptures of the heads of animals representing the Chinese Zodiac, but I didn't take photos of them. Then we went into the museum area itself, where we could see all the things the CMA usually houses, as well as anything that was on special exhibit. They were preparing for several new exhibits which we could not see because they weren't ready yet, including an exhibit on Tantra in Buddhist Art. I thought the Tantra exhibit was current, but I don't think we saw it, so I'm not sure.

Moving into the museum, the first thing I went to see was the Ancient section, encompassing Greece, Rome, Italy, and so on. Now we get into the photos! I took note of anything specifically related to my own religious experiences or interests, and anything that I thought would interest my friends or family, so I can share with them, as well. First, some ancient goddess-related figures:

"The Stargazer," approx. 3000 BC
"Bear-Woman"
 "The Stargazer" is the oldest such figure owned by the CMA. It is a female figure carved in marble, and she is shown here facing me, with her head tilted up to gaze at the stars.

"Bear-Woman," to the right, is an earthenware figure. She shows the usual feminine characteristics exaggerated in art. At my last Magick Class meeting before this birthday trip, we had been discussing symbolism, including the Goddess art of history, such as the Venus of Willendorf. Thus, I took a great interest in these similar depictions of women.

15 August, 2013

For My Birthday: Simple Gifts Meditation

Hey, Readers, Viewers, Followers, and Others,

Tomorrow, 16 August, is my birthday. On this particular birthday, I reach three-and-twenty. (When I told Grams this yesterday, she made a sound like "Ew!" and when I laughed and asked her why, she said because this means I'm REALLY getting old. Says the 88-year-old Italian woman.)

Me, 10 August 2013
So tomorrow I turn 23, and last year around this time some people who wanted to give me gifts donated some money through PayPal (which you can still do, the links are always on my blog page, but I don't usually plug it) and I got some things on my birthday list with it: a Yoga mat, a DFTBA t-shirt, and a Mike Falzone t-shirt! This year, I haven't had very good internet, so I haven't been up to date with my videos in order to even mention that my birthday is approaching (except on Pagan Perspective, because the collab's 4th birthday is also that day). I haven't even made a birthday list, nor do I know what I'm doing to celebrate my birthday!

But I do know what I've just decided I want all of YOU to do for my birthday. Yes, YOU. If you're reading this, I want you to try this out. Even if you don't consider yourself a "magickal" person, this is something EVERYONE can do. Please just try, for me! This is a meditation or prayer, but can also be sort of a spell if you want it to be, and it's for me as much as it is for you and for everyone in the world. This just came to my mind about an hour ago, so it's not like I've been planning this forever. It's simple, it's easy to execute, and you can tweak it to make it fancier or simpler as you personally require. The important thing is not that you do it a certain way, just that you do it. Try it out!

What You Need:
  • You.
  • Some quiet time.
  • (OPTIONAL) Three tealight or birthday candles, ribbons, or any other object that makes visualization easier for you. Again, this is optional, so the people who want to make it more spell/ritual-like may do so. The rest of you do NOT have to do this. You will just visualize/imagine everything.

What I'd Like You to Do:
  1. Find some quiet time in your routine on the 16th (if you come across this a day or two later, go ahead and do it then, too). Sit down at the breakfast table with the paper and your coffee, take a moment as you get in the car to head out, a short hiatus after dinner--Whenever and wherever you need it to be.
  2. A) If you're using candles or some other item you'll need a place where you can use them. If you're doing that, set them up. Three candles in a row, three ribbons pinned or tied together so you can hold onto them, whatever it is. This is mostly for the people who usually do spells, so those people should do it the way they see fit! B) If you've never done something like this before, or if you just don't want to use any extra items, all you have to do at this step is get comfortable and prepare to sit quietly for a few minutes.
  3. When comfortable (and you can be sipping your tea during this or whatever is comfortable), close your eyes and think for a moment about the day. Think about birthdays, if you celebrate them, and what they mean to you. Think about gifts--material, spiritual, emotional. What makes a good gift? When do you enjoy giving gifts, and when do you dread being expected to give them? Think about the concept of birthdays or other special days, and about gift-giving, for a minute or so. This is just to get your focus ready for the next few steps.
  4. For the first "candle" (If using tools, light the first candle or hold the first ribbon, etc. while doing this. The rest of you will simply think and visualize), think about what "gifts" YOU personally would like to receive. This can be physical, but more likely should be intangible, mental/spiritual. Do you wish to be more relaxed or have time to relax? Do you wish you were more motivated? Maybe you desire more recognition, or more anonymity. Whatever it is, take a minute or so to reflect on what it is that you personally want. Imagine yourself receiving or using these gifts. Either speaking aloud or just in your head, form these thoughts into sentences. Say to yourself, "I desire to spend more time with my kids." "I wish for more peace at work." Create positive affirmations by stating the sentences as though they are already true--"I have more time to spend with my kids," and so on. (If using ribbons, tie knots in the first ribbon as you affirm these things.) Then move on to the next.
  5. For the second "candle" (again, if using tools, do what you need to do!), think about what gifts you would like ME to receive. This is where the birthday part comes in. It doesn't have to be something you could actually give me, or even help me to get. It just has to be something you wish for me. Maybe you know how I've been looking for work in my field, or a place of my own, or maybe you know something I'm interested in or something I want to accomplish. Maybe you barely know me at all, but there are things you wish for every human being. Whatever it is, think about it for a while, and then once again, form these wishes into positive affirmation sentences or simply state the wishes, aloud or to yourself. (*NOTE: If this part really feels weird to you, go ahead and skip it! Or think about gifts you desire for someone else in your life, if doing it for me is weird.)
  6. For the last "candle," broaden your focus to the world as a whole. What does the world require that you desire for it? For all the people on the Earth, or maybe just for everyone in your country, or state, think about those gifts you wish for them. Think about gifts you wish to give the Earth itself. Chances are this one will be difficult for some people, if you're not used to thinking on a large scale. Take an extra couple minutes on this one, however long you have. But don't skip it. Think about all the other people doing this exercise and what gifts you want for them. Or think about the people you've read about in the paper or seen on TV and what gifts you want for them. Again, when you have a few ideas really strong in your mind, say them to yourself (and tie that final knot, or what have you).
  7. Quickly recap the exercise in your mind. What are gifts, what do you want for yourself, what do you want for me, and what do you want for the rest of the world? At this point, I would close my eyes in a final moment of focus if they weren't already closed, but do whatever you need to.
  8. When you're finished, get up and go about your day! If you used candles, I requested tealights purposely because they don't burn long, so you can let them burn out and toss them, or snuff them out to use later (relighting them will only reaffirm these positive wishes! Don't use them for another working, but you can light them again). Birthday candles would also be great here, because they're quick, and many of us associate them with this kind of thing! If you use birthday candles, go ahead and blow them out instead of snuffing--It follows tradition and releases your wishes to the Universe.
Hopefully, if enough people try to do this tomorrow, we'll have several people doing this at the exact same time. If I had planned farther ahead, I would have tried to plan a time for all of us to try doing it together. But whatever time you get to do it, make it count! And while you're doing this, I will be taking time in my day to do it, too. I will be thinking about the gifts I want, of course, but then I will think about the gifts I want for my viewers/readers/followers as individual people, and finally what I want for the World or Earth as a whole.

If you do this, leave a short comment here (don't share what you wished for!) or on Twitter or Facebook saying that you did, just because I'd like to get an idea of how many of us got to it during the same day. Feel free to do this any other time you want--For other people's birthdays, or for general well-wishing.

Well, that's what I want from you all for my birthday! Especially if you're the person who doesn't usually do this type of thing, your willingness to try something simple like this is a gift in itself. And who knows, maybe you'll find it's useful and start using this type of thing more often! Hey, it's my birthday. I can wish.

Blessings~
-C-

07 August, 2013

Positive Reactions

Hey, Readers,

As members of a minority religion/spiritual path which is still largely misunderstood in the United States (I don't know about other countries first hand), we often swap stories of prejudice and discrimination. Often, these stories are funny and provide an opportunity for us to laugh at our own stereotypes and feel a sense of bonding--we are not the only ones to experience these negative situations and we can grow from them together. Stories of negative experience are important, both for this camaraderie, and for educating the rest of the public as to the prejudice that, yes, actually happens.

If you're anything like me, you've also heard people talk about how much we "complain" or "cry discrimination," or say that we like to feel persecuted because it makes us feel special in some way. (If you haven't heard those things, good for you and the people around you!) But far from always crying about how prejudiced against we are, and how horrible it is to be a minority, we also have a lot of great, positive stories of acceptance. I'd like to share some recent stories of mine that fall under that positive category.

During my recent job as stage manager for a teen musical workshop, I got a lot of compliments on my various pentacle necklaces! Kind words came from both my cast, ages ranging from 12 to 17, and from my co-workers on the crew, ages ranging 14 to maybe in their 40s. You already heard in a previous blog entry about the director and tech director asking me about my sabbat and esbat (the summer solstice this year fell close to a full moon), but here are some other short exchanges that I haven't already told you:

  1. While standing behind the box office counter at the theatre, one of my female cast members leaned over the counter to look at my jewelry. I was engaged in another task and did not notice until she asked, "Hey, what's your necklace?" Having heard a lot of Christian-centric banter the previous summer at the same theatre, I wasn't sure whether the teen crowd was as religious as the younger kids I'd worked with before, so after a moment's hesitation when I wasn't sure how I would phrase my answer, I simply told her the truth. "It's a Goddess pentacle," I said. "Oh!" she smiled and said, "That's really pretty."
  2. Another evening, the youngest girl on the cast (12) got a look at another of my pentacles, and simply said "I really like your necklace!" Probably not all kids raised in a Christian town would recognize what a pentacle is, but this girl is very sharp. I've worked with her twice now. If she doesn't already know the meaning of the symbol, I'm sure she'll find out.
  3. One of the first nights I started working in the booth with my board ops, I was wearing my moon phase pentacle and one of my ops asked, "Are those the moon phases on your necklace?" After I said yes, he said "That's really cool." The other board op, overhearing this, took a closer look and agreed, "Yeah, that is really cool." My board ops are 14 and 16, and both atheist/agnostic.
  4. One of the show nights, I again wore my Goddess pentacle, and getting a look at it, the second board op from the previous story laughed and said "Wow, that's gutsy." "What?" I asked, and he said "Wearing that necklace here." I asked him why, and he said "Because this is SUCH a Christian town!" One of the boys on cast was also in the booth at the time and said "Yeah, don't let [the director] see you wearing that," to which I said "[She] has known me for years, and always seen me wearing pentacles. Not only has she never said a negative word about it, but you guys all know she wears crystals and talks about the sun and moon phases ALL THE TIME. I think a lot of the people here have pagan leanings, if they're not actually pagan." Another member of the cast, the son of the tech director, confirmed my suspicions with a knowing nod and "I'm pretty sure my dad is Wiccan." After that, there was just a silent acknowledgement of the awesome possibility that in the middle of that little Christian town, there could be a whole room full of people of differing beliefs who were all respectful of each other.
I can think of two other stories from the theatre, but those involve people sticking up for my views when a member of the cast bombarded us with Christian subject matter. So while they are stories of acceptance and people not being at all afraid to stand up and say that they supported me, they could also be looked at as stories of prejudice, with the Christian person first giving me grief. So we'll stay away from those for now! But the theatre is not the only place I've gotten compliments or positive feedback on my views:
  • At the medieval faire, I'm always complimenting people on their pagan jewelry or tattoos. But the best compliments I've received so far at the faire were probably those from two patrons of the faire who were not in costume, looked like it was their first time there, and had approached just to ask me for directions, not to talk about the Runes (which is what we sell at the stand I work). After talking to me for a moment and finding me helpful, they decided to chat a bit about the weather or something equally mundane, and then the young girl asked, "Is that a pentacle you're wearing?" I said yes and she said "That's very pretty." Then the older woman, presumably the girl's mother, looked closely at it, smiled, and said "Oh that is pretty!" Then they said it was great to meet me and went about their way.
  • Three or four of the people at the faire have revealed to me this year that they watch my YouTube channel. Most, if not all of them, started watching due to the medieval faire videos I post, but all said they continued to watch more, and love them. This, of course, means they know a LOT more about me than I know about them! Actually, it's even weird to write this, since they may very well read it someday. Hey, you!
  • At craft shows where my mother and I sell pagan-themed things, we've had several people come up and either express like-minded views, or ask us to tell them more about paganism or magick. We have not yet been approached by someone for that type of conversation who has not been open-minded and positive about it all.
  • At the UU church I attend, we have started hosting a Magick Class. Four months into it, I keep meeting more and more people interested in magick and paths that incorporate it. These people are not all pagans themselves, but include UUs (of course), Jews, and self-titled "Recovering Catholics." Others have never really given their beliefs a label. Most of us came from Christian/Catholic backgrounds, and a few were raised in pagan-ish beliefs.
An old logo picture I made for my channel, which
shows the three pentacles mentioned in this post.
And finally, a story I briefly related as part of my "Shit People Say to: Pagans, Neopagans, Wiccans, Witches, etc." video: My sophomore year of undergrad, I was a teaching assistant for a freshman colloquium (as I was for the rest of my time there). One of my students was also my dorm floor neighbor, and one day, in my dorm room, he caught a glimpse of my "heavy duty" pewter pentacle necklace, with the Theban alphabet around the circle. A Christian boy from Texas originally (but living in Ohio for years), he took a deep breath and said something to the effect of, "Okay. Cara. That necklace you're wearing. I've been taught that it's bad, but you're wearing it, and you're awesome, so. Could you please tell me what that symbol means to you?" Amazed at this perfect learning opportunity, I quickly obliged, and afterward he thanked me and said that that made so much more sense than what he was taught, because in knowing me as a person, he knew I could never be part of the negative images that he had been taught to associate with the symbol. Today, he is engaged to a mutual friend of ours who used to be a practicing Wiccan/Pagan. As far as I know, she still holds a lot of the same beliefs, but no longer actively practices.

It's sort of amazing what can happen when people simply talk to one another, without judgement. But at the same time, it's not amazing, because it really does happen more than we mention. I mean, it shouldn't be amazing in the sense that we gasp and act surprised when it happens--it should be the default! (Yes, the word "should" is problematic, but you see my point.) People always tend to talk about and report the bad experiences, but we owe credit to the positive experiences, too. It is important to bring the bad stuff to light in order to educate people and learn from it, but I also think it's great to talk about the wonderful people we meet who act as people should always act toward each other--with understanding and mutual respect.

Blessings~
-C-

22 July, 2013

Witchy Book Recommendations

Hey, Readers,

People are always asking me what books I recommend on witchy topics, whether it be Magick, Paganism in general, Wicca, or something more specific. I've been typing out new messages to all of these people for years, and saying I will create a list somewhere for those same years. Without any further adieu, here is that list of things I recommend, somewhat annotated if I feel some explanation or plugging is necessary. I will add onto this list over the years as I find more books that I like. Enjoy!


Authors I Love
  • Scott Cunningham
    • Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
    • Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
    • Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic
    • Earth, Air, Fire & Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic
    • Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
    • Magical Aromatherapy
    • Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects (with David Harrington)
    • and many more he's written, alone or with Harrington and others, on other subjects!
  • Starhawk
    • The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess
    • Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions (with other authors)
    • The Twelve Wild Swans (with Hilary Valentine) (Advanced training book, the sequel to The Spiral Dance, and goes through sort of "Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced" sections.)
    • and more which I haven't read yet, so I can't personally recommend, but that I want to read! On the list for me to check out next: The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature, and The Pagan Book of Living and Dying.
Other authors you should check out:
Janet and Stewart Farrar, Doreen Valiente, Raymond Buckland, Gerina Dunwich, Gerald Gardner, Silver Ravenwolf, Ronald Hutton, Margaret Murray, D.J. Conway, Richard Webster, Raven Grimassi, etc.

Paganism, General
  • PAGANISM: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions - Joyce and River Higginbotham (A look at those things that, from their research and experience, unite all Pagans.)
  • The Everything Paganism Book - Selene Silverwind (Basics about major paths, useful for comparing one to another in a basic way.)
  • The Way of the Horned God: A Young Man's Guide to Modern Paganism - Dancing Rabbit (Author is an online friend of mine--watch my review of the book here.)
  • Drawing Down the Moon - Margot Adler (History)
  • Modern Pagans: An Investigation of Contemporary Pagan Practices - RE/SEARCH, interviews by V. Vale and John Sulak (I learned so much from these interviews! Truly a great read!)
Wicca
  • Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft - Raven Grimassi
  • Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham
  • Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham
Magick
  • Write Your Own Magic - Richard Webster
  • The Goodly Spellbook - Lady Passion and *Diuvei, Coven Oldenwilde
Shadow Magick
  • In the Shadow of 13 Moons - Kimberly Sherman-Cook
Shamanism, etc.
  • Totem Magic - Yasmine Galenorn
  • By Oak, Ash, & Thorn - D.J. Conway (Also talks about Shadow)
  • By Land, Sky, & Sea: Three Realms of Shamanic Witchcraft - Gede Parma (Purchased and read in August 2013, so this is a recent find for me!)

List of 27 must-read books on paganism, from Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/pagan-books-27-essential-_n_1556931.html


Fiction with Pagan Themes
  • Priestess of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley & Diana L. Paxson (Historical fiction)
  • The Killian Star - Alyson Denny (Personal friend of mine, and upon recently catching up with her at my new job, she tells me that she has multiple books now and this one has been rewritten since I read it!)
  • The Cassie Rivers Adventures (series) - Christin Keck (You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder if Christin knows the same people you do, but mostly you'll LAUGH.)
    • Book One: The Goddess Loves Your Shoes
    • Book Two: Altared States
    • Book Three: Infantasia
    • Book Four: Mini-Apple-Loss (Released May 2014. I just finished it in Nov. 2014, and an interview will be forthcoming!)

Blessings~
-C-

11 July, 2013

Working Witch

Hey, Readers,

As always, there are several topics I want to address here, but I've been so busy lately that I haven't had much time at all to sit down and write, make videos, or do much of anything that I usually do! So this is just a quick update to let you all know what's been going on that's keeping me from my online life.

Firstly, everyone probably knows by now (especially if you watch my YouTube channel) that I've been assistant-directing/stage managing a teen musical. Tech week for that show begins this Sunday, after which I will be there EVERY DAY for rehearsals and the shows next weekend.

Secondly, last week I acquired a job working at the Medieval Faire, selling runes! My employer is a musician, well-known to the faires around here, and he's recently re-opened his Runeworks business. My mother is friends with him on Facebook so she heard he wanted to hire a salesperson and got us in contact. He hired me last week and this past Saturday and Sunday were my first weekend ever as a vendor at the faire, rather than a patron. It was different in a lot of ways, but very fun, and I look forward to the next five weekends. Although it does mean that I can't attend Circle meetings or field trips we had planned, the faire is a great reason to miss a few things.

Between those two jobs and the fact that my boyfriend is home for summer break, I have been very busy. But add onto that one final thing, and you've got a crazy busy theatre-filled summer for me. Yesterday I learned that the group from my college (whence I recently graduated, in 2012) wants me back to work the summer theatre camp. I can't do all of it because of the show I'm already working on, but they want me to work the mornings. So my upcoming week looks like this:

  • Early morning drive to campus (the first day)
  • Be on campus working on theatre camp until early afternoon
  • Drive to musical
  • Rehearse/perform musical
  • Drive back to campus
  • Sleep on campus
  • Wake up early morning and start camp again
  • Repeat list from second entry

Busy, busy! And in these busy times, it's more than important to find some quiet time. I've enjoyed coming home to my boyfriend each evening after a long day of theatre, to have some dinner and maybe watch a movie, and then go to bed. There is no real back yard here, but there is some grass I can walk around in while on the phone. And I don't have all my personal items here yet, so I don't have an altar space or anything like that, but I still sing and chant in my car while driving to and from work, keep herbs hanging from my car visors, brake for animals sent by the Goddess, and of course, I constantly represent my faith in real life and online. I've been keeping up with messages on YouTube, and with emails, as well as having conversations with people in person about what I believe. A friend of mine recently learned through several conversations that I'm Pagan, and asked me to explain a bit about my beliefs. Many of my cast members have commented on my pentacle necklaces. The Medieval Faire is a great place to meet other pagans and generally like-minded folks, and the people I'm working with on the musical also have similar views (see previous post).

So no, I haven't been doing any ritual or spellcraft recently, owing largely to my hectic schedule, but that never means that I am not being an active member of my faith. I know that a lot of people often struggle with these times, thinking that they're slacking or not doing enough, so I hope this will be a reassuring thing for them. I am not only a witch when in circle, and odds are, neither are you.

Blessings~
-C-

26 June, 2013

Post-Solstice

Hey, Readers,

Once again, there are several things I want to talk about, and they keep piling up before I decide what to talk about and when. So I'll start with the first one I can think of and move on from there. Sometimes, it is best to begin at the beginning.

An obligatory post-solstice note. On the eve of the solstice, I spent hours of the day divining with my oracle cards. I wore a "witchy" outfit to rehearsal and got back to the house around 10pm. Grams asked me to fetch the mail, so I used that as an excuse to spend a few extra minutes outside in the dark--after which I composed this Tweet:

Click to view on Twitter
On Solstice Day/Litha/Midsummer, I spent most of the day on the warm, sunny porch, again working with my cards and generally soaking up the sun (not physically--wear sunblock!). On Sunday I had a Circle meeting where we were scheduled to watch a documentary about mythology and perform a Solstice celebration ritual. (I Tweeted a photo of my gold toned attire.) We ended up spending the first hour and a half of our meeting playing with the adorable foster kittens my friend is caring for, and then finally getting to the documentary a while later after some snacks. It was a History channel Clash of the Gods episode about Medusa, which certainly makes you view the gods in a different way. But after that, no one else seemed interested in doing a solstice ritual. Nothing formal was planned but I don't mind spontaneity, so I was hoping to get to do something. However, everyone else was content to just eat and chat for the next couple hours. So I'm very glad that before going to Circle, I went to a local park/nature reserve by myself, found a secluded spot in the woods off the main trail, and did a short devotion there. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten to do anything for the sabbat at all.

Oh, and afterwards it was still light out at 6:30pm, so I went to the lake by my old house where I had celebrated Litha last year at dawn, and where Willow resides. The beach has been grown over a lot by grass, and algae creeped along the water line so that I had to search for a section of water I could wade into. I shared freshly picked strawberries and blueberries with the fish, and left some for Willow, as well. It all made me think of the song we had listened to in church that morning--"Canned Goods" by folk singer, Greg Brown. This is the video of it that we watched during service.

~

Fast forward to Monday evening at rehearsal, and the director and I were walking toward the back door to get something from her car when we passed by the tech director. The director asked of him, "How was your Solstice soirée?" He proceeded to describe how he and his kids (two of my cast members) went to a show reunion party and then to the Observatory Park for the solstice event. Then he asked me how my solstice was. Mind you, I have not told anyone there that I'm pagan, though I do wear pagan jewelry every day, so if they know what it is, it's visible. No one's ever said anything, though. So I told him, I was supposed to go to a group celebration but we just watched a documentary instead and no one wanted to do a celebration, to which he responded, "Oh, TELL ME they didn't blow off an esbat for a documentary!" Not just everyone in the world knows the word "esbat." All in all, this summer working with the show has been a lot better than last year when the young kids always managed to work the topic of dying into the conversation, which was followed up by going to Hell, the devil, Satan, and so on. This year, I've received multiple compliments on my pentacles (I wore a few different ones over the past three weeks), heard about a cast member's love of Greek mythology and who her divine parents would be if she were a demi-god, and had a short conversation about everyone's solstice/esbat plans. The director has always randomly talked about solstices and full moons, all the years I've known her, and she wears a lot of crystal jewelry. But I never let myself assume that meant she was pagan/a witch/anything similar, whatever the term. And I was never aware if she knew that I was. But it certainly is an interesting feeling to have someone whose religious affiliation you don't know, ask you casually about your sabbat. Through years of being met with strange reactions, I got used to editing my statements so as not to startle people. I even said "celebration" instead of "ritual" when I described what I did, just to feel it out and see what was really going on. Might I live in a world where finally, a question like "How did ritual go?" is as commonplace as "What did you learn in school today?"

Click to view on Twitter

Blessings, and I hope you had a Happy Solstice~
-C-

19 June, 2013

Trance Work (video script)

Hey, Readers,

It took me three EXTRA LONG tries to upload my Pagan Perspective video this week about trance work. It finally posted today, a day late, while I was at rehearsal. I made it public even though Eric's video was already up by then, so his video shows at the Featured Video today. But that's okay, people will find it! Not everyone watches our videos on the first day they're up, anyway.

So because it took so long to put the video up, and because I had a script written out that I used for the video, I thought I would post the text version here. The video does vary slightly from this script, and I elaborated a little more on a couple things in the video. Otherwise, this basically covers it! It was a short video this week (so I thought it would upload quicker, but noooo, I had to have trouble!).


This week's topic:
from MrAbhainn [pron.: owh-anne] / Níall
--"I'd like to hear your thoughts on the growing trend of trance work in modern paganism and witchcraft. With a collection of Traditional Wiccans and Ecstatic Witches on the channel as well as solitaries whose individual paths are varied should be interesting. Trance work is a large area so I am as always very open to people interpreting as they will, whether it be trance seership/prophecy or possession such as with loas or orishas. Drawing down the Moon/Sun is another form or godform assumption."

Script:
--Trance work is not just in paganism/witchcraft. It is found in many religions and spiritualities, and even non-religious environments where the focus is more on what actually does on in our body and mind.
--I think it's really popular because there are so many different ways to go about it that people who are interested in it don't have to do something they're uncomfortable with, they can use another method that fits them. Just like meditation in general. A lot of things that people hear are beneficial or just really cool, such as meditation, yoga, lucid dreaming, ecstatic dancing, or generally reaching an "altered state of consciousness", are elements of trance. Daydreaming or getting really focused on a specific task is also trance, any time you slip into another level of consciousness or focus and other things are sort of blocked out.
--I don't personally know about any GROWING trend within the community, because so much of trance work is what I think of as things that the pagan-related community already does, like meditation or astral travel or any number of things. So I can't really comment on why I think there is a growth in the trend because I'm not directly involved enough to have observed an increase from the past until now.
--However, with the mention of seership, possession, and so on, I will say that I have never used trance with the goal of having another spirit speak through me, or anything. It's usually on my own and any messages I receive are for me so it doesn't have to do with another spirit coming into mine or using mine to communicate audibly, as with Oracles or seers.
--For me trance is all about getting to another level of consciousness where messages can come through or skills can be worked on, but it's never about bringing those things through to someone else or being a transmitter, although I do recognize that as another part of trance, but it's not what I personally have worked on.
--Drawing Down the Moon for me is not about bringing the Goddess physically into me and speaking through me or acting as the Goddess, it's just about connection to that energy and where it already lies within me. That's probably a difference due to solitary practice versus coven work, but that's what it is for me.

--There are four links in the description to pages I looked at when refreshing myself on what is considered trance: Wikipedia, a Wiccan page, a blog from someone exploring trance in their own way, and a psychotherapy site. So all that should provide a decent overview of the same basic topic from different perspectives.

That's all I have for this week. Thank you very much for watching, &c.

Resources:
1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trance
2) http://bluemoonwicca.org/trance.html
3) http://herbalwitchcraft.com/blog/2011/10/05/beginning-with-trancework/
4) http://meridianpsych.com/trance-therapy/

Blessings~
-C-

16 June, 2013

Updates and Upcomings

Hey, Readers,

This post is going to be full of links!

I want to take this opportunity to tell you what's been going on and what's coming up, as I recently posted an "Update" video on my YouTube channel, so this is another place to update. I'll talk a bit about what's been going on online, what's upcoming, and then also what's been going on/upcoming in my personal life.

Online:
What's passed:

What's to come:
  • I'm currently uploading the next video that I said in my update video was coming up--an update of my 2009 "Five Must Haves" video. This video talks a bit about physical items I feel I "must have" for my practice (meaning the things I LIKE to have), but also gets into non-physical traits and qualities that I feel allow me to practice the way I do, such as honesty, humility, and so on.
  • After that video, the next two uploads will be about coming out of the broom closet. The first video is about how I told my family (mother, Rev. Rose) about my path and how I worked it out with her, which I've talked about before, but I mostly talked about it on Pagan Perspective. The last time I made a video about it on cutewitch772 was in 2009, guest starring my mother, so this one is an update just from me alone. The second video is "For Parents" (or guardians or other loved ones), addressing the people on the OTHER side of this issue.
  • To go along with my "For Parents" video, I am asking my mother, Rev. Rose, to make a video about the subject from her point of view, as a Universalist type Christian, as a ULC minister, as a non-pagan mother of a pagan child. She will watch my video before doing hers, because she likes to respond to what I've already said as a sort of structure or outline for her response, so her video will be up significantly after mine, but we'll have it to look forward to.
  • Yesterday and today I recorded a new t-shirt recon video (which is more relevant to my other blog).
  • And today I recorded a book review of a Catholic book, which will be posted... erm, probably in a couple weeks, judging by the list of videos I have to post first!
That's quite a lot of links, isn't it? Explore!

Personal Life:
What's passed:
  • 3 June began the summer theatre workshop for which I am the Assistant Director/Stage Manager, or in Theatre-speak, the AD/SM (which is just said as letters, A-D-S-M). I'm working on a teen version of Shrek, the Musical. It's much more politically incorrect than you'd expect if you've seen the movies. I quite enjoy it!
  • I applied for another part-time job at a retail/garden shop/farmers market type place. Not sure I'll hear back from them because Sundays are really my only busy day and they appear to only need workers all day on Sundays.
  • I've done a lot of cleaning and organizing and moving my belongings, sorting them into what I want to keep and what I can either try to sell or donate or give to people I know. This is in anticipation of moving to another kind person's house where I can stay until I move still elsewhere.
  • I started reading The Lovely Bones. I haven't seen the movie, but I own the book.
  • My boyfriend was in town briefly, between the end of his grad school year and his summer visit to his family across the country. So I'm glad we got to have a brief day and a half together. He'll be back next month.
  • I am now the co-chair of the environmental committee at my UU church.
What's to come:
  • Several more weeks of the theatre workshop.
  • More job applications. (Seriously what happened to jobs that end at 5pm so I can still do theatre in the evenings? Or jobs that let you have Sundays free for religious activities or personal time? Or jobs in theatre or religion that pay well?! =P)
  • More reading. More studying. More watching. More more more.
  • This month I will be able to attend my Magick Class meeting because the director of the workshop gave me the night off. But she's taking the cast to see Shrek, the Musical at another theatre that evening, so I will miss that instead.
  • Next week I have a Circle meeting and I believe we'll be focusing on mythology.
  • Next month is the anniversary of my circle (when they started it, of course I wasn't there then), so we'll be having a party, and also taking a trip to Lily Dale, NY in August.
  • My birthday is in August. I'll be 23.
That's about as far ahead as I have any plans, so that's all! I really just wanted to take this time while my video is uploading to update this blog in some way, and this seemed the most appropriate, before I dive into anything new. That's why I made the update video for my YouTube channel, as well.

Every so often, it's good to step out of the routine and just take stock of everything. It's the same reason why I sometimes prefer to get stopped at red lights. It gives me a chance to look around, breathe, and ready myself for the next move.

Blessings~
-C-

05 June, 2013

Earthseed, SolSeed

Hey, Readers,

It's sort of funny how things come to us, isn't it?

I have a friend through YouTube who I think looks like Genevieve Pearson, a writer who was a competitor on the TBS show, King of the Nerds. She was my favorite contestant, and I was really rooting for her to win! But alas, she came in second. I am still very upset with the way the votes went. Genevieve is my King!

Anyway, today I decided to search for a picture of Genevieve to compare how much she looks like my friend, when I found her website, GenevievePearson.com, and checked out the made-up Q&A section. In it, she asks herself, "What is your religion?" and the answer she gives is "Earthseed."

Of course, I had to look this up, and I learned that it comes from a trilogy of books by Octavia E. Butler, a woman whose writing I happen to adore. I haven't read the trilogy it comes from yet, but I am familiar with her Lilith's Brood trilogy and the world she creates there, and the laws and intricacies of that universe. So in reading the article about Earthseed, I'm seeing it sort of fit together with what I know of Butler's work, and how very earth-based it is. Earthseed is a fictional religion, written by Butler, which is based on the premise that "God is Change." The only constant in Life is Change. We hear that a lot, whether it be from people who believe it or from those who want to point out what an oxymoron it is. Regardless, it's an idea I certainly try to remember throughout my life, and my UU minister even pointed it out in a sermon a few weeks ago, as I recall.

From the Wiki page on Earthseed, there is a link to the page for an actual social movement that has begun, as a response to the fictional religion from the books. That movement is called SolSeed, and its central tenet is that "Life is Precious." Their creed page says that SolSeed offers a way for those "who embrace science and reason, rather than superstition," which is only a bit offensive, as it harkens to those who discount any religious belief as being non-scientific, even if scientists have religion, or if certain religious beliefs take into account the things that science has taught us. But I digress. SolSeed is not a religion, but a social movement, and they welcome everyone of any religion or non-religion to join.

The only thing that turns me off about this, is that TheDestiny is to create new worlds among the stars, to plant the seeds of life elsewhere in the Universe, creating children for Gaia. I recently had a short discussion via text message with a friend of mine about lunar colonization. My friend is very interested in life being sustained on other planets because of the great scientific advances it necessitates. I, however, am extremely discouraged by the way people treat our home planet, and find it extremely annoying, for lack of a more technical word, that people presume to live upon other celestial bodies when we can't seem to take care of the one we have. My friend assured me that a good thing about lunar colonization (which the US does not have a plan for, but other countries do) is that in order for it to happen, we would be forced to get things together here on Earth first. So perhaps the possibility of expansion, or "planetary globalization" as I think my friend called it, will be a catalyst for people to get their act together. Besides, said my friend, this wouldn't happen for hundreds of years. I, however, cannot let myself say I'm okay with something just because it won't happen in my own lifetime. I won't leave problems for my children and grandchildren that I had a chance to solve for the better.

In conclusion (for now, at least), SolSeed is really too big of an idea to claim to understand after five minutes. There are several pages of information to sort through, so if you're interested, click the link I gave above and search around! Many of the principles of this movement are admirable at a glance. I can see where this group has a lot in common with other groups I know. But some parts of this don't seem appropriate for where I'm coming from, personally. Earthseed seems more relevant to my life, and though SolSeed is based on it, it definitely has its own Life.

Blessings~
-C-

29 May, 2013

Belief in a Bookstore

Hey, Readers,

This past Sunday, 26 May, someone attempted to save me.

I had church that morning as usual, and then had a few hours to spare before my circle meeting that afternoon. So, like I often do when I'm spending extra time in that area, I went to the Half Price Books store to browse. I was specifically looking to see if they had one witchcraft book, but I always look at all other areas that interest me, just in case. And that day they were having a 20% off sale! I ended up buying an anthology of Robert Frost poems, and Aradia: Gospel of the Witches.

To make a long story short, for the blog, I was sitting on the floor looking at the bottom shelf of Wicca/Witchcraft books when a woman slipped something into my hand and said "Read this later." When I looked down, I was holding a small, gloss-coated booklet called "GOD'S BRIDGE TO ETERNAL LIFE." I didn't know what else to say, so I said "Thank you?" to the woman who was already halfway across the store, and she looked over her shoulder to say "You're welcome."

I was laughing and crying at the same time. I was in total disbelief that that had actually just happened. A young couple, man and woman, who were in the section with me, asked me what was wrong. The girl said, "Oh my gosh, are you okay? What just happened? What did she say?" I held up the booklet and said "Because I'm over here looking at witchcraft books, she just handed me a booklet about God." The girl was incredulous and tried to help me forget it, saying things like "I can't believe that. Do what you want, you're not hurting anyone, forget her." But I was in shock! I was still laughing, eyes watering, shaking with disbelief and the horrible feeling that I could not just let this woman walk away.

Walking around the store, I saw the woman checking out at the counter. I waited near the door and though she initially ducked out of view and tried to avoid my gaze, she looked toward me and I said "I'm sorry, but do you mind if I ask you a question?" She said it was okay, so I told her I've read the Bible, but I was wondering if she'd ever read a book on Wicca or Witchcraft. She said she didn't know much about it, but did I want to sit and talk for a few minutes? Half an hour later, I had heard this woman's spiritual journey and a number of her prejudices, biases, fears, and bad opinions of other people. By the end, I knew she honestly thought that 1) she was right, 2) I believed in lies, and 3) she was making the world a better place. Without going into too much detail about the conversation here, here are a few things she said, sort of in order from how I remember it, but a lot was repeated so this isn't 100% in order:

  • "Do you believe in Jesus? Who do you think Jesus is?"
  • "What do you think happens when you die? What do you think Heaven is?"
  • (And when I answered what I think,) "Why do you keep saying 'I think'? It's not about what we think, it's about what God says." (And when I pointed out that she THINKS God is right,) "Oh, I guess I do."
  • "I was raised Catholic and when I was 16 my friend who is Born Again gave me the Gospel, and ever since then my life has been great. I have a 14-year-old son and a husband and my life is [great]."
  • "Buddha and the Dalai Lama are created beings. Jesus is God. They're the same person."
  • "That's not the Truth. You believe lies."
  • "Do you pray to God?" (Then when I described my view of The Universe, as simply as possible,) "Do you PRAY to The Universe?" (More explanation,) "Do you call it The Creator?" (No, I call it The Universe, like I said.)
  • (When I explained a vague idea of how I pray and get messages from the Universe,) "Will you consider talking to me today a sign?" [girlish smile]
  • "How did you get into all this?" [tapping her hand on the books in my lap]
  • "When I saw you looking at those books, I got really emotional. I'm afraid for you."
  • (When I asked what she's afraid of,) "When you die, you will go to Hell. Hell is the worst thing ever. Spiritual death is nothing! I mean, physical death is nothing, but spiritual death, going to Hell, is the worst thing ever. You are going to Hell. That is my worst fear."
  • "I can see a semi-truck coming straight for you. There is a semi-truck coming, and you're going to get hit. I see it. I mean, I SEE IT. And I would be a horrible person if I didn't say 'HEY, GET OUT OF THE WAY,' you know?"
  • "How old are you?"
  • "Do you talk to the dead?"
  • "Would you consider coming to my church?"
  • "I'm going to pray for you. Here's the name of my church, and my name and number, and the pastor's name, if you ever want to talk or ask questions or come hear a sermon, maybe you could just listen to a sermon." (This is a paraphrase to exclude the actual names she said.)
  • "Unitarian... They believe all gods are one God, right?"
  • "The Bible says witchcraft is wrong, so." (Then I explained that the Bible warns against magick done to harm, which I do not do, and she just stared at me like I was joking.)
  • "Those things are lies. All of that is Satan, and Satan is the Prince of Liars."
  • (When I explained that not all religions have any concept of Satan or Hell,) "But it's the TRUTH. Satan is REAL, Hell is REAL. The Bible says so and the Bible is the Truth."
  • "I don't believe in Catholicism anymore. I think it's idolatry. I think they worship Mary, it's idolatry, and it's a false religion. And I believe Rome leads to Hell." (This was after I told her my family is Roman Catholic and she asked if my grandmother was actually from Italy and I said yes. So, she insulted Grams. Rude.)
She was also shocked or confused when I said that my mother was a Christian, a minister, and a spiritualist and does folk magick, and that most of the people I know who talk to the dead are Christians. And she said some stuff about "sin" at some point, but I don't remember those statements. All of the above are pretty much verbatim. I have a good memory for dialogue. She also kept talking over me at times and asking several questions one after the other. But yeah. This all happened. You should have seen her face when I told her I was actually on my way to a meeting with my circle and I would be telling them about our conversation. She looked half scared to death and half like she was about to laugh, like I was telling a really funny joke. Or maybe she just couldn't believe there were more of us! Haha.
EDIT: 29 May, 11:40am--I woke up this morning and remembered something else she said. When I was explaining how I personally don't do magick that harms and many others don't either, I mentioned that it even includes not harming ourselves, like choosing to eat healthy. She said you can't eat healthy because there are poisonous chemicals in everything. And I said "Well you can still choose to eat healthier things rather than really un-healthy things. There are still better things than others." She said, and I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember her exact wording, that it basically doesn't matter because "God says we cannot add or take a day from our lives." Whatever we do, whether we eat well or eat badly, smoke or don't smoke, it doesn't affect our life because we die on God's time. That's a proactive, helpful thought, huh?
Anyway, if you want to hear me tell the story in a more full sense, check out the video about it here!

And you know, I guess I sort of can consider her talking to me a message. That morning, I was having doubts about whether my circle was going to be something I liked, and how I would fit in. But when that woman approached me, I realized the exact people I needed to see that day were the ladies in my circle. It's not an official group, not formal, I don't know them very well at all, and we meet really infrequently and I hadn't seen them since February because I wasn't available for the days they scheduled in March and April! But when a Christian woman thinks you're going to Hell, you somewhat need to go stand in a circle of witches and pet a few feline priestesses, and eat some miniature chocolates to make you remember that you're okay. The negative energy I felt clinging to me from my exchange with the woman disappeared when I had a positive goal in front of me. So yeah. Maybe it was a sign. But not the one she thought it was.

Thanks for reading,
Blessings~
-C-

14 May, 2013

Promises to Self (Yoga)

Hey, Readers,

One of the hardest things about being solitary is keeping your own schedule. If you work alone and something comes up, it's easy to put it off until another time or postpone it indefinitely, because at least you're not letting anyone else down, and you can justify it to yourself fairly easily!

In this case, I haven't been to Yoga in weeks. I only went to two classes so far, two weeks in a row, at the end of March and beginning of April. Last time I was there, I paid for the "new student" package of the next three classes--The one I attended that day, and two more. So I have two classes paid for that I haven't attended yet! This just means that whenever I get there again, the next two times I go are already paid. But after the last class I attended, I was extremely busy all the days they offer the particular class I attend. I could go almost any night and take a DIFFERENT class, but I really think the one I've been going to is the best for my level right now. The class is offered Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and Sunday mornings. Lately I've been doing other things on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and of course I'm in church on Sunday mornings. So I've just gone weeks without going back to class.

The good thing is that I have managed to practice Yoga at home during that down time. At least I can say that much! I didn't do it every single week, but some weeks I would do it multiple days as I felt like it, and others just for a few minutes since I had some time.

Tonight, I decided I would try to get to class again. The class has always begun at 6:30pm, so 5:15 came around and I thought I would have time to eat dinner, have some down time, and then head to class. But I checked the schedule on the website just to see if I could make a class later this week, in case I didn't make it today, and discovered not only that I still can't make the other classes this week, but the Beyond Basics class I usually attend has also been changed to 5:30pm. So I lost an hour, and I haven't eaten anything all day so I definitely don't want to go on an empty stomach. And there's no way I could eat enough in fifteen minutes and get there in time, besides the fact that you're not supposed to eat right before a Yoga class. So due to health reasons, I decided staying home to eat would be better than rushing to class, especially since the teacher is so intense, she'd have me working HARD. Not good on an empty stomach and low sleep.

Here comes the promise part. In order to feel like I'm not just making excuses over and over, week after week, I have to keep a promise to myself to practice on my own. If I've elected to stay home and eat, giving me the rest of the evening to myself (since my Pagan Perspective video is uploading), then I should ideally practice a little on my own this evening. I have ALL NIGHT to use, so I can break it up into just a few poses at a time with long breaks in between, or I can set aside an hour to play some meditative music and just work on as many poses as I can during that time. However I choose to do it, I should do it.

In the Women's Circle I attended last Sunday, for the girls in Coming of Age at church, we talked about the word "should" and how "You should not should on yourself." The word is problematic at best, especially when other people ask me what they should do. Well I don't know what anyone should do, and I don't presume to tell them what to do! But in this case, I don't think this is coming from outside myself. I don't think I feel that I should work a little on my Yoga tonight due to anyone else judging me. Why should I do it? Because I feel that it helps me, and I recognize that I haven't had the time, so I need to make the time.

If I want something to happen, I have to work for it. Whether it be Yoga, work, magick, relationships, or any other part of life. Why should I do this? Why should I do anything? Because I want to. Because I feel that it helps me. Because I am responsible for my own enlightenment.

Blessings~
-C-