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
 "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.


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.