Friday, July 29, 2011

And Now For A Little Comfort Food....

It's been a hellish week....simply awful. It's hot, the inside of the  house is the temperature of a crematorium retort, I'm exhausted from the temp job I've taken on to make the money needed for the 'Malibu Fund' ( see the documentary button to the right if you have no idea what I'm talking about), everything smells like mildew...whine, whine, whine.

Um, this is wrong...
I need some comfort food. Macaroni and cheese? Too gloppy. I'm already feeling sticky enough. Lasagna is always good, but too much trouble, and I'm lazy right now. Meatloaf....Well, yeah....meatloaf. Meatloaf made with a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a raw egg, some bread crumbs ( real bread crumbs the size of croutons, made by tearing up a slice of white bread into  tiny bits), salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, some diced onion, some parsley, whatever else strikes my fancy from the spice rack, all squished together by hand ( Yea, verily, before the advent of the sterile food service hand cover, there was the freshly washed bare hand, a marvel of design, given to mankind by the gods to squish together the raw ingredients of meatloaf).?

Okay, this is it....
When you are finished getting your jollies by kneading the ingredients into the raw meat, form it into a loaf and place in an oven proof pan, or a pie plate....or, hey...a loaf pan. I'm easy to please, folks. Just make sure the loaf is patted down so it forms a loaf and sticks together when sliced. Then pour a can of diced tomatoes over the whole thing , and if it happens to be in a baking dish with room to spare, chop up a carrot, a peeled raw potato, celery and a quartered onion. Bake at 350 degrees until the loaf is browned and done. Slice the loaf and remove the vegetables to a serving platter, and separate the grease from the meat infused tomato sauce. Thicken the drippings and liquids into gravy, and....It's the Food of the Gods, guaranteed to cure anything that  might be ailing you at the moment. Served  with the roasted vegetables, it's a complete meat. It's also good with a side of homemade mashed potatoes and the roasted vegetables ( leave out the raw potato).

This is seriously good eating, folks, down home Eastern Maryland style like my grandmother used to make at least once a month when I was a kid. It was hot, and good and made you feel special and loved. You can tell it's homemade because there isn't an actual recipe. If you're not a gravy maker, take the time to learn ( it's really not that hard!), or paint the top of the loaf with ketchup or BBQ sauce. Truthfully, I like it better with the tomato based  gravy...Oh, yeah, you can serve it with brown gravy, but I think the tomato gravy makes it more special and it tastes better. Bake some biscuits to sop up the gravy because you don't want to miss any.
It's magickal, I promise.

( My apologies to Marvin Aday, aka, Meatloaf, who I think is a seriously fabulous rock singer.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Raising It's Ugly Head Again

Picture this: It's World War II England, and  the members of  numerous esoteric and occult groups have come together to magically  battle the rumored invasion of Britain by Hitler. A diverse group, they include ceremonial magicians, traditional linage witches, solitary practitioners, and Pagans of nearly every stripe, and they have gelled  with a single goal in mind: On August 2, 1940, they will magically stop Hitler's forces from a massive evasion by turning back Nazi forces crossing the English Channel through a massive focused energy work. Meetings take place all over the countryside, and there are many opinions and methods thrown into the ring for consideration. Finally a plan is accepted, and a cone of power is erected over an extended period of time with the purpose of keeping the invaders from landing on England's fair shores. It is a Herculean effort of such  intensity that some of the elderly and less hardy of the witches die because their life force is sucked out of them. Hitler and the forces of evil are held off, and England ( and it's witches) are safe to live in peace.

Such is the premise of the 1983epic  fiction novel Lammas Night, written by the renown author Katherine Kurtz. The event described in her novel is loosely based on an actual attempt by occult practitioners through out England to thwart the Nazi invasion of Brittan magickal means. The magick and the event described in the book is accurate  because none other than Doreen Valiente was asked to be the  research consultant. It is a fascinating and fabulous read, and I can honestly say it is one of only two books I have ever read that I actually could not put down ( The other being Canticle for Lebowitz by Arthur Miller, which is also out of print but available in e-reader format.)

The event Katherine Kurtz wrote about in Lammas Night was based on an event that allegedly took place around the same time in wartime England. Due to the secrecy surrounding esoteric groups in that period of history, no one came forward to substantiate the 'rumor' at the time, but since then it has become something of a legend in modern Craft history. I've personally read enough about ( including an interview with Doreen Valiente)  it to personally say that I'm 100% certain it did happen pretty much the way Kurtz described it.

Someone I was describing the book to candidly  remarked that she knew it was a work of fiction because multiple disciplines of the Craft set aside their differences and worked together with a common goal. As humorous as I found her observation, her point has been taken-Pagans can't seem to get together to work for a common cause no matter what the issue. Which is disheartening and embarrassing to me all at the same time because there is more truth in that statement than I'd like to admit as a polytheist. It's more than just trying to herd cats. Get into any Pagan discussion group and it's more truthfully  like trying to herd a bunch of  rabid cats chasing a room full of caffeinated mice. If more than three members agree on anything, someone else in the group is going to call "foul" and say they're biased, siding with one another, or otherwise in cahoots. Then there are the folks who want to turn  every conversation into a debate, or worse yet, a full blown argument. Toss in a few of the well- meaning social justice minded, uber-liberal pacifists of the Quaker/ Unitarian Universalist/ Hippie-era variety whose sole purpose seems to be to bog down the discussion with too many variables and " what-ifs " in the name of fairness and that is where the old adage,  "Too many cooks spoil the broth" becomes a reality.

On the whole I think of myself as pretty diplomatic, but there are people who just keep digging at an issue from so many angles that it feels like an autopsy being performed with a teaspoon. They simply don't know when to stop, and what happens is that they end up offending/up-setting/pissing off the majority of the other participants with their continued re-hashing of the facts over and over and over. I suspect for a few of them this is some form of  pseudo-Mensa inspired entertainment, but frankly, the mental gymnastics is tiring- particularly when a decision  has already been made by the majority of those involved. It is unnecessary for a single individual to keep hammering on something basic when the group has already expressed their opinions and come to a decision. These are the people I find need to be  slapped up the side of the head and yelled at gently  redirected that the rest of us have moved on.

We already know there are too many trolls out there in our community, and most of us can spot one right out of the gate. However why are we  so lopsidedly PC in the Pagan community that these people are permitted to continue to participate in discussion threads for the sake of  fairness? No one wants to look uncaring and uncool, so we suffer through the maddening moments with these people. This morning I decided not to, and I zapped a couple of them in an online group-my bad. Sorry, but my tolerance level for fools just tanked and I loaded my troll bazooka and took aim.( And yeah, now I'm a bad guy. Boo hoo.)

All of this came about because we were participating in a discussion group about the  DC40. If you don't know who they are or what they stand for, read this story at The Wild Hunt Go ahead, I'll wait....

. They have been around in quite a few incarnations at least since Jesus had a ministry on Earth ( And no doubt trying to make a buck off of Him even then). There are all sorts of religious wing-nuts/zealots/ crusaders/crazies in the world, and this is but one group of them...and no, they aren't all Christians. Extremists come in all flavors and we have more than our share in our own Pagan community, so be careful with the finger-pointing. These people ( and I'm talking about all of them) come out of the wood work when they see an opportunity present its self...or whenever they choose to crawl out from under their respective rocks, like that crowd that had the weekend on campus at Harvard a few months back, and our friend and prognosticator extraordinaire Harold Camping. As a matter of fact, they all look pretty much alike because their message of 'spiritual warfare' against the forces of evil ( that would be all the rest of us) is essentially the same..." The Gospel message is blah, blah, blah, Hallelujah, blah, blah...." It usually includes a few Biblical citations which are stretched to cover their particular form of bigotry, wild eyed preachers who look and sound like they just did a line of coke and a case of Red Bull in the sacristy before going in front of the camera, and a reminder that the work of the Lord is expensive ( Visa, MasterCard and American Express accepted, prayer partners standing by to receive your love offering at a toll-free number right now!)

DC 40 is a stand out because they are the current group being vocal and have specifically mentioned they will be targeting pagans ( small 'p', as opposed to the uppercase 'P' that incorporates witches, heathens, druids and all other occult practitioners). It's important to note the lower case 'p', because in this case it means everyone but members of the New Apostolic Reformation. Notice how their name sounds like another version of  so many others? These groups purposely use scrambled versions of names which use the words "Apostolic","Reformed", " International", "New", etc. in the hope that it lends credibility to their cause by fooling the public. You really do need a scorecard to know who's playing when it comes to these groups. None of their featured stars are standouts- they all seem to fall into the category of  non descriptive ecclesiastical carnival barkers in designer clothing. The rhetoric is pretty much the same, as well- God is coming soon, fear Him, we need to clear out all the other folks so we can rule the Earth and wipe out the Evil Doers who won't send us donations or embrace our particular form of world domination. And then, just to show you that they have the backing of the One True God, they fire off a few lines of Bible-babble that vaguely sounds like it could be ancient Hebrew, "Shambala!" ( Okay, raise your hand if like me you have only heard this word in an old Three Dog Night song...And no, it's not Shamblaha, which is a Tibetan (pagan!) word.) Evidently their God only whispers His inspired words to a very Chosen few in a secret magickal language, and conveniently there is always another one of the Chosen present to translate. Never mind that thing that happened during Pentecost with the real Apostles and the Holy Spirit. Folks like the New Apostolic Reformation don't sweat the details...especially when they're making them up as they go along.

Want to be informed and entertained at the same time? Watch this introductory video by DC40:

By golly, that does sound rather like a bit of  malefic magick to here's my suggestion:

Just like those characters in Lammas Night, let's join together during the designated time DC 40  will cast their mischief in focused energy work of your own choosing and from your own  traditions that will turn back the hatred and bigotry and shove them right up against the wall between Church and State. This is something we can all get behind as Christian, Jew, Muslim. Buddhist, Atheist, Humanist and  Pagan and everyone in between. As a citizen, don't forget to vote and if you can, choose a local, state or federal politician whose views echo your own to work for... Because this is the United States of AMERICA, a country founded on the principles of freedom of religion (and from religion). The truth is that our Founding Fathers never intended for this to be a country ruled by a single religion- or any religion at all- but a place where everyone was free to express their spiritual side as they so choose...and that truth will keep us free from the tyranny of a few.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hoodoo You Think You Are? (A Conversation With Carolina Dean)

I'm a 'Kitchen Witch', even though I do belong to a couple of degree traditions. A lot of my spellwork is pretty 'fly by the seat of my pants', even thought it's planned out. Because my interests are varied, I read a wide array of blogs and articles. I don't think any one of my Pagan friends practice exactly the same., and I like stepping out of my comfort zone and learning about other areas of magickal practice.
Hoodoo practitioner Carolina Dean is one of my favorites- He's knowledgeable and funny and his humility has me absolutely "sold". Dean is my 'go-to' guy for folk magick, and he's been gracious enough to answer some questions about the basics and theory of Hoodoo. A prolific writer of blogs and magazine articles, he's featured regularly in Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly Magazine and writes commentary on occult books on the Web.

AmethJera: I think a lot of people have a wrong impression of Hoodoo- That it's a dark art and has a negative connotation. That's not my impression of it at all.

Carolina Dean: I think people have gotten the wrong idea about Hoodoo because they generally don’t understand what it is and what it is not. It certainly also doesn’t help the reputation of Hoodoo that it has largely African roots because a certain segment of society (i.e. Evangelist, Politicians, Big Business) have made very successful and profitable careers demonizing anything that comes out of Africa.

A common misconception is that Hoodoo is Voodoo, which it is not. While a practitioner of Voodoo can also practice Hoodoo, a practitioner of Hoodoo is not necessarily also a practitioner of Voodoo but he or she can be. It’s similar to that other saying “All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan”.

Simply stated, Hoodoo is a set of magickal practices originating in Africa which, through the process of syncretism, has absorbed beliefs and practices from other cultures such as Native American spirituality and European Ceremonial Magick, and can be attached to any form of religious worship that the practitioner finds valid. Therefore, anyone can practice Hoodoo, whether they are Christian, Pagan, Jewish, or a practitioner of Voodoo, Santeria, Palo, etc….. Hoodoo has also been defined as magical practice devoid of religious dogma, but that’s not entirely true either. I personally believe that you cannot take “God” out of any form of magic and still be a successful practitioner.

AmethJera: How does Hoodoo differ from the simple European-Germanic folk magic we're used to?
Why do you think it still has a mystery to it?

Carolina Dean: Certain magickal beliefs and practices are nearly universal, such as sympathetic magic and the doctrine of signatures etc… so Hoodoo actually has a lot in common with folk-magic traditions in other parts of the world in that practitioners regularly make use of herbs and roots, work image-magick, burn candles, and fashion amulets and talismans for a variety of practical purposes.

Some of the things that set Hoodoo apart from European-Germanic folk magic include a strong emphasis on the inherent power of herbs and roots, the practice of foot-track magick, and the use of the Mojo Bag.

I think that Hoodoo has a certain amount of mystery to it because, while it has been around for a very long time, it is just now entering the consciousness of the general public in a major way much like Wicca did in the 50’s, 70’s, and then again in the 90’s. A large part of this can be directly attributed to the fact that the internet has made information much more readily available to the average person as well as the efforts of people such as Denise Alvarado, and catherine yronwode who have wisely used this medium to actively make a record of these beliefs and practices and who have worked to pass it down to the next generation.

I believe that we are living in time in which people are spiritually hungry. They crave ritual, they crave tradition, and they crave roots; and I believe that because many major religions, such as Christianity and Islam, have turned away from the message of their original founders they have cut the people off from their own spirit. Today, in my opinion, Christianity has become largely synonymous with hate and intolerance, while the average person cannot think of Islam without associating it with much of the political violence we see in the world.

Rather than serving the people, these religions have ostracized and/or forced out many of their would-be adherents/followers. As a result, many people have sought out what has been called “Alternative Religions” by mainstream sources such as Wicca, Vodun, Asatru, Hoodoo etc… For many of these people these practices represent the religions/spiritual practices of their own Ancestors, while for others they come from cultures different from their own. Hoodoo is unique because it is an amalgamation of beliefs and practices from various religions and cultures.

AmethJera: What influenced you to become a Hoodoo practitioner?

Carolina Dean: As a young gay man growing up in the deep-South, I was one of those people who felt ostracized by the church and by society in general. At the same time, I felt a strung pull towards spirit but I felt that there was no place for me in the church. I felt betrayed by God, because I was taught by the church that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination. I felt that God had no right to punish me for something in which I had no choice.

I was always fascinated by magic and fantasy and thought that if I could learn to do magic that I could have the life that I wanted. I first came to witchcraft for entirely the wrong reasons. I wanted the boys to like me and I thought that I wanted to hurt the people who hurt me when I really just wanted to be accepted and loved.

By the time I entered college in 1991, I had developed an interest in learning to read the Tarot and through my interest in Tarot, I found Wicca. After a great deal of reading, studying, practical application, and experimentation, I learned enough about Wicca to know that it was for me and so I initiated myself into the craft of the wise.

After many years of studying and practicing Wicca, I began seeing and hearing more and more about Hoodoo and I was reminded of the folk-magic practices I had encountered growing up in South Carolina. In 2003, I began cat yronwode's year-long Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course, however, due to several life- changing events as well as moving from South Carolina to Washington State I did not complete the course until 2009 at which time I graduated.

AmethJera: What recommendations would you make to someone who wanted to incorporate Hoodoo into their personal practice?

Carolina Dean: As a magickal-practitioner with eclectic interests, I have discovered that the best way to learn is by doing. When I began taking catherine yronwode’s course, I made the conscious decision to totally immerse myself into the tradition. What that meant for me was packing up my Wiccan Altar and suspending all practices associated with the Wiccan Religion. I would recommend anyone who wishes to seriously learn about Hoodoo and incorporate elements of it into their own practices do the same thing for at least a year or more.

Although Hoodoo represents a wide variety of magickal beliefs and practices, there is a very heavy emphasis on “tradtion” in Hoodoo. For example, you will find that the use of crystals and gems are virtually non-existent in traditional Hoodoo; there are a large number of people who are adamant that a mojo-bag is not a mojo-bag if it is not made out of chamois or flannel; in addition, although the use of magickal-seals is popular, you won’t find practitioners who create their own sigils a la Austin Osman Spare…because that’s NOT Hoodoo!

That being said, I’d recommend that the student new to Hoodoo approach the tradition as a blank slate without any preconceived notions. Once they know what Hoodoo is and how it is traditionally practiced they can then incorporate elements into their chosen magickal practices with the understanding that once you deviate from tradition you are not practicing traditional Hoodoo anymore.

AmethJera: Is there anyone in particular you 'follow'?

Carolina Dean: I believe that everyone is a teacher. They have the ability to influence us for good or bad, in both direct and indirect ways. Some of my teachers have been authors and online friends whom I’ve never met in person; some of my teachers have been people I have known personally; and some of my teachers have been total strangers I met for only a brief moment and whom I never saw or spoke to again.

To answer your question, yes there are people who I hold in esteem, and people who have influenced me but not necessarily those that I follow because I believe that we are all following in the footsteps of those who have come before us.

In that respect I have to name my mother, who gave me the love of reading; Angel, who encouraged me to write and teach; Julie, who supported me in my creative endeavors; Brenda & Jo, my adopted sisters, for their faith in me; cat yronwode for sharing the wisdom her years of study have brought; Denise Alvarado who believed in and encouraged me to go farther; Clifford Bias who wrote the first book on magick I ever found; as well as Scott Cunningham, Raymond Buckland, and Silver Ravenwolf who were also early influences for me.

AmethJera: Tell us about your church, Our Lady of Conjure.

Carolina Dean: Our Lady of Conjure is a non-denominational interfaith Spiritualist-Church established in the belief that God is neither male nor female, but rather is simultaneously androgynous and asexual, and which exist as pure love. Because human-beings often find it difficult to identify with an entity of this nature we have attempted to understand God by associating him as one or more of many archetypes. These archetypes often include both male and female incarnations, as well as animal forms such as found in Ancient Egyptian and Native American belief systems.

Rather than take responsibility for our own failings, humans have often painted certain Gods as having traits which we find undesirable within our selves resulting in belief-systems that portray God as jealous, petty, and cruel, as well as loving, kind, and generous.

Although we welcome all Gods at our altar and all people within our congregation, we affirm that Our Lady of Conjure is another aspect of God and she is the central figure of our veneration. Our Lady of Conjure is the personification of the divine spark in all living things and she represents the power of the individual to change his or her life for the better through the power of positive thoughts, words, and deeds.

Carolina Dean is featured on Facebook on his fan page and on  the web at  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Raise The Song of Harvest Home!

Summer has sped by so fast-with the heat and humidity here, that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. After being a life long Northerner, I'm still used to the change of the seasons here in North Carolina. I have to say that I'm thrilled there is an actual demarcation of the seasons here which make each distinctly unique-something we didn't have where I was raised. I am not a Summer person.  I love the ocean, but I hate beach crowds. I go to the beach in March, when it's cold and deserted for a reason...I'm selfish and want the beach to myself. I don't want to be run over by guys tanked up on beer and playing Frisbee, and as a redhead, I certainly don't bask in the sun. I can't stand shaking sand out of my clothes and hair. I don't mind sweating, but I want to be doing it for a reason, not just because I'm sitting in one place and it's 100 degrees.

I do love the long Summer evenings, when the night critters are out and about and the fireflies play through the trees. I like walking downtown in the cooler evening and seeing the folks sitting out at sidewalk bistros and the music wafting between the restaurants and local watering holes. And I like college kids. There's a vibrancy and  excitement to their youth that's palpable. I like sitting at the end table outside at Whole Foods in the evening by my self, sipping coffee, occasionally glancing at the local alternative news paper and savoring the quasi-bohemian vibe.

In the Northern Hemisphere the Summer will be gone in a short few weeks. Pagans ( and others) who celebrate an agrarian calendar will be preparing for the first harvest festival on the Wheel of the Year on August 1st: Lugnassadh, or Lammas. The Irish call it Lugnassadh, or Lugh's Day, for the Celtic God of the Grain. The Church has given it the common name of Lammas, or Loaf Mass, the first day of the harvest season when the grain is cut and the loaves baked from new grain are blessed. It's a festival time in many places, when the fruits and vegetables are starting to be gathered. In a few places it's known as Harvest Home.

Harvest Home reminds me of an old hymn we used to sign when I was a kid at the Thanksgiving holiday here in America called, Come Ye Thankful People Come. I'm still puzzled why we celebrate Thanksgiving with the icons of apples and sheaves of wheat and corn when those things have long been gone from the fields. At Thanksgiving, the harvest is over. We are thankful for it, but the fields are then sad and empty. The bounty has been brought in weeks before.It seems a bit anti-climactic to me to be singing about Harvest Home when everything has been cut and stored.

Despite the slight time rift of seasons, it's a great song. The words are triumphant and glorious and bittersweet.When I decided to fully embrace Paganism, I began singing this song at Lugnassadh because it felt more appropriate to me to be thankful for the end of the local growing season by singing about taking the crops out of the field when it was actually happening. And yes, it is a Christian song- but no religion owns sentiment, so with a few lyrical revisions-or a shifting of mindset and dropping any hold-over prejudice - it's a great song that can carry through from Lammas to Mabon  to Samhain with ease. This version is from the Anglican Hymnal of the Church of England:

1.Come, ye thankful people, come, 
 raise the song of harvest home; 
 all is safely gathered in, 
 ere the winter storms begin. 
 God our Maker doth provide 
 for our wants to be supplied; 
 come to God's own temple, come, 
 raise the song of harvest home. 

2. All the world is God's own field, 
 fruit as praise to God we yield; 
 wheat and tares together sown 
 are to joy or sorrow grown; 
 first the blade and then the ear, 
 then the full corn shall appear; 
 Lord of harvest, grant that we 
 wholesome grain and pure may be. 

3. For the Lord our God shall come,
 and shall take the harvest home; 
 from the field shall in that day 
 all offenses purge away, 
 giving angels charge at last 
 in the fire the tares to cast; 
 but the fruitful ears to store 
 in the garner evermore. 

4. Even so, Lord, quickly come,
 bring thy final harvest home; 
 gather thou thy people in, 
 free from sorrow, free from sin, 
 there, forever purified, 
 in thy presence to abide; 
 come, with all thine angels, come, 
 raise the glorious harvest home!
Text: Henry Alford, 1810-1871
Music: George J. Elvey, 1816-1893Tune: ST. GEORGE'S WINDSOR, Meter: 77.77 D 

If you can't get past the words God and Lord, then try adjusting your thinking to be more generic. It doesn't mention a specific God, and yea, there is an argument that it's the Christian God who it's intended to honor- or is it? Remembering history, when the Romans brought their state religion to the British Isles, the core of the population just nodded their heads politely -I suspect because they wanted to keep them attached to their bodies- and went along. But we all know what they actually did and how they simply disguised their local deity and everyone was at least superficially happy for awhile. Singing it with your God/dess and your Lord in mind resets the devotional intention; if it still bothers you, substitute Lugh for God see what happens. See? it's a great song and fabulous invocation for a Lugnassadh it should be.

I will admit that I shuffle around the verses and begin with the second verse because I think it's more in keeping with the story beginning with Lammas. ' All the world is Lugh's own field,  fruit and praise to Him we yield' seems to me to be a proper opener which sets the background of the story. I then insert the first verse between the third and forth, and the story becomes more cohesive as it heads toward Samhain. You can also pick individual phases out to use as chants. I've done this as a solitary and written entire rituals around this single song by using the verses as introductions to the various parts of the ritual. I've woven wheat knots and made corn dollies, rocking back and forth to the meter of the tune as I chanted them. I've used the song in public ritual interspersed between sections as I've told the story of the God's sacrifice of spilled blood so the fields will continue to flourish and the people survive...and non-Pagans get it, because the literal element of this being a song about agriculture has been lost to the purely spiritual side.It's a great lesson in the balance of Nature and Spirit that most people don't think about because the connection with the natural world has been lost and over-run by the whole iconic concept of Thanksgiving. 

To me, Harvest Home is a song not only about giving thanks, but about hope and belief. Maybe, if you chose to incorporate it into your worship during the Harvest Sabbats, you will find that for yourself as well. 


Monday, July 18, 2011


So help me Zeus and All His Glory, but I just ate a partially frozen Crunch bar for breakfast... and I don't even like the bloody things.  I am a chocolate snob, and most commercially made milk chocolate isn't worth the caloric intake, in my opinion. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking-more for you!) But it was sitting there in the butter keeper under the box of Land O'Lakes...taunting me. So I ate it. The only thing I enjoyed about it was the crisp snap of the chocolate slab and the cereal crunchies: otherwise, it could have been made out of sweetened cardboard for all I care. It was a choice-probably not the best for breakfast. I'll admit that I had been up all night, so it was only breakfast by a technicality ( it was 7 a.m.).

We make choices all the time: what to wear to work, what to have for dinner, what to watch on TV, who to allow our circle of friends. Everything we do is influenced by the choice we make daily. Turn left or right at the stop light? See? Nothing is simple, yet we often make choices spur of the moment, without thinking things through and without considering the outcome. I'm not saying that we need to become emotionally constipated by analyzing everything..that's hardly a healthy thing to do and tips the OCD sale just a bit too far...but I do think that the bigger things, the long range and father-reaching choices in life sometimes need to be examined with a little more depth than, say, having a candy bar for breakfast.

Dear sweet, gullible, innocent Forrest Gump would tell you that life is just like a box of chocolates because you never know what you're going to bite into....Forrest, buy the way, had better script writers than you and his life- although simple and filled with serendipity- always contained something exciting and news worthy. Real life isn't always that way. Most of it is, in fact, very ordinary and mundane....and I like it that way.  I like predictable and steady without surprises as a rule. Please don't up-dump my apple cart. It's often not what I end up with and sometimes I feel like I'm going from disaster to another, from one crisis to the know, the truly sucky stuff we all end up with when we just want a little normal and bland. Vanilla is good. That's why we crave it in coffee and comfort foods.

Conflict is not always a bad thing. I learned this from my friend and mentor Tom Crum. Tom is genuinely one of those human being that has earned the title of awesome. His methods of conflict resolution, stress management and peak performance mentoring  using ancient Aikido methods is being implemented  all over the world by  major corporations such as McDonald's and  The Disney Corporation. We are trained from the time we are born that conflict means there is going to be a negative experience. Conflict is always trouble: it is disturbing, upsetting, and creates a fight or flight response. That's what we're taught, but it's not necessarily reality. Through a workshop of Tom's I attended year ago and reading his book The Magic of Conflict, I learned that every conflict is an opportunity to learn and grow-for both parties- and it's how you approach the issue that determines the out come. The conflict can be about anything, but refusing to be open and resistance are the causes of most conflict going bad.( I guess the Borg mantra is right: "Resistance is futile." ) Conflict approached openly and with empathy resolves the situation and builds relationship rather than walls that dive us. Most Conflict is fear driven: you are going to loose something. What if you met conflict with the attitude that you were going to gain something instead? Now that's empowering and validating for everyone, and there are no losers .Everyone comes away feeling good about themselves and better about the situation. That is truly magick to me-bending the self-will and the situation into something positive and beneficial.

We chose who we become and how we move through Life. It doesn't mean we are wealthy, or meet society's definition of  being successful, handsome or worship worthy. For example, right now I have approximately $ 4.00 in assorted change to my name, a cup of fresh, hot coffee, there is some ice cream in the freezer for later, the house is quiet, I'm writing this blog and the whole world as captured in the moment is pretty freakin' awesome. I honestly can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing. Satisfaction  means  creating joy from the things we have around us...and folks, I sometimes forget the lesson.  Just like you, I will hang on to old hurts, perceived snubs, invalidation and other crap and be perfectly justified in doing so...but I would rather be happy and satisfied with what I have in the present moment. It is not just about chopping wood and carrying water...sometimes it involves shoveling shit, too. Clinical depression steals my joy whenever it can and whenever I allow it. I can turn on some pretty convincing negative self talk when the chemicals in my brain are messed up and the synapses aren't firing correctly. It's taken a long time (and I mean years) to be able to recognize what's happening and take a step back to regroup. Depression is a disease and not a choice, but choices can be made that will help restore balance and make it less debilitating.

The main ingredient that's missing from many of our choices is presence.. I hate those types of catch phrases because they over-simplify the issue while sounding just a tad self-serving and smug. Being present in the moment isn't always as easy as it sounds-ask anyone who meditates. There are a million things bouncing around inside your head, distractions which Buddhists call 'monkey mind'. Fleeting thoughts, chatter and  flashes of stimulus keep us from centering as the mind monkeys scamper about. ( My monkeys don't just scamper, the little fuckers swing from tree to tree on vines across the room and scream.) I have to make the choice to sit down, get centered and ground myself to the spot and stick with it. My mind is pretty resistant at times and it's favorite trick is putting me to sleep during meditation, so yet another choice has to me made- to stay awake and be present. The desired result of nothingness comes when I choose to let go of my expectations of what meditation ought to be. Like many people I simply try too hard.

The underpinnings of my personal spiritual practice center around clarity, focus and purpose, which echo the arcane teachings of the Magus: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent. These, too are choices which concern not only the individual aspects, but their synergy to the Whole Purpose, the outcome which for me is connection to the Ultimate Divine. In simpler terms: if I sit down, shut up and hang on, God/dess usually shows up in some form or the other.

Choices affect our past, present and future...and everything thing is a choice. Living is a choice. Not living is a choice. How and what you choose is a choice. Having a candy bar for breakfast is a choice...which reminds me, it's past lunchtime and I thought I saw a Snickers bar in the back of the freezer which would go really good with my coffee....

My Versatile Blogger Nominees....

  • I love to read other blogs. Thankfully, there's no limit and some truly outstanding writers out there in cyberspace. My nominees aren't well known; some of them are in fact fairly new but I feel deserve recognition for their work.

  • According to the rules for this award as I understand, if you're nominated, you've already won...This is an award given to bloggers by other bloggers in recognition and appreciation for their contribution to the community...The award badge is a great way to know when you've come across something that have both quality and variety. It's public recognition of a blog with both versatility and diversity.Part of the recognition process is that there is a real, live person behind the computer, and that particular writer must post some little known facts about themselves covered in 7-9 points and to nominate at least five blogs that they think fit the category from their personal experience with them. Happy reading!.
  •  If you've already received this award or would prefer not to participate, no offense is taken.

  • An Army of Ermas
  • This humor blog of true life stories in the style of the late American commentator, Erma Bombeck.  If this blog doesn't make you laugh out loud, you're dead. The  rotating cast of guest writers, which includes one of my all time favorites, Patti Wigington , is hip and hilarious.

  • Cake Wrecks
  • While the medium is always the same-really really bad cakes, the variety is astounding. There has been everything from the life-size human Barbie Princess cake to Cthulhu and nearly every thing in between, which poses the question:WTF happened here? 

  • HeartSong's Circle
  • Pagan High Priest Alan Heartsong tackles practical questions  that don't always have easy answers, but always make you think with humor, grace and discernment. Sometimes the subjects are cutting edge news, sometimes reflective, sometimes instructive. I always learn something new or come away with a different perspective after reading his posts.
  • Heart of Goddesses
  • Reflective and coming from a place of authenticity, this blog is the story of the everyday life and struggle of a single mother and her daughter who's conquering  childhood leukemia. Triumphant and inspiring, both for it's varying subject matter and honesty.
  • Cordelia's Cauldron
  • Cordelia's homespun witchiness is endearing and enduring as she alternates family history, fabulous recipes and personal essays on whatever comes to mind. In my opinion, one of the most grounding and magickal blogs on the web.
  • My Victorian Parlor
  • More of Cordelia's wonderful storytelling, this time with a Victorian era echo. She covers everything Victorian, from ghost stories, societal mores, and funeral etiquette to tales of the Civil War  and genealogy, with an eye for detail and a flair for making what could be very dry history interesting and juicy.
  • JP's Poetry
  • Fresh and original poetry from someone I'm proud to call a friend. Her depth and insight is astounding for one of so few years. She's an old soul with a new voice.
  • Between the Worlds
  • With the byline of "The life of a Witch is lived between the world of man and the realm of spirit", you know this is going to be differently entertaining. Carolina Dean is a Pagan and Kitchen Witch well know in the magickal community for his lively personality, biting commentary, and Occult mastery. In this story blog he adds novella writer to that list. Always delightful and full of surprises.

  • Mrs. B's Confessions of  a Pagan Soccer Mom
  • Mrs. B recently received recognition as the top blog in the religion category over at Circle of Moms- but not without some controversy. That's why I love her: she's painfully honest and always gracious in the face of adversity.
  • Diary of a Familiar in Training
  • Okay, I'll admit that I'm a sucker for anything about cats... especially a diary about the adventures of a kitten who's learning to be a witch's familiar written from his perspective. The versatility is in the adventure! Cute and wonderfully fanciful, every entry is a joy.
  • The Secret Life of An American Working Witch 
  • Kallan often writes what I'm thinking. She's sassy,opinionated, and writes a virtual cornucopia of articles dealing with, well....everything I care about, some stuff I don't but should and everything in between with pizazz. If it's part of the pop culture or Pagan Community, it's on her page. If it's not popular but deserves a word or two, she gives it it's due. Enough said.

  • Thank you all for enriching my life with your wonderful blogs!

      Sunday, July 17, 2011


      Something is very special about this particular full moon; I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe because it feels like there's a change in the air and real potential for that change (finally!). As a Pisces, I'm a Child of Water, and I love to dream. Maybe I'm in that headspace...moonstruck. I love the cover of the darkness of night, the brightness of stars, the light from the moon, the shadows that play on the ground. Humans have looked up in wonder at the celestial orb for millions of years. I suspect this will continue as long as there is a moon to look up at and  people who still exist  to wonder.

      Night is my favorite time. There is a completely different level of consciousness after the sun sets. The yard comes alive with the sounds of night creatures-katydids, crickets, tree frogs and the occasional bark of a fox.  The grass reaches up to entangle feet, leaving little drops of living moisture between toes... The shadows lengthen, the trees loom larger, taller, more the spiritual beings they are than  in the day time. Through their outstretched branches, there is the illuminant moon, iridescent as a pearl in the sky, accompanied by a scattering of diamond stars. It is surreal, and too real at once. It is easy to become disoriented at night in our backyard because we live outside of the city and the lights are few. The critters stay just at the hard edge of the lights from the house; I occasionally catch a glimpse of their retina's glowing red reflection, fiery rubies in the velvet dark. They venture closer only when the lights have been turned off: I can hear their footfalls crunching through the leaves and an occasional snort or other soft animal sound. We exist comfortably in our own little worlds, and catching sight of one of these  little shadow beings  through the dark is a bit like how I imagine it is looking across the Veil.

      I feel that I connect with Immanence more effectively at night. The daytime distractions are gone: traffic, visitors, ringing telephones. The atmosphere is more enveloping, more inclusive. I plan most of my personal ritual work for the night, because I like candle glow and welcome the presence of psychopomp. Night is obviously a place meant to be between the worlds and for me a place that is easier to stand with a foot in each world. The cloak of darkness is the place of creative energy and mystery. Magick is afoot. ( Yes, I do ritual during the day, too. Anytime is a good time to connect with the Universal Source. Night is simply my personal preference.)

      The night has earned it's own superstitions and lore...most of it fanciful imagination. But I will tell you that I live within sight of a crossroad, and I occasionally catch glimpses of things for which  I have no explanation and question their reality. I may have an active imagination, but it isn't that good...and I am usually wide awake and fully functional at 3 a.m. I have come to accept these glimpses into an other dimension as just a part of Nature that is not meant to be seen during the day. I don't believe in the supernatural, per se. I don't believe there is anything in existence outside Nature, but I do believe there are things that aren't seen until they are meant to be revealed. Maybe that's the way the gods intend it to be, maybe it takes a particular level of spiritual development, or a gift of second sight. Maybe it takes all of that-or none of it. I don't have an answer... I just have the strength of knowing from my own experience, which I believe is an individual thing for each of us, another quirk of the psyche that makes us each unique.

      Right now, I will sip my lemon tea and listen to the sounds of the night...and bask in the light of the moon.

      Saturday, July 16, 2011

      Discernment, Revisited

      It's seems like every time I turn on the computer now there is some religious entity attacking another...nothing new, right? They've been doing it for thousands of years, and that's one little battle that will never end.  What I am seeing, and frankly it disturbs me, is that more and more there are people bullying others to get behind their manipulative challenging or flat out bullying. Why? Do they so desperately need to be right that they feel they need to take away the happiness of another by this behavior? I'd be more inclined not to sign on the dotted line if that's type of  method being employed, because not only does it not pass the usual smell for me, it reeks from afar. There are too many flying monkeys for comfort in this one, folks...from all directions.

      I get emails and commentary on my FB page daily from these pot stirrers who feel as thought they need to punch holes in the paradigm, crusaders who are out jousting  at windmills-any windmill- like so many drunken Don Quixotes as they ride from flame war to flame war. I'm not off to ride in everyone's battle, although I truly appreciate when someone brings a new cause I might be interested in to my attention; I can't read everything. My reading and writing time are limited because I have a hundred million other things going on -just like you. There really is a life beyond social networks and media websites and fighting the good fight. There is all the mundane stuff like laundry, house cleaning, running errands and, oh yeah....being gainfully employed... which takes up a lot more of our personal lives than it should, in my humble opinion, because you work to live and not the other way around. I've tried it and it sucks.

      I imagine I'm no different than any of you in that I respond to things which interest me-videos, articles, a variety of little tidbits of varying degrees of importance. I may write a letter to the editor or post a comment on Facebook or to or on someone else's blog about a subject that has caught my attention for the moment...then I am done with it. To me, it's the modern day equivalent of what my parent's generation would call 'Cocktail Chatter'. It's meant to be relevant to me only for the moment. There are issues  I am continuously involved in- because I choose to be and have an emotional involvement in them- like the fight for equality for GLBT persons, women rights, the horrible massacre of innocents by charlatan witch hunters in Africa, environmental issues,continuation of public funding for the arts, and good will in the interfaith community.There are many others, all which demand energy from my single source, and there are times when I have to step back and re-charge before soldiering on. Although the Universal Source is endless, my personal well is not.The stuff in my personal life (health and general welfare) eats up an incredible amount of current right now because-like many of you- I am struggling day by day to figure out where the next dollar or meatloaf is coming from.

      This blog, guest blogs,magazine articles and time on Facebook and Twitter also demand energy from that source; and I struggle to keep things at the integrity level you, my readers, expect from my writing...because if I allowed things to just run free and I put my initial thoughts about certain things on paper without running them through my discernment filters, I could fall into the trap of  re-acting instead of acting on things...and I expect better from myself-for both you and me. Especially in the arena of all things Pagan, where the emotion about things connected to everything surrounding that subject  runs high and it's really too easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to the outrageous things that go on...much if which, I have to say, we as a community feed until the chimera consumes us. 

      Right now there is a lot of high drama going on  about a particular individual who is allegedly plagiarizing materials and supposedly teaching things under the cloak of Wicca that don't set right with a few, and now groups have formed and sides have been chosen; certain individuals have been defamed-including a couple famous authors- and the flaming witch war is at full throttle. Make no mistake, folks, that is exactly what it is- a witch war-no matter how it's being presented by either side. Step back and watch for several minutes to gain a bit of clarity, and you'll see particular all-too-familiar characteristics begin to emerge from the smoke. There is a lot of name calling, including the ever popular and hilarious "Fuffy Bunny"...the Pagan equivalent of  the insulting " Nominal Christian"...and there is a lot of drama. Too damn much drama, all of which seems to be fueled in threads by a particular crusader to is keeping the pot stirred. The real problem I find with this is that the individual in question seems to charge the moment in the hope that everyone will respond with the appropriate outrage, then sits back in satisfaction to watch the parade. In transactional analysis, psychiatrist Eric Byrne has labeled this type of situation, " Let's You and Him Fight ". The central theme is that two individuals are pitted against one another by a third with the intention of the instigator gleefully watching the conflict. The more high drama between A and B the better and more egotistically satisfying for C, who caused the whole thing but is not actually an active participant and contributes nothing other than the spoon with which to stir the  pot.

      Like I said, too much drama. While I in no way approve of plagiarism-and this blog has plagiarized, hence the cute little copyright tags I'm posting all over the place-I think that after the initial public identification of the alleged plagiarized material  should be reported to the proper authorities. If there is a legitimate copyright infringement, report it. Otherwise I believe that it's pointless to keep tossing this situation into the the public arena like so much entertainment in a Roman Coliseum. The situation should be recognized then given over to the proper channels and then laid to rest( at least temporarily) so the powers that be have time to properly attend to it. Other than continuing to point out that the material is rightfully someone else's creation and supporting that particular individual, it's not anyone else's fight. Truly. It's between the initial two parties involved and nobody else needs to jump on the bandwagon and form a parade. (If and when the 'injured' party requests support, then I would proceed with caution because nothing is as it appears on the surface, especially when humans and emotions are involved.)

      There is a great deal of ballyhoo currently on Facebook about someone in our community allegedly pretending to be someone else and giving bum advise to newbies. While I personally find this reprehensible, I also wonder why it's so necessary to a certain few to encourage those outside the loop on this particular individual to don their armor, when there are hundreds ( if not more) of these charlatans throughout our community. It's what's been going on as long as I've been Pagan, and will continue to do so in some form or another because that is the nature of the human psyche, like it or not.  Now that particular grievance has morphed and expanded into another form of monster which has nothing to do with the original subject and is attacking those who are not involved at all, like Raymond Buckland and Judika Illes...which I find preposterous.  For the life of me I can't figure how those two could possibly be a target of these loose canons, but they are. There are days I wish I owned a magickal bazooka so I could just blast the annoying bastards off the face of the Earth. It's an entertaining thought, but I don't have one because the gods have not seen fit to gift me with one...and I trust their judgment implicitly.

      Personally, I have enough to do to encourage my local part of the community to stay true to themselves and act in an authentic way, all while helping toss out the bad apples without going into someone else's yard. The emotion surrounding this situation has reached hysterical levels through unfair manipulation and down right bullying by those few pot stirrers. I am not joining the fray and will restate my position: It's just so much drama and too much for me right now. I choose my battles carefully...and I will not be bullied to do otherwise.

      Afterword: I've gotten a couple of comments asking about the names and locations of the groups I wrote about in this post. I'm not about to add to their little freak show by mentioning them by name. If you're really that interested, then go to Facebook and look for them yourself. I'm not giving directions and encouraging rubberneckers, sorry.

      Friday, July 15, 2011

      Patriotic...and Pagan

      Around 10 p.m. on September 11, 2001, when it seemed the entire world was still, I was sitting on the front porch of my house having a cup of tea and staring up into the inky infinity of the sky. Dressed in my Disaster Service jumpsuit, I was waiting for a friend to pick me up so we could head up to the Meadow Lands as part of the second shift relief EMS. My inquisitive familiar, Tinker, sat in the window, periodically letting out a piercing yowl, just to let me know that she-an avowed indoor cat-was not pleased that I was outside and she and I were on opposite sides of the wire window screen. I'd turned to say something soothing to my frustrated feline, when suddenly, my attention was attracted skyward. (I was hypersensitive to all noise and motion-I think everyone was that night.) Squinting, I saw it- low,big, black, triangular, and moving very, very slowly for an aircraft. It was low enough that I could see the rivets in its skin, and I wondered,"Is it 'ours'?" For the first time in my life,  I was sitting on the front porch of the house I grew up in, located in a blue collar mid-Atlantic neighborhood, looking up fearfully at the sky and wondering if the low-flying aircraft I was seeing was really an American plane flying in United States airspace. A chill ran up my spine and I shivered  because even though I could see the plane in detail clearly at night, I could discern no familiar red,white, and blue markings and no American flag. It was just a big black wedge-shaped aircraft with teeth for a tail. It was struck at how deadly it looked and how silent it a flying shark. I wondered if we were at war, and what would happen if the bay doors on the underbelly opened suddenly and discharged a bomb. To be honest, I wasn't all that concerned for myself and my safety- but I did wonder what would happen to Tinker if the resulting blast didn't kill both of us instantly and obliterate the neighborhood. I wasn't afraid of dying, but I couldn't stand the thought of my dear animal companion surviving-perhaps wounded and in pain-only to later starve to death.
      I was a patriotic kid. I knew the words to all of the service anthems-From the Halls of Montezuma , Anchors Aweigh, Off  We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder, When the Caissons Go Rolling Along ( before the word "caisson" was changed to " Army").  I was the only kid in my second grade class that knew what that thing that JFK's casket was transported on was ( a horse-drawn caisson), and it was awesome to have that knowledge! By the age of seven I knew how to properly fold an American flag (with tight corners) into a triangle, and all of the flag etiquette that went with it. We made red, white and blue bunting from crepe paper before it was commercially available to hang for all patriotic holidays. I also knew how to make red pom-pom poppies out of  yarn, because of the poppies at Flanders Field... and I knew the words to the poem as well.

      My grandfather, who raised me, spent 11 years of his life in the military. He graduated from the United States Army Cooks and Bakers School at Fort Dix in Burlington County, New Jersey(The same place my father graduated from in the early years of the Korean conflict). Pop was very proud of his service in the military, despite the fact  it was the lesser of two evils: the other choice was jail. My great-grandfather married a younger woman after his first wife died. They started a 'second family'. Pop and his four brothers and single sister were sidelined. Pop and one of his brothers stole some money out of their step-mother's purse, and she convinced my great-grandfather to put the boys in a 'reform school' which was the 1920's version of juvenile detention. So Pop chose the Army when he turned 18, went to school, learned a trade, and narrowly missed being sent to China with the First Engineers.

      The Army made him a good cook and a Sargent, then assigned him to Fort DuPont, where he met my grandmother, who was a 14 year old  girl with a 3rd grade education and working in the back room of Sterling's Bar. They raised two daughters on $21 dollars a month, which was a lot more than ordinary foot soldiers made. Pop supplemented their income by hunting in the surrounding swamps for frogs and muskrats to sell  to nearby merchants. I never heard him say a bad word about the Army- even when I found out after he died that he'd been busted down to Private and spent time in the brig for a drunken excursion resulting in tearing down a metal fence on the base. He had a huge, ugly scar on his leg for the rest of his life from that accident. ( I'd love to find out the rest of the story someday, because when I became a paramedic many decades later, I couldn't help but notice how much that scar resembled a bullet wound!) The VA representative took entirely too much pleasure in unceremoniously informing  me that Pop was discharged as a Private, not a Sargent, and that I couldn't have the military headstone he was entitled to because he'd let the salesman at the cemetery talk him into having  the bronze marker laid on the grave site pre-need to save on storage fees. This infuriated me...I wanted that damn  headstone  more than anything, I wanted him to have some sort of recognition of having served in the military because it had been his entire life for more than a decade. What I ended up doing was scraping together my last $50 at the time and having the cement foundation for the flat headstone dug up and the bronze marker ripped off it so an Army emblem could be installed on  the marker. I found his honorable discharge card in the bank security box after he died...and it said he was discharged as a Sargent.  For all of the rest of the years I lived in the house after he died, I made certain there was an American flag posted on his grave on both Memorial and Veteran's Days.
      There seemed to be some confusion about what toys little proper girls played with when I was growing up: Pop saw to it that I got a fresh supply of little green plastic soldiers every Christmas, to go along with the Army helmet, gun and hand grenade that exploded using caps. Another Christmas I was proudly gifted with a three foot long electronic battleship which ran across the floor in a see-sawing up and down motion to resemble breaching waves and rang general quarters (annoying and loud). The Battleship was fully armed with a forward battery of smoking canons, little plastic jets that hurled off the deck and  hard plastic missiles with rubber tips.There was a working signal lamp on the top of the ship, and Pop taught me Morse Code.The missiles, sadly, soon disappeared after I shot one of them completely through the living room and into the kitchen where it made pay dirt with the inside of Pop's left ankle...and left a bruised welt the size of a half dollar. For years afterward we kept finding some of the tiny white plastic HO scale sailors that clipped to the deck of the B-Whatever, and the odd paper Old Glory that fell off the string of flags that hung from the com tower. There was a great deal of pleasure and pride at my house that I could accurately sink origami paper boats in the back yard fishpond with  this horrendous, ludicrously dangerous toy. It was dutifully brought out on D-Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day and literally paraded around as a show of deep and meaningful respect for our country's freedom right after attending the military parade of the day in the city. Not kidding. I also collected lead soldiers and a series of famous West Point cadets from Woolworth's Five and Dime, because it was a show of American pride to be able to display these trinkets.
      I loved military parades with marshal music(still do), and I was taught to snap to attention and salute every American flag that went down the street. For years I actually believed the words to the National Emblem March were  about a monkey wrapping his tail around the flagpole, because that's what Pop swore he was taught in the Army- and I would gleefully sing this loudly off -key, as only a child missing her front teeth could...because that's what you did as a patriot when I was growing up. You knew all the high points of American History and that soldiers fought and died for our freedom....and you were unquestioningly grateful they did.

      When I was growing up, being a patriotic American also meant you were a Christian. There was no question about being anything else, because I didn't know about anything other religion ( except Jews). The two inexplicably went hand-in-hand. You could not be one without the other. I had a vague sense that Jews in our country were also patriotic, but I'm not sure I believed they were Americans at the time. Everyone else was a foreigner, a Communist Russian  or someone needing saving by Jesus....because that's what we were taught in school. The foreigners and Commies weren't God-fearing.  During the cold war years I had a vague sense that I would never make it to 12 years of age because that evil bald bogeyman in Russia (Nikita Khrushchev) wanted to kill American kids. That's why they used to drag us out into the hallways to stand against the wall and have us cover our heads for the time when the bombs would be  dropped. We developed a staggeringly wrong-headed amount of civic pride, but we didn't know any better. That was the innocence of a child's world in the 50's and 60's.

      I became an insufferably jaded teenager during the 70's. Vietnam was still raging, and I didn't trust the government. I didn't trust God, either. God let my oldest brother die in Vietnam in a war I didn't understand then and doubt I ever will understand for as long as I live. Our government kept referring to it as a 'police action'.Sounded to me like they were handing out parking tickets. They didn't even honor his sacrifice with the decency of calling it a war. So I stopped standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. I refused to sing the Star-Spangled Banner because the words were difficult to make fit the tune and I had no point of reference to connect it with anything current. Beside the tune was taken from  an English drinking song and I found no pride in that being our National Anthem. I sewed an American flag on the rear end of my favorite pair of jeans so I could sit my ass on it every time I sat down.I understand now the intensity of  the emotions of  a teen- and what an internal battle for meaning and sanity they go through. Something honest and true about being an American still remained deeply ingrained within me, but I wrestled uncomfortably with the idea of being a Patriot.
      And then something happened in my life, something wonderful, even if I couldn't put my finger on it...Immanence came into my life. The kid who used to used to collect rocks and leaves (but only the magickal ones) began  listening to the song of the wind and hearing the voices of Nature and out of that came a redefined sense of the world. The Earth was alive. Spirit was alive.God wasn't just an old man sitting on a throne in the sky..God was everywhere, in everything- and quite possibly female. Life was sacred. Freedom was a holy estate made so by the blood of  many who sacrificed their lives to make living sacred....but it still wasn't cool to be demonstratively patriotic according to the Book of Teen Club Rules, and I wasn't taking any chances on having my membership matter how I was feeling inside. I went through a phase where I wrote poetry, and  I began journaling. One day I packed a lunch, hoped on my bike and went off to the quarry behind our neighborhood.The quarry was my 'special 'place to go when I wanted to think. It was away from everywhere and largely abandoned, the place where I found rocks with iron deposits flecked with quartz in them. It was sunny in some parts and shaded in others, and I could dig out a seat in the soil on the rough incline and plant myself into it and become a part of the terrain.

      On this particular day, three bites into an awesome garlic baloney sandwich, I  was feeling my oats and intended on listing all the reasons why I thought living in America sucked. To me, England was way cooler- Twiggy, Peter Sellers ( the prototype for Austin Powers),go-go boots, psychedelic paisley, TM, The Animals, Herman's Hermits and the Beatles all came from England. Carnaby Street in London was the Mod capital of the world, yeah, baby! Once I'd noted that living here sucked because your parents put a serious crimp in your personal freedom (like I actually had a notion about having a real life then), I was pretty much out of things to add to the list. I guess I pretty much knew the revolution was over then. Wasn't this the country where I was pretty much free to do and say anything I wanted? ( Excluding parental control, of course!) Why, I could even tell everyone how superior I thought the Beatles music was to that of Elvis without getting shot at ( well, maybe not so much in Memphis); I could wear my hair as long and my skirt as short as I wanted; I could have a Coke at the drug store;  travel pretty much wherever I wanted unrestricted, and say that Nature was God...and that God was not male, but female- out loud. Maybe I got some funny looks when I said it, but no one was gathering kindling to built a fire under my feet, either. Not only that, but if someone didn't like my religious view point, that was okay, too...because the Constitution of the United States backed up my assertions. It protected everyone. If I wanted to go dip water out of the stream, pour it over my head, build a circle of stones and dance around in the moonlight while calling God  by a feminine name and say it was a spiritual experience...then I could. I could call myself a Pagan if I wanted, and I could be Pagan in this country in a way that I could not in any other country on Earth. The patriotic epiphany had descended.

      I'm not as naive as I was. I have a keen sense of social justice that has caused me to be very much aware of the faults of my government. But I also remember what's right with America, and I know what we're missing...good old-fashioned, no holds barred celebrations of our country's history, of the days of pride- such as July 4th, Veteran's Day, Armed Forces Day...and the days of sorrow, the anniversary of dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and Memorial Day. Patriotism needs balance, to keep it from being obsession, just like everything else. I can love my country, appreciate what the founders of this nation did to give it roots and wings, and support out military with gratitude, all while hating the concept of war and killing and elitism.

      I'm really not as much of a flag waver as it sounds, but I have come to appreciate what citizenship has given me. I could not be a Pagan in the same way I am today if I were in any country other than America...and for that, I can gratefully wave her flag in return. 

      ( This blog is a re-print of an article, which originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Witches Hour Magazine. My apologies for the bad editing  if you read it the magazine-my fault, not theirs. Editing in Blogger sucks sometimes, LOL).

      Sunday, July 10, 2011

      Circles Upon Circles Within Circles

      “Everything the power of the world does, is done in a circle. The sky is round, the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls... the sun comes forth and goes down in a circle. The moon does the same… even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were before. The life of a man is a circle… and it is in everything where power moves.
                                                                    ~(from Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neibardt, Univ. of Nebraska Press)

      Folk Singer Harry Chapin had it right: all our life is a circle. We gather and circle 'round the campfire or the ritual place. Our timepieces count the hours in a circle. We often  make the loop going somewhere and back, and circle the block looking for a parking space. We live in a Circle of Life, and when we die, the circle is broken.  Hugs are mostly circular and enveloping; kisses are delivered with lips puckered up into an 'O' shape. We pledge our troth with a circle of gold on our ring fingers and hang necklaces around our necks which encircle them ( Bracelets and anklets, too!) Our crowns are circles, our clothing circle our waists and legs. Our eyeballs are round: technically, so are are our internal organs of procreation. Not all circles are round: some are ovals. The earth travels in an elliptical circle.

      Alpha and Omega... the beginning and the end... Our lives are cyclical in that we are born as helpless infants, and if fortunate enough to survive to a ripe old age, we may then return to that infantile state before we die.
      Circles contain things: they are vesicles. They hold water and beverages ( and most importantly to me-coffee), many of our dinner plates are designed in circles, we have bowls for soup. Many Celtic and Buddhist designs have circles incorporated into them. When we depict our holy persons, it is with a nimbus of light around their head; angels have halos, too. We contain our energies during ritual in a sacred circle, and we move about and dance them. We spiral out and spiral down and spiral inward. The energy vortex is a spinning circle of energy, as are chakras. Energy of nearly every type roils in a circle. The Choku Rei, the first sacred symbol of Reiki, integrates a circle or spiral into it. The Peace Symbol is contained in a circle, as is the Yin/Yang. The most popular shape for decorative patches is circular: heraldry, religious emblems and Scout badges are circular. Most notebook binders are held together by rings.

      We are surrounded-encircled- by circles. It is no wonder that the circle is the most popular of symbols.

      .We move and have our being in circles of the seasons. I have a heightened awareness of this as we return to seasons we seem to have just left, particularly when it is cold. Our hope, as we sit shivering in the darkness at Winter Solstice, is that the warmth and light will come. The ewe's belly grows round with it's pregnancy just as Imbolc returns. The Vernal Equinox brings the quickening light. Beltaine brings Maypoles; Lughnassadh  round loaves of bread. The God is born, lives and dies in a cycle to ensure the fertility of the Earth. The moon moves through phases of waxing, fullness, waning and darkness. We are born and die to be born yet again. We are formed from the dust of the stars and return through Eternity.

      Circles upon circles, within circles, through circles: we are the center of our own personal Universe. Feel Life around you. May You Blessed Be.

      Wednesday, July 6, 2011

      Broom With A View: Versatile Blogger Award

      Thank you, Auroran Lauriel, for nominating Broom With A View for the Versatile Blogger Award ! Her own blog is at:

      My Rock Star Muse, Rick Springfield, has been quoted as saying " Writers write to heal themselves".
      I think that's a fair assessment, and truer than most of us will admit. At least I know it's true in my case.  I'll tell you a little secret: I write this blog for myself. I have a need for an outlet, and I love conversation. Broom With A View has been just that: a conversation, and a chance to connect with others- because we all need connection, we all need validation and recognition and just to know that someone else might just be there on the other side of the computer screen. I know there are people out there listening to my unique voice because I hear from you here at Blogger, on Twitter  and at AmethJera's Broom With A View page on Facebook- thank you for listening. We all have unique voices and I'm just adding my own to the cosmic cake mix of cyberspace.

      Now, to finish qualifying for this award, I need to tell you 7 things about myself. It's more difficult than you think, because I tell a lot during my usual posts....but here goes:

      1. I love to cook, but you probably already know that because I am endlessly posting that my Grandfather, Jeffery James Corti, was a fantastic cook courtesy of the U.S. Army. I can cook basically anything from scratch, and I love to experiment, which leads to never making dishes exactly the same way twice. Not sure if this is good or bad, but it feeds my spirit as well as my soul. Swami Muktananda said that food is sacred and should be treated as God, and I pretty much feel the same way- cooking is a form of love and a way of honoring the guests at your table.

      2. I also sew. My Grandmother worked in a tailor shop, so I'm pretty good at fitting clothing....which usually gets me involved with costuming in community theater, etc.( I do make-up, too) I like tailored work clothes and chic casual stuff. I'm probably going to end up whipping up whatever I'm wearing to the premier of 'my' movie.

      3. Which leads me to..." The Movie". I was featured in a documentary An Affair of the Heart about Rick Springfield and why he has fans who are still as enthusiastic about his music as they were 40 years ago... but the documentary is much more than just an intense look at Rick Springfield. It’s a human-interest story about holding on to and following dreams, the significance of connecting with like-minded people on our personal journeys (some fans have forged now decades long friendships that began with the music but have ripened into full friendships), and the importance of taking a break from our busy, stressful lives for some good, clean fun reminiscent of our  simpler days. The film makers came to Raleigh to film me in my church and did an online interview which, from the reviews they got from a preliminary with industry insiders, gave me high marks. Me! We aren't all groupie freaks, some of us have real lives and I guess they liked that, LOL...The premiere is September 26th in Malibu,the only time all of those featured will be together in one place and meet one another.( I'm selling plasma to make the trip. No, I'm not kidding.It's the only way I have to make money.)

      4. I do doll house miniatures. Not toys, one in to one foot scaled museum quality miniatures of household items, and the doll house, figurines and scenery too. I can sculpt nearly anything in polymer clay (and paint it).
      I've done professional diorama and displays, and I do custom orders for sale. No, I don't have a shop, but I'm thinking about eBay.

      5. I love the arts-music, painting, sculpting, theater, literature-and I  do something in all  of it! Creative expression is my passion. I also love to be out in nature-hiking backpacking, rock climbing and camping.

      6. I've been on both sides of homelessness. I did a  pastoral care internship as a chaplain at a shelter in Maryland, where the residents farm the land and receive the services they need to move on to a better life, and I was also the house manager in a transitional shelter for women and children. Later I became homeless temporarily because I was robbed when I first moved to North Carolina and had no other resources. Things aren't perfect, but are certainly much better. There aren't a lot of people who care in our society for those who have been marginalized, and that needs to change because just like me, a lot of others are one paycheck away from the street.

      7. I'm an advocate for those with mental illness. Having clinical depression myself has shown me that there's still an unnecessary stigma  connected to mental health issues.There's still a lot of misunderstanding and fear. It doesn't mean the individual is 'crazy. Hollywood is to blame for a lot of the negative images we have of mental illness( just as it is for the negative image of witchcraft). Mental illness is a legitimate disease just like cancer, yet those who suffer from it are treated like they did something to bring on their illness or that it's some type of a character flaw. It's neither. There are many forms of mental illness and remission/recovery is possible in most cases with medication, therapy and social supports. People with mental illness can be productive members of society with the right type of help, but many don't get that from their health care providers. I'd like to help change that part of the health care system. Being a spiritual director and counselor is my way of giving back to society and to others who so desperately need to have a champion.

      Okay, there are my seven things. Tonight I'm going to select my nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award.
      Thank you again, Auroran Lauriel, for caring.