Saturday, January 15, 2011

War of the Wardrobe

This is on of those long, bleak January days when I have a tendency to do too little and think too much.  I believe that the purpose of January ( the month named for the god who looks both back into the past and forward into the future) is to exactly that, to figure out where we are in the New Year. I believe we need to draw from the past to forge the future,otherwise, how do we know where we're going if we don't know where we've been? And so, on this gray, cold day, I have been warming my imagination by sorting myself out, trying once again, to identify who I am...and I still don't know, to be honest. It's not due to a lack of trying, it's just that I find that I am composed of so many things, that I have a difficult time saying," Oh, I'm.......". One of the wondrous mysteries of life is that we are constantly and ever changing just like the stuff we are made up of: our opinions and beliefs are as fluid as the molecules that spin at varying speeds to create our reality.

On this day that the trees outside are shivering and clattering because of ice-covered branches, when the sky is a shade of lavender-gray just because it is Winter, when my fingers tingle from the cold, I am wondering who I am and how I present myself to the world. The Who-I-Am part is constantly in flux, but the how I present myself part needs work, especially in the physical realm. Is it understandable that say I am happy but not satisfied? I don't usually give that much thought to my wardrobe, what I am about  is clean, properly fitting and comfortable. I have been in stasis  in the attractive segment, because the Darkness of depression whispers in my ear, " Why bother?" a bit more than I would like to hear these days. Why bother indeed: I am dressing only for myself, and there is a part of me that says," Be thankful just to have clothing. No one is looking at you anyway. There are more important things than how you look."

If I were a little more morally centered, I might take this high road of austerity and be happy to dress like Gandhi in sackcloth and sandals . I am not. There is one part of me that battles with another that caring how one looks is egotistical, and then there is the voice that occasionally jumps in and reminds me, " Part of who you are is how you look, and it took you many years of self-examination to decide what you liked about yourself.Whatever happened to that?" Whatever, indeed...

My everyday style has degraded to All American Frump: a pair of pull on pants and an over-sized sweater.
It's warm, economical (usually from the thrift store) and totally shapeless, in that it covers everything up-all of me. And there is a lot of me to cover up nowadays, not that I have ever been tiny: I am, according to whoever does the size portioning at Jones of New York a Misses Petite, the politically correct way of saying that I am
round and height challenged, or short and fat. It wasn't always like this, I used to like dressing up and looking smart, and for a while I worked in the Women's Department at Macy's, where customers would come in and remark," I wish I could look like you." It was great for my self-esteem, believe me. The secret to my wardrobe success was basic wardrobe components correctly proportioned and accessorized-jewelry, scarves, belts, shoes with heels (which I can no longer wear.) I knew what colors were popular and what colors I looked good in and could pull it together.

Those were the days, my friends....

Today I am fortunate if I can pull myself out of bed. Together? Pull what together? Nothing matches anymore.The clothing I bought just for me, in styles that were complimentary, are a memory-gone. I jettisoned a lot of them when I made the move a few years ago because I figured clothing was something expendable. Frankly all of the clothing I liked, the stuff that defined me, had been stored while I was taking my little side trip into Homelessness. I was promised that the would be there when I was ready to resume my life....

Lesson One: Trust only yourself. The day I went to retrieve my belongings- that I was promised were safely stored- I found not only were many boxes missing (Oh, you were REALLY coming back for those?) but that the boxes that remained had been opened and picked through...and my carefully created wardrobe was gone ("Oh, I guess your stuff got mixed in with the stuff for the Good Will.") My things were gone, and with it, so I felt, was I.

I had spent a year trying to get myself back together after  selling  my house, moving across the state,the trauma of  being assaulted and tail-spinning into a horrific depression, and loosing the apartment I was so proud of because I had sunk a considerable amount of money into making it mine.  The last blow I could take was loosing my outer identity, and now it was all a memory. I had spent so long figuring out my personal style and I looked good, I felt, for the first time in my life. I had pretty clothing that made me feel pretty,damn it.
I had even dared to walk into Hot Topic and buy a beautiful long black goth gown that I intended to wear for rituals...and it was now nowhere to be found, along with the glamorous beaded and chiffon maroon evening gown and the creamy two piece formal suit with the beaded jacket I'd worn at the Grammy's five years earlier. Double damn...they even took my clerical shirts, and who would possibly want them?

I am sitting here at the end of a long, bleak January day mourning the loss of my hard-earned wardrobe-of all the things I loved that were such a part of me-and I am feeling very ugly and stupid for trusting other people who made promises they didn't keep...and I don't know why, because it solves nothing.

Janus, the god of the past and future looks at Time both ways, and here and now, so will I. I have looked back long enough, felt guilty and dumb and ugly long enough. Tomorrow I am going to throw away the clothing I absolutely loathe- the All American Frump collection. I will keep a couple of pairs of pants and a few shirts to do yard work in and crafts, the rest is GOING TO THE TRASH. I may be naked when I finish, but I am going to start looking like me again ( and I will look even more like me when my damn hair grows out that I cut way too short after the Darkness whispered in my ear about how hideous it looked. Score one for the Darkness, it looks even worse now, just what he wanted.)

Tomorrow-or maybe even tonight-there is going to be a search and destroy mission taking place in my dressers and storage boxes, and there is going to be a big bag of rags in the garbage...and with any luck at all, I am going to be free of the funk that I've felt about my looks, bit by bit....because damn it, I DO CARE WHAT I LOOK LIKE EVEN IF NO ONE ELSE DOES, and if that makes me sound superficial and egotistical, so be it. It's the War on the Wardrobe, baby...and I'm going to take me back!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Devil Made Him Do It

Many Questions left Unanswered

The U.S. government has charged the 22-year-old Jared Loughner with trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by shooting her in the head during a rampage that killed six people and wounded 14 in Tucson, Arizona.The Associated Press says that college  friends "paint a picture bolstered by other former classmates and Loughner's own Internet postings: that of a social outcast with nihilistic, almost indecipherable beliefs steeped in mistrust and paranoia."

"A former classmate of Loughner at Pima Community College said he was 'obviously very disturbed,' " the Arizona Daily Star reports." 'He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts,' said Lynda Sorenson, who took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College's Northwest campus."

The descriptions of Jared Loughner sound eerily similar to descriptions for nearly every mass shooter of the last decade: a loner, delusional and obsessed with hatred about local authorities. They are almost exclusively male, and extremely angry with a system they cannot control; narcissistic with a lack of social inhibition, they are often just dismissed as 'loudmouths' and 'blow-hards', the severity of their disorder not recognized until it's too late. Jared Loughner had one additional disturbing trait: he used lucid dreaming as an alternative reality.

Lucid Dreaming has gained popularity in the occult community over the last 30 years since the phenomenon was re-introduced to the public as a form of mind expansion and exploring the collective unconscious by followers of Jungian psychology.  The theory of lucid dreaming is that after you recognize your dream state, you basically write the script of the dream. By lucid or purposeful  introduction of yourself into the dream, the  you gain control of this sub-conscious level of reality to explore deeper layers of the psyche and connect with the divine. Scott Cunningham wrote an excellent occult treatise on the subject titled Dreaming the Divine. His book touched on dream incubation as a form of spirituality, a communion with the gods when the mind was unencumbered by the cares of everyday reality. The type of lucid dreaming practiced by Jared Loughner was not a benign joining of one with the spirit: it was a slow, heinous take over of his mind by the shadowy self, the place where the mind is open to the whim of  lower entities and personal demons. Simply put, this young man had made himself available to a form of possession and suffered from a very serious form of mental illness, a place where slights and snubs were roiled into a stew of bitterness and madness. According to a female friend, he kept a dream journal of his torment, and that will be a key piece of evidence in his conviction in the shootings.

Another disturbing element of this case was recently introduced by the New York Daily News- hardly what I would personally consider a legitimate piece of journalism, but one read by millions daily, none the less. The NYDN has existed on such journalistic gems as seeing the face of the Devil in a cloud of smoke pouring from the World Trade Center just after the jet strike, so when the story broke earlier this week that ' ...a shrine of occult items' has been found at Loughner's home, I was hardly surprised.     


A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others. Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner’s home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges. A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal. Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.

What better way to tap into the fear of the Arizona Bible Belt than to indicate that this monster was into a form of occult activity. They stopped just short of calling it Devil worship or Satanism. This elevates him from being The Other to being The Evil Other; it sells newspapers and sets tongues wagging. More to the point, it once again slanders Pagans and makes them guilty by association in the minds of the uninitiated, uneducated public.

Despite what Pagan media has protested as being, " a collection of left over, cast-off Halloween decorations", this photo clearly  depicts an intentionally sinister tableau to me. Whether it was constructed by Loughner-or possibly thrown together by an over zealous paparazzi- is not known. What is glaringly apparent to me is that it was constructed to represent something of an occult ritualistic nature, even if that only existed in the shooter's own twisted mind.Denial by the Pagan community of such an obvious attempt at ritualism will only damage our reputation. Better the 'experts' had responded, " It's definitely something of a ritualistic nature, but we don't know what it means." than the lame," Obviously, this is just some stuff thrown together." All the elements of some sort of ritual are present: candles, a skull, (rotted) oranges, a pattern. I can make an educated guess that it might have been the attempt of a sick mind to make an offering of some sort to a death deity or even the components of a spell. But it certainly doesn't appear to mean nothing, and it doesn't necessarily mean it was a part of any known occult group. That is a secret that may be revealed in the dream journal of Jared Loughner, or exists exclusively in his demented mind.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Into The Great Wide Open

This title of a Tom Petty song has always intrigued me because of it's vagueness. That's how the beginning of a new year is-we have no idea what's going to happen and the future is greatly wide open. Last night I began doing some readings with various decks to peek into the future-to see what's visible through the smoky glass.

While I was researching a graphic for this blog installation, this popped up on my computer instead:

I believe that everything happens for a reason: 
People change so you can learn to let go; 
Things go wrong so you can appreciate them when they're right; 
You believe lies so eventually you learn to trust no one but yourself; 
And sometimes, good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

The way the Great Mystery works( for me, anyway) is that you don't always get what you want, but you do get what you need. This appeared on the screen at the right time in the correct place for me this morning, because I am, frankly, not satisfied with what came through last night. The card readings were pulled to lay a foundation for the predictions to follow. I used three individual decks with very different graphics-Mother Peace, The Green Man Oracle, and Star+Gate. Each has it's own specific imagery, and when such diverse images mesh into the same meaning, I know I'm on to something. Sometimes I can make something out of them immediately, sometimes the readings are so unique they don't come together at all. I take that to mean that the readings are indeed still valid, just that the time periods are spread out and linked.Last night, all three not only aligned, they shouted. Three different layouts with three individual decks came back with the same basic message: This is going to be the year when we redefine ourselves. We're going to have to look at who we are with all the trappings stripped away, and in turn, that's going to change who we are as individuals, as a society, and as a country. We have the potential for a new beginning that is going to use the wisdom of the past rather than the knowledge of our own age, and that is going to include a spiritual awakening that will put us in touch with the innermost self and whatever we recognize as divine beyond ourselves. Fate will open and close it's door quickly, so when the individual opportunity for each of us comes, we have to be ready to step over the threshold quickly, or the door will close and the opportunity for change will be lost. These doors will be on all levels and on all planes-financial, personal,spiritual, physical, etc., so the self-examination must be soon and swift...perhaps that's the Universe's way of keeping us from our usual inbred human foot-dragging.

It's a tall order, at least for me. I suspect it will be for you, too, if you're anything like me-prone to sit on things too long and procrastinate, or push it away and hope it will take care of itself eventually. I will do almost anything to avoid conflict these days because frankly, my energy for the fight has flagged...and I know better, I've had psychology classes and attended workshops that assert that conflict isn't always negative and that the catalyst of conflict may be what is needed to get to the next level. My most revered Sensei, Thomas Crumb, has written books on the subject and literally pounded it into my head, but I am still at heart a non-believer because recently every time I have tried to warm my hands at the fire, they have been slapped away.

All these readings have pointed to the fact that we need to look inward and outward, that we need to do self exploration, and embrace something sacred beyond ourselves. I fear the de-cluttering process, and yet I know that spirit doesn't work well  in a messy environment, so I will need to peel away the onion-like layers of my comfort zone before I can bloom like a rose. The fact is that we all have just too much bling in our lives, whether or not we believe that ( I didn't), too much stuff we have been told we needed by the media and the spin doctors, and we have now accumulated so much that we are drowning in it.Our need to acquire the newest and the best has just turned on we really need iPhones with a million apps when all we need is a simple cell phone to stay connected? We've been listening to other voices instead of our own to care for our personal needs, and in the throes of it all, we've lost re-invention is needed, the opportunity is being presented because we now have to get rid of all the excess just to survive. 

The cards also pointed to the fact that wisdom and knowledge are two entirely different things, and when we discern one from the other, we can lay the foundation for the required re-invention. I believe this will take place in applying ancient wisdom, looking back to generations before our own, and how they re-invented themselves. Our grandparents came out of a time after WWI to a gradual build-up of financial stability during the 20's and 30's, only to have it all ripped away by the Great Depression, the fall of the stock market and WWII, then again, we as a society gained momentum and once again became affluent.That affluence was defined by what we possessed  and could pay to get... and we in  turn became collectors of stuff. The more toys we had, the more important we were on life's playground.

We are going to be the ones to pull ourselves out of this awful economy...not the government, which is wallowing in a mire of it's own creation. Once again, we are going to have to become cohesive communities out of necessity. We are headed toward the creation of the Village to survive, and that means we aren't going to be able to take care of the rest of the world and put others needs first. That's not being selfish, it's acknowledged that we are  worthy as a people...and the cards made that very plain: clarity is needed to recognize our essential needs for survival; time-tested wisdom needs to be put into place once more; and we will be overseen and guided by a Universal force of protection if we choose to acknowledge it's existence.

It sounds rather common sense. Maybe common sense is what we need because it hasn't been so  common lately.

Otherwise, further meditation on my part in reference to predictions was a little disappointing to me. Maybe because I've been fairly accurate in recent years until last year, when everything except one just went bust. Perhaps I should breathe a sigh of relief on that one, quite a few of them weren't very positive. 

For what they're worth, here's what came out of the smoky glass of the future on my part:
  • A new monarchy will rise in Europe, and several monarchies in place will shift and change significantly.
  • Devastating fires in Australia will effect it's ecosystem and cause some wide spread flooding.
  • Urban areas in the Far East will experience deadly high-rise building fires which will cause their governments to examine the way they've permitted their cities to be built. I'm seeing this somewhere in China or possibly Japan. 
  • More flooding in India from storm surges, and the loss of major crops.
  • Flooding, too, is seen in middle America, also affecting crops and food prices.
  • The Southern US will experience a mild summer, but a harsh winter.
  • A coastal earthquake in the US will cause the creation of a new body of water. I couldn't tell if it was East or West Coast.
  • Both a major bank and a major airline will fold in the second half of 2011.
  • There will be several train derailments in the Southern US which will change rail travel with possible creation of new rail passages.
  • A previously unknown virus will devastate parts of Africa, seriously affecting the distribution of population.
  • 2 well known and much loved entertainers will die this year from long term illnesses; a young entertainer will be lost in a freak accident; and a rock icon will announce he is either HIV positive or has AIDS. (I do have a sense of who all of these are, but for the sake of not creating a negative thought form, I reserve them to my own journal.)
  • There will be an attempt on President Obama's life.
  • Pharmaceutical companies will have to admit that they are closer to curing various cancers due to a leak in their security. The US Government will make swift punishment costing them millions of dollars.
I wish there were more specifics and more positive predictions, but I also have a feeling that not everything has come through for the year for me. Remember, nothing is writ in stone-things that come through are simply impressions- and there is a possibility that a negative prediction can turn into a positive one!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And a Partridge (sort of) in a Christmas Tree...

This is a true story- I swear it. You can't make stuff up like this....It seems this afternoon, after  my house mate decided to open the door to let in a bit of air, a tiny bird found it's way in, also. I was typing away at the previous blog when I heard a commotion behind me in the plants...on the floor between the flower pots was a little brown bird, wide-eyed and panting, scared half to death. It was a Carolina wren, which looks a bit like a common sparrow. The wren was frantic and trying to escape- it had found it's way in through the open door, but  was confused by the floor to ceiling glass windows and kept flying into them. The door to my make-shift bedroom opens into the same mud room, and the door was guessed it. The wren made a bee-line into my room before I could gently direct it out the door.
The Aggressor
 It flew around the room, landed on a book self, then, as if suddenly finding a recognizable perch with some flew straight into my Christmas tree!

The tree is only four feet tall, not much of a safe place for a frantic little bird, and I began looking through the branches for the poor little critter, intending on grabbing it and putting it out the door. The wren, it seems, had other ideas. It had made friends with a small, brown artificial partridge, the last survivor of a box purchased at a floral supply house at the end of the 1980's.It was sitting very still-trying to hide- next to it's new friend. Truth be known, the artificial avids never actually looked much like partridges...and now that I think about it, peering in to the branches of the tree, it does look a lot like a Carolina wren.
The Victim
The Carolina wren must have though so, too because he deftly stepped up on the artificial bird's back with both feet. Obviously he's not a Rick Springfield fan and has never heard the song, Don't Talk To Strangers. He was friendly...and amorous. 

I had a fleeting, OMG moment when I realized what was about to happen. Mr.Wren thought he had a girl friend. The origin of the word 'bird brain' crossed my mind just as the wren, now frustrated that the object of his affections was not only a tease, she was the bird equivalent of a blow-up doll. His reaction was to begin pecking at the artificial bird until he had pulled all the feathers off it's head and back-"Take that, you phony!" The tree was shaking violently and dried feathers were flying everywhere. There was a lot of flapping and ripping noises.

While he was busy denuding my partridge, I reached in and grabbed him. He let out a surprised little squeak.

He didn't make a sound as I lobbed him out the door. ( I was tempted to hum the Air Force Anthem, Off We Go Into The Wild, Blue Yonder. There were no appropriate Rick Springfield songs for this moment, except maybe, Love Somebody. Well, to be honest, he did try... the feathered little freak.)

I now have a twenty plus year old sad-looking, bald, yellow plastic partridge and a small pile of loose feathers. I'm sure a little Tacky Glue will take care of the problem, but neither the lovely little partridge or I will be the same. Neither will that Carolina wren, I'll bet.

Happy 1/1/11... and Now What?

I grew up on the outskirts of South Philadelphia, and when you are a kid in such ethnic-influence and heavily immigrant influenced places you realize that the rest of the world doesn't always do what you do, that somethings of your childhood are truly unique. Such is the Mummer's Day Parade, always on January 1st. No where else in the country does this phenomenon occur-it is unique to Philadelphia's Irish and Italian Mummer's Societies
( private pubs, politely called social clubs in the area.) If you grew up in the wider Philly area, you were bound by tradition and duty to watch the Mummer's Day Parade-all 10 or 12 hours of it. No kidding, this is one of the longest parades in history, beginning in the wee hours and not ending until around 9 p.m. when the string bands perform their tinny, cheeky renditions of current pop songs and holiday hits.

The major recommendations of the Mummer's Day Parade are: the string bands-combos made up of stringed instruments, woodwinds and percussion; the elaborate themed costumes; and the extra-ordinary amount of alcohol that flows through the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. Sometimes literally.

Mummer's are difficult to explain to the rest of the world, and I'm not going to try; the following historical material is from their website:

Mummers tradition dates back to 400 BC and the Roman Festival of Saturnalias where Latin laborers marched in masks throughout the day of satire and gift exchange.  This included Celtic variations of “trick-or-treat” and Druidic noise-making to drive away demons for the new year.  Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Years day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution.  Prizes were offered by merchants in the late 1800’s.  January 1, 1901 was the first “official” parade offered about $1,725 in prize money from the city.

The Mummers parade is a celebration of the New Year but is serious business in Philadelphia.  Clubs work on the costumes and practice all year for their one day in the sun (…wind, rain or snow).  There are many lively discussions over the scoring by the judges and adherence to the complicated set of rules the marchers must follow when being judged.  String Bands are judged on their musical presentation as well as the costumes.  Seeing and hearing a String Band performing live in the parade is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Comic clubs tradition from ancient Greek god Momus who was the personification of mockery, blame, ridicule, scorn, raillery and stinging criticism.  Momus was expelled from heaven for his/her criticisms and ridicule of the gods.  The comic clubs continue to raise controversy over these themes they use in the parade that make fun of current issues and news stories such as issues involving religion, ethnicity, and feminism.  Many Mummers parade controversies over polices, such as the exclusion of women and the use of black-face, lasted many years.

The outdoor parade was postponed in 2003, the first time in 13 years .  There have been 22 weather-related postponements  since 1922.  There was no parade in 1919 due to WW1 and in 1934 due to the depression and the lack of prize money.

Now, go to You Tube and watch any number of Mummer's Day Parade/ Philadelphia String Band videos to get the full experience.

*   *   *

New Year's Day has always had a freaky vibe for me. After the excitement and sentimentality of  New Year's Eve, it is nearly anticlimactic, a day outside of time, when people aren't quite sure what to do with themselves. Either we're recovering from the first hangover of the year, or sleep in, or go to the mall to join other zombie shoppers schlepping brainlessly through stores, mumbling, " Must spend money. 70% off..."

My day started by reading greetings from friends on Facebook and Twitter; and to tell the truth, my eyes were about to glaze over...until I saw the best photo of  New Years Eve 2010. Never mind that it's my very own Rock Star Muse Rick Springfield...yeah, the guy who wanted Jesse's Girl. Wanna make something of it,
LOL...Just leave me alone and I'll be happy.....Meanwhile, back to the photo. Rick and his band had played Times Square earlier on NYE, and he did the Midnight Run in Central Park with his book editor and her family...and 20,000 other people, all running into the New Year...except Rick, who, um...had to answer Nature's call... right there in Central Park. The goofy expression on his face pretty much sums up the relief and elation of running smack into 2011 for me....
Photo by Stacy Creamer