Thursday, December 27, 2007
The last two nights, I have worn my scarf over my hair and shoulders when I have done my daily devotions. I am startled at what a difference it makes. I think it was Sannion that first mentioned it to me, or asked me a question about it, and sparked my interest. I didn't think it would be a big deal but figured I would try it out. Wow. Having the head covered really focuses your attention on the altar (or whatever you're looking at). I found it was easy to ignore outside sounds and disturbances, and just center on my devotions and meditations.
This is such a silly little thing to do, but... like the hand washing, and the holding of my hands over the candles for Hecate and Dionysus, it is becoming important to me. I find myself looking forward to nightly devotions, instead of going to bed and realizing I need to get up again. I can't wait until the next time we can have a fire in the house, and I can kneel by the hearth, staring into the hot coals, with my head covered, and my gaze focused.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
There's plenty of reason to celebrate, after all. The solstice was something that anyone could observe, with nothing more complex than a stick in the ground. There are many rituals that revolve around the death and rebirth of the sun. The Wiccan rituals to do with the Oak and Holly kings are based on older rituals, even if they're a bit mixed up. There are rituals in many other cultures, too, that venerate the shortest day of the year.
So why not Greek reconstructionism? Frankly, I'm not going to stop celebrating the secular Christmas, just because I'm Hellenic in my worship now. I'm sure that the ancient Greeks didn't, either. They came from all corners of their world, and had a vast repetoire of gods and spirits and ancestors, and certainly there were many personal and private rituals enacted by the citizens of Greece, Rome, and Etruria.
I don't celebrate Heliogenia, but not because I disagree with it. I don't, actually, disagree with it at all. I think it's a great idea! I just have rituals that I already perform in regards to the solstice, so I don't need a new one.
For me, rituals of the more formal sort should be dictated not by some schedule created by someone before you were born (be that Jesus, Moses, or Gardner), but by your own life and cycles. I have daily rituals that are just mine, but there are "family rituals" that we celebrate every year, that are vastly important to us. At first, when I was Wiccan, I tried to jam those celebrations into the 8 Festivals, but it never really seemed to fit. Then I attempted to have non-religious celebrations, but that doesn't work for me either, because my beliefs permeate my life. Now, I am slowly making semi-formal rituals designed to celebrate our family's important moments.
We like to celebrate Christmas. We also celebrate Yule, though it's much quieter. We celebrate New Year. There's Brigid's Day, which we celebrate as the conception date of the twins. Ostara and Easter are on our list, and Beltaine, Mabon, Samhain, and a few others. There's also Thanksgiving, which is a very spiritual day for us. Each one has very wonderful associations which we've built up over the years. When we get together for these days, there is the force of five years of memory behind it, five years and growing.
Friday, December 21, 2007
As I built up the fire this morning, after Gray left, I thought about Yule Logs and fires of winters past. I thought about the tiny live tree that Davydd and I had purchased, years ago, in a small apartment near Metrotown Mall. I thought about the year that I only had $10 to buy gifts for my daughter, and I got her a zillion pieces of plastic play food at the local dollar store, and wrapped each piece separately. Then there was the year we hand-painted ornaments and gifts for everyone in the family, carefully choosing things that would reflect the person it was for.
As a youngster, I hated Christmas. Christmas Eve was fun, at my Grandma's house, with the Clootie Dumpling and the shrimp platter, and all the traditional Scottish foods she would make. But it inevitably brought my mother's drinking on, in large amounts. Then Christmas Day would dawn, and I would have to wait until 9:30 or 10am for her to wake up, and then she would be hung over and grouchy throughout the present opening. Then the 2 hour trip to see my Hungarian grandparents, which was long and painful, and the visit, which was fun only as long as the food was being served. Once that was done, the grown ups would sit and watch football or something equally boring, and I would retreat to my grandmother's bedroom to read a book. The 2 hour trip home was excrutiating, because my mother was now over-full, possibly drunk again, and extremely tired from the "labors" of the two days. The only good part was the following day, Boxing Day in Canada. She would stay in her room for most of the day, coming out only for food and BromoSeltzer for her stomach. I would spend time with my dad, playing games or watching movies.
When I moved out, I determined not to celebrate Christmas, since my parents didn't ever celebrate CHRISTmas, only the seasonal spending orgy. It seemed wrong to me, even at 18. Instead, I began to celebrate Yule, and the Solstice. Often, we'd stay up all night, waiting for the return of the Sun. We exchanged our gifts and had our "orphan's Christmas" on the 21st or 22nd, whichever worked better, and we had a really wonderful time. Slowly, my views on the winter holidays changed. I came to enjoy the decorations again.
When my daughter was born, suddenly it all took on new meaning. I took great joy in putting up the decorations. I started new traditions with her, like getting a new ornament every year, and opening our "family gifts" on Yule, and still celebrating both Christmas (as the *birth of Christ* and not a commercial venture) and Santa's visit. It turned the whole time into a week of fun, rather than one day of orgiastic present opening. In the middle was a feast, which all our friends and adopted family would attend, each bringing something different to add to the table.
After I came to Maryland, and lost custody of my daughter, Christmas became a sad time for me once again. It all seemed to call out that I wasn't with her, and that I was a failure, even though on a logical level I knew I was not at fault. I would spend the end of November and beginning of December purchasing little gifts for her, and the family would buy one larger item. I would buy her a dress, as I had been for many years, something overly "frou frou" and pretty, something her guardians would never spend money on. Then I would send it, and spend the rest of the month in tears, because every song and every twinkling light reminded me that she was far away.
Now that the twins are with us, it isn't so bad. I miss my daughter terribly, but she is old enough to understand some of why I'm not with her, now. We talk a lot online, and we enjoy many telephone calls. The twins are so excited and happy, it's difficult to find time to be morose and upset. I am learning, yet again, to love this time of year.
Having a fire blazing in our fireplace is helping. It gives me a place to make my wine and barley offerings. It is a place to sit and think, reflect, and meditate. It's warm, and has a "living" feel to it. Fire seems to embrace you, wrapping itself around you and warming you inside and out. I see the ghosts of Christmasses past and present in the glowing coals, and even the sad ones make me smile, at least a little.
If you'd like to learn about Yule Logs and the history of Christmas eve, this is a wonderful site to visit:
Thursday, December 20, 2007
This was an interesting survey to take. I have suggested to several of my friends that they take it. If nothing else, it certainly makes you think about what it is YOU believe in. It seems to be aimed largely at the neopagan crowd, but it fit me, in between Wicca and Hellenismos, and some of the Hellenic crowd seem to be enjoying taking it. There's no prize at the end -it's for research purposes. I'm all for research, though.
It's so odd to see some of the questions. "How often do you worship?" with suggestions of a few times a year, once a month, once a week, or several times a week. There was no entry for daily. There was no real definition of what worship was, either, which makes it so difficult to determine. I worship every day, for the most part. Sometimes it's just two minutes before bed, if I'm exhausted, but most of the time it is about 10 minutes or more of serious reflection, thanks, and offering. It seems so odd to think of how I would go for weeks on end and never think of the Gods at all.
This has gotten me thinking about my "sisterwife". Sis is Christian, although relatively open minded, and very loving. I believe she has a true Christian spirit - she thinks of others before herself, and "walks her talk" for the most part. She doesn't do anything at home, though. I don't understand it, I admit. It confuses me. I've never met a Christian who does daily worship. It seems to be "that thing you do on the weekend" or something.
The twins enjoy watching me when I worship. Girltwin LOVES to participate. She, like most kids I'm told, loves to offer up the barley to the Gods. She gets so excited about it, and it's fun to watch. She likes to take the offerings outside, too, or watch me put them in the fire. It's just all very fun. Boytwin is interested, too, though not as much. But they SEE me doing my religious duties each day. They don't see sis doing hers, and I think this is doing a disservice to sis, to be honest. She's a good Christian, unlike many of the nasty ones out there, and it's important (to me!) that she share her religion with her bio kids. I'm glad they're learning from me, too, obviously, but they should be learning from her, too.
It's odd. I'm the one that insists the children learn the difference between Yule, Hannukah, Christmas, Rammadan... I'm the one that insists that Spring Equinox is for bunnies and eggs, and Easter is for the solemn funeral of Jesus. I'm the one that insists that Lent is a time of giving up, for God (or the Gods, in my case), and led my family in six weeks of difficult but spiritually rewarding sacrifice.
Why is it that I seem to be so much more religious than sis? She's been a Christian all her life, and she's not "just a weekend Christian" like some. She teaches Sunday school, worships each week, knows the various holidays and their meanings. She just doesn't make it a vital part of her life. And yet... isn't that what Christians say is necessary? Are pagans making up, in some way, for the Christian lack of spirituality in the world? Most of the pagans I know are very spiritual, even if their religious duties differ widely from person to person. Whatever they do, they do devoutly, and regularily.
It's just something that always ends up going through my head at this time of year, as I look at our wreaths and trees and presents and lights (all symbols of the Solstice, not Christmas).
Monday, December 17, 2007
I finished my shopping, and managed to get inexpensive but cute/nice gifts for everyone for under $50. I consider that pretty good. Christmas/Yuletide dinner will be on Christmas Eve this year, with Farnham and the Missus, his daughter, and us. I'm really looking forward to it - the extra turkey I got on sale at Thanksgiving should be delicious, and we have green beans for cassarole, and salad, and rice. I'm looking so forward to things. I think it'll be relaxing for a change.
I guess there's just not much to say right now. I'm tired, only half paying attention, and out of it. It was an okay day, though.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
What happened to that dream? What happened to that memory? Christmas time (the secular celebration) has become a rushed horror. Have you seen a mall, lately? The decorations and sappy music are playing before the kids even go trick or treating. We're inundated with the message to BUY BUY BUY! Any attempt at showing love or beauty is secondary to that all-important message to get the most expensive gift.
We have no money this year for gifts. We had a total of $500 to spend on 11 people, not including the grandparents who are just getting photos. Instead of giving gifts, we're spending time with each other. We're going to have a nice Christmas/Yule/Hannukah dinner with our inner family. We're going to sing carols, nibble on cookies in front of a blazing fire, and maybe watch some old movies.
I just wish the rest of our time could be so quiet, so contemplative. We took the twins to the mall for their yearly Santa picture, on Sunday. Wow, that was insane. Even at 10am, when Santa first got there, we had a 45 minute wait. Of course, by the time we left the mall, the line for Santa was literally stretched down one entire arm of the mall. People were rushing from place to place, screaming at their kids. The kids weren't happy, because they were strapped down in strollers or buggies, or they were hungry and being dragged around a stupid mall in their best clothes. The only thing of interest to kids, in that mall, was Santa, with his promises of junk and more junk.
What does this have to do with the birth of Christ, or the birth of Dionysus, or Mithras? What does this have to do with an unending supply of oil in a time of trouble? What does any of this have to do with the longest night of the year? Nothing, of course. We don't, as a country, celebrate that anymore. We celebrate the all-mighty dollar.
I want to learn how to slow down, despite what other people might be doing around me. I want to learn to appreciate the season for what it is. I want to return to the idea that mid-winter is a short time of rest between harvest and planting. I want time to enjoy the finer things in life - quilting with friends, knitting, cross stitching... scrapbooking... any of those things.
Bah. Humbug. I suppose I'm Scrooge, for not wanting to celebrate the commercial spending season.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
This Christmas is not shaping up to be a financial joy. Gray has lost his job (not his fault... sales didn't meet quota, and he was the newest hire, so he and two others were let go), and we barely made bill payments. However, there's oil in the heater tank, firewood stacked on the front porch, and food in the freezer.
I could bewail the horrors of an unemployed Christmas. I could whine about how we don't have enough to buy gifts for people. I could whimper over the lack of Cool Things in people's stockings this year. Instead, I choose not to do any of those things.
This year, we have a huge turkey for our Yule/Christmas dinner. We'll be having mashed cauliflower, scalloped vegetables, and a wild rice stuffing. We'll also have zucchini latkes in honor of Farnham's daughter, who is studying Judaic religion in preparation to formally becoming a Jew. She'll be bringing her Menorah to the dinner, and will explain the secrets of the candles to our twins, sharing her religious joys with their wide eyed smiles.
Sis will say a prayer of thanks for the past year, and a plea for financial solvency. I'll offer a plate of food to the Gods. Others will do their own religious things. We'll share food together, and love, and stories of Christmases past, and dreams of those to come. Then we'll ask Farnham to get out his guitar, and we'll sing carols around the fire, with the twins capering about with tiny instruments of their own (thanks Kerridwyn!!).
There may not be much under our tree, but it's a beautiful tree (fake, but realistic). It has lights and garlands, ornaments both old and new, and pictures. Our mantlepiece is decorated with stuffed animals, the twins' advent calendar, and photos. A warm fire fills the fireplace, heating most of the downstairs to a toasty 68 degrees. We have hot tea, cocoa, and cider, and even a few bottles of mead. We have family, and friends.
How could we ask for more? Isn't this season about light, and love? We have both of those, in abundance. It doesn't matter that BestBuy didn't get our cash, or that Target missed out on sapping us of more credit. We have all that we need, and more.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
My daughter was 3 years old, I think. It was our first Christmas together, alone. Her dad wasn't a part of the picture, and indeed, hadn't even dropped off a gift for her. But she and I were there, together. Uncle Davydd came over, and brought her a little present. We cooked a turkey, with stuffing, the first year we made "song stuffing" (bread, butter, 2 eggs, and parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). It became a family tradition for us, a lovely thing to do, together.
So it was Christmas Eve, and we were singing Christmas carols, and talking about the Winter Solstice, and about Jesus and the story of his birth, when there's a firm knock at my door. I answer it, and it is the most gorgeous young man I've ever seen. He's built like a calendar model, and he's wearing nice clothes, and a tag proclaiming him to be a fire fighter. Apparently, some kind soul put us on the list of recipients for a gift basket from the community. They picked the most handsome fire fighters to deliver the baskets, to give the single moms a thrill. It worked.
In this basket, brought by this angelic young man, was a small chicken, all the fixings for a small meal, a can of oysters, some crackers, some soup, tuna, packages of macaroni and cheese, and a few small toys for my daughter. It wasn't much, but it brought tears to my eyes.
Those first few years were very lean, but they never lacked for love. My daughter was wrapped in love, surrounded by people who found her smile and her laugh to be the most wonderful things in the world. That first year, I had almost no cash at all. What little I had, had been spent on rent and food and heat. But I went to the dollar store equivalent, and bought a pack of play food for $5 or so, and then wrapped each piece of plastic food separately. She had an amazing morning, unwrapping gift after gift, not realizing that her "bounty" was the result of me not having money to buy better. For her, it was the greatest joy. And her joy translated to mine, because she was, and is, my life.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Sis had a horrible pregnancy. She almost lost the twins a couple of times, the worst being when her cervix opened at 21 weeks. She ended up on bedrest, strict, for the rest of her pregnancy. I can't imagine how difficult and frustrating it would be, to be laying down for 12 weeks. In the delivery room, though, she was a real trooper. She birthed those babies like a natural! When we brought them home, she set about breast feeding, and did an amazing job of it.
That Christmas was so joyous for us. Even though we were short on sleep because of midnight feedings and late night diaper changes, we had these two amazing, miraculous creatures that smiled at us and gurgled, and waved their tiny little hands.
Gray's parents joined us for Christmas, that year. We fed them a dinner that was less than adequate, thanks to my having new mom syndrome (and I didn't even give birth!), but they took it in stride and said not a word of complaint. They're amazing people. I loved watching them with their brand new grandbabies, though. Grandma was all smiles for the little ones, counting their fingers and goes, holding them up, cuddling them close...
The only thing that could have improved that Christmas, was having my bio daughter with us. As it was, I had to make do with pictures and presents from her, and a phone call. But even that was special.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I was reading the December '07 issue of Reader's Digest this afternoon, and in it they have several "be happy" stories about people who did wonderful things at Christmas. My first instinct was to think, "Bah. Why is it that MY life never includes these wonderful things?" I did manage to turn my head around, though. I stopped the negative cycle, and started a more positive string of thought: "Because my life is not nearly so bad as all those people in Reader's Digest!"
The entire thing got me to thinking, however. What miraculous, wonderful, or outrageous things HAVE happened to me over holidays? What ghosts of Christmas' past are haunting me, desiring to be seen? I'll try and think of several over the next few days. I'm going to start with an easy one, though... last Christmas.
Schools didn't let out until December 23rd. We were spending Christmas with Gray's parents, in St. Louis, a 17 hour drive away from our Maryland home. I can't drive anymore, and sis was exhausted after a full day's work (she's a teacher). We'd sent #1Daughter on ahead on the plane, and that left "only" myself, sis, Gray, #1Son, and the twins to be stuffed into the SUV. We lit out of the Baltimore area at 3:30pm, after picking up sis and filling up with (that oh so expensive) gas, and drove like stink for the midwest.
Gray was determined to drive through. Sis was worried that the twins would be stressed by being strapped in the car so long. I was worried I'd hurt someone. #1Son was worried his Gameboy batteries would run out. The twins, well, they just slept. After a while...
And then boytwin threw up. I can deal with most things - blood, severed body parts, poop... vomit does me in, though. And here was our beautiful boytwin, heaving his poor, one year old guts out, directly behind me. I was annoyed. I thought the vomiting was because sis had insisted on giving the twins milk (milk always upset my stomach when I traveled long distances as a kid). I was sullen, and feeling sick myself because of the stench. We stopped to clean the child up, and he seemed happier. The car still smelled faintly of puke, but it wasn't too bad.
Boytwin vomited again. Before we could get to the next rest stop, he vomited several times, in fact. He was projectile vomiting at one point, splattering my hair. I was fighting losing my own dinner, which had been greasy fast food designed to get us on the road quickly. We had to stop several times, changing the poor, drenched child each time. He got bathed in many gas station sinks during that long, long evening.
Eventually, Gray stopped for a few hours' of rest at a hotel. We bagged up the worst of the clothes, slept as best we could. Sis sat up almost the whole night, while the bedraggled and exhausted little boy drooled bile into the bathtub. When we resumed our trip, we called ahead to warn Grandma that we were coming in tired and sick. She readied the homefront for us, and we drove.
Gray got us there, and once we were no longer rolling down the road, boytwin seemed to rally a bit. We all were happy, and still blaming spoiled milk from a gas station. We stuck to the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet for boytwin, afraid to overstress his abused tummy. He kept down fluids, and we were pleased. After getting cleaned up, and breathing non-vomitous air for a while, things looked much brighter.
Then the worst happened. Girltwin began to follow her brother's pattern. Boytwin started up again. And a mere hour or two later, sis began to get sick, as well. At first, we thought she was having sympathy sickness, as she sometimes does, but after watching her empty her lunch into the toilet, we knew it was more than spoiled milk and an overactive imagination. Something was going around. Sis got VERY sick, VERY fast, and was in the bathroom moaning and crying for hours. Gray and Grandma and Grandpa and I nursed the sick twins, until Gray and I began to get ill, too.
By the time Grandma (who is a nurse) decided it was time to take the two dehydrated babies to the ER, Gray and I were ensconced in two of Grandma's bathrooms, spewing liquid out of most of our orifices. Simultaneously. It was hideous. I can give direct sympathy now, to those who died of the Black Death (influenza, aka "the flu"). There were quite a few times that I wished I was dead. The twins were rushed to hospital, and then taken by ambulance to another hospital specializing in children's maladies. They were very sick, and horribly dehydrated.
We had some sleep, and Grandma came home. Gray and I went to the hospital, and sis decided to stay and sleep there, while Gray and I returned with news, several hours later. But Grandma was upset that we'd left her, and stormed back to the hospital herself, to spend the night helping sis. I think, at the time, that Gray and I were just not thinking straight. Normally, at least one of us would have stayed, but we were still both so sick that we hadn't thought of it. It was a mess.
In the midst of all this, Gray's brother arrived, with his five kids. The house was full of people, and eventually, everyone but Grandma succumbed to the flu. Christmas dinner was put off, and no one even wanted to open stockings. The poor twins were stuck in the hospital, and no one felt festive.
In the hospital, we were treated royally by the caring people there. Not only were the staff attentive and compassionate, the volunteers made certain that, on Christmas morning, the twins each had a stocking hanging (on their IV poles), and packages and presents to open. The people there were so generous, that we can't even begin to give back what they gave to us. Three exhausted parents and two exhausted grandparents were brought food and drink, and supported 100%. The twins were looked in on regularly, and the staff made certain that there was plenty of food and drink to tempt their empty, aching tummies. They even made certain that there were fresh sheets and pillows on the beds in the twins' rooms (the couch becomes a bed so parents can stay with their children) each night, with warm blankets.
There were numerous Santas and helper elves in that hospital. Those people worked Christmas eve, and took fantastic care of our kids. When we were worried about girltwin's lack of progress, they took care of it, scheduling more tests. We were never left wondering.
So yes, there are angels in my life. I'm very glad for them.
Monday, November 26, 2007
In order to heat our house, we need firewood. That means downed trees. Luckily, we have plenty of friends with lots of downed trees, who are willing to trade us wood, for splitting labor. That's not always a fun chore, but when six or seven people get together to do it, the work goes quickly. It's very enjoyable to sit and enjoy a hot cup of cranberry tea with friends, after a hard afternoon of hauling logs.
Farnham made a comment as we were driving to Odon's house on Saturday, to split logs. He said that wood is the only fuel that heats you in all its stages. You're heated while cutting it down, heated while hauling it, heated while cutting it into manageable pieces, heated while splitting it into useable fireplace wood, and heated while it burns down. And the ashes are useful, too - we'll be saving them, this year, to make potash, from which we'll make the lye for our soap next spring! Because the trees we are using are already down, we are not destroying the environment. There's no clear cutting going on, nor any waste. We use the wood that has been felled in storms and from lightning strikes, which would have rotted. Some pieces are left, too, to provide food for animals, and homes for bugs and birds.
At all stages, the wood provides me with opportunities to find God. When cutting and splitting, I use my muscles to pull and hold and such, and I feel the energy that is created within me. I feel the stirrings of the chill, autumn air, and my legs and feet get cold. As we carry it and stack it, I get to experience the joy of community, as my friends and family help at my side. Their cheeks glow with exertion, and we can see our breath as we laugh at one another, and shout over the buzz of the log splitter. I know my own glow, too, because I can feel the burn of them.
As the fire curls up the paper, and catches into the wood itself, I feel a different kind of burn. I like to watch the flames dancing over the logs, moving fluidly between cracks and along dry spots. Sometimes, you can see faces, or hear the faint whisperings of Deity from within the pops and crackles, and the slight hiss of water evaporating. It's lovely...
How can one not find God there?
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Be thankful for your life. Be thankful for love in your life. Be thankful for family, whether it is the biological type, or the type you adopt (or are adopted by). Remember that Thanksgiving is about... giving ... thanks. Remember to say your prayers, in whatever fashion you do so.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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This year, we have so much to be thankful for. We have freezers full of delicious chicken, thanks to T---. We have bathroom walls and plumbing, thanks to D---. C--- has built beautiful cabinets. W--- has inspired us each to embrace our inner Crone. L--- has been a dedicated and devoted grandmother, not only to A--- and T---, but to the twins, too. B---'s bright spirit and sumptuous recipes have brought smiles to us all. A--- has become an adult, and has stepped into the role of responsible member of the household with great success. D--- has worked through adversity and difficult times, and shows us what hard work can do, every single day. K--- and her family have been friends and neighbors of extraordinary love. A--- and T--- have been joining us, with their friends and family, and have brought joy to each of us. S--- and M--- shared their special day with us, and showed us the power of love. And I've been deepening my own spirituality, with the help and support of you all.
There are so many religions and beliefs, with us here, today. Rather than speak the prayers of my own belief, alone, I've chosen a handful of prayers from around the world. Please join me in a few moments of prayer, and thankfulness.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
We Give Thanks
Our Father in Heaven,
We give thanks for the pleasure
Of gathering together for this occasion.
We give thanks for this food
Prepared by loving hands.
We give thanks for life,
The freedom to enjoy it all
And all other blessings.
As we partake of this food,
We pray for health and strength
To carry on and try to live as You would have us.
This we ask in the name of Christ,
Our Heavenly Father.
- Harry Jewell
For Things We Give Thanks
For food that stays our hunger,
For rest that brings us ease,
For homes where memories linger,
We give our thanks for these.
– traditional mealtime blessing
Thanks to All
- by Allyson
A moment of silence is not enough
To truly be thankful for all of the things
That our friends and family do for us.
To each one of you, adults and children alike,
I say thank you, heartily.
To all our Gods, high and low,
I say thank you, gratefully.
Thank you, most of all,
For letting us all be here, together.
Happy Thanksgiving, all. Let us feast!
Monday, November 19, 2007
I've done numerous chicken slaughters now. It's become old hat - we set up quickly, get started, and rapidly fall into a groove that works well and gets the chickens processed expeditiously. This year, things went a little slower, though, for a variety of reasons. Largely, I spent a great deal of time praying over each chicken, calming it and offering it to my Gods. Both at the moment of the first blade strike and at the moment of death, I made sure to repeat my offering words to Hecate and Dionysus. It was an extremely powerful experience!
The act of taking a life, even mercifully and quickly and calmly, has always left me drained, both emotionally and spiritually. This was true, this time, as well... However, I also felt strangely elated, happy about the sacrifices that I had done. I did this right, and well, and I had the distinct feeling that it was both accepted, and appreciated.
I am also happy that our chickens had yet another use. During their life, they are pretty and help the children learn about the cycles of life and death. Their death brings us meat which we sorely need (store bought chicken is pumped full of pennicillan, a drug which both sis and I are very allergic to). And the act of their death is now a sacrifice to praise the Gods and to bring about more goodness to us, as a family.
I am tired and sore, today. My arms hurt, from the action of killing the chickens (I try to make certain each chicken dies with a single flash of the blade, so there is no pain, no suffering involved). My legs hurt from standing for six hours on a dirt floor. My back hurts for the same reason. Yet, it is a good hurt. I resent it not one bit.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I'm thankful for:
- babies who wrap their chubby little arms around me, and say "wuv you, Mei Mei!"
- life partners who take the time to help me relax, with words, touches, and love.
- extended family that help me understand what love is all about.
- research papers being finished, on time, and ready to hand in.
- french toast.
- multi-media pictures made by twins.
- turkey and all the fixings.
- cooler weather (even if I am cold all the time).
- Christmas catalogues to "window shop" in.
- new chickens.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Edited Nov. 16th, 2007, 12:15pm
Here's the poem:
Dionysus Sees Her
He sat amongst his friends, his family, his loved ones,
His precious and precocious maenads dancing wildly.
Fragrant, amethyst-hued wine filled amphoras about them,
The heady scent and headier spirit filling their souls with joy.
The Lord Dionysus paused, mid-sip,
His wine crater a hair's breadth from his lips.
Was that a cry?
He leaned his ivy-crowned head closer to the grapevines,
Listening intently to the message they relayed.
His strong, lithe body rose from his seat,
And he stood, looking over the cliff edge,
Dark eyes sweeping the wave-struck sand below.
A pale figure lay, collapsed, on the beach,
Wearing only tattered cloth that was more net than dress.
The vines whispered to him, of Theseus and his crew,
Leaving the poor, wretched girl, sobbing, alone.
Vengance rose in the Great Lord's soul,
Burning within him, like flames in his eyes.
Waving away his attendants, he went
To she who mourned the loss of her life.
When the stare of a God touches your form, you know.
She knew, and looked up, stunned by the beauty of him.
Like a rabbit, caught at night, she froze.
Tiny hands clasped uselessly at shredded clothing,
Vainly attempting to hide her nakedness from that piercing stare.
Yet, in that instant, she knew all was lost.
And for Dionysus, all was gained,
As the swell of unconditional love filled his mind,
O'ertaking all else.
This maid, used and left for dead by ruthless adventurers,
Would now be his, for all time.
Always, he had brushed near the briefness of mortal life.
Their lives were over in a beat of his ecstatic heart,
Vibrant and vain, soulful and slothful.
But this one... She was his queen.
For her, he would die. For her, he would be mortal.
For her... he would set starts in the heavens.
(c) 2007 Rev. Allyson Szabo
Monday, November 12, 2007
I have an altar in my bedroom. I light candles there, when I do my evening prayers and meditations. They are a modern representation of the original hearth fires of Greece and Rome.
But now it is fall, and weather is cold. Oil costs a lot, and to save money, we are utilizing our fireplace to warm the front half of our home. Farnham has given us wood as part of our Yuletide gift this year, and it's piled neatly by our front door. Gray starts the fire each evening, much as our ancestors may have.
As I sat, last night, in front of the fire, I watched the living flames flickering energetically. They licked hungrily at the logs, occasionally snapping as they reached some bit of trapped water, or perhaps a bug or two caught inside the wood. Its heat caressed my skin, warming me physically, but also warming my soul.
Instead of worshipping at my altar, last night I chose to kneel before the hearth, as many people of old have done. I made my offerings of barley, to Hecate, and rosemary, to Dionysus, and I fed them into the flames. The little sparks felt so right, it was wonderful. I enjoyed it, greatly.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Thanksgiving is coming up. We'll be celebrating on the Friday rather than Thursday, and will use Thursday as our preparation day. I'm looking forward to it a lot, this year! It will be at our house, and we have an extensive (as usual) menu. I'm roasting up both a turkey and a chicken (one of our own, slaughtered the week before!). The turkey will be stuffed with my Nagymama's stuffing (soft white bread, 12 eggs, beef liver, and a coronary... lol), and the chicken will get a wild rice and sausage stuffing. We'll have yam balls, a la sis, and mashed potatoes with gibblet gravy. Green bean cassarole, curried squash soup... Delicious. I love cooking turkey!
I'm making a recipe book for people for Yule. There are 32 recipes slated, some from me, some from sis, some from Gray, and a few from our family members. We're very much looking forward to putting it together. Gray suggested we put pictures of the twins in it, "cooking" and "helping" and I think it's a wonderful idea! We made soap, from lye and oatmeal and honey. We also made a spice mix. I think the wine will be ready in time, too. So we'll have quite a lot of gifts to give to people, and I feel very good about it. For me, the making of gifts is the best thing to do at Yuletide!
Now, I have a little girl who needs to be changed, so I'm off...
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
May your Samhain bring you nearer to those you love who have passed on.
I will be lighting a candle tonight for sis's beloved Lolo, who passed away in September. I will also light a candle for Kachina, Farnham's puppy who passed away last winter. Of course, I always light candles for my Aunt Agnes, who taught me about life... my Grandfather Davidson, who loved me unconditionally... my friend Eric, who left so suddenly but taught me that success can be had, if only you work your buns off to get it.
This is my anniversary. When I was 18 years old, almost 19, in 1989, I found Wicca. It became one of the driving forces that led me to become a better, more stable person. If it were not for Wicca, and the people that it brought into my life, I would be dead. So, by my calculations, this is my 18th anniversary of being "officially" in the Craft, in some way or another.
Wow. Can I feel old now?
Eighteen years ago, I asked an acquaintance who was familiar with Wicca, to help me perform a Wiccan Samhain ritual. I didn't know why I needed to do it - I simply knew that I HAD to do it. I was still afraid of doing it all wrong, though, and so I asked for help.
I often wonder now, looking back on that night, whether the need to do it was to benefit him, or me. He took advantage of my situation, as I was very naieve, and he talked me into doing things that I should never have done at my *first* real ritual. But the brunt of those mistakes was never really felt by me. He certainly suffered for them, though... I often find myself feeling sorry for him. And yet... his mistakes, and my own, launched me into this wonderful place that I am, now.
My life isn't perfect. I still struggle daily, after 18 years, with my own devotions and beliefs. I don't really have a religion, per se, although I have many strong beliefs. I do my best to teach others, although I'm not very stable at it. I keep my own studies up (I'm better at that part). Things are, in general, very good for me.
I remember the feelings I had, at that first ritual. I remember thinking it was silly that my friend was using a ducky salt shaker as his "salt dish"... I remember the wine we drank. I remember we had crackers for our "cakes." I remember being naked, and reveling in it, feeling incredibly free in the candlelight, incense twining around my head. I don't remember the details of the ritual, but that's a story for another time... suffice it to say that I had reason not to remember.
And true to form, "Aunt Flo" has come to visit over Samhain, yet again. Eighteen straight years. Some record... ;)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I managed 30 minutes of exercise, today, of a moderate level. Tomorrow, if I can get organized well enough, I'll do a much more vigorous work out. I will say for the record, I highly dislike the exercise instructor, Kim, from the latest season of Biggest Loser. She's a twit, and a Barbie doll, and she has no understanding of what it means to be fat. I find just about everything coming out of her mouth to be offensive.
I have been keeping up on my evening devotions, and I feel pretty good about that. I have taken about ten minutes each night, to light my altar candles, and kneel there, quietly meditating. I burn a little bit of dried rosemary, and say my thanks for my happy thoughts of the day, and then I put the candles out and head toward bed. It isn't much, but it's daily and it's something.
And now, I have sobbing twins to take care of. Apparently they had a knock down, drag out fight over a woobie (blanket).
Monday, October 29, 2007
Many years ago, prior to my daughter's birth, I took a Tai Chi class. This was out on the West Coast, where you could get decent Tai Chi instruction at the local community center, because there was always a little old Oriental man teaching for next to nothing. Because I was impoverished at the time, the county paid for my class, which I enjoyed to the fullest.
It wasn't a little old man teaching, though - it was a young, handsome Oriental man, with a little old man as his Master. He taught basic Tai Chi for white folk, without too much of the energy play. However, those of us (all 2 of us) interested in learning the proper Chi movement techniques often stayed after class for pointers and correction. I am a firm believer that proper, full form Tai Chi is one of the best exercises out there, and teaches grounding and centering, and energy movement, better than any other method. If you don't understand energy when you're done a Tai Chi class, you have a terrible instructor.
Today, I am sore and crampy. I decided that if I was going to attempt to exercise, it was going to have to be no-impact. That doesn't leave a whole lot for me to do - most of my exercise videos involve jumping, bouncing, running in place, or other things which have at least low impact involved. I chose to put the Tai Chi video on. I'm glad I did.
I feel more grounded right now than I have in months. I didn't get a big sweat on, but I got up and moved non-stop for 30 minutes, following the instructor's morning routine. I feel more awake, less tired, more alert, and I did something, even if it wasn't bouncing around. I consider this a success, because I got up and moved, even though all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep.
I have also been keeping up with my religious devotions, of late. That also feels good. I have needed, very much, to do that. My new altar set-up feels very good, and I find myself looking forward to kneeling at it each day. I get a real sense of connection there, now, which I wasn't feeling before. Of course, it may just be that I've "cleaned house" mentally, as well as physically. I suppose it doesn't matter, though.
Friday, October 26, 2007
I do tarot readings for people fairly regularily. Usually, there are more requests around this time of year, or when someone gets pregnant and such, but really, I get a couple a month throughout the year. I don't mind - I enjoy reading!
But I don't have anyone to read for ME. Well, one of the Oracles over at Nekoroi offered to do oracle readings for people, and I made a request. I received the result two evenings ago, and I was ... both taken aback and humbled by the response.
Basically, without going into specifics, it was a very definite whap up back of the head. "Get off your ass and *DO*, you silly woman!" Whew. And it's true, I haven't been putting enough effort into my own spiritual practices. Even though I'm not "recon," per se, I still have things I feel I should be doing daily, which I have not. I have meditations and libations and offerings that I want to do each day, and somehow, I have managed to let things put me off of doing them.
Last night, after thinking about it on and off all day, I made a conscious decision to get off my butt and start doing, as I was told to. I didn't do a lot, but I did a little, and that's what counts. I did it sincerely, and happily. I did it with devotion, and with piety. The length doesn't matter, if those other traits are true.
It felt good. It felt so good that this morning, I ripped apart my altar and re-designed it. I'm no longer Wiccan, and haven't been for many years, really. I still had my altar set up in the Wiccan way, though, even after all this time. It felt familiar, and until lately, hadn't felt "wrong" either. But now... it wasn't right, even though it wasn't wrong. So, I took the time today to reform the altar into something more fitting.
I now have a two-level altar. First, I put my black and silver "pentacle" altar cloth down. That is something that is special to me, and I am not willing to part with it, even if the more Celtic symbols on it don't mean as much to me. The cloth itself has meaning to me. On top of that, I put a red table runner that I've used as a winter altar cloth for a few years. It has pointsettas sort of patterned onto it. Then I placed a glass brick in the back center, and covered it with a pearl grey silk hankey, which covers the brick completely, making a second tier.
Onto the tier, on the left, I placed my wooden owl, in honor of Hecate, and her small candle. I put the phallic symbol on the right, with my small Dionysus candle in front of it. Just behind them, I put the "couple" statuette that Farnham bought me last year for Yule, which symbolizes one of the Wiccan Mysteries that I still adhere to. Between the owl and phallic symbol, is a small heart rattle that was given to me 3 years ago by Kerridwyn and Odon. It's a very holy object, to me, and always has a place on my altar.
On the lower part of the altar, to the left, is my tall white pillar candle in the glass holder, which is the one I light when doing certain prayers or meditations for Hecate. Also there, is the great horned owl wing feather, and the small pink candle given to me by my daughter. To the right, I have a chalice (it's on Dionysus' side now, rather than the Goddess's... minor changes in thinking make for major changes in lay-out... it's odd but feels good), and a large bowl of crystals and stones that I use for certain things. Between the chalice and bowl, sits my athame.
In the very front part of my altar, I still have my four Elements: a bell for Air, a big red candle for Fire, a bowl of water with a sea shell in it for Water, and a small bowl of barley (rather than salt, now) for Earth. Centered, I have my offering bowl.
It looks very different. And yet, it feels good. It feels right. And so, I live and learn. We'll see how things go.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
From a strictly artistic viewpoint, the filmography is incredible. The sets are large and lavish, the costumes rich and historically correct, and the language (despite being in a typical British accent, because, after all, don't all Romans throughout television history have British accents? *grin*) seems quite accurate. The history is right, too. They cover the stolen Eagle, and the beginning of the end of the Republic. They have some fantastic actors, although I don't know any of them all that well. You can really believe they are living in those days.
The reason this series was suggested to me, was to see the way they worshipped. The Recons I know all think that this series truly captures the essence of how Greeks and Romans worshipped the Gods. I can see now why they would say that. There are several scenes that stand out, religiously, but none moreso than the one where a woman wishes to know if her son will be safe in Gaul, and she goes to a temple. She is put into a white robe, very plain, and made to kneel beneath a slatted stand. In the space above, a large black bull is taken in, wearing a chaplet. The woman prays, and the priest oversees things and speaks the words, and the butcher-priest does his job, drenching the woman in the bull's blood. Then the augerie is taken, and the woman's son is declared safe. She stands there, covered in steaming blood... very impressive.
In another scene, two soldiers are walking, and engage in a battle. They win, and the one stops, kneels, and kisses the pommel of his sword. He holds it aloft, and says, "Mars, pay you attention. Mars, pay you attention! These bloody, dead bodies, I give you you, oh Lord!" And then he's done. Typical Roman functionality.
I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this series. I am knowledgeable enough about the history of that period to "know what's going to happen," but that doesn't stop it being interesting watching it unfold. Every director has his own take on it, and touches on different moments between the big ones. It is the display of daily life that most interests me, I admit.
I found it interesting that unaccompanied women were not seen in a single scene, in "civilized" cities. Most women who were out, had slaves, and were completely (though beautifully!) veiled. More than one was accompanied by a free man, or several, perhaps men-at-arms or some such. Those might show their face, but still wore a covering over their hair. At a scene during a lewd play, a woman is presented to a high ranking man, and she declares she must leave because "a lewd woman" was on the stage (a half naked woman being persued by a "Roman Centurion" wearing a LARGE black phallus). Yet the women were not treated as inferior, so much as treasures to be cared for. The women we've seen so far are women of power, higher up in the food chain than the average slave girl or peon, but still, they speak openly around males in private. But not in public, and not in the Senate. Still... I did not get the feeling (in this rendition, at least) that women were lower class citizens, despite the fact that men might hold certain power over them.
And now, I am off to bed. Tomorrow will be a long day: one Coming of Age, a Saging, and a Croning, all while celebrating Samhain. Whew!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
But... I am getting better. I am dealing with difficulties in a much more positive manner. I'm standing taller, feeling more positive, and exercising most days. I feel that I'm making real progress, now, for the first time in a long time. Considering it's almost Samhain, I'm guessing that means some life changes will happen soon. They usually do, when I finally get into a good routine. I'm just glad that I can see the sun and smile, now.
In thinking about my beliefs, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the children, as well. The older children are too old to be influenced, and that's fine... they're doing their thing, and I am proud of them for it. But the young twins are not quite two years old. I find that girltwin likes to sit with me when I'm doing meditation. Boytwin likes to watch my candles flicker. They both seem fascinated with my altar, but are also not "grabby" around it. They behave, which I find interesting. I suspect they sense a little of the reverence I have for the items there, or what they represent. I'm pleased, in any case.
I would like to let the children join in my religious rituals. Much of Amber Moon's stuff is semi-public, and most of it could be considered child-friendly. However, it would probably be boring as all get-out to a two year old. I have been thinking of doing coloring with them, of Greek Gods and such. They're still too young for most things, really, but they certainly understand ecstatic dance!
I wonder if one can make a case for Backyardigans being Dionysian... ;)
Monday, October 15, 2007
A while ago, I was summarily removed from a community. It hurt, even though I had been contemplating leaving of my own accord for some time. I felt betrayed, for a while, but then realized that a great peace had descended upon me as I removed the toxins of drama from my system.
I live in a lifestyle (poly, pagan, bisexual, bdsm) that is very fringe, and usually has a lot of drama in its various corners. I walked away from the bdsm community many years ago, and although I still touch it once in a while, I'm never around it enough for the drama to take over my life. The poly community has a lot of drama too (you think a *couple* breaking up has drama? you should see a trio or more-some break up!), but again, I avoid it by not being a very active part of the larger community. I have my friends, and my play mates, and those I can talk to, but I stay at the edges, and I stay away from the drama. Being bisexual has never been about drama, for me, and I've never been an active part of the GLBT community, almost entirely because of the drama. So why do I allow the pagan drama to draw me in?
I walked away, after knocking the dust from my feet and patching up the painful "boo boos" left by my unceremonious booting. I walked away, head high, and found that it was sunny out. I dealt with family drama, unfortunately something you can't get away from (two year old twins EQUAL drama, but at least you know it ends at around age 22 *grin*), and then looked around and realized that I had no other drama to clean up.
Well, by the Gods! :)
Now, some other drama is slowly creeping back in. But I'm aware of it, now. I know how to stay on the fringes, again, and I'm actually rather glad to be doing so. I like the various communities that I surf online, but I also am keeping that distance. The drama interferes with my serenity, which interferes with my ability to do a good job at worship and devotion to my Gods.
Perhaps what we need to do, is create a drama-negation ritual. It would be Dionysian, because even though he is the God of Drunkenness, the wasteful excess of drama would be heinous to him. I will have to think about what time of year would be best to perform this kind of ritual... but I think the idea has real merit.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Samhain is a very Wiccan time of year. It has some tenuous links to historical celebrations, but the way it is currently celebrated is almost entirely modern. I've always liked Samhain, despite the fact that it doesn't have ancient roots. It feels right to me, to be celebrating death when the leaves are all on the ground, and the air is crisp, and the first frosts are making the grass crunch beneath your feet when you walk. It is the end of a cycle, and the beginning of one, and it seems only right to celebrate it as such.
Samhain, despite what some authors have written, is not really about harvest. It's touted as the "last harvest," but I don't really see it as a harvest of food. There are some foods that are in the ground longer (cabbage may not be picked until November, around here, and same with spinach and parsnips, and some other cold weather crops), and I've been known to salvage a few frost sweetened tomatoes after Samhain eve. Sometimes there are even a few green ones that will never turn red, that make excellent pie, or green fried tomatoes. So I don't see it as a food harvest at all. Most of the actual food harvesting happens in the months previous, with a few choice crops being harvested after.
Instead, I see Samhain as a celebration of the harvest of our souls. We try to make death a part of life, and religion is the means to keep that frightening spectre at bay. We don't try to stop death, but instead accept it as a part of a cycle, but it remains scary. That's simply a part of... well, life. Samhain is the time of facing that fear, and standing up with great courage, to say, "Yes, I might die, and these other people I loved have died, but I go on, and so do they while I remember them. The fear cannot conquer me!"
I love this time of year. I love to dress up, both in the froofy princess dresses and in the more traditional scary outfits. I think it's important to celebrate both sides of the commercial Halloween coin, because it really does represent the two sides of our own conception of death: one side glittering and full of denial, and the other dark and frightening, yet accepted for what it is.
Nothing is quite so enjoyable, to me, than to see my breath in the air, at this time of year, and to feel the distinct temperature change at night. I am always happy when I can switch to my flannel sheets, and my heavier blankets. No matter how well I sleep in the summer, I always get a much better night's sleep when I have a thick, warm, soft comforter over me. It might just be a nesting issue; I do tend to wrap the blankets tight around me, making a kind of fluffy tube in which I curl up. Regardless, that pressure on my body from the quilt definitely adds to my good night's sleep.
This is also the time of year when I have time set aside to say goodbye to loved ones. This year, we'll be saying goodbye to Kachina, Farnham's puppy. She passed away earlier this year. There is also Lolo, sis's grandmother, who left this life last month. There are people I honor every year, who are the "ancestors" that I always make offerings to: Agnes, who taught me how to live and love; Grandpa, who always kept me safe and loved me unconditionally; Eric, who was always a good friend, and was taken away from us unexpectedly but at the height of success.
When I look into the flames of the Samhain fire, I see them, looking back at me. I seek in their faces confirmation that I've made it safely through another year, successfully. Sometimes, I see reproach, and I know there are things to work on, to improve. That's alright, too. Just to see them, and feel the faint essence of their spirits nearby, even for just that little while, is comforting to the extreme.
This year, the twins are still too little to come to a Samhain fire, but next year, I hope to have them join us at least briefly. I want them to grow up, feeling the intense awe of the seasons, and of life itself. If the Gods choose them, that is well, and if they are chosen by others, that is also well... but I want them to grow up knowing that they are part of a larger thing. Samhain is the more difficult part to explain to children, because it doesn't have the more fun aspects - no dancing, no laughing, no games... And yet, for some reason, most children seem to understand deep inside. They sense the solemnity of the moment, and accept it for what it is.
I look forward to Samhain, this year and every year. It is a time to let go of the past, and to move on into the new life, the new year.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
This Samhain I will be doing a more traditional Wiccan ritual, a celebration of death, and rebirth. The "special" part will be the Coming of Age ritual for Gray's daughter, who is turning 19 at the end of October. And since I am doing that, I thought it was only right to do the Croning for Kerrydwen that I promised her about a year ago. Hm... maybe two years ago. Whew.
I haven't written anything yet, but I started some research this morning. The actual framework I could do in my sleep - I've been doing Wiccan framework rituals for 18 full and busy years, and I know it so well! But I want to make this ritual special for our young adult, and for our incipient crone. I also know we have many people to say goodbye to this year, unfortunately.
I will write more when I have more research completed.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
In a Sept. 11 survival tale, the pieces just don't fit
Tania Head's story, as shared over the years with reporters, students, friends and hundreds of visitors to ground zero, was a remarkable account of both life and death.
She had, she said, survived the terror attack on the World Trade Center despite having been badly burned when the plane crashed into the upper floors of the south tower.
Read the rest of it here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/09/27/america/27survivor.php?page=3This woman told people that she'd gone up in flames in one of the towers, and had been put out by a volunteer firefighter. She told people she made it down, and when she woke up several days later, she was in a hospital and was told her fiancee Dave was dead.
Only now, it turns out that no one in Dave's family knew about her. Her claim that they lived together seems to be false, because he HAD a roommate, a male one, at the time. The place she claimed to work, has no record of her. No one knows what she was doing before 9/11. Literally.
No, she didn't commit fraud - she never took money from the 9/11 fund or anything like that. But that doesn't change the fact that her story wasn't true. Or at least significant parts of it. It leaves me wondering, with a sick stomach.... did she do it for the attention? Was she involved in some way? Did she know something? I mean... what would cause someone to make up stories about THAT day?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The books covered every subject, fiction and non-fiction, large and small, and the largest section (four bookcases worth!) was full of religious texts. The Bible, the Koran, and the Torah were there, next to copies of Gerald Gardner, Lady Sheba, and the Farrars. A haze of dust motes floated throughout the room, mixed with the smoke from Davydd's cigarette. His experienced hands quickly arranged the altar, smoothing the black altar cloth down and brushing away the salt that littered the top of it. The electric lights were doused, plunging us into the semi-darkness of the candle light, which wavered each time he moved within the small room.
He finally turned to me, his naked body neither young nor old, but simply there. I found him attractive, to be sure, but that wasn't the important thing, that night. He looked me up and down, much as a dojo instructor might evaluate the physical capabilities of a new student. A moment passed, which seemed like an eternity, and then he stubbed out his cigarette and took the two steps to the altar.
Steady hands, thin but strong, lifted his athame high, the candle flame glinting off its polished blade. I remember holding my breath, unconsciously, and then gasping when I realized I needed to suck in air. I could feel the tension in the atmosphere around me, and as he began to cast the first real Circle I had ever been in, the energy rose up in startling, electric blue arcs. He traversed the edges of the room, casting more of an oblong shape than a sphere, but the containment was complete. There was no more dust in the air. The temperature rose several degrees, and I found, embarassingly, that I was sweating profusely.
Davydd called the Quarters, invited in the God and Goddess of his Tradition, and then turned to me. I was already enthralled by the sheer ecstacy of the moment, but when he spoke to me, his gravelly voice shook me to the core. With shaking voice, and trembling hands, I accepted his welcome, and met his challenge. I felt my stomach drop a thousand miles as his hands touched mine, and I knew this was the Right Thing to be doing right now.
I was Dedicated to the ways of the Wicca that night. When I think of that moment, the moment that I consider my first true step on the pagan path, I sometimes laugh. The Circle is no longer so awe inspiring. The rituals I found so unique back then are now commonplace words that I have used time and again, over 18 years. Looking back on it is good... It puts the awe back into my view of the world, and helps me to better understand where I might be going.
I compare that moment, to the one I experienced a few days ago, at my Dedication to Dionysus. There were many similarities. The stomach drop. The feeling of knowing I was right. The sense of total and unconditional acceptance.
All of life is about new beginnings. My pagan beginnings were life altering, a definite new beginning in the full sense of the statement. I left behind the abuse and lies of my past, and walked bravely into a new world, where I was master of myself (or at least was beginning to learn to be), where what I felt and thought and cared about MATTERED.
Davydd didn't introduce me to the pagan world. He did, however, help to make me a pagan of caliber. I will forever remember that night, amongst the heady incense, the guttering candles, the vibrant red wine, and the pure joy of my first wine blessing.
Monday, September 24, 2007
In her blog, she invites us, her "...long-suffering readers, to give me ideas to blog about. The challenge is this: leave one word in comments that you think will spark an interesting (or at least entertaining) post. It doesn't matter if the word is related to Wicca or not; it can be "rutabaga" for all I care. If it's not obscene I will find a way to produce at least a short entry on the subject. I can't guarantee it'll be a particularily profund entry. Try me."
I would like to try this with my own friends. :) Post me a word, provided it's not obscene, and I'll do my best to write about it in some way, shape, or form. My mind is skipping from subject to subject a lot lately, and I hope, like Dianne, that this might inspire me to calm down, to focus, to visualize more effectively.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Tonight, I did my dedication to Dionysus. It was... interesting. The ritual itself came off alright, although there are a few things I think I'll end up tweaking. I like the idea of the sacred space, but not the Circle being there. It felt fine... We don't normally need any huge reserve of energy, which is the main reason for casting a Circle anyhow. The biggest problem was that no one really understood what all we were doing (even me!), and so there were a few uncomfortable pauses as I went through what I had in the script. There were too many libations and not enough focus on what WE could do for US. One of the things that makes Amber Moon what we are, is that we focus on bettering ourselves through our spirituality and religion, and our rituals usually reflect that. This one didn't, really. But, we live and learn. Everyone found it interesting!
The dedication went well, I believe. It felt nice, although not at all like a Wiccan initiation. Then again, it wasn't an initiation, so... During my moment of silence, I was holding a huge bunch of purple grapes, and the phrase, "Dionysus, purple robed god of abundant clusters" went through my mind several times in rapid succession, and I got this huge flush of ... desire, I suppose, is the best word for it. I felt extremely warm. I also felt "embraced", as if I were being held closely, as if by a lover. It was very intimate, considering I was standing on Farnham's back lawn in the dying fall sunlight.
The party afterward was rather nice. Farnham played guitar and we all sang. We enjoyed a wonderous feast together. We talked about future dreams, and possibilities. I had my 3 glasses of wine, although they were small glasses, and I now feel pleasantly buzzed, and somewhat tired. I think it is almost time for sleep.
Above, you can see a picture of my chaplet, the first one I've ever made. I'm rather proud of it - I made it with real flowers purchased at the store today, and English ivy out of Farnham's back lot (I made him a chaplet of plain ivy, too).
Friday, September 21, 2007
Ariadne must bathe and purify before the ritual. She should fast that day. It will be her responsibility to create the water for all of the later purifications and sanctifications.
Take a bowl and fill it with water. Hold it aloft and say:
Water, be pure! Become like the tears that my namesake Ariadne shed when she behold the beauty of Dionysus on Naxos; become like the streams that flow through the forests on Mount Nysa, where the pure and lovely Nymphs dance; become like the waters that washed off the foolishness of Midas. Water, you are pure! You are pure! You are pure!
Pick up the bowl of salt. Hold it aloft and say:
Salt, be pure! Become like the bones of Dionysus which are stored in the tripod at Delphi; become like the rich, black soil of Nysa, nourished by the dancing feet of the pure and lovely Nymphs; become like the bran smeared on the face of the Initiate in the Lord's secret, nocturnal rites. Salt, you are pure! You are pure! You are pure!
Pour some of the salt into the water. Mix it thoroughly, envisioning the two essences uniting. Then wash your hands and face with the holy water, feeling it carry off whatever miasma has attached itself to you. Pour some of this holy water into the bath water before bathing.
Climb into the tub and bathe. While bathing, meditate on purity, and what it means. When done, drain the water, and watch the dirt, both emotional and physical, drain down with it.
During the ritual, when it comes time to do the Dedication, Ariadne should approach the altar with her sacrifices, wine, food offering, etc. She should pick up the water, and sprinkle herself with it three times, saying:
Let all things profane depart!
She should stand there, mindful that she is before her Lord. She should speak words to him, like this:
Greetings, O Dionysus! You who are hailed by the maenads as the beautiful one, the fertile bull, the dancer on the mountain, mad one, boisterous one, full of life, ecstatic, many-formed and many-named Lord of ineffable mysteries, hear my words, my praise, and my pleas.
The first offering is of incense. She will toss the incense into the flames, and say something like this:
As fragrant as your skin when you appeared to Ariadne on rocky Naxos, are these herbs. Sweet smelling mint, fresh and inviting, and dusky, musky oregano, deliciously scented. Fill this sacred space with the scent, that we may rejoice in you!
She shall light a candle and place it in the middle of the altar. Her right hand shall rise to Dionysus, her left shall pass over the candle flame, feeling the warmth on her palm. She should say something like this:
This flame is lit as a reminder of you, O Lord, for you are the one who leads the torch-song on the Holy Way from Eleusis. You appear out of the dark, when we most need you, to guide us into the light. You show us the way to live more fully, to embrace the heat of passion, to ignite the molten core within us until it burns as brightly as the shining stars in heaven, who dance forever in your train!
She shall hold up the bottle of wine to Dionysus and say something like this:
This, O Lord, is your greatest gift to care-worn mortals, for it eases our suffering, and when we are drunk from it, we are filled with joy and a lively spirit. Without wine, there would be no festivals, no fine banquets, no sacrifices for the Gods, and love would completely disappear from the world. But wine is even more precious than that, for this wine is your blood, first poured out upon the black earth when the Titans set upon you with their murderous knives. A part of you dwells in each sip of wine, and dwells within us when we drink it.
She shall pour out the libation, and then share the wine with everyone else. When the wine is drunk, the food offering should be made, then shared with everyone else. Then she shall say something like this:
O Lord, you have called to me from the vines, as you called to my namesake as she wept on the rocks of the isle of Dia. I am learning, slowly, to answer your call. I beg you to accept me as your priestess, to help me to become better in your service. I approach you with the four virtues firmly in mind: courage, temperance, wisdom, justice. I am not perfect, but I am yours. In honor of you, I take a new name, and henceforth I shall be known as Sofia Ariadne, that I might always be mindful of the wisdom you can grant us.
I also take pause to libate to Hecate, my Lady for so many years.
She shall libate wine.
Hecate was first to call me, and I shall never turn away from my service to her. I owe her many debts, and much love. I thank her for her patience as I, stumbling and occasionally blind, learned better and greater ways to honor her. I shall now serve you both, your priestess.
Sacrifices of icons or images of both Dionysus and Hecate shall be commended to the flames at this time. The priest shall say,
Let all be silent.
After a few moments, Sofia Ariadne shall turn to the attendees and greet them all, newly reborn into the service of the ancient Gods.
Sannion's Sanctuary. Hellenic Polytheism. http://www.winterscapes.com/sannion/hellenic_polytheism.htm
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Assemble all the items for the ritual: bells, drum(s), water in large jug, large bowl, oil lamp, barley, flowers, icons, wine, cup, bowl for libations, cakes, personal offerings, and a basket to hold things. Have them ready, either on the altar or in the basket, as appropriate. The wine should be a bottle reserved just for that ritual, as there are many libations. Any left over may be imbibed by the attendees.
Assemble everyone inside, and explain the procession. Let people walk quietly, piously, into the ritual area. This marks the change from profane to sacred space. Bells may be rung and the drum beat slowly to accompany the pace.
Purification of the People
Just outside the sacred space, a vessel of water and a bowl should be waiting. All those entering the sacred space must wash their hands with the water, into the bowl (the water in the bowl is considered unclean, and so should not be touched). The
water is poured by the priestess, and the bowl is held by the priest.
Sanctification of Sacred Space
The remaining water (in the vessel) is used to sanctify the sacred space, and the altar. The priestess enters first, using a branch to scatter droplets of clean water around the entire area to be used during the ritual. As she walks, the bell and drum should accompany. She says:
Let all that is profane be far from here!
She ends her slow procession by sprinkling the people attending. The priest then takes the offering basket up to the altar, and places it before it. Everyone can enter behind him.
The remainder of this ritual can be found at:
Neokoroi - The Temple Keepers. Template for Noumenia Ritual. http://www.neokoroi.org/noumenia.htm
Sannion's Sanctuary. Hellenic Polytheism. http://www.winterscapes.com/sannion/hellenic_polytheism.htm
Fairbanks, Arthur. A Handbook of Greek Religion. http://books.google.com/books?id=rPD40gMzVbAC&dq=a+handbook+of+greek+religion&pri
Diasia/Chloaia. A ritual. http://www.flyallnight.com/VHD/Diasia-Chloaia.htm
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I've always been of the firm opinion that children should not be 'brought up" in any religion. Any child, and "child" should be defined as anyone not adult under the law, is incapable of making the decision to follow any God. They simply do not have the sheer life experience necessary to commit themselves, body and soul, to the worship and service of one Divine Being (or more).
This does not, however, mean that children should be excluded from religious activities. There are some things it is perfectly reasonable for children to attend and join in with: singing songs, prayer at mealtimes, respectful silence at appropriate moments, and even rituals provided they are not rife with adult material (bleeding men on crosses, and Goddesses giving bloody birth are NOT child friendly images).
There is even a time when ritual can be taken down to the level of a child. If a young child expresses an interest in what you do, then they should be encouraged to ask questions, and get the answers they seek. Sometimes, it's as simple as wanting to see what mommy or daddy is doing when they're out of the house at Noumenia or Full Moon ritual. If planned in an appropriate manner, this can be a wonderful time to share (without pushing) your religion with your child.
Many years ago, when I lived in BC, Canada, I spent time planning public rituals. Every Mabon, we held a children's ritual. I did the basic ritual outline, but the kids got to help pick songs, and decide what to do. They would be responsible for carrying a basket of fruits and vegetables and cookies, around the Circle and to the offering place. They would chant or sing, and sometimes dance. Often they would enjoy dressing up, with robes or fairy rings or other outfits. We would finish up by blessing milk and the cookies, making a small libation to the Gods, and then sitting down to eat together.
Was this a "traditional Wiccan ritual"? Nope. All it was, was something that appealed to the child's mind, teaching them a tiny bit about ritual, and a lot about how to act in group, how to cooperate, and about mythology. They loved it, always. It was the best way to celebrate Mabon!
The way I share my religion with my children, is simply by living it. If they happen to be near me when it is my meditation time, I will invite them to join me in sitting down, staring quietly at the candle flame as it flickers. I will pick a simple chant, and let them join in. If they come to ritual and it's appropriate for them to participate, they're welcome to. I pray at mealtimes, and they are included in and see that, nightly at the very least (we don't always eat the other meals together, and I often pray silently then).
The main things that make me who I am, are not religions, per se. They are spiritual. I do not lie, nor do I condone lying. I treat others as I would have them treat me, were our positions reversed. I make honor and piety an important part of my daily life, even in little things. Children see these things! We don't need to lecture them on it, if they see it every day. They will pick it up the same way they pick up language, the same way they learn to walk and eventually run. They simply absorb it, by watching the adults around them.
This is, I think, the key to teaching our children respect for religion... all religion. There's no need to indoctrinate, and teaching can begin when they're old enough to ask questions that you can answer. By living honestly and lovingly, we teach our children to do the same.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Assemble all the items for the ritual: bells, drum(s), water in amphora, large bowl, oil lamp, barley, flowers, icons, wine, cup, bowl for libations, cakes, personal offerings. Have them ready on the altar. The wine should be a bottle reserved just for that ritual, as there are many libations. Any left over may be imbibed by the attendees.
Assemble everyone inside, and explain the pomp. Let people walk quietly, piously, into the ritual area. This marks the change from profane to sacred space. Bells may be rung slowly to accompany the pace.
Purification of the Sacred Space
Just outside the sacred space, a vessel of water and a bowl should be waiting. All those entering the sacred space must wash their hands with the water, into the bowl. The remaining water is used to sanctify the sacred space, and the altar.
Ritual Lighting of Sacred Fire
The oil lamp is lit, with a blessing to Hestia. This should be impromptu and not scripted.
Tossing of Barley
Barley is scattered around the sacred space and altar, from a basket of barley, flowers, and other items.
O Deathless Ones!
Gods of Starry Heaven,
And the Great Below,
Hear us, Theoi!
Hear, and Attend.
Bless us with your presence,
as we would honor you.
First libation to Hestia since it is traditional to offer Hestia the first and last portion of any offering.
Receive these libations, and rejoice,
for your joy is ours this night.
Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth,
Keeper of the Sacred Flame,
Guardian of the Home,
For you we pour out the first portion,
as yours is the first and the last.
Be well disposed.
Libations and special mention of the gods who preside over the ritual:
For the gods beloved of those assembled,
I pour out the next shares,
For it is under your auspices we gather tonight.
For Lord Dionysus,
Purple robed God of abundant clusters,
Son of glorious Semele,
Be well disposed.
For tender hearted Hecate,
Bright coiffed Lady of torches and light
Daughter of valiant Persaeus,
Be well disposed.
For our household Gods,
Those ancestors who have chosen
to watch over and bless us,
Be well disposed.
For the Agathos Daimon,
god of good fortune,
beloved of Tyche, kindly one,
Be well disposed.
And for All the Blessed gods,
Resplendent, Beautiful, Immortal,
I pour now
An equal measure
Of sweet wine/water.
Be well disposed.
Formal Invocation and Praise of All the Gods Honored
Kind Zeus and Gaia,
heavenly and pure flames of the Sun,
sacred light of the Moon,
and all the Stars;
Poseidon, too, dark-maned holder of the earth,
and Demeter of the splendid fruit,
the dancer, whose honors among the blessed gods are the highest.
holy and mighty Hephaistos,
and the goddess foam-born to whose lot fell sublime gifts,
and you, divinity excellent, who are king of the Underworld.
And upon Hera, buxom wife of aegis-bearing Zeus.
And upon Hermes, messenger and herald of those in heaven;
upon Themis, too, diviner of men I call,
and on Night, oldest of all,
and light-bringing Day;
Chronos the ever-flowing,
the splendid water of the Styx,
all these gentle gods,
and also Pronoia,
and the holy Daimon
as well as the one baneful to mortals;
Then upon divinities dwelling in heaven, air, water,
on earth, under the earth, and in the fiery element.
To all those who have not been named,
But are as important and holy,
And to those who have no names,
Yet exist to be worshipped,
Beginning and End, too,
which to all is most important,
and ask them to come in a spirit of joyous mercy
to this holy rite and libation of reverence.
Enumerate and present offerings (worshipper may have already placed offerings on the altar and may simply choose to indicate them now. Each offering should be lifted by the person offering it, and accompanied by a small prayer or song to the God in question.
O beloved mistress, Three-faced Hekate
Kindly hear my sacred chants.
Goddess of the triple ways, who holds
Untiring flame in triple baskets,
And you who often frequent the triple way
And rule the triple decades,
Unto me who am calling you
Be gracious and with kindness give heed,
You who protect the spacious world at night,
Before whom daimons quake in fear
And Gods immortal tremble, Goddess who
Exalt men, you of many names, mother of Gods
And men and Nature, Mother of all things,
For all things are from you, and in you do
All things, Eternal one, come to their end.
Hail, Goddess, and attend your epithets,
I offer you this cake, this wine,
Goddess of dark, quiet and frightful one,
O you who have your meal amid the graves,
Night, Darkness, broad Chaos: Necessity
Hard to escape are you;
You're torment, Justice and Destroyer,
O you who brings death and destruction,
Who devours those dead untimely,
Come to my sacrifices,
And bestow your blessings upon us.
Dionysos, I sing, whose head is twined with ivy
and grapes in ripe bunches that tumble to his gentle shoulders,
clad in their fawn-skin cloak.
Swift-moving God, racing down the side of Olympos,
or through the wooded coverts of the Nysan plane,
attended by goat-footed Satyrs, and the lovely Nymphs,
giving out the call, "Evo!"
All-conquering, fierce-eyed One,
who wields his thyrsos like a fiery brand,
striking with madness those who offend him.
Mystery discovered through our bodies,
in dancing round bon-fires till exhaustion overtakes us,
and the touching of trembling flesh against trembling flesh
underneath the all-seeing moon.
I offer to you this fruit, this wine,
I suppose there are older Gods, and stronger -
but there has never been a God dearer to my heart
than the son of Semele and Zeus who reigns in Heaven!
Come to our sacrifices,
Bestow your blessings upon us!
Thanks to all Gods
Thanks be to all Gods,
Those both named and unnamed,
Who heard our call this eve,
Enjoyed our libations, our offerings,
Thanks we give, freely, to all!
Please accept our thanks!
Last Libation for Hestia
Receive these libations, and rejoice,
for your joy is ours this night.
Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth,
Keeper of the Sacred Flame,
Guardian of the Home,
For you we pour out the last portion,
as yours is the first and the last.
Be well disposed.
Bells and drum should be played during the return, silently, to the home. The feast should commence soon after!
Neokoroi - The Temple Keepers. Template for Noumenia Ritual. http://www.neokoroi.org/noumenia.htm
Sannion's Sanctuary. Hellenic Polytheism. http://www.winterscapes.com/sannion/hellenic_polytheism.htm
Fairbanks, Arthur. A Handbook of Greek Religion. http://books.google.com/books?id=rPD40gMzVbAC&dq=a+handbook+of+greek+religion&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=cz8_mj0bE1&sig=D7e6OvTroYUhiavFhMKpt96QOV8