Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Samhain 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

The Tao of Pooh

No, I'm not reading it. However, I am watching the 25th anniversary edition of the original Pooh movie, by Disney, courtesy of our local library. The twins are REALLY grooving to it - they seem to think it's almost as good as Backyardigans! They loved the Tigger song, and danced hysterically around the living room, stomping like elephants. LOL...

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

Tai Chi Chuan - Meditation through movement.

I have been trying to exercise "most days." I have a Biggest Loser DVD which I enjoy, and a couple of belly dancing videos as well. However, at the library last week, I found a "morning and evening" Tai Chi Chuan DVD. This is simplified Tai Chi of the 120 movement variety, and it goes very slowly, fluidly.

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

Oracles


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

Rome, the HBO series.

I have just finished watching the first episode of Rome, the HBO series. I picked it up at the library, on the advice of some Hellenic Recon friends on the Nekoroi list. I'm glad I did. Wow.

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

It's difficult to explain how tired I am, lately. I suppose I was this tired before, but now that I'm on the Lexapro, and actively trying to make things better, I find I'm just simply exhausted a lot of the time. Gray says this will get better with time, and that after about six weeks, the exhaustion fades. I hope so. I find it hard to get up in the morning. I fall asleep doing readings for school. I have huge issues with paying attention long enough to get something done.

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

Drama, of the pagan kind.

It seems that, no matter what kind of pagans you get together, the drama soon follows. Why is that? I'm guessing it has something to do with us being free spirits, thinkers, outside the "norms" of society, educated (usually)... But, man, it gets annoying.

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 and Death



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.