Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Velveteen Rabbi strikes again.

I swear, this lady interferes with my brain cycles. Her words so often smack at my own deficiencies and problems. Enjoy this one:

My yetzer ha-ra doesn't want me to daven shacharit.

Whew. :)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hopi Prophecy

A friend of mine online posted about this prophecy. I'm not normally one to repeat such things, but this seemed... important. And so I share it with you.

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation?
Where is your water? Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of
the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a
halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

–The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

Wow. The river has been rushing past me for months. I have been terrified by the storm of it. I have fought against it, and I have become exhausted with trying to hold onto the shore. The whole family has dealt with death and medical problems and moving and job loss and many other issues. Yet, I can answer the questions, confidently, without fear.

And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?


We are living in New Hampshire, on the land we just purchased. Money is tight, yes, but we can make it. We know that now. We are learning how to live here, in concert with our neighbors and with the land itself. We are learning how to appease the wights here, how to learn from the spirits that live within the earth and water that surrounds us. We have relationships with each other, in various combinations and as a whole. We have relationships with our neighbors, our friends, and our community as a whole. For the first time in a long, LONG time, we are feeling as if we are in right relations. At first, we sought to purchase land that was far away, remote from the world, where prying eyes would leave us alone. Not so, now that we're here. We're a part of this community, and we are considered contributing members. People know us, wave to us, smile at us, and we smile and wave back. We make coffee for the people splitting wood across the street. People ask to hunt on our land, and offer pieces of the meat in return for the favor. People here have shown us that there are still places that one can be a part of the world, rather than apart from the world. And where is our water? It's right outside, of course. The Connecticut River runs almost through our backyard, and we have many springs and ponds on our property. We have a well right outside our back door. We have water that comes to us regardless of whether power is supplied to our home or not. We are no longer dependent upon "the grid," although we enjoy its services when they are available.

Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!


We haven't planted our garden yet, but we know where it's going, and what is going to be in it. We know where our orchard will be in a few years' time. We are speaking our truth, to all who can hear it, but in the place where we live we are preaching to the choir. Boy, is that ever NICE. We came here to create our own community, only to find that our community was already created, and we were accepted into it with open arms. And this community that we now belong to also respects our family community, and is polite enough to not ask awkward questions. We are our own leaders, and each of us in our family is good at something. Farnham leads at gardening, Amo at woodworking, sis at quilting, me at homestead cooking, and Missus at herbs and animal husbandry (despite her allergies!). Each of us leads when it is appropriate, and steps back when someone else is more knowledgeable. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves.


Um... yeah, wow. I need to hear this. Daily. I might just print it out on a ream of paper and paste it around my room. Sometimes, I take myself too damn seriously. We all do, on occasion. We must learn to let go of that, myself foremost. I think, too, this refers to we as a people even more than "we" as a family or community. America is a wonderful country, amazing in its growth, its strength, its ability to change and adapt. But America has also become prideful, and takes many things personally. That's a very dangerous thing...

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

Yes, struggle is so difficult. It's what wears us down. It's what wears ME down. When I manage to bend and wave, like the willow tree, I'm not damaged by the storms that go past. I might be achey but I always survive unscathed. It's when I stand tall and prideful like the oak that things become painful, damaging, and struggle-filled.

Can I celebrate the work I have to do on a daily basis? Can I celebrate the ache in my shoulders as I go to bed? I think I can, though I have much to learn before it comes easily. Sometimes, it's a matter of gritting my teeth and gasping out my acquiescence to the celebration going on around me, rather than full blown celebration. But even that is a beginning.

For me, doing things in a sacred manner has always been so important. The times when I fall down in my spiritual practices (like the past month), everything crumbles around me. My head spins with crazy ideas, and my heart leads me in wrong places. That daily quiet nod to Hestia and Hecate, to Dionysos and Aesculapius, are of massive importance to my life. Hera and Zeus bless my "married" life, and Nyx... well, she touches me. I need to give back.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things get better, day by day

Life can be really tough sometimes. We've been through a lot in creating our new home in New Hampshire. We've gone through living with friends and being essentially homeless. We've dealt with deep debt, Amo losing his job, and sis working 2 hours from home every day. We've put up with dwindling meat supplies and staples.

It's getting better, though. Amo is out hunting deer for our larder, so meat won't be a problem anymore. Last night, our friend C told us about a wonderful grocery store that had inexpensive things, so we went and filled the shelves with beans and lentils and soup and such. I got corn meal and flour, and stuff to make our Thanksgiving feast. We even got two turkeys! It was pretty impressive, looking at them all and picking out two 20+ pounders.

Everything is just starting to feel better. I am hoping that the worst of the emotional and financial stuff is done with. We have enough seeds to get by, come spring, although we'll probably buy some, too. It's all improving, day by day, and I'm thrilled.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

He Epistole Update

From Laura, editrix of He Epistole:

Hello Everyone,

First - I want to thank everyone who has already given me submissions
for the next issue of He Epistole. I also appreciate all the help
with announcements to encourage participation.

Second - I have not yet done any layouts for this issue and I could
*still* use more content. I don't know how many pages I have so far,
but I know just by looking at the number of emails I've had so far
that I can certainly use some more.

I can especially use the follwoing:

poetry
artwork
photographs
fiction - if anyone has any.

The deadline for the next issue is pretty flexible. I'll take things
as late as November 21st.

Thanks!
Laura

The Daily Giggle


HumanForSale.com - Fun Survey

Guest post from the Velveteen Rabbi:

A Prayer for Voting - from R' David Seidenberg

Reb David Seidenberg has posted a revised 2008 version of his beautiful prayer for voting, in Hebrew and English. Here's the English version:


Prayer for Voting

With my vote today I am prepared and intending
to seek peace for this country, as it is written:

"Seek out the peace of the city where I cause you to roam
and pray for her sake to Yah Adonai, for in her peace you all will have peace."
(Jer. 29:7)

May it be Your will that votes will be counted faithfully
and may You account my vote as if I had fulfilled this verse with all my power.

May it be good in Your eyes to give a wise heart
to whomever we elect today
and may You raise for us a government whose rule is for good and blessing
to bring justice and peace to all the inhabitants of the world and to Jerusalem,
for rulership is Yours!

Just as I participated in elections today
so may I merit to do good deeds and repair the world with all my actions,
and with the act of...[fill in your pledge] which I pledge to do today
on behalf of all living beings and in remembrance of the covenant of Noah's waters
to protect and to not destroy the earth and her plenitude.

May You give to all the peoples of this country, the strength and will
to pursue righteousness and to seek peace as unified force
in order to cause to flourish, throughout the world, good life and peace
and may You fulfill for us the verse:

"May the pleasure of Yah Adonai our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands for us, may the work of our hands endure."
(Ps. 90:17)


You can find the prayer here; that page includes the English version alongside links to an interlinear Hebrew-and-English version in .doc and .pdf formats. I'm especially moved by the reference to Noah's waters -- as you know if you read this week's Torah poem (or if you keep up with the Jewish weekly lectionary), we're reading the story of Noah this week, which makes this feel all the more timely.

May we be blessed in in the process of democracy -- and in its outcome.

***

Allyson here. I don't always agree with the politics of others, but this prayer really struck a chord for me. It is civic-minded, a very Hellenic thing, imo. It is spiritual, but not overly religious (by which I mean that I did not feel that the prayer didn't apply to me because I am not Jewish; instead, I felt drawn in). And so I repeat this prayer, for all!

Blessings on this voting season. The choices are tough. Neither candidate is perfect. Some people favor one over the other, all for good reasons. Let us put away our emnity for one another, and embrace the fact that our country is built on change and diversity. No matter which candidate gets into office, he will attempt to do the best job he can - that is simply a part of the make-up of human beings. In order to reach the pinacle that these two men have, they must have basic decency, even if it's not always obvious during the campaign madness. No one who wants to do harm would have made it this far.

So let us pray that, whoever is in office, they work hard with their advisors and administrators, to straighten up the mess we're currently in. Let us pray that tolerance is the watchword of our new leader. Let us pray that personal beliefs held by our new leader remain just what they are - personal.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Noumenia & Wednesday ritual


On Wednesday evenings, I participate in a ritual along with the rest of the people from Neos Alexandria. Each of us does our own thing for our own Gods, and yet you can almost feel the viscosity of the ether as it stretches through each of us and touches the universe.

Tonight was an especially potent night for me, for many reasons. First, it was also Noumenia, the celebration of the first sliver of new moon appearing. Second, it is so very close to Hallows Eve. Third, and almost most importantly, it is the night I finally dedicated the new altar to Hestia for our home.

The altar was a subject of consternation. I wanted Hestia to be overlooking our kitchen, and yet she had to be out of the way enough that she didn't get things spilled onto or splattered onto her sacred space. I thought of a shelf by the wood stove, but it would have been dangerous (it gets VERY hot there). I contemplated a spot on the window right next to the wood stove, but it was within toddler reach, and that is always a dangerous thing.

Then Farnham and I hit on the right place - a small shelf that's above the area where I will be kneading our bread. It's perfect. It's small enough that it doesn't take up necessary space, but large enough to truly be an altar. The space looks down upon the entire kitchen in an almost regal manner, and yet is fully a part of the kitchen. I am very pleased.

We made an offering of wine into the woodstove, to Hestia, and were rewarded with a vast upflash of purplish-red flame. Wow. Then we offered barley, and the smell of it roasting filled the kitchen pleasantly.

After that was done, Farnham and I parted ways, and I went to my bedroom, where my personal shrines are. I did my usual Wednesday ritual, with a few private prayers that I'm not at liberty to talk about just yet. I feel very calm about it this week. It felt right. I even got my Nyx altar up, and that felt *really* good.

Stress? Yeah, drowning in it. But I have my focus, and that makes a big difference.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoth Devotional


There's a text from the Ptolemaic era that I have always enjoyed. It's an account of the Wandering Goddess, Tefnut, the Eye of Re. (The same story is told in other sources of Sekhmet-Hethert, with slight modification.) Tefnut is raging in the south as a ferocious lion who is devastating the land. Thoth is sent out to calm her and bring this powerful goddess back to Egypt, since the kingdom is defenseless without her. In this particular version he soothes the goddess' wrath by telling her a series of amusing and educational stories, mostly animal fables like those of Aesop. 

So, what I'd like to do is bring out a modern reimagining of this myth. It would be a collection of short fiction dealing with Greek and Egyptian themes, ideally in a modern setting. The collection would begin with a narrative setting the stage, describing Thoth's search for the Wandering goddess and his attempt to placate her. It would end with another vignette showing her pacified by his stories and returning as the jubilant goddess to Egypt. But instead of animal fables, the stories told would be the stories of our community, contributed by an assortment of people. It would honor the powerful, transformative qualities of story-telling and Thoth as the master story-teller himself. Each author, by telling their own story, by using the power of words to create worlds, to share the beauty and power of the gods, by affirming that we who hold to the old gods are still here and those gods still matter in our world today - would be acting in the role of Thoth, magician, scribe, and healer. 

These stories can be about anything, in any style: serious, playful, historical, modern, or whatever. The only requirement is that they somehow be about the gods or Greek, Egyptian, or Roman religion. The deadline for this anthology will be Novemeber 30, 2008

Send submissions to submissions@neosalexandria.org

* All submissions must be the original work of the author – plagiarism is strongly frowned upon!
* Multiple submissions by the same author are fine – and encouraged!
* Material that has been published in other places will still be considered, provided the author retains their copyright to the work.
* The author retains all rights to their work after publication.
* Contact the editors for information on format, length, and other requirements if you have any questions.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sharing the joy of the wild.

Yesterday, I bit the bullet and decided to take our children and go for a walk in our woods. Now, that might not seem like a big deal, but considering our woods are on a mountain I have not been certain they (or I!) could make it. However, it seemed like the right day for it.

And it WAS! We started out with lots of warm coats, because it has been quite chilly (with rumours of snow) here in NH. We didn't really need it, though. Instead, it was almost balmy, though definitely jacket and boot weather. It was crisp and bright, too, and absolutely gorgeous. The sun shone down, the leaves crackled at our feet, and a light breeze made the treetops talk to us. We took two boxes of raisins with us, an offering from the twins to the nymphs of our stream, and I had a bowl with a lid to gather some water for my house blessing on Sunday.

The walk was long, but not arduous. We all enjoyed it. The twins were marvelous, behaving well and enjoying the scenery. Boytwin decided that the finest thing in the world was to pick up every stick on the trail and drag it behind him, making loud crunch noises in the leaves. Girltwin was excited, because I'd promised her that when we reached the stream, she would hear the nymphs playing if she was quiet.

I didn't lie, either. You could hear them... not just the babble of the brook, but an Other sound, too. My girltwin was just lit up like a lightbulb to hear them, and she offered up some of her raisins very solemnly, and told the nymphs thank you for the water we were taking. Boytwin had to be convinced, because he didn't really want to give up HIS raisins, but he did grudgingly leave some, then smiled like a ray of sunshine as a particularly loud burble went downstream just as he did it. They sat peaceably by the stream, eating the rest of their "feast" and listening to the birdsong, the nymphae, the wind in the trees.

We looked at different leaves and moss, and watched birds and squirrels scurrying around, getting ready for winter. They tossed the crinkly leaves around, sang songs of praise to the woodlands and the Gods, and just generally behaved beautifully. During our walk, we found a towering wall of rock that went up as far as we could see, a feature of our new property that none of us had been aware of. I would guess it's granite, as this IS the "Granite State". Large chunks had fallen down over the years, and a trail wound up one side of it (but we didn't explore... toddlers on mountainsides make me nervous LOL). Beautiful stuff.

We came home and had grilled open faced cheese sandwiches on yummy onion buns, with a side of hot chocolate and extra marshmallows. I had two exhausted and happy children and I was pretty darn happy myself. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 08

Today is Blog Action Day. From their website:

On October 15th bloggers everywhere will publish posts that discuss poverty in some way. By all posting on the same day we aim to change the conversation that day, to raise awareness, start a global discussion and add momentum to an important cause.

Well, as of today, my family is living in poverty. We closed on our house and land, and are how "house poor" as it is sometimes called. All our available cash went into this purchase, and there is nothing left. In fact, there's less than nothing left - our bank account went into the red over this.

But... how poor can we be with family around us?

There is so much talk right now, about how poverty is on the rise. We mention the cost of gas, the cost of oil, the cost of electricity, and we mourn the rise in the prices for even staples such as milk and bread. I hear people complain about it every day.

Yet, who is working on the solutions? Politicians talk of injecting the economy with money, but I fail to see how that does more than put a bandaid onto a severed artery. We can't count on the government to rescue us. Not only are they simply not going to do so, it's morally wrong.

That's right - it's morally wrong! When a child in our care misspends her allowance, we don't hand the child another $20 and go about our day. We lecture the child, or somehow sit down to teach her that the lack of money is the result of her poor spending habits. We teach her better ways to save and spend. If it's a repeat problem, we may even go so far as to take away the child's allowance altogether. We certainly don't aid and abet the child in spending beyond her means, though. Why should we expect the government to do so with us?

There are very few people in our country that are incapable of having at least a small garden, even if it's in containers. There are very few people in our country who can't work at SOME job in order to pay the rent. There are very few people in our country who are capable of living without credit cards.

These few facts are depressing. There are people starving, and there is land to plant food in... and people are left to starve. Those selfsame people often don't bother learning to feed themselves; instead they expect Big Brother to fix it, and either spoon feed them a job, or better yet, give them money for not working.

Poverty is a scary thing. I've been a single mom unable to work because welfare paid me more than working and paying the daycare I'd need in order to work. I hated being on welfare. Perhaps if welfare didn't exist, we could spend that money for subsidized or free daycare at work places, thereby freeing up thousands upon thousands of women who would otherwise be working and earning a fair wage.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Horrorscopes

There's something to be said for horoscopes. I read mine every day, though I don't stress over it. I'm always surprised at how accurate it usually is, consdiering it applies to some hundreds, maybe thousands of people born at about the same time as me. Today's was one of those uncannily accurate ones:

You have begun to make the changes you once dreamed about, but you may have serious doubts now that you are actually moving toward them. This uncertainty is natural and will settle down over the days ahead. In the meantime, think about what you want instead of focusing on what you don't want. The power of positive thinking is surely stronger than just saying no.

Geez louise that one just hit me smack between the eyes. LOL...

So here I am, in the midst of simplifying my life, moving to the country from the suburbs, learning to cook on a woodstove, learning to heat a house with a woodstove (!), and beginning to plan what will happen with the 15 cleared acres we have... I've been plagued with doubts about myself, and about our ability as a group to do this. Of course, those fears are empty - we ARE doing it, and frankly, we're doing it so well that we've had only a couple of minor emotional spats in the past six months of extreme stress. I still worry, though.

I need to keep my focus on the fact that, in one week and 2 days, I will be moving into our new home. Not a house... that's just a building. A home is where your heart is, and where Hestia is present in the hearth. One of the great things for me is the fact that we have both a gas stove and a wood stove in the kitchen. This means we have a never-ending flame in our home at all times, such a wonderful thing to remind me of Hestia. I hope to put a tiny altar to her, somewhere near the wood stove.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ah... The joys of National Debt!

Maxing Out the National Debt Clock


October 09, 2008 10:14 AM ET

Are you surprised? Times Square's National Debt Clock, which has been tallying up money owed by the U.S. government since 1989, is running out of spaces.

In September 2008, the digital dollar sign was eliminated to make way for an extra digit—the "1" in $10 trillion (the national debt is currently $10.2 trillion). Now, a new clock is in the works that will make room for a quadrillion dollars of debt, according to the Associated Press. Anticipated completion is early 2009.

A little history on the clock: It was created in 1989 by Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst to inform the public about the nation's snowballing national debt (back then, it was $2.7 trillion). Seymour died in 1995, and the clock is now owned by his son, Douglas Durst.

According to the Treasury, the national debt has grown more than $500 billion each year since fiscal year 2003. The $700 billion government bailout could send the national debt to more than $11 trillion, says the AP.

From: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/new-money/2008/10/9/maxing-out-the-national-debt-clock.html

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

He Epistole - Request for Articles

We're assembling articles and information for the winter issue of He Epistole, and we'd love to have your input!

Laura still needs plenty of articles and writing for He Epistole. This is an easy way to provide something to Neokoroi and to the public (if you care to see it that way) at large. :) I know that I felt a bit of concern about submitting things to He Epistole when I first came to Neokoroi, but I really needn't have worried. There are lots of people around here to help with editing, if you need it!

Here are some suggestions for things that could go into the upcoming (Winter) issue of He Epistole!

* local news or global news reported in your own words
* rituals for autumn or winter
* daily devotions
* poetry
* short stories
* re-telling of myths, especially winter ones
* reviews of books of interest to the Hellenic community
* recipes, **especially* if they include information about why they're important to Hellenes!
* gift ideas for the Hellenic Polytheist that has everything

I'm sure you can all come up with a dozen more ideas that are even better! If anyone needs editing help, please don't hesitate to email me. I'd be glad to help out in any way!

Oh, and artwork is welcome, too!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Goodness

It's October, and Halloween is on the way. We'll be moving into our new home soon, and one of the first things I want to do is decorate it for the season. We have skeletons for the windows, and flashy lights for the front porch, creepy crawlies for the back porch, and cob webs and such for all over (though I admit, I'm cleaning the real ones away as soon as I can).  

One of the things I found out recently was that our property hosts a small graveyard. I'm very excited about it. I made a vow to Hecate that once we were settled in a new home, I would find a local graveyard to tend, and here she's provided me with my very own graveyard to care for! I have to learn more about it, but apparently an older couple are buried there, and perhaps others. I intend to do some research on the names, once I find them. I know the general location, but need to find the actual spot. At least I n0w know where my altar and shrine to Hecate will go!

This fall, after the corn is out of our new fields, we'll be discussing where to put our orchard. It looks as if it will go in fairly near the graveyard, which actually feels rather nice. I suspect I'll be putting a small shrine to Persephone and Hades there, as I've always felt their shrines should be near fruit trees. I'm not sure why, but it's always just felt right, and being near the graveyard adds to the Underworld aspect as well. 

All we have to do is get the loan from the bank, and we'll be done. By Monday, we expect to be able to move into our home. Keep us in your prayers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Request for content for He Epistole!

From Laura, at Neokoroi:

As you know, He Epistole was on hiatus for the Autumn issue.  We do plan on publishing for the winter issue and I need CONTENT!  I need all kinds of content:  Poems, essays, articles, short stories, artworks, photos....anything you can think of!  As long as it fits into the general theme of "All things Hellenic", I'll consider it for the issue.

Some people have mentioned that writing prompts would be helpful. The original plan for the fall issue was "Harvest", so feel free to keep that in mind as well.  Other ideas that have been mentioned are "Giving" and "Transformation".  I have often associated Dionysos with the holidays, so he may provide some inspiration as well.

Please email your stuff to me:  wheezinggirl at hotmail dot com.

The deadline for this will be November 5th  I know this is earlier than normal but since I am making the announcement earlier I thought it would be okay to push that up a bit.  Plus, I travel for the holidays, so this way I can be sure to get everything completed before I leave.

Thanks so much.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Victory Garden Meme

Victory Garden Meme Questions

1. What are your favorite local garden resources (ex. nurseries, blogs, reliable regional "celebrity" gardeners,county/parish extension office)?

Since I'm just starting the whole Victory Garden experience, I don't yet have people that I really read or follow. I get Gardening magazine, and I read Red White and Grew, and the occasional post of interest to me on random blogs (such as this one on The Old Foodie. Beyond that, I turn to Farnham for information and help, as he's our respected elder and expert!

2. What are your favorite books and magazines?

Hm. I am reading Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing. We read Country Life. Silly enough, I also enjoy reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. While they don't give a lot of indepth information, I find them inspiring. They give me hope that we can actually do this. We also read the Foxfire books, which are fantastically fun!

3. What have you had success with growing in your fall garden?

Well, we don't have one this year as we're in the process of moving from PA to NH, but we've been successful with squash, zucchini, pumpkin, onions, parsnips, and other fall crops in previous years.

4.  When do you plant and harvest it?

Good question. We have to work on this!

5. What is your favorite gardening tip?

Hm... I think I am enamored of the idea that you can plant things in the fall in order to harvest them in the spring, when the weather thaws. That's so neat!

6. Why do you call your garden a _________ (Victory Garden, Peace Garden, Freedom Garden, vegetable garden...etc.)?

Well, I was investigating Victory Gardens thanks to a picture on a wall, and I decided that the idea was well suited to our little homestead. This isn't our victory over an outside enemy of our country.  Instead, it's our victory over high food prices, over harvesting and slaughtering practices that we disagree with, and over people who would tell us that our family is somehow wrong.

Vive le garden! 

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shrines and Temples

I know that my plans are "grand" but I want to erect some really amazing (if small) shrines and two small temples on our property. I am hugely excited about this!

We will have a grape arbor that is also a temple to Dionysos. We decided this ages ago, and isn't a problem. I also plan on having a temple to Hecate, somewhere quiet and dark. I don't yet know what form it will take. I admit, I would really like to have a small cave or indent in the mountainside as the temple! We'll have to see what I can find.

I also plan on a small shrine to the nymphae on our property, likely at our spring head (if I can find it). Somewhere along the stream that comes down the mountain, I will be putting a small shrine to Artemis, which I am going to have the girls help me tend. It seems only fitting. :) 

There will also be an underworld shrine for Hades and Persephone, because it is where we want to comemorate our dead. We may even go  far as to put up something that could house small urns of ashes, for when we die, although we're not sure about it. We'll find out.

I'm not sure what else I would like to do. I have grand plans, though the above ones are small enough to at least be sure of being done. This is so exciting!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago...

Seven years ago today, I was just waking up and stumbling to my computer to say hi to my friends. No one was talking, though. Everyone was silent, and chat room headers pointed people to their televisions: someone was bombing the United States.

I rushed into the living room, turning on the tv just in time to see the live image of the second plane hitting the tower, and the flames, the debris raining down, the chaos. My stomach dropped, and I frantically began trying to call people that I knew. I had a friend who's son was supposed to be in the Towers that day. Gray was suppsed to be near or in the Pentagon (I didn't realize he didn't actually enter it, but worked nearby). I had a few friends in PA, but didn't know if they were near where the plane crashed or not. 

I remember them shutting the schools down, and going to pick up my daughter. I remember seeing the faint trails of smoke in the distance, even the few hundred miles away from NYC that we were. I remember Bush's first few statements, and the rush of gratitude that it wasn't Gore in office, as embarassing as the feeling was. 

I remember all the planes being grounded. I'd never heard of such a thing. For a long time, there was nothing in the air, nothing overhead, and we lived in fear of our lives. All the rules changed that day. Before September 11th, 2001, if you were involved in a hijacking, you knew that if you just did what the nice hijackers said, eventually you'd get out. That's not the case anymore. Now, we're not so naieve. We know that the "nice hijackers" might choose to take the plane down over a national monument, or some cowardly civillian target.

I remember watching the images, over and over again. You couldn't NOT watch. I had never seen destruction on such a wide range before. And it was in NYC, so close in the grand scheme of things. If I had ever doubted the Gods, all doubt disappeared that day as I found out that every single person who should have been near or in any of the crash sites was mysteriously ill or unable to get to work that day. Yes, thousands of people died... but if it had been a "normal" day, TENS of thousands of people would have died. For whatever reason... thank the Gods... it wasn't a normal day.

It was a vivid reminder, painted in the blood of human lives, that stupid things can and will still be done in the name of religion.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Land

Well, today we make an offer on one of the pieces of property we've been looking at. It isn't the one I talked about before, but is better in many ways. Some positive things about it:
  1. The house has five LARGE bedrooms.
  2. Only one of the five needs anything more than bare cosmetic work and even that one is pretty simple.
  3. It overlooks a gorgeous river.
  4. It has a massive barn, large enough to store about 2 of those big camper trailer thingies in, without stretching... and the barn has electric and is in pretty good condition.
  5. The kitchen in the house is huge, with a central island sink that has a garberator and plenty of storage for pots and pans.
  6. The range is GAS, not electric, oh thank all the gods!
  7. It has a nifty little low counter that is JUST the right height for kneading bread... and above it, a lighted recipe book holder which is attached to the wall and nowhere near the prep surface.
  8. It has a large pantry.
  9. It has a basement that has a concrete finish, except for one corner, which will end up being our root cellar.
  10. There are two bathrooms with showers.
  11. Across the street, there is a 115 acre plot of land that comes along with it. 
  12. On the 115 acres there is a spring fed stream which provides some of the water to the house and barn. 
  13. It's heavily wooded, allowing us to use the land efficiently as a wood lot to heat our home.
  14. There's already a wood cook stove in the kitchen.
  15. The land already has logging roads with clearings that would be suitable for building yurts or other alternative housing.
  16. Everyone in town seems to already know us or know of us, and they seem to like us, to a high degree.
Wow. Lots of pros there. There are a few cons. The two bathrooms only have showers, not tubs, and we'll have to fix that. Most of the bedrooms require new floors, though they are structurally sound. The twins' room needs a new ceiling. We'll be spending a LOT of money buying the house and land, and so won't have the cash to get our yurts for a while. Really, though, the negatives are far outweighed by the positives.

I admit, I am looking forward to putting my mucky boots on and going for a walk up the stream, to find out if the spring wells up on our land. If so, I will make an effort to contact and leave offerings of good will for the naiad of the spring. :) 

There's also a little graveyard, much disused, a few minutes' walk from our new home. If we do get this house, I will be following through on a promise I made to Hecate, and will begin putting flowers on the graves, and tending them somewhat. 

Prayers...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Possibilities


This is the front image of the house we're looking at on Saturday afternoon. We looked at it once already, but the guys weren't along. So on Saturday, we'll all truck out there again, and go through the house once more. Then the guys will go walk the 115 acres across the street, to see if it's worth our while to purchase. 

If we decide this is worthwhile, we will live in the house until we built our "real" homes, out in the back woods of the acreage. Eventually, this will become the "big house" or the place to house friends who visit, or to go to be alone for a while. It will also house a small store, wherein we can sell our soap, hand-made items, and food. Since the store is on the road, it would be ideal to sell things from. Our 
houses will be far from the road, ideal to live in! 

I have to admit, I do like this house. The kitchen has a large wood cook stove in it, and a central island that hosts an older porcelain sink with garberator. The kitchen window looks out onto the Connecticut River. The backyard is full of lovely flowers, well taken care of, if a bit neglected the past two years. There's room for a small table (as you can see in the picture there) under the window, and the living room is actually three rooms made into one, and can host all our living room, computer, AND dining room things. There is enough room for everyone to eat, which is fant
astic. I just love the idea of having everyone sitting together at the same table (or, if necessary, two tables together), with the sideboard ladened with turkey, stuffing, cranberry jelly, fresh tomatoes, squash, corn, peas, Farnham's famous green bean cassarole, and the ubiquitous mashed potatoes. Groaning sideboards are my speciality, and I do hope to get the opportunity to do it this year.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Artemis Devotional

Posted on behalf of Thista:

Don't forget, there's only one month left to get your submissions in for the Artemis devotional! We've got some great stuff but more would, of course, be better, so take a look at the moon, go for a walk in the forest, or spend some time with your pets and write whatever comes to mind! Let's make this devotional just as amazing as the last one. :)

You can send submissions and any questions about requirements and details to artemisdevotional [at] gmail [dot] com.

The deadline for this is September 30, 2008.

***

I submitted a poem and a short story to the devotional. I'm not a big Artemis person, and don't know her beyond the more public myths, however... I decided that I wanted to write something. Please consider doing so, and I'm morally certain artwork would also be welcome!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Victory Garden


In the 40's, with the war going on, the American government urged its citizens to ration their food. They also wisely suggested that the average American citizen start something called a "Victory Garden." This was a garden, as large as you could manage, that was intended to feed your family with fresh fruits and vegetables that were otherwise scarce during wartime.

Some great video footage is available here. Scroll down to "Victory Garden (this is hardly organic!)" for a great blast from the past. I really enjoyed watching it, although the caveat is quite true!

This is, essentially, what we are trying to do with our new home. We've identified a piece of land which we really like. It's high on a (small) mountain, with views on all sides, plenty of land for crops (about 8 to 10 acres could be devoted solely to crops with no problems) and animals (another 3 or 4 acres could house animals, plus a hay field for forage). We're going to have our own "victory" garden, of sorts, but the victory will be ours, as human beings. As the sign says, we'll grow vitamins at our kitchen door. Well, actually we'll grow vitamins at our barn door, because the garden plot will probably be across the "road" (and I use that term loosely) from the house, beside the big barn.

We've had several discussions about what to do about our housing situation. One of them is to use the big barn as the frame for a new house. It would be bigger than the main house, which is fine. We have to have it inspected anyhow, so we're going to have them check out the foundation and such, so we know what we're getting into. With luck, we'll be able to put up a little framing, fill it with appropriate insulation, and drywall over it. Laying a floor would be last, and blocking out rooms. There's already an upstairs in the barn, quite well built. This barn is made with 10x10 beams, not the "not quite 2x4's" of today's building practices. The upper "floor" is actually two sides, and would translate into two separate "rooms" with the opening to the main part of the house in between. It would work very well for our family, because sis and I like our separate bedrooms, and this would give us lots of space, with room for the twins and living space and kitchen and bathrooms and such down below. There would be lots of privacy in the house if it were set up that way. I rather like that idea!

I think what I'm most excited about is cooking on our wood cookstove. I know there will be a learning curve, but the idea of having hot water for tea and hot chocolate, and a bubbling (but NOT burning) stew sitting on top of the woodstove just makes me happy. I can almost smell it already. Along with that lovely stove (see the picture - that's it!), in the kitchen proper there is an old electric range, which has a proofing oven! This means that, if I can just, somehow, get my stuff together, I can make bread several times a week, maybe even daily. What an idea.

See, this is what I have been talking about. We need to calm our lives down a bit, find that silent place within, so that we can be at peace. I want that, very much. I have always wanted to have a try at following Ma Ingalls' catechism for running a household:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

Perhaps I could do without the ironing part. Most of our clothes don't require it, anyhow. Hehe!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Daily Doings

Morning Salutation

I open my eyes and see You,
In symbol or in statue,
Hera, Hecate, Dionysos, Zeus
Hestia, Aesculapius, Nyx.

I bid You good morning
As I wipe the sleep from my eyes
And contemplate hot coffee
As a morning libation to You.

It's only in passing,
This brief salutation,
Yet it is the start of my day
And adds balance to my day.

My Gods, I ask your blessings,
As I go about my day.
I start my day with thoughts of you,
And whisper prayers and beg softly.

Let my mind be clear,
Not clouded with grief, anger, or frustration.
Let my words be peaceful, calm, and kind.
May I bring honor to You in all that I do.


Afternoon Reminders

The blood in my coffee stream
Has become untenably thick,
And the work has piled high around me.

My temper is rising,
My shoulders tense as stone,
And my teeth grit at others' stupidity.

Then I pause and breathe deep,
Inhaling the raw essence
Of the Gods that cherish me as their own.

I thank you for keeping me
Mindful of who I am:
A child of my Gods, within and without.

Praises to you, O Great Ones!
You keep me focused,
Happy to serve Your purposes.


Evening Prayers

Night has fallen.
Cool breezes stir
Drifts of pollen.
Our heartstrings blur.

Sing their praises
Of Gods worthy.
On us impress
Gentle mercy.

Stars shine brightly
In the heavens.
Praises rightly
To Them go.

Poetry for Ampelia

Ampelia

I was walking quietly down the street,
Minding my own business,
When his hands grabbed me.
One went over my mouth,
The other grasping my breasts
In lewd, lascivious gestures.
I could not scream.

It took me only a moment
To realize that it was Him,
My ivy twined God.
My panic ceased not one bit;
What was he doing to me?

I was forced down,
Pushed into a concealing bush.
His vining friends grew around me,
Holding me tight as his hands
Became the iron within velvet
That I love and hate so much.

I fought - how could I not?
No matter how much I love Him,
That kind of force leaves you breathless.
His pure, unadulterated vegetable self
Was overwhelming and terrifying.

Yet he paused not a moment,
Only grinning at my struggles,
A thick, hairy thigh pressing between my legs
As I squirmed and tried to escape.

I found myself chanting,
That inevitable sound made by every female in fear and need:
Stop! Please! Don't! Stop, please! Don't!
Stop! Please don't stop! Please don't stop!
The tears fell from my darkened eyes,
Watering his twining ivy,
Fertilizing it,
Causing it to thicken and grow long.

When I gave in,
It was with a yelp of horror
That I could lose myself so quickly
In his luscious embrace...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Commentary on Miasma

I wrote an article for the Neos Alexandria website, and I'll share it here, too.

Miasma

It's somewhat embarrassing, but until the last couple of weeks, I did not really understand what miasma was. Oh, I understood it in a historical sense, but not in a truly personal sense. It didn't seem to apply to me, in the here-and-now. We live in a world where such things as spiritual “dirtiness” are verboten – they smack too much of Christianity, which many of us have left behind, and thereby brings up bad memories. While I was never Christian, I still grew up with the idea of sin because it is the most vocal and public of the religions where I live.

Most of the gods I have worshiped have been cthonic deities. In other words, they have no worry about the general types of miasma picked up by people nowadays, those associated with death and birth. Hekate is said to be one of the torchbearers showing the dead soul to the underworld, and Dionysos revels in birth, death, and other unsavory subjects usually suitable only to mortals.

Lately, however, I have been garnering a relationship with Zeus and Hera, whom I see as the supernal father and mother. I also have begun to give honors to Hestia. These are not cthonic deities, to say the least. They are quite Olympic in nature, and that changes my way of worship. Much of my “general” worship has remained the same, but there are details which have changed.

The change was most noted this past week, when I was mourning the death of our unborn child. My sisterwife was 17 weeks pregnant, and the baby died due to genetic issues. It was a very sad time for us. For the first few days, I held everything together, and kept my grief close to my chest. I felt that it was my duty, in a way, to keep things on an even keel for my family. I am the priestess, the minister, and it's my job to help others deal with their grief. However, I was not giving myself time for grieving. After everyone else was over the worst of the emotional storm, I finally broke down.

When I learned the child had died, I immediately covered my altar upon which I keep my Olympic deity items. Zeus, Hera, and Hestia were all shrouded, kept apart from my grief. I didn't feel it was necessary to shield Dionysos or Hekate, as they have often been my companions in grief in the past. Initially, I shrouded the altar because I had heard it was something others did when they were “polluted” by death. I wasn't sure it was necessary, but I wasn't certain that it wasn't necessary, either.

I'm glad I shrouded the altar. When I broke down, I took a shred of comfort from knowing that Hekate and Dionysos were with me, but I also looked up at the covered Olympic altar and realized that it was very right that it should be veiled. There was no need for the Olympic gods to see me wallowing in my own mortality.

That was what I realized, then. The idea of miasma is not one of sin, but one of pollution. It isn't so much that the gods would be offended by our grief, but that they have no need to see it. Their interest in us is as servants to them, as worshipers of them, and supplicants to them. During the deepest days of grief, or the days just after a birth, our focus is not on the gods but on ourselves, or our families. That is not wrong, but it is not serving, worshiping or asking something of the gods. It is a time to be mortal, and to fully embrace our mortality. If we did not, we might be bordering on hubris, and that is decidedly not a good thing.

The Greeks used a variety of methods by which they cleansed the body and soul of miasma. These ranged from the simple washing of the hands (something done before prayers and meals alike, as all were considered sacred) to the slaughter of a pig and the sprinkling of its blood. It's unlikely that those of us living in modern North America are going to have pig blood handy for cleansings, however it's not beyond us to use water, either spring water or purified tap water. Some people also advocate the use of salt in water, while others feel this is contrary to the idea of purification. Like most things we do within the Hellenic Polytheistic communities, each of us must use our personal feelings and study both historical texts and modern experiences to find the most appropriate methods.

The Greeks of the Hellenistic era followed certain rules in regards to funerals and miasma. When someone died, they would clean and dress the body with oils and perfumes, and put the body into a clean outfit, usually pure white. Then the body was attended for a time (and I have heard that the lying out time was anywhere between 24 hours and 3 days; my guess is that it depended a lot on the temperature, as if it was hot out, the body would spoil quickly). After the relatives watched over the body, it would be taken in a long procession to the place where it was to be buried or burned on a pyre, and a funeral rite would be conducted. Three days after the completion of this ritual, the participants, relatives, and those who had actually touched the body would undergo a purification process, and would go to the burial or pyre location and make libations and sacrificial offerings. The offerings would be made again nine days after the initial funeral rite, and a last time 30 days after the rite.

Keeping this in mind, I went through the worst of my grief (unintentionally) 3 days after the death of the baby. Though we have not had a formal funeral, I am considering the day of my intense grieving to be the funeral day. Three days later, I underwent a cleansing that I created myself, spontaneously.

We are lucky enough to have a largish above-ground pool in our backyard, and I went into the pool during the morning, and floated in its cool water, allowing the warm rays of Apollon to burn away the last of my grief. Just after noon, I went into the pool again, this time making an effort to physically scrub my body while in the pool. Late in the evening, after it was quite dark outside, I went into the pool one last time. This last time, the water was quite chilly, and the air was chill as well. I spoke an impromptu prayer, thanking the gods for being patient with me in my grief, promising offerings the next day, and asking for their continued love and blessings.

When I returned to the house, I felt very alive, very alert, and much lighter in spirit. Though I was tired because of the late hour, I was revived and I felt very good about taking the veil off of my Olympic altar. I exposed Hera and Zeus and Hestia, and spoke prayers to them, and made offerings of barley and fresh water.

This morning, I showered and washed vigorously with a lye soap that I made myself. I picked fresh flowers and made a special bouquet which I placed on my Olympic altar as an offering for Hera. I also dedicated a special gift for Hera as well.

The miasma is gone, washed away in the light of the sun, in the caress of the waters, in the earthy strength of my soap. My soul feels brighter, and I am happier. Perhaps my practice was not what an Athenian in 300 BCE would have done, but then again, perhaps it was.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Images of piety

I am finished my grieving time, and am moving on with life. In honor of unveiling my Olympian altar, I picked flowers from the garden at our old house, and created a small bouquet with them, which I gave to Hera this afternoon. I am quite pleased with how it looks, both on the altar and on its own. I took pictures to share, because I felt like injecting a bit of color to my journal today. I also include a picture of the offering dish that I was given by a close friend, J, which I also dedicated to Hera. Not quite sure why I'm on such a Hera kick, but it felt right, so I'm running with it!

Here are the images:
New altar photos

Cleansing the Soul

Today, I spent time in the pool, floating placidly on the top of the water, spread eagle, naked. The new filter creates quite a draw, and so there is a subtle but strong current within the pool. I truly enjoyed basking in Apollo's golden rays. I let the sun leach out my negativity, my miasma from the past weeks. I let the water of the pool wash it away, and visualized the filter pulling it all out. I spent a good hour out there, doing little more than laying there, face up. I needed to feel the healing rays of the sun, and the cleansing wash of the water over me.

This evening, I took a single candle outside with me, and Farnham and I went into the pool. It was very dark, and the glow of the candle lit up very little of the space. The pool was a black pit which we slid into silently. The chilly water engulfed us, drawing out the last of the lethargy, the misery, and the grief. For ten minutes, we prayed, dunked ourselves, and moved about trying to keep warm. It was good - when we finally got out, we felt clean, inside and out, body and soul.

I feel so much lighter, now. My mood is lighter, my outlook is lighter, and life seems lighter. I came down to my room, and unveiled my Olympic altar. It is wonderful to have it open again, available for me to stop and make offerings at, and prayers.

Life isn't perfect, but it's much better. I am glad to be cleansed of my miasma.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on the FLDS

One would have thought that judge ruling against CPS and sending the children home, and the complete lack of evidence to support abuse claims, would have stopped the "authorities." Um... Nope.

Polygamist Sects are Form of Organized Crime

Read it and weep. Good grief.

"Polygamous sects that have spread throughout the United States and beyond are "a form of organized crime," largely unchecked by law enforcement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday."

Well, that would be because it is not necessary to police communities like that. The government doesn't send "law enforcement" into Amish communities. It doesn't send them into Hutterite communities. It doesn't send them into LDS communities. Why in heavens' name would it send them into FLDS communities? Certainly they should receive the same law enforcement people any other small town or village would receive, but why do they suddenly deserve more? Because someone is scared, is my guess.

"The lawless conduct of polygamous communities in the United States deserves national attention and federal action," Reid said before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Um... Pardon me? Where is there any proof of this "lawless conduct"? They removed 460+ children from their homes in the dead of night, with tanks and SWAT teams, and found NOTHING. While lack of proof does not necessarily mean it doesn't exist, at some point it becomes nothing more than a pointless vendetta. Good grief.

In such communities, teenage or preteen girls are forced to marry older men and bear their children, he said.

Prove it! They've been searching for how many years now? Not a stick of proof. Are there sick people who do disgusting things to children? Yep, there are... and there are more of them in any big city than you'll find in Hilldale. Near as anyone can tell, statistically speaking, the FLDS and other polygamous groups seem to have a much LOWER incidence of pedophelia and child abuse. Perhaps it has to do with their religious beliefs... gee, go figure.

Unpaid child labor is common, they alleged, and children are subjected to a woefully inadequate education while adults disregard state and federal laws.

Ever have your kids weed the garden, mow the lawn, or do dishes? Yeah, me too. That's unpaid child labor. That's what the cameras showed us in Texas. That's what CPS and these dissatisfied women are calling 'child labor'. I hear a lot of stories, but I haven't seen any proof. This strikes me as being just like the Satanic Panic of the 80s. Education? I've seen a large number of FLDS women who have jobs in real estate, law, education, and medical fields. All these take concerted effort at either acredited schools, or serious home study. Just because someone spurns the public school system does not mean they are not educated. Quite the contrary, in fact. As to disregarding laws... I'm sure many of us have. Ever had a drink under-age? Ever snuck out, late at night, and run around the neighborhood? Ever taken a toke (with or without inhaling)? Ever rolled through a stop sign, or gone over the speed limit? I suspect that every single person has broken at least a few laws in their life. These people are no different.

Young men can be excommunicated merely for showing interest in a girl, he said, and a young woman who resists an arranged marriage to an older man comes under "extreme pressure." One who chooses her own husband is ostracized.

This doesn't seem to be upheld by the larger FLDS community, although there are definitely a few boys that were expelled from the Hilldale community for unknown reasons (please note, I don't consider chucking a 12 year old boy onto the street 'right' under any circumstances... however I am refusing to simply accept the media hype on all this). While the media keeps showing us statements like the above, we have seen PLENTY of 18 and 19 year old males married to females about the same age. This doesn't appear to make the news quite so often, of course, because how exciting is it to know that a young couple decided to get married and have kids together? Bah, hardly even page 8 material. I've also seen plenty of the women say they either chose, or had a hand in chosing, their husband... but even so, since when is arranged marriage a bad thing? I seem to recall people in this country doing it up until at least the 70s, and possibly much later. In other countries, it still happens today. My grandparents had an arranged marriage, loved each other very much, and were successful. Since when is that a crime?

"The FLDS openly despises the American government while taking its money," he said. In the community, he added, such conduct is called "bleeding the beast."

And all power to them. They seem to be well educated (gasp!) in how to manipulate the system, and as far as the government can tell, they're doing it perfectly legally. Well, how about that... Someone's doing to the goverment, what the government usually does to US. Somewhat fitting. Regardless, I am not so happy with the American government as a whole right now, either... and I am in pretty darn good company.

Former FLDS member Carolyn Jessop, who has written a book about her experiences in the sect and fleeing it, said women and children in the community "live without the protection of laws that most Americans take for granted."

Jessop left with... what, 8 kids? That means she didn't just "disappear into the night" as she might like to have you think. I am more and more concerned about what people like Jessop are saying. They are dissatisfied with the FLDS, and they've left, and that's fine. That's their right, and they've exercised it. Apparently, no one's come after them. Did the fathers attempt to get custody? You bet your polka-dot panties they did... because they love their kids, and want to see them grow up in the religion they consider "right". I don't have to agree with it (all that long underwear stuff seems awful silly to me in hot Texan summers, but hey, whatever) but I'll defend their right to do it. How can the laws of America simply end at the borders of Hilldale? The answer is, they do not - Carolyn just wants you to think they do, so she can get a few more books written, and make a few more bucks.

The religious schools have since been closed, and for the past two years, most FLDS children have not attended school at all, she said. "Their education has essentially stopped."

One, she left the FLDS... how does she know? Two, it simply isn't true - the raid uncovered a very active school that the FLDS children in Texas were attending and learning at. Three, the various foster homes conducted tests to find out how "uneducated" their guests were... and found that the vast majority were at or above grade level targets. Amazing - I wonder how they do that since their education has "essentially stopped." Wish I could learn how to educate myself without doing anything!

Gawd... :(

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

R.I.P. Estelle Getty

http://uk.reuters.com/article/peopleNews/idUKN2231541320080723

Estelle Getty died today, at age 82. Rest her soul, and may the Gods guide her to a safe place of rest.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's berrying time!


These delectable looking berries are what I was harvesting yesterday afternoon. We had about 2 pounds of them, although the amount has gone WAY down. We had diet vanilla pudding for dessert, with fresh raspberries in it, and it waas delicious. Having a taste of summer is always lovely. This picture is of a bunch that I picked and brought in.

This time of year always makes me think of berries with cream. Last year we didn't get many berries, but this year we're just drowning in them. We're going to keep picking until they fail, and we'll freeze the results so that we can have that taste of summer anytime we want. I know how nice it will be to have a bowl of berries and cream in January, when the snow is piled high and the wind is blowing.

We're also just beginning our zucchini odyssey, which is always exciting. We had sausage and turkey zuch boats the other day, with the first of our delicious veg. The flavor was incredibly good! Tonight we're having pasta with vodka sauce, something yummy but not so good for us.

This week, I'll be going to NH with Gray.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The NA ritual of the week

I am finding I really enjoy and look forward to the formality of the Wednesday evening ritual. Having gone from the "bells and whistles" of Wicca, to the stark offerings (in comparison, at least) of Hellenic Polytheism, it's a nice middle ground. Tonight, I invited Farnham to join me, which was lovely. The two of us really enjoyed the time together and priest and priestess.

Farnham's friend's dad died today, and he has a funeral to go to tomorrow, so we also said some prayers for the dearly departed. That went well - the prayer which I had chosen for tonight is a Jewish one, and the father was Jewish, so it felt right. I said some prayers for various people, including myself and the kids, and asked for the continuing health of our "bun in the oven."

With all the candles going, it got quite warm, but not too bad. I left the fans running out of sheer desperation, though normally I try to make sure all electronics are off during ritual. I don't feel it's properly respectful to leave the light on, or the computer beeping at me, when I'm supposed to be concentrating on the gods.

I feel better tonight than I have all week. The ritual really energized me, emotionally. That's a good thing, because I've been very distant, emotionally, the past week. What with the move and all, I've been so exhausted that I haven't been dealing with anything very well.

I think I will work on a ritual that includes incubation, to do in the near future. I think some dedicated healing and such are necessary.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Things you come home to...

So today I went to NYC with family and friends, spent 3 hours in an incredibly huge and beautiful research library dedicated to the humanities, and read a bunch of interesting stuff on the Greeks, and early rituals of humans. Fascinating stuff. Everyone else went to see the Lion King on Broadway, but I just wasn't interested. The library was much more fun!

Coming home was, as always, a bit of a drag. It isn't that I don't want to be here or anything. It's just L O N G drive. It's almost 5 hours from where we were, to home. Bleh. After a full day of hanging out, researching, and having fun, it seems like a lot longer. We made it, and I decided to check email. My bad, of course.

Someone had dropped me a note to tell me that I was being talked about on a pagan forum. I peeked, because I've always been a proponent of the maxim, "People talking trash are giving you free advertising." It was much like what I expected - someone taking things out of context, having not read my book, and having denied she would ever read my book. So ... Yeah, whatever.

Two things about it annoyed me. First, trash was talked but no link was given (thereby ruining my chance at that wonderful free advertising LOL) and so no one in the thread was actually given the information they needed to find out for themselves. I find that horribly disturbing. If my writing scares them THAT MUCH, the least they could do is explain why. Mostly, it was the "same old same old" that "we" (meaning Neos Alexandria in general and me in particular) were claiming that neopagans, Christians, avacadoes, and Jews were all a part of Hellenismos. The claim was made that my book is doing this in particular. I'm just stunned... My book is about the Delphic Maxims, not Hellenismos, not religion. One might argue it is about arete or paidiea, but those are not specific to or part of Hellenismos. Not to mention that, in my book, I state quite clearly that I AM NOT A HELLENIC RECON, never have been, never will be. I am a Hellenic polytheist - I believe in the Greek Gods, and they are my primary (well, at the moment, only, but I can't speak for the future) Gods. But apparently, that forum's people are now claiming that term, too. Everyone beware - if you aren't a part of the cadre, you can't use those words. Check the patent office. *snort*

Secondly, the person doing the trashing called me the other night. On the phone. She was oh so contrite, she'd NEVER bash me, she likes me, I don't make claims like the other devils and sinners at Neos Alexandria, etc. etc. ad nauseam. I admit, I took what she was saying with a grain of salt (oh, okay, a salt cellar), but I listened, and I talked honestly enough. End of conversation was, "So this is me holding out the olive branch!" I chuckled, and said, "Yep, doves and olive branches and everything."

I wonder she paused to breathe or pee before she went off to write trash about my book. Anonymously. Oy. Unfortuately, I am guessing she will never come out of the situation she is in. It's a shame. I am disappointed in her, but life goes on. I guess I expected more from her. She's never lied to me before, although she's skirted the edges. It makes me sad. Lying is one of those huge hot butons for me.

For those who wish to criticize my book, please do! Longing for Wisdom is not meant to be an end-product (something I discuss in the opening chapters), but the start of a long dialogue between members of the various Hellenic and historical communities. Because the Maxims are of interest to a larger group than just the insular Hellenic types (colleges, universities, etc), it may be an excellent bridging point. In any case, anyone who READS my book is welcome to make commentary, positive or negative. However, I'm not going to do a whole lot of listening to people who haven't read it. That's sort of like Christians trashing pagans without ever knowing what they do.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kharis - Second Edition!

Passed on for Erl_Queen (and boy am I excited!):

KHARIS second edition
I am happy to announce the release of the second edition of my book, Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored. The first edition was printed via Cafepress four years ago, and I wanted to publish a more professional version now that the technology was more readily available. While I was doing that, I decided to include an updated Hellenic pagan survey, incorporate a few recent articles I've written, and make several smaller changes, updates and additions.

You can visit the website for the book (including a Table of Contents) here: http://www.winterscapes.com/kharis/
And buy it either via CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/Customer/EStore.do?id=3344165
Or Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Kharis-Sarah-Kate-Istra-Winter/dp/143823192X/

I will be donating 20% of the proceeds from this book to Survival International, a charitable organization working to protect tribal peoples around the world.

For those unfamiliar with my book, here's the blurb:

Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored delves into the many aspects of the revival of Greek paganism, from its ancient roots to its modern practice. It is written for the person new to Hellenismos, and for the person who has been practicing for years, as well as for people outside of the religion who are interested in learning more. It covers not only the basics of worship, but also how to make the ancient religion relevant to modern times, cultivate relationships with the gods and other divinities, and create a deeply satisfying spiritual life.

The emphasis of this book is on the concept of kharis - the reciprocity so implicit in the practice of Hellenic polytheism. From the simplest devotional act, to prayer, to divination, to mysticism, the principle of reciprocal favor governs the heart of this religion and lets each worshipper encounter the gods on a real and profound level.

Feel free to pass this announcement along to any lists, groups, etc. that you think might be interested.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Rape of Persephone

This story will also appear on the Neos Alexandria website. I wrote this today, in response to a long discussion about Persephone and Kore, and whether or not the "rape" was an actual forcible sexual act or something psychological. This is based on myth, but not bound by it. This is not primary source material - it is my fictional account of what may have happened to Persephone, and why, and where it led to.

The Rape of Persephone

Mother always was a wee bit controlling. Don't get me wrong, I love her dearly. Spending time with her, talking to her every day, playing little pranks on Zeus and Hades and my siblings and friends are all a part of our very close and loving relationship. However, Mother has this way of making things unbearable if you are with her for more than a few days. She is the epitome of the old saying: House guests, like socks and fresh vegetables, have a habit of going bad after about
three days.

My childhood was fairly carefree. I spent much of my time playing in the fields, enjoying exuberant games of tag and hide and seek with the nymphs and local children. We rarely lived on Olympos, although we did visit frequently. Hera always made it a bit uncomfortable when we were there, and looking back on it with the eyes of an adult, I can certainly understand why. Still, she was never mean to me, at least that I know of. My most joyous memories are of running wildly through the wheat fields, the golden feathery heads tickling my face, butterflies fluttering up out of reach and dancing as I smiled.

Then I began to change. My monthly time came upon me, and Mother explained that it was to do with fertility and childbearing. She also suggested that I begin to look for a husband, as I was not uncomely and would likely be attracting suitors soon. I didn't want this adultness thrust upon me, though. I wanted to dance, and sing, and play with the nymphs. I wanted to spin naked under the full moon, my hair a great halo of gold around me.

Then HE came, sniffing around. There's a feeling of power that you get when a "bad boy" takes an interest in you. I was flattered, of course. He was dark, yes, but also handsome and intelligent. He courted me privately, behind Mother's back. I suppose if he were to do it today, he'd be riding a motorcycle and wearing a lot of leather. Probably piercings, too. Then, he would just meet me in quite places when Mother was otherwise occupied. He'd find me swimming in the ocean, or
come upon me gathering eggs. I was a bit afraid of him, too. I knew who he was, King of the Underworld, and a denizen of darkness. There was always that special something about him, though, which I could never deny. The interest was mutual.

He ruined it for me, though. Rather than talking to me, he went to Zeus, and asked my hand in marriage. I wouldn't put it past him, manipulative bastard that he is, to have gone to Hera first. Perhaps he whispered into her ear about getting rid of me, so she wouldn't have to see Zeus's bastard offspring anymore. Who knows. Zeus thought it a good match, as did Hera. They didn't talk to Mother about it, though.

He found me that day, sitting on a hillside, drinking a cup of mead and enjoying the sunshine. I was playing a game with flowers ("He loves me; he loves me not..."), letting the white daisy petals drift away on the light breeze. He crept stealthily out of a nearby cave, and practically slithered over. We talked for a few moments, but I was desperately trying to get him to disappear before Mother's entourage of maids and naiads noticed him. That was when he snatched me up, as if I were a sack of grain, and toted me off into the darkness of his cave, his realm.

I screeched bloody murder, and clawed at his back, but it was no use. My interest in him was my own downfall: he was strong and capable, and knew me well enough to counter anything I might do. He also had the attitude of the victor, knowing that he had the permission of Zeus himself. Far off, I could hear Mother calling for me, and the other ladies running about searching, but even those faint cries faded to nothing. I felt terribly alone. I no longer felt like I had power over
this dark, almost sinister male. I had felt his strength, and his control, and it terrified me.

How could he do this? Didn't he understand that Mother would tear him to pieces and take his bloody remains to Mount Olympos, throwing them before my Father? Surely he was just playing a game... and yet, I knew from the first moment that it was no game. I simply hoped, and prayed.

He deposited me in a dark room, lit by an eiree glowing lichen, decorated in borgia greens and blood reds with gems embedded within the walls constructed of Mother Earth herself. I was beside myself with fear, unable to think or even speak clearly. I suppose I must have looked quite the ninny, dressed as I was for picnicking in a sunny field, my eyes grey with fear and as large as dinner plates. I simply stood there, holding my own arms, hugging myself, looking every
which way as if I could find an egress.

"I want you to be my wife." He was always so forthright. He never beat around the bush. "Be my queen. You deserve more than to live in Demeter's shadow." He leaned casually against the doorway, his dark robes blending in with the earthen walls. He seemed to be a disembodied head, talking at me, leering at me.

I sputtered. Be his wife? After he kidnapped me, and dragged me down here like some peasant wench? I'd see him rot in... Yes, well I was very upset and hadn't really processed the idea that we were already in the underworld. I spat out a vicious, "No!" and flounced off to the other side of the room/cave. As I stared at the bleak walls of dirt, the precious gems scattered so thoughtlessly throughout the borders of my new universe, I felt desolate. I wanted my mother! I began to cry.

I heard him leave, but didn't turn. Who knows what things went through his head. Did he feel remorse? I now know that sometimes he does, but at the time I saw him as a heartless ass. When I was certain he'd been gone for a while, I looked around the spacious room. There was a bed, of course, and a table, a chair, candles and even a lamp. A small hearth, vented to who-knows-where, burned in a corner that I hadn't seen walking in, and from this I lit the candles and the lamp. I made as much light as I could in that dim, dank world, trying desperately
to hold myself together and not cry.

I failed, as young girls are wont to do. Eventually, I threw myself bodily onto the bed, noticing the costly sheets and furs only peripherally, and sobbed for a very long time. The sound was absorbed by the walls, providing no vaulting echo as there was in my room on Olympos. I hated it here! It smelled of earthworms, and dirt, and mold, and mushrooms! Be his wife! Bah!

I'm the daughter of a goddess, and a goddess in my own right, but I still feel hunger sometimes despite not needing earthly sustenance. I had been accustomed to eating regular meals with the maids and children who were my playmates and friends. I felt hunger, and especially thirst. I resolved not to ask Hades for anything, because I knew for a fact that eating anything down here would doom me to stay. Even the smallest drop of water was not allowed. I set my chin, though it quivered a bit, and made up my mind to wait him out.

Days passed, I'm sure. It was difficult to tell underground, and the light was almost always the same in that room. After several refillings of the lamp from a container of oil I found, I had
thoroughly explored every aspect of my room. There was no door in the doorway, and no guard or fence to stop me leaving. I began to wander, carefully watching my way so I didn't become lost. In this way, I came to know the denizens of the underworld.

Several times, Hades summoned me, and I was brought before him by pale skinned, small breasted women who seemed to be the servants here. Each time, he asked me to marry him, and each time I turned away.

"I don't love you," I would repeat each time. At first, this was true. I didn't love him, and in fact I was very angry with him for causing this misery in my otherwise happy young life. Time heals, though, and Hades was very solicitous of my feelings. He was never under my power, and I saw now that he never had been when visiting me in my own realm. He had simply let me feel that power, to put me off guard. He controlled every aspect in this nether world, even me, but he
controlled it with great insight and caring.

After many summonses, my feelings began to change. I started accepting his dinner invitations, even though I neither ate nor drank at his table. I craved the company. I craved the upper world, the sun on my skin, and the arms of my mother wrapped around me. He was not
unpleasant to be around. As I have mentioned before, he was very easy to look at, with his rakish dark hair, and his strong, wiry frame. He was content to speak to me about anything except my leaving him. He even contrived games for us to play, using dice or coins or cards.
Slowly, my feelings for him softened, and I felt those quiet pangs of love.

I had made up my mind to accept his next offer of marriage, when I heard about Mother's tirade upon the world above. Mortal men were starving, it was said, because she had caused ice to cover the land, and all manner of food was dead or dying. I came to Hades, prepared to talk about what we should do, and discovered him talking to another young woman carrying a torch. A belt of keys hung at her waist, and her khiton hung strangely on her although she was quite pretty. A stab of jealousy pained my heart, and Hades felt it, and looked up to me. He beckoned me forth.

"This is Hekate, sweetling," he introduced me. The other woman, Hekate, smiled at me. I returned her smile, somewhat hesitantly, as I had not interacted with someone from the upper world in many months. "She is here as an emissary from Demeter."

I whimpered quietly, and walked to Hades' side. He wrapped a protective arm around me, and held me close. I felt safe; I felt loved. I did not really wish to leave. The days and months of my
captivity had allowed me to see that the realm under the earth was a lovely one, in its own way. It had stunning beauties that the sun side could never know. I laid my hand over my love's hand, and noticed that the color of my skin had faded, and almost matched his own pallid flesh. I smiled a bit, and stood straighter.

"Lady Hekate, I thank you for coming in my mother's name. I do not wish to leave here, though. I love Hades, and if he will have me, I will become his wife." I could feel his arm tighten around my waist, and the glow of his smile seemed to light the room.

Hekate nodded sagely. "I suspected that was the case, however I promised your mother I would come. Are you aware of what she has done to the earth above, to the mortals and animals?" I nodded, and looked down. "She grieves for you, and believes you have been stolen away, and raped. Even the knowledge that Hades here had permission to do it has not assuaged her anger. She is content to allow the entire mortal realm to perish because of her unreasoning grief for you."

I met her eyes, and saw that she was telling the truth. Mother always did have that stubborn streak. I was a bit taken aback by the idea that my father had given Hades permission to abduct me, but I understood that "normal" means would not have worked with me. I required the time to truly feel his strength, and get to know his underworld, before I could become his queen. I nodded to Hekate.

"I know what to do. Will you join us for a meal, Lady Hekate?" Her status as a Titan allowed her the pleasure of joining us, without fear for her own safety. She watched me, curious, as I ordered the servants to bring us dark ale, and many foods that were special to this realm. They hastened to obey, Hades' dark gaze acknowledging my power over them. I felt my own power returning, not as power over another but over myself. Perhaps that is what Hades wanted me to gain in the first place.

I sat down to the meal, and I ate nothing. I watched as my husband-to-be enjoyed my choice of mushrooms and truffles and such. I watched as our guest sipped at the delicious ale brewed here within our own dark halls. For dessert, pomegranates were brought forth, and Hades cracked one open with deft fingers, and offered half to Hekate. She ate, lips and fingers darkening from the juice of the seeds, and she watched me.

I touched Hades' hand gently, and exchanged a knowing look with him. His fingers caressed mine, ever so gently, before he plucked three little seeds from the fruit in his other hand. These he offered to me, wordlessly, and I accepted, saying nothing. I ate those seeds, knowing exactly what I was accepting, and exactly what I was giving up.

The rest, as they say, is history. Mother was livid that I would "forget" and eat something in the underworld. At first, she railed at me, screeching like a barn owl. After a while, she cried, and begged me to ask Zeus to free me from my bondage to Hades. I listened and endured this spectacle for several hours, until she had wound herself down to a few damp tears.

"Mother, I love him. But more than that, in his own way, he needs me. The underworld needs me. I have the power to make men forget, and this power I will use there to soothe the souls meant to return in time to the earth. Hades needs a Queen, someone to share his power, not some slave girl to cower at his feet. Those he has by the bucketful, if he wishes them. I am different, though. And my time there has changed me. I am no longer a girl."

She cried more, and said some vile things to me. I know she did it because of her deep love for me, but it hurt. I endured it, though, with a calm face, and a calm mind. In time, she would come to see the wisdom of my marriage. She would come to love my children, and my children's children. We would have our time together each spring and summer, and the fall and winter would be my time with my marvelous, dark haired husband.

So the seasons were born, the myths say. Of course, there were seasons long before the myths came to be, but I'm sure the bards and storytellers and myth makers knew that. Raped? No, I was never raped, in body or in mind. I was simply taught a different way to be, and I was allowed to grow up.