Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Here!

It arrived today! Tomorrow evening we're celebrating the Passover at church (yes, yes, I know... a pagan priestess leading a Jewish ceremony in a Christian church - the ultimate in interfaith). I wanted to have a proper Seder plate for the ceremony, because I wanted it to be physical, to be real for people. Well, here it is. It's very real, very beautiful, and all the way from Israel. I am stunned with how gorgeous it is, how the colors pop. The lines are delicate, yet strong. It's very light, a true china, and it's hand painted. Wow.

Tomorrow we'll serve up our Maror, our Haroset, the shank bone, matzoh, parsley, bitter herbs, and roasted egg. We'll eat matzoh balls and chicken soup, potato pancakes, eggs, unleavened bread, and who knows what else. Tomorrow we'll simultaneously celebrate the Jews' Exodus from Egypt and the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples. It's not truly Passover, and not truly The Last Supper, and still it is a learning, an education, a growing together in friendship.
"So we are called to do both -- to serve and to savor -- not at the same time, perhaps, because that may not be possible, but each in turn at the appropriate time. Which is another way of saying that one's life depends on being inconsistent in the way all who both breath in and breath out are inconsistent.

"O God, help me both to serve and to savor -- and to know which I am called to do at this time. Amen.
" -- Martin B. Copenhaver
In the package with the Seder plate, I also received a hamsa, on which is inscribed  the Tefilat HaDerech or traveller's prayer. The front has a Star of David with a central deep blue jewel, and the back has the prayer in Hebrew script. Luckily it's very clear Hebrew script, and I was able to go look up common prayers inscribed on hamsas, which led me to find the Tefilat HaDerech in both English, Hebrew, and transliterated Hebrew. Yay me!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Doubts, Damn Doubts....

Some of the things we do at The New Seminary might be considered a bit "woo woo" for some people. Almost all of it is stuff I've done before, though not always in the same order or with quite the same goal in mind. I've learned a lot this year, about flexibility, about myself, about how to relate to others, and about being a good minister. There are many things I still struggle with, but I've made incredible progress, especially in my relationship with my mother, and with my daughter. I'm proud of the progress, but I'm tired on so many levels right now. And when I get tired, I begin to doubt...

Emotionally, I am feeling drained. Being sick for two weeks really put me behind in homework and I had to fight to get it all back on track. That took more toll on my emotions than anything else. I had to struggle to work through the psyche exercises, and I had to do them at a much faster pace than I wanted to. Still, I did it. There are issues at home, too, which are minor but still niggling at my soul.

Physically I'm finally fairly well mended. I'm not coughing much anymore, and my sinuses no longer ache. I'm able to walk up and down the stairs without puffing, and being around the furnace or dog no longer leaves me wheezing for breath. And yet... I'm physically wiped. I feel as if I've been running a marathon or something. I go to bed at a decent hour, wake up 7.5 to 8 hours later, and I still feel exhausted.

Mentally there are challenges. This is perhaps my biggest challenge. I am doubting myself.

This leads back to the "woo woo" comment earlier. We did an interesting but somewhat "woo woo" exercise for the last class, and the end result of that exercise was a conviction about what my path is.

I have not felt this strong a demand (it's not a pull, or a push... it feels like an issued proclamation: you WILL do this!) since I stumbled across Wicca at 17 years of age. I've always felt the gentle calls of my gods, and sometimes I ignore their calm ways and earn a spiritual 2 x 4 on my backside, but I've never had this kind of a feeling before.

I find I don't even want to put name to what that call is. I'm afraid it will look like I'm some sort of egoist, or that I'm just plain nuts. The whole thing just leaves me surprised and confused, because it's not like any of my previous calls, and at least until this year it didn't really fit my personality. Now... I'm not so sure.

Still, now I feel this urge to do this thing. I know I HAVE to. In my head, though, that small niggling voice (maybe my mother? maybe an ex? who knows...) constantly nags at me. You're not good enough. You're not strong enough. If family dynamics make you cry, what do you think is going to happen when you get out in the REAL world? Who do you think you are?! People are going to laugh at you! You'll never succeed.

I hate that voice. I know it is the voice of fear, in a way the voice of the cringing young girl who was abused one too many times. I don't have to be afraid of this stuff now, and even failing is fine, because it means I tried. I can learn from failure. I know all this. Still the dark voices claw at me.

Doubt. Worse than doubting someone else is doubting yourself.

All those "what if's" come falling down on me, like boxes piled precariously on a high closet shelf. What if I can't do the job? What if I'm just deluding myself and this isn't my path at all? What if I'm half way through it, and my resolve or my strength gives out and I can't go on? What if I hurt people by accident? What if? What if?

Damn doubts.

Monday, March 29, 2010

There's a new book in town!

Cult of Aphrodite Rites and Festivals of the Golden One
by Laurelei Black

This liturgical compilation is the first of its kind -- offering a wealth of well-researched rituals and religious festivals in honor of a single Hellenic deity. Drawing on resources that span the ancient world, Black and the Cult of Aphrodite Asteria present immediately usable tools for worshiping the Goddess of Love and Beauty.

Publication Date:Mar 22 2010
ISBN/EAN13:1451527268 / 9781451527261
Page Count:138
Binding Type:US Trade Paper
Trim Size:5.5" x 8.5"
Color:Black and White
Related Categories:Religion / General
Cost: $15.00 USD

Also, by the same author, her first book:

Aphrodite's Priestess

Too long ago, sexuality was stripped of its sacred nature, leaving men and women ashamed of their natural desire to enjoy one of the purest, most transformative sacraments ever known in religion. Aphrodite was, and IS, a Goddess of Love on every level, from the maternal and filial to the sexual. Her priestesses were the embodiments of this love, bringing Aphrodite’s grace, beauty, gentleness, and passion into the lives of the devotees who worshipped with them.

Laurelei Black, a contemporary priestess of Aphrodite, found a desperate lack of resources available to the women and men who are called to work with any of the Goddesses of Love from the Mediterranean or Middle Eastern precincts. Writing from her own experience and training, she makes this first guidepost available to those who would walk the Path of Love.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Growth and Change

It must be spring - I'm changing all the blogs I own so they look different. I don't know if I'll keep this one for the Temple, but I do love it. It suits my mind, I think. Busy pattern, yet very ordered, and the color is calming. For those who may not know, Blogger has a new way to create templates for your site. It's not perfect, I'll admit, but it's a ton better than it used to be. They're also aware of the minor flaws, and are working on fixing and upgrading them. All in all, I'm excited! I can make what looks like a major change without changing much at all, and of course I always enjoy that!

The image above is of some of our seedlings. They're under the grow lights, reaching their tiny li'l arms up to what they think is the sun. They're currently tucked into a warming mat to encourage them to grow grow grow! By the time it's warm enough here to plant things in the ground, our seedlings will be well-started lettuces, cabbages, carrots, artichokes, and other delicious foods. Oh, and tomatoes. Wow, lots of tomatoes!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Rites 2010

We had a lovely time at Spring Rites this year, although it was a very small group (just four of us). I'm opening a bottle of wine here, although I later found out it wasn't wine (it was mead). Everyone was very glad I'd watered it as the Greeks do, or we'd have been weaving on our way down the hill! To the right of me you can see the small bbq unit I bought to use as a tiny raised fire pit. It worked incredibly well, although I didn't get the fire going well enough for it to last the whole ritual. It did burn through all the important parts, though!

In this picture, I am making offerings of barley and wine to the gods we called upon for ritual (Haides, Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate). To the left of me you can see our basket of goodies, and around the fire pit are the items that we offered up in sacrifice.

Part of what I do at this time of year is read a version (usually not the same as the previous year) of the myth of Haides abducting Persephone. Last year I read a version written by Dianne Sylvan, so this year I decided to be Classical and read Homer's Hymn to Demeter. It's very long, so I had to modify it slightly. I did not read the parts that were not directly involved in the abduction story. It still ran over five minutes! Yet it was beautiful, and it carried a lot of meaning.

Here I am making an offering of unwatered wine to Haides and Persephone as Queen of the Underworld. It was poured into a small shallow dip in the ground, and we didn't share that part of the wine.

I also made two new offerings this year, which had strong meaning for me but which are not particularily Hellenic in origin. I offered some of our fresh-made maple sugar and some wine mixed with lemon into the fire, for Persephone as Demeter's Daughter, a mix of the sweetness of life that can fill us, and the bitterness that sometimes overtakes us. This part of the ritual in particular had very deep meaning to me.

Our family has blessed eggs to "plant" in the corner of our garden for a number of years now. This year, we had our own eggs from our hens, and I decorated them with black images. There are eight of them: four for the corners of the garden, and four for the corners of the orchard. On top of the eggs are prayer flags, brought to me by our dear friend Kyther all the way from Thailand! I added those to our pile of items to be blessed for hanging in the tree in our front yard. I suppose it's a hold-back to my Wiccan days, but it's such a meaningful ceremony for us. It fits the season.

We blessed them, hands over the pile, sharing and mingling our love, our energies, our frustrations and joys. Being able to share this special time with my friends and family was just wonderful!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrating the Founding of Neokoroi!

It's spring, and it's time to celebrate the founding of our wonderful group. Allyson Szabo is sponsoring an Agon to celebrate the founding of Neokoroi. Our official founding date is April 25th, 2003, which makes this our 7th anniversary.

This agon will be a celebration of our founding, and we hope it will be a revitalizing thing. There are three categories of entry, since threes are always good groupings:

  • photography/art,
  • fictional writing/poetry,
  • non-fiction writing/ritual.

Focus on what Neokoroi has given to you, either in spirituality, in creativity, in whatever area of life this group has touched you. This is a very broad topic, because we would rather have far-flung but well-thought-out entries, than ones dashed off at the last minute.

Allyson Szabo will judge, and ideally she will have 2 other judges to help her. None of the judges may enter the contest. Allyson is donating the prizes.

The contest will be open to entries on March 23rd, 2010 and we will continue to solicit entries until April 23rd, 2010. Winners will be announced the morning of April 25th, 2010! Please forward this annoucement far and wide!

  • First Prize will be winner's choice of the three prizes offered.
  • Second Prize will be second choice of remaining two prizes.
  • Third Prize gets the remaining prize.

The prizes will be:

  • - a hand-made pocket altar built for the winner in honor of the god of their choice (sample image here or here)
  • - a suitable-for-framing scrapbook style page in honor of the god of their choice (Allyson doesn't currently have a sample image of these)
  • - a copy of Allyson's book, Longing For Wisdom - the Message of the Maxims.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to e-mail Allyson.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thai Food

Sometime yesterday, Farnham decided that tonight we all needed to have a dinner out. This is something to celebrate - money has been so tight lately that I've been contemplating my famous Freezer Scraping Soup as a staple. Hearing the words "eat out" just made my heart leap for joy. There's just something wonderful and special about going out to eat a meal with your family, knowing that you don't have to cook it, and you don't have to do the dishes after, either. Yay!

We originally intended going out for Mexican food at this little corner restaurant that Farnham had heard about at school. We were all fine with that, but when we arrived, we discovered that Friday and Saturday nights require a reservation due to the huge numbers of people who want to eat there. We left, somewhat dejected since the scent of that place was just mouth-watering.

We stood on the street outside the warm, colorful restaurant, contemplating our next move. We couldn't afford anything really nice (cross off our favorite Indian place, and the sushi place up the road), so we were bantying about the idea of going to 99 (a local steak place) or to a Chinese buffet we all like. That's when sis said, "You know, I've wanted Thai for ages. The last time I had Thai was about 8 years ago!"

We loaded up into the two cars, and off we went to the local Thai restaurant. Not only could they seat us, but they did so relatively quickly. We stood in mute envy as each dish passed our table going to earlier patrons. The spicy goodness of the Mexican restaurant was forgotten as the heavenly aroma of coconut milk and curry wafted around us. Even the kids were behaving well, and seemed eager to eat. At four years of age, Thai was a gamble, but we really wanted to be there.

Our waiter was pleasant, humorous, and very knowledgeable. He answered all questions about the food, and though he wrote it down, seemed to remember each and every order. Everyone else ordered things with little red peppers beside their names on the menu, but I ordered something I've wanted for ages: Crispy Pad Thai.

This delectable dish is made with rice noodles that are fried in hot oil until they're slightly puffy and very crispy. They add sliced chicken, massive shrimp, bits of cooked egg, bean sprouts, green onions (large chunks of scallion, oh so tasty), and of course crushed peanuts and a tamarind-based sauce. I cannot adequately explain how fantastic this dish was. I barely talked, and those of you who know me understand how good the food must have been.

I started out with something I'd never even heard of, called Todman Pla, which are these somewhat spicy fish cakes served with a clear sauce that was both sweet and spicy and had peanuts in it. It looked good on the menu, and I was not disappointed. The flavor was awe-inspiring, and even the non-fish-eaters of our household deemed them quite edible. The kids figured it was a bit spicy and so weren't thrilled, but that's okay. I didn't really want to share anyhow!

The kids ordered (get this) deep fried tofu (for the girltwin) and tempura chicken (for the boytwin). They were appetizers, which we figured would be about the right size for the kids. We guessed right on the size, although there was a LOT of food. They gobbled it down! I haven't seen the kids eat like that in ages. I double checked my memory to see if I'd forgotten to feed them or something, but no, they had lunch. They downed dessert afterward, too!

It was a wonderful time. I got to explain who Buddha was to the girltwin, and show her the small but ornate altar with its glass of wine, orange, incense, and rice. The boytwin was fascinated with the carved and embroidered elephants all over. The kids behaved, the adults smiled and joked and said "wow" a lot as we passed tiny bites back and forth.

I feel more at ease. I feel like our family got to spend some much needed "down time" together. We do work together very well, but there's something special and wonderful about being able to just sit down and chat and laugh and relax together.