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Lessons from the Embalmed Heads

20171117_072310_hdrIf you haunt archaeology twitter or other outlets of that kind, you probably heard about the new evidence that the Gauls practiced a type of embalming with the severed heads of their enemies. And if you haven’t, well my friend! It looks like we have tangible evidence of the written accounts of the Gauls embalming their severed heads. Aren’t you excited?!

It’s a really interesting article and one that spawned some thoughts in my brain that I thought I would share. The topic of head hunting, and the trophies that they made, is one that I have been fascinated by since I first read about it when I was a child. The way the history books and Roman historians painted the picture of this practice with equal parts disgust and awe was to be frank appealing to me. Many years later there is a lot of be said about the political agenda of the historians, to cast conquered people in a negative, uncivilized light, and how that is still seen everywhere around us and a practice that people in power still use today.

But today I want to focus on a different aspect, on what lessons that I might be able to glean from this practice and bring forth into my own modern life. Naturally, I’m not suggesting decapitating my enemies and embalming their heads (tempting though it may be). In so many things with history, there doesn’t have to be a one to one correlation, there can still be meaningful lessons and practices.

The statement that really jumped out at me when reading the articles, was the value that these embalmed heads are proclaimed to have. Several articles paraphrase Strabos on the matter and I felt like I needed to read what the actual quote from the old Roman historian said.

“The heads of enemies of high repute, however, they used to embalm in cedar-oil and exhibit to strangers, and they would not deign to give them back even for a ransom of an equal weight of gold.” – pg 249 the Geography of Strabo published in Vol. II of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1923

They will not part with them for their equal weight in gold. Now, this is very likely an exaggeration, again we have to take into account that our writer here has an agenda and wants to paint a very particular picture. That being, “Oh isn’t it a good then that Rome came in and brought civilization to these barbarians who kill in all these OUTRAGEOUS ways? P.s. buy my book for graphic details. ” Just because something is ancient doesn’t mean that it isn’t a form of sensationalism. That being said, in light of the tangible evidence to back up the embalming practice, we can assume that there is thread of truth in this statement. These heads were valued and likely not something easily parted with.

Why? That’s the natural next question. One that there isn’t a way to get an absolute for certain answer. There is no way to interview an Ancient Gaulish warrior and get their intent, purpose, and meaning. We can try and imagine. The article puts forth the hypothesis that this practice was rooted from wanting to preserve the recognition of the person. This seems pretty solid common sense wise. The reason you would use preservation techniques is to keep the appearance of the head, instead of letting it rot to a mere skull who could be passed off as anyone. The value then is being able to point to your enemies head and have them recognized for who they were in life, and have all who look on it know, that you killed them. You overcame them. You were victorious. It’s not just a story or a boast. The evidence is right there.

I can easily see the value in that.

On the mundane level, it is proof of your power/strength/cunning. On the spiritual level, well it can be a talisman of that power/strength/cunning, perhaps even amplifying and adding to it. Afterall it is a belief in many parts of history and cultures that overcoming your enemy can give you their power and strength. We see it in stories and even in the modern acquisitions and buyouts of companies it is a truth that millions and billions of dollars is staked on.

I can also imagine there is a deeper blow than just the killing blow being made here. Let’s suppose that the mere act of keeping this grisly talisman of victory of an enemy is also keeping that enemy from some comfort or honor in death and/or the journey after death. Again, if we go back to Strabo’s quote, and taking it at face value, there were people (presumably the people of the enemy) that wanted those heads back and where willing to pay for them. They were denied.  It’s possible they wanted the heads to complete a funeral rite, and the victor wanted to deny their enemy even that. Depending on the beliefs in play about what happens after death and what needs to happen to secure and afterlife or transition, that has a HUGE ramifications for the spirit of the enemy. Not to mention the morale and grief this would have on their enemy’s family and people.

I’m not an expert on Gaulish spiritual belief, but if we assume that they had a type of animism in their practice, then sitting here with the idea of embalming the head of your enemy and the mundane and spiritual power play that evokes added to the notion that the head holds a spirit even after death, I am struck with how this is a very powerful violent act that has ramifications in this world and any spirit or afterlife, and just fucking damn.

What can we pull out of this for our own lessons? Clearly, do not fuck with a Gaul is one. We already pulled off the table the idea of beheading your enemies and making necromantic talismans of them. However, I think some interesting and deep modes of cursing are pretty self evident here for those that care to look.

Pulling it farther into the abstract and towards tools that can be used for self practice, there is a lesson on the value of your victories, reminding yourself of them, and not hiding them from others.

In the United States there is a culture that for whatever reason, tends to speed on by people’s everyday accomplishments, there may be a brief window where it is allowed to celebrate them but then that time is over and you are expected to move on. If you are a fairly self aware human who cares about people and strives to be a good person then there is a good chance you worry about appearing too boastful. You don’t want to toot your own horn. It’s better to be humble. Which can express itself in the development of inner voices that undercut your accomplishments so you don’t get a big head. At some point someone in my inner circle (and my apologies for not knowing who for proper credit!) called these voices brain weasels and pointed out how they lie.  What I have witnessed this to mean is that we in general do not spend near enough time acknowledging our accomplishments and getting the emotional, mental and spiritual benefit from those accomplishments. We let it pass by and turn on to the next thing without seeing the full picture of how much we have gained. How much stronger we are.

Right now, I’m struggling under the weight of living up to my expectations of taking care of my household. Money has always been a hard topic for me and it is the current monster I am trying to conquer or redefine my relationship with at least. In short, things a little hard and I’m not in a great mental place about myself. I think it’s time for me to take stock and really look at the things I have already conquered in my life, in the last five years, etc and the enemies to my own well being that I have already beheaded and remember. It seems like there is a benefit in the visual reminder and I will think about ways to incorporate that. Whether that takes to form of magical charm, or a piece of artwork, or something else entirely. It just seems like this a good time to apply this lesson and help bolster my spirit against the challenges I am currently facing.

The other part of this lesson that I think will be useful to me is the visual exercise. I have been suffering from waking up with anxious thoughts. My mind just starts listing out and fretting over all the things I have to do and all the ways things won’t add up. It’s not great for my sleep cycle and stress in general is just not helpful when you need to get shit done. This morning when I woke up yet again with the diatribe of endless todo’s and worries, I thought about this blog post and went through the mental visualization of slaying my current enemies (this morning it was financial insecurity) and beheading it.  This probably isn’t an exercise for everyone, and I mean your brain might work differently but for me it was not only satisfying but focusing on making things symbolic and in the form of imagery really helped to stop the anxious thoughts and hopefully help me to manifest my goals for success and victory.

I realize this is likely one of the stranger blog posts that I have published, but these are the thoughts that have been brewing in my head and on the off chance that it helps someone else find some tools and understanding to use in their practice, then it’s worth it. The thing I really love and cherish about my practice is that I can find new inspiration, tools, and perspective every day. There is always something more to learn and analyze. There is always another layer of myself to question.

And now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to go embalm the head of my enemy.

 

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The Shiny Parts: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Herein is the thing about being given a missive to write a series of blog posts by one of your beloved Gods, no matter the crazy, or how many obstacles that life throws at you, eventually the work bobs up again. Luckily, the Good God is a patient one and has been incredibly helpful and kind in recent times when I have needed support. But enough that, back to the task at hand!

When I last left you wonderful folks, we had talked about Learning being the starting point of connection to the Dagda and how that never ends. Which means you should still be on that Learning track, yes? Good.


We had also talked about the Work, and how after learning you then have to actually apply that into Doing. The “what” wasn’t as important as the act of breaking out of the theoretical and rolling up your sleeves to work. That my friends, is also an ongoing process, so I expect you are all merrily working a long.

But I know that those two things aren’t as satisfying an answer as some might be looking for in regards to making a connection with the Dagda. You might look at those two things and think that sort of spirituality or religion wouldn’t look any different from others on the outside. It’s too simple. Which to be fair, it is, but honestly that is the core of my devotions to most of my Gods and specifically to the Dagda. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. If I just had books, the internet, and living my life, that would be enough. I could still do it all with nothing on a desert island at this point, actually. Just with the knowledge and what I have learned thus far in my head. That’s honestly my goal. To be able to take my Gods and their teachings with me anywhere and without need of anything more than myself.

“But Branwen!,” I hear you say, “You are notorious for carting around all kinds of ridiculous accoutrement over hill and dale regardless of the weight!” You aren’t wrong. I do. Happily. Gladly, and I like to think with panache. But I am a firm believer in knowing the basics, know the roots, and THEN go hog wild and dress it up however you fancy. The heart has to be strong and in alignment, otherwise everything else is just glamour and shallow.

That being said, if you have made it this far, questing traveller, then you get to read me prattle on and on about all the trappings and shiny things that I too enjoy and take much reverence in, and do help in their way to build a strong connection.

 

Altars and Shrines – I want to be a Pagan damnit!

dagdaaltar2017

Altar and offerings to the Dagda on his holy day August 9th 2017

I admit it. One of the appeals of being a pagan or a polytheist, for me at least, is embracing an aesthetic that I have always been attracted to and just holds a deeper meaning when added to my beloved Gods. Our aesthetics may vary, but the power of props and surrounding yourself with the visuals and items that make your heart beat and your soul feel bigger can help you to feel more yourself, more powerful, and more in touch with the Gods.

One place to start with this is building an altar or a shrine to the Dagda in your home, place of work, or yard. “What is an altar? what is a shrine?”, you ask. Good question. Ask a different polytheist or pagan and you will get a different answer, but for the sake of this piece and really this blog in general, the following definitions apply (your mileage may vary):

Altar: Is a set space, usually flat (such as a table top, or shelf) where items associated with the Deity are artfully arranged to focus devotional energy and give the Deity the open invitation to come and be at home here. It is a place where offerings can be set, where items can be charged, and where additional spellwork or prayers are worked. An altar can be set up, taken down, rearranged, cleaned, and moved whenever needed. Some of the items on the altar might be the practitioners, some might be dedicated to the Deity, it’s all interspersed and mingled.   

Shrine: Shrines can take many shapes. They can be contained in a open shadow box type construction, on a flat surface, portable, immovable, you name it. They tend to center around a statue or image of the Deity and are the focus of devotional energy for offerings and petitions to said Deity. Shrines undergo a ritual instantiation of the Deity’s energy into the iconography so they know they are always welcome here and the prayers and offerings are being made directly to them. Offerings and prayers can be left at the shrine and usually collect until a specific time when the shrine is cleaned and the offerings are ritual disposed of. Most items on a shrine are considered property of the Deity.

If either of these call to, you then go for it! They don’t have to be big and should fit into your lifestyle and needs. I don’t personally prescribe to any “You must have X, Y, Z, to be an altar”. My altars have changed and shifted depending on my moods, needs, and just where we are in the year. There is not a lot of historical evidence for what might have been on an altar in Ancient Ireland or even if altars were a household practice (unless I’m missing something, and if I am and you know of articles and information let me know!). But it is a practice that makes sense and has a cross cultural appeal, so one that I have incorporated into my practice.

altarfromthepastIn that vein of making things work for you, you don’t have to have a specific altar for each individual deity. But maybe you want to give it a try and set up a space just for the Dagda when you are starting this new relationship, or deepening it. Even if it is just a specific corner of a larger altar. Go with what works for you.

You might want to start with an item or image of an item that you particularly associate with the Dagda.  A piece of artwork that really calls out to you and evokes those same feelings you get when you read his myths and stories.

My friend Marjorie, has a great practice of creating collages of different images that then help to evoke the different aspects of the deity. You can see things like this on Tumblr a lot. She prints them out and puts them in frames for the altar. Not sure where to get started? Feel free to look through my An Dagda pinterest board. Those are all images that stand out for me.

The other idea that stands out and is one that I immediately took to was getting a cauldron (or fifty), because of his association with the Undry, the cauldron of plenty, as one of his many treasures. Cauldron’s don’t have to come from a witch shop, don’t have to cost a lot of money, and really lots of vessels can become cauldrons if you decide to make them that. I suggest checking out your local thrift stores regularly for some finds. Usually they appear in the home decor or flower pot area. You can find some great brass ones. But do not be daunted, until a cauldron catches your eye a lovely deep bowl can easily serve as a cauldron. I have several wooden bowls that shapeshift from cauldron, to bowl, to well, as needed.

What other items jumped out at you in the myths and lore that you are reading?

It was important to me to have a representation of the Dagda’s club, the lorg mór. That’s not something that I felt I could just find in a thrift store or order online. So I went out to my local woods and spent some time looking for the right branch, and fashioned it into my own little mini club that fits on the altar to represent the lorg mór and the power of life and death. This neatly combines all the previous steps we talked about in devotions to the Dagda. I learned about the club, learned it’s name the lorg mór (working on being able to pronounce this regularly). Then decided I need to go out and create an icon of it. Went out in the woods, spent some time thinking and praying to him. Then spent the time and devotion making the icon. The act of creating an altar is an act of devotion. You can layer it with as much energy, love, and dedication as you feel called to do.

dagdacauldronandclubSome other associations that I make that you might look over for your own altars are listed below. I noted if things that are purely UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) and you can go ahead and ask me about anything you like:

Cauldron
Irish Harp
The Club
Boars/Pigs
Horses
The color red (this is not solely the Dagda but UPG particularly for dark ruddy clay red)  Red Jasper and Tiger Iron (UPG) Oak Trees
Sid in Broga, Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange (It should be noted that the Brú na Bóinne changes ownership to Aengus, his son in the lore but I still feel there is that familial connection) because of this UPG for the Newgrange spiral being associated with him
Oats
Bread (UPG)

So go out. Look around your house. Embrace your local thrift store. Patron your favorite artists. Create a little Dagda space in your life. Embellish it with the style and fashion that is you. For me that involves furs, leather, antlers, bones, horn, rocks, and metal items. But maybe you are a more clean lined modern aesthetic. Go for it. Then use it!

If it’s an altar, I will put the books that I am studying Irish culture and lore on it for the Dagda to give me a little insight into the. I put my jewelry that I would like blessed by him up there too. If an Oak tree gifts me with a leaf or acorn on my daily walk I set it up there in appreciation. I make sure to pour and give offerings.

It’s a place to come to and say prayers specifically for him. A focus point to seek guidance and do divination readings to get messages from the Good God. Keep it clean. Keep it well loved and hopefully it will serve you well in return.

Offerings – Connection through Giving

Above in the altar and shrine section, I mentioned that being a place to set out offerings, but what exactly is an offering? What is a good offering for the Good God? What do you do with it? All excellent questions. Let’s discuss below!

What is an offering?  

It occurs to me now, that it would be interesting to go through and look to trace down the archaeological, folklore, and mythic, examples of offerings and offering practices in Ireland throughout history. Suffice to say I have not done that yet but it does make me happy to think about. In any event. Offerings is the practice of giving a gift of reciprocity or an act of propitiation to spirits and deities. It is a spiritual practice that has deep roots in many human cultures and is still seen in Irish folklore and wisdom in leaving milk and butter out for the Good Folks. Below I’m going to link to two excellent articles that cover more history and depth of what a offering is and I highly suggest anyone unsure or curious to go ahead and give those a read and then come back.

Tairis article on Offerings

Morgan Daimler’s Offerings to Gods and Spirits

For me and my practice, offerings are how the connection with my Gods are maintained. It’s how we keep in touch. It’s how I show them I revere and am devoted to them. It’s how I ask for their blessings. It really is that simple.

What is a good offering for the Good God?

The good news is that if you have already started on the Learning and Working parts of this particular series then you, my friend, are already making offerings to the Good God. Congratulations!

That being said, the articles above talk a lot about tangible (largely food) based offerings, so let’s go over some options and ideas for that and then we will talk about the non-corporeal type offerings afterwards.

dagdaofferings
As you read in those articles, and if you are reading the lore and stories, I am sure you can imagine that whole milk or cream and Irish butter will never go amiss as an offering. Across the board really. Delving deeper into the stories you might glean some ideas for other offerings yourself. Things like, porridge, pork, baked goods, and stew, all come to mind.

For the Dagda’s holy days, I usually try to make a feast meal that I think he would enjoy. Usually pork plays a central role, and from there we add just good well made, well loved food and flavor. Then I make sure he gets the first and best plate. It goes up on the altar and ta da! Offering served.

But making big meals is not really something a person can do everyday. Not that you have to give offerings everyday. There are other options that I use on a more regular basis that are more liquid in form.

If you are ok with alcohol, then a good beer, or a good whiskey, or good mead, make for a good offering.
toastingofferings
Food offerings aside, there are other tangible offerings that seem to me to alway be appreciated. These things include devotional crafting/arts. Poetry, calligraphy, artwork, sculpture. If you make something for him. With him in mind. That is a beautiful offering and can also make for wonderful altar additions.

What do you do with the offering?

This comes up the most in regards to the food and beverage offerings. It’s a question that I had starting out and something I’m still evolving in my practice.

For food items, I usually leave them overnight and then either put them in the compost if possible or put them in the bin if not. No one wants molding rotting food on the altar.

Now there are some folks who are in the “offer it to the Gods and then consume it yourself” camp, and there are some in the “if it is for the Gods it is for the Gods” camp. I gotta tell ya that I can see the argument on both sides. From what I can tell the evidence for Irish tradition leans towards the “What is for the Gods is for the Gods” but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own practice. It means go research, look into the sources, figure out your practice and needs, talk to the Gods and do what is best for you.

I personally let food items be for the Gods, unless otherwise guided in the moment by inspiration. Beverages when out and about, such as at a restaurant and wanting to buy a drink for the Gods, can sometimes fall under the “I drink, you drink.” clause. Above all be respectful and be mindful, and for the love all:   DON’T LITTER.

We have enough going on in climate change, and wrecking our ecosystems and natural resources. There are way more people in the world now, so some practices that were ok back in Ancient times now fall under the umbrella of Littering and please don’t do that.  Lots of the food we eat today causes havoc on local wildlife. Not to mention making a mess in publicly shared nature spaces is just rude. So be smart. Think about the environment. Don’t litter.

Other devotionally created items can make great pieces for your altars or given as gifts to other devotees.

Non-Tangible Offerings

Food and libations make up a good portion of my offerings but by no means encompass all of them. Nor does tangible devotional creations. There is more that can’t be so neatly defined.

As I said at the start of this section, I consider my work to learn the lore and learn more about the Dagda and his people to be an offering. The completion of this particular blog series is also an offering to the Good God and seeing his will be done. If you are dedicating work to him, that in itself is a type of offering.

There are also offerings that come in the form of prayers or songs, these are things that I’ll cover in their own section, but I consider them offerings as well.

But let’s take a moment to think on the idea that the Dagda is a God of Ireland. His lands, his holy places, his people, are based in Ireland. Being a deity that takes great care in life and stewardship of his culture, it very quickly follows that what we can do to support the people and land of Ireland can be made as an offering to the Dagda. For me, that means that I try to make monetary offerings on behalf of the Dagda towards Ireland and her people. Supporting native Irish practitioners and artists. Supporting grassroots movements, heritage sites and environmental organizations helping people, places, and the culture on the ground.

A few of the people, and organizations that I have donated/patroned to:

Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Abortion Rights Campaign

Scealai Beag – Bard of the Dagda

Lora O’Brien – creating Authentic Spiritual Connection to Ireland

Story Archaeology

Taking this all to another layer. After we give offerings to the land and traditions that we are getting so much enrichment from, it then feels like the next step is to apply the teachings and lessons within our own community and local areas.  


For my own practice, living in the Bay Area, something that has come up and just continued to grow in my connection with the Dagda is the complete utter unacceptable way that the homeless and poverty is being treated, or more accurately ignored and abused. I have a lot to say on this topic but suffice to say, that with the Dagda’s connection to plenty, abundance, and hospitality, he ain’t fucking pleased.

This has translated into my giving a monthly donation to my local food bank in his honor as an offering in the name of the Dagda. This also manifests in my more daily life of being aware and kind to the homeless, I give money directly to them when I can, and if I have food in my hands and am asked I will always give it. This is again is done as an offering to the Dagda.

Finding ways that you can acknowledge the teachings you have learned from the Good God in your everyday actions is a wonderful way to have offerings to stay meaningful and to give you something to grow on towards being a better human person.

What can you do to help? What do you want the Dagda to look at see you in action and be pleased with? These are good places to start brewing on!

 


 

There are two more parts that I intended to include in this section. Prayers and Finding Sacred Places. However this section has been sitting on my drive for several months, so I felt like I would just post it and let the other sections come at their intended time. So what I intended to be a 4 part blog will now be a 5 parter. Such is life.

I hope it is of some use!


Devotional Practice to the Dagda: The Call

Learning: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Doing: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Winter Mountain

The holidays have come and gone and I feel exhausted lol. Yet there is still so much to do. It is a simple fact that I have come to accept that the Winter is not a time of rest and respite for me. For me the Winter is a time of constant movement, creation, and work. It’s crafting, cooking, cleaning, gift making, offering, feast planning work. Work I love, but work none the less.

That’s what I’ve been doing. Crochet, cleaning, cooking, cleaning some more, crafting, offering making, more cleaning, prep work for the new year, and that’s right more cleaning. Which is sort of a vicious cycle in itself, because I clean and realize that I need to reorganize everything but I can’t stop to do that now I have to just get it clean in order to do xyz. I suddenly understand some of my mother’s manic nature.

I’m happy to report that on the whole most of my presents have been shipped and or received  With the exception of a few here and there that need finishing.

This year I made a batch of jerky which was edible but not gift material. The Lumberjack ate it all up and I myself knawed on it happily on the way to work. There is something intensely satisfying about knawing on beef jerky. The way the muscle shreds, the tang of dried meat. I don’t know what it is about it, but I enjoy it a lot. So plan B was enacted and copious amounts of Baklava was made. I have to tell you that nuts are insanely expensive in these neck of the woods, and it was quite a culture shock for me. I spent my teen years out in the farm land where almonds and walnut orchards were everywhere,  so nuts were cheap. This $8 a pound thing was a blow to my poor little heart.

But it was worth it. And the local honey omgs, topping on the cake. Seriously this stuff is just heaven layered between honey and more heaven.

Pistaschios

Heavenly mixture

Nectar of the Gods

Nectar of the Gods

Wrapped in goodness

Wrapped in goodness

Made so much of the stuff, delicious sticky stuff. That I’m surprised that I’m not in a permanent sugar induced coma. Hopefully my Dad will get his goodie package today or tomorrow and it will be up to his standards.

We spent our Christmas up at the Lumberjack’s folks on the Mountain.

Holy Winter Wonderland Santa!

I have never SEEN so much snow. Snowflakes the size of half dollars! It was purely amazing. We even caught full on crystalized snowflakes in our hands. So pretty. It was a white Christmas for me and I could not have been happier.

Winter Wonderland

 

I know that a lot of people don’t seem to enjoy the winter, for a plethora of reasons. But for me, I just continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with it. The clean cutting of the cold. The absolute stillness that seems to only be found on a snow laden night. The way the stars just bite through the sky, and the gleam of ice. There is something dangerous as well as magical about the snowy winter. The same flakes that seem to encapsulate the wonder of childhood and fantasy also hold a real danger of life and death. Something as simple as driving to the store becomes treacherous. Everything takes a little more thought, more preparation. I like that. And along with the danger and the beauty of the cold, is the warmth and glory of the hearth. The house is warm and begging to be filled with smells of delights, feasts happen continuously, good company is treasured.

Needless to say I adore it.   I made sure to go out and leave offerings to the Ancestral spirits, over the years I’ve learned that apples are token well loved here. We spent some time out in the snow and I carved out the faces of an old man and woman, then snuck out at night to pour brandy into the snow before them. Happily I cooked for the family, with my excellent Sou Chef, and in general we tried to make his Mom’s holiday a little easier.

 

SAMSUNG

 

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

Hope everyone’s holiday was delightful! Much more mischief is on the horizon 😉

2012-12-25 14.05.52

 

 

This is Halloween! Also I learn to crochet!

I was going to put this post off till I could clean the altar and release the bones, but I decided to give that it’s own post. So let the Pumpkindom begin!

As you can probably sense, Halloween is kinda a big deal round here. On several different levels. October officially kicks off essentially a two month long time of reverence to the ancestors, several feasts, and a lot of magical prep work. Samhain is a very important time for me. Ancestral work is some of my most beloved. Samhain is also the time that I make most of my tithes to the local spirits, house beasts, deities and the like. So a lot of work.

On top of that, every other year I share custody of the actual celebration parts of Halloween. Every other year the Lumberjack and I take turns. My years that means that I participate in my Coven’s public ritual, which is a lot of work and huge production. Eats a lot of time, but is worth it. This year is one of his years, which means I’m around more for us to do more…traditional Halloween things. This year we’re watching all the old Universal Horror Classics, The Mummy, Dracula, etc. (In previous years we watched all Vincent Price movies that was awesome! ). Probably will go out to a pumpkin patch, various other Halloween events, and are driving down to visit a friend and celebrate Halloween proper with him. It’s going to be good times.

One thing that’s become a tradition around here is the decorating of the house on Oct 1st. Really it’s more of a pumpkinafication but I love it. This year the Lumberjack was staying home sick on the 2nd so we spent all day pulling out the decorations, listening to horror tunes, and getting excited. The Lumberjack is an excellent decorator for the record.

We still want more decorations, and we usually buy a little each year. But I gotta say I’m happy so far. We took out the newly named Emily, our resin skeleton from her corner and put her in a new set of duds (one of my dresses and vintage hat). Now she is resting morbidly with cobwebs and the like right under my ancestors altar (the irony is not lost on me). Say “Hi!” Emily! 🙂

The other exciting thing that has consumed my mind, is that I learned how to crochet! I’ve been talking about it for a while, seen all these neat little projects on the Pinterest. My lovely friend Brenda (you know her from Smoke from the Temple) handed me off some standard sized hook and finally I just sat down with a youtube video and went at it.

My first crochet. Look Ma’ a trapezoid!

My grandmother had taught me the very basics of crotchet (and knitting and weaving) many years ago. I still remember the night that I for some reason asked to be shown. She pulled out a hook from her drawer of textile tools, the woman was a constant and amazing crafter, and some scratchy blue wool from her stash. I was horrible at it. Stitches were all different sizes, too tight, too loose. Never amounted to anything past that night. Despite that, she still gave me her grandmothers Ivory crotchet hooks. They have and continue to remain up on my ancestral altar.

This time I sat down and it wasn’t hard. It was easy, amazingly so, and fun. I love knot magic and my brain immediately jumped to all the uses this could be for. No more knitting warding bags and killing my shoulder. So for the past two days that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing lol. All I have is some pretty basic not pleasant acrylic yarn (I maybe a newbie but I am a textile snob), so I’ve just been practicing stitches and designs till I can buy some nice stuff for a cowl. As you can see my first foray was….not perfectly straight lol. I had forgotten a key step of adding a chain at the end of the row. But still not too shabby.

And then yesterday I pulled out some of Gma’s weaving thread to give some finer lace work a try. I have a lot of tiny tiny tiny lace hooks from my Gma or her grandma not sure whom. I have to say I like the little work a lot. A few hours in front of the youtube and viola! A doily is born!

Blocking with a pillow lol

So overall life is good at Fort Epic. The altar is underway with cleaning. I’ve made apple butter that needs canning. The weather turned delightfully chilly. My house feels amazing with all the decor and just happy Halloween vibes. I have oodles of projects to do, a new hobby to make use of. Holiday presents to get started on. Feasts to plan. And life to live.

What do you say Goblin-Cat? Want to say goodbye to the nice people and help me release the bones?

Meh.

Thought download of an American Citizen

Today I’m going to break the silence on this blog not to talk about the wonderful trip that I had up to the Mountain, or the crab apples, blackberries, and onions that I harvested. I will have a post up about the amazing crab apple butter that is making my house smell delicious. At some point I’ll finely edit that article on house wards, and I’ll even sit down to write about the nuts and bolts of putting on a public ritual.

But today I’m going to talk about my country, and the shitty politics that are happening. Because election day is around the corner and even tho I’m fairly confident that Mitt Romney doesn’t stand a chance at election; I’m still a little scared. But more than that I’m mad.

I’m mad that I don’t have the luxury of voting on actual economic strategy or structural constitutional legislation because civil rights and my autonomy as a person are very seriously being threatened. If you don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about being a free thinking woman in a country of misogynists at power that want to make decisions for me.  (A list of SOME of the Bills proposed, Another account State by State)

I’m furious that a bunch of hypocritical wing nuts who continue to tout about their deeply held religious beliefs and blaspheme the constitution of the country they claim to love. I am so pissed off at Corporate lackeys and lobbyist monopolizing the system while running the country into the ground and continuing to move on and never looking back.

Watching the RNC coverage and the amount of bullshit that paraded up on that stage all under the wholesome guise of “family values” and “American Christian Nation” made my stomach turn. The extreme disconnect between common sense and decency and the actions that this people are calling for.

I now know why the Romans looked upon Christianity as a cult that upset pacata atque quieta – settled and orderly.

I am a deeply religious person. It is a part of my everyday make up and I do not wish to take that away from anyone else. My religious beliefs are the compass to my life. MY life. Not the world, not the country, not all people always. It is the compass, not the terrain in which I walk. I am a citizen of the United States of America and whatever my religious beliefs. Say those beliefs were that eating meat were sin (thank the Gods that they are not) it would not occur in my brain that we should then make meat illegal in this country. To say that out loud is absurd. But to Evangelicals and other extremists because it is written in their book and they take to it we should take it up as law. Absurdity.

I am a citizen of the United States of America and whatever my religious beliefs I uphold the Constitutional just laws of this country foremost.

It should be a simple fact of all people. It should. But that’s not their way. It’s zealot fanatical behavior that is truly frightening to behold.

What do I want? From my country? What would I like to see?

  • Separation of Church and State being upheld far more than it is today. To truly have politics be a secular discussion.
  • Take the money out of politics. No more billionaires advancing their interests by donating truck loads of money to their candidate. We should try a system of tax bond for each American that they get to choose who they give their bond to, to support. American businesses would have a tax bond as well that they get to say who they are supporting. And that’s it. That’s all the money candidates get. You run for office you become a Public Figure and your taxes become public record.
  • We need to pass a Read the Bill Act to allow for more transparency in our legislative process and to stop lobbyist and politicians tacking on in-congruent laws to bills, or worse voting on bills that they haven’t even read.
  • We need to kick lobbyist out of D.C.
  • Us to pass a Universal Healthcare system
  • Us to modernize and reinstate the Glass Stegall Act
  • Us to get rid of ALL of the remaining pieces of the Patriot Act
  • We need to plug up the holes in the tax code that allows billionaires to get away with paying pennies in taxes.
  • I’d like to see us try a system of taxing business that employ workers outside of the country and give tax breaks to those business that employ American workers. More tax breaks if they provide health care for those American employees.
  • More money in education. We spend far more money on our prison system than we do on our education system. We have to invest in our future. We need to expand the idea of education beyond the tried (and failed) method of 4 yr university. We need to have federally supported programs for skilled trade. We need to teach our kids basic modern life skills, how to choose a credit card, what an interest rate is, how to get a loan, how to get a small business loan, how mortgage’s work. We have to give them the tools to make a better future. Really we need to provide this same education in our Welfare system to the adults that never got those tools either.
  • We radically need to restructure our healthcare system. The Baby Boomers are getting older, we are all living longer, and the statistics of that is that we live long enough we will get cancer. Or something else. The current system is not prepared for the needs of that aging community. Our current way of handling the elder does NOT work. We have to get minds working on this. Doctors, scientists, economists, nurses, psychologists. Because it will have a major effect on our economy and our society in general.
  • We DESPERATELY need to invest in eco-friendly energy. We need to fund research and development. But more than that we need to USE it widescale.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s just the topics that I think about almost daily. The topics I WANT to hear my politicians talking about, the kinds of ideas I’m looking for. The forethought into putting America’s future back as priority.

But all of this has to be put aside because I’m still fighting for equal pay in the work place, for the right to make choices for my body, for the right of people to marry who they wish to.

It just boggles my mind.

The “Pagan Community”

“…there is no such thing as the ‘Pagan Community'”

“a Pagan is someone who believes (xyz).”

“The pagan community is full of haters and people spewing negativity.”

“The pagan community is full of fluffy bunnies and ignorant New Agers.”

These notions and notions similar are being played on continuous loop around me these day. There is just a few things I would like to clear up, in respect to this blog, my tumblr, and really any sort of interaction you may have with me. Because I do talk about “the Pagan Community” here and elsewhere. So evidently I do believe that there is such a creature. More than that I have a lot of investment and care for the Pagan Community, it is the main ingredient in my public priestessing. Without it I would not be a priestess. I mean sure, I’d still do what I do, and honor my gods, and honor the spirits and ungods, and work my craft, and live my life. But the pagan community, and the needs it has is in part what keeps me to being a public priestess. I will attempt to show you what I mean when I say “the Pagan Community” and what I think of when I hear it.

Recently my High Priestess pondered aloud to me whether or not “Pagan” was the right label, as it is such a mixed bag of cats. And really as an umbrella term it really doesn’t describe anything, since those who fall under it are not of the same religion. I agree with this, and I think is the first step towards the community actually becoming more useful to itself. The definition of “pagan” in the “Pagan Community”, really only is: that you are someone who identifies as a pagan, usually a follower of a minority faith or secular path that falls outside of the identified acceptable norm. It doesn’t really signify anything else. There is no inherent doctrine tied into the word, and to date even the notion that it is a religion that is not Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic is outdated and un-useful.   I know. Now we are wandering into the land where words can grow past their origin and finite dictionary meanings, but that’s how things work for me.

So if the ‘pagan’ in Pagan Community is so broad and without boundaries, where no one believes the same thing then what is the ‘community’? The community is one of interfaith. It is countless different paths, traditions, religions, faiths, individual people, who all believe different things, but who all willing identify with one another in order to help move forward in the Judea-Christian religious dominated society that we live in. Minorities within a minority choosing to help each other out and dare I say, possibly learn something from one another. Not for any dogmatic code of spreading “the good word”. Just out of the shared experience of purposefully choosing one of the paths least traveled and all the complications that come with that.

That’s it. That’s all. That’s the entirety of it for me. It is all that I need to understand to want to put my shoulder under this yoke and help plow the field for a new cultural shift. It is the simple connection that allows me to speak to so many people who may not even know what they believe but want information and be able to point them in various different directions to the amazing people that I have the privilege to call friend, to call community.

Ultimately, the Pagan Community is a diverse and unboxable as the American community. There will never be able to be a story that full captures all the opinions and sides, never a quote that covers the immensity of it. There will never be enough “leaders” or “elders” to speak on it’s behalf (and that’s a good thing). It is a community where participation guides it’s direction. Where homogeneity is never going to be the answer or the goal. Where understandings have to be met from different playing fields. And above all where respect for fellow man is needed.

Are there still going to be people who adamantly refuse the label “pagan”? Of course, and that is their right. There will still be people who think it’s a bad idea, and that there is no room for them. The thing about the Pagan Community, is that you get to identify with it or not. We’ll still be doing the same work (even when none of us are doing the same thing at all) and I pray that it will make a positive impact on the cultural of our society for everyone. Even those who want nothing to do with it.

-A Pagan American Gaelic Polytheist witch

Remembering Virginia Lois Rogers

Virginia Lois Rogers Jan 4th 1921 - April 30 2008

 

Today my Grandmother would have been 91 years old. Even though this picture was taken before I was born (as evidence by my fathers beard and side-burns. Something he never donned in my life while in the military and only recently has returned to) this is the image of my Grandmother I most remember. Same hair style, same or identical blue jean jacket (she was a practical woman, liked the color blue and thought denim was wonderfully wearable), same purse, same smile.

As a child I didn’t have a whole lot of actual time with my Grandmother, her living in Berkeley in her house and us living all over the United States. But I always felt a fond and deep connection with the woman who sent me drawing supplies, and other gifts that “used my talents”. She was the one I most remember encouraging me to draw, the first person I remember calling me an Artist. She taught me how to weave, to knit, to crochet. She was a skilled Artisan herself. Though she’d never own it, no in her mind she was only a “Craftsman”, claiming she lacked the imagination and creativity of a “real Artist”. But the things she made were things of beauty and she was prolific. Stunning jewel toned chenille scarves ran off her loom in no time at all. A house covered in paintings of “interesting faces” as she called them. Wise old women, craggly cowboys, the back heads of a row of school girls looking over a fence.  In the corners of her house the remains of past projects and their tools. The drawer filled with stained glass, each one hand made, each one an artwork. Every month she went out to her fellow Weavers Guild meeting, and learned a new exciting way to twist and charm threads into whatever she pleased.

And where the skills of her hands ended, there was the infinite skill of her mind and words. She was an avid reader, the house filled with books. Each and everyone had been read by her at least once, many several times over. An entire bookcase of mystery’s for her to pour over and get lost in the characters, there were the classic, and then the sci-fi. Not the shiny colored science fiction of today, no these were the paper backs of the beginning when the Science was very much the star of the show.  From her chair, next to the heating stove, where a thousands worlds and she knew them all.

I suppose you can tell that I loved my Grandmother very dearly. We butted heads, and looked at each other with confusion, but we were kin, and of the same kind. I think in a lot of ways my Grandmother wished she could have been born later, in my time. In a time when societal norms and pressure wouldn’t have weighed her down into getting married and having a family. Or at least might have provided her with a different view point to seeing what those things could mean and might look at. She was a liberal spirit,  a firm character, and a wise woman.  And while the picture above is the image I remember the most, it is the picture below that has become the one that best serves to resemble the spirit of the woman that was Virginia Lois Rogers, once Virginia Lois Weiss.

So Grandma, to you I raise my glass. To you who taught me so much, who went through so much before me and with me. To you who really was the Matriarch of your family. I love you.

Grandmother hear my prayer