Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lammas: the Peak of the Sun

This post is also available here.

Each Sabbat brings with it a special meaning as part of the wheel of the year. The journey through the seasons is not just a physical one, but also mental and spiritual.

As we approach each Sabbat, we can grow with the seasons when we know the lessons each one brings us. This series explores the Sabbats' spiritual meaning in the context of modern Pagans.

Lammas is the mid-point of the solar year. As Samhain begins the year, and Yule marks the point of greatest darkness, Lammas is the point of greatest light.

During this time of year, the earth is the most fruitful, growing plants that produce fruits, grains and roots for us to eat, or to feed the animals that we consume later. We are not just carefree because school is out and it's vacation season, we also see the bounty around us, and a primal part of us knows we will not starve to death... this day.

My favorite way to honor Lammas is by celebrating the bounty of the earth, and the fertility of the ground and of our own actions. We make plans in the spring. We make actions in the summer, when the weather is least likely to interfere with our plans for greatness!

How do YOU celebrate Lammas?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tokens & Crumbs: That's Systemic Sexism, Right There

There are so many emotions that come up when I see this meme (or the 3.7 million ones that are effectively the same).

First, I think: well duh. We didn't forget that characters like Buffy, Xena, and Ripley (from the Alien franchise) existed. And the effects of those characters are still there, and valid.

Second, I think: but it's not the same.
Ripley was a bad-ass, but she was future sci-fi woman struggling with aliens and restricted by being a normal human.
Cat, child, helpless prisoners...
Ripley's motives had a
distinct slant to them.
Buffy was great, but she was a teen in modern society and many of the best episodes were about her normal, if exaggerated, teen emotional struggles. Oh, and she was on-screen for half an episode before there was Sexual Tension (tm), so like it or not, her story was still framed with female sexuality - a valid topic, to be sure.
Xena was a bad-ass, but she still lived in a world where her sexuality was a thing, and she used it several times. Her relationship with her god-nemesis Aries (same nemesis as Wonder Woman, BTW) was one of him trying to bone her. Plus, Xena faced the world knowing how people viewed her, both as a woman and as a reformed villain. She had things she dealt with on those fronts.
Bad-ass female,
but still in a
toxic relationship

So bad-asses in their own right, but not the same thing.

Third, I think: it's more complicated than that and this meme isn't fair to that, or us.

Wonder Woman, the movie, makes women cry. Literal tears falling down our faces. A lot of the men I know cried too. We weren't sad. We weren't angry or frustrated. Most of us weren't even under some illusion that this movie was Epic Beyond All Measure (tm). In fact, most of us have struggled to figure out WHY we were crying.

That's right. We don't know. We FEEL the why, but the words are not springing to mind to explain to ourselves or others WHY it touched us so much.

So when people blog or post about it, they use the words they have, struggling through the muddle of language and understanding. We say things that are mostly right, but may not be nail-on-the-head right. And as we blurt out these mostly-truths, trying to figure out the right way to express this unprecedented feeling...

We are told that we are wrong. That our facts are incorrect. That we didn't get all our shits together enough.

Women are a disenfranchised group, along with POCs, LGBTQ+, and many others. We live in a world designed for someone else, not us. We live in a world where our entertainment has been, to some degree, formed around someone else. We live in a world where "real" characters like us have certain ways of viewing the world, or baggage, or something.

We got to see something different in Wonder Woman. It is literally so different from the norm that many of us don't know how to describe it. And because we struggle with the words and phrases that we must create or redefine or recombine to do this, we and our experiences are dismissed with a reminder that there have been other characters kinda the same.

And the fourth thing that comes to mind is this:
...
Were we supposed to be satisfied with those previous bad-asses and not be SO thrilled when we get someone who (once again) steps up the female-character game? Sure, those previous nibbles were nice (great, even, for their time), but I'm in search of the woman-character feast.

See, we aren't stupid. We know we had great female characters. But we also know that some wall was broken through with this one. We can't explain it, yet, but we know it. We will not be forced to be grateful for tokens and crumbs

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hidden Trauma: Dealing with Crap You Didn't Even Know Bothered You

It started with a post about someone having to sit next to a wriggly, rambunctious child at the movies. Before I knew it, I was on the attack and when it was over, I started crying... for an hour.

WTF?!?

I ended up talking with my husband, and I realized that I was especially sensitive about the idea that parents shouldn't take their kids out in public unless XYZ (usually to do with the behavior of said kids).

Now, to be clear, I get as annoyed as anyone when some little jerk-monster is being a pain. But I also remember feeling completely abandoned by all friends and most family for almost FOUR YEARS.

When I got pregnant, I stopped going to the bars with friends. Seems obvious, right? Well, none of them ever came to visit me or call to check up. I'd already established myself as someone who really doesn't like to "bug people", so I'm very unlikely to call someone just cuz I'm lonely.

Then I moved to eliminate the hour-long commute to work. On several occasions after my son was born, it hit me that if I was somehow incapacitated by
illness or injury, not a single person would notice for days at a time, except my coworkers, and I'd just get fired as a no-show.

My son is ASD (autism spectrum), and he was a fussy, fussy baby. I couldn't go out in the evenings, because he cried for around 2 hours every single night. No reason. Just cried. I couldn't do any of the evening activities that might have gotten me out of the house and around other people.

He also cried in the checkout lane. He'd be perfectly happy shopping, but no matter the time or how long we'd been at the store, he'd cry in the checkout lane. Three times I was told to abandon my month's worth of groceries if I couldn't keep my infant from fussing. As a single working mom, that wasn't even an option, but it didn't keep people from telling me I didn't belong in a public place with a baby.

When my parents came to town, they often took me out to eat. As a single parent breastfeeding, I spent my evenings eating take-out (usually cold after taking care of baby1), so I happily passed my son over to my mother and ate decent hot food that I didn't have to try to cook with an infant. Twice, my own mother asked why I didn't just leave my food and leave the restaurant when my son got a bit (trust me, that was only a bit, people) fussy. I may have gotten a look on my face similar to a starving predator facing down something that wanted the gazelle for itself.

At that point, I didn't have internet, except at work. So I spent my days working and my nights feeding the baby while I watched cable TV. Alone. For months at a time.

When I moved to my current small town, I went out ONE time with coworkers. We went to the bar for my birthday. It was my 30th birthday. One of my coworkers called my mother because she thought I was getting "too drunk".

I can't even explain how being collected by my mother at 30 years old because people don't TRUST me to be able to take care of myself... how that completely shut down any further attempts I might have made to have any kind of social life. After all, it was a small town. Everyone knew my mother.

So after 4 years of no social interactions outside of work and a few minor events, I started a business, met my now-husband, and got pregnant again. For several reasons, which have since been resolved, I started my daughter's life as a single mother still. My mom took us to see Juno. I got to watch 30 minutes before baby2 started to fuss.

I had no car - I was there with my mom who was still watching the movie with my son. So I spent the entire movie pacing the hall with a fussy baby. For some reason, I wasn't really eager to try that again any time soon.

So, that's all ancient history, and it sucked but it was what it was and now I'm okay. Except, apparently, I'm not okay.

Even now, just thinking about all of this (not something I usually do), I am fighting back tears. It was hard to think that after all the people telling me I'm a good mom, and I did so well when solo, etc., etc... I was traumatized.

Even now, the thought of being a single parent again is so painful that I just want to curl up into a ball. I am literally gun-shy of it. It closes my emotions off except for this bitter, clogging pain. It shuts my mind down except for these memories going through my head over and over.

And I never even knew that it had affected me so deeply. Despite the fact that I do Shadow Work ALL THE TIME, I never knew. I dig for things like this, regularly, but I had no idea it was there.

So the lesson here is this: Shadow Work is never done. There is always more to work on. And just because trauma is hidden, doesn't mean you are not traumatized. And just because you are traumatized, doesn't make you broken... just a little chipped.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Traditions vs Paths: Walking Your Right Way

Paganism is full of it.

Different paths, different traditions, different ways of doing this or that. Paganism is just plain full of choices.

I believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to do your spiritual thing. I believe this firmly. I just don't know what it is for you. And I certainly don't think that what works for me is right for you, or vice versa.

See, I'm an all-paths kinda witch. Each of us is different, with different backgrounds, experiences, preferences, and, yes, even goals. How can anyone possibly believe that there is a One True Way (tm) to do something so personal when people are so very different?

There are many traditions in Paganism, such as Alexandrian Wicca, Faery Wicca, ADF, etc., and many of them are very much worth a look-see. Maybe even a bit of learning. Maybe one of them is right for you and your family. But maybe not.

There are also more general paths, such as Druidism, Wicca, Left-hand Path, etc. They tend to be more of a guide than traditions, which are more scholastic and ritualized (in most cases). Perhaps one of these paths is right for you, even if none of the traditions on the path works.

So many choices, and Paganism is full of it.

Isn't it great?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Nine Noble Virtues: a Modern Take - Hospitality

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention, so it seems my title is redundant. However, little seems to have been done to bring the concepts themselves from the past into the present.

I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.

This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.

I'm starting with Hospitality because it is my favorite. When I first learned about it, a chord was struck within me and I began to work out my thoughts and feelings on the idea, immediately. The first thing I noticed was that hospitality takes the place of charity.

From a historical context, there are some texts that talk about situations in which hospitality was used or abused, which gives us a strong basis for believing it was important. The "why" is a little trickier. There are just some things that people don't think to write down because, within the culture, it is so obvious that explaining it would be redundant.

We can extrapolate ideas from the way hospitality is talked about. Many of the texts focus on providing food and shelter and, when looking at the weather conditions of that time, that makes sense.
Skadi, Goddess of snow
and blizzards, with Ullr

To me, hospitality is a social exchange. You extend the generosity of your home and resources to save lives. Yes, that's a bit hyperbolic, but when you think about how people would get caught in snowstorms, or lost without food after travelling for weeks, it's not too big of a stretch.

And the sharing of resources means that there is an exchange of obligations. The host is obliged to actually take care of the needs of their guest to the best of their ability. The guest is not only obliged to respect the host's offerings, but to eventually pay that generosity forward.

In this way, a family might host travelers on and off for several generations. Then, the son may go travelling, himself. If he finds himself in a bind, he doesn't have to feel bad about asking for hospitality - his family has paid that obligation off many times over.

Think about what that means. By fostering generosity and hospitality, you are not obligated to feel SHAME if you require hospitality in return.

Imagine how different it is to see the giving and taking of charity and other forms of aide as both sides of a social obligation. Those accepting charity would be just as respected in their role for PROVIDING THE HOST WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET THEIR SOCIAL OBLIGATION.

On the other hand, serving a guest, because of the importance of the obligation, becomes an HONOR instead of a menial action. The host and server does not give food and drink with head down and a meek expression. She (for it was usually the matron of the household) holds her head high and gives her guests the offerings of her generosity.

By changing the way we look at hospitality, we take something that was often shameful or belittling and transform it into something bigger and better. In many ways, it is a sacred act to contribute to this exchange of obligations.

Odin the Wanderer
Let us not forget the number of gods who walked the world, visiting humans and taking of their hospitality, as well. Each guest could be Odin or Zeus in mortal garb.

Extending the hospitality of your home and resources can and should be a spiritual/holy/sacred act.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Darkside of Taurus

Astrology is an interesting study. Not only does each person have their own natal chart (the signs at your birth) with 10 planets, two lunar nodes, ascendent/rising signs, and several asteroids, but then there are progressions (how zodiac influences have developed into the current aspects).

On top of that, the current placement of the stars and planets can have an overall effect on the world at large. This is seen more prominently in the outer, slower-changing planets (while the inner, faster-changing planets are more influential on individuals).

Each zodiac sign has it's own personality. Most zodiac descriptions focus on the positive of each sign, but each sign also has a dark side - the negative aspect of that sign.

This series explores the negative, world-effect aspects of each sign. For simplicity, I am assuming we are talking about the Sun in each sign, though most of these analyses would apply to other planetary placements, as well.

Taurus is a fixed earth sign, with its opposite/duality in Scorpio. Taurus is the sign of artistic work and sensory comforts. The bull also has tendencies towards stubbornness.

When the sun is in Taurus, we will likely see more actions around the home: decorating, cooking and cleaning. It's the perfect time for spring cleaning!

However, we should be on the lookout for certain extremes. These can include pickiness in eating and items surrounding comfort, such as fabrics or clothing.

It isn't uncommon to find yourself comfort hording, such as holding on to things from childhood even though it might be better to clear out space in your home. When combined with the hard-headedness of the bull, it's easy to find ourselves simply rearranging our nostalgia rather than moving on.

With Taurus' artistic nature, this can expand to crafting projects. We may keep around the yarns or paints that we may never actually use, because we will get around to it someday. It will be important to establish rules to follow for keeping things in our space.

Taurus loves comfort, and this may translate into focusing on present feelings. While not a bad thing, the bull can do this to the exclusion of future plans or simply keeping up on chores that are more drudgery than fun.

Put simply, the sun in Taurus can make us feel as though the treats we give ourselves today are worth the sacrifices we would make in our plans for tomorrow. Keep your eye on your goals without completely denying yourself, and you can ride out Taurus without going broke splurging on bling or Chunky Monkey.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Darkside of Aries

Astrology is an interesting study. Not only does each person have their own natal chart (the signs at your birth) with 10 planets, two lunar nodes, ascendent/rising signs, and several asteroids, but then there are progressions (how zodiac influences have developed into the current aspects).

On top of that, the current placement of the stars and planets can have an overall effect on the world at large. This is seen more prominently in the outer, slower-changing planets (while the inner, faster-changing planets are more influential on individuals).

Each zodiac sign has it's own personality. Most zodiac descriptions focus on the positive of each sign, but each sign also has a dark side - the negative aspect of that sign.

This series explores the negative, world-effect aspects of each sign. For simplicity, I am assuming we are talking about the Sun in each sign, though most of these analyses would apply to other planetary placements, as well.

Aries is a cardinal fire sign, with its opposite/duality in Libra. Aries is the sign of impulsive action and a quick temper. 

Aries is the get 'er done sign, as they are really big on finishing what they've started. This can become a negative when what they've started isn't worth the effort. Like the ram head-butting a brick wall, Aries needs to learn when to give it up.

With a hefty dose of spontaneity, Aries takes off, ready to do the thing or to make their mark. While over-thinking is a very real issue for many people, Aries doesn't suffer much from it. They take what they've got and head out. In doing so, they might get the urge to go camping and forget to pack the sleeping bag. Or trail mix.

Aries can have a laser-fine focus on their goals, making them a force to be reckoned with. They are less likely to accept any information that doesn't forward that goal, however. This is up to and including information that would let them know when to stop or change direction or tactics.

With the sun in Aries, we are more inclined to hold on to what we were sure we knew. These beliefs and life goals may have been perfectly fine and logical, but we need to remember to stop once in a while and figure out if we are actually getting somewhere, or if we have missed something important that may change the situation.

We can also find ourselves poorly prepared for something that we began because of a strong emotional impulse. Emotional impulses are great for getting motivated, but we need to remember that not every situation is so simple that we can just jump into it without a little thought and planning first. Taking a moment to reassess will be a valuable characteristic during the time of the Sun in Aries.

Plus, if you plan ahead, you might have some pain-killers for that headache after head-butting a wall.