Sunday, March 27, 2005

New Blog?

I've set up a new blog.

http://mysticheart.blogspot.com

Folks, update your links.

I'm not at ease writing here if I know there's another UU writer calling herself ChaliceChick out there; we might confuse people. I felt the need to create a different identity, and one that seemed a little more personal.

Kinda hard to explain, but there it is.

Lots of Stuff

There's been a lot of goings-on I should be blogging about, particularly Terri Schiavo.

I have written some things and posted them on other sites. I'll post them here soon enough. I'm exhausted these days.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Hmmmm...

The Darkness Drops Again

By WilliamPitt,

Thu Mar 17th, 2005 at 09:48:45 AM EST :: Activism ::
"In a time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey."

- Beck, 'Loser'

So...to recap:

Neocon warlord Paul Wolfowitz will head the World Bank;

The White House illegally puts out fake news reports, and the Justice Department does nothing;

Another $81 billion of your money and mine is to be poured onto the Iraqi sand;

The GOP majority in Congress is preparing to trash 200 years of Senate tradition in order to post a number of certifiably insane people to the bench;

Kevin Martin, a conservative Christian activist for the GOP, will now chair the FCC;

The Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, one of the most ecologically pristine areas remaining to us, will be paved and drilled for its tiny amount of petroleum.

And that was just yesterday.


The list of appalling and abominable and flatly criminal acts perpetrated by this administration is literally becoming too long to manage. I suppose this is what happens when the entire government is owned by one party. I suppose this is what happens when that one party is owned lock, stock and barrel by a cancerous combination of oil companies, weapons manufacturers and Rapture-happy fundamentalist Christians who think God put dinosaur bones in the ground to mess with our heads.

This is what happens when the "opposition party" sells its people down the river.

Let us be clear: The Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve is about to be ravaged for one reason. Three Democratic Senators jumped the fence and voted with the drill bits, undoing a twenty-year-long fight to preserve the land. Senators Landrieu, Akaka and Inouye were the reason this went 51-49 the wrong way.

Advocates for drilling in ANWR have said the issue is nobody's business but the Alaskan people?s, so there is some irony in the fact that one Senator from Louisiana and two from Hawaii -- the three of whom are a combined 20,000 miles away from Alaska - made the difference here. Mary Landrieu's constituents include a bustling petrochemical industry out there in the Gulf, and I guess Akaka and Inouye somehow think drilling in Alaska will make Hawaii's expensive gas a little cheaper. Seems worth it, don't you think?

This isn't the first time Ms. Landrieu has gone sideways on an important vote. She voted in favor of cloture on the ruinous bankruptcy bill, and then voted for the bill itself. In a statement about her ANWR vote, Landrieu said, "My colleagues and I have been encouraged in recent days that a revenue-sharing measure is forthcoming that will benefit our coastal oil- and gas-producing states. Hopefully, we'll be able to get this done this year, just as we have helped Alaska today."

Yeah. Thanks for the help.

Here?s the thing, Mary: Democrats from all across the country contributed to your campaign in 2002. A lot of people worked very hard for you. Oour victory was one small bright spot in the debacle that was the 2002 midterm elections, a debacle that included the death of Paul Wellstone, a man whose eyes you could not now meet were he alive today to see how you've been voting. A lot of people helped you, and ANWR belonged to all of us. Your betrayal here is epic in its proportions, yet sadly all too common these days.

As for the Hawaii boys, well...A small, dark, treacherous, venomous, vindictive little corner of my soul is devoutly hoping they find a few barrels of oil nestled in the ground under Pearl Harbor, or under Pu'uhonuo O Honaunau Historical Park, or under Honokohau Harbor, or right where the water hits the ground at Moanawaiopuna Waterfall. Even one barrel will bring the petro boys running with pickaxes and a gleam in their eyes, and hey, what's good for Alaska is good for Hawaii, right? My Massachusetts Senators can vote to drill in Hawaii's most beautiful spots even though our state is something like 92 time zones away. After all, we?re in this together.

This weekend, a global protest will be taking place. Here in America, there will be demonstrations in 574 cities and towns in all 50 states. Ostensibly, this protest is to be aimed at the anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It needs to be about more than that now. It needs to be about public, vocal citizen action in and of itself. It needs to be about We The People reaching out to the one recourse we have left while we still have it: The streets, our numbers and our voices.

Yesterday was a bad, bad day. Today and tomorrow will probably be worse, and next month isn't even to be contemplated. You are running out of options, so you?d better make use of the few arrows left in the quiver: Economic boycotts and the streets. Put your boogie shoes on. In the meantime, I leave our three stalwart ANWR Senators with some words to mull over.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- W.B. Yeats, 'The Second Coming'

Fat Phobes & Terry Schiavo

OK folks, I figured there was something behind all this..

TAMPA (AP) — Before she was the severely brain-damaged patient at the center of a legal dispute over whether she should live or die, Terri Schiavo was a young woman who desperately wanted to be thin.

At 26, she was strikingly beautiful with delicate features. But she had spent her childhood and high school years as a chubby and shy girl, standing just 5-foot-3 and weighing 200 pounds at her heaviest.

When she finally lost 65 pounds in her late teens, men started to pay attention — including the man who would become her husband, Michael Schiavo, who was tall and handsome.

But keeping the weight off was a struggle for Terri Schiavo, and years later — after her heart stopped briefly, cutting off oxygen to the brain — a malpractice case brought against a doctor on her behalf would reveal she had been trying to survive on liquids and was making herself throw up after meals. The Schiavos' lawyer said her 1990 collapse was caused by a potassium imbalance brought on by an eating disorder.

It is a cruel twist lost on no one close to the case: A woman who is said to have struggled with an eating disorder is now in the middle of a court battle over whether her feeding tube should be removed so that she can starve to death.

Gary Fox, a lawyer who represented Terri and Michael Schiavo in the malpractice case, said the disease is the "lost lesson" in the Schiavo case.

"While there is no cure for bulimia, there were things that could and should have been done for her that would have controlled it," he said in a recent interview.

Terri Schiavo, 41, is now locked in what some doctors say is a persistent vegetative state, with no hope of recovery. In one of the nation's longest right-to-die disputes, her husband is fighting with her parents to have the feeding tube removed; a court order preventing its removal expires at 5 p.m. Friday.

Like almost every element in the case, whether Schiavo really was bulimic is in dispute. Her father, Robert Schindler, said he does not believe his daughter had an eating disorder and thinks her husband had something to do with her collapse. Michael Schiavo has denied hurting his wife.

During the malpractice case, at least one of Schiavo's friends testified they knew she was bulimic because after meals out, she always immediately excused herself to go to the bathroom. Her husband also knew she had peculiar eating patterns but did not realize they were dangerous, Fox said.

Medical records from the hospital where Schiavo was treated after her collapse note that "she apparently has been trying to keep her weight down with dieting by herself, drinking liquids most of the time during the day and drinking about 10-15 glasses of iced tea."

Fox said that in the months before her collapse, Schiavo went to the doctor because she had stopped menstruating. It was a silent "cry for help," the lawyer said. But the doctor did not take a complete medical history that might have revealed an eating disorder.

The jury put the damages at $6.8 million but reduced the verdict to about $2 million because it felt Schiavo was partly at fault for her collapse.

Fox said Schiavo was a victim of medical negligence, but also a victim of societal pressures to be thin. "She didn't want to go back to where she was from," he said. "This was the only way she could do this in her mind and be able to eat as much as she did."

Eating disorders have long been known to cause heart failure. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can lead to chemical imbalances that harm major organs.

David Herzog, a Harvard psychology professor and founder of the Harvard Eating Disorders Center, said medical science is only in the early stages of tracking the long-term effects of eating disorders and there are no good statistics on how many people are killed or permanently disabled. Herzog said that even when someone dies from an eating disorder, medical examiners often do not list it on the death certificate.

Experts say the serious health risks exist long before a victim looks sick. In Schiavo's case, Fox said, she was not excessively thin when she went to the doctor.

Psychologist Doug Bunnell, president of the National Eating Disorders Association, said while he could not comment on the specifics of the Schiavo case, it is often impossible to predict which sufferers are in immediate danger.

"Paint me a picture of an eating disorder — it's an emaciated woman," he said. "But that's not the reality. They don't get down that low. The face of eating disorders is your next-door neighbor's daughter or maybe your own."


Would you idiots who want to preserve her life look at this?? SHE DID THIS TO HERSELF!! She was bulimic! She was EATING AND THEN THROWING IT ALL UP!! Don't you see the irony in this? She didn't WANT FOOD! She hated food! She blamed food for making her "fat and unattractive" and me personally...

I BLAME EVERY PERSON OUT THERE WHO HAS EVER MADE FUN OF A FAT PERSON AND HATED FAT PEOPLE FOR BEING FAT FOR HER CURRENT CONDITION! YOU ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS, YOU DID THIS TO HER, YOU CREATED A SITUATION WHEREIN A WOMAN CANNOT BE HAPPY WITH HERSELF AT WHATEVER WEIGHT SHE IS! FUCK YOU ALL! EVERY LAST SCREAMING STINKING ONE OF YOU!

That's why she's in this vegitative state! She wanted to be thin! Well, she's thin now, that's for sure! Are you fat phobes happy now? You'd better not be screaming to preserve her life and feed her because you fat phobic people didn't want her to eat before she developed the eating disorder! Oooh, can't have a fat woman, can we? Oh how horrible, that she weighed 200 pounds! *hiss hiss snarl*

I hope you're fucking happy now. If she dies, no matter what from, her life is on your heads.

The Ostarablot

Well, we did Ostara last night and it went just fine. I had different people reading the parts of the players in the Skirnismal. Chip was Freyr, Anne was Gerd, I was Skadi (she only had one line at the very beginning), Joe was Skirnir (because he had a lot of lines with a lot of weird Norse words in them that most other people could not pronounce) and Peter was the watchman (who only had 2 lines).

The only part where I thought, "Oh dear, this is a bit much," was the comment about the goat urine.

Well, Skirnir is sent to woo Gerd for Freyr. He offers her lovely gifts, but she refuses. He threatens her with death and she refuses. Only when Skirnir threatens her with baneful magic that will render her forever barren and ugly, does she relent -- and that includes leaving her to a life of drinking goat urine.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

I'd relent too. Sex with a God is far better than goat's urine.

I rather hope I didn't piss people off by doing this. See, at the beginning of March, at the last Mystic Grove meeting, Tom said, "So who's going to do Ostara?" and there was complete silence. So I said I'd write up a ritual.

This was apparently ignored, because later an email went out saying everyone should bring something and prepare to improvise a ritual. I then sent out an email saying, "I've written one AS I AGREED TO DO AT THE LAST MEETING, and here it is," and I inserted the blot. Apparently this went ignored too. Is this some weird game of "let's ignore Tracie and she'll go away" kind of thing? Are these people getting tired of Joe and I doing blots, and they don't want to do the same thing twice in a row? As Jarred commented to me on chat, are they just ravens looking for the next shiny? WHAT IS IT people have against consistency and REAL RITUAL??

I think there's this huge push for CREATIVITY amongst Wiccans, and they think, "Oh, if I do the same thing every Ostara, it's not being creative," and they feel obligated to write a new ritual for every ceremony, every year. Can't do what we did last year for Ostara, that's being stagnant. We have to be creative and do something new!

And sure enough, by the time Joe and I got there last night, an altar was already set up for ritual. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

But here's the thing...

I DID SOMETHING...I WAS PREPARED TO DO A BLOT, AND NO ONE ELSE VOLUNTEERED TO DO SHIT!

They all sat there like a bunny in the headlights when Tom said, "Who's doing Ostara?" And I didn't want to volunteer, because I ALWAYS DO THAT! I think I'm the only one, besides Tom and Mary, who has a clue how to do ritual! Hell, getting people to volunteer to read parts was hard enough, AND IT WAS ALL RIGHT THERE IN PRINT!

SO WHY ARE PEOPLE PAGANS? ARE THEY JUST PLAYGANS AND INTO IT BECAUSE IT'S THE LATEST FASHION?? SO THEY CAN BE SHOCKING AND WEAR OCCULT JEWELRY AND BE POSERS??

The single most important bit of jewelry I have, and it isn't even occult, is my gold claddagh ring (for those who may not know what a claddagh is, click here). I bought that back in 1989 when I committed to the Pagan path, and it is something that speaks to my Irish ancestry. I've worn it every day since then as a physical sign of my decision to be Pagan. That ring means more to me than anything else I have.

Well, like I said, I hope I didn't want to piss anyone off by being prepared, but if they don't like it, let them step up and deliver.

During the sumbel (the part where you pass the horn and drink toasts and sing a song or say an oath or whatever) our Panda/Shannon decided to take the floor and talk about her late mother, and the minni hof (basically an altar to her memory) that she'd set up in the west. She got rather emotional about it, and Joe (who at the moment was passing the horn around and also the blessing bowl so people could pour a tiny bit of tea into the bowl - I decided to go with tea this time because it was quick and easy) had to stop and give her a hug so she could get her equilibrium about her again.

I'm very glad she did that.

That's what the sumbel is supposed to be. Emotional. Passionate. Intense. If you're going to sing a song, sing with a firm voice, even if it's not very good. No one cares if you're good or not, just that there was some passion in your song. If you're going to get all misty-eyed about your late grandmother, bawl your eyes out. If you're going to say a boast or make an oath, do it with fireworks. Have some BALLS about it! Ironically, it's exactly like what Steven Curtis Chapman sings about in one of his songs:

Everyone around creation
Is a living declaration
Come join the song we were made to sing
Wake the neighbors
Get the word out
Crank up the music
Climb a mountain and shout
This is LIFE we've been given
Meant to be lived out
So la la la la LIVE OUT LOUD!


It's ironic because Mr. Chapman is a Christian musician. I think he's even an ordained minister as well. But I do really like that song and what it talks about; how can one be all small and quiet if one has the love of the Gods in one's heart? He says "God" in the song, of course, but it's still a lively, upbeat song.

Most of the time when I do a blot and a sumbel, people are very shy and quiet about drinking to something. I want high emotion. Tell you what - the Einherjar who even now sit in Valhall waiting for the Ragnarok are not being meek, quiet heroes. They're noshing on juicy pork, they're quaffin' ale (quaffin' is sort of like drinking only you spill more) and they're getting busy with the wenches and boasting of their battle exploits, the whole nine yards. They go out and fight every day, and those who are "killed" are alive again at the end of the battle, and they go back in at eventide and feast all over again. Feasting! Drinking! Boasting! Nookie everywhere! Battle! Tests of strength and courage!

Seems like a sweet afterlife, eh? This is where Joe hopes to be after he dies; those who die in battle have an E-ticket to Valhall. Those who don't, have to make their own way from Hel to Asgard, where Valhall is.

And no, Hel is not an afterlife of punishment. It's more like...a quiet misty autumn evening. That's about the worst of it.

Well, there it is. The Ostarablot. Tom is doing Beltane, and I think Chip will be doing Midsummer, and Midsummer is when we can have an alfablot, and do a sumbel to the male ancestors such as Chip would like to see. He's far more identified with his alfhar than the disir (female ancestors). So, since the Winter Solstice is the time to drink to the disir, the Summer Solstice is the time to drink to the alfhar. But he may be in Ireland by that time, and we may have to work something else out; I don't know.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Update

It's finally Saturday. This is a good thing.

Tonight we will be doing the Ostara festivities. But I am going to have to tweak the blot. Hmmmmm. I may focus on Freyja and Her aspect as a spring maiden sort. I may also do a bondage thing (snicker) -- breaking the bonds of winter and all.

I did not wear green on Irish Heritage Day. I wore red & white...the colors associated with the Otherworld, the world that was driven underground when St. Patrick brought the Gospel to Ireland. A lot of people at work asked me that. I said, "I'm not wearing green because I am not and never have been Catholic, and this is a Catholic holiday." They said so what, everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day and I said, "I'm of Irish ancestry EVERY DAY. But I'm HEATHEN." At which point they giggled. No, people, when I say I'm Heathen, that doesn't mean I live a wild, godless life. I think a lot of people take "heathen" to mean just that.

*sigh*

But we did go over to Susan's house (Tom's current girlfriend, not the Susan that is Joe's ex) and had some lovely Irish stew and colcannon and various other nibblies, as well as plenty of ale and Guinness. A lovely time was had by all.

But, since I will be doing a blot this evening, I'll be wearing Frigga's colors, blue and white. I always do when I do blot.

There's been some interesting developments in the news. Terry Schiavo's feeding tube was removed yesterday. I say it's about time. Let her go. Let her have some peace. I can't understand why they are focusing only on her and not every single person in this country that is on life support...surely she's not the only one in this whole nation right now. I do believe she had a living will, in which case that indicates she didn't want to be kept alive artificially.

I'm hungry. I need to chase down some breakfast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My Big Fat Fat Rant

From the blog of RuPaul:
"i love "camp" because it blows the lid on self-righteousness and reminds me to not take life so seriously. it also makes tolerable the rampant hypocrisy that stains our culture like a 500 year old cum rag."


I wanted to make a passing comment about an entry I saw on another site that complained about big people wearing skimpy clothes. The writer did say "people" but any time gender was mentioned at all, he used the word "women".

I've seen lots of rants very similar to that about fat people. And I did leave him a note saying that yes, I am a big woman, and yes, I have noticed that when people rant about this, 99% of the time the only people who are taken to task for this fashion faux pas are women. I think that says a lot, that overwhelmingly people automatically picture women in their heads when thinking about this particular topic.

I think it goes to show that there is some level of serious sexism inherent in Western culture, and I think it needs to be consciously combatted if the human race is going to evolve intellectually and socially.

People need to stop and think about these things before making generalized comments. They need to ask themselves if they are being truly equal and fair even in their most personal of thoughts...and while that may sound like being "thought police" I say it's utterly necessary if there's going to be a halt to the automatic, unconscious stigmatizing of women for various stupid sins that are completely pointless anyway.

It all starts with each individual person -- social revolution is not going to come from outside. No one is going to come along and save us from ourselves, and teach us how to better relate to each other and build a better world to live in. We are responsible for where we are right now, and if we don't like it we are responsible for doing something to change it.

Period.

Therefore if I do not speak up and call attention to these unconscious thought patterns that can be made conscious, and can be changed, then I am partially responsible for people continuing to mentally punish women like me for the "sin" of being big and possibly dressing in a way that people don't like.

Not that I do. I'm very conservative in my personal style. I always have been, even when I was 18 years old, weighing literally 91 pounds soaking wet. (I'm short, ya see.)

But people should be free to dress as they like and not have to consider whether or not they ARE going to be stared at. The person doing the staring CAN make the choice NOT TO DO IT. Imagine that! It's like George Carlin said about the minister who got offended at the "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television" routine that Carlin does, so he wrote an ugly letter to the radio station that broadcast Carlin's show and protested. Carlin's response?

"Pastor, if you don't like what you hear on the radio, there's these TWO KNOBS on it that a: change the station and b: turn the radio OFF! Oh, but I suppose a PASTOR wouldn't be all that COMFORTABLE with something that has TWO KNOBS ON IT!!"

Hahaha! I've always loved Carlin; he kills me.

But basically it always, always comes down to freedom of choice.

A person, no matter their weight or skin color or age or whatever, should be free to express themselves even in the clothes they wear and not have to put up with ugly repurcussions. Those who would stare and riducule and whatnot -- well, quite frankly it's THEIR problem. If they do have issues with it, maybe they need to ask themselves why. Maybe a trip to a therapist would be in order if it bothers them so much.

Reminds me of a story told by Jack Kornfield, a meditation teacher out of Barre, MA. He said that he knew someone who lived in a noisy city for some years, and was having problems with his meditation practice. "The cars are bothering me," he'd say. Well, his meditation teacher finally asked him one day, "Is it the cars coming in to bother you -- or are you going out to bother them?"

I'd say that's an eyebrow-raising question. And it made the meditation student stop in his tracks....and the next time he retired to his room to mediate, keeping this query in mind, he found his meditation went a lot better.

Funny how that happens. *wink*

See, here's the thing...if people did not wear things because they are "gross" or whatnot, then people would not do things like get tattoos. I'm sure LOTS of people out there think tattoos are really disgusting, and that only bikers and GIs get them. Well, my sister has several tasteful tattoos, and she's not a biker or a GI. If people didn't do things because of the fact that SOMEONE OUT THERE might think it's "gross" or "not right" then people wouldn't even come out of their houses.

And let's not even go into the beauty that I've seen in pictures from the fabulous WIGSTOCK festival in NYC! Drag queens EVERYWHERE, darling, looking beyond divine! Looking 100 times hotter than I EVER WILL in things like sequins and wigs and high heels and satin and lame and makeup and whatever it is they can get their hands on to make of themselves a walking work of art. But men aren't supposed to wear dresses; that's gross, right?

Oh no honey. Them's GODDESSES. They've busted boundaries in people's minds - they've had the balls (ironically, sort of) to say a big old "fuck you" to the expectations of society and REALLY go all out -- to which I say, YOU GO GIRLS! I ADORE drag queens and have known a couple here in Orlando. I've also known (biblically speaking) one person who was going through a sex change, from male to female. I damn near fell madly in love with her too. She was very, very good to me indeed.

Oh, but I shouldn't do that, because that's REALLY GROSS. That's grosser than anything, right?

Piffle.

It's all in the mind, folks.

USATODAY.com - Italy will begin Iraq troop withdrawal in September

ROME (AP) — Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday that Italy will start withdrawing its 3,000 troops in Iraq in September, Italian news agencies reported.

"Already in September we will begin a progressive reduction of the number of our soldiers in Iraq," Berlusconi was quoted as saying during a taping of a state TV talk show.

Withdrawing Italian troops "will depend on the capability of the Iraqi government to give itself structures for acceptable security," the ANSA news agency quoted Berlusconi as saying. "I've spoken about it with (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair, and it's the public opinion of our countries that expects this decision."

Italian government officials already indicated that if Iraq can handle its own security, Italy would consider withdrawing. The Italian contingent is the fourth-largest in the coalition.

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "We certainly appreciate the contributions of the Italians."

Opposition to the war and to Italy's involvement in Iraq is strong here. Berlusconi faced renewed pressure to pull troops out after the March 4 killing in Baghdad of an Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, as he escorted a recently released hostage to freedom.

Calipari was killed by U.S. troops, who mistakenly opened fire on his vehicle as it headed to the Baghdad's airport with freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena.

The government made it clear it was not considering a pullout following the agent's death.

When asked whether the shooting played a role in Berlusconi's decision, McClellan said, "I'm not sure I'd make a connection there. I haven't heard any comment to that effect from Italian officials."

On Tuesday, the Italian contingent suffered its 21st casualty in Iraq when a soldier accidentally shot himself in the head during target practice, officials said.

In a separate development, Italy's lower house of parliament approved the extension of financing for troops in Iraq through June. The Senate already voted to extend the mission last month.


All righty then.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Get Yer Irish Up!

I would like to point out that this is the same group that banned the Seattle Ancient Order of Hibernians and any other nationalist group associated with justice in the North of participating in the Irish Festival at the Seattle Center. They do allow them to march in parade. I feel they allow that because it boosts the numbers. This group is also well known for being anti-republican so this really does not surprise me in only that it took this long for something like this to happen when they invite yearly a Loyalist politician to this event.

British Union Jack disrupts St. Patrick's Day Parade

By Tan Vinh
Seattle Times staff reporter

At the start, it looked as if the 34th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade would provide the usual afternoon of family fun, with marching bands and dancing leprechauns to honor the patron saint of the Emerald Isle.

Then a dignitary from the British territory of Northern Ireland - invited by parade sponsors to help lead the procession through downtown - raised the British Union Jack, and several spectators got their Irish up, hurling objects and expletives at him during the milelong march.

To Irish Americans who object to the British rule of Northern Ireland, carrying that flag was considered the equivalent of "waving the Confederate flag at a Martin Luther King march," several Irish American community groups said yesterday.

Lisburn Mayor Cecil Calvert, appeared unfazed, even as passers-by got in his face and yelled in his ears. One woman tried to knock the flag out of his hands.

"This is a slap in the face. That flag represents the military occupation of Ireland," said Jenna Stephens, who paraded with the Committee for Truth and Justice in Ireland.

Calvert said he was merely celebrating St. Patrick's Day like everyone else. The holiday, he said, "is not just for the nationalist community."

The Irish Heritage Club traditionally invites dignitaries from Ireland to join in the parade.

The Seattle-based club invited the mayor from Lisburn last year without incident and had no indication that the new mayor would carry the Union Jack flag until the day before the parade.

Parade organizers tried to talk him out of it, but according to Calvert's aides, "He felt it was important to demonstrate his British roots," said John Keane, a spokesman for the Irish Heritage Club. "We felt we did not have the right to censor him."

"I was disappointed in him," Keane said of the mayor. "But I was also disappointed in the reaction of some people. They allowed him to provoke them."

Many cursed at Calvert but no fights broke out, and the Seattle police made no arrests.

The pre-parade events were a clue that this year's would not be the usual St. Patrick's Day celebration. During the Irish and the American national anthems, dignitaries, by tradition, stand on the second floor of a building at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street with the Irish and the U.S. flags.

Among them were parade co-grand marshal Rob McKenna, the state attorney general, and Mayor Catherine Connolly of Galway, Seattle's sister city in Ireland. Calvert was a no-show.

Then Calvert appeared at the start of the parade with his flag. Some passers-by taunted him, but the mayor ignored them. Later, Calvert emphasized he was not making any political statement, merely carrying the flag of his people.

"It is not our intention to have any confrontation. We are here in the spirit of friendship," said Lisburn Chief Executive Norman Davidson, who marched with the mayor.

"I am very upset. They [parade organizers] should have taken the flag from him," said Bernadette Noonan, who was in the parade with another group.

(Now come on...who in their right mind even BRINGS a Union Jack to a St. Pat's parade? Can ANYONE say Oliver Cromwell???)

Stuff

Yesterday was the 6th annual Acorn Community Goddess Faire. Mystic Grove had a table there and did a little fundraising. Joe sold 5 sets of runes. It was nice out there yesterday. It was held on someone's land...I think it's Shawna's home and land. Anyway, it was enjoyable. Joe and I have two sand chairs that we use when we go to events like this, and they have seen a lot of mileage out of our buns!

I did find myself scratching my head and wondering about the fashion show, however. No, it wasn't a literal fashion show, but there were a lot of people there - mostly women did this - who were dressed in layers upon layers of medieval clothing, and in FL at this time of year it's quite warm. Not blazing hot, but enough to where layers would be terribly uncomfortable. And no one was removing said layers as the temperature climbed during the day. People just wanted to look like medieval peasantry, I suppose, and so they did. But brilliantly colored medieval peasantry. Kym Dragon showed up swathed in pink and cream, for example, with dark blue petticoats underneath her pink dress and cream bodice. Someone else did something completely different and dressed in black vinyl pants, which is hotter than hell. And just about everyone of both genders wore some kind of tall boots, not to mention the full capes and cloaks I was seeing. You'd think it was winter!

No, for me, when I go to outdoor events like this, it's plain jeans & a T shirt all the way. And I'll bring a sweater if I get cold once the sun goes down. Oh, and let's not forget comfortable, sturdy shoes that will protect my feet against "curse burrs" and fire ants. My moccasins did just fine for that purpose. I wore long pants yesterday for that very reason - protection from sun, burrs, ants and mosquitoes. This IS Florida, after all. Yeah, I got slightly warm, but not unbearably so. I also had my golf umbrella to shade me from the sun -- I'd forgotten my sunscreen, so I just opened my umbrella over my head and made do with that. Worked just fine - I only got slightly pink in my face and that's it. Heather wore a spaghetti-strap top and no sunscreen and didn't sit in the shade - and got burned. She's very fair.

Saw Stacey/Morgaine at the Goddess Faire. She ignored Mystic Grove completely. I chose not to do ritual with her, because I can't stand in circle with her. I just don't see how it's possible to stand in a religious ceremony designed to strengthen community with a person I have a lot of anger towards, and whom I feel has wronged me and owes me an apology. Of course, she was being her usual snotty-ass self and talking only to those people she thought were cool enough for her attentions. Thankfully, no one else in Mystic Grove participated in that circle either, including Joe. I was hoping at least he would sit out the ceremony in solidarity with me.

Besides, I'm doing the Ostarablot next weekend anyway. No sense in doing two rituals for one holiday. I reserve that kind of activity for Jul.

Joe did make an interesting comment, however, on the drive home. As we watched the Ostara circle from our table, he noticed that Kym Dragon had people kneeling during the invocation. Joe has serious problems approaching the Gods on his knees. Even if he didn't have knee problems from having run track in his youth, he wouldn't kneel before the Gods. Esp. considering they invoked Odin and Ostara during that ritual, and Odin is the God he's specifically dedicated to!

When I write up a ritual or blot, there's no kneeling or even sitting involved. People are on their feet for the whole rite. Dignified. Of course, I don't keep them there for very long, as I know feet get sore from just standing around.

I'm debating on how I'm going to write up the Ostarablot. I'm considering using a particular story from the Eddas, the Skirnismal for this blot. Last year I did the theft of Idunna's apples, which seemed to me a perfectly good myth for this time of year. I'm going to try this one this year and see if I like it better. Joe had commented that the Idunna story didn't seem quite right for the season, and I can't figure out why, so I thought to myself, "Well, there's no harm in trying something different to see if it works; it's the only way to find out" and going with the Skirnismal this year. If I don't like it, I'll go with the Idunna story instead from here on out. Hey, I offered that rite to Mystic Grove to put it into a book of rituals, sort of like a Book of Shadows. Why not use it year after year? That's what a RITUAL is, after all!

Pity there's little lore on Ostara Herself. I just can't find any stories about Her and what She does and how She interacts with other Gods or the Jotun or whatever. Oh, I know what Her symbols are - rabbits, hares, eggs, flowers, all that spring stuff. Everything you see for Easter are Ostara symbols. But, because there's not much out there on Ostara Herself, that's why I'm considering enacting the Skirnismal or doing it as a guided meditation. I'm leaning towards guided meditation, myself.

Yesterday during the ritual at the Goddess Faire, there was a lot of emphasis on balance, because this is the Vernal Equinox coming up. Night and day are equal, balanced. But the thing is...balance does not lead to progress. Progress is controlled imbalance. Just watch what happens when you walk. Taking each step is an exercise in controlled imbalance. Even the Tao Te Ching says, "If you would be whole, let yourself be partial." It's something of a paradox, that's for sure. Balance means standing still, going nowhere, stagnation. I've noticed that the word "balance" is such a buzzword among Pagans, yet have most of them really examined balance?

Ah, but if you ask someone like Morgaine, that snotty wench, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm a dumbass and not worthy to be listened to or even given the time of day.

Hah. I made a damned impact on her. I got her pissed off, I got her to lose control and flame me, and I still have enough of an impact for her to make it a point to ignore me -- so in a sense, she's not ignoring me. She's silently validating me and acknowledging that I'm enough of a problem to her for her to ignore me. *evil grin*

There IS a dark and perverse part of me that asks, who's pulling the strings here, then? Who is the REAL power here? Of course, I didn't talk to her either. No one in Mystic Grove spoke to her. But she's the one who took herself out of our group. She's the one who threw her hands up and flounced out in a puff of drama. No one asked her to leave. No one told her not to come back. In fact, Chip sent her a welcoming email inviting her to change her mind, but she refused. Ever since then she's pointedly refused to speak to ANYONE in Mystic Grove when she sees us around. This should get interesting, given that Mystic Grove is looking to do a lot more work with WRCF, and she's very into WRCF. (Wiccan Religious Cooperative of Florida - and personally I think they should consider changing their name if not everyone in that organization is Wiccan...and not only that, it goes to show a tiny bit of that Wiccan arrogance, assuming that Wicca = Pagan and all other forms of Paganism aren't valid...I think that having an organization that calls itself "Wiccan" anything yet is open to non-Wiccan forms of Pagan spirituality only reinforces attitudes like Stacey's so she feels she CAN throw "perfect love and perfect trust" up in faces of people like ME who don't bother with it...)

Ah well, I'd better get on with writing the Ostarablot. It's being held next Saturday, and it's not likely I'll have a lot of time during the week to do this.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Hi Folks

Very tired redhead checking in. Haven't had a lot of time to blog.

I do want to, though. I have a lot of topics in my head to blog about.

But, Joe is making sets of runes for selling at the Goddess Faire this weekend. I'm writing up a ritual for next weekend's Ostara festivities.

I'm considering telling Mystic Grove that I want Jul permanently, that I want to do the Jul blot every year. This thought was brought on by the death of a member of First Unitarian Church, and I thought a sumbel was a nice opportunity for the whole church community to remember her, along with other "disir" or female ancestors. We'll see.

I'm also going to work out when we should do Alfablot, for the male ancestors. There doesn't seem to be a fixed date for that.

A brief note for those who don't know: Sharon Hiett, one of the most active members of FUCO, was killed in a bicycle accident Monday night. It's a serious blow to our church family.

That's why one of the topics I wanted to blog about was the effect that real ritual (and by that I mean something done repetitively, something most Wikkans can't understand because for some reason they feel compelled to do something different every single year and have no concept of TRADITION - ok I'll calm down) has in binding a community closer together and strengthening ties. It's really amazing.

But I'm exhausted. More on this another time.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Loss

I just found out from Carie today that one of the people from church was killed in a bicycle accident Monday night.

Here is the text of the email Marni sent out on Tuesday, that Carie forwarded to me:

Members of our beloved community:

It is with the deepest sadness that I send you this email. Throughout the day, we have been attempting to contact as many people as we can so that as few of you as possible will have to learn this sad news by email.

Last night (Monday), Sharon Hiett was riding her bicycle and was hit by a car, falling from her bike and hitting the back of her head on hard pavement. She has not and will not regain consciousness. Many difficult decisions were made today. Sharon had signed an organ donor card; the process of evaluation and matching has begun and will likely be complete within 24 hours.

A memorial service has been scheduled for 2pm this Saturday at the church. In lieu of flowers (which Sharon would have considered a waste of money!), the family has asked that donations be made to the church, with the designation "Sharon Hiett Fund" on the check. Money collected will be earmarked for capital improvements in the Religious Education complex.

Many of you will want to do something. Cards are, of course, always welcome and helpful. I would also invite you to bring food to share for the reception after the service. Sharon would never want people to leave hungry!

Please hold Russ, David and Jonathan in your hearts during these difficult days.


I knew Sharon but not well. Mostly my heart just utterly breaks for her family. But on the other hand I'm so deeply thankful that there is going to be a huge, huge wave of support from the church for them. This is the kind of tsunami that is good...an outpouring of love and support and comfort during this period.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Woman's Day!

PARIS (AFP) - Women's groups were to embark on a global march for equal rights, International Women's Day, amid fresh reports which paint a fairly grim picture of their plight in many parts of the world.

The world tour for a charter for equal rights gets underway in Sao Paulo, Brazil and will come to an end in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in October after passing through over 50 countries in between.

The Women's Global Charter for Humanity was adopted by women's rights groups in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, in December.

Organisers expect 30,000 women to attend Tuesday's start of the tour. Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital, was chosen as the final destination because of its poverty and low level of protection for women.

The charter proposes "to build another world where exploitation, oppression, intolerance and exclusion no longer exist, and where integrity, diversity and the rights and freedoms of all are respected."

The Montreal-based World March of Women which authored the document "views patriarchy as the system oppressing women and capitalism as the system that enables a minority to exploit the vast majority of women and men".

Some of the worst problems experienced by women around the world were highlighted in a new report by the World Organisation Against Torture, published to coincide with Women's Day.

"Gender plays a major role on the type of torture used, the circumstances in which torture is used, the consequences and the availability and access to justice," the worlds largest coalition of non-governmental organisations fighting against arbitrary detention, torture, summary and extrajudicial executions, said in its report.

The anti-torture group in particular denounced the fact that women continue to be denied legal protection against the flaunting of national and international rights, with the effect of offering impunity to the transgressors.

The World Organisation Against Torture (WOAT) denounced the rape, and other violence against women and girls, perpetrated in Bangladesh, Colombia, Greece, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Sudan.

Meanwhile the UN food agency said Tuesday it was committed to reducing additional burdens often put on women in developing countries, as children have a better chance of growing up well-nourished when women are in control of food.

"While women's access to food is all important, it is vital that we minimize the impact of the additional burden that this may create," said James Morris, executive director of the World Food Programme.

Practice had shown that ensuring women's control over food often adds to an already heavy burden of responsibility, the agency said.

Women are also increasingly in the line of fire from the multi-billion-dollar international trade in small arms, according to a report released on Monday by Amnesty International, Oxfam and a third group.

In South Africa, a woman is shot dead by a current or former partner every 18 hours, while in the United States, two out of every three women killed by their husbands are shot, said the report released on the eve of International Women's Day.
"Women are silent sufferers in the proliferation of small arms. This is the scandal against the human race," said Judy Bassingthwaite, a representative of the South African-based International Action Network on Small Arms which also authored the report entitled: "The Impact of Guns on Women's Lives".

In Asia, women trail well behind their male counterparts in terms of social-economic advancement although the gap is closing in some countries, a regional survey released Monday said.

The inaugural MasterIndex of Women's Advancement measuring the social-economic success of women in 13 regional economies, MasterCard International said. A score below 100 indicated gender inequality in favor of men.

It used four key indicators -- labor force, tertiary education, managerial positions and median income. Of the 13 markets surveyed, gender inequality was highest in South Korea with a score of 45.5 followed by Indonesia at 52.5 and Japan at 54.5.

Women in Thailand fared best with scores of 92.3 followed by Malaysia at 86.2, China at 68.4 and Australia at 67.6.

It's not all bad news for women, however.

A new women's political party is set to emerge in Sweden, a country already considered a world-leader in women's rights.

And in Kuwait on Monday the parliament agreed to a government request to speed up moves to look into a bill that would grant women political rights, but did not set a date for the proposed debate.

However the European Union voiced shock and concern at the "disproportionate" use of force by Turkish police to clamp down on a demonstration in Istanbul ahead of International Women's Day.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Cyberbullies

SAN FRANCISCO — When Joanne had a row with a longtime friend last year, she had no idea it would spill into cyberspace.

But what started as a spat at a teenage sleepover swiftly escalated into a three-month harangue of threatening e-mails and defacement of her weblog. "It was a non-stop nightmare," says Joanne, 14, a freshman at a private high school in Southern California. "I dreaded going on my computer."

The bullying eventually stopped after her parents and school officials intervened. But Joanne remains shaken by the experience.

The incident reflects the latest way technology is altering the social lives of children at an age when they are especially vulnerable to insults. The emergence of cyberbullying has intensified adolescent angst. It allows bullies to unleash put-downs, nasty rumors and humiliating pictures in e-mail and blogs that can strike victims at home and at any time. The damage can be devastating, psychologists say, even as it is not always obvious to parents and teachers.

Cyberbullies, mostly ages 9 to 14, are using the anonymity of the Web to mete out pain without witnessing the consequences. The problem — aggravated by widespread use of wireless devices such as cell phones and BlackBerrys — is especially prevalent in affluent suburbs, where high-speed Internet use is high and kids are technically adept, says Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, an online safety group.

"Some kids can't wait to get home so they can continue taunting," says Aftab, who is also an Internet lawyer.

"Maybe we need to protect kids from one another online as much as we shield them from dangerous adults."

Often, the social cruelties escape the notice of schools, which focus on problems on campus, and of parents, who are unaware of what their kids are doing online.

Many victims don't tell their parents, out of fear they'll be barred from using the Internet, Aftab and others say.

Several parents agreed to have their children interviewed by USA TODAY, but only if their last names were not used and a parent monitored the call. They feared their children would face another round of taunting if they were publicly identified.

"What happens online, stays online. There is a code of silence," says Nancy Willard, a tech lawyer and executive director of Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use in Eugene, Ore.

'No one can help you'

"You feel as if no one can help you," says Alyssa, 14, who waited two weeks before telling her mother she was being bullied by a boy who called her a "loser" and "stupid" in instant messages. "It's a lonely, scary feeling."

The problem appears to be growing, as more kids chat on the Internet. Half of 3,000 U.S. children surveyed the past six months said they or someone they know have been victims or guilty of cyberbullying, WiredSafety.org says.

In Louisiana, a 15-year-old girl was arrested in January and accused of "cyberstalking," posting photos of a male student on a Web site.

At Oak View Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., last year, sixth-grade students conducted an online poll to determine the ugliest classmate, school officials say.

Cyberbullying is so pervasive in Westchester County, N.Y., that officials held a half-day conference last month for students, parents, teachers and law-enforcement officials. Six hundred attended.

When 200 students were asked how many had been a victim or perpetrator, or had a friend who was either, all but six raised their hands, county officials say.

The Internet has changed the dynamics of schoolyard bullying, counselors and teachers say. Before, a big, intimidating boy typically pushed people around or stared them down. Now, the technically astute — boys and girls — harass for different reasons.

Victims and bullies

According to Aftab, there are those who fancy themselves "vengeful angels" who come to someone's defense but go too far; "mean girls" who gang up on others as a glorified social activity; the "power hungry," a direct descendant of the classic bully who tries to assert control over those considered weaker; and inadvertent bullies, who don't realize they've hurt someone's feelings.

"Two burly kids can take an issue outside and settle it with their fists," says Teri Schroeder, CEO of i-Safe America, a non-profit that teaches Internet safety to children."Cyberbullies can turn tormenting into a long-pitched battle involving dozens of people."

Victims are often targeted because they are considered different — usually those considered overweight, small, with a learning disability or overly sensitive. Many face dirty digital tricks that range from derogatory comments about them online to embarrassing e-mail attributed to them intended to insult friends and crushes.

Boys and girls are both bullies and victims. MindOh Foundation, an e-learning company for kids who have trouble in school, found widespread online bullying by 5,502 U.S. boys and girls it surveyed in January.

There is a pattern to their meanness. While girls generally mock others for their physical appearance, boys tend to make more sexually explicit comments, says Mary Worthington, an elementary-education counselor for Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA). The non-profit group offers prevention-education programs to students and parents.

Ashlee DuPont,a former elementary school teacher in Birmingham, Ala., says she was "sickened" by the manner girls manipulated one another with instant messages. "I grew to hate that," DuPont says.

Excluded from buddy lists

Sometimes, excluding a classmate from buddy lists and online communities can be as damaging. "What used to happen with cliques, with kids making others feel they don't belong, is part of the Internet experience," says Donna O'Brien, coordinator for curriculum and instruction at Lake Zurich Community Unit School District near Chicago.

She says it is common for middle-school girls there to dictate who can wear what the next day. "A typical exchange is, 'Only the cool girls wear leopard-skin pants, and you can't,' " O'Brien says.

"Kids without empathy are getting sucked into posting derogatory comments to be part of a group," Worthington says. "There's no malice aforethought."

Bullies called griefers even lurk on multiplayer gaming sites.

Michael, 11, a fifth-grader in the Los Angeles area, stopped using his computer for six months after a brush with a griefer. After he beat another boy in an online game, several of the boy's friends threatened Michael in a chat room.

"If I find you, I will beat you up," one message read. Frightened, Michael blocked their IM addresses but didn't tell his parents for two weeks. "It scared me," he recalls. "It was the first time I was bullied."

Michael's mother, Patty, encouraged him to use his PC again — but with limits. He and his 16-year-old sister are barred from chat rooms and limited to one hour a day online, unless homework requires more time. "Cyberbullying is a scary thing, but kids need to keep up with technology," she says.

Most cyberbullies are unrepentant, but some insist their remarks were in retaliation and may have gone too far.

When Gerald, 14, was accused by another student of using a racial slur to describe a female friend, he went on the attack late last year. He spread a rumor that his female accuser was a prostitute.

His instant message ended up on a Web site popular among students at his high school in Tampa. He apologized to the embarrassed girl, and she told him she was sorry for starting the online exchange.

"This is so common at our school," says Gerald, who spends about three hours a day exchanging instant messages.

Fighting back

School officials walk a tightrope to protect victims without trampling the free-speech rights of bullies — many of whom operate anonymously.

If schools harshly discipline alleged cyberbullies, they risk litigation from angry parents.

"It's a delicate balance of free speech, child protection and parental supervision," says Andrew Spano, county executive for Westchester County, N.Y.

A lawsuit filed by Stuart and Laura Beath on behalf of their son, a former student at a private school in St. Louis, claims he was wrongfully expelled. School officials say Matthew Beath, 17, was booted for his role in circulating sexually explicit photos of a freshman girl over the Internet.

A trial is scheduled for July in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The school had no comment. Gerard Carmody, a lawyer representing the Beaths, says Matthew is "a good kid" with no disciplinary history.

To minimize the threat of lawsuits and take pressure off school administrators, at least one lawmaker — Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle — has sponsored a bill that would add an electronic component to a state law prohibiting traditional bullying. Under the bill, cyberbullying would not have to occur on school property, during school hours or with school equipment, as long as it has an adverse effect on a student or school. Punishment would be up to each school.

Until new rules are in place, however, many schools are holding anti-cyberbullying assemblies. "Kids are willing to openly discuss their problems if you put them in a group setting," says former victim Alyssa, who now helps others by speaking about her experience at schools nationwide. "When you do, they're pumped and want to help each other."

Kids need to be sensitized

Experts in face-to-face bullying, meanwhile, are devising new strategies to cope with the Internet's impact. They advocate workshops for education and community leaders to detect and respond to the problem, tutorials on how technology influences behavior, and a grounding in legal issues.

Ultimately, they say, kids need to be sensitized to the sting of being bullied. "There are ongoing ways for kids to hurt each other," says folk singer Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, and founder of Operation Respect, a non-profit that teaches tolerance in schools. "If it isn't the Internet, it's reality TV or something else."

The best advice for cyberbully victims is to get parents and school officials involved as soon as possible and not suffer in silence, NOVA's Worthington says. Fighting back only engages bullies, who want a reaction. "Handling bullying online is different than staring down someone in the schoolyard and asking them to stop," she says.

The encouraging news is that more students, parents and administrators are learning about — and coping with — the newest form of bullying.

"Maybe we're less tolerant of people being pushed around," O'Brien says. "We used to tell kids to get over it, that boys will be boys. But there can be long-lasting scars that sometimes result in violence if we ignore this."

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Emails

Here I'll post the two long emails I sent to Mom, coming out to her about my involvement with the Craft and the UU church...

EMAIL 1:
As I have mentioned before, I have an involvement with a local church -- a Unitarian church, not a Methodist church. I don't want to be associated with the Methodists any more. In fact, I'm not very happy with Christianity as a whole and haven't been for many years now.

In 1989 or so, I started reading about Wicca or Witchcraft. My views on it have changed since then, and the actual Wiccan "scene" has changed. The way I see things, over the past 16 years, the Wiccan world has degenerated into what is known as "fluff bunny" nonsense. "Fluff bunny" nonsense means things like

1. Viewing Goddess as all sweetness and light and purity and gentleness and a Barbie doll in a medieval dress
2. Not accepting certain unpleasant aspects of life, such as death (be it of a relationship or a relative or a pet or whatever) but paying shallow lip service to it anyway
3. Buying a lot of paraphernalia that is utterly unnecessary, such as wands, crystals, robes, tons of cheap sterling silver jewelry, Tarot cards and/or runes and/or Ogham staves (methods of divination) and special crushed velvet bags in assorted colors to hold said cards/runes/etc.....things like that

The only really useful things I've ever seen in a metaphysical bookstore are the herbs, and even then it depends on what they're used for -- herbs have healing properties, of course, but there's also the magical properties and many people make special sachets that are supposed to be magically effective with herbs and certain colors of cloth and ribbon, etc. For example, a sachet made with dried rose petals and wrapped in pink or red cloth and tied with a pink or red ribbon would be used for "attracting love" or something like that. Included in this sachet would be a small chunk of rose quartz (pink in color, naturally) as well as a drawing of a heart, or anything that suggests love, that can fit into a tiny bag.

Sometimes being a "kitchen witch" has its advantages. Many witches I know are quite handy with things and make their own natural soaps, incenses, candles, bath salts, shampoo, etc. Some of them sew as well.

Me, I went in a different direction. I studied theology (from the Greek "theo" meaning "God" and "ology" meaning "study"). Only more properly, I should say "thea-ology" ("thea" meaning "Goddess").

I felt more drawn to feminist theology. This is something that seems farfetched, but isn't; many women in the most prestigious universities have made a life out of feminist theology.

Some of these women theologians did not leave the Christian faith - one woman, Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, comes to mind. She teaches at Harvard Divinity School and is a feminist Catholic herself, and had her daughter baptized as a Catholic, even against the protests of many of her feminist colleagues.

Some did leave the Christian faith and walk with the old Goddesses - Carol P. Christ of San Jose State University (and a Yale graduate) comes to mind. In her personal spiritual path, she walks with the Greek love Goddess, Aphrodite. She wrote a book about her experiences coming to women's spirituality, titled "Laughter of Aphrodite." I have this book and I like a lot of it, but I do disagree with certain things in it.

In my own personal life, I have had my own mystical experience with a Goddess. As you know, I participated in a women's spirituality group for three years here in Orlando. I became a fount of Goddess information, and very practiced at conducting different rituals for various holidays and whatnot.

A word, before I continue - these rituals are really not anything dark or horrible. Most people hear the word "ritual" and think it means something bad. When I use it, "ritual" refers to a brief celebration that ties in with the seasonal cycles.

For example: I led the Yuletide ritual this past December. I created the whole thing, start to finish, and wrote the liturgy/invocations, even spoke some of it in Old Norse, and basically acted as a minister would during the Christmas Eve service. I basically led a worship service.

"Yule" (or as I prefer to spell it "Jul") is the Germanic New Year and is held around 21 December, the winter solstice. It's the longest night of the year. There are certain folktales/stories that are associated with Jul, and a few songs have survived into the modern times, the most obvious one being "Deck the Halls".

"See the blazing Yule before us - fa lalalala, lalalala..." or "Troll the ancient Yuletide carol - fa lalalala, lalalala"

The word "Jul" means "wheel" and Jul is regarded as that time of year when the Year Wheel turns, the old year gives way and the New Year is born from the darkness of the year's longest night.

Another ritual I have created and led was the Feast of St. Bridget. This is usually observed around 2 February...do you remember me calling and commenting about finding things in red & white, because they are Bridget's colors? Bridget wasn't always a Catholic saint. She was the Irish Goddess of the hearth and smithy, of poetry and inspiration, and medicine and healing. The Irish people loved Brighid (as Her name is spelled in Gaelic) so deeply that the Catholic church decided to canonize Her and make Her a saint. They call Her "Mary of the Gaels" meaning Mary of the Gaelic-speaking people. She was said to have been Mary's own midwife at Christ's birth, and even was foster-mother to Christ. (The Irish never lacked for imagination and creavitity when it came to storytelling.)

Coming up later this month is the Spring Equinox, but I have opted not to lead this particular ritual. I could do so, but I have to give other people an opportunity to do it so they can learn how.

All of this is done via a group I am part of at First Unitarian Church of Orlando. Unitarians are very open-minded people, and are quite tolerant of people who follow a Pagan path. Unitarians can be a little difficult to explain. They do not require one to believe in a certain God - or in God at all - to be a Unitarian. Given the history behind the UUs (short for Unitarian Universalist) that's a little odd, but hey. It takes all kinds to make a world.

The Unitarian Universalist Association was formed in 1961 from two different denominations: the Unitarians and the Universalists. There is no creed. There ARE the Seven Principles, and I'll have to go through that another time. All people of any color or age or gender or lifestyle are welcome in the UU church. There are many people who are Pagan-identified within the Unitarian church, and there is an associated group, the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans or CUUPs. The group I do most of my Pagan events with, like Yule, started out with the intent of being a CUUPs chapter.

We're not a very big group, so we sort of gave up temporarily on the idea of being a CUUPs chapter, but First Unitarian is happy to have us there, doing our thing and educating and contributing to the spiritual life of the church as a whole.

The name of the group is Mystic Grove. I suggested the name, it was put to a vote among other names, and this is the name they chose.

Some of the things Mystic Grove does include conducting rituals such as the ones I already described - teaching classes on things like ritual-craft, divination (Tarot cards/runes, etc), spellcraft, kitchen witchery, Goddess lore, etc etc.

Some of these are things I can teach, esp. the Goddess lore or "thea-ology" as I mentioned earlier in this email. Or Irish traditions.


EMAIL 2:
I think this might be another long email. Oh well. I do want to finish what I started yesterday.

So anyway, I wanted in this email to describe a little bit about who these Unitarians are. There's too much information to put in here about the ** history ** of the Unitarian Universalist Association and how it came to be, but I can briefly put something in here about UUs today and what forms the backbone of the UU faith.

I'll just dive right in and put right here the Seven Principles & Six Sources of the UUA (I am taking this straight off their website, www.uua.org, so there is no misquoting)...interpretation to follow...

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

OK, I'll just do the first of the 7 Principles for now. The other ones can come later.

"We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person."

So what does this mean?

Covenant is defined as formal, solemn, and binding agreement.

Affirmation means to validate, to assert, to declare something as valid.

Promotion means, among other things, to advance or put something forward, to bring something into being or awareness.

Inherent means it's part of the essential character of something; it's "built into" it.

Worth indicates value, and dignity means the state of being worthy...hmm, there's that worthiness idea again.

So what that leaves us with is that these congregations have agreed to assert/declare and put forward every person's essential worth and right to that worth, their dignity. It is not based on money or prestige or whatever. A person's worth and dignity are a part of their very being...people are born with worth and dignity.

That's just the FIRST Principle. I could go into the others....another time. I'll tackle the first of the 6 sources next.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

I've personally experienced this myself. Most people have and don't even know it. It's one of those moments when perhaps a person stands before the ocean, or looking at a mountain or sunset, and pauses and goes "Ah" and feels totally at one with not just the earth, but the very life force that most people call "God" and which sustains all life. Sometimes it's referred to as a mystical insight or something like that.

Most traditional Christian churches, such as the Methodist and Baptist and Lutheran churches, etc, are NOT all that open to this "direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder." Methodists and Baptists, etc, believe you should ONLY look to the Bible for spiritual information. These traditional Christians have the attitude that if it's not the Bible, it's totally invalid. Wrong. Demonic. Evil. Not to be messed with.

I strongly disagree, and one of the reasons I disagree is because first of all, there's more than one version of the Bible. At the very least, there's the Catholic Bible (the St. Joseph's) and the Protestant Bibles (of which, the King James Version or KJV is but one of probably hundreds of translations).

Unitarian Universalists are more welcoming of my perspective, and they have even spelled it out in the first of their six sources or foundational ideas.

I think I'll take on the third and and sixth sources next:

"Wisdom from the world's religions which inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life" and "spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature."

This is where the whole Pagan thing comes in. Because UUs value teachings from the world's religions as well as Earth-centered traditions, they are open to having Pagans be part of the spiritual life of the church as a whole.

And this is how I come in. As I mentioned before, Mystic Grove is a small group within First Unitarian that focuses on Pagan or Earth-centered spirituality, and with them I have created and led seasonal rituals/celebrations like Yule, which introduce people to a different type of tradition and open them up to a different side of spiritual life. Last October Mystic Grove led an entire service one Sunday, talking about "Pagan perspectives in the 21st century" and I led the congregation in a Goddess chant and I sang the Postlude for that service as well. The chant goes like this:

"We all come from the Goddess - And to Her we shall return - Like a drop of rain - Flowing to the ocean"

And there's a second part, a harmony part, that goes like this:

"Isis - Astarte - Diana - Hecate - Demeter - Kali - Inanna"

These are Goddess names, of course. Tom Cook, someone I have known here for a long time and who is part of First Unitarian and Mystic Grove, and I have led chant/song workshops, teaching people how to harmonize and sing in two and three parts, because many chants have two and three parts that harmonize. Tom is quite musical, as is Chip (another person I know from Mystic Grove and First Unitarian).

ALL this stuff I've included in these two emails is PRECISELY why I think most people think of me as weird, strange, not normal. I do know that I have a reputation amongst some of my coworkers as a significant intellectual force; one day when I was sitting in the break room with a few other people (this was at work) Dan W. who works with me was telling a new employee to never get into a theological debate with me, because I WILL win. I'm too good. And Dan is no intellectual slouch himself, not in the least.

I got this way by my extensive studies in religion, sociology, feminist theory, Pagan spirituality, etc. I think I've put a significant dent in the basics for a degree in theology. Some of the reading material I have are:

Women of the Celts by Jean Markale
The Celts by Jean Markale
King of the Celts by Jean Markale

The Masks of God (a series of 4 books) by Joseph Campbell
Myths To Live By by Joseph Campbell
Thou Art That by Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth (on DVD and in print) by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers
Historical Atlas of World Mythology by Joseph Campbell
World Mythology published by the Joseph Campbell Foundation

Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shindoa Bolen

Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Pagan Meditations by Ginette Paris

Laughter of Aphrodite by Carol P. Christ

In The Beginning by Karen Armstrong

A History of God by Karen Armstrong

Womanspirit Rising by various authors (a collection of feminist essays)

A History Of Pagan Europe by Nigel Pennick

Egil's Saga, Laxadaela Saga and The Vinland Sagas -- all Icelandic sagas/stories that have no specific author, but date back several hundred years

The Poetic Edda & The Prose Edda - no authors, but translations of very old Icelandic works (Iceland is considered the world's most literate country)

Various Celtic myths & stories, such as the Mabinogion and the Ulster Cycle and the likes

Women in Celtic Mythology by .... oh I've forgotten her name now

The Dhammapada (Buddhist Scripture)

Peace Is Every Step by Thich Naht Hanh
The Sun My Heart by Thich Naht Hanh
The Diamond Sutra translated and interpreted by Thich Naht Hanh (this is a Buddhist teaching story)

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and an American psychiatrist whose name escapes me right now
Ethics for the New Millennium by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Crossing the Threshhold by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II (the current Pope)

Sources of Strength by Jimmy Carter
Living Faith by Jimmy Carter

The Upanishads (Hindu Scripture)

The Baghavad Gita (More Hindu Scripture, and probably the single most amazing spiritual document ever produced by the human race - it's my favorite, it was Gandhi's favorite as well, and if there was a way I could convert and become Hindu I'd do it, but that's not possible because of the way Hinduism as a religion AND an Indian way of life are so closely braided together)

Tao Te Ching (again, a translation of very ancient Chinese wisdom; my favorite translation is by Stephen Mitchell, who also did a brilliant translation of the Baghavad Gita)

Europe: A History by Norman Davies
The Isles by Norman Davies

Myths and Symbols of Pagan Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
Gods and Goddesses of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson

The Germania by Tacitus

The City of God by St. Augustine
Confessions by St. Augustine

Confession by St. Patrick

Some of Thomas Aquinas' works, such as Summa Theologiae (but he's a REAL challenge to read)

Martin Luther's 95 theses that were nailed to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, some 1500 years ago and which sparked off the Protestant Reformation, and thus led to a complete revamping of all Christendom

I would also LIKE to read the Koran, which is Muslim Scripture. I ** refuse ** to give in to xenophobia (fear of other people) and stay away from it just because at this juncture in history some Muslims have done some really bad things. There is transcendent knowledge there, and the only way to know for sure what it says is to read it myself...not go on hearsay.

Anyway, much of this would come under the heading of either history, mythology, or theology. There are certain authors I avoid like the plague because I feel that what they publish is worthy only of the privy...Silver Ravenwolf comes to mind. She's one of the writers who I think has contributed to the terrible scholarship currently seen all across the Wiccan world. It's so awful, and I actually DO have a lot of material to compare it to and see WHY it's so shameful. Most of the people I read, unlike this Silver Ravenwolf woman, have degrees and tenure at the world's best universities. Silver Ravenwolf is all show no go, as they say in the car show industry. She has no degrees and probably little education beyond high school. I've caught her in a few different errors in her books, and if people come to me asking questions about what they should read in order to learn, I NEVER recommend her.

Some of the awful scholarship I'm referring to include thoughts such as:

1. Wicca is the world's oldest religion.
2. Jesus Christ was a witch.
3. The ancient Celts were Wiccans.
4. Wiccans were burned at the stake during the Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials.
5. Wicca is a "make it up as you go" religion.
6. The Wiccan tenet of "an ye harm none do as ye will" applies to ALL Pagan religions
7. Karma is a universal force and it means what you put out will return to you - and is the same thing as the Threefold Law (what you put out will return to you three times over).

All this is complete garbage. The problem is, many people in the Wiccan world now are teenybopper drama queens who can't bear to be told they're wrong and their precious Silver Ravenwolf got it wrong and doesn't know what she's talking about. There is a preponderance of "don't think, just feel" among most Wiccans, meaning it's more important that you just do/believe whatever "feels right to you" and scholarship has nothing to do with religion. The "don't think, just feel" people value intuition and subjective emotional experience over objective, hard-and-fast scholarship.

I think that's utter balderdash. "Don't think, just feel" indeed. All those points I just listed above are complete balderdash. Rubbish. Fiddlesticks. "Jesus Christ was a witch" indeed. I have my theories as to why someone would believe such nonsense. It's justification for walking away from Christianity.

The thing is, given that I have been doing all this studying and learning and researching and whatnot, both inside and outside a classroom, I feel I have a responsibility for correcting this nonsense when I come up against it. If someone tries to tell me that "the Celts were Wiccans" I say, "Oh no, that's not true" and procede to prove it. I can't just let it proliferate. Sloppy thinking twists my tail.

And is not good for society as a whole. I think it was Andrew Jackson who said that an educated and armed populous is the only defense against tyranny. *smile*

Whew. I'm rather running out of steam here at the moment. I know it's rather a lot to assimilate....but it has been a fascinating journey for me over the past 16 years or so. I've put a lot of effort into this. I don't think I can just...let it go as if it was nothing. Esp. not given what I see in this world today, America of 2005, from this perspective. This is one of the reasons why Joe says I should write, write, write and publish my essays. He thinks I could be a significant force in the world of religion & spirituality, if I just took some of my raw scrawlings and refined them and put them together in book form.


OK. I haven't had a response from her regarding these emails, even on the phone! I guess she's too flabbergasted to even know where to start.

I sent a third email that was rather brief:

Well, the thought I had that I was going to close that email off with was, I seem to recall one day, long ago, you'd commented that you had always pictured me as one of those worldly, sophisticated women who communicated well and knew about different cultures and yada yada...

And I suppose in a way I've done just that, sort of. I haven't been able to travel except in my mind. The only way I have been able to do so is the little window to the outer world that is books.

The Irish practically invented books as we know them today, for they used to scribe upon long pages of sheepskin and bind these together to form "choirs". Previous to the bound book, people read from scrolls.

I got this from a lovely book I have on audio tape called "How the Irish Saved Civilization." The Irish always have been a highly literate people. Poems and books and stories and scriptorium and whatnot have always been part of the Irish cultural life. The Irish were copying the great works of Europe during the Dark Ages when the Vikings were plundering and looting and whatnot. They would steal a bound book to melt down the silver and gold that decorated the leather cover, not because the literature within was inherently valuble to them.

Bloody Sassenachs (a Gaelic word for "Saxons" but not a very nice word) probably couldn't read at all, and sacked a beautiful monastery called Lindisfarne in the 800s for the gold on the altar....grrrrr....

Anyway, one of the most gorgeous pieces of literary art is the Book of Kells, located at Trinity College in Ireland, and it's handwritten and hand -- illustrated Scripture, in Latin, and the overall beauty of its pages are just unbelievable. It's a true Irish treasure.

The way I see it is this: beta and VHS and DVD and whatnot all eventually become obsolete. The modest book has never become obsolete. It's portable, it never crashes, it works in all countries with all different power cords, one doesn't have to wait for it to load like on a webpage...I say there are many advantages to reading! Yay for reading!


Mom doesn't like to read, she doesn't comprehend what it means to be a bibliophile. And she's happy just being a Christian. I haven't told her why I became unhappy with Christianity.

Yes, one has to do a certain amount of "coming out" when one is part of a different faith. I think it's really sad that Christianity has such intense hold on the minds of most people, esp. here in the American South, that when someone LEAVES that faith, a lot of the time they feel they have to be on the defensive about it. Pity, that.

And bear also in mind that Mom is just a simple country girl from West Virginia. She REALLY has that German practicality knit into her very bones. She's not one to waste time with dreams and visions and whatnot...she wants to know what will work to support her life, her household, that kind of thing. Theories and concepts and abstractions are meaningless to her. She's very much a powerhouse when it comes to "what works, what will get things done" kind of thinking. In her youth, she would have been unstoppable had a heart attack at 41 not put a severe dent into her professional life.

Ma has her strengths. But I have mine. Ma is no academic, but given her personality she wouldn't have needed to be. I am an academic, and it's my thing. It's what I do.

I notice something. She always says, "You sound just like your dad" when I say things that irritate her.

Who am I supposed to sound like, Ma? He's my father! What, should I sound like the woman down the street? Should I sound like YOU and come up with reasons why I can't do something?

No, Ma. BOTH of you are my parents. BOTH of you are the people I sound like.

And that is what makes me who I am.

"You sound just like your dad." Thanks, Ma. Oh, did you mean that's a BAD thing?

One of these days she'll figure it all out. I'm not her and I'm not meant to live the life she wanted to live.

Beware the Groove!

Well, naturally, Zephyr is entitled to his/her opinion.

Maybe I AM arrogant.

Good. Bloody hell, it beats the dog shit out of the alternative, which is groveling and apologizing and trying to justify my entire existence (which pretty much describes my life until very recently...after Dad died, I decided that I am not going to waste what years I have left to me by trying to be what I think other people want me to be, acting in whatever way I think will cause the least offense...I will be ME and if people don't like it, too bad).

As soon as someone starts using words like that to describe me...well, it says a lot more about that person than it does about me, and how they feel about themselves.

And as soon as someone feels the need to use words like that to describe me, then I've done my job.

I have made an impact. I threw off someone's groove (to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite Disney movies, "The Emperor's New Groove").

BEWARE THE GROOVE! Hahahahahaha! And of course, I get thrown out the window (or told I'm arrogant, basically the same thing) for throwing off someone's groove. ROFL!!!

Believe me, there are far worse than me out there, in terms of arrogance. I'm actually pretty mellow, compared to SOME of the drama queens I've seen out there. I think it's great, that I've elicited that kind of response.

I'll borrow a phrase from Joe. I'm not arrogant. I'm just confident. I know what I know and I won't apologize for what I've accomplished in terms of religious research over the past 16 years. I HAVE learned a thing or two. I COULD very well do Harvard level coursework, if I only had the money to attend that school. I've SEEN their course listings. I AM just that good.

If anyone finds that attitude threatening, oh well.

Yes, better arrogant and confident than -- having oatmeal for backbone. Wait til I post the text of the 2 emails I sent Ma. I let go, both barrels, and described all the things about my spiritual life that I'd been hiding from her all this time, because I thought she'd not appreciate it or understand it.

I think I'll address that for a moment here. No more covering up or hemming and hawing about it to her. At least she knows the whole truth now. If she still doesn't like it, fine. She can decide that after reading it all. If she still doesn't quite understand it, now she can ask some informed questions.

But I'm out now. No going back. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. BOOYA!

USATODAY.com - Scientists think they found remains of first human

Scientists think they found remains of first human
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A team of U.S. and Ethiopian scientists has discovered the fossilized remains of what they believe is humankind's first walking ancestor, a hominid that lived in the wooded grasslands of the Horn of Africa nearly 4 million years ago.
The bones were discovered in February at a new site called Mille, in the northeastern Afar region of Ethiopia, said Bruce Latimer, director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. They are estimated to be 3.8-4 million years old.

The fossils include a complete tibia from the lower part of the leg, parts of a thighbone, ribs, vertebrae, a collarbone, pelvis and a complete shoulder blade, or scapula. There also is an ankle bone which, with the tibia, proves the creature walked upright, said Latimer, co-leader of the team that discovered the fossils.

The bones are the latest in a growing collection of early human fragments that help explain the evolutionary history of man.

"Right now we can say this is the world's oldest bipedal (an animal walking on two feet) and what makes this significant is because what makes us human is walking upright," Latimer said. "This new discovery will give us a picture of how walking upright occurred."

The findings have not been reviewed by outside scientists or published in a scientific journal.

Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and head of the Graduate School at University College in London said, however, that the new finds could be significant.

"It sounds like a significant find, ... particularly if they have a partial skeleton because it allows you to speculate on biomechanics," Aiello, who was not part of the discovery team, told The Associated Press by telephone from Britain.

Paleontologists previously discovered in Ethiopia the remains of Ardipithecus ramidus, a transitional creature with significant ape characteristics dating as far back as 4.5 million years. There is some dispute over whether it walked upright on two legs, Latimer and Aiello said.

Scientists know little about A. ramidus. A few skeletal fragments suggest it was even smaller than Australopithecus afarensis, the 3.2 million-year-old species widely known by the nearly complete "Lucy" fossil, which measures about 4 feet tall.

Scientists are yet to classify the new find, which they believe falls between A. ramidus and A. afarensis. The fossils would help "join the dots" between the two hominids, said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, an Ethiopian scientist and curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History as well a co-leader of the discovery team.

"This discovery will tell us much about how our 4-million-year-old ancestors walked, how tall they were and what they looked like," he said. "It opens the door on a poorly known time period and (the fossils) are important in that they will help us understand the early phases of human evolution before Lucy."

The specimen is the only the fourth partial skeleton ever to be discovered that is older than 3 million years. It was found after two months of excavation at Mille, 37 miles from the famous Lucy discovery.

"It is a once in a lifetime find," Latimer said.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Nice Hammer!



I may change my little icon for the Heathen links to a Thorshammer or a valknut. I like this hammer.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

TY Heretic

Very sweet note you left me. I'm so glad someone appreciates the things I post about.

I know that my blog probably isn't nearly as impressive as most other blogs are because I mix the personal in with the...more worldly topics.

But, what can I say? It's because I'm a whole human being. My life is not in little pieces.

I have to admit to being not entirely comfortable with accepting compliments. It's hard for me. I hope I can just continue doing what I'm doing and not let any kind of praise OR criticism affect me. I want to just be me, do what I do, and that's that.

If people like it, fine. If they don't, fine.

This reminds me of some things I've become aware of in my life. One is the fact that my mother doesn't comprehend the first thing about my spiritual life and how important it is to me. I hadn't told her anything about it because waaaaaaaaaaay back in the day, when I first began exploring Wicca back in 1989 or so, I didn't come out to her because I thought she wouldn't take it well.

Therefore she doesn't know WHY I'm such a voracious reader. She knows that I am, but she has no clue what I've been reading.

And it is rather a -- lonely thing, not being able to share a part of your life with someone who is so important to you. Believe me, I wish I could. I have longed for support from my own family, and now she's all I have, really. Oh I have other people, but one of them is Doug...Republican, former State Department employee, believing Christian. I don't always feel as connected to them as I do the people I know at the UU Church.

*sigh* Well, as Christ said, "These are my mother and brothers..."

While I'm at the whole introspection thing, I just finished reading Terry Pratchett's novel "A Hat Full Of Sky." I have to highly recommend ALL of his books, because I can't count the number of times his books have rendered me completely helpless with good hard belly laughter, the kind that has you gasping for air and wiping tears and clutching your sides in pain and damn near literally falling out of the chair howling. I mean his books are just that bloody funny. I haven't seen mental visuals that funny just from reading a novel since...well, ever.

But beyond that, I think it should be required reading for EVERY so-called Witch or Wiccan out there, and especially for those who are teetering on the edge and not sure if they want to get involved or not.

Because Mistress Weatherwax sets people straight in this book, but it's done with humor. There is something to be said for making the sky your hat...

One part of "Hat" got to me. The part about the 91 year old man, and the women who took care of him. It reminded me sharply of my father, and how once again, his end wasn't as happy and funny as the story.

Such is life, really. Sometimes I think I talk too much of Dad, but then again he's the only Dad I'll ever have had. And I think that his loss is something that will affect me forever. One never really gets used to it, I think. It's in how one walks with it that makes a difference.

Sure I get sad sometimes. But I also laugh at certain good memories too. And I always remember that I was his "Peanut" and he would want me to keep on keepin' on.

I was writing in one of my other blogs (a Heathen blog I keep) that 29 January is going to be a significant date in my life. It's the day Dad died, and the day of his father's birthday.

I find it significant that Dad died on that day.

But that's part of building a REAL tradition. That's exactly the stuff it's made of. It's what makes it so much more personal. It brings it home, the progress of life and death and new life...that flowing thread that gets woven into wyrd by the hands of the Beloved, Frigg Herself.

See my Heathen links for Frigga's Web and go there for information on the Heathen Goddess Frigg. She is the one I believe "tapped" me many years ago. I'll have to go into it later.

I should probably crash. This has been a bit of a ramble, but sometimes it's nice to just get it out there and off the ol' DDDs.

10 Commandments Article

Check THIS out:

Court enters debate over display of Commandments

By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Ten Commandments are a recurring symbol in American government: carved into granite monuments at state capitols, framed on the walls of county buildings and painted on murals at courthouses. At the U.S. Supreme Court, a depiction of Moses holding the Commandments is etched into marble, part of a frieze on history's great lawgivers.

But in a nation that prohibits government from endorsing religion, do some public displays of the Commandments — the principles of behavior for Christians and Jews — violate the Constitution? It's a legal question that has been brewing for years, and one that now is the focus of a national debate over religion's role in government.

Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases that test whether displays of the Commandments on public property are unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The disputes come from Texas and Kentucky, where federal courts have issued conflicting rulings. (Analysis: Court unlikely to make more historic moves)

In the Texas case, a U.S. appeals court ruled that a 6-foot-high, 3-foot-wide granite monument erected in 1961 on the Capitol grounds in Austin could remain standing because it is part of a larger presentation commemorating state history and culture.

In the Kentucky case, however, a federal court ordered McCreary and Pulaski counties to take down framed copies of the Ten Commandments that had been put up in their courthouses in 1999. The court said the displays were blatantly religious — and therefore unconstitutional — even after officials twice added other documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta.

The cases have drawn intense interest from across the nation. Sixty "friend of the court" briefs have been filed by groups representing religious interests, civil libertarians, historians and state governments. This morning's hearing is expected to draw long lines for the few visitors' seats in the ornate courtroom.

The disputes come to the court three years after an Alabama judge, Roy Moore, gained national attention by installing a 5,300-pound granite monument depicting the Commandments in the state's judicial building in Montgomery. Moore's defiance of a federal court order to remove the monument cost him his job as chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court.

The monument was wheeled away in 2003. Many of the issues raised by Moore's efforts haven't gone away, however.

Some evangelical Christians are casting the debate over the Commandments as a significant part of their increasingly aggressive efforts to have government recognize religion. That's led to a backlash by the ACLU, Jewish organizations, atheists and others who say the efforts by evangelicals threaten America's secular heritage.

"The real issue is the right to acknowledge God," says Jody Hice, a Baptist pastor who is leading a fundraising effort in Barrow County, Ga., to help the county defend its display of a Ten Commandments plaque in the local courthouse against a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

"Everyone has a right to have a religion and to practice it — but not in our public buildings," counters Pat Cleveland, an atheist in Talladega, Ala., who protested Moore's monument.

"This is not a Christian nation. ... I'm not a person who hates religion. It's not about atheists vs. Christianity. It's about what government can do."

The Supreme Court has not ruled on public displays of the Ten Commandments since 1980, when it struck down a Kentucky law that required public schools to post the Commandments. Much has changed since then: The Supreme Court is more conservative, and the evangelical Christian movement has become a significant political player in Washington.

Religious president in office

President Bush often refers to his relationship with God. Bush — whose administration supports the displays of the Commandments in the Texas and Kentucky cases — was overwhelmingly backed by evangelical Protestants in last November's election.

Meanwhile, public support for Ten Commandments displays is strong. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken last weekend indicates that only 20% of Americans believe that such a monument would be inappropriate on the grounds of their state capitol.

David Friedman, a lawyer for the ACLU of Kentucky who has been involved in local church-state disputes for 20 years, says that community officials are becoming more willing to challenge the traditional divide between church and state by posting the Commandments.

"I think they are more emboldened," Friedman says. He notes that legal groups associated with prominent television preachers Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have been at the forefront of defending Ten Commandments monuments.

Herbert Titus, a Virginia lawyer who wrote a court brief on behalf of seven conservative groups that support Commandments displays, says Christians are fighting for such monuments because they believe their values are being threatened by judicial rulings such as those endorsing same-sex relationships.

"People feel as if they lost something," Titus says.

In Georgia, the Rev. Hice says he believes his religious values are under assault more than at any other time in his 20 years in the ministry. He criticizes a federal judge's ruling in January against a Cobb County school district that had begun putting stickers on science textbooks stating that evolution was a theory and not a proven fact.

John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron who studies religion and politics, says his polling indicated that 25% of Americans considered themselves evangelical Protestants in 2004, up from 22% in 1980. During the same period, he says, the percentage of those with no religious affiliation rose from 12% to 16%.

"Evangelicals are excited about wanting to keep the Ten Commandments," he says. "But you have a vocal group of non-religious people against it."

Meeting O'Connor's standard

Disputes over freedom of religion are as old as the USA. The First Amendment's mandate that government "shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion" flowed from the colonists' experience with religious persecution in England.

In 1980, when it struck down the Kentucky law that required the Commandments to be posted in schools, the Supreme Court rejected state officials' assertion that the purpose of the law was merely secular: to promote moral values.

"The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths," the court said, "and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact."

Since then, however, the court has allowed displays of some religious symbols on public property, as long as they were mixed with secular symbols. In a 1989 case involving two holiday displays in Pittsburgh, the court allowed a menorah to stand next to a Christmas tree at a government building. But the court rejected a crèche scene that stood alone near a staircase in the Allegheny County courthouse.

The court's general test for whether to allow such a symbol on public property was devised by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. It asks whether a "reasonable observer" would believe from the display that government was supporting religion. If so, according to the test, the display should not be allowed.

The dispute from Texas was brought to the Supreme Court by Thomas Van Orden, who once was a practicing lawyer but who is now homeless. Van Orden sued Texas in 2001, saying that the Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol favors the Christian and Jewish faiths.

The monument was given to Texas in 1961 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which wanted to provide troubled youth "with a common code of conduct." Adorned with Christian and Jewish symbols, it features large type of the Commandments, beginning with, "I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." It stands alone, but is among 17 monuments around the Capitol.

A U.S. district court ruled against Van Orden. It said that, "viewed in the proper context, and in light of its history, this passive monument cannot be said to advance, endorse or promote religion." An appeals court agreed.

In Van Orden's appeal to the Supreme Court, Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky notes that the monument "is the only expression of a religious message on the Capitol's grounds." He says a display could be permissible if it were part of a presentation about the law, like the one at the Supreme Court.

The Kentucky case stems from the posting of privately donated, framed copies of the Commandments in the two county courthouses. After the ACLU of Kentucky challenged the displays, officials in the counties added copies of documents and said the Commandments were part of historical presentations.

Two federal courts sided with the ACLU. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, attorneys for the counties say a reasonable observer would be "aware of the historical influence" of the Commandments.


More on this later...