Nov 18, 2010

Catching up and yes, there's even a rant ;)

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost a week since I last posted! It's been a crazy, busy life for this American Working Witch. So, let's catch up a bit (hands you a freshly ground Starbucks French Roast coffee and a slice of pumpkin coffee cake). The weekend was a blur for me. Personal issues more than anything and they can be a bit draining. The work week has consisted of negotiating contracts with global partners, content updating, working on a huge business case that (after months of working it one way) may be taking a different tack,  and finding out one of the lovely young women that I've mentored throughout her career at our company has put in her notice. I'm sad that she's leaving, but she's going to work for her father in their family business, and I think that's the most awesome thing- family comes first. That also means I'll be taking on the people who report to her, as we won't be filling her position at a managerial level. Those are just the highlights of my working week.. lol
I had every intention of putting out the weekly tarot, and it's been sitting in my blog drafts since Sunday evening.. my apologies to everyone for that. Since we're so close to the weekend, I'll skip it, and start up again on Sunday.

Magically, I had created a few protection pouches for friends and shipped them off this week. To them: I'd love your feedback once you receive.

I also received my copy of issue #79 SageWoman magazine. I really love the articles, but the illustrations alone are worth the price of the magazine. They are striking!  You can get the subscription in pdf format, but I'm still a tactile/kinesthetic who likes having something in her hands to read. Yes, I know that's not 'green', but I really love books and magazines that I can keep and re-read, and even pass on to others. Even better? I had a great customer service experience with BBI media. They are very responsive and really on the ball there. I highly recommend them :)

Lastly, I have a 2006 Hyundai Elantra.. it has been the bane of my existence since it hit 24k miles. It has had more factory made issues than I care to think about at this juncture. I've had it in and out of the shop so many times that the dealership knows me by name. My kids were driving it on Tuesday and the battery died. So they went to Autozone to get a new one, and lo and behold, they don't carry it for a 2006.. it HAS to be replaced at the dealership. They had a 2007, but "it must have changed between years".. A BATTERY?? REALLY???

$120.00 later, I have a new battery.. (insert expletives, gripes and grumbles here)


Now, if you've read my blog for even a little bit of time, you know I have to rant about at least something once a week, right? lol.. so here's your RANT ALERT: I'm about to rant about Willow Palin.. and maybe not in the way you think...


Sarah and Willow Palin
In the news this week, there was a big bru-haha over Willow Palin (16 yr old daughter of Sarah Palin) getting into a Facebook war with another kid. I was actually shocked at the fact that the Huffington Post thought this was news. Even more shocking, I found there were a lot of people who thought they had a right to judge Sarah Palin's parenting over this. I am normally really good at putting myself in someone else's shoes and being able to understand where they are coming from on an issue, even if I disagree (Aquarian trait, I suppose). But, this time, I just couldn't do it. First of all, to me, this wasn't news.

A 16 yr old getting into an internet name-calling session isn't new or newsworthy.. it happens every day in modern society. When I was growing up, we didn't have computers/internet, so this would have been done at school and most likely, no parent would have been privvy to the information in the first place.

I don't care how nicely you think you've raised your children, they can and will behave badly at times, and some of the things that come out of their mouths when you're not around would shock you if you think they just 'would never'.. I actually saw some comments disparaging both Bristol (20) and her younger sister Willow, and both of their parents.

Now please understand, I disagree strongly with Sarah Palin's politics. I'm not a fan of hers. But, I haven't seen any behavior from her children that I thought was a direct result of bad parenting- that includes Bristol becoming a teenage mother. These things happen in the best of families.

What I did see was Sarah and her husband rally around their daughter, support her and her child and that's what families do. If the worst thing their 16 year old does is get into a name-calling session with another kid, then I applaud them.

Yes, the names were unkind (faggot, gay, etc...). Yes, it was not a good idea to do it in a public forum considering the public life of her parents and family members. However, she was defending her mom. I have three boys and two girls, and I'll tell you right now, if someone were to attack me online, my kids (all adults now) would STILL go after them, regardless of what I said (it isn't important, I don't care what these people think, don't worry about it, yadda yadda). Family is like that.

What it shows to me is that this young lady loves her mom very much. She's not about to put up with some kid calling her mom's tv show an 'epic fail' (which. in kid-speak, is an insult) and let them get away with it.

Poor judgment? Sure.. um, remember being 16? Oh I'm sure we were ALL just the paragons of virtue and sound thinking at age 16, right? Would YOU  have wanted your arguments plastered all over international news? How about your children's?

Oh yes, I hear the argument now: they are a public family.. she should know better.. they don't have a right to privacy, etc... Please refer back to my question regarding 16 year olds and poor judgment- enough said.

I would also like to remind those who think that this is just awful and the specific names she called the kid are the big issue here that the entire population of the state of Alaska is less than that of the city of Baltimore. Their culture is not the same as that of California or more progressive areas of the world.

I guarantee Willow Palin doesn't know whether this boy is homosexual or not, and it really wasn't the issue. In that culture (and having grown up and lived in the Southern US whose culture is similar, I can attest to this), calling a hetero boy a faggot or gay is an insult.. I don't condone it.. I simply understand it.
Does she need to be educated on how hurtful that can be? Sure.

Is that OUR job? No.

Do I have a right to judge Sarah and Todd Palin for not doing a better job? No.. I've seen a snippet of poor judgment and behavior from a 16 year old girl.

 I don't know the Palins personally. Neither do you. I certainly would not want to be held to the standard that some people I've read on the net in the last 24 hours want to hold them to.. I wonder how many of them would want that kind of scrutiny for themselves?

Celebrity or no, politician or no.. kids should be off limits to the press. Amazing to me how Chelsey Clinton's parents were vicious about making sure the press left her alone.. I don't see our current president's kids getting scrutiny (and yes, I know they are much younger than Willow Palin). Politicians take their kids on the road with them to campaign.. yes, Sarah Palin is doing a reality show.. which makes her kids celebrities too.

If we, the people, didn't become so fascinated with watching these reality shows, the networks wouldn't pick them up.. it's a simple business matter of supply and demand. How many of you read celebrity rag-mags (gossip magazines, media, et al)? Celebrity gossip sells. I get that.

I don't understand why you'd be interested in it, but from a business perspective, I get that.

Maybe that's my problem. I just don't care what's happening in the personal lives of people I see on television, or in politics, or in any media format. I don't know them. I honestly don't want to know the dirt on my neighbors either. I care if they need my help or want to talk, but that's different.

In a nutshell, leave the poor kid alone.. her parents too. I may not agree with their politics. I think Sarah Palin, when it comes to political science, is out of her league.

But, as a mom of five kids myself, and a grandmother of two (and yes, my daughter had her children way too young herself).. maybe I relate a little there. Maybe more than a little. And, maybe I just know how hard it is to pull that off, much less to have to do it in the public eye.

Maybe I also remember what it was like to be a 16 year old, filled with hormonal angst.. and I wouldn't have let someone get away with insulting my mom or my sisters or anyone else in my family without a response. I also wouldn't have wanted a snippet of my teenage life when I was not at my best being plastered all over international media, either.

Life's hard enough for kids.. do we have to make it worse by perpetuating this gossipy kind of  non-news?

In conclusion, let me offer this one piece of parental advice to the Palins when it comes to Willow. I think she'd choose other forms of insults and her life would be so much better if she just had a Sassy Gay Friend:




I'll be back to regular posting again.. thanks to all of you who emailed or stopped by my Facebook page to check up on me!

Happy Thursday!
Slan,
Kallan

Nov 12, 2010

Review: The Weiser Field Guide to Witches

As most of you know, I was the VERY lucky recipient of the entire Weiser Field Guide series. Several of you asked me to review these for you, so I wanted to start with one of my favorite authors of all time, Judika Illes.

If you haven't heard of Judika, let me just say that you have been missing out! Her books are fabulous. I personally own and have nearly worn out her Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells and The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft.
I say this not only so you will check her out and peruse her other books, but that you'll take into account my personal bias toward the author.
Ok on to my review:
The Weiser Field Guide to Witches (paperback form. I don't know if it comes in a hard bound copy or not. I didn't see one on the RedWheel/Weiser page) is small in stature; but you know what they say, "big things come in small packages".

With this book, it's true. While I do have a bias toward the author, I did my level best to remain neutral when reading. What I found is that she went out of her way to include as much information as possible (not a word wasted!) on witches of all kinds.

Her introduction explains the intent of the book (excerpt): "A field guide is a book intended to help readers identify living beings or objects of natural occurrence (sea shells, for example). This may be a straightforward task when it comes to identifying butterflies or wild flowers, but witches are another story. Witches defy simple classification".

I wondered how one would create a field guide to witches, and as you can see from the excerpt, the task would have to be a daunting one.

Judika does it with her usual style and accuracy.  The inclusiveness of so many traditions (chapter 1) amazed me. She even included atheistic witches in this guide!

In the title of the book it says "From Hexes to Hermione Granger, From Salem to the Land of Oz".. I add, "and just about everything in between!"

I'm really impressed with the flow of the the chapters, the vast amount of information and the easy-read style with which she writes.

Are you interested in the history of witchcraft, modern witches, witches in the media, tools of the trade, witchy arts and crafts, hunting witches, goddesses who are witches, animals who are witches, cool places for witches to visit and finding out if you are a witch? It's all in there!

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is at all interested in Witchcraft; someone new to the path, those who've grown up in it, and those who love good resource material.

I read it cover to cover in less than a day- it's that engaging. I've returned to it several times, not just for the purpose of this review, but because it's just that good. I keep finding the most interesting facts and tidbits each time I read it!

This is now on my must-have's list for The Craft.

Please, if you do decide to purchase, go directly through Red Wheel/Weiser. I know it's on Amazon and at other places, but I'd love for Weiser to get the business.

I know I'm gushing here. I really did love this book. I guarantee if you read any of Judika's works, you'll end up a huge fan like I am :)

Happy Weekend!
Kallan

Nov 11, 2010

Veterans Day Salutes

Moving on to more important things in my life.. Thank you to all of my fellow veterans for your service to the United States.

It is because of our service that many of the freedoms (including Freedom of Speech) are protected and in order today.

To you who have lost a limb, were injured, lost a loved one or fellow serviceman/woman, or died in the service of our country, I salute you especially today.

To those who inspired me to join the Navy.. those wonderful friends of my mother who regaled me with your World War II stories, explained how the 'real military' worked, gave advice and shared so freely of those times.. thank you. My time of service was one I shall cherish always and would have missed were it not for you. I salute you :)

To President Reagan, who (if nothing else) gave us something to believe in again.. you restored nationalism and inspired so many of us to serve under you. It was an honor and privilege to have you as my Commander in Chief, and I remember the time I met you on base. You were so genuine and wonderful. I'll never forget you. I salute you.



To my friend Bets who joined up with me.. remember when the recruiters told us we picked the right branch because we swore like sailors? lol.. I salute you!



To those same recruiters who tried to sell us a bill of goods by promising us the moon and the stars (and we told you "We saw Private Benjamin, we know better!") lol I salute you too!



To my shipmates in bootcamp.. "TO THE REAR MARCH!" lol.. that's all I'll say and I salute you.



To the Master Chiefs who taught me so many things while I was stationed with you.. I could never have made it without you. Your wisdom, knowledge and willingness to share with a little ole seaman who must have bugged you to death.. I've never forgotten the things you taught me- I salute you!




To my fellow sailors who remember the Cold War, and those things we had to go through during that time.. when we found out that our security had been compromised by traitors who would sell out their fellow shipmen/women for cold, hard cash.. I salute you.




To those marines who were the brothers I'd never had...who were killed in that terrorist attack on the barracks in Beirut.. I remember your boyish faces as we laughed and joked and partied together. You were so young.. You haunt my heart always. I salute you.


To all of you who've served.. thank you for everything.. not just your service, but the good times, the lessons, the amazing wonderful memories and bonds that only we who have served can understand and share.

To those of you for whom we served, you are most welcome. Thank you for acknowledging us today. I salute you also.

Happy Veterans Day!

Nov 9, 2010

Careful: Your Reputation is Showing

Today's word of the day is reputation. The theme has cropped up in the last 24 hours so I thought I'd take a moment to address it as it relates to the Pagan community.Let's start off with a definition and take it from there. From dictionary.com: Reputation –noun 
  •  the estimation in which a person or thing is held, esp. by the community or the public generally; repute: a woman of good reputation.
  • favorable repute; good name: to ruin one's reputation by misconduct.
  • a favorable and publicly recognized name or standing for merit, achievement, reliability, etc.: to build up a reputation.
  • the estimation or name of being, having, having done, etc., something specified: He has the reputation of being a shrewd businessman.

The Pagan community isn't as large as one might think. We all tend to find one another and connect to/through the same or similar sources. For those of us who read blogs, pagan news sources, websites, et al... and are attempting to educate the 'outside' (or inside) world on all things Pagan, a good reputation is something to revere and build. Our reputation in any community is important for a variety of reasons. Reputation is built through trust and upon our character.
 


If you saw the movie Avatar, when the Na’vi meet, they greet each other with, “I see you”. The phrase is more than a simple greeting. “I see you” is an acknowledgement. It is seeing past the mask that one might think they have firmly in place. They see into the heart of who you really are.. your character. To you intellectual property, art and creativity thieves I say, "We see you". We know what you're doing and while you may have a few followers who don't yet know that you've stolen someone else's property, thoughts, creative product, etc...  you're establishing the reputation that will spread faster than a cancer.. and that's what it is.. a disease in our community. And like any disease, we'll inoculate ourselves against you, educate others on how to avoid being contaminated and you'll end up with the reputation you have earned. My advice to you is to cure yourselves before you become the leper of the Pagan community. Ask yourself, "Is this my character? Is this how I want to establish trust? Is this what I want to be known for?" If not, then please- do the right thing. Here are a few tips for how to do just that:
  1. Apologize to those from whom you've stolen. People are very gracious and forgiving. All they really want is for you to stop stealing from them; stop passing their hard work and creativity off as your own.
  2. Start working on you. Those who feel the need to steal from others have serious self-esteem issues. I highly recommend you read (and re-read) the poem I've posted at the bottom of this post. Make it your daily mantra. Understand that the Universe/God/Goddess/Great Mystery has given you your own unique talents and gifts to share with the rest of us. There's no need to steal from someone else when you have such wonderful ideas of your own.
  3. Create and then do it again.. and create some more. The more you do, the less you'll be interested in copying what someone else has done. A lot of times, it's sheer laziness, or the "I-want-the-fast-track to being known as a teacher/artist/musician/poet/writer" syndrome. It takes work and your time and your energy to gain wisdom that you can share. Take people along with you for the journey. We're all flawed and make mistakes. People appreciate that you aren't perfect (see yesterday's post here and the comments from gracious readers as an example). But, do it yourself. It isn't the destination that's so important. It's the Imramma (the journey).
  4. The best way to build your reputation is to be uniquely you and to NOT worry about how others will perceive you. You have your own Songline.. don't sing someone else's.
    It's strange, I know. Reputation, by its very definition is about what others think of us, and yet when we are confident and secure in ourselves a good reputation naturally follows. We don't need to steal from others. In fact, it becomes abhorrent for us to even think of it.
 
Why not give it a try? At this point, it can't hurt. We'll be seeing you...
 
Our Deepest Fear
by Marianne Williamson
(from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles)

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God (Goddess/The Universe).

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Nov 8, 2010

The best laid plans of rats and then... (with apologies to John Steinbeck)

In other words, how I spent my Halloween and Samhain.
I've been getting a lot of feedback from my posts with comments like, "Wow, I don't know how you do it!" "You're such an inspiration" and other similar statements that make it seem like I'm some kind of wonder woman. So, in the interest of full disclosure, let's review my Halloween and Samhain 'fun'.
I took Friday and Monday of Halloween weekend off in order to be sure I was prepared for the holidays and planned to spend most of Friday shopping and cleaning. Saturday was candle-making and pumpkin carving day. Sunday was scheduled for cooking the Samhain meal and finishing up the protection pouches for family and a couple of friends, then we would set up the ancestor feast outside, have trick or treat and then do a small rite for the dead.

Now, here's how it really went:
  • Thursday night, started feeling sick.. achey, chills, headache, sinus issues. Megadosed on Vitamin C to ward it off and went to bed at a decent hour to ensure all would be well.
  • Friday morning: woke up late, still not up to par.. didn't start shopping and cleaning til well into the afternoon.
  • Saturday: made candles and cleaned.. picked up pumpkins. Tried like Hel to get my kids motivated to help me clean and get decorations up.. final attempt to at least get them to do something like carve pumpkins- all to no avail.
  • Sunday: woke up to a total kitchen mess (thank you, children) and had to spend several HOURS cleaning it up. Kids finally began helping after a huge fit thrown by me.. they started working on pumpkins late in the afternoon. Not one recipe I made turned out the way I wanted.
    • Pumpkin soup- too salty and thick.
    • Barmbrack- didn't rise like it should have.. was dry even with soaked fruit.. my guy loved it, but he's just that kind of guy :)
    • Colcannon- I make mine with corned beef (easy peasy- just go to your local deli and ask for a pound or two sliced.. dice it up and mix in). Well that part was okay, but I decided to follow the recipe exactly as written (dumb move on my part) and boil the potatoes with the skins on it. Tip from me: DON'T ever do that. Just peel and boil the potatoes and mash them like you would normally.. it was a HUGE mess AND the whole recipe had an overwhelming starchy taste that wouldn't have been there had I done it my way.
    • Pan de Muertos- didn't even get to that.. no time
    • Mulled cider- ok at least ONE thing I did that worked out.. but that's a crock pot thing.. lol
    • Candles- melted down the old wax and added in soy wax for a cleaner burn. They turned out really pretty and burned slowly and cleanly on day 1. Day 2? they fell apart and melted wax was all over my altar cloth.
I rushed around like crazy and by the evening time, I was exhausted and frustrated. To top it off ,we had like 15 trick or treaters this year.. it seems like every year now the numbers decline dramatically. I know it wasn't just here. My friends in other states have all told me the same thing.. wth? After that, I just didn't have it in me to do anything else. So, we moved protection pouches and ritual to simply doing the magical on Lunar Samhain instead.

Anyway, so here's where the rats come in:
So, I decided to try a craft from Rachel Ray (pic is from Martha Stewart but it's the same concept) and make a bird feeder out of a pumpkin (we normally just grab pine cones, roll in peanut butter and birdseed and put out in the woods during Yule time).. it was an easy thing... small to medium pumpkin, cut the top off, clean it out, coat in peanut butter and fill with bird seed. Make holes in the sides and hang with twine or wire.So, I did!

Two days later, I look outside, the twine's been chewed off the tree, the pumpkin is on the ground and there's a rat.. yep, you read that right.. a RAT moving the seed from the pumpkin to just underneath my concrete steps.. ARRGH!! I have a rat's nest under my porch! (totally cringing and wigging out)

The only positive way to see this is that if I hadn't put out unintentional bait for them, I wouldn't have known they were there! So, now it's a matter of figuring out what to do here. I hate killing things, but I also can't stand the thought of a rat anywhere near my house.

Anyway, just thought you all should know that this working witch is nowhere near a super-woman. I have my fair share of crappy days, Murphy's laws and other such 'interesting' adventures. My biggest problem is trying to do too much.. next year, I'm simplifying Halloween and sticking to Lunar Samhain for the really important stuff.. and no more pumpkin bird feeders! Still inspired? lol I didn't think so :)

Slan'!
Kallan

Nov 7, 2010

Weekly Tarot: November 7-13


Dragon Tarot
 This week's Tarot card is the King of Cups.
Again, another appropriate card for the season.
The King of Cups combines the positive traits of the cups suit (water, emotions) with the outward focus of a king.
A King is mature and masculine. He is a doer whose focus is outward on the events of life. He demonstrates authority, control and mastery in some area associated with his suit. A King's style is strong, assertive and direct. He is concerned with results and practical, how-to matters.

Key words for this card: wise, calm, diplomatic, caring, calm, tolerant, controlled

I chose the Dragon Tarot for this week's card, so let's take a look at it closely.

The King is standing confidently at the edge of the sea, looking out across the ocean. Note he is wearing a helmet instead of a crown, and armor along with his kingly attire. A sea dragon (representative of emotional power) is next to him also looking in the same direction, as if under the command of the king. The king is holding high a cup in his hand with the symbol of the sun etched upon it. The sun represents power, warmth, confidence, radiance. Etched on the cup, it takes on the symbolic alchemy of water and fire (both emotional elements, revealing a balance between the two).

The king is wise and understanding, with a deep knowledge of the world that comes from the heart. He cares about others sincerely and always responds to their needs with compassion. He heals with a gentle touch and a quiet word. He is calm and relaxed in all situations, seeming to know intuitively what is called for at any moment. Others turn to him for advice because they know he will listen attentively. There is always a peacefulness around him that others respond to. He is tolerant of all points of view and shows patience in the most trying circumstances. He gives others freedom to grow and develop in their own ways without asking anything in return.

This week follows the New Moon in Scorpio/Lunar Samhain (ancient Celts would not have followed a Roman calendar, so it stands to reason that this is when they would have actually celebrated Samhain. Many pagans, including this one, choose to celebrate the more sacred parts of the holy day on Lunar Samhain).

As we are now fully into the time of introspection, one might wonder, "How is it that Kallan said this is appropriate for this season when the King has an outward focus and we're supposed to be looking inwardly?"

The King is like most of us who lead in some area of our lives (and I believe most of us are leaders in at least one aspect of our lives). Outwardly, he shows his strength, his calm, his governance. Inwardly, he keeps his emotions to himself. He is focused on helping others, while at the same time dealing with his own inner turmoils, 'demons' and struggles. He commands power over his emotions (the sea dragon).

The first week after Samhain is usually a bit of an emotional one for us. We have the strong, internal draw to cocoon ourselves and yet we still must operate in the outside world.

Most of the world is turning to the 'holiday season' in some way. It's a 'charitable time of year'. We think of helping the poor, the sick and the less fortunate. We may be involved in the retail world which ramps up strongly during the 4th quarter. Or, we may be a small business owner for whom the majority of our profits come during the holiday season. All in all, it's a stressful time for most (if not all) of us.

The King of Cups asks us to follow his lead. As we focus inwardly on our goals for the coming new year, let us don our helmets and armor, cover them with royal attire and put on the best face for the outside world. Realizing that this, more than any other time of year, is one where compassion, diplomacy, calm and caring tolerance are most needed in the world.

Gandhi once said, "Be the change you want to see in the world". Let's try to 'see' the best of humanity at this time of year.

This week, let's keep our outward focus on remaining calm, grateful for our blessings and on helping others to shine. Inwardly, we delve slowly into the depths of our emotions and the dark time of the season, and we do so with commanding power over them.

May your week be blessed with empowerment, enrichment and enlightenment, within and without.

Slan',
Kallan

PS. I am aware that this applies to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, so I want to add another take for those who are below the equator :)

The King of Cups for you at this time would mean a time of celebrating the Spring.. the return of warmth and the awakening of Mother Earth. Seedlings are beginning to grow, green is returning.. life is springing up with new abundance. The time for introspection has passed. Take the cup of lessons you have filled during the winter and pour it out into the collective ocean by giving to those who need your instruction and guidance. Command your  personal sea dragon to seek out those who would benefit from your benevolence. This is how you can 'see' the change in the world :)

Nov 5, 2010

In 'defense' of Bel Air- A local Pagan's view

Since I live just five miles south of this town, I believe I should at least address this issue, since it's getting the attention of the Pagan world online. For those of you who haven't seen an article on this:

Bel Air Leaves Ban on Fortune Telling:

http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/region/harford_county/bel-air-leaves-in-place-ban-on-fortune-telling

http://www.exploreharford.com/news/6681/bel-air-leaves-place-ban-fortune-telling/

Bel Air, Maryland is a small town. It's very quaint, charming and really fits the atmosphere of Harford County Maryland. I'd like to note that while it looks like this town council is horribly backward and closed-minded.. well, they are.. there's just no way around that. The people here are very conservative. They are farmers, small business owners, blue and white collar workers, race-horse breeders, etc... it's the second richest county in Maryland (second to Anne Arundel county which surrounds DC).  There are lots of small churches (no mega-churches around) and those who go to church (and yes, there are lots who don't bother) are very devout in their beliefs.

I live in an unincorporated town just south of Bel Air that doesn't have its own police force; and has a volunteer fire department. This area is a string of towns like this. I don't want to paint the wrong picture, either. I'm not rural. I live in the suburbs.. and they are expanding daily. We have shopping malls, strip malls, Super Walmarts, grocery stores, traffic issues, etc...

While I hate that some on the council can't see past their biblical stances, as you can see in the article, they know they can't enforce a law that the higher court has overturned already. They know that they are setting themselves up for a lawsuit. They know they'll have to allow "fortune telling" eventually.. but, they appeased those who attended the meeting. Of course, I heard about this only after it became news (thank you, Witchvox). Honestly? I'm not sure I'd have fought this one anyway. I'm a big believer in 'choose your battles wisely'.

Let them cling to their last little bastion of right-wing Christian nuttery. There are tons of Palm Reader shops, Tarot shops, et al.. all up and down route 40 and route 1 here (we rarely use the names of streets in MD.. it's always a route or an interstate #.. don't ask me why.. that's just how it is here). Btw, there's a shop IN Bel Air (http://psychicbarrington.web.officelive.com/default.aspx)

Paganism isn't highly publicized in my county (just try searching for Harford County Pagan). But, we're here. We hang out together where possible. And we live our lives and educate where it's reasonable to do so. (Now this is something I may attempt to do: create a Harford County Pagan meet up or something.. but, we'll see. I may at least gauge interest in something like that.)


Jones Family Farm
 The people of any area can be lovely or horrendous, depending on different factors and climate. If we had a majority of Pagans living here, I guarantee we'd have our fair share of jerks and nutjobs. Every village has an idiot-some more than others.

Personally, I find the people of Maryland (and specifically, Bel Air) to be nice, friendly, helpful folks. I love shopping the farms around here, hiking in the woods, fishing, camping, et al...and I've never wanted for assistance when in need of something. All in all, they're good people. They may be a bit behind the times, but they'll come around eventually.. or not. The point is, I still live my Pagan life and get along just fine with these folks, regardless of their views on 'fortune-telling'.
I just thought at least one Pagan voice needed to speak up for them, even if I disagree with what they've done.They are my neighbors, after all :)

Slan,
Kallan

Nov 1, 2010

Weekly Tarot- November 1-6

This week's Tarot card is the Queen of Cups.
(picture from the Ryder-Waite tarot deck)

Key words: Kind-hearted, warm, loving, intuitive, psychic, spiritual

This is a most excellent card for us as we travel into the time of introspection on the Wheel of the Year.
Cups represent emotion and The Queen is mature and feminine. She embodies the qualities of her suit, rather than acting them out. Her focus is inward, and her style, relaxed and natural. A Queen is less concerned with results than with the enjoyment of just being in the world. She is associated with feelings, relationships and self-expression.
As we review the card, we see the Queen on her throne, relaxed and focused on her royal cup. She sits at the edge of the beach as the waves gently lap at her feet.
This is the time for us to focus on our emotions, our rewards, our abundance of harvest. It's a time to relax as well. The time between Samhain and Yule is truly a time of quiet, peacefulness.. a time to reflect on the year and the harvest of our hard work. As we move closer to Yule, our perspective will change. We'll move toward goal-setting, gathering energy and finding the path we plan to take for the coming year.

Because she has a sweet, loving and sensitive nature, the Queen of Cups has a kind word for everyone and never reacts with anger or impatience. There is a gentleness about her that soothes and calms. Compassion is her watchword. Her reactions to the world are guided by her feelings. In all matters, she lets her heart lead the way. She senses emotional currents and knows what others are experiencing without having to ask. She is never moody, but understands moods and their influence. She trusts her intuition and so is more open to knowledge that comes from within herself and beyond. She is often moved by the beauty and tragedy of life. The Queen of Cups feels deeply and has a reverence for all aspects of creation. Her love includes and embraces everyone and everything.

Let's follow her lead this week as we rest up from our Samhain labors and reflect on our blessings.
I know I am blessed to have you in my life here. Whether you just read my blog, or you comment or we're good friends, I am truly honored that you and I share this journey together.

Blessings of the season to you and yours,
Slainte'!

Oct 30, 2010

Samhain Preparations, recipes and tips :)

So it's the day before Samhain eve and I'll bet all my witchy and Celtic Pagan friends are as busy as I've been getting everything ready for our big celebration.

My agenda today included grocery shopping (recipes to come below), candle-making, finishing protection pouches, cleaning, decorating, etc...

When I say candle making, what we do here is save our candle wax all year long (from rituals, spellwork where appropriate, etc..) and then melt it down along with some new wax for special Samhain candles... a blending of the work of the year gone by (harvest) and a blessing of the new.


I'm also almost finished with protection pouches for each person in the family. I make the outer pouch, then on Samhain, each person takes a pouch and personalizes it  with decorations for the outside, and then they each get to choose from a selection of herbs, oils, feathers, stones, etc... we'll then bless them as part of our ritual tomorrow evening. These will be ours for the coming year.


Want to know what's for dinner? Here's our menu:

Mom's Pumpkin soup (my own concotion made IN the pumpkin)
Colcannon (we do ours a bit differently by adding corned beef to it)
Bairin Brack (barnbrack) - an Irish tea bread (I have the dried fruits soaking in tea now)
Dinner rolls with honey butter
Mead, Apple Cider, Coffee for drinks

For dessert, I'll be making apple dumplings


For those interested in a couple of recipes, here they are:
Sorry, my pumpkin soup is a family recipe and I promised my kids I wouldn't publish it.. believe me, many have tried to coax it out of me, but my word is my bond :)


Bairin Brack:
Bairin brack is essentially a yeasted bread (bairin is another name for fermented yeast). Recipes that call for self-rising flour will be quicker, but not at all better.


Bairinbrack is usually baked in a round cake tin. I use a bundt pan, but the recipe works just as well with a rectangular loaf tin. The quantities given here will make one large loaf.

Ingredients

• 2 tea bags, or 3 tsp. loose tea (a strong black blend or  3 tea bags,Earl Grey)

• 3½ cups (12 oz) mixed dried fruit I use cherries, pineapple, currants,  and candied  orange peel)

• 1 cup (8 fl oz) milk

• 1 tsp. sugar

• 2 tsp. dried active yeast (not instant yeast)

• 4 cups strong bread flour (I usually use white flour but you can also use a mixture of white and wheat meal)

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¼ cup brown sugar

• 1/3 cup butter

• 1 beaten egg

• 1 tsp. mixed spice*

Method

Oven: Pre-heat to 350F.

Start by making two cups of strong tea. Remove the tea bags, or strain the tea to remove the leaves. Soak the dried fruit in the tea. Ideally, the fruit should soak for several hours or even overnight.

Warm the milk until it is hand-hot. Stir in the teaspoon of sugar and the yeast, and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes or until it becomes frothy.

Mix the flour, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter. Add the frothy yeast, the beaten egg and the spice. Drain any remaining liquid from the fruit, then add the fruit to the mixture. Mix well to make a smooth dough (add extra flour if the mixture is too wet).
(See tradition before going forward)
Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead it thoroughly. Place it in your oiled baking pan, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 - 60 minutes; the dough should have doubled in size.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan, turn it upside down and put it back in the pan or directly on the oven shelf. Bake for another 20 minutes or so. The loaf will be ready when it sounds hollow when you tap on each of the sides. Cool the loaf on a wire rack before serving.


It is traditional to insert various items (wrapped in parchment or wax paper) into the bairimbrack for the purposes of divination. These include a ring, a thimble, a button, a silver coin, or a stick of wood. The slice of the cake you are given foretells your future. A ring meant marriage, the thimble spinsterhood, the button bachelorhood; the coin indicated wealth, while finding the stick meant you will travel far in your life. Now, you can create your own items and meanings and personalize this for your family as well.


*mixed spice is something that's easily found on the shelves in Britain and Ireland. Here in the U.S., you can mix up a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander and any other spices that suit your fancy ;)

Colcannon

The following colcannon recipe is what I've used and modified (just add 2lbs of corned beef to the recipe before baking)

Ingredients:


2-2 1/2 lbs of floury potatoes

1 small head of green cabbage

1 cup milk

2 or more tablespoons chopped green onions

1/2 stick butter

Salt and pepper to taste Method:

1. Scrub potatoes and leave skins on. Place in cold water with a generous pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil.

2. When the potatoes are about half done, (about 15 minutes), strain off two thirds of the water. Replace lid and place on a gentle heat and allow potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

3. Discard the dark outer leaves of the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters; remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Cook in a little boiling salted water until soft. Drain, then season with salt and pepper and a little of the butter.

4. When the potatoes are cooked, put the milk into saucepan with the green onions and bring to the boil. Pull the skins off the potatoes, mash quickly and beat in enough of the hot milk to make a fluffy purée.

5. Stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning.

6. Serve in a heated dish; make a well in the center and add the remaining butter.
 
Note: Today, many an Irish mother persuades her children to eat their colcannon by wrapping coins in heat-proof paper and hiding them in the dish; in the old days, the rural folk often placed a wedding ring in the colcannon; the first single person to get the ring would marry within the year. It was also customary, before going to bed on Halloween, to put out a plateful of colcannon with a lump of butter in the center for the Gentry and the spirits.

Oct 28, 2010

Samhain Sweets :)

I'm sharing a few sweet treat recipes that have been passed to me by other witches throughout the years. I hope you enjoy them! I'll be sharing some other Samhain goodies this week. be sure to check back soon :)

Jack o lantern cheesecakes


8- 1/2 pound mini pumpkins

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temp.

6 TB unsalted butter, room temp

1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 TB granulated sugar

1 TB cinnamon

2 t ground ginger

3/4 t ground cloves

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 TB plus 1 t cornstarch

1 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine)

cranberry topping:

3/4 c orange juice

1/2 c sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 pound fresh or frozen cranberries

Set rack in middle of oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Cut the tops off the pumpkins and set aside. With a teaspoon or grapefruit knife, scrape out the pulp and seeds of the pumpkins. Scrape some of the meat off the inner walls so that is no more than 3/8 inch thick. Put the cream cheese, butter, sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a large mixing bowl and beat at med. speed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, until each is incorporated. Reduce the speed and beat in the sour cream, vanilla and pumpkin puree. Fill the pumpkin shells with the batter and bake on a cookie sheet, for 15-min. turn the pan and place the tops next to the pumpkins. Bake for 10 more min. until barely set and firm. If at any time the cakes start to fluff up, turn the oven down or remove them. Let cool in the pan then refrigerate. For the topping, place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer for 10 min. until the berries have popped and form a thick sauce. Let cool. To serve, spoon cranberry sauce on top of filling. Place pumpkin lid on at a jaunty angle.


EERIE WITCH'S BREW

4 c Cranberry juice cocktail

1 c Chopped candied ginger (1-jar)

3 md Oranges

1 cn (12-oz) thawed frozen apple-juice concentrate

1 cn (6-oz) thawed frozen limeade concentrate

2 c Seedless grapes

4 c -Water

2 Bottles (32 oz each) ginger-ale

1 lb Dry ice -up to 2 lbs

A smoking cauldron of punch made with grapes and orange peel masquerading as eyeballs and worms. In a 1 to 2 quart pan, bring 1 cup of cranberry juice and candied ginger to a boil over high heat. Boil, uncovered, about 2 minutes, set aside.

With a vegetable peeler, pare peel (colored part only) from oranges; cut peel into thin 2-inch-long worms; or use an Oriental shredder to make long shreds. Add orange peel to cranberry mixture.

Cover and chill at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Juice oranges; put juice in a 6 to 8 quart pan or heavy bowl. Stir in cranberry-ginger mixture, the 3 cups cranberry juice, apple concentrate, limeade, grapes and water. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 2 hours. Add ginger ale and about a 1 pound piece of dry ice (DO NOT put small pieces in punch or cups); ice should smolder at least 30 minutes. Ladle into cups. Add any remaining ice when bubbling ceases. Makes 5 quarts; allow about 1-1/2 cups for a serving.

 
 
 
Samhain Cobbler
By Rory Ravalanis


1 large package gingerbread mix, divided ½ c butter, divided

¾ c water ½ c shopped pecans

¼ c firmly packed brown sugar 2 large cans apple pie filling

Vanilla ice cream

Mix together 2 cups gingerbread mix and ¾ c water until smooth; set mixture aside. Mix together remaining gingerbread mix and brown sugar; cut in ¼ cup butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans, set aside.

Combine apple pie filling and remaining ¼ c butter in a large saucepan and cook, stirring often, 10 minutes over medium heat or until thoroughly heated.

Spoon hot apple mixture evenly into a lightly greased baking dish. Spoon gingerbread mixture evenly over hot apple mixture, sprinkle with pecan mixture. Bake 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until set. Serve cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

 
Decadent Halloween Brownies


2cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter

16 ounces chocolate chips

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

6 eggs

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 7/8 cups sugar

1cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chocolate chips

2 cups chopped walnuts

1 tub prepared vanilla frosting

1 tub prepared chocolate frosting

Orange food coloring (or mix red and yellow)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt together butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate in top of double boiler until smooth. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, espresso powder, vanilla and sugar. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture; combine well. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into buttered 15-by-10-inch baking pan.

Bake 30 minutes in preheated oven. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Cover and chill overnight. In large bowl, whip vanilla frosting until light and fluffy, using electric mixer. Use food coloring to dye frosting deep orange color. Using favorite cookie cutters such as pumpkins, cats or leaves, cut shapes out of chilled brownies, carefully loosening from pan with spatula. Decorate brownies with frosting. Makes about 1 dozen.

Oct 25, 2010

The Salem Witch Hunt- video from Explore

Thomas Slatterwhite Noble, 1869
This week, it is appropriate that I take a moment and honor those who were persecuted in the name of "witchcraft". Since this is an American blog about an American witch, I will focus on the Salem Witch Trials (I've already posted about the ones who were tried in Maryland earlier this month).

"The Oil painting is by New York artist Thomas Slatterwhite Noble, 1869. The painting won a silver medal at the 1869 Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. Noble gained a reputation for his dramatic paintings of abolitionist subjects, and later turned to the Salem witch trials for another powerful moral theme. A tradition in the Noble family holds that the model for Witch Hill was a Cincinnati librarian who was a descendant of a woman who was executed in the Salem witch trials." (source)




I was approached last week by one of the good folks at Explore.org asking if I would review their video about the Salem Witch Trials, and would I like to use its contents for a blog. Explore.org is an amazing site with truly gifted film makers and historians. Please check out their "who we are page":

So, of course, I reviewed the film (fabulously done, btw) and here are some facts provided to me by Kevin Fox Damata:
Facts on Film
  • Men were also accused/killed for witchcraft.
  • The first people persecuted and killed were elderly (60 and 70 yrs old).
  • Those who confessed were more likely to be spared than those who denied them.
  • The trials were performed according to best English principles at the time, and the fate of the accused was decided by land owners (men).
  • Towards the end, the Governer got involved and issued pardons, sparing the lives of a few who were convicted.
The film is about 10 minutes in length. Please watch it on explore.org:
http://www.explore.org/videos/player/salem-witch-hunt


Oct 24, 2010

Weekly Tarot October 24-30

This week is a powerful energy week for us. It's the week before our sacred holy days of Samhain eve and Samhain (or Beltane for our kin in the Southern Hemisphere).

I know many of us are already in full-on preparation for next weekend, and I think it's interesting (and fitting!) that I pulled the Temperance card.

The deck featured here is from the talented Ciro Marchetti's Gilded Tarot deck.

Again, let's review the card itself for its imagery.
I love this one as we see true alchemy at play. In one hand, this otherwordly woman holds a cup of fire, and in the other- a cup of water. may ask her, "How can one mix fire and water?" The heavenly alchemist answers, "with the right proportions and vessels, anything is possible." In this, we understand that all things are possible with belief and the proper tools (ourselves). This is the true spirit of magic. It is our disbelief or our agreed-upon view of the world that makes things opposite, incompatible, un-mixable. When we release our pre-conceived notions of a thing and truly open ourselves to new views, all things are truly possible, compatible, tranformable.
In traditional readings, the Temperance card cautions about balance, moderation, restraint, being centered.
In this week, as the veil between the seen-real and unseen-real becomes thin, I believe Temperance asks us to drop our veil of societal/religious/world views and 'see' what is in our hearts.. listen for the message from those who have passed into the Otherworld, look for the possibilities rather than what we 'know' and prepare ourselves for the powerfuly alchemy of Samhain.

We are infinite creatures in finite bodies. Let us lift the veil of own opaque views and be open to the limitless possibilities within and without.

May this week bring you all you need to create your own powerful, transforming changes with the help of our beautiful alchemist.

Slan',
Kallan

Oct 21, 2010

I'm NOT you, Christine, I'm ME

Yep, it's a blog about Christine O'Donnell. Ok perhaps it's more like a *rant* about Christine O'Donnell. In case you aren't from the U.S. or you are and couldn't care less about politics, let me introduce you to Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell.

She's a conservative candidate for the Senate in the state of Delaware (this is the seat left open by our current Vice President of the U.S., Joe Biden).
Christine has led a very colorful public life. She was once a guest on an American tv show hosted by Bill Maher (American comedian, talk show host. Liberal-leaning, blatant atheist and admitted marijuana-lover) back in the 1990's which was called "Politically Incorrect" (he now hosts one on HBO called "Realtime with Bill Maher).
On one of her many appearances there, she blatantly admits to having "dabbled in witchcraft"


Now, those of us who actually ARE witches, know there is no way this girl 'dabbled' in anything even CLOSE to witchcraft and those of us who are familiar with Satanism know she had no contact with any real Satanist.
First of all, what witch or satanist would defile an altar with a picnic?
Anyway, Bill puts out this video and it becomes an issue for her, politically, so what does she do? She pushes out this video:



In a recent debate between her and her competitor, Chris Coons (Democrat), she was asked to name one Supreme Court ruling she disagreed with (she claimed to have many with which she had issue). She could not name one.
When asked this week which Democratic senator she could work with if elected, she could only name Hilary Clinton (who, btw, is not a senator.. she's now the Secretary of State). Then threw out the name "Senator Lieberman"! (he was once a Democratic senator but switched to Independent status in 2008).
She has stated that masturbation is adultery, that "evolution is a myth," that women in military institutions "cripples" our "defense readiness," that the '60s sexual revolution led to HIV/AIDS, and that there were biogenetic experimental lab mice with human brains led by the United States government.

This is the person in that video who claims to be me. Um, Ms. O'Donnell- No, you are NOT me.
I'm a liberal-leaning Independent American working woman. I've been a single mom for the last 15 years, raised my kids by myself and home-schooled all of them.
I can name senators in the Republican and Democratic parties as well as the Independents. I can also tell you that "separation of Church and State" is clear in the first article of the Constitution. Just because the words "separation of church and state" aren't in there verbatim, doesn't mean the intent of the law is not there.
I have studied and have a really good grasp on the scientific theory (please look up that term before claiming it's just a theory) of evolution, masturbation isn't even covered in your bible so no, it isn't adultery, and I am really positively certain (having worked in the medical profession) that the 'sexual revolution' didn't cause AIDS. Oh yeah, AND I served my country in the United States Navy.

Ms. O'Donnell, you are not me. You're a pampered, sheltered, quasi-rich girl who has no idea what the average American woman is like today. You share nothing in common with the majority of us. You wouldn't do what I would do in Washington, because I'm not even sure you are aware of its location, much less what happens on the political scene there.

One place in which we will agree, though, you are NOT, nor have you EVER been a witch.

Thankfully, you don't have to worry about my vote. I don't live in Delaware.



Btw, the latest video out there shows you saying that you're dressing up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz for Halloween.. your final words in the interview? "Kill the witch".

Eh, don't get me wrong.. I get it. You weren't saying you want to kill us witches.. You want to kill the story that started it all and want to lose the label that you put on yourself nearly a decade ago. The fact that you keep denying it only makes it worse. What you should have said is, "I was an idiot back then. I didn't know a witch from a satanist from a picnic table. I was in college and I believed what my friends told me went on there. Thank 'God' I grew up! I know you all relate to that!" and left it alone.

Tip: a really good vetting process would have told you that these skeletons would come out, Christine. Bill Maher has promised more. With only two weeks left until the election, it'll be interesting to see how this goes.

To my fellow American witches in Delaware, please please PLEASE.. on behalf of all of us.. VOTE..  I don't want her to speak for you.. she's not YOU!
If you don't like Chris Coons, perhaps this person could be your write-in candidate instead.. she's MUCH more like me.. or you.. or..


Slainte'
K