Feb 26, 2012

The Sunday Stew: February 26- March 3

This week's stew is light. I've been having 'issues' with a certain yellow lab who keeps eating my CdL books and making messes. We also had some kind of power surge last night, which has knocked out about half of the circuits in my house, and we're waiting on an electrician to get over here and look at it. So, I'm having an interesting weekend. How about you?

A big thank you to all of you who emailed, msg'd me, commented here and on Facebook in regard to my Real or Not Real post. I really appreciate your candor and willingness to share your experiences and thoughts with me :)
If anyone would like to contribute to The Sunday Stew or you have ideas for how to make it better, please do reach out to me. There's a contact form at the top of the page. Now, on to the stew...

In the News
Right-wing Christians attack Obama's faith- call him a Secularist Pagan

Appeal for Queen to Pardon Pendle Witches

Alien Artificial Life Forms Preside Over Climate Change

Major Cable Company on the Hunt for Best Voodoo/Witch Shop in America

Pagan Lore with Karen Szabo

Hi, and welcome to another week of Pagan Lore.  This week brings us an extra day in February, Leap Day!

Sunday, February 26 
This is Pentagram Night. As a symbolic gesture to reaffirm your dedication to the Craft of the Wise, dip your fingertip into a small cauldron pot filled with Yule-log ashes and then use it to draw the sacred symbol of the Witches' Pentagram (five pointed star within a circle) over your heart at the first stroke of midnight.

Monday, February 27
On this day in 1861, famous psychic and spiritual philosopher Rudolf Steiner was born in Kraljevic (which was part of Hungary at that time). He possessed clairvoyant powers and communicated often with nonphysical entities. In 1902, he was appointed general secretary of the German Section of the Theosophical Society, and in 1913, he established his own school for esoteric research. He died on March 30, 1925.

Tuesday, February 28
In ancient times, a Chaldean Sabbat known as the Sabbatu was celebrated each year on this date. On this day of the year, the Earth-Goddesses Ceres, Demeter, Gaia, Ge, and Mauri are honored by many Pagans and Wiccans around the world.
Also honored annually on this day is the ancient Pagan deity Zamyaz, who was worshipped and offered sacrifices by the ancient Chaldeans and Persians.

Wednesday, February 29
On this date in the year 1692, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam, two young girls from Salem Village, Massachusetts, accused three local women of using the black arts of Witchcraft to torment and bewitch them. On the following day, Sarah Good, Sarah Osburne, and a West African slave named Tituba were arrested, marking the beginning of the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. By the end of the year, when the trials were finally brought to a close, over 200 women and men had been arrested and jailed, 19 had been hanged at Gallows Hill, and one man had been pressed to death. According to folklore, this is a very unlucky day to have a love letter postmarked. It will lead to the breakup of your love affair or engagement.  

Thursday, March 1
On this date in the year 1888, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (an influential Western occult order and secret society) was established. It offered teaching on ceremonial magick, divination, Kabbalah, and other occult-oriented sciences. Many of its rituals are still in use by modern-day practitioners of High Magick. Aleister Crowley (one of the Golden Dawn's most famous members) was initiated into the Order in the year 1898 but was later expelled. In ancient Rome, the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta was rekindled by the Vestal Virgins on this day which, at one time, marked the beginning of the Roman year.
The first day of March is celebrated in Bulgaria as Granny March's Day. (Granny-March is an old Witch-Goddess who presides over the month of March). It is believed throughout the country that if any woman works on this sacred day, Granny March becomes angry and uses her magickal powers to destroy the crops with storms.

Friday, March 2
In various parts of Europe, women celebrate Mother March each year on this date. The Mother-Goddess who presides over the third month of the year is honored and a festive parade is held to commemorate all women who have created life.

Saturday, March 3
The number three is the most magickal of all numbers; therefore the third day of the third month is believed to be a favorable time for Witches and practitioners of magick throughout the world. This day is sacred to all Triple Goddesses and deities of the Moon (which shows itself in three aspects: waxing, full, and waning). The magickal and healing power of pyramids is said to be strongest on this day. 

Hope everyone has a great week -- see you next time!

Happy Birthday this week to Renee Olson (Sosanna), Cheyenne Vanessa Gallant, Andi Murray, Jude Red-Moore, Bruxas Wicca, and Byron Ballard. May this be your best birthday ever, and may your next year of life bring you joy, peace, happiness and all good things in abundance :)

This Week in Astrology
First Quarter Moon on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, at 8:21 PM EST.

On Wednesday, a First Quarter Moon occurs when the Sun in Pisces forms a square with the Gemini Moon. There is a crisis theme surrounding any quarter Moon phase, as we feel compelled to take action. Shortly after, we are made aware of how our actions affect those close to us, perhaps through trial and error. Whatever project or initiative we began around the New Moon on February 21st is now off the ground, and it may face its first obstacles.

This Week's Tarot Card: Queen of Wands

"The essence of fire behaving as water, such as a rainbow: The natural embodiment of passion and sensuality, who is always the center of attention. One who reflects the desires and ambitions of others, and ignites them. A radiantly vital person, cocky and charismatic, who sees what she wants and goes after it." ~http://facade.com

Key Words and Phrases: Energetic, Cheerful, Self-assured, Whole-hearted, Passionate.

The Queen of Wands is considered one of the most fertile cards of the tarot. She can represent a real person (male or female) in our lives who embodies the traits listed above, or she can be the messenger to emulate her in some way. In general, her message is one of accomplishment- getting things done; and for the most part, this is in reference to work/career in some way. The Queen is positive, uplifting energy. If she represents a real person, it could be a good and faithful friend who will be on your side this week. That person may seem to be a bit self-absorbed, but they are loyal and true to you. All in all, this is a very positive sign for the week ahead.

Weekly Totem: Chipmunk
Key words and phrases: balance, work, play, self-discovery, strategy

Chipmunks are amazing, energetic, hard-workers. By the time they are 12 weeks old, they are able to be out on their own. They are curious, intelligent creatures who will explore every aspect of their surroundings, and will stop what they're doing when they discover something new. They work hard to prepare for winter, and if you observe them closely, you can predict what kind of weather you'll have in the winter by watching how early in summer they begin to prepare and store food. I once had the absolute joy to watch chipmunks working together to outsmart a crow. I moved back home to WV for about 6 months in 2004, and we lived in what I called our cabin in the woods. It was a ranch-style brick home, but had a real cabin-y feel to it. And, it was out in the woods on the side of a hill (in WV we distinguish between hills and mountains). We had created a stone circle outside for rituals and campfires, and we had been feeding a deer and her baby to keep them away from the roads. So, I had piled up quite a bit of deer-corn in the middle of the stone circle one morning, and we noticed the chipmunks were grabbing it up and running off with it, piece by piece. A crow showed up and stood on top of the corn pile as if to claim it for his own. The chipmunks began chattering away to each other, and then about 6 of them began taking up positions around the stone circle. The crow was not about to give up his corn, and the chipmunks knew it. One of them began walking boldly up to the pile in front of the crow, who chased the chipmunk back to his position outside the stone circle. Unbeknownst to the crow, there were three chipmunks behind him that ran up while he was chasing chipmunk one back and gathered up a bunch of corn in their cheeks. He turned to walk back to his pile and saw them. He chased them back to their spots and as he did, the other three ran up behind him and filled up their cheeks. This went on for quite awhile and provided my children and I with hours of entertainment. I've never seen any animal who works harder than the chipmunk. I've also never seen any animal who makes work into play like they do, either. The message of chipmunk really is about knowing who you are, being happy with that, and doing what you love- this turns work into play. Ask yourself if you really are where you want to be, or at least on that path. If not, what will it take for you to get there? How can you turn work into play? Look to Chipmunk to be your guide.

That's it for this week's stew. Mull, digest, enjoy!


Feb 25, 2012

Cyber Relationships: Real or Not Real?

So as most of you know, I've been reading The Hunger Games series (finished yesterday). One of the characters, Peeta, has some issues with memory. He tests the validity of his memories with his friends by asking, "real or not real?" and I think it's pertains to something that's been on my mind for awhile now.

When I was growing up, there were no such things as personal computers. No cell phones, no internet, no cyber anything. All our relationships were in person... face-to-face interactions. Remote correspondence took place in the form of writing letters or telephone calls (which were extremely expensive).

Becoming friends meant spending time with another person, finding out history about them, having shared adventures and experiences, reading body language, etc... romances were much the same.

Since the internet boom of the 1990's, relationship dynamics have changed dramatically, and even more so in the past decade. We 'know' people here in cyber space that we think of as dear friends, yet we've never met in person. Many of us have cyber-romances long before we meet in person. We use terms like lol, smh, :(  <3 etc... to replace what body language might be needed to understand the nuances of meaning behind the words on screen. I know quite a few people who actually prefer this kind of interaction to the in-person kind, for various reasons:

  1. You can think before you type. Some of us need to be able to think before we respond, or we end up saying something spontaneously that we didn't intend to come out the way it did. Or, we mean it at the time, and regret it later. With email, chat, messaging, etc... you have time to think about how you will respond to something and can take your time in wording it so that it is exactly what you mean it to say.
  2. When you don't want to converse anymore, you can simply log out and walk away. That's not possible most times in non-cyber relationships. If I were to walk away from you while you were talking to me, your feelings might be hurt. You might get angry, offended, etc... but, if I log out during a chat or don't respond immediately to a msg or email, you most likely will be more patient with me.
  3. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt. Flaws, bad days, irritating habits, etc... don't show up as much in cyber-space as they do in person.
  4. Cyber-friendships are mostly supportive. This could be due to the tenuous nature of social networking (i.e., You make me mad, I simply de-friend you), or that there are many more surface-level interactions going on, with a very small number of deeper conversations taking place.
  5. Blogging tends to allow people to know others in a more personal way. Strangers read what could be the equivalent of someone's diary; something we might never do in person. Anonymity gives a sense of comfort in that if you don't know me in person, you won't judge my innermost feelings displayed through a blog.

Those are just a few of the reasons I've been given (and have given myself) for this becoming our preferred social interaction method these days. And, I'm no novice to it. I ran a bbs long before the internet came around. But, it was local and we all met up at a local pool hall, bar, or some place like that once a week. Once the internet expanded our reach, the dynamics of all that changed.

So, I'm struggling with what's real and what's not, so I'm asking for your help.

This one isn't so much of a struggle because  I have friends I've known for years online that I do feel are truly friends. Yet, I've never met them in person. And when I say years, I mean more than 5 (Mel, Magz, Xee, Brian, Vaygar, all of my Y/A R&S friends). We've never spoken on the phone, we only know each other through pictures, yet I believe they know I'd be there for them if they ever needed me and vice versa. Sometimes, I do wonder how many of them would be friends with me if we lived close to each other.

Then, there are those who I've known from my bbs days in the mid-90's (Adrian, Renee, etc... or, my bff-Karen,Kel, Shelby.. all people I've known online first then offline. So, that part I think I get. I like that I know them offline. I really do like that form of interaction with the back-up being the internet.

I would love to hear from people who've had success in that arena. Personally, I'm squeamish about it. Believe me, I have been (and currently am, if I'm honest) infatuated with certain people on the net. But, how much of that is real and how much is just how I interpret text or can manipulate meanings to fit what I want it to be? How do you take those things to a next level? Do you meet up with them and see how it goes? What if they live in an area that isn't really like a quick road trip away? How much information is appropriate to share before you meet in person? How do you sift through the text to find what's real, what's playful banter, what's just simple flirting, etc...?

Frankly, it's sort of exhausting to figure out, and I'm not sure real-life relationships are that complicated. I mean, you kind of know when someone has more than a passing interest in friendship with you in real life. But, in the cyber world where the questions can be more intense and more personal information is sometimes shared than we would face-to-face, it's hard to judge. And, if someone walks away, you know they aren't interested anymore. In cyber-land, that's not so obvious.

For those of you who had successful romances, were they long-distance? Did one of you move closer to that person just to find out if you were compatible? How did you do that?

In short, is it real or not real? How do you personally manage cyber-relationships of all kinds? Which do you prefer- in person or cyber? Why do you have that preference? What are the pitfalls to each?

I'd love to get your responses on this. I know a lot of you email me or post on my Facebook page, and that's fine. But, please do respond. I really want to know what you think.


Feb 22, 2012

We The People: A Straw Man Argument

So, the picture to the left here is floating all around Facebook right now, and I'm going to address it really quickly.

Disclaimer: I am a huge supporter of 'gay marriage' (or, as I like to say, rights for all U.S. citizens).

The argument here states that if you want a Constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage, that means you're admitting the Constitution allows for it already.

This is a straw man argument.
If you haven't heard the term before, here's a quick definition for you:
'straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.[1] To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.[1]' ~http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

I see the same thing happening when I watch Christians attempt to debate Atheists using the same logic. 

If an atheist says, " I don't believe in God", they immediately respond with, "Ah, so the fact that you state you don't believe in Him says you already acknowledge His existence."

While I believe the person who designed this graphic is attempting to be helpful, we can do better than this.

There is enough truthful information out there to argue for the rights of all citizens to marry that we really shouldn't (EVER) have to resort to logical fallacies to make our point. It lessens the impact of the message, and insults the intelligence of both sides of the argument.

I'm calling this one an epic fail.

Feb 21, 2012

The Hunger Games: Spoiler and a 'This Gets Personal' Alert

Ebook Purchase here
Many of you have either heard of or read the book, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Until yesterday, I was ignorantly unaware of the existence of this trilogy. I knew there was a movie coming out by this name, and I'd seen the trailer for it (although, for the life of me, I can't remember where) just a few weeks ago.

I ordered it to my kindle last night and finished it this morning. Well, the first book, anyway.

I know the target audience of this series is young adult. I learned to read when I was 3 years old, and by age 8, I was reading at a freshman in college level. So, I've never been one to care about age-appropriateness, as I believe some books transcend age levels. This is one of them.

From this point on, if you haven't read the book, you don't want to read this post. I'm using my blog as a sort of personal diary today, and there will be things in here that would spoil the book for you. Stop and go to a library, bookstore, or download on your e-reader instead :) You can always come back later and read this- it'll be here. It's also pretty personal and probably not very coherent or interesting.

So, you've been warned:
Proceed at the risk of spoiler and boredom.

The protagonist's name is Katniss Everdeen (in the movie, she's being portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence). Her name could very well be mine. I've not related so well to a character in a book for a very long time.  Some of the similarities are amazing to me.

She's in a post-apocalyptic America, specifically in a coal-mining region that used to be known as Appalachia. That's home for me.

My grandfather was a coal miner. Not only a coal miner, but one who lived through the West Virginia Coal Mining wars. He saw friends and co-workers literally murdered and thrown into the Appalachian Coal Furnace by the mining company when they spoke out against the horrible working conditions that were there. My grandfather saw John L. Lewis as a savior and hero. His love for the United Mine Workers Union was overwhelming. The stories he told me were horrific and almost unbelievable.

My grandfather died from black lung and emphysema brought on by working in the mines. Some of what's described in the book is very much the every day life of coal miners and their families even today.  I had always been a tomboy growing up and loved doing all of the things that were considered 'boy' things in my day (hiking, fishing, sports, etc). He was the only father figure I ever had, so I really related to Katniss's loss.

Katniss's mom checked out on her when her father died. My biological parents divorced when I was 4. My mom remarried when I was 6. My stepfather was not a mean person. He just made it very clear that he had no intention of being a father to me and my younger sister. My mother and stepfather then had two girls between them, and he doted on the older of the two.

He worked 90 hour weeks, smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and had 4 heart attacks and open heart surgery by the time I was 16. He suffered his fifth and fatal heart attack in our living room on December 9, 1979. So many things happened that night that completely sealed his fate (i.e., the hospital was less than five minutes from our house, yet the ambulance got turned around, didn't show for 45 minutes.. when they arrived, they dropped the defibrillator and I heard glass shattering inside.. when they hooked him up to it, they shorted it out.. they got lost on the way to the hospital.. he was DOA).

From that point on, my mother (who had never really been much of a mother in the first place) checked out on us. I didn't have it as bad at Katniss. My mother at least went to work every day and paid the bills on time, but that was the extent of her engagement in life. She would drink herself to sleep every night and be out by 8pm. While I had been pretty much the one to pay attention to my younger siblings (ages 15, 7 and 9), it was now my responsibility to take care of them in other ways as well. I became the 'mom' until I left home at age 20 to go into the Navy.

My two escapes were being outdoors in the woods and music. I envy that Katniss only had one sister to care for, and could spend her days in the woods. In that respect, she had it easier.

I love that Katniss is good with a bow. I was an excellent archer as a child. I've often wished I hadn't given it up, and this made me want to go back and do it again.

If I were in her shoes and one of my sisters had been called up, I would have (without hesitation) taken her place. It was always me who was strongest, me who had to take up for them, me who had to protect and defend them. I felt every bit of what she went through there.

Katniss is a survivor. So am I. While I wasn't thrown into some kill-or-be-killed game like she was, I've been through many situations that were just as precarious. Most times, when people hear me tell of these, they think I'm lying, exaggerating or some kind of super-hero (none of which is accurate). When going through a situation like hers, you don't stop to marvel at the situation, your survival skills, etc... you just do. You make things happen because there is no alternative other than to lay down and do nothing.. and that isn't in the DNA of people like her... me... us.

She's also really good at disconnecting from her emotions. This is part of survival, and although I haven't read the other books, it has its repercussions. People can mistake me for being cold, unfeeling, unsympathetic at times. And, sometimes, I really am that way.  For example, I lose patience in crisis situations for people who react emotionally or panic. I don't deal well with that at all. There's just no time for it when every second counts, and it wastes energy that can be precious in those situations.

Katniss and I are both adept at putting on a mask and faking it for the crowd (probably why I can do public speaking so well).

Peeta brings up more than once that she has a charm that she doesn't know about. I've been told I tend to 'charm' people without realizing I've done it.  It's not a conscious manipulation.. there's no real thought that goes into it. Other people usually have to point it out. We aren't built to think like that.

We both need time by ourselves to process things. We feel a lot more deeply than we ever let on, and it's usually only one person (for her, it was Gale) who gets close enough to see the true vulnerability, and even that's a risk. And, it can take a really long time before someone sees that part.

I'm sure I've missed things that struck me as similar, but I wanted to capture them somewhere, and frankly, I type better than I write. I always marvel at authors who can create characters that are this relatable. Since it's written in the first person, I know that can have an effect, but I wonder how Suzanne Collins came to create Katniss? Did she know someone like this? Is Katniss like her, too?

I'm completely involved in the story-line now. So, tonight, I'll be off to the next book, "Catching Fire". I wonder if I'll continue to relate or if we'll deviate from one another now that she's back home. It'll be interesting to find out.

If you stayed with this to the end (thank you), have you ever had a character in a story that you related to completely like this? If so, who was it? What similarities do you share?

Oh, and if you're interested, here's the movie trailer.

Feb 20, 2012

President's Day Rant

In 1971, President Richard Nixon proclaimed one single federal public holiday, Presidents' Day, to be observed on the 3rd Monday of February, honoring all past presidents of the United States of America.

So, in honor of them and of this office, I present you with the following:

Premise 1: The United States of America is a Secular State.

"A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.[1] A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion/nonreligion over other religions/nonreligion." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_state

Did you catch that?  let me emphasize what I really want you to read here. "A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion".

"Secular states become secular either upon establishment of the state (e.g. United States of America or India) or upon secularization of the state (e.g. France or Nepal). Movements for laïcité in France and for the separation of church and state in the United States defined modern concepts of secularism. Historically, the process of secularising states typically involves granting religious freedom, disestablishing state religions, stopping public funds to be used for a religion, freeing the legal system from religious control, freeing up the education system, tolerating citizens who change religion or abstain from religion, and allowing political leadership to come to power regardless of religious beliefs.[2]" (ibid)

Premise 2: United States Law Prohibits Religious Discrimination in Employment/Hiring Practices

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of l964 (“Title VII”) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. http://www.adl.org/religious_freedom/resource_kit/religion_workplace.asp

Premise 3: We, The People of the United States of America, are the Employer of the President.

Now that you understand my premises, I want to talk about the office of the President of the United States, the candidacy and we, the people.

As you are aware (unless you live under a rock, in which case, I'd like to know the name of your internet provider), we are in an election year. 

At this time, we, the people of the United States, have the opportunity to review candidates for employment to the highest office of the land. In other words, we are the employer of this person.

Currently, we employ Barack Obama to fill that office, and he's asking us to give him another four years to work for us.

Other candidates for this office include Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and several others (see here for complete list).

Here are the qualifications to be President-
Age and Citizenship requirements - US Constitution, Article II, Section 1
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.
Term limit amendment - US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 – ratified February 27, 1951
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. `http://www.presidentsusa.net/qualifications.html

What's really incensing me making me want to rant right now is the fact that we-the-people don't seem to have a clear understanding of our role as employer in the United States, which we have established is NOT a Christian nation, nor a religious nation of any kind. 

We have established this, yes? No?

If you've not read my blogs before, let me make sure we're clear here. No matter what propaganda you've been fed in your life, our founding fathers did not establish a nation based on Christianity. Most of them were Deists, some were atheists and most were strongly disparaging of Christianity itself. 

They clarified this position in 1797 with the signing of the Treaty of Tripoli (authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow with a little help from John Adams during Washington's administration in 1796). In March of 1797, George Washington retired from office, and John Adams became President. 

The Treaty of Tripoli was introduced by John Adams into the Congress in June of 1797. All members of Congress were present at the time. They unanimously voted in favor of this treaty. It was signed on June 7, and was published in all major newspapers of the time. Not one letter to the editor was ever written in protest of this treaty or its contents by the American people (which was what they tended to do when they disagreed). In article 11 of this treaty it states:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

This was the mindset of our founding fathers and the American people at the time of the Washington and Adams administrations. We are not, nor have we ever been, a Christian nation. We are not a Pagan nation. We are not a Muslim nation. We are not a Jewish nation. We are not a RELIGIOUS nation of any kind, whatsoever.

As the employer of the President of the United States, it is none of our business to what religion our employee ascribes (or in the case of an atheist, does not ascribe). There should be absolutely no discussion WHATSOEVER of any potential employee's religious beliefs, values, morals, etc... as it is against the law for us to even ask such a question, or to enter into this discussion with them. It's none of our fraking business.

No Presidential candidate should be espousing his/her beliefs to us, nor should we entertain those who do.

Just yesterday, Rick Santorum made it very clear that he is not capable of representing the people of a secular nation due to his religious beliefs. (see article here)

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have also pandered to the religious right (which is neither religious nor right)  in this country with no regard whatsoever to the secular state of this nation and its laws.

No religious group has the right to to dictate their idea of morality based on their scripture's laws to a secular nation.  No one should be admitted to the highest office of the secular land who cannot separate   his/her religion from their job. 

How many of you work at a secular job? How many of you are allowed to change company policies based on your religious beliefs? How many of you use your religious practices, scriptural texts, etc.. as a basis to impose them upon your co-workers, employer, and/or employees? Remember, I said SECULAR job. 

If you believe that would be unprofessional and against the law, you are correct.

Why then, do We the People, Employer of the President, allow this illegal hiring practice to continue? 
It's appalling. It shouldn't be tolerated. It shouldn't be welcomed. It shouldn't be a deciding factor in your vote. 

Morality is not an equivalent to religion. Religion doesn't produce it, no matter how many of you would like to believe that. I know atheists who have more scruples than most religious people I've encountered. Doing the right thing is a product of society, environment, and parenting; not religion.

I am capable of making decisions without bringing my spirituality into them. I can separate the two when it comes to my job. I can be a good example for my co-workers and direct reports without preaching any of my beliefs to them or at them. I don't make policies based on my religion. 

This is called professionalism. 

I expect the person who holds the highest office in the land to behave professionally regardless of his/her religious leanings and if they cannot do that, I do not want them running the most powerful country on the planet.  And you shouldn't either.

Issues like a woman's right to make her own medical decisions, U.S. citizens being allowed to marry (see Loving vs. Virginia) or serve in the military, federal funding for religious organizations, etc... are all related to the beliefs of the quickly declining religious majority of this country and are NOT, I repeat NOT something that should be up for debate in this SECULAR society. These are not issues of morality. Rather, they are issues of  those who are losing their power and trying desperately to hold on to it. 

Lawful citizens of a secular democratic republic should be afforded the same rights, regardless of what a religious group believes. 

If you are an adherent to Christianity who has been guilty of attempting to impose your beliefs on the rest of us, I ask you to stop and think about what you're doing. 

There is no mandate in your bible anywhere that states you are to render unto God what is Caesar's. You are to follow the laws of your land. The only place where your God is quoted in regard to a religious nation is in Israel, and I do mean in that land and nowhere else. 

Stop and think about what kind of country you want to live in. Would you really want a religious nation? If so, are you willing to live in a Muslim country? How about an Orthodox Jewish one? What if yours was NOT the majority (and that may well be the case in the not-so-distant future). It behooves you as much as me to keep the two separate.

And to those of you who love  the freedom afforded by secularism, we are fighting for THAT in this election year. We are fighting to keep what was established by the Constitution and its amendments. Put your religion aside, honor the past Presidents today by choosing an employee who is capable of secular thought, and who will not bring religion into that office.

It IS the law, after all.


Feb 19, 2012

The Sunday Stew: February 19-25

This week's Stew is a quiet little brew, with just a kick of flavor here and there.
Last week was a busy one for me. I have several products in development right now, and am focused on getting them all completed by their deadlines. I also had to deliver some virtual training, which is always fun for me. All in all, it wasn't a bad week. This next week promises a bit more of the same, but I'm grateful to have a job that I love (most days, anyway).

My friends Shelby and Kelly bought me some amazing books for my birthday on becoming a Naturalist. Thank you both so much! I love them already! Sabrina the Inkwitch also finished a commission for me that I plan to use as a basis for my upcoming tattoo. She also sent me a beautiful print to go along with it. She's amazing. Thank you, Bri!

That is just one of the things I'm thankful for.. all of you who are my friends and those of you who come here to read each week. I'm always taken aback that anyone reads what I write here, and that so many lovely, intelligent, creative and caring people take the time to respond as well. You're wonderful and I am to grateful you're in my life, to whatever degree that is.

Ok enough gushing, you're here for the stew. So, let's get to it, shall we?

In the News:
 Accused Witch Burned Alive in Nepal
 Man beheads 'Witch Mum'
 Fiona Shaw: 'I prepared for True Blood role by going to witch meetings'
The U.S. Celebrates Presidents' Day tomorrow. Read about it here.
 Cologne Witchcraft Trial Reopens After 400 Years.
 Man Claims to be Singer kept captive through zombie witchcraft held on fraud charges

Happy Birthday this week to: Mimi Collins, Carol Becker, Adrian Miles, Megan Louise Brown, Catherine Kennedy Hornsby, Jaylene Seeley, Chris Simmons Morgan, Enchantress Kasha Thompson, and Angelique Mroczka. May your next year of life bring you joy, happiness, health and abundance in all good things!

Pagan Lore with Karen Szabo

Welcome to another week of Pagan Lore!

Sunday, February 19
On this date (approximately), the Sun enters the astrological sign of Pisces. Persons born under the sign of the Two Fishes are said to be telepathic, tolerant, sensitive, artistic, and often prone to daydreaming. Pisces is a water sign and is ruled by the planet Neptune. According to mythology, the Goddess Minerva was born on this day, which is also sacred to the Pagan deities Nammu and Nina.

Monday, February 20
On this date in 1882, the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London, England, by a group of prominent philosophers and physicists. It became Britain's leading organization for research into the world of supernatural phenomena and the paranormal.

Tuesday, February 21
In ancient Rome, an All Soul's Day ceremony known as the Feralia was held annually on this date at the close of the Parentalia festival. Family reunions were held and the Lares, ancestral guardian spirits, were honored with prayers and offerings.

Wednesday, February 22
On this day in 1917, Sybil Leek was born in Stoke-on-Trent, England. She achieved fame and success as a modern Witch, astrologer, and occult author. Her psychic predictions of the Kennedy assassinations and the election of Richard M. Nixon as president of the United States are documented.  Sybil passed away on October 26, 1982 in Melbourne, Florida.

Thursday, February 23
On this date, the Terminalia, last festival of the ancient Roman year, was celebrated annually in honor of the god Terminus, a deity who ruled over boundaries and frontiers. During the Terminalia, neighbors whose lands were divided and protected by Terminus would gather together an pour libations of wine, honey, and the blood of sacrificed pigs on their stone boundary-markers.

Friday, February 24
Shiva, the multifaceted Hindu god of destruction and renewal, is honored annually on this date (approximately) by a day of fasting, followed by an oil-lamp vigil known as the Shivaratri or "Shiva's Night" which takes place at shrines dedicated to him.

Saturday, February 25
In many parts of the Christian world, a joyous pre-Lenten celebration known as Carnival takes place annually on or around this date. In ancient days, orgiastic fertility rites and sacrifices of humans and animals to herald the arrival of Spring were common at this time of the year in many parts of the world.

That's the lore for this week, see you next time!

This Week in Astrology

New Moon on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, at 5:35 PM EST.

"On Tuesday afternoon, a new cycle begins. The Aquarius New Moon cycle ends and the Pisces New Moon cycle begins. The New Moon in Pisces is a good time to commit to personal goals that express the positive energies of the sign of the Fish. These include taking a leap of faith, accepting imperfections in ourselves and in others as a different kind of "perfection", starting a project that requires imagination and visualization skills, consciously putting time aside for peaceful and rejuvenating activities, and sharing a dream with another. With this potent Pisces energy, we have the chance to make important changes in our lives. This New Moon is especially creative and imaginative as it is aligned with Neptune, newly in Pisces, the sign that it rules. While we are likely to feel very inspired, and this New Moon can motivate us to take a leap of faith, we should check into reality from time to time. The New Moon's trine to Saturn helps ground us and a sense that we can turn our dreams into reality." More here...

More on the New Moon in Pisces here...  and here

Weekly Tarot: The High Priestess

Vanessa Tarot

Key words and Phrases: The subconscious, hidden truths, secrets, inner reflections, solitude, intuition, using non-action to achieve goals.

The High Priestess, more than any other card, represents the Great Mystery. She is the symbol of strength, power, intuition, secrets, arcane magic, ancestral connection, hidden wisdom and the Goddess.

Her message is one of introspection, finding the answers you seek in hidden, secretive or unusual places. She is the embodiment of light and dark in balance. There is no 'good witch' or 'bad witch', black versus white, light versus dark. With her, one simply is.   Sometimes, non-action brings us resolution faster than action. In the act of being, and in being still, we find the answers within us.

Most of all, she represents the potential each of us has that we have yet to discover. She may be telling you its time to unlock those hidden talents, or it's time to get to know yourself better. This is a woman who chooses to be herself, go her own way and not follow the crowd. She is respected for her intelligence, self-confidence and power that comes from within. She asks you to follow her example. 

Weekly Totem: The Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron, Maryland
Key words and phrases: self-reflection, discipline, rulership, meeting needs, emotional balance, dignity, wisdom.

Heron in the Natural World

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands. It is a rare vagrant to Europe, with records from Spain, the Azores, England and the Netherlands.  The primary food for Great Blue Heron is small fish, though it is also known to opportunistically feed on a wide range of shrimp, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents and other small mammals, amphibians,reptiles, and small birds. Herons locate their food by sight and usually swallow it whole. Herons have been known to choke on prey that is too large. It is generally a solitary feeder. Individuals usually forage while standing in water, but will also feed in fields or drop from the air, or a perch, into water. As large wading birds, Great Blue Herons are able to feed in deeper waters, and thus are able to harvest from niche areas not open to most other heron species.
It feeds in shallow water or at the water's edge during both the night and the day, but especially around dawn and dusk. It uses its long legs to wade through shallow water, and spears fish or frogs with its long, sharp bill. ~Wikipedia

Heron in Mythology:
Egypt: Heron is thought to be called The Benu bird. "The Benu was one of the manifestations of the creator god at Heliopolis. Like him, the Benu was imagined as being self-created, in mythological papyrii from Dyn 21 he is described as 'He who came into being by himself'. He emerged out of the original darkness before creation to be:
"...that breath of life which emerged from the throat of the Benu bird, the son of Re in whom Atum appeared in the primeval nought, infinity, darkness and nowhere."
By the cry of the Benu bird, existence was announced as coming into being. The silence of the primeval night is broken and light and life is brought to creation."

Greece: In Greek mythology the Heron was also considered to be 'bad news' because it always hunted in shallow water and this would indicate such to any invaders who were looking for a fording place. 

England: There is one story that was told in the Chagford area about the Heron and the Crow which came with a couplet; 
"With evil people neither stay nor go;
The Heron died for being with the crow".

North America: From the Hitchiti Tribe (formerly in Western Georgia) comes this story of the Heron and The Hummingbird:
"Heron and Hummingbird were very good friends, even though one was tall and gangly and awkward and one was small and sleek and fast. They both loved to eat fish. The Hummingbird preferred small fish like minnows and Heron liked the large ones.
One day, Hummingbird said to his friend: "I am not sure there are enough fish in the world for both of our kind to eat. Why don't we have a race to see which of us should own the fish?" ~retold by S. E. Schlosser see the full story here

Heron as Totem Messenger
Heron is a graceful, confident, athletic hunter who teaches us to take pride with dignity in our accomplishments. He teaches us time management skills, and to love ourselves with true majesty; that is, pride without pretentiousness, and in graceful compassion for all.

Heron People
"It is important for anyone with a heron totem to explore various activities and dimensions of Earth life. On the surface, this may seem a form of dabbling, but those with heron totems are wonderfully successful at being the traditional ‘Jack of all trades’.

This ability enables them to follow their own path. Most people will never be able to live the way heron people do. It is not a structured way, and does not seem to have stability and security to it. It is, though, just a matter of perspective. There is security in heron medicine, for it gives the ability to do a variety of tasks. It one way does not work, then another will. This, heron people seem to inherently know.

Heron people do not seem to need a lot of people in their life, nor do they feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses, or be traditional in their life roles. The only time they gather in colonies is during the breeding season. They stand out in their uniqueness, and they know how to snatch and take advantage of things and events that the average person would not even bother with." (Source: Ted Andrews, Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small)

That's it for this week's stew. Mull, Digest, Enjoy!


Feb 17, 2012

Friday Frolic: Steampunk World Fair

Happy Friday, my fellow frolickers!
I received an email from Haley at Widdershins LLC asking if I wouldn't mind passing along their press release for the Steampunk World Fair. I thought it would be perfect for our Friday Frolic, so here it is:

Contact: Jeff Mach
Spreading the Steampunk Love
The Lost Treasures of Steampunk program gives back to artists of the Steampunk community
With the Steampunk genre’s infiltration of mainstream media, many artists of the movement are seeing their work lost in the explosion of new Steampunk art. The Lost Treasures of Steampunk, the newest program initiated by the Steampunk World’s Fair, is designed to prevent these works from being overlooked by sharing them with the greater Steampunk community. Steampunk creators are seeking to gain legitimacy as artists and the Lost Treasures will work to prove that legitimacy. Selected applicants will have their work featured at the Steampunk World’s Fair this coming May, and more will be awarded scholarships to further their artistic endeavors.

Event organizers are devoted to bringing this program to life by utilizing fundraising and a portion of the fair’s budget for its success. Event creator Jeff Mach explains, "We’d like to prove that Steampunk is not only a legitimate artistic genre, but an intensely creative one, as well." As head of an event that attracts the attention of Steampunks nationwide, he has witnessed innumerable creative endeavors that don’t get the attention they deserve. This inspired Mach to put together the Lost Treasures of Steampunk, for which creators of all steampunk art, from fashion to literature, are urged to apply.

Besides the Lost Treasures of Steampunk to look forward to, this year’s Steampunk World’s Fair will be packed with pleasures. Steampunk is a genre best described by author K.W. Jeter as "mad Victorian fantasy". Over 3,000 Steampunk enthusiasts are brought together at the World’s Fair each year along with hundreds of performers, artisans, writers, and creators from across the country. But the fair is not solely reserved for the loudest fans; anyone with the least bit of interest in Steampunk is invited to pop on a top hat and join the masses in celebration of steampunk and its artistic culture.
The creators of Steampunk World’s Fair are also notable for their annual Wicked Winter Renaissance Faire and Geeky Kink Event. More information on The Steampunk World’s Fair can be found at steampunkworldsfair.com

Feb 12, 2012

The Sunday Stew: February 12-18

This week's stew is a bit on the heavy side, so bring your appetite. As many of you have heard, singer Whitney Houston died yesterday in her hotel room of (as of yet) undetermined causes. Her life was one of many rises and falls, all in the public eye, and she was both loved and pitied by many. May she find peace in the next phase of her journey.

Several of you are also aware of a video that went viral around the social media sphere of a dad who got fed up with his almost 16 year old daughter's rebellion on Facebook and took matters into his own hands. It sparked a lot of emotion and controversy on both sides of the issue. Nalaya Oddly will be hosting a chat to discuss on Tuesday if you're interested. Read more here.

Another great blog to which I subscribe is called Rune Soup. I highly recommend it. Here's a sample: "Why Aren't You Fighting Dirty?"

In the News:

Villagers set woman accused of witchcraft ablaze
The origins of Valentine's Day- Lupercalia
New course teaches the history of the Salem Witch Trials
Salem's official witch moves her shop online
Pagan Community Notes from The Wild Hunt
Pop Singer Whitney Houston dead at age 48

Several people have asked me lately if I knew any good resources for becoming a vegetarian. I posted a request on Facebook, and several people were gracious enough to share their experiences with me. One of my favorite bloggers/FB friends actually wrote a blog to accommodate me. If you have questions or are interested in learning about it, our dear Miss Pettey of the Knitting Kitchen Witch has the answers. Click here to read more.

Happy Birthday this week to Judas Antenesque, Shelby Dilley, MorInanna Eaglesong, Lydia Pagnotti, Vicky Hollar, Bill Lazdowski, Crystal Harper, Nicole Zurcher, Green Tara, and Dusty Miller. May this next year of your life bring you joy, peace, happiness and abundance in all good things!

Pagan Lore with Karen Szabo

Welcome to another week of the Pagan Lore!

Sunday, February 12 

On this date in the year 1663, the infamous clergyman Cotton Mather was born in Boston, Massachusetts. (This is certainly one birthday no Witch would ever celebrate!) His writings and sermons condemning the practice of the Old Religion contributed greatly to the hysteria of the 1692 Salem Witch-hunt. Cotton Mather died in Boston, one day after his birthday, in the year 1728. 

Monday, February 13 
On this date, an annual holiday called the Parentalia was observed in ancient Rome. It lasted until the twenty-first of February and was a time for families to honor and commemorate their deceased loved ones, particularly their parents. During the week of Parentalia, all temples in Rome were closed and all wedding ceremonies forbidden. Ancestral tombs were visited and offerings of wine and flowers were made to family ghosts. 

Tuesday, February 14 
Saint Valentine's Day. This is a day dedicated to all lovers, and the traditional time for Witches around the world to practice all forms of love magick and love divination. This day is sacred to Juno-Lupa, the she-wolf Goddess of the ancient Roman religion. In early times, she was honored annually on this day by a women's fertility festival and the sacrifice of a female wolf. 

Wednesday, February 15 
On this date in ancient Rome, a festival known as the Lupercalia (Feast of the Wolf) was celebrated to honor the god Lupercus and to mark the beginning of Spring. The festival, which was a rustic ritual of both purification and fertility magick, also included the sacrifice of goats and dogs to the god Faunus (identified by classical writers as the horned goat-god Pan). During the orgiastic festival, young men would choose their sexual partners by drawing the names of young women out of a bowl. 

Thursday, February 16 
In the distant past, a rite called the Devil's Dance was performed annually on this date (approximately) as part of the Tibetan New Year festival. Monks wearing grotesque masks would dance for hours as a village sorcerer exorcised demons and the evil influences of the past year with various magickal incantations. 

Friday, February 17 
On this day, according to Hindu religion and mythology, the fearsome goddess known as Kali was born and the world entered into the Kali Yuga (the "Evil Age"). Kali, the creator/destroyer-Goddess, was depicted with black skin, a hideous face, and four arms. In ancient times, human sacrifices were made to appease her and to satisfy her thirst for blood. 

Saturday, February 18 
On this day, a festival of women known as the Spenta Armaiti was held annually throughout the country of Persia. Ancient fertility rites were performed by temple priestesses in honor of the Goddess Spandarmat, and the Goddess who dwells within all women was honored and invoked with special prayers and meditations. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day -- see you next week!

This Week in Astrology
The Last Quarter Moon is at 12:04pm EST on Tuesday, February 14.
"On Tuesday afternoon, the Last Quarter Moon will be exact, when the Sun in Aquarius squares the Moon in Scorpio. The Last Quarter Moon phase points to some sort of crisis of consciousness. After basking in the awareness symbolized by the full light of the Moon at the time of last week's Full Moon, we disperse our knowledge and come to a point when we need to sort out what works for us--and what doesn't--in preparation for next week's New Moon, when something new is born once again. This is not the best time to start a major project, as the decreasing light of the Moon symbolizes a descent into unconsciousness. It's time to begin finishing up the details of that which was conceived at the last New Moon on January 23rd. What revelations did you have last week? What did they mean for you? What can be done now?" ~ More at http://cafeastrology.com

This Week's Tarot: 9 of Coins (Pentacles)
Vanessa Tarot

Key words/phrases: tact, diplomacy, self-control,  restraint, poise, grace, reward.

The Nine of Coins is about achievement, wealth and possessions earned through hard work, determination and self-reliance.

The message is that happiness can be achieved when we are living out our purpose and chosen goals in life.

Questions to ask: Am I enjoying what I do (my work)? Am I living my life on my own terms, not to the expectations of others? Am I nourishing my sense of self-respect and remembering what I have accomplished thus far?

The message here is that you are capable of attaining whatever you choose- you have all the tools and fortitude to make it happen. Believe in yourself and remember, it is the journey and not the destination that matters.

This Week's Totem: Spider

Spiders in Myth

Spiders are very delicate creatures that play an important role in nature, as well as the myths and stories of mankind.
To the Native Americans, Spider is Grandmother, the link to the past and future. In India it's associated with Maya, the weaver of illusions. In Greek mythology, Arachne, challenger and offender of the goddess Athena , after realizing her folly, became so ashamed that she hung herself. Athena took pity upon her and reincarnated her as a spider.  All her descendants would be master weavers of webs. In West Africa, spider is Anansi, the trickster (much like coyote in Native American tales). In the Torah, David was hiding from the King’s soldiers in a cave, and a spider spun a web over the cave. The soldiers ignored the cave because of the web, and David was saved from death; and there is a similar story about Mohammed in Islamic belief.
In several traditions, it is bad luck to kill a spider in your home. 

Spiders, naturally

Spiders are generally very shy and want to be left alone. Contrary to popular belief, they do not bite you in your sleep and leave a trail of marks on your body. Those are caused by things like MRSA, mites, ticks, fleas and other types of bugs. Spiders are not blood-suckers and have no reason to feed on you. They play an extremely important role in the eco-system, and are fabulous pest-controllers.

Spider as Totem
Spider is the totem of writers, artists and weavers. Spider’s message is that all living things are connected, and our past and future, this life and the afterlife ,male and female, physical and spirit. Spider weaves the relationship of the Web of Life and all other beings.
Strength and gentleness are balanced in this message. The web is delicate, but can withstand many storms.
Spider is said to have taught the primordial alphabet to man, and can assist you in creative writing. Spider is shaped like a number 8 and has 8 legs  and most have 8 eyes(8 represents the infinite possibilities of creation). The legs represent the 4 winds of change and the 4 directions of the medicine wheel in Northern American indigenous beliefs.
Spider’s message is that you are an infinite creature, and you weave your destiny. All you weave affects the rest of the web. Use those many eyes at your disposal to see different angles. Most of all – create!

And, lastly, one of my favorite quotes for all of my readers: "My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue?" ~Aunt Frances Owens, Practical Magic

That's it for this week's stew. Mull, digest, enjoy :)