Sunday, November 27, 2016

Headscratcher: Nevermind the misspelling man behind the curtain

It really is annoying when ever I hear or see the red herring terminology like this little gem I found online, by someone in my area who promotes himself as a local leader and is taking students, for a minimal fee, to teach Craft:

"I call what I teach, a modified form of Gardinarian Wicca. What that means is that I use traditional methods for teaching, and very traditional forms for ritual. Any Gardinarian coming to my ritual would immediately recognize it... The difference is that I have modified some elements in ways that work better for me. This is the basis of Witchcraft..."

Yeah.  That.

So my fellow pointy-hatted many things are wrong with this diatribe?  Let's count, shall we?

ONE:  This guy charges for training in the Craft --- this in and of itself tells me that he hasn't had British Traditional Training, because if he had, he'd know we don't ever charge for training.  It is bad form, bad juju, bad manners.  If he is teaching his own form of the Craft, he can do what he likes in so far as charging for it ---although as a potential student, how would you know the value of the teaching is worth the cost of the class?--- but his stuff isn't BTW-based then, since he's ascribed a financial value to it.

TWO:  Spelling it 'Gardinarian' is a sure-fire way to say you are either too lazy to spell-check Gerald Gardner's name and thus the namesake tradition....or else you were being purposefully sneaky by not using the correct spelling, thereby giving yourself the ability to say "I used a variant of old Gerald's name to denote my stuff is a variant of the real Garderian tradition."

That latter bit then brings us to...

THREE:  Saying your stuff is a variant of something to which you are not privy is ridiculous.  It is impossible to truly know what encompasses Gardnerian traditional Craft practice unless you are an initiate of that how can you say yours is a variant of something you do not know first hand??!?  Moreover, you wouldn't be exposed to all of the teachings of a Gardnerian tradition unless you were brought all the way through to 3rd Degree, and then given permission to teach it, with duly made oaths to not expose what you've been foresworn in your practice and revelatory experience to others, unless they too are proper people, given similar initiation into the tradition and likewise foresworn to protect it?

Thus, what we have here is someone once again wanting the "pagan street cred" of claiming knowledge of things he may only have barest gleanings about, then making assumptions and suppositions about those little bits and then "making it his own" in some fashion and claiming his is a "modified version" of the whole encompassing reality of a tradition to which he isn't a member.


I think not.

But there are folks like this out there, gang.  Still.  They think people like me --the people who call them out on their verbal slight-of-hand and dubious integrity in Craft teaching--- they think I AM A BIG MEANIE POOPYHEAD.

With all due respect, I'm just protecting my tribe, my tradition, good sir.  I'm doing what my oaths say by shining a big spotlight on you.

And if you DID have the initiation you claimed to have, you'd know this.  You'd know better.

Go do you your own Craft thing.  Go teach others, and do so with all good intention and aplomb.  I applaud you and wish you all good success.

Just stop trying to ascribe some vague notion of that my tradition, however you may bastardize its spelling, is a "stamp of approval" toward what you're doing.

To Tree or Not to Tree? THAT is the question!

Well, as you can see, I said yes to the tree. 

Surely there is enough precedent for tree-hugging and nature worship within paganism as a whole, enough allegory for the Tree of Life in ceremonial magics to see the whole useful symbolism of having a decorated tree in the house during the holiday season.

For me it serves the purpose of making my Catholic parents happy because they look at it and see Christmas.  It reminds me of my childhood too, with all the family gathered 'round and enjoying company and Santa with all the trimmings.

For me today, the tree gives me thoughts of happy Winter Solstice celebrations with my witch-family and carrying on the traditions of burning the Yule log  (NB: mines a fake tree, I have a separately collected wood specimen for the Yule log burning).

And besides all that....I like the whole hoopla of getting the family together to decorate the tree and the house with lights and branches and pine cones.  I love the smelling all the wintry smells of pine needles, of mulled spiced cider, of gingerbread and cinnamon.  I love being out in the cold long enough to appreciate the warmth of the fireplace and a cup of cocoa with whatever marshmellows are left over, those that didn't fit atop the sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving.

This year's tree is special for me.  This is the first holiday season that I am spending with my fiance since moving in together.  Like so many other things, we came into the relationship with our separate stuff and are now learning how to combine it into OUR stuff. 

I'm enjoying the process of seeing what familial traditions are sacrosanct for each of us and which we want to jettison and create anew, just between us.

So this tree is one, mulligan.  I had the tree itself, but the old decorations reminded me of a past life with my ex-husband.  Similarly, the stockings that my fiance had held too many memories of his ex-wife and kids, now estranged and distant.

Thus, we went out to pick something else for OUR future together.  Something that would speak to the colorful and bright new life beginning together while we're both somewhat beaten down and jaded and steadily approaching 50. 

Never too late for a happy ending, kids, so ELECTRIC PEACOCK it is!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

All I want for Yule is...herbs that might kill me

So in my due course of getting to know the local pagan/heathen/witchy lay o' the land in my new homeland of Denver, I have been sleuthing out all the pointy-hatted retail goodness.

One such recent excursion yielded a surprise I was not expecting...finding a tiny little apothecary shop, tucked back in a mostly deserted multi-tenant building.

The usual containers with tumbled stones and crystal points
A bunch of books on chakra balancing, contacting spirit guides and herbal gardening
Random statuettes of various dashboard-mountable deities
and then...the ubiquitous wall of glass jars with herbs.

But this was different.

These had the Latin names and warning labels...not just descriptions of whatever Scott Cunningham or Paul Huson cited as potential holistic and magical uses.

And there, among the dusty glass containers of Dittany of Crete and Comfrey and homegrown white sage.  There.  In the jar at the tippy-top shelf:  amanita muscaria - the red cap!

This little bugger is NOT something to mess around with, and frankly, I was really shocked that it was available at all.   However, not much should surprise me here, in the land where every shopping plaza has a med/rec herb retailer and driving with the windows down on a Friday after work smells like a skunk farm. 

Fully dried caps that still retained something of their former telltale reddish hue with white spots.  The jar had three of them inside, the largest of which rivaled some portabella sandwiches I've eaten at swanky restaurants.  These babies are to be sold by weight, by the gram. 

For giggles, I asked for the price of the big fella...a whopping $80.00 for that guy.  I liked his smaller, better shaped and mostly intact brother for a $35.00. 

I've decided to make myself a little shadow box of fine specimens that are traditionally included in a flying ointment.  Kind of like one of those specimen boxes one would mount fascinating insect in for further study.  Goddess knows I'm neither suicidal nor foolhardy enough to try to concoct such a thing.

But imagine what a preserved collection of herbs like that would be, a unique conversation piece that fellow witches invited into my private office/library would find darkly humorous.

Now then, where to find some Datura and a full Mandrake root?  Maybe that hoodoo store I passed the other day on my way home from work can procure something for me?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mountains, Meet-ups and Remedies for Being Lonely

Ok, so I made it to Colorado.  I'm here!!  I'm here!!

I'm sort of unpacked (it is a rental until May after all, then we hope to move into a house we BUY).  I'm mostly settled into my new job.  I'm delighted to be living in the same freaking state and house as my long-term love interest.

Now, Hallowe'en/Samhain is fast upon me....and I've got nuthin'.

I've battled through the homesickness of family and friends back in Chicago by way of FaceTime and care packages. 

But what to do without any of my pointy-hatted community of Brothers and Sisters of the Art?  I miss them like crazy.  And at this time of year, they're missing my annual tradition of bringing a Cauldron full of jello-shots to the Samhain feast! 

So what's a lone-witch in a new town to do?

Why....go back to school, of course! 

A goodly dose of humility and an opportunity to see how a western Wicca 101 looks from this new scene is in order.

Had attended a lovely, well-comprised lecture about "Magick and Spellcasting" today, as directed and hosted by a practitioner who appears to have actually had some training.  She knew her stuff and was an excellent speaker. 

I learned a lot.  I reinforced a lot.  I was grateful as heck to have a few knowing smiles thrown my way since it would seem that teacher figured out I was a ringer auditing the class. 

I had to smile throughout because this particular class was one of my favorites to teach and it was illuminating and delightful for me to view it from the student's chair all over again.  In any case, I walked out after thanking her for the lesson-within-the-lesson and was greeted by a warm autumnal day with a sunny, resplendent, Colorado bluebird sky.

One way to meet new friends is to go back to trying on the newbie hat for the day.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Into the West

In just three weeks time, I will be moving from 46 years growing up and living in Chicago to my new home in the Denver area.

A different climate, a different scene, a different spirit-of-place.

Brings to mind that I haven't really asked permission of the genius loci if I may invade their turf and set up shop, although I felt we were on very good terms during my prior multiple visits leading up to this life-changing adventure.

Makes me wonder what is the protocol for such things.  I mean, it isn't like you just bring a bottle of wine and a bouquet from the local florist, plonk them down in your new homeland and say "Hey all you local entities, ok if I hang out with you from now on?"

There's should be some sort of....I don't know....transaction, interview, agreement to terms....and if one is lucky, acceptance and/or adoption into the new community.

And I don't mean the local pagan community.

I know how to do the "visiting dignitary" thing and have already begun making polite introductions around, reaching out to folks.  I've let it be known that although I'm going to be new in town, I am a seasoned practitioner who may or may not be establishing a new covenstead sometime in the relatively near future, once I get settled in.

What I mean is sending out a polite aetheric calling card to the spirit guardians who reside there.

How does one let it be known that I come in peace and hope that we can be friends one day?  How do I express my gratitude for being in this land that is new to me, working with soil that is completely different from my Midwestern loam, with flora and fauna...and no doubt fae....which will be as foreign to me and I to them?  How does one make such an approach without any accidental impropriety?

These are the thoughts that float through my head while I continue to pack up the first half of my lifetime here in Chicago.  It is my hope that along with the new job, the new house and the new timezone, that I can find friends associated in all aspects of my new life in Colorado.

I know, I'll bring pizza.  Pizza works on everybody.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Read, Think.....DO!

There's this terrific quote by Albert Einstein:  "Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking," and I think this applies to the dilemma of those working out the beginnings of their own Craft practice.

It is far too easy to get caught up in reading under the guise of research and the quest to find "the right way" to do things, so much so, that one becomes enmired in book-learnin' and doesn't ever get off his/her keester to actual perform and try to experience anything.

The funny thing about the Craft, Druidry and other such forms of paganism, is that the activity and participation was once taught wholly without benefit of books. 

You had to DO IT to GET IT. 

And in most cases, you were either shown how by a relative or mentor, or you just went out and figured things out by trial-and-error.

Which is great for learning sympathetic magic....not so great for herbalism, particularly if you don't know what may be poisonous or cause ill-effects for the practitioner!

I guess that's why I liked learning in a systematic way via a tradition:  there was already some tried-and-true methods outlined for me to use, where I could experience and draw my own conclusions....but I also wouldn't get gobsmacked by shizzle that my covenmates and uplines weren't already on standby to help me through or give me pointers about how to deal with afterward.

Kinda like training wheels, really.  You get to learn, but you also have a smaller likely hood of injury.

Still, getting one's nose out of the books and going out into the outer wilds or inner spaces is the best way to test your meddle.  So what if you've read that X+Y = Z.  If you don't do it for yourself, you're just puppeting along with something YOU personally don't know is fact.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Millenial Douchebags in Witches' Clothing

Photo from the Chicago Reader.  All credit to them, not me.

Check this shit out.

So a bunch of hipster assholes got dressed up in cloaks and decided to light a bunch of candles on a city street to protest the mayor and a bunch of construction workers because they're tearing down some low-income housing to put up new condos in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.

What?  Did they run out of PBR and your favorite gluten-free granola at the corner store so you needed something to do with your afternoon before you were gonna ride your scooter over to the poetry slam?

Check out the article from The Chicagoist, here:

Yeah.  Good for you posers.  Way to get some more bullshit press for real witches everywhere by showing your face to the cameras with your emo-whining.

As someone who IS a witch --that is to say who is a practitioner of the religion--- may I say that ignorant, self-righteous, attention-seeking Millennials pretending to be witches really piss me off.
How dare they co-opt my honorable belief system to use it for their "15 minutes of fame disguised as a political movement"?  Are the kids today so spoiled and entitled they think it is ok to play-act at someone's valid religion for their own personal ends?
Well, I can tell you.....they sure as shit aren't real witches.  
But don't misunderstand.  I'm not saying real witches don't do political stuff.  They totally do.  We protest and hold rallies and marches and pride parades with the best of 'em.  Hell, Starhawk made a whole pagan life-path out of being radical and political.
But these here?  These are just some twenty-somethings who think that dressing in flowy robes and lighting a bunch of candles while reciting some poorly-written iambic pentameter in the name of their own personal agendas makes them SOOOO MUCH MORE SCARY and worthy of the attention.
They don't understand things like boundaries or respect.  Funny....isn't that sort of what they're claiming to be all up in arms about?   The taking away from others to use for personal gain?
Oh don't sound witchy either.  You sound like you're trying for a blurb on TMZ. 
Do you really think that Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is going to drive up in his limo, part the "crowd" of you and all 6 of your friends acting like Harry Potter on the sidewalk (without a permit, mind you)? 
Do you imagine he's going to beg you not to make an effigy of him out of locally-sourced beeswax stuck with the vintage hat pins that you got from the Brown Elephant, if only he will stop the bulldozers from leveling that crumbling project building?
What are you gonna do for an encore?  Spread your propaganda dressed as nuns, chaining yourselves to the construction site gate with old wristbands from Coachella, SXSW and Lolla? Or maybe you'll wear some cool yarmulkes that you've made by upcycling your old flannels?
Fuck no.  Please don't.
If the important thing is your MESSAGE, then find a way to air your protestations without a platform which denigrates somebody else.
Because, trust me little darlings, if there was any real juju in your hexes, you'd know that you're going to get what YOU deserve for your little publicity stunt too.  Good luck.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Packing again....short-term solution ahead

Despite my intentions, things in my life did not 'play nice' long enough for me to get back into blogging.  Yet here I am, another early part of a new year, trying again.

And I'm moving.  Again.  This time down-sizing into a one bedroom apartment, but hopefully only for a 6-month stint before moving out of state.

So much has transpired, I don't even know where to begin.  Let's numerate the madness, shall we?

  1. My 2012 divorce was finally finished as of last week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  LAST WEEK.  Although the divorce happened in 2012, it took my ex and his crappy credit score all this time to get me off the mortgage of my former marital home.  Let's not dwell....but suffice it to say, he and his lovely new bride are happy in the ol' homestead and that ****** no longer has the ability to jack up my debt-to-income ratio or have his defaulted payments hit my credit score anymore.  Good riddance.  And to think I wasted my 30's on that douche bag!
  2. My long-time love interest finally realized that I was the best thing to ever happen to him.  So over the winter holidays, he asked me to marry him.  After 28 years of us chasing each other off-and-on over the years after first meeting back in college, we are finally together.  Well, sort of.... 
  3. Which brings me to my present circumstance of MOVING.  My fiancé lives in Denver, I live in Chicago.  For the past few years we have been alternating visits every month or so between the two cities and trying to convince the other to move to our hometown.  Well, I have a great job here but my company has an office in Denver.  My fiancé just opened a new business in Denver, which he's still trying to get off the ground.  Coincidentally I didn't want to move out of IL until my ex-husband got me off the house here, which he now has done.  Thus, I'm giving my fiancé 6-months to get his CO business up and running.  The deal is, if he is successful, then I'll move to CO.  If he isn't able to get it into the black by August, then he has to come here.  Bottom line:  I'll be semi living out of boxes for the next 6 months. 
  4. One of my much-respected and dear friends, in fact one of my Gardnerian uplines, passed away on 9/1/15.  Lady Nimue was an amazing teacher and fun-loving HPS, with whom I am grateful to have spent time with over the years.  Many a sabbat was spent in her company and she had some wonderfully funny stories of the early days of the Craft in Chicago.  I'm so blessed to have heard a lot of the local history and lore from her, and even more so to be able to share in the generous teaching materials that she left to her downlines in the area.  She gives me a real fortitude about getting a coven of my own started in the near future so that I can pass along and keep up the wonderful legacy she helped share.  Whether that ends up in Chicago or the "Chicago Line" takes root in Denver, remains to be seen.
And that, my friends, is why I have been MIA.  Working two jobs to keep the financial wolves from the door and trying to decipher what the Gods want me to do with my adult life now that my cronehood is just around the corner.