Sunday, July 26, 2009

Aspects of the God

My tradition recognizes that the God has multiple aspects and forms.
Goddess aspects are often refered to the Maiden, Mother, Crone. In our tradition we refer to the God aspects as the Horned One, the Hooded One and the Old One.

The Horned One represents our primal connection to vibrant and direct male creative energies. This is the energy of the era of hunters & gatherers, when humans lived closely with the cycles of the seasons and the animal cycles of migration and birth and death. It is where our understanding of predator and prey resides. This aspect of the God has a deep and ancient connection. Lupercus is the Wolf God and a predator. Cern is the Stag God and prey. Together they are the Twin Gods in Stregheria that keep these ancient bonds alive and a part of our tradition. The Wheel of our Year reminds us of this connection most vividly at Lupercus on February 2nd . But this ancient link is also woven into our Spring & Fall Equinox rituals and the Winter Solstice, where Janus God of 2 Faces, the twin Gods Lupercus & Cern, makes his presence known. The God Lupercus is charged with completing the 12 astrological labors. This is the God aspect who must also shoulder the burdens and fight the battles necessary to complete the Wheel of the Year.

The Hooded One represents the mature, agricultural, nuturing aspects of the God. The aspects of the God are associated with the stages of human development. As humans transistioned from a Hunter-Gatherers to Farming & Herding we further separated ourselves from the wilder, uncontrolled by man, aspects of nature. Anyone who has ever planted a seed outdoors understands that Farmers & Herders must have a strong relationship with the changing seasons of the sun and with the breeding seasons of animals. But this relationship is one where humans are not just working with the cycles of nature but also controlling various aspects that previously only nature controlled. When does the seed get planted? When is the bull allowed to mate the cow and which bull? This aspect of the God is a careful, focused, aligned, controlled. The Hooded One is who holds the secrets of the seed and knowledge of the cycles of birth and rebirth. This is the God that is 'hooded in the Green" and who has ties to the Green Man.

The Old One is the Wise One. The One who has the experience necessary to assist with a decision's longer term aspects. This could be the warrior who fights, but only when necessary, or the elder entrusted with justice, or the scientist who tracks the movement of the stars over centuries by ensuring that wisdom is passed from generation to generation.

I started this post in response to a question on PaganMen about "The Green Man". As I see it The Green Man has aspects of both our Horned One, the wild natural, unbridled, exuberant aspects of the God along with aspects of our Hooded One. In many ways ancient traditions probably didn't feel the need to have the clean, tidy definitions that we do in our "knowledge based" society. The Gods were aspects of what the ancients experienced via the natural and primal forces. There was no need to have tidily matched Maiden / Mother / Crone aspects of the Goddess with Horned / Hooded/ Old aspects of the God. The stories, our mythos, were what they needed to be to capture the essense of the experiences and the ancients. Consistent experiences helped solidify the stories and associated God forms. Older gods are incorporated into the newer gods. In our Tradition, some aspects of the Horned One can be seen in the Hooded One. The Hooded One, the Green Man, presides over field and vine, and reigns in the woods. In the field, he is as quiet as the field's growth and as the sun's rays; in the vines, he is not (Bacchus); and in the woods, he can raise your hackles if he so chooses. The essence that can do that is wild and and very primal.

The God (of whatever era) is born, lives and dies through the seasons of the Wheel. He makes the Wheel what it is. Our Goddess is the Moon, throughout all her phases, and the Moon weaves her way through all the seasons of the Wheel, and therein, we see the Eternal Dance of the Gods.

I also know that there are many males out there who are drawn to the warrior archetype. Rex Nemorenis is the warrior/slave who takes on the responsiblity of protecting the grove and the priestess of the temple complex at Aricia on Lake Nemi. While this story is a part of the history of the Italic penisula, this story is "new" enough that it is did not become a part of my tradition's Wheel of the Year. Stregheria (again the tradition I practice) does not really have a "warrior" aspect of the God as part of our Wheel of the Year mythos. Think about that. No warrior aspect of the God. Why? Because the links of this tradition are so far in the past that "warriors" weren't critical, therefore the God doesn't have this as a key aspect. There is death in the mythos and the God has an underworld aspect in Dis. but other than Lupercus 12 labors there is little of the warrior in the mythos. That said, I have tried to mentioned how the warrior aspects fit into the 3 primary aspects of Horned, Hooded and Old or Wise One.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Words of Aradia: Concerning the Law of Return

These words are taken from Italian Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi:

Every act which you perform will draw to itself three times the nature of the act. Such is the Law.

This effects not only the acts of each day, but reaches into the future as well. Here the Law establishes those debts which must be paid.

Therefore consider well your actions. Nothing escapes the Law, nor is anything hidden from it. The Law does not punish nor reward. It only returns the intent of each action to its origin.

If you step off from a high place you will fall, and this is consistent. There is no intent, there is nothing good or evil. It may be good to leap upon your enemy from a high place and surprise hime, or it may be bad to fall and be injured. But the nature of the descent it only a law. So too is the nature of the Law of Return.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapter 3 - Landing

She went through her ritual of looking out of the window and calling on the Old Ones to protect her and guide her and thanking them for the opportunity.

He was deep in thought. Half talking out loud and half talking to himself.
“You know I’ve been thinking about your list. I have one pretty similar to it, just unwritten.”
She smiled at him, waiting.
“I was raised Lutheran too, but I went to public schools.” He paused for such a long while that she filled in the empty space with, “Well New Orleans has a history of parochial/private education unlike most of the rest of the country. It is part of our French/Spanish colonial past and wrapped up in racism as well. Public schools were not available in New Orleans until John McDonogh endowed them in 1850. So attending a parochial school is really not that unusual, although a Lutheran one in so Catholic a city is different.”
Still deep in thought he says: “I lived in a place that allowed me to be close to nature. I grew up fishing, hunting, hiking with my family and friends. My education took me to the south. I was searching for something different. New Orleans was certainly different. After I graduated I wandered around the south working on various projects. Then I went home for a little while. I ended up back in New Orleans because Katrina woke me up to the fact that I was not completely happy. I am happy now. My family, who thought I was crazy to go back to New Orleans can’t complain about where I am today. I love what I’m doing and I am doing well.”
He seemed lost in a fog of memory and uncertainty.
The flight attendant came by asking about drinks. After they got them, she said:
“So your life is all good, then.” And because his mood seemed so suddenly heavy decided to lighten things up a bit with “What did you get your mom for her birthday?”
Snapping out of it he said: “Mignon Faget Fleur d’Lis earrings, just like the ones in your ears, so she can brag about me to her friends when she wears them.”
This seemed to break the fog and allow him to refocus.

“So how can I learn more about this heterosexual religion?” He said smiling.
“Well, there are books you can read that allow you to get a feel for the basic principles of Stregheria."
His brow furrowed ever so slightly and he said: "So you are going to tell me to ‘Read the Manual’?"
Laughing lightly she said, "No. Unwrinkle your forehead. You should get the manuals. You will want the manuals. But the tradition is an initiate tradition, so people are taught by another initiate."
"Oh, so you can teach me."
"Yes. Yes, I could teach you."
"Ah, but WILL you teach me?"
She breathed in so deeply and sighed such that he started to worry that she would say no. Why she would say no? He wasn't sure. He wanted her to say yes. Really wanted her to say yes. He'd dabbled for decades. Now that he had made some significant choices about where he wanted to live and what he wanted to do with his life, it was time to focus on the other aspects of his life.

Trust the Gods was what she was thinking. Then because she didn't really know how to be anything but honest, "To be perfectly honest, I've done a good deal of teaching. But most of it has been via Email. Email teaching is something that I can do in the middle of the night or in between the rest of my life responsibilities. It allows the teacher and the student to gradually get to know each other, to feel things out, for the student to have done some reading and have some questions and, well, it allows things to warm up gradually."
"What that cup of Earl Grey didn’t warm you up? How many of your students buy you Earl Grey?"

Laughing lightly she says: "The tea was great. And I did teach some face to face classes at a pagan book store in New Orleans for about a year before Katrina. It's not as if I've only had online students. It's just that taking up a new student is a significant commitment and you strike me as someone who will want personal attention and not be satisfied with Email."
"Well, you’re right. So will you teach me? We live in the same city you know."
"Yes, I know." But what she was thinking is 3rd degree was going to make for a wild ride.
"Was that a 'Yes, I'll teach you'? Or just a 'Yes, I know'?”
"It was a Yes, I'll teach you.” And his smile was impressive.
“I love the tradition I practice but I also know that it is not for everyone. New students start out filled with fire and sometimes this lasts and becomes a light that shines in them and sometimes they burn themselves out and realize that this is not the path for them. If I am going to teach you I need you to promise to be open and honest with me, always. Even if this means that one day you have to say this is not the path for you."
"I promise to be honest with you. I've dabbled in lots of things for years. But I've found a home and a career that I love in New Orleans. It seems almost fated that I would be able to complete the other aspects of my life there as well."
She smiled and said: "I've practiced this tradition with a very small group of others who are spread all over the U.S. We have to travel to be with each other and to practice the path and the rituals as they were meant to be, as a community, in the company of others. It is very tempting to think that I might be able to have a companion in New Orleans."
"Ah, good so now I'm tempting. That's better than before when I was a significant commitment of your limited time."
"'Do not be confused by Nature's duality.' Honey, You are definitely going to be both. What is your name, student?"
"Owen Ambioren"
Wow. She was thinking Owen the Celt. O.K. Gods, you don’t have to shout, I’m listening. What she said was: “Interesting, very interesting.”
“What? My name? Yeah it’s odd. It’s said to be from the Belgian Celt Ambiorix, who fought against Julius Caesar, then disappeared rather than getting killed in glorious battle.”
"Well, that’s quite interesting too. But that’s not what made me say interesting. Let me explain and teach a little, if you don’t mind?”
“Not at all” He grinned. This was exactly what he wanted.

“The path I practice is a hereditary path, meaning that it has been handed down a family line for generations. The path came to American from Italy with an Italian WW II bride. The son of this family is who wrote “the manual” and has trained my teacher and my initiator. Now there are some in the pagan community who do not believe that it is possible to have a hereditary tradition. That is their right. There are others who do not believe that this tradition is a hereditary tradition. That too is their right. But I believe that the tradition I follow was passed down through generations of families and is therefore hereditary in nature. The link to the ancient past that I put in my wish list to the Gods is there, but not clearly documented. What is documented from the 1300s are the Words of Aradia, the Gospel of Aradia and The Wanderings, along with our rituals which could be from the 1300s and could have even older links. The Words of Aradia are something that we will study in depth over time. I learn something new from them every time I teach new student. The Gospel of Aradia tells the story of a real woman who was taught the Old Ways by her aunt, then had an epiphany and began to teach the ancient ways to others and fought for freedom for the common folk, the peasants. My kind of woman. The Wanderings are about the followers of Aradia and what happened to them after Aradia escaped the clutches of the Catholic Church and left them to their own devices. One of these followers was Owen the Celt.”

“Well that is interesting. So I’m your Owen?” He said smiling at her.
“Well Owen, my student, the important part here is that while this is a hereditary tradition, in addition to the oral history, part of the written history indicates that non-Italians, non-hereditaries, have been adopted into the Ways. I was. We’ll see if this path is the one for you after you learn a little more.”
He was sitting there looking at her quite smugly satisfied about the link to his given name when the term heterosexual religion popped back into his thoughts.
“Wait a minute, did you said you were 3rd degree?”
“Yes.” Uh Oh, some thing is under that tone.
“3rd degree in a heterosexual religion.”
“Well, Yes”.
“Hieros Gamos, sacred marriage?"
“Yes, I see you have read fairly widely.”
He leaned in and asked, “You really had sex with a man who was not your husband in a pagan ritual?”
She leaned back and said simply, “Yes.”
“Owen I think you may be getting the wrong idea. Let me clarify. Yes, there are sexual aspects of our rituals. And if you want to follow this path its better if you are 'cool with it'. And while in order to become 3rd degree I had to have sex with another 3rd degree initiate male, he channeled the aspects of the Gods so that I could experience the God fully and find the polarity in myself that would allow me to channel the Goddess and create unity. I didn’t just have sex with a male friend. There was a bit more to it than that.”
“I think it is wonderfully interesting and intriguing.”
She smiled and shook her head at him.
“Why don’t you tell me a little more about what you are looking for, your list, and we’ll see if this tradition really has what you are looking for.”
And so he told her what he really wanted was to find a group of like minded others, who weren’t fringe or fragile or freakish. He wanted this group of others to be thinkers, people who read widely, respected nature, who had open minds and who respected science and thought there were possibilities beyond what we know today.
“There are some books you should buy so that you can read up and have questions. In this path it is critical that the student have questions. But you don't seem to have a problem with that so far."
The flight attendant was passing by picking up their cups so he dug around and found his boarding pass and borrowed a pen from the guy across the isle and then said "O.K. professor, what books do I need?"
She wrote out a short list to get him started and talked about which ones he should get first. Before they knew it the plane had landed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Queen of the Night - Cestrum Nocturnum

Of course, just after I finish my post on Summer Shrine Offerings, the Queen of the Night starts blooming like crazy. This plant has such a heady scent, especially in the evening when the flowers open, that it can cause repiratory issues in some folks. Thankfully it does not affect me or my family or my neighbors in this fashion. The clusters of star shaped flowers makes this plant a perfect Lasa offering. The white flowers blooming in the night make it a great Goddess offering. The shape of the closed flowers make it work as a God offering. Just as the scent draws neighbors and visitors to try and find the plant, I can imagine it drawing in the Gods.

The flowers remain closed during the day. One cluster was "working late today" so I was able to get a picture.
Queen of the Night - Flowers & Buds Close up

The plant is a postKatrina volunteer. And we are grateful for it, just as we are all the postKatrina volunteers who have given us so much.

Music recommendations from another Blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shrine Offerings - Plants & Flowers

It's summer, deep hot summer. During the cooler months it is easy to find offerings for my Lasa/Lare Shrine and God & Goddess Shrines. But in the deep hot summer, it's not so easy. I like flowers as part of my offerings but it has been my experience is that scent is an important part of the offering, it pleases the spirits. So plants with aroma, primarily herbs, are what I have focused on growing.

One plant that actually produces flowers better in the heat than in the cooler times of year is Pentas. These bushy plants have large flower clusters and the flowers come in pink, red, white, purple. The only color I haven't seen is yellow. I like the many 5 petaled flowers, because they remind me of the pentacle and stars which I associated with the Grigori. In many ways the Grigori are like Lare who watch over all Streghe. I tend to use these flowers more in my Lasa Shrine but have also used them in my God & Goddess offerings when other offerings aren't as readily available.

My yellow Shrimp Plant is also a consistent flower producer in the summer months. I use it's flowers almost exclusively on my God Shrine.

Zinnias tend to do well in the heat and make great cut flowers. My problem has been in getting them to consistently grow from seed. I did manage to ge a few this year. I'm beginning to think this was because we had a very dry early to midsummer. I'm going to try again next year and water the seedlings less and see if I can be as successful. Zinnias work well for Lasa, God & Goddess offerings. I tend to use the orange & yellows in the God offerings, pinks for the Goddess and purple for the Lasa.

Many roses stop blooming in our summer heat. The exception is the Europeana Rose. I've never seen anything like it. It literally blooms year round, not as prolifically in the summer, but it still blooms. Additionally, unlike many modern hybrids, it also smells like a rose. I'm working on growing more via layering because this rose is so fantastic in our summer heat. Roses work as offerings for the Lasa, Goddess & God and when there are lots of Roses I'll use them in all 3 offerings. But when there are fewer roses I confess I tend to use it more on my Goddess Shrine.

Another herb that offers its white flowers in the summer is Greek Oregano. This plant is hardy and heat tolerant. It leafs out in the spring and by midsummer has begun to flower. After it flowers I cut it back in the last summer and dry it to use in cooking and the remaingin naked sticks go into fall bonfires. Like all the other herbs its scent is part of the offering. Once the scent is gone from any herbal offering it is time to replace with something new.

My spearmint is beautiful in the spring with its lush deep green leaves. The smell is heavenly. I use it as a ground cover so that I can step on it on purpose and release the scent. But do not plant mint unless you are willing to let it run. You can not easily contain it. Even when planted in pots if these pots are on the ground in a gardent the mint manages to escape and spread. As the heat of summer progresses it puts out white flowers shaped appropropriately like a a spear tip. In late summer first the leaves and then the flowers begin to die back. I use the mint leaves in the spring and the flowers in the summer and then in August I will cut it back hard and save the cuttings for fall bonfires. Mint can be used on as offerings for the Lasa/Lare as well as the God & Goddess Shrines. The spear shape works for the God. The white flower looks great in all white flower (mint, oregano, white pentas, rose if I'm lucky) Goddess Offerings. The leaves and flowers and the heady scent work in the Lasa Shrine.

Pennyroyal is another mint that grows well in the south. In the summer it blooms lovely clusters of purple flowers along its rambling tendrils. It works especially well for me in my Lasa shrine. It is also great as a flea repelent on pets. Break some of the runners of of the plant and rub it down your pet's back. Pyrethrin is a key ingredient in many flea soaps and comes from pennyroyal. This doesn't seem to affect the Lasa at all. They seem to enjoy the small globe clusters of flowers and the scent.

In the summer I can count on Russian Sage . I planted this looking for a purple flower that could stand the heat. The plant can stand the heat but I rarely get the lovely purple flowers. It does however have a strong sage scent.
I also have cooking sage as long as I keep it in the shade under our Bradford pear tree. The Lasa dislike sage and it doesn't seem to work well for the Goddess either, so I use it only on my God Shrine.

Spanish Tarragon is a wonderful addition to deep south gardens. It blooms happy yellow flowers late in the season. I like to use the yellow flowers for the God Shrine. The scented leaves work also work well for the Lasa & the Goddess. I've tried to grow French Tarragon but I've not been successful, yet.

Lavender blooms in the spring, but the leafy plant can be used all year round. I just have to cut offerings more sparingly in the summer as the plant doesn't grow as fast nor is it as hardy in the heat of the year. I have a number of different types of Lavender. Sweet Lavender with its tall flowering spikes is great in the spring but it is the Allardi Lavender that I can count on for fragrant leafy offerings in the summer. Spanish Lavender & French or Denticulated Lavender seems to be most sensitive to our Gulf Coast climate changes. I typically reserve Lavender as offerings for the Lasa & the Goddess. The greyish tint of the Allardi Lavender leaves goes well with the all white full moon Goddess offerings.

I can grow Fennel easily from seed. Once established this plant can last 2 or more seasons. Fennel is extremely connected to the Lasa and Fata. As an offering in the vase on my Lasa Shrine, nothing seems to make them happier. The fennel has a nice licorice aroma and the delicate fronds create a soft comfortable environment in the vase. I haven't been successful in growing stalk fennel but have been highly successful with "bulb" fennel. In the Mediterranean California climate fennel grows wild along the coast and is perfect for the type of stalks necessary for the Summer Solstice ritual.

I'm also trying to grow asparagus. And while we've had only a few tasty asparagus shoots, the plant makes frondy, frilly offerings that are great in the Lasa shrine or as fill in God or Goddess offerings. Cutting back the plant also encourages root growth which is just what I need.

Basil is a strong summer plant in New Orleans. It must be planted in spring when the weather is cool but thrives in the summer heat. Its fragrant green leaves can be used as offerings. But so can any flowers. The Basil plant will weaken once it starts to flower because it's thinking about creating seeds. So cutting the flowers from basil plants helps them grow more leaves and stay strong. We can harvest basil for offerings and cooking all summer but have to make sure that we harvest most of the plant before the first frost. So pesto is often a home made Solstice/Christmas gift from our house. Thai Basil or Queen of Siam Basil or Cinnamon Basil flowers added to vinger create a flowery pink tinted vinger that is also good as a homemade gift. When you open a bottle of Cinnamon Basil Flower vinegar in the winter brings the smell of summer flowers into the room.

When I am placing offerings in my 3 shrines I like to use one herb or flower to "connect" the offerings on all 3 shrines: Lasa, Goddess, God. So I might have Fennel and Pentas in the Lasa Shrine. Roses and Lavender, with a sprig of fennel in the Goddess shrine. Tarragon flowers & Russian Sage, with a sprig of fennel in the God Shrine. I keep my offerings in small vases and change them regularly.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pines of Rome

Pines have a special place in my memory. While I am a native New Orleanian, my father's family was from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We spent our weekends in the pines, along the railroad tracks picking blackberries, or on the sandy beaches in the shallow waters of the Mississippi Sound. I remember holding the lantern in one hand and my dad's hand in the other and shuffling my feet just right so the sting rays wouldn't get me and so I wouldn't scare off the flounders he was gigging; or being up in the predawn, with my mom & grandmother preparing for a morning of crabbing on the seawall, with crabs for dinner and sugared blackberries and cream for dessert. After dessert we'd go out in the clearing on the edge of the pine trees and marvel at the night sky and the Milky Way and the fire flys and the satelites which were always called Sputnik even though Sputnik had been out of the sky for years before I was born. New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast has had a link to Space Manufacturing. People know about Houston & Florida but forget about the other space worker bees in on the Gulf Coast at Michoud & Stennis. After Hurricane Camille there were many large, 3 to 4 feet in diameter, trees down on my grandparent's land and the surrounding land. These were eventually harvested by loggers and helped pay recovery costs for my grandparents and others after the storm. But not right away, we had almost a year of being able to play in the downed trees. Trees that were formerly just rough bark with unreachable tops were suddenly our own jumbled world of pine & oak pickup sticks, our play ground. We could walk the trunks like bridges and jump from tree to tree. It was like being in the tree tops. And the resinous pine sap smell was stronger than ever. We always went home sticky, exhausted, exhilarated.

Featured in Walt Disney's Fantasia 2000, the Pines of Rome is beautiful and haunting and written by Italian Ottorino Respighi. Today is his birthday. It was only on future research that I discovered that the Pines of Rome is actually part of Respighi's Roman Trilogy, three symphonic poems evoking Roman places and times of day. The first in the orchestral trilogy is the Fountains of Rome, the second is the Pines of Rome and the third is Roman Festivals.

Fontane di Roma (Fountains of Rome) (1915-1916)
Taken from Wikipedia with slight modifications
The first movement, "La fontana di Valle Giulia all'Alba" , shows this fountain at daybreak in a pastoral landscape, in which cattle pass during the morning. The fountain is not actually in Rome but in the countryside surrounding it. In the second movement - "La fontana del Tritone al mattino" - Naiads and Tritons dancing in the morning light, as figures of the Bernini fountain are seen nearby. Gods and goddesses using conch shells are portrayed by the French horn. The third introduces "La fontana di Trevi al meriggio" and is ushered in by a triumph giving news of a recent victory by the god Neptune shining in the noon light. The final movement, "La fontana di Villa Medici al tramonto", gives a much more melancholic atmosphere, as the brilliance of the sun fades.

Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome) (1923-1924)
Taken from Wikipedia with slight modifications
Each movement portrays the location of pine trees in the city during different parts of the day. The first movement, called "I pini di Villa Borghese", portrays children marching and playing in the pine groves of the Borghese gardens. The second movement, "Pini presso una catacomba" has a more melancholic tune, representing pine trees close to a catacomb in Campagna. The third part, a nocturne, "I pini del Gianicolo", is set at night, near a temple of the Roman god Janus on the Janiculum hill. Double-faced gods open large doors and gates, marking the beginning of a new year. A nightingale is heard, giving Respighi the opportunity to include real life bird sounds in his work, a feat unachieved before (the score mentions a specific recording that can be played on a phonograph: the Brunswick Panatrope). The final movement, "I pini della Via Appia", portrays pine trees along the great Appian Way. Misty dawn: a legion advances along the Via Appia in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun. The grounds trembles under the footsteps of his army and the consular army rises in triumph to the Capitoline Hill. I could link you to pictures on the web but think its better if you listen and let the music paint pictures for you.

Feste Romane (Roman Festivals) (1928)
Taken from Wikipedia with slight modifications
This is the longest of the trilogy and depicts scenes from Ancient Rome of the Roman Empire. It is also the least known of the three. Within the first movement called Circenses or Circuses, the music presents the theme of an ancient contest in which gladiators battle to the death. Next, the Gubileo, or Jubilee, portrays the fiftieth year of festivals in Roman tradition. Pilgrims approach Rome catching a breath-taking view from Mt. Mario, as church bells ring in the background. L’Ottobrata, or the Harvest of October, represents the harvest and hunt in Rome. The final movement, called La Befana, or the Epiphany, takes place in the Piazza Navona and depicts Roman songs and dances, including a drunken reveler.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chapter 2 - Seek and ye shall find

The Charlotte airport is nice, cozy. The only coffee shops were Starbucks and there were at least 3 different locations.

When he stood up to get his bag from the overhead she realized just how tall he was, well over 6 feet. Even with out today’s security regulations it was impossible to travel with what a Strega would need for ritual in a carry on, so she had checked her bag. She stuffed the book in her purse which converted to a backpack and slung it onto her back. He stepped back and let her into the aisle and noted how practical that was and smiled. He looked down on her and realized that she seemed taller than she actually was. She was slightly less than 5 and a half feet tall. He looked at her and wondered what it was that made her seem taller. She had taken her jacket off on the plane. Maybe it was the way she carried herself so confidently, back straight. As his eyes made their way down her back, maybe it was her broad shoulders contrasted with the way her body narrowed to her waist. Maybe it was her long thighs. Maybe it was the direct way it seemed she interacted with the world or those incredibly dark eyes.

They had each walked quietly off the plane lost in their own thoughts. Once out of the walkway he touched her shoulder and said “This way. I know were the coffee shop is, unfortunately there are only Starbucks here. So it will have to be Earl Grey for you.”

He was definitely familiar with the airport and slid easily into line and ordered a latte and an Earl Grey tea. While he waited, she walked up to the departure notice board to find the gate for the Allentown plane and to make sure she knew where to go next. He watched her a bit nervously afraid that she’d disappear into thin air. But smiled when he remembered her putting her hand on his arm to make sure he was real.

She stirred some sweetener into her Earl Grey tea and then took a sip while he watched. Her nostrils flared, her eyes closed and she drank in the experience along with the liquid.
“Hmmm. Good. Love that aroma. Thank you. Shall we walk to the gate and stretch our legs?”
“Gate E-21?”
“Yes, I think it’s that way.”
“It is. It’s the same one almost every time. I’ve done this before.”
“How often do you go home?”
“New Orleans is my now home, remember?”
“Honey, to a New Orleanian, where ever you were born is always your home, especially if ‘ya momma ‘n dem’ still live there.”
Laughing he says “Oh, well then about twice a year for a weekend, sometimes a week”.
“It is nice to get out to the real world.”
“The real world?”
“Yes, the shock is less jarring these days, but in the year after the storm leaving New Orleans was like leaving a war zone and returning to “the real world”. Many of my neighbors and colleagues who live in New Orleans and then travel out of the city for business or pleasure notice just how different the rest of America feels to us. We’ve taken to calling it going back to the real world. New Orleans has always been a strange place, unlike the rest of America, but now I feel when I leave it, in all its post apocalyptic glory, that I am actually walking back in time. Sometimes when I look around at how we Americans live I almost feel like I’m walking into a time bomb. Folks are so blessedly unaware of just how tenuous their existence is. I’m not anymore. It makes me feel alive and grateful.”
“Yes, now that you describe it I understand completely what you mean and you are right, folks who aren’t there can’t really understand.” His family did and didn’t. They knew he was a restless soul, they new he liked adventure; they knew he liked working with his hands and for people. But PostKatrina New Orleans? Of all the places he could be? But they loved him and accepted him and said he seemed happier since he’d relocated. He had to admit, that today it made him happy to be in the company of someone who seemed to think and talk like he did and to know that it was in part because they shared the New Orleans experience.
He asks “Where do you live in New Orleans?
“Carrollton, the wet-part, not the sliver on the river. We had to 'prove our viability' so I’m the president of my Post K neighborhood organization. And you, where do you live?”
“ByWater. I bought a house there in March of 2006. I've worked on renovating it when I’m not fixing the houses of other people.”
Bywater… definitely Bob deja’vu.
“I went to school at Tulane in architecture and lived uptown while I was there. When I would come back to visit there was always the French Quarter, but ByWater, well ByWater has a gritty, funky vibe” and he winked when he said vibe, “that I like. Plus I got a really big lot with the house, rare in ByWater. If I ever sell, I’ll make a fortune.”

Tulane architecture. She thought. Tulane, money. I’ll have to be careful what I say regarding “uptowners” and not show too much of my 9th Ward.
“Did you say you have a degree in geology? Where you get it?”
Oh well, here we go. “UNO, University of New Orleans. It’s a very different world from your Tulane experience.”
“How so?”
“Well Tulane is an expensive private college, a go away college for many of you northerners and well bred southerners. It’s a place where people go to college full time, drink, party, fraternity, sorority, think about changing the world and then either go home for the summer or stay and slum. Well, to be fair, that was more the PreKatrina experience, more people come to New Orleans now who want to be actively engaged in the recovery. UNO was and is the working man’s public college. Most of the students there are working AND going to school or going to school and working in the summer so they can go back to school. There was more work and less playing around. Although we did have our Friday afternoon kegs in the department of geology and our teachers were fantastically committed to us.”
Smiling he knew exactly what she meant but decided to give her a little bit of grief about it anyway. “So you are a reverse snob.”
She took it surprisingly in style and leaning around to look at her backside said. “Yeah, is my Ward showing honey?”
“Oh so then that is a 9th Ward accent. It does slip through your more polished corporate tones”.
“Well good, and yes I am a reverse snob. My husband and I butt heads about that often. But I was born to a blue collar 9th Ward family and you can take the girl out of the Ward but you can’t take the Ward out of the girl.”
Well, she thought, it needed to come out eventually. I’m too old to be behaving like a flirt.

Oh… Good thing he was taking a sip of his coffee to hide his face. Oh my god, she is married! Damn, she is married. She’s a married, corporate, witch. Wow. What was I thinking? Why wouldn’t she be married? You could have been a couple of times yourself. Soooo now what?
“Your husband, what does he do?”

“He teaches, at Tulane, and works in the local theatre community and is chipping away at repairs on the lower floor of our raised craftsman and is a massage therapist.. He swears now that he is finished with the latest play, he’ll finish the repairs before the end of the year. But I didn’t marry him for his efficiency and, as much as I love him, will believe it when I see it.”
“Well you all sure have interesting lives, refinery, theatre, neighborhood activist, witch…”
“I prefer Strega.” And she laid her hand on his arm. Hell, go ahead and flirt. All acts of love and pleasure are as rituals to the Gods. Then she leaned in and said in a very serious tone, “But even though I’ve been very forthcoming to you, I don’t mix my corporate, neighborhood activist work or my daughter’s school activities with my spirituality. I’ve found it best to keep my head down and my mouth shut about it in those circles. People don’t need to know that my path is quite different from theirs. Actions speak louder than words. I like to believe that as long as I act ethically and respectfully that what they don’t know won’t hurt me or my family.”
“Well then I’m honored to know both halves of your life.”
“What an unusual thing to say. But strangely accurate. Thank you." And she thought about her friend Dana Polly who said that she would never really feel like she had friends unless they could know all of who she really was. She followed up with, "It is a fine line to walk. You would be surprised at how few people ever get to the point you did and actually ask. What I’ve found is that those who ask are those who are seeking and who can really see and those who don't notice or ask are happy in their own worlds so I leave them there. There are many paths, I walk but one.”

“And your husband?”
“My husband calls himself an agnostic. One day God will pull the clouds apart, look down on him and say 'Hey there buddy, Do ya need anything?' only then will he admit that deity exists. Until then he says he literally ‘doesn’t know’. He has a relaxed approach to spirituality, maybe Taoism or Buddhism comes closest. But he refuses to be labeled. He knows what I am and that I have to go off regularly and twitch my nose in the company of others. It works for us. We are respectful of each other’s choices. It is truthful, in its own way. A Strega’s words have power, both what we say and what we don’t say.”

“If you’re not Italian, how did you end up a Strega?”
“Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened.”
“What? A witch, pardon me, Strega, quotes the bible?”
“Oh, so you know the bible?”
“Well, yeah. Most Americans do.”
“Yes, not as well as they think they do, but yes. I quote the bible because that was where I started. Lutheran grade school, an hour’s worth of religion everyday, memorizing bible verses, Sunday school, church, Lutheran high school, same hour of religion everyday there too. But what I was learning along with the bible verses was that you could study religion. Some times the teachers were good and actually thought about what they were saying. Sometimes the teachers were just repeating what they had been told. I asked. I was a seeker. I kept knocking until one day the right door opened.
My husband was the one who actually encouraged me to go out and find other seekers. In some ways I think he did this to help keep my ever busy mind occupied and not feel like he had to do so much of it himself. I studied basic Wiccan paganism and had a teacher for a couple of years, one I found because in an ad in a local alternative newspaper. Then after the teacher blew town, I kept practicing with others who had worked with the same teacher. After this group drifted apart, the way so many pagan groups do, I decided to ask the universe for exactly what I wanted. So I wrote a letter to the Gods. Literally. I outlined what I wanted. I wanted a path that was fully developed and linked to the past, historically linked, not making it up as we went along based on what felt right. I wanted a path that connected me to Nature and to the Ancient Ones the way that the book ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ made the Clan totems come alive. I wanted a path that would connect me with the Old World because I knew in my core that was where my spiritual home was. I specifically knew, having tried both, that it was not Celtic or Norse. I wanted a teacher who was grounded and real and wanted to work with me. I wanted a community of like minded others who cared about study and intellect and who could accept science and mysticism and magic and who were not fringe members of society but who fully participated like I did and who would therefore understand the challenges of practicing a nature religion in the modern world. I wanted a pagan tradition that had Gods as strongly developed as Goddesses, a tradition that was respectful of the balance of male and female, a heterosexual religion. Oh, the list was quite extensive.

And then one day not long after I wrote this letter, I was fishing online. Back then the Internet was not quite as ubiquitous and there were also fewer offerings. I found a list serve that was offering a number of online pagan classes. And I signed up for 3 of them, thinking online is better than alone. I swear to this day that I did NOT sign up for the Italian witchcraft class. But then I got the notice from the list serve indicating which classes I had signed up for and there was Italian Witchcraft. The conversations were interesting. They recommended a book. I bought it and started reading and had the “This is IT!” experience that most seekers are looking for and 13 years later I’m a 3rd degree priestess. All because I believed 'Ask and it shall be given.' And because I never stop seeking.”

It was getting crowded as folks began gathering around to board the plane and she excused herself and went off to the ladies room. And took a deep breath and asked the Gods to guide her. What she wanted more than anything these days was to have more males in the tradition. And here was a male who kept asking questions. Ask and it shall be given indeed. Where the hell did that come from? It was true but she had never put the thoughts together like that before. She wandered back to the gate and tried not to think, but to only listen to her intuition.

Meanwhile he was thinking, and I was sure that I was the only one who wandered in the wilderness and he smiled at the biblical reference. Perhaps I’m just not as focused as she was. I’ve certainly never written a letter to the universe. But I have been wishing for more and feeling like there is still a hole in my life despite the fact that I am happy. Some of the things on her list are the same as the ones on my unwritten list.

He looked around for her to return and when he saw her waved for her to join him in line. As they worked their way down the aisle he motioned her to the window seat and slid in next to her after he stowed his bag above their heads. He was grateful the plane had only 2 seats on each side. It afforded them some privacy to continue the conversation which was just what he wanted to do.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Grigori, The Watchers

I was doing some websurfing today and ran across this very interesting rumination on another blog. The author has some interesting insights into the Grigori based on his readings in Journey of Souls, by Michael Newton. His insights are in keeping with my own personal experiences with the Grigori.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Words of Aradia: Concerning Freedom

These words are taken from Italian Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi:

We have been enslaved. We are persecuted, hunted,and murdered by the Christian Church.

We are outlaws.

Because of our plight we have come to know the meaning of Freedom. To be free is the essense of life.

Freedom allows the minds, body,and spirit to be rid of shame, guilt and restriction (which the Christians teach).

The freedom to act as you desire, harming no one by your deeds, is the gift of Freedom. The Old Ways free us from the restrictions of society and the expectations of other people.

Therefore you shall be free. And as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in the your rites. And you shall sing, dance and make love.