Monday, February 9, 2009

Learning from other paths and finding truth

Last fall 2008, I gave an interview to Christopher Blackwell, the moderator of the Paganmen list. Christopher's next newsletter was mostly one on Heathenry or about those I have refered to as Norse Practioners. They have a list called HeathenNation. This list is a bit like our LaVecchia *was*. It is composed of many members who, while praticing the "same" tradition, may not think or do all the same things. Raven Grimassi gave an interview in Christopher's next newsletter.

Why am I on the Paganmen list? Because we are looking for Paganmen (and women) and a way to grow our tradition.

Why am I on the HeathenNation list? Because they are looking to create a common area for practitioners and advance their tradition.

Maybe some of you out there remember what those eMail lists of the early 90s were like. Maybe you all remember what the lists were like before the American Tanaric Clan united under Umbrea & after. Maybe you don't. But what I see on HeathenNation is the same type of stuff that "we" (either members on those first lists of the 90s or as a Clan or as members of LaVecchia who were sharing with a large Pagan/Streghe audience) went through. They are in a period of intense activity and development. The discussions on HeathenNation are as detailed and passionate as ours were. There are obviously groups of individuals who are more alike and aligned with each other than others. There are those who have "special interests" (carving or a facination with a "Russian" heathen, or scientific studies in archeaology or DNA) and there are those who are mythos maniacs - I love those folks. And sometimes the variety of folks on the list butt heads. But they talk. It looks like they mostly use their own secular names and not just pagan names, which I find facinating. They disagree, sometimes vehemently but usually in a detailed and respectful way. I watch them and I can see them learning and I remember what it was like for us... What to say? How to say it? How much of it to say to those who are not "your people". The difference I think is that their Way places critical importance on "troth". Truth, honesty, fortrightness. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Respectfully. Doing honor to the Gods and to yourself and your "friends" (and this word is not used lightly). Any "Agendas" in these groups tend not to be hidden. The issues ... all of any of the issues... get placed on the table, discussed, worked out and through. These "Ways" (of interacting, of troth) are the ways that my birth family taught me. HeathenNation is definately NOT lacking in activity. But I ask myself will it last? Will they burn themselves out or will the activity rate continue? I think they will continue. I think this because they are composed of groups of larger groups (essentially their organizational approach is different than Clan but like LaVecchia without the malicious infighting). I think this because it seems that each group's link to their larger history seems stronger than what I saw on LaVecchia. I think their percieved strength of this link to their history is what allows them to feel strong enough not to *need* to take someone else (who's opinion may differ) "down". They do not seem to suffer from if "yours" is good then it diminishes "mine". Which was a lot of what seemed to go on, on LaVecchia. They are also more focused. They are not watered down by neoWiccans looking for Italian seasoning, all the while not sure how good the basil bush really is. They are fully commited to Heathenry, which while Pagan, is so very NOT Wicca. And this NOTWicca, aspect of Heathenry is what draws me to watch and learn. Again I think they will last. BUT only time will tell. What I want is to find a way to "get some of what they have" for US.

LaVecchia is quiet. Is it dead? Is Stregheria going to become either an underground pagan tradition or watered down Italian Wicca? I don't know. What I do know is that the lack of activity on LaVecchia makes me think that Raven's books on Italian Witchcraft created a pool of energy for people who were/are seeking. What I fear is that rather than finding a way to be true to "our" history, mythos, WAYS, that we have/are being drowned in a sea of watered down neoWicca. NeoWiccan for me is both a blessing and a curse. Did anyone see The Good Witch or The Good Witch's Garden on Hallmark this weekend? NeoWicca/NeoPaganism is a blessing because it brings our values into the mainstream and I think the mainstream needs MORE "Pagan" values. It is a curse because it waters down who and what we are so that the masses can understand and not be fearful. I think more and more that the key to our survival is to be unique, be specific, be who we are, right out there for everyone and anyone (Wiccan, neoWiccan, Pagan, Chritian, non-believer...) to see and let the cards fall where they may.

And this is why I have this blog. Because it is in this space that I can be WHO I am as a Strega. This is where I can put out the foundational tenants of our Ways. If others find this and are interested, Fine. If it is not for them, that is fine too. I am not looking to be popular, but true to what I know is true. How very "german/norse/heathen" of me. My maternal grandmother is probalby both proud of me and rolling in her Christian/Germanic grave.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


For YEARS I've been saying, "I'm not a Boomer." only to be told (usually smuggly) "Yes you are." And then I'd have to agree that technically I was born in what HAD been defined as the Baby Boom Generation.

It seems, now that we have president who is also "not a Boomer", that my plea not to be lumped in with Boomers and my opinion that in many ways I have more in commmon with GenXers finally has company.

There was a recent article in USToday (which I don't usually read, except when out of town on business trips because the hotel literally puts it on my doorstep) by Jonathan Pontell who indicates that I am Generation Jones. Who knew our Generation has its own website? This website claims, with much supporting data, that we aren't Boomers and we know we aren't GenXers

Pontell's USAToday article says that for GenJones "idealism trumps ideology" and "pragmatism is the guiding light". Wow. I would not said it that way but, once said, describing myself as a Pratical Idealist, is dead on. I am idealist. Painfully so. There is right, there is wrong, there is the way it is and the way it should be. But I am also a pragmatist. If I am going to argue my idealist point, I am going to do it with supporting data and a willingness to say that this is how *I* interpret the data. I am so GenJones.

Jonathan Pontell says:
"While the Boomers were out changing the world, Jonesers were still in elementary school — wide-eyed, not tie-dyed. That intense love-peace-change-the-world zeitgeist stirred our impressionable hearts. We yearned to express our own voice. By the time we came of age and could take the stage, though, a decade of convulsions had left the nation fatigued. During the game we'd been forced to watch from the sidelines, and passage into college and careers came only after the final gun had long since sounded."
"Our practical idealism was created by witnessing the often-unrealistic idealism of the 1960s. And we weren't engaged in that era's ideological battles; we were children playing with toys while Boomers argued about Vietnam. Our non-ideological pragmatism allows us to resolve intra-Boomer skirmishes and to bridge that volatile Boomer-GenXer divide."
"We can lead."

I'd say rather, now that we have kicked the last Boomer President out of the White House, we ARE leading.

As Pontell says: "Obama has The Jones. It permeates his biography and his philosophy. It's a crucial piece of his identity. His message and approach reverberate with GenJones themes."

But Obama didn't get there on his own, it was a large contingent of "practical idealists" who are also optimists, who helped put him there. Finally, GenJones has someone who really speaks their language.

In Stregheria, Aradia is an avatar an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person. Aradia, could be thought of as a flower child, protester, who belived in free love, kind of like a Boomer.

But Aradia's Words Concerning Life say: "We live upon the Earth because we are not prepared to live in the ways of spirit. We are not physical beings and this is why physical life is often difficult. It is not our way to disregard the physical, for we dwell within it. So it is best to live in harmony with the world. But for us to become involved in the physical as to disregard the spirit is likewise harmful. This binds us to rebirth and unhappiness."

Sounds like a practical idealist approach to me. Maybe Stregheria could have an appeal with other GenJones out there and a few practical idealistic Boomers & GenXers too.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy Howling - Lupercus

Early February, specifically Febuary 2nd, is time of Lupercus, when the Streghe (Pagan Tradition that has its origins in Italy) celebrate the Young God, the Golden Wolf. The days are getting longer, the light renews our hope of the coming rebirth, but chill air still bites and the earth remains in deep slumber.

I would have thought that Lupercus would have been one of the more complex ideas to breakdown into something understandable for a 5 year old. After all, Lupercus is a ritual that is quite unlike most Pagan rituals that fall at this point in the wheel of the year. Lupercus is the young adolescent: untamable, "immortal", bulletproof. He is powerful, wild, a little out of control and totally natural all at the same time, just like any hormone ridden young man. The image of this Great Golden Wolf, who is beneficial to humans, is a bit of a dichotomy even for adults to wrap their minds around. The wolf is something wild that humans feared in days past. The Wolf is after all a predator.

But opportunities arise when you least expect them.

My 5 year old daughter is a bit of a Sarah Heartburn/Drama Queen. One day, in an attempt to get both of us ready quickly for some event, we were taking a shower together. As in most rushed events, things went wrong and the water got a bit too hot then, over correcting, too cold and she went right over the top. She was whining and crying and screaming and well, Howling! Without conscious thought, out of my mouth comes: "My goodness that's a lot of noise for a little girl. You sound like a howling wolf. Does it make you feel better to howl?" and then I howled like a wolf.

Remember we are in the shower and you all know how the shower amplifies and improves the sound. So I howled while she continued to whine and cry until she finally tried it and, the sound reverberated off walls, driving all sense of troubleand pain from us and we were howling and laughing. There was a sense of primal joy that bubbled up from the depths of our souls as we let loose AAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOO! The world was a much better place. Everything after that was lighter, looser, fun and we made it where we needed to be on time.

So here we take the shock of the hot then cold water, the rush of panic, of upset and anger and tension; relieved and released by Howling. Amazing and it works on adults too! In thinking about it later with my conscious mind, I saw the similarities to the Lupercus ritual.

Weeks later I am combing my daughter's hair after her bath. She has straight fine, easily tangled hair and even with "No More Tangles" to spray in it. As I comb Sarah Heartburn kicks in and: "OW! Mommie you're are pulling my hair!" and "That hurts!" I don't say anything. I too have fine straight hair and remember giving my Mom hell when she combed my hair. So I just stop, spray some more "No More Tangles" and then my daughter turns to me and says "Let's howl like wolves!"

So we do. No more whining and crying about her hair instead we are smiling and laughing and all the troubles of the world just evaporate into the sound of howling. The strangest thing was that I had had a horrid day at work. I was emotionally exhausted, and taking comfort in doing domestic, Mommie things. But after the howling session I was feeling light and free and happy. Rather than just taking comfort in the evening domestic ritual I was able to enjoy it, savor it, because the weight of the world was gone and I felt alive, refreshed, renewed.

And this is exactly what celebrating Lupercus can teaach us.

A few days ago and at bathtime again we had let the dog in because it was cold outside. After her bath and while she is brushing her teeth, my daughter says: "Let's howl like wolves." By now she and I *know* that this is fun, it's a release from how the world usually works, it's powerful stuff. But we've never howled *with the dog* in the bathroom before. Well we start howling and smiling and howling. The dog is looking at us like we are stupid humans then, because we don't stop, she decides to howl with us. She is part Basset Hound and so she gets that low, rolling howl going and then releases it into the higher howl and my daughter and I just about loose it! This is GREAT stuff. So here we are 3 "girls" in the bathroom howling to beat the band.

Our howling allowed us to experience Lupercus as the God of the wild, untamable, primitive and primal part of us that we hold deep inside, hidden under our veneer of civilization. This is something with which our ancestors, who lived much closer to the wild, had a deep connection. It is something that is critical for us, as modern humans to be able to reconnect with, to regain. Look around at the modern world, look at the violence, the intensity, the extreme sports, the yearning to take SUVs to the mountain top and see that we as a society keenly feel the lack and are searching for that ancient, critical, wild, primal connection. Look at the enduring appeal of the Tarzan story and the power of Tarzan's "howl". I've always wondered if Disney knew what they were tapping into when they released Tarzan on video, February 2, 2000.

There is really something to this howling, this connecting with the primal in ourselves. This is what Lupercus celebrates.

We've been held down by the darkness of winter, or the weight of the world and howling enlivens us and pushes the weight of the world farther away. And folks, the wolves got it right because howling works best when you have friends!!!!!! I highly recommend it.

Happy Howling.

First Published in Raven's Call February-April 2001.