Sunday, September 25, 2011

Witchery! And Some Tasty Little Muffins.

I went to a discussion group about an actual Book O' Witchery today; just me, my notebook, the book under discussion, and a bunch of maps (in case I got lost, because while I do not get lost int he woods, I can get bamboozled while driving in a trice).

It was excellent, and I can't wait to go back next week.

I forgot how nice it is to talk about this stuff with my peers (OK, maybe not "peers" exactly, because I think these lovely folks are more than a little bit ahead of me); it's mostly been new folk for the past year or so. I didn't have to explain anything! I didn't have to convince anyone that it is highly unlikely that they were actually talking to [insert mythological critter here]! Nobody was trying to tell me shit that was provably false!

I really needed this - new perspectives, new people, and getting inspired to start doing some actual witchcraft again. I've been focusing on my training group, among other things, to the point of neglecting my own practice.

It's going to be a witchy fall.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Sense of Calm.

A book about snake-handling Christians is the impetus for today's post.

See, this journalist goes off to cover a possible murder amongst snake-handlers in Salvation At Sand Mountain, and winds up handling snakes with them. He says, at one point, that he doesn't like, as a journalist, to put too much of himself in a story. And yet a lot of the book seems to be about his longing to discover his roots, his ambivalence about the snake-handlers, and general spiritual navel-gazing. I liked it, but I kept thinking, this would have been so much better if Wade Davis had written it.

That would be Wade Davis of The Serpent and the Rainbow, which is about Mr. Davis going to Haiti to find out what chemicals make zombies in the hope of discovering a safer form of anesthesia and winding up an initiate.

Why would this make a difference? Well, Mr. Davis seems to simply accept Voudoun. There's none of the pesky oh look at the silly uneducated people who don't know about science tone of previous anthropological works. He wasn't trying to resolve any personal spiritual conflicts. He went, he saw, he accepted. Mr. Covington, of Sand Mountain, on the other hand, seems to make the snake-handling about his own conflicts. There is, as they say, a certain amount of drama about the whole thing.

This led me to think about the quality of calm that so many pagans seem to lack.

Priestess, priest, what-have-you - if you're in this position, if you carry this title, shouldn't your life resemble something other than a DMZ? We all have our problems, but shouldn't you have your shit together a bit before you represent yourself as being some sort of spiritual leader? Shouldn't a spiritual leader lack the kind of unresolved issues that are visible from space? Shouldn't your circle/coven/etc be free from people with, say, severe legal issues?

Let me give you an example. One that may land my ass in some sort of shitstorm. One that's been weighing on my mind for a few months.

A certain pagan group I know has a member who was forbidden to be near children after accusations of child molestation. A person in this group has told me that he does not think the accused actually molested any children, but may have done something with someone legally underage. Now, one of the other members of this group (not a newbie, but a Priestess) doesn't want to celebrate Fall Solstice because the accused will be there - and so will under-eighteen persons (you know, that he's not supposed to be near).

This group is plagued with conflict. I won't even get into the story about how the group fell apart for a few years. Suffice it to say, the male leadership keeping their penii in their pants seems to be a recurring problem.


Certain people are required by law to report incidences of suspected child abuse. As an ordained minister, am I one of them? Should I be calling this guy's parole officer and telling them that I think this dude is at religious services where children are present, even if I don't think he's molesting anyone? Should I be hexing his winkie right the hell off if he even looks at a seventeen-year-old-girl funny?

Probably. I'm still trying to decide how to go about it, really. I am friends with some people in this dysfunctional little band, and I'd like to do this in a way that lets me stay friends with them, because they are newbies, don't know any better, and there is the chance that this guy was unjustly accused.

The point of all this, however, is that I can't take this group seriously anymore. There's constant drama, conflict between the members, and the lack of a general sense of calm. One member is a submissive who can't find a decent guy, and it's not because she's a submissive; it's because she's so terrified of being alone that she makes bad decisions. Another still hasn't resolved some pretty big Mom Issues. Another decided that she was ready to be a priestess - and wanted to ask me what to do a month later when she was supposedly getting messages from dead people. Two seem to think that not paying rent and getting thrown out by landlords is just the landlords being mean.

There's no sense of cause and effect. There's no sense that they know their issues and are working on them. There's chaos and drama and what looks like a whole lot of running away from anything they don't want to face. These are not qualities we as pagans need in our clergy. Hell, if these people saw Christians on a reality TV show doing exactly the same things, they'd be laughing and crowing over the hypocrisy of it all.

A good pagan/Wiccan/witch knows what's wrong within and tries to fix it before they start looking without. They may be poor financially, but they should be rich in spirit. They try to resolve conflict. They try to be patient - as my ordaining priestess said, "You will get people who are seeking. You have to be nice even if they're stupid". They have more on the ball than not. Their relationships generally tend to be stable and healthy. They work to change unjust laws rather than just breaking them because "they're dumb" (and then wailing about it when they get caught). They are neither takers nor givers, but somewhere in-between. They honor commitments unless they have a damn good reason not to. When you're around them, you should feel tranquil and happy rather than dreading the next storm.

As a certain bunch of other people say, by their works shall ye know them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Crazy Fundie Friday!

She's Cindy Jacobs, and she's a nutburger. Observe!:

That jacket is horrible. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the Landover Baptist folks were just pulling the best prank of all.

Whether "Crazy Fundie Friday" will become a regular thing, I can't say. It might get too depressing, 'cause gods know I'd never run out of material. On the other hand, I hadn't heard of her until I saw a bit about her on The Wild Hunt, which does a great job of keeping us posted about such Fundie doings (among other nifty things).

I also decided to yank the "O NOES ADULT STUFFS POSSIBLY WITH TEH SEX!!" warning. I felt like I was participating in the Shrink-Wrapping Of Everything, and I want no part of that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Burden or Blessing?

"I have issues with anyone who treats faith as a burden instead of a blessing." - Serendipity, Dogma

There's those fluffy bunnies everyone bitches about - all white light and rainbows, all comfy goddesses like soft old grandmas who always give you a cookie, nice, unthreatening gods who resemble Santa and a favorite uncle all in one tidy package.

Then there's the SRS CRAFT types.

(I know. I've reverted to lolcat speak. But they bring out my inner snot-nosed adolescent who knows when the adults in her life are bullshitting her.)

I've been sick with the Sinus Crud for the better part of a week, which has led to a lot of surfing. I've found a lot of cool sites by pagans/Wiccans/witches - especially Lover of strife and his pals; where are all these cool, gay, 30-something guys in Texas, exactly? I'd like to hang out with them for an afternoon at least.

These others started out OK; there was some actual serious stuff for the long-past-101-phase practitioner. Then things got VRY SRS. Posts about how their Gods demand so much, things you could never deal with, but they have to, because this isn't all sweetness and light, it is DARK and SCARY and they're SRS and you're not.

Maybe it's the cold medicine talking, but I thought martyrdom was for Those Other People With The Guy On A Stick (no, not the Asatruar! That's the Guy In A Tree).

I've been given a hard time by my matrons/patrons. I've felt some scary energies. Hell, I've felt some downright malicious ones. I've had to deal with people deciding they were possessed by the demon Sarek (Spock's dad on the Star Trek series, the revelation of which to said possessee apparently deflated the possession somewhat; I luckily dealt with that little disaster from a distance). I've had woods trying to scare me out of them, I've been told to use my own blood in spells (yes, that kind; hey, it's traditional), a past-life meditation told me I was a human sacrifice rather than some Druid Priestess Princess, and I've been known to jump up and down and point at the sky while shouting, "WHAT DO YOU WANT, DAMMNIT?!"


I haven't found this terribly scary or overwhelmingly difficult to deal with. Sometimes, in my duties as a priestess, I have to deal with people who I'd rather avoid like the proverbial plague. Sometimes, having an angry land spirit in your basement sucks. Sometimes, giving all this up and becoming Episcopalian crosses my mind. But I tend to think of all of this as being like any other job: the commute sucks and there's that one guy in Accounting we're all ready to beat to death with the copier, but the break room is nice, my bosses are fair and generally stay off my ass as long as I do my best.

Treating the service of your gods/your witchcraft/whatever as this scary, dark thing that mere mortals cannot handle is like complaining about everything at your job; after a while, I start to wonder why you aren't looking for a new boss. I start to think that you want everyone to realize how important you are, how difficult your job is, because you're really not getting enough out of it to satisfy you.

The fluffbunnies irk me. I want to strangle the people who chirp, "Harm none!" like demented occult Mynahs. I keep waiting for the Morrighan to smite this one dude who insists she's really very nice and just misunderstood. But acting like dealing with the darker side of all this is the only way to be a serious witch is as silly as saying a Catholic priest's gig should be like The Exorcist every day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Samhain eve is coming soon...*

Last night, Husband #1 and I were out in the backyard, and noticed a little bat swooping over our swimming pool. We were very happy to see the little critter making a dent in our insect population, and when we realized that s/he'd brought a few friends - there was a cloud of bats over our house, swooping and skimming the roof and the patio umbrella and our heads - we were positively delighted.

The half-moon was up, and the little bats were silhouetted against it from time-to-time as they fluttered around. This is when we realized that the bats were over our house, and didn't seem to be anywhere else.

There's probably a reasonable, rational explanation, but really? The bats were only over the witches' house?

I love my weird-ass life.

*I have a tendency to re-write Christmas songs for Samhain. When the holiday gets closer, I'll post "Samhain Wonderland".

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Terms of engagement.

I've been around long enough to know that the minute you say you're a "witch" or "pagan" or what-have-you, that a million people will jump out of the woodwork to tell you how wrong you are, that what you do/believe isn't witchcraft/pagan/what-have-you.

On the other hand, I've seen what happens when we stop having some sort of standard for calling yourself things, leading to "But I Read A Book" 18-year-old High Priestesses and "Druids" who don't know that The Wicker Man is not a documentary.

So - The ocelot's Terms of Engagement, where I'll tell you what certain words mean to me, without the disclaimer that they may mean different things to different people, etc., because this is my little space where I'm not obligated to do such things. Don't agree? Can you explain why without sounding like an officious ass, in a spirit of an exchange of ideas, as opposed to trying to fact-bash me to death? Have at. If not, go slam me on your own blog or something.

DRUID: Priest/philosopher/healer/lawyer (at a minimum) of the ancient Celts. I'll accept you calling yourself this if you seem well-versed in the history of the Celts/one of the Celtic cultures and Celtic mythology, or if you're ADF or Henge of Keltria. If you don't know any of the myths, think Druids were the only ones who used magic, and seem to have no interest in/relationship with any Celtic deities, I will dismiss you as another Pseudo-Celtic Whackaloon (PCW).

WITCH: A person who casts spells, does divination, engages in magical herbalism, heals, hexes, and seems madly in love with Nature. If you don't do any of those things, sorry, but to me, you're not a witch.

WICCAN: A British Traditional Wiccan is a member of a lineaged, initiatory tradition traceable back to Gardner, Sanders, or the Horsa coven. Member of a lineaged, initiatory tradition so similar as to make no difference. Solitary practitioner who's following the available information from a lineaged, initiatory tradition so closely that there's little discernible difference.

I know the party line here - there's stuff you get from a Genuine BTW Trad Initiation that you don't get unless the (oathbound) ritual is followed precisely. However, having known people who got that, and still seemed like insincere asses on a power trip instead of someone who had received a Mystery, I tend to think that's too rigid a rule. So my hard-and-fast take on it is: I may not agree to call it BTW, but if you look like a Wiccan and quack like a Wiccan, I'll probably consider you Wiccan.

If you got all your stuff from Silver You-Know-Who, I'll probably try to tell you why I think she's an idiot, the places where I know she's wrong (fact, not opinion) and then simply walk away.

PAGAN: Non-Abrahamic, Non-Buddhist, Non-Hindu, etc. person who worships usually more than one God/Goddess, follows the eight-seasonal-holidays framework, and tends to be Nature-oriented. Also an umbrella term for Wiccans, witches, and everyone else who isn't Buddhist, Hindu, First Nations trad spiritual practices, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. An amazing term that tells you almost nothing about what a person does believe and do and more about what they don't.

SHAMAN: A word describing a Siberian priest/healer. Period. End of sentence. I grant an exception to Native Americans who call themselves this, because those people have been told what they are and are not quite enough already, thank you.

I will not call you a "Celtic" shaman. Did the Celts have people whose practices included elements similar to (possibly even identical to) those in lands where such people where properly called "shaman"? Yes indeed. But we had our own names for that kind of thing, and not using them is sheer laziness.

I will also refuse to call you a shaman if you are not recognized as such by others, which does not mean your four buddies who are also "shamans". Shamans did not exist in a vacuum, folks - this requires community recognition.

CEREMONIAL MAGICIAN: Someone who does ceremonial magic, i.e., OTO, Golden Dawn, Kabbala, etc. Also includes that guy/gal who owns a lot of books with titles like "Long-Lost Friend" who can always seem to find a parking space/new apartment when they really need one.

RECONSTRUCTIONIST: Someone attempting to re-create the pre-Christian religious practices of a culture.

THE OCELOT: BTW Wiccan, witch, and pagan who manages to be both a hard and soft polytheist at the same time - I believe the Gods are all distinct entities, like individual people (hard polytheism), but I also believe that all the Gods are eventually all the same thing (soft polytheism), because if you put them all together you get the sum total of Godhood. In other words, all the Gods are distinct individuals who, taken all together, make one big God.

The ocelot actually believes in the Sidhe, the Beansidhe, the Washer at the Ford, the Gods (all of them), omens, the Puka, portents, magic (with or without the "k"), spells, curses, Karma, wyrd, orlog, the Holiness of Nature, and a bunch of other stuff.

The ocelot is tired of the following: One-True-Way types, Do-Whatever-And-Call-It-Whatever-You-Want types, people who call themselves "pagan" who won't go camping/hiking/outdoors if they can help it or admit that meat is the flesh of a dead animal and not something that just manifests at the supermarket, people who think witchcraft is all blood and nightshade, people who think witchcraft is all white light and rainbow-pooping unicorns, "traditions" that mostly seem to consist of false claims and infighting, and the failure to realize that not all of us care if Joe Normal Neighbor takes our religion "seriously" just so long as he doesn't kill our pets/proselytize at us/burn our house down with us in it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Morning report

This morning:

Temperature: Jethro Tull's "Jack In The Green" indoors, Gobi Desert outdoors.

Wind speed: Hummingbird (male Ruby-Throated)

Sun: Skin-frying.

Weather Advisory: Even though it looks like a beautiful summer day in the Rockies (as it has most of this horrifyingly hot summer), it is not, and you will burst into flame and turn into a giant puddle of sweat within ten minutes of being outside. Wait until the sun goes down.

It has been a bad summer for a tree-hugging, horse-riding, going-hiking, garden-tending witch.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why the serpent and the foxglove?

It seemed like the first post ought to explain the title.

Snakes and the foxglove plant seem to go hand-in-hand with witchcraft. Flying ointments, woodcuts of a snake eating its' own tail, the bell-shaped flowers ringing when fairies are present, a certain wisdom that seems somewhat scary to come by.

I also dearly love Wade Davis's "The Serpent and the Rainbow",  reading about any and all serpent deities, the little striped grass snakes in my yard, and the lovely foxglove plants I grew one year - they never made flowers, but their huge, gorgeous leaves made a fine place for some house wrens to raise a family. I marvel at the fact that the same plant that can cure, can kill.

Warning: blog may contain Ceremonial Magic, nuts, Wicca, soy, neopaganism, traces of nuts, scathing commentary, gluten, classical paganism, cloves, opinionated ramblings, yeast, whimsy, honey, complete seriousness, oats, theological musings, and is created in a facility that contains nuts.

P.S. This is not a democracy; any comments which I deem too nasty will get you blocked, banned, etc.. I don't have to let everyone who knocks into my home, and I don't have to give you space on my blog.