Pagan and the Pit(bull)

The adventures and musings of a Pagan and her dog.


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Yemaya says cut your crap

A lot of the information I have about this is either second hand, or from first hand accounts. I have never been to a Pantheacon (it’s totally on my bucket list) and I didn’t contribute to the discussion about the statement from Covenant of the Goddess (while my coven is a member of CoG, I’ve got other things on my plate currently). Shine_Bomba for Yemaya

For those not in the know, in December CoG issued one of the blandest non-statement statements. Black lives didn’t matter, all lives did. And while true, in theory all lives should matter; the fact is that some lives are held as more valuable than others. To not acknowledge that is insensitive and ignorant at best. Understandably, many people were upset about this and it sparked a lot of conversations. Some Pagans of color left CoG, something I can’t blame them for in the slightest. At last check CoG seemed unresolved about the issue and I’m fairly certain when (if) it ever is, it will be too late and CoG will be marked as an irrelevant has been.

Fast forward to Pantheacon. For as long as I’ve been aware of, and paid attention to, the goings on of the national Pagan community it seems like Pantheacon has been a big thing. Not only is it actually a huge thing, it also seems to rip the band off of some of the darker pockets of ick. See the transwomen and gender debate of 2012. This year it race. A satirical workshop description was put out “Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans”. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle as I understand it.

Here is where I weigh in. Pagans, particularly polytheistic Pagans, are aware of the diversity of gods and goddesses out there. Amateratsu, Yemaya, Lakshmi, Kali are all very popular goddess of color (for lack of a better word), and often find their way into eclectic circles. But if those goddesses have a place in your circle, your altar, your magickal practice, then you cannot ignore where they came from, your woven connection to them, or to the people who look like them. To worship Yemaya, but to completely ignore the fact that black people face a horrifying set of challenges in the world is not only anathema to me, but to my mind highly racist. It implies that the lives of people of color, that black lives are only of value when attached to Divinity.

So, CoG, you could use some changing and a healthy dose of the real world.

But, Pantheacon don’t ever change. Keep exposing the nastier sides of our community that we can keep learning and growing into a better and more supportive group.

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Taking a Breath

Wow, a whole lot happened since I posted last. Like, Jesus Christ on a stick, could it not have slowed down just a little bit?

School started and my schedule changed, twice; my wedding plans blew up; Teddy’s family is attempting to resolve the residual drama from the break and the wedding; I completely forgot about a test; job description changed, again; the car dumped a full tank of gas into the parking lot; a former lover and I figured out that we are a hot mess but we’ll be ok; and my brother finally told my mother that he is joining the Army. He shipped out for basic last Sunday. Whew.

To say things are a in a state of flux is putting it mildly. But I think that this is the time when things start to become really clear, especially how people handle difficulty. Hot damn, that was cliche. If I weren’t so exhausted, I would try and fix that. So, I’m doing what everyone has always told me–take a breath. Sort things out.

School and work are a bit beyond my control. The work/class schedule will be what it will be, and it’s early enough in the semester that I can do a little badly on one test. Breathe, let it go.

The wedding will happen regardless of any stressors and weird that go on before we get there.  The important thing is that Teddy and I will be married. Breathe, let it go.

I’ve taken the car to the shop, and they are trying to fix it. This is all I can do about it, breathe, let it go.

The former lover is a little more complicated. Different choices, and we could have been something wonderful. And, even though he said it first I have to agree with him, he will always have a little bit of my heart. That was something we never really shared until it was completely over. I love him, but we aren’t meant to be. Breathe, mourn, and let it go.

My brother has finally achieved his dream of being in the military. It’s what he’s wanted for years, and I have to commend him for doing what he seems to love. Comforting my mother is a little bit harder, but it can be done. We’ll all get through this. Breathe, let him go.

And now everything seems simpler, easier to handle. I know I probably should have posted the next Pagan definition post but I needed to get this off my chest first. Now it’s time to cuddle the puppies.


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Today’s Food for Thought

Two in a week, wow. I’m on top of it. Or, this is actually the case, I want to share something.

North Miami Beach PD was found to be using the mugshots of black men. Now, this bugs me on a lot of levels. Should police be well trained in the use of their weapons and be able to use them safely? Yes. But they also need to have a fundamental respect for human life. I live in Albuquerque so police shootings hit really close to home.practice16n-4-web

But the police seem to be alright with shooting the people they are supposed to protect. They even appear to be so ok with it that they are practicing shooting a certain group of people—black men. And that is not ok. So not ok.

A collection of clergy is starting a collection of photos using #Usemeinstead that they will be sending to North Miami Beach PD for them to use for shooting practice. If the police are comfortable shooting photos of black men, we need to give them photos they aren’t comfortable shooting.  I sent in my photo, in my role as a priestess serving her community.

And my message is this:

By practicing on the mug shots of black men you are training yourself to target, and shoot, black men. You are not training yourself to shoot people who look like you, you are not training yourself to realize that those men are human beings with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You are training yourself to not think about the life that is ending when you pull the trigger, because they do not look like you and so are not the same as you. Aren’t human like you are.

Black lives matter.  Latino lives matter. The lives of the mentally handicapped matter. My life holds the same value. I demand that you give my life the exact same value as you give the lives of the men in the mug shots. If you see fit to use their photos as target practice, it is only appropriate that you put a bullet in my photo as well.


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Doing Unto Others

bible

At the beginning of every semester, some Christian organization or other comes to campus and hands out Bibles. Which is less than stellar, because not only do I NOT want to take my hands out of my pockets in this weather; I also don’t want the Bible. To be honest, not a lot of people do. For the remainder of this week there will be Roving Bibles—miniature Bibles that someone accepted but didn’t want, and left in a class. These Roving Bibles will never actually leave the lecture hall until the custodial staff arrive, but they will move from desk to desk like forlorn dogs looking for a home. The Roving Bibles really cause a bit of a gut wrench reaction. Theoretically, I understand that it is a crucial part of the Christian religion to save the heathen and spread the word of their god. However, it is exceptionally disrespectful. Especially since everyone on a college campus is above age, and at that point able to choose what they believe.

Just this month, the school district of Orange County in Florida decided that religious organizations aren’t allowed to hand out pamphlets and such. For those not in the know, Orange County allowed for the distribution of religious materials at schools. World Changers of Florida started handing out Bibles. Then the atheists wanted to distribute their tracts, and then the Satanists came along with their delightful coloring books. And the school district flipped a table, and voted to not allow it.

I understand that it is fundamental part of the Christian religion to spread the word of their god to the heathen and try to convert them. That it is sometimes considered a form of love. But it also is a form of disrespect. When Christians attempt to convert people in their teens and twenties, it shows a blatant disrespect for their decision making ability. But what Christians seem to ignore is that if people wanted to convert, they would. Christianity is the most common religion in the United States, and there is an absolute proliferation of their religious materials. We don’t need more trees cut down to make more mini-Bibles. Sometimes I don’t think Christians realize that there are other religions out there, and that they don’t want to put more Roving Bibles in the recycling bin.

I think that’s why I’m so happy about the Orange County conclusion. I know Christians, particularly in the US, who are very confused by the idea of practitioners of other religions. Theoretically they know that other religions exist, but they find it difficult to reconcile that with the fact that very few people they know believe differently. I don’t think that Christians deliberately ignore the other religions, just that they don’t think it through.

The Satanic Temple and their coloring book are the best example of things not being thought through. Doing unto others becomes more complicated when you get treated the same way. Here’s to hoping that some are capable of seeing that handing out materials isn’t the best way to show love.


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pagan vs Pagan

“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, every time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”—Professor Snape, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

 

Ok, so Paganism is not the Dark Artsquestion mark; and as yet I make no claims to be “She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named”. But sometimes providing a definition for what exactly Paganism is, and who and how you practice it seems exactly like that quote—defining that which is unfixed, mutating, and ever-changing. However, I’m going to do my best. Mainly because every Pagan blogger tackles this question at some point, and also because I’m doing a presentation on it in February, and I need a place to get all my thoughts in some semblance of order. So, here goes. I promise, I won’t be cursing spiders.

 

Since this will be the first of posts on this topic, let’s start with definitions. For the grammar geeks, capitalization is super important for this discussion. “Pagan” and “pagan” have very different meanings, as you’ll see soon. Bear in mind that these definitions are not gospel truth, and someone else in the wide world may very well have set of definitions that works better for you. This is merely a starting place for conversation.

 

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “pagan” as a follower of a polytheistic religion. Which is a huge set of religions, and breaks down into three sub groups: paleopagan religions, mesopagan religions, and neopagan religions. Paleopagan religions began in the period of pre-history to the Dark Ages; mesopagan religions began between the Dark Ages and 1900; and neopagan religions started after 1930. The kinds of religions you’ll most often see in the day-to-day are the paleopagan and the neopagan ones. Paleopagan religions have a strong sense of identity (they would have to survive this long), and typically don’t identify as “Pagan”, if at all. If you want to find out more about paleopagan religions such as Hinduism and the religions indigenous to your area I suggest going straight to the source.

 

The neopagan religions include Wicca, Thelema, and the various forms of reconstructionism. The practitioners of these tend to identify as Pagan or Heathen. See where the capitalizations start to come in handy? It’s a great opportunity to be Grammar-Nazi.

 

Thus ends the first point in “definition of paganism” series. “Pagan” is not the same as “pagan”, and it’s the best stopping point before jumping into what Paganism actually is. Odds are, no matter how I define this, someone somewhere will be offended or disagree with me. Which is totally cool, everyone can self-identify; this is just my take on it.


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Old Year’s Food for thought

new yearsOnly one more day left of the old year before we see the new one. Which is a little crazy when you think about it, so much has happened so quickly. So here is a quick break down of the good, the bad, and the “ugly” of the past year.

Good:

I started to do more self-care. This one is a hard one for me to do, which is a little ironic since in some ways I’m super selfish. But by starting small, I think I’m on a better path to being happier and healthier.

I started this blog. Again, a hard one for me to get started. This blog seems to be a living example of inertia—when I’m going, I’m really going; when I’m at rest, it’s hard to restart. But I’m really glad that I have, it is a project that I’ve been wanting to do.

I dedicated officially to a coven, and I did my first degree initiation. Super exciting stuff on that side.

I passed all of my classes with good grades! Excitement all around for that. Now to keep going and to study for the GRE.

Bad:

Merkel (my car) broke down again. I think that this is a serious lesson in buying cars that are low to the ground. On the up side though, I have become a much better driver.

Teddy (I finally decided on a name to protect my fiance’s innocence) and I drove into Texas for the funeral of his great aunt. We actually got back on Sunday, so it was very recent. Grief is never an easy burden to share.

I was in a car accident in May. No one was hurt, thank the gods, but it still was a bit sucky.

My job description changed. True, I’m lucky to still be employed when a great many aren’t, but being sent back to the job description and duties that I left over a year ago is kind of miserable.

“Ugly”:

Teddy’s sister is maintaining her status of bitter-pain-in-the-butt. It’s nothing that is super serious, more like a long string of snipes, jabs, and unresolved arguments. But it’s still an unpleasant experience.

My father got a job in Nebraska. It’s fantastic that he’s employed again, and since he works in construction it’s a sign that the economy is pick up. But he’s very far away and it’s difficult to stay in communication with him

Our parents finally met each other, after Teddy and I have been together for 4 years. The only word for that experience is “surreal”.

The wedding plans became official. It’s not an ugly thing, but this is more of a miscellaneous category than anything else. The panic attacks have begun and are occurring with some frequency now. Be still my heart.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad year. I had to actually think hard of 4 things to put in the bad category, which is probably a good sign. I’m beginning the process of physically cleaning the house, and soon there will be the aroma of sage and lavender to help magickally clean the house. Tomorrow I’ll make black eyed peas and pork, and we’ll play poker and dominos until it’s time to light fireworks and start the new year.


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Happy Holidays, Ares!

In terms of libations and such, Ares kicks off the holiday season.

At first blush, that seems very counter-intuitive. Most non-Pagans are a little confused by the idea of Ares as a holiday god, and most Pagans would agree with them. Ares is not your party boy, unless your idea of a party is one that ends with at least one ambulance called and possibly the cops. Just make sure there are no large pots nearby.

For those who aren’t familiar with him, Ares is the son of Hera and Zeus and a fairly well known war god. But that’s about all his duties encompass. Ares is almost exclusively a war deity, true he is also a patron of the police (#Ferguson and #Icantbreathe make so much more sense now) and an ancestral god of Thebes but that’s about it. He isn’t a particularly glamorous war god either, he doesn’t have the wisdom of Athene, nor does he carry a sense of honor for those who die in battle. Ares does not offer a glorious death, there is no Valhalla for those in his service. But in an odd, contradictory way, Ares is a god of peace.

Ares is a god of peace, in that war avoided is peace; and for this reason offerings are given to him. Which seems a little bit like bribery. Or maybe like Christian prayer-bargaining, “If you give me this, then I will do this”. But I think that it’s a little more complex than that. So humor my explanation.

Ares isn’t the easiest god to identify in art. He doesn’t have very distinctive symbols like Hecate’s torches, or Apollo’s harp, or Athene’s owls. In all the ancient images I’ve seen (and I will totally own up to not having seen them all, so if anyone has a counter example I’d love to see it!) he shows up as a man with weapons and helmet, pants and shield optional. When he does carry a shield, the device seems to change if it has one at all. The point I’m trying to get at is, even when it’s not obvious Ares is there. That temper, blood lust and almost uncontrollable desire to cause damage is there. Which all sounds vastly negative and harmful; so why am I spending a whole blog post on him this close to the holidays?

Because the holidays suck. Everyone has a story about a holiday gone sour. And not just sour; screaming, raging, furious, throw-the-plates-on-the-floor bad. Where the strongest desire you have is to hurt those who have hurt you, when you revel in the shock and pain on the face of the person you are fighting with, when seeing them hurt makes you feel good. This kind of family throw down seems to happen most often when children are different in a way that their parents and families have difficulty processing. When we have been hurt, we want to hurt others back, particularly those who have caused us pain.

For those of us like that, for us Pagans who have some pretty intense friction with our families, the holidays are exceptionally difficult. As we attempt to navigate the murky waters of family, family tradition, and our own autonomy and core; it helps to remember Ares and that lurking rage. Honoring Ares is honoring that anger and rage, we acknowledge it exists. We acknowledge that it is there, and by honoring we can move forward.

This is why Ares is the first god to receive a libation during the holiday season at my house. Thanksgiving and Yule don’t seem like the best time to do shadow work, and to be honest I’m fairly certain libations to Ares is shadow work lite. But at a time when the lights can be a bit over bearing, Ares can be a nice break.  Below, I’ve included the hymn I give to Ares when I pour libations.

 

To Ares, fumigation of frankincense:

Magnanimous, unconquered, boisterous Ares, in dart rejoicing, and in bloody wars; fierce and untamed, whose mighty power can make the strongest walls from their foundations shake: mortal destroying king, defiled with gore, pleased with war’s dreadful and tumultuous roar. Thee human blood, and swords, and spears delight, and the dire ruin of mad savage fight. Stay furious contests and avenging strife, whose works with woe embitter life; to lovely Aphrodite and Dionysus yield, for arms exchange the labors of the field; encourage peace, to gentle works inclined, and give abundance with benignant mind.

~Orphic Hymn 65