Friday, September 23, 2016

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Age of Aquarius

I don't pretend to be knowledgeable in the subtle nuances of astrology, as I've always preferred astronomy. But as I understand it we are entering into the "Age of Aquarius," and I find that synchronicity quite fitting, on many levels.

I have neglected this space for some time now due to my primary obligations. I finally finished school, for the moment anyway. I've completed the requirements for my associates in religion from a baptist seminary and should receive my diploma in a week or so. And I will consider that a birthday present to myself, I'm an Aquarius, so begins my Age.

For those who don't know, I have Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and wanted a degree in religion to apply towards my prison ministry work. The VA requirements, mixed with my lifestyle settings limited my options a bit and I took advantage of what was available. Hence the Baptist seminary

As insane as it was at times, I still managed to learn quite a bit. There were even portions that I actually truly Loved, and over all I did benefit from the experience. That being said, I don't know if I'd do it again, ha.

I spent the whole time there wondering where I was going to obtain my bachelors, as the school I wanted to attend only offered graduate work, but I have other plans for that one too. Luckily the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology has become Sophia University and I will be in their first bachelors program next fall, fingers crossed.

I felt blessed by the synchronicity that they have made changes to their institution and curriculum, which not only suits my academic needs, but the timing could not be any more perfect. I actually need the spring and summer off from scholastic endeavors to focus on the huge changes in my career and employment.

For those that don't know, I moved back here to California almost eight years after getting out of the Army. I came back to take my turn serving the family business, we run care homes. I'm the fourth generation of care providers in my family. It's not a bad living, especially after almost ten years in the Army, and Iraq. It's a nice big house in a good neighborhood, and as opposed to being deployed all the time, I'm literally home all the time for my family. But that's the rub, I'm ALWAYS home. After a few weeks, months and years, ones stamina tends to dwindle.

For the first few years my friends in the Pagan community used to joke about "Joe's imaginary wife," because they never saw her, because she was always watching the house so I could go socialize. It was always one or the other, but never both of us together. Until a few years later when we finally found someone we trusted to work, so we could go out together. So many people were shocked that she was real.

So, after slaving away to my family for the past eight years we're finally moving up, we just bought the facility we've been working in all these years. My name was put on the license last month but tomorrow will be my last paycheck, and on Tuesday, January 1st, I change my business cards from "Administrator" to "Owner," and that's a pretty cool way to begin my Age. This first month will be all about getting my "owners balance," but being an Aquarius, I'm a system builder and already have it all in my head. I just need to a few weeks to work out the variables.

Work and School aside, I still have a lot going on. I'm presenting my work on Introspective Divination at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies this year. And will be presenting at Pantheacon this year for the first time. I co-founded the National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association and this will be our first annual meeting. Our own Mill Creek Seminary will begin teaching introductory classes and our Advenio (a year & a day) prerequisite course sometime in the spring, probably Beltane. And our correspondence courses and Community Portal Website are already under construction.

 Exciting times!

So with all of that, and the fact that I'm supposed to be writing for Witches & Pagans online, I'm not going to be doing much at all here. A few years ago I took a break from this blogging thing to write a book and commit my time to developing my craftwork. It took a little longer than expected, but met those goals and then some. I love this blog, and the whole experience, it's how I really got started in the community and how I got recruited to write for W&Ps. I've missed it lately, and I will continue to miss it, but its time for me to move on. This will probably be my last post on the RattleBone. I say probably, because never say never, but don't hold your breath haha.

I plan to post a few press releases here, but for the most part if you're interested in reading my writing you can check me out over at Witches & Pagans paganSquare or friend me of Facebook, or Like our Mill Creek Seminary Page! Keep in touch, remember to tip your waitress, so long and thanks for all the fish.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the Age of Aquarius, Blessed Be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

reCircling the Wagons

Every time I finish a blog post there is a certain sense of satisfaction. Sometimes that satisfaction comes too soon, and I later look back to see the horrible mistakes in grammar and spelling I have made. But last night I walked away from the keyboard with the same troubling feeling I had sat down with.

I ended my evening adoration with a humble request for introspective clarity and self understanding. And I awoke this morning with my prayers answered. What bothered me about Teo's post was his shame. His feelings and his perspective, as enlighten as they are, are his, not mine. And with that came the realization that I disagreed with someone whom I admire and respect. And that was what troubled me.

We can look at the context and circumstances of the situation and easily find fault with some aspect of the event, however the core issue seems to be about the circle creating an Inclusive/Exclusive boundary between those within the circle and those without. Last night I wrote that really wasn't the purpose of casting circles, but a byproduct, a result. But I also said that the sad truth is that the us and them already existed, and despite the best intentions they always will, with or without a circle being cast.

When I say "we" in the following statements I mean specifically those of our particular Tradition. We, are one of the most inclusive faith communities in the world. We openly invite and accept anyone and everyone to join us in our celebrations. We don't do this to recruit, proselytize or save anyone. We do it because at the core of our fundamental theology is the precept of Tela, interconnectedness.

You don't even have to be a Wiccan, Druid or even Pagan at all to be, and made to feel, welcome in our circles. Therefore I do not feel shame before those who choose not to do so. I had never even occurred to me until I read Teo's post. I feel that despite the grand dream unity in diversity, there are us's and them's. Those line exist in all social circles and no amount of accommodation will ever change that.

And most surprising of all my feelings is that we should not have to try and accommodate everyone. It's a virtuous dream, but an impossible task. Moreover, perhaps an impracticable one. We can be over accommodating to a fault. My Coven and our Traditions has an established liturgy, for our rituals, holidays, and rites of passage (that's why we call it a tradition). But if we would have made changes every time someone showed up and wanted to tweak things to meet their own personal, individual needs at that particular time, we would not remotely resemble our original form. We cannot make everyone happy within our Pagan community, let alone the onlookers, and I don't feel it's our responsibility to try.

We are sorry if our spiritual or liturgical practices are not to your liking, but we aren't changing our Tradition to suit your needs.We have a right to our boundaries.Without them we loose our ways, our Traditions and ourselves. As I mentioned in the previous post, my circles have a special meaning to them, there is a sense of comfort and security within my ritual space, like my Grandmother's arms, yes, it is my church. And I will never be ashamed of that, and I will never water it down in an attempt to appease the masses. I have my boundaries and some boundaries are healthy.

I think in the end, not casting a circle would change things for us, but not for them.

Wow, that felt good. I feel so much better now, thanks for reading my rant. But in closing I would like to reaffirm my closing statement form last nights post, I still believe Teo's post shoved a big mirror in the face of Pagan liturgy today and called into question one of our fundamental religious practices. I still think that requires some bravery, and I still applaud him for doing so.  He has caused us to reevaluate our most basic beliefs and practices, and we should consider that a public service.

After reevaluating my beliefs and practices, analyzing my feelings and expressing them, I leave my keyboard with that sense of satisfaction I was looking for. Thanks for giving me something worth thinking about Teo.

Thank you Lord & Lady for the Safe Circles, Blessed Be.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

R is for the Voice of Russia

Any time a member of the Pagan community is contacted by the Media there is a potential for problematic public relations issues, because by default, like it or not, when you speak as a Pagan you end up speaking for all of us.

Not by design, but by result.

Because of that fact, many of us are more than a bit suspicious and hesitant to speak to the media. Jason has written on the topic numerous times in the past and recently wrote an excellent article about how we [Pagan organizations] should best respond to good or bad news.

We have seen and read some real hatchet jobs by media doing an expose on the local Witches a week before Halloween, but having been in the local papers more than a few times, I have never been misused or misrepresented. This does not however, ease my suspicions when someone new comes along wanting to do an interview.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised when I received an email from a reporter for the Voice of Russia, who was interested in writing a piece including Witch-Doctor-Me. We had a great telephone conversation, I started out asking what the purpose, interest and intention of the article was and in listening to her talk I quickly got the feeling she was coming from a place of good intentions.

Her article was published online today, you can read it here.

Thank you Lord & Lady for all the Positive Press, Blessed Be.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Q is for Querent

For as long as we have occupied this planet with cognitive thought we have looked up at the sky and asked why. Why are we here? Where did we come from? And where are we going after this?

And those are great questions, but unfortunately the answers are oath-bound secrets. *Wink-wink*

That's what The Fool card always reminds me of, the way he tilts back his head, casting his gaze upwards without concern for what lies at his feet. That's why I keep a framed Fool on the wall in my home, to remind me that I am, we all are, Fools...

One of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, taught me to embrace The Fool in myself at a very young age. In the book, the Teacher questions the student and the conversation goes loosely, something like this...

Q: Where are you?
A: Here.
Q: Where is here?
A: Berkley.
Q:Where is Berkley?
A: In California.
Q: Where is California?
A: In the United States.
Q: Where are the United States?
A: On a continent in the western hemisphere of earth.
Q: And where is earth?
A: In our solar system.
Q: And where is our solar system?
A: In our galaxy.
Q: And where is our galaxy? 
A: Umm... I don't know...
Q: Then you don't actually know where you are do you? Admit it, you're lost. Just a fool.

I have always believed that all religions are just the most popular "Best Guesses," and that these best guesses are mostly about confidence and control. But the brutal trust is we just don't know for sure. Well I do, but most people don't believe me. *Wink-wink*

Being the Querent is a good thing, asking questions is always good, but asking the right questions is fundamental, and there is a difference. I submit that it's not so much about why, where and what's next, as it is about the here and now. Don't waste too much of your precious time here, looking up and asking the great unknowable about the great unknowables. Just be a The Fool and enjoy yourself as much as you can while your here.

Thank you Lord & Lady for getting me lost.

Blessed Be.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

P is for Pamela Coleman Smith

As I have mentioned several times in the past, this blog was originally a divination project for my second degree work. When I originally became seriously interested in studying the Tarot I took my time, researched and shopped for different decks before settling on the Rider deck, or rather the Rider-Watie-Smith deck.

As a Freemason I have long been a fan of A.E. Waite's writings on The Rosy Cross, Golden Dawn, and his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry was one of the first books I ever owned on the subject. Perhaps what I loved most was his use of Roman liturgical elements in his ritual work, something else we have in common. 

 I have long been a collector of Masonic Tracing Boards, and I suppose that was the origin of my interest in the Tarot. Since Waite was a Mason I assumed there would be an element of the old Tracing Boards to be found in his Tarot designs. But that wasn't the only reason I chose the Rider deck, I simply, instantly and totally fell in love with the artwork.

This last Father's day I made out like a bandit, I always do. Among the gifts my wife had bought me the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Box Set, and it's pretty awesome. It includes a Centennial Edition of the Deck, a copy of Waite's Pictorial Key to the Tarot, three frameable prints by Pamela that are not used in the Tarot but really look like they should have been, and a copy of The Life & Time of Pamela Colman Smith by Stuart R. Kaplan. I is a happy daddy.

Long time readers know I don't go by the book when it comes to the Tarot, or much else for the matter. When I first started this project, I threw out the traditional meanings and scryed the cards for my own interpretations. In doing so, I obviously depended totally on the visual elements, the images, the artwork itself. I have long wondered if the cards were all the sole product of Waite's design or if Pamela was given any leeway in the creative process.

In reading the biographic text of the set I came to learn that she was. In fact it seems as though Waite's soul concern was the design of the Major Arcana, leaving the Minor Pip cards to Pamela. As someone who has been successfully utilizing the Tarot and therefore her artwork, in an Introspective Divination Process, to treat Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, this is really a pretty big deal when you stop and think about it.

And as a side note; on several of the cards in the deck such as the 2 of Pentacle, Swords and Cups, there is a horizontal line which divides the foreground from the background. I have always associated this with the Stage and the backdrop, and in reading the biographical text, I was correct. Pamela had a life long love of acting and of the stage, an element she deliberately employed in her artwork. It's nice to get confirmation after all these years.

I specifically choose Pamela for this P post because I have always felt Pamela and her artwork has always been a bit unappreciated and unrecognized. But have benefited so much from it personally, I felt it was high time we started acknowledging her significant contribution to probably the most popular deck in the most popular form of divination ever.

Thank you Lord & Lady, for the courage to throw away the book, and figure myself out.

Blessed Be.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

P is for Prima Nupta

You know that "Love at First Sight" thing? Yeah it's real. I met her the day I drove into town and we have been together ever since. My mother made me promise not to marry until I had spent a year and a day with her, she said that we always put our best foot forward and hide our faults, issues and differences for as long as we can, sometimes this is weeks, months and sometimes more. She said hiding your personality is like holding your breath and we can't do that for too long. So give it time, spend all four seasons with a her and you will know all four sides of her. And I did.

We didn't want too wait, not one day more than we needed to. But a promise is a promise, and a promise to your mom is a million times more. She respected that so much, and that was another green light to me. So we were Handfasted on the anniversary of the day we met, almost on the hour.

We had been practicing together, alone, for some time and had our own way of doing things. We had written it ourselves, every word. I seemed to mean so much more to us that way. I began working on some additional pieces and elements to add to our usual ritual. We opened our home and invited the whole community to our Handfasting. It was the first time we had ever performed our ritual publicly, not only it was a ritual expression of our beliefs but also of our love. And it was beautiful.

Afterward people remarked on how much they had enjoyed the ritual and asked where we had learned it. They seemed so surprised when we told them it was our own. They suggested that we "do it again," and we explained that that's how we always do it, except without the Handfasting in the middle. They said that we should do a full moon ritual that way, and again we said, "We do." The response changed everything...

"Can we come?"

From that first Handfasting ritual a Coven grew. From that Coven, a Tradition. And from that Tradition, a church, a prison ministry and now a Seminary. Prima Nupta means the "First Marriage," and is in reference to our Handfasting ritual, the first ritual, the marriage that gave birth to the Witches of Mill Creek. This past July 19th we celebrated the 6th year anniversary of our Marriage and much, much more.

Thank you Lord & Lady for our own divine union, BB.