Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Five of Swords

I love swords, always have. As a kid I always wanted to be a knight of the round table, but my middle name was Merlin so I always got stuck with the wand.

Then there was Thundar the Barbarian! He had a bad ass sword and ran with a hot witch too. Then there was Star Wars....Awww yeah... need I say more?

Then I wanted to be a Nina! (with a light saber.) I even got to visit my aunt and uncle when they lived in Japan. They knew a real live Samurai, I even got a few tips, the story quickly evolved into "my special training" when I returned home. Shhhhhhhhhhhh...

Their so symbolic, and seem to be one of those universal things we all share as a species. I think almost every culture has one. They mean so many different things to so many different people.

Now days their mostly ceremonial, which is one reason why this card holds so much significance to me, our tradition employs five swords to open the temple. Reminds me of how I ran off with them in the Seven of Swords card and just like that one I have some feelings, repressed emotions and unexpressed frustrations attached to this one.

As healthy as it is to purge and as much as I would love to feverishly vent, I am oath bound against it. Sigh. So it will go in the private journal too. All I can say is that's me, those are my swords and that scene is so accurate it scares the crap out of me! But it is comforting to see how it stay true to what I have said about the swords in the past.

Never give up your sword, never.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The World

Um... Hmm... were to begin... well it's big... and round... mostly covered by water, third planet from the sun, and "Mostly Harmless". (If you understand that last reference then I really like you and you can suck on my towel anytime!)

But seriously, I like this card, the symbolism is pretty straightforward, at least to a primate like me. But for those of you who don't know the basics of it, the heads of the Bull, Eagle, Lyon and Man represent the elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

This is one of the cards we use in our first degree initiations, much like a Masonic Tracing Board, which has been a personal hobby of mine for many years and sparked a deeper interest in the Tarot.

We use this card to illustrate the basics; how the world is composed of these four primary elements and how our bodies * also composed of these same elements* contain our spirit or soul. We also use it as a Tracing Board for the Lodestone, which is a daily adoration exercise.

One of the more subtle symbols of the card always seems to be the Vesica Piscis, more pronounced in this earlier Tarot of Mareilles.

The deeper symbolism of the Vesica has been a recent study project of mine and has turned out to be essential to the higher degrees of my CraftWork.

I was really intrigued by these very earlier renderings found in the Illuminated Manuscript, especially these ones of Jesus, which I know will be of interest to at least one particularly Christian Ceremonial Magician I know.

Should my prior interpretation of the cards symbolism change when I consider this older depiction of Jesus? No, I think not, I think perhaps it validates it. Especially when you consider the *union* symbolism that creates the Vesica.

"The symbols of the wise are the idols of the vulgar, or else as meaningless as the hieroglyphics of Egypt to the nomadic Arabs. There must be always a common place interpretation for the mass of initiates, of the symbols that are eloquent to the Adepts" Albert Pike, Morals & Dogma.

So long and thanks for all the fish...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Judgment?


Holy crap! That's what it's called "Holy" crap. All I keep hearing about is the rapture. It scares me that mature, intelligent, educated people really believe this stuff, seriously.

This evening I was browsing the metaphysics section at Borders bookstore. I think it's funny and ironic that they place our section back to back with the Christian end of the religion section. And I think maybe they do it on purpose...

As I thumbed through books, I listened to two people talking about the rapture. They spoke about different Christian authors on the subject much the way we Pagans talk shop. One remarked how one author was "too warm and fuzzy" about the rapture.

It was the second time in my life I experienced a Christian who was looking forward to Armageddon. While serving in the military I often provided Pagan religious services, specially during deployments. While in Iraq most of the soldiers in my squad were Pagan-ish. Most had been to a sweat lodge ceremony or a full moon ritual or were open minded enough to hold an interesting conversation.

They gave us a new guy once, who spent every waking moment trying to save us. I had to give him direct orders to put down his bible and pick up his weapon. Inevitably, the subject came up again. It was a quiet, private conversation between a soldier and myself . The Christian jumped in about how this was a Holy War between "us Christians and the Muslims"

When I disagreed with him, he flipped out and assailed me with bible verses. He told me he couldn't wait for the apocalypse and the final judgment, so that when we were burning in hell, we would know that he was right, because we were infidels and that's what we deserved. Needless to say I had him removed from my squad that day.

So for some reason these two in the next isle decided to come slumming down in metaphysics. One, the women asked me if I saw any Masonic books, I pointed out a few and asked what she was looking for, mentioning that I was a Mason and would be happy to try to answer any questions she may have. Turns out she was looking for the conspiracy theory version of Freemasonry and was happy to point out the books that reveal all of our secret plans for world domination, persecution and the enslavement of the all good Christians.

And her friend started in on me, and our Satanic rituals. And it really went south from there. It was close to getting physical. My children were with me, and this guys calling us devil worshipers. It's scary what these people believe. It's so insane, their so insane, scares me. I wish I could surrender my free will and let someone else do it all for me. I would be so nice to believe in the rapture, it must be nice, to not have to take responsibility for all the damage we're doing to this planet, and to each other, because Jesus will fix it all....

Someone let him know, his disciples have taken care of all the judgments for him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yule Tide

HAPPY YULE TIDES!!!

Wow I had a great yule this year. This was the scene at our house just before the Oak King (me) beat the crap outta the Holly King, and took my rightful place on the throne to rule once again.

Sorry I haven't kept up on my blog lately, I got carried off by the Yule tides, busy doing services for the prison, Coven and yesterday at the Unitarian church. Who know they were Pagans?!?!

But wow, it's been a really great couple of days. I love Yule, you can celebrate the holiday season with all the feels of Christmas, but withOUT all the Christianity. It's what I love most about being a Pagan, all the holidays. All the celebrations, the food, fun and family, without the religious dogma.

So I've already got started on the spring cleaning, getting ready, gearing up for my first book. I wrote the Auguris a while back, and self publish it for Coven use, prison services and workshops, but close friends have been pushing me to expand on it *written explanations* chapter by chapter and I am finally gonna go for it. So here's another prescription from Magna Rota, the Wheel of the Year

Yule

To merry times the wheel now turns
In coven hearth the yule log burns
Jingles ward misfortune spurn
The rooster calls for the suns return
Merry vigil all mothers night
So tolls the bell at first light
Now comes the time for joy and mirth
As we hail the suns rebirth
Farthest light from farthest sun
the battle now has begun
Roll the wreath and burn the wheel
let vows beneath the bough now seal
Beset the wren birch rids in hand
Depose the old king for his last stand
Hail & wassail with evergreens & ale
Bury the bird and let the oak king prevail!
On Turns the Wheel.

Text Copyright Joseph Merlin Nichter 2006

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Two of Swords, from the Joe Tarot

The subtitle for this post is "proof of life". Yes I am still alive, I had not realized how long it has been since I have posted. I have taken my own advise and unplugged myself quite a bit more and more often, apparently there is this whole real world out there, outside the matrix...

I love the holidays, LOVE the holidays. One of the many things I love about being Wiccan is all the holidays, not only do we have more, ours are really cool.

Yule is always fun. We enact the battle of the Oak and Holly kings in the most creative ways. This last Mid-summer the battle was conducted in a professional wrestling theme. We had the big title belt we had our managers talking trash, and our announcer "Leeeeetss Geeeeeet Readyyyy To Rrruuuummmmbleee!!!!!"

I was The Oak King and I got my ass handed to me. The Holly king out weighs my by over sixty to seventy pounds. It was a massacre. I have had six month to prepare and plot my revenge! MooHoo Haa Haaaahahahahahahahha!



So I have had my eye on these wooden swords for some time, waiting for the excuse to buy them, and then along came Yule. Ahhhh perfect for the battle. I dug out my trust wood burner and spent most of the day working on the mighty Oak king (me) sword. I am pretty proud of my first attempt.

The hardest part was burning on the curved surface of the handle. I included a before sword and and after sword. The crazy stick figure is my personal version of the Ogham Few "Doo-er" meaning "Oak" and an oak leaf on the opposite side of the blade.

Once I get that Weeny the Holly kings sword done I'll varnish them and post another pic.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

King of Pentacles

This first thing that comes to mind when I look at this card is my Dad. Not my real father, that's another card. But my step Dad. I have posted about how I adopted my *step* daughter here and here.

There is a common theme of the step father being some horrible abusive alcoholic. In my life it has been quite the reverse. My real father was a drug addict and an alcoholic. He routinely chose drugs and booze over my mother and me.

My mother wanted more for herself and much more for me so she left him and a few years later met *my Dad*. This guy worked a full time job, a part time job, went to night school, worked odd jobs on the weekends, kept the lawn mowed, and still found time to teach me how to tie my shoes, aim when I pee and throw a football at me. He has always been there for me, still is.

This card is about the Pentacle, King of earth. That's my dad, the most grounded man on the planet. His foot in the bulls head represents his quiet strength. The armor reminding me that although he has always been a very happy and peaceful man, underneath those robes he's a warrior.

The growth of vegetation and the grapes are fitting, my father has always worked the lands of our family home and now works in wineries. Every Mabon, which they fittingly call *the crush* he sends me a few bottles of wine.

The earth is our foundation, and he laid the foundation for me. Teaching me how to be a good man, by example. I am sure if I had not had such a bad father, I would not appreciate my Dad as much as I do. I would not value fatherhood as much as I do, I would not value my children as much as I do.

My Dad, the King of Pentacles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Eight of Cups


Hmmm... lots of symbolism in this one for me. I have most of my back tattooed with "primitive hieroglyphics", including this conjunction of the sun and the moon. Here is seems to represent a baseline, or a landmark of time, a shift.

I have had many shifts in my life, oddly about eight...

The background reminds me of a secret place. A small beach hidden by a large body of dangerous water and the natural formation of the mountain side cliffs. For those blessed few who know where it is, and how to get there unharmed, a closely guarded secret, it is a most holy Pagan experience.

There is a cave, it forms a spiral like staircase into itself, an inward spiral, the path introspection. when you have completed your inner journey and emerge, you walk out into this small beach no larger than your front yard. It forms a deep horseshoe from the cliffs above to the sand. This shape have many benefits. It creates an optical illusion, that camouflages it. But the true gift is when the strong winds are blowing into this funnel, they create AGALUGA, the whirlwind.

If you stand straight with your arms crossed like the sign of Osiris, it will form around you. Have you ever stood inside your very own tornado? Open up spread eagle forming the human pentacle and it blows apart throwing sand in all directions, a burst of power. If your raise your arms up slowly enough you can feel the wind build up as you give it room the flow, raise your hands to the sky and the spirits of air will embrace you again...

A holy communion, devoid of cultural difference of beliefs. Pure Paganism.

I have accumulated many cups in my life, all of them different. A cup of Cherokee, a cup of Lakota, some Abirogial here, some Celtic there. This is Druid, this is Wicca, this is Withcraft, but not Wiccan...

I have left all those small cups behind, and now I drink straight from the fountain.

Cheers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ten of Swords

I see a victim of the will of the Populus.

Wow, that's a lot of steel. But why so much? My first thought was victim, but a victim of what? and by whom? I would venture to guess a group of ten.

But why, why would ten people victimize someone? What kind of threat was this person to the Populus? What did this person represent? Maybe the Gay community fighting for civil rights, impaled by the swords of religious fanatics?

Or... is this person really a victim at all? but rather the professional victim? We all know this person too well, every community has one. Unfortunately mine has several, and one Pro.

This one is currently getting lots of attention (except mine), which is by the way, is the whole point. This person is one of those who act socially inappropriately and justify it as Paganism. "They fired me because I am a Pagan!". No, they fired you because your a psycho and you spend all your time fighting for your religious rights, which no one in the office cares about, instead of doing the job you were hire to do.

"Why are you all so close minded against Vampires?!?!?" Um... were not, not as much as you claim, it's not the Vampire thing, we just don't like YOU!!! You align your self with negative stereotypes and perpetuate it further with your behavior, setting yourself up for attack and ridicule, you literally ask for it, then poor you, boo hoo, when we give it to you.

I have no sympathy for you, and offer no apologies for my feelings, you have earned them.

So whether you are victimized by an angry mop, complete with their torches and pitchforks or by the white blood cells of the communal organism, defending the limit of social acceptability, either way that's a lot of steel.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Just In...


I just felt obligated to announce that yesterday we received the largest donation ever from outside our Coven. And it came from a Christian! I would like to give thanks to RO for his continued support of my blog, my Geomancy Tumblers and my Prison Ministry. He is living proof that Christians who practice ceremonial magic have a chance in hell... LOL. Thanks Man.

In other news...

I haven't posted in a few days for the following reasons...

I got to visit two Prisons I haven't been to in a year, it was a great reunion with the inmates who changed my life. In the beginning I wasn't interested in Prison Chaplaincy, I didn't think I would bode well or have the required mentality for it. But I was so drastically wrong, and my experiences with these inmates truly inspired me. I was blessed with the opportunity to finally see them again.

I have joined the Cherry Hill Seminary Communications department which is chaired by the Wild Hunt Blogger extraordinaire Jason Pitzl-Waters, as a volunteer I spent several days creating the commercial advertisement for this years Winter Intensive which you can hear on the Pagan Radio Network.

And lastly, we're gearing up for our annual Hecate's Supper. Every year we host this food drive and give the food to the salvation army's thanksgiving dinner program for low income families. every year we give the donors a gift, last year each person took turns going to the altar and leaving their offerings to Hecate who appeared and gave them a black candle and an antique key. This year we had chinet plates custom made with Hecate's Wheel on them. A nice altar piece to anyone who loves the triple Goddess.

Tomorrow my Grandmother will go in for her second heart surgery this year, so I be at the hospital with her all day. Last time it took almost 18 hours, partly because my grandmother broke the first two heart monitors they hooked up to her. *Broke meaning... she fried them with what we call a *sun burst*...shes a Witch with heart problems... go figure.
So dress a candle for my Gramma tomorrow...

Stay tuned, we be back after these messages...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Essential Boils

So during yet another a stimulating evening of conversation with close friends and co-bloggers, we touched on the subject of essential oils. BH mentioned a still one could purchase to process plants and obtain the essentials.

So I went home and Googled it. I found a few how to sites with step by step instructions, but no pictures. Now I am a pretty primitive guy, I like to see a picture of it. But I realize that an idea can often be contained by a picture of it, or freed by the minds eye of imagination.

So I drew it out as I went along the step by step instructions, stewed over it for a day or two and let imagination and common sense meld into an concept that was effective but build/able, and cheap.

So here's *WitchDoctorJoe's Essential Boils*

The tea pot is actually a cappuccino maker I got at Wal-mart for twenty dollars, the bottom unscrews off to fill with water and there's a real nice built in filter system. A small piece of brass tubing goes from the stem inside the pot into the insulated mug sitting on top of it. It came with a screen to, for making hot tea.

So I placed plant material in both screens. The condenser was actually the hardest part, bending the tubing without an aversion was difficult and once it gets hot, and it does, it melts the ice and the plastic container if it touches it. Plus condensation on the outside would drip down the tube and contaminate the product, so I added corks to insinuate the tube from the plastic container.

Works like a charm! THIS ONE works like a charm, it was a process. I did eliminate about two feet of tubing, and streamlined it into what you see here. But rest assured there was yelling and screaming and boiling water spewed all over the kitchen more than once.

I strongly recommend this little endeavor to anyone who makes their own oils or incense. I recently took over growing my own Sage supply and grow it with a little magic and love. This has an effect on the finished product, it's potency and effectiveness. I think it's important not just to do magic, but also to grow it. Blessed Be.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Behold the Power of the Papa Goddess...

So, just a quick note to announce that my beautiful, sexy, intelligent, wife and personal Goddess has started her first blog, I am so proud...and yes the potato salad IS that good!

I posted my Samhain paean now because I'll be at the prison all day tomorrow and the next few days will be worse than the last few days. and after this weekend I will be catching up on homework, LOTS of homework!

So Happy Samhain to all you Pagans, we'll be sure to dance naked in the forest for you!

Blessed Be.

Samhain









From Summer Wheat to Samhain meat
and crimson leaves at Pagan feet
with the third harvest now complete
another turn of the wheel we meet

Come the shroud of summers end
pumpkin lantern gourds impend
we set the season tools to mend
we light balefires to spirits wend

We lay to rest the seed and stock
we cast the circles etched in chalk
We lay the plate where spirits walk
we dance and chant till spirits talk

We gather here at hallowed ground
bearing stones to cairn the mounds
Kneeling near the placards found
we harken to their hallowed sounds

Volvitur In Rota!



Text Copyright Joseph Merlin Nichter 2006

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eight more Swords

So, in my Seminary class We're reading The Other Side of Virtue by Brandon Myers. In the forth movement he writes about Honour and Virtue found in classic Greek and Roman themes. Towards the end he moved into more modern literature including Tolken and Rowling.

He asserts that the ring represents power without responsibility and goes on about the simple happy lives of Hobbits, and how that wholeness mentality leads to inner happiness which is why they are not lured by the ring.

In the second book Living with Honor by Emma Orr, we covered the dualism of western culture and Pagan concept of wholeness. Unity. Dualism has a need to polarize things, creating conflict, thus elitism and the illusion Power is achieved.

Whats funny to me is the perpetuation of dualism by elitist.

" Your worshiping Satan! " Umm no, I believe that we are ALL talking to the same divine providence. "No! Your worshiping Satan!" Umm no, I don't believe in satan, that's your religion, not mine. But thats ok, we can still be friends. "No! You don't need to believe in satan to worship him and do his evil work"

I must be bad, in order for them to be good. Now who's sacrificing?

But in the defense of Christianity, I see it more and more from Pagans too. BTL Wiccans who sneer us American Traditions, after all their the one true Wicca. And other Pagans who think Wiccans are all Harm None, warm fuzzy, passive vegans who are not real Pagans.

This card is not restricted to religion. I can apply racial, economic and political themes. Perhaps that's what the different swords are...

I see that us and them in this card. The castle in the background, where the elite repose. Notice the steep banks, how they create that island effect. Your either inside the castle with them or your in the wasteland below.

Why? Why was she ostracized? Because of what she was? Or because of what she was not? Who's sacrificing?

*Note to self: be careful with your unconditional happiness, it's a threat to people who are better than you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eight of Swords

I've been staring at this card for days, not sure what to write and honestly too busy. But also because I wasn't sure about my first impression. After all this time I have come back full circle to where I started from, circumambilation is helpful because perspective makes all the difference in the worlds.

So, lets go with the obvious, restriction. The eight swords form a boundary. Containment. But the eight swords elude to eight sword barers. A group of people who have come together to contain someone. In certain circles *no pun* we'd call it hoodwinked and cable-towed. I recognize them as symbols of ignorance, enforced by an outer group.

My first thought was Christianity.

This Sunday past I gave a Sabbaths class, on the wheel of the year. In class I explained about assimilated traditions and holidays. Every wounder why we hide eggs to celebrate the resurrection of Christ? Assimilated traditions. When your God can't compete with a Pagan holy day, which is usually a party, and attached to an act of nature like a solstice or equinox what do you do? You assimilate it. Keep the party, HOST the party and change the theme.

Someone in the class mentioned the problems she has had with Christians attacking her with accusations of devil worship. I thought of this card. Again.

But as I sit here now, I shift my focus and project my perspective to another angle. Motivation. Why? Why keep this person contained and restricted? What would a group of eight or eight hundred or eight thousand or million, have to gain by keeping someone bound in ignorance?

My first thought is power, achieved through elitism.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ace of Leaves, from the Joe Tarot

Back in August I did a post about Death. In that post I shared my experiences with the death of my Grandmother and how my family approaches the subject. We use leaves. Not just for death, but for life. And as my daughter has just taught me, the applications are limitless.

My family got together a bought my daughter a horse some time ago. Like most little girls, it was her soul mate... until the first time she got bucked off.

The first time she got bucked off, it only broke her heart. The second time it broke her confidence, in the horse and in herself. So became scared of the horse, terrified.

I tried to give her time to recover, but she didn't seem to be. She stopped asking to go to the stables and soon stopped talking about the horse all together. I was patient, I waited as long as I could, all the while making the trips to visit, care and exercised him alone. I didn't mind, I love horses too.

So time ran out, I took her out to the stables for a visit. I explained to her that it wasn't fare to the horse to be left here alone. I told her that she had a choice to make.

Get back on or give it up.

There are lots of little girls out there who would love to have a horse. If your not going to ride him and visit him and take care of him, let him go to a better home. I told her to take a few days to decide.

A week later we returned to the stables to finish the talk. She showed no fear. She ride him and when he tried to stop or go another way, she took control and took charge, she never flinched, not once. She rode better than she had ever ridden, ever.

I was speechless. The good, proud kind of speechless. Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said. On the ride home the silence was loud. Finally, I turned to her to explode with questions. She was already looking at me, with that big Cheshire cat grin, she was just waiting for me to ask.

She cut me off... "you wanna know how I did it?!?!" "YES!" I burst aloud. She explained that after we returned home from the last trip, when I had given her the choice, she went into the back yard and sit beneath our "family tree". While she was there thinking about it all, a leaf dropped from the tree and fell next to her. She knows the story of our family, Grandma, and death very well and recognized this as a sign. She said it was Gramma, that gave her the advice.

She took the leaf, and cried on it. She rubbed her tears into the leaf, with it, all of her fears. Then she took the leaf and put it into a jar and kept it in her room. Every day, several times a day she would hold the jar and watch the leaf, and her fears, as they disintegrated. Wilting and waning away. She said by the time the leaf was gone so where all her fears of the horse. Now she bugs me every day after school to go to the stables.

I'm not sure but I think this qualifies as Hereditary Magic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Living Altar, another card from the Joe Tarot

So, my sis, AKA My GAL, gave me a greater gift than she may have realized at the time. She gave me a small potted Sage plant on one of her visits.

With my background in Native Traditions and Witchcrafts, sage is a staple, but I've never grown it before... Hmmmm... there's an idea.

So, in my last post I write about some changes I have my in my lifestyle. One of those changes is my daily adoration, which we in my Tradition call *Gating* or the popular verb *to Gate*.

I have recently rededicated myself to the daily practice and am "inflaming myself in prayer". But more importantly, I have taken up this new campaign OUTSIDE.

And this small factor has changed everything.

After my daily adoration, I got into the habit of watering my sage plant, just felt like the right time and state of mind to perform such a task.

I started thinking about my future uses for the sage and the *quality of it* since I am growing it myself. I figured the more I put into it, the more I would get out. It occurred to me to use *more gooder water* so I began using our Brita filter and simply blessing the water. Then I got the bright idea to *charge* the water so I started using my favorite singing bowl.

I have a few prayers in my sleeve and with my primitive technology, I infuse them into the water and then sing the bowl. If you fill it up to just the right spot, it will make the water bubble like a jacuzzi!!! That's a good sign. I pour about half of the charged water as an offering and the rest is applied to the leaves by hand. I rub water onto the leaves and wand sprinkle the rest.

So, I am no expert when it comes to plants but it sure as hell is making a difference! The small sage plant has exploded and I will be performing the transplant procedure soon. I swear when I begin to sing the bowl now you can see the plant shake and vibrate too! Looking forward to my first harvest of sage and testing the potency of it's yield. Thanks Sis!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Hanged Man Again

"When I see a man hanging from a tree, with that look on his face, I recognized it" I recognize the look, as pure awareness. It's not a hard thing to achieve as it is hard to maintain. That's where the self sacrifice comes in.

When I lived in Portland Oregon, I was among other things a Horse and Carriage driver. It was the perfect job for a country Pagan working in the big city for the first time.

While working with horses I learned about a device called a twitch, I looks like a sort of nut cracker but longer. You grip the horses lip between the handles and twist, the purpose of course is to cause pain.

The reason for causing the pain is that a horse can only think about one thing at a time. So if you need to distract a few hundred pounds of animal instinct while your doing something to it like dressing a wound, you pinch his lip first.

Our problem with awareness is our perceptions or preconceptions. We're so busy thinking that we don't feel anything. Usually on purpose because many of us don't want to feel, it can be painful. So we apply our own little twitches, but don't actually get any work done behind the scenes.

Television is a big twitch. Don't want to do that thing your supposed to be doing, flip on the boob tube and twitch the channels. I realized that when eating, while watching TV, I consume up to three time more food and don't remember or taste a thing. I realized I have quite a few more twitched than I'd like to admit, the subject of these twitches is almost as embarrassing as the number of them.

So as a result, I performed the necessary ritual to establish a clear line of communication with what some would call their HGA. I wouldn't, and in fact don't, I avoid labeling as much as possible to avoid giving the nature of it away, as promised. But I digress.

So I sought counsel regarding my personal twitches and made plans to terminate certain spiritual practices because I felt they were causing the twitch. The response was *no, don't turn it off, turn it up, full blast and tear the knob off. The only way out is through. Commitment.*

So in the spirit of the Hanged Man, I began fasting. Nothing but water for over two days, then small portions of rice, raw vegetables and fruits. Slowly leading up to small portions of fish or chicken. In addition to what I eat, how I eat is equally important. One meal a day is a sacred meal.

The meal is usually rice, kemshi, and an egg or chicken and a glass of water. What makes it sacred is eating it. The water is blessed, the grain is blessed then set to cook. there is purposeful grace in the minor preparations. I set my place outside in the yard. My ritual tools are a wooden bowl, and a utensil set my mom sent me, made out of bamboo. I rolled my eyes when I got it, but as always, she knew, she always knows, welcome to my childhood. There is some intangible quality to eating with earthy wares.

So the Army trains you how to shoot, kill, blow things up and eat fast. Really fast. If you want to survive basic training you learn to eat fast and efficiently or you starve. I never starved. But undoing the military training has been a difficult and ongoing process. Eating slow is HARD.

Dan Millman is author of *Way of the Peaceful Warrior: a book that changes lives* and it was just that, a book that changed my life. In it he writes about eating with grace, like a moving meditation, Thai Che of dining.

Perfect posture, breathe, smell, bite, chew, slowly. Pause. Enjoy. Repeat. Remain focused and conscious of the food in your mouth. Pure Awareness. Without the Twitch. Try it, I dare you.

This is an act of Communion.

I have returned to the philosophy and practice of *sacrificing daily indulgences, to provide a service* and the signals are already coming in clearer.







Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Hanged Man

When I see a man hanging from a tree, with that look on his face, I recognized it. As a man who has made many sacrifices, my first thought is *...I don't ever know where to start...* So I guess I'll just go in order.

Pipe Carriers of some traditions are required to live a rather strict lifestyle in some aspects. There are social, dietary and religious taboos in place to maintain a certain concept of purity.

They sacrifice daily indulgences, to provide a public service.

This purity is required for some who are keepers of a sacred object, used to communicate with the divine, on behalf of the people. To achieve and maintain the purity was one of my greatest challenges, because I took it as seriously as a heart attack. The object is a Chanupa, the sacred pipe. The stone pipe bowl represents our mother earth and the long wooden phallic pipe stem of father sky. They are mated and smoked in an act of communion, the same way Wiccans place the Blade into the Chalice and then drink from it and for the same reasons.

Do you see a pattern forming here?

Each year this priest hood of public service gathers for the Sun Dance, *right around summer solstice. Pipe Carriers become Sun Dances, for four days and nights, for some, without food, water or sleep. Dancing inside a huge circular arbor, facing the phallic tree in the center. This tree of life if used as an antenna for talking to the creator. They dance and prey for their people.

The tree was selected, ritually cut down, but never touching the ground, it is carried by the dancers to the arbor where a hole has been prepared for it's reception. So just to draw some of you a birds eye picture... *big skating arena size circle, big hole in the middle... big long tree moves into circle and enters, "erected" into hole...*

Do you see a pattern forming here?

At some point the dancers chest is pierced, two small vertical cuts a made and a small wooden peg is threaded through the flesh like a belt loop. A leather thong or rope that was tied to the tree before it was erected, so you can tie the loop around the wooden peg, to lean back and relax a bit after dancing for so long. This is why it's a serious as a heart attack.

They physically tie them selves with an *umbilical cord* to the antenna. Leaning back, stretching the skin, pain purifies the mind beyond comprehension...

This is a sacred space.

And like birth, it's painful because you don't get to cut the cord, the only way out is through. You just gatta lean back and break loose. Hows that for a right of passage?

So, when I see a man hanging from a tree, with that look on his face, I recognized it.

I'd like to show you my scars, but I can't, I never pierced. The Army had strict policy against it at the time, and I'm am lucking I was allowed to attend at all. I have mixed feeling about it, my pride wishes I could say it did it, and I wanted to *prove* myself to myself, that I could do it.

And I wanted that sacred space.

I still have the Pipe, it was an unconditionally permanent commitment. But I don't "carry" it anymore, I lost that purity in Iraq.

But I have earned my scars from that Sun Dance.

So when I see a man hanging from a tree, with that look on his face, I recognized it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More or Less Justice

I can appreciate the concept that Justice is blind, but I have realized that one perhaps one the biggest problems with society today it that there is a difference between what is Right or Wrong and whats Legal.

Legality has divorced humanity of its morality.

Too often we pre-contemplate our actions, because we're not sure. An angel appears on your shoulder asking "should you?" and a demon on the other "can you? Legally?" Here's a hint, if you have to justify it by labeling it as *not against the law* there's a problem.

Too often we do not contemplate enough or at all. Because we don't know or we don't care. We're in a hurry, we're insensitive, we're detached, plugged into another world of our own to distract us from the here and now.

Which by the way misses you, needs you and would like to see you again soon. So take ten minutes out of your rat race of instant drive thru self gratification and take a good look in the mirror at yourself and what your doing or *not doing.

Another Chaplain gave me a copy of this worksheet he created for inmates. It's just ten questions, like what effect will this action have on... or how would my family, Mom, Dad, Wife or Child feel if they saw me do this. I think legality was the last one.

I think he is a brilliant guy, and I asked him how can we get copies of this for the staff? How about the whole city? County? State? Government? Politicians? I throw down the bullspit card quite easily and often. I thrown down the this one even more. Not for others, for me.

Each one of us is sitting on our own thrown of self government, between the pillars of our perceptions, guarding the Vail of our inner motivation. Each one of us holds our own scales of Justice, to judge our own actions by, not everyone else's. Each one of us holds our own ethical Excalibur. We can use that sword as an Athame to cast circles around ourselves, to better contain our own energies when we need to.

Court is adjured.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Justice

This is an interesting subject at the moment. Lots of that going around, lots of it in the air. My wife and a close friend are taking paralegal classes, I am taking a grueling Boundaries and Ethics class, and there's always something going on at the prison.

The latter seems most precedent for the moment. The prison like all prisons is full of inmates. Convicted Felons. As I said before about my beginning as a Wiccan Chaplain, I didn't think I was suited well for prison work. I idea of inmates complaining about their cable TV being out makes my skin crawl.

But I do think they are entitled to religious rights. Oddly on the inside it seems to be quite the opposite. Just like the rest of us, the inmates face religious discrimination on a regular basis.

However this varies from prison to prison and state to state. My prison is great. I was sought out by the administration and welcomed with open arms. I have only faced relatively minor problems with a few select individuals. The biggest one was Chapel use and it worked out for the best in the long run.

So on a regular basis inmates complain about religious discrimination by custody staff. During one of my services last month the Chapel clerk tapped on the window and motioned for an inmate. I waved him in and he explained that a guard had recalled an inmate. The inmate took a deep breath, exhaled and slumped over for a moment of preparation, shook his head, said his goodbyes and left without commenting.

a few minutes later the same thing happened again. Then again. But the names where not real inmate names, like Gaylord Falker. My congregation commented on a guard we'll call Rubeus. They explained that Rubeus was an extreme evangelical Christan who made their lives a living hell. To include verbal harassment and routinely taking their Pagan books and religious materials without cause. every inmate in his building has had something taken by this guard who is not going to have any devil worshipping in his building.

This has been burning a hole in me. You CANNOT deny ME my first amendment rights and justify it with YOUR faith.

In my welcome letter, I include a statement of purpose. It says "...to provide and facilitate religious programs and services to the minority faith population on behalf of the facility.

Meaning to the inmates for the prison. So I had another cool idea. I have created a new service to provide to the inmates for the prison. Sacred Text and Materials Protection I call it STAMP.


I researched the regulations pertaining to this issue, yes ALL of them. and came up with an identification system for my congregations religious materials, complete with a tracking number.

A sticker identifying the material as religious, each sticker is numbered and logged in a registry. The reason for tracking is two fold, it's an oversight to prevent inmate tampering and if a guard decides to confiscate them or throw them away, the inmate has supporting documentation of the property.

On a positive note, I feel it necessary to mention that not all guards and staff share this attitude. Many honestly just don't know, understand or could careless as long as you got "chrono" or the documentation to back it up.

Here's a really great book, written by one of my favorite bloggers. It was a gift from a close friend. Thank you both.

*click on the picture for close up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Seven More Swords

So looking back at my work, I looked back at the card. I recognize most of my initial feelings where old, repressed emotions and unexpressed frustrations.

Like the WitchDoctor post, in which I failed to mention the Challengers in that story in detail, by design. Instead I chose to highlight my personal growth from the experiences.

That particular occasion, the first of many, resulted in the birth of "WitchDctorJoe". So if my Challenger is reading this, thank you.

A lot has happened since then. I had gone looking for a camp of my peers, only to be kicked out by Grand Poobahs teaching candle colors. And leaving others with a grin so big, I thought it would get me pulled over.

I know that may sound snobbish and maybe it is. But anyone who knows me, knows I am not a snob. I just have my own standards. My Witchcraft is a religious form and I can never compromise that personal integrity.

So I built my own tent.

That was all I did, I built my own tent and made room for more. If you built it, they will come... and they did. This morning I looked at this card again, but I saw my camp, and thought of all the people who have come and gone. I thought about what they brought with them, what they took, and what they left behind. In every round our camp came out stronger. Tempered.

*Never give up your Sword.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seven of Swords

Stop Thief! Stop thief! That's how it looks, right? But no, it's not stealing if they're your swords. Long ago a sword was laid on the altar to show authorization or the consent of the local authority. Your charter.

I skirted the subject of authority in my Hermit's Beard post. The authority of a group validating me. Accreditation works in a similar fashion, we all gather together and validate ourselves. The elite.

So, I see here a man, sneaking away from camp, carrying away five swords. But I get the feeling that he is not stealing, just leaving quietly, so not to attract attention or start a conflict, but not necessarily an unlawful act. Civil disobedience.

What quickly comes to my mind is me, quietly leaving the camps I have been apart of, and still am to some effect. In the past I allowed myself to become subject to the "Authority" of others, both camps and leaders. During those times, I realized that these people are not qualified to teach, lead or supervise me. Although these are the roles and titles they often take without earning.

I see the camp as those groups, I have slipped out and away from the heard and gone out independently. The swords are a symbol of authority. They have theirs, they had mine. I gave it to them when I allowed them to regulate me, I subscribed to it, willingly. I am not stealing, these are my swords, and I have taken them back. Never give up your sword. Never.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Page of Wands


Ah I remember it well. It's like I posed for this one. I had already put a few years into the Army when I saw the Pyramids. I had been to Basic training, advanced individual training, Sapper School, Engineer School, Demolitions School and Air Assault School. There wasn't anything I couldn't do, I was an official bad ass, an Army of One.

My neighbor and closest friend was a flight medic in Special Operations attached to Fifth Group, Special Forces. He was a single parent, his wife had left him and his son. So what does superman do with his kid when duty calls? You call on a friend. At any given moment, usually around three a.m. was the average, he would knock at my door.

Not much was ever said, it was too late or too early. He couldn't tell me anyways, or he didn't know himself the details. Where? why? Classified. How long? Indefinite. Even his son knew the drill, he knew where the pillow and comforter was, waiting to do their job too. Along with the young man came a briefcase. The contents gave me emergency custody, financial access and control. Executor of his estate.

So by the time I was deployed to Sinai, Egypt I had my packet ready for Special Forces Selection. I was gonna be a hero too. Save the world. My contribution. I just need to pass the E-4 board and become promotable. Time. Just a matter of time. It was the first time I was away from my kids and the pain was unbearable. I thought it would ware off. Just a matter of time.

The cool thing about the Multinational force and Observers is all the other Armies. I spent most of my time hanging out with the Fijians, they're so awesome. Every evening after a long hot day of whatever we were supposed to be doing, we would circle up on the beach of the red sea to drink cava and talk. Sometimes we talked about chicks, like schoolboys in a locker room. Other times we talked about the universe, like we were hitchhikers.

The Army has a Global Positioning System, and trains Soldiers on how to use the device call a "plugger". After a day of showing off our technological superiority, which they called "cross training", in the spirit of diplomacy, of course, We poured cava and talked about the training. I had asked one of the Fijian officers what he thought of the plugger. He thought it was a fun toy.
He explained that his soldiers were taught to navigate by compass, and more importantly, without one.

He said our dependency on such things was dangerous because it makes us lazy, we forget the basics and when our toys break, when the batteries run out, we will be lost.

"...technology divorced humanity from nature."

He said anything, everything man made is flawed and temporary. The plugger works by talking to satellites in the sky. Man made stars. Those fake stars will fail someday and fall. But those real star there, will not. Their batteries will never run out, "I have more faith in what the creator has made and I will never get lost". Fijian Basic Training.

All I could think of was how bad I wanted to share this moment with my kids. I remember thinking my tears were not as salty as they should have been and I need to hydrate. I remembered seeing tears in the eyes of my friend, the single father. I never want to hand anyone a briefcase of my estate, so I can go be a hero.

I never submitted my packet and I have never regretted it. I came home from Egypt with a new career goal in mind. Parenthood, my contribution to saving the world. Yes I remember it well, when I was a Page of Wands.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Nine of Wands

So in the spirit of the birth of a notion , I once again jumped on the band wagon of a great idea. All my friends agreed to do a piece on "the myth of guilt". I thought it would be a great challenge because of my views on guilt, or lack of.

I wasn't raised Christian or Catholic, but new age, or Neo-Pagan. The running joke is was that when I was grounded that also meant absolutely no astral projection! I was taught a lot of things at an early age, guilt was not one of them. Thanks Mom.

Ninety-nine point nine nine percent of the Wiccans and Pagans I know are recovering from Catholicism, Christianity or one of the many denominations thereof. Regardless, they are all recovering from the myth of guilt.

It was the first thing that came to me when I heard the title, but I can't write much about it, I'm not in that form of recovery. The second theme of guilt I thought of was something brought to light in my seminary class. We're reading another great book titled "the book of NO" by Susan Newman. She writes about the myth of guilt associated with saying no. She gives valuable incites in the social taboo of refusal, something else Mom didn't teach me.

I started to think. "...well I just don't do guilt..." specially after being married to a "professional victim" for several years. I am a pretty good person, at least I try to be and I keep my intentions pure and in any issue my side of the street is clean. I've got to look at myself in the mirror every morning. So what do I write about? Nothing, until it's time, so I had not, until now.

But last night my own personal Goddess and I went out for dinner and a movie, we saw that new one, Lake view Heights. Pretty decent flick, I'm a huge Samuel L. Jackson fan. So the scene is set in L.A. and one of the undercurrents of the movie is a wildfire. As the conflict between Jackson and the new neighbors escalates the fire draws closer. During one scene, fire fighters combating the blaze and you see the helicopter dropping flame retardant.

When it was finished it turned and flew towards the camera, illustrating the perspective of the man watching, it flies overhead. The rotor blades scourging me with guilt in Dolby 3.1 surround sound. I made the mistake of closing my eyes and I saw them. We had all been baptized in fire by the time we arrived at Al Assad air base in western Iraq. It's the last stop on your way home.

But we had a few months to go so they were sending us out for R&R trips. Some of us who has seen the worst and been there the longest were at the top of the list. I am Air Assault qualified, meaning I jump out of moving helicopters and dangle down a rope into combat, and I loved it. I have no fear of heights which made my Moms life a living hell.

So why wouldn't I get in the chopper taking us on vacation from that hellhole? I still don't know. But I didn't, so they just shrugged and asked me to drive them to the pick up zone. It was a fun ride, music up, everyone singing, like that opening scene from Three kings, yeah just like that.

"no don't bring me back any beer, you guys just drink a shit load for me".

They said they would, but they didn't. The helicopter was shot down just outside Baghdad airport. For a few hours people thought I was dead to because my name was still on the list. So that's me in the picture, standing at the memorial of my brothers, the survivor.

Guilt is not a myth.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Order of the Pentacle

Sgt. Patrick Stewart was a Wiccan soldier serving in the Nevada National Guard who was killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

He wanted the Pentacle as an emblem of faith on his military headstone. But the Department of Veteran Affairs would not approve the symbol.

This controversy brought attention to a battle that had been raging for over ten years.
That's how long Wiccan and Pagan groups had been applying to get the Pentacle approved, they were not denied, rather they were delayed with red tape explanations about how the whole application process was being restructure and no emblems were being approved until the process was complete.

Meanwhile, a bunch of other emblems were approved, including the the Atheist, Humanist, a Buddhist symbol, several versions of the cross and some others. In a future post I will share some of my experiences of providing minority faith religious service while in the Army. Good times.

So, Selina Fox of Circle Sanctuary and many others started the pentacle quest campaign. Thanks to the perseverance of Sgt.
Patrick Stewart's wife and countless others, we finally won. In 2007 the Department of Veterans Affairs finally approved the Pentacle as an emblem of faith that can be placed on headstones and grave markers the VA issues to honor deceased veterans.

I am a proud member of the Order of the Pentacle which is a veterans association of Wiccans and other Pagans who served in the US Armed Forces and who use the Pentacle as their emblem of faith.

The Order of the Pentacle was established on Veterans Day, November 11, 2006 to support equal rights for Wiccan/Pagan troops and veterans. i am proud to say I was one of the first members. And hope someday to receive my own Wiccan medal of honor. Maybe get pinned by Selena or Mrs Stewart.



Today is the third anniversary of the death of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, Private ceremonies of remembrance were held today across the country. I ask you to take part in your own way by dressing a candle for him and all my brothers and sisters in uniform.

I don't support the wars, but I support the troops, and if you can't stand behind your troops, I invite you to stand in front of them.

Peace by force, Sgt. Nichter, out.

P.S. Those are my dog tags in the picture, they carry my name, social, blood type and religion, which says "other" because I can fight and die for my country, but my religion was not "a real religion". I keep them safe, because someday I will be able to show my grand kids and tell them how it "was" for us way back now.


The Hermit's Beard

I think it's the beard. Another stereotype that surfaces when I look into the card is the concept that old is authentic. I see it in the Pagan community. My tradition or linage is traced back to Gardner, therefore it's not only authentic, it's the one true Wicca.

My tradition is decedent from the secret knowledge of the twinkie as set forth by the ancient Grand Poobah himself. My great grandmother was a witch, it's been in my family since we survived the burning times, and we keep them, our most dangerous secrets, but I can tell you.

I think it's the beard that gives the validating concept of age. Ancient seems to make knowledge... more. I will be the first to admit my attraction to it. As a Mason I love the heritage, the history. I went thought the same initiations as the founding fathers of this country and hundreds of famous important people have. I have attached myself to them, and they validate me. Don't they?

Some of my magic is very old, yes. But some of my most powerful magic is only a few days old. But somehow the new is not "authentic or real" because I freshly crafted it. I have tested this theory in my classes and litergies. I explain and promote a concept that is indipendanly valid and briliant on it's own merit. It never fails, someone will ask where did this come from? What culture has been hiding it away for all these years? How old? How long is it's beard?

What difference does it make? What if I told you that I made it up? or does it sound better if I say I developed it over years of practice and study all on my own without the help of the priest kings. Or my Grandmother taught me, which she did. What if I share with you the secret truth that the spirit of Gardner came to me in a vision, or no, wait, what if Gardner told Buckland who told Harry who told John who told Todd who told Robert who told me? But don't tell anyone I told you or they'll make me shave my beard.

Which by the way, in my opinion, is peach fuzz, mediforacly speaking.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Hermit

Hmmm... of course the first impression is a classic stereo-archetype, Merlin. The magician, the sage, the old wise man of the woods, recluse and withdrawn. But it seems to be a necessary rite and many schools of thought.

One of my three text books for this semesters' seminary class is "Living with Honor, A Pagan Ethics" by Emma Restall Orr. I am glad to be taking the class as I would've never read her book otherwise. She's a great writer and during my reading assignment I came across a simply profound statement.

"...technology divorced humanity from nature."

Profound for me because it puts into words what I so passionately feel, yet so feebly attempt to express. This is why the Hermit withdraws from civilization and society, to separate himself from that divorce, to take himself out of a deconstructive equation. The lack of background except at the bottom and the position of his head give the impression he is looking down from a mountain top. Perspective. Higher consciousness?

In many mystery schools light represents hidden knowledge. The hexagram star in the lamp for example would be the hidden knowledge of the cabala and the Golden Dawn which the designer of the deck was a member of. The Hermit uses the light, or hidden knowledge from the lamp, or mystery school to find his way and illuminate his path and his view of the world which he observes from his perch.

In the native tradition this is similar to the Hanbleceya ceremony. A vision quest not to be taken lightly. I have only done this ritual the few times it was necessary and have had unforgettable experiences each time, which were cleaved from great personal sacrifices. My first Seminary.

My Witchcraft is a primitive technology. I am a Witch Doctor working with the sticks and stones I find along the way. Both of which are good for starting fires. Light, whenever I may need it.






Monday, September 22, 2008

On turns the wheel...

In 1974, seventy-three Witches came together and founded the American Council of Witches. They adopted a document outlining the principal beliefs of Wicca.

Number 1: We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the moon and the seasonal quarters and cross-quarters.

Those seasonal quarters and cross-quarters being the eight Sabbaths, spokes, in the wheel of the year.

In my tradition when we celebrate each of the eight Sabbaths there is a prescription that is read aloud. Just like a bardic paean, with the lessons on the lyrics. While being recited an act or reenactment of the season is performed. To teach, to learn and to remember.

Mabon

Equal day and equal night
Equal dark and equal light
Let us see with equal sight
and harken to the harvest rite
come, ye thankful people come
the wheel now turned to equal sun
dance and beat the harvest drum
for the witches' feast has now begun
with lavender ribbon blue and green
we crown the harvest king and queen
with naked vines apon the brow
they grace the labors of the plow
and at the cairn mounds now we stand
with fresh cut willow wands in hand
to shed a tear for the past unplanned
and bid thee well in Summerlands

Volvitur In Rota!

On turns the wheel, happy Mabon everyone!

I am not in the habit of bragging, but I do like to take credit for my work, the altar sits proudly in our dining room all year round. I took the picture just this morning, I really like the contrast. The prescription is from The Auguris, the Veritas Wicca Book of Shadows,, copyright 2005, all rights reserved.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

One of Kayaks, a card from the Joe Tarot

I few weeks ago I got a call from my mom. "What color do you like?" what? why? I like different colors for different things. It depends on what we're talking about.

So mom explained how everything I do is for everyone else but me. How all I ever talk about is the clients, the kids, the inmates, and the bills! I don't think I have ever mentioned it before, but my day job is a care provider.

I'm an Administrator for a residential care facility for developmentally disabled. which is why I blog so much, I work at home. I could complain about the morning commute from my bedroom *open a door* to my office, but I'll tough it out for now.

So between the care home, the family of six, the Coven, and the Prison visits and the mail *oh gods the mail* I don't do a lot of me time. Mom knew if she sent me money I wouldn't spend it on me, so mom didn't send me money, mom wanted to know what color Kayak I wanted. Did I ever mention how awesome my Mom is?

For those of you who may not know, the magic of a Kayak is that it only has one seat. *Sigh* So in the spirit of high school hooky, I ditched my seminary homework *again* and headed to the lake. I took this picture, it's my other Seminary classroom.

Blue, mom. I like my Thursdays in Blue.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two more Pentacles

So, I was reading the latest edition of Pan Gaia Magazine, I love the Toe-to-Toe articles the best. In this addition the topic is Pagan standard Time. In my last entry I applied the two of pentacle to the duality of the Pagan world view. And gave the example of the lunar cycle Vs. the prison schedule. Well brace yourself, this little dancing clown is about to smack you in the face with Two more Pentacles.

First of all, Pagan Standard Time is a knock off of Indian Time. One can make the argument that Native Americans are Pagans, which is irrelevant and digressive. Excuse me while I explore this irony.

So, for those unfamiliar with either term, they basically mean "whenever". Whenever everyone arrives, whenever the moon is full or my favorite whenever a wild hair crawls up someones ass. I like to think of myself as a free spirit but I am not. I am a former free spirit. Now I am a responsible adult with a spirit that is freed according to a schedule of eligibility.

The Herald begins each one of our rituals by ringing the bell loudly followed by a proclamation. Part of that proclamation instructs you to "divest your vices". This means turn off your cell phone Ipod palm pilot plug in players! Turn it ALL off, unplug yourself, and for just a little while, tune out the rest of the world and tune into yourself and what WE are doing "Here and Now". Which by the way is the real Pagan Standard Time. And those of you who experience it are blessed.

But there is a standard of time worth ranting about here.

I am taking class at Cherry Hill Seminary and I love this place. It's the real deal they're not teaching candle colors or calling quarters, we're talking college level classes. This semester I am taking Boundaries and Ethics and confess I should be doing homework right now, but it's hard and this is much easier.

Although I think I need more work on my ethics than my boundaries, I am learning a lot just a few days into the course. I think boundaries are really an important aspect of this issue and having hosted monthly rituals and Sabbaths here in my home for several years now I've learned boundaries. There are many issues we face when working in a small group and B&E, boundaries and ethics can easily turn into B&E, breaking and entering.

Time has been an issue in the past, not for us but for them. The newbie first timer *Irab* who wants to take pictures of everything and freaks out when you blow out the candles, but answers the cell phone they didn't turn off, during the great rite!!! Aaaaaaghghghg!!!! Sigh. But I digress.

We are scheduled to let go of consensus reality and go with the flow at 7 pm. You don't call the church and ask preacher to hold off Sunday mass for another hour or so because your too flaky to make on time do you? No you don't and they wouldn't, because it's not fare to the rest of the parishioners that your a flake or your not and you just got a flat tire.

Yes, I can and do compare what we do with any church. We may be in our back yards but we are a church in every sense of the word and in some indescribable ways, more. But that's just my two pens worth.

*I Read A Book*

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two of Pentacles

Hmmm... the first thing that comes to mind is duality. One figure, me, trying to juggle two very different worlds. I have used the analogy of IBM Vs. Macintosh numerous times in the past and in an attempt to ware it out, I'll do it again.

In a previous post Four More Swords, I wrote about my experiences as a Wiccan Chaplain at a state prison and the difficulties we had just getting to use the chapel. As it happened there was really only one person responsible for the interference and discrimination. And as always I somehow managed to Forrest Gump myself into the right place at the right time. (Thank you Tom Hanks)

So, I end up in the right place at the right time, talking to the Secretary of the right person. A really truly nice guy, who makes the mistake of asking me "how's it going?" *Que the Cheshire cat grin* "...well...um...better.... we had some difficulties getting started but things are starting to come around." So of course this sparked a great conversation about the obstacles I had been navigating through. I wasn't complaining, I was reporting improvements, after all, He DID ask me.

So at the right moment, I made the right comments. Stratigery Lieutenant Dan. And in the end it just came down to scheduling. I had explained that I would only be coming twice a month, every two weeks and only need the Chapels for two hours. You could see the math register in his head. Yeah four. When He realized he could fix all this with four hours of chapel time a month in each yard He asked me which days I would come, first and third? or second and forth?

I told him I couldn't say without looking at my calender. So he eyeballed the one on the wall next to him...trading glances... with me... and the calender...there was an awkward silence... which neither one of us understood...

What I meant by my calender was my Lunar calender. Hahahaha. We mark our work on a lunar schedule. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not. I don't know why. So after recovering from the irony of our miscommunication, I took a good long look at scheduling.

So here I am juggling two very different systems of thought. They have always existed. But how do I blend them together? So far I have not. I conduct services at the prison twice a calender month, regardless of the lunar phase because Chapel use must be scheduled. I felt it was more realistic to be included on the schedule than to convince the State to configure an entirely new Pagan ergonomic system. Baby steps.

That's what the ships are in the background. Our journey as Pagans, to the new world. I am not the Wiccan Columbus, but I like to think I'm a shipmate. And that's all I have to say about that.

For now...

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Nightmare before Parenthood

Last Month I wrote a blog about my Conjunctio. We returned to that courtroom again today, but with more confidence and very well dressed.

That does not mean the moments leading up to our entrance where not laced with overwhelming anticipation and anxiety.




"Hurry up! We're going to be late!" Do we really need to be there 45 minutes early? Anticipation.

"No turn in there" Vs. "Let me do the driving" Anxiety.

A portion of our Full moon Ritual is a forum of sharing. Its almost like an AA meeting. "Hi I'm Joe and I'm a Wiccan too..." It's a safe place to share, vent and contemplate. We offer support without judgment. A few months ago my step daughter dropped the bomb on us during this part of our ritual. She announced that she wanted me to adopt her.

There was a pause, the silence seemed to last for several seconds while the messages true meaning sank in, deep. My wife burst into tears, then my daughter, then one at a time, everyone in the circle. Except for me, I'm a guy, we don't cry. I had just got something in my eye. I found my self in the center of several layers of a group huge. Trying to be tough.

So today in the Judges chambers we made it official. Signed, sealed and certified, in triplicate.

"So... can I spank her now?"

Blessed Be.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The tower

I will never forget where I was when it happened. Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I was a assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Infantry Regiment. Their famous for being the first unit in history to parachute into combat. So there's a reputation for being completely insane to live up to, and we all did our best.

The dining facility had two mirror image dining rooms. One being used for eating your three daily squares, the other for shamming. It's an E-4 paradise. I should know, I spent a great deal of time there taking unauthorized breaks. In fact that's where I was when it happened. Shamming.

I had turned on the standard issue wall mounted television to eat by, but every channel had the same picture, two big buildings, towers, one with smoke billowing out of the side of it. It was live and everyone was panicking, speculating what had just happen, and why. The newscaster was talking when I reached up to change the channel and I saw the second plane hit. I was overwhelmed by several waves of goosebumps. You know the ones that make you want to put on a thick winter coat.

I knew instantly, the world had just changed forever.

I ran to the other side, the other dining room where over a hundred soldiers were eating and turned on every TV, by that time it didn't matter which station it was on.

What happened next was equally shocking. I stood watching as everyone else shared my realization. War. everyone had a different response, some hung there heads, some yelled and pounded the table spilling their soda, some held a poker face. Some dropped everything, some left calmly and quietly. Some didn't know what to do.

Within seconds the training kicked in, and everyone instinctively reported to their units for instructions. within minutes there were crowds of uniformed soldiers camouflaging buildings, waiting for a briefing. Hurry up and wait. It's the first thing the Army teaches you, they just don't teach you to do it very well. Fear takes over and insecure speculation spirals out of control.

I heard non-commissioned officers contemplating desertion. Canada... or Mexico. Evacuation plan alpha.

I saw privates right out of boot wringing their hands together, they couldn't wait to prove their manhood by killing someone. To be a hero, just like in the movies.

I have seen it a hundred times since that day. People talk and talk about how tough they are. But when that lightning bolt of reality hits their tower, you see what people are really made of. I am always inspired by some and disappointing by others. You never know which ones are which, or which one you are, until the shit hits the fan.

I will never forget where I was when it happened.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Five of Wands

There are many traditions in the service. This card reminds me of the guidon. The guidon starts at boot camp, it's your platoon flag and pole. You march in formation, EVERYWHERE. The guidon leads the way. The guidon is posted outside whatever building your platoon is occupying, as long as you are in it. It is your group identity, resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

These five men seem to be engaged in non-violent volley. Wands. Air. Speculative thoughts. It may be their individual ideas or the guidons of their encampments, their mystery schools. Or both. One begets another, it's a vicious circle.

On a private list my friends and I regularly engage in this same scene. The moral application of witchcraft? Conditions and standards? What is Magic? A civilized intellectual arena of thoughts. The proving ground of our guidons. I respect anyone who jumps in and gives it a go. It is through this process that we learn not only from each other but how to deal with each other, how to communicate, how to understand and be understood. It promotes growth and builds character. If we do it right. If we do it well.

As long as cooler head prevail, as long as powerful words are skillfully chosen, powerful wisdom can be skillfully applied. Yielding power results. Powerful magic for every camp.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

WitchDoctor

The name is significant. Ironically, many of my first experiences with the civilian Pagan community lacked civility. Mostly would be witch kings warlords. When I first discovered the Pagan network on the web I used my real name for my screen name. It became a target for the ego snipers. You can see it coming, they can't help but smile.

"So... Um... why is your screen name Merlin? Why's up with that? Are you a Wizard or something?"

The smile always wains when I show them my drivers license, they don't know what to do. They just blink a lot. That means it's my turn to smile. I try not too.

So that's my name. But So what! Does that make me what or who I am? Or more? Does it compensate for anything? Does it make me valid or authentic? Does the name give me magical powers? No. Trust me it does not.

Later that same person challenged me to explain or label myself and thereby what it is I do , with ONE word. I think the idea was to limit my vocabulary and provoke title like High Priest, Magician or Wizard rather than an honest response like servant.

It only took a moment to consult my adviser and we cleverly smashed two words together. WitchDoctor. Bifurcated, these two words reflect my craft perfectly. The Doctor is an operative title. If you get a snake bite, there is a treatment. A certain plant you can chew, in doing so the enzymes in your saliva break down the whatever and do something to the plant and when it's applied to the wound it limits the effects of the toxin. Doctor.

But the Witch is speculative, and knows the spell. The ancient words spoken in a hush as the plant is chewed, the spell, the words within your spit, stirred by the vibration of your will, your mouth the living Cauldron. The Witch knows that when that snake coils up, he coils to the right. So when you rub in the pasty cud, you rub it in the opposite way, you uncoil the snake, and it's poison.

The WitchDoctor is both operative and spectulative, the divine union of these two ways.

Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. Magic is the result.