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.