Thursday, December 10, 2009
I go on to explain the terminology in more detail, by "Indian stuff" I mean earth-based religious beliefs and practices, and when I say "White people" I refer to indigenous Europeans. In fact, in March of this year I gave a lecture at Fresno State University's religious anthropology class, where I spoke in depth on the matter.
My wife recorded my talk and we put it on You Tube as a five part series so my friends and family could see me in action, my Mom was so proud. Judging by the statistics, I'm guessing most people only watch the first video and lose interest. But it is the second and third which I feel are actually the best parts, but it's this second clip that is relevant to my post here.
I bring this up in light of "a trend towards definitions of certain Pagan traditions," which has occurred at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions. Ed Hubbard was covering the event and posted this blog on the subject matter of Redefining Paganism.
While I feel incredibly validated by all of this, I must ask myself: At what cost? It seems to me that this concept has been corrupted and twisted to further a less virtuous agenda, which would only serve to fracture the "Pagan" community into even numerous and dysfunctional pieces. I think it creates more problems for us, I think it weakens us further while distancing us from our goals of a greater good.
I personally don't think (hope) it will generate much gravity. Anyone can try to redefine Paganism in anyway they please, but we Pagans as a society, will continue to follow and perpetuate the axioms of our own existence. Which is a fundamental element of Paganism.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
It was not until I took my first class with Cherry Hill Seminary that I realized I was a pretty good writer. And I'm not, I'm just "a good talker." But I write how I talk and people seem to like that, so I'm sticking with it.
I can't believe it's almost been a year since I had a realization, came to a conclusion, and took an obligation. I haven't posted here in a while because I am hard at work fulfilling that oath. And now that this project has finally become a reality, things are in full swing. There is an army of "captive artists" hard at work on the illustrations and I have an editor.
Other than a few friends who are much smarter than me, I haven't had a real editor before. Boy was I missing out. Enter the PenDragon, my own personal grammatical savior. The process so far has been amazing for me. My writing has become more organic, I am learning from the process and evolving as a writer. My last segment didn't have half as many marks as my first, which I have burned to protect the innocent and the guilty.
Not only does the PenDragon offer the valuable service of professional editing, but he possesses the invaluable quality of a Professional Pagan perspective. And you just can't place a dollar value on that type of insight.
One of the labors of my tradition is called "The proper expression of will," I find it hilarious and ironic that by writing a book about that, I am learning to use less profanity. Thanks Steve.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I have noticed over the years that while in polite conversation with Pagans that I seem to be ahead of the crowd when it comes to current events. Whenever talking about religious issues or just hard at work in the rumor mill I just seem to be a wealth of information to others.
Quite often the reply to many of my statements is "Really!?!" which is followed by the Who, what, when, and where conversation. The answer to at least one of those questions has always been "The Wild Hunt."
I have been a long time fan, reader and supporter of Jason Pitzl-Waters, who is a real Jack of all trades within the pagan community, while at the same time being an incredibly professional Pagan. In my relatively limited experience this is incredibly rare and very very appreciated.
The Pagan community has a great need for Pagans like Jason, who provide an invaluable service to us all,for free, because it needs to be done. I just love sitting down at my desk every morning with a hot cup of coffee and clicking in on The Hunt.
This month is the 2009 Wild Hunt Winter Pledge Drive, Which runs from the 16th through the 22nd of this month. When ever possible I look for Pagan vendors to give my business to, and when I see a land mark being built in the Pagan community I contribute, I support, and I pay it forward.
I put my money where my mouth is, how about you?
Friday, November 13, 2009
So far I scored well on my first two exams 100% and a 96%. But my greatest success was my written testimony assignment. I had to write a paper on 1. My life before God, 2. the circumstances surrounding my coming to God and 3. My life since then.
Well this kinda poses a problem for a militant Pagan like myself. In all fairness they did offer an alternative writing assignment for non-Christians, write a paper about why your not a Christian. The assignment does include an insistence that you WILL be graded fairly.
Ummmm...no I don't think so.
I had a problem with the whole thing. I had a hard time believing I would be graded fairly and I had a hard time with the idea of writing a false paper to get the grade I needed, which I am very capable of doing.
So I talk to my wife, my friends and of course my Mommy, and they all agreed. Tell them what they want to hear and pass the class, which I new I had to do. But it REALLY bugged me. And I put off doing the assignment until the very last minute of the very last day.
I once told someone that I have never been a "technically" kind of guy, instead I tend to round life off the closest whole number. But being technical can have some advantages! I managed to answer the questions in the writing assignment honestly, while not actually lying or being dishonest. This is a portion of my assignment about the circumstances surrounding my experiencing "God"
"I served my country with ten years of active duty, during which I was deployed to several countries. My first overseas deployment was to Sinai, Egypt for a six month peacekeeping mission. During my time there I was able to visit many amazing, historical and religiously significant sites such as the Great Pyramids, Petra and the Holy Land. But it was my journey to the top of Mount Sinai that changed my life. I was in an Infantry Unit, well trained and in top physical condition, yet the path was difficult and I wanted to quit several times. But each time I stalled to catch my breath, I felt compelled by an overwhelming urge, I felt myself being called to the top, there was something there I needed to see. What I saw changed my life forever. My first view of the Glory of God’s labor was so emotionally overwhelming that I was brought to my knees. It was there at the door of the Moses Chapel that I knelt in prayer to the Father of Christ for the first time in my life."
This is a picture I found inline, it is the Moses Chapel at the top. The small iron fence on the right saved me from falling and breaking every bone in my body. Yet another save.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Last 4th of July was my first time out of the house in celebration since the war. In equal stride today was my first time out in open celebration of my status as a Combat Veteran.
I used to cringe when people thanked me for my service. "Your welcome, just don't ask me to do it again."
But today was a good day. I went to Applebees for lunch, where the Veterans eat for free! I walked in sporting my Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran hat and my tan Dicky shirt with all my old Army patches sewn on it. As I was lead to my table I was met with eye contact and a nod for every guy in the room, who were all wearing their hats and patches.
Its an interesting exchange, through eye contact. We watch each other watching each other. Looking at patches and pins searching for the one we know, the one we earned, the one that hurt. That's why we're so quiet about it, its like holding a wide open punch bowl filled to the rim.
Always afraid we're going to spill ourselves all over a crowded room.
We keep it pretty simple. On my way out I saw his patch and he saw mine, I wore mine in the last war but he's had his since the second one. I stopping to shake his hand I said "Howdy Sir" and he replied "How'ya doing Sergeant?" There was too much so I just nodded.
I have not been called Sergeant in over six years, it gave my soul goose bumps.
His wife asked if we were in the Army together and I busted out laughing. Until he said yes.
Afterwords I went out to my truck and spilled my punch.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Often times when people think their homes are haunted they want the home cleansed and or blessed. This is the type of service I provide, I pray for people.
When you get into the realm of Ghost and Spirits, Death comes along for the ride. And with Death comes religion. And so I follow closely after.
Last week my friend Anne who founded the TCPS was interviewed by the Fresno Bee. She called and invited me to the photo shoot for the article, wanting to include me in the hubbub. I was again honored by the invitation.
We had fun, the Photographer was a professional who made us look really good, despite the fact that a few of us showed up in black to be photographed at night *Oops*. He took lots of pictures warning us that he had no control over what they would decide to use.
So low and behold first thing this morning we found my mugshot on the front page of the Talk section. I felt bad that the long standing group I just joined got jilted out of their well deserved moment in the spotlight of acknowledgment. But thankfully they were happy with the article and thought I did a good job of representing the group, as it turns out they were quite proud to have a priest and professional Chaplain within their ranks.
My only hope is that my photo (click on it) captioned "Minority Faiths Chaplain" sparks some interest in my own personal campaign for religious pluralism. More to come on that soon.
Trick or Treat!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
This all made for a really cool childhood full of Tarot, Meditation, Creative Visualizations, and Reiki. Except way back then it was not commonly known as "Reiki" everyone just called it Energy or Aura Work. I liked to call it using the Force.
The upside was the open mindedness of my parents, Sex was a beautiful, natural thing, nothing to be ashamed of and I was taught respect and responsibility, instead of suppression, shame and guilt.
The down side was Mom planting "programmed crystals" everywhere, my friend once found one in the glove box on my car when I first got my license. She had hidden it there to "make sure I keep my eyes on the road and my hand on the wheel", she insisted it would make me a better driver. The worst part of having a Witch for a Mom is that you never get away with anything, EVER!
So I was given books through the years, that passed Mom's scrutiny and were intended to elevate my conciseness. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman was a big one that changed my life. Later when I was in the Army she mailed me another called The Four Agreements by Miguel Angel Ruiz, and this one had anther profound impact on me, still to this day. The four agreements are really pretty simple:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word.
- Don't Take Anything Personally.
- Don't Make Assumptions.
- Always Do Your Best.
Each one the Agreements are much harder than you would think. But number three has always been a bitch for me, always looking forward my assumptions grow and blossom into expectation which bare fruit that leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Assumptions and expectations are easier for me to curb, the less I know. When I went to the State Hospital for Samhain services last Friday it was easy not to assume or expect, as I didn't have anything to go on except my few introductory visits, which taught me it was nothing like Prison.
But it is so difficult not to assume of expect when I go to the Prisons because I've been going there so long, and I think I know how things will be. But I have been going on the same days during the same times for over a year steady, this time I went at night.
I assumed no one would know me, and I expected a lot of complications and resistance to what we were doing, and to my surprise I was wrong. Everyone knows about me, apparently a "Wiccan Chaplain" makes for good gossip. But most haven't seen me yet. So when I came out onto the yard I saw basically the whole shift come out to watch me. I was met at the door with a firm handshakes, genuine smiles and good eye contact.
I wear a Combat Veterans hat, and someone made the comment that "he's a Vet so he can't be all bad..." then someone else said "wait, what branch where you in? Not the Air Force I hope..." I responded with "Haha no, the Air Force aint even IN the military" (no offense airmen) And that was all she wrote, I was in like Flin.
The guards helped me out with what I needed, and were nice about it. It has taken me a year and a half to this far. It start out pretty rough, they gave me hell. But I took it, I never complained. (See rule #2.) In the Army its called "keeping it in the Ranks" it might sound primitive and dysfunctional but that's the way we roll. So I've kept in in the ranks, and earned some respect from some of the guards. I just never realized how much until tonight.
The Momentous Meal went off without a hitch, first Pagan Holiday meal in the Prison ever, but not the last, we got three more scheduled. I hope that they go as well as it did tonight. Those four agreements are incredibly simple but incredibly difficult, if your strong enough, they are incredibly powerful. Look what I did with them.
Proof that it can be done.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Wow, the last few days have really been crazy. But there's bad crazy and good crazy. I am blessed with lots of good crazy.
The Tulare County Paranormal Society has been sponsoring a series of free to the public classes all though the month of October.
Each class have been focused on a different aspect of the Paranormal. Everything from Psychics & Mediums, Witches & Witchcraft, to Spirits & Ghosts. I was honored to asked by a friend to be a guest speaker and shed some light on the false stereotypes of the Wicked Wiccan Witches.
As it turns out I had stereotyped "Paranormal Researchers" just like the mundanes have stereotyped me as a Wiccan. So I began attending their meetings to get to know them better and get a more educated understanding of what they do. I was pleasantly surprised by their approach to subject of the Paranormal.
As we explored the open discussion in a warm group setting, I realized how much we all have in common. Their are just as misunderstood as we Pagans are, they are stereotyped as inaccurately as we Pagans are and seem to attract a lot of unique people for all the wrong reasons.
I deeply respect the care & respect these people exhibit when approaching "Ghosts" and the professional and scientific manner in which they attempt to document activity. They explained how many times, "certain people" are attracted to places that are believed to be haunted and often times perform ceremonies or rituals there, leaving behind candles and strange markings.
They mentioned that knowing someone with a knowledge in these areas would be nice. I felt compelled to mention that this was not my area of expertise, but rather my area of study. I don't think I would be able to analyze a scene and interpenetrate or read the symbolism used, but I do have every confidence that I would recognize it and be able to find out. In fact I would enjoy it. Magical Detective. That would be fun.
So I have joined the team, and am honored again to have become the Chaplain and spiritual adviser. The lecture went well, there was a good turn out and everyone was very active and receptive. Probably one of my favorite crowds yet. And Friday night we dawned our new TCPS t-shirts and met in old town Visalia for a photo shoot with a Fresno Bee photographer, we're gonna be in the paper next week.
But Friday morning started out bright and early on my way the State Hospital. I have been a Volunteer Prison Chaplain for almost three years, but Friday was my first day in the service of the Department of Mental Health. I must say I enjoy volunteering for them, they have been very warm in their welcome and extremely accommodating in meeting my needs and desires for services.
They had asked me too prepare a syllabus of my scheduled services and was happy and proud to say I already have one ready. I was even happier and prouder to see their surprised response, they seemed impressed with the "application of symbolism" used in my services. I applied that symbolism in my first service there Friday morning.
I brought a bag a leaves that my daughter and I had collected from the local cemetery. I shared my childhood memories of my Grandmother and the special story she shared with me. We all selected our own leaf and wrote the name of someone special on it and each took our time sharing it with the group. These men I had only known for a half an hour or so shared their personal grief and for a few, acknowledged the death of a loved one for the first time.
After the bag of leaves was passed around, a small marker followed so that everyone could write a name on their leaf. This is an important part of the craftwork, it turns the leaf into someone. It is interesting to watch the way different people hold their leaf. Some cradle it with both hands and speak directly to it, while others hold them down at their sides not looking at it.
Once they have said what they have to say they, place their leaf on the Altar. Some kiss it goodbye and have a hard time letting it go but enjoyed the opportunity for visitation and closure. I have been providing this service at Samhain for a few years now and it never fails, every year at least one person writes the name of their victim, and shares something powerful. I can't imagine the courage it takes to do this.
Some people think I am nuts for volunteering to work in the Prisons and even more crazy for working in the State Hospitals, but like I said, I blessed with a lot of Good Crazy. Blessed Be.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
We were taught the Mechanics of doing death notifications, we were taught how to administer first aid for Critical Indecent Stress and we were taught the legalities of pastoral counseling, privileged communication and disclosure.
There are so many things I cannot say.
In Freemasonry we are taught to use the Compass to circumscribe ourselves, to stay in due bounds with all mankind. This training helps, a little. In Veritas Wicca we are taught to use the Athame "to cast circles to better contain our own energies". This helps, a little more.
I often sit here contemplating what I can include in a Blog and what is or may be outside those boundary lines. How much can I say about any one person or does changing the names allows me to include more otherwise private things? No, it does not. I always error of the very far side of caution, so rest assured, your secret is safe with me.
It helps in my personal life and it helps in my professional life as a Chaplain a lot more. Yesterday I spent the whole day there, going back and forth between the walls. I performed two religious services which was the easy part, and spent the rest of the day facilitating diplomatic negotiations between the inmates and the office that controls their religious practices. Run by a good man, whom I trust and who has come to trust me. That's Magic.
Inside the Prison I often serve as his representative, communicating on his behalf and returning to his office to represent the inmates and communicate on theirs. This is where personal boundaries are really important, I do not, I can not, choose a side. I am only the translator, so my only boast is that I have successfully translated a great deal, literally.
The Prison has approved religious meals for the Pagan inmates! It will be the first time it has ever happened at this prison. And I am very proud to have brokered the deal. We will be having four separate Samhain Feasts for the different yards. Don't worry about your tax dollars, the religious meal cannot exceed the cost of a normal meal. Besides it really more about the idea of it, the importance of acknowledgment, and the impact it has had on the inmates, which is well... I can't say. *Grin*
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Yesterday Jason of The Wild Hunt wrote this article about Samhainophobia, and how the media is using this new angle to sensationalize Halloween. But I don't think it's new, but rather re-used. Regardless, "it" seems to manifest every year in some form.
My mother warned me about becoming successful, she said you could tell when you begin to become successful, because people will start to attack you. She said people will tell you that your can't do it, even people who you thought were friends will go after you. She was right.
She said some people don't want you to succeed because they want to be first and you are competition. Others don't want you to succeed, because they can't. But the worst ones are the lazy ones. They wait till there's a crowd and go after you publicly. They wait, letting you do all the hard work of getting somewhere we'll call "successful" and then jump on your back once all the work is done. Then they gain attention by simply apposing you publicity. She was right again.
This is why people go after Halloween, to get their ten minutes of fame. Easy money. And Halloween is a safe target too, Halloween does not defend itself or file a law suit against you for slander, so you can say whatever you want about it. My favorite are the ones who say "I know because I used to be one of them..." Well that's all I needed to hear, preach to me brother... and go ahead and make some stuff up to really hype it up, lets get everyone wound up nice and tight. Fear and Guilt makes for big business.
But I see the complete opposite thing happening at the other end, everyone is a Witch this month. And they all pour on a few extra helpings of *Mystique* because Halloween is the most holy sacred spiritual divine day of the year when the Vail between the living and the dead is soooooo thin that it's almost dangerous.... but they can't answer a single question about factual Samhain. Sigh.
But as I said before, things are changing. The tide of social acceptability has changed. When I first moved here a few years ago my children were not given "excused absences" for a few days of the year that we kept them home, but last year that changed. Last year my daughters came to me with big grins on their faces and asked if they could stay home since Halloween was a holiday.
Hmmm that's a good question.... "but why should you? What are we celebrating on Halloween? Why do we call it Samhain? What language is Samhain? And what does it mean?" I sat back closed my eyes and enjoyed the silence. Later I provided a pile of books and told told them each to do a lengthy report on the Sabbat. They stayed home, all of them. The two older ones read their reports to the two younger ones and we sat a talked about it for a long time while we made crafts and decorations.
My wife is Mexican and she is the only member of her family who still practices El Día de los Muertos, so after the book reports we all pick up the family pumpkin, go to the cemetery and decorate the grave of her Grandmother in the traditional style. We clean the grave marker and decorate the rose bush growing there with bright pastel colored skulls and skeletons, burning a little incense and leaving small offerings. The pumpkin is there and we ask for a blessing as we take it home to carve.
It's my right as man of the house to carve the pumpkin, but more importantly to count the seeds. I clean them and bake them a bit before I count and recount them a third time. The seeds are placed in a glass mason jar and placed on display accompanied by a small pad of paper, pen and another jar containing folded bits a paper. Every one stares long and hard trying to guesstimate how many seed there are. Because everyone wants to be this years coveted "Pumpkin Seed Prophet". For the honor, for the glory and for first prize, because there is no second.
Everyone brings a nice framed picture of someone who has passed, usually a Grandfather, Great Grandmother or someone who just left us too soon. We greet and hug, they show us the photo and there is a silence, a smile and a nod. The photo is taken out to the Altar and a special place is arranged in honor. Decorated with do-dads and bobbles, a lighter or pocket watch. Cigarettes and small flight bottles are common, every family had that one who lived a lot.
There is a story that is told, and a song that is sung, and there are a few parts that are private and a few words that must be left there where they were spoken. They are no longer for the living. Each one of us take our turn introducing the person in the picture, we tell their story, we remember them, and they live on.
Trick or Treat.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
If your a Mason and you don't own it, shame upon you! If you're in anyone of the numerous orders which have sprang from the loins of Freemasonry, go get it now or shame upon you!
The foreword is written by Reynold E. Blight, 33', K.T. and I must say it is quite eloquent. My favorite part of his forward is this nice gem.
"...So wisdom drapes her truth with symbolism, and covers her insight with allegory. Creeds, rituals, poems are parables and symbols. The ignorant take them literally and build for themselves a prison house of words and with bitter speech and bitter taunt denounce those who will not join them in the dungeon..."
Just like Masonry, the Matrix is a movie filed with Religious and Philosophical symbolism and I often find myself using using Matrix metaphors. The last time I did was in a conversation about my Witchvox article Kangaroo Magic. Someone replied to my Matrix comment with the snide rebuttal "so I suppose you think that makes you Neo then huh!?"
My response was no. Not at all. My beliefs and practices would paint a picture more to the likeness of Morpheus. Living in the real world, trying to free people, with a paintball gun full of Red Pills.
Now do me a favor and hold still...
I've been an active student of Masonry for over ten years, which when compared to the Hermits beard is merely stubble. But I have learned quite a bit in that short time and have applied it to a great many things including my life and my Craft. It's no coincidence that there are so many "similarities" between Masonry and Wicca, after all Gardner was a Mason too. Its a fact, and any Mason who looks at Wicca can see it as plainly as I do. But that's a whole other post altogether.
The Wiccan Cingulum has been the topic of conversation within our Coven. It is of little surprise to find that ours bares a striking similarity to the Masonic Cable Tow. Bearing in mind that neither the Wikipedian article, nor myself give away anything considered "oath bound" it still leaves lots of elbow room to write within.
When I began my first degree, the first thing I learned was the Cable Tow. There was a group of us going through together and we were taught that together we formed a Cable Tow. Everything was done with and within our Cable Tow. Later I learned more about its symbolism, and the importance of its length.
As Masons we are taught that we should attend lodge regularly, if it is within the length of our Cable Tow. Later we become obligated to assist a worthy fellow brother Mason, if it be within the length of our Cable Tow, meaning I should help, or give aid to a worthy brother if I am able to do without injury to myself.
One of the things Masonry has taught me is to appreciate the proper use of words, word craft is a beautiful thing. It is important to note the use of the word "Worthy". It functions as a virtuous clause implying a status that is not freely given, but earned. Because sadly, not all Masons are worthy of our fraternal assistance. But for the great many that are, how far do we go? How long can we stretch our Cable Tows? How long and how far should we? What is the limit of our obligation?
There is an unwritten rule of thumb within all lodges: "...You don't have to like any or everyone in your lodge, you just have to get along long enough to get the work done..." and sadly I agree.
But that's where Wicca is different; we must like each other, we must care. Perfect Love and Trust is not just another magical cliche, it's the secret ingredient to life altering rituals, and the simple secret to our magic.
The length of my Cingulum far outstretches that of my Cable Tow. Because the Masons may be my Brothers in the light, but it is my Coven that is there for me in the darkness. And I have stretched my Cingulum to amazing lengths for a Worthy Wiccan Brother because there are so precious few so deserving.
When I fulfill my obligations to the Craft (people, place and thing) I do so without conditions, expectations, or requirement, I do so not because of some external requirement, but because of an internal desire. That's why we use the word "Perfect".
So what about you? What Cable Tows do you bare? How strong are those straps, how tight those chains, to what length would you be willing to stretch them? Can people count on you, who can you count on? I bet one of them is a Mason, a Wiccan, or if your lucky both.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Once the Lock Down was lifted on the prison, the yard where the incident took place remained on Locked Down for an extended period. So it has been hit and miss with services, and I haven't been able to get on a certain yard for over two months, until today.
Now I am NOT a "Bleeding Heart" by any stretch of the imagination, I think that inmates get things they shouldn't have, and don't get thing they should. And I am very aware that our tax dollars pay for all of it, in fact I get to see it all first hand.
But, when I get these courtesy notifications I can't help but worry about my guys. To be honest I don't remember half their names, but I know their faces. I remember there words in circle, I remember their prayers for the outside world. Yes, they pray for you. Some of them are Lifers who mentor newbies and short timers and I worry about them all.
So I find it more than kinda funny that the Department of Corrections has a Facebook, which I am wired into and receive all the notifications which are generated by the CDCR STAR, the media engine of the prison system. So when I see my prison on a headline, yes I want to read more, *click* which takes you to the newspaper that wrote it which just like my Blog, allows for comments.
Someone somewhere sometime said something to the effect of "a civilization can be judged by the way it treats its prisoners or enemies, or both." I really thought about that after reading these posts...
This is from the LA Times, the comments are disturbing, but this one comment by MWalters really stuck with me..
"Give a man a mask and you will soon see the true man."
I think about this a lot now. I remember a post I did when I first started writing this blog, something about "technology divorcing us from our humanity", it all comes flooding back and I ask myself what the hell is wrong with people?
One of those guys they spoke of was Paroled yesterday. I have known him for almost two years, he made a mistake and he has paid his dept. I took and active part in his "Parole Blessing Ritual" and I speak with his Mother often. He spent quite a while inside and is now exploring a strange new world as you read this. I wonder what he would think if he read those messages. I wonder if those people would feel that way if they met him, or had someone inside. I wonder how long it will be until he asks "what the hell is wrong with people?"
Welcome home Jesse.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Wow, where has the time gone? The last few weeks have been a blur, I passed my first midterm exam (sigh) and I must say I don't feel as though the course work prepared me for the test, but now I know what to expect for the final exam, and I may light candles next to this picture cause Bible class ain't no joke.
We conducted a Handfasting this last weekend, I say "we" because it was a Coven ritual and everyone took an active part in the ceremony, which really takes the pressure of me. They were already legally married by a justice of the peace a few years ago so there was no need for marriage consultation or counseling and we were able to focus of the speculative aspects of marriage and had a really nice wedding.
That's my favorite part of everything, the ceremony, the ritual and the beauty of a graceful act of magic. The Zen of Wicca. Those rare moments when a large group is gathered, creating and sharing a moment of group consciousness. A Divine Union. It makes it all worth while, and I was happy and honored to have been asked, and have the highest hopes for the re-newed bride and groom.
Every time I mention doing "marriage counseling" it seems to spark conversation and conflict, so let just jump straight into that fire while we're here...
No, I do not have any degrees or credentials in counseling. Although I am in the process of obtaining them.
No, I am not a certified or licensed therapist. But again, that's not what I am doing, or talking about here. Yet, what I am doing can only be described as counseling, "Pastoral Counseling", it seems that religion is the back door into everything. Please allow me to explain...
"With great power comes great responsibility..." Stan Lee
My wife is currently working an internship as a Paralegal at a Family Law Facilitator, this is the place you go get a "Do it yourself divorce". They show you which papers you fill out and point you in the right direction. They also cover child custody and its the place we went to when I adopted my Daughter. The saying there is if you had to go through the same amount of trouble to get married as you do to get divorced, well there would be less of both.
Anyone who has experienced divorce knows how incredibly ridiculous it is. Enough Said there. So I have known many people who have become "Legal Pagan Clergy" and perform marriages for various reasons.
#1. Money, like a drug dealer they rationalize with the mantra "if they don't get it from me, there just going to get it from someone else" "I am providing a legal service, like a lawyer" The truth is often subjective, but there is a difference between what is right, what is wrong and what is legal. And that's what's wrong with our country today.
#2. Ego Gratification, most of these types do it for free because its another notch in their belt. "I am a Pagan Priest and I have married sixteen couples..." But they didn't know them before hand and haven't seen hide nor hair of them afterward and have not taken any opportunity to review or critique the influence they have had in the lives of their customers.
Myself, I have been married twice, and both times I have fully embraced the "Sanctity of Marriage". It is with this same conviction and virtue that I consider uniting lovers. I have had several young couples request a Handfasting in the past, during the first conversation I ask about their Wiccan faith, how their Mom, Dad or other relevant family feel about the marriage and the nature of their Wiccan Faith and most often the family does not know about either one...
So when two very young people (18-20 something), who don't live together but still live with their parents, Who have little or no prospects for independent living, but are madly in true love and will never never ever ever part, come asking you to marry them, what do you do?
I take responsibility for my actions, and I must look myself in the mirror every morning. It's kind of important to me. So in cases like this I DO counseling. In a Rites of Passage class I took at Cherry Hill Seminary, we covered this topic and there was a list of interview questions you should ask the bride and groom, separately. They were questions that these young couples have never asked themselves because they were way too busy being madly in love.
But when you ask them separately and their answers to these small questions about children, disabilities, death and other worst case scenarios, and all there answers conflict, well it seem to me they've got a lot more to talk about, don't they? I already know what some of you are thinking, I've heard it all before and Yes, it is my business. It is within my power, therefor it is within my responsibility, isn't it?
Sometimes "No" is the best service we can provide. Don't you think? Let me know...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
One of my favorite things about being a Pagan is our Holidays. Growing up my family didn't observes the normal holidays or rather we didn't observe the holidays normally. I always thought it was just us.
Now I understand the difference between "Normal" holidays and "Natural" ones. We did participate in the casual observances with extended family and I was allowed to participate in school activities unlike the children of Jehovah's Witnesses.
I all ways felt bad for them, they were just kids and they just wanted to be kids. But their parents wouldn't have it. Now that I am a parent I remember those lessons I learned at the expense of my classmates. As much as we may want it, our children are under no obligation to participate in any of our religious beliefs and practices, which makes it so rewarding when they ask us when is the next Sabbat or Esbat. That tells me were doing something right.
Thank you Holy Mother & Holy Father.
But I can't really blame them, I ask too. We all look forward to the next gathering, knowing it will be as enjoyable as the last. Our Covenant is essentially several entire families, each Sodalis brings their whole house, spouses, children and a great contribution to the feast. I am an Uncle to every child of our Covenant and they are all Aunts and Uncles to ours.
Just like any other family holiday, the men hang around the BBQ pit and watch the kids play in the yard, the women take over the kitchen until we all end up in the living room singing rock band together. We talk about the last gathering and we talk about the next. We share our joys, confess our concerns and we care about each other.
Traditionally we're not supposed to do CraftWork on a Sabbat, but we made candles. I'd been saving two blocks of bees wax I bought from the local farmers market for a while. I started the double boil once everyone started laying food on the counter. My daughter harvested flower pedals from her own personal garden. And everyone stopped and gave some attention to the process while chasing the little boogers through the house. The magic of the moment, the perfect love and perfect trust we share, the very spirit of the holiday was caught and cast in wax.
This is Candle Magic.
The Craft yielded nearly fifty candles and everyone went home with a bag. We celebrated this past Saturday but we light our candles tonight. I knew it was Mabon when I first opened my eyes this morning. It was still dark then and the shadows of my trees still touch my neighbors yard across the street as I write this. The wheel keeps turning and I can't wait to see them all again.
May your Mabon be as blessed as mine.
Friday, September 18, 2009
On one yard the training wheels came off a while ago and the guys have really developed into a good strong circle. Each of them taking an active part in the ceremonies, learning to perform each of the acts of magic within the ritual. Every time I go, I do less and less. Grin.
On another yard, one of the other things I do is nothing, which I like to call "Facilitation". A naysayer once told me I wasn't qualified to "speak on behalf of the Pagan community". I agree, in fact I consider myself qualified to do very little. But that's not what I do, what I DO is speak on behalf of Pagan inmates who have requested me to speak for them, and only them.
The same goes with religions, rituals and ceremonies. I am a Wiccan Priest yes, but I am a Veritas Wiccan Priest, which only qualifies me to instruct within the bounds of my own tradition. As for established groups inside the Prison walls I provide the simple service of supervision.
The Prison will not allow the inmates to perform large group rituals without a religious supervisor, so for them I make the drive out there, just to watch. But there's is more to it than that, I bring the candles, incense and lighter they can't have either and I participate in their services. And I enjoy it, it's worth the ride.
So today on that yard I was acknowledged and honored for my service to them. I was awarded my very own copy of the Stone Wall Circle Book of Shadows. Over a hundred hand written pages of the spells and rituals of their tradition. They told me that there had been a unanimous vote to initiate me, but that would violate several prison and correctional policies. I was deeply honored to receive my "Honorary Membership" and very touched to be considered accepted.
When I got home there was an email from an old friend about "The Big Idea". I was tired from the all the yelling on the way home (more cadence) and I was hungry, so I just blew through the message, ate and took a nice nap with my baby who had an adventurous day of her own.
She woke me up with a nice dinner, shes such a great cook. Much later after the food and rest I revisited the website and realized what it was all about. I loved it, yeah I'm one of those people. Go ahead and roll your eyes but I've been performing the Big Idea on a smaller scale for years. I am very experienced and have become very talented in accessing altered states through drumming trances.
The Big Idea called for four beats a minute which might sound like a lot but it's not really. Specially for me, I play a Bodhran with a Tipper, meaning I use both ends of the drumstick, really fast. In fact its actually difficult to play slowly. One of the secrets of Shamanistic trances is hidden within the Singing and chanting. It's the polarity.
When we sing, chant and drum we send out an active signal. Once we establish contact we experience a resonance, and shift into a passive mode. Our signal becomes a carrier wave to receive "incoming messages from the big giant head".
I took part in The Big Idea, and drummed for the full hour. I sent out my signal and the resonance was simply incredible, faces flashed through my mind, somehow attached or accessed by drumbeats. The primitive digital technology. Then I remembered the goal and intention of the idea and started pumping out compassion, which was pretty easy I had been doing it all day.
When I go to the Prison, I combat negativity all day. I fight it at every gate, with every guard who sees me standing there waiting to be let in and ignores me. It's like a contest to see if I will loose my patents, they wait to see me start yelling and waving and getting mad. But I don't. I never do. I wait with a smile. I watch them ignore me, I wonder why they do it and I feel sorry for them. I know this is not what they wanted to do with their life. I know they are as miserable as the inmates.
Disturbed people disturb other people. Don't let them trick you into it.
So instead of using magic, cursing them or casting on them, I heal them. I send them healing loving energy. After all I am a priest right. I pray for them, and bless them when they finally let me in. I smile a big genuine smile and say thank you, and we all win. What a big idea...
I tapped into this tonight and sent it out through the drum signal, and the resonance was overwhelming. We are each a small piece of the Dryghten, the divine union of the God and Goddess. And when enough of us get together magic happens.
...ending transmission in... three... two... one... Ahchoo!!!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
What I loved most was the songs, which were actually prayers. At first is was just neat singing in another language. It was just neat to sing. I will never forget the first time I heard them singing in the darkness of the lodge, and I will never forget the first time they heard me.
Later I was taught a very general understanding of a few songs, which just wasn't enough. So I read and studied various books on the language and was later criticized by other members of the sweat lodge. I was accused of "breaking tradition" by people who had been "followers" for over ten to fifteen years, yet still couldn't explain the songs or anything else for that matter. Yeah.
When ever I asked why something was, I was told "because that's how it has always been done, you don't have to get it, just know that this is how it is done, learn to do it this way and don't change it." Which was the stupidest fucking thing I ever heard.
"Mystique is a beautiful and popular falsehood, a shallow substitute for those unwilling, unable or otherwise incapable of exploring the depth and substance of Truth. " That's mine, quote me.
It's funny that this would prove me worthy to be given a collection of Xerox copies of copies of copies of some Xerox copies of some songs and their word for word translations. Knowing what I was saying was important, and once I did everything changed. Singing is an emotional release, and when you sing religious songs or sing prayers and mean it, something incredible happens. Now give that intangible happening a value and multiply it by a million for every other person singing with you. Yeah.
The only other thing that ever felt like that was singing cadence in the military. It's one of those things about the Army that's not in the brochure, but everyone one knows about, even civilians. Just like the Lakota ceremonial songs, anyone can sing them but not everyone can "call them".
Running cadence is the divine union of the physical, mental and spiritual warrior. a few days ago I found these cadences on iTunes and downloaded a few of them. I thought it would be fun to listen to some "oldies" on the machine at the gym...
Some time ago I had posted about the Echos of Cadence and about "it" still being in me. Well the music woke it up and I had one hell of a work out. Every song activated a memory of a country, a base, a platoon, or a cadence caller on our run through the Egyptian Sinai. Yeah.
I felt like Forrest Gump again, calling cadence on a ten mile run down memory lane.
And I realized how much the Army meant to me, and still does. I realize the effect it had on me, I loved it. I am a fighter and I enjoyed that Warrior culture. When I posted here about Counting Coup I realized how much I missed being apart of that culture.
I received a few private comments about how crazy it was to touch that trailer, but it wasn't. Not to me, not to us. Not after all the shit we've been through, not after all the shit we've done. I realized some other things too. Too private to post here. So I started a new Blog called "The Echos of Cadence".
It will be a place to write about those things we've been through and those things we've done. It's a private Blog reserved only for those few who have sang to the Gods of War and regret having their prayers answered.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I had spent a whole weekend converting classic rock from Vintage Vinyl to "modern cassette " for my state of the art Walkman for the very long bus ride home.
I will never forget the first time in my life anyone ever asked me what I was listening to. For two reasons; first because she was so cute and I had a massive crush on her. Second and more importantly because when I said "the Beatles" she said "WHO?"
I had always stammered a bit whenever we made conversation during the long ride home. Usually because I was nervous, but not this time. This time I hesitated, and stammered because I had never met anyone who didn't know who the Beatles were. Where had this poor sheltered girl been living?
As it turns out, I was the one who was out of touch with current events and popular culture. Apparently the Beatles were not within the acceptable boundaries of my generation. For the rest of the ride home and several more to come, we fired band names and song titles back and forth trying to find a common ground. As it turned out I was only into "her parents kind of music".
But it made sense, as I had learned everything I knew about music by my parents extensive record collection. My mom would open all the doors and windows and turn up stereo way too loud for someone her age. Later I spent hours going through every single record, song by song and finding so many gems that touched my soul.
They don't make music like that anymore.
When we first got Rock Band for the kids I wasn't interested. Not really into video games and I was in a real band once and that was enough. But they would always come a ask me to help them out with some "really old song" no one in the house had ever heard before and of course, I always knew it. Well that was all it took, I was hooked and blew off chores for a couple of days until I got my fix.
But it turned out to be a really fun family activity and we were able to share music with our kids, we have our own family band, now we all play and sing songs together. It reminded me of the way my parents were. Music was a big part of daily life, it always has been and always will be.
Claudia is not your average Mexican chick which is why I love her so much. She loves music as much as I do, maybe more. That argument continues. But not only did she know and love the Beatles but all the old school classics. Even ones like John Fogerty, James Taylor and CCR.
So I married her.
The whole family was eagerly counting the days till the Beatles Rock Band was released, and now playing those old classics was a flashback to my childhood, some really really good memories. The idea that my kids like these songs as much as we do and now we're all singing and playing them together, making new childhood memories is just so incredibly special.
Perhaps the most powerful hereditary magic there is.
Coo Coo Cachoo.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
However, there is a Bible on the altar, representing "the volume of sacred text" or volume of law. To be a Mason one must only believe in a supreme being and the immortality of the soul. But we never said which supreme being, for a reason...
The idea that we worship a Baphomet is just a hilarious example of how the evolution of urban legends knows no bounds. I would guess it was the "Goat" in the Goat of Mendes that started it. But for the record it's the "G.A.O.T.U" or the Great Architect Of The Universe that we speak of, which is a really slick way to acknowledge a supreme being without using any name that would assert any one religion. That's what Masons is all about.
So here's a shot of my "Masonic Bible" which is nothing more than an Old King James (Master Mason Edition) with a "Lodge Blue" cover complete with a square and Compass. It starts out with a "presented to" page for Mother Lodge, York and Scottish Rites and after that the first hundred or so pages consist of experts from Morals & Dogma for each degree and a Biblical index to Freemasonry. Other than that its a Standard Bible.
In a conversation about the Golden Dawn, someone once said that it was not a religion, but he did it religiously. I can say the same for Masonry. I use my Masonic Bible, Square and Compass in my own personal rituals. There's something to be said about giving the due guard and sign, and starting each day "on the square".
But I never thought I would be pulling it out to read it from start to finish, but here I am taking a break from my Old Testament class to share some interesting finds. I have written before about the old Masonic Tracing Boards a few times, and know them quite well and that's where it started.
Many of the Tracing Boards include navigational orientations along the outer borders. N, S, E, & W giving clues and symbolism to direction. Today while completing research and homework on the book of Exodus, I was reviewing plans of the Tabernacle Complex and saw the same thing, which gave me the right perspective to see some very interesting things in the Christan teachings of the symbolism of the tabernacle, its parts and contents. This is something we are taught in Masonry about King Solomons Temple.
My recent shift in awareness has really helped me appreciate spirituality during my Bible study as much as being a Mason has aided my Academic studies and assisted in a few personal "revelations".
Thank you Holy Mother & Holy Father.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
We started the official Church to insure our religious rights and freedoms and assist in several aspects of Carcer Via Prison Ministry. But also in hopes of building a Pagan community here in the bible belt of California. So we set up shop at the Local Metaphysical / New Age supply and book store "THE CRYSTAL BARN". They're great people there, it's our home away from home. Our church rents a temple space there every month for Wiccan services, which are open to the public.
We thought positive...If we cast a circle....they will fill it...
And they have. To my surprise this weekends service had a record breaking turnout, and we had to get more chairs from storage. It was so great to see so many Pagans gather together in fellowship. The service went well and there was an open discussion on the subject of Initiations that was really enjoyable. It was great to see so many get together and GET ALONG.
Thank you Holy Mother, Holy Father.
The Prison Ministry is going well, and I have made the leap from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health. Last week I met with the Administrators of a local State Hospital to go over plans for my "Exploring Alternative Spirituality" program.
I was so surprised by the warm reception and the willingness to accommodate the various needs of my program. I was given the Grand Tour and a choice of locations; including two different Chapels, I opted for the smaller of the two for simple reasons.
I remember the way it was when I first started at the Prison, whispers and jeers from staff and inmates. I got messed with, mostly by guards. But I never said anything about it, I never complained. I just took it with a smile, never letting them trick me into getting mad and taking every opportunity to remind them that they were messing with a Priest by responding with a "Bless you" or "you have a blessed day".
Fighting back with "kindness" is a somewhat foreign concept to me, but as a combat veteran I recognize what powerfully effective weapon it is on them and on myself. It has taken nearly a year, but I can say I have earned the respect I now receive.
But something else has changed. Facilities I have never been too before are welcoming me as a Wiccan Chaplain with open arms, there has been no battle for basic rights and the respect is given freely from day one.
The tides of social acceptability are starting to change, what we are doing is working and I now have very good reason to believe that I will see my labors bare gainful fruit, very soon.
Thank you Holy Mother, Holy Father.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I'm not sure if there is a word for it in English, but I would describe it as a combination of the Japanese Satori, a flash of sudden pure awareness and the Aboriginal Dreamtime.
It usually happens too the mundane on their way down the roller coaster, but for some of us it happens more often than that. I think "Why" is an age old argument of nature Vs nurture.
But it either way it happens to me a lot, body surfing the rapids of the Kaweah River, washing lettuce in the sink, riding my motorcycle or in prayer. There's a state of pure awareness, you feel everything all at once, you feel AT one with everything and it all seems like slow motion.
I think that's why people are so attracted to sports and other similar physical activities, there is a "Zen Zone" within it. But only if you can truly let go. Let go of the fear and just live completely in that one single moment. I was there today, for the first time in a while. It was nice to be back.
Part of my job as a state licensed administrator, requires continuing education classes to re-certify every two years. So I've been buzzing around racking up my forty hours on top of everything else. So my last few classes are in Fresno and I was running behind this morning, which is torture for someone as OCD as I am.
The commuter traffic really made me appreciate my live-in job as I ride white knuckled through traffic, taking every "advantage" of riding a motorcycle. Yeah, I'm "that guy" but only when I'm really late. But then everything started getting clearer, sharper and slower. The morning sun shined brightly on the chrome and I watched my shadow glide along beside me.
I thought about all the times I have been here in the moment, all the roads I've been on and all the shadows I have cast from helicopters, humvees, horses and now a Harley. I thought about the all those warriors of the past and my time in Iraq.
Among my collection of tattoos is a shoulder piece, three lines and some dots, (sorry but its symbolism is personal) but I came around that semi truck & trailer like a barrel racer on a tetherball. Curling my thumb and pinkie like a boy scout I drug three talons through the thick layer of dirt and exhaust that coated the side of the trailer leaving three bright white gashes nearly three feet long.
Once we Veterans are denied the Satori of War and the Dreamtime of a Warrior, all that's left is Counting Coup.
Monday, August 31, 2009
But study is a big part of it. During my time in the military I took college courses to pursue my undergraduate degree, then Iraq brought all that to a screeching halt, and I got out immediately after I came home.
I only needed three or four classes to finish my degree but just never got around to it. But then a few months back the Department of Veterans Affairs started up a Post 9/11 GI Bill for Combat Veterans like me. Tuition, books, its all covered. I have eleven years of free college, so suffice to say I'm back in school to finish my BA in Religious Studies then onward and upward, M.Div & PH.D
Lately I have become the Hermit, spending the majority of my days and evenings behind a pile of books. My first class is Bible 105 Introduction to the Old Testament, and everyone who knows me seems incredibly amused by the idea. But for the record I actually enjoy the academics of the bible so far. It's the "historical document" part I have a problem with, but I need the class, so pray for me.
When I'm not ploughing through the three textbooks and eighteen disk set of DVDs of the OT, I am enjoying a few new books that entertain the topic of Wicca, as a religion. No spells and Magic for love and money or candle colors and directions, but faith, based on perfect love and trust. Right now I am reading "Out of the Broom Closet" 50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft.
Click the Pic to go to Amazon.
It's a nice book of stories about people coming out. The first story is my favorite so far, "Yes, We Are Working Professionals" by Deb Goeschel. Thanks Deb, I love you Sis.
This book has been my buffer between the Bible class and the Scottish Rites Master Craftsmen Program. Sponsored by my Temple, the program includes a copy of our Scottish Rite Ritual, Monitor and Guide which is around nine hundred and fifty pages of pure unadulterated knowledge. It was here that I learned something more about the Hermit. Our 24th degree teaches its symbolism, the Lamp of Trismegistus, the Cloak of Appollonius and the Staff of the Patriarchs. Although Masonry teaches that these are the required possessions of the "Initiate".
I love the Tarot, but I don't use them as much for Divination as for Tracing Boards. When I first became a Mason over twelve years ago I began an obsession with the Old Tracing Boards, and have spent years collecting and studying them. The Waite-Rider Tarot deck was designed by A.E. Waite, and member of the Golden Dawn and other orders which sprang from Freemasonry, its all connected and thus a logical step forward in my interest and study.
Which was been very beneficial on my path, and started this Blog. See my first post.
I've learned so much about the symbolism of the Tarot, but what I've learned was not in any books about the Tarot. Funny how that works. I've been taking notes, scribbling ideas and stray thoughts. I develop them slowly and save them for some day when I feel ready to commit what is required, to my own Tracing Boards.
After all, that's what its all about, isn't it? Finding your way, and drawing a clever map like a Rebus to leave behind for others to follow, if they put in the work and figure it out. Right now is all about the work.