Monday, December 5, 2011

The path ahead

Once again, it is December 5th. I am now fully one year older. Time feels so different this year. Condensed in some places and expanded in others.

I have felt off pace on my path for a while now, struggling to keep up and muster energies. But now it feels as though the top of the hill is in sight and I can see my path ahead of me and into the future. I see my goals coming into clearer view and my time and energy spent more wisely. I have been waiting for this move to happen and it is now in plain sight-- something that can be taken both literally and spiritually/philosophically. The next journey is waiting to start and I am terribly excited for it.

Nearly time to finish packing and cleaning and renewing energies. Some view Spring as a time to do such things, but I am a child of winter. I am most in my element here. The darker skies, cold, snowy air, and bundles of warmth in homes and under blankets appeals to my nature. Appropriately, December 5th has always seemed to mark the beginning--that this is what a new year actually feels like. Today begins the proportional relationship between the influx of energies and the cresting of struggling to see ahead of me--the last steps before the ease of walking downhill along my path again.

The phrase "happy new year" has never been more relevant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

By Azura!

concept art of Azura's shrine

So a brief interruption of life and (non-video game) thought to bring you two beautiful images of Azura from the new Elder Scrolls game Skyrim.

I am very excited to go to the midnight release tonight and obtain my copy of amazing adventure, story, and lore. (And maybe a little swag too!) How fitting that there should be a full moon tonight as well.

I adore Azura and all that she represents. Some people love super heroes or a character in a book or movie, but I love Azura, the Goddess of Dusk and Dawn.

Here is her shrine in Skyrim. 
A game 5 years in the making.

actual gameplay image of Azura's shrine

"Fear not, for I am watchful."

EDIT: For those that keep searching my page for where and how to obtain Azura's Star, The Elder Scroll's Wiki has a link to each of the games versions and how to get them. Hope that helps :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween and Perspectives

Happy belated Halloween!

This is the most wonderful time of year for me. I absolutely love everything about it. And with these last few weeks of finding some of my family's gravestones, it has gathered even more importance and momentum. 

I will admit that I have not always celebrated Halloween in regards to the veil and my ancestors as strongly as I am coming to understand, but that is the beautiful thing about Paganism; it is almost always a continuing growth of knowledge, understanding, ritual, and worship. I am opening myself up to the areas that I have previously been hesitant to (because of being overwhelmed by the loss of loved ones), only to find that it is calling me and awakening a strong and powerful feeling of connected-ness to the Wheel of Life and Death as well as to my ancestry and heritage. 

As a Pagan, my particular view of Halloween is with a two-fold mentality. I personally do not directly celebrate the Gaelic/Celtic/Wiccan Samhain because, as I have mentioned before, I do not follow the Celtic path, but a combination of common ideas and traditions. That said, I do celebrate Halloween as both the secular holiday and the spiritual holy-day. In fact, I begin celebrating the autumn, the veil, and the dead towards the beginning of October and continue on through the end of November, while the secular Halloween starts a week or so before hand and ends the evening of Halloween. The energies that surround the weeks before and after Halloween are very powerful to me--like a sugar high for my soul--and I am finding a new outlet for that energy in investing more time into my ancestry. I have begun diving deeper into my lineage and creating a family tree that now spans over 160 people on my father's side.

I still do many secular Halloween holiday traditions. Which are, of course, often based in old Samhain rituals. My husband and I carved pumpkins, passed out candy, and I usually dress up in costume (though these last two years have had a lot going on at the time). 

Our pumpkins this year

We also bake our pumpkin seeds. A very easy way to separate pumpkin seeds from the pulp is to let them soak in water for a day. Once that happens, most of the pulp will pull away and sink, leaving the seeds floating. Any seeds that are still attached to the pulp can easily be squeezed/pinched off their stringy lines.

After I clean the pulp away and out of the water, I strain them and place them in salted water and soak for a few days (between 2 and 4 days, depending on how busy I am) to make them nice and salty inside. While they sit, give them a stir every now and then so the top layer doesn't go dry.

When I am ready to bake them, I strain the seeds, put them into a bowl and add some extra virgin olive oil and salt. I'm not too precise and just eye the mix because pumpkins will yield different amounts of seeds. You want enough olive oil to lightly coat just enough to keep the salt stuck to the shell. The seeds of two pumpkins go onto two foiled baking sheets that also have a light coating of EV olive oil on them. Make sure the seeds are not sitting on top of one another or too crowded or they may not bake fully or evenly.

Place them in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes at 350°F at first, just to steam the seeds and get a lot of that water out, and then turn the heat down to 200°F and let them bake for 2 hours. Rotate pan after the first hour if your oven bakes unevenly to avoid burning the seeds. Salt or season with other flavors to liking.

The finished seeds were gone before I could snag a photo, but here are the seeds soaking.

This is also when I start to break out a lot of my baking tools and recipes. There's nothing like walking into a home from the chilly air outside and inhaling the lovely aromas of chocolate, bread, or cookies.

Spider legs
Pretzels mixed into chocolate that was cooling gives them a spiky, thick look.

Cauldron cake pops
Because there isn't enough candy and chocolate in the house as it is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cleaning their graves

This weekend I went out and cleaned up my family's graves.

It might sound odd that I had never seen many of their graves, but I have had a difficult time with their passing, especially of my father in 2003 and my grandmother (my father's mother) in 2008. In both cases as well as for some of my grandparents on my mother's side, I have only two weeks ago gathered up the courage and strength to go to the cemetery and find them, but I am terribly glad that I did. I have found a new piece of the healing process has yet to finish and it is very bittersweet.

As I said, two weeks ago I found their graves and after finding them, I decided I had to come back and begin taking care of them. My father's has sadly begun to sink into hill of the ground a bit deeply. But my mind is at rest knowing where their graves are now. My absence at the cemetery between their deaths and now  is due in large part to resisting the idea that they are no longer here. Especially my grandma. It still hurts to think that I will never be able to call my grandma up, particularly around this time of year, and ask her all kinda of questions about baking. It still hurts to think of the soured relationship I had with my father that was turning around, thanks to my grandma, that I will never get to finish seeing mended. It still hurts to think that my grandma wasn't able to be there for my wedding and won't be there to spoil and teach my future child to paint and craft the way we did when I was little.

But that pain is...easing, surprisingly. It's difficult and I doubt that I will ever be able to think of the great times I had with my grandma or the way my father glanced at me when we hadn't seen or spoken to each other in years and not shed tears. I won't be able to move on from those thoughts, but at least I am able to anchor them. I have a place that I can go to when I want to let them know from whatever heaven or homeland they are looking down from now, that I am thinking about them and I still care. I still love them. And I miss them terribly.

So in the soggy mud, I went to the cemetery and cleaned their graves. Digging away encroaching earth, grass, and vines to fully reveal their gravestones once more. You can see the eagle on my father's grave again. You can see the entirety of my grandma's name and dates.

I finished by placing my little white pumpkins on their graves. A little present and promise that I will visit more often. That I'm sorry it took this long.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lavender and Wooly Bears

Sometimes pictures are prettier than words:

 Took my first harvest from our lavender that was planted this spring.

The Wooly Bears are out!
According to folklore, this little guy had about half his body in brown segments, 
so we should have a pretty normal winter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My favorite part of the Bible

I do have favorite parts of the Bible. Surprising as that may seem to some, I have read many parts of the Bible and am reading it --wholly-- again because I believe that it is important to know what others believe in and to understand where others derive their faith and morals from.

To me, the Bible is another culturally reflective group of stories and mythos. It is a selective collection of works of both Jewish and Christian ideas. It has went through numerous translations (both good and bad attempts) and in it's creation and evolution, it has picked up in a few hidden and not-so-talked-about-places some beautiful poetry. Especially within the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon). And that is my favorite part of the Bible.

A Hebrew to English translation can be found here.

Beautiful phrases and descriptions and personal love between two human beings just resonates from those passages. Intimate dialect between two lovers. These are ideas that are heavily concealed in all the Christianity I have been exposed to and it always left me wondering why. Why would you want to hide such passion and love? Why downplay the idea of intimacy into a very odd and forced allegory of Christ and the Church? Christ is not part of the Old Testament so how could this be relevant to him before he made himself known on Earth? Even in the original Hebrew, the gender forms of the words show there are two speakers-- one of male and one of female voice-- that speak back and forth to each other. (For those like me not educated in Hebrew, here is a source to see the breaks in whom is speaking to who.) Let these very deep feelings be what they are. Be exposed to the beauty of words, to the passion of two souls, and see the very deep physical and emotional wells of love for another human being.

1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for thy love is better than wine.

1:9 I have compared thee, O my love, to a steed in Pharaoh's chariots.

1:13 My beloved is unto me as a bag of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts.
 14 My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna in the vineyards of En-gedi.
 15 Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves.
 16 Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our couch is leafy.
 17 The beams of our houses are cedars, and our panels are cypresses.

2:4 He hath brought me to the banqueting-house, and his banner over me is love.

2:7 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles, and by the hinds of the field, that ye awaken not, nor stir up love, until it please.

Between Chapters 2 and 4, it can be suggested even, that the lovers are partaking in oral sex.
2:3 As an apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. Under its shadow I delighted to sit, and its fruit was sweet to my taste.
4:11 Thy lips, O my bride, drop honey--honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

Chapter 4 extends the inability in my mind for the Song of Songs to be about Christ and the Church. The man is discussing the beauty and fruitfulness of his lover--describing her in soft, fruitful, and fragrant tones. Her lips are a scarlet ribbon, her breasts are two fawns browsing about the lilies. He calls her a locked up garden with orchards, choice fruits, and exotic, rare, and enticing spices. To which she replies: Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his precious fruits. How tantalizing and tempting is that? How deliciously descriptive and evocative?

Chapter 5 shows her speaking of how her lover made his way into her heart and has come to her, only to find that when she opens the door, he is gone. While wandering the streets looking for her love, she is beaten by the guards, but still she searches. The question is asked of her: How is your lover better than any other man? and she begins describing her love as ruddy and preeminent above ten thousand, using metals, stones, and gems to describe him. His hair is curled and black as ravens. His body is polished ivory, his hands are rods of gold, his legs are pillars of marble, while his mouth is sweetness itself.

They continue to take turns describing each other and their passion, continuing the equal idea that "I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine." (6:3) The imagery of fruit being tended, of secret, concealed gardens, and the mention for them to run away together invokes strong, passionate yearning between two lovers. The words of choice are deeply arousing and invoking of the senses

I hear so many things that resonate with my Pagan (and romantic) heart within the Song of Songs. The sheer unashamed passion and love between the two lovers inside beautiful, lush landscapes, frolicking with comparisons to and descriptions of animals is both primal and intricately human. There is a deep, natural, and passionate love set among overflowing gardens and rich imagery. It is simply beautiful and one would never know that it was from the Bible because it does not mention God at all.

But on the other hand, one could say that they are encompassing God by being so naturally free and absolutely in love-- in all aspects of the word.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17th- Cat's Night

I love the Old Farmer's Almanac. They always have great little tidbits that I enjoy. From gardening tips, to the Moon, Sun, and astrology, to recipes, and more.

The thing that caught my eye in the latest email was the date on the monthly calender called Cat's Night. It naturally peaked my interest and this is what it had to say:

"The term “Cat Nights” harks back to a rather obscure old Irish legend concerning witches and the belief that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time (August 17), she couldn’t regain her human form. This bit of folklore also gives us the saying, “A cat has nine lives.” Because August is a yowly time for cats, this may have prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl in the first place."

A quick Google search did not pull any further results for this legend, but I thought it was neat and novel nonetheless.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Happy Lughnasadh, Lammas, and/or First Fruits and Harvest for those that celebrate. I personally celebrate the equinoxes and solstices as my holidays/holy days, but so many Pagans do celebrate today under one name or the other. And I just can't believe it's already the beginning of August. In any case, I'm glad to be done with whatever mood was looming around and leaching me in July. So I just wanted to say have a Blessed Day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What does the Goddess look like?

This is the second time I have come upon this article discussing "toxic" Goddess imagery. And boy all I have to say is wow! The first time I didn't respond to it because I simply felt it was very poorly put together. The reason I am addressing it now is because I think it's important to understand that we all view the Goddess differently and that, while this article addresses the image of the Goddess, it only focuses on what the author finds displeasing in a very poorly gathered group of random images from the internet.

Apart from some very wrong information and mish-mashing of things, the issue I see most with these critiques is actually with the art-styles themselves (and the lack of understanding them). That most of these just happen be tagged with keywords ("Goddess," "Witch," "Morrigan") does not mean they are Pagan in the religious/spiritual sense. In a nutshell, they aren't necessarily meant to be Pagan. Even if a Pagan uses them on their website/signature/avatar/etc, they are simply images with keywords attached to them.

My first question would be to address the general complaint of posture and body-type: To me, the Goddess(es) can beautifully encompass the body-type of any female shape one can imagine--and then some! That a Goddess can be Earth-shaped like the Venus of Willendorf or lion-headed like Bastet or triple-faced like Hecate only shows she can be beyond our own image. What about the depictions in classical works of art about the Goddess(es)? Are these a style to strive to compare/create to? Or is there vulgarity in classical statues of Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, or Selene? What about Kali with her necklace of skulls?

Many of the images are based off games and anime (as well as comics) from the Japanese culture (modern culture especially) which, being a different culture than many "Westernized" people are used to, have very different ways of depicting the world around them and some might not be used to it. Elementary and middle school-aged kids are easily the heroes of stories and can be placed in fairly grown-up situations without it being shocking or alarming. Large eyes, proportion issues, and unique hair and outfits are common place in anime, video games, and comics (Japanese in origin or not).

If you search for "anime witch" and actually find one that reflects a real witch or pagan's actual image, I would be 95% surprised. I personally am a fan of anime and seeing an over-sized witch's hat and striped stockings on the witch, flying on a broom with her cat on the end appeals to me. Others would be more interested in Baba Yaga flying around in her mortar and pestle and her hut with chicken feet. It is more of personal appeal.

And video games have their gems sometimes. Okami was an amazing and beautiful job of depicting Shinto folklore without even placing the Goddess Amaterasu in a human-shaped body. However, Morrigan Aensland of Darkstalkers is simply the succubus' name. She isn't meant to depict the Irish Goddess. Just like Morrigan from Dragon Age isn't meant to depict her either (even if she is the daughter of the Witch of the Wilds and shape-shifts). So their images should not even be included among the Goddesses. Just because they share the same name, does not mean that they are representations of Her. To me, falsely linking the two only enforces false stereotypes. And I'm not sure how the author sees Laura Croft or Ivy from the Soul Caliber series as Amazons. This only causes confusion based on misunderstanding and spreading misinformation is harmful. Especially to others that are unaware also.

Speaking (briefly) of Laura Croft and video games, the whole video game & female depiction is a very old confliction, but it is slowly changing. Perhaps some would like the new reboot of Laura Croft (though I find her new character and personality to be very helpless and over-emotional-- throwing her form one side of the spectrum to the other).

And an FYI: Hentai is not Japanese video game rape. It is animated pornography. Yes, there are different themes, situations, stories, and even games, but those are no different than the vast array of regular pornography within the real world. Not all anime is "porn-charged" as it is put either. Many of those images portray what is called "ecchi". Which is the use of sexual undertones or innuendos. Often it can be found in very humorous or "cute" ways. Sexuality is not and should not be solely equated to pornography. It is a beautiful and empowering thing and is viewed very differently in Japan than it is in much of America. It surprises me that the way the Japanese social culture regards breasts as such a natural part of the female body would be so opposing to a Goddess-worshiping mindset. Breasts are one of the Goddess's fertile attributes. How could breast size and shape be such an issue? They serve multiple functions, both as nourishment and as symbols of sexuality. Even if one was to give these hodgepodged images credit, would the Goddess care that we depict her with various sized attributes and proportions? I doubt so. When I think of the Goddess encouraging fertility (even fertility of the Earth), I think of large breasts and wide hips--natural feminine attributes that should not be made to seem shameful either.

The author speaks against being demure and fair and then criticize those that emphasize breasts or portray the buttock sticking out. Do we asexualize the Goddess then for middle ground? Can no Goddess be depicted as moving and alive? Feminine or Sexual? Strong or Silent? Beautiful or old? Or even in a pose (especially in a picture/statue)? Disliking the old shaman because she is frowning--is the Goddess supposed to always be smiling? These restrictions on the Goddess only seem to conjure up piety images of suppressed femininity.

The first image on the phony witches page is one that I have had saved on my computer for a long time and one that I find beautiful and visually inspiring in the manga style. The problem with it being un-proportional (as well as the other anime images) is actually the artistic style it is drawn in. It is intended to exaggerate certain features over others--especially within manga. (Clamp is a very popular all-female manga artist group that exaggerates that style even more to create very beautiful images).

I do not mean to seem harsh, but I do mean to question the understanding of where these images are being taken from and that, to me, it seems less about what the Goddess should be depicted as and more about what they find un-pleasing about very loosely related female body image. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Can't the medicine woman and shaman be beautiful? Or does she have to always be depicted as the crone? Isn't that reinforcing stereotypes as well? Why can't the Goddess portray overt sexuality and femininity? They are Her realms too after all. Pleasure is an emotion that the Goddess gave us. You don't have to like it in it's many forms (and, like it or not, pornography is one of them), but you do have to recognize it as an outlet of the sexual nature the Creator gave us. If animals put on displays and were created with mating rituals, dances, and poses in mind, who are we to separate ourselves from that Divine dance instinctively intrinsic to us?

Bayonetta by Platinum Games
I like my witches a little sexy, strong-willed, and powerful sometimes.