9.25.2012

going to local open circles, a word on etiquette

I'm sure that there's been hundreds of articles written on this, but I wanted to just point some stuff out because frankly, as the pagan community grows, we need to be more mindful of one another - some things you can't stress enough.  I love how the pagan community can come together, but there's a lot of things that just really get on my nerves.

The idea is that there is a certain etiquette you need to follow when you're attending public rituals.  Public rituals are generally hosted by groups who want to help build a stronger sense of community.  But these groups have their own beliefs, their own systems, and their own way of doing things.  You can, however, be a wonderful guest that hopefully gets invited back again and again.  Here are some simple things you can do.

Firstly, make sure your information is complete.  If you are going to a public ritual, whether it is hosted in a public place or private home, make sure you have the correct date, the correct time, a list of what you could and should bring (will there be a potluck fellowship afterwards?  Bring food?), how many people you're allowed to bring (they might want to know if your entire druid grove of 30 is planning to come out), parking (carpooling is best), indoor or outdoor, and get accurate directions (sometimes, different GPS systems or different online map systems will put you waaaayyy off the mark).  Also, if you can, try to RSVP - this helps the group get an idea of how many people will attend.  And... always ask if it's child-friendly. There is no reason to be pissed off and act a fool if you're bringing your kid to a Beltane ritual and they politely ask you to take your child home - because it IS a fertility ritual, and YOU forgot to ask. 

You have to remember, again, you're going into someone else's sacred space, into their tradition and beliefs - you're trying to be open-minded, but you have to be respectful of their beliefs and practices.  

Meet the criteria of the gathering - be prepared.  If you are told it's outside, bug spray might be a good idea.  If it's a night ritual, bring a flashlight.  If there's a meet-and-greet-potluck, bring something for a good amount of people (please...don't crap out and bring a damn bag of chips....if you're hard on cash, it's about 3  for cake mix and icing...there's stuff you can do on a budget.  Some people go all-out, which is cool, but you don't have to be that person...you just have to put a bit of effort into it if you have some advanced warning).  There are some things you should always try to bring - extra seating, a light or heavy jacket (depending on locale and weather), possibly a first aid kit, and maybe blankets (for warmth or for sitting on the ground).  

If you're wanting to go above and beyond to help the group you're visiting, you can bring things that are necessary to facilitate a large group,  such as paper towels, ice, disposable items (cups, plates, eating utensils), garbage bags, and I kid you not, toilet paper.  Would you be happy about buying the toilet paper for 30 people who are descending on your house?  All these items, most people don't think of, but let's face it, we are supposed to be a very tolerate, accepting group (of neo-pagans) and kindness towards others is something we should always be mindful of.  Trust me, having been part of a group that did large rituals, those things are very much appreciated.

Respect the differences. Perhaps the ritual wasn't what you expected.  In fact, perhaps your Egyptian leanings didn't fly well with the Celtic ritual.  Get over it.  Maybe the swag one lady was wearing looked more like a Halloween costume than High Priestess ritual robing.  Get over it.  They called the quarters differently, didn't use the proper elemental beings, and mispronounced the name of the God and Goddess as you know it.  Get over it.  Seriously.  You're a guest, and you should be appreciative someone had the courage to share their magics, bare their soul to the public in an effort to promote community unity.  If you can do better, put your money where your mouth is.  There's nothing more annoying than finishing a ritual and hearing someone talk shit about a 'flat ritual', or someone wasn't witchy/mysterious/serious enough, or that someone was dressed ridiculously or whatever.  Who the hell are you to judge?  And if you can do it better, do it.  But you don't have to show your ass by talking crap about your host and the people that just wanted to do something in the community.  If you don't like it, don't go.  If you're not into what they're into, fine, but you don't have to put someone down over their differences.

And finally, keep your bullshit to yourself.  Don't bring your drama to someone else's turf.  If you've got a bone to pick with someone who's part of another group, or you've got some internal conflict with another person in the organization, keep your mouth shut.  It's neither the time nor the place.  The gathering isn't about you, it isn't about them, get the hell over yourself - most people won't know, won't care, and just look at you as a distraction.  And frankly, if you really have that kind of a problem with someone who's at a public gathering - I promise you, the circle/nemeton/gathering that you're going to doesn't want the ugliness there.  No witch wars, no rivalries - stop the stupidity.  If you really can't stand someone, leave.  If you don't want to leave, don't stand in circle with them.  There's no reason you can't enjoy a celebration, even if you don't particularly like someone there.  Because, again, it's not about you.  It's not about them.  It's about the community.  Work for the greater good, will you?

If you can keep those four things in mind, you'll do good.  Have fun!

P.S.

Yup, I'm only human - even I can forget something.  Even after all of this ranting, a great friend pointed out something that is one of the most important forms of etiquette that I should be punished for....

Don't forget to say thank you.  Putting together a large gathering is a tremendous amount of work, money and planning.  (And yes, I'm borderline spamming people, thanking them for letting us be there!...so I am KICKING myself for not adding this here the first time on my soap box....)  If they've got a 'donation' jar chillin', even if you don't have a ton of money to help, pitch a dollar in.  You can get a roll of toilet paper.  Or a roll of paper towels.  Or garbage bags.  You can get a lot of disposables from a dollar store.

It's nice when you do something so cool that people appreciate you enough to simply say, "Thank you."

(Thank you, Cathy S. for pointing that out to me. :)  )

9.23.2012

Blackberry Circle - Mabon in Review

(If you're not really pagan or Wiccan, you might want to skip this post....this entry deals with visiting an open pagan ritual and A)you might not be into that kind of thing or B)you just might not 'get it'....paganism and Wicca are experiential and if you don't do it, sometimes explaining it is.....many conversations over many beers/coffee....)

So, as the Fates would have it, with the shop opening and the need for networking, some friends and I happened upon Blackberry Circle.

When you go blindly into a community gathering, you really never know what you're getting into.  I'm always up for meeting new people on the bright side, but on the other side, the crazy side, you have to worry about things like drama, showcase gurus, and a plethora of other weirdness.

I'm happy to say, this outing was not the case.

Now, the instructions were pretty good, but I am partial to my GPS.  Through the combination, we drove out to Conroe, which is a bit north from Houston.  The place was easy to find, frankly, when you have that kind of gathering at someone's personal home, really, all you have to do is look for the cars.  And there were quite a few cars.

The gathering was about 40ish people - this apparently wasn't a largely advertised circle (I found it through the C.O.G. website, because I was interested in it and it showed that this particular group was trying to get ...a charter, I think?).  But the friends I had bought were skittish, and we entered in a closely knit group.

I think that started to dissolve rather quickly.  The gracious host coven and their more familiar regulars paid attention to new faces - greeting, meeting, introducing.

(Now....I will not interject etiquette points on visiting circles...that's for another post.)

The circle in and of itself was not lead solely by a high priest or priestess.  Everyone in the host coven had their part, and kindly, we were greeted to come into the circle, which was physically marked by fencing and, you guessed it, blackberry bushes.  Both open, but closed, it was quite a large circle, roomy, and easily accommodating the large group of people.  

The ritual itself was stylized Wiccan - instead of an open nemeton, it was the closed sphere that those that practice Wicca are used to.  

On a personal note, I have a lot of respect for the kindly woman who both opened and closed the circle - one person to cover that many people and let it be felt, that was really cool. I can't help but crack a smile at the thought.  I'm not so gifted that I can see auras or do past life regression - I believe firmly I have a sensitivity (stronger than some, not as strong as others).  I remember being a kid and playing a silly game where you placed your hand on someone's head and hit it with your fist, 'cracking an egg'.  Then you would lightly wiggle your fingers and brush down their hair, and they could feel the sensation of  'egg trickling down their head'.  The feeling that sneaks up on you when you hear really great music and it gives you goosebumps?  That kind of feeling - knowing someone really was 'covering' 40-something people with the power of the people and their will.  Totally cool.

If you're into magic and do it frequently, you know about 'raising the power'.  Some people use chants, some people use a strict format, tapping into the power of the past usage of a rune or rhyme.  The approach of this group was amusing for me - instead, they tapped the power of laughter and happiness.

The words 'mirth and reverence' come to mind.  The gentleman leading the ritual stylized his narration, his pageantry if you will, in the flavor of a southern baptist preacher.  And he told the story of the Lord of Light and the Lord of Dark, and the Ladies of Light and Dark.  The retelling is an old one, some referring them to the Oak and Holly king, (funny enough, with the joyous, playful catcalls coming from the circle.  "Amen!" "Holly-lujah!" And other cracks abound).  But even in the play, the ancient story flooded the mind and filled the senses as the moon, both half light and half dark, hung over the proceedings.

Back to the mirth....as cakes and ales consisted of Moon Pies (both chocolate and, yup, vanilla) and RC Cola (with profuse apologies to those who were about to experience diabetic shock).  The ritual came to a close, and the entire time, it was upbeat, playful, and swirling.  Like a bunch of kids hopping into a summer pool party.

Feasting and fellowship followed, light by LED and glowy things.  The food was great (I don't know who made the roast beast, but the flavor was excellent), fruits, flesh, fresh breads - all sorts of wonderful things.  I met some nice people, and hopefully, it opens doors for building friendships and being a part of the greater Houston pagan community.  

Unfortunately, we had driven a ways, so we had to cut out early.  We giggled all the way to the car as choruses of well-wishes, safe-journeys, and goodbyes came clearly through the darkness.

Thanks for the great times!  Looking forward to Samhain!

9.20.2012

hammering on the forge

An old dream, once dusty and darkened with age, was put upon the forge and fired again.  It light up, glowing and warm, and slowly, it is being hammered into shape.

Since I was very young, I wanted to create a metaphysical book store.

This dream started in a small shop called Gateways in Seabrook, Texas.  The shop was small when it started, opening in a small, unused church behind a Whataburger off of highway 146.

It was a beautiful little store.  It was filled with delightful smells, with crystals that were supposed to have power.  Millions of pieces of rainbow danced across surfaces of counters and floors, lit by big, bright windows and flung far and wide by leaded, cut crystals hanging from the ceiling.  Angels adorned shelves, along with books and boxes.  Meditation music played softly as jewelry glittered silently inside of glass cases.  This brilliant place was serene, and the the people behind the counters were kind and soft-spoken.

When I was younger, not quite a teen, this was a treat, to be able to go to this place.  This little bookstore was a place my stepmother used to take me, looking for heartfelt gifts.  The owner offered a Course in Miracles and other such new-age things.  This shop moved twice in its long career (as far as these stores go) and became a very strong presence in a spiritual community of alternative beliefs.  The owner passed away, then the shop was passed onto her daughter.  With her wife, she ran this shop that catered to the pagan community, eventually offering classes on herbs, on basic Wicca, past lives, and other various workshops.

Ever since I was 11, I dreamed of being able to do the same thing.  Being surrounded by wondrous, magical things and  catering to the pagan community.

A few weeks ago, this dream started becoming a reality.

My husband and I have talked a lot about the feasibility of opening a store.  It takes a lot of capital, and frankly, unless you're gifted with it through great credit or maybe someone passing (gods forbid), then it's hard to come up with that kind of money.  So, as a modest start, we've started a small booth inside a flea market in Houston.

The name of our booth, our 'store' is In Between.  We chose the name, because of it's multiple meanings - we are always in between one part of our lives and the next, and in ritual, we are in all worlds and between all worlds.  We are creatures in constant motion, between one lesson and the next.  We are neither here, nor there.

The idea has more evolved to being a spiritual gift and book store.  Path is irrelevant.  We are all on our own path, doing our own thing, hoping to be doing the right thing, and sometimes we have an adventure buddy or two with us.  Remember what I said about my stepmother wanting to give me a Christian blessing?  Doesn't matter.  A blessing in any faith is still a blessing.  So that has become our motto, if you will.

Blessings on your journey.

So...with hope, with fear, with anxiety and exhilaration, we bring to you In Between.  Follow along on Facebook if you'd like.  We are working to build a dream and we would love to share with your the wonderful things we find.  Some might seem scary, but our items will transverse faiths.  From Kali to Buddha, from sugar skulls to spirit houses, from Our Lady of Guadalupe to our Anubis plushie - we are trying to create a more spiritual, more rounded place. The greatest achievement we can make is helping someone find some solace in their spiritual journey.

Pax.

9.05.2012

This is a truth....about women.


I have a link for you, from the blog called UnWinona.  I think this is something I'd like to address.

I don't know whether or not the story is true for this particular individual, but I have seen this in action before in my youth.  Not as strongly violent as the situation the bloggess speaks of, but the fact that it occurs at all speaks volumes to me.


Perhaps there is a lot of people that really believe there is no 'war on woman'.  I am not writing this to convince you otherwise.  What I am writing this about, sharing this link, is the opportunity to be aware that this kind of thing is going on.  I found the blog after I found this, which started me thinking....:


My thoughts?

GET MAD.

As a guy, thinking about this, I would be pissed as all Hell's get-out.

And I've seen this and dealt with it - the guys that for some reason, can't behave in a civilized manner.  If a woman acted in that manner, she'd be considered a psycho.  But really, what I can't fathom is that people stood by and watched this behavior without doing -anything-.  

In the narrative, the 'nice guy in the business suit' pretty much waits until there's no chance he won't get his ass handed to him by three guys.  I get that.  Where's security?  Where's a cell phone?

Hell, where is human decency?

So really, guys, when your buddies are actin' a fool - fuckin' set them straight.  Because the next chick they go off on might be your mom, your sister, your daughter, or your cousin.  

9.04.2012

breathing life into old dreams

So the husband and I have agreed to start another venture.  I'm hoping the best for this, and going to do what I can to make an old dream reality.  So many dreams I had, others took and ran with.  That's okay.  They can have those dreams.  I've changed a lot since then.  But I kept a few for myself, which is cool.

Just makes me a fabulous person - so fab that people wanna be me!  At least, really, that's the only explanation I can come up with.

I don't know, I've never really planned out things.  Life comes to me at an adventure, and I'm very fortunate in the aspect that perhaps I've seemed aimless, but I've had so many wonderful adventures.  And now we're on a venture that I'm trying to get everyone on board with.  My self-titled adventure.

One of the best lessons I ever got was from an old boss of mine while I worked in retail.  I can't remember what we were talking about, but I know it was related to the store.  He just simply spoke these words:

"You have to buy into it."

That doesn't seem like a lot, but it is.  It's a whole lot.  Because failure and success doesn't necessarily mean doing good or doing bad, it means believing in what you're doing.  If you believe, you ride out the lows, scream madly and giggle on the highs, and if it pulls to a stop, you say flush-faced and eyes sparkling, "Man....what a ride."

It's been kinda fun.  I don't really answer to anyone.  My kids are at the fun age, which is homeroom and high school - to me, that was the most fun, extra curricular stuff.  My parents had a hard time being there - right now I can.  Not saying that having a child at this age is bad, I will raise a toast to you, but I don't envy the diaper-changing and car seats.  For those that have never experienced it, or have a deep affinity for constantly being around babies, it's kind of an awesome job.  But anyone that knows me also knows that this is the time that I've been waiting for.  Being able to really watch my little birds take flight.

Volunteering as a parent isn't an easy job.  Last Friday was the first football game at my eldest's high school. Friday Night Lights.  But when you've got a kid in the band, TRUST ME, it's all about the band.

I got there about 3:30, because at home games, they say that the kids don't really have time to go home, eat, come back, warm up, and hit the field.  At least, that's how it was for this first one.  So I show up early to help fee 315 kids.

One of the moms tells me, "When you're a Band mom, you don't have a kid in the band.  The band becomes your kids.  You have 315 kids."  Can't say that's not true.

I don't think I've sweat so much since I stopped going to the gym (which means, really, this could be a good thing).  We didn't get home until about 10:30.  I helped feed kids, chaperone kids, move instruments, RUN instruments, give potty breaks (that's a lot of potty breaks, I tell you), act as a bouncer, etc.  There's a LOT to be done.  But it's amazing.  It's wonderful.  And the parents who can take that kind of time to volunteer, that's totally frackin' awesome.  Because it's not just mommies, it's daddies too. Building, fabricating, moving instruments, feeding and herding.  Sometimes altering and mending.  And my daughter's daddy is really cool, because he's got a CDL with a commercial endorsement, which means he's a daddy that can drive the 16 wheelers.

So, this year is going to be full of pictures (which means, if you get to know me, you might see them on facebook) and busy as all heck.  Being home to do it all too is going to be awesome.

(And by the way.....we won 47-7.....it was a great first game, for the band AND for the football team.)
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