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Selina Rifkin

Selina Rifkin

Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_candles_sm.jpgChildren are the reason for the home. They are our descendents and will hopefully be ancestors themselves. They are the continuation of our species, our joy when they succeed, our pain when they fail. The shooting in Newtown CT happens in my home ground. My massage practice is in Newtown, my retired horse lives there, and I have friends who live there. It is two towns over.

 

No one wants this to happen again. Ever.

 

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a1sx2_Thumbnail1_golden-holly.jpgYule is a tough time of year for me. Not because there is anything tragic. My holiday memories are pleasant. I am the only child of a single mom, who lived far from her family of birth. Christmas was just she and I opening presents and she would make little Cornish game hens for Christmas dinner. Sometimes we would join friends of hers but it was always congenial. My birthday is also at this time of year – the 23rd – as is hers – the 19th.  She was very careful to make sure I got separate birthday and Christmas presents. As an adult, I suffer from too much celebrating, and not enough of it being meaningful. Not to put too fine a point on it, but by the time New Year’s Eve comes around, I’m pretty done with celebrating, thanks-for-asking.

Something I realized was that, as an adult, I really didn’t have Yule traditions of my own. And really, its just in the last five years or so that I realized I wanted to celebrate my Pagan holiday in my own home, not just at a local gathering. Many of the trappings of Christmas are Pagan anyway, the tree, the holly, the wreaths, and of course, the Yule log. When I was a kid, I loved decorating the tree and putting up holiday decorations while listening to carols. Baking cookies was another favorite – and of course – eating them.

But not all my Christmas holiday traditions translated smoothly to Yule. The music was very problematic indeed. Last year I set about collecting Pagan Yule music. I found a few things that were ok, often with poor production values, and then at Rites of Spring I found a CD of Yule music by MotherTongue. So this year I have that to listen to. I also have the music from the South Park Christmas Special, which is my antidote for too much Christian music that I can’t tune out.

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  • Raymond Covey
    Raymond Covey says #
    Hi Selina, wonderful post! Your article made me consider how I celebrate Yule and how I view Christmas music. I feel awkward list

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Ten years ago, I served as treasurer for a local non-profit Pagan group. The board was largely empty and I wanted to help out. I took the treasurer position because it was a job I figured no one else would want (is that a fantastic reason or what?) Many – although not all - of the Pagans I know are creative types that would rather chew their own arm off than tackle bookkeeping.  I had recently tackled my then fiance’s bookkeeping for his business, which consisted of a pile of receipts in a large box, and I guess I was feeling cocky. So despite not knowing anything about bookkeeping besides basic math, I dove into the pool like a crazed otter.

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Proposition 37 is voter-mandated proposal in California to label products that contain Genetically Modified Organisms. If you are still unclear about exactly what GMOs are, and why they are bad, let’s have an explanation.

GMOs should really be called transgenic organisms. Humans have been modifying plants and changing their genetics since the beginning of agriculture. We do this by choosing seeds from the healthiest, best producing plants and growing them. But this is not remotely what corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta are doing. These corporations take genes from two organisms that would never naturally reproduce together (because the equipment would not even match up) and combines them together into one Frankenplant (or Frankenanimal).

When these plants get eaten by another living being, those combo genes enter that system. In the case of livestock, they don’t generally live long enough to show the damage that these combo genes cause, and if they did, I’m sure the owners of the CAFOs would do all they could to hide it. But there are enough studies that show that GMOs are dangerous for scientists to have spoken out against them.

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  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    Thank you for speaking out on this important issue. Even if one believes that GMO's are harmless, at least labeling allows one to

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In the essay Photo of boy in public housing with an iPad prompts debate over what the poor should have, blogger Jarvis DeBerry describes the moral outrage expressed by some readers over a little boy occupying himself with an iPad in a poor neighborhood. Further outrage, as well as outrage over this outrage, was expressed in the comments section and reflects the ongoing dilemma of what to do about the poor and our understanding of what is fair.

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  • Angela 	Gamblin
    Angela Gamblin says #
    After having read some of the posts in reply to that image over on DeBerry's blog, I was truly struck by those comments of people
  • Carol Maltby
    Carol Maltby says #
    "Fair" probably starts with knowing the context of the photo, and knowing what assumptions we are making that may or may not have
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Questions of redistributive (I prefer the term "restorative") justice vs. meritocracy actually *do* come back to religion. If you

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The mid-west is in a drought. Crops are dying and wildfires are flaring all across the Midwest. In this post, I will focus on the loss of crops. The primary crops for the Midwest are corn and soybeans. This year, corn planting is at an all time high at 96.4 million acres. Almost none of it is sweet corn. The vast majority is commodity corn, which will become feed for pigs and cattle, be used for the production of corn by-products, or to produce ethanol. None of these uses improve human or planetary health or well-being. In addition, between 85 and 95 percent of the corn planted in the afflicted states is GMO.* Corn is – by necessity - almost always rotated with soybeans. Over 90 percent of all soybeans are GMO.

How absurd that we tear up native prairie grasses to grow corn or soybeans to feed cattle. Such grasses are far more resistant to heat and drought conditions. Their roots, extending 15 feet below the soil line, literally raise the water table. As I have written in other posts, cattle are not designed to eat grain, and it is bad for their health and ours. They are designed to eat grass. In a wet year, such grasses also improve the soil’s ability to hold water. This reduces both flooding and erosion.

Rotational strip-grazing of cattle instead of commodity cropping would necessarily change how the market works. Cattle and pigs are finished in factory farms and fed corn and soy feeds for the convenience of the processors. The deplorable conditions that these animals endure, which are problem for any Pagan for which relationship matters, are a function public demand.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    GREAT POST. We are planning our first locally-grass fed beef purchase this fall. We are sharing with a neighbor (and possibly my s
  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Information is the key. Talking about it. Dispelling myths. I just finished watching "Forks Over Knives." It was astonishing to se

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An it harm none, do what ye will – Doreen Valiente

Most Pagans in this country were raised Christian. No I haven’t taken any sort of official poll, but since Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, and Paganism is one of the fastest growing religions, the math is unavoidable. Coming from the structured dogma of a monotheistic religion into one that places all life-choices squarely in one’s own lap can be a heady experience, as is the vastly different image of the body.

Early Neo- Paganism – which was dominated by Wicca – held and still holds, that the body is a good thing, and the good feelings that arise from it are to be embraced and welcomed. Indeed, such feelings can be counted as acts of worship to a deity. This attitude has resulted in a good deal of healing for many around body image and sexuality. It has been a positive force for growth and change. Eating is something to be enjoyed, savored, and celebrated. Guilt is not necessary. Size is not equated with morality. Bodies are a gift, and we are glad to be in them.

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gardenveggies_sm.jpgI finally joined a CSA. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Effectively, it means that I agree to purchase a certain percentage of a farmer’s crop for a growing season at a specific price. In this case, the season started in May and will end in October or November. The advantage to me is that I will get a variety of fresh vegetables weekly until the CSA finishes. The advantage to the farmers is that  they are guaranteed a specific income for their labor. I am sharing their risk because if the weather becomes nasty and the tomatoes rot, they still get paid for their time and effort.

I’ve known about CSAs for 10 years, and despite my obsession with healthy food have never joined one before this. First, I travel, and the weekly pickup would be impossible. Second, I can’t eat sweet peppers. What has changed is that I am not doing the CSA alone, but have a partner. The farm is on her way home from work and she is willing to accommodate both my absences and quirky dietary issues, and it turns out this particular farm has a vegetable exchange policy. We are splitting the share, which should still leave us with a respectable amount of veggies. What pleases me to no end is that my partner is a fellow Pagan.

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ireland-fields.jpgWhen I was a kid in the 70s, mom collected our newspapers and tin cans for recycling, and she and I would pick up trash by the side of the road. In school I saw a completely traumatizing film about a world constantly awash in grey polluted rain, in which a woman maintains a little green house. A green house that ultimately gets destroyed by a mob, desperate for a touch of beauty. I named myself an environmentalist with pride and did so up until I started studying sustainable food production methods.

That food production in this country spews vast amounts of poison onto the earth and water is not news. The fact that the larger environmental movement had more passion for spotted owls than acres of toxins was somewhat understandable. Food production was – and is – a political hot potato. The idea that modern farming methods saved millions from starvation was probably true enough for a short period of time - immediately after artificial fertilizers and DDT were introduced - but now that is the story that corporations like Cargill and Monsanto use to keep us convinced that they should be allowed to sell GMO seeds and pesticides. And the silence from the environmental movement is deafening. The focus on mega fauna and fortress conservation has separated the average American from nature. Nature is something we go to parks, or zoos, or media to see. School children are shocked and grossed out by the fact that vegetables grow from dirt. The same attitude that places Nature on a pedestal separates us from the source of what nourishes body and soul.

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I often make references to grass-fed livestock. This would seem to be an obvious concept, a pasture full of cows is still something that my generation might remember from childhood, before livestock was banned from suburbia for being stinky and attracting flies. Mom and I used to buy our milk (and ice cream!) at the local dairy. You could watch the cows come in from the field and go into their spot in the barn. They would get their udders washed and the milker attached, and would stand munching hay while they were relieved of their burden. Then off they would go, back out to the pasture. These cows were clean and healthy. It was obvious when you looked at them. The farm was a transparent operation, and their handling practices were there for all the world to see.

And while this is assuredly a big step up from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), this is not quite what I mean by grass-fed.

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Last month, the New York Times had an essay contest in which they asked for people to write about why it is ethical to eat meat. You can view the results here, and read my essay here. I was not surprised to not be chosen, but did find this an interesting challenge, because one of the requirements was that we could not talk about grass-fed livestock for meat. 

Relationship is one of the aspects that defines Pagan attitudes about food. For Pagans, deity is immanent in the world. Every rock, every tree, everything that moves and breathes is sacred. Including what we eat. It is very common for Pagans to feel a deep kinship with both animals and plants. This creates an ethical dilemma that is not easy to solve. How does one eat one’s brother? Industrial farming is repugnant to anyone who takes the time to look. But even more so to a Pagan who claims kinship to all living things.

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Perhaps you have heard the term “food culture.” It is the idea that a particular group of people eats a particular group of foods. Cajun, for example is from Louisiana. It is spicy, and includes a lot of fish, or German cooking, that uses cabbage and sausage. Both use the foods that are locally available to create a particular flavor palate. Food culture is trendy. Which is funny because it is just what people eat because they had to. Germans ate  - and still eat – sauerkraut because cabbage grows well in Germany’s northern climate. People on the gulf coast eat fish because it is available, and spicy foods because it is cooling to do so. Food culture is about place. Barbara Kingsolver says food culture is “an affinity between the people and the land that feeds them.”

For Europeans, this is a straightforward proposition. There are long traditions there that are supported by not only differences in food availability, but in differences in language. For North Americans it’s a different story. We do have some things that support local food cultures to be sure, in our early years here, it was a matter of pride for a woman to source her family’s needs close to home rather than importing from England. This was one of the ways that women contributed to the Revolution.

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If I seem food obsessed, please understand that in the normal stretch of human history, I am quite normal. My blog postings often come back to the kitchen, the hearth. And when that is the case, it is because this is where my explorations of what it means to be nourished have lead me. In our modern culture, what you eat only matters if it will make you fat. Appearance is an obsession of the wider culture, one which Pagans have, for the most part, been successful at resisting. What matters to us is connection, integrity, and celebration.

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  • Larksong
    Larksong says #
    Hi Selina, Great article. When your ready for your next post I've installed a new blog system. Its working, thou I'm still working

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