"You know when wolves run free and alone? when they're mentally or physically diseased."
I opened up my Facebook account today and was greeted by a long discussion focusing on cultural appropriation, vis-a-vis belly dancing. It appeared to be based on a Salon article titled "Why I can't stand white belly dancers."
The first thing that struck me was the confrontational nature of the headline: It wasn't belly dancing performed by white people that the author couldn't stand, it was the belly dancers themselves. If this doesn't put people on the defensive, I don't know what will. Then again, it's part of the inflammatory nature of online "journalism" these days, which uses hot-button language to increase the number of hits. (Full disclosure: I'm white, but I'm no belly dancer, and belly dancing isn't something I go out of my way to watch.)
The author of the article describes an instance in which "a white woman came out in Arab drag — because that’s what that is, when a person who’s not Arab wears genie pants and a bra and heavy eye makeup and Arabic jewelry, or jewelry that is meant to read as 'Arabic' because it’s metallic and shiny and has squiggles of some kind — and began to belly-dance."...
My familiar died last year.
But this article is not about him: the death of pets, even the best-loved, is in my opinion a matter for private, not public, mourning.
But the death of a household member occasioned some serious thought on the matter of the rituals with which we meet such an event in the home. As a community, we've been strong on public ritual and weak on household observance, and in this we differ greatly from the ancestors, who held both to be of equal necessity. The last death in my household had occurred almost 10 years previously, and at the time I pretty much winged it. But since then my thinking has matured (or so I like to tell myself), and so when Gremlin died I followed Ceisiwr Serith's advice: when confronted with a new situation, consult ancestral precedent.
Every year the same thing happens: the evergreens come down, the hearts go up. It's Valentine's Day--get on your wolf-suit and let's party!
It's too early for April Fools—but we're not kidding! Once upon a time, the 14th of February marked the celebration of Lupercalia, “The Day of the Wolf,” an important festival in ancient Rome. What the heck happened here?...
I love this time of year...though I could do without the single to negative digit temperatures. A lot of my traditions haven't changed from what I did as a child in a Roman Catholic household but I do have some additions. Below, in random order, I list some of my holiday traditions.
When we lived in Seattle, we hosted a Halloween/Samhain party each year for both pagans and non-pagans. We invited friends of all ages to join us for pumpkin soup, roasted turnips, hot cider, apple bobbing, and seed bread. The children were gathered for trick-or-treating (real food before the candy), and after we returned and the kids compared (and sometimes traded) loot, we'd begin the real party, starting with the sliced apple to reveal the star, and tales about the history of Samhain. At this point, non-pagan families who choose not to share in the divination, speaking with the dead, or honoring them, left. The rest of us joined in quieter work.
Now that we live in a rural town, people are less inclined to make the long drive for a celebration, but there are some traditions we continue. The kids still trick-or-treat in the neighborhood, and we still come home to do our good work for the holiday.
In recent months, I've been lucky enough to witness some fairly ancient traditions replayed by modern folk in my local community. Rather than taking the cynical, culturally-superior, post-modern 21st-century approach, villagers across Derbyshire have delighted in the creation of Well Dressing ceremonies and presentations.
Well Dressing is thought to be pagan in origin, but now crosses social and faith boundaries in the simple act of creation. An offering is made from natural materials - such as petals, seeds and leaves - ostensibly to celebrate the local community and the various groups within it. But it is known that Well Dressing was also an act of thanks and celebration, to honour the spirit of the Well for providing clean water to that community, allowing it to nourish and thrive.
You may have heard, as it was not without its own bit of controversy, that the Temple of Witchcraft has bought property in Salem, NH, and is doing a fund drive for our parking lot. Why start with a parking lot? Simple: no parking lot, no temple. To gain the town's approval, a religious organization in a residential zone requires a paved lot with adequate space, lighting, and drainage.
Beyond the parking lot itself, some have asked why do Pagans, Wiccans and Witches need a temple at all? Aren't we meant to practice solitary, or in small groups in people's homes, or outside? And if I'm not in the Salem, NH, area, why should this even matter to me? All important questions and here are some thoughts in response to many of the discussions I've had with people over the last few months:
Land Based Traditions – Most Pagan and Witchcraft traditions have a spiritual link to the land, and believe in the presence of not only globalized entities, but local land spirits. Divinity is expressed through the land itself yet, as a whole, we have little in the way of land based resources and places of worship and education. We think of ourselves as stewards of the Earth, but yet how much land do we care for directly? I've been publicly serving the Pagan community for the last twenty years, locally and internationally, and the vast majority of our gatherings are in Unitarian Churches, Masonic Halls, and metaphysical book shops. All wonderful opportunities, but none are ideal for a community to develop a relationship with one place, and the land it is on. There is not often a chance to hold ceremonies outside. Our gatherings change places often. A permanent site allows us to build cohesion and community in a different way....
Yule 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....
As we move into the time of the year that we call "the holidays", I've been thinking a lot about traditions. No, not Pagan Traditions with a capital "T". The traditions I'm talking about are more like rituals when you think about it. Its those little or big things you do with your family or on your own that mark a special time. You do them consistently and probably look forward to doing them. You might even feel like you absolutely have to do them. None of us are strangers to family obligations.
My family has a lot of little traditions that most people probably could identify since they don't seem that out of the ordinary. But as I get older and start making my own traditions, I'm realizing just how special the traditions I grew up with were. Thanksgiving is a great example. My mother didn't often host it at her house. It was common knowledge that my aunt had Thanksgiving. We had hosted Christmas Eve. And Christmas day? No one does anything on Christmas day other than exchange gifts and eat Christmas eve leftovers. The first snow of the season meant I got a ride on Papa's snowmobile (pictured). Its those little things unique to my family that make this time of year special and powerful.
When I started practicing Wicca at a young age, my family was fortunately very welcoming and accommodating. The first year (when I was 12) I tried to get my presents a few days early in time for Yule, although that part didn't go over so well. Instead, I gave everyone else their little handmade gifts on the solstice. It probably meant more to me than it did them, but it made me feel like I had an original part to play in the family process. An activity I could call my own. I had made my own tradition!...
When I was a kid I remember that whenever a new person entered our lives, especially whenever one of us children brought a new friend home, my mother would ask, "Who are your people?" This used to really bug me. She did it in a challenging, even accusatory, way, like you had to prove yourself worthy of her attention or of being in her child's life before she'd accept you.
Now that so many years have past, and my mother is gone, I'm revising my attitude towards her question. Who are my people? Who are your people? Who are our people?
Certainly our blood relatives are "our people." However, in today's world, at least here in the United States, families are smaller than they were in the past, and often widely dispersed in different locations. Further, there are so many more blended families, step-families, half-siblings, co-parents, that make sorting and defining kin groups complicated. Plus, since the years following World War II American society (read 'real estate developers') began promoting the idea of isolated nuclear families, a phenomenon I consider detrimental in many ways, one being that it separates extended families from one another....