Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Speaking of Witchcraft...

A co-worker and I were hanging about in front of our building, sneaking a quick cigarette break. He asked what my plans were for the weekend, and I replied that I was flying to California to visit friends.

"You do that a lot," he remarked, his brow furrowing. "Why do you go to California every few months?"

I stuttered for a reply, and then blurted, "I'm a Witch, and I'm going to see my coven."

"Oh," he said, his interrogation face crumbling into disappointment. "I thought maybe you were having an affair."

A couple of different things bothered me here. First of all, if I was going to pay over $200 to have sex, he can come to my house, thank you very much, and he better look exactly like the picture in the back of the magazine. Second of all, why is the possibility of me having an affair that interesting? I'm gay, for Christ's sake. The fact that I'm not having an affair at least warrants a Page 2 mention in the National Enquirer. And third of all... why did I fold that quickly? To be honest, I'm pretty disappointed in myself for not coming up with a believable excuse. Again, I wonder just how long I would have lasted in 17th-century America:

"Master Whitaker, be it true that thou art a Witch?"

"Well, duh. But I'm certainly not having an affair, if that's what thou art implying..."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Things that make you go WTF?

While strolling along a busy pedestrian sidewalk with a good friend of mine, I caught myself saying:

"I really wanted to go to the Bigfoot convention, but I was just too busy practicing Witchcraft."

It wasn't that I actually said this that bothered me--after all, I really did have to skip out on what promised to be a fabulous Bigfoot convention because of Pagan-oriented religious obligations. It was that I said this out loud, in public, surrounded by strangers.

Sometimes I think I'm just too darn comfortable being me. It's this kind of attitude that got all those Puritans in trouble:

"Well of course I was dancing naked in the woods with Tituba. What didst thou think I was doing?"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Either eerie or meaningless, you decide

I turned 30 years old at 1:21 this morning, while driving through a crossroads.

That can't be good.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My name's not Bamber

I've been thinking about traffic lights, and their relevance to the general Pagan community. And yes, I realize that sounds like an odd stream of consciousness, but hear me out. Over the years, I've met several individuals who fell into Wicca and/or Paganism because... um, go ahead and sit down for a sec. Comfy? Okay, good... because when they want a traffic light to stay green, they just think about it, and the light remains green long enough for them to drive through. Such is the awesome scope of their mighty psychic and magical power.

So yeah, I've been thinking about this lately. Not about how ludicrous it sounds (I told you to sit down, didn't I?), but because it actually seems to work.

At some point in your life, you've barreled towards a green light while thinking "Stay green! Stay green, damn you!" And I would hazard a guess that you were not the only one on the road having those thoughts. More than likely, everyone in the cars around you--Christian, Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha'i, Snake Handler, whatever--was thinking the exact same thing, determined to not get stuck at a red light. So what we have, then, is a large group of individuals focusing their mentalities down to a single, shared intent, and all that energy joins together and projects outward. As such, the light stays green. The first person to be distracted by a Britney Spears song disrupts that flow of energy, and gets left behind as the light changes color.

See? Not ludicrous at all.

On a related note, the first person to post a comment listing the title and artist of the song referenced in the headline of this entry will win a prize. A nifty prize. Promise.

You can get up now.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What we leave in our wakes

No matter if I become a bestselling author, or a world-reknowned star of stage and screen: A certain woman who works in my office building will forever remember me as that guy who farted on the elevator.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hey, I thought I was the rational, logical one...

Jack, my trusty life partner, has spent the afternoon watching a marathon of spider-themed horror movies on the Sci-Fi channel. I wandered into the living room just as several terrible actors, sneaking through a top secret military complex, realized that the power had gone out. As such, none of the locks worked, and therefore nothing was preventing the genetically-altered mutant spiders from escaping into polite society.

"And that's the fundamental flaw in science fiction!" Jack suddenly yelled, jabbing the remote control at the television for emphasis. "Every time the electricity goes out, it means that some horrible evil is going to be unleashed on mankind. If it were really that important to keep a big, scary monster contained, somebody would've installed deadbolts."

Wow, I thought, reeling from the massive jolt of realism smacking me in the face. That really is a fundamental flaw in science fiction. As far as I'm concerned, Jack is officially the most logical being on the planet. I think for his birthday, I'm going to hit a costume shop and present him with his very own pair of pointy ears. He can be the big gay Vulcan the Federation doesn't want you to know about.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bestest Friends in the Whole Wide World

Jack and I went antiquing today, on account of we're a gay couple, and that's what gay couples do on Sunday afternoons. Jack, while not particularly Pagan himself, has this uncanny gift for finding the most Pagan-oriented tchotckes, so within no time I was up to my elbows in stag head candlesticks and zodiac ashtrays.

Jack says that at times like this, he feels like an enabler. I chuckled ("No, you're a Wiccanabler! Ha ha ha..."), thinking he was making a funny. Unfortunately, he then broke the sad news that some of our friends think he's an enabler, too.

As it turns out, Jack's been fielding phone calls from mutual acquaintances who are concerned about how "deep" I've gotten into Paganism. This struck me as both hilarious and insulting: it cracks me up how puritanical people can get when faced with alternative view points, and at the same time, it's shocking to learn just how many of my friends think I'm a prime candidate for getting sucked into a cult. It's also rather sobering to know that if I threw myself into, say, the Baptist Church, people would call me devout. But because I'm devoutly Pagan, I've "gotten in too deep."

Years ago, I was sitting in a therapy session describing various interpersonal relationships when my psychologist remarked, "You know, I just don't know how you find these people. Do you give off some weird radar or something?" In retrospect, I really should've taken that comment more seriously.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Are you there, Psychological Construct/Archetype?

Another epic debate on the pros and cons of Satanism is winding down on one of our local Pagan listservs, a debate which, I am ashamed to say, I accidentally started. I'd posted some comments about how Pagans can effectively deal with the media, and mentioned that if a reporter asks if Wiccans worship the Devil, the correct answer would be "no." Trying to explain how the ancient image of the Horned God was co-opted by Christianity to represent Satan just confuses the issue, and leads to questionable sound bites like, "Wiccans worship a deity often associated with Satan."

I thought I was making a great point. So imagine my surprise when I was dutifully informed that some Pagans "work with Satan as an archetype."

My bad, then.

The whole divine archetype thing is a relatively new addition to Pagan thought. It evolved out of Joseph Campbell's concept of the Hero's Journey, Robert Graves' The White Goddess, and generally mistaking comparative religious theory for actual religion. The basic idea is that all Gods can be categorized under specific headings, such as "Trickster," "Maiden," "Dying God," "Crone," etc. Now, the confusion sets in when these categories are viewed as Deities themselves. For example, Hermes, Mercury, Pan, Coyote, Ananzi and Loki are all Tricksters, so therefore they're interchangeable; Athena, Bast, Diana, Artemis and Persephone are often listed as Maidens, so they're pretty much all the same Goddess.

To make matters even more mindbending, these archetypes are often not viewed as divinities, but as "psychological constructs" or "energies," meaning that they are generated by the human mind and as such are subservient to it. Accordingly, the inherent nature of any Deity can be altered based on personal perception: "I know that in Norse mythology Loki's described as pretty evil and hateful, but I think He's just misunderstood," or "Kali has ten arms because She loves to give hugs!"

If I were a deity, it would piss me off if my worshippers viewed me as quantifiable and controllable. But I'm not, of course, so I'm not going to presume to put words in Anyone's mouth. Besides, who knows? Maybe the Gods get a big kick out of the whole thing. In a way, the idea of some Universal Power giggling and rolling It's eyes is kind of reassuring.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

California in Digital Images: a Retrospective

I spent the past few days in Berkeley, CA, visiting friends and family and eating far too many carbohydrates. I got to travel through San Francisco for the first time ever, too. It's a pleasant city, although the entire town is uphill. Seriously, there's no downhill. If you climb a hill and want to go back down, you have to hike up another hill to get there. It's like being trapped in an M.C. Escher painting.

I did get to visit City Lights Books, which is, like, the Mecca of poetry. As I ascended the stairs to their Poetry Room, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of the multitudes of poets and writers--the famous, the soon to be famous and the infamous--who have performed there over the last few decades. "I gotta get a picture of this," I thought, slipping my digital camera out of my pocket and glancing around for a good angle. I wasn't sure if the bookstore had rules against photography, and I couldn't remember if taking pictures of books counted as copyright infringement, but I figured as long as none of the artsy-looking patrons noticed, I'd get away with it. I backed into a corner of the room while pretending to browse through a selection of African-American poetry anthologies, then wheeled around and snapped a quick picture.

Technology has never been my strong suit. For some reason, I just assumed that because I wanted to get a good photo without anyone noticing, the camera would acknowledge my wishes and refrain from using the flash. Instead, a birght burst of light filled the room, and I ended up with a picture of several startled hippies and a bookshelf.

In the long run, this photo nicely complimented the other shots I got of San Francisco, including the only public ashtray I saw all day, an adult video store with a marquis that read "20% Off Lingerie and Shoes," and a 10-second film of my feet, recorded when I accidentally activated the camera's video feature. My personal favorite, however, is the shot of my shirt and an escalator, captured while I was temporarily blinded by sunlight reflecting off the viewfinder.

Overall, I fared better in my photojournalistic efforts at the Egyptian Museum in San Jose. One of the great things about hanging out with Pagans is that if you suddenly yell, "Quick, do something Egyptian!" they instinctively strike appropriate poses. The "America's Next Top Model" lovelies could learn a lesson or two, y'know?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sometimes my brain hurts

Do you ever wonder if contemporary geomantic divination techniques originated from typos? Or is that just me?

Just me, then?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Covert Witchcraft Ops

I drive past a Catholic seminary every afternoon on my way home from work. The buildings are set back from the road and surrounded by a dense copse of trees, so when I pass by I get a glimpse of the life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary in the middle of their circular drive, framed by oak branches. Lately, I've been fighting the urge to sneak onto the campus and leave offerings at the statue's feet.

The Virgin Mary has always carried Pagan connotations. A lot of her titles (Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Queen of the Stars) were co-opted from the Egyptian deity Isis, and most classical Mary sculptures and paintings were direct copies of ancient Isis images. Mary is often depicted standing on a crescent moon, and the cities famed for Mary apparitions -- Guadeloupe, Lourdes, etc. -- were all built upon sacred sites where Pagan worship took place long before the onset of Christianity.

To sum up, in many instances Mary = Goddess. But then, saints have always come in handy as disguises for Pagan gods. St. Brigit, St. Cornelius, St. Anne, St. Michael and St. Catherine come to mind, and of course Yoruba-descended religions like Vodoun and Santeria incorporated saints as representations of spirit powers. So if I went and communed with my friendly, neighborhood Mary statue, I'd just be carrying on another fine Pagan tradition.

Now, here's the rub: how do I not get caught? I could probably explain away any candles and incense as votaries, but the black-handled knife and the bottle of wine would require more tap-dancing than I can normally handle under duress. I could always wait until nightfall and do any necessary venerations on the outskirts of the seminary property, but then I'd be visible from the road, which is just asking for some vigilant driver to call the cops. Stupid cell phones.

Not to knock my upbringing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this would all be much easier to navigate had I not been raised Episcopalian.

Monday, July 11, 2005

To be or not to be unemployed

One more weekend of the show, and then I'm free! Free! Except I got cast in the next show, and rehearsals have already started! I'm going to go insane! Wheeee!

Seriously, I really should not be doing another show right now. I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, what with work and chores and practicing Witchcraft. But the artistic director of the theatre asked me to audition ("We have something in mind for you," she said), and the martyr/attention whore in me jumped at the opportunity.

There's a deep, dark, secret part of me that wonders if I could make a living as a professional actor. Sure, it would suck for awhile as I tried to wedge my feet in various doors around town, but if I stuck to regional work and didn't hop a plane to Hollywood and delude myself into thinking I was on the way to my very own sitcom, I could probably do okay.

I really, really love performing (probably part of why I'm drawn to religions with a lot of ritual and occasional costuming), but I'm also highly competitive, a terrible self-critic, and rejection makes me break things. While I very well might be able to pull off a modest acting career, I'm not sure it would be worth all the emotional and property damage I'd leave in my wake.

So maybe I should just stick to writing. At least as a writer, I'm less likely to be turned down for a job over my nose being kind of off-center.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lunch break hijinks

Following a trip to ye olde Chinese Buffet (which, I might add, was out of cheese pizza) and a health-conscious light cigarette, I meandered towards the lobby doors of the office building where I work. A few feet behind me was a woman pushing an older lady in a wheelchair. My instinctive reaction was to hold the door open for her, on account of I'm a reasonably nice guy. However, as I reached for the door handle, the woman pushing the wheelchair called out, "Hold the doo-or! Hold the doo-or!" in this ultra-chipper, sing-song voice. Then she let fly with a fake-hearty laugh. The implied message, of course, was "Look at the incredible burden I have. Don't worry, I'm muddling through somehow, but I need you to notice and acknowledge all the sacrifices I make in the name of humanity."

Passive aggression is never in season, but I waited for her, because there wasn't a logistical way of letting the wheelchair through and then slamming the door in her face. As we all moved towards the elevator, a well-dressed businesswoman looked up at us, suddenly wide-eyed. The doors slid open, and she threw herself into the elevator, jabbing the "Door Open" button and yelling, "I've got the door! I've got the door!" It was like the Rapture was upon us, and the only place the avenging angels weren't going to look for condemned souls was between floors. Again, an implied message: "Oh, dear Lord, that poor, poor woman! I must help in some way, so that the Powers That Be will smile favorably upon me, and will never, ever allow me to end up in the same situation. Also, this totally makes up for me sticking Mom in that nursing home and never calling."

White people are weird.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Godspeed, cabrito

"Mr. Roberts" opened this past Friday, to rave reviews and a standing ovation. I even made people cry during the final scene. Lordy, but I love doing that. Better than heroin that is.

Granted, there were a few foul-ups here and there, and I'm going to have to get pretty stern with the guy who's job it is to spray me down with shaving cream backstage when my character blows up a laundry room (it's a quality versus quantity situation), but overall, I couldn't ask for more. Especially considering the disarray the show was in during the final week of rehearsals: the set wasn't finished, we were missing about half of our props, and one of the leads didn't know his lines... so the director fired him. Two days before we opened.

Our director, a talented actor in his own right, jumped into the vacant role and managed to get off book within 48 hours. It changed the whole dynamic, and it inspired the cast to pitch in and drag the show back together. It was one of the most bonding theatrical experiences I've ever gone through. If I'm ever on a plane with these guys and we crash in the Andes and have to eat the dead to survive, I'd totally share my scavenged bodies with them.

On a somber note, the goat escaped.

See, there's one particular scene in the play that calls for a goat. The goat is led onstage, a couple of jokes are made at the goat's expense, and then the goat is led away. End scene. Our stage manager made contact with a local livestock farm, who said they'd be happy to provide us with an old nanny show goat--one used to crowds of people, being handled, etc. What was delivered to us, though, was a young male kid who spent rehearsals screaming like a banshee and biting people (apparently, the show goat was too busy popping pills in her trailer to make it to the set). So the scene was cut, and the goat went to live in the director's backyard, to be returned to the farm at the end of the week.

A couple of nights ago, the goat somehow managed to break out and fled into the night, never to be heard from again. Animal Control has been notified and is currently scouring the neighborhood, but knowing how this goat reacts to humans in general, I'm betting he takes a few officers with him when he goes down.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Nothing but the best for our corpses

There's been a white hearse parked outside of my office since 6:30 this morning. The driver is moseying around the courtyard by the front doors, occasionally glancing at his watch. I keep picturing him as one of those chauffeurs you see at the airport, looking professional but bored, and holding up a little cardboard sign that reads "You."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Count the italics, win prizes

As previously mentioned, I'm in a play right now at a local community theatre. I'm actually one of the leads--I play the lecherous ne'er-do-well, which I wish I could say was a stretch. As it is, the director's an old college roommate of mine, who mentioned that he cast me because the character reminded him of when we lived together.

Reputations are sometimes hard to scrub off.

As a lark, I've started categorizing the actors I'm working with, and I've been able to identify three distinct groups. The first group, the one I fall into, is comprised of people with zero to moderate theatrical training, who occasionally feel like performing in a public venue. We may not be Academy Award material, but we have a lot of fun. The downside is that we're easily distracted by outside influences, and our careers tend to take precedence over our stagework. ("How am I supposed to focus on my character arc when the quarterly reports are due? My God, man, the quarterly reports...")

The second group is made up of people who have devoted their lives to the Stage. The best thing about them is that they freakin' commit. Need them off-book by tomorrow? They were off-book the day before yesterday. Need somebody to stay an extra 14 hours after rehearsal to finish the set? No problem--they'll spend the night in the theatre. Some of them are pretty talented as well, and they're almost always high-energy, so overall they're enjoyable to work with. The only thing I've noticed that's sort of off-kilter is their habit of emphasizing theatrical terms when they speak, which I think stems from deeply internalized acting lessons: "Now, when I move from center stage to upstage right, should I deliver that soliloquy in a stage whisper, or should I really project from my diaphram?"

Finally, there are my personal favorite community theatre denziens, the Aging Divas with Negligable Acting Ability. These winners are absolutely convinced that they're God's Gift to the Theatre, but will turn around and deliver their lines in a brain-freezing monotone, broken up by excruciating pauses where they try to remember their blocking. We've got one in this show, and he's making me very, very crazy, to the point where I start twitching everytime he opens his mouth (kind of distracting in scenes where we have to interact). As our director put it to me in a private conversation which I probably shouldn't be posting on the Internet: "I've never met anyone who's every theatrical instinct is so wrong."

I shouldn't complain, though. Really, the show's coming along nicely, and the star has this natural, softspoken style that he's using to create an endearing, believable character. He's quite handsome, too, and he's all into holistic health and hemp-based textiles, and no, I am not completely infatuated with him, nor have I ever fantasized about him striking yoga poses in my living room while I do the Dance of the Seven Veils to Barry White's Greatest Hits, so stop looking at me like that.

(ed. note: What does all this have to do with the state of NeoPaganism in the world today? Well, let me tell you, not a damn thing. Unless, of course, you take into account that theatre evolved out of ancient ritual performance, in which case this has everything in the world to do with NeoPaganism. This is quite possibly the Most Pagan Post Ever Written.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dunkin' Donuts? I'm there!

The city of Salem, MA has invited Witches from all over to drop in on June 15 for the dedication of a bronze statue of Samantha Stephens, the main character from TV's "Bewitched." Here's a snippet from the press release:

"We want the world to know that the positive image of a Witch (albeit fictional) that Samantha casts is a welcome contrast to the negative (and also fictional) image of the Witch that the trials branded us with here in 1692... If we get enough real confirmations, we will provide coffee from Dunkin' Donuts!

"We want it to be known that Witches love our TV soul sister Samantha! So, the look is witchy black, taller boots, pointy hats... flowing capes, and magical finery. We want to show the world that Witches are alive and well in Salem, Massachusetts and around the world!"

Hoo-kay. First off, let's ignore the fact that this dedication closely coincides with the opening of the new "Bewitched" movie (marketing strategy, anyone?). Also, let's zip on past the fact that the particular brand of slapstick witchcraft presented in a 1960's sitcom in no way represents Wicca or NeoPaganism, nor was it ever meant to. For the sake of time and space, let's just zero in on the glaring truth that Samantha is one of the least appropriate "role models" on the entire show, especially in terms of what this statue dedication is supposed to accomplish.

Really, who is a better embodiment of "Witch Pride"? Samantha, who spends at least 30 minutes a week trying to hide her true nature from her neighbors, or Endora and Uncle Arthur, who are happy with who and what they are, and don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks? I vote for big, sequined statues of Agnes Moorhead and Paul Lynde, not a housewife with identity issues.

Besides, on a fundamental level, "Bewitched" wasn't even about witchcraft. It was loosely based on the movie "Bell, Book and Candle," which was based on the stageplay of the same name--and in the play, witchcraft was a thinly-veiled metaphor for the gay scene in New York during the 1940's. If you've ever read the script or seen the show, it's, like, painfully obvious: all these bohemian types congregating in bars and going on about their artistic temperaments. And when you consider that a huge chunk of the "Bewitched" cast was gay and fairly open about it... well, it certainly makes "Queer as Folk" seem less ground-breaking, don't it?

Which reminds me: I'm going to miss the Houston GLBT Pride Parade this year, on account of I got cast in a play that opens that weekend. But the way I see it, there's hardly a better way to celebrate Gay Pride than by performing on the public stage.

The fact that the show takes place aboard a naval ship is just gravy.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Reclaiming the word "reclaiming"

Pagans are a lot like Labradors. One or two are fun to be around, but with 20 or more, your chances of getting knocked down and slobbered on increase exponentially. Therefore, I tend to avoid local Pagan get-togethers, although I subscribe to bucket loads of Houston-area Pagan listservs. Just because I don't want to go doesn't mean I don't want to know what I missed.

A woman recently popped up on one of these listservs, announcing herself as a Satanic witch ("Hail Lucifer" and such). This caused quite a commotion. As one member wrote, "Isn't this the kind of stereotype we're trying to fight?"

It always surprises me when people think the words Wicca and witch are mutually exclusive; like every practitioner of some occult discipline or other is Wiccan, whether they want to be or not. I was shocked when I read some Amazon.com reviews of books by Paul Huson and Ana Riva: "Don't buy this book! It says it's about witchcraft, but it's not Wiccan at all!" Apparently, it doesn't matter that Huson comes from a Scottish family tradition and makes a distinction between his own practices and those of Wicca, or that Riva's brujeria is a blend of indigenous Central American tradition and Catholicism, similar to Voudon or Santeria. Their books don't read like Scott Cunningham's, so they're automatically suspect.

Gag.

A number of pop-Wicca authors have made a big fuss about redefining the word witch to mean "strong, powerful woman" as opposed to... um, well, "witch." The problem with that, of course, is that it's hard to reclaim a word that people are already using for self-identification. For every womynist who calls herself a witch out of political outrage and rails against the Patriarchy, there's a shriveled old lady in a backwoods shack collecting toadstools and overseeing the local birthings.

As for our little Satanic witch friend, everyone seems to have gotten over her, although why she would want to pal around with a bunch of treehugging Goddess-worshippers is beyond me. Maybe she's one of those "I don't really worship Satan, I'm just selfish" Satanists, or perhaps she's a standard-issue shockmonger a la Anton LaVey. Honestly, I'm fine with her as long as she's not into the whole Temple of Set thing, because I hear those guys are pretty intense. If you ever meet someone from the Temple of Set, seriously, don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Total and terrifying relaxation

I got cupped the other night. While that may sound initiatory and/or kind of dirty, cupping is actually an ancient Chinese healing technique. Small leather patches are placed along the back, with little pieces of alcohol-soaked cotton sitting on top of them. The pieces of cotton are set on fire, and then glass cups are placed over them. The resulting heat and partial vacuum create local congestions and blood stasis. Or, in layman's terms, big wads of your flesh are sucked up into the cups.

Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt. I think it was supposed to, though--one of my friends was trying to hold my hands and comfort me by saying things like, "It will all be over soon," "you're doing a great job," etc. But really, it just feels like a massage where the masseuse squeezes your shoulders and doesn't let go. However, once the cups are removed, you're left with these 3-inch-wide circular hickies all down your back, which I thought was kind of funny at first, up until I realized how much they look like the marks left by giant squid tentacles.

I should mention that I have an irrational yet deeply internalized fear of giant squid.

Logically, I know that I will almost never be in a situation where a giant squid will be able to get me, but that doesn't stop me from freaking out about it. I've had panic attacks after watching giant squid-themed horror movies. The Houston Museum of Natural History has a life-sized replica of a giant squid looming over a staircase, and I screamed like a white woman when I blithely turned a corner and smacked into it. Despite my vegetarian diet, I've been known to devour large plates of calamari, since that way I can eat the squid before the squid can eat me.

And now, whenever I step out of the shower and catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I think, "Boy, it sure does looks like a giant squid did a number on my back. I'm very lucky to have survived." Then the shuddering starts.

But yeah, cupping was fun. In the future, though, I think I'll stick with massage therapy that doesn't involve disfigurement or traumatic flashbacks. It just seems healthier that way.

Monday, June 06, 2005

"This award... so much bigger... than me..."

The reviews are in, and it's a smash hit! Check out these "Lover of Strife" accolades:

"...a wonderful persona." --This girl I know

"Very witty." --This guy I know

"You're the Pagan Dave Barry!" --This other girl I know

"What's the point of having a blog, anyway?" --My boyfriend

Evn has a scare!

I was playing around on the Internet last night when suddenly, and with a disheartening click, my computer shut down. My first thought was that there had been a power outtage, up until I realized that all of the lights were still on. Discarding that idea, I moved on to the next most logical assumption: I must have destroyed the computer with the power of my mind. Again.

Let me say right now that I am not one of those people who're convinced they're living in the X-Files. I'm all set to believe in alien abductions and demonic possessions and life-shattering curses thrown by covens of evil witches, with the caveat that those who have experienced such things do not sit next to me on buses.

That said, I kill computers.

A couple of years back, Jack and I were arguing over something having to do with the computer (I don't remember exactly what brought the whole thing on, but I'm sure I was totally in the right). The argument ended with me yelling, "Well, I'm never using the computer ever again, so there!" Satisfied that my point had been driven home in a way that was not at all reminiscent of a five-year-old's temper tantrum, I stomped off to bed. The next day found Jack at Best Buy picking up a new hard drive to replace the one that had mysteriously fried overnight.

I wrote this off as certainly not my fault, but reconsidered when several other computers terminally crashed in my presence, including my friend Sarah's laptop, which was unharmed, offline and unplugged when I got to her house one afternoon, but somehow managed to suffer fatal power surge-related damages while I was sitting next to it.

After several conversations with various occultists who know from these things, I learned that these computer malfunctions were resulting from misdirected energy. For example, when arguing with Jack, I was directing my anger at the computer instead of him, so the computer took the brunt of my emotions. It was a simple thing to start saying things like, "Jack, I am very upset right now, and I'd like to discuss some things and work them out," as opposed to "Aaargh, I hate the freaking computer and all the misery it has brought into my life! Stupid, stupid computer!"

I decided to talk to Jack about this, figuring that if I was being completely superstitious and/or irrational, he'd smack some sense into me. Instead, he stared at me for a bit, then said, "That's why I don't like it when you point at me." Feeling validated, if not slightly concerned that my ever-loving life partner thinks of me as a loaded weapon with a broken safety, I worked to have a better mindframe when messing with the computer. The number of replacement hard drives we were buying decreased dramatically, and Jack and I stopped being so passive-agressive with each other.

And then last night, the computer turned itself off.

Being the technophile of the house, Jack immediately crawled under the desk with a flashlight to check the wiring while I sat on the bed chanting, "I swear I didn't do it." After a couple of seconds of poking around, Jack popped back up and announced that one of our cats had stepped on the switch of the power strip, shutting off the computer. So then I felt better.

I did briefly entertain the notion that maybe I had psychically contacted the cat, telepathically bidding her to turn off the computer for me. But then I realized that my cats don't do what I want even when I'm screaming at them. If I established some kind of psychic rapport with my cats, it would just prove that they see me as the big, stupid cat who can reach the can opener.

Get thee behind me, Teenagers

Call me authoritarian, but I sincerely believe that any NeoPagan younger than 21 should be placed under round-the-clock supervision by a crack team of child psychologists, drill sargeants and High Priestesses, with tranquilizers and bitchslaps applied as necessary.

Now, before anyone lets fly with the angry e-mails chock-full of invectives and Silver RavenWolf quotes, let me just say that yes, I was once a NeoPagan younger than 21, and yes, I was none too terribly bright about it. I wrote longwinded, surly letters to my college newspaper about the history of Halloween and the discrimination I believed I was being subjected to by evil, hatemongering Christians. I wore a Celtic-style pentacle the size of a dinner plate. At one point, I think I was even saying "Goddess bless you" whenever anyone sneezed.

To sum up, I was very, very annoying. But in my defense, I don't recall being anywhere near as annoying as the teenaged NeoPagans currently infesting my sphere of existence. (And please note, that's my sphere of existence: the ones in your neck o' the woods might be lovely. If so, buy them a round of cherry phosphates, on me, and tell them I said cracklin' good job.)

I'm not normally so angsty about the Teen Pagan set ("Um, yes you are."--Everyone), but a good buddy of mine had a run-in with one of the little varmits. He was having a conversation with several of his friends about various aspects of ritual work, and the subject of altar placement came up. He asserted, "It really doesn't matter where you put your altar, as long as you have a valid reason for it."

At that point, one of our local teeny-boppers piped up. "Well, I don't make excuses to my Gods. I put the altar in the East because my religion says so."

There's a rational, logical part of me that says with some direction and a reputable reading list, this kid could turn out fine. With a little luck, he'll go on to never make inane, insulting comments like that ever again, especially to people who've been practicing "his religion" longer than he's been alive. Unfortunately, that part of me just got shanked by the part of me that growls at neighborhood dogs. I realize that I'm well on my way to becoming that scary old man at the end of the block with an overgrown lawn and boarded-up windows, and you know what? I made peace with that a long time ago. If it repels the children who can't tell the difference between Dungeons & Dragons and spirituality, then by all means, bring it on.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Chickens taste of babies

Over the last couple of weeks, I've started collecting Pagan and witchcraft-themed movies. I've already amassed quite a pile of them: everything from films like "Bell, Book and Candle" to B-rated cult classics like "Lair of the White Worm" to absolute schlock like "Halloween III." My latest find is the Jim Henson production "The Witches," starring Anjelica Huston. I was curled up on the couch watching this particular epic while Jack was in the kitchen whipping up soy-flour onion rings and low-carb fried chicken. Jack poked his head in just as the Grandma character was warning her grandson all about the dangers of witches.

Grandma: "Real witches hate children."

Jack (glancing in my direction): "Well, I know that's true."

It's nice to have a partner who accepts both my belief system and the fact that I'd rather have scabies than kids. He's a keeper, that one is.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Get to know me! ME!!!

So, "Evnissyen." What the hell kind of stupid name is that?

Evnissyen is what's commonly called a "public" name. Lots of NeoPagans have them. Basically, it's the name you go by when you're in a Pagan-oriented setting, like a festival or a campout, although some NeoPagans use theirs on a daily basis (which makes for far more interesting job interviews).

Then Evnissyen's not your real name.

Actually, it is. It's a lot more real than whatever name shows up on my paychecks.

Huh. So you go around making people call you Evnissyen?

I usually go by Evn (pronounced "Evan," not "Ev-nuh"), which in general saves a lot of time and confusion:

"Hi, I'm Morrigan!"

"Morgan, is it?"

"No, Morrigan. She was an ancient Celtic war deity, and a Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess!"

"Um, okay. Nice to meet you, Morgan."

There are a number of NeoPagans out there who revel in these kinds of situations, and bully for them. Personally, though, I'd rather be able to introduce myself without having to give crash courses in Welsh mythology.

What's the significance of your middle name? Is the wren your personal totem? A spirit guide of some sort?

It's just a family name on my dad's side.

Oh. That's not very interesting at all, then.

Not really, no. Anything else?

I think we're all done here. Thank you for your concise, insightful answers. You're a credit to the Pagan community.

Yeah, I know.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Am I... normal?

Individualism is innate. We're not a collective intelligence; we're not bees, we're not Borg. Free will and all that. Western culture tends to celebrate a contradictory brand of individualism, i.e. "I want to be different, just like you," but on a literal level, we are just a big ol' mess of separate and unique entities.

Normality, on the other hand, is contextual. For example, if I were to show up at work wearing nothing but a sarong and stompy combat boots, I would get some odd looks, and possibly a stern talking to about the office dress code. "Why is he dressed like that?" my co-workers would e-mail to one another. "It's just not normal." Now, were I to show up at a Radical Faerie campout wearing khaki slacks and a smart button-down shirt, I'd get some odd looks, and possibly a stern talking to about not being in touch with my anima. "Why is he dressed like that?" the Faeries would whisper to one another while putting the finishing touches on their hag-drag for the No Talent Show. "It's just not normal."

See? It's all relative. If, for instance, you're not familiar with the harmonic stylings of Kelly Clarkson, it doesn't mean you're a societal outcast. It means your musical tastes lie elsewhere. And there are gaggles and gaggles of other people out there who don't watch reality TV, and as such are also not aware of her rise to fame and subsequent album. Or does she have more than one now? I haven't really been paying attention.

Regardless, I don't have multiple heads, or superpowers, or even a third nipple. I am, for all practical purposes, normal. And yes, Virginia, so are you.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Vampire-a-Go-Go! No, really. Go.

I met a vampire the other day. It was kind of a revealing snapshot of my life: a random stranger tells me he's a vampire, and I say "Ah!" like it's a pleasant surprise, then continue with what I'm doing. There was probably a point where I would have at least pretended to be freaked out, if only for his sake. As it was, though, he didn't even fall into the top 5 weirdest people I'd run into that week.

Apparently, this guy was a Very Special vampire. He claimed he was a positive-energy vampire, which according to the Vampire Church (I don't know, either) only turns up once a century or so. I wasn't really sure what to say to that. "Congratulations!" or "Way to go!" seemed too enthusiastic, so I just nodded, like I totally understood. At the same time, I was thinking how the conversation was reminding me of those people who go through past-life regressions and announce that they were once Cleopatra.

We ended up chatting for awhile. Or more specifically, he chatted and followed me around while I tried to get away from him, and then he asked me if I could give him a ride home. With that, I realized "Oh, he's that kind of vampire." See, there very well may be beings out there who draw sustenance, even pleasure, from feeding off the energy fields of humans--personally, I have not met any, but that doesn't mean they can't exist. I mean, I haven't met the president, but he's certainly real, no matter how hard I pretend he's not.

What I have met are people who look for any kind of in and then latch on, sucking up as much attention and affection as they can. They rarely have cash on them (but they're good for it, promise), and they almost always need a ride somewhere. Their personal relationships are fraught with drama, as they try to contribute as little as possible while whining to high heaven that their needs are not being met.

Never, ever, ever go camping with them.

Now, are these people actually sucking anything out of me, other than my will to live? Probably not. But they are leading highly parasitic existences, and as such, I would call them vampires. Actually, I think the technical term is "self-serving, manipulative little assholes," but that's just terribly unromantic-sounding. Besides, no one's ever going to market a role-playing game called "Self-Serving, Manipulative Little Assholes: The Awakening." A gay porno, maybe, but not an RPG.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Top Tens are innovative and fun!

I'm on this wacky, vaguely Paganish e-mail list, where the subject "advice for a coming-out Witch" recently cropped up. I'm not sure how this particular thread developed, since conversations usually revolve around margaritas, Eddie Izzard and necrophilia-inspired humor, but the following was my contribution.

Top Ten Things to Say to Someone Who Tells You That He/She is a Witch:

10. Do you eat babies? Would you like to try one?

9. Funny, you don't look like a lesbian.

8. Wow, you must have a really strong relationship with Jesus if he's letting you get away with that.

7. I accept you for who and what you are. Just kidding, you're kind of a freak.

6. Can you do that thing? That thing that all witches do? (then, no matter what they do next) Nah, that wasn't it.

5. That's so cool! Satan told me I'd find my HellQueen today.

4. I'm a fairytale princess, and you're totally oppressing me.

3. The last witch I met was taller than you.

2. By proudly proclaiming your religious beliefs, you officially represent every Pagan on the planet. Good luck with that.

1. No you're not.