Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Head Above the Rest

Orien Rose made it through her final surgery with flying colors, and all reports indicate that she's doing amazingly well.

Big huge hugs and kisses to those who kept her in their thoughts and prayers, or who even just took a moment to look at her picture.

Everyone rocks. But Orien Rose rocks most of all.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Orien Rose - Spare a Thought for a Miracle

I'm reposting this from Deborah's blog, with permission. Spread the word, ASAP:

Orien Rose is a miracle. She, and her parents, are my important, beloved
friends. She is a nine year old girl who, just over a year ago, was in a
horrific boating accident. There was skull, facial, and brain injury. Really
bad stuff. Tomorrow morning, Tuesday, June 24th, she is having surgery, and
we are looking for as many people on this earth as possible to simply think
of her, and send positive energy.

You should see her now; have a look at this article from the other day.
Orien is an exuberant and hilarious kid, and the interviewer doesn't even
mention how she burped the entire alphabet for him.

If she were doing only half as well as she is, the doctors would still be
baffled by the speed and thoroughness of her recovery.

She is alive, well, and burping today due to teams of skilled and dedicated
paramedics, doctors, nurses, and therapists, the fierce dedication of her
parents, and the power of community. Orien Rose has been prayed for by
Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Santeros, she's received energy
from witches, Reiki masters, and anyone willing to simply hold a positive
image in their minds for a moment.

Tuesday morning she faces the final hurdle: Replacement of the missing
portion of her skull; a coordinated effort by neurosurgeons, plastic
surgeons, and infection control specialists. AND by the people who've been
sending her positive energy of myriad forms for this past year.

Orien, her father, asks that people put a reminder on their alarm clock. A
reminder to just think about Orien Rose when you wake up. They check into
Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I. at 6:30 AM (Eastern time) and
the procedure begins an hour or so later, and it will go on awhile, so
whatever time you get up will be fine.

You can read Christine's blog about Orien Rose's progress, and their progress as a family.

Feel free to repost this on your blog, or link here, or write your own
version in your own words (or all three).

Oh! And now that I think of it, if you do go to Christine's blog, leave her
a comment. I'd like to see her blog crashed by the spike in activity.

Thank you for being part of this very real miracle.


Instead of a note, I recommend printing out her picture and leaving it on your alarm clock. That way, her adorableness is the first thing you see when you open your eyes. It takes a village, as they say, so let's do everything we can to keep this miracle going.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Today I'd like to introduce MetaPagan, a collaboratively-edited listing of news stories and blogs relevant to the Pagan community. It's like a wire service. Only better.

If you're not already contributing, or only contribute occasionally (meaningful glances at Deborah, Diana, Grian, Thalia, Treecat, and... oh, what the hell, Apocrypha and Le Cornichon), I highly recommend getting involved. It's a great resource, so let's make the most of it.

Now get to blogging, pumpkins.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yes, I fully expect to burn in Hell. But thanks for asking!

I present to my Loyal Strifemongers a selection from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Volume IV, Book IV, Chapter 18, pulled completely out of context:

"Let us suppose another, a fornicator, unclean, lascivious, covetous, or even more openly given to idolatry, a student of witchcraft, a lover of strife and contention, envious, hot-tempered, seditious, jealous, drunken, and a reveller..."

Dude, I've been immortalized in Christian theology! Rock!

"...but a Catholic."

[insert sound of tires screeching]

Wait, I'm sorry, what? Geez, you decorate your home with less than fifty patron saint statues, and suddenly everyone starts jumping to all these conclusions.

That's just great. Stupid judgemental Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, messing with my immortality.

But then...

"Can it be that for this sole merit, that he is a Catholic, he will inherit the kingdom of God, though his deeds are of the kind of which the apostle thus concludes: 'Of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God?'"

Hmmm. The kingdom of God, you say? I'll bet I could flip it and make a mint. The archaic language is a bit of a stumbling block (Which apostle? Aren't there, like, a baker's dozen of them?), but don't you worry, Nicene daddies. I'll totally renounce my evil Catholic ways for a lucrative investment property. I'm like the Vatican that way.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Call Waiting of the Wild

Last week's Wild Edibles class culminated today, with a mid-morning, 3-hour nature walk along Buffalo Bayou.

And first off, can we discuss how freakin' dreamy I looked in my hiking outfit? Low-cut boots, cargo shorts, backwards baseball cap, long-sleeved plaid shirt tied just so around my waist: I was a vision. If I'd seen me in a bar, I would've been too nervous to talk to myself.

But anyway, back to nature. Buffalo Bayou runs through one of Houston's wealthiest neighborhoods, so we parked there and ate wild grapes out of rich people's yards, which is the kind of subversive fun I just never get enough of. After vandalizing some high-end landscaping, we hiked into the bayou proper, where our grizzled instructor went right into fine form.

"This is white sage," he said, picking a leaf and munching merrily away. "It's rich in nutrients and can sooth an upset stomach."

We all picked leaves and chewed along with him.

"And this," he said, pointing to the identical shrub growing next to it, "is Bangkok Devil Weed. The cyanide content will kill you in, oh, I don't know, five or six seconds. But the sap will just blind you for life."

We stopped chewing. He launched into a detailed explanation of the best defensive stance to take if you're alone in the woods and find yourself attacked by homeless people.

Good to know.

Overall, the class was a light but enlightening slap in the face, as if the Gods had set their clue-by-fours to "stun" instead of "vaporize." As much as we within Paganism go on about how close to Nature we imagine ourselves to be, it's a rude awakening to realize how little we actually know about it. This berry is nutritous; that berry is toxic. This fungus cures cancer; that fungus causes heart failure. Venerate all you want, but if you end up lost in a forest, Nature isn't going to jump in and save you--he's going to leave it up to you to make the right decisions in order to live.

Quite humbling, that. And more personal responsibility than most of us (self included) are used to handling on a daily basis.

The instructor also runs a series of weekend survival seminars, where a small group of adventurers tramp off into the woods with a bare minimum of supplies and make do for two days. Out of a vague yet growing sense of necessity, I plan on taking the course at least once. But I'm going to wait until the early Fall or late Spring, these being the most temperate seasons in Texas, when the land is bountiful and anything that could feasibly eat me won't be facing a shortage of its regular food supply.

I suspect that after such an experience, I won't look anywhere near as cute in my hiking outfit. But if I make it back to civilization with a clearer perception of my place in the world and how to take care of myself in any situation, then it will be worth it.

Unless I scuff up the new boots. In which case I will become the personification of vengeance.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Naming of Pagans

I caught a lot of flack from the locals when I first started going by Evn, mainly because the name didn't strike them as... well, Pagan enough.

"What about Evyn?" I was asked one night, at a meeting of the group with which I was affiliated at the time. "Or Even, because you're an even person."

"I appreciate the input," I replied. "But I really like Evn."

"Oh. Well, then how about Thomas the Rhymer?"

It should be said that the guys in this group were militantly committed to the names they'd adopted (accidentally call somebody "Clarence" instead of "WaterHawk FireLyte," and oy, the drama that ensued). But it was commitment at a superficial level. They backed off when I explained that Evn was short for Evnissyen, but that a name could have a deeper, private meaning, as opposed to just sounding magickal, was a profoundly alien concept.

To this day, one of them still calls me Even.


If you're new to NeoPaganism, and you're desperately trying to come up with an As Pagan As Possible moniker, don't worry about the romantic references to the natural world, or the unnecessary surnames with the random capitalizations. Instead, I refer you to the best name-choosing guidelines available: The first poem in T. S. Eliot's perennial, Broadway-bound classic, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, or George or Bill Bailey -
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter -
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum -
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Substitute the words "Pagan," "Witchcraft" and "Ritual Nudity" as needed. And name thyself accordingly.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Delicious, Nutritious, Vitamin-Rich Death

Apocrypha and I took a Wild Edibles class this morning, the idea being that, in a floundering economy with skyrocketing food prices, we could bolster our groceries with some free leafy greens.

My only other experience with this subject involved a booth at a Health Fair back in the mid-90's, where a nice lady wearing a garland and a peasant skirt served dandelion salad and extolled the virtues of backyard gardening. So I was caught off guard when today's instructor turned out to be a cantankerous, grizzled survivalist, who defined "wild edibles" as "anything that can't run faster than you."

As unsettling as some of the class material was, the personal experiences he shared were absolutely bizarre. This betrays how fatally entrenched I am in pop culture and suburbia, but I kept wanting to ask him how it felt to win Fear Factor.

"So there I was," he said to his cringing, captivated students. "Trapped in an abandoned well with a dead cow." And then he explained how easy it is to catch fish by using fire ants as a waterborne poison.

Dandelion salad never even came up. But at least now I know how to make a nourishing tea out of pine needles. And how to skin a rattlesnake.

Friday, June 06, 2008

"And afterwards, there's always a rainbow."

The sun is shining brightly, but it's also raining. Which is a standard-issue weather pattern during the early days of summer in Houston.

When I was a little kid, around four or five or so, this drove me batshit insane.

"It's not supposed to rain when it's sunny," I whined to my mother, who was my go-to person any time logic and order needed to be re-established in the world. "This is wrong!"

"Honey, this just happens sometimes," she said, digging around in her big bag of homespun Southern wisdom. "It's called a sunshower. Whenever there's a sunshower [ed. note: I'm not making this part up], it means that the Devil is beating his wife."

"Oh, yeah, right," I said (because even as a little kid, I was pretty bitchy). "Who would marry the Devil? That's wrong!"

"Who knows?" she said with a shrug. "There's no accounting for taste."

And I believed her.

For good or for ill, my mother's definition of sunshowers became indelibly imprinted on my psyche. Through adolescence, puberty, college and coming out, sunshowers have always made me think, "The Devil is beating his wife. And that's wrong!"

Years later, while reading Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today for the first time, I found the following passage in Chapter 12 ("Who Is The Devil?"):

"Now the god is represented by the high priest (if there is one) and it is he who was called the Devil in the old days. I was very curious about him and asked at once when I was 'inside', by which they mean a member of the cult: 'Who and what is called the Devil?' Though members of the cult never use and, indeed, dislike term, they knew what I meant and said: 'You know him, the leader. He is the high priest, the high priestess's husband.'"

"The high priestess' husband is beating his wife," I instinctively thought, missing Gardner's point by a good mile. "And that's wrong!" And then I got really upset and kind of had a brain spasm. I think my nose bled a little bit.

Since then, I've learned not to interpret my mother's adages so literally.

These days, whenever I see a sunshower, I picture myself in the future, relaxing on one of the the balconies of my Tudor-style mansion (my fantasy, my rules), while my brother's children play idly nearby. Suddenly, even though it's a nice, sunny, summer day, it starts to rain.

"Hey! It's not supposed to rain when it's sunny," say Oscar and Sevilla, both of whom see me as the go-to person any time logic and order need to be re-established in the world. "This is wrong!"

"Darlings, this just happens sometimes," I say. "It's called a sunshower. Whenever there's a sunshower, it means that the Devil is washing the dishes and doing the laundry. You know, pulling his weight for a change, instead of expecting these things to just magically happen by themselves. Because his wife is a smart, talented woman with a wildly successful career and a life of her own outside of this house. And because taking care of a family is a partnership, not the outdated, misogynistic, indentured servitude the Phallocracy wants you to believe it is. There should be sunshowers all the time."

I'm going to be an amazing uncle. I can tell.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I'm my own best secondary source

Want to see something nifty?

Click here, then scroll down to "External Links."

It's just delicious to think that the next generation of Loyal Strifemongers will be a gaggle of curmudgeonly academics who specialize in the Pre-Christian literature of Western Europe.

Margaret Murray would be so proud.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

They're everywhere. And they're looking for me.

While I'll occasionally joke about it online, I rarely discuss my giant squid phobia in real life.

People don't believe you when you say you're afraid of giant squid. Heights, spiders, the number 13, these are considered "rational" phobias. But admit that those pictures taken by Japanese scientists made you want to hide under your bed, and suddenly you're the crazy one.

Crazy or not, that video footage about killed me.

With all this in mind, imagine my delight when U-Haul, for reasons I am completely unable to fathom, decided to decorate a bunch of their trucks with giant squid murals. There's one parked across the street from my office, and I'm half convinced that if I make direct eye contact with it, the truck will immediately turn itself on and lurch, driverless, right at me.

The upside to that scenario is that the people who laughed when I described my anxiety about a possible giant squid-related death would feel pretty stupid for not believing me. Up yours, infidels!

Um... yeah. I'm a little tense right now. And tension, by itself, is usually easy to remedy (via massage, yoga or boxed wine). But one of my "friends," who, out of the kindness of my strife-loving heart, shall be granted the luxury of anonymity, decided to take advantage of my emotional vunerability by sending me this.

So now, in addition to never being able to join Jack and his family on one of their deep-sea fishing trips, I can never go to Scotland.

But I am thinking about buying the T-shirt. In terms of aversion therapy, it could be a valuable resource.

Or, I could burn it in effigy, and teach a few sea monsters that they do not want to fuck with me.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In which meanings are revealed

A local Pagan posted to one of the lists, vibrating with excitement. As her story unfolded, we learned that she'd found a shed snakeskin on her porch, and another in her backyard. Later, she spied a small garden snake curled up in the shade under a bush.

"So, what does it mean?" she asked.

"It means you've got snakes," the rest of us replied.

"Well I know that," she said, pulling off the considerable stunt of rolling her eyes through e-mail without benefit of emoticon. "But what does it mean?"

There was a brief pause as we regrouped, trying to figure out clearer ways of phrasing the words "It means you've got snakes." This is one of those unfortunate contradictions in NeoPaganism. Earth Worshippers though we may be, most of us are inextricably tied to modern civilization, dependent upon its comfortable trappings and climate-controlled environments. As such, any brush with Nature in all Her (or His, depending on your tradition) glory becomes a Deeply Significant Experience.

In reality, the grand majority of these experiences are decidedly lowercase.

And incidentally, this is also one of the ways we differ from our ancient, co-opted Pagan ancestors, who, finding themselves in a similar situation, would probably say things like, "We've got snakes. And they're eating the children."

Aiming for friendly compromise, my friend L. shared some personal reflections, stating that she always looks for mundane explanations to any given synchronicity before applying supernatural significance, but optimistically suggesting that if some kind of magical working had been performed recently, the snakes and their ex-skins might represent some kind of portent. To which our vibrating Pagan asserted:

"I've already gone over the mundane aspects. I'm looking for a NON-mundane answer."

A-ha. The key words here are "looking for." As in, "I want this to mean something, regardless of whether it actually does."

Eventually, one of the more New Agier list members saved us by posting a fresh-out-of-her-ass essay on how snakes symbolize rebirth and necessary but painless change, and the querent went, "Thank you! That's EXACTLY what I was looking for!" And we moved on.

Okay, everyone but me moved on. I dwelt on the subject for awhile, because it bugs me when Pagans try to assign importance to every little thing that lands in their line of sight.

Being that open is not a good thing. If you can't differentiate, if you can't make a distinction between a standard-issue occurance and a bona fide relay from the Gods, then you're better off not paying attention.

Nature happens, whether we witness it or not. And we're a part of Nature, not its masters or its impartial commentators. Snakes shed their skins, and trees lose their leaves, and stray cats kill the birds you were admiring seconds before. Occasionally, these things occur in the right place at the right time in front of the right Witch, and when this happens the inherent implication is immediately and abundantly clear.

But if you have to ask; if you have to rely on someone else to transcribe the event and come up with a customized moral; if you need an outside source to legitimize how Pagan you are...

...then it didn't mean anything at all.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Passenger Feedback - how I wish I could respond

Dear Sir,

I don't care how little leg room there was in Economy Class.

You do not "know how the slaves felt."

Your existence is holding us back as a species, so please leave the planet at your earliest convenience.

But thank you for your valued business.