Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things I find myself thinking

"All I need is an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and then this hallway will be complete."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Biblical Proportions

Although I've lived most of my adult life in what Jack affectionately refers to as "squalor," I've been putting a lot of effort into keeping our home neat and clean. The Alps-sized pile of dirty clothes next to my bed has shrunk to a foothill, bookshelves are noticeably dust-free, and I’ve even hauled out the vacuum cleaner a couple of times. Go me.

Jack's reaction to this new leaf I've turned over has been mixed, a combination of appreciation and suspicion: “Wow, you’ve really been doing a good job around here” has evolved into “Who are you, and what have you done with Evn?” While I understand his concern, I also understand that he’s at the start of an exciting new career, and I want to support him in that endeavor by making sure he doesn’t have to waste his well-deserved free time picking up after my sorry ass.

Unfortunately, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, zealously taking on a vast new variety of household responsibilities resulted in me accidentally neglecting the one chore Jack has ever actually assigned to me.

In other words, I forgot to clean the litter box. For, like, two weeks.

At face value, this is not as horrid as it may seem. We own the world’s largest litter box. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect to find at Sigfried and Roy’s house. If I skip Scoop Day every now and again, no big deal--there are still gallons and gallons of pristine litter for my precious babies to contaminate. Additionally, Jack found this all-natural, biodegradable litter made from pine chips (and possibly rainbows) that holds odor longer than I hold grudges, so there are never any unsavory olfactory issues with which to contend.

With these factors in mind, you can imagine my confusion when I walked through the front door yesterday afternoon and thought, “Why does this place smell like cat pee?” Following my nose to the guest bathroom, I stared, mouth agape, at the half-ton adobe brick that was, not so very long ago, a litter box.

This was a situation far outside the realm of mere scooping--everything had to go. I ran to the kitchen, found a suitable industrial-strength garbage bag, scooted it around the box, held my breath and slowly, carefully poured out the fetid contents. Tying off the bag and gasping for air, I squared my shoulders, hefted up the unwieldy load and trudged off to the dumpster.

Now, the dumpsters in our apartment complex are surrounded by wooden fences and blocked off by tall, chain-link gates, which are well nigh impossible to open. You can't just drop your trash off and go on with your life. No, you have to have the skills of an Olympic hammer thrower, winding up and launching your garbage high into the air, with distance and velocity both taken into consideration when the judges calculate your final score. I got a good swing going, arced the bag over my head, and...


Instead of trying to describe what happened next, I'd like to share a passage from the Old Testament (Exodus 9:24-25):

There was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.

I hope that crystallizes the image for you. If not, suffice it to say that washing ammonia-scented clumps of cat shit out of my hair was decidedly not how I’d planned to spend my evening.

But on the upside, my urge to clean house has reached obsessive-compulsive levels. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go shower again.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's not a typo, it's medieval

While doling out awards left and right in yesterday's post, I mentioned that I read very few blogs by authors who represent the demographics with which I'm associated. And in doing so, I completely forgot to highlight The Expvlsion of the Blatant Beast.

Bo is very intelligent, highly articulate, and a master storyteller. Plus he's super cute. Adorable, in fact. So, y'know, extra brownie points there.

Yvonne nominated him after I nominated her, so all is good in Pagan Blogdom. But when you get the chance, please do check out what he has to say. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogs I Heart

Loyal Strifemongers Diana and Cynthia nominated me for a blog award, which is the bona fide bees knees. Thanks, guys! You both rock! However, with great power comes great responsibility, and now I am charged to adhere to the following rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog.

2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.

3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

4. Put links to those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message on the blogs nominated.

In picking out blogs to nominate, I realized that I read tons of feminist blogs, but hardly any written by male Pagans or gay men. Hmmm. Perhaps I should explore self-loathing avoidance issues in my next therapy session. (Note to self: eventually find a therapist.)

Regardless, my nominees for the 2008 "I [heart] Your Blog" award are...

Deborah Lipp, Property of a Lady

Angela-Eloise, Blogickal

Sarah L. Crowder, Code Name: Sarah

Karen Healey, Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed)

Co-Witch Y., Imaginary Menagerie

Cat Chapin-Bishop and Yvonne Aburrow, MetaPagan

Grian/Lee, Panthea

This guy I don't know, Twelve Two Two Fondue

Let's give our winners a wild round of applause. Congratulations to all, and keep up the outstanding blogginess.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Devils and Blunders

"It's perfectly true, of course, that the worship of the old pagan gods survived long after Europe was presumably Christianized. Jupiter, Minerva, Venus, Diana, Pan, and the others were old, old friends, particularly to the peasants, who saw no conflict between them and Christ. After all, it was just as the priests said: the old gods were gods of this world, while Christ was the god of the other world.

"But the church had no intention of allowing this to go on. The old gods had to go. The psychologically smart move would have been to Christianize them as angels. Instead, in a terrible blunder, the church Christianized them as devils, hoping to blacken them in the peasants' imagination. But instead of blackening the old gods what they did was whiten the devils.

"You see, the peasants had known these gods as benevolent protectors for thousands of years. These were gods who looked after the fertility of their fields and their herds--things that were obviously beneath the notice of the austere and remote Christ. So, if the old gods were devils, then devils really couldn't be all that bad, could they? In other words, instead of making pagan worship abhorrent, the church simply made devil worship an ordinary, almost respectable, part of life."

-Daniel Quinn

Friday, August 22, 2008

Like the Phoenix

Someone I wish I'd known better died today.

Because I did not know him very well this time around, I do not feel qualified to post a eulogy. Instead, I'd like to republish his response to a question first asked of him about 30 years ago.

The question in question was: "Why Witchcraft?"

To which he replied: "Why not the Craft?"

And to that, all I can add is... exactly.

Why not?

Rest well, brief but trusted friend. I look forward to knowing you again.

The Award for Best Musical WILL NOT go to...

Just got off the phone with the remarkable Red Delicious (the original conjuring cat), ending a conversation that featured me making the following pronouncements:

"Let's take over a community theatre and traumatize everyone!"


"This time, you will listen to me."

He acquiesced.

Poor Red Delicious. While no one can truly predict what the future will bring, whatever happens to his budding artistic career is, dollars to doughnuts, probably all my fault.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Here's how karma really works

The fires from yesterday's flame war burned brightly into the night, with our ambitious protagonists typing in all caps and demanding apologies and hurling curses until I. Just. Couldn't. Take. It. Any. More.

Flicking the angel on my shoulder across the room and hearing him hit the wall with a satisfying splat, I banged out a condescending, vitriolic, just plain mean response, howled at the Moon, hit "send"...

...and now I'm the group moderator.

There's a new sheriff in town, pumpkins. If everyone could start humming the theme song to The Rifleman now, that would be great.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NeoPagan Netiquette, or the Painful Lack Thereof

After a few glorious months of civil niceties on the Houston-area e-mail lists, we had ourselves an old-fashioned, rip-snorting, hair-pulling flame war. It was a doozy, reminiscent of the archetypical bar fight in every Western ever filmed: One guy throws a punch, and then everyone in the room automatically starts breaking chairs over each other's heads.

There's debate over who lobbed the first piece of furniture in this particular debacle, although two list members stand out as the most likely suspects. Let's give them nifty Pagan names--I'm thinking Laocoön and Chutzpah. I'm not sure if our protagonists know each other in real life and cooked up a Cunning Plan, or if stuff just randomly set them off at the same time, but if we were in kindergarten (and sometimes I wonder...), they would most certainly need to be placed in separate play groups.

Here's how the whole thing went down. Facing a financial quagmire, a local occult shop/religious non-profit decided to hold a fundraiser, and posted announcements on all the listservs. Fun! Fellowship! Volunteer! Pledge! And the initial response was fairly encouraging. Sure we'll help! We love you guys! You do good work!

Suddenly, Laocoön appeared (in a puff of smoke, with the appropriate thunderclap) to issue a dire warning. There is a very good chance that the shop is doing poorly because of *gasp* Bad Karma! If the owners are dealing with the effects of *gasp* Bad Karma, then we mustn't do anything to assist them, or else we'll take that *gasp* Bad Karma onto ourselves!

Okay, yeah, personally? Not a big fan of the Karmic Boogeyman. I know he lives under a lot of Pagan beds, grabbing ankles and scaring people into idleness. But honestly, all you have to do to vanquish him is take responsibility for your words and your actions. Own what you do, accept the positive and/or negative consequences, The End. Not the most popular metaphysical point of view in this day and age, but there you go.

Now, in this instance, and fortunately for me (may the Gods be ever favorable), several list members felt the same way--including the moderator, who wrote a well-crafted essay on how the current unstable economy is hitting small, independent businesses harder than anyone else. The conversation almost, almost got itself back on track when Laocoön threw what can only be described as a Victorian hissy fit, expressing wide-eyed disbelief that the rest of us weren't fleeing from the shop at top speed, screaming in terror and flinging holy water behind us. This drew the ire of the shop's manager, who shared some brief but eloquent thoughts on karma and what Laocoön could go do with it.

It was then that Chutzpah entered the fray. Not the brightest bulb in the Pagan Parade of Lights, Chutzpah gleefully clamored aboard the Bad Karma Float. She'd never been to the shop, never met the owners, wasn't quite sure what day it was, but she took on the ambitious task of uncovering the supernatural causes of the shop's misfortune, accomplishing her mission by repeating every unfounded, malicious rumor she'd ever heard about the shop and its proprietors. After all, one of the rumors might turn out to be true, which would reveal the source of the karmic retribution. Elementary!

Loyal Strifemongers will not be surprised at the response she received, but Chutzpah sure as hell was. Reeling from the revelation that the blithe spreading of low-minded gossip does not the reincarnation of Agatha Christie make, and buffeted by the ensuing invective, she sang like a canary, dutifully listing the names of the various acquaintances who had passed the lurid hearsay to her in the first place.

Any hope of peace talks devolved after that, with all sides indulging liberally in the kind of language you'd normally only hear at a Merchant Marine stag party. Last time I checked, Chutzpah was cowering amidst the rubble of her credibility and whining that she didn't do anything, and Laocoön was making cryptic, Lovecraftian comments about what happens to infidels who dare not bow their heads in the presence of the Old Ones.

Ah, my people. Flame on, brethren, while I type "Unitarian" into a search engine and dream about what could have been.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Higher Learning

Snippet of a conversation overheard at the workplace:

"...and he showed me the textbook, and I was shocked! I can't believe the Catholic Church is teaching this to him. There are some things men just don't need to know."

My Southern upbringing prevented me from horning in and asking for clarification, but I'm dying to know what the Catholic Church is teaching, and to whom.

Exorcism, maybe? I hope it's exorcism. Or demystifying the female orgasm.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Hermetic Soul

Read this.

Then read this.

You'll feel better about everything. I promise.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Moon Worship and the Modern Witch

“Happy Assumption!” I said to my Eastern Orthodox employee as she sat down at her desk. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, after all, marking the date that the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven from her house in Ephesus, Turkey. Which, according to legend, is where she moved after she retired, Ephesus being the Florida of the first-century Jewish world.

E.O. looked confused for a second, but then her brow cleared. “Oh, you mean the Dormition! Thanks! Happy Dormition to you, too!”

“Dormition?” It was my turn to look confused.

“We call it the Dormition instead of the Assumption.” she explained. “Catholics believe that Mary was bodily assumed, and we believe that she... well, you know, died. But she definitely went to Heaven after that.”

Yeah, not quite as romantic as the Catholic version. What I (wisely) decided not to mention is that the early Church fathers scheduled the Assumption/Dormition/Whatever on August 15 in order to replace the Nemoralia, the ancient Roman Festival of Torches held annually in honor of Diana, Great Goddess of the Moon.

Eight Sabbats and thirteen Esbats aside, the Nemoralia is my favorite holiday. I’ve got a little altar set up in my bedroom, featuring a framed print of Erté’s Queen of the Night and a couple of Virgin Mary votive candles (La Virgen de Guadalupe y La Virgen de San Juan respectively, both easy to find when you live in South Texas), and every August 15, I rededicate it as a shrine to Diana. It’s a ritual that's become a personal touchtone, and I get unreasonably giddy about it.

Granted, me huddled over a small chest of drawers in the corner of an urban apartment doesn't have the same visual impact as, say, hundreds of devotees wreathed in flowers, carrying torches, led by garlanded hounds and waiting with baited breath to be ferried across the smooth, dark waters of Lake Nemi under the bathing rays of the Full Moon. But I'll light some jasmine incense and say a few prayers, and pour an offering of willow water. And for a fleeting, lovely moment, time, space and my ugly tan carpet will be rendered irrelevant.

Buon Nemoralia, Loyal Strifemongers. Happy Assumption, Merry Dormition, and to all a good night.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Opening Acrimonies

I love the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with all my heart. And I hate NBC's Olympic commentators with as equal a passion:

"Now entering the arena is the very small contingent from Bora Bora."

"Wow! Get a load of those costumes, Bob!"

"Those sure are crazy, Steve!"

"Ralph Lauren would never design anything like that for the U.S. team!"

"Ha ha! You're right about that, Steve!"

"And of course, Bora Bora has never won a medal at the Olympic Games, nor will they place in any event this year. Or ever."

"Yes, these opening ceremonies will be the only happy memories of Beijing for most of the athletes competing here."

"They're big losers, Bob!"

"They sure are, Steve!"

"And now the Canadians are entering! Our neighbors from the North, and one of many countries who actually pay their athletes for winning gold medals."

"That's truly a blight on the games, Bob."

"It truly is, Steve. I'm glad things like that don't happen in the U.S.!"

Steve starts to comment on the millions of dollars in endorsement deals handed to U.S. athletes months before the Olympics even begin. Bob freezes him with a glare, places a finger to his lips and shakes his head.

"Um, I'm also glad of that, Bob!"

"And here we have the Republic of Chad, a country known for not speaking English."

"Well, they're certainly not going to win any medals with that attitude."

"You're right about that, Steve!"

"It sure is great to be white and privileged, Bob!"

"Ha ha!"

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Southern Vegetarian, Interrupted

I truly wish there was a better way for me to say this, but there's a lentil bean what got stuck in my back craw, and it like to kill me.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Never say never... unless, you know, never.

A freelance travel writer submitted a lengthy query letter through my company's Web site, wanting to contribute to one or more of the magazines we publish. Before I had the chance to reply, he sent in another letter that began with, "Now that you've gotten to know me, here's what I can do for you," followed by about four pages worth of story ideas.

I responded politely, thanking him for his interest but explaining that all of our writers work in-house. He wrote back, asking where our offices are located. My assistant, J., let him know that all of our offices are in Houston. And that, we thought, was that.

This morning, Writer Guy sent in another letter, opening with, "I'm currently working on an amazing new article that would very much appeal to our readers!"

"Our" readers? WTF?

After a brief but pointed confab, J. and I determined further correspondence to be unnecessary.

I've done the freelance writing thing before, and it's hard. You work your ass off coming up with the perfect lead and the perfect pitch, only to receive a Xeroxed rejection slip. Or you never hear back at all. Or another writer steals one of your topics and uses it as the title of his latest published collection of (in my unbiased opinion) abrasive yet unremarkable spokenword poems, and doesn't even mention you in the acknowledgements.

The turndowns and trecheries are demoralizing, but you just have to suck it up, haul out your copy of The Writers Market and move on. Ignoring a "thanks but no thanks" reply from a media outlet and pestering them like a cat in heat until they have no choice but to SPAM block your e-mail address is, in shameless self-promotion terms, a tragic-ass boo-boo.

Friday, August 01, 2008

If I were Polynesian, I'd change my name to Ted

You know how I'm officiating that wedding tomorrow? And how, at the end of a wedding ceremony, the minister introduces the happy couple to the congregation using their full legal names?

I just found out that the groom's middle name is Leimanapohaikukino.

I'm going to die. In the meantime, no one is allowed to mispronounce Evnissyen ever again.