Thursday, October 8, 2015

Re-post "Heaven for Everyone"

Re-post from my Super Duper Social Worker blog, October 2012, honoring my Blessed Dead

October and November are times to honor the blessed dead, and the first Blessed One I'd like to honor is Ray Bradbury.

The first sci fi book I ever read was War of the Worlds, and the second was the Martian Chronicles. Reading these books marked a turning point in my life, and fundamentally helped to create who I am. I wrote my senior paper on Bradbury, and he came up often in college papers, too. Regretfully, I haven't read a lot of his more contemporary writings, but I've read a whole lot of his sci fi short stories.

He's one of my favorite people ever, and one of my favorite writers (the others including Neil Gaiman and Frank Herbert). Bradbury's writing is beautiful, tragic, inspiring, amazing. He crafted worlds and stories and places and things that are unforgettable. Even the most alien of his subjects is familiar. He had a gift of looking into people's hearts and writing what was to be found there.

When he died this past spring, I cried. I had had a terrible day at work. I was probably sick. I was anxious. I was depressed. It was one of those days when everything that could go wrong, went wrong. So after a terrible morning behind the bar, I sat down at my desk and read the headline.

And I cried.

And I was so angry because I was so busy and so behind that day, I couldn't properly mourn him. The tears came but I had to fight them back because how could I say "I can't go to the bank today. My favorite writer died." or "I can't go to this meeting because this author who was very old passed away."

I cried on my way home from work, and sometimes I still get teary-eyed when I think about Ray Bradbury and his passing. I have not yet properly mourned this man who was like an uncle to me - far away and distant, yes, but still influential. Still familiar.

Last October I read a lot of horror and scary literature, which included re-reading a lot of Bradbury (Something Wicked This Way Comes, The October Country, and other short stories). Nothing captures October so well as Something Wicked This Way Comes. Just open your eyes. You'll find them, the October People. They're there. Doing their October thing. They come out every year.

I found a cheap copy of The Halloween Tree, so I put away a book club read and started reading this Bradbury Classic.

Where has The Halloween Tree been all my life? Truthfully, I've been too busy reading everything else by him to find time for this one, but since it's probably the only book I'll be reading all month (despite having both Rosemary's Baby and the Stepford Wives waiting on my bookshelf) nothing could be more appropriate.

Bradbury tells the story of Halloween perfectly, with all of its myth and magic. No words of mine can do him justice, so here he goes in one particularly memorable section:

A dark creature struck the sun one dreadful blow.
The sun died. It's fires went out.
The boys ran blind in darkness.
Yeah, thought Tom, running, sure, I mean, I think, every night, the sun dies. Going to sleep, I wonder, will it come back? Tomorrow morning, will it still be dead?
The boys ran. On new pillars dead-ahead, the sun appeared again, burning out an eclipse.
Swell! thought Tom. That's it! Sunrise!
But just as quickly, the sun was murdered again. On each pillar they raced by, the sun died in autumn and was buried in cold winter. 
Middle of December, thought Tom, I often think: the sun'll never come back! Winter will go on forever! This time the sun is really dead!
But as the boys slowed at the end of the long corridor, the sun was reborn. Spring arrived with golden horns. Light filled the corridor with pure fire.
The strange God stood burning on every wall, his face a grand fire of triumph, wrapped in golden ribbons.
"Why, heck, I know who that is," panted Henry-Hank. "Saw him in a movie once with terrible Egyptian mummies!"
"Osiris!" said Tom.
"Yessss....." hissed Moundshroud's voice from the deep tombs. "Lesson Number One about Halloween. Osiris, Son of the Earth and Sky, killed each night by his brother Darkness. Osiris slain by Autumn, murdered by his own night blood.
"So it goes in every country, boys. Each has its death festival, having to do with seasons. Skulls and bones, boys, skeletons and ghosts. In Egypt, lads, see the Death of Osiris, King of the Dead. Gaze long."

So we drink a toast to you, Uncle Ray. Thank you for the books and the words and the worlds and the memories and dreams. Thank you, unendingly, for the inspiration. I always wanted to write you a letter, and I never did. I'll always regret that. Twenty years I had the chance and I never took it. So, this season, I drink to you. I write for you. I read for you.

You are among my honored dead.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Re-Post: "All Dead, All Dead"

Re-post from my Super Duper Social Worker Blog, October 2012

October is a special month. We re-adjust to our new work and school schedules. Though the weather might still be uncomfortably warm (like right now in North Carolina!) it starts to vary up between hot, cold, muggy, crisp, perfect, bright, lovely, wonderful. Everything becomes pumpkin flavored and colored. (Steve and I had the most amazing pumpkin custard at Goodberry's this week. Pumpkin, waffle cone, whipped cream, pecans and caramel. Oh yum.)

There are parties and decorations and costumes and concerts and community events. Maybe, just maybe, people have more fun in October than any other month of the year.

Maybe this draw to fun, parties, and community comes from a primal need for us to all come together this time of year. Mother Nature is giving one last push of her bounty before the winter season finally settles over the land. And then that's it. And that's pretty scary, and maybe we need one another to cope, to remind ourselves "no, we're not dead yet! look, we live!"

October in all of its beauty is a season of inevitable change. It reminds us that in order for something to be so amazingly fun and awesome, it can't last forever. All things are created and all things are destroyed. October in all of its bright colors and festivities dances on the edge of life and death.

Some Catholics celebrate All Souls Day and All Saints Day as a way to honor the blessed dead. For the ancient Celtic and other European tribes, this time of year was the time to bring in the last of the harvest and to prepare for a long, cold winder. Herds were culled down and farmers were forced to decide which animals would live through the winter and which ones would not. This practice gives us one folk name of October's full moon - the Blood Moon.

So, for all of our celebration, for all of our fun and candy, October is a time for us to come together as a community, to cling to one another as if it's a matter of life or death because maybe it really is.

Because yes, October is fun. But sometimes the winter is not. And yes, we're alive now. But nature is dying, and we are, too.

October is a time to embrace our lives. It is a time of community and harvest, and of death and shadows. We are confronted with the glory of life and death every hour and every minute of October. The pumpkins shine like giant golden moons. The leaves in many places are still green, but in others they are red, yellow, brown.

In our modern world it's hard to imagine having to slaughter animals and make choices of life and death for the winter. We can just go to the grocery store and buy fruits and vegetables and bacon and just forget all about it. But for a few moments, imagine your ancestors. Imagine how they felt about the change in the season, from summer to autumn, and then to the dark, cold winter. Think about the fear of the unknown they must have felt, the certainty of death within their lives

October teaches us to not be afraid when confronted with our own mortality. Yes, we're alive. Yes, we'll die. Life and death are both gifts. And in October, celebrate. Eat, drink and be merry because the seasons are changing, because tomorrow we, or someone we love, might die. Follow your primal urges in October to make the most of this month and this season.

Watch scary movies. Listen to gothic music. Wear black. Decorate your house in skeletons and skulls. Tell stories of your blessed dead. Toast to the ancestors. Go to parties. Stay up late. Don't get enough sleep. Drink too much. Eat apples and bacon. Look at a pomegranate. Carve a pumpkin. Snack on the seeds. Wear a costume. Spook yourself out. Take a walk. Smell some dirt.

Do not hide from the shadow or death. Confront it. Laugh at it. Laugh with it.

Because, like all of nature, we will die. We will be taken in. But next season, we will be reborn.

"the best thing in life is knowing you put it together"

Please be sure to check out my latest post over at Pagan Square/Witches and Pagans.  This one is about planting seeds, gathering your harvest, and what happens when your harvest isn't what you expected.

"Remember who you want to be."  

And while you're over there, check out my previous posts, too!

Them Summer Days, Those Summer Days

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Re-Re Post about Gnosis!

WK 1- Mar. 2 - Knowledge,Wisdom and Gnosis - What do these words mean to you? How do express these principles in your spiritual work? Is any one more important than the other? Why?

Sometimes I tell people that Wicca is my religion but my spirituality is Gnosticism.  The problem with this, however, was that very few people know what I mean when I say I am a Gnostic.  Sometimes I don’t know what I mean, either.  What I do know, however, is the feeling I get when I read the Gospel of Thomas or Thunder, Perfect Mind.  I know that Gnosticism did more than just help me to reconcile any anxiety I had about my torrid Christian past.  It opened up a whole new trajectory for my future, in this life and beyond.

Identifying as a Gnostic doesn’t mean I can’t practice Wicca or be a witch or I had to change anything about my life.  If anything, it gives me more options.  I can pretty much enter into any religious ritual or ceremony and feel perfectly at home because it’s like God speaks to me anywhere and everywhere I go.  We’re surrounded by myths and stories and archetypes, and Gnosticism gave me the lexicon with which to understand what God was saying through these tools.

Here’s what Gnosticism is not – despite what you may have read in a billion Neo-Pagan books, we don’t believe that we are aliens from another planet who got stuck on earth because of the evil Demiurge.  For some reason every time I read a Neo-Pagan book that mentions Gnosticism, they always have these ridiculous concepts of what Gnosticism is and it really pisses me off.  Saying that Gnostics believed they were aliens is such an oversimplification, and furthermore, that’s literalist thinking.  If the Gnostics do anything, it’s reject literalist thinking. 

When the ancient Gnostics wrote about being from “some other place”, they were talking about pieces of themselves, what we’d call Aggregate Structures in the Esoteric Mysticism system.  So these pieces are part of greater, more complete and permanent pieces of the Cosmos, and we are made up of these aggregate structures.  But aggregate structures aren’t of this world; they’re of something more than this world and beyond this world.  Alien just means outsider, because we’re not of this world.  This world is an illusion.  So we nurture and foster these permanent structures because they will help us to return to the True Source, which is not of this world or this existence. 

So as a Gnostic I’m not recreating some science fiction story where I’m looking for my mothership to take me home beyond the stars.  I just recognize those greater pieces of me that are part of the Cosmos, and I can use those pieces to help me forge a greater bond to Deity, which is beyond this time and space.  By engaging in Gnosis, in knowing, I recognize that piece of me, and I know how it relates back to the Source.  I can begin to see past the illusions of this reality, and I KNOW.  Gnosis is a place beyond logic or thought or feeling.  It just is.  It’s certainty with every fiber of your being because Gnosis is every fiber of your being.

Sophia, or Wisdom, plays a great role in Gnostic teachings.  In some Gnostic myths (since there are so many of them because the Gnostics loved to write and re-write and re-write myths) Sophia is a piece of the Monad, the oneness that is the Cosmos and all things and no things.  But she messed up a little and creates the Demi-urge, the little maker.  The Demiurge doesn’t know it’s connected to the Oneness (like many of us do not know we are connected to the Oneness) so he creates this world, but it’s a shitty world.  So Sophia feels bad and she tries to help the Demiurge’s creations, who would be Adam and Eve.  She helps them by putting a piece of herself in them, a powerful and permanent aggregate structure that is a piece of Wisdom.  This piece that is within us all is closer to the Oneness than Sophia’s own flawed creation, the Demiurge, who is the creator in some myths (such as the Christian creation story.) 

So what is Wisdom?  Wisdom is Sophia realizing she made a mistake and having the grace to try to fix it the best she can.  Wisdom is thoughtful compassion which guides action. 

And knowledge is just the fact that I read all of this stuff in lots of books over the years, that I can regurgitate it to you in a blog post.  Knowledge of these mysteries prepared me for them, but it took a long time for me to have the Wisdom to understand, and even longer for the Gnosis to settle itself permanently into my being.  I’m not just some flawed creation.  I am a being of light and Wisdom, connected to the Cosmos.  I am a Gnostic. 

If you’re interested in reading more, I’ve written a lot about Gnosis and the Gnostics over the years.  You can find more about these topics at the following links:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Re-Re Post to keep on topic from PPD 2015

Repost from my Super Duper Social Worker Blog, April 2013

What we know about the ancient Gnostics is that we don’t know much. We know that the people who modern people might call Gnostic never called themselves Gnostic. The word Gnostic might have even been used as a slang. (Kind of like how the people who modern people call Pagan never ever called themselves Pagan.)

Plotinus, who is considered by many modern people to be a premier writer of Gnostic source materials, often wrote about the Gnostics as those goofy radicals down the street. "It is NOT as the Gnostics say..." (Kind of like how modern Pagans often write about “those fluff bunnies”, even though two thousand years ago we might all be seen as fluff bunnies.)

In regards to the Gnostics, we don’t know more than we know. But what I’ve learned about the Gnostics is that they’ve always been misunderstood. We don’t know who they are now and no one knew who they were then. Which translates to me that anything can be Gnostic, nothing is Gnostic, nothing is not-Gnostic. (Which works out really great for me.)

We know that the Sethians in Egypt were considered to be the first Gnostics, about 200 years or so before Christianity. These people were a sect of radical Jews who were probably inspired by Mediterranean (Greek) mystery traditions. And these Mediterranean mystery traditions were probably inspired by the Ancient Egyptian mystery traditions, which were inspired by God Only Knows. But whoever the Gnostics were, they went on to inspire Christianity, the Kabbalah, Masons, The Golden Dawn, Wiccans, modern Pagans, comic book artists, rock songs, books, movies, and a continuing cycle of inspired texts and prophets (Dick, Hesse, Moore, Smashing Pumpkins, ELO, etc.)

What I love about the early Gnostics was that they just wrote stuff all the time, and some of it is crazy. I get the impression that if there is was aspect about their current Gnostic myth that they didn’t like, they just wrote their own. So this means as a modern person reading this stuff it seems confusing and contradictory, but contradiction only need to exist in religion if one is looking at religion from a literal point of view. But when looking at religion as something that is organic, changeable, and evolving, the Gnostic myths make perfect sense, especially from a Universalist point of view.  We’re all on a path towards God, we know that each path is different. We’re all just wandering around on a crooked path and at the center is God. 

So who were the Gnostics and what did they do? We don’t really know. But what I like to think is that two thousand years ago, Gnostics, Jews, Pagans, Christians, atheists, agnostics and whoever else got together in comfy backrooms every once in a while. I’d like to think that they were all friends. That they sat and breathed together, wrote stupid stories about talking snakes and laughing gods, chanted, raised energy, talked about God, shared wine and bread, laughed, told jokes, had ecstatic moments, and afterword, in the words of my Bishop, they sat around in joy and said “how cool was that?!”

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Re-Re-post about the Bible

Re-post from my Super Super Social Worker Blog, January 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve “stirred by cauldron” as my friend V likes to say, so let’s talk about the bible.

officially canon
A few years ago I decided to read the bible. I read it for a few different reasons. Western culture is Judeo-Christian, and I wanted to understand that mind-set. I wanted to understand the origins of my contemporary American society. I wanted to understand references made in literature. I think it’s worthwhile to read religious texts from many traditions. I wanted to know what the fuss was about. I wanted to read the bible before I read Gnostic texts. I wanted to have a few things to say when confronted with pushy Christians, but also to be able to carry a conversation with loving Christians, too. I also wanted to say “I did this!” and to be able to brag about it, because seriously, how many people actually read the bible?

So I read it, front to back. It took me a year to read the Old Testament, and a year to read the New Testament.

The Old Testament was often strange, confusing, and aggravating. Reading it was like scrying – you kind of let your mind go blurry and hope you get a clear picture when you’re finished. It was great to have context for the stories I was taught in Sunday school. There’s also a lot in there that we were never taught, mainly the racy stuff like incest, murder, two creation stories, trickery, etc. There’s also a lot of names. And a lot of laws. But there are beautiful poems, too, and prayers, and references to the Goddess here and there, if you know where to look. I particularly like the prayers to Sophia/Wisdom.

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,      
those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver     
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;     
nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;     
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,     
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;     
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
(Proverbs 3:13-18)

remind you of anyone?
The New Testament took me as long as the Old Testament, despite how short it is in comparison. I think it took me so long because to me it was so much interesting and useful. Not to say I loved every moment (there’s some great sexism and woman hating in both the Old and New Testaments) but I really like Jesus. What a great dude. I really liked reading about him, because he was genuinely nice and loving and caring and inspired.

Other characters are pretty cool, too. Like Mary and other Mary. Crazy-ass John the Baptist. The Romans and the Devil. I even liked the Apostles sometimes, too, even though I get the Peters mixed up with the Pauls, and I can’t remember the other guys.

It also helped that my husband is a Classicist, so when I’d have a question about a word or a passage, he could take out his Greek New Testament and lexicon and we’d have great discussions about translations and interpretations and those moments are always enjoyable for both of us.

Also, as someone who is deeply interested in Gnosticism and Mediterranean mystery traditions, the New Testament was just more interesting to me. It mentions knowing/gnosis and logos and the word  a lot, which is relevant to my interests. I was interested in the very mundane parables of the bible, as well as the hints at mystery and esoteric wisdom Jesus tries to share with his followers. So, I think since I was more interested in the New Testament, it took me longer because I was paying more attention, whereas the Old Testament was pretty much one big confusing blur.

this is how I imagine it happened
I’m pretty satisfied with my decision to read the bible. I’m very glad I did it. I probably won’t do it again, at least not until I’m done reading the Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are more meaningful and interesting to me personally, anyway.  And I do understand bible references more, but not all the time because there are a whole lot of them. Pretty much all of those things I hoped to accomplish were accomplished, which is more than I can say about other areas in my life.

And no, reading the bible did not convert me back to Christianity. I’m still Pagan, though I’m at a stage in my life when I have reconciled my Christian upbringing, I’m not angry at (most) Christians anymore, and I even forgave Jesus. These were all important steps in the maturity of my spiritual self, and I can honestly say I’m a much happier person than I was when I was confused and angry about Christianity. Though I realize that not all Pagans are okay with the concept of accepting Christianity, that’s their business just as reading the bible that one time is my business. As Brothers Freke and Gandy remind us, it’s not always wise to throw away the baby with the bathwater.  Sure, there’s a lot of shocking and strange and horrible stuff in the bible, but the same can be said for other myths and stories, too. And just as other myths can be lovely, there’s a lot of beautiful stuff in Christian myths, too. And if one can get past all of that nasty, annoying literalism, the bible has some pretty decent stories, allegories, parables, metaphors, archetypes and all sorts of other useful things in it. It is a holy text, after all.

Though honestly, I’d probably recommend that people just skip the bible and go straight to the Gospel of Thomas, because that’s where all the good stuff is anyway!

Friday, September 25, 2015

it's the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s that time of year, kids!  Autumn is officially here, the weather is finally changing, and Halloween is right around the corner!  This is the favorite season of many, and really, what’s not to love?  I remember my very first autumn as a Pagan, and suddenly, it was like seeing the world for the very first time!  New scents, new sights, new sounds – I still look back on that year fondly! 

During this time of transition and celebration, we have a lot to look forward to.  As the veil thins and the membrane between the worlds becomes more permeable, it becomes easier to gaze into the other sides.  This time of year has always been a prime-time for divination, for gazing into the past, present, or future – or maybe even different worlds all together! 

In celebration of this most wonderful time of the year, I’m offering a discount over at my Etsy shop.  I do tarot card readings in person, too, but Etsy has proven to be a great place for me to read for people who might not be local.
This year I’m offering discounted readings on two of my favorite decks – the The Zombie Tarot and the Halloween Oracle!  The Zombie Tarot was a birthday gift from my sister a few years ago, and the Halloween Oracle was a deck I picked up when I was working at a local metaphysical and occult shop.  Both of these decks have charm, sass, and great personality, plus the artwork is amazing, too!  The Zombie Tarot is a great combination of pop culture images mixed with classic tarot card meanings and symbolism.  The Halloween Oracle takes some of the most beloved images of this Halloween and autumnal season and combines them with oracular messages and beautiful, breathtaking artwork.
So mosey on over to my Etsy shop and get yourself a reading!  Readings will be discounted until November, and please, as always, message me if you have any questions or comments!  Until then, Happy Spooky Season, everyone!

(and don't forget - I'm teaching a tarot class over at with my friend Bryan.  Archetypal communication, divination, ancient religion and occult philosophy?  We're having a blast over there!)