Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prfection.

This is day 365 of daily posting. As of this blog post, my year long commitment is complete. I don't know how I feel about that! There have certainly been days, weeks even, where I just wasn't feeling it, and that's reflected in the posts. Some days they came so easily they might have been channeled. Some posts took real digging to dredge up something at all. No matter how busy or tired I got, I have never resented this responsibility (keeping a promise to a Patron is a responsibility!) and I have not regretted it. A few things I have learned from this adventure:

"Il meglio è l'inimico del bene."
Perfect is the enemy of good.

Too many opportunities have been lost by me, and likely by you, because it wasn't the perfect time or you didn't write it perfectly or you didn't look just perfect... Fuck that. If my mission early in this year has been about humor- finding it in yourself and your work and with the Gods, the rest has been encouraging those who fear mistakes: "I can't take that part in the ritual, I might screw it up" or "I did it wrong so now I look stupid in front of everyone" or "I haven't read as much as those people" or "I haven't been on the path as long as those others." Again, to put it eloquently, fuck that. You don't improve if you don't try. You don't get where you want to go unless you get off your ass and start heading in that direction. One of my New Year's resolutions is to not worry about being perfect, to take more emotional risks and to be more daring.

"Chi dorme non piglia pesci."
Those who sleep don't catch any fish.

I'm not advocating against sleep! Really, I'm not! I'm advocating for waking up to daily magic. If anything, this daily exercise has been about finding the magic in my life, world and day. Recognizing how well steeped you are in magic is a wonderful experience, akin to a yogi bringing attention to their breath; You were breathing the whole time, but once you bring your attention there, it deepens.

"La miglior vendetta 'e il perdono."
 The best revenge is to forgive.

The haters are important. They demonstrate how not to act. They can spur you to greater heights. They can strengthen your resolve. Throughout the year there have been several people who mistakenly thought I was writing about them. If there was something in a blog post they could remotely relate to their life, I was accused of writing about them. Dear haters: I forgive you. I recognize that your bad attitudes and actions are born of your insecurities and your fears. You are forgiven, but in true Italian tradition, your actions will not be forgotten. They will follow you.

"Chi ha l’amor nel petto, ha lo sprone a’fianchi."
Love spurs me on

It's more literally translated as: "He who has love in his chest has spurs in his sides." It's something that has come through in communicating with the gods: Find the joy: in your work, on the path, in your life. Just because it's hard drudgery doesn't mean you're doing it right or that you're somehow more noble than someone who can enjoy the ride. That's what it comes down to: Enjoy the ride!


"Dai nemici mi guardo io, dagli amici mi guardi Iddio!"
I can protect myself from my enemies; may God protect me from my friends!

Last year Rob Brezsny published this horoscope for Libras on the theme of 2011:
"I believe you will have the chance to weave your fortunes together with an abundance of allies who are good for you. They will be your equals, they will share at least some of your most important values, and they will respect you for who you are. That's excellent news, right? My only worry is that you might shy away from the demands that such invigorating collaborations will make on you. It would be less work, after all, to fall back into reliance on more prosaic relationships that don't ask so much of you. Please don't take the easy way out, Libra. Rise to the occasion!"

He was right: In addition to the continuing friendship with Dusio, in 2011 I took the hard way out of a bad place and found Nemesis, Ariana, Mia Cugina, and a whole big wonderful group of people I am happy to call family. To my spiritual family, both named here and not, and you know who you are:  I am grateful for your friendship, for your advice, and especially for your challenges! These collaborations have definitely been invigorating. Talk about a breath of fresh air! You are the people who, when we are together or even just talking or texting, remind me that I am Home. Thank you! Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro: He who finds a friend, finds a treasure! And thanks also to the Loyal Hoarde for joining me on this adventure!

"Domani non arriva mai"
Tomorrow never comes

There are many Italian sayings about tomorrows, including this one, which is usually part of a longer saying. Why does "Tomorrow" never come? Because when it arrives, it's always "Today." Talk about living in the now! So what's in store for tomorrow, in the new year of 2012? Vacation? Two posts a day? Tune in to find out ;)

Is this the end? Of course not... it's only the beginning!

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve!

The penultimate post of the year! So how is the new year celebrated in Italy?

Lentils are eaten, grapes are on the dinner table, newly minted coins are left on the windowsill. In Naples, there's a tradition of throwing old things out the window. Some think it's where "out with the old, in with the new" came from. I think some folks got drunk n started throwing shit, but who knows? ;) Red underwear is also worn for good luck and protection:
it was just considered lucky to wear something new and red (a lucky colour) on the last/first day of the year. However, the Church came to disapprove of the superstition, viewing it as the first step down the slippery slope leading to astrology, spiritualism and occultism. Therefore people were forced to take the tradition underground (and under trousers) to avoid getting a scolding from the local priest about how they would burn in hell along with their fancy new red clothes. If you are planning to be in Sardinia for the big night, you'll have to change the colour of your pants; there, green undies bring good luck.
If the first person you see on New Year's Day is of the opposite sex, it's good luck. Sex on the first day is also good luck for your nookie prospects through the year. Whatever you do on capodanno sets the tone for the rest of the year:

I wrote last night about a working involving Janus. Here it is! Let me know if you decide to play along at home.

It starts at Midnight when everyone screams HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! and means it. During the countdown, feel the presence of Janus. Janus is there, automatically invoked by the raising of energy.. the 10.... 9.... etc. Feel the eyes in the back of your head, seeing into the past. Feel your sight sharpen as you look ahead into the future. You are on a threshold, have a clean slate and can make what you want of it. This is the time for road opening!

On a small piece of paper write main goals for the year. Add a drop or spray of Road Opener and fold the paper. Tie it with a red ribbon, capturing the will that this be done in the knot. This can be done right at midnight if alone or where others won't notice it. The note and tie can be made earlier and kept in a pocket at midnight.

Before going to sleep, its placed on the altar or kept close if away from home. On the kalends of every month, the invocation below is repeated. At that time or on the full moon, what has been done in pursuit of the goal is written or reviewed/recounted.

Since everyone has their individual style of magic, both low and high, I'm not going to give instructions on how to handle a working the whole year 'round- it depends entirely on what an individual's goals are. Money and love call for different ingredients, different procedures. It can be as simple as setting a candle on top of the written intent and letting the magic work its way. The note can be put in a bag along with complimentary herbs and charms and carried. If the paper can be folded small enough, it can be placed in a locket or bracelet charm to wear.

Why the kalends? Juno's day was the kalends, the first of each lunar month and Janus had the epithet Ianus Iunonius. We already know that Diana and Juno were related in function and epithet in Lucina- bonus synchronicity!

After lighting incense and a libation of wine:

Janus, Janus, heed my call;
Auspicious words from my lips fall;
Open door and open gate;
Manifest what I create!

This is chanted to raise energy with the paper held against the lips. Once the knot is tied, the following is said with it held to the lips again, like whispering into it:

My plan, like you, from chaos to form;
My goals and dreams become life's norm.


Then go make it happen!

When goals have been achieved, or have changed, or at the end of the year, the paper is burned.

Tomorrow: The last post of the year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twelfth Night, or What you Will

Yes! More Shakespeare! This one involves more of the cross dressing, gender swapping, servant mischief, weddings, parties, and fun that we've come to expect from Edward DeVere's comedies. The story was based in part on an Italian tale, Ingannati (The Deceived/The Deception). The Italian play was hosted on the last day of Carnival in February, 1532. And here's where we get back into our year long theme of how calendars are much more fluid than we like to believe, or at least were more fluid than they are today! Speaking of fluid, this blog entry is not; It looks like I'll be jumping back and forth. I hope you can keep up with my bizarre train of thought because we'll be switching tracks often!

The debate about the birthday of baby Jesus includes January 6th as a potential date, 12 nights after the old solstice night of December 25th. The "epiphany" is said to refer to the birth of Jesus.

I've posted before about the feast of Lucia on December 13th being the 12 days before old solstice. December 25th was the old solstice date. Thanks to earth's strange tilt and wobble action on its axis, past and present astronomical timing varies. Thanks to the many varied changes in the calendar system, things are much further off than in ancient days! AKA: Ow, headache looking at the old and new calendars and the changes they went through!
Januarius was not always the first month of the year. Earlier it had begun, perhaps more sensibly, in March (Martius) with the onset of Spring. Januarius and Februarius were added by Numa Pompilius, one of Rome's kings in the pre-Republic days. He also moved the beginning of the year to Januarius and set the number of days equal to 29 because Romans considered odd numbers lucky. Notice that all of the festivals are held on odd-numbered days. Centuries later Julius Caesar set the length to 31, as well as adding days elsewhere to fix the problem of the months no longer corresponding to the seasons, a result of the fact that the Roman year was shorter than the actual solar year. 

So we have: A festival of the divine midwife 12 days before old solstice, the current celebration of the old solstice as birthday and a celebration 12 days after the old solstice. One month after that, we have the Parentalia Novindialia, a nine day festival honoring ancestors and Lares. The Celts had the Imbolc festival where we once again find a maiden wearing a crown of candles. The church then baptized the festival and called it candlemas. There's also a whole host of other Italian festivals throughout the remainder of January, including the Compitalia which moved every year, between December and January and was thought to be part of the continuation of the Saturnalia feast. And don't forget La Befana! The elder woman who brings gifts at the hearth for the children! I still believe her to be an aspect of Vesta or the Elder midwife, whereas Lucina is the younger aspect, She is the elder, sort of a reversal from Saturn's Old Man Winter and transformation into Baby New Year. I've never liked the story about "the wise men" asking La Befa for directions. Why? Men never ask for directions! ;) La Befana might well be derrived from L'epifania, the epiphany. Is She the personification of Light born into the world? Another case of the Man bringing down and covering up the Matriarchy? Turning Her into a crone who is forever chasing after the men? Yes! I knew I could work a conspiracy theory into this!

Just some fun confusion when trying to untangle the thread of past practices and their influence on what we do today. I find it interesting that Twelfth Night was first performed on what is considered the end of the carnival season which started on Hallow's Eve and ends with Candlemas. There was a superstition that your decorations had to be taken down by February 2nd. That has been changed to taken down on January 6th. I personally play it close to the later and take it down before the Festival of Janus on January 9th. Can't exactly make with the new year when you have decorations up for the old year.

Speaking of New Year... January was NOT the start of the year, it used to be March! We started, back in the day, with Spring and Mars, the Ram, as the dawn of the new year. However, the Roman calendar was shorter than the actual path of the earth around the sun, and so January and February were added to the calendar and January made the start of the year with honors due him, then to Februus, the month of cleansing, and then we came to March and the proper start of the year, or at least the start of the military campaign season. There's another example of the old calendar no longer matching up thanks to the tilt-a-whirl of a planet we're on: The Precession of the equinoxes! The Ram hasn't been on the horizon in 2,000 years. It's been the fish!

Let's add the next layer! Carnival! ok, wait lets not and say we didn't. Between all of this calendrical fun and my continued reading of Macrobius, I'm getting a thick headache. I have, however, been given a ritual for the new year. I've been contemplating which date to do it: Should it be on the first? On the 9th, which is the festival of Janus and the Full Moon? Both? ;)

The ritual involves the icon of Janus as the joining of Diana and Apollo. An ancient scholar, Nigidius, was a senator who was also "a Pythagorean and a Mage," is quoted by Macrobius as assuring us that Diana = Jana and Janus = Apollo, or Dianus with Apollo being an imported name and Dianus being a local name. This was the topic of one of my early posts, I just didn't have Macrobius and Nigidius on hand to back me up ;)

To review: Janus and Jana were most often spelled as Iana and Ianus. The names Jupiter and Juno were the same as well: Iuno and Iupiter. (Was it just easier to chisel an I than a J or was the J not in the Italic alphabet?)

The word "of" is rendered many different ways in Italian, including d'

Why is that interesting? Because now we have D'Iana and D'Ianus, or, Diana and Dianus.

This means that the symbolism of Janus is the creation of the universe. Diana divided Herself and created her brother. The Deus Biceps represents that moment of creation. That is why Janus is honored at all beginnings. Last night I said that Janus is potential energy itself. I will refine that: The symbolism represents Beginnings, both primal and mundane- the move from chaos to order, the original begetting of creation. For the kabalists out there, I'd say it represents the moment when Keter splits into Binah and Chokmah. Keter also has the title: The Primordial point. So am I rockin with the spheres now? Must ask the Evil Twin- it might be time to finish our Muppet Tree of Life! Ha!

Sincere apologies for switching tracks tonight. Looks like last night's post on Janus wasn't complete. I'm still not done with Macrobius, you'll be seeing more from there. Let's close with some famous words from Twelfth Night:
But be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
Let's make it a Great year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back and Forth

Since I've been looking back at the past year and preparing for the one on the horizon, I thought it was high time to post something proper about Janus!


He is an Italic deity with no syncretic counterpart to be found in other cultures. Latin or specifically Etruscan in origin, He shares the Etruscan name for door, janua.
The earliest representations, however, appear to have been the two-faced heads, which are frequently seen on Etruscan medals found at Volaterrae. A statue with four faces was brought to Rome after the conquest of the Etruscan town of Falerii (Serv. ad Aen. vi. 607; Macrob. l. c.)
I was recently reading Macrobius, the second book cited above and it has been very helpful in understanding Janus and Saturn and their relationship and positions within the pantheon of Rome.

While He might be considered a "minor" deity these days, He was a pretty big deal in ancient Italy. Not only was He the one invoked at the new year, He was invoked at the start of the new day and the new month and the new season for sowing seed. Why sowing seed? Wasn't Saturn credited with that? Glad you asked! Legend has it that Janus was King of Italia and when Saturn fled Jupiter, He was welcomed by Janus in exchange for sharing the secrets of sowing seed. Janus has his own city! The Janiculum, or as it's also known: Gianicolo! For those who have been following for a while, this past September I went to the Feast of San Gennaro, aka Saint Januarius. Just sayin... thought it would be appropriate to include that here in a post about Janus ;) From the holy wiki:
The Janiculum was a center for the cult of the god Janus, and the fact that it overlooked the city made it a good place for augurs to observe the auspices.
In Roman mythology, Janiculum is the name of an ancient town founded by the god Janus

I've wondered too, is Janus an epithet? Janus, God of new beginnings, doorways, choices, keys... Is He an aspect of another deity? He feels similar to Mercury and Hermes and Terminus, but something about him is vastly different. He has also been identified with Sol and with Apollo:
The identity of Janus with the Sun was commonly expressed by his indicating with the fingers of the right hand, and in later times by his counting in his right hand 300 pebbles, and in his left. In some representations he held in his right hand a staff or sceptre, and in his left a key by which he is symbolically described as the god who had power over the entrance of heaven; hence he had the surnames of Patulcus or Patulcius, and Clusius or Clusiviuns. 
While the others travel past, give rise to, or mark boundaries, Janus is the God of that moment when you are neither here nor there- on the lintel, neither inside or out; Potential energy itself.

Here is the perfect poem for Janus and so tonight I dedicate it to Him!

Dear, Limnal God of beginnings and endings, May my choices be wise, my transitions be easy! Hail Janus!



The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Success!

I'm one of those Type-A perfectionist people. I set a high bar for myself, higher than I set it for others (and that's pretty high too!). So how would I measure the success of this blog over the past year? We have almost 25k hits on the blog. We have a few hundred followers.  We get about 2,000 hits a month. We have posts in the top 10 on google searches. Those are nice, but they aren't the real measure of success.

Success to me, besides meeting my daily commitment to blog (well, really to study and to find magic every day and get my voice out there), has been the conversations that have been started. Success has been found in the personal connections made and to be honest, in the personal connections which were severed too- those relationships would have otherwise dragged on to the detriment of all parties.  I am now surrounded by wonderful, magical people that I am thrilled to know and excited to be working with. In the past year I have connected with my Ancestors and Patrons in a way that has not happened previously. I have learned more by posting than I ever did by sitting back and taking notes.

I'd apologize for the meta posts, but it's time to pause for the year in review and take a look back. That's what this blog as been about from the start: Looking back at where we've been as a community, looking at history, looking at ancient practices, trying to discern the zeitgeist of different ancient societies, all in the name of relating them to our modern world and modern practice. Pre-christian practices are a big tangled ball of yarn and I have been trying to unwind the threads. Sometimes my blog might seem xenophobic, but that is only due to my attempt at unwinding a specific thread from this great tangled ball. Who knows, it's probably all just one long thread and the jumble makes it look like there are many when we are really one and the same. How's that for a top o the mountain analogy? ;)

Sometimes you have to look back to figure out where you're going. So where are a we going? As a community? As magical practitioners? As individuals? Have we learned anything from ancient history? From recent history? Sometimes I think not at all. Sometimes I'm quite impressed. Are we successful as a community? Can we come together when it counts? Are we a community, or are we just a bunch of individuals whose common enemies of discrimination and prejudice make us friends?

Deep questions to ponder! I'm off to do that now. But! Don't fret! Not all of this week's posts will be of the year in review variety! We will continue to look ahead, to discuss magic, plans for next near and a new year ritual to honor Janus and to either leave the last year behind or to build on it!

Top Ten Posts of 2011


Tonight I am looking back at what we've been jawing on about over the past 12 months (I created this blog and started making warm up posts a year ago today). Here are my picks for the top ten posts of the year. They're not in precise order. I like each of them for different reasons. I reserve the right to edit this list before the year is out! 



10. Happy Birthday, (insert Solar Diety here)!
This one seems to sum up the themes of the year

9. I'm still on His side!
Mercury isn't deliberately messing up your life! STFU!

8. Spo0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0oky
The springtime origins of Hallows eve traditions.

7. "I'm not a Wiccan"
I love this post because it was the culmination of a Mercury Retrograde storm! This is the post that got me booted from a wiccan group! \o/ I had been waiting until after Mercury went direct to leave them officially since I had left the group in spirit long before, but He nudged me to post this and He was right: I had made a promise in ritual to shed that which no longer served me and I wasn't supposed to wait!

6. La notte dell'Streghe
For those who are veterans of the Night Rides, for those who are first called to them, and for the misinformed who spread the lie that they're allegory or conjecture.

5. Bringing Sexy Back
I'm tired of this Victorian white washing, cock-covering image of the deity who is the divine spark of sex itself! This isn't my favorite because I didn't flesh it out more (pun totally intended!), but had to be included.

4. Tradition
One of my early research-y blogs where the journey through the information is barely reflected in what actually gets posted. I think I'm posting it more for the journey than the result!

3. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel!
One of my favorite Italian-American posts.

2. Word to your Great Mother
I don't care who wrote or said something, it is not above scrutiny just because a famous person said it!

1. Back in the day. 10,000 years back in the day.
An ancient Temple of Diana in the heart of Sicily where my magical family hails from. Oh yeah, this is one of my favorites!


As a bonus, my three favorite blogs by other Society posters! Thanks again, Dusio and  Nemesis!

Rediscovering Cakes and Wine
It's not just a snack in circle to ground your energy!

A traditional Native American Incense.
I love this one, as do many others!

3 Sacred Birds
A fabulous piece on birds and Venus!


If you've come across a post that you fancy but isn't on the list please mention it in comments. I'm going to put a favorite entries widget in the sidebar!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, (insert Solar Diety here)!

"It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day."
- -Bishop Bar-Salibi, 1150's


I promised a post about Dies Natalis Solis Invicti so here it is!

This is a cult from the later days of the Roman Empire. There are arguments about which deities from which regions were conflated into the figure of Sol, including Helios, Apollo, Mithras, El-Gabal and Jupiter.  Jesus was even given the title "Sun of Justice" in the early days. Sol Invictus was paired with a Eagle who acted as a psychopomp to unite souls with Sol. Not surprising as the eagle is associated with several father figure deities.

Constantine, allegedly the first emperor to convert to Christianity, was of the cult of Sol Invictus. They are pictured on coins together, he had his triumphal arch built to align with the massive statue of Sol.  Constantine also declared Sunday as a Roman day of rest. He ordered all businesses to close but exempted farmers in case a Sunday was the best day to work the land.

What I find interesting about Constantine and Sol Invictus is that, combined with the cult of Mithras, we have almost the whole of modern Christianity. I suggest at least perusing The Cult of Sol Invictus by Gaston Halsberghe and The mysteries of Mithras: the Pagan belief that shaped the Christian world  by Payam Nabarz.

In the later book, the author describes the two cults as inexorably linked, with Sol as either the father of Mithras, or bowing to Mithras, with the lather placing the Phrygian cap on his head. Many of the customs and traditions, and even philosophies of the cult of Mithras can also be found in the cult of Christ.

As much upheaval as there was when Christianity became the dominant religion, the idea of a single deity with an avatar (son) on earth was very familiar. I've talked about how there was nothing new in christianity and I've found the exception that proves the rule: While the cult of Mithras and the cult of Sol Invictus were not only accepted but quite popular, they did not try to suppress the other cults. They did not try to obliterate the other deities. That was something new christianity brought to the table. Yes, Rome suppressed cults and killed magnetic cult leaders, but that was to quash political uprisings, not because they particularly cared what people worshiped. There is evidence in Libya that while Rome brought their holy triad to the land after conquering it, the local deities were never suppressed and in fact pictured along with the triad in reliefs. If anything, examples such as moving the bones of Orestes and bringing the cult of Diana from Aricia to Rome show that while they wanted Rome to be the center of power, they did it in a way which didn't try to change the beliefs of the people, just the way they tithed. The rituals of the state were transferred to Rome, but relatively unchanged. The rituals of the home remained untouched because they didn't effect public life. Something to chew on for a while.

There is a nifty theory on the symbolism of Mithras and the Bull and the precession of the equinoxes and the Ages. When Taurus was on the horizon at the Spring equinox, it was the Age of the Bull. Does Mithras killing the bull imply he ended the Taurean age and began the Age of Ares? The Age of the Ram? The symbolism of the fish may be tied to earlier Goddess imagery, but it could be as simple as representing the Age of Pisces. Info on the Age of Ares from the holy wiki:

Aries represents a Fire symbol as well as bold actions, a lot of these behaviors can be seen during any age. However, the themes emphasised during this age relate to courage, initiative, war & adventure. Nations during this age such as the expanding empires of China, Persia, Greece and Rome, are often cited as examples of the archetypes of Aries in action.
Aries is associated with the metal iron, and iron ore was for the first time smelted and worked into iron swords in Anatolia during the early phase of this era, replacing the heavier, softer-metalled, duller-edged bronze swords of the previous Taurus Age.

Let's conclude tonight with one of my favorite hymns to Apollo (or to your solar deity of choice!) on the occasion of his (re)birth. Sing along with me!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing. 

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Magical Night

It's about to be the birthday of many a death-and-rebirth deity, including: Osiris, Dumuzi/Tammuz, Adonis, Sol Invictus, Attis, and more, including that newcomer, Jesus. Even moreso than Hallow's Eve, this night is a prime one for Magic. This is the night I was brought into the family. This is the night I have brought others in. It's a night to pass along the Magic.

The best magic of this night is the joy of being with family. I'm blogging from the couch right now, surrounded by my cousins: My mom has been telling the old family stories. my cousins and I have been sharing recipes we've inherited from our grandparents. We're also eating a LOT.

At midnight we'll call our other cousins and confer and conspire. There are yet others who will be at midnight mass, riding the wave of midnight transubstantiation magic.

A blessing on each who reads this line:
Blessings of cheer through space and time
Blessings of love and prosperity too
Blessings of Light from me to you.

Tomorrow: Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!

Startled

I was surprised last night when talking to my Evil Twin: She and I were having a pretty deep discussion about Hermes, Apollo, Dionyos, The Mysteries, etc. I went on the blog here to look up something I had posted about the topic and when I found the post I had in mind, I was shocked! The post I had written barely had mention of the topic. It wasn't exactly a quickie, but it wasn't in depth at all! At least nothing like what I remember it to be.

I started going over random past posts and many of them are nothing like what I remember posting, not even the in-depth ones. Funny tho, I retain the memory of what I was studying at the time. I suppose that's why it feels like my posts have had more substance. It's made me realize how closed I have remained, even in this exercise of putting my voice out there. Looks like I have something to add to next year's resolution!

All of this brings us to this evening's actual topic! Tonight I participated in a yule ritual and was asked to call North as Earth. When I volunteer for parts, It's usually for South- South seems to be the meeting point for me and for others- Fire, Archangel Michael, etc. It's my comfort zone. I was asked to step out of it tonight and since others roll with my out of the way methods and notions it's only right that I do the same!

I figured since my quarters are well ingrained that I really need to focus and bring it if I'm going to do it right and I really wanted to do it well for my friend who was leading the ritual. Despite the close quarters and despite the relatively informal tone of the evening, I brought it. I felt it and I know the others did too. It was lovely to feel the magic from everyone in the room, Despite it not being a "serious" pomp and circumstance ritual, it was indeed magical. If everyone focuses and drops the ego about how they sound or what they look like, or if they did it right, every ritual would be automatically elevated. As in theatre: There are no small parts, only small players! Don't be small!

I'm going back to reviewing posts from the past year and will put up a top 10 list! Let me know if you have any nominations!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter!

Today is the first official day of Winter, and the astrological sign of Capricorn, the goat, Dionysos, Proserpina, Adonai, Ceres, and back again! This has been one of the themes of the year: The connection between these deities and the Eleusinian Mysteries, and for that matter, the Mysteries at Samothrace. More revealed means only more questions. It's a wonderful seed for meditation, and Winter is a great time to let it grow.


I didn't do an official reading, or "taking of the auspices" for the coming winter. However, they were presented to me today in the form of a Hawk: I was looking up at the overcast sky when my eye caught sight of a patch of blue peeking through. That's when a hawk appeared out of nowhere and made a arc overhead, across my land and headed off. Later in the day, not long before sunset, I saw seven hawks flying together. I tried to watch their formations, but I was thwarted by people and traffic!

"I'm readin' the auspices here!"

Just after sunset, while the sky was still light, but the sun was below the horizon, I saw a family of 13 deer feeding on a hillside.

It was a lovely, tho short day and I look forward to the increase of the light!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Out of Darkness, Light!

I came across this nifty article tonight! 

Traditional Fires In Winter Solstice In Treviso

Below are a few excerpts. Surf on over and check out the whole piece, it's quick!
The origins of panevin, the traditional bonfires in winter solstice, are very old certainly in Veneto - Italy; it, born as rite concerning Fire and Earth, was influenced by the Christian faith afterwards and thus it become a tool to light up the way of Three Wise Men who were got lost. 

The panevin celebrated day of winter solstice by fire at first, this event fell on the 25th of December according to Julian calendar and then it coincided later on the day of the birth of Jesus and it was put off after twelve days, at the Epiphany Eve after some centuries.

This traditional bonfire in winter solstice is made by a heap of dry branches, brushwood, firewood and everything which is no more necessary and destined to be burnt; it is eight or ten metres high and it has a circular base with a diameter of three or four metres.
A puppet, being similar to an old lady, is often placed on the top of panevin; this female figure is called “vecia” (“old lady”) and she is guilty of all mishaps and calamities happened in just past year and thus she is burnt.
The persons, being near bonfire, look at the smoke and the sparks carried by wind and they deduce some auspices from this event for the year just begun: if the smoke and the sparks go south or west, blown by a moist wind, the crop’ll be good. If the smoke and the sparks of panevin go north or east, the harvest’ll be poor.


Right now I'm sitting in front of our fire, sharing some cake and wine with the family as part of what I blogged about last night. Winter officially arrives 4 hours from now! Back to the celebration!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Happy solstice eve eve!

My ancestors didn't know the precise time of the solstice, so they never had a celebration like the one we host tomorrow night. They're ok with that. It's the growth and expansion of the tradition, and is perfect timing to begin the yearly renewal of our hearth. I'm not getting into a big history lesson tonight (tho I did school someone on facebook today who was going on and on about how Jesus is the reason we exchange presents. False! I politely informed them of their misconception and corrected it with actual facts and moved on...). I'm just going to lay out our homespun ritual:

Rite of the Hearth Fire
(lofty name for a simple ritual!)

We set the logs in the fire place and I dress them with various incense and herbs, a piece of last year's log, and a shot of home made Strega Liqueur.
We call on our deities, our ancestors, the spirits of the land and our Patrons. (Everything said is from the heart. It's not preplanned.)
We have a candle lit from last year's log. I have used it throughout the year to light offering and ritual candles. I use that to light this year's log.
We let that candle burn down while we play music, sing songs, exchange gifts, eat a log cake, play games, toast each other and have fun, literally gathered together at the hearth.
After the candle goes out of its own accord, we light a new candle from the hearth, asking the blessings of the Goddess of the Hearth and for Her divine spark to reside within.
That's the candle we use to light all other candles in the new year.
We continue our merry making until the fire is embers, give our thanks to those who attended and play with our gifties ;)

However you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful time!

Question Everything!

Don't believe something just because it was told to you by someone who has been at it longer.
Don't believe something just because it was printed in a book or magazine.
Don't believe something just because your family has been doing it that way as long as anyone can remember.
Don't believe something just because someone took the time to blog about it. Including me.

Believe your instincts.
Believe your true personal gnosis.
Believe your dreams from the Gates of Horn.
Believe your ability to determine Truth for yourself.

Remember that truth is a matter of perspective.
Remember that magic is a matter of will.

Question everything!

So why the hymn to questioning everything? A friend once complained that I question too much and should just go with the flow. My response was "then I'd be a Catholic." I'm a Libra, and true to my sign, I like to debate things ad nauseum- not a confrontational type of debate, I mean wherein you examine the pros, cons, virtues and vices of a person, place, thing, or thought. Especially when it comes to religious traditions, and what people call Truth.

An example from today:
I was chatting with a friend about a ritual they recently attended wherein the Archangels were called in the quarters in a certain way. I asked why they were called that way and felt compelled to point out that my question was inquisitive, not incredulous. I wanted to know the reasoning behind the placement so I could understand their perspective and see their truth.

It's not that I think my Truth is superior to the Truth of anyone else (well I do, otherwise it wouldn't be my truth, but for the sake of clarity, let's just take the previous statement as fact), but when something disagrees with my perspective, it can irritate. I want to see it from another way to be more comfortable with it- I want to experience this new way as truth for a moment and walk in their shoes. If it feels right (not often) then I can simply roll with it or visit it occasionally or adopt it as my own way of doing or thinking about it. Usually, I just try it on, it feels itchy and weird and I go back to my own perspective feeling more sure about it than before.

I think it's silly to call Raphael in the East and Gabriel in the West- it's going against their own symbolism: A fish in the east? A trumpet in the west? But Dion Fortune did it so many neo pagans and wiccans take it as fact. I don't agree with Ms. Fortune on many points, this one included, but I do on others. Anyway, I've done circles where this is how the Archangels have been called and I always ask why they call them this way. I've never been given a satisfactory answer until today. (It was called that way because of the terrain used for the ritual).

Granted, Archangels can be anywhere they please, we just assign them symbols and places to relate them to our own human minds and needs. HOWEVER! Be consistent! If you're going to call water in the west and creatures of water in the West, why aren't you calling the Archangel of healing who is holding a FISH in the west? A dollar to the person who can give me a satisfactory answer. But! Tonight isn't about a rant which won't solve anything.

In these 11 + months of daily blogging, I have questioned every day. I have questioned my perspective and opinions, what others hold as truth, where our beliefs and traditions come from, and so much more. I'm starting to look back at the broader themes which have surfaced throughout the year. The first one: Always question. You never learn anything by remaining silent for fear of asking something stupid. Never hold back a polite, sincere question because you're afraid you'll offend the person you're asking; If they are offended you know they're full of shit and can stop wasting your time with them.

That is the extent of my advice on the matter tonight.

If you have a question for me, want to call me on something, want to test your own perspective or get into a friendly debate about any topic, post it in the comments and let's get to it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Golden Years...


Since it's Saturnalia, I've been reading the treatise, Saturnalia, by Macrobius. In it he discusses how Janus is said to have instituted Saturnalia and how Saturn is asleep somewhere, awaiting his chance to return. Saturn is oft associated with the Golden Age. I recall reading this in reference to Astraea, of whom it's said she was the last of the Gods to remain on earth through the end of the Silver age. She was eventually disgusted enough to retreat to the heavens where she is the constellation Virgo holding the scales of justice, aka Libra.

The Golden Age is alleged to have been a time when humanity did no work, the earth was so fruitful and abundant that farming wasn't necessary, and everyone lived in harmonious community with no fighting, no property, no law breaking for there were no laws and no need for laws... sounds like paradise. Or at least like John Lennon's vision.

In the following age, with the reign of Jupiter and the rest of the Pantheon, or Zeus and the Olympians, we now have scarcity, the need for agriculture, property, murder, and all of the nasty business now associated with humanity.

So what the fuck happened?

Can we take this as an allegory for the procession of the equinoxes?

With Saturn as the Lord of Time, can the Moon-as-Sun folks be right? There are people who believe the earth's moon was another sun with the earth suspended between the two. Night didn't exist, it was always day, earth was a paradise, etc. Much how the Golden Age is pictured. Then "something" happened and the second sun exploded creating what is now the moon and the rest of the planets and time itself. If it's always day, if the sky is never changing, there is no way to track time/time does not exist. Not saying this is my theory, but it kind of fits with the four ages theory, so I figured I'd add it in.

There is a Golden Age referred to in Hindu teachings, and even in Norse lore.

Here is an excerpt from Ovid's Metamorphoses about the change from one age to the next, from Saturn to Jupiter:

Nor swords were forg'd; but void of care and crime,
The soft creation [humans] slept away their time.
The teeming Earth, yet guiltless of the plough,
And unprovok'd, did fruitful stores allow:
Content with food, which Nature freely bred,
On wildings and on strawberries they fed;
Cornels and bramble-berries gave the rest,
And falling acorns furnish'd out a feast.
The flow'rs unsown, in fields and meadows reign'd:
And Western winds immortal spring maintain'd.
In following years, the bearded corn ensu'd
From Earth unask'd, nor was that Earth renew'd.
From veins of vallies, milk and nectar broke;
And honey sweating through the pores of oak.


The But when good Saturn, banish'd from above,
Silver Age Was driv'n to Hell, the world was under Jove.
Succeeding times a silver age behold,
Excelling brass, but more excell'd by gold.
Then summer, autumn, winter did appear:
And spring was but a season of the year.
The sun his annual course obliquely made,
Good days contracted, and enlarg'd the bad.
Then air with sultry heats began to glow;
The wings of winds were clogg'd with ice and snow;
And shivering mortals, into houses driv'n,
Sought shelter from th' inclemency of Heav'n.
Those houses, then, were caves, or homely sheds;
With twining oziers fenc'd; and moss their beds.
Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke,
And oxen labour'd first beneath the yoke.


So why is Saturn portrayed as the bad guy? Sure, it's said he ate his kids, but what happened when Saturn no longer reigned? The seasons began, people sought shelter, scarcity was the rule and now everyone had to fight to survive. And if there's supposed to be a second coming of Saturn, and that age is lauded as a good thing- another return to the golden age, then why was his statue kept bound except on Saturnalia? Especially if the merry making, lack of fighting, time off from work and celebration of equality are the main points of Saturnalia.


Holiday food for thought!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baking

I've talked about baking in previous blogs, and while I still plan to make the traditional Italian cookies this year, today I'm working on a log cake for tomorrow's continued Saturnalia celebration. I'm vegan, so it takes some searching or experimenting to come up with a recipe for specialty items, like a Swiss roll, aka the Yule Log Cake. I came across this video today and laughed till I cried. LOVE IT! (Tho I won't be using German chocolate cake mix. Also, Egg Replacer works fine as stated on the box if you whip it into stiff peaks then fold it in.) Enjoy!



Society of Saturn

Don't worry, we're not changing our blog focus or Patron! Tonight I've been musing on the company Saturn keeps, especially festival-wise.

All within the same week we have: Consualia, Saturnalia, Eponalia, Opalia, Divalia, and Larentalia.

Consus was the deity charged with the storage and protecting of the grain, particularly underground. Beasts of burden were given the day off. Actually, they were given the weekend off: a few days later was the Eponalia. here is an allegedly Gaulish Goddess of horses who was "transferred" into the Roman cult. The name might have been, but Demeter was worshiped as a horse Goddess in antiquity, especially in reference to Her relationship with Neptune with whom she had children. Demeter is also the Goddess of the grain, oft syncretized with Ceres. She was a daughter of Saturn and Ops and in addition to teaching humanity how to grow the stuff, She was also in charge of teaching humanity how to preserve and prepare it. 

Looks like we have a theme!

Opis  was the wife of Saturn, a cthonic Goddess- THE cthonic Goddess!

Quoth the holy wiki:

The Latin word ops means "riches, goods, abundance, gifts, munificence, plenty". The word is also related to opus, which means "work", particularly in the sense of "working the earth, ploughing, sowing". This activity was deemed sacred, and was often attended by religious rituals intended to obtain the good will of chthonic deities such as Ops and Consus. Ops is also related to the Sanskrit word √°pnas ("goods, property").

I've seen her referred to as a Sabine Goddess but haven't yet found the source material. Wiki goes on to report that King Titus Tatius, a Sabine monarch, instituted Her cult.

I'm going to pause here and save the other festivals for a subsequent post and focus on the theme at play:

• Father who provides the seed and, as Time itself, makes it grow

• Mother who hosts the seed from whom abundance and riches spring

• Daughter who brings the grain to humanity and teaches its arts

• Son(?) who stores and protects it

Aside from the frantic frolicking of Saturnalia proper, this week is about surviving the Winter and having something to plant in the Spring, something to look forward to. Makes you wonder at the Saturnalia traditions; The frolicking fun was allegedly started to lift spirits after Rome was beaten by Carthage. Sounds similar to Lincoln instituting the Thanksgiving celebration we know today during the Civil War.


There are many references to Saturnalia on the internet, many quoting Macrobius' Saturnalia. I'm currently working my way through it in both Latin and the on line English translations. So far it's driving me crazy! There's an interesting passage on Janus, the Janiculum, and Saturn! I can't wait to delve into the relationship between these two!

If you'd like to check it out with me, take a gander starting right above p51. I've included the google translate link.

Io Saturnalia!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pater = Peter?

Liber Pater, Pater Patratus... Pater was a Roman term before the christians ever co-opted it. It's just the Latin word for "Father." Conspiracies abound regarding the statue of "Saint Peter" pictured here. Some claim it is the statue of Jupiter simply renamed. Others claim the bronze from the statue of Jupiter was melted down and recast as Saint Peter. Either way, we have something terribly interesting and very telling about this saint: He is a recast of Jupiter. That just made me think about when a soap opera changed actors: The announcer would come on in a hushed voice after we see the new actor on screen, but before the actor spoke. "The role of Jupiter is now being played by Saint Peter."

"The role of Jupiter is now being played by Saint Peter."

Notice he is holding a key and is crowned with a nimbus, or sun disc. Some christian conspiracy sites out there rant about it and I'm still looking for the much quoted "archaeologists" but I keep getting side tracked by the fact that the Phrygium of Cybele, Magna Mater, which was built on Vatacan hill, just had "The Vatican" plunked down over it. Allegedly, the bones of Saint Peter were found there during an excavation. Really? How did they know that? The site of the Phrygium was built on top of a necropolis! There were already thousands of remains there! There's only vaguely circumstantial "evidence" that the bones of a man in his 60s were buried with other bones in an area some time around 300 ce. Not buying it.

I'm cutting this short tonight because this is making me cranky. Off to go find real sources on this, not just conspiracies about "Pater and Peter" being different pronunciaitons of the same word meaning "Father."

Do you have anything on this? Join the conversation!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm still on His side!

In one of the "warm up" blog entries I wrote last December, I made a practical analogy for Mercury retrograde. Here is an updated version:
So this guy, who is in charge of several major departments and never gets a break, finally pushed away from his desk, stretched a bit, spun his chair around, maybe cricked his neck, maybe even went for coffee...

No work got done for a while, calls weren't returned, messages didn't get through, and in general, everything went wonky without his constant attention. Now, he's finally spun the chair back to the desk and papers are all out of place from the breeze kicked up. He takes a moment to sigh and get back to work. Constant work, except for maybe 3 or 4 times a year when he needs to slow down and catch his breath.

Mercury haz a sad thanks to your bullshit. Nice Going.



I have better analogies, but that's not the point. The point is: Mercury is not deliberately fucking with you! It's not malicious or malevolent on His part. He is doing His job, or at most, taking a break from it. You are feeling the lack of His influence. He is not there taking care of things and that's when shit goes wrong.

So what do many people do? Make offerings to Him? Sing His praises until he returns to right things? No, they complain and talk smack! You want Him to set things right but you trash talk? Are you going to help the people who talk smack about you? Didn't think so.

Yes, Mercury has a reputation as a trickster. He also has the reputation for wisdom and in addition to being called Trickster, He is also called Father.

The next time there's a retrograde and your cell phone goes awry or the important email you're waiting on went into your spam folder, don't whine about or curse Mercury. Stop laying blame and start asking for His help. You'll get much further!

On a related note: Just because Mercury went direct today doesn't mean things are back to normal. When you get home from a vacation, do you jump right back into life right after your plane lands or your car pulls into the parking spot? Not so much. Jet lag, or car lag, or you're generally travel-weary, then you have to unpack and do laundry. It takes a few days to get back into the swing! So back off!

The real Santa of the season: Santa Lucia!

Santa Lucia, thy light is glowing
Through darkest winter night, comfort is bestowing.
Dreams float on dreams tonight,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia

Lucia, or Lucina, is an epithet of the Goddess, used in reference to both Diana and Juno. She protected the people of Sicily. Her "origin" is in Syracuse, part of Sicily and the territory known as Magna Graecia. She is the Goddess of birth and of light. I mentioned this somewhere in my rant last night:

Santa Lucia, allegedly an early church martyr, but previously celebrated as the Goddess who midwifes the about-to-be-reborn sun into the world. The feast is a reminder that it is She who guides us through the darkness with her flaming crown of stars.

I was reminded of the following during my meditations today: Beyond the role of "midwife" or Patroness of pregnant women and childbirth, She is The Starry Night personified. She isn't just our guide through the darkness, she IS the darkness, she IS night. She is the one dividing herself and giving birth.

The Goddess Lucia is about bringing forth into the light- she brings children into the light, she brings The Sun into being and therefore brings all of us into the light. We can now see because of Her efforts. The Saint Lucy story which developed is about a young woman whose eyes were cut out when she wouldn't renounce christianity. Love how the sight thing still plays into it. I also love (in that sarcastic kind of way) that the continued tradition of a young woman wearing a crown of candles was written into the new version as how she protected people. Really? By wearing dripping flaming candles on your head? Right.

I think it's lovely that Her fest begins 12 days before Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. It's the 12 days of ;) She is the "Bringer of Light" and the patron saint of vision, including psychic vision. This is an excellent night for divination!


Here is a song sung as part of a modern catholic celebration. Quite the Pagan ditty:


Hark! through the darksome night
Sounds come a winging:
Lo! 'tis the Queen of Light
Joyfully singing.
Welcome thou vision rare,
Lights glowing in thy hair.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Santa Lucia,
Thy light is glowing
Through darkest winter night,
Comfort bestowing.
Dreams float on dreams tonight,
Comes then the morning light,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
Deep in the northern sky
Bright stars are beaming;
Christmas is drawing nigh
Candles are gleaming (Repeat x6)
Clad i n her garment white,
Wearing her crown of light,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia. (Repeat)

Wiki has some nifty information on midwinter Goddess centered celebrations which all seem to tie together in the figure of Santa Lucia. Is this another case of Mother Goddess celebration or sites being taken over by male cults? More to ponder!


Until tomorrow, Loyal Horde! Blessings of Lucia on you: May your vision be clear, may your vision be true. Blessings of light in darkest night!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hiding in plain sight.

I typically enjoy reading Jason Miller's blog posts, but one from the other day has irritated me. This has been my first opportunity to sit down and address it. I would easily shrug off the comment, but besides having heard him say it before in workshop presentations, it reflects part of the inspiration for starting this blog: To counter the disparaging and dismissal of Italic Pagan traditions as nothing more than reinvention as opposed to a continuation, or, as he implied with his comment, a whole other tradition, namely catholicism.

Mr. Miller made the claim, in support of his leanings towards Christianity and magical justification thereof, that "actual Italian Strega [are] (almost all Catholic)." It is more accurate to say, as one of my cohorts put it: Catholics are practicing a modified form of Stregheria. It's even more accurate to say that Catholics took the old religion, edited it, slapped some paint on it, changed the names and called it not just the new way, but the only way.

They commandeered our sacred sites, our statues, our symbols, our tools, our costumes and assimilated our Gods and our festivals, yet the only "actual" practitioners of Italian Witchcraft are Catholic? For years I turned my back on my family tradition because I was angry that they hid behind this more accepted* veneer. I was too young to understand that they were keeping themselves safe. They also had a way to teach the basic tenets and traditions to family members. Those who could handle it were brought into the family proper

*I said "more" accepted because, well, remember the reformation? Catholics were accused of exactly what I've just said- being Roman Pagan Cult: The Next Generation. Even today, some of the best web sites and books out there regarding how very Pagan catholicism is have been written by christians who oppose the Roman catholic church and its Pagan practices.

I decorate an evergreen and exchange gifts beneath it in the name of Nimrud and Saturn and hang stockings on the hearth in honor of La Befana and Vesta and Hestia and Odin. I sing carols and hymns regaling the birth of the savior, the sun, the Lord. So do many Pagans. Are we celebrating christmas? NO! The christians are celebrating the ancient festivals.

Our ways survive today thanks to the fact that our ancestors hid in plain sight throughout the ages and that the festivals and traditions couldn't be suppressed so they were renamed and accepted. They might have succeeded in changing the names, but they did not change the spirit.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Santa Lucia, allegedly an early church martyr, but previously celebrated as the Goddess who midwifes the about-to-be-reborn sun into the world. The feast is a reminder that it is She who guides us through the darkness with her flaming crown of stars. To say that because I celebrate and venerate this feast day with my family under the same of Santa Lucia, or that because I celebrate and venerate the Archangel Michael means I am practicing Catholicism is silly. Each of these beings predates christianity by thousands of years. On the other hand, to say that because we do not go to Church or take communion or call ourselves "catholic" means we're not "actual" Strega is equally silly to the point of being insulting.

Are some Strega Catholic? I'm sure there are some who consider themselves Catholic. We learn what we learn how we learn it. For some people it's easier to speak the language they grew up hearing. However, that it not true for everyone. Here is an excerpt from Leo Martello's Weird Ways of Witchcraft. The quote is from part of a discussion with "Maria," an "actual Strega" whose family posed as catholic. Later in the book she discusses how she still goes to church to keep up appearances:
One of my cousins is an ordained priest. He entered the priesthood to better serve our cause, following the ancient adage: 'If you can't beat an enemy, join him. There are many of us in the underground who are known as practicing Catholics. It's for this reason that my cousin was able to become a priest. He was brought up in parochial schools.
 
They taught him one thing. We taught him the truth.
Truth is, stories like these abound in Italian Witch families. Truth is, I think we're tired of being disparaged.


Tomorrow: The Feast of Lucia!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dithyramb

My show was this afternoon and it was a success! Especially for a Mercury storm. On one hand, I would have liked more performances to get everything down to precision timing, on the other hand, the pressure is off, I'm glad it's done and I had a good time doing it. I would never want to go back to it as a full time job, but occasional sojourns into the theatre are wonderful.

I must give my thanks to the Gods who stood by us throughout the process:

For my Patron, Mercury, as thanks for smoothing the roads of travel and communication and technology, I will burn frankincense in His name tomorrow. Before the show I prayed for His help and it was received!

For Dionysus, God of theatre and wine: It has been good to be in your presence once again! Tonight after the show, the cast raised a glass together.

Many of us have connected on facebook as friends and supporters of each other's work. As we gathered around the U shaped table and toasted, the following song came to mind. It's a familiar one for many ren faire folk, which often spills over into te Pagan community, so I offer this song to Mercury, Dionysus, Serendipity and all who were involved in this production, seen or unseen (despite the fact that it's not Italian :P)


Kind friends and companions, come join me in rhyme
Come lift up your voices in chorus with mine
Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain
For we may and might never all meet here again

Here's a health to the company and one to my lass
Let us drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain
For we may and might never all meet here again
Here's a health to the dear lass that I love so well
Her style and her beauty, sure none can excel
There's a smile upon her countenance as she sits on my knee
Sure there's no one in in this wide world as happy as we

Our ship lies at harbor, she's ready to dock
I hope she's safe landed without any shock
If ever we should meet again by land or by sea
I will always remember your kindness to me!



Tomorrow we get back to proper blogging business! I've had too many posts simmering, waiting for the time and attention they deserve!

In bocca al lupo!

This is a common expression used in opera circles before a show. It's the Italian equivalent of "break a leg." You never respond with "thanks" always with  "crepi!" Which is a wish to kill the wolf violently.

Where'd this expression, and the rules surrounding it, come from?

No one knows. It's just been around that long. It's not even correct: The word "in" does not mean "in" when speaking Italian. The word "nella" translates to "in." Is "in" just a mistranslation? Someone wrote it down wrong? Is it really n'boca with the n' serving as a contraction of "nella?"

When I first heard this expression so many years ago, I thought it was about the legend of the founding of Rome where Romulus and Remus were saved by a mother wolf and suckled; Therefore to be in the mouth of the wolf would mean to give over your troubles to a benefactor. Is it a message to relax because you are not in control?

Some have pointed out that the last word is lup-O not lup-A, so therefore it's not about Romulus and Remus, it's about hunters who would kill wolves which plagued towns in Italy. It would also account for the violent response. My problem with this idea is that 1- you don't want to be in the wolf's mouth because you'd be injured or killed so you're a crappy hunter in that case. 2- Just because it's now written as lup-O doesn't mean that's how it started, just how it was written. Again, Italian isn't a precision language! 3- the "crepi" response could have been added at any time.

The congruence with "break a leg" is tenuous too. "Break a leg" isn't a wish of bad luck, it's a wish that you get to bow or curtsey (hence the leg breaking part) to applause after a performance.

And just to show you that I didn't make this all up tonight, here's an excerpt from another source, and a fun, brief article to read.
In Italy, it is good luck to touch iron. Knocking on wood will do nothing for you. It is also good luck to touch the hump of a hunchback or stroke the nose of a wild boar. Fortune will also smile kindly upon you if you jump when you see a priest or play 98 on the lottery wheel after you dream of a dead relative. I am told that rain on your wedding day is really good too.

It also may be useful to know that in Italy, it is considered extremely bad luck to wish someone good luck in the literal way by saying buona fortuna. The lucky way to wish good fortune is to say in bocca al lupo, which can be translated as “into the wolf’s mouth.” Similar to the English expression “break a leg,” the “in bocca al lupo” metaphor compares any challenging scenario to being caught between the hungry jaws of a wild beast whose aim is to swallow both the misfortunate and the careless. The “wolf” may be a teacher who wants to fail you, a critical audience before a presentation at work, or simply symbolize having to overcome any excruciatingly difficult enterprise.

There are other similar sayings in Italy, more vulgar versions of our Wolf wishes, which I think sum things up nicely for tonight:


"In groppa al riccio!" ("On an hedgehog's back!")

To which one replies:

"Con le mutande di ghisa!" ("Wearing underpants made of cast iron!")

I like this one. Especially since touching metal is lucky, you accomplish two things at once!


The last one for tonight:

"In culo alla balena!" (In the ass of the whale!)

The reply?

Spero che non caghi. (I hope it doesn't shit.)

This phrase is way less mysterious. I don't know what that guy is doing in a whale's ass, but for his sake I hope it doesn't shit either!

While searching the internet tonight I think I found the answer!




hahahahaaa!!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reverse Guest Blog!


A few fine folks have been guest bloggers here. Tonight I'm doing a reverse guest blog! I'm currently reading the blog Diana's Mirror. Arianna posted something today (yay!). I thought it was going to be brief, but to my delight it's quite lengthy and touches on many different subjects and issues! All of which needs to be read by everyone. It's the common Pagan sense stuff which isn't all that common anymore amongst Pagans.


So tonight, please surf on over to Diana's Mirror and join in the conversation!

You should also check out her blog entry: Strega, Who are We?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Father Time

Father Time, celebrated even today at the New Year, is known by many names, including Saturn, hence the Roman winter celebration of Saturnalia where the "former" leader of the previous pantheon is honored. In Rome, his statue was bound for the entire year except on His festival.

Why was he bound? Symbolically stopping the passage of time and decay? Because he was of the old pantheon and had to be bound lest he seek revenge on his children who dethroned him? Saturn had done the same to his own father, Ouranos.


How interesting that a new religion took over yet kept the main festival celebration of the old religion. History does repeat itself.
In Roman mythology when Jupiter ascended the throne, Saturn fled to Rome and established the Golden Age, a time of perfect peace and harmony, which lasted as long as he reigned. In memory of the Golden Age, the Feast of Saturnalia was held every year in the winter at the Winter Solstice. During this time no war could be declared, slaves and masters ate at the same table, executions were postponed and it was a season for giving gifts. This was a time of total abandon and merry making. It refreshed the idea of equality, of a time when all men were on the same level. Christians adopted the feast and renamed it Christmas. When the festival ended, the tax collectors appeared and all money owed out to government, landlords, or debtors had to be accounted for. This is another side to Saturn and it's ruling sign, Capricorn: the settling of accounts.
Saturn was once seen as a God of agriculture and fertility- the one who planted and protected the seed. He is also syncretized with one of the oldest recorded Sumerian deities, Ninib, or Ninurta, another farming/fertile deity.


This came up for me today because of my current theatre gig: I am the keeper of time. I set the arrival time, I keep everyone aware of the time by calling it out every 5 minutes for the half hour before we begin. I time the show. I call the breaks and time them as well.


This has taken my meditations to the idea that a cast circle is a time outside of time. Very true. I've been on epic journeys which took days, yet picked up the flow of normal time just minutes later. Time is variable and flexible and in the eye of the beholder- We waste it when we don't have an immediate need for it, yet when we need it we never have enough of it! We're on the clock or off the clock, it flies, it drags... Is Saturn time itself personified?


As for my meditations on the blog today, I'm out of time for blogging and need to be on the clock in a flash! Today I'll leave off with a quick hymn to Father Time, asking for his patronage!








Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Theatricality

Last night's post was deeper than I had expected. I'm not ready to share my musings from last night's meditations as there's so much more to explore and I'm wiped out from tech tonight. Here is what I was going to post last night before things got deep: I adore Sondheim and I really like the play The Frogs. I blogged about The Frogs months ago, in the Spring, because it "stars" Dionysus. The opening number is called "An Invocation to the Gods of theatre" hence last night's mistaken blog title! Here is a concert version. It's very clever (Sondheim is always clever!) and includes instructions to the audience on how to behave!

Enjoy!

Invocation to the Gods of Theatre!

Tech week has started. How will that translate to the blog? This week I will be pondering the Gods of theatre! I had been planning to keep it on the light side tonight, but my meditations and research took me in a much deeper direction.


I've been reading more about Dionysus, patron deity of theatre, who is associated with Ariadne.  Clement of Alexandria, believed that certain rites of Dionysian mystery cults recreated the conception of Dionysus, particularly as the result of the union of Zeus and Persephone. This would be the first incarnation of thrice-born Dionysus, and a bull faced god, at that. Clement was a Christian and born around 150 ce, so his interpretation of the rites needs to be taken with a tequila bottle worth of salt. And maybe the tequila too.

Has anyone really explored the relationship between Ariadne, the Minotaur (bull head male body!), the labyrinth and Dionysus? I've explored the idea of Ariadne as an epithet and Persephone but have never really meditated on the part of the lore where Ariadne is connected to the Minotaur, to Dionysus a bull god and to Persephone.

This blog entry is brief, but it is just the seed of a deeper meditation I'm off to ponder. I hope you do as well and will add your thoughts in comments!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Ancestor Effect

I'm in tech for my show this week, so blog topics will likely be short and to the point, so thanks to Rev. Vinnie Russo for sharing this link today! It's a quick read and not bogged down with lots of jargon.




The article, "The Ancestor Effect: Thinking about our roots boosts intellect and confidence,"  is about a series of studies done to determine the effects of meditating on ancestors. Turns out it gives us superpowerz! Not really, but it did improve the group's scores on IQ tests. The group also scored higher on "perceived life control" tests. It didn't have to be a far distant relative or even one who had passed: Pondering living ancestors worked as well.


My conclusion after reading this article: I'M A GENIUS!!!!!!!!!!! Well, yeah, but back to the topic:

This article doesn't say WHY it works that way. Does it activate a part of our brain that helps with problem solving functions? I think that we're tuning into our blood. We're waking up that connection to our source.

When I wake up in the morning one of the first things I do is a brief meditation on, and prayers of gratitude to my Patrons and Ancestors. This is also one of the last things I do before bed. Almost daily I light a candle from the hearth for an Ancestor or Patron. At least three times a day I am meditating on them. I'd say it's more than that because they are always given a thought when I blog at night or tune into the neutral channel during the day.
Again, the group that meditated upon their roots performed better on the test scores. They also scored higher on a test of “perceived life control.” In other words, those who considered their pasts said they felt more control over their life, career, and ability to best adversaries than those who did not.

Hear that, MENSA? Bring it! ;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let the good times roll...

Since this isn't a "Pagan 101" blog I haven't felt the need to post about how every single tradition currently associated with christmas was already a well establish Pagan tradition that the christians once railed against but eventually adopted. There, I just did. Actually, they did. I adore the annotated rant folks and wish they would rant on! Or at least update their old stuff!  Glad that was covered! However! I'm not going to let this stop me from posting about something fun.

I was writing a snarky post about how I plan to have a holiday party this year: It will include feasting, cakes, candy, alcohol, lights, decorations, hat wearing, gift exchanges and gambling. No, it's not to celebrate christmas." It's a Saturnalia party!

Most of the Saturnalia traditions made it into the general christmas traditions: The gift exchange, the stockings by the fire, the man with a long beard and flying mammal leaving gifts in exchange for an offering, the mistletoe, the chestnuts, the bells, even the hats. Don't forget "The Yule Log." They didn't even bother to change the name on that one...

What you don't hear about in the holiday songs is gambling! One of the many Italian traditions, at least Italian-American traditions, is gambling!

Here's how La Vigilia (christmas eve) went in my family:
We all went over to Aunt Mary's house (My Grandfather's sister, the eldest sister and matriarch of the family)
There was the antipasto, candy and snacks
The feast of 5 fishes... seriously, it makes my kinda nauseous to think about, but that was it, you don't eat meat on La Vigilia. But you do have 5 different fish courses and a pasta course with fish sauce. Happily, the deserts didn't include fish.
What a table full of sweets! Home made pastries, cookies, strufles, cakes, chocolate, and fruit and nuts too lol
After the gift exchange (which, when there were little kids at the celebration, included a man in a red suit with a long beard handing them out) the women would go downstairs to play pokeno and the men would be upstairs playing poker.

The tradition of gambling continues! I have no idea why this never clicked with me before. I've known both facts, that Saturnalia included public games (In my mind the whole of ancient Rome turned into Vegas for a week!) and that on La Vigilia but the neural pathway connecting these two things did not exist until now. Means I need more sleep. Off to do that now!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Road Ahead

During my New Moon ritual (which is when the crescent appears. When nothing is visible it's the Dark moon), I asked a question and received an answer I wasn't entirely expecting. I felt a little silly because I should have been expecting it. It was more the form the answer took was unexpected:

The question was related to obstacles to my various goals. I received an image of a thought form of Ganesha stomp-kicking cinder blocks into dust! Right on the heels of that Was Papa Legba at the center of the crossroads, opening the way. On the heels of that was Mercury blowing past, clearing the air. The vision went on, showing many of the forms of my Patron from around the world and across the ages. Some of them I didn't recognize. That just means I have more research to do.

It was an interesting experience to see all of these different deities. Are they all avatars of the same archetypal energy? Are they like siblings- they look alike and are all in the family business, but are separate, independent individuals? Always interesting to contemplate that mystery, but sometimes you just have to get into the water instead of watching the tide roll in.

Tomorrow I plan to walk my labyrinth, meditating on how to open my own way. Part of that vision was meant to convey the idea that each of us has this power- to remove obstacles, to open the way, to guide through the darkness. We first need to remove the obstacles we have placed for ourselves.


I was contemplating all of this as I drove home today. It was a long drive. During one slow part of the trip with some traffic build up on the highway, a red tailed hawk did a slow glide across the road right in fromt of my windshield, eye level with me, and slow enough that I could count the red feathers on the tail. Wow! I took that as a sign that I'm on the right track, er= road. ;)

One obstacle I keep putting in my own way is a lack of sleep. Time to change that!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Power Vested in me...

Today I was down at the DMV. I mean the old DMV, the current "marriage bureau." There's even a gift shop where you can buy "I got married in NYC" t-shirts or a baseball cap with a veil. It's where couples go to apply for and obtain a marriage license, and can even get married there. It's the same place where you apply to be a licensed officiant in NYC. The city has whole reams of red tape around who may and may not solemnize marriages. The civil rights implications are a different matter for a different time. I got all of my papers in order and headed down, waiting about an hour to be called. Once everything was handed over and filed, I got to sign a very large ledger. I knew that used to be done, but I figured these days, especially since it was at the old DMV, that I would be signing a screen with a stylus.

I was given a three page "how to" on filling out marriage licenses and all of the rules about returning said license. Also included was a sample ceremony which concluded with "By the powers vested in me by the State of New York..."

In the midst of the cold, gilded, former DMV, signing that giant ledger was very ceremonial. I felt like I had actually been vested with power.

I was tempted to ask if any of the couples waiting to be called wanted to skip the line and have me perform the ceremony right then! I didn't, I wouldn't have felt right! Than again, I'd be way better than this guy...


Loyal Horde Appreciation Month!

Wow! December already! 11 months of daily blogging and hundreds of readers who make it fun to do.

To say thank you for joining in on this adventure, we're having a give away and calling it:

The Twelve Months of Blogmas!


As a Libra, I like feedback, so I've decided to solicit some! It's nice to know that I'm not just posting into the internet void. To enter this contest, go back through the past 11 months and comment on one of the posts. There will be one give away per blogging month!

Winners will be picked on December 31st. Prizes will include: Candles, incense, stones, evil eye charms and other fun things!

You can enter more than once by commenting in a different month, for a total of 12 entries.

Actual comments, please, not just "here!" or "first!"


Back tomorrow with a real blog on something incredibly interesting! Well, interesting to me ;)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Seriously?

Apparently as I was writing last night's kick ass blog about acceptance, spin, justifying, dealing with bigotry in a light-hearted way and my personal conflict, there was an article being published in the Village Voice slamming Councilman Dan Halloran for not being Heathen enough.

An offensive cartoon was included as well.

I was going to post something lovely about Hecate's night, but I'm taking a mulligan on this one because instead of sitting here and raging about the discrimination inherent in this culture, I have to be a grown up and write a professional, concise letter to the editor, and press release.

Go check out the article and the conversation on The Wild Hunt.

See you in December!

He ain't talkin 'bout me...

Lately I've been feeling like a sell out.

I used to work in theatre, producing, directing, and stage managing. Theatre is an addiction, and not just the performing aspects- it's not all about getting applause and acceptance from strangers. For me, the draw has always been the artistic process- the best times are had in rehearsal where all of the wonderful moments are discovered and the real magic is made. By the time the audience becomes part of the equation, I'm pretty much done. The magic has already happened.  It's been a few years since I was involved in a show and I'd been feeling that itch again. I put it out in the universe that I was in the mood to do a show. However, I wasn't very specific. The Universe gave me exactly what I asked for: A week later I got a phone call from a company I'd worked with in the past. Actually, it was the last company I had done a show with. They needed a stage manager, it was a two week commitment, would I be interested. Sure! What's the show?

Hansel and Gretel.

Yeah, that one... the one with the "Evil Gobbling Witch" who turns children into gingerbread and eats them...

Really fucking funny, Universe!

I get my show, just like I asked, but I need to sit through smack talk about Witches? And a show that condemns Witches as "evil" and baby eaters where she is ultimately killed? *headdesk*

We're in rehearsal and the music is great, the singers are amazing and I'm having a good time. But... We haven't yet staged the scenes with "The Witch." So here I am, completely tense about what this is going to be like. In the score there are pages and pages of music where "The Witch" waves her wand around and "bespells" Hansel and Gretel. Of course, before this, she's turned two dozen children into gingerbread cookies.  I've already had to sit through the scene with the Father telling the Mother about this horrifying cannibalistic Witch who lives in the woods and flies on a broom. Not that fun, but I've just concentrated on the music and the blocking. Funny tho, if there's someone in the woods cannibalizing children, and they've known this, why hasn't anyone done anything about it before? Funnier still, the Father seems to know an awful lot about what this cannibal does and how she "flies on her broom." And even funnier: the father is a broom maker! Before he shows up on stage, the father has allegedly been out selling brooms and buying food for the otherwise starving, desperate family. I think he's been off schtupping his mistress in the woods. The children are out in the woods and will discover his affair, so he tells his wife this tall tale to cover his own ass and eliminate his mistress.

Also, there's a scene where Hansel and Gretel are in the forest and Gretel is singing a song about a wild mushroom. I think the starving kids eat the mushroom and the rest of the show, including the gingerbread house and cannibal, are just a psychotropic trip. See how easy it is to spin things? lol This version is particularly vexing because in the "traditional/original" version, the father plans to abandon the kids in the woods, and leave them to die. So who is the real bad guy in this story?

But seriously, I've had this terrible debate with myself: Am I selling out? Is this the kind of thing contributing to discrimination? How can I, as the President of NYC Pagan Pride, do this show??? Are more women going to be killed in South Africa because I'm contributing to the production of a show which reinforces a dangerous stereotype and glorifies killing Witches as the enemy? Would it make a difference if I wasn't involved in this production? Nope. The show would still go on without me. At least this way, I can educate a few people as to how things really are, should it come up.

I remembered a scene from Six Feet Under where the artsy aunt tells the sister that she's not a good photographer and the sister freaks out about how insulting that is. The aunt points out that if the sister really was a good photographer, she wouldn't have been offended, she would have laughed it off as ridiculous. Then again, women aren't being killed because they're bad photographers...

Chris Rock talks about songs which are incredibly mysogynistic that women like anyway- they'll sing and dance to these songs, enjoying them instead of getting offended. And if you ask the woman how she could like the song, what does she say? "He ain't talkin bout me."

That's where I am right now. They're not talking about me. They're not talking about us. My point is, this show isn't going to make much of an impact on the progress Witches have made, and might actually start a new dialogue about what Witches really are and what we actually do. This version was written in the 1890's (again with me and things written in the 1890's!) almost 100 years before we really started coming into our own. Maybe I'm biased because of my age, but I really feel like it was 1990 before Witches were starting to become "mainstream."

I wonder if this issue comes up with Merchant of Venice and its inherent antisemitism?

Anyway, I'm doing the show, and I'm not going to feel bad about having fun with it. In fact, I'm thinking about decking myself out in full moon regalia, pentacles, cimaruta and all, on opening night and bringing a huge plate of gingerbread cookies with me! Ha!

Hubby suggested putting an ad in the playbill about the misconceptions surrounding Witches. That's not a bad idea. It might make a few people think and at the same time, support a theatre company that does wonderful work on a shoestring budget.

While I write that up, enjoy my Chris Rock inspiration! (NSFW!)