Wednesday, November 30, 2011


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!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Migration Patterns

No one knows better than a bird of the air where treasures are concealed.
- Aristophanes The Birds

I'm not a bird watcher, I can't pick out rare birds at a hundred yards, but I know the basics. I can spot a finch, a blue jay, a cardinal, a sparrow, a woodpecker, crows, and my special friends, hawks.

In Etruscan Magic, Leland wrote about birds in regard to finding treasure and in Aristophanes' The Birds, the scene opens up with two characters each carrying a bird to point the way to go. Etruscan augurium ex avium was concerned with the sounds birds made as well as the number of birds and the pattern of their flight.

We have some records of the Roman practice of Augury. We can only wonder if it was imported entirely from the Etruscans, or changed to suit the Romans, or both.

Something interesting from the holy wiki:
The lituus was a crooked wand (similar in shape to the top part of a crosier) used as a cult instrument in ancient Roman religion by augurs to mark out a ritual space in the sky (a templum). The passage of birds through this templum indicated divine favor or disfavor for a given undertaking.
A templum was the sacred space defined by an augur for ritual purposes, a place "cut off" as sacred. It could be created as temporary or permanent, depending on the lawful purpose of the inauguration. Auspices and senate meetings were unlawful unless held in a templum; if the senate house (Curia) was unavailable, an augur could apply the appropriate religious formulae to provide a lawful alternative.
To create a templum, the augur aligned his zone of observation (auguraculum, a square, portable surround) with the cardinal points of heaven and earth. The altar and entrance were sited on the east-west axis: the sacrificer faced east. The precinct was thus "defined and freed" (effatum et liberatum).
In most cases, signs to the augur's left (north) showed divine approval and signs to his right (south), disapproval. Stone-built temples followed this ground-plan and were sacred in perpetuity.

I've been quite taken with the pattern of bird flight lately. Look up, they'll let you know what's going on. I'm a believer in personal symbolism when it comes to divination be it tarot, tea leaves, pendulum or bird flight patterns: If you think a rose is a good omen, then it's a sign of good omen if it comes up in a tarot spread or in the formation of the tea leaves, or in the pattern of the birds.

If you take the time to center, you can see what the birds are telling us, and hear it too.

What does the pattern look like?
What is the sound? The rhythm?
Who is the bird sacred to?
Where in the sky?
Which direction are they traveling?

It's a big difference in meaning to have sparrows fly in a certain pattern or to have hawks fly in that pattern!

This is not only employed with flocks of birds, but also with single birds you might encounter through the day. I've often had birds chime in at different points in rituals when celebrating outside. This is the kind of this children learn at their parent's and grandparent's knee. It's typically a see and do process, not a lecture and private practice.

To start is easy, especially if you have any kind of background in divination and/or meditation:

Breathe, tune in to your blood flow, listen, look, receive, record

May your bird watching be auspicious!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Finding Dionysos

“Prepare yourselves for the roaring voice of the God of Joy!"
- Euripides, The Bacchae

What could be found an an ancient Dionysian celebration?
Scantily clad revelers
Men and women on the prowl for a mate
Make up
Bull riding (well didn't we just talk about him being a bull god? Even True Blood got that right...)

Does this sound familiar? What else has all of these things? Why, a bar! Well, not all of them have a mechanical bull, but still! The cult of Dionysos lives! There's a wonderful quote in The Last Olympian, the final book in the first Percy Jackson series. Dionysos says: "Wherever there is a party, my presence is invoked." My favorite quote? Dionysos is playing Pacman and is eaten by the red ghost. He exclaims: "Erre es korakas, Blinky! I will have your soul!"

I'm keeping this blog short because I don't want to turn this into a brain dump. I'm going to go commune with the God of Joy and continue to read about Sin, the deity, not the slang for doing something wrong. It's also the new moon and time to ritualize! I'm keeping it to a simple devotion, incense and a candle offerings along with bread and purified water and wine. So let's close tonight with the Orphic Hymn to the God of Joy:

Come, blessed Dionysos, various-named, bull-faced, begot from thunder, Bakkhos (Bacchus) famed. Bassaros God, of universal might, whom swords and blood and sacred rage delight: in heaven rejoicing, mad, loud-sounding God, furious inspirer, bearer of the rod: by Gods revered, who dwellest with humankind, propitious come, with much rejoicing mind.

Khaire, Dionysos!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A huge load of Bull!

No, really... actual bull.The bull is involved in nearly every ancient religion:

Marduk is the "bull of Utu."
Inanna, she sends the Bull of Heaven to wreak havok on Gilgamesh's city.
Ereshkigal is wed to Gulugana, also refered to as the Bull of Heaven
In Hinduism, Shiva rides on a bull
Bull leaping was thought to be part of Minoan culture- Their bull imagery is plainly obvious without even having to mention the Minotaur!
The Hitites had two bulls, Seri and Hurru (day and night) who pulled the godof weather along on his chariot.
Hercules' 7th labor: Capture the Cretan Bull which was wreaking havoc on the island? 
Pliny recorded Druid ceremonies where two bulls were sacrificed
Oxen were sacrificed to Hecate and in the Orphic Hymn, she is referred to as "Tauropolos" or "herder of bulls." Might this by a euphemism in relation to deities associated with bulls? Does she control virility and fertility?

Dionysus was also associated with Bulls and invoked as one by his followers:
The god is invoked by his devotees as a raging bull and a panther, both creatures of ferocious strength and aggressiveness. In hymns Dionysos is addressed as 'the thunderer' and 'the roaring one.' The bull is one of the most frequently mentioned epiphanies of Dionysos; he was considered to be a bull-god, as were Zeus and Poseidon. The bull is a widespread and unequivocal symbol of male strength, potency and virility, particularly in the cultures of India, the near east, and the Mediterranean.

The holy wiki tells us a bit about Egypt's bull worship:

In Egypt, the bull was worshiped as Apis, the embodiment of Ptah and later of Osiris. A long series of ritually perfect bulls were identified by the god's priests, housed in the temple for their lifetime, then embalmed and encased in a giant sarcophagus. A long sequence of monolithic stone sarcophagi were housed in the Serapeum, and were rediscovered by Auguste Mariette at Saqqara in 1851. The bull was also worshiped as Mnewer, the embodiment of Atum-Ra, in Heliopolis. Ka in Egyptian is both a religious concept of life-force/power and the word for bull.
Here's a more in-depth link summarizing different bull cults in Egypt! And yet another!

The Tauropolia was a festival held in honor of Artemis! Here is a coin depicting Her riding a bull.

And the Titan of the moon, Selene was associated with the bull as well: "Selene knows not how to put mules to her yokestrap--she drives a team of bulls!" She's also described in the Orphic hymn as "bull-horned, and wandering through the gloom of night." 

And let's not forget The Golden Calf! Perhaps we know why that was picked as an image to represent the antithesis of the religions of the bible: Mithras slaying a bull is one of the main images of his cult. He also rides bulls as well. 

From 160 CE the Roman cult to Magna Mater included a bull sacrifice known as the taurobolium. Initiates supposedly took their place in a pit beneath a slatted wooden floor, to be drenched by the blood of a bull sacrifice above. This, if an accurate description, is an exception to the usual Roman rules of sacrifice. A lesser version of the rite, known as a criobolium, involved the sacrifice of a ram. The first recorded taurobolium took place at Puteoli in AD 134 in honour of Venus Caelestia.

Frazer talks a bit about this in The Golden Bough, but as has been noted, much of the description of the actual ceremonies comes from possibly hostile christian sources. 

It goes on and on! This surely deserves at the very least a part two, if not a more in depth exploration of the taurean aspect of each of these deities! If this is food for thought, tonight is merely an appetizer. 

Friday, November 25, 2011


This is the weekend where many do their holiday shopping, so I thought we should kick off the holiday season here with one fine, Italian example of how every current "christmas" tradition is a repackaged Pagan tradition. Yes, I get immense pleasure out of bursting people's bubble, but only when they're obnoxious in their ignorance. Not like I'm gonna go up to a kid and tell em Santa doesn't exist! He does, they just changed his name ;)

Traditional gifts included wax taper candles, oil lamps, terracotta figurines, and silver.

I wouldn't mind any of the above! Tho if you do shop for me, please keep it local! ;)

I've been reading about more than Roman practices this year- I'm about as familiar with Saturnalia as I can be. What I've been learning more about is the ancient Sumerian practices and festivals surrounding the transition to winter and from old year to new year. This includes the role of Marduk, the festival of Zagmuk, and the ongoing battle with the forces of chaos who, at winter, eat the sun. Omnom.

From Eric Zorn's Chicago Tribune blog:

A cynic with more energy than I have ought to create "Marduk is the reason for the season" banners in honor of the beloved Zagmuk story.

Marduk was said to have conquered the monster of chaos, Tiamat,  and thus paved the way for creation.  But,  every year,  alas,  the monster fought back, the fields went barren, the days got shorter and life itself hung in the balance.

The 12-day, late December Zagmuk throw down, then,  was replete with rituals believed to help Marduk win his annual battle with Tiamat, and then to celebrate the return of light.

Here's a fun account of  Zagmuk! His play by play is happily snarky :)
Zagmuk was the 12-day Mesopotamian winter solstice festival. It's the first winter solstice festival that humans have recorded in history.

Marduk, the god of growing things, had (just like last year) gotten himself imprisoned in the underworld, and in his absence the gods of chaos were slowly devouring the sun. This "explains" why the days were getting shorter after the vernal equinox and why this festival was particularly important. It was about continuing to exist. To make sure the sun would come back and give life to the growing things, Babylon didn't just lament and hope, they did something about it. 
That's what I'm talk in 'bout!

Deck the Halls

Today is thanksgiving. I've started decorating the house for the coming winter. It's been so depressingly dark lately that I knew I wanted to get a jump on putting up the sparkly things. I often wait until December to get started. It's been a long, fun day of sleeping in, eating favorite foods, drinking yummy wine, decorating, and spending time with family.

I have officially lifted the ban on playing holiday music in the house, especially on the piano.

My holiday playlist? Mostly secular. For the rest I change the words to suit myself ;)
Jingle Bells
Santa Baby
Let it Snow
Winter Wonderland
Frosty the Snowman
Sleigh Ride
Deck the Halls
And my favorite... which I'm posting below: You know the song! No, it's not the dogs barking jingle bells :P I'm Italian! What do you think it is? I sing it as "The Italian Solstice Donkey!" Yeah, I'm a sucker for the song Dominick the Donkey. Best song ever... Italy, Brooklyn, o ciucciarell, and dancing a taratell! What else could you possibly want in a holiday song?

Enjoy! Hope your holiday season has gotten off to a great start!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Credit where it's due

Today I got into a "debate" with a friend over a facebook status. When I brought up the book The Golden Bough, her reply was that the book had been discredited.

We've heard that before with other books based on Italian pre christian Traditions, including Leland's books. Vergil's Aeneid is also largely discredited for being not much more than political propaganda. I admit I've taken that position too. However, while thinking about these writers and their process, particularly Vergil's, I had to wonder: Why was he traveling so much? Vergil died en route to home with a draft of the Aeneid manuscript. Why was he traveling? He was collecting the stories of the people. The battle involving the Etruscans might have reflected the action of the time (much the way 1980s hairstyles were apparently the rage in 1800s midwest usa as per Little House on the Prarie), but there was more to it then filling in ancient opponents and cheering yay for the founding of Rome.

Leland collected stories of the people.

Frazer collected stories of the people. In Twelve volumes! I haven't read all twelve volumes, only abridged versions.Have you read any version of it, or have you skipped it because it was "discredited."

While I don't agree with Frazer's idea that polytheism "evolves" into monotheism, I don't cast doubt on his field work. 

Who is doing the discrediting? Outsiders? Those who don't believe because they don't have first hand experience? While, as my friend recommended, Hutton's Stations of the Sun might "disprove" evidence of pre christian easter celebrations, he was only looking at northern europe. He didn't peek at The Mediterranean. He neglected Ovid's casual recording of the spring festivals in which temples of Venus were overflowing with women lamenting the loss of Adonis. He didn't go near Mesopotamia (even tho the bible does!) and the records of women who wailed over the loss of Tammuz, or the translations of the hymns sung at rituals before europe was born.

Are there any modern Frazer detractors? Or do they rest upon the detractors of 125 years ago? Perhaps I should have told her about the book Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia. Here we have a modern scholar, working on the same site that inspired Frazer's work, defending the man with his insights and his findings.

On page 149 we find examples of why his work was "discredited:"

References to the Aeneid as fact rather than fantasy
References to other writers, ie: Servius, whose sources cannot be verified.
Wissowa, a contemporary of Frazer, disagreed but never actually said why.

From the intro:

It is now almost a reflex to disparage Frazer's work. Recently there have appeared a few brave souls prepared to argue that this disparagement has been both unfair and unscholarly.... Even as he was writing the last volume of the Golden Bough, the unfavorable academic view of him was hardening. Frazer became "a kind of evil spirit whose influence must be kept away by constant ritual utterances: in face by what is sometimes called apotropaic magic." Frazer had a command of ancient literature and culture that we can only envy.  His great virtues were these: He thought Latin writers might know more about their religion than we do, and he had an overriding sense that religion- even Roman religion- had its own internal logic, and that trying to understand that logic was a necessary part of the study of ancient religion as a cultural phenomenon. 

The author doesn't necessarily agree with all of Frazer's theories, and thanks to modern archaeology and the accessibility of information (yay internet!) plus another hundred years of investigation by others, he has more to work with. I've blogged abotu this book before. It's a good read but it's expensive, so try to get it from your local university! I don't agree with everything this author (or Frazer for that matter) says either. But it's still something solid to spark your magical recollections.

Yay for archaeology: Golden Bough found in Italy ;)

I've been posting all year about rereading the Aeneid. I think I need to start it again with this new perspective. ;)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Festival of Juno at Falisci -Ovid

I have a headache tonight, so I am indulging in tea, poetry and pretty things to look at. Won't you join me for a quick trip to Etruria with our friend Ovid?

The Festival of Juno at Falisci -Ovid

As my wife was born at fruitful Falisci, we went to visit those walls which long ago were conquered, Camillus, by thee. The priestesses were making ready to celebrate the festival of the chaste Juno by holding solemn games and by the sacrifice of a heifer native to the place. It was a strong motive for lingering there awhile, to witness the rite, though full steep is the path that leads to the scene of its performance.

It is an immemorial grove, and so dense is the foliage there that the daylight cannot penetrate the gloom. One needs but to behold it, to realize that it is the abode of a divinity. An altar receives the prayers and incense offered by the faithful, a rough-hewn altar made by the artless folk of olden days.

From this spot, once a year, as soon as the trumpet has given forth its solemn note, the procession sets out and makes its way along the carpeted paths. Snow-white heifers are led along amid the plaudits of the throng, heifers nourished by the grass of their native fields, and calves whose brows are not yet armed with threatening horns, and the humble pig, a lowlier victim, and the leader of the herd with horns curved back over his stubborn head. The goat alone is hateful to the Lady Goddess, ever since the day when by a goat her presence was betrayed in a deep wood and she was forced to abandon her flight. And so, even now, the boys pursue her with their darts and she is given as a prize to the one that brings her low.

All along the way the Goddess is to pass, boys and shy maidens strew the paths with carpets. Gold and gems sparkle in their virgin hair and the proud mantle hides their gold-decked feet. In the Grecian manner of their ancestors they pass on, Clad in white, and on their head they bear the sacred vessels entrusted to their care. Peep silence holds the people while the stately procession is passing by, and after her priestesses, follows the Goddess herself.

The whole procession tells of Greece. After the murder of Agamemnon, Halesus fled the scene of his crime and the rich lands of his forefathers. It was only after many adventures, both by land and sea, that with auspicious hands he reared a high-walled city. ’Twas he that taught the Falisci to celebrate the rites of Juno. May they to me, and to her own people, ever be propitious.

I couldn't resist a bit o history:
Falerii Veteres reached its zenith in the fifth century BC, confirming undisputed political and cultural capital of Faliscan. Several findings attest to the importance of the city, as the temple of Juno Curite and the temple of Mercury whose remains are on display in Rome.

 The temples actually go back to Uni and Turms!

Path of the Hearth-Fire

In her book, The Training and Work of an Initiate, Dion Fortune discusses what she calls the Path of the Hearth-Fire. She didn't walk this particular path herself but manages to understand it, as much as is possible for an outsider to understand. The Loyal Hoard knows that I believe if you haven't walked the labyrinth yourself, you cannot guide others through it. Here, however, she isn't guiding, she's discussing, but have the salt grains handy anyway.

She's schitzophrenic in her treatment of this idea, and I think it's because it was revealed knowledge colored by her personal point of view instead of shared plainly. This just seems to be her style.  She was married, she had no children, and there is nothing written about her having to care for anyone except herself and somehow that means she is "free from karma." I'd say that's "bad karma." She got to "combat spiritual wickedness in high places" but that's a lonely life, not the comfortable, happy life of someone who sits at the center of a circle of family they care for and who cares for them. The whole thing reads as judgmental, especially the part where she suggests that this path is sometimes chosen because someone who is "advanced" turns back to help others who are "progressing more slowly."

I don't like that she calls family obligations "bonds" in a negative way and treats them as delays to initiation, that somehow "karma" has put loved ones "in the way" of becoming an initiate or that the person isn't ready to be the Special Ops of the Inner Planes because they have others to care for.

"Again, it sometimes happens that souls which have advanced far into the Mysteries turn back at the call
of human love and forge anew the chains of karmic ties. In subsequent lives the debts thus incurred must be discharged. Sometimes the turning aside is motivated by the passions and the senses; sometimes a higher motive determines the choice, and out of pure pity a soul that is traveling fast may turn back to hold out a hand to a beloved one who is progressing more slowly."
"... if the choice of pity and patience has been made, it must be abided by cheerfully and willingly if its good karma is to be reaped. "
Objection! Must be discharged? Love is not one of Jacob Marley's chains which needs to be cast off in order to "progress." Love is the reason for progress. My bonds strengthen me. My roots are responsible for my growth. If you have no one to care for, what is the point of being Magic-leet? What does your magic matter? Having no bonds isn't "good karma" or even a laudable goal. Willingly sharing the bond of love is the best "karma" you may reap. I wonder what Nemesis thinks of this abuse of the word "karma!"

We are born to each other again and again for a reason. She calls it pity and patience. I prefer Love and learning. I completely disagree that the reason for this is some kind of "failure" to learn the lessons in a previous life. I think of it as rereading a book: I love to go back and read books I haven't picked up in a long time- I always find something that I missed before, or something I didn't understand previously now clicks thanks to the experiences I've had since last I read it. Have you ever watched a movie more than once? Bet you have ;) Bet you appreciated the movie more the second time and got more out of it.

Let's turn to a few examples that I appreciate (actually, I do appreciate most of what she says about the path itself, just not the why of walking it).
"Which is the higher duty, the service of the Masters or the service of the family and home?
This is a big question, and one that is constantly recurring, and its answer is not as simple as some would have us think. "
Agreed. Mostly. In previous posts about working with deity, I've talked a but about how negotiation isn't just ok, it's necessary because They don't live in this day to day world. Most of us are not free to drop everything to heed Their call so we need to make our limits clear, and be willing to push our own boundaries as well.

Another disagreeable objection: Keep your house clean and enjoy doing it or you will "fail to initiate?" Well then I'm fucked. And so is everyone else I know who can't afford a cleaning service. I will dust and I will do laundry, but I don't have to like it! Funny that within a few pages she says cheerfully accept things and don't whine, then says you have to like it. Not complaining isn't the same thing as liking it.

But back to the parts I do like:

"If our home problems prove very difficult, let us, in imagination, always put a chair at the fireside and lay a place at table for the Unseen Guest, and live our life and do our work in the light of that Invisible Presence."
We already do this, but Strega don't just do it in imagination: Offerings at the hearth, sharing with our ancestors at their altar/mantle, offerings at the Lare shrine, including the Ancestors in daily life and special celebrations, honoring the Goddess of the Hearth. This is a daily part of life for us and not a separate magical practice we have to put on like donning on a starchy robe.
"If we rule our homes in a spirit of selfless love and serenity of heart, asking no return, but doing our duty for the sake of the need of those to whom we minister, our house will be a true Temple of the Hearth- Fire in which we can receive our initiation."

What she said.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Today I was cleaning up for the great winter decoration bonanza may begin in earnest. I was moving around furniture when I came across a shoe box. I've seen it before, I've been through the papers in it before. I even remember when my husband found the box amongst my Grandfather's things. It was mostly legal papers regarding my Great-Grandfather. There was a picture in it, one each of the siblings got a copy of. I always wondered why a big chunk in the bottom left corner was white. Now I know- I have the original picture and that corner is missing.

There were other things in the box that I do not recall seeing before, even though I've gone through this box several times. I asked hubby and he doesn't remember seeing them either: Today I found the Italian Passports for my great grandparents which has their pictures and the pictures of their children. What a find! The stamps in the passports are really interesting too. What has been very interesting is finding my Great Grandmother's passport which not only has her maiden name, but also her mother's maiden name. This just opened up a whole new branch of the family tree! I just stopped to scan these: The passport cover and that nifty stamp:

I've never seen them before and just discovered them after days and days of working and feeling like I was getting close to something. Thanks to my Patrons, and to the Lare for revealing these, and so many other things, to me! Ave! Now I'm off to give thanks and explore this heretofore unknown branch of the family tree! And maybe to share some of the family picture scans with my cousins ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Mercury Storm

Yep, retrograde is a few days away- on Thanksgiving, no less! The three most traveled days of the year (day before, of and after Thanksgiving), not to mention "black Friday," the busiest shopping day of the year, will be under the auspices of a Mercury storm and a new moon solar eclipse! And a near exact square between Uranus and Pluto. Wow. Yeah, I won't be traveling or shopping at all.  I had been planning to decorate on Thanksgiving, but maybe I should do that tomorrow!

The Loyal Horde knows I appreciate this time as Mercury slows down, but especially the stormy time when He once again turns direct. Those of us born under this energy signature get a boost from it! As do endeavors started under these energetic circumstances. I have many projects calling for my attention, am rethinking old ways, have way too many new ideas to implement on my own and am going mad in that fun mad scientist kinda way when you're on the edge of discovery!

I posted a mini reading list last night and today... Bam! I have discovered two dozen books that I HAVE TO read! It's a fun but frustrating feeling. I've been dancing around Mesopotamia for months now and haven't forgotten that I promised a proper post on the region. It's just not time yet. I find that as I go further in my meditations and dig deeper into my research that it feels familiar. Most Pagans (or whichever word you choose to identify with) understand the feeling  of "coming home," of realizing that you aren't crazy that what you've felt in your heart and known to be true is also believed by others to be true. I've avoided the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, etc because it made my head ache- I'm not the best with names and when the same stories have different names for the same deities, well, it makes me cranky!

Tonight I have been drawn to reading about Sumerian astrology, planetary assignments, the concept of Mercury as a ruler of water, which moves everything, the Sumerian origins of the Caduceus, and the whole pantheon in general. Earlier tonight, when looking at a cuneiform tablet, something nearly clicked- something like the feeling I mentioned above. My studies are making my head hurt, and I don't mind. I'm never happy brain dumping here, but I feel the need to share where I am right now; It's a strange feeling (I feel exposed!) and I'm breathing through it lol My charge from Mercury has been to discover all of Him, in all of His forms. I have embarked on an adventure that I barely understand and am starting to enjoy the journey of discovery rather than the hectic rush to get to the discovery itself.

Thank You, my Patron, for posing the question, and pointing me towards the answer. And for burying it in  dozen more books ;) Thank You especially for bringing people into my life to guide and support me on my quest.

I'm off to burn incense for my Patron, sit in meditation, and gratitude.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Updated Reading List!

I haven't done this in a while. Here's a list of books I've been reading, recently read or reread, am about to read or reread and stuff that's just there because it needs to be.

The Aeneid
I've been plodding through this book all year. I keep putting it down because other things take precedence. It's been more of a year long act of bibliomancy, picking it up and gleaning a bit of inspiration or reading something I needed to read at a particular moment.

Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity - Rigoglioso
I'm giving this really good resource another pass before I have to return it to the library

Three Books of Occult Philosophy - Agrippa
This is a must on the list of every magical practitioner.

The Picatrix
Seriously, my head is already hurting and I haven't even mentioned Dion Fortune...

Psychic Self Defense -Dion Fortune
It's ok. Not my favorite book, as you might have read in the past. Mostly a warning to not mess with things that you don't understand.

Tarot Talismans - Chic and Tabitha Cicero
Interesting mix of philosophy and practical. It's not a tarot manual, it's not an amulet manual. Worth perusing.

For the most part, I've been up to my elbows in ancient Mesopotamia- Bablon, Assyria, Chaldea, etc... I walked the halls of The Met with a new appreciation for the artifacts there. Since that trip almost a month ago, I have been drawn to studying the region and its deities.

Lapis Lazuli and its importance to the Sumerians has been a topic of interest. There is so much on it, including the connection to Egyptians and their use of the stuff (Cleopatra wore powdered lapis lazuli as eyeshadow! :-o), that I don't want to make it a hit and run post. I've also found an interesting paper on how the Song of Solomon was likely one of the ancient Sumerian fertility songs son for Tammuz! And now that I've come across Sumerian Shakespeare, well I'm just never going to have time to sleep! lol

I'm often torn between the research and the practical. Looks like this year has been heavy on the search and next year looks to focus on the practical. Speaking of practical, I need to go get practical right now and do some Last Quarter work! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Clearing the air

I have been in a major funk this past week! I think it's due to the time change, the "daylight" savings" business. I don't like changing it in November- October was late enough. At least then the shift to darkness was more gradual; We'd have a few weeks of darkness starting in the vicinity of 5:30 pm instead of the sun being gone at 4:45 all of a sudden! I slacked on my offerings, felt worse, slacked on the housework, felt worse....

Once I realized that I hadn't been doing my offerings at the hearth I grabbed my magic water and stated sprinkling the place. Followed it with sage, then followed it again with a special home blessing incense.
Then I did a quick ceremony where I took fire from the hearth and lit candles.

Inside of 15 minutes the entire place felt better and my energy changed dramatically. I'm usually good about keeping up with my offerings but somehow this got away from me and They let it be known quickly!

Tomorrow I'm going to take out all of the garbage and recycling and vacuum and then clean the floor with a little combo of herbs that Grandma would use. One of the ingredients: Lemon! Nothing like citrus to perk you up.

Now that I am sufficiently perked, I am off to tackle my ever growing book list, which I plan to update some time soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hekate's Night

Goddess Hecate of the triple road
Protect my family and abode
Lead me through darkest night
Grace my journey with your light
Saffron clad with serpent coils
Bring fruition to my toils
As canines bark and silence rend
Your holy feast I will attend
Garlic, poppies, sweets and grain
Tonight with you I'll dance again. 
-SoD original

A few words I was inspired to write now for Hecate's night. She is described as "saffron cloaked" which always made me think of the sun and how She is seen with Apollo in the typical tale of the Eleusinian Mysteries. I nearly smacked my head and said "duh!" when I realized that saffron is sacred to Mercury, with whom I believe She is a divine pair. He is the essence of Saffron and She is Saffron cloaked? Sounds like a euphemism! Also, the two appear together in the same tale as the Psychopomps who return Persephone to Demeter.

I'm off to celebrate Her tonight!

Now it is the time of night
That the graves all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide:
And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate's team,
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic: not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.
- A Midsummer Night's Dream

Knot so fast

Tonight is a quickie about the Gordian knot. What was it? The Phrygians (now modern Turkey) had no King. The prophecy, or Oracle of Sabazios (syncretized to Zeus) decreed taht the first to show up to the temple in a cart would be the next King. Gordias, a local farmer, is the first one to show up in a cart. He ties it to the temple and poof- King. There it remained, tied securely. Apparently no one could undo the knot Gordias had tied. It was allegedly prophesied that the one to undo the knot would be "King of Asia" hence its fame as "The Gordian knot." It;s the Mesopotamian version of the sword in the stone. Nowadays it's defined as an extremely difficult problem or mystery.

If you don't know who the "King of Asia" eventually was, it happened to be Alexander the Great. He's the one who figured out how to undo the infamous Gordian knot. Know how? He cut the knot to pieces with his sword. For ages people tried to figure out how to untie the thing, and this kid comes along and slashes the fucker! This is why he was Alexander the Great, and not Alex, that dumb fuck. Of course, the actual story is disputed, but as the saying goes: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend"

I've often wonder which godly hand was on Alexander's back as he conquered the known world. I've wondered if it was Zeus, with whom he claimed lineage. I thought perhaps it was Mercury for all of the fine words and travel and communication and commerce involved in Alexander's triumphs. Now I wonder, perhaps it was Mars. Alexander, man of action. Slashed through the problem. Maybe it was none of the above, maybe it was all of them. It's fun to speculate. It also reminds me of this, the perfect "Alexandrian Solution" to a Gordian Knot:

Monday, November 14, 2011


Many practitioners decry the idea of anything technological in their workspace or ritual space. Even watched have to go. How can you be in a time that is not a time when you can look down and see the time? No light but candles or oil lamps, no electricity whatsoever.

Why not? There are various theories on it ranging from how it's not "historical" to how the electricity being conducted can interfere with the work. I think that electricity and fire are very similar and can both be classed the same way in ritual context. Electricity can be thought of as harnessed lightning- Just look at the work of Tesla who was able to screw lightbulbs directly into the ground after a lightning storm.

"Tesla confirmed that the Earth itself could be used as an electrical conductor, and verified some of his suspicions regarding the conductivity of the ionosphere."

Various waves and frequencies might interfere with the energy raised or how it is directed, or perhaps even scatter it. However, we live in the cellular world now. Satellites are beaming everywhere at all times. The magic adapts. We adapt. If technology is the great anathema of magic, it wouldn't be possible to perform magic in any city (Pssst... It is!).

Some embrace technology. I've been part of on line rituals. I've used my ipod to read from in a dark ritual when a script was called for (the wifi wasnt on :P). I've seen magical people harness electricity and technology to aid their magical purpose. I can feel my people just with a thought. Hearing their voice (via phone or computer) gives me greater contact. Seeing them via video is even greater and seeing them in person is ideal. However, we don't always have ideal situations. That's when you have to know how to make technology work.

Let's take a moment to remember that magic works through the boundaries of space and time. Some of the theories Tesla came up with about time travel are also applicable to cell phones and to remote controls. He actually predicted the advent of cell phones:

Depending on the work, I'll use whatever technology feels appropriate, or none at all. After all, being able to reach into my pocket, flip open something the size of a credit card and talk to my family and friends thousands of miles away as if they're next to me? That's magic.

Mercury magic at that- technology and communication. Maybe The Opener doesn't mind so much if you have an open line.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Won't somebody please think of the children!

We went to our Spiral Scouts meeting today. It was fun! No, this isn't a rantastic post on building Pagan community and support for our children. Another time. I'm actually feeling pretty chill tonight (uh oh, someone knock on wood before I go off on something!).

In pondering this fun group, and thinking about the upcoming Mercury retrograde (Please don't cry. Yet. I haven't mentioned that Mercury goes retrograde during a Solar eclipse. Hmmm, now you can cry!) , I came across one of the fables attributed to Aesop.
Aesop's Fables or the Aesopica are a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today. Many of the stories, such as The Fox and the Grapes (from which the idiom "sour grapes" derives), The Tortoise and the Hare, The North Wind and the Sun, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Ant and the Grasshopper are well-known throughout the world.
Tonight's tale which brings this all together: Mercury and the Woodcutter.

A woodcutter accidentally dropped his old, battered ax, dull and chipped by wear, in a river. The ax sank straight to the bottom, depriving the poor man of the one tool of his trade. With his livelihood lost, the woodcutter sat on the riverbank and began to cry. At that moment, the god Mercury broke through the surface of the water, holding up a splendid golden ax. "Could this be yours, old man?" "Oh, I wish that it were," sighed the woodcutter. Mercury dove back into the icy-cold water and this time brought up a magnificent silver ax. "So this is yours," said the god, offering the man the wonderful ax. "If only it were," lamented the woodcutter. "But my ax is old, and rusted, and chipped on the head." Mercury, pleased with the man's honesty, plunged into the river a third time and surfaced with the woodsman's used ax. "You are an honest man. I want you to take the golden ax and the silver ax as rewards for telling the truth." Thanking his benefactor, the woodsman ran home to tell his wife of his good fortune. As the story spread, a neighbor, who was also a woodcutter, rushed to the same spot on the riverbank and tossed his only ax into the deep water. Suddenly Mercury broke through the water's surface bearing a golden ax. "Is this the ax you lost, my friend?"

"Yes, yes, it is," lied the man, greedily reaching for the magnificent tool. Mercury tossed the golden ax into the water. "I deny you that one," said the god, "and your own ax." "Please, just get me my old ax," pleaded the man. "I won't be able to support my wife and children."

Mercury departed, and the woodsman cried to himself, "Honesty is the best policy."

In other versions, many others in the town do the same deceitful thing. In yet other versions the ones who are dishonest have their head cut off. Interesting. I mostly agree that honesty is the best policy. Am I being honest about that? ;) heh heh heh I find it interesting that in this tale The Trickster Himself is punishing dishonesty. Wouldn't he reward a clever thief? Maybe that's what it is... He didn't mind the dishonesty, he just didn't like that their trick lacked wit and cleverness. Maybe you just can't bullshit a bullshitter! Maybe He tells the truth, just in a way to make it imply what He wants you to believe? Ah, more meditations!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sensible Selfishness

Dr. Leo Martello wrote an excellent book  45 years ago: How to prevent psychic blackmail: The philosophy of psychoselfism : sensible selfishness versus senseless self-sacrifice. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I would have loved to read this again tonight, but I don't have it on hand. It definitely needs to have a place in my library.

I've blogged previously about negotiating with entities when it comes to working magic or building a relationship. I have felt overwhelmed at times by all of the many relationships I wish to cultivate on other planes and with deities and entities. It can all just be too much at times, so I have to make choices. I'm a Libra. Me and choice are not the best of friends. When we really start working The Great Work, we shine more brightly and attract these things to us. It makes the work easier and more difficult all at the same time: Easier because once communication begins, you're on a roll and it's easier to contact those you wish to seek out; More difficult because there are others you didn't envision contacting or working with, yet there they are wanting your attention.

This happens on the mundane level too. We call it being overbooked, or being stretched too thin. I have been overbooking myself lately. I've been picking up the slack of others who have backed out of commitments at the last minute, and I have, in many respects taken on too much. Some of it is what I want. Some of it I'd like to be able to do. Some of it is not what I want, but what others want. I'm the helpful type. I will go out of my way for others I have made a commitment to work with or help out. And now I am stretched too thin. I had already decided to take this second half of autumn to really sort things out, but now that I am faced with the practical aspects I've found it more difficult than I thought it would be- not with deciding what I truly want, but with how to remove the things I don't want while not feeling guilty over saying no.

Pendulums can swing, cards can flip, but I need to do the practical work of paring down my commitments because I don't do anything half-assed. The trick is to decline politely yet firmly and not let myself be guilted into doing things I don't want to do.

Here's a wonderful method of marrying the practical and the magical; It really makes you think about what you want and how you want it, then adds in substances to bolster your efforts on the magical level by using physical items.

Draw a Venn Diagram. Use thee circles.

While the above is adorable, you need to rename them:
Circle A: Things I have to do
Circle B: Things others want me to do
Circle C: Things I want to do

Write in commitments you've made on both the mundane and magical levels as well as offers, petitions for your help and ideas. If you're feeling adventurous or just crafty, Dab Circle A with frankincense Dab B with Myrrh. Dab C with Bergamot oil. You can go all out and use different ink colors for each circle. Dragon's Blood ink for the actual circles? However fancy you'd like to get!

Smoke the page in clove incense while visualizing your personal goals and having time for what you want to do and what you have to do and removing the things others want you to do which are not congruent with your goals.

Cut the circle of what others want you to do which doesnt fall into the center all-inclusive overlap. Let it fall into a cauldron and burn it. If possible it should be dropped into the cauldron with the scissors so you don't touch it again once it's cut away. Burn it.

While holding only the overlap section, cut away the things you have to do that you don't want to do. repeat the no-touchy-burn-in-cauldron step.

You are now left with the overlap of things  you want to do in all regards plus the section of that which you want to do. Be VERY careful how you word things: If you put something like: "Change the cat litter" in the circle of what you don't want to do, you might find yourself without a cat. This is something you want to keep positive. I don't mean fluffy-bunny positive, I mean something that comes to you, as opposed to taken away from you.

As I've mentioned before it's horrible magic to say "may you never hunger" to someone in ritual space. Why? The brain doesn't pick up on the "never" just on the "you_hunger" part. So keep it positive: "Be thou fulfilled" is a MUCH better choice. I digress!

Put the overlap section on your altar until the next morning, then wear it in your shoe for 9 days. On the 9th night, when your shoes are off for the day burn the overlap.

Happy trimming!

More calendrical bullshit

Way too many people have been talking about 11/11/11. Facebook has been effing flooded with hippie fluffy crystal bunny new age run amok namby-pamby fluffernutter hooey. Yep, it's rant night. The Etruscans and Romans had their market days, and I have my rant nights.

I don't understand the appeal. Hubby calls it odometer mentality. It's nice to see the numbers roll around and be all symmetrical and what-not. Hmm I disagree with hubby- it's not "odometer mentality." It's Jackpot mentality! Hate to have to be the one to tell you this:

You don't automatically win something just because some numbers matched up!

I've posted here many times on the calendar fuckery from different societies and different cultures and who imposed what on whom. So this is 11/11/11 in the current era Gregorian Calendar which everyone uses so the world can do business. Fanfrickintastic. However, this is not the first calendar, nor is it the last calendar. Nor is it the only calendar.

Today is also 14 Cheshvan, 5772. 
The Assyrian calendar is up to 6761.
It's 12011 in the Holocene calendar, dating from the start of the Human Era.
The Berber calendar is nearly at 3k. Will people go batshit crazy on 03/03/3000? Not likely.

The only thing special about this day is the attention being given to it. Sounds like Snooki. If you can elevate this date in your mind, why not any date? Why not wake up and decide you are more powerful now? Why not cloak yourself in power and become who and what you wish to be? Sounds a little Secret-New-Agey, but the principle is true. You have the ability to take your power up to the next level, you just need the motivation to do it. If you want to call down the choirs of Angels on a special date, or make this the first day of the rest of your life, or step through a new doorway of power and knowledge, then do it. There's no need for you to wait for some magical man-made calendar number to pop up.

Each day is unique! Each moment is unique! You can embrace this at any time. Let me rephrase this: You can embrace any time. Find its special, unique qualities and work with them. You don't need an excuse like a random pretty looking number. Just get to it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Those Magic Changes

With the first signs of Winter cropping up, including the winter holiday decorations in every store (and the catalogs beginning their yearly mailbox deluge), I've been thinking about this blog and what happens next. I'm a Libra- a planner and a ponderer. I've been meditating on this over the past week and the answer came to me in the silence (You have to stop asking the question to hear the answer!):

This blog has mostly been about the topics I've been researching or books I've been reading, or something congruent with the date or month or season. I practice my practice in reality, not just theory, but I don't always share that here. Next year I will be taking my practical work and discussing it here, likely on a weekly basis, with other posts added as the mood strikes.

I thought I should share this now. It feels right to put this energy out here and share the news with the Loyal Hoard. Speaking of, Thanks to all 20 of you who hit the reload button 1,000 times... We've reached 20,000 hits!

In the interest of sharing, here's a bit about my workings tonight: Earlier today I raked and bagged all of the leaves which were in my grove area and did some pruning. When I stepped outside tonight to check the weather, it was very cloudy and I pondered waiting. I got my answer to that rather quickly in the form of a very insistent sounding dog barking somewhere nearby lol I threw up my hands and said "ok ok! Out I go!" I grabbed my supplies, donned my lunar talismans, and went outside to work.

I found tonight's ritual structure very interesting. Does that sound odd? That I found my own ritual interesting? I don't script these things, I intuit a general plan and that plan often changes in the moment, depending on the forces who join in the rite. Things often come through that I wasn't entirely expecting.

Tonight I felt especially called to invoke the Archangels at the quarters. I don't often do that. I will leave this generally vague as to who comes in keeping the intention of calling in those who will help me- wether its Archangels or Watchers or the essence of the direction/element, or deities connected with the directions, I don't often decide before hand. Tonight it HAD TO BE the Archangels. I felt their presence keenly. Their entrances were grand. I could not see all of them, but the ones I didn't see specifically were manifested as fluctuating changes in energy which were suspended about 6 or 7 feet in the air.

Inspired words from tonight:

Ave Diana, Regina delle Streghe
Dacci tua luce, la nostra Madre.

Trova la nostra debolezza,
Fanno di questa la nostra forza.

Diana, Diana, fa di me degni a te,
Diana, Diana, il tuo votiva è fedele

Hail Diana, Queen of Witches
Give us your light, Mother of all

Take our weakness
Turn it into strength

Diana, Diana, find me (make me) worthy of you,
Diana, Diana, your votary is true (loyal)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cookie Boss

There's a picture of me, less than a year old, sitting on Gramma's kitchen table while surrounded by tubs of holiday cookies. When I was old enough to "help" (maybe 2?) I was told it was time to "toss the cookies into the oven." Guess what I did? Yeap. Started throwing dough in there.

I don't remember when I learned the family recipes. There wasn't anything written down, it was just done. Like all of the magic in my family, it was a matter of watching, assisting, then being supervised, then doing it on my own. Maybe once or twice my cookies were as good as Grampa's lol I still haven't gotten the anisette cookies quite right. Maybe that's because I was never an anisette fan and you really do have to nibble as you work to test for flavor and consistency. Let me know if I get em right this year.

I'm not sharing my recipes, since there aren't really any, but I will share some fun from an old cookbook written when Italian food was something "out of the ordinary." I just realized it was published only a few years after pizza started to become popular in the US. I wonder if the author would be pleased or horrified that there's an Olive Garden is almost every suburb. Probably both- pleased that Italian food is now mainstream, yet horrified that the stuff you get at these chain restaurants is pretty much schlock where taste and technique is sacrificed for the sake of consistency. I've veganized the recipe:

Baci di Dama (Lady's Kisses)
1.25 cups Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp water as necessary
1/4 tsp salt (to taste)
Powdered sugar in a brown paper bag
Ghiradelli semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350

Cream margarine and sugar together. Add salt, almond extract, flour and water. Mix until smooth. Add water as necessary to maintain consistency.
Grease your cookie sheet if necessary.
Form dough into 1-inch balls, and press slightly to flatten the bottom.
Bake for aprox 8 minutes, check to see if they are browning. You want to take them out when the bottom begins to brown but the rest stays mostly white.
Let cool for aprox 10 minutes then toss in bag of powdered sugar to coat and set aside to cool further
Melt chocolate and put it into a shallow dish
Tap the flat bottom of the balls into the chocolate and press pairs together. Let dry.

Here's a great website I'm excited about: It's in Italian and about being Vegan in Italy! \o/  A recipe for Vegan Torrone can be found here:

Torrone, a nougat candy, goes back to ancient Rome. The recipe above leaves out a favorite ingredient of mine: A shot of Strega Liquore!  Some history on it, along with a mention of using Strega Liquore in the recipe:
Torrone is the Italian, and perhaps the original, version of nougat candy. In Italy, it can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire, when it was a simple sweet concocted from egg whites, almonds and honey. The exact origin of the word torrone is unclear; the Latin torréo translates into “to toast,” perhaps referring to one of the principal ingredients, a toasted nut. To the Romans themselves, nougat candy was known as “cupedia,” meaning the desire for delicate food; it was reserved for special celebrations or used as an offering to the gods. The Roman soldiers carried the sweet treat to the far reaches of the vast Roman Empire, including their Arab conquests. The sugar-loving Arab Sarcens then introduced nougat to Greece, France and Spain. 

I'll be giving away trays of sweets as gifts this year!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Just Did Something No Roman Woman Did...

Today I voted in my local elections. Women in Italy were denied the right to vote until 1925 and that was in various localities, not the whole of Italy. Women weren't entirely shut out of politics, however. There are walls in Pompeii painted with campaign ads from women endorsing candidates:
"Nymphodotus, along with Caprasia, asks you to vote for Marcus Cerrinus Vatia for the aedileship." Another, found on the side of a wine shop reads: "Caprasia along with Nymphius -- her neighbors too -- ask you to vote for Aulus Vettius Firmus for the aedileship; he is worthy of the office."
If you're curious, here's an interesting chart breaking down the positions (and responsibilities) of government in Rome. I've also come across more nifty history. I can't decide if I like this better than the computers we vote on nowadays:

SUFFRA′GIUM: to vote.
It is commonly supposed that at Rome the people were always polled in the comitia by word of mouth, till the passing of the Leges Tabellariae about the middle of the second century BCE [Tabellariae Leges], when the ballot by means of tabellae was introduced.

Popular assemblies voted by ballot, as well as by word of mouth, long before the passing of the Leges Tabellariae, but that instead of using tabellae they employed stones or pebbles and that each voter received two stones, one white and the other black, the former to be used in the approval and the latter in the condemnation of a measure. The voting by word of mouth seems to have been adopted in elections and trials, and the use of pebbles to have been confined to the enactment and repeal of laws.
Exciting, I know! Basically, you had to be an adult male landowner to vote, but that doesn't mean women had no say at all. They caused scandals when need be, including the protesting of the Oppian laws where the women showed up in the Forum and lobbied the men to repeal law that women would not be allowed to spend money. I wonder if it was a Lysistrata type situation... hmmm!

Anyway, not to bore you entirely with the legislative situation in Rome (which is more like our modern American system than anyone really wants to admit, and might have been a better one except for all that land owning patrician sexism).

Tonight is also the opening of the Mundus and The Eastern Orthodox feast of Michael the Archangel. In some traditions the date is dedicated to the "Dark" aspects of Michael, the one who reaps Justice and takes retribution. Call on him only if no one could call for justice or retribution against you. Are you pure enough to cast the first stone, so to speak? Is your heart lighter than a feather? Would Ammit devour you? His sword is double-edged. Be wary of calling upon it.

No comments on my Whipping post? I'm terribly disappointed! Perhaps it's time to post part 2? ;)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Whip it! Whip it good!

Flogging: It's not just for kinksters. This "risque" practice finds its roots in ancient practice. Honestly, what doesn't. I'm sure I could pull out an analogy for the ancient version of the ipod. But I digress! Flogging! Ritual pain! How did it begin? Who knows. I assume it The first person who took a bad fall had a spiritual experience that everyone has been trying to recreate since.

Enough with the (bad) jokes! Here's a bit of history:

Ritual flogging happens as part of many ancient Pagan festival throughout the year including Lupercalia and Thargelia.

The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii depicts flogging on one of its walls.

Greek playwright Menander's quote became famous in its day: "A man who has not been flogged is not trained."

From The gymnasium of virtue: education & culture in ancient Sparta  By Nigel M. Kennell:

"Laconians used to whip themselves in an initiation ritual"

At the biennial festival of Dionysus celebrated in Arcadia, called the Skiereia, women were flogged. This was allegedly in response to an oracle given at Delphi.

At the Feast of Artemis Orthia, Spartans would whip each other in a contest to see who was the last one standing.

What's the point of this? Sacrifice? Punishment? According to several sources, it was a form of purification. It resolved guilt, shame, and was the debt paid for past transgressions.  "A good beating purifies the mind"

What I find especially interesting is that in almost all of the examples I have come across,  the whipping, or purification, is done at the behest or under the auspices of Apollo. Apollon Lykaios is another form of Lupercus as per the above mentioned Lupercalia. The Thargelia is a celebration of His birthday.

I'm pausing here. I know, just after a very tiny introduction! I've been reading Kerenyi's Apollo: The Wind, the Spirit, and the God in my search for more information on Apollo as the God of Purification. I adore Kerenyi's work and highly recommend you read along with me!

More tomorrow!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Private vs Public

Last week was the very public celebration of Hallows Eve. However, it wasn't the astrologically correct celebrations of Hallows. That happens just after midnight on Tuesday when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio. It coincides with the opening of the Mundus, an act which was allegedly adopted from the Etruscans wherein the portal to the underworld is opened and the spirits of the dead are allowed to roam for a time and food along with other offerings are tossed into the pit as an offering to the spirits of the departed and of the land.

With all of the hullabaloo last week, I wasn't able to do anything grand, as I am wont to do, so I will be out in my Grove tomorrow night working the work. Something to keep in mind, as one of my compatriots reminded me, is that most festivals lasted for day. I also wanted to add that there were both public and private aspects to most festivals. Duty was done in the home, on the private land, in the town center, in the temple and in whichever place was sacred to the deities or spirits involved in the celebration. My obligation to the public face of this holiday has been fulfilled and now it is time to fulfill my obligation at home.

From our Nova Roma friends:

Gate to the underworld
One such stone covered the mundus Cereris, a pit thought to contain an entrance to the underworld. Most cities of Latium and Etruria contained a similar pit or ditch; Plutarch describes the custom of a mundus as being of Etruscan origin, and states that it was used as a place where first-fruits were deposited.

The Latin word mundus simply meant "world".  Festus, quoting Cato this time, explains that:
Mundo nomen impositum est ab eo mundo qui supra nos est.(The mundus gets its name from that world which is above us.)

The Roman mundus was located in the Comitium , on the Palatine Hill. This stone was ceremonially opened three times a year, during which spirits of the blessed dead (the Manes) were able to commune with the living. The three days upon which the mundus was opened were August 24, October 5, and November 8. Fruits of the harvest were offered to the dead at this time.

"When the mundus is open, it is as if a door stands open for the sorrowful gods of the underworld. -Varro

Check out this cable published in the NY Times nearly 100 years ago! 

My feast will conclude on Thursday with the full moon. Then on Friday we'll turn our attention to the winter holidays and the week of decorating! Until then my halls will continue to be decked with black, purple, orange, pumpkins, ghosts, masks and other accoutrement of this hallowed holiday.

Upcoming topics: Daylight savings, Magic of the Renaissance, and, suggested indirectly by a paisan: "Who was the first one to look at an artichoke and decide that it would be a tasty treat?" Yeah!


This might just be a quickie post tonight, I don't know. This idea has been in the air for a while now, especially since I have been rereading Dion Fortune. She is the only one of the authors in question that has crossed over, so I will be keeping the names of the other authors out of it and use Ms. Fortune as an example. I posed this as a question in an earlier post, so let's reframe the discussion around a statement:

Just because someone publishes it first, does not mean that they are the best.
It especially doesn't mean that they are right. 

Let's take Dion Fortune for example: Just because she was one of the first to publish such things does not mean she was the best at it. I give her a lot of credit. I never worked with her personally, so I don't know how adept she was. By all accounts she was a gifted mage. That does not make her a gifted writer. I do think that Psychic Self Defense is annoying as written and not the best book on the subject. As a friend said: 'She published what needed to be out there at the time" and yes, times change as well as writing styles and acceptable topics of publication. I can only judge the book by today's standards and compare it to what is out there now. Today's esoteric writers might be all the better for Ms. Fortune's publications, and a great deal of thanks is due to her, but she is not the best writer on the subject and I think we can come up with several books which are better for today's student.

So what makes a book "good?" To me, it doesn't have to be "new" information, but it can't just be a rehashing of what's already out there. I don't want a book where someone had read a bunch and just summed up all of the resources for me- I'm not that lazy! I will go to the direct source myself! I want something that puts forth a new perspective on the information out there. Of course historical research is always helpful as is a modern adaptation of ancient practices, but so much out there is a rehash that I'm loathe to pick up new books at all.

I changed my mind, I'm not going to leave others out of it: I have a problem with the book Evolutionary Witchcraft because when I read it, all I could think was "This is Spiral Dance with some new poetry." It was just repackaged information and added nothing new to the body of work that was already out there. I'm glad it's helped so many people, but if I had to pick? I'll take Spiral Dance any day. Yes, that's just personal preference. Note my Dion Fortune example where I point out that things can be improved upon. I'm sure some people think it's a better rendition of Spiral Dance, but honestly, I don't think half the folks who picked it up ever heard of Spiral Dance. "Zomg I can't be expected to read something old that's not ancient! o0o0o0o!" I got tired of folks thinking ill of me for not liking  this rehash. I don't think there is anything evolutionary about redoing a book I read almost 25 years ago.

What I really hate seeing in our community, as with the mundane community, is this obsession with the next big thing. Ten years ago, it was rare to hear mention made of Hekate and it was always as a "Dark" Goddess, one who was petitioned by Medea, and associated with cemeteries and curses - someone Witches would distance themselves from for fear of being called "evil." Today? Certain authors have somehow made Her palatable to the shiny-happy white-lighters. There are certain books and organizations around this Goddess which have popped up and, while I'm not one to claim to understand the intentions of the Gods, I hate seeing this powerful Titan of Magic stripped of Her power until there's nothing left but the happy shiny Mama Goddess. Seriously, how can you focus on ONE aspect of a Goddess to the complete neglect of the others? Argh! But because it became the flavor of the moment, hundreds of fluffer-nutters just glomped on to this idea. It (obviously) puts a bee in my bonnet because flavors of the month get left behind almost as quickly. Think Hecate will let you leave Her behind unless She's done with you? Can't wait to see the fallout. Grab the popcorn.

My opinions are large and my squirrly wrath can be intimidating (so I've been told) but what people don't often get is that my opinions can change and everything is open to debate. I welcome the bandying about of ideas and opinions, especially those which are in contrast to my own. If you have an opinion on what's written here, or in any of my other posts, please feel free to comment. We don't grow unless we are challenged. However, if you post something, be prepared to back it up with logic, anecdote and proper research or you will be eaten by the dragons which guard this blog :-D

Friday, November 4, 2011

Trick or treat!

The actual cross-quarter, the exact midpoint between Fall and Winter, occurs just after midnight on November 8th. So why is everyone freaking out about a randomly fixed date as the thin veil point? I'd say that's when it STARTS is thinnest phase, much the same the way the moon is full for 3 days. So why is no one taking advantage of this time of year? Why blow your wad on one single day? We have several weeks of "best reception" on the line with the Ancestors.

If you've been too busy noming candy to do any work, you still have plenty of time. The pendulum swings both ways, so by my estimate, we have about two more weeks before things start to thicken up again.

Suggestions for the next two weeks:
Use whatever form of divination you are comfortable with to contact your dearly departed. Ask them questions. Ask them what they want or need.
Dream work! This is the perfect time to practice lucid dreaming
Weaving, sewing and other crafty-crafting is particularly effective at this time, especially if you call on crafty ancestors for help in your task.
Learn more about the Cthonic deities. This time of year is perfect for working with the Cthonic deities, especially deities with many aspects where one is cthonic.
Work on creating thought forms or a fetch.

Speaking of which, I'm going to take my own advice and get to that now. I haven't journeyed in some time and I feel like I've been slacking! They call to me daily and I have been so busy with the mundane world that I have not ventured as often as I would like. Time to prep and get to it!

Il dialetto locale

Many times over the past 10 months I've made mention of the various Italian dialects and idiosyncrasies of the Italian language, especially Italian-American language, which itself is a dialect. Don't believe there's an Italian-American dialect? The words "bacouz" and "agita" aren't Italian. The former is an Italian pronunciation of "back house" or "outhouse" and means "bathroom" and "agita" isn't the proper way of expressing heartburn. But there they are. I found this fabulous link tonight! Go check out all the fun words you'll finally know how to spell, especially if your mom ever called you a scocciament  ;) 

Hubby seems to have figured out the key to Italian pronunciation: Say it like you're chewing food. That's the only way capicola becomes "Gabbagool!" But I digress! 

I've been practicing my Italian lately, really working on improving the weaker parts of my comprehension- My reading comprehension is better than my listening comprehension. This is what I have been concentrating on as opposed to the big stack of books I've wanted to get to and the long list of tasks and meditations and exercises and practical magic work staring at me. I think that's why it's been difficult for me to blog lately. In addition to more limited time, I've been focusing on the same thing for the past few weeks and haven't been exploring the way I usually do and turning that into a post. I figured I should let everyone know what I've been up to!

I've wanted to become fluent in Italian for a while now. Mostly it's another measure of devotion. I want to be able to communicate with my ancestors in their language. I know that I have many different ancestors who spoke many different languages, but still, it's an effort on their behalf. It's not something a deity or patron pointed me towards, it's an offering from me to my relatives, especially the ones who were forced to learn English when they came here and suppressed their native language so that their children would be seen as American. I want to honor that and to honor Them by reclaiming it because now it's ok to speak more than one language. Plus, I want to be able to speak secretly in public con le mie coorti!

Here is the problem with my plan: The various branches of my Italian family tree come from very different regions and each region of Italy has its own dialect. Some are so similar there's barely a noticeable difference. Some are so different that neighbors can't understand each other. What's the problem with "standard" Italian? It's based on the Tuscan and Florentine dialects. It wasn't picked at random: It was the dialect of the great writers of the time, including Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. This article on the evolution of the Italian language sums it up:
It was not until the 19th century that the language spoken by educated Tuscans spread to become the language of a new nation. The unification of Italy in 1861 had a profound impact not only on the political scene but also resulted in a significant social, economical, and cultural transformation. With mandatory schooling, the literacy rate increased, and many speakers abandoned their native dialect in favor of the national language.
Hmm... Willingly abandoned it? Forced to abandon it? Even 150 years later there is controversy over the unification of Italy and the class warfare between the northern and southern regions. Let's also remember that Sicily was its own, independent nation. It also has it's own, independent language which does not have the same Latin roots as Italian dialects do. Ethnologues have identified words in Siclian which are believed to be from the ancient inhabitants of the island, the Sicels (the language in Sicily is called sicilianu)

I'm starting with the modern/standard, brushing up on my Italian-American dialect, and talking to my cousins who are still thick with sicilianu. The language is magical and lyrical and has a rhythm to it that english simply lacks. There are incantations in Italian whose magic depends as much on the tune and the meter as the words. However, the meter and the tune are very intuitive and once you hear it, the words make even more sense with the music than when standing alone on a page. I know my studies will make my practice more proficient. And I'll be able to read things in their language. 

Hmm I do have some Greek under my belt already... only a few more languages to go and I can cover the whole family? Better get to work.