Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Xylophones, drums and horns – Make a Joyful Noise of Thanks and Wow

Xylophone Player by Daniel 'Nshira' Akortia
  “Hail to our mother, who caused the yellow flowers to blossom, who scattered the seeds of the maguey, as she came forth from Paradise.”  Hymn to the Mother of the Gods, Teleoinan, at

“THE radiant Dawns have risen up for glory, in their white splendor like the waves of waters.
She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel, and, rich, hath shown herself benign and friendly.”  Hymn to the Goddess of the Dawn.  Rig Veda, tr. by Ralph T.H. Griffith, [1896], at

Growing up in a musical household, any Psalm about musical instruments playing or singing was adorned and identified as most sacred.  These were the Psalms about thanksgiving and praise.  There was a lot of scheming and plotting done in the back pews about adding musical accompaniments to the reading.  Mainly it revolved around seeing the “church ladies” wearing their Sunday Uniform get all in a tizzy.  Clashing drums and tooting trumpets weren't part of my church’s worship service – only organs playing dirgey hymns that would make you yawn.  My family felt the place could use a shake up or at least a gong?     

My first exposure to Yule celebration was from my next door neighbors.  I was a solo practitioner at the time.  My neighbors told me that they were having a party and it would be loud and they left it at that.  I assured them it would be okay.  The walls were thin that night and I could hear the songs and drumming and the recorder and guitar.  It wasn't just a little party and the songs weren't the dirgey songs of worship I grew up on.  They were joyful and full of thanksgiving.  I lit my Yule candles to their merriment and song and felt blessed that evening.


Psalm 150
1 Praise the Lord.[a]
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.


I was on my way home from work last week and caught the tail end of the NPR interview of Anne Lamont.  She was talking about her new book about prayer (Help, Thanks and Wow).  It got me to thinking about which prayer I lean to?  Which prayer does my Circle focus on?  If it was a bar graph the Help would be at 85%-98%.  And why is that?  

I tramped around the snow at my family farm Thanksgiving weekend and did some soul searching.  I watched the pheasants with their white collars look for field corn.  I said wow.  I went to the oak tree that had been topped over from the July windstorm.  This is a tree that I can’t wrap my arms around and the roots now exposed.  Again, I said wow.  My Uncle hugged me goodbye and I was very thankful of his company.   

Sunday night back home, I finally sat down to draft my portion of Yule.  I reflected on changing things up.  I decided to focus my theme on thanksgiving rather that wishing.  I thought about the play list I recommended to my circle and resubmitted my request - Copland's Simple Gifts and Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G.    For fun, Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor - Xylophone.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What to Wear? My LBD

One of my friends has been in the process of designing a ritual robe.  He has been e-mailing his designs to me and several friends.  We have all been providing him feedback.  His taste is traditional with a modern twist.  It’s a long tailored black robe that has a belt. 

As a girl growing up in the late sixties and seventies, I had two uniforms to wear to church: winter and summer.  My winter uniform was a dress purchased for Christmas Eve service and new black patent leather shoes.  My summer one was purchase for Easter service and usually white and pink number, gloves, hat, white purse and new shoes – white patent leather.  In the early 1970’s my mother made me a pants suit to wear for Easter service.  I felt really hip in this light pink floral material.  It had bell-bottom pants and a tunic.  In retrospect, my mother probably got heck from my Grandma as I danced around in my new outfit for church eating chocolate marshmallow eggs.  In my Grandma’s rule book, only men wore pants to church.  If women did wear pants, it was for cleaning and gardening.   Another addition to her rule book, women could never be ministers.

Historically, clothing has been worn to protect the body from environmental factors (i.e., cold, radioactive hazards, rain) and worn to satisfy social modesty.  Clothing has also been worn to show one’s status.  In the case of Sabbath garments, these are special clothes that traditionally have been associated with ritual – a uniform per-say.  When we put on the uniform, according to Dr. Galinsky it can “affect how others and how we think about ourselves” (Blakeslee 2). 
In my recent survey of the web, there seems to be a wide range of interpretation of what ceremonial clothing should be.  There are the skyclad folks, traditional plain hooded black, natural, or white linen folks, renaissance folks that includes kilts, multi-colored capes and velvet dresses, movie folks (i.e., Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter, Star Wars), traditional witch with high-top black laced shoes and pointed hat folks, and the come as you are folks dressed for the season.  If you were to ask everyone why they choose their garment, values and attitude would be the underlying theme.  Some people dress for comfort and like the way the garment feels.  Some people have chosen their garments based on an agreed upon standard within their spiritual circle or covens.  Others, the garment displays their individual style showing the world what makes them unique.  But in all cases a phenomenon occurs, when putting on this uniform we prepare for entering sacred space and time.

I feel that ceremonial clothing should be a personal choice.  It should be a reflection of the wearer; however it shouldn’t be a distraction from the ritual.  The whole Sabbath will be turned up-side-down if the focus is on what a participant is wearing.  Example:  Someone shows up skyclad with flowers in their hair and everyone else is in hooded white linen robes.

My Circle is eclectic when it comes to ritual wear.  Only recently, I've taken to wearing a LBD with a shawled black jacket, black hose and black patent leather pumps (winter) and sandals (summer).  I find it simple and elegant for the urban CCWWW and expresses Coco Chanel (1926) intent that fashion should be functional and chic.  I find my LBD has versatility allowing me to wear jewelry, black scarf worn in Grace Kelly style or floral corsage indicating the season.  My dress also provides me anonymity as I walk from my car to someone’s house carrying my potluck dish.  My LBD, I feel is a modern interpretation of the traditional witch.  More important, when I put it on I can feel myself change mentally.  I feel ready to create magic - participate in that which is sacred.

I have found some folks are intimidated by wearing black.  The color tends to bring up bad experiences, the opposite of white (i.e., goodness) or ultimately death.  Truthfully, I use to think this way before becoming a CCWWW.    Now I see black as potential.  It’s like looking up the night time sky and anything can emerge – like a shooting star or a blue halo around the moon on a crisp winter's evening.  Without the dark womb, the night or the black loamy soil there would be no new life.  When I wear black – I feel like I’m wearing hope.  I feel the magic of new beginnings.

Things to think about when choosing ritual clothing
  1. Can you move around or do you feel restricted?  Think wedding party – can you do the twist and raise your arms in the outfit?
  2. Are you working with fire?  Consider your fabric choice - will it catch fire easy?  And blousy sleeves and capes can you keep these under control?
  3. Are you going to carry an athame?  Consider wearing boots or wearing a belt.
  4. Do you have to carry anything - matches or runes?  Consider an outfit with pockets or wear a small purse
  5. Does the outfit make you feel sacred?

Blakeslee, Sandra. Mind Games: Sometimes a White Coat Isn’t Just a White Coat. 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.


My Circle celebrates together with a potluck meal.  Recently, we realized that the meal was turning into a diabetic’s nightmare.  We now plan out to make sure it isn’t all desserts.

Salad out of the bag

1 bag mixed baby greens
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
Dried cherries (bulk food section)
1 lemon and zest
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
8 ounces of blue cheese or gorgonzola (small plastic box)

Empty greens into bowl to the top add dried cherries, pecans and cheese.  Shake in small Mason jar lemon, zest and olive oil.  Dress salad before eating.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Words Unspoken

“To live with integrity in an unjust society we must work for justice. To walk with integrity through a landscape strewn with beer cans, we must stop and pick them up. “ Starhawk.
“Systems don't change easily. Systems try to maintain themselves, and seek equilibrium. To change a system, you need to shake it up, disrupt the equilibrium. That often requires conflict.” Starhawk.

A couple of weeks ago my son came home and described what happened to one of the foreign exchange students.  The student is a friend of his.  My son described how his friend was in class and the teacher began blaming his country for the first and second World Wars.  My son wished he was in that class to stand with his friend.  Most of the kids in that class either laughed at what the teacher was saying or did nothing.  His friend felt alone.  During another class, he asked a girlfriend why she didn’t do anything when this happened.    Her response was - she didn’t think the foreign exchange student was so sensitive.  “He’s a guy right?”
I’m almost finished re-reading Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark.  I keep coming back to the second and third chapters about “power-over,” integrity, interconnectedness and ethics. 
I find myself often rejecting the way things are.  But, the bottom line is: I have choices and the choices I make effects the way things are.  I can do nothing or I can raise my voice or be an agent to make change.  Or as Starhawk says: pick up the beer cans.
I really realize I can’t call myself a CCWWW – even if I practice solitary – and not be an activist for social justice.  It’s part of the belief system and tradition that I’ve signed onto.
During supper my family discussed what happened in school.  I posed a question: “If you were in that class and a teacher was acting this way, what could you do?”  Both boys came up with a laundry list of things they could have done: standing up to the teacher and talking about what our country did during WWII to Japanese citizens or how the abuse in Abu Ghraib was allowed to happen; or excusing themselves to go to the bathroom and get another adult.
I immediately drafted a letter to the school expressing my concern.  And, shamefully it has sat as a draft in a word document.  This has nagged at me: “What if no other parent said anything about the incident.” 
Researchers who study the dynamics of bullying say that most bystanders are passive.  They don’t do anything.  Most of these passive on-lookers don’t like what is happening, but for whatever reason don’t speak up.  This provides silent acceptance and the bullying or power-over behavior.  
I re-read my Green Dot entry.  I re-read my draft and reflected on why I didn’t send it.  It centered on being labeled the complaining parent.  And again, what if no other parent says anything?  Am I reinforcing the status quo?  I cut and pasted it into an e-mail to the principal and the school board.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Summer KAL Update

BEMS - KAL Summer Scarf
As you can see – this is my wonderful scarf that is being donated.  The proceeds of the sale will go to Cat Welfare.   This organization helps orphan kitties find new human friends. 
Thanks to all who contributed by giving me the next color to knit.

Solar Oak, Meryln, Maria, Jean, Diane, Criag, B, Adrienne, Tom, Amy, RC, Adrienne, Beth, Kathy, J, Joyce, Roberto, F, Z, Norma, Walter, H, Naderah, Kim, Betty, Debra, Nancy, Linda, Avonell, Rayma, Dorothea, Deb, Rainbow, Phoenix and several friends who wanted to remain anonymous........

If you participated in this KAL – please share.  Would love to see your scarf.
Changing the world’s energy one task at a time.
Next project after Yule?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love Champions - Sightings

Runners Embrace Chance to Help Residents Recover

If the New York City Marathon had not been canceled because of Hurricane Sandy last week, Michelle Leichtling would not have found herself in a grief-stricken neighborhood on Staten Island on Sunday, trying to salvage a stranger’s soaking-wet wedding album.

Macur, Juliet. Runners Embrace Chance to Help Residents Recover. The New York Times. 4 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Nov. 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall Spell New Research

More Plus-Size Models Could Change Women’s Obsession With Thin Bodies

British women's obsession for thin bodies could potentially be changed if advertising showed more plus size models, suggests a preliminary study published November 7.
Journal Source:  Lynda G. Boothroyd, Martin J. Tovée, Thomas V. Pollet. Visual Diet versus Associative Learning as Mechanisms of Change in Body Size Preferences. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e48691 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048691
Durham University. "More plus-size models could change women’s obsession with thin bodies." ScienceDaily, 7 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Visioning: A New Year of Possibilities

T and I went down to the garden one more time.  Monday they plan on plowing everything under.  We spent a good two hours picking green tomatoes, peppers, dill and dug up carrots and turnips.  We cut the arugula and lettuce for a last week of salad.  I went around cutting dried cosmos, zinnias and marigolds – seeds for next year.
The sky was over casted and the wind picked up.   It took me half a book of matches to get the incense lit.  This happened back in April when we started planting….  The wind made the smoke rise in little spirals.  One more time I thanked the garden and then turned and walked away.  It’s hard to say goodbye, but I know this isn’t the end.  The flower seeds tell something different.
A gardener knows this season is needed.  It isn’t final, but a part of a never ending pattern.  The gardener knows this death is necessary to bring about a successful harvest next year.  Everyone needs a rest – even the dirt and the spirits.


"When we realize the extent of the myriad interconnections which link us to all other life, we realize that our existence only becomes meaningful through interaction with, and in relation to, others." ~ Buddha


This past year I’ve been reading from many of my old friends.  Authors who I found tucked away in my bookshelf.  I’ve discovered new nuances in their writings – a “Mary Poppins Factor” so to speak.  I’m amazed at what I missed the last time I read the texts.  Specifically, how essential it is to see a goal completed – even those goals which seem overwhelming like seeing a world where everyone is fed, everyone feels safe, or everyone shows empathy for their neighbor. 
In Dreaming the Dark, Starhawk talks about the interconnected principle.  Meaning – nothing on this earth or universe exists in isolation.  We are all linked together.  If one changes we all changes.  When talking about dreams and goals – these won’t come to fruition if we don’t do some work.  This work includes seeing the goal completed and saying and doing one concrete thing.  An individual who does this changes themselves energetically and this causes everything else to change due to the interconnected principle.
As a gardener, I can hold the seeds in my hand and easily can picture the flowers blooming next summer.  Seeing people not in need of food pantries, I admit this is something I struggle wrapping my mind around.  And, maybe this is one of the reasons why energetically speaking hunger, domestic violence or any social justice issue is hard to tackle.  We can’t see it and we all have different ideas on how to begin.
I keep going back to Starhawk’s book and the interconnected principle.  If we each set a goal to do one small thing; “we make a change in relationship in which we take part” (44).  I might not be able to see the ending of hunger, but I can help hand out food or grow tomatoes to share in my garden.  I can see this and I can do this.  This in turns helps transform the energy around me. 


New Year Goals to help change my world
Make a list of 3 things you could do to change the status quo energy of exploitation, pollution and destruction.
  1. In 2013, I will grow nine tomato plants strictly for the food pantry.
  2. On Earth Day 2013, I will participate in my community’s activity of cleaning up a corner.
  3. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month – April 2013, I will post daily on facebook information about promoting healthy relationships.

River of Souls by Dan Fogelberg