Archive for November 29th, 2008

For awhile now I’ve been fascinated with the subject of headcoverings and the related issues of modest and plain dressing.  The fascination, as you might imagine (this is me here, after all), is not without some twinges of bafflement and aversion.  It’s always women, you see, who are charged with keeping modest, with keeping covered, with staying plain, and that bothers me on so many levels that I’d be here all night trying to sort them out.  Why are women held responsible for mens’ reactions?  That hardly seems fair.  I suspect there’s no way to explain it outside of a religious context; even if I were to share those religious convictions, I’m still not certain I’d understand it, or–perhaps more importantly–accept it.  But the fascination is there, nonetheless.

I started to become interested in headcoverings back while I was still dancing with the troupe; in the beginning, when we were mostly focused on American Tribal style, we usually wore turbans, which I had to learn to wrap.  I wasn’t that great at it, but I improved over time.  I’ve never been crazy about hats and hairstyles that leave my bare face hanging out there with no hair to soften it, but that’s a combination vanity/self-esteem issue on my part; half the time I think I’m hideous-looking and seek to obscure that fact with my big unruly Hermione hair.  But I digress.

With Middle Eastern dance came examination of Middle Eastern culture, and women’s place therein, and of course habits of dress.  I’ll admit that I developed an instant love for the flattering and very modest salwar kameez suits, and in fact own a couple of them.  I started looking into various headcovering styles suitable for dance, and different ways of wrapping a turban or tying a headscarf; some of them are very beautiful and becoming.  And then I started to learn about other women who covered their heads as well.

For several years I’ve done 18th century historical reenactment with my husband, and at nearly all events nearly all the women present cover their heads in some way.  It was common (though by no means universal) practice then, and it’s very much expected in reenactment circles now.  I balked at it big-time for quite a while, for all the reasons you might expect:

*  The religious connotations of women having to cover their heads, be submissive, whatever

*  Dude, I look like someone’s hideous grandmother in this doily

And so forth.  I eventually found some slightly more becoming caps, and interesting hats, so I got over myself and learned to have some fun with it.  I’ve actually come to like having stuff on my head.  But I’m still not certain WHY.

It’s not a religious thing for me.  The religious aspects of headcovering seem to be rooted in things that are somewhere between merely alien and entirely anathema to my worldview–ideas of female submission and male headship and so forth.  And yet, there is a burning curiosity in me.  I want to know if the world would view me differently if I were to go out with my head covered.  I already tend to dress somewhat modestly–at least, to my mind it’s modest, compared to the hoochie stuff that so many females tend to wear–what would be the reaction if I covered my head?  Would people think I belonged to some strange religious sect?  I doubt my pale blue-eyed self would be taken as muslima.  Maybe they’d think I had some terrible illness–no, they wouldn’t, even if I covered every bit of it there’d still be no mistaking the fact that I have a full head of long, thick hair.  More importantly, how would I react to me?  Part of me really wants to attend a religious service, like a Tridentine Mass, dressed very modestly and with my head veiled.  Why I want to have this experience is a mystery to me.  I’d equally like to attend synagogue, and an Orthodox Christian service.  I want to have a small taste of these things that are so foreign to my experience, to try and understand even for a moment how others experience the numinous, and what that might mean to them.  Doing something different, like covering my head, seems like it would help me to make the sort of shift in consciousness necessary to gaining even the slightest inkling of understanding.

Must be the writer in me, the part that continually pushes for differing experiences, for endless curiousity and contemplation.  It’s troublesome at times, but after all these years I’ve grown accustomed to it.


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Then and Now

The posts you’ll find prior to this one are reposts from my old, defunct Blogger account; I long ago lost the password for it, along with the email address to which it used to be attached, so it sat idle and untended for the past three years or so.  Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to have a spiritually focused blog again, something apart from my LiveJournal and Blogdrive accounts where I tend to post all manner of weirdness.  And so here I am.  I wanted to keep the posts from the old journal, because they were representative of where I was at a particular time and because I believe they still contain valid information.  I don’t necessarily feel the exact same way about things now as I did then.  I may not feel the same way tomorrow as I do today.  But isn’t that why we bother to record these things in the first place?

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Witches Weekly – OMG teh FLuFfY!!11oneeleventy!

Ah, yes: the fluffy thing. Let’s consider.

How do you feel about the term “fluffy pagan?” What is your definition?

How do I feel about it? Cynical. Negative. Annoyed. It’s one of those terms that’s been used and abused so frequently that it’s lost all meaning–assuming it ever had much meaning beyond the dismissive and derogatory. How do I define “fluffy?” Well, it seems to mean something along the lines of “anyone doing something of which you don’t approve” or “anything you think isn’t hardcore enough.” Gaah. Shutupanddie already, wouldja?

What do you feel are some of the “wrong” reasons that people tend to learn towards the pagan faith? (sex, drugs etc)

Oh crap, most of them. Power, sex, drugs (though I’ve seen very little of that–drinking, OTOH, like bloody lushes, yes), notoriety, a new stage on which to play out their dramas… I’m not sure these reasons are any different from those of the practitioners of other religions. Too often religion of any stripe seems to be a crutch, a drug, an escape, a symptom.
What annoys you the most about some of today’s self-defined pagans?

Sadly, most everything, which is why I tend not to “mingle.” I’ve seen enough contemptible behaviour to bring my innate curmudgeonliness to full flower. 🙂


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Driving in to work this morning, I saw a bumper sticker which was divided in half. On the left side, the customary “Bush/Cheney,” white letters on blue background; but on the left was the word (name? title?) “GOD,” all caps, red letters on black. And that just about sums it all up, I think.

I read an article at Beliefnet yesterday, the topic of which was the rise of “Christianophobia.” I dislike that term, as “phobia” implies an irrational or groundless fear, and the trepidation with which I and many other non-Christians view the current religio-political climate is anything but. What I see developing these days is a quite aggressive form of Christianity, the faith of conquerors and crusaders toned down only marginally to better fit our more “civilised” times. If the (p)resident felt himself handed a mandate by the most recent election, it would appear that his evangelical constituents feel they too have been given carte blanche by the alleged faith ‘n values majority. Religion is in-your-face like never before in my lifetime, and I’d be frankly surprised by any person of other (or no) faith who didn’t feel a bit defensive and marginalised in the wake of it.

Of course, Christianity does give its faithful the commission to “go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel,” but there used to be fairly clear boundaries to which most folks adhered. Those boundaries seem to have all but disappeared. I never used to see people wearing religious-themed clothing in the workplace, but it’s becoming more and more common. Bumper stickers, from the innocuous to the downright hateful, turn private conviction into public display. Megachurches spend megabucks on billboard advertisements–most recently and offensively the “God’s Plan For Marriage” campaign put forth by a local congregation certain that they had a direct line to the Almighty. God-talk is everywhere, even in places where a few years ago, it simply wasn’t–the secular radio stations, for example, where all of a sudden you have disc jockeys slipping deity references into their patter and signing off with blessings. For a person always disposed to wearing their faith (or lack thereof) close to the vest, it’s unsettling.

Just this past weekend, I was at a formal dinner, a Scottish “Burns Night” celebration. It is customary at these events to give a variety of toasts over the course of the evening, and one of the toasts given is to the United States. This year’s speaker chose, rather than to give a simple toast to our nation, to turn the moment into a literal bully pulpit from which to sermonise on the subject of keeping the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance–which she then instructed the entire scotch-sodden assembly to stand up and recite, like a gaggle of schoolchildren!Annoyed and offended, my husband and I both stood (after fortifying ourselves with shots of the genial beverage), since to not do so would have made us conspicuous; I’d like to believe that we’ve got at least a bit more class than the speaker. The boundaries are indistinct at best, absent at worst; and it’s those of us from the “reality-based community” (heh) who will bear the brunt.

Don’t mind me; I’m just ranting. I haven’t any answers, though I wish I did. My best advice is to keep your eyes open, watch your back, and stay your course. It isn’t going to get any better for a while yet, though I doubt They can pull a full-fledged Theocracy out of their collective ass any time in the immediate future. Fifty-one percent is a squeak of a majority, not a mandate, and the religious bullies would do well to remember that anything pushed hard and often enough will eventually push back. And until someone manages to figure out how to do away utterly with that damned inconvenient “Constitution” thingy, the pushing will result in shoving, and freedom will still ring.

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So That Was Christmas


So that was Christmas.

Chas Clifton, in his excellent blog Letters from Hardscrabble Creek, illustrates what it is that I miss about Christianity this time of year:

A few nights ago, M. and I were sharing reminiscences of Christmases long past, including the experience of Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. It wasn’t the content of the service that mattered, but the experience: the waiting all evening, driving to the church through quiet streets, the explosion of lights in darkness, then walking out from the church into the cold, crisp night air.

It was one of few times when modern Christianity–at least in our churches (hers Roman Catholic, mine Episcopal with High Church touches at the holidays)–felt like a mystery religion. Watching the stripping of the altar on Good Friday was another such time: it could actually seem deathly scary.

I too spent some time at a High Church Episcopal parish, and it was just that sense of the numinous–of the mystery–that kept me coming round despite the fact that, beliefwise, I was more agnostic than anything. Christian dogma rolled off me like rain off a freshly-waxed car, but liturgy was a thing I could get into. I loved the parish church: well over a century old and wonderfully gothic, with magnificent stained glass (some of which was crafted by the Tiffany studio) and a full peal of brazen bronze bells like something out of Lord Peter Wimsey. And yes, there was no better time to be High Church Episcopalian than the Christmas season, beginning with the anticipatory weeks of Advent and culminating in the mysterious candlelit darkness of Christmas Eve. (I never bothered to attend Christmas day Eucharist; it just seemed anticlimactic.)

It’s been probably fifteen years or more since I last stepped foot in that lovely parish church; my days of even lip-service Christianity are far behind me. But I think one day soon I’ll stop by, just to peek in and see the changes (and to pause beside the grave of the parish cat, who used to take treats from my fingers at potlucks). The changes in myself I’ve already catalogued.

* * *
Whatever your calling, I hope you’ve found something of spiritual sustenance in this season of dark and light. Happy Solstice/Yule/Saturnalia/Festivus/Chrismahanukwanzakah!

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From the “Had I But Known” Department

As a Gardnerian Wiccan High Priestess, I wasn’t much use. Sure, I quickly learnt how to deliver my lines and not trip over the furniture, and I developed (she says modestly) into rather a good ritualist in due course–but there were other things expected of one in my position that I simply could not (and in some cases, obstinately would not) deliver. I’m not particularly garrulous in person, disinclined to deliver “sermons” or even go into much detail about what I believe/think/do and how and why. I’ve been of a mind for as long as I can remember that spiritual things are deeply personal things–that one size most assuredly does not and can not fit all, and that what works or worked for me is immaterial because we all take different paths to arrive at our destinations. Plus, I wasn’t one to just get, you know, possessed by the Goddess at the appointed times and spout forth Wisdom From Beyond, and a perceived inability to do that really loses you points in such circles.

At any rate, I often found myself with very little to say, about anything. If you asked me something directly, I’d certainly answer you, but if you were fluttering around like a little baby bird with your mouth wide open, waiting for me to regurgitate some Secret Teaching into your awaiting maw, you’d find yourself with a long wait, indeed; not my style. In all my years of attempted Wiccanery (rhymes with “chicanery”), I never did get the hang of it. I never much cared what anyone else was thinking, or believing, or doing, or perceiving, and I had no interest in pushing any party line, not even my own. (Sometimes I think I must be the oddest person on the planet.) Unfortunately for me and my career as High Priestess of the Wicca, this approach did not fly. It seems to me now that most of the seekers that do their seeking down that path come in with a set of expectations in hand: that Wisdom will be dispensed, that Knowledge and Secrets will be forthcoming, that these things will be bestowed upon them by the all-powerful and all-knowledgeable Priesthood–and that if you do not provide the expected goodies, then You SUCK! and must be attacked. (In fairness, I know it’s not just in Wicca; I’d say it’s endemic to religion in general.)

Pity that it took years for me to realise my style, or to even discover that I had one. It is, oddly enough, a rather more Zen approach–though of course I had no way of knowing or understanding that ten years ago when I first blindly stepped onto that Wiccan path (this is where “The Fool” card of the Tarot is applicable). I’ve been reading quite a bit of Buddhist material lately–at first as research for writing Inuyasha fanfiction, but the subject began to really resonate with me, to the point where it was beginning to creep into my personal spiritual landscape and practise. Just this morning I was reading this article at Beliefnet when I was struck by a moment of samadhi. “That’s me,” I thought, reading of the Zen teachers’ approaches; “that’s my style.” And if it took going through there (i.e. those years of Wiccanery and their attendant woes) to get here, then it was worth the trip–detours, distractions, flat tires, traumas and all. Because that moment of clarity was unbearably sweet; and once you’ve seen a thing, you can’t ever un-see it.

Oh, and in a particular bit of irony, on what day did I have this awakening? December 8th, the final day of Rohatsu, the Zen celebration of the historical Buddha’s enlightenment.

Some days, I really love how the universe works.

(Postscript: Note that I’m not claiming to be a Zen Master now; just a yutz who had a mild epiphany and feels the better for it. I’m just sayin’.)

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Winter’s Coming


Winter’s coming.

I know, the solstice is still a good three weeks away, but already I can feel winter’s hand upon us. It rattles the bare branches that not so long ago were spectacularly garbed. It tosses great handfuls of cold rain against the windows. It fans the chill winds that lash your stinging face as you scuttle from place to place, huddled against its inevitability.

This is the dark time, the grey time, the in-between time–those days between Samhain and Yule, between the finality of death and the spark of rebirth. They’re difficult days, being as they are days of adjustment to the chill and the drear. The light hours are few and growing fewer. The nights drag on and on. It’s a good time for rest, for introspection, for meditation and turning within. Be mindful that it doesn’t curdle into depression, another thing common in this time of dwindling light.

Curl up somewhere. Drink something hot and read something good. Be kind to yourself. Know that it will all cycle round again soon.

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Morning Musings


Morning musings


If the highest aim of religion/spirituality is to inspire the individual to better him/herself (and I think it is), then what could be more inspirational to that end than the development of a personal mythology?  Surely one of the functions of myth throughout human history has been to provide a model of conduct, be it a model of what to aspire to or what to abstain from; should we be held to take that inspiration only from officially sanctioned sources, or be free to take our fill of inspiration when and where and how we will?  I vote for the latter.  I’ve found much pleasure in ancient tales, but have always found just as much spiritual sustenance in places some (okay, most) might find odd or even sacrilegious. 
Either I’m on the edge of a revolution here, or I’m nuts.  Maybe there’s no difference.


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Witches Weekly

How do you incorporate your spirituality into your daily life?

There’s no particular thing I consciously do to meld one with the other; there is little division in my life between the spiritual and the secular. I strive for mindfulness in all things I do–though gods know I don’t always succeed or even come close to it. The spiritual element permeates all that I do and all that I am.

That said, there are things that I like to do whenever possible, or whenever I feel them necessary. Whenever I sit down at the computer, for instance, I light the candles on the small Hathor shrine, and light incense as well. I do breathing and mantra when I want or feel the need to during the course of the day. Sometimes I select prayers or readings from favourite source texts. I’m not much good at doing any sort of clearly defined daily rituals, but there are always little things going on that feed my spirit.
Does your daily life hinder or support your beliefs or practices?

If I were independently wealthy, I daresay I’d devote much of my time to the maintenance of the shrine I would have built. Alas, I’m not. Work does drain my energy somewhat, and then I tend to crawl onto the internet upon arriving home and doing nothing more useful than surfing about for hours on end…which could be construed as a detriment, since it’s sucking away time from more fulfilling pursuits. My level of self-discipline waxes and wanes. I only wish its cycles were clear and predictable.
What do you wish you could do more for your beliefs on a more regular basis?

There’s so much that needs to be written. And so little time/energy/inclination to get it done. ::sigh::


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The latest Witches Weekly is about influences.

Which book has influenced your path the most and why?

I’ve read so many that it would be impossible to say. Would it be one of the books, its title long since lost to memory, that sparked my imagination as a child? Something I read a decade or so ago, when I first began to call myself a pagan? I can tell you that my interest in Egyptology-as-a-religion (!) was kindled by the first Elizabeth Peters novel I ever picked up, The Last Camel Died At Noon. For continued inspiration, I find myself returning again and again to Liber AL vel Legis, among others.

You can’t ask a book whore like me to pick just one. It simply isn’t fair. 🙂

What person has influenced your path the most and why?

The people I’ve learned the most from have been connected to other disciplines; as far as “teachers” or “mentors” in the pagan community went, what I mostly got were shining examples of what I never, ever, ever wanted to become. I find that I am accidentally influenced more than anything–find myself picking up the odd lesson or random teaching completely out of context, if that makes any sense. I can’t explain it more clearly than that, because up until this moment I’d never even considered it, or realised it. The light bulb that just appeared over my head has momentarily blinded me.

I’d say my husband has had an influence, of course; he was my initiator when I was practising wicca, and the one who taught me about that particular path. Beyond that, it gets confusing indeed.

Why are you pagan?

Because it’s the closest concise label I can pick that will give the average listener the slightest idea of what it is I’m about. It’s a somewhat inadequate descriptor, I think, because I am so many things. Spiritually, I am a jewel of many facets, and on any given day, at any given moment, I could be contemplating any one of them–or several at once, or none at all. I’m funny that way.

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