Monday, September 5, 2011

TAROT FOR VERMONT! Get a reading and help good people get back on their feet.

In years past, when I wasn't able to drive to New Orleans or Texas or discover a cure for cancer, I read Tarot. In the aftermath of Katrina, in the shadow of a friend's divorce, or in the throws of a classmate's battle with the Big C, I read cards and gave the money to the causes or bank accounts set up for them. I'm doing it again. As I mentioned in my last post, my friends in Vermont were devastated by Hurricane Irene. Tarot has been the one thing I've consistently been able to do to help when I'm not medically or legally trained and indefinitely car-less. But for the month of September, I can help by donating my Tarot proceeds to the Bethel Relief Fund.

Pricing is as follows!

Phone and Skype readings:
15 mins--$30
30 mins--$45
60 mins--$60

Email readings are available, too! $20 per question, answered via email within 48 hours.

Contact me at courtney@tarotoftheboroughs.com for scheduling!

xoxo
C

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Before the catch up, Vermont needs our help

I have a long tale of East and West coast adventures and misadventures--but before storytime comes work. Our friends in Vermont need our help. Communities are coming together up there to shovel mud out of the homes of strangers and put back together an infrastructure decimated by Hurricane Irene.

Please donate what you can to this grassroots, Pagan-led work force trying to put their immediate community back together: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=272337666111248

Maybe Mother Nature will give us enough time between natural disasters so that I can regal you with crazy-ass tales!!!

xoxo
C

Friday, August 12, 2011

Popping in!!!

A whirlwind of weeks...:) Janet and Gavin came to town and we raised a hell of a fab time up at Palaia Vineyards in Highland Mills, NY. A full week at Craftwise and Summerfest at Brushwood. Several of us then went to to Laurelin Center and tonight, I'm taking the decadent choice of the Super Shuttle Van instead of the Subway/NJ Transit route to Newark Airport and flying BYE-BYE-VROOM!!! to OR/WA/CA for the Left Coast Tour!

Tuesday, August 16th at Celestial Awakenings in Vancouver, WA: Voice of the Tarot! http://www.celestial-awakenings.com/

Thursday, August 18th at Deforest House in Portland, OR: http://deforesthouse.net/weber.php

Wednesday, August 24-Thursday, August 25: Two classes ("Voice of the Tarot" and "Circle Casting for Personal and Group Magick") and available for readings at Sacred Mists! http://www.sacredmists.com/napa-valley-workshops.html

Saturday, August 27-Sunday, August 28: I will be presenting at BATS! http://www.dodivination.com/sf_bats_logistics_parking_c_speakers_vendors

I look forward to decompressing and sharing the fantastic stories...but I will also be trying to see family and old friends while out West, so please look for more updates when I return!!!

xoxo
C

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Festival brain.....

Back from Brushwood. :) In body, anyway. My head is still floating up in Sherman, NY somewhere, but I'm sure it will drift back in sooner or later.

Back to Patrick McCollum Take a few minutes to get caught up on the lawsuit and his own thoughts about it. Can't get too comfortable in festival land....we may be surrounded by hundreds of gorgeous Pagans at any one of these sites, but as a whole--we still have a long way to go.

So.....back to being public and making noise in a good way!

At Brushwood we raised a bunch of money for the Cornwall, NY SPCA during a Donkey Parade. Janet brought me a stuffed donkey as a birthday present, which she pinned to the front of my dress. We walked around the camp, drumming and shaking our change cups tell people they could "Kiss Courtney's Ass" for a dollar. $114 wracked up pretty quickly. See? We can still be freaky-deak Pagans and give to a good cause.

And if anyone should have found my brain up in Brushwood, please drop it off at my office, immediately. My co-workers thank you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Patrick McCollum Lawsuit

I'm running away to see my man in a few minutes and don't yet have the thought-streams to make an intelligible blog post. (Coven threw me a surprise birthday party last night and I'm still a little foggy. :) )

But you will want to read the ruling in the Patrick McCollum case. Stay informed. It's important for all of us.

xoxo

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Frustrating news, but this is how it rolls sometimes.

I'm pretty unhappy today. I've made the difficult choice to take a leave of absence from Seminary this coming academic year. I'd rather not be taking the year off. I'd rather be pushing my education forward, but after several conversations with the deans at the Seminary and my advisor, this is the best option for now. Everyone at both the Seminary and my place of employment (which is also a college) has been very kind and supportive but unfortunately, what we are each able to provide for each another does not match up right now.

The situation:When I applied to the school, it was with the understanding that I would be able to continue my full-time job, which provides tuition remission, while pursuing the degree. However, the Masters of Divinity track has a large canon of required core-classes to obtain the degree. The problem is that these classes are only offered during the 9-5 workday. My job provides tuition remission with the agreement that all classes be taken outside of the office hours of 9-5 (which is a fair policy, I do agree). The school is trying to change their scheduling to better accommodate working students, but this will not be happening within the next academic year. This past year, the majority of classes I was able to take were electives. If I continue this pattern, I will have spent two years in a program on nearly all electives and very few core classes. This makes me very nervous.

Several people have suggested solutions out of support. Believe me, the folks at Seminary and I have discussed each and every one of these sorts of solutions and they simply do not apply. I'm posting several below as I'll be traveling a lot this summer and probably answering the same questions. It's easier on me to simply post them here and direct people to the blog. :)

Can you change your work schedule? Perhaps make up the hours later?
No, I can't. My job requirements entail me being a point person in the office between the hours of 9 and 5.

Can you take vacation time? To do the classes one day a week or something?
No. I'm the Executive Assistant to a Dean. Being out of the office one day a week will not work as I need to be present as much as possible during the academic year.

Can't you take the courses at another school and transfer them to the school?
No. The Seminary has a strict policy that its core classes must be taken at the institution. Being in Higher Ed, I understand where they are coming from. Unfortunately, it makes my student-life much harder! :)

What about independent study? Or on-line courses?
Neither apply to these courses.

How many courses are you talking about? Is this really a big deal?
Roughly 6 courses--18 credits. Plus a field study component that I will have to work through, somehow! Yes. It's an issue.

What about going to school full time? Student loans? Scholarships?
Doing that track would put me at about 40,000 dollars in debt by graduation. I am not willing to take on debt in that amount for something that is not a mortgage. As for scholarships, they would have to be enormous and those are hard to come by. Costs of living in New York City plus heavy tuition pretty much equal poverty for the rest of your life if you go that route. I think it goes without saying that a Divinity degree would help my work as a Priestess--but I won't be walking into a paid clergy-role. :) Plus, I like my job and I'm treated well here. I will not be leaving it to go pursue full-time school.

Well....isn't there something they can work out for you?
Again, I've been in hours of conversations and the Seminary has investigated every option they currently have for my situation. The only real way this can work is if the core classes are offered in the evenings which is something they say they are working on--but it's not going to be available this coming year.

Will they be able to offer the classes the following year?
It's uncertain. I absolutely hope so, but again--I do not want to go through the stress and costs of another year of school without knowing if I will be able to finish my degree.

Have you thought about other programs?
I will be researching other options, but nothing is certain, yet.

Gee, that sucks.
Yes, it does.

Are you upset about it?
Yes, I am.

So, now what?
Not sure. Going to teach these workshops this summer, work on some writing projects, keep in conversations with the Seminary and also peek at other programs. It bothers me a lot to delay my education, but that's just how life rolls sometimes.

Seminary has been wonderful so far--both academically and through this situation. My job has also been very understanding and supportive as well. But they each can offer only what they can offer and being on both sides of Higher Ed, I understand the limitations. But without a guarantee that I can continue and finish, I'm not willing to compromise myself energetically and financially. It's really annoying--but sometimes you have to take a time out and wait for the right solution to present itself.

Meanwhile, I'll do better at keeping this blog up to date. :)

BBMF.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Free Readings!!!

Tonight, from 6-9 p.m., Eastern Time, I will be offering free Tarot readings on the new site Shindigtarot.com! Here's where you can find me! http:hthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giftp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif//shindigtarot.com/directory/coco_tarot

Also, this is the last day of the Tarot of the Boroughs sale. If you purchase a copy today, I will give you a free 15 minutes reading on the time and day of your choice!

So, come see me for free on Shindig today--purchase a deck and save that reading for a rainy day!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Resources for LGBTQ recipients of violence

If you are in the New York area and have been a recipient of violence (or have a community member who has been the recipient of violence), please check out the Anti-Violence Project. They provide advocacy for those wishing to report violent incidents to the police, as well as counseling.

Don't be silent. To be silent is to be complicit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weighing in on the Five Fold Kiss

Society of Diana posted a blog about her concerns over the Five Fold Kiss and its inherent sexism in its traditional text. She asked me to comment and I did! Here's what I wrote (you'll want to go to the link above to see the original discussion).

Our Coven uses the Five Fold Kiss when intending to draw a Deity's influence into a person. The kisses are used to focus Etheric energy into those regions to better connect the person to the Deity. I encourage my members to not stick to text, but develop their own with the intention of Deity connection. I actually did not learn the words of the Five-Fold Kiss to say, "Formed in beauty" or "Formed in Strength." I learned it as "Blessed be thy breasts that encase the powerful heart within," which is used on either a woman or man. I think it is a useful ritual tool, but like all ritual tools, if it not examined and is instead treated dogmatically, it could become archaic and in this case, understandably received as sexist.

I'll be teaching the Mechanics of the Five Fold Kiss at Laurelin in August and then at Harvest Gathering in September! Please join me! I am very excited to be teaching this class to the public!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Going bizerk...in the best way possible!!!!

I just saw THIS INCREDIBLE ARTICLE about a grey seal hanging out on the beach where I've been leaving offerings to Ochun and the Mother Hudson. (Those of you who remember my story about getting smacked for not leaving the Hudson an offering? This is where it happened.) Just recently, I did a spell for eco-consciousness on this same spot. And the seal arrived!!! I don't even know what to do with myself--except run down there and pick up trash so the seal is more comfortable.

MOTHER HUDSON IS COMING BACK TO LIFE!!!!! ASHE, ASHE, ASHE!!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Festivals this summer! Come hang with me!!!

We're still in the midst of Beltaine planning (Our crew's celebration is tomorrow!!!) and I'm trying to keep my head down and focused on my finals...but I can already hear drums and smell bonfires.

Here are a few places where I'll be teaching this summer! Please come and hang with me!!!

Brushwood Summerfest--Craftwise College!
July 18-24
In gorgeous upstate New York. I'll be teaching my (in)famous Tarot classes: "Voice of the Tarot" and "Burn the Fucking Book." I'll also be leading my "Ethics of Spellcraft" workshop at Craftwise. I'm soooooo stoked....because my friends and mentors Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone will also be leading their incredible workshops...and my dear friend and sister in Brid Bernadette Montana of Brid's Closet will be teaching at the festival, too!(Both Summerfest and Craftwise are at Brushwood the week of July 18th!)

Laurelin Sun, Moon and Sky Magick Lughnasadh Celebration
Bethel, Vermont
August 3-7
At my good friend Kirk White's gorgeous farm in northern Vermont. They EVEN HAVE A PAN GROVE AND A NATURAL SPRING!!! It's even more exciting for me as two of my Students/Covenmates are also teaching: Lisa Vazquez and Noelle V Dor. HPS BEAMING SUNSHINEY-RAINBOW-SPARKLY UNICORNS OF PRIDE!!!!

And then....at the end of August....returning to my hometown of Portland, OR to show them all the cool things I learned while in the far East!

DeForest House
Portland, OR.
Thursday, August 18, 7-9:30
These kind souls endured my renditions of Lady Gaga and AC/DC at their New Year's Eve drum circle...now, they're kind enough to let me teach "Burn the Fucking Book!" and show off Tarot of the Boroughs!

***Vancouver, WA date in the works...will have more information soon!!!***

Sacred Mists Store
Napa, CA (The live, in-person store!)
August 24 and 25
Wonderful opportunity. :) I will be the first presenter this little gem of a store has had, in person! Many of you are familiar with Sacred Mists's Online College--but just this past August, they opened their doors as a store with doors and a roof and stuff inside! I will be teaching "Voice of the Tarot" and an introductory Wiccan Ritual workshop. I'll also be doing readings! Thank you, Lorien, for giving me this fantastic opportunity!

BAY AREA TAROT SYMPOSIUM!!!
San Francisco!!! California!!!
August 27-28
The last time I went to San Fran, I was with a Catholic School choir tour led by a bunch of nuns. I totally had a good time. We went to Six Flags and everything. But I think I'm going to have just as much fun as a 30 year old (yipes!)Witch and Tarot freak running around with a bunch of other Witches and Tarot freaks. I'll be presenting a talk on Tarot of the Boroughs. Maybe I'll even do Power Point! Yay!!!

If you are on the Left Coast and interested in coming to hang with me at any of these events, please register at the above links or email the stores if registration is not yet available. As registration does become available, I will update this blog. I never miss a chance to self promote--if you haven't noticed.

YAY!!! IT'S FIVE O'CLOCK!!! GOING HOME TO BE GOOD AND WORK ON A PAPER SO I CAN HAVE ALL THE FUN IN THE WORLD TOMORROW AT BELTAINE!!!!!! :D :D :D :D

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sorrow, forgiveness and healing--plus Tarot.

Well, FIRST Tarot.

I'm still coming back to Earth after a world-turning weekend at the Reader's Studio. A swift lesson that I've been trying to avoid for months--even if you study Theology, even if you run a group, it is NOT a substitute for doing your own self-work. So now, armed with more things to reflect upon and investigate, I wade through the Beltaine tides (which have led to some very embarrassing Freudian "slips" at work...) and embrace the brightest part of the year in hopes that it will shine its light on the places in my soul that need illumination.

The Death of Bin Laden
This epic conclusion to the nearly mythic search for Bin Laden has shaken up painful memories for many from the tragic September day. The news broadcast cheering the streets of New York (I was asleep on my couch, processing my weekend), but much of it was mixed with tears. Facebook (stupid Facebook...) exploded with conspiracy theories, arguments as to whose victory it "really was," joy, anger, attempts at peace.

Revenge, for lack of a better term, is a complicated state. We fantasize about seeking revenge on those who have harmed us. Some of us may even receive the opportunity to reap what we consider revenge. But revenge is a shallow victory. It can feed the ego, but it leaves the soul in an extended feeling of hunger and want. During our trials of suffering at the hands of others, our souls are promised healing once revenge has been completed or "justice served." But when those moments come, the satisfaction is fleeting. Revenge does not undo the suffering we've undergone. It does not replace what was lost. Bin Laden's death may be providing closure for those who lost family and friends in 9/11--but it does not bring those lost back to life. Nor does it re-write the past ten years as glorious ones, filled with laughter and light instead of grief and pain. The soul is still left suffering after the revenge is complete, without the promise of an end in sight.

So what is the other option? Forgiveness? As a young Christian, I would grit my teeth and do my best to forgive the bullies that taunted me at school. Sometimes, I would succeed in doing so, only to be bullied again. I would "turn the other cheek" so friggin' often and simply allow the bullying to continue because in my young mind, it was the "good, Christian thing to do." Yet, there were also times both in my childhood and adult life, when someone who had done me wrong came forward with a heartfelt apology and I forgave them. And there have been individuals who harmed me in my past who never did apologize, and yet in hindsight I was able to forgive them. I am very thankful for those who have forgiven me when I've done stupid-ass things. The gift of forgiveness is peace in one's own soul. We no longer have to carry hot and self-poisonous grudges and perhaps we can even start anew in our own journeys with the people that either we've hurt or that have hurt us.

But the problem with forgiveness is the assumption that it's always necessary or always good. Can any of us really ask a woman who has been brutally raped to forgive her attackers? Or, back to the subject at hand, will it really serve anyone who suffered a loss in 9/11 any good to forgive Bin Laden for plotting the monstrous attacks? Would we be encouraging healing or the suppression of one's own pain? It is not fair to comfort one by saying it's part of their journey to experience that pain, or promise them that it will make them stronger. It minimizes and trivializes their experience.

When it seems impossible to forgive a person, group or situation who has harmed us, the only tool we can embrace is acceptance. We accept that a pain occurred. We also have to eventually accept that there may never be an answer to why something painful happened to us or those we love. Accepting does not mean condoning. Accepting also does not mean forgetting. But accepting that a pain happened may allow us to move forward and stop existing in the "Why did this happen? Why would this happen to me???" We accept that we will not know the answers, but we also accept the reality that our pain can be temporary, if we allow it to be.

My heart goes out to those who suffered directly or indirectly due to the attacks of 9/11. I am not excited about Bin Laden's death, as I do not believe his death will truly alleviate the suffering of the present. But nor do I mourn his death. Yes, he was a person--but he was a person who caused severe suffering and perhaps I am not compassionate enough to mourn the loss of a person who committed those acts. But what I do feel is hope that a benefit of this situation is the closure for those who suffered because of it, and hope that it moves forward the healing process. I hope those who lost are not pushing themselves to forgive Bin Laden, if they feel they cannot. But I do hope that all who suffered can reach a place of acceptance.

Peace, blessings and healing to all in this Light time of the year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AWESOME WEEKEND COMING UP!!!!!

If you're in the NYC area this weekend, I will be at the Reader's Studio at the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel! (Sorry, bitches...it's sold out! Hope you have your tickets already!) Tarot of the Boroughs will be for sale!!! (That is not sold out...you can order online!!!)

Also, Jorge will be at Brid's Closet Beltaine up in Cornwall, NY. He'll also have TofB for sale!

And to shamelessly promote another friend, Tarot reader Hilary Parry will be making her Reader's Studio debut! Hilary has been featured on Theresa Reed's Tarot Apprentice competition and I sincerely expect Hilary to win the hell out of that competition.

If you're there, come say hi to me and Hilary! If you're at Brid's Closet Beltaine, go say hi to Jorge!!! He'll be teaching Archetypes in Astrology!!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Youtube, Inspiration and Diatribe

(But not in that order)

DIATRIBE!!!!
I'm so excited for Beltaine, I'm tapdancing under my desk all day and skipping back and forth to the subway. In the nature of the Broom-Jumping, Handfasting Holiday I'm encouraging all ye Beltaine-Ritual-Planners out there to remember our brothers and sisters who are legally barred from Handfasting/Marrying the people they love. Consider including Marriage Equality in your Beltaine intentions. Our crew is dedicating our entire Beltaine Sabbat to raise energy to move forward Marriage Equality in New York State. We hope other communities will join us in sending energy to this very important endeavor!

INSPIRATION!!!
I had the privilege of hearing Sister Iesha speak, this past Tuesday night. I strongly encourage everyone to go to the link and read about her and the work she is doing with NYC youth.

FRIDAY YOUTUBE!!!
Both of these videos are very tongue in cheek. Please enjoy them for their message, and please do not be too sensitive about individual things they pick on. There are many fine leaders who use the title of Lady or Lord (I prefer "Broad" myself), and wonderful, empowering traditions that require Eldership before Leadership. These videos poke fun at abusive groups and leaders that are not fine, wonderful or empowering.

Bad Pagan Leadership: Joining a Coven

Bad Pagan Leadership: Pagan Unity Council

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ritual Etiquette. :)

It's almost Beltaine and Festival Season is upon us! This is the time of year when a plethora of Open Circles beckon. Open Circles are a fantastic way to meet and learn from other people. BUT....there are a couple of things to remember! Take a peek and keep 'em in mind!!!

When attending Circle, please avoid the following:

Texting the Priest/ess ten minutes before the event asking for directions or to say you're three blocks away.
If they even have their phone on (I usually hand my phone off to someone else just prior to a ritual) their thoughts are on getting the event going. Getting last minute texts eats away at the focus the Priest/ess needs for the ritual. Not fair to them or the other people at the event!
Instead: Print out the directions as soon as they hit your inbox and put them in your cloak/gown/other pocket, immediately. Or, have the phone number on hand of someone else who will be there and call them, instead.

Pulling aside the Priest/ess to ask for a detailed description of what will be happening at the ritual e.g., "What exactly will we be doing tonight?" "Why didn't you tell me you were invoking this Deity?" If the Priest/ess didn't include this information in the invite, he or she will most likely explain things before Casting.
Instead Take time to read the invites carefully before showing up. If you still have questions, ask another ritual leader or simply wait for the Priest/ess to give the low-down. Don't demand personal attention from the Priest/ess moments prior to the ritual beginning.

Invoking other Beings or Quarters by different names or in different locations because you're used to doing it a different way. The Priest/ess or Ritual team chose the Deities or Quarter locations for a reason. You're messing up the flow by throwing in something else, energetically. Go with the flow.
Instead Wait until the Ritual has concluded and ask to the Priest/ess or a Ritual leader about the reasoning behind their choices. Even better, wait a few days and EMAIL THEM about it.

Lighting anything that smokes e.g., tobacco, incense, etc. It's safe to assume that all indoor spaces are non-smoking, particularly if it is a public or rented venue. Instead Ask a ritual leader AHEAD of time (not during the ritual) if lighting a smoking something is okay, but go ahead and assume that an indoor space means no smoking materials.

Bringing people who are going to freak out. Maybe it'll be hilarious to you to drag your stuffy roommate to a candlelit-chant-filled-drum-pounding gathering where people become possessed and/or break down in ecstatic hysterics. But your roommate will not find it funny. And the ritual leaders SURE AS HELL won't find it funny when they see the person cowering in the corner. Instead Bring along people who ask to come and do your best to let them know what kind of situation they'll be walking into. It's also polite to notify the organizers if someone is coming who is new to the Craft or rituals in general. Good ritual leaders want everyone to feel at home and will take special care to make sure a new person feels as such.

Chatting during ritual or while Priest/ess or Ritual Leader is talking to the crowd. Even if it's about Magick. Even if it's with someone whom you haven't seen since your last lifetime. No matter how quiet you think you are, you are distracting the leader and those around you.
Instead Whisper to the person, "Let's talk later" and find them after the ritual for a chat over cheese and hummus. If what you need to talk about is really that important, it'll still be important after ritual.

Bossing people around about food, freaking out about food, etc.
Showing up as a guest with a spoon marked, "VEGAN ONLY!!!" and policing it like a Secret Service Agent will make everyone around you unhappy. If you are a vegetarian or have a food intolerance and dig your tortilla chip into a nondescript dip without checking to see if your taboo food items are in there, don't bitch people out when you find the forbidden food on your tongue.
Instead Be flexible about food when sharing a meal. Yes, it's always best if people label the ingredients of a dish--particularly if it contains meat, dairy or foods with common allergens, like nuts or honey. But if you are the person with those restrictions, do ask around before diving in, if you're not sure. And yes, maybe someone used your Vegan Only spoon to dish Mac n' Cheez. If you're not going to chain the spoon to your wrist, quietly wash it and let it go.

Commenting on a logistical problem: "Gee! This walk is a lot farther than you said it would be!" "Man, maybe you should have gotten a bigger space?" "Wow...those directions were crap. Next time, a better landmark?" REST. A. SSURED. If there is a logistical problem, the ritual leader is as aware of it as he or she is the desire to strangle you for bringing it up--three minutes before ritual begins.
Instead Smile and say nothing. If you attend several rituals that continually pose the same logistical problem, email the Priest/ess at a later date with a suggested alternative. If you don't have a suggested alternative...continue to smile and say nothing.

Leaving without offering to help clean up.
So rude.
Instead: Offer to help clean up.

Oh! And if you're leading ritual....avoid the following!!!

Changing the way the Circle is being cast--in the middle of the Circle Casting. Even if an Ancient Muse came along and kicked you in the head, it's not a good idea to scream out, "I HAVE AN IDEA!!!" You've just fucked the flow for the rest of your Ritual leaders.
Instead Put that Ancient Muse on the back burner and as soon as ritual is over, scribble it in your Book of Shadows. Mention it next time, for the NEXT ritual, during the planning stages. (This one came courtesy of Tamrha.)

Arguing about the ritual--when the ritual is about to begin and guests are present.
All ritual leaders should ask each other questions regarding the ritual before the actual ritual, and any disagreements should be figured out before the community arrives and not in front of them. It unnerves the guests and undermines the energy the group is trying to cultivate.
Instead If something is unresolved before the ritual starts, hold onto that thought and discuss it at a later date before the next ritual. (This one also came courtesy of Tamrha!)

Interrupting the Priest/ess while they are talking or invoking about something they forgot to say/do. Probably the quickest way to never be asked to help lead ritual again. Don't do it. Unless you notice the space is on fire or that someone needs medical attention. Then, you should interrupt.
Instead Mention it later. If you simply cannot wait until later, whisper it in the ear of the Priest/ess when they're not the center focus of the ritual. But better to wait until afterward.

Leaving without helping to clean up.
Please see above!

Friday, April 15, 2011

INQUISITION!!!! Things you may not know....(And guess what? It's still happening!)

I wrote a paper about the Inquisition! Ten pages, but should have been 10,000. There's a lot of nasty shit to write about! Here are a few things most people probably don't know about the Inquisition (the period of European history between roughly 1300 and just past 1600 where you got arrested for being different than the Church and if you were lucky, had the option of repenting your "wickedness" and then you wouldn't get burned or flayed alive. But, not everyone had that option.)

NASTY FACTS ABOUT THIS NASTY TIME!!!
* More people were killed for being Jewish than for being Witches. Far more. The Jewish people were the most negatively impacted group during this period.
* As many Protestants were killed for being Protestants than for being Witches. In fact, many people accused of being Witches were actually just being Protestants.
* Many of the people accused of Witchcraft most likely suffered from senility, dementia or epilepsy. But many people back then didn't know what those things were and just took poor old grannies to the stake because clearly, inane babbling equaled a very dangerous Witch.
* One of the Church's main beefs with Witchcraft was that in many areas of Europe, laity were more likely to consult local soothsayers than take the Church sacraments. This the Church found irritating and sent the Inquisitors after these folks.
* Mortality rates were high and people were afraid of everything. A new person comes to town? Coincides with a spike in disease? Clearly, that person is a Witch who caused everyone to get rancid boils and fever. Burn 'em.
* Most people of the Inquisition era were not aware that it was happening.

I've been a big skeptic about the "Burning Times" for awhile. After writing that paper, I am still confident that the people killed during the Inquisition were not getting together over an bottle of mead and chanting "Isis, Astarte..." I do not believe it is accurate or productive for contemporary Pagans to claim the Inquisition as our own Holocaust. Yes, there were people accused of Witchcraft who were arrested, convicted and tortured. But no, it was not an all-out attack on folk Paganism and folk Paganism alone. The Inquisition was actually a systematized, violent suppression system against anyone who did not conform to the Catholic Church's authority: this extended to Protestants, Muslims, Jews and other radical fringe Christian groups. Those accused of or arrested for Witchcraft may have been Goddess worshipers, but were more likely to be persecuted just for being different enough to annoy the Church without quite conforming to the other labels. Maybe they also had psychic gifts that scared the crap out of local priests. But these people were in all likelihood not embracing the same Pagan practices we now enjoy. So, it's counter-productive to go around waving the Burning Times flag.

However. The Inquisition should still scare us. It's still happening only this time, it might just be including "Isis, Astarte" chanting Pagans along with all the others.

I am lucky. I can wear my pentacle out in New York City and very rarely do I ever get shit for it. I live in an area where it is safe to be an out Wiccan but as well all know, there are a lot of areas where that's not the case. Unfortunately, I'm starting to believe that it's becoming even less safe. We may be heading into a phase where things are going to get even scarier. While the Catholic Church may not be officially in charge of everything we serfs do, the ubiquitous, multi-denominational "Church" has gotten a lot louder, a lot rowdier, and a lot more intent on ridding our world of other mainstream religions, along with LGBTQ and yes, Witches:

Hey, look! Churchy-Church people ridding the world of Witches!!!

(I'd like to point out that these freaks are "exorcising" Witchcraft using..erm...Witchcraft techniques: standing in a Circle, chanting, raising energy, oy...)

These people met at Harvard over the first weekend in April. No, it wasn't an April Fool's joke, but it sounded like one. I'd like to laugh and say to not be scared, but really? It only takes one or a few nuts to get really hooked into this mentality and people could be subject to true, physical danger. The fact that these people got their conference at Harvard says they either a.) have influence b.) have lots of money or c.) have both. All three options SHOULD be scary. One thing I learned from writing a paper on Inquisitional Heresy is that what the Church (or its radical affiliates...I by no means hold the average Christian accountable for these individuals) deems heretical is but a reflection of a present, societal fear. It's like the NY adage: if you see one cockroach, there are 12 more hiding in the walls. I encourage us not to give into fear, but to start becoming aware and continue to work on educating the general public to the best of our abilities. I don't want to open the Times one morning and see that something happened in the US that happened in Kenya as well as other places in Africa:

"Witch" Burnings in Kenya (Please note, this is a very graphic video.)

Let's all also keep in mind that the vast majority of Christians are not out to burn and flay people. The people involved in this kind of horseshit are radical and unbalanced people, caught up in a fear-based campaign that happens to aligning itself under the label of the Christian religion. Yet, this kind of freaked-out mindset is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

Trickle down effect! Here's one way the radical nuts are coming after our young ones. Here's another.

So what do we do???


Here are a few ideas you are free to ignore, but I encourage you to consider:

Don't point fingers, as in blaming the decent Christian guy next door who has always been nice to you for the crap pulled by these fuckers. Blame the action. Blame the mentality. Blame the individuals involved. Don't blame the religion and its affiliates.

Do be an out Pagan, if you are in a part of the country where it is safe to be one. Be a good neighbor, a good co-worker. Buy the Girlscout cookies and wear the Pentacle while you do it. Make a good impression on the person next to you, and maybe they'll take in of their own accord to educate their ignorant relatives at Thanksgiving about the Nice Pagan Lady at the office or on the block.

Don't be weird and secretive. Hiding your practices and acting shady when people ask you questions makes you think you have reason to hide what you do. Of course, keep personal matters of your group private, but be open to answering questions about your practices. Maybe they'll still think you're weird. But at least they won't think you drink blood of virgin kittens or some shit like that.

Do invite people of other faiths to your open gatherings. Help make them feel at home. Explain what's going on and do your best to show them a good time. There's a good chance they'll go back to their own communities or congregations and say, "Hey! Pagans are nice and throw a good party!"

Don't use social networking sites or blogs to announce your plans to curse the idiot who pissed you off in gym class. You sound like an idiot and you don't scare anyone. What you have succeeded in doing is in making the rest of us look bad.

Do use social networking and blogs to talk about your spiritual beliefs and your community building endeavors. Particularly if you are in an area where it isn't safe to be an open Pagan, this is a great way to help educate others in a safe format.

Don't alienate yourself either within your own Pagan community, or even just within your own self. Find friends and build bridges with other communities who share the same goals that you have.

Do be aware of religious persecution, but don't be paranoid. It ruins your own life. As my mom likes to say, "Don't give out free rent in your head."

And....happy Full Moon! Enjoy this beautiful weekend!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

TONIGHT!!!

Jorge and I are going to be on Beyond the Worlds! Listen to us!!! Should have blogged this sooner. Tweeted and FB'd it, but didn't blog it! Oy!

LISTEN HERE! 7 P.M. EASTERN (USA) TIME!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy (late) Ostara! Plant THESE seeds where it counts...

With the global explosions bookending the Spring Equinox this year, my phone and inbox blew up with the same question, “Some of these people aren’t going to wake up. So what do we do???” Our world is at war. In the United States, our people are growing broke from debt and unemployment. Food and water shortages are abounding, globally. We can barely finish fundraising for the relief fund of one natural disaster before another one springs up. Talking and blogging isn’t fixing the problem. Wait. I’m blogging. But I’m on the bus and don’t have a crew of NGOs at my disposal, so it will have to do for now.

Just before Ostara, I attended a function with two of my Covenmates called “Haiti: One year later”. It focused on the state of Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and included panelists and speakers who had several ideas about what small faith communities could do to help Haiti rebuild. But the question I had for the panelists was this: “How can small, grass-roots groups with no money or humanitarian supplies laying around their studio apartments help Haiti rebuild?”

The answer I received from several panelists was, “Never underestimate the power of prayer and money.”

A doctor who was himself from Haiti spoke and said, “Come to Haiti. Visit us. Bring your tourism. When our industries get back on their feet, we will have jobs. If you come and see us, businesses will once again flourish.”

I looked at my friends. The wheels were turning in their heads as well. We want to go to Haiti.

After the function, I approached a different speaker who himself ran rebuilding “mission” trips to Haiti. His was a Christian organization, but if we all had the same goal, perhaps something could work. When I asked him about the logistics of bringing a small team to Haiti to rebuild, I also clarified for him that we were not a small church group, but a Wiccan Coven.

He smiled awkwardly. “Um….not a good fit.”

He did add, though, that we were welcome to donate money to his cause.

I took a compassion break in the other room. With the help of a glass of wine, I reflected on a kind approach to the exchange. The Haitian people weren’t at fault for this dude’s rudeness. Plus, there’s always the chance that I simply didn’t understand what he said. Miscommunication is responsible for so many of the personal problems most of us face. I returned to the table and asked why, specifically, he didn’t think it would be a good fit.

“Much of our work is distributing Bibles,” he said. I agreed. That would not be in our interests. “But we do sometimes take non-religious rebuilding teams to go down and work on projects.”

“That would be a better fit,” I said. “I will be in touch.”

(This reminds me that I need to contact that guy. I also want to mention a conversation that happened at Ostara, when I recounted this story to a Covenmate who is himself a Christian—a true Poly-Theist, having many Pantheons that he loves—and his response was, “So when did Bibles become edible? It seems to me that if they’re distributing what people need, it would stand to reason that they would distribute edible Bibles, right? That onion paper would probably be tasty….”)

So, is my crew going to Haiti? I don’t know, but it would be awesome! If Paganism wants respect, it needs to gain it by contributing on a local and global level on par with other mainstream religions. Church groups have gone down to Haiti en masse to help rebuild. Why haven’t Pagans? I'm sure it's happened, but it hasn't made the news if so. Or maybe it hasn't happened at all. The main reason that I see is not a lack of compassion or desire to help, but mainly a lack of resources and infrastructure. For better or worse, mainstream religions have institutions with money who are able to fund and organize humanitarian efforts in a way that Paganism simply has not yet put into place. We’re getting there. Just this past week, Circle Sanctuary raised over $30,000 for Doctors Without Borders Japan Relief. This is one of the largest Pagan fundraising initiatives to date. I’m proud to say that the Novices of the Old Ways contributed $200 toward this event. Not bad, considering we didn’t have a public Ostara this year!

So why Haiti? Why not Haiti? They’re as close as Puerto Rico. We’ll have to get a bunch of money, find a host organization who can show us where we’re needed and what do to. But why Haiti, when there is so much around here in New York that needs attention? By doing this, are we really helping a community or just trying to make ourselves look good in the eyes of other mainstream religions? Is this the best use of our resources? In my neighborhood, I am surrounded by families on food stamps at the grocery store, teenage mothers on the street and drug dealers on the corner. Kids, and adults, who don’t often understand the ecological problem we’re facing, over-utilize plastic bags and leave litter on the sidewalk, which inevitably ends up in the rivers. Does my own contribution really belong in a different country? There seem to be a lot of problems right outside my door.

Plus, are we really going to make it all the way to Haiti? I don’t know. We’re a Coven of 23 members, many of whom are having a hard time paying their own bills and finding work. Are we even in the position to help others? Again, I don’t know. But the will is there, even if the resources immediately aren’t always apparent. We managed to dig up $200 in one gathering for our friends in Japan. What else might we be able to do given more time and planning?

Then again, it might be just what we need to do.

Just like the panelists said, do not underestimate the power of prayer/energy and money. Take a look at what Circle Sanctuary pulled off in barely a week’s time with a few simple Facebook-link posts that quickly went viral. Whether you are solitary or with a coven, grove, etc….maybe it’s time to shake out the proverbial couch cushions for what resources you have to spare—whether they are financial, spiritual or of physical labor. There are ways in which we can all contribute, even in our smallest forms.

From one tiny grass-roots org, here’s what has worked for us so far:

* Passing the hat. It's not a good idea to press people or guilt them into giving. So many folks are broke right now--for American standards. But do let people know that every dollar helps.

* Bake sales. They're super fun.

* PARTIES. They're even more fun. Ask everyone to bring a dish, and some booze. You surely have a mess of Tarot or Rune readers in your crew. You may even have musicians or performers. The Pagan community is rife with highly talented people. Just ask. If they're available, most people are happy to contribute their talents for a good cause.

* Reach out to other groups and communities with like minded goals. We gather strength when we work in packs.

* Blog. Hey, look! That's what I'm doing!

* Use your Sabbats as an opportunity to discuss important issues in the community and around the world. Many of the biggest social movements in history began in spiritual gatherings.

* Make public service or volunteer work a mandatory part of initiation. Ask my Votaries. They've got a shit-ton of stuff to do....

* Expect that your assistance may not always be welcome. It may be because you're Pagan--it may be because the organization or project is already overwhelmed. Do your best not to take anything personally. Contemplation breaks like the one I had to take with the "Not a good fit...." guy are essential. If someone does appear to slight you, give them the benefit of the doubt and don't be afraid to ask for clarification. "Is there a reason why we wouldn't be a good fit for you all?" "Is there any other way we might be able to help?"

* Start small. Celebrate little victories. Maybe your crew alone won't be able to eliminate all plastic garbage from the ocean, but maybe you can help get your community to cut their plastic use in half. Maybe you can start with your crew. Setting personal challenges to make each of yourselves better and more engaged citizens of the planet is as essential as solving all other problems of the world.

* Share what you're doing. The Goddess invented Facebook for a reason (no matter what the movie says). Your work will inspire other work. Get on it and get loud about it.

* Lastly, pick something you are passionate about and find joy in doing. If the words of the Goddess say, "All act of love and joy are sacred to Me" (or something like that) then know your social contribution will have even more Divine value when it is done in that way.

* Pray. Meditate. Ask for guidance. Let the Gods know you want to help and ask Them to show you how you can.

Love your weekend!

xoxo
C

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Plastic stuff....

Eventually, I'm sure I'll write about the Craft and Seminary again, but this is just too interesting!!!

University of Rochester Introduces Cap and Gown Made of Recycled Plastic Bottles

University of Rochester students graduating this May will be dressed in plastic bottles, but you probably won't notice. The caps and gowns that bachelor's and master's degree candidates will be wearing are made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

The fabric used to make these gowns is spun from molten plastic pellets. It takes an average of 23 bottles to make each gown. That means that with more than 1,500 gowns sold at the University's bookstores each graduation season, 34,500 bottles will be repurposed to create the regalia.

This shift to the environmentally friendly regalia was a joint decision made by the conference and events office and the bookstores.

"We feel these gowns fit in with the University's 'green' mission," said Erica Strawbridge, conference coordinator for conference and events. "We think the students will appreciate this change."

"We consistently hear from students that they prefer eco-friendly products. We're very excited to be introducing these gowns," said Maria Ferrante, general manager of the bookstores. "Not only are they better for the environment, but the fabric actually feels softer and more comfortable than what we've used for previous commencement ceremonies."

Other features of the regalia include:

* Size labels stamped with soy ink.
* The plastic bags used to store the caps and gowns are made from recycled plastic.
* The shipping cartons are produced from recycled cardboard.
* If students don't want to keep their gowns after commencement, they can drop them off at the bookstore to be recycled into new fabric.
* They are softer to the touch and more breathable than traditional polyester fabric.

The gowns are made by Oak Hall Cap & Gown and are virtually indistinguishable in color and fit from the traditional polyester material. They will be available for purchase at the campus bookstores from March 25th through commencement.

Friday, March 18, 2011

New thoughts about plastic

Never thought of plastic's inception as being a part of a solution to an environmental problem.....I like what this person has to say about plastic's good intentions, its current problems and a potential for it in the future.

Plastic--Too Good to Throw Away

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan Relief Fund

For those of you looking for places to donate to help Japan, please read below! Great chance to help Japan and support the endeavors of Pagans working for a better world.

From Circle Times:

Circle Sanctuary ministers Selena Fox and Patrick McCollum, along with Pagans from many paths, groups, and places are among those donating to Doctors without Borders through a Pagan Community First Giving donation site.

Doctors without Borders is among the international charities doing relief in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake, aftershocks, tsunami, and nuclear emergencies. The donation site is facilitated by Peter Dybing, who was among the Pagans doing relief work in Haiti that Circle Sanctuary supported.

Website HERE!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't get distracted (or too depressed)....

...but let's not forget the problems in our own country as well.

Remember the oil spill from last summer?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh, yeah. Atlantis called, too. Might wanna answer that.

Yesterday, we were deep into the Soul Sharing portion of our Coven gathering when the phone rang (shrill, old-school land line) and interrupted the person who was speaking. The person stood up, walked over the ringing phone, lifted and set it back down again without finding out who it was. We all giggled because it was a funny chain of events. We continued our Soul Sharing portion as if the call never came.

When we finished the sharing portion, I asked the person if maybe they thought there was a purpose for that call. The person had just been sharing something they were perplexed by and couldn't figure out. To ignore a call may have meant they had the message they sought all along. They just needed to listen to it.

Then, I realized, that was probably a call for all of us.

There is a story of a person who holes up in their house alone, looking for truth. One day, Truth comes knocking. "Go away!" says the person. "I'm looking for Truth!" So, Truth leaves.

The nonstop calamities have inspired countless bloggers, columnists and FBers to scream at the top of their caps buttons: "WAKE UP!!! WE NEED TO WAKE UP!!!! COME ON!!! WAKE UP!!!!" I think we're already awake. Many of us are, anyway. We know we're in deep shit. The planet is fighting back: a major oil spill, coal mine explosions, tornadoes, earthquakes, Tsunamis and now a nuclear melt-down. Governments are tightening their powers of groups of people long-oppressed and fighting back, which leads to more oppression and therefore, even more conflict and bloodshed. Running around shouting "WAKE UP!" is like continuing to pound on the doors of stubbornly sleeping neighbors while the flames are racing up the stairway. Time to stop shouting and time to get a bucket and join the other people who are working to put the flames out. (Please note: Don't actually do this if your home is really on fire. Get the fuck out and call 911.)

So, what now? What do we do?

Oh, shit, you know what? I have no clue. But I've got a couple of things I'm going to try.

First of all, stop being mad at the "them." Christians, Republicans, Democrats, Big Business, America, Martians, Your Mom: Whoever your "they" is, just stop blaming them. There isn't a single person reading this who hasn't drank out of plastic bottle, bought gasoline or used electricity from a power plant that pollutes at least once in your life. You are part of "them," too. How are you going to be less of a "them"?

On a practical level, I am beginning by not drinking my beloved seltzer out of plastic bottles. In fact, I'm not buying drinks that come out of individual plastic bottles at all. There is a water cooler with recycled paper cups at my job. Someone needs to buy me a seltzer making machine for my birthday so I can have it at home. I'll be happier and nicer, I promise. No, it's not stopping the flow of radiation from the Japanese reactors. But it's keeping just a little more plastic from ending up in those nasty-ass oceanic garbage patches.

And speaking of nicer, I'm focusing on being just that. Kinder, more patient, more compassionate. The world is painful enough right now without having one more impatient bitch on the subway. Maybe I'll end up being kind to a brilliant young eco-science major who finds that the world is still worth living and develops a method of solar energy that is so insatiably powerful and lucrative that the general public can't resist it. It's worth a shot, anyway.

And finally, I'm asking for higher power help in a place that I normally furrowed my brow at. For years, I've been skeptic of the concept of Atlantis. I didn't believe in land that once had mystical, flying crystals and hunky centaurs that vanished from the world and now yearns to contact others. Last summer, I attended a Dolores Ashcroft workshop on Atlantian theory. I did not go away believing in the different "races" of creatures that once inhabited the lands. I did not have the same visions of specific technological marvels that are impossible even today that many other attendees had. But what I did walk away with was the possibility that there may have been a society that was quite advanced for its time (even if not comparatively advanced for our time) that succumbed to a natural disaster and vanished from history. That I do believe is possible. And if it's possible for the spirits of that vanished nation to contact the world we currently live, I could believe that perhaps They might be interested in doing that, now. They may see parallels to their own world they'd like to help us avoid.

Funny that at about the same time these horrific natural and manmade disasters are springing up all over the world, Atlantis may have returned.

I am taking a step into formally skeptical territory. I am reaching out to the Spirits whose existence I previously doubted. I am asking for the Spirits of that lost land known as Atlantis to help us, if They can. What can we do to save our world and save ourselves? We are listening.

And what are YOU going to do?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Review of Tarot of the Boroughs

Thank you to Theresa Reed, aka The Tarot Lady! Review is up!!!

More of Theresa's work can be found here and on Twitter at @thetarotlady.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

For those of you looking for ways to get shit done.

More ways to get involved and SAVE THE WORLD!!!

Thinking (and acting) globally!!!

Acting (and thinking) locally!!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Where to go for Astrology...

I always talk to George. Now, EVERYONE can talk to George!

George Courtney of Tarot of the Boroughs has just started an Astrology blog. It's probably the greatest thing to ever happen to humanity.

I suggest you go read it, here....now.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

LISTEN TO ME...AGAIN!!!!!

I'll be on Beyond Worlds Tarot blogshow tonight at 7 p.m., Eastern Time. We'll be discussing the Strength and the Hermit cards. Listen to me so I feel important!!!!

xoxo
C

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pursuing Higher Education

Lately, I've heard more Pagan leaders talk about furthering their education and often looking to seminaries. I can't recommend it enough. The fact that there is a sudden spike in interest indicates that we do have work to be done and further education will be a necessity.

If you are a Pagan and are considering Seminary, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. Here are just a few of the things I did not expect:

* The Generosity of my Professors and Classmates
When I told members of the community that I was going into the Seminary, many asked how I would "spin" or "cloak" things, in regards to being Wiccan. I did not spin or cloak anything. They would either take me as a loud and crazy Witch, or not take me at all. They took me. :) And it's been great! Many of my professors have said they'd heard about Wicca but had never met a Wiccan. All of my classmates who have asked about my background have been curious for information.

* The progressive attitudes of the Christians that surround me.
Gay rights, women's rights, environmental activism, social justice, poverty initiatives--these people are WORKING for change in all of the areas that are important to me and to the vast majority of Pagans that I know.

* Pagans for the most part are doing pretty well.

When I applied to Union, I went in begging for tools to help my community. But the more time I've spent in the school and the more stories I've heard about my classmates' congregations and backgrounds, we're actually doing pretty well! The focus on the growth of the individual is something many mainstream traditions have either lost or never had in the first place. Even in our most dogmatic traditions, the focus is generally on the individual's personal progress and development. While I still think we have quite a bit of room to grow in a community outreach sense, we have a core of developing empowerment on a base level that many mainstream ministers long to be able to impart. Yay for us!!! Also, our "laity" (as my classmates would call it) are generally better read and educated than the average layperson of a mainstream faith. Pagans read. They read about their rituals, their myths, their religion's history and they generally understand their own ritual components and processes far better than their mainstream counterparts. Serious "yay" for us. :)

* Meeting former (and burned...) Pagans
It was a sad day for me to discover that we have "refugees" of our own. I was jokingly talking about "Bitchcraft" (the nasty habit Witches have of personally decimating each other) with a classmate of mine, having no idea of her background. She smiled and shook her head and said, "That's why I'm no longer Pagan." It's a real shame that we lost her. She's a very cool person.

* Testing my Coven's patience
...with my fatigue and absent mindedness. They have been unceasingly supportive of this insane thing I'm trying to do. It's hard for me to not be as available for them as I was before the program started. I want to do my ultimate best at everything--especially leading a Coven. I just am not able to devote as much brain space to anything as I did a few months ago. It takes me longer to respond to emails and phone calls and I can't plan as far ahead for our curriculum as I'd like. I'm learning to accept my limitations, which is a bitter lesson to accept.

* Missing my social life.
A few years ago, I was out at every show on the Lower East Side, every night. I thought I was ready to leave that behind for a time and dig into the books. Guess what? I miss it. A LOT!!!!! It's worth it, but I do miss the cool shit I used to do.

* The Fatigue
I wonder if I'll ever be not-tired again. Even when I'm well-rested, I'm exhausted by 9:00 p.m. On Mondays, when I work 8-4 and then have class from 4:10-8:30, there is no hope for me to do anything but stare at the wall.

* How much I'd love writing papers
I LOVE writing papers. But exams still scare me.

* Not playing guitar.
I was just starting to get back into it. Now it just sits there at the foot of my bed. When I'm done with homework, all I have the energy to do is stare at the wall. (Please see above).

* MISSING FESTIVALS!!!!
Between the Tarot deck and the classes I've developed, things were just starting to roll in regards to teaching at festivals!!! Now, I'm finding myself saying no to all the things I used to jump all over. If I've turned down a chance to lecture at your store or festival...know that it's killing me!!! How I crave the drums, the bonfires and sleeping in the mud!!!!

* Having an awesome boyfriend.
My boyfriend is awesome. :) He has been my rock and my guiding light throughout all of this.

I guess that's it for now. I'm burdened by blessings and I don't forget that. But I've made some sacrifices and sometimes, I wish I had all the cake while eating all of it, on both sides of the lawn where it's all sooooo green, studying and writing and teaching and partying all at the same time. Yes. It's impossible. But I do enjoy a pre-breakfast imagination session....

See you all in 2013. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Application for Government Permission to Incarnate into China in your Next Life.

Apparently, they're serious. Read about it, here

February 17, 2011
Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York
520 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10036

To Whom it May Concern:
I am inquiring about the procedure for granting the government of China’s permission to reincarnate into Tibet in my next life. Is there a background check required? Does my religion in this lifetime come into the equation? I’m of European-American descent; does current ethnic background play a role? What about in previous lifetimes? If my family is of Slavic descent, does that technically count as Asian even though we are Caucasian? Will work for democratic initiatives in this lifetime count against us as the approvals are distributed?
Please let me know what forms I need to fill out and whether they are required to be submitted while I am still alive in this incarnation, or if I will need to wait for this life to be over.

Very truly yours,

Courtney Weber


You can find your local Chinese Embassy by Googling them with the name of your hometown. Come on. It'll be fun. If you do it, though, try to remember to print out the article and include it so the poor clerk who gets the letter knows what the hell you're bugging him/her for.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Damn.

That last post was full of typos.

I'm blaming Theraflu and you can't stop me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Your Circle Casting is Weird!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At our Imbolc celebration on Saturday, one newbie guest approached me to say that he had a very good time, except for one thing. He had difficulty with the way we had cast the Circle. It probably would have been a good idea to explain things prior to casting. But I forgot.

Hold onto your panties, boys and girls!!!!! The East Coast branch of Novices of the Old Ways casts a Circle by invoking Water from the East and Air from the West!!!

8-0

8-0

8-0

Okay. Yeah. We changed the order of East and West. B-b-b-b-but why???? How could we? How dare we? Why would we????

A couple of years ago, Circle Casting was my least favorite part of the ritual, behind cleaning up empty wine bottles and discarded cheese rind at the end. The reason for it was because even getting Quarter Callers to volunteer was harder than asking for root canals volunteers at a dentistry school. And (sorry to rag on my own crew!!!) when I would finally get people to agree to it, the Quarter Calling often sounded like this:

"Hail to the um.....hm....Hail to the Guardians of the.....(*cough*)....wait....um....we invoke Thee, Ancient Ones of the....what is associated with West, again?" Giggle. Giggle. Giggle.

While many other groups were working very hard to formalize the Quarter Calling, I wanted to get rid of the whole thing.

One day, my teacher, who is British, mentioned that the reason the Circle is cast as it often is cast is because the directions were based on a European system of direction. In Great Britain, where the traditional Circle Casting was developed, the greatest body of water was to be found in the West--the Atlantic Ocean. The jet stream of wind was strongest coming in from the East. Hence, honor Air in the East and Water in the West.

"So, I wonder if it would make sense for East Coast American Witches to cast by invoking Water from the East, where our ocean is located, and Air from the West, where our own jet stream comes from? North could stay the same--Earth being associated with ice, which we'd find in the North. Fire could stay in the South, where the hot equator is located?" I asked.

"Try it and see," he said.

I suggested it to my Coven this fall and at first, they were hesitant. Throwing something into the mix that is so different than what is familiar takes quite a bit of getting used to. But for us, it worked. We had stronger results. I no longer have to plead for Quarter Calling volunteers--people are excited about them. They flow easier and come in stronger. We've even taken to chanting the names of the Elementals to summon Them instead of using "Hail to the Guardians" in our private rituals. When we do cast using the "Hail" format, it's again much stronger than it was before. As New York City Witches, whenever we can move out of the symbolic and theoretical into the practical and tangible, the better. We have a difficult enough time connecting with nature. Why make it even harder? The closest ocean is in the East. Why not summon the spirit of the body of Water which is only 4-5 miles away, instead of reaching 3,000 miles to the next body of Water, on the West Coast? We are constantly pummeled by frigid winds that sweep in from the Midwest. Why not use Their energies for our ritual work?

Let me say again for the record that I do respect tradition and its place in our practices. Traditions are important as they act as the glue that holds practices together long-term. But the equally important role of the non-traditional practice is that it challenges longer-standing practices, moves them forward and keeps them from becoming stagnant cesspools of dogma. We've seen it happen to mainstream religions. The traditional and the non-traditional work together to provide healthy, holistic options for all members of the Craft. It is of dire importance that both are respected, but I'm worried to see that so many sects of the Craft are in danger of repeating the same mistakes mainstream religions have made. These are the same mistakes that sent most of us packing from the Churches, Synagogues and Mosques (among others) of our youth: Dogma without questioning, rules without understanding, practices by rout instead of by heart.

When we are not open to breaking tradition, we become its slave and in that mistake, our spirituality is whittled down to a system of right or wrong, which is precisely what is killing Christianity. It has the potent potential to kill Wicca, too.If you are member of a tradition, more power to you and kudos to you for finding a system that works for you! Your work in preserving your tradition is important as it will provide a strong framework of practice for those to come. If you are a non-traditionalist, again kudos to you for keeping things shaken up and moving forward--discovering new things and enriching the Craft.

Being a non-traditionalist is scary. We make lots of mistakes. We feel like we are out in the proverbial wilderness a lot of the time. But what we have is the unbelievable power of potential and discovery.

I urge those of the non-traditional persuasion to remember that your practices are as valid as the "Ancient Traditions" ("ancient" meaning they date way back to the 1970's....most of them.....). But do also be respectful when attending a traditional Circle. Avoid being critical or snickering at what might be too rigid for your tastes. Someone, somewhere has worked very hard to preserve that tradition and it serves many people, even if it's not your flavor.

If you are a traditionalist, be open to the way a non-traditionalist is performing things. They are keeping the Craft from fading into another dogmatic cult. I think that's something none of us, regardless of our tradition or non-tradition, want to see.

I encourage Witches all over the place, particularly those in the Southern Hemisphere to try moving around the Elemental Quarter calling. Would it make sense for South American and Australian Witches to call Fire from the North and Earth from the South? Just a thought and a question. Would love to hear your stories at courtney@tarotoftheboroughs.com.

Happy (belated) Imbolc!!!

xoxo
C

Friday, February 4, 2011

Isis called. Get up. We're late.

I'll be honest--the Egyptian riots caught me off guard. I admit that I had no idea that the Egyptian people had not had voted in a fair, legitimate election in over 30 years. I did not know the people were so unhappy. Some have said that revolutions happen unexpectedly. But is this really such a surprise? Did truly no one see this coming?

How many of us were paying attention?

In Trance session after Trance session, the Goddess comes through and yells at us for not paying attention to something. There's always something we're missing. At Yule, Brid crashed the Sabbat. It was like having a party in the rec room with Mom upstairs asleep, and being terrified to whirl around and face Her--curlers and robe--looking at us all and demanding, "What the HELL is going on down here????" We were told to wake up. We were told to start NOW. Not to wait until later. "Your Mother is in pain," said Brid. "Do something NOW."

As Pagans, we revere the Gods and history of Ancient Egypt. But when we the last time that contemporary Egyptian events and oppression was discussed openly at a festival or gathering? We consider ourselves to be concerned for the fate of the pyramids and the monuments, but what of the people and their ability to get to a ballot box? Americans are quick to complain about the lack of a third-party option, but what about in Egypt, where there hasn't been an option offered besides the incumbent in decades?

This incident illustrates the great gap between what we Pagans say we love and where we are falling short. We say we love Isis. But we have done so little to help Her people. We say we are Earth worshipers. But I can't remember the last time I attended a Pagan gathering where paper plates and plastic cutlery weren't used. I am not immune. I have been oblivious to the plight of areas of the world sacred to my Deities. Our Coven was pretty ashamed of ourselves for having created as much garbage as we did at Yule and are now working to greenify our Sabbats--first by banning disposable plates and cutlery, as well as not using electricity during the ritual.

Let this be a sign to us. Mama Isis called. We're not paying attention. We have the potential to influence our communities for the better and we sure as hell better do it. To quote Queen Mother Imakhu: Your spirituality should compel you to get actively involved in helping your community, and not hide behind your cross, ankh, elekes, pentagram, prayer beads, mandala... What will your legacy be? Roll up your sleeves. Give a damn. Make a difference.

Okay. I said my piece. Off to find something else to razz you all about.

xoxo
C

Friday, January 28, 2011

LISTEN TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gonna be on Beyond Worlds Tarot blogtalk show this Sunday at 7 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. The topic of the show is The Chariot and The Lovers. Things that are fast and things that are sexy--things in which I am an expert, as I so cornily said on the "Tarot of the Boroughs" FB page.

Link to the show is HERE.

Hope you can listen in!!!!

xoxo

Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning from other faiths and sometimes, teaching them, too....

My Seminary classes are heavily populated with Pentecostal Christians. Some are still practicing, many are (as many of my classmates are) questioning the faith in which they were raised and are going back to school for answers. Some of the earliest small-group discussions involved the practice of Speaking in Tongues--when the Holy Spirit descends upon a member of the congregation and they start prophesying. Sometimes, it's in an unintelligible manner of speech that requires translation by an Elder in the community. Sometimes, there are clearer messages. Pentecostalism is similar to the Craft in many ways. As I understand it, many Pentecostal Churches do not require a specific degree to lead the Church (although many Pentecostal ministers do indeed have Seminary degrees). The process involves clapping and focusing on bringing in the Holy Spirit to embrace someone in the room. In some Churches, it happens more than at other Churches. And in the Churches where speaking in tongues was more likely to happen than in others, it was a common assessment that certain individuals were more likely to "take on" the Holy Spirit than others.

They did not use the word possession.

But one thing came up, and that was how to "diagnose" an authentic case of speaking in tongues. How do we know when someone is actually touched with the Holy Spirit or if that person is faking? Or if that person *thinks* they're touched, when they're actually not?

"In Voodoo," I said. "It's common to stick chilis in a jar of rum. If the person is actually possessed, they'll drink it and be able to handle it. If not, they won't. Not being sure of authenticity in spirit-trance is a common issue across faiths."

It was silent in the room.

I hope I don't sound like I'm mocking because that isn't my intention. These Pentecostals were a little unnerved to hear of Voodoo or Wiccan practices mentioned alongside their own practices. Likewise, I was surprised to learn about how much Pagan faiths had in common with the Pentecostals. On my first day of class, I scribbled in my notebook, "Is Pentecostalism the Witchcraft of Christianity?"

I dunno. But it's something to think about.

There is a re-Paganification, if you will, of Christianity emerging. I see it in my classmates and they certainly aren't the only ones. A Quaker classmate of mine asked for the email address of one of my Covenmates--a mate who is himself a Christian, but interested in Goddess worship and magick practice. The classmate is curious about the Pagan roots of Christianity.

Another classmate approached me after a lecture one day, wanting to know about my faith. My first response is always, "What would you like to know?" Their usual response is "Everything." And then, I'm stuck. That's a lot to answer in the usual fifteen minutes we have, if that. This young woman narrowed down the question to say, "How does what you do relate to what we do?"

I narrowed it down like this, "The myth of the God slain to nourish the people is a very old one indeed--going back to Ancient Egypt and the Osiris myth and probably before that. There is no coincidence that your God resurrects at the same time the Earth is coming back to life--at the beginning of Springtime."

Not sure where that came from. Maybe it was my own tongue of Brid's fire. But she went away smiling and learned something. As did I. Sometimes, it takes someone from the outside asking you about your faith for you to learn something about it, yourself.

Yay, weekend!!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hey look! It's me!

Couple of kind souls blogged me this week. This one was about young Tarot readers today. She also profiles Jessica Bowman, Angelo Nasios and Elliot Czaplewski.

And my friend Hilary Parry wrote this stunning review of Tarot of the Boroughs! Thanks, Hilary!!!! xoxo

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tales from Seminary

I've been promising this blog that I would tell seminary stories. It's slow on a Friday and I'm processing a little bit of Writer's Block, so here goes:

The Day the Seminary Guy Asked Me about Christine O'Donnell, Among Other Things.

SG: Hey, been meaning to ask you about the Christine O'Donnell thing. How are you guys...can I say that? You guys? How are you guys dealing with that?

Me: Oh, it's such a load of shit. That woman really shot herself in the foot...

SG: So, is she a Witch?

Me: No way. She doesn't know what she's talking about. If she were to practice, I know of no Covens that would take her with the kind of attitude she's presented.

SG: Aw...you'd kick her out?

Me: Well, she wasn't part of our community to begin with, so I guess the point is moot. Anyway, we're not too worried about her because what she's actually done is harm her own campaign while giving our Elders the opportunity to respond to her comments, showing us in a much better light. So, she lost out...

SG: Wait. Are you guys going to put a curse on her or something?

Me: I don't think most people are that interested in investing that kind of time in her. What she's really done is alienate the Wiccan community of Delaware...

SG: Wait. There are Wiccans in Delaware???

Me: Yes! There are lots of Wiccans in Delaware. My boyfriend lives there with four High Priests.

SG: Your boyfriend is Wiccan?

Me: Yes. And...

SG: Wait. Do you guys date outside of Wicca?

Me: All the time. But anyway, I don't know of anyone hexing or cursing Christine O'Donnell. I mean, she won't be getting any of the Wiccan vote down there after this but truly, I don't think she would have, anyway. We're notoriously leftist.

SG: Wait. You guys vote????

(more to come)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shit!

I guess people are going to start reading this again, now that I got blogged. Off to think of something brilliant. Meanwhile, check it out!!!

The Tarot Lady