Wednesday, April 27, 2011


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

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!

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.

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.)

* 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


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!


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!