Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Are Witches Stereotypically Portrayed as Ugly Green-Skinned Things?

In honor of Halloween, I thought I would show my readers this vlog post from a Witch historian on why witches are so ubiquitously portrayed as green skinned:

After all, we all know all witches look like this!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Religion and Spirituality

We are having a discussion (that I'd love for you all to chime in on) at the Witch Mom Forums on religion and spirituality and which people identify with and why.
I find that many people are uncomfortable with the word "religion" because some religion or other at one time in their lives preached harmful or hateful things. I know so many ex Catholics, Mormons, and Evangelical Christians it isn't even noteworthy anymore when someone "comes out" as a former (insert religion-preaching-hate here). The concept religion is so closely tied with what people (however misguided) do in its name that sometimes people reject anything resembling the term altogether.

But to me, that is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Religion is not inherently hateful. In fact, it's only when religion has been corrupted by a twisted human ego that it fails and takes on a hateful form. The word religion (from the Latin re (meaning again) and ligio (to tie or fasten)) means, quite literally, "to re-tie". Re-tie to what? It means to strengthen our connection to each other and the Divine.

Simply put, a theology that preaches disconnection from others, regardless of the reason, is not a real religion- it is simply hate speech wrapped up in a corrupt theology. You heard me. Yes, I said that. I am calling recent statements by the pope and Mormon deacons unreligious.

Religion, at its core, is an idea of wholeness- from creation to destruction and everything in between. It encompasses all of humanity and indeed all of creation. A church that does not embrace all living things as equals, one that sees some people as more inherently virtuous than others is not a religious institution. When done properly, religion cannot be used as an instrument of hate. When it is, calling it religion is a misnomer.

That is why I have no issue with revoking the non-profit status of any church that opposed and got involved in the fight for gay marriage, for example. They are not a religious institution, obviously- so why get the tax benefits of one?

So what is spirituality, then? It is a recognition of Spirit (what I call God Herself), within yourself and others. It can be done without formality and theology. Many people who have been harmed by religion take refuge in spirituality.

But one of the things that I see happening here is that because there is not structure (and all living things need structure- just ask a biologist!), there are plenty of gurus and merchants stepping in to fill that void. Spirituality cannot be bought or sold, regardless of what a workshop facilitator, new age crystal peddler, or a self-help/spiritual author tells you (as they urge you to buy their book).

Here is a proper use of religion:

and also this:

Please join us on the Witch Mom Forums for this and many other fascinating discussions!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Watching My Son Grow: 9 Months

Making the decision to have a child - It's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. - Elizabeth Stone 

Rowan is reaching so many milestones lately that I can hardly keep up. Crawling, standing unassisted, fine motor skills, eating anything and everything solid we give him (and loving almost all of it!), and connecting to animals and children in a real and meaningful way.

I am happy to say that he is a connected human being. He demands eye contact with all he meets- it is important for him to connect with us, rather than passively observe the world. This has been my number one goal as a parent- making sure he feels a connection to all living things and knows that he is a part of a greater whole. He has regular kid, dog, and bird friends that make his face light up and that crazy velociraptor squeal come out. He is enthusiastic about making connections with not just mommy and daddy, but all he encounters. He has not gone through a "stranger danger" phase (as some of his friends have) yet, and I hope that he will not, because he is exposed to so many loving people in his daily life beyond that artificial "nuclear family" model we, as a culture, have grown so used to.

I am also happy to report that a consequence of his connection is empathy. The other day, we decided to trim our parrots' nails- something they don't particularly enjoy, but is necessary (and we are gentle). But Rah Rah, our foster Amazon, has this wheezy panicked noise she makes when we hold her in the proper position (neck and head restrained, on her back, feet up)- as if we are terrible predators who are going to eat her. Rowan reacted very strongly and suddenly- his little face contorted into a grimace and he started to wail as he watched her distress. We promptly put her down and he then smiled. "It's okay, little Boop. We love Rah Rah." I assured him (I then waited until his nap to trim her nails!).

His multi-religious education goes well, too:
He's been to one of the largest pagan conferences in the world (and will be going again in February), Feri rituals big and small, small children's (non-denominational) pagan sabbats, a Sufi Zikr, Radical Faerie gatherings, and recently we celebrated shabbat with Jewish friends in their home (after they blessed the wine and challah, we shared with them how we say, "May you never thirst" and "May you never hunger" as we pass the sacrament around to share. It was nice.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

So Many Pagan Parents!

The Pagan Census reports that 41.3% of all pagans answering the Census have children, and only .02% did not respond to the question on whether they had kids- so this is a fairly accurate number. There are so many of us!

It's about time we started organizing ourselves and demanding accomodation from our communities, too.

Going to a gathering or conference? Where's the childcare, damn it?

While I am taking initiative and running an independent co-op model childcare at an annual gathering that I regularly attend, it is only because I have been forced to do it myself. The organizers have failed to meet the needs of the community, and in order for my family to participate, I've needed to fill in the gap myself. It should not have to be this way.

We need to start building infrastructure that supports us- co-op childcare, group homeschooling communities, spiral scouts groups, playdates, and so much more. A place to start are the new Witch Mom forums. Join, introduce yourself, and start the discussion about parent inclusion in the pagan community!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Raising a Human in a Gendered World

 The way the world that I live in sees and does gender really annoys me sometimes. Boys and girls, men and women all are affected adversely by the world that we have created, and now that I am a parent, I am working even more actively to create a little space that is a "gender agenda free zone" for my son.

Rowan is a very pretty boy (Look out! Those long eyelashes help him flirt mercilessly!) and has worn an amber necklace since birth. (Jewelry is evidentally a feminine thing in the US, although I doubt you could get all cultures to agree to that!) Further, his father and I do not believe that colors and patterns have gender- so he wears all colors (including- gasp! pink and purple) and has some floral and butterfly patterned clothes. His stroller is hot pink with orange flowers. To this I say, big freaking deal.

Half the time when someone calls him "a beautiful girl" or "a little princess" I don't bother correcting people. After all, what does it matter- this is their issue, not mine and not my son's.

But other times, I do gently slip it in that he is a boy. Depending on where I am I get varying interesting responses. If I am here, in the Bay Area, I get anything from a non-chalant "Oh." to a tripping-over-themselves "Sorry!". No one here dwells on it too much- we all pretend to be far too progressive on gender and sexuality issues here to obsess too much. If I am somewhere else where heterosexist, heteronormative gender norms are more rigidly enforced, sometimes people give me incredulous looks or even venemous ones. They chastize me for "effeminizing" my son. They equate what I am doing (raising a kid to be free, for as long as possible, of the ridiculous way our culture deals with gender) with child abuse.

I want Rowan to be fully human, not just pigeon-holed into what our culture thinks a man or a woman (or a boy or a girl) should be. To quote Julia Serano,
...we were duped into believing
that male and female are opposites
when we’re not
we are practically identical
99.9 percent the same on a genetic level
we’ve just been trained to exaggerate
that fraction of difference
into a chasm
into two mutually exclusive classes

and gender is not about biological sex
when you first saw me
you didn’t see my chromosomes
or reproductive abilities
instead you read my class as female
because gender is first and foremost
a class system
and it is held together by the myth
that it arises from
our organs
our instincts
but for every gender generalization you can make
i can find a thousand exceptions
and natural laws
are not suppose to have exceptions
if gender was natural
little boys
wouldn’t have to be told not to cry
little girls
wouldn’t have to be taught
that certain ways of sitting aren’t ladylike
if gender was natural
it wouldn’t need to be so highly regulated...
I, for one, am sick of the polarity/binary model of gender and refuse to indoctrinate my son into it. (Yes, I know that I cannot help him once he gets older- he will run into people that enforce gender agendas and he may even experience shame.) But I will hold out for as long as I can and hope that he is as strong as this awesome tween:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tangible Witchcraft: Meditation and Prayer

Most religious witches that I know and respect have a sitting practice as well as a prayer practice.
Many newbies to witchcraft are surprised by this, thinking that sitting (meditation) is a Buddhist practice and prayer belongs to the Judeo-Christians. I have heard a ridiculous amount of times on the internet that "witchcraft is a craft, not a religion", which is a generalization that only applies to a percentage of all the witchcraft traditions out there. So please folks, stop saying that- it is not true across the board!

People have been praying and meditating across the globe long before the "Big 5*" religions came to be. Indigenous/pagan cultures have been praying and meditating for quite some time.

When I first started studying Feri, breathing and sitting were the first concepts introduced by my first teacher, T. Thorn Coyle. Her beginning Feri classes (which lasted a little over two years) emphasized self-discipline and mastery of the Self, with the ultimate desired result being a strong powerful witch. For that framework, I am truly grateful. She emphasized the goal of becoming self-possessed, which she described then as "being familiar with all our parts and not letting them control us".

Most religious traditions worth their salt have this as a goal- self gnosis leading to interactions with the world(s) in a much more powerful and respectful way. Iron** (the work of self alchemy) leads to Pearl** (the work of building beyond yourself, connection).

Thorn's way of sitting, which she called "GodSoul listening", was similar to Buddhist Vipassana practice. You notice things as they arise, and do not judge yourself for having thoughts. Often the things that arise, particularly if they are non-verbal are messages from GodSoul*** or Fetch***. I took to writing down what I experienced and still find them helpful in hindsight.

At first, I found sitting daily for 20-30 minutes unbearable. Now I find it unbearable if I do not do it for a while. I get cranky and quick to flare with emotions before I am even aware that they are happening. Sitting makes me a much more aware person (and therefore easier to deal with!).

Prayer is equally important, and the most common prayers in Feri are to one's own GodSoul. There are so many of these, the Ha prayer, the Flower Prayer, but one of my favorites is from Cora Anderson, whose Christian upbringing (which she folded into her Feri practice) and Appalachian common sense shines through in this work:
I believe that we are three souls in one body

And that you are the highest, best, and most perfect part of me

Give me what I need each day

Keep me from evil, though it be the very thing I pray for

And bring me to the good even though from ignorance I don't know enough to ask for it.
Gods, I miss Cora. Seeing her every week really was a way to ground myself in Feri teachings and care for a beloved elder at the same time.

Orion Foxwood, founder of the Faery Seership Tradition (which I find to have eerily similar theology to Feri, plus a charming sexy man leading the way to boot!) said in a workshop I attended once, "A good witch listens (sits) and talks (prays) every day."

Of course, we also offer devotions to Gods we work with as well- but often my devotions to them are wordless- such as altar offerings or art. But many pagans I know pray to their patrons and Gods that they work with as well.

*Big 5= Judaism, (Protestant) Christianity & Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. In California (where I live) prisons, only clergy from the big 5 that I mention are allowed access to prisoners.

**Iron and Pearl Pentacles. These are tools of alchemy unique to the Feri tradition and a couple of its offshoots.

***Fetch, Talker, and GodSoul are names for the three parts of a human soul in Feri.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


We live in a country in which many are deeply religious, yet so few actually know about religion. According to a recent survey, not only do Americans know very little about people of other faiths and what they believe, they also know precious little about their own religions!

Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.

Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.

That's why I am glad for this new project, called Faithbook:
PBS (the Public Broadcast System, a TV station that is supported by donations (rather than advertising), for those readers outside the US) is hosting a new feature on their website, called Faithbook. Subtitled "God in America" it certainly is full of assumptions, but I will assume good intent.

The project is documenting how Americans actually feel about religion and spirituality in their own words, and you can browse what others believe, too. They ask a series of guided questions and people create their own profiles to answer them, so we get to see the diverse mosaic that is US culture. I have started my Faithbook page, and am answering the questions slowly.

I encourage all of you out there reading this to create a Faithbook page and answer the questions. If not for anyone else, certainly for yourself!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thanks (and some links)!

Thanks to The Pagan Mom Blog for gifting me with this "lovely blog" award! It is nice to be recognized, and so I graciously accept!

All rewards come with a price! The rules for accepting the award are:
1. Post the accepted on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.
2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.
3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.

Here are my 15 "lovely blogs":
1. Reproductive Rites
2. Hobo Mama
3. The Witch of Forest Grove
4. The Wild Hunt
5. Peaceful Parenting
6. Womanist Musings
7. Raising my Boychick
8. By My Red Hand
9. The Gods Are Bored
10. Tidings of Comfort and Joy
11. TransGriot
12. You, Me, and Religion
13. Adventures in Witchery

14. Amused Grace
15. Holistic Mama

Also wanted to let you know that Witch Mom has been featured in another interview- this time at the blog Wicked Whimsy. It regularly has a feature called Pagan Paths where they interview people of different paths, and this time- it's me!

Friday, October 15, 2010

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." -Helen Keller

 Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day in the United States, setting the day aside to note the loss that is so hard for many to talk about. While I have never had a miscarriage or lost a small child (and never will, Gods willing), as a mother I can grasp a small fraction of the despair that women (and their families) feel when this tragedy happens.

From the official date's website, called Remembering Our Babies:
Remembering Our Babies was created to provide support, education and awareness for those who are suffering or may know someone who has suffered a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, a still birth, or the loss of an infant. We hope that we can help you by giving you and all of the other parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, and friends a special day of remembrance. This special day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance is October 15th of every year.
Given that this situation happens in almost 16% of pregnancies in the US, you may know someone affected, whether they have shared this information with the public (or friends and family) or not. It is often a silent suffering.

Here is a letter from my friend, Jeanne Bowyer, to her lost firstborn, Josie:
"I loved holding you in my arms. You nestled there for hours, we cuddled together... They tried to bring you back to life - back to us - but they couldn't. Oh, I've wished so many times since then that it had been otherwise. You were worth every second I carried you. I will love you forever - just as much as your little sister Bella. This is for all the other mamas who've lost children - they are every bit - EVERY bit as precious as their living babies. I love you so very much, Josie."
That person at work or sitting next to you on the bus that is acting tired, depressed, angry, or sad may have something that they are not sharing with you- but their mood is affecting them and those around them. I urge people to be gentle with one another, especially if someone around you is acting "irrational". We do not know what another goes through and struggles with most of the time. Grief is a profound experience, one that needs empathy and space to move.

"We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival."
-Winston Churchill

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Points on the Iron Pentacle: Pride

This blog post is one in a series where I explore the Iron Pentacle and how it has changed for me since becoming a parent (Read the first installment, Sex, here). In my religious tradition, we have a tool for alchemy called the Iron Pentacle. It is a five pointed guidepost to helping you achieve personal balance. Each point on the pentacle is a human birthright:
Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion.

Pride is often confused with conflated ego, and in the Christian tradition is considered one of the seven deadly sins. Why on earth would Feri witches revel in such a thing? Simple- we are Gods*. We have a right to be proud of our accomplishments and words and deeds, especially when they manifest our True Will and the Will of the Divine here in this world.

Pride is the shameless recognition of our own self-worth and ability. It allows us to live fully without reservation, allowing our true nature to shine outward while not giving in to the ego's temptation to compare ourselves to others (whether favorably or disfavorably). "What is called pride in our culture is often merely arrogance. ... Arrogance has its flip side in self-deprecation, which is just another face of the arrogant posture."- T. Thorn Coyle, Feri and Reclaiming initiate. 

One of the most interesting conversations that I've had about Pride in this context was in one of Thorn's classes. Thorn put forth the idea that you cannot be proud of someone else. This disturbed me, as I have felt this emotion especially when I taught sixth graders in the Oakland Public Schools.

Of course I could be proud of a child that struggles to read when all obstacles are thrown in their way! My kids had poverty, hunger, non-involved parents, apathetic teachers, and a curriculum that saw them more as guinea pigs than people with needs to contend with. But then I looked deeper. "My kids"- huh. There was my ego, getting in the way of their accomplishments. They learned to read. Yes, I facilitated or assisted but it is truly their accomplishment. I saw then that on some level, being "proud of someone" is trying to take credit for their accomplishment in some way. Wow. What a revelation.

As for Pride in my life, I am proud of many things- mostly my ability to manifest structures and organizations that help people and contribute to the greater good. But no sense of Pride could have prepared me for dealing with my pregnancy and childbirth. I had a lot to overcome. This was not the first time I was pregnant (I gave a child up for adoption when I was 19), and that experience was unwanted, traumatic, and left emotional and physical scars (I was forced to undergo an unnecessary C section and at that time in my life, was not a great advocate for myself.).

Wanting a baby very badly meant going through the physical transformative process of pregnancy that was sure to trigger me on a very visceral level and submit to whatever birth experience manifested itself. And for a while, it looked like a repeat C section, which made me an emotional train wreck.

I struggled daily with the changes in my body and what bad memories were brought up as a result. I struggled with the imbalanced power dynamic I knew that I would experience in a hospital setting and triumphed over those fears. I built relationships to support me when I was at my most vulnerable- and those relationships paid off and ensured what was best for me and my child. I am so grateful to Judi (my midwife), Wolfy (my doula) and Oberyn (my partner) for being there for me when I most needed them.

And as for feeling Pride for my son, when he accomplishes a milestone (as he seems to do daily these days), I am happy for his success- and I revel in that joy. Which to me, appears more honest than feeling Pride.

*Unlike some religions that believe that we "have a spark of the Divine" or we are mirror reflections of the Divine, Feri believes that we ARE Divine. And the work of your lifetime(s) is to become that God that you already are. Hard work, becoming a God.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day

Book Review: A Pagan Book of ABC's by Shanddaramon

This book has a lot going for it. It can be used for many years, not just as an ABC primer, but for older kids who are learning alphabet correspondences as part of their pagan training. I was actually surprised at the detail in the book.

From the introduction: "This book can help children learn more than just the alphabet, however, because it introduces concepts related to modern Paganism. Many of the words used to identify letters of the alphabet are based on Pagan principles. The eight sabbats of the Wheel of the Year are included; as are the three celestial bodies (the sun, the moon, and the stars); the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water); the four directions or quarters (North, South, East, and West); the concept of the sacred circle; the pentagram; and the terms God and Goddess....Letters from different alphabets of interest to Pagans have been included." (Greek, Hebrew, Theban, Futhark Runic, and Ogham -ed.)

So the text page for A looks like this:
Each text page has an acompanying picture page opposite it.

Pretty neat, huh? I found this approach novel and unique, making the book of value despite some minor flaws. What flaws?
1. The illustrations leave a lot to be desired. Kids books like this should really focus on pictures as well as words and letters. These look like poorly photoshopped photographs. Illustrations would have been a nice attention catching thing for the kids.
2. The assumptions made: about "pagans" all believing in one goddess and one god, that we all celebrate the wheel of the year sabbats, and that we all use the same names for those sabbats. If you are gonna use an umbrella term like "pagan" you need to be less specifically wiccan.

That said, I will use this book with Rowan and change a few of the words to make it work for our family. It certainly has merit that I have not found elsewhere!

I like the activities in the back of the book, aimed at older children beyond those learning their ABC's. (Things like, "Spell your name in Greek or Theban".) It extends the life of this book.

Formal Rating:
Title: A Pagan Book of ABC's: A Children's Activity Book
Author: Shanddaramon
Publisher: Astor Press
Price: $24.95 USD 
ISBN: 978-0-557-09532-2

Topics Covered: ABC's, wiccan themes, pagan themes, children's book

Target Audience: Pagan (specifically wiccan) kids and their parents.
Witch Mom Rating: Two and a Half Hats
 A good asset for pagan families, particularly homeschoolers and those educating their children in a pagan religion.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Great Witch Responses to Christine O'Donnell (sigh)

Christine O'Donnell that loopy, unqualified Tea Bagger wannabe politician has come out with an ad that says, "I'm not a Witch, I'm like you." There have been some great responses from the Witch community, and here are three of them:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pray for Patrick and all of Us!

Yesterday, Patrick McCollum went into court (finally) to hopefully gain access to the California Prison system as a pagan chaplain.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tangible Witchcraft: Purification of the Body/Self

Like all witchcraft and indigenous traditions, Feri has rites of cleansing and purification. Not because we believe that humans are filthy or sinful- but rather, the socialization that we undergo to become adults adds "complexes" to the black heart of innocence that we had as children, but have now buried. We purify to reach that original state trhat we have lost.

Most Feri witches I know have taken a template that they learned from their teacher for a rite like kala* and personalized it into their own personal practice. I am no different in this regard.

I mainly do kala in the shower (convenient, no?), along with other rites of purification and refinement as part of a larger toilette for the body and soul. What does a soul scrubbing look like?

1. Shower (cleaning the physical body). I cleanse the body in preparation for the day as well as the spiritual cleansing about to take place.

2. Energetic Shower (which is an etheric and auric cleansing, using the Iron and Pearl Pentacles): bringing up red hot iron energy from the earth and bringing down white hot pearl energy from the stars. They meet and fill my still point and then my physical body, then my energy bodies until I pulse and thrum with it.)

3. Kala: lately I have been using sound to vibrate the water and infuse it with cleansing power- before I used breath and physicality (laying on of hands). I like to mix it up.

4. Refinement: After I cleanse my selves, I like to refine my skin and hair- not just for beauty's sake, but also for casting a spell on myself. I use oil for skin and hair (I am a dry person, so after a shower I need moisture and using an oil that has specific magickal and energetic properties is perfect for this.) Lately, I have been doing work that involves thinking before acting. I am a do-er (I like to take action!), and while most of my actions have helped me in my life or built awesome things, impulsive acts don't always stem from wisdom. So I am working on waiting, assessing, and then acting.

5. Mouth Tending: As I brush my teeth and tongue, I think about cleansing the mouth for the power of what the Buddhists call "right speech".** I imagine removing not just tartar and bacteria, but removing the intent to harm or speaking with a lack of intent.

6. Adornment: After getting dressed, I like to take a minute and think about what adornments I wish to wear and for what purpose. I use hair accessories that are beautiful and symbolic as well as keeping my hair out of the baby's grasp. All of my jewelry has meaning. My makeup and scents all have a purpose. When I "do myself up" there is usually a significance to what I select and why. Each on of my rings, for example, has a specific meaning assigned to it. Some of my necklaces are portable spells. I take Pride in my Self and how it looks and I work magick on myself regularly.

 What do you do for cleansing and purification?

*Kala is a rite of integration and cleansing where a witch takes what troubles her, externalizes it, drops it in water, cleans the water, then re-ingests the water, (converted troubles and all). Know that saying, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger?" That's exactly what kala is- we have lived through a trouble, examined it, gotten to know it inside and out, made our peace with it as being a part of us, infused it with mana (life force) and taken it back in. When done right, it's like doing a shot of kick-ass.

Unlike some witchcraft and magickal traditions which use a banishing to try and purify the Self, Feri believes that trying to cut away parts of you (even the undesirable ones that are tied up in knots) permanently is giving away your power (and isn't actually possible anyway). So we reintegrate that which befuddles, confuses, vexes, and troubles us. While the rite varies from person to person, the rite always includes water and often mana (the energy/life force that surrounds us and every living thing).

**Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the intent of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the intent of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the intent of hurting another person's feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful intent at all).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yule giveaway?

I am considering doing a giveaway on my blog for Yule and am looking for a couple of witchy and kid-friendly business owners to donate a prize or two!

If you have a botanica or occult store, a kids store (toys, books, etc), an eco-friendly store, or an etsy shoppe, etc- and are interested in promoting your business to my readers, I would love to see what you have to offer! (See below to see what I have to offer you!) I also encourage publishers to contact me for these things as well.

I am excited to offer my readers a contest or two throughout the year- starting with this Yule.

Witch Mom currently gets about 10K pageviews per month, and I have 535 followers from the various sources- Facebook fan page, Networked Blogs, Google reader, Feedburner, Twitter, and Blog Frog as of 10/1/2010.) That's pretty good very targeted exposure to witches and pagans who are interested in pagan parenting, among other things!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Teaching Children the Craft: Animal Care

I am very happy to say that Rowan has inherited his mom's affection for animals of all kinds. As a child, I liked animals than most people (heck, I still do!). I begged my parents for a dog (not successfully) and when I was a teenager with my own room, small critters would "show up" in my room: newts, finches, fish, anything I could get away with!

Rowan's squeals and enthusiasm frighten dogs sometimes...
And Rowan is giggly and squealy whenever he sees animals- be they dogs (his favorite!), guinea pigs, or fish. We have parrots at home and he knows the sign for bird and watches their antics with glee. We have taken him to pet stores and the Academy of Sciences to see animals, and I am looking forward to tomorrow's Pagan Playdate, when we go to the Little Farm (before a short Mabon ritual with the kids- yes, I'll bring the camera!). I can't wait to see how excited he is about all the animals at the petting zoo (and feeding them lettuce and celery!).

Rowan is growing up with animals as a part of his life because it is important to me to have them in my life, and I firmly believe that caring for an animal starting when children are young teaches connection, empathy, and give a child another flavor of love that they should experience. It also teaches them responsibility. Connection to animals is an easy way to demonstrate to kids that we are all connected- and that is a lesson all kids should learn regardless of the theology they are being taught. But given that my theology is all about connection (as is theirs)- I see Rowan having animal friends in his life as inevitable and necessary.

Rowan at a pet store. He especially liked the
guinea pigs and Black Mollys.
Now before anyone asks, when I say that a child should have an animal, I am also saying that a child's parent is ultimately responsible for that animal's welfare. Parents are the adults! They need to keep food stocked, ensure habitats and litter boxes are clean, dogs are walked, and ensure that the animal is well loved (and not mauled) and so on. I am also saying that the parent is responsible for teaching their child proper care and handling and ensuring the safety of said animal so that they can ultimately become responsible themselves. Extra work for moms and dads! But sooooo worth it.

As a witchlet, Rowan will be learning a lot more than the average child when he learns about animals. He will be taught to observe animals and learn lessons that they have to teach. I will tell him about how when I was going through a hard time in my life, Hedgehog had some important lessons for me. I will tell him about how each animal has special skills, and can teach him something about life.

I will also teach him how to slow down, calm himself and talk to animals. Reach out to them and have them appreciate his efforts. Prey animals especially need extra care. Since Rowan is growing up with parrots (who are prey, not predators) he will learn first hand about how to communicate with prey when you yourself are a predator and their first inclination is to fear you.

At the Aquarium!
He will also learn about the cycle of life, how to live and survive means killing (no exceptions- vegetarians kill plants, and they are just as meaningful and important in life's cycle as animals), and he will learn what his role in that cycle is.

As a witch, he will learn that dying is inevitable and not necessarily scary (just sad for those left behind). Having animals in our personal lives also help children with these lessons, too. Their shorter life spans mean that often they are the first deaths that children experience. We, as parents, can help them through that grieving process.

Rowan personally loves dogs. Mom is OK with dogs, but prefers parrots, frankly. But given how much Rowan loves dogs, I see one in his future, when we have a bigger place that allows them.

Charming video:

Friday, October 1, 2010

31 Days of Halloween Post!

Yep, people. I like to do blog carnivals, if the mood strikes me. I wrote this one for the carnival of feminist parenting. Now I am writing one about Halloween for Mrs. B's 31 days of Halloween, a carnival that lasts all October long!

As a kid, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I enjoyed the costumes, the shenanigans, the candy, and the parties. Halloween, as it is practiced in the US (as a secular holiday), is pretty awesome. The revelry that most folks have in their Halloween festivities rivals most pagan sabbats if you ask me! I see nothing wrong with witches embracing the secular holiday of Halloween- and of course turning that stereotype of a green skinned, warty-nosed witch on its head. Most witches I know are damn sexy!

So as a pretty religious person, I now indulge in both Halloween AND Samhain (a religious holiday for us witches when we commune with our dead). They feel very different to me, have totally different purposes, and I love them both.

What do I do for both? As an adult for Halloween, I used to go to parties dressed in costume- the more elaborate the better. San Francisco's Castro district has one hell of a party for Halloween, or at least it used to. These days, now that I have a son, I will leave the partying to him! We never miss a chance to dress him up in costumes anyway, and now he'll be able to have lots of fun like I used to as a kid. I look forward to him going to costume parties and trick or treating. I like the idea of hearing his stories about trick or treat adventures when he gets older. Living vicariously through your kids does not have to be a bad depressing thing, people! I love that I get to experience "beginner's mind" all over again- because of Rowan!

from Ye Olde Witches Brew Magazine
To commemorate Samhain, I help plan a ritual for the Feri Tradition each year (I have done this for the last 4 or 5 years, as it is one of our holiest days on the wheel of the year), held at the cross quarters (not on the 31st of October, when Halloween falls). At this time of year, I also tend and fuss over our beloved dead altar, our mighty dead altar, and make sugar skulls for my dead. I make and consume lots of seasonal foods, medicines, and beverages (pomegranate mead, anyone?). I listen to the dead and what they want- and I go to cemeteries to listen to them and tend their graves. This is the time of year when the veil between their world and ours is thinnest, so people who are not as attuned to hearing them might even be able to do so!

At our Feri ritual, we call to and bring in the dead and let them ride our bodies to experience what it is like to be embodied again- so we prepare their favorite foods and eat them, dance like crazy, and other embodied experiences. We do other things, too- but that is a consistent thing that we do.

Samhain is also the witches' new year, so I often take stock of the previous year and make resolutions. Often we throw wishes for the coming year into a flaming cauldron to send them up on the wind.

What are your traditions this time of year, for either Halloween or Samhain?