Monday, November 29, 2010

Reflections from my Book of Shadows: Right Action (And Words)

"Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny."    
-Upanishads

Lately, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my words and deeds in the world- how they affect me, my family, my tribe, and outsiders. I have been spending lots of time in reflection- during sitting practice, after listening to others, and at random points during the day on my role in this world. What is my part to play in my family? My school? My religious community? My relationships? And is this my role because I default to it, or am I actively defining my roles, each and every day with a renewed commitment to them?

I have decided that I will pause before each word or deed and reflect upon them before issuing them forth. This is a way of being conscious and fully present while being with others. It also means that you are actively being the person that you truly wish to be. I define my words and deeds- not vice versa.

A friend of mine, Holly, says that she uses a three fold criteria to evaluate what she says before she says something to another:
Is it truthful? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
A good measure of whether the statement is worthwhile is that the statement must be two of the three in order to be worth putting out there into the world. All else is ego, vanity. I have found this exercise very helpful. Lately, I've had situations where I have had to say things that are truthful and necessary, but not kind. And I struggle with that. But the warrior's path (and being a Witch in the Feri tradition is just that) is not an easy one. And sometimes we have to be fierce and that is more compassionate in the long run than being "kind". To paraphrase Victor Anderson, "Do not coddle your (or another's) weaknesses- but do respect your frailties."

I know that I have hurt people in my life, as they have hurt me. I do try and make that happen less and less and also practice forgiveness, for my own sake if not theirs. I try and apologize when that is required, just, and the timing is right.

I went to a training for a model of group conflict resolution called Restorative Circles last week. I trained in the model and learned how to work on getting any group- be it a family, religious community, non-profit workplace, or any other group- to set up the model. I am looking forward on honing my skills as a facilitator in this model and teaching others as well. I think the world needs more of this. There is far too much strife, woe and infighting. Actively listening to one another, face-to-face, and understanding where another is coming from makes a huge difference. We may not always agree, but we can still be in right relation to one another when this happens. If you are interested in RC in the Bay Area, ask me! I will be actively involved.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things That Make Me Go Hmmm...

In this new semi-feature, I share with you things that I have read online lately that are thought provoking and worth a share. Some of these items I link to on my FB pages (either witch Mom or my personal one), some I have not.

Womanist Musings on how the Christian right gets it all wrong when it comes to trans folks.

Thalia Took, one of my favorite pagan illustrators, shows us The Cailleach. (This is not recent, but I recently stumbled across it looking for depictions of winter Gods.)

Anne over at The Gods Are Bored gets pissed, with good reason.

Awesome Stephen Hawking quote on You, Me, and Religion (a blog that you should know about, in case you didn't).

There are some amazing opinions at The Witch Mom forums, particularly on this thread. Join us and join in the chit chat!

Why is Cthulhu depicted on this 300 year old gravestone? (Fun to think about!)

There is no shortcut to spiritual development. (hear that, New Agers? You can't buy it or take an immersion workshop that will advance you to the next level!)

How birds navigate the globe (I love birds, this list wouldn't really be complete without me geeking out on birds).

What have you read lately? Feel free to post links in the comments, or make a new thread at the Witch Mom forums!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons for My Son: Fear and Doing the Right Thing

It is not power that corrupts but fear.  Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. 

Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. 

And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched. - Aung San Suu Kyi
The lesson today, Rowan, is that you must not let fear stop you from doing what you need to do or know to be the right course of action. Sometimes you will faced with choices- and none of them seem all that great. All of them may well stink, even. But everything you do in response to your pending decision- act directly, wait, stay silent, or act covertly- should be a deliberate willful act. You should not let fear dictate what your actions should be. You may lose (so-called) friends by acting. You may be seen in a bad light, at least for a while. But if you act out of your truth, with the greater good in mind (not just your ego gratification or self-interest), you will gain something greater than the company of fair-weather friends. You will gain power- and that is priceless.

Will Varner, Surveillance
Power comes from exercising the will despite any obstacles, be they tangible ("I don't have enough money to do that") or intangible ("If I do this, people will see me as foolish."). Power comes from living with integrity and acting with the same. Power is the witches' reward, but also hir awesome responsibility. What you do with that power defines who you are as a person. Are you a person who acts only in hir self-interest? Or are you someone who values tribe, community, and family? Are you a generous person, sharing your gifts with the world? Or are you a miser, clamping down so hard on what you have you crush its value yourself? It is up to you, Rowan.

For those times when you are afraid and aren't sure how to handle it, I leave you with this little gem from the mind of Frank Herbert, science fiction writer:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
-The Litany Against Fear, from the Dune Series.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Let Us Give Thanks

"Nothing on earth is more beautifully, wildly extravagant than a sunset. Gold, silver, all the jewels of the rainbow are broadcast for the world to enjoy for a moment before they are lost forever in an ocean of night. Sunsets are just one phase of Nature's extravagant habits. She thinks nothing of planting a million seeds in order that one may germinate and grow. She buries riches deep in our mountains where they may or may not be found. Always she is wasteful. And yet we humans are taught that it is sinful to be extravagant. We decide to be prudently thrifty when a bit of whole-hearted extravagance would do worlds for ourselves and others. The offering of whatever gifts are within our power- hospitality, service, sacrifice, love or material- is to be encouraged. Generous giving begets real gratitude, and gratitude goes hand in hand with joy. For a thrill this Thanksgiving season, try Natire's way. Be extravagant! Give gratitude! Give yourself!" - Genevieve Callahan

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude

This Thanksgiving week I am pondering gratitude, naturally. So I thought that as an exercise I would post here about many of the things for which I am grateful. I invite you to do so in the comments, as well. For it is only when we are grateful for what we have that we are truly connected and present!

 This is something that I try and do frequently, but as I get caught up in my every day life and its challenges, sometimes the idea of gratitude escapes me. It is then that I complain or forget how much I actually have.


I am grateful for the presence and health of my son. He has changed my life in myriad ways, all of which are for the better. He is the reason that I do so many of the things that I do these days, with joy.

I am grateful that, in these times of economic uncertainty, that I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and my bills (mostly) paid on time. I am grateful that the government assists families like mine with food, money, and medical care and I pray that this will continue for all of us.

I am grateful for a partner that shares so many things in common with me. Oberyn is an excellent father, a thoughtful partner, and one helluva priest.

I am grateful that I found Starr King School for the Ministry when I did- it has been an integral part of my spiritual growth at a time when I needed exactly what it could offer me. The faculty, staff, and students there are all amazing people that I am glad to have in my life.

I am grateful for my Feri teacher, who has been there for me, time and again. She is awfully patient with me as I struggle with challenges and has been a wellspring of support and empathy. She is also an amazing teacher and I am lucky to have her.

I am grateful for friends to with whom I can laugh, break bread, and have meaningful conversations. I have found several meaningful new relationships this year as well as continuing older ones. I am building my tribe, person by person- step by step.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November and Its Full Moon

"O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being.
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing."
-  Percy Bysshe Shelley
November is a witchy month. The month and its full moon go by many different names that fit into this time on the Wheel of the Year (with its global cultural themes of harvest and communing with the dead). It's known as the Apple Moon (Appalachian), the Larder Moon (Stregheria), the Blotmonath (Sacrifice Month), the Herbistmonoth (Harvest Month), the Ancestor Moon, the Moon of the Dead, and the Mourning Moon.

Even in non-European cultures, November is associated with the dead and darkness: In Tibet, they celebrate the Feast of Lanterns, which is a winter festival of the shortest days of the Sun. Among the Incas, it was a time of the Ayamarca, or Festival of the Dead.

November is considered a month of beginnings and endings- because it follows Samhain (well, in the northern hemisphere, anyway), which is the Witches' new year (many, but not all, Witch calendars follow the Celtic calendar). 

The Witches' patron goddess, Hekate, has a night on November 16. On this night, Hekate devotion is performed in a three way crossroad at night. Food is left there as an offering to her. It is apt that her day is in November- she is known to rule the passages of life and transformation, birth and death- very appropriate for this time of year.

Full moon rituals, or esbats, can actually be held on any of the three days that the moon is most full. Full moons are a time for action, for harvesting the fruits of our labors, for realizing that which we began at the last cycle, and of giving thanks. So, US folks- if you are celebrating Thanksgiving why not do it at this month's full moon?

What do you do for full moons? I invite you to the Witch Mom Forums to talk about it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: Pagan Degrees for Children

This book is an interesting find: a book that teaches precepts of Wicca and earth-centered spirituality to children in a merit badge style, similar to that of the girl and boy scouts/guides. It is best suited for kids of five-twelve, although you can start some of the activities as early as three.

The kids are earning badges within a system of three degrees (just like the adults in Gardnerianism!): Neophyte, Apprentice and Mage. Each degree is started with a dedication ritual, so that the child is fully engaged and eager for the process (something I particularly liked- as a kid I was forced to do things that my parents wanted for me- so offering this as an option that they freely choose and dedicate themselves to- well that rocks!).

I also liked that halfway through the youngest degree is a celebration and a new stage- keeping the kids' interest and excitement up. In the Neophyte degree there are nine levels. After the first four levels, then they enter "The Fellowship of the Dragons", which should be made into a big deal! Pomp and Circumstance! Awards and Music! Then they can continue on the path for five more levels. This degree is designed for children five to eight and does not focus on the badges and awards- kids this young are a little unfocused for that. Instead, there are activities and they complete a set number of them per level to advance. Activities for this age level include: cleaning up litter, feeding the birds, collecting leaves, going to a museum, creating a personal practice, making a personal altar, or writing a poem. (There are tens of dozens of suggestions, actually!)

The Apprentice degree and work start at age 12, and the Mage level starts at 14 and begins with a coming of age ceremony. I love how these are tied to what is happening in a child's life. This is probably because this book was written after the curricula as developed and tested in a real life pagan community with actual kids (The Sacred Order of Living Paganism, in North Carolina).

My only real criticism of this book is that it is decidedly Wiccan, but does not state so implicitly. It talks of the rede and The Goddess and God, as if there are only one of each. People who are polytheistic or do not use the rede will have to make adaptations to some of the exercises, discussions, or activities. But I really like this system and think it makes a great starting place to teach kids about paganism in general and earth centered religions in particular.



Formal Rating:
Title: Pagan Degrees for Children
Author: Shanddaramon
Publisher: Astor Press
Price: $17.99 USD 
ISBN: 978-0-557-09867-5

Topics Covered: pagan themes and activities (specifically Wiccan), lessons, curricula.

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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lessons for my Son: Cooperation and Choices

The lesson for today, Rowan, is that (despite what the media tells us) there is far more cooperation in the world than strife. While woe and conflict make for dramatic stories to tell on TV and in newspapers, the everyday reality is nicer and a little more boring.


Take a typical Wednesday in our lives for example:
1. We get up after sleeping on a bed made by a group of people in Mexico. Another group of people brought it to Oakland, where we bought it, and took it home. A similar story exists for all our furniture, sheets, and towels. Anything you see that we use and did not make ourselves exists for us through the cooperation of many hands.

2. We make breakfast: organic fair trade coffee (this is coffee we pick especially because it protects songbirds, the people who do the work to bring it to us, and the environment), organic free range eggs (from a local North Bay farm where the chickens are not kept in cages and they can see the sunlight and scratch for their food), and natural nitrate free sausages (made locally San Leandro!).

All these items came to us from various places- cooperation is in every bite. In order to get them to our kitchen for breakfast, we got into our car (which was created by people working together in a factory in Tennessee), obey laws of traffic (which are all about cooperation to ensure safety), and park in a designated space like all the other cars, and enter the store- the very existence of which is a whole other set of cooperation and negotiation between hundreds if not thousands of people. But going to the market to buy items for breakfast is just not newsworthy, according to some.

You'll notice that the items that I listed for breakfast were very particular. That is because choices matter (even consumer ones). While I am not one to jump on a capitalist bandwagon, I do recognize that the system we live under affords me some degree of choice. Do I want eggs from chickens that suffered, never seeing the light of day and having their feet growing into mesh cages? No- of course I do not. Do I want a known carcinogen in my sausage? Again, no. Do I want to protect the environment by getting certain kinds of coffee, even if it means paying an extra dollar per pound? Yes- that is worth it to me. Having principles that apply how we interact with others, who we interact with and even what we buy and where we buy it affects our choices. We never shop at Wal Mart, for example- this is because they are destroying small businesses, taxing money away form the communities they exist in, and treating their employees quite badly.

3. After some play time at home and getting clean, we head out to Pagan Playdate. This is also an exercise in cooperation. The other parents and I talk throughout the week about where to meet, what to plan, and what would be fun for you to do.

4. After we get home, Daddy usually takes over your care, so that Mommy can get some schoolwork done. This is an example of family cooperation and negotiation that took place.

5. Then we put you in your highchair and wheel you into the kitchen so we can feed you and you can watch us cook. We do this instead of letting you play in the living room, because you have told us that you prefer to have us all together, even if it means that you are in the high chair. So we are cooperating with you, too.

Don't let the media fool you when you are older, son*. People are mostly good, and generally we want the same things: food, water, shelter, ease, and love.




*Rowan does not watch TV right now, as we are following recommendations to keep him from doing so until at least age 2.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Love

In my Sex and Spirit class at seminary, we've been reading about and discussing the topic of love. A huge subject, certainly one with theological as well as every day implications. One of the dilemmas that we grappled with is coming up with a standard definition for love. There really aren't any. One of readings that we were given (by bell hooks) really resonated with me. In it, she quotes M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled:
(Love is) "... the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
I like this definition, because it cuts through all the crap that people experience in relationships that they assume is connected to love but isn't very loving at all. In this essay, bell hooks postulates that love and abuse can never coexist and that people mistake a feeling of connection (cathexis) for love.

I think about these things so much more now that I am a parent and have such sway over another person's life. I strive to be loving in my interactions with my son. I find this fairly easy- I am a force of nature in this kind of love it comes automatically and forcefully. It's also easy because he is at a stage where he doesn't challenge me (yet!), and I have never felt this connected to anyone in my life. It is easy to love a baby- I look forward to the challenges of loving a willful toddler, child, adolescent!

But here's the work: I also want him to see models of relationships that are loving. And for that, I need to be able to demonstrate what a loving friendship, a loving partnership, a loving pet relationship looks like. I find that latter task harder. I know that I am not unlike most people- I get caught up in my everyday life and tasks and forget to stop and be present with others. I don't listen as often as I should. I get caught up in what I want, that I forget I am not the only person to consider. Modeling loving relationships to my son is hard, but it is the work that needs to be done.
... "Love is as love does. Love is an act of will- namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love, we choose to." - M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Saturday, November 13, 2010

World Kindness Day

I discovered that today is World Kindness Day, and I am astonished that this is not a well known holiday in the United States. From the above website:
The idea behind the World Kindness Movement (WKM) crystallised at a conference in Tokyo in 1997 when the Small Kindness Movement of Japan brought together like-minded kindness movements from around the world. The WKM was officially launched in Singapore on 18 November 2000 at the 3rd WKM Conference. The mission of the WKM is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world.
This is something we should all be celebrating! The world needs more kindness these days. It seems that more and more countries are officially adding this day to their national holidays and planning official activities that foster a culture of kindness. I can think of no better use of government, frankly. It seems all government in the United States wants to do domestically these days is increase polarity and contention among people, only emphasizing differences and exploiting those differences to invoke fear. And don't get me started on our foreign policy! We need more kindness.

Here's an official commercial from Singapore for this special day:


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tangible Witchcraft: Samhain preparations

Priest, dressed as the
dying king.
So the gauntlet of organizing pan-Feri Samhain is over, thank the Gods! Each year for the last several years, my partner and I have taken it upon ourselves to organize this sabbat for the benefit of the greater community. It is a lot of work, and I believe that it is worth it. Communities only work well when they get face-to-face time. As nice as Facebook is, it is no substitute for breaking bread with your kith and kin. Trying to "be a community" online leads to dysfunction. And religious communities need to have rituals and rites that they share in, too. We come together to turn the wheel of the year- as a tradition. I feel it is very important.

Offering tray for the dead
I got some pictures of our set up (I would not take pictures during a ritual!) so that you could get an idea of what goes into prepping a space for such an endeavor. Prior to getting to the space, we had several meetings, email exchanges and phone calls with lots of people who agreed to take on ritual roles, volunteer, and bring things to the ritual for our use. We secured a hall at the BFUU, as we do each year. Then we met several times to craft the story arc of the ritual- what story were we telling at this time of year?

Prepping the space
There are familiar traditional elements to each sabbat, and Samhain is no different. We commune with our dead, meet specific dieties that are key to this time of year, and allow the dead to ride us as we do embodied activities (dancing, eating, etc.). Our dumb supper is a part of this ritual each year- a ritual meal we consume in silence as we feast on the items we brought specifically for our beloved and mighty dead- things we knew that they liked. In years past, I have brought pickled beets (Grandma Dora Lee), liver and onions (Grandpa Bill), and this year I brought creamed spinach (Great Grandma Addie Belle). My partner, Oberyn, tends to bring the same thing each year for the same dead person- his former teacher's (Gabriel Carillo) apple crisp. Everything brought was delicious and amazing.

Table for the feast with the dead
The Western Gate

The working altar






Grandmaster chair













While we may not do a larger ritual for the entire community at the next sabbat (Yule), we are already thinking about how to celebrate it and introduce Rowan to the return of the son/sun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is Natural Parenting to a Witch Mom?


Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***



A natural parenting philosophy, as outlined at the above link, is something that resonated with me, even before I had an all-encompassing term for it. Rowan was insanely planned and thought about before he even entered this world. His father and I talked about what it would mean to have a child, how our lives would likely change, and how we wanted to raise him/her.

And while I thought I was having a girl, when I found out that I was having a boy, I took that information and used it to my son's advantage: I learned all about circumcision and decided against it.

Now that he is here, in his first year, I think carefully about everything that affects him- and plan accordingly. For example, there is so much conflicting information about vaccination (and yes, I know that the link between autism and vaccines have not been proven. I am talking about umpteen other problems.) that I have postponed getting any for him until at least after a year of age, if at all. In the meantime, I read all I can to try and understand both sides of the vaccination issue and what it means for my family.

Rowan will never be an isolated or coddled kid. I am not going to over-schedule his activities and hover over him the way I see so many other parents doing. While I am considering homeschooling with a group of like-minded parents, that is not because I don't want him to leave my side. Rather, it is because I have been a public school teacher myself and I did not like what I saw there in terms of educational standards, bureaucracy getting in the way of learning and fairness issues, and bullying. I want him to have the social interaction that school affords (which to my mind is the main thing that school does), so I have created a playgroup for him. He has regular playdates (about twice a week right now) and I hope to increase this soon.

I also feel that it is extremely important that Rowan get interactions with the natural world every week- he experiences open air, sunshine, rain, the ocean, dirt, grass, flowers, trees, and the like as part of his regular life, and animals are of extreme interest to him. Because he is such an animal lover (and mommy is so very happy about that!), he gets interactions with animals all the time (pets, petting zoos, pet stores, zoos, farms, and more).

In terms of family life, I have decided to extend my grad school education by going part-time so that I can be with him as much as possible, and his father works part-time so that he gets at least one of us almost all the time. While this has meant living on a severely fixed income that includes public assistance, I feel that this is better for him than both or one of us working full time and never seeing that parent. He has only been babysat thrice in his 9 month old life, and those are times when mom and dad wanted to go somewhere together without a child (novel!).

Most of the time, we go places where our son is welcome- not because we have to, but because it feels more genuine. I want to live in a world where all generations congregate and socialize and there is room at the table for everyone. Places that aren't like that feel artificial to me, even more so now that I am a parent. I strive for an authentic-feeling life. Yes, there are times when we want adult time. And we take it for ourselves. But more often than not, I want to cuddle and play with my son. Show him the world in all its glory. And simply BE with him.



***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):
  1. PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING:
  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Witch Mom Related Resources

Ask Me Anything is a way to ask me about anything that you would like to know from me. If your questions is one that would inform others, I may even write a blog post and publish the answer to your question! But even if I don't answer them on the blog, I answer them on the application itself. Examples:

Hi, I came across to your blog today and I'm hoping you can help me. For the past year me and my husband have been victims of black magic curses from my mother in law, we have experience terrible things and I don't know what else to do. Please help.

There are ways to remove any curses, you just need a little bit of help. I would contact Lucky Mojo and see if there is a hoodoo practitioner in your area that can assist you in person. They have trained folks around the world and have a directory of root doctors who can help. http://www.luckymojo.com/
or...

Where did the faeries put my Green Man earrings? They've been missing all summer (the earrings, not the faeries).

Sounds like they have taken them hostage. You haven't been ignoring their offerings, have you? I find a little Bailey's Irish Cream goes a long way...




Witch Mom Forums are a way for the folks who read this blog to get more interactive: about paganism, religion and spirituality, parenting, witchcraft, and more! Visit, register, introduce yourself, and start meeting others today!

We are talking about all sorts of great topics: teaching children about the sabbats, Halloween vs. Samhain, current events that affect pagans, and much more!




Chip In for co-op childcare at PantheaCon! PantheaCon is the largest pagan conference in the United States, but there is NO childcare available there. This Witch Mom hopes to solve that problem by organizing a volunteer, co-op model of childcare- but there are still costs associated with it: paying for the hotel suite, buying healthy snacks for the kids, and the cost of supplies. If you support childcare at pagan events, chip in!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tangible Witchcraft: Sugar Skulls


The assembled ingredients.

Dia de los Muertos is a ritual/holiday that celebrated the lives of those who have died which is Aztec in origin. The Spanish invaders of Mexico tried to eliminate this this month-long pagan holiday with no success; so Dia de los Muertos was eventually merged with the Catholic All-Saints day and All-Souls day on November 1 and 2 in an effort to make the holiday more Christian, like so many other pagan rituals have been. Today, many devout Catholics build ofrendas and make sugar skulls, as well as pagan folks like myself.

This is what meringue powder looks like!
Traditionally, smaller skulls are placed on the ofrenda on November 1st to represent the children who have deceased. On November 2, they are  replaced by larger, more ornate skulls which represent the adults. These decorative skulls have the name of the deceased on the forehead and are decorated with stripes, dots and swirls of icing to enhance the features of the skulls. These designs are usually whimsical and brightly colored, not morbid or scary. Feathers, beads or colored foils are "glued" on with the icing to create highly ornate skulls.

A texture like wet beach sand.
Mexican sugar art dates back to the 17th century, when Italian missionaries visited the "New World". Mexicans during that time period had very little money and learned from the Catholic friars how to make decorations out of an ingredient they had plenty of: sugar. Molds were then made of clay and the sugar decorations were used to adorn the church as well as ofrendas and gravestones. For the Dia de los Muertos celebrations, the sugar was pressed into sugar skulls and each sugar skull represented an individual and their name was often inscribed on the forehead of the skull.

Fronts and backs of the large skulls.
I make sugar skulls every year as part of my Samhain rituals. Some of these skulls end up on my beloved or mighty dead altars, others come with me to our Pan-Feri Samhain ritual. This year, I helped create seven sugar skulls for my traditions' mighty dead: Victor and Cora Anderson, Gwydion Pendderwen, Gabriel Carrillo, Jim Gillette, Raven Mab Cerridwen, and Alison Harlow. I also made smaller skulls for our beloved dead table, where we will have a dumb supper as part of our Samhain ritual.

A whole lotta dead people.
Making sugar skulls takes time, but is not hard to do! The first step is making the sugar mixture and pressing it into molds. The mixture is only three ingredients: white sugar, meringue powder, and water. You must use all three. The ratio you need to use is also simple: 1 teaspoon of meringue powder and 1 teaspoon of water for every cup of sugar! The mixture will not be super wet, more like the texture of wet sand at the beach when it is ready- just wet enough to go into the molds, but not gloopy! You can get molds here.

Front and back, glued together
with royal icing.
Once you firmly pack the mold, invert it QUICKLY onto a surface that you will be leaving alone for a while, since you need to leave them alone to dry out for a couple days. If you mess up and a skull gets destroyed at this step in the process, no big deal- just pick up the sugar mixture and repack into the mold and try again.

Once you have let the skulls dry for a couple days, it is time for the fun part! Decorating sugar skulls can be done a couple of ways: when I do it alone, I prefer to focus on only a few skulls, and go into a trance state to commune with the person that the skull represents. You can surround yourself with mementos of that person, play their favorite music, or simply chant their name. This year, I did method #2: I invited a few people over to decorate the skulls with me- so it was a social event!

Disposable piping bags
of royal icing.
When you are ready to decorate, you will need royal icing- also a simple recipe: 1 pound of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup meringue powder, 1/3 cup water. This stuff dries to a hard cement, so take precautions in your workspace and with your clothes! Once you have icing, you will want bright colors. DO NOT use the food coloring you get at the supermarket. Get professional gel colors that cake decorators use. (You can get them from the same link that has the molds.)

You can also add foils, glitter, stones and other things to inset in a glob of icing, and feathers to decorate your skulls. The only limit is your imagination!

I'll share some pics later of the skulls on our dead altars at Samhain. but for now, here's a few of the finished ones:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dia de los Muertos

Here is a great documentary (it's an hour and a half long, so grab some popcorn and gather 'round the laptop!) on Day of the Dead, an indigenous holiday of Latinos that has great influence where I live, in California. It happens at the same time that European folks were honoring and communing with their dead, Samhain. I personally make sugar skulls as part of my rememberances this time of year, although I do not think I have central American blood. There is a recognition that at this time of year on both sides of the globe that the veil between the worlds in thin!