Monday, July 30, 2012

What We Create; How We Worship

As a Witch, I am mindful of the life, expectations, and situations that I create. We are ultimately responsible for all we say and do, and the passive world view of "things just happen to me" is anathema to a Witch. Witches make things happen, regardless of the circumstances they are dealt.

While I did not choose my patroness, I accepted her (she does not give much choice, ha!) but her affect on my personality and choices are profound and far reaching. She is so much a part of my life that her altar is in my living room, on the mantle. Anyone who visits will see her and know her presence. She is a hard mistress- one that does not suffer fools nor the weak. She will tear you down in order to build you back up, better and stronger than before. The road has been grueling and one tinged with loss.

I feel a shift coming- not one that would leave Her behind completely, mind you. But one that is coming, nonetheless. The last five years of my life has been leading up to... this. The chaos of training and shaping myself into a Witch (and divorce and having a child and starting grad school, and, and and...) until you hit that ultimate beginning... initiation. Now, after my initiation and moving across the country  I am starting a new life in earnest.

A new life? I have a son that I am educating about life and Witchery. I have started a business that is small but steady. I am in the position at a UU church that I did not expect to be in until after graduation. (I still have work in grad school, but most of it is independent study that coincides with my new position.) My homestead had a decent start this year and will get an infusion of time, money, and energy in the fall and spring with the addition of bees, raised beds, a greenhouse, and a relaxation area in the backyard. I hope to build a brick oven and grill, even.

All this sudden abundance and ease was not easily won- but Lilith made me as strong as I am (by ripping everything that came before to shreds, mind you) to get me to this place. But sometimes I find it hard to enjoy. Witches revel in earthly delights- the body, the senses, the world around us in its beauty. But I have been struggling for so long that I am in the mindset of "nose-to-the-grindstone" all the time. It's time to switch gears and enjoy what I have accomplished.

It is time to dance, make music, have raucous sex, and eat amazing food. It's time for abundance and happiness; parties and games. And I need someone to show me the way. There is someone calling me (who I have avoided cultivating a relationship with up until now): Ganesha.

This chubby, gentle, and wise deity is pretty popular in Hinduism and even among other non-Hindus- for good reason. He is kind and wise (and teaches in ways completely unlike Lilith).

He is a patron of letters and of learning; he is the legendary scribe who, using his broken tusk, which he often holds, wrote down parts of the Mahabharata epic. As I am learning a new Welsh Traditional Witchcraft tradition this year, continuing with grad school and herb learning, and training in visual art this year- he seems appropriate for this time of my life.

His appetite for sweets is legendary and offerings of them are often left at his shrines. His altar in my home has been erected on a third of the living room mantle (Lilith gets most of it, of course.) and he currently has offerings of flowers (Zinnias that I grew myself), dark chocolate, and incense. I also keep my drying paintbrushes there, my sketch pad, and my current journal for my coven training. We have the most lovely vintage statue of Ganesh- large and delicately carved from sandalwood in India. It used to belong to my partner's beloved Witchcraft teacher, now dead. It is there on the mantle, with offering plate, incense burner and small vase for his flowers.

He likes to revel and have a good time: dancing, eating, and mind and mood altering substances are all his domain. He celebrates life and beauty. I need his influence as a reminder to what is important.

As the remover of obstacles, it is he whom worshippers acknowledge first when they visit a temple. Pray to him and have the way cleared for you to accomplish your Will.  My main obstacle at this point is me and my old patterns that do not serve as well as they have in the past. Ganesh, I pray to you to help me remove these obstacles so that I may experience joy.

I am still working out what it means to have deities that are so unlike one another wearing different cultural clothes in my life. I tend to be of the mindset that gods are larger than what we assign to them and that each culture tends to see, like the room of blind men, only a part of the elephant. The gods of Faery are different from those of the Welsh trad I am currently studying, which are different from a few others that I work with: Lilith, Ganesh, Samovila. It's all confusing and glorious and a constant discovery.

Do you work with Ganesh? How do you offer devotion (or do you)? I see devotion as a way of getting the positive attention of a beloved. Wooing, if you will. How do you see it?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Child Care and Heartbreak

My neighbor and I (we share a duplex) watch other people's kids for some spare cash. I only have one kid besides my own, but my neighbor has a few kids that come regularly. They all play together and we help one another out.

Today, my neighbor (we'll call her Donna) also had two more kids than usual, as a favor to a longtime friend. Her friend's son is 5  (let's call him Thor), the daughter is 3 (let's call her Ramona). They just recently had a family tragedy of the worst kind and she needed friends to watch her kids while she dealt with the details of putting her life back to together.

You see, her other son (we'll call him Jacob), a 14 year old, just died. He was spending the night at a friend's house and the grandparents (his friend lived with his grandparents) had a loaded gun. The boys found it and were playing around and to put a long story short, her son was killed by his best friend. Everyone in this situation is shocked and horrified.

While some people will vilify the grandparents (and yes, it is not OK that there was a loaded gun in kids' reach, I agree with that), it's not like they wanted this to happen. And the child that was playing with his grandparent's gun has now shot and killed his best friend and will have to live with that the rest of his life. I cannot imagine the guilt, fear, and horror that involves.

And Jacob's mom. I just keep thinking of her and feeling her pain and anguish. If I lost Rowan like that, I would seriously flip the fuck out (pardon the language, but I am intensely feeling this today). Seriously. I don't know if I could do what she has been doing- which is supporting the grieving friend (telling him she forgives him) and going down to the state capital building to work for gun control. I suppose this is how she is dealing with her grief. I don't honestly know what  would do- I cannot imagine the hole that would be left if Rowan were suddenly gone forever, especially if his last moments were ones of agony and fear.

So my neighbor and I did our damndest to be cheerful and fun for these kids whose everyday existence right now is confusion and grief. I brought out play dough for everyone. I gave some to Thor and said hi and he looked up at me with the most morose eyes I have seen in a child his age and the first thing he said was, "Jacob is dead." My heart fell into my shoes and I welled up with tears. "I know," I said. "I am so sorry." What do you say to a kid when he says that? What does he want to hear, if anything?

Then his sister kept getting the situation confused. "Jacob shot me." "No, Jacob shot himself." "No, Jacob was shot." I took a deep breath and watched while her older brother corrected her so she got her story right. "He was in the hospital, but now he's dead."

"Yes, honey." I said. "That's true and very sad." Jocob's mom texted Donna and told her that she was so grateful to have the kids playing with other kids and out of the house, which is so sad and overwhelming right now. "They deserve a normal day." she said.

I am glad to say that they did play. We took them to the park, fed them mac and cheese, and let them be rambunctious kids. I hope it helped.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Benefits of Valerian and Hops

As many of my regular readers know, I am an herbalist. I run an apothecary and botanica called Boline and also help people through personal consultations. People see an herbalist for many reasons- I have helped folks with "female troubles", allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and much more. 
Common maladies, especially in our crazy culture, like insomnia, stress, and anxiety also take their toll and people have come to me in relief. One of the ready-to-go remedies that I have created is a tincture of hops and valerian for these symptoms. This one two herbal punch will help you relieve anxiety, get to sleep (even after taking in too much caffeine!) and relieve your stress. It works for most people in a gentle, non-addictive way.

It is calming without exerting too sedative an effect and is practically non-addictive. It is a valuable treatment for insomnia, the sedative effect due to the valepotriates and the isovaleric acid. 

At least two double-blind studies have demonstrated that valerian extract can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes people to fall asleep without changing the normal stages of sleep. 

Documented research has noted a mild hypnotic action from Valerian in both normal sleepers and insomniacs, indicated by a beneficial effect on sleep latency, wake-time after sleep, frequency of waking, nocturnal motor activity, inner restlessness and tension and quality of sleep. Sleepiness and dream recall the morning after were unaffected. The valepotriates have a regulatory effect on the autonomic nervous system; research suggests that they have a calming effect on agitated people but are also a stimulant in cases of fatigue.

Valerian is also used as a mild tranquilizer for people experiencing emotional stress, much as anti-anxiety drugs are prescribed and has been prescribed for exhaustion. Valerian has occasionally been tried as part of a program to take a patient off antidepressants or benzodiazepines, and is sometimes used as a muscle relaxant to treat pain.

Valerian does not impair driving ability and produces no morning hangover effect. It is a gentle relaxant and an effective sleep aid.

Hops have been used traditionally for nervous disorders and to help anxiety or sleep for generations. Once, scientists scoffed at its use, but studies have finally been done and show reasons for its effectiveness and use. (Dr. K-H Schiller from Hoexter demonstrated that hop preparations reduced the spontaneous locomotor activity, increased the ketamine-induced sleeping time and reduced body temperature, confirming a central sedating effect)

Pairing hops with valerian has its own benefit, according to the studies:
Pairing hops with valerian may help treat insomnia, according to a 2010 research review published in Australian Family Physician. The review included 16 previously published studies, 12 of which found that the use of valerian on its own or in combination with hops helped improve sleep quality and lessened the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Used as a bittering agent in beer, hops are thought to deliver sedative effects.

The valerian/ hops medication was capable of reducing (2 tablets) or inhibiting (6 tablets) the arousal induced by caffeine. This pharmacodynamic action was observed 60 minutes after oral administration, indicating not only competition between the antagonist caffeine and the partial agonist, i. e., the valerian / hops extract but also bio-availability of the compound(s) responsible for the agonistic action. In conclusion, the valerian / hops extract acts via a central adenosine mechanism which is possibly the reason for its sleep-inducing and -maintaining activity.

Because of its sedative action, you should not use hops while on other CNS depressors including benzodiazepines, narcotics, and barbiturates.

Boline's tincture is 100% organic and Witch made. I work magick on my remedies, making them the old-fashioned way- which takes time. If you are interested in getting some, click here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ask Me Anything: How Do I...?

In this semi-regular feature on Witch Mom, I answer select questions from readers. There is always a box (that states "Ask Me Anything") to the right of my blog posts if you would also like to ask a question. It could be about The Craft, parenting, pop culture, multi-religious education, homeschooling, or whatever! I cannot promise to answer each one, but I will read them!

A reader asks: "I am a new Wiccan but am headed off to college. What is the best way for me to learn Witchcraft?"

OK, I have to admit, I am a little stumped by this question. I don't really understand what you are asking. I think that we are having a miscommunication problem brought on by the commercialization of pagan traditions, especially Wicca. There is only one way to learn Witchcraft and/or Wicca- from another qualified person or persons directly. A teacher or a coven. Not a class or workshop, not a book or DVD, and not an email list.

Let me first start by stating that Wicca and Witchcraft are not always interchangable terms. Witchcraft is a broad term encompassing far more than just Wicca, although Wicca is the best known, especially to newcomers. I, for example, am a Witch- initiated into one tradition and studying yet another, yet do not identify as Wiccan. Neither tradition I am affiliated with is Wiccan. 

Wicca, in its true form, is an initiatory tradition- usually Gardnarian or Alexandrian flavored. If you are talking about that kind of Wicca, the only way to learn it is in person, with a teacher or teaching coven. So I would seek out listings for teachers or covens in your new place- WitchVox is a great place to look. 

However, if you mean Wicca, as in "Is this better to learn online or from a book?" The answer from me is going to be a resounding NO- neither of those option will teach you the Mysteries. Don't get me wrong- I am studying using digital technology with a specific teacher and training coven. But I do not expect to be initiated or get passed Mysteries (in other words, be a Witch in that tradition) unless I get some serious face-to-face time logged in with that coven. Instead, I am learning lore and systems. This is useful- yes! But it is not the whole enchilada. A good Witch never mistakes the mere pinto beans for the whole enchilada.

I read books on The Craft and Occult mysteries all the time. But they do not make me a Witch. That link says everything I would want to say about how to become a Witch. Thank you, Sarah Lawless for that brilliant piece of writing!

The second bit of confusion I am having is the apparent conflict of college and Witchcraft that you seem to have. Witchcraft is a calling- you don't choose it, it chooses you. If you are called, you can put it off for a while and make college your priority for a time, but not forever. If you are feeling  a pull, I would start working towards finding a reputable teacher (do not settle for the first one you find!) ASAP. Please read that link as well as to how to find the right teacher for you.

That said, Witchcraft will change you forever. It will form the frame of reference that you will see everything through. It won't make you a lot of friends, but it can make you some enemies. So choose carefully and don't take the path lightly. I wish you luck and safety in your travels and great discernment in your choices. Blessings Light and Dark! -Lily

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Curriculum Writing

NUUC, where I work.
I am in the throes of writing out month one of my new curriculum. I am going to be using it at the church I work for as Director of Religious Education, and eventually a more embellished version will be part of Rowan's homeschooling experience.

This is a daunting task, because while I have accumulated many resources (many of which are on my Pinterest boards) to assist me, I need to make a curriculum that serves three different age groups- preschoolers, grade-schoolers and 12+ youth.

Because I want them all to be on similar pages (in regards to what they are learning about), I am adapting one unified curriculum and the associated activities to be age-appropriate for each level. I am also creating a take home page for parents, so that they can engage their kids in what they learned in church that day.

September's curriculum is all about church, UUism, and why we are here as UUs together. We will explore the value of questions and questioning, social justice, and beloved community.

October's curriculum is all about Halloween, Samhain, Dia de Los Muertos, ancestors, and family.

November, the month of Thanksgiving (which used to be a Christian holiday as formalized in the US and is now secular) is about developing a gratitude practice and performing acts of service.

December's curriculum is all about the winter holidays of light: Chalica, Hannukah, Yule, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.

As I write them, I will post some of them here. Anyone Interested?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Puttering Around the Homestead

My neighbor and I have been steadily improving our homestead as time, energy, and money allows. This is for economy, sustainability, and aesthetic reasons. Today, we (my neighbor, me, her kids, my kid) all worked on the beautifying end of things.

What is this you are seeing? It is the top of the table from Rowan's room. We got it second-hand, already covered in crayon marks. Today, while we paint other things, I am spraying the top with chalkboard paint.
This way, he has an "art nook" in his room.

My neighbor and I are starting a long project: a mosaic. we got a bunch of tiles donated, but not all have the colors we want. Our solution? Paint the tiles!

We decided to make this a kid-friendly project, so all the kids got involved, painting tiles.

How fun is that? And they will be able to point to their contribution when the mosaic is all done!

My neighbor, painting.

Chalkboard painted tabletop!

Here we are, heating an etched bottle, right before we plunge it into ice water to break it. We are using the bottoms to edge our sidewalk and the tops as hurricane lamps, candlabras, and wind chimes.

Etch etch etch.

Broken bottles. Two down, hundreds more to go. Sigh.