Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why I Am Not a Vegetarian or Vegan

I was a vegetarian for eight years and a vegan for two. Once I started on the religious path that I am on now, I stopped and incorporated meat back into my diet. Why? After all, I know so many pagans who are vegetarians or vegans. They often talk about it as part of their religious practice. Why did my religious practice lead me in the exact opposite direction?

1. I believe that you should listen to your body. About a year into my studies in my tradition, I started craving meat. And not just any meat- red rare meat- the bloodier the better. I started having dreams of sacrificing animals myself... and that was very disturbing to this pacifist, former vegan. But it also made sense, in a non-verbal way. The dreams coincided with our ancient, ancestral, agricultural clock- aka The Wheel of the Year. I was killing the dying god and birthing him later- both acts covered in blood- the water of life. After performing acts of magic, I still crave the blood of life. Many others crave sugar and carbs. But for me, protein, specifically meat protein, is the way to go.

2.  To me, the problem is not animal killing and eating itself. It is how animals are raised and slaughtered and consumed. We have removed the sacredness of their lives and deaths from how most of us eat- and this needs to be changed- for all our sakes. Small sustainable farms are a start. Hunting your own wild food is also good. Being truly thankful and knowing what it is you are consuming is also important.

3. And most importantly (from a theological perspective), I feel that all life is sacred, and I do not place animals' lives above plant lives- they are equal. I believe that we may not be able to communicate with them as easily, but plants have consciousness, too. I know- I have talked to them. Therefore, it becomes obvious to me that all people must kill (something) to survive and to live. I think it is perhaps comforting to many to kill plants instead, since we cannot hear or see their suffering when we kill them. But we are killing life just the same.

What is your opinion? What is your diet and how does your theology influence it?

Monday, December 26, 2011

"Pagan Community"

Recently, I had an interaction that left me flabbergasted at the unspoken racist assumptions of some folks with whom I had hoped to have a closer relationship. What saddened me was that they used their pagan perspectives to justify their entitled (racist) perspectives. When I brought up (what seemed to me to be) the elephant in the room, I was the bad guy. It left me uncomfortable, sad, and angry.

I know several of my friends have told me of their experiences as outsiders in communities in which they supposedly belong. I have felt that way myself at times (haven't we all)? But if we continue systemic, unchecked assumptions about others we never get the chance to improve as people.

In 2012, Witch Mom will be featuring perspectives from folks who feel like outsiders in the greater pagan/polytheist/pantheist communities. This includes but is not limited to people of color, people in non-Wiccan traditions, queers, and more.

If you think this includes you, I would love to hear from you. Please shoot an email to lillitushahar (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Hope everyone had a blessed Yule and Solstice.

Happy Christmas to all my Christian readers.

Happy fifth night of Hannukah to all my Jewish readers.

Happy Kwanzaa (starting tomorrow!) to all my readers who celebrate that holiday.

Blessed be the dark and returning of the light.

I'll be back in 2012 with even more Craft, natural parenting, and homeschooling blog posts (and a lot more!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Watching My Son Grow: Into Everything!

Checking out his selection of snacks.
I have watched my son grow from a tentative baby into a gregarious toddler, and now he's into everything! Rather than hinder his natural curiosity, I am encouraging his exploration. He is learning all about the natural world, our human activities, and gaining all kinds of life skills and knowledge.

Our latest fun adventure is "helping" around the house. Rowan loves the vacuum, and calls it a "monster". (Hos grandparents are actually getting him a real vacuum, albeit a small lightweight one, for the holidays!) He wants to assist every time it is rolled out and is sad to see it leave and "sleep" in the closet. He also wants to help cook, which was a problem until recently!

"Helping" to make cookies.
I found a great blueprint online for a "helping tower". This is basically an adjustable step-stool with rails around it for safety. It gets my son up to counter height, so he can "help" me cook and bake. (Anyone with a cooking toddler knows that "help" is in quotation marks for a reason. If you want your toddler involved, give yourself an extra half hour, at least to finish any project, and prepare the room and the toddler for mess making. We usually strip the boy down to his diaper, pull his hair back in a ponytail,  and clear away anything fragile, like the coffee maker on the counter when he "helps".)

This helping tower is awesome!
I am lucky enough to have Rowan's grandfather, who is a whiz with wood and has his own workshop with every power tool imaginable. He spent a day making this tower from leftover poplar he had lying aorund. Once we brought it in the house, Rowan took to it immediately. He loves his "towuh" and tries to drag it across the kitchen floor to the counter every day now to participate.

When we were in the hardware store, I asked Rowan to pick a color for the tower from the paint samples, and he (finally!) picked an orange sherbet color. So that's what color the tower has become. Mama spent time in the basement painting it and when the new and improved tower was brought back up, Rowan exclaimed, "Tower! Paintin'!" I think that means he likes it.

One recent adventure was making daddy's birthday cheesecake. As Rowan licked the beaters clean, he kept murmuring, "Happy Biwfday!" Could he get any cuter, seriously? Tonight, Rowan got to help make Chicken Marsala, and tested the texture and taste of flour. I am so excited he gets to explore like this from a young age.

How do you let your kids "help"?

This post is part of the Monday blog hop at the Natural Parenting Group, a site which I am a member!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Amazing Video on the Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact

I am a firm believer in natural parenting and skin-to-skin contact is key immediately after birth. This video is amazing and takes what "kangaroo care" can do to a whole new level. This Australian mother brings her premature son back from the dead with loving kindness and skin-to-skin contact.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons from the Plat

Because things are very slow here in Appalachia, I have been using my extra time to be crafty- and one of the things that I have taken up again is embroidery. When searching for patterns on Etsy, I came across a listing for a Russian plat.

This is the "7 powers" design.
For those of you unfamiliar with Russian folk magic, a plat is a ceremonial towel- only used for ritual purposes- never as an ordinary towel (those are called roushniks). It is lovingly hand embroidered with specific patterns for specific purposes. They are talismans, to be specific. Plat patterns were passed orally from generation to generation, like most traditional Witchcraft tools and spells. The pattern on the plat I found was for the "seven basic powers" to bless the bearer, which is a great all-around plat to use in all kinds of work. (The seven basic powers roughly translate to the elements used in other magical systems: fire, earth, air, water, spirit, with the addition of intelligence and matter in the Russian system.)

I was excited to learn first hand about this Craft, so I went ahead and got the kit. Embroidering (or any specifically magical Craft) has many magical things to teach someone who is willing to listen. The pattern itself was a mind bending jumble of numbers. As I worked the pattern, I found that it instructed me about how the world is set up- by mathematical principles. Plat patterns only use ones, threes, fives and sevens (which are all very magical numbers that mean specific things) in their stitch and skip counts. A geometrical pattern emerges that creates symbols that invoke specific principles and powers. Math has always been at the foundation of all magical systems, but as someone who only does math when required (groan!), I never really appreciated its beauty before. That has changed.

This is what it looks like reversed.
In the pattern that I made, the stitches create X-like crosses that, in turn, crossed diamonds. These are ancient agricultural symbols of a grain field impregnated by the sun's energy (or the elements of fire and earth). Water is represented by the zig zag pattern above and below the diamonds. Air and Spirit are demonstrated by the white in the design, and Matter is shown by the use of red thread. The pattern shows Intelligence by the horned diamonds- they show basic construction, like a house.

I found myself frustrated in the beginning of the project, constantly referring to the pattern and groaning when I discovered that I missed a stitch and had to re-do a row. As I progressed, the pattern became more a part of me, and I intuitively knew what stitch came next- to complete the pattern. It felt as if the elements were coming home to rest in my little plat. And that is what I wanted, a true talisman of the elements, allowing me to use the towel in accordance with nature and the Flow.

For more information on Russian folk magic embroidery, check out Traditional Russian Costume.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Booper Quotes

Lately, since Rowan has been working on developing sentences and syntax, he comes up with all kinds of precious gems. Here are a few!

Me to partner (who is stringing up lights in the yard): "Are you gonna do a Maypole Dance around that tree with the lights?" 
Rowan (who is watching): "Maple Pants?"

At the local petting zoo, upon viewing a pig: "Money, mommy?" (He thinks all pigs eat coins, like his piggy bank at home. He loves to feed the animals and watch them eat.)

We are not teaching Rowan about Santa Claus*. Because that guy is everywhere these days, he sees inflatables, pictures, statues and such and like any toddler, wants to know what it is. So we told him his name: Nick. Nick, we explained, is an old guy that is famous this time of year. You should see the strange stares we get at the mall when our son points and yells, "Nick! The Old Guy!"

Booper is learning to count, although depending on how tired he is, he may not get his numbers in order. Last night, while climbing the stairs to go to bed, he counted, "One, Free, Six".

Got a cute toddler story to share (new or old) please do in the comments!

*We believe it is better for our son to learn that the people he loves are getting him gifts and he in turn is recognizing the people he loves with gifts in turn. While it is a cute tradition in the USA, I am not going to lie to my son about Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. Anybody with me on this one?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Witchcraft DIY

I have numerous boards on Pinterest- many boards on homeschool curricula, crafting, and DIY (separated into different boards based on subject) but one that I think is original and unique is my Witchcraft DIY board. On it, I "pin" interesting skills and crafts that come in handy in ritual, for spells, and more.

What kinds of projects? Here are some examples from my Witchcraft DIY board:

How to make floral garlands

Mead making 101

How to build an herb spiral

Making a box from an orange peel: perfect for spells that you bury.

Lughnasadh wreaths

Elderflower Sun Cordial recipe

Carving skulls from butternut squash

Great way to make cords.

Pinterest is a unique way of filing things- in addition to this photo, all of these crafts, tricks, tips, recipes, and such are linked to tutorial- so everyone can take part! If you are on Pinterest, be sure to follow me- I update my boards weekly.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Watching My Son Grow: Our Progress and Plans

Helping mama bake cookies for Sunday School.
Rowan is closing in on two years old- I cannot believe it! He has grown and developed at such breakneck speed that this mama is gasping to catch her breath. Before my very eyes, Rowan has become a little boy and less of a baby. He is stringing together sentences, he knows his colors, he can count to eight, and is learning the names of letters. He surprises me every day with a new word or concept that he has picked up. He remembers EVERYTHING.

In his current home, he has watched a little too much TV for my liking (a consequence of living in a home that is not your own and having a TV in the majority of the downstairs rooms), and now knows the names of TV characters like Elmo (from Sesame Street), Muno and Plex (from Yo Gabba Gabba), and "Backpack" (which is the character from that show that he likes better than Dora the Explorer!). I am looking forward to a TV free existence soon. While my son has a great imagination and loves books, I don't like how he stops what he is doing at times to stare at the screen at times. Eventually, that viewing will turn into crass commercialism, something I wish to avoid. So soon (thankfully!) we will be back to our selective-viewing-on-a-laptop kind of life.

Nanny giving Ro a bath.
He has had the good fortune of living with his "Nanny and Pap Pap" for a few months, and has developed quite a close relationship with each of them. We will be moving in February into our own place, but expect that they will visit quite often. I am a firm believer in tribe and extended family. In our new place, we will soon be living with close friends who also have a toddler (Rowan's best friend, who is a week younger than he is- we all met in birth class). We are all relocating from the Bay Area to Columbus- a long trek and one that was designed with the kids in mind.

Columbus has amazing parks, libraries, museums, a zoo, and much more. The cost of living is easier here than the Bay, which means stability and opportunity to homeschool the way that I want- with music and dance lessons, martial arts, and art in Rowan's life. I anticipate using our homesteading efforts to help school him in math, life skills, reading, and science. Regular outings will supplement our lessons, and classes will give him focused skill sets.

Trick or Treating for the first time.
As a child I was reading at age three, and I anticipate that Rowan will read early as well. He loves books, remembers what is on each page already, and is interested in letters now. Ohio's homeschool laws ask for more documentation than California, but I don't expect that to be a problem for us. When he reaches school age, I need to give a principal our curriculum for the year and have them sign off on it. I am using my master's degree to develop a curricula on religion, social justice, and the world's cultures. I am also accumulating help on the main school subjects (math, science, reading, social studies) on my Pinterest boards. Feel free to subscribe!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Witch Mom Raves: BIG Kids Magazine

I read a lot of blogs: pagan blogs, blogs by marginalized voices, political blogs, artist blogs, and mommy blogs. The mommy blogs that I read tend to be folks who practice attachment or natural parenting styles and I often discover neat new stores that have natural items for Rowan on them. I tend to follow the various links and see what I find. On one such blog, I found a link to a new magazine for kids out of Australia called BIG. (BIG stands for Bravery, Imagination, and Generosity) It is an unusual magazine in that it is child driven, and the adults (who are all artists) who help to publish it guide the kids do the writing and artwork.

I was excited to see how the magazine accomplished such a lofty goal. The magazine industry is a hard one to make work, especially in the long run. Heck, print in general! So when I got my review copy, I was seriously impressed! This is as high a quality magazine as many of the other art magazines out there: on thick stock, a matte finish, with a great fresh layout. It's also an envronmentally friendly magazine, with vegetable based ink and recycled, chlorine-free paper stock.

There is painting, drawing, poetry, writing and interviews, all done by kids. From the magazine:
BIG stands for Bravery, Imagination, and Generosity. BIG is committed to partnering organisations that protect, support, and enrich the lives of children. BIG prioritises inclusion and encourages the growth of compassionate and tolerant communities. BIG challenges hierarchies of who is listening and who is speaking, and amplifies small voices in big ways. BIG is a poetic and tangible place of ongoing discovery. Read their manifesto!

I especially love the side-by-side interview feature- one is called Big People Grown (an interview of an adult) and the other facing page is called Big People Growing (an interview of a kid). The interviews of adults are of artists, performers, and scientists- in other words, inspiration for the growing people reading the magazine.

Kids contribute black and white pictures that serve as coloring pages for other kids. And one lucky artist gets a loose print in the magazine, suitable for framing. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to be a contributing kid artist and be selected for such an honor? I mean, when you get hung on the fridge its a big deal- but having your work distributed to thousands of others in a print magazine? Wow.

Rowan is a little young for this magazine now (being less than 2) but you can bet I will be subscribing when he gets older! It's expensive, but not only are you paying to support a worthy project that inspires kids (including your own), but your subscription includes donating copies to those who cannot afford one. I think $35 (Australia), $49 (Asia Pacific) and $59 (the rest of the world) is a fair price for a such a great project.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ask Me Anything: Gossip and Malicious Speech

In this semi-regular feature on Witch Mom, I answer select questions from readers. There is always a box to the right of my blog posts if you would also like to ask a question, or click here. 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: "Lily, can you share something--a perspective, prayer, survival tips--on how to deal/see gossip-mongers and malicious people? THANKS." 

For previous related posts on this subject, check out "Pagan Values Month", Kalama Sutta, and Extremism Worldwide. Both posts have related thoughts (but are not addressing this issue head on).

We have all had to deal with negative, judgmental people in our lives. Some folks are just not happy with anything that others do, while others have no empathy for people with other life experiences and the values formed from them. It makes interacting with these folks more of an endurance test than a pleasure. I find my limits get strained by these types much more than my own toddler- who is quite adept at testing limits!

Long ago, one of my teachers gave me this tip (unsure of the original source of this quote, so if you know, leave the credit in the comments): "What other people think of you is none of your business." At first, I was aghast. I mean, I am a person who values community- and to me, gossip (when it is done correctly) has an important function in a tribal society. It reinforces tribal mores and holds people accountable for their actions. In tribal cultures, gossipers are held just as accountable as those being talked about. But I was forgetting something: most of us do not live in anything like a tribal culture, at least not 24/7. And that makes gossip more like a virus- something that spreads like wildfire, it's hard to find the original source, and you cannot hold a virus accountable.

Not related to the post, just funny!
This is the best survival tip I can think of: stop caring what others think of you.  If you do your work to be a discerning, ethical person and then walk your talk- it doesn't matter if people approve of you or not. Self love will save you from feeling bad when others disapprove. I am not saying that this is easy- especially when those casting shade your way are family or people you consider friends. I have lost fair-weather friends as well as family members because they are so critical, or get angry when they cannot control my words and actions. So be it. Life is too short to not live YOUR life to its fullest. You must follow your calling(s) and those that are truly kin (whether by blood or not) will find you and support you in your path.

Chances are, if you live your path unencumbered by others expectations, you will become a shining beacon, drawing others who are your actual kin to you. This has happened to me, so I can attest that this is no mere speculation.

As a last resort: If you are dealing with people that are messy and harm lots of others with their words and deeds as a matter of habit, I am not the type of Witch that is against binding someone. It can be a useful tool in a Witch's arsenal. Some people these days seem to be against using Witchcraft to harm or restrain others, but that is not my idea of Witchcraft at all. I am not personally bound by a Wiccan rede, as I believe if you cannot hex, you cannot heal. However, you should know that binding a person makes them attached to you in a way that may be uncomfortable for the long term. Choose this strategy carefully, as it makes the person less likely to harm, but binds them TO YOU, the Witch, in a way as well. If you choose this route, you need to be okay with the fact that in their struggles to harm others as before you will need to protect yourself from them even more than before. It is a skill that takes practice and you need to be ready to release the binding when the time comes for everyone's sake.

Ask Me Anything! You can ask me a question and I will answer- if it is a long answer, I will blog it. Past blog posts inspired by readers have included divine possession, ghosts, and astral projection! Just keep the question short- the application that I use  cuts off wordy inquiries from time to time. Or you can make suggestions for a blog post. What do you want to see me write about? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Million Mothers March

Many women do not have the right to feed their infants when and where they need to. I live on the West Virginia border right now, and in that state, women can be told to leave somewhere if they breastfeed and someone doesn't like it.

Enough is enough. The Million Mothers March is an event organized by a mom who was kicked off a public bus for breastfeeding. It is being organized for August 6, 2012 in Washington DC.

There has been a rise in the incidences of harassment of breastfeeding mothers. Mothers are being asked to feed their children in the restrooms at Wal-Mart, an all women’s fitness facility even on public transportation. The unmitigated fact is that the list goes on and on. This madness has to stop! Breastfeeding Mothers Unite is a grassroots organization formed to bring awareness to the community and to UNITE mothers. We need to bring as much attention to a mother’s right to nurse her child whenever and wherever that child gets hungry.

I urge you to spread the word and get to DC next year if you can! I have posted this before, but it worth a second time:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Buy Nothing Day

A women gets trampled in a "black friday" shopping spree.
What are we becoming, all in the name of profit?
I refuse to call today "Black Friday" and think of the whole constructed day as a horrible event that harkens back to Roman orgies. Expecting people to riot and fight over discounts over things that they do not even need is appalling to me.

I prefer to send a message of sustainability and reason by participating in Buy Nothing Day. Instead of spending the day in a florescent lighted, over-crowded mall, I spend it making memories with my family: baking cookies or making crafts with my son, playing in forts, and playing games with loved ones.

The winter holiday season is about gratitude and family* for most people, so the idea of Black Friday runs counter to what this season is supposed to be about. Instead, I encourage you to Buy Nothing.

*As well as the religious reasons. In my case, the turning of the Wheel of the Year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

National Day of Mourning, New England.
I have been teaching my Sunday School class all about Thanksgiving and other cultures' similar holidays. Many religions and cultures have similar days of gratitude. I taught them about Purim and Harvest Home/Mabon last week. I also taught them about how Indigenous Americans see this holiday and showed them footage of The American Indian Movement occupying Alcatraz Island. I told them of participating in the National Day of Mourning in Massachusetts when I lived there.

In teaching them about today, I leaned something myself:

While there was a harvest festival in 1621 (that had pilgrim immigrants from Europe and native Mashpee and Wampanoag people in attendance), the holiday started being celebrated on the 4th day in November when Abraham Lincoln called for a "National Day of Thanksgiving" after the Civil War ended. We have not been celebrating this day, in perpetuity, since the days of the pilgrims as we are led to believe. It was made a legal holiday in 1941 on the 4th Thursday in November. So the official, secular holiday has its roots steeped in war and a longing for peace.

I also worked with the kids on cultivating a gratitude practice. I talked about how when you are feeling bitter or resentful about something, a gratitude practice is the best fix to make yourself feel better. I had them list 5 things that they were grateful for, in that moment. It was telling that they had a hard time with the exercise. Most of us are our of practice when it comes to being thankful and expressing our gratitude. We take things for granted.

This holiday, I am grateful for many things. My top 5 are:

1. My son- who makes me laugh every day and gives me a great sense of purpose.
2. Supportive and loving family in this time of transition.
3. The basics that I should never take for granted: shelter, food, clean water, and love.
4. That my partner has found a job and is working hard for our family.
5. A wonderful life plan and goals before me.

What about you? What are your top 5?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Teaching Children the Craft: Weather Witchery & the Environment

In this ongoing series, I share insights and make proposals regarding teaching children the Craft. My hope is that you, the readers, will join me by using the comments section. Please make comments, ask questions, and engage in dialogue with me and each other. My hope is that fruitful communication will benefit us all in the form of a Craft curriculum for kids of Witches everywhere.

Rowan is now profoundly aware of the weather around him and now has names for some of the more common things relating to weather: sun, clouds, wind, rain, fog, hot, cold, and wet, among others.

Given that he loves water and the cold (just watch the boy jump in the ocean, over and over regardless that his lip is quivering and his legs are icicles!), I am wagering that winter will be a fun time around here, playing in the newly discovered snow (he has never seen it in person before).

First pumpkin carving
As I teach Rowan about the natural world, I am also sharing with him the ways that humans and Witches can change the natural world (for good or ill). Litter is a bad thing, but picking it up changes the destruction someone else did. As a conscientious human and Witchlet, I am teaching him to leave the environment better than he left it. He is already super eager to help. And that is the precise attitude a budding Witch should have!

Water baby
But Witches also can have some control over things like weather. And while it is tempting to change it to suit our whims- we should only do so when it won't be a greater hardship. For example, in Oakland where I used to live, we were subject to droughts. To my mind, changing rain to sun in a climate like that would not be beneficial, so I never did it.

Now I live in Appalachia and there is plenty of rain, so much that the river often floods and destroys homes. I have been playing with cloudbusting and moving weather patterns since my arrival. This past weekend, I worked to move a storm that had an 80% chance of bumming us out on a neighborhood scouting trip to Columbus (our future home). Mission accomplished! And I plan on teaching my son this skill (and corresponding responsibility) as well.

What lessons are you teaching your kids about the environment and their control over it?