Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eclectic Circling

In my 20 odd years of Witchcraft, I have circled with many other Witches in varying traditions, Druids, Ceremonial Magicians, Masons, Gnostics, Heathens, and many many others who would fall under the pagan umbrella.

Often public rituals are eclectic in this regard- a group will host a ritual for say, Samhain for the benefit of the greater pagan community, including their own tradition, but open to anyone else. I have also hosted gatherings and sabbats where not everyone is on the same page magickally- some are students while others are initiated into a tradition. This creates a challenge: how does one keep the potency of a working, while working with and acknowledging these differences in perspectives, skill levels, and religions present?

Well, you try. Often you just can't please everyone. But here are some tips when planning such an event that will get you off to a great start:

1. Start planning your event months beforehand. Put out a call to let the greater community know that you will be planning such an event and ask for their participation. This allows interested parties time to get involved.

As someone who has planned lots of events as well as been a community organizer, I can tell you that people who actually show up and do the work of making something happen are greatly outnumbered by those that avail themselves of your work and possibly criticize it. I simply do not let those people affect me adversely and my organizing work. When they offer suggestions, I listen. I thank them for their input, take what suggestions are helpful, and suggest that if they want input into next time, that they join the planning committee to make that happen.

I also lay out in the call for organizers that those that show up to do the work are the ones who have input into what we do and why. This eliminates the "comments from the peanut gallery" from people that aren't actually organizing (that often happens when people try and plan by email list).

2. Have actual planning meetings (in person) not conference calls and email lists. You can use the latter tools for following up on work decided upon in meetings, but making decisions in a diverse group without face-to-face contact and actual dialogue is not productive.

While your planning committee may be smaller by requiring that people meet in person at times, I have found that the people who commit to show up in advance are the people that end up doing everything anyway. The others who cannot spare a few hours over the course of a couple months really do not have the time and energy for the project- because that is what doing the project right requires. Quality of organizer is more important than quantity.

3. Start your meeting with introductions that are specific. Names, religious traditions, and what they are hoping to get out of the ritual or event. Ask for specifics and take notes. See if there are similarities in what people are saying- those links and commonalities are important and will help you build bridges and craft an event that works for the most people involved/attending.

4. Think lowest common denominator. Nothing stirs up resentments faster than a public event, which was supposed to be for a greater community, reflecting only a handful of participants' religions. So think- what is it that you all have in common? The elements and the directions? A specific animal? A god or myth cycle that you follow? Use that to plan the theme, details, and story arc of your ritual. Similarities are great, but what about when you run into differences?

5. Tell a story, using creative elements. Song, dance, visual symbolism, tactile elements- all have a place and should be employed in how the ritual connects people to the story that you are telling. All of these elements also give you a better chance of connecting with diverse traditions- because all have something to share in this regard and can be of help.

I have found that an approach that acknowledges differences in an obvious way (like taking bits of different styles of creating sacred space and inserting them into the script) helps. It's even better when this attempt is obvious- like creating a program so that attendees can see their trad represented as well as myriad others equally.

What tips have you found helpful in organizing a diverse group?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where Is The Magick?

Bodega Head
Yesterday, my teacher and I went to Bodega Head. We were having "class" once again outside, where magick actually happens. We bundled up and got out some chairs from the trunk and planted ourselves out on one of the cliffs to see what we could see. The ocean was cold and choppy and unrelenting waves smashed into rocks and the shore.

We were watching Her glas* skin- roiling under the surface, constantly in motion, teeming with life. I cannot imagine how it must feel to never be at rest like that. We watched these plants, firmly rooted in solid rock thrive despite living in sea water. They would bow under wave after wave of turbulent ocean, only to snap upright again as soon as the waves (temporarily) subsided.We talked about how emotions are like that- how they are constantly coming, be it love or anger and they wash over you and you have a choice to be drowned or snap back upright, over and over. Seemed an appropriate conversation to have at the ocean.

California's Brown Pelican.
There were birds to amuse and distract us. Crows, seagulls, cormorants, and the largest flock of pelicans I have ever seen. They all took turns diving and screaming in front of us; using their tails as rudders as they rode the air currents. They looked stock-still in the air, surfing there. This was of course the same air that made us gasp and whipped my hair about in a frenzy. These birds thrived and were positively graceful in that very same wind.

I watched the sea foam as it pooled near the rocks edges and shore, reading in it images of the here and now- screaming faces and burning houses. We talked about how the world is a house on fire right now- how polarized human society has become- both here in the US and places like Norway, Greece, Pakistan, Egypt, and half a dozen other countries that have been in the news lately.

California Grey Whale.
We both laughed at the folly of some of our unknown companions. Periodically, a car would arrive and unload some people and they would trek to "our" cliff and try and engage in conversation with us (clearly they were not noticing we were sitting there in contemplation, silent and watching). In one key illustrative moment, a woman asked loudly (interrupting my concentration) , "Are you waiting for the whales?" (People come to Bodega Head to whale watch and hope to catch a glance of the grey whales that feed there.)

"Um, no. We are not waiting for anything." I replied. I think this threw her off. Most sleepers go places with a specific agenda, a check list. She walked away from us, not knowing what to say next. Then, to us (or no one in particular, I cannot be sure) she said, "Well, I am not going to wait around anymore." She had been there all of 10 minutes. As soon as she and her loud friends got out of sight of the amazing ocean view, what do you think happened? Yep- a huge grey whale breeched and gave us a look at itself.

"The Material Plane"
Magick is like that. It is not all "in the mind" and about foisting your Will upon the natural world to make it do your bidding. Magick is about understanding that everything here has a purpose and a resonance. If you listen well, you will come to understand what a plant, a whale, or the ocean is telling you. And then you can use that information to make magick.

This is why the people (who think they are training to be Witches) who stay in carpeted rooms and focus only on themselves and their self improvement or trance journey here and there aren't really learning Witchcraft. The Great Work of transforming yourself is worthy, but to what end? A Witch transforms her/his self in order to be a sharper instrument of the Gods. If you are only thinking of your (puny, ego-driven) Will when doing Magick, you aren't really doing Magick at all. Because Magick requires the understanding that we are not separate- we are all connected.

*Glas is a welsh word for the indescribable blue-grey-green of the sea.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This Month in Religion (Links)

I have read some mighty interesting things online this month regarding religion of all stripes. Check it out!

A scientist waxes poetic about spirituality and how science and religion can coexist; while Science Blog tells us that religion helps people with traumatic brain injuries recover.

"That's not in the Bible!" is an interesting post on CNN about phrases and parts of stories that many people assume are in the Bible, but are not.

Faithful America launches, with a contest. What is Faithful America?

"Faithful America is an online community of tens of thousands of citizens motivated by faith to take action on the pressing moral issues of our time. We come from diverse faith traditions but share a unifying commitment: to restore community and uphold the common good in America and across the globe. In service to this core commitment, we seek to:
  • end poverty and promote economic security for all
  • promote peace and restore America's commitment to human rights and diplomacy
  • prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change
  • counter hate speech and misinformation in the media pertaining to people of faith
  • work for welcoming communities where immigrants and people of all faiths are welcome
By speaking out, mobilizing and taking action in the public square, we are building a powerful grassroots movement to put justice and the common good back at the center of the American values debate. At this critical juncture, when our actions or inaction will have profound and permanent global consequences, our faiths demand nothing less."
 Mrs. B, over at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, updates us on the African Witch Hunt problem.

Turns out, the Incas did have a written language after all. Oops.

An amazing article in the NY Times about a man who killed people because he thought they were Muslim, and how one survivor is petitioning for him not to be put to death. An interview with both men. Amazing. Says the murderer, a few weeks before his scheduled execution:
"Not only do I have all My friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now i have The Islamic Community Joining in...Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Un-forgiveable...that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"The Erotic"

One of my favorite quotes from poet and warrior Audre Lorde is, "In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial."

What Audre labels "the erotic", my religion simply calls Sex. To Witches in my tradition, Sex is the unifying force- not just of two (or more) people's genitals coming together in the moment- it is the unifying force that created the universe, perpetuates the universe, and affects the universe.

Sex is something that all vibrant living beings must tap into in order to thrive and be connected to everything else. While I have heard some teachers downplay genital sex as part of this concept ("you can pet a dog, paint a painting, give hugs!"), those genital sexual expressions are a hugely important part of the Craft and should never be dismissed or downplayed as non-essential to this religious view. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn't teaching the Craft, they are marketing feel-good, new-age inspired self-help to the largest possible audience.Sex, in all its forms, is celebrated and held in high regard in the Craft.

I love also that Ms. Lorde talks about "supplied states of being which are not native" to her. (Powerlessness being the first state she cites.) I could not agree more. In the course of my life, I have run into people who feel powerless or they feel like they have no choices. They feel that no matter what they do, they cannot affect change in their own life. They, in essence, hand over their power to others.

I know that not everyone starts with the same societal privileges. I know that there is a fine line between holding people accountable for their words and deeds and blaming the victim. However, there is truth in what Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."When you are feeling powerless, you must take a step back and look at the situation more clearly. There are always choices- which one will lead to more freedom for you?

Everyday choices of your past create the world in which you live- in the present. Starting to make choices that are beneficial to yourself now affects your future. Witches know this truth without a doubt. If a Witch has had decent training, they not only know how to make their lives work, they know how to work their Will in this world and others.

When you recognize these truths, you are no longer willing to accept "resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial". You are in touch with Life/Flow/Sex. You are connected to all there is.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Co-Sleeping Study

The attachment parenting internet is all abuzz with a new study done in the US that says that co-sleeping is not harmful, nor is it helpful to toddlers. (Before that, co-sleeping was demonized by some and lauded  by others- this is the first study that cites ambivalence as its outcome.

I am pro-co-sleeping. While it may not work for every family, I feel that when done- it builds a secure attachment between parent(s) and child- demonstarting (especially to a pre-verbal child) that their needs will be met and they are safe, even when unconscious. I wrote this blog post about my top reasons to co-sleep earlier this year. If you think about it, what other mammal on earth does not sleep nestled in with their offspring? It is the natural way to go.

While the study cites no compelling reason to co-sleep or not to co-sleep, I believe it was the best choice for my son. What do you think? Did or do you co-sleep? Why or why not?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Summer of Endings

Today, I attended the first of two memorial services I have scheduled for the week. It has been a summer of endings and death, in more ways than one.

Today, I was at my seminary, attending a memorial service for a fellow student- his death was sudden, is still unexplained, and shocking to all of us. His loss is profoundly felt by all that knew him- he was the type of person that made a big impression and was never stingy with his affections, matter-of-fact (quite psychic) advice, or butt kickings (when that was what was needed). As one fellow student said, "I am stunned and angry that I will not be reading his amazing theology and social justice books and getting advice from him in the years to come." Rest in Peace, Barry McCauley.

A tarot tribute to JP.
On Saturday, I am attending the Bay Area memorial for a fellow Radical Faerie sister, JP Hartsong, known to many as Spiral, RootSister, or simply, "Rootsie". He was a lover, an activist, an organizer, and teacher and he had such a profound impact on all that knew him. I always have such respect for those that build- relationships, organizations, families, and tribe- and JP did all of those things with zeal. I am sorry that I was unable (as we all were) to be of more help to him in this life and he chose to end his life in a way that was shocking and sad for those he left behind. I prefer to remember in life, teaching songs and orgaizing gatherings than his passing. May you pass into the next world easily and gently, JP. May you finally find ease.

Gabriel Carrillo on the harp
photo by Tim Wayne.

My partner is working on a project that smacks of endings and death as well- he is in charge of cleaning out a dead initiate's (in the tradition we both are a part of) storage locker and making sure anything of value gets into the right hands. The unit is cram-packed with personal effects and reminders of who this man was- a woodworker, a harpist, and one hell of a Witch. This was my partner's beloved teacher, who died several years ago. I am sure the opening of the storage unit- which symbolizes what tangible items are left of this beloved brother of the Craft will be a little misty-making.

And of course, we are leaving the Bay Area behind. As we make appointments to hang out with people "one last time", plan our Lughnasadh farewell feast, and tie up loose ends, it is bittersweet. We will miss much and many here, but look forward to building a new life in our new home. Every ending is a beginning. Even when we are grieving, we must remember that.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Ideal Home

Now that my home is in the chaotic disarray of moving, purging, and all the while entertaining a toddler, I am coping by envisioning by ideal home once I arrive on the other end of this move. (I am not going to get my ideal right away, as we are saying temporarily with relatives until we find jobs.) But you have to envision it if you are going to manifest it, right?

After that, we are finding a temporary landing space for a year or so- until our friends come out to join us (We are moving in together). So I am going to be doing a modified homestead the first year- container garden and maybe a portable chicken coop/tractor if I get the OK from the landlord. That way, we can move the plants and the birds with us when we move into a larger intentional household with our friends.

So what does a Witch mom yearn for in a home? Both homes (the temporary one and the permanent one) have some similar elements:

My special girls- Tengu and Tallulah
The basics: Hardwood floors (They are the best with small children and parrots! Plus, I hate carpets.), gas stove (I am a cook and electric just doesn't cut it!), and a fenced-in yard for Rowan to play in. I need a small set-aside space for the parrot cage (when you have the right-sized cage for two parrots, it is quite large- 3 feet by two feet being about six feet high). Right now, my parrots are in a dining area, off of the kitchen. I prefer to have my birds not be isolated in a room just for them. That way, they get to be part of everyday life in the home. They get more interaction, more stimulation, come out for meals, and get to sample cooking from the safety of their cage while that is happening.

Rowan's needs: I really want a playspace for Rowan that contains his toddler exuberance/mess apart from the living space (right now his play area is our living room and it is not optimal)- perhaps an eating nook or a dining room would do.

An outdoor space for ritual would be nice too!
Witchy needs: We also want an additional bedroom for our temple. Here in Oakland, we have two bedrooms- a bedroom and a temple. I want this to continue in all future incarnations of our home. Right now, the temple is set up permanently for ritual, and I would like to adjust that a bit. Being who I am, I enjoy making sacred art and craft. I make my own ritual tools, talismans, oils, and the like. I would like an area for work like that in part of the temple- so that I can do this work comfortably in sacred space, dedicated to the gods. It would have to be very self-contained- so that mess was minimal and supplies were out of sight when we were using the room for ritual or meditation. The ideal? A Murphy-bed style craft table with built in storage for materials, so everything is out of the way when we are circling.

Living in Community/Urban Homestead needs: Once our friends move to Columbus to join us and we are looking for the permanent landing place, we have been talking about getting a side-by-side duplex (which are common in Columbus) and knocking down the inside walls on the bottom floor. We would create a massive kitchen (complete with walk-in pantry, chest freezer, and washer/dryer on the main floor) for all that canning, mead-making, beer brewing, and fermenting we will be doing!

DIY beehive!
Duplexes have identical mirrored floor plans. Instead of two dining rooms, one would be a dining room and the other could be a kids playroom. Between two well-loved toddlers, there are just too many toys not to have their own space (and our friends plan on having other kids)! And having the playroom on the ground floor/main living space is great.

We would make sure that there was a bathroom with shower on the ground floor (in addition to the ones upstairs on each side of the house) and create two living spaces downstairs- one with a TV, one without. I feel pretty strongly that I do not want the family culture and downtime to be all about television. (We personally do not have one, it is our friends bringing a TV into the equasion.) So creating a place to play games, enjoy a fire, tell stories, and such is important to me.

Esme and Rowan share a swinging time!
We are thinking of moving Rowan and Esme into a shared bedroom, at least for a while. They love one another, and sharing a space may make the transition to "my own room" and "big person bed" a little easier on both of them. I can just imagine the giggles and fun they will have after it is supposed to be "lights out" -like a slumber party all the time! I really have been spending a lot of time in the blogosphere looking at kids play and sleep spaces. I want to do a bunch of DIY and make the space so amazing for them. Murals, reading nooks, beds under tents, play areas- so much I want to incorporate!

Homes in the midwest have basements (yay!), and ours would serve as a root cellar, medicine making workshop (I am an herbalist), and DIY workshop for all the ongoing projects.

The permanent space would also have at least an acre plot, so that we can have the homestead, outdoor play area for kids, an adult outdoor cooking and dining area, and a dog run. Personally, I would love for our deck to have a large aviary element to it (with the table and chairs inside the aviary) so that my parrots can enjoy the outdoors with us when we are there.

I really would like an "outdoor room" as well- one where we have a brick oven (when the weather is hot), an outdoor eating space, and outdoor movie space. I found these plans online to build a big movie screen using PVC pipe, zipties, blackout cloth, and cement in buckets for the feet. I plan on hooking up a laptop to a projector, making popcorn, and having family movie night in the great outdoors in the summer.

My handiwork, making a DIY worm bin!
I realize that in order to afford this (even in relatively low-cost Columbus), I will need to get a diamond in the rough and do much of the work myself. Can I say- YAY? I love DIY. While I do not have experience in home rehab (most of my DIY has been furniture rehab and crafting), I am a fast learner, a hard worker, and am willing to do the work to serve my vision. DIY does not have to be expensive, either. Reclaimed materials are often free or cheap. I know several friends that built a brick oven for the cost of a bag of cement. Often free craigslist furniture can be repurposed for other things. Today I saw two identical cabinets that would make a killer desk or crafting station if I added a tabletop. The cost? $25 for the pair, plus whatever surface I found for the top.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Yearning for Sustainability

"I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."- Maya Angelou

As my family prepares to move across the country, I am getting super excited about the possibility of an urban homestead. Before I moved into my current apartment, I was renting a house and had the blessings of the landlord to create a permaculture homestead. Sadly, the soil was dead, so I set about for the next year ameliorating the soil by planting nitrogen-rich crops and tilling them under. I had just cut out a rather large bird of paradise (and if you ever tried this project, you would know what a monumental pain that was!) out of the furthest corner of my yard- the only place to legally place a chicken coop according to Oakland, CA statutes. We were about to build the coop, get the chickens, and start selecting crops when we were told that the house was being sold and we would have to move. In addition to losing a potential homestead, this was two weeks after giving birth to Rowan- so I was pretty upset at the loss as well as the timing.

When we finally found an affordable place to live, it was a second story apartment with no deck, so not even a container garden was possible (unless I wanted to pay crazy electric bills for grow lights). So this last year and a half has been an exercise in patience. My heart cries out for a slower, more sustainable way to live- one that is in touch with the earth and her cycles, one that allows me to slow down and work with plants again, one that allows me to teach Rowan about the earth, with him at my side. I am so excited that we will be able to finally do this in Columbus, Ohio (our new home).

We ultimately are going to be living with our friends R and D, who also have a child (E) who is a week younger than Rowan. E is Rowan's best friend and they absolutely adore one another. We met R and D in our childbirth class and have become more than fast friends, we have become chosen family. We celebrate sabbats and holidays with them (they celebrate Jewish holidays, we do Witchcraft ones- and we learn from one another). We have weekly playdates with them and share free babysitting.We are looking forward to homesteading and co-parenting when the time comes.

They are following us to Columbus- but not for another year. They also are moving to Columbus to be closer to family. (Rowan's paternal grandparents are two hours away from Columbus, and E's grandparents on both sides are a few hours away as well.) I am super excited for Rowan to be near his "Nanny and Pap Pap"- as he adores them and they are nuts about him, too. I am a big fan of having him surrounded with as many people that love him as possible.

R, D, and E will be following us to Columbus in a year- after they finish their internship commitments (R is a child psychologist and D is a student midwife). It will be hard to be apart for that year- Rowan asks to see "Mee Mee (his name for E) every day, many times a day. It is a tad heartbreaking to separate them for a year. I am doing a modified homestead in the year we will be apart, saving the grand plans for a reunion.

Once they arrive, we will then build an amazing homestead with a large garden, chickens (for eggs, pest control, and meat), and bees (for honey, wax, propolis, and mead). R and I especially have been plotting and scheming about our future homestead. I have already started a list of plants I ultimately want to grow- a combination of vegetables, greens, fruits, and herbs (culinary and medicinal). My plan is to not only grow and raise as much food as possible for ourselves, but also start making remedies and spell components again- like oils, vinegars, tinctures, and baths. Some of my remedies would help D in her midwifery practice, so that is a win-win.

I want to create seasonal meads for ritual- a flower scented one for spring, a pomegranate one for fall. Making my own toothpaste will be a lot easier having my own store of propolis! To keep my head in the game, I have been reading books (The Backyard Homestead, Farm City), blogs on homesteading and permaculture, and dreaming of luscious plants, plump hens, and canning day!

My dream home is one that reclaims unused furniture and waste and converts them into gorgeous, colorful chicken coops, rehabbed furniture, and raised beds. I am thrilled that our new home in Columbus has a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I can only hope that Columbus is nicer to homesteaders than Oak Park, Michigan.

To me, an urban homestead is creating a life, not just a living (hence the Maya Angelou quote that started this article). Yes, the project will sustain us. But more than that, it creates a new model of living that welcomes in a more human pace, a connection to the planet and its inhabitants, and does not support this overculture that so many are beginning to see as poisonous- to the land, its creatures and our souls.

I leave you with a great sustainability idea from Barcelona- an open-air barter market:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When I wrote a bio blurb for this blog, back in the days before Rowan walk or express himself in language (and mothering was more of a theory than it is now), I wrote this: "(My) parenting philosophy is to raise (my) child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others. Raising a child in a religious context that is anathema to the dominant culture can be challenging and a struggle. But aren't all things of value difficult to achieve?"

Looking in on it these 18 months later, I see this blog carnival as a perfect opportunity to expound upon what I mean. So here, I break it down.

Compassionate: I have expounded on my ideas regarding compassion in other blog posts before. I feel that compassion and empathy go hand-in-hand and that are entwined in a way that I would not want to separate. I want Rowan to be able to "suffer with" others (the literal meaning of compassion)- to truly understand their motivations, grief, desires, and emotions. Empathy means that Rowan will be able to discern how others may feel and be able to relate to their emotional state- be they human or otherwise. This emotional intelligence is something that I think is one of the most important things we can pass on to our children. I am using a language that talks about emotions and acknowledges them as valid and important with Rowan- his, mine, everyone's.

Loving: I am raising my son to be loving- to other people, animals, plants, all of creation. This means that I am modeling loving affection, loving care, and loving words as much as possible. He is picking so much up from watching his mama and daddy right now. If we didn't "walk our talk" in this regard the effects would be obvious later on, I am sure. I am delighted that he shows his affection and love for us, animals, his toys, and his friends. He kisses things that he loves and it is adorable. (My parents kitty, however, did not find it so cute.)

Questioning: We live in a world that does not value this trait and often eyes people that question authority and the status quo with suspicion. But that is not the world I want him to inherit, nor is it one that I am particularly comfortable with, as a marginalized person myself. I was always a questioning child, and while it made me an outcast at times, it served me well. I do not take things at surface value and I am teaching my son to question and discern, too. Even without language, he asks questions, mainly the names of things right now. I always supply answers, even when he asks the same freaking question, over and over. His latest things is pointing to the three or four things on his high chair tray dozens of times: "Grape. Blueberry. Graham cracker. Juice." He wants me to supply the names of things over and over, so I do.

Decision-Making: Being well-equipped emotionally and mentally to make decisions is an important trait for anyone, particularly a Witch, to have. To make a well-informed decision, one must have a clear vision, weighing all the options. Then you must have the courage to manifest your will and take the plunge! I am already supplying Rowan with choices: "Do you want to eat this or that?" or "Do you want to wear the blue one or the red one?" He will be included in family plans, such as deciding what meals we make and groceries we need to buy, where we spend our fun days, and what we will plant in our garden. I will model how to make a good decision by talking him through all the variables: "Well, if we want to eat lasagne, what ingredients do we need?" and "If we have lots of spinach left over, what should else we make this week with that so it does not go to waste?"

My little flower fairy.
Avoiding Harm: There is no way to avoid all harm, as I like to tell my vegetarian and vegan friends. All life involves the taking of lives and the deaths of others to sustain your own- be they animals or plants. This is something that Rowan will learn- life and death are a never-ending cycle for all involved and no one escapes this. But hunting for sustenance and hunting for sport are two very different things (worthy of different language- I wish we had it!) and this analogy points out the difference of what I hope to instill in my son. Getting pleasure from harming others is NOT OK. Respecting and honoring others for the sacrifices they make, especially if you benefit, is a sacred duty.

What is in your parenting philosophy? How are you teaching that to your children?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.
  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.
  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lughnasadh is coming!

"Kernnunos" by Yannick Germain
I spent my Midsummer circling with other traditional Witches in a small ritual circle and subsequent feast. We invited the red and green man to come visit and tell us of upcoming needs and duties.  It was a pretty traditional sabbat, according to the wheel of the year mythos that my tradition follows.

The next sabbat is coming at the beginning of August- and since we are moving very soon afterwards (across the country from the SF Bay Area to Columbus, Ohio), we are doing a purely social harvest feast rather than planning an elaborate ritual and invoking gods this time around. We want to be surrounded by our friends and chosen family here, regardless of religion. We have decided that Lughnasadh is going to be our farewell party to many of our family and friends here. In case you don't know about this sabbat, here is some background:

It is a harvest festival- one of a few in the Wheel of the Year (the next is Mabon, a type of Witches' Thanksgiving). Lugh, the Irish god of light, called for the celebration at the beginning of August as a funeral feast for his mother, Tailte- who had been a patron of beginning agriculture. What better wake for such a figure than a harvest feast? Lugh also called for games of skill and strength for the celebration, and it has been a favorite time for marriages and handfastings.

The first of the three harvest festivals that make up the Wheel of the Year, Lughnasadh is the "festival of first fruits", where a blessing of the crop would take place around this time of the year as now was the time that apples were beginning to ripen on the trees, summer vegetables being picked from the gardens, and the corn waits to be harvested. It is the time to start gathering in the first harvests of grain, wheat and barley. That is certainly cause for celebration! Baking loaves of bread for this celebration is appropriate and we will certainly do so.

And so we celebrate this year- the Wheel is turning and we Kunnings turn with it. Our family turns eastward- to Columbus, our new home. Any of my readers from central Ohio? I would love to hear from you!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Save West Virginia!

I have been to West Virginia a few times and have always been impressed at just how beautiful it is. The mountains and wildlife there are unlike anywhere else, and the Appalachian culture, which contributed much to my and other folks' Witchcraft traditions, is one I greatly value.

This is what mountaintop removal looks like.
But West Virginia (and all of Appalachia) are in peril because of coal mining and in particular, coal mining companies outlandish greed. Coal mining has had an uneasy history in this region- providing much-needed jobs to poor communities and also taking the lives of the poor that work in the mines (be it through black lung, cave-ins, accidents, explosions, or company thugs killing those that try and organize for better working or living conditions). Many people in the United States don't realize if it were not for the efforts of coal mining unions, we would not have the 8 hour work day. We owe a lot to these working people, even if we do not face their struggles or do their particular jobs.

Lately, the struggle in this area has been the outrageous practice of mountaintop removal, which has devastating effects for generations to come.Women, in particular, have been instrumental in fighting this environmental scourge. And it is no longer environmentalists versus the coal miners who live there, either. These forces have banded together against coal company greed.

So what can you do, especially if you do not live nearby?

I leave you with my favorite song about this issue, Hazel Dickens singing They'll Never Keep Us Down:

It's a sing-along!

United we stand, divided we fall
For every dime they give us a battle must be fought
So working people use your power the key to liberty
Don't support the rich man's style of luxury

There ain't no way they can ever keep us down
There ain't no way they can ever keep us down
We won't be bought, we won't be sold
To be treated right, well that's our goal
There ain't no way they can ever keep us down

We've been shot, we've been jailed, lord its a sin
Women and children stood right by the men
We've got a union contract that keeps the worker free
They'll never shoot that union out of me

They'll never shoot that union out of me, oh no
They'll never shoot that union out of me
Got a contract in our hand signed by the blood of honest
They'll never shoot that union out of me

The power wheel is rolling, rolling right along
The government is keep it going going strong
so working people get your help from your own kind
Your welfare on the rich man's mind

Your welfare on the rich man's mind
Your welfare on the rich man's mind
They want the power in their hands just to keep out of the workers hands
Your welfare on the rich man's mind

They'll never, never, never keep us down
They'll never, never, never keep us down
The cheat, rob and kill but we'll stop that big wheel
They'll never, never, never keep us down

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Blog Carnivals I Discovered and a New Forum, Too!

As regular readers know, I participate almost every month in the Carnival of Natural Parenting (stay tuned for this month's submission on July 12 on Parenting Philosophy!). One of the hosts of that carnival also hosts another that I will be reading regularly: The Carnival of Gentle Discipline.

I want to raise my son to have ethics, not morals. What do I mean? Morals are an external code that people adhere to, like laws and the ten commandments, because it is what they are told to do. While morals will have to do for some people, I want my son to be a discerning, ethical person that can do what is necessary and just without always having to look outside of himself for the answers.

One of the ways that I am modeling that ideal is the way I am interacting with him and instilling discipline. Discipline is not a bad word- after all, it has the same root as disciple. And a disciple follows... what? To me, a disciple of the Flow is one that can listen for that which is not audible and use it to make sound decisions. So I am working WITH him so that he can discover his ethical compass- one that will guide him out of love, not fear.

To that end, spanking, threats, witholding love, and other forms of intimidation are not the way for us in this family. We work very, very hard (oh my hell- is it hard!) to be cooperative with our toddler and teach him to cooperate with us in turn. This is going to be great reading for us!

The site, Parenting Gently is the co-host of the carnival. I will be joining so as to take advantage of the words and ideas that have walked this path before me.

Our Family Creates

Another new blog carnival that I will be participating in (I think) is Families Create! A Monthly Make and Play Carnival. Play is serious business, people. It's how kids learn and families bond. So stay tuned for some upcoming posts in that vein.

Upcoming themes include Weird and Wonderful, Rhymes and Verse, and Favorite Books.

A new forum that I am loving is the Natural Parenting Forum. I was on the Mothering Board for a while, and while that has a long and storied history, it has imploded for many reasons I will not get into here. One of the members that I met there has built a new community for us to enjoy and so far, I really am! Take a look and register if you are so inclined.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Charter for Compassion

This is an amazing video is a TED Talk by one of the founders of the Charter for Compassion, Karen Armstrong. The Charter for Compassion has been mentioned in some of my previous blog posts. She is a former Catholic nun, an author and scholar, who won the 2008 TED Prize. In this video, she talks about how the Abrahamic religions -- Islam, Judaism, Christianity -- have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion.

But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion -- to help restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.

Check them out for yourself. It makes me hopeful for the future.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Voynich Manuscript

Do you know about this amazing book? While scientists puzzle over what it is, what language it is written in and what its illustrations mean ("Is it a code, a cipher of some kind? People are doing statistical analysis of letter use and word use – the tools that have been used for code breaking. But they still haven't figured it out.")*, I think religious Witches will know precisely what the book is about without much guesswork!

After all, what kind of book would be written in code (so that only like minded approved others could understand it), have illustrations of plants, the cosmos and their workings, and multiple pictures of dozens of women ritually bathing together? Who would take all that time to painstakingly transcribe in gorgeous calligraphy and illustrations a book in no known human language?

Scientists describe the book as "Rows of text scrawled on visibly aged parchment, flowing around intricately drawn illustrations depicting plants, astronomical charts and human figures bathing in – perhaps – the fountain of youth." They have radiocarbon dated the pages to the early 15th century.

Linguists have studied the book and it does not appear to be written in any knwn human language- alive or dead. "Alien characters, some resembling Latin letters, others unlike anything used in any known language, are arranged into what appear to be words and sentences, except they don't resemble anything written – or read – by human beings." says one scientist.

Our intrepid scientist added, ""Who knows what's being written about in this manuscript, but it appears to be dealing with a range of topics that might relate to alchemy. Secrecy is sometimes associated with alchemy, and so it would be consistent with that tradition if the knowledge contained in the book was encoded. What we have are the drawings. Just look at those drawings: Are they botanical? Are they marine organisms? Are they astrological? Nobody knows."

*Greg Hodgins, University of Arizona's Department of Physics