Month: September 2012

Harvest choices

My fingers pause, turning the leaves up, counting the tomatoes still green.

I spare those plants. As the gray gathers overhead, I weigh the green leaves of the eggplant, its purple blossoms. The still-green leaves of the pepper plant, shorn of its small white blooms by the lateness of the season. The crisscrossing silver wire of the fungi that kept my potted peas from sprouting at all.

Today is the first day of autumn — and I bear the scissors and the bowl. As the first droplets splatter from the gray, I take the peppers, one of the tomatoes, the eggplant, some of the worn and shredded basil to the compost bin, and give a silent thanks as I tip them out of their pots. The cut catnip is gathered, looped and hung in the garage.

A poor harvest this year, yes. But a harvest nonetheless.

When I first became involved with the Henge of Keltria, I struggled with the placement of the Morrigan at Meán Fómhair. Why the Red Woman, the death-bringer, the carrion crow? Why not an earthier lady — Danu, perhaps, the giving furrow?

But harvest is about more than just bounty. It’s about making choices — and wielding the blade that severs. You say, “The days are too short and cold now for the peppers. So I will pluck the last and consign the plant to death.” You know the wheat will grow no more, and wield the sickle. You pluck the winter squash and pull the vines — a death that feeds the future.

It doesn’t happen all at once, of course. The cherry tomatoes have been spared, since some have yet to turn. A few sport yellow blossoms still. The herbs, aside from shearing, are left to their annual death and rebirth. I’ll give the beets another two weeks before I give up on that harvest, too, and pull them — likely to end up using the greens, since I don’t think they have set roots.

To harvest is to choose — and to kill. Death feeds the future: the winter squash in the closet, the saved seeds, the drying herbs. Life requires death to continue.

Hail, Morrigan.

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Book Review By Stormlight-Pagan Anger Management by Tammy Sullivan

 

Book Review– Pagan Anger Magic by Tammy Sullivan.

Ah, nothing quite like a New Age Self-Help book. These books are really geared for young people– Uh, that is to say I **hope** they are – who are experiencing and grappling with some of life’s situations for the first time, or haven’t yet come up with a working solution and are searching for some advice. As such, this book isn’t too bad, but it isn’t one I’d recommend to someone grappling with a need for anger management.

The book’s back cover gives the ever present bulleted list of “empowering, essential information” it contains, for instance after reading it, one should know the difference between righteous (someone took credit for your work and got the reward due rightfully to you) and petty (a cute waitress flirted with your boyfriend) anger. Why anger magic is not black magic, how anger magic ties into mythology, and of course, the bread and butter of the Wiccan variety of self-help books: the spells.

Basically, it seems to me the reason this author chose to write a self help book is because she herself had issues with anger management and here’s what she did. It’s important to note that she does not list any sort of background in psychology, self help, or the like. She is a full time writer who practices Wicca.

That said, she offers up the standard dime store and pop psychology found in virtually every other self help book I’ve seen of this type. The watered- down “Left brain, right brain” concept is there to explain why people get angry. There is a question and answer session to explain what the author is trying to do here, that is, transform anger magic into raw energy for self empowerment and improvement. Can a beginner use anger magic? Yes, but it takes years to master. That’s why the book is only 205 pages long. How I know when the transformation of anger to raw energy is complete? When you feel it. The old chestnuts are all there: Don’t impose your will on anyone, the Threefold Law will get you if you do, but its OK to use anger magic, yadda yadda.

It also has the usual list of astrological signs so you can look up your sign and see how you are predestined to handle anger. These are a hoot: Aquarians are nasty and will lash out and “five seconds later they don’t understand why anyone is mad at them.” Libras tend to run from their anger, and assign blame to others. Geminis hold grudges, Sagittarians shoot off their mouths and erupt into brief tantrums, Leos are pushy hotheads who need to control others but not themselves, Aries people can act rashly, Taurii are of course, stubborn jealous people, Capricorns will destroy the object of their anger after plotting it out, “Virgo folk tend to bitch and moan often..,” A Pisces will never let go of a grudge if they get one, and watch out for Cancer signs, whatever you do! If you piss off a Cancer, they will “ ..Take on the anger of others. Threats to their safety or the safety of those they love, bring out their violent streak. They are moody by nature and quick to change from happiness to anger to depression.”

Her chapter on “Sticky Ethics” sums up something I’m not happy about when it comes to fluff bunnies. She gives an example. What if a rapist was loose in your town raping women at random? What should you do? Do a spell so he’ll be arrested? No, the author assumes in order for him to get arrested, he’ll have to rape* again*. I don’t know why the collaborative testimonies of several victims would not result in a warrant, but… Do magic to heal him? No, you’ll create a karmic tie with him. I know, how about working magic to bind or stop him to protect the neighbor hood? Oh heavens no, that would be imposing your will on him, and we must never do that! So…What do you do? Your angry about this. Answer: Pray. Yes, pray. Leave it in God’s hands. Or the Goddess’s. That way you don’t run the risk of any icky karma. That’s very empowering, you know. Yeah, for the rapist.

The meditations are rather fluffy. Despite the fact that this is supposed to be anger magic, the meditations have you feeling happy and peaceful, romping through sunny glades where you meet kindly loving entities who are all too happy to share oodles of wisdom with you for five minutes or so. The one that really confirms the terminal fluffiness of this book is the Morrighan meditation. The Morrighan is actually one of the darkest goddesses of the Celtic pantheon. She is pure battle rage and revenge as the dish best served ice cold. If you deal with Her, She will likely test you hard to see what you got. Warrior to warrior. If you are not the warrior type, pester her at your own risk. This Morrighan from the book can be found in a lovely glade complete with a “melodious” stream and chirping birds. She is described as a tall, black haired older woman.

She stands tall, turns to you and smiles. It is a smile of welcome and safety. She walks over to you and introduces herself warmly as Morrighan. You recognize her as a warrior queen and are unsure how to respond. Morrighan notices this and to put you completely at ease she embraces you in a warm hug.” ((No! I am NOT making this up!!)) The Morrighan in this book is in charge of order and continuity. So she happily whispers all the secrets of this in your ear, says a warm goodbye and you return. I’m sorry. This is not the Morrighan, this is Snow White.

The spells are really simple. One is for weight loss, and the other is to hate smoking. That one is funny. Get a pack of cigarettes, rip them to pieces, stomp on them, yell at them, squirt lemon juice on them, then take it off your property and bury it. If you are an American Indian with reverence to tobacco, this might not be so great.

In all, this book comes off as fluffy trying to be a bit dark. It really doesn’t work. It may help out some very young people who may not have read too many of these kinds of books yet, but for older people like me, it offers nothing I haven’t read a lot before, and none of it has anything new and thoughtful to add to Wicca. It won’t do any harm to anybody to follow its advice, nor will it do much to enrich anyone’s Wicca much either.

Fun with instruments. Yay!

Last night, the hammers danced over the dulcimer. Hands danced over the doumbek. The stick slapped the berimbau, with the drum as an amplifier.

We had fun — just pure creativity, voice and instrument and rhythm, experimentation. If the sound floundered, we laughed, took a sip of wine and played anew.

I’ve missed this. I’ve missed it in the endless stream of 12-hour workdays, the wearing routine of housework and running, where joy is snatched like thieved candy from a store display with an inattentive clerk. I’ve missed it, and I need it as much as my squash needs the rain. This is who I am — not the modern cog in the modern wheel.

And I need to make time for it. Put down the goof fantasy novels I retreat into on weeknights and just do. Stop fretting about how I don’t sound as good as the voices in my head tell me I should. Stop worrying. Just tune up and play.

I’ve done a little of it; I found a tune a week or so ago for “The Jealousy of Emer” that I want to revisit —  spooky sounding-bit on my Dorian-tuned mountain dulcimer, with the capo to give it added creepiness.

Frankly, I think I waste too much time in self-judgment. It’s a common malady, one that I address when I’ve brought my music-in-ritual workshop into the realm of festivals, gatherings and human community. To quote a Reclaiming teacher, Claudia Manifest: “Dare to be dorky!” It may sound goofy, but that’s probably the most authentic spiritual and creative advice I’ve ever received. Dare to be dorky. Humiliation has never killed anyone, and is good for the soul; it’s ultimately related to the word “humble,” linked to humus — of the earth.

Humility aside, I don’t think I’m all that bad, music-wise.