Children’s Books for Pagan Kids

My mom is a library assistant at an elementary school down in Florida (actually, the same elementary school my siblings and I all attended!), and she’s always sending me recommendations for new books and new series. I absolutely adore YA literature, among other genres, and I always find her recommendations to be well worth reading. I know I’ll be hitting her up when Matt and I decide to have children, as she’ll have a bunch of titles for us to check out!

Inspired by this, I started searching for Pagan books at places like Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and other admittedly non-Pagan establishments. What I found was… a whole lotta nothin’. That really wasn’t surprising considering the lack of support for Pagan authors (at least children’s authors) in mainstream culture, but I was still disappointed to see several Christian titles and even a few Jewish titles while finding not a single kid-friendly Pagan book. Several for adults, none for kids.

Thank heavens for the Internet, though! Here are some books that I managed to find for Pagan children, ones that I’ve heard of before and that I’m going to be sure to add to my Future Babies Wish List. ;) They’re listed according to appropriateness to age, and all can be found on Amazon.com. (I urge you to Google these titles, though, and purchase either directly from the author or through an independent bookstore if possible!)

Looking for a particular age group? Click the link below to be directed automatically!

Theological Thursday: Pagan goodies and tchotchkes

I’ve been following Pagan Blog Prompts for a while, and though I just finished a whole series on a Sabbat, I figured… why not one more Pagan-related post this week. Ooh, and it’s Theological Thursday, yay!

This one is inspired by the blog mentioned above, wherein they ask a question regarding shopping for your magickal tools and other tchotchkes (I love that word, it makes you think of little hard-to-find collectibles):

When it comes to shopping for pagan items, or items that will be used in a pagan manner, where do you shop? Do you look for retailers that are geared toward the pagan community? Or would you rather find something simple from the discount store down the street?

Do you support any pagan-based small businesses? Do you even know of a pagan shop in your town?

Feel free to expand…

Let’s be honest: We just don’t make enough money to buy every Pagan good we’d like to afford. Or, at least, I don’t. I’d love to have $25 to blow on a new Tarot deck, or a new altar cloth, or anything else that I might want for my practice and that supports a local Pagan business. The markups? They’re rather ridiculous!

Most of my Pagan goods actually come from thrift shops and repurposing things around the house. The decor for my Ostara altar? A feather boa my mom used for my bridal shower. My altar itself? A great find from a local garage sale. The candleholders that shine tealight flames? Bought ‘em used off a Pagan friend.

Well, okay, there's no boa in this picture. But I guarantee, there was one! A fluffy white one!

I honestly wish that I could afford to support local Pagan businesses, and when I do have the funds, I try my best to do so. (The pentacle disk on my altar is from a Pagan shop in Tallahassee!) Most of the time, though, my altar supplies, books, and other tools come secondhand.

There ARE online retailers, though, that have amazing Pagan goods at great prices, like Pagan Stuff Cheap. Her stuff is absolutely fantastic and affordable! If you’re looking for an independent Pagan business with the ability to deliver darn near anywhere, I’d check it out.

Anyway, the act of buying secondhand actually suits me quite well! I’m a huge fan of reusing items, and if it means saving one more thing from the landfills and giving it new life, I’m all for it. ;)

How about y’all? Where do you get your ritual, altar, and other magickal supplies?

Theological Thursday: 21st Century Witch Discriminations

Let me tell you, everyone. I am incredibly lucky where I am, with my friends and family and coworkers. They all accept me for who I am and what I am, even going out of their ways to make me feel comfortable — while unnecessary, it is sweet, like Matt’s Nana wanting to get me a card for Ostara while everyone else celebrates Pesach and Easter. :)

I’m not terribly open about my spirituality, though, as I never know how it will go. While I’m considerably further out of the broom closet than I ever have been in my entire life (it took me forever to come out to my own husband’s family!), I still have a long way to go comparatively: I don’t take off for my religious holidays, despite coworkers taking off for Good Friday and Yom Kippur; when people wish each other Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah, I rarely ever wish anyone a Blessed Yule; religious jewelry, books, and clothing are left for home and in circle, where others openly wear crucifixes and yarmulkes.

Granted, some of these bring those who are happy to ridicule you regardless of who you are, but the overall point is, some religions are still more widely accepted than others. In some places outside the US, like Africa, as MrsB has pointed out*, being called a witch — even if the accusation is false — can lead to torture and, ultimately, death.

Fortunately, those types of occurrences are few and far between in the US (especially since the Salem Witch Trials, which is another post in and of itself), but being a witch can still get you fired:

Carole Smith proudly acknowledges being a witch, a practitioner of Wicca, the pagan religion. She does have a broom, too, but just for show. Not all Wiccans use the word witch, but Smith and some others are reclaiming it as a term of respect, sometimes said to mean “wise woman.” She says she had told at least one person at work about her beliefs. But as for hexes, no, Smith said Wiccans don’t go in for that sort of foolishness.

Carole Smith said she’s never minded a bit of good-natured ribbing about witches. And two of her three cats are black. But she said the comments from TSA co-workers and supervisors were more akin to bullying, and made it harder for her to do her job in airport security.

“I was dumbfounded,” Smith said. “I told him, that’s not what Wicca is. We don’t cast spells. That’s not witchcraft. That’s black magic or voodoo or something else. To put a spell on a heater of a car, if I had that kind of power, I wouldn’t be working for TSA. I would go buy lottery tickets and put a spell on the balls.

The assistant director, Matthew W. Lloyd, testified later that he realized immediately there was no genuine threat of workplace violence. Smith hadn’t followed anyone home — that’s the only highway going toward her home from the airport. It was just a personality conflict made worse by fear of an unfamiliar religion.

He had a suggestion for Smith. She should enter into a formal mediation session with Bagnoli, her accuser, through the TSA’s Integrated Conflict Management System, or ICMS. The mediation “would be a good venue to dispel any misconceptions” that her co-worker had about her religious beliefs, he told her.

“He wanted me to go to ICMS and sit down with Mary and explain my religion to her,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘No.’ I refused to do that. It’s not up to me to teach her my religion. I mean, would I have to go down and sit with her if I was Jewish?”

Twice, Smith left Lloyd’s office in tears and had to be coaxed back inside to continue the discussion. The assistant director testified later that he had not found her behavior to be insubordinate. But when Smith received her termination letter, there it was. The fact that she “left room twice and had to be instructed to return” was listed as one of the reasons justifying her firing.

Immediately after the complaint about casting spells, Smith’s personnel file started to bulge with disciplinary actions: A training coordinator wrote her up for having a negative attitude; a supervisor warned her for not properly checking a boarding pass; she was eight minutes late to work; she was accused of insubordinate behavior for yelling at supervisors when they told her she’d have to work a 16-hour shift because she was the only woman on duty to pat down female passengers. Before that, Smith was the closest to a model TSA employee as the government agency could find:

“She was in the top 10 percent in Albany at catching weapons on the X-ray machine. She passed her skills test on the first try. She caught a woman on her way to Vietnam with $30,000 in cash. And she didn’t mind working with the passengers — her training as a massage therapist kept her from being squeamish, as some officers were, about patting down elderly and special-needs passengers.”

*By the way, MrsB is currently running a series on 30 Days of Advocacy Against Witch-Hunts in Africa. Pop on over to check out her efforts and see how you can help out!

A big ol’ welcome to everyone coming from FTLOB’s Thirsty Thursday!

Theological Thursday: On making spirituality a priority.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my spiritual practice lately, and how it’s really waned in the past year or so. I’d love to be able to blame it on anything external (“I don’t have a group,” ”I’m too tired to study it,” “There’s a lot on my plate,” ”It hasn’t been the greatest weather to enjoy Mother Nature,” and so forth), but it comes down to one person: Me. And I’m just finding excuses when I should be searching inside.

Granted, some of that is true, like not having a local group, being overtired or overworked, and I hate, hate, hate the weather around here. But I can find reasons to debunk every one of them:

“Well, you’ve been part of a Pagan Meetup group in Baltimore since you moved here. In fact, you’re part of two or three!”
“Then get better sleep, you insomniac!”
“Yeah, but they’re mostly work- and stress-related. Treat it like orchestra or yoga, something fun and engaging.”
“…”

Okay, so I don’t have a reason for the last one. The weather here really DOES suck.

Long story short, I really should start getting back into my spiritual practice. I was hoping that TCC’s Theological Thursdays would help with that, but I mean, it’s pretty indicative when the last time I even updated that was early February. I completely missed Ostara and Purim this year, too.

So I’m going to make it a priority in my life coming up. Of course, it’ll be easier once other obligations are out of the way (Tuesday orchestra practices are over in mid-April, for instance, and my CLA/CP exam is sometime in May, so no more studying after that… hopefully!), so until then, I’ll only be doing some light research and so forth. I’m preparing for a spiritual awakening soon afterward, though.

And it will be awesome. :)

 
I feel like I need this for daily life, not just witchcraft, haha.

Theological Thursday: Corn Dollies for Imbolc (craft)

We talked a bit about Brighid yesterday for Imbolc (hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, by the way!), but I didn’t get to go much into one of her many aspects: That of the bride, the symbol of fertility and good fortune. For Imbolc, many Pagans create Brighid dollies; while these are traditionally made of oats and wheat, this version teaches you how to make them using corn husks.

To make this doll, you’ll need some corn husks, cotton balls, string, and some yarn or ribbon. Since you’d be hard-pressed to find corn growing outside this time of year, check your grocery store to obtain the husks. Dried-out ones can be used, but soak them for a few hours first to soften them up and make them more pliable.

Take a strip of the husk and fold it in half. Place two or three cotton balls in the middle, then twist the husk around and tie off with a piece of string. This makes the head of the corn dolly. Leave a bit of husk at the front and back, below the head, to make the torso.

Make a pair of arms by folding a couple husks in half and tying off the ends to make hands. Slip the arms between the husks that form the torso and tie the waist securely. If you want your doll with a little more “oomph,” add an extra cotton ball or two into the torso to give Brighid a bit of shape.

To create the skirt, add a few more husks, upside down and overlapping slightly, around the doll’s waist. Tie the skirt in place with yarn. It should look like she has her skirt up over her face (ooh, scandalous!). After tying the waist, carefully fold the husks down to create a full skirt. Trim the hem of the skirt so it’s even, and leave the doll to dry.

Once dry, you can leave her plan or give her a face and some hair. I tend to leave mine plain, haha. You can add clothing, too, or beadwork if you desire. Get creative and pull out that crafting box!

Place Brighid in a place of honor in your home for Imbolc, near your hearth or in the kitchen if possible, and prepare yourself for the abundance she brings!

(Illustrations courtesy of Patti Wigington at About.com.)

Theological Thursday (a day early): Blessed Imbolc!

It might not seem like it, but spring is right around the corner. Don’t let the piles of snow and threats of freezing rain and sleet fool you, and don’t let Punxsutawney Phil tell you otherwise! Today marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, and is known in the Pagan community as Imbolc.

Like many Pagan holidays, Imbolc has a Celtic connection to Oimelc, an ancient festival celebrating the birth and freshening of sheep and goats. Otherwise known as the Feast of Milk, the day marks new life about to awaken in the earth, and its preparation to receive seeds and other signs of fertility in the coming weeks until Ostara.

This connection to Celtic lore also points to the goddess Brighid, or “bright one.” In modern Wicca and Paganism, Brighid is viewed as the maiden aspect of the maiden-mother-crone cycle, of fertility and purity, and from Irish lore, she is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth. Purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to honor her and to get ready for Spring — there’s a reason why we have the term “spring cleaning”!

But Brighid was not only known for her youth and vigor; in some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brighid was viewed as Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers and older than the land itself. Near Yorkshire, England, she was seen as a warlike figure. And Christians aren’t without their own representation of this ancient goddess: St. Brigid was the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptized by St. Patrick and founded a community of nuns at Kildare, Ireland.

To recognize and honor Brighid, leave a piece of clothing outside for Brighid to bless, and they will have the powers of healing and protection thanks to Brighid. (You might want to let the article warm up inside a bit before putting it on — might be a little chilly!) Smoor your fire and rake the ashes smooth before you go to bed, then look for a mark on the ashes when you awake. These could be signs that Brighid has passed that way overnight.

Hail Brid, Queen of Spring
Dance with us around the ring
Mate with Pan your Horned King
All through the night.


Hail Pan, Horned One,
God of greenwood and bright Sun
Frolic in the dark of night
By Her light.


We here your witches serve
Worship you as you deserve
Weave a web of strength and might
Practice your rite.


By your love so dear
We progress throughout the year
Take away our mortal fear
Give us the sight.


Hail, Brid, Queen of Spring
Dance with us around the ring
Mate with Pan your Horned King
All through the night.

Other ancient civilizations celebrated this point between winter and spring, not just the Celts and modern-day Pagans and Wiccans:

  • Lupercalia (Romans) Rather than being associated with a particular temple or deity, Lupercalia was instead focused on the found of the city of Rome by twins Romulus and Remus, feral children who were suckled by a she-wolf in a cave known as the “Lupercale”. Purification rituals where a goat was sacrificed and a scourge made of its hide were commonplace during this holiday. Thong-clad men ran through the city, whacking people with bits of goat hide; these people considered themselves fortunate! (To each his own, right?)
  • The Feast of Nut (Egyptialsn) According to the Book of the Dead, the goddess Nut, whose birthday fell on 2 February on the Gregorian calendar, was seen as a mother-figure to the sun god Ra, who was known at sunrise as Khepera and took the form of a scarab beetle.
  • St. Brigid’s Day (Christianity) This was already mentioned, but a bit of a story about how St. Brigid came to be: When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was difficult to convince the people to get rid of their old gods, so the church allowed the Irish to worship Bridgid as a saint. 2 February also marks Candelmas for Christians, the feast of purification of the Virgin. By Jewish law, it took forty days after a birth for a woman to be cleansed following the birth of a son, and Candelmas marks the forty days after the birth of Jesus. Candles were blessed, feasting was had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed brighter.

Now, I’m not a Pagan big on ritual, save for maybe something around Samhain (and now that’s being taken up by our wedding anniversary!). However, after the jump is a ritual you can apply to your own Imbolc celebration, adapted from LadyBridget.com. Feel free to create your own rituals and customs for Imbolc, either using this as an example or starting from scratch.

ETA: Also, if you’re looking for a ritual where you can incorporate your children (or if you’re looking for something simpler than a full-on ritual), check out Pagan Dad’s post, Happy Imbolc!

And of course, blessed Imbolc, everyone! Here’s to hoping for warm Spring weather in the months ahead! ;)

Cast the circle in your usual manner.
Ground and center the participants.
Bless each person as you normally would.

INVOKE WATCHTOWERS

EAST – Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the East, the powers of water. We see the sun’s rays bouncing off the ocean tides, smashing into the rocks. Our emotions are high as we get ready for Spring, in the anticipation of the Sun’s return. Waters of Life, give us birth, and the knowledge to grow as the seeds grow in the Earth from your nourishment. Join the children of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be.

SOUTH – Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the South, the powers of Air, you who blow crisp, clean, and cold, with swirls of blistery winds. Bring the warm, soft breezes that herald the beginning of Spring. Smell the sweet scent of lilacs. Breathe in th air. Become refreshed with new thoughs, new knowledge, new projects. Join the cildren of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be.

WEST – Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the West, the powers of Fire. Now as we stand in the fullness of winter, yet on the threshold of Spring, we await the seed which is awakening in the Earth. We ask for your Divine spark to ignite our Sacred Fires as we gather this night to rejuvenate the flames of the sun. Join the children of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be.

NORTH – Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the North, the powers of Earth. Now the time has come to call for the powers of mountains and of trees, celebrate with us the things that are to be. The warming of Spring will soon bring the abundance of summer. The breezes will be warmer and the days longer. Powers of leaf and flower and thorn, join the children of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be.

INVITE THE HORNED ONE:

HP: We call upon you O Horned One, at this time of the feast of torches, when every lamp blazes and shines to welcome your rebirth as the Sun. All the land is wrapped in winter. The air is chilled and the Earth lies barren beneath her mantle of sleep. We call upon you to return, Lord of the Sun. The spark of life is within you, as is the darkness of death. For you are the gatekeeper at the end of time. We call upon you whom all must face at the appointed hour. Yet you are not to be feared, for you are brother, lover, and son. You teach us that death is but the beginning of life and we honor you. You who holds the key of life and death. Blessed Be.

(light the candle for the God)

INVITE BRIDGET:

HPS: By the flowers of the field, O Lady of delight, by the crops thy blessings yield, Oh Maiden clear and bright. We evoke thy presence in kernels and sheaves. We see thy face in the moonlit leaves. Come now to us, extend thy grace, come into our circle within this holy place. Daughter of the Earth, drinking sunlight. Queen of plants, sister of night. By leaf and twig, by root and bough, by water and earth. Come to us now! Bring us your grain, the staff of our lives. Bring us your fruit, wherever it thrives. Mistress of herbs unlock your power and lead us into your leafy bower. In love and joy we call your name, with comforting hope, you ease our pain. We see thee in the swelling bud, we feel thy stirring in our blood. O Lady clear, we feel thee near. In Spring a Maiden with flowers crowned, in summer and harvest, the Mother renewed, in fall and winter the Hag holds sway, yet the Maiden remains but months away. Great Triple Goddess, the seasons flow and eff to thy will as you come and go. Blessed Be.

(light the candle for the Goddess)

THE MYTH

Narrator – As the scene unfolds, we find Persephone in the underworld having been abducted by Hades to be his Queen. Demeter, in her grief has allowed the earth to be barren. Zeus, taking pity on humankind’s suffering, sends Hermes to the underworld to tell Hades to free Persephone. Having overheard the conversation, Persephone confronts Hades…..

Persephone – I, Persephone, have heard the voice of Hermes, messenger of Zeus. I have heard him command you to set me free. And indeed, I am fully ready to go. I, who am the flower of Maidenhood and delight in the newness of life, yet will I ever be burdened with the memory of the restful sadness that is your realm. Forever I will see the shadow of the dying flower even in the fullness of it’s bloom.

Hades – (aside) If I can get her to eat some of these seeds, she must return to me.
(to Persephone) My Lovely Queen, my love for you is so strong that I would risk the wrath of my brother, Zeus, and of Demeter, by bringing you here. Please don’t leave me for I am only the reaper. I free the old, the tired and torn so that She can make them fresh and whole again. Death is a thing in which to rejoice, for after Death comes renewal. In me they find rest and peace. But if you must leave me, please my Lady, have this for your journey. (holding out closed hand)

Persephone – I will take only a token bit to acknowledge your hospitality, and then I shall be gone. (Eats one bite)

Demeter – Children. light your candles so that my daughter may find her way.

(At this point, Demeter lights her candle from the God and Goddess candles on the altar, then goes to the person in the West and lights theirs. Each person lights the candle of the person next to them, and as the light travels deosil around the circle, Persephone slowly comes along following the light. When she reaches the end, she greets Dememter with a hug and kiss. They murmer greetings and such until suddenly Demeter exclaims in a very loud voice….)

Demeter – YOU ATE WHAT?

Persephone – It was only a few seeds!

Narrator – Persephone was told not to eat anything in the underworld or she would not be able to return above. But Persephone ate a few pommegranate seeds. Zeus decreed a compromise for the sharing of Persephone. She must return 3 months of the year to the underworld to reside with her husband, with the remainder of the year to be spent with her mother in the land of the living.

HPS – Behold the three-formed Goddess, she who is ever three, Maid, Mother, Crone. Yet She is ever one. We welcome now the Maiden Persepnone. For without spring there can be no summer, without summer, no winter, and no new spring. Thus we look forward to the end of winter. We lit the candles to light the way for Persephone’s return from the darkness, and to lend strength to the Sun as He grows in power. Blessed Be.

(People can extinguish their candles and take them home, or leave them lit on the altar, if there is space, or around the circle if that is possible.)

(At this time, pass around the parchment paper and pens so everyone can write what spiritual goals they wish to reach during the coming year. These are place in Brid’s Bed, or can be burned to send the wished to the Goddess. They should first be charged, by raising energy while each person holds their paper, either through dance and chanting, humming, or meditation channeling, or whatever your group does. Then each person will either put the parchment in and tell Brid what she desires, or put into the Cauldron to be transformed and burned.)

(Also this is the time, if you wish, to charge seeds for the spring planting later. Herbs and flowers are appropriate, get ones that grow in your area so your participants can plant them. We also bless our candles now, one of each color, to be used during our magickal year. A few drops of wax from these candles will add the Goddess energy and blessing from this Sabbat to whatever candles we dress. Or people can simply use the white candles they lit for Persephone’s return, since white contains all colors within it. Charging is done as above.)

GREAT RITE (Perform in your usual manner)

DISMISS WATCHTOWERS

EAST – Hail to thee Guardian of the Watchtower of the East, the powers of Water. We felt your presence this evening as you washed away the winter’s chill. Stay with us as we grow in the coming months. Continue to water our plants and our minds so they grow to be strong and healthy. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be.

SOUTH – Hail to thee Guardian of the Watchtower of the South, the powers of Air. We thank you for the truning of the seasons, the cold of winter, the growth of spring, and fall harvests. As you leave us, leave us with new inspiration for the new spring. As you depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be.

WEST – Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtower of the West, the powers of Fire. We thank you for the smoldering embers that have lain dormant through the winter and are now on the verge of flaring forth into flowering spring. We thank you for your participation and your protection. As you depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be.

NORTH – Hail to thee Guardian of the Watchtower of the North, the powers of Earth. The powers of mountains and trees, you have celebrated with us the things that are to be. Powers of leaf and of thorn, we look forward to longer days and warmer days. We thank you for joining us in our rites. As you depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee, Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be.

CLOSE CIRCLE.

Theological Thursday: Astrological Signs Freakout!

Unless you live under a rock, you probably freaked out last week when you heard your astrological sign might not actually be your sign. In fact, you might be reorganizing your entire life as a result of the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s article (among several others circulating around the internet) about how you might not actually be an Aries, or a Taurus, or a Gemini.

According to this “updated” zodiac, here’s the new breakdown for the sign under which you were “truly” born:

Capricorn: 20 January – 16 February
Aquarius: 16 February – 11 March
Pisces: 11 March – 18 April
Aries: 18 April – 13 May
Taurus: 13 May – 21 June
Gemini: 21 June – 20 July
Cancer: 20 July – 10 August
Leo: 10 August – 16 September
Virgo: 16 September – 30 October
Libra: 30 October – 23 November
Scorpio: 23 November – 29 November
Ophiuchus: 29 November – 17 December
Sagittarius: 17 December – 20 January

Personally, as a 6 November baby, I’ve gone from a Scorpio to a Libra. While this change made sense to me — if you know my personality and know these signs well, you’d understand why! — many of my friends and friends-of-friends, attached as they are to their “original” signs, went berserk as a result of this news:

I’m a Libra, dammit, and I don’t care what you say.

Hahahaha! I would be something called an Ophiuchus. I don’t even know what to say about that.

I am a Cancer, and that will never change.

Eww, I refuse to be a Virgo. LIBRAS FOR LIFE

OMG. Zodiacs have changed? My life is over.

But is this really anything new? Have we just stuck with an old system for so long that, upon learning about our “true” signs, we’re entirely unsure of who we are?

Actually, not entirely.

News of this supposed updated zodiac is nothing new, actually. As a matter of fact, there are two different zodiacs, a tropical one fixed to the seasons (which is what most Westerners adhere to), and a sidereal zodiac fixed to constellations (followed by most Easterners). Therefore, if you considered yourself a Virgo under the tropical zodiac last week — and if you pick up any American newspaper, you likely did — you’re still a Virgo under the same zodiac this week.

“This story is born periodically as if someone has discovered some truth. It’s not news,” said Jeff Jawer, astrologer with Tarot.com.

The sidereal zodiac is not the same in this century as it was when the idea of the zodiac was first conceived, though, this much is true. To accommodate for the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth, which causes it to wobble on its axis, there’s a one-month difference in the alignment of the stars, so that zodiac no longer corresponds with its tropical sidekick. So when astrologers say the sun is in Pisces, it’s really not, as the earth has shifted in a way that the sun is in, say, Aquarius.

Looking at the sidereal zodiac, it’s no wonder I’m not considered a Scorpio — the window for that specific constellation is only seven days wide! And most people who are considered Sagittarius under the tropical zodiac are otherwise known as Ophiuchus… a thirteenth constellation ditched by the Babylonians, who wanted only twelve signs per year.

While that zodiac is focused on the location of the sun on a particular day of a person’s birth, the tropical zodiac is fixed based on the solstices and equinoxes: For instance, Aries is fixed to one, Libra to the other. As astrology is geocentric, meaning it relates life on Earth to the Earth’s environment, of which seasons have the most influence, the tropical zodiac is most relied on and argued by Westerners.

However, just because it’s the typically-used one in the Sunday paper doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. People who put stock in astrology should ask themselves whether they should adhere to the tropical zodiac or the sidereal zodiac, and perhaps even contemplate why.

Personally, I’ll be abiding by a combination of the two. I see the use in the tropical zodiac considering my location, but also in the sidereal zodiac for its accuracy, in my opinion, of the sign to who I am.

But of course, as with all other assumed science, your mileage may vary. ;)

Theological Thursday: Discrimination Against Wiccan Military Chaplains (The First Amendment and the U.S. Military)

Don Larsen, former Pentecostal military chaplain.

This post was originally a project for one of my law classes, then was circulated around the Internet when it was submitted to Examiner.com. As an original work, please let me know and give credit where due before copying for your own use. Thank you!

Don Larsen’s military chaplaincy served several thousand military servicemen and servicewomen throughout his career, allowing him to reach them through his Pentecostal faith and the endorsement of the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, a Dallas-based association of Pentecostal churches . He was praised by Chaplain Kevin L. McGhee, the head of his chaplaincy and Larsen’s supervisor, who called him the best chaplain amongst the twenty-six chaplains serving at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. McGhee continued to rain praise upon him, saying “I could go on and on about how well he preached, the care he gave.”

The purpose of military chaplains, as stated by the Air Force Chaplain Corps and echoed among the other branches of the U.S. Military, is to “offer a broadly based ministry aimed at meeting the diverse pastoral needs of the pluralistic military community.”  They are told to abide by the First Amendment by supporting the free exercise of religion, both directly and indirectly, for all members of the Military Services, their dependents, and other authorized persons.

The 22 February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, which collapsed the dome of a 1,200-year-old holy site and triggered attacks between Shiite and Sunni militants, prompted Larsen to make a decision – and a change of heart – regarding his own personal faith.

Larsen describes the transformation in him as when “I realized so many innocent people are dying in the name of God. When you think back over the Catholic-Protestant conflict, how the Jews have suffered, how some Christians justified slavery, the Crusades, and the fighting between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, I just decided I’m done.” He decided to convert from Protestant to Wicca, stating, “I will not be part of any church that unleashes its clergy to preach that particular individuals or faith groups are damned.”

There are many definitions as to what Wicca is, as the religion caters to a person’s specific beliefs and practices, but it is typically agreed upon that Wicca is a nature-based religion that recognizes a dual nature of deity. Followers believe in a God and a Goddess and believe that the feminine is at least as important as the masculine aspect of deity. It is a nationally recognized religion in the United States, and is currently experience a rapid growth in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, with statistics doubling the number of adherents around every 18 months.

While Larsen’s ideas on faith had changed, the military believed that this particular individual was damned due to his conversion. After applying to become the military’s first Wiccan chaplain, the Pentagon responded by stripping Larsen of his chaplaincy and yanked the proverbial rug under him, pulling him back to the United States and officially discharging him from his military services.

A man who was once the most highly revered chaplain of his platoon was nothing more than a civilian, stripped of his ranks and his position of service to thousands of military personnel, over a religious calling.

Though somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 Pagans serve in the United States Armed Forces today, there is not a single chaplain to represent them and the diverse faiths that fall under the Pagan umbrella.  Comparatively, there are approximately twenty Jewish chaplains to accommodate its 4,000 adherents, and about a dozen Imam chaplains for approximately 3,500 Muslim servicemen and women. On a smaller scale, some faiths with smaller numbers do have chaplains, including six teachers for around 650 Christian Scientists, forty-one Mormon chaplains for the 17,500 Mormons in uniform, and one Buddhist chaplain for around 4,500 Buddhists.

A main requirement for a chaplain to be recognized is the endorsement from an established religious group. The Army, the section of the military of which Larsen was a part, also lists the following as requirements to become a chaplain in the military :

  1. You must obtain an ecclesiastical endorsement from your faith group. This endorsement should certify that you are:
    1. A clergy person in your denomination or faith group.
    2. Qualified spiritually, morally, intellectually and emotionally to serve as a Chaplain in the Army.
    3. Sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.
  2. Educationally, you must:
    1. Possess a baccalaureate degree of not less than 120 semester hours.
    2. Possess a master’s degree in divinity or a graduate degree in theological studies, which includes at least 72 hours.
  3. Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  4. Be able to receive a favorable background check.
  5. Pass a physical exam.

As mentioned previously, Larsen had attained the endorsement of the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches while serving as a Protestant chaplain, which calls for chaplains who “[proclaim] the gospel of Jesus Christ in spiritually dark areas”  across its front page. Agencies must be approved through the U.S. Military and the Pentagon, and go through what is typically a short process: an application to become an endorser.

On 31 July 1997, Sacred Well Congregation , a Texas-based Wiccan congregation that started in the early 1990s, put in its own application to become Larsen’s new endorser. Upon its initial review, the Army cited a minor bureaucratic obstacle: It could not find a copy of his previous endorsement from the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, which would have shown that he satisfied the five requirements to become a chaplain.

While following up on the request for his form, there were communications between Full Gospel and Larsen who, when asked if it was true that he desired to convert to Wicca, pleaded with the Chaplaincy to not rescind its endorsement until he could complete the switch. However, upon learning that Larsen’s application for a religious switch was true, they immediately severed ties with him. Stuck in chaplaincy limbo, with his original endorser no longer supporting him and the Sacred Well Congregation not yet able to attain proper status, Larsen was ordered to cease functioning as a chaplain, effective immediately, and was pulled form Iraq.

In response to the pull and accusations that bringing Larsen back to the United States was religious discrimination, Lt. Col. Randall Dolinger, the Army Chief of Chaplains spokesperson, denied any such accusations: “What you’re really dealing with is more of a personal drama, what one person has been through and the choices he’s made. Plus, the fact that the military does have Catch-22s.”

In addition, the endorsing entity must be able to meet certain criteria, which Dolinger has said the Sacred Well Congregation has met – all but one, to present a “viable candidate.” The group’s previous nominee was turned away, as his eyesight was not 20/20. Sacred Well was confident in Larsen’s candidacy, considering his physical fitness, his Master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and his ten years as an officer for the National Guard, where he finished nearly the top of his class in chaplain’s training and was already serving as a chaplain in Iraq.

But David L. Oringderff, a retired Army intelligence officer and an elder of the Sacred Well Congregation, said that his group underestimated the institutional resistance. Once they had Larsen as a viable candidate, the Chaplaincy changed the rules. They apparently have done this “[e]ach time we advance to a scoring position[.]”

There have been other attempts at Wiccans attempting to become chaplains in the military, but all have failed. One notable attempt was by Marci Drewry, who enlisted in the United States Army on 19 October 1981. She served for a 23-year career, and retired on 1 November 2004 as a Chief Warrant Officer 4, the equivalent of a senior Major or junior Lieutenant Colonel. She is also a Wiccan Priestess.

While Drewry was unable to accomplish the task of becoming a chaplain, due to her lack of experience and education but despite the Sacred Well Congregation’s want to back her in her endeavors, she did become a Distinctive Faith Group Leader (DFGL). These people, in addition to their regular military duties, act as voluntary liaisons between their particular faith groups and the local chaplain. She became a DFGL while serving in Korea under the aegis of the Sacred Well Congregation, and continued her services throughout her military career.

Though she was in the military at a time when gender discrimination was dwindling away, religious discrimination was still an obstacle Drewry had to overcome. As a DFGL, she was put on a list with her name, phone number, and religious affiliation, and she was investigated and harassed for having done so. She says later, “I chose not to fight this, just gave the chaplain my personal cell phone number instead.”

Drewry never pursued her ambitions to become a chaplain, instead being content in her place as a Distinctive Faith Group Leader. In fact, she was able to have Wiccans and other neo-Pagans recognized on a larger scale than the military imagined; while based in Iraq, she approached her area’s chaplains and identified herself as a DFGL, saying that she would like to show some semblance of support for the Wiccan population in the military. She posted her intentions on WitchVox, a community created for Witches, Wiccans, and neo-Pagans that provides information and articles related to neo-Pagan interests, and on Sacred Well’s mailing group in order to attract others who were interested in holding on-base rituals.

Today, Marci Drewry serves as the Director of Military Affairs for the Sacred Well Congregation.

Larsen exhibits the same military strictness as Drewry, following his commanding officers’ orders and bowing out of the military while blaming only himself for the stripping of his chaplaincy. He said he was naïve to think that he could switch from Pentecostalism to Wicca in the same way other military chaplains routinely change from one Christian denomination to another.

Others, however, beg to differ, such as Oringderff, who says that “Institutionalized bigotry and discrimination actions […] have crossed the line this time.”

Does the denial of Larsen’s transfer then his ultimate discharge from the United States Army constitute religious discrimination, thereby violating the First Amendment? According to the First Amendment Center, which focuses on identifying and revealing acts of basic human rights violations, religious discrimination is the only explanation for Larsen’s discharge:

The military’s stubborn refusal to recognize Wicca may have something to do with the firestorm of criticism that greeted news stories of Wiccan meetings on a Texas military base [in 1999]. Then-Gov. George W. Bush wanted the military to bar Wiccan ceremonies, saying, “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion.” Some outraged Christian conservative leaders called on Christians not to enlist or re-enlist as long as Wiccans were permitted to worship on U.S. bases.
[…]
For First Amendment purposes, however, it doesn’t matter what military officers or school principals or other government officials think about Wicca: It is their constitutional duty to protect the religious freedom of all Americans, including witches.

This would also not be the first example of First Amendment violations made by the United States military. An almost ten-year long battle, often nicknamed the “Pentacle Quest” and headed by the Reverend Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary with the help of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, resulted in the pentacle finally becoming an approved emblem of belief that can be included on government-issued markers, headstones, and plaques to honor deceased veterans.

The pentacle, a common symbol for Wicca and other neo-Pagan faiths, is an encircled upright five-pointed star. It represents the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit, and is used in many neo-Pagan faiths as the most familiar of the many emblems of their belief system.

While the Quest began in the late 1990s, it became national news when Roberta Stewart, wife of her late husband Sgt. Patrick Stewart, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom on 25 September 2005, joined the fight in February 2006. Both she and her husband are Wiccan, and while his friend, Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, was honored with a cross for his Christian faith on his headstone for the same heroic duty during the Operation, Sgt. Stewart’s remained unmarked.

The case was delayed for several reasons, many of which involved bureaucratic paperwork and runarounds, including several rejections and requests for additions to be made to their applications. Many phone calls and requests for additional information also went unanswered.

Litigation began with the assistance of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on 1 August 2006, when Roberta Stewart and Selena Fox signed legal agreements with AU attorneys in preparation for taking the case to court. To expedite the process and put more pressure on the VA, they also crafted a piece of federal legislation and pushed that through simultaneously.

Lawsuits were filed on 13 November 2006 for Circle Sanctuary v. Nicholson, W.D. Wisconsin No. 06-C-0660-S, and Circle Sanctuary v. Department of Veterans Affairs, Fed. Cir. No. 2007-7050, by the AU. These were additions to a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Egbert v. Nicholson, on 29 September 2006.

In response to these lawsuits, the VA was made to turn over more than 30,000 documents to the AU attorneys, including additional internal e-mails, memos, and other documents they had failed to release through the Freedom of Information Act requests they had made. Through these documents, AU attorneys were able to discern that the VA officials had blocked Pentacle approval for the headstones because of their prejudice against the Wiccan religion.

AU attorneys drafted an amended complaint that they had planned to file in the Federal District Court of Western Wisconsin using the interoffice information garnered, but upon the U.S. Department of Justice’s review of the amended complaint, they quickly began negotiating a settlement of the lawsuit. After two weeks of intense negotiations, both sides reach an agreement and signed the settlement papers, which were official at the judge’s signing the same day.

Within one business day, as agreed to by the AU and VA, the Pentacle was added to the emblems of belief list. Shortly following, Rev. Selena Fox accompanied Roberta Stewart as the pentacle was added to her late husband’s tombstone, the first ever pentacle to be emblazoned upon a VA marker.

The battle that was fought for that one simple freedom is an example of why our First Amendment is so vital to the equal recognition and acceptance of all religions. While the victory for Wiccans around the United States should very well be celebrated as a win for human rights, there is still a lot of progress to be made, especially when government agencies are involved. Though it is fairly certain that Larsen will not be an active proponent of any discrimination lawsuit that may arise from the lack of Wiccan representation in the military, he has said that he would do anything possible to help out with future causes in order to grant the same rights that other majority faiths have to those of his own.

Pagans have faced, and continue to face, systemic discrimination in their quest for religious representation. It is urged that the Armed Forces Chaplains Board accept the Sacred Well Congregation as a religious endorsing body so that the chaplain corps can better serve the needs of everyone in uniform, and to recognize that Wicca and all other faiths are best served when the United States adheres to the First Amendment as it would to all other faiths.

Larsen is currently serving for the National Guard in his home state of Texas.

Post-Theological Thursday: New Homes: Under Contract!

Remember the post about the new moon, and how it was a great time for anyone to put new actions in motion? If you recall, Matt and I put an offer on a townhome not even a quarter-mile from where we currently live, and we got the call back yesterday that they’ve accepted our offer. We’re officially under contract for our own home!

While the home is higher than our original budget, it’s still a steal considering what we’re getting. The sellers priced it a bit lower than anticipated as they’re anticipating a fast move, and we decided it was best to offer their asking price with closing cost help, and we got it! Thank heavens, too, as they had two showings scheduled yesterday that they canceled after they took our offer. Talk about close calls.

Anyway, below are some photos of the home! I’ll also detail some of the specs so you know what we’re getting into. Long story short, though, we’re incredibly happy with the home and we can’t wait to settle and move in!

 
From the front. End-unit townhome that backs to woods!
 
Foyer/sitting room.

 
Front door and half bath.
 
Kitchen(!!) and dining area.
 
Bumpout, which the current owners converted into a family room.
 
Staircase (that spirals!).
 
Master bedroom with vaulted ceilings and his/her closets.
What you can’t see is the incredibly bathroom, which totally sold Matt!
Double vanities, soaking tub, separate shower… the works.
 
Guest room.
 
Another bedroom or office.
 
Basement with gym equipment, which may or may not stay, and entertainment area.
 
Door from basement leading to the backyard.
 
HUGE backyard. And the woods!
 
Stairs from backyard to 2nd-level deck.
 
And the back!

Listing Price Information

  • Low Price: $329,999
  • Original Price: $329,999

Bedroom Information

  • 1st Upper Floor Beds: 3

Flooring Information

  • Master Bedroom: Carpet
  • Bedroom #2: Carpet
  • Bedroom #3: Carpet
  • Family Room: Carpet
  • Kitchen: Ceramic Tile
  • Living Room: Carpet
  • Breakfast Room: Ceramic Tile
  • Foyer: Ceramic Tile
  • Recreation Room: Carpet

Basement Information

  • Has Basement
  • Full
  • Fully Finished
  • Heated
  • Improved
  • Outside Entrance
  • Rear Entrance
  • Rough Bath Plumbing
  • Walkout Level
  • Walkout Stairs
  • Windows
  • Workshop
  • Sump Pump
  • Connect Stair
  • Outside Entrance
  • Rear Entrance

Additional Rooms

  • Living Room
  • Master Bedroom
  • Bedroom #2
  • Bedroom #3
  • Kitchen
  • Recreation Room
  • Family Room
  • Other Room 1
  • Foyer
  • Breakfast Room
  • Sun/Florida Room
  • Game/Exercise Room
  • Workshop

Property Information

  • Parcel #: 350
  • Condition: Shows Well
  • # of Blocks to Ocean: 16+
  • Tax Legal Subdivision: PINEY ORCHARD
  • Transportation: Commuter Rail (1 mile)
  • Transportation: Airport (5-10 Miles)
  • Transportation: Other
  • Has Public Road
  • Phase (Legal): 3
  • Folio #: 29
  • Election District: 4
  • Zoning: R5

Location Information

  • Directions: Piney Orchard Parkway to Piscatawy Run to Susquehannock Circle — Great Location to Fort Meade, NSA, Annapolis, DC, Baltimmore, MARC

Community Features

  • Basketball Courts
  • Bike Trail
  • Club House
  • Common Grounds
  • Community Center
  • Jogging/Walking Path
  • Pool (Outdoor)
  • Tot Lots/Playground

Documents & Disclosures

  • Property Disclaimer
  • Property Disclosure

Dining & Kitchen

  • Family Room Off Kitchen
  • Country Kitchen
  • Kitchen/Dining Combination
  • Island in Kitchen
  • Table Space in Kitchen
  • Other (See Remarks)
  • Separate Dining Room

Heating & Cooling

  • Forced Air Heat
  • Natural Gas Heating
  • Ceiling Fan(s)
  • Central A/C
  • Electric Cooling

Water & Sewer

  • Public Sewer
  • Public Water
  • Hot Water: Natural Gas

Building Information

  • # of Buildings: 1
  • # of Units: 1
  • Model: END UNIT GORGEOUS !
  • Building Floors: 3
  • Vacation Home
  • Vinyl Siding

Water Property Information

  • Body of Water: CHESAPEAKE BAY
  • On the Waterfront
  • Navigable Water
  • Riparian Rights Convey: No

Homeowners Association Information

  • Has Homeowners Association
  • Fee: $81.25
  • Fee Payment Frequency: Quarterly

Finances & Fees

  • Tax Year: 2010
  • Total Taxes: $3,700.77
  • Total Taxes Frequency: Annually
  • County Tax: $3,425.77
  • County Tax Frequency: Annually
  • Refuse Fee: $275.00
  • Possession: Close Date (0-30 Days)
  • Possession: Immediate
  • Possession: Negotiable
  • Possession: Settlement

Listing Information

  • Listing Date: Friday, December 10, 2010
  • Status Change Date: Friday, December 10, 2010 6:13 PM
  • Type: Exclusive Right To Sell
  • Not a Potential Short Sale

Bathroom Information

  • Main Floor Baths (1/2): 1
  • 1st Upper Floor Baths (Full): 2

Interior Features

  • Dry Wall
  • High Ceilings
  • Foyer Entrance
  • Living Room Entrance
  • Has Attic
  • Master Bathroom (Attached)
  • Double Vanities
  • Drapes/Curtains
  • Master Bath (Separate Shower)
  • Master Bath (Separate Tub)
  • Master Bedroom (Full Bath)
  • Master Walk-In Closet
  • Other
  • Shades/Blinds
  • Sump Pump
  • Tub (2+ Person)
  • Tub (Soaking)
  • Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
  • Walk-in Closet(s)
  • Washer/Dryer Hookup
  • Floor Plan (Open)
  • Floor Plan (Traditional)

Handicap Features

  • Low Pile Carpeting
  • Other

Room Level Information

  • Master Bedroom: Upper 1
  • Bedroom #2: Upper 1
  • Bedroom #3: Upper 1
  • Family Room: Lower 1
  • Kitchen: Main
  • Living Room: Main
  • Breakfast Room: Main
  • Foyer: Main
  • Recreation Room: Lower 1

Parking & Garage

  • # of Assigned Spaces: 2
  • Parking Included in List Price
  • Assigned

Lot Information

  • Lot #: 21
  • Acres (Lot Area): 0.050735
  • Backs to Trees
  • Lot Premium
  • Bump-Outs
  • Decks (Multiple)
  • Extensive Hardscape
  • Fenced (Fully)
  • Fenced (Rear)
  • Other Exterior Feature
  • Patio
  • Privacy Fence
  • Secure Storage
  • Near Bay

Condo/Co-op Information

  • # of Floors in Unit: 1

Assessment Information

  • Year: 2010
  • Total Assessment: $345,340.00
  • Total Assessment Frequency: Annually
  • Land Assessment: $190,000.00
  • Land Assessment Frequency: Annually
  • Improvement Assessment: $155,340.00
  • Improvement Assessment Frequency: Annually

Pre-Theological Thursday: New Moons and New Homes

First, let me say that it was damn near impossible to find decent information on new moons and magick since that stupid Twilight series came out. I had to wade through a lot of crap to get you guys this stuff!

Anyway, as of an hour after midnight last night, the moon became new in Capricorn. This is a powerful new moon with a partial solar eclipse! As it’s the first new moon of the new year, it sets the stage for the year to come, so it’d be wise to carefully plan some action; great rewards will come from the careful organization of plans for this year. It’s also a Capricorn moon, ruled by Saturn, which calls us to hard work, perseverance, organization, and concrete manifestation. The wave behind this eclipse has a ton of energy and will carry whatever you focus on into swift manifestation. Talk about a powerful moon, indeed!

The new moon is considered as the dark of the moon through 3.5 days afterward, and as the sun and moon are on the same side of the earth, the pull on us is the strongest. (After all, we are mostly water!) Because the sun, moon, and earth are all in a straight line, this creates a time when the tide — both on earth and within ourselves — is higher and lower than usual.

So what kind of magick is done on the new moon? If you’re looking to start new ventures and new beginnings, this would be a great time to do so. Look for romance, health, or job hunting. And of course, there’s moving and home ownership… which we’re actually embarking on! Perfect timing, right?

While not at all planned (well, this specific home, not home ownership in general), Matt and I are putting an offer in on a townhome less than a half-mile from where we currently live. Matt noticed the listing on Sunday and really wanted to see it, and after checking out the photos and information online, I did, too. Our realtor worked incredibly fast to get us a viewing, and we were able to last night.

Long story short, after seeing the home in person, we are insanely psyched, and will be putting an offer on the house tonight! It’s only been on the market for less than a month, and if we wait any longer, it’ll be gone. So no hesitation, we’re putting our chips right in. Here’s to hoping that the new Capricorn moon works in our favor!

How about you? What big things are you planning, what will you put to action this new moon? (Hint: This would be a great time to start on those new year’s resolutions!)

Also, keep an eye out for this Theological Thursday, where I’ll give you a ritual that can be used during the new moon.