Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
*"Will must be the harder, courage the bolder,
spirit must be greater, as our strength lessens…”
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This past summer I managed to snag yet another art commission at a local church where I have painted a lot of murals – most of the mural work in my sidebar on this blog comes from this church. So, I was working down on the school wing, where we have a Noah’s Ark theme of animals going in a simplified illustrational style on the walls. The latest painting – I don’t say the last, because we seem to keep adding to things over there – was a representation of the Lion and the Lamb, both from the scripture verse (“…the lion shall lie down with the lamb…”) and a tip of the hat to C S Lewis’s Narnia with Aslan and in particular, the Lamb that becomes Aslan in the last chapter of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. What does all this have to do with a hat…my hat in particular?
First of all, this sets up the context for where I got my hat. I was painting this particular painting, in a church where there are carefully researched, deeply religious murals that I have painted, on the school wing of that church, and working on a painting with deeply embedded Christian meaning…and I am a transgendered guy/lesbian identified individual. So, what is the nature of my relationship with this church? Amazingly enough, I am Out to them and they are very accepting and aware and loving. And I value that beyond any price, in the very conservative homophobic area that we live in. I have murals at one church that severed their relationship with me after they realized I was gay, although they left the paintings up, which surprised me. So this lovely church, where I was currently working on this Lion and Lamb mural, knows that I am indeed GLBT identified.
So the week I was painting this part of the installation, the church was setting up to hold an annual fundraising rummage sale, which given the efforts to organize the sheer raw amount of stuff, must have come from hundreds of donations, attics, garages and storage buildings! The sheer scope of it was huge. The sale was that Saturday, and they were organizing the loot into categories like clothing, kitchen ware, video tapes etc. The room that was the staging area was right next to the entry into that room where I was painting Lion and Lamb. Every so often I would take a break and stretch my legs – important, given my arthritis – and talk with the women who were organizing the mounds of stuff. I was prowling the room, looking at things, when I spotted “The Hat” – a gorgeous, high quality wool fedora with a jaunty little spray of feathers and rolled back brim and I went head over heels for it! I asked whether or not I could go ahead and purchase it, since the actual sale was Saturday and I knew I could not make it back over to the church on that day. They hemmed and hawed, and teased me and then relented (they weren’t really suppose to sell anything in advance) and charged me $3.00 dollars! Understand, wool fedora’s run anywhere from $30.00 to $80.00 dollars, so this was so close to stealing I felt guilty! I asked if they were sure, and they laughed and told me go ahead.
So I gave them my three dollars and scooped up the hat and tried it on (again – had already done so before buying it) and it was a perfect fit. I tipped it at a jaunty angle which made them all laugh again. These were several women in their 60’s and 80’s…the kind that are the mainstays and unsung unappreciated backbone of churches everywhere…you know what I am talking about. While the 20 and 30 something crowd was dropping off this incredible mound of stuff and then going merrily on about their business (which probably did include kids, work and errands, let’s be fair), these two older members of the congregation were organizing single handedly this over-their-head mountain of junk into usable categories, hanging clothing on hangers, tossing stuff that was not fit to use, shuffling stuff to different rooms for staging. It was huge! So, the older one of them paused after the laugh, and said, hesitantly, cautiously, and with deep curiosity “So, I suppose you are the…guy in your relationship with Wordweaving?” (they have all met my sweetheart) I could tell that she didn’t want to offend me, but she was intensely curious and truly had no clue about the GLBT subculture. I was actually pleased she asked…it was an opportunity to talk about the subject with people who live in a different world from mine.
I talked to them about myself and Dreamweaver, and the butch/femme cliché…that while superficially we did very much fit that idea, we also blurred the boundaries and had a very egalitarian relationship. They began to ask more questions – when did you know you were gay? When did you come out? Do your parents know? And each question I answered seemed to open up more connection and acceptance. They already accepted me – but I went from being known by what I was, to being seen as an individual. That had a unique life. And that life was not always easy, because of where I live and the culture around me.
It was a great conversation, and I finally regretfully wound it down and started back out into the hall to paint some more. And I stopped and turned and said to them, “I want to say thank you.” They looked up in surprise from their sorting and said “Why?” I went on, “Because ever since I have come to this church I have been accepted and loved for who I am…and no one here has ever made and issue of my orientation or gender, or suggested I not be allowed to paint here because of it. That is precious to me, and I treasure this church. You are a blessing!”
And the older woman of the two came to her feet and threw her arms around me and hugged me, and then the second woman joined in. They said “Why would we not want you here or would not want your art? We love you and we feel like you are one of our own!”
And that is the story of The Hat. So despite the gender bending trouble that it got me into the other day in Walmart, to me my hat is a reminder of acceptance and love. It is a troubled area that I live in. There is legislation on the books banning local businesses from offering partners benefits. We live in the shadow of Bob Jones University. There are Exodus style groups here, and billboards condemning homosexuality. Sean Kennedy, a young gay man, was killed here, murdered only minutes from where my wife worked at the time. His killer served only 14 months. We cannot legally marry here. We cannot hold hands in public without concern. We have been preached at. And then there is this small church where my art work lives and breathes that accepts and loves. It is an interracial church – they have had their share of trouble too. They regularly get nasty graffiti on the walls outside, which they handle with grace and a bucket of paint. There is a roaring lion – homophobic, hating, lashing out – that roams our streets in the form of our state government, conservative judging citizenry, and hating, angry violence. In this church is true Christianity – living the life that reflects the peace and unconditional love of the Lamb. This church gives me hope that someday, the Lion will lie down with the Lamb
…and there will be Peace.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It seems Walmart is a significant trouble spot for me as a transgender…last week, I was running errands, and one of them took me into Walmart. So, I trot up to the door, throw a donation at the Salvation Army bell ringer, and dive for the bathroom first thing, before acquiring a cart.
And I carefully checked before I went in the bathroom to be sure that I had the one that matches the “F” on my driver’s license. This is after all, the store that I used the Men’s room by completely accident and got away with it entirely…So I always check. Yep, right one at least for the societal perceptions. I went in, and of course, all stalls full. So I am waiting my turn, lingering hopefully near the back handicap stall, because it’s easier on the arthritis. The first stall door to open, however, was the one right in front of me. A woman in her fifties, I would say, came out, and we bumped into each other. She looked at me, got this *look* on her face, and said “…oh my…OH MY GOODNESS!...OH! OH!” and ran out of the bathroom, yelling loud enough to clearly carry back through the walls. “THERE’S A MAN IN THE WOMENS REST ROOM!!!”, repeatedly. Meanwhile I am standing there, speaking to her back on its way out the door, saying, “No, ma’am…ma’am, wait, I…MA’AM! HOLD UP!”
Too late. She was loose on the unsuspecting Walmart. I stood there for a moment, empty stall forgotten in front of me, and said out loud, “Oh boy…” Because the next thing that was very likely to happen was a Walmart security guard (probably male) would stick his head in and demand to know what was going on and possibly check my driver’s license. Just then a *snort* was heard from the behind the last stall door, and a woman emerged – a very regal, lovely black lady – who looked me up and down and said, “She’s a twit…*I* can tell you’re a woman!” and went out the door. Which then also, left me standing there, thinking, “Well, actually, I’m NOT, exactly…” *sigh*
At this point, hydraulic pressure was interfering with brain function, so I went on and used the bathroom, washed up, and cautiously stuck my head around the door to go out. Sure enough, next to the women’s room a big Walmart Security guard (male, 1, generic) was waiting for me - all nice and official, with the keys to the bat cave and everything. I groaned and walked out the door, and stepped over to him. “Sir, I can explain…” I began, thinking just HOW am I going to explain and what do you say to explain this. At which point, he looks me up and down, raises his eyebrows, clears his throat and says “The other woman that came out said you were a girl, so I waited just in case.” He eyed me some more, with a rather puzzled, disdainful look, and continued “its fine…go on.” Whereupon, I nodded and headed on to do my shopping. And I kinda thought to myself, ok…whatever I am, Cyndi loves me and so do all my friends. And that’s what matters.
To be fair, in the midst of the unseasonably cold weather we have been having in the south, I was wearing several layers of shirts, a black leather men’s jacket, and a hat…my favorite hat, which is a men’s brown fedora, with a spray of feathers on it. (It’s a really good quality wool fedora, which I managed to acquire for an insanely low price at a rummage sale – there is also a wonderful story behind it which I must post about it sometime.) I undoubtedly looked like a guy very easily, with the layers covering up any betraying curve of figure, and then the masculine jacket, hat, and short hair…so I can see why the first woman made the mistake, although I can’t account even now for her reaction. (If I encountered a guy in the women’s room, I would simply say “Um, sir, do you know which restroom you are in?”) My voice however is light and feminine, and the second woman very clearly heard me speak…so she knew I was physiologically female, even with all the clothing screaming otherwise. It was not a deliberate attempt at “passing” for a man on my part. It was a deliberate attempt at staying warm in subzero temperatures! And I was wearing clothing that l liked and felt comfortable in. I am used to being called “Sir, I mean, Ma’am, I’m sorry!” several times a week, but this reaction was off the scale.
And it left me feeling very confused. I mean…going into gender specific restrooms always twinges a little – it’s like a subtle, low grade reminder that I don’t fit with societal expectations and boundaries. But I REALLY got mistaken for a man that time – and the only thing I had on my mind initially was “Need to pee” so it caught me off guard. And somewhere out there is a poor flustered woman who thinks she collided with a man in the woman’s bathroom. By now she probably thinks I came on to her, since I did politely smile at her when she came out of the stall, initially. It’s distressing. It is rather enjoyable to be called “sir” by mistake – it feels affirming of being a transgender guy. But this put me in the position of having to very loudly assert that I was indeed a female – for all the good it did me – and that felt very uncomfortable. I felt like I was denying my true inner self. Then we have the other woman, who listened to my voice from the other stall, caught the main clue that does give me away, was not in the least fazed by the mixed signals of my clothing…and firmly pronounced me a woman. Which, female body notwithstanding, I am not. And while I am grateful, profoundly, that she set the security guard straight before he walked in and accosted me, that also very much left me feeling very strange…because in my head, I am a guy. *sigh*
Walmart is just getting too weird. But somehow I don’t think it would be any better at Target…
Thursday, December 9, 2010
in the distance, the great stone Tor of Glastonbury is just visible.
Many people bring offerings, ribbons, and prayers to the site of the Tree, and hang them on the protective fence around the trunk of the tree.
Every winter a 1oo year old tradition takes place - a sprig of thorns is taken from the Tree and sent to the Queen to be used at the table as a holy decoration on Christmas day. Last night, on December the 8th, the Mayor took the clipping and sent it off to the Palace. This morning on December the 9th the people of Sommerset rose to find the Holy Thorn Tree almost destroyed - its branches cut from it and thrown on the ground and left there.
Many wept and all were stunned at the blatant destruction. There are rumors of town rivalries and ugliness as the basis of the vandalism, but no one has been caught or accused of the act. People have gathered to weep and mourn the destruction of the sacred tree, and some are gleaning tenderly branches from the scattered limbs - maybe in hopes that a new shoot might be grafted and encouraged from the remains.
Such a mindless act of wanton destruction is almost more than I can comprehend. I do not understand why someone or someones would do such a thing, and desecrate what is surely a Holy Shrine, made so by the prayers and customs and the very Earth it grew in. All I could think of was the song sung by Loreena McKennit - "Bonny Portmore. I wish to offer that song here now as a lament for the loss of the Holy Tree of Glastonbury.
It must be pointed out that however desperately horrifying this vandalism it, and how gut wrenching it is to see, the trunk still stands intact...it is possible that it will respond as though it was deeply pruned and grow back fuller and richer in time than it was...
And if not, there are shoots and small trees growing in Britain that spring from cuttings of the Tree. It can be replanted, still stemming from the original roots, and the flowers will blossom still then, twice a year - at Winter Solstice and at Ostara, or Christmas and Easter.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
All right...lets talk about Crop Circles. I picked up a book today off a discount table on Crop Circles by Steve and Karen Alexander. Its one of those coffee table books of magnificent pictures; and their approach is not to try to figure out how, or why or if they are hoaxes, but rather just to talk about the shapes themselves...the patterns, the mathematics and physics underlying the crop circles and the beauty. Its a great book! It piqued my interest - or rather it piqued it further, as I have always been fascinated by the Crop Circle phenomena.
So I went digging for more information...oh man did I find some!
You remember the news story in 1991 about 2 gentlemen that said they were creating all the crop circles? Doug Bower and Dave Chorley stated that they had started the phenomenon in 1978 by making actual circles on crops with the use of simple tools. That debunking has stuck to this day, except for the fact that what they claim they did doesn't square with the way actual crop circles look. They claimed to use boards to stamp down the wheat or the corn or whatever crop the circle is in, and string to get straight lines. They were asked for a demonstration, and failed miserably...in actual crop circles, the crops are not broken down but bent, in swirled patterns, and are perfectly symmetrical or laid out. What they produce was smashed and broken stalks, asymmetrical ragged shapes and wobbly broken lines. They COULDN'T match what actual crop circles looked like. Later, one of them admitted that they were lying and did not actually do what they had said they had done. The hoax was a hoax - but that's not what the world remembers. So any time you try to talk about crop circles, they get brought up as "proof"that crop circles have been debunked.
Crop circles are not a modern phenomenon and may have been occurring for hundreds to thousands of years or longer. They exist in the centuries-old folklore of South Africa and China, and are in Native American Indian legends. The first written account of a crop circle is from August 8, 1590 and is found in "The Natural History of Stafford-Shire", published in 1686. There are also other references from England's 15th century that suggest crop circle formations. In John Aubrey's "Natural History", a 1633 school teacher seen green circles made by the spirits in the grass. Another early historical record of a crop circle from 1678, is the "Mowing Devil" case, where a farmer's field was believed to have been visited by a devilish entity that trampled the crops down in a circle. There is a wood engraving of this event. In 1686, a book entitled "A Natural History of Staffordshire", made reference to rings, circles and other shapes found in grassy fields.
It the past 25 years, more than 10,000 crop circle formations have been found in more than 29 countries: England, United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, The Netherlands, Hungary, Japan, Wales, France, Scotland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Finland, Israel, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, India, Sweden, Ireland, Yugoslavia, China, Argentina, Croatia, Denmark, Peru, Romania, Siberia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Chile, Egypt, Isle-of-Man, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Sardinia, Tasmania, Ukraine, Uruguay, etc. Most of the elaborate crop circles found, are found around England's ancient and sacred site areas (Stonehenge, the earth mound of Silbury Hill, Avebury, Cheesefoot Head, etc.). Southern England is where around 90% of the elaborate crop circle formations and designs are found. A majority of the world's crop circles - 40% - are within a 40 mile radius of Stonehenge. They seem to be uniformly laid out to line up with magnetic and electromagnetic lines on earth, which Stonehenge, Avebury, the Uffington Horse and dozens of other neolithic sites were all built near or on. Our ancestors knew something that science later caught up with there.
In real crop circle formations the stems are not broken but bent at 90° angles about an inch off the ground, at the plant's first node. The plants are subjected to a short and intense burst of heat or energy that softens the stems or stalks allowing them to be folded over onto the ground at a 90° angle. When the stems or stalks reharden into their new position, the plants and crop are not damaged and continue to grow. This is the method used to identify a real crop circle formation (agriglyph). The canola oil plant has a structure like celery. If the stalk is bent more than about 45°, the stalk will break. When crop circles are found in canola fields, the stalks are bent 90°. Research and laboratory tests suggest that microwave or ultrasound may be the only method capable of producing this effect, but plant biologists are still baffled by this phenomenon.When a man-made crop circle is found, the grain stalks are broken, the formations are usually jagged and the formations do not have any symmetry. Because of the disinformation spread by the media, most people think that all crop circles have been produced by pranksters with a plank, a garden roller, ladders, ropes and measuring tools. The disinformation and non-media coverage of crop circle formations actually protects the farmers and their harvest from damage caused by researchers and the curious from trampling their crop circle grains, harvest and lands.
In the field of Crop Circle Plant Analysis and Research (radioactivity measurements, spectrographic analysis, magnetometer readings, microscopic inspection, cellular plant experiments, weighing, photographing, etc.): High-pressure infrasound is capable of boiling water inside plant stems in one nanosecond, causing the water to steam, and leaving tiny blowholes in the plants’ nodes. Research and laboratory tests prove that infrasound (less than 20 Hz) is capable of producing such an effect. This process creates surface charring along the stems. Microwave radiation (high frequency electromagnetic waves) is also believed to be how the stalks are bent and the plant's nodes are swollen. The top picture here are regular nodes from a field with a crop circle...the bottom picture shows the bent, burned nodes on the stalks from inside the circle.
Farmers have reported that when they find a new crop circle, they have seen steam rising into the air from within the design. Crop circles also show the possible existence of ultrasound also. Several people have reported hearing a trilling sound prior to witnessing crop circles forming. They also report a total stillness in the air (no wind) and total quiet. This trilling sound was captured on magnetic tape and analyzed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab as being mechanical in nature with a frequency of 5.2kHz.
Biophysical evidence shows the plant's nodes and stems are drastically extended, seed embryos are altered, and their is the existence of expulsion cavities, as if they have been heated from the inside. There is also a reorganization of the plant’s crystalline structure. A malt fragrance can also be smelled after cutting open a stem from a freshly made crop circle, which means that the plant has been cooked from the inside, but the crop remains unharmed.
Exhaustive lab analysis into hundreds of 1991-1995 crop circles shows physical and biophysical changes to the plants inside a crop circle. There are also alterations in the germination, development of seed embryos, and alterations in the plant's stem node length and circumference (up to 200% increase in one case). In the picture here, there has been ten days of growth since the crop circle appeared. The far right stalks came from the center of the circle. The smaller ones in the middle came from the edge of the circle, and the ones on the left are taken from outside the crop circle. The grains from crop circle plants can grow 40%-50% larger have a stronger and larger root system with larger grains, than the grains from the crop surrounding the crop circle. Alternatively, some crop circle plants produce seeds that are smaller than normal plants. The reason for the differences in the plants may be water supply available when the formation was made, the age of the plant when the event occurs or the type of plant. The internal structure of the plants is altered at the cellular level. The cell pit walls of the plants are fractured and expanded. In grain crops, there are nodes close to the ground that help the plant grow vertically. Crop circle plants have expanded, elongated or "blown nodes" nodes. The plants with the largest node expansion are found in the center of a crop circle.
And here's where I have been going with this...they caught one forming on video. And it ain't man made. And this is NOT a hoax. It was checked by digital effects experts and they stated that there was no evidence of digital tampering or faking in the film. It was real - and as they went on to say, the crop circle that formed in the video was photographed the following morning, and was real. Here is the video - so watch. You get to see an actual crop circle being formed.
And here is the photograph of the crop circle that was formed in the video above.
So far, there is no consensus of what causes them, and theories range from natural phenomena to aliens from outer space. There is plenty of proof that they are real, in the sense of not being created by humans as a hoax. They are deeply compelling, amazingly varied and very numerous. Maybe someday the how and why will be uncovered...
but the power and eerie beauty of them is perhaps, reason enough for them to be here.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Now...you have to realize, we have only had one ever show up, once, the year before. For some reason, we don't see trick or treaters in this neighborhood, even though there are kids here. Go figure...I know a lot of parents don't run their little goblins and ghosties through neighborhoods, but go to malls and trunk or treats, for safety's sake.
But I figured, if the trick or treaters showed up...great! And if they didn't, I got the candy...its called a win/win. (unfortunately, Dreamweaver's ridiculous work hours - she has to get up at 3:45 AM to get to work - precluded her being in on this with me, as she had to go on to bed. This sucks. I look forward to someday having a more normal schedule, I honor her dedication to her job, and I know she was with me in spirit.)
Well, as we were setting up - she took the pictures of me, before turning into a pumpkin herself - some of the kids playing next door, on their trampoline, were watching with growing interest. They are Hispanic and I am not sure if their families were participating in Halloween, or if they were more aware of Dias de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead - or if the kids had already been out the night before, or what...
But they came over, finally and I said, "Hey, want some treats?"
"Um...we don't have costumes..."
"That doesn't matter! Come get a treat!"
So they came over, grinning, got a treat each, and I said "Happy Halloween!" The two boys took off, but the little girl, about 6 years old I would guess, smiled shyly up at me and said "Happy Halloween!" Then they all took off through the neighborhood and started banging on doors! Boy, I hope everyone else had treats on call! It was great!
So, I sat out there in the evening dusk and dark, with my fire, and my Jack-0-lantern and enjoyed the night.
No other kids showed up for awhile...
It was getting late, and I was about to call it, when a car went blazing past our place, stopped at the next house, and disembarked a small black clad, bag toting ninja heading for the lit up front porch. (part of the reason I lit the fire pit was that our back porch light isn't working. So much for that idea!) So as the kid sped down the steps - he obviously had this down to a fine art - I hollered, "Hey! Want some treats?"
He beelined across the yard, with a very weary father in tow, and got his treat...dad came around and oohed and ah - ed over the Jack-0-lantern, and off they went at high speed.
So, I actually had some trick or treaters this year! Yay!
Maybe next year, we ought to find a trick or treat set up where we can join in where the kids are coming to it. But I will continue to set up here too...
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I said in my last blog post that there was some good news that deserved its own post...
My beloved Dreamweaver, after 85 credit hours of school, untold hours climbing a mountain of homework, working full time while still taking classes and doing her practicum, graduating triumphant with her Ed.S in Marriage and Family Therapy...
then faced the final hurdle of hours more of stress and study (while still working a full time job) to take her licensure exam. This exam is a bug bear...many fail to pass it the first time, some struggle with taking it multiple times.
Saturday we got word from one of her class mates that the results were in, and so I flew to the mail box on my way to set up for my degree and sure enough, the fateful envelope was there.
With Dreamweaver hanging on the phone, I opened it...the cut off for passing was 135 points. She scored 155! And passed it with flying colors the first try!
She is now officially a LMFTI, and on her way to doing her final internship...and better yet she can get paid for doing therapy now, and begin building towards a practice!
I am so very proud of her...she is truly one of my greatest, inspiring heroes, and I am honored and privileged to share my life with her!
Dreamweaver, thanks for all you do, everyday, and I love you with all my heart. You left a steep trail for me to follow...may I fare as well as you!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
So on Saturday afternoon, I went over early to Priestess's house and began the set up process. Part of the 3rd Degree "requirements" asked of me was that I was to set up and run the basics of the circle itself - which is actually something I love doing! I did not get a lot of pictures of the circle site, or the ritual - it was getting dim on into dusk and then once it got rolling, I was too busy to attempt photography. So was everyone else! But I did get a shot of the main Altar, which for this was set up in the North.
I am going to do a quick rundown on what you are seeing here, left to right. At the top left is an Russian style Icon of Christ that my friend Skeptic painted for me, which I treasure very much - it is on my altar as part of my dual path. Behind the Icon, but not visible is my tarrot card deck. Right below it is the cake for cakes and ale and the plate it was going on (Yeah, I know - purchased the cakes and ale - I'm in grad school and Dreamweaver gets up at 3:45 AM to go to work. Cooking just was not on, this week.) Beside the Icon is my stuffed Tigger from childhood, as I said he would be! There is, still working left to right, sort of up and down, a Tiger Eye globe to charge, the stature of Pan with the Otter at his feet, and a pair of stag antlers. (Now, an interesting point about the antlers - they are not from hunting, nor are they sheds. They were picked up from a lightening strike scenario - the burn mark is still on the tip of the left horn where it struck. So this was not a hunting casualty - not even for food, and definitely not for sport, but a natural, if unusual passing.) In the center, between the two white candles (which are there for the Lord and Lady) is the candle for Earth and North....This is the green Candle in the center of the spiral of earth from our garden, with acorns and leaves and pine cones. Directly behind the Green Candle for North, is a small wooden box painted and decorated with sun and moon images - in that box are the ashes of beloved ones who have passed before us - TruthTeller, Jason and MeadowHawk. In front of that are two bowls, one holding sea salt and the other holding water. Up to the right of the white candle for the Goddess is the statue of Gaia, the earth Goddess. We had originally thought to use the Morrigan, one of the warrior goddesses, because I have an affinity for that; however, the statue of Gaia represented better the idea of the Feminine Deity that I serve as a priest. So we went with her instead.
At her feet were flowers and the statue of a white stag. Then there was the goblet for the ale (wine, in this case) and three white candles representing the Trinity of my Christian path. (Normally, I represent the Trinity with a 3 wick candle, with its strong image of 3 in 1, however, the budget was tight...so 3 candles this time.) And at her request, on the far right are Preistess' bells which she rings in circle. On the table in back of the altar, as space was becoming crowded, was my Green Man pumpkin I carved earlier in the week. In the Center of the Circle space we had a fire going in Preistess' copper fire pit going - a Balefire to light our way and keep us warm.
I was wearing my knee high leather boots with bells on them, my green pants with the bells on them, a white poet blouse shirt, and a brown pull over tunic. I had on me my Runes, my athame, and my sword. (we actually did not get a picture of this, however, we took some pictures the following night on Halloween, when I dressed back up in the same outfit for the trick or treaters...so thats where this shot comes from.)
I wish I had a shot of Dreamweaver in her green gown and the cloak with Celtic knotwork...she was stunning! I may get her to dress up again like that for Solstice or something so I can get a picture this time....
Now, I described the Candle for North and Earth - which here is a closer view of it...I did not get pictures of the other three quarters, unfortunately, but here is what I did for them - in the East was a Yellow Candle, with a spray of windblown leaves for the element of Air. I like using something that the wind has blown to represent air, as the movement of the wind is only visible through its effect on things.
For South, Fire, I used a red Candle, which incorporated the element of fire, in itself...also in the south was the Fey Candle, which I will tell more about in a moment. In the West was water, the element actually represented by water, touched with blue (Food coloring) and a blue candle - the water also had a blue floating candle in it which I lit when I called West.
Which brings us to the Fey Candle - Dreamweaver and I both prefer to acknowledge and call the Fey, when we call the Circle. We feel that it is better to invite them as guests to the edge of the Circle, than leave them out and risk their disgruntlement - remember ones Faery Tales and Sleeping Beauty! - we use the poem "The Fairies" by William Allingham as our invocation, most of the time;
Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!
Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.
High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and grey
He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music,
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.
They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow;
They thought she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag leaves,
Watching till she wake.
By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite?
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.
Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!
William Allingham (1824-1889)
In the Circle with me were my teacher, Priestess, my beloved Dreamweaver and Mizbehavin', who was in town for several reasons, (Convention, funeral, visiting friends and now my Circle)! Having her there all the way from GA was WONDERFUL! Unfortunately Back Porch Priestess and Hermit were both unable to make it to the ceremony and they were much missed. Mizbehavin' was a welcome friend in the circle, and it was doubly precious that she was there, as changes in the weather, too much time on the road, too many people in over whelming circumstances and an incipiant cold/virus/ allergies all combined with arthritis, to make it difficult for Mizbehavin' to participate. We did our best to make her comfortable, but it was simply an extremely not easy scenario for her. However, she jumped in, helped Dreamweaver with finding some items for the ritual, and gave her all in the ceremony in the ritual drama part. Her being there and a part of it is something I will always treasure! I am so sorry that it was difficult for her and I was very worried for her, though I know she would have said no, if she truly needed to not participate. (then again, she is stubborn, sometimes too much so for her own good! And I wouldn't know anything about that! Pot = Kettle = black!)
So at this point, it was my circle to run, with only a few requirements I needed to perform...One was that I raise a double Circle - a Circle within a Circle. The idea was that I was to step out of the inner Circle before the ritual drama part began, and then be brought back in for that, and yet I would still be within the boundaries of the outer Circle - which is where we invited the Fey to come to, and watch from the outside. (all though I think one or two of the little mischief makers made it in...they usually do. *grin*)
So I raised the first Circle, and then the second, and then began to walk the quarters, calling the Elements...
Now, I run Circle without a script. I do it entirely extemporaneously - and have only used a script once in my life, and that I memorized so that I did not have a piece of paper I had to refer to. So, each of my quarter calls is varied and specifically for the element and quarter I am standing in. I can't necessarily verbatim write what I said, but I can give the gist of it, as these are the quarter calls I have used for a long time....
North: "I call upon the spirits of the North, element of Earth, the good foundation beneath our feet, that we are rooted in and grounded in. From the earth we have the nourishment of the harvest, we are formed of Earth, and to earth we shall return. Be with us now in our Circle this night.....I call upon the Spirits of the East, Element of Air...the wind blows from where we know not, we don't know where it is going, yet we see its presence in the cycle of the weather and the rain, and the falling leaves. Element of Knowledge, may we bend and be flexible with wisdom as we gain life experience...be with us and grant us wisdom in our Circle this night...I call upon the Spirits of the South, Fire...passion, creativity, that which can master us as well as serve us...be with us now in our Circle tonight.,.. I call upon the West, the element of Water, sustainer of life, blessing to the world, the womb of life from whence we come...grant us peace, and fluidity in our Circle tonight." There - thats not EXACTLY what I said, but it's pretty close. Then Dreamweaver called the Fae with the poem, which she generally manages to get the hair on the back of your neck to stand up!
After that, I called the fifth Sacred thing - which is community and communion of the world and ourselves together. Then Priestess called the Lord and Lady, and I called the Creator, three in one - with Christ, the dying, rising God, and the Holy Spirit - which I might add in the original language of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is Feminine!
Then we arrived at the Ritual Drama part of the Ceremony. I was asked to cut a "door" in the inner Circle and step outside and wait to be asked back in. Which Preistess did so, with a knife challenge. The knife challenge is supposedly an old, old part of Wicca, wherein a ritual knife is held to the throat of someone entering the Circle and they are challenged, with ritual responses. (Some say it originates with Gardner's Coven, some say it's ancient from the Burning Times, some point out its similarity to certain rites in the Masons and Rosicrucians that Gardner borrowed from...wherever it came from, it is a part of Modern Wicca at this point.) Many people disapprove of the knife challenge, some vehemently so. Others use it as a standard Circle entry rite. Priestess chose to use it, as she felt it was appropriate for something as deep and solemn as a Third Degree rite of passage. I have encountered it before, so I had no objections to her using it. However, this is where it gets funny....
She steps up to the "door" in the Circle, I step to meet her there and she holds her athame to my throat (in the general vicinity of, that is....she didn't actually touch me with the blade, which was courteous...some people get a little too enthusiastic with that sharp edge!) So, the first question is exactly what I expect and have responded to countless times - "How do you come to this place?" and the answer is " I come in Perfect Love and perfect Trust." Sometimes that's the extant of the questioning, sometimes there are further questions. In this case, Priestess threw me a curve ball - "What is the First Law?"
Nobody said anything about a pop quiz, let alone one on the freakin' Wiccan Rede (written by Doreen Valiente and, containing some good stuff, some useful stuff and a whole bunch of questionable and down right - not to be disrespectful, but - crap. I have studied the long version of the Rede. And I knew what the answer was...I was just flat footed and suddenly up to my eyeballs in test anxiety. Priestess said later, I looked like a deer in the head lights! I am so glad they were all amused. *snort*
So after a moment of abrupt panic, when I could not have told you my own name, I managed to find my wits and respond - "And it harm none, do as you will - and I emphasize and it harm none, including one's self."
"And the second Law?"
"Every action returns threefold..."
"Do you come of your own will or by the will of another..."
"Yes, I come of my own will."
Once inside the Circle, or back inside the Circle, they draped a sheer black veil over my eyes - the idea was not to blindfold me, or to keep me from seeing, but rather to make what I saw indistinct, to heighten other senses and put me in another world.
And then I began hearing...things.
Really hearing them...
An owl hooting...water trickling and lapping, rain falling....
Dim shapes moved....
And then voices began to speak, talking back and forth over the water and the bird calls.
'I feel strangely tired, Rat,' said the Mole, leaning wearily over his oars as the boat drifted. 'It's being up all night, you'll say, perhaps; but that's nothing. We do as much half the nights of the week, at this time of the year. No; I feel as if I had been through something very exciting and rather terrible, and it was just over; and yet nothing particular has happened.'
(and the voices came from all sides, around me, as each person read parts: individual animals, narration...)
'Or something very surprising and splendid and beautiful,' murmured the Rat, leaning back and closing his eyes. 'I feel just as you do, Mole; simply dead tired, though not body tired. It's lucky we've got the stream with us, to take us home. Isn't it jolly to feel the sun again, soaking into one's bones! And hark to the wind playing in the reeds!'
'It's like music— far away music,' said the Mole nodding drowsily.
'So I was thinking,' murmured the Rat, dreamful and languid. 'Dance-music— the lilting sort that runs on without a stop— but with words in it, too— it passes into words and out of them again— I catch them at intervals— then it is dance-music once more, and then nothing but the reeds' soft thin whispering.'And then the music started playing...flute music, mournful and happy and sad all at once...
They were recreating the Scene from Wind in the Willows for my ritual drama!!!!
I stood there utterly entranced, laughing with joy and delight...
Not to give it away, but they were pulling off the owl, and the water sounds and the music and so forth and so on, by having them on the laptop and playing the sounds on cue.
Finally, at a key point, they pulled the veil off and I was confronted by what should have been a comical sight...my extremely feminine Dreamweaver with the Green Man mask on and channeling the spirit of Pan from Wind in the Willows. She even had a little stuffed toy otter at her feet! We are a little short on males to take the role, so Dreamweaver took it on, head long. (I can take it as needed from here on out...) And it wasn't comical AT ALL, because she pulled it off. She read the charge to me of being a Priest and asked what sacrifice I brought...
Which I answered as I wrote in my last blog post....Self sacrifice...not in destruction, but in self transcendence, able to give and receive.
This ended with me wearing the Green Man Mask as his Priest. Then at this point, Priestess did a "marrying of our power as priest and priestess together". We received a ring to give the other, and vowed to be each others priest and priestess and it felt more like a handfasting than you could imagine! I'm not sure we're gonna need a wedding after that, just a celebration party for all! The rings were a gift from Priestess and are a simple band of silver, each one of them reading "My life is my message" and we are wearing them on our right hands, with our engagement/commitment rings on our left hands. And they are beautiful and we cannot thank Priestess enough!
We had cakes and ale, and closed the Circle, going back through the steps that brought us in - the Deities, the Fey, the Quarters, until I took down the Circle and ended with this song -
May the Circle be Open,
May the Love of the Goddess
be ever in your heart
Merry meet and merry part
And merry meet again....
OF course, at that point the most paramount need was to get Mizbehavin' back inside, off her feet and out of the night air, before she felt any worse...and I really felt bad about that! I am so, so glad she was able to be there and participate, but I am so sorry it was so difficult for her.
Then Dreamweaver and I sat and talked and just in general it was a beautiful moment - the fire in the fire pit still burning...
we ate some, and drank a little to get back to grounded and centered.
We visited with Priestess and slowly packed up everything. I wound up going back the next day for the table and a few of the items we finally left, out of exhaustion!
How do I feel?
Fantastic! It will remain one of the most remarkable moments of my life, stepping into the Wind in the Willows, having not only my call to priesthood honor and fulfilled, but the fact that I am a priest, masculine, and that was also honored and accepted and blessed.
I can't say at this point I know where this will all end up...
But I do know that I am where I need to be at this moment in my walk, in a metaphysical sense - a priest of my Deity.
Part two is the next night, on Halloween and trick or treating!