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Merry Meet & Thank you for visiting!
This blog is all about all the things that make me up. I am a Mother, I am a Pagan Witch, I am a Wife, I am a homemaker, I am a student, I am Spiritual, I am a Teacher, I am Liberal Hippie, I am a Voter, and I am extremely opinionated! Plan to see it all! If you don't like what you see, feel free to leave! However, chances are, if you stick around, you'll find more to love than hate!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Someone is going to do it... Why not me?

I live in South West PA. And around here Fracking is a HUGE industry! My husband works in a plant making and packaging agricultural products (top soil, vermiculite, etc), and quite frankly, it's very hard work for little pay.  So we have had a great many people say to us "Why doesn't he just go join one of these Fracking teams?" But we simply don't see it as an option.

Whenever someone brings it up to me, I usually just say "I refuse to believe a paycheck is worth compromising our children's future for."  Or simply "Our marriage is more important to my husband than the amount of his paycheck." People who know me know I would never support such a harmful industry, so they know what I'm saying.

But a while back when the issue came up in conversation, someone said to me "Well, someone's going to do it, why not use it to pay your bills?"  And my answer was simple... "Someone is going to murder to pay their bills, I still wouldn't do it. Someone is going to sell drugs to kids, to support their family, I wouldn't do it.  Someone is going to make bombs, smuggle deadly viruses, sell slaves or rape children just to make a dollar, but I would never be one of those people, nor would I be married to or even friends with one."

Fracking may not seem, at face value, to be as evil as any of those things. But in fact, it's worse! It's worse because it doesn't kill ONE person, it doesn't harm ONE person, ONE child or even ONE family as many of those other things do... It doesn't even hurt just ONE town. Instead, it hurts us all. It poisons our water, our air, and our land... It may not kill us all right out, instead, it's killing us all slowly.

And it may look as if there is a huge difference between fracking and murder. If nothing else, fracking is legal.  But there's a simple answer for that as well..  Just because something is legal, doesn't mean it should be.  Just because something is illegal, doesn't mean it should be.

I can't stop the entire fracking industry. But I can stop MY husband (or me for that matter) from doing it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Religion in Schools - Part 3

The argument against Religion in Schools often includes quite a bit of chatter about how and when it's appropriate to teach religious subjects to students. To me, this is more than a simple black and white argument.

The idea that we can somehow delete all teachings related to religion from our education system is a complete impossibility! Art, History, World Cultures, even Science can not be properly taught unless we include religious beliefs and mythology. I mean, how to you teach the crusades and never mention Catholicism or Islam? And how to you teach Shakespeare without discussing Greek Mythology? And if there is ever an art class that skips over the Sistine Chapel I don't want my child taking it...

The basic fact is that you can't separate theology and history or all the things that make up the history of our world. Even the most basic subjects, Math, for example, have strong links to religion in some way or another.

BUT, does that give license to use the bible as a required text book? In my humble opinion, NO! Now, I don't have any issue with schools offering optional or elective classes where religious beliefs are focused on. And personally I would like to see Comparative or Religious Tolerance classes required in ALL schools. Not because I think anyone but the individual has the right to choose their path, but because I think it's important to teach tolerance.

What I don't support are classes which teach one faith over another in any way. But at the same time, it's to important to teach children the truth about the world to simply cut anything religiously based from their education. It's basic common sense... Which unfortunately, is in short supply now a days!

All of this aside, there are in fact more and more schools adding or trying to add religiously based classes. In some states it is now legal to use the Bible as a basis of Public School classes. And in even more states legislation has been introduced which would allow or even force such classes. Support for such laws has come from the Christian Right and numerous Christian parenting groups through the country.

The question I often like to ask supporters when this subject comes up is "How would you feel if your child's school started using the Qur'an, the Vedas, or even some of the Gnostic Christian books like the Gospel of Mary to teach children?"  Chances are, they wouldn't be quite so supportive of that! I would love to see a school try and introduce "The Witch's Bible" as an educational book. Can you imagine the sparks that would fly from that one?

So here's what it all boils down to... Public schools are NOT limited to students of a single faith. You would be hard pressed in ANY area of the country to find a single class of students in any school district which contained students who were all Christian. In some areas you may even find it difficult to find a class where the majority are Christian. So to legislate the use of a strictly Christian book steps outside of the boundaries of the schools and in to the area of Parents, Church and more than anything else, the student themselves. If we're going to teach religion, it needs to be in a neutral fashion accompanied by similar teachings from other paths and philosophical ideals. In now way should ANY path be presented as factual or wholly correct, to do so violates the student's right to a freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.

If you're one of the parent who wants your child to learn religion along with their, reading, writing and arithmetic,  then you have 3 options... 1. Have your child take after school or weekend religious classes, teach them your religion in addition to their regular Public School Education.  2. Put your child in a Private Religious School where they will be provided a religious education along with their every day lessons. OR 3. Homeschool and teach them whatever you choose.  Personally, I'm not a fan of homeschooling, but as of right now, it's legal, so take advantage of it if you feel you need to.

One of the greatest things about this country is that we have the Freedom to believe or practice whatever faith we so choose. AND, we have the right to send our children to Public Schools for an education, regardless of their or our faith. To teach religion or religiously based classes which are anything more than informational, comparative, historical or cultural is a violation of that freedom and of the rights of parents, the students and the teachers... And frankly, it's not one that should be accepted - ANYWHERE!

**This blog post was originally published to my One Witch's Wonderland Blog (now closed) on 1/17/12**

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Religion in Schools - Part 2 - The Pledge of Allegiance

The first time I crossed this subject I talked about Prayer in Schools, and now, it's time to go over the
Pledge. For most of us who grew up saying the Pledge every day, it's not something that's questioned when it comes to our kids saying it. We simply do the "We did it and we turned out fine" line and we never think about it again. But, as with many things, there's an issue with that. Because if we never consider what is wrong with the way things are, things never change, and the world continues on the same path it was.

Now, I don't have an issue with the Pledge itself - per-say... But there are two major problems with having young children recite it on a daily basis...

The first of which is the Pledge itself. In it's original form there was no mention of God or Religion. For those that don't know the history, here's a brief one.

Prior to 1924 the Pledge was very different from what we tend to think of today. One simple sentence it read "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." In 1924 the word MY was changed so it read THE Flag. This version was used until 1954.  It wasn't until the McCarthy era, and the fear of communism that Congress passed a bill which added the words "under God."

You may wonder why this all matters? Well, basically it's a question of Should the Pledge include any mention of God in a country where Religion and Government are meant to be separate?  In my opinion, and the opinion of a great many others, NO. I would love to see the Pledge revert back to it's Pre-1954 version with no mention of God. And at present there are quite a few movements to do just that! Now it's up to Congress to listen to it's people... - So we may never see it happen!

But that's only half the reason I would like to see the Pledge removed from schools. The other half is much more basic. While I see good reason for students to learn these words, as a matter of both their culture and their history. I find the idea of children reciting a pledge of any kind as counterproductive!

To understand my thinking here first I think we need to explore what a Pledge is. Dictionary.com defines the word as such:  "a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something." In every day terms a Pledge is a contract or oath, isn't that what "solemn promise" means after all?

According to both this countries laws and basic common sense, children can not enter in to a contract. Why is this? Because a child does not have the basic understanding to enter in to any agreement. They don't understand what it means to Pledge or to take an oath... They can't understand how such things can alter their lives long term, nor can they grasp the concept or weight of an oath or contract of any kind.

So it then stands to reason that asking a child to repeat to Pledge their Allegiance to anything is simply ludicrous.  They don't understand what they are doing, and they can't legally make such an oath.

I guess you could feel that's a stretch IF you feel the Pledge is simply a bunch of words with no meaning... But to me, they are more than that, to me, they have a great meaning, as they should to any US Citizen. And in my opinion, having millions of people - children no less - who have no idea how serious their words are repeat such a pledge day after day after day not only teaches them that it has no meaning but completely invalidates it when it is said by those who know and respect it's meaning.

Please don't get me wrong, children should learn the Pledge. But they should be learning the history and meaning behind it, not just the words. They need to understand WHY it's important and WHY it's something that should be respected. Simply teaching them to say words (which have no meaning to them) day in and day out doesn't do that. If anything it just teaches them it's no different than a nursery rhyme or kiddie song.

It's not that I'm "Anti-American." I am a happy American. I think this is a great (although highly imperfect) country. And comparing it to others, I don't believe there is a better place to be.  But I'm not one to simply stand back and blindly follow the status quo simply because it's "American" to do something. If anything, standing up for what you believe and working to create change to protect both the citizens of this country and those things which are most "sacred" to the country as a whole is more "American" than anything else I can think of!

**This blog post was originally published to my One Witch's Wonerland Blog (now closed) on 1/9/12**

Friday, February 21, 2014

Religion in Schools - Part 1

Recently I had someone tell me that it's "people like me" that are destroying this country. By "people like me" she meant people who don't support the practice of School led Prayer or daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in our Public Schools. So I felt this was a subject best explored in a more "open minded" forum. However, since this is really a group of issues I've decided to split it up over a few different post. Therefore you'll be seeing a few posts on the subject over the next few days. 

First I would like to attack the most common misconception about Prayer in Schools. And that's that it's somehow illegal, or that anyone actually apposes it on a personal level. Not that there aren't most likely people out there who do, but 99.9% of parents - religious or not - couldn't care less if you or your child prays to themselves before a test, before and after lunch or even all day every day while they are at school. The issue is NOT prayer itself. Instead the issue is SCHOOL LED prayer.

There is in fact NO law which stops personal or private, or even public student led, prayers at or on school grounds. There is ONLY laws which stop teachers and school officials from leading the students in prayer. That's it! If a student is so inclined to pray, they are free to do so. If a group of students is so inclined to pray, they are also free to do so. In fact, as I have recently encountered, if groups outside of the school staff and/or board, such as a PTO, should choose to lead student optional prayers which include students, they are legally permitted to do so - even on school grounds and during school hours.

What they are NOT permitted to do is have teachers, principals, school officials or anyone who is under contract or paid by the school in any fashion lead students in prayer in a school setting. Prayers are not allowed to be read over the loud speakers and students who do choose to participate in school prayers of any kind must be doing so of their own accord - schools may not require it in any fashion.  However, there is a loop-hole for teacher or other officials who are involved in school sponsored religious or spiritual organizations - such as Boy Scouts, 4H or other similar groups which are involved in religious or spiritual activities and also associated with the school. They are also permitted to be involved with groups outside of a school setting where they may or may not lead religiously based activities. Simply being a teacher does not limit them to a life without faith.

Personally, I would like to see a line drawn between school and any non-student led prayer. The idea that the PTA at my son's school insists on holding prayer circles which school is in session deeply upsets me. I feel as if it's a way to pressure students to conform to the group - a group which I don't feel every student is ready to or should be conforming to. I would also like to see public schools discontinue their ongoing association with religious groups. Our local public high-school has a priest which comes in and does "sessions" with students. A letter is sent to EVERY senior & junior student offering this time with a priest should they have any thing they need guidance on. Which I could understand if the school didn't also have a Guidance Counselor on staff at all times. In fact, they have 2 - and 3 principals... So explain to me why we need a priest as well?  Even groups such as Boy Scouts (which I will be addressing later) usually work with and through public schools, yet hold guidelines and practices which are rather anti-tolerant and highly religious in nature. This are things I would like to see change!

But, in NO WAY, would I support a total ban on prayer in schools. First, it's a completely ludicrous idea to think you could even attempt to do such a thing. Second, seeing how schools can't read minds, it would be completely impossible to enforce! And third, it's a violation of their rights.

I do, however feel that if you want to see religious teachings in your child's school or prayers read over the speaker in the morning you need to do one of two things - invent a time machine and go back to the 30's or put your kid in a Private School! The beauty of Public School is that it's open to the PUBLIC as a whole, not just one or two factions. You have students who are Christian, of course, but you also have Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, Atheist and so many other groups represented. To lead students in prayer associated with a single group would be a HUGE violation of the rights of every other student there. That would be like forcing every citizen in your town to attend Church - not just Church, but the same church, every day - tell me that would go over...

I like to approach the issue in this way. While a Christian parent may not understand the issue with leading the school in prayer because (and this was an argument I got when I tried to fight my PTA's Prayer circles) "Prayer is nothing but positive and the students need to be exposed to positivity regardless of their faith" I can assure you that those same parents would NOT welcome the idea of a Muslim or Pagan prayer being presented in the same manner. It's for THIS basic reason that we can NOT include School Led Prayer in any way, shape or form in our Public School Day Schedule.

If you as a parent would like your child to engage in daily prayers, there are lots of options for them. One is simply to pray silently to themselves. Another is for you to lead them in prayer prior to them leaving for school. And a third is to find or form a group of like minded students to pray as a group before classes, during free periods or lunch or before the day begins. No one is contesting this or even trying to stop it. In fact the vast majority of Americans, even those who did not support School Led prayer, support the students right to practice their faith as they see fit - including prayer.

**This blog post was originally published to my One Witch's Wonderland Blog (now closed) on 1/7/12**

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fluffy Bunny?

Over the past few years, and mostly online, there has been a huge trend in using the term "Fluffy Bunny" when referring to what I call "Diet Wicca." The term is nearly always, if not always, used in a derogatory manner and meant as an insult to those whom it is used against. And I have to be honest, it bothers me to see/hear it.

So who usually "earns" the title "Fluffy Bunny?" Well, usually it's those who follow a "gentler" or more "watered down" version of Wicca. They hold beliefs which are not generally true or highly accepted as true about Wicca, Paganism or the history surrounding them. They tend to focus solely on the "light" side of Wicca and persist in denying there is a "dark" side. You'll find a tendency to "proselytize" and push their beliefs and a constant accusation of persecution. And they tend to practice in an boisterous, pretentious manner (such as calling oneself "Lord"/ "Lady" or overdoing the "dress" with pentacle t-shits, jewelry and shoe laces).

Now, while it IS true that many of the people who fall in to this category tend to be in to Wicca simply because they know it will bother their friends and family or for some form of "shock value" from calling themselves a Witch, the fact is that many of them are simply new, excited and "mis-lead." However there are those who have been on this path for most of their lives and still cling to this "Diet Wicca" over more accepted versions. And frankly, that's their choice.

I can honestly say, I don't think anyone has ever used the term "Fluffy Bunny" when referring to me. I have no issues with subjects like Dark Magick, Blood, Sex or anything else. And while I had "different" views that some on the history and traditions of Pagans and Wiccans, it's mostly because of a difference in education than anything else. But, I still cringe when I see the term.

So why does it bother me so bad? It seems if you go back and read all the "criteria" as if I would happily dismiss those who fall in to the "Fluffy Bunny" category as "watered down" or even as simply "under educated." And in some cases I do consider them to be both of those things. But I would never dismiss their beliefs!

The fact is, their beliefs are THEIR beliefs; my beliefs are MY beliefs. I have been walking along my path nearly all my life and have yet to find a single person who shares my beliefs completely. And if I'm not going to discredit someone else for being different why would I start with the Bunnies? To me the term "Bunny" is simply a "nice" way to completely disrespect someone else's beliefs.

Now, I'm not saying that when you see a "newbie" who has been lead down a "Bunny Trail" by some misleading book or website that you shouldn't step in. But what I am saying is it's simply not right to decide what or how someone else should believe or practice. If you see a situation where you feel someone is lacking guidance or education, it's more than okay to step in and say "Hey, have you thought about it this way?" or "Hey, did you know____________?" But to simply assume that someone is "less" of a Pagan, Wiccan or Witch because of how they are dressed or how they understand things is just insulting.

There are a number of rather well known Pagan Authors who have earned themselves the title of "Fluffy Bunny" because they tend to target "newbies" and focus on "Diet Wicca" over serious Wiccan Practice. And from time to time you'll even see me review or recommend their books. Personally, I see "Diet Wicca" as a perfect introduction to Paganism. However, the issue comes when people stop there. If all you do is come in and find the good, gentle stuff and forget about the blood and the guts of life, you're cheating yourself, so in addition to my recommendation you'll also see I always encourage others to keep reading... I have never, and will never, meet someone who can honestly claim to know it all, so until you do keep educating yourself! And when you see others who's education could use a boost, offer your knowledge, don't insult them!

Lastly, try to remember what Paganism is about. It's not about following someone else's beliefs to truth, it's about carving your own spiritual path and following it. Just because your path is right for you doesn't mean it's right for anyone else. And since there are very few cold hard facts out there when it comes to Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft it's best to stop and accept the beliefs of others than it is to judge or criticize! I tend to see even "facts" about history as subjective - remember, the winners right the history books!

My point in all of this is truth isn't always the same for everyone. Before you start throwing around insults and calling names consider a few things:

  1. Is this person on their path for the "shock value?" In which case it's not a serious path and they aren't interested in facts or education, so just ignore and move on.  
  2. Is this person new to their path? In which case they may simply be under-educated or mis-informed by one of the many ill-written or "differently interpreted" sources out there. Offer your assistance, knowledge and possibly your library to help them grow!  
  3. Is this simply their views and beliefs because it's what's right for them? In which case you need to ask yourself if it's your place to judge them, and move on. Arguing, name calling, demeaning and insults have never created a credible education or opened communication, so why waist your energy on them? Leave the judging and insulting to those on other paths and just worry about your own way!
**This blog was originally published on my One Witch's Wonderland Blog (6/27/11) which has since been closed.**

Monday, February 17, 2014

YouTube Videos With Heart

I would fair a guess (I haven't done the math here) that about 95% of the videos on YouTube are worthless crap! I mean, seriously, how many videos of cats do we need? Or worse, how many photo slide shows of celebrities set so music do we need?  Of the remaining 5 or so percent though, there is a good mix of family videos meant to be sent to friends or family, movies & TV shows (which aren't really supposed to be up there, but they are), informational videos on everything from how to apply eye liner to how to install electrical lines and even religious & spiritual information or exercises.  And although most of these videos are at least worth the data space they hold they, for the most part, aren't going to change the world in any way.  Yes, one could argue that a video on properly curling hair could get one a date with their future husband and their children could create a new, free energy source that will change the world, but for the most part, that's not going to happen.

There ARE however an extremely small amount of videos on YouTube which are not only worth a watch, but which have the ability to truly touch the souls of those who watch them.  Some of these videos have gone "viral" over the years, and some have not.  However, they are worth sharing here simply because if they touched me, they might touch someone else. And occasionally, such a touch can open minds and eyes and create a genuine change in a person.

Because of this, I have decided to create a monthly "YouTube" post here on my blog where I can share some of the videos which have touched my heart and my spirit over the past month.  I hope that if you enjoy the videos you see here, that you will share them with friends and family.

This months Videos:
**Please note that I do NOT own these videos. I do not know who does. If these videos belong to you, please contact me so that I may give proper credit and/or provide proper links to the originals!**


My Thoughts:
Oh, how I wish glasses like that were real.  I think we all get so caught up in our own crap that we forget to think of others.  What a blessing it would be to have such a tool to put us back in the right frame of mind.


My Thoughts:
I am Bi-Sexual (for those who don't know), and I grew up not only in a very conservative Christian home and family, but in a generally conservative Christian area and town.  Of course when I was in school LGBT lifestyles were not nearly as accepted as they are now, and I was already a target because my mother was a Jehovah's Witness, because I was Pagan and because I was generally different.  So when I came out, it was NOT understanding or love that I was met with. My mother accused me of doing it to torture her and called it "self destructive behavior."  My school counselor tole me I had "unexpressed anger towards my mother that was causing me to act out." And many of the people I was in school with were just cruel.  I got hate notes in my locker, gum in my hair, threats of violence in the bathroom... You name it. And I dealt with a LOT of depression through that time of my life, even attempting suicide a few times.  Of course, as I said, my sexuality was only a portion of what made me "different" but I wasn't willing to fake change just to fit in, and knew in my heart this was who I was (and who I am.) I did not choose to be different, I did not choose to be LGBT, I just am.

All these years later, I still deal with intolerance from time to time.  My family still thinks it was a "phase" and blame it on mental issues, drug use or just bad behavior. And since I am now married (to a man) they take the stance that I'm not really LGBT because I'm not in a relationship with a woman.  Most people who know me in town simply don't know at this point, because it's not something that comes up often. I'm not shy about it, nor do I attempt to hide it, but I don't have it tattooed on my forehead either. 

In the end, I have faced the anger and the hate and for the most part, I have come out the other side, stronger and better for it.  I believe adversity is what allows us to grow to some extent. But I also know and understand that there is a thing as too much adversity and abuse, even that abuse which leads to growth, can be disastrous.  

I wish this was a video they showed in schools! I wish this was a full length film. Because so many parents, teachers, and young people today are STILL under the impression that being LGBT is a choice and "destructive behavior."  Or that young people who come out are simply looking for attention. 

They never think about what's really going on. It's rare that people assume a teen who comes out is just like them, normal and/or simply trying to be true to who they are.  It's rare that people think about what their words and actions can really do to the soul of a person, or that they really think through what the long term consequences of their actions & words might be. Many of these young people, like me, knew from a young age they were different. They looked different, acted different and thought different.  And from a young age, many of them were targets of bullying - long before they ever knew what sexuality was.  Often times bullying, being from family, school mates or complete strangers, is only compiling on top of a life's worth of self doubt, depression and anxiety.  

MAYBE when people start to put themselves in the place of the other person, we can finally have a world where bullying is a thing of the past.  I am so glad to see the acceptance which has grown over the years since I became an adult. Unfortunately, we still have a LONG way to go!  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Types of Hauntings

My husband is minorly obsessed with those bad "ghost hunting" shows... Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures,
A Haunting... All of them.  I'll admit, some of these programs can be mildly entertaining, a few episodes of Paranormal Witness have even been down right good. But as a whole, these programs just annoy me!

Don't get me wrong, I find the stories fascinating, when they're true.  But as someone who's dealt with the Paranomal personally for most of her life, I find most people's stories to be tainted with fear and anger, and some are downright lies.  I think for the most part though, people genuinely are afraid, but because they don't look for answers and because they don't understand haunting & spirits in general, they are much more afraid than they need be.

People tend to jump to conclusions. They see a door swing open when they walk past it and they go running for the light switch.  Or they walk in the room and hear their music box start to play, all of a sudden they start sleeping on the couch.  Or, my favorite, they find "orbs" in their photographs and start posting them all online with the caption "There are ghosts in my house!"  I swear if these people ever actually saw a ghost they would shit their pants and leave their house, never to return.

Real hauntings are not entirely uncommon, but they aren't exactly as common as A&E would have you believe either.  And while there ARE hauntings which fall in to the "dangerous" category, as a whole though, they are few and far between.  Even those aren't normally has horrid as people would have you believe.

Before you can "deal" with a haunting though, you need to know what you're dealing with...
There are a few different kinds of hauntings.
  • Residual / Energetic - These types of hauntings don't actually involve a ghost or spirit being of any kind.  Instead, they are am impression on the energy of the place. Just like electro-magnetic energy can be used to imprint recordings on to tape, moments of high electro-magnetic energy or high emotion can imprint on the energy of a place. This, again like a tape, can be played back, sometimes over and over. 
  • Ghostly - A Ghost is the Mental, Etheric, Astral or Spiritual body of a person or animal who's physical body has died, but who's non-physical body remains attached to a space, item or person, preventing them from passing on to the next stage in their life.
    Generally, Ghosts are non-violent and completely non-dangerous.  However, it is important to remember that Ghosts are people and can harbor anger, jealousy and other negative emotions just as we can.  
  • Demonic - Although rare, demonic hauntings, and/or possessions, do happen.  Although this is not the proper place to explore what a demon is or isn't (that's another post entirely), simply put, a demon is a lower form of spirit being than we are.  While it's usually believed that Demons are evil, this is not true.  Demons are not unlike humans in nature.  They can be very good, they can be very bad, but for the most part, they are a balance of the two.  However, because demons are usually equated with evil, any time there is a nasty, violent or malevolent spirit in a place it gets the label of Demon, whether this is factual or not. What truly sets Demons apart from Ghosts is their ability to manifest and manipulate.  Because demons are pure energy beings, they are much more adept at being spirit than a Ghost, who has spent the last portion of it's life in a physical body.   
  • Fae - There are numerous kinds of Fae, each with their own personalities, traits and habits.  Fae such as Brownies are common indoors, preferring it to the outdoors. They are generally not harmful, but if insulted may be. For the most part they are curious rather than mischievous, and can even be helpful if treated well.  Items being moved or simply vanishing, or a lot of items being found between walls during renovations can be signs of this type of Fae being in the home.
    Other Fae, which prefer to be out of doors, such as Dryads, are rare indoors, and usually enter a home with a plant. However, upon the death of the plant they can become trapped within a home. These Fae can be downright dangerous as they are known to lash out against anything or anyone whom they feel could be a threat, or whom they see as destroying or removing their home (the plant.) 
  • Other - While it is extremely rare that a home would be inhabited by anything other than those things listed here, there are a great many forms of spirit being out there... Any of which can form connections to people, places and items which may cause them to manifest their presence. 
  • Psychic or Astral - Often referred to as "Poltergeist activity," items being moved or stacked, or the apparition of household members are often not hauntings.  Instead, these occurrences are usually connected to the unidentified psychic ability or uncontrolled astral travel of the homes inhabitants.  Once the source of such activity is identified, individuals can train such abilities and learn to control them, ending activities within the home. 
  • Fictional - What I feel is most likely the most commonly reported of all hauntings are those which do not exist.  Mysteriously opening doors, the sound of footsteps, creaks & pops in the house, and even things falling to the floor when no one seems to be near them, can often be attributed to very non-paranormal activity.  Houses are not as solid as we would all like to think. Over time, the materials used to build them shift and deteriorate.  As this happens doors no longer fit in their setting well and can swing open or closed due to people walking past them, gusts of wind from open windows or even from cars or trains passing by the property outside.  "Footsteps," creaks & pops are often caused by the subfloor or the flooring itself settling after being shifted and bent by household members walking around and moving all day, other causes can be heat or cold expanding or contracting building materials, or vibrations from cars, trucks, trains and/or seismic activity. Similar explanations can be applied to falling or otherwise moving items. 
To identify the type of haunting you're facing, you must FIRST rule out physical causes for things.  Jumping to the conclusion that the building is haunted by something else can lead to unnecessary fear and discord within a family, as well as increase negative energy within the home.  

Only after normal causes are ruled out, should the paranormal be explored.  Deepening on your abilities and understandings of the paranormal, you may choose to do this on your own, or you may wish to call in a local group of "experts."  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Building a Personal Library on the Cheap

I posted a photo of a "book wall" on my Facebook page a few days back.  It's my dream to have a big beautiful library in my home.  But a few people commented that they love books, but don't have many because they are expensive.  I, however, rarely, if ever, pay more than $2 for a book out of pocket.

Currently, I have 3250+ books on my Kindle, another 400+ ebooks on my computer, and somewhere around 350 books on my shelves and stored in big Rubbermaid boxes in my closet. And that's of course, not counting the kids book horde.

But when the average book is sold for around $12, with specialty books costing as much as $25 or more, how do you possibly end up with a collection as large as mine, without spending an arm & a leg?  Well, I have to kinda preface this with -  "Hello, my name is Sabrina, and I am a Book-A-Holic."  If I have the choice between books and just about anything else, I am going to buy a book!  In fact, since I've started trying to build my etsy shoppe, I have had to really resist the urge to get books so that I could get other things.

How do I do it?  It's a multi-pronged approach. I'm going to do my best to list them all here:

Libraries - Most people think of Libraries as places to borrow books. But what most people don't know is that when they get book donations that they don't need, or when they take books out of circulation, they will often sell them for next to nothing.  Our local library has a room WAY in the back, hidden behind the bathrooms, where they sell books.  Depending on the "sales" they are featuring books can be as "expensive" as 3 hardbound books for $5, but they are usually cheaper than that.  Once a year they do a "fill a bag" sale where you fill a shopping bag with whatever you want and pay just $5 for the whole thing. Check with local libraries to you and find out if and when they do similar book sales.  If they aren't doing them yet, speak with the director about starting book drives & sales to help raise money for the library (or other charities in the area).

And of course you still have the option to borrow as many books as you wish! So don't skip that option!

Second-Hand Stores - Once most people read books (not me) they pass them on or get rid of them.  So second hand places always have them in abundance.  For the most part, the second hand places around here sell their books for between a quarter and $1 each.  *I just bought 2 hard bound, social-economic, NYT best selling books for a total of $0.50 at our local second hand place, and they are BOTH in perfect condition!

Outlet Stores - When normal stores get to much stock, they sell it off to outlet stores like Ollie's, Gabe's and BigLots.  And to be honest, these stores do not tend to get a lot of the books I prefer to buy, but they do, from time to time, find good books and really good deals. IF you read fiction or best sellers, you may find more at these stores than I do.

Yard Sales & Flea Markets - I don't spend a whole lot of time searching through yard sales and flea markets, but I do from time to time find good things, so it's worth a mention.  If you love these things already, you already know you can find great stuff at them, but they take a lot of time! Just remember that you can ALWAYS offer less than they as asking when it comes to these types of sales - so try and talk the prices down.

Book Swaps -  Places or Online Groups where you and other people will do exactly what the name sounds like - swap books that you've read, for books you haven't. My suggestion is that you look for swaps that are in line with what you like to read.  If you don't read fiction (like me) don't waste your time at Fiction Book Swaps, instead, look for something that speaks to you.  I have found a few Pagan/Witchy, Natural Medicine & True Crime book swaps online AND locally, you just have to be willing to look for what you want.  OR, if you have a local group that may be interested, talk to them about starting one.

Online Sales - Ebay has lots of books, but they are rarely cheap.  So I tend to skip that.  Instead, post in book lovers groups or on FB pages where there are people of like minds listing the books or types of books you are looking for. Often you can find people who will give you the books if you will pay shipping.

Amazon - Books are listed on Amazon for as little as 1 cent, plus shipping when you buy from non-Amazon sellers. What makes this an even better deal is that you can pay for these books with gift cards.  Of course, the question then is, where do you get the gift cards?  I earn an average of $10 in Amazon Cards each month using SwagBucks.

Amazon also lists THOUSANDS of their Kindle Books for Free each day.  You do NOT need a Kindle in order to access these books!  Amazon offers many Free Kindle Reading Apps that you can use on your PC, Smart Phone or Tablet. If you do not have the option of downloading the apps, you can still access your books using any computer, phone or tablet that has access to the internet with their Cloud Reader option.  I do my best to list many of the Free Kindle Books I find on my Facebook Page, but I can not list them all!  So it's a good idea to surf around for yourself.

  • Swagbucks is a program that allows you to earn "bucks" for searching the internet, shopping online, answering polls, watching videos and more.  450SB = $5 Amazon Gift Card.  It's completely free to join, and free to use - Sign Up Here!
Listia - A "Free Sale" site, Listia allows you to earn credits by giving away things you no longer want or need. You can then use those credits to bid on items (including books) which others are giving away. In MOST (not all) cases, people will offer free shipping.  THIS is where I get the majority of my Pagan/Witchy books and most of my ebooks as well. 

E-Book Swaps - As the amount of people reading on Kindle, Nook and other Reading Apps rises, there is a matching rise in the number of sites where you can buy, sell, swap or borrow these ebooks.  I can NOT speak for all for them. BUT, I have used eBook Fling a few times and have had positive experiences each time.

eBook Fling allows you to lend your Kindle or Nook (I believe) books to others and earn credits for doing so.  You may then used these credits to borrow books from others. BUT, books are only borrowed for up to 14 days, if you don't finish it in that time, you will need to re-borrow and spend more credits, so you need to make sure you read them quickly.

So there you have it.  There are tons of options for finding free or nearly free books, both on and off line. It IS a little work, and it DOES take time, don't think you're going to get 1000 free books this month, it won't happen.  But you (or I anyways) can't read them that fast anyways. I hope this helps some of you to build your library!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Evolution or Creation... Which belongs in our Public School Systems?

Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate Photo 2/4/14
A week back, I watched the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.  While the debate barely touched on
the subject of public school text books, but that was the driving force behind - and the reason for - the debate in the first place.  As it stands right now, MOST Public School systems teach Evolution as a part of their Biology and Science classes.  However, there has been a fight from Conservative Christians to remove Evolution and instead, teach Creation in these classes. While they are making a lot of noise, for the most part they are not getting their way.

Ken Ham, who is the curator of the Creation Museum, made the statement that by teaching Evolution schools are indoctrinating our students to an Atheistic world view and denying them the benefits of religion. And while I don't agree, I do understand his way of thinking.  There are things I see taught in our schools that I am totally against, things which I do NOT want my children taught - because I don't want my children lied to.  As someone who doesn't believe there is ANY validity to Evolution, he does not want it taught to children as fact.  I can understand and even sympathize with that stance.

However, I am not a pure Creationist.  If you have read my creation story, you will see that I AM a Creationist, but I am ALSO an Evolutionist.  I do NOT believe the two need to be exclusive, and personally do not understand why scientists, especially those who have a belief in God, are so hardened against the idea of Theistic Evolution.

But the question that I am pondering at the moment is not what I believe, but what would be the best option for Public Schools.  Now, before I go further please let me note here that I am NOT discussing Private Schools or Homeschool programs! I am SOLELY focused on Public Schools!

So what is right for schools and why? Should we be presenting Evolution or Creation to students? And why?

Well, I think this is honestly a much easier answer than we want to make it.  Public Schools are NOT religious institutions. They have students which are Christian, Atheists, Hindu, Pagan, Muslim and every other faith out there. To teach creation myths, as if they are scientific fact is both improper and a violation of those children's (and their parents') freedom of Religion.

I think we can all agree - whether you are Christian, Pagan or otherwise - that we don't want our children going in to school being taught another faith as if it were fact.  If that was what we wanted we would send our children to a religious private school.  I think most people think, well, if they were teaching Creation they would teach the Judeo-Christian version.  And frankly, if your Judeo-Christian I'm sure that wouldn't really be that much of an issue.  BUT, as a Non-Christian, I know I don't want my children being taught mythology as scientific or historical fact.   And I would fair a guess that the Judeo-Christians out there wouldn't want their children being taught MY creation story as if it were scientific or historical fact.

Now, all that said, what about Evolution?  There are a great many who disagree with Evolution and feel that teaching it violates the same religious freedoms that I talked about above.  I suppose you could even go so far (as Ken Ham did) to see the teaching of Evolution as the teaching of Humanist or Atheist beliefs or "religion."  In a way, it is the "Atheistic Creation Story."  The difference here though is this - the purpose of Science classes is to introduce students to the current understandings of the scientific community.  And while there ARE those scientists who are firm Creationists, they are vastly the minority.

So how do I propose this issue be solved?  As you all know, I am a firm believer in teaching children HOW to think, not teaching them WHAT to think.  I would say that science as a whole should fall in to this category. I mean, what is Science? Here is how the World English Dictionary defines it:
1. The systematic study of the nature & behavior of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.   
2. The knowledge so obtained or the practice of obtaining it.   
3.  Any particular branch of this knowledge: the pure and applied sciences 
 4. Any body of knowledge organized in a systematic manner 
5. Skill or technique   
6. archaic  Knowledge
 So, in lay-mens terms, it means to gain knowledge (or the knowledge gained) through exploration and experimentation.  However, I would argue that this also means that the opposite of Science is blind belief, or to simply accept something that we have been taught without ever actually thinking about other options.  IF our goal is to teach science, then our goal should be to teach children to take what others have done and take the evidence they have and decide what makes the most sense. Our goal should be to teach them how to observe, how to experiment and how to measure the evidences they have.

If we are simply teaching Evolution as fact, leaving out the possibility of other options (namely Creation) we are NOT encouraging the students to weigh the evidence for themselves. We are, instead, simply telling them - "this is what it is, take it, accept it and don't think for yourself."  That's not science! Frankly, that's religion.  The same can be said for solely teaching Creation.  But how do we teach how the Earth came about without teaching Evolution or Creation?  We can't.

I was very lucky on this subject, and I am going to base much of my answer here on my experience.  I was raised in a very strict Christian household, as I've talked about before. So I was already taught creation mythology.  In fact I was taught that Evolution was created by Satan to "draw men away from God."  I also had a very Christian teacher for my HS Biology 102 class.  Although he was a Biology teacher, he did not believe in Evolution.  BUT, he taught it to the best of his abilities, as he was supposed to.  However, my Biology 102 class included a portion on Evolution, the Big Bang, Dinosaur Extinction, etc...

Now, here is where I think we need to start when it comes to presenting things in schools...  My Biology teacher did not simply teach Evolution and that was that.  At the same time, he did not teach Religion, as that was not his job.  Instead, he prefaced the Evolution portion of our course with a lecture on the options available to us when it came to this subject.  He took a single class period and made a statement that while he did not believe it was his place to preach religion to us, and that while he respected our choices to or not to practice whatever religion we choose, he felt it was important for us all to understand that Evolution was simply the "Conventional Science" view on this subject.  He did not discuss any particular myth. He did not weigh in on HOW he believed Creation took place. He simply presented us with the idea that we should explore these other ideas on our own.  He spoke about how a belief in God, or a non-belief in God, does not limit one to being or not being a scientists, and how there are those in the scientific community who stood on both sides of this issue.

Although he did NOT discuss the idea of Theistic Evolution, he made it clear to us all that there were other options beyond that of Evolution.  It was his job to teach the modern views of conventional science, and he did that without compromise.  In fact, looking back, and knowing what I now know on the subject, he was very well educated on it and did a good job at teaching it.

So where do I stand on what should be taught?  Well, I think we, as a nation, should be taking a page from my Biology teacher's book.  Since science classes are meant to teach modern conventional science, that is what they should do.  However, included in those lessons need to be the note that there are alternative ideas and an encouragement for students to explore these on their own.  I would even go so far as to include a small section in text books which briefly explains the basics of what Creationism is.  While I don't believe we should teach the mythology, for reasons above, I see a small explanation of "Creationism is the idea that a Divine being or God created the Universe, the Earth and all things, living and non which are upon it."  I would love to see a further explanation of Theistic Evolution stating simply that "The idea of Theistic Evolution suggests that a Divine Being, or God(s) have used Evolution as their tool for creating the Universe, the Earth and all things on it."  To further encourage students to independently explore Creation myths and/or Theistic Evolution outside of the school could only benefit the student.

As with most things, there IS a middle road to this subject. And encouraging free thought and exploration can only benefit all involved.  If we start removing any subject from school which is in any way questioned, we wouldn't be able to teach science, history, literature or numerous other subjects. After 4th grade children would know all there is to be taught in schools. It's just not feasible.  Are there things I think we should be changing about our education system? YES!  We need to be correcting the history books on subjects like the formation of our nation, Native Americans and numerous other things which we KNOW are wrong.  And more than that we need to be correcting how we feed our students.  BUT, where there is an issue, such as this one, where both sides of the issue are possibly valid, it's only right that we give students the tools to find their own answers.  That is what education is- or should be -about. If it's not, then THAT is our issue number one, not whether our science classes teach Evolution or not...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I am a Feminist

Someone recently asked me why would I willingly identify as a Feminist.  Apparently the term Feminist was something this person saw as "low" or "insulting."  But my answer to her was "why aren't you?"  Her answer:  "Because I'm not one!" And she was very clear about identifying herself as a "real woman" and "not someone who wants to be a man."  Responses which honestly took me back a little bit...  I am a very proud Feminist, and beyond sometimes wishing I had the ability to stand and pee, I wouldn't want to be a man for anything!

But if I don't want to be a man, how can I be a feminist?  Because being a feminist has NOTHING to do with wanting to BE a man... In fact, feminism, at least to me, isn't even just about helping women.  Feminism is about choice equality.

What the hell is choice equality?  It's about having the ability (whether you're male or female) to make whatever choices fit you and your life without having to face inequality with other individuals making the same choice, but of the opposite gender.  Simply put, if a man wants to be a stay home dad, he should be able to be seen as equal to all the stay home moms out there. And if a woman wants to be a welder, she shouldn't face a lower paycheck than a man, just because she's a woman.  But it also means that if a woman makes the choice to stay home and not work, she shouldn't be looked down on by other working women.  Feminism is about giving people CHOICES and not begrudging or belittling them because of their choices.

Some people see feminism and think of the shoulder pad wearing, bra burning, hairy legged, loud mouthed and generally angry women who brought the original movement to the forefront in the 1960's, 70's and 80's.  The women who used words like "Breeder" and saw breastfeeding as demeaning.  And while those women are/were a valid and somewhat necessary part of the feminist movement taking hold, they are NOT what feminism is about as a whole.  Now don't get me wrong, these women are most definitely feminists and were HUGE in bringing the feminist movement up to what it is today.  Without a doubt, they were assets in the early years. But as all movements must do, the feminist movement has grown and matured to include people of all walks of life and from all backgrounds.  Today's feminists include everyone - Men, Women, Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Trans-Gendered, White, Black, Asian, Theists, Atheists... You name it!

So who isn't included in the feminist group?  Simply put it's only those who believe women are unequal to men. Only those who believe that rape and abuse of women and girls is okay...  As I see it, the only people who aren't feminists are those who make the choice not to be.  And IF you feel you fall in to that group, I want to ask YOU something... WHY?  Why do you feel your mother, your sister, your wife, your daughter... Don't deserve to earn the same as a man when they do the same job? Why do you believe the women in your life are less worthy of respect and acceptance than the men in your life?

So, why am I a Feminist?  Simply put, because I am a woman, I am strong, I am intelligent, and I am my husband's equal, not his servant, not his maid, not his lesser...  I respect and love my husband, and I most certainly want the best for my sons. Being a feminist does NOT get in the way of those things. If anything, it enhances them.  I get to be a real partner to my husband, not just someone who bends to his will, but someone who gets to compliment him and fill in where he has weaknesses. And I get to be a strong mother that not only encourages and supports her children, but that educates them and provides for them too.  All of my children - sons and daughter - will be better for being raised by a woman that doesn't take shit. That's something I'm proud of!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Exposing Children to Religion Without Teaching

As I have explained before, my husband is not Pagan. But we both agree that it's not our job to teach our children how to see the world.  Instead, we feel it's our place to encourage our children to explore and make their own choices when it comes to faith.  Because of that, neither of us really attempt to "teach" our faith to our children, instead choosing to expose them to many faiths. Although I will admit the vast majority of this falls to me as my husband is generally confused and unsure of his own faith and knows very little of any other faiths beyond what he has seen on television.  He claims to be "Christian" but uses the term loosely and knows little beyond what he was told as a child, he has less faith than fear is really what it comes down to, and he doesn't wish to pass that view on to our children - which is good because I don't want them to have it either.  I, of course, was taught Christianity as I grew up, but rejected it at a very early age for Paganism - although at the time I didn't know what to call it.

While I believe I would do things differently if my children had two Pagan parents or if for some reason I were a single mother, I generally believe that I would still not be attempting to "teach" them any one path and I HOPE that I would still encourage them to find their own way and think for themselves.

But, as I am where I am, I can only speculate on what I would do if I were elsewhere.  Because of that I want to place somewhat of a disclaimer on this post. I am NOT in any way attempting to tell others how to raise their children or what they should be doing.  I am simply sharing how our family does things, take from it what you will, leave what you won't - hopefully, you take something you can use.

The question of HOW to expose without teaching is a common one.  Many Pagan parents choose not to teach their path but to simply expose their children to it, and many others.  This is because for them, as for me, spirituality is a personal issue. If your faith doesn't feed your spirit, it's useless. But it's often difficult to find a balance between exposure and indoctrinating.  For me, keeping this balance means not involving my children in ritual or spell work directly.  It means using the seasonal changes, mythology and crafts to involve them without pushing.

My faith is very Nature based. Although I have a deep belief in the Gods, they are secondary in my Sabbat celebrations to nature itself.  Because of this, I generally do not explore this aspect with my children, leaning instead towards showing them the natural elements of the Sabbat.  I use the Wheel of the Year as a guide, teaching them what each spoke means - Equinoxes, Solstices, Cross-Quarters.  We explore the changes that the Earth (locally) is experiencing, what are the animals doing, what are the plants doing and what is the weather doing.  When weather doesn't allow for us to get out and explore more hands on, we tend to focus on what we can see from our backdoor. Thankfully our house has a beautiful panoramic view of the valley we live in and the river which runs through it, so even when we can't go out, we can observe what's going on. And of course, being a gardener, I have plants around, in various stages of growth, all the time, so that helps.

I also try to get them to do crafts with me which fit in to the Sabbat in question... For example, for Yule we make Bagel & Bird Seed Ornaments for the bushes and trees in the yard.  It's our way of both decorating and honoring those animals which have remained local to us.   We also do coloring pages and read myths which fit with the day.  I will say that while I do not focus on the Gods, we do read a good bit of mythology.  However, we present it as we would any other story.  Some parents read Curious George, I read the Story of Brigid or the story of Persephone.

One of my favorite thing to do is to read the kids a story and then have them draw me a picture about it.  This encourage them to think on it, and focus on it both while it's being read and afterwards.  Making it easier to remember. One thing I have NOT done, but which I want to start doing, is taking their myth artwork and making a book out of it all. Something they can look at later on and remember all the stories.  There are a ton of books out there that focus on the Sabbats and/or Pagan mythology.  I have a copy of Circle Round by Starhawk which I use quite a bit for craft ideas and stories.  But I also love the Baba Yaga books, and quite a few others which are less "Myth" and more "Story."

While the Sabbats are my children's biggest exposure to any one faith, I do, as I said, strive to explore other faiths with them as well.  Again, I tend to do this around their holidays.  When Easter comes, we read the story of Jesus.  When Chanukah comes we read the story of that story.  When Diwali comes we read about Lakshmi and Vishnu.  And so on...  Many of these stories can be found in the Public Library, and others can be found online.  I have also attempted (unsuccessfully in most cases) to find movies or children's programs that depict these myths or lessons. While it's rare to find any holidays other than the main stream ones in children's programming, it IS possible to find a few.

The final piece of the puzzle comes in when the children have questions.  It's rare, but once in a while they will ask things like what happens when we die or what are ghosts or whatever else that will open the door for a discussion.  While it would be easy to simply answer them with my beliefs I don't feel that encourages them to think for themselves, nor does it give them a full picture.  So when the questions come up, I DO explain to them what I believe. BUT, I always preface it with "Lots of people believe different things, but here's what I think.  Then, depending on the subject matter, I will give them examples of what other cultures or faiths teach. And if their father is here, I attempt to get him to chime in with his beliefs as well.  After a day or so, I will go back to them and ask them what THEY think on the subject.  Sometimes this will bring up more questions, sometimes not. But it allows me to know if they understood the ideas presented and encourages them to think through everything they were given and then come up with their own answers.

So there you have it.  Exploration without teaching - or at the very least, attempting to explore without teaching. As I stated above, it's not fool proof and I'm certainly not attempting to tell anyone this is how they should do things.  But I thought putting how I approach things out there may help someone else facing the question of HOW to do this... In fact my children are 7, 6 & 3 and for the first half of my parenthood, I didn't really do anything with them. Why? Because I wasn't sure how. I didn't want to step on my husband's toes and I was afraid if I told them anything I would be teaching them instead of helping them figure things out. And I didn't want that. I didn't want my kids to feel obligated to follow my path, just because it was what they were told was right. So I did nothing.  By the time Madeline (my youngest) came alone I had started reading myths to the older two and decided I was going to really make an effort to explore things with them. I do with I had started earlier, but I grew up without doing this kind of thing (we didn't celebrate holidays at all and were only taught my mother's faith, never exposed to others) so I didn't really know how to do any of it. I am certain there are others out there like me, who are unsure of how to do this, and all I can hope is that my example helps them.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seasons of the Witch's Calendar

In a general sense, witches see the world very differently than everyone else.  And that doesn't just extend to what we see out our windows, in fact, it affects even the dates on our calendar.  At face value it may seem like I am referring to the Holidays themselves, yes, those are different, but that's not what I'm talking about here.  Religious holidays are different between ALL the different religious groups.  It would be a little silly if they weren't. Instead, I'm talking about how witches view the more mundane days - which often happen to be our Holidays.

The clearest example of this is New Years.  For most people, New Years celebrations take place December 31st or January 1st.  This is the time when we turn the Calendar year from one to the next.  And for most, it's still a time of celebration. But for witches, the real New Year, or at least the important one, is NOT the cusp of December/January, but instead October/November.  Samhain was celebrated by the Ancient Celts as the New Year, celebrating the entrance to the dark half of the year. Today we continue this tradition by marking the New Year at this time as well.  Many Witches use this time to make resolutions, plans or set goals for the coming year, as well as to reflect on all that happened in the past 12 months.

This however, is not the only difference between the "conventional" calendar and that of a witch.  In fact, aside from Political Holidays which one may or may not choose to mark depending on their political beliefs, there aren't really any days which aren't different.  The Witch's calendar is a designed to celebrate the cycle of nature and to create balance throughout the year.

The seasons, for example, are often marked on the conventional calendar as beginning on the Solstices and Equinoxes. For witches, however, these are not the seasonal starting points, but their mid-points. Again, the reason for this links back to the Celtic peoples.  And depending on where you live in the world, you may still encounter a more conventional calendar which uses these traditional Celtic dates for the seasons. So as witches, we mark the seasons differently.  Each season of the year consists of 13 weeks, starting 6.5 weeks prior to the Solstice/Equinox, and ending 6.5 weeks after it.

But witch's holidays don't just celebrate the cycle of the year, they also have additional meanings.  Mabon, for example, isn't just the Autumnal Equinox, it's also the second of three harvest celebrations, more than that though, it's celebrated as the Witch's Thanksgiving.  What's more, where the conventional calendar simply marks these days, the witch's calendar marks them for celebration - which makes them better!

Why does it matter when we celebrate what?  To some degree it doesn't.  But we need to remember that these dates are not just marking where we are, they mark special times of the year for both magickal and mundane actions.  The planting, growing, harvesting and preserving of food are all marked, as are times to focus on creating change, remembering those we lost, celebrating all we have, and even cleansing ourselves and our homes.  Like the idea of Samhain being the New Year or the Solstices/Equinoxes being seasonal mid-points, most of this comes from a time in history when the lives of every day people were generally dictated by the movement of the seasons and the moon.

It may seem like a new and strange way to go about looking at things, but it's mostly just an "old world" view of things.  And it most likely seems like an out dated way to see things if it's not something you're used to. But there is a point.  As witches, we need to be able to attune ourselves with the energies around us. The best way to do this, is to understand the energies of the Earth, Sun & Moon at any point in time.  Because of this, it's best to have a clear understanding, not of where MAN says we are in the year, but where we actually are. Most animals know instinctively where they are in the year... Bears know when the Salmon swim up river and when to make their den for hibernation without ever being told.  And those salmon, know exactly when to swim up river and where to go, again, without being told.  But as humans, we don't have that.  We are living so far out of sync with nature that if we want to have just half the intuition and connection that other animals have, we have to work at it, which is where the nature based calendar comes in at and why it's different.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why Witch?

Why call yourself a witch?
Why not come up with a more PC term?
Why work to "reclaim" a title with such negativity attached?
Why not use a term that separates yourself from fictional witches?

These are the questions I hear most often when the idea of using the term Witch comes up.  People on both sides of the issue tend to find themselves feeling uncomfortable with the images the title brings to mind.  For hundreds of years a simple mention of the word could lead to prison, torture and death, and now, there seems to be an explosion of witches - popping up all over the place proud to scream with their new found freedom...

But why not find another more widely acceptable term?  People all over the world still equate witches and witchcraft with devil worship, evil deeds, murder and misfortune.  And a great many in the "western world" don't believe witches exist at all, they equate witches with fictional beings from movies and stories and assume that anyone taking the title is either delusional or just plane crazy. Those who do believe Witches are real, tend to lean way to far towards what they were taught in Sunday School.  I've been accused of doing everything from small animal sacrifice to ritual sex with demons, the ideas that people have sometimes blow my mind!

So why, when the term Witch conjures up such images do we not just all get together and pick a new title? Why not go with "Wise Woman" or "Cunning Man" or some other more static term?  Well, some do. But as a whole, the reason is the same reason Muslims don't come up with new or different names for their faith or practices, even though there is an ever growing amount of fear, anger and hatred aimed towards all things Islam.  We are Witches!  Why should we come up with new or different names for ourselves just because other people aren't happy with the one we have?

There is a line in Lady Isadora's Witch that makes this point very well, and possibly a large part of the reason it's one of my favorite songs. The line says  "Like a Jew in Nazi Germany, I don't define my name to suit the Master Plan."  This is an idea that I have heard over and over again when speaking with other Witches on this subject.  Just because what you are may not be popular, you are who you are, so love it!

As witches we are powerful.  We literally have the power to change the world when we come together.  Going in to hiding, literally or figuratively, only weakens us - as individuals and as a group.

But why use the word "Witch" in the first place? Where does it come from? Like most words in our modern American-English language, the word Witch has numerous origins and many meanings.  According to my Etymology Dictionary, the word Witch comes from the Old English "Wicce" meaning female magician or sorceress. However, additional research on the origins of the modern term "Witch" shows connections to the Saxon "Wych" meaning "to bend or shape", the Indo-European root word "Wic" or "Weik" which also mean "to bend or shape", and the Germanic "Wit" which means "to know."  Most clearly there is a connection to the terms Wicca (male) and Wicce (female) which means "a person who Devines information."

So we are left with a term with meanings ranging from "one who devines" to "one who bends or shapes" to "one with knowledge" to "magician or sorceress."  Put all of that together and you end up with a rather accurate definition of today's (and yester-years) witch.  A person who strives for both spiritual and earthly knowledge. A person who gains the ability to create change to match their will. And while terms like Magician and Sorceress are not equal to Witch, they are, as they have always been, in the same family from both a literal and a linguistic stand point.

Why then, when we have a word so well fitted to who and what we are, would we attempt to come up with something "better?" It seems to me, instead of trying to change or create a new title to fit who we are, we should be focusing on correcting the misconceptions that are out there about who witches are.  ALL of the issues surrounding the use of the term Witch, come from common misconceptions and myths.  For the most part, these come from religious teachings and propaganda from Non-Pagan religious groups and a misunderstanding of what Witchcraft really is - especially from those who's only exposure is television or movies.

For a great deal of history, and continuing on today in some parts of the world, the term Witch has held a negative meaning.  It's lead to the death of Millions of men, women and children on EVERY continent of the world (with the exception of Antarctica, which has no cultural population).  Looking at the political basis for these murders we see motivations ranging from religious prejudice to gender inequality.  Never though, not historically nor in modern times, were these victims ever murdered due to what we would now see as criminal behavior.  They were (and are) most commonly innocent people swept up in the hysteria caused by the torture and fear of others.  For those few who were/are arrested because of their actions rather than false accusations, charges range from preforming folk cures, treating illness or injury without a license, midwifery, and possibly being a non-Christian.

What we need to remember is that most of what we now term "Witchcraft"  was common place in the homes of pre-modern era homes.  Farming & Gardening was done by the moon and in tune with the seasons.  Medicine was herbal and holistic, because there were no other options.  Food prep, cleaning, curing, harvesting and most other day to day activities were done in ways we would now term as "magickal" - often complete with chanting, praying, humming and dancing - because it was the best way to ensure they were done the way they were "supposed to be."  And people looked to nature for the answers to their problems, because only there could they find answers.  In a sense, ALL men & women through the "Burning Times" were Witches by today's standards, they went through their lives completely focused on the tasks they had at hand, putting all their energy in to making tomorrow happen. But the fact still stands, NONE of them were witches by the definition that they are held against.  There were, and never have been, demonic brides, murdered babies, killer familiars, poisoned cattle, suckling of the Devil or any of the other erroneous charges which were used.

Now, you may wonder, why bring up such a dark history? Isn't that even more reason not to use the term today?  Do we really want to be lumped in with millions of tortured and murdered people?  Well, in fact, most (I can't say all) of us are happy to be lumped in with millions of wronged souls.  To me, to avoid using the term Witch just because it lumps me in with victims of religious and political hate crimes not only gives credence to the charges they faced, but also shows a great disrespect for their lives in general.  These are people who were often targeted because what they were doing challenged either the Church or the Political agenda of the day.  Just as, a great many of today's modern Witches & Witchcraft Religions do.  It's our duty to ensure that what happened (and is happening) doesn't continue to happen.  It's our responsibility to stand up for Witches, their associated faiths, and for the Earth and her people, to have our voices heard because theirs were silenced.  Avoidance of the word Witch, simply because of the images it may conjure only further denies them their voices, as well as partly silences ours.

So you see, it's not just about not wanting to change. It's not about an inability to find a new or different term.  Instead, it's about being proud of who we are and proud of where we have come from.  As witches we all share a common history, an unbroken lineage that has come to us from the most ancient of times. It's had it's dark days, and now, we are standing tall in the light.  To disregard our history, our ancestry, our heritage would be to break our ties with one another and with everything it means to be a witch in the first place!

So regardless of how it's seen by others - I am a Witch!  I am proud!
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