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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, March 27, 2014

Good Causes and Selfishness

I've been wondering a lot lately how my children's children will be affected by the social, economic and ecological changes and choices that my generation is making...  Will they look back proud at how we stood up for what is right, or will they peer through their gas-masks at history books filled with what used to be?  I watched a documentary a few days back about the KKK. And some of what I saw and heard truly sickened me. Not because I didn't know it happened, it wasn't new to me, but because the sheer fact that people could think that way or be that cruel breaks my heart.  My husband didn't watch but a few minutes of it with me, it bothered him so much he left the room.  And I wonder, is this how my grandchildren are going to feel when they watch documentaries about the Fracking Industry, GMO Foods, Big Pharma or Gay Rights in America circa 2014?  And where are they going to imagine I stand?

I've never been one who is afraid to take a stand or make my voice heard when I feel there is an issue worth fighting.  But there are so many issues today it's hard to pick one to really focus my energy towards.  I mean, just about everything we touch now a days has (or could have) very good causes linked to it.  Clothing - Pollution, Slave/Sweat Shop Labor, Over Farming/Foresting, Clean Air, Clean Water, Animal Rights...  Food - Soil Erosion, Immigration, Over Farming, Animal Rights, GMOs, Pesticides, Fungicides, Artificial Colors and Flavors and Preservatives...  TV, Radio & Internet - Human Rights, Racism, Sexism, Education...  You can't start your car, turn on your lights, run your water, flush your toilet, shop for groceries or wash your face without encountering everything from air, water and soil pollutants to toxic chemicals to animal abuse, to slave labor, to sexism and everything in between...  And sure, we all try. We all own cloth bags, but do we remember to take them every time we shop?  We all know it's wrong to pay a woman less for the same job, but do we question how much the female manager at the grocery store makes? And sure we look at the labels on our food, but do we know which of those USDA Organic products are made by companies that donate MILLIONS of dollars in support of GMOs?  And it seems like every time we find a store or company that we feel we can trust, it turns out they are using slave labor in India or Guam or something...

I try to do everything I can. I make sure the products I make are good quality, and I work hard to ensure that our food, cosmetics and other household products are as toxin free as possible. I try not to own or use to much plastic.  And I buy second hand whenever possible. I donate all our old stuff.  And I teach my children to love others.  But I always feel like I'm doing doing enough, and worse, I feel like I'm doing it alone.

Two days ago I signed a petition on Change.org that I believe is for a good cause - healthy foods in schools.  The petition deadline was nearly up, they had a goal of 1000 signatures, they got 20, including mine.  WHY wasn't a minimum of one signature per household in that district?  Does it really take so long to sign a petition?  But they got 20. So either they only have 19 parents in that district, or most don't care enough about what their kids are eating (or don't understand how poor the food is) to take the 35 seconds it would take to type in their name on this petition and fight for better health for their own children.  And the local districts aren't any different.  Neither are the other causes out there.

I fear what my grandchildren will say.  I fear what they will think of me and our entire generation.  It's one thing to look back on my grandparents generation and see them either standing on one side or the other of issues like civil & women's rights. But in their time there were only a few real issues to worry about - or at least a few major issues.  Today, there are a myriad of issues and it's impossible to fight them all.  What's worse is it seems like the majority of people today just don't care - they don't even care enough to find out what most of the issues are, let alone enough to take a side or a stand.

What are we leaving for the future?  Is our legacy going to be one of chaotic arguing or of change?  I suppose only time will tell.  People tell me - "IF you want to see change, get out and work for it."  And that's all well and good when you have just ONE issue to fix.  But what about when you feel like you have 1000 worthy issues breathing down your neck every day?  Do you just pick one or two to focus on and hope the others work themselves out? Or do you constantly allow yourself to give small pieces to each and every worthy cause you find - but never allow yourself to focus to much one one because the others are worthy too? Is there a right answer? I don't know.

I know there are causes out there which are interconnected.  And it's possible that focusing on the "umbrella cause" will allow the others to work themselves out.  For example, if we focus on Gender Equality then things like fair pay for women and abortion will work themselves out.  Focus on animal rights and you're going to see issues like factory farming and animal testing will be worked out.  And I even understand that more than a few issues are going to overlap one another.  If we focus on true healthcare, things like vaccines, GMOs, and breastfeeding will all be enveloped.  But it's difficult to focus on the "Big Picture" when all the little causes are what make that bigger picture up.

And there are so many even smaller - individual - causes which come calling even while you're trying to focus on the "big pictures."  Sure, if we fix the healthcare situation in this country (meaning we start focusing on health rather than medicine) future generations will see less illness and longer lives. But what about the kids with cancer RIGHT NOW! What about the growing numbers of individuals with conditions like ALS, MS, Fibromyalgia, or Lupus?  What about them?  Do we not focus on helping them pay for medical bills or getting good care today because we need to put energy towards tomorrow?

I wish I had all the answers. Unfortunately though, my grandparent's generation didn't know what was coming. They couldn't see the future any better than me.  And they didn't fully understand what all their choices would mean for us, or our children, or their children...  They lived lives which were centered around their needs and their world.  They DID make great changes and they DID do wonderful things. Without the work they did for Women's Rights I wouldn't be sitting here writing they way I do.  Without their work for Civil Rights I wouldn't live across the street from a mix race family. Without their work for Unions (who created the 40hr work week) my husband would NEVER be home. Without their exploration and encouragement of new ways of thinking spiritually, and more over their work to give "alternative religions" equal footing legally, I wouldn't be able to hold my head high as a modern day Pagan and Witch.  They did great things!  They made changes which have allowed me to have a good life.  Unfortunately though they also made changes which have made the world we have today into a toxic place to be.  Factory farming, Baby Formula, Vaccines, Food grade dyes...  It all came out of the "progress" made during their era.

I think for the most part, they believed they were doing what was good.  They wanted to make their - and our - lives simpler. Give us more time to time to do what's important.  But instead we became a culture with even less. Less time, less health, less freedom in many ways.  We became a culture run on fear spewed forth from government run organizations and bureaucrats.  I know, to some degree we already were all that, long before our grandparents were born.  I think though it has gotten so much worse since then.  I've seen it get worse just since I've been an adult.  Since 9/11 I've seen fear pumped in to our society to make new freedom limiting laws at least a few times a year...  And anyone who's paid attention will say the same thing.

So I think I got it... I think I know what we need... We need to figure out the whole time-space continuum thing and go back and fix the world...  NO? Not going to happen?  Okay, then here's what I propose we do... We start being decent human beings! We stop arguing over the little things and start coming together to fix the big ones...  Lets face it, whether or not someone has an abortion doesn't effect you - but whether or not that same woman has the right to choose her own healthcare does, because her rights are your rights...  whether or not someone else is discriminated because of their gender, their race, their religion or their sexuality really doesn't change how you sleep at night - but whether or not they have the right to equality with every other citizen in spite of their differences does, because their rights are your rights...  whether or not another parent chooses to medicate their child doesn't affect your child's health one way or another - but whether or not those medicines are created with toxic ingredients or whether or not they are forced into administering them does, because if it's done to them, it can be done to you..

We ARE our brother's keeper. Not just for our brother, but for ourselves, for our children... More than that though, we are our brother's keeper because we are someone's brother.  Some people say our society has gotten the way it is because we are selfish - "people don't care about anything but themselves now a days."  But I don't think it's selfishness, I don't even think it's a lack of empathy.  Instead, I believe we've lost the feeling that we can change things.  We've gotten so caught up on little things that we feel like we can't change the big things.  Worse yet, we feel like we are putting everything we have in to just staying afloat that we don't feel we have anything left to put out.  I know that's exactly how I tend to feel.

I have three children. I have a home. I now have a small business. I have a husband.  And I put nearly all my energy in to making sure my children, home, husband and business are healthy and cared for - sometimes there doesn't even seem to be enough energy left to ensure that I am healthy and cared for.  How could I possibly find more energy to save the world too?

But here's the thing. I AM SELFISH!  I want my children not just to have good health, but have the best health.  I want my husband to have the ability to get a good paying job. I want to have the ability to return to school, get my PhD and fulfill all my dreams.  I want my small business to become a big business.  I want to have something to leave to my children when I die.  And I believe I can have all those things!  So even when I am feeling overrun and out of energy, I am going to fight for change!  I have to - I'm to selfish not to!  I want what I want and I want the best!  I'm worth it!  My husband is worth it!  More than that, my children are worth it!  Now, I just need other people to realize they are worth it too!

You see, all the changes that need made that's the ONE that is most important.  We need to make people understand that they are worth it!  They deserve to live in a world where they can be sure the air, the water and the food aren't going to kill them.  Where the government isn't going to just come in and take what they want because they want it. Where the "medical system" isn't out to make customers, but to create good strong naturally healthy people.  Where peace exists in homes and communities.  Where no one has to worry about what will happen if their daughter drives through the city at night.  Until people realize they are WORTHY of this world. And until people are SELFISH enough to fight for it. It's not going to happen...

SO I say get Selfish America!  Realize that you are worth the best, you deserve the best, and start fighting for it - together!  Stop allowing the government to feed you lies so they can take your freedom.  Get up, and learn for yourself what is best - and why - then fight for it!  IF you don't, if WE don't.  We are not just giving up our own lives, but the lives of our children...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Of Magick and Gravity

Skeptics of Witchcraft often ask how I can believe in such things.  "There's no proof this is real" they will say or they claim "Witchcraft has been proven to be fantasy."  For the most part I will simply agree to disagree with these individuals and encourage them to experience it for themselves before they judge.  I don't see it to be my job to convince others of the reality of Magick, or Spirit, or anything else...  And quite frankly, if they are not open to belief, nothing I say will change that, so what's the point in arguing it?

But there are a few points I would like to point out here, as an answer to all those who disbelieve.  Arguments against the reality of Witchcraft nearly always surround this idea that we must have physical proof of something in order for it to be real. While even I agree that belief should be based on proof, I disagree that we need to be able to measure, dissect and photograph everything.  Fact is, there are those things which we KNOW exist, that even we can not quantify scientifically.

The most basic example of this would be gravity.  At one point considered a "crazy notion," gravity is now not only accepted but taught as a "rule."  But gravity is not a THING, it's a force, just like magick.  It is something which can not be taken apart, moved or otherwise seen.  Instead, gravity accepted as a force, not because of what it is, but because of what we can see it do.  Another example of this is Wind.  We can not see it, we can not photograph it or even really make it. But we know it exists because we experience it's effects and see what it does.  Now, there are those out there who will look at these examples and say "But we can measure the wind and gravity."  And this is somewhat true, but in fact, we are not measuring these forces themselves, but the strength behind them or caused by them.

Witchcraft is no different.  We can not place magick (or any kind) under a microscope or send samples to NASA.  But we can see the results and experiences magick (depending on the form) personally, as well as en-mass.  Energy healing, has been largely ignored by modern day medical science, but numerous cases of energy healing that have stumped doctors have been well documented over past years.  Other forms of Magick such as trance and meditative workings, are now being embraced by modern day medicine as their benefits on the human body are becoming quite well known.  And as advances in Metaphyical Sciences occur, new forms of "proof" of different forms of Energy Work are coming to light -- not to mention the new and growing amount of proof of spirit or otherwise non-physical beings.

Now, I am more than certain there are those who will refuse to believe all and any argument or even proof which may validate the reality of Magick or Witchcraft.  And that's fine.  However, with each advance in science we are becoming better and better at measuring the invisible forces behind such things.  If, therefore, your arguments against such beliefs lie in the scientific world, you may find yourself having to either ignore upcoming scientific advances or changing your view of the world to one which accepts the reality of such forces...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to Start Researching Vaccines for Yourself

I have been encouraging people to research vaccines on their own for nearly 10 years now.  I myself have been researching them, as well as the illnesses they are associated with, for even longer.  It's an ongoing process, but it's one worth doing.

But the idea of starting such a process is often more than enough to overwhelm and confuse... So I am hoping to possibly give you a "guide" to starting your own search for the truth.

If you don't already know, I'm a binder-freak!  I have binders for everything. And vaccines are no
different.  Actually I have two - One for vaccines, one for vaccine related illnesses. But if you're less anal than I am about things, you could easily have just one. :)

So where do you start? My suggestion is that you start with the current vaccine schedule.  If you don't have children yet, begin by researching the first vaccine that your future children would receive according to that schedule. If you already have children begin with whatever vaccine is next on their schedule or with whatever vaccine you feel has affected your child (in the case of those researching after injury or reaction has occurred.)

But what do you need to know? What do you look up? And where do you go?  I suggest you research both the vaccine and the illnesses it is associated with together.

For each Vaccine you need to research the following information (remember, there are often more than one vaccine available for each illness, different brands, etc - do this research for each of them independently if possible.)

  • Brand Name & Company that makes it
  • Illness(es) Associated 
  • Ingredients
  • Live or Dead Virus
  • Maker Acknowledged Side Effects (Common & Rare)
  • Possible Side Effects (Common & Rare) which are NOT Yet Acknowledged by the Maker
  • Reported Reaction, Injury & Death Rates
  • Any Studies Done & Their Outcomes
  • How Effective the Vaccine is at Preventing the Disease
  • Purpose of Vaccine (many vaccines are not meant to prevent infection/transmission)
  • History of Development of the Vaccine
  • Also include package inserts and any other paperwork you get on the subject from doctors. 
And for each Illness look up this information:
  • Common & Scientific Name
  • Strand Differences 
  • Basic Description of Disease
  • Early Signs of Infection
  • All Associated Symptoms
  • Common, Medical and Holistic Treatments
  • Length of Infection (from Initial Infection to End of ALL Symptoms)
  • Infectious Period
  • How it's Contracted
  • Type of Infection (Bacterial, Viral, etc) and Transmission Route
  • Known Serious & Long Term Consequences of the Disease
  • Proportion of Persons infected who Develop Serious & Long Term Consequences.
  • Immunity Information (some illnesses are rare to get twice, like Chicken Pox, while others may be caught over and over, like the Flu)
  • Number of Cases (worldwide & domestic) & Reported Deaths Each Year
As I said before, it DOES seem like a lot of work, because it is.  But like anything worth doing, it's worth doing well.  So take your time and make sure you're getting your information from reputable sources.  Believe it or not, the CDC is usually a good solid source for many of these facts.  Unfortunately though they tend to write their information in ways which is very Pro-Vaccine, as apposed to being neutral on that issue.  This means that when researching things like Vaccine Injuries or Reactions, the facts may be somewhat masked by long winded paragraphs about how minor they really are.  

Some other really wonderful sources for information include:
Additional points to research should include: 
  • How the VEARS system works.
  • Laws supporting vaccination & your rights if you choose not to vaccinate (schools, military, etc.)
  • Herd Immunity
  • Information on individual vaccine ingredients
  • Immunization VS Vaccination
  • The History of Vaccination
  • Legal Cases Against Vaccine Companies
  • Laws protecting Vaccine Companies
  • Long term reactions & illnesses associated with Vaccines (Physical & Neurological)
  • Doctors, Researchers and other Medical Professionals who oppose the standard vaccine system.
I'm sure there are 1000 other subjects that could be added to this list.  But this is, I'm sure, enough to keep you busy for years to come.  You can see now why I keep a binder.  If I didn't, I would never be able to keep all the information straight!  

Remember to ALWAYS keep track of your sources!  I suggest simply making numbered notations on a separate page with your sources. This way if, and when, your choices or research comes in to question - as it more than likely will at some point - you will have everything you need to back up your personal research.  If you have access to studies themselves and include them in your binder along with your personal research, it will go a long way towards supporting your arguments.  But that's up to you.  I like to have everything - Like I said, I'm rather anal about things. 

Finally, remember that just because it's written online, doesn't make it true. I have found inconsistencies on BOTH sides of the argument!  So in general if there is no evidence to back something up, keep looking, it may be more conspiracy and less fact. There are people on BOTH sides of every issue with agendas! You're not interested in that, you're looking for truth, facts! With time and research, you WILL find it.  

Unfortunately nearly ANYONE who speaks out against vaccinations (such as Dr. Tenpenny, quoted above) is driven out of or away from the conventional medicine circles. Because of this you will not generally find their studies or information on government or common medical sites. And the reason why sites such as those listed above exist and are necessary for research.  Our current medical community is pro-vaccine, so if you want to hear the studies, research or numbers which may refute that stance, you won't find it there.  Not that it isn't important to hear their arguments, it is!  But it's more important that their arguments can be upheld when looked in to more deeply.  Remember that at one point in history the CDC endorsed the use of cigarettes. And that EVERY medication to have ever been pulled from shelves due to toxicity or dangers was first approved by them!  

Point being, just because the "officials" or "experts" approve or encourage the use of something doesn't mean it's safe.  They are as imperfect as everyone else, the problem is though that their choices (imperfect as they are) affect the lives of Millions of people all over the world. So when it comes to YOUR health or the health of your children, make sure the decision is one that's based on more than their beliefs...  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fred Phelps, Honey Maid and My Refusal To Let Hate Eat Me Alive

Yesterday, the news that Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church passed away.  His health had been failing, so I think everyone knew it was coming.  Moments after posting this information (as well as a plea for prayers & positive energy towards his loved ones) to my Facebook Page, I decided to check my email.  And what did I find there?  A message from One Million Moms asking their followers to harass HoneyMaid (and Nabisco it's parent company) in an effort to get them to remove their new TV ad from the air.

It seemed strange.  There weren't but seconds between my asking that everyone be kind about the death of the leader of one hate group, and getting an email from another asking for my help.  It felt almost as if the Universe felt the need to balance out the hate... One man down, another fight begins...  I'm sure that's not quite what happened, but it sure felt like it.

So as always I read through the email from OMM, the email they are asking their followers to send and watched the video they are so angry about... And then, as always, I sent my own email to the company. Lastly I posted the emails and whatnot to my Facebook Page as well as a way to let others see what they're doing.

Personally, I found the ad to be beautiful!  But of course that's because I find love and families beautiful and would prefer see someone happy than not - which I believe is the opposite of OMM's stance.

But after I was finished with all the posting and emails and all, I started thinking.  Here I am spending an hour or so of my time dealing with WBC and OMM... All this time dealing with such hateful people.  And all the while trying to encourage others to be loving - even towards them.  And I wonder for a moment if loving and kindness are really the best defense against such groups, or should I be out there swinging my ax (so to speak).  Instead of encouraging people to pray for Fred's family, should I be encouraging them to pray that this ends his church?  Instead of simply emailing HoneyMaid in support of their ad, should I be sending out emails to LGBT groups asking that they take on OMM?

Then I think... IF I do that... IF I spend my time and energy spreading hate... Does it not make me more like them?  Does it not make me one of them? And does it not make this "war" they continue to push as reality - in fact a reality?

Truth is, their actions, their methods, their views even, PISS ME OFF!  But do I hate them?  No.  I worry for them. I feel for them.  And I pray for them...  All of them.  Just as I would a lost child - for they are lost souls. Don't get me wrong, I hate what they stand for, pure and simple. But I don't think THEY deserve my hate.  And honestly, neither do I.

At the same time though, I do feel for them.  I think, it's no wonder they are fighting so hard. They know change is coming, and I'm sure they know, on some level, that they're wrong.  More than that, they know they're losing.  And I think that makes them scared.  I think too about how will they be remembered?  How will "history" see them.  I know it won't be good.

When I was in school I remember learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and the Women's Rights Movements.  And I remember listening to the stories about people who fought against change and thinking what horrid people they must have been...  I wonder if my children, or my grandchildren won't think the same thing looking back at groups like these.

I also worry that groups like these will further damage the reputation of Christianity.  Obviously I'm not a big fan to begin with.  Organized Religion has never done anything for me.  But the fact is although it's numbers are beginning to dip, Christianity continues to be a force all over the world.  As it continues to die out, will history choose to remember groups like WBC and OMM as "examples" of how Christians believed, acted or thought?  I hope not.  Sure there has been a momentous amount of pain and bloodshed due to the Christian faith. But for the most part, the individual believers are not hateful or cruel.  No, the average Christian has a good heart and is drawn to their faith, not because of the hate it spreads, but because of the love it's message includes.

So as always I will light a candle and say a prayer for these poor lost hearts, and for their children. I believe at their core they are doing what they think they are supposed to be doing to make their God happy.  I hope they learn otherwise, but if they do not, that's on them, not me.  I will not let their hate and intolerance towards others drag me down with them...  I will continue to try and love those around me - even those who don't love me...  Of course, that doesn't mean I will let them walk all over me or that I'm going to stop speaking up or out... It just means that I won't be fighting against them any time soon, rather, I'll keep fighting FOR what I believe is right!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Ideal Place

Every day I open my email and have at least a dozen new petitions - Stop Fracking, Support Education, Keep Animals Safe...  There are so many good causes in this world and I often feel overwhelmed by it all.  Watching the news or reading the local paper makes it even worse.  And now, I'm at the point where I can't even look out my back door without seeing huge black helicopters on their way to Fracking Fields or huge trains full of coal (although to be fair, I've grown up watching that).  Sometimes I just reach the point where I need to just shut myself up and block the world out so I can pretend it's not like this, this isn't real...  Sometimes I even feel like I should be packing my family up and moving them somewhere better.  But then I wonder, WHERE?  Everywhere is dealing with the same issues!  I wish I could twitch my nose or wave my wand and create my perfect world...

So what would my world look like?  I've talked before about how I don't believe in the notion of Utopia on a large scale, but what would the world look like if it were up to me?  How would things be different?

I'll be honest, I don't think I have all the answers for every issue. But I can tell you what MY perfect place would be like...  I can tell you about the world I got to sometimes, in my dreams, that I wish I could move to - My Ideal Place!

Picture if you will, for a moment, a small town setting - maybe what we would today consider an "Artisan Town." Somewhere where main street is filled with numerous little shops selling everything from handmade jewelry, pottery, clothing... Just about everything you need for a good life.  Picture a huge indoor farmers market at one end of town where all the locals gather to sell and purchase a great array of farm goods from all the surrounding farms.

Homes would all be built using reclaimed and sustainable methods and each and every home would be fitted with solar panels, fire places, ambient heating and rain water collection systems.  Better yet, each house would have enough land for home owners to have their own small gardens where they would grow herbs, small amounts of vegetables and maybe even a fruit tree or two.  Natural spaces in town would include small parks and community gardens alike.

For the people in this town, a Natural Lifestyle is a given.  There is no Fracking, no added chemicals in the water, no laws preventing people from owning chickens or goats...  Cars are electric, powered by solar chargers placed at homes and in public parking areas.  The only "Fast Food" places are organic juice and smoothie bars and restaurants are all Farm to Table!

Holistic Medicine is the norm here.  The "town doctor" believes in natural medicine and nutrition over pills and needles.  No one here is vaccinated, over medicated or mistreated by a medical professional.  Births are attended by Midwife & Doula, but the women's center (birthing center & Red Tent included) has a very capable doctor on hand for when mother's choose (or need) pain relief, emergency services, or surgery due to unforeseen circumstances, "high risk birth" or other things which may come up.  And of course the local hospital (in the small city a few miles away) offers care for more serious issues or ailments.  But for the most part the "healthcare" here consists of herbs, energy work, crystals and of course prevention through nutrition.

The local school system encourages actual education rather than memorization. Students are encouraged to learn through hands on experimentation, music and play.  Although they have a good solid physical education program, it's not the focus of their Highschool. Teachers are encouraged to have an "up to date" education for history and science classes and teach what is current rather than what political agenda in the 1970's text books.  "Home-economics" and "Arts" classes, electives in many school systems, are embraced and fully supported.  REAL Education is the focus, not robots.

When trash day comes, it's rare that each home has even a single bag.  Most homes in my ideal place don't produce trash.  Instead, composting, recycling, and swapping unneeded items has cut down the trash to nearly nothing.

I suppose my "ideal place" seems very much like the 1900's - maybe even earlier... And it may appear as if I want to get as far away from "today" as possible.  In some ways, that's not wrong.  But the fact is, I'm not "Anti-Tech" or "Anti-Progress."  Yes, I love the idea of living in a farming and artisan society.  But I don't believe this has to happen without Telephones and Computers.  But I believe we should be using these things smartly.

Lets think bigger for a moment, now.  Not just my ideal town, but my ideal world. A world where all small towns were like this... But also a world where "big cities" mirrored the same progressive ideals.  Where garbage trucks often return to their base half empty.  Where there are no more "gas stations." Where even the highest apartment building had a rooftop gardens and neighborhoods all maintained community gardens as well.  Where electric companies rely on wind, water, sun and geothermal energy sources rather than coal or natural gas.  Where you could trust that, even in a restaurant or "fast food" place wasn't laced with toxins, chemicals, medications or hormones.  A place where there was little to no gridlock because few items were trucked in bulk.  Where manufacturers employed people, not machines and local economies were intertwined, but still local.

Sounds like heaven to me!  A society where community is more important than corporations, where education is more important than political agendas, where health is more important than medicine, and where people are more important than dollars!

Yeah, I know I'm dreaming. But if no one ever dreams it up, it can't ever become reality!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gun Violence and Prohibition

Recently, I was blocked from a Facebook page called "The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence."  Why was I blocked you ask?  Well, I assume it was in response to a comment I made on one of their posts.  In all honesty, I wasn't being snarky or derogatory in any way, I simply stated that Prohibition has NEVER worked in the past, and it wouldn't work now...  I would happily provide the comment itself, but it's apparently been deleted, as I have gone back to the page and can not find it anywhere.

Now, you may ask if that's how I feel then why was I following that page in the first place, and I'll tell you... I honestly started following the page assuming that (due to the wording of their name) they were focused on helping stop gun violence, which I feel is a good thing.  Apparently, however, they are only interested in stopping gun violence by banning guns.  They really should change their name to "The Coalition to Ban Guns" if that's the case, at least then they wouldn't attract people, like myself, who prefer to actually find answers rather than create bans.

Don't get me wrong, gun violence bothers and upsets me as much as it does anyone else.  The idea that children are being gunned down while playing in front of their homes or while at school turns my stomach.  And the idea that young adults and teens are turning to guns to solve their issues makes me downright sick.  I'm not immune to the worries about stray bullets, accidental shootings, hunting accidents, gang violence, school shootings or any other gun related drama that parents (and non-parents) have.  But I am a realist and I understand that all of those things - with the exception of true "no fault" accidents - have solutions that do NOT include violating the rights of law abiding citizens.

Like it or not, the "right to bare arms" is not only something our founding fathers believed greatly in, but it's those "arms" which allowed us to form the country in the first place - do you really think we would have won our freedom from England with a bunch of rocks & sticks?  Yeah, me neither!  I would even bet - although I of course have no proof - that our founding fathers created this "right to bare arms" in an effort to give the people power against an overbearing and unruly government -- I believe it was a part of their effort to ensure that IF the government they created ever got to big, that the individual citizens would not only have the right to defend themselves - but the ability to overthrow.  They understood what it took to break away from England, and they, better than we, understood the dangers of an oppressive government. THIS was just one of the ways they attempted to ensure that if such things happened in the future, that we, the people, would have the same ability they did, to change things by force if all other options failed.

It's possible of course that I am completely wrong and that given a glimpse of today's gun violence those same founders would skip over the right to arms. But unless someone has invented time travel and not told me, that's not something which is going to happen, so speculation about it is pretty pointless. What it comes down to is they wanted the average Joe citizen to have the ability to own and use weapons when needed to defend themselves and their families.

I do agree however, that SOMETHING has to be done to curb the violence.  I remember watching the news the day the Comlumbine Shooting happened.  I was actually in the hospital that day, so I was able to see the whole thing unfold as the news broke and then as they started announcing the numbers of dead, injured and eventually the names and stories of the perpetrators.  It was major news.  ABCNews broke in over top of regular programming just to make updates.  Everyone in the country knew what had happened.  This was a (seemingly*) new threat, children and teens weren't even safe in school now.  And although this wasn't the first school shooting, it seemed to stand out, and somehow it seemed as if an entire nation knew we had just turned a corner.  It was terrifying, not just for parents, but for students.  Schools across the country jumped to create protocols and action plans in case something like this would happen there.  Students sat through hours of lectures, faced new invasive security procedures and began to fear those students whom they once simply ignored.

Fast forward to 2014, just 15 years later, and school shootings have become something which barely even make the news.  In fact, there were 35 school related shootings in 2013, and an additional 35 so far in 2014, but unless you were local to them, chances are, you never knew about them.  Unfortunately, the numbers continue to climb, and it's almost become a question, not of IF your local schools will face such an issue, but when.  A truly terrifying thought for a parent (myself) of young children in a Public School.

Of course gun violence doesn't just happen in schools.  Gang violence, domestic violence, street violence, and just plain ol' murder, rape, suicide and assault are often gun related -- more now than ever before.  Especially among young people.

So what has happened? Truth be told, like most issues, there is no simple answer.  Violence, in general, rises as social injustice, poverty and desperation among society peak.  We have seen it over and over, and yet we are always shocked by it.  The biggest difference is that for all the violence in the 60's and 70's which accompanied great changes, little of it seemed to permeate our homes, schools and other "safe areas."  For the most part, the violence took place on streets, at rallies, and in other public places.  But this time... This time things are different.  Social change is taking place, and that's not a bad thing, but it's causing a great many to feel threatened.

Now, couple that with the same hormonal changes which have ALWAYS driven young people to become violent - although in my day that meant a fist fight by the monkey bars - and the sheer accessibility of guns today and guess what happens...  You get a MAJOR spike in gun violence that seems to surround everyone and everything.  Believe it or not people, this isn't rocket science.

Today's young people are no different than the young people of a decade ago, or a hundred years ago. What has changed, more than anything, is how today's young people are dealing with the same issues, stresses and emotions that young people have always dealt with.  What once would have resulted in a pushing match, now becomes a deadly confrontation.  Which tends to take us back to the argument FOR prohibition, not away from it.

But here's the thing about prohibition, it doesn't work.  YES, it would reduce the number of guns out there and in turn it would reduce the ability of many young people to get their hands on such weapons.  But would it really put a dent in Gun Violence as a whole? No.

Why not?  Because those who wish to get, and use, guns would still be able to do so.  Want proof?  Take a look at how well Alcohol or Drug bans have worked.  Heroin was first synthesized in 1874, by 1914 laws were passed limiting the drug to medical applications ONLY, and in 1924 new laws, banning the use, possession or sale of Heroin within the US were signed.  This means that Heroin has been legally prohibited for the past 90 years, yet a 2006 study showed that in the year preceding over 500,000 individuals had used Heroin, with some studies estimating a MUCH higher number of 1.5-2.2 MILLION Heroin addicts and users in the US today.  NONE of these addicts were alive prior to 1924 when Heroin was legally obtainable and usable. Which means that every one of these individuals had sought out and obtained the substance illegally from the first use (these aren't people who became addicted legally and then had no choice but to find it on the street when it became illegal.)

A similar example can be made when we look at the Alcohol Prohibition which took place in the US between 1920 and 1933.  The 18th Amendment (the prohibition of Alcohol in the US) was ratified by congress on January 16, 1919, and prohibition officially began on January 17, 1920.  Whole towns and cities chose to simply ignore the new law and in those places where it was enforced, "bootleg" alcohol became available within the first week.  Over the next 13 years which the law was in place, BILLIONS of gallons of Alcohol were made, sold and illegally consumed by those who believed it was their right to drink it.  It's important to note here that in fact many individuals DID see drinking alcohol as a RIGHT, although it was not explicitly spelled out in the constitution.  Why? Because for many, it was a part of their religious, as well as cultural, celebrations and had always been.  This lead to even the most "white bread" citizens to ignore or subvert the prohibition laws.

Lets consider now, what prohibition of guns would mean.  Like the prohibition of heroin and alcohol, those who agree with the law or who at the very least are willing to concede to the government will continue to not own them or turn in the ones they do own.  But those who believe (as the constitution states) owning a gun is their right, those who are members of violent or illegal organizations, and/or those, in many cases, who simply disagree with the law will either continue to own guns or possible even obtain them afterwards.  I would fair a guess that the majority of gun owners would in some way fall in to this category! While there are those Gun collectors out there who own guns as a "hobby."  The vast majority of gun owners do so because they believe their Gun will either protect them, feed them (as in the case of rifles) or are already criminals who use or plan to use their weapons to preform violent and illegal acts and have no care for what the laws say in the first place.  Chances are, with a few exceptions, most will never willingly hand over their weapons, or worse, will actively seek to get more.

To be perfectly honest, I would not be willing to simply hand over mine!  Not because I think Guns are some magical answer to this world's ills.  Instead, it's because I believe that if our Government chose to institute such laws, it would not be for the noble reasons which so many Anti-Gun Groups have in mind.  It would be yet another way to ease their oppression of the average citizen.  And I'm not willing to weaken myself or my families ability to protect ourselves from or rebel against (if the case warrants it) a corrupt government.  And I believe a good deal of otherwise peaceable, every day citizens - such as myself - would do the same.

So what IS the answer?  If prohibition isn't going to work, what will?  I agree that change NEEDS to be made on this issue!  We can NOT allow the rise of gun violence to continue, especially the rise of gun violence against innocent people.  So what can we do?

Truth is, there ARE solutions to gun violence!  Unfortunately, most people don't want these solutions, they want a quick fix and the flick of a pen.  But like ALL social issues, a simple change of laws doesn't do anything!  Slavery has been illegal for nearly 200 years, but there continue to be slaves.  Discrimination based on race, gender, religion, etc.  are all illegal, but they continue to affect the lives of millions of Americans every day.  BUT, if we compare racism, sexism, etc. today with the way things were in the 1950's or 60's, you would see a HUGE difference.  WHY? Not because these things were made illegal, but because the way people think about and act towards one another has changed.  Of course it hasn't changed over night, and like I stated before cases continue today. But each generation has gotten better than the last and now, even most racists or bigots don't admit to their beliefs because they know they're the minority.

This issue is really no different.  And the solutions to gun violence mirror the solutions that overcame other social issues.  At the top of that list is Education!  Those with a better education and those who's parents are "educated" are less likely to turn to guns to solve their problems.  Also, those who come from or live in low income neighborhoods are more likely to turn to violence.  So a focus on poverty is second - of course with better education comes an end to poverty.  But that's not all it takes. It takes strong communities, strong family units and solid healthcare programs that focus on healing rather than treatment.

It's certainly not a short term project!  Better education, Better healthcare, Better communities... All take YEARS of work by a great many people.  It may seem like these things are out of reach. But I don't believe so.  I think, though, that they will take some HUGE changes in the way we, as a society, approach things.  Rather than bickering over issues that limit the rights and freedoms of others, we should be working together to create a system where a world class education, true health & wellness and decent jobs are available to absolutely everyone regardless of their income, neighborhood or background.  Sadly, THAT is what I don't see happening...  I am a firm believer that we have all the tools needed to make these changes, but I don't see people in this country being willing to put aside their differences long enough to make the changes that need made -- Fact is, many people see healthcare, education and "jobs" as non-issues or as things that should be reserved for those who can pay for them.

I wish I could say I had enough faith in the people of this country to believe that they would be willing to come together and solve real issues instead of constantly arguing over who can and can't marry or who's religion is better...  But I think there would need to be some major changes made in the way people think before that could happen.

SO do we have the tools to end the majority of Gun Violence? YES! Without question.  But desperate people, people who can't see another way out, will always turn to violence (and other illegal options, such as drugs & gangs - which also lead to violence) because they don't believe they have other options. People with poor health, poor self esteem, little to no financial options and who can find no way out or up, feel backed in to a corner -- and like anyone they lash out.  I'm not making excuses!  I don't have the education I want, I don't have a decent income, and my health could certainly be better... And I'm certainly not killing people.  But I understand how it can happen.  More than that, I understand that to a large degree, it's preventable!

*When discussing school shootings I made the statement that this was "SEEMINGLY" a new threat. And although it did not quite fit in to the statements I was making at the time, I feel it is important to explain why I made this statement.  Fact is, School shootings have existed in this country longer than the country itself. The first of such shootings occurred in 1764 and it known as the Pontiac Rebellion School Massacre. Since then, until the Columbine Shooting there were over 250 school related shootings in the US.
For a chronological list of shootings in the US CLICK HERE.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Movie Review: Pompeii

My husband and I celebrated our 8 year wedding anniversary at the end of February.  We have rarely had the opportunity to "date" even in the 2 years we were together prior to marriage.  In total I think we've gone out about 6 times in 10 years. Which for us, is just fine, we're more the "Take-out & Red Box" type anyways.

But this time we decided we wanted to take an evening and do a good ol' fashioned "Dinner & A Movie" date.  So we shipped the kids off to my Sister-in-Law's house and headed out to the city.  We had both been rather excited to see Pompeii, as we both LOVE history, especially tragic or "dark" history.  Going in we both understood that it was supposed to be a Historical Fiction, and not any kind of Documentary. So we expected there to be a good deal of artistic license going on, but we assumed that the story would surround the destruction of the city and the interpersonal stories which took place in those last hours...  To some degree, I suppose, we were correct - but for the most part, we were greatly disappointed.

Before we went I had seen only the few momentary clips which were in the "Teaser Trailer" and didn't really have a good grasp of what the movie was about.  Going back and watching the trailers since, I don't know how anyone could really expect the movie to be what it is just from that small impression.  I knew it was a love story, and I was okay with that - as I said, we understood that it was meant to be Historical-Fiction. So I expected something along the lines of "Titanic," where the main story was completely fictional, but the story surrounding them - the iceburg and all the resulting death & destruction as the boat sank - was to a large degree historically sound. Unfortunately, that's not at all what I got.

For the most part, the movie had few links to the destruction of Pompeii besides taking place in a city with that name who happened to have a volcano in the background.  Instead of telling a story of love in a time of tragedy, the writers chose to create a film which generally surrounded the relationship between a slave-class gladiator and an upper class young woman.  With the exception of a few rumbles and the odd scene where a horse-trainer is swallowed up by the Earth, at least the entire first half of the film focuses almost solely on this Gladiator.  Now, I am certain there were gladiators in Pompeii, but there were also Gladiators in every other Roman province at the time.  Had they wished to make yet another Gladiator film, they shouldn't have named it Pompeii - cashing in on the volcanic fame of the city - but they did.

The final 25% of the film is really the only time the volcanic tragedy came in to play at all. At which point writers completely threw out any historical reality and simply decided to re-write things for a more dramatic effect.  Again, this isn't a big deal IF you aren't naming your film after the worlds best known volcanic tragedy.  There was NO tsunami in Pompeii, there was NO lava flow in Pompeii, and there was NO Earth-quake ripping up streets and buildings - had their been, it wouldn't have been any more special of an eruption than any other in history.  In fact, what makes Pompeii so famous is all that the eruption left behind - which would not have been left behind had it happened as this movie portrays.

In all honesty, had they simply chosen not to name the movie Pompeii, it could have been a good movie.  The movie itself wasn't generally the issue - the acting wasn't horrid, the story was decent, and the action was good -- although I don't think even the buffest gladiator could out run a tsunami no matter how awesome he is. But as far as movies go, this one wasn't bad -- UNLESS, like me, you were there because it was supposedly based around a Historical event...  Then the movie becomes not worth your time.

So lets see... If I had to, I would say this film earns itself 3/5 stars.  IF you can separate the fact that the movie has nearly NO historical basis, or if you don't know the story of Pompeii (you really should look it up in that case) then you may enjoy the movie. It has the romance and sexy half dressed men that the women are looking for, and the violence and action that men want.   BUT, if you're like me and wanted to see it solely as historical fiction, don't waste your time or money, and go see something else!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Jude's Herbal Home Remedies by Jude C. Todd

Jude's Herbal Home Remedies by: Jude C. Todd
Whenever I am looking for a new book I turn to recommendations from those I admire or those I wish to learn from.  And that is how I found this book. It was recommended by someone I see as somewhat of a role model, and someone who's herbal practice I hope to match at some point.  Her recommendation was so "glowing" in fact that I was very much excited to get myself a copy and when it came in the mail I actually quit reading another book in order to jump right in to this one.

Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed!  More so I think than I have been with a book in a long time! Before I get in to all the things "wrong" with this book though, I want to talk about the things that are "right" with it.

There are in fact quite a lot of useful recipes here.  I would think, if I had to count there are more than likely 1000 solid recipes here. And there is a really good chapter on Gardening as well. Plus hundreds of drawings of herbs, flowers and other plants to help you identify what you're looking at.  All of that is great, BUT, in my opinion it's greatly outweighed by the books negatives, some of which could be downright dangerous.

First, it's important to understand that it was written in the early 90's.  Since that time we have learned new things about some herbs which has allowed us to limit or even delete their use due to possible long term dangers.  Because this book was written prior to that time, numerous recipes include herbs which are now known to be toxic.  The one which comes to mind first was Comfrey.  Comfrey has been shown to contain chemicals which can cause liver toxicity and even cancer, which is why MOST herbalists today will only suggest it's use for external issues, and even then with caution.  This book though, suggests it's use in everything from tea or capsules for internal use, and does so with NO cautions or alternatives.

Which brings me to my second issue with this book. Although the author was clearly writing to someone who is new to the world of Herbs and Holistics, there is very little description of herbs given. Towards the very end of the book there are a few recipes which do list the "reasons" why specific herbs are used, but this information is NOT provided for the vast majority.  Not providing this information is harmful for a few reasons, first, it does not allow for recipe adaptation when needed. Not every system is in need of the same strengths from one herb or another. Also, because there is little description given it would be difficult for someone who is new to make substitutions where they need to - either for lack of access to an herb or due to allergies.

The third problem worth pointing out here is that numerous recipes include ingredients which are toxic within themselves.  Mineral Oil, Petroleum Jelly and Motor Oil, just to name a few, should be avoided when it comes to creating herbal products.  In my mind the entire point of turning to herbs over "conventional medicine" is to get rid of the questionable and toxic chemicals and return to a natural way of healing. This can not be done with your herbal concoctions are made with the same substances which the conventional ones are.

Lastly this title confuses terms quite often, which could make it difficult for someone to find further information or advice.  The best example I can give of this is that the author uses the terms "infusion" and "tincture" interchangeably.  The problem with this is that infusions (such as herbal teas) are usually consumed on a much larger scale than their Tincture counterparts would be.  While an herbal tea may be drank by the "cup" serving, a tincture shouldn't usually exceed a tea-spoon dosage (and even that is extreme.) While this may seem like an impossible mistake to make, when you are new, it's easy to confuse things - especially when the book you're reading is less than clear on the difference!

I would have to give this book a 1 out of 5 stars and label it with a HUGE caution sign.  IF you are someone who has enough experience with herbs to navigate through the bad (sometimes dangerous) advice and alter the recipes given to fit your needs, you don't need this book in the first place. And if you're just starting out to the point that you would need to rely on such an extensive recipe book, there are a great many out there which will provide you with sound and solid advice - do NOT rely on this one!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: SABBATS: A Witch's Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy

Sabbats: A Witch's Approach to
Living the Old Ways
by: Edain McCoy
I had been wanting for a while to read this book. I was excited when I found it for only $10 online. And I have to say that a great deal of the information in it was informative and different from what I had found in other, similar titles.  But I was disappointed to find the author had included some ideas or beliefs which do NOT tend to mesh with any Pagan or Wiccan belief system that I know of.  As always I tend to read these books with the idea of "What if this is the first book someone is reading" in mind.  IF you are someone who has already established your practice and, like me, were simply looking for ideas or history for forming new traditions or expanding your practice, I would highly recommend reading through this one!  But I caution those who are new to the Craft/Life to remember that not everything you read is going to be factual for your path.

For example, one point that was made early on, and then touched on again throughout the book, was the idea that No Magick is to be practiced on Sabbat Days/Nights.  This was an idea which I have NEVER come across.  So I turned to my Facebook page in an effort to get a wider view.  Over 50 people responded to my question and not a single one of them had ever heard of a belief or tradition against the practice of Magick on these days. In fact they all, like me, had always heard that the Sabbats were the perfect time for Magick.

Now, this may seem like a small thing, and to some degree, it is. But it makes me question the validity of other information within the book.  I do realize that different traditions hold different beliefs and practices, and I assume that whatever tradition the Author is a part of holds this "No Magick" rule.  The book though, presented this idea as if it were a "rule" or even as if it were some age old tradition - which it's not.  Because of this I wonder how many other ideas presented in this book are less than "factual" or possibly even less than historical.

Other issues I found were that the authors translation of terms tends to be based more on the "New Age" view of the world than on any real Linguistic study.  For example, the term "paganus" is listed as meaning "people of the earth" and the term "wcca" to mean "wise one."  I love Linguistics! And I have NEVER found meanings for these terms which are even close to what the author presents.

Those minor issues - and questions - aside however, the book was extremely helpful to me.  It was broken up Sabbat by Sabbat and presented a broad view of each filled with history, food, traditions and practices.  As I have studied these Sabbats for many years now, I will attest that for the most part, the information presented here matches that which I know to be true, and those points which I disagreed with were not necessarily wrong, instead they were simply from a different tradition than I follow.  It also presented me with a great deal more information than I had prior, which was, of course, the point.

Following the individual Sabbat chapters was a second "Part" to the book which consisted of Sabbat Rituals.  My ONLY issue with the Rituals was that they were written and created for a coven or group, rather than an individual.  The entire books was written in a way which is meant to speak to the individual reader. While it's understood that this reader MAY belong to a group, it's not generally written for a coven/group. Even the recipes which are provided are not generally written for quantities above the average family.  These rituals could be, as the author suggests, personalized very quickly, and this could include turning them in to familial or solitary rituals.  However, I feel if you are writing a book with the idea of an individual or a family using it to build their own practice or traditions, you should include rituals which match with that theme.

The final "Part" of the book is a glossary where numerous terms are presented along with their definition.  I did not go through this part of the book and read each definition for correctness, so I will not comment on that aspect.  And for a "starter" book, I like the idea of having a section meant purely to describe terms the reader may not be familiar with.  I do, however, question whether or not definitions in this book would be factual simply based on the issues I talked about before.  If definitions within the text itself were unreliable, I would hesitate to expect that those listed within the "glossary" would be any better.

Over all I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. If you are looking for a good title to give you some ideas on building your families (or your own) traditions, or even if you're looking for ideas for a coven celebration, this book is wonderful.  But keep in mind that it's not 100% factual and if you're looking for traditions or practices which are based solely on historical evidence, that you will need to do further study or research on just about anything you find in order to do so.  That said, if you are simply looking for ideas which you can use or which may tie in to your existing Sabbat celebrations, this book is a great way to find some.

Obviously if you were to compare the information written here with that in individual Sabbat books, you will find that this is greatly lacking. However, keep in mind that it would be impossible for a single book to hold as much information and detail as 8 individual books would. So expect to find more of an "overview" of each Sabbat presented here rather than an in-depth exploration of each one.  It's a good starting point though, especially if you're new to such celebrations.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Witchcraft, Religion or Not?

Over the years I have met more than a few who were confused on this point.  There are those religious groups - usually Wiccan - who use the term "Witch" to describe any and all followers of their faith, and many others who use the term Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably - including many Wiccan Authors.  But here's the thing --  Witchcraft is NOT a religion!

Witchcraft is, exactly as the word implies, a craft, something which must be learned and practiced in order to achieve mastery.  It's no different than quilting, sewing or woodworking in that manner.  In order to BE a quilter, one must learn to quilt, and perfect their craft through practice.  One can not simply read a few books on the subject and decide one is a quilter without ever lifting a piece of material.  Witchcraft is similar, Religion, on the other hand, is not.  If one reads a few books on a religion and decides that this is what they believe, they can in fact take the title which this religions followers don.  For example, if one reads the Bible and says "This speaks to me, I believe in Jesus, I believe in YHWH, and I feel this is my path"  they can then call themselves Christian -- it should however be pointed out that there is a difference between an Active member of a faith and a Passive member, but that's a different post.  Religion is about belief more than it is practice. And while there are those who will argue this point, the fact is there are hundreds of thousands of Christians out there who truly believe, who have a very sincere faith, but who lack the practice - NO ONE would deny however that they are Christians by definition.  Because that's what Religion is - belief.  If you believe in what a religion teaches, you are - in one way or another - a member of that religion. Witchcraft, however, doesn't work that way. You can read 1000 books on Witchcraft, but if you never practice, you still aren't a Witch.  It's not something you just believe, it's something you do!

Additionally, Witchcraft is NOT limited to any one religion.  Witches - although they don't always take that title - exist in EVERY religion on Earth.  Shaman, Medicine Man/Woman, Curandero, and numerous other titles and terms have been used as an alternative to the word for those who practice Witchcraft.  Depending on the culture, these titles may mean different things, and at times or places (such as in the US) they can denote different types of practice, specific influences or abilities.

So what IS Witchcraft and how do you know if you're practicing it?  Well, that is a more complicated question.  Witchcraft is an "umbrella term" which encompasses a great many magickal arts.  These "arts" are often termed by Occultists as "Low Magick" as opposed to "High" or "Ritual Magick."  However, in today's Pagan religions, there has come to be a blend of both these "High" and "Low" forms which has resulted in an even broader meaning.

Generally, "High," "Ceremonial" or "Ritual" magick is generally defined as a magick in which the practitioner uses specific rituals and invocations to call upon the spirit world in an attempt to gain knowledge, power or control spirits or other entities.  Those who solely practice this form of magick are often termed "sorcerers" rather than Witches. Of these, the most famous by far is, of course, Aleister Crowley. When we look back through history, it is THIS form of magick which was most revered and feared in most cultures, with famous (and often imfamous) names such as Merlin,Simon Magus, Abramelin the Mage, and Eliphas Lévi still being linked with both wondrous and sometimes frightening workings. When I was first studying the Occult as a teenager, I happened across one story which nearly frightened me out of practice altogether. It was a story of a Mage who's "houseboy" had been killed when attempting to summon a demon without his masters presence. Now, whether or not this story was true, I do not know. I have never again found it, nor have I found another copy of the text I was reading (that's a long story in itself). BUT, it does speak towards the type of magick which "High" Magick sometimes includes. That said, High Magick is in NO WAY Evil! Although, like all magick it can be used for nefarious means, it is the practitioner who dictates the use and outcome.

High Magick HAS greatly influenced modern Witchcraft though. Wicca and numerous other Pagan faiths encourage their practitioners, even those practicing solitarily, to preform or partake in some form of Ritual Magick in order to honor their Gods/Goddesses, specific Sabbat or moon phase or even as a way of preforming every day magick. However, it is important to note that for the most part, the Rituals preformed by the average Witch are NOT the same as those practiced by High Magicians of the past. They are usually NOT attempting to raise or control beings, obtain great power or alter the state of the world in any major way as High Magicians of the past (and present) are known for. There ARE, however, a great few modern Witches who are ALSO High Magicians - but this is an exceedingly small percentage.

 So, now we know what "High" or "Ritual" Magick is, but what is "Low" Magick? What is "Witchcraft" if it's not technically "High" Magick? Well, "Low" Magick is not considered "Low" because it's any less powerful. Nor is it in any way inferior to "High" magick. It is, however, the type of magick which has come to us through the every day practice of every day people. It requires no specific tools, no magic circle (although due to influences talked about above, many today use one) and no specific words. Instead, "Low" magick is the type of magick which just about anyone can do at any time. This is the type of magic used by Medicine Women, Shamans, Cunning Folk and every day housewives for centuries.

Low magick, witchcraft, is generally defined as "The Use of Energy to Create Change." This can be done in at least 1000 different ways. Some of these ways could be as simple as focusing energy into solving an issue (which really isn't as simple as it sounds) or using the power of herbs to heal a wound. Some of these ways could be as complicated as using one's Astral Body to travel into the Otherworld and seek answers from a long lost relative... It's fair to say that just as High Magick takes years of education, training and practice to "master," Low Magick or Witchcraft does as well. The one major difference is however, that even a first time Witch can successfully carry out her magick, depending on what she is attempting to do, while the attempting High Magick without training can be dangerous.

Some forms of Witchcraft may seem less "Magick" and more "Mundane." And in fact many of these have taken hold in what seems to be mundane parts of our society today.  Herbalism, Crystal Healing and numerous forms of Energy Work are now available through "Healthcare" establishments and are sometimes even covered by health insurance.  And while you won't hear most of these practitioners use the title "Witch" when describing themselves, they are using (and usually knowledgeable about) the same principals that a practiced witch would when relying on these forms of magick. The DIFFERENCE between your average Crystal Healer or Herbalist and a Witch is the use and focus of energy.  An Herbalist will prescribe herbs based on the needs of the patient and the medicinal properties of the plant. A Witch will do the same, however, the witch takes things a step further by not simply relying on the plant's healing properties and infusing the remedy with energy focused on healing the patients ailments or creating good health.

Other forms of Witchcraft are clearly not mundane and are often portrayed by Hollywood as supernatural. I think the most commonly shown forms include Poppet (doll), Candle, Knot magick.  These forms are however, neither "supernatural" nor less magickal than others.  Like the use of herbs or stones, these forms of witchcraft require the witch to focus energy onto an issue in an effort to create some kind of change -- The only real difference is HOW she chooses to go about this.

Additional forms of Witchcraft do not generally fall under the category of "Magick" but are none the less, witchcraft.  These include forms of divination, spirit/fae communication, astral work, dream-scaping and other forms of spirit, astral, and etheric working...  Again, these practices come to us from a number of sources, but most come from the practices of "witches" of the Old Religions/Cultures. Some of these were reserved purely for the most adept Shamans, others were common practices among the "laymen" of PreChristian (usually Native American or European) Cultures.

While ALL of these practices may, or may not, be included within various religious teachings, they are generally reserved for only the highest religious authorities or taught in addition to religious theology, ethics and/or practices.  Even those faiths which are occasionally (and mistakenly) termed "Witchcraft Religions"  do not require practitioners to practice or master ANY of these forms of Witchcraft.  Many of these religious groups DO, however, expect practitioners to either personally preform or participate in some forms of Ritual or Ceremonial Magick -- usually surrounding "Holy-Day" or other celebrations.  Wicca, for example, expects coven members, as well as solitary practitioners, to participate in Sabbat Rituals which often invoke and honor specific deities or spirits. Wiccan Full Moon Esbat rituals often include what is called "Drawing Down the Moon" where a practitioner will draw into herself the essence and energy of the Moon Goddess/God. While these are NOT Ritual or High magick in the "classic" sense, they are - as discussed above - the result of High Magick's influences on new modern magickal traditions & religions.

I WILL say that most of the followers of these "Witchcraft Religions" do actively and intentionally practice Witchcraft in one way or another.  But there are those who don't, for one reason or another.

Religion, as I have discussed in he past, is defined as:
"a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." (definition provided by Dictionary.com)
In short, religion is belief!  Whatever your beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, and especially if those beliefs include spirit beings or god(s) and include a moral code of some kind, THAT is your Religion -- even if you are the ONLY one who believes it.  Organised Religion is simply a form of religion which is created, dictated and taught to a group of individuals who mean to adopt it's ideals, and teachings as their own.  So, if you believe, you belong.  Although some will argue if you don't practice what you preach you're not a "REAL" member of your religion, and that's somewhat debatable, especially with so many variations of most Organised Religions out there. But, in general, if you believe what Christianity teaches, you're Christian. If you believe what Islam teaches, your Muslim. If you believe in what Wicca teaches, your Wiccan.

Witchcraft, on the other hand, doesn't work this way. All of those types of Witchcraft I talked about above, require a good deal more than simple belief.  It is important here to point out that if you don't believe, witchcraft won't work for you, but that simply believing it will is not enough to make it work if you don't have the skills to back up that belief.

So simple answer:  NO Witchcraft is NOT a Religion. There are those religions which encourage Witchcraft, and there are those which discourage it. However, you can be a member of ANY Religion and practice Witchcraft (although you may choose not to call it that if you belong to a faith which discourages or bans it.)

**Please note that while I use the terms "she" or "her" here when speaking about Witches, this is simply out of ease.  No disrespect is meant to my brother witches.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Types of Marriage Available in the US

After discussing some of the ridiculous arguments against Same Sex Marriage in another post, I realized that not everyone understand's the differences between the different forms of marriage in this country. So I have decided to quickly define them here - for future reference if nothing else.

While I can not speak for other Countries, here in the US we offer FOUR forms of marriage...

The first of these forms of marriage is a LEGAL MARRIAGE.  This type of marriage requires a license and must be preformed by someone who is legally allowed to preform marriages - magistrates, mayors, judges, etc. They result in a marriage which is legally recognized by the state and the federal government. However, these marriages are not always accepted by religious authorities. (ex: The Catholic Church often does not recognize a legal marriage after an un-annulled divorce.)  These marriages require a legal divorce proceeding in order to end them.  Tax, medical and other legal benefits accompany such marriages.

The second form of marriage is a RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE. This type of marriage may be preformed by any religious leader (priest, priestess, preacher, etc.) and do NOT require a legal marriage license.  However, these marriages are NOT recognized by the state or federal government with the exception of states which honor "common law marriages."  Spouses are NOT awarded any form of tax, medical or other legal benefits based solely on their marriage.  (ex: Individuals beyond the first spouse in a Plural Marriage generally seek this form of marriage.)

The third form of marriage is a combination of both the LEGAL & RELIGIOUS.  This type of marriage generally involves some form of religious ceremony and may or may not be preformed by a religious leader of some kind.  These are marriages which are recognized fully by both religious and legal authorities & entities (state & fed. gov.).  These marriages carry with them all the of the rights, responsibilities and requirements of both legal and religious marriage forms. This is the most common form of Religious Marriage in the US.

The final form of marriage is slowly becoming a thing of the past. This is COMMON LAW MARRIAGE and is now only recognized in a small portion of states (currently only 5 states will recognize "new" marriages of this type, 4 more recognize cl marriages which took place before 1996, and 5 additional states recognize those which took place before 10/1991.) Common law marriage is a legally (and sometimes religiously) recognized marriage which has NO formality. How and when CL marriages become "legal marriages" varies from state to state.  Generally however there are two forms of CL marriage -- 1. A couple who live together and present themselves to the world as married.   2. A couple who have lived as a married couple and presented themselves as married prior to their marriage being legally accepted. (For example is one partner is underage)  A legal divorce is usually needed when ending such arraignments. However, the legal benefits and rights associated with this form of marriage vary by state.   (For more information on Common Law Marriage See HERE)

Clearly there are numerous ways which a couple can wed depending on what that couple's preferences are.  ALL forms of marriage listed here (with the exception of Common Law) take place in all 50 states. Those seeking marriages outside of what is legally accepted (same sex, plural, etc) or those who wish to exclude government involvement in their marriage (for whatever reason) have the option of seeking a marriage through their religious group.  And those who wish to wed without the involvement of any religious affiliation, have the option to seek a purely legal marriage with the knowledge that their marriage may not be accepted as valid by some religious organizations. Others may choose to involve both their religion and their government...  It's all up to (for the most part) the couple and their choices.

**Note that religious organizations can NOT be forced by law or anyone else, to recognize or accept any marriage which is not fully sanctioned by their group at the time it is entered in to.  This is not a point which I or anyone is arguing nor attempting to change.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

All The Reasons Why Gays Shouldn't Be Allowed To Marry...

Blog also titled: All the Reasons Why Your An Idiot!
So a few days back I got in to a rather heated argument about Same Sex Marriage.  And the person I was talking to couldn't even be bothered to come up with new excuses for their hate. In fact at one point she even made the statement of "I hate gays as much as anyone else." However in fairness I will admit that she then amended that statement with this one:  "Well, maybe not. I'm Anti-Gay but I don't think it's okay to hurt them."  Although I'm not sure that made things "better" at least I know she's not someone I have to worry about breaking windows or spray painting obscenities on anyone's home - or worse. I suppose that's something.

After this conversation, like SOOO many we've had in the past, I was pretty angry.  I quickly developed a migraine and decided it's time to cut her out of my life - AGAIN.  After cooling down and weighing all the reasons for and against this, I - once again - decided that over all that's not a good option for my children.

But it brought me to think of all the things which she used to defend her argument, as well as some of the arguments I've heard in the past.  None of these arguments have ever made much sense to me or anyone who is willing to think for themselves, but biggots will continue to cling to them because they have no real arguments here, and they know it.

So lets take a look at SOME (not all) of the arguments against same sex marriage I've encountered over the years, and then do our best (in as small of words as possible) to explain why they don't hold up...

1.  Marriage is sanctioned by God and God disagrees with homosexuality.
Okay, there are two main reasons as to why this one doesn't hold up.
  • First, Marriage is NOT a religious institution, it is a legal one.  Yes, religious leaders have the ability to oversee and officiate marriage ceremonies, but they are not required to as many legal officials (Mayors, Judges, Magistrates, etc.) also have the ability to oversee and officiate the same proceedings. Marriage requires (in the US) a license which limits who may and may not marry (for example, in most states first cousins may not marry).  Since the 1st Amendment states (in part) that "Congress shall make no law ...  prohibiting the free exercise (of religion)" requiring a license in order for two people to enter in to a religious union would be a violation of their Rights.  And in fact, those unions which are solely religious in nature are NOT recognized by the government but they are (generally) not illegal...  The perfect example of this would be cases such as the Brown Family from TLC's Sister Wives.  Kody is LEGALLY married to his first wife, Mari.  His additional "wives," Janelle, Christine and Robyn, are not legally recognized as his wives, instead, they were married in purely religious ceremonies.  So in point of fact, even those marriages preformed by a religious leader are legal unions, first. Those preformed by a religious leader are ALSO a religious union, but only in ADDITION TO, a legal one. 
  • Second, there are literally thousands of recognized religions out there, each of which (with few exceptions) has their own God or idea of God. Numerous religions accept or recognize Gods which have no disagreement with or animosity towards same sex unions. So arguing that "God" disagrees with it should only apply to those who belong to religious groups which have such a God. Outside groups would not be bound by such a God's predilections. And to base laws on the beliefs of but one God, while not allowing for opposing groups to adhere to their group's beliefs or practices violates (again) the first amendment. 
2. The Bible Says Homosexuality is a Sin
  • As the arguments above explain, limiting one person's rights or one group of people's rights based solely on the religious beliefs of another individual or group is simply not okay.  If you wouldn't want the beliefs of another group dictating your rights, don't attempt to use your faith to dictate others.  

3. Homosexuals Can't Reproduce
  • This is one of my favorite ridiculous arguments.  If couples who can't reproduce can't marry, then anyone taking birthcontrol, who's undergone surgeries on their reproductive organs (whether they were meant as BC or to deal with other health issues), those who are elderly and/or those who suffer from any number of health conditions which prevent them from having healthy children would also be banned from marrying as well. Yet you don't see petitions encouraging lawmakers to stop cervical cancer survivors from marrying -- unless of course they wish to marry someone of their own gender. 
4. If we allow people to marry the same gender, what's next, letting them marry their dog? 
  • Do I really even need to provide a reason why people who think this way are idiots?  It's really very simple. Two adults - regardless of their genders - have the legal ability to enter into legal contracts, animals, plants, children and inanimate objects do not...  Same sex marriage is about allowing two adults to enter in to a legal partnership. Not animals, not children, etc. 
5. It's unnatural!
  • Actually, it's perfectly natural.  EVERY species on Earth exhibits same sex partnerships -- including species such as dolphins, penguins and ducks, all of which are known for partnering for life! If every other species shows a tendency to mate this way, why would it be unnatural for us?
6. Same Sex Marriage undermines the institution of marriage. 
  • In the US, statistics show that around 50% of Hetero-Marriages end in divorce, nearly 60% of men and 40% of women step out on their spouses and an average of 22% of spouses are abusive.  If anything undermines marriage, it's those things - divorce, abuse, infidelity...  Allowing two men or two women who love one another to marry does NOT in any way, shape or form damages the institution of marriage as a whole, or individually. 
Here's what it all comes down to.  YOU don't have to like what someone else does.  That doesn't mean what they are doing shouldn't be legal.  Everyone deserves the same rights to "Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness" - that includes marrying the person they love and who loves them back. It doesn't hurt you, your family, your faith or your marriage in ANY WAY to give someone else the right to marry.  

10% of the population is homosexual, if you add to that those who are bisexual, transsexual or otherwise non-heterosexual the number of individuals who are or could seek to enter into a same sex marriage.  Limiting their rights based on your bias is not only immoral, but unconstitutional! So get over it and put your energy into creating change for the better, instead of fighting on the side of discrimination and intolerance. 
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