Friday Musings

First tea of the day:  Arpiqutik (Cloudberry) by Délice boréal (Northern Delights). I was sent a most wonderful package from my friend V, in Yellowknife…I’d asked her for some labrador to make labrador tea (since labrador isn’t something that grows around here) and she sent me a whole package of goodies!

The tea is (and I quote from the website) a mix of “Sarsaparilla root, fenugreek seeds, cloudberry leaves (Arpiqutik), cinnamon, carob, roasted maté leaves, natural flavours, roasted barley, roasted dandelion root”.  It tastes like maple syrup, and it smells divine. So of course, the very first thing I did was try to find a US retailer. I’ve found one (and I’m hoarding the knowlege), but the tea isn’t in stock (its that good!). I found two other online retailers, but the one doesn’t ship US (I might call and try over the phone) and the other one is in France without an English translation.  The company makes a few other blends as well, and all the profits go to the

Maybe I should open a tea shop when we move…I could sell tea and sustainable household products and random gift stuff. I’d probably go out of business, the entire county is a population of 50,000 in the last census.

Which brings me to a brief life update… Sometimes in the near future, exact date still up in the air (probably October sometime) we are moving a few states to the south. Hubby has been on trips for work to a different base, and really likes the people and the area. Also, real estate is such that we can get twice the house for half the money that we ever could here. The schools are better, and Georgia offers (as of now) free tuition at state schools for B average or better students. Basically, our income will stretch a whole lot further down there.

But I still need to find a job down there. I recently applied to do what I already do for an opening working for the same people I already work for, its just a matter of waiting to see if anyone more qualified than I or with better preference applied for it. Hopefully I got the job, otherwise we might we in worse financial straits than we’ve been in for a while until I find something else (I’ve been applying for a number of jobs in the mean time). There’s part of me that is scared to death that I will have to quit a job where I am paid more than my husband and work at Wal-mart (there is nothing wrong with working at Wal-mart, but my job pays well, is intellectually stimulating, and has awesome benefits, even if its not precicely what I ever wanted or planned to do with my life). I’m really excited too though, the area is beautiful, the ecosystem is very different from what I’m used to, and there’s a lot of history to be reconciled there. Spiritually it should be quite interesting.

Most of the summer I’ve been single momming it, Hubby’s been home the past two weeks, but he leaves again on tomorrow. The kids start school in 2 1/2 weeks, and I’m not quite sure how many school supplies I really need to send them with… I have to get the kids physicals here (they expire in September), but I’ll have to have them redone within 30 days of registering them in school (state requirements)…so I have to find a doctor right away (which I need to do anyway because of Sharkbait’s ADHD meds). Also a dentist, a doctor for us, getting gymnastics lessons set up, and the biggie–figuring out where we are going to live and getting the kids enrolled in school, especially with Sharkbait’s IEP. Theres more on my list, but I’m trying not to think about it right now!

Pagan Pet Peeves #47:
You know you’ve got’em… And so do I.  This time, its the use of “matron” as in the often heard “matron and patron” deities. Seriously, it annoys me so bad. Its not a matron deity–its still a patron no matter what the gender is, or if you insist on gendering the word, patroness. Really. The feminine of patron is patroness, not matron. Patroness, as the dictionary will tell you, means a female patron or the wife of a male patron. Matron on the other hand simply means “married woman” and originates from the Latin matrona (same meaning), though in Old French matrone could take the meaning of patroness. Its 2015, not even the French speak Old French (though they may still use the word matrone). Either way, if you are an English speaker, you have a patron and a patroness.

In the Latin (where the word patron comes from) patron comes from the word patronus which means defender, protector, advocate, and former master of a freed slave. During the Middle Ages, this word shifted meaning a bit to someone that besows gift and/or favors and to include the idea of patron saints. During the 14th century the meaning shifted yet again to a person with wealth or power that supports institutions or individuals in the arts, etc. And in the 1600s it took on the additional meaning of “regular customer” (paraphrased from the Online Etymology Dictionary’s entry on patron). Although, since a female patroness can just be a patron (why do females need special words to denote that they are female?), patron goddess sounds much better than patroness deity. Certainly, there may be some goddesses that don’t mind being identified as a married woman, but there are so many more that would. Please, stop calling your patron goddess Athena or Artemis a wife.

Or you could borrow a Heathen term and go with fulltrui/a, which means “completely trusted” (although that is sure to offend some people too).

Two blog posts I think you should read:
“When Someone Leaves Paganism” by Jason Mankey @ Raise the Horns(Patheos)
“Faith and Belief” by Yvonne Aburrow @ Sermons from the Mound (Patheos)

Currently reading: Right now I’m reading Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans by Ceisiwr Serith on my brand new pretty pink Kindle. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately of on human migration, cultural evolution, and the origins of religion (Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved by Matt Russo, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David Anthony, Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade). Next on my list is First Migrants: Ancient Migration in Global Perspective by Peter Bellwood and Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings by Jean Manco…with some fluff reading thrown in for good measure!

Herb of the Day:
So, I had totally planned to talk about labrador, which is totally one of my favorite northern herbs, but when I came back from a break to work on this “cowslip” totally neon flashed in my brain. So cowslip it is! I know very little about cowslip, and have never seen it in real life…I’ve never lived anywhere that it did, so we’ll see what we can dig up!


Cowslip, or Primula veris, is a perennial flowering plant native to much of Europe and Asia (and introduced to eastern Canada and the northeaster US, not sure if its a problem invasive though) that is carachterized by a flat rosette of bright green leaves (I’d need a closer look, but I think I’d call them spatulate or obovate…its hard to tell from the pictures I’ve seen) with a single flower stalk and bunch of yellow flowers. There are other species with similar common names, for example (here in the US), members of the family Dodecatheon are sometimes called “American cowslip”, as is our marsh marigold, so don’t get them confused! They prefer boggy or moist places to grow.

Historically, the flowers have been used for their nervine properties (and in wine) and the leaves as a culinary herb. I’ve also read that the dried root has been used for respirtory ailments. According to my favorite forager (Deane @ Eat the Weeds), the flowers can be used in wine, jam, pickles, or fresh as garnish, and the leaves make great fresh greens or to make tea. Magically, cowslip is said to help one retain (or rediscover) their youth (in a potion or salve the flowers are said to get rid of wrinkles, acne, sunburn, and freckles), for healing (the leaves are said to make a good poultice), and for protection.

Navy Fact of the Day, International Edition:
Three ships have been named for the cowslip: The USCGC Cowslip, USS Cowslip, and HMS Cowslip–one for the US coast guard (decommed in 1973), another for the US Navy (in the 1863), and a third for a WW II British ship used to chase submarines (the entire class of these anti-sub ships were named for flowers)!

A random conversation in our family:
(In the car with Sharkbait and Chickadee)
Sharkbait: Mom, do you have your speeding ticket* yet?
Me: Ummmm…what? I don’t have a speeding ticket.
Sharkbait: Uh-HUH! I was there. The po-lice man gave you a ticket. Did you buy it yet?
Chickadee: Mom, I think he wants to know if you paid for it yet.
Sharkbait: Yeah, did you buy it yet?!?
Me: Yeah, guys. I paid for it a couple of weeks ago.
Sharkbait: Thats great momma!
Me: Great? Why is that great? It was expensive!
Sharkbait: Well now you can speed! You got a ticket that says so!!

*When we went to visit Hubby the last time, over the 4th of July weekend, I was driving his car (because the AC works) which doesn’t have cruise control, instead of mine (which has cruise, but no AC) and I got a speeding ticket when I looked down to change the radio station and missed a speeding limit sign (for a speed trap that I totally knew about but forgot was there).

Quote of the day (+2): You are what you read (a parting thought)

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

~Albert Einstein

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

~Dr. Seuss

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

~William Styron




Honey Cranberry Challah


Reblogging this because I want to make it…

It looks delish!

Originally posted on Georgia Peach On My Mind:

                      Honey Cranberry Challah

This year the first night of Hannukah falls on Thanksgiving. Since this is the only time this will occur in our lifetimes, there has been a ton of buzz about it in the food blog and news worlds. It happens to be a really cool opportunity to combine some of the favorite flavors of both holidays, which are naturally both very food focused.  Challah is a bread that we traditionally have on Jewish holidays and cranberries just sing Thanksgiving, so I thought this would be a perfect combination.

Honey Cranberry ChallahHoney Cranberry Challah

To start my adventure, I consulted one of my culinary idols, Deb of Smitten Kitchen and also used some tips from Melissa Clark.  I adapted Smitten Kitchen’s apple and honey challah recipe by swapping the apples for fresh cranberries.  That’s right, no craisins in this recipe.  The result permeated the house with the most wonderful, holiday aroma.  Combined with your turkey…

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Spiritual Traditions — and Liberation From Same


Awesome post!

Originally posted on Brian Rush:

11450442_sI had a bit of a debate recently with a very pleasant and erudite Druid named John Beckett over on Patheos. The debate concerned his article on difficulties finding the “right tradition for you,” and I chimed in with comments observing that maybe the problem is in the premise that any one existing tradition is “right” for you. Apparently this and the ensuing discussion provoked the good Druid enough that he followed up with another post explaining why, in his view, sticking with an established tradition is the only healthy way to pursue a spiritual path, and raising alarms about the dangers of choosing methods and ideas “at random.” (As an ironic side-note, Mr. Beckett mentioned the late Isaac Bonwitz as one of his mentors. It’s ironic because, although Bonewitz was indeed one of the founders and framers of modern Druidism, he was also one of the most eclectic…

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Read Along: To Walk A Pagan Path (Ch 2)

0404150800Its been a while since I started this, more time that I intended to pass, but there have been a lot of things going on IRL, things that will change my practice and some of the topics I talk about on this blog in the next year.  I’ll get to those developments later (so stay tuned?) but for now, I wanted to get back to this.  If you’ve never read To Walk a Pagan Path (TWPP), and/or you missed the rest of the blog series thus far, you might want to start with the first chapter (part 1-intro and part 2-7 steps), as well as my side tangents on connecting with spirit (part 1-deity, part 2-nature, part 3-the Self, and eventually part 4-community)…its not essential, but it might be of some interest none the less!

Chapter Two (pp. 37-60) is titled Sacral Calendar and discusses Albertsson’s 6th step to living as a Pagan, “observing holy tides”, by which he suggests that “The important thing is not what calendar you follow, but that you consistently observe the hold tides–the holidays of that calendar. By doing so you touch the earth, attuning yourself to the seasonal change occurring around you.” (p 32) Albertsson starts out with a brief discussion of the various calendars–our secular calendar, the lunar calendars, etc, as a way to “define the passage of time in a way that gives it meaning”(p 37). He believes that we should each have a calendar to follow that “should create and even deeper meaning reflecting our spirituality”p 37.

Albertsson mentions the history of the (Wiccan) Wheel of the Year (WotY–which I’ll use as a general term for Pagan religious holiday cycle) as a general sacral calendar for Wiccans (also for the Church of All Words, and ADF), eclectic Pagans, or for Pagans of different traditions getting together for ritual purposes, pointing out that since it “combines Celtic fire festivals like Samhain and Beltane with Anglo-Saxon solstice celebrations”p 38 (and it combines these two traditions because its an English reckoning, created by an Englishman–Gardner, and the ancient history of England is incredibly Celtic and Anglo-Saxon), we might have to adapt it (or use another) for it to be important to our own individual paths. He discusses his own tradition’s calendar, which is lunar and celebrates the beginning of a new month at the full moon (as opposed to the Greco-Roman dark and new moons, respectively), and how he observes the passage of the year religiously (offering cakes during the month of Solmonath, etc).

According to Albertsson, “by observing the lunar cycles and traditional Saxon holy days, I honor not only my gods but also the ways of my (spiritual) ancestors”p 42; for Pagans that follow a single established tradition, this is a pretty straight forward idea (once you figure out that tradition’s calendric system). Albertsson then goes into some good detail about some other tradition’s sacral calendars, which may be of interest to the reader. If you are seeking to build your own, based on your tradition, there are number of guides online (and off) that are already figured out the traditional holidays and festivals of the major ancient pagan religions for you, from the Greek, Egyptian, and Roman calendars (which bear little resemblance to the WotY) to the Heathen or Celtic calendars, etc…its just a matter of research. For some Pagans, following your tradition’s religious calendar might be an act of devotion; if that is how you feel, then go for it. For others, it might not feel right–a Wiccan in the Southern Hemisphere might feel great about celebrating the WotY “flipped” to match their seasons, but they might not–I used to know (online, not IRL) a girl that felt awkward celebrating Yule in June and Samhain in May because she associated them with the secular seasons of Halloween and Christmas.

With that in mind, where you live is a huge consideration in creating a meaningful sacral calendar. Coastal Virginia has more in common with a Mediterranean climate than a Northern European one (though not totally)…and what about the Southern Hemisphere’s opposite seasonality, the lack of seasons on the equator, or climates where seasonality is tied more into rain/dry seasons? Historically many holy days were related to food–when it gets planted or harvested, when it makes babies or is birthed or get butchered. When festivals and holy days celebrate gods of the harvest, it might not make much sense if your local calendar says its blooming time. Additionally, when it comes to the solstices and equinoxes, there are often day-length considerations to be made when it comes to latitude…for example, my friend V lives in Yellowknife (62.4 degrees N), which gets 19 1/2 hours of daylight on the summer solstice and 19 1/2 hours of darkness on the winter solstice (and for about 2-3 days before and after), while I get a solid 2 hours less over a two week period for both holidays (at 36.9 degrees N)…and when we move (one of those changes I mentioned before), this difference will become even more pronounced for our family’s sacral calendar.

My suggestion to building your own sacral calendar (and one that I did before reading this book) is pretty similar to Albertsson’s–look to your tradition (or, if you are an eclectic or non-theistic pagan, look at a number of traditions, including our secular calendar) and look around you (both at your local ecosystem and your community). When do the trees bud, the first flowers bloom, the birds nest, the polar bears leave their dens, the dolphins show up, the sea turtles hatch, the first frost show up, the leaves change color? As Albertsson says, “You may occasionally need to strike a compromise between your spiritual path and your environment, while at other times these issues may come together to form a unique synthesis in your sacral calendar”p 52. I personally use the WotY dates as solar touchstone (the solstices and equinox) and as a seasonal touchstone (the cross-quarter days), and I incorporate those (mostly Greek and Roman) traditional holidays that are meaningful to my personal path, along with modern constructions, into the WotY dates.

Additionally, I celebrate some secular holidays as religious holy days (Memorial Day, for one)–Albertsson mentions that some American Heathens choose to observe the Feast of Einherjar on the secular Veteran’s Day; Albertsson himself celebrates Earth Day (and he includes a ritual to Herthe in the chapter). He says, “Any secular holiday can be sacralized in this way and given a special place in your personal calendar.”55 I also know of American Pagans that celebrate the 4th of July as a celebration of the (modern) goddess Columbia or as the Roman goddess Libertas or the (possible) Greek goddess Demokratia (one person I know, IRL uses the iconography of the Goddess of Democracy from Tianamen Square). In addition to Memorial Day, we celebrate Earth Day, Darwin Day, Arbor Day, the 4th of July, Valentine’s Day, “Columbus Day” (we aren’t celebrating Columbus), (our name for the UU’s Chalica) Principalia, Thanksgiving Day, and the Feast of St. Francis.

It will take at least one full year for you to develop a sacral calendar that is truly relevant for your local environment. To do this, you will need to put down the book, step away from the computer keyboard, turn off the television, go outdoors, and really look at the world around you.p 50

Yes, building your own sacral calendar will take time, in my estimation, it will likely be worked on your entire life–I’ve been pagan for over 20 years and its still evolving. Climate change hasn’t helped, neither has moving. Expect that relocation will require a change in thinking, a reestablishment and perhaps a readjustment of your sacral calender to meet the changes of a new environment. This is especially true when your path is highly influenced by your bioregion. Our holidays should reflect our paths–not just celebrations of our gods, our ancestors, and our bioregions, but celebrations of our ideals.  But doing so definately brings a richness and depth to our personal practice!

Read Along: To Walk a Pagan Path (Ch. 3)

Having a sacral calendar that reflects your environment and your spiritual focus is more meaningful than following a one-size-fits-all Wheel of the Year, but every day of the year–no matter how ordinary–can be invested with your spirituality.  The holistic Pagan lives fully in the moment.  Rather than waiting for a special calendar date to give praise to the gods and ancestors, each day is embraced as a new opportunity for spiritual expression p61

0404150800In chapter 3 of To Walk a Pagan Path, titled Daily Devotions, the author, Alaric Albertsson discusses the intersection between his steps 1 (connecting with spirit), 3 (creating sacred time), and 4 (sacralizing daily activities) for truly living fully as a Pagan.   Albertsson encourages readers to “approach each day in a way that is appropriate for your own spiritual focus and circumstances” as “almost any moment of your life can have a deeper spiritual meaning, but those moments are unique to yourself”p 61.  He recommends the morning for meditation or prayer (but recognizes it may not be for everyone)—“the one thing most of us do each morning is rise to face a new day”, saying, “This event, so common and simple, is a great opportunity to affirm your spirituality.”p 62.

Albertsson suggests the idea of a prayer offered to the sun upon waking (it could just as easily be for a patron deity or a deity of your family shrine or your bioregion…or even to the day itself)–Helios for the Greek Pagan, or Ra for the Egyptian Pagan, etc and offers as an example, the daily prayer he uses to greet SuAlbertsson offers other ideas as well–the shower as a time of cleansing and reflection,whether in prayer or in song (a similar idea can be found in Diane Sylvan’s Circle of One, its geared towards solitary Wiccans, but with some adaptation it can be easily useful for any solitary Pagan)…and the song doesn’t have to be Pagan–Albertsson gives an example of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” from Oklahoma, but I’ve washing “negativity right outta my life” to “send it down the drain” for years (to the tune of “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair” from South Pacific) (lets be honest, since the time when men were still the major source of negativity in my life, lol).  He also talks about other sorts of purification rites–washing your hands before starting a new project, etc, to wash off miasma*.   Personally, I prefer more more positive and offensive (rather than defensive) techniques–like the idea of brushing your teeth as a means to foster honest communication (one of Diane Sylvan’s ideas in Circle of One).

Another suggestion of Albersson’s is mealtime blessings.  He offers the example of a prayer he has adapted–“Herthe, who gives us this food, Sunne who makes it ripe and good, Sunne above and Herthe below, my loving thanks to you I show”.  In our family, we’ve used a few kid/family friendly pre-written prayers, but lately we’ve been using mealtime prayers as an opportunity for the kids to establish their own devotions, followed up by a “Thanks to the Earth, the Air, the Rain, the Fire of the sun, the work of many hands, and the spirit and energies of the plants and animals whose bodies we are about to consume.  May Their efforts be put to good purpose with our words and deeds.”  We try to make family dinner our meal for this–I don’t stress whether or not the kids pray before Cheerio’s, and I certainly don’t get a change to do this before I shovel food in my face at my desk at work!  On the nights when we can’t do family dinner (gymnastics nights), we do bedtime prayers instead, and in the mornings, I generally take a moment for meditation at my work altar. You don’t need an altar–each of my kids carries a worrystone–Chickadee’s is rose quartz, and Sharkbait has amethyst, and they use them as a tangible reminder to find their center when they get a bit out of control.  Such an item could easily be used as a little pocket focus for a tiny moment of thanks and/or reverence through out the day.

I’m in a sincere agreement with most of this chapter–IMO, we should absolutely spend at least some small portion of our day in reverence to something.  But then he follows up this discussion with a comment that I’m not sure whether is meant to be helpful to Pagans or a snide reference to certain Christians, he mentions that “Of course when I am out at a restaurant, I do not stands up, wave my arms in the air, and loudly chant this prayer.  In a public setting it is only civil to consider the sensibility of others.  I am not at all apologetic about my beliefs, but those beliefs do not require me to be an oaf.”  If the comment was for the latter purpose: Well you know what, I don’t know the last time I was in a restaraunt when anyone was standing up and waving their hands in the air, chanting a prayer.  Sure, I’ve seen familes bow their heads, pray together aloud at their table, and even stand up and hold hands and pray together–but not disruptively.  If you are offended by someone else praying in their own space, because *oh, you can hear words* I think you need to do some deep reflection on your own bigotry.   Sure, some people pray out loud as an *oooh, look at me!* moment, but some people also tell obnxious jokes or act insulting or brag themselves up out loud, and to be honest…that’s totally more annoying!

And if he was going for the former purpose (I’d like to think so, I like to think the best of people), then I still have a little bit of an issue here.  Yes, I understand that some Pagans live in areas of horrible hostility…personally, I’ve rarely experienced anything other than igorance and mild disapproval from the sort of people that were going to disapprove of me anyhow.  It has been my experience that most people just don’t care, and I’ve been in some incredibly conservative (politically, socially, and religiously) places in the past 20+ years.   Honestly, if the point of all this was to be polite and discreet as a Pagan, I think the comment itself is rather poorly thought out…and if the comment was meant to reassure the Pagan still “in the broom closet” by offering them alternatives to public prayer, it could have been stated with far more clarity.  He does go on to describe some discreet Pagan symbols one could adopt to be unobtrusive, which I think is generally a good idea, whether one lives in an open-minded or close-minded community.  This whole section just sits a bit awkwardly with me–IMO, while yes, there are times when public prayers aren’t appropriate, “at a restaurant” is not automatically one of them…I live in country whose first right is freedom of expression, including religion; I should be celebrating my right to be offended, not fearing of being offensive over a moment spent in prayer (unless we are talking being a legitimate disturbance–if nearby patrons can’t hear over your voice, well that’s just rude, whether it has to do with religion or not!).


(get caught up on the Read Along with ch 1 part 1, ch 1 part 2, and ch 2)

*If you aren’t familiar with it, miasma is a Hellenic concept of spiritual pollution that in ancient times closely connected to physical and mental health…while the idea in a modern context is fairly benign, it can also quite harmful.  I have some issues with some of the folks I’ve encountered that still apply these ideas in that fashion…modern science and medicine being what it is, we should know better than to use miasma as a way to shame people with illnesses and disabilities.


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