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!

Maxim Monday: Obey the Law

delphicmaxim 2

In ancient Greece, there was Themis (personified by the Titan goddess of divine law, the first-born daughter of Heaven and Earth (Ouranos and Gaia), second wife (after Metis) to Zeus, and mother of the Morai, Horai, the Nymphs, and occasionally of Prometheus) and nomos, the law that was generally applied to humans (Nomos is also considered to be the law, deified, though the evidence of this is a little leaner than for Themis–maybe an aspect of Zeus). Depending on how we interpret this maxim overall, and the word nomos in particular, this maxim can really be perceived as saying a variety of things from “obey the law” (literally) to “follow order” (as opposed to chaos).

I am tired of people saying that poor character is the only reason people do wrong things. Actually, circumstances cause people to act a certain way. It’s from those circumstances that a person’s attitude is affected followed by weakening of character. Not the reverse. If we had no faults of our own, we should not take so much pleasure in noticing those in others and judging their lives as either black or white, good or bad. We all live our lives in shades of gray.”
― Shannon L. Alder

I’ve been thinking about doing this maxim for a while now…  Especially with the chronic epidemic of over-zealous policing and police brutality finally coming to light. Especially since the reality of crime in the US is that its been in a downward trend since its peak in the 1990’s and is at its lowest levels over all since the 1960’s (as is drug use, teen pregnancy, and a number of other social statistics that we generally perceive as “bad”).  The current methods of policing are especially troubling when they are coupled with the deep seated and pervasive racial disparity that occurs in our so-called justice system.  Every time I start to think about it too much, I get discouraged.  More discouraged that I get even when I think about the environment, because I can at least see how the self-serving interest of the ignorant and apathetic might be transformed into action (eventually)…

Small men command the letter of the law. Great men serve its spirit. For the spirit of the law is justice… and justice is the spirit of God.”
― J.C. Marino, Dante’s Journey

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
― Benjamin Franklin

I think before we can ever discuss the problems of our justice system though, we need to address the issue of justice.  Certainly, we should obey the law–when the law is just, when there are no mitigating circumstances that would require breaking the law to uphold or protect something more important (like our own life or the life of a child) or to prevent something bad from happening (breaking into a car to rescue a forgotten child on a hot sunny day…even if that “child” turns out to be one of those creepy dolls).

There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.
―Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws

But what is the goal of justice?  To ensure fairness?  To ensure order?To protect the unprivileged from the excesses and abuse of privileged?  I would hope that, to some degree, it would be all of these (and for some other reasons, not enumerated).  The problem then, of justice comes in reconciling the fact that the three of these things (and more) don’t always lead to the same actions (or laws) being just.

Our challenge in seeking to “obey the law” is to determine whether the spirit of the law or the letter of the law is more important when there are questions concerning the “keepability” of a law. After all, what is legal isn’t always what is ethical.

For there is but one essential justice which cements society, and one law which establishes this justice. This law is right reason, which is the true rule of all commandments and prohibitions. Whoever neglects this law, whether written or unwritten, is necessarily unjust and wicked.
― Marcus Tullius Cicero, On the laws

Past thoughts on this Maxim:
(these are all fairly old posts, since the Delphic Maxim blogging thing was a few years ago, and I only started doing it again because it tickled my fancy)
by Star Foster (as an FYI, AFAIK, she no longer actively blogs)
a translation I like!
obey the law, but be smart about it
a pithy interpretation

Connecting with Spirit: Part III


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Connecting Within the Self

I don’t mean this in the pejorative sense of ego-centrism, and for that reason I have capitalized the word “Self”, by which I mean something which transcends the ego and even the individual. This analogy may be helpful: as the Vedantic Brahman is to the Atman, so the Self is to the ego. “Self” can be a misleading term, but I think it is actually appropriate for that reason, because the danger of Self-centered spiritual practice is always that it will become ego-centered. (My own spiritual path partially overlaps with this kind of Paganism.) Self-centered Paganism includes Jungian Neopaganism, many forms of Wicca and feminist witchcraft, and more ceremonial or esoteric forms of Paganism. The Pagan identity of Self-centered Pagans is defined by spiritual practices which aim at development of the individual, spiritually or psychologically. Paganism is, for some Self-centered Pagans, a form of therapy or self-help. Authenticity is determined by one’s relationship with one’s Self, with that larger sense of Self which extends beyond the boundaries of one’s ego and one’s individual person. To put it another way, Pagan authenticity for this group is measured in terms of personal growth, whether that growth be toward psychological wholeness or ecstatic union with a divine “One”.
~John Halstead Three (or more?) Centers of Paganism @ The Allergic Pagan

Lets just get the first problem with a Self-centered Paganism out of the way.  Its the name, right?  Makes you think selfish, egocentric, arrogant, asshole by default?  Maybe its just me, but from now on, I think I’ll go with calling it Self-centric…  Now what about problem two–wtf do we mean by “Self” in this context anyhow?   Probably one of the more prolific Pagan bloggers on this subject (particularly with regard to the influence of Jung) is John Halstead, so I’m going to be defaulting to his explanation of what “the Self” *is* with regard to Self-centric Paganism.

Here, I’m going to talk about Self-centric Paganism as I practice it; as a sort of In-scape or Innerworld work that strives to make connections with what I see as the various aspects of (my) Self.  These aspects are eclectic–some of the ideas are Jungian, some are Jungian-ish, and there are influences from the three aspects of the soul in the Feri tradition, and from chakra work.  I work with (my) Self in 7 aspects; certainly it could be divided into many more (or less), or the aspects could be viewed differently, with different names and characteristics.  This is just my personal preference, as the most useful way I’ve found to work with the different facets of my personality, as well as to help the kiddos work through different issues of their own.  But regardless of what aspects of your Self you chose, the important thing to remember is that these aspects aren’t something you have, its something you are.

1.  Connecting with your Wild Child.  In the Feri tradition, what I call the Wild Child is fairly analogous to the fetch.  Your inner Wild Child is child-like, from a sensory perspective, but more adult in his/her interests.  S/he craves sensations and a little bit of mayhem–dance, play in the mud, play with play dough, swing on a swing, stomp in puddles…but (like a child) still needs structure and discipline.  The Wild Child is the part ourselves that is the most connected with nature and the Earth and, I would argue, the most embracing of its magic.  If you are into chakra work, this part of yourself is most strongly connected with the root chakra; it craves security AND freedom.  For some of us, our Wild Child may be overly repressed, and needs to be let out; for others it may be overly loud and need some reigning in.

2.  Connecting with your Wounded Self.  Almost no one escapes life without scars, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or all of the above.  We all carry wounds somewhere on our soul, some of which have healed well, some that have healed poorly, some that have become infected, and some that remain open and gaping.  When we connect with our Wounded Self, we become our own healer and identify those wounds, how they were made, and how we can facilitate their healing in a way that minimizes the impact of their scars on our daily lives.  It is connected with the sacral chakra, for those that do chakra work.  The wounded self, IMO, is also where our conscience starts–if something hurts you, you know it will hurt another; someone with a well-developed Wounded Self (and well-developed does not mean oft injured) generally has a strong sense of empathy, and therefore, a strong sense of right and wrong.  The kids call this their Jiminy Cricket.

3.  Connecting with your Shadow.  Our shadow is generally a part of ourselves that we don’t like and try to bury.  Basically, its the flip side or the hidden side of the Talking Self.  In the interest of parsing words, I recommend another of John’s posts on the Shadow Self.   By connecting with our Shadow Self, we can come to terms with (and maybe even honor) those parts of our-self that we spend too much time denying.  I have a hard time dealing with anger, because it was an emotion that I learned to repress very early on in life for fear of getting hit by my father…anger tends to leak from me in the form of sarcasm, or occasionally explode in a burst of temper because (and I’m certain I’m not alone here) I never learned to deal with it in a healthy way as a child, and was made to feel ashamed of being angry.  As a parent, part of my shadow work is acknowledging my anger, accepting it, and finding a safe place to express it (because all parents know kids know how and when to push our buttons for maximum impact).  For anyone doing chakra work, the Shadow can be connected with via the solar plexus chakra.

4.  Connecting with your Mirrored-Self.  The Ancient Greeks had six words for love.  You are likely familiar with 5 of them, but its the sixth that is pertinent here–Philautia, or love of the self (something best done in moderation).  The Mirrored-Self is connected to both our social identity and our self-identity.  When we are well connected with our Mirrored-Self, we are able to let go of how we think others view us (which is generally the source of bias for how we see ourselves) and seek an objective self (an unblemished mirror) that is worthy of philautia (but not so much that we become narcissistic).  Connecting with our Mirrored-Self is about acknowledging our flaws (because we are all flawed human beings) and both seeking to overcome or rectify them AND to forgive ourselves for having them or falling short on getting rid of them.  For those that do chakra work, the Mirrored-Self is in the realm of the heart chakra, because you can’t truly love another flawed human being, unless you accept and love yourself.

5.  Connecting with your Talking Self.  Jung would call this the Ego, but I prefer the Feri term for it… Realistically, most of us are nearly always connected to our Talking Self, so when I say “connecting” with it, I’m not suggesting we need to find it, but rather that we need to acknowledge it and define its edges so that we can release it for a while and move beyond it.   Talking Self falls under the aegis of the throat chakra.  The Shadow is a sublimated aspect of the Talking Self and often shows up in unexpected ways when dealing with Talker.  When dealing with Talking Self, we first need to know the limitations of him/her:

Talker is the part you are used to thinking of as yourself. It’s your social self, the one you present to the world. Talker’s favorite tool is language, because that’s how we social-animal hominids evolved to connect with one another. Talker has its own magic, to do with glamorie and storytelling, but often the more rigid and less charming aspects of it tend to take over. Since it is by necessity focused outward and towards other people, Talker is also the most prone to being pulled out of whack.

~from “Align Your Souls (Feri part 6)” by Sara Amis via Pantheon @ Patheos

6.  Connecting with your Judging Self.  Because I love watching Star Trek (but not enough to go to conventions), I like to call this my Inner Vulcan, because I tend to have a strong empirical streak.  This is the aspect of our-self that is the most concerned with what we value, and is connected to the pineal chakra.  It is the part of our-self that is capable of being reasonable and rational, sometimes even to the point of being unreasonable and irrational (pretty much like most of the Vulcans during the entire Enterprise series).  It is also the part of our-self that can choose to reject the rational, in favor of the intuitive, sometimes to the point of denying reality and being flighty.  When our Judging Self is balanced, we are able to look at both objective and subjective realities and value both as important to the human condition.  Our Judging Self and our Wounded Self are in flux together, one feeding the other in a sort of feedback loop.

7.  Connecting to your Expansive Self.  In the Feri tradition, this is known as the God-self or Deep Self (its also called this in the Reclaiming tradition).   Another way that one can think of this aspect of our-self is as part of the Anima Mundi, or as part of a Universal Consciousness.  Our Expansive self is connected to the Crown Chakra.  This is the part of us that can connect with divinity, in what ever form we conceive of it, and connection to our Expansive Self is highly personalized and dependent on the ways that we perceive sacredness and communicate with what we see as the Divine.  Our Expansive Self is sort of the flip side of a coin with Wild Child, and to some degree, we are working to keep them in a state of equilibrium.

Methods for Connection

We can connect with these different aspects of the Self in a variety of ways, such as through meditation and visualization (guided or otherwise), through direct worship–via prayer or offerings, and from mundane activities that honor the qualities and preferences of the various aspects.  By extablishing a religious relationship with the Self, we are engaging in worship of the Divine-within, an important source of connection and power.

Common Pagna shrine-work often focuses on the Three Kindreds, on honoring the gods of one’s house, one’s ancestors the spirits of one’s land.  All of these things are important for practical magic, but it is also important for magicians to take up the cult of the Inner Divine.  We know that within us is the very Fire of the Druids, the true Holy Well.  The very powers by which the Gods make and nourish the world are ours to use, according to our strength, wisdom, and skill.

This power–this Divine in Us–is worthy of our worship.  It is our own magic…by which we work our will in the world.

~Ian Corrigan, Sacred Fire, Holy Well: A Druid’s Grimoire

One of the most basic ways I connect with these aspects of (my) Self is through a modified chakra meditation.  Using chakra imagery, I sort of “check in” which the different aspects of (my) Self–are they balanced, are they operating optimally, are they being fulfilled, and (most importantly) are they working together?  Usually the answer is yes…while I do have to fight a tendency to live inside my head more than is healthy, along with a bit of a habit of procrastination, some issues with repressing anger that I need to work on, and I constantly feel like I need to prove myself to myself, I think over all, I’m fairly operational and balanced.  But sometimes the answer is no–maybe work stress or parenting stress is getting to me, maybe I’ve been sick, maybe I’ve had to push off too much work around the house to play chauffeur for the minions while the hubby is out of town–regardless of the reason, sometimes one aspect or another gets overworked or neglected and they all get out of whack.

I am not of the opinion that these aspects are subpersonalities, but rather that they are different lenses through which we see the world.  For example, I’m a mom and a wife–what I do and value as mother for my children and our relationship isn’t necessarily the same as what I do and value as a wife to my husband and our relationship (just as what he does and values as a father for our children and as a husband to me isn’t necessarily the same).  When the roles are related and the goals are similar, there is bound to be overlap…but when they have less in common (for example, my role as a member of the military often was at odds with my role as a wife and mother), there is less overlap and occasional conflict.  The aspects of (my) Self, are more like being a mom and a wife and a veteran and a scientist, etc., than the personalities The Three Faces of Eve.  I deal with “conflict” between these aspects in a variety of ways…most commonly by reengaging (generally in mundane ways) with that aspect, or sometimes through meditation or ritual.  I also occasionally engage with them through creative visualization as if they were separate entities, but I’m fairly sure this is not a good idea for everyone to try…I know a number of people whose level of discernment combined with an activity like this would lead to trouble.

Because I also think these are sort of Universal archetypes (though not in the traditional sense) that can be seen on personal, family, community, and societal levels, and even on the level of humanity as a whole, as well as having deities that are representative of these archetypes (there are several trickster-type gods with strong Wild Child and Shadow tendencies in particular), I don’t feel out of place honoring the Divine-within through actual worship, mostly in the form of prayer, but also in offerings.  While I’m fairly sure this system isn’t quite what Ian Corrigan had in mind when he talked about our Inner Fire being worthy of worship, I find that it works for me, not as a means to increase my magical power, but as a means to foster a greater balance and connection to a Universal consciousness and to Earth Herself.

Ultimately, this is just one Self-centric Paganism.  Other Paganisms often have a Self-centric aspect, even if they are not explicitly so–Druidry (see Ian Corrigan’s book for an example, if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can check it out), Wicca, a number of witchcraft traditions, etc.  Others might be explicitly Self-centric–atheistic Pagans, Satanists (theistic or non) that choose to self-identify with the Pagan community , and practitioners of certain forms of magic or witchcraft.  Additionally, something to consider when one is approaching Divinity from a Self-centric perspective is that while a connection with the Self is certainly be an authentic Pagan experience, there is a danger of dipping into little-s, self-centered Paganism* (or perhaps ego-centric Paganism is a better moniker?).  But done well, Self-centric Paganism is one more way that we can connect with spirit as Pagans trying to walk a Pagan path in the day-to-day.

*Actually, I would argue that all four of the centers of Paganism have their own “dark side”–community-centered Pagansim and folkishness, deity-centered Paganism and zealotry, Earth/nature-centered Paganism and a sort of anti-humanist nihilism, and the aforementioned ego-tripping.


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