Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Walpurgisnacht and Beltane, "The Other Halloween"



Happy Walpurgisnacht and Beltane, “The Other Halloween”

            And hope that everyone is having a great time there out of the Brocken, dancing with Freya and her cat-drawn chariot. Certainly the photos from this year’s celebration in Germany look wonderful…maybe Alpine Village would be into something like this next
year…
            In any case, Walpurgisnacht and Beltane are generally celebrations of the high point of spring, lots of sexual references and all that, dancing around the Maypole and everyone who misses Burning Man leaping over the balefires. I lit some bright red guava/coconut scented candles and even lit one for Ellegua. Lit a stick of geranium incense. Flowers and fruit and fruitful beings! And that’s as it should be: as Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way…”
            But there’s another side to Walpurgisnacht/Beltane, and that’s what I’d like to talk about here.
            A little personal stuff first. Last night I woke up screaming. Really. Screaming at my mom to lock the door so the evil man can’t get in. This was not a normal dream for me, nor is it indicative of anything that has been happening. Not that my mom could ever climb the stairs to my place again, and the only man on site here is the extremely non-evil Rick, who hasn’t had any nightmares lately about the “skeleton demon” that apparently was hiding out in the bathroom doorway (wouldn’t surprise me a bit) or the other creature peeking out from under the eaves in his dream the other night. Bedroom gets a lot of smudging, kids! But the terrors of my dream weren’t supernatural at all—just a sleazy guy who was sneaking around and clearly meant to harm my mother and myself. The guy in the dream was the kind that you look at and say, “I bet he’d slit your throat for a nickel.” The fact that I dreamt it this time of year makes it seem a bit prophetic, and so I’m on my guard and am also checking the security at my parents’ home.
            Because from April 30th through May 3rd the veil is thin between the worlds—about as thin as my checking account will be when I pay the rent tomorrow. I am reminded of Shirley Jackson’s line from The Haunting of Hill House: “And whatever walked there, walked alone.” Whether we call tonight by its German name or the more common name Beltane, whose Baal-fires once burned in the Celtic lands, it not only sets the scene for the blossoming of spring but also for the parting of the veil between the living and the dead. We are now at the opposite point of the year from October 31st-November 2nd holidays of the spirits, but the effect is the same.
            That’s why tonight is when I burn not the Beltane incense or the Breath of Spring incense that I create for the spring season, but rather the Psychic Visions incense I use when preparing to read tarot or crystal gaze or for psychic dreams. I will anoint myself tonight with my Psychic Visions oil, and will do so as well tomorrow in addition to using my Beltane oil.
            Divination goes hand in hand with times in which the veil is thin between this world and the next, because many people believe that spirits—including our own ancestors—help us with seeing the future. After all, what’s time to a spirit who’s moved on? We the living only mark it as linear because that’s how we perceive our lives. On the other side, perhaps past, present, and future all occur at once. We already know that nature is a cycle, not a straight line.
            Many people, including those who follow African traditions, keep an ancestor altar all year. Most of us just do so at the Samhain/Day of the Dead season. But now would be a good time to set one up as well, or at least light a candle, set out a glass of water and a portion of what you’re having for dinner, and talk to your loved dead a little.
            And do a little divination for yourself. Yes, it’s allowed. It might clear some things up. I’m going to see if it does so for me.
           
Fox, Selena. “Beltane Lore and Rites.” Circle Sanctuary. https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/celebrating-the-seasons/beltane-lore-rites
Wagner, Stephen. “Walpurgis Night—the Other Halloween,” ThoughtCo., https://www.thoughtco.com/walpurgis-night-the-other-halloween-2595375

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Few Thoughts on St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day



A Few Thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day

            Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Fet Damballah! Huh? You might say. Well, I am a bit ambivalent about St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, here in the U.S. it’s celebrated as an excuse to get drunk and act like an idiot—in other words, to act like the stereotype of the drunken Irishman, the type for whom the “Paddy Wagon” was named. Now, is that really any way to celebrate a saint and an ethnicity? 
            Others in the U.S.—which has more people of Irish descent than Ireland does—celebrate it as a way to honor their Irish ancestry. Maybe it helps make up for the shoddy treatment the Irish received in the U.S. when they first immigrated—especially the poor ones. So if you haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s wonderful film Gangs of New York, about the fights between the Irish immigrants and the Nativists, I highly recommend it.
            St. Patrick allegedly brought Catholicism to Ireland—the “snakes” he drove out were, symbolically, the pagans, for there were never any snakes in Ireland; it’s too cold. I feel very bad for the Catholics of Ireland. They suffer in many ways, not the least of which is from repressive Catholic practices such as the condemnation of birth control, divorce, and abortion. Yet I am proudly Irish at least by descent from the Catholic variety, as one of my great-grandmothers came from County Cork. But St. Patrick, who allegedly died on March 17th, didn’t drive out the snakes at all. He merely transformed them. Much of Ireland’s pagan past survives in folk tales and beliefs about the “little people” and all sorts of magical stuff. Even the Celtic-style cross is an amalgam of the Christian cross and an earlier pagan symbol. And of course, the international religious organization to which I belong, the FOI, is headquartered in Clonegal Caste in Enniscorthy, Eire.
            In Vodou, however, an image of St. Patrick is often used to represent Damballah, the “serpent” portion of the god-and-goddess couple known as the “Serpent and the Rainbow.” Damballah Wedo and Ayida Wedo represent the union of earth and sky. White is Damballah’s main color, but green is given as a secondary color. March 17th is his feast (‘fet’) day. Damballah, and all his variations, including Blanc Dani in New Orleans, is descended from the ancient African god Da, a creator deity. So how did he end up being portrayed as an old white man with a bunch of snakes? Because of the snakes, of course!
            Serpents are not evil in most pagan traditions, and they aren’t evil in Vodou. Many hounfos (Vodou houses) will have a snake, usually a white snake, in residence. Damballah is honored with an altar that contains white eggs, white flour, and a white altar cloth. Ironically, perhaps, he does not drink alcohol and is served orgeat syrup or another sweet non-alcoholic drink instead.
            In New Orleans, St. Patrick’s Day bleeds over into St. Joseph’s Day, a special feast day for the Italians in the city. St. Joseph is one of their patrons, keeping away famine, so many Italian Catholics celebrate the day with huge altars covered with food, and many of them open their homes to the public to feed their friends and anyone who needs it.
            St. Joseph’s Day is also the second-most important day for the Mardi Gras Indians, African Americans who dress up and vie with each other’s “gangs” to make the prettiest costumes. Why choose this day to do so? Some will say it is convenient, since the Italian Americans often have a parade on this day in New Orleans, too. Others might say it has something to do with the fact that this is the Fet Papa Loko, the feast day of Papa Loko, the agricultural god who knows about healing herbs and, as with St. Joseph, helps keep famine away.
            So in both New Orleans and Haiti, March 17th through March 19th are busy days for Vodouisants. And we haven’t even mentioned the Vernal Equinox yet; this year it arrives the day after St. Joseph’s Day. It is common for big Catholic ceremonies to coincide with formerly pagan celebrations; again, it is easier to overlay a party that is already in progress with a new theme than it is to cancel the party and then start your own. So Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Just don’t drink and drive.

References:

Filan, Kena.”Happy Fet Damballah,” http://kenazfilan.blogspot.com/2012/03/happy-fet-damballah-and-shout-out-to-st.html
Mambo Samantha Corfield, “St. Joseph and Papa Loko”
Manbo Mary, “Get to Know a Lwa: Papa Damballah,” http://www.manbomary.com/?p=27
St. Joseph’s Day Altars, http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/seasonal/stjosephsday.html

 


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Hope for the New Year, 2018



Hope for the New Year, 2018

            Well, now, 2017 was a real corker, wasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad it’s over. I suggest that we take up, once again, Hope as our point of view for 2018. Keeping a good thought leads to good results. And if there’s only one oil you buy from Rev. Dee’s Apothecary this year, buy our Louisiana-style Van Van Oil and buy it now!

             Below you’ll find a list with explanations of all the uses of Van Van oil, but first, a little history. Most of the Van Van oil you buy in stores is just synthetic lemongrass oil in a synthetic carrier oil such as mineral oil (a petroleum byproduct.) Some of it doesn’t even smell lemony, so who knows what’s in there! Originally, Van Van oil was the name of an oil made from lemon verbena, called verveine in French and pronounced “van van” or something similar in Louisiana French dialects. So the original ingredient wasn’t lemongrass at all, it was lemon verbena. Lemon verbena (verveine) is not the same as the herb that we call vervain in English, which does not have a lemony taste or aroma. Verveine is a popular herbal tea (tisane) in France and is easy to find in the U.S.

            For those who are unfamiliar with Louisiana traditions, let me explain that we’re talking about New Orleans tradition but also traditions outside of the city such as those in Cajun Country. Many cultures put their stamp on Van Van oil in the state of Louisiana so that is why I labeled my product as such, since Louisiana-style Van Van oil is far more complex than most other styles of the product. It contains several lemony, all-natural essential oils such as lemon verbena, lemongrass, lemon, melissa (lemon balm), citronella, and a special zing from a bit of ginger oil. The herb you find floating in it is a bit of finely chopped lemongrass. I’m making new Van Van (see the picture of my worktable) for 2018 so get it while it’s fresh! It is the most versatile oil you can buy. 

 

Here are the most common uses:

--Cleansing is the main use, and here is how to use it for cleansing:

                        Floor wash water: Use several drops in a bucket of floor wash; pine scented or lemon scented is recommended. Use this floor wash both at home and in your business; we recommend the ¼ or ½ oz. size instead of the usual 1/8 oz. if you have a lot of floor space to wash.

                        Furniture polish: Most furniture polish is lemon-scented anyway; if using spray-can polish, just add a couple of drops to your polishing cloth or paper towel along with the polish. If using a bottled oil, you can put the Van Van oil directing in the container; in this case, it’s best to buy the larger size.

                        Spray cleaner: if you use a lemon-scented spray cleaner for counters and windows, go ahead and add the drops to the container if it opens or add a couple drops to your paper towels as you clean.

                        Work area cleaner: If you have a desk, office, or cubicle, I suggest not only cleaning your desk but also around doors and windows. This is also protecting the area; more on that in a bit.

                        Your business: If you own your own business, clean all display cases as well as floors and windows as above. See below for protection advice.

                        Cleansing yourself: If you bathe after you come home from work or school, remove any negativity you may have absorbed during the day by anointing yourself with Van Van oil while you bathe or shower. Anointing the throat chakra is optimal; some also anoint forehead and crown of head. Don’t get Van Van oil on mucous membranes; the ginger and lemon in it can irritate sensitive skin.

                        Cleansing candles: If you work with candles and they get dusty before you use them, you can cleanse them with a soft cloth or paper towel and a little Van Van oil.

--Protecting is the second most important use:

                        Workplace and business protection: After cleaning all appropriate surfaces in your business or workplace, clean around the door frame/window frame of your office or cubicle; if you own your own business, it’s important to protect it, so any possible entryways should be cleaned and anointed with Van Van oil. If you wish, you can say whatever protection prayer or chant you like while you are cleaning and anointing; that part is up to you. I always clean the desks in the office I share at college and clean/anoint the door frame. Teachers and professors can’t be too careful these days! When someone walks by and asks what I’m doing, I usually say, “My New Orleans stuff,” and they say “Oh,” and keep on walking! If you are worried about people you share the room with having allergies, just use enough water to remove the scent after you cleanse/anoint. Don’t worry; the vibes will still be there!

                        Protecting yourself: If you bathe before work or school, anoint your throat chakra while you are in the bath or shower. It’s ok to rinse it if you’re worried about the scent, but believe me, most people find the aroma divine! Saying a prayer or mantra of your choice is a good idea while you’re doing this. The Van Van oil acts like a barrier to keep out other peoples’ negativity. If you must go to work or school in a dangerous part of town, make sure you anoint yourself before leaving home.

--Other magickal uses:

                        Anointing candles: Spell candles or religious candles can be anointed; Van Van helps with all positive intentions. It can also be used in addition to other oils.

                        Anointing gris-gris, mojo bags, etc.: Van Van oil is great to anoint and re-anoint your mojos and gris-gris, especially those for gambling and for love. Lucky charms can be anointed as well.

                        Spell and spiritual work: Van Van oil is used as a primary oil in spiritual cleansing, blessing, and protection, and can be used in limpias, also known as house cleansings/blessings. In spellwork it can help to purify, cleanse, protect, add power or luck. It can be used in conjunction with other oils and dressings as a counterpart to another oil that is used for positive purposes.

Our Louisiana-style Van Van oil comes in 1/8, ¼, and ½ ounce bottles. See Rev. Dee’s Apothecary at www.DyanaAset.com or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RevDeesApothecary/  to order.

            To end with our message of hope, let me share with you a wonderful poem by Emily Dickinson.

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

By Emily Dickinson, 1862
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tonantzin on Dec. 12th



Honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tonantzin on Dec. 12th

Here’s the short version of what happened to Juan Diego in 1531 and how Our Lady of Guadalupe came to be from the Catholic Online website:
“For the third time, Juan Diego is ushered in to see the Bishop. The skeptical cleric has waited for two days to see what sign Our Lady has for him. Juan opens his tilma, letting the roses cascade to the floor. But more than the roses, both men are astonished to see what is painted on his humble tilma - an exquisite image of Our Lady.
In the image, she stands as she appeared, a native princess with high cheekbones. Her head is bowed and her hands are folded in prayer to God. On her blue cloak, the stars are arranged as they appeared in the morning darkness at the hour of her first apparition.
Under her feet, is a great crescent moon, a symbol of the old Aztec religion. The message is clear, she is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God.
At the same time Our Lady is appearing to Juan Diego, and directing him to cut the flowers on Tepeyac Hill, she also appears to his uncle, Juan Bernadino who believes he is about to die. As soon as she appears, the fever stops and Juan Bernadino feels well again. She tells Juan Bernadino, she wants to be known as "Santa Maria, de Guadalupe."
            So, let’s look at the wording above: “She is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God.” No, she’s not. She’s Goddess. More specifically, Tonantzin, the “great mother,” as her name means in the Nahuatl language. Ancient Aztecs list cornflowers as her sacred blossom, but of course, when the Spanish came, suddenly her favorite flower was the Rose of Castile, a type of rose that is native to Spain, not Mexico.
            I’ll let the ethnographers sort all this out; to me Guadalupe—now considered the patroness of all the Americas—is Tonantzin and vice versa. All of the energy and love that Mexicans and other Americans have poured into her image and name over hundreds of years have made her real. Yet she was already real; she was Goddess and her holiday was Dec. 12th, which, depending on which version you read, was either the second or the first date in which she appeared to Juan Diego, and so it became her feast day in the Catholic church…might as well be, right, since the day was already sacred to the Goddess.
            Guadalupe gets around. I was surprised and pleased to see a statue of her in Notre Dame in Paris. In New Orleans, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Shrine of St. Jude is one of the “voodoo churches” in the city, primarily because a statue of St. Expedite resides there. But Guadalupe is honored in the Vodou tradition too, and in Santeria and in modern Goddess religion. Why is this important to us? Because observing her day unites many faiths and versions of faiths. To some she is one aspect of Goddess, to others she is one version of the Mother of Jesus, and to others she is a symbol of Mexican indigeno pride.
            As any Southern Californian like me knows, she is most often invoked for protection. But she is often called upon for financial blessings, miracles—because of her healing Juan Diego’s uncle from an illness that was usually fatal—and interestingly enough, to conquer fear. Vodou and Santeria practitioners also call upon her to break jinxes or protect against them. In Goddess religion she is revered as the Great Mother, and she can aid all mothers with their needs or stand in for the loving mother that perhaps you never had. Some who practice an Afro/Latin tradition as well as Catholicism see her as an aspect of Yemaya, the great mother goddess of the Yoruba, or as one of the aspects of Erzulie, the Haitian goddess.
            Many people just call on her when they are at the end of their rope and don’t know whether to tie a knot in it and hang on or turn that knot into a noose and end the pain once and for all. No doubt about it: Guadalupe/Tonantzin says “Hang in there, there’s cake and ponche in the kitchen. You can’t go now. We’d have to return your Christmas presents and pay the restocking fee!”
            So on Dec. 12th I will be burning a rose-scented candle with her image on it. I’ll anoint the pre-scented candle with a little real rose oil and sprinkle around some dried rosebuds (usually labeled “Rosas de Castillo” in Hispanic grocery stores.) I’ll cry and write petitions and place them under the candle along with those of anyone who would like me to place their petitions there. I might place a Native wild rose or if I can’t find one an American Beauty rose in a vase to represent my First Nations heritage (that is what indigenous people are called in Canada, where my indigenous heritage comes from.) Lady of the Americas. Oh, Goddess, do we ever need you now!
            You can read about how Tonantzin “became” Guadalupe in a couple of the articles below, and you can find any number of discussions of this hybrid deity.

Barnett, Ronald A. “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Tonantzin or the Virgin Mary?” http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/2614-our-lady-of-guadalupe-tonantzin-or-the-virgin-mary
Mexicolore: The Virgin of Guadalupe and Tonantzin, http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/gods/virgin-of-guadalupe

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Greetings from Krampus!



Gruss von Krampus!
(Greetings from Krampus)

There’s a strange fellow who hangs out with St. Nicholas in Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and many other European countries. His name is Krampus, from an old German word for “claw” (think “crampons”). Krampus has fur, horns, a long tongue, a tail, and sometimes hooves. Chains and bells hang from his costume, and he carries a birch-branch switch and a large basket. Why? Well, if you’re a bad little boy or girl in Central Europe, you’ll find out! On Christmas Eve, Krampus and St. Nick go over a list. While St. Nick gives presents to the good little children, Krampus seeks out the bad kids and switches them; then if they’re really bad he might put them in his basket and take them away! After all this mayhem, he and St. Nick meet up at the beer garden to toast a job well done.
Dec. 5th, the day before St. Nicholas’ feast, is Krampuslauf. Many cities in Europe and now the United States--including Los Angeles--hold parades of numerous Krampuses who march around, occasionally switching spectators and threatening to leap over barriers. In one online video from Europe (do NOT try this in the U.S., Krampus!) a Krampus switches a policeman who has admonished him to stay between the barricades. In several videos, they chase and switch young women or put children in baskets or on sleighs used as floats in the parade. The kids don't appear to be afraid of Krampus; many are delighted. A man dressed as Bishop Nicholas, in saintly white, usually follows, sometimes with a few young women dressed as angels.
            In the late 19th Century Krampus started showing up on Christmas cards, often with the greeting “Gruss von Krampus!” Some cards portray him traditionally; others make fun of the tradition by depicting him carrying off an attractive woman or otherwise behaving in a salacious or silly way. Krampus is no longer the boogieman—he now belongs to the same category as the Lord of Misrule, adding a dash of chaos to an otherwise orderly, sober, and religious holiday.
            We need Krampus. He is obviously a holdover from an earlier time, a time of Saturnalia and Winter Solstice festivities. He’d be an awesome guest at Festivus, because the rest of us get a little depressed this time of year and feel like there are a few out there who could use a good switching. It’s a time of stress, loneliness, poverty, and unrealistic expectations for a lot of people. So Krampus is the answer to the Christmas blues for some of us. He clangs his cowbell at carolers, stumbles rudely through the holiday parade, holds up traffic, drinks wassail straight from the bowl, and waves his switch blindly as his mask threatens to fall off. His avatars keep multiplying, usually wherever there are enough hipsters to make Krampus costumes and stage a parade or concert and wherever there are people who order from the Archie McPhee catalog. Only Santa Claus truly understands and appreciates him, but some of us are glad he’s there. He brings a little darkness to an otherwise disturbingly well-lit fete.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Three Artemisias



The Three Artemisias: Sacred Herbs of the Goddess

by Rev. Dee

            Artemisia is a group of plants that are, like the mints and sages, part of the aster family. While many Artemisias are grown for botanical and healing purposes as well as for ornamentation, we will talk about three of the Artemisias that I have brought together as a Summer/Autumn blend for incense or asperging. So let’s meet the Artemisias, the sacred herbs of Artemis!
           
Artemisia vulgaris: In English, it’s called mugwort. Its magical properties are thought to be strongest around the summer solstice, when it is often harvested and dried for usage then and later in the fall. Mugwort is used in dream pillows to help induce psychic dreams, and it is an ingredient in Rev. Dee’s Psychic Visions incense as well as in The Three Artemisias blend. It is burned for protection and cleansing of negative energies. Chernobyl, the Russian word for mugwort,  was burned by the Eastern Slavs at Midsummer, it is still considered a sacred herb for cleansing. Like its cousin, Wormwood, it was taken in olden times to expel worms from the digestive tract. It has been used since pre-Christian times in both Western and Eastern Europe, and was sacred to the Druids.
Artemisia absinthium: Ah, wormwood! It contains strong magic and psychoactive properties, even moreso than its cousin mugwort. Wormwood is the  darling of psychoactive alcoholic beverages: “Vermouth” literally means “wormwood,” and of course, the properties of Absinthe, the Green Fairy, are legendary. Absinthe is legal again after almost 100 years of prohibition, and once again it is used by artists, writers, and other creative people for inspiration. Wormwood not only banishes bad spirits but also invites good ones. Medically, it expels worms and soothes intestinal cramps. Spiritually it is used to smudge or asperge, especially at the summer solstice, autumnal equinox, and Samhain. A hoodoo use is to keep a package of it in your car’s glove compartment to prevent accidents. Contrary to popular belief, “chernobyl” does not mean wormwood! It means mugwort. A similar Artemisia was used by the Aztecs to induce psychic visions, and wormwood and its effects were described as far back as ancient Egypt.
Artemisia Tridentata: Big sagebrush is not one of the Salvias, like garden sage or white sage, although its uses are similar. Of course, the sages and the Artemisias are closely related. Big sagebrush is used in the American West as a smudge to cleanse, purify, and bless the home and ceremonies by the Luiseno Indians and many other Native tribes and nations. It is also made into a salve for arthritis pains; mugwort can also be made into a salve for bruises and abrasions. Big sagebrush may not be as well known as sweetgrass and sage among the Native American smudges, but it is considered just as holy and benevolent. Groups like the Rincon Youth Storytellers in Southern California are keeping alive the lore and legend of this plant and sell it during the summer and fall pow-wow seasons.
            Rev. Dee’s Three Artemisias blend contains all three of the Artemisias discussed here, and can be burned as incense for cleansing, blessing, and protecting. It can also be soaked in hot water and then the water used for asperging if you don’t wish to have smoke in your home. It can also be used as an incense to help induce psychic dreams, to aid in divination, and when doing spirit work. Use it also as ceremonial incense for the Summer Solstice, Autumnal Equinox, and Samhain/Dia de los Muertos. It should NOT be burned in an enclosed space if children are present. The Three Artemisias are sacred to Artemis, Diana, Hecate, Mars, and all Moon deities.

Medicinal Plant Project: Ongoing study of the medicinal plants of Rincon: https://rinconyouthstorytellers.com/projects/
Mugwort: http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:mugwort
Wormwood in Hoodoo Folk Magic, Spell-Craft, and Occultism: http://www.herbmagic.com/wormwood.html

Monday, March 20, 2017

I Got them Old Ostara Blues, again, Mama!



I Got them Old Ostara Blues, again, Mama!

            That isn’t really a song, so maybe I should write one. We are told that Ostara, aka Eostre, the word from which the name Esther and the words estrus and estrogen derive, was a Germanic goddess of fertility, and as we all know, Spring with its new life is a big deal in cold climates such as northern Europe, so I get why this is important. But it’s never much worked for me.
            For one thing, here in Cali March and April truly are the cruelest months, often being colder and stormier than the winter months. One year we had to cancel our Ostara ritual when it rained and the wind was blowing so hard that the rain came down sideways, and a large portion of our area lost power, literally and figuratively. The winds of April yet to come are always freezing here at the coast and in the desert Southwest; Las Vegas can be a horror in April, with cold winds so fierce that you can’t stand outside long enough to get a taxi.
            On tap for tomorrow in Los Angeles, the second day of spring: rain. Of course. So while the northern climes are celebrating the sun and the little crocus shoots, we’re in seasonal affective disorder mode again on the West Coast.
            Now, what they do in parts of the Middle East and Central Asia make more sense to me: Nowruz, Newroz, or what have you means “New Day” and on the surface it’s the same old Spring stuff. But wait! It’s not just spring, it’s New Year’s! That makes a whole lot more sense to me. Singing! Dancing! Yummy foods! Jumping over fire pits! Wearing new outfits! And it goes on for two weeks! Apparently the “spring cleaning” idea came from these cultures as well, although their spring cleaning means a really heavy duty cleaning of the house and the cleansing of the soul as well. Ok. Now we’re getting somewhere. My soul could use a little cleansing.
            Edain McCoy has a lovely book on Ostara customs and the spring rites in general. If you are moved by pastel colors, little lambs and bunnies, eggy dishes and those flower crowns, then this is for you. I love Edain and her work, but I wish I could get more excited about Ostara. I’m just not feeling it, but it isn’t her fault by a long shot.
I suppose now is also a good time to mention The Rite of Spring. It was meant to cause riots, really, not just because of an overly dramatic Ballets Russes performance, but because it was supposed to evoke an ancient Eastern European pagan rite of spring which allegedly included a human sacrifice. Quelle horreur!
            As I’ve said, I’ve never related to Ostara. Crocuses don’t grow in Cali. The stuff we do at Easter and St. Patrick’s day—the lamb stew, the colored eggs, etc.—all that comes from the olden times. But Easter’s another topic for another column. Today I’m celebrating New Year’s!

Harvey, Olivia. the Vernal Equinox is Monday and we’re ready to break out our floral crowns! https://www.yahoo.com/news/vernal-equinox-monday-ready-break-192215790.html
Kurdish Newroz. http://thekurdishproject.org/history-and-culture/kurdish-culture/kurdish-newroz/
Lidgett, Adam. Spring Equinox Facts 2016: History of the Pagan Ostara Festival. http://www.ibtimes.com/spring-equinox-facts-2016-history-pagan-ostara-festival-2336956
McCoy, Edain. Ostara: Customs, Spells, and Rituals for the Rites of Spring
Nowruz 2017:  The Persian New Year Festival. thhttp://www.mfa.org/programs/special-event/nowruz-2017-the-persian-new-year-festival
Stravinsky, Igor. The Rite Of Spring.