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.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Where's My Time Machine?



Where’s My Time Machine?

As Astrologer Austin Coppock tells us, “On February 10th, we are treated a penumbral lunar eclipse at 22 Leo, the first of many on the axis which connects the Lion and the Water-Bearer. This eclipse occurs with the Sun and Moon occupying degrees configured tightly to this year’s Jupiter-Uranus opposition, and moving the game of 2017 along, turning over another set of cards.”
            Holy moly. I have little understanding of what all that means astrologically, but I do know that magically the confluence of the full moon, an eclipse, and, oh yes, a “strange green comet” as Elizabeth Howell tells us will be visible along with the “full snow moon eclipse.”
            Most magical practitioners will say not to do magick during an eclipse, and that too many weird things happening in the sky should just make us stay home and hide under the bed. Others will say that this is the perfect time to harness the power of the moon. And most of us will say that the power of the moon is symbolic in spellwork anyway, not literal, so do what thou wilt. I won’t be doing any magick; having been poleaxed by The Year of the Rooster I’m spoiling for a fight, and I’m not ready to calm down enough to do any magick tonight, weird astronomical configurations or no.
            Now, Austin also invokes one of my all-time favorite movies, 1960’s The Time Machine with Rod Taylor, a beautiful film adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel. I think a lot of us wish for a time machine right now; I don’t want to live in the world I’m living in at the moment, a time in which all of the societal progress that has been made in my lifetime is about to be swept away at the point of a pen by a barely literate con man. But hey, that’s just me.
            Tonight might be a good time to watch the film and to think of all the truly beautiful things out there. Many of them do come from a time before we were born, a time in which society was in great upheaval and in which factories had not yet mass-produced everything we use. I’m so glad that the handcrafting movement is back, and once again we can find handcrafted goods by talented people.
            Maybe someone will make that time machine after all. If not, then at least we can dream about one. Sweet dreams—I’m exhausted. Have a gander at the following for more information:

Coppock, Austin. “February 2017: Time Machine,”https://austincoppock.com/astrology-february-2017/

Howell, Elizabeth. “Look Up Friday! Green Comet and Snow Moon Eclipse Team Up for Skywatchers” www.space.com.

The Time Machine, 1960. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0-2hlsvcE

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Imbolc, Candlemas, and Oya: The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree



Imbolc, Candlemas, and Oya:
The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

“And I heard as it were the voice of thunder:
*****
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
--Johnny Cash, “The Man Comes Around”

            It might not be a “man” who “comes around” and takes names and kicks ass. It might be Oya. She’s got a lot to do this year, oh man, oh man. Oya is the African face of Imbolc, the Candlemas orisha who whips the winds of February, the winds that cut me like a knife. But I’m an Aquarius, an air sign, so I’m supposed to like wind or something. I don’t. Never have, never will. But I do like a good fire. And Oya is all about the flame.
            Do some reading up on her. I have some stuff below that I’m suggesting you look at, and I’m also suggesting you listen to that Johnny Cash song on YouTube. It’s an apocalyptic song, a song about Death and what comes after. Oya is death. The story of her getting tricked into owning the cemetery? Nonsense. She owns it because as a warrior she IS death. What do you think warriors do? Stop a minute and think about it.
            Now, I did say I was going to speak about Imbolc. If you want to know about Brigid and her connection with Imbolc and Candlemas, read the previous blog. So, on Candlemas, we have Groundhog Day in the U.S., the last vestige of European pagan Imbolc in mainstream America. Like Punxatawny Phil and many other municipal groundhogs around the country, he is called upon to predict the weather by annoying the crap out of him, taking him from his comfy, warm burrow, and making him squint into the light of a February morning so some city fathers can see whether spring will come early or not. It’s a publicity stunt, but it hearkens back to ye olde Europa where I believe it was a hedgehog that predicted when winter would end. So, if the groundhog or hedgehog sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter. If not, then spring will come early. This is a big deal to people in cold climates, and most of Europe has a cold climate compared to sunny SoCal where I live, so it makes sense.
            We have a little publicity stunt of our own: Palos Verdes Pancho, a plush groundhog toy that was offered one year at Build-A-Bear. I had him built myself and asked for a Spanish-speaking voicebox. This morning he did not see his shadow. I guess that means spring will come early in SoCal. We’ll see. So that’s it for Imbolc but for the ewe’s milk cheese.
            And I’m ignoring all the white-light stuff online. Nuh-huh. Not this time. I’m not begging Oya to help me cope with change, but you can if you want to, because that’s one of the things Oya is good for. Now, asking her to change things—go ahead. Just be prepared for what happens next.
            Don’t burn incense for her. She doesn’t like smoke, but she does like flame. I illuminate candles for her—meaning that I decorate them with sparkly things. I also anoint her candles, and offer her things that she likes. I have an amethyst—Aquarius’ birthstone—and a labradorite stone on her altar. I have rosemary, mint, and lavender in a vase—she like strong, sweet-smelling things. The rosemary this year is blooming like I’ve never seen it bloom before.
            I’ve been too busy trying to save what little amount of employment I have left to fully prepare for this holiday, so I didn’t have a chance to get to the store to buy nine of those little Asian eggplants, but if you do, put them in a basket along with nine pennies and put it on her altar. If you can’t get them, one big eggplant will do. That’s what I’ve got. Some people make a little skirt for it from construction paper in burgundy or purple. Burn a lot of candles. You can always order an Oya candle from Rev. Dee’s Apothecary. Burn purple, wine, dark blue, dark green, brown, or white candles or a mix of all of those. Just light ‘em up. If you must burn incense, do so in another room, and burn a cinnamon or coconut incense for Elegua. You need to light his candle first, of course; you always light his candle first before working with any other orisha.
            Write your own words to say to her, or speak off the cuff. Don’t be afraid to speak or write strongly—she would! She’s also good for employment, for in the New World she’s seen as the patron orisha of career women. If you’ve read The Dark Archetype, and you should, you’d know that and you’d see a wonderful career-boosting ritual. So I’d suggest that, if nothing else, you implore her to get you a job if you want one or help you keep the one(s) you already have.
To get you started on your own ritual, here are a few words I borrowed from one of the websites below and tweaked a little; you can start with this if you wish:
Although it is now dark, I come seeking light.
In the dead of winter, I come seeking life.
I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.
I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.
I call upon fire to purify me with its flames.
            Before I finish my altar and light my candle, I’m going to make her a special drink: a Cosmopolitan! I knew that she preferred red wine rather than the standard rum that most orishas like, but I didn’t know she liked Cosmos. I’ll post a few standard recipes below along with my suggestions for further study.
            Change. Wind. Fire. Thorns. Rending. Blood.
            You’d think it was Lupercalia or something!
            Oh, wait…that’s the next blog.

Recipes for Cosmopolitans:
Cosmo #1: 1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger vodka; ½ oz Cointreau; 1 tsp. lime juice; 2 oz cranberry juice..
Cosmo #2: 2 oz vodka; ½ oz triple sec; 1 ½ tbsp. cranberry juice; ¼ oz lime juice.
Cosmo #3: 1 1/2 oz lemon vodka;1 oz Cointreau; 1 oz cranberry juice; 2 tsp. lime juice.
All Cosmos should be shaken well with ice and strained into a martini class. Garnish with lime peel, orange peel, or an orange slice.

References and for further study:
Cash, Johnny. “The Man Comes Around.”
Dumars, Denise and Lori Nyx. The Dark Archetype.
Gleason, Judith. Oya: In Praise of an African Goddess.
Heathwitch. “Oya, Lady of Storms,” http://www.orderwhitemoon.org/goddess/oya-storms/Oya.html
“Origin of Groundhog Day.” http://landscaping.about.com/cs/pestcontrol/a/groundhog_day_4.htm
“Oya,” Santeria Church of the Orishas. http://santeriachurch.org/the-orishas/oya/

Monday, January 30, 2017

Oimelc: Ewe’s Milk and the Fixèd Fire



Oimelc: Ewe’s Milk and the Fixèd Fire

            Yesterday, on an impulse in a cheese shop in Temecula, I made a purchase of a ridiculously expensive slice of cheese from Holland. I had tasted it—it was called “Euphoria”—and I seconded its name after tasting it, and so I bought a small slice which went for $10.00.
            It was only when I got it home and took it out of the bag to put it in the refrigerator that I noticed that the label said it was a sheep’s milk cheese.
This is one of several posts I hope to make about Imbolc. As Celtic history suggests, Imbolc is an alternative name for Oimelc, which, quite obviously, is a word that means “ewe’s milk.” This time of year, I often speak of the Basques and their wonderful ewe’s milk cheeses, but these types of cheeses are common throughout Europe and luckily for us, appear in our cheese shops from time to time, sometimes at reasonable prices, such as the ones you will find at Trader Joe’s. And sometimes, you do something on impulse that seems to be the work of the Goddess.
But which goddess? is it Brigid, favored fire goddess of the Celts who was known throughout the Celtic world, a world that overlaps the Netherlands where my Euphoric cheese was made, and a world that spread to create Galicia in Spain, which overlaps the Basque country? Is it St. Brigit of Kildare, who was bathed in milk at birth in Ireland, the last stop of the Celts on their Indo-European journey west?
The frigid weather of most of Europe at this time of year is obvious inspiration for a fire festival that celebrates fresh food after the darkest days of winter. The days are getting longer now, and no matter how you spell her name, goddess or saint, an eternal flame is a symbol for Brigit. Not only that, but Oimelc arrives during the time of year, astrologically, that corresponds to the sign of Aquarius, a fixed air sign.
People are always surprised to hear that Aquarius is a “fixed” sign, meaning that it tends to like to keep things the way they are—“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Aquarius is too busy trying to right the wrongs of the world to want to make insignificant changes, or to make change for change’s sake. Perhaps this explains just a wee bit of the seemingly seamless transition of Brigid the goddess to St. Brigit in the Christian era. My mind boggles when I read accounts of Oimelc like the Australian article, “Oimelc, the Promise of Springtime,” which is all about the saint, really, in its description of Oimelc/Imbolc.
Brigid has many variations in name; in Gaul she was “Brigindoni” and in Britain she was “Brigantia.” Her name is also spelled Brigit, Bride, Breed, and  many other ways, and her name may be a Western variation (those Indo-Europeans, again, beginning their ride west from Indian/Iranian lands) of the Sanskrit “Brihati” meaning “the light.” Brigid does indeed bring the light of longer days, the flame of life and of creativity, the fire of the forge, and the internal fires that push us forth to fight the battles that others have engaged us in.
For make no mistake, friends: we are in a war, and few of us want to be there. It is a war that involves the rights of women and children against the oppression of men (not forgetting, of course, that these men are oppressing other men as well). Brigid, whether goddess or saint, has always been attended to and celebrated by women, but who has always been the patroness of the blacksmith and the swordsmith. Yes, she is the patroness of poets and other writers, jewelry makers, healers, and now, as the Brigidine Sisters teach, patroness of environmentalists and those who fight for social justice, equality, peace, compassion, creativity, and contemplation.
We are at war against the forces who would deny us equality, social justice, care for the earth, compassion for the oppressed, freedom of expression, and those who deny that contemplative and intellectual pursuits are sacred and worthy.
The pen is mightier than the sword, and so the oppressors silence those who speak and write first of all. We will not be silent; we will not stand by while science is silenced, ignorance is championed, and fear takes the place of compassion. For we are the warriors of Brigid, and her name has not survived this long only to be stomped into the ground by the armies of ignorance and greed. That’s just not going to happen. Not on her watch. For her flame is eternal, and we intend to brandish it, to let the light drive the darkness away.
Oimelc, Imbolc, Candlemas are celebrated from Jan. 31st to Feb. 2nd. Expect another blog tomorrow.
Sources:
Brigidine Sisters. “Our Patroness,” http://brigidine.org.au/about-us/our-patroness.
“Imbolc Prayer, Magickal Ideas for Imbolc,” https://witchesofthecraft.com/category/the-sabbats/
“Oimelc, the Promise of Springtime,” http://caeraustralis.com.au/oimelc.htm.
On the Life of St. Brigit, http://www.ucc.ie/celt/online/T201010/

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Spiritual Cleansing Shower on "California" New Year



New Year’s Spiritual Cleansing Shower
On “California” New Year!

            Many traditions use a spiritual cleansing bath on New Year’s.  Well, most of us take showers now, so my recipe below is for a Spiritual Cleansing Shower. The purpose of the shower is (and I’ll give alternate directions for those who do take baths) to cleanse, purify, and protect. You should feel lighter in a way after the shower—good motivation for those who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight!
            Now, about California New Year. I’m counting today, Jan. 2nd, as New Year’s Day since it’s the day of the Rose Parade. The Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA, signals to most Californians that the new year has truly begun. This year, because of the “Never on Sunday” tradition of the parade, it was held on the 2nd.
            The parade itself was auspicious in some ways. There was more than one float that featured a dragon, and dragons are always auspicious. I also noted two floats that encouraged reading and literature, one being the Armenian American Rose Float Association sponsored “Field of Dreams.” The second was the UPS Store and Toys for Tots Literacy Program float “Books Bring Us Together.” Another float I enjoyed was Trader Joe’s steampunk-themed float “All Aboard” which features, among other things, a time machine. If you missed the Rose Parade, you can watch the replay here: http://ktla.com/category/news/rose-parade/.
            Now, on to the cleansing. Here is the recipe:

New Year’s Spiritual Cleansing Shower

            5 drops rosemary oil
            5 drops hyssop oil
            1 tbsp. holy water*
            I tbsp. Florida Water
            ¼ tsp. dried rue

Directions: Place the ingredients in an unbreakable container. I used a pewter chalice. Fill with warm spring water or filtered water. Take the cup into the shower with you, but keep it away from the shower stream. Take your shower with the usual soap and shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Turn off the shower, and pour a little of the spiritual water on your trunk, arms, and legs. Pouring some on your head is optional; if you feel it will damage your hair or make your complexion break out, you don’t need to do this. In any case, keep the mixture away from eyes and mucous membranes. As you pour, say any blessing phrase you please. In the Egyptian tradition, for example, you could say, “Pure, pure, I am pure; I am pure with the purity of Auset.” Say it at least three times. You’re not supposed to rinse after the spiritual cleansing,

Now to make this a bath, first put a tablespoon of the rue in a tea filter or muslin bag so it won’t clog up the drain but will suffuse into the bath water as the tub is being filled. Put the other ingredients in the container. Wash and rinse and then proceed as above.

            Another saying about New Year’s is that whatever you do on New Year’s Day you will continue to do throughout the year. Well, I wrote 5,000 words on a new story on Jan. 1st. If I keep that up every day I’ll have a phenomenal year. Of course, I also did laundry yesterday, but I’m choosing to ignore that particular activity as being insignificant!

*I use holy water from New Orleans, and you may use holy water from a church of your choice or, if you prefer not to, you can make your own holy water. Simply read the 23rd Psalm over the water, or your own tradition’s blessing prayer. Use only spring or filtered water; do not use distilled water.

Happy New Year!