Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Surprises

Every year I go to my paternal grandparents' house, either on Christmas Eve or Christmas day(depends on the rest of the family).  I enjoy seeing them and the talks we have.  They just keep getting stranger and stranger.  This year's choice?  Conspiracy theories.  You know, Area 51 and all that.  My father, an ex-Air Force man, brought some info to it all.  Made my youngest aunt go 'hm' but everything was in jest.  My aunt is a nutty bird, lol.

The one thing I always notice at my grandparents' house are these teddy bears.  There are about 9 of them, all made from old fur coats and the like.  The cool thing is, is the fact that these were owned by my great-grandmother and great aunt.  Ever since I was younger I remember eying those bears but we couldn't play with them and I believe I always understood why.  They were so pretty.  This year, though, Grendal and I walk into my grandparents' house and the first thing I usually see are all 9 bears sitting at the fireplace.  This time they weren't.  It didn't strike me as odd and the night went as it usually does.

When it came to opening gifts the one from my grandmother seemed overly stuffed.  Last year we all got scarfs so I was thinking it was more winter wear.  I pulled out the tissue paper and what do I see?  One of the teddy bears.  I pull it out with wide eyes and glanced at everyone else.  All the women in the family had a teddy bear.  Apparently my grandmother's will stated that the bears would go to all of us but rather than wait until she passed away she decided to give them out now so she could see the reaction.  Mine had a sweet little bear face, a nifty lace collar, and it was an interesting brown and deep amber colored mink fur.  What made it even better was the fact that everyone else was eying my bear.  I hadn't realized that the others wanted it so much, and I think I made my grandmother happy because I kept it my lap, practically cuddling it(I have a soft spot for stuffed animals).  That was the best thing in the world that night.

Christmas day was good too.  While I got a few of the things I had requested from my mother, I was disappointed to find that none of the pagan items I wanted(one was the number one item on the list) were bought.  I don't know why but I've decided not to dissect the situation and get upset. the upside was the fact that my father gave me a gift credit card with 150$ on it because he didn't really know what to get me.  Later that night I did purchase the book I wanted and it will be here within a week!!

We came back to Grendal's for his family's get together, which was mainly watching his nieces open gifts.  He and I got a gift card to a local Japanese restaurant that we LOVE from his older brother and then gift cards to a local mom and pop diner from both his parents.  The two awesome gifts from that gathering?  Grendal made a wooden bust of my baby red dragon, Merrick(a Dungeons and Dragons NPC I made that the group loved and will always be my baby).  I get to paint it too, which is awesome.  The other thing?  Grendal's mother made me a cloak!  I've been wanting one for over 10 years.  Not one you'd buy, something homemade because it would be made specifically for me.  I've bought countless patterns and begged my mother to make it or help me make it but it never happened.  I mentioned this, in passing, to Grendal's mother during the summer and she remembered.  All that needs to be done is the bottom hem(she didn't know if the length was good) and I'm good to go.  She says it should be warm enough for me to wear outside in this cold, Northern Illinois winter which makes it awesome.  If it was finished now, I'd be running around outside, lol.

Awesome quote about the cloak comes from Grendal's brother.  "What is that?  Some druid cloak?"  I don't know if he knows I'm pagan but it just tickled me pink.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Yule and, for those who visited family for Christmas, hope you had a nice Christmas as well.  : )  Stay warm.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pagan Blog Prompt: Family and the Holidays

The holidays can be stressful on most people, and I'm sure they can be even tougher when you hold beliefs that the rest of your family is not so fond of....

As you join with friends and family this Holiday season, how do you deal with differences in beliefs that may arise at gatherings? You might think "just don't bring it up", but what if someone else does?

My friends know what oath I follow and it isn't an issue with them.  Thankfully there hasn't been a problem with any of them, a few are fellow pagans and the others are open minded!

As for family.....My immediate family knows about my pagan beliefs but I don't think they know the extent of it.  I'm a private person when it comes to my faith and that is because I lost a friend once before and I don't want to push away my family.  To be honest, though, it is my extended family that I'm worried about.  My mother's side is in the Hawai'i area, so there is the fact that they have their own old deities but they are all Catholics of varying degree.  My father's side are some form of Christian belief(Methodist I think) and my grandparents are devout, but I'm not sure about my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Religion isn't really touched upon on our usual get togethers but with Christmas here there is mention of Jesus and all that the Bible says about that, but there is no discussion on someone's beliefs.  I will say that my facebook page says I am Pagan and anyone in my family can see that, but no one has said anything.

If the day comes and I'm approached about my beliefs my first response would be that it is my own concern and its something I am not comfortable talking about.  If they persist, well, I'll have to tell them that I'm Pagan.  What happens after that, questions and what not, depends on the person and what they believe.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pagan Blog Prompts: Yule Plans

Yule is this coming Tuesday, 21 Dec. Have any plans yet? Ritual with friends/coven, or perhaps just a solitary night alone with your chosen deities?

I tend to practice alone, letting Grendal, my boyfriend, know when the holidays are coming up and what I would like to do.  Usually its a nice dinner for the family.  I don't voice the reason why the dinner is so nice but Grendal tells his parents and they're happy about it.  True, I am a little gun shy but Grendal's mother loves to know these things.

I have a bad track record of keeping up with the days since I had to do things in secrecy for so long.  This year I am making a nice ham dinner and going to light a few candles.  I don't know what else to do.  Tomorrow I may make some salt dough ornaments to hang on the tree as well.

Since this is my first time really celebrating Yule I'm still trying to work out what to do, especially on the deity front.  I will set out offerings but I do want to figure out a way to include Ba'al and Bast.  Ba'al is a fertility god and Bast was originally a defender of Ra, so her association with the sun could be very useful.  I'll probably update this once I've figured something out!

Happy Yule everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Your Hippie Dippie Weatherman with Your Hippie Dippie Weather, Man!

I'm as much of a hippie as one living in Northern Illinois can be.  I did have dreads at one point(in high school, they were purple), I'm a tree huger(they need hugs), I listen to what Grendal defines as hippie music, I wear 'typical' hippie clothes in the summer(sarongs and skirts made from old sari material), etc. etc.  Guess the one thing of the stereo typical hippie-ness that I haven't done is the drugs.  No urge to.  My mother and auntie in Hawai'i always told me that if I ever moved back to the Big Island I would end up living in the Hippie town(never learned the name) not too far away from Hilo.  Honestly, I probably would.  Hippies are good people for the most part.  Haven't met one that I disliked.

There is snow outside which is a huge contrast to the white, warm beaches of Hawai'i.  I was born in Hawai'i and raised in California and Georgia since my parents were in the Air Force.  This is the longest time I've ever lived in one state(about 13 years) and, unlike the other women in my immediate family, I love it!  I remember visiting my grandparents up here for Thanksgiving and Christmas and loving the snow.  I never remember complaining about the cold.  I complain now but when ever there is a snowfall I am watching it like a wide eyed child.  Its always pretty.  Our husky loves it and will ask to go out if he realizes there is fresh snow on the ground.  He either eats it or flops down on his chest with his butt in the air, in the deepest mound he can find, and scoots around so his entire front half is hidden.

I've been feeding the squirrels around Grendal's house.  I missed having one that I could feed.  At my parents house there is a female squirrel that I call Chubs that will patiently stare at the backdoor when there are no peanuts out for her and will get within 3 feet of us, and allow us to toss nuts at her feet.  I called her Chubs because, well, she was a chunk!  It was spring time and I just thought she was a chubby squirrel.  After a point, though, the weight was gone and then there were three little squirrels in our yard.  She had babies!  But yeah, there are some squirrels here that I'm tossing feed out to.  They're gray squirrels rather than the red that Chubs was.  We have Stubs(has a tiny tail and may not be a yard resident), Scrapper(because he fights and eats the scraps since the other chase him off), Biggie Small(he's a big squirrel but thin right now), and No Name(no distinguishing marks so no clever name).  We also have a mated pair of Cardinals in the bush right outside the kitchen window, so I've tossed out bird seed as well.  Hopefully they'll stick around through the warm weather, despite the fact that the street will be torn apart when the township puts in a sewer system.

The tree is up in the living room but no decorations yet, but there are lights.  I believe we're waiting for the nieces to come over but it always eds up with Grendal and I decorating the tree, which isn't a problem.

Oh!  Here is the picture of my altar:
 Yes, there be dragons!  You can see 3 out of the 4 statues I have.  I also have the Chinese gods representing Happiness, Long Life, Wealth, and Peace around a little container, my wooden athame, the plethora of tarot cards, two date books(this year and next), part of my besom, and other odds and ends.

And this is the statue of Bast that keeps enticing my cat to get up where she shouldn't be.  I put a nice little flower head piece over her and that bracelet has tiger's eye beads.  I'm an odd one(pack rat in some cases) but everything I have has its uses.

Okay.  Enough yammering out of me because I have some business to tend to!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pagan Blog Prompts: Ethics and the Economy

We all know the economy is in a downward spiral as of late, and because of that, people have become willing to sell just about anything they can to make some extra money. While selling material goods is one thing, how do you feel about people that charge for spiritual services?

For example, does it make one a bad person if one sells Tarot or Palm readings to make ends meet? What about the folks who offer spiritual advice and guidance without divination tools, and charge for that service? Is this really a matter of ethics at all?

I admit that I've always been leery when ever I pass a shop that advertises palm readings or tarot sessions.  I shake my head and wonder who would actually go there.  The shops are little hole in the wall places and, where I'm at, in a shady part of town except for one.  I always doubt the validity of the person giving the readings even though I've never even seen them.  Yes, the person may be the best damned person when it comes to readings but I always doubt it.  Why, though?  Its because they're charging for what they do.  I have no reason to be so staunchly against it, no one ever told me doing so was so bad, which makes me feel horrible.  Why am I judging so harshly?  For all I know this is their only means of making money.

Taking into consideration the second paragraph's second question(mouthful there) it doesn't make sense!  I don't think it's odd when anyone else does so but I look down my nose at those tarot readers.  Why?  Guess I still have some hangups, ones that I should try and dissect to see what's going on.

Recently I've debated about the idea of offering readings for a price, though I've been under no great demand for my abilities.  I need the money and the price would be pocket change.  I honestly shouldn't feel bad about it.  There are New Age stores that charge outrageous prices on simple things and no one thinks twice.  True, they're not offering readings but there is a connection there at least for me.  The shop needs to make some money and so do those people who set up shop and offer readings, charging for the minute.

I suppose I've always imagined myself giving readings to people in the kitchen of a Victorian home(my parents' actually) on sunny afternoons.  Always happy to see the regulars and welcoming the new clients or those who are just curious.  I have iced tea for them, perhaps some snacks depending on the day.  There is always the smell of lilacs coming in from the garden and the tinkling of the wind chimes on the back porch.  The cat is sleeping in a stream of sunlight and the dog is resting at my feet as I give the reading.  Sure, I charge the person.  At first its cash, always reasonably priced, but when they become regulars I suggest something else.  Candles, tea, or seeds as payment.  Its all just a fantasy, something that would be lovely to see but doubtful in reality.

The times.....they are tough.
Well, I've managed to get my altar set up way before I thought it would!  I mean, there is roughly a little more than 2weeks until Yule so I grossly miscalculated the speed of our moving stuff around.  There is a decent sized table in the attic that I used and tried, best as I could, to take up only half so we could use the other half for our figurines.  Unfortunately I have some dragon figures that go on my altar which, well, are rather large.  They're dragons so of course they're going to take up a lot of space.  I may have to remove a few of them and place them around the room so we can use space efficiently.  Either way, I have my very first altar(pictures will follow once I take them).  It may not be 'proper' but it works for me and what I do. :)

The other day Tink, my Maine Coon cat, decided that she wanted to be on my altar. My first reaction is to scold her and shoo her off.

After succeeding and sitting down at the computer, I hear Grendal from the other room go "What do you expect?"

Me, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Hello~?  Bast?"

I don't know why I hadn't thought of that...then again I had just woken up.  I apologized to Tink and figured she just wanted to be near the statue.  Either that or she wanted to try and chew on my besom again. D:

The atmosphere in the house had been rather tense lately and I believe that is due to the fact that only one person out of 4 living there has a job, Grendal's mother(ye gods, that sounds horrible).  Grendal and his father have started a home business focused on woodworking.  Toys, canes, pens, bookcases, redoing kitchens, etc!  All of that done with wood.  The only problem is that it doesn't seem to be going anywhere just yet.  We've set up a Facebook page(link on the sidebar) to have people look at, they set up an ad in some local papers(which we can't seem to find), and we've tried word of mouth.  Nothing seems to be working just yet.  Grendal and his father have been putting hours a day working on 'prototypes' and I'm keeping track of the Facebook page and painting the toys when they're finished.  I have done a spell to help word of the business get out into the community, just give that little push, and I'm waiting and hoping to see some positive results.  Its all for Grendal and his family; without this they'll quickly sink.  It doesn't help that the unemployment rate in Northern Illinois is freakin' ridiculous.  I've been job searching for 4+ months and there isn't even a nibble.  I'm hoping that we get a client or something before long.  Don't know what's going to happen if we don't.

Okay, lighter note!  Due to my lack of funds and not knowing where to go for an athame Grendal has made me a lovely substitute out of wood!  Its lovely and goes well with the wand he made me during the summer.  I've never had so much in the way of 'proper' instruments.  I also need to go about printing up new copies of my BOS.  Its nothing impressive, is currently being housed in either my flashdrive or a pink 3-ring binder, and most of it is taken up with recipes for holiday food than anything else.  I guess its healthy to say that I leave spells as the last effort to make things work or help a situation, which I believe is good.

I think this weekend I'll see if Grendal is up to the task up putting up the tree.  Last year his parents bought a fake one, which didn't make Grendal all that happy.  He loved going out and finding a tree to bring home, even though he would break out into hives whenever he was pricked by the pines and I always end up with little pinpricks by the time we're done decorating.  Ah well.  We need some holiday cheer in this house!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pagan Blog Prompts: Vegetarian?

 I wasn't able to do last week's prompt, but here I am for this week's!

How does being a Pagan affect your view on Vegetarians?

Does your love and respect for nature and living things lead you to stay away from meat? Or is it more based on the nature of the food processing that bolsters your distaste for meat?

If you are of the carnivorous branch of humans, does your Pagan view on life make you feel guilty at all? Does it affect the choices you make when you shop for meat in the store?

I am an omnivore when it come to eating.  My Pagan beliefs don't change my feeding habits in the slightest.  I do not feel guilty eating meat and I'm all for those who decide to be vegetarian or even vegan, it's just not for me.  I personally believe you can be pagan, worship nature, and still eat meat.  As weird as this sound it's like the Druid in Dungeons and Dragons(just hear me out!).  The Druid can use natural weapons but cannot wield anything made of metal.  Now I've gotten into discussions with my fellow D&Ders about this whole thing.  Metal is of the earth and is natural.  One of my friends suggested that it was the fact that they were forged rather than just carved like a bow or staff.  I can somewhat understand the logic in that but I still have my qualms.

For me it boils down to this: if I could go out and hunt or raise the meat myself and butcher them, I would!  Sadly I don't have the ability or facility to do so.  The meat is part of the natural world and I can take it into myself to keep living.  Why is it different with plants?  I believe that ALL things have spirits within them and that plants can feel.  In that sense, how is ripping a carrot out of the ground and chopping it up any different than hunting and butchering a deer?  Maybe its the lack of a face and sounds of pain.