Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Flowers for Pele

Well, dear readers, today is my last day as features editor at the Washington Blade. I've been here almost three years and after some serious soul-searching and some amazing Mystery experiences, I realized it's time to move on. I'll be starting a yoga teacher training program in September, as well as deepening my belly dancing and tarantella studies.

First, though, I get to head to the lovely Hawaiian islands. My hubby and I leave on Saturday and return in two weeks. I am so excited, and I've been looking forward to this for almost a year now.

Our first trip to Hawaii was to Maui last September, and I was simply overwhelmed by the beauty and power of the island. From the constant sounds of the Ocean Mother's waves to the heights of Haleakala, the dormant volcano on the island and place of some major Pele power, I was enraptured.

In fact, being in Hawaii was one of the early instigators of my current choices to change my life as I have. Thanks to the power of Pele and her beautiful home, I'm moving in some very exciting and hopefully fruitful directions.

I'll definitely be putting up pictures when I return. Until then, everyone be well and eat more pie!

(The first image is by Herb Kawainui Kane, who wrote a great book about the lovely Pele. The second is by Susan Seddons Boulet. It's an image that was part of a goddess deck given to me by the fantastic Laurel for my birthday. It now sits on my Pele altar.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Witches mean business

I just returned today from the Pagan Leadership Skills Conference, an annual summer event focused on helping pagan folks learn some top-drawer organizational skills which can eventually help their home groups/covens/collectives/businesses flourish.

I did my first conference last year. One of the organizers called me to ask if I could fill in for the public relations/marketing teacher who had to cancel at the last moment. I said I would and went on to teach the same course track this year.

Although the event might give some pagans the willies because of corporate-sounding classes on marketing, event coordination, legalities, accounting, etc., I think it's a really great way to combine the so-called mundane skills with our sacred work. (Note: It's all sacred, folks. Our brains are sacred organs!!!)

What I realized, yet again, was that having strong organizational skills makes our home groups more effective at what we do - transforming the world. Instead of bemoaning the fact that nobody knows what our organizations are about, we can actually apply some modern business practices with a bit of witchy flair to deepen the impact we have on the world.

The other fabulous part of the event for me is getting to meet and know people from far-flung locales (this year, Texas, Ohio, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia) and from traditions way different than my own experiences with Reclaiming, Queer Spirit and Faery work. (Plus, there's always the fun of running into people from a Baptist convention while wearing a dress, heels and make-up. No lie. They seemed to be especially taken with my red-painted toe nails. Go figure!)

There's also a bardic circle (what would a pagan gathering be without some kind of talent show thing, right?), fundraising dance evening Pomona's Ball, and opening and closing mini-rituals.

I highly recommend people check it out. In talking with participants who return repeatedly, I hear that what they learn really helps them to tighten up their groups and the reach of their collective arms.

(Above is one of my favorite photos. From what I understand, this hat is actually the traditional old women's hat of Wales. Now, these gals know how to work an outfit.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Honor killings, my ass

This morning, I came across this article from the U.K.'s Independent, and I am completely outraged.

It's being reported that a Turkish man, pictured above, was likely murdered in an "honor killing" by his family because he was openly gay. "Honor killings" are perpetrated on many, especially women who are breaking free from patriarchal "values," but this would be the first reported case of a man being the victim of one because of being gay.

Honestly, people, what the fuck?

My immediate response to these kinds of things usually runs the regular gamut of vengeful thoughts - kill them all, I want to see them suffer, where's a biblical earthquake when you need one, etc.

Then, I usually move into the more subtle curses, "May the perpetrators of this crime have their eyes opened to their own deeds," "May they fully drink from the waters of compassion," etc., etc.

Of course, this leads me to a slight form of narcissism, which I don't think is a bad thing for a witch actively engaged in transforming the world. If I'm willing to lay these things on someone else, what does my own slate look like? That's not to say I won't wish for those things - it's more whether or not I'm willing to deal with the fall out on my end.

Violence against queer people sends me through the fucking roof. While people of my parents' generation remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, I still have clear memories from the time I found out about Matthew Shepard's death.

On a related note, Malidoma Some, an initiated elder and representative of his village in Burkina Faso, has some fascinating things to say about queer peoples and the necessity of keeping queers a vital part of a community (and let's start with not killing them). Here's the interview he did on the subject - I'll write more about my own musings on this conversation tomorrow. In the meantime, check it out.

May the mysteries of death no longer be wielded as a weapon by anyone against anyone. Ever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just Peachy, thanks

I went berserk with peaches this past weekend. At the farmer's market in Dupont Circle, there were peaches galore and I responded by buying up bags and bags of them.

One variety is called a "flame peach," and it's so succulent. I used these peaches for my yearly delight of peach-rosemary jam. With this variety, though, when boiled down, the juices are a deep blush color - just gorgeous. (This week's jam was made with some Faery help - thanks, loves!)

I also bought beautiful white peaches, combined them with black raspberries and a splash of rose water for a delightful pie.

Grandmother Bear has been particularly vocal lately about the need to "eat more pie, so when you die you'll be that much more the sweeter." I usually speak this spell to my pie crust while I'm rolling it out, and then once the shell is filled, I place a love-filled kiss on the top of the pastry.

Last week, I made a blackberry, raspberry and gooseberry pie that was a spell for abundance. It was only after my husband and I ate the entire thing in one evening that I remembered the spell that went into it. Magick is real, kittens!

Luckily, I had some white peaches left over, so this morning, I sliced one up to put on top of my corn pancakes, along with some wine berries (a relative of the raspberry, according to the farmer who sold them to me) and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Sadly, I don't have any pictures of these treats, because I lost my little digital camera. I'll be getting a new one in the next week or so, so more home-done photos will be forthcoming.

I'd love to hear about other people's summer baking adventures. These are ancient magickal acts that connect us to our ancestors, Gaia, the Fae and our deepest selves, plus it's just damned yummy!

UPDATE: Today's Washington Post featured this fun article about pie baking with a popular pastry chef. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dancing for Change

Last night, my hubby and I watched an amazing documentary called War Dance, released in 2007.

It follows a group of students at a northern Uganda school who make their way to a national music and dance competition in the southern part of the country. All of these kids live in a camp of 50,000 people displaced by the horrible internal conflict in that country, caused primarily by a group of rebels, the dreaded Lord's Resistance Army, who commit horrible acts of violence on the country, especially in the northern regions.

The stories of the children's lives are wrenching. The filmmakers, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix, did an incredible job presenting their individual stories and the collective story of this group heading off to the competition.

Readers of this blog (many being my dear friends) know of my love and devotion to dance as a sacred act. This film really helped to bolster my belief about the power of dance and music to transform people's lives — in this case, reconnecting these children with their humanity and their relationship to their history and ancestral power (something the rebels are robbing them of on a daily basis). As they were dancing the Bwola, a dance of their tribe, called the Acholi, I could see the power of their ancestors manifest in their bodies (as well as being able to see the actual spirits surrounding the children at the competition). It was breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring.

I am coming to believe more and more that the power of movement is not something that is just for special occasions — it's necessary to our equilibrium, personally and collectively (and by collective, I mean not just the human family, but our connections to the Earth and her many children).

I think committing to intentional dance on a regular basis would be a fantastic idea for many of us. Whenever I do yoga, belly dance or the tarantella, I start by honoring Mysterious Ones and/or ancestors and state an intention something like,

"With this dance,
I go deeper into the
Rose of Compassion.

I go deeper into my work
As a Priestess of the Body
A Priestess of Dance
A Priestess of Movement.

I know that my body
Changes my life;
I know that my body
Changes the lives of those around me;
I know that my body
Changes the world."

Then I dedicate that session's positive energy to someone or a group of people. Often, it's for the health and peace of my beloveds, and sometimes it's for those who have hurt me in my life (that was an energetic doozy at last week's bellydancing class).

Then I throw on a tarantella or Indian chant or James Brown or some Mary J. Blige and work it out.

Our bodies are the spell.

Monday, July 7, 2008

In honor of Klaus

A few posts ago, I wrote about gender variant queer magick, and yesterday, I watched an amazing documentary about someone who did some incredible work that I see as being in this vein.

Klaus Nomi was an incredible singer and performer whose vocal range went way up into the traditional mezzo-soprano range. If he had come along just a tad later in the development of the counter-tenor movement of opera, he probably could have had an international opera career.

However, he ended up becoming a much sought-after performance artist, and I was stunned by his voice and performance power.

Sadly, he died early on in the AIDS crisis (so early in fact, that he was lying in a hospital bed and talking to a friend on the phone while watching news reports of the a "gay cancer."

Here is a You Tube clip of Nomi performing
"The Cold Song" by 17th century English composer Henry Purcell. He performed this in Munich, shortly before the end of his life, and although it's different from his typical punk/pop fare, the operatic repertoire was a lifelong favorite of his.

I was deeply moved by this performance and piece. The music is divine, and Klaus' ability to negotiate this composition is nothing short of amazing. Despite the technical beauties of the piece, though, I am deeply moved by his performance, especially in the midst of the descending personal and collective health crisis that is happening at this time in his life and the life of queer people of the time. As he holds the last note on the word "death," I'm struck by the expression on his face. For me, I see betrayal and deep anger, even something accusatory.

Wherever you are, Klaus, I hope you are singing many, many concerts to all who will listen.