Lymey Bastards

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? For those of you who do not know, I’ve had Lyme disease in the past, and I’ve been fighting off a relapse for most of this year. For me, the biggest drag is that it takes bites out of my mental capacity, and writing is almost impossible. The good news is, it all comes back eventually. But while I’ve been lying in bed, trying not to feel sorry for myself, I have noticed some advantages to being so still for so long.

For instance, everything slows down, and you can see events unfold from a unique perspective. Without distractions, you can put together connections that might otherwise escape you if you’re entrenched in the daily routines of work, family, and the usual disruptions of life. These obligations all important and worthwhile, but they definitely take up a lot of mental energy.

So when the universe clears the slate and you entertain yourself by watching plants grow and seasons change, new things take on significance. In my case I noticed, and then became a part of, the cycles and activities of the wildlife around my home. I watched two pairs of sparrows build nests, hatch eggs, and rear their loudly peeping offspring. Every evening I knew when to expect the bats to flutter around the yard catching flying ants, moths, and june bugs. There is a ground squirrel who likes to perch atop our shed and utter his chirping call early in the morning (waking me up and making me put in ear plugs – I love nature, but not so much when I’m trying to sleep). At least two chipmunks hang out near the bird feeder waiting for a handout. The quail spend the hot afternoons of summer under the bush in front of my den window. A tarantula keeps her nest next to where I park my car, and I often see the tidy packages of bug parts that she leaves on the path when she’s been housecleaning.

I’ve also had more of an opportunity to watch, rather than be a part of, the social circles I am connected to. By standing back and being silent, I have learned more about how my friends interact with each other, and I have a much better insight into where they are coming from. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from just listening, and not talking. I’ve gained more compassion for my loved ones.

And when the illness and stillness are over, there is a tremendous sense of rebooting life, and receiving a fresh start. Now that I’m mostly better, I see myself and my purpose from a different perspective, and I have laid sturdy plans for the future knowing that I have clarity of vision.

Being sick sucks. And being sick for a long period of time can definitely make us feel helpless and hopeless. Despite my revelations, I still struggled every day to maintain a positive attitude, and I admit that some days I failed. But overall I can accept the blessings of the lessons I learned from the experience, and use it now to put my life not just on track, but on a new, better track. Thank you Lord and Lady.

Family: Pagan Style

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Family n : A group of people sharing a common ancestry.
- Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary

This definition is widely accepted and conventional. However, most pagans are not conventional, even when they are widely accepted. So it stands to reason that pagan families are not exactly like others we see in society.

Pagan families are based on common philosophy and a love and appreciation for one another. Some of these units call themselves covens, homesteads, or groves. But the glue that holds them together is the idea that the bond is forever, and that spiritual blood is thicker than water.

As a Virgo, I have remained skeptical of these families. Especially after my brother died, I couldn’t imagine that anyone outside of my bloodlines could mean as much or more, or could elicit such passionate love and grief. And while I have been a member of groups that considered themselves ‘family’, I was never surprised when conflicts arose, and those who had pledged their undying devotion to one another fell away to opposite corners of the earth.

But . . .

In the last few years I have allowed myself to again throw my lot in with friends who saw each other as more than welcoming companions. The word ‘family’ came up over and over again, and because I really love these folks I decided to embrace this assemblage with the dedication and commitment I would show my parents or nieces.

If I had carbuncles, they would have warned me of the coming storm, but instead a pair of red-tailed hawks gave me the heads up. And then there were rumblings, growls and snarls amongst my pride. I sighed, fully aware that the coming chaos would rend our precious family to pieces. But at least it was good while it lasted, right?

And then a funny thing happened: the disgruntled parties talked to each other and healed the rift. Not that it was easy. There had to be some real love and respect to fix this. But the family was healed, and I found myself scrambling to collecting the teeth that had been knocked from my mouth when my jaw hit the floor. Peace again reigned in the family!

So now I owe a huge apology to my pagan kinfolk, for underestimating the commitment and power behind their roles in our family. I love each and every one of you, and thank you from the depths of my heart for being the amazing individuals you are. And for those of you reading this diatribe, I wish you the blessings of a true pagan family.

Why I Hate Ostara

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I don’t really hate Ostara, but recently in a moment of frustration I exaggerated a bit, when I declared that I didn’t want to serve at the altar for this holiday. You might be thinking, “Brook, you’re a teacher and a high priestess! How can you throw out one of the sacred moments in the Wheel of the Year?”

Good question. And as one who is committed to growing and learning, I have decided to address this with myself. Why do I hate Ostara? After all, it is a time of rebirth when we see the new seedlings of spring coming up from the ground and revealing to us what the future holds. It is a time of innocence and youth.

Ah, there it is. Two words hold the key: Innocence; Youth. I guess I really am a lion, because for lions, these terms equate to: Vulnerability; Weakness. You see, very few lions born in the wild ever see adulthood. They are often killed by competing animals in nature, including buffalo, hyenas, and rival male lions. A combination of toughness and luck allows the special few to experience adulthood. A lion cub is constantly in danger and must rely on his mother and the other adults of the pride to protect him. Only when he is grown can he boast about his strength and courage, and he does not fear attracting attention.

Ostara is in the tiny seedlings of marigolds, daisies, verbena, and all the other flowers of spring. But she is also in everything that is young and new, and full of promise if protected and nurtured.

And now I see that I have been looking at it all wrong. As a daughter of Sekhmet, one of my sacred duties is to protect the innocent. So it is not for me to identify with the vulnerable, but instead to take my place as a grown lioness and protect the innocent in my pride. For it has been a long time since I was a cub and feared the world around me. I am a lion, and I will embrace the young in a circle of love and sacred shelter as they make their way through the early stages of their lives.

I love Ostara!

The Arrgggh in Arguing

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I hate arguing. Recently I won an argument by forcing someone to see the hypocrisy of his position. But when all was said and done, I didn’t feel victorious, and I wasn’t proud of myself. Instead, I was left brooding about the fact that my opponent gave up because he had lost, not because he saw my point.

And again I found myself examining why we argue, and what motivates people to speak up and make a point. From where I sit, it seems that there are two potential goals in a good fight: 1) to sort out the issue and discover the truth, and 2) to win. But we also need to take into account the fact that most disputes begin with a flare of feeling. We usually don’t bother to argue if we are not motivated by one passion or another. Like anyone else, if I am pissed off I want to destroy my opponent, leaving a charred corpse where once stood a fool.

I guess I was lucky that early in life I was taught the art of debate, and to engage in this form of clash in order to reason out the truth. For me, the most satisfying debates end in agreement of both parties and a mutual respect. In an argument I am not afraid to admit I am wrong if I discover a flaw in my position. However, these high ideals are seldom a part of the average argument. Most arguers I encounter are not interested in the truth; they are simply enraged and want to WIN.

It’s not their fault. I don’t think the average person is taught to argue in order to find the truth. In fact, most conflicts begin because we think we already know the truth, and the other guy is an idiot. We just want to put these folks in their place, and go on with our lives. And once someone pisses you off, it can be really hard to take a step back and engage in a fruitful discussion instead of simply going for the jugular with your teeth.

With regards to my recent argument, I think I will just cool off, smoke a cigar, and forget about it. That guy isn’t capable of debating with my ideals in mind, and like anyone on this earth, he is entitled to go about his business any way he chooses. And the next time I pounce I will try to remember that winning isn’t everything.

Drama

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Dramatize: to present or regard in a dramatic or melodramatic manner.
~ Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary
We all have some drama in our lives. I mean the kind of drama where things get blown out of proportion and people take arms, getting their panties in a bunch. Some of it is unavoidable, just a consequence of being incarnated on this unpredictable, crazy planet. Drama often teaches us lessons and can propel us further on our path, if we handle it right.

But part of handling it right is identifying what it is. Drama happens when feelings are hurt. And feelings are often hurt when we interpret the actions or words of others as being unkind or thoughtless. Recently some of my friends went to see a popular movie. I assumed I would be invited, and if they had remembered that I was interested in seeing it, I’m sure they would have asked me to come along. However, in the whirlwind preparations to get tickets and stay up for the midnight premier showing, it didn’t occur to them to include me.
What a great opportunity for Drama! I could have bitched about it, railed against the injury, and licked my wounds publicly, all while wearing a crown fit for a Queen. Instead I reminded myself of how much those same friends love me. They are there for me when I need a shoulder to cry on, or to celebrate my triumphs. When I was hospitalized earlier this year, they drove over the mountain and through the woods to my bedside, bringing well wishes, comfort, and healing.

It takes insecurity to create drama. When we feel slighted, put down, or pushed out of the way, it hurts. We can begin to feel that we are losing ground in our relationships, including those we have with family, friends, and coworkers.

Sometimes we’re right. But sometimes we aren’t. Were those comments in the board room about you? Or were they simply a generalized issue of progress in all the divisions in the company? When your mom tells you that your outfit is ridiculous, does it matter?

We have a choice on how we will view these slights. If we don’t assign much meaning to the careless words spoken, or if we don’t take something personally, these issues become far less harmful, and we can think about them with a clear mind, free from the tempest of our hurt emotions. This doesn’t mean we will never get upset about these occurrences. But by taking a step back we can decide if it’s really worth sharpening our claws and stoking the fires.

Gratitude for What ??

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     Mabon was rough this year, at least for myself and many of my loved ones. Serious illnesses, deaths of close family members, lawsuits, unemployment . . . it’s been a tough summer for most of us. And as it all came to a head, we found ourselves in the season of harvest and gratitude. But gratitude for what??
     At this time of year we take stock of what we have accomplished, and what we have received as gifts from the Lord and Lady. It’s easy to look at all that has happened and feel beleaguered by our experiences. We would be within our rights to feel sorry for ourselves. And yet, I don’t. In fact, despite my personal struggles, as well as the energy I’ve put into healing and helping others, I’m pretty damn happy, and grateful.
     Should I back up that train for you? It may be subtle, but I’ve already mentioned the most important thing in my life, the thing I am most grateful for. My loved ones. Through each illness, death, and tragedy, my community of friends and family have come through with love, support, and energy like a fusion reaction. What we have accomplished as a whole is to heighten and empower our connection to one another, and solidify ourselves as a family unit and spiritual society.
     As I look back to the goals I set during the dark times, I see that I have succeeded in helping my the pagan community to grow, and I’ve learned lessons beyond those I had imagined. The value of my coven, working group, meetups, and Full Circle is far beyond what I had expected. So while there have been tears over the difficulties that I have been through, as well as what others have had to endure, I always end up in the midst of my generous and wacky friends – family – and laughing. So my gratitude rests in the comfort and joy I feel in their company.
     Walking a spiritual path, especially a pagan one, can lead us to some challenging lessons. Some are very painful, and at times we may think we just aren’t strong enough to endure. But, as R.E.M. said in their awesome song, “The sweetness follows.” And it certainly does, beyond anything you could possibly imagine.

Scott Pilgrim vs. Vegans

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“Vegans are automatically better than everyone else.” – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

I just about died laughing when I heard this line, having just spent a Sunday among these hardline vegetarians. Like any wild predator, I love meat. I love cow, pig, impala, and I hold a special place in my  for eland, the largest antelope in the world, indigenous to Africa. And these vegans were horrified that I could support animal rescue and conservation while still eating creatures with a face.

I actually started to explain my reasons for maintaining an omnivorous diet. But then I quickly realized that they wouldn’t get it. Because they weren’t pagan, or spiritual in any real sense, they wouldn’t see the bigger picture that we see when we walk a spiritual path.

The world around us is based on predation. In order to live on this earth, something must die in order for us to live. It’s true for every living thing here. Death is part of the process of life, and so lions, antelopes, and grass, all exist because of this process.

Of course, my vegan friends would argue that as omnivores we don’t need to eat animals. But why is the cow’s life more valuable than the wheat that feeds it? Where do you draw the line on what is acceptable to kill and eat, and what is not?

But my argument goes further than that. You see this planet, this material realm in which we have all incarnated, is a giant classroom. It is a place of learning, growing, and testing for us humans. And the life forms that share this earth with us are not simply random entities that have come here for a vacation. They are part of the learning process, and come here to teach us lessons. They also are here to support us.

Don’t worry, I’m not getting biblical or anything. We aren’t granted free license by God to use animals in any way we choose. But some do incarnate with the intent that they will become food. Or clothing. Or tools, or medicine. It is part of their process, just as much as it is part of ours. Animals are heroes, engaging with us in life to teach us countless lessons, and sacrificing their incarnation to teach and provide.

While with my vegan friends we came to a fence where several cows were enjoying the shade of a tree. They cooed at the cows, telling them that they would never eat their kind. To the horror of these vegans, I told one cow that I would respect her until I ate her. But they could never understand how much I revere this animal, and how grateful I am of her sacrifice.

We cannot change the life-death-rebirth cycle we experience here, nor should we. When we understand the roles that other beings play in our lives, we can continue with the flow, with the cycle ordered by the Lord and Lady, and be grateful to be a part of such a divine wheel.

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