Sunday, November 1, 2009

So Much Has Happened . . .

. . . and I haven't had the time to write about it from a spiritual perspective. Most of my time has been orientated towards our 2 new horses and all it takes to take care of them. You can read about them and other aspects of homesteading here.

From the time of my last post we've gone through Equinox, the Days of Awe, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and most recently Samhain. Being a Jewitch I try to celebrate all of them with some sort of earth based ritual, Sukkot being my favorite although in this climate normally spending any significant time in the sukkah is impractical. This year though no sukkah got built, no pumpkins got carved, Simchat Torah got missed, I spent Equinox stringing electric fence line and the Days of Awe were somehow lacking in spirituality this year.

I've always been independant in my spirituality but it seems that with the lack of an active local community, either Jewish or Pagan, or a Jewish family, both paths have somehow lost their lustre and I just go through life trying to remember to find spirituality in the changing of the leaves, the majestic starkness of a naked tree, in the mud I slip and slide around in and the seemingly neverending rain. Perhaps that is where true spirituality lies - not in the holidays and the artificial demaracation of the seasons but in being able to seeing Shechinah all around us - the Indwelling Presence of the Divine in every tree, in every rain cloud and in the people we share a smile with when the days are so gloomy.

OTOH, holidays are important because they do remind us that we are bound to tradition, to culture, to like minded people and that we are not alone on the spiritual paths we walk. It is so much easier though when there are others to celebrate with and when you have the inclination to celebrate with others. Perhaps my withdrawing into myself as summer turns to fall which proceeds into winter is the greatest celebration of this part of the natural cycle of the year - a time for examination and preservation of that which is important to us, including our ancestors and their ways, a theme found in both the Days of Awe and Samhain. This year Winter Solstice will come 2 days after the end of Channukah and, as usual, will probably have more meaning for me than Channukah in it's traditional practices. Does this make me more of a witch than a Jew? Certainly more witchy than traditional Jewish.

Spirituality is where you find it. In my heart I am Jewish in that I FEEL the connection to Avraham and Sarah and in that I recognize there is only One diety - albeit with many, many facets. In my heart I am also a witch in that I see the Divine in nature, every fiber of my being responds to the natural cycle of the year and my natural inclination is to celebrate the changes with rituals involving the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Sometimes those celebrations coincide with dates on the calendar that have been designated for celebration and sometimes they don't. So the tension between the connections created by holidays and the individual spirituality of experience goes on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bats & Spiders & Snakes, Oh My!

This is the week of weird happenings. Besides the unexpected horse, which Mark gets introduced to later today, he and I just spent a half hour chasing the 2 cutest bats out of the room. It's been raining for 2 days now and been in the 60s so we lit off a small fire in the wood stove. Apparently a pair of bats had moved into the attic over the summer and with the heat from the stove made it too uncomfortable for them and they came down through a hole in the ceiling that we never bothered to cover. 2 years ago we chased a bat out of here and that one left a whole lot more easily than this pair did. Maybe it was the fact that this was a pair. I felt bad about chasing them out into the rain but with Purrim (cat) and Daphne we wouldn't have been able to get any sleep and the poor things probably would have gotten themselves killed. As it was, I was afraid that we were going to injure the one that was really flying around while we were chasing it with brooms and a net that it kept flying through. I wouldn't have had any problem with letting them hang out in a corner by the ceiling, which is where it kept retreating to, until daylight when they would theoretically been easier to catch but they weirded Mark out too much and like I said, Daphne and Purrim probably would have raised a ruckus.

It was kind of strange, normally I have good luck with getting animals that I'd really rather not having share my living space to listen to me when I tell them that I'm trying to help them so that they don't get hurt, but the bats weren't hearing it. OTOH, the poor bat that we were chasing was probably frightened out of it's wits; I felt so sorry for it. I'm somewhat afraid of spiders but there's no way to keep them out of here and besides being other living creatures, I value their removal of bugs; that doesn't mean they don't freak me out though and I won't remove them if I can. I've explained to the spiders in the room that if they surprise me I'm likely to kill them and so far I haven't had any problems; when I tell a spider that I'm trying to catch what I'm doing, I find it normally stays still and lets me put a glass over it and slide a piece of paper over the glass. Sometimes they are so accomadating as to run into the glass so I don't have to worry about catching their legs as I cover the glass and then they leave very nicely when I put them outside.

We had a similar situation a couple of weeks ago with a snake. We were driving down the road and Mark felt something brush his leg, looked down and saw a not small garter snake looking back at him. Needless to say, he was a bit startled. When we got to town and he was in the bank I tried to find the snake since it already had almost caused an accident and Daphne had torn apart the vehicle the previous evening trying to play with it - at least that what we figure. I couldn't find it but did explain that it was not being wise and did have to leave and if it wouldn't let me find it then it should come over to the other side where it wouldn't cause so much of a problem. It was really weird but as soon as we got to our next stop and I opened the passengers sidedoor, it slithered out and went on it's merry way. Apparently it made it's way to nearby wooded ravine and I hope it has a long and happy life.

I wish the same for our 2 recent winged guests and hope they stick around; there's enough places for them to hang out. I know the possibility of bats getting and passing on rabies but it's not terribly likely and they have their valuable place in the local web of life. We did close up the hole in the ceiling though; more nocturnal visitors we don't need. Now to get some sleep before the sun comes up

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Never Thought The Day Would End Up Like This

Sometimes there are days that seem just too weird for reality. When I woke up this morning the major thing on my agenda was my weekly Bible/Torah/religion/spirituality study with a friend. Actually we start out studying Torah etc but end up ranging through many diverse topics but always come back to how this relates to the Almighty and how to live a life of holiness. Well, I think God/dess decided to see if we were all talk or what today and we had barely gotten into the real discussion (the most fun part) when my friend got a call saying that her hay needed to be gotten in since it was threatening rain. So much for our study.

I figured I could do something useful even though it's been a long time since I baled hay so I went out with her. Fortunately, today I have muscles, aka the fibro is behaving itself, and I was able to help haul bales into piles while we were waiting for the hay wagon to show up. (I'll probably pay for it tomorrow) When her husband and kids showed up he suggested I drive the truck saying he was giving me the most difficult job. I though he was joking. How hard could driving across a field be? He wasn't. I'll tell you, hauling a wagon across a bumpy field at walking speed trying to keep moving and not make any moves that would topple the already gathered bales is an art form. With an extra set of hands it took much less time than expected, the rain held off, baruch Hashem, and we were able to get the hay under cover before dark.

That was only the first surprise of the day. When I set out this afternoon I never thought that I'd be coming home with a horse. Yes, a real, live, hay eating, horse apple making horse. She isn't here quite yet but she's as good as ours. She's an Arabian/Quarterhorse cross standing about 13.5 hands but she's got some problems. It seems that life hasn't been too kind to her and consequently she's difficult to work with. My friend has been trying to find homes for this one and her companion since their owner basically abandoned them. She can take the other one but Windy is destined for the glue factory unless a home is found soon. Nobody in the area wants the hassle but my friend think that Windy is rehabilitatable with a lot of work and a firm but loving hand and is willing to basically donate her time to do so.

Mark and I have discussed for years keeping horses to help with the heavy hauling, besides the fact that I like to ride, but the last time I really worked with horses I was a kid 25+ years ago. Between that, the cost of the horse and the upkeep expenses we had kept putting it off as untenable. When a free horse falls into your lap though with trainer and contacts intact and looks to be a whole lot less expensive in upkeep than previously figured and you just happen to have an unused outbuilding suitable for housing the horse, one has to wonder if the convergence of factors wasn't divinely ordained. This situation just has that feel about it. This is liable to be an adventure, one which can be followed on our horse blog. I figure we're doing a mitzvah for the horse, my friend, the previous owner and probably each other as the longer we can be self sufficient, not the easiest thing up here, the happier we'll be.

One of the things I love about both Judaism and Paganism is the idea that the Divine can be found in the everyday. Isn't it a shame that so many people miss it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Making Lemonade

Fibromyalgia officially sucks. Ok, so I have made it plain in several posts that I’m not appreciative of it’s effects on me and how it messes with my life but I haven’t talked about the very valuable things I have gained from it. It has taught me gratitude. That may sound strange but when you can’t do things you learn to appreciate the times when you can do them. There is a bracha in the morning prayers which reads:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, ha-meichin mitzadei g’veret.
Source of Blessing are You, Adonai, our Source of Powers, Sovereign of the Universe, Who makes firm my steps.

When you spend a few weeks not knowing if your legs are going to hold you when you take the next step, and have no idea of what’s going on and no insurance for those expensive tests to find out, you become grateful for every step that you take without hitting the floor. When the strength in your legs returns to the point where you can count on it, as suddenly and mysteriously as it left, a wise person remembers not to take anything for granted.

Being 1 of the 3 people living in this house and the 3 of us equaling between .75 and 2 able bodied people on any given day, I am grateful for the ability to do simple things when I want or when I need to like making a meal, washing dishes, carrying 5 gallon buckets of water or soil across the yard to tend the gardens or livestock; there are days I can’t carry a gallon of water in each hand or reach above shoulder height without my arms feeling like they’re going to fall off - or rather that I’d like them to. I’d like to blog more often but too often my forearms and hands are screaming at me after too short a period of time working on the computer regardless of mice, keyboards, supports, gloves etc. The inconsistency of abilities and lack of control over the situation is enough to drive someone batty. ARRRGGHHH!!!

One of the things that drives me nuts about how American society views disability is that there is this expectation that one’s condition is a constant thing - in some cases it is but in other cases one can be debilitated one day and not be hardly able to get out of bed or lift anything or type for more than a few minutes and the next be able to garden all day or clean the whole house or type pages and pages of material or carve hard maple with no apparent change in conditions. Now of course, one forgets to take it easy and pace one’s self and overdoes it on the good days partially because you feel guilty for not being able to do stuff at other times (and society expects one to be able to get certain things done regardless) and end up paying for it. Baruch Hashem for affordable strong pain meds and a doctor who trusts your use of them but sometimes the meds just aren't enough and don't do anything to deal with fibro-fog or fatigue.

I can’t find it in myself to condemn people who get end up getting caught by the dragon, otherwise known as addicted to prescription pain meds, because I dance with that dragon. If it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t enjoy being high, except on a rare occasion, and develop a tolerance to pain meds very easily and value having something to kick the pain in the butt when I really need it to, it would be too easy for me to join those ranks. I am grateful for the God/dess given willpower and insight which allows me to dance with the dragon but mange to stay just out of reach of it’s talons.

I have also come to acknowledge and value the strength the Holy One has given me to deal with things and the fact that my symptoms from the fibro, the seizure disorder, or the depression, are not as bad as they could be. That’s not to mention being consistently reminded of those who are there when I just can’t do something or it gets to be too much or I need an understanding ear or a good swift kick to the rear. There’s also the fact that I live in a country and time where I actually have access to care and meds that make life easier, not that life couldn’t be a whole lot better but I’m grateful it isn’t worse than it is.

Monday, August 10, 2009

People's Fair 2009

Sometimes fibromyalgia really gets in the way of doing fun stuff - like merchanting at the shows I'd really like to do. For the second year in a row Mark and I went to the People's Fair: A Metaphysical Gathering at the Prospector's Paradise rock shop north of Calumet where I had had plans on setting up a booth this year. Fibro interfered at the wrong time though, laying me out for the better part of a week, and therefore I just didn't think I'd have enough appropriate stock to make it worthwhile and I expected the economy to put a real damper on sales. We had a great time though just walking around talking to people and of course I spent way more than I should have although most of my purchases fall into the category of things that will be incorporated into a number of carved staffs I'll hopefully get done for next year. My one non-business purchase is a beautiful labradorite cabachon pendant that is becoming part of my ritual garb.

Mark and I parted ways early on and he got wrapped up in several discussions with merchants who remembered him from last year and introduced him with some wry humor to others as the token Republican at the gathering. It is really nice to be able to go to such a gathering where 99.9% of the people are moderate to far left of center in their opinions and not be afraid of being tarred and feathered; over the last 8 years Mark and I stopped associating with various social groups we had been involved with because of the venom of many liberals and their rudeness to people who did not agree with all their opinions. It's awkward having beliefs/opinions that put one at various times in both the conservative and liberal camps but that's a topic for a past and probably future posts.

Anyway, the Fair was a lot of fun with approx. 30 vendors, many of them rock people, tarot or other divinatory readers and energy healers with artisans scattered here and there. I took my staff with me and got a lot of compliments on it from people including other wood carvers which was great considering it's my first piece. I also was able to share a few tips with a beginning woodcarver which made all the trial and error I went through learning what to do with my staff worthwhile. It was just great to hang out and talk with people and I'm really looking forward to merchanting next year and camping overnight; there is a certain comeraderie between merchants at gatherings like this, ren faires and the like and we tend to let our hair down after the public has left. Although it's a way of life with NO security, I do appreciate the allure of living the gypsy life of going from fair to fair merchanting. In the mean time I'll take my fun where I can find it and look forward to the People's Fair 2010.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Neat Music

Last week I mounted an archeological expedition - ok, I cleaned up my studio but it might as well have been the excavation of ancient artifacts for all that I remembered what had gotten stuck where. One of the things I found was the mp3 player my husband had given me aeons ago and so I spent last week searching the nooks and crannies of the internet for music to mellow out to and trying to program the darn thing. There are days technology and I aren't copescetic. I did discover that there is some really neat religious/spiritual filk out there and wanted to do my part to throw a light on it. If you're looking for filk, the virtual filksing at Prometheus Music is a great place to start for samples and sales.

One of my favorite filk writers is Ben Newman. Among the many things he writes are some neat Jewish and Pagan oriented songs; my favorites being:
Experiment 45 - a twist in perspective on Adam and Chava (Eve) getting booted out of Eden
Love Letter - re: the Covenant at Sinai
The Wrestler - Yaccov's (Jacob's) perspective on his injury from fighting with the angel
The Holy Mountain - anywhere can be sacred
Shechinah - Shechinah as the Sabbath bride (this one's supplanted Lecha Dodi in my Shabbos evening ritual)
Circle Story - it's long but is a really neat ballad of the pagan cycle of holidays

Leslie Fish is a woman of spirit and attitude who has written at least 2 spiritual songs I really like:
Avalon is Risen - the re-emergence of paganism
Earth's Fire Breathing Daughter - how a priestess deals with annoying, hypocritical neighbors

Kathy Mar sings The Word of God written by Catherine Faber about the value of science as one of the avenues to understanding God, perhaps a more valid one than the Bible.

Judging from the music of hers that I've come across, Julia Ecklar is a deeply spiritual person; my favorites of her spiritual songs are:
The Hand of God - trusting in yourself vs remaining bound by convention
Lullaby for a Weary World - caring for the earth
Holy, Holy - the holy, holy from a mass she was going to write with a sci-fi/filk theme

Various performers have recorded Catherine Madsen's The Heretic Heart which is about having faith in yourself to find your own spirituality and the courage to live it.

The pagan version of Lord of the Dance - not the celtic, Christian one but the one found here is one of my favorites as well. Unfortunately, I haven't found it as mp3 and I haven't been able to figure out how to take songs ripped from CDs and put them on the mp3 player. yet.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Man Was Just Doing His Job

. . . when he gave his life in defense of a building, a people, an ideal, the resolution - "Never Again!" For something like the Holocaust to never happen again people must be told, people must remember, and even though Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns was only doing what he had been doing for 6 years, drawing a paycheck by ensuring security at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., he probably never thought he'd give his life to defend the people who had come to be told and to remember. I could go on about the nobility of his sacrifice, the sorrow I feel for his family and friends, how inappropriate it is that his 14 year old son ended up giving an on the spot TV interview the day after his father was killed (and carried it off admirably) and the idiocy of the shooter and his convictions never mind the tragic irony that Officer Johns was killed by the very man he had shown kindness to but I wouldn't be saying anything that already probably has been said probably better than I could say it.

Mr. Johns will hopefully be remembered and memorialized by many and hopefully for a long time to come in many ways but Ketzirah Carly in her blog entry Stones not Flowers reminded me of a very Jewish form of commemoration - instead of leaving flowers we leave stones. I encourage everyone reading my entry to go read hers. Tonight, before lighting Shabbos candles, I will light a memorial candle and recite kaddish for him but I also will be sending a stone to the Holocaust Museum because I think it is important for them, and all who see what will hopefully be heaps of stones, to know how much this man's sacrifice is valued. I hope that the Museum, who I am sure will recognize the significance, will find a way to use the stones in building a monument to this man, to goodness and kindness in the world, even if it's only a cobblestone pedestal with a plaque. Along with the darkness we must remember the light.

The address at the Holocaust Museum is:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC 20024-2126

Monday, June 8, 2009

This blog entry has gone to the dogs

The law of inertia states that an object at rest is inclined to remain at rest. Obviously Newton never met Daphnae, my Siberian Husky.

Here she is at rest, restoring her energy cells so she can get up beg for a walk, bounce around or flog us or the Purr-Cat aka Purim with her knotted rope. I'll tell you that thing hurts. She even has her own blog. I found this picture and had to introduce her. Not only is she beautiful and shares my opinion that my husband is someone special (although I think she may actually love him more than I do) she's intelligent and there are times I even wonder if she's psychic. Or maybe either my husband or I are broadcasting as she will react to something we're communicating that she can't see or hear as if she understands. We are on our 3rd synonym for 'walk' - this one is "going to see the former president" as we have to be able to discuss things without having to deal with the behavior if she's expecting it and it doesn't come to be. Help! :)

Back in July the shelter told us she was a year old - I don't think so; she's probably just past a year now. In any case she's the youngest dog I've ever had which is quite an adventure. One of the plans for this summer is to construct and train her to a harness so that she can be hitched to a sled and help haul wood in next winter. With the fibro I can use all the help I can get with chores and she'll think it's some sort of game and she'll be with her people which to her is the dog's bark. Last fall she thought it was wierd but kind of fun when I tied her long lead around some maple staves I'm going to carve into walking sticks and had her help me haul them back from the woods. If I only had her energy. sigh

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Terror in the USA

Terrorism in the US is nothing new. Most people know of lynchings of African-Americans in the South, various anti-Semitic incidences, the increase in actions against Muslims (or anyone who appears arabic) residing in the US since 9/11, the actions taken against Pagans and homosexuals who are not in the closet . . . the list goes on and on. To paraphrase a recent popular film, - you can Google them. For some reason there are some people who simply cannot abide living in the same town, state, country, planet and probably galaxy, if they could impose their will that far, with people who do will not squish themselves into the same sardine can of attitudes and beliefs that they have chosen to live in.

The picture above is not of some random event that I happened to choose to illustrate my point, it is, or rather was, my former home in central IL. We fled from Illiopolis, pop. 1100, in 2003 after many cases of harassment, vandalism and physical assault. We had heard the house had been burned down but this picture, which was posted as a taunt to a forum my husband monitors this past week, was the first confirmation of the rumors that we have had. To the best of our knowledge the house was unoccupied at the time so the situation wasn't as tragic as it could have been, baruch Hashem, but it still was a very nice house - a stone walled, 4 bedroom victorian; among the most valuable in the village. Having paid the price of being terrorized, it would have been nice to at least get the insurance money out of the place but the arsonist was working with old info and we had sold it previously at auction, getting less than 1/4 of it's value, since we couldn't live there, couldn't defend or maintain it and couldn't continue to take the financial bleeding that the petty vandalism was costing us.

Since the chief of police, head of a 2 man dept and currently a guest of the governor of IL (read prisoner (for other reasons)), was a bigot and involved with some of those who objected to our presence, we got no protection from that direction and county, state and federal law enforcement agencies deemed it 'not their jurisdiction'. The ADL was useless as all they were willing to do was come and do sensitivity training with the local police dept. and we couldn't get anyone else to take an interest as we were not an institution, didn't have clout, and since reports of the incidences weren't being filed there wasn't much 'evidence' of what we were going through. I guess scars, damaged property and testimonies didn't count as evidence. It is ironic that some of the most valuable help we got was from a Klansman working at a home construction place where we bought 2" aluminum poles for a fence around the lot and when he heard why we were getting them, loaded up steel ones instead. How he squared that with the store I ask not. At the very end, after we had given up on living there and were trying to pack up the place, an employee of one of the local TV stations joined the synagogue and was able to arrange for a news segment on the situation which bought us some breathing room.

Breathing room meant that we didn't have to be afraid of the police showing up at the house to harass us while we were trying to pack and the vandalism and the drive-by epiphets dropped off a bit but we were by no means safe. My husband was arrested at one point when he ran into the police chief and wouldn't tell him where we were moving to. My mother was arrested for keeping her distance but observing a cop who resented her presence; he had been lying in wait for our moving truck (the DMV had screwed up and given us the wrong plates), expecting my husband to be driving and was really pissed that the man behind the wheel was my father and that my husband had managed to get in the house before being accosted. We would be followed by the cops driving in or out of town when they were on duty so we would make a point of trying to get our packing done for the day and get out before 4 pm when they came on duty. When we did sleep in the house during our packing trips (even cheap motels get expensive) we would sleep on the floor so it looked like nobody was there. Every other Friday we would show up to Shabbat services literally looking like refugees - the pickup and trailer packed to the gills and not necessarily the most orderly; we would spend 2 wks packing in IL and drive the 12 hrs to MI to spend 2 wks improving the habitability of this place and making sure Dad was ok and would be while we were gone during the next packing trip.

I will never feel safe again if that safety is dependant on the protection and good behavior of others. I feel a certain kinship with other victims of harassment and those who have had to flee their homes knowing how lucky we are that we weren't literally burned out (unlike another family we ran into) and that we had the resources to be able to leave and land relatively on our feet despite the whole fiasco damaging the family's financial prosperity. The housing accomadations are definately less than what we left but at least it's a roof over our head and 58 acres that is ours, free and clear, and there are almost more bears than people up here, almost. :) There is also so intense a feeling of Nature that one could drown or rather, find the Divine, in it.

So what was it that kindled the spark that led to fire that burned the house down? Believe it or not, this started over a battle over morse code testing for amateur radio licenses more than a decade ago. One of the pro-coders tried to blackmail my husband, one of the major players in the no-code movement, into getting out of the debate with the fact that he had stated in some obscure corner of the internet that he is bi-sexual and my husband didn't submit to the blackmail. He expected a temporary bruhaha that would settle down - wrong. Since that didn't work, the pro-coders, some of whom are very closed minded, located and were able to influence people more local. People who knew that my husband is a Kabbalist and neo-pagan and Jewish and found one, or all, of these things objectionable. Then there were those that found it strange that a single guy would live with and take care of his invalid father and, fueled by the provacateurs, let their imaginations go wild. When myself and a friend of mine, whom I was taking care of, moved in and were obviously Jewish (the kippah kind of gave it away) in a very conservative, Christian town and 9/11 happened scaring people and making it more acceptable to express prejudice the gloves basically came off and things got progressively worse.

Maybe it was the fact there was enough inhibitions still in people that they weren't willing to take more violent action sooner, maybe it was the Holy One being merciful and giving us only what we could handle, maybe it was the effect of the protective spellwork that my husband did but in the end it doesn't matter - we escaped and we're alive although we were financially wounded and lost many of our possessions. There are times I curse living out here in the middle of nowhere with less finances than I'd like as I would love to apply my legal training or assist in some other way the Pagan rights movement. Somehow just standing up and correcting people when they spout prejudice doesn't seem like enough although doing it takes plenty of courage in and of itself. I am afraid that our society is becoming less civilized and less tolerant the more insecure we get and that there will be many more cases of terror directed towards those who are 'different' and I cannot just stand by.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Magic and Tools

I'm not much of a spell caster which in the eyes of some would make me a pretty lame witch. OTOH, my practice, or lack thereof, is in the best spirit of those in the neo-pagan/magical community who teach that magic only works, or should be used, after, or along with, more mundane means of addressing the issue. Maybe it's a lack of faith in the efficacy of spells having been raised as the child of a conventional and conservative computer programmer and a scientist (although that same scientist is the person who gave me my magical roots) or an uncertainty of where the efficacy of the mundane application ends and the influence of the magical working begins. The latter is actually much more likely since as something of an empath I have had various experiences throughout my life which do not allow me to deny the exsistence of other realm(s) and ways of perception/interaction. In the end, it doesn't matter but I do have a heck of a time quieting my rational, skeptical mind; the one thing about magic is - if you don't believe in it, it ain't gonna work. OTOH, one must believe in their ability to accomplish anything, even simple mundane activities, to actually be able to accomplish it. Due to western society's emphasis on logic and empirical results the working of magic in this day and age does require a certain amount of 'willing suspension of disbelief' for most people.

Lately I've been reading Blood Magic by Seth/Sean-Michael Argo which is one of the most no-nonsense, concise treatises on the basic elements of magic, including the use of blood, I have run across. Some people will object to his writings because they do address the use of magic in harmful ways without condemnation placing him outside of the 'harm none' philosophy that is the mainstay of most of the neo-pagan/Goddess/magical/Wiccan community. What he does emphasize is the fact that the mage must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions - a philosophy that drew me both to Judaism and the Neo-pagan communities. Getting those 2 religious communities to see, much less accept, that they have basic elements in common would be much like trying to convince my husband and my father that they truly do share characteristics of personality. I've had some success in 8 years with the latter, I'm not enough of a masochist to attempt the former although I have to wonder how much good it would do in the world to accomplish such a Hurculean task and therefore 'am I free to leave it alone?' (verse 16).

What prompted this bit of research is that later this month, on 30 Sivan/Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, the day after the Summer Solstice, during the dark of the moon, I intend to consecrate my athame. Most witches would do this during the full moon but some of the things Myfanwy brought up in her discussion of her athame and the fact that I am a devotee of the Divine in the aspect of the Crone Goddess make this more appropriate. I got the dagger I'm going to consecrate last month but I'm a ritualist and somewhat enamoured of the pomp and circumstance of ceremonial magic so I've been researching various athame consecration rituals in order to find elements that I can use/adapt in the creation of my own ritual; when I get it cobbled together I'll post it. I've wrestled with this one (if you've been reading my other entries you'll see that I do that a lot) since I'm not Wiccan and respect Wicca as a religious path unto itself and therefore feel a little strange lifting the physical items it finds sacred for my own use in the ways they find them sacred. If I were adapting the use of the dagger somehow rather than relating to it as a repository and director of will and energy I wouldn't feel so much as if I'm violating their sacred turf. They probably don't mind but to me this 'borrowing' feels as uncomfortable as if I were to take communion when I've attended my dad's Catholic church with him; not doing so has resulted in some awkward occassions but still I feel as if I'd be giving offense if I did. Part of this is due to my understanding of and agreement with how a vocal percentage of Native Americans feel about their sacred customs being lifted by the "dances-with-credit-cards" spiritual seekers. OTOH, they have so many great ways of spiritually relating to nature, something conventional western thought/religion has stripped us of, that it is hard to not borrow their customs; one often has to dig deep to find the same things in western religions - an excavation many are unable to accomplish so people are inclined to pick up the spiritual gems they see comparatively just lying on the surface. There is something about the athame though that just resonates with me (a wand, despite it's similaties in usage doesn't resonate at all and in fact seems a little silly) - perhaps it is the fact that it is designed as a weapon and carries a certain edgy-ness to it that brings home the seriousness and responsibility of magic use. I also like Myfanwy's thoughts on the 'redemption' of the athame as a life affirming object although I would have no compunctions about using it as a weapon if need be and not feel that it had been descrated by the drawing of another's blood although I'd have to be in a pretty tight fix to see that happening and would have to address the energy repercussions of that.

Even though blood is nothing more than the "nutrient rich fluid that permeates creatures complex enough to have circulatory systems" and yet blood is life (hence the prohibition of it in kashrut and treatment of it in Torah) and therefore quite powerful in contagion magic. So besides inscribing the sigil for my magical name on the blade I intend to use some of my blood in the consecration/dedication ritual in order to more closely bind it to me which I realize carries it's own risks since a physical item can be lost/stolen. Since the athame is the most personal implement a witch owns it reasons that it should be as personal as possible; no wonder one's fingers are the perfect athame but we do like our pretties. :) If I had my way I'd learn metalsmithing and forge my athame but between the physical aspects of the fibromyalgia and the feeling that the time is now for me to have this tool, that isn't going to happen.

So if I don't do much spell work why do I keep acquiring the tools to do so? Besides becoming more comfortable with where spells and spell work fits in my religious practice and wanting to utilize that avenue of affecting the universe, it's like having cardamon or orange peel in your kitchen - you may not use it often but you don't want to have to not make/do something just because you don't have all the ingrediants. Yes, doing magic is at least 80% will and intention, just like bakery is 80% flour, eggs, butter, sugar and other on-hand ingrediants, but with all the energy swirling around (the universe is energy after all), I know I can use the help one can find in the various tools mages/witches use. I don't know about anybody else but I still need the physical symbols of the application of my will on the universe. Heck, even Hashem uses the natural/magical tool of the rainbow as a reminder of His/Her will not to destroy mankind. I do find it curious though that Judaism, with all the objects it ascribes magical attributes to, doesn't deal with long sharp pointy things. Hmmm

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Experiencing the Divine

There is a scene in the movie ‘A Woman Called Golda’ where it is brought to Golda’s attention that some of the children in the Jewish detainee camps on Cypress have never seen a flower and she weeps for this tragedy. During a recent Kabbalat Shabbat service I knew exactly how she felt and it was all I could do not to shed a tear. It wasn’t over flowers though but something even more important - or perhaps not, depending on where and how one experiences the Divine. One of the introductory passages we read, one which I had not run across before, was about experiencing the Holy One and IIRC, how this must be worked at with the implication that most people do not naturally perceive Him/Her. I’ve experienced the long dark night of the soul before and there are times I have to strain to hear the Still, Small Voice but these days I cannot see a tree or a stone without experiencing Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence of the Holy One. That some people do not perceive the Holy One in their everyday lives hurts; one of the reasons that I choose to make tallitot, kippot and other textile items for personal worship and considered becoming a rabbi. If I, in some way, can enhance someone’s spirituality and encourage the bond between themselves and the Holy One, however they perceive Him/Her, then I will feel that I have fulfilled at least a piece of my purpose for this incarnation.


Free at last, free at last, thank G-d Almighty we’re free at last! Free that is from winter and being snow and cold bound in the UP. We finally made it down for Shabbat services on May 8 - the first time we’ve been able to get to shul since Yom Kippur which has really sucked. Although I have missed it I didn’t realize quite how much until I was sitting there during the service trying not to shed a tear because of how deeply I felt that I was part of and how deeply the liturgy and melodies touched me. It was like the 6 months we hadn’t been able to come didn’t matter except for the fact that there was no way I could keep up reading the Hebrew like I used to be able to - have to work on that; hopefully I’ll have lots of opportunities this summer.

On the emotional/spiritual side of it though it was the same feeling I got when we started going there years ago - that here was a group of Jews who were personally invested in their Judaism and willing to put their energy into their worship and despite whatever differences there might be between them outside the sanctuary and service they put that aside in this time and place to come together as a people and for a holy purpose. I had the pleasure of having that same sort of spiritual community in our synagogue in IL and it is one of my few regrets about moving. I thought it was a feature of small synagogues since having less people means you have to put your differences aside for the good of the whole, at least some of the time, and that willingness to step outside of yourself and your particular perspective should cause enough good vibes for there to be some good collective chemistry; especially when you involve the presence of the Holy One. Unfortunately, my theory did not pass the test and I have experienced the antithesis of what I once again have been fortunate to be part of. I suppose I should be grateful for one appreciates the light all the more for having experienced the darkness but it sucks that the candle that shines that spiritual light is 4.5 hrs from home.

The chemistry in my current shul is amazing, at least in conjunction with services which is when we get to be part of it, and has given me a very good idea of what a good pagan ritual must be like with the building of energy, focusing and releasing of it to a specific cause and the grounding afterward. For my part, since the mi shebeirach (prayer for healing) comes at the right point in the service, I try to focus all the energy I can into weaving a green healing light around those who need it. I truly hope that I am not the only one intentionally focusing the energy raised since the thought of it just dissipating into the ether (although the world in general does need all the positive energy it can get) seems so wasteful especially since we’ve just identified concrete people who could use it. On other occasions, like the end of Yom Kippur, I visualize taking the energy raised (all that sacrifice generates some pretty powerful energy) and using it to resist the gates closing so that maybe one more soul can slip through or to give Hashem one more minute to reverse a negative decree (this is despite believing that the Holy One is essentially merciful since if S/He isn’t we make enough mistakes in our lives that we’re sunk and I don’t believe that the Holy One is interested in being a tyrant - that S/He is is what the religion would have us believe as a method of control). I know the role of focusing and directing the energy would fall to the High Priest/ess in a circle but I don’t think such things are on the conventional course list at the seminary; therefore I take it upon myself and hope I’m not at cross purposes with someone more skilled and of equal good intent. It seems though that people are generally not sensitive to such things.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Other Articles & Jewitchery Sites

If by some chance you have arrived at my humble blog without running across these other writings, then I am pleased to present them for your purview. In larger population centers I'm sure there is a Jewitch or 2 wandering about that would like to meet up. Out here in the hinterlands though I've had to learn about the movement through other's articles although I did find another Jewitch at, of all places, my synagogue. With Judaism being such a nature based and mystical religion I shouldn't be surprised that there are as many of us as there are - I just hadn't realized that it's as widespread as it is as a movement unto itself. For the Jewitch who finds some comfort in knowing that you're not the only one or just looking for another perspective or more information, here's a list of internet sites I found . . .

Nice Jewitch Girl
Nice Jewitch Girls . . .
Jewitchery wikipedia article
Being Jewish & Wiccan
Peeling a Pomegranate blog
Craftwork of a Jewitch blog
Useful Information for the Budding Jewitch blog
Tel Shemesh
Walking Stick Foundation
Judeo-Paganism or Jewish Paganism
Jewish Pagan webring
Walking on Fire blog
Pillar of Smoke
Jewitchery yahoo! group

If you know any other sites re: Jewitchery that I haven't mentioned, please leave me a comment. I've restricted this particular list to sites specifically relating to Jewitchery but there are lots others that are conducive to asisting one in melding Judaism and worship of the Goddess/pagan perspectives in creating rituals etc. One of these days I'll get around to doing a post listing those sites, especially the ones that have helped me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I was watching a report on the release of the CIA notes re: the treatment of terrorists during the Bush administration tonight and it made me angry. Those who protest the disagreeable treatment of terrorists or suspected terrorists in the course of their questioning seem to feel that not only are these people entitled to the rights of an American citizen, a position I happen to disagree with but which is a topic for another post and probably a different blog, but that this interrogation should not be more than uncomfortable for the interrogatee. First of all, I don't think that torture is terribly effective in gaining accurate intel but it makes me angry when people think that it is such a violation of somebody's human rights to deprive them of sleep, to cause them significant pain, to physically assault them, to subject them to a situation where they feel they can't breathe, are subjected to uncomfortable environmental conditions or to place them in a situation where they can't think. If being subjected to these things is truly a violation of one's human rights then my human rights are being violated by the very entity that Thomas Jefferson declared gave me those rights and the medical establishment, government and society that does not aid in my release from this situation.

What the heck am I talking about? The fact that most nights I spend at least a half hour feeling like my body is being subjected alternately to the strains of the rack and strappado, that I frequently wake up with painfully black and blue legs, that often when I try to relax I am subjected to muscle spasms including ones which seize up my breathing for as much as 10 seconds causing the same panic as someone who feels like they are drowning (BTW, waterboarding protocols specified no more than 40 seconds), that my perception of temperature and smell has been affected to the point that I am often freezing or sweltering at temperatures which are comfortable for most people and I perceive many odors much more acutely than most people, that often I suffer from significant fatigue and insomnia and anything that is strong enough to knock me out and allows me to get real rest leaves me hung over, that it is often agony to move or stay in position and I almost continuously am in pain. True, there are homeopathic and pharmecutical treatments that address many of these situations but because of the cost of healthcare in this country I don't have access to the diagnostic procedures that would direct me to the proper course of treatment and I can afford only so many $70+ prescriptions a month; the cost of homeopathic treatment is little better. That isn't even taking into account the side effects; I happen to value my ability to be a reasonable facsimilie of a thinking person and most of the drugs that are strong enough to alleviate the pain, allow me to sleep, quiet the spasms etc. rob me of that and I tend to be more violent when sleeping deeply albeit less aware of it.

Unlike those the government has subjected to 'torture', I, and many who suffer with medical conditions, have not done anything to remotely justify this treatment. I often ironically make the comment that it's a good thing that I am something of a masochist. In fact, being a bottom in a BDSM scene is easier since there is a point under a decent top where the pain can transport you to an elsewhere that has it's benefits and you have the comfort of the knowledge that 1) you made an active choice that led to this torturous situation and 2) there will be a release from the torture, a reassurance that I am sure the terrorists in US custody enjoy that I and many others do not. Somehow I have a hard time feeling a whole lot of sympathy for the terrorists the US has tortured in the interest of alleged national security. When somebody starts being as concerned about the human rights of those of us who are tortured on a daily basis as they are of those who are detained by a government then I will feel as if there is a true interest in justice and not just causes. OTOH, the fight against torture has to start somewhere.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Observations from the Middle

Today was Tax Day. It was also Tea Party Day for a whole lot more people than I would have reckoned on especially in this political backwater (approx. 200, .7% of Houghton County population). It also marked the first time I have ever participated in a rally, march or political statement other than signing the occasional petition and regularly voting even when I had to hold my nose to do it. Oh, I have also occasionally written letters to my elected representatives which not a one of them have ever deigned to give me the courtesy of so much as a reply by form letter. Needless to say, I have felt a distinct lack of political empowerment and been disinclined to expend energy in what appeared to be an exercise in futility and frustration. Combine that with my family's philosophy of keeping one's head down and not doing anything which might draw attention from the 'powers that be' and the mere act of stating an opinion by being intentionally present at a politicalesque gathering takes on significance. The fact that I married a relative political activist might have something to do with me having a little more faith in an activity like this.

What I found disconcerting though is that although I agreed marginally more with the average participant at the Houghton Tea Party, and probably Tea Party attendees in general, than I do with the majority of my friends who say, attended essentially anti-Bush rallies in the last 8 years, I still found myself occupying a middle ground which is becoming increasingly uncomfortable and increasingly disparaged. It seems that if you indicate that you agree with one or a few opinions that is held by a specified group then it is assumed that you agree with all of the opinions that are perceived to be held by the members of that group. At the risk of sounding petulant - it's not fair, it's not accurate, and I protest! OTOH, I am not the type of person who feels that I can convince the myriads of people who have fallen into this type of binary thinking that they are in error.

I am growing very weary though of being neither fish nor fowl and there being very little understanding or acceptance of those of us who live on the land in between. For instance, just because I tend to dress modestly and rather plainly, strongly defend my right to keep and use firearms, resent outside interference in the way I choose to live my life, including many of the policies that are supposed to help society - from seat belt laws to registration of livestock and vegetables, believe that life is treated too cheaply in our society and find some measure of value in conservative values and ways of living to name a few of my conservative positions; it is assumed that I promote the idea of the US as a Judeo-Chrisitian nation, am anti-abortion, couldn't possibly be a feminist or in favor of same-sex marriage, or open alternative sexuality for that matter, believe that nature is here to be dominated and utilized by man with his convenience and 'needs' being paramount, resent social assistance programs and couldn't possibly support socialist goals. There used to be a time when people got to know people and find out that they didn't necessarily fit into nice pigeon holes but our frenetic society doesn't allow for this anymore. The same attitude that draws us to the technology most of us use daily (cell phones, text messaging, email etc.) to make our lives more efficient has promoted a mindset towards shortcutting everything - including dealing with people. If we know one or at most a few things about somebody then there is a tendency to think that no further exploration is needed and we can move on to the next person, issue etc. This shortcutting has led to the devaluation of people as individuals and treating them accordingly.

Another part of the equation is the increasing radicalization of our society in religious, social, political and many other forums. This tends to include promoting disdain or outright hatred of the other side and this, combined with the tendency to pigeon hole people, breaks down tolerance and makes it very difficult for someone who holds opinions and attitudes from both sides to function in social situations without either 1) being willing to argue or 2) being willing to sit silently while those around you lambaste things you value that they don't agree with. If you request a change in topic they either 1) treat you like you're being unreasonable or 2) want to argue the issue under the guise of asking why you want to move on. Although I'm pretty good at it, I don't enjoy confrontation and I just want to socialize with people who share my interests in the particular topic at hand; ie. if I go to a seder or Shabbat services or a circle or a medieval or artistic event I don't want to have to deal with having a social issue/political/religious debate. I believe that social, political, religious etc. discussion and debate is important but people should be able to engage in social interaction without being afraid of either confrontation or dismissal.

I am not advocating that people shouldn't be able to talk about issues but I pine for the days when our society had better manners and less inclination to pigeon hole people. I want to be treated as an individual person, not a member of a political party, social class, ideological group etc. and be able to interact with all types of people without having to enter a room wearing psychological battle armor.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fighting Slander

Anonymous wrote in his/her comments: "I accept that you are hopeless, but do not wish your twisting of a faith you obviously lied to join (there is no way a rabbi would convert you with your beliefs had you been truthful) to go unchallenged."

I find the attitude of this person condescending and somewhat offensive but this comment of theirs really got my hackles up and needs and deserves a response of it's own lest there be any misunderstanding. I bound myself to Judaism and the Jewish people with informed intent and honesty of spirit and will not allow this slander to go unchallenged. Does he/she not realize that people evolve in their beliefs over time or did they and everybody they know stop evolving at some point and have exactly the same beliefs they did 10 years ago? I didn't and don't.

I converted back in 1996 after 5 years of studying on my own and with various rabbis; not because I went from rabbi to rabbi getting turned down for conversion (before Anonymous accuses me of that) but because I wanted to see what denomination would be the most comfortable and realistic for me. Realistic I got, comfortable I didn't, not really. I would have gone Orthodox had I been living on my own since that is where I felt most comfortable at the time and for several years but reality bites. I am not in contact with any of those rabbis anymore since their lives moved on as did mine including physical relocation.

The person who is the rabbi of the congregation my husband and I attend, when we can, is my rabbi by virtue of the fact that she is the spiritual leader of the synagogue closest to us that we are comfortable with - which is Conservative btw. It has very little to do with what she thinks of my beliefs - we've never had the opportunity nor has she ever apparently felt the need to discuss them (or she would have dropped me an email or called me) and there wasn't an entrance interview when we started attending. We've tried to get together at some time other than Shabbat or yom tovim since there are things I would like to talk to her about on all sorts of Jewish topics but between not being able to leave Dad alone that long and the toll travel takes, it hasn't happened. As it is, when we do get to go down for Shabbat services, we go down and come back in the same day - 9 hours of driving for an hour long service. A few slices is better than no loaf at all. If I were to claim any rabbi as my spiritual leader it would be Rabbi Jill Hammer of Tel Shemesh although we have never met, there's little chance we will any time soon, and although we've corresponded I don't think she'd remember me.

I converted Reform for practical reasons and the rabbi I studied with for my conversion was very much aware that my adoption of Judaism wasn't because I was so much enamoured of Judaism per se as it was the organized religion that best fit my beliefs and fulfilled my needs and that I felt I needed the cradle of an organized religion. He, the senior rabbi and the third gentleman who sat on my bet din were apparently cool with that. Judaism still is the organized religion that most closely reflects my beliefs although that reflection is somewhat more indistinct now than it was then.

Anonymous can accept this explanation or not at their pleasure but that is what happened. I entered Judaism in good faith and I will not allow slander to go unanswered.

Response to Anonymous

I was going to put this in a comment in response to Anonymous's comments but realized as I constructed my answer that it would make a decent post and deserved to be more in the open than buried in comments to a post where it might get missed.

To Anonymous:

Finally, some comments that address at least some of the points I made. First of all though, my smug comment (as you put it) is directed at evangelical Christians who I have more experience with than Jews who might hold this opinion. I was referring to Christianity's and Islam's belief that they are the only right way to relate to the One. There is no way I would have given Judaism a second look if it did have that attitude.

With that out of the way, I had to chuckle at your intention to 1) dismiss and 2) expose me. I wasn't aware that I was trying to be concealed - if I was, I wouldn't be writing this blog. As far as dismissing me or others like me goes - good luck. You'll meet with some success especially in conventional circles but those of us who have wandered on to this track tend to be strong willed and willing to be different and one only has to search the web to see how more people are finding their way over here. Maybe conventional Judaism needs to be asking why some people are going in this direction rather than trying to dismiss us or complain about it. Ignoring things doesn't tend to work real well.

You have a problem with Jewitchery being seen as Jewish in any way but you still have not addressed the issue I presented in one of my early entries - What are the parameters of Judaism? With all of it's variations, when does Judaism stop being Judaism? As I've said before, that line is different with different Jews or 'denominations'. There was a time when Jewish Renewal or Reform Judaism was so unconventional that it was treated in much the same way you are treating Jewitchery. Now they are more or less mainstream.

By the way, although you are essentially correct that Judaism frowns upon paganism, I get the impression that you are not that well educated on the various forms of paganism including probably the difference between panentheism and pantheism - a situation I suggest you correct if you intend to debate with those who do consider these things and how they may or may not mesh with Judaism. It is not an uncommon belief in the pagan community (including and most notably in Wicca) that all the gods are merely the masculine aspect of the One, all the goddesses are the feminine aspect and that there is One Source. That isn't that far from Judaism - they just break down the attributes of the Almighty into different pieces for the human mind to wrap itself around. After all, the first of the Ten Commandments is not infrequently translated as "You shall not have other gods *before* Me" and Torah is rife with references to other gods and Hashem's supremacy over them. Is Hashem just a more powerful diety among many or, as I prefer to see it - the Source that other cultures divided into separate entities in order to get a grip on the Divine influence in their lives? Abraham's spiritual genuis was in recognizing that there is only One but I also believe that the human mind has to break down the One in order to have a relationship due to our inherent limitations. Even Judaism has done this via the Etz Chayim and Sephirot. Is there anything that is not Hashem? The answer I've been given by rabbis is "No".

You seem to be incensed that I feel that I have the freedom to define my own spiritual life and encourage others to do the same. That I state that the bedrock of that spiritual life is Judaism and have the audacity to make the claim that I am Jewish even as I step outside the conventional boundaries of it. You state that I have no standing to come into Judaism and change it in regards to paganism; I do have the right and duty of every Jew though to wrestle with Judaism and perhaps find different aspects than the usually highlighted ones and come to different conclusions than other Jews. Who are you to say otherwise?

Not all rabbis (who obviously were ordained by somebody in one of the 'denominations' - did they lie in order to obtain their smicha?) translate Shemot 22:17 the way you do although more do accept your conventional translation of not suffering a witch to live. See Rabbi Gershon Winkler's book _Magic of the Ordinary_. Convention and predominance of an opinion isn't everything although I am aware that that attitude is also not common in the evolution of Judaism.

As far as the Talmud quote goes on the blog, I adopted it from another Jewitch who seems to know her stuff and I verified that it is from JT Kiddushin 4 (66c). Although we are not using it in the context it's presented in Talmud, the words are there. Talmud may not generally be referenced in chaper and verse form but looking at the Soncino software it seems the easiest to me and probably anyone else not traditionally trained in reading Talmud. Not everybody, especially women, are so lucky as to recieve a traditional Jewish education.

BTW, FWIW, I did look up San. 56, 60 and 67. Most of the discussions don't apply as idolatry and appropriate methods of killing a witch are not at issue, 67b addressed the idea that the practice of magic diminishes the Almighty by not giving due credit for the source of the ability to do magic which is not an issue in my case and there was one other page that listed the various magics one is not to perform which I found interesting especially since some of those things have been long standing aspects of Jewish folk magic. Maybe those who did so were technically bad Jews but it is part of Jewish culture like it or not.

You may consider me a coward for not talking to the rabbi of the synagogue I attend about this stuff but frankly since you don't have the courage to sign a name I don't know why I should care about what you think of my courage. Personally, I think it takes more courage to do what I've done than to merely take the word of a rabbi especially one who really doesn't know me or the situation. I don't claim that Jewitchery is conventional Judaism and if someone is going to consider conventional Jews as the only legitimate Jews then I and others like me don't fit your view. Fortunately you don't speak for all of Judaism.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Value of an Oppositional Viewpoint

In the comments on Purim you will find a back and forth between me and Anonymous over Judaism and his/her claim that the incorporation of pagan elements is antithetical to Judaism. As much as I did not appreciate the apparent single mindedness of this individual and their condescension, I did enjoy the fencing. Ironically, I think the exchange had absolutely the opposite effect that this person desired and rather than making me feel guilty for my point of view it helped me clarify where I stood on some issues which is not to say that if they had actually addressed the issues I raised that they would not have been able to change my mind. I have to thank Myfanwy again for her support - it is interesting how 2 people, 1 in favor of my explorations and 1 against, can both help me find my way.

The exchange also made me a little sad at how this person, someone apparently strong in their convictions, could only advise me to go talk to my rabbi. Maybe I'm just more willing than some people to give someone the benefit of my thoughts and rightly or wrongly believe that they have some merit but I at least feel a responsibility to assist others on their spiritual journeys and am unwilling to pass the buck to a clergy type personage. Whether somebody has been ordained or not doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their effectiveness or suitability as a spiritual guide.

Frankly, with few exceptions, as long as it is a belief system that does not seek to harm others, I will support anybody's spirituality. It means more to me that someone actually takes stock of themselves and develops a relationship with the Divine and hopefully takes positive action stemming from that relationship than what creed or rituals they subscribe to. This is why I feel equally comfortable creating Pagan altar cloths and Book of Shadows, Jewish tallitot and kippot and lace Christmas ornaments and crosses. If I saw a place where I could be of service creating things of beauty that would aid in a Muslim's relationship with Allah and the true expression thereof I wouldn't have a problem doing so.

Being a spiritual person is difficult enough in this day and age and I feel that we all have a responsibility to help each other out even if that means serving as a foil for someone else's beliefs. I guess it also goes along with the fact that I believe in an essentially understanding and merciful Diety who would rather that we use the brains and spirit S/He gave us than do/believe something just because some other human being told us to. I cannot put it better than was put in Kingdom of Heaven ". . . But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say "but I was told by others to do thus" or that "virtue was not convinient at the time." This will not suffice. Remember that."

As you have figured out by now, I'm pretty ecumenical; one of the few things I cannot stand is evangelism and the attitude that "there is only one true way and I have it" with the corrollary that they will 'help' you to salvation; respectful presentation of a differing point of view is something else entirely. One of the jokes in my family is that when my mother said "let me *help* you" you ran the other way. I love Mom dearly but she was and is a strong willed person and sometimes, as with just about anybody, she felt she knew what was needed and by God, it was going to happen. :) Thankfully she's mellowed a bit. Perhaps I am more able to puzzle my way through spiritual matters and have more confidence in my relationship with the Almighty than most people and therefore am willing to take risks with my soul by making up my own mind that most people wouldn't but I don't want to believe that this is the case. It disturbs me though how many people don't want to be exposed to ideas outside their comfort zone. How can one make a decision without being presented with various facets of the issue? Then again, perhaps me being a Gemini has something to do with my comfortability with various viewpoints.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rosh Chodesh Ritual

May it be Your will, our Source and Source for our foremothers, that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May everyone have a blessed month of Nisan. Here's my ritual for Rosh Chodesh. Much of it is my own work but pieces have been gleaned from various sources. I have tried to give credit when I have incorporated somebody else's words or ideas except when it's traditional text. If I have missed giving someone their due I apologize. Feel free to use it but if you repost it or pieces of it to the web please let me know and give me due credit. Thanks.

red, white, green & black candles
scented silver or white roundish floating candle or unscented one anointed with properties of renewal or specific intent for the month

pottery bowl filled with water

chalice filled with wine

place candles at the cardinal directions - N red, E white, S green, W black

around the bowl holding the water & floating candle

cleanse and consecrate space*

I (insert name) set aside this time and place for . . .
acknowledging the turning of the wheel,
and for the welcoming of the moon,
as she returns from her darkness to bring us light.

May I be protected in this place
from all who would interfere or wish me ill
and may all the elements of this place,
in all it's dimensions,
lend the strength of their song to my praise and petition.

*At each evocation light the candle at the appropriate direction*

I call to the North, where Fire dwells, where things are without form, where it takes the qualities of Gabriel, angel of strength and courage, to walk, and I call upon Mother Rivkah, she who gave divine intuition form, to come and bear witness to this rite and give me her aid - so that I may hear the still, small Voice and make the ways of Ruach ha-Kodesh manifest in this time and place.

I call to the East, the realm of Air, where things begin to coalesce, where Uriel's light and clear vision are gifts of great value, and I call upon Mother Leah, whose weak eyes caused her turn inward and find the wisdom that lies there; I beg her presence at this rite and the gift of her aid so that I too may see the wisdom that lies within.

I call to the South, the dominion of Water, where things crystallize and all things are renewed, where Michael, mal'ch Ha-Rachaman, holds court, to seek Mother Sarah, who was renewed as her womb swelled with new life, and ask her to bless this rite with her presence and grant me the gift of her aid, that what is inspired and visualized may take on form and that I may find the Wellspring of renewal in my times of thirst.

I call to the West, Earth’s own ground, where things find purpose and take root, where Rafael tends and heals those who pass that way, and call to Mother Rachel, who waits like the roots of an ancient tree for the sign of spring, the sound of her children’s return, so that her spirit may rise yet again; I bid her to come to this rite and to grant me the gift of her aid, that what has been created may take on life and that tikkun olam may be manifested through these prayers and acts.

I call to the heavens and the earth, to the universe and the void and evoke Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence of the Holy One, that She may come and look with favor upon this ritual, blessing me, a daughter of the house of Israel, as She has blessed Her people Israel.

So be it
correspondences - Rabbi Jill Hammer

We are keepers of the flame, Eshet lapidot,
Like Devorah, we make the wicks for
the Mishkan's eternal light
And kindle the fires of holy time.
Fire transmutes substance,
Grain into bread,
Clay into pot,
Cold into the warmth of the hearth.
With this flame we honor Shekinah,
Mother and Creator,
And we initiate this holy day, Rosh Chodesh.
- Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Barucha at Shechinah, Ruach Ha-olam, goleil or mipnei choshech, v’choshech mipnei or
Source of blessings are You, Shechinah, Spirit of the World, who removes light before darkness and darkness before light

Barucha at Shechinah, Ruach Ha-olam, borei mi-orei ha-eish
Source of blessings are You, Shechinah, Spirit of the World, who creates fire.

Barucha at Shekinah ha-m'kadeshet o-tanu u'm'hadeshet o-tanu al yadei hadlakat ner shel Rosh Chodesh
Blessed are You, Shekinah, who consecrates us and renews us through the lighting of the fires of Rosh Chodesh.

*Light floating candle*

With this light I inaugurate the month of . . .
Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul

Barucha at Yah, Ruach Ha-olam, matzmichat p’ri hagafen.
Source of blessings are You, Holy One, Spirit of the World, Who ripens fruit on the vine.
adapted from Marcia Falk

Barucha At Yah, Mekor Ha-chayim, she-hech-e-yat-nu, v’ki-ye-mat-nu, v’hi-gi-atnu lazman hazeh.
Source of blessings are You, Holy One, Wellspring of life, Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time

Y’hi ratzon shet’chadeish aleinu hachodesh (insert month),
May the Holy One inaugurate for us this month of (insert month);

l’tova v’livrachah, l’sason ul’simchah,
for good and for blessing, for joy and for happiness,

l’shalom v’achavah, rei’ut v’ahavah,
for peace and fellowship, companions and love,

la’avodah v’tzirah, parnasah v’khalkalah,
for work and creation, livelihood and sustenance,

l’halvat hanefesh uvri’ut haguf, l’chayim shel derekh eretz v’ahavat torah,
for serenity of spirit and soundness of body, for a life of earthways and love of Torah,

v’l’chayim sheyimal’u bam mish’alot libeinu l’tovah.
and for a life in which heart desires will be fulfilled for the good.
Hebrew by Marcia Falk

*insert other workings and/or meditations here*

*At each farewell extinguish the appropriate candle - W, S, E, N*

Mother Rachel, you have witnessed the exile of your children and rejoiced at each one’s return, at the tender sprouts of goodness emergent in this world. I thank you for your presence and the gifts you have given. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Sarah Imanu, first of the Matriarchs, you have known renewal in the deserts of life and seen your dreams take form, I thank you for your presence here and your gifts shared. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Mother Leah, you see what is hidden from most - the design of wisdom within the cloud of the obvious, You have my gratitude for your presence and your gifts. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Mother Rivkah, woman of fire and spirit, you took what could not be seen or felt but only intuited and turned it into action. You have graced my ritual with your presence and granted me the gift of your aid; for this I thank you. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Shechinah, exiled Spirit of the Holy One, you have ever walked with the people Israel. dwelling in the tents of our mothers Sarah and Rivkah, in the Mishkan, in the Beit Hamikdash, in our places of learning, in our homes and in our lives. You teach us Torah, our way of holiness, in times of peace and tragedy, by our hearths and on the road, and You have answered our prayers for Your presence as we walk the paths of dreams. The rite I called You for is ended but I trust that You will not abandon me; rather be as my cloak and my staff, my Protection and my Support.

Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi v’heg’yon libi l’fanecha
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favor before You

So be it

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


To all my fellow Jews out there - Chag Sameach! I hope you have a rioteously good time and don't have a hangover from getting so wasted as to not be able to tell between Haman (boo! hiss!) and Mordecai (yeah!). Somehow it seems totally unfair to suffer for doing a mitzvah. Seems to be our lot though (pun intended) so we might as well make the best of it. It strikes me as Purim is the par excelance of the 'they tried to kill us, they failed - let's eat' holidays. Too bad the world didn't learn from Haman and his sons' fate and leave us well enough alone. You'd think that the modern reminder of the Six Day War would have been a good rap alongside the head too that we have a way of turning the tables on our oppressors. And the world calls us stubborn?! If we're stubborn, are those who would oppress us just stupid? It would be nice if we could get away from being oppressed and unfortunately we have learned from our oppressors ways of being real jackasses at times. I don't think this is the lesson Hashem wants us to learn from adversity so could S/He please choose someone else? Unfortunately it looks like we're in for another round of it with the way intolerance is rising all over the place.

Maybe with all the fear and uncertainty in the world today it is our job to stand again as an example to the world that even the hardest of times can be weathered especially if we stick together. That sense of loyalty is one of the things I love about Judaism although I have gotten a bit jaded about the acceptance of some Jews by other Jews since joining the tribe. Somehow that internal unacceptance didn't mean a damn to Haman or Hitler or any of the other oppressors throughout the centuries though. To quote Ben Franklin, "We must all hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately" and it's a whole lot easier to hang us if we're fighting among ourselves. Then again being unified doesn't necessarily mean success - Haman and family certainly hung together, hung very high indeed.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Roots and Thorns

I believe in reincarnation. Of a sort. I believe that this is not my first time around the block and may be my last. I know something about who I may have been before both from what I *know* and what Sensitive people I trust have told me including that I am an old soul. People who knew me well enough and didn't feel silly saying it, have told me throughout my life that I seem to have wisdom beyond my years. I really wish I could apply that wisdom more often to my own life - maybe I'd manage to stay out of mitzrayim more often. :)

My personal view of reincarnation, something I came up with long before I started researching Jewish mysticism, is that there is a Great Reservoir of Spirit which for arguments sake I call Ein Sof, the All etc. I don't have this totally sorted out yet so bear with me but basically imagine the All as a big ball of Spirit of which S/He grabs a piece of Him/Herself to create a soul to stick in a corporeal creation (ie. baby). The experiences etc. that the creation goes through in it's life 'flavors' the piece of Spirit that is within it. When it dies, the soul returns to the All providing that it has not been corrupted too badly to re-enmesh itself. It's like having a big ball of white clay that you break off a piece of and you take the smaller piece and roll it into a ball on the counter; it may pick up things while you're rolling it around so that when you try to mush it back into the big ball it may be so off color that you can't do it and maintain the white of the large ball. Incarnations of a soul in various corporeal forms might be a cleansing process. One possibility is that when a new soul is needed, pieces of previous souls get grabbed which is where memories of past lives could come from and explains why such memories are so fragmented in most people and there are people who have conflicting memories but sometimes beliefs, mannerisms etc. bleed through from incarnation to incarnation.

So why am I going into all this? To provide context for more roots. I mentioned I was raised fairly strict Catholic which has been the lifelong faith of my father. He was the person in my life who gave me my love of tradition, liturgy and all that appeals to me about organized religion. He is a religious, humble man who would have made a great monk in a different situation. He was the one though that cultivated my interest in different cultures and religions.

My mother had been raised Lutheran and converted to Catholicism on her own in her 20's (see a trend here?) but nature and the earth have been in her blood since day 1. She didn't express it more than being a great gardener as an adult and seeking out the wild places as much as she could as a kid. She was the first witch in my life and passed on a love of and feeling of responsibility for growing things and a belief in things that fit more with paganism than with organized religion. She also taught me to celebrate the seasons with our own rituals for which I am exceedingly glad. Nothing fancy or structured but stuff like welcoming the first warm rain of spring or thanking the plants for their efforts as we were pulling out the dead stalks for the compost pile in the fall. She grew up in the city and had no one to encourage such a tie to nature and pagan mindset; as she gets older it's getting stronger. With the idea that some older people are more able to access parts of their essential spirit I wouldn't be surprised to find out that part of her was a pagan at some point.

She also was the first Jew in my life - no, not literally although she had flirted with the idea on her way over to Catholicism. Even though she hadn't had any exposure to Jewish culture etc. until I started getting into it, a lot of her phrases are very Yiddish, many of her personal beliefs are Jewish - something not discovered until I was doing my learning, and many of the things she feels comfortable with would be familiar to somebody who is Jewish but unfamiliar to one who is not or not exposed to it which she wasn't. The number of things that fell into place the more I learned about Judaism and Jewish culture was eerie. She also had a great desire to understand the Holocaust as if it was intensely personal to her and a part of her was crying - what happened?! Was she Jewish in a previous life? It would make sense.

So that's my roots. Just as my mother has an innate knowledge of things Jewish, I was drawn at a young age to things Celtic, with about as much reason. A Sensitive friend of mind has Seen me as a fair skinned redhead among other little things that add up. I've also had impressions of myself from a young age as an Ashkenazi Jewish woman who covered her hair and until I hit a certain age I knew that I was going to die young and it had something to with who I am which didn't make any sense in this day and age. It was a great relief and something of a bewilderment when I hit that point a number of years ago and nothing happened and the feeling disappeared. Of course I've been interested and delved into other cultures but none have struck a cord with me like those 2 have so I'm inclined to think there's something there.

If I accept that 1) some form of reincarnation (which is a concept in Jewish mysticism) is possible and 2) that I have been various people before then is there anything wrong with amalgamating the various spiritual lessons and inclinations of those incarnations into my spiritual path today? After all, I became a Jew because Judaism most closely matched my beliefs and the areas of deviation were acceptable to me - not because I had any great desire to be Jewish per se although I have always felt a need for a people/tribe and a very faint/faded connection to the ancient Israelites; I always explained that from my Christian upbringing and the fact that I'm an ethnic mutt but maybe . . . Going through the rituals of conversion (mikvah & bet din) though was for me an expression of 'as above, so below' since if I was going to make this my home I wasn't going to only playact it. Somehow, like any well done ritual, (although the actual ceremony was devoid of spiritual feeling and sucked) it cemented things on a spiritual level.

This does not mean that I gave up the rest of who I am though and the past decade or so I have fought so hard to be accepted by the Jewish community that I was willing to place the other spiritual urges on the back burner. Now that I don't live in a Jewish community and am having to rely on myself more for spiritual guidance these things are creeping out again. I guess this is why there are so many cautions and #4 in the 'oath'. If I incorporate Celtic elements via Wicca, or Germanic ones in my current spiritual path, am I abandoning or adulterating Judaism beyond any recognition? Or is it rather the amalgamation of paths and truths that, if humanity can ever get it together, will allow us to perceive and comprehend the Truth? If we can, do we not have the duty to evolve as much as possible as individuals? There is this thing in the back of my mind though that once you have begun the furrow you must stay and finish it. Stability vs chaotic enlightenment? (Any Vorlons or Shadows around? (B5 joke)) Do I not have the right to explore all avenues my soul seeks to wander down? It's not like I'd ever deny being Jewish for that is what at least a great part of my soul is although there are undeniably other ways influencing it. Are they important or have the lessons of those paths been learned or does the fact that I am aware of them mean that there is unfinished business there?

Questions, questions, questions. While I'm at it why don't I discover the meaning of life and the nature of the cosmos - wait, didn't Monty Python already do that? :) Thanks for listening to my ramblings and your insights are welcome - other than the opinion that I'm absolutely nuts :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Novelty

From the serious to the inconsequential. It's neat to be able to sit on my bed and blog or surf but tonight marks the first time I've been able to go out and post from out of the house. I know that doesn't sound remarkable to anybody who has a Starbucks or other hot spot every 100 yds or so but up here it is a real novelty. There are only 3 hotspots I know of in the 3 counties - Cyberia (coffee shop), an artist's market and Perkins. I'm hoping that more show up but as far as I know I can't even post or surf from the library on my computer. Very annoying as far as doing research goes. Excepting the college students, most people up here don't know what a hotspot is, a good many don't have computers and not a few are emphatically not in favor of those new fangled devices (incl. cell phones, ipods, computers, GPS units etc.). In some cases the bears and deer may be more tech savy than some of the 2 legged residents. One of the things that amused the husband and I when we were cruising the Keweenaw looking for land were the telephone junction boxes in the middle of nowhere. We made the joke that they were there for the wildlife to tap into. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Judaism, Pagans and Satan

There is a phrase that drives me up the wall - Judeo-Christian. There is no such thing. Judaism is a religion unto itself, as is Christianity. True, they share certain concepts as would be expected from a situation where one culture and beliefs gave rise to the other but after they separated around 100 C.E. each evolved greatly in both their theology and their culture. Most religions have basic concepts in common with other other religions albeit expressed in different ways. Rabbi Hillel said "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it." Much of what separates various belief systems is the commentary which makes it such a tragedy when members of various belief systems can't get along or feel that theirs is better than all the others; a feature inherent in only 2 religions I know of - Christianity and Islam.

I have just read another article by a Pagan expressing their frustration at being asked whether they worship the Devil. I do not fault her in the least for her frustration at such questions but what really grated on me is her constant references to Judeo-Christian attitudes. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon mistake. One of my pet peeves with those who don't know Judaism, but think they do, is that they lump Judaism in with Christianity and assume that just because a concept or attitude is prevalent in Christianity it must appear in Judaism as well. Judaism is NOT an older form of Christianity. It is NOT Christianity sans Christ and it DOES NOT include a supreme personification of evil that Christianity calls Satan or the Devil.

We have our fair share of malevolent beings that can and do cause havoc with humanity but our sages had the wisdom to see that one does not need to have the stimulus to do evil forced on us from outside ie. a corruption of the soul as one sees in the concept of Original Sin or the idea "the Devil (or one of his minions) made me do it". We know that we can get ourselves into enough trouble thank you very much. In Jewish belief a person is created with both the yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination) and yetzer tov (good inclination) and it is up to us to decide on a case by case basis which one we are going to listen to. There is a character mentioned in the Tanach that is referred to as satan or ha-satan but rather than being seen as an equal and opposite entity to G-d both in power and intention this character is more along the lines of a prosecuting attorney continuously trying to prove that humanity is not worthy of a just decision in it's favor or G-d's mercy. Literally ha-satan means 'the accuser' but other than being recognized as being a pain in the butt, does not play a large role in Judaism. There are other demons that Jewish tradition has felt much more need to guard against.

To the best of my knowledge, the concept of an evil diety that is just as powerful as the diety of light first appears in the ancient world ca. 1000 BCE in the religion of Zoroastrianism. Considering that Torah was not written down until the Babylonian Exile ca. 586 BCE it is likely that the inferences to such a being got incorporated into Judaism and therefore Christianity by being part of the culture surrounding the scribes as did many things in Torah such as many of the legends found in Bereshit (Genesis).

I only wish Pagans would quit lumping Jews in with Christians when addressing the injustices that have been perpetrated by some Christians and the prevailing Christian culture against them. Jews have suffered from much the same sort of ignorance and intolerance and being a nature based religion it has much more in common with Pagan belief structures than Christian ones. I read another article that addressed this very well; it's uncanny how much her and my background, at least in general, and ideas are similar.

Now that I have ranted enough about Judaism and Christianity being lumped together, in the interest of fairness I must point out that European Judaism was greatly affected by Christianity during the Middle Ages, just as Jews have been affected by the ideas and practices of any culture they have lived in, and a lot of Christian ideas found their way into Jewish philosophy and practice. It is one of the things that I find regrettable about Judaism and one of the reasons I break from conventional Judaism looking more for the core beliefs and practices - the pagan Judaism so to say. Whichever form of Judaism one practices though, it is not Christianity and does not include the Devil.