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