Prepping for Imbolc: Part 2

I’m not finished with it yet, but here is a photo of the Brighid cross project I’m working on.

The pattern on the brown/gold fabric may not be the best for the project but I’m determined to see it through and perhaps add some embroider to embellish it. I usually don’t do things like this – appliqué and quilt techniques are new for me.

And here’s a photo of my Brigihd altar so far. This isn’t anything Imbolc specific – I’ve been adding to it since moving here. It’s situated over my stove for obvious reasons. I do my flame keeping here.

A doll I’ve been working on.

This is a doll I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. Yes I know the skin tone of her body and face doesn’t match that of her arms and legs. Whatever. She’ll be wearing actual clothing soon enough so you’ll barely notice. 😛 I’m not happy with the folds on her neck but I’m very pleased with her face and cleavage. Huzzah! I feel like I’ve come a long with in my doll creation.

I posted this here mostly to show the Artisan Guild of ADF what I’ve been up to. 🙂

ADF Chats

I am so glad that there are chats on ADF. When I joined about three years ago, I felt so distant from everything. I started to attend a grove and, while that helped, I only saw people 8 times a year. I didn’t get to know anyone. Then I started to befriend people on Live Journal and Facebook. This also helped and yet it was still kind of lacking.

Finally there were more and more chats on ADF. Real time interaction. I feel like I’m really getting to know some of the wonderful people in ADF. I’m getting to know peoples’ personalities and humors. It’s fun and spiritually/intellectually stimulating at the same time. I don’t feel so alone up here when I participate.

Prepping for Imbolc

Imbolc is on its way and I need to get ready! When I first came to Paganism five or six years ago, I was involved in Wicca and Imbolc wasn’t very special to me. I remember knowing that it had something to do with a Goddess named “Bride” or “Brighid” (one of those strange Celtic Gods!) but I hadn’t formed any relationship with her, much less read about her outside a Wicca 101 book. It wasn’t until I started to study Druidism and Irish lore that Brighid made herself known to me. She is my patron Goddess, protector of my home, muse, and source of warmth. Now Imbolc, her holy day, is very important to me.

I’m currently working on an offering for her. It’s an attempt at quilting and/or appliqué – I’m not quite sure which yet. I will post a photo when I’m done.

Time Warp, MVPN, and North Country Pagans

I took advantage of the long weekend and visited my family. I was able to attend a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Utica College. (It was fantastic, by the way!) My dear friend Katrina and former mistress of ceremonies for MVPN was there and we were able to catch up before the show. I say “former mistress of ceremonies” because my last post about MVPN has been confirmed. They had their last council meeting and decided to dissolve. MVPN will remain as an online forum and networking site but nothing more, at least for the time being. The mostly Wiccan members will organize sabbats and esbats somewhat privately, meaning that they will meet with sincerely interested parties and eventually invite them, but the group won’t focus on advertising. It also means that friends are welcome to the rituals should they want to attend.

Interestingly, I was asked to become a moderator on the forums as they mean a lot to me. They are how I maintain contact with my Pagan friends in the Mohawk Valley. I’m not sure when the switch will take place…

I also saw the former Elder of MVPN, Bruce, when getting breakfast at a donut shop. It was nice to see him as he is often silent on MVPN’s boards. He is organizing a ritual to acknowledge the closure of MVPN in its original state.

C’est la vie, I guess.

There is a CUUPs meeting in Watertown next week, I believe. I’m thinking about going. I looked through Witch Vox’s directory of local Pagans. I already knew that are some Pagans on Fort Drum, but there are supposedly Pagans in Evans Mills, Gouverneur, Antwerp, and Philadelphia. I’m not about to message these people and ask to meet up. That would make me feel uncomfortable. I would feel safer going to an established and open Pagan meeting.

We’ll see what happens I guess!

MVPN – Dying?

My friend Katrina, the acting mistress of ceremonies for MVPN, replied to an email the other day and updated me on the situation with the Mohawk Valley Pagan Network. Apparently, with myself and another ADFer moved out of the Utica area, the other members, who are all some form of Neo-Wiccan, want to focus more on that path. They want to conduct more private Sabbats and Esbats rather than reach out to the community (I guess). Katrina says the forums will remain to maintain communication with Pagans of other paths and other places in NY (like myself). She has yet to reply to my email requesting a confirmation of these points, but I’m assuming that means MVPN, for all practical purposes, is going to be an online networking site.

There are positives and negatives to this. On the one hand, I can completely understand why everyone left in Utica would want to focus more on their own path. While us ADFers were there, MVPN did its best to cater to our wants and needs. My friend and I pushed for more diversity because not everyone is Wiccan and if that’s the first impression non-Wiccans get, they will usually run away without giving the group a chance. With us gone, it’s only natural for the Neo-Wiccans to study what they feel most called to. If nobody else in the community is looking for Druidism or Heathenism (etc) then why go out of their way? In addition, I wouldn’t feel it appropriate for a non-Druid, for example, to have a Druid ritual just to be diverse. That would be somewhat offensive, in my opinion.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if a Druid showed up in Utica. I know the group wouldn’t turn him or her away, but I get the feeling that the hypothetical “other” would lose interest. When I was in Utica, I seriously thought about starting a protogrove. I asked Robert Lewis, a fellow ADFer and then representative of the North Eastern groves, for a reading. The omens indicated that I had too much going on and that I should wait. Boy am I glad I listened – I got a new job and had to move, after all! That would have really complicated things… Then my friend moved to Albany. I would have been by myself, really… At the same time I wonder if I’ll ever go back to Utica and whether or not I’ll set up a grove there or anywhere else. I definitely feel the calling but it’s not the right time. I feel like I need more experience, to begin with.

But I digress.

So, yes. The core group of MVPN seem to be moving away from MVPN and more towards a private/semi-open circle of sorts. Until the council meets to discuss what this officially means, all I can do is conjecture. In the meantime, the forums, which are supposedly going to be left for networking, are all but dead. Every once and awhile, a new person pops up but then goes quiet. It’s usually just Katrina and myself having discussions. My other ADF friend will occasionally chime in. Otherwise the forums have been used for nothing more than RSVPing for events. I fear that, should “other” Pagans enter the Mohawk Valley, and if they find MVPN, they will think it’s dead and give up. I don’t understand why nobody else joins in on the conversations. Even simple ones like “What are your Yule traditions?” I can see that people looked – but why didn’t they respond? Have they really just given up on networking? On the community? I’m two hours away and I haven’t given up. Should I?

I guess I’ll have to see what the council says.

ADF Chats and Strange Dreams

I found out that the CUUPs group in Watertown was having a meeting last night. At first I really wanted to try and make it but then I realized how last-minute it was and decided to stay home and relax with my husband. I ended up getting on the ADF chat towards the end of the night which was a lot of fun and helped to remind me that I’m not alone, even if I’m the only ADFer in Northern NY (which it sometimes seems is the case…) We talked about the nature of deity, specifically whether or not Zeus was the same as Jupiter and Tyr, etc. It was a fun intellectual exercise but one we all agreed wouldn’t lead to any true conclusions. All the same, I believe that such discussions are important. They force us to contemplate our faith and even question it. This, I believe, helps to ward off stagnation and unflinching dogma.

Somehow, we ended up talking about the Fomoire, I admitted that I had an interest in them, in particular Bres. In much of the lore I’ve read, he is Brighid’s husband. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a horrible king. Bres is part Fomoire and part Tuatha de Dannan. He decides to enslave the de Dannans and favor the Fomoire. He was also not very hospitable which, to the ancient Irish, was a big no-no. After a war, The Fomoire are defeated and Lugh gets the secrets of agriculture from former king Bres. It’s a trade – Bres’ life for, basically, the secrets of taming nature.

I explained to my fellow ADFers that, while I’ve not made tribute to him and do not worship him, I have an interest. Perhaps I can compare it to the interest people have in someone like Iago from Othello. He’s the antagonist and I can’t help but wonder at his motives. More importantly, I wonder at Brighid’s relationship with him. Yes, in the myths, it was most probably symbolic of a political marriage and, perhaps, sovereignty. But, if the Gods have feelings like us, how did she feel? If it’s all just a metaphor, what does it mean to people devoted to Brighid? What does it mean to a feminist to worship a Goddess who married an asshat? Was he always like that? We know she invented keening when their son was killed. But that’s it. Brighid is such an important Goddess to me that I can’t help but wonder at it all.

Anyway, shortly after the chat I went to bed and I had a horrible dream. In the dream, I became aware of a shadowy figure watching me through the windows at night. No matter where I went he (because I somehow knew it was male) knew and fallowed. At some points he was just a silhouette behind a blind. Other times I felt his presence. Then there were times when he seemed to be reaching through the windows from the darkness. It was very frightening. Finally, in an attempt to flee I got into a car with someone else (I can’t remember who – my sister, maybe) and the person/thing chased after me. The car was going and I couldn’t get the door closed. The thing was at the door, a shadow, reaching through the spaces. I woke up shortly after that.

At work I ended up daydreaming for a bit. I was thinking about the dream. I hardly ever seem to remember my dreams and I suddenly remembered the discussion on the Fomoire. Was it Bres? Or was my mind still thinking of the “Outsiders” ( the term we often use in ADF to describe the “powers of chaos” like the Fomoire or the Titans)? Did I get their attention? If so, and if I had a dream like that as a result, I don’t think I’ll ever want to think about making offerings to Bres.

Tonight, as it gets darker, I think of Brighid, my patroness, and I ask her, as I always ask her, to protect my home and me in it. I can’t help but wonder what it means to ask the wife to keep the husband out?

Making a Cultural Shift

There’s a lot of talk among environmentalists about making a cultural shift. There’s no way around it – it’s going to have to happen if we as a species want to survive. It’s also going to have to happen if we don’t want to dramatically damage the homes of countless life. (A lot of people argue that the Earth doesn’t need saving because it will always bounce back – but that can’t be said of the nature spirits we’re killing directly and indirectly. So stop shrugging off the blame!)

But back to the point of the post. It is so difficult to imagine Western Civilization making such a dramatic change. The ignorant masses (I hate to use this incredibly pejorative term, but it’s an accurate one.) refuse to shift and cling to bad science and irresponsible dogma. Then there are the poor. People from a low socio-economic background often find it incredibly difficult to make big changes, even when you argue that some of the changes would save them money. And let’s face it – soda is often cheaper than wholesome juice. And as long as food stamps allow people to purchase junk, that’s what most people will get. (Yes, I know – controversial statement!) And then there’s… people like myself and many of my social circle. People who are aware of the need for change and are attempting to do it baby step after careful baby step. Finally, there are the people with real balls – the people who live the change. They only bike/walk/use public transit. They get most of their food from their own property. They live off the grid. They reject consumerism. Gods, I wish I could be one of them…

Living in Northern NY makes such a shift VERY difficult. (Saying this could be an excuse, a sign of ignorance, or a reality – it could be all at once. Let me know what you think.) We’re “doing the right thing” by only having one car, but I find myself wishing we had two so that I could go ram-rodding around on my own while Ron is at work. Not very environmentally responsible of me, huh? Luckily, I live two-three minutes from my place of employment. I want to start walking and cycling more. I’m inspired by the stories about year-round cyclists. I need to practice more but I may just try to become one next winter. Ron can’t walk or cycle to work considering it’s 30 minutes away by car. He’s got a job and I’m grateful for that – but until we start using more public or man-powered transit, we won’t be very sustainable. This is something I want to work more on…

But there are other areas besides transportation – areas many people are arguing about as we speak. Let’s look at some of them.

1) Going vegetarian / vegan. People have been arguing for years that this is one of the most important changes you can make in your life to help the environment. It amazes me that Al Gore goes on and on about change and yet STILL eats meat. To be fair, he has said that he’s limited his meat consumption. This is good. If you eat meat, you should try and limit how much you eat. Try going veggie on weekends. It will save you money and make less of an impact. Even better, if you must eat meat (there could be health reasons, for instance!), shun fast-food and anything that isn’t local or killed by your own hand. Going veggie? This point – I agree with.

2) Stop eating fish. I started to notice this a lot a year or so ago. Many scientists are indicating that we have severely fucked up in regards to the oceans. There are huge pools of plastic in multiple oceans, plastic in our beach sand, chemicals leaching into the fish, and over fishing. Don’t get me going on overfishing – it will seriously make me froth at the mouth because I get so, so angry. If you can’t give up that cheese burger, AT LEAST consider giving up seafood or limiting it. For some really good information, check out Overfishing. There are also fish that aren’t as in danger so, if you must eat fish, go for those. (FYI – tuna is not one of them.) Giving up fish? I agree with that.

3) Overconsumption. This is the part where things start to get really, really tricky for people. I don’t know about you, but I was born into a material world. As a child, if I wanted a toy, I got it. Oh yes. I was spoilt. Most of us were, even if we don’t think so. Look at all we have compared to the countries with significantly smaller carbon footprints. And what is most of that stuff made from? You guessed it – plastic. What was that infomercial that used to be on tv? Plastics make it possible? A friend once pointed out to me that plastic is necessary for most medical equipment. My husband is quick to point out that plastic is necessary for electronics. Ok. Fine. But do we really need so much disposable crap!? Seriously – where is our ban on plastic shopping bags, NY? Are you not washing and reusing your ziplock bags? Why? It’s so easy and saves you money.

Disposable crap aside, the hardest part is stopping ourselves from overconsuming. Let’s face it – we like things. They make us feel happy. We enjoy that illusion. Heck, I’m an artist and art is often about making things. Granted they aren’t on a mass-produced scale, but some of the materials I’ve accumulated are so, in that sense, I’m guilty. Reusing things in my craft has become very important to me. Again, baby steps.

My husband’s number one hobby is playing video games – something I’m getting more and more into. But more games equals more plastic discs and packages. Would the industries lose money if they went all digital? My husband argues yes because without one-time install discs for games like World of Warcraft, people would pirate. And on top of that, there’s the servers! People talk about wanting to live on Pandora, but are they truly willing to go cold turkey hunter-gatherer? That equals work, people! Do you think most are willing to go that far? Part of me feels so trapped by my student loans. College = a good job = student loans = stuck in the system. I can’t be a hunter gatherer because that doesn’t bring in the income required to pay off my student loans! So I shrug and whine about it on my fancy iMac. Oh yes, I suffer from extreme eco-guilt. 😛

So overconsumption. I agree that it is an issue but it’s not an easy one to solve. People like treasure and they like convenience. It’s human nature. Only the bravest of us seem able to let go and live on the fringe. I want to attempt to consume less and less. I really want to try and buy less garbage. I’m a big advocate for second-hand clothing and renting rather than or before buying brand new. That’s a start, I suppose. I think I get a little better every year… I hope.

4) “Ditch the Dog.” That’s the new one and arguably one of the most controversial. Some scientists are citing pets as horrible for the environment – worse than owning a car! A lot of this has to do with the food (remember, factory farming is bad for the environment and where do you think the kibble comes from?), but there were other arguments that I forget. I don’t know what will become of this. I mean… seriously, do these people want more homeless animals on the street? If anything, people need to step up, be responsible, and fix their pets. Seriously, though, I am not about to euthanize my cats and ferrets. You could also argue that humans are bad for the environment (which, hell, we are!) so we should ditch our children. Because that makes sense… While there are valid points to the argument, it seems kind of faulty. Fix your pets, yes. Consider a raw diet, yes. (I’m hoping to start my cats on one this year after more research.) Ditch them? Where would they go?

So those are just some thoughts I’ve been having. If you actually read the whole thing, you deserve a cookie. An organic, vegan cookie. 😛 Most of this probably sounded really controversial or accusatory. I’m not trying to point fingers as I’m guilty too. If anything, I’m trying to start a conversation about the issues and possible solutions. What are you doing to change your impact and shift your culture?

CUUPS?

Has anyone been involved with CUUPS? There is a chapter in Watertown (30ish minutes away from me) and I’m thinking about going to check it out. I keep feeling so so about it. One the one hand, I realize that it will be an eclectic mix and I already have that in the form of MVPN. I also realize that it would just be another thing to get involved in On the other hand, I’m lonely up here. My only real friend is my husband. I talk to people at work but I don’t show them all of me. I would like to know some more people – people who I’m not afraid of being myself around.

Thoughts?