N.C. Wiccans, Witches and Pagans, Oh My!!!

d68eb55500a375d9eae10f8cf932a9a3Soooo in my feed today was this article in Patheos by the lovely Gardnerian HPS, Thorn Mooney. It is a response to the often heard statement ” “I can’t find any insert your preferred term for modern Pagan here in NC”, which I have more to say about, of course, but please go read her article FIRST. “There are Fucking Witches in North Carolina”  Seriously… go ahead…. we’ll wait….

Ok ok settle down fellow Pagan clergy, in my state AND others. I do agree with her. I am originally from NY and when we moved to NC 25 years ago, I thought for sure I would never find another Pagan, let alone coven, here. Yet I was initiated into the EXACT very specific tradition I dreamed of, within 2 years of moving here, and my own hived coven (Clann Caladvwlch in W/S) is now over 18yrs old and still going strong. Now I will say that though Clann C has always been HIGHLY visible via our website, social media and many public platforms, most of our inquiries DO still come through Witchvox. So part of the “can’t find” problem may just be that people don’t know how to word their Google searches in such a way as to receive the results they want. That said………

Over the years, I’ve personally come to realize that the statement “I can’t find any “Pagans” in NC” doesn’t actually mean can’t find one AT ALL, it means can’t find one in a place “convenient” enough to pursue. To be able to practice with and be trained by the HPhood/lineage I wanted, I drove what was then an almost 2hr drive EACH WAY between W/S and my initiatory coven in Durham, 2-3 Saturdays a month, leaving my oldest, and then very young son, and hubby, (and later on my newborn son as well) behind to do so. When Path of the Moon was in its infancy back in 2000-01, we frequently had people come from HOURS away for our public rituals. But let’s face it, the average PRACTICING Pagan nowadays won’t drive over 15mins to buy their supplies from a local esoteric shop instead of AzureGreen, let alone to attend public ritual for Goddess sake; so are seekers going to? That said seekers, you really need to stop saying that you can’t find us, if what you really mean is that you aren’t willing to travel to where we are!

Ive also come to realize that “I can’t find a teacher/coven/grove/group” has little to do with not finding the specific TRADITION they are looking for either. Nooooo, “I cant find a coven” more often translates to “I don’t want to actually have to do the work.” Plain and simple. Now granted, mine is a degreed Kabbalistic based Western Mystery tradition coven, so it is a huge academic endeavor that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I know plenty of Wiccan coven leaders who require far less, yet receive the exact same responses I do. It seems that today’s seekers, who have learned about Wicca / modern Paganism from fiction, or the Llewellyn section of their favorite bookstore, don’t even seem to know, let alone understand or VALUE, the idea of being “properly prepared”. They just want to be able to do it…. ALL of it….. RIGHT NOW! So fine… grab your book and go DO it, but don’t say you can’t find us if what you really mean is you can’t find a person/grp/etc who doesn’t have some expectation that you will read/study/train/etc with them FIRST.

Wicca/ Modern Paganism extends an immense privilege to our practitioners, one that MOST other religions/spiritualities do NOT – the ability to know, inside and out, the history and MEANING behind every item we wear, tool we use, action we take, words we speak/sing, and ritual we perform. And each and every practitioner of Wicca / modern Paganism is also afforded an honor no other religion/spirituality extends – the opportunity to, as a “layperson”, advance to carry the traditions/practices of our spiritualities beyond ourselves, and our own individual grps/covens/groves/etc into the future as Priesthood. But the spiritualities that were our forebears were not passive, easy Paths; they were demanding, arduous, and even perilous to take on; because NOTHING worth having comes easily.

So my dear seekers, we, the Wiccans, witches, strega, ceremonial magicians, Druids, Heathens, Asatru, Voduin, Yoruban, Santerian, priesthood, teachers, organizers, leaders (etc terms I have missed) of the colorful communities that fall under the umbrella term “Pagan”  here in NC are probably NOT going to make it any easier for you. We are going to continue be where we can be, and do what we can do. The rest my pretties, is ENTIRELY up to YOU!

©RavenHarte 2017

Resolutions 2017: “Little meaning – little relevancy bore”

just-say-no-to-new-year-resolutionsSooooo in the United States, the popular thing to do this time of year is to make “resolutions” right? You know, those promises you make to yourself, or others, to start a new project, break some habit, change your lifestyle, and become a new YOU. But REALLY?!?  As lifeforms who spent a millennia living life according to the cycles of the land, why oh why did we suddenly decide that WINTER, the fallowtide for the Northern hemisphere, when all around us is in various states decline and hibernation – even WITH global warming, is a great time to SEED something we want to eventually bud, blossom, and fruit?

Because it’s the first day of the year, you say? Numero Uno? Says who?  Historically the Egyptians, Phoenicians and Persians celebrated their “first day” on the Fall Equinox. The Jews mark the “head of the year” at Rosh Hashanah, which falls in late Sept, early October. Old Norse observed Vetrnætr, “Winters Night” in mid-October. And the Celts, following the Gaulish Coligny calendar, celebrate the first day of the lunisolar year as Samhain / Samonios, traditionally from sundown Oct 30th to sundown Nov 1st.  I mean, the end of fall, when the years toil is over and the storehouses are full, does seem to lend to a “good start” to the year, I have to admit. That saiiiiiid…..

Many cultures start the new year closer to what we in the Northern Hemisphere call the Spring Equinox.  The ancient Babylonians began the tradition, and so it makes sense that modern Iranians, Indians, Pakistani still do. The Balinese, and people of MANY smaller Central Asians countries do as well. From the religious perspective, a Spring new year is also observed by many Hindus, Zoroastrians, and Bahai; and in fact, until the reform of 153 BC, even the Romans (fathers of our Julian and Gregorian calendars) celebrated the new year at the Spring Equinox.

Sooooo, if you’re feeling the pressure to make some kind of “New Year’s” promise to yourself about the changes to come, forget it. Use the winter to introspect, meditate, and contemplate how your 2016 went. Formulate a plan on what you could do differently to achieve REALISTIC goals. Then in the SPRING, plant those seeds, when you might actually have the energy, drive, and WEATHER to help them grow strong and true enough to bear fruit!!! Now pass the Baileys and cheesecake, Ive got some movies to watch!

©RavenHarte 2016-2017

Trans Day of Remembrance 2015

tdor2015x755x There are many posts on my blog regarding Trans Day of Remembrance so I will not repeat the historical information about TDoR again here. Instead I feel it is more important to point out that even though this year we have seen more people come out as transgender or gender variant than ever before, and even though we have seen FAR more positive portrayals of transgender and gender variant people across all forms of media than ever before, we have also seen THE HIGHEST number of reported murders of transgender & gender variant people than ever before, especially trans women of color. THIS HAS TO STOP!!! Create change people! Be VISABLY supportive of people of all genders, do not stand silent as people make fun of, or spread hate about trans, intersex and gender variant people. Protect the rights of ALL humans to be exactly who they know themselves to be!

And on Nov 20th, “hold in your heart all of the transgender individuals who have made the brave move to be seen for who they truly are, as well as those who are still too afraid to be their authentic selves. Hold in your heart the families and loved ones of those individuals whose bravery was met with misunderstanding, ignorance, fear and anger. Even hold in your heart those who are unaware, ignorant and afraid, in the hope that they will understand and find compassion and love.” <adapted from the writings of  Rev. Paul Langston-Daley>

UNITED STATES VICTIMS LOST IN 2015 (*are shown in the picture)

*Died 10/15/15  Zella Ziona (Age 21)  Shot in the head – Gaithersburg, MD

*Died 10/6/15  Kiesha Jenkins (Age 22)  Assaulted by 5-6 men, shot in the back – Philly, PA

*Died 8/15/15  Tamara Dominguez (Age 36)  Repeatedly run over by a truck – Kansas City, MO

*Found 8/13/15   Elisha Walker (Age 20)  Blunt force trauma, found in a shallow grave in Smithfield, NC grave months after she was reported missing. She was from Salisbury NC.

*Died 8/11/15  Kandis Capri (Age 35)  Multiple gunshots – Phoenix, AZ

*Died 8/8/15  Amber Monroe (Age 20)  Shot to death. (She had been shot twice in her life previously and was afraid to report them)  Detroit, MI

*Died 7/14/15  Ashton O’Hara (Age 25)   Stabbed to death, run over by vehicle – Detroit, MI

Found 7/29/15  Shade Schuler (Age 22)  Undisclosed cause, her body was so badly decomposed when found and it took 2 weeks for them to identify her – Dallas, TX

Died 7/24/15  K.C. Haggard (Age 66)  Multiple stab wounds to the neck – Fresno, CA

*Died 7/21/15  India Clarke (Age 22)  Beaten & shot in the head and arm –  Tampa, FL

Died 6/23/15  Jasmine Collins (Age 32)  Multiple stab wounds –  Kansas City, MO

*Died 5/30/15  Mercedes Williamson (Age 17)  Stabbed to death & buried in a field on the attackers fathers property – George County, MS

*Died 5/8/15  London Chanel (Age 21) Stabbed in the back and neck – Philly, PA

*Died 3/7/2015  Keyshia Blige (Age 33)  Shot while driving – Aurora, IL

*Died 2/15/15  Kristina Gomez Reinwald (AKA: Kristina Grant Infiniti) (Age 47)  Stabbed to  death – Miami, FL

*Died 2/13/15  Bri Golec (Age 22)  Stabbed to death by her own father – Akron, OH

*Died 2/10/15  Penny Proud (Age 21)  Shot multiple times – Tremé, New Orleans, LA

*Died 2/8/15  Taja Gabrielle DeJesus (Age 36)  Multiple stab wounds – San Francisco, CA

Died 1/26/15  Michelle (Yazmin) Vash Payne (Age 33)  Stabbed multiple times and left in her burning apartment – Los Angeles, CA

*Died 1/26/15  Ty Underwood (Age 24)  Shot in car while fleeing from her attacker – Tyler, TX

*Died 1/17/15  Lamia Beard (Age 30)  Shot and left for dead – Norfolk, VA

Died 1/9/15  Papi Edwards (Age 20)  Gunshot to the chest – Louisville, KY

*Died 12/6/15  Keymori Johnson (Age 24)  Multiple gunshots – Albany, GA

*Died 12/3/15  Deshawnda Sanchez (Age 21)  Multiple gunshots – Los Angeles, CA

For more details of these 2015 tragedies see the below:

http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2015/07/27/these-are-trans-women-killed-so-far-us-2015

http://www.dailydot.com/politics/trans-women-of-color-murdered/

http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/HRC-AntiTransgenderViolence-0519.pdf

Mercury Retrograde. Yes its a thing!

mercury_retroSIGNWhat exactly does it mean when a planet is said to be retrograde? A planet is described as retrograde when it appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac as we view it in the sky from Earth. Mercury retrograde is perhaps best known of all retrogrades, and to take the “mystical” out of it, basically you just have to think of it like this. The moon, planets and sun are all generating many different types of frequencies and vibrations of energy all the time due to such things as the natural disruptions of the body itself (volcanoes, quakes etc), their odic mantles (the atmospheric field around the celestial body), their temperatures, gravitational forces, and even just the motion of the body through space (because come on, even the smoothest riding car vibrates when in motion vs not). Combine this with the fact that as they move, they also disturb the molecules that we consider “space”, in much the same way a boat does as it cuts through water and creates wake. So because the Earth is within the same molecular soup that is solar system, it isn’t a leap to assume that these energies are received on Earth, and do affect us in some way. And because each of these celestial bodies is very different in size, shape, and temperature, with different types of phenomenon occurring upon each, and each moving at different speeds with varying proximities to Earth at different times of year, it doesn’t take a degree in astronomy to deduce that each body in our solar system would affect our planet very differently. Soooooo, just as the moon affects the water on this planet (the tides of the ocean, the growth of plants and animals, the estrus cycles of mammals etc) for thousands of years humans have recognized that the other celestial bodies in our solar system have areas of effect as well, with impact depending on the size of the celestial body, and where they are in space in relation to the Earth and the other planets (is a planet blocking “line of sight” to earth, so to speak).

That all said, what has been “observed” for a few thousand years now is that the planet Mercury seems to affect “flow” on our planet, how things “stream” from one person/place to another. The areas of communication, travel, and the transmission of information in various forms are the impacts most readily observable, including the way we listen, learn, teach and speak. Perhaps Mercury influences the way the synopses in our brains fire or how new connections are formed, how electricity moves through equipment like computers, electronics and phones, or even within and above the Earth, who knows, but when Mercury goes retrograde, and the energy that reaches Earth changes in whatever way, these things are affected, sometimes adversely, sometimes for the better, but generally speaking in an opposite or perceivably different manner than when Mercury is direct.

Now, during this period of Mercury Retro (Jan 21 – Feb 11) what can you expect? Computer and phone issues, internet, cable, really all manner of “wiring” disruptions, and difficulty with forms of communication of all types are going to be your first and BIGGEST clues…. like hmmmm your company gets hit with a major virus, LOL.  Misunderstandings might happen because you aren’t being heard, or not being understood the way you mean something to be. Logic seems to go out the window, or maybe you just flat out don’t tell someone something or they don’t tell you.  Technology issues manifest in things like mis-sent emails,  texts or other electronic posts are misinterpreted, delayed or just don’t go out at all (check your sent folders people). Electronics like phones, tablets, controllers are suddenly not charging, computers crash, your check engine light goes on and off and on… you get the idea. In addition, travel and transportation is also affected.  It could be as simple as a traffic jam because the signal lights are not working, but it can be as bad as your car breaking down in the middle of traffic affecting everyone else’s flow. Also because Mercury rules the astrological signs of Gemini and Virgo (meaning it has a prominent position in the sky in relation to the Earth at time of birth), these people often show noticeable changes in their personalities. Sometimes its mild, like they feel or act “off”, but sometimes it’s a complete Jekyll and Hyde transformation. My best friend, and my hubby, both Virgos, get downright PMSy…. I am NOT kidding.

So what can you do? While it’s happening, use active listening skills, ask questions for clarification, explore all angles, and use the system of RE:  by taking the time to use review, reword, revise and reexamine because if you don’t it’s going to mean repeating, rerouting, and REWORKING. Don’t sign contracts, make business deals, do anything with legal implications because invariably you will find errors later, and not always in your favor, and give other people a break when THEY seems to be having trouble communicating or understanding. On the positive side, it is a great time to reorder the areas of your life you’ve been wanting to, revisit something that you put aside, or reconnect with people you’ve been missing.  Sometimes we need a break from our electronic lives, so RELAX as well.  And for those less skeptical, wear amethyst and/or put a piece of it on electronic equipment, like your CPU, to help. If I had to go science on this, I’d say there is probably a vibration that the particular collective of molecules and atoms we call amethyst gives off that interferes with or filters whatever vibration Mercury flows towards us… but whatever…. I like it, and it HAS worked for me when *Ive* used it during meetings/conversations or placed it on my computers. Hmmm I might have to bring some with me to work!

In addition, Mercury also has a “shadow period” which is about a week+ before and after the actual retrograde, where the effects can be mildly seen as well. I mean think about it, these are big celestial bodies, and they don’t just BLINK into position, so of course there is going to be a gradual coming ON of effect and waning OFF of effect as the planets move, so factor this into your planning.  Good Luck!!!

©RavenHarte 2006-2015

Trans* Day of Remembrance 2014

tdor2014update

 It is time once again to stand in solidarity with our LGBTQAI brethren on Trans Day of Remembrance to   honor the fallen.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is reported to have been created in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts.  Since the 1999 vigil held, it has continued on every Nov 20th to remember not only those who self-identify as transgender but also those who were transsexual, crossdressers, or otherwise gender-variant victims of violence due to their perpetrator’s phobia and/or hate against transgender people.

Communities hold Transgender Day of Remembrance events for many reasons:

#1. It helps raise public awareness about the issue. Hate crimes against the gender-variant are glossed over or ignored entirely by most communities, with the victims of the crimes often misnamed (birth name rather than legally changed name or AKA) or improperly gendered (birth gender rather than lived gender). That is IF there is any media coverage at all.

#2. It allows the LGBTQAI and Allies a way to stand united to mourn for friends/family they have lost, those who were killed for being “like them”, and those who may have no one else mourn for them, since so many LGBTQ are STILL cast away from blood family & friends due to our society’s puritanical ideologies.

#3. It reminds non-gender variant people that we of the LGBTQAI community are SOMEONE’S child, mother, father, sister, brother, best friend, partner, co-worker, fellow parishioner, etc and as HUMANS are worthy of the same rights to safety, and freedom from persecution as every other human.

So before I list this year’s names for remembrance let me give you the writings of Rev. Paul Langston-Daley

As November 20th approaches, I will hold in my heart all of the transgender individuals who have made the brave move to be seen for who they truly are, as well as those who are still too afraid to be their authentic selves. I will hold in my heart the families and loved ones of those individuals whose bravery was met with misunderstanding, ignorance, fear and anger. I will even hold in my heart those who are unaware, ignorant and afraid, in the hope that they will understand and find compassion and love.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UNITED STATES VICTIMS TO REMEMBER 2014Betty

Betty Skinner (52 yrs old)  Died 12/3/13
Blunt force trauma to the head.  Cleveland, Ohio


Brittany

Brittany Nicole Kidd- Stergis (22 yrs old)  Died 12/4/13
Gunshot wound to the head.  Cleveland, Ohio


candle

Kandy Hall (40 yrs old) Died 6/3/14
Massive trauma, body left in a field. Montebello, Maryland


Zoraida

Trans* Activist  Zoraida Reyes (28 yrs)   Died around 6/12/14
Strangled and left by a dumpster.  Anaheim, California


Mia

Mia Henderson (26 yrs old)   Died 6/16/14
Massive trauma, found dead in alley.  Baltimore, Maryland


Yazmin2

Yaz’min Shancez (31 yrs old)   Died 6/18/14
Shot then burned behind a dumpster.  Fort Myers, Florida


Tiffany

Tiffany Edwards (28 yrs old)   Died 6/26/14
Shot to death in the middle of the road.  Walnut Hills, Ohio


Alejandra

Alejandra Leos (41yrs old)   Died 9/5/14
Gunshot to the back. Memphis, Tennessee
Funeral Fund: #RememberAlejandra. 


Aniya

Aniya Parker (47 yrs old)   Died 10/3/14
Punched and then shot in the head.  East Hollywood, LA, California


Ashley

Ashley Sherman (25yrs old)   Died 10/27/14
Shot in the head.  Indianapolis, Indiana


Gizzy

Gizzy Fowler (24yrs old)  Died 11/10/14
Gunshot. Nashville, Tennessee


NORTH CAROLINA TDOR EVENTS 2014

Asheville, North Carolina
Transgender Day of Remembrance Thursday, November 20th, 2014 7:00PM
87 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC, 28801

Boone, North Carolina Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil Thursday, November 20th, 2014 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Appalachian State University Whitewater Room, Plemmons Student Union, 263 Locust St, Boone, NC 28608

Durham, North Carolina Transgender Day of Remembrance Candlelight Vigil Thursday, November 20th, 2014 6:00PM
115 Market St, Durham, NC 27701 http://lgbtcenterofraleigh.com/programs/adult-programs/transgender-programs/71-programs/transgender-initiative/409-transgender-day-of-remembrance.html

Durham, North Carolina Transgender Day of Remembrance Community Memorial Altar Thursday, November 20th 2014
Intersection of Trinity & Washington
https://www.facebook.com/events/578969395582278/

Greensboro, North Carolina, United States Transgender Day of Remembrance Thursday, November 20th, 2014 7:00PM-8:00PM
Tree of Life Counseling, 1821 Lendew Street, Greensboro, NC 27408

Greenville, North Carolina
Transgender Day of Remembrance Thursday, November 20th, 2014 6:00PM
East Carolina University (Green Room at Croatan) 100 Dixon Street, Greenville, NC, 27858

Hickory, North Carolina Transgender Day of Remembrance Thursday, November 20th, 2014 6:30PM-8:00PM
Lenoir Rhyne University, Belk Centrum Theater, Hickory, NC, USA

For more information on events in your area see http://tdor.info/

©RavenHarte 11/19/14

Forgiveness Is Overrated

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I have to admit that I have an unpopular take on forgiveness, especially given I am a clergy member, though of course I am a PAGAN clergy member, which may have something to do with it. I personally don’t think you HAVE to forgive other people to be able to get through an “injury” to the other side of it. Some things are not forgivable, they just aren’t, and to me that “society” tells us to “forgive those who trespass against us” because we will never be “truly free” or “truly healed” etc until we do, is bullshit. That to me is like saying a victim is responsible for making restitution to themselves for a crime committed by another. I think not.

As a Pagan, life is both white AND black to me. Bad things happen because they happen, and honestly they are usually the only parts of life which catalyze change, and allows us to mature and grow. From a reptilian brain perspective, we obsess over the events that cause us pain very specifically to ingrain the memory so deeply into the subconscious, into “shadow”, that if the same pattern emerges again in the future, the subconscious can immediately react, and “save” us from that pain happening again. Now that is not to say that Shadow reactions can’t jump up in ways that can be unhealthy, but a person who is aware and conscientious can recognize a reaction as Shadow, then contemplate what the alarm is trying to tell them, so they can then be more cautious and observant, to determine if a situation is repeating or not, and make decisions differently or not. So I think conditioning people to believe that we have to forgive something that our brains purposely evolved an early warning system to shield us from ever experiencing again, isn’t healthy. And making us feel guilty for NOT forgiving, for NOT letting go of our protection, isn’t always healthy for us either.

So do you have to forgive in order to get over/past/through something/someone? I don’t think so. What I council people in my classes to do is to first, let go of the word “forgive”. To me that word carries way too much expectation of some kind of miraculous 180 degree change of heart, and/or feeling of freedom, lightness, etc that may NEVER come about a situation or person who wounded us, even if we are able to work through the pain, even if we are able to “understand” how it happened. Instead I council my students to “get balance with” the person/people we feel “out of balance” with instead. And “getting balance” with something/someone, or “making peace” with it/them, is a very different thing to me than the modern connotation of forgiveness.

“Getting balance” for me is a point of neutrality, the middle way, a detachment from the burden of pain that is the collateral damage we are non-consensually saddled with when someone injures us. Here the objective is to work through the emotions of the situation by considering the situation from every angle, dissecting the words and actions of ALL parties, until your mind has enough information, enough understanding, that the heart/gut stops throwing pain about it anymore. But the key point to it is WORK. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, in fact sometimes all that time does is allow things to fester to the point of imminent destruction. However working on getting through it will at least make it easier to deal with day to day.

Of course for some people working it through to the point of “no pain” CAN open a door to allow positive emotion for the person/people who injured us to bubble back up, and real forgiveness can be born from that point. However to go in with that sole objective, forgiveness, is setting yourself up for failure, especially because there are ingredients that are necessary for REAL forgiveness, that not all of us are ever going to get. What are those?

#1. OWN IT – The person/people who caused the injury have to recognize that they HAVE harmed you and own it. Not just pay it lip service. They have to genuinely know so clearly within their own being that what THEY did caused you harm, that you can see they know it when they express to you what they think they have done. (You owning the part you played in your own pain, and in any pain you caused the others, is ALSO required here!)

#2. EXPRESS REMORSE – In recognizing they have injured you, the person/people who caused the injury have to actually feel remorse for having done it, and genuinely express their remorse for whatever part they played in the injury. Even better is if they are able to not only apologize, but explain to you WHY they feel sorry, because there is nothing worse than knowing that a person is not actually sorry for what they have done, just sorry that you KNOW they did it. When someone can express from their heart how much they regret that what they did hurt you and why, even if the person wouldn’t have done anything differently, it helps. Truly. (Your apologies for your part in the issue are required here too, even working out for yourself why you are sorry for the part you played in your own pain)

#3. RESTITUTION/REPARATION – The person/people who caused the injury have to be willing to “make things right”, to do whatever it takes for you to “get to peace” with the injury. So here is where the difference between being able to forgive people versus just “get balance” with them really comes into play. Often times even when someone knows they did wrong, admits it honestly, and is genuinely sorry and apologizes, if they are not willing to do ANYTHING to make it better for you, their “victim” of a sorts, true forgiveness isn’t possible. This is because some of what you need to even begin to get there, requires the other person/people to be willing to go there too. And even when the “injury” is something simple like denting your car, and you’re thinking reparation is something simple like, they agree to pay to fix it, the real work for true forgiveness is often the same as when the “injury” is much greater, like infidelity, truth and communication. Which means they have to not only make the obvious reparation of loss, they also have to agree to invest in the conversation needed for you to “get it” Agree to endure the incessant questions you will have about what they did, why, where their head was at, where their heart was at. Over and over sometimes, why, why, why, with anger and pain all mixed up in it. Two steps forward, 5 steps back sometimes, being willing to keep working and keep working, until…. you achieve peace.

So you see why true forgiveness is a rare bird. Too many people can’t even start at #1 honestly, and most people can’t see part #3 to the end. I don’t just mean the person/people “at fault” here either. Sometimes it’s the injured party who can’t do the work because they aren’t willing to see their part in their own pain yet, or can’t hear the truths the other people want to give them yet. Sometimes the “injured party” just flat out doesn’t want to have to give up being the “one who was wronged” because that place is a seat of power, especially if the person who injured them really cares about them, and wants “forgiveness”.

That seat of power is a place we all have within in us too. It’s the place where we hold contempt and judgment in the court of our own hearts, having convicted the perpetrator of our injury, thus condemning them as “the bad one”, which by default makes us the “good one”. It’s the place that let’s us pretend that we don’t have control over how much pain we feel over our injury, or how much we let it affect our lives, and worse the place that let’s us deny ownership over the decisions we made that led us to injury in the first place. Which are some of the reasons why I think we have been conditioned all these years to believe we have to “forgive”, so that we DON’T hold that power against others, or use that place to make excuses to and for ourselves. However it’s exactly the reason too that I think we need to FORGET about “forgiving”, and learn how to “get balance”, so that NO ONE get’s off easy. We each have to own our role in the pain, and we all have to work our own pain to it’s peace.

In the end, the oneness of peace/balance is really on us anyway. So if the person/people who injured you aren’t willing to do the work, ANY step of the work, it actually doesn’t have to matter. Your peace is about you, not them. You know what happened, from your perspective yes, but probably at least bit from the other perspectives too, if you are honest with yourself. So you work it through examining first your roles, objectively what you did right, what you did wrong, and your motivations for why (which includes what you have already been through in life, what makes you, YOU) and then you do the exact same work on each person who had a party to the injury. The words said, the actions, every bit of what caused the injury. And sure, examining motives may make you feel like you are “making excuses”, and sometimes you will be for yourself or them, but ALL of it is important to your own understanding about where your pain is coming from, where you have been deluding yourself, and where you have been seeing crystal clearly. And the more you see all sides, all perspectives, even the ugly sides, even the selfish perspectives, the more balance you will achieve with it, until one day it’s just… less… and then at some point it’s just… DONE. And forgiveness is not required to just be done.

©RavenHarte 7/27/14

You say Easter, I say Eostre … additional thoughts in the age of the meme.

1969362_10152213735805435_1129464109_nFirst, my original post on this topic is here  You Say Easter I Say Eostre. If you haven’t read it you might want to do that first, since I don’t revisit that material, this is a continuation of, and precursor to, kind of post

So let me reiterate something for those who haven’t ever read a post of mine before. I have been a practicing Pagan for almost 25yrs, leading a coven and teaching about Paganism to Pagan & non-Pagan alike for over 16yrs, though I am also an ordained reverend and a Kabbalist, so embrace all spiritual paths as necessary and valid for humans on this planet to connect to the Divine. Which is why I have to speak back up here regarding the FB wars about the Ishtar/Easter meme and the Christian counter “debunking Ishtar/Easter” meme, because it’s making me crazy.

A bit of advice I frequently give non-Christians is that it’s really probably not a good idea to assume the validity of the Christian perspective regarding the secular portion of ANY holiday that’s widely believed to be Christian in origin. The majority of Christians do not actually know (and many who do, do not accept) that Paganism and Christianity co-existed until the year 392AD, when Theodosius I passed legislation prohibiting Paganism, opening the door to the persecution we’ve fought TO THIS DAY, so there was a ton of cross-over between the two religions happening loooong before Christian conversion began. Most don’t care that we weren’t then, and aren’t now, willing converts either, which is why it took 102 years and finally the threat of death by Charlemagne to convert the Anglo-Saxons (one of the last hold out cultures against Christianity along with the Scottish) even though in 601 Pope Gregory had already specifically authorized Mellitus, one of his missionaries, to “appropriate the Pagan festivals and temples to Christian use” in order to convert them faster. The process was called ‘syncretism’, which is “the toleration and adoption of familiar pagan practices that would assume, with the passage of time, a Christian content.” Which, ahem, you see it has, perfectly.

So to speak directly to the debate on the memes. You do know that the practices we call Paganism today have existed since probably the Paleolithic era, but for sure since the Neolithic era, right? Which is ooooh only since like the 10th century BC. There wasn’t even such a beast as Monotheism in fact until around until around 586 BCE. So why does it surprise anyone that the spiritual practices that humans held for THOUSANDS of years couldn’t be eradicated by one religion, and instead had to be adopted and adapted instead? I mean seriously, even ole’ Yahweh himself didn’t deny the existence of other Gods people, He just said that His favored Jews were to stop worshipping them, and worship only Him, the one true G-d, if they wanted Him to deliver them from Egypt. And just who was Yahweh saying they had to deny then? El, Ba’al, and Asherah.

Now there IS a ton of debate in both the Christian and Jewish academic worlds about the 2 names, Asherah and Ashtoreth, in relation to Ba’al. Many coming to the conclusion that Asherah is simply the sacred grove the goddess Ashtoreth was worshipped within. However given that in repeated translations of the Bible both names have been associated as the goddess/queen who was Ba’al’s mate (though King James version eradicated the word Asherah altogether replacing it with “pillars”, “wood” etc) I think it’s fair to equate the two. A breakdown of those connections and biblical references can be found at this link, though their conclusion differs from mine: http://kukis.org/Doctrines/Ashtoreth.pdf

That said, if you research ANY of the goddesses of the pre-Christian era with the same correspondence to love, fertility etc, there is definitely enough archaeological and etymological evidence to suggest the below goddesses are likely all the same archetypal divinity figure, with the variation being particular to culture and derivation of origin myth, much like we see with most of the Celtic countries Pagan deity structures. Therefore the Canaanite Asherah (Athirat), who was called Ashertu in Ugaritic texts, and is the Phoenician Ashtart or Tanit-Ashtart, is likely also the Hebrew Ashtoreth /Ashtoret (which apparently comes from the Hebrew “astart” written as Astoret in older Bible translations because of the insertion of the vowels from the Hebrew word “boset” meaning “shame”, a method of insult used in the Books of Samuel) Ashtoreth is likened to the Arabian Athtar and Babylonian/Assyrian Ishtar (who was often related to Ashtart anyway), who the Egyptians called Astirati (hello Greek Astarte which refers back to the Hebrew word “Astart” as well) who is also likened to the Sumerian Inanna. Most of whom I relate to in my first post about Easter and Eostre. It’s all the same region folks, are we really trying to say these myths are not all interrelated, when we know the tribes were nomadic, bringing their beliefs to other cultures and intermingling them?

So let’s all just take a breath. MOST Christian holidays have Pagan festival celebrations attached to them, so what? Does the act of kids hunting for candy eggs and chocolate bunnies actually make the spiritual belief that Jesus rose from the dead invalid for you? Does it threaten the story somehow, shake your faith? I mean I’m Pagan and even *I* don’t believe that little Christian children are going to become Pagan one day because they were allowed to enjoy Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and the Easter Bunny. And if you do, then isn’t it up to you to teach your kids what you want them to know about the holiday? To say to them, this is the reason we go to church and why this day is important to us spiritually, but THIS is just how we then have fun celebrating that? Because seriously the nit-picking about the origins of the kind of fun Christians are choosing to have AFTER their religious ceremony is a little ridiculous to me. And lest not forget that what you all are doing as “play”, we Pagans DO consider part of our sacred rites to the Divine, so if anyone should have all bunched up panties about it, shouldn’t it be us? Sheesh, go eat a Reeses egg or some Peeps, I promise you’ll feel a lot better about it.

©RavenHarte 2014-2015