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This last Mabon we had guests at the ritual on campus.  It was the members of the Magic and Religion course taught in the Anthropology department.  Their attendance was required as part of the course; they were to observe at a minimum, they were invited to step in circle and participate if they would like.

For the last however many years I have been a guest in the Magic and Religion class, spending a couple of hours talking about paganism, neo-paganism, witchcraft, etc.  In that brief time I get to talk about the origin of stereotypes, misconceptions that have been created by our society, the fear of “witches”, and answer any questions that I can.  I must say there are times when I just don’t know the answer which I freely admit that fact.  The rules for my time with the class are simple:

  1. It is interactive – students need to engage the subject and ask questions or make comments
  2. The students can ask any question they want – I will try to answer and let them know when I can’t
  3. I won’t be insulted or offended by any question, this is about learning
  4. Students won’t be offended by answers.  Once again, this is about learning.

Simple rules to live by.

Once everyone knows the rules I begin with a word association game.  I start with the word “Witch”.  I ask students to tell me what they think of, the first thing that comes to mind, when they hear this word.  At some point both “magic” and “spells” are added to the list.  I pull those two out and we begin again with words/thoughts associated with these two.  This is the method I have always begun with in order for me to better understand where the students are coming from.  This year was no different from any other; all three words were on the board and being worked with.  However, this year there was something different: I noticed that what this class associated with these words was very different from what the first class years ago had associated. 

I don’t know if it is a generational change, a product of education and recognition in our culture, if it is a phenomenon of “times are changing”, or what.  But the overtly negative images of the past and the belief that the movie The Craft is a true representation of a witch were gone.  What had replaced those ideas were thoughts of Wicca, religion, ritual, healing, nature, spiritual, goddess, and a myriad of others.  We talked about what their thoughts were, they questioned what they didn’t know, and listened as I spoke of the wheel of the year, of being outside to do ritual.  They were attentive regarding the reclaiming of the title witch and where the images came from and were curious about meditation and journey work.  Interestingly they wanted to know about if we convert to paganism or if you need to be born into the craft.  They were interested in speaking to the ancestors and if time is a continuum or if there was no past or present but if it all mixed together.  The questions were different from the past, there was no fear, there was only a desire to understand.

After the class I had several come and thank me for coming and asked if we could continue the conversation.  In the time since that day I have had a few come to see if they could attend the student meetings and learn more or if I could help them find resources that could help them develop “gifts” that “run in the family” but aren’t really spoken too much about. 

I am still amazed by all of this, but not because of the changes.  I’m amazed because the change happened so subtly that it was imperceptible while it was taking place.  But now that I look back and see the difference in understanding and tolerance between the first and last classes that I spoke to I just have to smile.  At the University things are changing a little at a time.  I wonder how much change has happened outside of this environment that we haven’t really noticed because it was slow and subtle.  Maybe we should step back and take measure of those around us and how they view us and our paths. 

There have been set backs and prejudice still exists; it always will.  But maybe we have moved further forward than we think we have.

Yesterday was Mabon, a festival of harvest. It is the time of the Autumn Equinox when light and dark are equal and once again we can reflect on balance and the maturing of things within our life. But yesterday was different for me. It was formal ritual shared with students on campus as always, however, the events of the day (the year actually) created the true spirit that was carried into the circle. It was what came before that made a festival of harvest possible.

It is one thing to reflect on the “seeds” we have figuratively planted in our Spring, watching those things we have nurtured and waited to come to fruition. It is another thing all together to actually put things into the ground, tend to them, and begin to harvest crop. When you are able to combine the two you begin to appreciate even more the rituals and their deeper meanings. Last year I began the planting of a new life. Yesterday I began to harvest the physical fruit of that labor.

Living on a farm is new to me. Well, new as of last year. I have planted berries in the field; experimenting on which will be the best growing on my land in order to produce a viable selling crop. To help with the growing process I partnered with my son in raising bees. What better way to give back to the environment, to nature, than to help in the pollination process. It was also understood that there would then be a second crop: honey. I am new at this type of work and so in both endeavors I have made mistakes and learned a great deal. In both areas I have learned a lot and it hasn’t all been about how to grow plants. A great deal has been about my self, my family, and relationships of all kinds.

Yesterday was Wednesday and it was a grey day. One of those days when it is rainy but not, warm and oppressive, but you still feel a need to wear long sleeves because of the overcast skies. It was a grey day. It was also not my son’s normal day off. For the past several weeks he has been off on Thursday and I have gotten use to planning around that schedule to do work with him or just to visit in general. But he was off and there was work to be done. The work of the harvest does not wait for us to be ready, it makes us ready.

Dan and Jen showed up late in the afternoon and within a short time Dan and I were suited up and heading to the hives. We had decided to do only a small portion of the work. Take out a piece of equipment that had naturally removed the bees from the portion of the hive we were going to extract honey from. That was our plan, our only plan. It was to say the least incomplete and rather naive on our part. When I arrived at the first hive (the aggressive one) my son was already there. He had the top of the hive off and was beginning to work towards taking the first honey chamber off. Off it came and taken to the back of the jeep. At that point we knew we would be working longer than originally thought, we had to do something with the combs of honey. We then began to work at removing the excluder. It was full of bees working on storing food for the winter.

Now I have to explain, the excluder is what begins the process of removing the bees from the area where we want to harvest honey. It is only 1 ½” thick and consists of plywood and a triangular piece of mesh over a maze that the bees have to walk through. It works, it works well. But on the underside of the excluder, the part next to the second chamber, there are bees. Lots of bees. Dan told me he knew he was going to get stung. Not a big deal, we both have been stung. It happens when you work with bees. But there are times when you can minimize what will happen next. We didn’t minimize. I won’t explain what happened next that caused the issue, I’m not really sure, but the bees became “upset” and decided that Dan was going to be the target of their anger. The excluder was now on the ground, the honey chamber in the back of the jeep, me at the open hive, and Dan is running in the other direction with bees attacking. It was somewhat humorous from my vantage point – they weren’t mad at me. I put the top back on the hive, strapped it down and watched my son getting further and further away. I picked up the excluder. It didn’t have any bees left in it, they were chasing Dan. I took it to the Jeep and began to look at the comb, it looked good. Dan had stopped running and swatting. The bees that were inside his face veil were now gone and amazingly he hadn’t been stung. He joined me as I looked at the second hive and we both knew we had work there as well. Not part of our plan, but that is okay. These bees didn’t hate us.

It took us about 10 minutes more and our work was finished. Our work in the field that is. We decided to take the frames of comb and begin extracting the honey. We took all of the equipment to my son’s house and began to set up. It isn’t difficult, but it can be a little messy. Most importantly we had fun and in the process, beautiful golden honey began to flow in to a five gallon bucket. Our harvest was real, very real. Clear, golden, sweet, wild flower honey. We filtered and bottled it, but I had to leave before it was totally done, after all I had a harvest ritual to facilitate! I would be coming back later, my husband had by this time joined us, and we would leave the farm jeep at Dan’s and Bill would go to the ritual with me.

As we arrived at campus I set up sacred space: first the altar and then the perimeter; in the center a small table, a cauldron on the ground and candles to help light the area. Eight candles defined the circle and soon all was set, circle cast, and pre ritual briefing done. This ritual had an added bonus: Anthropology students observing a Pagan ritual. It is an occurrence that has been repeated for several years, agreed to by myself and the professor of the class. But last night was different, the professor joined the ritual. This is the first time I remember her doing that, and I was thrilled. The ritual was combined with the full moon honoring. All was beautiful and as we worked through the events of the rite I wanted people to find the harvests that they have worked so hard to create, joyful harvests within their lives. Find and share they did, but the sharing was with the gods, not with us. Each shared their joy with deity, sending their thanks through fire letting the gods know that they appreciate the happiness in their lives. And then I shared, first verbally then visually, the harvest that I had that day. One jar of golden honey, honey that had been in the hive only a few hours earlier. The first taste was given to the Dagda, protector of the harvest, the second to our guest the professor, and then to all of students in ritual. The ability to offer such a gift was amazing. The energy of giving, of physically enjoying, the harvest of life was powerful.

I realized standing there that this is what life is for: to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Whether it is in the relationships we build with our family or the food that we place on our table, we need to appreciate it all. I teach students to eat deliberately at least once a day. Understand where the food on your table comes from and what it took to bring it to you. Last night that act took on new meaning in my life. I was overwhelmed that I could offer to the gods the first taste of the first crop of my new life. It took a great deal to bring me to this point, to be able to understand these things. So eat deliberately, drink deliberately, love deliberately, and understand.

I hope you have had a blessed Mabon.

My husband asked me yesterday if I had written or commented on the “Burn a Koran” day in Florida. I hadn’t, at least not in writing. I have commented on it to family and friends verbally but not here in print. Why? I wasn’t sure until this morning when I read one more article on the growing hatred towards Muslims and the Islamic faith within the United States.

The article wasn’t about the Park 51 site; it was about the mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The article was from the view of one Muslim woman ( It outlined the reasons behind the decision to build a mosque in a town that already had a large Muslim community. It also showed the form bigotry and hatred toward the Muslim community has taken in this city. It is sad, it is ignorance, it is wrong for such actions to be happening let alone to be tolerated and, in many cases, condoned. This is why I chose to write… finally.

I must say something before I continue. Please feel free to be offended by what I am about to say. Feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to say that I am wrong or that I am in a position different than you and I am able to give such opinions. Feel free to say that my situation is unique and different from yours and therefore you cannot say or do what I am about to suggest. Now on to the rest of what I wish to say:

If you do not speak up against such bigotry and hatred then you are condoning it and allowing it to continue and grow.

As Pagans we know what it is to be condemned on misinformation and outright lies. We know what it is to lose jobs, lose family members, lose friends do to irrational fear of the unknown. We understand what it feels like to have people whisper innuendos behind our backs. I myself am no stranger to the finger-pointing, derogatory jokes, or public humiliation by those I thought were my friends. If there was ever a community that could relate to the current situation American Muslims find themselves facing it is Pagans.

Hollywood and the media paint broad stroke pictures of groups; we have been the victims of this phenomenon as long as a story could be told. It is the same story playing out with a different group being targeted. And why? Is it because they do not believe the same thing? Or is it because “they” look different? The last time I remember in this country that a group of people were singled out because they could possibly be a threat to national security was when American Japanese were placed in internment camps. That should never happen again. If we wanted to target people who are a threat, then go after the individual. Remember Timothy McVeigh? He was a home-grown, white boy who decided to kill a lot of people based on his own political doctrines. But everyone agrees that he did not represent the majority of Americans. So if we extrapolate a little, the few radical men who attacked on September 11, 2001 obviously represent all of Islam. There could be individual thought in “that group.” People! Wake up! Speak up!

Hate and bigotry is wrong, flat-out wrong. It makes no difference where it comes from or where it is pointed. It is wrong when it is directed towards Pagans, Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Whites, or whatever group you wish to put into that sentence. I know the fear that the woman in the article speaks about. The fear that someone will find out, what will they do, how will they react. No one should live with that fear, not in this country, not anywhere.

In reading the article I was reminded of a poem written by Martin Niemoller. I think that it is something that we should all be reminded of:

“First, they came for the Jews. But I was not a Jew, so I did not speak up.

 Then they came for the communists. But I was not a communist, so I did not speak up.

Then they came for the trade unionists. But I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak up.

And when they came for me, There was no one left to speak out for me.”

Please, please, speak out. If you don’t who will?

It’s morning and it’s quiet.  I like those two things.  I live in the country with little around but the chickens across the road to break the silence of nature waking up. Even they are a welcome addition to the “noise” around me.

The wild doves are calling to each other and the crickets are chirping as they always do – but that is it.  The only other noise is in my head.  The endless questions of morning on what will the day bring, what will I do with the gifts that are presented, how can I love more, are my children happy, are my friends well, and the list goes on.  I don’t know if anyone else has such questions floating through their head in the early hours of the day, but I do.

I also wonder: am I doing enough?  It seems like such a strange question, simple in its intent and yet enormous in its underlying meaning.  I mean I can be doing a lot in my day.  I can do laundry, tend to the farm, feed the dog and a million other small things, but are they the right thing at the appropriate moment.  It is all work that needs to be done during the course of living, but will I (do I) do them with intention?  Will I make sure that the words that come from my soul are gentle and loving or will I just speak to hear noise?  There is a difference and making sure that the acts of my day are filled with the right intention is important.

In one way I feel like I ramble, asking mindless questions of the self.  However, if we do not ask ourselves what intention we will walk through the world with today, how will we know what impact we may have on tomorrow?  Everything we do creates reverberating energy affecting not only ourselves but everything around us.  It sounds a little like the Butterfly Effect or Chaos Theory, but simple cause and effect is a law of the universe that we shouldn’t forget.  Everything we do, everything we say, causes new choices and new perspectives.  Each time we believe we are making one choice we are actually making multiple choices that can affect more than we realize.

A long time ago I took an English course and the book for the class was “The Rhetoric of Yes” by Ray Fabrizio.  It was a compilation of writings by people ranging from Jean-Paul Sartre to Chief Seattle. The underlying theme of the book was that in every single decision made there are at least two choices that take place.  Simply put, when a person chooses to say yes they are also choosing to say no.  Yes to moving forward; no to staying stagnant. Yes to acting kindly; no to acting without thought. Yes to speaking with intention; no to speaking without care.  Most people do not understand what they are saying yes to let alone what the “no” in the decision is.

Cause and effect, the effect may not be noticed right away.  In fact, in some cases the effect may be so miniscule that you will never truly see what it is.  But maybe you will.  It can be as simple as appreciating the sound of chickens across the street in the early morning and that is fine.  But what if you decide to smile at the person walking past you on the street?  You may help them out of the fog they are in, brightening their day and giving them the joy of knowing they were worth being noticed.  It may be what they need to deal with the stresses of their own life and it costs you nothing, only the effort to live your life with intention. You choose to share yourself with that person and at the same moment you choose not to hide from the world letting them know they are part of something greater as well.

So this morning it is quiet and I appreciate the waking of the world.  The questions run through my head as they always do and I begin my own day of intention.  Consider this my smiling at all those who happen to pass me on the internet’s sidewalk today.

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