Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Multiple love, not multiple bastards

Polyamory. I'm sure by just reading that one word you already have an opinion formed. Monogamy is a much easier relationship arrangement than polyamory, even if you have trouble being monogamous. 

 In a true polyamorous relationship, all the partners involve have to strive to make sure that everyone gets equal time and attention with everyone else involved and that jealousy and strife are kept to a minimum. From personal experience, I can assure you that giving equal time to everyone and keeping jealous thoughts and actions at a minimum is much easier typed than done.

Polyamory, and other such free love concepts like open relationships and swinging, also entail a great deal of responsibility. The lovers involved have the responsibility of fidelity, emotional support and integrity, and contraception--for both the prevention of disease and children. I've noticed that a lot of Pagans, in particularly men but not always, think "oh, we're all about nature and such we don't need condoms" or they leave it all up to the woman (which just seems to be a universal male tendency). 

 Or, which is more truthful, the people involve just don't care. When this happens, you end up with a lot of unexpected children that often are not financially or emotionally supported by the father. I've been hearing about this more and more in the community and it bothers me. Polyamory does not mean that you can leave a trail of bastards behind you as you bounce from one festival to another or even one group to another. 

 It does not mean that you can sprinkle your seed across the land like dandelion down, nor does it mean, ladies, that children should pop up like mushrooms every time you spread your legs. It's not that hard to take 10 minutes to be responsible! If you can't afford children, then you need to save up for at least condoms and spermicide (and don't just use the spermicide dumbasses! I've heard that excuse too!) if not morning after pills as well.
I don't know how the law operates in other states and countries, but in North Carolina if you don't pay your child support, your ass ends up in jail. Now, to be fair, the way that the child support rate is figured is not always just to the paying party (which is not always the father), and if the paying parent's circumstances change, it's usually next to impossible to get that rate decreased. However, in most cases, I have very little sympathy when mommas and daddies end up in jail for not paying child support, especially when the child was born completely out of any sort of wedlock or other serious or religious relationship, and you owe on more than one child by more than one partner. Suck it up and take your month in jail or go get a fucking job and stop fucking everything that moves!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Misdemeanors at the Altar: 2nd blog for The Pagan Values Blogject

I don't believe that Wiccan clergy in particular, and Pagan clergy in general, should have set fees for their services. I think love offerings are wonderful if the person receiving a service wants to offer one, and I think that within reason now that gas prices are exorbitant, it's acceptable to ask for a little bit of money for gas if you have to drive farther than 30 miles or so.
Why am I opposed to clergy asking for payment? For one thing, being a priest or a priestess is a calling that should not under any circumstances hinge on being paid. If you've truly have been called to be clergy, then the thought of posting a fee schedule is probably abhorrent. Religion is not a business. The other reason why I'm very much opposed to clergy asking for money for their services is that the vast majority of Pagan clergy do not have any sort of divinity degree. They're not professionals, although they should always strive to act in a professional manner. If, for example, a priest/priestess has a divinity degree from an accredited institution (which Cherry Hill Seminary, unfortunately, is not yet), then I can maybe see a small stipend being offered to the person by the organization that they serve. But the bottom line is that living off of those that you serve is wrong.
Many Wiccans, and to a certain extend some Pagans, tend to follow only one rule when it comes to morals: "'An it harm none, do as thou will." While this seems like a simple enough thing to comprehend on the surface, it's an extremely complicated and complex notion. I've noticed that a lot of Wiccans do not apply the Wiccan Rede to their treatment of Pagan clergy, and maybe it's because payment is usually not requested.
If a clergy person is down to earth and ethical, I've noticed that many Pagans feel that they can walk all over them. They treat their clergy in a way that they would have never treated their Christian clergy (yes, I did just make that sweeping statement because it's a statistical fact that a majority of the Pagans in America were previously Christian). If a clergy person is aloof, haughty, and unethical, then an undeserved respect seems to be bestowed upon them. Maybe it's because the person just expects respect instead of working to deserve it. I guess it works along the lines that if two items are placed side by side, one of inferior quality and one of excellent quality, and the inferior one is priced higher than the good quality one, the inferior product almost always sells out before the low priced, good quality product does.
As a priestess, the most common form of disrespect that I've encountered is people contacting me for services--usually a handfasting--and then jilting me at the altar after I've done a lot of work on their behalves. Sometimes I've already gotten handfasting cords to them and rearranged my schedule when I'm notified that my services are no longer needed. The quotes below are from actual emails that I've received.  Unfortunately, the quotes below are only a sampling.  I could publish a small book full of the jilted altar emails that I've received.  If you see a quote from an email that you've sent me, then I hope you're suitably embarrassed and that it rained during your handfasting ceremony.
Before we continue, I want to make it clear that none of these emails are from people that are members of my religious organizations. The type of disrespect that I've received from them is usually more along the lines of what you expect from rude teenagers whose mommas didn't beat them enough when they were growing up. It's nothing that half an hour on my X-beam wouldn't fix!  

(Names have been changed.)
"Hey! I am interested in talking to you about doing a handfasting/wedding type ceremony for us, we live in ++++++ near ++++++ and would come to the mountains preferrably. Please email me back a # or contact me via call or txt at +++++++.
 Thank You!!
 "Dear Tommy, What day, time, and location were you thinking about? I'm about 30 minutes from you. Did you want just a priestess or did you want a ceremony with a priest and a priestess.
Sparrow Brown"
 "Hey Sparrow! Thank you for getting back with me, i didnt know it but a friend of mine who is Wiccan is ordained and said she would do the ceremony for us. It will be cool having her do it since i've known her for years. We are excited about it too!
Thanks again for getting back to me.
********************************************************************************* "Hello Sparrow, 
 My name is Christine. My fiance and I are planning a handfasting ceremony for July 14 in +++++++++. We live in ++++++ and own a piece of property in +++++++ and that is where we are planning on having the ceremony. Do your travel to +++++++ to preform ceremonies and are you available on July 14 of this year? We have just started looking for someone that would be able to preform the ceremony. 
 I look forward to hearing back from you, 
 "Dear Christine I am available. Do you want just me, or would you like to have a priest present too? 
 Sparrow Brown" 
 "Hi Sparrow, 
 Do you do legally recognized hand fasting ceremonies? We really only wanted to have one officiator present. How much do you charge to preform the ceremony? You are welcome to call me so that we can go over the details, my number is +++++++. 
 I look forward to hearing from you, 
 "I am legal in the state of NC. In order to make it legal, you'll need to get a marriage certificate from the county where the "wedding" is going to be held (++++++ Co.). The state doesn't care what form the ceremony takes, as long as all the paper work is filled out and they get their money. I don't charge anything for performing rituals, but if you feel lead to give a love offering, the money will be split between +++++++++ organization and +++++++++ organization. What time of day is good for calling? 
 "Hi Sparrow, 
 So what you are saying is that I will need to get a marriage license and marriage certificate from +++++++ County? The license is obtained prior to the ceremony and the certificate is filled out after the ceremony and submitted to the County, is that correct? I am available by phone all day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I am available after 6:00 PM. The exception to today is that I have an appointment at 4:00 this afternoon for about an hour. I look forward to hearing from you. Blessings, 
 "Yes, that is correct. You and your fiance obtain the paper work from +++++++ County and pay them approximately $60, and then after the ceremony, I'll fill out the paper work and you, your new husband, and two witnesses will sign it. And then you or me (it doesn't matter which one) has about a month to turn it to make it legal. NC doesn't have any waiting periods, so you could get the paper work Friday before the ceremony. I would just call to double check to make sure the county offices are going to be open. I don't know about ++++++ County, but some counties only accept cash. This should help answer some of your questions: http://www.+++++++++ I'll give you a call tomorrow afternoon, and we'll get started hammering out the details. 
 "Hi Sparrow, I just wanted to let tell you a little bit about what is going on on my end. About 4 weeks ago I contacted someone and asked if she would do our handfasting ceremony. She said yes and I reserved the date with her. She said that she would E-mail me some paperwork within a couple of days. After about 10 days she sent me another E-mail saying that she was really busy and would send me the information that afternoon. That was 3 weeks ago and I have not heard from her since. I called and E-mailed her a couple of times with no response. Last weekend I decided to start looking for someone else and that is when I contacted you. I contacted 10 people in total last weekend. I was a little nervous to put all of my eggs in one basket again and still not have an officiator for our ceremony. I have mailed the invitations, ordered the flowers and the food, so I was getting quite nervous about not having someone confirmed. So that brings me to now and I sorry to tell you that we have decided to go with someone else as officiator. Thank you for your responses to me, I really appreciate it.
 (A side note: I had switched things around in my schedule for this her.  I also did call her when I said that I would, and I received her voice mail.  This email arrived three days after I called.) 
*********************************************************************************"Hello Sparrow!
My fiance and I have been together for 8 years, we are looking to make it official tomorrow. There is so much more to this story but seeing as we're short on time I have to skip it for now. It would mean so much to us if we could marry on Halloween. We're not doing anything fancy, friends will be present, but we could come to you if it would be easier. Please let me know if you can help! 
Thank you,
 p.s. we're in ++++++++++ nc, originally from ++++++++, we moved here at the start of the year" (Because of the Samhain holiday, I did not get this email until 3 days after they wanted their handfasting.) ********************************************************************************* 
I've talked to clergy people of other faiths, and they report that they do not generally have this problem.  The people that I talked to say that it's not uncommon for couples to postpone a ceremony due to cold feet or to completely call off an engagement.  Some of these clergy people have a set fee, but most of them don't, but accept love offerings, some of which gets personally pocketed and some of which gets turned in to their religious organization.  So, since many of the clergy folks of different faiths I've spoken to do not charge a fee, I'm inclined to think that it's just Pagans behaving badly and being unappreciative and rude.  That's really sad and unacceptable if we want to be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Holly Boy tied up the Ivy Girl (or maybe it's the other way around)! Happy Litha!

I find it really amusing how my last post really upset some folks.  However, most people chose to post their complaints on other people's Facebook pages or social media sites instead of having the courage to post on my mine.  Tsk tsk.  But that's ok.  Good or bad, you all really boosted my stats.  Thanks!  My sponsors are thrilled.

With that said, Happy Litha!  In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the longest day of the year.  The long sun filled evening is perfect for outdoor play and ritual if you're lucky to have a private outdoor play space.  I debated how to approach Litha, because there's just so many ways to go, but the Ivy Girl has been giving me a "come hither" look for a while, so I decided to follow.
Please note: When I use the word "Ivy" in this post, I'm am speaking of English or Boston Ivy, not poison ivy.
See?  One leaf, not three.

While the standing myth of the Oak King and the Holly King are well known (The Oak King rules from Yule to Litha, and the Holly King rules from Litha to Yule.  At each of those sabats, there's a fight, with the victor being the ruler and the slain king's blood acting as sacrifice for the coming season.), many Pagans do not know about the Ivy girl.  The Ivy girl has had many shapes, forms, and duties over the years.  Some folks see her as the Holly King's helper and connect her with the wren of Cutty Wren fame.  Other folks see her as winter and the Holly King or Holly Boy's foe.  Other folks see her as a go-between for both the Oak King and the Holly King, neither serving or belonging to either but enjoying and balancing both.  This last guise is how I see her.  In this form, she can be seen as representing the in-between times of Spring and Fall that tie the time of Plenty and Leisure (Harvest) with the time of Leanness and Perseverance (Winter).
There are lots of ways to honor the Ivy Girl, Holly King, and Oak King this Litha.  The easiest and most passive way is to buy an ivy plant and try to keep it alive.  Ivy, which represents fidelity, is a great gift for new couples.  If the plant dies, you can always tell them that it means one of them must be cheating (it's doesn't really, but they don't know that!). Ivy vines, because of the plant's meaning, is also very appropriate for a handfasting cord.
My favorite way to honor the Ivy Girl is with bondage.  Ivy, like all vines, are really just Nature's ropes.  For light bondage, one strand of ivy can be used.  If sturdier bonds are called for, multiple strands of ivy can be twisted into a rope, or a rope and be used for the base bondage with ivy intertwined over top for a nice look.  Ivy also makes a nice, sexy outfit, as can be seen in the first photo.  If you want to honor all three Solstice players, tie the one you love the best to a strong oak tree with ivy vines and use holly leaves to awaken his or her senses before having your way (consensually, of course).  If outdoor play is out of the question, seek out a piece of oak furniture.  The wood will still convey the same strong qualities.
As with any sort of S&M and or sex ritual, be responsible.  Use safe words and condoms and respect boundaries.  No under aged participants or spectators.  Outdoor sex should be on private property.  Bondage should allow for blood flow.  If you break skin, use first aid to treat it and clean your equipment properly.  And for heaven’s sake, avoid the spine and kidney area! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ruffled Feathers

Like a lot of things in my life lately, I'm a little late to the party. That's OK. I'm here now. In support of the The Pagan Values Blogject , I've written a short series of what pretty much amount to rants about the current state of Paganism. I try, for the most part, to shy away from straight out rants on this blog. Rants just don't fit into the purpose. Instead, I slip them in to my blogs in insidious and snarky ways. However, during the month of June, the Pagan Values Project, invites Pagans to share their ethics, values, and virtues with the world at large and to rant about the importance or lack of these things in the Pagan community.
So, with out further ado, here's my list of rants about the Pagan community and the things I see as important.
  • Yes, despite the nature of my blog, I do have ethics, values, and virtues that I live by and that I expect other people to live by too.
  • Despite what many people may think, I'm very old fashioned and in some ways quite conservative.

  • I don't necessarily have problems with folks who are fluffy bunny Pagans in general, I have a big problem with fluffy bunnies who are narrow minded. Part of why I started this blog was to broaden the horizons of those fluffy bunnies who think ideas such as mine have no place in modern Paganism.
  • Pagans need to fully embrace that sex and procreation are part of nature based religions, but that while everyone should fully embrace this, it's not appropriate to have literal representations at all events. It's OK to have family rituals and adult rituals, but please make sure that it's not for some lame fluffy bunny reason like "the intensity of the power raised in circle will be too much for children" or "the deep personal journey of the guided meditation is not appropriate for the child." Please, those are bullshit reasons not to have children at ritual. Be an adult and say you don't like children because you think they're disruptive.

  • It's alright if the grittier side of Paganism is not for you--and please feel free to judge away because I've already judged you--but stab me in the chest instead of the back. Pagans seem to think that back stabbing, bickering, and witch wars are perfectly acceptable. It's not acceptable. We shouldn't be fighting more than the Baptists. If you can't say something to someone in person because you don't have the balls, then you shouldn't say it online. Electronic testicles don't count in the real world. They only count in your false reality.
  • Sacrifice is important. The aversion to all manners of sacrifice is the reason why America and Pagans often fail. Submission, Perseverance, and Endurance is the path to Deity. Think of the Chinese Kung Fu master in the Kill Bill movies. He is Deity and Bea Kiddo is on the path to enlightenment.

  • There's a time for modesty and a time nudity. Sometimes your blouse needs a safety pin and you need to wear a sweater.
  • Be authentic or you'll never truly be able to interact with Deity.
  • If there's going to be a viable Pagan community that is going to be taken seriously, then people need to be active and involved. The includes charity and volunteerism. While Pagan clergy should not be paid for their services, especially if they don't hold a divinity degree, Pagans should be the ones to fund their covens and groups. This world no longer works on the bartering system. Dig in your pocket and find a dollar. That being said, clergy and others should not live off their groups. Religious education should be free, and the only people who should be allowed to make a living from holding a Pagan event is somebody who is honest enough to bill themselves as a promoter instead of hiding being a clergy title and a group affiliation.

That's my rant for now. Jilting clergy will be up next, and irresponsible polyamory will end the series.

May you never thirst, part 3: You're a grape because you're full of whine!

What do fancy dinners, Wiccan rituals, Ernest Hemingway, and my favorite punch all have in common? Wine! Pagans and yuppies in particular seem to be fond of wine. For some reason, and I suspect that it goes back to mistaken thoughts about ancients and carry overs from Christian communion, many Pagans feel that they can only use wine for cakes and ale. This of course is ridiculous, but wine is still the most popular beverage in circle. Wine is incredibly easy to make, which probably explains why most of the world's cultures have some version of it. Kordwainer, who has been Wiccan for 20 years, makes wine at home.

Several years ago he was looking for a new project to take on. " A friend of mine suggested that I look into wine making. It was good timing too, because there were a couple of learning opportunities right around the bend. I ended up attending a workshop by the agricultural extension service and enrolling in a short class at a local farm just a month or so later. " Since learning about wine making, Kordwainer has made several batches of wine, from both kits (like making a cake from cake mix) and crushed fruit (like making a cake from scratch), some of which have been used in rituals for cakes and ale and libation.

Wine holds a sacred spot in Kordwainer's religious beliefs. "I am, in particular, a devotee of Dionysos, God of wine (among other things). He is the Divine aspect that resonates most deeply with me and I see His story played out in the actual wine making process itself," explains Kordwainer. "In a body of Myth associated with Orphic cults, we are taught that humanity was originally made partly of the remains of the infant Dionysos and partly of the Titans who kidnapped and dismembered Him. When Zeus discovered that the Titans had killed the child and were preparing to make a meal of him, He showered the entire scene with His lightning, destroying both the attackers and the victim. Hermes swooped in and carried away Dionysos's still beating heart, from which He was later reborn. The soot and ash that was left over served as the raw material from which Zeus formed mankind. The material was a mix of the remains of the baby and His murderers, therefore each of us has something of the God in us as well as more base and wicked impulses.

"Dionysos's bodily destruction at the hands of the Titans is mirrored in the crushing of the grape, and the gradual separation of the new wine from the must and lees reflects His role in elevating our own spirits, drawing out more of our Divine nature and leaving behind our titanic influences.

 "What I've enjoyed more than anything else has been muscadine wine. I love the flavor, and the grapes themselves have an untamed quality that I admire. I think of them as embodying more of the wild Dionysian spirit."

 As I stated above, wine is really easy to make. It is also completely legal to make at home, as long as you don't sell your wine or make more than around 100 gallons. Of course, like anything, there's always somebody willing to sell their sqeezings regardless of the law.Kordwainer said that his initial investment was about $200, which included yeast and fruit for his first batch and a bundled kit from a wine shop. The typical kit includes a primary fermenter, two secondary fermenters, a hydrometer (a tool that measures sugar/alcohol levels), and some tubing for racking. With this set up, you're ready to start making your first batch.

According to Kordwainer, "You basically start with some sweet liquid, like fruit juice, and place it in a controlled environment where you can manage things like temperature and exposure to oxygen. Fruit pulp or whole crushed fruit is often left in the juice to help provide aroma and color. This juice/fruit combo is called "must". Into your must, you introduce some yeast and give it time to convert the sugar into alcohol, making sure to keep an eye on the process. 

 "At some point you'll have to separate the wine from the sediment (called the "lees") or the wine will take on some unpleasant flavors or odors. The separation is accomplished by draining the wine into a new container, leaving the lees behind (this is called "racking"). You'll probably have to rack a batch of wine at least twice before you get an acceptable level of clarity. 

"When the wine is clear, and the fermentation process is complete, you'll hopefully have a very dry wine. Any sweetness left at this point means that the fermentation process was halted before the yeast could eat all the sugar, and that can be a bad sign. Most winemakers will sweeten their wine at least a little after the fermentation process is done and before final bottling, but for fans of dry wines, it's not strictly necessary. It is important to stabilize the wine (kill any remaining yeast) before bottling, though. If fermentation restarts after the wine is bottled, it can have explosive results (literally). 

"You have to make sure the sugar level in your juice is high enough to get the potency you want in your wine, and you have to be careful about what strains of yeast you use and make sure that the risk of contamination from other bacteria is minimized. My best tip is Sanitation is king. Keep everything sanitized; even the slightest contamination can ruin a batch of wine. Next, I'd advise you to do your homework. Read some books, take a class or attend a workshop if you're able to. Try to at least partially understand what you're trying to accomplish on a chemical level. I'm no chemist, but the little bit I learned has really help immeasurably. Finally, I'd say to be prepared to exercise some patience. Wine takes a long time to mature. You're looking at 3 or 4 months at least before a batch is drinkable, and letting it mature longer after bottling greatly improves its quality." 

Just as wine and ritual seem to be a natural pairing, food and wine seem to be quite natural as well. While many wine aficionados spend endless hours biting their nails over pairing just the right wine with their food, Kordwainer says that it's not a big deal. "It's a bit like magick, actually. In a way, wine/food pairing follows the law of attraction. Like calls to like. Red meats go with red wines; and white meats like poultry or fish go with white wines. Rich foods pair nicely with more robust wines, and milder food match with lighter wines. Of course, the most important rule is to drink wine you enjoy with food you enjoy, preferably in enjoyable company. " 

Just as pairing the right wine to the right cuisine is important, pouring wine properly is also important. "There are differing opinions about that. There are a LOT of variables, honestly: the exact temperature at which to serve the wine, the shape of the glass, how long to let it breathe before pouring, whether or not to use a decanter, etc. Pouring a glass of wine can be an art, or even a science. To add to the confusion, it can all change for different varieties of wine. You pour a still wine into the center of the glass, but you pour a sparkling wine against the edge to keep it bubbly. White wines are more commonly served chilled than reds, although sweeter red wines sometimes break this rule.

 "My own favorite serving method is highly unorthodox, but it does have some historical justification. The Greeks, in accordance with the edicts of Dionysos, always mixed their wine with water. To them, the drinking of unmixed wine was a sign of barbarism. I prefer to mix my wine with club soda and serve it over ice. I also favor sweet, full bodied wines which work out well with this method. I know that there are some cultured wine buffs who would have my head, but I pour it to drink and enjoy, and I think that's the real secret to the perfect glass of wine." 

With that said, imbibe some wine and try not to act like a maenad (at least not too much!).