The Spiritual Mother

Celebrating Motherhood as a Spiritual Guide and Path.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Big Fat Belly Dance Experience

So past fall I decided to start taking belly dance lessons.  It was a long time dream of mine to do this, and boy am I glad I took the plunge!  I had thought about it on and off since 1999, and tried to do belly dance DVD's back before I got pregnant with my son.    I had also been in a car accident in 2001 that left me with a herniated and split disc in my neck that severely impacted my ability to move like I did when I was a kid.  It was something that I felt was stolen from me and dancing again seemed like a pipe dream to me. Once I was pregnant I just gave up on the idea of dancing.  It wasn't till Winter of 2011 that I finally had a change of heart. It all started with a person that I didn't get along with talking to my friends about how she was starting belly dance class.  I was jealous and realized she was going for MY dream.  While I still do not like this person, I greatly appreciate the push she personally gave me to jump in and follow that dream, even on a subconscious level.

I signed up not knowing what to expect.  I did not know anything about belly dance styles and the differences between them.  I did however have 13 years of ballet, tap and jazz lessons and 10 years of baton twirling to back me up in the body control department.  I also knew how to move my hips very well between my dancing experience and the 7 years I spent living in Florida, including Miami, to know Latin dance.   I also had spent many hours in my pagan life dancing fire circles, and knew that I had a deep connection to dance on a spiritual level.   I went to class excited to do something good for myself and not only learn a new style of dance, but to expand my physical activity, and my spirituality.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to meet these goals but surpass them on levels that I never considered.

My first class was amazing.  It was not only nice to meet other women with this interest in belly dance, but we were dancing almost immediately.  I was taking tribal fusion lessons.  Tribal belly dance is an improvisational style for a group of performers.  One person stands in front of the other dancers and leads them all with a series of hand and body cues.  We learned about 5 moves the first night and were able to dance as a unit right away.  I really enjoyed it.  The only thing I was nervous about was showing my stomach.  I kept my tummy covered the entire time and even covered it for the first 8 weeks of class until my first Haffla, or belly dance party.

That first time was  pulling teeth for me.  One of my biggest fears ever since being a child has been to show my stomach.  I have felt more comfortable being topless than exposing my mid section.  I have never really had a flat tummy and have bad memories from childhood about children teasing me about it.  Getting up the courage to show my tummy to not only my belly dance sisters, but all their friends and family, was hard.  I had not even planned to wear a choli to the event and had worn a tank top that covered my belly.  But when I arrived to get my belts on in the bathroom another dancer about the same size as me was wearing a choli with her stomach exposed and asked me to wear her spare so she didn't feel alone.  So I did it.  I was nervous the entire time, but I did it, even though as soon as I was done dancing I covered up like a girl in a bikini coming out of the ocean.  I just had to keep reminding myself of what my teachers told me my first day of class, "Tribal Belly dance is about dancing for yourself and enjoying it yourself, its not about how good you look or what your body looks like for the audience".

Belly Dance also started to spill over to other areas of my life, such as my energy levels.  I found over time that the cardiovascular workout it gave me each week conditioned me more and more and in turn I was able to do more.  I found myself starting to dance to random songs on the radio, or turning music on my phone only to spontaneously start dancing.  I would put music on and think to myself "oh this is a great song to dance to".  I can not tell you how many times I would put on a Lady Gaga or Katy Perry song only to find myself pausing it and running to grab my hip scarves and dancing till I dropped.  I would start doing the dishes and find myself practicing my hip isolation's as I scrubbed.  I then would find myself dancing in the grocery store.  The people in this small Iowa town must have really thought I was nuts that day I was dancing to Tina Turner while picking out my sons string cheese for the week.  I started to enjoy feeling the movement in my body for me and enjoying the dance in every day aspects of my life.  I was feeling happier and happier by the day.

It also gave me a new creative outlet to pursue.  Tribal belly dance costuming is simply incredible.  It consists of giant skirts made of 25 yards of fabric, coin belts or scarves, harem pants, Tassel belts, choli's, Coin bras,    lots and lots of bling and jewelry, trinkets of flowers, shells and feathers for the hair and pounds of make up and bindis.  Tribal belly dancers literally wear the most clothes out of any belly dancer.  Researching the pieces individually can literally take up hours and hours of online shopping time.  If you love shopping, Tribal costume shopping can literally be a life thrilling event.  I started a Pinterest board dedicated to the shopping and ideas I got for my costuming.  I then started to actually make things which sparked some amazing crafting weekends.  I even taught myself how to sew in this process.  I had a new creative outlet that just gave me direction for all those times I wanted to craft and let my creativity flow.  I no longer just made random crap that I never would use or finish.

I also gained a new appreciation for music.  It was not about what style I liked or the words of the song, but the dance-ability of the song.  If I could dance to the beat of the music, I loved the song.  Any song with a 4 beat rhythm was fair game, and I found new beauty in all types of music.  I started to love more popular music and even hits from my youth again.  It made me feel in touch with who I was as a person now and who I was when I was younger.  It almost renewed my youth in a fashion.

I also made new friends with the same love and passion for dance.  Before I started dancing I had my now ex husband as a friend and a few local pagans.  My friendships were expanded by meeting other ladies, or as we call them in tribal "Dancing Sisters".  I now had new friends that were from other faiths and spiritual paths but we were all connected through the movement of our bodies and the beauty of our costumes.  It also helped me to be able to get out of the house and do something just for me 1 or 2 nights a week without my then husband or my son underfoot.  It was all for me and I started to feel true happiness in myself.  It was a true blessing that I could never have fathomed.

I also found the strength to change my eating habits and track my calories.  I dropped my caloric intake to 1200-1600 calories a day.  Between the extra exercise and the change in calories, I quickly lost over 30 pounds.  People started noticing the difference in my body and I began getting compliments, which I had not gotten in years.  I started to feel great in my body.  I felt healthier and I could feel my muscles and that confidence further helped me to face my body image issues.

By March I was just about ready to start joining in on local performances.  My first performance was in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Cedar Rapids.  I was nervous about facing my gargantuan fear of showing my stomach, but I did it!  I put on my costume and went to the parade without a cover up and marched through the streets of a massive crowd.  I only heard one comment about my plus sized figure by a rude preteen.  Little did I know that the parade was televised!  I came home after the parade and found notes on my Facebook page "OMG Jasmine I saw you on TV with the belly dancers and you looked Great!".  I also had friends tell me that other friends on their list saw me and my plus sized figure and were impressed with the courage I had to walked the parade in my costume.  It made me feel like I confronted my greatest fear head on and conquered it with vengeance.  If I had known how many people would have been at the parade or that it was televised, I know that I would have chickened out.  But I didn't and I did it and I felt comfortable with myself doing it.  After that moment I realized I could face anything in life and any obstacle in my way.  I was reborn as a Goddess on Earth, living in the strength of my full femininity.

The confidence and skills I gained began to spill over into all facets of my life, I soon discovered that I was the happiest I had ever been with myself as a person. I finally discovered the hidden love I had for myself and that love started spilling out on the people around me.  It also spilled out onto my son and made me a better mother.  It also gave me the courage to know that my marriage was not working and that I deserved to be happy in love. It gave me the strength to start this new journey I am entering in my life.  And then it came around full circle and gave me the courage to go study American Tribal Style Belly Dance in NYC, which I start in the fall.  I feel that belly dance ultimately changed my life and made me a renewed person and brought me back to life.  I hope that every person finds something as powerful to impact and change their lives as I have found.  I know that through me and my new found love I can inspire people to be better or do things they may not have done.  During our Earth Day performance a stranger I had never met, a woman  my age in a wheel chair, came up to me and grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes and said "You've got 'Stuff' and I love it, you truly are an amazing person and dancer and very inspirational".  I hope everyone finds their "stuff"!

~Jasmine

Monday, May 7, 2012

I'd Rather Pour Bleach in my Eyes than Watch Someone Play Call of Duty Ever Again.

Yes that is right....bleach!   After being married to a video game addict for 6 years and together for 7, I have decided that there is nothing more annoying, boring or more hurtful.  See, my soon to be ex-husband did not cheat with a person, he did not find himself in the arms of another woman, but he gave his mind, body and soul to a machine.  This machine was not even a hot Cylon in a red dress like in Battle Star Galactica.  See, that I might understand because Tricia Helfer played a gorgeous bionic robot with a very sensual attitude (pictured at right).   Instead, he spent every hour that he was not sleeping or at work living in front of a TV and emerging himself into a world that doesn't exist to "save the world" from pretend Nazi's or zombies or what ever lame ass bad guy was put in front of him.   While I do feel that some form of mindless activity now and then is normal and healthy for all humans, spending the majority of your free time doing this is not.  I also do not claim to be perfect in this aspect myself as I enjoy watching my hour of TV a day, as well as spending time online chatting with my friends.

I too am a recovering video game addict.  I say recovering because anyone who knows anything about addiction, knows that it never really goes away permanently, it is something we learn to control in our lives.  I currently do not play any video games, minus occasionally playing Words With Friends with my mother and a few other select friends.  I only spend about 10 minutes a day playing this game, which I only do to keep my vocabulary growth going.  When I was in full addict mode, I would spend up to 16 hours a day playing MMORPGs such as Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, DDO and more.  I also was quite into the SIMS for a while.  I also got addicted for a while to social media games such as MafiaWars and FarmTown.  At my peak, I would spend every waking hour playing games.  It was impossible to get me out of the house, I would call out of work and try to get out early when I did go.  I also neglected my college work which eventually caused me to have a GPA that was too low to get the financial aid I needed to continue.    A combo of not having aid, and not making enough money at work eventually caused me to have to give up my apartment and go live with a friend who charged me significantly less rent.  I also played so much at that time that my fiance at the time couldn't take it any longer and we started fighting about it.  I would not help him clean the apartment, nor spend time with him outside of the game.  Eventually he found himself cheating on me, which caused us to part ways.  While cheating on me was not the correct way to handle this, my addiction made me not care about our actual relationship and giving  to it what I needed for us both to be in a healthy place.  Needless to say, video games had a strong place in my life at one point and I totally understand the addiction.

When my soon to be ex-husband and I started dating, we were both in the middle of video game addiction.  We would spend hours playing together and this was how we met.  We played the same games and were online friends for years together before ever meeting face to face.  One day we did meet and that is what started our life together.  When we started living together we enabled the behaviors that go with gaming addiction.  Instead of a normal new couple that spends hours in the bedroom mating like bunnies, we spent hours in front of our computers side by side playing video games.  Eventually the neglected living conditions we lived in started to take over.   It was also around this time that we married.  We got a bigger place and new wedding gifts that caught my attention more than the video games.  The idea of starting a life together sunk in to me.  By the time I was pregnant I had started losing interest in games all together.  Once my son was born I had stopped playing them completely.  One day it just clicked in me that sitting there in front of the screen was a waste of time in my life and there were more important things to do than to live in this fantasy world.  However, my soon to be ex-husband did not loose interest.  His interest went from the games we played together to games he played by himself on his xbox.  He continued to play and play.



First it was nice to sit there and encourage him to play and wow could he do amazing jumps on that video game where he snow boards.  And wow that dragon is awesome, how cool of you to be able to kill it and make armor with its scales.  I would sit and watch him.  At first I was okay with it because I knew it made him happy.  But I was starting to get lonely.  As our son grew I spent more time with the little man than my partner.  Our time together became less and less.  When I was not taking care of my son I would be busy cleaning and taking care of the home or spending time doing other things.  All the while, he continued to play and play.  We then bought our first house together, which I was so happy about at the time.  Looking back on this though, I know now that this was the beginning of the end of our marriage.   We had gone from apartment living, where all major maintenance was taken care of, no grass to cut and just the dishes and our son to take care of, to caring for a house all on our own.   I never even considered at that time that he would neglect our son, me and our new home.  Then the begging came along.  I would clean the kitchen and ask him to mow the lawn, or help with something in the house.  Everything I asked him to do bothered him and if he spent 10 minutes away from his game to help me, he was doing everything in the house and I was lazy.  If I sat down and had time to myself on a weekend, in his mind I was doing the same thing he was with his video games.  Soon it became very clear through action, despite what he said, that video games were the most important aspect of his life.  No matter what I did, nor the love of his son, would bring him back to us or away from this machine.

I began to hate it.  I secretly fantasized about beating up his xbox like in Office Space with the copy machine.   I would think about hiding the cords, so it would not run and he would spend hours trying to figure out why.  I thought about taking all the batteries in the house and squirreling them away in a hiding spot he didn't know about.  I was sick of this stupid machine.  I was angry with it!  One of the only ways I could spend time with him was to wait till after my sons bed time and head down to his man cave in the basement and sit next to him while playing.  If you have ever sat and watched someone play games, you know how boring this is.  They kill the same junk over and over and it is never ending and repeating.  There is no story line or suspense.. just mindless hordes of killing and shooting guns.  Not to mention they are in first person which makes me have motion sickness.  It soon became so silly to me that he would play these stupid games over and over.  I could only sit there and chat with him if I was inebriated.   I was literally bored out of my mind.

Then I stopped watching, even if he begged me.  I would do my own things, such as watch documentaries, and eventually I started going out with my friends all the time.  It got to a point where we never spent any alone time together, including sex.  Our relationship became nothing but roommates and occasional help with parenting.  We were no longer a team or a partnership.  He had choose to live his life in this fantasy world of death and carnage, and I had choose to move on.  I secretly hoped he would just get bored and come back to us.  But I knew deep down it would never happen.  Towards the end I began to equate him to a child and lost all respect for him.  I could no longer live this way.  The saddest part in my mind is that our son would only call him by his first name for the longest time, and would go to the door to the basement and yell it.  This he learned from me unfortunately.  I had to go to the door whenever food was ready, or whenever I needed him for a second, or just to see him come out of the cave and yell his name as loud as I could just to get him to come up.  It took nearly 2 years for our son to call him Daddy again.

Needless to say, now that I am done with this marriage, I am done with this part of my life that involves seeing people play video games.  I never want to watch people play and I would rather avoid hearing people discuss them.  It is now on my bucket list to never see them played again and I plan on sticking to that.  In my life I no longer have room for people who think its okay to bury themselves in a world of escapism and ignore real life.  Video games are not real and the addiction to them is just as serious as alcohol or drugs.  Instead of killing your liver you kill your soul, and get fat from lack of exercise and consuming inordinate amounts of Dew and not getting enough sunshine or vitamin D.  I feel as that the neglect from his lifestyle choices was abuse towards me and my son, and I will never go back to that.  In the end bleach in my eyes would be far less painful and far more enjoyable.

So for those of you who do play video games, please consider what you are doing to those around you.  Think about the things you could be doing instead; like yoga, reading a book, learning to play the Cello, loving your family, or changing the world one person or tree at a time.  There are so many things you could do instead of wasting your life in front of a screen and if you stop and pay attention to the world around you, you will realize that you are ultimately wasting your life away.  Every moment counts and there is a real world out there just waiting to be explored.   Don't waste it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blossoming Jasmine Journal Entry 3

I look back on the original Entry 3 that is still saved in my drafts folder and I am shocked with the changes in my life since that time.  See the original one was my pregnancy announcement that never was posted and "Here and Gone" was posted instead.  I would be sitting here with Jessie in my lap and the thought of that is strange to me.  Since that time, I have changed so much about my life and become almost a new person.  While I still long for more children, where I am now puts it further down the road for me and I am finally okay with that.  Coming to terms with this was hard for me, but ultimately put me in a better place.  And I know my son and any future children will be better off with the changes I have made.

The first and most important change is that I am getting divorced.  I have been married for 6 years to a video game addict that repeatedly verbally abused me.  He rarely spent any time with me or my son and instead focused on video games giving us a total of about 20 minutes a day of attention and about the same amount of time on weekends.  I got belittled for my faith, my looks and my body and the fact that I was struggling to keep up with all the house chores on my own while running my own business, being a mother, maintaining 2 blogs, working with local pagan communities and performing with the local belly dance troupe.  I would get yelled at  and told I was lazy if the house was not perfect and treated like I should be some 1950's wife who says "yes dear anything for you".  Towards the end this man not only said I was not attractive enough to have sex with anymore, but I was asked for an open relationship so he could sleep with other women.  So many people  keep asking me if I am okay.. Yes I am okay.  I am happy to be done with this boy parading around in a man's body.  We are trying to do this amicably and he is my roommate while we separate our things and I get ready for the next big change in my life.  The hardest part was realizing that my goal to have another child is held off indefinitely.  However I plan on getting in-vitro in the next few years to complete our little family if I find myself in the right place to do so.

The next big change is that I am shutting down my day care business and moving cross country to share a house with my mother who will be 70 this year.  I will be going to school again this time for a new career that  I have thought about off and on for years but never took seriously.  I will be studying Cosmetology for my first year, and getting my license.  I will then also become an Esthitician and skin care specialist, with the hopes of working in a spa environment.  I also have the opportunity to train with my cousins partner who is a famous makeup artist.  I have not full decided yet what my end path will be, but I want to be in a career that I can help people feel good about themselves, I also love art and aromatherapy, which I hope to use in this new path.  I am excited about this move and since I decided to do it, it has been divinely guided to the point where every detail is falling into place and happening without any set backs.  My tradition has a large community out there which I miss desperately.  My family is there and I love being close to NYC and the Shore.  I feel like I have a new chance at life and I am very happy about that.

My son will be going through changes as well.  As most of you know I have been a work at home mom since the day he was born.  He has never been in child care outside of our family and friends.  He will be living with me 10 months out of the year and spending a few weeks in the summer with my soon to be ex husband.  I am dreading those few weeks because the longest I have been away from him is 3 days since the day he was born.  But he will have amazing opportunities with us living so close to the city and near my family.  I know he will miss his dad in the long run, but this is the best option for us.  My mother will be taking care of him during the day while I am in school and we plan on signing him up for dance lessons and maybe preschool a few days a week.  He is so excited about the move and asks every day if its the day we get to go.

These changes have all required strength from me.  That strength has come from a place I thought I had lost many years ago.  Many people don't realize that I was a dancer and baton twirler for 13 years growing up and was even on a World champion team that won the title almost 10 years in a row.  I lost my ability to dance back in 2001 after I was in a car accident where I split and herniated a disc in my neck.  It took years for me to be able to have a daily life where I was not in pain, I also gained weight from not being able to move like I used to.  Back in the fall I decided to take that part of my life back and started taking Tribal Belly Dance lessons with a local troupe.  I not only lost 35 pounds in a few months, but I also began to get my body back again.  It will never be what it was before my accident, but ever day I get stronger and stronger.  I also learned to face my biggest fear since I was a girl, showing my stomach to others.  I have always hated the way my tummy looks and having to show it has given me new confidence in myself.  The first time I did show it was in the St. Patty's Parade.  Little did I know how many people would be at the parade and that it was televised!  Lets just say I got over the fear quick when I realized everyone and their mothers had seen my belly exposed!  I slowly over time have learned to love my body again and it grows every day and that strength has filtered to all areas of my life.  Dancing gave me the confidence to stand up and refuse to be treated the way my soon to be ex treated me, to go for all my goals and to take in my hand the life that I want for me and my son.  I feel like I am budding out in new ways each day.  I am definitely blossoming again in life and I am proud of the woman I am and the woman I am growing towards being each day.  Thank you all for your continued support.  ~Jasmine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Goddess Series- Persephone

Persephone is such a great tale.  In fact, one of the greatest rituals I have ever attended was a Rite of Persephone, hosted at Samhain.  The ritual was simple, yet powerful.  We were regaled with the story of Persephone and were each given 6 pomegranate seeds to eat.  The most memorable thing about Persephone is that she is the goddess of spring time.  She is considered to be a great beauty as the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.  Today being the first day of Spring I am reminded of her beauty and her maidens touch of flowers and rebirth.   But that is only half of her story.

One day while Persephone was frolicking in a field of flowers, she was captured by Hades, Lord of the Underworld, and taken to be his bride.  She hated it and wanted to return to her mother and her perpetual spring time.   She went from playing in flowers to being forced to a land of weeping dead.   

We have all been there.  Life is going great and we are happy and merrily going along, and then something happens and takes us for a surprise and changes everything.  It is never a happy time for us, but it surely teaches us a lesson.  It is not only a part of life, but a part of being a mother.

Persephone wanted to return to her land of spring time, as did her mother want her back.  She refused to eat and started to become ugly.  Her hair darkened and became dingy, her features became dirty and she saddened missing her once bountiful life.  This part of the tale always reminds me of the times in winter when I seek inside myself and enter a hibernation stage.  I become less active in my practices and the community and if I try to go against this nature of mine I struggle with that need to be inside myself.  I relate this process I go through to Persephone's journey to the underworld.  I take the time to look inside myself and grow as an individual and rediscover the darker side of myself.

Persephone was only allowed to come back from the underworld if she had not eaten any of the foods of the underworld.  However she had!  She had refused to eat in her depression but was tempted to eat 6 pomegranate seeds.  Heart broken Demeter went to Zeus for help.  Zeus was able to make a deal with Hades that Persephone would have to return each year for 1 month for each seed she ate. Persephone was able to bring spring back each year until her return to the Underworld.

When spring time comes each year, I am able to be alive again and share the beauty of the world with my family and friends and companions.  Once spring hits I am aching to get out in nature and enjoy the world to its fullest.  Ever since this warm spell has hit and the flowers have started blooming I have been NEEDING to get outside every day just to sit in the sun and enjoy the new bounty.  I hope that everyone has a blessed Ostara and spring time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why I hate Rush...

Today's news in regards to Rush Limbaugh has hit me so hard.  I have to release this into the world and get it out of me because holding onto negativity is never good for anyone.  This is something that has needed to come out of me for years.  As many of you know Rush Limbaugh has been spewing hatred for years, this week being the most caustic and dramatic after he called Sandra Fluke a slut and fueled the war on women.  I have been sitting by my computer just watching updates almost in tears the entire time.  "Why?" you might be asking yourself.   Rush Limbaugh has been poisoning my father for years.

There is only one thing in this world that my father loves and values more than Rush is money.  He has no value for family, love, god or anything else.  My father cheated on my mother and said he did it because she bounced a check.  He let me starve and suffer through college, while sitting there with nearly a million dollars in the bank.  And to be clear, I am not out for a paycheck.   I paid for my own books, loans and living expenses going to school full time and working full time.  The only help he gave me was to help me get a car so I could drive to work and school, and gave me a portion of my rent money so I was not out on the street.  The help which I had to turn down when he said if I didn't vote for George W. Bush in 2000 he would stop helping me.  Or the time he offered me a brand new car and a town house if I didn't marry my husband.  He also has more money than any of my sons's grandparents and family.  He does not give my son a gift at all for any holiday or birthday and simply sends him a card and a $2 bill.  The rest of his grandparents spoil him and give him all they possibly can.   He said my husband was an idiot because he did not work 2 jobs.  He brags about walking around with $1000 bucks in his pocket so that if a person disagrees with him he can pull it out and flaunt it and say "Money talks and Bullshit Walks".  He was known as being one of the biggest jerks in my home town.  He owned a business and treated his employees like dirt and would fire them on the spot for stupid petty bull shit.  Needless to say, my father has earned his own spot in the Ass Hole Hall of Fame.

My Father and his behavior is directly tied to Rush Limbaugh and his hate spewing bile, my father is the epitome of Rush's Mindless Drones.  He will sit around and say the exact thing Rush says at family dinner.  When I was still on speaking terms with him, he would call me at 6 am to start telling me about how bad liberals were for the country.  The worst part, my father is so entwined to Rush that he literally thinks that behavior is okay.  He has sat there and torn apart my friends and loved ones to their face like he was some high fluting radio host.  He told my college roommate to her face that she was wasting her time going to college because they would never hire fat people and she would die anyway at a young age.  He has sat in my Mother in Laws home and called us bad parents and talked bad about both of us because we didn't make as much money as him.  He has told my husband to his face that he was stupid because he didn't agree with Rush.  He values Rush more than any of us, to him Rush will always be right and we will always be wrong.  Rush and my father are welcome to their opinions, but I do not have to take this abuse from my either, and those opinions directly target MY gender.

I am a WOMAN and I am PISSED off.  How dare you Dad, how dare you Rush, and how dare all the rest of you antiquated chauvinistic pigs.  Myself, my mother, my sister, my cousins, my aunts and all women in this nation deserve the rights to our health.  We birthed you, we have come from you and we have pleased you, but most of all without us you have no love.  You can call us sluts, degrade us to prostitutes and suggest we put asprin in our thighs and coat hangers in our uteri all you want.  You actually think you are going to get that Viagra your insurance has to cover and be able to use it? Go ahead because as long as you have the rights to get your minuscule penises in the air we will demand the rights to our equal health.  Birth control is used for other diseases, more than you can say for your Viagra.  Its time to own up and be real men, you know those men who stand by their women and treat them like the goddesses they are.  And you are fully entitled to your opinion on the matter, but understand I will never agree.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How a Kitchen Witch Does Yule..

In my family growing up Christmas was a huge deal.  My mother had about 10 different themed trees from a Waterford Crystal  and silver tree, to a Coca-Cola tree and more.  We celebrated the Italian feast of 7 fishes on Christmas Eve, and had tons of presents and a huge meal with a ton of family including all the cousins, 2nd and 3rd.  We always got dressed up and had a meal that would give a nutritional a heart attack.  We started out with fruit cocktail, all hand cut and prepared.  We then had a lasagne course, then the main meal and then salad and then dessert.  It was a big deal!  It wasn't about the birth of Jesus at all.  In fact it was rarely brought up!  It was about family and sharing a big meal and giving to each other.  It was about love.  I see allot of pagans today creating a big deal and hoopla about Christmas.  It is a combination of things too.  Some people go off on huge tirades about how Christmas tradition is actually pagan and they are upset that everyone says this or that.  The other people get into the whole "well I am pagan now so I want nothing to do with Christmas". Well I am going to give all these pagans the words of Italian sage advice and say "Fagedaboutit".  Having a different spiritual belief than your family does not mean you need to dismiss the traditions of your youth. 

Then we have pagans that celebrate both holidays and blend the old with the new.  I am of this last school.  For us Christmas is a family day when we spend time with our bio family.  The span of time over December gives us homage to both traditions.  We start here with the decorations.  I am always aching to put them up as soon as Samhain decorations get put away.  This year I put them up before Thanksgiving, which always causes a stir on the Facebook page!  But I just love them because everything is up for a reason and reflects my cultural upbringing and my spirituality. 

For example, my tree this year, pictured above, is turquoise to represent the cool of winter, and gold to reflect the birth of the sun.  I have a golden pentacle on top with pentacles and dragonflies in honor of my totem.  I hang fairies in the windows, I put out more candles.  I also do things to bring my past celebrations of Christmas to the ritual circle, such as putting color coordinated nutcrackers at each quarter, and drinking cocoa and cookies instead of cakes and wine. 

I also have traditions with foods, such as the feast of seven fishes on Christmas Eve.  Italians do not eat meat that day and traditionally eat a huge variety of seafood in the evening.  I also cook a huge pasta selection for my annual Yule party and invite my pagan and mundane friends.  We have a social gathering and drink and be merry with a golden candle lit for the Sun God each year.  My penne alla vodka is always a huge deal and has become a tradition among friends. 

We also do Christmas Morning.  We get up like other children and turn on the tree to discover Santa has been to our home.  Santa to us is an analogy of the Gods.  We leave him a "libation" of milk and cookies and in turn he provides us with gifts.   That does sound familiar.  Even if we don't celebrate Christmas it allows my son to learn about that symbiotic relationship on his level.  It also allows him to experience something with other children, the magic of Santa.

We all know that the traditions of the holidays come from many sources, pagan and non-pagan.  We hear people making a huge deal about putting the "Christ back in Christmas".  I also hear pagans being infuriated by this last group of people and creating a large hoopla about it.  Who cares if people want to be bigoted and ignorant, we do not need to feed their energy.  The best thing you can do is to celebrate the holidays the best and most fun way you can.  Blessed Yule to all.    

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Harvesting Change and Healing

When we go through tough times, we seek ways to find comfort.  As you all know I have had hard times lately with the loss of Jessie.  But the last six months have had more than just that held up in store for me.  I have had everything happen to me from my car dying to financial problems (I am the 99% for sure) to discovering friends I had for years were never really friends.  To top it all off, add in the stress this has all added to my marriage and we are a steam pot of stress and emotional heart ache.  It has been a roller coaster of emotions to say the least.


I have been pretty much going through a major change of "Return to Saturn" proportions this last year.  I have found comfort in music songs like the video posted above.  It almost seems like a sign that it keeps coming on my Pandora stations.  Music seems to comfort me and allow me to cry when I normally would not have allowed myself too.  I have been keeping myself busy with many projects to keep my mind off things.  Harvesting out the bad and making room for the new is a good thing.  There are good things that come with trying to find that happy place again after epic bad times.

 The most important part of being at a low point in your life is to remember that things will get better.  Harvesting this idea and the positive energy of regrowth is always the hardest part.  You can not let the negativity get you down, but you also need to allow yourself time to grieve, heal and learn from the negative experiences.  How does one do this?  Well that is different for everyone and a very individual process.  Some people need to sit in bed in their jammies and stuff ho-hos in their mouth and be miserable, like that episode of Roseanne in season 9, where Dan leaves Roseanne for another woman.  But other people, need to dive into new projects and stay busy.  Some people need both.  I am one that needs to stay busy. 

One of the hardest parts of being a pagan in this country is the lack of people to connect with on a spiritual and friendship level that have similar beliefs as you.  Many pagans tend to be alone in many areas of the country.  I have felt this myself the last few years.  But with my own pain lately I have been trying to change that.  A few of my pagan friends and I have started a local Earth based spirituality group.  It started off as us finding a wonderful place to gather and hold meet-ups.  We then planned a Samhain retreat.  When we decided to do it we said to ourselves that if more than one person showed up besides us, it was a success.  Well now we are nearing 40 people attending, and are being sponsored by the biggest New Age shop in the area, and have started an organization that will be hosting many events in the future. 

It has been growing so fast and keeping myself busy working on our projects together has not only given me a new focus that is positive, it has offered me a support structure of people I can connect with spiritually to help with the healing process.  I also am able to help new people that have come to us.  Ever since we started advertising our group we have had pagans come to us grateful to have found us, as they are new on their path and needing spiritual guidance in their lives.   That feeling to me has been so amazing to know that I am helping someone and guiding them to answers they had in themselves but needed help finding.  I wonder if they know how much helping them is helping me. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Now...

This is not my first pregnancy loss.  Back in 2006 I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks.  As soon as I found out, I lost the pregnancy.  It took me a long time to heal.  We still started trying right away after the loss. But this is different this time.  I was pregnant for an entire trimester.  I went through all the symptoms, being nauseated all day every day, and struggling to stay awake.  I even got to feel the baby kicking me in those final weeks of being pregnant.  I had much longer to get used to the idea of having another child.  But now that is gone.

It has made some things very hard.  Facebook is just horrible at times, and it makes me glad I have 2 accounts because honestly, my primary account is loaded with other child bearing mothers and I see a pregnancy announcement every week it feels like.  Going out and about is hard too, because pregnant women are everywhere.  I am very happy for them, but every time I see a round belly, it is a reminder that My Jessie is gone.  We went from planning to have another family member to trying to cope as a family with the loss of that new family member.  My 3 year old son was just starting to get the concept that mommy had a baby in her tummy.  He still asks about "Mommies Baby" and I just do not know what to say to him.   He understands death as squishing a bug. 

I now get some perks, like being able to drink at a bunch of parties and gatherings that I was not going to be able to.  I am actually looking forward to getting a bit tipsy at the Samhain festival in a few weeks.  I am also looking forward to the homemade hard cider my friends are making for Yule.  I got to dye my hair seeing as that I had massive roots from getting highlights early in the summer.  I also do not have to worry about the fact that I only had one pair of Maternity jeans and had to buy more for the winter to make it through till March, when I was due.  I also get to do some magical workings I was wanting to do since I do not do spell work while pregnant.  And I get to be intimate with my hubby without worrying If my nausea will take over and I will get sick on him.

But none of that compares to having my child that I was expecting in my arms and alive and healthy.  Healing emotionally is the hardest part of it all.  There is nothing anyone can really say that makes the pain hurt less.  Some people suggest turning to faith to heal.  And I do, but no matter how much I meditate or cleanse with salt, or how often I wear hematite, nothing is a cure all.  I know that only time can heal these wounds. 

I find strength in staying busy.  I have been writing more blogs, working on planning the Samhain Retreat, working, cleaning my house over and over... the list goes on and on.  I find that the more I do physically, the less time I have to think about how sad I am about loosing my child.  Having a long to do list is so comforting.  I just worry that if I do not face these emotions I will not heal the way I need to.  

There is one thing that I am hoping helps with the healing process, a passing ritual for Jessie.  My close friend Coedwig will be doing the ritual in Jessie's Honor in a few weeks.  He planned our sons baby blessing for us and it was wonderful.  I am hoping that ritually saying goodbye helps and I feel closure in some aspects.   But I know that the pain of this all will always be with me.  I hope that I can find the inner strength to grow from this experience and find peace with it all. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Here and Gone

For the past few weeks I have been working on a very special post.  It was to announce my pregnancy.  I had kept a log of every week and how I was feeling and journaled my emotions and everything.  I was so excited about it, but kept it a secret for all these weeks because I wanted to share it at a special time.  I had told some of my friends but not all of them to see if the others would guess, we even made games of it.  See the pregnancy itself was a miracle to me in some lights.   I had just gotten my IUD removed and it was our first cycle with no protection.  It took us 2 years to conceive our son so we literally were in shock when we saw that Big Fat Positive pregnancy stick. I had also gotten pregnant right after returning from Pagan Spirit Gathering, where I had a crone bless my tummy.  It was meant to be and a gift from the gods in my mind.

I had been pretty sick with this pregnancy, suffering from all day nausea and requiring 9 hours of sleep each night and a nap daily.  I had a feeling this pregnancy would stick around, and hoped it would since I had been so sick.  We told our son and a few close friends and family members, but never announced to the general public or the entire family.  I was waiting to see the baby on an ultrasound, even though I had felt plenty of flutters.

I anxiously went to my 12 week appointment where they gave me an Ultrasound to confirm the heart beat and check the size of the baby.  We found the heartbeat right away.  And saw it flickering away on the screen.. I had tears in my eyes.  The tech took some more measurements and then said she had to go talk to a doctor.  We sat there for 15 minutes waiting for her and she finally came back and then asked us to go to the waiting room, and even gave us a few pictures.

A few minutes later a doctor called me into a room.  She informed me that my baby had a 7.6 mm swelling from the forehead down to the tailbone.  This swelling, called Hydrops, was indicative of a huge genetic abnormality.  Hydrops also most of the time comes with fatal heart defects and organ malfunctions.  She then proceeded to go on and say that this was not the biggest of the worries.  The baby also had underdeveloped arms and legs that we way too short for the gestational age of my baby.  They also said they had a hard time locating some of the organs but were unsure if this was because they were missing or it was their equipment.  She said she was not sure what was wrong but a geneticist would contact me in the next few days.  She mentioned that there was a possibility of Turner's Syndrome or a dwarfism condition, and left it at that.

We sat waiting for the phone to ring for 5 days.  It is not until you are waiting for a life altering call that you realize how much you hate telemarketers.  I finally had to call them and the geneticist asked me to come in that day for CVS testing.  I drove the 90 minute drive with my husband and we went in for the testing.  The doctor we had was the only high risk doctor in the state who specialized in genetics.  She told us that the baby was the worst case she had seen in 20 years and that the outlook didn't look good.   She was not able to do the testing because of the location of the placenta in my uterus and we would have to wait till 16 weeks to do an Amniocentesis. 

We were then called into a room with a counseling nurse who sat us down to discuss how sick our baby was.  She told us that the baby would most likely not make it to term and would most likely be still born.  She also said that if the baby was born there was a very high risk that the baby would pass any time after birth and spend allot of time in the NICU at the University.  SIDS risks would be very very high as well.  She said that they were actually shocked that the baby had made it this far.  We were then sent home, in tears and forced to make a huge decision.  Did we want to go any farther with this doomed pregnancy. 

We only want 2 children.  This was going to be my last pregnancy.  I wanted to enjoy every moment of it and cherish it as a sacred time in my life.  Pregnancy to me is the peek of motherhood.  But hearing all of this news and discovering the problems with my baby destroyed it for me.  I had known something was wrong.  Most women have a strong intuition about gender from early on in their pregnancies.  I on the other hand only cared about one thing, having an Ultrasound.  I had gone to two appointments at 2 different doctors offices, and been told I was getting one only not to get one.  I was very angry and panicked both times this happened to me.  I knew something was wrong but I couldn't put my finger on it.

At first I was worried about the baby not being alive.  But then the flutters started coming.  I was then worried that I was further along than I thought and that I had drunk alcohol during the first few critical weeks.  Then I was worried that I had more than one baby and that I couldn't handle having twins or triplets.  It all went through my mind, and I spent the majority of my first trimester worrying about my pregnancy.  But to hear this news that my baby was so sick.  It just was worse than I could ever imagine.

We had this choice to make, to let nature take its course and have hope, or to trust science and our beliefs to not bring a sick and suffering child into this world.  We were being asked if we wanted to "pull the plug" on our baby.  If we waited to do the Amnio at 16 weeks we would not have answers till 18-20 weeks or longer, making a stillbirth even more likely.  We were told that we could have a D&C now, a D&E for the next few weeks, and after 24 weeks we would have to wait it out no matter what as per state laws.

It was a question of faith.  My husband was pretty firm in his beliefs on the matter.  He felt we should trust science and not bring a suffering child into this world, but his heart hated to admit it and go through with it.  I on the other hand was torn more than you could even imagine.  I wanted to trust that the gods gave me this child for a reason and that they would take it away for the very same reason.  I wanted to trust that nature and my body knew what to do and would make the right choice for the baby on its own.  But I knew that I did not believe in bringing a suffering child into this world, who would positively suffer from a dwarfing condition, and genetic abnormalities on top of it.   Giving up hope for my child was the worst of it all.

Science is a gift in itself from the gods.  It allows us to understand our world like we never have before.  It backs up theories like the Gaia Theory.  We get to see so many things that we could never see with out the help of science.  We also knew that the thought of holding a stillborn baby at 20 weeks or more was unbearable to us and would just destroy us emotionally.  I was already struggling with feeling the baby kick me with its stubby little legs knowing it could die at any time inside my body, making my uterus a tomb instead of a cauldron of life.  I knew what I had to do.  So at 14 and a half weeks gestation, we ended our child's life and gave our child, Jessie Quinn, the gift of mercy.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I know that I will think of Jessie for the rest of my life.  I only have a copy of Jessie's foot prints and a few ultrasound pics to remember them by.  I know we made the right choice because even the feet were miss formed, and the doctors confirmed the severe Hydrops covering all of Jessie's body, more than indicated on the Ultrasound.   I love Jessie more than life itself and I know one day we will meet again.  Be it this life, another incarnation or in the Summer lands. 

I love you Jessie Quinn, born sleeping 09/30/2011.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fertility

Fertility might be one of the most scary or avoided forms of magic by many people.  Say you were to have a fertility statue in your home and someone picked it up and asked, "What's this for?".  You know that if you say, "fertility" to them the chances of them dropping the statue on the floor directly from their hands is a very great one.   Fear of having a bunch of babies or even one unplanned is a great fear.  Fertility does not just focus on a womb full of fetuses.  If we look at the definition of fertile, we can gain new ideas about fertility on a magical level:

"fer·tile  –adjective

1.  bearing, producing, or capable of producing vegetation, crops, etc., abundantly; prolific: fertile soil.
2.  bearing or capable of bearing offspring.
3.  abundantly productive: a fertile imagination."

Fertility is not just about bearing a child and multiplying our population.   It also includes other forms of creation, from having a green thumb, to being imaginative.  Creativity being a big one here.  When we make an art project or find ourselves fruitful in our work, we are in fact experiencing a fertility type of energy.  When one does fertility magic or raises fertility energy it can manifest itself in any of these categories.  

Now, I am not saying we can not fine tune the energies to fill a certain goal in these categories.  You can be specific and focus more towards a green thumb, being productive or in fact creating life in yourself.   But as I well know, raising fertility energy can result in a new art project when you were hoping for a baby.  Now I do not mind having a new art or writing project, or developing a green thumb, or having another child.  In fact I welcome them all. 

I regularly invite fertility energy into my life because of my strong ties to motherhood.  I am always hoping to be productive.  One way I do this is to wear a fertility charm on my neck.   This is my Howlite mama goddess that I bought a few months back from Wild Mother Arts on Etsy (Thank you for the photo btw).  It has been on my neck ever since I got it and it truly is a remarkable piece of jewelry.  Most importantly, it is child proof, as it keeps finding ways to consecrate itself, by finding its way into babies hands and sometimes mouths.  It really pissed off one of my husbands cousins who said it looked like violent headless pornography (ignorance is wonderful!), whom I thought was going to kick me out of her house for it.  But most people come to me and give me so many compliments on it.  It is filled with fertile motherly energy and reflects who I am spiritually.  For I am a Mother and a Goddess, and I am filled with fertility.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blossoming Jasmine Journal- Entry 2

It is amazing to me how much can change by going to a festival.   As you may know I went to Pagan Spirit Gathering 5 weeks ago, and every since I have been way more creative and focused on everything in my life.  I still have not made headway in all of the things I want to be working on but I have gotten allot more done and been way more in touch with my faith.  I just have a full plate.  This means that things I want to work on have yet again been pushed back in a fashion, and new things keep coming up in my life.  I hate that I am making excuses for myself, I really do.  But wow, its just so much, and it piles up quickly.  And on the other hand I keep getting new ideas for things and PSG just flooded in so many new ideas to try and work out. 

I am writing a book.  I came home with so many ideas and the drive to actually write a book.  There is not many books out there that encompass the spiritual path of the mother in pagan faiths.  This has always made my head scratch, as the mother goddess idea is used in MANY pagan and earth based paths.  I have an outline and I am working on this slowly.  Maybe I will get a bunch of ideas written down and more of it done once I get my desk cleaned off.  I am not pushing myself on a time line or anything, I am writing it when ideas come to me and when I get the chance to do good quality writing. 

I need to limit my time on pagan message boards and discussion groups.  Yes it is wonderful to be able to chat with others and debate concepts.  However, so many people of different paths have so many ideas that it really is just a circle of unending drama lamas competing for being the Guru of all knowledge.  Its like watching a video game where everyone battles for the ultimate rank of Paganus Supremo.  And then there are the cynics.  If you can not prove an idea with scientific evidence or historical fact, then it is crap to them.  Yes I believe in the passing of real knowledge and deep inner wisdom.  To me that should be a goal for all people of faith (and I know many people disagree with that, but I choose to not believe that).  But really you need to just have some faith, and let go and know that one day people will get to the part of the journey of the path they are on where really none of it matters. In the end my energy is best spent writing here and working on my book and my path and most importantly, my family. 

I have been doing good about focusing more on my health.  I have cut caffeine out of my diet for the most part, I am down to less than 3 cigarettes per day, and I have been cooking healthy low fat meals and eating a salad every day.  I also have been drinking more milk and I have been eating breakfast.  Now I just need to add in an exercise regimen, which I have been reading a few books about and just keeping more active with my family.  We have been outside every weekend for several hours each time, we have gone camping, despite the last camping trip being the worst one I have ever been on.  And I have been including myself in activities that enrich my mind.  I have cut out my texting habit almost completely with the exception of keeping in touch with a few friends. 

I also want to mention that my Jasmine plant that I have been caring for, for nearly 3 years, had the biggest bloom its ever had, from the solstice until about a week ago.  It was heaven to go outside and be able to smell it and feel the connection I share with it.  I can't wait to see it again.  I need a better camera so that I can share pics with you in the future.  Blessings to you all ~ Jasmine. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Choosing My Religion

Recently I read an article over on Patheos Pagan Portal in regards to raising your children pagan.  The article was titled "Hand-Me-Down Paganism", and said that pagan parents should expose their children to their practice.  I have always been of the mindset that my path was not my sons and he should find his own path.  If he asked I would teach him.  But this article got me thinking.

Mr. Scott suggested that this belief I too carried was due to most pagans not wanting a repeat of their childhood in which faith was pushed on them.  In my case this simple is not true.  I was raised with the ability to choose.  My mother was catholic and my father was protestant.  They could not decide which to baptize me and choose to let me choose when I was older.  Now they were expecting me to go with a christian faith, but minus going to a Lutheran preschool for a year and being one of Herod's wives in Jesus Christ Superstar,  I was not taught any faith.  I started seeking when I was a teen, and honestly paganism was my first faith.  I enjoyed seeking and finding my own faith, it has made me who I am.  But that doesn't leave me without regrets.

My biggest regret is that I wasn't able to grow up in a pagan household.  I really feel that it would have been an amazing experience to learn from my mother, who now happens to be a Reiki master and despite being Catholic, has a belief system similar to Alchemy.  Scott was able to have that opportunity and loved it, and speaks very highly of it.  He also feels that if you don't share your path with your children, they are missing out on part of who you are.  Now that really struck me.  Having to keep allot of my path to myself over the years has been rough.  The result of that is that not many of my family members and some of my friends do not know me to the fullest extent that they could know me.  Why would I want to do that to my son.  I want him to know me and have a close relationship with me for life.  Sharing my faith with him would only further that bond and connection that we share.

Having a close bond like that with my son and sharing my path with him would be a blessing, and would not leave a void of emptiness in his heart.  Yes I still want him to find his own path, and I still can teach him about many different paths.  Teaching him mine in no way voids him of the ability to choose and my ability to be open to him finding his path.  I know that his life will not have the same dogmas as my own.  But him not learning about my path in an open and family was doesn't allow him to see much of my dogma at all.  I want to be able to have family feasts around the Sabbats, I want to teach him a love of the earth, and I want him to be a well rounded individual.

There has also been the issue of us that my Mother in Law wants him to be exposed to faith.  She has been calling and trying to give nudges about taking him to church or vacation bible school.  And I realize she wants him to be exposed to a faith of some sort, but neither my husband (who is now agnostic) nor myself feel comfortable with the Christian Dogma.  I have no issues with Christians, however I have this deep seated fear that he will come home and say "Mommy you don't believe in Jesus, you are going to hell".  I would be heart broken by this and no matter if it happens or not, I don't feel comfortable with the environment at this time.


So I brought it up to my husband and we discussed it and he said he feels more comfortable with our son being raised in my path than in any other.  He wishes he could help and that he had a connection to it like we do.  However my path does not force ideas or dogma onto others like other paths.  So we have officially decided to start raising our son pagan.  Its not a far stretch either for us because he is already a nature lover and very in tune with the earth already and he isn't even 3 yet.  I am excited to be able to teach him and help him grow in what ever path he may choose later in life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Lack of Patriotism: A Self Reflection.

Something I have always struggled with on the 4th of July is that I have no real deep emotional ties to being an American.  I feel bad that I don't but if I were to rank it on labels that I could apply to myself, it would still be towards the bottom of my list.  It would be above hypoglycemic and sufferer of IBS that is for sure.  But for me, Mother, Pagan and Wife would be a close tie for the top spot.  I didn't realize how low it ranked for me until this morning when I was sitting at the parade this morning here in Independence, IA next to a woman who was Canadian and celebrating her first 4th of July.  She was wearing a denim dress with an American flag bandana on her head, while I sat next to her wearing a hippy skirt and a coral top.  I was one of the only people not wearing red and blue.  The fact of the matter is though, I don't wear, or own for that matter, many red and blue clothes.  It is just not my favorite colors or ones that I feel a connection to.  Yes I value freedom, it has been a mantra for me for a long time.  But all the political stuff for me, it has always degenerated my faith in my country.  This side arguing with that one, people not getting to live their lives with out politics and the law getting in the way.  The fact that I have to pay an arm and a leg to see a doctor and maintain a healthy life style while everyone argues about it makes me cringe internally.  I could go on and on here, but when I do, I feel even less of a connection.  For me this day really is about eating corn, being with family, enjoying the weather and the fireworks.  Because true freedom is in my heart and soul. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pagan Spirit Gathering: Part 2, A Review

Pagan Spirit Gathering was not my first festival, but this was my first time seeing so many pagans in one spot.  Before I traveled to this fest in particular, I had been to ones with about 300-500 attendees.  This one had nearly 1000 people.  It was an awesome experience to be surrounded by that many pagans.  So I a writing this review based on my experiences at previous festivals and I hope to do my best to describe the feelings I felt while in attendance. 

What I Liked

I liked the sense of community that all of us shared together.  It felt nice to be able to be free and not have to hide anything about my primal pagan side.  Most of the people were open too, I only felt that closed off energy from 1 or 2 people I came across.  I also liked the set up of the day.  Workshops were held after lunch time, leaving time for people to sleep in, get up and get moving and still not have to miss a workshop.  I also liked that so many people lit torches at night around their tents.. it was almost impossible to see otherwise and I do not like tripping over tent stakes. 


What I loved

I loved many things about this festival.  I loved the quality of the workshops, which as I discussed with Selena Fox, I have had bad experiences with in the past.  I actually went to a local meet up with workshops that had a girl just reading us her tarot book instead of actually teaching the workshop.  Here at PSG, the people actually knew what they were talking about and made me feel like I could learn something.  When you have been involved with paganism as long as I have, that is hard to find. 

I also loved the Rituals.  I have never been one for public rituals.  A combination of being empathic and me not feeling comfortable with the way other people do rituals has always turned me off to them.  The way they were done at PSG, they were very open to many paths.  During the Croning ritual, Selena instructed us to connect to the universe or deity of our choice in the tradition that we connected to most.  And that made me feel comfortable enough to actually enjoy the ritual at hand. 

The shopping was incredible.  The items that people had were mostly hand made.  It was so nice to be able to browse and find things that were one of a kind pieces of art.  And to be able to see them up close and personal and feel the energy first hand that was put into their creation.  Wonderful.  If you plan to go to PSG in the future I suggest taking money, and cash, since the ATM kept crashing from all the use of the WiFi at the site.  Don't be surprised if you are wanting to spend 100$ or more. 

What I would have changed

All of my major beefs with the festival were all related to the actual site.  I would have had more flush toilets, and cleaned them more often.  And more showers.  I would suggest some outdoor showers or more just because of the lines we had to wait on to get there.  And be warned, your feet will not be clean till at least 2 showers are taken once you are home. 


If you plan to go

Bring socks to sleep in,  it got chilly at night and this was the best way to keep my nasty dirty feet from making a mess and to stay warm.  Do not plan to go online.  I still cant figure out why people would want to be online at a place like this, but the network was constantly crashing from overuse.   Bring cash, make a budget and bring that amount of cash for the whole trip.  Bring extra clothes, it got very muddy, and chilly at night.  Bring flip flops for the shower, they are gross and hard on the feet.  Prepare to take the quickest shower of your life.  Just go for the entire week unless you literally can not take the time off work.  Bring pre-made cards with your contact info on them to exchange with others whom you wish to stay in contact with. 

The Bottom Line

I will be going again, next time for a full week.  The only thing that could keep me from going would be that I couldn't afford it or I was medically unable. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pagan Spirit Gathering: Part 1, My Personal Experience.

I recently attended Pagan Spirit Gathering in Earlville, IL.  hosted by circle sanctuary and Selena Fox.  I am still "recovering" from this.  My kitchen has a few camping items left out that are in the process of being washed..but my once mud soaked clothes are now hanging to dry, the bedding is cleaned and put away and I feel a strong connection to my faith and the earth that can not even be described in words. 

I traveled from my small town in Independence, IA with the other 2 pagans in our town, we dubbed ourselves the Independence Iowa Pagan Alliance for shits and giggles and travel the 3ish hour drive to the festival.  We used our GPS and from the road all you could see was a little drive way.   Once we pulled in, we were in a different world.  We were welcomed with open arms and being that this was our first time at the festival we were greeted with people calling us "virgins" and asked to ring a bell..I rang that bell with all my might and we were welcomed home. 

I have been to several other festivals in the past, such as Phoenix Phyre, but this was the largest one I have ever attended.  What I liked about this fest is that it was so big that we were literally tent to tent and were forced to get to know our neighbors.  When we arrived, which we just went for the weekend instead of the full week, all of the shaded camping areas were filled and we had to open tent in the quieter area.  I wasn't happy about it when we got there, because I fully intended to stay up till 5 am each night enjoying night time festival activities.  However, I was more than happy with being there when I didn't stay up till 5 am partying like a maiden. 

I was not able to attend any workshops the first day because we were still unloading and setting up camp at the time, but we were able to chat with our tent city neighbors and met some really nice people.  We chatted and shopped around the merchants row area, which highly impressed me.  There were over 20 vendors (probably even double that) and not many that had the same crap you see at every pagan shop that is made in china.  Most of the vendors had homemade goods that were unique and very calling to me.  I really wish I had about 500 bucks to spend there, because I would have spent it all between the crystal balls and hand made goddess outdoor hangings, or the hand carved statues.    I came home with a CD by Emerald Rose (which I forgot to have signed.. boo), a handmade deer skin and quartz necklace for my son, a new goat skin head for my djembe and the biggest mortar and pestle I have ever seen. 

That night I attended the festivities which several drinking parties were commencing.  There were hoards of half naked women and men in kilts and loin cloths, and even people dressed like Pan.  I do not remember many parts of that night because the jungle juice is still clouding my brain (I only had one after my few glasses of wine with din din).  But I can say that it highly messed with me.  I thought the bull frogs from the swimming pond were following me and started yelling curse words at them at 2am.   I had walked about 5 times back and forth from my tent to the bathroom to the party and I probably stumbled drunkenly about a total of 5 miles that night.   I danced around the drum circle a bit and sat down and enjoyed it allot.  I got to meet a nice drum troop that fully reminded me that I am so not a maiden anymore!

The next day I woke up after about 3 or 4 hours of sleep and I got up early to try and beat the rush to the showers.. but I was wrong.  I had to wait over an hour to shower, but the blessing was that Selena Fox was online right behind me and I got to chat with her and I must say I was impressed!  Most pagan festivals I have attended, all the bigger named people tend to either go to a hotel instead of camp out, or have very private area.  But she was waiting on the line with the rest of us as an equal.  She was a very nice woman and very charismatic and funny.  I don't think I have ever felt someone have such naturally happy energy.  I also attended a few rituals she hosted during my short stay and I was even impressed with those because the way she did it was very polite and welcoming of everyone's beliefs.  I definitely will be checking out gatherings at Circle Sanctuary (about 3 hours away from me) for the near future. 

I went to the morning meeting and afterwards attended 2 different workshops.  Both of these workshops had a strong effect on me.  One was a guided meditation that just opened me up and brought me into the feeling of community at the festival.  The other was about using the Charge of the Goddess in every day life that was just wonderful. 

That night was the main ritual that was the biggest ritual I had ever seen, with nearly 1000 people.  It was allot of standing and walking but beautiful in its own way.  Afterwords we sat at our camp and chatted all night with a crone that came by with popcorn and marshmallows to share.  We chatted all night and shared stories and ideas about life and paganism.  It was so nice to be able to chat so openly. 

The entire experience renewed my sense of pagan community and opened up things in my personal life that I needed to handle on my own.  I felt healed and energized and came home with some new ideas.  I will be definitely going next year and going for the entire week. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blossoming Jasmine Journal- Entry 1

We all have things in our head that we want to do with our lives.  I get an idea and see myself going for it, but eventually it just fizzles out and I don't get it done.  Well I have recently decided that I want to get working on some of these things.   I don't want to say to myself anymore that I will do them and just not.  I want to personally thank my online friend Amy Waters for giving me the title for this venture of mine.  I wanted to be able to portray the idea that this was similar to a bucket list, but it was more about living not about things I wanted to do before dying.  The name she suggested fit this perfectly, good job Amy!  I want to blossom in my life and I hope that sharing this publicly, I will be able to stick to it and honor these ideas fully.  So I will start this by creating a list of things I want to do and I will begin working on them over time.  I also encourage you to do something similar and I also encourage you to share it too.  So here is my first list of things I currently want to work on:

Jasmine's Cupboard-  I have been working on this idea for about 5 years now.  I want to sell my home made herbal creations and I have been piddling about doing it.  I have the majority of the things I need to get started, and even some stuff ready to sell at any time.   But I get to my Etsy page and I freak out when I am about to put something up for sale.  Its the part where they want me to pay a fee to place something up for sale.  What if no one buys it and I waste the money I spent listing it?  What if I undercharge for shipping and end up loosing money?  What if no one likes the items I make...  but I know people love what I make, I get compliments on it all the time. 

Working Out-  I have a huge list of exercises I want to do.  Yoga, belly dance, tai chi, ballet... yep they all call to me.  I just need to step away from all of my other work I am constantly doing and just go for it.  When I was growing up I used to be a ballet dancer and a Baton Twirler (I even was on a national championship winning team) and I spent literally the first half of my life moving around.  I need to reconnect with this part of me and the excuses need to stop.  I plan on starting with a new book I just bought on my kindle (yay I found a sale last week) that teaches you to do 15 minutes of yoga in bed before you get out of bed each morning.  I need to read it this week. 

Healthy Eating-  Just because I have cut things out of my diet that I think are unhealthy doesn't give me room to eat crap because I have finally stopped eating other things.  I feel that this is almost a cross addicting thing for me because I give up coffee and then I find myself sneaking dr. pepper's more often and breaking my code of "no more than one pop per week".  I also hate bread I have discovered.  I love good Italian bread and homemade breads but really I just need to get rid of the idea of crappy carbs all together.   I eat allot of whole grains but I catch myself sneaking crackers and cookies that I just don't need.  I think that I should just stick to spinach wraps honestly... and I need to start having my morning smoothie again.. when I drank those I lost like 20 pounds in a month! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Goddess Series- Gaia.


Whether it's Gaia, Gaea or Ge, the theories concepts and stories surrounding this goddess and scientific theory are all fascinating. I first came into contact with Gaia from the idea and theory that all life is connected together. It is a fascinating theory and is pretty popular among certain circles of pagans. The idea of Mother Earth has always been a popular concept with general society. A combination of myths and theories has evolved Gaia to be a very important Goddess to consider in our paths.

Writing this, however, has made me feel a little like the terracotta Gaia in the picture at the left. There is so much information to sift through on the internet, but when it comes to finding her in classical mythology, it becomes almost irritatingly bleak. Gaia tends to get reduced to small paragraphs that describe her as "name for the earth" or "Greek personification of the earth as a goddess". If you travel to some of the sites I have listed, you will see that some of them span pages beyond pages of information on Gaia. I found separating information based on the original mythology and archeological research, and which is based on personal gnosis and belief has been a challenge. However understanding each of these aspects is important to understanding the importance of Gaia to our society today.

Mythology

Gaia was the grandmother of Zeus, mother of Titans, Cyclops, and more in ancient Greek mythology. She represented what we would call today "Mother Earth". Some call her the first female, some consider her the ultimate creator in Greek mythology. She was born of pure chaos, and birthed the sky, and then went on to bare more children with the sky. She was described by Hesiod as having birthed the heavens to surround herself in and be a home for the gods. If any single goddess can be credited with the "Mother Earth" title, Gaia is it.


Gaia Thesis

In July of 1971, Oberon Zell wrote a paper for the Green Egg, titled THEAGENESIS: The Birth of the Goddess, introducing the concept of the earth being an interconnected spiritual force. Now I have never been a huge Oberon Zell fan, but I do like the way he presented his ideas for this particular article. He broke the idea down to the cellular level and then compared the Earth itself to the human body. On the cellular level he states that when a cell reproduces or divides, it leaves part of itself in each of the new cells. This idea connects every living organism on the cellular level. He goes on to further explain how different ecosystems are like organs in a body. Each one has a different role to play on making the entire unit work. Natural disasters and weather are a part of this unit, everything that happens on the Earth is geared towards the greater good of itself as an organism seeking its own survival.




Gaia Theory

In the 1960's, James Lovelock came up with the theory that the earth was a self regulating all encompassing organism. It uses all life and even non-living compounds to regulate the environment for the best possible conditions for life. An example of this process is clouds formed over open oceans. Algae from the ocean emits a large sulfur molecule, which is then becomes the condensation nuclei for raindrops. Eventually the cloud moves to land and the sulfur molecule returns to the terrestrial ecosystems. Many processes on the Earth have been measured with this theory including global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and others.  Solid research and development is always coming to light in regards to this theory and backing it up. If you are a scientific mind, you should definitely look at some of the research out there.

My Thoughts

I love the idea and theory that the Earth is a single organism in itself. What I don't agree with is that we refer to it as a woman or a Goddess. Yes, I believe that the earth in itself is a divine force, but a balanced one that is genderless. But the Earth itself is comprised of duality on many levels. We create life by the joining of male and female to make a new being. Oberon Zell claims that even genderless organisms are referred to as females in the scientific community. However, when it comes to the aspect of Divinity of the organism of the Earth, I feel that it is important to distinguish between genderless and gendered. When doing scientific research, it is said that by simply observing a subject, we change it. By giving a gender to the Earth, we are changing the nature of it. We try to view the Earth based to our predetermined ideas of a woman by giving it a gender, when it not always is. Viewing it without gender allows us to see the Earth as a more natural and primal force, the breath of life. When we only view half of the duality, we are given an unbalanced world view.

Regardless of the gender of the Earth, I think that it is most important to consider the idea of the earth being all connected into one unit. It connects us all with every person and culture, with every rock and stone, with ever plant, we are all here for survival and survival of the planet is crucial for all of us. If we all incorporate this idea into our daily lives, we become more aware of what we do to each person and our environment, we are doing to ourselves and the planet as a whole. This in turn allows us to actively see the changes we make on the individual scale, change the world.  Raising our children to be good conscious Earth loving individuals is better for us all. What we are doing as mothers and parents is one of the most important jobs we have ever had. If this is the lesson the goddess Gaia has for us than she too can earn her place as one of the great mother Goddesses.




Resources

Gaea: terra-cotta statuette. [Photograph]. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/5606/Gaea-terra-cotta-statuette-from-Tanagra-Greece-in-the-Musee

Bulfinch's Mythology, Thomas Bulfinch, 1855.  

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/223365/Gaea
http://original.caw.org/articles/theagenesis.html
http://www.paleothea.com/SortaSingles/Gaia.html
http://www.ancient-mythology.com/greek/gaea.php
http://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Gaia.html
http://www.gaiatheory.org/
http://www.jameslovelock.org 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Pagans and Criticism: An Editorial.

For the past week I have been following several pagan boards, blogs and discussion groups.  Each of these groups has had their own drama to contend with.  The pagan mommy blogs have all been watching the unfolding of an issue with a ratings contest at Circle of Moms.  The boards have all been lit up with posts regarding others being mean to them, stating how they do not like criticism.  And finally, the discussion groups have all been in an uproar about more experienced and practiced pagans fighting with seekers and newbies.

First, before I go any further, I must explain that I try to avoid disagreements if at all possible.  This said, I also believe in speaking my mind, especially when someone questions the integrity of my path or those of my loved ones, or says something that is a flat out lie.  I do not believe in trying to change a persons path at all, but I do believe in helping people with offering what I can in the way of information and guidance.  I only offer it if it is asked of me or actively sought.  If I offer this help I expect to be respected for my knowledge, experience and opinion.  I also expect people not to assume that I will follow their personal dogma or adapt it to my practice in any form.  But ultimately I believe that the pagan community has many lessons to learn from each other as a community, and should value the lessons that everyone has to offer.

But not everyone is open to this.  An example, from one of the boards I travel this week, one woman posted a reply to a topic where she stated she didn't want to have anything to do with pagans who didn't follow the Rede.  I severely hope that I took this the wrong way, I'm really trying to give the benefit of the doubt.  However, how in the heck do you expect to come into a community looking to outreach to pagans if you can't even have an open enough mind to communicate with over half of them?  You can't be all "love and light" by avoiding so much, it defeats the purpose.  And I would love to help her and show her something new.  I would say to her that "not everyone believes in the Rede, including some Wiccans and this (insert long list) is why".  I would not expect her to understand them all but I would expect her to listen nicely and consider what i am saying.

Now on the discussion groups on Facebook, I am seeing pagans attempting to help people and state their firm yet researched opinions, and newbies flying at the elders and more learned pagans.  They call them names, attack them personally, attack their ideas and then cry out that they are being attacked when the person, trying to help them, defends themselves.  And this doesn't even matter that people are able to state multiple sources, the less experienced people still cry out "persecution".  In one instance, a pagan asked for someone to state their sources or tradition they practiced to further their own knowledge.  The other pagan flew at them, ignoring the request for a source, called them names, sent her husband to the discussion to call the person who questioned an idiot.  Seriously???!!!

I just don't get why pagans act like this.  When I was a newbie, this path was always referred to as "the path of the wise", and somewhere that has gone to the birds.  What ever happened to valuing elders and knowledge?  The part that bugs me about all of this is that you go on these same communities and find people begging for spells and saying they want to find a mentor.  It is disheartening, as a pagan who has studied for 15+ years, and as a person who is always seeking to further her path.

I did however get to see pagans coming together this week, a little glimmer of hope.  On the blogosphere, a contest is underway on Circle of Moms, that is seeking to find the top 25 faith based mommy bloggers.  A Christian mother attacked the pagan mothers and said that their faiths were not valid and should not be considered for the contest.  This lead to many pagan mommy bloggers teaming together to promote their blogs as a group to show that we are a strong community.  I am so proud to be a part of this movement, and hope to see many more actions like this.  The best part of this event was that it didn't matter if we agreed with each other or not, we were all attacked and stood together and I hope that one day we see more of this in the community.  And I know that this is asking allot because we are such a diverse group of people with so many different beliefs and histories, but I know that as a whole, pagans can get along.  Here's to wisdom!