Stop Calling them Uniforms

mountiecostumeWhen a uniform becomes customized for various cultures it stops being a uniform. A uniform is… uniform. When it isn’t uniform, all the same, then it becomes similar, not uniform. If the Mounties, police, fire fighters, etc. want to adapt their uniform doesn’t it become a costume? I think allowing various cultures (I am purposely not being specific because the specific culture is not the issue) to have different uniforms makes the uniform mean less.

The original point of a uniform was identification, everyone looking the same, being recognizable and having respect. You see the Mounties and know who they are by the uniform. If you see someone wearing a Mountie costume, you think they are on the way to a party and you don’t consider them someone you need to pay much attention to. Badges don’t mean much from a distance, behind a door or to anyone who couldn’t tell a real badge from a fake one.

People in authority like Mounties, military and government employees need to be recognizable in order to have that authority and be trusted. Since we were children we have seen Mounties in their dress uniforms and we expect a Mountie to be in that uniform.

But, more than the public, what about the Mounties themselves? Why change the uniform which has severed generations of Mounties of all cultures up until now? I’m assuming all Mounties have two arms, two legs, one head so they should all be able to wear the standard uniform. What is the real need for change in this very old tradition worn with pride by generations of people.

I don’t know. But, I do think they should stop calling them uniforms, because they aren’t uniforms any more. That tradition has been lost. mountie

Where the Wild Things Are: Talking About Being Pagan

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, January, 16, 2003.

Staying safe, in your own safe little world. Is that where you are? Many of us choose our adventures, how far we will go depends on where we have our safety nets.

For instance, have you told anyone you’re Pagan? Have you told your family, friends, co-workers, boss? I’m not suggesting you rush out and do it. I’m certainly not daring you to tell them either. It’s a personal thing. Being Pagan is a personal thing in itself. A personal choice and something just for you.

It should not, however, be some dark secret. Something deep, dangerous and naughty. That’s not what Paganism should be. It’s not something you should have to hide from your family. Being Pagan is about caring for life, the Earth and old traditions. How can they really object to that? Still, you can find the safety zone. You can let them know you’re into nature, environmental issues and historical traditions. You can be Pagan without saying the word Pagan to them.

People don’t always get that. They think they have to hide being Pagan because others won’t like it or will be shocked by it. They turn it into a deep, dark secret. By doing that they make it become something dark, secret. No wonder so many people still think of Pagans as devil worshippers.

You have the power to find where your safe world is, set the boundaries and set the record straight if you choose to. Let people know you’re Pagan, if you can or if you choose to. But, don’t make it some dark mystery. Don’t let them find an altar, a book or a pentacle in your room without explanation. If you make being Pagan something to be ashamed of or fear you hurt all of us.

Instead be proud of who you are and be as honest about it as you can. For me, the only person I couldn’t talk to about being Pagan was my Grandmother. It scared her. She couldn’t think of it as anything but dangerous for me. She didn’t understand that it’s not something dark, but something light. She didn’t know what I made of being Pagan, for me. She only knew the stereotypes she had heard all her life.

Where the Wild Things Are: A Pagan Appreciation for History

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, March, 1, 2003.

Do you care about history?

I love reading a bit here and there. I studied history in high school. I would have taken it in college but it wasn’t available among my optional courses.

Mostly I like reading about women in history ancient history and old cultures and customs. Being a Pagan/ Witchy type person I tend to read about superstitions and old traditions connected to nature and ceremonies too. I once spent several hours in the public library reading about wedding traditions and omens. That was long before my own wedding.

When I first heard of Wicca I went to the library to read about it. I wanted to know where it came from and who was involved. How did they feel about the things that matter most to me? That’s all history too. Most, of the people who created Wicca are no longer here to tell us their side of things. If you go even farther back, the first Witches and Pagans are hopelessly lost to us. We couldn’t even come up with a reliable source to know who the first Witch really was. Just some woman gathering herbs and helping people I would guess. But, you can’t know. That’s something lost to history.

History gives us a past, an anchor. Whatever else you learn about, it’s all current or in the future. Nothing but history teaches you about mistakes, conquests, people and possibilities that have come before you.

Not everyone appreciates history. Some think of it as just dusty old books that don’t matter any more. But, I think differently. How can you follow your path if you don’t know where you’ve been and what you’ve passed along the way?

Where the Wild Things Are: Yule or Christmas

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, November, 23, 2003.

Christmas, by that name, is a Christian holiday, Christ’s Mass is how it started as far as I remember. Also, if you want to get technical, holiday is also a Christian word, coming from holy day, the long, extended version before the remix.

I was thinking tonight, do you call it Christmas or always religiously, in a semi-fanatical way, call it Yule? To me, I don’t think the small things are worth fighting against the tide over. I don’t mind calling it Christmas or a holiday. I know what it means to me. I know where it comes from, historically and spiritually.

I also know how I celebrate it. I don’t go to a church, not one recognized by the average Yellow Pages phone book. I live in my ‘church’ it’s always with me and all around me. Mostly, I just like being outside. That’s when I feel closest to everything that matters and makes me feel good.

So, for me Yule or Christmas, is about time outside as well as our family traditions. The Christmas tree, singing carols, the exchange of new pajamas on Christmas Eve, the big dinner, making bread together, driving around admiring the fancy coloured lights, and so on. My favourite things are fresh, new snow on Christmas day and admiring the tree all lit up and decorated with ornaments we’ve made and kept from year to year and relatives past.

However you feel about Yule, remember the spirit of the season. Don’t insist people recognize you as Pagan, call it Yule whenever you might be listening and don’t make someone feel their Christmas is less than your Yule. Play nice. Religious tolerance works both ways.

Where the Wild Things Are: Can you Be Yourself and Be Pagan?

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, August, 24, 2003.

Being Pagan isn’t about putting on a show. It’s really a very personal thing, a choice you might keep to yourself forever or reveal to your family or friends. They call it coming out of the broom closet cause that’s kind of cute. But, you were never in a closet. Being Pagan is about being free, living with the Earth and respecting our history/ traditions. How can those be bad? Why would you have to keep that under wraps?

I think people think they have to prove a point or show off when they yabble on about how Pagan they are. In the case of craft names especially, those were meant to be secret, from everyone! But here and there you can find Pagans using their craft names more than the name on their birth certificate. Some rationalize it and say that’s their public craft name and they keep a secret one, privately. So, why the show?

Can you be yourself and be Pagan too? I think that’s what it really comes down to.

If you have to dress a certain way, display certain objects around you and change your name to fit in, where do you really fit in? Being Pagan should be comfortable, part of who you already were. It should add to you, not reprogram you.

Think about your own Pagan or Wiccan lifestyle. Are you putting on a show or are you just being Pagan cause that’s part of who you are? If you have all the toys and gadgets chances are you’re really missing something. If you’ve copied tons of spells from the web but never written any of your own, chances are you’re missing the point. Reorganize, rethink and stop to breathe, find out what part of yourself is Pagan and relearn. Get back to the essentials, rediscover being Wiccan and have fun again. You can’t be having fun if you’re always trying to catch up to some ideal of what being Pagan should be. You are Pagan, you made that choice, so just go ahead and be Pagan. No song and dance required.

Where the Wild Things Are: Magick versus Magic

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, September, 11, 2003.

Magic versus magick. Where do you stand on the word?

Magick isn’t in the dictionary, so far. But I think it’s a good addition to the language. It shows a difference in magic as done by a magician versus magick as done by a Witch, Wiccan or Pagan type person. We aren’t doing card tricks to amuse kids at a birthday party. Our magick is not entertainment. As much as I appreciate and enjoy magic, I don’t want to see magick called magic.

Confused? Then let’s add to your confusion. What is a Witch compared to a Wiccan or a Traditional Witch?

In my opinion (notice the qualifier) a Wiccan is someone who follows the ideals set out by Gardener and friends in the last century. Traditional Witches are those who come from a family of Witches, thus they inherited the traditions. Meanwhile Witches are those who base their witchery on herbalists, wise women and men from ages ago and whatever else they can discover from the long ago past.

Does that help or do you want even more confusion to add to your confusion? Let’s just add the words eclectic and solitary to the mix. Can you be a solitary eclectic? Of course. Solitary just means you choose to be alone, not a member of a coven or some such group. Can you be solitary and a coven member? No, that kind of defeats the whole solitary thing. Anyone can be eclectic. There are so many ideals, traditions and so much history that it’s really hard to find someone who agrees with another person about everything. So, most of us could call ourselves eclectic. Does that mean you should? No, it’s too confusing. Find something to describe your style of Wicca or Witchery and stick with it. You don’t have to be a carbon copy of everyone else but you can make everything simpler to understand. Besides, in the end we are all part of the group of Pagans.

Confused?

Go find some answers. Don’t be shy.

Where the Wild Things Are: Writing for a Wiccan Topic

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, April, 19, 2004.

I have this twisted compulsion to take on more stuff than I can actually do. It’s a form of madness.

Anyway, now I am starting a new Wicca/ Witch site for a network called AIA (All Info About). Why? Because it’s there. Also, because I thought of an idea and then I had to put life into it. In other words, do it.

So, this is going to be a Witchy site for people who are Witches. Not looking for converts, going out of my way to explain or defend Witches or Wiccans. I wanted to call it “The Living Witch” but that didn’t work out with the format they use. So, I will use that somewhere else. I plan to set up a blog as part of the site. Something I can add bits of stuff to as I go along. My idea of a Book of Shadows.

The rest of the site is going to include sections like: a regional directory of Witch groups, traditions, art, career, romance and relationships, home and garden, environment, health and beauty, spiritual, holidays, and hobbies. I’m sure this will change as I actually get started and change my mind about what will work. But you get the idea, I hope.

So many sites about Wicca leave out the reality, the living of it all. How many times do you really need or want to see the same information about sabbats and rituals? Let’s see how it works together in real life.

If anyone has ideas or articles to contribute let me know. It would be nice to hear from you anyway. Later, when the site is up I will send the URL out with this newsletter. Likely this will integrate into the site too.

Take care,

Laura

Book of Shadows

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

The Book of Shadows could be called The Book of Life. Just the opposite of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (A series of spells to help the dead travel to and exist in the afterlife.) The Book of Shadows (BOS, for short) contains notes Wiccans have made along their journey of life and learning. Grimoire (A book of magickal spells and techniques) is more Medieval than Book of Shadows but they serve the same basic purpose.

Essentially, the Book of Shadows is a workbook containing ritual patterns, rules governing magick, instructions for circle casting and banishing, religious rituals, the consecration of tools, herbal lore, herbal recipes, dreams, divination results and personal thoughts and experiences. It is the Book of Shadows, which keeps the traditions of a solitary or coven alive. Without the Book, everything would be passed on from word of mouth with the chance of being forgotten, lost or misinterpreted.

A coven will keep a Book of Shadows so members can record and memorize the coven’s rituals in their own Books of Shadows. Some contain lists of the pantheon, training exercises and initiation ceremonies. Books can be passed from one Wiccan to another, usually on initiation. Often each individual Wiccan creates their Book and keeps it to themselves.

Until recently, a Book of Shadows was always hand written. With all the advances in multi-media today a Book of Shadows can be a Disk of Shadows. Some Books (or parts of them) are published on the Internet. Typed and photocopied Books are also common. You may choose to have more than one copy or form of your Book. One can be hand written, the other can be preserved on a disk or photocopied for safe keeping.

To make your own Book of Shadows begin with any blank book. It does not have to be something antique or beautiful, a notebook from the dollar store will do. The Book of Shadows gains its value from the amount of energy and effort used to create it and the positive energy surrounding it each time the book is used for magick and rituals. A binder with loose sheets will let you move your pages around and add new ones in the middle if you need to.

Simply write in this book any rituals and magickal information you have worked on, learned about or just read somewhere and want to remember. Keep it organized into sections for rituals, divination, herbs, and etc. Add your own personal touch with some poetry, a few pressed leaves from your first ritual, a drawing which inspired you, or anything else bookable (able to fit into a book, one way or another). Also, because this is your Book you can write any thoughts you are having at the time. You don’t have to write to impress anyone. Keep track of your feelings (both negative and positive), questions you want to find answers to, and any other personal information you would write into a journal or diary.

Keep your Book of Shadows in good repair. Some rituals may call for placing herbs in or on your Book of Shadows. Prepare for this by giving your book a fabric cover or tissue paper between its pages. Keep this in mind when or if you want to decorate your Book of Shadows. Watch for decorations that might damage your pages or make your ink run. Put some thought into your decorations of choice. Though macaroni art may have seemed “funky” at the time, it might not feel the same when the lumpy noodles won’t let you keep your book open on your altar. Remember, your Book of Shadows serves a purpose. Make sure its usable when you are trying to read it half way into a ritual and you just can’t remember the line you wanted to say as you sprinkle eye of newt into your cauldron.

A Living Wake

I read about Derek K. Miller’s living wake in his blog. Derek died May 3rd. Jade Walker posted a link to his blog and that’s how I began reading and eventually came to the post about his living wake. It’s a good idea. I’ve always thought a funeral was kind of sad because the person everyone was there to think of, give tribute to, is not able to attend.

I found another post about a living wake on Care Pages, a wife held a living wake for her husband who had terminal cancer. Of course, a living wake would only work for someone with cancer or some other disease which gave them a limited time to live. I wouldn’t want to know when I am going to die, if it were sudden, but having the time to plan and say good bye would be comforting if you knew your time was short.

A living wake is not a life celebration, where people attend after the death to remember the deceased. However, part of the living wake would be to remember the life you have lived, the people you met along the way and your accomplishments, happy moments, etc. Knowing this was the last time for so many things I’d want to take time to plan the living wake and make sure I wouldn’t regret anything I wish I had done at the time, later.

I didn’t find information about planning a living wake so I am thinking of ideas myself and putting them here for anyone who finds this useful.

  • Every holiday, family birthday and occasion can be packed into the living wake. Have a birthday cake,  decorate the Christmas tree, hand out Valentine chocolates, wear New Year hats, cook a turkey and so on. Set out photos of family trips and milestones.
  • Invite as many people as you can find. Host the wake outside if you can or find a place easy for people to get to and drop in. Don’t make it a long event, but something where people can drop in, sign a guest book and visit awhile. Chances are the person the wake is for won’t be a fall of fire and will need to keep it short or take a few breaks to regather energy.
  • Make sure you have something people can take away with them, a signed photo, a poem, something to remember the occasion and the friend/ relative. Also, have them all sign a guest book so anyone who does not get to visit can still leave a note, maybe even a last gift if they happen to bring something.
  • Serve food which can be nibbled on. A mix of hot and cold like salads would give people something to do with their hands when they don’t quite know what to say or do.
  • Set up a display with photos over the years: baby to child, to teenager to adult… have a laugh at old fashions and hair styles and a favourite raggedy old sweater which everyone will remember the family/ friend wearing far too often and far too long.
  • If people will understand the humour, have a roast where the friend/ family member gives some parting shots to everyone who attends (or anyone they have something they want to say).
  • Use digital photos and video to record the event and play the video, show the photos so people can see them as the wake goes along. Let people share them by emailing the best/ favourite photos to each other before they go home. They could be put on an account on Flickr or Facebook to be distributed quickly.
  • Let people stand up and speak if they have something they would like to say, maybe something they have planned or thought of while wandering around the room. Some last words of their own. The plan is for everyone to say goodbye while they can still be heard after all.
  • If there are belongings which will be distributed in a will later why not give them now, when the  stories can be told about the belonging rather than people trying to remember how it all went later. You could even type out notes to go along with each thing and include the story behind it, the reason it’s being given to that person in particular and any other details about how it works and how it was used.
  • Think about favourite music, books, films, any favourite things which you could have at the living wake in person or represented on a bulletin board or some other type of display.
  • Write a short biography with personal notes and commentary added in. This would be a good way for everyone to remember happy times, old jokes and old stories.

What other ideas can you think of?

About Green Living History

Everything becomes history, everything has a history.

I thought about starting a new blog and began writing down ideas:

  • Holidays/ events, traditions with recipes, crafts, etc.
  • Pagan/ Wiccan/ spiritual topics.
  • Green living compared to old pioneer and etc. ideas.
  • Armageddon, science fiction ideas.
  • Urban and rural exploration.
  • Women in history.
  • Canadian history.
  • Folk tales, fairy tales and the paranormal.
  • Old things, vintage, antiques.
  • Arts and crafts from the past.
  • Local history and societies/ groups.
  • Survivalist theories.
  • Living off the grid.
  • Old words and phrases.

Then I narrowed down my ideas to three topics from the list. As I was looking at the list I realized all the topics connect in the theme of history. That was interesting. I enjoy history. But, so many people think it is dull when you present it as a topic of conversation. I think they are assuming history is all about long winded tomes in the library under attack by dust bunnies and cobwebs. History is so much more! See the list above.

So, here I am, starting history.