Oct. 18th, 2008

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Most people who know me know I’m a Pagan – I’m pretty much out of the broom closet as far as that goes. I’ve noticed from some of the forums that I’ve visited online that one of the problems with Paganism is that, except for books, no one really talks about what it is that they do. Some people may want to stay in the broom closet out of fear of repercussions from relatives, friends, neighbors, employers, etc. Others just don’t talk about their religion or spirituality – it’s too personal to share. There are even some who like to feel superior because they’ve got a ‘secret’, or access to secret knowledge. Generally, I don’t talk about what it is that I do because I am constantly struggling with my personal faith. There’s also a lot of what I’ve done and experienced that places me in the ‘whack-job’ category that I disdain. For some reason, though, I want to share what I do on Samhain.

Samhain is considered by many to be the Pagan New Year. (In some places, though, April 1st held that honor, hence April Fool’s Day – when the calendars changed the foolish folk in rural areas still celebrated New Years on April 1st while everyone else had switched to January 1st). There’s a lot of controversy over how important Samhain was to the Celts, and honestly I consider the ‘New Year’ to occur on January 1st. It seems more right to me because I’ve lived by that calendar all my life – and my birthday is on the last day of the year. Seasonally and agriculturally, Samhain marked the end of the harvest season. The grains and fruits and lasting roots were prepared for storage. Herds were culled down to the breeding stock most likely to survive til the following spring & meat was salted and placed into storage for the long winter. Firewood was gathered, the winter woolens were brought out of storage and the earth prepared to lay fallow until planting time rolled around again. It was a time when the dark nights lengthened and an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety fell on those living in temperate climates where winters were hard and cold. With the last of the wheat sheaves reaped the God would die, returning to the womb of the Mother to wait for rebirth at the Winter Solstice.

All my life I have had a unique kinship to the Horned Lord, Lord of the Hunt, the darkened face of the Solar God, and once the Summer Solstice is upon us in June, I tend to slide a little deeper into depression, because I sense His death is near. Even though I enjoy all the modern conveniences and the lack of a bitter winter by grace of a hot desert sun, I still worry about the arrival of Spring. I’ve also had a long relationship with the Greek God Hades and His consort, Persephone. Hades is the Lord of the Underworld, and Persephone became the Lady at His side. When I lose hope with the death of the Sun, Persephone reassures me that Her winter confinement in the root cellars of the earth will end and She will return to the surface bearing flowers and new green shoots. To honor the bargain between Hades and Persephone that was sealed with pomegranate seeds, I placed a taboo on myself that I will only eat pomegranates from the Autumn Equinox til November 2nd – it’s a hardship because pomegranates are my favorite fruit & they start getting into the stores around the first of September. Hades and Persephone receive the first best pomegranate I find.

For a week or two before and each Sabbat, I was taught that the Veil separating the world of the living from the world of the dead grows thin, and it is especially thin during Samhain. Maybe the passage of the God tears a hole in the Veil and the Goddess has to mend it? At any rate, around this time of year I tend to notice more otherworldly activity in and around the house. I believe in ghosts, I believe I’ve seen, heard and communicated with ghosts since I was a child, and even though I usually don’t acknowledge their presence because of the aforementioned ‘whack-job factor’, it gets harder to ignore them. Divination is supposed to be easier this time of year, and I used to do my yearly forecast Tarot readings every year, at least until I realized that my future is bleakly predictable. I don’t really do much by way of rituals or anything anymore – when I was a Wiccan, I would do a full-blown ceremony every year, but I put all that aside. Now I host a dumb supper.

Every Samhain, I try to cook dinner. I cook all the food without salt, because I learned from Vodou that salt is like spiritual Agent Orange. I usually try to make some kind of beans or rice – the dead love beans and rice. I set up a table and light a candle to serve as a beacon. I don’t know if my parents have reincarnated yet, and I never felt close to any of my many deceased relatives, but I still a cigarette and serve black coffee because that’s what my mother & dad & most other relatives favored. I also set up a shot of liquor, sometimes rum, sometimes tequila, sometimes whiskey – it’s not so much the type of liquor that matters so much as it’s for the Guedde – the family of death Gods in Vodou. This year I’ll also serve up an apple to the Shinigami (Japanese death Gods) – now that I’ve learned about them I can’t leave them out of the festivities. I set aside a little of all I cook for myself & Rob, and I make sure when I serve the beloved dead that I taste it to show them it’s not poisoned. I place the table near the front door & open the door wide, and I invite the dead into our home to eat supper with us. After we’re done eating and what feels like an appropriate amount of time has passed, I thank the dead for coming to dinner, tell them whosoever wishes to stay may stay but they are not bound and I close the door. I leave the candle burning for however long it takes it to go out – usually it’s a 7-day candle.

When I lived in Memphis, I had the pleasure of going around with a teacher of mine & her family & friends who practiced Vodou, and she would go into cemeteries and clean neglected graves on the weekend before or after Samhain. We’d scrub headstones and markers, patch sod, replace vases and candleholders and leave home-made wreaths of fall foliage and dried berries. We’d also hold a prayer circle and wish the dead well. If Rob & I had stayed in New Orleans, that would have been the plan that year, too. Here in Vegas, it just doesn’t seem right – I’ve never encountered a cemetery here that felt like it would appreciate the attention. I miss that aspect of service. For me, Samhain is kind of like the universal reset button. The earth gets to relax and kick back until it’s time to start growing stuff again. I can feel the world just going, “Ahhhhh”. It feels deep, warm and sacred, and no matter how much I’m struggling with my own spirituality, it helps renew my focus on the important things. Plus, there’s the added benefit of how much fun it is to celebrate in the secular world.
perzephone: (Default)
Someone commented on my okcupid journal & mentioned these cookies... They look freakin' awesome and I wants them! The commenter said they were morbidorable, and I completely agree :D

Maya's Dia de los Muertos Cookies

Went out & got some stuff to make my Mario Brothers mystery-box costume out of. I could have just gotten a big-ass cardboard box & cut arm & neck-holes out of it, but there's a logistics problem with the whole thing. How am I going to sit down and do my job? I'm done w/the standing for 8 hours crap. Went to Joanna's Fabrics - their foam was expensive, to say the least. So went to Wal-Mart & picked up a couple of twin-size eggcrate foam mattress pads for 1/2 of what Joanna's wanted for a single sizable piece of foam. Now I just have to make a box & paint it. I figure I'm going to get some yellow & red spray paint for the front, back & sides, & then paint the '?' mark & some brick-lines on with a big jar of acrylic paint. I figure it will probably crack a little here & there, but it doesn't have to be durable, just recognizable. I'm also going to pick up a deely-bopper headband & put a red flower on one side & a mushroom on the other. Either that, or pick up some of that stiff, thin crafter foam & glue red petals or a mushroom-shape onto a headband. I'm going to wear black pants under it w/a yellow t-shirt or something so if I end up sweating to death I can take it off & still be 'casual Friday' ok for work. I figure even if people don't get the Mario reference right away, I can still be the Mystery Box.

"Do you want what's behind Curtain #3... Or do you want the Mystery Box?"


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