Monday, April 21, 2014

I is for Infertility and Spirituality

This contains a LOT of background information.  Some people may  find it uncomfortable.  When in doubt, skip it. 

Beltane is nearly upon us, and I grow more and more depressed with each passing day.  It happens every year.   There are specific times of the year – around Beltane and around Samhain  - when I really, really, really want a baby.  I’d at least like to know it were possible.

Still, I know that even if it were possible, it wouldn’t be a good idea for several reasons. First, I’m extraordinarily fat. I had a lap band placed in April of 2009. It did not work. I am sick all the time, and almost all of the weight has come back. I am in the process of finding someone in this area to remove it.

Second, I have insulin resistance. It goes hand-in-hand with PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome.  I imagine that even without it, I would be fat, but not THIS fat.  Good gods, I am trying everything once again.  I will borrow against my retirement fund from Arkansas to pay for something else if my insurance refuses to cover it.  This is getting ridiculous.

Third, I have chronic pain. I was in a nasty car accident in Alabama (not my fault), and since then, I have hurt.  My neck, upper, middle, and lower back, shoulders, arms, legs, muscles, joints, all of it.  I have TMJ disorder.  I have tender areas all over my body. I can’t find a doctor who will address it. I am working on that.  Pregnancy would hurt too much.  

Fourth, I live with clinical depression.  I take two medications for it, along with Glucophage for the insulin resistance.  Those antidepressants could possibly cause certain serious birth defects. 

And, finally, I am old.  I will be 35 this August, and as we all know, the risk for Trisomy-21 increases after the age of 35.  I don’t want to risk it.  I don’t want to risk birth defects from my antidepressants, or autism due to my obesity, either.  Fuck.

I don’t think fertility treatments would work. My partner isn’t a fertile person, either. We don’t meet enough adoption requirements for anywhere. I’ve been researching.  We’re just destined to be pet owners instead.  We have a cat, a dog, and two ferrets right now.    

Okay, so where does that fit in with Beltane?  Well, here we go with another story:  

Twelve or thirteen years ago, my Sister (soul) and I were at a Pagan gathering about 7 hours from where I was going to school.  It was Memorial Day weekend, but there was a May pole.  An open ritual was planned.  We attended.  At the end, we were invited to come and dance around the May pole.  My Sister and I got up and started walking down the embankment where we’d been sitting when the woman said, “Fertile people only!”

Sad and disappointed, we walked back over and sat down under a tree and smoked a cigarette to calm down.  I was pissed.  I get teary-eyed and pissed all over again whenever I tell this story. 

So, I guess I would taint your magical workings or  your ritual with my infertility?  Well excuse the fuck out of me!  It’s people like that who make my doubt my connection to the goddess, make me doubt my femininity.   I feel like a gross freak.  I was bullied mercilessly for years because of the side effects of PCOS – increased facial hair, weight gain around the waist, etc.   Yeah, I feel incredibly ugly and vulnerable to bullying just by writing this. 

Well, you know what?  I don’t think I ruin anybody’s magic with my infertility, and I think that the May pole doesn’t just celebrate fertility, it also helps bring it. 

I am trying very ,very hard to reconcile my spirituality with my physical body.  It sometimes seems as though the gods enjoy torturing me.  Then I remember:  If they are really around us and paying attention to us at all, one little insignificant human isn’t worth their time or efforts.   In other words, I stop navel-gazing and move on.  If the Divine does exist, I will hopefully find out one day.  If not, I won’t have lost anything because I refuse to give up this life in favor of an afterlife that may not even exist.

If another person insists on calling me names and making horrible remarks to me, that’s a reflection on that person, not me.  That person is a piece of trash and deserves to be treated as such. 

As for the spiritual side, there are childless goddesses such as Hestia.  Motherhood isn’t the ultimate goal of womanhood.  One doesn’t have to have been a mother in order to be a wise crone.  Knowledge comes from many sources.  So maybe I’m missing out on the Mother phase, but maybe I’m not really missing as much as I think.

 I am still a woman, and I still possess the power and knowledge of my sisters before me.  In my personal belief system, it doesn't matter if you are cis- or transgender, you're a woman.  There is more to a woman than her reproductive organs.  Mine may not work, but I can still work magic if I want to, this I know. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

H is for Hair

She stands before the altar, arms raised toward the full moon.  Her long hair flows down her back and ripples in the gentle breeze.   The wind picks up and a dark cloud covers the moon.  In the distance, a rumble of thunder is heard…
Diligently working by the light of the fire in the hearth, she sews some of his hair into the poppet...

Hair, especially long hair, has been connected to magic, psychic abilities, and physical power for a long time.  In many belief systems, hair is considered magical or connected to one’s spirituality or essence.  

  • Torah-observant Jewish woman cover their hair after they are married because they believe that their hair becomes magically charged after they ‘know’ their husbands.  
  • Sampson attributed his strength to his long hair.    Once it was shorn by Delilah, he became weak and vulnerable.
  • Members of various Native American tribes keep their hair long.  You may be familiar with the article about soldiers in Vietnam losing their sixth sense once their hair was cut.
  • Hair is a part of spells in certain traditions and practices, particularly in hoodoo.
  • From a yogic point of view, hair can help raise Kundalini energy.
  • Buddhist monks have shaved heads, a physical symbol of their renouncing the, well, physical.  
  • Witches are often depicted as having very wild, long hair.

Superstitions around cutting hair include burning the hair that has been cut.  This is so no one can take your hair and work evil against you.  Also, it is/was believed that if a bird used your hair for its nest, you might go insane, or at the very least, develop a nasty headache.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  For centuries – millennia- hair and spirituality have been connected.  So what’s so special about a bunch of keratin growing from the scalp?   What is the connection between hair and spirituality? 

From my perspective, since hair is connected to the scalp, it has a connection to the crown chakra.   As it is dead material, I don’t believe that the hair itself necessarily holds a lot of power, but I think it helps protect what is there.   On the other hand, others believe that the hair does hold the life force of an individual.

Personally, I haven’t cut my hair in quite some time.  I also cover it when I’m in public (and much of the time around the house).   I do this for several reasons, with one of the biggest being to protect my energy from outside influences.     I don’t think it has anything to do with a sixth sense.  In fact, I’m not sure how sharp my sixth sense is.  Sometimes it seems pretty spot-on, but at other times, I am waaaaaaaaaaaay off.    My loose, flowing hair has never caused a storm. 

Some groups insist on loose hair without pins or adornments during a ritual, but I’m not comfortable with that.   I feel very exposed, vulnerable, and nearly naked without my head covering.   Another reason I like covering everything up is because I have almost always been known as “the chick with the hair”.   People used to get my attention by pulling on my hair.  Bullies on the bus put stuff in my hair or snipped pieces of it.  I prefer to preserve my energy and protect myself from other people’s crapola, but that’s just me.   I also wear a covering in honor of Hestia, about whom I thought about writing this post.

I keep my hair long because I like the way it looks (even though I’m just about the only person who sees it), and because I feel that it is an extra layer of protection even though I don’t think it really holds much energy itself.    Covering everything with a scarf is the other layer of protection.  It also helps me focus more on the spiritual side of life.  It reminds me that the Divine may exist all around me. 

How do you wear your hair?  Do you cut it, or do you let it grow?  (I suddenly have “Hair” running through my brain).  Do you connect it with your spirituality at all?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

H is for Handfasting

Handfasting can either take the place of or be incorporated into a wedding ceremony amongst Pagans, Neopagans, Wiccans, what have you.  It can be for a year and a day, for a lifetime, for ‘as long as love shall last’.  In the past, it was more of an engagement period.  Generally, once the people who are being married have declared their intent, their hands are bound with a cord, symbolically joining them together.

I chose ‘Handfasting’ as my topic for this week because it’s something that has been on my mind for a while.   I’m not engaged or anything. In fact, I never have been.  I’ve only dated a couple of people in my lifetime, and now I’m with my Aussie.  We’ve been together for a couple of years and a bit, but we can’t get married yet.  Why?  Well…that’s another story for another time.

I rather like the idea of a handfasting or even jumping over a broom as part of a wedding ceremony.   I have put a lot of thought into how I would approach such an event, and I will present to you some of the ideas I have had.  A handfasting can be incorporated into any marriage, whether it be opposite sex or same sex.   For my purposes, I will be referring to what my partner and I would do.

First, we would be separated for three days.   The time spent apart serves as a way of strengthening the desire to see each other and to be joined.  ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and all that. 
The day before the ceremony, for approximately 24 hours, there would be fasting.  Not a strict fast, mind you (we can’t have anyone fainting or hangry at the altar), but one in which lighter, less grounding foods and beverages are consumed.

Three days before the ceremony, on the first day apart, a candle should be lit for personal deity.   This would be a time of reflection, prayer, and meditation. 

Two days before the ceremony, a candle should be lit for the bride or groom’s partner.   This would be a time of reflecting upon that person’s traits, influences, etc.  Time should be spent reflecting on the relationship.

One day before the ceremony, a candle is lit to ask for blessings upon the union.  Again, more reflection, meditation, prayer, whatever.    On this day, all three candles should be burning.    You can save the candle stumps and use for part of the ceremony or for a private ritual, if desired.

The ceremony itself would take place outside.  Friends and family members would be part of the circle, but not the circle where the elements/quarters are called or anything like that.  That would possibly be taken care of before the non-Pagans in the family gathered together.  I’d like the area to be swept and saged beforehand.   Once everyone has gathered, the person performing the handfasting would light one candle to welcome the divine/God/Goddess.   I think the bride and groom should light a candle together at some point either before or after being joined at the wrist.  It would be a way of stating intent and welcoming and thanking any spiritual presences. 

I’m not big into the idea of bridesmaids and such.  I would rather have a very small gathering of family and close friends together in a circle around us as we recite our vows (which we may possible compose ourselves).  

I would most likely ask my Sister to perform the ceremony because she is my Sister and I love her very much.  She also has a gorgeous singing voice, which might come in handy later.   In lieu of gifts, I would ask guests to provide us with entertainment, hugs, and kind words and thoughts.
For me, the highlight of the ceremony would be the binding of the hands to symbolize joining our lives together.  I think a few trips around the circle would be in order.  The cord can be removed after the ceremony is over and the circle is closed.  

After the ceremony, the party would begin.   As a kitchen witch, I have put a lot of thought into the feast.  Since we would only plan for around 50 people at most, I would most likely prepare the food with some help from volunteers.   That would be my way of thanking our guests for attending and participating in the event.

I dream of a wedding around or shortly after Samhain.  That way, our ancestors could more easily attend.  We would have a separate altar for them, and our guests would be allowed to participate in this part of the ceremony by bringing pictures, mementos, or simply writing down the names of loved ones who have parted. 

I’ve sat down and planned seasonal menus for handfastings throughout the year, and I am going to share my autumn wedding feast menu with you all.  Some of the offerings are marked with a “v” to indicate vegetarian.  I don’t think I have any vegans in my intimate circle of friends, but of course I would make something lovely for them if I knew any.

Le Menu:
Tartlets with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, thyme, caramelized onions, pine nuts –v.
Cream of wild mushroom soup
Bacon-wrapped rolled turkey breast cutlets with (chestnut) stuffing
Butternut squash lasagna – v.
Roasted vegetables – broccoli, carrots, parsnips, squash, potatoes
Mixed seasonal greens with red onion, apples, candied nuts, pomegranate dressing (Persephone’s Salad) –v.
Hazelnut pie (similar to pecan) (cornmeal crust)
Baked apples with vanilla bean ice cream
Mulled wine and cider; beer
Spiced tea and coffee

So there you have it.  That’s what I would do on the days leading up to the handfasting, what I would serve, and of course, the significance it holds for me.