Wednesday Gifts

Today I was given a gift.  One of my favorite blogs, A Forest Door, had re-posted a poem entitled Sometimes a Wild God (2).  It is perhaps one of the most beautiful and sacred poems I’ve read, ever. I head tears in my eyes from the first verse.

I encourage you to check out the author’s poetry. What a joy to find on a Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday Musings.

The Thursday North Austin Pagan Meet-Up went swimmingly! I actually really enjoyed myself.  Yes, that was worthy of two adverbs.

There were upwards of 40 people crammed into an I-Hop on a Thursday night. Lots of talking. Lots of pancake eating. I saw some Pagan stereotypes that made me giggle–I mean, they exist. It was fabulous. I’m sure that as I become more involved in community it will get on my nerves–just like goatee Christian hipster dude went from amusing to annoying–but for now, after so long being an observer, it’s just kind of…delightful.

The Meetup was also awesome because there are so many connections to be had! I learned of a proto-Gardnerian coven, a Celtic Wiccan circle, a ADF grove, a Celtic Recon group, and an Asatru kindred. And despite all the fractious behavior online, guess what? All of these people were sitting in a room, shooting the breeze, and having a good time. Do I know what goes on beneath the surface? No. I don’t. But at that moment, it was just a bunch of people having some pancakes and talking shop.

I’m also excited because Pagan Pride Day is September 22nd in Austin. Hopefully I can volunteer or at least go. I might have to work…we’ll see. I work all this coming weekend, have a wedding next weekend, PPD and work the next…looks like September is shaping up to be just as busy as the previous four months.

Nothing much else is going on…seasons are changing, as I’ve noted below. School’s started so our neighborhood is much more quiet. We fostered a kitten for two nights, but J just can’t handle cats, so we gave it back to its owner (who was looking for a new home for it, that’s why we kept it two nights).

I have some spiritual doings on the horizon. Thinking about committing to the ADF Dedicant Path, or setting out a coursework for myself to take through the fall and winter. Not sure how that’ll shape up. We’ll see, we’ll see.

What about you, dear readers? What’s going on with you in this weird, in-between time?

 

Going Public.

Ahhh!

I’m going to a Pagan Meetup group. It’s rather large–30 people attending–and at an IHOP (pancakes FTW).

I’m also really nervous!

But this has to be done! I have to put my money where my mouth is, as they say.

Wish me luck. I’ll report back all the sordid orgy details, promise.*

 

 

 

*Kidding, non-Pagan readers. Kidding. What really happens is people eat pancakes, drink coffee and talk. You know. Like in the Fellowship Hall after Big Church.

Recipe: Smothered Braised Pork Ribs

I made this recipe on Saturday night during one of the many rain showers that rolled through. I wish I could add a picture–I have several–but they all look terrible! The lighting in our house is not conducive to taking nighttime photos of food. Still, trust me, if you l like pork and you like sauerkraut, this is a super easy autumn meal. It would also be great for a Mabon or Samhain potluck, as it feeds six, easy.

Smothered Braised Pork Ribs

Adapted from this recipe.

Time: 30 minutes active, 2-3 hours inactive

Ingredients

2-3 pounds country style pork ribs

1-2 tbsp ghee or cooking oil of choice

2 leeks, white and light green area, sliced thin

1 lb. sauerkraut, preferably from the cold case

1 – 2 c. liquid, choose between chicken or beef broth, dry white wine, beer

Seasonings: salt, black pepper, nutmeg

Hardware

1 dutch oven

Tongs/metal spatula

Spare plate

——–

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

1.  Generously season the ribs with salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle nutmeg.

2.  Heat oil in the dutch oven. When hot, sear the ribs on one side.

3.  Once the ribs are seared a nice golden brown, remove them from the dutch oven onto a plate. Add more oil if the pan is dry, then add the leeks. Sauté until soft. If the pan dries, or a thicker crust is forming, deglaze the pan with a small amount (less than a 1/4 cup) of liquid.

4.  After the leeks are soft, place the ribs back in the dutch oven, uncooked side down.

5. Cover with sauerkraut. Add 1 c. of liquid of choice. Cover with lid, and put in the oven for 2-3 hours, checking every hour. If the pot dries out, simply add another 1/2 c. to 1 c. liquid.

6. Ribs are done when they fall apart due to gentle prodding with a fork, about 2 hours.

——–

Serve with:

German potato salad, sautéed red cabbage, sauerkraut, buttered carrots

Dry Riesling

Observing the Signs

 

I talked about the decline of summer/onset of fall in my last, dementedly joyful post. The cold front did indeed blow through.  Temperatures have dropped to highs in the mid-nineties.  The morning and evening shade are really where you can feel the change, though. Sun warmed air cools just enough to give you goose-flesh as it passes over your skin.

This morning C and I were outside observing some new neighborhood cats. She wandered around the driveway, alternately pointing and yelling, “Kitty!” and picking up random stuff to chuck in the yard. I saw her squat to observe something. I walked over and saw that she was looking at an acorn. I looked up, and sure enough, the oak trees in our yard were chock full of them.

Other signs:

Obviously, night is coming earlier. A few weeks ago there was still an hour of twilight after we put C to bed. Now it’s dark.

The light is beginning to take on a different quality. It’s hard to explain, at once more golden and also…lighter? In the morning the light has a more over-exposed quality that I associate with late fall and winter.

People! Hah, this might be one of the biggest season signs. People are ready for autumn. On the internet and in my friend circle no one can stop talking about how autumn is almost here.

I feel it. I want to clean, can, organize, garden and prepare. I have a lot of energy for doing house work, getting things done before the eventual rush of the holidays. I also feel the turning inward, the harvesting, the beginning of self-reflection and…rootedness?…that begins in the fall.

And something even harder to explain, something that I also feel around Beltane, is some sort of…thinning. The atmosphere feels a little more open, but also a little…closer. Like something is pressing on you a bit.

Fall is Coming!

I just have to express the giddiness in my heart at the moment. Yes, it’s 101 degrees, muggy and stupid hot. Yes, my garden is withering and shriveling underneath the relentless beating sun.

But guess WHAT.

This weekend we’re getting a COLD front. It’s going to be 95 and it MIGHT RAIN.

I know, I know. I sound demented.

Even though it’s still crazy hot, and still will be, I can remember the first autumn seasonal shift for the last several years. In 2009, I was stepping out of my white Nissan Altima and going into my friend’s condo. Violet clouds bubbled over head, hot/cold raindrops spattered on my face and a cold wind–in August–blew away the heat waves emanating from the black asphalt. In 2010, a rain shower pounded our bedroom window as I nursed my new baby. In mid-September 2011–Christ, 2011–I was pulling up to the HEB parking lot and it just started to pour. Cold, hard, wet rain. Wind blew young trees parallel to the dusty ground. And because it was the first rain in almost four months, because of the Bastrop fires that had recently engulfed the region, people were downright giddy. I shit you not, adults were spontaneously laughing and dancing in the rain. It was beautiful.

So, when I saw that the weather forecast for this weekend was a cold front, rain and temps dropped into the mid-nineties, I couldn’t help but feel excited. Fall is coming!

Cross Post: Finding Aphrodite through The Charge of the Goddess

I was honored to be asked to guest post at one of my favorite blogs, The Pagan Princesses. I decided to write about Aphrodite and my evolving relationship with her. I’ve written about it before on the blog, but this time I threaded the story through with The Charge of the Goddess, a text that I haven’t connected to until recently.

Check out The Pagan Princesses blog if you  haven’t already. It’s wonderful, intelligent mix of social, spiritual and personal commentary.

—-

    Listen to the words of the Great Mother…

…So begins The Charge of the Goddess, an inspirational text mainly used by Wiccans and other Witchcraft Traditions. Several versions exist, but I prefer the text used by the Reclaiming Tradition, which was adapted by Reclaiming’s founder, Starhawk, and based off a version written by Doreen Valiente.

I’ve read The Charge of the Goddess several times since I’ve been Pagan, but never connected with the text. I am not a Wiccan, and because it was mainly used in Wiccan and Witchcraft Initiatory Traditions I didn’t really feel compelled to study it. Further, even though I am a religious Pagan, until recently working with deities seemed like a nice idea…but not a reality I actually experienced. While other co-religionists had devoted relationships to a variety of deities, I mainly stuck to praying to my ancestors  and setting out offerings to land spirits.

Much to my surprise, that changed earlier this year.

This year has been a tough year for my family and those that I love. There have been amazing times—incredible opportunities, wanted pregnancies, healthy babies, new jobs—but there has also been a fair share of sorrow. Death, pregnancy loss, pet loss, financial hardship and just plain old struggle. One significant event a year seems almost fair—that’s life, that’s the Wheel, and most Pagans of all stripes recognize this as equanimity. But when the struggle and grief persist the Wheel seems to turn into a miller’s stone.

After several months I, out of the blue, began connecting to Aphrodite. She was not a goddess that was even on my radar—I always thought that given my ancestry I’d eventually connect to the Celtic pantheon—but there she was. The first time was in the middle of TJ Maxx, no less. I was shopping for a friend’s wedding. I had tried on dress after dress in several different stores. I only had a half hour left before my babysitting time was up—so—my mind connected to Aphrodite. She’s the goddess of beauty, right? So I sent a prayer. Fifteen minutes later I left the store with two beautiful, well-fitting dresses, shoes, necklaces and makeup.

Over the next few weeks I just felt Her.  Beautiful, sensual, tempestuous, glorious and ancient.

I was baffled (but grateful!) at first. My knowledge of Aphrodite was limited to the standard Pagan 101 correspondence table. Aphrodite: to be invoked on Fridays, loves roses, use pink candles. I had always associated Her with Valentine’s Day and not much else—honestly, not even giving Her much thought. Why was she connecting with me, a married lady? Wasn’t she for…others?

In retrospect, the timing was perfect. My husband and I had just lost a pregnancy. Medical bills rolled in, life was stressful and busy. I didn’t see much beauty in life at the time, or much room for lust, passion or sensuality.

Despite that, I quickly fell in love.  Reading over her epithets, beautiful words like Asteria (of the stars), Urania (heavenly), and Epitymbia (of the tombs) felt familiar, like I had prayed them before in times of joy and times of grief. Patterns in my life began to connect, and when I looked at them anew, I saw Her.

Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices, for, behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my ritual.

I wanted to find ways to work with Her.  Aphrodite is a very erotic goddess. I read about how some use sacred prostitution as a means of connection. I found the idea intriguing, but as an oath-bound married woman, that wasn’t for me. What more? I found her turning my attention to the details of my relationship with my husband. Sure, we couldn’t hole up in a love nest for weeks, but I (and we) could try more. Walks, talks and doing chores for the other person are free. Candles, a home-cooked meal and a simple bouquet don’t require much in the way of money or time, but the thought goes far.

Also, She has been a powerful goddess to work with after pregnancy loss. The whole experience of miscarriage is horrific, haunting and ugly. I won’t try to redeem it, but I will say, that at times I glimpsed beauty and grace surrounding the situation. A pot of ‘Mystic Blue’ salvia from a friend. Someone left me a jar of Floridix iron supplement. And eventually, my husband and I were able to heal, and we did it together.

  Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

As I worked more with Aphrodite, I began to see that throughout my life I had been a pleasure-seeker, a bon vivant. From a passion for good food and good wine to a cultivation of the art of doing nothing—these things seemed very Aphrodite to me. So each time I eat a delectable morsel of food,  I think of Her. When I steal some hours of silence to nap and relax, I devote them to Her. When my husband and I are going out for a date and somehow my unskilled hands slick on makeup like a pro—I definitely thank Her.

  I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

I realize in these acts of pleasure, these small moments of a joyful heart, there also lies Aphrodite Epitymbia*, and Aphrodite Maelinis (of the dark/night). Not only is this shadow present in the slippery temptations of gluttony and addiction, but also in the essence of passion, sensuality and wonder. Because these moments make up life.  And all life is flowing towards death, in ways small and great.

For behond, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

In the still depths of dark nights, when grief and sorrow wrap around me like a shroud, that provides an honest comfort. It moves what is happening now to something less egocentric and more universal, it moves the thoughts circling in my head to something closer to truth and freedom. That one goddess can imbue aspects of love, grace, passion and desire as well as decay, death, fear and suffering helps me integrate those concepts in my interior and exterior world.

From me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

In the light of Aphrodite, The Charge of the Goddess has come alive for me. Where once lay meaningless typeface, now words breathe with inspiration and resonance.  What has been an individual devotion now has a broader context. Through those words I’m able to connect with other traditions, such as Wicca and Reclaiming. Does that mean my path is taking me there? I don’t know, and that’s okay. I am just grateful that those words have been revealed to me, gifting me with something to ponder, enjoy and be inspired by.

Sources

Names of Aphrodite: http://www.theoi.com/Cult/AphroditeTitles.html
Aphrodite Epitymbia: http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/l2/libitina.html
Reclaiming Tradition’s Charge of the Goddess: http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html