Considering October: Update

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The October Challenge has gone okay so far. The first week went well except for the writing and exercise portion. I hit a major hiccough last weekend when first Jonathan, then I, got a stomach bug. Then a wisdom tooth that had been emerging became infected, which has put us in a bit of a financial tailspin, again, as I don’t have dental coverage.

I’ll admit–I allowed myself about 36 hours of “feeling my feelings”—i.e. crying, journaling, and just being. I have a tendency to label that as a ‘pity party’ or ‘being a baby’ but I put a stop that language. It is what it is, and it’s healthy, as long as moving forward is the goal. So on Tuesday I picked up what wasn’t washed away and decided to start changing things.

That’s one aspect of witch-ing that I love. It has taught me practice, it has taught me action, and that while the winter ground seems dead, it most certainly is not.

I pray to Brid and to Aphrodite. I light a candle for Hestia, honor the ancestors, greet the local spirits, and ask for advice and occasionally favors—but I don’t rely on it. I know that I am the agent of change in this equation. All of the favor in the world, all of the prayers and supplications and spells and ritual mean very little without a desire to act.

I evaluated our needs: money. I considered our situation. I’m a breastfeeding mother of a newborn, so I can’t go anywhere. That leaves working at home. What skills do I have? I can write, and I can sit in front of a computer. That leaves freelance writing, content mills and product reviews.  As of yesterday I’ve signed up for a few more promising leads. We’ll see where it goes.

I’m sure that the next few weeks of October will be about learning to fit it all in.

What I Did This Summer.

Quote from the last post, April 23:

And really, it is. If all we ever wanted to do was pay the bills. We were young and naive when we bought this place. It’s not more than we can afford—it is exactly what we can afford, with just enough to save a bit. And by a bit, enough to keep us afloat whenever we have an extra medical bill or car repair, but no more than that. And what with life teaching us some (harsh, valuable) lessons in the past year we’ve realized that if anything truly catastrophic happened we’d be shit-outta-luck.

Ah, words of divine-knowing.

The good news is that we sold our house, very quickly, in May. We closed in the beginning of June, moved into an apartment and planned to keep waiting for a lot that we wanted to build on to pop up in the listings. It was a stressful time, to sell the house, to sell half of our stuff, to move/downsize, to be pregnant and have a toddler. But as we settled in I knew, J and I knew, that we had made the right decision.

On July 2nd I was at a good friend’s house (who is a part-time coworker of J’s), watching our kids knock around the backyard, when she got a phone call from work. And I knew. I just…knew. She looked at me and whispered, “Call J.”

I called him. But I already knew. His workplace was shutting down on July 31st. I laughed, at the time, because it was one of those things that was such a long time coming that you think it’s never really going to happen. But it did. We drank watermelon margaritas with good friends, and our children ran amok in the sprinklers. If you have to take news of catastrophic job loss, that’s the way to do it.

Soon after, my mom began telling me that my uncle, the one that helped my Mom and Dad with taking care of my grandma (their -only- help taking care of my grandma), was having a lot of pain. Long story short, he went into the hospital on July 4th. He left for the Otherside on August 9th. It was fast, and it was painful, and it was hard.

During this time, I was 36, 37, 38, 39…40…41…and finally, 42 weeks pregnant (again—I apparently have a very comfy womb). I rolled into the hospital on September 4th with my orders of induction and demanded to get this baby out of me NOW!

Which they did. In the midst of a lot of shit, I had the exact labor I wanted. It was beautiful, peaceful and short (comparatively–only 13 hours!)

I went home with a beautiful newborn. With two nights at Hospital Hotel under my belt I felt pretty refreshed.

And started feeling…weird once I got home.  Sweats. Cold flashes. Weird dreams about Eric Northman (no joke–and I haven’t watched True Blood for a year!). I had been home for one day, behaving all sorts of weird, when I finally decided I should take my temperature. 101.4. No way this is not happening can’t one thing just go right goddammit! I took it again. I took the blankets off (I was having chills at the time), drank some water (yes, I know, cheating the test) and…100.8. I called the doc. They told me to go back to the hospital, two days after being released.

I admit. I cried. Ugly cried. And eventually we cobbled together the help we needed to watch C, and J, Eleanor and I headed off to the hospital, again.

—–

I have been struggling this summer with expectations. Expectations of how life was going to happen and how it spectacularly did not turn out the way I imagined. This lesson began with my first miscarriage in March 2012. And continued with the second in September 2012. And the lesson continued, and continued, and continued. We, I, would make plans and they’d just blow up in our faces.

I don’t feel like I lived this summer really as much as survived it. I looked down in mid-June and looked up and it was September 21, the night before Autumn. And when I looked up again I had another child, a three-year old I’m not sure how to parent, an apartment (with not-a-yard! this is hard with a toddler!), my Uncle is dead, and our future, as a family, is uncertain. Will we move to Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, California, Virginia? Will we move in with one of our parents? Shit, are we going to go broke?

During all of this…chaos?…I have reminded myself to be thankful. We had some DIVINE good timing in selling our house. We made a nice profit which we are now living on (though we had plans for it to be a down payment on property–whatever, thankful we have it). Thankful that we have parents that would welcome us if things got dicey. Thankful that we don’t have debt, that we have friends who love us, that our marriage is strong.

But I’m not going to lie and say that I just feel so thankful-zen. I’m not. Most days, I work through whatever emotions I’m having. There’s gratitude, contentedness and a lot of happiness. The bitterness I felt in July has subsided into determination, which is much more pleasant and proactive than hating the world. But I’d be lying if I said that there aren’t some dark places, and dark days, when it feels like we’re on the edge of a chasm with no rope.

—–

I’ve thought a lot about what Paganism/polytheism/whateverlabel has to offer in times like this. It’s something that I’m interested in exploring in the coming months. Way too complex of a topic for this already-too-long post. Suffice to say sometimes I’ve found an abundance of wisdom, sometimes I’ve felt disconnected and cold. Mostly that’s just being human. But it’s a topic worth exploring—what is Paganism/whateverlabel when times are hard? Is there comfort from the gods? Should I expect there to be?

—–

It’s been six months and two full seasons since my last post. Spring and summer disappeared in a blur.

But now it’s Autumn. It even feels like Autumn, which is crazy for Texas. Usually Mabon is hot and muggy. This year it’s crisp and cool.

Autumn, even with its associations of harvest and dying, is a happy time for me. It’s a spiritually potent time, a time to lay to rest the previous year, a time to rest and recoup. I’m planning on enjoying it.  Honestly, I’m trying not to have any expectations of what life is going to bring. I’m just going to try to let it go, for now, and see what comes.

Moving to the Country, Part One

[Disclaimer:

I know that finances aren’t something that is easy for us—any community—to talk about. This story is not a judgment on how anyone else deals with their money. This is about me, my family, and our responsibilities to each other. And my responsibilities to the values I cherish, values that guide this process.]

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I have about a million things I should be doing right now, none of which involve writing a blog post. However, this is one of those days…one of those days where my mind is so messy that the only therapy is the written word.

It all sounds really dire, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s just confusing. And since it deals directly with matters of the home and the spirit, well, it seems right to talk about it on the blog.

If you read the previous post (Transitions and Change) then you know that J and I are looking to move. We’ve  been looking for houses/property for five months now. We live in a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood, in a quality school district. J’s commute is reasonable, and we’re within easy access of downtown Austin. Perfect, right?

And really, it is. If all we ever wanted to do was pay the bills. We were young and naive when we bought this place. It’s not more than we can afford—it is exactly what we can afford, with just enough to save a bit. And by a bit, enough to keep us afloat whenever we have an extra medical bill or car repair, but no more than that. And what with life teaching us some (harsh, valuable) lessons in the past year we’ve realized that if anything truly catastrophic happened we’d be shit-outta-luck.

Knowing that better now, without the shiny veneer of youth protecting us, we decided in January that we needed to downsize. Besides, there were (are) things that we want to do that we just can’t with this mortgage. We’ve canceled at least five trips because we just couldn’t save enough. We haven’t started college savings for Claire, mainly because what overages we had were wiped out by medical bills. This isn’t so you pity us–there’s nothing to pity. We’re lucky. We also don’t want our finances to be the bane of our life and control us. And slowly, slowly…it seems that is the case.

The house hunt has gone through several evolutions. The first was just to downsize in another neighborhood, where the commute for Jonathan would still be reasonable. Well, the market is such in Austin that a truly middle class family just can’t buy into the city anymore.  Also, the housing market is moving so extremely fast (we’re talking 48 hour turnovers–no joke–we already have 3 couples interested in our house and it’s not even on the market yet…really, really insane).

After looking at a few less-than-stellar options, that still didn’t reduce our mortgage that much, and also didn’t provide good value for the price we wondered if we were just stuck.

Then our realtor, our awesome awesome realtor (if you’re in the Austin area and looking to move…please, contact me so I can give you her info…she’s really incredible) floated the idea of building. Which we quickly nixed. No way, no how, not prepared for THAT kind of commitment.

But moving to the country…maybe. Maybe purchasing a property with a mobile home, then building in 5-10 years…That seemed ideal. And for a few months we looked (mainly waited) for properties to pop up. And a few did, mostly with mobile homes that should have been condemned—and you can’t get a loan on a property listed as a home if the home is in shambles.

We thought we found what was the perfect compromise. Two and a half acres, an older (and, we thought, liveable) mobile home, and cheap. A long commute for Jonathan, but the savings were substantial. So we offered on it and were eventually accepted. This was Saturday. On Sunday, when Jonathan came home from meeting with the inspector, the news was…well, not good.

So not good, that even with the wide latitude of problems we were willing to accept, it was just too much. We would have spent at least $20,000 to fix up an older (depreciating) mobile home. Even with the mortgage savings, it would be a bad investment.

Thank gods for option periods, right? But now we were back at step one. And coming up on a hard deadline for decision-making. This baby is due in August.

Then our realtor mentioned, again, building. And we thought: well, maybe. She sent us some links to some pre-fab, well-built cabins (called Kanga systems) and I found some cabin kits that seemed promising. It would require work, but it would be shelter, and this is what we want. We want to move out to a rural area. We want to begin homesteading. We want to simplify and downsize and be financially healthy.

So that’s where we are right now. I feel…frazzled, I’ll be honest. Also like I’m tired of talking and thinking and I want to do! The changes that are coming are, well, huge. We’ll most likely be selling this house then moving to an apartment for the summer. Then we’ll build (or have installed) an empty cabin shell. Then we’ll finish it out. Then we’ll have a baby (or move) (we don’t know which will happen first). And it will be crazy.

Our next step is looking at some properties (today). Calling the cabin companies (next on the to do list). Getting our house ready for some pre-market showings (tomorrow evening). Filling out builder’s loans applications (today). Packing. Finding an apartment.

Crazy.  But for some reason, none of this upheaval concerns me. I feel certain that this is a good move for us.  Whereas not moving, being stagnant in our current situation, would be akin to surrendering to eventual drowning.

Transitions and Change

So, it’s a bit dusty around these parts! That’s okay though. Life has been busy. I thought before I got back into posting regularly I’d do a little life update, so the next posts have some context.

There have been different life…erm, things…(sorry, My Little Pony is on in the background—brain not totally functioning!)…stewing for awhile and it seems like, all of a sudden, many of them might be on the high-boil.

First, I found out I was pregnant (again) in early December. I didn’t let it affect me for months and months. I went through the motions, but I haven’t really connected to the pregnancy yet. I’m 20 weeks, and on Friday we’ll have the anatomy scan where we’ll find out the sex and see if there are any complications. I think if the scan goes well the pregnancy will finally feel real. The baby will be due in late August/early September.

Second, we’ve been looking to downsize for a couple of months. J and I have some pretty specific parameters—a couple of acres, a liveable mobile home that we can (maybe) rent out after we build a custom home, cheap, and near my work at the vineyard. We started considering this move before I found out about the pregnancy, but when we did we felt more uncertain about actually moving that far south and 45 minutes away from our support network until…

We happened upon a property 15 minutes from my work, nice land, okay mobile home, and below our price point. It was very tempting, but with the nature of my job + pregnancy and the newborn stage was moving down to Dripping Springs really feasible? Would I still even have a job?  Then…

My bosses told me yesterday that after the baby is born they want to work me into a full-time salaried position! There is a lot of factors that go into this—it’s very tentative due to profits, etc.—but exciting nonetheless.

So now, baby + new home + job. Which means a move, putting our house on the market, weighing J’s career ambitions and my own. Deciding about still being accessible to town but 30-45 minutes away from most of our friends, not to mention my new Pagan buddies. And that decision will be made tonight, probably.

Whew.

To throw more into the mix, I’ve joined ADF and am starting the Dedicant Path. I’m excited to participate in a formal learning program, and even more excited that our proto-Grove is hosting a Druid Sunday School so a group can do it together over the course of a year. I’m not really sure that I’m a Druid, but I’ve only heard highest compliments of the program.

That’s all I can remember in my addled state. Hope that this spring season is off to a good start to you and those you love. I’ll be back soon 🙂

Halloween/Samhain

Today is Halloween. Obviously.

Halloween and Samhain are two of my favorite holidays of the year. But this year…not so much. This October I haven’t had time to think about Halloween or Samhain (more important, in my perspective) at all. I went from working one weekend this month to four, both days (that’s 14-20 hours added to each week, no break), add-on to that your usual life stuff, plus renovating the dining room, planning a party, and making Claire a costume…I mean, right now, as I’m writing this, I’m exhausted. I’m pissed/hurt because C didn’t want to wear the costume I spent precious time and money making. I’m on a bit of a sugar crash….and…well, the thought of a ritual, anything beyond…I don’t know, sitting outside in the dark, seems overwhelming. These aren’t ‘excuses’, yes, this stuff is in my control, but what I’m saying is…I let this month get completely out of control. Seriously. I’m sitting here kind of wondering what the fuck happened.

So I was trying to get in the right headspace to do something when I came across the first few lines in *this* blogpost: I would like to start off by saying that Halloween is NOT the “Witches Holiday”. Halloween is a holiday for little children to get candy, and for Adults to decorate their houses with scary witch and ghost figures. —Steven Day

And then I thought, Duh, Meagan. Just…just, duh. Calm your silly, stressed out, tired ass down. Tomorrow is Samhain. Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead. Tomorrow, not tonight, not when I have to crowbar justonemorething in. It’s not that profound a sentiment, it’s one that I’ve always operated on. Halloween is for kids, Samhain is for spiritual/religious purposes. It’s not either or. It’s not black and white. And your practice, which you love, shouldn’t feel like another weight on your shoulders. Another have-to, another gotta-get-it-done, another check on the to-do list. Blech! Yuck! I’d rather not practice anything than for it to become so rote, so tedious. And really, it’s not. One of my greatest joys, deepest pleasures, is my spiritual practice. To say that one reason October became so out of control is because I largely abandoned it, abandoned the bigger picture, probably isn’t far off the mark.

Tomorrow will be my ritual, tomorrow will be the day that I honor the ancestors and say goodbye to summer (though you wouldn’t know it here…it went from chilly to hot). Tomorrow night will be the night that I sit in stillness and contemplate the Great Silence that is death.

Tonight? Tonight is for looking at the moon in the after trick-or-treat stillness. Tonight is for catching up on Supernatural, washing the hairspray out of my hair, thanking the household spirits for their good work this past month, reading a book…

And drinking a big, Tami Taylor-sized glass of wine.

Blessings on your Halloween night. Dark blessings as your honor your dead tonight and throughout this week.

 

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?

 

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.

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    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

Honoring the Ancestors through Food, Part Two

Third question–Theoretical Application

[Disclaimer #1 before the next section:  While I think some traditional ways are preferential to modern ones, I also think that inspiration from traditional ways is more valuable than trying to emulate them wholesale.]

[Disclaimer #2: Yes. I know. These are broad generalizations. “Traditional culture” can mean anything from the milk-and-blood eating Masaai to the largely-meat Inuit to nearly-vegetarian-except-for-bugs. There are similarities though, and restrictions that would have been temporally based. For example, all livestock/grazing animals/game back in the day would have been grass-fed–no CAFOs in the Mesolithic.]

But using food to connect–what does that mean, in particular? I can think of several things:

1. That food be grown and tended traditionally. Pastured-based dairy, poultry and beef has been shown to be higher in CLA, vitamin K2 and other nutrients that our bodies need. Also, land needs animals (there, I said it), especially prairie and grasslands. I’m not going to make outlandish claims about the superior health value of organic produce, as I think those claims are still contested, but growing produce traditionally is low-impact, creative and when done best can be restorative to the soil and surrounding natural systems. Having a part in these processes connects us to the past and to the future, much like picking up your Granny’s knitting needles to make a baby blanket.

2. Eating traditional ingredients. Many pre-industrial diets are pretty healthy, especially with the addition of fresh meat. Think about it: soured oats and an egg for breakfast, a ploughman’s platter of meat, cheese, greens, chutney for lunch, then for dinner is a stew. Emphasizing fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, soured grains and reducing white sugar and flour.  Also, these cultures ate all parts of the meat and used the bones for broth as well–important in traditional cuisine and full of vitamins A and D, as well as minerals and gelatin. Making sure dairy sources are fatty and greens are cooked with fat is also important.

There are some traditional ingredients that are controversial, to say the least. I’m thinking particular about raw milk. Raw milk is what any culture who drank milk drank before the pasteurization process was invented. In modern times, if you haven’t heard, some groups claim that the health benefits of grass-fed raw milk outweigh the risk of maybe consuming harmful bacteria. If you’re going to consume milk, they claim, you should only consume raw. Governmental agencies and other safety advocates say nonsense, if you’re going to consume milk, raw milk could kill you. I’m doing more research on this at the moment, so I don’t have a firm conclusion yet.

3. Preparing traditional dishes. Some of these are harmless enough, such as Colcannon. Who doesn’t love a huge pot of mashed up potatoes, leeks, kale, ham and scandalous amounts of butter? Soured oatmeal seems fine to me; I love fermented foods. Gotta love a big pot of stew, as well! Other dishes…well…I can’t say I’m raring to try oat-stuffed cod heads.

Conclusions

The Weston A. Price Foundation pioneered the traditional food-culture trail in the 1940s, and with the popularity of farmer’s markets, eating locally and the Paleo/Primal diets, traditional foods are coming back in vogue. Pagans as a whole have been on the tradiotionalist train since the beginning of the neo-Pagan movement in the ’40s and ’50s. I’m thinking in particular about the Patricia Campanelli who wrote The Wheel of the Year and Ancient Ways: Reclaiming Pagan Traditions. So, not exactly groundbreaking territory. It really isn’t even a new idea for this blog, I’ve explored it in most food philosophy posts.

Still, I find the idea of ancestor work through food compelling. It has so many nuances. One could connect to ancestors of place by eating seasonal foods, and buying local meat, honey, alcohol and produce. Blood ancestry could be explored through growing cultural ingredients and using them in different recipes. Also, of course, since culture is fluid, one shouldn’t feel trapped in “I’m Scottish so I must eat kippers and bannocks”, and instead experiment with traditional (and non) ingredients, methods, etc. and see how they can be incorporated.

Personally, our family already does some of this, but I would like to incorporate some low-stress daily/weekly dishes and methods into our rotation. Tea, while more modern, is one aspect of this. I’m thinking about starting a soured porridge pot and a sourdough starter. I’m also tentatively exploring raw milk, more for the culturing possibilities (yogurt, cheese, clotted cream) than for drinking. We’ll see.

Much to my husband’s dismay, we’re also now taking regular spoonfuls of ghee and Cod Liver Oil. At least it’s not it’s not fermented.

(Yet.)

I’m Here.

Hey! It’s been awhile.

Right after my last post life got…well, busy. As it does. Husband was in a fender-bender, I registered for college, we started searching for a day-care for Claire, we went out of town, in-laws came into town, we bought cars, I decided to start re-watching all (!) of Buffy, and I started orienting my career-path to something more solid (hence, going back to school). All of the previous has meant a shit-ton of errand running and go go go.

But, I think for the next few weeks we have some breathing space. Before I start classes, before I put C into daycare (sniff), before, before, before.

It’s been kind of a weird time. Making these decisions about life, leaving other decisions behind, for now. When we got pregnant earlier this spring we were so ready for a second child. Now? Now that’s been put on hold, for a while, anyway. Some days it feels right. Some days I stumble on one of C’s old size 1 diapers and it makes me terribly, terribly sad.

I’m not sure how we, how I, am supposed to make these decisions. How do I make one decision when it means, maybe irrevocably, giving up something else? How do I joyfully anticipate one thing, while grieving the loss that’s implied? I don’t know. I really don’t.

Despite the above paragraphs, I’m really not sad. I’m exploring the tension, being honest about it with my friends and my husband, and acting on something, goddammit. The tension is better than inaction, at least for now.

The Sun card has come up a few times in my daily card draw.  It’s a new card for me; one that I’ve only drawn a couple of times (if that) in the past. I take this as an auspicious sign. That action is the right course for now. That things that have been unclear for a couple of years now will begin to be worked out, like knotted muscles during a run.

So, really, that’s all. Normal, busy, life.