Thursday, September 22, 2011

random notes 9/22/11: equinox, asatru, death, climate change

the equinox
I’m so glad the fall equinox is here! The beginning of the dark half of the year. For six long months beginning now, nighttime will be longer than day. 
mwoo ha ha ha ha ha!
I know that as a black person I’m supposed to be all into the sun and heat and everything, but I actually adore the cold and the long, dark days of winter. When nature is biting and stark. I love waking up at 6am and it’s still dark out.  I love that it’s dark again just a few hours later. I love the way the sun hangs low in the sky even at high noon. I love that all the birds around these parts are quiet this time of year, except for the crows. 
I’ll be marking the day with a little solo ritual. But mostly just enjoying the darkness.
white nationalist asatru types
A real clusterfuck over at the Wildhunt earlier this week. ‘Nuff said, check out the link if you’re interested but be forewarned: some of the comments might make you barf.
hurricane irene again
The storm did a real number on my area of upstate NY. Lots and lots of flooding. As I mentioned in my last post, the trunk of our favorite tree split in two and half of the tree came crashing down. Glad that happened in an empty field and not our roof. 
The majestic maple. How grand you were in autumn, blazing gold and red! 
So sorry! Sometimes I just break out in random poetry. We were shocked to wake up the next day and see the damage. Just sat on the stoop and stared. The next day, the mister and I did a little ritual under it to help with healing the half that still lives. I sure hope the remaining trunk doesn’t catch some tree disease, being all exposed like that.
The storm also eroded our driveway and knocked out our water heater. It is costing about $2,500 to repair everything. But we were lucky. Many people sustained a lot more damage.
Storms like Irene constitute the “new normal,” as they say. Freak, extreme weather patterns that have become standard operating procedure as a result of climate change. As Bill McKibben writes in his most recent book Eaarth, in a way we’re no longer living on the same planet most of us were born on. 
Earth has changed so radically these past few decades (deforestation, global warming, polar ice cap melt, ocean acidification, mass extinctions, etc.) that it’s becoming fundamentally different from the climactically stable planet that fostered civilization ten thousand years ago. That’s a scary thought.
And it’s changing much faster than scientists had predicted even ten years ago. 
The melting of the ice caps is a bad thing for humans and other species as it sets into motion a positive feedback loop which continually accelerates the pace of atmospheric warming. This in turn causes more melting. Which causes more heating. Which causes more melting. And so on.

The reason this happens is because the ice caps reflect heat back into space, whereas the ocean absorb the heat and make everything hotter. Soylent Green anyone? (A very prescient movie.)
Crystal Blanton wrote a great post over at Daughters of Eve a week or so back on the importance of us black alternative spirituality people making appropriate death arrangements beforehand. You know, before we actually die. Even you young folks take heed, as one can get hit by a bus at any age. 
If it’s important to you as an type to not have a Christian burial and funeral service than you need to arrange that beforehand and let your loved ones know. There’s got to be someone close to you whom you trust to carry out your wishes.
In my dad’s case, that person was me. When he found out he had terminal cancer, he wanted me and my husband to take care of him in his last weeks. So we did. And during that time he made it clear that he didn’t want some “big-ass” Christian funeral or burial. He wanted us to throw a party after he was gone, and he wanted to be cremated. 
He didn’t trust my mom with making sure that happened because she comes from a long line of funeral parlor owners and he was scared she’d go that whole route, against his wishes. We ended up doing a small, non-religious service at his favorite hangout and had him cremated. Dad wasn’t religious but he did believe in astral travel, having done it, he said, as a boy. And he also believed in communing with the ancestors. 
I’m quite sure he was happy with the send-off.
Me I’d like a Viking funeral. Just burn my body and send it off to sea. Since that’s probably not going to happen here’s my Plan B: to be buried in the earth so worms and microbes can feed on me. As a first-world human I’ve consumed more than my fair share of the earth’s resources so I’d like to give back in this very small but crucial way. Y’know, be a part of the natural cycle. 
In many states straight burial in the ground is not allowed, the law says you have to be in a coffin. My state, NY, is one of those where it’s prohibited. So if I can’t be soil fertilizer, then regular old cremation will have to do. Spread my ashes maybe in the mountains, or the ocean. That would suit me just fine.

And on that note. . . merry equinox, or whatever people say!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

interview with mrs. ebonee, aka 'the african-american wiccan'

Dear readers: I've been away for a couple of weeks, due to a confluence of events: a bad cold which morphed into a sinus infection, school starting up again (hello eighteen hour days) and Hurricane Irene. The latter took down half of our favorite tree (the majestic maple), eroded our driveway and knocked out the water heater. Total repair costs: about $2,500. We only got hot water again yesterday. So needless to say it's been a rugged few weeks. Since it could have been a lot worse I'm not complaining, and I discovered that sponge-bathing by candlelight is rather fun.

This latest interview features the lovely Mrs. Ebonee, who maintains the African American Wiccan blog. Mrs. Ebonee, 24, is a working mom and cosmetology student living in the South.
blackpagan: How long have you been Wiccan? How did you get into it?
Mrs. Ebonee: I have practicing Wicca for going on 12 years. I found out about Wicca and became drawn to it while my mom was stationed in Germany. The land called me; I could hear the Sophia's voice. What confirmed my choice to follow this path was when a family that was stationed with us also practiced. Their path was of the Egyptian nature.
What type of Wicca do you practice (Gardnernian, Alexandrian, other, etc.)?
I practice an eclectic path, predominately of kitchen hedgery.
What is Wicca, for those who don’t know?
Wicca (this is a VERY general description), is an Earth-based
religion that worships both the God and Goddess. There are three stages of the Goddess; Maiden, Mother and Crone. The stages of the God are: Young Buck/stag, Father Figure, and Wise Man. We believe very much in harmony; peace; and good will towards all.

Things that Wicca is NOT: A cult -- we aren't brainwashed nor [do we] believe that we are a 'holier-than-thou' righteous group. We know that we are human, and are not perfect. We try to strive to be the best people we can. We don't believe in Satan or demons. That is something Christianity created.

We don't sacrifice animals or humans, that would violate the Wiccan Rede, 'harm none.' We do not control elements or nature to cast spells or hexes on people or control people to do our will.
You mentioned in your blog that you incorporate some of the ways of your grandmother, who was Blackfoot Indian. Could you describe some of these beliefs/practices?
Native Americans hold the Earth in high esteem. The Earth is the
mother of all things and we should realize that no matter how small
everything has life in it. My great grandmother always told us to
follow the seasons, Nature, the moon. These things were our constants and would help guide us through life. If the Earth was in spring and blooming so should our lives, our home, our Spirit. We should always be alive even in the winter; the Earth is not just patient for the right time to grow.
I see you also do some hoodoo magick I see. How did you get into that?
When I was in the military a battle buddy of mine was also Wiccan. She introduced my to honoring our ancestors. She is the one who told me, "How can we know the god/desses so well, but know nothing of ourselves?"
Which specific deities do you worship or work with? Do you have names for the God/Goddess or do you just call them “God and Goddess.” Can you describe some of your practices?
I normally, just call the God and Goddess, Lord and Lady. I might also refer to the Goddess as Sophia, and if I am around Christians I say, Jesus and Sophia. There are no specific deities I call upon because I feel that all the gods and goddess are the many faces of the God and Goddess.

Some of my worship practices are lighting a candle (generally white) that has been anointed in plain old evoo (extra virgin olive oil) and light an incense every morning (or at least try to). 

I look outside our kitchen window, which faces the woods, try to see if I can see any wood fairies, offer some food and send my wishes/prayers for the day.
How often do you do spell work and what types of workings do you do?
I have no particular time frame for when I do magickal workings. If I really want to add a "punch," I will try to align my
workings to the days of the week and/or moon phase. The types of
workings I do are of wide variety, from simple vanity spells (for
lighter eye color, shameful) to divination to proving paternity.
What was your religious upbringing like in terms of religious practice?
I grew up in a private Southern Baptist church school where I was one of three African-American students. Southern Baptist are a Caucasian form of Pentecostals. They don't believe in jewelry, cutting women's hair, and females wearing pants. . . some of the same beliefs as Pentecostals.

My mother is Pentecostal Christian, and my dad is a liberal form of
Which aspects of Christianity did you find were not for you?
The confining concept that there is only way to be happy. I had, and
still have a problem with, [the idea] that if you don't do everything according to 'these commandments' you are sinning; that we are born into sin (how can, and why does, what two people did thousands of years ago have to do with our eternal 'salvation'?); that we are compared to a man, the Son of God, someone that we can never measure up to and yet we are supposed to follow his example; that there is only one way to Heaven; that even if you tithe and follow all the 'regulations' you could still not be 'heaven material.'
What does your spirituality do for you that Christianity did not?

My spirituality allows me to have my own ways and times when I want to honor the God and Goddess. I have no 'concrete' rules of what I should wear, act, or what I can and cannot eat. It is all up to my interpretation and feelings.
I see you're engaged to be married. First, off, congratulations! In your blog you mentioned some details about your wedding. Your fiance is Christian. Can you describe some of the ways you will incorporate both your Christian, Wicca and any other elements into the ceremony and reception?
Thank you! We are so excited to finally be here in our lives. We are incorporating the Christian side by having his pastor marry us, and having unity candles (which is really a Pagan concept). We are adding the Wiccan by having our hips or hands tied while we jump over the broom. The 'jumping of the broom' being a nod towards our roots. 

I will be also having cowrie shells in my hair, probably one or two strategically placed. Cowrie shells are symbols for prosperity and fertility.
When you first met your fiance, how did he react to your being Wiccan? Did he know what that was?
When I first met my fiance I didn't tell him immediately what my
religion was. After several years I incorporated my religion and
practices into our everyday life. I didn't say, and still don't [say] that
something is Pagan/Wiccan; I just do whatever it is. 

The way my fiance grew up he had never watched a Disney movie until the age of 18 because his mother was strictly against it. They didn't even have a Christmas tree, just 'end of the year presents.' Trying to explain that magick is real, and [that] the subtle things I do around the house are magickal in nature is something that he is still learning to understand.
What is your fiance's attitude toward Wicca now? Does he celebrate any of the sabbats with you?
He is still learning what Wicca is. I don't walk around the house and
say, this is magickal or that is. I simply do my magick, whether small or large, and have him watch in a learning wonderment. I am quite sure he doesn't realize that we are celebrating sabbats (though he loves eating the foods).
Are you raising your daughter to be Wiccan? What about any future children that you might have with your Christian husband, will they learn about both Wicca and Christianity?
I am teaching my daughter both because teaching her the one (Wicca) in a Bible Belt area and majority Christian family would be too much for her or any future children to deal with. Children need to know that it's ok to know and explore other religions. Not the hatred, ignorance, and bigotry that comes with the Christian religion.
What is your advice for other people in mixed pagan-Christian relationships?
My best advice would be if the spouse or partner is completely unaware and unknowledged about the Pagan and Wiccan faith, don't bombard them with the details. Let them feel comfortable with the small things, so when it comes to a big sabbat they are not frightened, or worse, turned off to the idea of embracing something new.
Which is your favorite sabbat(s), and why? Are there any sabbats that you omit?
My favorite sabbats are. . . all of them! Each for a different reason. I love Imbolc because that is when I make candles from scratch and start to plant my garden. 

I love Lammas, and my family does too, because I make buttermilk biscuits from scratch. (I circle a lot of my sabbats around food or crafts; it just makes it funner.) There are no sabbats I would omit, why omit Nature? Each represents so much in our lives.
I’m really impressed by all the crafts and kitchen witchery you do with your daughter for the sabbats. What are you plans for the autumn equinox and Samhain?
I plan for Mabon to decorate the house in oranges, gold, deep reds,
and browns. It is also the same time as my fiance's birthday so I make a peach cobbler. 

This year I am debating if I want to teach my daughter about divination and the many ways to. I am very gifted in the area; playing cards are my favorite (a Gypsy tool). My fiance doesn't celebrate Samhain but I will at least try to get him to take our daughter trick-or-treating.
Besides the sabbats and esbats, how do you incorporate Wicca into your daily life?
I incorporate Wicca into our lives, and hoodoo too, by taking the time to honor our ancestors. This something my fiance truly needs because seven years ago his mother died of cancer. This is his way of missing and slowly letting go of the pain. 

We also do our morning meditation on the things we wish to bring forth. Right now we, my daughter and I, are doing a prosperity spell (she really wants a Barbie Powerwheels), so we thank the Lord and Lady for the monies she has received and more that is on the way.
What is your family’s attitude toward your religion? What was their reaction when you told them you were Wiccan?
My mother, when I first discovered Wicca, said that I was suffocating her with my darkness. (Now to pause here, my mother is mentally ill and at the time I discovered my faith she was being verbally and mentally abused by her husband. So I really don't know if it was all me -- though she did have me reading the Bible -- or her husband's abuse.)

My stepmother and father said that they would rather me be a crackhead prostitute than practice Witchcraft.
Are you solitary or do you have a circle/coven?
I am a solitary and find it easy that way. I think maybe when I am
older, the kid (and future kids) are out and it's me and the hubby, I
would join a circle or coven.
Do you know of any other Wiccans of color in your immediate area?
No I don't know of any Wiccans in my immediate area. I would love to meet other parents, particularly, who are of the Wiccan or of Pagan path.
What advice do you have for people interested in Wicca who are first starting out?
My advice is to take everything you hear and read and measure it
against your heart, your soul and your head. Do your research! Just
because they have been in business or online for however long doesn't mean it's right [and] that it fits you. 

Know that you don't have to stick to one particular path but that they can be intertwined to make a religion/spirituality that makes you feel at peace within yourself.