Archive | February 25, 2012

Call of the Wild or Preparing to go to your first pagan gathering

At some point in your pagan/ Wiccan/druid life you will probably end up at a pagan gathering that involves camping of some sort. We are a nature religion, remember? If you have never spent time in either Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or Campfire you had better learn quickly the do’s and don’t’s of outdoor life. I suggest you talk a more experienced friend into going with you and checking your equipment before you go into the Great Outdoors.

When you sign up for these events they send you lists of what you should bring, READ THEM! They will contain items that you may not use but under hardship conditions will make your life a whole lot more pleasant.

Make your own list of the things you just can’t do without. I suggest you make a clothing list starting with what you need in the morning or what you like to wear from the inside out. Even if you think it is clothing optional bring some. It could be cold, rainy, full of bugs or you could get parts that have never seen the sun a very painful neon red.

Bring the essentials. Sunscreen, trust me if you are of white Anglo-Saxon or of Celtic heritage you will need it. If you are at a high altitude everyone burns. It is no fun having to go to the first aid tent because you start looking like someone tried to use you in a sacrificial fire ritual. People object to the screams when you try to lie down in your sleeping bag at night. It is possible to get a third degree burn from the sun. Miss Kat knows because she has achieved this rather difficult feat and not being able to wear anything on your legs for many weeks is not fun. Neither is peeling many, many, many times. If you peel that many times people will wonder if you are a reptile of some sort. It is just ugly and forever after you will have a reminder of your stupidity. There are better ways to remember fun times.

Bottled water, you will get dehydrated and need to drink lots of water. Think of it as doing your part for the element of water. A note on bottled water. Please pay attention to where it comes from. Some natural springs are now endangered because they have had so much drawn out of them.

Tarp and tent, if this event doesn’t have cabins. Practice putting it up before you go to the event particularly if you have borrowed it from someone. If you buy a tent mark all the connecting parts with an indelible marker or nail polish. This will make it easier to put it up if you lose the instructions. Practice more than once. Miss Kat has had to rescue some very tired frustrated people at 11:00pm at night and put their tent up for them. Save yourself the embarrassment. Practice it even if it is a dome tent and looks simple. Nothing is simple in the dark. Stake your tent. Winds can make a dome tent roll like a tumbleweed so unless you plan on being part of the entertainment for the weekend use the stakes it came with. And bring a hammer. Trying to use various objects to whack a tent stake into the ground is not very effective and often hazardous.

Toilet paper. Always bring an extra roll or two. One never knows when a cook’s blunder will hit. Do not use it to decorate a neighbors campsite.

A flashlight, in the woods it is dark. It is darker than anything you can remember. It can seem darker than the inside of a bucket. Walking into trees and other people’s tents is generally not recommended. There are no currant bushes that will allow you to plug it in so bring extra batteries too. If you want to look really experienced bring a head lamp. Hands free light can save you a chipped tooth from holding in your mouth while attempting some normally easy task. Chemical light sticks are fun and can make a campsite look like a fairy land. Coleman lanterns are an excellent source of light but you will attract insect sacrifices from yards around you. Or you can get solar powered lamps for your campsite.

Speaking things powered by electricity, leave all blow dryers, curling irons and shavers, etc. at home. You can survive the weekend without them. Everyone else is in the same boat. Don’t worry about it.

If one is going camping where there is high fire danger please be careful. A lot of the U.S. is learning what Californians have known all long; how to conserve water and not start brush fires. Leave the candles, incense and matches home. If you must bring candles for a ritual use the ones that are in glass such as people use in shrines. If they tip over they usually but not always put themselves out. Never leave a candle unattended and never ever build a fire under a tree. But if the organizers say no candles don’t bring them. The fines for setting a forest fire are not nice and you wouldn’t want to hurt Mom that way. Would you? If you smoke find out where the designated smoking area is or better yet, quit before you have to breathe some nice smogless air.

Sleeping bag and pillow, I’m sorry but a blanket roll will just not cut it if the temperature drops in the night. Places like deserts and mountains can have extremes in temperatures. When the sun goes down it can get really cold. And don’t bring your little sister’s Barbie cloth bag. Those are for slumber parties. They will not keep you warm. Helpful hint from Hera: Don’t wear the same socks to bed that you wore all day. They will have lost the air barrier that keeps you warm from sweating in them all day. Keep a nice clean pair to sleep in. You also might want to sleep in a hat.

Food, if there aren’t meals provided. Make sure you have a difficult to open box, one with a lock or a way of cacheing it in a tree if there are critters that might decide your food is attractive. Racoons have an opposable thumb and can open anything they set their little minds to including things like zippers. It is very disconcerting to wake up to snuffling noises near your head and realize your tentmate did not zip the tent. It is really disturbing when you discover your new tentmate is a skunk rummaging in the box of Hershey bars you intended to use for S’mores the next night. It’s going to be a long wait before he leaves and you can’t move.

Cooking gear, if you are going to need to cook your own food. Make your meals interesting. One does not have to be restricted just because you are outdoors. You might want to practice in the backyard before you go. Some gatherings have everyone cook in a central area because of fire danger. Please respect their wishes.

Bug repellant, there are nasty diseases out there that mosquitos and ticks carry. Dress accordingly and wear the bug juice. However, be careful of so called “Natural” bug repellant. They almost always have the herb pennyroyal in them. If you are a man this is not a problem but if you are a non-menoposal woman you shouldn’t use them. Pennyroyal is an abortifacient. This means if you are pregnant you may abort. It means if you aren’t your period may start. There was a well known Women’s festival that handed out a bug repellant with pennyroyal in it many years ago and they ended up with many, many, many women in the woods away from civilization (grocery stores) and no supplies. Many, many, many unhappy women in the woods. This is not a good thing.

And speaking of feminine supplies, bring some even if you think you won’t need them. High altitude and full moons do strange things to the body. So does being around lots of other women. Your body may reset itself if you are around an alpha female. Men bring condoms if you are looking for a partner. Do I really need to say that these days?

Personal care items, Do I need to explain the whole soap and water thing? Go easy on perfumes. They can attract creatures like bees and unless you are a devotee of Melissa don’t bother.

If you are allergic to bees, hornets or wasps don’t bring a lot of yellow and orange clothes. It attracts them. They will think you are a lovely flower and when they can’t pollinate you they may get upset. Green and brown and other dark colours attract mosquitos.

A first aid kit with your medications in it, make sure there is Benedryl, calamine lotion or cortisone cream in it. You will also need a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Why? Because even if you are healthy as a horse you can have accidents. Willow bark tea tastes nasty and aspirin is quicker. Bandaids, ace bandages, a chemical heat or ice pack, tweezers and alcohol should all be included. By the way, feminine napkins make great pressure bandages. They are made to be absorbent, remember? Guys, get over it even some EMT’s carry them for bandages in a pinch.

Miss Kat found out about the Benedryl the hard way. She being a heroic but stupid sort went to rescue her coven sister from some raccoons she was scared of one night at Goddess 2000. Unfortunately for Miss Kat these cute baby raccoons were involved in digging up a wasp nest in the roots of a large redwood. Somewhere around 35 stings later she got away. It meant I had to find the first aid cabin late at night and We had just arrived a few hours before. It took three kinds of Benedryl to get the swelling down. This was not a fun time in the woods. Moral of the story? Let your coven sister get stung instead, I’m just kidding. But slightly sunburned red heads covered in wasp welts just are not attractive. In short, it was a very painful growth experience. (Also known as an AFGE pronounced af-ga for another fucing growth experience.)

A folding chair, this becomes a more important item the older you get. The sit-upon you made in Brownies just isn’t enough after you’re 35 years old. Ripping off your clothes because you sat on a red ant hill isn’t fun either but it could make an interesting interpretive dance moment.

A folding table and items to set up an altar in your campsite. Bring a notebook or your book of shadows to take notes, record guided meditations and dreams or just to jot down all the impressions of the event. You can bring art supplies. It never hurts to have a sacred art session. Bubbles? Think of fun things to brings that can be used for magical purposes. Toys can be loads of fun and a super soaker water cannon on a hot day can be most welcome.

Rain gear, even in Sunny Southern California it can rain in summer especially in late summer in the mountains. Its better than trying to scrounge up a trash bag to make a poncho out of. This is not a fashion forward look. You might also want to bring shade gear. In the southwest this is more necessary than the raingear sometimes.

Bring festive attire. This is a pagan fest after all. I’d go easy on things like chain mail bras and things but to each her own. Chain mail bras make for some very interested sun burn patterns.

Now have fun getting this all in the car.

Are we singing that chant again?!!!

This is directed at those of us who get charged with the duty for bringing music into ritual. Somehow you got picked because you can carry a tune in a bucket or because you went to a gathering and learned some new chants you just hope you can remember clearly. It’s time to name that tune.

Miss Kat thinks music and rhythm is a very necessary part of ritual. Music and chant raise energy. Music breaks down barriers. If we all know the same songs we can’t be that different, can we? Music lifts the soul. It makes of many one entity. Hawaiians consider singing together or for someone one of the greatest gifts you can receive. It has been used in the Christian church for centuries and it is one thing the Church does very well. Anyone who has heard “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach should know this. It is something that we pagans are going to have to recapture if we are going to continue to grow because music meets needs when nothing else does. The music you sang in ritual is sometimes all you will be able to remember of that ritual later.

Sounds like a big burden, doesn’t it? But it’s not because music will spring from us whether we like it or not. We just need to learn to use it. I’m sure there are dozens of covens that have chants that come from their hearts some night during ritual. Isn’t it time you started sharing those songs? Okay Miss Kat’s done with that soapbox for now.

There is a time and place for everything. If you want to settle a group down before you start ritual pick a song that is quiet and that most people attending will know. It doesn’t even have to be a pagan song. Those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s or who went to camp and paid attention can usually come up with a Peter, Paul and Mary or John Denver song that will meet the occasion. “Blowin’ in the Wind”, anyone? A good peace song never hurt anyone. If you can, find some choose songs that go with your ritual theme. Rounds and canons are also a good choice. The key is to start weaving all those different energies together. The some obvious example would be a Yule ritual and using a few of favorite carols that have the words rewritten for the Solstice. There is nothing wrong with snagging the familiarity of a few well-loved carols with words that suit us now. And who knows it may be the second time some of them were written. A carol like “Deck the Halls” doesn’t need to be changed at all.

Invoking the elements with a chant is fun and it’s a quick and easy way to do it if you don’t have enough people to cast every quarter.

You can invoke the Goddess with a chant if that suits you. There are some lovely rounds out there. I think one of my personal favorites is one on Circle Round, a pagan children’s book by Anne Hill and Starhawk and an accompanying cd. (Even if you don’t have children this set has some fun ideas for celebrating in them.) It is for invoking Brighid and it’s quite lovely and haunting in its simplicity. I’m waiting for someone to write a “Charge of the Goddess” that’s easy to sing. Something that will stick in your mind and haunt you afterwards.

If it works, think of a song if you are doing a craft. This will help the person there who hates doing crafts something to ease them and make it go smoothly for them.

Of course, a chant or song to raise energy is needed or music from the cd player for a spiral dance. Miss Kat has a great fondness for Loreena McKennit’s All Soul’s Night on Samhain spiral dances. Not too fast and not too slow, there is no excuse for turning a good spiral dance into crack the whip. People get hurt that way and if it’s a good medium tempo more people will be able to participate and not sit it out. If you do have people with disabilities, how about going around them to include them in the spiral. Nothing is more depressing than being left out of the energy being raised. It is rather like being the last kid picked for the team in grade school and we do not want to exclude people.

And last but not least, music to close circle. “The Circle is Open” has a lovely tune that can be used for a change of pace of just reciting the words.

There is no excuse for a boring ritual just because you don’t know any chants or songs. There are metaphysical shops that have cd’s and tapes and if you don’t live near one there is LadySlipper catalogue and There are many pagan or pagan friendly cd’s and there are more all the time. Checkout Libana, Robert Gass, Reclaiming and Moving Breath. GO look at your old Girl Scout songbooks. “Dona Nobis Pacem” is a lovely round and it just means “give us peace” not “Lord, give us peace” as it is sometimes translated.

My coven is very good at bastardizing Broadway show tunes. Nothing and everything is sacred. Just don’t try to publish them. Use them for the ritual you wrote them. Miss Kat is particularly fond of “Send in the Crones”.

Make sure you know those chants and songs well. It is amazing how easily you can be flustered or distracted into really fouling it up. A long time ago in galaxy far, far away Miss Kat had been picked for her first big part, (she thought) in a mixed public ritual. A closing ritual for a gathering called Harvest Moon. She was picked because they thought she knew all the words to “We are an old people, We are a new people, We are the same people stronger than before.” But an evil genie (but dear sweet man, Scott Cunningham, to be precise) chose to stand behind her and sing in her ear as she started to lead everyone into the ritual singing. Only one problem, he was singing, “We are a cold people, We are a nude people, we are the strange people, weirder than before”. And that dear readers, is exactly what she sang out loudly and proudly. After the ritual she chased him all over the park and if she’d had caught him, she would have clobbered him.

Remember, we are all richer when we sing together. When its just right and the hair on the back of your neck is standing up, you done good.

Something should be said about other things that are classed as music or chant and that is the use of other instruments. Always remember that these are to enhance the energy of Circle not control or hold back. Too often drumming is used to control the energy being raised and not to enhance or add to the raising of energy.

Drumming is wonderful for adding things like grounding to the sphere of energy raising. Sometimes people forget that it is a grounding agent to energy and it then captures and controls the release of energy. Drumming and can be a ritual all by itself and be truly amazing.

That being said, ego should never get in the way of energy. We are not meant to control what is happening in Circle we are meant to facilitate what happens in Circle.

Goddesses of Los Angeles

You may have noticed the posts with photos of statues of women around L.A. I love my city. I was born in Hollywood CA (Yes, there are hospitals in the entertainment capital and I’m a 2nd generation almost 3rd generation Los Angelean) and if you live in Los Angeles very long and are at all observant you start noticing how many statues and pieces of art the city has. Some are bona fide goddesses and others are heroes of mine like Amelia Earhart who flew out of an airport in Glendale that is no longer there.

Now I live near North Hollywood which is over the hill from Hollywood where Amelia Earhart lived and worked. She worked for At&T to raise money for her plane flights and that building is down the street from where I live and across from the park where a statue now stands. Anyway, I love to find the statues that are hidden in plain sight.

Some are in museums like the Getty Villa, some are in parks or on public streets and some are hidden in gems like the Self Realization Fellowship Garden and Shrine or in huge gardens like the Huntington Library and Gardens, one of my favourite places on the planet.

The Green Cross lady is in Brand Park in Glendale and is an emblem of one of the first environmental movements in the 1920’s hence the flapper garb. You used to have to hike up to her and they have now brought her down the mountain to a spot in a more public place. You can find some in Mortuary parks like Forest Lawn or Inglewood. Forest Lawn Glendale especially prides itself on its art collection.

Pasadena has many public art works and Downtown LA has many so there will always be more because Los Angeles is a big, big place. J