Friday, August 31, 2012

Sociology. I LOVE It!

For my college degree, I have to take a Sociology class. I am not even 5 pages into the book and I already have three ideas I want to write about. So. Very. Interesting!!!

If you want the book, it is called Society, the Basics by John Macionis.

(PS, if you like Biology, you should also get the textbook Campbell Biology, 9th ed. OMG so awesome! AND it is NOT dry to read.)
I LOVE SCIENCE!!!1!!111!!!

Learning From the Muslims

This past weekend, I met with a very good friend of mine who is also Muslim. We spent a few days hanging out and I can't help but notice some of the things she does.

Muslims are very clean. They wash their hands, face and feet before all prayers and take a shower before morning prayer. Most people know this. But did you know that Muslims also take a water bottle into the bathroom to wash after their business is done? The focus on cleanliness was surprising.

Now, I don't know many pagans who don't wash up before ritual; it is almost required. Who wants to come to their Gods dirty in spirit and body?

Although there is ALWAYS an exception.
"Cleanliness is Godliness." For people who originated out of a desert, they sure do focus on water a lot. I digress. Anyway, spending a weekend with a Muslim friend has given rise to a thought: should we clean ourselves every time we want to speak to our Gods? I'm not talking about rituals, but the small gestures we do throughout the day. Every time we come to our altars, mental or physical, should we ritually wash ourselves? Before meditations, before we see the Moon, before Sunrise? Yes, we are people of the Earth, who love and revel the outside world. But is there a line?

Another thing that many people often hear about is how many times a day a Muslim prays. If you don't know the exact number, it is 5 times. It is said in the Qur'an that Allah commanded humans to pray 50 times a day but was talked down to 5 because humans cannot do that and still function. Granted, our ancestors had priests and priestesses who dedicated their entire lives to worshiping and working for a particular God or Goddess and there were the people who would constantly come into the Temples. However, in our modern world, we generally don't make the time to pray that much and the Pagan community is just now starting to get places of worship up and running. How then should prayer fit into our daily lives? Should we increase our connection with the Spiritual world and decrease the hold our modern lives have gripped us in?

How many of you reading this post also have Facebook or Twitter up? I know I do, along with my school work and my own research. We Industrialized people have our heads stuck in the computers for hours on end, and don't bother to stop for a day and just go outside. According to the Census Bureau, almost 77% of households (Table 1C) have some sort of computer. How many of you with computers also go outside and commune at least once daily? (I am guilty of not going outside to commune enough. I DO go outside, but not for very long. Must. Change. This!)

So then, I learned that these people make time for their prayers. They make time to be clean. They carve out their days to praise their God wholly and completely. Should we do so too?

More on this later, maybe.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happiness Is... Bare Legs

I work as a lifeguard at a water park, henceforth called WP. A very wonderful, awesome water park with awesome and kind employees who don't say jack about people unless they deserve it. The men wear red shorts and WP uniform shirts (tucked in). The women, however, wear red bathing suits with WP shirt and the option of either wearing pants/skirts or none at all.

For the majority of the summer, I have been wearing pants, partly because the bathing suit I had to buy didn't fit me well after a while and partly because I thought my legs were hideous. You know, "Oh, I have varicose veins" or "my legs have huge scars" or "my legs wobble when I walk." Well, eventually the other girls started telling me to take off my pants and stand proud.

Me in the old bathing suit. You can tell it doesn't fit me anymore.
A few weeks ago, I got a bathing suit from my employer. I originally had to buy my own suit because I couldn't fit into any of the suits they had. Through the intense heat and physical labor of my job, I had lost some weight and like I said, I stopped fitting into the suit I bought. I had to get another one, this time I asked for one from my employer. Lo and behold, I could fit. And, about a week later, one of the deep water lifeguards demanded, demanded! I take off my pants. So, I humored her.

And humor her I did.
For women who don't want to wear the pants, we have to roll the shirt up and tuck it into the upper back strap. It creates an emphasis on the breasts and for me, it also emphasizes my natural hour glass curve.

I was surprised. Just like with my necklace (PS, I don't use that blog anymore, so don't bother checking up on it), my reception was a mix of nothing and compliments. Most people bothered to say not a damn thing (just how I liked it!) or laugh at my tan lines (I've got some awesome tan lines that stop just above the knee), and few would comment on how good I looked. In actuality, my "weight loss" happened over three months ago, and the only difference was the way I wore my uniform... and myself.

It's been almost a week now, and something has really changed. I'm not scared anymore. I'm not nervous or anxious or worried that someone will say something. I know that my lifeguard friends have my back and I know I am a damn good lifeguard. I am not there at the park to look pretty; I am there to save lives. If I want to walk around without pants, SO BE IT! No one can take that away.

Even though I preach body acceptance, to finally see some progress of myself is kind of amazing. I think the best part is my peers, who accept anyway, no matter what. I love my job!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Set Fire to Your World

"Do one thing every day that scares you."
                                                                ---Eleanor Roosevelt 
I recently read's article on ten bad habits of Pagans. Seven down from the top is "Stop Wasting Time" with a common complaint that I have heard fall out of my own mouth. So, in an attempt to stop wasting my time, I decided to do something about my spirituality like a boss. I went to a Sikh Gurdwara (temple).

Everyone has to cover their hair, men and women. Here is my turban. Yes, I wore my pent.
I have wanted to visit a Sikh temple since I first learned about Sikhism via Project Conversion (there are more posts, the blog just doesn't show them) in September of 2011. You see, if I was not in love with Paganism, I would totally be a Sikh. Why? Because a good portion of the belief system I agree with -- from complete equality between men and women to the defense of the weak, powerless, and oppressed to service to the community, I love it all. And my experience today has strengthened my admiration. 

As you walk into the temple, you see a beautiful replica of the Sikh holy place, the Golden Temple. There is also a receptionist who started my day off great. I had told him that I had no idea what I was supposed to do and he kindly showed me (you have to take off your shoes and wash your hands). There was a special prayer going on that day for the victims of the Wisconsin Temple shooting, before the regular service. Afterwards, I met a woman in the main prayer room who was very nice and tried very hard to let me know what was going on, even though she didn't speak a lot of English. I couldn't pronounce her name even if I tried, but I do know that her name means Air, or "that which you breath in." 

The Golden Temple replica. You can see one of four doors leading into the main prayer hall in the back.
I should mention that the entire service is spoken in Punjabi. Luckily for me, the temple had TVs that translated the songs sung into English. They were quite beautiful and very much story like. In fact, that was a lot of their purpose; to remind everyone about Sikh history and history in general. There was a lot of singing. Here is an example, but keep in mind it is a lot better in person. 

One of the songs I heard was talking about the Indian Revolution, when India was fighting for its' freedom from Britain. It tells the story about how power and corruption devastated India, and there were millions of innocent people slaughtered for no good reason. It was a sad song, but like the woman who helped me said, it is important to know ones' history. 

Another thing I asked my new friend about was why the men and women were sitting in separate places. She explained to me that it is more for focus than anything else, so that everyone would focus on the service and not become distracted, but that if I wanted to, I could sit by the men and no one would look twice and if a man wanted to sit with the women, that too was his choice. I was impressed, actually. There was a bit of crossover, but mostly it was children and a group of Methodists who sat together. More about them later. 

After a short morning prayer, everyone went into a big dining room/kitchen area to eat breakfast. I was not expecting to be served at all, but what they had was amazing. Completely vegetarian, Sikhs believe it is better to eat plants than animals. But, as it was explained to me, you can do whatever you please.
The gate.
The first woman had to leave, so she ushered me into the dining area and said good bye. There, I met another woman who spoke better English and was just as nice as the previous people. She actually elaborated on some of the things that Air had told me and also taught me how to say hello (sat siri akal) and thank you (tanbad) in Punjabi. Did I say that the food was amazingly awesome?

After breakfast, there was a few more hours of service and learning and at the end of the service, a priest asked the congregation if anyone wanted to say a speech, and was specifically directed to the guests/newcomers of the temple. A woman went to the podium and explained that she and her group were from the local Methodist church and that they were there to become acquainted with the local Sikhs. They wanted to offer their condolences and compassion over the Wisconsin shooting and said thank you and Namaste. 

Being egged on by my new friend, I also went up there and gave a rushed and off the collar speech. I must admit, I was shaking a bit. I said that everyone had been so nice and welcoming, and thanked them for it, and told them that I had come to learn about Sikhism. I said that the shooting was very tragic (ugh! That's like the one thing you DON'T say!) and that as a member of the Pagan community, if they ever needed anything, not to hesitate to ask. Maybe I was stepping over my bounds by speaking as the Pagan community, but I don't think we would turn away from these people who were legitimately benevolent and peaceful and who were viciously attacked despite their openness and compassion. Oh, and I screwed up the hello too! I am so ashamed, but my friend told me that everyone had understood. She said I could speak again next Sunday. (Everyone wants to see me again. :) )

Concluding the service, the congregation again went back to the dining area to have lunch. It, of course, was mind blowing. This time, I ate in peace, surrounded by all sorts of people. For lunch, everyone mixed together and there was much rejoicing. Several people came up to me and gave me hugs or hand shakes and thanked me for the speech. I was totally blushing. Anyway, I kept wanting to leave and tried to tell a few people, but ended up with more food on my plate. It was funny (and also very good).
Lunch! I was given handmade ice cream later and some special Indian tea. Yum!
 The Methodist lady came to say hello to me, and at the end I tried to say thank you to an old lady (who was the only other woman who was wearing a turban) and she ended up telling a guy to give me tea. Oh, the men were serving everyone. <3

The Methodist lady told me that she had Wiccan roots but that she was currently in the church and stuff and that there was a local pagan group and yata. She then introduced me to her group. About the time the intros were finished, a Sikh woman asked everyone to come with her. Rami told us about the holy book and how Sikhs believe it is alive. The book has its' own clothing, is fanned during service, and is put to sleep in a real Queen sized bed. It also has its' own bedroom. People sometimes take it home and take care of the holy book there, also putting it to sleep and clothing it in garments. Rami explained that Sikhs believe the book is a Living Guru. I can tell you that it definitely has a LOT of spiritual energy about it. 

Today is just one step to a thousand mile journey. Soon I will finish A Witches' Bible and will start on Drawing Down the Moon, will begin conducting my own Esbats like I should have been, start meditating daily (if not twice daily, like the Sikhs), and will get on with my spiritual work. My cards are right, now is the time to set fire to my world.
Front of the Temple.
Will you step out of your comfort zone and do something that scares you today?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

This Is My Body

This post was inspired by this video.

This is my body.  I do what I want with it. I exercise or not. I eat crap or organic or local, whatever I choose. I can love my body or not, despite what you think I should or should not do. This is my body.

I am not defined by my weight or height or BMI or age. I am not defined by my sexual orientation or my religion or whom I associate myself with or my lifestyle. I will not be shoved into your "ideal person" mold, to be smothered and stunted there, to die there - spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I refuse to buy into the Beauty Myth. I refuse to be put down about how my body looks, whether I am fully covered, dressed up, dressed down, in a bikini, or naked. I refuse to accept any kind of discrimination from you. I will call out your snide remarks, your backhanded comments, and your demeaning insults. My right to bodily integrity is exactly that, MY right. This is MY body, not yours!

If I want to diet, then that is my right. If I want to escape that system, that too is my right. If I want to be 600lbs and immobile, that is completely my right. I still deserve my human rights, because after all, I am still a human, whether you feel like acknowledging that or not. If I want to be 100lbs and sedentary, that too is my right.

If I am working out, I deserve the courtesy of not being taunted or teased. I deserve not to be bullied back into my house or laughed at or having fingers point at me. I deserve not to have harassing comments leveled against me, as if I am sub-human. If you wouldn't say it to your mother, grandmother, or daughter, do not say it to me. In fact, even if you would say it to your mother, don't say it to me.

And specifically to the Pagan community: you cannot say "all bodies are sacred, except..." and expect to be taken seriously. Either you fully believe in the word "all" or you do not. And being excluded from skyclad rituals because of our bodies is an affront against the Goddess Herself.

The whole point of being skyclad is not to get a peek at some tits and ass. It is to be fully connected to Nature Herself, to be as we were when we were born, to open ourselves up to each other and the forces of the Gods. To be naked in ritual is the highest of worship and requires the highest amount of trust and love. Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. If your intentions are lacking, then you should not be doing skyclad rituals, or be allowed to attend one. As far as I'm concerned, the objectification of the body has no place inside the Circle, or out it as well. I digress.

The only people who should be concerned about my health is myself and maybe my doctor. Ultimately, my body is MINE and I can do whatever I please to it. Tattoos, piercings, scars, burns, body modification, plastic surgery - all of these and more are mine to choose. Your opinion may be valued, but in the end, this flesh is mine alone.

Indeed, do not be afraid of women realizing their own potentials, their own strengths, their own selves. To truly be free, our entire population must realize themselves, not just half. Half is not good enough. Most is not good enough. Almost all is not good enough. Only when every last person has realized themselves can our population really move Universes. And so we shall, so very soon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Camping Cut Short

I am back! I was actually back last night. Let me tell you, it is a mistake to go camping or hiking in Texas in the middle of Summer when it is 107 degrees outside. Here are some choice pics from the trip.

Me and my lovely staff!

The bigger path.

Indian Grass, native to Texas. Looks like wheat.

Briars from off my shirt. Took me 2 hours to pick off

The smaller path

Sun setting, artistic photo?

When I looked behind  me, I saw the Moon. She took my breath away

And since this outing was a religious outing, I hiked a bit from camp and made a food offering. The bug in the picture was obviously unplanned. The circle was made from water.

But it looks so cool!
And then... I got scared and chickened out. There had been coyotes howling near camp and sounded like they were getting closer, and being a city slicker all my life I spooked. The food may have been a mistake, but it felt good anyway. Plus, ants had infested my tent. Argh!!!

However, there was a distinct feeling of sadness or regret while leaving, like I was missing something important. I smack myself now. Argh!!!!