Grocery Store Talk

Before we get to the main attraction, a little State of The Union type update (minus that insanely annoying Cheeto colored man)

Oh Dear Readers, where oh where have I been?

Here. I’ve been here. Stuck in the same muck that has rendered me as creative as a white crayon on a white piece of paper. The first two months of 2019 have stunk. It’s like a holdover from whatever sticky spiritual substance made the end of 2018 feel like cement has seeped into the first few months of this year. It’s like a hangover that just won’t quit, no matter how many cheeseburgers and aspirin you have.  It doesn’t help that it’s rained almost every single day and I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in half a damn year. The brief time I spent in the Pacific Northwest had more sunshine than we’ve had recently.

I’m still taking my antidepressants if you are curious, and I guess they are still working. I can not fathom how hard life would be right now without them. I’m guessing without them, instead of just feeling uninspired and stressed, I would be crumbling and ruined either always or never asleep. For now, I’m functional, I’m performing, and no one is writing complaints about my behavior anywhere yet. So there’s that?

I’ll take small victories where I can find them.

Now, as they say, on to the show.

I was at my local grocery store ending a quick toilet paper and energy drink run when I pulled my cart towards the checkout lanes. It was Sunday morning and the church crowd was just starting to get out. And by that I mean, the old ladies with their hair all set were just starting to bum rush the store.

I made a quick pick as to which lane I was going to take and skirted my cart to the 12 Items or less line.  Which just so happened to be headed by a cashier I knew in that small town kinda-sorta way. I’d gone through his line a few times and made random chit chat with him about random shit before. The last time it was about Adventure Time and how awesome and not okay we are with the show ending. (How did that conversation even begin, you ask? Well, I have an Adventure Time purse. And a daughter named Marceline.) He is a cool dude and always good for a laugh. A stranger that makes an everyday occurrence a little more fun.

That day was no different. I placed my items, more than just the TP and energy drinks of course, on the belt and waited my turn. As the customer in front of finished up, I greeted Cashier Dude with a smile. We passed pleasantries back and forth while he scanned my first few items. Then he asked if I’d like my ideas packed in my bag or the store’s plastics. Having only brought in my purse I was caught off guard and responded with a “Wait, what?” Seeing as how the purse I carry (which was a wonderful gift from an even more wonderful friend) is big enough to haul groceries in, the confusion was easy to understand. We shared a laugh over the humor in carrying Italian sausages in your purse and my admittance that I was going to be thinking of that for the rest of the day. It was a lighthearted fun interaction that made a mundane task a little bit better.

Then, while I was looking for that one specific plastic tab on my keyring full of plastic tabs to scan for some sweet discounts, it happens. Cashier Dude looks at me while doing the international hand sign for necklace and says,

“I like your..” and then a pause..”…um. Hey, are you Wiccan?”

Of all the questions in all the grocery stores in the world, that was not the one I was betting on having asked of me.

But you best believe I was going to answer it. Right after I remembered what necklace I was wearing. It’s such a normal thing for me, I kind of forget it’s there. But around my neck, I wear a necklace with a pendant that was a gift from my #bestwitchforlife and a small silver pentacle. So when my fingers got to my necklace I realized exactly why he was asking.

“Nah, I’m Pagan. Wicca is just not my thing. It’s not for me.”

And here is where the worry kicked in. While I am truthful in my beliefs, I do not want to be disrespectful to others. We have enough heat from God’s crowd. We don’t need infighting and wand measuring. So, going by my intuition I knew that Cashier Dude had some stake in The Craft, but I didn’t know exactly how he took his tea if you get my drift. And while Wicca really is NOT the shoe that fits me, it could have been for him. So my feelings on what I see as faults in Wicca were not to be discussed there in the fluorescent-lit grocery store.

Cashier Dude chuckled and responded with a knowing nod and said, “Yeah, Wicca is  like that.” Then we shared one of those looks that translates roughly into “Shits cray, right?”

Before we could delve deeper into the conversation, the card reader started telling me that it had read my card and prompted me for my PIN. Then he was handing me a receipt. He thanked me for shopping, I thanked him for cashiering and we wished each other a great day. And off into the rainy day I went. With smiles all around, the moment was over.

But it stuck with me. First because in this area, there’s not much conversation about religion that isn’t about the Christian God. The last time I was asked about religion at that store it was by a Jevohah’s Witness. (Who was such a sweet lady!) The time before it was by a Church of God fellow (Who was also a very sweet person!) My point is, this is the Bible Belt. Christianity is THICK here. We have more churches than schools and although their flavors are different, they all have the same main ingredient. And like the lactose that keeps me from being able to enjoy all the flavors of ice cream, it’s the one that keeps me away. It’s not my jam, it ain’t my thing, I want none of it even though its everywhere and on everything. Not saying that I hold it against anyone that does. Everyone is free to practice what they want. It’s just the predominant religion and lifestyle here.

Second, to have someone agree that maaaybe Wicca isn’t the end all be all of the Pagan experience is a home run in my book. Once again, I am not trying to drag Wicca through the mud. But still, having someone agree that the Rule of 3 Ain’t For Me feels good when for a long time you’ve been feeling like the odd kid out. I’ve tried Wicca and while there are things from it I do like, I just can not see myself as following that path. Which is why I always try to vet the classes that are offered in the workshops and meetups in the area. While we can always learn from each other, there are some things I’d rather not have to unlearn.

Also, just having someone to talk to about it, in person, is nice. Even if it was a brief, it was nice. So many of my witchy, Pagan friends are online (Hell, most of my adult friends are online). Being able to talk about beliefs aloud without getting the condemnation to Hell talk immediately was more powerful than the contents of the energy drink I purchased. Especially right now. I’m kind of treading water in my day to day life, if you can’t tell. So for the Universe/Goddess/Whatever to drop this moment of  “HEY YO!” on me out of the blue was nice. It was a little wake up to remember what is important in all the bullshit and not forget it.

And to top it off, the whole encounter got me to sit down and write this all out for you Dear Readers. So for that alone, it was worth it.

We never know when these chance encounters are going to change our lives. That is why we have to be open. That is why we have to allow ourselves to be aware. And that is why we, above all, have to listen. Trust me when I say, living in the middle of your own isolation and worry will add to both.

Ever on, Dear Readers, ever on. Let’s enjoy the journey and try to experience life. And above all, let’s not forget what’s important. (And don’t worry, I’ll be holding myself to these standards too.)


Imbolc-less

As I’m sure you all know by now, I am not the best when it comes to keeping up with rituals and holidays. Not just Craft related, I even suck when it comes to, for lack of a better word, secular holidays. Case in point, the date of Thanksgiving always eludes me. As do the dates for Memorial Day, Easter, and Presidents Day. I know they are holidays but damned if I remember when and doubled damned if I know what to do for them.

So I hope you will forgive me if I don’t write you a refresher course on Imbolc.  I know that it is important and has major significance as it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox and is one of the eight Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year. I know it is often seen as a women’s holiday and is one that centers around the goddess Brigid, especially in the Wiccan tradition. But this is nothing that you can’t find out via hundreds, if not thousands, of other sources. Most, if not all, will be written much better than this, I’ll bet. But for me, it’s just not something anything I’ve ever been about.

Imbolc had never called me the way other holidays have.

I don’t know if the weirdo kid in me was just predestined to feel more comfortable with Samhain once I fully learned about it or if the end of the year is just something I prefer.

Maybe its the timing of the year that makes Ostara feel right. I’m not sure.

And Yule, well it’s Yule!! Even if I say I don’t get hyped for Yule, I do.

But Imbolc? It just doesn’t work for me.

I know that’s not much of a thing to boast about but, maybe that’s just another part of the beauty of being an eclectic witch. You find what works for you and use it. When something doesn’t, well you can leave it behind.

The key thing to remember however is that just because one thing is not your scent of incense doesn’t mean you get to ruin it for others. With being on this grand adventure of eclectic witchiness comes some responsibility. Just because it’s not right for us, doesn’t mean those that feel it is are wrong. The converse is also true. Just because our path is roomy enough for some spiritual pick and choose doesn’t mean that those that stick to a more narrower version can gatekeep and try to keep us in their lane. It’s a two-way street, and if we all check our egos, it’s one that’s big enough for all us.

When the sticky parts of something as personal as religion and spirituality are discussed it’s hard not to be defensive. And for those of us who have lived for years in a society that has always made us have to be prepared to protect ourselves, we tend to walk around with our fist clenched. But when it comes to being honest, open and understanding among each other, it’s time to unclench those fist and listen. We have enough enemies. We don’t need infighting to pick apart what those on the outside would celebrate seeing undone.

So, me not being into Imbolc isn’t a big deal. If you are, that is awesome. I hope that your Imbolc is amazing. Whatever it is you have planned, I hope it is wonderous. I hope it is beautiful and brings you happiness. (And if you are going to share it, I want to see!! I might not be doing anything, but I love seeing others doing their stuff. I’m a pro selfie/picture sharing person. If it makes you happy, share it with the world. I want to see it!)

While a whole lot of us in the Americas are frozen right now, being reminded that Spring is on the way isn’t a bad thing. Knowing that the thaw is on it’s way is something to look forward to. Enjoy whatever makes you feel good inside and fills your heart.

You do you, Dear Readers, you do you.

Pagan Hide and Seek: Christmas Edition

For the record, when it comes to Christmas, I’m kind of a Grinch. Christmas music annoys me. The endless rush of shopping spikes my anxiety like a kid left unattended at a trip at a dessert bar. And while I love gift giving and sharing a huge feast with people I care about, the strain of getting together and rushing about, traffic and schedules, wish lists and shipping dates, often leave me stretched thin.

We could blame it on the martyrs in my Christmas Past who made the holiday less a family-focused event and more an over the top drama fueled pageant. You know the kind of dog and Pony show that becomes a “my way or the highway” fueled by Martha Stewart worship and spiked with guilt. We could also blame it on growing up poor and being the oldest who understood “that the youngins need it more”. Even if the youngins in question weren’t siblings but cousins, second cousins, friends kids, and kids at school the had been to the house a time or two. Or finally, we could chalk it up to not being a Christian and year after year having everyone tell you that the reason for this season, the only thing we are really celebrating for, is a God you don’t believe in.

I know all of that makes me sound like a big old sour-ass. It paints me about as bitter as the crab apples at grew in my grandpa’s front yard. It adds just a little bit of validity to the jokes my husband and I throw back and forth about my saltiness level (which is somewhere between the level of rent and Willie Nelson). Maybe I am a salty old crone who fun sucks the life out of the party. Or maybe I’ve just had it with the typical holiday rigamarole.

Observations about my personal flaws aside, let’s get back to that whole reason for the season issue I mentioned earlier. Being told year after year that Jesus is the real reason for the season, by loved and unloved ones alike, takes it toll on a poor Pagan girl. That’s why out of all the holiday shenanigans, my two favorite things about Christmas are watching my loved ones be happy and pointing out all the wonderfully Pagan things being celebrated by nonPagan people.

Let’s start with an easy one. 

The Christmas Tree

There’s a lot of Pagan lore about the Christmas tree but it’s roots are commonly said to be in the story of an English Benedictine monk named Boniface who was doing some missionary work in Germany during the eighth century.

One day Ole Boniface was doing whatever missionaries do when he observed some locals performing sacrifices in front of an oak tree for their god Thor. This angered Ole Boni because by God, Thor was a false God! How dare these native folks to worship their own gods in their own land while he was there!! So he grabbed his axed and felled the mighty oak tree in an effect to stop the heathery where it stood. When he wasn’t struck dead by the local’s gods for, you know, shitting all over their holy site, Boniface decided he could use this as a teaching moment. He hauled the tree inside and thus began the Christmas Tree tradition. Like many holy people after him, he would take something belonging to the Pagan locals and claim it in his God’s name thus using it as an outreach and a subjugating tool.

From that story alone, it’s clear to see that even before dumb old Boniface was roaming the German countryside, the German people were using trees in their devotion to the Norse gods. It was Boni’s appropriation of the tree worship that helped bring it into mainstream usage.

So remember,  every time you see straight-laced Christians oohing and awwing over a big pretty Christmas tree, they got the idea from a practice much older than their religion. They got it from us.

Of course, this is just one of many different stories that feature a connection between trees and pagan practices. Trees are a key element of Nature and Nature is a foundation of Paganism. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, because I really try to be an accepting and nice person, but it boils down to this: Pagans did it first and when Christians saw it, they stole it and rebranded it without giving us credit. And then they tried to erase our fingerprints from its history.

Maybe I’ll use a little of this long-held salt to make some salt dough ornaments with my kiddos.

The Man Who Put All Those Presents Under The Tree

 Well, if you didn’t know that Santa’s origins were Pagan in nature, I’m not sure where you’ve been.

While we most commonly know Santa Claus as the Coca-Cola red suit, white-bearded big belly version, we also all pretty much have a passing knowledge of him as Ole St. Nick and Father Christmas. Some of us are probably even familiar with the story of the bishop St. Nicholas and the legend about how he provided gifts, including doweries, to the poor. The juicy part of Santa’s history that a lot of people don’t have knowledge about is that Santa has a lot more in common Odin.   

Before Christianity took over Germany, the people there (probably the same ones Boniface ran into) celebrated Yule like many of us do. And during Yule, as many of us know, The Wild Hunt happens. It is part of that happening that many believe influenced the idea of Santa for those who don’t subscribe to the Norse beliefs.

In her 1972 book Discovering Christmas Customs and Folklore: A Guide to Seasonal Rites Throughout the World folklorist Margaret Baker postulates that “”the appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whose day is the 25th of December, owes much to Odin, the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts. […] Odin, transformed into Father Christmas, then Santa Claus, prospered with St Nicholas and the Christchild, became a leading player on the Christmas stage.”

You are free to believe what you will. I personally can totally see how the lore of the Odin could be taken and morphed into the idea of Santa Claus. There would have to be a lot of creative editing, but as we have seen, for the Church, that has never been a problem. Once again, I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I’ll be damned (pun intended) if after a while it doesn’t feel like most of their canon is just hastily written rewrites.

Before we leave the topic of Santa, I’d just like to throw this in for consideration. While originally, Santa’s sleigh was only pulled by one reindeer in Old Santeclaus with Much Delight ,an anonymous poem published in 1821, by the time Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicolas” came out two years later, Santa had upped his caravan to eight reindeer. The interesting part?  

Odin’s horse Sleipnir has eight legs. I mean,  I’m just saying.

Deck The Halls

Even the decorations Pinterest is all about this time of year aren’t something that just organically popped up in the mind of the Christian faith.

In order to protect the celebration of the birth of the brand new baby Jesus, early Christians would often make a wreath of holly and hang it on their door. In Roman mythology, holly was the sacred plant of the god Saturn so this was a clever way for them to make it seem like they were celebrating Saturnalia when in fact, they weren’t. Since then, holly has been overtaken and used heavily as a prominent decoration.

Photo by Annie Spratt   https://unsplash.com/@anniespratt

And if you want to get petty, which you know I do, you could even say that the tried and true holiday colors of green and red are in fact lifted from the red of the holly berries and the green of their leaves.

Another plant that has become part of common Christmas decorations is the mistletoe. Originally used for more than stealing the random kiss, mistletoe has been held as a sacred plant by the Celts, the Norse, and the Native Americans. Used by as a symbol of peace and joy, during the Roman era, enemies would meet under the mistletoe to reconcile their differences. Thus, during midwinter, it would be placed in houses and temples to appease the gods.

Photo by Annie Spratt   https://unsplash.com/@anniespratt

In Norse mythology, mistletoe is a big fucking deal to the goddess Frigga. The weak little mistletoe was the one plant that Frigga did not make promise her to leave her son Baldur unharmed. So of course, it was the one that Loki went and found when he was ready to stir some shit up. It, in the end, made up the spear that killed Bladur. The importance of the story of Baldur’s death and later resurrection is a pivotal part of the Norse belief. And the mistletoe plays an important role in it. There are different endings and interpretations to the tale but I’m pretty sure none of them include seeing Loki seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe.

I don’t want you to think I have waged my own personal war on Christmas. I haven’t. I wish people “Merry Christmas!” when it’s expected and when I truly mean it. And I truly mean it often!  Although I usually say “Happy Christmas!” instead because I’m a socially awkward weirdo. I still want those people around me to have the very best holiday they possibly can. I do wish them well.  I want them to celebrate however they feel is appropriate and makes them happy. I want everyone to be jolly and full of love, even if its just a few hours. If anything, the world needs more of that.

But I also want the world to stop mandating that we celebrate the season one specific way by using trying to pass off time-honored bits of other religions’ traditions as belonging to one specific religion. Not everything falls under the Christian umbrella. Not everything is about the Chrisitan God. There are many gods, many traditions, and many religions under that holiday umbrella.

So really, there are many, many, reasons for the season. And if you look hard, you can see them all.