Thursday, November 11, 2010

Inside the Design: Desire

And hello there, thank you for stopping by, I hope you're having a splendid day.

Today I want to look at one of my more complex designs and why I put the stones together the way I did.


The Desire design came about because my sister asked for one. Here's a pic of what hers looks like...

Eye catching, no?

There's layers of intent with this design, which is why there are so many different stones. I usually like to have three or four stones (not counting the two Hematite at the clasp) in any Intention, since adding more can muddy things. But as I talked with my sister, I realized that she wanted something very specific and it was a challenge to find the right balance and design.

I started with the blazing Fire...Red Tiger's Eye and Red Jasper for attraction. The head turning in the middle of a crowded room for no reason sort of attraction. This is the *spark* that can happen between people. Both red stones are very active, very projective magickally which makes them perfect for this sort of intention. Red Fire is deeper, hotter than yellow or orange Fire, which is why I used red instead of golden Tiger's Eye.

Next comes the banked Fire...Garnets and Rose Quartz for a more lasting connection. Desire is fine if all you want is a booty call. However a relationship will quickly fall apart if there isn't something besides desire between the people. So I added Friendship and Love to hopefully attract someone who wants something more than a hook up. Rose Quartz is *the* friendship stone, and any relationship not based on some sort of friendship is most likely doomed to failure. Garnets represent a more lasting love connection along with promoting sexual awareness.

Now the protective all the elements, Fire can either help or harm, and is perhaps the most dramatic example of this idea. Fire brings life and light, warmth and safety when handled correctly, but can burn if not treated with care. Seeing desire much like a bonfire, I wanted to add a little protection so that the wearer would be less likely to be hurt while the relationship transitions from the first blush of attraction into something more lasting.

The layered and braided intentions in this design are unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of putting it together. As for how well it works, well, you'd have to ask my sister about her adventures, or you could read about my good friend Teresa Maharaj-Williams and the night the bracelet worked to well. :D

I hope this post was informative for you, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post a response for tag me on Facebook. As always, thank you for reading.

Till next time, be well,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If Your Religion...Part 5

Oh, hello there! How're we doing today? Good, to hear. So I bet you're here to find out what I'm going to rant about next, huh? Then I'll just get on with the show, shall I? Without introduction...

If your religion preaches hate instead of love, you're doing it wrong.

This seems like it would be a pretty big, "Uh...Duh Red..." but if that were really the case, then the issues we're having with homosexuals and people of other religions and races just wouldn't be happening would it?

In the US we're just about to have our mid-term elections, so the political machines are churning out massive amounts of advertising for their chosen platforms. One of the favorite targets this season is gay marriage. With the national coverage of Prop 8 in California, many conservatives are using this issue as a soap box to draw in people interested in "saving the family", "protecting the sanctity of marriage", "protecting our children from the homosexual agenda" and several other phrases of dubious meaning.

So what's really at stake here? At its core, the gay marriage issue is about civil rights, not religion. Marriage in the US comes with responsibilities and rewards, things like joint taxes, health care, decision rights concerning a spouse in a critical health situation just to name a few. By banning gay marriage, people are discriminating against a portion of the American people, and I'd thought we'd gotten past that after women were given the right to vote and black people no longer had to sit in the back of the bus.

Why am I talking about this issue then? Because it's the "religious right" that is making the most noise against gay marriage. "It's Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" is a popular phrase when talking about homosexuality in general from a religious standpoint.

Recently a video from made the rounds on Facebook. (WARNING! If you are offended by the "F word" or are in a place where watching such material would not be approved of, do *NOT* watch the video.) Someone shared the link off my wall and someone else commented that "to my dying day, I will not believe in gay marriage". When I mentioned that marriage is a civil issue and that civil rights are involved, I was informed that the Bible said no gay marriage and that's all that mattered.


I am fairly certain that there isn't anywhere in the Bible that says anything about gay *marriage*. It does say something about man not lying with man as with a woman, but that has nothing to do with marriage, does it? (If I am wrong and there is actually a passage in the Bible that deals with gay marriage, please let me know and I will happily correct my statement.) In fact, the idea of marriage as we know it today is very young compared to its history. An abbreviated account can be found here (among other places).

I really don't get it actually. As far as I can tell, someone's sexual preference should only matter to you if you plan on participating in it. And if living with someone you're having sex with outside of marriage is "living in sin" wouldn't the religious right want gay people to get married? Or would that be double sin? I've lost count. >.>

People screaming about the sanctity of marriage should really only be concerned with one marriage...theirs. They also should actually know what their book says about the subject before they try to thump other people with it too. (WARNING! The video is *very* tongue and cheek and pokes fun at the Bible. If that's likely to offend, ya prolly shouldn't watch.)

And then there's all those poor children committing suicide because they are gay and are being bullied. W...T...F...when did it become ok to traumatize someone so much that the only way out they can see is death?

Yes, I am putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the religious right. It is because of their doctrines of hate and segregation that these tragedies are happening. I cannot endorse or even be content to agree to disagree when the rights and lives of other people are involved. If the witch hunts and crusades taught us nothing, it should have taught us that blood spilled in the name of religion is just as damning and wrong as blood spilled for any other selfish reason. And just because it was a suicide, doesn't mean that religion didn't have a hand in putting the gun there in the first place.

And then there's the Mormons. I struggled writing this part because I know many devout Mormons who don't hate anyone and I consider them true and trusted friends. But I'm not really talking about individuals, I'm talking about the leadership, the doctrines, and how they were connected to Prop 8.

This letter written over 10 years ago shows that the issue of gays in the church is not a new one. It's just getting new attention because of recent publicity. This letter written earlier this month demonstrates that the issue is reaching the point where someone is going to have to bend...I can only hope that it will be the religious leaders that currently continue to preach ignorance and hate.

Because it is hate. You can coat it in beliefs of choice and selfishness, you can spin it in such a way as the church looks like the victim, or that it is a matter of saving the soul, but it doesn't change the fact that it's irrational fear and hate speaking. I seem to remember, back when I was a Christian, that Christ preached a doctrine of love. Wasn't it, "Love one another as I have loved you"? Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was and not, "Love one another as I have love you, except those people over there." It is a shame that those with the power to enforce dogma and the will of the collective seem to have forgotten that and have twisted his words into something else.

This rant has been riding me for about a month now, and I am grateful for the chance to get it out there. If you've waded through my words this far, I thank you, and hope you understand that I know there are those who are devout and reject the principles of hate. To those, I say thank you, and hope that your example can help bring clarity to others.

To those who say, "My views may be outdated, but I thank God I will not be on this earth too many more years to see what it looks like when people like you take over everyone's thinking."

Well, I choose a different way, and so should you, whatever it may be.

Till next time, be well,

PS, for those that might say I'm only this up in arms about the issue because I'm gay and want me to admit the truth...unless you plan on trying to sleep with me, it's really none of your business.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Open Letter to The Pyramid Collection

Dear Pyramid Collection,

First I want to say that I *love* your clothes. I wish I could afford what pieces come in "goddess sizes at no extra cost!", and wear the pieces that don't (and afford them too!). There's a skirt, a caftan and a coat that I want from the current catalog...le sigh. I also love most of your jewelry, even the rings that would only fit on my pinky fingers (they're size 10, which is usually the largest they carry >.>). I even have a Celtic weave patterned throw blanket poncho (it's awesome, trust me) that a beloved friend gave me for my boofday a few years ago that I adore and use all the time.

Then I see on my newest catalog on the "Look Inside!" bubble and see "Symbolic Jewelry". Orly? Lemme see what you've got going on here...hmm...Möbius-strip pendants with neat little sayings, pendants and rings made from unusual semiprecious stones (Australian black jade? Ooh..), lovely. Lots of Onyx and Garnet stuff, red and black, looks classy, The Gemstone Diet pendant...wait, what?

This is a cluster of tumbled stones that look like they've been soldered together. It's not, in my opinion, very pretty looking, but whatevs...let's see what's included...Sodalite, Obsidian, Amethyst, Tourmaline (what color? dunno), and Crystal Quartz. Wait, what? Hmm, let's see what attributes are given to the stones...Sodalite, to regulate metabolism? Obsidian is a cravings reducer? Amethyst, to counter food addiction? Tourmaline for energy and Quartz "to promote positives, dispel negatives" (this is a direct quote from the catalog).




This just doesn't make any sense to me. Ok, so Sodalite doesn't really have any ancient folklore behind it and so regulating metabolism could be as good as helping emotionally balance someone or calming a body down so a person can relax enough to sleep. But Obsidian and Amethyst *do* have a huge amount of historical folklore behind them. Obsidian has been used to make tools and mirrors for thousands of years. The Aztecs name for it meant, "Divine Stone". Making it a "cravings reducer" just seems like they're making things up.

The Romans believed if you drunk out of a goblet made of Amethyst, you wouldn't get drunk. In Tibet, Amethyst is sacred to the Buddha. Even the Catholics in the Middle Ages thought the stone encouraged celibacy and piety. The purple Amethyst decor during the Inquisition signified the joining of the spirit, represented by blue, with the body, represented by red (thanks Ardriana, as always). Nowhere in there do I see a connection to dealing with addiction. I suppose someone could make a case for a link somewhere, but I don't see it.

Tourmaline's history starts in ancient Egypt and China and is closely associate with creativity in all its forms. I suppose you could find creative ways to help hunger cravings, but really? Really? And Quartz has a history that starts at least 4000 years ago. Several tribes of Native Americans believed that Quartz housed spirits and were used for divination. I suppose a stone that is often called The Master Stone for the abundance of qualities it can take on that "to promote positives, dispel negatives" isn't the farthest stretch in this piece.

Why are you so up in arms about this piece Red?

It's done so poorly. It's ugly, and the combination of stones and the attributes given to them show an astounding lack of scholarship of behalf of the creator of this piece. And maybe for some people who buy it, it will actually work (Remember, sympathetic magick is about focusing the will to help you help yourself, so if Amethysts mean countering food addiction to you, then it's going to work). However, sympathetic magick works because there is a system behind it, a logic that one can count on. Just making up attributes for stones because you "feel" that they should be used that way just doesn't have the same weight behind it as using a stone because that's the way the ancients did it.

But Red, didn't the ancients just make this stuff up in the first place?

Probably, but stacking anything in your favor to help your will focus on your goal is a good thing. So you can make up a brand new attribute for a stone, if you internalize it, let it settle in your psyche, it might work. Or you can use the stone as the ancients did, and know that you have thousands of others using the stone just as you are, there is a connection to something larger, a weight to the history you are participating in that will focus your will in ways you may not have considered.

That sounds suspiciously like psychology or "placebo effect"...

Yes, and...? C'mon now, say it with me...Helping you to help yourself...

Well, if you're so smart, how would you do it?

Well, the things I keep hearing about the problems with weight loss...cravings, food addiction, changing the way you think about food...these are all associated with the intellect. The core of this design would be Citrine. With higher clarity of thought, you can see and recognize the signs of your cravings, and have the mental fortitude to either side track them with something else or resist them. I would also probably add Rutilated Quartz and/or Picasso Stone to help with internal awareness and consciousness of changing body image.

You could also go some old school witchcraft and just banish the cravings with Obsidian (ok, so I guess the Pyramid piece wasn't that far off with this one...but shouldn't be trying to do something so passive with Obsidian like "reduce cravings". Use it to tell those cravings to GTFO! KILL THEM WITH FYIAH! RAWR! RED SMASH CRAVINGS!...cough...ahem... >.> )

Losing weight is a core body issue, so there would be a deep earth aligned stone, like Green Moss Agate or Aventurine, something to keep the body healthy while you go through a fundamental change.

Raising your metabolism, or affecting the system that "burns the food you eat and makes it energy" seems like a fire connected issue. I would use Tiger's Eye, in any of its colors, or any other deeply connected fire stone to represent this. This would also help with raising your energy levels as well.

And heck, there is folklore that says to use Moonstone when trying to diet, so I'd prolly add some in there for good measure.

The thing to remember about this however, is that you can't wear something like that pendant and then sit on the couch eating the same junk food you did yesterday and expect to lose weight. Change the food intake, change the amount of exercise, change your way of thinking about food *and* wear the pendant for that little extra "oomph" to get you through the tough times, like the plateaus where your body is adjusting to its new size.

I put a lot of thought and effort into what I do, and I hope that it shows. I don't want to just make up stuff that "feels right" to me and pass it off as magick to others (it does happen upon occasion, but that's cuz intuition can be a tricky thing...and it's not all that I do). There are rules to follow and history to take into account, and it bothers me to see when others throw those out the window in favor of something else.

In the end, I still love your catalog, Pyramid Collection, but it makes me sad to see you include spells among your merchandise and not check the quality or the effectiveness of them before offering them to your customers.

Till next time, be well,
Bhen Rudha

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Inside the Design: Sleep Well

So I've been thinking about other things I could write about in my blog that actually, you know, connect to the jewelry I'm making. Not that I disliked that giant religious/spiritual sidetrip. On the contrary, I plan on returning there often. However, since this is the blog about my jewelry, so I should talk about it too.

Enter the "Inside the Design" series. This will be a closer look at the stones I choose for the design (sort of a mini-Stonewise), why I picked them, and how I see them working together toward the specified goal. So here we go, let's see how this turns out.

I know some of this is already out there in other posts, so I'll try not to repeat myself too much.

Inside the Design: Sleep Well

The basic description of this pieces is, Sodalite and Blue Lace Agate help calm the mind, soothing you towards sleep, while Amethysts guard your dreams. A pair of Hematite empowers the Intention. And it's not a bad description, but when the average attention span of a web surfer is about 15 seconds, you don't get a lot of time for detail. So what does this really mean?

(Quick note...I put two pieces of Hematite in every bracelet, necklace and anklet that I make. It's become my signature. I do it because Hematite is a natural magickal amplifier, and so it doubles the strength of every other stone in the piece. So I usually won't mention the Hematite in a piece unless I use it somewhere else.)

Blue Lace Agate and Sodalite are both stones that calm emotions and promote balance and peace. However they are not the same, which is why I use them both. Blue Lace Agate I see working more on the surface. It is the cool shock that gets your attention and forces you to take that first deep breath. It works on the surface, easing tensions mentally, emotionally and physically. It lays the necessary ground work for the rest of the piece.

Sodalite is deep blue, like the very bottom of a clear lake. It is calm, tranquil, capable of sinking below the surface to work on the roots of the problems. There's something inexorable about Sodalite. You *will* calm down and you *will* like it. The two blue stones not only look beautiful next to each other, but I think their energies provide the potent double tap that makes this design so successful magickally.

However, there is no point in knocking you out if you're just going to have bad or unrestful dreams. This is what the Amethysts are for. The royal purple stones have been the guardians of dreams for a very long time, and it was a no brainer for me to add them to the design. Amethysts are also peaceful, calming, specifically connected to the spirit, and so it becomes another layer to the net of tranquility that I've built.

The resulting combination of stones has become my second most popular, and successful design (second only to Desire). I have had several people tell me that the bracelets have helped them go to sleep, stay asleep, take naps, change their sleeping patterns...I think the simplicity of the intention helps make this design one of my more powerful ones.

Sleep Well was the first design I put together, I did it specifically for my friend who suffers from migraines, but is violently allergic to nearly all migraine medications. She usually gets a shot of a heavy narcotic to put her out and hopefully sleep through the headache, but this time it hadn't work. I gave her the bracelet, and that night she slept 12 hours, successfully getting rid of the migraine.

As a side note...some of you might want to ask, "Do you really believe your jewelry made her fall asleep?" It doesn't matter what I believe really. The important part is that it worked. She slept and got rid of the headache. Was it magick? Was it autosuggestion? Mind over body? Truth is, don't care what the truth is. In whatever capacity my bracelet helped, which is my only purpose.

Well, I hope this was in some way entertaining and informative. I enjoyed doing it, so I will probably do more. :)

Till then, be well,

Monday, August 23, 2010

When I Speak of Myself 4

Hello friends, and welcome back! I'm going to skip the apology this time around, since you know it by heart by now, and get right into the story. Everyone remember where we were?

I had ethics, I had magick, I had a basic understanding of what a religion is and what components go into a belief system. I also had the desire to be a part of something larger than myself. Something that helps fill the gaps in my days.

And then I had to take my truck to the shop. Hang on, how this fits into the larger picture is coming, don't you worry...

I ended up having to take the shuttle home, and since I was the furthest one away, I was last to be dropped off. Once I had moved into the front seat of the van and we were on the way, the elderly gentleman driving started talking to me... Now some of you might know my gaming habits, and so will only nod when I tell you that I only had a couple hours of sleep before getting up to take my truck in at the butt crack of dawn. Basically what I'm saying is that I don't remember most of our conversation, but I do remember how I felt about it, and what lines of thinking it got me into.

Somehow we got to talking about religion, and/or philosophy, and he asked me some questions. I answered them honestly, telling him some of the conclusions I'd come to over the last couple years. He started challenging me, trying to trap me in my own logic, and how it applies to a Christian world view. I wasn't firing on all thrusters, so I probably wasn't my most eloquent or coherent...but the important thing I remember was that I wasn't upset or threatened in any way.

After I got home and had a nap, I started asking myself why I reacted the way I did to our conversation. He really wanted to shove me off the rock of my conclusions, and I just wasn't bothered. So why was that?

Ok, quick flashback...cue music...

When I was going through Catholic school, I learned quite a bit about faith and belief. One had to have faith to believe in the Church's teachings. Uh...ok...I never much liked that, because it seemed pretty passive to me, regardless of how it is for others.

In jr. high I started reading a lot of fantasy novels. I found lots of stories where the characters come face to face with their deity(ies), and even in one a Catholic priest asks that if he can no longer have faith, what does he have? The answer he got was, "knowledge".

Ahh...I liked that. Knowledge and experience (with things outside oneself) seemed to be a step up from faith and belief. I decided that's what I wanted...

...and end flashback.

How does one go about getting knowledge and experience? Well, I dunno about others, but what I did was claim that I had it. Oh, I was reading a great deal, about philosophy, pagan and otherwise. I was learning critical ways of thinking, different ways of seeing the world. There are layers to the way I see things now. Take the moon for example. As a kid I knew that the Moon could go where the Sun could not, that made her more magickal. As an adult, I have studied astronomy, and understand that the sun is many, many times larger than the moon and that we move around it. I haven't lost my view of the Moon as magickal, and science hasn't destroyed it. I just have a literal way of looking at it, and a metaphorical way of looking at it. The metaphor is still important to me because it helps me to deal with some of my own character flaws.

So I was studying and gaining knowledge, I just needed the experience to go with it. At this time I was participating in a study group that also did rituals during the esbats (the full and dark moons of each month). It was here that I started collecting experience. There are moments when things happened that aren't scientifically explainable...yet. I also had experiences outside of ritual that added to my catalog of moments that might make your hair stand on end.

While I was considering why the shuttle driver didn't make me feel threatened, I realized that all the knowledge and experience that I claimed simply because I wanted it was suddenly real. I added up my memories and felt a moment of arrival, for the lack of a better word. I had attained my spiritual goal and I was very content with it. This was the beginning of my epiphany.

Over the next few months, I kept re-examining how I felt about the conversation with the shuttle driver, and how I would react to other such conversations down the road. I thought that having knowledge and experience, instead of belief and faith, was the end of it. It was the evolutionary step I needed to take and that I was now done with that part of my spiritual growth. Little did I know that there was a step past that, and realizing what it was is what gave me the key to understanding my lack of reaction to a direct challenge to my belief system.

It has been my experience that one of the reasons people defend their faith so violently (sometimes literally), is that they don't want to be revealed as a fool or a fraud. If science came out tomorrow with proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that god (any god) doesn't exist, how crushing would that be for people? Whole lifetimes of hard choices made in the name of religion would be made worthless. To some anyway.

I asked myself how I would feel. My answer was a shrug. Seriously. I shrugged and knew it wouldn't crush me. That's a pretty strong response to a very fundamental question and it made look to try and see why.

This is when I discovered the step beyond knowledge and experience. It's choice. Conscious, self aware, fully engaged choice. Every day I wake up and choose the spiritual path I am on. And because I choose, I am not ironbound into anything. If part of my belief system no longer serves to help me be a better person, then it needs to evolve into something that does.

I joke now that I have spiritually and philosophically become like the Borg, if I find something that I like, "I will add your distinctiveness to my own". With this point of view, the possibilities for evolution are nigh limitless. I will never be in the position where I feel the need to defend my beliefs. I also never feel the need to tell anyone my beliefs so that they come to believe the same as I do. If someone asks me to explain my belief system, then I will, but my goal is to simply inform, not to convert. If there's something in what I say that works for you, great. If not, that's ok too.

It's almost impossible to convey here what a fundamental moment it was for me when I discovered the power of choice. The reason why the shuttle driver couldn't shove me off the rock of my belief is because there wasn't one. My beliefs are water, or the wind, they shift and move and I move with them.

With the power of choice comes the strength of evolution. With evolution comes a sense of security that nothing, not even myself, can shake.

I think I'll leave it at that today. There's some pretty nebulous ideas in this post, and I'm sure I'll have to do a "4a" at some point to answer questions. ^^; Thank you for wading through this post, I appreciate everyone who reads my words, whether or not they find value in them. Next time I'll lay out the particulars of my belief system as it stands now, and hopefully that'll complete the story I set out to write all those months ago.

Till next time, be well,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When I Speak of Myself 3a

It seems lately that I always start with an apology for taking so long. You'd think I'd learn from this and, well, post more often. Ah well, we'll see how it goes.

And to be fair, my life has been more than interesting of late, what with car troubles, illness, temporary census much so that when I sit at my puter at night, the last thing I want to do is try and be informative on my blog. You guys deserve, at the very least, coherent sentences. ;)

So I had quite the conversation happen after my last post (I have some awesome friends). A few questions were asked, and I thought I'd put them together here instead of trying to put them in the comments.

Diedre said:
"Maybe I'm overstepping here, but I couldn't quite grasp what you feel about this statement you have made about deity being beyond our experience. Do you feel comfort in this knowledge, or insignificance, or freedom, or simply satisfaction in being able to articulate the way you understand deity? Or something else? Anyway, I'm just curious how this makes you feel. Or perhaps the answer would contain spoilers for your next post..."

You're not overstepping at all, and it's a very good question. So good in fact that I had to seriously ask myself and try to hammer an answer together. Let's see if I can get it...

There's a part of me that reacts to it like I would a star going nova, or the Yellowstone Supervolcano, a detached awe. I cannot effect this in any way, so it is relegated to knowledge in the back of my head. When I do bring it forward to think about, it's scary, beautiful and humbling.

There's another part that reacts to it with hope. The human experience *now* isn't the same as it was 1000 years ago, and won't be the same as the one 1000 years from now. I have had experiences where I've touched something other, something greater than myself, and while I don't know what exactly it is, I like to think that it's some little facet of deity. As we look farther out and deeper within, we learn more about what's possible and we become capable of *more*. Hopefully a time will come when humanity grows past its infancy and becomes able to communicate more directly with whatever it is that's out there.

Then there's the sense of security. I have found a definition that fits me. I like it, it makes sense to me. This is a very basic and selfish part, as it's completely about what makes me feel best about my life and the events that have happened in it. It's also fluid and evolving, so I don't feel the need to defend my view when challenged.

And last, but not least, is an overwhelming sense of awe (not the same as the detached awe above) that I have touched or been touched by something so vast it defies comprehension. I feel that deity wants us to grow, learn, change...become the very best we are capable of, and will help us if we but become perceptive enough to notice. It is this connection that helps me put my feet on the floor on the bad days, and makes the good days all the brighter.

I hope that helps explain did for me! ^^

Diedre then said:
"I googled "petrified religion" and didn't come up with any good explanations. I could wager a guess, but could you explain what you mean by this?"

A petrified religion is one that does not change with the society. A simple example of this is when the "Great Mother Goddess" became an agricultural deity after farming was invented. The religion and the deity(ies) involved changed as not only the culture, but as science did.

The Abrahamic faiths have been tied to their respective books for thousands of years, and each change that happens is often seen as a massive dogmatic shift that results in a sect breaking off to remain with the "good old days".

The books still say things like, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," (gee, thanks...), "Man shalt not lie with man as with a woman," there's all sorts of "shalt not's" that frankly have no place in this modern world. We shouldn't even be having the conversation about gay marriage, but because the book says, we are. There are people who believe that dinosaur bones were placed by Satan to trick us into believing the world is older than the Bible says it is. Really?

Not being able to reconcile what's in front of our faces with our spiritual systems of belief just leads to a lot of unhappy people.

Mr. One Eyebrow Priest says:

"And finally the resurrection completely ruined it for me. I think I may have asked my sunday school teacher about it. I don't remember the answer if there was one. I asked "If Jesus is God, then he can't really die, can he?" I remember at some point being told how wonderful it was that God was willing to experience death for us. But that didn't make any sense to me either. If you give your life to save mine, you do it for keeps. God wasn't playing for keeps, he got to take back any marbles he lost and go home. What is the meaning of sacrifice if nothing is lost?"

I really just wanted to comment that most of Christianity shares echoes with religions of the past. There are dozens of "So In So's descent into the Underworld" stories from different cultures around the world. There are also a ton of sacrificed son/sun deity stories too. Most often the Son was the symbol of the eternal changing of the seasons, birth in spring, youth in summer, maturity in fall and death in winter to return again in the spring. My problem with the Jesus incarnation of the story is that it became a linear, one time event, instead of remaining cyclical.

(Please don't mistake my dissatisfaction with the Christ story with my feelings for Christ as a person, real or otherwise. As a teacher, he had some truly wise and amazing things to teach, and if more people truly strived to be Christ-like, meaning that they love one another as he loved us (as a god is capable of love), then the world would by necessity be a better place.)

Descent into the underworld stories always bring something to the deity that takes the journey. One of the most famous stories is that of Inanna from Sumer. She learned the "darker" side of her powers, which was probably a metaphor for the necessity of death to continue the life cycle of life/death/rebirth. Odin hung on the World Tree for nine days and returned with the runes of power for his people.

Jesus earned the ability for humans to go to heaven through his descent, reversing his Father's decision at the garden of Eden. The issues I have with this story stem from how petty and jealous Jehovah seems. He got mad when the first people gained the knowledge of good and evil (essentially becoming like him, which was three hims to many), and condemned the species to eternal damnation. Later, after drowning the world, smiting a bunch of people, pillars of salt, death of the first born, etc, etc, he decides that he'd rather give people the chance at salvation. So instead of just changing his mind, he goes through the complex process of making a part of himself human, then has himself killed.

Now humanity has the opportunity to go to heaven, but not only do we have to be good, but we also have to make sure we keep god appeased. In other stories about the underworld, a person simply had to live a good life, their relationship with their deity(ies) was separate. You did the dance, killed the chicken, lit the candles, yadda, yadda, yadda, you were good with them. In Christianity, even the "virtuous unbelievers" go to hell. I do not like that.

Well, that went on way longer than I expected, but it was fun, and I hope you enjoy reading it. I also promise to try to get to the rest of the stuff I promised a while ago (heh) sooner rather than later. And as always, thank you for reading, I appreciate it.

Till next time, be well,

Monday, June 21, 2010

When I Speak of Myself 3

I think it is somehow fitting that I tell this part of the story on the Summer Solstice...the longest day of the year. We are drenched in light and heat (well, out here in the desert we are) and there aren't many shadows. Thank you all for stopping by.

You guys remember where we left off, right? So, I was Pagan (or was I?), I had a new understanding of ethics with which to view the world and my movement through it, and even if I didn't completely like my life, things were better and that was ok.

This next part will probably make more sense if I explain a couple more things from my childhood...cue the flashback music...

Somewhere in a history or religion class, I was taught that there was a natural evolution of religion. The primitive people of the past were polytheistic, meaning they had lots of gods, but the modern, enlightened people were monotheistic, and had only one god. In my young brain (the same one that thought the Moon was more powerful than the Sun, because She could go where He could not...) didn't like this concept. For one thing, thinking that one being could take care of *everything*, every single little thing...just didn't make sense. Heck, even at home there were things my Mother did, and other things my Father did. I also didn't care for the feeling that we were supposed to look down our noses at those poor, poor people who still thought there were multiple gods.

No matter how many times I ran across this concept during my school years, I never liked it. It wasn't like going from stone to metal...a natural technological change. Why couldn't people have more than one god? Specially since the other gods I was learning about seemed way cooler than the robed, bearded duder who seemed so far away.

((Just a side note's not my intention to insult those who have a relationship with Jehova, or Yahweh...this is simply how I felt about Him at the time.))

...and end flashback...

Alrighty, so it was somewhere around this time that I learned about Deism. From the Wikipedia page it says, "Deism can be a belief in a deity absent of any doctrinal governance or precise definition of the nature of such a deity." I realize that this only one facet to Deism, but this is the one that I gravitated to and it ended up forming the core of my eventual belief system. It made sense to me that if there was a intelligence or intelligences out there that were capable of envisioning the entirety of the universe as we know it (and perhaps all the rest we haven't discovered too...), then it would be something so beyond our experience as a human being that we couldn't possibly be able to connect to it.

Enter Joseph Campbell. Through studying at home, and seeing his lectures in a couple anthropology classes, Joe has become one of the most influential people I have ever studied, right up there with ol' Aristotle.

From Joe I learned what a religion is, and what a system of belief needs to do in order to be considered a religion. I learned what a metaphor is, separate from the literary device, and how it applies to a belief system. It was the first time I'd heard the phrase, "petrified religion", and it changed the way I looked at the Abrahamic faiths.

He said that believing the words of a book to be the absolute word of any deity was like going to a restaurant and eating the menu, instead of using it as a metaphor for the food you could order.

Woah...wait, let's see if I have this straight...

Ok, so on one hand, I have the idea that the nature of deity is undefinable. And on the other, I have the idea that metaphor is the language with which we communicate to deity.

Which deity? I dunno, it seems that it doesn't really matter...since the intelligence that created the universe is so much more vast than my human understanding.

What metaphors? Well, it also seems that there are so many out there, and most of them have some really good points, so it seems like it doesn't quite matter.

Now hold on a minute here, this is sounding like you're saying that because the nature of deity is unnamed and unknown, the metaphors that we use to communicate with it can be our choice?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.



And that's exactly what I did.

With that, I think I'm going to stop here today. I have a feeling that I raised more questions than I answered, and I really want to be able to go into my epiphany that I have been promising for like a month now, without feeling like you guys are gunna get to the point where it's all "tl:dr".

So I wish each of you a blessed Solstice, and as always, thank you for reading.

Till next time, be well,

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When I Speak of Myself 2

Well hello there! I'm finally getting to the next part of my story, and I'm glad you're here.

So to recap a little, we've covered my religious upbringing, the death of my Mother and how that shaped my ideas of the afterlife, and my transition into Paganism. Now today, I'm going to talk a little bit about magick, ethics and that promised epiphany that took a year. You guys all buckled in? Alrighty then, let's get to it!

I think it's important to note that three years or so before my Mother died I started studying magick. Ardriana was studying (she said it was research for a book...*snickergiggles*...a book...*ahem* that's her story tell anyway...) ...and she was bringing it home to us. The reason this is important is because from the very beginning, magick was the practice of the manipulation of energy to a desired result, and had nothing to do with religion. So yes, in this system, you could be a "good Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/Athiest" and practice magick.

Even today the "work" of magick, while tied into my spirituality and belief system, can easily be separated from it completely. Though to be fair, the step from magick to Paganism isn't very far, and it was a contributing factor in my transformation...specially since magick is generally frowned upon in the Catholic Church. (Hi Red...understatement much?)

So then, I was what? My life pretty much still sucked, but I felt better about it, I guess. Or perhaps I had better tools with which to survive it. In any case, once I'd graduated High School, I was given the option of college or a job. I took college. And promptly withdrew from most of my classes and generally did nothing. This went on for a couple three years until one day I decided to stop wasting my Dad's money. I stopped signing up for morning classes, because I just slept through them. I stopped taking five at a time, because I am generally lazy and wouldn't focus on the ones I didn't like. In short, I tricked myself into actually getting an education in college, and found the class that changed my life.

Since I was picking my classes by time frame, I took whatever professors came up that fit my criteria...class didn't start before 11AM. I was *very* lucky, and met several professors that challenged me in ways that still inform my life. But I think that it was my Philosophy prof that had the most profound impact...

It was an Introduction into Ethics class, using a brand new translation of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as the text book. Good gods...I finally understood the phrase, "blew my mind wide open", I could literally feel my consciousness expanding, my internals shifting and my view of the world around me changing.

I understood for the first time what being a good person meant and entailed. I was given a step by step process that I could internalize and begin using as a metric for my daily life. Good and bad had real world definitions, and were no longer divinely inspired abstracts that I just simply had to accept. I learned that circumstance changed the amount of blame or praise you lay on someone for their actions. I understood responsibility, accountability and what it meant to be a person living in a civilization with laws.

And even as I stared uphill at the path that lay before me. A path with no handrails, no safety net, and no divinely inspired forgiveness should I mess up, I knew I'd go anyway. I couldn't not. The rewards, freedom, responsibility (how is that a reward?) and understanding far outweighed the work and other costs that this system of behavior came with.

That class was an oasis for three hours, twice a week, and I gulped down the concepts like a starving man gulps down food. I was fundamentally changed by the class...and then Aristotle said that the gods had no place in a system of ethics...

A bolt of lightning speared me through the head. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but that's what it felt like. My whole view of the world and how to move through it *shifted*. I was a different person after I read that line, and the world was never the same. If the responsibility ethical behavior lay with me because I wanted to live within the society I found myself in, and I did good because it was simply the right thing to do, and not because of some hope of reward or fear of punishment...then why did I need religion at all?

I didn't.

Oh, but that opened a can of worms didn't it? And I think this is where I'm going to leave this post for now. I suppose I was overly ambitious when I thought I could tell this story in only two chunks. I really should know better...I am Irish after all.

Thank you for continuing to read, and I promise to try to have the next installment sooner rather than later.

Till next time, be well,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Adventures in Jewelry Wearing

Ok, first...having a day job is the sux. I did not miss it at all. Those of you working lame day jobs, you have my sympathy and admiration. ./salute

Second, I blame the above mentioned day job for my lack of updates! I've been so tired in the evenings when I get done, I just haven't had the brains for much of anything but messing around on the intarwebs. However, I'm gunna try to get back into some sort of schedule here soon.

And now...on with the show!

Adventures in jewelry wearing? Yeah, that's right...something very funny happened last First Friday, and it needed to be set down to share.

So, the beautiful and insanely talented Teresa Maharaj-Williams, (and this site just has her graphite work...she's been working in oils and they're pretty amazing so far!), was wearing one of my new Chain style Desire bracelets...

Pretty huh? ^^

...and all night she was being followed around by men who appeared *totally* interested in her art work (as they should be!), but would rapidly lose interest after she would say something about her husband and kids. It was pretty comical. One elderly gentleman followed her across the street into another gallery, then came back to Damned Ink Studios with her! I watched them talk about art, and his place in Florida for about 20 mins. Then she mentioned she was married...he handed her his card and left. Just like that.

Now, First Friday is always super busy in DiS, always lots of bodies in the gallery. I stay at the back desk at the register, leaving other people free to wander the room, pimp the art and talk. So I don't alway see what's going on by the door, which is where Teresa spent most of the night, near her work.

About 9:30 or so, she comes charging up to me saying, "Take this thing off. Take it off!" She's agitated, though it looks like she wants to laugh too. "It's working to well!" she says, "I just had a guy show me his nipple!"


After I was done laughing...apparently she was talking to a somewhat inebriated gentleman, and he was complimenting her on her ability to paint certain parts of the human anatomy (read: he liked how she pained nipples), and was offering her a model for her next work. This was the last in a line of about 6 or 8 guys who had seriously hit on her during the night...

So she puts her bracelet in her pocket, and I can see that she's still agitated, so I start looking through my box of supplies to see if I can't find a Water (Desire being a fire piece...) piece for her to borrow to help calm down. Luckily I had one, and she was able to keep it on, even though it was to big for her...she did immediately settled down, and didn't have any more trouble with strange guys the rest of the night.

My favorite part was when her husband stopped by, and we told him the story of the nipple flasher...his priceless...she was so red! I wish I had had a camera!

In any case, Teresa is gorgeous, and it's not uncommon for her to be hit on by guys, specially on a First Friday, but that night was different. She was flustered because the guys were trying much harder than they usual. She's also usually somewhat oblivious to the attention, but that night she noticed! (Like, how could you miss the nipple thing...right?)

Hmm...the event's funnier in my memory than I've managed convey here, though still, it's worth noting that while she wore the Desire bracelet, she kept getting attention for things other than her art. Once she put the Water piece on, it stopped.

Interesting, no?

Anyroad, I'm going to try and get the next part of my personal story done this weekend, so if you made it this far through the post, thank you, and I hope you return to read my other ramblings.

Till next time, be well,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When I Speak of Myself part 1

Oh, you thought I'd forgotten about this huh? Suckers...

I think it's about time to get a little more personal in this whole conversation, to give people an greater understanding on where I get some of my ideas from.

Let's start with the basics...I was raised Irish Catholic. The cultural modifier is important, because for as pagan as Roman Catholicism appears, it ain't got nothin' on the Irish. Mima got to actually visit Ireland when she was younger, and while on a train ride she asked another woman if she believed in the "Little People". The woman responded, "Tsk, I'm a modern woman I am! Of course I don't believe in the Little People...but they're there just the same."

This pretty much exemplifies the Irish, at least as far as I was raised. I went to Catholic school, and was given all the liturgy and dogma, I learned the "stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight" pattern to the mass, sang the songs, did the dance...blah, blah, blah...and at home, when I asked my parents if animals went to heaven, because teacher said they didn't, I was told, "Of course they do."

I was also taught to make a wish on the New Moon over my left shoulder, to throw spilled salt over my shoulder, and that my Godmother and Mima could do magick.

I loved Yahweh, as my child's mind separated him from Jehova (who was kinda a douche, with all the plagues and smiting...), and loved Jesus cuz he seemed a really cool guy. But then there was the Blessed Mother...(you can prolly see where this is goin'... ;) )

Then I was told that I couldn't be an alter girl, like my worshiped older brother. That was pretty much the beginning of the end. I got the High School and read the Epic of Gilgamesh (in my freshman religion, I'm not sure how that works either, but that teacher only lasted a year...), and generally realized that I didn't much like the god of the bible. I was reading a lot of mythology and fantasy and was *really* liking this whole "goddess" idea.

And then my Mother died.

I say without exaggeration that this single event has more impact on my life than any other. The ramifications continue to inform my decisions and probably will for the rest of my days.

While I was struggling with the anger and grief of not only the event, but with how my family shattered because of it, I discovered that I did not like the idea of my Mother in some distant heaven, so far removed and untouchable to me. And I sure wasn't even going to imagine that there was *any* remote possibility of a hell. F' that.

It was right around that time I discovered some books on Celtic mythology and learned about Tir nAn Og, or the Summerlands, the Land of Youth. Souls would rest and review their lives, learning their lessons and awaiting their beloveds so they could be born again together. Something in me wanted this so badly that I simply couldn't conceive of anything else.

Being a teen, I was pretty angry. Being a teen that had lost a Mother, had a crazy Father and Sister...I was raging. It bothered me that I was so angry all the time, so when my school gave us an opportunity to go to confession, I went, hoping that the priest could give me some idea of how to deal with myself. Looking back, I can say that I feel sorry for the priest...he simply didn't know what to do with me. I hadn't sinned, and he wasn't a psychologist. I don't blame him for the lack of solace I received from confession.

Walking back to class I went through a grassy patch. It had been watered and the cool sprinkles tickled my ankles...and I felt better. I don't know how to explain it other than all the anger I carried at that moment wooshed out of me through my feet and into the ground. the back to back events and how reacted to them remain a turning point in the development of my spirituality.

Later that year I dedicated myself to the Goddess under a Full Moon. I was 15 and wanted something other than what I had been taught in church growing up. I wanted a place where woman were not only not discriminated against, but were held in high esteem. I wanted magick to not only be possible, but expected every day. I wanted the ground beneath my feet to be sacred and not something to just be dominated. I wanted animals to have souls, and babies not to have to worry about "original sin" (I poked a badger with a spoon!). I wanted joy and love and laughter again. These I all received, like gifts, along with all the cool toys! (I got rocks and candles, beautiful smelling oils and incense, a rockin' awesome dagger for my athame, cloaks and robes, goblets and eventually a teeny, tiny baby cauldron...and then the metric ton of beautiful jewelry.)

I also, finally, got the sense that there was something else out there. Something that loved me, looked out for me, and wanted me to be bigger than I was, as big as I could be. It connected me to the earth beneath my feet and the vast universe above. Connected me to every living thing on the planet. It was a very good start.

When I was 18, I went to my Baccalaureate Mass (the last Mass you go to before graduating High School and become an adult) conscious of the fact that I was no longer Christian. It was my formal good bye.

It's been 20 years now since that night under the Full Moon and I am more comfortable now within my spirit than I was so long ago. Everything that I looked for I am still finding, and I choose consciously, everyday, to continue down the moonlit path. I can only hope that everyone finds this same sense of peace and joy in their is a wonder indeed.

Well, I think I've rambled about myself for long enough. Next time I'll talk about the evolution of my ethics, and how they tie into my spirituality, and the epiphany I had over the course of a year. And *then* I think I'll go back and respond to my good friend's response to my response to her response of my post which was a response to her response of my post...woah...dizzy...

Thank you for reading, I am honored.

Till next time...Goddess bless,
Red ;)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stonewise: Amber

banner amber
This is the original banner created for my first Myspace page. All of those pieces are mine, the photo was taken by Ardriana.

It's still April, which is my month (yes, all of it...), so for today's Stonewise, I want to look at the stone that intellectually is my favorite. I love it beyond reason, though it is not the same as with Rose Quartz. >.>

First we'll take a look at what Ardriana has to say:

Amber is fossilized tree sap. Colors are lemon yellow, honey gold, cognac, black, off white, green and blue (brzzt! Blue Amber?!? Why haven't I see this before?!?).

One quick Google search later and we have, Dominican Blue Amber, which is best seen against a black background (this is the same for Green Amber...without the background, light filters through the stone and you only see hints of the color inside).

Pretty cool, huh?

This stuff is rare, expensive and beautiful...should I ever be able to afford a real piece of this stuff...*le sigh* ^^ I was saying...

The oldest deposit discovered to date was found in 260 million year old Permian limestone in Russia's Ural Mountains near the Chekarda River. Triassic Amber from the Mesozoic Era tends to have a dark red hue and ranges from 240 to 208 million years old. Tertiary Amber comes form the Cenozoic Era and is much younger at 66-1.6 million years old (younger...LOL!) In the U.S. Mesozoic Amber can be found along the eastern coast. More than 1000 extinct species of insects have been identified in amber.

History: Amber took on great value and significance to, among others, the Assyrians, Egyptians, Etruscans, Phoenicians and the Greeks. Amber resin contains aromatic chemicals called terpenes which make them volatile, or flammable. Burning Amber as incense has been done for thousands of years.

Folklore: Stone Age man imbued Amber with supernatural properties and used it to wear and to worship. One myth surrounding the origin of Amber is givin to use by Ovid. when Phaeton, a son of Phoebus (the Sun) convinced his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun across the sky for a day, he drove to close to the earth, setting it on fire. To save the earth, Jupiter struck him out of the sky with his thunderbolt and he died. His mother and sister turned into poplar trees in their grief but it did not end their mourning him. Their tears, dried by the sun, turned to Amber.

Another ancient writer, Nicias, said that Amber was from the setting sun congealed in the Baltic Sea and cast up on the shore where, "the sun takes a bath in the sea". In Eastern Europe, it is said that honey from the mountains of Ajan was melted by the sun and solidified into Amber by the sea. The Chinese think that Amber is the petrification of the soul of the dead Tiger, and so think that it gives strength and courage. Sacred to the Goddess Freya, who possessed the magic Amber necklace "Brisingamen". Emblem of the earth goddess. It is one of the two organic fossil stones (the other being Jet) used in a Wiccan High Priestess' necklace of rank.

Magick: The nature of Amber is tree bearing, organic, sun ruled, intellectual, liquid, flammable and attractive. Despite its yellow color and although influenced by its Solar affinities, Amber is an earth stone, a gift from ancient trees. (Pagan author Scott Cunningham says it's a fire stone due to its flammable quality and because it is yellow it is often called an air stone.)

Use this "Tiger blood" stone for courage and strength. Or choose the "Sun blessed" aspect of these honey stones to enhance beauty. When placed on the altar, it increases the effectiveness of your spells. because of its "electrostatic" attributes, use to increase attractiveness, both physically and intellectually. "The blood of the sun" aspect imbues the stone as both a good fortune and protective amulet. With Amber's ancient organic perspective, perhaps it can warm a cool heart and help one find joy and humor in life.

Woah...that's a lot of stuff...

How I use it in my jewelry...right now I use it mostly in my Sunset Anklet, which is three colors of Amber and two colors of Tiger's Eye. I do have plans to make a Sun design to compliment the Moon one I already have, mebbe in the next week or so, since I think I finally have the stones I want to use...

It's strange how I love Amber for it's organic metamorphosis (I love Petrified Wood for the same reason), but I have totally internalized the Sun qualities of the stone. In fact, I mostly don't care for Amber set in silver, as it is the lunar metal, and prefer it to be set in gold (one of the few times where my taste in jewelry gets expensive >.>). Liquid drops of the sun, crystallized fire...strength, beauty, the magick of transformation, these are the attributes I see the most when I think about Amber.

I love how light it is, and how it has a "plastic-y" feel to it, so unique in the stone world. I love that it is smooth, though always just a little bit tacky, like it's solidified honey, and with enough warmth it'll flow between your hands. When I discovered cognac Amber, I just about died, I thought the deep red wine color was so beautiful. It's still my favorite, though I have come to love all Amber to some degree or another. I love that green (and blue apparently) Amber has a magic trick to it to see the real colors (this is why you'll find green Amber with a coating of black on the backs of cabochons).

Despite how light it is, you can feel the weight of the years and history behind Amber, it's set apart from other semi-precious stones because of it. All of these things add up to make Amber one of my favorite stones of all time. In the first pic in this piece, there's a large nugget in the center. I got that at the New Pioneer, in West Yellowstone, MT, and after Richard let me take it out of the display case, I held it in my left hand, against my waist, while I looked at other stuff in the store. Even when I was going through the big tumbled stone bin, I did it one handed because I couldn't let go of the Amber. I growled at people who wanted to see it (jokingly...yeah... >.>) and didn't let it out of my sight till I had a receipt that said it was mine.

I do have to confess that I am still a bit snobby about Amber, and prefer the more clear pieces. I'm actually not a huge fan of the milky pieces, and I would rather not have a ton of the "sun spangles". The clarity of the color is what draws me to it.

Well, thank you for wading all the way through this long post. Amber isn't a stone you can just say a few words about, and I probably haven't even done it justice. But hopefully you still understand a little more about why I do what I do.

Till next time, be well,

Monday, April 12, 2010

When I Speak of Religion 2

I have not forgotten the conversation that started with last month's "If Your Religion..." post, I've just let it percolate a bit more before responding...yeah, that's it. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

After the last installment, my friend responded,

The way you speak about religion/spirituality often seems to boil down to those last four words: "always meet your needs." This is the part that I can't quite get past. My whole faith revolves around God, not around me (or at least this is what I strive for). Of course I believe that God loves me more than any human ever could, and that God wants absolutely the best for me, and that God will take care of me and my needs. So my needs do end up being met by my religion/spirituality. But that's just not my starting point, nor is it my bottom line, nor is it the centre of what I believe. My faith is a response to something outside of myself, and to me it seems sad and small to imagine a spirituality that revolves around an individual human.


To the extent that I agree with your "if your religion" posts, it is always because I agree that what you're saying is also what God wants for us. I do disagree with the starting point/bottom line/core belief I am perceiving in your posts that a person's religion must serve their needs. I am theocentric in my beliefs, not anthropocentric. Our ends are often the same, but our means seem to be different, and I believe that the means do matter.

I can absolutely see the issue with the way I've been explaining things. She a good, kind, generous person, who I am lucky to count as a friend, and as such, is actually about the last person I would be talking to in these matters. She absolutely exemplify what I'm talking about when I say that a person's belief system should help them to be "happy and good". If we had about a billion more like her, the world would instantly and irrevocably be a better place.

Everything works out great if one believes that God's plan for them holds nothing more than kindness, generosity, love and joy. But what about those people who believe that God's plan for them is blowing up a train full of people? Or that they are compelled to stick their infant son full of needles? Or to shun someone because of the color of their skin, or because of who they love? What about the plans of a god who is jealous, vengeful, hateful, murderous and cruel?

When one lets an outside force tell them how to behave or think or live, they are at the mercy of that outside force. They could get lucky and have a completely benevolent model, or not. If instead we were to insist on being conscious of our behavior, active instead of passive. Insist on behavior that does the least harm possible and then model our spirituality to alleviate our fears and sorrows from there, the responsibility would then be in our hands and not at the whim of something/one else.

The concept of truth comes up a lot when talking about religion. Seems that one cannot talk about belief in a religion without linking it back to the truth. But if everyone's got it, how can we ever be certain who has the really real truth?

Set aside the desire for the truth for a moment, and consider the possibility of religion for spirit's sake, for wisdom's sake. Let them worship cross-eyed frogs (thanks Mima), and believe in the endless lily pad for an afterlife. Consider religion for no other purpose than to help someone live as good and happy a life as they can be. Understand that generosity, ethical behavior, participation, consideration, and awareness among other virtues, are all absolutely essential. Now, why does it matter that they don't believe the same as someone else, and are unconcerned with the truth?

When a system is set up to include concepts like true/false and right/wrong conflict is automatically included when dealing with those outside of the system. This to me is a fundamental flaw within most religions, and further proof that religion is politics and not spirituality. The means have become more important than the end, and very often the end that was supposed to be there just vanishes altogether.

With the equation, "Mine is right, yours is wrong," aggression is very often the response, because of the fear of being revealed a fraud or a fool. Any sort of resolution ends with someone losing and someone winning. This is counter productive. If instead it was, "Mine is mine, yours is yours," where's the aggression? There's no fear, but instead a connection to the end, rather than the means.

I hope this clarifies things. :)

Till next time, be well,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stonewise: Rose Quartz

First I have to say that I know I owe you guys quite a bit of writing. It's been sitting in the back of my head and I just need to take the time to get it down...I will, I promise.

So, on with the's my birthday today! Which is why I'm doing this special Stonewise now. And no, it's not my birthstone, which is diamond, but rather the stone I have the deepest fascination with...Rose Quartz.

And now a word from our ...Ardriana!

The pink form of Quartz is created by iron or titanium impurities. Usually massive, uncut crystals are rare. The rare transparent Rose Quartz from Madagascar is called Rosaline. Star Rose Quartz is also uncommon. Presently the world's highest quality Rose Quartz is coming out of Madagascar (further proof that all things awesome come from Madagascar. Say it with me...Madagascar!).

Folklore: Traditionally, babies have been given Rose Quartz to help them during their transformation from the spirit world to their physical world. The gentle pink glow produces a nurturing, calming and gentling effect, which helps them adjust to their new environment.

History: Beads of Rose Quartz have been found in Mesopotamia that date back to 7000 BCE. Rose Quartz was used by the Assyrians as early as 800-600 BCE. In later times it was extremely popular with the Romans for making seals. These seals were used in clay or various dyes to show ownership or to identify authors.

Magick: One can't describe the attributes of this stone without using the adjective "gentle". Rose Quartz is the definitive stone for love and intimacy in all relationships. This stone is used to open one's heart and enhance generosity. It is love attracting and love enhancing. It promotes peace, happiness and fidelity in established relationships. It is *the* friendship stone. It soothes worry and anxiety with its gentling qualities. Heals emotional wounds. Comforts and heals the child within.

So why did I choose to write about Rose Quartz today? Because it is the stone I am most deeply fascinated by. I could own one meeelion pieces and still want the one that's over there. I have a large sphere with a natural star in it (very rare!) and every time I buy tumbled stones, one or two chunks find their way into my bag or tray.

But it's PINK! Argh! Why?? It's almost embarrassing how Rose Quartz sings to me, I can't help myself. I don't even *like* pink! I'm a redhead, I don't wear it, I *am* it! It's just...ooh, look at the subtle amber rose of this one...or how frosty this one is...see this inclusion here, it looks like a river...look at it under the light and you can see... *sigh*

It used to frustrate me that the stone I was most attracted to was so...sissy. There's others I love with more consciousness, like Rainbow Obsidian, Amber, Brecciated Jasper, Petrified Wood, I have reasons that I love them, and can tell them to you. Rose Quartz? You got me...

But then again, maybe it's not such a mystery. All of my life I have been told that I was a good friend. A best friend. A sister unlooked for. Generous to a fault. Trusting, loving, giving...kind and sweet, a living embodiment of the qualities of Rose Quartz.

When debating whether Rose Quartz is a Fire or a Water stone, Ardriana says:

The first level of Fire's passion is carnal, it's all blind head and thoughtless impulse. But that kind of passion burns hot and fizzles fast. That fleeting passion doesn't even come close to the white hot intensity of real love. A person may weep to hear that a good sex partner is no longer available, but the same person will jump in front of a train to save someone the love. The fire that will not die - that's passion! And that is how I love. That is why, Friendship, which is the core and true basis of all love, is my greatest passion.

I'd try to say this in my own words...but it's just a futile effort, hers are always better.

But it's true, the fierceness I feel about the people I love doesn't diminish with time or distance or silence. It remains the same today as it was yesterday, a month ago, a year, ten'll be the same tomorrow. I don't know how to not to.

In my jewelry, I have a friendship piece. It's subtle, eloquent, just Rose Quartz with Crystal or Smokey Quartz for accent.

Wear to attract friends or give to someone you already love.

I also use it in my Desire design. The Rose Quartz offers something more than that fiery burst of passion that dissipates. No other stone I know has such a definite use magickally. There's really no argument, no other interpretation, only shades of the same intention.

I love this stone irrationally. I have *way* more pieces than any one person could ever want or need, and I will end up buying'll just happen whether I want to or not. It is the stone that defines me, represents me, embarrassing or not. ;)

Blessings to each and every one of you, may all your days be full of Love, Light and Laughter!

Breithlá Sona! (Happy Birthday!)
Bhen Rudha

Monday, March 22, 2010

When I Speak of Religion

My friend responded to my latest, "If Your Religion..." post and I felt that it deserved more than just a response in the comments, as it's a very valid point. I have lived inside my growing awareness of spirituality for a while now and so there are concepts that I take for granted when talking about what I have learned. Anything that makes me better at getting my point across is very much appreciated.

This what she had to say...

"It is my firm belief that there are morons in every religion on the planet. That's just the way humanity is. Most religions are trying to help with this problem, but the fact is that little can be done to help someone who doesn't feel like being helped. Many people think they're part of a religion just because their parents told them so, and it's just a cultural thing, and they have a shallow understanding of their own supposed theology.

Anyway, that's just my long-winded way of saying that I'm a little worn out on the cliche of rejecting a religion based on its followers. I don't think there's a single faith system out there that hasn't had someone leave because they were disappointed in the actions of that faith's adherents. Sometimes people are just morons, and you can't blame God or the Buddha or Athena or whoever for it."

I agree with everything she said, 100%, and it got me thinking that I missed something when I was talking about religion...

The word religion is used interchangeably with spirituality or belief system, I've been guilty of this myself, and for the most part, it's not really wrong. It is the meaning of other words that gets lost when the difference between religion and spirituality isn't explored and understood.

Spirituality is the connection to things outside of the purely physical, the connection to deity, to that spark that makes us uniquely individual, the energy that animates us while living and is glaringly absent after death. It is created by the individual, for the individual.

Religion is the politics of prayer, of worship, it is the politics of connection with deity. It is created by people for the consumption of others. The motives of those who create religion are sometimes altruistic, sometimes they are just controlling. People are flawed, and so are religions. When I complain about a religion, I'm not pointing my finger at "God or the Buddha or Athena...", but at the people who do things in their names.

The God of the New Testament is supposed to be the great good father of all things. He is supposed to be all love, all joy, all grace...and yet people have committed amazing atrocities in His name. Do I blame God? No, I blame the people who were capable of the actions, or who set up the system that allowed the actions. I blame the religion who got Him wrong.

Paganism connects to the ancient cycles of life, death and rebirth, drawing divinity out of the golden lined clouds and settling it firmly within. And yet, there are people who have simply swapped the names and genders of their gods, changed the words of their pleas, but have fundamentally changed nothing, and are still as frustrated as before. Do I blame any of the multitude of pantheons Pagans recognize? No, I point my finger at the religion, or lack thereof, that did not help explain these things.

So you love God, Jesus, Buddha, Athena, but part of what I have said somewhere along the way rings true for you, and your religion makes you afraid...what then?

Change it. Reject that which scares you, and revel in that which brings you joy. Be conscious of your religion, how it impacts your life and the lives of those around you. Try to do the least amount of harm possible. Participate in life, be conscious of the thousand joyous moments you will have and how they add up to a happy life. Let your religion evolve with you, so that it will always meet your needs.

Can it be just that simple? I think so. And yet, not, because I have to be more aware, more conscious, more active in how my decisions ripple away from me. It is admittedly harder somedays to follow my religion of one than to let slip my responsibility and relax under someone else's direction. But I choose, and will continue to do so, every day. That sort of freedom is sweet, and worth the work.

I hope this helps you to understand better the things I say, whether you agree with me or not.

Till next time, be well,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stonewise: Connemara Marble

Today is Happy Irish Heritage Day (at least for me, for others it's St. Patrick's Day, though for most I'm thinking it's just Drink Bear Till you Pass Out Day...)

In any case, I thought I would talk a little bit about Connemara Marble, since it is one of the finest marbles in the world, and is uniquely Irish!

Ardriana doesn't have anything to say (yet) about Connemara, so I had to go do some digging of my own...

From, "Why is Ireland called the Emerald Isle?"

"One of the oldest natural minerals in Ireland is also green. Connemara marble is thought to be about 600 million years old in geological terms. It is found in the Connemara Mountains in the west of Ireland, and was first mined during the 1800s. In addition to gracing buildings, Connemara marble is used to fashion jewelry, rosary beads, giftware and souvenirs."

Other tid bits I found along the way...

"It is said to bring serenity to those who keep it close."

"Connemara marble has also been a traditional gift of friendship between families."

I have a disk of Connemara, about 3" across, with a hole in the center that I used to wear in my hair, tied by a green ribbon or a length of rattail. My Mother gave it to me when I was 12 or 13, and it's always been one of my connections to Ireland, and my Irish Heritage. After my Mother died, it became a connection to her as well, as it was one of the last things she gave to me. (Funny was a free gift she'd gotten after ordering something from a catalog for me. She gave it to me "just cuz", and it's become one of my more special treasures.)

I wasn't able to find any real folklore or magickal lore about the marble, but it remains to this day one of the more prized marbles in the world, ranking up there with the sparkling white marble of Italy or Greece. It's one of the natural treasures of Ireland, and just more proof that there are indeed a thousand shade of green on the Emerald Isle (there really are! I seen 'em!).

I haven't used any in my jewelry, though I might now that I've found a place that sells beads (>:D)! To me this stone is all about family, ancestry, history and cultural identity. Yes...if you haven't guessed by now, I'm a teeny bit Irish...

Éireann go Brách,
Bhen Rudha

Monday, March 15, 2010

If Your Religion... Part 4

In my search for a belief system that settled comfortably in my psyche, giving me ideas that I liked about the unknown, and helping me to be a better person, I took an ethics class at the community college. We studied singularly a new translation of the ethics book by Aristotle, and I found myself changed by it.

One of the things I liked best about what Aristotle had to say was that religion had no place in the realm of ethics. You gave your due to the gods, but endeavored to live your life by the laws of your civilization, and by an internal understanding of what was right and wrong.

Certainly, religion contains wisdom on how to develop that internal understanding of right and wrong, but it seems to me that simply setting down rules of behavior that come with either promises of rewards, or fear of punishment, without having any sort of understanding of "why", just doesn't work.

So, if your religion makes you ethically're doing it wrong.

I know there are people out there of all faiths who work actively to be better people every day. To embody all that is good and beautiful in their religion to be as close to the ideal as possible. These are obviously not the people I'm talking about.

I'm sure most people have seen the bumper sticker, "I'm not perfect, I'm just forgiven," or some variation thereof. What exactly is it saying? I think that the spirit of it is saying something to the effect of, "I cannot be perfect, as even though I try to be so every day, I fail. But I am forgiven for my failing, and that gives me the comfort and strength to continue." I know that there are those who actually believe this.

Unfortunately I also think that the majority of the people who would put this sticker on their cars tend to act as if it saying, "I can be as big a jerk as I want, because all I have to do is ask forgiveness." When all bad deeds are forgiven, why take responsibility for them?

I'm sure everyone knows of at least one person who does whatever they want, without really caring about the consequences, but still claims to be a good Christian of some flavor or another. I never understood how this was possible and it is probably one of the reasons I'm not Christian anymore.

I think the world would be a different place if everyone considered, and cared, how their actions and words affect those around them.

The Wiccan Rede states, "An it harm none, do what thou wilt," or some variation thereof. At its core, I believe this means, "I have used all the tools and gifts at my disposal to see whether or not my actions will harm another. I am not omniscient, so if there are circumstances that I cannot foresee that would harm another, may my actions come to naught." And again, I believe there are those who hold to the rede in this manner.

However, I know there are those who use the rede as a disclaimer, tack it on the end of whatever spell they're doing to cover their bases. They do whatever they want, trusting that the rede will take care of them, still taking no responsibility for their actions. This isn't any better than believing that divinity will forgive their transgressions so it's ok to behave however they want.

I suppose the core of my argument here is responsibility. If your religion helps you to *not* take responsibility for your actions (The devil made me do it!), then it's just not working. Giving your will up to god, letting the universe interpret your wishes, figuring your life is wholly predetermined, so do whatever you want...these points of view are, in my opinion, entirely to passive, and are part of what is wrong with society today.

Everyone makes an impact on the world around them (rings in a pond anyone?), and if we were more aware of this, and endeavored to do as little harm as possible, how could the world not be a better place?

I give my due to the gods, but do not give up my will to them, or let them decide my behavior because I am hoping for a reward, or afraid of a punishment.

I choose a different way, and so should you, whatever it may be.

Till next time, be well,