A Quick and Easy Lughnasadh Sweet/Savory Bread Recipe a la my friend Elena:

This is a pretty straightforward and easy garlic bread recipe, but it combines sweet and savory tastes beautifully and combines a lot of things that make me think of Lughnasadh and Mabon…

Ingredients:

1 loaf plain white French/Italian bread
2-5 garlic cloves, chopped medium fine
4-5 tablespoons butter (or margarine…or olive oil…but butter is best in my opinion)
seasoned salt (I like Tony Chacherie’s or Lawry’s)
herbs – some combination of 2-3 of the following, dry or fresh
     basil
     thyme
     parsley
     oregano
     rosemary
honey
Directions for Preparation:
Preheat oven to about 375
Put the butter and garlic in a microwaveable bowl.
Sprinkle the seasoned salt over it till you pretty much have a thin layer over all the butter/garlic…maybe 1/2 teaspoon?
Add about 1/4 tsp of each herb you’re using
Microwave till butter is melted
Mix herbs and garlic into the butter (just a few whips with an eating spoon works)
Slice the bread into desired number of pieces (I typically go about 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch thick pieces) – try to keep the
bottom of the loaf connected just a bit to hold the shape together during baking
Spoon the seasoned butter onto the bread – I usually just hit one side of a slice, for example every left-hand side of each slice
Make sure you get an even-ish spread of the garlic along the entire loaf
Rub the top of the loaf with honey – probably a tablespoon or two, just enough to glaze the top*
Bake for 10-12 minutes.*
Elena recommends a tablespoon or two, but I watched her liberally pour the stuff out, so put as much honey on the top as you want…
If you want softer bread, put aluminum foil around the loaf, leaving only the top exposed; if you want crunchier bread leave it in the oven a bit longer
If you want to read more about my thoughts on Lughnasadh, go here.

Walking with Spirit in Lily Dale

Last week I had the unexpected opportunity of visiting Lily Dale.

I had vaguely heard of Lily Dale before, but hadn’t realized that it was going to be so close to  the site of Sirius Rising in Upstate New York. I was at Sirius Rising  all week, and was very focused on being at the festival, but when it was pouring rain out one festival day, one of my friends suggested we take a field trip to see the great Spiritualist community.

The Fox sisters were infamous mediums of nineteenth century America, and were a large part of the Spiritualist movement. In 1927, the Fox sisters’ house was moved to the site that is now Lily Dale. Spiritualism is a fascinating movement that holds a little known place in American history. According to Wikipedia, Spiritualism is “a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séances) are held by ‘mediums’, who can then provide information about the afterlife”.  Many famous people were interested in Spiritualism in the mid and late nineteenth century. Mary Lincoln and her famous husband became very serious Spiritualists after the death of one of their sons. It was extremely fashionable to hold seances in your home and to invite mediums like the Fox sisters to come and speak in your communities. And whether you believe the Fox sisters actually were receiving messages from the other side or not, the movement that was built around them is still alive and well today in Upstate New York at the Lily Dale Assembly.

Lily Dale is a tiny little place that is open to visitors year round and to students who wish to come and learn more about being a medium or Spiritualism. The main Lily Dale website says “There are daily lectures on the wonders of mediumistic phenomena and the basic truths of God and Man, which Spiritualists adopt as their standard for living”. It costs $10 to get through the gate, but after the entrance fee, the community is open for your exploration.

When we arrived, we headed up to the Inspiration Stump, where mediumship demonstrations are held everyday at 1 p.m., and people gather to hear from several of the mediums. There are three types of mediums who speak here: The mediums that are registered and vouched for by the Lily Dale Assembly; visiting mediums from other communities; and student mediums. Originally the mediums stood on the huge stump that still sits at the top of the meeting place. That way they could see the audience gathered to hear the words of the spirits from above, and were able to pick out those who the spirits wished them to give messages to. Today they do not stand on the stump, but use microphones;  otherwise, the mediums still do the same thing that has been done for over 130 years. I was surprised by how many people were there. It was a truly fascinating experience. The mediums were introduced and immediately jumped right on into things. We were told at the beginning that this was considered to be a religious service for them and throughout the whole thing, the mediums were thanked for “walking with Spirit” after they were finished.

Inspiration Stump

Inspiration Stump

The Meeting Place in front of the Stump

The Meeting Place in front of the Stump

The Lily Dale website says:

Inspiration Stump is a spiritual retreat found at the end of the calm and quiet trail of the Leolyn Woods. It is not unusual to become more aware of the spiritual energies while in this open and receptive state at the Stump. you are invited to participate in the services held twice a day in the grove at no charge. Demonstrations of mediumship are presented by the mediums giving short messages to those in the audience. These services have been held since 1898. As well as possibly receiving a message of meaning at Inspiration Stump, you may well renew your own Spiritual energies. Spiritual awareness is available to all. Please show consideration for the mediums who are working and for those who are receiving messages by refraining from unnecessary noise or movement that disrupts the flow of energy.

I don’t know that they convinced me of their abilities or not, but they certainly gave us a show. Some of them were really good, and I’m sure, probably actually in touch with the Spirit world. Some were pretty abysmal, but they all kept us entertained. It was  an experience unlike any other that I’ve had.

After we left Inspiration Stump, we explored the rest of the tiny community. There is a small museum in the old school house, a library, the assembly hall and all the houses of the mediums, where you can stop and actually have a personal reading or channeling. We didn’t do this, since it gets quite expensive. But the mediums set up shop and open their doors all summer for the visitors and pilgrims of Lily Dale.

At the museum, they had memorabilia of the many things that had gone on in the Spiritualist movement and in Lily Dale. They had a wall covered with the signs from the houses of the original mediums, spirit slates that the spirits had supposedly written on and many other fascinating things.

The Main Square with the Assembly Hall and Library

The Main Square with the Assembly Hall and Library

Houses of Mediums and Readers

Houses of Mediums and Readers

We had lunch in the little cafe sitting between two mediums, which was a pretty hilarious moment in and of itself.

Jason Mankey, author and lecturer, was a particularly wonderful tour guide the whole day.

While we were there, I noticed that Pagan author Ray Buckland was supposed to speak the next day. While we didn’t run into Buckland himself, we did see his infamous corvette. I was amused.

After returning, I was sitting in Murdock’s, a tiny restaurant in Sherman New York (which is the small town that Brushwood resides in) writing this. The owner of the restaurant passed by my table and saw some of my pictures and asked me if I had gone to Lily Dale. When I told her that I had, she excitedly asked me what I thought and told me that that’s where she goes to church. Sherman is a tiny little place with one main street and gas station. It is the home to many farmers and people of the Amish/Mennonite communities. I was really surprised to find that Spiritualism also has it’s place here.

Spiritualism is not something that I have delved into before. And other than in romance novels and books of the paranormal, it’s not something that pops up for me very often. But this was a great look into a very different world, one where ghosts and messages from the beyond are common place and expected.This was a fabulous experience that I would recommend for anyone who is interested in the occult. Go and walk with Spirit in Lily Dale, you won’t ever be the same after!

Modesty and Amanda Palmer

The whole “modesty” issue just can’t seem to leave me alone. Here’s a for-instance.

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m mad about singer/performer/wife of author God Amanda Palmer. One of the things that I love about her so much is how open she is with her body. From photographs, to tweets, to her blog, Amanda doesn’t care if she has clothes on or not when she has something to tell her fans. Sometimes the point is exactly that she’s at home and in bed and comfortable.

When it comes to nudity, suggestive clothing or simply dressing as she sees fit Amanda Palmer does not believe in shame. She didn’t allow her original record label to tell her that her body wasn’t beautiful and she protested vocally when they censored photographs of her. This is the sort of thing that we need to teach our daughters and sons about. “Modesty” is not the answer, but things like this most certainly are…

Amanda Palmer says about the video “I’m so comfortable being naked at this point that I almost forget … I’m also proud that that video has nudity, but it isn’t sexual or erotic … it’s using the body as a raw canvas, which I love.”

This is the sort of feeling I want to embody and hope that I can teach to my daughters. Women have a potential to be powerful creatures in ways that men do not. The Goddess encompasses all of these ideas, and when I go into ritual, with my hair uncovered and my body skyclad, this is the sort of feminine power I want to exhibit. I can use my body for many things, most of which have nothing to do with sexuality. But that’s exactly the point; my body is mine. I shouldn’t have to be afraid of what others think. I should not have to cover it up modestly to be free and comfortable in my community. If you want to cover yourself, that’s your respected choice. But covering yourself should never have anything to do with the fear of being hurt or attacked.

A Pirate’s Packing List for Festival

Fancy Corset

Leather Corset

Plain Corset

Bustier

Pantaloons

Multi-pocket Belt

Nipple Shields

Pirate Shirts

Pirate Hat

Regular Hat

Sashes

Lacy see-through dress

Ribbon Skirt

Victorian Skirt

Multiple skirts for layering

Vest

Coyote Tail

Tall Leather Boots

Short Leather Boots

Thigh-high boots

Sandles

Assorted hippie dresses

Festival Pants

Eyeliner

Shower Kit

Traveling Altar

Altar Tools: pentacle and scourge, incense, bell, athame, matches, 3 white candles, 1 red candle, wand, candle snuffer, small candle, water dish, salt dish, salt, item that symbolizes the God, item that symbolizes the Goddess, chalice, cakes plate, Broom, Staff

Ritual Robe

BOS

Bug Spray/Sunscreen

Mandolin

Washboard

Tarot Cards

Pillow

Rum

Whiskey

Abita Strawberry

More Whiskey

Flask

(Camping gear provided by the itinerant musician that you live with and who is already on the road ahead of you).

Gender Respect in the Pagan Community

For this post, I’ll be referring back to my last blog “Pagans and the Modesty Issue”, so if you’re confused or want to see the actual comments that I’m talking about, please go back to it.

I wanted to expand a little on my last post, because one thing became clear to me from all of the responses that I received was that what we should be talking about in the Pagan community, instead of “modesty”,  is respect.

One of the comments that I received was from a woman that said that she dressed modestly because of how Pagan men approached her. She said essentially that a lot of Pagan men assumed that because she was Pagan, she was “easy” and she was made extremely uncomfortable by this sort of attention. This is not uncommon. I too have had similar experiences. Whether you cover fully or wear nothing at all, you should never be made to feel uncomfortable at our gatherings.

My S.O. has a story about a man in the Pagan community who would go to Pagan festivals and single out the young women who were new to the Pagan community, essentially saying something to the effect of, “Hey! You’re Pagan now. You’re expected to sleep around! Why not start with me?”. Apparently, he was well known for doing this in the community. This man was actually shot and killed later on. He was staying with friends and someone walked into the house and murdered him. They never discovered who did it, but everyone assumed that he had gone after the wrong woman and a person in her life had decided to violently retaliate for the harm he caused. My question to this story is this: why didn’t we, as a community, see what this man was doing and take him aside and tell him that what he was doing was inappropriate and harmful to the community? That somewhere there would be consequences to him, as well as the emotional upset to the women he going after?

PaganDad was incensed that he took his children to a Pagan event and they had to witness BDSM when he, as their parent, didn’t think that that was something his children should witness and that it was not age appropriate. Most festivals will cordon off areas where adult behavior is appropriate and set these apart from where the children are or allowed. I still think this isn’t a “modesty” issue. It was disrespectful of the festival to blatantly disregard what parents would consider to be age appropriate. The festival didn’t take “respect” into consideration. And PaganDad is right to point out that we need to think about how newcomers and outsiders are going to react to these situations. If we don’t take respect into consideration, we are going to lose people who might otherwise join our community.

When PaganSoccerMom tells me that I’m missing the point because  “clothing made for little boys aren’t generally created to make them look sexual beyond their years”, I strongly disagree. I think that little boys get it just as much as little girls do. When little girls are being given Brittany Spearsesque clothing, little boys are getting pants that sit down well below their waist lines to show off their underwear and wife beater shirts to emulate rockers and gangsters. Doesn’t anyone see that this is clearly having the same effect on them? The boys who robbed my Significant Other and I (who are around the ages of fifteen and sixteen) have grown up in this culture, and they are expected to become like the men in their lives. They have been in and out of juvie, they have been under house arrest and the cops all know them. This behavior didn’t start last night, it started with behaviors they were taught that would gain them acceptance in their community. These boys already have blatant disrespect for the women in our neighborhood. How we teach our little boys and young men to act in regards to nudity and modesty is just as vitally important as how we teach to the girls.

PaganSoccerMom also commented that:

“As for my deliberately”not getting it” on the point that dressing our girls in an age-appropriate way is telling them that “teaching them that other people can’t control themselves in reaction to their bodies”, I think we do that every day. We teach them to not walk down dark alleys. Not to leave their drinks unattended. To walk in groups. All these are, at least to me, part and parcel (along with wearing age-appropriate clothing) ways to help keep them safe. There are bad people out there that will do bad things and we have to do things to help keep ourselves safe.”

What she is still missing is that we live in a rape culture. While we tell little girls not to get raped, we don’t tell our boys not to rape, and this is what needs to change. And instead of reacting to it in the Pagan community with the old monotheistic notion of “modesty” (look at the example of the Middle East to see how that’s worked out for everyone involved), we need to address the larger issue of respect, and how both sexes need to deal with each other. I, as a woman, should be able to walk down a dark alley completely naked and not have to worry about a predator jumping out and violating me. Now, I know that we don’t live in a perfect world and while this is the ideal, as a woman, I do avoid dark alleys and I don’t leave my drinks unattended, but if we ever want to make it to this ideal, we need to start by teaching our children that you need to respect women.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that we ignore the men in our community. That the Pagan community is not always masculine friendly. There’s the old joke that our priests are just altar boys that are there to assist the priestess. My S.O. has a book out called “The Flowering Rod“, which is about men’s roles in spirituality. His contract with his original publisher is up and he is shopping it around to some of the bigger Pagan publishers, who all keep telling him that no one wants to read about men’s issues in Paganism and that they are only publishing things marketed to women. How can we be a healthy community when we ignore half of our community?

One of the things that initially drew me to Paganism was that I saw it being a balanced approach to masculinity and feminism. The Christian church became abhorrent to me because of how they told me that as a woman, my health and my issues weren’t important enough to address outside of the patriarchal context. I’ve always considered myself to be a feminist, but one of the things that makes me angry in feminism is when we go so far as to want to exclude men entirely. If we want to have a healthy community, we have to treat men and women equally, and I think that in the Pagan community, we have the unique opportunity to actually do that.

We should not be telling our women to dress more “modestly”, we should be telling everyone that the people of both sexes have the right to be treated with respect on all issues. We need to acknowledge the role that our men play and more fully integrate them into our practices so that they aren’t left standing on the outside of our community. Until we do this, we are going to continue to have problems with the ways men and women interact. And yes, I’m sure we’ll always have bad apples, but women are often just as guilty in their behavior as men are, and until we address the wider issue of gender equality, our community won’t be able to move forward on any of these issues.