Daily Archives: November 25, 2011

10 Cheap Winter Tips To Stay Warm

10 Cheap Winter Tips To Stay Warm

Hot water bottle sales are up! This might seem like headline from a newspaper 50 years ago. Hot water bottles are enjoying a moment again, and not as a frumpy relic from a bygone era, but as a frugal way to stay warm and toasty during the cold winter months. In this post, Preheat The Bed there’s a “heated” discussion about the pros and cons of hot water bottles vs. electric blankets. Do you use either?

As the winter begins to get chilly, more and more people are seeking ways to cut down on their heating bills and still stay warm.

Here are 10 cheap tricks and toasty winter tips for staying warm this winter:

The first 9 tips come from this infographic from Wonder How To:

10. Use a programmable thermostat.Why? Because it saves money and energy. The cost of the thermostat pays for itself over usage time. The US Department of Energy estimates you can save 10% on your heating bill by rolling back your thermostat 10-15% for just 8 hours. Of course, this saves money! Here’s a snazzy one for 2012: Practically Green recently posted about The Nest. Sarah Finnie Robinson from Practically Green shares her thoughts about this new programmable thermostat:

“It’s a brainy new thermostat designed by Tony Fadell, the guy who sold Steve Jobs on the iPod. In the past 48 hours, this stylish tool has been a complete thumbs-up for testers ranging from TechCrunch to Grist to Fast Company to Wired to the Wall Street Journal: “like Apple, Nest Labs has taken something you use every day and made it simple and delightful to use.”

My best tip for staying warm in the winter: Knit something warm! What’s your best cheap tip for staying warm?

Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer, editor and educator. She has written hundreds of articles about sustainable living, the environment, design, and family life for websites, books and magazines. Ronnie is the creator of Econesting, and the managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie was named one of the Top Ten Living Green Experts by Yahoo. Ronnie lives in New York with her family.
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4 Ways to Prepare for Winter

4 Ways to Prepare for Winter

 

The official start of winter is about a month away, and there are some practical things you can do around your home and yard now to get ready for the cold. Here are a few simple ways to prepare for winter.

1. Stay warm by sourcing good firewood

If you have a woodstove or fireplace, you’ll surely want to stock up on high-quality, well-seasoned firewood. For tips on splitting and seasoning your own wood, or getting a fair price for wood you purchase, read How to Get the Best Firewood for Clean and Affordable Energy.

2. Set up an emergency kit in case of power outages or winter storms

Sure, when the first big storm is brewing, you can run out to the store with most other folks to stock up on supplies—or, avoid the headache, and get ready now. The no-nonsense tips in Emergency Survival Kits tell you everything you need to know about being prepared.

3. Winterize your garden tools

Around this time of year, you’re likely to come across quite a few tips on winterizing your garden, but what about your trusty garden tools? Take care now to get those tools ready for winter, and they’ll be around for many more years. Learn more by reading How to Winterize Your Garden Tools.

4. Set up a hoop house to grow veggies throughout winter

Like eating fresh veggies all year? Love the idea of picking greens in January? A simple hoop house may be just the thing for you! There’s still a little time to get set up. Find inspiration in the story of a backyard hoop house gardener who harvests loads of goodies all winter.

Happy preparing!

Shelley Stonebrook is an Associate Editor at Mother Earth News—North America’s most popular magazine about sustainable, self-reliant living—where she works on exciting projects such as Organic Gardening content and the Vegetable Garden Planner. Shelley is particularly interested in small-scale, local food production (and consumption), cooking, organic gardening and waste reduction. In her spare time, she shares recipes and gardening tips in her personal blog, The Rowdy Radish.
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Healthy Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Healthy Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

  • posted by Brandi, selected from Diets in Review

 

The day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday, is practically a food holiday too considering refrigerators across the country are still bursting with leftover stuffing, mashed potatoes and plenty of turkey. If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your size this holiday season, indulging in seconds and thirds of your favorite holiday dishes can really derail your efforts. As if one 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving meal wasn’t enough!

We don’t want that food to go to waste any more than you do, so here are some ideas to break up the monotony of that roasted turkey without turning a one-day calorie fest into a weekend smorgasbord.

Turkey Quesadillas: Typically we think of quesadillas being filled with cheese, which equates to fat and calories. Try putting a healthy spin on quesadillas and top them with fresh salsa, which has practically no calories.

Hot Turkey Club Sandwich: After an indulgent dinner like Thanksgiving, keeping your diet simple the next day is the easiest way to stay on track. Prepare a simple club sandwich by layering roasted turkey, tomato, spinach leaves or romaine lettuce, and a smear of guacamole or avocados (instead of mayo) on two slices of whole grain bread.

Turkey Waldorf Salad: Instead of a rich, turkey salad laden with mayonnaise and calories, opt for a lighter version of Waldorf salad. Add leftover apples, raisins, and walnuts for a satisfying crunch.

Turkey Apple Pita: Instead of grazing aimlessly during your Black Friday lunch, add roasted turkey to a whole wheat pita topped with apple slices and your favorite vegetables for a little savory and sweet flavor.

Red Beans and Rice: Let simmer all day and then serve a piping hot bowl of this New Orleans favorite while you watch football. Add any leftover roasted turkey for a leaner addition than the traditional andouille sausage.

Of course, turkey isn’t the only thing left in the fridge. Here are a few other ideas for cleaning out without pigging out.

  • Cranberries. Add a tablespoon of fresh cranberry salad to a plain, honey, or vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt for a sweet way to start your morning. If you have leftover pumpkin pie filling you can do the same with it.
  • Stuffing. Put leftover stuffing inside acorn squash or bell peppers and bake for a simple and healthy dinner.
  • Vegetables. Any leftover green beans, carrots, celery, onions, or other vegetables should be saved while you’re preparing the meal. Toss it all in a stock pot, cover with water, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer on low for several hours. Then strain the liquid off and you’ve got a homemade vegetarian broth.
  • Potatoes. Use any remaining roasted red or sweet potatoes to make a delicious side with an omelet. Heat a skillet, mist with cooking spray, and cook until warm and slightly browned.

 

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Digestive Tips for Your Holiday Feast

Digestive Tips for Your Holiday Feast

  • posted by Care2 Healthy Living Guest Blogger

By Scott Blossom, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner

I recently watched the movie, “Melancholia,” by Lars Von Trier, and was struck by parallels, plot-wise, with the upcoming season of holiday feasting. For those of you who don’t know anything about the movie, it is about a wedding that happens on the eve of an astronomical disaster. The promises of love, unity, and family bonds are eclipsed by the presence of a rogue planet on a collision course for Earth. I know from first hand experience and observation that many a holiday feast, while gleaming with the promise of gathering and celebrating life with our beloveds, often ends with some in the party being eclipsed by a sort of gastronomical crisis!

Yes, I am being hyperbolic. Indigestion is not the end of the world. From an Ayurvedic perspective though, digestion is integral to virtually every aspect of our body/mind health- to harmony and balance as we know it.

The thing to keep in mind: you are not what you eat, you are what you digest.

Most people’s digestive capacity is similar to that of a small campfire. (There is, of course, a special subset of exceptional individuals, mostly adolescent males, who like wildfire can incinerate nearly anything that comes their way. I direct my commentary toward the rest of us.) Like a small campfire, the average human’s digestion is delicate: overload it and you smother it; feed it too little fuel and it dies; stir it too much or too little and it sputters. The key to good fire tending is to be a good observer and listener. Elemental fire knows what it wants and communicates its needs in the form of heat, radiance, and sizzle. Our internal digestive fire speaks its own sensual and intuitive language: that of gut feelings.

For successful digestive fire tending, at least from an Ayurvedic perspective, consider these images:

 

  • Heavy foods, like flesh foods, dairy, highly processed and intensely sweet foods are big logs. (Actually, dairy and intensely sweet foods, especially sweetened dairy foods like ice cream, are more like green or soggy logs, since they are the hardest to digest for most people.)
  • Nuts and legumes, which fall in the middle of the spectrum from heavy to light, are well-seasoned medium logs; their vegetable fat and protein content make them both easy to burn and substantial enough to burn for awhile.
  • Vegetables and fruits are light foods, easy to burn but quick to burn out. Fiber-rich foods like these are the sticks that keep the fire burning, that stir it up and keep air circulating within it (via healthy peristalsis and elimination patterns).
  • Judicious amounts of alcohol (apertif anyone?) and seasonings are your matches and kindling.

 

An experienced fire tender knows you need all of these items, in the right balance and timing, to have a good fire.

So how does our fire-making go wrong?

  • Heavy food offered to your internal digestive fire in excess can overwhelm it and produce indigestion by stifling the fire.
  • Insufficient heavy food and too much light food will weaken the fire by starving it.
  • Large amounts of strong spices, fried food, or alcohol will cause the fire to flare up, which may scorch the fire-tender. (Excess alcohol overheats and dampens the fire simultaneously.)

The key to tending the digestive fire is to learn to accurately identify the moment of satiation, the first signs of which are feelings of energy, satisfaction, and gratitude. Complications set in because most people, for a wide variety of reasons, take these first signs of satiation as a cue to eat more. In a Hollywood world, the film’s score would loudly alert everyone to the danger approaching in that the next plate of food or glass of wine that will upset the eater’s digestive harmony. In the real world the score, while clear enough if we listen carefully, is sometimes too subtle to detect.

Like most skills proficient tending of your digestive fire is best developed through personal trial and error. Useful suggestions may be found by reading about eating well but even the best theory requires verification. Personal experience and paying attention to how the crucible of your own stomach works are the only sure ways to knowledge. In my opinion, one of the best sources of insight in this regard is to tend an actual fire, from ignition to ashes, and draw your conclusions from direct observation and intuition. As you watch the interplay flame, air, fuel and smoke you may put yourself on a surer course to avoiding gastronomical collisions this holiday season.

Scott Blossom is an Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit www.DoctorBlossom.com to learn more about Ayurvedic food recipes, whole-food cleansing, and health consultations. He wants to thank his brother Michael for contributing to this article.

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A Curse May Truly Be Your Gift

A Curse May Truly Be Your Gift

Author: Lady Wolfwind

It is a glorious morning. I turn my face eastward to feel the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze on my face. I love this time of day. It is when the Goddess speaks the loudest to me. She helps prepare me for my day. I take a closer look at the mist that surrounds me. I can see each individual water droplet that make up the fog and the tiny rainbows created within each tiny sphere. I know that others only see the mist. The stillness is not silent. I hear the squirrels high in the trees scampering about and complaining noisily about the presence of my cats. Little Bit, my familiar, encircles my feet. The chickens are clucking and they are just now beginning to learn to crow. It brings a small laugh from within. There’s something more. Something else stirring. I need to quiet myself still more. Someone is trying to talk to me, to tell me something.

As I stand and softly gaze at the open fields that surround my house, I feel a presence. Maybe more than one. What is it they need to tell me? How will it affect my day? I’ve come to the conclusion that even if the news that they bring me is sad it is still welcome. The knowledge and understanding that they impart is still magical. I realize that not everyone can hear them; some can but don’t want to. Some want to but don’t know how. Even with the most patient teaching it takes a sharp mind to learn to feel the undercurrents of energy that flow all around you. Some students just can’t grasp it.

On this most beautiful of days I listen. Those who surround me today are friends and family who have passed to the other side. Today they share the news that there is a new member with them. An old friend whom I’ve shared so much joy. A friend who was too young to pass. A friend who had made poor choices in his life and they had cost him dearly. I stand and I listen. He is okay; he is among loved ones. It was his time to move on. I silently let a tear slide down my cheek. Even with the knowledge that he is safe I will still miss his presence here on this earthly plane. Somehow, the world seems a little lonelier.

I check my emotions today. I close off the thoughts and stifle the pain. Today is not a day I can grieve. I have responsibilities and people who rely upon me to be strong. People who trust me not to fall apart, to know when I can have the time to say my goodbyes properly. I gather my strength, lift my head and thank those who have brought me this news.

For a day and a half I carry this news with a heavy heart. I look up and I see their faces, I see them standing off in a distance smiling at me. They think I’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten. I simply have been too scared to say farewell. It seems that I’ve been surrounded by death all of my life. I started when I was fourteen and I stood beside my mother’s hospital bed and watched her take her last breath. It was soon followed by doctors giving me a form to sign to turn off the life support on my aging father, not knowing that while I was signing those papers one of my good friends was being killed in a motorcycle accident. For a day and a half I look around and they’re all there. Not in a crazy sort of way, but beckoning me to let them go.

For this day and a half I question why so many people I’ve known have passed. What have I done to have to learn this lesson so intimately? For years I didn’t get it. Then I asked myself, “What do all of these people have in common?” My parents aside, the answer struck me like a ton of bricks. I have learned this lesson because I have been doing what my Goddess has asked me to do. To befriend the less fortunate. To stand up for the underdog. To speak to those people who have lost faith in their selves. My gift, it seems, has been to try to save these people from their own thoughts of despair. When you look into their eyes you can see it. When you’re in their presence you can feel it coming in waves. Some of them are not even aware of why they do the things they do or why they make such poor choices. This is not a gift I would’ve chosen. I need to break the thought process that this is a curse as I had once thought in my younger mind.

Even in my teen-age years I befriended the ones who were always being picked on for being different. I became their advocate. I didn’t have the wisdom and insight that I have now. I didn’t know that with kind, guiding words I could change their view of themselves. Sometimes all you need to do is say, “You are so beautiful and worthwhile. The world is yours for the taking if you will only believe this.” I now know this power, this magic, if you will. The problem now is that I am no longer dealing with a young mind. I now deal with adults whose thought processes have dragged them to depths that will require a choice so radical that most cannot do it. It’s sad that so many are afraid of change. It’s sad that so many are afraid of what others will think and say. Somewhere, somehow, you must make them believe that this is their life to live and it doesn’t matter what others think or say. Just live your life to the fullest.

So amid all the pondering it is no wonder I have lost so many, even if not in death. The magic I create is sometimes heartbreaking when I have to watch a person I have given 110% of all of my energy to turn their back and walk away. It hurts deeply when after all of the work they still can’t even grasp the tiniest ray of hope within themselves. I have to battle old wounds carefully placed by mothers and fathers, neglect and labels repeated over and over until the person has become what they are told they are. I deal with people who are alcoholics and drug addicts, the unwanted, the unloved, the ones who can’t afford to feed themselves and their children. I used to think it was because they were lazy, now I understand that most of them carry scars that are too painful to heal. It is how they deal with life.

So, yes, I’ve lost many. I’ve lost many to suicide and car accidents involving drugs and alcohol. I’ve lost a few to heart attacks, like my most recent friend. He had been a former heroin addict who had been clean for years.

Don’t get me wrong. I learn so much from these people. I am not their savior. I am their friend. I don’t judge them or belittle them. I don’t have them to my house for dinner because I feel sorry for them. I genuinely like these people and I grow to love them. Some are just misguided kids left to find their own way. It’s always been a two way street.

Many people turn away from these people. They consider them losers or obstacles set in their path to success. It’s hard to befriend someone that is alone. People are afraid that they will steal from them or take something even if it is a piece of their heart. Most people think that these people made their bed so they must sleep in it. We have become so uncaring as a society.

So a day and a half later, I again stand in the morning’s rays and feel those around me. They know what I am about to do. They are here to thank me for being their friend. They put their hands upon me and let me feel the love they feel for me for believing in them so deeply when no one else would. I look at them all and today it is okay to grieve. Today I will face my fears and let them go. It’s well past time. Yes, the world will be a lonelier place without them, most people will never know because they could never see the beauty in each and every one of them. I know and that’s okay as I let the warm tears stream down my face. As I grow older I realize that this is indeed a gift, even when it hurts. To stand here and feel them surround me, to feel their love and the soul deep thanks is more than I need.

Today, I will take pause. Today, I will honor these people. They too were put here for a purpose, to learn and to touch our lives. I say my goodbye to each of them and allow myself to cry. The silence becomes still once again and I know that they have moved on. Little Bit has lain down beside me, quieted, although he eyes me carefully. I know that he has felt them to. I stoke his fur and he comforts me. Even through the pain I ask myself, “How is it that I was chosen to be so blessed?”

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Herb Use in Urban Witchcraft

Herb Use in Urban Witchcraft

Author: Elevander

Herbs play an integral role in Witchcraft and Wicca, whether it is in incense, natural healing, spellcraft or in ritual food, and they can literally be found all around us. But what about in the city? Practitioners living in the city may be forgiven for feeling out of touch with the harvesting and use of herbs, particularly if they do not have a garden or green space of their own. This is understandable, but as I myself have discovered; where there is a will there is a way! So I have developed my own methods of gathering and using herbs, some are traditional and some are adapted to suit modern life. Hopefully, this article will help others wherever they live to bring the power of herbs into their home.

First of all, there are some basic ground rules to follow when harvesting herbs:

1. Never take more than you need
2. Take care not to damage or disturb other plants and wildlife in the area
3. Do not take more than one third of an individual plant’s growth, or anything from very young plants that may not recover.
4. Be safe. If it is a secluded or out of the way place you are going to, then be sure to let someone know where you are going.
5. Always use areas that are public, or that you have permission to be in. Do not trespass on private property.

The first thing to consider is where you can find herbs. The truth is that you can find them everywhere. Many of the roadside trees have their uses (for example, the Hawthorn, crat gus oxyacantha, is a sacred tree closely associated with the Goddess, and is used in rituals as well as for protection and fertility magick) . Garden ‘weeds’ are often incredibly useful (Dandelion, taraxacum officinale, can be used for psychic and divinatory purposes. Dock, rumen obtusifolius, for protection, or Avens, geum urbanum, has a wide range of protective uses and can repel or guard against negativity) .

A wide variety of herbs can be found in natural areas of city parks, on commons, waste-ground, and of course areas of countryside. Once you have an idea of where to look, you need to have an idea of what to look for. In terms of magickal and remedial use, there are a good many books that have been written on the subject, a few of which I have included in the bibliography. These will give you an idea of what herbs can be used, what parts of the plant are needed and what they can be used for.

In practical terms it is important to be able to correctly identify the trees, plants and herbs you are looking for. I suggest first having a look through one or several of the listed books to get an idea of what you can, or think you may like to use. Once you have a rough idea in your head, purchase a good, detailed identification guide on native plants and trees. Some plants look very similar to others, and while we all may recognize a dandelion or a buttercup, eyebright or skullcap may feel more obscure. Armed with your guide and a notebook, go to your chosen area (s) and look closely at what is there. What seems like a patch of grass with a few weeds may actually turn out to be a valuable resource. Make a note of all the plants and trees that you find, perhaps making a note of where to find it if the name rings a bell from your earlier research.

If the area is large, or there are several, then it may take a few visits to get a good idea of what you can find there. Also, remember that the natural world is constantly changing, and so there may be different plants at different times of year, and whether you can harvest seeds, fruit or leaves will also be dependant on the season, so renew your research regularly. When you have done this you will be able to review your list of what you need against what is available to you. Then you are ready to harvest.

Being properly prepared before you set off will ultimately save you time in the long run. You will need some sort of container to carry the harvested herbs in. Ideally it should be made of a natural material, but don’t worry if you have to resort to a carrier bag. You will also need your notebook, identification guide, working knife or boline, and offerings to leave in payment of what you have taken (Common offerings are gemstones, a few grains of salt, a pinch of tobacco, or a hair from your head) . A key part of harvesting herbs is in the method by which you do so. The herb has within it the innate abilities for which we use it, but these can be strengthened and amplified by our own intent as we work with them, and the plant should always be harvested in a way that is respectful to the plant and the earth for the sacrifice it has given us. A generalized harvesting method is described here:

• Locate the desired plant or tree.
• Cup your hands around the herb and take a moment to clear your mind, and connect with the energy field of the plant.
• Say these or similar words aloud or in your head; it is intent not volume that matters: “Hail tree/plant/flower of [name of herb] I ask that I may harvest some of your growth/flowers/fruit/seeds in the service of the Lady and Lord, and for the benefit of others”.
• If the plant’s energy feels willing, then harvest what you need using a sharp knife, and preferably using a single stroke. If the plant does not feel willing then do not take anything from it, either try again another day or move on to a different plant.
• Place your offering within the plant/tree or buried at the foot of it in the earth and say these or similar words: “I thank you and recognize your sacrifice, and leave this offering in payment for what has been taken and in honor of the earth”.
• The harvesting ritual is done.

The easiest and one of the most practical ways of storing your herbs is by drying them. Tie each herb individually in a bundle, or spread out on sheets of greaseproof paper, making sure you label them with the name, date, and location they were harvested from. Then either hang or place them in a warm (but dry) , dark place to dry out. On average this will take around two weeks, but keep checking on them. When they feel dry and crumbly to the touch then they are ready. At this point you can either store the parts whole or grind them to a powder using a pestle and mortar; it depends entirely on your preference and in what manner you will be using the herb. For instance, ground herbs are very useful when making non-combustible incenses, and so doing this beforehand will save time later. Store the herbs in glass jars (preferably opaque) away from sunlight, labeled with its information.

Each time you work with the herb (s) you should be concentrating on the properties you wish to empower and amplify within them. There are specific empowering rituals that can be used, but these are relatively easy to find or devise yourselves, so I will not devote time to them here. Herbs gradually lose their potency after harvesting; a general rule is that flowers can be kept for one year, while leaves, bark, fruits and seeds can be kept for two years. After this time any surplus should be returned to the earth and the stock replaced.

Another way to store your herbs is by infusing them within oil which can then be used for anointing etc. This is especially effective for flowers, but can be used for any herb. To do this, fill a jar with your chosen herb and add equal parts of olive and grapeseed oil making sure the herb is covered. Press out the air bubbles and store in a cool, dark place. For two weeks open the jar every few days to press out the air bubbles. Once this period has passed, seal and leave for a further four weeks before decanting into an opaque glass bottle and labeling.

The final area I wish to address is that of adaptation. Witchcraft has at its heart an ability to change and use whatever is available to the individual. Yes it’s nice to ‘do things properly’ but in an emergency you need to be able to utilize whatever is to hand, it’s no less effective, it’s simply more urgent. And so, on a smaller scale, can we be resourceful when it comes to ingredients. When looking over any spell or recipe etc. that contains items you do not have, ask yourself whether there is something you have that will do the same job. Consider what role or properties the ingredient is embodying and then review the properties of the herbs available to you; there may be a simple substitution you can make.

Grow your own herbs and plants to widen your options, use a plot in the garden or grow them in pots on windowsills if this is more suited to your lifestyle or circumstances. Find your local pagan/new age store or market stall and see what items they have to offer, they may even be able to order things for you if you request them. If there isn’t a stockist near you then try looking online, often stores in other cities will have a mail order service that you can utilize. Finally, at a pinch, you can buy dried herbs from the local supermarket or store. There are those in the Craft that say you must never do this because they won’t be effective, and to be fair there is some truth in this as you don’t know how long they have been there, and they won’t have been harvested in a ritual way, so I stress that this should probably be kept as a last resort. If you do choose to do this then make sure you empower the herbs properly and effectively, and use them relatively quickly as you do not know the time of harvest.

I hope that this article has been useful to people, and I welcome any feedback readers may have. So go out, experiment and explore the world you live in. Above all, have fun.

In love and light, blessed be

Elevander



Footnotes:
Bibliography:

Beyerl, P. (1998) A Compendium of Herbal Magick, Phoenix Publishing, USA

Beyerl, P. (1984) The Master Book of Herbalism, Phoenix Publishing, USA

Cunningham, S. (1982) Magical Herbalism; the Secret Craft of the Wise, Llewellyn, USA

Gregg, S. (2008) The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants, Fair Winds Press, Singapore

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I Love The Craft, Charmed, and Practical Magic…Wait, I’m A Fluffy Bunny?

I Love The Craft, Charmed, and Practical Magic…Wait, I’m A Fluffy Bunny?

Author: Celeste

I doubt there is one person in the school I go to that doesn’t know that I’m a Pagan—or, as the part of the student body that don’t like me call me, “witch bitch.” This just past school year, my junior year, I made an attempt to clear up rumors by being interviewed by the school newspaper about my spirituality. I explained it (excluding words such as witchcraft, spell, magic, and Wicca of course) and hoped that it would make people see me in a new light. Unfortunately, because the aspiring journalist wrote it in such a way that made me sound very melodramatic (and put quotes around things I didn’t say!) I think it just added fuel to the fire.

But anyway, now that the background is out of the way, let’s get back on the subject at hand.

I like to view myself as a very intelligent, well-rounded, open-minded individual. Since day one, I’ve researched and researched and researched everything I could. Within the first week, I knew what a ‘fluffy bunny’ was, and I was determined not to be one. Right from the get-go, I knew magic wasn’t like in the media. I knew vampires and werewolves and dragons and other fantastical creatures like that weren’t real, although I certainly wished they were.

I had my fluff moments here and there despite all the research and work I put in, but don’t we all? I’m past that now, and although I don’t really self-identify as a Wiccan or a Witch any longer, that’s the label that’s stuck because I used to be very…. out there. Hence the fluff. So, rumors were thus spread, especially when I got to high school, and I became known as “witch bitch” to some, “the witch” to others, and still others just didn’t care. ( I appreciated those still others.)

So, anyway, in reference to the title. First, it was The Craft. My buddy Kat introduced it to me first, since she adores it. And I really liked it, too. Sure, many people think it’s a terrible movie, but I thought it was really good. Besides, you can only expect bad graphics and actors from a 90s movie about witches.

After The Craft was the lovely Practical Magic. Who doesn’t love this movie? Not only does it have great actresses, but also it’s a great love story and a great example of the fact that things like curses only work if you believe in them. The whole placebo effect thing.

And of course, there’s Charmed. I’m almost finished watching the entire series—I’m on the fifth episode of the eighth season now. And I love it. I think it’s hilarious. And even though the graphics and actors/actresses are even worse than in The Craft, it’s so addicting that you can’t help but love it. My mother and my 8-year-old sister love it as well.

Now, like I’ve mentioned, I like to view myself as a very intelligent person. I’m no longer “out there” about my spirituality. I don’t even wear a pentacle anymore: I wear a pretty little triskele. I get complimented on it all the time. If someone asks me what religion I am, I tell them I don’t like to put a label on my beliefs, but I do believe there is a divine out there, that it’s called by many names, and that I basically try my best to work in harmony with the earth and the universe.

If I know for a fact that the other person is of a like mind, I tell them that I’m an Eclectic Neo-Pagan. I don’t bring Neo-Pagan or New Age centered books with me to school unless I’m passing them on to a friend who wants to borrow it. I don’t talk very much about it, either, simply because there’s nothing to talk about. My experiences are my own and I don’t need to share them. I don’t shout my thoughts and feelings from the rooftops like I used to. I’ve become a much quieter, peaceful, and—because I’ve settled down with my spirituality—much more confident and centered. People respect me a lot more now, and even the rumors have seem to have settled down.

So, one day I was talking to a friend about TV shows we like, and I said my and my family love to watch Charmed. He snorted and said, “Yeah, ‘cause it’s about witches, right?”

Huh?

I ignored the comment and mentioned another TV show I like (House, but that’s not the point here) , but it left me wondering what people think of me when it comes to the kind of media I like. Do people really think I only like The Craft, Charmed, and Practical Magic—and Harry Potter, but who doesn’t love Harry Potter? —because they’re about witches? Do I come off as fluffy bunny simply because I don’t hate the fantasy genre that is filled with vampires, witches, wizards, fairies, and other creatures?

I know there’s really nothing I can do about besides not mention the kind of media I like, but it still irks me. And it really gets me thinking about assumptions within the Pagan community, too. But here, it’s almost reversed. You’re ostracized if you DON’T love those kinds of things. Oh, but you can’t be “out there” with it. Except if you’re at a Pagan gathering. Then you can be “out there”.

But you all know what I’m talking about. It’s been discussed in several different articles on here before. I don’t need to go over the whole thing again. I really just wanted to blow off some steam.

I’m really just tired of the fluffy bunny thing. Okay, I admit, I used to use the fluffy bunny label all the time. Sometimes I still slip up and use it. I’m really trying not to, and it’s because I’m trying to get rid of that assumption that I’m fluffy bunny because of the kinds of TV shows and movies I like. Or books. Because I love the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan, too.

They’re fiction, people. We all know they’re fiction. Granted, there are those out there who don’t think they’re fiction, but those people are much more few and far between than we think they are. We aren’t like rabid Twilight fans that convert to Cullenism and think that they’re vampires, too.

Just because someone loves The Craft, Charmed, and Practical Magic DOES NOT mean that they believe witchcraft is just like that. I wish more people would understand that.

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Pagans: Loved, Yet Misunderstood

Pagans: Loved, Yet Misunderstood

Author: Davina Sullivan

“We are loved, yet misunderstood.”

Within the last few months, I have recently explained to my friends and family that I am a Pagan, and more than proud to say so. I have been asked so many questions sense then, it’s unbelievable. However, I’m glad that they asked because I’ve realized that many people in general has such a high misunderstanding, that we Pagan’s are judged unfairly. I have the opportunity to be able to help others understand and not judge us based on the word of others.

I was raised in a Baptist family, therefore, a great many of my relatives were upset, confused, hurt, or a combination of all three. My mother particularly, believed that being a Pagan was the devil’s way of tricking us into worshipping him, specifically because of the pentagram. I calmly explained to her that yes, the five-point star originated from the Pagan religion. After, that same star also became the Star of Bethlehem, which represents Jesus’ birth and carnation in the Christian religion. The bible explains this in the book of Matthews in chapter two. Lastly, Satanists took the five-point star and turned it upside down to claim as their own.

The image of the devil was the most difficult questions to answer. Even though I had explained that the image of Satan also originated from a Greek God, the Horned God named Pan. He has horns as well as hooves and carries a flute. That is where Satan’s image originated. Many didn’t want to hear my explanations or did not believe it to be so. Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I only talk of the questions that people ask.

Another explanation that was quite interesting to give was the use of magic. I was asked questions such as, “How do you do magic?” “Why do you think magic is real?” “Don’t you think that God is the only one that can bring magic?” There was one question that I found very surprising, which was, “Will you teach me to do magic?”

When I was asked how to do magic, I simply explained that magic is just channeling what is already there. You are working as one with the elements of the earth to bring the God’s and Goddesses into your heart and soul to walk together into the Divine. This also brought questions about. However, I truly believe that no one can answer what the Divine is but you, and only when you feel it.

Those that has asked me why I believe magic to be real, this was the easiest explanation of all. Every time I answer this question, I smile and reply, “Because I’ve felt it. I’ve been there. I’ve become one with magic and have become one with The Divine.” Some are confused at this point, but the answer to this specific question is something only you can answer for yourself.

Many were respectful, many horrified at my response to God being the only one that can bring magic into my life. I respect those that live by the bible and God’s word. Though, I truly feel the connection with the Pagan God’s and Goddesses. My personal Goddess, Isis, has brought a light and a great sense of fulfillment into my life. I call upon her often and the magic that I have done and experienced is unexplainable. For someone who does not believe magic to be true, it will sound like nonsense to them. Until they experience magic for themselves and can answer that same question for me, there is nothing that I could say to them about working with Earth Mother to do magic.

There was one person and one person only who asked me to teach her magic. She is a very good friend of mine. I explained a few basics of my religion, and explained to her that being a witch and learning of magic by doing your own personal studies and research is the first step. Being a witch is something to be taken very seriously and to understand every aspect of everything or any spell before attempting to actually performing one. I also explained that I have seen those dabble in black magic, and that is something that will bring you sorrow and pain in the long run. ‘An ye’ harm none, do as ye’ will.’ I most defiantly expressed how important it is to keep the Three Fold Law in mind.

The purpose for me writing this paper is to express to anyone that is willing to listen that you should always be proud of who and what you are. It has taken me 24 years to find my path because it is sometimes difficult to step away from what you are so accustomed to and be able to search for your true self.

Religion, regardless of what it may be is a big part of every one person’s life. To lie and hide from your self is the most painful lie that anyone could tell. To be a witch is hard, it is difficult, it can be stressful and it can seem almost impossible to be accepted by society at times. In today’s world, yes, we need to be in society in some way, shape or form. Just remember, we are no better, nor are we any worse than any other person that may walk this glorious earth. Paganism is rejected by many, but accepted and loved by so many more. We have support and family to help us through these times.

Today, we have the wonderful world of technology! Take advantage of it. Witchvox.com is only the start. Wiccantogether.com is a lot like a myspace.com page for Wiccans. There’s plenty of ways on the Internet, not to mention the people around you that you have no idea are even there to help you.

I cannot express enough how strongly I believe that there are many that are afraid to be their true selves because of societies opinions of our religion. Be strong, stand tall, and be proud of who you are. Please, help, love and support those who need us.

In conclusion, we are loved, yet misunderstood. This is not our fault; this is our pride. I’m more than willing to help those who are misunderstood to understand. No matter the outcome may be, I am who I am. I’m being true to myself, and that is what is most important in my opinion.

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