31 August 2010


With September just around the corner, I'll be entering into my second month as a blogger! Obsessive-compulsive as I can be about some things, I want to do this whole blogging thing right. Thus, dear readers, please let me know what topics you would like me to discuss or focus on for this next month. I've put a poll in the sidebar to the right to make responding super quick and easy; however, if you'd like me to discuss a topic that is not listed in the poll (I didn't strain my brain too much when coming up with topic ideas, so it's a rather short list), then feel free to email/comment/etc any other suggestions! Thank you, and I hope the remaining hours of your August are blessed, joyful, and full of light (or, if you prefer, summer rain).

Prosperity - Part 2

Highlighters: Not just for notetaking!
First and foremost, please forgive me for any flow, spelling, grammar, or other errors in this post. I didn't have time to edit. Secondly, I know it’s been almost two weeks since Prosperity Part 1, but it’s been very hectic for me with academics kicking into full swing along with my various duties. Nevertheless, here it finally is! The second (and final, for now, at least) portion of my thoughts on prosperity magic!

I’m functioning under the assumption that many practicing Pagans would disagree with me on this one, but I think it’s silly to perform magic as a means of gaining material wealth. There are tons of grimoires out there, both online and in book form, that imply otherwise and thus, provide tons of spells for acquiring more money. However, I still think it’s silly. I’m not going to petition the Universe to grant me more cash, because whether or not I have enough dough to feed my Starbuck’s addiction and wear shiny things is not, incidentally, the Universe’s problem. It’s my problem. However, there are some spells and rituals and prayers (more up my alley than spells, after all) that could facilitate this endstate, without directly asking for more money (which, again, seems silly to me).

Thus, if I ever feel the need to weigh down my pockets with more change, I think I’d pursue more practical--and by practical, I mean mundane--methods, such as oh, I don’t know, looking through the want ads for a new job. However, in order to facilitate the practical method, which is what I consider to be the purpose for magical practice anyway, I see no problem in petitioning for certain things, such as increased energy to help you in your pursuit of prosperity, a successful hunt (this is perhaps what I would use to ask Diana for help, as she is, after all, a goddess of the Hunt), et cetera. Depending on what I was asking for specifically, whether good luck, increased energy, a successful hunt, the correspondences I’d choose would likewise vary. For energy, I’d use energetic scents--perhaps ones with a citrusy base, or a bright lemon scent, even a fresh pine--and equally energetic colors, like yellow and orange. As these colors are similarly associated with air and fire, they seem all the more appropriate to me. I’m not above resorting to neons and highlighters, either. A spell for an energy boost could be as simple as taking a highlighter or other brightly colored pen and writing down the goals you need the energy boost for--or even just a few words that energize you, or a prayer to a sun god you feel close to could also work--and then offering up those words to the flames of a candle. If you have the luxury of a cauldron, you can toss the pieces of paper onto a burning charcoal. Regretfully, I can’t add a cauldron to my collection of magical goodies until I get out of school. Apparently they’re a fire hazard. I really can’t wait to start expanding my domestic expertise to include cauldron cooking, however!

And on that note, I must return to my academic pursuits. Currently I’m reading Plato’s Republic for a political philosophy class, then after that it’s working problems for nuclear engineering, then after that I have to read some case descriptions and opinions for my law class…and then maybe eventually I’ll get to sleep, but that’s unlikely.

29 August 2010

Claudio Sanchez is AWESOME.

Coheed & Cambria

So the concert I went to last night was absolutely amazing, and even though I had to drive more than six hours to get there & back, it was definitely worth the trip. The show took place in a really sketchy and random section of town outside Pittsburgh. In fact, the venue shared a building with a Goodwill store. No joke. The peeling ceiling led an appropriately apoclyptic atmosphere, thereby justifying the location choice. Under normal circumstances, evidently the venue is a skating rink. I didn't even know those were still in use. I haven't been in one since elementary school, and I'm pretty sure the one we used to go to then shut down ten years ago. In the meantime, Coheed & Cambria is still awesome, and after seeing Claudio Sanchez and his insane hair in person (we were maybe ten feet from the stage!), I think I may have to track down the comic books that tell the sci-fi story of The Amory Wars, which serves as the plot behind the music. Gotta love concept albums :) I own all of their CDs, so the comic books seem to be the logical next stemp.

However, that's going to have to wait another pay check or two. All my spare income is currently invested, so none of it's really spendable at the moment. More on prosperty to (appropriately, so it seems), follow...

27 August 2010

It's been a while...

Random doodle from this summer
Sorry I haven't posted all week...I've been absolutely swamped between classes, work, more work, more classes, and in general not sleeping and having way too much to do. Barely have time to update my facebook status, and that takes all of 30 seconds...So, to any readers I may have (I figure you're few and far between, or perhaps even nonexistant at this point): I apologize. I'll increase efforts to create posts of value after this weekend.

This weekend I will be at a concert of one of my favorite bands :) I'm soooo excited for it, even though I'm going with just one other person (which makes things slightly awkward). So that's where I'll be for the next few days, and then it's back to school-work-school-work-working out-trying to keep my head out of water. I'll make it. I'll post something cool, pinky promise.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy the little drawing to the left. I tend to name all of my doodles (especially since most of them are depictions of people) and this one felt like a Belladonna to me.

22 August 2010

Prosperity - Part 1

Green Bamboo Candles from Aromatic Scented Candles
This weekend I got to spend a lot of quality time with my family, which got me thinking about some different things. I ate dinner with my parents and one of my brothers at a quaint-yet-elegant restaurant, which was also quite reasonably priced considering the quality of food and atmosphere. It was a celebratory dinner, so we spent a little more money than we normally would (especially in these economic circumstances). We bought three appetizers, chardonnay…not to mention the main meals…and the entire time, I kept looking at the prices and keeping track in my head, even though I knew I wouldn’t be the one paying. My father always insists on paying for me at meals when he’s around, even though I am otherwise emancipated and self-sufficient. And that’s what got me thinking. Prices, the economy, prosperity. Why is everyone freaking out about the economy? What is everyone afraid of? Should I do any rituals for prosperity, and if so, how? Can you do prosperity rituals for someone else?

First and foremost, my understanding of the inner workings of the economy is minimal. Let’s just say that the Economics class I took as a sophomore was not my best grade during that semester, and I still maintain the mentality that all I need to know about economics is how to shop online, which I already do rather effectively. Too effectively, some might say. However, when Uncle Sam pays for your education as well as your profession, it’s not always easy to remember that others’ jobs are less secure. I get paid to go to school. When I graduate this May, I have a guaranteed job for as long as I want it, and furthermore I’ll earn significantly more money than I do now (which is already higher than the average for my age-group). In short, I live comfortably, and will continue to do so potentially until retirement. Of course, there is the very distinct possibility that I may pay back Uncle Sam with my life. That fact tends to disintegrate some of the guilt I feel for being paid to serve, because that’s what I do. I serve.

Thus, due to my fairly stable personal economic situation, I have never done a prosperity spell. It never seemed appropriate to me, because money has never been a factor in my life. My hesitation likely also stems from the mentality that doing magic for self-gain is inherently wrong, or at least selfish, despite the prevalence of a “do whatever you want, provided that it doesn’t hurt anybody” attitude in modern Pagan literature. I think my mentality was formed by watching too much Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch at a young, impressionable age. Both of those shows emphasize that performing magic to improve one’s situation unreasonably, rather than for the greater good, leads to negative and sometimes even dire consequences. Whether or not this is true, valid, or otherwise should color my thinking…I’m undecided. Any feedback would be most welcome! I’m still looking at the different facets of this and trying to figure out what, precisely, I think about the rightness/wrongness of performing spells/magic/rituals/prayer centered about self-gain. Furthermore, as I’ve said elsewhere on my blog, I don’t really do *spells* anyway. I just kinda pray, and then things just kind happen. Sometimes.

However, I seem to be in the minority here, at least that’s what my extensive online browsing of Sacred Mists and Azure Green and other magical supply stores seems to imply. There are quite a few spell kits dedicated to prosperity. Many of these kits include objects with correspondences which I tend to utilize in my rituals for quite different purposes, although I can see a correlation. In case there was any confusion, green is my favorite color. For crying out loud, just look at my blog layout. Yet while green seems to be the color correspondence of choice for prosperity, I tend to associate “green” with more nature/plant/earth/protection/hunting correspondences than with prosperity/money. First of all, money may be greenish in America, but I’ve traveled enough to see this is not always the case elsewhere. Gold as a color for prosperity feels much more appropriate to me. Secondly, our money, if you look at it closely, isn’t even that green.

While I would love to continue musing about prosperity, it’ll have to wait until later. I’m planning on actually going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight and getting up early to catch a run before breakfast formation. Thus, more to follow.

18 August 2010

New Nails & Statuettes

Incidentally, these are not my nails. Found the picture
on a google image search and liked it...
In an attempt to further my connection with my deities, I’ve fashioned some tiny statuettes of their primary familiars out of modeling clay and rhinestones. I had some clay left over after I made the broach to pin the “wolf-skin” cloak as part of my Halloween costume, so I thought I would put the extra to good use. I also *finally* brought my paints up from the basement trunk room, where they were buried in my locker for the summer; thus, I can paint the unfinished figurines sometime next week. The rest of this week will be filled with reading, hair cut appointments, lectures, getting my class ring, and going-away parties for my friends leaving on semesters abroad. My family is coming up as well to watch the ceremony and attend the other formalities, and we have dinner reservations for Friday night at this cute little restaurant that overlooks the river, although I have no idea how I’ll entertain them Saturday morning and afternoon. My point, however, is that this will be a very busy week and weekend, so any painting is not likely to take place until next week. At least with the delay I have plenty of time to plan what the final product of my familiar figurines will look like. Currently my Raven, in the all-white clay, looks more like a dove…an entirely inappropriate representation for the Morrighan. At least the Wolf, even in plain white, still looks canine and feral. I currently have them resting on top some of my candle holders (the Raven is perching on the black candle for protection, and the wolf is sitting on an orangey-gold candle for spirit and vision work). The candles seemed like good enough temporary homes. I need to get my hands on some wire to make some feet for the Raven still, as she looks a little bit ridiculous without them. Perhaps I can convince my parents to snag some wire from my beading/craft collection back home when they come up tomorrow. I’ll post pictures when the statuettes are finished. I’m not a fan of showing the process of my art, just the final products! The in-between stages are never pretty enough to satisfy my vanity :)

Got my hair cut today, as well as my nails done, in anticipation of the weekend! Despite being in the Military, I still like being a girl, and salon time is a great way to fulfill that. Plus the beauty salon we have on post is pretty good. One of my roommates and I booked appointments and walked down after lunch. Everyone was really nice, and they did a good job (which is way more important, in my book). Now, that I’ve finally got some free time, I’m going to squeeze in some yoga. I would go for a run, but it’s too hot outside and I’m simply not that dedicated. The half-marathon isn’t until October, so I have plenty of time to get my mileage back up…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Yoga time with Rodney Yee DVDs it is!

17 August 2010

New Perfumes and Ancient Huntresses

A photograph of Catal-Huyuk
All my courses this semester are law, history, or political science (except for one little course on nuclear reactor design, which should be fun)…so I’ll be reading a lot of books and writing a lot of papers. The reading list for one of my politics classes is just ridiculous, but I’m looking forward to it. Lots of classic texts, which is right up my alley. In other recent life-news, I’m trying out a new perfume from and absolutely love it already. It’s a little strong for day to day wear--especially here--but it smells even better than their soap version, which I purchased a few years back and which regretfully they don’t sell online anymore. The nearest stores are in NYC for me, so I do most of my shopping there online. Either way…love the new perfume. I wish they carried the scent in other products. I don’t really have a lotion I can pair it with that won’t clash, but I’m looking into some unscented varieties.

In the mean time, I haven’t posted any excerpts from the Amazon Legacy thesis, so here’s another one :) I’ll move on to a new topic eventually; I just haven’t gotten bored yet with Russian mythology as it relates to my feminist viewpoints yet. This excerpt is a little longer, but there didn’t seem a good place thematically to break it up. It discusses the roles/views/expressions of the Goddess and Goddess-worship by the various tribes, groups, and peoples who came to settle what later became Russia.

Modern Russia is a vast country, spanning two continents and more than a few time zones; the ethnographic and cultural heritage of those who populate such a wide land varies no less than does the geography of the land itself. The roots of the Russian people draw from Nordic hunters, Slavic farmers, and even Greek merchants. Each wave of settlement brought with it new faces, new customs, new gods, which were absorbed by and incorporated into the existing structures long before the adoption of Orthodox Christianity. According to Joanna Hubbs, a professor at Hampshire College, Russia is a “cradleland for the female statuettes,” which were carved in the Paleolithic period, and while the specific significance of the figurines is difficult to determine, they nevertheless express the concept of female fertility as innately divine. Hubbs also asserts that “the oldest form of religious veneration, shamanism, discovered among the Nordic hunting tribes, was once dominated by women.” Women were held as the “sources of shamanic power” in Siberia, and—similar to Baba Yaga’s hut in the tale of Vasilisa the wise—served as guides and initiators for the elect.

The Nordic tribes who settled in Siberia and other parts of the extensive North likely worshiped a huntress goddess, a “mother of fire and ruler over earth and sky,” as did the Slavs who settled in the Balkan region. In fact, the findings at Anatolian Çatal Hüyük, dating from 7000 BC, as well as at Tripol’e, reveal societies in transition, evolving from hunter-gatherers to farmers. At these sites archeologists have unearthed the bones of women buried in shrines and caves dedicated to female divinity. Originally the depictions of the goddess in such shrines and caves were abstractly drawn, inclusive of symbols representing the earth and sky, while later the depictions evolved to include masculine symbols around and emerging from the goddess figure and held the goddess contained between earth and sky. The changing goddess depictions suggest the “introduction of plow agriculture and the assertion of masculine power and potency: the bull enters the field; the ploughman spills the seeds.” However, until around 3500 BC when Indo-European nomads invaded and destroyed the farming settlements at Tripol’e, women were still the chief priestesses of the goddess cult. Before the invasion, the tribes were most likely organized into matriclans, but afterwards the patriarchal nomads attempted to assert their own religious and social systems over the existing ones. Thus, the goddess cult came to assimilate male deities, perhaps as “the bull or the horse consorts who serve her.”

Further south in the Caucasus mountain region, a supreme goddess of the hunt was also venerated. The Caucasian hunters named their goddess Dali, whose son was Gadagatl. While hunting is no longer an economically necessary endeavor in the majority of the world, in the mountains of the Caucasus many hunting traditions endured until modern centuries. Folk songs, particularly those sung during the round dance, have aided the preservation of this hunting lore. Many of these songs “indicate that a matriarchal religion was gradually replaced by a patriarchal one,” reminiscent of the transitions that occurred in Siberia and the Balkans. For example, before setting out hunters observed various rituals, such as lighting a candle at dawn, and they even avoided conjugal relations with women for a set time before a hunt, lest they make the hunting goddess jealous. They also believed that this goddess could not only control the animals under her protection, but could take their form.

Myths from the steppes tell a similar story. During the first millennia of the modern era, the Scythians reigned over the Russian Steppes. One of the origin myths of Scythia describes the deal that Herakles makes with a goddess of the hunt. Pausing to rest by the Dnieper River, Herakles meets the Mistress of the Woodland, who steels the horses from his chariot. She offers to release the horses only if Herakles agrees to become her lover. Once he complies, she bears him three sons, one of whom becomes the first Scythian king. This tale also seems to suggest the replacement of matriarchal structures with patriarchal ones, with the Mistress of the Woodland symbolizing the former way of life and Herakles and his three sons, her replacement.

During the sixth century, when the Greek merchants began to colonize the lands around the Black Sea, the local goddesses blended with the Greek Athena, Artemis, and Demeter-Kore. The native civilization likewise became associated with “the man-slaying Amazons […] who venerated the huntress goddess.” According to descriptions likely written by male historians of the time, “[t]hese warrior women, dressed in animal skins, were organized into matriclans and were said to mate once a year and to kill their male offspring.” While in actuality it is unlikely that they slaughtered their sons, the discovery of mounds in which armed women were buried as well as temples dedicated to “a Great Goddess served by armed priestesses” appears to validate the Amazonian associations near the Black Sea.

David Hunt, “The Association of the Lady and the Unicorn, and the Hunting Mythology of the Caucasus” (2003)
Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture (1993)

15 August 2010

My article got published on Witchvox!

My article has already been published on Witchvox! It's not particularly long, or particularly detailed, but it's only been about two weeks since I submitted it, so I was surprised to see it published so quickly. It's about the moment when I didn't really make a conscious decision to go *public* with my beliefs, but mainly just decided not to lie about it when asked directly in front of a crowd of my peers...and then it turned out far better than I expected. It was that experience, as much as anything else, that inspired me to start a blog and get my voice out there...even if no one is really listening yet. The article on Witchvox, I think, will help. I know I check the site weekly. Hopefully I won't get too much hatemail :) but at least that will mean someone read it! Here's the link to the article: Open Doors. As of a few seconds ago...243 people have already read it! Goodness, I am such a nerd to be excited about this, but fear of being a nerd has never stopped me before so I won't let it curb my enthusiasm now.

13 August 2010

Amazon Legacy: Halloween Costume Crafting

Xena: Warrior Princess is one of many inspirations
behind my latest Halloween costume choice
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, long before I associated the secular celebration of candy and playing dress-up and harassing your neighbors with Samhain; thus, I take both versions of the holiday very seriously. Especially the playing dress-up part. I’ve made my costume every year since I was in second grade, apart from the last two years when I’ve been too busy at school to have time. However, this year, I’m determined to make my costume again, and I’m going all out. I’ve already bought the fabric (it’s shipped to my parents house, so when they come up this weekend, they’re bringing it for me) and then the other supplies I’ll need have already shipped to my PO Box at school. I had an excellent time unpacking the craft supplies (to include some fabric paint, sew-on gems, black ribbon, grommets, and new titanium fabric shears) yesterday. As you can tell, I’m quite excited.

I decided this year to make a costume that I can reuse, and not just a costume, but one that--with my newfound openness about my spirituality--aligns with my beliefs and the archetypes to which I ascribe. Thus, I’ve chosen to make a warrior outfit, slightly inspired by the ever glorious roll-model Xena. I loved that show when I was a little girl, and I still watch it. Eventually I’ll buy the boxed set on DVD, but that might have to wait for a few more paychecks. Until then, I’ll make due with my Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and Farscape collections…wow, I’m such a nerd. And a huge fan of Joss Whedon, as you can likely tell. Excellent director. The costume I’m making, however, will be a little more conservative than Xena’s usual garb and will also have a faux fur cloak to go with it. I’ll post pictures of the process once I start working on it. Just waiting for that fabric now.

In continuation of my feminist Russian thesis paper excerpts, here’s another one:

Vasilisa the Wise is not the only account of Baba Yaga, nor is it the only tale with a predominantly female cast. The mothers, sisters, wives, and grandmothers of heroes sometimes aid him in his journey, although more commonly they are the victims of the tale. The hero often faces a dragon or chases a firebird. The firebird itself is said to bear a woman’s face and sing with a woman’s voice. Combing their hair by riverbanks lounge the tragic rusalki, who sing like sirens from Greek epics and lure men to watery deaths. Also fixed prominently in the peasant folklore is Mati Syra Zemlya, or Mother Moist Earth, who makes the fields fertile with life-sustaining crops. It is clear that Russian skazki, or fairy tales, contain many examples of strong, intelligent, self-sufficient women.

In contrast to the prevalence of such figures in fairy tales and mythology, on first examination Russia appears to be a culture with a long patriarchal past. For example, according to 17th century social and religious thought, women were inherently sinful and unreliable, redeeming themselves only as mothers. The domestic realm, even after the Petrine revolution of the following century, remained the primary acceptable outlet for feminine energies. However, upon closer inspection, the folkloric presence of independent females left its mark on society, especially among the peasant class where those myths and tales were recounted with frequency. Furthermore, archeological evidence suggests that some of these female figures may be in part factually based, linking burial mounds full of armed women to descriptions of Amazonian matriarchy. While I am not denying that the principle structure of Russian society in recent centuries has been patriarchal in nature, I would argue that the legacy left by a history of feminine concepts of divinity and power is evident in the enduring mythology and later dual-faith, and in turn that mythology offered an example of strength and endurance from which real women were able to benefit.

Sources used in this excerpt:
Barbara Elpern Engel, Women in Russia, 1700-2000 (2004)
Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture (1993)

12 August 2010

Oregon Chai and Vasilisa the Beautiful

Ivan Bilibin, "Vasilisa the Beautiful"
I’m currently drinking tea, specifically an organic & fairtrade looseleaf Oregon Chai from my favorite tea source, and taking yet another break from cleaning and organizing my room, planning activities and such for my group at school, decorating boards, planning the décor or our new day room…it’s all very time consuming. At least my tea is delicious. It’s the little things in life that make it all worthwhile. I also thought I’d include a short recount and analysis of my favorite Russian fairy tale, the story of Vasilisa the Beautiful (Василиса Прекрасная). Incidentally, this served as the introduction to my thesis about a phenomenon I refer to as the “Amazon Legacy” in Russian myth and society. Hope you enjoy!

The soil of Russia is rich with folk tales and stories of heroes and their mystical journeys, tasks, and initiations. Some of the heroes in these stories are, in fact, not heroes at all, but heroines, and the stories themselves are saturated with feminine symbolism. An archetypical evil stepmother sends one such heroine, a young maiden named Vasilisa, on an errand to seek light from Baba Yaga after extinguishing the oven fire. When Vasilisa reaches Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged hut, the crone requires Vasilisa to complete several impossible tasks. If she fails, Baba Yaga will eat her and add the bones to her grisly collection. However, Vasilisa accomplishes everything required of her with the help of a magic doll, which was a gift from her biological mother on her death-bed and thus, a powerful conduit of her mother’s love. Baba Yaga, discovering that Vasilisa bears her mother’s blessing, sends her back home with a lantern fashioned from a skull. Once Vasilisa enters her own cottage, the skull shoots flames from its eye sockets and burns the evil stepmother to ashes.

The story of Vasilisa the Wise contains many symbols, such as the oven and the skull. For Russian peasants, fire was synonymous with life and the stove was linked to the ancestral spirits of the family. Thus, in letting the hearth fire die, the stepmother displays both irresponsibility and disrespect for her husband’s ancestors. The flaming skull given by Baba Yaga indicates the connection between life and death, and in punishing the evil stepmother, it represents a sort of justice. Vasilisa, despite her stepmother’s cruelty, is a dutiful daughter and fulfills her journey to seek light, which also represents knowledge in an initiatory sense. When Vasilisa first begins her journey, she knows little of the world beyond the threshold. At the end of her journey, the young maiden is ready to marry, for she has learned how “to imitate in the most exacting manner the tasks which will be her lot when she assumes the role of mother” and that the “power she must obey is also the power which she will one day exercise” (Hubbs).

Elizabeth Warner The Legendary Past: Russian Myths (2002)
Joanna Hubbs Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture (1993)

11 August 2010

Taking a break from cleaning to ramble about random things

My pet gargoyle guarding my books and candles and
wearing a good luck necklace I made out of peyote
beads, felt, leather, and aventurine.
The Academic Year is starting. We change rooms every semester at my college, so I've spent most of this week moving into my new room. Friday we'll have an inspection, but after that I can personalize things about it a little more. I have two roommates this semester, so the practice part of my religious preferences is going to have to be extra low key, since neither is very comfortable with it (both expressed the desire that I tell them before I'm about to do any bubbly cauldron stuff, so that they can leave me in peace...of course, I don't actually have a cauldron, so that won't be an issue). However, they don't object to my book collection or my candles. They are pretty, after all, plus they smell nice. I'm a huge fan of scented votives.

We also have a hot pink rug in the center of our floor, as well as a fridge and a table and a tiny bamboo plant, which despite my careful attention is already starting to die on me. I'm not very good at taking care of plants, so perhaps my dabblings in herbalism will continue to be limited to what I can buy from a store, at least until I develop some sort of green thumb. As of right now, both my thumbs are rather anti-green. There's also an adorable stone gargoyle sitting on my desk, which was a gift from a friend who graduated this summer. He had stumbled across it one day, abandoned in a trunk room on campus, and kept it in his room. However, since he's graduated and is now moving to Alabama, he didn't want to ship it down there. Knowing that I would give the gargoyle (named Gregory) a good home, he gifted him to me. I'm planning on giving Greg a good smudging and blessing so he can be a protector. The friend who gave him to me had many protective qualities as well, so turning his gift into a guardian feels right.

I need to get back to working on my room, especially if I want to fit in a work out this afternoon. Regretfully, I've been neglecting the physical side of my wellness for the past few weeks and not hitting the gym or the road nearly as often as I normally like to. Zumba classes start up again in September, so that will help, and one of my roommates & I are planning on running the Diva Race in October and the Disney Marathon in January, so that's some added motivation to get back in shape right there! I've run one marathon before, and it absolutely killed me because I didn't train enough beforehand. I finished, and I finished in about the time I expected, but it put me out of commission for a few weeks, and me knees haven't been the same since, so I'm hoping to follow a better training regimen this time and save my joints. I'm too young to wake up in this much pain every day!

09 August 2010

Introduction to the Amazon Legacy: Baba Yaga

"Baba Yaga" by Victor Vasnetzov
Let me preface this entry by saying that Baba Yaga is FASCINATING to me, and I could devote an entire blog to her alone, let alone one little entry. She’s an incredibly complex and unique figure of Russian myth, and fulfills the crone-aspect of the threefold Goddess. I wrote an entire 25 page-thesis on specifically her functions as an initiator of heroes and heroines in Russian fairy tales (skazki), and those 25 pages only touched on the other many roles she fulfills. However, I don’t want my blog to be limited in scope to one topic, even as fascinating as that one topic may be, so I’ll keep my overview of this beautifully complicated figure relatively brief.

Baba Yaga’s name translates essentially to “hungry hag,” and although this would be an apt epithet, there is some debate about the accuracy of the etymology. Baba was the name for any peasant woman of marrying-age and older and eventually developed into a slightly derisive slang. Baba Yaga, while she echoed many similarities of the day to day peasant life, was certainly no ordinary baba. For example, she used her mortar and pestle not only to grind grains and herbs, but to fly. Her broom she did use to sweep…but she used it to sweep up the tracks behind her as she flew, concealing her travels and ultimately, her origins. For this child-eating ogress--in some respects, she bears a striking resemblance to the forest witch who attempted to devour Hansel and Gretel, and it’s my personal theory that she is the inspiration behind said Germanic myth--has no origins. Baba Yaga likely traces back to a primeval goddess, but she has concealed her tracks with the broom so well, none now know for sure whence she comes. Second-most recognizable after her magical mortar and pestle, however, was Baba Yaga’s hut, which stood upon spindly chicken legs and resembled a human face with the door as a mouth and the windows as gaping, soulless eyes. To enter her hut sometimes meant death and sometimes meant the fulfillment of one’s destiny, but it always meant change.

Baba Yaga appears in hundreds of fairy tales, and in each story she wears a slightly different guise. In some, she is friendly, helpful, and even polite to the heroes of the tale. In others, she is a challenge the hero needs to defeat in order to fulfill his destiny. In most, she is the initiator who brings the hero or heroine, as the case may be, into adulthood, or at least to the next stage of life. She prepares them by challenging them with questions and riddles, with setting domestic tasks for them to perform, and sometimes by sending them on wild journeys to go-I-know-not-whither and bring-back-I-know-not-what. Baba Yaga is, therefore, consistently inconsistent. Whether she is a kindly old woman who nourishes her guest, or a furiously hungry crone who cooks and eats children and adds their bones to her fence, she ensures that good and evil alike get what they’ve earned. Most interesting, at least to me, is that no matter how many times a clever child tricks her into her own oven, Baba Yaga always returns to play her initiatory role in another tale.

07 August 2010

Introduction to the Amazon Legacy: Mati Syra Zemlya

Photo of Russian Peasant Farmers taken by Fr. Skrabal
In continuation of the introduction to some of my thesis work in Russian mythology, today we’ll talk about Mati Syra Zemlya, or Mother Moist Earth. Just a little forewarning: this entry reveals some of my linguistic nerd-dom, which knows no bounds, so be prepared for a lesson in language. I try to keep it simple, but I couldn’t help myself and incorporated a teensie bit of Cyrillic where I felt it was most appropriate. It seemed easiest to me to explain the concept of earth as feminine by analyzing the gender of the nouns themselves. Hope you enjoy!

The concept of “Earth” is completely feminine in Russian culture, even down to the gender of the noun земля (zemlya), which is feminine. There are legends of many heroes who, when instructed to “kiss their mother” as a challenge, knelt and reverently kissed the ground. Oaths sworn by the earth were considered as binding as, if not more than, oaths sworn by the bible. However, there existed no specific, limited figure of a mother earth personality, but rather Mother Moist Earth was the embodiment of the natural world, specifically the friendly, safe, familiar fields of peasant farmers. The woods and forests, which were the epitome of all things unfamiliar and therefore unsafe to early Russian peasantry, were the only exception to the earth as feminine. The word for “forest” is лес (lyes), which is masculine, and furthermore the spirits or demons said to be the guardians of the forest--leshie--were always male. Thus, what was comforting--the fields and farmlands represented by Mother Moist Earth--was feminine; what was dangerous and other--the forests, full of wild creatures and mystic unknowns like leshie and rusalki--was actually masculine. Nevertheless, as discussed in my previous entry the rusalki, who were dangerous as spirits of the forests and streams, were beneficial when lured into the fields by the rites of Rusalia.

Even though Mother Moist Earth possessed no physical, humanoid body like the other deities and spirits of Russian paganism, she was no less revered. In fact, she was arguably the most revered of the Slavic pantheon, because she was the mother of all life who nourished and supported her people, providing them water and food and the supplies with which they made their shelters. Before she became a disembodied, abstract representation of the nurturing ground, Mother Moist Earth may have fulfilled the mother-aspect of the maid-mother-crone triad through the goddess Mokosh, a widely worshiped (and yet now, widely forgotten) deity of grains and fields and mothering qualities. Mokosh was once an equally powerful matriarch to the more popularly remembered patriarch Perun, who was worshiped as a sky-god, much like a Russian version of Zeus or Thor. To this day, the nesting dolls are called matryoshka, which is one of many ways in Russian to say “little mothers,” and rivers are likewise called matki, which also translates as a diminutive, or affectionate, form of “mothers.” Russia itself is often called Mother. Thus, despite the wear and tear of centuries of Orthodox Christianity on the Russian pagan belief system, feminine concepts of earth and the importance of motherhood endure.

05 August 2010

Introduction to the Amazon Legacy: Rusalki!

"Rusalka" by Konstantin Vasiliyev
I was planning on posting a series of short excerpts from one of my thesis papers, titled “Rusalki, Mother Earth, and Baba Yaga: The Amazon Legacy in Russian Myth and Society,” but then I realized that my papers were written assuming an audience with a basic understanding of Russian myth, and that most people can maybe list a few names like Zeus and Hera and Aphrodite, but don’t have the first clue about anything outside the Greek pantheon, let alone what rusalki are, or even the iniatatrix Baba Yaga. Slavic mythology, rich and varied as it may be, is simply not as well known, at least not outside of Eastern Europe. Thus, I’ve decided instead to give a brief background of each of these figures--the rusalki, Baba Yaga, and the Slavic version of Mother Moist Earth--and then, perhaps, we’ll jump into some thesis excerpts! For tonight, let’s talk about rusalki.

Rusalki are complicated figures of Russian mythology. They have been linked to the Greco-roman sirens, and in fact, one of the rusalki aliases is syriny. Like the Greek Sirens, they could sing and tempt men to join them in their watery graves; like the Celtic Selkies, they could take the shape of an animal (although usually a swan or other bird) by wearing its skin. Whether rusalki myth originated in Russia spontaneously or was influenced by contact with other cultures is uncertain, but as in so many cases, the truth likely lies somewhere in between. Russia spent a lot of its history isolated, but Greek merchants did infiltrate their borders at a mythologically impressionable time. Regardless, rusalki retain a flavor that is distinctly Russian. While modern pop culture represents rusalki more as mermaids (expect a rant on the Disneyfication of Russian mythology in the movie Kniga Masterov, or Book of Masters, sometime in the near future), in actual legend, rusalki were rarely depicted as having the parts of fish. Depending on where in Russia the stories were told, they could either be hideous and hairy witches; ancient hags with large, pendulous breasts; or young, beautiful, watery temptresses. Most often they were young and beautiful, but no matter what they looked like, they were always considered dangerous. They lived outside of society and society’s rules, often attached to specific groves and springs and streams as “spirits of place.” Their hair, sometimes green like seaweed and sometimes pale blonde like wheat, was always unbound, which in Russian lore symbolized liminality and transition. In their incarnation as young women, they were sometimes considered the spirits of drowned girls, victims of murder or suicide, and thus became tragic objects of sympathy. However, this theory of the origin of rusalki as drowned virgins did not spring up until after Russia’s adoption of Christianity. Prior to that, they were more of the maiden-aspect in the maid-mother-crone triad. That’s right--the Celts were not the only culture to see the Goddess in triple form! Divine Feminine in all Her stages has been a concept in Russia from the start, although like in many other parts of the world, Her influence has since faded.

As symbols of feminine power and independence, rusalki represented a threat to the patriarchal status quo and hearkened back to a time of pre-Orthodox pagan individualism. Even after the adoption of Christian limits, the continued insistence of the peasantry to maintain their traditions resulted in dual-faith: Christian in name, pagan in practice. Sometimes the pagan deities were masked as Saints, and often spirits like the rusalki, vodyanoi, domovoi, and others were demoted to demon-status, but pagan traditions and practices--even spellcasting--continued to thrive until well into the 18th century and in some places, even the 19th. One of the popular spring fertility holidays, appropriately named Rusalia, involved luring the rusalki into the fields. During the rites of Rusalia, the young maidens of the village would unbind their hair and dance into the forest, their very selves symbolic of the rusalki. They would leave offerings of ribbons and bits of cloth tied to trees near bodies of water, and then the mothers and grandmothers of the village would enter the forest after them, round up their daughters, and process back into the village fields, waving branches and boughs and singing the whole way. The procession of women was believed to lure the real rusalki into the fields, which their presence then made fertile.

Hopefully that paints a basic picture of rusalki, at least enough to render my later entries with excerpts from my papers understandable. Don’t worry, I won’t post anything in Russian :) I’ll translate! Or at a minimum, transliterate the names. Next time we’ll talk about the ever embracing Mother Moist Earth, or Mati Syra Zemlya.

04 August 2010

Another sort of introduction...

These next few days I’ll be more or less nocturnal. We’re splitting our operations center in two for a few days due to circumstances in varying degrees of complication, so it became necessary when creating the rosters for our different TOC (tactical operations center) duties to have a day group and a night group, with a few hours of overlap for each. I designed the roster, haha. It took me days and days to finally get it approved so that everyone was happy, but at least it’s complete…and just in time, as it began last night at 2000 with me in charge until 0600 this morning. Hopefully my replacement comes to relieve me…but I’m not getting my hopes up.

We’re on the final stretch of this block of training, but this final stretch will be the worst. The roster is set up so that each rotation gets about ten hours total of comp time when they’re not on duty. My ten hours off are from 0800-1800, so I’ll have just enough time to run or workout, take a shower, then rack out for a few hours before coming back on shift. I made myself part of the night crew mainly because I didn’t want to screw over anyone else, and I don’t really mind the nighttime regardless. In fact, I find it comforting. My best thinking generally occurs at night.

Even though it’s 0530 here now, it’s still pitch black outside. Fall is coming, thankfully. Autumn has always been my favorite season. There’s something that’s always seemed very secret and magical to me about that time of year, with the earth preparing for winter. Winter, of course, with its silence and death and mystery, is the ultimate season of secrets…but autumn as a prelude is still deliciously elusive. The world dying to be reborn again in the spring. It’s a beautiful cycle.

Once my summer detail ends (09 Aug), I’ll have some time to put more thought into the entries. I’ve done a lot of research into early feminist paganism (that is, pagan cultures with more egalitarian and even matriarchal tendencies), particularly in the cultures that gave rise to areas of modern Russian, so I intend to share the more interesting tidbits. I’ve written about three thesis papers on the topic (one of which was actually in Russian…and writing 25 pages of researched, documented, academic prose in a language that is not my native tongue is a feat I hope I never have to repeat), so obviously I find it all interesting :) However, I will filter and only include that which is less commonly known, or at least the parts that surprised me. And as this is a blog, I’ll have a little more freedom and not worry so much about filtering OUT my bias…in fact, I think I’ll let my own perspective contaminate it as much as I like, as after all…this is an outlet for ME, MY opinions, MY thoughts. My papers were unbiased enough…except for the parts where the Pagan and the Feminist in me just couldn’t resist. It is impossible to eliminate all bias, after all.

Today my spiritual development amounted to reading a few news articles about Pagans, courtesy of WitchVox. Wonderful website. I submitted an article a few days ago about an experience I had earlier this summer when I came *out of the broom closet* to some of my friends. Their reactions were what surprised me, and that’s the reason I decided to share the experience. It gave me the courage, and put some of my faith back in mankind, so I hope that my sharing the story will do the same for others. And with that…I will bid you (whoever you are) adieu. Time for tired eyes to get a few hours of sleep before it’s all starting over again.

02 August 2010

First (of hopefully many) entry!

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, which is likely what inspired me to try writing one. I’m not sure how consistently I’ll be able to keep this up, how long I’ll have anything to say, or if anyone will even be interested in what I do say. Likely not. I maintain that we are only interesting to ourselves, and to everyone else, merely different shades of boring.

Regardless, here I am. Let the blogging begin!

I’ve spent my summer at various training events. Learned a lot, learned a little, in general learned about myself. Most importantly, I learned that I don’t like spending four days in a row borderline hypothermic and hallucinating from hunger, lack of sleep, and general discomfort; however, I’d rather spend all summer doing precisely that than spend another week doing paperwork at a lame desk job. Dear Gods, I want to get out in the field again! And for the record…yes, I said Gods.

My goals for this blog are, at the surface, to be an outlet for self expression. At a slightly deeper level, I’d like the blog to be a journey, a reflection of my path to learning and discovery and all the bumps along the way. I don’t have any planned topics, apart from my spiritual practice, encounters, and development. I’ll post pictures of any new artwork or craft projects, as well as any new song recordings. I’ll be working with a few other musicians this upcoming fall and winter, just for fun and to see where it takes us. We have no professional plans. We’re all too busy with work and school for that, and music will remain--like so many other of my interests--merely a hobby.

That’s all I have for now. Expect more later, hopefully soon.