Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm presenting at PantheaCon 2012!

It's official... I'm hosting a craft workshop at the upcoming PantheaCon!  I'm half excited, half terrified.  I'm not big on public speaking, mostly because I really don't like being the center of attention.  But at the same time, I know I can teach a craft class in my sleep.  I had to teach crafts every day to the 40 or so K-2nd graders I worked with for three years, after all.  At least at PantheaCon, I presume I won't have to tell the participants not to run with scissors or eat the glue. 

The workshop is called "Make a Pocket Shrine," and here is the description that will be in the schedule: 
"This is a craft workshop that involves making a small, pocket-sized, portable matchbox shrine that can go with you anywhere.  Shrines can be dedicated to a Deity or element, hold tiny ritual items, be empowered with a specific purpose or goal, or serve as a mobile mini altar.  Craft supplies will be provided, but you are encouraged to bring your own personal items as well- anything small enough to fit in a matchbox, including photos, clip art, charms, stones, fortune cookie fortunes, stickers, etc." 

It's going to be a pretty messy project, but I have a lot of really fun stuff for the participants to work with, including scrapbook paper, charms, sequins, and beads.  I hope I'm not getting in over my head.  I've set the space limit at around 50 people, since I will obviously only have a finite supply of craft materials, and I expect the workshop to be completely full.  For one, there are usually only about four or five craft presentations at PantheaCon the entire weekend, and I also have a prime slot:  Sunday at 3:30 in the afternoon!  Check out the full schedule here:  https://pantheacon.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/PantheaCon2012FinalSchedule_112111.htm

So if you're going to be at PantheaCon, and you would like to come to my workshop, I suggest that you get there early.  I'm also going to attend all four days if anyone would like to network or hang out... I know there's plenty of people I'm looking forward to seeing again or meeting for the first time.  It seems so strange to me that this will only be my third year at PantheaCon, since I've been Pagan for around 14 years or so and I've lived in the San Jose area the whole time.  I suppose that before I started taking my meds I wouldn't have been comfortable going to an event like this, because I'm bipolar and the fact that I used to have extreme social anxiety and problems with crowds.  I certainly wouldn't have gone by myself (although I have no issues with that now.)  And here I am this year, actually getting up in front of a room full of people and giving a presentation!  What a long way I've come in three years.  It still makes me sad to think of all the years I've missed PantheaCon, but I'm proud of myself for getting out there and making the most of my time catching up.  Goddess knows I won't willingly miss another PantheaCon in the future... and who knows, if my workshop goes well this time, maybe I'll keep presenting every year, too!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Henna Tattoo


It's not the greatest pic, but I wanted to show off the henna tattoo I got at the San Jose Harvest Festival last Friday.  It was quite the interesting experience, as the artist was this adorable little round outspoken Indian woman with an accent who also tells your fortune before drawing the tattoo.  She explained that when she tells the fortune first, she gets to pick the design of the tattoo, because whatever she chooses and where she places it will act as a physical prayer on the body to compliment what she "sees." 

And she doesn't mince words; the gist of what she saw in me is that I worry my head off, I'm ridiculously hard on myself, and I try overly much to make everyone around me happy because I feel like I have to prove myself all the time.  (All true.)  She chose this design for me to symbolize inner strength and new beginnings, and told me not to care so much what other people think and focus on doing what is right for me and making myself happy. 

I was with my mom and another family member at the time, and her readings were dead-on for all of us.  I think it's also interesting that the woman chose for me the exact type of design I would have asked for if I had been given the choice, and I told her so.  I certainly do feel that I could not have asked for a more "me" tattoo.  I might even consider making it permanent if it wasn't on my hand.  At any rate, when it starts to fade, I'm going to be really tempted to go over it with brown Sharpie!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Awesome Wiccan Website

Ever heard of "Wicca: For the Rest of Us?"  It's Catherine Noble Beyer's award- winning website, chock-full of very practical, no-nonsense information about what Wicca is, and more importantly, what Wicca is NOT.  This site, in addition to providing answers to basic questions about Wicca, also addresses some of the most typically held misconceptions that Wiccans have about their own religion.  Check it out here, it's well worth exploring:  http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/

I think I first discovered this site when I read her essay, titled "Why We Despise Silver Ravenwolf."  http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/ravenwolf.shtml  Now, I know it's common (almost trendy, even) to scorn or dislike Silver Ravenwolf and what she writes.  I too have heard more negative than positive about her over the years, so I decided to investigate for myself.  My reasons were simple:  I wanted to become a Pagan writer, and Silver is both well-known and successful, so I figured that she couldn't be all that bad, and that I might be able to learn some of the secrets to her success by dissecting her writing style. The book I picked up was the (back then) recently published "Solitary Witch:  The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation."  After the fourth or so inaccuracy  I came across while reading (since when is Scorpio ruled by the element of fire?) I decided to return it to the store.  However, had I not picked up Silver's book in the first place, would I have found this site?

Apparently, there is now a blog called "To Know, Will, and Dare" that kinda goes with the site, but nothing beats her original essays.  There is a great explanation of the "Threefold Law" (something that has always bothered me the way it is typically explained) here:  http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/three.shtml  And for a short but humorous guide on choosing a Craft name (nothing as hilarious as "Lady Pixie Moondrip's Guide to Craft Names," but still good) read this:  http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/names.shtml  There are also some funny comments on the nature of an athame, as well as solid information about other working tools here:  http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/tools.shtml  And lastly, NO ONE else has a better explanation of WTF is going on with the spelling of "magick," which despite being immensely popular, is still stupid in my opinion.  (This essay also has some good info on what magic is and how it works, too.):  http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/magic.shtml

* And for those of you who have never read "Lady Pixie Moondrip's Guide to Craft Names," you're in for a treat: http://turoks.net/Cabana/CraftNames.php   (...hmmm ...Speaking of Silver Ravenwolf, ha ha...)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hell Houses

Has anyone heard about this disturbing Halloween trend?  Because it is truly frightening, and I don't mean in the traditional Halloween "all in good fun" kind of way, either.

For those of you who don't know, a "Hell House" is an October attraction put on by a religious organization, usually a fundamentalist Christian church, that started in the 90's.  It mimics a typical haunted house in that it is erected temporarily for the fall or Halloween season and its goal is to scare the crap out of anyone who enters.  However, the similarities end there.  The scenes in a Hell House depict real-life scenarios of what the church considers "sin," such as suicide, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, etc.  At the end of the Hell House is a final scene showing the damned burning or otherwise suffering in hell, and almost all visits to a Hell House conclude with a push toward conversion, in which the tour guide, host, or other representative asks the participants to go pray with waiting church officials, either renewing their commitment to Christianity or "giving their souls to Christ" for the first time.  So the sole purpose of the Hell House, essentially, is to proselytize, and is just one more way that fundamentalists and evangelicals are bullying and scaring people into converting.  According to Wikipedia, Jerry Fallwell (big surprise) is credited with the creation of the first Hell House in the 1970's.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell_house

The Movie:

Director George Ratliff explores this phenomenon in his 2001 movie "Hell House," which documents the entire Hell House process from beginning to end at Trinity Assembly of God church in Dallas, Texas.   I found the movie extremely interesting and somehow a lot less creepy than I expected.   http://hellhousemovie.com/ 

ATTENTION:  SPOILERS FOLLOW. 
When I watched this movie, I was prepared to get upset and pissed-off at the kind of intolerance, bigotry, and messages of hate and fear that religious fanatics like these people usually perpetuate.  And I wasn't disappointed; topics of the Hell House include two lesbians who "choose" to be gay, a girl who bleeds to death following an abortion, a gay man dying of AIDS, a girl who gets fed drugs at a rave, gang-raped, and then reveals how she was sexually abused by her father before committing suicide (WTF??!), and of course the obligatory topic of occult "brainwashing" by popular culture and the Satanic worship that supposedly follows.  It also irritated me that in almost all of these scenes, there is a "demon" who is allowing the situation to unfold or is egging on the sinner (as with the suicide scene), suggesting that people who sin are not fully in control of their actions or do not have free will, but are damned anyway.  Not surprisingly, those who die in the scenes who are not "saved" also end up in hell, and get dragged away kicking and screaming by more demons.

What I wasn't prepared for was how inadvertently hilarious the movie would also be.  For one thing (as the director points out in a radio interview included in the extras), all of the squeaky-clean Christian youths that try out for the various parts in the Hell House for some reason just CAN'T WAIT to play the "sinners," whereas the parts of the faithful, the angels, and even Jesus Christ himself have to be actively recruited.  Another really humorous (although pretty sad, in reality) aspect of the film is in how ignorant and misinformed the actors and organizers of the Hell House are about the things that they are condemning. 

My favorite example of this (which almost made me fall off the couch, I laughed so hard) is when the camera briefly pans over to a part of the set being constructed for the "Satanic Sacrifice" room, which shows a black wall on which, in red spray-paint, are the numbers "666" and a Star of David inside a circle.  Presumably it is supposed to be an inverted pentagram (the stereotypical "sign of Satan"), but apparently they don't know what that is, or are under the delusion that evil, human-sacrificing, Satan-worshipping Jews are lurking about.  And let's not trivialize the fact that these people are apparently still living in the 80's, when ritual human sacrifice and other Satanic Cult paranoia (long since debunked as an urban legend) was at its height. 

Another pretty funny scene happens between two of the Hell House's organizers who are writing the script, who want to portray role-playing games (in this case, Magic the Gathering) as introductions to the Occult, but can't remember and then agree on what the the game is called.  I also personally giggled at the self-proclaimed "reformed raver," who considered himself to be an expert on raves and rave culture, and who is convinced that every teenager outside of the church does nothing but go to raves, do drugs, and sleep with strangers.  In light of this conviction, he pushes for a "Rave Room" every year at the Hell House, thus showing how even personal agendas exist within the larger Hell House agenda of pushing church dogma onto the viewers and "saving their souls."

All in all,  I highly recommend the movie, despite the fact that it shows how once again, fundie Christians are trying to ruin a harmless good time.  However, it also shows their hypocrisy: Halloween, which has its origins in various Pagan celebrations and traditions, was once assimilated into Catholicism and later other branches of Christianity as All Saint's Day.  Many churches across the country, such as the one depicted in the movie, have rejected the holiday now that it has become a secular celebration, only to co-opt it once again by hosting Hell Houses.  Once these churches figured out how to turn things in their favor, Halloween was "officially" happening again.  Plus, they discovered a way to make it profitable, by building ever-bigger, badder, and more controversial Hell Houses every year, so as to be able to charge a higher entrance fee.  At Trinity Assembly of God, the proceeds from Hell House make it the church's biggest fundraiser every year.  How convenient.

Other Hell House Information

Religious Tolerance.org has quite a few negative things to say about Hell Houses and their practice:  http://www.religioustolerance.org/hallo_he.htm  To my pleasant surprise, there is also an Author's Note section at the end which states that "Hell Houses appear to spread misinformation and disinformation about a variety of topics," including "the appearance, beliefs and activities of Witches and other Neopagans."

Here is a link to Pastor Keenan Roberts' "Hell House Outreach Kits" (mentioned in the above article.) Only $299!  Order now!  http://www.godestiny.org/hell_house/HH_kit.cfm  Also click on the links on the left to read more about the kit, especially the "Issues Addressed" link.  Man, are these people afraid of gays and the Occult.

Reverend Brian Kirk of Rethinking Youth Ministry.com wrote this thoughtful essay about Hell Houses that brings up some very good points: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Christian-Haunted-Houses-Brian-Kirk-10-20-2011.html  My favorite is that he asks the youth of his church, "if you discovered tomorrow there is no afterlife, would you still be a Christian?"  Good question.

Here is an online interactive Hell House that is so offensive, it's actually funny (which is the point, by the way, because it turns out that the entire "church" is made-up, and is meant to be a joke):
http://www.landoverbaptist.org/hellhouse/thehouse.html

This is the only site I came across (through various Google searches) that had anything positive to say about Hell Houses.  http://www.christianforums.com/t2271122/  However, it's a discussion on a Christian forum between a bunch of people who have participated in Hell Houses before or who belong to churches that host them now.  And a few people still chimed in about why they didn't like Hell Houses. 

That's all for now.... I'll leave you with a quote from my boyfriend, who so elegantly and succinctly summed up what he thought about these Halloween-haters:  "If you don't want to eat a bunch of candy like everyone else, then f**k you!"  Happy Halloween, and happy Samhain as well!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Mabon!

Ok, technically Mabon is not until September 23 this year, but since it usually falls (pun intended) between the 20th-22nd, I figured I would post this today.  Here is one of the very first articles I ever had published.  It is called "Mabon Musings," and it's about... you guessed it... the holiday of Mabon!  I wrote this article because I was trying to understand more about this holiday and what it represents.  Since most people are typically starting to get ready for Samhain/Halloween right now, Mabon can sometimes be overlooked except for the fact that it marks the autumn equinox and the first day of fall.  Us Pagans/Wiccans/Witches know it as the second harvest festival (the way it was celebrated in times past) but we don't always give this holiday its proper due, either.  So read my article, and see if it gives you any ideas how to better appreciate this important time of year:
http://www.mysticwitch.com/articles/2009/mabon-musings
*Note: This article was originally published online at http://www.mysticwitch.com/

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yummy Pumpkin Dip

Note to self... DON'T bring unidentifiable "mystery" food to group gatherings.  If they don't know what it is, chances are they won't eat it.

Case in point:  I went to 3 different potlucks over the weekend, and took what I thought was a kick-ass dish.  Unfortunately, not too many people were willing to try it because it was unfamiliar.  And I had it clearly labeled, too.  Sigh. 

My love for this seasonal favorite has not been diminished by this lack of response, however.  So here is the recipe, in the hopes that if you make it yourself, you will actually EAT it as a "healthier" dessert, sweet appetizer, or fall snack!

Pumpkin Dip
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon (or so) pumpkin pie spice mix (cheap at Trader Joe's!)

Cream together the pumpkin, cream cheese, and brown sugar in a mixer or food processor, or using a hand-held blender or mixer.  (Don't try to do it by hand, or you'll never get all the cream cheese lumps out.)  Add in the spices and blend until all four ingredients are combined together in a smooth consistency.  (The dip will be a little runny, so make sure to refridgerate it for at least a few hours before serving.  This will also give the spices and other flavors time to incorporate themselves together.)  Serve with ginger snaps, green grapes, apple slices, marshmallows, graham crackers, sliced pears, etc. 

This recipe has definitely become a new Mabon and Samhain tradition in my house!  Try it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hi, my name is Autumn: a more formal introduction.

I suppose now would be a good time to delve a little more into who I am, what I'm all about, and why I'm writing this blog.  I hate trying to describe myself, and I'm currently going through a phase where I'm refining and redefining who I am, so I'm a little unsure of what to say.  But here goes.

My name is Autumn Damiana.  It's not my real name, but a Pagan/professional/pen name I picked out a few years back when I decided I wanted to become a metaphysical writer.  I picked this name because it's decidedly witchy, but still sounds like it could be a real name (and of course it has personal meaning to me as well.)  I am a Pagan/Wiccan writer and artist, and I have extensive experience in crafting.  I have been a mostly solitary Witch for about 14 years, and I use a pseudonym because I am only partially "out of the broom closet."

I have been going through a process of "finding myself" that started a little less than 3 years ago when I went through a period of severe depression, went to therapy and got back on medication, and ended my 12 year "marriage" with my ex (he and I lived in a domestic partnership, but were never actually married.)  Being back on meds was a huge step for me, and I believe it was the right choice because after some time, I felt better than I ever had.  To give you a little background on this topic: 

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was 17, and I took lithium to counteract the mania associated with Bipolar.  When, after some time, I still had problems with depression, I also took Zoloft.  I stopped meds about 1 and 1/2 to 2 years later, right after I moved in with my ex.  I didn't like the way that lithium made me feel, nor the side effects associated with taking it and I began a YEARS-long period of denial about my condition, believing that I didn't actually need meds.  I wish now that I had explored other options sooner, but I also lived without medical insurance for most of that time, so therapy would have likely not been possible for me anyway.  I currently am taking Seroquel (which wasn't approved for treatment of Bipolar until about a year after I stopped taking meds) and I am completely happy with the results.  I'm on a low dose and the side effects have been minimal, and even though I still have intermittent problems with depression (mostly seasonal, like SAD), I feel like a brand new person compared to the one I was 3 years ago.  I don't usually tell employers or casual acquaintances that I'm Bipolar, but all my family and friends know and I'm very open to talking about it with people who are interested, even strangers.  I hope that sharing my experiences will help, especially those who are not Bipolar themselves, but who are trying to understand the disorder because it affects someone they are close to.  So feel free to ask me about being Bipolar if you like.  I'm not shy or ashamed to talk about it.  It's a part of me, for better or worse, and might even be the most influencing factor in my life.

As for more on the "finding myself" part, I've almost started from scratch since my conversion to meds.  This is one more reason I am glad to be taking them, is that I didn't realize how much of who I was before was due to letting my Bipolar go untreated, and the daily struggles and drawbacks of trying to live that way.  Since I've cleared my head, I've scrutinized, torn down, rebuilt, and in some cases strengthened aspects of my personality, my beliefs, attitudes and perceptions I've held, my habits, almost everything, really!  As a result, I feel like I've finally "grown up" a bit, and I've definitely become more myself and in charge of my destiny.  I'm developing more self-esteem and confidence, and I have gained a lot more self-respect, self-discipline, and drive and motivation to pursue what I want in life.  Being on meds also makes it much, much easier to focus and be more objective because I don't have to constantly wrestle with mood swings and "out-of-control" emotions, which has always made it difficult to deal with even day-to-day occurrences, let alone "major" life events.

There are unfortunately some things that even medication can't fix, however.  One of these is the growing feeling of dissatisfaction I've had over the past few years with the life I'm leading, and the feeling that I'm constantly caught between two worlds.  As I'm beginning to "own" my Pagan beliefs more and more and try to live my life according to them, I've realized that what I've been doing most of my life and am still partly doing doesn't work very well for me anymore.  To elaborate:

I've never gotten into a real career.  I've mostly worked different jobs here and there just to survive and pay the bills.  My head just wasn't on straight enough to tackle school at the time that I tried to go, and now that it is, I've thought about going back to school, but I don't have a huge drive to do so.  Luckily, it doesn't seem like that is strictly necessary to become a writer, and that's a good thing, because I have decided that I definitely want to write.  Writing is very enjoyable to me, seems to come fairly easily, and I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the pieces I've published so far.  So now I've decided the career part, and just have to work hard at making it happen.

I also dream of owning a small piece of land.  My idea of heaven would be to live in an eco-friendly house or yurt, in some rural or less populated area, spending my time writing, selling my crafts, making art, raising a lot of my own food, and devoting my life to my spiritual pursuits.  Yeah, I know, it sounds like I want to be the solitary cottage witch or hermit out of a fairy tale, and that's not really too far off, I guess.  Although I don't need to live in a forest or in the mountains to be happy, because even some of the more sparsely wooded hilly landscape near where I live would be fantastic.  And having this goal to work toward is (overall) a good thing too, but it makes me really hate the drudgery of living day-to-day in the middle of this sprawling suburban environment that, by comparison to the natural world, feels so soulless and spiritually deficient.  And so these are the two worlds that I am caught between: the dream of my Pagan heart, and the reality of my physical being. 

And so here I am, and here is the reason for the existence of this blog.  "Sacred Survival in a Mundane World" is meant to be a way for me to share with others how I stay connected to the Divine and how I find ways to "walk my talk" as a Pagan, but of course it's becoming more and more a tool of self-discovery as well.  And when I don't write in it for long periods of time, such as recently, it shows me how disconnected I've been from that Divine presence and how caught up I've become in everyday bullshit and all the mundane trappings of "normal" life.  Because writing, especially in a journal (such as this) is in itself a spiritual pursuit (or at least it can be), and I never shrink from it or put it off when I'm feeling spiritual.  Likewise, when I'm forgetting to commune with nature, when it's been awhile since I've acknowledged the God and the Goddess, and I haven't meditated, prayed, or even done divination or ritual, these are the times I also don't write.  And that shows me where I'm at.  Sometimes its also a good indicator that I haven't visited any of my witchy friends in awhile or had any good in-depth spiritual conversations, and I need to watch this, too.  It's easy to isolate myself, and I have to work at being social because I'm a natural loner, which is still OK for me, but I've realized isn't too healthy in large doses.

So this concludes my "formal introduction," and now you know a bit more about me and why I'm writing this blog.  This is becoming quite the learning experience for me, as I've always been an introvert and a really private person, and now I'm having to talk about myself and decide what I want to share with the world and what I want to keep private, and it isn't easy.  There are things that I don't want to talk about that I feel like I should share, and surprisingly, sometimes the opposite is also true.  At least I'm writing again, which is always a good thing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Newly published pieces


So what has happened in the past month?  Quite a bit, actually.  For starters, I got laid off.  THAT sucked.  And I'm completely broke, living paycheck to paycheck on unemployment, which is really difficult to do.  So that sucks as well.  Other than that, things are pretty positive.

Llewellyn sent me my "complimentary contributer copies" (say THAT ten times fast!) of the 2012 Magical Almanac and the 2012 Witches' Calendar. Seeing my articles in print was amazing, and still feels really surreal. Both are now available online, through Llewellyn's website as well as through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's, and weirdly enough, um... Walmart's website?  Huh.  Yeah, didn't expect that!  Not sure when copies actually physically hit shelves in any stores, but then again, the present year is only half over.  So soon enough, I suppose.  Anyway, check them out if you get a chance.  I have two articles in the Magical Almanac, one called "Everyday Huichol Wisdom," and "Nature Printing," which is a crafting tutorial.  My article in the Witches' Calendar, "Plant Familiars," is in the month of May.

I also had an article published in Circle Magazine, in the Sacred Dance issue (summer 2011.)  It's called "Sacred Movement for Everyone," and it's about how people who live with physical limitations can participate in all aspects of religous life, including dancing and activities within sacred space.  For those of you who are not familiar with Circle, it's a quarterly magazine published by Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin, which was founded in 1974 by Selena Fox.  http://www.circlesanctuary.org/circle/   

One of the few Pagan periodicals still actually in print, Circle is actually quite a fun magazine, with an eclectic, charming, "homespun" feel to it, and quite a variety of things to read, including articles, poetry, short stories, recipes, some DIY, and reports on what everyone at Circle Sanctuary is up to.  You can get the magazine at their website, although I was buying mine off the rack at Borders until they all closed in my area.

Other than that, I've done quite a few fun things with my boyfriend in the past month.  We went indoor skydiving, we went to the Rammstein concert  (Rammstein is my favorite band, btw, and this was their first U.S. tour in ten years!), we saw "Thor," we took two trips over the hill to the Capitola/Santa Cruz area, and he and I met up with some old friends at a San Jose comic and art show.  I'm also back to my routine at the gym, and I've been crafting and beading like a madwoman for this jewelry party I'm going to have at my mom's house.  So other than being poor, things have been going great!  Now I just have to make sure to keep up with the writing....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Killer Sangria

Happy late Beltane and Happy early Cinco de Mayo!  These two holidays are both near and dear to my heart because they are both celebrated widely where I live and among people I know, and they come at the beginning of May right around the time that summery weather kicks in all over the bay area.  So in honor of these two holidays and the coming summer months, I want to share with you all a recipe I conococted for some really amazing sangria.  You will need a liquid measuring cup, a quarter-cup dry measuring cup, and a pitcher that holds at least 2 quarts.
  • 1 bottle (750ml) of crappy red wine (I use Charles Shaw Merlot)
  • 2 cups of fruit juice (I use Trader Joe's Mango Passion Fruit Blend)
  • 1 cup of plain white rum
  • 10 fluid ounces of ginger ale
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 kinds of fruit, to taste (I usually use clementine oranges and firm kiwis, two of each)
Measure and mix all of the liquid ingredients in your pitcher.  Then stir in the sugar until it completely disolves.  Lastly, peel the kiwis and slice them.  Slice the oranges with the skin on.  Fill the pitcher with both fruits until the liquid reaches the top.  Allow to sit overnight in the fridge for best results. 

TIPS:  This recipe was designed to make exactly 2 quarts, since that's how big the juice pitcher was that I was using at the time I was developing the sangria.  However, this NEVER seems to be enough if you have more than, say, four people around!  So buy accordingly; grab several bottles of wine, lots of fruit, and a 2-liter of ginger ale (and of course make sure you have enough juice, rum, and sugar as well).  Make more than one batch if you think you are going to need it, because although it can be made on the spot, the sangria tastes sooooo much better when it has been allowed to sit and chill for at least a few hours.  Also, the addition of the fruit is not an exact science, so if you are using a larger container, naturally you can use more fruit.  I think that pineapple or strawberries might also work really well, although I have never tried either one.  Experiment, and see what you come up with.  That's how I "discovered" this recipe in the first place!

Finally, a word of caution:  when prepared correctly, this sangria is sweet, fruity, and delicious and does not taste like booze at all, but it will KICK YOUR ASS if you are not careful how much you drink.  So be responsible, enjoy, and have fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beware of Whole Foods

So, for those of you who have not heard already, (I saw it in the news online in Febuary, so you might have too) something big has happened over at Whole Foods Market headquarters, and it sucks.  Really sucks.  Read about it here:  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22449.cfm

What I got out of the article is that the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of USDA Secretary (and former Iowa Governor) Tom Vilsack, who is a bigtime advocate of the biotech industry, and seems to be in Monsanto's pocket (he used their corporate jet while campaigning.)  Thus, the surrender to "coexistence" between the corporations, which basically gives Monsanto the green light to contaminate anything not labeled "organic" with its insidious GMOs. 

Not that this hasn't been happening already:  according to the article, "Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market (WFM) and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as 'natural.' " 

This means that under the current laws and method of labeling, the only way you can be certain that there are no GMOs in your food is if the food in question is "certified organic."  However, because there has been little regulation of GMO crops and no laws requiring that foods with GMOs are labeled as such, WFM has been selling their GMO-infested "natural" products at inflated organic prices, and has been relying on the fact that the public has not been educated as to what the difference is between the two.  The call for "coexistence" between WFM and Monsanto is simply confirmation that WFM has abandoned the organic movement altogether, because there's not enough money in it.  But, there IS money to be had in letting the public believe that WFM is still completely on the organic bandwagon, hence the "cleverly worded but profoundly misleading email sent to it's customers" at the time of this decision:  http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2011/01/urgent-action-needed-to-support-organics-and-non-ge-crops/

Reading the email, WFM is supposedly against the deregulation of GMOs, but if you look closely, they are rallying for "conditional deregulation," as opposed to "full deregulation," presumably because it is the lesser of the two evils.  This gives the message that "resistance is futile" and that WFM is unwilling to fight at all, but will happily lay down and let themselves be "assimilated" by the agribusiness they were trying to distance and distinguish themselves from. What a crock of shit.

If you want to get involved, or just find out more about how bad GMOs and Monsanto are, click here:
http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/index.cfm  although eventually I will write another post on just how purely and completely evil and wrong Monsanto is, because it goes a lot deeper than just GMOs.  Feel free to do your own research of course, and please drop me an email and/or comment on anything that you discover or think about all of this.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Depression and SAD

It's hard for me to admit to myself that I have been depressed.  However, looking back on the past three weeks, the results are that:  1)  I haven't posted at all.  2)  I haven't made any new art.  3)  I've barely kept up with my online correspondence.  4)  People in my day-to-day life are starting to comment.

It was number 4 that shook me out of my apathy, and made me realize that, hey, maybe something is going on.  Which sucks on a number of levels.  It means I was so depressed, that other people around me actually noticed (and then felt the need to comment) and that I'm not always doing as well as I thought I would be just because I'm medicated.  It also means that I'm probably experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or I'm just not taking as much care of myself as I should be, given that I'm prone to seasonal mood changes already.

I mentioned in one other post before that I am bipolar.  I used to hate admitting to anyone that I had been diagnosed, because I was in denial that it was true.  Now, I've been taking meds for about two and a half years, and I know that I'm so much better off this way, so it doesn't bother me to talk about it anymore.  Unfortunately, I still get depressed a lot more often than most people, and this is one example.  Whether I have SAD (because it's been raining and overcast for weeks) or I'm just experiencing one more of the lows that bipolar offers up when the seasons change (because my meds don't allow me to feel the extreme highs anymore, which is actually a good thing) I'm not sure.  I also read recently that there is a link between carbohydrates and SAD, in which people experiencing SAD crave carbs more because they boost seratonin levels in the brain, helping these people to feel better.  And I've been on a low-carb diet, because I'm going to be the Maid of Honor in my sister's wedding in September, and I'm trying to lose weight.  Wonderful.

I know logically that I will snap out of this as soon as the weather clears and it becomes more obvious that Spring is on the way, but in the meantime I feel like there's a dementor (from the Harry Potter books)  hovering around me constantly and sucking all the happiness out of me.  And because I can't remember what it feels like to be happy, right now it feels like I might never feel that way again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Druids at PantheaCon

I've only met a handful of Druids in my life, but if they and the ones at PantheaCon are any indication, I'd say that Druids know how to party.  The House of Danu ritual with Danse Macabre on Sunday night of the Con was a riot.  The ritual itself was beautifully done, and we got to do some spiral dancing, which is always a favorite for me.  But  I especially liked how at one point we all left the presentation room and then paraded through the lobby of the hotel, making music, dancing, waving flags we had made, whooping and cheering, singing, clapping, and generally making spectacles of ourselves for the bystanders of our ilk, who were clapping and catcalling along with us.  What a damn fun bunch of people we Pagans are.  I have no idea what all the other "regular" guests of the hotel must have thought, but I'm sure they were jealous.  :)

The after party in the House of Danu suite was also a lot of fun.  Danse Macabre was there again, playing for the guests, and I now consider myself a fan of theirs.  If you have never heard their music, you can check it out here:  http://www.thedansemacabre.org/  I got to sample some absolutely DIVINE mead at the party, too.  Not sure what that pisswater they were calling "mead" was that I've had before, but now I know better!  And I'm definitely more interested in Druidry.  Not just because of their fabulous booze, either, but because I met some really nice people there and had some pretty interesting conversations.  So Druids are both fun AND smart... why wouldn't I be interested?  I'll have to see if I can get my coven mates to go attend some upcoming Druid events with me, as my curiosity has, without a doubt, been piqued.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping

I wanted to share with you someone who I actually have adopted a lot of ideas from.  His name is "Reverend Billy" (note the quotes are because he's not actually a Reverend, but a performance artist who plays one), and he's been a major inspiration of mine.  He leads the "Church of Life After Shopping" (formerly the "Church of Stop Shopping") and their message is one of community, sustainability, diversity, and spirituality in all of its wonderful, many, mysterious forms.  Go look at their website, read the "about us" section, and maybe get on the mailing list or leave a comment or two.  http://www.revbilly.com/

Also watch his movie, "What Would Jesus Buy?" which was produced by Morgan Spurlock.  Netflix has it (both as a rental and instant play) and obviously Amazon carries it, although it's cheaper through Barnes and Noble.  Earth-a-lujah!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PantheaCon Wrap-Up

This was my second year going to PantheaCon at the DoubleTree Hotel in my hometown of San Jose, California.  It's the morning after the Con, and I'm still in my "recovery" phase from all the running around and not eating or sleeping correctly for four days.  I have to admit, though, that I had a fantastic time this year, and I definitely feel that being all worn out is a small price to pay for as much as I got out of the event. 

Yesterday as I was driving home (which luckily for me is only 15 minutes or so) I was thinking to myself how after four days of such intensive energy work and near-ecstatic spiritual experience, I was naturally feeling drained and a little emotionally depleted.  And yet, the emptiness I felt was very tranquil, not in any way negative or hollow-feeling, but more like I had been through a purification that had stripped my soul bare, but had also cleansed me and made me once again a vessel ready to contain more of whatever life has to offer me.  It reminded me of a chapter in Kalihil Gibran's "The Prophet," about joy and sorrow, which states:

"...Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall."

It was this "balance" the he speaks of at the end that I was feeling in my emptiness, and let me tell you that being bipolar for most of my life, this is not an experience that I've had often.  It was foreign to me, but felt necessary and right and appropriate after all that had happened over the weekend.  I am tempted to study Buddhism and meditation techniques and whatever else I can find that might help me to feel that stillness inside more often, and more easily as well. 

So after I have some time to rest up and contemplate the beautiful, colorful, chaotic blur that was PantheaCon 2011, I will of course want to write about it.  Until then, I want to thank all the friends, both new and old, that helped make this year's Con such an amazing adventure for me (forgive me if I don't remember all of your Con names):  Talon, Terraluna, HiC, Panthera, Terry, Rowan, Ginger, Daniel, Samuel, Artemis, Amanda, Alex, James, Ella, Druwitch, Lily, Jeyn, Elysia, Rain, Amber, Serpentina, Deborah, and Dianne, who I wish I'd run into sooner!, along with all the wonderful people I met whose names I can't recall.  GOOD TIMES!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Etsy storefront is up and running!

Ok, I've FINALLY gotten around to posting some of my work on my Etsy site.  This is something else that I've been putting off for quite some time (yes, I'm a total procrastinator) but now the shop has some fun Pagan goodies in it.  There are two gorgeous wands (both of which took a chunk of time to make), a few beaded mosaic pentacles, a "Numerology Necklace," and a mixed media canvas of the Horned God emblazoned with the phrase "Proud Pagan."  That last item is by far my favorite, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out.  Go on over and see for yourself!  http://www.etsy.com/shop/AutumnDamiana

FYI, I also do artwork on commission and will gladly make custom pieces (such as wands) so contact me if you like what you see but want something more tailored to your tastes.  And if you do want one of my items on Etsy, then get it while you can, because a lot of the stuff I'm selling is original or one-of-a-kind.  Help support this Pagan artist!  Don't make me have to go get a "real" job!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chores I don't mind.

Today I cooked one of the three Cinderella pumpkins I have stashed away in my boyfriend's makeshift "root cellar" (it's actually his pool shed) and am now up to my eyeballs in pumpkin puree.  If you've never eaten one before, Cinderella pumpkins are delicious, and yield quite a bit of edible pumpkin goodness because of their enormous size.  But this means that I did spend the better part of the day hacking up, steaming, peeling, mashing, cooling, and freezing orange goo, and the kitchen looked like I'd detonated the pumpkin instead of cooking it by the time I was finished.  Two more things I accomplished today:  1.  I saved the petals from a fading bouquet of red and yellow roses, and 2.  I harvested the pine needles from the two boughs I had put aside from our Yule/Christmas tree.  Both the needles and rose petals need to dry out further, and then can be used for a variety of things, from incense or potpourri ingredients to spell components to craft supplies (such as candles or handmade paper.)

Technically all of these activities qualify as "chores."  And yet, because of their nature, I don't mind doing them one bit.  I'm big on the idea of recycling and of using every part of something, as people did in the past, and the idea of getting all this extra mileage out of stuff that would normally be thrown away is a theme that will be repeated often in this blog.  I've made arts and crafts for years out of things like packaging and worn out clothes, and I'm still discovering new ways to recycle all the time, often using other people's trash.  We are, unfortunately, very wasteful in our culture; the majority of us have not been taught how to get the most out of all the things that we consume, and this shows in the fact that we've become a "throw-away society."  I think this is (at least in part) because the economy of the U.S. is built upon capitalism, and in order for capitalism to thrive, there has to be a steady increase of consumerism.  Which is why so many things these days are considered disposable, even when they are not intended to be, like electronics.  Almost nobody gets a DVD player repaired when it's cheaper and easier to just go buy a new one.

The same goes for things like pumpkins:  we all throw out our jack-o-lanterns after Samhain/Halloween, and then buy canned pumpkin puree in the supermarket come Thanksgiving.  Seems kind of silly when you think about it.  I do realize that there is a lot of time and labor saved if you buy canned puree, but what about all the waste?  I got my Cinderella pumpkins for free because it was the first week of Novemember and they were on their way to the dumpster.  Now they are being turned into food instead!  And really just about any pumpkin is edible, including Howden pumpkins, the kind that are the most commonly used for carving.  The only bummer about cooking a jack-o-lantern is that you have to do it literally the next day.  Pumpkins will keep for months if kept whole (as I'm discovering with mine) but once you slice into one, it won't be good to eat for more than a day or two, tops.  So this is something to consider.

However, gathering the pine needles and rose petals is not just about keeping these things from going to waste.  Consider the magical connection I will have to whatever will be made from them!  As a Pagan and a Witch, this is the best reason of all to recycle:  the things we have used have been invested with our energies, and some pretty powerful magic can be made this way.  Besides, I just love the idea of knowing that the incense burning on my altar used to be my Yule tree, or that the handmade paper I'm writing a note to my boyfriend on contains bits of rose petal from the bouquet he bought for me.  This kind of transfiguration is surely magical all by itself.

Monday, January 31, 2011

About the name of my blog....

I think it's funny how things often turn out like this, but no more than an hour or two after I wrote on Thursday that I didn't know what to call my blog, it suddenly came to me out of nowhere that it should be called "Sacred Survival in a Mundane World."  The title seemed so right, but I wasn't quite convinced.  I mulled it over, "tried it on" for a few days, asked a few friends about it, and of course checked to see if anyone else online was using it.  As far as I can tell the phrase seems to be mine for the taking, if I want it.  And you know what?  I decided that I do, I really do.

So why does this name work for me?  It really helped me pin down what it is that I want to blog about: my day-to-day journey, sometimes racing, sometimes just barely staggering along, as I walk the Pagan path.  Anyone who's ever "found themselves" in Paganism knows that our modern world is not always a particularly Pagan-friendly enviornment, and this blog is going to describe my victories and my defeats as I attempt to navigate life while remaining true to my spiritual convictions. 

For example:  like most Pagans, I feel deeply connected to nature.  I revere the Earth as my Mother, and try to live lightly on Her, in the most eco-friendly way possible.  This is one issue that I wrestle with literally many times a day, because unless I move into an off-grid yurt and fend for myself in the wilderness, I know that often I will be forced to make choices that compromise my desires as an environmentalist, and it feels a bit like I'm betraying my religion every time. 

So I do what I can, I weigh my choices, and I try to consider what the God/Goddess would want from me.  Which is not always easy to determine. It can be extremely difficult to listen to the voices of the Divine in your heart when the din of everyday life is constantly threatening to drown out the sound.  And that's what I want to write about, is how to maintain that connection to the Divine, despite this mundane life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost in the shuffle?

One of the questions I've been asked the most by friends and family is "what is your blog going to be about?" 

That's a tough one... I want to write about my thoughts and perceptions of the world around me as seen through my Pagan eyes.  As I become more and more entrenched in the Pagan community and comfortable with my own existence as a Pagan/Wiccan/Witch (I've been mostly in the "broom closet" for the last 10+ years)  I'm beginning to realize that I see everything through this filter, this worldview that is different from most people around me. 

And yet, I'm just one of many out there blogging about Paganism, so what makes me unique?  Do I have different thoughts and opinions from the masses?  Yes, definitely.  Are these ideas different from my fellow Pagans?  I think that in some cases, the answer is yes.  However, I think that even blogging about my similar views can only be positive, as hopefully I can connect with some like-minded individuals and broaden my circle of friends and acquaintances. 

The main idea occupying my thoughts right now is what to call my blog.  I certainly would like it to be something different or even special, but most importantly, it has to be memorable.  I'm tossing around some ideas, and like the proverbial method of making spaghetti, I think I'll just have to throw some at the wall and see what sticks.

Yes, I suppose it's about time to start.

Well, after a lot of talk, procrastination, deliberately time-consuming reasearch, hemming and hawing, and lots more unproductive avoidance behavior, I've finally started my blog.  Considering that I hope to eventually be a full-time writer, you could say that I should have done this ages ago.  It was my sister (who works in publishing) who ultimately convinced me to do it "for reals!" as we used to say when we were little.  She pointed out that writing a blog is excellent practice, will allow me to network, and might even help me get some exposure in the writing world.  Since it's part of her job that she knows these things (and because she's my sister) I decided it was probably good advice.  I also want to have SOME kind of online presence established by the end of the year when my three articles will be published, so I can be found and people can read more if they feel so inclined.  But most of all, I think that it's time to face my fear that I might not have anything interesting to say, because that's really the core reason I've been dragging my feet on this project.  I suppose it's completely natural for beginning writers to feel this way; probably even seasoned writers have these doubts from time to time.  I think the important thing here is for me to give myself a chance, and see what manifests.  It's not like my blog will be taken away from me if my writing sucks, ha ha.