Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Huichol - a perfect example of sacred existence.

When someone says "Native American," the stereotypical image that comes to mind is a man of the American plains, bedecked in buckskins, braids, and a feather headdress, hunting buffalo from horseback and living in a tepee.  But the truth is that there are many kinds of Native American tribes, and the Huichol are one of them.  They live high up in the Sierra Madre mountains of central Mexico, and they are an amazing people.

If you read my article "Everyday Huichol Wisdom" in Llewellyn's 2012 Magical Almanac, you already know just how much I appreciate the Huichol. So for everyone else, this post is going to be a short introduction to this tribe and why, as a Pagan, I am so attracted to their culture.

The Huichol, because they are a shamanic culture, are like natural Hedge Witches.  For thousands of years their tribe has been living in isolation according to their traditional way of life:  tending their crops, taking peyote, making art, and communing with nature.  They are a gentle and spiritually evolved people (supposedly there isn't even a word for "war" in their native language) who have really never wanted anything from the outside world except to be left alone.  They have rich and deeply-rooted religious beliefs that foster their connections with each other and with the natural world around them, but they don't have any religion!

Huichol Yarn Painting
To the Huichol, the idea of spirituality being separate from day-to-day life is a totally foreign concept, which is why I say that they don't have religion.  In the Huichol mindset, the sacred and the mundane are intertwined and inseparable, something which we as Pagans constantly strive for.  They go about their work, chores and daily tasks with the same reverence and mindfulness as they would participate in a holy ritual, and in the same vein, the ceremonies they use to mark special occasions are unpretentious and down-to-earth. They are also all-inclusive; although led by the shaman, every member of the village from the youngest up to the oldest gets to participate in the Huichol spiritual life.

I was first introduced to the Huichol culture many years ago through their artwork, which is now quite famous around the world and easily recognized.  Making art is another spiritual activity for the Huichol, because most of their artwork is about their legends or the visions obtained from taking the sacred peyote.  Although the Huichol make many kinds of art (even their vibrant traditional dress could be considered artwork) their most sought-after pieces are yarn paintings and beadwork, with their folk art themes and psychedelic colors.

Beaded gourd offering bowls
One of the main principles of the Huichol belief structure is to live in harmony with the natural world, which is another thing that Pagans are trying to accomplish.  Nature not only provides everything necessary for the Huichol to survive, but is also part of the Huichol cosmology.  Mother Earth, Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, and Grandfather Fire (among many others) are all constantly present and accessible deities, who are worshiped not only through the giving of sacred offerings such as prayers, food or crafts, but also simply by observing the Huichol way of life.  Even peyote is worshiped as a divine being, because it provides a way for the Huichol to communicate with these spirits of nature.

Because peyote is so central to the spiritual life of the Huichol, the annual pilgrimage to the desert of Wirikuta (the Huichol ancestral homeland) to gather peyote is one of the most important events of the year.  Along the way the shaman(s) will guide the pilgrims in fasting, praying, leaving offerings at sacred sites, and observing various codes of conduct for the journey (such as refraining from alcohol, salt, sex, etc.)  A secondary and more modern reason for the pilgrimage is so that the Huichol people can band together to pray and do ritual that will help to offset the harm currently being done to our world by human beings collectively.  It is their hope that in this way, the Huichol can placate their gods, and by doing so, intercede on all of our behalf so that they do not become angry with us and destroy us all to cleanse the Earth.

My version of Huichol beadwork (for sale on Etsy)
I have a great respect for people like the Huichol who are genuinely spiritually concerned for all of humanity without trying to force their beliefs onto others.  I have also been incredibly inspired by their art, and have tried to emulate it myself.  This is a culture that we can learn so much from, and yet these people and their legacy are in real danger of being wiped out.  Plans (although currently suspended) were made by the Canadian and Mexican governments to mine Wirikuta, which would destroy this sacred Huichol site. Further intrusion into Huichol villages is also happening as modern Mexico builds roads, airstrips, churches, ranches, public schools, etc. on Huichol land without any regard for the Huichol as a sovereign nation.  Huichol families have been forced into less hospitable areas of the mountains, and as a result, can no longer hunt or farm enough food and have to get jobs in the cities. Many of these Huichol never return to their villages and homelands, and so fewer Huichol youth are being taught the ways of their ancestors.

I see in the Huichol tradition so many of the same ideals that I value as a Pagan, and believe that it would be criminal if this culture were to die out or become forgotten.  If you would like to know more about the Huichol, you can read my article in the Magical Almanac, and click on any of the links below.  Some have information about active campaigns aimed at helping to preserve Huichol culture and what you can do to help.  Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is it just me...

Or do Nick and Schmidt from "New Girl" kinda remind you of "The Property Brothers?"


Monday, April 16, 2012

Published again - Kitchen Witchery!

Just a note to let you all know that I have an article featured in the upcoming Spring 2012 issue (#111) of Circle Magazine!  My article is called "A Crash-Course in Kitchen Witchery," and it's one that I'm pretty happy with.  It will become available in print in late April, and digital copies can be purchased right now, here:  http://www.circlesanctuary.org/store/

The article starts with a quick look at Kitchen Witchery, both ancient and modern, and touches on what it means to be a Kitchen Witch today.  It then gives helpful hints on how to get started on this path, with ideas on how to make your own kitchen (and you in it!) feel more magical.  Next comes a list of 20 ordinary items you can use to start a magical pantry that will serve just about any purpose, with detailed correspondences for each item.  The end of the article explains how to put it all together, with instructions for Sabbats, spells, gifts, crafts, and lots more!

The rest of the magazine looks promising, too.  In addition to features about cooking and the magic of food, there are some articles about wards, money-drawing herbs, and how to magically tackle household clutter.  Since Circle Sanctuary delayed this issue for about three months (this was supposed to have been the Winter 2012 issue, which got skipped altogether) I'm glad it's finally done and can't wait for it to come in the mail.  Go check it out!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Have a good healthy heartfelt laugh!

I thank the Goddess that I belong to a religion that has a sense of humor and can laugh at itself.  I know every Pagan knows at least one other Pagan who is the exception to the rule and takes everything WAY too seriously, but I blame societal pressures for people like that.  On the whole, we are a laid-back, intelligent, fun-loving bunch with a wicked and often sarcastic sense of humor, and that can make for some pretty good times.  Who hasn't dissolved into a fit of giggles during circle when the candles/incense keep going out, someone farts, people are dropping things, or a bird flying over poops on the altar?  As it says in Doreen Valiente's "Charge of the Goddess," "Let there be mirth and reverence within you," and "All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals."  Our Gods want us to laugh, because they certainly do it (often at us!)  So here is a collection of Pagan humor that I've put together for all of us to enjoy.  :)

Past posts on my blog with funny stuff:

"Shit New Age Girls Say" (I've probably watches this 20+ times, and I still think it's hysterical.)  http://autumndamiana.blogspot.com/2012/01/watched-it-about-6-times-still-laughing.html

"Lady Pixie Moondrip's Guide to Craft Names" (my all-time favorite, and the link in my other post is broken, so here's a new one):  http://www.chaosmatrix.org/library/humor/moondrip.html

From "Everyday Witch A to Z," by Deborah Blake:  

Q:  What's the best thing about Pagan Friends?
A:  They worship the ground you walk on.

Q:  How do you know when it's midnight?
A:  The nine o'clock ritual just started.

Q:  How do you make a witch's martini?
A:  Replace the olive with a toasted nut!

Kissing Hank's Ass:
This is the funniest portrayal of the basic principles of Christianity that I've ever seen.

Pagan Light Bulb Jokes:
My personal favorites from all over the internet.  (If anyone knows the ACTUAL origin of any of these jokes, please let me know so I can give credit!)

Q:  How many Gardnerians does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  It's a third degree secret.

Q:  How many Alexandrians does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  "Let's go see how the Gardnerians do it!"

Q:  How many Dianics does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  "The light bulb is a patriarchal institution."

Q:  How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  What do you want it changed into?

Q:  How many Solitaries does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  One, but you have to get them out of the broom closet first.

Q:  How many Discordians does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  A blue fish Tuesday.

Q:  How many Fam-Trad Witches does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  "Go ask your OWN grandmother!"

Q:  How many Druids does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  13.  One to hold the bulb, and 12 to drink until the room spins.

Q:  How many Astrologers does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  "Don't ask me now, Mercury is retrograde!"

Q:  How many Pagans does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  Six.  One to change it, and five to sit around complaining that bulbs never burned out before the Christians came along.

Q:  How many Ceremonial Magicians does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  One.  He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

Q:  How many Asatruar does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  None, there is plenty of light coming from the burning churches, thanks.

Q:  How many Techno-Pagans does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  If the computer is still working, who cares about the light bulb?

Q:  How many toads does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  One, if you can remember which one used to be the electrician.

"All Dogs Go To Heaven" Church Sign Debate
This was debunked by Snopes.com, but it's still damn funny:

Favorite Pagan Bumper Stickers:

"Isis Isis, Ra Ra Ra!"
"Switch to renewable energy... Mother Nature will help!"
"Don't preach to me and I won't cast a spell on you!"
"Has your God ever asked you to dance?"
"Witches really ARE green!"
(from azuregreen.net:  http://www.azuregreen.net/)

"Pay no attention to the man behind the pulpit"
"Winter Solstice is the reason for the season"
"It's easy to be open-minded when you're one of the things most people don't believe in..."
"The Bible bans Xmas trees.  Jeremiah 10:2-4"
"No rest for the Wiccan"
"Living on the fringe (organic, unbleached cotton fringe)"
"My dad is older than Wicca"
"I'm so good that when I call the Quarters, I get back change!"
"Fundamentalists are more mental than fun"
"I'm not a born again Christian, I'm a reincarnated Pagan!"
(from cafepress.com:  http://www.cafepress.com/)