Saturday, April 30, 2011


One of the reasons I follow a Pagan path is that in most incarnations it is a celebratory religion. Religion here is a broad term because there are so many Pagan paths one can walk down.  I, as you are aware, celebrate the season with the myth of Persephone.

Beltane isn't part of the Hellenic tradition, but it is a lovely day that happen right in between the spring equinox and summer solstice making it very convenient to celebration.  And I love to celebrate things.  I'll co-opt holidays from anywhere.  So, I celebrate Beltane.  And since my mantra is to really get out and celebrate, I think it is important to put my money where my mouth is and follow my own advice.  I won't be spending this Beltane weekend simply reciting prayers and making offers, I plan to get out and have fun.

Today, I am celebrating Beltane Eve with one of my favorite activities, a local Beer Festival.  I find it suitable to raise my tiny glass of tasty beer to the Gods and revel with them this season.

Tomorrow, we go with friends to the Georgia Renaissance Festival. I will don a costume, which I also think is an appropriate way to honor the gods.  Though tame and acceptable by the general public, a Renaissance Festival, if you stretch the definition, is almost a modern form of Mumming.  Costumes, characters, and performances.  And don't forget the food!  I can share a meal of fried macaroni on a stick with my Gods this year.  They Gods are joyful and I delight in their joy. 

So this year, really celebrate the spirit of the season with your friends and with your favorite things.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

International Pagan Coming Out Day

Last summer, my friend Cara Schulz posted over on Pagan+Politics her idea for a formalized Pagan Coming Out Day. I thought this was a great idea. Not long after that, I received an email from her asking if I would be willing to help with the launch of the movement. She put together a team - a real who's who of the modern Pagan community (felt humbled to be included) - and we got to work on what is now International Pagan Coming Out Day.

I am very proud to be a part of this project. It is very important to me that everyone is able to practice their own religion or spirituality in this country without fear of retribution or worse. In spite of what some people are saying today, our country was actually founded on a principle of religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson was famously quoted as saying "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

As is evident by this blog, my spirituality is an important part of my personal identity. I honor the gods of the ancient Greeks, most especially Persephone, and I believe that there is a lot of wisdom to be found in this tradition. It is beautiful, poetic and philosophical. Human culture would not be where it is today without the influence of the ancient Greeks and that is why I find their traditions and teachings still viable today. As a devotee of Persephone, I also find great beauty in the cycles of nature. As the seasons turn from year to year I find myself in absolute awe. I certainly understand the science behind it all, but I still want to connect with a divinity that I feel embodies that natural rhythm.I want to feel a part of something bigger than myself.

Why am I saying all this? Because no matter what traditions I follow or what Goddess I honor, I am still a good person. It makes me sad to think that so many people in this world are so afraid of what other people think - whether it is society, friends, or family - that they are willing to keep something so important to them so secret. When I have kept a secret in my life it is because I thought that somehow that thing must be inherently wrong. That people would judge me or I would "get in trouble." It was a lesson I learned at an early age. I don't want that the be the lesson about Paganism. I don't want it to be considered "Wrong." And I know you can't please anyone. I have certainly heard the counter arguments and people who are angry about Pagan Coming Out Day. People who say that it isn't anyone's business but their own. That is fine, then this might not be for you. One thing we're not doing is forcing people to participate. But as you are ready, as you chose to, do this thing on your own terms. I have a very good friend who has chosen this Coming Out Day to tell his family. I am very proud of him. It takes a lot of courage and he is exactly the reason I am behind this mission. I have even been surprised by some of the response I have been getting and I have never been "in". I share things about the movement on social networking sites and non-Pagan family and friends express their support as well. It makes my heart happy to see that people are willing to embrace these religious differences.

So, this May 2nd I will be celebrating International Pagan Coming Out Day at a local bar with really good beer. Pagans and non-Pagans will be there to honor our religious diversity and our choices.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Beltane?

As you know, I love a good holiday.  I love them so much I will gladly celebrate secular versions of any of the major religious observances.  Easter is an interesting problem this year.  Normally, it is so much closer to the Spring Equinox.  Since the typical symbols of Easter are actually more appropriate for the Spring Equinox it was always such an easy fit.  But this year, with Easter on April 24th, it is actually much closer to Beltane. I have written about Persephone's Beltane before.

I decided with Easter and Beltane just around the corner, it was time again to consult the Hellenic Cuisine Cookbook and find and appropriate offering for the holiday feast. 

The cookbook conveniently references May Day or Protomayia in Greek.  They suggest that it is "traditionally a day for an outing for which we suggest the following menu:"

Lamb Cooked in Foil
Pastitsio (Baked Macaroni)
Dolmathes (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Vegetable Platter
Greek Cheese Pie
Greek Bread
Coffee or Cool Drinks
Pasta Flora
Fresh Fruit

In only the way that this cookbook can do, it doesn't provide any information on some of these recipes.  I couldn't find the "Pasta Flora" at all so I had to google it. It also seems that Pastitsio is a staple and since it is one of my favorites I have posted the recipe here before.  I love the lushness of this menu, too.  The foods seem so sensual and rich, which is perfect.  I decided to share a Dolmathes recipe here, which not only would honor Persephone this Beltane but also her brother, Dionysos who embodies much of what Beltane means. 

And, true to form, the cookbook doesn't offer just a regular Dolmathes recipe.  But I did fine one titled "Vine Leaves Stuffed With Rice".  I present it to you unedited for your reading and cooking pleasure.  I can never get enough of the way these old recipes are written even if it means I go "huh?" when I try to cook one. 

50 Vine Leaves, Fresh or Canned
2 cups Rice
3 Medium Onions, Chopped
1.5 cups olive oil
1 lemon
1 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons pignolia nuts (pine nuts) and currants (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Prepare as follows: fry the chopped onions in oil until golden brown.  Add the washed rice and rest of ingredients and about 1 cup of water.  Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.  Let mixture cool.  Rinse and drain vine leaves.  Fill each leaf carefully, using one large or two small leaves for each dolma, making sure that the shiny side of the leaves remain on outside.  A teaspoon of the filling is sufficient and do not roll too tightly to allow room for rice to expand.  Place a few coarse leaves on bottom of pot, and arrange domathes side by side and layer upon layer until all leaves and filling are used.  Add three cups of water, a little salt, oil and the juice of one lemon.  Cover with a heavy plate and let simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the rice is cooked.  Serve cold. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Concrete Evidence

I had submitted this piece to a magazine but it was not selected for publication.  Then promptly, I forgot about it.  I found it this morning and decided now was a fine time to share it.  It is about beginning the foundation of our tiny house in North Carolina - both physically and spiritually. It doesn't specifically mention Persephone, but she is my strength and inspiration. With this story of discovering my own strength, I honor her.

The mists gently cascaded over the rolling mountains. The trees swayed softly in the morning breeze.  I breathed in deeply. I was at home on a mountain in the wilds of Western North Carolina, finally.  Sometimes I think I can feel the pulse of the quartz that bubbles to the surface of the soil all over our land.  I feel a peace I never knew I was missing. 
            Over the last several years, I began a journey that has changed my life; and monument to that journey stands on the top of a small mountain deep in the blue haze of the Smoky Mountains.
            Several years before, I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia with my husband.  We had both grown up in Suburban Detroit and had known for a long time that we didn't want to stay there forever.  The opportunity presented itself to relocate to Atlanta and it seemed like a great option.  We didn't really know *where* we wanted to spend the rest of our lives and Atlanta offered us the opportunity to explore the American South East. Shortly after our move, we discovered Asheville, North Carolina and fell instantly in love.  We knew that we had a place we belonged. 
            In 2009, I found myself building a house with my own two hands. My husband had long expressed restlessness with the corporate world of 9 to 5 jobs and work that did not fulfill him spiritually.  For him, the solution to that was to explore his dream of building a house on his own. For myself, I had always wanted to live self sufficiently - I wanted to be accountable only to myself when it came to how I spent my time and how I used my own resources to live simply. Those two motivating factors were easily compatible and we enjoyed working together to realize them.  When we uncovered the mysterious properties of Asheville we finally felt ready to move forward with those dreams.  We were able to buy fifteen acres in the mountains just north of Asheville and began work on a tiny cabin.  We painstakingly began to build, having never done anything like it before.  Occasionally we had friends help us, but most of the time it was just the two of us camping and building on weekends. 
            On a weekend in May, I discovered a strength that I didn't know I had.  Our building site is inaccessible by car or truck by design.  We use an ATV to get supplies to the area.  This particular weekend we were to pour the concrete piers for our foundation. The holes had been dug several weeks prior by my husband and a friend using an auger rented from Home Depot.  We had hoped to begin the process of pouring the concrete at that time, but we had been slowly learning that projects seemed to progress at their own pace regardless of our determination.  Now, the two of us faced the task of pouring the piers ourselves in one two-day weekend.  Neither of us had ever done it before.  We spent time making sure the cardboard tubes, called Sonotubes, used to set the posts were level with one another and cut to the right height.  We transported a small cement mixer, thirty gallons of water, and twenty-four hundred pounds of unmixed concrete up to the building site.  We were forced to make trip after trip as the ATV could only carry three bags of concrete at a time.  When finally all of the components were safely at our worksite, we began to mix and pour concrete to make eight foundation piers.  By this time, it was already after noon on Sunday.  Both of us still worked corporate jobs in Atlanta so we were motivated to get this project done in time to get back for work on Monday.  Like the proverbial well-oiled machine, the two of us worked together mixing one bag of concrete with one gallon of water at a time, thankfully with the help of a cement mixer and our generator.  We would pour the mixture into a bucket and then into the sonotubes.  Bucket after bucket after bucket.  Time still marched on and while working on the seventh pier we knew that we were running out of daylight.  We both started to panic in different ways.  My partner was worried about getting everything done to perfection in spite of the time crunch and I was worried about having enough time to clean up the worksite and begin the three hour drive back to Atlanta.  Emotions ran high and tempers began to flare.  As the last light of the sun dipped below the mountains, we set the last anchor bolt in the wet concrete of pier number seven with only the illumination of a flash light.  This still meant we had one more pier to do, and we would have to mix it by hand some other weekend as we had to return the mixer to its lender.  Anxiously, we were able to clean up the worksite, pack up the car and leave the Blue Ridge mountains going toward Atlanta.  It was eleven thirty when we started the three hour drive back. We were both tired and we drove in shifts and finally made it back around two thirty a.m. on Monday Morning.  I had called my office and left a message over night. - I needed some sleep or I was going to be completely non-functional.  The gravity of what we had actually accomplished finally set in and by the next day the memory of the event began to change.
            To be completely honest, I was miserable that day. It was hard and dirty work that I had never done before.  I was frustrated by time not being on our side.  Never once was I ready to give up.  Now, there is a little house standing at the top of a mountain near Asheville, NC.  With our own determination and with the help of some dear friends, we were able to construct a perfectly level and square tiny cabin in the woods.  It isn't done yet, but we are very proud of where we are.  And still, we haven't dreamed of giving up.