Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Facebook Challenge

Recently on Facebook I was nominated to list 10 books that have stuck with me for some reason. I normally don't get involved with these types of things but I found this one was interesting. I enjoyed reading what my friends had to say and taking the time to wander through my book cases and review some of the books I have read throughout the years. It was like stopping by and saying hello to old friends I hadn't seen in a while. I spent three or for days, flipping through the pages and savoring some of my favorite passages

I actually forgot about the challenge for a few days while I visited my books... until a second friend challenged me, recalling me to my first reason for going through the books! I actually found this rather challenging, I learned to read very young in life (daughter of two educators) and since I learned how to read I was always eager to read more, learn more about the world around me and get lost in stories. Trying to pick just ten that stuck with me took quite a bit of thought and inner debating. Luckily one of my friends showed me a small cheat and added whole series as one entry, so I followed her lead to help me narrow down my choices. I selected these books because they either are books I have read over and over again, or are books that touched something within myself and changed the way I looked at the world.

10. Sherlock Holmes collection - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: This selection is purely entertainment value. I first picked up these around Grade 6 and instantly found myself transported to Victorian England. I loved the use of language, the descriptions of the setting of the story. The character of Holmes I actually found both ingenious and kind of funny. I still read these books and keep digital copies on my kindles (one on my phone one on my computer)

9. War of the Worlds - H.G Wells: I first read this book when I was a teenager and for about two or three weeks found myself constantly watching the skies. Now granted I knew there was no Martians in the sense of the book, I still knew that we didn't know what else was out there. Every year at least once or twice during the year my husband and I turn off all the lights, light some candles and listen to the 1938 radio broadcast.

8. Dracula - Bram Stoker: I actually never got around to this book until my last year of high school but when I read it I was hooked. Once again I loved the use of  language, the vast sweeping descriptions in the book; I could almost see, hear and smell everything in the book. I found the book to be romantic and terrifying. I re-read it every few years and still am disappointed that I have never found a movie that fully follows the story line.

7. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - J.R.R Tolkien: I read this series after the first movie came out on DVD. I was still in high school, was babysitting for a family and let the kids pick the movie. They chose The Fellowship of the Ring. I was never all that into the Fantasy Genera before and so I rolled my eyes as I popped the movie into the player. Within minutes I was hooked and was furious when the movie ended. I ranted and raved for a few minutes about how they ended it before the story was over. The 8 year old girl turned, looked at me and said "It's a Trilogy... duh". The next day I told my dad about the movie and he told me it was a book trilogy first. I made him take me to chapters right away. I loved them, the storyline, the intricate creation of cultures and languages within the book, the fact that he had created a whole new world, was AMAZING! After this I might have to reread the books again... then have a marathon.

6. 1984 - George Orwell: This book I first had to read in high school and I am not going to lie... I barely read it. We had to read three novels that year and read the Shakespearian play Macbeth. I was way more into the play than I was with 1984 so I speed read through it well enough to get a good grade. In university I had to read it again and after having a few more years under my belt I was able to fully understand George Orwell`s genius commentary on 1950`s society. I also found it frightening because I could still see something like it happening to this day.

5.The Earth Children Series (1st four books) - Jean M. Auel: I first started reading these books in high school, my dad had the first four of the series on his bookshelf for years as a kid and when I was younger I would pull them down and look at the pictures on the front and flip to the maps and drawings. When I finally read them I loved them. They were rich and descriptive and brought to life pre-history for me. I actually still enjoy reading about archeology and archeological theories on prehistory because of the interest this series developed in me. It was also the first books I had ever read where the religion was based on a female deity. It opened up some new ideas in my mind that would eventually lead me to begin researching various religions.

4. The Avalon Series - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana L. Paxson: I haven`t read all of the books yet, but I have read The Mists of Avalon, the Lady of Avalon, Ancestors of Avalon and the Ravens of Avalon. I read the Lady of Avalon while I was working at a summer camp and loved it! And in the Mists of Avalon the mixing of Fantasy and history while telling the story from the perspective of women was enchanting to me. Plus it was a whole new way of looking at the story which really appealed to me.

3.The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz. This series I read shortly after I finished university. I found the whole series really helpful in navigating the world. I was in the process of rebuilding myself after some personal trauma. In summary the agreements are: Be Impeccable with Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions and Always do Your Best. These ideas have followed me in life and have really served me well.

2. The Spiral Dance - Starhawk - While not my first book on paganism it was amongst my books and was the most influential. The poetic language, the passion for social justice, the idea of the benefit of a Goddess for both men and women were all beautiful to me. It was the first book that really made the idea of magic and ritual make sense to me. Before that I read the rituals with no idea why the hell anyone would want to perform them. With her book I felt empowered to try her rituals and then my own, and to find the divine in my own way.

1. The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank -  I read this book years ago. It was actually not a required reading for me at the time, my dad had a copy of the book for his class (being a teacher's daughter does have perks since teachers always have lots of books) so I borrowed it over the summer to read. This was my first introduction to the horror of the Holocaust. In all the years of my research and studies into WWII and the Holocaust this book, along with the survivor stories, really helped me to understand the human toll that oppression, hatred and bigotry takes.

So there you have it, the top ten books that have stuck with me for several year. I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me, I certainly enjoyed bringing it to you. Now if you will excuse me, the book self beckons...

Yours humbly

The Redneck Pagan

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Conversation with a Goddess

Well look at this... I'm actually posting again! So I am not going to lie, things have been a bit on the rough side. I've spent the past few weeks telling my closest friends my long list of sob stories so I won't bore the rest of the free world with them, other than to say the past few months have been a shrieking Hell on earth.The hardest part was that it was not just one event, but multiple events, each of them shook the foundations of my life (and my husband's life) to the point that I felt as though the ground was collapsing under my feet. The events of the past few months also brought out almost every old hurt and insecurity that I have held onto for the past 30 years of my life. Fortunately things finally calmed down enough over the past few weeks that we have been able to start getting our bearings.

I wish I could say that I handled the past few months well, but I really didn't. I cried a lot, and I don't mean sweet, pretty crying you see on TV, I mean full out snotty bawling like a baby crying. I screamed a few times, I was mopy and cranky for days on end and spent many days just plain down in the dumps.I still owe a million thanks to my family and friends who stood by me during the past few months, I know I have not been easy to live with. Between the professional and personal issues I also ran into a huge crisis of faith where nothing made sense anymore. I tried to read books, cast spells and do some rituals but everything felt hollow and empty and made me feel more lost than when I had started.

While emotionally I was going through the wringer I have to admit that I went through the rest of my life on autopilot. I got up in the morning, painted a smile on my face, went to work, came home, broke down a little, went to bed and then started all over again the next day. None of my usual coping methods (journaling, stones, meditation, gardening, music) were working. I felt completely out of touch with myself. Naturally many things in my life fell by the wayside; this blog, my garden, keeping the house in shape and everything to do with my spirituality.

Fortunately our vacation came in time to save my bacon. Two days of driving to the coast and then five days staying on the beach, lounging and spending time with my family, followed by a two day drive home, really helped me to get the cobwebs shook loose. I began engaging in daily life again and started pulling myself out of my funk... but something was missing. I really didn't want to sink back into the hole I had just pulled myself out of so I knew I had to do something. Things at work were rather slow so I spent a bit of time pondering what to do. An then I had an idea. I mulled it over for a few minutes and then decided to try this novel idea as soon as I got home. My husband was working the late shift at his job.

When I got home I pulled out one of our collapsible tables and set it up next to my favorite chair in the living room. I placed a nice cloth over the table and placed the statue of my favorite Goddess on the table. I poured myself a glass of wine and poured a second glass for Her. I then put on a music DVD (Cher's Farewell Tour, seemed appropriate). I then focused on that Goddess for a few minutes and then lit a candle. I held Her glass of wine in front of the statue for a moment and asked her to join me for a glass of wine and to talk.

I sat there for a few minutes sipping my wine and looking at the statue, feeling kind of foolish and wondering if this madcap idea was really a good one. So I began to sing along with the DVD (and make the poor dog cringe). After a few minutes I started to talk a little... then I began to talk a lot. I talked about everything, about things from my childhood that had hurt me, about things I was so angry about (including how short I am, I mean I need a stool to get my mixing bowls down!). I talked about the last few months and how much they had hurt me. I talked about what I wanted to fix in my life, what I no longer wanted. In between I sang along with some of my favorite shows, let the dog out to escape my singing, made sarcastic comments and drank wine.

When it was almost time for my husband to come home I thanked the Goddess for her time, poured the wine out onto a tree in my yard and put everything in order. As I placed the statue back onto it's spot on our shrine I asked her if we could do this again sometime and went to make a quick supper. That night I went to bed and for the first time in months fell asleep right away. After not doing any rituals or anything remotely spiritual in months I had finally found a way to sooth my spirit.

It was the strangest ritual I have ever done. There were no real tools, no circle cast, no call to the  directions or the elements. It followed no format and was completely unplanned, and yet it reached me deep down in my soul. Over the past few days I have been pondering about this and made some important realizations.

First and foremost was that I had stopped listening to myself. I was so focused on the outwards aspects of my life that I had not stopped to take the time to sooth my soul. When I did notice that I was out of sorts I tried following the rituals laid out by others, which failed miserably. I realized that I had focused way to much on the outward form, trying to do an "appropriate ritual" that I had lost the whole point of rituals... getting in touch with the divine. My focus was so much on what the right candles to use were that I forgot how to connect to the divine. I was working so hard on being religious that I had forgotten how to be spiritual. And finally it reminded me that the everyday things in our lives can be magical tools of transformation.

I'm sure somebody reading this will cringe that I would dare to approach a Goddess in such a manner, and to save them the trouble of sending me the scathing email I will tell you my answer now: BITE ME! I finally have been able to get back in touch with my soul and with the Goddess I follow, so far she hasn't yelled at me, in fact I feel like I am closer to her than I have been in years. I will still write and create more formal rituals, but every once in a while I think I will invite the Goddess over to watch some Cher and have a glass of wine with me!

Yours Humbly

The Redneck Pagan

Saturday, March 1, 2014

To Eowyn Cara

I recently got an email from a Lady named Eowyn, her email address that Witches' Voice provided is not working. In hope that she may get this I will post here:

Hi Eowyn

Thank you very much for your kind email. I'm afraid I cannot take very much credit for that article. The lady who came to speak to us spoke so well, so movingly, with such gentle strength her words seem to have imprinted into my very soul. The article was far more her voice than mine. I am, however, more than happy to be able to share her story, and have it's power touch as many as possible!
I'm not on too much social media, I have a twitter account (that I often forget I have), a facebook page: and my regular blog (much of which is on Witche's Voice)

Thank you again for taking the time to write! I always am happy to hear that my words are appreciated! I hope wherever you are in the world you are staying safe and warm (here in Central Alberta we are having a nasty cold snap).
Yours Humbly
The Redneck Pagan