Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life in a House of Testosterone

Check it out!  If this blog gets 200 followers before the end of could win $20.12!!!

Life in a House of Testosterone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pagan Roots...

If a christian won't believe you when you tell them that christmas has pagan roots? Ask them about what "The Twelve Days of Christmas", "Deck the Halls" and/or "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" have to do with christianity.

(HINT: The correct answer is "absolutely fuck-all". All three songs are survivors from pre-christian solstice celebrations. Every single thing your true love gave to you in Twelve Days is a pagan symbol :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blog Name Change!

I have renamed this blog to "My Life as a Dog Bed" for an all new look soon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Five Things Dogs Would Appreciate More Than Beer

The World Records Academy has recognized Bowser Beer as the first brew made specifically for dogs. May I suggest five simple things that dogs would appreciate a lot more than a beer:

1. Real walks, not "drag-alongs" with someone on their cell phone who isn't paying attention to what they want to stop and sniff as well as outings to dog parks where they can safely run around off leash.

2. The opportunity to bark now and then. People talk all day long, yet dogs are often shushed if they bark even once―even when they're warning that someone's coming to the door.

3. Frequent and prompt bathroom breaks, i.e., don't make your dog wait for you with legs crossed while you brush your teeth and comb your hair first thing in the morning.

4. Veterinary checkups for painful dental problems―something not cool to neglect―as well as fresh, clean water rather than yesterday's.

5. Your time. Don't be a blur, dashing in, changing, and dashing back out again, leaving your dog to stare at the walls for even more hours. Get the ball out and throw it, give tummy rubs, hang out together, and see the first bulleted item above. Provide plenty of "outside" time, even if the weather's bad.

Celtic Deities

With current trends toward the resurrection and reconstruction of the old religions, it would be possible to spend weeks writing about the various deities of each culture. Since this is primarily a Celtic web site, I will focus mainly on those of early Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Due to the limitation of space, I will give a brief summation of the attributes associated with each deity in this text. There are many excellent texts available where you may study these in depth.

It is important to note that modern day Wiccans, Pagans and Witches generally focus on the major aspect of The One, Goddess and God without breaking deity down into the many subsets shown here.

ANGUS MAC OG (Makohk) ((Ireland)) *God*
One of the Tuatha De Danann. God of youth, love and beauty.

ANU (An-oo) / ANANN / DANA / DANA-ANA ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Mother Earth, Goddess of fertility, prosperity, comfort.

ARAWN (Ar-awn) ((Wales)) *God*
God of the underground kingdom of the dead. Revenge, terror and war.

ARIANRHOD (Ari-an-rod) ((Wales)) Goddess
Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess. Honored at the full moon, beauty, fertility, reincarnation.

BADB (Bibe) / BADHBH / BADB CATHA ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess in Ireland. Associated with the cauldron, crows and ravens. Life, wisdom, inspiration and enlightenment.

BANBA ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Part of a triad with Fotia and Eriu. They used magick to repel invaders.

Closely connected to the Druids. Science, healing, hot springs, fire, success, prosperity, purification, crops, vegetation, fertility. A sun and fire god.

BLODEUWEDD (blod-oo-eeth) / BLODWIN / BLANCHEFLOR ((Wales)) *Goddess*
The maiden form of the Triple Goddess. Goddess of the earth in bloom, flowers, wisdom, lunar mysteries, initiations.

BOANN (Boo-an) / BOANNAN / BOYNE ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Goddess of the river Boyne; mother of Angus mac Og.

God of prophecy, the arts, leaders, war, the sun, music, writing.

BRANWEN (Bran-oo-en) ((Wales)) *Goddess*
Goddess of love and beauty.

BRIGIT (Breet) / BRID (Breed) / BRIG / BRIGID / BRIGHID ((Ireland, Wales, Spain, France)) *goddess*
Associated with Imbloc. Goddess of fire, fertility, the hearth, all feminine arts and crafts and martial arts. Healing, physicians, agriculture, inspiration, learning, poetry, divination, prophecy, smithcraft, animal husbandry, love, witchcraft, occult knowledge.

CERNUNNOS (Ker-noo-nos) / CERNOWAIN / CERNENUS / HERNE THE HUNTER ((Known to all Celtic areas in one form or another)) *God*
God of nature and all wild things. Virility, fertility, animals, physical love, nature, woodlands, reincarnation, crossroads, wealth, commerce, warriors.

Goddess of nature. Death, fertility, regeneration, inspiration, magick, astrology, herbs, science, poetry, spells, knowledge.

Connected with Beltane, often called the May Queen. Goddess of summer flowers, love.

THE CRONE ((Known in all Celtic regions)) *Goddess*
One aspect of the Triple Goddess. She represents old age or death, winter, the end of all things, the waning moon, post-menstrual phases of women's lives. All destruction that precedes regeneration through her cauldron of rebirth.

THE DAGDA ((Ireland)) *God*
Protection, warriors, knowledge, magick, fire, prophecy, weather, reincarnation, the arts, initiation, the sun, healing, regeneration, prosperity and plenty, music, the harp.

DANU / DANANN / DANA (Thana) ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Probably the same as Anu. Mother of the Gods, Great Mother, Moon Goddess. Patroness of wizards, rivers, water, wells, prosperity and plenty, magick wisdom.

DIANCECHT (Dian-ket) / DIAN CECHT ((Ireland)) *God*
Physician-magician of the Tuatha. God of healing, medicine, regeneration, magick, silver working.

DON / DOMNU (Dom-noo) ((Ireland and Wales)) *God*
Ruler of the land of the dead and entrances to the otherworld. Control of the elements, eloquence.

DRUANTIA ((All Celtic regions)) *Goddess*
Mother of the tree calendar. Fertility, passion, sexual activities, trees, protection, knowledge, creativity.

DYLAN ((Wales)) *God*
God of the sea.

ELAINE ((Wales)) *Goddess*
Maiden aspect of the Goddess.

EPONA ((Britain, Gaul)) *Goddess*
Goddess of fertility, maternity, protectress of horses, horse breeding, prosperity, dogs, healing springs, crops.

ERIU (Err-i-oo) / ERIN ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
One of three queens of the Tuatha Da Danann.

FLIDAIS ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Goddess of forests, woodlands and wild things.

GOIBNIU / GOFANNON / GOVANNON (Gov-ann-on) ((Ireland and Wales)) *God*
God of blacksmiths, weapon makers, jewelry making, brewing, fire, metalworking.

GREAT FATHER ((All Celtic regions)) *God*
The Lord. The horned god, (Not Satan) lord of winter, harvest, land of the dead, the sky, animals, mountains, lust, powers of destruction and regeneration. The male aspect of creation.

GREAT MOTHER ((All Celtic regions)) *Goddess*
The Lady. The female aspect of creation, goddess of fertility, the moon, summer, flowers, love, healing.

THE GREEN MAN ((All Celtic regions)) *God*
See Cernunnos. A horned deity of trees and green growing things of earth. God of the woodlands.

GWYDION (Gwi-dee-on) ((Wales)) *God*
Greatest of the enchanters, warrior-magician. Illusion, changes, magick, the sky, healing.

GWYNN AP NUDD (Gwin ap Neethe) ((Wales)) *God*
King of the fairies and the underworld.

GWYTHYR (Gwee-theer) ((Wales)) *God*
Opposite of Gwynn ap Nudd. King of the upper world.

HERNE THE HUNTER ((All Celtic regions)) *God*
See Cernunnos, The Horned God, and Green Man.

THE HORNED GOD ((All Celtic regions)) *God*
Lord of the wild hunt. The masculine, active side of nature. Earth father, growing things, wild animals, alertness, fertility, desire, physical love, agriculture, flocks, brewing.

LLYR (Thleer) / LEAR / LIR (Hlir) ((Ireland and Wales)) *God*
God of the sea and water.

LUGH (loo or loog) ((Ireland)) *God*
God of skills. Druid, physician, smithing, war, magick, commerce, reincarnation, lightning, water, arts and crafts, manual arts, journeys, martial arts, poets, musicians, historians, sorcerers, healing, revenge, initiation, prophecy.

MACHA (Maax-ah) ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
Protectress in war as in peace, goddess of war and death. Cunning, sheer physical force, sexuality, fertility, dominance over men.

MANANNAN MAC LIR (Mannan-awn maklir) ((Ireland and Wales)) *God*
God of the sea, navigators, storms, weather at sea, fertility, sailing, weather forecasting, magick, arts, merchants and commerce, rebirth.

MARGAWSE ((Wales)) *Goddess*
Mother aspect of the Goddess.

MATH MATHONWY (Math math-on-oo-ee) ((Wales)) *God*
God of sorcery, magick, enchantment.

MERLIN / MERDDIN / MYRDDIN (Meer-din) ((Wales and Britain)) *God*
Great sorcerer, Druid, magician. Illusion, shape-shifting, herbs, healing, woodlands, nature, protection, counseling, prophecy, divination, psychic abilities, foreseeing, crystal reading, tarot, magick, rituals, spells, incantations, artisans and smiths.

THE MORRIGU (Moor-rig-oo) / MORRIGAN (Mor-ee-gan) / MORRIGHAN / MORGAN (Moor-gan) ((Ireland, Wales, and Britain)) *Goddess*
Supreme war goddess. Queen of phantoms and demons, shape-shifter. The crone aspect of the goddess, great white goddess. Patroness of priestesses and witches. Revenge, night, magick, prophecy.

NUADA / NUDD/ NODONS ((Ireland and Wales)) *God*
Similar to Neptune. God of the water, oceans, fishing, the sun, sailing.

OGMA / OGHMA / OGMIOS ((Ireland)) *God*
Similar to Hercules.

PWYLL ((Wales)) *God*
Ruler of the underworld.

RHIANNON (Hri-an-non) ((Wales)) *Goddess*
The great Queen. Goddess of birds and horses. Enchantments, fertility and the underworld.

SCATHACH / SCOTA/ SCATHA ((Ireland)) *Goddess*
The shadowy one. Goddess in the destroyer aspect. A warrior woman and prophetess who lived in Albion (Scotland), probably on the Isle of Skye and taught the martial arts. Patroness of blacksmiths, healing, magick, prophecy, martials arts.

TALIESIN (Tal-i-ess-in) ((Wales)) *God*
God of the bards. Poetry, wisdom, wizards, music, knowledge, magick.

WHITE LADY ((All Celtic regions)) *Goddess*
Associated with the Crone aspect of the Goddess. Dryad of death, destruction, annihilation.

Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism FAQ

Q. Are Wicca and Witchcraft the same thing? 

A. Some say yes, and some say no. I suppose the only way to navigate this question safely is to point out what some may consider the main differences. In general, Wiccans feel free to review different belief systems, such as Celtic, Norse, Essene, Gnosis, or Shamanism, and then blend together any points that "feel" right into their own personal path. Pure Witchcraft on the other hand, may focus a little more tightly on using Magick and ritual to work with the elemental and spiritual forces in nature. Regardless, I feel the differences are slight in that Wicca and Witchcraft both work to achieve balance and harmony within nature and self.

Personally, I follow a predominately Celtic Witch/Tantric path. As time passes, I find myself increasingly drawing upon the wisdom and beliefs of other spiritual paths as my knowledge and understanding of them increases. So, when asked I'll tell you I'm a Witch, I also consider myself a Wiccan and perhaps part Shaman because I utilize and blend aspects of them all.

Q. Who do Witches Worship? 

A. There is a single power defined as the One or All, which is composed of everything it has ever created. This supreme energy force does not rule over the Universe, it IS the Universe. Since most find it difficult to talk to or call upon a faceless mass of Divine energy, this supreme power is personified into male and female aspects as the Goddess and God. This simply makes the concept easier for the human mind to comprehend and relate to. Some take this concept a step further and use actual names, like Astarte, Isis, Odin, Pan, Dianna, Cernunnos, etc., when invoking the Goddess and God. In the end, it is a personal preference and what a Witch uses depends on what "feels" right for them individually.

Q.  How do Witches view Christianity. Are Witches Anti-Christian? 

A.  Not necessarily. Witchcraft, overall, is very tolerant of other religious views, and does not engage itself in criticizing the beliefs of other people, providing that their beliefs do not violate the basic tenant of "Harm None." Witches do object to religions that attempt to suppress the religious beliefs of others, or every human's right to seek spirituality in their own way. This is why there is a slight rub between Wiccans, Pagans, Witches, and some Christians. Many of them feel they have exclusive rights to the divine. We also have a strong disdain for those who use religion as an excuse to commit mass genocide. The "Burning Times" are a clear historical example of one religious group attempting to exert its philosophies and beliefs upon others using extreme measures.

Perhaps an over simplified way of describing our view is this: Imagine a beautiful meadow in the forest, and their are many paths leading to this meadow. It really does not matter which path you take to get there, the important thing is that you get there without harming anyone or anything along the way.

Q.  Can I follow the path of Wicca or Witchcraft and be a Christian too?

A.  Again, some say yes and others maintain that they are completely separate religions. I believe that if one looks closely at the true teachings of Jesus with an open heart, you will find some stark commonalities. It is only when one takes literally the sometimes frail misinterpretations of those who misunderstood the intent or used the teachings to suit their own political agendas that one see's wide differences.

As a solitary you are free to choose any path you desire, or any blend that "feels" right to you. The important thing is to not allow a name or word to become a stumbling block. It is the intent of your actions and spirituality that matters in the end. I realize it is a poor comparison; Peanut Butter and Chocolate are two completely separate things. The fact remains, however, that they work pretty well when mixed together. Ultimately you must do what "feels" right to you...

Q.  The Wiccan Rede says "An it harm none, do as ye will." Does that mean a Witch can do anything they want and its OK if they justify the action to themselves? 

A.  An excellent question indeed! and the answer is no... The whole premise of our belief system is based on living in harmony with all things that exist. This includes, but is not limited to the earth, trees, rivers, lakes, oceans, air, and all of earth's creatures, as well as other people without regard to race, color, religion, or sexual orientation.

My interpretation of the Rede tells me that the creative force of the universe has given me an inner voice, or "conscience," which tells me what is right or wrong. It is also this consciousness that connects me to the creator. By listening to this inner voice, (Perhaps I should clarify here. No I do not hear voices, *smile* it is more like something I feel) I try to analyze my impulses and feelings to ensure they are not driven by greed, lust, envy, prejudice or anger. If they are, I try to put them in perspective or discard them all together. I then use common sense and judgment in my actions and accept full responsibility for them. This is not always easy to do, but I try. By keeping these ideals of right and wrong foremost in my mind, as well as seeking to obtain harmony and balance with nature and all living things, I am able to do my best at following the Rede as I go through my day.

This is not to say that Witches are perfect, never do anything wrong, or make mistakes. We are still human. We are aware of, or try to be aware of the karmic return of our actions, and are very careful not to send out negative energy in thought or deed.

Yes, sometimes a Witch will focus an energy form toward someone who needs a psychic zap. This is only done however when a person is consistently doing something very wrong within society and causing a lot of harm to others. If and when a Witch does zap someone, they do so with the full knowledge that it will eventually return to them and there will be a price to pay according to the Law of Three. There are times when we simply must make a personal sacrifice for the good of the whole and shoulder this weight.

When confronted with this type of situation, I prefer to bring this person to the attention of the Goddess, asking her that justice be done according to her will. In this way I am not focusing negative energy towards the individual and therefore am less likely to suffer karmic repercussions.

Q.  If Wicca and Witchcraft are not evil, why do you wear black robes? 

A.  This is another baseless superstition and Witches wear clothing and robes of every color. Black is the combination of all colors and all vibrational rates of light on the material plane. It is known that black is a very good conductor of energy, therefore wearing black simply helps Witches absorb natural energy to increase the power of their thought forms. Personally, I do my Magickal work naked. Gawd, there's an ugly visualization for ya! LOL...

Q.  OK, so if Wicca and Witchcraft are not evil, why do you hold rituals and ceremonies at night hidden in the woods? 

A.  This practice has its history in a couple of different things, none of which have anything to do with evil... In the old world, especially within the Celtic tribes, the day followed an entirely different schedule than it does in modern times. The new day for them actually began at sunset. This is also why most observances of holidays were celebrated on the evening before the actual calendar day. The second reason is that survival had an entirely different meaning during those times. Almost without exception, everyone spent their daylight hours tending the crops, their herds, or engaged in their trade. All daylight hours were vitally important simply for survival reasons.

OK, so that takes care of why we observed our rites at night during ancient times, and many of the reasons are the same in today's times. For one, most of us are busy working all day earning a living, so the evening is the only time we have to seek spiritual communion. Secondly, Wicca and Witchcraft are still largely misunderstood religions and we are still persecuted for our beliefs. Another reason which is important for me, and possibly for others as well is that I feel a special closeness to the Goddess and God at night. Yes I can, and do, enjoy the mountains and meadows during the daylight, or a sunrise and sunset, but I am truly more aware of the heavens and the great expanse of the Universe at night, so it just makes sense for me.

Q.  What form does the practice of Witchcraft take? 

A.  The form and context vary from group to group, and between each ritual, and may run the gamut from elaborate ceremony to spontaneous ritual to simple meditation.

Q.  How do you see the Goddess and God? 

A.  Wiccans believe that there are female/male aspects to the One or All and without the union and balance of these two aspects, nothing can exist. See Before Time Was or read the answer to question number two above again for more insight.

Q.  Do all Witches practice their religion the same way? 

A.  Yes and no. Wicca is a highly individualistic religion. Moreover, the number of different sects within the Craft may give the impression that no two groups practice the same way. Though practices may vary, most traditions have many similarities, such as the working of magick and a respect for nature. Most Witches find enough common ground for mutual support and productive networking throughout the Craft community.

Q.  Is Witchcraft a cult? 

A.  No. Cults are groups that trade a sense of salvation and belonging for the ability to think for oneself. They indulge in extravagant homage or adoration (Webster's Dictionary), usually of an earthly leader of some sort. If you know a real Witch, you'll quickly come to find the term "Cult" could not apply to us. Most Wiccans, Witches and pagans come to the Craft individually through reading and communing with nature. They often will remain solitary in their beliefs but other will also find like-minded people to celebrate seasonal cycles or monthly moons with. Witches are extremely individualistic, self sufficient and defend the right of free will without hesitation.

Q.  Do Witches have a bible? 

A.  No. A bible is supposedly the word of a deity revealed through a prophet. Witchcraft is a Pagan folk-religion of personal experience. Witchcraft in the old times was much the same as the beliefs of the Essenes, Gnostics, Druids, and many other religions. The teachings were passed along by spoken word through long periods of one-on-one instruction with an Elder of the Craft. This approach was taken because the power and knowledge could be misused in the wrong hands. Therefore, by using only the spoken word, the old masters could ensure those who wished to follow the path had a true understanding and their hearts were in the right place as their knowledge of the mysteries grew. Unfortunately, when the medieval church began its attempts to convert and eliminate rival belief systems, the teachers were either killed outright or went underground resulting in much of the ancient knowledge being lost.

Q.  If Witches don't have a bible, what do you use? 

A.  Most modern Witches keep a Book of Shadows, (BOS) or Grimoire, which is more like an individuals workbook, journal, or diary, meaningful to the person who keeps it. This book contains rituals, discoveries, spells, poetry, herb lore, etc. Covens almost always keep a similar group book. I am not exactly sure how the name "Book of Shadows" came to be, but I would assume that this also ties into the Burning Times when the church set out to eliminate all texts along with the followers of the old ways. The writings that existed were more than likely were taken into the shadows and hidden with the survivors.

Q.  The word Tradition is used quite often. What is the exact meaning of this? 

A.  Here the word Tradition relates to the beliefs of a specific geographical region such as Celtic, Germanic, Norse, etc., and is sometimes broken down into further subsets. Essentially it is much the same as the variety of denominations seen within Christianity, such as Methodist, Mormon or Catholic.

Q.  Do Witches cast spells? 

A.  Some do and some don't. Spellwork should never be the focus of following this path and those who seek our ways only for this purpose are very misguided. A spell is a ritual formula, or series of steps, to direct psychic energy to accomplish a desired end. This energy is drawn from the Earth with the aid of elementals, concentrated and sent out into the world to achieve a positive goal. Since Witchcraft teaches that whatever one sends out is returned threefold, Witches are very careful to never send out harmful energy carelessly. The Christian word for this is "Prayer". The only real difference is that Witches also invoke the aid of spirit guides, familiars or other elemental energies to add strength to the process as well as using ritual tools.

Q.  Do Witches worship the devil? 

A.  No. Satan, or the Devil, has absolutely no place in Wicca or Witchcraft. The worship of Satan is the practice of profaning Christian symbolism and is thus a Christian heresy, rather than a Pagan religion. The Goddess and God of the Witches are in no way connected to Satanic practices. Satan, or the Devil, is a Christian creation and they are more than welcome to keep him.

Q.  Are Witches only women?

A.  No, although women do seem to predominate in the Craft overall. In fact, some traditions have only women practitioners, just as others have only men. A male Witch is simply called a Witch, never a warlock and it is considered an insult to call a male Witch "Warlock". The word "Warlock" actually means "oath breaker". Some traditions of Wicca separate between female/male. The word "Wicce" pronounced (Wik-kay) designates a female Witch and "Wicca" pronounced (Wik-kah) designates a male Witch.

Q.  How do Witches view Sex? 

A.  Sex is part of nature and sacred to the Deities and Witches. Just like everyone else, we think it's wonderful. The Great Rite at Beltane is a symbolic representation of the union between the Goddess and God resulting in the creation of all that exists. Very few, if any, traditions engage in sex as a part of group rites and there are no orgies during ritual. Many couples who have chosen each other, and jointly follow the path, do use sex magick in their private rites and rituals, however. It is a deeply intimate sharing of body, spirit and soul which bonds them together closer than anything else can.

Q.  What is the purpose of performing ceremonies Skyclad? 

A.  The term skyclad means "Clad only by the sky". Not all Witches perform rituals skyclad, but there are those who believe that the absence of clothing allows energy to transfer to and from them more freely. Many simply feel closer to the Goddess and God while in their natural form without the bindings of human technology, insecurities or socially retarded inhibitions regarding the human form. Many wear a robe or some other clothing made of natural materials while participating in group activities and go skyclad only when observing rites alone or with their mate. Regardless, going skyclad during ritual is in no way a sexual act, it is a deeply spiritual one for those who "choose" to do so.

Q.  Is Witchcraft a religion? 

A.  Yes, Witchcraft is a nature based religion and it has been recognized as such in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., Wicca has full recognition as a religion and is granted all rights as such under the Constitution. The American Heritage Dictionary defines religion as "a belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe". So yes, it does qualify as such. Our definition differs slightly in that to us, the creator of the universe IS the universe. Witchcraft, or Wicca, is not something that can be followed once in a while or when it is convenient or we need or want something. It is a dedication made to nature, the deities and yourself. It is a way of life, and as such we are mindful of the balance between ourselves and all things within the universe at all times.

Q.  How do Witches view death? 

A.  Many Witches believe in reincarnation and the Summerland. After passing over, Summerland is where the spirit awaits to be returned into a new physical form. We do not believe in an absolute Heaven or Hell where the spirit spends eternity as reward or punishment for ones earthly actions.

Q.  How can someone find out more about Witchcraft? 

A.  Ours is not a missionary religion, and we never try to make converts. We feel that if this path is right for you, you will find your way to it. We are, however, becoming more visual and vocal in an attempt to educate and dispel myths and superstitions about the Craft. You need not worry about a Witch knocking on your door and wanting to come in and share passages from their BOS. For those who are interested there are many excellent books in our suggested reading list. Some Witches also teach classes or facilitate discussion groups. In this way, people may make contact with a like minded Coven, form their own groups or share thoughts and beliefs with others. There is also a growing number of superb craft sites on the internet, periodicals, and national and regional festivals through which a seeker can make contact with the larger Craft community.

The Witches Creed

Hear now the words of the witches,
The secrets we hid in the night, 
When dark was our destiny's pathway, 
That now we bring forth into light. 

Mysterious water and fire, 
The earth and the wide-ranging air, 
By hidden quintessence we know them, 
And will and keep silent and dare. 

The birth and rebirth of all nature, 
The passing of winter and spring, 
We share with the life universal, 
Rejoice in the magical ring. 

Four times in the year the Great Sabbat 
Returns, and the witches are seen 
At Lammas and Candlemas dancing, 
On May Eve and old Hallowe'en. 

When day-time and night-time are equal, 
When sun is at greatest and least, 
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
And Witches gather in feast. 

Thirteen silver moons in a year are, 
Thirteen is the coven's array. 
Thirteen times at Esbat make merry,
For each golden year and a day. 

The power that was passed down the age, 
Each time between woman and man, 
Each century unto the other, 
Ere time and the ages began. 
When drawn is the magical circle, 
By sword or athame of power, 
Its compass between two worlds lies, 
In land of the shades for that hour. 
This world has no right then to know it. 

And world of beyond will tell naught. 
The oldest of Gods are invoked there, 
The Great Work of magic is wrought. 

For the two are mystical pillars, 
That stand at the gate of the shrine, 
And two are the powers of nature, 
The forms and the forces divine. 

The dark and the light in succession, 
The opposites each unto each, 
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess: 
Of this our ancestors teach. 

By night he's the wild winds rider, 
The Horn'd One, the Lord of the Shades. 
By day he's the King of the Woodland, 
The dweller in green forest glades. 

She is youthful or old as she pleases, 
She sails the torn clouds in her barque, 
The bright silver lady of midnight, 
The crone who weaves spells in the dark.

The master and mistress of magic, 
That dwell in the deeps of the mind, 
Immortal and ever-renewing, 
With power to free or to bind. 

So drink the good wine to the Old Gods, 
And Dance and make love in their praise, 
Till Elphame's fair land shall receive us 
In peace at the end of our days. 

And Do What You Will be the challenge, 
So be it Love that harms none, 
For this is the only commandment. 
By Magic of old, be it done! 

From Doreen Valiente's, "Witchcraft For Tomorrow" 

Song of the Goddess

I am the Great Mother, worshiped by all creation and existent prior to their consciousness.
I am the primal female force, boundless and eternal. 

I am the chaste Goddess of the Moon, the Lady of all magic.
The winds and moving leaves sing my name.
I wear the crescent Moon upon my brow and my feet rest among the starry heavens.
I am mysteries yet unsolved, a path newly set upon.
I am a field untouched by the plow.
Rejoice in me and know the fullness of youth. 

I am the blessed Mother, the gracious Lady of the harvest.
I am clothed in the deep, cool wonder of the Earth and the gold of the fields heavy with grain.
By me the tides of the Earth are ruled; all things come to fruition according to my season.
I am refuge and healing.
I am the life giving Mother, wondrously fertile. 

I am the Crone, tender of the unbroken cycle of death and rebirth.
I am the wheel, the shadow of the Moon.
I rule the tides of the oceans and of women and men.
I give release and renewal to weary souls. 

I am the Goddess of the Moon, the Earth, the Seas.
My names are many, yet know that by all names I am the same.
I pour forth insight, peace, wisdom and understanding.
I am the eternal Maiden, Mother of all, and Crone of reckoning,
and I send you blessings of limitless love. 

A Soldier's Christmas






















--Author Unknown

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nigella's Christmas Kitchen

Holiday Eating Tips

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit.  In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately.  Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can.  And quickly.  Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even
 rarer than single-malt scotch.  You can't find it any other time of year but now.  So drink up!  Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip?  It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something.  It's a treat.  Enjoy it.  Have one for me.  Have two.  It's later than you think.  It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it.  That's the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes.  Fill it with gravy.  Eat the volcano.  Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with  skim milk or whole milk.  If it's skim, pass.  Why bother?  It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free.  Lots of it.  Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They're like a beautiful pair of shoes.  If you leave them behind,
you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies.  Apple.  Pumpkin.  Mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin.  Always have three.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost.  I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention.  Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

History of the Yule Tree

By Donna Arbucci-Schilling in Universal Life Coven

Yule Trees aka Christmas trees are a central part of the holiday celebrations around the world. Families gather around them to exchange gifts, cities put them up in squares and town halls, you'll find them in nearly every hotel and shopping mall... Although there's some debate as to whether the Yule/Xmas tree as it's used today has Pagan origins, it's clear that several non-christian cultures brought evergreen plants indoors at the time of the winter solstice.

Dating back centuries before Christ, cultures brought evergreen trees, plants, and leaves into their homes upon the arrival of the winter solstice, which occurs in the northern hemisphere between December 21st and 22nd. Although the specific practices were different in each country and culture, the symbolization was generally the same: to celebrate the return of life at the beginning of winter's decline.

Egyptians particularly valued evergreens as a symbol of life's victory over death. They brought green date palm leaves into their homes around the time of the winter solstice.

Druid priests in Great Britain also used evergreen plants and mistletoe in pagan ceremonies, and the mistletoe plant was the symbol of the birth of a god. Celtic Druids and Norseman of Scandinavia also used mistletoe in a mysterious ceremony just after the winter solstice.

Romans had a public festival called Saturnalia, which lasted one week beginning on December 17th, and included a variety of celebrations around the winter solstice. Curiously, the Roman winter solstice was marked on December 25th on the Julian calendar. These celebrations are thought to have merged with pagan practices of hanging mistletoe and the burning of the Yule log.

In Britain, the Yule log was originally seen as a magical amulet, and eventually made it into the hand's of Father Christmas. In Italy the Yule log is still burned for the "Festa di Ceppo". In Catalonia, the log is wrapped in a blanket until Christmas Eve, when it's unwrapped and burned for the custom of "fer cagar el tio". And in Serbia, families bring the Yule log (known as a "badnjak") into their homes on Christmas Eve to be burned along with prayers to God to bring happiness, luck, and riches.

In the mid 1500's, Germans began using evergreen trees as a symbol of hope for the coming of spring. This practice is likely to have gradually evolved from Pagan rituals of past, and merged with the celebration of Xmas leading to the tree's being shared as it were by other religions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Witch

I HAVE walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart's desire.
She came--she came--and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

~Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Dr. Laura

In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, which was posted on the Internet. It's HILARIOUS, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura: Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination .... End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them. 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians? 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness -Lev15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense. 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord -Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them? 5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it? 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexual ity. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination? 7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here? 8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die? 9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? 10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/po lyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,
James M Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The History of Christmas and Its Pagan Origins

Many people suffer from the misconception that Christmas is a Christian holiday. The earliest history of Christmas is composed of "pagan" (non-Christian) fertility rites and practices which predate Jesus by centuries. The truth is, in short, the real history of Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity. Many of the traditions which we hold dear, such as decorating Christmas trees, singing Christmas carols, and giving Christmas gifts, are rooted in the traditions of non-Christian religions.

We do not observe Christmas on December 25th because it was the date in history when Jesus was born. Nobody knows exactly what that date was, but references in the Bible show it most likely did not take place in winter. Rather it is because this was the date that the Romans historically celebrated the winter solstice. This celebration was about dies natalis solis invicti: the day of the birth of the unconquerable sun, which took place on December 22nd. The winter solstice held the promise of the return of springtime and earthly renewal. In Roman history, this was the time of Saturnalia, honoring the God of Agriculture, for the week before the solstice, and Juvenalia, a feast in honor of the children of Rome, around the same time. On the 25th of the month they celebrated the birth of the sun-god Mithra. Masters and servants traded places temporarily, and everybody had a rollicking good time. It was during Saturnalia that the tradition of exchanging gifts was established. They gave one another Stenae or fruits which were intended to bring good luck. The Romans placed an enormous amount of pressure on the early Christians to rejoice along with them, and around the time of the fourth century, they began to celebrate Christmas around the same time. It was inevitable that Christians should make a connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son.

In the Middle Ages, Christmas was a raucous, drunken celebration which resembled a carnival. Poor people would go on a Christmas"trick or treat" around the richer neighborhoods, causing them misery if they didn't get what they wanted.

Many other pagan traditions have been incorporated into Christmas. Yule was celebrated by the Norse in Scandanavia around the time of the winter solstice by bringing in large logs for the fire, in recognition of the eventual return of the sun. It could take as much as twelve days for the log to burn down. Meanwhile, the Norse would feast. The holiday usually lasted through January.

The Germans did not so much celebrate as honor the winter solstice. They believed that their god, Oden, flew through the sky at night passing judgment on his people. Generally, they would stay indoors during this season. When the Germanic people were converted to Christianity, their winter festival was naturally adopted as a celebration of the birth of Christ.

To the pagans, evergreens served as a symbol of winter's inability to stop the cycle of renewal. They were important fertility symbols which were highly revered by many cultures, including the Germans and the Celts. They helped to soothe the pagans' fears that the sun would never return, and that winter would reign eternal.

Contrary to popular belief, the tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree, bringing it into the home and decorating it is not pagan in origin, and did not appear until centuries after Christ's broth. The Romans decorated their homes and temples with evergreen clippings, but allowed the trees to remain intact, often decorating live trees with religious icons. The Druids tied fruit to the branches of live trees, and baked cakes in the shape of fish, birds and other animals, to offer to their god, Woden. We also inherited the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe from the Druids. The Christmas tree tradition we currently practice had its origins in 16th century Western Germany. "Paradise trees" were cut down to commemorate the Feast of Adam and Eve, which took place on Christmas eve every year.

Many Christians were opposed to the merrymaking and pagan origins of the Christmas festivities, especially the more solemn Christians such as the Puritans. In England in 1645, Christmas was actually canceled. In Boston between 1659 and 1681 Christmas was outlawed, and merrymakers incurred fines for their mirth.

Early carols were sung in a circle dance by European Celts in medieval times, as a part of their fertility rituals, and were later adopted as a way to celebrate Christmas. As a result they became unpopular among Christian authority. Over the ages multiple attempts have been made to ban Christmas carols. Christmas carols enjoyed a revival when St. Francis of Assisi began to favor a more joyous celebration of the Christmas season. Another pagan custom called wassailing, or singing from door to door, also became very popular among Christmas celebrants.

Many people mistakenly state that "Jesus is the reason for the season." They do so, because they believe people have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. It simply isn't true. Christmas can be celebrated as completely secular because ultimately it is not a Christian holiday. Christmas goes beyond religious and cultural differences, and addresses something universal in all of us. For this reason it has become popular in non-Christian countries such as Japan. The truth is that Christian and pagan traditions have a great deal in common. The real need behind all of these traditions was to find a source of joy, happiness, hope, goodwill and generosity. There was a need to find ways to cope with our fears about the darkness and cold of wintertime, and to celebrate the return of the sun and the longer days of spring.

In fact, Christianity and pre-Christian pagan religion have a great deal in common. Various pagan religions shared the Christian practice of worshiping a god-man who could offer salvation in the form of heaven or condemnation in the form of hell. The concept that a son of God could be born of a mortal woman is seen in many different religions spanning the globe. These concepts are universal, except to those who are extremely divisive and have a tendency to pick nits.

The pagans were smart people who had quite a few good ideas. They respected the earth, and we have benefited greatly from their practices. There is no reason for Christians to fear "pagan" universal and earth-centered traditions. At Christmas, rather than fretting that non-Christians have forgotten about Jesus we should focus on the deeper purpose of the holiday. The main problem is that Christmas has become far too commercial and this has gotten us away from the pagan tradition of connecting with the earth. Instead, we spend the whole holiday trashing the planet with excessive buying, and cutting down millions of Christmas trees which must then be discarded less than a month later. Environmental destruction and consumerism has passed for merrymaking for many years now, but it's an empty tradition. Celebrating the fertility of the earth is better by far. There is a strong need for a return to the family- and society-centered traditions which were established in Roman times and reestablished in the 19th century. Washington Irving's writings helped Americans to establish Christmas as a time of giving to those who are most in need, and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. These traditions had their roots in the practices of the real St. Nicholas, who lived in Myra in the fourth century A.D. He was born rich and inherited a great deal of money on the death of his parents, all of which he gave away. St. Nicholas is said to have thrown bags of gold into the windows of dowerless girls to save them from lives of prostitution or slavery. He was also well know for his love and protection of children. St. Nicholas is the figure behind our modern day Santa Claus myth of a generous man who delivered hand-made toys to children all over the world.

So rather than viewing Christmas as a time to break the bank, we can take advantage of it as a time to help the less fortunate. Many people ask that their friends and loved ones give to charity rather than buy them a gift. This sort of gift giving is popular among yogis who see Christmas as a way to extend their practice.

Fortunately there are many ways to reconnect with the original purpose and meaning of Christmas. Small traditions, such as placing apples or cookies on the tree, or decorating a live tree instead of a cut one, are a good way to get in touch with the way that our ancestors celebrated Christmas. Respecting the planet and understanding its powers and its limitations are important. The pagans were aware of the changing seasons and found earth-centered and social ways to cope with them. They were aware and appreciative of the sun. They exchanged gifts, but their gift exchange was not commercialized. Instead the focus was on bringing good fortune. Giving gifts of fruit has been a common practice throughout history, and is still popular today.

The Christmas holiday season is about unity, not divisiveness. At the holiday season we should forget about our religious differences, abandon commercialism and think about what is best for the planet and for humanity.

Holiday Infographs

5 Tips for a Stress Free Holiday Season

Here are 5 tips for (hopefully) having a stress free holiday season (remind me to follow them as well!):

1. Perhaps the most common piece of advice out there in terms of reducing stress during the holidays is to create and stick to a budget when shopping.  It’s so easy to overspend when we’re buying gifts for the people we love but if you create a budget you can keep an eye on store flyers and sales and still buy that special someone the perfect gift, without going into debt.

2. Plan ahead!  This goes for everything holiday.  Try and get at least a few presents purchased before the holiday season even begins.  If you have a quiet week night in November, do some holiday baking.  If you have holiday parties to attend, find out in advance what is required of you (Pot luck? Gift exchange?) and take care of as many details as you can well before the date.

3. Learn to say no!  The holidays are busy for everyone and undoubtedly you will be called upon to pitch in at a holiday party, your children’s school, or a charity event.  The season is all about giving to others but remember that you are no good to anyone if you are chronically stressed and unorganized because you have too much on your plate.  People will understand if you have to say no and this way you can give 100% to those yes requests.

4. Check in with other family members during the season to ensure your little ones are not about to have a meltdown capable of taking out the North pole just before getting to grandma’s house.  Kids show stress in different ways – are they over tired, weepy or grouchy?  Check in and share your understanding of how the holiday season can be overwhelming for everyone.  Offer extra hugs, and perhaps an earlier bedtime to make up for the excitement to come once Christmas is here.

5. Take care of yourself.  Don’t abandon healthy habits just because it’s the holidays.  Eat healthy (but enjoy your favorite treats in moderation, hooray for holiday food!), get enough rest, and take a breather when you feel your stress barometer begin to rise.  Healthy habits will work to help avoid getting sick during the holidays, which is no fun for anyone.

We all get stressed over the holidays, but hopefully the celebration, excitement and togetherness that the holiday season brings outweigh those times when we’re feeling the holiday stress creep up.

Bizarre and Fascinating Facts about Christmas

Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in the world, and its celebration every year is a major global event. We’ve all grown up with Christmas in our hearts, and have grown to love its many familiar traditions. That’s what makes the holiday so great — there’s just so much to love about it. In fact, even the not-so familiar facts are a lot of fun. Here are 32 things you might not have known about the holiday season’s climax:

Jesus Wasn't Born on December 25 — It’s a little funny how many people celebrate Jesus’ birthday without really knowing when it is. The actual date of Jesus’ birth has puzzled scholars throughout history; differing calculations have placed the special day on March 28, September 11, and November 18, among other dates. It’s widely believed that we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December because of the Catholic Church’s efforts to convert the masses. In order to gain more followers, the Church began to incorporate several Pagan beliefs and rituals into its practice. Among these was the Saturnalia festival, which ended on December 25. By promising the practitioners of Saturnalia that they’d still be able to celebrate their festival as Christians, the Church was able to welcome more people into the fold. Just so Saturnalia would have some Christian sentiment to it, the Church then moved Jesus’ birthday to the date of the festival’s end.

Not Just for Halloween — Many Ukrainian families decorate their Christmas trees with webs and spiders. This odd tradition has its origins in a popular folktale from Ukraine. According to the story, there was once a woman who was so poor, she couldn’t afford any decorations for her Christmas tree. However, she awoke one morning to find that spiders had trimmed her tree with their webs. To her surprise, the webs turned into silver and gold in the sunlight! Because of the tale, spider webs on Christmas morning have been regarded as a sign of good luck and prosperity.

Spider Webs, Vol.2 — Another version of the story above doesn’t think as fondly of spiders. In this version, the poor woman, determined to give her children a happy Christmas, puts her blood, sweat, and tears into surprising them with a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, spiders came and destroyed the tree while she slept, covering it in webs. The Child Jesus, having seen what happened, decided to spare the poor woman from heartbreak, and turned the webs into silver. It’s from this version of the story that tinsel became a holiday tradition.

Bah, Humbug!, Said Cromwell — Sometime between 1649 and 1660, the English Parliament abolished Christmas. The Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell believed that a the day celebrating Christ’s birth should be used for solemn reverence of the occasion, not for merry-making. Instead of the feasts and gift-giving, Christmas was celebrated with prayer and sermons from the clergy.

71 Years in the Making — Christmas wasn’t always one of the country’s national holidays. In fact, Alabama was the first to declare the day a legal holiday in 1836. The other states followed suit, but not as quickly as you’d think. Oklahoma was the last state in the country to declare Christmas a legal holiday, doing so in 1907. That means it took a whopping 71 years for Christmas to officially become a national holiday!

The Christmas Day Truce — True to the holiday’s spirit of goodwill to all, a brief Christmas truce was held during World War II. On midnight, December 24, 1941, firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. To the surprise of the Allied forces, a German brass band began playing Christmas carols. German soldiers then came to the Allied lines bearing Christmas greetings. The ceasefire lasted a few days, wherein both sides sang, feasted, and exchanged gifts.

A Claus by Any Other Name — Santa Claus isn’t the only gift-giving spirit during the holidays. Different cultures have different present-bringers; while some differ from good old St. Nick only in name, others are an entirely different shape and size.

England calls Santa Father Christmas, whereas France names the jolly old soul Pere Noel. Some families in Italy, on the other hand, await a kindly old witch named La Befana. In some parts of Russia, children look forward to the grandmother figure Babouschka bringing their presents. In other areas of Spain and South America, gifts are brought by the Three Kings, who gave presents to the newborn Jesus.

Season’s Beatings — Hot Cockles was a popular Christmas game in the Medieval era. One player would be blindfolded and made to stand in the middle of the group. One by one, the other players would hit the blindfolded victim. The blindfolded player then had to correctly guess who it was that hit him, or else the game would go on. Strangely enough, this game was enjoyed during the holidays, up until people found their sanity in the Victorian era.

Dog Day Holidays — British dogs have reason to look forward to Christmas. According to surveys, roughly 70 percent of the furry old chaps get presents from their owners during the holiday season. Who said a dog’s life was a bad one?

Shopping Daze — lot of people tend to think that Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) is the busiest shopping day of the year, since it’s generally accepted as the kick-off to the holiday shopping season. However, most would be surprised to learn that it’s only around the fifth-busiest. The days where shoppers go their wildest are the Friday and Saturday before Christmas, proving that a lot of us really do put things off until the last minute.

Not-So Famous Words — Charles Dickens immortalized the phrase "Bah, humbug" in the well-loved story A Christmas Carol. Few people know that the words might not even have seen print if Dickens hadn’t changed his mind. His original plan was to have cranky old Ebenezer Scrooge say "Bah, Christmas" instead of the line we all know and love.

Sugar High — Candy cane is a holiday favorite, tickling the sweet tooth of kids and adults alike. People loved candy cane so much, candy manufacturers are all too eager to produce the popular confections. During the holiday season alone, the average production of candy canes is more than 1.76 BILLION pieces!

Smokey the Bear Would Be Proud — Every year, we light up our trees and homes with brightly-colored Christmas lights. We owe this tradition to Ralph E. Morris, who pioneered the use of the tiny bulbs in the Yuletide season. The reason he opted for using electrical bulbs was a practical one: he realized that they’d be less of a fire risk than candles, which were the popular choice in his day.

Not Quite the Elves You Were Expecting — Some families in Greece follow a notably different Christmas tradition. During this time of the year, they ask a local priest to toss a small cross into the village’s water. They also sprinkle holy water in the dark corners of their houses. This is done to keep the kallikantzari, devious little gremlin-like critters, away. Alternatively, it’s believed that the scent of a burning shoe or salt is just as effective.

Sticks and Stones — We’re all quite familiar with the Nativity scene. In it, the child Jesus is depicted surrounded by his family, a few animals, and the Three Kings inside a wooden manger. Historically speaking, though, the scene is all wrong. Back in Jesus’ time, the preferred place to keep animals was in caves, to keep them away from the intense heat of daytime. The wooden manger itself may be inaccurate, as stone was a more widely-used building material than wood was in those days.

More than Just for Kissing — Long before people locked lips underneath hanging mistletoe, the plant enjoyed a more revered existence. The early Celtics and Teutonic tribes believed it had divine powers, among which were the ability to ward off evil, heal wounds, and increase fertility. The plant was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle, and was not allowed to touch the ground.

The Un-Christmas Gift — Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson had a friend who very much disliked her birthday, which fell on December 25. As a parting gift, he stipulated in his will that he would bequeath his own November 13 birthday to that friend, so that her special day wouldn’t be overshadowed by Christmas.

It Takes Three — The image of Santa Claus as we know and love him today was actually the product of three different minds. The description of St. Nick was originally laid out in Dr. Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, or what we know today as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. Thomas Nast, a cartoonist, slowly evolved his elf-like Santa to closer resemble the version in the poem. The artist Haddon Sundblom added the final touch, changing the color of Santa’s outfit from green to red. The change was actually requested by Coca Cola, who had commissioned the artist to include Santa in their product labels. The red was meant to bring Coca Cola’s identity to the illustration.

It Takes Three, Part 2 — The familiar Christmas carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, was also the product of three creators. The carol started out as a poem written by Robert May to act as a promotional tool for the Montgomery Ward department store. Each kid who visited the store’s Santa Claus received a booklet in which the poem was printed. The booklet became so popular, more than 2 million copies were given away. Ten years later, May’s friend, Johnny Marks, suggested that the poem be put to music, and he composed the well-loved tune. Marks got Gene Autry to sing it, and the rest went down in history.

Eat Your Greens — Hungry during the holidays? Look no further than your living room. Christmas trees are actually edible, and can be good for your health. Pine nuts and pine cones have long been known to have decent nutritional value. Feeling a little more adventurous? Trying munching on the needles; they’re reportedly very rich in vitamin C.

(Don’t) Eat Your Greens — There are three general Christmas plants: holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias. We deck the halls with them, kiss underneath them, and decorate our home with them. It’s rather interesting to note, then, that out of these three well-known plants, poinsettias are the only ones that aren’t poisonous.

On Dasher, On Donner, On… Camel? — Ever since most of us can remember, Santa’s always gotten around on his magic sleigh and flying reindeer. However, in Syria, things can be pretty different. Those that follow a different tradition may not even be waiting for Santa at all; instead, Christmas gifts are said to be brought by the smallest of the Three Kings’ camels.

Pucker Up — The tradition of kissing underneath mistletoe traces all the way back to Celtic times. The druids believed that mistletoe was a sacred plant, and dedicated it to their goddess of love. It was from this belief that people began kissing underneath the mistletoe. In the tradition’s early days, every time a boy would kiss a girl, he would pluck one berry from the plant hanging overhead. He’d then give the berry to the girl. This continued until all the berries were gone, at which point the kisses would be, too.

Plucky Tree — Christmas trees have been a long-running tradition. However, not everyone could bring home a pine tree to decorate their homes. This led to the invention of the artificial Christmas tree in Germany. Unlike the ones we have today, which are made of plastic, the first artificial trees were made with goose feathers that were painted green.

What’s in a Name? — Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has long been a Christmas mainstay. People of all ages embrace the reindeer with the glowing nose. Little do people know that the reindeer they’ve come to know and love was pretty close to being named differently by its creator. Other than "Rudolph", Robert May considered naming the star of his poem "Reginald" or "Rollo", but both names were eventually rejected.

Speedy Santa — Based on population counts, Santa has to visit over 42 million homes within a 12-hour period on Christmas Eve. With a little math, we see that St. Nick travels through over 900 houses per second. If you didn’t think that was fast enough, you’d be surprised to know that this figures only for North America and Europe; if you take the whole world into consideration, Santa travels even faster.

Right Song, Wrong Occasion — Jingle Bells may be one of the most popular Christmas carols out there, but it wasn’t originally meant to be one. The song actually has three verses more than what is usually sung, and in its entirety tells a story of a boy’s sleighing adventure. He takes a girl, Miss Fanny Bright, out on a sleigh, when he loses control and falls off. To his dismay, a rival comes along and makes fun of the accident. The song closes with the boy relating his story to a friend, and gives him advice on picking girls up on horseback.

In Space, No One can Hear You Jingle — Jingle Bells also bears the distinction of being the first song played in space. The song was played as the closing part to a prank, in which astronauts aboard the Gemini 6 reported a strange-looking satellite circling the Earth. It was led by eight smaller satellites, and was piloted by a strangely familiar-looking fat man in a red suit. The astronauts then whipped out a harmonica and sleigh bells and began to serenade Mission Control with the carol.

The Postman Always Rings a Billion Times — Despite e-greeting cards reducing the amount of Christmas cards being sent through the mail, tons of people still prefer to send their greetings through the old route. On average, the US Postal Service delivers roughly 3 billion Christmas cards a year! No wonder some of them are so disgruntled!

That’s a Lot of Forests — The centerpiece of a home’s Christmas decorations is almost always the Christmas tree. It’s no wonder, then, that we buy so many of them when the holidays roll around. According to a study by the National Christmas Tree Association, roughly 37.1 million real Christmas trees are bought in the country alone. Environmentalists don’t need to worry much, though — 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in place of every tree harvested.

Frosty Would Have Been Proud — In 1999, residents in the state of Maine set out to make the biggest snowman in history. They succeeded, creating a snowman that stood a whopping 113 feet tall! To put things in perspective, that makes the snowman taller than most houses, and higher than most average-sized buildings.

Elves Sell Toys, Too — In 1914, toymaker Charles Pajeau couldn’t quite put his finger on why his Tinker Toys weren’t selling as well as he’d hoped. In an effort to drive up interest in his inventions, he hired several little people to dress up as elves and play with Tinker Toys in a department store window during Christmas. The gimmick was a resounding success, and within a year, Pajeau had sold over a million sets of his toys.

When I Was Your Age...

Courtesy of Kerry Oram

If you are 30, or older, you might think this is hilarious!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning.... Uphill.... Barefoot... BOTH ways...yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way I was going to lay a bunch of stuff like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of thirty-five (35) lol, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a Utopia! I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

1) I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

2) There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 25 cents!

3) Child Protection Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to spank our butts! Nowhere was safe!

4) There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record shop and shoplift it yourself! ( I didn't)

5) Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and mess it all up! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our car. We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby! Dig?

6) We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!

7) There weren't any mobile phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". OH MY !!! Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!! And then there's TEXTING. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

8) And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your parents, your boss,the collection agent.... you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

9) We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'... Your screen guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!!! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen.. Forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

10) You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your butt and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! NO REMOTES!!! Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!

11) There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little young uns

12) And we didn't have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! Imagine that!

13) And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort. And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!

And car seats - oh, please! Mum threw you in the back seat and you hung on. If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place!

See! That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 80's or any time before!

The Over 30 Crowd

Yule Associations

By Maeve Shining Isle in Witches Information Society

Symbolism of Yule:
Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future.

Symbols of Yule:
Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias,.

Herbs of Yule:
Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar.

Foods of Yule:
Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples).

Incense of Yule:
Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.

Colours of Yule:
Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange.

Stones of Yule:
Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds.

Activities of Yule:
Carolling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honouring Kriss Kringle the Germanic Pagan God of Yule

Spell workings of Yule:
Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.

Deities of Yule:
Goddesses-Brig hid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, and The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon.

Strange Things You Likely Didn't Know

A rat can last longer without water than a camel.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it will digest itself.

The dot over the letter "i" is called a tittle.

A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.

A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate.

Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.

A 2 X 4 is really 1-1/2" by 3-1/2".

During the chariot scene in "Ben Hur," a small red car can be seen in the distance (and Heston's wearing a watch).

On average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily! (That explains a few mysteries....)

Sherlock Holmes NEVER said, "Elementary, my dear Watson."

Because metal was scarce, the Oscars given out during World War II were made of wood.

The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000.

There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, purple and silver.

Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a spacesuit damages them.

The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.

Weatherman Willard Scott was the first Ronald McDonald.

If one places a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion, it will instantly go mad and sting itself to death. (Who was the sadist who discovered this??)

Bruce Lee was so fast that they actually had to s-l-o-w film down so you could see his moves. That's the opposite of the norm.

The first CD pressed in the US was Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

The original name for butterfly was flutterby.

The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

The first product Motorola started to develop was a record player for automobiles. At that time, the most known player on the market was Victrola, so they called themselves Motorola.

Roses may be red, but violets are indeed violet.

By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you cannot sink into quicksand.

Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.

Charlie Chaplin once won third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

An old law in Bellingham, Washington, made it illegal for a woman to take more than three steps backwards while dancing!

The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries.

The glue on Israeli postage is certified kosher.

Bats always turn left when exiting a cave!

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Men can read smaller print then women can; women can hear better.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The average number of people airborne over the US any given hour: 61,000

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander, the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.

What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common? - All invented by women.

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... "goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the "honeymoon".

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them, "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down."  It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

~~~~AND FINALLY~~~~~~~~~~~~

At least 75% of people who read this will try to lick their elbow.