Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Today, at our faculty meeting, I found out that this year, unlike in years past, I have off work for
Purim 2010, by Brian Charles
Purim.  This is extremely exciting news. Long time readers know that one of the things I find frustrating about working at a Jewish school is that, while I get off for a lot of nonsense holidays the rabbis made up, I have to work on several holidays that are central to my practice of Judaism.  Among these, my most favored, my most important, my most sacred is Purim.  Some of you, who are only familiar with rabbinic Judaism, might be thinking "I thought Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement" is the most sacred holy day of Judaism?"  That's a lie the rabbis tell.  If you listen carefully, you will find that's not even the name of the holiday!  The name is "Yom Haki Purim", the "Day Like Purim".

Dancing, as it does, in the liminal space where summer ripens into autumn, Yom K'Purim is a holiday about linearity, about causality,  reason, justice.  Yom K'Purim is the day which balances gevorah (power) and chesed (compassion).  Ishtar descends into her sister, Ereshkigal's realm.  Marduk, the King of the Earth, weeps for her, and withholds his blessing on the fields.  G-d passes judgement, and we beg for his decree to be averted.

Exactly half a year later, as the wheel swings back and the Lady of Bones gives birth to Spring,  Purim  completes the cycle.  Ishtar, having completed her underworld initiation, returns to the Human World, makes the Great Rite with Marduk, and returns fertility, fecundity, and pleasure to the world.  At Purim, having passed through winter, through the illusion of death from which all things are reborn, having, like Ishtar, Ascended in Power, we know that the world is far stranger, far wilder, far more beautiful and chaotic than the rabbis imagine.  If Yom K'Purim means "Day Like Purim", what does "Purim" mean?  "Purim" are divinatory dice.  At Purim, we acknowledge the truth monotheism tries so hard to hide, that G-d DOES, in fact, play dice with the universe.  At Purim, we remember the oldest ways; that seasons turn and .  At Purim, we become so drunk that we cannot tell the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman" because, truly, the Holy One knows not the difference either!

I am so happy to have my holy day back.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Maiden of the Temple

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months (as you will see).  I have more to say on this topic, but I'm not sure what yet.  I think it will have to come out in story form.  Something about how girls are sent to initiation to acquire that aunts/sisters/grandmother's Hekate going underground to take Leto's place, or Artemis taking Persephone's place at Demeter's side...  I don't quite know how it goes yet.

Today, the 21st of November, is the Feast of Theotokos Entering the Temple.  I think this is a story little know outside of the Old Church; it's not clear to me that Catholics or Protestants have much legend about Mary before Jesus is born.  It casts Mary as a powerful priestess in her own right, and highlights Jesus's role as an inheritor of the line of Sarai, not just the line of Abraham.

Like me, Mary was a "miracle baby".  Her mother, Anna, and father, Joachim, had long attempted to have children, but Anna's body betrayed her, and she could not bring a child to term.  She prayed, and conceived Mary, and bore her.  In the fall of her third year,  Mary was taken to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where her great uncle (Anna's mother's brother) was the high priest.  There, she was almost immediately recognized as special; the Presence hung on her and she shone.  She studied there for 9 years, until she came of age.

Sarai, too, in my personal mythology, was entered into the Temple as a young girl.  I dreamt once, of going to the Great Temple, to tell my great uncle of a powerful dream, and to demand the blessing that assured my entry into the mysteries.

There is a small chapel on the summit of the hill of Eleusis.  It opens only for the Festival of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos Entering the Temple on Novemeber 21st.  One day, I very much wish to be there for this festival.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bubbe Meise: 31 Days of Magic: Day 5

If you'd like to follow along with all my 31 Days of Magic work, you'll have to follow me on facebook, but I'll be writing up some highlights here as well.  As I mentioned on facebook yesterday, I decided to swap day 4 (enchant jewelry) for day 5 (cord magic).  I promised I would explain why today.  Let me start by briefly describing yesterday's cord magic.  If you already read it on facebook, skip to the ***.

For the cord magic challenge, I resurrected a spell I learned as a little girl from my "fairy friend". First, you decide on your wish, which you have to be very careful about (because we've all heard the stories!) You next pull out a single hair, and whisper your wish to it. Then, you tie thirteen knots in it, slowly saying the rhyme, and put the hair on a tree branch.
Thirteen knots, all in a row,
Sun knot, moon knot, star knot, glow!
Earth knot, tree knot, flower knot, grow!
rabbit knot hops, crow knot flies.
rock knot sits, and wind knot sighs.
Squirrel knot climbs, cloud knot skies.
Final knot, elf knot, makes it come true!

As I mentioned yesterday, I swapped days because I had to go to my maternal grandmother's funeral today. Nancy Sickles Halbert was my last living ancestor, and my relationship with her was...complicated.  You see, I didn't get Mother Goose as a grandmother.  My grandmother was Baba Yaga.  She was strong, and independent, and a feminist and an artist who raised 4 little girls more or less by herself in the 60s.  But she was also seriously mentally ill, and she abused my mother and her sisters badly.  Our family curse, a kind of slippery, elf--touched madness, blossomed to extravagant flower in her, as it did in me.  Unlike me, however, no one rescued her, and the madness went to seed.   She never escaped it.  It mutated and morphed: a slippery, bitter poison of manic depression, arthritis, witchery, and art.  She painted well into her 80s, even as her hands curled into talons; she spoke in a garbled hiss, her mouth frozen in the twisted rictus of someone who has eaten goblin fruit.

I was told, as a child, that it was arthritis that so twisted her hands, and locked her jaw.  I was terrified that I too would develop it.  I have learned now, however, that while it was partly arthritis, it was mostly madness.

My grandmother LOVED costume jewelry.  Awful, giant, loud, crazy jewelry everyone in our family hates.  Everyone but me; I love it!  My grandmother was a very bad, abusive mother and not a very good person.  But the woman had amazing taste, and was a prolific collector.  She was Iris Apfel's evil twin.  I have many pieces of hers (and I expect I will soon have more).  The piece I wore to the funeral and graveyard today, the piece I enchanted, is shown below.
The black scarab pendant is nearly three inches long.  I can't identify the material.  It's too heavy to be jet; it might be bakelite.   The amber-colored beads are possibly jasper or maybe even amber.  I'm not sure.  The brown one's are tiger's eye.  This is the necklace of the Crone, the Hag, the Lady of Bones; this is my grandnan's necklace.  I baptized the scarab with her name.  I asked for her strength, and her ferocity, and her vision.  And I asked that her spirit be healed, and at peace.

My Grandnan is the most potent ancestor I work with; the only one who reliably comes through clear and strong.  I inherited a lot of her books and statues and jewelry; having gone thru her stuff my grandnan was much more pagan than any of us knew, and maybe bisexual!

Friday, January 1, 2016

31 Days of Magic #1: Candle Spell

My Strategic Sorcery group is sponsoring an open magic challenge; preform a different piece of spellcraft every day in January.  If you'd like to play along, here's the calendar.

I've decided that I'm going to work one giant spell with 31 parts over the month.  I don't want to talk too too much about it until it's all done, but it revolves around the theme of "clarity", especially clarity of memories and clarity of intuition, but also mental focus and clarity.

Tonight, I worked a candle spell to illuminate the way.  I began with a yellow 7day novena candle, which I dedicated to Golden Crowned Phoebe. The Titanis Phoebe, the mother of Asteria and Leto, the grandmother of Hekate, Artemis, and Apollo, is called "The Shining One".  She inherited the Oracle at Delphi from her sister, Themis, and passed it on to her grandson, Apollo.

Golden Crowned Phoebe, you may recall, was recommended to me by Venus of the Red Rose.  She "shades Moon with Sun, granting insight of the Unseen, Clarity of Dream, and Shimmering Radiance."  I have not worked with her directly before, although I once undertook a (very successful)  great work with her granddaughters.

And, so, today, on the first day of 2016, I light a candle for Golden Crowned Phoebe, the Shining Goddess of Insight, and asked for a dream revelation to begin my work.  I wrote Phoebe's name on the candle, and anointed it with Wolf & Goat's clarity oil, which I also applied to my third eye. and temples.  I set some of Strega Babe's Clarity bath herbs to burn as an incense.  I asked her to Illuminate the Work ahead, to bear a torch for me in the darkness.  Already, I can feel the work beginning to take shape.

Moon Goddess, by Josephine Wall