Posted in [witchcraft & wonder]

Random Philosophical Question

As a Wiccan, I often think about random ethical situations for fun. That’s totally normal, right?

ANYway… my random philosophical thought today is: Can you apologize without being sorry?

When you apologize, you express an excuse for some fault, insult, failure, or injury (via When you’re sorry, you feel regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.

I can apologize for not doing more to help end the use of sweat shops, but I don’t feel sorry for it. My clothes come from thrift stores; I don’t personally buy into the negative clothing market except for underwear items.

I can apologize for not wanting to help out Syria, but I’m not sorry for wanting my people to stay safe and far away from someone else’s troubles. Our troops are worn and broken enough, and I’m tired of being a country at war. We weren’t always this way, and I can’t find sympathy for another country when they’ve torn themselves to pieces.

I can be sorry for being harsh in my views on helping other countries when our own is in a tough place, but I won’t apologize for putting my own people first. I do feel regret, especially knowing so much waste happens here while people in Africa face crop failure and food/water scarcity daily. I pity their plight, but I don’t apologize for having no answers, no solutions to those problems (nor do I apologize for thinking that the money we’ve been throwing at the problem isn’t helping).

So, can you apologize without being sorry? Can you feel sorry without apologizing? I’d say yes.

Posted in [miscellaneous experiments]

What if…

If you could only eat what you were willing to grow and kill yourself, what would your diet look like?

Let’s start with some facts.

Fact #1: I don’t hunt. It has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with a lack of know-how and opportunity. I also don’t fish (minus the extremely rare occasion here or there).

Fact #2: I used to have a green thumb. With Texas plants, I’ve been having a horrid time. However, I think it’s a combination of bad luck (my cat pissed in my pots!), poor planning (non-Texas plants in Texas), and adjustment (forgetting that an outdoors Texas plant will not like the sudden cold of my indoor, air-conditioned house). Outside of my Texas experience, I’ve always had a green thumb and been just fine growing any number of plants.

Fact #3: I’m an adventurous eater. I’ve purposefully sought out “strange” foods, like blood sausage, chicken heart stew, and ostrich. I enjoy trying new things, and I’m not squeamish about it.

Now, my answer to the original question. What would my diet look like?

First of all, I’d no longer be eating breads and pastas. Wheat is not a plant I’d want to expend energy and resources trying to cultivate. My foods would be things like cucumbers, bottleneck squash, and tomatoes. I’d grow root veggies, though having never done so I’d probably learn how to do so the hard way. I’d also try to cultivate berries and fruit trees; however, the trees would be planted and left to thrive or die (they take a couple years to be producers, from what I recall). I’d want low-maintenance foods, and if the chance were provided before having to grow on my own, I’d do a TON of research on what does well in Texas naturally.

Secondly, I’d still eat meat. Mind you, I lack the skills to hunt. I wouldn’t be eating cow, pig, or deer unless someone taught me those skills (and provided equipment for it) or traded me for some of my veggies. However, I have no problem fishing and catching things like crawfish. Also, I know I could wring a chicken or rabbit’s neck if I wanted meat. As I said, I’m not squeamish. Pigeons would be nice, too, assuming I had access to urban areas and a net (hehehe).

Lastly, I wouldn’t waste. I don’t kill the chickens and cows that make their way to my dinner table. But if I were in a situation where I was killing my own chicken for dinner, I’d definitely be cooking any and all organ meats. The same thought applies to all animals; I’d finally be able to take part in making the most of an animal’s sacrifice.

My final thoughts on this question is that it would all depend. Why am I only able to eat what I grow and kill? If it’s because of a social shift, like everyone in this town is doing it or something, then there’s a gradual build up to self-maintenance of food sources. But if it were a apocalyptic situation, all decisions would depend on the overall state of humanity. (Meaning, if there are zombies walking around I’m not planting a garden outside.)

I also know that some of my friends would become vegetarians. They admittedly couldn’t bring themselves to kill an animal (other than small fish or crawfish) on their own. I can understand that, in a society where many of us never interact with an animal other than a cat or dog at home. We don’t understand our food sources except in a distant, disconnected way. Maybe that will change… maybe…

Posted in [miscellaneous experiments]

Calling all -Tarians!

Vegetarians, Flexitarians, and all other -tarians out there! Help!

How do you deal with our reality? When so much of what we have access to (food-wise, and product-wise) contains toxic chemicals… When so many things go unlabeled in products we use daily… When even trying to buy only what you need (versus what you want) exposes you to these chemicals over and over… When your abilities and resources don’t allow you to access the perfect foods all the time… How do you handle the overwhelming sense of dread, the depression associated awareness of a problem that is unsolvable on the individual level?

I read the news, and I often read the Green section on various sites, learning all sorts of new and wonderful things… as well as harsh realities. The poisons in our waters, our ground, our food, and our very houses. I can’t avoid them. I can’t go back in time and rebuild my rental house as a green home full of safe products. I can’t stop the societal structures that control the way my water is processed, the way businesses run, the way cars aren’t forced to go greener, and so on. I can’t guarantee that my healthy choices are actually any better than old ones (look at BPA and it’s replacements). So much of the exposure I’m forced to endure is literally out of my hands, regardless of the choices I make.

I can’t live off the grid, self-sufficient. That would require money to start off such an endeavor, as well as skills I don’t possess. And I like my Netflix, thank you very much! But more importantly, I don’t think I could adapt to complete removal from a society I’ve been indoctrinated into my whole life. (To be honest, it’s the money more than anything that stops me. If I had the money, I’d plop it down on a house made as green and grid-free as possible… but that’s pricey!)

I eat as a flexitarian to try and make a change, for my health and the planet. I love vegetarian food, and I’m okay with rarely including meat in my diet. When I finish with my newest stint as a vegetarian, I intend to stick to the “green” meats at my local Nature’s Grocer. They’re pricey, but they’re better for me and Earth. But I can’t always afford to spend the money it takes to get the greenest veggies and products. And I’m uneducated, slowly building my own awareness of what is bad and how to replace it.

It’s so frustrating! Overwhelming! Maddening!

How can we avoid sinking and giving up, when faced with so much impossibility? My great grandchildren, if lobbying and global change happens, might get to enjoy a cleaner world with fewer hard choices… but I’m pretty much screwed. I’m 25, a quarter of the way through a long life. Too many issues are stacked against us at this time, too much to change in the short time between generations. I’m scared for us all, because yelling and screaming and begging are failing to bring the world’s attention to our emergency. How can that change, when people are so willing to experience extreme climate change first hand and pretend it’s a fluke? How can we save ourselves?

I guess my main question to any of my readers is this: How do you handle the stress of living on this planet today?

Posted in [miscellaneous experiments], [witchcraft & wonder]

The Beat of a Heart

In my personal opinion, organ meats are earth-friendly. Why? Because we don’t kill the animals for their organs, we kill them for the muscle-meats.

That said, I’ve only ever had cow liver and chicken gizzards. The liver was a delicious experiment my mom did when I was young, a food all of her kids happened to love. The chicken gizzards I tried as an adult from a local fried chicken place. Chewy, but not too shabby.

Today while grocery shopping, I decided to make this weekend a sacred meal experiment. Originally, I only planned to grab some rabbit (first time for me) and prepare it in a magickal and sacred way. However, my browsing of the butchered meats led to a purchase including bison steaks and chicken hearts.

The chicken is a wonderful, under-appreciated animal. In food, its meat is versatile like nobody’s business. In life, they represent fertility and curiosity that leads to knowledge. We’re so separated from our meat sources that I’ve rarely had a whole bird since childhood, and I haven’t ever looked at the animal and wondered about the organs bundled inside. As with turkey, the organ bits were either trash or cooked for the family pet.

So all that said, tonight’s experiment was chicken heart stew. You can find the recipe I used here. If you happen to enjoy cow liver, I think you’d enjoy chicken hearts. The flavor is amazingly similar, as is the texture once they’re stewed. And as $0.89 per pound, they’re an amazingly affordable protein source.

I will definitely eat chicken hearts again. So many animal parts get discarded because of our squeamish culture; I like to think that I can personally make an effort to help use “all parts” of the animal (or at least the ones available).

Tomorrow will be rabbit stew. Rabbit and I have an interesting relationship; I intent to meditate with Her before cooking, and to give proper respect and honor during the process. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the meat I purchased has any bones (damn convenience strikes again). I’ve been collecting and cleaning bones from various food animals for my totemic practices. We shall see…

Posted in [witchcraft & wonder]

the Ethical Omnivore

It took me longer than I intended to find the time to think about being an Ethical Omnivore. We have CMA festival coming up in two weeks, has more information. But as part of the festival, I signed up to possibly do a workshop on the ethics of being an omnivore.

My diet is pretty light. I eat a lot of grainy breakfasts (oatmeal, a bagel, sometimes cereal) and a lot of meatless lunches (today is “shrimp-flavored” ramen, because grocery day is Friday). Dinner is my main meat meal, and even then it’s usually a small portion of meat with a huge portion of sides.

I grew up with half my plate covered in grilled steak at least 2-3 times a week. I didn’t mind it, until I became a pescatarian (eating only seafood as a meat product) for a few years. After I converted back to eating regularly, I just couldn’t stomach those huge portions of meat anymore. Even favorites like baked chicken are limited to two smaller pieces or one breast (realistic portions compared to my past).

Recently, my spiritual path has been tiptoeing to my plate. That’s where my vegetarian experiment came from, the thought that I should see how much of a difference removing meat really meant to me. I’ve also found myself working with spirit animals more, with respect from animal to animal (because I’m a human animal, not a god). I’ve found that I feel no urge to drop my omnivore habits in order to work with the animals. For example, I didn’t feel any anger or negativity from Cow when I meditated with her; instead, it felt like she was glad someone was reaching out.

I feel like spiritually and ethically it’s necessary to recognize where my foods come from. Not just meats, but plants. All creatures, all things on earth, have energy. When we consume something, we take that energy into ourselves. I gain more from eating meat when I take a moment to recognize the animal it came from.

If I had the skill and time, I’d hunt for my own meats and stock up. I think hunting is a wonderful way to give animals a fair chance at the predator/prey relationship.

Doing research, I’ve come to discover that I’m only small steps from becoming more ethical than I naturally appear to be. Taking time to research my meat sources, finding ways to get hormone-free, free-range foods… I can make a difference for myself and my spirituality.

Part of my research made me think about my recently-crafted spirit pouch and my tails. They’re made from furs, and I’m not sure how the sources treated and processed the animals. I can’t undo buying those furs, but as a pagan I can take the time now to honor Fox and Rabbit and Cow for the sacred materials I use. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s more than nothing.

Becoming an ethical omnivore is far easier than veganism or vegetarianism. It requires more research, but less of a lifestyle change. You still eat the foods you used to eat, but you check where they’re from first. It can even lead to more variety, as you research and discover food sources you didn’t realize you had access to (like a nearby butcher who sells hunted venison during hunting seasons).

I’m going to make efforts to change. I already have the ability to limit my meat intake; now I just have to ensure the meat I *do* eat is ethical by my standards. This is just one more experiment I can sink my teeth into.

Posted in [witchcraft & wonder]

Morality and Ethics

When the news people come around, who always finds the cameraman’s attention? The person least suited to be an accurate representation of the group he or she is speaking for. You see it in a disaster area; it’s always some uneducated ninny. It’s getting better, but often when some news group decides to look into New Age paganism, they find the MOST obnoxiously stereotypical pagan to interview (whitelighters and all).

That said, I think it’s far too easy to fall into the same trap with your own judgments.

Christians are judgmental. They base their entire moral structure on ancient (and often interpreted-as-needed) scriptures, then proceed to force it down everyone else’s throats as The Way to Be. They take no personal responsibility for any of their actions; either the Devil made them do it, or they confess and ask for forgiveness to make all well again. They are often hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another.

Generalizations S-U-C-K. Quit nodding. You’re about to feel bad for agreeing with any of that.

Christians are as varied in belief and practice as pagans are, if you take even a moment to look and even ask. This is where it helps to not just consider that conversation you had with the man who said you were going to hell because he saw your pentacle necklace; I’d like you to think of the non-confrontational examples of Christians you’ve met. If you don’t have any, find some! Many of them try to follow some pretty awesome teachings: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, turn the other cheek, thou shalt not kill, love thy brother (actually, I happen to love the quote “love is gently, love is kind” from the Bible). Christianity is actually a beautiful religion, in many MANY ways. Most Christians aren’t religious enough to feel a need to even discuss their religion with others, unless the topic is brought up; they don’t often preach at anyone. Society teaches us (unfortunately) that someone else is always to blame; this isn’t a failing of Christian teachings, but a failing of the society as a whole. And hypocrisy is EVERYWHERE, even in pagan circles. *gasp*

I’ve watched pagans be judgmental. Not just of Christians, but of each other! They have their path, tradition, or branch of paganism, and anyone who dares approach it without invitation is scoffed at. For example, some traditional Wiccans (i.e. those in branches of the path that trace themselves back to its start with Gerald Gardner) will slap a pagan silly for even thinking of themselves and the word “Wiccan” in the same sentence. Or a Druid might snear at a circle that’s calling deities from their base culture.

It’s sad. Many pagans are willing to accept personal responsibility for their magickal actions, but their mundane lives stand as a separate entity. Harming none only applies to hexes, not to treating your neighbors with kindness while their dogs keep shitting in your yard. We are sometimes hypocrites, too.

This whole thought-train came from watching my circle discuss ethics. Our tradition embraces “Equal Truths, Equal Magicks”, that there is validity in EVERY path, not just the ones we like. And yet I watched us, new and old alike, talk about how Christian morality is inferior compared to pagan ethics. I listened to a discussion of morality and ethics (neither of which necessarily belonging to ANY spirituality) fall apart into a chorus of comments on the failures of Christianity and the intelligence of pagans for taking responsibility for their actions.

I’d like to say that maybe we should all take responsbility for failing our own tradition’s guidelines. I take personal responsibility for not speaking up, even as I sat there and listened and disagreed.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: there is beauty and simplicity in following a structure of moral behavior, just as there is a striking freedom and joy in following a path of personal ethics. No one path is good for everyone, and that applies to understanding right/wrong decisions as well. We aren’t all built to handle the pressure of being held accountable for every thought, word, and deed; some would break under the strain. Some of us are wired to a natural tendency to refuse to follow a rule without an explanation as to why it is so. Others are born with a need for security and structure, for rules and regulations to help guide the way. Neither is better. Remember that.

Posted in [witchcraft & wonder]

Living with honor: Asatru

My name is not my own,
I borrow it from my ancestors,
I must return it unstained.
My honor is not my own,
I borrow it from my descendants,
I must give it to them unbroken.
My blood is not my own,
but a gift that I carry,
to generations yet unborn.

I’ve borrowed this quote from an Asatru Alliance Facebook post, and I find it wonderfully inspiring. It reminds me that we need to live with honor, grateful for the gifts we have.

I’ve been looking at Asatru as part of a comparative theology study with my coven. While Pagan, they are very distinct in their practices and views. I love the idea that we are responsible totally for passing the torch without blowing it out, so to speak.

It’s hard to live with honor these days. With instant access to forums like Facebook and Myspace, it’s far to easy to let one’s fingers speak before one’s mind filters the words. For example, what could’ve been a quickly-ended tiff at work on day, thanks to a Facebook wall post, may become a week-long fight between multiple people.

My name is, in my opinion, pretty “unstained”. I don’t have a bad reputation, nor have I ever. My honor is important to me, though I’ve often called it other things. For example, it’s more important to me that I keep my word than appease a friend by giving a promise I can’t keep, just to make them feel better. And I strongly feel that everything I do in this life will reflect how I raise my children, and what they see as right and wrong.

My ethics were built by the fibers of my mother’s life and my father’s presence. My mother didn’t teach right and wrong, nor did she use any face-forward methodology for teaching us children ethical behavior. Yet we learned… to “do unto others”, to pass on good fortune, to show compassion and patience (especially when we feel resistant, since that’s often when they’re most needed). And my father was in and out with the military so much, but he showed us strength. Not in defending our country, or any of that hyper-patriotic nonsense. But in the way he worked his job, enjoyable or not, and provided for us. He made a home, and he wasn’t a terrifying (“wait til your father gets home”) or tyrannical (“you’ll do it because I said so”) presence. Instead, he was Dad. Father figure 1a.

I can only hope that my life, when measured by the afterlife I believe in, comes up to being worth the time I spend on this plane. I want to touch people’s lives in a positive way, to inspire as a Muse would, and to create joy and laughter in my wake.