Friday, 30 January 2015

Week 5: Pagan Practices and the Law - Part 1 - Intro

So a few years ago at a Cauldrons' PaganFest I held a lecture on how our Pagan practices can be influenced by the laws of New Zealand.  It was a long and involved lecture talking about the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 and how it applies to various Pagan related activities.  I was very nervous when I gave it and I've since tried to block the memory of it out because while I was happy with the content, the delivery left a lot to be desired.   Anyway, a friend reminded me of it by sending me a link that illustrated one of the points I made with regards to nudity, and it dawned on me that aside from the rant last year about Discharge Without Conviction I haven't posted anything law related and I figured it's probably time I change that.

So I'm going to rework the lecture into separate posts.  This will give me the ability to fully explore each topic in a clear and hopefully easy way to follow.

I'll probably stick to the format of the original lecture - beginning with the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 and how it protects us against discrimination as well as its limitations and from there I'll look specifically at different situations we find ourselves in.  In the lecture we looked at bonfires, nudity, sex in ritual and athames.  If I can come up with any other topics to discuss and explain then I will add to that.  If you have any areas you want clarified then please add them to my list either in a comment or by PMing me on Facebook.  I'll be looking at things from an NZ legal perspective, even though I live in Australia, because that's where I got my law degree.  However we'll see, that may change if there's a need. 

And here's the usual disclaimer:  I'm not a practicing lawyer in NZ or Australia.  Yes I am admitted in both jurisdictions, but I am not registered and don't practice.  What I post here is information readily available to anyone if they know where to look and how to interpret it.  The information contained in these posts is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.  These posts will contain general information and may not reflect current legal developments (because, well the law is constantly changing like the tides). We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on this site.

Phew... enough with that.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Week 4: Honouring Nature in Air Conditioned Comfort.

As a group (I'm well aware this is a wild generalisation) Pagans like to think they're all about honouring Nature in all Her forms.  You know the images.  Dancing under a full moon. Dancing outside around a Maypole at Beltane.  Dancing through meadows as you pick flowers in Spring.  Dancing around a bonfire at...  Hmm... there is a lot of dancing here.  Let's change that to sitting around the bonfire at Winter Solstice.  Actually you probably need to dance to stay warm.

Regardless there is a lot of celebration outside in Nature.  Then there is the gardening with the moon, meditating in the woods, observing the changing seasons by celebrating when the last leaf falls or the first buds bloom.

Now I'm a Winter girl.  Always have been.  Introspection is my thing.  Darkness, cold weather, and hibernation.  I like big sweaters and heavy duvets on my bed.  Gloves on my fingers and scarves, oh do I own so many long, thick, woolen scarves. 

My problem is that right now it's hot.  Today the mercury rose well above 30 degrees Celsius and in some parts of the country I'm in (Australia) it went above 40. There are no scarves or gloves or thick comfy sweaters in my near future.  In fact it's so hot that even sitting relatively idle leads to uncomfortable sweating and stickiness so much so that like many I seek refuge under the cooling jets of an air conditioner.

I've just been wondering, how does using technology to artificially get around Nature's all too warming embrace during the Summer months, fall in the realm of honouring Her in all Her forms?  There are two issues I see.  Firstly the use of air conditioning is a use of electricity and with that, unless you're harnessing the power from a renewable source, you're wasting finite resources.  And secondly, by seeking to avoid the warmth (well sweltering heat is more like it) that She provides, are you  presuming that by having a Summer Solstice celebration of some sort you can still be honouring Nature, while thumbing your nose at Her by putting your comfort ahead of Her 'gifts'?  Are you saying you know better than Her when it comes to the correct temperature for the world to be?

On the other side of the coin are you of the opinion that we have been given free will and an inventive spirit so that we can make things and advance technology to where air conditioning is standard and that's also an example of us honouring Nature, because we, as humans are also a part of Nature.  By denying our gifts of knowledge and ingenuity, are we also choosing not to use gifts we have been given?

It's a trivial argument really and to be completely honest I don't know if I fall on either side, or if I care enough to actually find out where I stand.  Perhaps it's the heat that addled my brain before taking refuge in a nicely air conditioned room.  It's just I've been reading so many Facebook posts from friends and hearing people complain about how hot it is and how they love their fans/air conditioners/swimming pools that I wondered how seeking to adjust the natural temperature the world is (even though it's just your tiny portion of it), fits into honouring Nature.   

Any thoughts?

Monday, 19 January 2015

Mercury Retrograde

Three times a year, Mercury goes into Retrograde.  This means it appears to be moving backwards.  It will be this way for approximately three weeks before moving forward again.

The dates for 2015 are January 21st - February 11th; May 18th/19th - June 11th; and September 17th - October 9th.

To truly understand Mercury Retrograde, it is important to first understand Mercury - both the God and the astrology around the planet named for the God.

Mercury the God

Mercury, or Hermes in the Greek pantheon is a messenger of the Gods.  He is a busy, constantly moving carrier of communications.  At the same time He is a Trickster, a notorious liar, cheat and thief who gets away with it through smooth talking.  He is often equated with Loki, Coyote and Maui.  Generally though, His mischief is well-deserved and trips you up when you have lied, exaggerated or been overly proud.

Mercury in Astrology

In Astrology, Mercury's role is very similar.  Mercury carries the thoughts and dreams of the other planets and it's own individual affect can be hard to pinpoint. Jungian astrologer Alice O. Howell describes Mercury's role another way: "If you contemplate one of your sneakers, the eyelet holes would be the planets, and Mercury would be the shoelace criss-crossing and binding the shoe together."

According to some astrologers, whichever house Mercury occupies is the one that most dominates our thoughts.  Other astrologers disagree.  One describes it more as how we prefer to communicate and express our intelligence.

Mercury in the Houses

The First House shows your outward character traits - Mercury in the First House means you like to be seen as curious and communicative.
The Second House reflects your attitudes towards money, possession and material things - Mercury in the Second House makes it likely that your job choices and income will depend on your communication skills.
The Third House shows your relationships with brothers and sisters and your early childhood - Mercury in the Third House shows someone likely to excel in school particularly in verbal and written work and most likely has a sibling who is a chatterbox.
The Fourth House is about home and family - Mercury in the Fourth House suggests that your home and family is always filled with sound, from the radio to the tv and people talking.
The Fifth House is about how you express your creativity and your leisure time - Mercury in the Fifth House says you are a writer and speaker.
The Sixth House shows how you like to work (not your career) - Mercury in the Sixth House means your work will most likely involve speaking, writing or travelling, regardless of what your career is.
The Seventh House shows your relationships with others - Mercury in the Seventh House brings an intellectual and talkative partner.
The Eighth House is about sex and the rules of society - Mercury in the Eighth House means you like to talk dirty and also like to think and talk about money and sex.
The Ninth House shows higher education and philosophies on life - Mercury in the Ninth House means you like to pull apart life philosophies and examine every little detail but none have any emotional meaning to you.
The Tenth House shows career tendencies and public image - Mercury in the Tenth House means that mental stimulation and circulation of information is important in your career choice.
The Eleventh House shows friends, hopes and wishes, although not close friends - Mercury in the Eleventh House means you have no time for shy people who can't hold their own socially.
The Twelfth House shows restrictions, self-sabotage and hidden enemies - Mercury in the Twelfth House means you have little confidence in your own ability to express yourself well.

There is a belief amongst some astrologers that when Mercury goes retrograde its effect on you personally is based purely on the house in which it resides in your natal chart.  This means that if for example, Mercury is in your Eighth house, you may have issues talking about sex or sex talk may be misunderstood during this time.


Mercury Retrograde in Modern Pop Culture Paganism

Any modern pagan will see Mercury Retrograde bandied about often.  It is commonly believed by astrologers to be a time when communications break down, when electrical equipment fails and contracts should not be signed.  However, some also see it as a good time to reevaluate ideas and take a breather.  Take a step back and catch up.  Some of the things that seem to go wrong have a clear message that requires attention.

In this article, the astrologer writing says:

"I'm less afraid of Mercury retrogrades than some of my fellow astrologers. I spent years at a communications-oriented company, a perfect laboratory for studying Mercury retrogrades. We conducted research studies, writing questionnaires and presenting reports; this required coordinating thousands of people in hundreds of projects across the country. What I discovered was that things got screwed up during the retrograde-and they got screwed up when Mercury was direct. The flip side was also true: the majority of our projects went smoothly during the retrograde, as they did the rest of the year (or we would have gone out of business) Perhaps the only difference was that during the retrograde we had the planet to blame for our errors and stress. As much as I wanted to find a clear pattern, I kept observing that Mercury snafus could occur at any time of the year."

I'm frankly a bit over seeing Mercury Retrograde used as an excuse for people behaving badly.  It seems that all sorts of asshattery and idiocy get a free pass because Mercury was in Retrograde.  It gets the blame for everything and that's simply not a fair or accurate assessment of what's really going on.

To be fair, I have noticed that if I raise a controversial or contentious issue during Mercury Retrograde, I end up feeling as though I am speaking a different language to everyone else.  It almost feels as if others are choosing to take what I say out of context and in the worst possible light - often having to leap to some mighty conclusions in doing so.  So I just steer clear of those kinds of things.  Ironically though, I had a sock puppet profile for a while.  The same issues didn't occur on that account.  Go figure.

I am not an astrologer.  I spent a day looking up and reading about Mercury before writing this post.  It wasn't hard, none of it was difficult to find and I struggle to understand why the urban myths regarding Mercury Retrograde persist.  Well, to be honest I don't, I know how lazy many pagans are.  They read something on facebook and accept it as fact.  I just wish more would use google and learn about the rubbish they spout.


Alice O. Howell, Jungian Symbolism in Astrology (A Quest Book: 1987).
Astrology About
The Complete Book of Astrology by Caitlin Johnstone (Hinkler Books. 2003).



Saturday, 17 January 2015

Week 3: The Pursuit of Greatness

I'm a movie fan and I just watched 12 Years a Slave. I couldn't bring myself to actually go to the movies to see it. I figured it would get messy and I would want to be alone when that happened. As predicted my eyes are still sore and the skin on my cheeks feels tight from the tears.

Once it was over, while I was still in the post movie... I want to say glow, but this was more of shock I think, I watched a few actor's interviews on YouTube. I wanted to know if there was some insight into how they (particularly those who had the task of doing and saying some rather horrific things) handled that. How were they able to get through it. I did read that in one scene Michael Fassbender actually passed out - not sure if that's true.

The actors were all very professional, and said the usual 'I tried to blah blah blah when portraying my character blah blah' answers.  Not sure why I needed to know, I guess I wanted to see if they were affected by the story as much as I was.  (I'm pretty sure that unless they were sociopaths they would have been in some small way).

Anyway, it was while watching Fassbender's interview that the inspiration for this blog post came because something he said struck a chord with me. (And it had nothing to do with the original reason for watching the interview - lol).  He said he read the script and told Steve McQueen that he wanted to be a part of it. Even if it were just a small role with a 1-2 day shoot, he didn't care. Obviously he would prefer the lead role he got, but he just wanted to be a part of something important.

That got me thinking. Isn't that something that a lot of people strive for? To be part of something important. To feel like they made a contribution and rather than just being on the sidelines, they were a part of the making of something great? In the movie world in NZ I wonder if that extends to people who wanted to be a part of the Middle Earth phenomenon that took over our little country. Just to be able to say, I was a part of that.

For myself I've been wondering.  What part of greatness have I had a hand in, or want to have a hand in helping to achieve?

I've come to the realisation that greatness doesn't have to be on a grand 'let's change the world' scale.  Yes people who fought for women's right to vote, marriage equality or against any number of human rights atrocities, have a hand in what I would call greatness.  However I don't think it necessarily needs to be on that scale.  At the end of their life, I believe most people would like to be able to look back and point at something and say, I did that or I was a part of that and that was my contribution to the world.

It's my birthday today and I've been joking with friends that I'm officially closer to 70 than birth (which is an arbitrary figure if you think about it).  I guess it's helped spur me on to contemplate whether I would look back on my life and say there's where I achieved, or helped to achieve, greatness.  I'm not sure I've done it yet.  The problem is, I'm not sure what I want that greatness to be.

My other question is, how does one recognise that they are in the midst of doing something that is 'great' or is it that for us mere mortals greatness is the sum total of all the little things we do and the little victories we have?  Or are we destined to move into oblivion with no more impact than a bug on a windscreen?  

Just a bit of navel gazing today.... 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Week 2: Short Story - Sacrificing Beauty

This piece was inspired by a discussion on a facebook group that went up and down like a roller coaster with insults, thou shalts, and real witches blah blah. Reading through it the idea for this story came to me, so it got written especially with this blog in mind.

Vegans beware?


Sacrificing Beauty

The creature’s heart raced rapidly beneath her hands as the girl worked to calm it. She cooed soothing sounds while her hands gently stroked soft velveteen fur. The young doe kicked its legs out struggling against the inevitable, but the girl held on tight, calling for the doe to cease fighting; willing it to settle. Over time the intensity of the struggles subsided and the animal’s heart slowed.

Earlier, as the first beams of light rose over the distant Eastern horizon and while dew still clung to a soft green mix of grass and mossy groundcover, the girl had taken her place in the small clearing. Barefoot and unadorned save for a simple white shift she’d sat cross legged for hours meditating on the task before her. In her mind’s eye she had seen her mother as she was, a cacophony of tubes and machines beeping and whirring in sync to keep her alive. It was an accident, side-swiped on the passenger side by a red light runner and while she knew in her mind that it wasn’t her fault, as a learner driver her heart betrayed her into taking the responsibility on her shoulders. Slowly the vision morphed into her mother as she wished her to be. Conscious and back on her feet smiling, full of life and vitality.

Softly she hummed to the animal, weaving a hypnotic web of assurance and safety. Singularly focused on her task she was unaware of her surrounds. Rays of waning sunlight broke through the high canopy of trees, speckling the woodland floor below. Birds in the distance chirped cautiously but none enter the small clearing occupied by girl and captive. After fifteen more minutes she loosened her grip and the doe remained in place, sitting before the now kneeling girl.

She’d known what might be asked of her, in return for her desire, and she’d come prepared. A sharp blade lay to her right, untouched since morning. It wasn’t until the doe had wandered into the clearing and come to stand beside her that she’d been certain how this day would end. The initial struggle of the doe had almost undone her. Would she be able to go through with it? To become someone who could do such a thing? The fragile look of panic and vulnerability when the girl first captured the doe still hung in her mind’s eye, in contrast to the calm beauty before her. Quickly she replaced that image with one of her mother, as she wanted, needed her to be.

Her heart raced as she felt around for the blade, keeping her eyes locked on the doe’s. Unwilling to break the spell she had woven. The light from above caught the swing of the highly polished blade. Red spray now marred the girl’s white dress as a single tear slid down her cheek. She leaned forward, kissed the doe’s still head and whispered, “I’m sorry but thank you.”

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Week 1: A Decision and not a Resolution

It's been quite some time since I wrote anything here.  I'm not sure the real reason why, but I'm pretty positive that if I thought about it I would be able to come up with some excuses about how my life is too busy, or I just haven't had the inspiration.

It's a bit like my Pagan life to be completely honest.  I've been in a bit of a hibernation with my practice and I can't say for certain why that is. I'm not saying I've been too busy to be Pagan, because that would be like saying I'm too busy to breathe or be human.  My Paganism is a part of me that can't be separated.  It's not something I do, it's something I am.

That being said, I have been lax of late in my overt practices, whether they be ritual, or spell craft or even just simple meditative observances of the changing world around me.  So do I still feel and believe what I did before I stopped being an active participant in all things Pagan?  You bet.  I still have my own truths.  I still feel the call of the Goddess, but somehow that's been less demanding, like She knows I needed some 'me time' instead of 'We time'.

What has prompted me to write this today?

All around me (in cyberspace that is) I've seen people posting their New Year's resolutions, or non-resolutions, and while I can't help but think that for the majority they will lead to failure (because isn't that what generally happens) it has inspired me to be a little introspective.  It's January 3rd, 2015 and I felt inspired to make a resolution, except that I don't do those because they inevitably end in failure - see previous sentence.

Since I'm not going to make a resolution, I'm going to make a decision and make that decision public (which is not a resolution because of semantics okay? - lol).  I love to write, and it seems that I have the perfect forum for this writing passion in the form of this blog (and a number of ongoing projects) so I've decided that I'm going to publish at least one piece of my writing, be it a blog rant, a short story or a excerpt from the novels I'm working on, on this blog, each and every week until people get sick of me. While I'm still in this 'hibernation' in my Pagan life (and perhaps it'll help bring me out of it) I'll try to keep my nonsense on topic (this is the Cauldron's blog after all so most of it will have a Pagan theme) but I can't promise that will always be the case.  Sorry.

If you have any feedback please feel free to express it either in a comment below or by PMing me.  I will reserve the right to disable this facility if my fragile ego gets too much of a battering, but I'm also going to use that as both inspiration and motivation to keep going. So help a sister out.  :)

Anyway, that's my decision for now.  Let's see if we can keep this going without it turning into one of those failures that a resolution has a tendency to become.