Sunday, August 14, 2011

High Priest Syndrome

From a religious standpoint, few things are more annoying in Wicca than dealing with someone with "High Priest Syndrome"
 I've had this ongoing problem with a third degree High Priest that made five dedicants last year. This weekend was supposed to be the weekend in which the dedicants were supposed to be upgraded to initiates.

Well, it turns out that the High Priest outsourced the writing of the ritual to someone else who apparently wrote an over-the-top monstrosity that involved whips and nudity. What a laugh! Needless to say, the HP rejected that ritual. However, he had no "Plan B". He also went AWOL.

I'm glad that I am already an initiate in another tradition. This High Priest really wasted my time .

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Seasonal Changes

One of the great things about Wicca (and Paganism in general) is that it affirms that we really are part of the ecology as well as being part of something much larger and greater than ourselves. Back when I was a Christian, I used to wonder why it was that certain days felt more powerful than other days, and why I found the cycle of the moon interesting. Of course, when I discovered Wicca, I found out that I wasn't imagining things. There is a specific life force in everything that lives, not just humans. And this force does have an ebb and flow as the cycle of the year progresses.

So, as I was doing my usual hike on the NCR trail, I really could feel the subtle shift from "summer" to "autumn". It's still hot as the blazes. The leaves are all green. And yet, it really seemed like there is some invisible change in which the collective life force is preparing for the coming of autumn. I wish I could put it into words better than this, but I cannot. I feel blessed that I can have this kind of spiritual experience. I think that being a witch is a lot more that slinging spells (I don't actually do much in the way of spellcraft). Instead, a big part of being a witch is understanding our role in the ecology, being aware of the forces of life and energy, and to help those seeking that same awareness to find what they seek.

As sentient beings, I think we have a special responsibility that other animals don't have. Because we have the power to make changes to the environment, we also have the added responsibility to ensure that the changes we make do not make the ecology collapse. For instance, I understand that we need homes and we need food. But I think we must find ways to make that happen that makes as little negative change to the environment as possible. For instance, it would be preferable to grow food without artificial fertilizers that leech into the water supply and kill off life in streams and lakes. For our homes, it would be preferable if we planted trees in our yards instead of worrying about a pristine lawn. Likewise, cutting the lawn is pointless, since it just consumes fossil fuel and adds to pollution. (Also, grass is actually much taller than 3" in its natural state). I think we should be driving the most fuel efficient cars that meet our needs. Likewise, we should be walking more and driving less. I usually walk to the grocery store and post office instead of driving. It's good exercise and saves gas.

Of course, Wicca isn't the only faith that honors the environment. *Real* Christianity (something not really practiced anymore in the modern day) does instruct its followers to be good stewards of the Earth. Quite a few Eastern religions place a high premium on ecological stewardship. And, of course, the Unitarian Universalists place environmentalism as one of their seven core principles. My estimation is that the only reason why environmental recklessness is only tolerated by the general population for the following reasons: Our elected officials worship the U. S. Dollar as their god; they have lied to the American People about the real costs of ecological conservation so as to scare the populace into not demanding change; the politicians' allies in the mega-churches have lied to the people concerning the Biblical nature of environmentalism (Hint: Jesus never said "Blessed are the strip miners and oil tycoons") but instead have equated ecology with Paganism (while that part is true, Paganism is not actually evil).

My hope is that someday (preferably sooner than later), individual citizens will make better ecological choices on a widespread scale and that those same individuals will make ecology a priority when voting. So far, I haven't seen that happen. I believe, however, that when the Middle East truly starts running dry, you'll see a very large percentage of Americans demanding real action on the environment, alternative energy, efficiency in transport, and sustainable farming. Hopefully they won't wait until it's too late.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thing of Shame, Things of Pride

I saw a political cartoon lately that, for some reason, filled me with a deep sense of shame. It depicted an "Uncle Sam" character swearing allegiance to the flag of China. But he was also depicted as being feverish and covered with sores, as if he was delirious and diseased. Everything he wore had a tiny tag that read "Made In China". I don't know why that sketch in particular really got to me, but it did. For the first time, it made me really feel like our nation has passed through some kind of "event horizon" from which it cannot return. It's like we're living in the early days of the aftermath of something terrible.

It's depressing to consider what has become of the good ol' "U.S. of A" in the past eleven years. With the reign of George W. Bush, it ushered in a new era of rudeness, hate, and fear. For eight years, he signed laws that took from the many in order to give to the few. He made people afraid. He divided America along every possible demographic -- gay/straight, religions/atheist, Christian/Muslim, Christian/Pagan, left/right, rich/poor, black/white, rural/urban. There was not one single opportunity wasted to turn one fellow human against another. And I am not the exception either. I loathe the intensity of hate I sometimes felt during his reign, and still feel that hate today. It is like a spiritual poison.

And it wasn't just social division that grew in the past eleven years. Financially, the rich expanded their wealth beyond all dreaming, while the masses now have to fight over crumbs. We have an artificially created political party bankrolled by two billionaire brothers with Nazi ties that the American People were hoodwinked into believing. Now the Tea Party has been in power for 18 months and they've proven to be nothing more than a toxic hybridization of corporate shill and religious bigot, all rolled into one. The corporations are wealthy beyond all reason, and yet they get huge checks from the government while the masses lose their homes, their jobs, and their health. The children of the masses go hungry. And this artificially created political party masquerades as a "voice of the people" when in fact they are the voice of perhaps a few hundred people in a nation of close to 300 million.

And then there is our current President. I cannot begin to describe how this man fills me with shame. During the "budget crisis" this month, President Obama collapsed before the combined might of the corporate/church interests like a house of cards. Rather than stand proud and brave -- like Gandolf the Grey against the fire demon, declaring "You shall not pass", Obama capitulated to every single demand of the Tea Party. He sold our future to the Brothers Koch. He sold our birthright and received nothing in return. Our president demonstrated unprecedented cowardice and lack of will. For all intents and purposes, he abdicated his role as defender of the Constitution, protector of the People. As of now, he is just a smooth-talking, attractive man in a very expensive suit. But he is no president. He just looks like one on TV.

So what is our future? We are mortgaged to our enemies and have a monetary debt that can never be repaid. When our enemies come calling for what is owed, it will be the working class who will be forced to forfeit their land, homes, and possessions -- not the rich. It will be the working class forced into sweat shops and labor camps -- not the rich. The government has become the shining light for approximately a thousand wealthy families and all the rest of us are as chattel.

Jobs? forget about it. Social Security? Forget about it. Energy independence? Peace? Ecology? Equality under the law? Forget about it. The barbarians at the gate were lawfully elected in 2010 and they have been pillaging ever since. And the "leader" of this once great nation simply looked on and gave pretty speeches. He did nothing to protect the people he swore the most solemn oath to protect. He did nothing.

So, I ask again, what is our future? We will become the largest third-rate nation on Earth. We will become a nation of beggars, huddled in the street, hiding in the shadows of the palatial (and well-guarded) fortifications of the rich. We will become a nation of slaves. In the end, the center will not hold, and you will see the once United States become a collection of smaller, regional nations. China will undoubtedly purchase several states in payment of the massive debt that we will surely default on. But that won't matter much to the thousand or so billionaires that made this catastrophe happen. In the end, America will look a lot like the movie Soylent Green (without the cannibalism, one can hope.) It will be an America in which the overwhelming majority live in crumbling shacks and abandoned cars, scavenging like rats for rations and scraps. Meanwhile, the rich will laugh at us. In all likelihood, it will be legal for them to shoot us for sport.

This present day was a time when a man who had the power to stand up to greed, hate, and evil -- and who had promised to do just that -- instead chose to surrender unconditionally without ever putting up the slightest show of resistance. And so, we are now headed down a darker path instead of a path of hope and recovery. We have been betrayed. And I am ashamed of what we, as a country, have become.

And what of pride?

For what little comfort it offers, I can have pride in my own moral compass. By my understanding of "right" and "wrong", I choose to do right even when it's costly, painful, inconvenient, and gives advantage to others. By my understanding of "honor", I have honor. I do not betray a trust, nor do I willingly deceive. I do not take what is not mine. I do not ask for what I have not earned.  By my understanding of "work ethic", I do my job to the maximum efficiency and accuracy I can. By my understanding of "deity", I serve the god and goddess in the best ways I know how: I choose to not harm others; I choose to not steal; I choose a path of peace (even though we live in a time when it is fashionable to kill.)

So I can have pride in myself even if I can no longer have pride in my country. It is a small comfort indeed.