Ask what you can do for your Community

As I was riding home in the car this afternoon, I heard the piece on NPR about today being the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. What makes this anniversary special is not so much what happened that day, but what was said.

This was the speech when Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

I felt almost teary as I heard his voice on the radio, much as I had first heard it. We were inspired and galvanized by that statement. I was just a little girl, only nine years old, but I knew something important was going on. There was a war, but there was also the Peace Corps. People put their lives on hold to help other people. It was important to care.

And it wasn’t just government-sponsored programs. Four college students cared enough about injustice to stage the first sustained sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Second-wave feminists shook the boundaries of the personal and the political. Thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions of people cried out for peace in Southeast Asia. (Contrary to legend, we did support the troops; we supported their right to come home in one piece.)

It was during this time of service and caring and commitment to social action that the American Neopagan movement gathered momentum. The Church of All Worlds started in St. Louis in 1962. Ray and Rosemary Buckland brought Gardnerian Wicca to the States in the same years. Carlton College students in Northfield, Minnesota dodged the chapel requirement by inventing the Reformed Druids of North America in 1963.

Is it too much to say that the spirit of service that Kennedy invoked in 1961 profoundly affected the forms that contemporary American Paganism took? I don’t think so. We came from a generation that was challenged to care and to serve. And so, so very many of us have.

On this day, I challenge you to ask yourself, what are you doing for the Pagan community? What acts of service have you offered? So many people have given so much, have you?

RIP, JFK. Here’s to tomorrow, my fellow American Pagans.

Posted in Pagan Stuff, Political/Cultural | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Up to stuff…

Wow, it’s been a busy few days. I’ve been working on some of the technical parts of the site and hadn’t realized how long it’d been since I did a proper blog post.

You may notice some new sidebar content. One of my projects is sprucing up our old CafePress shop. Now you can access it directly through a sidebar widget thingy. (Turn your eyes to the right. On the screen’s right. No, your right. If the screen was looking back at you, it’d been the screen’s left. Oh, dang. It’s there. On the side. Scroll down!) I’m messing with the code on the shop even as we speak. All the product and purchasing stuff is working fine, but one or two spots on the nav bar is going to require Second Cup of Coffee-level coding, so bear with me. I don’t think I’ve messed anything up; must be at CafePress’s end, right?

At any rate, it’s a great way to make some of Isaac’s ideas live on. Why not have the Laws of Magic on your tote bag? Think of what a conversation starter that is! I’ll be prowling around on Isaac’s old computer looking for more graphics that can be used on products, too. Let me know if you have any requests.

I’ve got an Events calendar up now too, so my stalkers friends and fans know where to find me. (If you are not a friend or fan, please refrain from accessing that link.) It’s right under the photograph up top.

Speaking of events, I went to the Greensboro, NC Pagans’ Night Out last night and had a lovely time. They have a great space to use at the Eclectic By Nature shop on State Street, and a nice format with a discussion and then refreshments. You don’t have to worry if you don’t know anyone, just show up! There were more than thirty people there, in a Southern city where people are still coping with the remains of a snow and ice storm. Southern Pagans are a hearty lot. I had a nice long talk with Kenny from the Knights of Herne, a local men’s group that was featured in Isaac’s The Pagan Man.

I’ll be out the door soon for some chainsaw action with the girls as we clear more trees off Claire’s land. Mind you, I don’t do the chainsawing, that’s Renee. Mostly I haul around the remains from the chainsawing. If Claire and I can’t manage something, then she hitches up Albert the Almost-Ox* to haul it away. Last time we were at it, we got 24 trees down. Not big trees, but still …

I’ll post pictures if we get any.

* Turns out Ox is a designation that can only be applied when a working steer reaches a certain age and size, so for another year or two, Albert is still a steer. Claire likes to call him the meat tractor–sums up his role on the farm pretty nicely.

Posted in Calendar, Neopagan.Net, Neopagan.Net changes, Pagan Stuff, Products | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You guys are great…just sayin’

In my last blog post, I made a passing reference to company that had been hosting this site. I almost didn’t mention it at all, thinking it might sound petty grousing about them in public.

Am I glad I did! Turns out that company had been sold to another, and all the contact info I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. On here and on Facebook, I got tons of helpful information almost immediately. Now I’m in correspondence with the proper people, and it looks like all will be well.

This is what community is all about. You guys are great!

Posted in Feedback Loop, Neopagan.Net, Neopagan.Net changes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment Will Live On

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the fate of Isaac’s site (I say “Isaac’s” deliberately; even though it was ours, he was the one who did the work, and he was surely its heart and soul.)

As of now I’m preserving it as it is. Partly that’s technical; Isaac had been managing it with now-obsolete web design software. Towards the end of his life, when the computer that ran the software finally died, he was hand-coding site changes–admirable, perhaps, but tedious certainly.

Of course, I’ll have to make some changes. Right now, unfortunately, if you don’t come to the blog, you don’t even know he’s dead. And there’s a lot of obsolete contact information that needs to be removed.

Other than that, as much as I teased him about the site’s dated look, I think I’m going to leave it as it is. I used to tell him it was state of the art–for 1996. Now I think I’ll call the look Retro Chic. Maybe it’ll start a trend.

At any rate, there’s a lot of great content there, and I hope you’ll take time to explore it. Meantime, most of my efforts will be here on the blog.

(Hey, anyone out there from I could use some answers to the questions I sent you last November.)

Posted in Neopagan.Net, Neopagan.Net changes, Tech/Geek | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

You’ve got to be kidding.

As some of you might know, I spent most of the last ten years working in mall stores. The last place I worked in New York state had a view onto the main drag of one of the biggest malls in America. The nature of the job I had gave me a lot of time to people-watch, which I enjoy, so that was good. I found myself watching kids a lot of time.

Now, I’m not a huge kid person (for which I offer my deepest apologies to my now-grown son), but I found the kids the most interesting to watch. In my store, we often had people bring their kids with them, so you would experience the range of behavior from good to insane. (Why people will not properly supervise their children is beyond me. If I though a kid was going to get hurt, or was going to cause damage to the store, I would butt in. Some parents got irked. They should have had their parenting licenses revoked.) But mostly, I would watch kids in front of the store, either as they passed by or as they played or hung out with their guardians in the open area just outside our storefront.

It started to bother me how often children were bodily restrained. I saw so many kids in strollers long past the age that–in my opinion– they should have been perfectly capable of walking around on their own. (Full disclosure: I never owned a stroller when my kid was small. Once or twice we rented one for long, touristy day trips. Other than that, I held him, he road in the shopping cart, or he walked.) Now, before you jump all over me, yes, I can see the advantage of a stroller. For wee babes, it’s obvious: you don’t have to carry them. For older kids, you don’t have to carry them when they’re tired. You also know where the kid is, and it’s harder for the kid to get into trouble.

That last sentence is where it gets fuzzy. The stroller becomes an instrument of control. The kids I saw were rarely sitting in stroller, they were restrained in it. For safety, of course. But the number of times I saw kids of an age that rendered them perfectly capable of walking, in fact fighting to get out of the stroller to do just that, but were left strapped in, apparently for the parents’ convenience, well, it was staggering. These kids wanted to move. They wanted to use their bodies. Instead, they were strapped into a car seat, then perhaps allowed to walk all the way to the back end of the car where they were strapped into a stroller, then pushed around sometimes for hours before they were strapped back into the car; heck, I’d be screaming, too.

I began to watch for the kids who were allowed to play. They were the ones running around in the big carpeted area in front of the store, chasing each other, climbing on the benches, doing cartwheels, and generally acting like kids at play. None of them got hurt or caused a bit of trouble for the merchants that I ever saw. And well, darn it, they looked happy, out there playing.

I have to wonder how much of our current problems with hyperactivity and ADHD could have restraint of children as a contributing factor. Kids develop their nervous systems through using their muscles. Movement is necessary for proper neuron development. In the name of keeping our kids safe–strap ’em in the high chair, strap ’em in the car seat, strap ’em in the stroller–are we stunting their growth?

But that’s a long aside to what I really wanted to talk about today.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published an article about an new trend in parenting: letting children play. Yep, play, the same thing I did every darn day when I was a kid. Of course, now it has to be legitimatized with fancy names like “free play” or “unstructured play” or “imaginative play,” in the same sort of way that messing around with a hose or a sprinkler became “water play” (I don’t know when that happened, but every time I hear it, it annoys the heck out of me). Some parents speak proudly of the adjustment they made to the idea of of children making messes! Imagine that! But smug snark aside, am I the only one who finds it it just plain creepy that parents need to be “given a 75-page ‘Playbook’ outlining research on play and offering children ideas for playful pursuits”? When did normal mammalian behavior (all young animals play) become something we have to teach our kids? When did our kids’ lives become so structured that they did not teach the culture of play to one another?

I wonder, too, what effect this has on the aspiring magical practitioner. If we grow up without sufficient development of our play and imagination circuitry, how can we fully respond to ritual, or effectively use skills that have been called active imagination or creative visualization?

Or what about the kids who never explore the outside world? One mom in the article mentions how she is afraid to let her kids play outside without her right there supervising them. That’s another modern twist that amazes and frightens me. It was encapsulated in a TV commercial I saw for a planned community in Arkansas not so long ago, where a mom rhapsodizes about how beautiful and natural the surroundings are, and how safe it felt–so safe, she even let her kids play in the front yard! If the development is as lovely as the commercial wants us to believe, those kids should be out climbing hills and catching frogs, not staying demurely in front of their house. Heck, even if it’s not that nice, those kids should be outside running around. (Hey, you kids! Get off that lawn! Go climb a tree or sumthin’!)

There is a cost to this estrangement from the natural world (and it is well explored in Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder). What I wonder, also, is as practitioners of a nature religion, how can we relate to a generation of children who were not allowed or not inclined to play outside? How will they develop a love of nature, which was the call of the heart that brought so many of us to Neopagansim to begin with?

Interesting questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts. D

Posted in Magic, Pagan Stuff | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

ABCDEF, gee…

I tweeted about this video when I found it the other day, but I want to speak about it at greater length. Isaac’s Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) is probably the way he is best known outside the Neopagan and magical communities.

The ABCDEF (he told me once he realized that Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation was BCDE, he simply could not stop there; that was my boy :-) was developed in 1979 as a response to the then current uproar over cults. If you weren’t around then, it’s hard to explain how crazy things were in the seventies and eighties. There were TV movies about cults and cult deprogramming; there were stories on the news regularly about Satanic day care centers. In the late eighties, my old Chicago temple, Panthea, ran afoul of the then-Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network, which caused us to lose access to at least one venue where we held events.

Occult, “cult” and new religious movements were all mixed up in the public mind. And there were some genuine horrors. I remember watching news coverage of the 1978 Jonestown tragedy with my then eight-year-old son. He wanted me to explain it to him; I could think of no way to do so.

It was in response to Jonestown that Isaac compiled the ABCDEF. It was published in the updated 1979 Creative Arts edition of Real Magic. Isaac wanted to show that there was not a black-and-white way to assess any kind of organization, and that it was not what an organization believed that made it dangerous, what could be dangerous was what the organization did to an individual.

Isaac’s frame has been used world-wide (translated into Dutch, German, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese on our website) not just by individuals to evaluate groups, but by organizations as diverse as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in its Meddigo Report) and the government of the Union of South Africa in its report on minority religions. And now, by vampires, too.

He was proud of the ABCDEF, as well he should have been. Why don’t you try evaluating your own group?

Posted in Metaphysical, Neopagan.Net, Pagan Stuff | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

“I am on a lonely road, and I am traveling, traveling…”

On the second day of the year, I awake to a gray sky. It’s been raining all night which means the six inches of snow we got Christmas night is gone. It was sixty degrees yesterday and will be near that today–this is why I decided to winter in the South.

On my Twitter profile, I describe myself with no permanent address. I’m in North Carolina right now, on a small farm about 10 miles outside of Pittsboro. That puts me centrally located in the state, but about an hour away from the bigger urban areas such as the Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point) or the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) and maybe two hours from Charlotte.

I like North Carolina. I lived here for eight years before I moved up to New York to be with Isaac. The weather is mild (by the time you hit South Carolina, the heat is more than I can cope with) and the people are laid back. The urban areas are surprisingly sophisticated, more so than comparatively-sized cities in the Midwest. For example, Greensboro and Peoria are roughly the same size, but I found Greensboro positively cosmapolitan compared to Peoria.

However, when I originally lived here (first in the Triad and then in the Triangle) I had mixed feelings about staying. It was one more place I wound up in because a spouse moved there. I’ve lived in lots of different places, but only once was because I made the conscious choice to go there myself. Every other time, I went because my partner had a compelling reason to be there, usually a job, while my compelling reason was to be with the spouse. Once I wasn’t any more, I usually went back to Chicago.

But North Carolina had spoiled me. It wasn’t as hot as Alabama or the Florida panhandle where I’d lived before. Chicago, with its long cold midwest winters did not hold much attraction. I had made a lot of friends, too, both in the Pagan and polyamory communities. Nonetheless, once I wasn’t with the spouse who brought me here, I wondered if I should stay.

The only place I ever went to just for myself was Ashland, Oregon although even that was a bit unplanned.  (I’ll tell the Ashland story another time). I spent six months there and liked it, but it wasn’t feasible for me to stay there in 1989. But in 2002, I decided I’d go back. The company I was working for back then had a branch 20 minutes up the Interstate. I decided to become a very valuable employee so they would let me transfer. Then life intervened again.

From the time I’d separated from my previous spouse, Isaac had been asking me to move in with him. I had lots of good reasons for not doing so, not the least of which was, he lived in New York, dammit. Move down here with me, I’d tell him. But he had his own compelling reason to stay where he was, in the person of his half-grown son. He didn’t want to be too far away from him.

So finally, we struck a deal. I would move up north. We’d stay for five years, at which point Stepson would be out of high school. Then we’d move somewhere warm and pleasant. Unfortunately, Stepson graduated just when the economy crashed. Our moving money fund was in the stock market. As the saying goes, you do the math. We were lucky to keep a roof over our heads, much less move anywhere. And wouldn’t you know, as our finances slowly recovered (not completely–my stock is still worth less than half of what it was in 2004, although that still beats it being less than 1/100th of what it was, which it did hit) Isaac’s health deteriorated rapidly.

When I found myself alone in New York (which I intended to leave if for no other reason than I could not afford to stay) I wasn’t sure where to go. We had been talking about Ashland for years, but without a job, no partner, and no friends there, it seemed a much more intimidating destination. Of course, the fact that I’m now one year short of sixty makes a difference too. I don’t know how many more times I’ve got it in me to start all over from scratch again.

But I have friends in North Carolina. Some I had been following on Facebook, delighting especially in Claire and Marq’s stories of life on the little farm they’d moved to after I’d moved away. I got bold and asked them if they had room for an extra person over winter. They generously said yes.

So here I am, back in the South, back in North Carolina, in the company of fourteen dogs, ten sheep, four cats, three goats, two old friends, one steer (who will soon be an ox), and a fluid number (I haven’t counted them, plus there are eggs in the incubator) of chickens, ducks and turkeys. It ain’t New York, lemme tell ya.

And I like it that way.

Posted in Personal Happenings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year and all that

When they post those lists of things that stress people the most, there’s a couple of events that always make the top ten. Death of a spouse. Moving. Losing your job. I went through all of those in 2010 (OK, I quit my job, but mostly because I was too stressed to work at it any more). Thus, the year just ended was one of the most stressful of my life, and certainly not one I’d want to relive.

During that wretched year, I lost the heart to do many things, including keeping up this blog. Before his diagnosis, it was mostly Isaac who had kept it up, anyway. After the diagnosis (funny how life can get divided into “befores” and “afters”), the Gods know, he was either too ill or too devastated by the side effects of the treatments to write much of anything, much less blog. As for me, daily life became little more than attempts keep it together at work, plus juggle all the medical appointments and the increasingly demanding home care Isaac required. I had no time, energy, or brainpower left for writing.

My cooking blog went by the wayside, too. I had really been enjoying it, to the point where I told Isaac the heck with trying to sell books on magic, I was just gonna write a danged cookbook. As the concept, I had been recording what I cooked for family meals, family usually being just the two of us. I had so much fun. I rarely use recipes; my cooking is pretty much made up on the spot. While I was making dinner, I’d run back and forth between the stove and the computer making notes on what I just threw in the pot. If I liked the result, it was a blog post. (If I didn’t, well, that would be one no one would ever need to know about.) But almost immediately with The Diagnosis, Isaac’s  food choices became severely limited. I wasn’t making family dinners any more. It’s not very interesting–or at least it wasn’t to me–to blog about the merits of Boost® over Ensure®. For myself, I grabbed what I could to keep body together. Not much fun to blog about canned soup, sandwiches and rotisserie chickens, either, not to to me anyway. So my cooking blog stopped pretty abruptly.

Isaac died in August. I quit my job in September, then got rid of just about everything I owned (except for books, fifty or so boxes of them). Everything I had left, including the roughly 3000 books, fit in one 14-foot U-Haul truck. I drove to North Carolina and took up temporary digs at my friends’ farm.

That was my 2010. Damned glad that year is over. Out with the old.

And in with the new.

I resolve to make 2011 better. For starters, I’m going to revive this blog.

I’ll post more of my plans in the days to come. You can also find me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter, @PhaedraBonewits.

Posted in Personal Happenings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment