Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Down The Bunny Trail

Well, it's that time of year again.

Easter is this Sunday. This is a hard celebration for Christianity to explain, at least as far as its trappings go. The Church  can point to the Resurrection, the renewal of life, the salvation by grace, but can't quite explain away the rabbit who lays eggs.

Do I have to do it for ya? Sure, OK. Some of you may not be among the Pagan brethren (NOT the motorcycle “club”) and would enjoy a quick history lesson.

Hares and rabbits are associated with the moon, life and renewal, and March begins their mating cycle. In fact, the phrase “mad as a March hare” comes from their mating rituals where they almost seem to be boxing each other. Spring Equinox is also in March and, at this time, the ancient Saxons worshiped a goddess of the moon, life and fertility named Ostara (also seen as Eostre). Her symbol, and totem animals, were hares.

Ostara - Goddess of Spring
                                                                                                                                                            She also had a brightly colored bird. According to her legend, in order to amuse the children who asked her for magic, she changed the bird into yet another hare. This one, however, kept its ability to lay eggs, and they were always the bright colors of its former feathers. These eggs would be gathered into a basket, and the hares would distribute them to all the children who loved Ostara.

In reality the egg was another fertility symbol, and the chick inside was self-sustaining abundance. It didn't matter who came first, the chicken or the egg. As long as you kept the cycle going you would always have both.
Not your typical Easter chick

 As you may have guessed, “Ostara” or “Eostre” became “Easter.” The celebration and symbols of this time became too ingrained for the church to pry them away from the people, so they carried on. Even the dating of Easter depends on the Vernal Equinox: it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Equinox.

My Mom saw to it that we were raised Irish Catholic. Most of us kids went to parochial school K through 12. (one sister escaped into the public school system – scared of nuns. Cleaver girl. I could have pulled off a panic attach in front of the penguins too. She beat me to it.) Easter Week meant turning in your Lenten banks for the poor Pagan children in Africa, rehearsing for the Spring concert, and driving wooden crosses into the hearts of our dearly departed.

Well, we did. We still do. Even now, in my semi-mobile state, I paid too much money for someone to nail together 2 wood crosses, stapled all over with palms and a bow. Then, I enticed a poor friend to go out to the cemetery with me, and drive the stake ends of the crosses into the burial places of my parents and grandparents. Hey, Happy Easter, Mom and Dad! That outta stop ya rising from the dead and eating my brains.. So, why do I do it? Well, it always seemed important to Mom that she get out there to the graves and play Buffy with a palm cross. Guess I'm just (sniff) sentimental...or mental. Your choice.

Nope. Could never embrace the Easter thing. I could never understand how Friday night to Sunday morning equaled 3 days. I never saw the ultimate big deal in returning from the dead. To me, dying for your convictions – standing firm in the wake of suffering and pain – was a massive example of how to commit to your ideals. But then the whole thing turns into Smetana's “The Moldau.”

Not familiar with the piece? You can find it on You Tube but for the sake of convenience: It is a classical piece of music that tries to give you the feel of the river Moldau. It flows through quiet areas, past mighty castles, pounds over rocks and, at the end, wanders out to the sea as the violins softly fade. And then, the final two notes smack your ears – Bump BUMP! It's like a musical “Ta-da!” Spoils the whole damn thing (although I love it). That's the Resurrection for me, a big Jesus “ta-da!”

Everything dies, and everything returns. I already knew that from Nature.

Anyway, I must admit I like the various “bungee jump” Jesus resurrection sets you can get, now-a-days. Here are a few. (I mean, if you're going to stand on the top of the rocks in that position, may as well go for it!)

There's even this great big one someone build...somewhere....

As for me and mine, we're a mixed bag. Easter is a family holiday (that's safe enough ground) as some of us are Wiccan, some Catholic, lapsed Catholic, born again Christian, atheist and vote-not-yet-counted. Our typical ritual begins with the snacking of snacks and proceeds into the ham dive, forks a blazing. All except my nephew, who does the annual egg-day butcher of the mac and cheese (vegetarian you know. Must not chew the chicken or masticate a pig.) This is generally followed by some kind of veggie, some other meats, rolls with butter, coffee, dessert and groaning. It was the same when I was a kid, except Mom made her meatloaf, so my groaning started before the meal.

Then, there usually comes the baskets. My sister and brother-in-law went over the moon crazy each year with baskets for everyone: bunnies, eggs, jelly beans, little foil eggs and peeps (...all the peeps, peeps, peeps ... sorry. Had a Grinch moment there.) This year, however, the baskets are no more, except for the small kids. We're all broke, most of us older ones are fighting the battle of the bulge, some of us are diabetic ... so we'll just stuff the kids with sugar and watch them pop like ticks. Next year, maybe we can give them each a puppy and a shot of espresso, too!

No matter what your path, it is a time of greening, coming warmth, rebirth. So be it praise Jesus, or hail Ostara, enjoy. My brother-in-law is making me a personal batch of chicken marsala. Stick a few stale peeps on the plate and my feast is set to go.

Happy Holiday!

P.S. This is me, Easter in New Jersey 1958 - just like today, chubby but cute!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Sign Says It All

Yep. I think Erin Smith's art is starting to speak to me. Oh yes, I know, the actual quote comes from the magnificent wit of Dorothy Parker. (She use to answer her phone this way.) Yet, I love the fact that Erin takes her own family photos and makes them into visual comments that -strangely – have become reflective of my own life.

It all started with a small canvas print in a high priced gift catalog. I was having a rough spot in my life and at work, and it just sorta...called to me. It said “I understand your struggle... and some folks just need to get toasted.”

I hung it up on my cubicle wall, and there it comforted me until management bought us all double computer screens. I was working from home for months when these were installed, blotting out my print. So, when I stopped in the office the Thursday before my surgery, I took it home and hung it here, by my own computer.

I would look at it so often, while waiting for a download or printing forms, that I started to wonder about this Erin Smith who knew me so well. I looked her up on Google, and found a world of visual touchstones to my own mortal condition.

It is no secret that my workplace has become a stressful one. I have become quite unhappy, suspicious, and cautious – for reasons best left unsaid. Still, one has to play nice when in the business world. As Mr. Roarke said on Fantasy Island: “Smiles, everyone, smiles!” What could possibly express this divergence of emotion and pretense? A-ha!

My displeasure at the morning work place could best be summed up thusly:

And my personal goal once I've return to my seat?

After all, you should never let your opponent know your strategy.

Why, Erin has cards for all my moods – even a cleaver little card that touches upon my struggle with OCD.

And, as for friends past and present, there are images as well, from the overly excited one..

to the few self-aggrandized...

Yes, Erin Smith knows my life. Check her out at Erin Smith Art.

Oops! I have to get back to work. After all....

See ya'll next time!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Good Medicine

A long time ago, I had a student named Jennifer.  Dispute our age differences, we got to be great friends.  However, Jen traveled up North to live, got married, and our communication dwindled to Samhain cards every year.

A year or so ago, Jennifer returned, a free woman once again.  Coming out from under an oppressive marriage, she started re-finding herself and her friends.  On and off, she's been staying with me, much to the delight of Rufus.

One of Jen's many skills is creating spectacular medicine bags. I asked if she would craft one for me, and she agreed. I bought the needed supplies, she brought over an additional collection of fur, beads, etc and the work began.  I was in the den, doing my insurance thing, when it occurred to me I should be getting pictures of the process. She had the bag hand sewn, the fur attached, and the fringe cut before I shown up with my Polaroid. I was around to catch the next steps, however.

Jen had already started to bead. She added glass beads, bone beads, silver money, wonderful amethyst "coins" that we bought at a local stone and gift store called "Cha-Cha's" (there was a full bag of them for $20.00 and they are exceptional!) There were goddess beads and crystals on the fur flap, as well as a bone pentagram.

This shot and the next gives you a closer view of the bead work on the fringe.

The next step was to add jingle cones. I had bought a package of 100...and Jen tied on every single one!

All this was pretty backbreaking work, considering she had to sit on the living room floor to get everything done. (She also had to fight off Rufus, who would periodically run over and steal a bead or two.  His favorite "Mine, mine, mine!" was her lump of bee's wax, which she used to coat her sinew.  I guess it smelled sweet. He also managed to take a huge bite out of the turkey feathers she added later in the process!)
The bag was really starting to take shape.

Jen was finally ready to add the side feathers, peacock (which I bought) and turkey.

For a final touch, she cut a piece of Rufus's tail hair, beaded it and added to the pouch.  After 3 days of constant work, the bag was complete!

We have now decided to consign tarot bags, smudge fans and smaller, similar pouches with Earth Spirit in Red Bank, NJ.  If anyone out there would like a hand crafted bag personalized, drop us a line at: and Jen will work out design and cost with you.

Meanwhile, my pouch isn't the only good medicine this week. Jen and I traveled out to the wilds of Langhorne on Friday to see my surgeon.  He called my ankle "beautiful" and deemed I am now ready to be cast for a CRO walker. (You folks remember my CRO from entries past.)  Once it's made, and I get accustomed to walking in it, I can return to my office.  If the stress there doesn't kill me, I will be fitted with a shoe and brace in 6 months. Then, somewhere around Dec 2012, I should be good as new in time for the end of the world. I like when there is a plan in place, ya know?

There are a few wonderful trips in the planning stages: Frenchtown NJ for a visit to the shop owned by Elizabeth Gilbert ("Eat,Pray,Love") and her partner, Amish Country for a material run (need to be near people who still hand sew), Salem when its NOT Samhain, and the Long Island Witch Festival in the Fall. It feels so good to discuss getting out and going places..doing things.  I have been truly blessed to still have my foot, thanks to the skill of my doctors and the love/support of family and friends.