Thursday, January 31, 2013

As The Wheel Turns

Ah, February. Another turning of the wheel. We are on the verge of Imbolc (or Imbolg), otherwise known as La Fheile Bride in Irish (the Feast of Brighid, or Brighid's Day. Name variations include Brigid, Bridget, Brigit, Brid and Bridgit). Any Pagan or Wiccan can tell you, this is one of the four cross-quarter points on the wheel of the year. It celebrates the coming of the ewes into milk, the lambing season (Imbolc means “in the belly”), the germination of seeds, and the goddess (or saint) who represents fire, smithcraft, and poetry. (Poetry was considered a “fire in the head”.)


It is a time of celebrating the Feminine principle in the season of the God, just as Lammas celebrates the Masculine principle in the Goddess season. It also marks the beginning of longer days, and the sun's obvious return and gathering strength. Several monolithic monuments are aligned so that the rising sun on Imbolc illuminates their inner chambers.

Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara, Ireland

Brigit Crosses were woven at this time as a symbol of the turning of the wheel. They were often put in the roof beams of the house as a protection against fire.
Typical rush cross
By Irish tradition, a “bed” was fashioned for Brigit before the family hearth, and a doll representing her (the Brideog) was carried from house to house as a blessing. 

Two types of Brideog, and a "bed" made from a basket
Food offerings were left by the fire, and articles of clothing placed outside so that she may bless them as she passed by. One related belief specifies that a length of white cloth should be hung out the window on the eve of the feast, so that it can catch the morning's dew. This cloth can then be tied around the head, the jaw, or an injured limb, as it removes pain.

When the new religion gained power, Brigit was too ingrained in the minds of the common folk to banish her. In actuality, much that was part of Pagan Ireland was merely absorbed by the Church. Brigit's feast day, power and traditions were now ascribed to Saint Brighid the “Mary of the Gael”. Even her sacred fire, once tended by her priestesses, is today maintained by nuns in Kildare.

The Feast of Brigit, or Imbolc, also corresponds with Candlemas on Fen 2nd. This is the Church's fire ceremony when candles are blessed for the coming liturgical year. It is another shadow of the power of the Goddess and her element of fire. Imbolc was a day of weather prediction, so it is not surprising that Groundhog Day occurs on this date as well. The old legend is that Brigit – in the guise of a crone – goes out on this morning to collect wood for the rest of Winter. If  the day was sunny and bright, she could see to gather enough wood for another 6 weeks. If the weather was cloudy or foul, she would only gather a small amount. That would mean  Spring would have to come early. (BTW: PA isn't the only state with a weather rodent. New Jersey has its own!)

Milltown Mel!!!
It's still a tradition is make Brigit's Crosses. I looked for some easy videos to show you how it is done. The best was the following, demonstrated by a child in Ireland. You can make the cross out of rushes, wheat stalks (soak them first!), even pipe cleaners. Have fun!
Imbolc Blessings to you all!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Glass Darkly

I was going to do a blog about the meaning of Imbolg. I will probably make that the second part of this entry (posted in a few days). But first, I want to share a story.

The story is about a woman I knew in collage. I've mentioned her before, years ago. While at Douglass College (Rutger's University) I fell into a grand group of women who were part of the commuter community (OK, we had a few resident students in the mix, but that's not important). We started being called “Animal Corner” because we sat in the commuter lounge, between classes, at a huge round table that was our second home. We were typical brainy geeks: Star Trek fiends, into the metaphysical as well as sciences. It was a good time for me, one I think of fondly.

One of our members was doing a Bachelors in Space Science; quite a pioneer. I loved her: She was quick-witted, friendly, bright, even tempered. We even traveled to Europe together, along with another long time friend. After graduation, she worked in Princeton and, eventually, because a NASA engineer. It was then that contact between us faded. I would write long, personal letters and received, in return, mass produced “updates” - like those annoying “Xmas Letters” some people send. Eventually I wrote and told her that if she didn't have time to correspond, that was fine. I would rather hear from a friend once or twice a year  than receive mailings as though I was part of her fan club.

When my first book was published, I sent her a copy. When the shuttle Columbia burnt up over Texas, I sent her my sympathies. I knew she had friends aboard. At that point, I did hear back from her, saying she was receiving an award from our college, and would I like to meet up? We did. I spent a weekend driving her around, taking her shopping or back to my house for a meal. I arranged for another old college chum to visit.

None of it mattered. She only wanted to discuss her achievements, her awards, her glowing endorsements. I was a published author and our other friend was a scientist with Lockheed Martin. No matter. We spent hours politely looking at pictures of her fencing club, hearing about people we didn't know. For all that, we learned nothing of her everyday life. It was all posture and pose. We were cast as her receptive audience – like it or not.

When I took her back to her lodgings, the evening before the award ceremony (to which I hadn't been invited), she took her leave of me. After the ceremony, she was heading back to Texas. I e-mailed her a few days later to say how nice it was to see her again, but she never replied. Apparently my usefulness was at an end.

I have seen a few things about her in the past several years. In July 2011, CNN did an article about her. The photo that went along with it showed her in a space suit. That struck me hard. She was never an astronaut – washed out due to height and vision – but the implication was there. When she addressed another group, they billed her as an engineer and an astronaut. I never saw a correction. All this rankled me. What had happened to my bright, cleaver, loving friend from college? She seemed to have turned into a self-promotion machine. She called herself a Renaissance woman, a dynamic speaker and motivator.

It made me sad that there was so much “her” in her head there was no room for old friends.

The other day, before I closed down the computer, I did a random look up on Google for people I use to know. One of the names I checked was my old friend. I was shocked to find a series of videos. In several, she looked much older, defeated. She was talking about bullying – how it had effected her in High School, and how it had re-occurred at NASA. She was now on disability, hadn't worked for 2 years, and was suffering from stress. Some videos pleaded for help – there was even a fireside chat to the President about sitting in the dark because the electric bill could not be paid.

There were a series of tragedies: she went on disability and had to take in borders. She ended up sleeping on a mattress in her computer room. Her sister died. The house was eventually foreclosed, and she was living in a rental. She had broken her hand, as well as her 1995 Ford, and had so little money she couldn't afford cat litter for her 4 cats.

I was/ am completely floored! My first thought, after my heart broke, was how much could I afford to send her for food and kitty litter? Then I realized: I'm also on disability, and have bills to pay. There is still no resolution to my medical coverage problems, although it is getting fixed. Until then, all expenses are out-of-pocket. I can't afford anything but sympathy. I'm not sure if the bullying was simply due to NASA being a man's game (and military at that) and she didn't have thick enough skin, or if it was imagined. It hardly matters. Did that megalomaniacal bend to her personality cost her a job, friends and security? Possibly. There is always Karma with which to contend.

The lesson I learned is this: you just never know. People walk this Earth wearing a skin that may be all facade, but internally things could be crumbling to dust. You have to walk away from the unpleasant and reserve judgment. Also, you have to remember where you started, and be kind to people who shared your past. Treat others as you would be treated and, if you are making ends meet in this world – however humbly – be thankful.

I take no pleasure in this woman's situation. It does, however, make me take a deeper look at myself.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Gem of a January

January is starting out quite interestingly. Because I did not receive a bill for my medical insurance co-pay (the Company insist that I still live in North Brunswick), all my medical coverages have been canceled! I have filed an appeal – and notified my lawyer – and have hopes for reinstatement. In the interim, I have to make sure I stay flu free, and generally healthy...or I am right properly intercoursed!

Ah well. I live in interesting times.
I wanted to do something special with the blog this year, so I've decided to dedicate one post, per month, to the gem stone associated with that month. I'm not talking birthstones per astrological signs. I've never been an astrologer. I'm speaking of the month's traditional stone –something we can all utilize if it suits our needs. The stone for January is garnet.

I love garnets. I love any rich red gem (but it does come in other colors). The name derives from the Latin “granatus” which comes from pomegranate seeds. They are similar in shape, size and color to garnet crystals. Garnet has been used for thousands of years. It is a warrior stone, as well as a stone of love. That sounds conflicting, does it not? But think: all is fair in love and war, and that is because they are very alike. There is the struggle, the conquest, the engagement and the victory. Winning battles is similar to winning hearts, after all!

Garnet was reported to be one of the 12 mystical stones in the Breastplate of Arron, wore by the High Priest for Temple rites. It was considered sacred.

For centuries soldiers have carrier garnet as a talisman against injury and death. It also has healing properties in that it was said to stop the flow of blood. It can bring victory, peace and tranquility.

Garnet was thought to contain its own light, and could illuminate the dark. It was a protective stone that would turn murky or break should the wearer be in danger. When put under your pillow, it will even ward off bad dreams.

Beyond being protective, it also enhances your sense of confidence, your self-esteem, your popularity, and boosts your energy. If given as a gift, it generates loyalty. Feeling depressed? Wear a garnet. Being tormented by vicious remarks, teasing, lies and deception? Wear a garnet; it will reflect back the negative vibrations to the senders. Business not going well? Wear a garnet, or place a few loose stones in your cash box or around your shop, office, or desk. It will attract money.

Finally – and my favorite property – meditate with this stone. It will help you remember past lives and hidden information. But, be prepared. The stone is one of love and truth, even if the truth hurts. You will discover what you need, but it may not be what you want!

Rufus has been a real Mama's boy these days. Even in the evening, when I try to elevate my leg on the sofa, he is glued to my side...or my lower leg.
I finally had Gary hang my Sherlock framed prints. The house is slowly taking shape, which makes me feel more comfortable and cozy.
Gods help me, I even ordered a Sherlock and John doll from SewCoolBows on Etsy. I haven't gotten them yet, but they are adorable.
One of the things I want to look into this year is Shamanism. There is a history of it in my family, but I've always steered towards the Irish practices. Now, I want to blend those rituals with those from my Native American ancestors. The situations that dominated my life last year, and some of my spiritual experiences, have led me to that decision. To that end, and as a touchstone, I purchased a Shaman doll from Rhinestone Gypsy on Etsy. What can I say? It spoke to me.
And so it goes. My friend Goldie got me turned on to the Oscar Wilde mysteries (thanks, Goldie!) and so I have raided the library for the four that they have. I'll probably purchase the fifth. In checking out the books, I ran across the following Wilde quote which really touched me. I will use it as my close. Next post, I will include a little of my own poetry. Gods help you all! At one time I was an award winner, but my muse has been on hiatus, so it may be a bit creaky. I'm sure you'll let me know!

So blessings to all, and keep a good thought for my insurance situation. Without your prayers, my next operation may be on my dining room table!








Saturday, January 5, 2013


Today, January 6th, is the 159th birthday of Sherlock Holmes (he was born in 1854). You won't find this date in the “canon” or in any of Doyle's writing, but we Sherlockians know. We have our ways..

In London, New York, and various other large cities, the Baker Street Irregulars and scion groups will be having lectures, special viewings of films, and dinners. Unfortunately, I'm not healed enough to get around the big bad City, so I will celebrate here.

Below are a few of my favorite pieces of fan art, borrowed from Tumbler and similar sites where mad fans meet and share their talent. Hope you enjoy:
Sherlock, a la "Fairly Odd Parents"

Someone did a beautiful job blending Sherlock and John with Victorian style photography
We need more of these PSAs

Our new Sherlock confused by the statue of the old
Note the shadow
Perhaps my favorite: Sherlock and the bee

                                                 Blending S. Paget with our current heroes

Unworldly Inspiration?

Even Google got on board for Sir Arthur's birthday

Sherlock a la Harry Potter

I would also like to thank all the actors who brought Holmes to life. How many do you recognize?

Hans Albers, Joaquim de Almeida, Alexander Armstrong, James D'Arcy, Tom Baker, John Barrymore, Keith Baxter, Jeremy Brett, Nicolas Briggs, Clive Brook, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Cushing, Robert Downey, Jr., Rupert Everett, Hugo Fink, Matt Frewer, William Gillette, Sterwart Granger, John Gielgud, Guy Henry, Charlton Heston, Anthony Higgins, Carleton Hobbs, Ronald Howard, Frank Langella, Roger Llewellyn, Peter Lawford, Christopher Lee, Vasily Livanov, John Longden, Patrick Macnee, Algimantas Masiulis, Raymond Massey, Clive Merrison, Keith Mitchell, Nis Bank-Mikkelsen, Jonnny Lee Miller, David Mitchell, Ron Moody, Roger Moore, Alan Napier, Alwin Neuss, John Neville, Leonard Nimoy, Eille Norwood, Peter O'Toole, Reginald Owen, Michael Pennington, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Basil Rathbone, Robert Rendel, Ian Richardson, Nicholas Rowe, Richard Roxburgh, George C. Scott, Mack Sennett, Paul Singleton, Tod Slaughter, Robert Stephens, Ben Syder, Fritz Weaver, Robert Webb, Alan Wheatley, Geoffrey Whitehead, Paxton Whitehead, Nicol Williamson, Douglas Wilmer, Arthur Wonter, John Wood, Edward Woodward and Igor Petrenko.. 74 in all, and who knows how many more in the future?


Finally, thank you, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for giving us a genre, an icon, and a damn good read. Below is one of the last interviews Sir Arthur gave before his death in 1930. He offers his insight on Sherlock Holmes and Spiritualism.


                           So happy birthday, Mr. Holmes. The game is still afoot!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Those Were The Days

A new year usually results in resolutions. This practice actually dates back thousands of decades. It didn't matter when the new year was set to begin, be it October 31 for the Celts, or in March and the beginning of the planting season for Rome, when the calendar began anew rituals were observed.

It was a time for paying off debts and making amends. The new year was to be successful, and so offerings were made to Janus, the two faced God. No, he wasn't gossiping behind his followers' backs, he literally had two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. January is named for him.

This concept was so well know, even the Irish have their own version.

Two versions of Janus-like Irish statues
So, before I talk about my goal going forward, I'd like to take a look back at my family, in all their unique characteristics.

On my mother's side, I am a product of Ireland. My grandfather's people raised racing ponies for the English and, in this way, lasted through the famine into the early 20th century. Some family went to England. My grandfather worked there for 8 years in order to make passage to America. Eventually he brought over his younger sisters, and he became one of the countless Irish to work the railroads until his death. He met my grandmother in New Brunswick, NJ. She was a “Bridget” for the Johnson family (as in Johnson & Johnson). When my mother was born, they gave her a cradle. The family still has it.

Grandmom came from Crossmaglen, County Armagh...Bandit country. Her cousin fought in the original IRA, and there is a memorial over his grave, in Irish, erected by the people of America.
St. Patrick's, Crossmaglen
Mom married Dad, a divorced protestant with three children. THAT''s a whole 'nother story. Dad wasn't into his heritage, but it was both illustrious and diverse. On Nana's side, the original family name was Scott. We are descendant from the first Earl of Buccleuch.

Here is a painting of the 3rd Duke. I don't see a family resemblance. I told Claude; she laughed at me. He had ginger hair and a

Per legend (and the writings of another relative, Sir Walter Scott) John Scott (the 1st Earl) followed the king's royal hunt. The king chased a deer down a ravine. John went down, broke the deer's neck with his bare hands, and dragged it up to the king. Per the poem:

"The King did wash into a dish 
And Galloway John he wot; 
He said "Thy name now after this 
Shall ever be called John Scott." 

"And for the buck thou stoutly brought 
To us up that steep heugh 
Thy designation ever shall 
Be John Scott in Buckscleugh." 

(“Heugh” is a hill, and “leugh” is a ravine. 
“Bucksleugh”, or “Buccleuch” as it's become, 
 loosely means “deer ditch”. Could be worse.)

The Buccleuch coat of arms

Some Buccleuchs went with Mary Queen of Scots to France, in 1558, where she married Francis, and some got involved in Dutch politics. From there, they came to the New World. One ancestor, Peter Buccleuch, is considered the father of Staten Island. Some were sheriffs in Perth Amboy, or wealthy land owners in North Brunswick. One fought in the Revolution (yes, I am a DAR member) and another – James Buccleuch – had a town named for him: Jamesburg.

On the other side of the family we have Carsons and Thompsons. Kit Carson is a cousin.

  So is a little lady known as Levinia Warren. She worked for P.T. Barnum and eventually married General Tom Thumb. Lincoln gave them a reception at the White House. 

A Thompson relative married Barnum's oldest daughter. When the circus came to town, everyone got free tickets! (No, it doesn't happen now – don't ask me.) ...And my great-grandfather Frederick Thompson was called “The Radish King”. He developed Thompson radishes.

The Burke family gave birth to the tall man of the Monmouth Circus, and the Meseroles came from France on the “Spotted Cow” in the 1600s and settled in Brooklyn. Streets are still named for them. Also on that side of the family there are many wealthy Dutch. Of the 9 or so founding families of New Amsterdam, I am directly descendant from 8 of them. And finally, through the Burke line, I am the several times great granddaughter of a Lenape Shaman. His daughter fell in love with a white man, who “kidnapped” and married her. She adopted the Burke name thereafter.

So, there it is in a nutshell...and I do mean nuts. All of the above, plus around $5.00, will get me a peppermint mocha frappuccino light blended at Starbucks.

Yummm....better than genealogy

My point is this: I have lots of weird people behind me. Circus acts, pioneers, Indians, landed gentry, patriots and Irish freedom fighters, and parents who defied their families and deep rooted prejudices to go get married. (Only death separated them for a brief while). One thing they all had in common – they were their unique selves. They were bold. They were courageous.

  A 19-year-old setting off alone from Northern Ireland, a little person wanting to sing so badly she joined a circus, a tribal woman willing to marry a white man for love...a catholic marrying a divorced protestant. One of my Dutch ancestors in New Amsterdam was a strong willed woman who owned her own property on Brewers Street in Manhattan (unheard of!). She was so sick of the water rising to her front steps causing mud, she paid to have stones put down along the whole street. It became known as “Stone Street” and is an historic district to this day.

  All of them were true to themselves. They were bold and took a chance, promoted by their inner voice. I can do no less. So no matter what the barrier or the infirmity, the disability or the nay sayers, I'm going to work towards my dreams this year. That means more writing and teaching, but also trying something new. I'll let you know how it goes as we all move through 2013.

And, oh yeah, loose weight, improve my diet, exercise, watch my finances...yes siblings, I haven't forgotten. (sigh).

Happy New Year, everyone. Health and Blessings to you all.

Janus, we lay our flowers at your feet.