Friday, February 11, 2011

Garage Door!!! :)

This is certainly a departure, but hopefully a funny one. There's not a lot 'funny' going on around here at the moment, so if I'm the only one laughing, I'll take it!

We lost a spring on our garage door last spring... about the same time I had what I thought would be my usual spring-time visitation of a chronic back injury which lasted through September.... :(rrrr!! From April to last week, it was up to me or the Boy to jump out of the car and do the 'raising of the door' by hand. There were times when I thought I'd need a stretcher to raise myself up afterward, and poor Stef is growing so fast his Dolphin-sized flippers were always getting caught under my seat. I called it 'clown-car time' whenever we hit the remote because the passenger side doors would blow open in case we were needed.

Add to this we don't really know how old Creature was because he was here when we bought the house. His motor would smoke if he got stuck. He made noise that I thought was normal for an opener, but was informed that he was LOUD by the installer of the new one. The only clues to his age was the fact that his remotes looked like something from the seventies when 'remote' was something to brag about... like the old cell phones that came with their own purse? ... These things were plastic, 60's colors (beige/white) and so big they covered half a visor. I think that clip could've so-macked a mouse in a pinch, too. These groovy plastic covers, and the one over the unit itself were all falling apart, too. The 70's was NOT the decade for plastic that broke unless it was the neighbor's Green Machine while you were borrowing it, that is. Neither was the 60's, for that matter. The guy looked it over, whistled and said "You got an antique, here!" "No, buddy, you do! Maybe you can sell it on ebay?"

My new door opener is cool! She's nearly silent, but not the 'whisper operation' model I could've gotten. As it is, the dogs haven't adjusted to the change and get freaked out when hubby comes in the door without the telltale pre-rattle. She's a third the size of Creature, which one should expect with 40? years of innovation. Even so, hubby wanted to know 'where is it?' when he got home. She's got more lighting, too. She's also got sensors so nothing's getting squashed when she closes. It's ironic that my garage door now has better vision than me, but oh well! It's for a good cause, yes?

And the person to thank for this is John Rice. He gave me the recommendation for Overhead Door. He's a realtor here in Lexington, and a good one, too. If I ever have any real estate to sell, or money to buy my retreat/training/birthing center land, I'm going to him.

So, if you catch me in my driveway, arms raised, laughing like Dr. Frankenstein while my garage door opens chanting a name I haven't chosen yet, I'm just happy to have a door that works. And John's behind it all!

I'll be back to more 'serious' stuff next time, but I thought I'd share.

Now... for a name...


Have a blessed weekend, all!
Daughter O'Batala

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The TruthRevealed... in an insult! :)!!

Two short explanations will help with this one. Bear with me, and enjoy the punchline. :)

I've made mention of my mother-in-law's moving in with us in previous blogs, and on Facebook. It has been an easier transition for me than I thought it would, but I still have my moments. I am one of two birth siblings, with the intermittent smattering of fosters. Later in my life I've been blessed by being included into two other families, and have likewise adopted, or recognized the existing relationships with other siblings --none of these by marriage. I have no shortage of children through this process, either. This greater-than-genetics connectivity, my Spiritual Family is my human Web. These later connections were/are forged without the growing-up history that 'traditional' families have, so my perceptions, expectations and tolerances for sibling rivalry, family drama and the like are not in synch with my husband's life experiences. He's had all his siblings since birth and didn't get to 'choose' any of them. This is not a bad thing or a better one, just a different experience from mine. This is not to say that I don't understand it all. I'm a trained Behavior Therapist. I'm just not the go-to for facilitation.

My husband has four siblings. They're a divided family in that 10 years spans between the first three and 'other' two. My husband is the youngest. Sibling rivalry is a full-time occupation among some of them. Allegiances, plots and whatnot abound. At times, I could use the inner workings of this group as training for a behavioral progression flow chart. I do this for a living, sometimes, so having it go on in my 'off hours' is no picnic. Suffice to say that an all-sibling consensus about Mom living with us is non-existent. One sibling in particular is completely against the arrangement. Mind you, she is not jumping up to welcome Mom into her home. She's just not happy with us being her caregivers. Basically, she's not willing to adhere to a rule that prohibits her entry into our home. She has options and opportunities to see her mother, and has made choices that ignore any of those options, and so we're at an impasse.

This sister was a nun, before meeting her then-priest husband and deciding to forego a life-long committment to her Savior for the carnal knowledges of secular living. They both went through the procedures, which I'm given to understand are nothing short of needing a Papal Dispensation to finish off, to marry and have a family. These are not forebears to the marrying-priest movement in today's Catholic church, mind you. The topic of marrying priests is a no-touch with them. They also present themselves as very conservative -even virally evangalical- in their religious beliefs, and are not afraid to tell other family members the deportment of their own souls and their assessments of the souls of the people they're talking to. Seems to me, being a deity's x-wife/husband while being married to a counterpart and living the mortal life, while invoking the perks of the Cloth (baptisms, marriages, etc in the case of the former priest) is a hard line to walk, but they seem to do it effortlessly.

The other stripe in this scarf is that I'm no stranger to name-calling. I grew up a one-eyed, skinny, way-too-smart, psychic, otherwise spiritually DIFFERENT, financially anorexic, child of a blind single mother in a neighborhood full of pirahna -to name a few of my distinguishing characteristics. I looked forward to the days when name-calling was the ONLY form of abuse. Batgirl, One Eye, Dead Eye, One-eyed-flying-purple-bootie-eater, Cyclops, Soulless, Critter and Cootie Woman is a good sampling. I remember arguing with a group of tormenters repeatedly that I was NOT four-eyed. Maybe three-eyed, but not four. Realizing that these individuals were not mentally capable of making that connection was a lesson in compassion, believe it or not. Also, when Cyclops came along, I was impressed, since these were my Language Arts classmates, and clearly they were paying attention to Homer's Odyssey. Smarter bullies weren't any less painful, but somehow it gave me hope that a day might come when they'd grow out of the activity, or the insults would be a challenge to decipher.

The Cyclop-ians were the same ones who figured out I was 'religiously' different. I was not ready to be a Witch outside the broom closet yet, but definitely, with support, or kindness, I'd have willingly identified myself with Wicca. Certainly, in retrospect, that's what I was. Without that Elder Voice, though, I was desperate to be as far from the radar on any topic as possible, especially religious affiliation. This is the Bible belt, after all, and I was raised immersed in the understanding that anything 'else' was predestined cinderhood. So, when the preacher's boy, the Jew, the skinny short (only -besides me-) black kid in class, and the obese, angry, rich kid needed entertainment, they turned to me and my co-target, the Jewish one-year-younger-than-them girl. Our guidance counselor (we called her Goose Neck) advised us to hide our religious beliefs from these four lovelies and that would alleviate our troubles. I realized that I'd have to work really hard to hide who I am. I realized that it was impossible, really, to hide an entirely different mindset, belief system and relationship to humanity from nearly everyone in my life. This is why I moved away from KY, and daily miss my heart's home, NYC.

What Santera wouldn't miss NYC after being raised in KY?

The aforementioned 'punchline.'
You've kept up, yes? :)

My sister-in-law's husband made arrangements to visit with Mom this morning. He called before he came which is what we ask everyone to do. (This was a point of battle before she moved in.) We were suspecting a problem, but sincerely hoping it would not occur. Sure enough, though, s-i-l-h was not alone. This is the sibling who is permanently and completely banned from the premises. The porch is probably too far onto the property for her, but we made concessions to reassure Mom. She tried to push her way past my husband to gain entry, knowing she wasn't allowed. Words ensued, and ensuing drama ensued. After a little more ensuance, these two left. The Sister, dropped her cane on two occasions, turned to see if she was being watched, and decided, both times, that instead of staging a fall, corrected her trajectory and hustled to her toaster. (I am sooo loving my camera phone!)

Wait for it!!

Before the first 'trip', Father B-I-L turns to me and says "Have a nice day, ... Wiccan!" (There's no font that adequately expresses the venom in 'Wiccan' so I left it au naturale.) He was loud and proud in his well-wishing. My husband was NOT smiling like me, though, and some more ensuing happened. "So, isn't that something!! Coming from an X priest, married to an X nun you probably !%$#'ed in the confessional!!! Goodbye Father (name removed for privacy)! Goodbye Sister (same as previous)! Get the f-- out of here!"

I thanked B-I-L for the blessing. That's what it was, after all. I have been Wiccan since infancy but never recognized as such by anyone so near to (Catholic) vestments. Doubly hilarious to my thinking is that, while I'm degreed in that tradition, my Spirits have taken me through other initiations in other traditions far less palatable to his mentality. Certainly he doesn' t know I'm a Santera, or that my home is full of sacred images from faiths across this world. He'd be as incapable of recognizing a Cross of St. Brigid as an African one, or knowing the difference between House Ghost altar and Spirit House. His maliciously-intended words of condemnation, his declaration of his knowledge that I am either soul-less or damned and consigned to a well-heated afterlife (his true belief is not mine to know) were not missed, but I've heard all that before. If I were a member of his faith, I would know whether I conformed to this declaration. As I am not, I have no fear of such proclamations. What struck me was that this man, of questionable destination by his own relationship to his claimed doctrine-of-faith recognized, even if superficially, that I am different, and tried to put a name to me --AND GOT IT 'ALMOST' RIGHT!!!!!

For the lay person, the ability to spot a witch is iffy at best. But here this laid priest was! And here I am!!! BANG! I'm a 'Wiccan'!!!

Truth spoken, dear brother-in-law. Incomplete as it is, you've blessed me with the hoped-for event every bullied kid secretly aspires to. You spoke the truth! You called me something I AM, and I'm not afraid, or ashamed, or hurt by it. Finally, I have come to a point in my life where I am past those insecurities. Those wounds are gone. Your nastiness didn't have the effect you expected on me, and certainly, you weren't expecting my husband to speak Truth, however so-like-your-own maliciousness it was. Someday, you will be in this place I've found. May it be soon.

Until then, I'm doing my own Happy Dance. "I'm a Wiccan! I'm a Wiccan!"

Merci, Bondye, pour l'amore!

Dancing Daughter O'Batala!!!!

Two things... My husband is a devout Catholic, and has supported and welcomed my beliefs into his life. Since Mom's move in was decided, he's been better adjusted to my having my altar room dispersed throughout our house than I have. He reminds me when he hasn't seen 'enough fire' or thinks the Spirits need attention. He's been adamant that my faith not be set aside or hidden, even though his Mom is far more conservative in her beliefs than he is. It has been a learning process for me, having a life partner who not only supports me, but cherishes and is even proud of my differences. Today was reaffirmation of these lessons. Happy Dance!!!

The second, is Mom's generous blessings in thanks for my helping her. She has said 'God Bless You, Gretchen' daily. My unspoken response is "I Serve." I have never censored 'who' I cared for, nor the quality of that care for any reason. Service is Blessing enough, but I am grateful for her reminders that she's happy here and feels safe and cared for. I will not allow anyone to impinge on her quality of life. That she repeatedly asks God for His kind attention on my behalf is more than vaccine enough for the Unvested Duo's malificience.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where to go from here?

Ever been at a point in your life where you're doing so many things, and yet... ?

My son turned 13 last month. I remember it not being such a magic number for me, and it seems so for him, too. He's getting his first official head-shaving within the week for repeated disrespect, inattention to directions and general nastiness. He also got an advanced lesson in aura cleansing and meditation formation, so I'm not 'just' a hair nazi, here. In discussing the length of what will remain of his hair -I thought this was a no-hair-left-behind action, he asked me to 'leave something there so he wouldn't be bullied so harshly'. This led to his admission that a classmate has been calling him a child rapist and asking him if/when/how many rapes he'd committed for the day. He informed me that this behavior has been going on for 'weeks' in the presence of his classmates and teachers.

So, while I've been adjusting to my mother in law living here, and learning more than a few things about her family's structures that will make my life ve-ry interesting for the forseeable ... stressing over religious differences among my house's residents ... celebrating two clients' births and helping them with related issues ... helping other clients with their diagnoses ... and otherwise maintaining proper functioning of a household during the Holy Days season (which is my base job, no?), my son has been processing this atrocity against his soul.

Perpetrated by a child HIS OWN AGE, in their classrooms, daily, in sight and hearing of their teachers, without reproach, correction, or intervention of any kind. My son says "They know. They've heard. They won't do anything. Why repeat it? Nothing will change. It will likely only get worse."

This would be outrageous standing alone in his life. But it resonates with countless incidents already in his memory. He's absolutely right in his assessment. It also shows, clearly, exactly what FCPS means when they tout their Zero Tolerance Policy toward bullying. No past issue has ever been satisfactorily resolved, mainly because the people trying to get things done don't have the authority to do them and get blocked by supervisors who do. The reason for this is statistics on bullying are meticulously collected and reported to higher-ups AND accessible by the public. What doesn't get labeled 'bullying' need not be reported and therefore isn't subject to action. The penalties are stiff, the attention is fierce -or perported to be, anyway. I've never seen it. I don't think I know a parent who has. Certainly no one was suspended or SAFE'd for the incidents I know about. We parents hear a lot about the LACK of bullying in PS classrooms in this system. Anyone with sense knows better.

To this foundation of shameful inadequacy, add the fact that he's in a magnet program where such behavior can get a student expelled from the program. Think of it as a football/cheerleader team mentality applied to academics. Not only do the children have the attitude that no one can touch them, but host schools' hands-off approach reinforce the belief. NOBODY wants offended magnet parents, bad behavioral statistics or bad publicity so you get stolid inaction.

Don't get me started on 'guidance counselors' either. It's sad, because some of them might be passable, or even -dare I exaggerate- good. May one of those 'good' ones pass a child's path when they need them, but to date, in my 35 years' experience with this school system, I've heard tell of ONE helpful GC. Not personal experience, mind you, but he did help my brother out, and I will give him props for that. My son has yet to be so blessed. This is a strong component of why he has said nothing, and is reluctant to see what I do about the situation. He's seen some stuff in his years in this program that would send some parents to their attorney's office. So what's supposed to be a 'first line' of support for bullied children is a farce at the best of times.

So, when I'm finished with this blog, and I've prayed Gratitude to Legba for the right words to approach this issue with a system from which I have no expectation of cooperation, I am left with considering my options.

In the bigger picture, though, I find myself smacked squarely with the reality that my son is as isolationist about his school life as I was about mine, for similar reasons. My son has decided that this kind of harrassment is 'just a part of living with these people.' He says nothing in school to avoid repercussions. He doesn't tell me, because he knows I could Vodun the whole lot of them, and he doesn't know quite where to begin imagining what that would entail. He also knows the rest of what's going on around here, and is thinking he's doing his part to provide some peace.

My son turned 13 last month. I was looking for some sign of recognition of the milestone. Since he didn't display this self-found sense of self-control, perseverance and thick-skinnedness in my presence (hence the hair cut), I didn't know he's grown up in a way I'd have preferred he not have to. I suppose it's a good thing he didn't plough the kid back to 1876, but I'd be almost glorious to be in his principal's office answering for his actions -and addressing their cause. This is why children have parents, yes? It's a proud disappointment I feel that I missed this step in his growth. To be sure, he'd have been grounded for three eternities, but might it have facilitated a resolution better than 'putting up' with continuous harrassment? I will likely never be in the principal's office because he lost his temper and cleaned some nasty-mouthed skrunk's clock for his disgusting words. I can deal with that, really.

But I do NOT want him to suffer in silence and grow up believeing that silence is his only option. Being the 'bigger man' is not always about ignoring an assault. To look at it another way, my son's speaking out may have the effect of getting this bully help before he speaks against someone who caps him outright. The people they live with daily are nowhere as permissive with disrespect as their school system leads them to believe.

For those wondering, I have asked him every year at registration time, whether he wants to continue in this program. His response? "There are stupid people everywhere, Mama. At least I know these stupid people. I'll stay here and finish up in an environment I know." He's right about this, too.

I am grateful to Legba, for bringing this situation to my attention. I am a vigilant listener. I did see that he was having issues, and we have been very diligent in intervening. The magnitude of this particular issue, however, took some prodding to expose. So, if the threat of a hairless pate is what is necessary to get my son talking about what's really going on, so be it. He now has some very useful tools, a soon-to-be-clear Karmic Store, and one truly Angry Black Mama going to wreak Change on a situation.

Blessings, all!

Daughter O'Batala

Monday, November 29, 2010

Coconuts: Finding, Cleaning and Using

Eleggua is the keeper of Coconuts. He's got plans for them. Not only are they food for his Children, but they soak up negative energy, carry messages, provide protection for magical activities, and identify a person as a Yoruba, or someone who knows about our practices -all this and they're from a tree, which does what other trees do. Coconuts can travel in the ocean for years before landing and deciding to grow a new source for adventuring offspring.

You don't have to be an initiate of any particular tradition to partake of the talents of a Coconut, but it does help to know what you're doing. For reasons of keeping yous in your whole pieces, and because some things are best left for experts, I'll keep this simple. Now, if you're guided, or advised by someone you know and trust to try other things with your coconut, that's your business. Don't name me in the clean-up, and we'll be OK. :)

If you're planning to eat your coconut, you can follow these instructions, too. Your work may not be simpler, but at least you'll have less of it.(?)

My trial of late has been to find a coconut that is not molded inside and still contains liquid. It seems many stores aren't as knowledgeable about coconuts as we connaiseurs would have them be. The hallmark of a fresh nut is a full rattly feeling when you shake it. You want it to feel heavy, which means the flesh is thick, but there is fluid in there. A light or quiet nut is old, and has been working too hard already to feed or work for someone else. Should I name my source? I'll be kind to them, as they recently had a new shipment, and those nuts were great, but it took months to get fresh nuts. What I will say is that box grocery stores don't pay attention to -or maybe they don't recognize- signs that their nuts need to be replaced, and leave them until some hapless (or willing, but that's a no-no for beginners) customer has taken the last one home. 'Ethnic' stores can be misleading, as I found while hunting nuts for a specific project. You need well-trafficked stores with tastes for what you need in order to ensure it's fresh, know what I mean? I NEVER had this problem in NYC at any of my favorite bodegas. Here is another matter, entirely. So, if you notice a box of new nuts waiting to be shelved, get one of those. Guaranteed fresh. Likely no mold, and therefore no dissapointments. If you have no other source than 'big box' get friendly with the produce people and ask them how long the coconuts have been there or find out when new ones will come in. Tell them you're making macaroons... Somehow I've never gotten good results by saying "I'm a Witch, and my current coconut is worn out with all the Halloween traffic." lol

If this is a house nut, you want it whole. Once you've placed it where it can collect/protect, you don't want anything leaking out, know what I mean? So, the 'score' on a ready-to-eat nut is OK, but anything else is a reason to try another. You can wash your nut in Agua Florida so that anything it picked up from outside stays there. This will also 'wake it up' to start collecting when you place it. Resting it on a sprinkling of salt or decorating it with cascarilla designs are other options for cleaning and dedicating a new nut. Remember that Eleggua's colors are black and red if you want to make a nest for your nut (a 'nut house') or lay it on a cloth. Once you've cleaned it, pass it over the four corners of the main door of your house, starting with 6 o'clock and moving and moving clockwise all the way back to 6. Stamp your feet as the nut moves past them to stir up the energy. This tells the nut where it's working and cleans the doorway of anything 'hanging around.' Then you place your nut in it's house and go about your business.

About nut houses:
You don't need one, really. It's a courtesy, and can be an artform if you're inspired, but not a necessity. The place where your nut rests is it's 'house.' Any embellishment is per your or your Spirits' direction. Mine sits in a wooden bowl on my mantle, where I can rub it periodically. In houses past, it stayed behind my door, which is where they're traditionally kept, but sometimes concessions have to be made. If your Spirits understand, or direct, you can keep a house nut anywhere. Do consider that coconuts do other things, though, and take that into consideration before, say, putting it under your bed. :) If you're being directed to do this, give some thought about why so. You may have some Work to do elsewhere in your life or home.

It is possible to have more than one nut. A house nut, an altar nut, hearth nut... Sometimes you'll see an altar with many coconuts on it. This is a place where a lot of Work is being done. A person with need for that many coconuts is someone to be fastidiously respected. Never touch someone else's coconuts. If you find yourself needing more than one, keep them all focused on their specific tasks. Putting them together is generally not a good idea, but as I mentioned, it's done, and should be seen as Work being done by someone who really knows what they're doing. As a rule, a house nut will work within a cast boundary, or fixed walls, whichever is stronger. Other nuts can be more finely focused, but if you're working for a specific goal, keep your corresponding coconut within that smaller field. You don't want a Fertility Messenger picking up the quirks of Auntie Vernita when she visits, for example.

Coconuts are tenacious about their activities. If they're there to collect energy, they will soak it up until they crack open. If you have a message to send, they will do so. If it takes them years to deliver it, then so be it. Keep this in mind when planning a message. A coconut is not for impulse actions. Remember also that they serve Eleggua. They are sacred to Him. If offended, He can 'lose your mail' for years, as it were.

Changing your house nut is the culmination of your Work with this nut. Essentially, you are 'sending the message' when you no longer need a coconut, regardless of how you used it. I was initiated in NYC, and was taught accordingly that proper disposal of a used coconut was taking it to a moving body of water and tossing it over my shoulder without looking back. Believe me, the East River is Santeria Postal Service Central, as I'm sure the Hudson, any public beach and likely most sewers are as well. Arguments about pollution and littering aside, if any of them survived to find a welcoming shore, we certainly did enough re-foresting of some island to counter any damage done by those who didn't finish the journey. For those, including myself these days, without a river passsing blocks from their houses, a few ideas occur to me as I write. Composting, far from your house, and well away from your doorway, in an area ringed by white stones would be a good idea. Burying them in a forest would also be a good alternative. I don't reccommend fire. The things you'd have to do to keep it from blowing up would defeat it's purpose. If you have shell pieces, or uneaten flesh, this would be a good idea, but not a whole coconut. Returning them to as close to their natural habitat is best. If you have no other choice than the trash, apologize for the indignity. I can think of a multitude of reasons why this would be the only way to dispose of one, and I understand the necessity, but it is also necessary to be accountable for your actions. Ask the Spirits to help you find a better alternative.

Conservation ...Community nuts:
I did this with a few of my friends in college. We had one nut for a few rooms, and sometimes took turns keeping it. One little dorm room is a cake-walk for a coconut, so five or six isn't out of the question. A whole floor would have been ambitious in my dormitory, but a smaller building, or group with less diversity among the members might make it possible. The goal was to reduce what we produced in the way of Spiritual trash. NYC was going through changes on the issue of religious freedom and animal sacrifice while I was there -probably still is. As a city, we were also trying to think of ways to reduce our garbage load. Conversely, the rats were having conventions in the heaps of uncollected trash along the curbs. Still, we began to reframe our perceptions of necessity and sharing a coconut was one of the outcomes.

By the same token, consciously thinking of ways to reduce the need for interventions is a good way to reduce the need for so much Work. Intentions and actions can be retrained to promote Spiritual cleanliness. Try working at it from that angle, especially if you find yourself needing more than a month to find a satisfactory replacement coconut. Consider that in the 'olden days' a whole Village could be cleaned with ONE coconut, which was cared for by the Village Eleggua. No others were needed. Coconuts were seen as tools used by the 'higher ups' for purposes that were only known to those doing the Work. Our population is such that we need as many skilled Workers as we have -and more, really- but if we reduce the reasons for needing 'mundane' cleanings, we can focus on bigger issues. We will never be back to the 'olden days' but we can learn from them.


May the Orixas bless you and your home with health, light and love.
Daughter O'Batala

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Blessed day, all! However you celebrate it, this holiday is a fun one.

For Wiccans, this is the New Year. I have celebrated it as such for 25 years, now, though I have found myself being directed to include more and more from other traditions. We are an ecclectic lot, regardless of how fundamentalist we might think ourselves. In our centuries-long struggles to maintain a connection with our various faiths, we have mixed, hidden, or transformed our holy days to preserve their existence. This is a testament to our, and our ancestors' determination to keep our identities. It is a blessing. A distinctive trait of humanity. To be sure, things are not utopian, and we are not completely free to be us -no one is, but we are closer, even in the worst of societies, to being who our Spirits want us to be.

Halloween is an example of this process in every facet of the continuum. That's not my topic for the day, but anyone interested can send me a line, and I'll work on it.

For today, I'm going to put down what my Spirits require of me for All Hallows. There will be elements others can identify with, and maybe learn from, and others that will be 'out there' but my intention is this: to share my tradition so that others can reclaim the parts that are from theirs or learn where these ideas came from. We are all in a place of reconstruction, to one extent or another.

For one, I have to be clean. Salt, or Florida Water after a shower does this. I lit up some lavender and Silver Lotus incense, and a candle, too, since I like fire, and I'm still stinging that we have a burn ban in place. :(( Ideally, a fire pit, with sage, lavendar and anything cleansing you are directed to include is a good smudge. You can use the fire to get rid of old spellwork or unneeded supplies without incurring detriment. Burning the names of those passed through the year, allows further separation from the physical and can help them break from this lifetime. Don't do this without Spirit Assistance or Consultation with an Elder/ress. As a personal grief release, this is good, but for the separation aspect, Guidance is necessary. (This is where I lament that I could not cast a proper circle around my fire pit and sing the turning of the Wheel. I usually throw cards, too, and burn offerings for Souls-passed. I wear white for this. My house is still in turmoil while we remodel, so I have a limited (maybe non-existent) casting space inside, too. --wailing grief)

My house doorways MUST be cleansed. Salt is good, but I like 7 Powers water or Jinx Removing in mop water. I sweep rugs, dust and polish doors and clean nearby windows. This is needed for your altar space, too. For the Yoruba out there, I changed my coconut last week. This is a necessity for anyone keeping an Ellegua protective in their house. Do NOT bring last year's Ache with you into the next. You will not lose progress by changing it, but you can drag something negative you didn't know about. (Ideally this should be done every 3 or 7 of the increment of your choice, but definitely at the new years you celebrate... calendar, Wiccan, Chinese, or birthday, for example.) I have fresh flowers -fall colors- on my mantle, and the seeds from my moonvine drying for Winter Rest and Nerthys offering for Mother Night during Yule. Both represent the harvest of the old year, freely given to the new: one with the potential to spread into further years. Also, the moonvine seeds are white, so O'Batala likes them very much. (You're seeing the ecclecticism, yes?) Another way to really clean out a house is NOISE. The Orixas really like rattles, but even loud music will work if you keep your intention clear.

For me, 10/31 is the day when everybody's dressed up. We Elders do our workings, welcoming anyone who might be passing through. We must be careful not to harm the children, and keep a special eye out for them, since this is their time to have fun. We offer them candy as a blessing. For those little costumites who are children, they receive protection and joy from our butterfingers. Those who are Spirits in disguise receive kindness, inclusion and celebration. (Some children might be more open to the Spirit-side and need protection from the deeper workings of the day as well. Parents who know/suspect such abilities can wash their children's hands in salt water before they go out, or sprinkle salt on their costume to keep them safe.) Traditionally, 11/1 was my day for being open to communication with anyone wishing it. When I was having fertility issues, I kept my face bare, so that a Seeking Spirit would know I was willing to bring him/her through to the physical plane. Even the slightest make-up on 11/1 will block this contact, so FOR SOME WOMEN preventing communication is as simple as wearing lip balm. (Don't hold me to this. Irresponsible behavior has consequences, but anyone conscious enough to think this is a good idea will be using OTHER preventatives, too, yes? Intention is everything, but sooo few people recognize their true intentions these days...)

This year is my Croning and I was told to work Fertility for others as a part of my Transitioning. My face will be bare, but for another's benefit, not my own. So, anyone noticing that I'm naked-faced and thinking I'm looking for a be-be? No :(, but YES!!! :)!! for F and A. I have already received messages for both of them about things they need to do, but I'm sure more will come tomorrow.

Oh, and offerings!!!

Something to wash with. Something to drink. Something to eat. A comfortable place to rest. This year, I used my front porch, where I have chairs, already. I have a white bowl with salt, pepper, 3 bay leaves, 7 moonvine seeds and rain water for washing. I have a plate with bread, cheese, almonds and chocolate chip cookies for eating. I have a mug of honeyed tea and glass of water for drinking. It's in the north corner of my porch, shaded from wind and rain, too, so anyone needing a guiding hand will have it when they're finished resting. We won't be home tonight, so the lights will be off -Spirits sometimes like it better that way. This is your way station for any Spirit passing by. Asatru pay special attention to including faeries, pixies, and wights. Yoruba are very careful to recognize travellers, too, so I'm careful to keep this tradition in effect.

Blessings to all of you, for the closing of the Old Year, and the coming of the New. I have traditionally offered readings to anyone interested for this, and the calender New Year. I'm on FB at Mothersforge (religious org.) if you wish one. Be safe, and have fun!!!

Daughter O'Batala

The sad part is that I won't be slinging loot from this locale. I have appointed my son to sling from Grandma's porch while we attend a family function, so the little ones in her neighborhood will be happy and maybe we won't get egged? I regret this, but I already know my Spirits, and any others, will be travelling wherever they must to find me. Any medium will tell you, sometimes with a little wryness, how they are never 'off-call.'

11/1 is the day for messages. This is when I find out who needs help with what, maybe even get it done, or learn what I'm going to be doing for the next year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

40 -years? Really?

The morning of September 30, 1970 was a rough one for my mother. I don't have a lot of details, but even with the drama of my mother's telling cleared from the picture she painted, she was not well. I was her first child. I was two weeks 'late' and she was extremely hypertensive. Being a midwife myself, and knowing the structures of healthcare around here, I can tell you her care was not up to the standards of the day. That she was blind, well educated but unemployed, ferociously unliked by her in-laws, and quasi-abandoned by her husband were qualifiers for her quality of care, but the 'that she was blind' at the beginning of this sentence tells volumes by itself.

My growing-time was misery for her. She was a hurling dervish for most of her waking hours. My eating habits were limited to strawberries, chilidogs and occasional ice cream. I expressed an early interest in dance, which she managed with regular daily 'beer therapy' to calm me down. I don't think there was a time during my stay in her womb that a competent care provider would not have seen her situation as anything but high-risk. From her telling, I would have found -then- toxemia (now it's called pre-ecclampsia) at the start of her second trimester. She had no interventions.

My last day in there, I was making her life particularly unhappy. She'd been to her OB once a week for months by then, and that day, they'd taken her blood pressure and told her to lay still for half an hour and they'd try to take it again. The nurse said she was going to turn the lights off so mom could rest. Mom admitted being terrified at overhearing the nurse tell someone "I can't get a pressure. It's too high to read."

I'm not clear on the sequence of events after that, but she was admitted when they discovered she was having contractions. I think she'd been having them off and on for a week or so, but she was never clear on that with me. I'm sure the 'beer therapy' was interfering with that, too. She remembers having 'two shots' for 'ecclampsia' and a 'saddle block' during the evening. She used to describe well the stirrups, her positioning and her eventual decision that she didn't care who walked through, that she was there to have a baby, and nothing would deter her from that activity.

Somewhere amid that, she had a confrontation with her OB about 'when' she would give birth. She told me she felt I was coming and the OB told her he'd be back 'tomorrow.' It was very late in the night when she told the nurses they 'really should get somebody in here' to which they scoffed, saying "Why don't you let us tell you when things are happening?" Nobody would tell her what time it was. The closest she got to knowing when I was born was mentioning a confrontation with a nurse when she took her hands out of the wrist restraints to read her watch. The nurse was furious and warned my mother she'd be 'tied down' if she did it again. It was 11:45 at that time. I was born a short time after that, to the outspoken anger of staff, who said there was no doctor present and made no effort to shield my mother from their distaste with her, or discomfiture with the situation of having to be alone with a 'difficult patient'. The OB was in time to cut my cord, I think. Mom remembered him cursing upon entering the room.

My mother, and various astrologers along these 40 years insist my birth chart is incorrect. My birthday is 'supposed' to be 1 October, some few minutes after midnight. Mom didn't make a move to find out what time it was for obvious reasons. One theory was that staff changed it so I'd fall before the delay entry date for school. October 1st meant waiting a year. If this is so, I owe them a debt so humongous it fails description. I was miserable enough in school as it was, waiting another year to start would have gotten me committed. That's another blog, though.

There are a million directions possible with this, but the one I'm going with is that a woman's birthing experiences tell us so much about our society. They reflect the social mentality toward women and birth, yes, but the qualifiers of economic status, race, education, geographic location, ethnicity, religion, and disability all play into that framework. Therein comes the complexity, and to our shame, the disparity of care. Any woman with a disability is going to fall below any non-disabled woman in assessment of value of outcome or ablility to participate in her birthing, for example. My mother, for example was first and foremost, BLIND. Her education and determination to participate in her pregnancy/birth were ahead of her time in that being blind was a reason to not have a family in the first place, but she was vocal about wanting a better experience than her mother had, even if classes weren't open to her, or her family didn't support her choices. Certainly, no one was looking to her for guidance on where birth could be re-shaped into an experience more acceptable to moms of the day. Mom's intention to simply know the time was distressing to her care providers. Any other mother would have been stripped of jewelry, etc, before entering the delivery room. They hadn't thought of checking for her watch, so she still had it on. (Apparently the clock was hung above the head of the delivery table, so no mother would be able to see it.)

She was an enigma to hospital staff, wanting her baby with her after I was born. For that matter, wanting her baby at all was a point of distress. A nurse from cardiology summoned social services when word got out that a blind woman had 'successfully' delivered a baby, and was planning to take her home.

For all that attention, her physical care was extremely lacking. No attention was paid to prolonged bleeding, persistent fevers and severe anemia. Her recovery was not complete until after my brother was born two years later.

Have things changed? Women with disabilities are still greeted with skepticism -even outright resistance- when they choose to have families. I suppose mom was lucky in that she had private insurance and was married, if only on paper, when I was born. Disability is always first in the ranking of 'marks against' a person, but those other issues would have doomed her to death, rather than the lifetime of intermittent suffering she endured because she chose to become a mother.

So, on my 40th birthday, I consider whether I've done anything useful in gratitude for her suffering. On an empiric level, has my life merited her trials bringing me across? I have tried, at every opportunity, to make a difference in the lives I touch. I don't keep a count of those I've saved, or lost for that matter. I am certainly not complacent with the status quo, nor will I be, if I find it lacking. I will never ignore degradation of dignity or propogation of fear. I will never allow someone to suffer in silence if I can do something to change the situation. Someone greater than me will have to decide if that's a fair trade.

My next question is whether I've done anything to change the situation for women like her -and myself, for that matter? I can say, definitely, yes, I have. I am not a shaper of the world by any means, but anyone who knows me has seen me speak out for moms, babies and safer or more satisfying birthing. I'll continue teaching, healing and empowering women and their families. I'll always be a midwife, no matter how I womanifest. :)

Thank you, mom, for your hard work, determination and cooperation with the Divine. I'm still here, and grateful to be so. Blessed Peace, Edna Mae.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My First Chip

Labor Day Eve, 24 years ago, I was stoned out of my skull. A then friend and I decided to let my brother get us pasted. It was a neighborhood event, with my brother announcing that I was finally gonna smoke weed, and all his friends chipping in on the stash that would get the job done. We had spectators, though I'm sure they were there for a share of the offerings as much as to see what I'd be like. I was a vocal assailant of anyone smoking my brother's product, and all of them were itching to see me 'blend' with the crowd I'd snubbed for years. My brother is 2 years younger than me, and back then had a thriving business from his homegrown. His customers, the local rif-raf, and anyone who'd heard the news was either in the room, on the porch, or somewhere nearby.

My mother was sitting in our living room, knitting. There's no way she couldn't have known what was going on, but she spectated, too. My friend spirited me out of the house, when I nearly fell over the couch into my mother's lap. We decided that a mutual boyfriend's house was the place to be, so we walked that way. He wasn't home. We sat there for hours, in his porch swing, hallucinating and sharing what we saw. At one point, we noticed his rubix cube and decided to fix it for him. My friend began peeling the stickers off and sticking them to my fingers. So, there I am, swinging, with colored squares on my hands, observing that it's wild how the world is completely still, but I'm moving back and forth. Yeah, my brother did a really good job...

I didn't have words for my psychological structure back then. I didn't know what shamanism was, or that I was a 'we' and that these two factors, more than any others, were how I'd stayed alive, and would continue to do so. I just knew that at that moment, I heard a very familiar voice ask me "Is this what you expected?" "Well, I didn't really know what to expect." I answered. "Are you safe?" I focused past the red and green squares on my fingers and spied my surroundings, "That's why we're here. It's safe, here." I went back to my squares, but Voice wasn't done, yet. "Would you be safe is he got to you?" I froze. "Or anyone else for that matter? Would you be able to defend yourself?" The 'he' in question was someone my mother was dating, who was obsessed with sexually assaulting me, to the point that I slept with knives, behind locked door and windows. He was as determined in his intentions toward me, as he was an angel in my mother's eyes. An image of the policeman standing in front of me, the only time I called for help, flashed. My mother's ensuing rage... I was straight and sober then, and it was a bad situation, but if it was now? I'd be just another hood whore arguing about something I forgot he paid for. Forget the police, I was too whacked to know how to dial the phone. I'd be completely on my own, and I definitely wasn't able to function. I'd be toast. I shook my head, forgetting my friend was there, "No," I answered, "I would not be safe." "How do we resolve this?" I didn't have to think about that, "Don't do this anymore. No drinking, no drugs. Nothing."

And so, with this clarity, I turned to my friend and said, "Ya know, this isn't so great, after all. We should swear never to do anything like this ever again."

She thought it over and nodded, "You're right. Let's swear."

So we did. We shook hands and everything. I cleared up a little after that, but I wasn't completely straight until the sun came up. We decided our friend wasn't coming home sometime after 0500, and migrated to McDonald's, two more stoner munchkins putting our coins together for a McMuffin. After that we went home, telling our parents we'd been at each other's house.

I spent Labor Day sorting which alcohol bottles were mine, from which were those of people I 'kept' liquor for. Since my room was usually locked up -and of no interest when I wasn't in it, anything anyone wanted to keep 'safe' was stashed in there. My drinking was with friends, or in secret, so few people even knew I drank, never mind how much.

I was 15. I was adamantly unwelcome at meetings, and my mother was so vocally hateful toward AA, that I'd be killed if she'd caught me. I never got a white chip, or sponsor, or help, aside from my Spirits, and Us, that is, which seems to be enough. I didn't celebrate birthdays, or even know the actual date of my sobriety until my husband asked me to look it up. There were many years when I forgot I had a birthday, and others when I couldn't do the math and know how many had passed. A Labor Day birthday was fine for me, and -somewhat- easy to remember, yes? My sobriety is marked by a national holiday. Cool, right?

So, this year makes 24. It was September 1, 1986 that I swore sobriety, and I keep my promises.

This year, my husband surprised me with my first chip. It's got 24 in Roman numerals on it, and comes with it's own case. My precious husband. He knows how I feel about the Program, and has witnessed how some in the rooms feel about me. His gesture of inclusion, acknowledgement and kindness has touched me in ways I haven't found words for, yet. I put my gold and silver XXIV chip on my altar, with O'Batala and my Spirits, since it is They who brought me to the point of earning it. "Are you safe?"

Safe, sober, loved, and loving.

Blessed Be