Saturday, March 24, 2012

Poisons Post: Foxgloves



Foxgloves

Scientific Name: Digitalis (Suffix changes with species, this is the common name for all Foxglove plants)
Folk/Common Names: Foxglove(s), Dead Man's Bells
Toxin Type: Cardiac Glycosides
Toxicity Level: Pretty toxic. Ingesting even a small bit can be enough to stop a heart. Interestingly this plant is also toxic to almost all livestock animals.
Where is the Poison: In the entirety of the plant including seeds, but especially bad in the upper portion (leaves and stem included)
Symptoms: The usual stomach and digestive track pain (common with most poisons, if you've been reading my other posts) which naturally includes nausea and vomiting, which turns into hallucinations of a visual nature and delirium. The plant also can disrupt the heart and cause deathly tremors and convulsions.

Interesting Fact: The small extracts from this plant are also routinely formulated into heart medications to correct tremors and issues.

Folk Info: This is a lookalike for many tea herbs and has been the unfortunate end to many a confused tea-drinker.


BOTTOM LINE: SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?
Yeah, avoid eating foxgloves.

BACK TO THE MASTER POISON LIST?

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. Stress and the Hunger Games movie saw to that. Cheers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

PBP 07: Fertility (And how it's kinda exclusive)

(Photo of fish eggs from gold-fish)

You'll notice this blog is quickly becoming a blog discussing social issues and sexism in pagan practice as way as a philosophical exploration of my path and changing thoughts. It only goes downhill from here.

This post may very likely come out of left field for many readers. But that said, in full "Duskenpath" ranting tradition, I don't give a single blessed fuck about fertility.

Let me explain to you why.

I identify as a demisexual, (under the umbrella Asexual, meaning I lack the ability to feel physical or sexual attraction until I love someone, and then only feel it for them alone) a lesbian, a cis-woman with a deep rooted and pathological fear of pregnancy and child-birthing I have harbored since I was a child (past life issues, long story) and a profound dislike of children. (Not to get graphic but pregnancy is literally a nightmare scenario for me where the psychological trauma would be so bad I can't know what would happen to me.) To be fair I also profoundly dislike a lot of people, but the younger people get the less likely I am to enjoy them.

I'm really useless with kids too, to tell the truth. I just don't really know how to talk to them or what to talk about, so I generally get uneasy left in their presence too long. I'm just not built for kids.

And you know what? I recognize that, and I state that I am pagan, and don't want kids, fear pregnancy, and abhor the entire idea my body is capable of harboring a living...thing...inside it, and I think that's okay.

Even when I was trying really hard to be Wiccan, my feminism just would not settle its pesky self down and allow me to look past the implicit gender roles inherent in the typical depictions of God/Dess--woman as reduced to her ability to get pregnant and mother children, man as reduced to his seed and strength and hunting skills. [LET ME BE CLEAR HERE: Feminism, in its real definition, means being against INEQUALITY TOWARDS EVERY GENDER/SEX/ANYTHANG. A real feminist cares just as much about hurtful roles directed as men as women. Just so we're good here.] It just seemed archaic, and furthermore alienating to me, an Ace Lesbian who often identifies with neither gender role specifically, just by virtue of clearly catering to a single idea. I didn't understand (and still don't) how I could be expected to relate to a paradigm that implicitly focused on procreative (heterosexual) fertility when I did not want to procreate, have hetero sex or give a blessed fuck about fertility in my own life.

I feel like this isn't often addressed in terms of feminism, but a lot of Pagan gods acted in severely sexist ways, which further supports my thesis society creates Deity in their image to justify their actions against others. Since I don't see Deity as inherently good or all-knowing or wise in all cases, I hold them to an Ethical lens. If a deity is acting in a fashion I consider sexist (and I have met some especially from the Greek side, yes) I refuse to speak to them in most cases. If I am shown any disrespect in terms of ethics our relationship is over (and they are reciprocal). I don't consider being a higher being an excuse for being an asshole. (And neither will a higher being in most cases) Okay, sidenote. More on Deital ethics later.

I think, looking at the origins of Old School paganism, it shouldn't be surprising archaic gender roles are perpetuated through religion and Deity. (Look at examples in Greek mythos: strong female figures were often punished or otherwise put down by the Proper In Charge Male Deity, and this was often through sexual (rape culture) means. This reflected the status of Greek women in society at the time and gave an "example" for why husbands could dominate their households.) I don't need to mention the systematic oppression of women in the texts of other major religions either, right? I understand Paganism generally tries to celebrate being a woman and women's sexuality (and men's sexuality too, and that's important as hell) but even by adopting the idea of maiden/mother/crone we are basically saying a woman's life stages are caused by the presence of children and the utilizing of her uterus, and some of us don't ever want to utilize that part of our anatomy, so it's still kind of odd.

I'm also of the Chaos Magick opinion we create Deity in our own image and that does not make them less powerful or great than if it was the other way around. I hold this to explain why most Deities are portrayed in a hetero, procreative, and often sexist stance, as that was and still is the majority for many people on this planet. (If it was my decision the world's deities would be raging, childless lesbians and gay men, trans included, that do nothing but read fine literature all day, travel the world in matching outfits and take long vacations on the beach--but hey, it's not my world.)

My previous post on the falsity of duality also explains how I feel about a male/female dichotomy at all. I think it's archaic, exclusive to many and used too often as a 'default' by virtue of being in the majority. I won't subscribe to a paradigm I find no evidence for and no way to relate to as I don't believe in "male" and "female"-ness, whether that be energy or whatever else. I believe in "people"-ness. I think we need to drop the entire notion

I also get quasi-offended when people claim that even a lesbian couple can relate to said paradigm because "you have elements of male-ness and female-ness in you too." Please see my previous post on how I feel about duality. The long and short of it is I don't believe 'male' and 'female' energy exists because by separating them into gender roles I feel we are perpetuating sexist ideas of what men and women 'are'. So you can guess how I feel about that.

At the same time I think gay men and women who identify with fertility tradition can certainly get something out of it, provided they're okay with the male/female energy idea. And fuck yeah if it works for you. But in true Duskenpath tradition I'm expressing an opinion that I see little analyzed for the sake of brain noms.

In terms of 'earth's fertility' and celebrating that, when I do celebrate Spring holidays it's the first thaw and the Solstice. I don't seek to mirror 'earth's fertility' with any sort of ritual because fertility is simply not important to me. Life is, and I separate that from physical fertility, possibly because I spend too much time on the Astral, where life is not created with physicality (sexual acts) but with energy. I am more okay with the idea of two distinct energy signatures joining to create something new (and neither of those energies is necessarily gendered, astrally speaking) than I am celebrating something that means nothing to me. (heterosexual sexuality)

My point with this is to make people think about what fertility in the traditional sense or as a defining point or purpose means to those who are incapable of replicating it. What of an infertile man or woman, or a woman like me who is arguably a little gender dysphoric? Fertility doesn't have to be a part of pagan practice. If it is, all power to you. But it should never be used to exclude or define others, or we become no different than women and men in more extreme traditions that good people birth little soldiers for god and that defines your life. Always think about those who do not fit into a socially accepted paradigm.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Candles for Legba

A box I made recently for Legba offerings, used here in a spell.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Poisons Post: European Spindletree



European Spindletree

Scientific Name: Euonymus Europaeus
Folk/Common Names: Spindle, Common Spindle
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (Theobromine and caffeine, also terpene)
Toxicity Level: Fairly toxic, poisoning is most common in children, so probably slightly less so for adults.
Where is the Poison: The berries the plant produces are the worst concentration. Shoots of the plant are also toxic, especially to animals.
Symptoms:10-12 hours after ingesting the fruits/seeds, vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive symptoms present, along with heart rate elevation. If fatal, one can have convulsions and hallucinations along with paralysis of the digestive tract.

Interesting Fact: This tree has become an invasive species in the US after being introduced from Eurasia.

Folk Info: The tree gets its name from its very hard wood, which can be carved to make spindles for spinning wool.


BOTTOM LINE: SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?
Just avoid the orange berries and you'll be fine.

BACK TO THE MASTER POISON LIST?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gardening.

So since I focus heavily on the death aspects a shit a lot of the time I've decided to finally do some rudimentary gardening. I've been kind of an armchair herbologist til now, clipping rosemary from my mom's garden and using other people's herbs.

I bought my mom this handy kit for christmas that comes with an idiot proof growing system of soil, seeds and containers. Just yesterday I took it upon myself to plant the buggers. (It's simple Cilantro, Basil and Thyme.) I'm a first time seed germinator too, I care for several plants (an enthusiastic potted ivy, a small hard to kill bonsai, a pretty retarded succulent judging by its weird growth pattern) but I've never grown them from seed. So covering the baby seeds with plastic wrap (ghetto greenhousing) and letting them sit in the sun is probably the closest I'm going to get to mothering instinct. At this very moment I am fighting the urge to document them every day until they sprout like that crazy mom with the flickr account.

I also went to the Flower Show in Philly today and brought back some Heirloom salad green and chives seeds. We routinely grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and whatever else we can in our tiny garden each year, so I figured I'll try my hand at germinating the babies and growing some green things. It helps I'll have graduated, too. I also brought home 2 more succulents which I will get around to getting pictures of.

But hear me astral, I'm trying, okay? I'm trying to integrate life...into my life. Gardening tips are appreciated.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Clean Sweep





Just a picture post of my 'spring cleaned' altar. My house-house altar still had winter leftovers like a scarlet cloth, and since I don't really celebrate the Spring/Summer pagan holidays I gave my Kuan Yin back her rightful place instead.

I need a clean, zen space right now to think at my house-house and I never quite got over my 2 years of Buddhism, you see.

Also, bad phone picture.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Musings Monday: New Ways of Honor/Technology Is Your Friend



Hello, internet. Today I'm going to talk about this awesome thing my partner just showed me.

This video depicts a Virtual Temple for Ganesha. (Go watch it and come back.) The same people have a Virtual Temple for Krishna. It's made by a company called Shoonya under the website Lifescapes. Both temples can be accessed online through their website but I got them as a Google Chrome App (it just redirects to their website.)

Basically, you go on their website/use the app and you can interact with a completely virtual island that contains shrines to the Deities listed (Hindu obviously) and you can perform the typical Hindu actions that constitute interacting/communing with that deity in their virtual shrine. Which I think is rad.

Why am I writing about this for Monday? Because it's fucking cool. And because it has implications for the future of honor and worship for Pagans and non-Pagans everywhere.

You've probably seem virtual shrines before. Many Pagans seized the opportunity of the internet to put up web pages with photos, text, and information designed to honor their Deity of choice. You've probably seen some before, a lot of times they have those horrible candles .gifs. You know the ones.

I think utilizing the internet to worship/honor is an awesome idea. I believe fully in utilizing every tool we have to experiment and see what works and what doesn't (chaos magick, y'know) so I say, hell yes, worshiping a deity with a web page is the same thing as worshiping a deity in 'reality'. Virtual reality is another 'sort' of reality, but it still counts. Energy and intent work no matter the medium.

An interesting point to consider is this: What we do in virtual reality affects how we exist in 'standard' reality.

Let me explain. If you get into a fight with someone on the internet, in a virtual space, does it sometimes affect your day 'here', in any regard? If you were one of those/are one of those people who avidly participate in video games, did you ever win competitions? Did you win monetary things because of your performance in a virtual space? Did it make you feel pretty awesome (it should) ? Did you ever 'get into a relationship' with someone that had real emotions when in a virtual game setting, where you never interacted personally outside of a virtual space (messaging, game speak, etc)? All of these things technically occur in a 'virtual' setting, but when humans interact with the setting energy gets involved and shit becomes messy. We are not 'divorced' from virtual reality any longer.

Since almost everyone now makes use of technology for everything from managing finances to tracking the stars to playing games, why shouldn't we use technology to honor our Gods? Judging by the sheer amount of Bible apps on google Chrome, others have picked up on this idea already.

There are many advantages to a virtual temple. To list a few:

It's free in this case, or in another case would probably be a low one time only fee.
It's completely portable--a literal travel altar.
It can theoretically be accessed from multiple devices, wherever you are, even on a plane/train.
It theoretically has the same effect as interacting physically with that Deity's artifacts.
No travel costs! Not everyone lives close to a shrine for their Deity.
For people in the Broom Closet, it would be infinitely easier to hide your evidence.

If energy and intent are there, and obviously the world-makers in this case put time and effort into making the shrine beautiful for a deity (if how suspiciously similar the worlds look to the Astral is any indication) why can't a worshiper put in the same time and energy to worship the Deity virtually from, say, their iphone on their morning commute? Or their computer at work, on a break? I think the practice of virtualizing Shrines actually makes it easier to honor our Deities. I don't find it any less 'valid' or 'authentic' to use tools we have available to better contact our Deities. I also think virtual worlds and temples could be the next step in bridging that gap.

The implications of this are also huge: If we can re-create virtuals of existing Shrines and Temples that have fallen into disrepair (the Parthenon, or the temples of Egpyt, maybe?) for shows like the History Channel, can they be re-created, in the same manner as these temples, for the purpose of Worship in a virtual setting, where they will not be destroyed? Humans are pretty visual creatures, and I say that as an art student studying 3-D modeling and product design. I respond much better to a visual, albeit, virtual representation of a shrine like this one than to a description or maybe even the site itself.

I was talking to my partner about how we both built meditation spaces for our Sims when we played those games. I postulate our thoughts and energy in building that space, even virtually, actually created a space with those qualities. Can we "Charge" a space virtually to work for us? I think we can, and should be experimenting with this. Can we link a virtual space to its real counterpart via binding? If some, what are the implications of that? Can we utilize a virtual space like a trigger to automatically interact with the real space, like programming ourselves to go into a trance state? I think we can.

I see the Ganesha shrine above and it really does inspire feelings of peace and well-being in me, just in being well-designed. The energy inherent in the virtual space is literally present when a user interacts with it.

I don't consider this escapism, necessarily. I consider it a tool to allow for focus and to remember things in the past.

Now to convince them to make ones that look like the Shamanic worlds...

Other cool virtual shit!



Friday, March 2, 2012

PBP 06: Elastic Spirituality


(Image of String Theory from http://www.scenicreflections.com)


After discarding multiple floppy E-topics, I've landed on Elasticity.

As you might know by now, I function on a very 'Chaos Magick' mindset. I didn't set out to follow a particularly Chaos path, and I don't necessarily subscribe to one (or any) path now (except Shamanism as I do it) but my thinking has naturally evolved into what many people consider a Chaos-path. What I mean by that is the more I think through my beliefs and experiences the more I like the idea of the paradigm-shift mentality.

I am developing a very elastic mentality towards spirituality. I think you very well can cast a spell with a deity you made up as well as one that "exists", and they will both work provided you give enough energy and will. I think you can make up your own sigils and have them work for you. I think humanity created their own Spirits/Deities based on the natural word around them, and that's why each pantheon relates to its society.

I also don't think the fact a Deity is 'made up' makes it any less authentic, powerful, or worthy of respect. At the same time, I don't think Deities are all-knowing or all powerful or know exactly what's best for us all the time. I think Deity can and does make mistakes, because we are all on our own paths. They are just farther along than we are, and should be regarded as teachers, but not Allmighties.

I have never been in a formalized coven or path, and for that I am grateful. I never had a frame of reference to explain what I was seeing on the astral, or why animal spirits were following me around, and because of that I had a completely open and experimental mind. Having not been raised with limits once I dropped Christianity, I explored everything with no prejudice. Having learned from myself, Deity, and my guides alone, I have come up with conclusions far outside normalized pagan thinking. (I don't believe in Duality, or the raising-up of Fertility, or "Women's mysteries", or that Gods are always Great.) Therefore, I think anyone wishing to be a seeker of truth needs to keep an elastic mind and Spirituality in order to progress. More and more I relate to the phrase "Nothing is true, everything is permitted." (Vladimir Bartol, the author of the book Alamut)

I don't think this fly-free, no holds barred mentality is necessarily the right thing for everyone. Many people really like structure and progression, and I totally understand that. But I also believe in letting your experiences trump your prejudice or preconceived notions, always.

For instance, I'm going to use my mom as an example here. She's a fairly devout Roman Catholic who doesn't 'believe' in ghosts. Many of you have probably discovered already whether or not you believe in ghosts has nothing to do with whether they appear to you. So she saw a man in a suit traipsing through our living room and he disappeared. She did not keep elastic thinking; instead allowing her background/prejudice as a Roman Catholic dictate what she saw. She assumed it was something negative, or some sort of harbinger, or something significant, but she was severely frightened for days because her frame of reference did not include ghosts. When a person who has a set frame of reference encounters something vastly outside that, we tend to like to attempt to make the experience fit out paradigm, and not consider the fact we might be wrong. (The same way science likes to "explain away" things it can't really explain for sure.)

I think the best thing to do is, when you encounter a paradigm-breaker like not believing in ghosts but then having them suddenly appear to you, is admit your thinking was obviously wrong and change your thought patterns to fit your experience. That's what I have been doing since I began this path. I read books that talked endlessly of duality and female/male, and of Spirit Animals being this but not that, and of the Astral as this, and through my experience realized all of it was wrong. That doesn't mean it's wrong for everybody, mind you, because I also think we build our own truths and that is no less valid than a 'universal' truth. I just mean when I went out and tested the hypotheses of the various authors I read, I didn't encounter anything they talked about, and so I went on to discover how things really were without preconceived notions.

To use a more recent example, some of you may have seen the Science experiment in which we discovered particles that moved faster than the speed of light. The implications of this were, and still are, if true, literally a paradigm breaker for the entirety of physics. In one fell swoop, this one accidental thing has the potential to upend the whole of how we think the world works via science. Should science choose to accept the result (the "truth") humanity could make great strides in understanding our world.

And it's usually not an easy thing to admit our paradigm is wrong compared to what we have experienced. It can take a very long time, and I know it did for me when I first transitioned from Atheist to Pagan. It's very hard for many to admit they're wrong, even to themselves. But without shifting our paradigm in the face of what we now know to be our reality, we are generally not very happy folk.

I actually think it's pretty healthy for one to shift their paradigm on a semi-regular basis, if only because it reminds us reality and time are fluid, and there is no 'universal' truth. It helps us progress astronomically faster if we shift the paradigm of our thinking to fit our experiments in Spirituality. And I do think it's extremely important to experiment. I think people are afraid of Chaos Magic, to an extent, because the implications of calling on Buzz Lightyear in ritual and actually having the ritual work threaten to break their paradigm or their frame of reference for what Deity Can and Can't Be. But isn't it infinitely better to find out, then to wonder? For me, it is. That's how I come to all of my conclusions on what life, and Spirituality, are and aren't.

Wonder more, fair readers, it's healthy.