Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bringing Yule & Christmas Together

This year my sons are 9 and 11 and while they believe in the Spirit of the Season, their views of Santa Claus are more along the lines of a fond memory. So it comes to me to bring the spirit of faith and magic and mystery back to the season, however I can. And also whenever I can, blend the pagan with the mainstream. Thankfully, my mentor Lunaea Weatherstone presented me with the perfect material: the glorious, generous and joyful Holly King who represents peace and the Consort or Companion of the Goddess in his Green Man guise.

I described to my boys the image of the Holly King: barrel chested, wearing a cloak of red or green lined in white fur, barefooted with a crown of holly and icicles, and how he is depicted as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol: "Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust."

I told them the story ancient peoples have shared with their children for hundreds of years: The Holly King rules during the months of the waning sun, lending his protection and jolly spirit as the days grow cold. At Yule the Holly King gives up his rule to the Oak King, who will reign during the days of growing Light. The Holly King gives up his post and his empty scabbard is akin to the Horn of Cornucopia, representing the abundance and generosity of Santa Claus.

I wrapped up my sharing by reading the 1897 original editorial letter in response to Virgina O'Hanolan's question, "Is there a Santa Claus?" Here is a wonderful excerpt.

"He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy... there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Protecting Your Witchy Rights

I may have mentioned before that I have only recently taken up my first job since 1995. I'm actually coming up to a year, but it's still so shocking to me that I work in a cubicle 15 hours a week that I think this must have just happened yesterday. So apparently in many work environments they subject employees to a three hour class on harassment and discrimination.

The idea of it made me just so frustrated - I mean, why can't people be kind, compassionate and responsible without having being taught, as adults, how to act in a social environment? But alas, as my agent says, I live in a faery world. Frankly I like it here in my little bubble of funky school for my kids, funky health food stores, funky indy bookshops, funky vintage clothing stores. I'm all about the funk.

So I decided if I was going to attend this workshop I would make it truly applicable to my life. When we went around and introduced ourselves, our position and what we hoped to gain from the class, I said, my name is Jamie. I'm the public relations writer and I'm here because I'm Wiccan and I want to know how well we're protected under the law.

You're what?

A witch.


This is what I discovered:

Wicca is recognized by the government law as a religion and so falls in a legally protected category (with things such as race, gender, color, disability, age, sexual orientation).

Definition of harassment means verbal or physical conduct that is unwanted, unwelcome, undesirable or offensive. The conduct must be severe or pervasive (repeated) enough to create a hostile environment, from the perspective of a reasonable woman. (The law figures women understand harassment best).

Such discrimination could include being excluded or ostracized, which is what I’ve heard from most of my friends is the main reason they don’t come out of the broom closet at work. Discrimination could include spreading rumors, impending or blocking movement, unwanted jokes about witches flying to work on a broom or Eye of Newt potions or any of the degrading and relentless unkind comments that ignorant people utter about our funky witchy life. (It is equivalent to sexist or racist jokes). Is one objectionable comment or action enough? No. You must give the offending person notice. A warning could be verbal or nonverbal, such as changing the subject or walking away in apparent discomfort. You could remind them that Wicca is protected under the law and you find such comments offensive. In fact, even if you weren’t Wiccan, it would be your responsibility to say something. Is two warnings enough? Maybe. At this point it would behoove you to report the unwelcome behavior to your boss, who by law must protect your religious freedom or risk consequences for him or herself, in addition to the company. By the third incident of harassment or discrimination, you've got yourself a case strong enough to stop the unwanted actions for good.

The goal is to create more peaceful not hostile environments. I am not suggesting that we go about suing our bosses or our companies. I am a firm believer of the law of attraction (what you focus on grows - so believe me I'll eventually get off this rant) and personal responsibility (I get that from being double Capricorn - ain't like a double cappuccino, which only makes you hyper). I don’t want to fight for my rights. I just want a clear, safe road where I can be true to the purest expression of me. No need to struggle when life can just flow to you. So for those who are ready, I just wanted to let you know, it’s safe to wear the pentacle to work. It’s safe (albeit a tiny scary) to educate rather than hide. Believe me, “they” are starving for our wisdom. We’ve got protection now that we didn’t have before. It’s a little like a buxom secretary in the 50’s thinking, really, it’s okay to say I don’t like that? Really? It’s okay. Really and truly, Betty Ann, really and truly.

And yes, on that personal note, the instructor of the class is looking into the books for me regarding the incident with the school. In the meantime, I visualize educational institutions that seek to open their doors to the unknown for the gems waiting to come to the light. And I visualize myself as that light bringer, the way shower, so that I may spread this joy of creating, always creating, with everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Some people talk or write about magic as if.... As if it was a fantasy world. As if the twilight weren't the Realm of All
Things Possible.

Or maybe they know it's real... I'm not sure.. I proudly display my "Blending in With You Muggles" bumper sticker and wonder who knows that I'm serious. I live in the world of magic for 24 hours (whether awake or asleep) and it's freaky on most days, beautiful on some and downright scary on others.

You try on taking a school board, possibly all the way to the ACLU, to defend your right to present a fiction book you've written, that has been denied just because you've written books on being a witch. The crazy thing is that I've written that book for those very kids whose world is so restricted they've been forced to forget they have the power. And I pledged I would fight for them.

To introduce empowerment to the mainstream world, I must first present myself. And it's odd for me to be the mundane world. Honestly. It's really wierd. I've been an artist for 12 years. I've not hard to deal with the fear that seems to consume most of America. I'm not exposed to incessant gossip of People Magazine, etc. when I shop, because I'm getting my goods at Trader Joe's or the local farmer's market or the local health food store. I was raised Christian Science and so never acquired the taste for Western medicine. I make my own healing remedies or see an auryvedic doctor when necessary. I feel confident in my ability to heal myself and I'm not distracted by reading the latest distastrous report on childhood illnesses by Newsweek when I'm waiting for my sons to see the pediatrician. And yet I have compassion for others who are sensitive to this fear - or at least I'm working on it. Om.

As of late, I took on my first job in 12 years and now I have to attend a preventative discrimination/harassment workshop (that's on Dec. 4 and I swear I'm wearing a Pent and seeing what "they" really have to say about it). That seems so odd to me that I have to attend a 3 hour workshop on how to deal with discrimination: I've been smelling the scent of my burning hair and flesh since I first wrote The Wicca Cookbook, and particularly since I printed it, and harrassment - at the core of most of my writings I've trying to understand what it means to be sexually damaged. What are they going to teach me? I hope something amazing. I wonder.
I have had years of experiential experience. Very soon after The Wicca Cookbook was published I moved with my friend and kids to a neighborhood that turned out to be KKK infested. It was like trying to rid a playground of rats. Oh wait, that's exactly what it was like.

So I did crazy stuff. I had a crescent moon carved into my side gate. I told every teen in sight that I was the local witch (Mexican to boot) and if those punks wanted to violate my children's playground, that they were going to have to deal with me. Then I made batch after batch of chocolate chip cookies, plum jam, and lavender lemonade. Yum. I painted my walls with giant goddesses and a far-reaching sun. I held siances and tamale rolling parties. I carved out a sprial in my backyard and planted California wildflowers in the spiraling ditch then I set an Goddess of Compassion altar at the center. I held my most fave ritual explaining to teen boys what their magic animal totem was. I poured my menses blood on herbs that I used to cook pasta dishes, I brought home a crow carcass that disapeared into the corner where I had buried the coyote medicine. I cared for hawks, rabbits, opposom, cats, orange trees, lemon trees, peach trees, plum trees. I saved the trunk of the Yule tree to be the Beltane May Pole.

True story. Life is intense when you are a witch. Life is one pertual twillight - when all things are possible.

But when it comes right down to it... I can't deny, I love being a witch and I'm tired of being scared about what you think of it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Season of the Witch

Followers of the ancient earth practices are used to dealing with prejudice. The frequency of how often we’re misunderstood and judged makes you familiar with the blows and the smell of burning hair, but it’s never comfortable. You get used someone deciding they know all about you and your religion when they’ve never cracked open a book on the subject or been to a solstice ritual. They might see a band of witches hugging trees, picking up trash, tending a community garden, weeding in a nature preserve and never realize that what we’re doing is sacred and part of our spiritual practice. For some it’s just that a spiritual practice and not even a religion per se. There can be Catholic witches, Buddhist witches, even Christian witches. And yet despite the fact that Wicca is a government-protected religion, we still run the risk of losing jobs and being ostracized. Someone told me yesterday, “It’s not an issue of religious persecution or discrimination to them, but an issue of morality.” When did taking care of nature become immoral? Just because we aspire to the Sun God doesn't mean we should ignore Mother Earth.

Let me give it to your straight.

Witches Heal. Witches Love. Witches are often the most kind-hearted, patient, courageous, responsible, accountable, accepting, open-minded, consciously aware people you’ll find. Bang. That’s the truth.

We work with nature as the most obvious connection to God and the loving spirit that lives and breathes in each one of us. Our most powerful potions are herbal remedies for healing the physical body, sometimes the emotional and spiritual body as well. But if we’ve been hurt and come out to protect ourselves against discrimination that prohibits employment or obstructs our ability to be with our children, we will only confirm the horrific, demonic vision they have of witches. Like “Savage Indians.” Only now, we understand how peaceful native people are – so much in fact that scores of white people sit at the knees of indigenous elders to learn their wisdom. But we witches must be patient. Our time has not come – yet. It’s like Orson Wells’ radio broadcast War of the Worlds and everybody believes the propaganda. We know that if we threw balls of fury we will only confirm their fears – even if we gathered those fire balls from the stake where they set us on fire.

I must say that I tire of pandering to their fears and ignorance. I wonder that if I keep at this public forum of education and take the hits, am I really helping anyone? When the local school district says I can’t come to the school and talk to students about being a writer (not a Wiccan but a writer) because I’m a witch and I’ve written books on Wicca and that would be too controversial, I can’t help but get exhausted from standing firm while the obtuse but powerful Goliath tries to knock me down. Before they even met me, they know me. And I don’t get to be an example of success, power, self-confidence or light to the kids who love to write, who yearn for a life that follows their dreams, who would relate to my story of self-esteem or belonging, or even the ostracized young witches hiding in their midst. Do I continue to stand because I can? Or can I retreat into the darkness of winter? Is it not smarter to leave a popcorn trail for the curious and trust they’ll find me when they have the courage to fight the tide of the prejudice moral right? Perhaps. To be a witch is to know and respect your limits.

We witches know when it’s time to go inside. And that time is now. It’s winter. Hallows is here. Witches know to tap into the reservoir of strength and endurance of Mother Earth. By our example we cannot help but teach, if only because we hold the secrets of healing and the connection to Mother Earth that we all need. It is our love for Her and Her love for us, that sustains us. It is those midnight dances with like-minded friends, the celebrations of harvest, the sharing tales of serendipity as evidence of magick that nourish and support us. We ride the seasons and as long as we spend more time enjoying the ride than focusing on others’ fear of our power and ability to trust nature, we will feel the bliss of connection to All That Is.

To be a witch in the season of Hallows – a very sacred time of year – is to feel the electricity in the air. It is the twilight of the year, a time when the vibrant, growing season of summer and light gives way to quiet of winter dark and rest. It is a time of transition, a time of intense energy and illimitable possibilities. It is the time of year when spirits visit to show us the realm of deep magick that points to a profound relationship with all things, people and situations, while drawing out the purest, best, and biggest in you. It is the time of year to be quiet and enjoy your own company. It is a time of year to face your fears, to dance with them, to invite them into tea, hear them speak, then firmly release them like compost in the garden, to become something new and more life-giving next spring.

To be in tuned with the season of the dark times, means you ask for help and find the answers within. It means you know we have come to the time of year to shed old habits and face fears, to dance with them, to invite them into tea, hear them speak, then firmly release them like compost in the garden, so they can become something new and more life-giving next spring. It means to not be afraid of other powerful or peaceful people but to see your sisters and brothers in their eyes and embrace them. It means you know how powerful you are and don’t care who sees it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Asleep on a Bicycle

A long time ago I made the wish that many of my friends would be artists - in some capacity they would live by and for the muse that moves through them. I hoped that the friends that made up this artist tribe would be diverse in their expression of art - some painters, some crafts(wo)men, some actors, some writers, some musicians. I felt certain that we would have emotionally intelligent conversations about the creation process - about being a vessel that allows parts of ourselves and our stories to be used for the art and also about the release of ego that allows for the understanding that we are only the messagers of the muse that is moving through us. I felt that only people who lived this cyclical life of release and ownership would understand the roller coaster ride. And I really wanted a tribe that understood why I would choose such a life of highs and lows - how there really is no option for me to work that 9-5er in a cubicle. I used to think it was because we could bond over the elation of being creative, but it's more that we understand the dedication (and perhaps its the Virgo in me, but the servitude) to art, to expression and creation.

FaerieCon was one opportunity to bond with other creative souls. It was the beginning of the realization that I had manifested a desire. Another experience of this dream come true, was in watching my friend Gina Garrison star in the play Asleep on a Bicycle in LA last night. Chosen as an LA Times Critics Pick, this is the most amazing and evocative play out of a tiny little theater on the corner of Vine and Santa Monica Blvd. It was absolutely awe-inspiring to watch a friend live out her dream and be sooo good at it. I know what this mother of two has given up to drive from OC to LA for rehearsals. And was it worth it? Yes! She was brilliant. I laughed and cried all the way through the play. I was so proud of her. I suppose its what my friends think when they watch me at a book signing. And to think that I never let their happiness for me sink in. I know I haven't because I know I've never felt that elation from others, even though they have spoken words similar to the words I used to praise Gina.

Now I know that I have my tribe of artists and we "get" each other. I also have support - the ones who love to see me be that spark in the world. And together we make art, we make beauty and we shine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tribe of Faeries

FaerieCon is a convention of fantasy, folklore, myth, magic, and of course, faeries. It’s held in downtown Philadelphia – the heart of America’s genesis as a free nation – amongst the tall, intricately carved buildings guarded by gargoyles and images of founding fathers. Having raised the power of magick and light in our homes and festivals across the country, we descend upon the concrete jungle with glitter and faerie dust to send waves of magick, possibility, mysticism and fae energy to emanate from this epicenter. Usually faeries are associated with nature and not often considered to be at home in an urban setting. But what better place to bring the sensuality of toes in the dirt, the caress of soft breezes or a trickling stream than to the birthplace of one of the world’s modern powers? Surrounded by the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’ Home, Ben Franklin’s gravesite, the courage and independence to find freedom is exactly what the fae folk need to help us connect more deeply with Mother Nature, each other, and ourselves.

The costumes are amazing, the creativity inspiring and the camaraderie most inviting. While at the Good and Bad Faerie Balls, I hung out with my long time fae sister, Lisa Steinke, and met new fae friends such as Giovanna Adams, Susan Schroeder, Kelly Miller Lopez and Jessica Galbreth, as well as Sarah and Jane, whose last names elude me. Faery festivals can zap the mind while invoking playful ire into every corner.

You must be willing to let go of all expectations when you go to a faerie festival, convention or gathering. This has traditionally been difficult for me. I’m a writer after all with an overactive imagination who plans out everything in minute and perfect detail. But despite all my careful visualization work, the law is that you never know what kind of energy you’ll get, whether playful and light-hearted or deep and soul-searching. The blessing is that with each faerie event, I grow less and less attached to my expectations. Perhaps I’m learning that even though it may not be what I planned, when producers Kelly, Emilio and Robert invoke the faeries, magick arises that is quite healing and profound.

Being around so many people who believe in magick and fantasy is so comforting. To be surrounded by your tribe empowers and emblazons you to stand in your light and shine all your unique and most beautiful power. This conference and its sister FaerieWorlds in Eugene, Oregon enfolds you around others who seek profound connection with the elements, the spirit of Mother Earth and the healing that comes with deep, reverent relation with nature and each other.

So are you gonna come play with me or what?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Playful Magic

Today at Pagan Pride in Los Angeles I spoke about the role of play in magic and ritual. It seems to me we've come to a place where we've taken magic and made it be something confined with rules on how you can do something right or wrong. Magic doesn't only happen when you follow proper ritual rules. The intention of all magic is to create and manifest desires. So when did that become something uptight? How can the spirit enter through a closed mind?
I live a free-spirited life, no matter how I may try to fly under the radar, I can't manage to extricate myself from my gypsy sense - the wanderlust butterfly. Though I've tried to be serious and hold firm to rules, primarily to not feel separate from the rest of the world, most societal laws get tossed aside so that I can truly let the Muse, Light, God, Goddess, Spirit breathe through me and fuel my unique expression. And what I've found is this freedom is what inspires myself and others - and actually underlines my belonging.

Somebody commented today that it was wonderful to hear a speaker talk about their personal experiences. Honestly, I know no other way to relate to others than to share my stories - the goofier the better I say. One of the things I shared about today was how immediately after I signed the contract to write Rogelia's House of Magic I got in a car accident. (Unfortunately in my life I have found car disasters an excellent way of managing my life.) As I was walking to the bus stop I found a monarch butterfly that had just died. I carefully tucked away this little totem. The magic was already tingling in my toes because not only is Butterfly part of my spiritual name, the medicine of this winged creature was also used for a major lesson in the novel. Several months later, the cover art for Rogelia's House of Magic arrived on my doorstep. I was struck by the similarity of shape of the butterfly art with the butterfly now on my altar.

I scooped the butterfly and carefully placed the fragile wings over the cover. It was a perfect match. See for yourself (picture above - compare it to the image of the cover in the right column of this blog). This is magic to me - laughter, connection, feeling power surge in me and lift my spirits high.

You are the magic. Every ritual you do, every candle you light or chant you speak is all an elaborate form of playing with the divinity already with you. These symbols are merely there to help you get into the mood or vibration of what you want to attract. The magic is in you. The four elements live in you - earth-body, water-blood, air-breath, fire-energy - not just outside of you. One of my teachers said if you were on a deserted island, could you do magic? As long as you believe. As long as you listen to nature and listen to yourself, the answer will always be yes!

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Grandpy & Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sept. 15-Oct. 15. To commemorate the period, The Orange County Register asked readers to tell their family stories of the Latino experience in Orange County.

The following story was written by my aunt, Elaine Cali, about my grandfather and Daddy figure, Joe Martinez.

My father, Joe Martinez, was born in 1924 in Orange, He was a first-generation Mexican American and the youngest of nine children.
His parents immigrated to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution seeking a better life. Growing up poor in the humble barrio area on Cypress Street, he never enjoyed the luxury of being spoiled, but rather took his place in the family and helped out where he could.

He was a happy child living amongst the sights and sounds of laughing children, the tempting aroma of Mexican dishes, and dusty roads filling the air of this close-knit neighborhood.

In the 1920's and 30's segregation was a part of life in America, and in Orange it took the form of a separate (but not equal) elementary school for Mexican children only, and special days for them to swim in the Orange plunge at Hart Park (the day before the pool was cleaned).

A sense of honor seemed to carry him through his life, as he volunteered for the Army Air Corp upon graduating from Orange High School when he was just 18 years old and World War II was raging.
He wanted to contribute to the war effort and his dream was to become a pilot. His dream came true and he became a B-17 pilot (one of very few Mexican American pilots) and rose through the ranks captain of his squadron. During his military career he flew more than 30 successful missions over enemy territory in Europe.

After the war he wanted to become a commercial pilot, and applied to many major air carriers but was denied. One can only speculate as to why someone with his tremendous credentials and stellar war record was passed over.

Only Mexicana Airlines accepted him — on the condition that he relinquish his U.S. citizenship. He told them, "I didn't spend the last three years of my life fighting for America to give up my citizenship." and turned them down.

He went to work instead at the Sunkist Packing House down the street from where he grew up. It was there that he met Della Ruiz, a beautiful young woman and sixth-generation descendant of the Yorba clan. They quickly fell in love and married. She had a son from a previous marriage, David, that my dad raised and loved as his own son.

He eventually left the packing house for a janitorial job at Knox Hardware in Santa Ana. It was a long way from the highflying life of a pilot. Yet he was a bright man and a hard worker, and this dedication paid off over the years, as he was promoted to salesman, purchasing agent and eventually vice president of Knox Industrial Supplies. He spent 44 years of his life at this job.

I remember going into work with him on the weekends. I would just roam the aisles looking at hardware and asking him endless questions about how all the tools and gadgets worked. He was always very patient with me and seemed happy to satisfy my curiosity. To this day, walking into a hardware store seems sort of familiar and comforting to me.

Joe and Della settled in Santa Ana and had two other children, Cathi, in 1948 and Elaine in 1954. He was a devoted family man and a very kind and loving father.

As a child, I eagerly waited for him to come home from work, I'd run down the driveway to greet him and he'd pick me up (sometimes putting me on his shoulders) and carry me into the house. I loved his strong arms, laughter and comforting smile. He was the "rock" of our family and seemed to never falter.

I only remember seeing him vulnerable once, when my mother died in 1967. She had suffered a long illness for three years prior to her death, and when she died he was devastated. But in true "Joe Martinez fashion" he rallied to be both mother and father to our family for many years to come.

He soon became a grandfather and relished that role as well. He loved babies and would enjoy a "dance" with them, holding out his hand until their small fingers joined his for a spin around the room.

He met and married a long-time friend and golf partner Chris in 1981 and they moved to Orange Park Acres. This large house with a lot of land became the focal point of fun family gatherings and a place they could "raise" horses and dogs and enjoy their life and retirement together.

I will remember my dad, Joe Martinez in many ways…
By his example he instilled in his family the importance of hard work, honesty, dedication and loyalty. He didn't have the easiest life, but he learned to work through it.

He was a religious man and committed to Mass every Sunday and daily prayers. Although he certainly liked to have fun, have an "Early Times" now and again and enjoy his friends.

He didn't gossip, but rather lead by example and hoped you would follow his lead.

If he disapproved of your action, he would sort of "growl" and either reprimand or give his advice calmly.

He always told us how much he loved us and still checked in with family members weekly to make sure we were OK…or just leave a phone message saying that he loved us very much. He was generous with his unconditional love and wanted our lives to be a bit easier than his had been.

He gave us both roots and wings, and that is the best you can ask for in your life. He had a special song, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You." That to us embodied his loving spirit.

We decided that this was so much a part of him that we had this song title etched into his headstone. He passed away on Dec. 6, 2007, however, we will never forget him, his love for us, and our Orange County story.

Article posted in the Orange County Register, Monday, Sept. 29

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tatshenshini River and Sarah Palin

When I first asked myself what I wanted my writing to accomplish or affect, the answer was twofold: empower children/teens and protect the environment. My loftiest goal was to have an article published in Highlights Magazine and maybe someday, if I was really lucky, freelance for National Geographic. I didn’t have the faintest clue that my writing would become a career of publishing books that began with a religion so persecuted and misunderstood and yet so loving and embracing. I thought I’d write for the magazine in the dentist office or the one that grandparents collected for 50 years.

After graduating college and trying out an office job for a year, I went back to waitressing and took courses through the Institute for Children’s Literature and sought out environmental causes that I could utilize my skills as a writer. I discovered that the Tatshenshini River, a wide, beautiful, abundant river that flows between Alaska and British Columbia was in danger of being mined for copper. This would have endangered grizzly and rare glacier bears, Dall sheep, the largest subspecies of moose, wolves, mountain goats, wolverine, the most important eagle sanctuary in the world, peregrine falcon, gyrafalcons, trumpeter swans, and five species of Pacific salmon.

So on May 11, 1993, I wrote a letter to Canada’s Prime Minister and President Clinton. At the time I lived on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. We had many, many visitors, either on their way to the beach, to the bars, or home again, in need of a bathroom, a glass of water, or a place to crash. Before they walked through my sliding glass door, they had to sign my petition. I collected fifty signatures and sent the petition off with my fingers crossed and prayer in my heart. Approximately a year and a half later, a copy of National Geographic just so happened to cross my path that featured an article about the Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park stating that “Final link in the world’s largest international preserve, the park has halted plans for an open-pit copper mine that many feared would pollute the rivers’ glacier-fed waters.” The park was saved when “an outcry went up from the conversationalists.” Beautiful pictures of the pristine Tatshenshini River and surrounding wilderness accompanied the article. I made copies of the article and sent it off to everyone who signed the petition (I had them write in their addresses), telling them they had “help save 2.4 million acres of precious land… Your voice was heard.”

So there it was - a funky twist of fate and I found myself having an effect on a National Geographic article and most importantly I had done something that protected the environment, or as I’ve come to call Mother Earth. Shortly after this, I began my search for more connection to the earth through spirituality, something that has always been very important to me. I loved going to Christian Science church as a kid, but I had outgrown its abhorrence and avoidance of the shadow, the “error,” the material. I began by trying to connect with Native Americans, but Run With the Wolves had just come out and everyone I spoke with seemed to think I was trying to jump on the band wagon in some superficial kind of way. Then I found a woman celebrating the Celtic sabbats and within months, I gained the opportunity to write The Wicca Cookbook.
I realized only semantics (and a whole lot of propaganda) separates this religion, this way of life from the mainstream. You don’t have to be a Wiccan to know how deeply we are connected to the rivers, the falcons, the moose. It has never, ever been about proselytizing or promoting a religion, but about loving the land and protecting the wild and open spaces – on earth and within us.

The moose puts me in mind of Sarah Palin up in a helicopter with her big ass rifle and super high tech scope, gunning down precious creatures. I’ve heard a lot about people calling her the “Anti-Christ” and I find that very unfortunate. My mother recently told me about the blessing that Sarah Palin received to protect her from witchcraft. I got the image of a religious man with a chainsaw slicing Sarah’s umbilical cord to the power and strength and serenity of womanhood. I find the whole sentiment about Sarah to be like some kind of wacky Twillight Zone. Particularly the one in which the beautiful woman keeps getting plastic surgery so she can look like the pig-faced doctors.

The more time we spend on thinking and feeding energy to her ugliness, the less opportunity she has to connect to her beauty. From an eagle’s perspective, it’s like some kind of horrific sci-fi show in which a woman left the tribe to lead the people – the first woman in ages - and along the way she turned against the people she said she would represent. She began shooting the moose with the men. She began to believe that she belonged outside of nature, bending and twisting nature to meet her needs.

But are they really Her needs?

She had forgotten her connection to the whole.

What if that were just a story, something you were watching on t.v. with amazing special effects that made it look so, so real. And what if there was another woman, the one in you, who bonded with other women and called forth the power of Mother Earth so strong that the reverberation woke everyone from their slumber that they needed surgery to fix what is already beautiful?

What if we made another story? What if we empowered and gave strength to what we wanted.

What if we instead concentrated on the wild and open spaces within and without and did everything we could to uplift rather than tear down?

There is still every chance to believe our voice will be heard.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why Do I Study His/Herstory

Today in an interview with Powerful Latinas, I was asked the question, why do I study history and use so much of it in my books. Interesting. I hadn't been asked that before. I said something along the lines of "knowing the history of my family tree helps me understand the branch I am a little better. Of course this doesn't mean I'm stuck repeating family patterns, but it helps me recognize them. This is particularly important to me because I live on the land that my family once owned in 1806. A large land grant, 72,000 acres that makes up about 7 cities. Sometimes I feel my ancestors. Deepak Chopra once said if we can pass eye color, preference for peanut butter sandwiches, and curly hair through our DNA, why can't we pass on memory through our gene pool. (I'm paraphrasing; I don't remember which examples he gave). Sometimes if I'm out in nature and meditating a bit I can remember what Orange County looked like 200 years ago. And sometimes I seem to have memories of great, great grandmothers. How amazing would it be, if I could heal unresolved issues just by the power of noticing."

I said this while staring out at an Australian bottle brush tree with hummingbirds zipping in and out of it. It's not a native tree, but it’s been in Orange County for awhile. Of course, before this tree were the citrus trees: orange and lemon trees. Last week I visited the Villa Park/Sunkist Packing House, built in 1918, where my grandparents met sometime after WWII but before 1948 when my mother was born. My grandmother died before I was born and my grandfather died last year, right before Christmas. But here, at the last Packing House in Orange County, they were young and fell in love. There used to be over a hundred of these houses all throughout Orange County. Now they pack mainly avocados. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, it was lemons, oranges and almonds.

I walked around, marveling at the long, wide, conveyor belts, the original hardwood floors (which I was told were polished once a year and celebrated with a huge company picnics), the north facing windows cut high into the ceiling to let in light, but not heat. No longer did they have the traditional wooden crates with packing labels, promising to bring California Sunshine to the world. They had biodegradable crates that are of course great for Mama Earth, but not as cool-looking as those crates. The doors to the coolers were tiny, maybe six feet, with steel hinges and locks two feet long and painted green. After the war, they stopped using so much steel for hinges. Makes sense, but let me tell you those were some tough looking hinges. The coolers were insulated with black cork that was peeling away in places, revealing the red brick of the building. The long hallways led to double wide doors that opened to railroad tracks, where the packed fruit could be loaded onto the train and hauled off to their final destination. Now they are delivered in semi trucks. It was all so nostalgic.

As I looked around, I wondered where or if my grandparents might have scuttled off to for secret kisses. I asked the owner if the Packing House was haunted. He said there were some rumors of a couple people who had died a long time ago and that he didn't want to find out if it was haunted so when he worked late at night, he blasted his music. I liked the idea of the Packing House being haunted. I liked the idea of their spirit, their laughter, maybe even the sounds of their sweet whispers echoing through the vast building.

My guide pointed out where the school was built for the workers' children - long time ago the Mexican children had to go to segregated schools. The groundskeeper lived across the street. Everyone lived nearby. The local people had built the Packing House he said. It was one tight-knit community.

My history, my herstory tells me where I've come from. It gives me a foundation to come home to after I've wandered around, tried some new things, maybe gotten hurt, maybe gotten scared. A place to come home to share my successes and joys. It's my rock, my security. No matter where I go, no matter how far I've traveled, my his/herstory will always be there. And the really cool thing is that each time I come back, my perspective changes it just a bit and that history or herstory opens up to tell another story.
For more on the Packing House, check out

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From the Land of Reviews

I once wished for reviews from bigtime reviewers - getting rave comments from little remote pagan newsletters only boosted my fragile writer's ego and need for stability so far. Then my baby, Rogelia's House of Magic, got blasted by Kliatt and I decided that as an artist and an author I needed to stop putting so much stock in reviews, book sales, how long my books stayed in print or at the top of Amazon ratings. What was most important is how I felt about my writing and how others were affected by my words. I stayed pretty zen until this awesome review for Rogelia's House of Magic came in from School Library Journal. Now on this high, the first thing I wanted to do was share my good news with you!!

Gr 7-10–Set in Southern California , this novel is about three teens who find a common bond and grow in their relationships as they learn the healing arts from a curandera (folk healer). Marina , from a newly wealthy Hispanic family, struggles with her mother’s insistence that she forget her Mexican heritage and barrio roots. Fern, whose Colombian family still lives in the old neighborhood, is a free spirit who has trouble trusting a potential boyfriend. When Rogelia Garcia, a wise curandera from Mexico , becomes the maid at Marina ’s house, the girls befriend her granddaughter, Xochitl, who grieves for the twin sister she recently lost in a tragic accident. Rogelia takes the girls on as apprentices and helps them to understand and control their innate magical powers ( Marina hears voices from the beyond, Fern sees auras, and Xochitl has the ability to disappear) while teaching them that by caring for and healing others, they can help and heal themselves. The narrative is well written and descriptive, incorporating Spanish phrases that are easy to understand in context and add flavor to the telling. The characters and their relationships with others are solidly developed. The novel will appeal to readers interested in magic and astrology, and several spells are appended (charging a crystal wand, a confidence incantation, etc.).– Lorraine B. Wiener, Inglewood High School , CA, School Library Journal

YEAH!! om. YEAH!! om.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More thoughts raining down

People can hold beliefs in their minds, stories they tell themselves. But connecting to the essence of Life is what it's all about. The reality is, we are eternal. If you experience that, then you handle your own personal losses. Sometimes, no matter how much we set intention or pray, things don't go our way. What we're left with is to accept things they way they are. It's the only place of power. You realize you have an illimitable "time," with all the experiences available to you in this ever-expanding, never-ending experiences of Life.

And this...

In this story Lord Krisna invites the milkmaids to dance with him in the forest. The night is dark, the fire in their midst roars and crackles, the beat of the music gets ever faster - the girls dance and dance with their sweet lord who has made himself available and so abundant as to be in the arms of each and every girl. But the moment the girls become possessive, the moment each one imagines that Krishna is her partner alone, he vanishes.

Musings of FairieWorlds

Fairie Worlds is an amazing festival held annually in Eugene, Oregon. My aura is still filled with pixie dust and my feet have not touched the ground. Transition is difficult, but writing helps...

A very large part of me wants to escape into the trees, to live in the woods among other wonderful hippie, free-spirited fae folk and submerse myself in that space until all the sad or angry thoughts I've ever had just leave - fade to nothingness so that I can live in the muggle world and be free, impervious of pain and the weight of this world. I want to always feel, vibrantly alive in me, the world of light when and where there are no cares, no worries, only music, friends, acceptance and play. I want to be in the space of intense connections that you are able to fall into - to completely lose yourself to the moment - to be the juice of the apple, as well as the apple and the one eating the apple - no separation - no fear of the juice running out - no ownership. Only letting go - going in deep - deep into the wild – deep into the dark – deep into the mystery with trust and power, love and respect for myself and others. I want to move in spaces as open energy, following the music until I become the song. I want to dance to the sun until I become the light. I want to connect with others and never, not for one moment, think or concern myself with their opinion of me. I don't want to lose myself in them – to consider that their appreciation or disapproval of me can or will change one step in my Dance of Life, Love and Spirit. I do want to connect in the sharing of magic. I do want to see the light in my brothers' and sisters' eyes and rejoice with Spirit most high and always available to us all. I want to feel the synergy of our bodies and energy intertwining, dancing together, like the colors of the rainbow. I want to share my thoughts, my poems, my words so that I can see my Light – hear the ring of beauty and wonder in my observations. I want to be the deep waters and I want to be light as a feather. I want to be free from condemnation, whether from my own imaginings or from people who don't understand or fear me. Words and energy cannot reach me if I am not reflecting or sending out a similar vibration. I want my vibration to be of a carefree nature that reaches into the deepest caverns of emotion and experience. I want to trust the Universe – knowing that I am like any native plant or tree – in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. I want to be in the flow of my life, like driftwood on the river. I want to bear witness to the wonder and beauty all around me and I want the courage, the freedom and the willingness to surrender myself to the Gifts of Life. I want to be in constant appreciation. I want to hug without fear. I want to love without fear. I want to kiss without fear. I want to speak my truth without fear. I want to feel the ever-omnipresence of God/Goddess constantly with me, living through me, as me, in harmony and joy with Life. I want to be the juice of life, constantly swirling, swinging, changing in flight, consistent in trust and swelling heart center, emanating pure white light and darkest mystery of night.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rogelia's House of Magic as a Play

Last semester, Gail Brower-Nedler, the drama teacher at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, CA, asked me if her class could workshop Rogelia's House of Magic into a play. I've always wanted to watch my characters come to life, to see them interact and witness the enfoldment of the story I created. I was excited for what would be the World Premier of Rogelia's House of Magic. The first thing we did was establish a common language with the students and a sense of familiarity with the world of magic that is second nature to me. Ms. Brower-Nedler invited the vice-principal to watch me do the ritual in case the prejudice and fear people have about magic rose its ugly head.

By the way, it can be easy for me to get frustrated or even offended by close-minded, unconscious people who think I could be “sucking the souls out of kids.” Particularly when my goal is to empower them. But then again, I’ve noticed that I haven’t stepped down or walked away in the eight years as a public Wiccan author. And I’ve realized that I like being on the cutting edge, educating and watching people wake up to the beauty and potentiality of the magic within.

On the day of the ritual, I signed in the office as usual, but this time I carried a large basket of items that symbolized the four directions and elements, like a candle, a shell, a crystal, and a feather. With these sacred items, I created an altar. Many of the kids were fascinated by the altar and came to touch and feel all the goodies. A few kids volunteered to stand with me and welcome each of the Four Directions. I knew I was in good company, when TK dropped to his knees like a true knight when we reached the north direction. I avoided trigger words like God or Goddess and still raised the energy and vibration in that classroom. The air buzzed with magic and I knew I had shown quite a few people about what magic can really be.
We decided to make this a "black box" production, meaning very little props. Hilary stepped up to be the student director. She cast the other kids and wrote a prologue of sorts that included the four directions that would introduce themselves, their corresponding element (air, fire, water, earth) and colors, and what qualities they share with humankind.

Over the next several weeks, I would visit the class and watch their progress with the play. The adaptation from book into script took longer than I thought and still we all stuck in there. The actors and Hilary did a great job reworking the language from the page to the stage. It was interesting to see where the dialog dragged when acted out and were it really popped and appeared so very real. Emily, the actress, who performed Fern’s role did an exceptional job of getting into character. It was really fun to watch her play out my hippie wild child self. I think once I almost cried. But that’s just me.

We also realized that we didn’t have enough time to rehearse the entire story and create costumes and set designs. June was upon us, as was the desire for summer and lazy days. So Hilary and I decided to create what would be Act One, approximately eight chapters, ending after the first meeting with Rogelia.

In the actual play, one of my favorite parts was the four students who dressed in the colors that coincided with each direction. One girl, who at first didn’t really seem to be into the play at all, insisted she was standing in the wrong direction. She was right and so we made sure everyone moved into their proper positions. That let me know that they really intended on drawing up the energy of those directions. Yeah! First Jeffrey stood up, draped in a yellow sheet holding flowers and spoke of the powers of the east that represent beginnings, the season of Spring, and new ideas. Then Samantha stood and called in the fire and the south, wearing a beautiful red velvet cloak with red feathers in her hair. Rebecca in the West wore a blue broom skirt like a shawl and with her blue hat and scarf called in Winter aspects of this direction. Anna in the North knew how to call on the ancestors and I felt the earth elements respond to her welcoming chant.

Other actors included Carla (Marina), TJ (Xochitl), Jessica (Rogelia) Sean (Tristan,) Allyson (Mrs. Peralta), Milena (Graciela), TK (Pedro, who was Pilar in the book), Matt and Danny played random boys created to add more boys characters, and Otto (Mr. Garcia). Becky was our Spanish language consultant. Filming was done by Sergio and TK with some assistance from John and Alex. During the filming, there were some starts and stops to get the scenes just right. Some confusion, some frustration, a lot of amazing talent and wonderful acting. Overall, I’m excited to see how the video comes out when it’s been edited. Look for it on YouTube coming soon! I’m looking forward to workshopping Act Two and Three and someday seeing the entire play from start to finish. I couldn’t have got a better start by working with Gail, Hilary, Emily, TK and the rest!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Automatic Writing

Most of my writing is automatic writing. To me that’s what journaling is about. Even when I’m writing for a book (with the exception of the Latino Writers and Journalist book, which wrung out my brain like a wet broom skirt), I write without thinking too much. I set a goal then I write under that topic. I was recently told that it would be good for me to write out all the things that are frustrating and annoying me. I was not to check for punctuation or spelling. Fine. I could handle that - don’t really care for grammar and I’m usually a good speller. I was not to edit. Even better, not fond of critiques lately. I would then destroy the paper, tear it, burn it.

Been then done that, have the t-shirt. I can’t count how many bowl burnings I’ve done under the full moon, new moon, eclipsed moon, whatever. I didn’t really see how this was going to help some of the anxiety I was feeling. This process hadn’t ever done me that much good before. Though I heard it would, which is why I have tried it many times and even suggest it to others. It had usually served the purpose of making clear what I was irritated about, but beyond that, I only felt the slimmest change in attitude, sometimes I’d be angrier than before. Then my friend Dana pointed out that I was also not to reread what I wrote.

Huh? I always reread my angry letters (the ones that I write to people but don’t send out) or diary entries in which I explicitly review all the reasons I’m right and they’re wrong or how I’ve been treated unfairly by life or another person. “No,” she said. “When you reread the letter, it’s like you’re taking all that information back in to your body, mind, and soul.” I got the image of eating vomit, because pretty much that’s what it’s like. Oh. Well, maybe I’ll try that. Not reading that is.

Later that night my boys wanted to light a fire and sit by it and read. After they went to bed, the fire refused to go out, even after I turned down the gas. Then I remembered I was supposed to do my automatic writing. I turned off the lights, which made it seem more magical and wrote by the light of the fire. It was weird not reading what I wrote. I usually want to make sure I got those feelings down just right. I realized that whereas I might not be critiquing the grammar I had, in the past, critiqued the content.

At first I tried to make sure I was writing within the lines of my paper. Then the fire dimmed and I could no longer see the lines or the words. I wasn’t supposed to read it at all - to not even be tempted. I kept writing, over what I had written, under it, in the margins, diagonally, it didn’t matter. I repeated sentences that had a lot of power and set off all kinds of buttons and reactions within me. I wrote until I was empty. Then I crumpled up the piece of paper and threw it into the fire. As I watched the paper burn and shrivel, I very firmly said, “What will be no more.”

I can’t remember most of what I wrote, except for one powerful sentence; the rest is lost to oblivion. It is no longer part of me. I can’t regurgitate what I released. Later I’ll take those ashes and give them to my rose bushes. I like to see something ugly turn into something beautiful.

One of my favorite sayings comes from The Course in Miracles, "The holiest of all spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Natural Spellwork

"I believe in God only I spell it Nature"
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) architect, author, educator

The word "spell" has it's roots in the meaning to "speak" and "to signify." Spells in magick are the same. You are speaking of the things you want. We use rhyme to get out of our logical mind that says "it can't be done." Those of us who are deeply connected to the magic in nature, often find ourselves drawn to faeries, to the funky creatures living in forests, trees, streams, or underground. Hugging trees, believing with all my might that I was hugging the spirit that lived inside, is how I began my start in magick.

In summer, faeries are very active. Just look at the abundance and life buzzing around gardens and flowers and you'll see what I mean. Now, I want to get something straight here. There is no right way to "see the faeries." People connect with faeries differently. Some people see balls of light. Other people see the winged creature before them plain as day. Others see movement out of the corner of their eyes, but when they turn, the faeries vanish. Some people see the faery or sprite more clearly if they close their eyes. Some people see fuzzy wavy lines or something. And I'm sure there are a dozen other ways. Here are two interactions with faeries that I have had. My hope is that you will comes to understand the ways faeries have been trying to talk with you.

A long time ago I had these really cool bell chime that I used to ring and call out "Calling all Faeries! Calling All Faeries!" Then I would run around my lawn or visit with the flowers and tell them how pretty I thought they were or just sit peacefully and imagine the faeries all around me. I'm the kind that sees faeries out of the corner of my eye and I was impatient to see a solid faery. So, after awhile when nothing exciting happened I stopped visiting as often. Then one night, I was helping pretty bad about neglecting my little friends so I went out to ring the bells and call the faeries. "Please give me a sign to show me you aren't mad at me," I called out into the night. Right then the phone rang, so I went to answer it. A friend of mine was in distress. She had hired someone to play the Birthday Faery for her daughter's third birthday and the girl had cancelled and would I please, please come be the Birthday Faery. I asked her to hold on a second. I ran outside and yelled THANK YOU!! to my faery friends then went back inside to agree to be a faery.

Last year we were camping in the Sequoia National Park, a forest of the tallest and widest trees in the world. At night I try to use the moonlight as my guide instead of a flashlight. It makes me feel more connected with nature. After it had gotten dark, I start walking to the bathroom, only there isn't a lot of light. All of the sudden I hear this horrible screaming in my head. It's so loud I stop instantly. I put my hand in front of me and mere inches away is a pretty big tree. It's not the biggest tree in the forest, otherwise I would have felt the roots, but big enough to have hurt very badly had I smashed into it. Of course, I hugged the tree and walked a little slower after that. Next morning I brought a little water to the tree that had kept me from getting hurt. I noticed then that that tree was one of many that stood in a circle that felt very magickal indeed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hope Your Boat Arrives Before the Dock Rots

There once was a man who loved the sea. It was his greatest desire to sail on the vast ocean. He dreamed of the wind on his back and the horizon in front of him. He wanted to go out to sea on a big boat. He imagined that all the villagers would cheer for him and celebrate his adventure with a parade and grand applause.

So he built a dock, a very large dock with many hooks to hold the boat still while he boarded her. And every day he worked on his dock, shining it to perfection so that there was not a single splinter. And every night he walked out to the end of his long dock to wait for his ship. Overhead the seagulls cawed and in the distance he watched dolphins and sea lions frolic in the waves. He would inhale the ocean air and wish very hard for his big boat to come.

Occasionally small dinghies and schooners asked to rest on the man’s dock. Even though they offered to take him for a ride, he refused. He was waiting for his big ship to come in and he didn’t want these smaller vessels to get in the way. As the months and years passed, his heart grew heavy with longing. One day, a villager came to the man and said, “Jim,” for that was the man’s name. “Jim, I sure hope your ship comes in before your dock rots,” and he patted Jim’s shoulder and walked away.

Jim stood up and looked at his dock, which by now was no longer in the great shape it had once been. In that moment he realized that what he wanted more than a big ship was to be on the ocean, to feel the movement under him, to taste salt air, to feel the vastness of miles and miles of water and adventure in front of him. He walked out to his dock and hailed to the first boat that sailed by. On board was a sailor ready to come on land, and so they traded the boat for the dock.

And Jim sailed for the horizon, with no one but dolphins, sea lions, and seagulls to watch him go, and that was enough.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Solstice Celebrations

What a weekend!! It was three full days of summer solstice celebrations and reveling in abundance and a sizzling sun, only too willing to show of what power really feels like.

We began with a Book Release Party for Rogelia's House of Magic at Four Crows, a Spiritual Center In Tustin. We opened the evening with a simple ceremony and welcoming of the four directions. Last time I did a ritual like this in front of Daryl (owner of Four Crows and Lakota Pipe Carrier), I laughed from nervousness and he got mad at me for being silly when what I needed to do was be a strong and powerful Priestess. Now five years later, I was totally confidant to trust whatever words would flow through me and with my head held high, carried the power of the four directions in and through me. Melinda Rodriguez welcomed Father Sky and Mother Earth in the beautiful Cherokee language. Then I read from Rogelia's House of Magic - a passage where the girls visit Four Crows in the book. That was cool. Melinda then lead a kick ass drum circle. We really raised the power!

On Saturday, Melinda, her hubby Rogelio, and my friend Dana Wardop, and I shared a booth at the Women's Spirit Summer Solstice Fair in Long Beach. I had my books - of course. Melinda brought traveling altars and a sacred journey CD and Dana did a smoking business as the only massage therapist on the grounds. Melinda and I then did our Phoenix Rising ceremony (I read from the poem in The Enchanted Diary - see below in another posting) on the center stage. We invited the audience to annoint themselves with a sunflower petal and waters that were being infused with a female and male crystal. At the end I annointed myself by dumping the entire bowl over my head (kinda Flashdance-esque). It was over 100 degrees and felt SOOO GOOD!!!

On Sunday, I joined the team at Tea & Sympathy BookShoppe at the Irish Fair in Irvine. As Ann Scott says, I bring a young crowd to their booth, what with my Teen Spell Book selling out nearly every time. This time I sold mostly The Wicca Cookbook. I finally met reknown Wiccan author, Timothy Roderick. He pointed out my book to a friend and said, "Jamie is my friend." To which I responded, "Really? We're Friends?" We had only met online, even though his brother was in my wedding. He introduced himself and we hugged. After selling scads of books, I left for the meadow where they had set up an ancient village of Tara. Then off to the dance floor where the Fenians sang some old favorites including Danny Boy - my alltime favorite melody - and one that combines the Mexican and Irish folks - San Patricio.

What a weekend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do You Write to Inform or Entertain?

A writer friend posted the question, do you write to inform or entertain on her myspace blog and I thought it so intrigueing, I had to respond.

It is my dearest desire and goal as a writer to inform/educate as I entertain or vice versa (depending on whether or not it's fiction or nonfiction). I find that having written four books on an earth spirituality known as Wicca, education is a major part of my work. Letting people know what Goddess spirituality isn't is as important to letting someone knowing what it is. My writings have given people tools necessary to fight ignorance that would deprive them of their jobs, children, parents, friends, etc. At the same time, being a rather bossy oldest sibling (oldest grandchild as well), I need to be careful not to be too didactic with my lessons and educate through parables and stories, offering something that makes the writing accessible, relatable and universal. Finding the right balance is key. Now that I'm writing fiction, I need to let the story reveal the message, which is trickier for me, yet in some ways closer to my heart. I dream of being one of those storytellers that you imagine around a latenight campfire in the woods who captivates all who can hear her words and once you've heard one of her stories, you'll have learned something so valuable and dear, you will never be the same again.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

June is ‘Book Reviewing’ month at Blogcritics Magazine! To promote the release of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, co-author Mayra Calvani will be interviewing 15+ reviewers and review editors during the month of June. Learn all about the business of book reviewing and what’s in the mind of some of the most popular reviewers on the internet today. Some of the guests will include: Alex Moore from ForeWord Magazine, James Cox from Midwest Book Review, Irene Watson from Reader Views, Andrea Sisco from Armchair Interviews, Magdalena Ball from The Compulsive Reader, Sharyn McGinty from In The Library Reviews, Lea Schizas from Muse Book Reviews, Linda Baldwin from Road to Romance, Hilary Williamson from Book Loons, Judy Clark from Mostly Fiction, and many others! To see the complete lineup, visit: The Slippery Book Review Blog.

Between June 1st and June 30th, stop by Blogcritics and leave a comment under the reviewer interviews for a chance to win a Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tour (coordinated by book marketing guru Dorothy Thompson), OR, as an alternative to a non-author winner, a $50 B&N gift certificate!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Award Winning Latina Author

I'm so very happy to announce that the two years of hard work of writing a reference book, interviewing 75 authors and journalists, and spending more time in libraries than at home, has paid off big time!!

Last night I received the 2008 International Latino Book Awards for Best Reference Book for the Latino Writers & Journalists book. I got a beautiful glass bookend with my name and book title engraved on it. I'm an award winning author now!!!

Just in time too, because now when Rogelia's House of Magic comes out on June 10, this will show how ever so diverse I am. This is better than the Enjoli commercial.

Woo hoo!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blending in with Muggles

Sometimes I get nervous at booksignings when the locations involves a mainstream kind of place. At one of my very first Barnes & Noble booksigings, a woman walked by, looked at me and my first book, The Wicca Cookbook, and said, "Oh goody, how to cook witches."

Ugh. Eight years later and I've yet to release the charge I get from that memory. But I've been gearing up for the those naysayers because mostly they need to be educated, aware of their myopic thinking, preferably before their ignorance hurts another. And this is what happened at the Costa Mesa Scottish Highland Games (where you get a marvelous mix of Catholics and pagans).
A older woman scooted in her wheelchair towards the shortbread pans next to my piles of books and demands to know where the tartan information can be found. While the shop owner scurries off to find her the right book, I smiled serenely at her from where I sat behind the display of my books. A man in his early forties reaches over and begins flipping through The Teen Spell Book. He had just walked by with a teenage girl, so I'm assuming he's glancing through the book to check it out for her. The woman in the wheelchair glances down at my book titles, scowls, and whispers loudly in the direction of her husband. "Wicca, that's Witches." She looks up at me and says "Demonic."
"Oh really?" I reply calmly. "And what have you studied of Wicca? What experience do you have with Wicca and what can you tell me is demonic about it?"
She fidgets in her chair a bit then answers confidantly. "There are good witches and ... the other kind.. bad witches."

To which, I respond, "There are good Christians and bad Christians."

Then without skipping a beat, the man thumbing through the teen book says, "And there are Christians who are in the KKK." He smiles at me. "And some rapists are men, but not all men are rapists."

"You just can't judge a witch by her broom," I replied.

I then smiled at everyone and walked away to float on my little cloud for a spell, so happy to have stood up for myself and magic, to not have shied away or crumbled or fought back with mean words. But to be proud of the mystical, magical faery Wiccan that I am.
Artwork by Jessica Galbreth

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Winners on Blog Tour

The winner from Friday's story is Carol G. Please contact Caridad for your prize.
The answer for my question from the Moonlight Midwifery story is actually the Moon. The moon in this story represents the maiden's council because it is her power, widsom, and source of creativity. However, if you dig deeper, then I believe you have to consider that the moon or her blood is really a symbol, a manifestation of her. So in this case, Amanda is the winner. Please email me at so I can get your address and send you an autographed copy of Rogelia's House of Magic on June 10.
Happy Reading!!
Also, just as an FYI, The Northern California Women's Herbal Syposium is a a real event that happens three times a year, twice in May, once in Late August, early September. Check it out. You'll love it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Women, Wisdom & Words

Welcome to another day of Women, Wisdom, and Words, a Blog Tour. I do hope you enjoy my story/excerpt titled Moonlight Midwifery. The experience below has served as inspiration for my next novel, The Making of a Xicana Goddess, a woman's fiction that follows Eva Ramirez, an overachieving corporate executive, Abigail Moreno-Smith, a neurotic artist-mother, and Moonstone O’Grady, their Crone mentor, who uses women’s magic to reveal and heal the childhood traumas that prevent Eva and Abby from obtaining the one thing they truly want: contentment and self-acceptance.

At the bottom of Moonlight Midwifery is a question. Please post your answers here. The winner receives a signed copy of my debut novel. Rogelia’s House of Magic (released June 10), a coming of age story about three very-different 15-year-old girls who learn about friendship and magic under the guidance of a curandera (spiritual healer/wise woman). The winner will be announced on

Moonlight Midwifery

I came out of my reverie when I heard that we had detoured into Boonville. Seriously, Boonville. We, my cousin Elise and Aunt Judyth, stopped at the Henny Penny for directions and a cup of coffee. We stayed for two pieces of homemade blackberry pie ala mode with a side of whipped cream and a fistful of giggles brought on by those quintessential diner waitresses with the loud laugh and friendly manner that would make anyone feel welcome. I grabbed a couple of creamers for my coffee during our camping trip at the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium – it would be my one decadence and only piece of trash I would create, save for the Vitamin water bottle and broken plate, over the next four days.

Back on track and a few hours later, we drove off Highway 101 onto a bumpy dusty road, over the bridge and the bubbling river tumbling over rocks and moss, bordered by a variety of trees, grasses, and plants and visited by dragonflies, looking suspiciously like faeries. A jack rabbit with his long ears watched us drive by, unperturbed by our presence.

We found a parking spot next to the shuttle stop where we could dump our gear and strong beautiful women would load it into a white pickup truck and haul it into the Black Oak campgrounds. We had arrived. I immediately stripped off my bra – an unnecessary obstruction – the reminder that I should strap up, hold back my femininity, so as to not offend the patriarchy and it’s constituents with my lusty, ill-mannered breasts.

I was joining the sisterhood in a grotto, a meadow, a gathering of women and children. Our freedom, our precociousness, our beauty is revered on these sacred grounds.

The smell of bay fills my nostrils as I register and receive the time of the class that I will be teaching: Elemental Magic and Faeries to young women, ages 11-19. The organizers generously offer me a gift, as they did for all to the teachers, a shirt or bookbag featuring an exquisite lily mysteriously opening to a star-strewn Yoni-verse.

“What do you want to sign up for, Mom?” Elise asks Judyth. Everyone must participate – give back to the community here. I think they chose kitchen duty, I was busy deciding between the tank top and v-neck bamboo cotton t-shirt.

As we walked by, a mama sat in the river with her baby, showing him the water. We passed the Crone’s Corner, silk sarongs painted with images of beautiful, multi-racial, varied aged women wave in the breeze. Next are the Bodywork Area and the Wellness Center with its twinkle lights and the gentle warm hands of our caregivers. Dapple light shined through clumps of birch trees. Dark green moss grew on taller, thicker trees, and on other trees a light sage green moss hung from branches like streamers at a birthday party.

We arrived at a circle of ten or so sixty-foot tall tepees surrounding a grass and dirt circular area with a fire pit in its center. Our friends had secured a wonderful tepee in the shade. I found my chair and sat down for a bit. I've been to this symposium before, but there's always a moment when the chaos of your normal life has a bit of trouble slowing down to the calm of camping with women - no testerone to distract or annoy you - no children or husband - no phone ringing. Just a moment to be yourself.

After dinner and filling my coffee mug with an herbal tea called "Love Your LIfe," I joined the others at the firering, where we had our opening circle. “We are all teachers,” intoned our fearless leaders, Terri and Karen, the organizers of the symposium. “Each one of us has something to offer.”

I looked around me and saw women of every shape and size emanating confidence, whether sitting or walking, almost like a runway model who exhibits self-assurance based on the world’s feedback that she is gorgeous (and rail thin) and so should be admired, put on a pedestal in fact.

These women glowed from a beauty that radiated from their core of self-love, self-acceptance, and a deep connection to the earth and her sisters, with little care or awareness of what others may think of her. This is what I came to learn and perhaps to teach. Drumming and singing followed. The bonding of so many women, some friends for years, some recently introduced, was beginning, as it had over the past eighteen years at this gathering of women.

Later I snuggled into my flannel pajamas, slid into my Ugg boots, wrapped myself in a heavy velvet coat that I had purchased at the last conference from a retired belly dancer, and headed down to the meadow for stargazing. The bright moon made my flashlight obsolete as I meandered the footpath through the woods toward the fields. I passed tents covered with Goddess scarves and prayer flags, listening to the sounds of mamas reading to their children, and friends laughing and sharing stories. The field glowed with a piercing light blue light. My moon shadow fell on tall grasses behind me as I made my way to the group gathered in the center of the meadow.

“The astrological sign of Virgo is represented by the Virgin, as many know,” reported our stargazer teacher. “The word virgin originally meant a woman who was not owned by another. How interesting that we would turn Virgos into a neurotic, anal retentive personality, when it just meant a woman who could take care of herself.” She pointed to a bright star with a laser green flashlight. “There’s my favorite star, Arcturus, the harbinger of the seasons. And here is the Milky Way. Notice how it intersects with the path of the planets at the point of Sagittarius’ arrow. In some cultures the Sagittarius constellation is a teapot. And see how the Milky Way bubbles out of the spout like steam. Now come over here, I’ve set up the telescope to show you Saturn.”

And in spite of that glowing, near-full moon, I could see the rings of Saturn. The following night we would be treated to a view of Jupiter and four of its moons.

The next morning, I put on my triple moon Goddess headband of abalone, and met a group of young women by the fire ring whom I led into the woods for a little privacy for our class. Using a chalkboard propped against a great oak tree and colored chalk I showed them how the four directions relate to the four elements, colors, animals, magical creatures, seasons of nature, seasons of life, and a particular energy. I held eye contact with each girl, telling them how magical they are – how powerfully poised they are as the Enchantress in the south, ruled by fire, orange, red, dragon and horse, salamanders, summer, and the embodiment of will, courage, independence, individuality, and creativity. I taught them that magic is emotion, focus, relationships, serendipity, and intuition – connected, woven together as one.

At the marketplace, mothers came to me, expressing their gratitude for teaching their daughters the truth of their power. Most of my students bought both my teen books (The Teen Spell Book and The Enchanted Diary) and I got the chance to talk to them on a more personal level, which I just reveled in. I traded the remainder of my books for amazing handmade creations, such as raw silk bloomers, knitted gloves, a kiln-fired glass plate, a feathered barrette, a CD of woman/life/love-empowering campfire songs, and more. I loved teh bloomers because the hugely pregnant, dreadlocked lady who sold them to me informed me that when bloomers were introduced it gave women freedoms they never had: like the ability to ride horses or bicycles.

After marketplace, Terri approached me and asked if I would participate in the sacred ceremony that inducts the young women who had recently begun to their menses into the sacred circle of womenhood. I was overcome with joy. Chills raced up my arms, my heart felt lighter than air and the tears glistened in my eyes. Of course, I was willing. My deepest desire is to help young women feel supported and loved. It's my way of being part of what I never got as a young woman.

The drumming begins, a throbbing heartbeat, calling the women to prepare for the parade and ceremony. I dressed in a beautiful purple dress with a black velvet moon and stars on my chest, bell sleeves (think Stevie Nicks), and handkerchief skirt. I brushed my hair and placed the crown headband of abalone moons on my forehead.

At the front of the parade several women wave flags of vibrant colors. Behind them is a twenty foot paper mache Maiden puppet held up by one person standing in the puppet itself and two others on her flanks hoisting poles that move the puppet’s arms. Behind her is the Mother, then the Crone puppet. Beside the puppets are the musicians, shaking rattles, banging drums and singing. The crones, the wise women in our group, shake their bells and brooms they made in a special circle with the High Crone Jill.

We circled around the camp to the far end, passing the line of maidens who had recently started their moon. Many of the young women were dressed in red to symbolize their blood. They look nervous but excited. It just breaks your heart wide open to see them standing proud, waiting for their moment to enter the circle of womanhood, chins held high, eyes straight ahead.
Elise and I break rank from the revelers as we pass the fire ring to get our water bottles. It’s hot and sweaty out, even as the sun begins to set. We join up again just as the last of the group walks into the meadow and forms a large circle of two rows. We find our friends’ daughters and hold hands with them until their mothers reunite with us. We are all related now.

The drummers begin to pound again, solitary rhythmic beats and the chant begins.

Holy Maiden Huntress
Artemis! Artemis!
Maidens… Come to Us…

As we chant, the maidens slowly, slowly walk toward us. We reach out to the woman or child who stands across from us and form an arch by holding hands high in the air. When the High Priestess and the maidens reach the beginning of the tunnel, the entire group of four hundred women and children begin singing.

“We are here to tell you that you’re wonderful and beautiful, we are here to tell you that you’re always whole, we are here to notice that your loving is a miracle, how deeply you’re connected to my soul.”*

Led by the High Priestess, the girls walk through the tunnel (hunched a bit, particularly when trying to pass under the arms of two small children). After the girls pass through, those at the end of the tunnel drop hands and walk under the tunnel. As you catch people’s eyes some women are crying, some look shy, others in awe, others bask in the glory of all this love. And still, we repeat this song over and over again. At the end of the tunnel the crones look at you with such grandmotherly love and gentleness that if you didn’t feel like crying at first you do now.
And they’ll hug you or hold you, telling you with their song and the love in their eyes, its okay. I cried myself to near hysterics my first time through the tunnel.

But this time, I had a duty, a responsibility to take in the love and not withdraw from it. It was time to know my worth, my value. I was more than ready. When I reached the end of the crones, the High Crone Jill grabs my hand and held me. “You stay with me,” she said.

The maidens form a small circle in the middle of our ever widening circle. Lastly the women holding the flags walk through the tunnel. The crones break into four groups and walk to the four cardinal points. Many of them are dressed in the colors that symbolize the directions. The entire group turns to face each direction as the crones welcome the energy, the power, and guides of four directions of east, south, west, and north.

I pick up a tray covered in a red scarf, laden with a white transparent silk, small scissors, a dish of rose water, a rose quartz crystal, ten red ceramic crescent moon necklaces and a red crayon and follow the High Crone Jill out to the circle where her daughter, the High Priestess, stands with the maidens. I enter the inner circle holding the tray out.

The High Priestess addresses the first maiden, “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” is her resounding answer.

The High Priestess covers the maiden’s head with the white silk. The girl looks like a cross between Mother Mary and a young bride. The High Priestess considers the maiden for a moment then in a booming voice declares, “You come to us a maiden,” she pulls off the white cloth. She takes a deeply red velvet cape from the High Crone Jill and wraps it around the maiden’s shoulders. “You will leave us, as a woman. But first you must give up your maidenhood, your childhood. Are you ready?”

“Yes,” says the first maiden happily.

The High Priestess takes the scissors from the tray and finds a thin braid plaited near the maiden’s ear. With a loud snip, she cuts the braid and holds it over her head for everyone to see.
The crowd of women burst into jubilant, primal cheering, howling, wolf whistles, drumming, rattling, clapping fills the air. The very ground seems to tremble with the joyful noise. The young woman only has eyes for that small braid, the symbol of her release and entry into womanhood.

The High Priestess tucks the braid into the young woman’s hand and whispers, “Give this to your Mother, or Mother Earth.” Her first choice as a woman – whether to leave the braid in nature or preserve it with her mother.

The High Priestess then dips her hand into the rose water, “I anoint you in the waters of womanhood.” She dips the crayon into the water and uses it to draw a red circle on the young woman’s forehead. “May you always feel the power, strength, wisdom, and creativity that comes from your blood.” She takes the red moon necklace and holds it up to the young woman’s eye level, “May you always remember WHO is your council,” she says as she puts the necklace on the young woman. She steps aside as High Crone Jill steps forward and takes the cloak off the young woman and gives her a kiss.

Then it is my turn to step forward. This is no longer a girl who stands before me, but a woman. You can see it in her eyes, in the way she holds herself. Most of these young women came to my class and bought my book, meaning I had a connection with them. I kissed her on the cheek and whisper a heartfelt “Congratulations, Welcome.”

And so it went, until each maiden had been inducted into the circle of womanhood. At the end of this ceremony, their mothers were asked to join them and out they rushed from all parts of the circle to hug and kiss their daughters. Some gave an extra present. Most were crying or laughing or just plain beaming with joy and pride.

At this point my friend leans over to her ten-year-old daughter and whispers, “Isn’t it great that Jamie got to be in the ceremony?”

The child turns to her mother with a bemused smile, “We’re all part of the ceremony,” she says.

The young women joined the outer circle and then the crones are asked to form the inner circle. I brought forth a black chair. A Crone of Honor was chosen among them to sit in the chair and bestow a bit of wisdom through her tears of gratitude for the love. The crones were presented with a bowl of cordial, which they passed around. Before taking a draft, each woman pronounced with enthusiasm, “I AM CRONE.”

We broke into dancing, leaving the meadows and filtered toward the fire ring where twenty women drummers pounded out songs to which we danced and danced for hours, while the full moon crossed the starry sky.

Question: Who is the maidens’ council?

Post your answers here. Any answer, I want to see what you come up with!! The winner receives a signed copy of my debut novel. Rogelia’s House of Magic. The winner will be announced on

*Adapted by Carol Horwitz

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Phoenix Rising

The last of her ego had gone out in a dancing fire of spectacular flames
Grey smoke emitted from a large smoldering pile of blacken ash

In the silence she did not mind her nonexistence
In fact it was comforting to be sill
Like mist rising off a quiet morning lake
Her exhalation sent another swirling of smoke into
Into the bright blue sky

She watched fascinated as the smoke took form
The ashen pile rustled and shifted
She became aware of herself
It was a strange comforting feeling
to be in a body no longer weighed down by pain or fear

Wings quivered on her back
Nodding and shifting her head from side to side
She blinked with child-like amazement
At the crystal sun washed day
Was the sky always this blue?
She pushed against the ashen waste
Rising above the ground

In that instant she saw others bound to the earth
Unwilling to release their own pain or fears
Sadden she froze

A bird sang out
Sunlight shone clear
A rainbow from a drop of dew
On a spider’s web
The rain is over
“It is not your fate to be small
Nor do you serve or honor others by doing so.”
Whispered the voice of Spirit.

She closed her eyes
Her heart spoke the truth
Pumping her powerful wings
She pushed skyward
Like a bird she flew

The Phoenix Reborn
Honoring my joy honors me
Honoring my truth honors Spirit
Honoring my joy honors me
Honoring my truth honors Spirit
Excerpt from The Enchanted Diary: A Teen's Guide to Magick and Life by Jamie Wood

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Life's Twisty Turns

Recently I accepted my first j-o-b outside of the home and hearth in twelve years. It was not an easy decision. Part of me (the hard-driving Capricorn part) felt like a failure: my writing had failed to sustain me as I had hoped it would from the moment I believed I could actually make it as an author. Afterall, The Wicca Cookbook sold out of it's first printing in three months and soon afterwards Hollywood called and I was off starring in a cooking pilot called The Cauldron for the SCI-Fi station. Then came a string of books - seven in all, with contributions in three others.

What with my debut novel, Rogelia's House of Magic, being released very soon, I wanted to hold on a bit longer. But I have chosen the road of private school for my boys - a place that has a nasty knack for raising tuition every year - and it was time for this faery put her feet on the ground - if only for a moment.

I was scared that the flourescent walls would suck away my life force. That the people at work would be so mundane to turn my brain to mush. I have come to discover that the resistance was actually more draining than the actual job. I not only found a job where I can write about interesting things, I have found a boss whom I knew the last time I walked into an office. She has crystals in her jewelry and on her shelves. She has bought many of my books and is proud of my accomplishments rather than jealous.

Interestingly, the very institution for which I now work, Chapman University, has a guiding spirit who also embraces the very things upon which I find most dear. As put forth by President Jim Doti: '“Truth” also refers to values such as honesty, integrity and courage that form the core of one’s moral development, and to what our university’s guiding spirit, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, called “reverence for life.”'

A reverence for life is the foundation of my work no matter whether four walls or four directions surround and sustain me. I am grateful for trusting and taking this latest leap of faith. Hopefully I will remember this latest fall into grace when I question the Universe and it's twisty turns.