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 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/life-family-years-2161140-orange-loved