You can blame Kirk Cameron for this one. I saw an article about the actor’s claims that Pagans stole Halloween from the Christians. The title alone is a good indication of what you will find inside. Trust me, it went downhill from there. So today I offer a history lesson.
The Pagan year is divided into two halves, the light and the dark. Samhain is the official switch over from the light half to the dark half, while Beltane (May Day) is on the opposite end. Many Pagans see this as a sort of New Year. The word Samhain literally means ‘Summer’s End’. In Ireland it’s pronounced Sow-in, Wales Sow-een, and Scottland Sav-en.
Before the Gregorian calendar the date for Samhain was calculated as so many days after the Blood moon, the first full moon in October (Blood moon does not refer to a lunar eclipse). However now, it’s just easier to pick a nearby date, and has been October 31st for so long no one is quite sure when it started that way.
The most significant part of this celebration is inclusion of ancestors and loved ones passed. It is said that on Samhain and Beltane the veils between the living and the dead are thinnest. To a Pagan that means it is more likely to have ghosts wandering around and communicating with you. This is not a scary thing. It’s a blessed thing. Think of it, that grandparent you miss dearly, or an ancestor from far back in your line, coming to you tell you they love you and are proud of you, and to offer advice. Millions of people worldwide currently seek this service out through mediums. In the Pagan world this is the time most likely for that to happen and is a time we honor them. A Samhain ritual focuses on honoring the dead and receiving their messages, as well as all the fun stuff of food, games, and community. In some traditions this is also considered the launch of the Wild Hunt which rides the entire dark half of the year. This is when the male form of deity rides with his 'huntsmen' in search of the most evil among us to provide swift justice. (There is a link between this and Santa Clause, but that's another post.)
Some parts of the world this has evolved into something very similar. In Hispanic countries it is common to celebrate The Day of the Dead on November 1st. This community, multi-faith, celebration involves large block parties and parades. Names of loved ones gone are written and spoken in honor. The loved ones’ favorite foods are prepared. They believe that their ghosts will walk among them on that eve and be able to eat those foods and enjoy them. Skeletons that are already a huge part of that culture become prolific. This particular celebration has melded Samhain with All Saint’s Day, a Christian holy day.
This is where the biggest confusion comes in. Very early in Church’s history there was a holy day established for the remembrance of the dead. The first record of All Saint’s Day being observed in the Western Church is around 608 A.D. on May 13th. It was moved in 741 to Nov. 1st, the official word being to link it with the consecration of a new basilica, which may or may not be true. I choose to take it at face value and believe the public made their own inferences of the date. The historic exploits of the Christian Church to win over ‘Godless Pagans’ is well known. There are several innocuous and malignant examples of this.
The night before All Saint’s Day was known as All Hallows Eve, hallowed meaning sacred. It shortened in every day speech to Hallow’ een, or Halloween. With the Pagan rites involving ghosts, the Church remembering the dead, and the constant pull from both sides in the early church years, one says sacred the other says evil, it is a very short jump to see how it all got jumbled. It is also why modern Pagans make a general rule about using the word Samhain over Halloween.
The advent of costumes and Trick-or-Treating is fairly recent the first actual record being in the 1930’s. There are some loose connections to old Samhain traditions though. In England Soul Cakes were made as offerings for wandering souls. People would ‘A Soulin’ for the cakes, going door to door to collect them. There was also the practice of Mumming. As lore of Halloween being a time of all manner of dark and evil things became prevalent and the true nature of the day relegated to old wise tales, it was still common to put out offerings to appease the dark spirits. Adults would dress up as these creatures and attempt to fool their friends by acting out trickery in exchange for the offering.
Some also link Guy Fawkes day. This would actually be the basis of Anonymous and the V for Vendetta movie. Essentially, on Nov. 5th., a man in the famous Anonymous mask bombed parliament and started a revolution. Guy Fawkes day is a day of mischief and pranks, and of course it’s costumed to keep you from getting caught. I can see the basis for Hell Night, the night when older teens and young adults are knowing for playing sometimes dangerous pranks, in this.
Many modern Pagans don’t like Trick-or-Treating, or costume parties. They feel it takes away from the true spirit of the season and feeds into the myths of evil witches. Personally I don’t have a problem with it. In every celebration there is a place for children. Games, special clothes, general merriment. As long as we are there to teach them the true meanings, I say let them play and enjoy.
Why does she stay?!
This is another loaded blog post. I seem to be good at those. I’ve never been one to write fluff. Don’t get me wrong, fluff has its place and I even enjoy reading, but I can’t take myself seriously and write it myself.
Why does she/he/ze stay?
I hear that so often. It kind of breaks my heart because I know why, but how do I make other people understand? How do I explain to them what it’s like to be in a position they have never been in. That’s what it boils down to. Until you have been put in that place you can’t fathom what it’s really like. Most of us have no clue what darkness really is until we’re in the middle of it. I can attempt with my words to make it clearer, but who is to say if it is enough?
Let me be clear. Men can abuse men. Men can abuse women. Women can abuse men. Women can abuse women. Gender stereotyping has only made the issues of domestic violence worse because it perpetuates the idea that men are savages beasts and women are not. It doubly victimizes the survivors. So let’s leave the preconceived notions at the door.
The things I have to say are the same whether your abuser has broken bones, or never even threatened to raise a hand.
We do a pretty good job of warning girls that abuse happens and it’s more than just physical. We don’t do a good job of warning boys. There is a ton of propaganda out there aimed and girls and women. We’re told to draw a line and don’t let the abuser cross it. We’re told these things are abuse, sometimes the lists are long, and sometimes they’re short. Sometimes they actually give you some insight, but usually they’re warning signs most of us would consider common sense…until it actually happens. Where the warnings fail miserably is explaining just how the line gets crossed. Drawing your line is a point of pride, and letting that line be crossed becomes a societal shaming.
What really happens is you start out with your line, based on warnings, past experiences, friends’ advice and a million other little cues that are factored into making you you. Things are good. You trust this person you’ve brought into your life. Yeah they can be bullheaded, but so are you right? Then they step closer and closer to the line. The whole time you’re thinking, it’s okay, they haven’t crossed the line. Every time something is said or done you compartmentalize. They didn’t cross the line and every other time you’re their whole world so it’s normal right?
Then one day they step boldly up to the line. Inside you’re shaking, thinking is this it? But they didn’t really cross the line, and maybe they had a tough day, maybe you said something mean out of character, maybe, maybe, maybe… In that moment the line gets moved. Probably not too far the first time, but just a little nudge. For a while they back off and you breathe a sigh of relief. It was all okay after all…until they toe the line again.
This is a repetitive behavior, but each time they come up with some logical excuse playing on your insecurities, taking away your confidence to make your own decisions…taking away your confidence that the line belonged where it was. By the time you realize things have really and truly gone too far, you have no idea how you got there. You’re scared because you finally realize that it’s a no win situation and you have no idea what they’re going to do. You’re scared because you believe something must be wrong with you for letting it get this far, maybe they’re right. Maybe you deserve it. You’re scared that everyone is going to judge you because you let it get this far. Maybe they’ll believe you deserved it too. Maybe they’ll believe whatever your abuser is telling people in your life.
You’re lost and very alone. You have this friend or a family member who tells you they love you no matter what and they’ll help you, but you don’t go because what if your abuser hurts them too? What if what the things your abuser told you about your friends and family was true? It got this far, you deserve it right? You give up friends, family, kids, co-workers, even online friends because you have to keep them safe. You can’t let them see that you’re not strong on the inside that you let this horrible situation happen. You choose your abuser over your kids because it keeps your kids safe. You choose your abuser over your parents because then you won’t have to look in your mom or dad’s eye and have to see their pain because this happened. You do a lot of crazy things.
All but the one thing you should do.
Why? This is simple folks. Fear. What are they going to do when you leave? Sometimes they have something to hold over you. Your own guilt. Something you once did. A child or loved one. Your insecurities. Financial security (shelter, ability to feed yourself, medical care). Much of the time it’s not physical safety, though that is a real concern. They’ve done all this haven’t they? Maybe they’ll kill themselves…or you.
Survivors don’t leave because of fear. That makes them stay. Telling them all the things that could happen if they stay or that their kids will learn this stuff is okay, or any of the 100’s of things people who have never been abused will say to convince them, does no good. Fear is a brick wall. There’s no going around it.
Survivors leave because they hit so low they stop caring what happens. So much has been taken from them, death or whatever consequence is waiting for them holds no power. I left my second abuser (yes second) expecting to die. I did not think I would survive, but it was that or let my kids think they could do this to someone else. It was intended as a last gift to my kids. I still see getting through that night as a miracle. I don’t talk much about the details. I was lucky a neighbor showed up when they did, I can still see my reflection in my good chopping knife.
My first abuser was much more insidious. So much so I had survived the second, moved on, and married before I saw it for it was. He held me hostage just as much as the second by my emotions and by undermining my ability to think for myself.
I can remember being backed into a corner, him screaming at me full voice, so close I could feel his lips on my nose. That was normal. If he didn’t like what I had to say this is what would happen. He would bring other women, “friends”, and tell me they needed to stay with us in our one bedroom apartment. They needed help. At least one was underage. I was no fool. I knew what was going on, but when I would assert myself as the woman in his life he would berate me for hours for thinking so low of him and I was crazy, it was all in my head.
He held our son over my head. Physically pulling him out of my arms when we fought and not allowing me near him because I was yelling and crying and clearly crazy. After a fight he would leave with him and not tell me if he was coming back. I was a bad mom for wanting to breastfeed. The silly part of that one is he actually managed to convince me of this for a short time. I did stand up to him eventually, but only because someone stood by me when I did. He tore me down so far I ran straight to my second abuser, ironically looking for safety.
This man did things better left unsaid. Things got to a point I consented to everything just to make it over quick because if I didn’t, it would go on for hours. I had no desire to even be in the same room with him, but it was a little like taking your medicine. Just grin and bear it and it will be over. That is soul destroying. Took me many years to take my soul back.
Even when you consent, if your heart, mind, and soul is not in it, that is soul rape. That destroys you just as much as legal rape but there’s nowhere to turn because society doesn’t recognize it. They don’t recognize you can’t always say no or fight. These scars go deeper than will ever been seen or recognized by the uninitiated. They don’t go away and forever color every choice you make in the future.
For the person out there wondering if someone in their life just crossed a line or toed it so close you moved it back, ask yourself how you truly feel. Shut off the brain. Close your eyes. Turn away society and all its varied mixed and damaging messages. Forget if this is a lover, a family member or a caretaker. How does this act feel? Is it deeply hurtful? Do you know in your gut that it was wrong just don’t have the words? Do you see how close they are to your line? Are they trying to manipulate you into moving it?
That is the first sign of abuse.
Forget the lists, and give yourself permission to follow your gut. You know this is wrong. You can feel it. It’s tangible like a punch to the gut. Teach yourself, teach your children, teach your loved ones to trust in their own gut feelings. The truth is there and covers things no abuse counselor will ever learn. You have the power inside of you. I promise.
Now that you’ve seen this for what it is, it’s time to go. Get out of the situation. When they call, or come by to tell you how sorry they are or that they can’t live without you, or even to threaten your life, close your eyes again and see every time they pushed your line.
Call anyone, a friend, a family member, even a hotline and tell them it’s time to go, then just put one foot in front of the other. If you have to tell your person to act for you and then follow their lead. But trust yourself, trust your gut. Ignore the rest.
If you have a friend or loved one in this position, the best you can do is tell them to trust their gut and remind them what their gut is telling them.
If we teach our children to trust in themselves and their own autonomy we could rid the world of abuse.
If you need help go to http://www.thehotline.org/
This is the last of my Yahoo! stuff. One of my very few forays into poetry.
Dancing in the Moonlight
I dreamed I was dancing in the moonlight
On a forest shrowded hill.
The wind swirled around my naked body
Alighting every nerve with the earth's will.
I looked out over the world
The magic coloring my sight
And I knew in my very heart of hearts
That this was the night.
The earth balanced on the precipice
Of time changing time
The stars and planets swirled into infinity
In a perfect straight line.
And all around me the forest hushed
Pregnant with sorrow, fear, joy
Our little planet insignificant and bold
Hurtling wildly through space
Moved another inch, and then two
And then we were prone.
I stood at the very axis of the change
Feeling the power shoot straight through me
Taking away my body and my soul
But in a tiny little part
No more than a spec I was still me
Watching the world
I saw futures that would never be born
I saw pasts that were wiped from memory
I saw the coliding of realities
The wars and the harmonies
Of all that has been and all that never will be
It was time.
The universe plucked my soul like a musical string.
I could not be sorrowful
For the world that would be lost
I could not be excited
For the world this would bring.
It was time.
My existence sweeped out over infinity
And strangely there was no time left.
The universe called
And only I was left.
The traveler, the shaman
The carrier of the mysteries.
With a giant heave
I was scarcely strong enough to hold
I pulled myself back in
To one single existence,
One single vessel
One single home.
A planet hurtling wildly through space
Insignificant and bold
The cord to infinity snapped
The sound whipcracking through existence
To be heard by all
But those whose hearts it was supposed to change
The universe held it's breath
Then the earth moved
An inch and then two
The connection was broken
The change begun
The world made new.
I walked on wobbly legs
And slipped through the trees
Back to my bed
Followed by a moonlit breeze
The people watched the sky
Finally feeling what they had missed
But the time was past
The future of our world shapped by the will
Of a single solitary witch
I returned to my home and my bed
Covered myself up in the night
And dreamed of dancing
In the full moonlight
This short story was originally published on the now gone Yahoo! Contributor Network. It is a good summary of how I view the myriad of faiths in this world.
The traveler walked down the path. He couldn't remember having started on his journey, he only remembered walking. He didn't know where he was going, or where he had come from. It seemed to him that he had walked from time out of mind. He never stopped walking because all he knew was this path and that he was supposed to walk. It never occurred to him to stop or go the other way.
The traveler slowly became aware that he had been walking a long time and began to wonder where he was going. It seemed to him that there must be a purpose to all this walking and journeying. Where was this path taking him?
Every now and again he would come to a crossroads. He didn't know where the other paths led so he was afraid of them and simply moved on, but he did ponder what those paths might look like.
One day he came to giant hill, so high he couldn't see the top. He thought if he could just reach the top maybe he would see where he was going. So the traveler climbed and climbed for many days, until it seemed there was no end at all, but just when he was ready to give up, he reached the top and felt he could touch the clouds.
He stood atop the hill and looked at all of creation before him. He could see the forests and streams and the mountains. Far, far into the distance there was a golden city that filled his soul with warmth. He watched the sun and moon and skies and earth around this city with great longing. He knew he belonged in the golden city.
All around the city were paths of every kind, some dark jewels breathing of night stars, some brightly colored as rainbows, some as pure and luminous as pearls, and others as simple and relaxing as floating on a mountain stream, but each one different and each one with its own beauty. The traveler searched as far as he could see and found that all the paths led to the golden city. What this meant he didn't know but he was content to walk again because he knew his path would get him there.
One day he came upon an old woman standing in the road crying. The traveler stopped and stared for a long time. In all his days he had never seen another person. He had no idea that other people had walked the path too. Stunned he was afraid to approach her, but she seemed so sad and he wanted to understand why. Carefully he walked to her and asked her what was wrong.
"I'm blind!" she proclaimed. "The road was here, I know it was," she fretted, "but I cannot find it and now I am so old I cannot even see."
"I can see the path," the traveler said. "You can walk with me." This made the old woman smile. He took her arm and they walked together.
"Why are you blind?" he asked her after a time.
"I have forgotten," she told him. "I used to know where I was going but then I stopped walking and I forgot where I was or where I wanted to go and then my eyes became too dark to see." The traveler thought about this for awhile and then told her of all the things on the path around them and of the golden city he had seen high on a hill. Slowly her eyes began to clear and after a time she could see as well as he did and set off on her own path.
Again the traveler walked alone, but for the first time he knew there were others. It occurred to him as he stopped to rest, that if there was a person on the path ahead of him there might be others behind him. It might be nice for them to know they were not alone after all. In the morning he gathered some berries and left them with a simple note. "Please eat these and ease your hunger."
Leaving the gift made him happy so he made another. He gathered water from a clear stream. "Please drink this so you won't be thirsty." He made a bed. "Please rest here so you'll be stronger tomorrow." He even left a bundle of bright flowers. "Please take these and brighten your heart." The traveler made many gifts always smiling when he thought of what the people would do when they found them.
Another day he came upon a man weighed down by a large burden. The man struggled with it, his eyes crinkled shut in strain his body heavily bowed and unable to move. It seemed all of creation was on his shoulders.
"Help!" he cried. "It is too heavy! I cannot bear it!" and he fell to his knees. Overcome with emotion the traveler ran to the man and tried to help him up, but no matter how much he tried he could not get the man to his feet.
"Let me help you carry this," the traveler said and finally the man was able to stand. Together they walked holding the burden. As they walked the burden got smaller and smaller, each step a little piece of it seemed to melt away.
The traveler and the man walked together and talked of many things. The traveler told him about the golden city and together they made gifts for those that would come after them. One day the man's burden was gone and he turned down his own path with a light heart.
The traveler met many people on his way and with each one he learned something. He met hate, and greed, and sadness. But all these people were not bad, they simply needed help on their path. He walked for a long time helping those he met and leaving gifts.
One day when it seemed the traveler was no longer a young man and had walked so long he thought he'd lived a hundred years, the path around him began to change. The world became filled with a bright golden light and soon his feet were walking on nothing but luminous air. As he floated in the loving golden mist he realized that the golden city wasn't at the end of the path…it was everywhere all the time.
"What do you wish of me?" the creator asked, the sound vibrating in the traveler's very soul. The traveler only had one wish. "I wish to go back," he said.
"You do not wish to be with me?" the creator asked
"But you are everywhere," the traveler said. "I am still with you if I go back, and I want to see the other paths and leave gifts."
The golden light grew even brighter and filled the traveler with a joy he had never known before. "As you wish," the creator said. The traveler lived his days wandering from path to path helping those he found, leaving gifts and telling everyone about the golden city. Everywhere he walked, on every path, the world glowed bright and gold even if he was the only one who could see it. And at last he understood. All paths lead to the truth.
The Yahoo! Contributor Network is closing. I will start putting the articles I want to save here. Today I chose to be political and open a can of worms. It's the 4th after all. Freedom of speech is important to me. This is an earlier article of mine before I understood how the internet worked lol. The links are not embedded, but if you follow the citations at the bottom you'll see my sources and can read the information for yourself. I never did believe in telling people what to think, so I really hope you do follow the citations and find these things for yourself. Come to your own conclusions if you don't like mine, but at least do the research and be critical of websites you trust. An old history teacher of mine once said, "Using a search engine is a little like standing on a busy street corner and yelling, 'Who knows anything about this!' Most of the people that answer have no clue."
Originally posted on the Yahoo! Contributor Network: One Nation Under God We Trust ... Maybe
How many of you have seen the rants on Facebook and other social media sites about 'keeping God in the pledge'? How many have seen the inflammatory artwork on both sides of the debate passed around and re-posted within an inch of its life by nearly everyone you ever knew and some you wish you didn't? The debate about including or excluding mention of God or any other deity in the American pledge of allegiance or on American money has gone viral and some days it's everywhere you look, hot, angry, and sometimes misguided. We are force fed a diet of phrases like, 'If it's on our money it should be in the pledge!' or 'I didn't ask your god to be in my government!' But do we really understand where 'One nation under God' or 'In God we Trust' have come from or why they found their way into everyday life?
I've had this debate with several friends in recent years and have argued on both sides of the coin. As I learn more my opinion changes. I am increasingly surprised at how many people don't realize where this all started. I hear a lot of arguments that the 'atheists' should stop the argument because they are such a small minority. While it is correct that the smallest groups usually scream the loudest, it might be important to learn that what they are screaming actually has a point.
The original pledge of allegiance was not even written for the United States and it was not written or adopted at the start of our government in 1776. According to USHistory.org, the pledge was written in 1892 by socialist minister Frances Bellamy. He had hoped the original pledge could be used in any country. Mention of God or a specific country wasn't included. It read only, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." ("US History ") United States of America wasn't added until 1923. It wasn't until 1942 that the pledge of allegiance was recited in schools which became the familiar ritual most of us remember growing up. ("ProCon.org") You'll notice we're up to 1942 and 'Under God' still hasn't made its appearance.
In the 1950s the United States was deeply entrenched in the cold war. This was an ugly time for America. The US government began what was later termed 'witch hunts' trying American citizens for their political beliefs. There is no better example than the Rosenburg trials of 1950. Summarized, based only on their Russian ancestry and therefore familial contacts and a few doodles that could have been anything, brother and sister Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were put on trial for being communists and eventually put to death. (Linder) It was 1954 when Eisenhower signed into law a bill adding the words, "Under God," to the pledge of allegiance. At the time he is quoted as saying this was to distance US legislation from the, "Godless communists." ("ProCon.org") Communist Russia did encourage and sometimes enforce atheism, but what does that have to do with putting God into our own government?
The other phrase that has people in uproar is, 'In God we Trust' printed boldly on our money. This has been around much longer than 'Under God,' but again its origins do not go back to the start of our country but rather a time much later.
It was 1831 during the civil war when appeals from Christians around the nation started filtering through secretary of the treasury. The idea was that of course we couldn't win the civil war which had already stolen thousands of lives if we separated ourselves from God. Many different ideas were given but all had to do with adding to our money some reference to God protecting country. In 1864 congress agreed and the phrase was added only to the two-cent coin. Very slowly over 20 years or more the phrase was added to all coin money. However, it wasn't until the 1960's, again very close to the cold war and the induction of 'Under God' to the pledge that we began printing, 'In God we Trust' on paper money. ("UStreasury.gov")
Overall, I have to say 'In God we Trust' bothers me a great deal less than the phrase 'Under God,' because the original idea was to help heal a torn country rather than out of fear like the addition to the pledge clearly was. That being said I still disagree with it. My reason for that is fairly strait forward.
Most of us know about the constitution and a good deal of the bill of rights so I won't bore you with tedious information. At the time the United States government was created the settlers had come from places where the Christian Church controlled everything. It held more power than the government itself. Children were only taught what the church allowed them to. People on trial were found guilty or innocent at the whim of the church. Punishments were at the church's discretion. Arrests were made of people who simply believed differently. People sometimes died for no more reason than having an original thought. Our forefathers ran from that. They saw a nation where citizens would be free to think, speak, and believe as they saw fit.
The United States of America was created specifically so that no faith would have power over the government and that all peoples would be free to believe or not believe as they chose. This is not just an ideal but the founding principle on which our entire nation was formed. Whatever the intentions; allowing phrases about God or deity to infringe upon that most sacred belief chips away at the foundations of our government, eventually rendering it less and less effective.
Some of you will look at my profile and see that I am pagan and think, 'Of course she doesn't want God in the pledge, she doesn't believe in him.' I assure you that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe in a creator, a higher power, I simply choose to define it differently. I put faith into every aspect of my life, but I also believe in the reasons the United States was formed and the original vision for a nation of abiding peace. I worship and follow my faith at home. I walk the walk and talk religion with anyone interested, but even as I strongly as I believe in my faith, it has no business in my government. By keeping my faith and everyone else's out, I truly have the freedom to believe as I believe. This protects us all.
"10 Minute Summary on the Pledge of Allegiance." ProCon.org. ProCon.org, 06/08/2009. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
"Hisory of 'In God We Trust'." UStreasury.gov. United States Department of the Treasury , 03/08/2011. Web. 21 Sep 2012.
Linder, Doug. "Trial of the Rosenburgs an Account." law2.umkc.edu. University Missouri Kansas City, 2011. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
"Pledge of Allegiance." US History . Independence Hall Association, 1995. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
This is new for me. Instead of writing and playing around with cover art, this is my first sojourn into the illustration world. I have a few other illustration projects I've been working on, but this is the first one published.
Last Haven is an epic poem where the author sees through the eyes of War, a horseman, and chronicles his arrival at the last sanctuary, the Last Haven.
Originally Jeremy knew this piece was near and dear to his heart, but he had no plans on sharing it with the world...until I got my hands on it. What are friends for? I put it together with my own illustrations in a way that gave the story meaning and brought the world closer to eyes of the beholders. Or at least I hope I did. I'm always my own worst critic. He loved it so much that what followed was slide after slide until we had a complete book.
Each plate on each suit of armor was individually rendered and put into place. Each scene went through many texture and lighting effects, finally fading into the words leaving the viewer feeling as if they have been transported into the fantasy. On each page the horseman stands out sharply reminding us of the brutal reality the poem mirrors.
Here is a sample page, but one is all you get. If you want to see more you'll have to buy the book!
The poem itself shows the reader a side of the legends no one thinks about. More than bringer of War, more than legendary warrior, more than a vision in a centuries old book. This is a horseman as a solid being with a soul. What happens to someone that was put on Earth for such a purpose? What wounds of the heart do they suffer?
This is one of those blogs that I’m unsure how to go about. I have this political soap box about religious equality in my head, and my feet are stomping on it. They’re not tightly organized and intricate, tap dancing for rhythm; these are all out, hard core percussionist playground stomps. I know this stream of thought has to come out, but my organization in it is lacking. My mother used to tell me I would go on these little journeys in my head, and when I finally spoke I was so far beyond the original idea that got me thinking, that no one knew where I was or how I got there. I will attempt to take you through the hoops and over the leaps with me.
I have a very dear friend, really he is my brother from another mother, that I’ve spoken about before, just not mentioned names. Those that know me best typically know who it is. This man was born to be a first responder. He eats, sleeps, and lives preparedness and survival, search and rescue. He’s got the heart of gold that puts others before himself in almost all things, and the calling to help others. He happens to be Heathen, like me. We follow the teachings of the Norse/Germanic pantheon best known of from the Vikings. Before finding Asatru, I was a non-wiccan witch studying the use of magick and pagan ways for most of my adult life.
I’m waiting for someone of a more well known mono-theistic faith to say something akin to, Isn’t it wonderful he is the exception. This pagan is here to help. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times in my life that I’ve heard similar things. I’m not too different from my brother. I follow a shamanic path as a seidr, a Viking witch/shaman/seer. I’m here to help. It’s in my make up. I actually can’t ignore someone in pain (emotional or physical) even if I highly dislike them. I’m just not good at the whole repelling-into-broken-buildings-to-dig-someone-out or reading-the-doplar-to-know-where-that-storm-is going-to-hit- so-they-can-be-there-first-to-help kind of thing he does (wow those dashes were long).
One thing I’ve learned over the years, every pagan faith has a call to help others. To give to the community. To respond when help is needed. I donate to shelters and volunteer *because* of my faith, not in spite of it. It is not two separate sides of me, but intricately intertwined. Embedded in the noble nine virtues, the cornerstone of Asatru, are words like bravery, honor, hospitality, perseverance. By the most basic principles we, as heathens, are called upon by forces that are greater than ourselves to serve the community. I would say I am hard pressed to find one pagan I have ever met that does *not* give or volunteer in some way. However very few are open about their faith when they do it.
There are exceptions, like the Hands of the Goddess in Florida, whom a friend of mine does a lot of work with. They work with local charities and separately with their own, openly, as pagans. I love seeing this. I love seeing the non-pagans that drop stuff off at her door because they believe in what they do, but they are still considered something unique.
Another friend of mine, landed a dream job, that centers around service to the community. They almost lost it because they were openly pagan and the rest of the group was Christian, even though this was a secular organization. The others felt ooky about working with a pagan. I don’t know man, they might be a devil worshiper. No one took the time to learn the belief system this person followed or that, that very belief system was the entire reason they were there and so dedicated in the first place.
I was angry when I learned this. It’s a free country with supposedly freedom of religion. No one should ever have to hide or modify or step back from their faith to appease the few. I was also told by this friend that most of the better organizations for community service, everything from search and rescue to soup kitchens, were Christian, Muslim, or Jewish based, as if the myriad of other faiths in this country didn’t exist or were all inherently evil.
Why is that? Why are faiths so intrinsically dedicated to service to fellow man not making a bigger impression on the scene. Why is Hands of the Goddess considered unique? Why are good pagans not being counted for?
You’re not going to like my answer.
This happens because religious intolerance in this country is so deeply ingrained and been going on so long, that it has been accepted by the pagan community. It is considered normal to hide one’s faith when giving for fear of the gift being refused.
That’s a real fear. I totally get it. You just want to make sure help gets to those that need it. Not only does it feel bad on a personal level when that happens, but it denies those that that need it, the help. It is still wrong. Let me say that again.
*It is still wrong.*
Allowing this situation to continue only perpetuates all the stereotypes we fight against every day. It allows people to remain ignorant and intolerant. It teaches the public nothing, and our community hides further into the shadows.
Nothing will ever change if we don’t make it change. I want to live in a world where my friends and loved ones can be proud of being first responders, volunteer coordinators, teachers, *and* pagan.
How do we fix it?
Simple. In fact it’s alarmingly simple. It’s so basic, that I bet every single one of you has already thought of it and passed it over as not being enough.
We educate. When talking to a volunteer coordinator: I’m here because as a heathen it is my duty to and my honor to serve. When collecting cans of food: The Goddess reminds us that we are all equal and to serve those in need. When pulling wreckage from a downed house: You and me are equal, and I’m here to help. My pagan faith teaches that.
That’s a lovely necklace. It’s my Thor’s hammer. It reminds me to be strong and act with courage. Or It’s my pentacle, it reminds me to stay in balance with all the elements. It stands for mother and earth and protection.
Believe it or not these sorts of simple statements will cause ripples all around us, and slowly, person by person, our voices will be heard, and the community will understand we belong at the table.
I have a favorite story. The Starfish. This lady walks out onto the beach and it’s covered in starfish. As far as the eye can see, thousands of starfish, all of them dying when they were washed up by the tide. She turns around stunned at the sight and finds another woman throwing starfish out into the sea. The first woman asks, “What are you doing? You can’t save all these starfish, there are too many.” The second woman replies, with a starfish in her hand, “No. But I can save this one,” and she chucks it back out to sea. She picks up another one, “And this one,” she throws that one out as well.
We need to get over this idea that small actions aren’t enough or don’t have impact. They have more impact than you or I will ever be able to track. We cannot allow a society to continue when even our attempts at service are pushed away.
My name is Susan Simone. I am an author, an artist, and a Heathen; and I proudly serve the community. Do you serve?
**This blog has been cross posted.**
The raising of children is a sacred duty. If we want a better society, we start with our children and attempt to raise them better, to not accept the societal problems we live under. Books and art are a great way to incorporate those ideas to children.
JEA very recently opened up a kids imprint, JEApers! My fellow press artists and I have been in lots of discussions about getting these books good art and what the industry looks like for children’s writers and illustrators. What burdens do they bring into the market? Should we be the press that publishes books about gender creative children (pre-adolescent group that defies gender status quo. i.e. boys who wear dresses) because it’s right, and stick our noses up to the inevitable backlash from new ideas? Or should we stick to the tried and true golden book model? What do we gain or lose then? Dr. Seuss was a huge pioneer in his day, incorporating ideas into his books that could potentially have him arrested in his era, but has become a mainstay and standard of children’s literature, in some cases for those very ideas.
I’m going to go back to an old landmark study from the 1940’s. Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a study in which both black and white children were asked which baby doll they liked better, the black or white one. A huge majority chose the white doll because they, even the black children, perceived the white doll as being all around better. Prettier, smarter, nicer. This study showed how very damaging racism is and the messages we surround our children with. It took many many years, but that study was a step in normalizing race equality. The lesson was so well learned in fact, that I run into all white families that purposely buy their children black, American Indian, and even Asian dolls, so they can normalize these cultures for their children early on.
I believe children’s illustrators have a chance to really make a difference here. I think we need to make a point of including different cultures, races, gender creativeness, faith practices in our drawings. If the character is never described by the author, why not make the child Asian, or American Indian? If the room is never described why not put some African tribal art on the walls? How about sneaking in bits of culture into the nick nacks of a scene? Maybe Grandma wears a pentacle, or Uncle Dan has picture of the Baha’i house of worship on his desk. Maybe Mom is in a wheelchair, or uses fake legs to walk. If we want our children to live in a global society we need to make seeing these cultural cues normal.
I’m currently illustrating a children’s book written by my husband, who likes the pen name, Uncle Dave. You see a sample page above. I have armies of teddy bears in this book and it was very important to me to include a gender creative bear. This choice was made after watching the struggle, devotion, and strength of a friend of mine who is raising her children to make their own music in every possible way. For me, personally, gender creative children are on the rise. Just like being in the LGBT community or a bi-racial community, they are here to stay. I support rainbow and blended children everywhere. And on a more selfish note, when my children come in contact with someone who looks or thinks different, I would be ashamed if their first reaction is fear. It doesn’t really matter in the end whether you agree or disagree with the differences people are born with or choose. It’s about teaching children to learn and grow from them all and to sing their own personal music as loud as they can because it brings them joy.
This will seem like a no brainer to most people. The title pretty much says it all, however I have seen so many really bad covers, or dumb legal mistakes that I just have to rant a bit. Most of the mistakes are made by regular people who simply haven’t been schooled in cover art etiquette, but when I see a so-called professional make these mistakes I see red. These people should know better and are basically stealing large amounts of money for shoddy work.
In the interest of protecting good artists and authors, both in the publishing and the indie world, here are some things you need to keep in mind.
1. How important are covers? Very. Think about your own practices searching for a new book to read. You go on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or your favorite bookstore or library site and scroll through hundreds of books. Sometimes you narrow the field for genre or author, but in general you spend less than 5 seconds on each cover. When a cover stands out you look at the title. If it seems interesting you start looking at synopsis, and then ratings. Always the cover is the first impression any potential reader has of your book. Unfortunately for many brilliant writers I know, a book is judged by the cover, and a bad cover will get you nowhere.
2. Good cover art costs money. If you are going through a publisher they will likely have an artist on staff to make you a good professional cover. If you are working with a publisher and they charge you for cover art, they may very well be a scam. Don’t stick around. If you are an indie author, you get what you pay for. Professional covers range from $100 to $500.
3. A professional will always be able to tell you where the images they used on your cover came from. To use them we have to download them. Stock photography is very expensive, which is one reason cover art is so expensive. If there is a problem with the file, we want our money back, so we always know where it came from.
4. It is illegal to use someone else’s art without permission, even if you just blow up one small part of it.
5. Google images, Yahoo! images, Deviantart, Flicker, are all copyrighted art unless otherwise stated. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, follow the link the search engine provides with the image and find out if it’s useable or not. Most of the time if you really love an image you can just ask the artist or photographer and they’ll tell you their terms. Some are nice about it, and some will charge an arm and a leg.
6. If an image doesn’t say copyrighted on it, it is still copyrighted. The moment it is put out into the world it is copyrighted. The artist or photographer has to expressly state the image is free to use or modify. Creative Commons or Royalty Free are the buzz words you want to look for. Stock photography buys the license from the artist or photographer and you basically rent it for use, but only have to pay once for each image.
7. Video game images are absolutely copyrighted. This means, even if you own a copy of the game, and take a screen shot, the images used in that screen shot are still copyrighted and you cannot use them. Unless of course you were one of the artists who worked on the images for the development of the video game or can provide a letter stating the owner of the franchise is allowing you to use the image.
8. You might be thinking, “But it’s just a really small background image, no one will see it.” Wrong. Twice in my professional life I’ve had to replace covers done by “professional” artists that used copyrighted images. In both cases it was an intern that caught it and sent us into deeper investigation. You don’t want to see the files I have these artists. It would make a grown up cry.
9. “But the artist is the one that gets in trouble, right?” Wrong again. A lawyer will go after who they perceive to have the most money. That goes, publisher (which is why publishers are such sticklers for using their own artists), author, and then artist. If you are an indie author there is no publisher to buffer and protect you. You signed a contract for this cover art when you bought it. Some judges will agree that makes you responsible for putting it out, not the artist.
10. PROTECT YOURSELF! Pick apart the images sent to you by the artist. Look for possible copyrighted images. Ask where they got the images. If they name a stock photography site, go look for the image in their files. Look over the contract for wording that absolves the artist of fault for using copyrighted images. If you get screwed on a cover and have to put out more money to a new artist to fix it, demand your money back and don’t be afraid to consult a lawyer if they refuse. Many lawyers will not advise action unless the copyright owner tried to sue you, but it always helps to know your options.
I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to these mistakes. First time an outside artist gets caught making them I will never accept their work ever again, which can hurt a lot more in the long run than most of them realize. This business is built on reputation, integrity, and word of mouth. We are a traditional press. JEA has its own in house artists, people trained and/or managed by me. However, we allow authors to use an outside artist at their own expense if they choose. If I have to tell them I can’t accept a cover by So and So, that artist’s reputation has been ruined. Presses talk. Author’s talk.
This is not a PSA for traditional publishing or my own freelance cover work. I know some amazing indie authors and some phenomenal, honest cover artists who charge fair rates for their work. Ask me and I will sing their praises. I am in awe of Paramita Bhattacharjee. I am forever inspired by the horrific visions of Peter Fussey. Good artists are out there; don’t settle for some random dude who plays around with drawing programs. Your work is your child. It deserves to shine. Don’t let a bad or illegal cover kill it. Don’t let individuals who have no business charging for their work sell you a product that could land you in litigation, even if it is a beautiful cover made by your best friend. It’s not worth it.
Finally! After all the starts and stops on this project, Morning Song, is a available for the first time on Saturday February 8th 2014 on Amazon!
I'm really excited about this project. It blends a lot of unique elements, and some of my strongest characters to date, into a great story. This is one of those rare stories that write themselves. It was as if Morna and Arrick really lived they were just narrating their tale to me.
Morna is, obviously from the cover, a large woman. There is an iniquity in our media that allows people to believe only one type of beauty is acceptable. In Morning Song, the BBW heroine, is not just lovely for herself, but with a shining soul and strength that spills over into all she does. She is kind and intelligent and graceful. Arrick loves her not just for her body, though he really enjoys that, but for her mind and heart. If all she was, was a body, he'd have no interest.
The title, Morning Song, is really important to this book. Morna, in addition to many other things, is a singer. She sings what is in her soul, not just the melodies she's been taught. Melodies, as I have it, that belong to today's airwaves. This is a post apocalyptic distant future, and the question I pose with this book, is what songs will pass the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation until they are known as folk music?
Due to legalities I didn't use any actual song lyrics, but I did reference the songs that were important to the scene and I encourage everyone to look up these songs, and hear them, and understand why I chose that piece for that part of the book.
Additionally, like many of my works, I deal with the ills of rape culture and just how it warps a desperate, small community.
Morna is very personal to me. She is the closest one of my characters to me. I think most writer's characters are a mix of themselves and the people around them. There are pieces of me in all of my writing. However, Morna has the largest one of those pieces. It was so close in personality and belief systems that I almost didn't publish. Her adventures in life are different from mine. Her joys and fears are drastically changed by the culture she lives in, but her core is still very much me. There are some surface similarities. I am BBW, I am a singer in my heart and soul, I aspire to be a midwife, I am an Asatru Volva (viking shaman), and I believe in magick. I'm not so sure those surface bits and pieces are as important, but maybe they are a reflection of my soul after all. All my worlds are gut wrenching at times when I pull out details of my own hard times or an honest emotional response, but in more ways than I can count, Morna is me.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.