Thursday, February 27, 2014

Separate and Subvert

Groucho Marx once said that he would never want to belong to a club that would have him for a member. I often think of that, because besides being a funny quote, it speaks to the power of choice. We choose what we join and where we shop, who we hang out with and how we entertain ourselves. And there is a huge wealth of stores, arenas, clubs, pubs, and hubs where we can find like-minded individuals, shedding ducats freely.

Of course, I live near a great big city. If I wanted a cup of coffee, I could stroll right past the shop that says, "We Do Not Serve Pagans," to the Starbucks on the corner. But what if I lived in a small town with only one coffee shop, and it said, "We Do Not Serve Pagans?" Then, must admit, I become pissed. Knowing me, I go inside, order a triple mocha java latte grande frappachino with extra whipped cream, and when the steaming confection is placed before me, I say, "Drink it yourself. I'm a Pagan."

 Then again, if it's a small town they probably already know I'm a Pagan, so they wouldn't serve me anyway.

What baffles me is why someone would build a business, knowing full well they were going to turn patrons away. The whole point of a business is to make money, preferably fat fistfuls of it. But if you, out of religious belief, refuse to serve certain customers, you not only lose that custom, but you also lose the custom of anyone who thinks you're a bigoted moron. Depending upon where you are, that could be a lot of people. You are betting that the customers who think like you do are going to throw a lot of business your way. What if they can't? Not everyone is made of money, even though they pray to become rich.

 We long ago left "separate but equal" in the dust, recognizing a failed social construct when we saw it. What we haven't left behind is the staggering pride that allows some people to create a "sinful" Other, and then justify their unwillingness to serve this Other by using "freedom of religion" as an excuse. The state of Arizona dodged the bullet of widespread disdain, but not because of the will of its citizenry. What would have happened if the Super Bowl had not been slated to be played in Arizona next year? And what about all the nests of morons in other states who might feel that their god is demanding that they get some laws in place so they don't have to lodge gay people in their B&Bs? This pathetic and embarrassing search for legislation has just begun, I fear.

 But all is not lost, even if you live in a state where such laws get passed. Extending this sermon just one anecdote more, I hereby give some free advice to people who might face discrimination. Mind you, I feel it essential that the law protects everyone. Everyone. In exactly the same way. Still, if you're up against discrimination, remember this little tale from blogger Annie:

 I am old enough to remember the day when the municipal swimming pool in my home town was integrated. I've told this story before, so I'm not going to bore you with details again. (My mother let me go swimming; she said the pool would be less crowded, and it was.)

 Fast forward almost exactly 15 years from that date. Another hot summer. I was a legislative assistant working for the local state representative. A young African American man came into the legislator's office and begged a favor. There was a swimming pool, sitting drained and nearly forgotten, in a neighborhood of town where most of the African American people lived. The citizen wondered if there was any way to get that pool up and running again. You see, kids in that neighborhood had to take the bus to the big municipal pool, and that pool was getting old and very crowded. It would be nice to have the little neighborhood pool open for the local tots.

 The legislator got a grant from the state, and at the beginning of the next summer, the separate and unequal swimming pool was re-opened. Of course anyone can use it, but it is primarily used by the African American kids in the surrounding neighborhood. And they love it.

 My friends, go where you are welcome. Spend your money where you are welcome. If you cannot possibly avoid the bigots, that's one thing. But if you can put them out of business, marginalize them, basically do without them, do it! Separate might not be equal, and it sure isn't optimal, but it can be effective.

 I'll practice what I preach. Arizona is still on my bucket list, but guess what? It just fell below Eastern Europe. Before this week it was right up there with Nova Scotia. I'd rather not visit a place that doesn't want some of its best citizens as members.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Very Brand New Cat

He can't come inside.

He still has pus in his wound.

But he looks at me with sad eyes, and I give him food.

He's using the hutch I built for him.

I think he has other ports in the storm.

Still, I now have a third cat. With Alpha across the Veil, I've got Beta, Gamma, and now ... Delta.

Cats are proof that the Goddess loves us and wants us to be happy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

8 People Pagans Should Never Marry

A few years ago I subscribed to a Christian newsletter called Fire in My Bones, which is usually a pretty practical and no-nonsense read. Today it got dumped into my inbox with an article called 8 Women Christian Men Should Never Marry.

No big surprises here. Especially the number one woman a Christian man shouldn't marry: the non-believer.

Anyway, this concept got me thinking. Surely there are people that Pagans shouldn't marry!

I'm all about free advice, so here goes, Pagans:

8 People Pagans Should Never Marry

1. The zealot. Be very, very careful. It doesn't matter what religion the zealot follows ... if he or she thinks all other religions send you to Hell, that speaks to narrow-mindedness. Delete that listing.

2. The fracker. Someone who spends the day shooting chemicals into the bedrock probably won't see eye to eye with you on the need to protect the natural world. Stop looking for love at the electric company and go see those charmers at the wind farm.

3. The risk-adverse stay-at-homer. The stability of this person may appeal to you in deep mid-winter, but come festival season, his or her unwillingness to attend firewalks and sweat lodges will force you to make some uncomfortable decisions about how you spend your precious spare time. Plant that couch potato on someone else's lap, and get moving!

4. The faithful Christian. Sorry if this hits close to home, but if your significant other follows his or her holy book to the letter, you're going to be hearing lots of sermons about Jesus being the only way across the Great Divide. That's bound to get tedious, especially if paired with a crying newborn at 3:00 a.m.

5. The young earth theorist. Ten minutes in this person's company will have you begging for rescue by Bill Nye the Science Guy. For the love of fruit flies! Your deities have jars of jam that are more than 6,000 years old! You're honestly better off looking for a lifetime partner at band camp.

6. The tea party member. Privately, this person may think the world of you and cherish your beliefs. But in the harsh light of judgment by his or her peers, you are going to be deemed a menace to society. Talk politics on the first date! There's no worse way to waste your money than to wine and dine a potential mate who will drag you to a Sean Hannity rally the minute you pop the question.

7. The axe man (or woman). News flash: Commercial logging is the most dangerous job in America! And what is it, exactly? Cutting trees down! Not only will this person be incompatible with you spiritually, he or she is also likely to die young in a terrible mishap involving a murdered tree. Doesn't sound like a recipe for happiness to me.

8.The atheist. Giving you some tough love here, Pagans. When it comes to holding firm beliefs, atheists are a lot like Christians. They're going to be subtle, or they're going to be confrontational, but either way they're going to try to make you doubt your deities. Give it a go only if you can sway your atheist to some sort of blissful contemplation of the Divine. Your atheist need not embrace your Path, but he or she shouldn't be heaving bricks onto it, either. In all seriousness, here ... proceed with caution if you become involved with an atheist. If that big, broad, flexible outlook is nowhere to be seen, make a new plan, Stan.

So, there's some fine pre-marital advice from me, Anne Johnson, Pagan and married for almost 30 years!

And oh, by the way. Never say never. Love will always find a way. Best free advice I can give you is to follow your heart ... wherever it leads.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What Happened to the Snake?

I spent the whole morning reading the New York Times,  but there wasn't one article as interesting as this little snippet from the new reigning source of news, the Internet.

Snake-Handling Pastor Dies of Snakebite

Well, you see, Appalachia is fairly dripping with venomous snakes, rattlers and copperheads being the most common. The pastor in this story had just finished filming a reality t.v. show called "Snake Salvation" when he was fatally bitten during a church service.

I couldn't make this up.

There's a long tradition of snake-handling in the mountains, but there's never been (to my knowledge) any statistics on how many of these snake handlers die in action. Considering that this is a traditional practice, probably going back a few hundred years, there must be a considerable amount of denizens of Heaven with fang marks in their wings.

Some religions teach us to go against our common sense, in order to prove that the deity transcends Nature as we know it. That's called faith. But when faith transcends reason entirely, you can get Earth-smacked big time.

Two years ago there was some sort of Armageddon prophecy, and the believers in this particular date paid to put it up on a huge billboard near the thrift store. When that day came and went without the Four Horsemen, the billboard returned to its usual messages for fast food. I had to wonder, myself, who paid for that "The End Is Nigh" billboard. And you hear all the time about people selling their houses and giving their stuff away because of one of these scheduled Armageddons. What happens the morning after, when their kids are crying over donated Legos?

Then there's snake handling. There's some Bible scripture (not going to quote it, this is a blog, don't have to attribute) that suggests faithful God-people can play with killer snakes and not get killed. Seriously, you have to ask what kind of deity would let something like that go into the canon. For one thing, it's a foolish gamble with human life, and for another thing, it's desperately disruptive to the reptile.

Did you ever wonder what happens to the snake that bites the snake handler? I doubt very seriously that they take the lil' guy out into the woods and gently let him go.

This is where your basic New Age religion enters the picture. And in the nick of time, if you ask me.

Your basic New Age religion endorses deities who have a realistic, practical view of the ultimate purpose of poisonous snakes. This purpose is to keep an area free of disease-carrying vermin and other small mammals that, left unchecked, will multiply rapidly and wind up starving. Therefore, in your basic New Age religion, if you see a snake that is not reared up and ready to bite you, you just acknowledge its importance to Gaia and leave it alone. You go home happy, the snake goes home happy, and about the only thing left unhappy in this mix is the unfortunate mouse that gets poisoned instead of you.

Does religion really have to be foolish? Can you have faith in Higher Powers without having to prove that They protect you by doing something that flies in the face of common sense and biodiversity?

I would like to see a sociological follow-up on the ramifications of a pastor's death from snakebite on his parishioners, especially the younger ones. But more than that, I want to know -- what happens to the snakes?

PS -  When treated promptly, the bite of a copperhead or a rattlesnake is not fatal. Rattlesnake bites can cause tissue damage, though, even when caught quickly. The word from the bored gods on this matter is to keep your eyes open when you're hiking, and leave all snakes alone. If you see a rattlesnake that is damned for sure dead as a doornail (as I did once, it was flattened by a tire), the rattle makes a cool conversation piece. Snake rattles fall apart with age, so store in a cool, dry place. Again, and again, and again, don't mess with a snake that isn't as stone cold dead as a door nail. Your deities don't ask that of you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Viking Valentine

This is a Viking Valentine.
It says, "Kiss me."

It took the finest minds among the college set to translate this series of runes, and you can only imagine how disappointed they were to find that the message was so mundane. Why, we Americans say this all the time!
I'm thinking about the Viking Valentine. I'm wondering if the person got his or her kiss.

1. Sometimes people say, "Kiss me," and they get a kiss.

2. Sometimes people want to say, "Kiss me," and they don't have the nerve.

3. Sometimes people want to hear "Kiss me," and they don't hear it.

4. Sometimes people are faced with a combination of  2 and 3. This can be frustrating, but it makes for great drama.

5. Worst case scenario: Sometimes someone says, "Kiss me," and in reply the other person says, "I'd rather kiss a rabid reindeer."

I sure hope the Viking didn't hear that after going to all the trouble to carve those runes!

For more information on the Viking Valentine:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

May She Have Found the Summerlands

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we are literally shedding tears over the death of Shirley Temple! Shirley Temple was my mother's favorite movie star. Mom was not alone in that. During the depths of the Great Depression, Shirley was the number one box office draw. Number one.

I have seen every one of Shirley Temple's child star movies at least six times. Whenever they were on our old black-and-white t.v. growing up, all movement ceased in my household and we were allowed to watch Shirley Temple. Over and over again. Reader, you'll have to trust me on this ... I can sing her songs, to whit: Codfish Ball, Baby Take a Bow, Good Ship Lollipop, Animal Crackers in My Soup, The Simple Things in Life, and The Right Somebody To Love. I may be missing a few that I could sing if you hummed a few bars.

Shirley Temple was a good role model. She was cheerful and plucky, she was guided by her heart and her wits, she often fixed things for fucked-up grownups, and boy oh boy, she could dance.

Anyone can pick up a few tap-dancing steps. But it's very difficult to tap dance with authority. Granted, tap dancing was more popular in the 1930s than it is today. Nevertheless, Shirley Temple was extraordinary in her abilities.

It's very hard to find uncut versions of Shirley Temple's movies, because several of them featured Step 'N Fetchit, and the ones that starred Bill "Bojangles" Robinson always portrayed him as an affable Uncle Tom. During my rebellious "Rebel without a Cause" years I castigated Shirley for the racism in her films and refused to watch them. Then something happened. I read Bill Robinson's autobiography. I was expecting him to wax virulent about his co-starring roles with Shirley. Instead, this man, who by his own measure was an impossible taskmaster, gave the mop-headed youngster props for her dancing. He said he never worked with an adult who could pick things up as quickly as Shirley Temple.

Call me racist if you will, but the scene loaded below from "The Littlest Rebel" is one of my favorite clips of all time. There's no phoniness in the chemistry. Shirley Temple loved Bojangles, and he -- who loved few and hated many -- doted on her.

Shirley Temple made millions of dollars in the 1930s with her films, records, product tie-ins, magazines, dolls, and clothing. Her parents spent it all, living large. This led to laws that protect child stars from exploitation by the people closest to them.

When Shirley hit puberty, her appeal at the box office plummeted. But this was no vapid kid star. She was one of the smartest women of her generation. She entered politics and eventually became ambassador to  Belgium and Ghana. In both cases she became fluent in the languages.

My mother once had front row seats at an Elvis Presley concert. My mother also shook hands with Shirley Temple. No contest. Meeting Shirley (my aunt was politically connected) was the high point of Mom's life.

Child stars didn't have their heads together any more in the 1930s than they do now. But Shirley Temple did. She worked her whole childhood through and emerged unscathed emotionally because she was so smart that the work was not onerous. She was a quick study with a steady personality. And she is cute in those films. She really is.

Shirley Temple. May she have found the Summerlands.

Bill Bojangles Robinson and Shirley Temple

Monday, February 10, 2014

Crunching the Numbers

Hello, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You know what, striplings? There are a lot of things that will make you feel old, even when you actually don't feel as old as all that.

I am exceedingly blessed with a very short commute to work. It takes me about 9 minutes, sometimes less, to get from my driveway to the parking lot at the Vo Tech. As I drive to work I listen to news radio. Not talk radio, news radio. There's a huge difference.

If I'm on time, I'm forced to listen to this little daily spot the radio has called "Rewind." It's a cheery little spot, let me tell you. "Rewind" gives two or three events in entertainment that happened on the date, going back into the 1950s and up through the 1990s. Then the spot wishes happy birthday to any star or singer. And makes note of who died on that date. It's an uplifting way to start the day.

Actually, I shouldn't be sarcastic. Listening to the Philadelphia-area news would be far more depressing than hearing that "Bonanza" had its premier today, sixty years ago.

Anyway, we had a big anniversary in entertainment this week. The Beatles arrived in America, 50 years ago, to play some little gigs and be on "Ed Sullivan."

I can remember that. I watched it. My mother let me stay up later than my bedtime.

And that was 50 years ago. It boggles my mind.

Part of the reason I'm so constantly amazed by these numbers ("Rewind" wished Roberta Flack a happy 77th birthday today!) is that I feel younger now than I did five years ago. It's like Roberta's going forward and I'm going backward.

There's no magic to this. I had surgery on my hip. Before the surgery I could not walk across a Target store without leaning on someone. After surgery, walking up a flight of stairs felt like ascending into heaven. Then, out of the blue, I lost 30 pounds. Between those two factors, I'm spry as hell. Gods willing, and thanks be to Them.

But I gotta tell ya, reader. When I hear these numbers, like the Beatles on Sullivan and Roberta Flack inching toward 80, I feel the moving hand of time on my shoulder. It's kind of chilling. You'll see what I mean, youngster, when "Rewind" wishes Miley Cyrus a 65th birthday!

If I can get past the numbers for a minute, I'd like to navel gaze about the Beatles. My mother loved Ringo. She would buy anything and everything Beatles. I had all their vinyl, I had a Beatles lunch box, and my dad made Beatles models from kits. When the Beatles came on Sullivan, I rolled around on the floor, because that is what the older girls said they were going to do.

Beatles, Beatles, Beatles! I probably had the best trove of Beatles stuff at my school. (Most other moms disapproved of the Beatles.) Then John said something about being more popular than God. This didn't sit well with my mother, although she didn't make a big deal about it. But it did inflame the girls in my age cohort against the Fab Four. One of these young ladies organized a Beatle burning, and, bowing to peer pressure, I brought all my Beatles stuff to the event and watched it go under the torch.

With 20-20 hindsight I can see that this was the first time the Christian religion let me down. All that Beatles stuff I had, kept in good condition, might have paid a little bit of college tuition for The Heir or The Spare.

Wow. Fifty years ago! Just let me end this sermon with one little observation. I've read the Bible, and I've listened to John Lennon's music. And although I don't think John was ever really more famous than God, perhaps he should be.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

In Praise of Winter

The north wind doth blow,
And we will have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?

He'll fly to the barn
To keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing ... poor thing!

This little ditty is one of my favorites. I think about it when I look out the window at all the robins who should have flown south, but didn't.

What do you think of winter? I stand in hearty favor of the season, myself. Given the choice between high summer and deep winter, I will choose deep winter every time. The recent polar vortex tested my resolve, but in the end it exited much quicker than a heat wave.

In the cold weather, you can bundle on layer upon layer. In the summertime, there's only so much clothing you can take off, and then you're just naked and hot. Being hot makes me irritable. Quickly. Being cold makes me cheerful, mostly. And it's ever so much more rewarding to have cold feet that slowly become warm than to have hot feet that slowly become cold.

We have a wood-burning fireplace here at Chateau Johnson. So far this season we have gone through almost a whole cord of firewood. I have toted every last log of it indoors (and I helped stack it last summer, too). Mr. J has back problems, and Heir works her butt off. I lug logs. Except for the fact that the path between the woodpile and the cellar door is solid ice, I don't mind the firewood chore. That's because I'm down with winter.

The part of the world where I live is prone to bad ice storms that cause widespread power outages. We had just such a storm last week, and even now some people don't have their power back. I see the potential for a power outage as the one down side of winter. If we get a prolonged power failure here at the Chateau, I can keep one room warm with the fireplace, but Decibel would have to bunk in the room with all the rest of us ... and still we would be very cold.

When I hear about the potential for a major ice event, I kick into woodpile overdrive. The last thing you want to do in a winter power failure is go outside to bring in fuel. I've got about 1/8 cord in the basement right now, just in case.

Snow is pretty, cold temperatures are bracing, and there's immense comfort in a cup of hot cocoa, a crackling fire, and a fleecy throw. My indoor cats loll near the fire, Decibel pouts (quietly), and the outdoor tom seems to have settled into his lean-to, which is now waterproofed.

All hail the bored Goddess Sedna of winter! She's popping in later for spaghetti and pemmican. If you have any season-related petitions for her, fling them into the comments.

This too shall pass.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Photo album

I'm fresh out of ideas for a post tonight, except to say that it's 4:45 and still daylight. That's what I call progress!
Decibel the parrot is here with me. She's spending the winter upstairs. Just now I looked, and she has some new flight feathers coming in where she was injured! I call that a win for everything but my ear drums.

A distant cousin of mine snapped this photo of the family farm, probably in the early 1980s. We don't have this much snow here in New Jersey, but it sure feels like it.

Between the weather and the stress of my job, I've been giving reign to flights of fancy about the Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. This is one of my favorite photos from there.

Extra Chair snapped this winsome photo of our new trophy cat, Gamma. The full magnificence of his tail is not revealed here.

With storms and rumors of storms, I went out and stocked up on the really necessary items.

Beta said she was feeling left out, so here she is.
This deity will help you find

This stuff, but you'd better give Him what's due to Him out of your haul.

This was a real store. It got torn down to make room for a freeway. I wonder what happened to Godlove?

And just remember ... when life gets you down, there's always someone worse off than you.

Monday, February 03, 2014

State of the Bored Gods

When you're a teacher, snow days are kind of like going on a bender. You know you're going to regret it later, but at the time ... whoopie!

Time is not of the essence today. It's a snow day! I'm catching up on the chores I didn't do because it was Imbolc. Otherwise ... chair, book, tea and chat with Decibel.

It's a good day to address the State of the Bored Gods.

I started this blog way back in 2005 to serve as a meeting place for deities who had lost their praise and worship teams to the Big Guy, the Great He-Man Busy God. Over the years, quite a number of bored gods and goddesses have stopped by for interviews, some of them nursing grudges against the Great I Am, and all of them missing the worship they used to receive. They chafed at being classified as "myths" (nor do I blame them), and in tough economic times they had trouble finding jobs.

Therefore, I am pleased to report that many of these deities are no longer bored.

I'm not taking a bit of credit for this. I'm chalking it up to, in no particular order:

1. social media
2. backlash against fringe Christians
3. renewed interest in cultural heritage
4. deeply-held love for, and concern for, Mother Earth
5. the search for authentic, soul-based spiritual experience, and
6. Pagans connecting or being confirmed in their beliefs by wider interaction

Whatever the reason, things are really changing for the bored gods. Don't believe me? Try getting one on the phone! Oh yeah, they might text me back, but it's always something like 2 busy 2 day ttyl luv u.

Now, please don't think this means that this little playground here is closing down! Never! I intend to keep right on interviewing deities ... except now I have to make appointments around Their calendars. Hey, it's all good. They're happy, I'm happy, and it's snowing. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Imbolc 2014

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on this holy day of Imbolc, 2014!

I would like to thank those of you who come here to read and laugh with me, those of you who seek and praise the bored gods, those who respect the faeries of Sidhe, those who feel that life is best when breathed like a poem.

Debra, She Who Seeks suggests that this is a good day to flood the Internet with poetry. I totally agree! In honor of Queen Brighid the Bright, Goddess of home and hearth, She of the silver mantle, She of the creative flame, I post an offering from my favorite bard:


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab
and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.