Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Adventures in Ancient Egypt

The BrassGears Adventurers Society visits King Tutankhamun's
Tomb! Mystery! Golden Treasures! A Pharoah's Curse!

Many of our friends enjoy the Steampunk costuming scene, and formed a little club in which to plan events that give them more opportunities to dress in costume than just the science fiction conventions. We like to join in when schedules permit. This summer, my very good friend Susan planned the BAS outing to our local museum, which had a traveling exhibit for King Tut's treasures. Quite the appropriate event for costumers of the Steampunk persuasion!

We started out meeting in the museum's foyer, where we got a short introduction to the exhibit and other interesting tidbits about the museum's history of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Then we moved on to the beginning of the exhibit, where we got audio tour wands that played the audio portion of the exhibit tour, but only to each individual person. This was my first experience with such a device, and I liked it. The initial portion of the tour introduced us to the history of archeology in Egypt, the Valley of the Kings and Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon.

no photo could do justice
After the initial portion of the tour, we were sent into the main portion of the tour. It was set up to give us a similar experience to what Carter and Carnarvon experienced as they opened each section of Tut's tomb. It was extremely well done, with each reproduction piece in the "tomb" rooms painstakingly made and placed exactly how they were in the real tomb. It was awe inspiring and took my breath away. My only issue was that the tour was timed, while I wanted to linger over each "room" and inspect it carefully. But I asked the museum lady if I could go back and see the rooms and of course I could.

We also went through rooms of reproductions of the treasures that were found in Tut's tomb. You might ask, why bother going to see reproductions if they aren't the real thing?  Firstly, any traveling exhibit of the real treasures is usually limited to a small selection of pieces, and THIS exhibit was literally overflowing with beautiful and accurate reproductions... I've SEEN the traveling exhibit that had some of the real treasures, and there just weren't that many. This exhibit left me feeling very satisfied! Secondly... the sheer value of all those real pieces, they are priceless and what if a terrible accident happened.  Thirdly, these were extremely accurate reproductions, to the point that all that gold you see? it's real gold. They did not skimp.

Here's a selection of photos of the exhibit!
This crown!
All the details there, "just" a reproduction.
Hail, Sekhmet!

My son and I have this game and play it often! :)

I took so many more pictures! I cannot possibly fit them all here. But here's one last picture in the room with Tut's primary mask... all of us BAS members and our museum tour guide. :)

After we'd finished touring the Tut exhibit, the museum's Egypt exhibit and all the other parts of the museum that we wanted to see, we were invited to the atrium overlooking the hill the museum is on and further away, the river. There we enjoyed a lovely luncheon that the museum itself provided, designed to go with the Egypt theme with lamb meatballs, the best rice I've ever had, some vegetables that were sweetened with honey as well as the usual hummus, pita and crackers. After lunch, we went into the museum's theater and watched the accompanying 3D movie that went with the exhibit. Well done!

These parasols!
Because most of the BAS members were from out of town, a whole day of adventure had been planned, so after the museum we went to Vanderveer Park, a park that had been designed and built during the period in which Steampunk is set. The day was amazingly lovely, and we saw 3 separate wedding parties in the park taking photos (and we ended up taking pictures with one of them).  We strolled the promenade took our own photos for the fun of it.

After our stroll in the park, we retired to Credit Island Park, a place with a lot of history in the time period. There we partook of tea and refreshment (and a little wine). We also did a little strolling about the park, where we found an art installment of statues set in the turn of the century, some historical plaques about the park, and a tank.

To finish off the day, the BAS members remaining spent the evening at Susan's home where we tried to watch the original "The Mummy" film in  her backyard, but technical difficulties drove everyone into the house (I'd gone home before then). It was a superb day!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pagan Spirit Gathering 2016

Pagan Spirit Gathering 2016 fell on June 19-26 this year, and was held at Tall Tree Lake Campground in southern Illinois.

If you've followed my first two years going to PSG you'll know that those two years were not the best for me! So I had a lot of hope that THIS year would be injury free! And it was.

Last year we lost our big tent in all the PSG flooding, it was over 10 years old anyway so I wasn't too surprised. Since the location of PSG had moved to a site nearly 6 hours away, I knew that I probably shouldn't drive one of our vehicles there, old and decrepit as they are. If I had to rent a vehicle anyway, might as well rent one that we could sleep in and save myself buying a replacement tent. I rented a U-haul cargo van and I took our cots and other camping gear. I'd never tried this before but after setting up our encampment, I was very happy with the result. We were as comfortable as we could be. Though I think I'd like to try an air mattress instead of cots next time I do the van idea.

I liked the camp site when I first saw it driving in. It seemed large enough to handle PSG at first glance. The only problem I saw was that the merchants along the road was a long walk and some might not visit all the merchants because of it. But the walk to the shower trailer was even longer... a full mile! I only walked to the shower trailer once, and rode the shuttle cart back. After that, I developed my own shower situation at our encampment and actually liked it better.

My favorite things about PSG 2016:
  • I did a craft workshop for the tween center, a memory book which I had the blank book prepared and the kids glued decorative papers on the covers and pages, as well as prepared pagan stickers that I'd made for them. It went very well!
  • The MUSIC.  I had parked our encampment right by the stage, and though it meant a few bedtimes were loud, for the most part our spot was perfect, as we got to hear all the concerts up close and personal, without even having to leave our camp if we didn't want to.
  • Camping near my coven of course! they were all camped under the trees, which were right across the road from me. I couldn't park a van under the trees at this site.
  • Pan's Ball was super fun. It was held at the stage, next door to my camp. Again, very convenient. I dressed up in my satyr horns and a skirt and had a great time dancing. I did not get drunk though! So no broken bones. lol
  • Met some great new friends! 
  • My favorite workshop was on ritual drama, and I was very impressed with it. I enjoyed all the workshops I went to.
  • My coven was asked to do a ritual belly dance for the women's ritual. :)
  • The raffle, run by my covenmates Melanie and Kim, was awesome. I brought home a couple awesome prizes.
  • dragonfly friends, everywhere!
My least favorite things about PSG 2016
  •  Not PSG's fault but damn, this year was HOT. I'm not at my best when I'm overheated, and my kid was unhappy in the heat too. He did his best the poor thing. It seriously got up to serious high heat index. Towards the end of the week we gave up and sat in the cab of the van while I ran it with the AC on for a while. It was the only way to survive.
  • I eventually learned that the site had some drawbacks, including: unexpected holes that people's feet fell in, including a covenmate who hurt her leg in one. The site was infested with ticks. I personally saw 3 types and removed 2 from us. Somehow we seem to have escaped tick issues. There were leeches in the lake, and my kid stopped going to the lake when he found out. I didn't mind that as he came back from the lake filthy. But he did cool off there. There was a LOT of poison ivy. Nearly everyone camped under trees suffered from it. We were lucky and escaped that too.  Again, not PSG's fault but there are things that can be done to help some of this stuff... like regular mowing and filling the holes in.
  • I thought the site was not the best for older and disabled folks. There was very little electric service so space was limited for those that needed it for medical reasons. Just some rough circumstances for a lot of people. 
  • I thought the shower trailer being a mile plus away from many of the campers was an issue. We did have a pretty good shuttle system going which helped but sometimes it was hard to get a seat on it since everyone needed on it. I'm hoping the campsite owner is able to put some electric and water service in more places in the campground before next year, if PSG will be there again.
I don't think I'll be going back to PSG next year. I want to try something new next year, and have signed up for another event. So at this point I'd have to have a major financial windfall to afford to go to PSG as well as that other event. Who knows? :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Call of the Horned God (song)

In July my coven (Prärie Hexen aka Praxen) attended Grand Sabbat in Wisconsin, hosted by Steven Posch. Covenmate Alana also covens with Steven, and she requested that she and I create a women's procession to bring Steven and the Horned God to ritual space to prepare Him for ritual later that evening.

Alana and I are both belly dancers, and were inspired by the North African Tuareg tribe's trance dance called the guedra. Our song is NOT a guedra, we were simply inspired by the cadence, call/response format and that it is a women's ritual. We created our own song and, hopefully tradition.

We women gathered around Steven, and processed with baskets of flowers, ritual preparations like paint, offerings and decorations to ritual space. A few women drummed and the rest of us clapped as I sang the call part, and the rest of the women sang the response.  The song is not intended to be like normal singing, but called loudly and with celebration. (we had to be heard over the sounds of walking and other sabbat campers so they knew the procession was happening!)

Steven asked us to record our song so he could share it and others could use it in sabbats around the world! We hope you enjoy. :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

What's on the reading pile?

The last time I wrote a "what's on the reading pile" post was for my blog's previous incarnation.... at least 3 or 4 years ago!  Time to write up what's on the pile today. At the top of the list are books I'm currently reading, below are books "on the pile" meaning that I plan to read them just as soon as I can! I really need someone to read books to me while I knit... just until I get good enough at knitting to do both at the same time (shyeah right).

You'll notice some of these I mention I have the ebook version. I'd really rather have hard copy but... funds are limited and often ebooks are cheaper. Not to mention SPACE in my house is limited and I AM still getting hardcopy books and I'm not sure I have room to fit them on my shelves! lol  (on a side note, many of my ebooks can be read to me by my kindle, which I haven't tried extensively yet but it may allow me to multitask lol)

Books with bookmarks in them:

Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer
by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer

My coven has been reading this for a while now, it's something of a coven project. :)

Descent of Inanna
by Edward VanDerJagt

Picked this up at Lammas Fest from the author, who is husband to a friend of mine. I've read parts of it so far, I think I'm going to stop and read both of these Inanna books at the same time... more like side by side study. Ed's book is written with a modern "voice" to make the story more accessible, with annotations to explain some of the historical context.  One difference I've hit so far is that Ninshubur is male in his text, where in every other translation I've read, she is female. This is a bit of a roadblock for me, as Ninshubur's gender is integral to the story for me. So we'll see how this progresses.

Iron Kissed
by Patricia Briggs

Briggs was author guest of honor at Demicon a few years ago, and I won a volunteer prize that was a back patch of the design on the main character's shirt on the cover of this book. Naturally, that meant that I really needed to read at least one of the Mercy Thompson books. ;)  I'm now on the 3rd in the series. I'm slow because I don't read as often as I'd like but I do love these stories... Mercy being a part native american coyote-shape shifting auto mechanic with a knack for getting herself into various supernatural tight spots. Fun reads.

Apocalyptic Witchcraft
by Peter Grey

Not sure how far into this one I am... a third of the way maybe. It's hard to tell with ebooks. Unfortunately now the only way to get it is hard copy... the UK passed some law that does not allow UK publishers to sell ebooks for some reason... I got two books from the publisher before the law happened. Anyway, it's a tough read as the author uses lots of big words that I have to look up and speaks in a way that takes getting used to. I usually have to back up a few pages each time I pick it up just to get used to reading it. Otherwise though, it's an interesting read.

Essential Reiki:  A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art
by Diane Stein

I have my first attunement in this lineage, and my reiki master and covenmate of course assigned us this book to read. I have this in hard copy somewhere but I can't find it, so I had to buy the kindle version which was annoying... but at least I have it.

On Becoming a Counselor
by Eugene Kennedy and Sara C. Charles, M.D.

I've read a few chapters of this, so far very interesting and useful. It might take me a while to finish, as I only have so much patience for "textbook" reading.

The Crooked Path Magazine
edited by Peter Paddon

I happened on Paddon's work when I was doing some searches on the interwebs. I was disappointed to learn that he is passed on, and won't be able to write anymore. :(  Anyway, I picked up all his books via kindle ebook, most of the issues of this magazine via kindle and one hard copy. There's only 3 more issues I don't have, that I can only get in hard copy unless they offer them as kindle versions in the future.  I've read a few articles out of a few issues but sometime I will sit and read through the whole things.

Books on the "TO READ" stack...
I have to admit there are way more books on the reading pile than I'm going to list here. I'm only listing books I actually possess!  My to-read list is much much longer... I just don't have most of them in my possession... mainly due to many of the books being out-of-print and expensive to purchase. Since my in-house pile is large enough, I will wait to inter-library loan the ones I don't own. lol

The Red Goddess
by Peter Grey

As soon as I finish Apocalyptic Witchcraft by the same author, I will start this one. I have this as ebook, but because of the new UK law, you can't get ebook version anymore.

Discount Armageddon
by Seanan Mcguire

When I'm done reading Iron Kissed, I'll start this book. My hubby has been reading them and likes them a great deal, and his description makes me think I will too. I'd like to keep reading Mercy books but I don't own any more and hubby has 3 of these in house. :)

A Grimoire for Modern Cunningfolk
by Peter Paddon

When I finish reading the Crooked Path magazines I have, I'll start reading the books by Peter Paddon, starting with this one.

Letters from the Devil's Forest
by Robin Artisson

I'm not sure I can wait too long to read this. I might start it soon. lol
I bought the ebook kindle version as it was cheaper, only to discover after it downloaded that I lost my kindle charger, so had to order a replacement charger so that I can read the darned book. lol... pretty sure the charger will turn up soon as I get the new one... house-wights playing a trick on me. ha.

A Dreaming for the Witches
by Stephen J. Yeates

I regularly read a blog by Steven Posch and whenever he recommends a book I add it to my "get it" list. This title intrigued me so I got it, but it's not a high priority read right now.

A Deed Without a Name: Unearthing the Legacy of Traditional Witchcraft
by Lee Morgan

Another not high priority to read but it also looks shorter than some of my other ebooks so who knows... might read it sooner.

Lore of the Vanir
by C. Nico

Last year I read a book called Witchdom of the True: A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seidr by Edred Thorsson and was intrigued by his thesis and re-interested in the Vanir. I had briefly toyed with the idea of exploring the Heathen path or Asatru based on the portion of german ancestral heritage, but I wasn't really keen on Odin or really the current folk in Asatru. But, after reading that book, I AM more interested in the Vanir. This ebook had some good reviews.

Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows
by Melusine Draco

This author and book were on some recommended reading lists for Trad Witchcraft, and the ebook price made it affordable, so I picked it up. I'll get around to it in my copious free time. LOL

Friday, August 7, 2015

A witch in her territory

Like all predators, a witch has a territory and patrols it regularly.
Gemma Gary

In his blog post here, Steven Posch reminds us that our Craft must be local if it is to be valuable to us. What power do we have as witches if we don't know where the sun rises in relation to us standing at our front door? What wildflowers might pop up in our back yard? (I know urban witches, you might never see wildflowers, but dandelions count! find your own local power!)

 He listed a number of excellent questions, which I saved to come back to eventually. Now I have and I admit, I had to look one thing up. (where the nearest spring is!)  So here are my answers. I have decided that I do not patrol my territory enough... it took me a long time to come up with some of my answers!

What is the Moon's current phase?     waning crescent
At this moment, in what direction is the Moon?         far east, to rise around midnight

From where you live:
Where on the horizon does the Sun rise on the shortest day? The longest?    southeast (from trees), east (just north of the road from my house)
Where on the horizon does the Sun set on the shortest day? The longest?     southwest (over the creek woods), west (over the trees that block sight of the road)
How many hours of light do you get on the shortest day? The longest?   a little over 9, a little over 15
Where is the nearest body of water?     out back, behind my backyard and the yard lot behind me is Blackhawk Creek, which empties into the Mississippi
Where is the nearest river? Why is it named as it is?  Mississippi from the native americans who called it "father of waters" also Misi Sipi "big river"
Where is the nearest spring?    Burlington IA, 1.5 hr drive
Where does your drinking water come from?   From the Mississippi, through a water treatment plant
Where is the nearest oak tree?   My neighbors one house over and behind
Where is the nearest fruit tree?    a volunteer mulberry on my fenceline
Where is the nearest holy place?    my yard.  next I'd hazard a guess that the closest to me is Sunderbruch park... everything west of me on my road is old agri properties, but the park is undeveloped woods with recently (starting in 2005) added trails for hiking, offroad bikes and horses.  I call it sacred because in a small city, to have that much undeveloped woods in-city intended for people to move around in without motor help is sacred... it gets people in the WILD. Also, this whole area was settled by native americans for thousands of years, and I'm sure is riddled with their sacred sites, lost to us now.

In your area:
What is the predominant type of rock?      limestone and other sedimentary rocks
What is the soil type?    fertile brown, with some clay
What are the three predominant native trees?    maple, oak, linden
What are the three largest raptors?    owls, redtail hawks, bald eagles in winter
What is the largest native feline?     bobcat
When do the deer rut? Give birth?     last half oct-december, May-august
What are the predominant winds?     north, northwest, west, south
From what direction does most of your weather come?    west, northwest
What are the three most important crops? When are they planted? Harvested?     corn (mid-april/early may, sept-nov depending on it's purpose), soy (around april 25 unless too wet, sep-nov), livestock (sorry this isn't a crop! but it's true)

Can you name:
Three local wildflowers that bloom at Bealtaine?     may apple, sweet william, wild ginger
Three local wildflowers that bloom at Midsummers?    Queen Anne's lace, wild clover, purple coneflower
Three local wildflowers that bloom at Samhain?        late goldenrod,  might still be Queen Anne's lace, blazingstars

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Invocation of the Horned One

I found another treasure from Doreen Valiente that reminds me of Grand Sabbat. :)

Invocation of the Horned One

By the flame that burneth bright 
O Horned One!
We call thy name into the night 
O Ancient One! 

Thee we invoke by the moon-led sea
By the standing stone and the twisted tree
Thee we invoke where gather thine own
By the nameless shrine forgotten and lone
Come where the round of the dance is trod
Horn and hoof of the goat-foot God
By moonlit meadow on dusky hill
When the haunted wood is hushed and still
Come to the charm of the chanted prayer
As the moon bewitches the midnight air
Evoke thy powers, that potent bide
In shining stream and secret tide
In fiery flame by starlight pale
In shadowy host that ride the gale
And by the fern-brakes fairy-haunted
Of forests wild and wood enchanted
Come! O Come!
To the heartbeat's drum!
 Come to us who gather below
When the broad white moon is climbing slow
Through the stars to the heavens' height
We hear thy hoofs on the wind of night
As black tree branches shake and sigh
By joy and terror we know thee nigh
We speak the spell thy power unlocks
At Solstice, Sabbat, and Equinox

Word of virtue the veil to rend
From primal dawn to the wide world's end
Since time began---
The blessing of Pan!

Blessed be all in hearth and hold
Blessed in all worth more than gold
Blessed be in strength and love
Blessed be where e'er we rove

Vision fade not from our eyes
Of the pagan paradise
Past the gates of death and birth
Our inheritance of the earth

From our soul the song of spring
Fade not in our wandering

Our life with all life is one,
By blackest night or noonday sun
Eldest of gods, on thee we call:
Blessing be on thy creatures all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Witch's Ballad

 I came across this poem by Doreen Valiente at her official website, and had to share! Because I was there just over a week ago! Ah, the sabbat!

The Witch's Ballad
by Doreen Valiente
Oh, I have been beyond the town,
Where nightshade black and mandrake grow,
And I have heard and I have seen
What righteous folk would fear to know!

For I have heard, at still midnight,
Upon the hilltop far, forlorn,
With note that echoed through the dark,
The winding of the heathen horn.

And I have seen the fire aglow,
And glinting from the magic sword,
And with the inner eye beheld,
The Horned One, the Sabbat's lord.

We drank the wine, and broke the bread,
And ate it in the Old One's name.
We linked our hands to make the ring,
And laughed and leaped the Sabbat game.

Oh, little do the townsfolk reck,
When dull they lie within their bed!
Beyond the streets, beneath the stars,
A merry round the witches tread!

And round and round the circle spun,
Until the gates swung wide ajar,
That bar the boundaries of the earth
From faery realms that shine afar.

Oh, I have been and I have seen
In magic worlds of Otherwhere.
For all this world may praise or blame,
For ban or blessing nought I care.

For I have been beyond the town,
Where meadowsweet and roses grow,
And there such music did I hear
As worldly-righteous never know.
© Copyright The Doreen Valiente Foundation