Monday, November 4, 2013

Early November Celebrations

My Home Jar
The end of October and beginning of November had a few key events I took part in. First was my own Gaelic Polytheistic celebration of Samhain, followed by a Dia de los Muertos festival put on by the Mexican Historica Society, and then lastly a NeoWiccan Samhain ritual at the UU Pagan Group. There was...quite a lot going on between all three of those events that I wish to share.

My own ritual isn't worth delving into great detail over. It only solidified that I need to work more on daily prayers, and move my altar away from the wafting smells of my cat's litter box. Luckily, my boyfriend wants my altar in the living room space (he worried I felt ashamed and that is why it was placed behind the divider in the bedroom area.) When I told him I want to move things around to move the altar, he gave me a told-you-so type look. So, in the next few days, I plan to rearrange the studio to accommodate my new design.

On Saturday, I attended the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead festival. Attending was a real joy to experience, mostly because it was going to be put on by people of the culture and not a middle school Spanish class project. Since learning about the day in my Spanish class, I had been curious and intrigued by the celebration.  I was so happy when Chalice (a friend from UU) invited everyone from the UU Pagan Group to visit her and her friend's altar.

The actual area was much smaller than I had thought it'd be, but this is the first year Omaha has hosted the event. I was surprise by a new side of Omaha I had never visited: basically a "Little Mexico" in this city (though I don't think the only people there are from Mexico. Little Spanish Town is a better phrasing perhaps?) I didn't know there was such a large number of Hispanic people in Omaha, though I am pleasantly surprise. I walked towards the tents while a Mariachi band was playing and singing. There was a stand selling sugar skulls (I think you could paint them yourselves?) as well as food. I walked into the first tent and saw Chalice. She showed me her altar, introducing me to her dead relatives and friends and pets, as well as pointed out the traditional items. She then showed me the other altars, most of which were community altars done by Hispanic organizations. A notable altar was the local librarian's altar dedicated to a recently deceased Spanish author.

The band Mariachi Zapata playing for the organizer's dead father's altar.
I talked to Chalice about Cross Quarterly as well, and how she wants to do an altar next year on behalf of the zine for interfaith super-stars. Also have an altar from the UU church. Needless to say, I'm excited to take part next year.

On Sunday, I went to the UU Pagan Group's NeoWiccan Samhain ritual. Before going, I made a cake with charms placed inside as a sort of divination that was traditionally done in Gaelic or Irish cultures. I also rounded up the Parshall Crosses I made to give to the people attending.

The Charms, left to right: a dove for peace, a rose for love, and a tiger for adventure.
Chocolate cake.
Parshall Crosses I hand-made.
Apparently, Parshall Crosses look like something called God's Eyes? I wasn't sure at the time if that was an evolution of Parshall Crosses when the Christian church converted Ireland, but apparently they are unrelated. This sort of thwarted my plan to introduce more Gaelic customs into the celebration, since no one seemed as interested in the superstition of the crosses or the cake (which apparently is similar to the King's Cake, with different customs.) Fortunately for my ego, Chalice was interested in both and enthusiastically took part in eating the cake for the charms. She even explained it to the little kids who were there.

Early on, I felt very wary when someone started to mention the Good Folk stealing her items. Yet there was a person in the midst who though Faeries were "great little helpers" and I cringed. I cringed so hard. I think it's mostly because of what I know of Faeries in the Gaelic context, but even before, they were never to be trifled with. They are mischievous and easily greedy. I don't know why someone would want to risk their sanity to invite them into their house.

My social anxiety was put to the test since there was almost twice as many people there as normal. From when I attended in the past, the group tended to be between five and maybe eight people. This time it was thirteen and then some. I felt very out of place, because once again, I was the only person I knew who didn't celebrate in a NeoWiccan fashion. None of this the fault of them, of course. Though I do worry that they think Paganism is all about Nature Worship which it is not always... (This wasn't explicitly stated, so I didn't feel it necessary to challenge that perception.)

To make matters worse, I found myself during the evening sandwiched between a group talking about a nude handfasting that just eerily reminded me of this article about The Frosts (warning: incest and pedophile are behind that link.) Also reminded me why I moved away from a fertility religion such as Wicca, which is what NeoWicca bases itself on. And I didn't want to enter that conversation because of the context that nudity is a negative, shameful thing. But there was much more wrong with what the person was describing than nudity, and I did not want to try to defend that.

On the other side of me though, engaging me in conversation, was an older woman who decided to tell me about the costumes she wears. I didn't mind up until she began to describe how she "couldn't find the type of G****y costume" she wanted. I cringed and told her to not say that word, as it is a slur. She simply said, "Oh." but continued to talk about trying to find costume pieces that included a flowy skirt, head band, and tarot cards. I just...I didn't have the energy to go into it all. She was easily twice my age. I wish I was capable of just giving her the links to why that word is a Slur, why that costume is racist, but alas I was not online. I am also not part of those cultures, and with the recent accusations of talking over people of the culture, I just wanted to give this woman access to their blogs and articles. Ugh. I might just print them out for easy access... Oh, and I also think this woman is under the impression that everyone is Wicca and that Pagan = Wicca and vice versa. If I'm lucky, I won't have to see her again. If I'm not, well, I have quite a few things to say about the lies her spirituality is built around. And I don't want to be that person...

Anyway, the ritual was very nice, as always, though I do not care for the God and the Goddess nor the 4 Directional Elements. This time, though, the organizer sang in Latin to call the Quarters. This struck me as odd, because to my knowledge she had no knowledge of Ceremonial Magic or even an interest in Italian Paganism. After dinner, I found a Unitarian Universalist Hymnbook laying out and put the two together. She saw me eyeing it, and struck up a conversation about how she actually re-purposed a song in the book to 1) be in Latin and 2) call the Quarters. I was impressed! The book itself is full of wonderful church-y songs that don't focus on the Christian God.

"Singing the Journey", a UU Song Book
I enjoyed that part of the evening.

I wish I felt stronger mentally that I didn't feel like I was tiptoeing around offending people. And nothing anyone said was outrageous enough to warrant my zeal, save for the woman using the slur (to which I did have to correct, but since she didn't inquire more, I didn't explain why it was and why the costume was racist.) I'm interested in what will be happening next year, since the leadership is moving to new hands. This is the year's first time doing group rituals, so I don't know if they'll do them again. If so, I think I'll highly recommend changing it from the NeoWiccan focus to an interfaith focus. If rituals are put aside to just hold monthly talks--which is how it was the previous year--I may ask if I can host Gaelic Polytheistic rituals and invite people to them. I would love to share the festivals with others, as they are intended, though if I did a strict Gaelic Polytheistic ritual people would be very, very confused. And maybe that's a good thing. (The looks on a few people's faces when I said I knew someone who honored Loki and Lucifer was astonishing...)

Also, as a last regret, I do hate how the children weren't included in the ritual. I don't know if that was because of the organizer's request or the mother's, but I would have liked them to be there. If not, I should have volunteered to watch them because I would have much enjoyed their play than honoring a God and Goddess I don't honor or acknowledge. I don't know...I felt so guilty for how they were excluded.

I don't know if I have a question for you this time, Reader. Other than to perhaps inquire for you to also share your seasonal celebrations?

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