Monday, December 31, 2012

Kwanzaa - Creativity

Today's theme is kuumba. When I think of creativity, I think of music, art, poetry, etc. I was watching the Africa Channel and I was reminded of group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They have awesome harmony. The following is a cover of "Ain't No Sunshine."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kwanzaa - Collective Work & Responsibility

Immediately this makes me think of the family unit. Everyone has a part to do. It is the parent's responsibility to go to work, pay bills, and provide a loving stable environment for any children. It is the child's responsibility to go to school and get good grades. As the child gets older, s/he can assist with household chores like cooking and cleaning. I strongly suggest that teens should get a job. Once they have their own money, see how easy it becomes to teach value of a dollar.

Of course, ujima can be and is broaden to include the (Black) community. Way to often I hear Black folks being compared to crabs in a barrel. One gets to the top and the rest pull him down. Why are we like this? This is also said about women. Why are we so catty? We see a female in a high position at work and we automatically assume she slept her way to the top.

Let broaden this to the entire human community. Whenever there's a murder sensationalized by the media, everyone wants to point fingers - oh it's the parent's fault; let's ban guns; this neighborhood was fine until they moved in. The fault is ours as in society. We failed these people. So let's start taking responsibility. Support Black- and women-owned business when possible. In fact, support your local small businesses and farms.

Don't forget about the animal community. If planning to get a pet, please check your local humane society or shelter first. Even if you are looking for a purebred, check purebred rescue websites and shelters. Many of these shelters require you to spay/neuter your pet.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kwanzaa - Self-Determination

Who are you? What is your heritage? What do you wish to become?

I was watching Roots the other day and I started thinking about my ancestors. I wonder where in Africa they were from. What is my true family name? What would my Native (American) name be? How would my life be different if traditions from my ancestors were still in my family? What new traditions can I start for my family?

I've made a small step towards finding out who I am. It's been 1 yr since I've had a relaxer in my hair. It feels strange but good. I frequently run my fingers through my hair to feel the crinkly new growth which is about 5 inches now. How did relaxed Black hair become the norm?

My son had braids or locs from the time he was born until his father cut them without my permission. Our men don't relax their hair so why should we?

All children should be taught Black history and not just for one month out of the year. Yes, we were slaves, but we were also kings and queens and warriors.

Use this day to set goals.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kwanzaa - Unity

I thought about making this a Pagan Blog Post but Kwanzaa is not a Pagan holiday. In fact, it's not even religious. 

What exactly is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is a pseudo-African-American* holiday invented by Dr. Maulana Karenga based on a harvest holiday celebrated in some African countries. Kwanzaa is a static holiday; it is always held Dec 26-Jan 1. It is not a replacement for Christmas. As far as I can tell, there are no deities involved.

The holiday lasts 7 days with each day being the focus of one of 7 principles: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). The kinara or candle holder holds 7 candles: 1 black, 3 red, and 3 green. One candle is lit each day.

Each day, the head of the family says "Habari gani?" The rest of the family replies with the principle for the day.

The official Kwanzaa site explains how to celebrate. Under Preparation, the site says to not mix Kwanzaa with any other cultural celebration. Okay, I have a problem with this. First, Kwanzaa occurs right in the middle of the 13 days of Yuletide. Second, my heritage is mixed. If I knew which Native tribe and European countries my ancestors were from, I would mix that in as well. Besides, I'm American by birth which can mean anything.

Day 1 - Unity
Unity focuses on the togetherness of the family and community. I'll go a step further and stress the importance of unity of the human race.

*Normally I avoid the term African-American. I'm sure some of my ancestors were African. Some were probably White and Native as well. But because I have brown skin, somebody thought it was politically correct to term me as African-American. I was born here in America as were my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. My race should not be confused with my nationality. Whites aren't referred to as European-Americans.

Joyous Kwanzaa!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Day After

Well, I wasn't expecting an earth-shattering kaboom. What I was expecting was some sort of divine message. I did get some ideas, like I want to give myself a Kemetic name and I drew an Ace of Swords for my theme this year. I also got some affirmations about my spiritual path. While I'm more Pagan than Buddhist, I am quite positive that I am on the correct path.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pagan Blog Project - Z is for Zecora

Yeah, we knew Z would be difficult!

Zecora is a character in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. She is a zebra who lives in Ever Free Forest. What does she have to do with the pagan project, you may ask. Well, Zecora is a witch. I don't think the series comes out and says it but the inference is there. When Zecora is first introduced, the other ponies are afraid of her. She speaks in riddles with a Nigerian accent and her hut is filled with potion bottles. Her cutie mark (the symbol on each flank) is a stylized sun. Once the ponies get to know Zecora better, they come to her for all sorts of ailments and include her in the town's celebrations.

This portrayal of witches is a bit stereotypical but I don't think it's in a negative way. People are often afraid of others who isolate themselves and are different. None of the other ponies have accents. They all live in town - the main characters live in Ponyville - not in the forest like Zecora. Witches are more accepted today than in the past. However, there are still some of us who still have the need to stay in the broom closet.

MLP:FiM is a kids show that has a whole community of adult followers. I hope that by portraying witchcraft in a positive light, society can continue to accept us.

This is a video of the G4 cosplayers for the 2012 My Little Pony Fair. Being Zecora was a no-brainer!

Blessed Yule!

Blessed Yule!

10th Solar Month - Capricorn

Length: 30 days (Dec 21 - Jan 19)
Nominal: Capricornian
Symbol: sea-goat
Element: Earth
Quality: Cardinal
Rulers: Saturn (day) & Uranus (night)
Detriment: Moon (day & night)

Tropical or solar zodiac is basically the same every year and is aligned to the seasons. Sidereal zodiac shifts and is how the stars appear in the sky at a given moment. Your true sign is the sidereal one and may or may not match the tropical zodiac.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pagan Blog Project - Y is for Year & a Day

When searching for info on Paganism, you will come across the phrase year and a day. What exactly does this mean? In covens with a degree system, the student will need to spend at least a year and a day before moving up. Seekers must spend a year and a day before being formally admitted into the coven. Before I get to the meaning of YaaD, I will need to define year.

What is a year?
A year is a measure of time and space, specifically, the time that it takes for a heavenly body to move around a fixed point. In our case, this is the time it takes for the earth to complete a revolution around the sun.

Why YaaD?
Apparently the timeframe YaaD is rooted in medieval common law. I couldn't find anything that pointed to a specific pagan tradition.

Types of years
Most places on Earth use the Gregorian calendar which is based on the tropical year. The tropical or solar year measures the time it takes for sun to appear in the same position of the sky aligned with the seasons. For example, March equinox to March equinox is one tropical year. The tropical year is averaged at 365.25 days.

The lunar year is a little trickier. The moon revolves around the earth which revolves around the sun. If we define a lunar month as 29.5 days, then a lunar year would be 354 (12 * 29.5) days. In order to sync the lunar year with the solar year, every 2 or 3 years a leap month is necessary. So a lunar year can be 354, 383, or 384 days.

But wait! If we take the average women's menstruation cycle of 28 days, which is roughly a sidereal month, the lunar year is 364 (28*13) days. The ancients maybe figured this was the best way to fit the moonth with the solar year with 1 day left over. Today, our moon does not have anything to do with how the months are figured.

I like to believe that the pagans of old paid way more attention to the moon than today's society. For that reason, I posit that year and a day originally referred to the moonth of 28 days fitting into the solar year. Now, many of us who practice Paganism are Neo-Pagans. We benefit from today's scientific and technological advances. If  YaaD means a solar year + 1 day to you, who am I to argue?

When does the year begin?
Just pick your favorite:

  • your personal year is your birthday. Since I'm into astrology, my personal year is marked by the sun's return to the exact place in the sky when I was born. This is called a solar return.
  • The Gregorian calendar begins on 1/1. Seems arbitrary to me.
  • Some refer to the Witch's New Year as beginning on Samhain which is 10/31 or 11/7 depending on your tradition. Other witches/pagans use other days. I like Yule / winter solstice.
  • Cultures around the world use either the full or new moon before a solar event (solstice, equinox, quarter day) to mark the beginning of the year.

How does your tradition define year and a day?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raging Moon

New moon in Scorpio

On raging moon, we deal with all of our irrational desires and selfishness, all the parts of ourselves that we were taught to repress as early as kindergarten...The raging moon is the best time for shadow work, that task of going into one's psychological cellar and learning to love the most unacceptable parts of oneself for what it is, with no attempts to change it. Healing is not the point here. - Moon Phase Astrology by Raven Kaldera.

None of us are perfect. This moon is the time to reflect on our negative traits. Don't feel bad about them. Use them to your advantage. After all, you wouldn't be you without good and bad. New moons are always for "me-time", a period of reflection and contemplation. Throw your moral compass away metaphorically. If you have a trusted companion that you can explore your dark side with, that's even better. Remember, though, to be safe, sane, and always get consent.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Is Your Religion a Cult? Pt 3

Last night I was a show called Doomsday Cults. It featured Heaven's Gate, Jim Jones, and Church Universal and Triumphant. A couple years ago, I assessed Jehovah's Witness, 2 sects of Nichiren Buddhism, and Paganism for cultish behavior. Now that I am a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, it's only fair that I assess them as well. If you disagree with my assessment, feel free to comment. My answers are based on my current knowledge.

Do the members depend upon a charismatic leader,
   or his memory, and upon whom they heap adoration?

     no. Each congregation is autonomous. The president of UUA is Peter Morales. I've been attending the Unitarian Universalists of Fallston for over a year and I don't recall his name ever being mentioned. In fact, I have no idea of what his personal beliefs are.

   Question 2

   Is there pressure to donate all or most of your
   disposable income?
   no. The congregation would like you to pledge a contribution so that it can make its yearly budget. An announcement is made at the Sunday meeting to donate. Members are not told how much to donate.

  Question 3

   Do members devote all or most of their spare time to
   organizational activities?

  not if they don't want to. No one is forced to participate although I have been nudged for some things :)

   Question 4

   Are the members inconvenienced, for example, expected
   to drive long distances to attend large central meetings?

I'm gonna say no. There is a general assembly every year I think but it's not mandatory. If you can make it, fine.

   Question 5

   Do the publications co-opt the names and accomplishments of
   famous people, even though the people being co-opted are not

no, I think. I haven't been pushed to read any UU literature. I have the magazine but it only features members.

   Question 6

   Do the publications ignore the feedback or criticisms
   submitted by rank and file members?

   The magazine has a Letters to the Editor section. I don't know about any other publications.

   Question 7

   Are members with long time chronic problems eventually
   looked down upon and made to feel unwelcome?

   not that I'm aware of

   Question 8

   Are there high-pressure targets for increasing membership?

 no, at least not in my congregation. I was a Friend of the congregation for about a year - year and a half. After going through the Intro to Membership presentation, I wasn't asked again. Ever. I signed up when I felt comfortable.

   Question 9

   Are decisions in the organization made top-down and

    Maybe some, but unsure. Congregations are autonomous and they make their own decisions. I guess they work within a basic UU framework. There will be differences between congregations.

   Question 10

   Are the organization's leaders appointed rather
   than elected?


   Question 11

   Are the organization's charter, mission, rules, and
   by-laws made by the top leaders without consulting the
   rank and file members?

   not sure

   Question 12

   Is there an absence of financial transparency?

   not sure

Question 13

   Are members pressured to give inflated testimonials
   at meetings?

  no. There has never been a testimonial at my UU congregation.

   Question 14

   Are non-believers regarded with aloofness and suspicion?

 no. I was welcomed from day 1. But this question doesn't really fit. There is not really a such thing as a UU non-believer. Non-member, yes.

   Question 15

   Are members told who to vote for in public elections?

  not that I'm aware of

   Question 16

   Does the organization interfere in a member's
   choice of personal lifestyle?


   Question 17

   Does the organization interfere in a member's
   choice of marital partner?


   Question 18

   Are scandals within the organization hidden?

   I'm not aware of any UU scandals. Time to do Google search.

   Question 19

   Does the organization attack competing organizations,
   denominations or religions?

   no, although it has been said that UU is not for everyone.

   Question 20

   Is culture misused, watered down, or bastardized, in order
   to help achieve numerous rapid shallow conversions?


   Question 21

   Are members discouraged from asking a lot of questions?


 Question 22

   Is individuality suppressed and conformity promoted?


Question 23

   Are some of the beliefs, doctrines, or practices bizarre?

   Interesting question. As a whole, UU is quite generic and I mean that in a good way. I guarantee that individually, there may be members who have "bizarre" practices. No one's complaining.

   Question 24

   Is dissent suppressed and hidden?

   no. If you no longer want to be UU, you can leave. They will be sad to see you go but won't force you to stay.

   Question 25

   Are members told that if they discontinue their
   participation, their personal destiny will

   no. Again, they will miss your fellowship.