Things I learned today…

1.  Pumpkins don’t have as many “guts” as one might think…

2.  They do, however, hang on to what they have rather tenaciously.

3.  I may have the skill to carve a pumpkin that looks exactly like Heath Ledger’s Joker, but I SO do not have the time.

And

4.  Its perfectly normal to anthropomorphize your pumpkin after carving it.

Its even OK to do so before.

But talking to your pumpkin WHILE cutting it up and scooping out its brains?  If you don’t find that incredibly disturbing, those around you will.  Especially if you also happen to choose this time to rehearse your evil laugh.  (Its about standards.)

Happy Night Before Halloween!

V – Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth the Witch (PBP week 43)

“It is sweeter far than flowing honey.”

– Homer, The Iliad (XVIII, 109)

Personally I find revenge to be ill-advised in most cases.  It prolongs the pain of the one seeking vengeance, adds to the overall suffering in the world, and is rarely as fulfilling as we imagine it will be.

But that’s “in most cases.”  There are times when revenge is justified, when the normal channels of justice are insufficient.

To put it another way, some folks just need hexing.

An example:

My mother is in her seventies.  She’s never been a wealthy woman, but lately has been having financial troubles and has been considering filing bankruptcy.  She contacted someone online who claimed to be a bankruptcy attorney.  Maybe they actually were, but after she gave them all her financial information and made close to $1,000 in payments she never heard from them again.  She had been referring her creditors to a phone number they gave her, but when she called it herself, it had been disconnected.  There was no answer on the other number she had for them.

Mom did everything available to her through normal channels.  She cancelled the automatic payments and closed her bank account.   She filed a complaint with the local sheriff and the FBI internet crimes division.

Local law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to pursue internet fraud.  The FBI does, but she’s one of thousands of victims and will probably never hear back from them one way or the other.

Would revenge, in this case, be justified?  “People” taking advantage of little old ladies with financial troubles?

I’m thinkin’ yeah.

While I want these people to die painfully in a fiery crash, that would probably be a little extreme.  But a nice curse to ensure their arrest and conviction, with a healthy dose financial ruin tossed in for good measure?  Totally worth it.

Most religions, pagan included, discourage acts of vengeance.  I dare say for good reason (see above re: fiery crash.) But, going back to my previous post on the Wiccan Rede:  An it harm none, do what thou wilt.  An it harm bastards who prey on the elderly?  Well, that’s a personal responsibility thing, isn’t it?  Consider the possible consequences, be willing to take responsibility for them, and make up your own mind.

The Delphic maxims don’t seems to address vengeance directly, either.  (Though but that could just be the translation I have, not being fluent in Greek myself.)  They speak about justice a great deal, one’s actions must be just.  But, while revenge definitely has the potential to be unjust, it does not have to be.

So what does your path say about revenge?  Is it forbidden?  Are there guidelines, or is it left to a personal choice?

21 – The World

Card:  21 – The World

Deck:  The Vertigo Tarot

Visual Description:  Glowing green primordial ooze.  Silhouettes of plant life.  A female form seems to be emerging from the ooze or sinking into it.  The figure has no head, hands, or feet – or these extremities are still submerged.  A wreath of metal flecks dominates the center of the card, above it is a scrap of paper with color samples.

Another image I’m not wild about.  For the reasons noted on The Star, but also because its just not McKean’s best work.  The composition is stagnant, uninspired.

Character Analysis:  The character illustrated on this card is supposed to be the Swamp Thing, but he’s not really here – merely suggested in the plant silhouette.  What seems to be illustrated instead is the vegetable spirit of the Earth, “the Green,” that he communes with.

Astrological Attributions:  Saturn

My Stuff:

The World, The Universe, The Aeon

All that is and ever will be

Completion

The physical world as opposed to the spiritual one

Opinions of others

Weight of the World

Deep, deep primal truths

Looking outward

I get by with a little help from my friends…

Carlos Santana

20 – Judgement

Card:  20 – Judgement

Deck:  The Vertigo Tarot

Visual Description: An infant being held aloft above a sea of reaching hands. Above hir head, the bells of trumpets. The card is very red and fiery, but the feeling is celebratory.

Astrological Attributions: Uranus

My Stuff:

Reward and punishment

Snap judgement

Punishment does not fit the crime

Just deserts

Acknowledgement of a long, silent struggle

Delayed gratification

Happiness in the next life for suffering in this one

Resurrection (metaphorical)

Caution and careful thought are warranted

???

19 – The Sun

Card:  19 – The Sun

Deck:  The Vertigo Tarot

Visual Description: An infant riding what appears to be a wolfhound (definitely more “large dog” than “pony.”)  Gold metallic flecks cover the bottom of the card and circle around the child’s head.  On the left side of hir head are 7 symbolic solar rays.  A sumptuous looking bit of red fabric floats around the child and the dogpony.  Above the child’s head is a drawing of the sun surrounded by the moon in it’s orbit.  The upper part of the card glows with a light emanating from the drawing of the sun.

Astrological Attributions:  The sun

My Stuff:

Innocence

Delight

Adam and Eve before the fall

Paradise regained

Joy

Beauty

Naivete

Freedom

Helios Apollo

Vitality

Robert Plant

U – Materia Medica: Usnea barbata (PBP week 42)

I’ve been having some trouble coming up with a second “U” post for the Pagan Blog Project.  Its week 42, so a post titled “Life, the Universe, and Everything” was very tempting, but I got stuck after the title.  (Besides, I’ve already seen one Douglas Adams reference on the PBP page and its not even Friday.  Given the fondness many pagans seem to have for Adams, I doubt it will be the last.)

So I decided this might be a good time to talk some herbs.  I studied medicinal herbalism for a year under the incredibly gifted Kita Centella, owner of Chakra 4 Herb and Tea House in Phoenix, AZ.  Since then, I have continued my studies independently – with a focus on magic and ethnobotany.  I am not a professional or licensed herbalist, but I have learned a few things worth sharing and have managed not to poison any friends or family members who come to me for advice.

FDA disclaimer:  Nothing I write here is intended to diagnose or treat an illness.  I am sharing my own experiences and that of others, not making recommendations.  Please use your discretion as to what you choose to do with this information.

Enough with the preamble.  This is Usnea barbata:

Also known as Old Man’s Beard or Bearded Lichen, it is common to many forested areas in North America.  (Other species of Usnea grow worldwide.)  One does not need to spend much time in the redwood forests where I grew up before coming across it.

Usnea is very sensitive to air pollution.  Because of this when found in city parks it is very stunted; the further it is from civilization, the more it thrives.  If you want to know the air quality in your area, look for the usnea.

As with any lichen (or really anything), you want to be sure of your identification before using.  Usnea is a light greenish grey in color.  (Avoid brightly colored lichens as a general rule.)  It grows on trees, looking very similar to Spanish Moss.  It can also be found loose on the ground, especially after a wind storm.  For a positive ID, remove the outer sheath to reveal a white inner cord.  It will look a bit like a wire with insulation partially removed.

My grandfather first introduced me to this “plant.”  He told me that if I should ever get hurt in the woods, I should apply bearded lichen to the wound to stop the bleeding and prevent infection.  Further research backs him up – usnea has astringent properties that would slow bleeding and anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties which would cover any kind of infection.  It has been used to treat many things, from colds and athlete’s foot to herpes and chronic fatigue.  Because it is also an immunostimulant, it may be useful as part of a regimen for AIDS.

Dosage:  Apply entire plant directly to skin as a poultice for first aid or skin fungus.  An herbal wash (basically a very strong infusion) can be used externally if a poultice is not practical.  Internally, usnea can be taken in tincture or pill form, but I have found an infusion is best – up to 3 cups of tea a day.  One of it’s constituents, usnic acid, can be toxic but it is not easily absorbed by the body.  It is also not water soluble, so if you have any concerns an in infusion should set them at ease.  It is best to avoid taking usnea internally if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Usnea also can be used as a fabric dye, creating a lovely yellow color.

Magically, usnea has strong affiliations with the element of air, but also with old age.  For me, it evokes a sense of the deep, primeval forest.  Of otherness, something not quite of the world I live in.  I have not found any established astrological attributions, but it’s association with age and it’s cool energy speak to me of Saturn.

Web MD entry on Usnea

18 – The Moon

Card:  18 – The Moon

Deck:  The Vertigo Tarot

Visual Description: Above, the moon, mostly full, with a slightly distorted face as though the surface of the card was a pool of water and someone threw a stone into it. Below, a giant lobster, in it’s claws are two skeletal dogs howling at the moon. Behind the dogs, two skyscrapers against a purple sky. The one on the left appears to be glowing with fire and possibly smoking. (This deck was published in 1995.)

Astrological Attributions: Pisces

My Stuff:

Deceit

Betrayal

Confusion

Intuition

Trust your gut

Spirituality

Stevie Nicks