Saturday, July 28, 2012

Faster, Higher, Stronger

I love the Olympics. Every couple years, athletes from around the world gather together for peaceful competition in order to show the best of what they can do. Yes, there are problems associated with how the IOC handles things and no, it's not always in the most moral or ethical way. Ideally, we could hold the games without hardship or difficulty, but I have no good solution and I'm not in charge of these things.

I love the Olympics because I firmly believe that striving for excellence in whatever you put your mind to is the ultimate praise to the Gods and because at no other time is a flame raised before the eyes of a billion people in honor of the King of Gods and in the name of peace. The IOC doesn't think of it that way. Most of the people watching and most of the athletes don't think of it that way, but for me, this is all for Zeus and it won't ever not be.

Her first knitting at four-years-old.

I won't be knitting this year but for a row or two a day on the baby blanket I've been working on. My wrists can't take more than that, but Iris has started a washcloth with a hummingbird on. It was a last-minute decision and I hope she decides to follow through if for no other reason than to see what she can do when she tries her very best. This year, I'm the coach.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This is my body

One of the hot topics around the Pagan blogosphere right now is health in the Pagan community, obesity in particular. The Wild Hunt links these and a few more in last Saturday's link roundup, so feel free to sift through these if you like. I've read through some of these... okay, so I skimmed them and I've decided that I'm not going to talk about obesity at all. Well, maybe a little, but in neither an "OBESITY IS EPIDEMIC, AHMAHGAARRD!!" nor a "NOOOOO, STOP DA FAT SHAMING!" way. This is much more than a binary thing.

I'm a small person. I've always been a small person. When I was in utero, the doc thought I was going to be a late September baby, but no. I was and still am just smallish. Even with the expanding tummy and the chest jugs that have upgraded to more than their usual half-gallon size, I'm still pretty small. I've been slender my whole life and, for the most part, it's not from diet or exercise. I don't even try. I'm just that way.

Me at my 30th birthday. I always wanted a Logan's Run party.

But there is a thing that happens to some of the women in our family. As the decades pass, we get chunky and heart and blood pressure problems start making themselves more obviously known. I'm not saying there's any causality there, just that those things happen concurrently. My mom is very similar in body type to me and these days she's wearing larger pants and taking blood pressure medication. This is partly genetic. Having native blood ain't always pow-wows and great cheekbones. It's also extra wisdom teeth and a tendency toward diabetes and heart problems. (I didn't have the extra teeth, but my brother did.)

As my mother would say, I want to live long enough to be a burden on my children. A heart attack or other major health problems are not whatchacall gonna help me get to that goal. Additionally, I'm a priestess of Apollo. His descendants include Asklepios, Hygeia, Panacea and the entire medical profession. The Hippocratic Oath mentions each one of these deities in its original form and taking this oath has marked the beginning of a physicians career since the late 5th century BCE. The modern version doesn't include these gods and is not required by most medical schools, but I don't think they could remove the spirit of Apollo from it.

Here's a little bit of a tangent, but we'll come back around, I promise.
Hippocrates of Kos was probably trained at the asklepeion there, the asklepeion being a healing house and temple to Asklepios, son of Apollo and Koronis. He is credited with the idea that illness and disease are naturally caused rather than caused by the gods. I'd wager that the theory is a little more layered and nuanced than that, given that Hippocrates seems to have been a believing man. Prayers to the gods are prescribed in certain particular cases in the Hippocratic Corpus and even though it's an exception to a rule, it's a notable exception. I can't tell you much about what Hippocrates himself believed, but as a woman of science, I think I kind of understand this mode of thinking. Everything does have a natural cause, including disease. We understand that natural cause to be everything from bacteria and viruses to environmental factors, to genetics, and so on. So, when someone is sick or injured we can either trace the illness or injury to its source or assume that there is a physical source of some kind, even if we don't know what that is. That said, I also believe that the gods are connected to the natural world, often in ways we don't understand. If a flu epidemic comes through, I know that the source is a virus that came from somewhere, but I'm also not going to say that Apollo isn't involved.

Hakuna Fritatta... actually, I suppose that's a quiche, isn't it?
So, coming back around, this post is about excellence. Devotion to my god means getting the most out of this life that I can and doing my best to be skilled at having this body. I've seen members of my local and regional community make poor health choices and I've made poor health choices myself. As a priestess, I feel that it's my responsibility to help others make better choices either by example or by direct teaching. This idea is an integral part of our Midsummer celebration when we have backyard games to honor Apollo. Being a worthy vessel for my god is why I try to eat really really healthy and exercise as appropriate. We try to serve healthy foods at our gatherings and hootenannies. My skinny ass needs that as much as anybody.

It's not really enough to say "How very sad so many of us are fat" and to give statistics on obesity and health problems. In fact, don't. It's not helpful. We who are leaders in our communities need to both examine our own health choices, make positive changes where we can in our own lives, and make positive changes where we can in things like feast preparation and by offering classes on healthy choices. Not because some of our fellows are fat, but to help all those who want to be healthier whatever their size and medical history may be.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh, for Pete's sake, it's a goldurned hat.

The "debate" continues on the subject of what in the beans veiling "symbolizes" and I keep falling for the internet troll traps. This is a bridge and I am a goat. Shame on me. Someone is always wrong on the internet and I need to disengage.

Since this is my blog, I'm still going to talk about it here. It's pissing me off and this is a good place for me to talk about the things that make me want to turn green, grow to five times my normal size, and smash stuff. (I would be a smallish She-Hulk by Hulk standards, but still quite capable of smashing.)

I've heard all these arguments before, mostly from people like this:

These are photos from news coverage about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and I would bet you two shiny pennies that every single one of these ignorant rednecks would call themselves a Christian.

The ICM is just up the road apiece from me and I've been involved in helping them fight for religious freedom since this whole business started. As a Pagan, I know that when one minority group is bullied by the majority, we all become second-class citizens. If we'd decided to build a Pagan center, this could have very easily have been us.

One of the excellent things that's come out of this is that I have made friends that I never would have made before and learned so much about Muslims and Islam. I was even able to host the imam at one of our gatherings so that he could talk about his faith. Several people arrived skeptical and a little nervous, but left knowing a little more and feeling a little more at peace with our Muslim neighbors.

Like us, they're just folks who want to practice their religion. Like us, people get all kinds of ideas about what their religion is and what the associated symbols mean. So, it really pisses me off when Pagans, of all people, start sounding like the ignorant rednecks pictured above. We should know better than that. And yet there are those yahoos that do not, apparently, know better. I keep hearing about how the hijab is a symbol of oppression.

No. It's a goldurned hat. It's a piece of fabric some people put on their heads. Any meaning beyond that has been made up in your brain. Even those who wear it have applied their very own meaning to it. I could choose to wear a five-pointed star with a circle around it and there are some people who would make some pretty horrible assumptions about what that means. I know what it means to me, but when you get down to it, it's a star with a circle around it. Any meaning beyond that has been made up in your brain.

Now I know "symbols have power" blah, blah, blah "swastika." But the same principle applies. The swastika is a shape and the meaning applied to it comes out of the brain of whomever is looking at it. That meaning comes from a person's knowledge and experience, but has no more "rightness" to it than the other guy's meaning who has completely different knowledge and set of experiences. I'm not advocating swastika usage because the meaning I personally apply to it is a really scary one. And when these guys use it, they're pretty clear about what they mean by it:

Illinois Nazis

But this veers waaaay off topic. (Hello, straw man!) The fact remains that if a lady so chooses to wear some fabric on her head, she shouldn't have to be subject to verbal abuse, social stigma, or violence. Period. The end.

Where my tichel at?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What I put on my head is my own business.

I've been a part-time wearer of things on my head for some time now. Here's photographic evidence from about eight years ago and somewhere I have a photo of me from some time in the early 90's where I'm wearing a similar bandana as a kerchief. I've just moved, so I have no idea where that photo is.

Here's me wearing a hat:

A rather fuzzy picture of me doing dishes or something:

And here's me looking pretty snazzy before I go do a science outreach thing.

When I cover my head, it might be for a number of reasons-- none of which you would know unless you asked me. I do so because my hair isn't doing what I want it to, because it looks nice, because it's comfortable, because it keeps the sun off my head, because I'm cold, because I'm praying, because I want to express humility in the presence of my gods, and, most importantly:


As a Pagan, I don't have any written text that compels me to cover my head and even my dear Muslim friends who cover do so because they've made the choice to do so. I've "met" Christian and non-theist women online who choose to cover for various reasons and the nice Mennonite ladies that make the excellent fried pies at the Franklin Farmer's Market wear the little white kapps that I could never pull off. I've never asked why. I just buy my fried pie and say "Thank you." We've all made the choice to put a thing on our heads. We do it on purpose and for a wide variety of reasons. Which you wouldn't know unless you asked.

And yet, there are those who would be hostile and violent to a woman who decides to put a thing on her head. Hence the First International Covered in Light Day. Since this was first posted, there have been a number of individuals who have spoken out against the idea of covering, suggesting all sorts of ridiculous things like that it's a symbol of oppression or some other such codswallop. Do I seem oppressed to you? Ask me and I will tell you how not oppressed I am. Ask some of the Muslim ladies I know and they will also tell you how not oppressed they are. Talk to them for five minutes and you will believe that they are in charge of things. They will probably also feed you. Try the baklava; it's amazing.

Supporting women who cover is about freedom of choice. No person should feel pressured, shamed, or bullied into adopting a mode of dress that they don't want to adopt. Just as my heart goes out to those who are forced to cover when they don't want to, I feel compassion for those who are disallowed from doing so when they feel compelled by their belief and conscience to cover. The nice people at Covered in Light put it much better and Mrs. B over at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom was likewise much more polite than I'm willing to be on this matter. Mrs. B also has some lovely pictures of covering in ancient times.

The only time that I've seen someone who covers being treated like a second-class citizen is by ignorant rednecks who have a wrong idea about who and what that person is. I've seen too much hostility firsthand to put up with this and I won't tolerate it from the so-called "Christians" up the street and I won't tolerate it from Pagans.

I'd already decided to cover today (my hair-- what is it even doing?), but now I'm mad and am doing it on purpose with intention. If you want to give me some bullshit reason why I shouldn't, the complaining area is out the back door. Discuss it with the deer.