Faith and Motivation

I belong to a website called SparkPeople. It’s this massive, online, free community of people trying to better their lives and reach weight or fitness goals.  A lot of the people on the website are devoted Christians, and use their faith to help motivate them to reach their goals.

As witches, we are often left by the wayside in terms of group support.  We’re loners.  We walk our own paths.  Now, there are some pagan support groups on that site, sure – but none are quite as…structured…as Christian ones.  We don’t really ask people to pray for us.

Over the next few weeks, both here and on SparkPeople, I’m going to try to put together sources of motivation from pagan and Wiccan texts.  Stuff that we can rely on to help change our lives.  And perhaps, design a faith-based strategy for pagans to reach their weight and fitness goals.

In other news, in terms of projects, I can direct you to a few places.  First of all, I’m starting, through the Order of the Gecko, something I’m calling, “The Buffalo Project.”  I’m also, of course, in Arizona working on a research project.  I’m currently creating Reiki classes through the Order of the Gecko.  I’m beginning to search for Graduate Schools.  I’m studying for the GRE.  I’m learning a new guitar song.

I’ll try to keep the posting consistent.  Promise!

Pagans, partygoers greet solstice at Stonehenge – Yahoo! News

STONEHENGE, England – Pagans and partygoers drummed, danced or gyrated in hula hoops to stay awake through the night, as more than 35,000 people greeted the summer solstice Sunday at the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge.

Despite fears of trouble because of the record-sized crowd, police said the annual party at the mysterious monument was mostly peaceful.

“It’s the most magical place on the planet,” said antique salesman Frank Somers, 43, dressed in the robes of his Druid faith.

“Inside when you touch the stones you feel a warmth like you’re touching a tree, not a stone. There’s a genuine love, you feel called to it,” he said.

The prehistoric monument in southern England is the site of an annual night-long party — or religious ceremony, depending on perspective — marking the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Warm weather and the fact that this year’s solstice fell on a weekend helped draw a record crowd.

“There has been a great atmosphere and where else would you want to be on midsummer’s day?” said Peter Carson of English Heritage, the body in charge of Stonehenge.

Happy Solstice All!

The Importance of Thought In Conflict

So, I’m not a stranger to the social networking applications. For the most part, I use facebook, and the other day, I started a very long, semi-heated discussion with a conservative person from elementary school, about the United States and it’s new President. I wouldn’t have – I don’t like those arguments – but it really pisses me off when people make sweeping statements. “All pagans are crazies.” I don’t remember what his particular statement was, and I’m too lazy to look back, but it was something that irked me, and so I responded.

No, I don’t think our government’s intervention in GM is going to destroy us. What bugged me was that I knew he wasn’t seeing the simple idea of minimizing damage. He was standing on his high horse, and refusing to recognize the fact that what our federal government was trying to do was minimize damage.

The only reason the issue is close to me is because of what Kodak did to my city in the 1990s. Maybe early 2000s. Kodak, based in Rochester, NY, closed the majority of its factories, cutting tons of jobs, screwing people out of their retirements. Three close friends had fathers who lost jobs. None of them have really recovered. Hell, the city hasn’t recovered.

Imagine if GM went out? That’s not just one city. That’s…hundreds of cities in the United States. Full of skilled workers who are so specialized that they’re actually fucked if they try to find another job that pays as well.

And our conversation evolved from GM all the way to global warming, with routes through healthcare and education.

But the point is that both sides of the argument have the danger of falling into the Always-Never categories. And that sort of brash assumption is first of all, a weakness in your argument, and second, prevents open communication. If you’re going to sit there and tell me that we’re NEVER going to remove the domination of oil companies, so why bother trying – then what is the point of me continuing the discussion? You’ve made up your mind.

And when I call you out on it, I’m sure you feel embarrassed. For me, as a 21 year old (he’s the same age) – I find it ridiculous that he’s already lost the hope for change.

How can he look at me and say, “Things are never going to change?” What kind of generation is that?

And so, I request readers, please, be careful what you say. Don’t try to push your point so hard that you begin to look like a fool. Acknowledge your ignorance. Allow exceptions. The world is not black and white. It is this beautiful shade of gray.

The Give and Take of Mycorrhizae

This summer, I was lucky enough to get an internship that is National Science Foundation funded, to study plants in the desert environment. I’m living in Tucson, AZ for the summer, instead of New York. Last week, we decided that my project would be looking at the effects of mycorrhizal associated and levels of phosphorus on various aspects of plant growth. We will be measuring plant mass, root to shoot ratio, carbon to nitrogen ratio, and possibly the presence of heavy metals in leaf tissue.

Anyway, for those of you that don’t know what mycorrhizae are, since I’ll most likely be talking about them throughout the summer, I figured I’d give a brief background. Mycorrhizae are fungi which live in symbiotic relationships with roots. In exchange for providing plants with essential nutrients, fungi recieve carbohydrates and other byproducts of photosynthesis in order to survive. For the most part, mycorrhizal relationships are mutualisms – the relationship helps both parties.

The big problem for mycorrhizae though, is that the plants can kick them out if they’re not needed anymore. So nursery plants, for example, which caretakers are sure receive all of their nutrients, etc – never get the chance to make mycorrhizal connections, and they can suffer when they’re transplanted and suddenly on their own with no fungi to help them find nutrients where there are none.

So these fungi help plants to survive and grow. In the desert, there’s not really much known about how dependent plants are on ther mycorrhizal connections. The mycorrhizae are sort of hard to find, unless you go through a series of maneuvers that kind of draws them out. So we’re slowly figuring out which types of mycorrhizae can be found with desert plants, and now, I want to see how effective the relationship between the two is.

So that’s my experiment. Spiritually, I think that this experiment can reveal a lot of things. Mycorrhizae are obligate to their hosts – they can’t really survive without their hosts. And they can’t control the weather. So, in a way, the plants are sort of the deciders as to how far or how successful the relationship will be. If in making an analogy, we place plants::mycorrhizae as humans::magic, we can see a correlation in terms of magical success. If we need the magic to happen, and we give it our time and attention and energy(the plants’ photosynthetic byproducts) – we will grow faster, be more successful. If we have all the things that we need to do stuff on our own, the relationship won’t be as effective. Afterall, why give your time and energy to someone else when you can do it much easier yourself.

I think this concept of need is one that should be considered when working magic. The universe is a relatively good filter. If you’re praying to magically become thin, and praying, and praying, but you have opportunities for fitness or nutrition ALL the freaking time, chances are, it’s not going to work. At that point, the universe, your inner self, whatever – everyone knows that you can do it yourself.

Did you know that if mycorrhizae are attached and suddenly weather becomes good or nutrient levels grow, they almost become parasitic in nature? The mycorrhizae still want their energy – but they’re not really giving anything in return.

In the same light, by continually throwing your own energy at something you can do yourself…you’re allowing the magic to parasitize you, so to speak. You won’t have the energy to make the change yourself, because you keep throwing it away towards needless prayers.

Wow, that entire post was sort of depressing. Well, more like, it makes you want to smack yourself across the head if you’ve ever done anything like that. You know…”please help me get an A” instead of studying. “I need to do well on this presentation for work” without working on it at all…

Have a great day!

The Meaning of Bears

Bears are kinda cool, in my book.  They’re relatively inoffensive, as long as you don’t get between them and their cubs, or them and some really, really good food.  There are a variety of species, and they eat a variety of things.  They’re not always bloodthirsty and angry and roaring.  They’re playful and inquisitive and intelligent.

If a bear is your totem, it could represent a good balance in your life – the ability to be curious and figure problems out, but also the ability to live a balanced and healthy life through your diet.  In addition, some bears hibernate.  A bear coming into your life (hopefully not in the, “I’m going to kill you!” sort of way) could indicate that you are in hibernation, about to emerge.

Bears also care very deeply for their young.  We say that someone is a mother bear, or that mother bears are the most dangerous creatures in the world.  With a bear as your totem, you know – or will know – how to hold onto and defend what is yours.

Protector of the family, intelligent, adorable AND omnivorous, what’s not to love?

From an AP News Article on Bears