Thursday, October 09, 2014

Dumb Supper

The Dumb Supper has been one of my favorite autumnal rituals since I first learned about it nearly twenty years ago. I consider it an autumnal ritual because I most often hold it around the time of Samhain, but it can actually be done at any time at all. It is sometimes called a Silent Supper, because many people forget that dumb means "silent or mute" or a Backwards Supper, because the meal courses are served in reverse order. Some traditions use it as a divination ritual, to learn about the future from the spirits of the dead, and some as a seance, to give messages to and receive messages from the spirits of the dead. To me, it is communion; an act of sharing a meal, in itself a sacred ritual the world over, with the spirits of the dead. So, for me, the purpose of the meal is to invite the spirits of our loved ones who have passed to spend some time and share a meal with us. Even if no one comes, a place is set for them. It can also be used to commune with your gods rather than the spirits of the deceased. In this way, you are not asking for anything, but more inviting them to table to thank them for their involvement in your life.

My Dumb Supper is a ritual of my own design, based on research and information I have found from other traditions. I try to do one every year (if not on or around Samhain, some other time of the year is fine; the period between Samhain and Yule is best for me. Beltane is also a good choice.) but it has been a while since I was able to. Now that things have settled down and my life has picked a direction and started on it, it's time to bring this ritual back into my tradition.


Before you start cooking and setting the dining area, you should bathe (many rituals start with cleansing). If you are invited to a Dumb Supper, bathe before you leave. You can wear your ritual garb or nice dinner attire, black would not be amiss.

The dining area (this can be the every day table or the formal table) is thoroughly cleaned and smudged. I like to curtain it off, to physically separate it from the rest of the space, but that is not always possible. The table is dressed with a black cloth, and a black cloth is draped over the seat at the head of the table; this is the Spirit Chair. The table is set with black plates and utensils if possible, your finest tableware if not, and all seats, including the Spirit Chair, get a place setting. Utensils, cups, and side dishes are placed on the opposite side than where you would normally put them (this is one of the 'backwards' bits). Window curtains are drawn and black candles are set out on the table and around the room if necessary - they will be the only source of light. It is helpful to include things like salt and pepper and pitchers of whatever the beverage is set along the table so every diner is in reach of the things he or she might need without having to ask for them. Labels that identify what things are might help, also place cards so people can find their seats easily, if that is necessary. I cast a sacred circle around the dining area after the table is set. It is sacred space and no one should enter it until the ritual has begun (it could be argued that the ritual has already begun with your cleansing, as the preparations should be performed in mindfulness, so I'll say no one should enter before the meal is ready to be served). The setting of the table and preparation of sacred space is done before guests arrive.

The meal itself can be as many courses as you like, but it should be at least three - soup/salad/appetizer, main course, and dessert. A potluck would be fine. I tend to precede it with a fast. Many traditions recommend preparing food that was favored by the deceased, but don't concern yourself with that if you can't think of anything in particular, or if you are holding your Dumb Supper to honor your gods.


You are allowed to speak outside of the ritual space, but the mood should be somber and mindful. Once the meal begins, you do not speak until indicated, whether you are within the ritual space or not. I use a bell to indicate the start and end of the silent period of the ritual. When the bell is rung, it is time to be silent and wait for instructions from your host (a good host will tell you what to expect before the silent period).

Some suppers might include writing messages to your loved ones. You will share them with no one. Write them before the silent period begins and take them with you into the sacred space. If messages are in your ritual, be sure to put a fire proof container, such as a cauldron, at the place setting of the Spirit Chair. The messages will be lit with a nearby candle and placed in the cauldron at the appointed time.

When the bell is rung, no more talking. Turn your phone off (please don't even bring it into the sacred space). All electronic lights should be turned off and curtains drawn so unnatural light does not bleed into the dining area (as much as can be helped. My last home had a bright street lamp right in front and it didn't matter how closed the blinds were, there was always light from it). Your host may ask you to turn off a light or light a candle at the start of the silent period to help out: do this when the bell is rung. The host and designated helpers, if any, will bring the food into the ritual space at this time. Some traditions say to put the food on a side table, I say work with what you have. It has worked perfectly fine to have the food on the dining table, so people may take seconds if they want, as long as they remain in the current course.

The Ritual Meal

When the food is laid out, the host will indicate that it is time to enter the sacred space and take your seats. Remember, we're already in the silent period of the ritual, so you have to pay attention. Perhaps there will be another bell rung or some other audible but non-spoken cue. As you enter the space, walk around the room counterclockwise, stop at the Spirit Chair (even if you have to pass your own seat first) and give it a silent blessing or thanks or otherwise (silently!) acknowledge the role that the spirits/gods play in this ritual, then continue counterclockwise around the room to your seat and sit down.

When everyone is seated, join hands and bless your meal silently. The host will then serve the first course: dessert (remember, backwards!). The Spirit Chair is served first, followed by the guests youngest to oldest. No one eats until everyone is served. Before the silent period, the host should have told you what to do to indicate you are done with that course, it could be putting your napkin over your plate (usually this is reserved for the end) or moving your dessert plate out of the way. If you wish a second helping, serve yourself (but remember there is more meal). When everyone has finished with the first course, the host will serve the second: the main dish and any sides, in the same order. Again, serve yourself if you want more, and you should already know what to do to indicate you are done. Once again, the host will serve the final course: soup/salad/appetizer, depending on what you're having. Put your napkin over your plate to indicate you are done (if this was the signal your host told you to do). Do not forget that the meal is taken in complete silence. No conversation!

When everyone has finished eating, it is time to give your messages, if your ritual involves messages. The host will indicate who begins (usually the same as served order). Go to the Spirit Chair and read your message (silently) if you wish, or silently tell the spirits/gods what you want them to know, light your paper and place it in the cauldron to burn. If you require assistance with this, the host should be there to help you. After you have placed your message in the cauldron, walk clockwise around the room and leave the sacred space. Do not speak while others perform this part of the ritual even though you are no longer in sacred space.

When the last person, usually the host, has delivered his message, the host and any designated helpers will reenter the sacred space to remove and package any leftover food, clear the table of dishes, extinguish candles in the dining area. The host will then ring the bell to indicate the silent period is over.


At this point, your ritual can carry whatever tone you want. It can be somber and reflective, it can be joyous and jovial. You can play music or tell stories or send everyone home. I have been to some suppers where the guests discuss their experience after the silent period ends. The meal left at the Spirit Chair can remain all night, though I have never been able to do this (cats would not leave it undisturbed). I take it out and give it to the Earth in offering.

If your Dumb Supper is a ritual of divination, where you are expecting to receive messages from the deceased, you may extend the silent period to include meditating and being ready to receive messages, or you may end the silent period as above and expect to receive messages at a later time -perhaps in dreams that night.

I find this ritual comforting, similar to visiting the grave of a loved one, a way to honor those who have passed and remember, and possibly tell them, what they meant to you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Question and an Answer

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of interfaithism. I had to look up the term and I couldn't find a single website that just gave me a definition. What I did find was a bunch of websites by some religious fundamentalists of a variety of faiths who think this mysterious 'interfaithism' thing is the end of the world- in a literal sense. So, the true answer to the question "what do I think of interfaithism" is "I don't."

What I could gather from these websites, that I could only describe as insulting at best, is that interfaithism is a word with negative connotations (from the fundamentalists screaming about Satan's tool or something) that is used now in place of interfaith dialogue. Interfaith dialogue, as we should know, is a wonderful thing where people who don't believe in the same things can still talk to, be civil to, and be accepting of each other.

Ah, found it. One such site actually had a definition for me: "the belief that all religions are valid pathways to God...spiritual truths can be found in all of the world's religions and that there is more than one path to heaven." Gees, to my mind, this sounds awesome, and what I've been saying for years. It's unfortunate that this concept is so threatening to so many... I'm finding this is largely a Christian threat. But, really, if all paths lead to the divine, why does that invalidate your path? "All paths" include yours, doesn't it? Why should you care what other people are doing at all?

Thomas Jefferson, while not a perfect man by any means, was a great proponent of religious liberty. In his famous Letter to the Danbury Baptists (the one that claimed the First Amendment to the Constitution built "a wall of separation between Church and State"), Jefferson opened with: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship...." Think about that. Think about what kind of world we would live in if religion really was a matter which lies solely between man and his god, and not between man and his neighbor and his neighbor's god. That's the way it should be.

In fact, most of these beliefs that fear this interfaithism thing is going to destroy them also believe that they should have a personal relationship with God. So, why do they get a personal relationship and I don't? If you view God like a parent, do you have the same relationship with your Earthly father as your brother? How about the same as your mother? The same as his boss? No, you have a personal relationship with him, and everyone else has a different, personal relationship with him. The "Heavenly Father" is no different here.

If that means you find your own way to Him, so be it. That's the way personal relationships work. That's why you answer to deity about your faith and no one else.

If you know me at all, you know I cover my hair in public because my goddess asked me to. It's part of my personal relationship with her. You also know that I have friends all over the world and from so many different walks of life. I know Christians from Anglicans to Yehowists. Quakers, both Christian and non. I know Jews, Orthodox and Messianic. I know Muslims. I know Buddhists and Hindus. Pagans, Neopagans, Wiccans. Universal Life and Unitarians. I know agnostics and atheists. I don't know everyone. I haven't met any Jains, I don't know any Sikhs, but it's just a matter of time. Everyone is on their own path, even as a part of their larger groups, and I'd guess that the vast majority of them are content on their path. They followed the signs they were shown and found their way. It doesn't matter if that way is structured and there are thousands of people in the world walking that same path, or if they find themselves completely alone on a path no one has ever trodden before or will again.

See, that is the power of the divine. The divine knows you. It knows who you are and how you believe and what you need to thrive. It knows that you are perfectly unique and that many things in this hard life that It gave us simply don't work for everyone. It knows that the structured path of thousands may not be the one that makes your heart sing, but may in fact lead you away from It. It even knows if that structured path of thousands is exactly the path you need to be walking. The divine knows you and will show you the way if you ask for direction. Your way, the way that is unique to you, even if thousands of people are going that way or just you - the way that will help you build that personal relationship that It wants to have with you, because It knows you.  If you ask and It shows you nothing, maybe nothing is what you need. The divine has Its truths and knows that some people can just be told a thing to believe, but some need to see, and some need to feel, and some need to do. That is the way It made us; It knows how we work. To say that there is only one path limits the divine, and the divine has no limits.

So, if you're asking questions, keep asking. 

It was twenty years ago when I started asking. I was raised Roman Catholic, going to a Catholic high school, and seriously considered being a nun. When I asked if that was the right path for me, I was shown another way. I started on that path with some caution, because it was new and strange and different, and sometimes it went uphill, and sometimes it forked, and sometimes it turned abruptly and felt like I was going backwards but those little signs pointing out the way were always there and I trusted that. There were even little cul-de-sacs where I was meant to pick something up and turn around. My path now is a hodgepodge of things, a conglomeration of all I was shown, all I was told to pick up, everything I've learned. I know it's right because I feel it.

Now, I imagine there are some people who might accuse me of just making stuff up, but I no more did that than they just believed what they were told. I asked for guidance and it was given, and I knew it as well and any person ever knows that a prayer has been answered.

The divine is beautiful and It knows you in ways nothing else can. Trust in It. Ask for help and It will show you your way.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Some of you may recall that I used to have a website at with a related blog. The website has long been closed and the blog hasn't been updated since 2009. Since I decided to consolidate all my musings into one place, I also figured I should archive that blog. Everything except for the weekly Tarot readings and any comments have been moved over, and you'll find them under their original posting dates and under the Thesaurus Arcanum label.

Going through those posts to archive them reminded me that there was a time when every day was a walk in my faith. Every Sabbat had a ritual, every Esbat had a spell or a blessing. I lost that feeling somewhere along the line, that dedication. In the years hence, I worked to bring it back, but I'm not all there yet. I'm in a good place, spiritually, right now. I'm giving thanks or sending blessings every morning, I'm remembering my chosen path daily. It's not where I was or where I want to be, but it's a good place.

I'm re-dedicating myself. For twenty years, I've been in charge of my own faith. There have been some years where I felt I embodied that dedication more than others and that's a fine place to be. But I can do more and I need to. For myself.

It was a good time to sit down with that old blog and reflect on where my path has taken me in the five years following.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Should Talk

Since the suicide of Robin Williams, I've noticed a lot of people are talking about depression. Good. We should talk about it. It's one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and still it is so hard for people who suffer from it to get the help they need.

It's a complicated disorder that is hard to treat. Not everyone responds to therapy, not everyone responds to medication. Every brain is different.  Part of that is because we don't fully understand what causes it. Another part of it is because the word depression is used far too liberally. Not incorrectly, I might add, but the fact that the word has a definition in common use (i.e. to feel depressed is to feel sad) has done a disservice to those who suffer from the disease that is depression. They are not the same thing. This bears repeating: feeling "depressed" and suffering from clinical depression are two different and entirely unrelated things. One is a feeling - the opposite of feeling elated - and one is a very serious mental disorder that goes so far beyond what one simply 'feels.' They are not related. It's unfortunate that they use the same word.

My friend Enid wrote on the subject again and she said something that I've found largely and disappointingly to be true, "But you know what's really fucking hard? Explaining depression to a loved one who doesn't understand it." We talked about this and agreed that it's awesome that someone does not know what depression is, but that makes it so hard to try to talk about what we're going through to someone who just doesn't get it. Maybe they can't separate the two uses of the word in their mind, which is usually what's going on when we're told to just get over it. It's painfully frustrating. You can just get over a feeling, but when something in your brain isn't working right, you can't just wish that away.

I came across this lovely and fun video (ignoring the irrelevant plug at the end) that talks a little about what is happening in the brain of a person with clinical depression. "It is important to remember that depression is a disease with a biological basis." Not a feeling. A biological disease.

Unfortunately, the more articles I see about depression and how something really must be done about treating it, the more people who can't separate the feeling from the medical condition come out too. It's not just my loved ones or Enid's loved ones but so many people in the world too. This means we have to fight so very hard to get by in a world that barely recognizes what is going on in our brains. But let's keep the conversations going. Maybe some day the people who have made up their minds about what depression is will learn something. Maybe then, more people will realize that those of us who suffer need more help.

It's like being trapped inside your own mind - as so many mental disorders are. That mind, your jailer, tells you you're worthless, you're loathsome, you don't deserve to be happy, no one cares for you and no one should, you're a waste of space and in everyone's way, and if you died the people around you would be better for it. It's all lies, we've talked about this before, but it's so loud it drowns out everything else. When that's the only voice you hear, you don't see them as the lies they are. You see them as the only truths you know. And that last one is the most dangerous thing your mind can ever tell you.

You can think of it like being in an abusive relationship. Your mind is your abuser, and it sets out to separate you from everyone else. Of course, if you've never been abused by someone you should be able to trust, it's hard to understand what they're going through too. I used to be one of them; one of those people who would say "just leave." 'Just leave' is like 'just get over it,' you can't and why you can't is complicated and hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it.  But that's another topic altogether.

We need to keep talking about this. We need more people to understand what is really going on, and more people to understand that you don't have to have a trigger event to suffer from it, and more people to realize how someone's mind can be their own enemy. I wish people didn't have to understand it, that there was no need for any of this at all, but it is not so.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I had a bad day yesterday, entirely of my doing.

A few years ago, long before I ever needed one, I was given a wedding dress. A friend of mine had purchased the dress with intent to sell it on eBay but, while it was in her closet, her cat decided it was a good place for claws, so there are some tiny punctures in the outer tulle of the skirt. She decided she couldn't sell it like that so she wanted to give it to someone who could use it. Long story short, it ended up in my lap. And it fit me perfectly. I was planning on altering it into some cool bustle thing, but it hung on my dress form for a year and then ended up in a bag in my closet. And then I was engaged! Yay! And I already had a dress!

Except, after I was laid off in May of 2013, I put on a lot of stress weight. A lot. I was heavier than I had ever been in my life by the end of that year, and the dress that I suddenly had a use for no longer fit. I started working to lose all that extra weight at the beginning of the year. I lost 13 lbs by March and put 4 of them back on. I've been yo-yoing around that weight ever since. Sure, things get in the way like Renaissance Festivals and vacations, but I'm doing my best: exercising at least 3 days a week where I can, adjusting my food.

My best is getting me no where. In fact, it's the opposite of what I want. The scale keeps going up, my clothes fit tighter and tighter. And the dress is no where nearer fitting like it used to. Yesterday morning, the scale went up again, and I have never hated my body so much. Why is it betraying me? I'm working out, daily now, with weights and cardio. I'm eating less calories and more protein. What more do I have to do? Do I need to spend every waking moment exercising? Shall I drop to 600 calories a day so my body will starve into the size I need? And I hated myself for hating myself so much.

I know that none of that is the answer. Having a fresh look at things today, I think the main problem is the goal. The last time I had a lot of weight to lose, some 11 years ago when I took my very first desk job, my only goal was to stay healthy. And I did it and in three months, I was in a good place, and in three more months I was in the best shape of my life. It was never about my shape, it was always about taking care of myself. That's not the goal right now, taking care of myself. The goal is to fit into the dress, because with less than four months to go, having a dress that doesn't fit is the same as having no dress at all.

I have a solution for the dress. I dreamed about it, actually, and I know it will work. I can cover the back zipper and add some loops so I can lace it up like a corset. That will take care of the sizing issues. But, even with this plan in mind, I'm still focusing on fitting into the dress. It's time to take action, to make those alterations a reality and complete them. That will remove the unhelpful goal and put the focus back where it needs to be, on being healthy.

I haven't quite forgiven my body for betraying me, but it's a process. I know what I need to do. The good news, though, even as terrible as I felt about it all yesterday, I still got up at 6 am and did some exercising this morning. I didn't hate my lack of progress so much that I gave up. One step at a time. Take away the deadline and focus on what I should have been focusing on all along.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Four Strand Braid Tutorial

Sometimes, I braid the ends of my veils in this awesome 4-strand thing and a lot of my veiling friends ask me how I do the braid. Here's a crazy little video of how!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Busy Not Boring

It's been almost three months since we bought our home. We bought some furniture and lawn and garden stuffs and a basketball so the hoop in the front might get some use. Things are coming together, but it feels like there are still boxes everywhere. The craft room is my project for the week, as well as preparing for our house party on Saturday.

We're also in the midst of wedding planning. We'll have a venue soon, and then we can actually get some invitations out and get to work on centerpieces and favors and things.

In truth, the last three months seem kind of blurry. After moving and getting started in the herculean task of unpacking, we went to a wedding in beautiful Dominican Republic and I worked a record-breaking season at the Virginia Renaissance Faire. It feels like something was happening every weekend, which is the literal truth. I don't think we'll have a quite Saturday at home until the end of July.

But it's all good. A busy life is better than a boring life. We love our home. Everything is, however slowly, coming together.

Monday, March 31, 2014


We bought a house! No, we bought a home. Come and visit us soon! (But not too soon, give us time to unpack!)

Welcome home!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Let Me Tell You A Story About Hestia

When I first started on this path more than 20 years ago, I came across a lot of 'educators' and 'teachers:'  good folk who wanted to help new pagans find their way. Unfortunately, the most vocal of teachers tended to teach McWitchcraft - the kind of magic that you get from a book with a glossy bright cover and probably published by Llewellyn. That's not to say that everything published by Llewellyn is of the "fluffy bunny" variety (I dislike that term, but I have to admit it applies here), but quite a lot is and weeding through to find what isn't is near impossible when you're just starting. I had a mentor to help me through the fluff, at least, but that's not what this story is about.

One of those 'educators' tried to mentor me. She told me everything on this path was chosen - either by me or agreed upon by my coven. I've never been much for practicing religion or expressing faith with a group (with some exceptions), so that essentially meant I chose it all. That's great that my faith is in my hands, but then where is the divine? Where is the Lord and Lady in all of this? Don't they care about any of it? Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But I just couldn't wrap my head around a faith that had no guidance from deity. That wasn't what I believed, that wasn't what my heart knew to be true, that wasn't faith.

I chose it all, she said. I chose my "craft name," I chose my patron god and goddess, I chose my totem animals and my spirit guides. These are things that I just felt came from the divine- they have no meaning, no truth, if I just pick from a list because it sounds cool. My real mentor disagreed with her also. She told me those things are given and when they are given, you will know it. That is true to what I felt.

So I learned and I practiced and I didn't pick anything from a list. It took time, it took years, but those things did eventually get revealed to me. The story of that and what it means in my faith and to my path isn't why I'm here either.

In time, I had a patron, Artemis. She was a guide, a companion, a teacher, a beacon. She was what I needed when she came to me and I learned so so much from her mysteries. It was a wonderful feeling, like I would never be alone.

And then she left. Oh, it was some years later, I don't even remember how many. She had been there for years and then she just wasn't there. For a time, I felt abandoned. It was an unusual place to find myself; no guide, no companion, no beacon. But meditation and reflection and communion with the divine led me to understand that she taught me everything she could and it was time to move on. I was without a patron for about four years.

I kept myself open during that time. Another goddess might present herself and if you're not ready to receive, you could miss it entirely. I had long been drawn to hearth goddesses, especially once I owned my own hearth. I paid particular attention to Brigid. Even though I've never locked myself into one pantheon, my patron god was Tuatha Dé Danann so it made sense to search there. But my previous patron goddess was an Olympian, I only casually searched there for another. I resisted it, actually.

I've spoken plenty of my calling to veil. It got stronger the more I didn't do it. It got stronger when I learned all I could from my patron, and stronger still when I started keeping my own hearth. I've long had an affinity for Brigid, but she is not a veiled goddess. I started to feel that maybe she wasn't it, maybe her mysteries were not what I needed. Hestia presented herself. I had never worked with her. I spent time with Artemis, the rest just didn't speak to me. And yet, here she was, trying to show me something - something that I needed to see that I wasn't exploring.

I'm having a hard time putting this feeling and experience to words. It's like when someone calls on the phone but you're so distracted by something in front of you, you barely hear them. But they keep calling and you are still distracted. I was up to my eyeballs in veiling tradition research around this time. And then I found a reference- Hestia was veiled, and her cult was veiled, and the female head of the household was responsible for honoring her mysteries in the home. I already knew that, Classical Mythology has always been a strong subject for me, but I- I don't want to say forgot- I didn't pay attention.

I've told this part of the story before. Everyone was hunkering down for a big storm. My home had taken some damage in the last storm and I was worried. I thought of the hearth goddesses who had my focus of late, and I asked Hestia for help. That was an uncharacteristic move for me, I was still searching, I normally would have just asked the Lady and given her no name. But that's not what happened. On that day, I needed an aspect, I needed something specific, so I asked for Hestia and she answered. Considering my earlier analogy, that's rather amusing to me.

Hestia had been trying to reach me for a while, and when I accepted that, so much of my life fell into place. I was able to focus on what I needed to focus on. I've learned so much about myself, about the path I'm on, and the direction my life is leading. It's funny, because as much as I say I was open and searching and mindful, I still resisted when I heard her call. When I answered, I knew I found the beacon I needed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Homeowner, The Sequel

My betrothed and I have been looking at houses for a couple weeks, both agreeing that we would have to just stop looking and pick one at some point. We saw a dozen houses or so over that time; some had potential and some were nothing like what we wanted at all. We went out again on Monday with one more house to see. It had everything on our must have list, a few things on our want list, and nothing on our dealbreaker list. We thought about it, talked about our options, compared it to some of the other houses that could work, and decided to make an offer.

As I was driving to that meeting on Tuesday, I thought it was time to get my witch on. I could do some spellwork when I got home and maybe I'll ask the gods for a little contract help. Then I started thinking of who might help with buying a house. A hearth goddess, of course. It surprised me that I didn't think of that right away.

Asking for help from a deity involves invocation. Just as I was starting, I felt the weight of my scarves on my head just a little bit more and a whisper into my ear "I'm already here." Yes, of course. How could I forget?

So, I prayed to my goddess and asked for her help in securing the home that is best for us. It may not be this one that we loved, and I will accept if Hestia points us another way, but I think it is. It felt like home the moment I walked in. So we made an offer.

Nothing is official until all parties have signed off on it, but the Realtor says it's looking good.

Here's hoping!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another Wrapunzel Giveaway!

Wrapunzel is having a Spring Giveaway! They wanted us to talk about gratitude. Today, I'm grateful for my fiance, who is the most wonderful man alive. He accepts me for who I am, he is kind and gentle and encouraging. I love every moment of my life with him.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Modest, Plain, Ugly, Oppressed

I want to talk about this because I've seen it so much. I'm probably going to go all over the place, but let me get this out anyway. I'll watch a video on a lovely new way to wrap my scarves, or a blog post of someone explaining why they cover and, somewhere in the comments, there is almost always someone who does not want to understand. Somewhere, there is someone who feels the need to express their ignorance.

The first is one I often see in response to ladies who say they cover for modesty. These ladies, every one of them, look beautiful in their coverings and usually their coverings are beautiful garments on their own. The comment is often one of confusion, someone who did not realize that modest does not have to be plain. Plain, in my understanding, is neutral colors, no adornments, simple shapes and lines. Plain is not fancy and not decorative, it is muted and simple and practical. Modest does not have to be those things. Modest can be bright, it can be decorated, patterned, flattering. Modest can be decorous while still being pretty, while still allowing one to express one's self. Separate those two in your mind right now. Plain is modest, but modest does not have to be plain. Pretty and beautiful are not the opposite of modest.

There is more at work in dressing in a modest fashion than just covering up your skin and hair. You can dress modestly and not cover you hair. You can dress modestly and wear pants. You can dress modestly and still have lovely jewelry. Modesty is personal. It's owning your body. It's recognizing that you are a sacred being and holding that being sacred. It is being comfortable in how you dress, in how you move, in what you do. That, in and of itself, is beautiful. When you do that, when you own your self, everyone around you can see that beauty. And that's where the ignorant comments come in. If someone thinks a lady dressing modestly is beautiful, then that lady must be doing something wrong, something not modest, to make someone think that. Those people are looking at the wrong thing. It's not about the outward appearance at all. A woman who feels confident, secure, and happy looks beautiful. That is her spirit, her self that you are seeing, that you are recognizing as beautiful.

Similarly, plain does not have to be ugly. Plain is also beautiful. Have you ever seen someone in a black abaya and a white hijab? Is that not plain? Is that not also beautiful? I've spent a good deal of time in Amish and Mennonite markets. Ladies in simple dresses, some are colored in pastels or patterned in delicate flowers depending on the community, with hair twisted up and a prayer cap pinned on top. They are happy, confident, in control of their bodies. They are beautiful. Separate that in your mind too. Plain does not mean it must be ugly.

Now, there is a sort of catch 22, and that also seems to be where some of these comments I see come from. Part of being modest or plain is not drawing attention to yourself. In this modern world we live in, anything different draws attention. That is just the reality of this age. Modest dress gets attention because it is different. It is not what everyone else is doing, so people notice it. That does not mean that the person dressing modestly is doing something wrong. That means you are perceiving them through your own standards, through the standards that society says you should have. It's not your fault, don't feel bad. Just stop judging those who are different, ok?

The last bit...that's always the tough one. I see it all the time, most often in response to a Jewish woman who says she covers her hair for her husband or to a Muslim woman who says she covers because her faith tells her to. "For your husband" carries with it the incorrect belief that she does it because her husband told her to, and that is oppression. Yes, that is. If your spouse says he wants you to dress a certain way and there are consequences if you don't, that is oppression. If your spouse asks you to dress a certain way without consequences and you want to do it to please him, that is not oppression. In the same way that your spouse asking you to make him a sandwich and you do it because you want him to eat and you know full well he would get up and do it on his own if you didn't is not oppression. If your religion advises you to dress a certain way for the benefit of your spouse and you love your religion and you think it's a beautiful gesture for your spouse, that is not oppression. So many people seem to not understand this. When you do something because you want to do it, because it means something to you, it is not oppression. It is taking an idea, a recommendation, an ancient law even, and deciding to embrace it and to make it your own and deciding it is relevant in your life. That's not oppression, that's making a decision.

I was watching this video. At about a minute and thirty, they discuss why they cover. She said "look at us. Do we look oppressed?" Of course not! They look beautiful and happy and so in touch with why they do it. I saw a comment (on a different video) where someone was going on and on about how sad she was for the lovely lady who was only explaining why she veiled, how it was a beautiful thing she did for her husband. The commentator said something along the lines of 'if it's not oppression, the men would do it too.' In some cultures, the men DO do it too! Jewish men might wear a kippah, the Qur'an has instructions for both men and women to dress modestly, Amish and Mennonite men may have dress restrictions, the requirement of Sikh men to wear a turban is the biggest example of this. It's not all on the women. Once again, people need to stop judging a culture from their own standards.

I do not wear a veil for my husband, as I have none just yet. My betrothed has made no demands on my appearance whatsoever one way or the other. He has never asked me to veil, and he has never asked me not to. He compliments me when I look nice, but he pretty much says that every day. I couldn't tell you if it's because he likes the veil I'm wearing that day or if it's just that he loves me and thinks I'm beautiful (I know the latter is true, I do not know if the former ever is true). There are no specific tenets of my faith that recommend dressing modestly or wearing a veil, though the reasons I do it are faith-based. My decisions with regard to my wardrobe are entirely up to me. That can't possibly be oppression.

I just used a whole bunch of words to say one simple thing that I wish more people would learn: Modest and plain dress does not have to be ugly and are almost always not oppression.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why I Love It

In the interest of entering this giveaway from, my absolute favorite place to buy scarves and tichels, I want to elaborate on what I said on my Facebook entry just a bit.

Picking out my veil for the day is a deliberate act. Sure, I consider what matches, how I might tie it that particular day, what I need to accent it and give it that personal touch. But it also reaffirms why I do it every single morning. For many pagans, our actions are judged by intent. The intent behind lighting a candle, holding a Yule vigil, spell casting on a full moon. Intent is everything. My intent is to bind myself to my path, to honor my goddess, to own my own body and be in control of it. There is intent in every wrap, every knot, every tuck, every day. It is the daily magical life that I've always wanted to lead. And the weight of my veil is a constant reminder throughout the day of my journey. A reminder to always strive to be my best, to always know that I am beauty, that all the life around me is beauty.

And, above all, it reminds me that I do not walk this path alone.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Hunting and Finding

My better half and I had an extremely busy holiday party schedule. The college where I work closed for winter break on December 20th. We had a party that evening, two parties on the 21st along with my traditional Yule vigil, dinner with friends on the 22nd, Festivus, dinner with Dav's dad on Christmas Eve, lunch with my family and dinner with Dav's mom on Christmas Day, there was even going to be another gathering on the 26th. By that point, I was was entirely worn out, and we realized we had not spent a single day at home together since the break started. Dav even took time off of work so we could have some days off together. They were just all full of parties and dinners and gatherings. All fun, don't get me wrong, but just the kind of stuff that saps me dry of energy. So, we stayed in the 26th and 27th and did the original Thursday thing on Saturday. We managed to accept three invitations for New Year's Eve, which ended up being quite a day. It all worked out great, we got to spend some time alone and some time with our friends and family. But parties is not really why I'm here. 

The first party on Saturday the 21st was Dav's work party. Hobnob with the coworkers and the company bigshots in nice evening attire. I've been to fancy company holiday parties before (and am quite grateful that my current employer is so very casual!), so I had an idea of how this one would go. While this was not my first evening attire party since I started veiling, it was the first where I would be surrounded by strangers and did not feel like exposing my hair. 

Ack! What to do?! I could not help but feel that my every-day choices of cotton tichels and flannel scarves would be inappropriate for the dress code of the evening and I was completely at a loss as to what I could do to cover my head in a more formal way. Like any good researcher, I hit the Internet! And hoped I could find something that I could do with my current collection of veils to make at least one of them appear more formal. 

And here is the result!
Waterfall Twist

I found this amazing blog, Wrapunzel, where the lovely Andrea posts about her daily coverings with pictures and video tutorials galore! Since then, my knocking about on the laptop days have consisted of multiple pages of her site open in my browser. I can't get enough; her wraps are beautiful and elegant and, as I tend to favor the more Jewish styles of covering, right up my alley. She called the one I used for the formal office party a Waterfall Twist, and it was so easy, and I was able to use a scarf I already had in my collection! Interestingly, it was a scarf that I rarely wear, I have no idea where it came from, it's thicker than I'm used to and longer than I generally wear. But I kept it in my box of veils anyway, because someday I might have a use for it. It has an inconsistent pattern of stripes and blocks in black and shades of gray with silver threads. It was perfect with my little black dress. I paired it all with a black and white shawl with bits of red and khaki for a little color. 

I talked about possibly making some videos to help those of you who might also find yourselves on a veiling journey as I did. I may still, but in the meantime, I strongly encourage you to check out Andrea's site. She has a Beginner's Guide, tons of pictures, so many video techniques, and even a store. I ordered a few things and I can't wait until they arrive! I was given six beautiful pashminas, which are more like really thick rectangular shawls, and had so much trouble trying to get them to work on my head. Wrapunzel has a solution for that too! Really, hit those links, click about on her site. It is a fantastic resource!

In other news, I think I've decided to grow out my bangs. Yes, I said I think, because I guess I really haven't decided anything. I love the Bettie Page look, I love that it adds some interest and frame to my face with the rest of my hair covered, but I'm quite tired of the upkeep. I don't go to the salon, so the only way to keep them trim is to do it myself, and I don't do that as often as I should. I miss the styles I used to do pre-bang, which is kind of funny that's even part of my thinking as I don't plan to stop veiling any time soon. Still, being happy with my hair underneath my veil is still important. And I still have the clip-in bang hair piece that convinced me to actually cut them into my hair in the first place. The part where the piece met my natural hair never looked right on its own, so I always wore it with a headband over that area, which is pretty much exactly what I do now only the rest of my hair is usually covered too. I might get tired of the in-between length that my bangs are getting to and chop them off again, but we'll see how this goes.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Post Stuff

Hello, dear readers! I hope the holiday season treated you well and you got through it without stress.

When last you saw me (excepting vanilla sugar), my house wasn't sold, my oven was broken, and I was quite a mess. The house finally did sell! I signed all my paperwork on Thursday, December 5th with my buyer going to sign on the 6th. The 6th didn't happen because there was a new thing with the new lender that delayed closing to the 9th or 10th. Then it snowed on the 9th and 10th. But my buyer did her stuff on the 11th and I am no longer a homeowner! Yay! Really, YAY!!! A shiny and beautiful new oven was delivered, but it still doesn't work. We think there's something wrong with the outlet or the wiring in the wall and that's going to need an electrician. Dav seems to be more anxious to get out of here than to mess with that, which really is fine by me. We've talked about the area that we want to live in, and a little bit about financing, but we haven't really sat down with the numbers yet.

On Christmas Day, we learned that my brother and sister-in-law are expecting another baby this summer! YAY!! I am so happy for them. So, so very happy!

I think the new year is off to a pretty decent start. Soon, there will be the stress of moving, but the joy of a new house, then I'll be up to my eyeballs in wedding planning.  I declare 2014 will be a good year.