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Thursday, October 30

Post Sabbat Stall-Out

Post-Sabbat Stall Out: the lifeless limbo Pagans endure between the day one celebrates a sabbat and the date of the similar mainstream holiday that everyone else celebrates.   ie. Samhain v. Halloween, Solstice v. Christmas, Ostara v. Easter

This happens after quite a few holidays in our home anymore.  I see it as a sign that we are truly transitioning away from Christian-esque and mainstream holidays and into a solid Pagan holiday calendar.  However, it's still awkward.

Halloween is on a Friday this year.  Whenever this happens, the mainstream is ecstatic as it means there can be late night parties because most people don't work the next morning.  It means that community parades, church parties, Trick-or-Treat, family costume parties, and every other Halloween happening can occur over the weekend.

When you have children, you are invited to EVERY SINGLE THING in your community and people take no pause before asking your children if they coming to 'fill in the blank'.   So, the weekend is booked whether you want to leave your couch or not.

As a Pagan, this leaves you needing to bump Samhain (or Dia de los Muertos, Winter Nights, Summer's End, etc.) feasts and rites to a less crowded day.  For us in the Mama Stacey clan, this was last Sunday.

Admittedly, a filler picture.  I haven't gotten our actual photos situated yet ;)

We wrote letters to loved ones who had died and burned them in our magnificent cauldron.  We carved names and symbols into candles and adorned our Ancestor Feast table with them.  We ate stuffed vegan roast, herbed potatoes, cornbread, warm pineapple, peanutbutter cookies, and drank gingerbrew while telling stories of the dead.  It's a much less upsetting thing than outsiders think it is.

I always get strange looks when describing the Ancestor Dinner to others, but once they experience it, they come back year after year.  Low lights, touching stories, and good food.

Anyway, we had a marvelous Samhain celebration... LAST weekend.  And now this week has stretched and dragged with pumpkins and cobwebs and Walmart trick-or-treat and school events and repeated applications of face paint on the kids.

And I can't wait for "Halloween" to be over.  My brain is already moving on to Doodle Bug's birthday, Thanksgiving, winterizing the apartment, and even Yule preparations.  Yet, I can't start packing away spiders and zombies until after Friday.  I feel like I'm "one of them" if I stroll through the Christmas aisles at Kmart.  I feel like I'm in a train station and there's been a delay.  I feel this way several times each year and it never gets better.  

Do you ever suffer from Post-Sabbat Stall-Out? 

Friday, October 17

Pittsburgh Pagan Pride Day - in pictures

October 4th we loaded up the SUV and took a two-hour drive south to Pittsburgh.  We look forward to Pride Day each year.  It changes locations every few years and some have been less than desirable... but this year it was held at the BEAUTIFUL Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills.

It was a rainy day, so we spent most of it indoors.  Several outdoor vendors had to pack it in and relocated into hallways and entryways, so the event was crowded, but it was still enjoyable.

We began by donating several bags of dry goods to the foodbank that the Greater Pittsburgh Pagan Pride Day event supports.  People also donated pet food to a local shelter.

The drum circle, Papa J's favorite part of any Pagan event, moved into a small room inside the building.  They still managed to host their drumming ritual and show some of the children new drum beats.

I attended a rained-out nature walk with Susun Weed.  It was an amazing experience and even thought I had to leave halfway through (kids!), I learned a lot.  I ended up buying some books from her and a CD of Goddess chants.  She was a doll and even autographed a book for me.  Yay!

Our family enjoyed Pear tarts, Squash & Potato handpies, Ginger Dead Men, and Three Sister's Stew from our friend Anne of The Vegan Goddess.


We sat for a concert by the wonderful Kellianna.

Baby E and Doodle Bug really enjoyed the bellydancers and the Hindu dances performed. 

 We shopped and shopped.  Our favorites were picking up some of Kellianna's music, a metal sippy-cup for Baby E, and some cuddly demons (My Little Demon) for Baby E.  Doodle Bug bought a pair of folding wooden chopsticks (from Our Children, Our Earth).

After the rain subsided, Mama Stacey and the kids spent the sunny part of the day outside hanging in the courtyard.  My sister joined us.

While outside, we met members of the local Dagorhir group.  I'd never seen anything like it.  They are fantasy re-enactors who use padded weapons to battle each other.  I chatted with one of the women in the group while Baby E watched one of the Dagorhir men practice archery.  Doodle Bug dove right in, padded shield and sword in hand.  He had a blast.  We nicknamed it "Nerf Ragnarok".

After working up a good sweat, we returned inside to eat some chocolates from Demeter's Delights,  hang out with friends, and listen to some more music.

Mint chocolate Greenman.  Yumm-o!

Drake, our ghost hunter friend and security for PPD.

Baby E was ready for a nice long nap in the car.

If you are ever on the fence about attending your local Pagan Pride Day event, I hope I can nudge you into making the trip.  There are far more talented artists and gifted readers than not and even if you don't have money to spare, the music, the conversation, the drumming and the various FREE activities are worth it.

Also, I think it's important that Pagan children attend community events like these.  Making sure that your children see that they are not alone in this lifestyle is important, so let them chit-chat with others at events like these.  Remember, this is their pride day, too!

Thursday, October 9

Samhain Blessings: Owain Phyfe

Mama Stacey, back when she was a brand new mommy, held a very small sleeping Doodle Bug in her lap.  We were snuggled together underneath my long black cloak as it was a chilly, drizzly evening and I had retreated to the large pavilion that is Caffeina's Cafe at Wisteria (a pagan-friendly campground in southern Ohio).  It was perhaps 2004 and we were at the Pagan Spirit Gathering for Litha, as we always were back in those days, back when it was just me and my son, exploring the world in a mini-van. 

We sat bundled on a chair near the empty corner stage, enjoying the twinkle-lights strung up in the rafters.  I was sipping something warm when the drizzle suddenly decided to take itself seriously and drown the campground.  It was very late and I almost packed it in, when a huddled mass of people began to flood the cafe.  The crowd parted and a man with a neat beard and wet cloak crunched the gravel as he made his way to the stage, strange little guitar in hand.

How could I know, in that moment, that I would love that guitar for the rest of my life?

Faithful followers helped this man to set a large mug of wine on a stool beside himself and to settle on the stage.  The chair that Doodle Bug and I sat in became surrounded by people.  We couldn't move, he was sleeping, and I hadn't finished my drink... so I sat there as this man began to play.

Selena Fox, matriarch of the famous Pagan organization Circle Sanctuary, sat at the table beside me, cheeks rosy from whatever was in her tankard.  Owain began to strum his guitar lightly and he spoke.  He told the tale of what it would be like to be an English soldier fighting against the Spanish army and drowning your sorrows in a French tavern.  He shared the words with us and prompted us to repeat them:

"We be, soldiers three.
Pardona moy je vous en pree.
Lately come forth of the low country,
with never a penny of mony."

Owain forgave us for butchering the French lines, but explained that it only lent to the authenticity of the song... for we were but drunken English soldiers, were we not?

As fantastic as Owain and the New World Renaissance Band's albums are, they are missing that one important element that the live performances always held: the stories.  Owain shared tales from around the world and tidbits of jokes and cultural innuendo before each song.  He brought the music into perspective and made you feel it even deeper in your soul.

Doodle Bug and I would frequently make trips to Medieval festivals and Renaissance faires where Owain was performing, driving up to 6 hours round trip just to hear him play 15 minute sets while sitting on a tree stump or playing on a stage no bigger than my dining room table.

When I wanted to purchase some music, Owain and his beautiful wife, The Lady Paula, walked me through each album. We bought 'Where Beauty Moves and Wit Delights' because, upon seeing young Doodle Bug, Owain explained that the song Fuggi, Fuggi, Fuggi (if you've heard Owain live,  you may know it as the Fa La La La La La song) had been recognized as beneficial for children's brain development.  Owain was humbled by the song's inclusion on a lullaby CD that was sent home with newborn babies. 

I have bought many more of Owain & TNWRB's albums since then, however 'Where Beauty Moves and Wit Delights' will always be my favorite.  It houses the first song I ever heard Owain play, it has the Fuggi song, and Mama Stacey's all time favorite: 'Since First I Saw Your Face'

Owain and Lady Paula, became bright beacons of light wherever we went.  Doodle Bug and I would smile from afar, knowing how popular Owain was and never wanting to be a bother.  We began to recognize the various hats Owain wore, and always... the guitar.  That beautiful instrument that I now know is called a chitarra battente (an Italian pre-guitar).

I will never forget walking down Merchant's Row early one morning at a festival, many years after that first night, and seeing him sitting at his campsite wearing nothing but boots and a medieval cap.  He was eating olives and offered up a sleepy smile.  We both nodded and I continued my journey.

During the summer of 2012, a message appeared on Owain's Facebook page, stating that he needed to cancel a musical performance because he was feeling a bit under the weather.  On various message boards within the community, we heard that it might be a mysterious stomach thing.  Love outpoured and we all wished him well.

It was not a "stomach thing".  When it was announced that Owain was fighting cancer, people across the nation sent him money.  As a traveling performer, his health insurance situation was not the best.  At the time, I had $3 to spare and sent it.  This man was a very important part of my life, whether he knew it or not.

On August 7th, 2012, Owain posted his thanks on Facebook.

29 days later... Owain left this world.  And we cried.  The Oakland Press

Tribute CDs and webpages were created.  Many are still available through various organizations.

The stage at the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Festival dedicated their stage to his memory.

Half Clef stage at the Florida Renaissance Festival.

Owain is the bottom right in red.

Michigan Renaissance Festival.

Owain is central with guitar.

The 2013 Donegal Dogs album.

Sandart at the Texas Renaissance Festival.

Ohio Renaissance Festival.

Guinness Pub in Michigan.

In the House of Mama Stacey, my first Owain CD adorns the Samhain altar, because I will forever miss him.  Baby E will grow up listening to his voice, the same as Doodle Bug has.  I like to imagine that Owain is enjoying a cigar and an unending glass of wine.  I pray that he is able to send blessings to his family as the veil grows thin. 

"And my eyes, like some fountain, the tears over flow."

Sunday, October 5

Doodle Bug

Doodle Bug.  My dear boy. :Sigh:

This morning, Doodle Bug is shirtless.  I have had this moment with him a hundred times.  I took a deep breath and said, "T-shirt.  Don't come downstairs without one."

He salutes, "Yes, ma'am."  (No idea why we salute, lately, in the same way that I have no idea why he was booty dancing all last week.)

We are forever re-learning a rule, a way to tie shoes, or how to punch in a number on the microwave.  His brain just doesn't hold information well.  He needs constant monitoring and prompting.  It makes me worry for his future.  Does a mother ever stop worrying?

There's randomness to his requests.  Out of the blue, he went on and on about a website that he has access to in his classroom.  He really wanted to show it to me.  We were driving in the car at the time, so I told him "later".  This morning, he drags his laptop downstairs and says "Okay.  Lets do it." 

I have no idea what he's talking about because 400 things have happened between then and now.  He reminds me of the game.  I tell him that I don't know the name of it; we'll have to ask his classroom aide what it is.  He'll have to wait until monday.

"No," he protests.  "It's w-w-w-dot-org.  It has kid's games.  There's a fighting game that R---- and I take turns on.  There's a ball and you get points."  And honestly, from his point of view, he's given me a boat-load of information.  It's too bad that the internet is seemingly infinite and I need much more specific information in order to find what he's looking for.

He got lost at Wal-mart the other day.  After finding him and calming him down, he told me that he was trying to find a person to help him.  "You know, like a 'ployee'."  He studied my face with the same focus he has when trying to discern if he's spelling a homework word right.

"An em-ploy-ee," I responded, pausing between the syllables.  

"An 'implee'," he tried to repeat.  However, a funny thing happens when he tries to focus on the pronunciation of a word... it falls apart in his mouth.  He shook his hands in one of the stims that has never really left him.  "You know.  You know, a person.  Works here."  I nodded and asked what he would have said to them.  He replied, "I can't find my mom.  She has a red thing on her back with black."  I hugged him and told him we'd fix it.  He was talking about my purse (at the time, it was a black organic cotton backpack with a sun on it). 

I bought cheap luggage tags and wrote a message on them.  It lets anyone who might read it know that my son is a Special Needs child and lists Papa J and mine's cell phone numbers.  I attach one to the belt loop of his jean whenever we go somewhere where Doodle Bug could become separated from us.

Papa J and I have had the discussion again, recently, about Doodle Bug living with us until we pass away and then with (or under the supervision of) his sister, Baby E.

A friend who works with adults like Doodle Bug has warned us not to cushion him too much.  In her line of work, special needs adults are often carted off to group homes after their parents pass away.  These 30 and 40 year old adults don't know how to do anything to care for themselves.  They never had to balance a check book.  They never had to clean their rooms.  They never had to cook or mow a lawn.  They never had to develop appropriate social skills because there was always someone speaking up for them.

We do NOT want this for Doodle Bug.  Our discussions of him "living with us forever" always include guidelines such as: "He will work or take classes."  "He will be responsible for buying his own food."  "He will have his own space and a washer/dryer." " He will care for his own pets."  "He will clean his house and make his own doctors appointments."

Of course, we will help him when needed, but independence is not something I want to rob him of. 

We envision him having a mobile home, with a permanent foundation, on our property or perhaps living in a nice apartment above our garage.  When we talk of him living with us, it is always like this.  On his own, yet near enough that he can just come in the back door of our house should he need something.  We feel him having privacy and responsibilities is important. 

I have so many fears for my boy.  I worry about him going out into a world that isn't always kind, that isn't always patient.

There are rays of hope, though.  He had an excellent swim instructor this month who seemed to instinctively know how to redirect Doodle Bug when he needed it.  At Pagan Pride Day, he found a group of children to pal around with and had a spectacular time reenacting Ragnarok while I chatted with some really cool folks.

:Sigh:  My beautiful boy with puzzles in his head.

Thanks for listening.

Love, Mama Stacey