Monday, December 31, 2007

Inmate: Jail Food Makes Me Sick

A Druid priest accustomed to eating healthful "superfood" before he was jailed on drug charges is in the middle of a food fight with federal prison officials.

Love Sky Dancer - yes, that's his legal name - claims the prison grub at the Metropolitan Detention Center is making him sick, and he's demanding a diet of organic raw vegetables.

Dancer, 44, a once-happy hippie from South Devon, England, pleaded guilty last year to smuggling a kilo of Ecstasy in chocolate powder into Kennedy Airport for a pal named Davey Dreds last May 2.

Dancer, who faces up to three years in prison when sentenced, wants Judge Frederic Block to let him do the rest of his time in the United Kingdom, where prisons are more accommodating to vegans. Full Story

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Accomplished Meditation

Color of the day: Gray
Incense of the day: Nutmeg

Today the Moon is in its waning phase just as the calendar year comes to a close. Before setting goals for the new year ahead, this is an ideal time to reflect on what has taken place over the last year. Although it’s important to reflect on what you would do differently if you had the time again, it’s even more necessary that you think about what you have achieved. We are often critical of our achievements or lament what we didn’t achieve rather than celebrate what we did complete. In your journal or in a notebook, write down everything you accomplished. Every small achievement or completion counts. Congratulate yourself and reflect on how each experience has enriched your knowledge and personal development. Give thanks to the deities for your ongoing learning journey. Do the same activity with a close friend and congratulate each other. Now celebrate with your favorite beverage. Well done!

By: Emely Flak

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Case For Christ-Free Christmas

Christmas is only a few days off, and I think it’s as good a time as any to speak up for a segment of humanity that is too often ignored and forgotten by the media around the holidays. I speak up for this faction of society not only because I believe it to be vastly in the majority, but also because I happen to be a member. I’m talking about those of us who celebrate a secular Christmas.

My favorite time of year for as long as I can remember has been Christmas.

As an adult, I’ve outgrown Santa and snowmen, and the rapacious lust for receiving gifts, but I still treasure the time spent sitting around the tree with my mother and father, my brother, my grandmother, and, these last few years, my girlfriend. We sing no hymns, we say no prayers. Jesus, most assuredly, is not among our reasons for the season.

And good for us, because that particular bit of bumper sticker sloganeering has always gotten on my nerves. For one thing, there’s the obnoxious insistence that any Christmas celebration not centering on the Christian concept of the holiday is illegitimate. For another thing, it makes no rational sense—no matter how you look at it, Jesus is not the reason for the season. Full Story

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Using Christianity To Fight Witchcraft

At an hour when most people here are sleeping or sinning, the worshipers of the Spiritual Warfare ministry gather in the cold sanctuary of a neighborhood church to battle evil.

They sing. They pray fervently. Finally, they kick and shadowbox with what they contend is the real force behind life's problems: the witches and devils whose curses they believe have ground down their families, towns, entire nations in Africa, and who have pursued them to a new country, making it hard to find work, be healthy and survive.

"Some situations you need to address at night because in the ministry of spiritual warfare, demons, the spirits bewitching people, choose this time to work," said Nicole Sangamay, 40, who came from Congo in 1998 to study and is a co-pastor of the ministry. "And we pick this time to pray to nullify what they are doing."

Founded by a Congolese couple, Spiritual Warfare is one of many ministries and congregations in the growing African diaspora in the United States and abroad grappling with witchcraft. In most other churches, Sangamay said, you could not even raise the issue, let alone pray to combat its effects. Full Story

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Expert Links Pagan Shrine To First Christmas

A recently discovered pagan shrine dedicated to Rome's legendary founder Romulus and his brother Remus is being linked by some experts to the first celebration of Christmas held on the date that still marks the festivity today.

Last month Italian archaeologists unveiled an underground grotto, which they believe ancient Romans worshipped as the place where a wolf nursed the legendary twins.

Now, a top Italian scholar thinks a church built on the site of the shrine was where Christmas was first marked on Dec. 25 — making it a symbolic place in efforts to link pagan practices and Christian celebrations. Full Story

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

'Tis Always Some Season

The holiday season is once again upon us. But are holidays ever really out of season?

Wiccans like to say that every day is a holiday. By that they mean that there is no real distinction between Christmas and the days before it and after it. Each day the sun rises and sets; each day is a surprise in waiting. When I say that every day is a holiday, I mean that every day, literally, is a holiday.

Every Christmas my brother gives me a calendar that includes all sorts of wacky holidays. According to his 2007 calendar, today is Roots Day (as in celebrate your ethnic heritage) and tomorrow is Egg Nog Day (as in dairy plus sugar plus lots of alcohol). Cartoonists Against Crime Day (Oct. 25) has already passed, as has Admit You're Happy Day (Aug. 8) and Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day (March 27).

Each day on the calendar commemorates some sort of food, from caviar to cheeseballs to Creamsicles. And don't get me started on the holy days, which are as endless as divinity itself.

I have been kvetching for some time about Americans' religious illiteracy -- how their faith outstrips their religious knowledge. But when it comes to holy days, it is almost impossible to keep up. Full Story

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Letter: Debate Shifts Focus Off Jesus’ Teachings

To the Editor:

If Jesus came back today, would He call it a Christmas, Holiday or Yule tree or maybe a Tannenbaum or a Hanukkah bush?

Jesus wouldn’t call it a “Christmas tree,” since they didn’t arrive on the scene until around 700 A.D.

As the story goes, an English monk named Boniface was trying to convert oak-tree-worshipping Druids to Christianity. To make a point, he cut down a big oak tree. After the tree fell, the only tree left was a small pine tree and Boniface dubbed it “the tree of the Christ Child.” Obviously impressed, the northern European pagans started converting to Christianity.

Twelve hundred years later, the descendants of those pagans-turned-Christian Druids would turn into Nazis and kill 6 million Jews in the name of the Christ child. Since 1,900 years had passed since the Jews talked the Romans into crucifying Jesus, maybe those Germans forgot that the Christ child was a Jew. Since descendants of Druids were stoking the ovens of the Holocaust, Jesus might avoid calling it a “Tannenbaum.” Full Story

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Earth-Based Spirituality Fosters Respect For Environment, Others

On Saturday, whether alone or in covens, area residents who call themselves Pagans will celebrate Yule, a celebration of the changing seasons on winter solstice.

“As Pagans, we celebrate the turning of the wheel,” said Elaine Sutherland. “This is a celebration of nature.”

Nature is a focal point for the wide variety of Neo-Pagan religions in Augusta County that stress a communion with the Earth and all people on it.

As their beliefs often involve a wide knowledge of different gods and goddesses and often incorporate spells, most Neo-Pagans come to the religion as adults.

Many, like Sutherland, began practicing Paganism when traditional worship left them wanting more. Full Story

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Releasing Old Bonds Ritual

Color of the day: Green
Incense of the day: Neroli

This spell will break old harmful bonds with another person so you can begin anew. You’ll need scissors, one black and one white candle, a picture of yourself and the other person, and a silver ribbon. Set up the altar with the scissors across the top, white candle on the right and black on the left, and the pictures and ribbon in the center. Light the black candle to represent the negative aspects of the relationship and the white candle for the positive ones. Tie the pictures together with the ribbon, with one end around your picture and the other around the picture of the other party. Now, quickly cut the ribbon with the scissors. Let go of anger and hate. Let love and peace fill your memories. Declare the bond to be broken with blessings as your lives go separate ways. Bury the candles and place the pictures in a moving body of water to represent moving on.

By: Olivia O’Meir

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pentacle Wreath No Longer Welcome In Green Bay But Nativity Stays

Late yesterday afternoon, Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister of Circle Sanctuary, met by phone with Jim Schmitt, Mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a city that continues to be embroiled in a growing controversy over the display of religious holiday imagery at its City Hall.

Fox requested the meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in a series of phone conversations with staff members in the Mayor's office.

During the meeting, Fox endeavored to clear up misconceptions about the Wiccan religion that may have been behind the Mayor's recent public negative remarks about the religion and his refusal to let Circle Sanctuary's Yuletide pentacle wreath be reinstalled next to the Christmas nativity scene at City Hall where it had been last weekend. Full Story

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Pagan Celebration Marks Return Of Light

Seventeen people stood around the center of the outdoor labyrinth at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Frederick Tuesday, ready to welcome the coming of the winter solstice.

A hazy moon hung in the sky and distant lights from Frederick city lightened the darkness of the labyrinth — a center circle marked in the ground with nine concentric rings circling it.

Sea Raven, a Unitarian Universalist pagan, led the group in meditation as they walked around the labyrinth and sang to the beat of a drum:

‘‘Oh the moon and the stars, guide our footsteps on our way; soon the sun returns and light will be reborn.” Full Story

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have Yourself A Wiccan Little Holiday

A Christmas controversy has been brewing between the Green Bay City Council and an atheist-rights foundation that objects to holiday displays at city hall.

Shocking news, huh? But there is more.

In response to the fuss, the city has allowed and encouraged other religious traditions to put up holiday displays, including a Wiccan wreath and pentacle. The atheist-rights group Freedom From Religion Foundation still objects and may file a lawsuit to protest any religious symbols on public property.

As a reader of ours pointed out, while the reporter’s focus is rightly on the political and legal issues, it overlooks the viewpoint of the Wiccans who put up the display. Full Story

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nativity Debate Unabated

The Nativity display above the entrance to Green Bay City Hall remains, and the debate over the Christian symbol of Christmas continues to draw a range of responses.

Last night, dozens of people packed City Hall for a city council meeting to share their opinion on the Nativity scene. After two hours of debate, the council voted to keep the Nativity display up until the day after Christmas and now allow any other religious displays. Mayor Jim Schmitt cast the deciding vote.

The city has received more than 140 emails since the Nativity scene went up last week. One man writes, "It has absolutely no right to be placed there." Full Story

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas And Saturnalia

Last week I was invited to a "Saturnalia." I had to look it up. Webster says "saturnalia" is a synonym for "orgy," which seems wildly optimistic for any soiree at which an overweight, bald geezer like me would be welcome. Either my invite was a careless mistake or I was really invited to a Christmas party whose host was indulging the modern trend to take the Christ out of Christmas. Religiously I am impossible to offend. When you invite O'Boyle to soak up your rum and slurp down your canapes you can call the event whatever you please.

That isn't true for the hypersensitive forces of godlessness however. Unlike the Romans, modern pagans don't have hungry lions to work with. Instead they wield the sword of hurt feelings and launch battalions of earnest, sensitive ACLU lawyers to destroy small town creches and end the scourge of public caroling. Full Story

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Witches vs. Baby Jesus

When He was born, there was no room for Him at the inn. Two thousand years later, there's no room for Him on the city hall lawn. At least not in Olean.

The regular folks seemed pretty happy with things, finding the Nativity display a nice holiday addition. Unfortunately, in America in 2007, the regular folks don't matter. Majority rule is a thing of the past and special interests are the masters of the society. That is how the pentacle came to be there. Do you know what that is? It's a five-pointed star inside a circle and it's supposedly the symbol of the Wicca witchcraft people.

See, Baby Jesus ticks off witchcraft people. They're all about tolerance for themselves, but are pretty darned intolerant of others. That's how this whole diversity thing goes. Acceptance is demanded for everything — except the values, opinions, faith and culture of the majority. Multiculturalism is about the sanitizing of culture, about the eradication of the mainstream culture.

So, like I said, the witchcraft people got ticked off. Though there might just have been one of them. At any rate, figuring that actually walking up and urinating on the Baby Jesus would stir up the locals, it looks like folks decided to go for the next best thing. Full Story

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mincemeat Pie Season

Color of the day: Yellow
Incense of the day: Coriander

The origins of mincemeat pie go back to the Egyptians, who baked this pastry in the shape of a little coffin to honor Osiris on the winter solstice. The Crusaders brought mincemeat back with them to Europe in the eleventh century, and it became the traditional Yuletide treat. In the seventeenth century, the Puritans tried their best to outlaw the pies, calling them “idolatry in crust.” It is said that for every slice of mincemeat pie that you eat, you will have a lucky month in the coming year. The only condition is that each pie you partake of must be baked by a different cook. The magical properties of mincemeat are: apples for love and health, raisins and nuts for prosperity, fruit peel and sugar for love, ginger for money, cinnamon and nutmeg for psychic awareness, and rum for protection.

By: Lily Gardner

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pagan Symbol Is Not Permitted In Catholic Cemetery

Q: I'm a pagan and have been on this path since 1992 even though I was born into the Catholic faith. In 1995, my wife and I lost our 25-year-old son in an accident. He was a passenger in a vehicle where the driver fell asleep. At that time, we purchased three burial plots in a Catholic cemetery and buried our son in a plot between the two plots we've designated for ourselves.

At that time, I asked the association to approve my son's nickname and his favorite football team being put on the stone, which they did. I have not asked them to approve the pentacle symbol yet because I wanted to first ask your opinion.

A., Hamden, Conn.

A: The pentacle, or pentagram, a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, is not just a symbol of paganism but is also the most prominent symbol of witchcraft. Unlike nicknames and football teams, this is not a symbol of some personal passions, but of a religious tradition that is anti-Catholic. That should settle the matter. Full Story

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Who You Calling A Witch?

A crowd of more than 20 people gathers around an altar in the center of a room. On top of the altar rest a chalice, a dagger, seasonal fruits and vegetables, incense, a rattle gourd, and a block of marble in which a pentagram has been carved. The old building with its pinewood floors, high wooden beams, and Gothic ceiling offer the perfect setting for this ancient Pagan ceremony.

Michael McGreggor addresses the coven. "I would encourage everyone, in all your relationships with other people and other creatures, to get in touch with your energy and bring that energy to your relationships." He is leading the ritual.

"We are about to go into the dark time of the year," his wife Jean McGreggor says in response. "You've got to look out for yourself and take care of yourself and reflect on what's important and what you want to keep and what you want to let go of as you go into the darkness. Understand that it is a time of quiet and reflection in anticipation of new life and new light." Full Story

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Witches' Targeted In Crackdown

A crackdown on witchcraft and fortune-telling has been launched in Tajikistan.

Occultism is on the rise in the Muslim country and queues to see sorcerers are often longer than those for regular doctors.

The text of a draft law backed by the lower chamber of the Tajik parliament said: 'Those indulging in sorcery and fortune-telling shall be fined between 30 and 40 times the minimum monthly wage (£85 to £115).' Full Story

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tis The Season For Holidays Other Than Christmas And Hanukkah

During this time of the year Holidays are on many minds.

Throughout America, Britain, African and all over the world people celebrate different holiday's with different meanings and different traditions, so many in fact that a lot of people don't even know that some exist.

These celebrations cover a wide spectrum of wholesome ideas: from going to midnight mass, opening those presents first thing in the morning or lighting the menorah at grandmother's house.

Though religions such as Christianity and Judaism do play a significant role this time of year, it does not dampen the spirit of other holidays: Yule, Eid al-Ahda, Boxing Day and Kwanzaa are all celebrated by devoted communities all around the globe.


Tracing its roots back to Scandinavian aboriginals, Yule celebrates the winter solstice.

"[It] centers around December 20 to the 23 in the northern hemisphere," said Paul Levesque, comparative religion professor.

This year, it will take place on Dec. 20 and pagans will celebrate the return of the warm sun ahead of the long winter days. Full Story

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wiccan Symbol At Nativity Scene Damaged By Vehicle

Police are investigating vandalism aimed at a symbol of the Wiccan religion set up next to a Nativity scene in front of city hall.

Officials in this city 60 miles south of Buffalo say someone in a pickup truck backed over the Wiccan pentacle around 10:15 p.m. Monday, then sped off. Full Story

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Homes Needed For 'Unlucky' Black Cats

They have been associated with magic and witchcraft since medieval times, and it seems superstitions are still haunting black cats.

It appears no-one wants to take on these black cats, currently living in a Suffolk sanctuary - and their carers believe prospective new owners are just too fearful.

The situation is certainly bad luck for the feline four, who are in temporary accommodation in Thurston and Woolpit, near Bury St Edmunds.

Volunteers at Bury Cats Protection believe superstition is standing in the way of cats Sam and Lulu, and kittens William and Purdie finding a new home for Christmas. Full Story

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

New Moon Conflict Resolution

Color of the day: Orange
Incense of the day: Lavender

The holidays sometimes mean family conflict. We do not always get along as we should with our family, and this ritual is all about working to overcome some of these conflicts. On white paper, write in black letters the emotions that you feel may surface as you come in contact with some of your family members. Maybe even go so far as to write down specific issues that exist between yourself and these family members. Gather together a fireproof tray or cauldron, a black candle for protection, and yellow and white candles for peace and resolution. Create your sacred space, and call upon Hestia to join you. Light the candles. Talk to her about what you would like to achieve. Then take your papers and burn them on the fireproof tray or in your cauldron. Release these issues and emotions as you watch the flames eat the papers. Give thanks to Hestia, and ask that she remain to help you over the sticky issues that may arise. Finish by clearing your sacred space.

By: Boudica

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Now At A Screen Near You: Jesus The Ad Campaign

Just as the federal election advertising blitz fades from screens, Christian churches are set to launch campaigns to snag your soul, not your vote.

The Catholic Church's first cinema advertising campaign began in 36 movie theatres nationally yesterday with 15-second advertisements screened with Jerry Seinfeld's animated feature, Bee Movie, until December 19. They will also show alongside the film adaption of Ian McEwan's Atonement that shows from Boxing Day, the biggest day of the movie-going year.

The cinema advertisement shows a montage of images of Catholic life while asking, "Have you ever wanted to know what Catholics believe?"

The assertive campaign comes as the NSW Bible Society is poised to announce its election-style advertising blitz that focuses on the figure of Jesus Christ to resurrect interest in Christianity. Full Story

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Propheteering? Try 'Miracle Jesus'

Type "Jesus Action Figure" into Google and get five hits on alone. At the top is the Talking Jesus Messenger of Faith for $19.99. "This colorful and richly detailed talking figure brings the New Testament to life with a Jesus character that kids can play with and move."

Hmm. But can they move Him in mysterious ways?

Batteries are included. Jesus usually ships within 24 hours, and it has an average rating of five stars.

The original, if I recall correctly, had only one star, but it was a doozie.

For a mere $11.95, has the "Deluxe Miracle Jesus - Action Figure Has Glow in the Dark hands - Comes with 5 Loaves of Bread, 2 Fish, 1 Water into Wine Jug." Full Story

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pagans Find Purpose In Fighting Stereotypes, Building Community

Sophomore Lauren Kodai decided to become a witch five years ago.

Not in the Hollywood, black cats, bubbling cauldrons sense of the word, but as a follower of the pagan religion Wicca.

"I don't know if anyone seriously believes this, but Wiccans don't ride around on brooms with pointy hats and cackle," Kodai said. "Although that does sound like fun, it's more of a Harry Potter thing than a reality thing."

Pagans do not actually use black magic or voodoo dolls for evil as the movie industry often depicts them doing, said Sarah Pike, professor of religious studies.

But they do believe in a spirit world, and through proper worship and magic have access to it. Full Story

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Winter Solstice: The Backbone Of World Religious Celebrations

Many today still call the celebration of the Winter Solstice a pagan ritual full of sex, and while a bit of that is true, they don’t realize that the ritual that is Christmas is in itself drawn largely from the ancient ritual that celebrated the earth’s tilting on its axis, where the daytime hours are weaned to a minimum and the night is longer in the northern hemisphere {in the southern hemisphere it’s the opposite}. In 2007, the Winter Solstice takes place on December 22 at 6:09.

Also called Saturnalia, Yule, the Long Night, and by most, Christmas, the Winter Solstice has a long and varied history. In prehistoric times, winter was seen as a very difficult time. Tribes had to live off whatever they could store and the animals they could catch.

The months were long and very cold and the Aboriginal peoples had the belief that as the sun sank lower at noon, they would be left in total darkness. But spring and warmer weather would always return, thus the idea of birth, death, and re-birth was born. The Aboriginal people were able to notice the slight elevation in the sun’s path within days after the solstice, perhaps before December 25th, even without the advanced instruments and equipment used today, hence celebrations were timed about the 25th. Full Story

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

News Corp To Tap US Faith Market With Takeover Of Beliefnet Website

News Corporation, parent company of The Times, bought the leading American religious website Beliefnet yesterday in an effort to tap the faith market in a country where 88 per cent of the population say that they pray regularly.

Beliefnet, formed eight years ago, attracts 3.1 million monthly users. It was sold by its founder Steve Waldman, who wanted to find a big media company willing to provide investment that the standalone business could not afford. No transaction price was disclosed.

News Corp is perhaps best-known for its newspapers, with titles such as The Sun and the New York Post, and mass entertainment through the 20th Century Fox film studio. However, the media group also owns a handful of faith-based businesses, including Zondervan, the largest Christian publisher in the United States, and Fox Faith, which makes faith-based films. Full Story

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Life As A Gypsy: A Bentonville Pagan Sorts Through Stereotypes

When you go by the name Gypsy SilentRain in a town like Bentonville, you're going to turn some heads. Couple that with a sign in front of her home business that reads "Gypsy's Tavern "and you're going to get all kinds of reactions - not always favorable.

"We've had a brick thrown through our front window," said Gypsy SilentRain, who opened what she describes as a metaphysical shop at 1602 S. E. J St. in 2006. "We've been discriminated against, vandalized and threatened with bodily harm more times than you could imagine. We're close to Bentonville High School, and J Street is well traveled, so we've had a lot of parents concerned, thinking we do animal sacrifices or something like that. It's just not like that."

In a lot of ways, Gypsy SilentRain, 26, is like many other residents in northwest Arkansas. She's married and has eight children who attend local schools. But she's pagan. Full Story

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Earth Garden Blessing

Color of the day: Brown
Incense of the day: Nutmeg

The element of earth represents the body, patience, security, and abundance. All stones stand for earth, but those especially attuned to this element include emerald, hematite, jet, moss agate, and obsidian. Earth scents include patchouli, oakmoss, cypress, magnolia, and sage. Earth colors are brown, green, and black. A good way to connect with earth is through arranging stones, sand, soil, and plants. You can make a miniature rock garden in a shallow dish with sand and several attractive stones. Or you could make a cactus garden, starting with soil, then planting cacti, finally covering with a layer of sand and one or two accent stones. Consecrate your Earth garden by concentrating on it and saying:
Earth my own
Garden of stone
Maiden grown
Mother and Crone
I have sown
Now I intone

Earth my own
Garden of stone
Notice how energy flows among the stones as in a Zen garden.

By: Elizabeth Barrette

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Aspen Sacrifices To Norse God In Hopes Of Snow

In Aspen some locals are praying to the Norse ski god Ullr in hopes of bringing some of the white stuff.

Last year Whistler-Blackcomb did it and they had the most snow they've had in many years. And this year they are off to a great start.

Danny Brown, one of those who has lit fires in Aspen, told the Aspen Daily News it is a way to pool energy and draw snow. Full Story

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