Thursday, December 24, 2009

Brief Encounter, A Holiday Story [Redux]

Image ©Lindwa | Dreamstime.com
Christmas Lamppost Background Photo

On Christmas Eve of 2007, I posted a holiday story I had originally written in 1994. The story was my first experiment in 2nd person narration -- I really wanted you, the reader, to feel the story was directly happening to you.
The version that was posted in 2007, and reappears here, is almost exactly as I originally penned it. I hope all those who visit my humble blog will appreciate it on some level. It would be great if it helped rekindle your own joy for this season. Feel free to share the story as long as you respect my copyright. Merry Holy Days!

Brief Encounter 
Not even close. It’s December 13, almost 7pm, and you're not even close to getting done. But then, holiday preparations are never truly over, are they? The lights and the decorations. The tree, the trimmings. The food, the drink. And the gifts. Oh, Gods! the gifts... "If I bump into one more shopper or excited child, or if I have to speak to just one more merchant, I may..." But you never finish the thought. You let it go in favor of something more practical: "I have to get out of here." 
You make your way through the sea of patrons, dodging and weaving, participating in some complex and ultimately energy-sapping dance. It takes some effort to reach the main doors, but you smile with pride: Didn’t drop a single package. Exiting into the night, you feel a rush of crisp air hurry to your face. Snow tonight? Doubtful, but anything is possible. 
Anything, perhaps, save what happens next.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice Musings around the Web

Here are a few more Solstice-oriented blog posts for your reading pleasure:
  • A Blessed Solstice -- Jason does a nice job of summarizing the basic Pagan views around observing the Solstice.
  • The Reason for the Season [Redux] -- Hrafnkell brings his A-game to this well-researched piece on where the holiday season came from. Check out the "identity theft" angle he uses to great effect.
  • Winter Solstice 2009 -- A heartbreaking and personal blog entry that shows just how hopeful this season can be even in the midst of personal crisis.

Whose Holiday Is This Anyway? [Redux]

We're knee-deep in the holiday season now -- Hanukkah has passed, the Winter Solstice is upon us, and Christmas is right down the stretch of this week -- so now seems like the right time to re-post a little something I wrote in 2004. This time around I have included links to "4000 Years of Christmas" and a video performance of Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans." I have also changed "Chrismahanukwanzakah" to "Chrismahanukwanzakyule" as it better expresses my pluralist leanings. I hope you enjoy this holiday rewind...
Whose Holiday Is This Anyway? 
This is a response to the various and recent vents in my local paper about the current holiday season. Specifically, I want to address the memes of "Keeping the Christ in Christmas" and "Jesus is the reason for the season." Before I begin, however, I must point out that I love this holiday season, and I care not one whit whether someone wishes me Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, Joyous Yule, or any of the countless other phrases in use. I'll take them all in the spirit intended. I'll even return a cheery Merry Christmas in kind to someone who proffers it. That's right, I'm no Scrooge who thinks that "every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart" [A Christmas Carol]. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Indianapolis Public Schools Censoring Pagan Content?

The Wild Hunt Blog, a respected source of Pagan news and commentary, directed me to this story. Like many public schools, the Indianapolis Public School system has employed web filters on school computers. Despite the known problems, this has become a fairly standard practice in schools. What is at issue here, however, is that "almost all of the most popular Internet filters block Pagan sites" [religioustolerance.org]. Refer to the Wild Hunt's reporting for the full story and a hopper full of background linking: The Wild Hunt » Indianapolis Public Schools Block the Pagans The Wild Hunt also raises an interesting question in the midst of all the cyber legalities: Did the school officials in question :put [this policy] place because [they were] "anti-atheist and anti-Pagan, or ... simply lazy"? I am willing to lean toward lazy in this case, but I'm just going by my gut. I have no evidence or reason to believe the school actively condemns expressions of spirituality. It is very likely just the side effect of a budgetary consideration.
Photo by RIUM+ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thor's Day Reading: Antimatter Lightning

This has got to be the coolest thing I could post on a Thursday: Antimatter Lightning Discovered (On Earth!) According to The Daily Galaxy:
"The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope was launched to examine the universe for the stupendously powerful processes that produce gamma ray bursts, from black hole jets to the effects of dark matter itself, only to find blasts coming from behind it. [Emphasis mine]
That means the lightning blasts (or "Terrestrial Gamma Flashes") were coming from Earth! Read The Daily Galaxy's summary and then surf on over to Science News for more details. Image from The Daily Galaxy

Friday, September 11, 2009

Visit to United Flight 93 Memorial - Sept 11, 2009

Here is a slide show of photos I took on my bus trip to the United Flight 93 crash site on September 11, 2009.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's Wrong with "New Thought"?

"Heathenism by its very nature must be strongly against the mainline of the New Thought movement, which suggests that reality is what we think, as if there were no real world..."
So begins Siegfried Goodfellow's brief, but compelling, condemnation of the New Thought movement, most notably represented by A Course In Miracles, The Secret, as well as other popular abundance-oriented programs. It's worth a read, particularly if you embrace a grounded path such as Heathenry: Heathenism and New Thought : Not Compatible

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day: Hail the Fallen

Remember those who have served our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Check out the History Channel's write up on Memorial Day.
May our fallen soldiers find the peace they sought to protect.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Quotable | Civilized Phases

The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question 'How can we eat?' the second by the question 'Why do we eat?' and the third by the question 'Where shall we have lunch?'" -- Douglas Adams. 1981. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

File:Towel dna.jpg

Photo credit: Ammit

Friday, May 01, 2009

(Separation of) Church & State for May 2009

The May 2009 edition of Church & State, the monthly publication from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is now online. Top stories include:
  • Special Delivery: Letters From AU’s Legal Department Solve Church-State Problems In Public Schools Without Going To Court
  • A+ Arizona: State Supreme Court Flunks Voucher Subsidies For Religious And Other Private Schools
  • Power Struggle: With James Dobson Inching Toward Retirement And Others Off The Scene, Many Wonder Who Will Fill The Religious Right’s Bully Pulpit
  • Texas Two-Step: State School Board Takes One Step Forward On Science Standards – And Two Steps Back

09-05.jpg

Visit now: http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cs_2009_05

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Raise the Hammer for Vets!

After defending our nation, and paying the ultimate sacrifice, our veterans should be honored and remembered by the symbol of their chosen faith. Raise the hammer for them!
Please take a moment to go to the Asatru Military Family Support Program's web site to sign our petition asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to authorize Thor's Hammer on headstones for veterans of the Asatru Faith.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Red Thor Takes the Wheel

Hrafnkell has a nice reworking of Jesus Take the Wheel. In his capable hands, the lyrics are transformed from whiny to empowering. Take a look at Red Thor Ward My Steps.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Church & State for April 2009

The April 2009 edition of Church & State, the monthly publication from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is now online. Top stories include:
  • Touchdown At The Supreme Court
  • Fighting ‘Faith-Based’ Bias
  • High Court Commandment
  • Senate Voucher Victory
http://www.au.org/images/au/cscovers/09-04.jpg
Visit now: http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cs_2009_04

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blogroll Update: Pharyngula

Please welcome Pharyngula to the ol' Prophet or Madman blogroll. Pharyngula is the brainchild of Professor Myers. As an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, the good professor is well-positioned to report on matters pertaining to evolutionary developmental biology and any other odd bits of biological interest. What exactly falls under that latter category? Oh, how about Intelligent Design, the dumbing down of science, and the dangers of religious belief, to name but a few. Yes, Professor Myers is a self-professed "godless liberal" and a public critic of intelligent design (as well as the creationist movement in general). Myers is an activist in promoting atheism -- or at least nontheism -- in America. So why, given that my blog does indeed focus on matters of the spirit, would I add Pharyngula to my blogroll? Well, Pharyngula is quirky and fun to read. Plus it is chock full of good science information. Some of the best science writing on the web can be found on Pharyngula. Besides, I'm quite comfortable with science (I earned my Physics degree from Penn State), and I happen to support his stance against creation theory. So, you'll find Pharyngula under the Sci & Tech label in the right sidebar. What else can I say about Pharyngula to get you to try it out? I really cannot summarize Myers' blog and do it complete justice. It really is that damn good. So I'll just tease you a bit. I'll tell you that he has posted such interesting thoughts as God as an abortionist, argued against compatibility between religion and science, and bemoaned the state of academics. For more information, check out his about page which explains what exactly pharyngula is, summarizes the good professor's background, and provides a quick summary of the three main aspects of the blog (random quote file, list of science articles, and his own blogroll).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blaze of Glory

I'm blogging this article for two reasons:

  1. It mentions Ásatrú.
  2. It concerns a matter of religious freedom/choice.
Hindus In Britain Demand Traditional Cremation

Hindu cremation

More:

Quotable | Art Function

It is the function of art to carry us beyond speech to experience." -- Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987), American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, from his book Sake and Satori (New World Library, 2002; edited by David Kudler)

https://homepages.westminster.org.uk/art_history/Module1/images/Tate_sun.jpg

Specific image from Westminster's History of Art Module. It is part of The Weather Project, by Olafur Eliasson, as shown in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pagans in ... Israel?

The headline brazenly proclaims, "Paganism returns to the Holy Land," but the truth is so much more subtle. Of course, one could make the argument that paganism never really left Israel. That, at most, it was driven underground. And that seems to be the way things still are. Consider the following quotes from Ofri Ilani's article:
  • ...most Israeli pagans reveal their beliefs only to those who share them. They usually keep religious gatherings ... secret.
  • "Some guys live with religious families. They can't tell their parents, 'I don't believe in Judaism, I'm a pagan.' They'd chop off their heads."
  • "In a country like ours ... being a pagan is not easy ... Worshiping other gods is something very sensitive in Judaism. We all were educated [to think] this is intolerable and illogical."
  • "...Judaism has only one god, and if you do not believe in him, you will be driven off with stones."
Due to this environment, it's not much of a surprise that there is not all that much information about pre-Judaic divinities or practices. So some Israeli worshipers pray to Nordic or Celtic gods. But there is a movement to revive the worship of ancient Canaanite gods. Hail to all those who seek to revive, preserve, and make relevant their ancient ancestral practices. Especially those living in what is considered the capital of monotheism. Read the article at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072829.html

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hail Spring!

On this, the day of the Spring Equinox, I wish the blessings of Ostara (Eostre, Oschder, Alban Eilir, etc.) upon all my family, friends, and kindred spirits.

Frigga, ever wise, Mother of all
Freya, our Lady of love, beauty, and fertility
Nerthus, earth Mother, womb of the world
Sunna, Lady of the heavens, bright and glorious in your return
Ostara, the spring Maiden, it is in your name we gather this day
  Winter is over
The land is awakened with your creative and sustaining powers
Flowers long to bloom
The light quickens, lengthening the days
And, soon we hope, warming them as well.
  Thus the cycle continues.
Spring is nigh upon us:
Ostara takes root in our hearts
And then blossoms in our deeds.
We depart knowing her blessings.


 Words: © Brian Weis 2008
photo credit: Frank Black 2008

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A New Breastplate (And a Message for St. Patrick)

Ah, yes. Today is St. Patrick's Day. Well, I for one will not be putting on the green and celebrating. I do not celebrate the lives (real or imagined) of those who tried to put down my ancestral faith. (For those of you who didn't realize, the driving out the snakes thing is most likely a metaphor for stomping out the ethnic and traditional practices of the Irish people). Patrick, if you truly existed (even if only as a composite of several individuals as I suspect), I have a message for you. You did not drive out the "snakes" -- you merely forced them undergound. Nor did you eliminate their traditions. In fact, your beloved Church is riddled with more of my ancestor's traditions than those of the early Christians, and by this I am referring to practices from the first few decades of Christianity, or "the Way of Yeshua" as it was likely known by its earliest adherents. And in case you missed it, Patrick. The "snakes" are back. We are back, and every year our numbers grow as more people awaken to the old ways -- be they Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Romanic, etc. -- and make them relevant today. For our ways are relevant as they are a means of being in this world, being with it, and not trying to simply control it or ignore it in the hope of achieving some afterlife. Originally written and posted last year, "A Heathen's Breastplate" is still appropriate to post on this day:
The Lorica (or Breastplate) is a prayer written in Irish and Latin that is often attributed to Saint Patrick. There are many variations of it (one can be found here), but I have decided to rewrite it in "honor" of the old saint who is said to have driven out the pagans. Now it has a nice Heathen slant...
A Heathen's Breastplate 
I arise today 
Heir to the strength of Asgard; 
Light of the sun, 
Splendor of fire, 
Swiftness of wind, 
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of earth, 
Firmness of rock. 
I arise today with mine own strength to pilot me; 
Thor's might to uphold me, 
Frigga's wisdom to guide me, 
Odin's hand to guard me, 
Heimdall's watch to shield me, 
Freya's love to bless me. 
Afar and anear, 
Alone or in a multitude. 
The ancestors are with me, 
before me, behind me, 
on my right, on my left. 
As sure as 
The Earth beneath me, 
The Sky above me, 
The Holy Powers within me. 
I arise today 
Rooted in the mighty traditions of my past. 
And I walk Midgard, 
Sending forth the blessings of this day's deeds to generations yet unborn. 
copyright 2008, BSW

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review | Words That Work

[This review is cross-posted to Amazon.com and Facebook (LivingSocial:Books)]
Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear (Dr. Frank Luntz, Hyperion, 2008, ISBN: 1401309291)
Luntz's book will interest anyone who loves words, especially folks who are interested in the careful use of words to get a message across to other people. Most of Words That Work deals with framing language issues of the political and corporate varieties, and some folks may be turned off by Luntz's work with big corporations, the Republican Party, or both. But the non-partisan reader will enjoy the discussion of how a word's meaning can change over time, or through the careful control of context. The examination of polling's role in shaping a message or affecting public opinion is eye opening as well. 
In the end, understanding the concept of "words that work" will help just about anyone regardless of the specific communication situation. But what, perhaps, impresses me most about this book is that, after all the "meanness and abrasiveness" that Luntz has witnessed and experienced, he remains dedicated to finding the positive. He writes: "...there is much to be gained by being upbeat and optimistic. When you trash the opposition, you simultaneously demean yourself. The best warrior is a happy warrior. Accentuate the positive ... eliminate the negative. Negative definitely works, but a solid positive message will triumph over negativity." 
Some may call that naive, maybe even accuse him of attempting to sugar-coat or dumb down important issues (I know I kind of felt that way at first). But after going through the examples in the book, and looking for others on my own, I can see the value in his approach. Hopefully, others will, too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

National Book Critics Circle Awards

Amazon.com has a list of the 2008 and 2007 nominees for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. Looks to be some interesting reading: NBCC Awards

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DelanceyPlace: Business Education

I cannot believe I am sharing an excerpt from Delanceyplace twice in one week (previous one was about The Twilight Zone). But when I consider the current shambles of our economic system, and see the hand wringing, the blame games, and the extreme politicking playing out, I have to wonder about the role of business education in this whole mess. Today's excerpt reinforces a view I've had for a while about "business" as a college major, and about going for an MBA after earning one of those business degrees (instead of first earning a degree in a more specific discipline): It's a bad idea.

In today's excerpt--writing in the late 1990s, the authors contrast the business leaders of the immediate post-World War II period to contemporary businesses leaders raised on a steady diet of business publications, management books, MBAs and consultants--and conclude that it is unadorned critical thought, not the current business fad, that brings business success. As T.S. Eliot lamented in Choruses from The Rock: Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

"During the 1990s virtually an entire generation of top executives left their businesses, retired, or passed away. Many of these executives had achieved legendary status--[David] Packard at Hewlett-Packard, [Akio] Morita at Sony, [Sir John Harvey-] Jones at ICI, [Sam] Walton at Wal-Mart, and [Jan] Carlzon at SAS, to name a few. These leaders shared some notable characteristics that differentiate them from their successors. They lived through the Great Depression, which crippled the world's economy in the 1930s; they experienced the horrors of World War II; they served their business apprenticeships in the postwar rebuilding period of the late 1940s and early 1950s. But what may differentiate them most from their counterparts of today is the issue of management.This 'old guard' was the last of a breed of executives who developed their management skills almost entirely in the workplace. They were building businesses while management 'science'--if it can be called that--was still in its infancy. "In 1948 ... the Harvard Business Review had a robust circulation of fifteen thousand. That number had reached nearly two hundred fifty thousand by the mid 1990s. The Harvard Business School itself and the few other graduate business schools in existence in 1948 awarded 3,357 MBAs--a far cry from the 75,000 MBAs awarded forty-five years later. Even McKinsey, the best known of consulting companies, was a relatively small firm with annual revenues of under $2 million, compared with 1994 revenues of more than $1.2 billion. Management guru Peter Drucker was a youngster of thirty-nine. Seven-year-old Tom Peters was probably 'in search of' a new bike. "The executives of [the immediate post-war] period were not uneducated--in fact, many were extremely well educated--but they did not learn their approach to business from a business school, a management expert, a celebrated management book, or an outside consultant. Options such as these were not generally available. These executives learned their business skills in the industrial jungle. ... "The forty-year-old executive of the 1990s, by contrast, probably holds one of the tens of thousands of MBAs awarded each year. His formal management education is supplemented by dozens of business periodicals and hundreds of management books. If, however, a situation seems resistant to even this mass of management wisdom, there are several hundred consulting firms and more than a hundred thousand consultants ready to provide additional management skill and knowledge. In 1993 businesses around the world spent $17 billion for consultants' recommendations, and AT&T alone lavished $347.1 million on outside expertise. "That does not necessarily mean that the business executives of the past were superior to those of the present. ... Still, we suspect that if those [managers] of years gone by found themselves at the helm of any of today's extraordinarily complex and competitive business enterprises, they would steer a straight and successful course." Quinn Spitzer and Ron Evans, Heads You Win!, Fireside, Simon and Schuster, Copyright 1997 by Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., pp. 15-17.

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Delanceyplace is a free service that provides a daily email with an excerpt or quote they consider interesting or noteworthy. There is no theme other than the fact that most excerpts come from a non-fiction work (usually, but not always, works of history).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Ancient Heathen Practices Do We Keep?

[The original version of this essay was submitted to my mentor in the Clergy Program. I was asked whether I could clearly state "what aspects of our ancient practices we wish to keep and which we do not? What policy would you formalize that would help you tell someone else when they should accept a practice and not accept other practices or beliefs of our ancestors?"]


What Ancient Heathen Practices Do We Keep?

What aspects of our ancient practices do we wish to keep? Which ones can we discard? How do we determine which beliefs and practices we should accept?

I have been wrestling with this set of questions for a few weeks. I must admit, however, that even after accepting the assignment, I felt that trying to work out a coherent, reasonable approach seemed far too huge a task for me. Truly, who am I to answer such questions? The first strike against me is that I have only been involved in the tradition for a short time. Other folks had been actively researching and promoting the religion, even starting organizations and writing books, well before I knew of it. Strike two is my lack of proficiency in the lore. I do work to regularly add to my knowledge, and I love to do the readings, but the simple fact remains that I am not a "lore hound" -- that is, I do not have a vast repository of lore or historical data committed to memory.

And the third strike?

I actually got well beyond a third strike against myself. But then I started to calm down a bit. I realized that, although there were others who were superior to me in knowledge, I have a sincere desire to be of service to the Gods and Goddesses and all who approach them. I have been serving in this capacity, albeit with small steps, and no one has questioned my capabilities or worthiness to do so. I further realized that the questions that lead this piece are the very questions that everyone involved in the Reconstruction must answer. And we must continue to evaluate and answer these questions as the movement grows and matures, as new folks are awakened to the path. And if I am going to be successful in my service, I must be part of the conversation regarding those questions.

Third -- and here I am continuing my previous meme of the three strikes, but now in a positive bend -- I realized that this query really boils down to a single question: What ancient practices are relevant today?

Although I have already taken a tangential path to bring several questions down to one, I am going on another slight tangent. I believe it will serve a useful purpose, and I hope that will be evident when I return to answering the question of relevant practices. During my brief forays into studying theology, and by that I do actually mean theology of a Christian persuasion, I came across an interesting approach to Biblical interpretation. I say it was interesting because I felt that the approach, although espoused by two Evangelical theologians, could be applied to the study of just about any "scriptures" -- please note the use of quotes here implies that while not all faith traditions can be said to have their own scriptures, as the Abrahamic faiths do, many of them do have writings of some form or at least some historic record to be translated and interpreted for a modern audience. I recall that one of the instructors referred to the method as a triangle because it had three points. I cannot remember what specific name, if any, he gave the triangle -- I have the lecture recorded somewhere, but cannot find it or my notes. I do, however, remember the basic gist. And it goes something like this: When considering a writing of a spiritual nature (or even one of historical record), one has to approach it in light of its literal context, historical context, and eternal context. In other words:
  • What is the literal meaning of the passage?
  • What did it mean to the original hearers?
  • What does it mean today? (The Christian approach tries to determine the "eternal truth" or meaning of the passage for all time. But I would simply look for a relevant modern meaning.)
In applying this triangle methodology to our ancestors' practices and beliefs, I would add a fourth and final context: Is it practical (feasible)? So, I have taken the triangle method of Biblical interpretation, which originally had no application to our faith, and developed a model for evaluating practices and beliefs. A visual aid for this model appears below [click image for larger version]:


Next I will show the model in use in evaluating two practices.
Ancient Practice Analysis #1: Bog Justice According to the Free Dictionary, a Bog Body is any one of the approximately 700 preserved human remains found in natural peat bogs, mostly in western Europe, from about c. 8000 BC to early medieval times. "That they have been variously found with cut throats, severed limbs, ropes around the neck, and so on suggests the possibility of ritual killings, murders, and ignominious burial (since none was found within a proper grave)" [thefreedictionary.com]. There is debate as to whether these bodies represent certain evidence of executions for a crime, sort of a "bog justice" if you will, or as a human sacrifice, or something else entirely. Even with the debate, the fact that our ancestors seemed to have a practice, even minimally so, of placing bodies into bogs will suffice for the purpose of analysis. 
Q1: What is the literal meaning of placing a body into a peat bog? A: It is a dead body dumped into a bog. It is not a pleasant burial. 
Q2: What is the historical meaning (i.e., what did it mean to our ancestors)? A: I will use the Free Dictionary information here and conclude that this is an "ignominious burial." While we cannot know for certain, in looking at other historical records, we can safely assume that this was not a desired end. It was likely something to be avoided. 
Q3: What is the modern relevance of bog justice? A: Modern relevance in killing someone and dumping the body? If we are to assume an historical basis of justice, then the modern relevance would be retribution, or perhaps vigilante justice. In either case, it would be an extreme punishment. 
Q4: Is bog justice practical today? A: It is neither practical nor feasible. Our modern society has a legal system for addressing grievances and crimes. And as flawed as it may be, it is a system we have to work within, otherwise our actions will be branded as criminal and then we will be subject to it (the system). Besides, depending on one's geography, a peat bog might be very difficult to find. A similar analysis can be applied to the concept of raiding, and the same conclusion can be drawn: it is not practical in today's global society. (Greg Shetler briefly covers this very topic in his book, "Living Asatru"). 
Ancient Practice Analysis #2: Animal Sacrifice  Animal sacrifice is the ritual consecration, killing, and then offering of an animal to some form of divinity. Depending on the tradition, this was (and, in a small number of cases, is still) done to appease or maintain favor with the divinities. Animal sacrifice has a long history in poly- and monotheistic traditions. [More information: Pagan Institute: Animal Sacrifice and About - Alt Religion - Which Religions Involve Animal Sacrifice.]
Q1: What is the literal meaning of sacrificing an animal to the Gods and Goddesses? A: It is a communal giving of a gift to higher powers. 
Q2: What is the historical meaning of animal sacrifice (i.e., what did it mean to our ancestors)? A: A sacrifice of this nature was not taken lightly. It was a "gift for a gift" -- a gift with a very high price. Additionally, our ancestors believed that blood was a very powerful gift because it represented life itself. 
Q3: What is the modern relevance of animal sacrifice? A: In this case, I feel that the modern and ancient meanings are roughly equivalent. However, there is little question as to which perspective placed a greater value on the sacrifice. For our ancestors, giving up an animal to sacrifice was a risky prospect and it bespoke a great trust in the natural powers to provide. Today, we have convenience stores and giant grocery outlets -- and most of us do not grow or raise our own food. 
Q4: Is animal sacrifice practical today? A: From my perspective, living and working as I do in the post-agricultural (even post-industrial) world, animal sacrifice is not practical or feasible. I could follow one of the alternative practices, such as making a bread or cake "animal" and sacrificing it. or making a work of art and offering it up. But I do not have the resources or knowledge to raise an animal for sacrifice, nor do I have the proper training do conduct such a sacrifice. There is still a minority of folks for whom animal sacrifice could be practical. As I recall from a recent interview on RavenCast, Kveldulf Gundarsson lives on his own farm and conducts animal sacrifice at the high holidays. This is entirely appropriate for him and his wife in their practice.
So, in conclusion, there are four qualifiers I use for determining whether to adopt a practice or belief from our ancient ancestors: Literal Context, Historical Context, Relevance, and Practicality/Feasibility. And, as I have shown in my second example, sometimes there is room for variance as the practice in question will be appropriate for some, but not all, the faithful. That, of course, makes perfect sense in a religion with no established dogma.

Recent "Theater Lackey" Updates

Here are the latest posts over at my theater blog, Confessions of a Serial Theater Lacky

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Twilight Zone

Delanceyplace is a free service that provides a daily email with an excerpt or quote they consider interesting or noteworthy. There is no theme other than the fact that most excerpts come from a non-fiction work (usually, but not always, works of history). Today's excerpt is about one of my favorite TV series: The Twilight Zone. And it gives a nice bit of background on host, Rod Serling, and The Twilight Zone's place in American history. Read on:

In today's excerpt-Rod Serling (1924-1975), his groundbreaking anthology science fiction TV series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), and the unfamiliar and uneasy loneliness of the suburbs: "During the postwar years, average Americans in ever greater numbers deserted small towns and big cities to embrace the emergent concept of suburbia. Rod and [his wife] Carol Serling made that move, following commercial success, to a notably upscale aspect of the new American paradigm. But like so many other young adults of the 1950s, Serling experienced an uneasy sense of dislocation. "Something essential, however hard to define, had been lost en route; some aspect of innocence, perhaps, that at least to a romantic imagination, once existed in our towns. Each such place had been unique, organically created over decades, taking on a shape and style all its own. Suburbia, in comparison, was defined by Pulitzer-prize winning author David Halberstam as 'the new social contract according to Bill Levitt.' Reacting to rampant blandness, residents began to yearn for the good old days, if less the reality of a bygone lifestyle than what Richard Schickel called 'an imagined past.' Our growing hunger for this mythic America shortly informed 'much of the new popular culture.' What would eventually come to be called The Nostalgia Craze would prove essential to The Twilight Zone from its earliest episodes. ... "On [this dislocation, the myth of normalcy, the dehumanizing effects of commercialism, the angst of the nuclear age, and] other subjects, Rod spoke truthfully and fearlessly. One early observer of TV hailed him as the medium's 'angry young man.' The only other contender: Edward R. Murrow, whose interview show followed Zone on Friday nights (1959-1960). What Murrow achieved in CBS's newsroom--integrity!--Serling pulled off at that network' entertainment arm. "Earlier in the decade, Serling and other top talents openly addressed important issues during TV's brief 'golden age.' Colleagues included Reginald Rose (Twelve Angry Men), Paddy Chayefsky (Marty), and J. P. Miller (The Days of Wine and Roses). All turned out smart scripts for 'live' anthologies that dominated TV drama from 1948 to 1955. Then the price of sets lowered and TV became big business for mass entertainment. Serious drama was out; predictable potboilers were in. From that point on, Serling necessarily presented politics and philosophy in a foxier manner. ... "Casting a seductive smile, Serling alone continued to convey on TV what every other serious writer wanted to say but wasn't allowed to. High-profile sponsors now acted as self-appointed censors, making certain that their products were presented in a context that offended no one. So Serling 'said something' by doing so indirectly, dropping confrontational realism for parable. During The Twilight Zone's five-year run (1959-1964), he employed imaginative/allegorical fiction to comment on (and sharply criticize) postwar America. 'On Zone,' Peter Kaplan claimed, 'the nightmare side of American life was opened up,' ... all the more frightening because stories took place close to home rather than in distant Transylvania. ... What initially seemed to be out-of-this-world dreams of darkness reflected a shadow-world existing on the edge of our brightly lit suburbs." Douglas Brode and Carol Serling, Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone, Barricade, Copyright 2009 by Douglas Brode and Carol Serling, pp. 1, xv-xvi.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness [Real Estate Edition]

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are among the inalienable rights of people according to the Declaration of Independence. Yes, I said the Declaration even though most people mistakenly attribute the phrase to the Constitution [1]. Still, because these rights have been mentioned in the Declaration, giving them a certain degree of forcefulness, they have been used in arguments against government regulations (particularly that "pursuit of happiness" thing [2]. Now, I actually had a reason for bringing up what is perhaps the most famous phrase of the Declaration of Independence. And that is something I have heard my father say often in reference to government foolishness: "The Founding Fathers said people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Food, shelter, clothing ... that's up to you. Period." Speaking of government foolishness, it would appear that our new President disagrees with my father:
President Barack Obama’s plan to confront the housing and foreclosure crisis is even more ambitious than first expected — committing as much as $275 billion in an effort to keep as many as 9 million Americans from losing their homes. [Politico.com]
Now, the Heathen perspective on this housing situation is one of personal responsibility. But, no, it's so much easier to swim with the tides of victimhood and declare, "It's not my fault. Someone has to do something to help me out of this mess!" Yes, the promise of owning one's own home was dangled in front of alot of people. Banks and other lenders pushed through huge loans to people who had no business receiving them. But did anyone actually twist the arms of these homeowners-to-be? At some point, these folks should have been able to realize that the so-called prevailing wisdom of buying "as much home as you can possibly afford" with the hope of increased income or increased property value that pays for itself down the road was simply spurious, if not completely irresponsible. Where did these people learn the basic principles of economics and budgeting? Mrs. Brainwise and I passed on a number of homes, and even dropped out of few bidding wars, simply because we were determined to not be "house poor" or overpay on the value of a piece of property. Yes, we have a smallish home, and we have had to do some work on it. But much of the work pays dividends in value. We're sitting fairly comfortably and there is very little danger that we'll lose the house. If you can't set yourself up in a similar manner, then you're probably better off continuing to rent instead of sinking money into a losing prospect and then waiting for the government to bail you out. Stop using my tax dollars to help folks who cannot handle money in the first place! --------------- [1] The 5th Amendment does offer protections to our "life, liberty, or property," noting we cannot be deprived of any of them without due process of law. (Reference: Things That Are Not In The U.S. Constitution). [2] Barron's Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed, pg.378.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Intro to Sacred Drumming | Jan 31 & Feb 1

This class is conducted by an associate of mine from the School of Sacred Ministries:

Intro to Sacred Drumming Jan 31st & Feb 1st, 2009 Saturday & Sunday 10–5 pm. $150 suggested donation. At the Center For Vitality and Wellness in Berwyn, Pa. www.centerforvitalityandwellness.com (directions on web site) Learning about playing Sacred Shamanic Rhythms as a form of meditation, prayer, healing and energy work. Going deep as a circle into rhythm vibration. You will learn and play simple rhythms within sacred circle. Shamanic drumming and rhythms can facilitate deep energy shifts, meditation and healing. We will play shamanic frame drums with a beater. This is not about being a musician, but about experiencing the healing vibration of shamanic rhythms. You do not need any experience in drumming. You don't even need to have a drum - we have drums for you to use. But bring a drum and a rattle if you have one, as our supply is limited! Tao is a Shamanic Healer/Teacher, Ordained Interfaith Minister, and Musician. Tao has been on a spiritual path for over 28 years, she has studied and practiced Shamanism intensely for over twelve years. A graduate of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies' advanced 3 year program, she also has been trained in teaching Shamanism by Sandra Ingerman (author of Soul Retrieval and Medicine for the Earth).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Thoughts on the Path

[The original version of this essay was submitted to my mentor in the Clergy Program. This version has slight changes to make it work as a blog post.]

My thoughts on the path.

I could have gone with a title like "This I Believe" or "How I See Asatru" or any other of 100 phrases that incorporate some form of belief/believe and Asatru. But Asatru is only one way to describe Germanic Reconstruction. Some might argue that that "Asatru" as a term is better suited to to the reconstruction going on in Scandinavian states, particularly Iceland, and that it is less than ideal as a descriptor of Germanic spiritualities. I'm not going into those arguments at this time. And belief can be a dangerous thing. The Abrahamic faiths have beliefs, beliefs that preclude all others, beliefs that motivate some toward violence, beliefs that are not up for debate. And all those beliefs are grounded in (dictated by?) a "holy" book of some sort. Hence ... "my thoughts on the path."

Now, I will admit I was in one of those Abrahamic camps for many years. Given where and when I was born, it's not at all surprising that I bought into the culture surrounding me. The only alternatives were differing flavors of Christianity. Sure there was a minor exposure to Judaism -- more of a token nod, if you will -- but that's to be expected. The point I am trying to make here is that there was a predominantly Judeo-Christian scene during my formative years. I had no contact whatsoever with Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, etc. Not until my high school years, but even then it was sparse.

My interest in (and modest aptitude for) science combined with what I had seen of several varieties of Christian expression led me to seriously doubt all the "one way" rhetoric that I had been exposed to ("One way? You cannot even agree on what that one way is!"). My Judeo-Christian foundation further cracked when I explored Taoism and Buddhism, which I started exploring during my study and practice of Okinawa Kenpo Karate-Kobudo (now called Ryukyu hon Kenpo Kobujitsu). As an aside, I must say I find comfortable parallels between Taoism and Heathenry, but not nearly so in Buddhism (though its mental discipline and philosophy are quite interesting).

Around this time I ejected Jesus as a deity in my life, but I still held to some concept of a generalized, amorphous "God" figure -- sort of a variable that could be filled with one's personal experience/concept of divinity. For a while, I even espoused the “All the gods are one god” kind of shtick, but I now seriously doubt I ever truly believed it.

Why do I bring all of that up here?

I don’t believe (oh no, there’s that word again) that spirituality exists in a vacuum. I can choose to reject a concept or even an experience, but I cannot remove its effect upon me. And each experience I have is affected by my earlier experiences in some shape or form. Not all experiences have direct causal affects on later ones; nor are all effects equal in application. Not too long ago, I told someone, “There is no God, and yet there is. There are no Gods; yet here they all are!” I would claim this statement as rather a wonderful pluralistic/polytheistic stance.

I am at this point because of how I see the process of experiencing the divine. The human brain, in my opinion, cannot fully comprehend/process/grasp/etc. the fullness of divinity. We can only catch a glimpse of it through the religious experience – those seemingly rare moments of transcendence that link a person to the greater mystery. This glimpse, or partial view, is then further filtered through the individual’s language, social class, culture, etc. And when that individual tries to share the experience with another, it must once again go through his filters and then be processed through a similar – though not necessarily identical – set of filters of his audience (be it one or several people). To me the development of dogma came about as a means of sharing religious experience or at least pointing the way to having one’s own experience. Rigid dogma, then, is the result of the sharing becoming more important than the actual experience.

This brings to my personal conclusion that all faiths (or spiritual paths) are simply means of experiencing divinity in this world. All faiths are, in one way or another, mere symbols in order to effectively communicate and share divine experiences. But they are not THE divine, which remain somewhat beyond our full comprehension -- at least while we remain in this world of forms.

I do not mean to give the impression that there is something wrong with our symbols. This could not be further from my heart. As human beings, we crave symbols and ritual because we need something tangible to help us relate to the intangible. We feel the need to DO something. That's where we are, and where we have come from.

And please note: I did not say that all faiths are EQUAL or the SAME. Nor do I say they are all EQUALLY TRUE. They are all, in their own ways, simply VALID. If a path works for an individual, then it is valid.

As I grow in my understanding of the ways of my pre-Christian ancestors, I find that the path(s) they blazed are the most practical for me. Polytheism – which did not exist until monotheism declared to be so – was simply the natural way of things. It is a way of seeing the world as it is, and accepting it, instead of trying to force little thing to comply with a rigid, and ultimately artificial, view of “why” things are they way they are. Granted, we cannot go back and practice exactly as our ancestors did; we need to make the faith relevant for the time in which we live. This is natural. The religion revealed by our source materials, our lore, is an imperfect snapshot (mostly taken by outside observers, if you will). While helpful, this snapshot does nothing to help us understand how the religion developed to that point. And it does less than nothing to tell us how it might have continued to progress to the present day. We can, however, extrapolate. Carefully. And this is the exact mission of reconstruction.

Frozen Lilac Branches Reaching Sunward.

"I Love Black And Gold"

Best use of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock'n'Roll" since "I Love Rocky Road"!

The Pop Rocks | "Heartbreaker" Steelers Fan Song

Even if you're not a Steelers fan, you might get a kick out of these kids performing their version of Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." At the very least, it should warm your heart to know that some kids these days appreciate the classics.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sale to the Chief? Really??

Can someone please tell me why these sales were necessary for celebrating a Presidential Inauguration? Is this kind of thing any better, any different, than President Bush encouraging people to shop after the Sept. 11 terror attacks?

Quotable | The Public's Money

The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own [i.e., the public's] money.” -- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 - 1859), French political thinker and historian, most famous for his work Democracy in America

Obama: The Unofficial Commemorative Plushie

OK. Today is historic. I get that. And people are excited about it. I get that, too. What I do not get, however, is the vast and diverse array of "commemorative" items that people are shilling for Obama's inauguration as our 44th president. Just perform a Google search on "obama commemorative" and you will see about 868,000 results. If you want to narrow it down to items you can actually purchase (or, rather, items that include the correct metadata to be pooled under shopping results), click Google's shopping link. Still, it's just under 10,000 (I got 9,778 results). But among the plates, cups, coins, and clocks (yes, clocks!), I did not see an official Obama plushie. Not in the top 50 at any rate. Now, it's not that I actually want an Obama plushie. I just became curious after seeing this particular LiveJournal post. Hence my entry's use of "unofficial" in the title. Seems that at least one LJ user is so excited about President Obama, is so enamored of him, that she created her very own tribute in the form of a plushie doll. Oh, and it comes complete with a Blackberry:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v654/hollyz3/Obama_1.jpg
Now, I say she created her very own plushie, but it might be more accurate to say that she created "your" very own plushie. And by that, I mean they put it up for auction on eBay. Starting bid: 99 cents. Oh, and before you go looking for that auction, hoping to get your bid in ... the auction is over. It ended on January 18, with 27 bids. High bidder took the plushie for a capitalist-friendly final bid of $91.00.
[Click for larger image]
Remember kids: This is not a toy. It's a piece of hand crafted artwork (It's fanart! It's homemade!). This is not intended for children. Nor is it intended to make a mockery of the office of the President of the United States. Really, it's not.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v654/hollyz3/OBAMA_BANNER.jpg?t=1232469173 [Click for larger image]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mr. Tolkien's Birthday and Kuhns Corner Books

I meant to post this on Monday, January 5 -- and that is when I started it -- but the whole thing got lost in the shuffle. I'm posting it now before I forget all about it again. Almost two weeks ago, I had a chance to visit a new independent bookstore near my home. Kuhns Corner Books (http://www.kuhnscornerbooks.com/) opened, appropriately enough, on the corner of West Walnut and South 5th Streets in Perkasie, PA. I think it opened around the middle of 2008, but it could have happened much earlier. I just know I've been driving past it for a little while now. But on January 3rd, while bringing Milo and Otis back from their annual visit to the vet, Mrs. Brainwise and I passed Kuhns and I noticed that it was open. So I decided to visit it. But first I had to complete the return trip for the thoroughly traumatized kitties. Oh, how they love to travel, especially when it involves being poked and prodded and examined. After we got home and did our best to pacify the boys a bit, I asked if there was enough time before our next appointment (visiting Mrs. Brainwise's mother in Bethlehem, and then having dinner with her friends in Easton). The window was plenty wide enough, and there was even time on the clock to hit the local Post Office. So I bundled up, gathered my keys, envelopes, and iPod, and hit the road ... walking. Yes, the new bookstore is within walking distance from my home. How cool is that? Anyway, the store is great. It's small, rather quaint I would say. They sell new and used books, but don't expect a great deal of inventory -- only one or two copies per title. And it's the only bookstore I've yet seen with a kitchenette dividing the front showcase area from the back. I did mention this is an independent bookstore, right? So, I'm wandering around, checking out what they have and soaking up the atmosphere. It was a perfect day for taking a break in a bookstore -- bright and sunny, but cold and blustery. Crazy windy day. I made mental notes regarding a few of the books I found, but nothing really stood out as a potential purchase. Well, nothing stood out until I came across a used copy of Master of Middle Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien by Paul H. Kocher. First edition softcover, 1972, good condition: Not exactly rare, but still pretty cool. It's a book that has been on my "to read" list for some time. And I want to support the local indie bookstore scene. So I purchased it and walked home. Upon arrival, I had just enough time to get some lunch and load up the car before we headed up to Bethlehem for the Mom-in-law and friends visits. I didn't have another thought about my new copy of Master of Middle Earth. That is, until the following Monday. January 5. Midway through the morning, I took one of my Google News breaks -- or maybe I was checking my email and I saw a Google Alert -- and I saw a story or two about Tolkien and his recent birthday. And then it hits me. I bought my book about Tolkien's writing on his birthday. On 116th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's birth, I purchased a book that was published about a year before his death. What a great way to "celebrate" one of my favorite writers! No fanfare. Nothing ostentatious. Just a quiet afternoon in a small bookstore. Let's hear it for the indies!
http://www.kuhnscornerbooks.com/bg-1.jpeg
 500 West Walnut Street | Perkasie, PA 18944 | 215-258-2515


Update (8/13/2011): This update is more than a tad overdue, but I must point out that (misfortune of misfortunes) Kuhns Corner Books closed down within the last year or so. Well, they've closed down the physical location. They seem to be operating solely as an online book source now.

Odin to Take Over Eden

“Of course all Christian ideas on how the world was created will be wiped out so the Eden name has to go. It will become the Eye of Odin.” So says Gudbrandur Gíslason, leader of the Eye of Odin group. The Eye of Odin is in the final stages of negotiations for taking over the restaurant and tourist attraction known as Eden in south Iceland. Their plans? Turn it into a restaurant, entertainment and information center dedicated to old Norse culture. For the full story, go to IcelandReview - Online. [link] Here is a 2006 photo of Eden:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steve Jobs Takes a Break

Wow. This sounds pretty serious. Apple's comeback over the last several years was due largely to Jobs being at the helm again. He is closely identified with both Apple's products and the company's image. While many will look only to the inevitable drop in Apple's share prices, I do hope that others will have some compassion for the man and his condition. And I hope that condition does not include cancer.
[News] Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs says that because of his health issues he will take a medical leave of absence from the company until the end of June. See full story.

Khan is Gone

Today we lose another acting legend. Ricardo Montalban died this morning at his home. He was 88. I remember Mr. Montalban's work with fondness. I loved his portrayal of the civilized Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island and the outlaw warrior Khan from the Star Trek series (and the film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). I even watched some Kim Possible episodes simply because he was voicing the villain. I hope someone was there with him in his final moments, possibly letting out an ear-splitting, "Khaaaaaaaaaan!" just to let them know, over on the other side, that an actor with the heart of a warrior was on his way. From Fox News:

Montalban's death was announced at a meeting of the city council by president Eric Garcetti, who represents the district where the actor lived. Garcetti did not give a cause of death.

"The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in my Council District — where the next generations of performers participate in plays, musicals, and concerts — stands as a fitting tribute to this consummate performer," Garcetti said later in a written statement.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,479941,00.html

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2008 in (My) Review

Salutations, Gentle Reader! Here is my capsule view of 2008. This is not a review of major news and events; rather, it is a summary of my own activity last year and it is based on the annual "Holiday Greetings" letter that accompanies the cards Mrs. Brainwise and I send out. I should also point out that this post is not an exact duplicate of that letter -- I have removed (or severely edited down) my wife's individual entries from the letter because, well, it's not really for me to broadcast her business on here.

With that little bit of an intro, I invite you to read on (if you dare!).

WORK
Another year as a technical writer for a major ecommerce firm, and I find myself with another award. This time it was a team award for all the folks that support our suite of software tools, but I did receive my own statue (and a cash bonus). I was also promoted this year, so I am once again a Senior Technical Writer. And, yes, that is just as exciting as it sounds. In other work news, Mrs. Brainwise celebrated her 15th year at her company -- can you believe that? 15 years in one place! Kudos to her. I swear she is the heart of that place.
HOME
The basement renovation is nearly complete. After the installation of new windows and a coat of paint on the walls and floor, it looks brand new down there. The wait for a new steel door to be installed, however, continues. Until then, stuff from the basement is strewn around the rest of the house and Mom Sibley's basement (many thanks for her continued patience). Update: We shifted alot of stuff from the living room, dining room, office, and guest room back down to the basement just in time for the holidays. It's amazing how much room that reclaimed!
CATS
Milo and Otis started a new canned food diet and Mrs. Brainwise thinks they have never been happier. I think they have never been more annoying (at dinner and breakfast). But there is no denying the boys love their new food and it does seem to be helping their health. The newest cat news concerns Milo: For no discernible reason, he has taken to sitting on the couch with us. Oh, and it's not just sitting near us -- he is actually right up against us, especially when the heater is on. Otis has always been cuddly, so Milo's transformation as cuddler #2 has Mrs. Brainwise overjoyed.
TRAVEL
Mrs. Brainwise traveled extensively this year: overnighting in Atlantic City with her mother a few times, and flying out to California to visit her sister. Aside from attending a few weekend retreats for the School of Sacred Ministries, my only travel occurred in late June/early July when we joined my family for a trip to Atlanta. My sister was scheduled to attend a school counselor conference so everyone tagged along for a vacation. The hotel was gorgeous if a tad crowded and noisy (a slew of high school kids were also attending a conference). I recommend the Botanical Gardens if you are ever in Atlanta – they are simply beautiful. But the real highlight of the trip came the day we left Atlanta and drove to the Smokey Mountain Ruby and Gold Mine in Cherokee, NC, where we panned for gemstones! It was so much fun finding all sorts of great gems. Next, Mrs. Brainwise and I struck out on our own to follow the Blue Ridge Parkway -- starting out by going the wrong direction (maybe we didn’t want to go home so soon). This was the most amazing drive ever, and we ended up in the most amazing town ever: Boone, NC. This little mountain community is perfect. It has that Penn State feel -- provided by Appalachian State University -- and it is a beautiful town. It could even become our annual vacation spot.
ANNIVERSARIES
Mrs. Brainwise and I celebrated eight years of marriage and my 40th birthday this year. We observed these milestones by attending a football game in Philadelphia: the Philadelphia Eagles (her team) versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (my team). We sat in season ticket territory -- about 10 rows behind the Steelers bench -- and saw a great game (according to Mrs. Brainwise, that is). Lincoln Financial Field is a great place – from the workers, to the layout, to the food (not that there is much we can actually eat on a gluten free diet), to the game day feeling. It was Mrs. Brainwise’s day as her Eagles defeated the Steelers 15-6.
THEATER
I've completed another season as Project Supervisor for the Montgomery Theater, a small professional theater in Souderton, PA. This year, I focused on upgrading and expanding music and sound effect control for Main Stage productions. For my efforts in this and other projects, I was honored with the 2008 Award of Excellence. Mrs. Brainwise schemed with the theater's staff to ensure that my parents and a few close friends were in the audience for the presentation. And, believe me, I was completely surprised. I just never saw it coming; never expected such an award.
MINISTRY
I continue to serve on the School of Sacred Ministries' Advisory Circle, and have taken a leadership role as the Interim Co-Administrator. Earlier this year, I conducted my first class, Introduction to Indigenous European Spiritualities. This class replaces the previous topic of Celtic Spirituality and Earth Studies that had been part of the curriculum for years. One of my fellow graduates was a co-presenter with me, and our class was a great success. We not only expanded on the original topic -- as evidenced by the title change -- but (in the words of our previous Administrator, who is also the School's co-founder) our presentation was "probably the best class on Celtic spirituality the School has ever had." I am looking forward to teaching my next class, Introduction to Rituals and Ceremonies, at a retreat this coming March. Earlier this year, I was certified to offer premarital counseling and I conducted two more interfaith weddings over the summer -- both of which were outside. I am also honored to say that I am recognized as a gothi, performing spiritual observances for a growing community of Germanic Reconstructionists in the tri-state area.
And now here we are in 2009. I hope you enjoyed the recent holiday season, and I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.
2008 Collage