Public Speaking and an Upcoming Play

This past Sunday, I gave my talk at the Owen Society, which went pretty well. I was definitely stepping outside my comfort zone by doing public speaking. However, it was group of about 20 very appreciative listeners and it was a topic that I enjoyed researching.

I spoke about the Mystery traditions during the Roman Imperial period, specifically featuring the Eleusinian mysteries, Mithraism and the cult of Isis. I have always been fascinated with ancient Roman religious practices. I always have felt that the study of the complex, multi-cultural world of ancient Rome has much to say about our current world.

Ranty Wilberforce featured me again (in my guise as Jean-Julien Brumaire), this time with better lighting. The last video had much more about my talk. This was just an introduction in the light of day.

Here is Ranty Wilberforce’s blog post

This whole Ranty Wilberforce storyline on his blog (you can read back a few weeks) and his reference to Professor Marius Mandragore are leading up to Terra Mysterium’s play The Lion and The Serpent, which is September 5-8 here in Chicago. I heartily recommend seeing the play if you have a chance.

Ancient Mysteries and Absinthe

As I mentioned, I am giving a talk this Sunday at The Owen Society for Hermetic and Spiritual Enlightenment in the guise of Jean-Julien Brumaire. Here is an (unfortunately rather dark) video where I speak with Ranty Wilberforce about ancient mysteries and, of course, absinthe.
Here is Ranty Wilberforce’s blog post

I have had my head deep inside the mysteries from the Roman Imperial period in preparing this talk. I don’t really give any sort of public talks or lectures, so this breaking new ground for me. I will have another post soon with my reflections on all this.

The Four Powers of the Sphinx

I was recently exposed to the idea of the Four Powers of the Sphinx. T. Thorn Coyle is using these as a framework for her Make Magic of Your Life web series. The idea comes from the ceremonial magic tradition and the Powers are aspects of the ability to bring change to your self and to the world. Each step is also an ongoing process and challenge.

To Know

Knowing means gathering and evaluating information, but also understanding and discerning this information. We live in an age of information and huge volumes of facts and words and opinions are available to us with a simple web search. We can find answers to hundreds of questions that we didn’t even know to ask. This makes the ability to have a critical mind and to find guidance so valuable. If we are constantly pulled toward a new direction with each new blog post, YouTube video and trendy book, we may never find our own truth, our own knowledge.

Knowledge is ruled by the element Air. We must find the ability to cut out what is untrue and unnecessary. We must find a way to make judgments like blind Justice. We must find our own inner way of knowing. Even when we may not know what is objectively “true”, we can know what is true for our own self. Teachers may help to guide us and may help to strip away preconceptions, but they cannot hand us answers.

To Will

Will means deciding on a course of action and pointing our resources toward action. Knowledge may show us the problem; Will shows us a solution. Do we see a business opportunity? Do we want to improve relationships? Do we want to stand up against injustice? Do we want to protect our loved ones? Do we want to quit smoking? Do we want to change a government policy? Will points the way. It points to the change in the world or in our self that we want to see.

Will is ruled by the element Fire. It is the spark of action, of inspiration that starts with knowledge and leads to change. Will picks the target. Will chooses the plan. Will sets the machine in motion.

To Dare

Daring means letting go of the comfortable and habitual to allow real action and real change take place. Daring isn’t easy. It allows us to overcome doubts. It causes us to leave the usual script behind and follow our true course. Daring means taking the Knowledge and Will and letting the plan play out. Will lights fuse and Daring allows the rocket to fly.  It is the rush of energy that puts magic into effect. Thorn Coyle interviewed a woman named Alley Valkyrie who is an advocate for the homeless, who spoke about the Power to Dare. She talked about using her privilege, instead of apologizing for it. I can’t claim to do anything as bold and direct as Alley’s advocacy, but her words about using privilege resonated with me on my reasons for becoming vegan.

Daring is ruled by the element Water. It is the rush of pure emotion and the overcoming of fears and restraints. We drink in the power in order to change our selves and it rushes out in a wave to make a change in the world.

To Keep Silent

Keeping Silent is the power to listen, to observe, to reflect, and to recover. We have dared to act. We have sent our will out into the world, and now we wait. Do we see the changes that we expected? Has the magic taken hold in unexpected ways? So often, when we fight the great fights, we must regroup and attack again. We may have won the battle (or perhaps we didn’t), but the battle is not the war and we must prepare for another round.

Keeping Silent is ruled by the element Earth. We must take care of our bodies and our minds. We must nourish ourselves and our families. There must be a time for the private, for the silent moments. In our age of constant phones, emails, TV, and social media, it can be hard to find true silence. There’s always a message waiting, the latest news flash, another infuriating commentary that begs for response. All this noise can make silence the hardest power to achieve.

Of course the cycle begins again and we must once again work on Knowing. We evaluate the lessons learned and figure out what went wrong or how we can do it better the next time. Life is a continuum, not a project that is simply completed.  There will always be changes to make in ourselves and in the world.  Magic will always be needed.

Farmers Markets – Connecting Modern Urbanites to the Sacred Harvests

One of my favorite benefits of working at my current office is that we are just a block from a weekly Farmers Market. As an urbanite that lives in a condo and only has room to grow a few kitchen herbs in a container, this market provides a wonderful connection with the land and the rhythm of the seasons.

The market starts in late May, and there only asparagus, strawberries and a scant collection of other fresh crops.  Many of the booths fill out the sales with baked goods, pickles and preserves. As the summer progresses, we have greens, radishes, and various berries. The sweet cherry season is one of my favorites as it peaks in July.

As we move into August, the selection is bountiful.  Beans, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn come into season.  Peaches, apples cantaloupe and pears appear.  These are colorful and delicious gifts of the earth, brought to us by the hard work of those who work the land and bring food to us in the city.

Lughnasadh, the Celtic Pagan holiday takes place on August 1st in northern hemisphere, is the First Harvest.  The Fall Equinox is the second and Samhain is the third and last celebration of the harvest in that tradition.  Here in Chicago, we are meteorologically slightly different than the British Isles, but these are still good approximations for our local seasons.

I was thinking of the First Harvest, and I was reading that one tradition is to use the first grain harvested for the year to make a special celebratory cake.  I have access to a lot of food, but I have no idea how to get freshly harvested wheat where I am in the city.  I did see that sweet corn was starting to show up in our market, so I did pick up that, so that at least I had one freshly grown grain on hand. Harvest is so much more than grain, though.

I love fresh vegetables and fruits and I love the opportunity to try new varieties that show up in the market. The variety keeps my interest in food alive, and the creative challenge of cooking something new is something I do enjoy. I think encouraging a wide variety of ingredients is important to our food supply, too. Heirloom varieties shouldn’t be lost in favor of easily shipped and blander varieties. Fresh local produce, sustainable farming practices and eating a widely varied diet of fruits and vegetables is an ideal, both for our health and the health of the environment. Farmers markets help make that possible.

Someday, I hope to own a home where I can have a garden of my own and have an even closer relationship to the plants I eat and the cycle of the seasons. Sadly, it doesn’t really look like that will be possible for me anytime soon. But until then, I can use the Farmers Markets to stay connected.