Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 November 23, Moving over to blogger

As you can see, I'm in the process of trying to get all of my old blogs transferred over to blogger.  Unfortunately, since I have my blog archives in several different places, they're not importing quite right.  :-)  Oh well.

I've posted some of the important or interesting blogs from the past year and I will be posting more as we move forward into the holiday season and 2010.



2009 November 01, November Newsletter

(Still not properly importing from the old blog site. 
Please use the link if needed.) 

Arsenic & Old Lace

Your One-Stop Occult Shop
  November 2009 Newsletter
Arsenic & Old Lace

Happy November!

Happy November!

Ah, November.  It's one of my favorite times of the year, and not just for Thanksgiving!  For me, this time of year marks the change to when I am more focused on the home, family, and friends. 

November seems to be a bit scarce on holidays.  On a secular level in the USA, we celebrate Thanksgiving.  For modern Paganism, most of us have already celebrated 3 harvest festivals but one more never hurts!  Even so, you don't find many modern Pagan celebrations during this month.

Most of the regular Sabbats or celebrations in modern Paganism are fairly solar focused in their emphasis.  Being without a formal holiday this month lets me focus on more personal aspects of my practice such as my devotional work with regards to the importance of friends and family. This often takes the form of meditations and ritual designed around, not the solar myths but instead around the lunar cycle.  As they occur this month, their order is Full, Waning, New, and Waxing. 

I find it particularly empowering to prepare myself with a ritual bath prior to starting my devotions, whether I have a full ritual planned or just a simple meditation.  Ritual baths work by bringing the mind and body into alignment with your intention.

To encourage you to try this wonderful and easy way to focus, we're giving our members special discounts on our entire selection of AG Ritual BathsSave 15%!

Upcoming Events - A Befana Yule


Join Vinnie and the Society of Elder Faiths in celebrating the Winter Solstice - Yule, the Return of the Sun!  This year we will be presenting a "Befana Yule" ritual.


Friday, December 11th
Doors open at 6 PM
Orientation at 7 PM

Brigham Hill Community Farm

Befana is the Italian "good witch" who brings gifts of the season to the children.  She represents the Goddess of the Hearth who gives renewal to the Sun.  She is also the old crone who connects us to our Ancestors and the cycle of life, growth, and renewal.

New & Noteworthy - Spell Casting Shop and improved Site Navigation

We're going to be instituting several new "collections".  These collections will be groupings of products by a common theme.  We'll still have all of our old "departments" like books, music, and candles but we thought that since we do have over 6000 items, designing collections would make it even easier for you to find what you need.  Our newest collection is our Spell Casting Shop where we've assembled everything from full ritual kits to those hard to find ingredients like coffin nails.

Site navigation has been improved!  Come by the site and see the marvelous job that Mike did with redesigning our UI for more intuitive menus.  We have added menus on the homepage, search, and product listing pages to make it easier to navigate to specific categories or subcategories. You can always find where you want no matter where it appears at the site.

Come by and let us know what you think!

About Arsenic & Old Lace

Founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1981 and now exclusively on the web, Arsenic & Old Lace is dedicated to providing quality products and advice to the Pagan and Wiccan communities. We have become one of the best known occult supply shops in New England and one of the most trusted places to get quality supplies and gifts.  We strive to provide the best possible service for our customers.   

You can choose from over 6000 products and save 5% or more off retail prices.

Arsenic & Old Lace
Rev. Vincent Russo, Proprietor

Tel: 617-381-4369
Become a Facebook Fan - click here!

Members Specials
In honor of November devotionals, Members receive special discounts on our entire selection of AG Bath Salts!  Come by and browse our selection.

2009 October 26, Observance of Wiccan New Year Ends in Religious Discrimination Suit

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Observance of Wiccan New Year Ends in Religious Discrimination Suit
•    Oct. 26th, 2009 at 7:17 AM

Some of you may have already seen this as a "share" on my Facebook page but I thought it was interesting enough to repost as a blog - especially since I'm working in Salem and it's October.


Observance of Wiccan New Year Ends in Religious Discrimination Suit
In a complaint filed in federal court in Connecticut, Gina Uberti alleges she was unfairly terminated for practicing Wicca, known as the largest of neopagan religions.

October 23, 2009

Observance of Wiccan New Year Ends in Religious Discrimination Suit

Last Halloween, Gina Uberti took vacation days to celebrate the Wiccan new year in Salem, Massachusetts, the town infamously known for the witch trials of 1692 that ended with the hanging of 14 women.

Less than a month after Uberti took part in the festivities of Samhain, one of the holiest days in the Wiccan calendar, she was fired from her job as a district sales manager for Bath & Body Works.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Connecticut last week, Uberti alleges she was unfairly terminated for practicing Wicca, known as the largest of neopagan religions.

Uberti alleges in the lawsuit that her boss said just before she was fired, “You will need a new career in your new year. … I will be damned if I have a devil worshiper on my team.”

Uberti says in the suit that her troubles at work began shortly after she returned from her trip to Salem. Her boss lamented that Uberti had chosen to go on vacation during a particularly important week at work, Uberti said. Uberti said her vacation had been approved by another manager a year in advance and that she had taken that particular time to celebrate a Wiccan holiday.

“That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Uberti’s boss, Sandra Scibelli said, according to court documents.
Until she was fired November 20, 2008, Uberti had worked for the retailer for eight years, first as a manager in the company’s Milford, Connecticut, store and then as a sales manager from her home in nearby East Haven.

Uberti filed charges in February with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which granted her the right to sue in September.
Bath & Body Works is part of Limited Brands Inc, based in Columbus, Ohio.

“We are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate against race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, sexual orientation or marital status,” says Robin Hoffman, specialist, external communications for Limited Brands. “Additionally, we do not comment on pending litigation.”

Uberti’s lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for emotional distress and damage to her career as well as lost pay, vacation days and pension benefits, as well as other restitution.

Tal Marnin, an attorney with White & Case in New York, says U.S. law prohibits religious discrimination regardless of whether the religion is widely practiced or not.

“The employee has to show she is a sincere believer and that her attending the ceremony was part of her religious observance and practice,” Marnin said.

The company would have to show Uberti’s absence caused it an “undue hardship,” Marnin said.
The Wiccan new year, Samhain, takes place the same day as the Celtic new year. It is considered one of the four holy festivals, or Sabbats, according to the complaint. Uberti says in her complaint that for the previous six years she had received and taken time off to make the annual new year’s pilgrimage to Salem.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects covered employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
—Jeremy Smerd

2009 September 01, All Among The Barley

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
     All Among The Barley - Now is come September, the Hunter’s moon begun...
.. ..
All Among The Barley....
Now is come September, the Hunter’s moon begun....
And through the wheat and stubble we turn the green to dun....
The leaves of pale and yellow are kindlin’ into red....
And the ripe and bearded barley is hangin’ down his head.....

All among the barley....
Who could not be blithe?....
When the ripe and bearded barley....
Is smilin’ on the scythe. ....
The Spring is like a young man who does not know his mind.....
The Summer she’s a tyrant, the most ungracious kind.....
The Autumn is an old friend who loves where all she can,....
For she brings the bearded barley to gladden the hearts on man.....

All among the barley....
Who could not be blithe?....
When the ripe and bearded barley....
Is smilin’ on the scythe. ....
The wheat is like a rich man, he’s sleek and well to do.....
The oats are like a pack of girls, laughing and dancing, too.....
The rye is like a miser, he’s sulky, lean and small.....
But the ripe and bearded barley is monarch of them all.....

All among the barley....
Who could not be blithe?....
When the ripe and bearded barley....
Is smilin’ on the scythe. ....
The babe it knows no grief nor care, safe in its mothers breast.
The grown man, he must strive and strain, it's seldom he can rest.
The grey beard sits and takes his ease, where care no more holds sway.
With pipe, and dog, and clear brown ale, he dreams the time away.....

All among the barley....
Who could not be blithe?....
When the ripe and bearded barley....
Is smilin’ on the scythe.

2009 August 19, Authentic vs Valid

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
     Authentic versus Valid

What is “valid” versus what is “authentic?”

This topic seems to creep up quite frequently with regards to different modern day traditions of Pagan spiritual practices (Wicca, BTW, Stregheria, you name it).

With everyone on the internet being an authority on just about everything, it can get quite confusing.  It seems like everyone is trying to state in black&white what something either IS or IS NOT and since everyone is an expert, who do you trust?

It’s particularly difficult when trying to discuss anything having to do with areas of spirituality, especially with such young Paths like Wicca and modern Paganism.  In most forms of Paganism, there is NO central authority that can give proclamations from “on high”. More established Paths (read – organized religions) tend to be able to do that with authority because they have a long history what they are, how things are done, HAVE a central authority, and have collectively over the years agreed on certain base definitions for themselves and how they express them to outsiders.  As modern Pagans, we’re still struggling with those things – partly because we are young in terms of public organization as compared to them.
Old Timers in the Craft need to realize that newer folks WILL see things in a different way and shouldn’t get so threatened when someone comes along and presents a view that differs from theirs.  Instead, it might be more productive if they really listen, correct from their perspective, and keep a dialogue open.

New folks should realize that the Old Timers have been doing this for quite a while and might actually have a clue based on research, personal experience, and community agreement regarding terms and definitions.  I would suggest that new folk present their differing views in a less antagonistic way, acknowledge that they may not know everything, and keep a dialogue open.  When they are gently corrected, they should take it as “constructive criticism” and not as a personal attack.

Basically, act like adults and agree to disagree while continuing to talk and be honest with each other.
I realize that I have certain deeply held beliefs that differ from some of the more conservative Wiccans yet I know that they are equally valid for me and my practice.  Whenever I talk about Wicca, Stregheria, or Paganism, I try to get across that what I am speaking about is only from my perspective. I am not “defining” as much as I am “describing”.  That, I think, is the key: describe rather than define and “my way/our way” rather than “the way”.

I am one of the moderators for a Stregheria yahoo group and “valid and authentic” recently came up with regards to “Strega traditions”. Personally, I see a difference between “authentic” and “valid”.  Frankly, “authentic” is nothing more than “is something what it claims to be”.  “Valid” on the other hand is simply “does it work”.
Below is the post that I made in response to those discussions as relating to Stregheria.  I’d be interested in your feedback.
.. ..

.. ..
Post from
Vinnie Russo on Grimassi and Streghe ....
Posted with permission.....
From: Vinnie Russo ....
Subject: [traditional_stregheria] Moderator Note - Grimassi & Wicca bashing....
Date: Aug 12, 2009 8:49 AM....

Hello all,....

.. ..
First, I want to say that I am thrilled with all of our new members and the recent lively discussions. However, I need to step in both personally and as a moderator regarding Raven Grimassi as well as the recent attitude of "Wicca bashings".....

.. ..
I know Raven Grimassi personally. People who criticize his published material often don't have all the facts, have never talked to him, or have jumped to assumptions.....

.. ..
Raven's published material is just that published. You don't really think that he'd actually publish all the material that he has or what he uses to train personal students, do you? It's material that is appropriate to teach the public, he makes that very clear. However, what Raven teaches his students is both authentic and valid. {Vinnie’s note: please see above descriptions of Authentic & Valid.}....

.. ..
I would like to quote directly from Raven Grimassi:....
"There is a rich legacy of ritual, lore, and magic in the teachings of Italian Witchcraft. It has always been my goal to share this with others in whatever way I can. This has been a challenge over the years because much of the material is protected by sworn oaths to not reveal various elements. I have pushed that envelope over the year and continue to do so today. Ironically this has brought charges from initiates that I am violating the oaths, and it has brought allegations from the public that I have nothing authentic to share and am simply using the "oath claim" as a shield. We are a fascinating community." ....

.. ..
"The facts are that I plant the keys to initiate material in my non-initiate material. I use common material as a carrier for the inner workings. All that is required is for a person to sift through my books and join things together. The keys and the doorways are all there, it only takes a focused desire to reveal what resides within the written words. Is this the breaking of oaths? For some people it is, and some initiates feel that I am freely giving away keys that they have had to work for over the years."....

.. ..
"Some non-initiates look at my work, and because it contains some common Wiccan elements they dismiss it all as unauthentic. I guess this is like finding a fly in your soup; it ruins the whole thing. Except, of course, that the fly doesn't make chicken soup something else because the fly is mixed in. It's chicken soup with a fly in it. That's pretty much the situation with Wiccan elements in my writings on Italian Witchcraft. I was particularly amused one time to hear my book on Italian Witchcraft referred to as Wicca with marinara sauce. While inaccurate, the statement is still funny."....

.. ..
"I find that some of my critics invent things about me and work, which is really a misuse of valuable time for all concerned. While I appreciate respectful differences of opinion, and I value constructive criticism of my writings, I have little tolerance for unwarranted allegations and outright lies. But I do realize that being a public figure is going to draw attacks upon my work and my character. It's an unfortunate truth about human nature."....
More can be read here: ....

.. ..
OK, back to me now. In addition to responding to inaccuracies regarding Raven's work, I want to address the recent "Strega good, Wicca bad" attitude. ....

.. ..
What's with all the Wicca bashing? There is absolutely no reason to denigrate or criticize another Path in order to compliment one's own. It is entirely possible to "sing the praises" of what Stregheria is WITHOUT the need to criticize what it is not. ....

.. ..
Stregheria is a VERY diverse path and some families and branches have chosen to incorporate some Wiccan elements. So what? I applaud them. They are taking a long term look at things and incorporating elements into their own practices to ensure what they pass is a complete system rather than a fragmented system of lore and folk magic. Bravo.....

.. ..
The very culture of Sicily and Italy is syncretic in nature (Italian, Greek, Spanish, French, African, Phoenician, etc.) and there is no reason that our Craft shouldn't reflect that. As a matter of fact, it would be VERY surprising if our Craft DIDN'T reflect that especially as a living tradition. As many of us are American, English, etc. and NOT native Italian or native Sicilian, it only makes sense that we would begin to incorporate elements of the culture that we currently live in and make those elements our own. Just because something originally can be traced to another culture or Path doesn't mean that it can't also be part of Stregheria. It becomes part of Stregheria (at least in particular families) when the element in question becomes fully integrated into the composite fabric of the Craft.....

.. ..
Further, factual history of the Craft (of any culture) is almost non-existent. Most of the so-called facts are simple oral lore and stories but would not stand up to academic research to ascertain the validity of the various claims. Much of the initial modern Wiccan/Pagan movement started based on a fabrication of history (i.e. tweaking the truth and even outright lies). It's much better now with Wiccans becoming Academics and doing real research that will allow them to take a more honest look at themselves.....

.. ..
I don't want to see us (The Streghe) fall into the same trap that the Wiccans of the 1960's did namely, that of everyone claims to have a personal family tradition going back in an unbroken line for thousands of years; with unchanged material, lore, and mysteries; that is a complete system of magic and mystery; that was always secret which is how it survived; and is oathbound so no verifiable proof can be offered to corroborate. If we follow that path, it only makes us look like attention seekers and children that don't know any better.....

.. ..
So, let's all try to criticize others less and compliment good academic research, good heart, and honest discussion more.....

.. ..
---Vinnie ....
.. ..
.. ..
11:33 AM
1 Comment
1 Kudos


Kudos to you Vinnie.  Too often people concentrate on the difference instead of looking for our similarities.  In actuality we should all be working for a common cause in taking better care of our world and eath other.  It is our own personal perspective that makes the differences jump out and too often jealousies, and arrogance makes people go off on their own tangent about how "right" their viewpoint is.  I too write about my path, and try to make sure people know that it is from my perspective as it is my personal path, and not one that is joined with a group.  If it coincides with another's views, so be it...then we have found common ground upon which to build our friendship.  If not, then again, that is okay too, for it gives us a place to start talking and listening to each other in an effort to grow as friends.  Thanks for the reminder today.  Blessed Be.

Posted by Shae)0( on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 1:36 PM

2009 August 06, August Newsletter

Thursday, August 06, 2009
(Links disabled or in MySpace format)

August Newsletter for Arsenic & Old Lace
Current mood:  busy

Arsenic & Old Lace

Happy Summer!

Happy Summer and Happy Lammas!

As our good friend Jonathan said in a recent email to us:

"Whether we call it La Cornucopia, Lammas, Lughnasadh, Festa di Demeter Malophoros, Green Corn & Dance, First Harvest, Time of the Scythe, Lunasa, Feast of St Peter's Chains, or that magical moment when the stars align into just 5' Leo...  Wishing you a wonderful celebration of First Fruits in this season of summer's bounty."

Lammas is often called "The First Fruits" and is the first of the 3 harvest festivals in modern Paganism (Autumnal Equinox and Samhain are the other two) and is usually celebrated on August 1.  A nice entry at Wikipedia is located here.

To help celebrate, we're giving our members special discounts on our selection of Altar Cloths and our Tote/Messenger Bags.  Save 15% here!

Upcoming Events
Where we will be and when...

We have several events that we will be attending in the near future and would love to see you at them!

Annual Society of Elder Faiths Lammas Faire!
Join us for a great day of fun and fellowship. The beginning of the Harvest Season has long been marked by fairs, games, and gatherings. Our Faire is held in celebration of the ancient festival of Lammas,
in the tradition of the summer gathering of the tribes.

Sunday, August 9th, 2009
Metro West YMCA at Hopkinton
Gather at the Camp Carol Pavilion at 1:00 PM
Closing ritual at 4:00 PM
Admission: $5 SEF Members, kids under 12 free, $10 all others

Drum Circle! Belly Dance Workshop! Games for All Ages!
Sun Shield Workshop for Kids and Their Families! Cookie Bake-off (be a judge!) {}

Southern New Hampshire Pagan Pride Day - Save the date!
NH Pagans of all traditions and paths are welcome at NH Pagan Pride Day 2009

10am - 6pm
UU Church in Manchester, NH

We will have a variety of workshops, performances, vendors and craftspeople, as well as opportunities for the kids! Come and celebrate the Harvest season with us and show your Pride in your traditions and beliefs! {}

If you find yourself attending either of these wonderful events, look us up!

New and Noteworthy - Specialty Collections

·        Fairy Collection - We've added a new "Specialty Category" where we've collected all of our Fairy related items in one convenient place.
·        Our Dryad Design Collection and our Witches' Alchemy Potions are back!
As always, we're very interested in getting feedback from you!  Please send us your suggestions and comments so we can improve our service.

About Arsenic & Old Lace

Founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1981 and now exclusively on the web, Arsenic & Old Lace is dedicated to providing quality products and advice to the Pagan and Wiccan communities. We have become one of the best known occult supply shops in New England and one of the most trusted places to get quality supplies and gifts.  We strive to provide the best possible service for our customers.   

You can choose from over 5000 products and save 5% or more off retail prices.  Save 10%  on all purchases of $50 or more.

Arsenic & Old Lace
Rev. Vincent Russo,Proprietor
Tel: 617-381-4369
Become a Facebook Fan - click here!

Members Specials In honor of Lammas, Members receive special discounts on a selection of incense and incense accessories!
Come by and browse our selection.

Whoops!  This month's special is actually on Altar Cloths and Tote/Messenger Bags.

Posted by Arsenic & Old Lace (Vinnie Russo) on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 9:56 AM

2009 July 02, Seek out water???

2009 July 02, Seek out water???

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Thursday, July 02, 2009 
2009 July 02, Seek out water???
Current mood:Wet

.. ..
This morning I drew a tarot card for myself with the question, “Why can’t I seem to get as much writing done as I want?”.  (When drawing a card for myself, I tend to rely on “Tarot: Mirror of the Soul” for the initial interpretation before putting my own spin on it.)

Mirror of the Soul gives the meaning of the High Priestess card as “access to intuitive powers, healing, independence, inner equilibrium, increased self-confidence”.  That made sense to me.

The Question that I was told to ask myself was, “Are there areas in your life in which you allow others to influence you rather than trusting your own intuition?”  Well, I knew the answer to that one!

The Suggestion that was offered was, “Seek out water as often as you can.  Meditate near water, and learn from it as much as you can.”

Those of you in the NorthEast know that we’ve been getting rain after rain after rain.  Today has been a particularly intense storm (thunder, lighting, rain, hail).  I had water all around me!  However, meditating while sitting on the back porch watching and listening to the rain fall was getting me nowhere.

What luck!  The rain pattered off and the sky cleared!  Since focusing on the rain wasn’t working, I knew just what to do. I promptly put on my jogging shorts with the intention of a quick jog to the park, a short meditation at the pond, and a quick jog home.

On the way there, I was thinking – almost like a moving meditation.  Before I actually got to the park I had figured out that I know what the block in my writing is.  I’m worried that if I don’t have cohesive structure before starting to write, then what I put on paper will be all over the place and hard to understand.  I also have an intuitive idea what to do about it.  I need to just write and not worry about the form, structure, or “polish” of it – that can come later.  But I was holding myself back from doing just that.  But why?  Because I was worried about what would happen if I pushed past the block. 

That's when I made the mistake of asking no one in particular, "What would happen if I trusted my instinct and pushed past the block?"  There was a crack of lightning and the sky opened up. In a matter of seconds, I was soaked to the skin and couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of me.  That was my answer.  If pushed past the block with no regard to anything else, it would be like a dam breaking – a flow of force but without a container.  Potentially overwhelming if not prepared for but the water would be free.

While getting soaked, I realized that right now, my writing is all dammed up and the information that I want to get down isn’t doing any good unless I do get it down.  Maybe it’s time to release the floodgates and see what happens.  After all, it’s only water, right?..

2009 June 12, Do the right thing...

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Friday, June 12, 2009  - Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Current mood:   amused

I needed to make a quick run to the convenience store to get some milk this morning.  Normally, I’d actually run (well, let’s be honest, walk) to the store because it’s only a few blocks away.  For some reason, I took the Rav instead.

Bizarrely, the closest convenience store was OUT of milk!  So, I navigated around some back streets (the street that the convenience store is on is one way) to go to the next closest.  The street I choose is one that I drive on quite frequently.  It’s not a major street but it’s not a minor one either, especially at the tail end of rush hour.

The light at the corner was just turning from yellow to red as I approached so I slowed to a stop.  Apparently the car behind me was in a rush because the woman blasted her horn.  I was obvious that the light was red and that I wasn’t turning right.  Did she want me to go through a red light?  I glanced at them in the mirror and there was a car full of teens driven by an older woman.  One of the teens was trying to ask the woman something and she just pointed to the window in disgust while continuing to glare at me.  The teen shrugged, opened the window, and threw out one of those large plastic Dunkin Donuts ice-coffee cup.

Now, I really don’t like people who litter.  I especially don’t like people when they throw trash out of cars.  It shows a lack of respect, a lack of personal responsibility, and a disregard to the people who live there.  I doubted that saying anything to them would change the situation so I figured that I’d lead by example.

Since the light was red, I put the Rav in park and got out.  I walked toward the passenger window of the offending car.  Without looking at them or addressing them in any way, I simply bent down, picked up the trash, and walked back past my Rav to the trash bin on the corner.

However, before getting to the bin, woman started to honk and yell, “move it!”.  Apparently, when I was picking up after them, the light had turned green and she couldn’t go forward because I was in parked at the light in front of her.  She couldn’t go around because of oncoming traffic.  Basically, she was stuck there until I put the trash into the bin.  By the time I got back to the Rav, the light was red again and the woman was screaming a blue streak and the kids were laughing.

She rolled down her window and screamed at me to “get in the fucking car and go!”.  I wasn’t quite back in the Rav at that point so I turned back to her and calmly responded with, “If you hadn’t allowed your child to irresponsibly throw trash out the window, then I wouldn’t have stopped to clean up after them.”

She responded with, “You have no business doing that!  We’re going to be late because of you!”

That’s when my bitch kicked in.  I (still standing outside my Rav, with the light having changed back to red again) said, “If I see someone doing something wrong and I don’t take action to correct it, then I am just as much to blame as they are.  I figured that saying something about trash would be lost on you so instead I chose to simply pick it up and throw it out.  You’re the one who let the child thrown garbage out onto the street and you’re the one who confronted me.  I was simply teaching by example.”

She said, “Yeah, how do you like this example?  Are you going to pick up my trash too?” and promptly threw her Dunkin Donuts sandwich bag and ½ full coffee cup out the driver side window.  With a very large smile I said, “Nope.  I’m going to let you take responsibility for your own actions.”

What she didn’t realize, was that there was a cop about 30’ away watching and listening to the whole thing.  When he saw her throw trash out the window into traffic, he came over and said to me, “Why don’t you get on with your day.  I have this.”

As I drove off to the convenience store, the nice police man was writing her a ticket. 

The moral of the story?  Do the right thing BECAUSE it is the right thing to do Sometimes when you do the right thing for the right reason, you get the added bonus of watching someone being forced to take responsibility for their own actions.

2009 May 11, Meeting Maxine Sanders

Monday, May 11, 2009 
     Meeting Maxine Sanders

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

On May 5, 2009 I was honored to be part of a small group of people that held a private chat (with Q&A) with Maxine Sanders while she was here in the Salem/Boston area.  (For those of you who don't know, Maxine was the wife and High Priestess of Alex Sanders and co-founder of the Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca.)

Her stay in Salem was hosted by Alexandrian Elders Karagan & Jimahl di Fiosa ( & and the event itself was graciously hosted at Nu Aeon by Alexandrian Elders Gypsy and Richard.  These Elders arranged for her to have a combination social, talk, and chat with some of us.

The event was attended primarily by Alexandrian Elders but also by a few guests representing other Traditions.  As the event was not Alexandrian or "elders only", she gave us explicit permission to share her words in public formats such as blogs and mailing lists. With luck, the audio recording that a friend attempted to make will be clear enough to be transcribed.  It will be a couple days before I know.

When I was introduced to her (as an Alexandrian) she said, "I recognize you, you're Vinnie. I recognize you from the Alexandrian Network."  She then clasped my hands in hers and gave me a kiss on each cheek.  I admit I was quite tickled. She is a lovely lady and very gracious. 

Although I wanted to ask her about some of the issues regarding difference in practice with the Alexandrian Tradition (including Same-Sex Initiations) I also realized that a public forum/social might not be the right place for a lengthy discussion.  I simply mentioned to her that I had been in contact with one of the Elders in her daughter coven (giving her the name of the Elder) and at some point would love to ask her some of the same questions.  Apparently, she was aware of the contact (as I would assume).  She told me that I could trust the answers that he gave me regarding differences in the Alexandrian Tradition as they reflected her own opinions.  Maxine also invited me to contact her in the future - which I am sure that I'll do! 

Maxine has a new book out called Firechild.  It chronicles the early years of the Craft in Britain and her life with Alex.  It offers a unique perspective of the Craft at that time and modern day practitioners to clarify our origins.  Although my book distributor hasn't yet stocked Firechild, I suggest that you get a copy and give it a good read.  There are some real gems in it!



I posted a couple pictures of Maxine here:

2009 April 21, The turning of the Wheel and the arrival of Beltaine

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
     The turning of the Wheel and the arrival of Beltaine

Current mood:   excited

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

You know, I celebrate the 8 Sabbats - the turning points on the Wheel.  We, as modern Pagans and Witches, have specific days that we observe the Sabbats whether by calendar or astrological event.  Even though I do that too, I personally find it much more magical to KNOW the season and its special days by KNOWING the environment around me.

Today I woke up and got myself ready to head out to the Post Office.  When I opened the door, something magical happened.

There was a nip in the air (46* F).  Our hilly neighborhood was filled will rolling fog clouds.  One minute you can't see the other side of the street, the next, the veil was was lifted.  The full kiss of Spring was in the air despite the chill.  I just stood for a few minutes and stared at our plum tree and lilac tree.  They were both in the beginning of budding and blooming.  That's when it hit me.

TODAY was Beltaine!  Happy Beltaine everyone!

(Pics posted on the original blog didn't survive export/import.))

2009 Mar 13, Friday the 13th – No longer Alexandrian?

2009 Mar 13,      Friday the 13th – No longer Alexandrian?

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Friday the 13th – No longer Alexandrian?

Yesterday on the Amber & Jet Yahoo group Branson (a List moderator and NOT an Alexandrian Elder (Moshian, I have been informed) declared that I am no longer a Proper Person because I “have deliberately left the prescriptions of that Tradition”.  “That Tradition”, of course, refers to the Alexandrian Tradition.  He posted, “Knowing this, you may no longer sign your posts as Alexandrian”.  Although he can enforce that on the list that he moderates, it’s a bit silly to think that makes a difference anywhere else.

So, what caused this?  Well, it’s against the Terms of Service to repost yahoo group messages but you can join the A&J list and go see for yourself.  What I can do is describe the events leading up to the situation from my perspective.

Over the past few years, there has been a number of discussions in the Alexandrian community as to what “is core” and what is or isn’t acceptable practice.  Of course, no resolution was reached and many of the discussions fell to the inevitable default “I’m correct and this is how it is.”

Some of these same issues recently came up on the Amber & Jet list and seemed to center around the fact that I was outspoken enough to say that there ARE certain things that ARE within the bounds of the Alexandrian Tradition even though some Alexandrians state that they are not acceptable as Alexandrian practices.  Of course, to actually discuss HOW and WHY they ARE within the bounds of the Alexandrian Tradition would involve delving into an open and honest discussion of the Alexandrian Book of Shadows which can’t happen on a public list since the BoS is oathbound.  I had originally assumed that the discussions would end with the usual “agree to disagree”.

Instead, some of the more vocal and conservative Alexandrian drew a line in the sand and basically stated that certain things were forbidden.  This time, I was fed up with letting a few people make proclamations and dictating the public view of the Tradition.  I believe that no one person or limited group of people has the authority to do that, only the collective body of Initiates of the Tradition.  Until that happens, as Elders, we should be able to agree to disagree and hold honest and open conversations, at least ideally.

Although there are many issues that have been discussed in many different forums, I believe that the biggest that contributed to Branson’s action included things like .. changes and/or additions to the non-core lore of the Tradition, gender roles and understanding of polarity, differing opinions to what constitutes the core of the Tradition, and acceptance of same sex initiation either as a regular practice or as a valid exception to regular practice.

Some folks expressed that if I felt that strongly about those things, that I stop calling it Alexandrian and just call it something else.  The problem with that is that there is an entire branch of the Alexandrian Tradition that holds lineage back to Alex Sanders, whose core lore is based on the earliest version of the Alexandrian Book of Shadows, and up to now (when I pushed this issue), was considered Alexandrian.  The Line of which I speak is the Ganymede/Chthonioi line.  It is one of the oldest (founded in 1974 or 1975) Lines in the US and holds unbroken Lineage back to Alex Sanders from the then until present day.  It is large, diverse, and prosperous. Something to consider though, if you will:
 * I received Alexandrian  I & E’s (Initiation and Elevations)
 * I’ve been vouched for my numerous Alexandrian Elders, even the conservative ones
 * I have M-F-M-F lineage back to Alex and I have the original version of the Alexandrian BoS.
That makes me Alexandrian regardless of anything else.

If my practice takes me in a different direction, the conservatives can claim that my *practice* is no longer solely Alexandrian but they can’t question my right to be an Alexandrian.  It’s hypocritical. I find it sad that even when meeting the stated requirement of Alexandrian Initiation, the shit hits the fan when I still dare to disagree and want dialogue.

So for now, I’m willing to call myself Chthonioi-Alexandrian and to describe my Line as in that way.   FYI, this is specifically in regards to my “Chthonioi-Alexandrian Lineage” and has nothing to do with my Stregheria practice or lineage.

Let me clarify something The Amber & Jet list is not mine and I am not a moderator on it.  It is an egroup/elist which is a finite thing and is run by moderators and owners.  I believe that they have every right to define terms used on the list however they want - but only on the list.  There is often some wonderful discussions that happen on that list - more so on many other lists.

UPDATE - oh, I've just been informed by Branson that I am now "beyond the Pale". I think that I just lost what little respect I had left for that attitude.  Whatever.

Comments posted on the original Blog post:

Arachne -
      Hey Sweetie -- just read your note to me (et al) and came here to read your post. [JOINED to read your post - !] There is just oh, SO much to be said about this, and none of it flattering to Branson and his ilk. Our Family *so* has the A cred that it's...well, rather mind-boggling to even contemplate the audacity of a small handful of A&J people deciding to anathematize us! Symbios plans a lengthy discussion of this at our usual meeting Sunday night; would you like to join us? Big, big hugs in the meantime, and BB! Arachne
Posted by Arachne on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 1:25 PM

Jayson Derwin -

      Sigh. Same old crap. Ego's with nothing to do.
Posted by Jayson on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 2:47 PM


Intuitive Life Network -

      Your integrity is intact, and that's all that matters, ultimately. Maybe this Branson does not see beyond the veil. & he has no idea who you are...
Posted by Intuitive Life Network Productions on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 5:37 PM


Peter White -

      Vinny, one thing I have discovered is the online pagan community is, generally, filled with close minded, my way or the high way, ignorant fluffy bunnies. You don't have to look much past the 'elders' of our local Boston pagan 'community' (such as it is) to see that, and you know whom I am speaking of. Just like the local idiots we have to deal with here in Boston they crop up elsewhere sadly and it seems the A&J list is no exception. Bottom line, it is what it is, and not worth wasting any more time pondering over it. People like him are going to be irrational and illogical and all you can do is nod, pat them on the head and go your merry way. For what its worth you have all my respect and I know many others. Blessings.
Posted by Peter on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 5:58 PM

Jen  -
      What exactly does Branson mean by "beyond the Pale"? Does this mean you've been given the boot? Good riddance. I actually feel very comfortable with the idea of being Chthonioi-Alexandrian because it means I don't have to spend several paragraphs explaining what my actual affiliation is.

And, just so you know, your downline loves you!
Posted by Jen on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 8:37 PM

Gina -
      Ugh this BS was strong in that discussion! Anyway we at least know what..s going on. I think ego is definitely playing a role on Branson..s part ... who appointed him grand poobah of proper personhood and who may call themselves what? The sheer audacity of using your privilege as a moderator of an online list to tell someone what they may or may not identify themselves as is unfathomable! Especially in a religion that prides itself on having no central governing body. Lawdy. Big big hugs Vinnie, I..m glad in my family. Thankfully we have an abundance of common sense.
Posted by Gina on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 10:00 PM

Luna Calante -
      Uh I've been on that list for over a couple of years - mostly silently, ever since my first vocal introduction - and I know exactly what you mean. By the way, Branson is neither Alexandrian nor Gardnerian: he is Mohsian, or so that's what he claimed to be when I questioned him offline about some Alexandrian tradition business. So I really don't know with what authority he can speak on whether your practice can or cannot be defined Alexandrian. All he knows about Alexandrians is what he hears from Adam and Juniper. Most of the time, the picture painted about tradition on the A&J list (and I can only speak for the Alexandrians here) does not reflect reality. Branson & Co. have done several blunders over the years in regard to Alexandrian Initiates around the world. The fact he hasn't learnt from his mistakes just goes to show how little he knows about Alexandrians which are not many but are quite close-knitted, and how little his opinion should weigh on what you know to be otherwise. If it's any consolation our HP had a run in with Branson when he first joined the list. I come from an ultra conservative line here in the UK which goes undiluted direct to Maxine (who's still alive and kicking and ready to put things straight when needed) and I can reassure you nothing and nobody can take your lineage, initiations and elevations nor in public once you've been accepted as such nor in private, not even from ultraconservative perception and certainly not from a non Alexandrian. So you sign yourself as you have always done, keep your head high and disregard his nonsense.

BB & kind regards.

Posted by Luna Calante on Saturday, March 14, 2009 - 8:56 AM

Raven -
      thank you for your kind words.It's reassuring!

Raven, who sorta started the whole thing on A&J.Oops!
Posted by Raven on Monday, March 16, 2009 - 10:15 PM

Arsenic & Old Lace (Vinnie Russo) - 

      So, he's not even Alexandrian and he's claiming to speak for our Tradition? Ye Gods. Now his opinion means even LESS than it ever did in regards to this issue.
Posted by Arsenic & Old Lace (Vinnie Russo) on Saturday, March 14, 2009 - 10:56 AM

Black Label Raider -

      Well said, as for only being a 1 Alexandrian from the DBG line it saddens me to See so many of us that dont get along. We have lost the message to Love, each other, regradless of are differances. Goddess Bless -Radulf
Posted by Black Label Raider on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - 7:16 AM

elisa coppola -

      I think Peter sums it up........ I believe affiliations are merely an outline not something to be caged in. No one knows "the whole truth"...our path is to evolve...find new ways.....explore....and it sounds like that is what you are doing..... sorry, but their loss

Posted by Elisa Coppola on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 9:43 AM

2009 Feb 18, The True Mysteries

2009 Feb 18, The True Mysteries

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

I've been re-reading a great series of Science Fiction by Dan Simmons.  The book that I am currently up to is "The Rise of Endymion".  It never ceases to amaze me how much wisdom can be found in Science Fiction and Fantasy... even the Keys to the Mysteries - or at least sign posts.

Here is a passage that struck a cord with me.  I hope that you enjoy it:

(c) 1977, The Rise of Endymion, Dan Simmons, p284
To see and feel one's beloved naked for the first time is one of life's pure, irreducible epiphanies.  If there is a true religion in the universe, it must include that truth of contact or be forever hollow. To make love to the one true person who deserves that love is one of the few absolute rewards of being a human being, balancing all of the pain, loss, awkwardness, loneliness, idiocy, compromise, and clumsiness that go with the human condition. To make love to the right person makes up for a lot of mistakes.

2009 Feb 02, Coffee With The Strega - A Discussion Workshop

2009 Feb 02, Coffee With The Strega - A Discussion Workshop

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Hey all, here is a discussion workshop that I will be doing at the end of the month. Hope you can make it!

We've heard the word, but most of us don't know much about Italian Witchcraft, or Stregheria. Vinnie is an experienced Stregone (male Strega) and Alexandrian Elder who will sit down with interested members and discuss Stregheria as he learned to practice it from some of the best-respected Strega teachers of our time. Bring your favorite nibbles and baked goods, and sip coffee as we discuss some of these topics:

What is Stregheria, traditionally and today? What kinds of daily practices would a Strega learn and do? What does Strega magic involve? Who are the gods, and how are they worshipped? Are there any similarities between Stregheria and Wicca? What is a personal relationship with the Mother, Father, and the Ancestors?

We will plan for two to three hours of informal discussion, and depending on member interest, will offer a series of discussions that further explore the nature of contemporary Streghe, and the areas of intersection and distinction from Pagan and Wiccan practice in our community today.

February 28, 2009, Saturday

2 PM – 5 PM

FREE for SEF Members, $5 non-Members, all fees donated to the Society of Elder Faiths.

Please bring snacks/munchies to share.

Brigham Hill Community Farm on 37 Wheeler Road in Grafton

From the Mass. Pike -
Take Exit 11 (Millbury, Rt. 122), NOT exit 11A, turn right onto Rt. 122 South.
Proceed a little over 2 miles, during which time Rt. 140 will merge in
from the left, and you will then pass under the Mass Pike.
At the base of a down grade, look for Wheeler Road on the right. (If
you reach the Stop & Shop you have gone too far.)
Turn right on Wheeler Road.
Follow Wheeler Road up the hill until you can see the point where Wheeler Road ends at North Brigham Hill Road; you will then see the barn and its parking lot on the left.