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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Sun Sets on Paragon City


The Sun Sets on Paragon City

Tonight at 11:59 PM Pacific time, the servers for the City of Heores will shut down.  This is a pretty big thing for me.  For the past 8 years, I’ve been playing this game – since December 12, 2004 to be exact.  At first, I played with a few friends. Eventually, my husband also got an account.  We even made a special “super hero date night” where Mike and I would create and work on characters that we played as superhero duos.

CoH allowed me to get my geek on and I was always a big comic book geek. I loved being able to take on a persona and (virtually) fight crime and stand up for Justice and those who couldn’t protect themselves.  As silly as it might seem, I think that playing this game made me a better person.  At least once a week for the last 8 years, I was able to remind myself of “doing good”; that sometimes the RIGHT thing to do wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do; that choices that we make have repurcussions; that sometimes the only reward we get is knowing that we did good.

I enjoyed making costumes, coming up with names that not only reflected my characters’ powers but also said something about the “person” behind the super powers.  Not my first charcter but certainly my most beloved is (was) Lumin. In game terms, she was a Dark/Dark Defender.  That means that all of her powers were designed primarily to keep the team alive through debuffing the enemy. Don’t get me wrong, she could hold her own when soloing but her primary purpose was to support the team of the other heroes that she grouped with. All of her powers were “Dark” such as fear, paralysis, tentacles to grasp and immobolize foes, summoning shadow servants, and a smattering of healing.  This is her brief back story:
Laura Hope was once a famous Medium and spiritualist until she made contact and began to channel the spirit of an ancient Knight who had been a Service of Light. He taught her how to contact her Indwelling Spirit and use it for Justice. Releasing the Light of her Spirit, she takes the villainous energy of evil-doers and reflect it back onto them. Using their own power against them, she brings villains to justice  as well as heals and aids those in need. Thus was the hero Lumin born to stand in her silver and black armor as a shining example of Justice.

Over the years, Lumin became a founding member of the League of Champions. When the SuperGroup got too large, she as HeadMistress spun off the Academy of Champions to train new heroes (and players).

Silly, I know but special to me.  Here are a few pics of my 3 favorite characters and some video links.

It’s been a fun ride and I’ll remember all the good people I met because if this wonderful game. Goodbye City of Heroes and Good Run to the Champions.

The League of Champions by Honorbound - http://youtu.be/U7Rtv4PtaYU
The League of Champions vs. Maestro by Honorbound - http://youtu.be/c7XzGvcJEYY

Lumin:









Caelestes Lux:







Caurus:




Thursday, November 15, 2012

StregaCrafts/Arsenic.com to donate auction items for the Society of Elder Faiths Coffeehouse


Ciao a tutti,


The Society of Elder Faiths is having their annual Coffeehouse on Saturday, November 17th.  As an active member of the Pagan community and as a (board-) member of the SEF, I think that it's very important that we support our local organizations. Any organization is only as strong and vibrant as the members who participate and support it so let's do this!

StregaCrafts/Arsenic.com is going to donate 3 gift-baskets for the auction.

I'll be making gift baskets of our new Rituali Saponi (pictures at the link)!

Our all natural soaps are custom made for us and come in a bar of approximately 5 oz.
  • We carefully choose ingredients and colors to me magically correct and then charge and dedicated each one to its specific magical purpose. 
  • Basic ingredients for all cold processed handmade soap are as follows: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Soybean Oil, Hemp Oil , Organic Shea Butter , Water, Lye*, and Natural Fragrance. 
  • Our soap contains: NO Preservatives! NO Animal Products! NO Petroleum Products! NO Parabens! NO Lauryl Sulfate! 
  • Colors may vary in shade/tone as our soaps are made made and blended.

Gift Basket #1 -
  • Diana - Dedicated to Diana/Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon, and Queen of the Faeries. Color: This 5 oz bar is a white (yellow/white) in color. Scent: Clean scent of sandalwood and trees and misty moonlight. Ritual uses: Perfect for all ritual uses such as purifying baths to prepare for magic and ritual. Also used for wishes, healing, exorcism, spirituality, hidden Mysteries, intuition and insight, and to honor the Queen of Faeries.
  • Apollo - Dedicated to Phoebus Apollo, variously recognized as a god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, music, poetry, and more. Color: This 5 oz bar is a light brown/orange and yellow blend. Scent: Medium scent of fresh berries and sunlight. Ritual uses: Energy, skill (athletic and artistic), vibrancy, healing, music, divination, luck, money.
  • Hermes - Dedicated to Hermes, God of Merchants, messengers, and travelers. He is also a Psychopomp and patron of those who work with their mind. Color: This 5 oz bar is burnt orange/yellow.  Scent: Orange and cinnamon. Ritual uses: Communication, commerce, creativity, clear thought, cleverness, dispel glamour, the descending Muse, travel, divination.

Gift Basket #2 -
  • Demeter - Dedicated to Demeter/Ceres, the Goddess of Abundance, Fertility, and Harvest. Color: This 5 oz bar is a golden brown. Scent: Medium scent of rich oatmeal. Ritual uses: Fertility, agriculture, nature, prosperity, health, motherly interests, abundance, growth, new ventures.
  • Persephone - Dedicated to Persephone/Proserpina, the Queen of the Dead and Eternal Spring. Color: This is a 5 oz red striped bar. Scent: Pomegranate and cherry. Ritual uses: Evoke eternal spring, beginnings and endings (death and rebirth), the Underworld, comfort to the dead and those left behind, the Mysteries, prosperity and abundance.
  • Hades - Dedicated to Hades/Pluto, God of the Dead and King of the Wealth of the Hidden Earth. Color: This 5 oz bar is charcoal colored. Scent: A blend of aloes and earthly garden fragrances. Ritual uses: Riches and prosperity, the Afterlife, endings and death, work with the Dead and the Underworld, purification, psychic powers.

Gift Basket #3 -
  • Zeus - Dedicated to Zeus/Jupiter, Father of the Gods and Wisdom. Color: This 5 oz bar is yellow with green/blue swirls. Scent: Crisp mountain air and hints of purifying sage. Ritual uses: Conquering all things, wisdom, judgment, law and the courts, immortality, protection.
  • Hera - Dedicated to Hera/Juno, mother of the Gods and Patron of the Family and domestic life. Color: This 5 oz bar is a an off-white/purple color. Scent: Fresh lilac with a hint of wisteria. Ritual uses: Motherhood, marriage, spiritual alignment, wisdom, blessings, centering, balance, peace, healing, happiness, release, purification, garden magic, immortality.
  • Hestia - Dedicated to Hestia/Vesta, the Goddess of the Hearth and eternal flame. Color: This 5 oz bar is lavendar in color with lavendar buds. Scent: Lavendar and ylang-ylang. Ritual uses: Hearth, home, health, protection, family, domesticity, right order.

I hope to see you there!


Benedizioni,


---Vincenzo

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We're back on line...

We're back on line with the new redesign of all our websites!

Now you can get to any of our sites by visiting http://www.arsenic.com.

We have a few bugs to knock out so please let us know if you see one and please give us your feedback!
Our newest site, http://www.Streghe.US is going to be our resource center for information on Witchcraft, specifically Pagan religious Witchcraft with origins in Italy/Sicily, Europe, & the USA.  We have a variety of articles, book reviews by Mike Gleason, blogs, and other references.  Please let us know if you have written an article that you would like to see at Streghe.US.  If you know of a good article that you think would be appropriate for our site, let us know its URL.  We'll track down the author and see if they will let us repost it.
For those of you on Facebook, we are going to be changing how we use FACEBOOK:

LIKE OneStopOccultShop
https://www.facebook.com/OneStopOccultShop
for Store info, discount coupons, new products, blog updates, article updates, and things of interest to general paganism.

LIKE StregaCrafts
https://www.facebook.com/StregaCrafts
for updates of interest to Italian Craft, handmade items, blog updates, article updates, and things "Strega", then please like this page:

Like Arsenic & Old Lace
https://www.facebook.com/ArsenicAndOldLace
if you want to see my "catch all" posts, blog updates, general reposts, etc.

Fair warning on my personal page
https://www.facebook.com/nivho
- it is going to be used for my personal posts, politics, humor, and general thoughts that creep out of my head. It will also be receiving reposts from my Twitter account and likely to have duplicate posts. If you don't like my politics or my humor, then you probably shouldn't friend it.
Ciao for now!
---Vincenzo

Monday, October 22, 2012

Offline, just a quick update...

Offline, just a quick update...

If you try to reach any of our normal websites, you probably already noticed that there currently off-line. You've guessed it, were in the process of pushing live all of our website changes and integration. With a bit of luck, all of our websites should be back online sometime tomorrow. That means that I'm actually taking a day off and doing something for myself.

Over the weekend I got Mike and I new gym memberships at the local YMCA. Since I was taking the day off for myself I decided I had better get into my new athletic routine and headed to the Y. The only downside to the Malden Y are the locker rooms. They remind me of very small high school locker rooms. However, what they lack in locker room amenities they certainly make up for in the helpfulness of the staff, the pool, and a variety of other machines.

Luckily for me, they have quite a few stationary bikes, stair steppers, and ellipticals as well as free weights and weight machines. Since I'm trying to get back in shape, and want to focus more on toning rather than bulking up, the aerobics machines were huge draw for me.

I spent an hour and a half at the gym this morning familiarizing myself with the facilities and doing my first workout. I'm proud to say that I biked for 6 miles and walked for 4 miles and I'm feeling great because of it.

I think it's going to be easier at the Y to keep to a regular routine. Much more so than at the gym I used to go to. Because my schedule, my general workout time tends to fall somewhere mid-morning. At the gym I used to go do it didn't matter what time I went for workout, all the other members seem to have near-perfect bodies and could do just about anything. It was very discouraging. At this Y, it was great to see regular people of all ages ranging from early teens through their 80s enthusiastically exercising and encouraging each other.

Okay, enough of writing. It's time to go eat a healthy lunch of salad, grilled steak strips, and a few avocado slices.

Stay healthy!

Benedizioni,
Vincenzo

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Using the Saints as part of the Italian Craft

Using the Saints as part of the Italian Craft


In Italy (and in the USA) much of "traditional" Italian culture now a-days often has at least a gloss (if not a thick coating!) of Christianity. This is because Christianity is still the overwhelming dominant religion and probably will be for some time.  It’s been like that for hundreds of years and it has left its mark on the culture, even for those people who aren’t Christian or are actively of another faith.  It permeates the culture and customs. There is no getting around that unless you want to cut yourself off from huge aspects of Italian culture.

There are quite a few Italians that I know who are not Christian. Even so, the culture that birthed them (and that they are part of) still has certain aspects (folk, magic, and other) that are Christian in origin or at least in flavor.

Some of these Christian-based customs are starting to be seen by many as being less religious-Christian and more simply “cultural and personal customs” that "we do because it’s what we do as a community”. In other words, sometimes, the cultural customs that are Christina-based in origin have become community-based customs that have little religious significance but are still powerful for community and social purposes.

For instance, in Italy, it is still very popular for each town (or region) to have a patron saint and to celebrate the feast day, often organized and led by a local church.  Although many of the people who participate in the celebration are Christian and hold that day as a special religious holy day, there are other people who participate and celebrate the day as a “day of community celebration” and don’t attach any personal religious significance to it.

In essence, the Saint become not an icon/representative of the Church (which they may be) but becomes an icon of cultural expression and power regardless (despite?) that the feast originated with Catholic origins and is still celebrated as such. Think of Christmas celebrations in the USA. Many are indeed Christian religious celebrations. Many are non-religious yet still tap into that power and community aspect from a cultural perspective.

Many Streghe who are Pagan (non-Christian) have come to terms with being birthed from a culture that is predominantly Christian and incorporated aspects, via culture, into their practice.  How’s it done? Not through our Stregheria (pagan religious Witchcraft) but through our Stregoneria (witchcraft as a system of magical practices) and culture.

We acknowledge Christianity’s influence on customs and culture and try to get to the pre-Christian or pagan roots of the customs and magic when possible. When this is not easy to do, or even possible, we have two choices.  One is to cut ourselves off from an overwhelmingly Christian aspect of our culture. The other is to acknowledge the cultural and community importance of certain customs and make personal associations and attachments to them that work for us as individuals and families (smaller communities).

A good example is how many of the non-Christian Streghe I know make excellent use of the Cult of the Saints.

The "Cult of the Saints", describes a particular popular devotion or abandonment to a particular Saint or Saints. Although the term "worship" is sometimes used, it is intended in the old-sense meaning to honor or give respect. I like to use the term “veneration”.  For Christians, the Saints are petitioned to help out in just about any matter that you can imagine. This is almost always done by devote Catholics in a Christian-religious manner, i.e. following the dictates and customs of the Catholic Church.

When the Streghe interact or petition the Saints or include the Cult of the Saints in their Stregoneria (magic as a system of practices), it takes on a different perspective.  To an outsider, on the surface it may look very similar to what a Christian may do but it is only a gloss.  The Saints become less specifically Christian “entities” and become more “cultural and community powers”.  They are treated with the same reverence and respect as any other “spirit allies” that the Strega works with.  In other words, the Streghe works with the Saints from a personal and cultural perspective, not a Christian dogmatic perspective.

The Streghe consciously (and jointly) enter into a relationship with the Saint(s) with the Saint acting much the same as a spirit ally (albeit of a different order). Through the acceptance of, and exchange for, the Streghe’s energy in the form of respect, reverence, and offerings (incense, wine, feast tables, prayers, etc.), the Saint(s) offers assistance in matters in which they hold influence. It’s important to remember that this is part of Stregoneria (witchcraft as a system of magical practices) rather than Stregheria (pagan religious Witchcraft).

The important thing is that this is done with the utmost respect and honesty and that the Strega knows exactly who the Saint(s) are that s/he is dealing with and practices accordingly. You might realize that this sounds a lot like a number of other syncretic spiritual practices. Imagine that?

So, it is entirely possible for a Strega who practices Stregheria (Pagan religious Witchcraft) to also have part of their Stregoneria (magical practice of witchcraft) include the Cult of the Saints and not have a conflict of interest.  It is not a religious matter, but a magical matter base on personal and cultural association.

Of course, there are Pagan Streghe who have chosen to NOT include the Cult of the Saints (or other customs that have become cultural) in their practice. That’s perfectly valid. Neither is a better or a more correct. More power to them! More power to us all!

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Agguingere e Soffriggere

Agguingere and soffriggere are my new favorite words!

The homework for my Italian class was to take a recipe for Bolognese sauce and translate it into Italian using my growing grasp of Italian.

This isn't my sauce recipe, it's the one that we were given to translate. I think that I've done pretty well with the translation!

IL RAGU' ALLA BOLOGNESE
Tritare finemente il sedano, la cipolla e la carota.
Soffriggere le verdure in olio e burro.
Mescolare la pancetta e la carne macinata.
Aggiungere la pancetta e la carne macinata alle vedure.
Rosolare bene la carne e le verdure per 15-20 minuti.
Sfumare con un bicchiere di vino rosso.
Agguingere il concentrato di pomodoro e il brodo di carne.
Infine aggiungere un bicchiere di latte.
Lasciare cuocere a fuoco basso per 2 o 3 ore.
Buon appetito!

Translation -
Bolognese Sauce
Finely chop the celery, onion and carrot.
Saute (fry) the vegetables in olive oil and butter.
Add in (mix) the bacon and minced meat.
Add bacon and minced meat (ground beef) with vegetables.
Brown the meat and vegetables for 15-20 minutes.
Blend (Reduce and Simmer) with a glass of red wine.
ADD the tomato paste and beef broth.
Finally, add a glass of milk.
Cook over low heat for 2 or 3 hours.
Enjoy your meal!

Friday, September 28, 2012

News for our customers!

News for our customers -

Mike and I have been extremely busy redesigning our business model, improving the technical specs of our various website projects, and giving the sites a "makeover". Our goal is to have the redesigns up and running by the beginning of October. I can't guarantee that it will be up for October 1st, but it should be live sometime during the first week of October.

Currently we have Arsenic & Old Lace for our main commerce site, tarot readings, and resources. Unfortunately, at a commerce focused site, the Tarot Readings and Resource Section tended to get lost. To add to that, we have StregaCrafts as our "boutique shop", what seems like dozens (!) of "homepages" on various Pagan Community and forum sites, and finally, Vinnie's blog (of occasionally interesting things) at blogspot.com.

Until now, we've felt like we were spread all over the place with no real connection between our various projects: go to blogspot for Vinnie's blog, go to X Community Site for discussions, go to Arsenic & Old Lace for occult supplies, go to StregaCrafts for custom products, go a subsection of Arsenic & Old Lace for resources (book reviews, blogs, etc.), go to yet another subsection of Arsenic & Old Lace for Tarot Readings, etc.

Rather than have one or two really "busy" sites, we're breaking things down into several discrete and less busy sites that will be dedicated to specific purposes:

Arsenic & Old Lace (http://www.arsenic.com) will become our main "portal" site to all of our other activities and products with a "universal menu bar" to help folks navigate our offerings. From here, folks will be able to find links to whatever we're working on.

http://www.OneStopOccultShop.com will become our main Occult and Witchcraft commerce site carrying over 7500 products of major brands like Anna Riva, AzureGreen, 1618Gold, etc.

http://www.StregaCrafts.com will be for our hand-made crafts and custom magic products;

http://www.VinnieRusso.com will focus on Vinnie and his Tarot Consulting;

and http://www.Streghe.US will be dedicated to resources, book reviews, blogs, and article with future plans to integrate forums and members' pages. If you have suggestions for content, or would like to contribute content, then please let us know!

This will be a long-term, ongoing project and we're open to your suggestions!

Ciao,

---Vincenzo

Monday, September 24, 2012

Resources and Reviews

Ciao a tutti,

There is so much going on for us right now that I almost don't want to take the time to write a post!

Here is it:

We're almost ready to unveil the new portal and resource site. One of the things that I really want on the new resource site is all of the reviews that Mike Gleason has sent me over the years.  I think that he put in so much effort to give good reviews of available books and resources that it would be a nice way of remembering him by having a place on the web where his work lives on.

It's a lot of work.  I'm in the process of converting all 327 of the reviews that he had previously sent me. It's more work than I expected.  I have to open each one in a word processor, add "Review (c) Mike Gleason", and convert the saved file into a PDF.  Once that is done, I'll work on creating a page on the new site to be a home for Mike's reviews.

That's it for now, I really want to get back to work and make this happen!

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo

P.S.  If you have any of Mike's reviews, please let me know what you have.  I'm sure that I've missed some and I'd like to have a comprehensive library of his work.  Grazie!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hereditary Witches...


Ciao a tutti,

I was just asked the question:
"What is your take on hereditary witches?"

It made me think.  Really think.  I had never really given it much though.  I suppose that in order to have a discussion on hereditary witches, we have to go back to my favorite thing - coming up with a common language and description/definition for the words and terms we are using.

Using the dictionary as my guide...

First, there are different types of hereditary that we can talk about.  There is the type of hereditary that refers to information and customs that are "genetically transmitted" or transmittable from parent to offspring. The there is the type of lore that is characteristic of or fostered by one's predecessors (via inheritance or by reason of birth). Finally, there is the type of lore that "hereditary" of a kind that is established by tradition .

Second, when we use "witch" in this context, it can mean many things from a practitioners of pagan religious faith/spirituality/practice, to folk customs and other cultural identifiers, to magickal practices. Often, the "lore in question" is usually confined to social unit whether that be a family, town, region, or national culture.

Given the whole wealth of combinations of the above descriptions, "hereditary witch" can mean quite a few things!  Hereditary witchcraft could even be an accurate description for a *modern* system that is consciously developed/invented/reinvigorated and intentionally passed for several generations through either through blood lines or through intentional inheritance. Personally, I'm seeing this more and more.

Generally speaking, I find that when people refer to hereditary witches, they are referring to a body of witchcraft lore and practices handed down to offspring over several generations. Personally, I think that is what is being refered to when most folks talk about "hereditary witches".  So...

Do I personally believe that there are people who come from families (blood or chosen) that have preserved (or re-enlivened) witchcraft lore?  Yes.

Do I personally believe that there are "families" (for lack of a better term) who have preserved their lore and continue to pass it. Yes.

Do I think that it is likely that there are "families" that transmit their lore and system of practices from generation to generation. Yes, absolutely.

Do I think that it is likely that there are "families" that transmit ancient, whole, intact systems of practices that have been passed *unchanged from generation to generation* for *untold aeons*? Unlikely but possible when phrased that way. My issue is with the *unchanged from generation to generation* and the *untold aeons* time frame parts.

Why? Well, especially with oral traditions, it is inevitable that there will be cultural, generational, and communicative "drift". This is apparent when you study immigrant cultures and how things do change, even after only 1 or 2 generations, often unnoticed. Later generations are under the impression that nothing has changed because the change tend to happen very slowly (i.e. can't see the forest through the trees syndrome). That's why I have a hard time with *unchanged from generation to generation* and the *untold aeons*. Partially because witchcraft tends to be "society based" or culturally based and the culture that we have now is not the same that was 100 years ago and that is different from the culture 1000 years before that.

I know quite a few people who believe that they are from a long line of hereditary witches and have been passed lore that has remained intact and unchanged for generations - some, *externally* verifiable for more than 100 years. Some claim a far greater time frame.  Then again, "for generations" (at least to me) is very different from "untold aeons". :-)

I certainly know people who have practices and lore that is quite similar to those of ancient Greece and pre-Italy and are totally sincere in who they are and what they do.

I think it's more likely that our perceptions are that there hasn't been any change in the transmission from "ancient times" but that the changes have been slow and subtle.  People being people, changes in culture would seem to dictate that at least SOME of an entire body of lore would be changed as a result of the changes cultures over time. Even so, I think that hereditary witchcraft can be both valid (does it work and it is relevant to the practitioners) and authentic (is it what is says it it).

However, my opinion shouldn't impact either the validity or the authenticicty of someone else's system. :-)

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo

Monday, September 10, 2012

American Traditional Witchcraft

So, my friends, what is American Traditional Witchcraft?

I've been mulling this around for a couple weeks now and I find it quite fascinating.  No two people that I've spoken to use same definition - or even close to the same description!

In this context:
American means the people and cultures residing in America, specifically the U.S.A.
Traditional means pretty much the dictionary definition -
1
a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
2
: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3
: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4
: characteristic manner, method, or style tradition
and in this context, Witchcraft means a system of magic (as a spirituality or set of practices), generally based in a culture or sub-culture.

Now, I know that not everyone will totally agree with the above but at least it is a starting point.  If we take the above as a working description, then American Traditional Witchcraft is incredibly diverse with many different cultures harmoniously contributing to something uniquely American.

That got me thinking.  There are so many people looking for something from "the Old Country" or some form of external verification of "what really was done".  Why aren't modern Pagans in the U.S.A. looking to what is right under our noses?

It's almost as if they don't realize the immense value of what is already here.

The U.S.A. is a country build on the fabric of the diversity of the immigrants from many countries and cultures who came before us. Each of the cultures and sub-cultures that has contributed to the greater syncretic culture that we call American Culture.  This is equally true of many "American based" forms of Witchcraft.

I found this interesting bit here:
  • Magic was done as early as the 1700’s in the Appalachian Mountains by those of Scottish and Irish heritage, and is more commonly called Appalachian Granny Magic, kitchen witchery, hedge witch craft or Ozark Folk Magic.
  • Magic was done since the time of slavery in the south from South Carolina to Texas by those of African heritage. These practices are more commonly known as Hoodoo, Conjure and Rootwork.
  • Magic was done in the 17th and 18th centuries in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvanian Dutch, German settlers. This is known as powwow magic, braucherei, or hexenkraft.
  • Magic was done as by fisherman of Sicilian and Portugese heritage along our sea coasts, particularly in California, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.  This is known as Stregheria, or witchcraft.
  • Brujeria, Americans of Spanish colonial heritage in the South West and West.
  • Scandinavian Folk Magic in Minnesota and Wisconsin, from Sweden, Norway and other Scandinavian countries.
  • Native American practices and influences.
  • More recently Chinese and Japanese folk magic.

Perhaps American Traditional Witchcraft can be described as Witchcraft practiced in the U.S.A. that has a specific connecting to the culture, people, and lore of the practitioners' ancestral homeland (often through successive generations of Immigrants and their descendants) yet strives for a balanced and harmonious blending with being part of the modern day culture of America?

In my case, the personal questions that this raises are -

When does something go from being Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft, practiced within Italian culture)

to American Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft practiced as part of Italian culture in America)

to becomming Italian-American Stregheria (Italian based Witchcraft practiced as part of Italian-American culture in America)

to becomming American Traditional Witchcraft (syncretic traditions of American Culture/Magic with the Ancestral culture, usually through several generations starting with immigrating to the U.S.A).

And finally, does it matter except to help us find a common language?

Perhaps I am over thinking it.  I welcome your thoughts and personal insights into what I believe is a fascinating group of Traditions and traditional practiced that is right under our collective noses.

Benedizioni,

Vincenzo

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mail issues... again

I was thinking of doing a blog post on the nature of ethics, civics, and morals but I'm not in a headspace to do that at the moment.  At a later date, remind me to tackle that topic.

All week, I've been struggling with our mail server on both a business front and on a personal front.  We host our own website as well as our mail servers but it is time to change.  As many of you know, this years we have had MAJOR technical issues with our mail including having all of our mail mysteriously disappear or become corrupted.  Well, it just happened again.We've tried everything to recreate the last several days of missing or corrupted messages but we just can't get anywhere with the SmarterMail program.

Over the next few days, I will begin to migrate our mail and the mail servers over to a new provider.  If you send email and don't hear back, please try again or send us a post at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ArsenicAndOldLace).   (The hosting of the website will stay put as the hosting company is fantastic and all the coding was done by Mike.)

We should be done with the email migration by Monday.

Thanks for your patience and understanding~

Friday, August 24, 2012

Philosophy? Religion? Philosophical Religion? Religious Philosophy?


Philosophy? Religion? Philosophical Religion? Religious Philosophy?

Recently, I had a fascinating discussion with a friend of mine.  Somehow, we got onto the topic of Philosophy and Religion as “Paths” or major guiding factors in one’s life.  The conversation ran the spectrum from the ancient religions and philosophers right up to the more modern day schools of thought and modern religions (new religions and institutionalized religions).

Can Philosophy NOT be a part of Religion? Can Religion NOT be a part of Philosophy? Where is the line between Religion and Philosophy? When does it cease to be one thing and become the other? Is that good or bad?  Are there characteristics that one has that the other doesn’t and vise-versa? Interesting questions and we didn’t settle on any answers.  :-)

A few words that we came up with that to describe Religion and Philosophy follow:
Religion – devotion, service, ardor, faith, ineffable, Mystery, values, ethics/civics, ecstatic, aesthetics
Philosophy – logic, values, reality, theory, intellectual, intellectual understanding, reason, reasoned thought aesthetics, ethics

Now, just to muddy the waters, here are some dictionary definitions for Religion and Philosophy:

Definition of RELIGION
1  a : the state of a religious religion
> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2  : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3  archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4  : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

And a second definition from the Cambridge Dictionary -
-          And from the Cambridge Dictionary:
-          * the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship
-          the Christian religion
-          * informal an activity which someone is extremely enthusiastic about and does regularly


Definition of PHILOSOPHY
1  a (1) : all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts (2) : the sciences and liberal arts exclusive of medicine, law, and theology philosophy
> (3) : the 4-year college course of a major seminary b (1) archaic : physical science (2) : ethics c : a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology
2  a : pursuit of wisdom b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means c : an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs
3  a : a system of philosophical concepts b : a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought philosophy
of war>
4  a : the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group b : calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher

And a second definition from the Cambridge Dictionary –
Philosophy:
• the use of reason in understanding such things as the nature of reality and existence, the use and limits of knowledge and the principles that govern and influence moral judgment
René Descartes is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy.
See also: PhD
the philosophy of sth
a group of theories and ideas related to the understanding of a particular subject
the philosophy of education/religion/science
• a particular system of beliefs, values and principles
the Ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism
• informal - someone's outlook on life and their way of dealing with it
Live now, pay later - that's my philosophy of life!



I see Philosophy being in the realm of Thought and Intellect – looking for answers and explanations that are “logical and rational” and, to a certain extent, impersonal.
I see Religion being in the realm of the heart and Wonder/Mystery – looking for answers and explanations that are both personal and universal yet ineffable.

Modern Paganism and related paths seem to run the entire length of the spectrum from Religion to Philosophy but usually (in my experience) fall somewhere in between the two with characteristics of both. 

However, there are 2 components that I see in Religious Paths that I do not see in Philosophical Schools: service and devotion.  

So, a question to you - if a Path is exclusively “Intellectual” (no service/devotion or sense of wonder/Mystery), is it a Philosophy or can it also be a Religion?

What do you think?

This just in -
Religion seeks to experience Mystery.
Philosophy seeks to explain Mystery.

Hmmmmm.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Syncretism versus cultural appropriation?

I’ve been mulling around a topic lately that has to do with my own personal practice.  Lo and behold, the topic recently came up on Facebook on one of my friend’s pages: Sorita D’Este.

The topic?  To quote from Sorita’s page: "When is it ok to take practices and beliefs from a culture other than your own and claim it for yourself?".

My response was, "When you have a tie to the culture through research, ancestory, or calling and you do it with both respect and honesty" and "Syncretism = good; cultural appropriation = not so good, usually".

The range of other responses truly surprised me.  They ranged from the likes of "Whenever you feel the urge to!" to "If you adopt a tradition, you should adopt it 100% - no picking off the bits you don't like, no altering it just because you like it better that way. You don't claim it for yourself - what you are doing is theft, no matter how sincere".

After seeing a few of the other responses (especially on the side of "Never!"), I clarified my position by stating, "I think that one of the keys (besides respect and honesty and adaptation) is to make sure that you are not presenting it AS the original practice or within the original cultural practice. There will always be fine lines of what is or isn't appropriate. However, immigrants used syncretism (as opposed to cultural appropriation) in order to adapt to their new culture (sometimes as a survival technique) and created something that wasn't exactly from their origin and wasn't exactly what they were integrating into. Related to both (part of both?) but still unique. Of course, I'm specifically thinking of Italian culture, magic, and witchcraft as it came to the "New World" in the late 1800's/early 1900's with the mass immigration but it applies to a broader topic, too".

I really was startled to see how many folks assumed that syncretism could only equate with something bad.  Do they really think that things (spiritual, cultural, or other) exist in a vacuum? Do they think that it's impossibly to blend cultures? Do they assume that it can't be done honestly and intelligently?

I'm for positive syncretism if done with honesty and respect and done knowledgeably.  This happens all the time (albeit slowly) with immigrants who integrate to a new culture while holding onto what they find important (and a source of identity) from their old land.

One of the things that we have to remember is that the modern world is far more "international" in our overall culture and flavor that we have been at any time in the past.  There WILL always be an interchange and exchange of beliefs and practices.  With people immigrating to new countries, they will find themselves in new cultures.  The Italian immigrants of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s went through this.  They had to find a way to hold onto what they felt was important from "the old country" and balance that with the ways and culture that they were becoming a part of. Today, those American-Italian descendants are American by culture and Italian by ancestry.  Many of us are trying to "rediscover" our roots and reintegrate aspects of our ancestry into our modern lives. Not all of what was part of native Italian culture is applicable to us as modern Americans.  Some things are and can be smoothly integrated.  Some things can’t.  So, are we guilty of cultural appropriation of a foreign culture or are we re-integrating our ancestry in a positive syncretic way, or are we abandoning our current culture for the golden ideal of what we think the past ancestral culture was like?

In terms of how this applies to spirituality and specifically to modern Paganism, I don’t think that there is any one, right answer.  It’s not clear cut.  Part of the reason is that spirituality can be rooted in a culture, can be near inseparable, or can be ONE aspect within a specific culture.  Then you need to look at what exactly is being talked about. Are we talking about picking and choosing aspects from the "greater" common culture of that is foreign to your own? What about picking and choosing aspects of a culture that you have immigrated away from? Picking and choosing aspects of the greater culture that you are immigrating TO and integrating them into your life? The religious practices (as opposed to purely social) that are a subset within a culture? Spiritual or magical techniques that seem to be hallmarks of a culture or people? Practices, concepts, and/or techniques that are "Universal" but have different cultural glosses depending on their origin?

Perhaps it's a matter of perspective and time.  If we're talking about the time frame when something is integrated, is it cultural appropriation? When does it transform to becomming part of the culture or ok? After 5 years? 10? 50? 100?  Our own American Culture is syncretic and pluralistic by it's nature.

Basically, it is not so clear-cut as many folks on the extreme ends make out. The only two bits of advice that I have for modern pagans struggling with this concept is: 1) be honest with what it is, where it came from, and the part that you play in it; and 2) do your research and really understand what you are doing and what "it" represents in the original culture.

Benedizioni,

---Vincenzo