Friday, December 6, 2013

Solstice approaches

Well, here we are in December. How did that happen? I admit I am feeling a little seasonal affect.

Here in Maine it gets pitch black dark out by 4PM, so I have to feel my way to my car when I leave

work at night. But I find hope in the cycle of the year. Solstice is coming, and even in the wintery

 darkness we can be assured that, after Yule, the days begin growing longer and longer again.
In the story of the Goddess and God, this is also the time of the “rebirth of the son/sun.” The Goddess gives birth to the Oak King, who slowly grows stronger and stronger in the coming months. This is mirrored by the length of daylight in the Western Hemisphere, and the slow march toward the coming of Spring.
So stay warm, be grateful for what you have, and have hope! The sun is coming.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger? Intro

I want to share some thoughts on each chapter of this book. It is a great book called, "Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans" by Sherry Colb.

This book is a really valuable guide for vegans seeking to give good, confident answers to common questions asked to us by nonvegans. It also gives tips for how to deal with these questions in a graceful manner when they may make us feel angry or defensive. I know that has happened to me and I wish I had read the book beforehand.

Colb is very gracious to nonvegans. She says again and again that nonvegans often don't mean to be offensive when they ask the questions, and we just feel that way. I can personally testify that many nonvegans DO mean to be offensive and are in full blown attack mode when they bring up some of these topics. But then again, most of the people I know are nonvegans and I really like most of them. I love some of them. I know they are generally good people. But even when vegans don't say anything specific about our beliefs, our mere presence in some people's lives seems to make them feel really defensive. But Colb's gracious, calm approach and good information make it a lot easier to deal with both kinds of nonvegans.

I do agree with her that we need to be calm, friendly, and nondefensive as much as possible when dealing with nonvegans. I know some days I can do that and some days a nonvegan rubs me the wrong way. It usually has more to do with how I'm feeling than the person talking to me. Not always. As I've said, some people just attack and it's impossible not to take it that way.

When an interaction is unwanted or aggressive I often avoid their questions or feel really angry. I've never been overtly rude to anyone in that situation but I have felt bad about some interactions. And I've always wished afterwards that I had said or done something better. That is why I grabbed this book immediately after hearing it reviewed on the Our Henhouse podcast.

Every time we have a good interaction with a nonvegan, it helps to break down stereotypes that help nonvegans dismiss us and the facts under veganism as "fringe" or "crazy" or "not realistic." And that has wide spread repercussions for us, for the environment, and for animals. And even for the nonvegan him or herself, if our information goes on to make their lives healthier and better. Win-Win for everybody! Well, except big ag and big pharma.

It helps to have good answers to these questions. I will therefore do a brief summary of Colb's chapters in this blog, along with my own thoughts. I don't mean to imply that you get the full value of the book by reading my posts, of course. I highly, highly recommend buying it, and/or gifting it.

In the introduction, Colb defines "vegan." She explains how some nonvegans like to think of veganism as a phase or as unrealistic extremeism. She basically suggests that we 1) know our reasons for being vegan and 2) calmly, simply express them. This is the ongoing theme of the book.

She defines veganism in this way: "Vegans avoid participating in violence toward animals. This means they refuse to purchase and consume animal flesh, dairy, eggs, and other products of animal slaughter and exploitation, such as wool, leather, and fur. In her daily choices, the vegan thereby freely chooses not to contribute to the carnage and suffering associated with the breeding and slaughter of animals. Her daily life expresses her commitment to compassion and non-violence, and her interaction with her world as one of caring."

This is a lot more detail than I have ever gone into when telling people what vegan means. If they ask, I usually say "I don't use any animal products." If they look puzzled, I list some, usually starting with dietary and if they seem friendly, add the other stuff (clothing, shoes, products). Usually if people ask me, it is in a food related context so the most important thing I convey is the dietary aspect. Like someone at a potluck at work might ask me why I'm trying to figure out what's in their salad, for example.

Then Colb gives a quick summary of what she thinks the most important talking points are for explaining veganism to people. These talking points include, as "the simple case for veganism":


I agree with her talking points and was gratified to see them since I took a similar approach in my article, "An it Harm None: Vegans in the Pagan Community" which was run in the last issue of Circle Sanctuary Magazine (Issue 114). In my article I included all three of these points as reasons people are vegan, and I also included weight loss and fitness as seperate categories. My article is in the back issues at Circle's website, by the way:

Health: she discusses how animal based foods increase risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. She puts forth some of the info from researchers like Colin Campbell. I would suggest that the whole argument can be easily and enjoyably learned by watching and rewatching "Forks over Knives" a few times.

Environment: She references the 2006 UN report, "Livestock's Long Shadow" (and other studies) and briefly introduces people to the impact animal agriculture has on the environment. Basically she is touching on the connections between animal consumption and global climate change, species extinction, and world hunger. I like the website for gleaning more info on this topic. The movie "Vegucated" also gives brief and very understandable summaries of this (and all the other) talking point.

Animals: Colb believes that the general public basically knows factory farming is cruel. She talks as if many people have already seen something like "meet your meat" or at least some news footage about the innumerable animal agriculture cruelty investigations. The media piece may be true but I tend to think people are in much more denial about the animal cruelty of their food choices than Colb seems to. Especially in my area, which is rural and filled with small farming operations, people like to believe that small farms are not cruel and that killing animals who "were happy" is somehow ethical and nature's law. For instance, I photographed a sign on a booth at our state's huge organic farming fair last summer that read, "Happy Pigs Taste Better." Anyhow, Meet Your Meat online is a bracing but informative piece about the animal issues. I have found that Farm Sanctuary has very informative brochures about factory farming, and they do not have slaughter footage so they are less traumatic for nonvegans to read. Brochures like this can often be purchased or downloaded from places like or Compassion Over Killing: But I have to give it to Colb, people do seem to know more than they admit they know if you can catch them not feeling defensive. Just yesterday someone at work asked me about my smoothies and asked if I was "one of those granolas," to which I explained I was a vegan, and what it meant (the no animal products answer). She thought about it a second and then started talking about all the stuff she knew about animal agriculture. She has been to a big hen operation when she was in grade school and seen them burning the tips off hens beaks, and been horrified. And she had heard where veal came from and she no longer ate veal. She went on about a few more things. And she asked me, "but if you know where the stuff comes from it's okay, right? Like I have a friend who makes goat cheese." And in that moment I made a snap decision and just shrugged and said, "sure, if you absolutely know where it's coming from and how the animals are treated. It's just that out in restaraunts and stores and everywhere else I have no way of knowing, so I just avoid animal products." And she accepted that and stayed friendly. So I felt comfortable with that way of talking about it with her because we did discuss a lot of animal cruelty without her shutting down.

In the rest of the intro, Colb does discuss how veganism makes nonvegans feel defensive and uncomfortable, so she underscores again the purpose of her book: that giving thoughtful, well educated replies to them makes your life easier and forwards the spread of veganism. Even if the person talking to you doesn't become vegan, they have just gotten more info and who knows how that may spread. And they have also had a vegan talk with them in a calm, informative manner so they hopefully will be less defensive around other vegans. And who knows where that will lead. As activists everything we do matters.

Recently someone at my pagan temple was working in the kitchen with gwen and I when we were serving at a buffet. She asked several questions about "is this vegan?" or "is that vegan?" and "can you eat (fill in the blank)?" and after a while of this she said to us, "it's just so nice that you two are just open about what you believe without being preachy."

I know she meant that as a compliment but it was still frustrating to me. Where are all the preachy vegans I keep hearing about? As a board member on our statewide vegan organization and a coordinator of local vegan meetups, I think I know at least half the vegans in the area. When we go out together we are always amongst nonvegans, since we are an extreme minority here. Yet I have never heard or seen a vegan verbally assaulting or guilting a nonvegan. I know it happens somewhere and sometimes, but it can't be the epidemic nonvegans imply it is. On the other hand I have seen at least half a dozen verbal assaults on vegans by nonvegans, and directly experienced several. So I personally think it's a lot of projection on the part of nonvegans. But I still know that those moments when a nonvegan concedes that we're "all" not preachy and confrontational is a victory for veganism, so I sigh internally and press on.

I think the film Vegucated is a good summary of all these three basic arguments, actually. So I recommend a film fest of Vegucated and Forks over Knives to get comfortable with the arguments. Some vegan potlucks including a screening of one of these films wouldn't hurt either. Maybe with a plug for this book in the process.

Next time I post on this book I will do chapter one: What About Plants?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Compassionate Thanksgiving!

I give thanks that there is an ever growing number of people out there fighting for the animals and for the true spirit of compassionate love, at Thanksgiving and every other day. Blessed be!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving again

I feel like Thanksgiving as a holiday is a mixed blessing. I have been a vegan for long enough that Thanksgiving now has happy connotations of sitting down and enjoying a cruelty free meal. But being part of the world, I see the cruelty this institution carries forth with the tradition of turkey slaughter.

It seems ironic that the season directly following Halloween is the one full of actual horror. A culture of people sitting down to a ritual of celebration and gratitude over a table laden with ribs, legs, and gizzards sounds like the extreme, anti-Druid propaganda that Caesar used to spread. Yet its real and we do it without even thinking.

Bowling with turkey carcasses, putting fireworks in the anal cavity of turkey carcasses, or shooting turkey carcasses out of catapults are some examples I have heard from "creative fundraising" in local and national news. We as a culture seem to have totally desensitized ourselves to the fact that turkeys are living things. The happy turkey as a cariacature of this holiday hides the horrors or factory farming that put these intelligent, sensitive beings through tortures for every moment of their unnaturally short lives. Currently the "pardoning" of one turkey by our president is the only opportunity most Americans have to look at a living turkey's face and feel any kind of compassion. Yet the very associations of the word "pardon" imply that all turkeys deserve slaughter. As if they have committed some crime simply by being born into their species.

I occasionally clean barns for the local farm animal sanctuary, and I rub elbows with several turkeys there. Fiona is my favorite. She is quiet and dignified, but friendly. She follows me around the farm and supervises all my work. Her vocalizations sound like amiable gossip as she takes great interest in all my affairs. At open houses she is always the star of the photo opps because she sits down in the grass and lets everyone pet her. And she always searches you for treats. She will take any type of food that you drop but her favorite is popcorn.

Fiona is one of three siblings, along with Burnadette and Tom. Tom recently passed from the organ failure commonly associated with factory farmed birds. They are genetically modified to be so meaty that their poor organs and limbs can barely carry them through their brief lives.

It would be great if we took the Thanksgiving season as an opportunity to extend our compassion and thoughtfulness about the creatures so many of us eat.

Here is some very basic info from

More than 248 million turkeys are raised for food every year in the U.S.; about 77 million of them are slaughtered and eaten for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.(8,9) Before ending up as holiday centerpieces, these gentle birds spend five to six months on factory farms, where thousands of turkeys are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 square feet of space per bird.(10) To keep the extremely crowded birds from scratching and pecking each other to death, workers cut off portions of the birds' toes and upper beaks with hot blades and desnood the males (the snood is the flap of skin that runs from the beak to the chest).(11) No painkillers are used during these procedures.

Let's really go forth into the world this Thanksgiving and share the happiness of enjoying a cruelty free meal. That would really be something to be thankful for.

To conclude I want to share a poem that I read as a child but did not really "recognize" until recent years. This is from the book, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein:

Point of View
Thanksgiving dinner’s sad and thankless
Christmas dinner’s dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey’s point of view.
Sunday dinner isn’t sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.
Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
‘Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner’s point of view.

Samhain and rolling toward Thanksgiving!

Ugh! Well, so much for my goals of posting a lot more about Samhain. It really is a busy time of year for me. Not only because of all the pagan parties and events and rituals but because I work at a domestic violence project, and October is national dv awareness month. So I had tons of late nights and a really wierd schedule getting through the whole month.

Our Samhain ritual at our local temple (the Temple of the Feminine Divine) was really good. My priestess class planned the ritual. We met for three hours every Sunday for a month beforehand to plan it. In the end, I was the priestess who invoked the goddess Morrighan into the circle for the ritual, which was cool for me. She is one of the goddesses (though she's a triple goddess so I don't really think of her as one) whom I relate to very strongly.

Morrighan means "Great Queen" or "Phantom Queen" in Gaelic. The Morrighan is commonly thought of as a triple goddess, but the names of the three vary from telling to telling. The Goddesses whom I relate to as part of the Morrighan are Macha, Badb, and Nemain.

The Morrighan is often boiled down into a "war goddess" but I see this as over-simplification. She is a Goddess of protection, of birth and of death. I see the overarching theme of her powers as "transition" rather than "death."

The Morrighan can be a guide between the realms, and it was in this spirit that we invoked her for our ritual. We then lit votive candles in memory of our ancestors. Everyone in the circle called out the name of one ancestor, as well as one quality of theirs which we admired. For instance, I called on my Grandmother. I named a quality of hers that I admired as creativity. We put our votive candles in sand trays on the central altar. Once about sixty votives lit the table it was a very impressive sight.

After this part of the ritual, we did a spiral dance. We had some drummers and the pace was fairly slow. Some people found it too slow for their taste but I think the energy of it matched where we were as a room.The dance concluded at our ancestor altar, where we had a cauldron filled with spiritual affirmations that our class had made ahead. Everyone took one before we reformed the circle and closed.

It was a very well recieved ritual. One of my coworkers attended for the first time and we had our photo taken together. When whoever took it put it on facebook we could see a huge round aura or orb encircling the two of us. It was a cool affirmation.

Back to the Morrighan. I did say earlier that I planned to write more about how to do neutralizing or binding magick in ways that do not create a ding in your "karma" (the pagan rule of threes, whatever you send out you get back times three). My idea for this ritual work includes working with the Morrighan, particularly in her identity as Macha.

A verbal tradition that I recieved from Laurie Cabot is that English witches carried forth the ritual of the black feather...that leaving a black feather for an "evil doer" (think child abuser, rapist, etc.) calls Macha to come and judge that person's deeds. This is an attractive concept because calling the goddess to judge the situation seemingly keeps your personal judgements out of things, which is more in keeping with the rule of threes.

As an animal rights vegan I think about our ability as pagan vegans to work toward neutralizing (eventually ending) the abuse done to animals. While a neighborhood animal abuser may certainly be the issue, I myself was thinking about factory farming as an industry, rather than any individual. So I was thinking about how to do a "black feather visualization" that does not have to do with actually sending/leaving a black feather for one individual.

Just always remember to call on Macha with respect, and remember the rule of threes when sending out any magicks. No neutralizing/binding spell should be done lightly or as an impulsive response. And when applicable, activism/mundane responses to the abuse should also be taken (calling animal welfare, supporting animal rights work, etc.).

Black feather visualization:
Cast a magick circle according to your own practices.
Get into a comfortable position and get yourself into a meditative state by your own practices. At the very least take several deep breaths and be still for a moment or two to get yourself into "the zone" (which is the alpha state).
open your hands in front of you and visualize a black feather there. feel it's weight. since it is a spiritual feather connected to the goddess Macha, feel it's aura and notice anything else about it.
Thank Macha for granting you this feather.
Say something like the following:
"Goddess Macha, protector and fair judge of our deeds, I respectfully ask for your intercession. I invoke your feather as a call for you to look at (name the individual or the institution). None of us are perfect, nor do we always act in perfect accordance with the laws. Yet I feel that (name) is doing great harm. I know I am not worthy to judge it myself. I therefore gratefully ask for your intercession. Please neutralize all harm in this situation, in the correct way and for the good of all. Let healing replace woundedness. Let justice replace victimization. Let justice and good reign in this situation, and in the world.  I release this feather to go forth and do your will."
feel the black feather floating upwards out of your hand. notice how fast or slow it goes, where it seems to go, and how it feels.
Thank Macha again for being present and hearing your request.
Come out of the alpha state and open your circle according to your own practices.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Samhain, Death, and Denial

Here we are gearing up for my very favorite Holiday and Sabbat: Halloween/Samhain! I've always been a Halloween girl. Some of my favorite childhood books were about stereotypical witches. Now that I'm a pagan Samhain makes the whole season that much more powerful and beautiful.

Samhain is a Gaelic word meaning "summer's end" and has all the connotations of transition that come naturally when warm weather gives way to cold. Ancient pagans would have been carefully gathering in their harvest. Cutting down plants. Slaughtering animals. Drying and preparing the foods to last through the long, dark season. If the harvest was not good, the winter could result in death. Death and dying hung over this part of the year.

I have noticed that Samhain can be a really therapeutic time to address our issues with death and with grief. It does not have to be a tear jag but just a time to explore our beliefs and to honor those who came before us. As a vegan pagan I include nonhumans in this equation. I think Samhain is a powerful time to send energy for the spirits of animals who have been killed by humans for innumerable reasons (or for no reason at all). It is also a time to send magicks to neutralize animal exploitation by our species.

It is very interesting to me that many of the same people in the pagan community who have laughed in my face or gotten confrontational with me about my veganism (this is not chronic but it does occur) are also the same people who dislike talk of death and dying. I think this is a fascinating correlation of denials. Denial that we kill with our choices, denial that we ourselves die. Or then there are pagans who are very willing to wallow around in the abstract concept of death but don't think at all about the way they kill with food, clothing, cosmetic, and other choices. I know none of us can be perfect (especially myself) but I'm just talking about acknowledgement of this issue and some sort of good faith attempt to deal with it.

Anyhow, I will blog more about Samhain because I think it is a huge holiday not only for pagans but especially for vegan pagans. Next time I want to think more about the concept of "banishing" evil, or attempting to neutralize those doing it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

poem: autumn dance

Just felt like celebrating the Fall. :0)

Autumn Dance—


In autumn the maple leaves blush

at one another, then jump their traces

leaving the trees to dance and skip

they disappear discretely when the sun fades

to dusk, to accept the quiet caresses

of the wind.


The apple trees, also laid bare of

their leaves, will not be outdone.


They sigh and coquet, waving willowy

branches to reveal

a brace of jewels—

ruby apples drip from fingertip

so abundant that some

may be thrown to the supplicant



A light buffet

of rosehips

is sampled by the deer

who delicately pirouette

on ballerina feet.


A pair of fat raccoons

promenade slowly through

the trees, like an old couple

hard of hearing, loudly

complaining about what

has been laid out

to eat.


The music of the crickets and

the frogs goes on til dawn

for the revelers know

that the seasons will change

in the turn of a moon

and all will be laid to rest

in blankets of snow.


As if on cue, to remind all revelers

of the season’s brevity

a swirling cloak of black crows

descends upon the fete

calling one another to the feast.


Imbibing broken apples’ juice

collecting fruit and seed

finding fallen butterflies

with broken wings

and cold cadaverous


shrouded in cobwebs like lace.


The corvid coven rises

remembering the fallen ones

to the angels

lifting them aloft on sable wings

in celebration, in no way stygian

as the dance goes on

and day embraces night.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mabon (Autumn Equinox) September 21/22


            It may be helpful to think of Mabon as “the Witches’ Thanksgiving.” It is our Autumn harvest and feasting holiday. Our agrarian, pagan ancestors were vastly grateful for a harvest which, for them, literally meant the difference between life and death in the face of the approaching winter. The cool thing about the witch Thanksgiving is that it has zero to do with European colonization of the Americas or the subjugation of Native peoples. It doesn’t have to be connected to eating turkeys either!

            In the story of the Goddess and God, the Oak/Corn King is now completely consumed. He “dies” in the sense that he gives way completely to his other aspect, the now reigning Holly King. The Holly King is a death god, since he reigns over the time of decay, darkness, and dormancy. The Goddess progresses toward her identity as the Crone as she and the Holly King lead the way through autumn and towards winter. Yet the holiday of Mabon is a feast of thanks to the Summer God for his loving sacrifice and the bounty it provides.
Other ideas for Mabon:
            This one’s easy: have a vegan potluck! If you already have a vegan meetup group, this can be a great time of year to try out some Thanksgiving type recipes in preparation for the mainstream holiday. If you do not have such a group, maybe you can create one! The site is great for making these kinds of connections.
If it is a brand new group you may want to meet at a restaurant rather than give a bunch of strangers your address. In this case you could do a recipe swap and try them out on each other if a potluck develops later on.
If you start thinking about mainstream Thanksgiving at Mabon, you have more time to plan some vegan activism, alone or in a group. You could:
·         Prepare your group to pool resources and “adopt a turkey” for a rescue group like
·         Plan a vegan food drive to give to food pantries when the mainstream Thanksgiving dinner drive starts. You can raise popular fall veggies or even have a tofurkey drive! 
·         Make a donation yourself or in the name of your group to a local food pantry at Thanksgiving. Possibly attach some information, like the address of your website or a vegan website you like (PETA, Compassion Over Killing, Vegan Outreach, a local animal rights or vegan group, etc.)
·         If you have a farm animal sanctuary as a local resource, see if they are having a Thanksgiving event, like a “feed the turkeys” (a popular Farm Sanctuary idea). Maybe with your support, they could start one!
·         Have a harvest bake sale for your group, perhaps by joining a mainstream harvest bazaar or event. In this way even your small table could introduce consumers to tasty vegan treats, and perhaps raise money for a vegan organization of your choice (or animal shelter, etc.)
            On a holiday that is so focused on the blessing of a full pantry and tummy, it is perhaps a good time to contemplate what veganism has to offer to food equality issues both locally and globally.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Traveling Vegan: Salem, MA

"Alchemy" bowl and "Pure Alive" juice at Life Alive Organic Cafe

Salem YMCA

Goddess Bowl

Goddess Bowl and Life Alive Juice

I have some older posts about Gwen and I traveling vegan and staying in Salem. I'll just review, though, because I am doing a few things differently this trip.

I always pack most of my food while traveling. My motto is that "a mini fridge is the traveling vegan's best friend." My hotel room is pretty low rent but does have a fridge and I can use the microwave or toaster in the breakfast area of the lobby all day. So when I travel (here or other places) I tend to:

1) make sure I know where I am staying and what my storage/cooking capacity will be
2) scope out the local stores, health food stores, and vegan resteraunts via
3) do recon at said stores and get some supplies. I still limit perishables even if I have a fridge. they tend to snowball on you really fast and may spoil.
4) use farmer's markets if in season also to get some really high quality produce (right now I have some cukes and tomatoes and some blackberries that I scored at a farmstand on my way out of Maine)
5) make sure I have cutlery, plates, dish soap and cloth, sandwich bags and travel mugs, etc. to make living out of my room easy

And on this trip I added the following:

6) find a local health club or walking/jogging trail and make arrangements to have one or two workouts while on the road

So on most trips I tend to live out of my room and not bother with resteraunts. It is usually so hard to find vegan friendly resteraunts that I have just gotten to the place where I'd rather save the money I might have spent on expensive dining and use that for other aspects of the trip. But on this trip I found Life Alive Cafe right on Essex Street in Salem (the main drag, and right across the street from the YMCA). I did bring my juicer on the trip but I haven't felt like trying to use it in my hotel because of the mess. I will be using it more on the upstate New York leg of this trip when I visit my dad (I will post on that later).

Fortunately, Life Alive has a huge array of juices and smoothies as well as super-nutritional rice bowls, wraps, or salads. So I've been treating myself there once a day.

I discovered that, as a member of my local YMCA in Maine, that all the Y's in New England honor your membership. So I have membership priviledges at the Salem Y and am taking a couple zumba classes there (which is what I do at home). This feels great and really lets me relax, kind of feeling more like a member of the community than a tourist. I've really been enjoying it. I also found a multi use recreational trail in Danvers (where I am staying) but, frankly, I've been walking around Salem so much that I haven't felt that I need the trail.

So - just some tips for making vegan travel as healthy, economical, and relaxing as possible. And fun! I really enjoy it tons more than I ever did when I was ovo lacto vegetarian and eating at fast food places or something on my trips. I feel so much better now on every level. Try it out on your next trip...I bet you'll like it too!

I'll be blogging about vegan travel when I move on to my dad's place, though. That has a different vibe and different strengths/challenges. More to come!

tea, stevia, dry snacks, peanut butter for the toast/bagels at the continental breakfast

more dry snacks, plus a shelf-stable box of squash soup for microwaving
the vegan traveler's best fridge! I have produce, soymilk, pickles, a couple frozen burritos, etc. hidden within.

In Salem for Laurie Cabot's Witchcraft 2

Well here I am in Salem, MA for Laurie Cabot's Witchcraft II class. You can see in the blog archives my trip to take Witchcraft I. Class one was about "the science of witchcraft" - meaning basic beliefs and practices that tie magic practice into quantum physics and natural the spirituality and ethics of her Cabot Kent Tradition.

Witchcraft II is about basic magical work including circle casting, spells, potions, and the stuff a practicing witch does in the Cabot Kent Trad. Fortunately we are allowed to record the classes because Laurie just sits there and holds forth for a couple of hours at a time, and there is tons of information. I love the classes though.

I can see so many rich opportunities to incorporate vegan paganism into the trad and I can't wait to continue developing along those lines. An example is in healing...doing magical work to heal the spirits of animals being slaughtered by humans, and doing neutralizing work to keep helping to reduce that predation. I guess this is the work we all have to do at "veganizing" whatever pagan tradition/s we feel a part of.

The classes are held at Enchantments (see photo below). It is a great class, as I knew it would be, but a little overwhelming. So much to do when I get home!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lammas - Blessing from the Corn King

            Lammas marks when our ancestors celebrated the first fruits of their harvest and prayed for the rest of the growing season to go well. People living close to the earth without connections to outside resources depended on their own harvest for the survival and growth of their communities.

            In the story of the Goddess and God, the harvest has a strong connection to sacrifice. The Oak King takes on a new role, in which he is also known as the Corn King. As the corn king, he begins the process of dying so that the creatures of the earth can live. It is a sacrificial death that many young gods throughout world mythology undergo, and of course is reflected in the story of Jesus Christ.

            The concept of sacrifice in connection to food and hunger is a fascinating one for the vegan pagan. It is a great time of year to be mindful of the full cost of food, in terms of compassion, environmentalism, justice, etc. As vegans we already spend a lot of time thinking about these interconnections. Lammas is therefore a holiday where we can earnestly celebrate and be grateful for the food that we have. We can also be grateful for the spread of veganism and the availability of cruelty free, ethically obtained items (to a greater and greater extent).

            Pagan concepts of wheat or corn (or other plants) as a gift from a deity are a deep metaphor for sustainable food on our earth. This is despite what modern agriculture has done to plants with genetically modified seeds and lack of crop diversity. Plants are a renewable resource that our planet naturally produces if we get out of the way. We can also easily produce crops of plants if we study environmentally sound ways to do so (most of which harken back to practices our pagan ancestors used).

I think Lammas is the perfect time to explore the work of A Well Fed World ( This organization's work is very connected to the spirit of the Corn King's gift. That there is enough bounty in plant crops to feed people everywhere. If we farm in environmentally responsible ways, everyone should have enough to eat. This practice would also liberate our animal brothers and sisters from our exploitative animal agriculture.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Vegan Pagan "Defense against the Dark Arts" (or just some nosy nellies)

You can expect a fair amount of curiosity, questioning, and perhaps even hostility from the people around you if you suddenly start sharing your paganism or veganism with them. Like for any other marginalized and/or oppressed group, it truly is a “coming out” process.

You may want to get started and find your personal comfort zone with your path before you share it with others, if it is possible. Having done both I realize it is harder to keep veganism to yourself if you eat with coworkers regularly or dine with extended family, have a date night with friends, etc. It may help to just say, “I want to experiment with this kind of eating to see how I feel on it” or something else (which is likely true) in order to give yourself time to adjust before having to defend your philosophies.

Just about anyone who has written a vegan blog or book or rant of some kind has discussed the challenges met in one’s community when becoming vegan. The typical questions range from “where will you get your protein?” or “how can you live without cheese/creamer/milk chocolate?!” to more aggressive or juvenile things like, “I hate vegans. I saw one being so rude to a waitress once.” or “What, do you care more about cows than you do about people?” or something ridiculous like, “Oh, owwwwww…that poor broccoli! You killed it!”

I believe these all come from a defensive place. Unless people assume you are either trying to lose weight or have food allergies, they may feel judged by your eating choices even when you don’t say a word. Some of these are best laughed off but for many you can develop a pat answer. You may choose to educate them with actual facts about where you get your protein or simply develop simple responses to protect your choices like, “you know, it takes all kinds. I’ll eat what I want and you do the same.”

Many people in the new wave of vegans are choosing to call themselves “plant based” eaters, focusing on the diet and wellness aspects. Some people do so genuinely because the choice is purely dietary. Some others find that their coworkers, friends, and other peers are more accepting of this term than “vegan.” As both a pagan and a vegan it reminds me of the reason so many people might use “pagan” instead of “witch” or whatever the name of their actual pagan tradition may be. Society has a lot of stereotypes of certain words. Whether you decide to embrace or “reclaim” such words in your own life is totally personal choice and personal sense of safety. Both vegans and pagans have been investigated by child welfare simply for parenting their children within these lifestyles, for example.

I think the safest way to make these choices for yourself and your family is to do your research on both lifestyles before you jump out of the broom closet or the kitchen cupboard.  If there are local shops or community groups where a lot of vegans or pagans gather, perhaps you can find out from them what the local vibe is. Knowing of local resources and online resources can also help you advocate for yourself if you encounter any discrimination.

When there is a community presence around veganism or paganism, it can make it easier to face peer pressure or overt discrimination. Please know I am not saying you will definitely face these issues. Yet this can be serious business so forewarned is forearmed.

Although you can probably keep it private longer, the same goes for your choices about paganism. People you never expected to take it badly may get really upset by this choice and unload a lot of stereotypes onto you about evil, animal abuse, devil worship, or going to Hell when you die. Most generally it seems to me that the people who think about their own religion the least may have the most vitriolic reactions to yours.

I taught introductory paganism classes online for several years and had several students who had been in the broom closet for very good reasons, and did not expect to come out of it in the near future. I really believe you have the right to keep your path to yourself if it seems right to you. Not only does religious freedom imply a right to privacy, but there are definitely very real dangers and discriminations out there, depending on your culture and community.

Perhaps it is most disappointing of all when you finally find a vegan community and suddenly you find that your paganism is not accepted. Or you are a pagan trying out veganism and experience peer pressure or even bullying from members of your group. Both of these have happened to me at one time or another. I cannot pretend it doesn’t hurt, and I can’t tell you definitively what to do. I think the best advice that I can offer you is that you stay true to yourself, patiently educate your communities when possible, and cut your losses where you must. Eventually your true circle of friends will form. It helps that you have the world wide web to look to in many cases, besides your own locale.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ode to Freedom

This is a beautiful piece on uTube, sponsored by PETA2 (the youth activist leg of PETA).  PETA has a tee shirt of the "ode to freedom" concept also.

Inspired by this idea, I made my own ode. It is not a classic Greek ode, but is done in metric verse.

An Ode to Freedom


Soft grass upon the hillside grows,

it blooms in gold and green


The worms below will till the soil,

all life on earth to feed


The mother cow takes sweetness in,

to meet her baby’s need


No grasping hand to steal her milk,

no predatory deed


From worm to cow to calf to me,

all creatures may be free


When we who take so heedlessly

allow all life to be


In concert and, by divine right,

exist in Liberty.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Litha (Summer Solstice)

            At Litha the warm weather and growth seen in nature all around us leads to a holiday where we can really celebrate the joy of life. We are in the prime growing season—after the land has been prepared and the crops have been planted, but before we have to worry about the harvest and the winter.  All things have their polarity, however. Summer solstice is also a reminder that, from this point on, the days begin growing shorter and shorter on their interminable march toward the Winter Solstice. Even in the peak of life and joy, we are ever mindful of the approaching death and dormancy.

            This is one of the holidays where the Oak King and Holly King are said to “skirmish” in their struggle to reign over the earth. This is partly a battle between the warm months and the cold months and also partly about the polarity of life and death. Both are always held in balance. While one is dominant, the other is always present. In fact they are two sides of the same coin and actually part of each other. This can be seen in the seasons around us so I think it makes sense that the story has been told in this way.

The Oak King is seen to win this particular battle, since the Sun and the light are most powerful at Litha. Yet the stage is set for the inevitable victory of the Holly King in a few months. After today, the sun begins giving way more and more each day to the night. You can visualize it that the Oak King is still strong, but he is feeling his age.

            In the meantime, the Goddess is now carrying the child of the Oak King (which of course is yet another aspect of himself). She is transitioning from Maiden to Mother again.

            At my temple every year we use the same pentacle made from woven branches in our Litha circle. A priest or priestess goes out in the full moon light on the eve of the solstice and harvests a bounty of greens, herbs, and flowers. These decorate our solstice altar. As part of our group ritual, we each pick some of the plants and put a wish into them that we wish to manifest over the next year. What we are doing is harnessing the pregnancy energy of this holiday to grow or birth something new over the next several months. We pass the pentacle around our circle and each of us weaves our chosen plants around it. The edge of the pentacle is solidly woven with flowers and leaves by the time we are done. A priestess takes this home with her each year and keeps it in her garden. When the next solstice comes around, we start again.

            Similarly, I think as vegan pagans we can harness the energy of pregnancy and birth to do ritual work. Perhaps we can ask for the birth of a more compassionate society (or human race), that honors the lives of all animals. We could also use the imagery of the Goddess as “Mother Earth” to celebrate her bounty and to send healing energy to Her.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Peace Ridge Cookout

It was a pleasant afternoon for a cookout. After a week of rain, and with a little witchcraft, we had a sunny day ;0)

Our meetup group filled a box with vegan food donations and other odds and ends for the farm. Then we grilled tofu dogs and veggies to go with the salads, wraps, and deserts that other folks contributed. One of the hits of the day was definitely the gorgeous chocolate ganache cake that a local vegan resteraunt owner (Lynn of Bar Harbor's Eden) served up.

We had a bit of an adventure assembling my new camp grill. Gwen managed to McGyver it together using a cake server as a screw driver. She rocks!
The beautiful cake

lightin it up

grilled onions and peppers

Some of our bounty

some treats for the critters

the donation box slowly filled

we had a vegan outreach table for new members and other folks attending the farm's open house

gwen saving the day with the grill

...and we used it to cut the cake when she was done!!

Vegan Cookout at Peace Ridge Sanctuary Open House

As part of our Meatless Mainers vegan dining meetup we teamed up with Peace Ridge, the farm animal sanctuary I am lucky to have in my town. People came from as far as Portland to meet the critters. Then we chilled with some vegan sangrea and grilled tofu pups as the sun went down. It was a beautiful day.
Missy the pig

a few of the many rabbits

Theo, the rescued veal calf

theo racing a friend

one of the sassy goats

all the kids loved Theo!

Azize got to know the goats, Missy, and Theo really well

In the afternoon heat I was jealous of the ducks and geese

blade and autumn greet a buddy

Fiona was also a star of the day

Gwen and her husband Chris get searched for treats

down the rabbit hole!


some of our group on the tour

the goats get a little help with the trees

sisters fiona and burnadette

popcorn the baby turkey

My mom, Mary Jane, and Autumn mug with Fiona