Monday, October 31, 2005

Honor The Witches

Throughout history and intertwined in various forms among a variety of cultures, there has been the persona of what we now think of as a Witch. Put aside, for a while, the fact that modern witches are trying to reinvent the label into a new religion, and let's take a trip back through time and try to explain how the present day fairytale type of witch began.

During this ride I will not be digging into the origins of the word witch, or trying to document any sort of historical details to prove that witches are some ancient religion. I'll save that for the Wiccan sites and those who are interested in the claims that present day witches are descended from something greater. What I am offering is a rational thought process of how we arrived at viewing the fairytale witch the way we do.

Many years ago, before Christianity reared its head, there were people like medicine-men and other village wise men and women that cared for the sick and the general health of the people living in their particular cultural niche. These people often had a great deal of knowledge about the surrounding plants and about the human physiology. This information was handed down generation after generation and served to help others survive in this harsh world.

Often, the healers of a village or tribe mixed in with their healing herbs and potions stories about supernatural things. Nobody can know for sure if these people truly believed in the tales they spun, or if it was just window dressing to add to the psychological healing powers of their craft. Even today positive attitudes of both patient and doctor are huge factors in the success of many medical treatments.

It's safe to say that some stories got more out of control then others, and some healers probably claimed all manner of special abilities as handed down to them from some unseen power. In a tribe or village this would definitely place these folks in awe of the others, not realizing that their “powers” merely came from their knowledge of natural cures.

Unfortunately these claims of power and stories of mystical abilities were to be the very weapon that would later be used against them.

As civilizations grew, and became something more then small tribes or villages, people began organizing together and various gangs became more powerful then others. Power is the driving force during human history, and people are very clever in how they obtain power and use it for their own needs.

One gang, we know them today as Christians, were trying to gain more power, but were having trouble convincing others that their way was the only path people should be following. One of the more difficult stumbling blocks were the wise-men and women of the various villages. The village healers probably saw these new religious gangs for what they were, a threat on their way of life.

Within the village these healers held a lot of influence over their “flock” and the new religious gangs could not seem to be making headway into many villages. Since Christianity was not against making things up to get themselves established, they branded these healers as gaining their power from evil and Satan.

The same stereotypes were employed then as we see today. The church went after these people by ridiculing their age and appearance. The vision of what we know a fairytale witch today is simply the remarks of a power-hungry religion to frighten their followers from having anything to do with the healers that they used to rely on.

Think about the description of a village healer woman. Old, walks with a cane, ugly (of course), seen living with her cats and using her broom to sweep off her porch and her house. The church called these woman hags, or crones, and claimed their cats were used for their wicked spells which came from the devil himself. It did not take long for people to begin to believe that these healers were obviously getting their knowledge from some evil source, because they knew too much and could heal people in impossible ways.

Witches are not evil, and in fact they were probably hero's of many villages and should be hailed as the mothers of humanity. They are the early healers who kept their villages healthy, and were the first doctors. I'm certain that much of our medical research and practices today can owe their thanks to these wise women of our past.

Sure it's fun to dress up on Halloween as a witch, a hag, an old crone, and pretend to be the things that were used to scare uneducated people of our past. I would ask that as you enjoy a little escape from reality and have fun with the spirit of Halloween, stop and think about the true origin of witches. They were mothers and grandmothers and intelligent healers of their village who probably worked tirelessly to make sure that disease and medical problems did not do too much damage to the people who entrusted their well-being to them.

My own mother goes out of her way to care for others, and helps wherever she can. I can't help but think that in a village of long ago she might have also been a healer. It sickens me to think that because of a few pompous power-hungry religious types she would then be marked as a witch, taken from her home, and burned at the stake. Her crime? Helping others with her knowledge of medicine and caring for the weaker people of the village.

From this point on, Halloween will be the day my family will honor the women who were labeled as witches. These women did not deserve the label that was given to them, or the treatment by the church that went along with the misnomer. Enjoy the festivities and the fairytale witch, but do not confuse the symbol with the reality.

Happy Halloween, and thanks to all of the witches who made it possible!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Home Sweet Home (Fiction)

It was the home of her dreams. A large wooden two-story house built in the 1800’s. Well maintained, the inside of the house had large exposed beams that supported the natural wood ceiling.

In the entryway was a beautiful chandelier, a few feet behind that was an awesome looking beam of well-polished wood. Adding to all of the wood in the ceiling was the wood flooring which complemented the entire home with a deep, rich color that has been painstakingly polished to a fine sheen.

Susan had just moved in with her two children, and most of the boxes had been unpacked, with the empties broken down in a neat pile in the detached garage. She had bought some large rugs before placing her furniture in many of the rooms because she didn’t want to mare the nice flooring.

The house stood in the center of a five-acre plot of land, with gorgeous trees surrounding the extensive lush grass lawns. The garden out back was expansive with a variety of plants of all kinds. A fountain dominated the center of the garden, with three tiers and statuary of fish spitting water encircling the main pool.

Susan’s children, Julie and William enjoyed their new home. Between the house, and the yard outside, they had a seemingly endless amount of space with which to play and explore.

Julie was 12 and already thinking she was an adult. She had outgrown little girl things she would tell Susan, yet she was not ready to toss out her collection of teddy bears and other assorted dolls. William was 5 and still a handful. Living with two females he would constantly get rowdy, and do the things that all boys his age like to do, but most of the time it was no use. William often spent time alone in the grounds around their new home playing army men, cars, or thinking up other adventurous things.

The family would not be complete without their two dogs. Casper, a West Highland Terrier, is white with a touch of beige along his back. Casper’s personality is that of someone who plays dumb, yet in reality is very intelligent. He’ll play and roll around looking silly, yet when someone is speaking he’ll listen intently and apparently can understand a wide vocabulary. Boo, on the other hand, is a black Scottish Terrier and has a stubborn streak that goes along nicely with his terrier ancestry. Boo enjoys the dominant role over his brother, but when Casper is tired of letting Boo be the bully, he puts him in his place quickly.

Together they would get into trouble digging in the garden and stealing anything that is lying around. In fact, it’s not unusual for the family to find many of their belongings out in the yard. One obsession Boo has is his love of the family’s socks. It seems that if there is sock anywhere on the floor in the house Boo would find it and take it outside. Most people wonder where their socks go, this family always knows exactly who to blame. They gave up trying to reprimand the stubborn terrier, so they make a better effort remembering to place their socks in the laundry baskets in their rooms.

They had moved into the new home in the fall. The leaves were changing now and the wind would pick up more often in the evenings. Never owning such a large home, or one this old and mostly wood, they where having trouble getting used to the creaks and other noises the home made as the temperature would cool, and the house would adjust accordingly.

When they first heard the sounds, they would check upstairs and all over because they thought someone was walking around upstairs. As the nights continued to cool, the sounds would stop and all would be quiet. Susan realized that every home had its sounds, and that’s part of what gave the house its character. They would just have to get used to the different sounds of this home.

One evening they were all sitting in front of the fireplace downstairs when they heard barking coming from upstairs. When they went to see what was going on, Boo was in the children’s bathroom barking at the bathtub. Even though this is where Casper and Boo get cleaned, Susan had never seen him bark at the bathtub before. When they had gone into the hallway and yelled at him through the open bathroom door to stop, he just sat there barking at the tub. Eventually, he tired of this game and went off to search for more socks no doubt.

At night, the dogs would rotate sleeping in all of their rooms. It seemed like a random pattern. Some nights they chose Susan, some nights Julie, and some nights William. On occasion, they would go to sleep in one room, and end up in another room before morning.

One particular night Susan woke up to growling. She could not see what dog was in her room, and could not remember the dogs ever growling before. Scared to think a strange dog had somehow got in their home, or maybe a wild animal, she slowly sat up until she could see over the edge of her bed.

It was a full moon outside, and she could see around the room clearly. The only thing she saw was Boo, that crazy dog was apparently growling at her nightstand. Fearing Boo had cornered and animal in her bedroom, she got out of bed on the opposite side and went and turned on her lights. When the lights came on, Boo came up to her wagging his tail, apparently forgetting about whatever critter he had cornered by the nightstand.

Susan searched her room but found no reason that could have made Boo growl like that. Could her wacky dog be sleepwalking? She wondered if dogs imagine things, or are afraid of the dark. Maybe he just saw a shadow of the outside tree on the wall and was defending his master from the tree monster. She smiled at the thought of her brave protector defending her from the shadows. She told the wagging fur ball that he was a good boy for defending her. Boo chased his tail around a few times, and then curled up near the same nightstand he was growling at, and went to sleep.

Julie came home from school with a homework project one day. She was to do a research paper on some historical thing in their hometown. Susan asked Julie if she thought doing her research paper about their new home would be a good idea. It would be great to find out if there was any history right where they were living. The next day they planned to visit the local library and city records building to see if they could find enough information for Julie’s homework.

As they were discussing Julie’s project, Susan heard William say, “Boo, what are you looking at?” When Susan went into the entryway she saw Boo sitting on the floor just staring up at the large beam. William was looking too, but looked confused. He asked Susan what Boo was looking at, and Susan could see nothing there. They tried to distract Boo with a treat, which he gladly accepted, but then went back to stare at the same beam.

As was his way, he eventually got bored of what he was doing, or thought he was doing, and went about the house looking for Casper to see what he was doing while he had been beam staring.

Boo quickly tracked Casper down at their food dish and proceeded to annoy him until a chase around the house began. This sprint around the slippery floors would continue for a few minutes while they tried to get as many carpets curled up as they could, trying to get traction on them and avoiding the furniture during their mad dash from room to room.

Halloween night, after an exhausting trick or treat trip around the huge neighborhood, the kids were in bed and Susan was cleaning up the candy bowl and blowing out some candles before she was going to turn in.

Suddenly, she heard a commotion in William’s room. It sounded like a dogfight, but Casper was downstairs with her. Must be Boo again, that dog could find trouble in an empty room she thought. She went into her son’s room as Julie was coming out of her bedroom to see what all of the commotion was about.

Susan saw William in his bed with a scared look on his face and Boo was going nuts growling and barking beside his bed. Susan found the light switch, flipped it to on, and Boo immediately stopped his insanity. Boo trotted up to Susan wagging his tail, and Julie bent over to pet him and ask him what he was doing while Susan ignored Boo and went to console William.

After getting her son calmed down, she brought Boo and Casper into her room to sleep that night since William was still a little freaked out at Boo’s psychotic crazy dance near his bed.

The next morning the family went to town so Julie could do research on their new home. They began at the city building and found a listing of previous owners. This was exciting; now with these new leads they could look up information at the library and see if any of these people were famous, or made a newsworthy impact in the area.

It was not long before getting to the library that Susan found a newspaper article about the previous owners of the home. The homeowners just before Susan bought the home had left town after the man of the house received a promotion in another state.

The research continued without much interesting to be found until she stumbled across news on the original family that built the home.

In a newspaper article Susan discovered a horrible history for their home. It seems that on October 31st in 1813, the builder of the home went crazy and killed his family. The body of his wife was found in their bed in the master bedroom, one of their children was found drowned in the bathtub, and another in the kid’s room. After killing his family, the man was apparently so distraught that he then took his own life by hanging himself from the heavy beam in the entryway.

That night Susan, her children, Boo and Casper spent the night in a hotel room in town. The next morning, Susan called a realtor and put her house up for sale. She didn’t know what Boo saw in that house, but one thing was certain, Boo was experiencing a lot more then they were in the house.

To this day Boo will still sit and stare at a blank wall, or bark and growl at seemingly nothing. Susan and her children have found a nice new home in a new development, and Boo’s episodes have tapered off to the occasional instance of strange activity. Every time Boo watches absolutely nothing at all, Susan gets the chills wondering what her trusty companion sees that she does not.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mind In The Gutter

It was fairly nice in Spokane this past weekend. The sun was out and it was one of those rare weekends where I didn't have any obligations with the family or other outside activities.

This late in the season nice days can be deceiving, and the inevitable foul weather will be arriving before we know it.

Our yard trashcan was full from pulling out a bush, and there are pine needles and leaves falling which meant soon it would be time to rake the yard and haul out the fall droppings.

This was when my mind went to the gutter.

My house has a lot of rain gutters (what did you think I meant?), so every year just before the snow hits I go through the ritual of climbing up and down a ladder with my rubber coated work gloves, and clean the sludge of leaves, pine needles, and dirt out of my gutters.

We have lived in our current home for three years now, and in that time I have never had a ladder that would reach the very top roof, and from the looks of the gutters up there, the lady that owned the home before us didn't either. This summer we actually had a nice crop of weeds growing in what looked more like a window flower box then a gutter.

Ladders that could reach that high up, and support me at 250 lbs, are not cheap. My wife and I have felt it was not really in the budget to spend approximately $200 far a ladder. Friends and family have mentioned that the cost of repairing water damage that could happen from clogged gutters was far worse of a prospect.

On top of my gutter problem, our kitchen has a high vaulted ceiling with recessed flood lights. Without a tall ladder, I have been unable to reach the uppermost two floodlights and they were both burnt out.

I tried buying one of those new-fangled light bulb changers on a pole. Sounds good in theory doesn't it?

The floodlight removal tip seemed to grab the floodlight alright, but when I unscrewed it I could not get it out of the housing and just pulled the housing out of the ceiling. Then, of course, the fancy tool was stuck up within the housing and dangling from the ceiling. I screwed the bulb back in to gain some more room between the housing and the light and finally got the tool out. Argh!!!

Eventually I was able to yank the time-saving device out of the housing, with the bulb mocking me and still in place.

The second bulb was not as cooperative, and I could not get the tool around the floodlight because that housing was too close to the side of the bulb. Now this was becoming a tool from hell sent to task me, but I had a thought! This demonic device had a suction cup that, in theory, could be used to suction onto a bulb and extract it that way.

Thinking I was finally outsmarting this torturous tool, I screwed on the suction cup attachment, and once again attacked the first infernal bulb. The suction cup made contact, and I gave it a little push as everyone knows you must do to properly get a suction cup to work.

Suddenly there was a loud “POP!”, and I just managed to drop my gaze to floor as I took a shower in glass from the now obliterated floodlight. My wife and Mother-in-law were watching my dismal display as a handyman, and my wife had only one thing to say after watching me bathe in glass fragments.

“Go buy the ladder.”

With that I returned the bulb changing nightmare to Home Depot, and bought a ladder.

At first I was just going to buy a 24' fiberglass extension ladder that could support 300 pounds. Then I began looking at my other options. What I finally decided on was a “Gorilla” ladder, which is pretty nice. It can support my fat butt (up to 300 lbs like the fiberglass extension ladder) and extend to 21' in addition to folding into a multiple-height step-ladder.

When I got it home the first thing I did was fold it into the step ladder, raise it to the needed height, and finally fix those dang floodlights. One of them apparently had not been changed in a long while because it was a bugger to unscrew, and the other one was now just a metal piece that used to be attached to some glass.

The ladder advantage allowed me to finished the indoor light bulb task in no time, and we finally have every bulb lit up in our kitchen, and the ability to reach them should they decide to extinguish in the future.

My nice new ladder and I adjourned to the backyard where I extended it fully to make sure I could hit the roof-line. Sure enough, it would reach with room to spare. I quickly began the thankless task of digging my hands into the muck of the dirty gutters and harvesting my weed crop from the upper-reaches of my home.

As write this I am a tad sore since going up and down the ladder about 100 times has used muscles that don't normally get worked. Now I know why they have those ladder machines in the gym, so a person can stay in shape for cleaning their gutters.

The gutters are clean, the bulbs are changed, and my Home Depot quota for the “honey-do” list has been blown for the month. Up next, placing the patio chair cushions above the garage, and getting down the Halloween decorations, but I'll spare you those exciting stories unless something news-worthy occurs during the process.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Who Is Your Puppet Master?

Recently I have read a discussion that bounced back and forth about whether or not God was all powerful or powerless in this world of ours. Interesting banter to be certain, but I found it tedious and wholly traveling down a tired road.

In the end they were both arguing about what degree of power God may have. It always interests me to see people try to explain that they believe in a God on one hand, then try to explain why God has seemed to essentially backed away from humanity and left them to fend for themselves.

Could it be that there is no God? That the reason he does not intervene in the current problems of mankind, like he supposedly did in biblical times, is that he is not real but the invention of men during a time in our society where we were scared of the sun going out, or of all other manner of supernatural things?

God does not look the other way when a hurricane decimates continents, it's not a test of your faith when a loved one is raped, murdered, or dies a horrible death due to an illness. The plain fact is that he does not exist.

Even today people cling to the hope that there is something more to this world then our own mortality. They are still frightened creatures wondering what will happen to them when they pass on from this world. Surely something more is waiting for them, something glorious and wonderful to look forward to.

Heck, you have people blowing themselves up and killing hundreds and thousands of others because they believe they will be rewarded when they do this. How can you argue about the existence of your God, then condemn these people for blowing themselves up in the name of their faith as well?

What's the difference? Oh, it must be because you're belief in an all-powerful God is the correct one, and they are just whacked. What do you tell the Mormons about their beliefs and what they think will happen when they die? Are they wrong too because your belief system differs?

I think that the time for the belief in deities created out of the imagination of man is coming to an end. Perhaps judgment day is when reality hits and people learn to cope with their own mortality without using the crutch of religion. Maybe Armageddon is not the physical destruction of the Earth, but the destruction of religion as we know it today.

I can relate to the Wiccan Rede because it is simple and to the point. “An it harm none do what ye will.” Why cloud the issues with a huge book of mumbo-jumbo when the K.I.S.S. concept will do much better. Point blank, do what you'd like, just don't hurt anyone else in the process.

The Bible is an interesting book to study in the sense that it is a written tome of knowledge on how people thought back then, and what some of their beliefs were. Taken literally as the only path to follow, and that it was written by some all-knowing deity, is a huge mistake. I could write volumes on how the Bible is not truly followed by Christians today. If it were, they would be no better the the fanatical Moslem's that we're currently having to deal with.

Christians go to church faithfully singing praises to a God they know little about, reading in a book they follow very little of, and look down at others who dare to question what they believe in. Many of these people do these things because that is what their parents said they should be doing. Oh yes, and if they don't they are going to Hell.

Personally I think the world would be better off if everyone followed the Wiccan Rede. It pretty much covers everything you need, and does so eloquently.

That all being said, I like the Christian religion. I take comfort in knowing that people get together to help each other through the difficult times, teach morality, and sing songs to help lift each others spirits up and provide hope for the weaker ones in our society.

After all, as I have brought up numerous times in these writings, human beings seem to require a gang of some sort to have a feeling that they belong. It does not matter if it's a church, a traditional “gang”, a sports team, or the military. People just have a desire to be a part of something bigger then themselves.

Your belief in God follows the Wiccan Rede as long as you follow the modern path of Christianity. That is why I don't mind at all if I'm surrounded by Christians, or married to a Southern Baptist. Our two belief systems our compatible in my view. We can coexist without too many issues getting in the way.

Does this mean I'm Wiccan? Nope, I just think the Wiccan Rede makes the most sense compared to most things I have studied so far. The rest of their beliefs I don't think I can really embrace for the same reasons I am no longer a Christian. They suffer from the same delusions as Christians do, which is that of making up deities to explain various things and to give them the feeling of power and support and strength.

I think some of the strongest people are those that have the courage to stand up against all the gangs and say, “No, I'm not following you.” That is why I will not follow what you do, and I don't expect anyone to follow me. I have made up my own mind, drawn my own conclusions, based on what I have studied and learned over the years. If you are still reading this, then you should too.

Do not live your life the way you have been told to live. Do not blindly follow things you know little about. Do not make decisions based on the desire of a gang. Stand up tall, reach into your own feelings and do what you really want to do. Believe how you really want to believe, and when you do, learn all you can about the path you have chosen.

Only through an open mind, and a lot of knowledge, can you truly feel like you are in control of your own life and not merely a puppet dancing to the whim of someone manipulating your strings.