Monday, October 16, 2017
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017
Today, I took a few minutes from my afternoon to witness a small piece of history. Along with hundreds of my fellow humans, I disappeared from the office, scurried down the elevator, and stood in the streets of Chicago to gaze at the solar eclipse (through protective eyewear). I didn't perform a ritual or mutter a spell under my breath. I held no gemstones to the heavens in hopes of capturing the energy of the eclipse. There are no bowls of water or salt or earth laid out on an altar of wood back at my house.
Monday, July 10, 2017
- It's a bad ass superhero movie in an era where bad ass superhero movies thrive.
- It faithfully brings to life a character that comic readers and pop culture fans have loved for over half a century.
- It does all of these things while having a female director and female lead action hero, which, sadly, is an all too rare thing these days.
- The Amazonian beach fight scene.
Back when the Riot began, I initially made a name for myself on places like Witch Vox and elsewhere with an article titled "The Pagan Secret". The gist of the article was that Paganism has enough "real" gods and goddesses in it, and that adding figures like Santa Claus to that list was somehow beneath "real" Paganism. It was the work of a young Pagan who had a lot of book learning and very little lived experience who was determined to show off how very, very smart he was. Later on I wrote blog after blog after blog amending and undoing the thoughts I expressed in that initial article, but I don't think I ever did so having actually learned the right lesson. And, it's a lesson that I should have learned much earlier, as it was something I discussed in another widely read, early Riot era article "Playing with God-Doh" in which I discussed the historically accurate fact that the names and faces we attribute to the gods have morphed over the millennia as their myths were blended with the meeting of cultures and taken across the world.
American Gods is my favorite work of standalone adult fiction. Hands down. It is responsible for multiple spiritual and personal Aha! moments along my path. And, it's become a runaway success for Starz in its television adaptation. I was a bit nervous to see American Gods being given the TV treatment, as the book is so precious to me, and other literary favorites didn't quite make the journey from page to screen successfully. (Looking at you, Harry Potter, Eat Pray Love, and The Dark is Rising)
I'm not giving away any spoilers in telling you that the season finale depicts 14 different versions of Jesus Christ, with a 15th shown earlier in the season. While this is never explicitly depicted in the book, it is referenced that there are multiple Jesuses - just as the Gods and Goddesses themselves are merely North American iterations of their European, African, and Asian counterparts. That same episode is also the first time the thesis of American Gods is driven home. Namely, that the "old" gods and goddesses get new names and adapt new sovereignty in order to continue to exist. We saw it in earlier versions in the first season - the seductress Bilquis (whose role is greatly expanded to AG's benefit in the adaptation) and the United States' god of guns and ammo Vulcan (whose role, I believe, is a wholly new character in the AG universe).
Easter/Ostara, played to utter perfection by Kristin Chenoweth, starts off as a goddess who has gotten by and been raised up by sharing "her day" with the various versions of Jesus. While not ideal, she continues to draw plenty of power and immortality by the hunting of the eggs and the feasting of rabbit and the speaking of her name, "Easter". However, as Wednesday/Odin points out, people are not truly doing these things in her name. Hijinks and magic ensue, including the first truly powerful display of godhood from one of the old gods since the series began. (Seriously, watch the show.)
What Wonder Woman and Easter have in common is the notion that the gods didn't stop evolving. The archetypal myths still exist. Somewhere deep down in the human spirit we have this urge to retell the tale of the redeemed, the chaotic, the heroic, and the damned. You may love the idea of a powerful triple goddess with supreme powers who holds sway over fate and destruction and the spark of life, who lights up the darkness with her fire. Might I be speaking about Hecate? Or possibly Jean Grey?
Jean Grey, the Phoenix, has three forms: a life-giving force for good, a dark, fiery force of destruction, and a balanced version who is more powerful than both. (The artist, above, is Greg Land, and this is from his work in the Marvel story Phoenix: Endsong.)
Am I suggesting that we all start replacing statues of the gods in our home with action figures? Not necessarily, but I'm definitely saying I wouldn't look at you sideways if you did. The way I have come to understand the divine and our relationship with it is that it doesn't seem to care what name you have to give it in order to have a relationship with it. It existed before humans gave it names. It existed before humans divided it up into cat-headed goddesses and robed gods of sunshine and long before those same humans started clothing their gods in spandex.
I think the point of having a relationship with the gods is to have a relationship with oneself. To be able to dig down inside yourself through story and song and folklore to find your better parts and bring those to the surface. To, from time to time, polish that spark of divinity that resides in each of us, that connects us to the universe and to one another. Our ancestors spoke of Hermes and Frigg and Anansi in order to help give order to the unknown forces around them. But, the point was that they spoke of them. They told stories of their feats and raised cups on their holy days and drew power and gave offering to their slowly changing faces, because behind the names were the wind and rain and stars and slow, burning cycle of the universe.
And I've stopped caring whether you want to call your goddess Wonder Woman or Athena or Inanna or Mother or, simply, Goddess. Certain sects of Wicca teach that the Goddess has no face, because she wears all faces. She is all goddesses, named an unnamed. The God is all gods named and unnamed. And they are each, in turn, simply iterations of a primal divinity. The more I study what is known and what is believed by spiritualists the world over, the more that idea feels right.
I'm sure there is a hard polytheist out there pointing and laughing at their computer screen right now, or maybe they've already got half of a hate mail letter drafted, but that's ok. I don't mind being wrong about the nature of the divine anymore.
One final thing...
I have this shelf at work where I keep a collection of different pop culture figures that all mean something to me. There's Discord from My Little Pony (yep...I guess I'm a brony). There's Regina from Once Upon a Time. There's Kamala Khan, Marvel's current Ms. Marvel (a bad ass Muslim superhero). Dumbledore, Myrtle Snow, and Maleficent all share a bit of that shelf, too. Do I think of them as gods and goddesses? No. However, they each inspire me in a very specific, very important way. And, when I am having a stressful moment or need to find clarity in chaos, I often look to those figures and remind myself of their stories. Some make me smile, and some, like Misty Day, make me sad, but I don't know that I'd be any more or less inspired than if I were flipping through the pages of a book of mythology (some of which I also keep at my desk for the same reason).
These characters, and their stories, are just as alive for me as the folklore and myths I grew up reading. I read Arthur Cotterell and Edith Hamilton alongside Marvel and DC. While I didn't connect them then, the older I get, the more their realness blends together.
Love and Lyte,
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Monday, May 15, 2017
A Pagan Wall of Silence
Defining Pagan Leadership
Bad Behavior on a Spectrum
The Next BNP Generation
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Two years ago I was working a dead end job that I kept because, like many who work dead end jobs, my family needed the money and we weren't winning any lotteries any time soon. It had been a year of big things for our family of two. We had recently purchased our first home, celebrated marriage equality coming to the state of Illinois by finally getting married after 8 years together, and we were starting to talk about having kids.
However, that year was also a rough one for our family. Our jobs were making both of us unhealthy, both from stress and from not being able to eat a healthy diet or sleep normal hours. My husband lost his step father, and I lost my grandfather, both within a week of one another right before thanksgiving. A few months later I lost my grandmother as well. We also had costly medical expenses and automotive repairs that, coupled with the need to suddenly fly around the country, three times, for funerals, drained what savings we'd built up.It was at this time I decided I needed a way out of my dead end job and find a way to meet the next chapter of our lives head on. We wanted to be fathers, after all, and if we were going to do it in time to enjoy being young enough to be an active part of our kids' lives, I needed to make enough money to make our family dreams a reality.
So, I took a big risk, and changed careers. I took a commission sales job in the financial industry, which sounded amazing on paper. So many people had made so much money in a very short amount of time. I was smart, learned quickly, and felt that - despite my lack of experience - I, too, could become a success story. My recruiter, my manager, my colleagues, all assured me I would be making at least twice, possible three times my current salary within a year. This did not work out as promised.
Here's a lesson you don't understand until you've had to live it: when it sounds too good to happen to you, it is too good and it isn't going to happen to you. Getting started in my new job meant a lot of up front expenses. I had to pay to get licensed, which was hundreds of dollars per exam. I had to pay for marketing and a massive increase in gas since now I was spending all day in my car making sales calls, and I was told that every dollar would be repaid tenfold. That you had to spend money to make money.
Things weren't great, but they were manageable. We were getting into debt, but we kept being assured that thing would work out. The next 6-10 months were a rollercoaster of financial upheaval. Every time I thought about quitting, I'd somehow get just enough of a commission check that I thought...ok...we can make it...things will turn around. I was stuck. I didn't want to leave, because I'd spent so much money getting into the field that I didn't want to let it be for nothing, but I also knew that if I continued down this road the decision to find a new job would eventually be made for me. Then my company was bought out.
Under the new ownership everything changed almost immediately. Commission payments came to a screeching halt. Business I was working on that should have paid out thousands of dollars either never got paid out or, for whatever reason management was coming up with at the time, would get paid out in checks barely large enough to fill my gas tank.
In short, I ended up having to finance almost half a year of my salary with credit. I started working a second job in the evenings and then a third job on the weekend, but no matter how much supplemental income I made, the debt just kept piling higher. The breaking point came last fall when I was forced to start working these supplemental jobs mostly full time.
My primary job had stopped paying me completely. I was driving for a car sharing service 12-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, in addition to other jobs. We went from buying groceries to living off ramen and hoping that we could survive one more day.
I'd like to stop here for a moment. I'm ashamed to write this. I'm ashamed to put this out for the world to see. I'm ashamed to admit that I was too proud to see the writing on the wall and leave my job before things got as bad as they got. I'm ashamed that I couldn't provide for my family. I'm ashamed that I made such a ridiculous series of financial mistakes. But I never stopped working. Ever. It just wasn't enough to stop the bleeding.
I finally got a new job that began in mid-January. It's a good job. I like it, and I very much believe I could find a career here. It pays a solid salary, and it's allowed us the ability to keep our pantry stocked and feel some semblance of normalcy on a day to day basis. But financing your life with debt has a price, and right now that price is high. Despite my new jobs, I am still working 7 days a week between one primary and two part time jobs. Even with all of that, I am desperately in need of the funds to catch up.
When you're making the decision to eat or pay your bills, there are bills that don't get paid. And when you've had to make that decision for months on end, getting caught up on a middle class salary is impossible. So, I'm turning to you, the internet. The internet that gave a man hundreds of thousands of dollars to make potato salad.
I'm asking for a second chance for me and my family. For the family I have now, and the family we hope to grow. I am hoping to raise $5000 as a way to get caught up on several back payments and to get some kind of breathing room on this mountain of debt. $5000 is not going to pay anything off, but it would all me to pay bills that we're not paid from having to decide if groceries or credit card bills were more important.
If the gods are merciful, and we somehow raise this amount of money, every penny of it will go to catching my family up. If we are able to raise more than that, I would hope to put it towards paying off our debt, which is sizable when you're having to live exclusively off loans and credit cards when your job stops paying you for half a year. Every dollar that is raised is a dollar towards making my family whole again. Towards putting two hard working people on a path to financial security and possibly have a chance at starting a family in the next few years.
Bless you and thank you.
To contribute to this GoFundMe campaign, or to share the link, click here: http://www.gofundme.com/AChanceForAFamily
Love and Lyte,
Friday, April 7, 2017
We are excited to introduce a new action-drama radio show about three young girls who use their superpowers to fight against injustice and the many harmful practices Ethiopian girls routinely face. Using their powers to see the past and future, Tibeb Girls draws the audience into the typical lives of Ethiopian girls, building empathy for their hardship and a vision of a brighter future. Tibeb Girls puts girls’ issues at the center and provides examples of girls asserting themselves, problem-solving, and implementing solutions. By broadcasting a program that will examine harmful practices and explore girls’ agency in addressing those challenges, Tibeb Girls will foster a culture of conversation among girls, families, and throughout the broader community. Through our partnerships detailed below, the Tibeb Girls is an Ethiopian-led, innovative, scalable and sustainable approach to measurably improving coordination around girls’ issues in Ethiopia.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
- This was going to be nothing. The "exclusively gay moment" we were promised was going to be as benign as a lingering glance or an oddly enthusiastic grin. We all were going to make too much out of this, and everyone would be pissed that either we were robbed of our "first" gay Disney character (totally not the first) or that Disney was playing activist and baiting the gay community.
- It was going to piss everyone off by having the first "exclusively gay moment" in a canonical Disney Princess film be represent one of the most problematic tropes in the gay community: hetero worship.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Yes, a little teeny tiny part of me that's covered in glitter and likes hot chocolate and Disney movie marathons was holding out hope of some kind of magical deus ex machina. Don't laugh. I'm desperate.
By now you've seen the news stories that a group of witches, non-religious folks, Christian mystics, and Lana Del Rey all decided to hex the ever loving shit out of our (sorry...choking back bile saying this) President. It started with a call to bind Trump and all those who abet him and turned into a worldwide call to magical arms. February 24, set your wands to "curse" and aim them at the White House.
I wasn't going to do it, because, if I'm most honest, I didn't think for a second it would do anything. And I don't know what that says about me or my relationship with magic or my relationship with the divine. I think it says that I think whatever energy was created by his followers and those that put him in power is mightier than mine. And...again...I don't know how to feel about that.
It was my husband, my most non-religious-but-technically-Catholic husband, who heard about the movement and cheerfully decided we were participating. He's a gay Mexican immigrant. He's angry and scared and a spectrum of unnamable emotions of which I can only guess. It was his unabashed enthusiasm for the event that moved me to action.
Now, I'll admit, I didn't really care to read up on the binding that was going around or to adapt it to my needs. I'm sure it was a fine spell. I figured if I was going to participate, I was going to do the kind of spell I wanted. I called up my friend Vinna Harper (literary maven here at the Riot) who decided she also needed an outlet for her fear and anxiety and that magic was as good a form of protest as any.
That's what I felt this was. Magical protest. Magical psychology. Working through the complex knot work of trepidation and rage and despondency by working magic, because when you have nothing else to cling to you can still cling to your inner spark of divinity. The bit of your heart that never stopped being starfire before it transmuted to flesh and bone.
We decided to make a simple cloth poppet, fill it with paper messages and ideas that embodied Donald Trump's actions and ideologies, as well as our own reactions to them. We colored the poppet to look like him, pants unzipped and penis exposed because of his known history of sexual assault and because of his pride. We named it. And then we stuck pins in it while stating what we wished would happen.
Then we spat on it, burned it to ash, dumped the ashes in the toilet and...well...fiber and coffee was involved before we finally flushed him down the drain. (Note: we saved the pins and did not flush those down our plumbing system... Just saying, before someone freaks out about fish eating our spell ingredients.)
It felt good. It felt like release. It felt like protest. It felt holy. And I have no clue if it "worked" in the sense that I have no idea whether we will be seeing Trump impeached and removed in the near future, or suddenly afflicted with maladies unknown, but I know for damn sure it made us all feel better and more secure and more united, which is magical in and of itself.
Love and Lyte,
Saturday, January 28, 2017
If this episode was of value, please consider giving a small, monthly donation to help support ongoing costs at Patreon.com/IncitingARiot.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Left, right, or center, social media algorithms - Facebook especially - have been learning what you like, dislike, and, more importantly, what keeps you engaged and using their service. If you comment on pictures of animal rights issues most often, then that's what will continue to propagate in your feed. This "Filter Bubble" has helped to further drive a wedge between folks with slightly differing opinions into people with diametrically opposing world views, because we can no longer look at the same information and see it how it happened. We see it in the context of all of our neighboring progressive or conservative leaning material. We see it commented on by like-minded liberals or conservatives who help skew our view.