Log in

No account? Create an account

Prison PaganFest in Washington

It's hard to believe that a week has passed since I attended the first-ever prison-based pagan festival held at the Coyote Ridge correctional facility. In fact, this may well have been the first event of its kind, anywhere. It seems a long time ago, now, and at the same time the memories are so fresh it's a little like the event just happened.

In any event, ArchDruid Kirk Thomas (ADF) contacted me several months ago and described a one-day intensive that he and Coyote Ridge's Prison Chaplain Erik Askren were planning. The concept was to provide learning and understanding between incarcerated Druids, Wiccans, and Asatruar as well as among various other Prison Chaplains in the Washington state system. He asked if I would be interested, and naturally I said yes.

I'll be honest - I have never done prison ministry in any setting. I do believe it is an important piece of pastoral work. I also believe one must have the specific calling to do prison ministry. I've never felt that calling, so I left it to others. Why, then, did I choose to sign on for this? Two reasons: one, I believe in the importance of interfatih work, and two, I see the opportunity for understanding and respect not only between our three religions/world view but also between us and the Chaplains. Building on that, Chaplains who understand what we're really all about are better able to assist prisoners who hold alternative religious views.

Four of us were involved in this project: Reverend Kirk Thomas, of course, and also Rev. Ian Corrigan and his wife, Sue, represented ADF. Reverend Ashleen O'Gea represented Wicca generally and her group - which, alas, I have forgotten the name of - specifically. I represented heathenry in general and The Troth specifically. Ian and his wife gave a concert - acoustic folk songs, shanties, and pagan songs which, in the end, all the prisoners ended up tapping their feet to. I enjoyed some of the whispers I heard behind me: "That one was pretty good." "Hey, I liked that one." and also the increasingly loud applause. Ian and I have a very similar approach - get people laughing and they'll pay more attention.

The day itself was just as long as any other festival. We arrived early for a plenary session, then broke into three groups. The Asatruar went outside to do our ritual first. I felt it appropriate to honor our ancestors, and was myself honored that they asked me to bless their stone circle and ve for the first time. It's a lovely circle, too, set out as a sunwheel with the altar-stone (the ve) in the north. After blessing the area and hlauting (apple juice, of course), I called them into the circle to honor our ancestors. The blot went well, and the prisoners really appreciated it. One thing that they had wondered about was the role of women in Asatru, and almost all of them reported a feeling of calm respect that was fundamentally different - not better or worse, just different - than when they did their own blots.

We then went inside while the Druids came outside for their ritual, and discussed the runes, bindrunes, seidh and the roles of women in Asatru traditionally and in the modern setting. I found the prisoners very well-read and articulate, particularly about the runes. Chaplains came and went, too, listening in and asking pertinent questions. I know that the druids came back in, and the Wicccans went out to perform their ritual while we were discussing all things Asatru. We talked a lot about right action, and ways to alter one's wyrd to the positive through action in the here-and-now.

One of the state facilitators, Joenne, came in and asked questions of the men, too, so she could better understand where they were coming from in order to help them at her end of things. Barb Lauderdale, a Wiccan and sponsor for a few different groups in other correctional facilities, also attended the Asatru ritual and workshops, so that she could better understand heathenry. Then came the concert and another plenary session about magic in our different faiths. All in all we were there for about thirteen very busy hours.

The men presented me with a hand-drawn picture of an eagle, rendered in great detail. It is entirely done in pencil, and the men each signed it, as well. I was honored to receive such a gift from these men in thanks for what I provided for them - a chance to learn, and hear the perspectives of heathens on the "outside."

I am glad I went. I am glad I helped. I am glad that, just for a few hours, we were all able to work together within this setting. Joenne told us that one thing people like us give to prisoners is hope - hope that they can change their lives and be accepted fir themselves. I think we did that, too - just by having a "normal", "average" pagan festival for them to attend. Naturally there are a lot of differences - men having to be counted periodically, officers watching their movements, even having to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with spoons - but for a few hours we could provide these men with an opportunity like never before. Having the Chaplains present added a good educational and respectful dimension to the event, and my hope is that the chaplains came away with better understanding just as I did.

All in all, this was a successful event. I can say that I would be interested in attending this kind of event in the future. I still do not feel the calling to do prison ministry as part of my personal pastoral work, but I understand it now. I see the work, and the reward, in ministering to incarcerated heathens and pagans. I can see its worth, and I definitely felt the work, the reward, and the worth in the pagan festival I was fortunate to attend. I think people should consider doing this work, if the calling is there, because it is just that - work, reward, and worth.
This blog post hasn't much substance. I now have an official Facebook Page (Patricia Lafayllve, author) and want to link this blog to that, so people can get updates in two places.

Now let's see...that clicky bit must be around here somewhere...

What I Am Up To

Now that I am trying to remember blogging again, I thought it might be useful to some of you if I put up the various events I've got planned. It looks like another crazy year for me, although I am limiting my activities (honest, I am!) to no more than 1 or 2 per month. In any event, here goes:

May 19-22
Vanir Fest at the Log Cabin Campground in Cross Junction, Virginia. http://www.tlccampground.com/index.html The site isn't up for Vanir Fest quite yet, but I know they're working on it, so keep checking.

June 90-12
Interfaith Conference hosted by ArchDruid Kirk Thomas, Washington State; private event

June 25
Conn and Eric's wedding in Iowa; private event

July 11-17
Sirius Rising at the Brushwood Folklore Center, Fernwood, New York. http://brushwood.com/sirius.html
I'm presenting panels TBD and schedule TBD; I'll post when I have more definite information, but I know I'll be there!

July 18-24
SummerFest at the Brushwood Folkore Center, Fernwood, New York. http://brushwood.com/summerfest.html I am presenting here, as well, again schedule and exact topics TBD and I'll inform you as I go along. Incidentally, these two festivals run back-to-back, so I'll be at the Brushwood Folklore Center for about two weeks. Excellent!

August 24-28
East Coast Thing at Camp Nemitus, Pennsylvania. http://eastcoastthing.com/ Any heathens in the local area should try to make this Thing; it's one of the best events I go to. I may or may not present this year; I usually go to ECT just to relax and have fun.

August/September (date TBD)
Pagan Pride Day, New Jersey This one is very tentative, but if I can make it, I'll be there! More news to follow as things develop.

I may also go to the annual Apple Valley Winternights Festival in October; this is also at the Log Cabin Campground. Once winter sets itself into place I tend to avoid travel, although I always do my best to get to PantheaCon in San Jose, California during the February chill https://pantheacon.com/index.php .
Hello! It's been far too long, so I thought I would blog a bit, here.

Friday, April 22 I fared down to Delaware to do a ritual/booksigning and then spend a weekend with my friends at the Seelie Court. I gave my presentat ion at Bell, Book, and Candle; their website is here: http://www.bellbookandcandle.biz/index.php?pr=Home_Page

I have to say that Bell, Book, and Candle is a great shop - nicely organized and with a ritual room, but that's not what I'm really talking about. Friendly, community-aware, open and welcoming...there's something about those pagan shop-owners. Sincerely, most pagan shops I do presentations at are business-modelled the same way - individualized customer service, a willingness to share, and a sort of sascral friendliness that puts people at ease.

The ritual went well - I can tell from the people who said thank-you and let me know it worked for them :) Rather than blot or sumble, this was a guided meditation based on galdring the runes of Freyja's name (fehu, raidho, ehwaz, jera, ansuz). It's much more experiential and personal, which is the point - to create and/or strengthen the relationships between Freyja and the attendees. As I told them - I'm the facilitator. My job is to introduce you to one another and then get the heck out of the way. Anyhow, this is the second time I've done this ritual, and the first time I've done it in a smaller, more intimate group setting. Thank YOU all for coming and being a part of the process - couldn't have done it without you.

As for the weekend---right place, right time. I did not participate in the sweat for personal reasons, but instead played House Elf with Denise. Can't speak about sweat as I was on the outside, and won't say much about what happended on the outside, either. The one insight I had was something I had to remind myself - I have plenty of tools in my personal toolkit, and can still pull 'em out when needed. I needed that lesson, so again - right place, right time.

As always, Seelie Court is astounding. Those gentlemen rock the house, and it is fantastic to be on land that is kept by those who understand the land and keep it sacred. Walking the land lifts a weight off your shoulders that you really didn't realize you even had, if that makes sense as an analogy. Personal and special thank-you's to Jim, Mike, Jim and Ivo for their foresight and continuing work on the land as well as for welcoming me.

They are working steadily on the New Alexandrian Library project. Information can be found here: http://www.sacredwheel.org/nal.html If you're looking to supopost something with donations, I highly recommend this project. They're about one permit from breaking gound for the building!

Last pagan-y footnote - the weather at Seelie on Saturday cleared up to sunshine, then on Sunday was unbelievably awesome - high sun, temps in the 80's. Now, checking the weather forecast, it was raining from New Jersey on up to Connecticut. Except that, as I drove, the sun came with me - I got home and, quite literally, it began raining within the half hour. So sudden and unexpected good weather while driving - thank you, You Know Who You Are.

On Veteran's Day

In America, today is Veteran’s Day. President Wilson chose this day purposefully. While the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended World War I on June 28, 1919, an armistice began on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Wilson said: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" No one thought then that any war could reach the level of destruction caused in the “War to End All Wars.” Everyone in the world wanted peace.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." On October 8, 1938, President Eisenhower said this: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."

In 1954, after World War II and Korea, the 83rd Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day, ensuring that not only the veterans of World Was I but the veterans of all wars would be honored together.

There was a brief time when the actual date of Veteran’s Day moved around – on June 28, 1968 the Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) passed. It was designed to set Veteran’s Day by day of the week, not Armistice Day. This was thought to be beneficial, as it meant formal, Federalized three-day weekends for families to get together and celebrate their veterans. President Ford changed Veteran’s Day back to November 11 via Public Law 94097 (89 Stat. 479), which he signed on September 20th, 1975. After 1978, Veteran’s Day has been celebrated on November 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls on.

I come from a long line of veterans. We have record of at least one Osseau who battled in the Civil War. My great-grandfather, George Stock, was among the first Americans to go into the trenches in World War I. My grandfather Leon Lafaille stayed stateside, training Air Force pilots during World War II. His brother, my great-uncle Mervyn Lafaille, was a combat pilot in the Pacific Theater and survived 25 missions, even after being shot down a few times, and was a prisoner of war at one point. My father, Gary Lowery, did two tours of duty in Vietnam on LST-1169, the USS Whitfield County. My Uncle Jerry Lowery, my Aunt Lori-Ann Warring, and my Dad were in the Air Force, Navy Reserve, and Navy, respectively; in the late 1970’s-mid-1980’s my Dad went back as a Navy Reservist – as he put it: “they called and said they needed me.” My cousin Jerry Lowery, Jr. is career Air Force, and my brother, Leon Lowery, stands in the Air Force Reserve.

Today, I remember them and honor them. The Veterans I know, family, friends, and loved ones alike have, as a friend put it, “at one point or another, written a blank check to the United States Government, knowing the cost could be their lives.” So have all Veterans of war. Today I remember them all.

Last year, when I sent my annual letter out to the Veterans I know and love, my grandfather Lafaille said: “I hope that one day we won’t need to celebrate this holiday anymore, because war will be extinct.”

That’s about the best wish I’ve heard in a long time.

So – to everyone reading this, to all you veterans of war, I say thank you. Thank you for writing that blank check. Thank you for being willing to have it cashed, in order to defend what we hold dear. To the families and friends of veterans who did have to cash that particular check, know that I share your sorrow, and remember those veterans who gave up their lives. Today’s the day to lift the horn, speak the names and the memories of the veterans into the Well of Wyrd, and keep their stories alive. It’s a day to set out an extra plate, so those who fell in war can sup at your table in warmth and welcome. Today is the day to remember each Armistice that has come after the “Great War,” to hope we’ll see a few more, very soon, and to wish that someday they’ll be a thing of the past. It’s a day of reflection, and a day of remembrance.

It’s a day of gratitude.

I thank you, veterans, all.


On Caterpillars and Orlog

Consider the caterpillar.

It begins its caterpillar existence. It inches forward, eats along the way, until its biochemistry signals that the time has come. It forms a chrysalis, grows, and emerges a butterfly. Unless, of course, it’s a moth. We humans – pagans especially, I find – tend to focus on the metamorphosis. We tell our children, you can change like the caterpillar does. We identify with this transformation because it is so incredible. Many a frightful caterpillar emerges a fantastic butterfly. Many moths are gorgeous, too. In short, the image of the caterpillar centers on its becoming.

This essay focuses less on the metamorphic miracle, and more on the fundamentals of caterpillars. A caterpillar – any caterpillar – comes to being after its parents mate. Butterflies lay tens, hundreds, and even thousands of eggs in their brief time on earth. They have to; caterpillar death rates are catastrophic. Broadly speaking, we can consider the caterpillar one lucky bug. Every surviving caterpillar leaves most of its brothers and sisters behind in death, often before their metamorphosis can occur. What we, in our awe at the transformation of this insect, forget is one of the basic caterpillar realities. No matter what, if the caterpillar survives, it becomes a butterfly. More than that – a caterpillar of any given species will become the same butterfly its parents were. It is, in that sense, born to become one thing. Not all caterpillars become butterflies, or moths. That doesn’t make any difference, in the long run, because the point is this: a Morpho peleides caterpillar will become a Blue Morpho butterfly, every single time. Lymantria dispar, on the other hand, will never become a Morpho, for it is only able to be a Gypsy Moth.

This is the function of örlög.

Örlög, Anglicized ‘orlog’, is a compound word made from ör- (German Ur, ‘primal’) and lög (ON ‘laws’). Thus, ‘primal law’ is its most common translation. In the heathen, or Ásatrú, world view, örlög and wyrd are inextricably bound together, and often described as the warp and weft of a weaving, or the river’s bed and its water, or in any of a number of ways. As a whole, the two concepts form the largest component of our religio-cultural understanding, and yet, in many ways they are difficult to comprehend. Until, that is, we consider the caterpillar.

The primal law of a caterpillar is fixed, just as with every other being in the universe. Caterpillars cannot change their wings. Even when the most amazing transformation occurs, örlög is already sealed – what goes into the chrysalis comes out a new form of the same being that entered it. The result is predictable and fixed. We cannot change örlög. It is, quite literally, what we were, are, and are becoming.

Think of it this way. A caterpillar, if it can be said to ‘know’ anything, knows what plants to eat, and what plants not to. It does not need to think at all, really; caterpillars have no need for existential angst. Its butterfly mother laid her eggs on an edible leaf, so why go farther than that? Most humans do not stray far from the lifestyles they are born into, either. A caterpillar eats. That is its primary function. Some stick with plants in the pea family, like the Morpho, and some eat everything they can, and ravage entire forests, like the Gypsy. A caterpillar is not concerned with calorie-counting or nutritional quality. It does not count its carbs. It eats what it eats, in order to grow. Should it live through its caterpillar span, it forms a chrysalis. No caterpillar worries about the size of its chrysalis, or its shape relative to other chrysalises, nor even how it would look if it doesn’t manicure its leaf. The caterpillar simply does what it is intended to do.

Now, any number of events can shape a caterpillar’s life. Bird and bat populations. Droughts. Smog. Human intervention. A stray sneaker-bottom coming down fast from the skies above its caterpillar sight line. An absence of all of those things. Caterpillars have choices, such as they are – it might munch to the leaf on the left, and thus avoid notice. It might creep to the right, along a twig, only to discover there’s no leaf at all. A caterpillar might lift its head and see a sudden, sharp flash of yellow-orange beak, or keep its head down. All of that is true – and all of that is wyrd – and that is another essay. The point of örlög is this: no matter what happens, that caterpillar has no choice in the butterfly it becomes. Örlög sets its caterpillar feet in motion.

We, too, are subject to our örlög. Technology enables humanity with an amazing array of adaptations. We optimize our bodies at the gym. Our homes ward off weather. We have haute couture. We have haute cuisine. What we are, though, are the creatures we are born being. No caterpillar has access to, or really requires, haute anything. A caterpillar’s butterfly parents created its egg. That caterpillar’s parents each had parents. Each of those four parents had their own parents. Caterpillar ancestry expands backward, and funnels forward. The caterpillar is the sum of all its ancestors, and that ancestry forms its örlög.

We are the same. Our örlög is formed for us. It is the fixed point in our universe – our spiritual DNA, if you will – and we cannot change örlög. This is not to say that we cannot have transformations of our own. Some are at least as radical as any caterpillar’s. We are no more certain of our life’s outcome than the caterpillar. We can see and say what we are, though, because our örlög forms the central part of our being. The truth of örlög is the one truth we all live with – some of us may become butterflies. Some may become moths. Some of us might not make it out of our caterpillar selves. But we are what our örlög makes us.

General Announcement

As many of you know, my main reason for creating this blog was to have a space where I could engage in matters professional; topics related to my writings, my travels and lectures, heathen philosophy and general heathen topics.

There have been a few times - not many, but a few - where that line's been blurred, and things have gotten a bit too personal. I'm not blaming anyone buy myself, here, and really, what's in the well is in the well. Nothing on the internet is ever lost, and nothing done can be undone. However, I feel like I've taken this blog adrift from its purpose, and present action is something I can, and should engage in.

So I've made a few changes. One, blog posts that I felt were too personal for the intention of this blog have been put under friends' list filters. Nothing has been deleted, altered, or edited; it's just that if it's too far off the mark, it's under a security setting. This is to help maintain the original, open intent of this blog and for no other reason than that.

Two, I have made some changes to my list of friends. This is entirely due to the fact that, really, as much as I love conencting with people and keeping in touch with one another, the reality is that the internet is too big a time sink for me. If you're on my friends list and you post, I read your post - and that has become a thing that takes, quite honestly, a good four-six hours out of my day. As much as I love you all, that's four to six hours too many; I need to be focusing on my own writing, preparing my career for its next steps, heck, doing my dishes.

I am willing to say that, for the most part, life on Boarrider's blog will continue as normal. I'll be using friend-filters more often; frankly, I've never used them before today, so even one friends-locked post is one more than I ever did. I'll try not to get terribly personal at all, and retain this blog as the open, professional, spiritual, career-networking blog I intend it to be. Most of you probably won't even notice a difference.

But lines need to be drawn, and so I am drawing them. And there it is.

Troth Podcast - Ancestors


We've begun using Skype as a free chat service to record our podcasts; here's the first in what we hope will become an ongoing, monthly series. Listen to Troth members come together and talk about our ancestors - telling stories, talking about the significance of the ancestors in our lives, and even discuss some of the larger issues surrounding Ancestor worship in the modern era.

Exeter Book Riddles - New Translation!


It is *SO COOL* to have the friends I have. Kudos to Ben Waggoner who...apparently finding himself wanting to learn Old English anyway...decided to translate these verses into English, put them together, and publish them.


And thanks for this one - it soooo needs to be on the PattyShelves!

Celiac Fly-By


I do not, myself, have gluten restrictions, but I know enough people who do that I stole this from Bearfaire's LJ and am sharing it with love. Perhaps Ms. BF wouldn't mind linking to the blog she put up, with the other gluten-sites she found?