Books Books Books

Suddenly my personal bibliography has quadrupled.

I’m honored to have essays in two new collections. As if that’s not enough, I’m also thrilled to announce the publication of my own book at long last.

Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral, edited by Erick DuPree, came out from Megalithica Books in February. Godless Paganism, edited by John Halstead, is a crowdfunded effort that came out earlier this month.

Godless PaganismFinding the Masculine in Goddess' Spiral

On the face of it, these two titles might seem contradictory. Goddess and godless? What a difference one letter makes! How can this be?


Well, it’s complicated, but that’s what makes this subject matter so interesting. I encourage you to get both books and decide for yourself whether I’ve lost my mind.

Still with me? I hope so, because as exciting as those publications are, there’s more. It might seem like overkill, but it just so happens that I finally finished my own book, which I’ve been working on since 2012.

Spinning in Place

It’s titled Spinning in Place, and it’s about the Wheel of the Year. You know, the solstices and equinoxes and cross-quarter days I’ve been yammering on about for so long. Some of these essays have previously been published in various online venues, but I’ve revised extensively and there’s new material as well. It’s currently available exclusively through Amazon as an ebook. And it’s priced to sell. I don’t wanna make any money, folks; I just love to share Earth-based spiritual practices.

(That’s a joke for my Hoosier readers who may remember Don Davis of Indianapolis. Don passed away in February, but his commercials live on in our collective memory. And of course YouTube.)

Now it’s time to get the word out. I’ve got my author page set up on both Amazon and Goodreads. I’m available for interviews. I’ll be mounting a campaign on social media in the near future.

And, yes, I could use your help. Please do share this link with anyone who might be interested. If you’re able to review any of these items on Goodreads or Amazon please do. And don’t be shy about being honest. No one is really fooled by those books that have nothing but gushy, glowing, five-star reviews.

Seasons in New Orleans

We joke a lot about seasons in New Orleans. A typical formulation: We have two seasons here, summer and Christmas. Another riff recognizes four: Carnival season, festival season, hurricane season, football season. There are many variations.

Nevertheless, I’d like to present an attempt to delineate the conventional four seasons according to local parameters.

Starting on the second day of February, 2015, my daughter and I began tracking the high and low temperatures on a daily basis. We have now accumulated a year’s worth of data.

High-Low Chart February 2015-February 2016

It’s been fun. Looking back over the charts, certain patterns suggest themselves.

Based on this preliminary data, I would like to propose the following definitions.

In New Orleans…

…spring begins when the daily lows stay above 60ºF for one full week.
…summer begins when the daily lows stay above 70ºF for one full week.
…fall begins when the daily lows fall below 70ºF for one full week.
…winter begins when the daily lows fall below 60ºF for one full week.

Using these definitions, we can say that in 2015, the seasons began on the following dates:

Spring: 10 March
Summer: 9 May
Fall: 5 October
Winter: 2 December

If these dates are typical of our annual pattern, we might say our winter lasts roughly three months, while summer lasts five. Spring and fall in New Orleans are ephemeral, lasting only a couple months each.

That sounds about right to me.

And so the season of madness begins again.

Joan of Arc Parade

Tonight is Twelfth Night, if you know how to count like a New Orleanian.

Everybody’s heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but few people in 21st-century America know that these are the twelve days after Christmas, ending with Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas or Three Kings Day or Twelfthtide.

Increasing commercialization puts all the emphasis on the shopping season beforehand; when Christmas rolls around, many people have had their fill of holiday spirit. But our grandparents knew differently. Just a couple generations ago, the festivities began at Christmas, not weeks and months before.

In merrie olde England, Christmastide was a wild and wooly time, combining elements of the ancient Germanic Yuletide and Roman Saturnalia, when everything was turned upside down, authority was mocked, people swapped genders, and so forth. It went on for twelve days, until Epiphany. I hear in Latin America they go for forty days, until Candlemas on February 2nd, but I digress.

The crucial question is when to start counting. You might think that Christmas Day would be included amongst the Twelve Days of Christmas. That would make the night of January 5th the Twelfth Night, which is indeed the date preferred by many. And then there’s Old Twelfth Night, which is January 17th if you calculate using the Julian calendar, and apparently some people in south-western England still do. I prefer to celebrate my birthday then, but I digress.

However, I live in New Orleans, and we count differently. We don’t count Christmas. Here Twelfth Night is observed on the evening of January 6th, and it marks the beginning, not the end, of a period of festivity.

Yes, today is the first day of Carnival. The season of king cakes, masked balls, cheap plastic beads and endless parades is upon us. My boss has already ordered a king cake for this Friday, the goat cheese and apple one from Cake Cafe. That’s definitely my favorite, so I’m looking forward to it. I just hope I don’t get the baby, as I always seem to do.

Tonight the Phunny Phorty Phellows help to get the party started. The spelling might seem like a modern innovation, but the Phellows are actually a revival of an institution going back to 1878. There’s been quite a few changes to their routine over the years. They used to follow Rex on Mardi Gras. Now they ride a streetcar on Twelfth Night.

January 6th is also Joan of Arc’s (apocryphal) birthday, and some folks capitalized on that, starting a new tradition in 2008: the Krewe de Jeanne D’Arc parade. We went for the first time last year, and my daughter became very interested in learning more about the life of Joan, so we’re looking forward to checking it out again tonight.

The season culminates with Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — which always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent and is forty days before Easter, and as everyone knows Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. Elementary.

What this means is that the beginning of Carnival is fixed, but the end floats around. Some years it’s a long season, some years it’s short. It’s like an accordion, expanding and contracting over the years. This year we’ve got a very short season. Mardi Gras fall on February 9th.

How early is that? Why, it won’t be this early again till 2027. It can be as early as February 3rd, but I’ve never seen that and probably never will. The earliest Mardi Gras in my lifetime was likely in 2008, when it fell on February 5th. And to think I missed that one because of a sprained ankle and the impending birth of my daughter, but I digress.

The latest Mardi Gras I’ve ever seen was in 2011, but I’m certainly hoping to be around in 2038 when Mardi Gras will fall on March 9, the last possible day. Again, I digress. I’m very digressive these days.

My point is that this year, it’s a short season, and the response is predictable. We hear people complaining that it’s all going by too quickly. Don’t fall into this trap! The variability of Mardi Gras and the Carnival season is a wonderful thing. Embrace it. Celebrate, don’t denigrate. Consider the implications of a convenient, modern, fixed date. The only way this would work is if Easter became a fixed feast rather than a moveable feast, which would mean disregarding the moon entirely. I’m sure some people would like that very much, but the very idea makes me retch. Don’t fall prey to this insidious anti-Lunarism. When a fellow paradegoer complains about the short Carnival season, haul off and punch that person right in the face. Strike a blow for the moon!

I still don’t have a costume, but it’s time to start thinking about one.

Happy Carnival, everyone.

Prognostication

The American people will elect Donald Trump president this year. I’m not saying I want it to happen. I’m just sayin’.

It will happen like this. Hillary gets the nomination of the Democrats. The Donald gets the GOP nod, because they can’t figure out how to stop him.

Then, the campaign: Hillary vs. the Donald. Intelligent people say the Donald can’t win. They say he’s delusional. He thinks this is some reality TV show.

Here’s the catch: It is. Our elections have become largely indistinguishable from reality TV shows. So who’s better at this?

Mark my words.

2015

There’s so much good music coming out these days it’s stunning. Don’t believe me? Give this a listen. It was almost painful putting this mix together because I left so much out, but what’s left just feels absolutely essential to me. Further more I’d wager that you haven’t heard of virtually any of these artists. And I know y’all could put together a stunning mix of artists that I’ve never heard. That’s what a rich time we live in. Happy new year.

2015 from editor_b on 8tracks Radio.

Listening notes: This mix is about two hours long and tends toward mellow and bittersweet, but there is enough pop and rock to keep you awake and maybe even something to make you laugh buried in there somewhere.

Re-Cranking the Manifesto

I was quoted in this recent article by Robert McLendon:

As residents started to trickle back into Mid-City after Hurricane Katrina, people looked at the mess around them and came to a realization: The storm may have been responsible for the wreckage, but the city was broken in many ways long before it made landfall.

Inequality. Exclusion. Low expectations. “It was a wake-up call that there were a lot of longstanding problems that people had just gotten used to,” said Bart Everson, who, along with his wife, was one of the first to return to the neighborhood.

Everson and his neighbors started to meet to talk about how they could change things, how they could make their neighborhood and the city more inclusive. Out of those meetings, and a blog manifesto that Everson cranked out in the early post-storm days, came the neighborhood’s master plan.

The article goes on to detail the disappointing implementation (or lack thereof) of the city’s neighborhood participation program.

Mid-City Planning Meeting

But speaking of that grassroots planning process I helped jumpstart, it recently came to my attention that the Mid-City Recovery Plan, drafted by residents in 2006-2007 independently of any government sanction, is in danger of disappearing from the public web.

In the interest of posterity, I’ve uploaded this important historical document to Scribd:

Mid-City Recovery Plan

This was true grassroots democracy in action. Did we get everything we wanted? Not by a long shot. Did it make any difference? I’ll let others judge.

Some details of this process were covered in Karl Seidman’s 2013 book, Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding after KatrinaSee page 177 ff. The passages about the Mid-City library branch make for especially poignant reading, in light of the recent announcement of its imminent (and thankfully postponed) closure.

An Embarrassment of Equinoctial Riches

Equinox Mandala (Autumnal)

Yo, check my mandala. (I’ve always wanted to say that.) It’s the autumnal equinox again, an event I’ve celebrated now six years running, a time for gratitude and reflection, even as we step into the dark, into the creative power of the abyss, even as we acknowledge our losses. I made the mandala to express some of these themes, and as I look back I see I’ve slowly accumulated a wealth of practices and observances for the equinox.

Last weekend we celebrated with Lamplight Circle, this morning I visited my daughter’s class (to read a book, do a science demo, share a treat, and make a gratitude chain), this evening we feast with family and friends, this weekend we hope to commune with nature at Bayou La Terre. And, on an intensely personal note, at this juncture I dedicate (or rededicate) myself to my personal mission/vision of awakening to Gaia, which is manifesting especially through a renewal of activity with the Greens. More on that soon.

If you’re reading this, thanks for being a part of my life, and I hope you may enjoy this equinox in your own way.

The Recovery Discriminated

“The storm didn’t discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort.”

As soon as George W. Bush said those words, we knew it was a lie.

No, not a lie. Call it wishful thinking. Call it evidence of white privilege.

Even the president’s speechwriters seemed to realize this, and a few days later, when he gave his famous Jackson Square speech, he was singing a different tune.

As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

Now it’s ten years later, and just in case you were wondering, that didn’t happen.

The recovery discriminated. Of course it did.

The evidence is easy to find if you care to look. Ask a New Orleanian how we’re doing, and their answers will vary according to race. Chances are a white person will say, “Better.” Chances are a black person will say, “Worse.”

Other numbers bear this out. Income inequality has gotten much worse in New Orleans. We have a huge gulf between rich and poor, akin to places like Zimbabwe. Over half of black men are unemployed here.

If these facts make you queasy, that might be a good thing. It shows you have a sense of decency. The facts are offensive to common decency.

How did this happen? How is it the recovery discriminated so harshly?

If you are thinking of active, personal discrimination, where one person treats another unfairly because of their race, then you’re thinking too old-school. That still happens, but the factors at work over the past decade in New Orleans are more subtle and insidious than that.

In order to understand how the recovery has discriminated, you have to think in terms of social structures and systems. Our society is riven by deep divisions. Of course the recovery process reflected those divisions, reproduced those divisions, deepened them. How could it be otherwise?

The only way we could have avoided this was by doing what Bush said. We needed “bold action” indeed — truly innovative and courageous action — but that didn’t happen. Some good ideas percolated up. There was, for example, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, which would have put local people to work rebuilding the area. It died in committee.

But this story isn’t over yet.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Rising Tide X

RT2015ad250x300

  1. The X stands for ten. Yes, it’s been ten years.
  2. Rising Tide X takes place on the 29th of August, 2015, the ten-year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall. Rising Tide started on the first anniversary and the conference has convened every year since.
  3. Many Katrina anniversary events are commemorative or memorial in nature. They look back. Rising Tide looks forward. It’s a conference on the future of New Orleans.
  4. Rising Tide is a grassroots organization. If it was any grassrootsier, we’d have to mow it. An all-volunteer group of people who have somehow managed to work together without any formal structure for a decade now.
  5. Rising Tide X will be the final Rising Tide. I don’t think that’s official, but then nothing is ever official with this group. (See previous item.)
  6. Rising Tide X will be the biggest and best ever. Going out with a bang, y’all. There will be four or five tracks of programming. Check the schedule.
  7. DeRay McKesson is the keynote speaker. He is one of the people at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement, and I can’t think of anyone more timely or relevant.
  8. For the first time ever, admission is free. We don’t wanna make any money, folks, we just love to get people thinking, and talking, and taking action.
  9. But you should still register. That helps us get a a handle on how many people are coming.
  10. And you can still support the event financially. Your donation will help defray the expense of mounting this whole deal.

Re-Upping Katrina

Frame from ROX 93

Moving video around the web has gotten a lot easier over the past decade. Studious types may remember that YouTube launched the same year Katrina hit: 2005. In remembrance of the ten year anniversary of these twin catastrophes, I’ve re-upped the three episodes of the ROX “Katrina trilogy” in full quality. There’s really no reason to squint at postage-stamp vids in this day and age.

The three episodes are ROX #93, ROX #94, and ROX #95. Watch ’em all in full resolution thanks to the hosting services of Vimeo. (Sorry, YouTube.) For your viewing convenience, here are direct links to the respective media pages: After the Levees FailedHangover Cures, and Fifteen Months of Katrina.

Personally I haven’t watched any of the documentaries that deal with the flooding of New Orleans. I know there’s some good stuff out there. Recently I got to wondering if there were any videos I could show my daughter, to convey a sense of this major event that took place before she was born. Then it dawned on me: I’ll show her these episodes, at least episode 93, and probably 95 too. They may not be the best documentaries on the subject, but they have the advantage of featuring people she actually knows. That should bring the subject matter to life.

She’s never seen an episode of ROX, so this will be a rite of passage.

Feeling the Bern

Yesterday evening some friends dragged me out to see Bernie Sanders at the Pontchartrain Center.

Feeling the Bern

You may wonder, what’s a card-carrying Green Party member doing at a Democratic Party rally?

In my defense, I thought we were going to see Bernie Mac. As my friend pointed out, that would be somewhat miraculous, as he’s been dead for a few years. May he rest in peace. It turned out Bernie Sanders was pretty interesting too, though not quite as funny.

Bernie delivered a strong message on social justice, with particular emphasis on income inequality. He including a smattering of grassroots democracy and a single allusion to ecological wisdom. Our national propensity for dropping bombs and drones on other countries didn’t merit even a mention.

In other words, he harped on one issue, a crucially important issue, but he failed to make equally important connections. In the Green Party, we’d call him a “Single Pillar Green.”

Am I asking too much of Bernie? He can’t address every issue, after all. But as Bernie himself reminded the audience, we can do anything if only we set our minds to it. “Please don’t tell me that the United States of America, our great country, cannot guarantee health care to all people. Don’t tell me that every person in this country should not be able to get all the education that they need regardless of their income.” Yowza! By the same token, don’t tell me this carefully-crafted speech couldn’t include a more balanced message.

If the Democrats should choose Bernie, that would be amazing to me. I sincerely hope they do. It would be great to see income inequality as a central issue. Plus it’s fun to fantasize about “Feel the Bern” as a national campaign slogan.

However, it’s only a fantasy. The oldest and most powerful party in the world will never run Bernie for the most powerful office in the world. They will nominate Hillary. I predict it. At that point, Bernie will ask his supporters to vote for Hillary instead. Mark my words.

Of course, in the general election, 100% of my state’s votes will be going to the GOP, so it’s not like us folks here in Louisiana could ever cast a vote for either of them that would actually count for anything anyway.

Meanwhile, those of us who have been trying for years to build an alternative to the duopoly will continue trying to breathe despite Bernie’s rapacious consumption of oxygen.

Past, Present, Future

Another SpiralI don’t claim to follow an old religion. I do seek a connection to the past, but it’s more inspiration than aspiration. I want to learn from the past, not return to it. I want to engage the present so that humanity might have a future. I aim for a practice that expresses this ethic and supports this work.

Read my new column: “Honoring the Past, Living in the Present, Shaping the Future

Equality Is Awesome

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue

On the 28th of March, 2004, I started this blog with a post about sweetgum buds. Later that day, I attended a meeting of the Greater New Orleans Green Party, where the group endorsed a statement I’d written on the subject of marriage equality.

Everybody should have the right to get married. The sex of the partners should have no more bearing on their right to marriage than their race or religion.

You can read the whole thing; it’s no work of genius but I’m quite proud of it.

At that time, I thought marriage equality was a great issue for people of conscience to “organize around.” That is, I thought the issue could serve to get people with diverse and divergent concerns working together, starting to see the connections between many different social causes — perhaps garnering support for Green candidates in the process.

Because, after all, marriage is a positive thing. Wedding celebrations can be beautiful and joyous. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?

A couple months later, I posted the following.

Gay people are getting married in Massachusetts today, and this straight, married man couldn’t be happier. I love weddings. In fact, the stories in the news today brought a tear to my eye. I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly positive about this development. Maybe I’m just starved for good news. But this feels like a historic day. Fifty years from now, I bet we’ll all be looking back and remembering.

But when November 2004 rolled around, I was alarmed and disappointed to see the issue being used to ends which were exactly the opposite of what I’d dreamed. Instead of a rallying point for liberty and unity, voters turned out in droves to deny equal rights to their fellow citizens — giving electoral support to conservative candidates.

Demoralized and dejected, I second-guessed myself at that point. I figured I was just profoundly out-of-touch with the American people. Fortunately, many truly committed activists didn’t give up so easily. They kept working away, on many fronts. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in that time. I guess I need to triple-guess myself. There have been other victories and setbacks along the way, but it’s hard to imagine anything bigger than last week’s ruling.

In retrospect, it seems clear that it will be the 26th of June, and not 17th of May, that will be remembered as we look back at this time. Not only do we have Obergefell v. Hodges to commemorate, but the 26th of June is also the date of the decisions on two other historic related cases: United States v. Windsor (2013) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

And let’s not forget Loving Day on the 12th of June, in honor of the historic ruling on Loving v. Virginia, which made interracial marriage legal in 1967.

Happily, it seems that June is increasing its currency as the month of matrimony. As I note in Flowers to Flame:

For centuries, June has been far and away the most popular month for weddings. The very name of the month derives from the Roman goddess Juno, queen of the gods but also goddess of marriage. This is the time to celebrate union, and not just the young, passionate, lusty desires of May, but also the more mature, stable, lasting commitment, the intimate, deep commingling of self and other.

I’ve read that the achievement of marriage equality in our country may lead to a renewed appreciation for the institution of marriage, especially amongst left-leaning types who have sadly ceded that ground to conservatives in recent decades.

I hope so. Xy and I will mark 22 years of marriage this year, and I can testify that despite many challenges along the way, it has been on balance a very healthy thing for me, and for Xy too I think. Marriage isn’t automatically awesome, but it can be, and I am glad that more people will be able to participate.

Footnote: Can I indulge in a little quadruple-guessing? I do have some misgivings, of course; it’s my nature to consider the angles. When Xy and I got married, I asked, “Who is the ultimate arbiter of human relations?” (It was in our wedding program!) Is it the state or the community? While I strongly endorse the right of consenting individuals to get married, I’m skeptical about why the state has to get involved. Thus I find myself strangely sympathetic to the arguments of conservative Libertarian Party types. I see that some states here in the Deep South are suddenly eager to get out of the marriage business entirely. That’s interesting, and though I deplore the motive in some ways, I’m curious to see where it will lead.

Photo credit: Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue by Mark K., CC BY-NC 2.0

Please Forward

Please ForwardI know I shouldn’t be excited about something so grim but nevertheless I am happy to announce that Please Forward will soon be available in bookstores (officially on August 15) and is now available for pre-order at all the usual places, including my favorite bookstore.

This anthology collects online writings that erupted in the aftermath of the flooding of New Orleans in 2005. As such, it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, upon which I have expounded at some length.

Continue reading Please Forward

A Pagan Community Statement on the Planetary Ecosystem

Happy Mother Earth Day

Today is International Mother Earth Day. Yes, that’s the official name as designated by the United Nations. And isn’t that a more interesting, more compelling, juicier name? I wonder if it will ever catch on in these United States.

I’ve heard it’s the largest secular holiday in the world, but many of us experience the Earth as sacred, which would seem to make it a quasi-religious holiday. Such mysteries are well above my pay-grade.

Not coincidentally, I am also celebrating today the publication of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” I’ve been involved in the drafting of this document over the last six months, though it was very much a group effort, with dozens of people contributing.

It was, as one might imagine, difficult to synthesize many divergent views on such a broad topic into a single coherent and relatively concise statement, but I’m proud of the final product. As of this moment, there are over 400 signatories from around the world, including a number of well-respected organizations.

Please take a moment to read the statement and consider signing on yourself.

Happy Mother Earth Day!

And on the Radio

2009 WFMU mini-Marathon
As if breaking into the print medium wasn’t enough, I’m on the radio too. More specifically, the inestimable Brian Turner played some of my stuff on WFMU a couple weeks ago. Check the playlist and see (or listen) for yourself. Yeah, there was a little confusion regarding the name of the artist (Editor B) and the name of the album (A vs. B) but I’m not complaining because he did indeed plug the site. This might be a good time to remind the world that A vs B can still be had free despite its questionable legal status. Get it now before the Man shuts it down!

Photo by John Dalton