Characteristics of a Cult

I’ll just leave this here…

  • Zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader or its ‘Truth’
  • The leader is above the law
  • Leaders dictate how members should think, act and feel
  • Doubt and dissent have harsh consequences
  • The ends justify the means
  • Submission/subservience is demanded
  • Guilt and shame or fear and intimidation are used to influence

 

  • The group is somehow better than all others and only those who are special enough may join
  • Us versus Them mentality
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group
  • True believers feel there is no life outside the group
  • Gender roles are strictly defined and adhered to by the group
  • Group-think (due to harsh consequences of dissent)

There is a great list and breakdown of various characteristics on Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (Matt Slick)

And here’s an interesting (partial list) created in 2009 The Guardian (Rick Ross) I only used the points directly concerned with the leader, rather than points concerning the group and/or its members

Warning signs of a potential cult leader:

  • Absolute power with no accountability
  • No tolerance for questions or criticism
  • No meaningful financial disclosure
  • Feeling/Instilling feelings of persecution from the outside world

 

There have been many organizations considered to be cults that later evolved into society-recognized religions/movements/what-have-you. So, where is the fine line that separates a ‘real’ religion/movement/etc. from a drinking-the-juice-aid/only-the-crazies-do-it cult? What do you think?

 

 

Sneak Peek at Jericho, next in The Garguiem series by Lola White

Jericho

Chapter 1

 

Isaac had a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately. Stuffed into his car, surrounded by empty coffee cups and not-so-official paperwork, he tried to utilize his gift to make sense of the chaos creeping ever closer. His head was beginning to ache.

“I know you’re connected,” he told the two papers he held—one in each hand. Glaring between the reports, he dragged a particular priest’s face from the depths of his memory. “There’s a clear link between these cases. But what else are you hiding, Father Martin Rice?”

A couple of months prior, Isaac’s cousin Levi had been assigned to investigate what turned out to be a demon in disguise in Waterview. One of the involved clergymen had confessed to questionable activity upstate and so, a few weeks ago, his other cousin, Levi’s sister, Liah, had unofficially poked her nose into a gathering of priests in Red Leaf City.

She’d uncovered an orgy, and possibly a dangerous plot making its way up the Church hierarchy. She’d also been taken hostage, along with a number of kidnapped women, and put on display at a secret Satanic Mass, led by an imposter in cardinal’s robes. During Liah’s rescue, Isaac had caught a glimpse of a familiar face.

Father Martin Rice.

The priest had stood by a hidden exit, waving the pretend cardinal and his demonic whore to safety. Isaac had only seen a portion of the man’s profile as he took off his mask, and the bastard was across the room, the torchlight dancing dramatically over his cheekbones…

But Isaac never forgot. He never forgot a single thing, which was both his gift and his curse. He remembered the man’s image, as well as a labor-intensive pencil sketch matched to Vatican records he’d pulled up on his computer. He remembered…

Jericho.

“God damn.” Isaac let one sheet of paper drop to the car’s seat so he could rub at the pain centered in his chest. Looking up, scanning his surroundings through the windshield didn’t ease the tightness, either. The sidewalks were cracked, the gutters filled with trash and a few cars lining the curb were either without tires or spray painted with graffiti. “What the hell are you doing here?”

The question was not directed at himself. Jericho—his pain and salvation, both—had looked into Father Martin Rice more than a year ago. She hadn’t gotten far. Soon after picking up the trail, she’d been pulled into a different investigation concerning a demonic minister who’d developed a cult following and a habit of human sacrifice.

And that’s when life had fallen apart.

Isaac couldn’t afford to think about it just then. Determined to hold onto his courage, he organized his papers as quickly as he could and stuffed them back into their folders. With a deep breath, he grabbed a knife from his glove compartment because the neighborhood was alarming, and focused on the task at hand.

“Just knock. That’s all. Knock and ask. The bossman’s gonna need validation before he puts resources on this thing and you’re the only one with any sort of notes on this dude.” He practiced his speech for the hundredth time. “We need what you’ve got, that’s all. Whatever you had managed to find, because I never got a chance to talk to you about it before…”

Isaac faltered. Words always seemed to get stuck in throat at that point, so he still didn’t know what he would say after that. With a shrug, he decided to wing it.

His cell phone rang before he could open his car door. Putting off the inevitable with injudicious relief, he didn’t even check the screen before he answered. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?”

Isaac’s eyes widened and he sat up in a rush—not that he had far to go. The steering wheel punched into his sternum, stealing his breath long enough that he managed to find an response to the question. “Uh, hey, Bossman. I’m in my car. Why?”

Enoch wasn’t technically family, a cousin by marriage only, but he’d been put in charge of their branch of Garguiem operations nonetheless. That had caused friction and a fair amount of distrust, which wasn’t aided by his gift for uncovering truths. The man was persuasive, charismatic, and had a way of making people want to confess their secrets to him. Almost hypnotizing, to Isaac’s way of thinking—and definitely dangerous for the secret mission he and his cousins had undertaken.

“Where is your car, Isaac?”

“Car’s on the street, bossman, just where cars belong.”

Enoch must have known something was going on—after all, half the family agents in his employ had bailed on Christmas dinner and Isaac hadn’t been to the office in over a week. He didn’t want to get into hypnotizing range. Liah would skin him alive if he revealed the truth about her new boyfriend, and Enoch would roast him over actual coals if he was caught in a lie.

“Which street?” Each word came slowly, clearly, and greatly emphasized.

Isaac cleared his throat, unwilling to divulge such sensitive information. “What’s going on? Is something wrong?”

“Yeah, the people supposedly working for my branch of Garguiem operations are all currently AWOL.”

The man’s voice was too smooth, too calm. In-law or not, Isaac didn’t fully trust him, and especially not with so much going on. “Not all of us are missing.”

“Liah’s off the roster pending her appeal, Levi took off for parts unknown with Marcella and you’re not behind your desk, where I expected you to be over an hour ago.”

“That’s not all of us, Enoch. I mean, come on, there’s still—”

“I know my team, thank you. The people I want to see, however, aren’t here. I have a problem with this, Isaac. A big problem that’s making me rethink what, exactly, could be capturing the attention of my best operatives.”

“Like you said, people are taking some time off for important life moments, bossman.”

“Including you?”

Isaac started to sweat. “I’m looking into something.”

“Oh?” Enoch’s tone turned sugary. “You’re looking into the file I just put on your desk, perhaps? The one ordering a full evaluation of Archbishop Hallie?”

Hallie was the man who had kicked off the entire investigation. The man that had opened the rabbit hole Isaac and his cousins were currently falling down. He was a recovering alcoholic and had mentored a man serving a sentence for murder after a demon’s possession. Hallie had gotten suspicious and called an old friend for some help—a friend who happened to be connected to the Garguiem.

“Why do you need an eval for the archbishop?” Isaac asked.

“Levi emailed me his report on the happenings at both Waterview and in Red Leaf City. I must confess, he’s a better Garguiem agent than anyone had previously given him credit for.”

“Of course he’s good. He’s family, ain’t he?”

Isaac could almost picture Enoch rolling his eyes as his snort came through the phone’s speaker. “We all know he’s a loose cannon, never the greatest agent, though he’s a lucky son of bitch. He’s been hanging on by frayed threads since Gideon fell.”

“And?” Isaac held his breath, wondering where his supervisor was going with his observations.

“And I know I saw him at your aunt’s house during the Week of Wisdom, but he still had time to travel upstate and investigate a group of priests who only meet once a month?”

“Well, he’s got great timing. Lucky, like you said.”

“And he’s got a brand new friendship with a potentially corrupt archbishop.”

Isaac stilled. “You’ve got evidence?”

“No,” Enoch replied. “You’re going to get the evidence. Hallie’s alcohol addiction comes too damned close to corruption for my liking. I want you to compile a dossier on him—”

“I’ve already got one started.”

The sudden anger sweeping through him gave his words a snap he normally wouldn’t direct at his superior. Despite Levi’s assurances that Hallie was an upstanding member of the Church, and even disregarding Liah’s respect for the man, Isaac knew his job. Any time a new clergyman was given a glimpse into Garguiem operations a file was created.

“Enoch, I started putting together a report at my cousin’s request, when the mission in Waterview was passed on to him. By suggesting proper protocol wasn’t followed, you’re implying that I’m either stupid, or corrupt myself.”

“I don’t doubt any of my people.” A sigh came through the phone, reminding Isaac that Enoch had earned the respect of his colleagues for a good reason. His diplomacy skills were second to none. “I haven’t seen any reports and people are asking questions. While the rest of you get to deal with nothing more taxing than demons and asshole priests, I have to handle politics and the Vatican.”

“Someone’s riding you?”

Enoch gave the appearance of complete unflappability, as if he couldn’t care less what sort of orders came down the line. He had his own way of doing things and he’d make sure everything turned out all right—and make his agents look good at the same time. The man’s cousin, much to Isaac’s heartache, used to have the same quality about her.

“Cardinal Murphy wants to know how deep his old friend dug the hole, before he managed to pry himself loose. They’d fallen out of touch around the time Hallie got lost in a bottle and he only contacted him again when shit went sour in Waterview.”

Isaac rubbed his eyes. Cardinal Murphy was their liaison to the Vatican—soon to be their branch’s only one, as the other was set to retire. The man was incorruptible, chosen for his resistance to temptation, a real hard-ass. He and the archbishop had a history, and if he was suspicious, perhaps there was something to it.

“Yeah, okay, I’ll look into Hallie. If there’s something weird about the guy, I’ll find it.”

“I know you will. Where are you now?”

Tricky, tricky. Isaac smiled. “I’ll see you when I see you, Enoch.”

With that, Isaac ended the call and got out of the car before he second-guessed himself again. Leaving his phone behind, he crossed the street, gritting his teeth at the thought of people he loved living in such a run-down, dangerous neighborhood. He supposed that was part of the appeal, however. Plus, she would have a strict budget that would make the multi-family tenement and the wafting stench of garbage a necessary evil.

Necessary because she’d run and never come home.

Isaac clenched his jaw harder. The entrance was locked—hallelujah and praise God for small miracles. Double-checking the address and taking a deep breath to calm his nerves he scanned the identification markers on the call box he was surprised to see anchored next to the front door. Most slots were devoid of names. One had a crude, rounded square etched into the metal.

He pushed that button.

Acid bubbled and clawed its way up his esophagus. There was no answer but he knew the apartment was occupied—oh, yes, he absolutely knew, because if there was one thing in the world he knew it was her, everything about her, her habits, beliefs and idiosyncrasies. And Isaac never forgot.

He lay on the button. Finally, a response came. “Antioch. Did you lose your damn key again?”

“Jericho.” His throat closed, making him unable to go on. Heart pounding, Isaac could not breathe.

He’d chosen correctly, and the full-body tingle setting his spine on fire carried a strange mix of terror and relief. His ears delighted in the harsh, screechy tone that had streamed through the speaker, though his soul remembered when that voice was as sweet as spring’s first flower. Spots danced before his eyes and he had to lean against the wall to make sure he didn’t tumble down the steps as his legs gave out.

The silence finally penetrated his madness. He pressed the button again. “Jericho? Please…I need your help.”

“Isaac. Go. Go away.”

Her voice was strained, stuttering. Suddenly scared that she would walk away and stop responding at all, he rushed on, “Please, listen to me! Father Martin Rice, remember him? I know you have a box full of paperwork, Jericho. I remember, you know I do. I know you’ve got some information on Rice and I need it.”

“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We need what you’ve got, that’s all, Jericho. Whatever you managed to find, baby, because I never got a chance to talk to you about it but Liah was in trouble and I saw him and—”

“I’m sorry. I don’t have what you need.”

“Your files—”

“I don’t know where they are.”

“Please! I remember you telling me you’d found something, but then you had to go because…” Desperation ravaged Isaac’s senses, his throat swelled and tongue dried out. He forced the words, “Because you and Gideon were sent into that fucking church…” Memories swamped him and hijacked his speech. “And the bomb and the explosion and the sulfur igniting and…and he…then you…”

Isaac couldn’t breathe at all. He was sure his lungs had collapsed, as had he. Leaning against the wall, he let his tears flow and drip from his chin as he sobbed. He shuddered as fresh pain ripped him apart again.

“Please, Jericho. I need your help.” He needed her—to see her, to speak to her, to hold her once more. But he had to focus on what was possible to achieve.

“No…I…can’t.” Then harsher, “Why should I?”

“Because Rice is involved in something really big and really bad.” Isaac fought to make the garbled sounds coming from his throat seem more like actual words. “And because…because you’re my wife, my other half, and I need you. I need you.”

“No.”

“Jericho! Jericho!”

But she was gone. Isaac knew. The speaker remained silent and, eventually, he gave up.

For the moment.

 

Chapter 2

 

From the outside, the former girl’s academy looked like any other building. The city was full of moderately charming brick structures that had been converted into new usage without much remodeling. There was nothing special about the old school except the air of antiquated dignity clinging to the rain-washed bricks. Even the gargoyles decorating the roofline blended into the architecture of the bank next door and, with a bodega pressed to the building’s other wall, there were no grounds to maintain and no signage to advertise what was inside.

Most would never see beyond the darkly tinted front window. Even if they entered the building, they’d only reach the foyer, where they’d be stopped by Ruth, the epitome of grotesques and gargoyles, who guarded this lair of Garguiem with nothing more than a fingernail file and a take-no-prisoners attitude.

Isaac shuddered—and not just from the cold rain sliding beneath the collar of his jacket. In fact, Ruth was the reason he’d decided to enter through the grimy window in the alley, rather than the front door.

The window was a tricky piece of work. Every potential entrance of the Garguiem headquarters was triple protected by a variety of modern security alarms and archaic prayers. Disabling the contemporary technology was easy. Since he was in charge of organizing every bit of information that came through their particular region, Isaac had all the codes, and his memory was infallible.

The prayers were a bit harder. He lifted his hand. “I don’t fucking feel like saying this in Latin, O Lord. Open sesame won’t work and please isn’t always the magic word.”

He winced at his own twisted sense of humor, knowing it had skewed darker in recent months. There wasn’t much left to laugh at, though.

With a sigh, Isaac got serious. “In the likeness of Michael the Archangel, protector of men and leader of God’s Army, I beg entrance for no nefarious purpose, but seek truth in a matter close to my heart and necessary for the survival of the ones I love.”

The embellishments didn’t appear to hurt his cause. The dirty glass beneath his fingertips rippled with yellow light and, though soft, it was bright enough on that dreary day that Isaac took a quick look around to make certain he was alone. A muted click told him the window had unlocked.

He tumbled across the smallest opening he could get his broad shoulders through. Inside, the hallways were cool and quiet, echoing a bit much for Isaac’s peace of mind on the best of days—and today was not the best of days. The building seemed hushed and tense, the sound of his breathing bouncing off the walls. Isaac sluiced the rainwater from his hair, pushed the window back into place and wriggled his shoulders until he was certain he wouldn’t drip all the way down the hall.

Then he held his breath and crept toward his office.

Power pulsed around Isaac’s senses. He may not be a warrior like his cousins, he may not have Jericho’s intuition,  Liah’s empathy or Levi’s nose, but there was no mistaking the aura of the Garguiem. His people were descended from angels—banished to the earth after refusing to pick a side in the heavenly war. Made mortal and charged with the task of protecting the world from evil and corruption. Gifted with talents regular humans would never believe.

Isaac never forgot. Some fucking talent, he thought.

He tried not to be bitter about being left behind, relegated to desk duty simply because he could remember various bits of information—including the workarounds to the ever-changing, highly sophisticated firewalls the Vatican employed on their computer networks. His ancestor Gargouille may have been recruited by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, but that didn’t mean his followers believed in the dogma or belonged to the traditions. The Garguiem policed the clerical hierarchy up to and including the Pope in order to prevent demons from infiltrating and conquering the organization. Isaac reminded himself that he used weapons of a different sort—no less cutting, and every bit as important as the swords the warriors he worked with wielded.

Making his way through the halls, Isaac finally reached his final test. The silence had given way to a murmured, one-sided argument occasionally interspersed with a loud curse word or two. He paused, then risked a glance around the corner. A quick peek told him Enoch was in his office. Isaac had to find a way past.

He supposed he could simply stroll by, casually raise a hand and toss out a careless ‘Hey, Bossman,’ as he normally would, but he didn’t want to take a chance of being stopped. And, with so many others having gone AWOL, Isaac knew he’d be stopped. Questioned. Especially after the last conversation he’d had with his supervisor, just days ago.

Even now, he was afraid that his commander would somehow sense the way his heart raced, maybe feel the temperature difference as Isaac hid and waited, swallowing down the worst of his panic as his temples beaded with sweat. Enoch’s gift seemed unnaturally persuasive sometimes—not just getting the truth out of someone, but compelling it. Seriously, the man was downright eerie. And with Levi and Liah avoiding their superior, Isaac had gotten caught in the crosshairs.

“Shit,” he whispered soundlessly. “Why me?”

But Isaac already knew the answer to that question. Enoch was his cousin by marriage, though that thought was too painful to dwell on some days. A few years ago, in a move nearly unprecedented in any Garguiem unit, and especially one with a host of eligible leaders like theirs had had, the powers-that-be decided their particular family group needed to be led by an outsider. Enoch was sent in and his reception was chilly, to say the least.

But he’d brought his beautiful cousin with him. And Isaac had taken one look at her and fallen deeply, madly, blindly in love. His entire body had tingled and his soul had grown wings. Jericho was undeniably his other half, his gift from God. The one person in the whole world that was meant for him. His salvation and his glory.

His eternal pain.

Their relationship had given Isaac just a little more leeway with Enoch than anyone else could claim. In Isaac’s opinion, it should have garnered a bit of sympathy too, especially after the past year and all that Jericho’s leaving had wrought, but the commander had ridden his IT tech harder than ever before. Enoch had kept him too busy for the misery that waited in the wings—Isaac knew, understood and some days even appreciated it. That didn’t help the current situation, however.

He took another peek. Enoch’s shadow moved restlessly against the wall and the sound of his breathing seemed to rush through the corridor. The man was irritated, agitated, not in a good mood. Isaac gritted his teeth and prayed his heart wouldn’t burst through his rib cage as he slipped a few inches closer.

“No, Cardinal,” Enoch growled. “She hasn’t gone back into the training program yet, but I will let you know the moment she—”

Isaac stopped, sucked in oxygen and pressed his spine to the wall. His superior was talking about Liah. She’d been ordered back into the Garguiem training program after one too many suspensions from duty. The Cardinal had to be Padraig Murphy. He was a stickler for the rules and he’d been riding Liah for a while.

“She just needs a break. I gave her some time off.”

Enoch was lying. After Liah had walked out of the Garguiem headquarters a few weeks ago, she’d gone to Red Leaf City. Isaac didn’t think investigating missing girls, stumbling over a group of corrupt, orgiastic priests and nearly being sacrificed in a Black Mass ritual would count as time off at all.

Liah had gone rogue without a single glance back, and she’d committed herself to a man who would be summarily murdered if Enoch even suspected his existence. And Isaac had to keep all of that secret from a man with a gift for uncovering the truth.

Biting his lip and sliding another inch toward the door, he contorted to peer beyond its edge. Enoch faced a false window. Stuck as they were between two other buildings, they’d installed square light panels in the walls and decorated them with curtains. Productivity had gone up. Just then, anyone would have believed the portal was real, judging by the way the bossman stood before it.

“I’m simply hoping time away from the stresses of this job will do her good. No, Cardinal, I haven’t spoken to her brother, either. Levi is also on vacation with his new fiancé. I thought they deserved some time—” Enoch’s shoulders straightened with a snap. “Of course I know where my people are.”

Holding his breath and wincing, Isaac threw himself across the open doorway. He froze, listening to Enoch argue a bit louder, his words rushed and short, biting. The Garguiem didn’t take orders from the Cardinals, but the liaisons they worked with demanded respect. Isaac and most of his cousins would have told the Holy See to get fucked eons ago, but maybe that was why they’d brought in an outsider to lead their unit. Enoch was keen on diplomacy.

Secure in the knowledge that his commander was too wrapped up in his own troubles to notice he’d had company, Isaac continued down the hallway toward his high tech office. The holiest of holies—or at least that’s what he called it. The inner workings of their operation lay beyond a thick steel door guarded by biometric locks designed to allow only him and Enoch access.

Isaac lifted his hand to a metal plate on the wall. The device grew warm beneath his palm as it scanned his prints. He stood still, with his face slightly elevated while twin lasers moved over his ear and gouged into his eye. Fingerprints, retinal scans and ear comparisons complete, he then stuck out his tongue and waited for the drop of holy water. A sharp pinch in his finger where it pressed against the metal plate was immediately followed by a soft chime that made him paranoid he’d be discovered, but the DNA analysis took nearly no time at all and soon the steel door whooshed open.

With a backward glance to make certain Enoch hadn’t heard his entry, Isaac stepped across the threshold into his own domain. A wall of computers waited for another round of fingerprint scans before they would turn on and spill their secrets, but he walked past them, uninterested just then. What he wanted wasn’t in the computers. The only listing associated with Father Martin Rice in the database read ‘Pending input by Garguiem Operative 23875’.

Jericho.

Isaac rubbed his chest and headed back into the stacks of hard-copy documents. Manuscripts and scrolls, medieval Illuminations and hand-written notes, evidence collected in boxes, all piled neatly on shelves stretching from floor to ceiling in three long aisles. He didn’t need to look anything up in there, however. He’d catalogued every single piece of data he’d inherited or gathered since he’d been assigned to the job and Isaac had never forgotten any of it.

At the very back of the large space, in a dim corner where no one ever thought to look, he sought a box without identification. There was no case number on the front, no description of what was inside. A band secured the lid. Coded with a specific, voice-activated password, even Enoch, when that bastard was at his most intrusive, wouldn’t be able to get the seal open without Isaac’s full cooperation.

He prayed while he opened the box. Still, the pain nearly took him to his knees when the dim lighting, high overhead, sparked off a simple piece of gold. Isaac picked it up and, for the first time in a year, put his wedding band back on.

His finger felt as if it had caught fire. Not his ring finger, but the one next to it. The middle finger that boasted the faint Mem, the small mark that told the world that Isaac was one of God’s lawmen too. The same rounded square he’d found etched into a call box in the middle of a ghetto.

He looked at the picture he’d left in the container. Jericho was beautiful, with dark curls and perfect skin, but that wasn’t why he’d fallen so hard for her. Her laugh and her smile, the spark of mischief in her chocolate eyes. The way she’d encouraged his sense of humor and made him feel like her equal even though he wasn’t half the warrior she was. Her kindness and compassion. Her scent. Her taste.

He stroked his finger over the image. “What do you expect me to do now, Jericho?”

Coming in 2018

Meanwhile on KDP…

 AmazonAmazon

Do you believe in magic?

Today, I’m getting my kitchen witch on.

Okay, over the past week, I’ve been getting my kitchen witch on. I believe in magic, but, as much as I’d love to believe in magic wands, flying broomsticks and that scene in Practical Magic where Sandra Bullock blows on the candle to light it, that’s not what I think it’s all about.

Ironically, I believe in practical magic, just not the movie. Like a few weeks ago when I was searching for a non-specific ring, and something told me to look in my grandmother’s junk drawer…keep digging…farther. I had no idea what was in there or what I was even looking for, but not only did I pull out a fox pin (see my post on how I keep finding foxes everywhere) but also exactly what I needed for the project I was working on.

Practical, right? (BTW, now I can’t stop finding rings. They’re everywhere—in my sink (!!) on the street, on the floor, in boxes…And I’ve never seen any of them before.)

So I’m currently quite taken with the idea of a kitchen witch. My (Welsh-descendant side) family has a long and vivid oral history of who saw ghosts, who knew what in an uncanny manner, who had dreams… We were once witches most likely, and to this day carry a heavy emphasis on the female, the matriarch. Things happen with my family members, strange occurrences are the norm for us and certain concepts don’t really faze me.

This past year, as many of you know, I got really sick. It required me to change my entire diet in order to have a functioning system again. So I’ve gotten into nutrition. Also, years ago, I lived in Africa and I was very into nutrition then (forced to be, really) and started learning a lot about natural medicines (again, forced to by circumstances) and was privileged enough to have seen some extremely intelligent, compassionate and even magical women working in their roles as traditional healers.

 

In case you doubt my emphasis on the strength of women, and the ancient roles of women that I believe should be and are being reinstated in the present era, see my post about the feminine divine.

 

 

Anyway, this past year, I’ve gotten back into nutrition in a big way. My grandmother was always the one with the green thumb, but I’m about to try my hand with some kitchen herbs, and considering the fact that I don’t particularly care about growing things, this is especially surprising. But the need is there. To have some greenery around me, to have the aromatic scent of fresh herbs, to know that I’m growing something that is beneficial to the things I’m cooking and therefore my family’s health, is really making me happy.

Also, my cat’s been poisoning himself with a new houseplant, so I’ve got to replace it with a better, healthier distraction for him.

I’ve been cooking alot. For months now, I’ve cooked nearly every day. I’ve focused on fresh vegetables, and have nearly done away with meat. Not because I’m a vegetarian and not because I have some moral objection to it, but my body doesn’t do well with meat anymore. It makes me literally sick, to the point where my system starts shutting down again until it’s fully digested, which takes weeks, with the way my system is sluggish, especially after consuming meat. A cycle of horrors (and pain, illness, etc.)

Because of my health, I’m getting organized. I’ve rearranged rooms, furniture, logistical systems. I’m moving things around in my kitchen to institute some sort of organization and I’ve created a pantry out of things I already had in my house. I both hate it, and love it. Maybe one day I can do a real renovation, but that would require a lot more people buying my books!

Speaking of… I’ve been meaning to get a recipe book, then I realized I have an old day planner that I fell in love with years ago. It’s a binder, so the pages are easily removed or added, yet it’s leather-bound with a closure and plenty of slots for (business cards) little things I want to keep. Since I’m not using it as a planner anymore, I thought about doing a recipe book in this, scrapbook style, with cutesy things, pictures, quotes…

So of course I looked that up. And saw the kitchen witch thing. And it feels right. It fits.

It seems that’s what I am becoming, or maybe that’s what I always was. I’m a caretaker, always have been. Maybe the magic that runs through my family finally found its natural place inside me. Not that I didn’t have any (I could tell some stories!) but maybe it’s more fully realized in this endeavor than it has been in any other. I’m continually drawn toward caring for people (addicts, the sick, the elderly and children to date) and healing in some way (in Africa I served a role in community health and have worked in hospital settings and clinics in the US). I love the idea that nature has provided us a foundation, even though I fully believe there are things science does much better.

But taking care of my family, infusing health and love into all the things I’m doing around my home and growing ever more excited by the way one project leads toward another is surprising, and inspiring. It’s so much work, but I’m excited to do it.

I’m not Wiccan. I always say ‘Wiccan-ish’ knowing that I believed in and felt something, but also knowing it wasn’t what other people believed and knew. I was raised in the Lutheran church, anyway, and yet feel there is truth in every religion. That makes me an Omnist, I think.

So I’m embracing this kitchen witch concept whole-heartedly, because it’s not about religion. It’s not about what you believe or the dogma you adhere to. Anyone can do this, all that’s required is faith. Faith in yourself and your ability to provide a good meal and a happy home for your family, the love you have for them, the need to take care of others that you pour into every dish and enforce every time you mop.

This is magic at its most practical, and at its most profound. It’s the magic of love.

A Divine Female

I want to share a story I recently came across concerning Inanna, the ancient Sumerian goddess of both love and war, connected to Venus, known as the Queen of Heaven, celebrated and honored as a powerful deity.

Inanna went to visit her sister, who ruled the underworld. Before she went, she instructed her servant to contact the gods if she hadn’t returned by the third day because anyone who entered the underworld wouldn’t be allowed to leave. Wearing an elaborate outfit, Inanna descended.

She passed through seven gates in the underworld, all of which had been ordered closed and locked by her sister. At each gate, Inanna was forced to give up a part of her outfit until she finally stood before her sister naked and powerless. She still made her sister get off the throne so she could sit, but judgment was passed against her. Inanna was sentenced to death and hung on a hook.

Three days passed and her servant appealed to the gods. At first, they refused to help, knowing Inanna had brought about her own punishment but the god of creation and magic was troubled by the occurrence and agreed to help. He created two figures to collect Inanna’s body. Her sister was in agony, willing to trade anything to gain respite. The two take Inanna’s corpse and sprinkle the food of life onto it, resurrecting her.

Creatures are sent by the queen of the underworld to take someone in Inanna’s place. Inanna will not let them take her loyal servant and friends, because they had mourned her. However, her husband had not, entertaining other women while she was believed to be dead, and so she let them take him in her place.

Inanna’s sister-in-law pleads on behalf of her brother and is able to take his place for half the year in the underworld, thereby giving rise to the seasons.

~

This is one of the oldest recorded myths. You will notice the themes of descent into the underworld, death and resurrection. In three days, no less. Food of life…Seasons changing. I’m sure you’ll also notice how these particulars themes carry on throughout other cultures’ mythologies, first among female deities (Persephone, for example) and then to males (like Jesus.)

I don’t particularly care what you believe, I just think it’s interesting that a common myth begins with a goddess, and yet, so many have never even heard of her. A woman who lost her power, was trapped in a world with no light or life, but brought back and resurrected to retake her throne.

Would that womankind did the same.

In recent days, we have, again, been bombarded by the fact that many men still hold no respect for women. We have seen rapists and molesters in powerful positions come to light and we have seen rapists and molesters put into powerful positions against all commonsense. We are losing girls to the sex trade, taken as they walk home from school, snatched off the street and seduced on the internet. The stories go on and on, memes, hashtags and movements abound, but still it seems like so many are swimming against the current, and so many are deliberately pretending to an obtuseness that can’t possibly be genuine.

It wasn’t always like this. A long, long time ago, women were venerated, respected, loved and cared for. They were the leaders of their families and of society. Lineage and authority were traced through the mother’s line because she knew who her children were, while men had to take her word for it. She wasn’t called vile names for knowing the worth of her own body, nor was she vilified for celebrating all the things her body could do.

She held power over her own self, her own actions and her own future.

I’m a traditionalist in the sense that I think society as a whole should revert back to ancient traditions concerning power roles. Essentially, to my view, women were meant to lead because we are the caretakers and men were meant to protect, following their leaders’ directives, because they are physically stronger. Somewhere in humankind’s past, men took over the power—and don’t argue because this is well-accepted history. For the past several thousand years, men have controlled ‘civilization’ and they’ve been running it into the ground.

Because they aren’t natural caretakers. They are natural protectors, but what they’ve been protecting are resources, money, institutions that guarantee them more power. Women tend to care more about people, the elderly, the downtrodden, the children. Society.

Yes, I know that’s overly simplistic and there will always be exceptions to the rule, but it seems to me that the way people are viewing the world these days, it’s best not to complicate the message.

I think it’s time the women got another shot at leadership. I think it’s time we started looking into our own history and mythology, so much of which has never been written down because history has been preserved by men. So many truly important deities were depicted as women, in both love and war, hearth and home, travels, life and death. And justice, most especially justice. Interesting, right?

I think women should step up and show their strength, and I think that’s happening right now.

To have and to hold…

Today I’m interested in the Fourth Amendment.

Search and Seizure. Essentially, this amendment guarantees every citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their lives, property, businesses, etc. This is why the police and government agencies need warrants to look deeper when they suspect you’ve committed some crime or infraction. This is why it’s illegal to pull someone over for no good reason and search the trunk of their car, or their pockets. It’s why police can’t just barge into your house, why they can’t stop and frisk young black men for simply walking down the street. It’s why the government can’t fly drones over your corn field looking for your hidden marijuana plants or tap your phone or read your emails. Social media is not included…

This Amendment doesn’t get as much press as the First or Second, and do you even know what the Third is? (Quartering soldiers. Britain used to make people house the military at their own expense. Way to save on the military budget, right?) Anyway, the Fourth is very important, so while 1 and 2 have their rabid battles, the Fourth is quietly doing the heavy lifting of protecting the citizens of this country.

While everyone was distracted, it came under fire.

Most notably, the Fourth has been undermined by Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio. According to the Washingtom Post (just to name a source, but it’s validated by other news organizations) a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people who were not suspected of actual criminal activity.

Essentially, Arpaio disregarded court orders and targeted people he thought specifically fit a stereotype in his region of what an ‘illegal immigrant’ was. Cough, cough…’Mexicans’…

For the record, being in this country, even without documentation, isn’t illegal—which I know will be a shocker for so many to learn. Undocumented residence in this country is a civil violation. It’s on the same level as not paying child support—which may, depending upon state rules, result in a stay in jail, but isn’t something that would go on your record or even cause deportation (shock!). Jaywalking is a crime, living somewhere isn’t.

Side note to create empathy: let’s say you’re a white man. Let’s pretend that being in the KKK, while not a crime, will get you fined for some civil violation. Maybe…I don’t know…it’s against your town’s decency standards, or something. So, Sheriff Someone goes looking for KKK members, but he starts stopping every white man he comes across because, let’s face it, nobody else is joining the group, right? But you got stopped, just because you were white… You’re not part of the group, would never be part of the group, but you still got stopped, frisked for any potential burning crosses, strip searched and checked out for swastika tattoos and then your home was also ransacked—and God help you if your sheets are white, yeah?

Is that fair? No. No, it’s not fair because you were just walking across the Walmart parking lot, minding your own business with no discernible tattoos or political/religious affiliations. Still, you fit the stereotype and so you were stopped. Wow, that must be infuriating…and illegal.

But Sheriff Someone was given a free pass, not only setting a precedent that other sheriffs in other towns may follow, but creating a boisterous, though small, group of supporters for Sheriff Someone’s policies regarding this terrible, indecent nuisance. Yes? So what happens when the town council decides it’s indecent for men to wear socks with sandals, which is your favorite thing to do? Or for residents to eat anything other than locally-grown fair trade organic produce but you’re allergic to spinach and only eat meat? With me so far? Maybe….?

Well, here’s another example, then. According to the NY Post, among others, Trump’s lawyers have asked Facebook for private information concerning private individuals who have ‘liked’ anti-Trump pages. Like the rest of America, I take news these days with a grain of salt and look for multiple sources to validate whatever claims are made. This is not making waves, so do your research, butI believe this case to be true, especially given this Administration’s history with these things.

What history? Demanding voter information, for one example. Some of what they wanted was public knowledge, or for sale through the State, but other requested data was inessential to what they were looking for. So what will they really use it for? What does this particular, and unpopular/authoritarian-leaning, administration want with the information that previous administrations didn’t feel the need to waste money on? We blame Trump’s narcissism, he needs to prove those other 3 million votes were illegally cast, but there could be a darker purpose.

Like, oh, I don’t know, rounding up critics and those opposed to the sweeping and oft-times detrimental policy changes being enacted upon us. Puts that Facebook thing into a different light, looking at it from that perspective, right? How…Orwellian. I suggest you read some, in fact.

They’ve got the ‘average’ American hoodwinked, too. They (a particular set of media/politicians/ideologues) challenge your natural reaction to giving up your privacy. You shy away, you have a funny resistance to it… But they say, what do you have to hide? You’re a good American, a patriot, don’t you want to help…

But you’re helping the downfall of your own Constitution. Every time you say, sure you can look at my corn field on camera, sure that phone could be tapped, of course they should give up their emails…what do they have to hide? You are undermining the very hard-working Fourth Amendment, and you might not care so much about it right now, but just wait till it’s gone. This one, above all, is the very concept that truly stands between freedom and totalitarianism.

Laws can be changed, and in this political climate there is no guarantee that you’ll know beforehand. You could let the police into your house thinking to be helpful, and, in certain towns, if they spy your dildo, you can be charged. If they use the bathroom, without search and seizure restrictions they can open your medicine cabinet and poke around…What do you have in there? Did you dispose of any leftover medications legally and properly?

The wholesale removal of rights would cause an uproar among us all, but a little bit here and there…and what does it matter of you’ve done ‘nothing’ wrong…

There are a myriad of small infractions a lot of us commit every day, and the Fourth keeps our little, mostly innocuous secrets safe. So be a good citizen, pay attention, and protect your privacy however you can.

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know? I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative. I believe the best path lies in the middle and the truth takes participation from both sides. I also believe we’re on a dangerous, slippery slope because a lot of sides of a lot of issues aren’t listening to anyone else.

Nobody is always entirely right…

 

 

Monday Morning I want my Quarterbacks

So, for a while now, I’ve been threatening to get my rant on. For the most part, I’ve wanted to keep my politics separate from my business because we all know how how fast a business goes up in flames when you voice an opinion that somebody is bound to disagree with…

Which is, ultimately, why I decided to start up this section, entitled My Bone to Pick. My opinion, my perspective, and we all know that, in this day and age, perspective IS reality, no matter if that perspective is right or wrong, true or false, yes?

I’m not a coward. My business doesn’t mean more to me than speaking out for the right things. And why should everybody else get to have their say and not me?

So, the topic du jour this Monday, September 25th, 2017: Who took a knee at the football game?

Oh, let me rephrase that: Who cares who took a knee at the football game while North Korea declares (potentially nuclear) war on the United States of America?

Y’all are so worried about your favorite player having an opinion different than yours that you’ve ignored the real threat to your freedoms and safety. Squabbling amongst ourselves is going to get much more difficult to do when we’re all choking on toxic radiation. And you were so concerned about Zika…and Ebola…wait till you get a load of what’s coming.

Hold on, though. I promised an opinion, right?

My opinion is, #takeaknee. Quite frankly, I think Kap was lazy, didn’t feel like standing up, got called out on it and came up with a brilliant protest on the fly. (So, good job, there, man.) Now that there’s something to kneel for though, I’m down with it. Since when is kneeling disrespectful? Don’t you kneel before God (because, let’s just call a stereotypical spade a stereotypical spade and posit the theory that Good Christians are the ones with the strongest Anti-Knee opinion, mmm-kay?).

They shouldn’t do it on their team owner’s time? Maybe the owner doesn’t mind. Maybe, in fact, the owner agrees with the protest. After all, he sees the value in the men of color on his team, right? He doesn’t just appreciate the white players. The owner sees their achievements, their skills and, in many cases, their humanitarian efforts. And yet, so many people in the communities these men have come from, who may even share similar value, efforts and achievements, don’t have the same opportunities…and they don’t have the same freedoms. Maybe rectifying that is a fight the owners believe in and support.

Sure, you have the right to not watch, tear up your ticket, write the Commissioner (because I’m sure he’s personally reading your letter, uh-huh, I’m positive). Or, you could just sing the anthem louder. (You do know the words right? ‘Cause, if not, that’s disrespectful, you know?) They only kneel for the length of the first verse, so, maybe you could just handle yourself until the game starts?

Maybe, while you put your hand over your heart and honor those who fought and died for your country and your Constitution, you could also spare a minute’s contemplation for the men and women who have served to protect freedoms they didn’t, and still don’t, have.

And if you’re feeling moved by any amount of Christian sentiment, any molecule of empathy for your fellow Americans, those who put their lives on the line so you could argue about non-harmful, peaceful events that took place in the last five minutes of a pre-game ritual, perhaps you, too, will be driven to your knees so you can pray that all people of your homeland, all members of what essentially amounts to being your tribe, may one day share the same equality and justice that you have.

That’s my bone to pick…

You won’t always agree, and that’s okay. I’d still love to hear your comments, so long as you can manage to keep yourself respectful, because we all deserve a little dignity. Be human, you know? I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative. I believe the best path lies in the middle and the truth takes participation from both sides. I also believe we’re on a dangerous, slippery slope because a lot of sides of a lot of issues aren’t listening to anyone else.

Nobody is always entirely right…