13 July 2010

Updates and Self Immunizing with Snake Venom

Well folks,

Its been a while. I've been busy moving and being broke with no job. HOWEVER, as the Hapless Muggle, I feel that it is important to keep updated on what has been going on in the house of Witchy-Poo.

Weirdness #1: Was hired to go and perform the Sideshow (www.myspace.com/bonesandrosessideshow) at a pagan-ish gathering and attended an interesting workshop. The workshop was titled "Everyday Sacred" and was led by a fantastic woman who reminded my very much like a disney character. My lady was off doing something else, so I decided to attend. The class discussed what ritual they performed during the day (mine was "I make coffee every morning") and what they felt was sacred ("three cups, at least"). She led us in a guided visualization after. Now, I have tried this sort of thing with stress and anger management, and I always end up more stressed or pissed off that initially started. I cant concentrate and I just give up. I was determined to let this feeling go and give it a try. The vision guided us through different hallways attributed to the 4 directions (ESWN) and what they signified. I'm a guy who usually knows what to expect. I don't get surprised very often and usually what is around the corner is there because I had it coming (for good or for bad). Here, I was able to relax enough and the images in my head were profoundly different from what I was expecting. I wont go into details, but why was this far more profound? Was the week off of work enough relaxation to get my brain to slow down? Cuz it sure didn't cure anything else that gets brought on by the angst of life.

Goodness #1
The Darrin Stephens Society for Hapless Muggles will be meeting on Monday nights at a pub to be determined. Minutes will not be posted due to the fact that we may get more than a few pints in us and share some things that may not be content appropriate (aka bad jokes) or slanders, insults and how we might have gotten kicked out of the bar.

Weirdness #2
In 1947, Bill Haast opened the Miami Serpentarium for educational purposes and to supply the world with snake venom for research and antivenin. Shortly after opening the Serpentarium, he began injecting diluted amounts of venom in order to immunize himself against the bite of snakes. This is actually a remnant of a much older practice called mithridatism. To date he has survived 172 bites and he will be turning 100 years old in December. There are others who engage in this practice publicly (www.venominme.com) and I propose this question: Thanks t the work of Haast and many other researchers and experimenters, we can show that immunizing against a venomous snake bite is entirely possible. What other health benefits could be reaped by such activities? Are there any? Bee stings have been used to combat rheumatoid arthritis for thousands of years. Immunostimulation? Anticoagulation factors?

Just getting the conversation going.


03 January 2010

Rites of Passage

This is not a new debate or discussion by any means, but it is a current interest of mine and they say you should write what you know. Rites of passage have been a part of tribal life for many different peoples. Many rites of passage test the human limit of strength, endurance, and mental anguish, the result of which is acceptance. After a person has been through a rite of passage, there is no doubt in the tribe's collective mind that this person has proved his or her worth. No one questions their validity as a human being and they never have to prove themselves again. They are an accepted part of the tribe.

Some examples:
1. Aborigines go on a Walkabout at adolescence. They go into the outback and survive for up to 6 months. During this time they follow the Songlines, or pathways traveled by their ancestors memorised in song.

2. Vision quests of the Native American tribes

3. Bar Mitzva/Bat Mitzva

4. Genpuku - the Japanese ceremony, previously held only for the nobility and Samurai clans. The boys haircut, clothes and name were exchanged for adult ones.

5. Freemasons: the initiate is blindfolded, taken like a helpless child through a maze of obstacles: he passes through illusionary fire, his arm is pricked and made to feel like it is bleeding profusely. He passes into an inner sanctum and swears to the grand master to protect the secrets of the Freemasons on pain of "having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark."

6. The Ndembu of Zambia: girls secluded 3 months: communicate with outside only with melodic messages played on a harp-like instrument.

7. The haircut at boot camp in the military

The list goes on and on. Classically, there are 3 steps recognized by sociologists that comprise the rite of passage. 1) the separation from normal life. 2) Liminality - a state when the person is at the threshold and ones identity dissolves. The mind is opened to new possibilities and thoughts. 3) the reincorporation into society with ones new identity.

American culture is said to have many rites of passage: Getting a driver's license, graduation, incorporation into a union or workforce. But I cannot shake the sense that these are not rites of passage that produce the acceptance of the tribe. In fact, many of the rites of passage reflect a particular group: Baptism, Bar Mitzvah, even graduation from college is afforded only a select few.

Then I ask the question: "is it the lack of rites of passage or is it the lack of a tribe?" Many American men go to therapy and are troubled by the fact that they aren't accepted. If you don't believe me, go to a college bar on "Thirsty Thursday" and just observe. Most of the patrons (men and women) are trying their damnedest to get attention and gain acceptance. In order to prove that you are worthy, you can't act like a fag, you gotta hit on women/flirt with men, you gotta sport the right clothes and drink at least your weight in Bud Light and jello shots. And this isn't a one time deal; men (I'm only speaking from my experience) have to constantly have their armor on lest they drop their guard and are branded with the dreaded "fag." My father is once quoted as saying "sometimes I wish I was gay so that I wouldn't have to be so damn worried about being macho all the time." I have repeated this to many homosexual friends and I understand that being homosexual carries its own barrage of complications, especially about acceptance. Even though short sighted, my Dad does make a point.

Is America just too damn big of a culture to have a tribe? Are we so mish-mashed from different cultures that we don't know who to accept and who to boot out? Or have we lost the tribal mentality all together (cuz lets face it: as monkeys, we are a social animal that craves sociologic structure).

According to Robert Bly, because of the Industrial Revolution men went away to work and therefore could not pass on their knowledge to their sons. This led to the male society disappearing. Therefore, males have a harder time learning their roles and seeing how they are needed. What is Manliness? There are websites that try to answer this question (www.artofmanliness.com). But I think we have lost the true meaning of being a man or being a woman. Since the Suffrage period, glass ceiling court cases and sexual revolution, gender roles have been blurred. I believe that there are significant differences between men and women and that we cannot simply shove them aside. This just creates more uncertainty and consequently, angst.

I propose this: Men feel insecure today because their manliness and acceptance in the tribe is always in question. It doesn't matter how great they are at their jobs, how big their penis is, how many children they have. It is always under attack and any chinks in the armor will be exploited.

I believe that rites of passage within a tribe that manifests as unequivocal acceptance
by that tribe endear each person with the confidence and the support to get up in the morning and do what NEEDS TO BE DONE. And I can't think of anything manlier than that.

Personally, I have undergone body piercing, tattooing and branding. As a Sideshow performer, I have lain on a bed of broken glass while performing Acroyoga with my partner, laid on a bed of nails while 300+ lbs have been standing on me, I have driven sewing pins through my skin and subcutaneous tissue without a flinch or (usually) a drop of blood, and I can hammer a 3" nail into my skull via the nose. All of these things have instilled a sense of pride and uniqueness about myself. I am proud of what I have done and what I can do. But I'm going to the bar in a few minutes and you can bet your boots that I'm probably going to have many of the same hangups as every other guy there.

I seem to have digressed into only addressing this from a man's point of view. I'm sorry, ladies, but I have to talk about what I know and I feel it is unfair to say anything from a woman's point of view. However, I suspect that many of these themes are repeated in the female of the species.

16 November 2009

The Art of Manliness

Anyone acquainted with the Pagan world is well aware, or should at least notice, that it is a largely matriocentric religion. Much is said about the Goddess and much is dedicated to her. Kushka will back me up on this, that it has not escaped my notice that masculinity and being proud of being a man has at least a negative connotation. Men who suppress their urges to act as a man and instead are satisfied to tend to the feminine aspects of life are labeled as "sweet, in touch and respectful." As someone coming from a Punk, Rockabilly and British background, this was a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. I believe a a man can be "sweet, in touch and respectful" without feeling guilty about wanting to take care of business and sticking to his guns. www.artofmanliness.com is a great resource of commentary that takes a hard look at what being a man is all about. Do we have to be ashamed of being men because our grandparents and great grandparents kept separate the affairs of men and women? I say no! Instead we should face the fact that men and women are different and celebrate that difference on both sides of the aisle.

My other gripe is the shameful suppression of anger. Anger can be a very dangerous thing, especially when it is not allowed to be let loose. We developed anger and rage as an evolutionary necessity. If you don't let your anger out in a constructive and directed manner, it will build and let go in a very destructive direction. I suppose I am generalizing horribly about the Peace and Love Hippy connotation that Paganism has attained. For those I have insulted, I make no apology. Lets get back to nature: Grab a beer, put on your horns and shout at the moon - this way you don't let it loose in some exceedingly unmanly way - such as the blame game (anger often transforms into blame when suppressed).

09 November 2009

My name is Bones Bennet, and I'm a Muggle.

I would like to introduce myself. We'll start the way of "The Jerk"

I was born a poor Dutch boy. I came to the US in 1989 at the age of 8. I grew up watching MASH and being disappointed that no-one in America seemed to speak like John Wayne. I grew up being a fairly regular guy. Hit puberty, got angry, joined a Punk band, got over it and went to college. You could say that I'm in the Punk Rock retirement program. I joined a Rockabilly band, traded my mowhawk for a pompadour, grabbed a martini and got on with my life. Had my fair share of more or less psychotic relationships. It wasn't until I went to school to become a veterinarian that my life changed.

That, in itself is a fairly life changing experience. However, in my final year I had been in a long term, long distance relationship that found out that we couldn't stand each other when we finally moved in with each other... surprise, surprise.

I had befriended my Equine Ambulatory Professor, a free spirited gal we will call Kushka. She counseled me in the end of my particularly bad relationship and we became good friends. The flirting started and I waited until 5pm on the friday of the end of my rotation to take her out on a date.

We had talked about all sorts of life experiences (she is a bit older than I) and she discussed her pagan beliefs and experiences as such. It is important to note that we have far more in common.

I am a guy who holds religion in the words of Chris Moore: I feel the same about religion as I feel about people who are into Golf or Heroin: They think its great and are really into it, but I'm just not that worried about it. I love Kushka very much, our relationship blossomed and we were married in a handfasting ceremony at a Pagan festival. Having said this, it was a bit much to swallow at first coming from a guy who felt that, if it couldn't be cured by 2 aspirin and a couple of cold beers, it wasn't worth worrying about or I'm gonna die anyway. She moved up to my job with me and found work as well and we found a lovely house in the country.

I was immersed in a world of alternative diets, herbal medicine mixed in with a dose of extrapolated veterinary medicine, Yoga (which is great for a hangover, by the way), Goddess worship, being in touch with my feelings (ack!), incense, and a newfound affinity for cloaks.

Im interested in living simply, Im interested in being a basically good guy, I like music, beer and food. Being married to a witch throws some wrenches as well as some grease into the ol' clockwork. More issues to come. Please post your experiences and thoughts.