Catching Up With Sandra

Hello Everyone,

Watching the winter Olympics has been a reminder for me of the movement of time and life. In 1980 I had the privilege of being on the first Olympic torch relay team — a support member, not an athlete – which turned out to be a two-week adventure of a life-time. The past week I’ve been reflecting on the road I’ve traveled since Lake Placid.

Like the Olympics and Sabbats many things in life are cyclical but that doesn’t mean we move in circles, otherwise, we’d just be chasing our tails and getting nowhere. Instead, life is more like a spiral. It has a cyclical aspect, but more important are its aspects of movement and growth.

I also think of my writing like a spiral. The cyclic aspect is the beginning: my topic, which is determined by what I want (or need) to explore. The movement and growth come from research and how it all manifests in my life. This has been particularly true with my two most recent books: Sea Magic and Change at Hand.

Sea Magic is about connecting with the energy of the ocean, and you don’t have to be near the ocean to do this. The ocean helps us listen to the voice of our souls. Its power gives us the clarity to see the reason for and to understand our journey through this world.

Change at Hand came about from my long-time interest in palmistry, but of course, there’s a twist. Since becoming a massage therapist and Reiki practitioner I developed physical and energetic sensitivity in my hands. This has been augmented by the study of the chakras and mudras (hand positions) as a yoga teacher. The end result has been a blend of energy work that combines the wisdom of palmistry, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and a dash of Jungian psychology. Just now I’m preparing a Change at Hand workshop which should be fun, and I hope informative.

I don’t have details to pass along yet, but some time this spring or summer I will be a guest on an internet radio program. I’m finding Facebook a good place to get the word out. Other goings-on are, of course, yoga. My main mission in life is to get everyone doing yoga because it’s such a wonderful tool for self exploration and empowerment. In addition to personal classes in my own studio, I’m branching out my neighborhood community center with two public classes this spring. And speaking of spring, I can’t wait to get out in the garden.

~Sandra

About Sandra:
Sandra describes herself as an explorer of Celtic history, myth and magic. Her curiosity has taken her to live in New York City, Europe, England and New England. Spiritually, her inquisitiveness has led her to investigate the roots of her beliefs and to study ancient texts such as the Mabinogion. In addition to writing, she is a yoga and meditation instructor, massage therapist and Reiki practitioner. You can learn more at her website and follow her on Facebook.

Soldier of Love

I’m embarrassed to admit this, however despite owning nearly every Sade album I did not realize Sade was a band, not just a person. I’m totally annoyed at myself for not knowing this basic fact. In case you too weren’t aware, Sade is a band that took their name from their lead singer, Helen Folasade Adu, who is generally called Sade. Curse you Wikipedia! I wish I had never gone to your Sade entry looking for fun facts for this article! Here’s my fun fact, according to Wikipedia, the Sade entry is “a candidate for speedy deletion. It may be deleted after Friday, 19 February 2010.”

With that out of the way, let’s talk Sade. There are some bands that never really change their sound, and most of the time I poke fun at them. I realize now that I’m just being stupid. Many bands and artists that I like tend to keep the same core sound; Flogging Molly, Run DMC, Jack Johnson and of course, Sade. Yes, I’m telling you that the new Sade album is very similar to previous albums. However I’m also telling you that you should go out and buy this album anyway.

Why? Because it has been ten years, yes ten long years since the last Sade album “Lovers Rock”. In those ten years music has experienced many changes, for better or worse: producers leaning heavily on auto tune, rap artists working with live bands, not just two turn tables and a microphone, artists like Duffy and Amy Winehouse evoking the best of the 60’s and 70’s girl group sounds. All of it can cause you to wonder what Sade’s sound will be like in this new environment. Wonder no longer because I’m here to assure you that Sade has chosen to do what they do best. “Soldier of Love” is almost rebellious in it’s maintaining of the Sade status quo.

Smokey voice? Check. Smooth sounds that you can still tap your foot too? Check. Horn section? Check. Songs exclusively about love? Check. Heck, the lead singer even looks the same as ten years ago! Perhaps she got a hold of whatever technology kept Dick Clark from visibly aging for an obscene length of time.

If you’re like me, and you enjoyed previous Sade albums, do yourself a favor and go buy the latest one. You won’t regret it.

And here, submitted for your approval, the title track “Soldier of Love”.

Witches and Wiccans and Pagans, Oh My: A Report from Pantheacon

By Deborah Blake

Last week I crossed the entire width of the country, leaving behind my beloved cats (and my internet connection) and travelling from snowy upstate New York to sunny San Jose. I made this same trek two years ago for the same reason: to go to Pantheacon.

If you are a Pagan, going to Pantheacon is a little like going to Mecca. There are many (over a thousand, I believe, and maybe multiple thousands) Witches, Wiccans, Pagans and other cool spiritually-oriented folk who decend on the Doubletree Hotel in downtown San Jose in February for four days of workshops, rituals, parties, and socializing, all with a Pagan slant.

If you like that kind of thing, you will love Pantheacon.

I have a confession to make; I am not a social person. (Yes, I hear you all gasp in amazement.) I tend to be overwhelmed by crowds and over-loaded by all the psychic energy that goes with them. You will never find me at a rock concert. But thankfully, Pagan gatherings are an acception to this rule. And Pantheacon, for whatever reason, is the uber-exception. I always come away from it with more energy than I went in with.

There are probably a couple of reasons for this. The first is simple: I get to meet my fans. As an author, I tend to sit and write in a vacuum (no, not an actual vacuum…that would be very difficult). Other than the occasional email or Twitter exchange, I rarely know whether or not my books are having a positive impact on those I write them for. But all that changes at Pcon.

This year, I gave two workshops, one on “Crafting and Casting the Perfect Spell,” and the other on “Witchcraft on a Shoestring.” Both went really well, and I had the great pleasure of meeting a number of folks who read and enjoyed my books. I sold a bunch of the books that are already out, and signed them for people until my hand went numb—an author’s dream! And hopefully, some of the people who came to my workshops who haven’t read my books will now be curious and go take a look. As an author, there is nothing more satisfying than shaking the hand of one of your readers.

Deborah Blake and Llewellyn Editor Elysia Gallo

But there were other highlights as well. I got to have breakfast with my wonderful editor from Llewellyn, Elysia Gallo (we were supposed to have dinner the night before, but she had problems with her flight—a lot of folks had a hard time getting in because of bad weather across the country). We caught up on personal things and also spent some time discussing the cover colors for book number five, coming out in September. I adore this woman, and we only get to meet in person at Pcon, so I was really jazzed to be able to spend time with her.

Z. Budapest and Llewellyn Editor Elysia Gallo (the closest I'll get to having someone as bad as a Z. Budapest on my website)

Another highlight of the event was my invitation to a surprise 70th birthday party for one of the founders of modern witchcraft, Z. Budapest. (I would have blogged about this earlier…but it was a SEKRIT.) Z’s partner Bobbie had asked me and Elysia to lure Z. away from their room with an invite to have a drink at the bar, so Bobbie could get everything set up for the party. And then, of course, Elysia didn’t make her plane and had to catch a later one, leaving it all up to me. The pressure! But thankfully, I managed to pull it off, and when Z. and I walked back to her room an hour later, she was completely surprised! And Elysia even got there in time to get a piece of cake. Whew. It was a huge honor for me to be included in the company of many of the movers and shakers of the Pagan community, and it was all a lot of fun. (And, of course, there was cake.)

One of my goals this year was to try and attend a ritual workshop. I love my group, Blue Moon Circle, and our rituals are satisfying and magical. But there is something truly wonderful about a LARGE gathering of Pagans all creating magic together, and I hoped to attend a group ritual while at the convention. I decided to go to a Brigid Healing Ritual given by Selena Fox, another major Pagan leader (she spearheaded the fight to get the armed forces to allow the pentacle to be used on gravestones at the Arlington National Cemetery). I have written articles for her CIRCLE magazine, but I’d never had the chance to meet her or see her work.

Let me tell you—the ritual more than met my expectations. Selena did a wonderful job of tying together many different styles and approaches, even going so far as to invite a few other folks (including me) to invoke the Goddess in their own particular way. We did healing work for self, then for others, and then for the planet, and followed up by sending lots of energy to a man who is currently involved in a six-year legal battle for Pagan rights. The whole ritual was fabulous from start to finish, and by the time we were done, I was tingling from head to toe. Afterward, I went up and introduced myself and complemented her on the ritual, and she was wonderfully gracious and kind. (And then I got to hang out with her at Z’s party later, which was a bonus. A very nice lady.)

I also went to an interesting workshop on the dark side of fairy tales, given by new Llewellyn author, Kenny Klein. Kenny was a great speaker, and I got some interesting ideas for possible future novels. Later, I went to the vendors room and bought a copy of his book, THROUGH THE FAERIE GLASS, which he was kind enough to sign for me. I also picked up a few gifts for the Blue Mooners at home, including an ABC Book of Shadows for pal Robin’s kids, and a few cool stones in the shapes of cats and bats and such.

One of the greatest pleasures of Pantheacon for me is sharing the event with my step-daughter Jennifer, also a Pagan (and a member of Blue Moon Circle, although she moved to Miami 5 months ago). Jenn flew out from Florida and met me there, and we got to hang out together when we weren’t doing our separate things. As usual, she helped me with my presentations (I always refer to her as “My Entourage”) and made the entire trip easier and more fun. This year I left early to go visit with family in San Diego, so I missed some of the workshops I would have gone to, and didn’t get to meet everyone I’d hoped to. But all in all, it was a wonderful trip.

I highly recommend Pantheacon to anyone who can make it there. People come from all over the country to learn and laugh and love together in the company of those who feel and believe as they do. I truly believe that it is something that every Pagan should experience at least once in his or her lifetime. And hey, maybe you’ll meet me there some year. Blessed be!

About Deborah:
Deborah Blake is the author of “Circle, Coven and Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice” (Llewellyn 2007), “Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft” (Llewellyn 2008), “The Goddess is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch” (Llewellyn2009), and the forthcoming “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook” (2010) and “Witchcraft on a Shoestring” (2010). She has published numerous articles in Pagan publications. Her award-winning short story, “Dead and (Mostly) Gone” is included in the “Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction: 13 Prize Winning Tales” (Llewellyn, 2008). Deborah is currently working on her third novel and hopes to find both an agent and a publisher for her fiction soon. Deborah can be found on the web at www.deborahblakehps.com

A Love Letter to Froggy

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

Funny thing about kids, you never can guess what stuffed animal they’ll latch onto. It’s rarely what you would suspect. In my case it was a stuffed beagle that I called “Beans” and showed my affection for by repeatedly chewing off his nose. When good friends of mine had a son, my husband and I bought him a teddy bear. Not just any teddy bear, a Brookstone n-a-p teddy bear. This teddy bear is made out of the softest, most cuddly materials available to man. (They don’t carry the exact bear anymore, but here’s a link to a comparable bear.) In fact, as most parents know, that kid was showered in adorable stuffed animals ranging from traditional, like our teddy bear, to traditional, like the stuffed animals his parents cuddled as kids. In that sea of plush cuddlies what does the kid latch onto? A plush frog. He calls him “Froggy” or perhaps “Froggie”. I would ask him, but he is just learning to spell now, no need to add more stress to that process. Now I have nothing against Froggy (Froggie), he was adorable right from the start, even if now the child’s affections have left him a little matted and stinky. Hey, I chewed the nose off of my doll, repeatedly, I’m not judging. All of this is an elaborate introduction to why I’ve decided to discuss the symbolism of frogs and toads.

As you may suspect, I have a very elaborate creative process. One that is sustained primarily by celebrity gossip websites, the television show “Better Off Ted”, and rum. I’ll let you in on the “behind-the-scenes” process for this article. I realized, hey, it has been a while since I wrote about some sort of symbol. I pulled down a big stack of books filled with symbols and started flipping through them. While flipping through my copy of “The Complete Encyclopedia of Signs & Symbols” by Mark O’Connell and Raje Airey I came across an entry for frogs and toads. I immediately went “Froggy!” (or perhaps “Froggie!”) Because anyone who has spent time around little kids knows that you start to talk like them. Thusly, a frog, regardless of how life-like the illustration, or very real it is, they are Froggy (or maybe Froggie). Much the way I and his mother say that we are going to “Eat. Eat.” and “Play. Play.” despite the fact that even the child no longer speaks with that young a voice. So as odd as this may seem, somehow my simple quest to write about a symbol has turned into a bit of an open letter of affection to Jacob…the first little kid that didn’t seem to hate me on sight. (Aunt Rebecca loves you. And as soon as you’re old enough, I will loan you all of my Chow Yun Fat movies, because that’s how much I care. Just don’t tell Mom and Dad.) With that abnormal show of affection out of the way, let’s examine the symbolism surrounding this amphibian that a 3 year-old can’t go to sleep without.

First, since I’ll be looking at both frogs and toads, the obvious question is, what is the difference between frogs and toads. Typing that question into Google brought me to, I swear I’m not making this up, allaboutfrogs.org. They say:

One of the most common questions is, “What is the difference between Frogs and Toads?” Most are surprised to hear that all Toads actually are Frogs!

Hey, I am surprised! Good job allaboutfrogs.org! Armed with this new internet information I will proceed to discuss both frogs and toads. As surprised as I was by allaboutfrogs.org’s info, I am far more surprised at all the different associations for frogs and toads. Who knew frogs had more going for them than plush animals and Kermit?

Let’s start with the general “frogs and toads are bad” angle. Toads, with their habit of avoiding the sun and preference of damp dark places seem an unsavory lot. It doesn’t help that their secretions can be toxic. In European superstition the toad was linked with death, and was often shown in art with a skull or skeleton. The Church, with their 7 Deadly Sins, took frogs and toads (generally associated with fertility in most cultures) and used them in art that personified lust. Art associated with lust shows a naked woman with snakes and toads feeding on her breasts and genitals. It is really just a hop between all that death and evil sexuality to lead straight into the link between frogs and toads and witches and witchcraft. The stereotypical old world “witch” had the skin appearance of a toad. Common folklore lists frogs and toads as familiars of witches and the Devil, and a creature that witches can transform themselves into. During the Great Plague of 1563 dried toads were used as amulets in England when Dr. George Thomson claimed to have cured himself by using one to absorb the “putrefactive ferment”. I can’t help but wonder if good Dr. Thomson thought toads so evil and loathsome that surely they would interact with the vileness of the Plague.

Enough about Medieval Europe and the Church and all those Western hang ups. For much of the world the frog and toad are good things. As you may remember from your school biology lessons, frogs lay many eggs. I don’t quite know how modern man feels about that, but back when humans were just trying make sense of the natural world many eggs equaled fertility. Egypt has Heket (Heqet, Hekit), the frog goddess of birth and fertility. She’s often depicted as an attractive woman with the head of a frog. Frogs like the water, and rain makes the land fertile, thusly frogs are rainmakers. The Chinese and Peruvians used frog images to call up rain showers, and the Mayans and Aztecs viewed the frog as a water deity whose croaking predicted and made rain. The frog was the lord of the earth and represented the curative powers of water for the Celts.

Another basic frog fact is that they go through a transformation: egg, tadpole, and frog. The moon, as we all know, goes through transformations as well, it’s phases. Mix those two things together and you can see how in Japan the frog is associated with lunar eclipses and in China, instead of the “man in the moon”, they have a toad in the moon. It’s believed that from the frog’s natural ability to transform is how it became to be featured prominently in folklore and fairy tales. Kiss the frog and it transforms into a handsome prince or beautiful princess, or conversely, be a misbehaving prince or princess and get changed into a frog. The Chinese and Japanese associate frogs with magic.

However, the Chinese take it up another level. In China the frog is associated with magic and is the face of the moon. Knowing that you can see how the adorable Chinese Moon Frog came into being. He’s the adorable frog with the coin in his mouth that you see in curio shops. The Chinese Moon Frog attracts wealth and longevity. Sometimes the frog has a coin in its mouth which attracts wealth and wards off evil spirits. In an almost perfect blending of all the aspects of frog symbolism, in Roman times frog amulets were used to protect homes and their occupants and to sustain romance and love.

Only time will tell what Froggy (or Froggie) will bring into Jacob’s life. The frog is fraught with perils, but offers up rich rewards. I guess Kermit was right, “It’s not that easy being green.”

A Valentine for You

My husband and I don’t really make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, or our wedding anniversary for that matter. We never really talked about it, but somehow we ended up on the same page. I know it’s going to sound corny, but I swear it is true, when you spend everyday being grateful that you’re with the one you love, you tend to not really care about holidays or events designed to make you feel the thing you are already feeling. However, there is one fun Valentine’s Day tradition that I would like to share with you.

I don’t know how it started, or when, but one year I was at some store right after Valentine’s Day and they had a bunch of their kids Valentine cards on sale. You know, the little ones you gave and received in elementary school. I was struck by how funny and horrible many of them were. On a whim I bought a box, I can’t remember what they were anymore, and decided I would give them to my friends for Valentine’s Day the next year. And thus was born a tradition known as “Rebecca’s Inappropriate Valentines”.

Some years are more horrible and inappropriate than others. I’ve done Lord of the Rings, perfect for geeks while being pretty awful, Pirates of the Caribbean, also good for my friends while still being rather off, Cartoon Network, which were actually just kind of good, and many more. One year I was sorely tempted by Crocodile Hunter Valentine’s cards that were on sale after his death, but I decided that those could potentially cross the line of “inappropriately funny” and land squarely under the banner of “in poor taste”.

This year’s cards were taking advantage of the Iron Man craze of the previous year. Of course, with a new film on the way timeliness isn’t where the inappropriateness comes from. However, there are many other ways this year’s batch were inappropriate. Firstly, Tony Stark wishing anyone a sincere and cheerful Valentine’s Day is just funny. Next, you have the always super G-rated text that all children’s cards have. That is always a gimme for Valentine inappropriateness. Lastly, these cards did not only have the sleek, red Iron Man from the movie, they also had the chunky, clunky, original suit as well. He hopes you “Have a Heavy Metal Valentine’s Day!”

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Magical Buffet!

The Sixties Were Awesome: Morgan’s Tarot

I’m enchanted by “Morgan’s Tarot”. I had never heard of this deck before getting an email from U.S. Games Systems, but after seeing it first hand, I don’t know how I hadn’t heard about this before. “Morgan’s Tarot” was originally published in 1970; created by Morgan Robbins and illustrated by Darshan Chorpash. It was republished again in 1983, and it has just been brought back again. Anyone who has seen this deck in any of its printings knows what I mean, once you see it, you can’t possibly forget.

Morgan Robbins created a 1970’s counterculture/new age deck of cards. Despite being called “tarot”, the cards are not hippy reinventions of the traditional Major and Minor Arcana. Instead, they’re fun, thoughtful, and mind bending cards that force you to look within to find their true meaning. I suspect the format would be called an “oracle deck” these days, where you draw a card and reflect on it’s meaning. And yes, there will be reflection with this deck, it’s impossible to avoid. With cards that say things such as, “It is not what you do that counts, it is…where your head is at.”, “There is no you.”, or “I come from a different planet.”, there is nothing to do but look within for a meaning. Of course it does come with a little booklet that offers some ideas about the cards. However, even those require their own bit of personal interpretation. For example, the “I come from a different planet.” card has a blurb in the booklet that reads, “Psychologically, the card might express the individual’s feeling of alienation or separation from the environment.” But that’s straight forward you say to yourself. What on earth is Rebecca talking about? Well, the second part of it’s blurb goes on to say, “In reality, of course, having come from Arcantmycin, the sixteenth planet in the Wycloxian systems of Andromeda, you are having great difficulty acting like an earthling, especially since your memory was wiped out at birth and you don’t realize you’re an alien. Still, knowledge of your origin might enable you to adapt to the ways of the natives.” The 60’s must have been awesome! Speaking of the 60’s, a warning for you squares, you will find cards such as “Grass”, “Mushroom”, and “Drug Dragged” in this deck. The 60’s were awesome!

The booklet does give you instructions on how to basically do a tarot spread with “Morgan’s Tarot”, and I’m sure that would be a good time, but what I really love is the second suggestion given for a use of the cards. “With two or more players, shuffle and deal an appropriate number of cards (five or seven are excellent numbers). The first player leads any card he chooses. The second player lays a card on top of the first, perhaps as an appropriate comment on this card. The play continues with the remainder of the cards. The object of the game is for everyone to win!” This does deserve another round of “The 70’s really were awesome!”, but I have to say in all honesty I thought this was rather clever. Certainly not for everyone’s taste, but I found it appealing. Very Zen after a fashion.

I can’t let this review end without taking a moment to discuss the art by Darshan Chorpash. All the cards are done in black and white in a very freehand ink style. Imagine the most endearing, darling art images you can muster from the 1960’s, times it by two, and you’ll get the illustrations for this deck. The exact words I uttered, the moment I pulled the “Morgan’s Tarot” box out of the mailer envelope, after seeing the “Love” card on the back were, “Oh my God, that is so cute.” Not what my husband is used to hearing around the house he looked over at me, so I showed him the back of the box. Even he had to admit that it was charming.

When it comes to tarot, I’m a bit of traditionalist, which is hysterical since I’m horribly ignorant about the meanings and symbolism found in tarot. Yet I remain oddly snobbish. That said, maybe that’s why I would call “Morgan’s Tarot” my favorite deck, after the obvious “Universal Waite Tarot” and the “Smith-Waite Tarot” decks. It’s an entirely different beast. It’s whimsical and fun, but also makes you ask yourself difficult questions like “Who am I”? Or harder still, “Tomato, Potato, Eggplant.” That’s it, the 60’s were awesome.

Religion and Mythology

For those of you who are new to The Magical Buffet, you may not be aware that in October 2006, when we launched The Magical Buffet, it was actually a monthly e-zine. Once a month our subscribers would have all the content emailed to them. Since it was trying to follow a magazine-like format, I decided there should be a letter from the publisher, like most magazines have.

When we relaunched The Magical Buffet into it’s new blog format, all of the old e-zine articles migrated over. This means even if you’re new, with a little time you could read all the content you may have missed from the “old days”. However my opening letters to my readers did not make it over to the new blog. I didn’t worry about it because they’re “just letters”, they’re not “real writing”. But as time passed I started to wonder, was something missing by them not being here on the blog?

So recently I started to read them again. In truth, as a new reader you’re probably not missing out on too much. The letters were generally just filled with gratitude. Thank you letters of the most earnest kind, published in response to the surprising outpouring of support and faith that I received, and continue to receive today. I’ve always prided myself on loyalty, and it made me happy to see that many of the people who I thanked in those letters are people and organizations that I still interact with today. It felt good to think that maybe I’ve done all right after all.

That said, there were a few letters that stood out. These were letters that I found offered up a piece of who I am and what I believe to my readers. Things that I thought I would like anyone who reads The Magical Buffet at any point to know about me, the person behind the keyboard.

This is one of those letters……

“Religion without myth not only fails to work, it also fails to offer man the promise of unity with the transpersonal and eternal.” C.G. Jung

“BETHANY (rubbing her temples): Two thirds of me wants to forget about this and go home. You know, yesterday I wasn’t sure God even existed. And now I’m up to my ass in Christian Mythology.

RUFUS: Let me let you in on a little inside info. God hates it when it’s referred to as mythology.” Kevin Smith’s film Dogma

What is religion? What is mythology? Is there a difference? Not to me. They say history is written by the winners and it’s safe to say that Judeo Christian beliefs won over let’s say for example the pantheonic beliefs of the ancient Romans. That which is generally considered mythology, at one point was fervently believed in as religion, as much as Christianity or Judaism is today. Is it fair to say that just because a mythological deity isn’t actively worshipped in the mainstream that it’s mythology, while the epic stories of The Bible are most assuredly religion? Absolutely not, and I reckon that there are some Goddess worshippers reading this that will tell you that straight up! An individual’s faith and belief are what makes a group of mythological tales a religion. It’s in the stories of a faith that its tenants are demonstrated. A religion that is a rule book doesn’t work. It has to incorporate stories, myths if you will, to transform a set of rules into a living breathing creation.

So what is “Magical Buffet Mythology”? It’s where I retell some of the definitive stories of various deities, and perhaps events, etc. Last month was Artemis, this month is Kuan Yin. For most, Artemis is considered myth, for over half the global population Kuan Yin is considered religion. Both are called “Magical Buffet Mythology”. Why? Because for one, it’s safe to say that my particular interpretations shouldn’t be considered the definitive versions of these tales! I’m a sarcastic person and it’s in these columns that I let my snarky flag fly! Also, a myth is just one believer away from a religion in my book. Who am I to decide which one is which?

I hope that everyone continues to enjoy the “Magical Buffet Mythology” columns. I certainly enjoy doing them. I also hope that everyone keeps an open mind about religion verses mythology and that no one takes offense to my personal views on the topic. After all, it’s just one opinionated dish along the buffet line.

Until next month,
Rebecca Elson
Publisher, The Magical Buffet

This was the second letter from the publisher that I wrote. Everything was new, and much like l am in real life, I just wanted everyone to like me. I feared that a column known as “Magical Buffet Mythology” that I was planning on using to discuss all kinds of noteworthy and little known deities had the potential of insulting someone about their personal beliefs. That would be the exact opposite of what I was hoping to do with my newly founded e-zine. When I decided to follow up my Artemis article with an article about Kuan Yin, a personal favorite of mine and a deity actively prayed to by probably half the global population, I grew concerned. This letter was written to express my personal views on mythology and religion. Since I didn’t lose any subscribers, it must have done the trick. Or perhaps even better, my readers didn’t have those kinds of hang ups.

With the new blog format you see that I do in fact have a category for religion and for mythology. To be honest, I’m sure how what I call mythology or religion these days. Most of the time, I categorize the articles as both. However, when I write about a deity, even in this new format, I still title every one “Magical Buffet Mythology”. And hopefully my new readers also don’t have those kinds of hang ups.

What I Learned from the 2010 Grammy Awards Show

Last night I watched the 2010 Grammy Awards. I know they were on Sunday, but I knew the show would run past my bedtime, so I recorded them. I figured instead of trying to compete to be one of the first blogs to discuss the awards show, which would have been impossible anyway, I would instead be writing fully informed by not only having watched the show, but also having had a full day of reflecting on other people’s opinions.

And there are loads of things I could address here. For instance, I thought Colbert was good, but I was bummed that he won best comedy album instead of Spinal Tap or Kathy Griffin. I found the performance from Green Day with the cast of the upcoming musical “American Idiot”, based on Green Day’s “American Idiot” album, fantastic. However, despite the addition of Sir Elton John, I found Lady Gaga’s performance at the opening of the show pretty average. Not being familiar with Beyonce’s live performances, I was impressed with the sheer abundance of feminine rage that she channeled. And let’s face it, Pink performing like a professional member of Cirque du Soleil while singing live is an act that I’m sure no one wanted to follow.

As you can see, there are loads to discuss without even touching on the fashion of the evening, which I will leave to the capable ladies at Go Fug Yourself, or the potential greater symbolism to be found at the event, which I’m sure The Vigilant Citizen will address at some point.

However, there was one theme to the event that no one seems to have commented on, and that was really driven home by one particular performance.

The song “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, written by Paul Simon and performed originally by the duo Simon and Garfunkel, is now 40 years-old. It has been covered by dozens of artists, including: Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Annie Lenox, and many, many more. Sunday night at the Grammy Awards the song was performed by Mary J. Blige (sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul”), Andrea Bocelli (an Italian pop tenor), and David Foster (a Canadian musician, record producer, composer, singer, songwriter and arranger). Although it’s not unheard of for an operatic tenor to perform with a pop artist (I mean who hasn’t Luciano Pavarotti performed with?), this vocal pairing was quite striking.

I still remember in high school when I first I heard about Mary J. Blige. She was a hairdresser from Yonkers, NY who got lucky, and the world of R&B was never the same. Regardless how many powerful female vocalists have come after her, to me there is only one Mary J. Blige. How different her young life must have been compared to Bocelli. Diagnosed with glaucoma at an early age, the Italian lost his eyesight permanently at the age of twelve. Music, if media sources are to be believed, was the only thing that provided him comfort. Although I’ve never seen or heard it anywhere, I imagine that a young Blige, a high school drop out living in Yonkers, probably found solace in music as well. Somehow these two amazingly different people came together and for one moment in time blended their voices together. Bocelli’s booming classical tenor wrapped around the rough thunderous vocals of Blige, and vice versa. Neither performer held back from their personal style, and yet classical and R&B married sublimely. It was one of those moments that made me step back and think, look what we humans can do. Two absolutely different people, coming from totally different backgrounds, carrying all of their own preconceptions, baggage, and scars, met on the common ground of music and created something new.

It’s what I love about us humans, the passion we put into carving out our identity and individuality can sometimes, unbeknownst to us, become a passion for becoming part of a greater group. How else can you explain country cutie Carrie Underwood getting her R&B on while performing “Earth Song”? Or punk/pop/rock drummer Travis Barker taking the stage with Lil’ Wayne, Eminem, and Drake? Popular culture sets trends or reflects what is trending in our culture, and if the Grammy Awards performances that I saw are in fact to be believed, many musical barriers are being breached. More importantly, these performances are showing that despite bending, blending, or breaking genres, the results need not be a bland homogenous mess. That perhaps the Seal of the United States of America just might have it right, e pluribus unum, out of many, one.

You can purchase this song on iTunes with all proceeds going to the Red Cross’ ongoing earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.