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Penn & Teller's Ordinary Deck Of Cards And My Sister

Last month, on my birthday, I received P&T’s Ordinary Deck of Cards.  Now, obviously, it’s not an ordinary deck of cards by any stretch of the imagination.  Also, obviously, I’m not going to give anything away on the internet (so those of you who actually have and use the cards will not hurt me). 

However, I will say that the design on the back is very interesting.  Unfortunately my eyesight is not good enough to take advantage of this design and use it to it’s full potential.  The deck instructions even has specifics for those of us with this problem (“put the deck down and walk away”). 

Even though I can’t use the cards properly I can take delight in sharing some of it with family, particularly my sister.   When I showed her the back of the cards, and her eyes were opened (so to speak), I got just a teeny, tiny idea of what it was like to be P&T.  Then her eyes got brighter, her mouth fell open and as she raised her hand to cover it as she laughingly said,


“Oh my god, that makes Criss Angel look like such a chump!” 

Birthday Party Threesome

Last month was my 42nd birthday.  It was also my friend J’s 43rd and my friend S birthday (he’s not telling, but he’s the oldest).  A group of JREFers got together and had a Threesome Birthday Party for us. 

Unfortunately, I woke up not feeling well (which would become worse and I would be out of work for a few days) but still wanted to see everyone.  Not to mention that, it’s my birthday party too!  I’ll drag an oxygen tent!

The gifts were very eclectic.  J’s favorite was an M&M dispenser that was a bunch of M&Ms on a sled.   S got a TARDIS (not functional unfortunately, but since it was a miniature that’s probably just as well). 

C gave me the Housewife’s Tarot deck.  It’s a functional (using the term very loosely) deck with 1950's like housewife artwork.  It has instructions for a reading that spreads in the shape of a martini glass.  B got me a little Dancing Diva doll for my car dashboard (she looks like an early 1960s songstress).  J & M presented me with one large frog and one smaller frog in a caldron that sang about their fear of the witch coming home and putting them in a potion (I asked if I kissed the frogs if they would turn into Penn & Teller).  S surprised me with the Penn & Teller Ordinary Deck of Cards (which of course is anything but).                        

B asked why most of my gifts had a witchy theme to them.  She did not know that I had been Wiccan for twelve years.  She laughed and said, “Oh, I was going to say, ‘I don’t know Tressa that well but she seems really nice; I don’t know why everyone is going with this witch stuff.’” (It’s all an act B; I’m eeeevvvviiiillll.)

M made a fantastic cake with a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy theme and a Get Smart theme.  She had wanted to have something to represent the year each of us was born.  How she and J forgot Star Trek (which aired two weeks before my birth) is a mystery.  Hand over your Geek and Nerd cards!

S surprised everyone with a Bleeding Heart dessert from Penn & Teller’s book How To Play With Your Food and gave me the honor of first stab (as I left early so as to not faint at someone else’s house).  I played it to the hilt.  Not only was it bloody it was bloody tasty as well. 

Even not feeling well, I still had a bloody good time becoming the meaning of life!

October 22, 2008

Loosing My Religion 7: The Pull Of The Woo


In early October I, and some friends I met through JREF, went to Salem, MA or, as I used to jokingly refer to it when I was Wiccan, the Holy Land.  Somehow the topic of my being Wiccan for twelve years (I stopped in early 2007) came up during lunch and one person mentioned that my social calendar must be more active now.  I replied no, just the opposite actually.  Attending or hosting a Ritual once or twice a month (with chatting before and after), and then birthdays and such, gave me a fuller schedule.

As we walked around Salem, I thought about my Wiccan days.  As I looked at all the beautiful trappings I thought about all the Rituals I had done over the years, both with friends and alone.  I’ve always loved the pseudo Victorian and pseudo-Medieval looks of many magickal items.  If money weren’t an issue I would decorate my house in a mix of Victorian, Medieval, Gothic and Bordello.

It really started me thinking more on some things I have been feeling lately.  I miss Wicca.  By that I mean I miss my Wiccan friends and the Rituals.

Now that I am no longer Wiccan I rarely get to see my friends who are Wiccan, with the exception of one.  It was always next to impossible to organize non-religious outings when I was Wiccan; there were spouses and spawn responsibilities, which is understandable of course  (I had only to check The Haglet for a pulse and my work was done).  There rarely seemed to be a problem with making it to Ritual though.  Even when I was religious I did not understand why it was easier to get to Ritual but not to dinner and a movie with friends. 

I stopped trying to organize dinners, museum trips, movies, etc when I was Wiccan.  After I left I did try again, as that was the only way we would see one another, but it was the same.  I was invited to Ritual often at first though.  Perhaps my friends thought that I would be coming back; that this was just a momentary break for me.  When I first left I was not sure it would be permanent.  It became so quite quickly.  My reply to their queries about my feelings on Laurie Cabot and her Science of Witchcraft Tradition probably brought that home to them.                  

It kind of sounds like I’m putting the “fault” with them and I certainly do not mean that.  I don’t think this is a situation in which there is a “fault.”  I did try to get together with them outside of Ritual but I did also give up trying. 

Now that my world view has been expanded, how do we find common ground?  Do we have any common ground?  I would not want them to feel uncomfortable around me nor would I want to hide myself so as not to make them uncomfortable around me.  I also know myself.  I doubt I would be able to keep quiet for long.  One “that’s because you’re a Virgo Tressa,” would bring out a response of “no, it’s because I’m me, I don’t ascribe to astrology as it is a faulted system and a form of prejudice.”  Nothing like telling your friends “I think what you believe in, like psychic diagnosis, is garbage, this is why (etc, etc), and now I’m just ashamed and embarrassed that I gave it even a thought and that it took me so long to recognize it for what it was.” 

It puts the importance of our friendships, or perhaps the lack thereof, into perspective.  If all we ultimately had in common was our religious choice, then our friendships have died their natural deaths. 

Mourn the loss, savor the good memories, move on. 

As I said, it wasn’t just the endings of friendships that was brought to my mind while walking around the Wiccan Wonderland of Salem, MA, it was the Rituals themselves.  I’m referring to not only the ones shared but the ones solitary as well.  I don’t mean the obvious, what most people think when they think of missing religion; the comfort and community, the illusion of accomplishing something by doing pretty nothings.  As I didn’t believe that magick was an ends to a means but simply a part (one could cast a spell to find a job but one also still had to send out resumes) it was never the end all and be all.

The process of Ritual, the ritual of Ritual.  The choosing of items.  The crystals, their brightness and texture, they looked like earth, they looked like stars, eternity in my hand.  The mixing of ingredients for incense; the herbs and oils merging, feeling them on my fingers, sometimes prickly, sometimes sticky, the scents almost becoming part of me like faint dreams caught in daylight.  Setting the altar; candles, athame, wand, cauldron, and select decorations for purpose.  Choosing the music; Aerosmith to ZZ Top, the frame for the picture.  Then there was the Ritual itself, the words, the bones of the body.  Sometimes I used the works of others but more often I weaved the tapestry.  

I think that’s the core of it.  It’s not the trappings so much.  I can still have pretty pseudo Victorian bottles. pseudo Medieval clothing, and the inspired artwork.  I certainly still have my favorite crystals (strangely enough ones I never used for Ritual), the candles and the cauldron (burned the head and claws of a Stop Sylvia Browne pinata I made in it; fire is universal).  It’s the creativity.  Wicca inspired me.  Not just in Ritual writing but in poetry writing as well. 

The pull of the woo I feel isn’t actually a desire to believe again.  Not an impossible feat but the mental gymnastics I would have to do would be Olympic worthy.  I miss the creativity Wicca afforded me. 

In a way, I’m almost mad that Wicca inspired me.  Mad because of the time I wasted on something that turned out to be hollow; beautiful smoke but ultimately empty air.

(This also leads me to look at the time I wasted in other ways but that is perhaps a tale for another late night blog.) 

I’ve reread this and realized I’m being a bit disingenuous.  It is the creativity but there is also the aspect that what I was creating may be helping/having a positive effect on what I was trying to accomplish.  I think there was something to that illusion that added an emotional component to what I was doing, something other than the enjoyment I took from the actual act.  Perhaps that was the “spark” in the creativity, at least for me. 

I can trace back some of this.  As I mentioned in earlier Loosing My Religion entries, I was raised Christian, Catholic for the first twelve years, Pentecostal for the rest, before I became Wiccan.  Before the age of nine, we had sort of a mix of magick (I use the k spelling only to differentiate from stage magic); I was learning how to read playing cards (as if they were tarot cards), the ouija board, my parents went to a few seances.  I can’t remember how we meshed that with Christianity but ultimately, when we became Born Again (when I was nine) all the of magickal stuff was burned (told you; fire is universal).

I remember missing that.  I hadn’t wanted to give it up.  In my family that was not an option and certainly not something to be expressed. 

That must have played a part in my being attracted to Wicca and to still being attracted the trappings of it.  I hadn’t wanted to give up the magick.  Heck, I held onto Santa until I was ten. 

It’s strange to be almost of two minds.  I’ve seen the evidence, or lack thereof, for any type of magick and for deities for that matter.  I can see how one can fool oneself and am learning to recognize those logical fallacies/mental gymnastics more and more.  Yet, there is that tiny part that wouldn’t mind clinging to the illusions.

I wonder if this is like the shadow of drug addiction.  One can see how it’s harmful, how it’s a lie, an illusion, yet one still wants to shoot up on occasion. 

I think I will always have a woo leaning mind.  I think it’s just been too ingrained in my psychological bedrock to be exorcized (pun intended).  But I know that about myself.  I am aware of it.  Awareness may be the strongest focuser I have in the proper training of my brain.   That is basically what I am trying to do, retraining my brain, and you know the old saying, “old habits die hard”.  I would add that old habits have zombie tendencies that one must be prepared for.  Eternal vigilance.   

On a side note, giving up deities was actually easy.  By the time I got to Wicca I was of the mind “I believe in the possibility of there being ‘someone/thing’ of a supernatural god like bent, and I choose to express that belief through Wicca.”  Now I am of the mind “I believe in the possibility but due to the lack of proper evidence feel that it is highly unlikely and live my life accordingly.”  Same with magick.  Is it possible?  Of course.  Is it likely?  According to the lack of proper evidence; no. 

The magician Jamy Ian Swiss said, on the TAM 5 DVD, when talking about wearing his “Critical Thinker” wristband while Randi was in the hospital; (paraphrased) “skeptics can engage in ritual behavior without supernatural connotations.”  In this sentiment perhaps I can find a middle ground.  

Four of the major holidays (Sabbats) in Wicca revolved not around magick per se but around the solstices and equinoxes.  There is no reason not to celebrate natural events and no reason why I can’t adapt the non-supernatural aspects of these celebrations and create my own.  Ritual behavior without supernatural connotation.  It’s not like the solstices and equinoxes are magickal events in and of themselves and I can stop winter solstice magickally simply because I don’t want to shovel my driveway (damn it). 

On yet another side note, pertaining to creativity; Marion Zimmer Bradley, the author of the “Mists of Avalon” series and “Witchlight” series, was not a pagan of any sort, she was Episcopalian.  From what I’ve read of the Women of the Otherworld series, author Kelley Armstrong flipped supernatural creatures to natural creatures by making the supernatural simply different species. 

I think floating, white candles will look lovely in my cauldron for winter solstice.

October 2008

Loose (loos), adjective, looser, loosest, adverb, verb, loosed, loosing:
free or released from fastening or attachment,
free from anything that binds or restrains; unfettered.