Maya Angelou deserves better than this

I understand how the wrong quote ended up on the Maya Angelou postage stamp, I really do. Poetry isn’t my thing, I’ve never read her work, and I might have made the same mistake.  What I can’t comprehend is why doing right by this preeminent poet is so hard.

Credit: Dave Itzkoff, via Twitter

One does not have to appreciate poetry to understand that a writer who deserves her own stamp deserves her own work on that stamp.

One does not have to be a woman to wonder if the United States Postal Service would allow this mistake to turn into disrespect if she were a man.

One does not have to be a person of color to wonder why, when we are trying so hard to recognize that not everyone who has done amazing things in this country was white, we can’t take the time, and spend the money, to reissue this stamp.  It can be with a quote of Angelou’s, or at the very least, with proper credit for Joan Walsh Anglund, whose line of poetry, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song, ” has apparently been misattributed to Angelou for years.

Therefore, I did something about it, but it won’t be worth much unless I can get a hundred thousand like-minded individuals to help by signing the petition that calls for this mistake to be fixed.  Because making  mistake is human, but coming up with excuses not to make it right is just pathetic.

Please sign, share, reblog, and put up a stink.  Thank you.

Advice for the Pagan parent: can you help?

A friend of mine came to me with a problem.  Eir high-school-ish-age child was told by a teacher that “anything outside of the Abrahamic faiths is NOT a religion.”  The child “did call the teacher on it, but got shut down in class.”

I found some great resources that dance around the problem, like this piece on advocating for Pagan children in school and an essay educating teachers about Paganism (which is far from perfect, but as my friend’s family is the sort of Pagan described, was perfectly appropriate).  I recommended assuming that ignorance does not equal hatred, but that creating a written trail while approaching the teacher and administrators would be a good idea in case outside advocacy is necessary.

I also turned to my amazing wife, who lives in both of those worlds, and she was flabbergasted, asking, “Has the teacher given a definition of religion beyond this narrow statement?”  She turned up some ideas on what religion is and pointed out that academics include non-Abrahamic faiths among world religions, as well as saying, “I’d go straight to the ACLU.  They eat stuff like this for breakfast.”

So now I invoke the power of crowdsourcing:  what advice would you give my friend, and why?

How have the divinities helped you in times of adversity and violent upheaval?

The gods embrace, or perhaps embody, paradox.  While they encouraged me to control anger, they have also helped me to use it.  Control, after all, does not mean suppress or eliminate; paradox and contradiction are rarely that if one looks deeply enough.  There have been times when I have been well-rooted in my anger, willing to stand my ground when I otherwise would not have had the strength, and I have been amazed at the results.

Over the past two or three years I have managed the household finances, and there have been times when money has been tight beyond tight.  When obstacles have become insurmountable, something comes along to help surmount them.  Tax refund.  Inheritance.  Unclaimed funds returned.

And while I have seen some friendships wither on the vine, others have sprung up, stronger than any I’ve had before, supporting my need for acceptance and community in ways I do not expect.

In the past, I gave up on religion when times were dark, because I did not have the strength to believe.  I still lack belief in the dark times, but as I follow an orthopraxic path, all I must do is keep up with my routine, and the gods take care of the rest, whether I believe in them or not.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

What does your tradition do to increase the power and flow of blessings?

I practice Hellenismos, the reconstructed worship of the gods of ancient Greece, or Hellas.  While the variations within that tradition are incredibly diverse, I think it’s safe to say that kharis is universally Hellenic.

Kharis is nicely defined in the book of the same name by Sarah Kate Istra Winter.  While she presents several definitions in the front, the one that is most apt here is from Burkert’s Greek Religion:

“Men live by the hope of reciprocal favour, charis.  ‘It is good to give fitting gifts to the immortals’ — they show their gratitude.”

This is not a quid pro quo deal, where I pay a god a particular price and get a favor in return.  In fact, one day not so long ago I found myself thinking in that fashion, bargaining with a particular deity that I would make a certain offering if a particular event took place as I desired, and I brought myself up short, and then apologized profusely.  I vowed to make the stated offering regardless.

The event I was desirous of did indeed occur as I had hoped, and that’s an important point.  I do not pay my gods for favors, I make them offerings out of devotion or love, or both.  Do we feed and clothe our children to guarantee a nice nursing home placement, or because we love them?  It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but to the gods, it’s written plainly on our faces.

When I approach my gods with offerings and ask nothing in return, I am much more likely to receive the blessings I need, rather than those I want.  Those blessings do come, and they come powerfully, when I pay honor in this way.  It’s a simple system, and it works.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?

Peace.  Acceptance.  Patience.  And a clue.

Peace.  I came to my gods with anger in my heart.  I still get angry, but I no longer feel that it will never end.

Acceptance.  One of the reasons I can see an end to anger is that I now find it easier to accept that some things are just out of my control, and that that means that it’s okay to let them go.

Patience.  I swore I would never have any, but it’s there, and it’s growing.  I doubt anyone in my life can see it, but see acceptance.

A clue.  Apparently, there has been good advice, good information, and good sense surrounding me from day one, but I couldn’t see it — or didn’t want to.  Belief in my gods comes with the understanding that they sometimes dangle useful information in front of me, and I need to be paying attention.  A side benefit of paying attention for the gods is that mortals are pretty damned smart, too.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

Financial building blocks: paying attention

It really didn’t take much to turn my financial world around.

The job paid well, and my expenses were low because I never felt inspired to spend for the sake of showing people how much money I had.  I certainly wasn’t wealthy, but I was able to live well within my means and save money for investing and retirement.  I had my finger on my financial pulse constantly, maybe even obsessively, and I was headed in the right direction.

As I said, it really didn’t take much to turn it all around.

Much like the Great Recession itself, the causes were varied and deep.  The job increasingly was a worse and worse fit, and working for myself seemed a good idea.  Some bad business decisions and a tanking economy had me working (“consulting”) for others before long, at least part-time, while I tried to figure out how to increase cash flow and not live off my savings.  There was enough left, thankfully, for me to be able to partner with my wife to buy a house; she had the income to qualify for the mortgage, and I just barely had enough to get us the down payment.

And so we headed into this country’s economic downturn:  getting by, living in a house which somehow managed to stay worth more than what we owed on it, looking for better ways to bring in money and not paying attention to where it was all going.

That’s right, not paying attention.  The greater the money problems, the less you want to think about them.  You don’t want to check the bank balance, you certainly don’t want to see how your retirement funds are doing in an endless bear market, and overall, the word of the day is struthious.  (In the present economy, maybe the operative word for what many people think about their money is santorum, but that’s entirely too offensive to discuss here.  I’m only linking to that site so it stays atop the Google rankings.)  It’s easy to stick your head in the sand and simply hope the money problems go away.

It may be ironic, but in order to honor Ploutos, the blind god of wealth, I’m heading into this year with my eyes open.  I want to see what I used to see:  all the financial information and trends in my life.  I’m not interested in worries, mind you; I find thinking like, “Oh, we won’t have the money to pay all the bills!” to be completely counterproductive in all circumstances.  You don’t look at money to worry about it; you look at money to control it.  If you worry, you start to fear again, and then you look away.  The only way money will be one’s ally is if one can look upon it dispassionately.

The shiny new tool in my toolbox is, a service that allows me to view the family’s full financial picture in one place. is a free financial tracking website which is safe and secure.  Part of the security comes from the high-end encryption that they use, but it’s also safe because you can’t actually move money around from within that site; you have to go to your bank or other financial site to handle the transactions.

The site has pre-figured budgets based on your current income and expenses, which can be tweaked and modified very easily.  It can send you alerts about things like low balances, overdue bills, and suspicious activity.  They make their money on referrals, recommending things like credit cards and mortgage refinances from their partners if you could use something like that.  I haven’t found the marketing to be intrusive.

Peeling away the film of ignorance and taking a hard look at your finances is the prerequisite to taking control of money instead of letting it control you.  I firmly believe that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe (even if Einstein didn’t really think so), and that it works on people whether they pay attention to it or not.  In future posts I’ll look at the ways that compound interest has positively and negatively impacted my life.  Insofar as money is, indeed, congealed energy, compound interest shows that it follows some sort of rule of abundance.

The question to answer, of course, is abundance for whom?

Honoring Ploutos

I’ve been giving some thoughts on how to honor Ploutos, god of wealth.  The youth was blinded by Zeus so he would distribute more indiscriminately, but that method of wealth distribution isn’t exactly working out for most of us.  I think it’s our fault Ploutos doesn’t pay as much attention as we’d like.

Hellenistic gods like offerings, and Ploutos is the blind guardian of shiny things, so I’ve come up with some ways to honor him.  I believe that, living in darkness as he does, that he is appreciative of offerings he can hear, as well as offerings from under the earth and things that grow from the earth.

Offerings to Ploutos in a dark corner

  • I wrote a hymn to Ploutos, the first hymn I have written to a god.  Both the writing and the reading of a hymn is a votive offering.
  • Libations with beer, both because it is made of grain and because opening the bottle has is audible.
  • I started a small altar to him.  It’s in a shadowed corner, symbolizing both his blindness and the subterranean source of precious metals and gems.  The offerings are stones and coins.  I still need a proper god figure for him.
  • I’m still researching what kinds of incense might be pleasing.  Myrrh symbolizes wealth and is earthy like this god.  It’s hard to go wrong with frankincense for any god in this pantheon.  There are, pardon the pun, a wealth of recipes for incense intended to draw wealth to the user, but I need to figure out which ones Ploutos might like.
  • I’m making a commitment to avoid mistakenly calling him Plouton, or writing his name that way.  I’ve caught myself several times just in writing the hymn and this post, so I am going to take extra time during my devotions to get it right.
Ploutos seems to help me draw my many polytraditionalist beliefs together.  As a classic earth-worshipping Gaiaped, I honor the relentless patience of the earth, in the form of plate tectonics and other slow changes.  The sound principles of investing are all based on long-term planning and patience.  Sitting in Quaker meeting is all about waiting, and this morning in that waiting I realized I need to write more posts about money, because this is my ministry.