It’s not my fault. My mother tells me this so often that the words bounce off and I’m not even sure what they mean some of the time. How can it not be my fault? This time I dropped a milk bottle – not a full one thankfully. Still, the mess of glass and milk was rather bad, and I cried, and I panicked.

“It’s not your fault,” she said. “Just an accident. No need to cry over it.”

I saw her reach for my shoulder – I know she meant to comfort me but I flinched, and so she took the hand back again. Part of me wanted her to cuddle me up so that I could be her little girl again, safe and protected. But I can’t. Not any more. Not ever again. Not my fault. Not my fault. Maybe it would be better if it was – at least that way I could do something about it.

This morning she sent me to the shops for buns. My brother does not eat buns, although my parents and I like them very much. He’s terribly fussy and usually gets his own way in things. Jeremy always has a cream cake, but they didn’t have any cream cakes left and I didn’t know what to do. In the end I came home without anything at all. Mother wasn’t cross with me. Not so long ago she would have been. She would have shouted at me for daydreaming and forgetting, or for not using my head. Instead, she looked at me very sadly and she nodded, and I felt so ashamed of myself. More than if she had shouted I think. The guilt of it all weighs so heavily on me.

“Did I do the wrong thing?” I asked her.

“No, really. If you weren’t sure what to do it was probably best that you came back. We’ll go together.”

And we did. She bought the buns, and an iced cake for my brother Jeremy. Being with her I didn’t feel so bad. I could hide behind her, and she did all the talking. No one looked at me, which was much better than when I’d been there on my own. I thought they must all be able to see right into me and know what had happened, as though some sign of it showed on my face. Even though mother had sorted things out, I still worried about the cake because it wasn’t the right sort and I knew Jeremy would be cross about it.

When we sat down to tea he eyed his plate up.

“Weren’t there any cream ones?” he said.

“No,” my mother answered. “You’ll have to make do with that.”

“Did Alice get it wrong?”

“No, I went to the bakery myself and there weren’t any.”

“Oh,” he said. “She’s such a scatterbrain these days.”

But that was enough for me, because after all it wasn’t his usual cream cake and he thought I’d made a mistake. His words set me crying again.

“You leave Alice alone,” my mother said. “It wasn’t her fault.”

“I’m sorry,” I wailed. I felt as though it had to be my fault. His irritation over the cake seemed like anger with me, and I couldn’t tell the difference any more. I couldn’t eat my tea after that. Jeremy has been his usual self with me, which meant he bossed me about and said rather hard things. Jeremy is four years older than me, and has a job, and a girlfriend. He calls me kid, and sometimes girly. Jeremy does not know.

I went and sat in the garden for a while, under the tree. It didn’t seem to help much so I went and crouched between father’s bean poles instead. I always used to hide there, before. It felt like a safe place once, but not any more. The evening started to get cold and my cardigan wasn’t very thick, so I went back inside. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I wandered round the house for a while, looking out of windows and chewing on the ends of my hair. This was to be the last of my free time, but I didn’t know how to enjoy it. After this summer, when I turned fourteen, I too would have a proper job. I planned on going to night-school as well in the evenings – shorthand and typing would stand me in good stead. I felt very grown up when I thought about all of that, even if Jeremy did keep calling me ‘kid’.

In the end I went and sat on the piano stool. I lay my palm flat on the cold dark wood of the lid, then I leaned right over and pressed my check against it too. It was just a musical instrument after all. It wouldn’t care what I did.

For a long time before things went wrong, the piano was my friend. If I felt sad, or the day hadn’t gone very well I would sit and play. Pulling out the bright, tinkling notes and turning dots on the page into melodies cleared my mind. How would I ever be able to do that again? I didn’t know. I wanted the comfort of the music and to lose myself in the sound of it. I lifted the lid, staring down at the keys. The familiar pattern of black and white waited for me. I touched the cold notes, pressing them down so gently that they didn’t sound. A queasy feeling churned about in my stomach, palms sweating, mouth drying.

“Alice?” My mother’s voice, questioning, worried.

I turned to face her, having no words to say.

“Are you going to play? Can I listen?”

I shook my head. “Not today. Not yet.”

Was she disappointed with me? Had I let her down somehow? My fault. Always my fault.

I couldn’t sleep. Getting up in the middle of the night, I pulled a jumper over my nightdress and crept down the dark staircase. I didn’t want to light a candle for fear of waking the others up. Father and Jeremy both had work in the morning and wouldn’t thank me for disturbing them. In the front room, I opened the curtains, and let in a little moonlight. The piano gleamed darkly at me. I sat down in front of it and lifted the lid. The keys were so cold that touching them chilled my fingers. I played silently, hands gliding over the instrument in familiar patterns even though I didn’t compress any key far enough to sound it. I could hear the music in my head, but didn’t make a single noise.

He’d stolen the music from me. Taken away all the good things I’d felt. I’d been proud of my playing, before. Now I felt unsure of it. I felt unsure of everything. What could I trust? I mimed playing, that was all I could manage.

I don’t have to go for piano lessons any more. I still want to play, but I don’t know how to. His face is there in my mind. When I touch the keys and make a sound, I can’t stop myself from remembering what he did to me. I couldn’t find the right words to say and make him stop. My fault.

2010 February Desktop Wallpaper Calendar

Here ya go!!!! It’s the Desktop Wallpaper for February/2010. These are free…I make them for my computer as a hobby and wanted to share them with all our fabulous followers showing my appreciation!!!!!

You can share these AND you can add your own info, but please, when sharing, share the original.


Preview: (Do not save the Preview. Will not look right when stretched.)

Just click on the size below and it will take you to my online album. From there, right click and save as.

Desktop Size 1680×1050

Desktop Size 1024×768

Desktop Size 800×600

All, if any, artists used (their names are on their piece of art). So if you like them, please hunt them down and buy their stuff!!!!!

Let us know if you enjoy them!!!!!!!!!!

January 29, 2010 Dear Spirit…On Women’s Issues-Women in Power

Since this month at The Pagan and the Pen is dedicated to women’s issues I thought I’d write about women in positions of power and save the readings for the next go round.

I read a fascinating story recently about Boudica, Queen of the Iceni tribe of ancient Britain. She was a force to be reckoned with for a moment in history, when she fought against Rome and won.  In fact, she was so fear inducing the Roman Emporer, Nero, seriously considered the idea of abandoning the country to the indigenous people.

Boudica (there are several spellings of her name, for ease of use, I chose one of the more modern representations) was married to Prasutagus, an Icenian king who ruled, only barely, in conjunction with Rome, and from whom borrowed considerable amounts of money. When he died, the Celtic king left joint rule in his will to his daughters as well as the Roman Emporer. The patriarchal society of Rome refused to honor his request upon his passing. His kingdom was annexed immediately and Boudica was flogged, while her daughters raped, publicly. All the money borrowed by Prasutagus from Roman lenders was called in. The Iceni people didn’t stand a chance against such manipulation.

In about AD 60/61, while the Roman governor Paulinus was away at war, Boudica led the Iceni and the Trinovantes in a revolt. Her wrath was unrelenting, her vengeance mighty. They destroyed Camulodunum (Colchester), routing a Roman legion, the IX Hispania, which was sent to protect the settlement. Londinium (London) fell next, completely razed and burned to the ground along with Verulamium (St. Albans).  Supposedly, close to 80,000 people died, but that statistic is unverified. Shortly thereafter, the Romans regrouped in the West Midlands and despite the Queen’s overwhelming numbers, she was defeated at the Battle of Watling Street. Rather than be captured by despised Roman hands, she poisoned herself.

Another woman of power, also attempting to force the hand of Rome, shared the same fate. Cleopatra VII Philopater ruled Egypt at a time when Rome was at its most strong–the time of Julius Caesar.  Her charisma and her beauty combined with an exceptional mind captured the attention some of the world’s most powerful men. Contrary to popular belief, Cleopatra was descended from a Greek line, not an Arabic one. Much was made of this incredible woman who could charm the skin off a snake and according to legend, ultimately died from its bite. In the Life of Antony, Plutarch wrote “judging by the proofs which she had before this of the effect of her beauty upon Caesar and Gnaeus, the son of Pompey, she had hopes that she would more easily bring [Marc] Antony to her feet. For Caesar and Pompey had known her when she was still a girl and inexperienced in affairs, but she was going to visit Antony at the very time when women have the most brilliant beauty.” According to Plutarch what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive were her wit, charm and “sweetness in the tones of her voice.”

It was recorded by Roman historians that Boudica was “possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women”. She was tall, had long red hair down to her hips, a harsh voice and a piercing glare.” In my mind, she was considered a woman of beauty as well as power. Perhaps her appearance was too much for Roman taste, but I think her stature was impressive enough for a people whose sense of independence was resolute and unwavering. The fact they respected women as equal enough to lead them, the fact their king willed his kingdom to his daughters, speaks volumes to me about a woman’s equality in their culture.

So what happened to us? What rabbit hole did the human race fall into that women became gelded over time and were treated as chattel? One could argue, hey, men are physically stronger and eventually realized that power was a great equalizer. Perhaps. Another argument indicates that women became too full of themselves and their egos led to their downfall, again, perhaps.

My personal life experience has shown me the strongest woman is stronger than the strongest man. Oh, I hear the groaning now. That is NOT a She-Ra Manhater comment. Men have a different kind of mental, emotional and physical strength. Both sexes have a purpose, both have strengths and weaknesses the other can use and shore up when the going gets tough. We need one another for harmony and balance. It is the natural order of things. What I’m stating is in our modern-day society, women are still allowed to feel and men have been forced over time to stifle the free expression of their gentler emotions. It seems only pride, boasting, anger, aggressiveness are dominant although to be fair, joy, celebration, and love can still be shared if the moment is right. Goddess forbid a man is caught crying in public, he will, 9 times out of 10, be shunned for it (even by women, truth be told), unless he is in mourning. Again, just personal opinion, but a fairly accurate one, I think.

When I watched Hilary Clinton try for the Democratic nomination for Presidency, I was all for it. She has the mind and tenacity to serve in such a position and it’s high time women started vying for that most vaunted of public service. What dumbfounded me though, was watching the crowds around her. In one speech she gave, the camera panned the audience of supporters. As the camera moved right, a man, more than likely put in the audience by the male competition she ran against, held up a sign.  It read, “WASH MY SHIRT.” Goddess help me I wanted to reach right through the television screen and pound that man into submission, Boudica style. Then, I laughed. What it ultimately showed me was how threatened he was by a woman in power. I tickled myself with the thought his sex life must be very boring if he’s always the dominant partner to his woman, i.e., Missionary style.

We have come so far, we women. I do not underestimate how hard we have worked to re-establish our equality, nor the male support we have in pursuing it. The sign incident during Hilary’s campaign shows we still have far to go, though. Until then, I will teach by setting an example not only to my daughters, but to everyone, male and female, power and/or leadership is not about dominance or the ability to dominate (which works, but is a very dangerous way to live), it is not about gender. It is about discipline, self-control and, in my opinion, altruism, working for the highest of purposes for the benefit of all.

Until next time!

Erin Sinclair, (“For love that’s out of this world!”),

Women and Paganism

Since this is women’s issues month, I thought I would post something on why women are drawn to paganism.

For me it was about finding a religion that treated everyone as equals. I was raised Catholic and as a kid I attended church on Sunday and Bible classes. What bothered me was that women in the Bible were treated badly. They were placed on a lower level than men and if they did rebel, they were called harlots. Women in the Bible were at the mercy of their fathers or husbands and could be punished for small offenses, or worse, killed by being stoned to death. This bothered me, but I did not know about other religions until I got older.

I left the Catholic Church when I was old enough to make my own decisions. I just could not be part of a religion that treated women like lower beings. It was wrong to me, but I still did not know what I wanted. It was not until I was in my early thirties that I met someone who opened my mind to other religions. She taught me that pagans are not Devil worshippers like I was led to believe. It was a spiritual awakening for me and I read books on the subject to learn more. I was attracted to paganism mainly because of its equality. There are gods and goddesses, each equally powerful. Women and men are treated in the same way. I also think the earth based religions bring out that nurturing aspect that most women possess. There is respect for fellow humans and all creatures as well as respect for the earth. And why should worshipping be confined to a church? To me, an outside setting is much more closer to the gods.

I have a feeling of freedom that I did not have in the Catholic Church. I also like that one on one connection with higher powers that you do not have in a church setting where a priest is between you and the higher power. That was another thing that bothered me about the Catholic Church—women are forbidden to be priests.

Most women want to be in control of their own lives, to make their own decisions and not be limited to the rules of an oppressive religion that favors men. I have nothing against men. I just want to be treated as an equal, to have a voice when it comes to connecting with the higher powers of the universe. With paganism I found that necessary balance that I needed in my life.

Kelley Heckart

‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’

All That Dies Shall Be Reborn


Hoof and horn, hoof and horn
All that dies shall be reborn
Corn and grain, corn and grain
All that falls shall live again.

I never thought I’d be saying those words for a close friend who was not that much older than myself. James passed through the veil on January 17th at the age of 41. A healthy, active man for most of his years, it came as a huge shock to all of us who knew him.

I met James in December of 2003 on the advice of a mutual friend. He and I hit it off and began a relationship that never quite might it into fully romantic. We shared some common interests but the spark just wasn’t there. I was still hooked on someone else, really, and thankfully James was understanding about it. He helped me get through that loss by listening, by being there with a shoulder to cry on, by making me dinner and helping clean out two huge closets that contained a lot of miscellaneous crap from my marriage and past relationship. He helped me move on, just as much and in some ways even more so, than anyone else. He was the first one to step up and put paid to my never-ending divorce by rounding up some others and holding a ritual the night before I was to appear before the judge.

I introduced him to another friend, Mel. Despite a slight difference in their ages, they did hit it off, and she moved to BC when he got a job out there. They married secretly in 2006, a ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace with only the secretary and a passerby as witnesses. Swept her off her feet, he did. Mel has always said (and I tend to agree) that their spur-of-the-moment elopement was extremely romantic. The pair of them introduced me to S. not long after and that began a complicated long distance relationship that to this day I still hold very dear and still haven’t quite figured out.

Later that same year James, Mel, S. and myself formed a writing circle under the pseudonym Rhada McKai. At the present time we have one novel and a handful of short stories that were in the ‘Work in Progress’ file. When Mel is ready, we’ll talk about continuing our work in James’ memory. For now, Rhada’s only appearance will be in Courting Morpheus (currently in progress for publication with Belfire Press).

The wake and passing ritual were held Sunday night, and memorial service on Monday. S. recited a poem by Mary Frye used at both pagan and Christian ceremonies alike:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

As I lit my candle last Monday after receiving word of James’ passing, I spoke the following words, which began the healing process, and I hope helped give comfort during his passage to the Otherworld.

Nephthys, carry James swiftly and gently to your realm. Hold him as dear to your heart as we here have held him as dear to ours. Give him the strength to meet the next life with happiness and health. So Mote It Be.

James’ favorite novel was Watership Down. I ended my personal blog with this same phrase, finding it fitting for one such as he.

My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.

Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

An Ancient Invocation to Lakshmi

This is the Sri Sukta, a devotional hymn dedicated to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, abundance, prosperity and fertility.  It is found in the Rigveda, an ancient and sacred Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns.  It is said that for the adoration of Lakshmi, there is no hymn equal to the Sri Sukta.

I have used this hymn as a devotional prayer when I feel it is necessary to my life, and it always produces amazing results in both material and spiritual form. I make the dedication to perform it for an allotment of time (ie saying the prayer three times a day for 33 days) as it teaches me discipline as well as opening me spiritually to the gifts of Lakshmi. I have included the Sanskrit as well as the English translation.

Hopefully it aids some of you as well, in your writing and in your lives!

Śrīm Hiraņya varnám hariņīm suvarna-rajata-srajám
Chandrám hiranmayīm lakshmīm jatavedo ma avaha|(1)
Hrīm Tám ma ávaha játavedo lakśhmīm anapa gáminīm
Yasyám hiraņyam vindeyam gám aśvam puruśhán aham|| (2)

(1-2) Invoke for you O Agni, the Goddess Lakshmi, who shines like gold, yellow in hue, wearing gold and silver garlands, blooming like the moon, the embodiment of wealth. O Agni! Invoke for me that unfailing Lakshmi, blessed by whom, I shall win wealth, cattle, horses and men.

Klīm Aśhwa-pūrvám ratha-madhyám hasti náda prabódhiním
Śhriyam devím upahvaye śhrír ma devír jushatám| (3)
Aim Kám sósmitám hiranya prákárám árdrám jvalantím triptám tarpayantím
Padme sthitám padma-varnám támihópahvaye śhriyam|| (4)

(3-4) I invoke Shri (Lakshmi) who has a line of horses in her front, a series of chariots in the middle, who is being awakened by the trumpeting of elephants, who is divinely resplendent. May that divine Lakshmi grace me. I hereby invoke that Shri (Lakshmi) who is the embodiment of absolute bliss; who is of pleasant smile on her face; whose lustre is that of burnished gold; who is wet as it were, (just from the milky ocean) who is blazing with splendour, and is the embodiment of the fulfillment of all wishes; who satisfies the desire of her votaries; who is seated on the lotus and is beautiful like the lotus.

Souh:  Chandrám prabhásám yaśhasá jvalantím śhriyam lóke deva justám udárám
Tám padminim-ím saranam aham prapadye’ alakshmír me naśyatám tvám vrne| (5)
Ǒm Ǎditya varne tapasó dhijátó vanaspatis tava vrikshó’ tha bilvah
Tasya phalani tapsá nudantu mayántaráyás cha báhya alakshmíh|| (6)

(5-6) I resort to that Lakshmi for shelter in this world, who is beautiful like the moon, who shines bright, who is blazing with renown, which is adored (even) by the gods, which is highly magnanimous, and grand like the lotus. May my misfortunes perish. I surrender myself to You, O resplendent like the Sun! By your power and glory, plants like the bael tree have grown up. may the fruits thereof destroy through the grace of all inauspiciousness rising from the inner organs and ignorance as well from the outer senses.

Hrīm Upaitu mám deva-sakah kírtis cha maniná saha
Prádūr bhūtó’ smi rashtre’ smin kírtim riddhim dadátu me| (7)
Śrīim Kshut pipásá-amalám jyesthám alakshmím náshayámy aham
Abhūtim asamriddhim cha sarván nirnuda me grihat|| (8)

(7-8) O Lakshmi! I am born in this country with the heritage of wealth. May the friends of Lord Siva (Kubera, Lord of wealth and Fame), come to me. May these (having take their abode with me), bestow on me fame and prosperity. I shall destroy the elder sister to Lakshmi, the embodiment of inauspiciousness and such evil as hunger, thirst and the like. O Lakshmi! Drive out from my abode all misfortunes and poverty.

Ka e í la Hrīm Gandha dvárám durá dharşhám nitya-pushtám karíshiním
Iśhvarígm sarva bhūtánám tám ihó pahvaye śhriyam| (9)
Ha Sa Ka Hala Hrīm Manasah kámam ákūtím vácah satyam ashímahi
Paśhūnágm rūpam annasya mayi śríh shrayatám yaśhah|| (10)

(9-10) I hereby invoke Lakshmi (Shri), whose (main) avenue of perception is the odoriferous sense (i.e., one who abides mainly in cows); who is incapable of defeat or threat from anyone; who is ever healthy (with such virtuous qualities as truth); whose grace is seen abundantly in the refuse of cows (the cows being sacred); and who is supreme over all created beings. O Lakshmi! May we obtain and enjoy the fulfillment of our desires and our volitions, the veracity of our speech, the wealth of cattle, the abundance of varieties of food to eat! May prosperity and fame reside in me.

Sa Ka La Hrīm Kardamená praja-bhūtá mayi sambhava kardama
Śriyam vásaya me kule mátaram padma-máliním| (11)
Souh: Ǎpah srijantu snigdháni chiklíta vasa me grihe
Nicha devím mátaram śhriyam vásaya me kule|| (12)

(11-12) Lakshmi! You have progeny in Kardama. (Hence) O Kardama, may you reside in me. Make Mother Shri with garlands of lotuses to have Her abode in my (ancestral) line. may the (holy) waters create friendship (they being of adhesive nature). O Chiklita (progeny of Shri)! Reside at my home; and arrange to make Divine Mother Shri stay in my lineage!

Aim Ardám pushkariním pushtim pingalám padma máliním
Chandrám hiran-mayím lakshmím játavedó ma ávaha| (13)
Klīm Ǎrdhám yah kariním yashtim suvarnám hema-máliním
Sūryám hiran-mayím lakshmím játavedó ma ávaha|| (14)

(13-14) Invoke for me, O Agni, Lakshmi who shines like gold, is brilliant like the sun, who is powerfully fragrant, who wields the rod of suzerainty, who is the form of supreme rulership, who is radiant with ornaments and is the goddess of wealth. Invoke for me O Agni, the Goddess Lakshmi who shines like gold, blooms like the moon, who is fresh with anointment (of fragrant scent), who is adorned with the lotuses (lifted up by celestial elephants in the act of worship), who is the presiding deity of nourishment, who is yellow in colour, and who wears garlands of lotuses.

Hrīm Tám ma ávaha játevedó lakshmím anapa gáminím yasyám
Hiranyam prabhūtam gávó dásyó aśván vindeyam purushan aham|| (15)

(15)Invoke for me O Agni, that Goddess Lakshmi, who is ever unfailing, being blessed by whom I shall win wealth in plenty, cattle, servants, horses and men.

Śrīm Ǒm mahá-devyai cha vidmahe, vishnu-patnaiya cha dhímahi
Tanno Lakshmíh prachódayát || (16)

We commune ourselves with the Great Goddess, and meditate on the consort of Vishnu; may that Lakshmi direct us (to the Great Goal).

Ǒm Shántih, Shántih, Shántih.

Om May there be Peace, Peace, Peace.


Books for Sale

This week is the last stretch of the January Sale. Right now, EVERYTHING on the website is 25% reduced. Which means that the shortest stories can be bought for a mere $1.50. The entire lyd ebook catalogue is yours to rampage through. (Print books have to be bought through amazon and aren’t part of the sale.)

Which makes it a great time to pick up M King’s Traveller’s Tales series – now that the final installment is out. The Green Man, The Golden Horse, The Gypsy and The Witch, White Stones, and The Gypsy’s Fiddle are all available in ebook. The series of linked by theme – gypsy folkloe and gay romance, so you can read them in any order. I promsie you, these are beautiful books. M King is a pagan author and her understanding of folklore makes the magical realism captivating.

You might also want to look up Sarah Head (Closing the Circle, The Lady and the Bull, and others) and Jeanette Stevens (From Both Sides of Darkness) for more sensuous pagan writing.

Fellow Pagan and Pen bloggers Nix Winter and Adrianne Brennan both have work at lyd too.

I have quite a bit of overtly pagan material over there – A Gift of the Goddess, The Warrior Vision, Enchanted Waters, Living Dangerously, Hunting the Egret, The White Hare’s Lament, and Headf*ck all have pagan characters and themes.


Do drop by and grab yourself a bargain, and make sure you check out the free reads (listed under extras).