Friday, March 29, 2013

Have a Psychiatric Illness? You May Soon, Thanks to the new DSM-V

   After getting behind schedule, the DSM-V has hurried on to its original May 2013 publication date, deciding to skip a quality control review that many critics say it badly needs.  Allen Francis, who chaired the DSM-IV committee, is one of the book's most vocal opponents.  Francis argues that it contains many new diagnoses that have no scientific foundation, and which will increase the number of people facing ordinary challenges who are already massively over-diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses.  "Many millions of people with normal grief, gluttony, distractibility, worries, reactions to stress, the temper tantrums of childhood, the forgetting of old age, and 'behavioral addictions' will soon be mislabeled as psychiatrically sick and given inappropriate treatment," he says. Grieving over the loss of a loved one?  There's Major Depressive Disorder, a designation just for the grieving.  Have a hyper child?  No longer are you limited to ADHD; there's the all-new Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.  Most of us could probably be diagnosed with Internet Addiction, according to this version, and overeating 12 times in 3 months qualifies us for Binge Eating Disorder.  If you're getting older and starting to forget things, you can be slapped with the diagnosis of Minor Neurocognitive Disorder, despite the fact that this forgetting is normal and despite the fact that dementia is untreatable.  Francis blames the APA for the book's rush, saying that the publication is an important source of expected income for the organization.  Many professionals in the field of psychology are protesting the new revisions, but it is uncertain whether these protests will make a difference in the situation's outcome.  Regardless, Francis identifies this as a low point for the field of psychiatry. "This is the saddest moment in my 45 year career of studying, practicing, and teaching psychiatry."

Learn More

DSM-5 Is a Guide, Not a Bible: Simply Ignore Its 10 Worst Changes by Francis Allen, at Huffington Post

The DSM-5 Controversy by Eric Maisel, at Psychology Today

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Hour to Darken the Globe Tonight

  Earth Hour is tonight from 8:30-9:30 pm, a time when people and institutions all over the world will turn out their lights to raise awareness of climate change and the need for renewable energy sources. From individuals to the Eiffel Tower, this event that started in Australia in 2007 has spread the world over and will include hundreds of millions of people.  Learn more in this story by Aljazeera, and consider joining in by spending your evening in candlelight.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Look at Avalon Within

Click the book to see it on Amazon.
  A couple years ago I bought the book Avalon Within by Jhenah Telyndru at a local metaphysical shop, where the owner informed me that the book's author was also the founder of a tradition called the Sisterhood of Avalon, a women's tradition which focuses on the Divine Feminine. At the time, I read a little and stopped, never getting back to it until recently, when I happened to think of it and went searching through my books.

   The book describes a way of working with the cycle of the year, which involves the mythical(or historical?) Avalon, a place of mystery and spirituality, a place where priestesses came into their own. These priestesses are the same as those portrayed in Marienne Zimmer Bradley's novel, The Mists of Avalon. The book is filled with "Imrans," or medititative journeys, to different places on the island. The process focuses on inner growth and the pursuit of wisdom, taking you through the five stages of Descent, Confrontation, Emergence, Resolution, and Integration. Each step in the process is one of coming to a better understanding of both your internal and external worlds, and each is connected to a location on the Isle of Avalon, as well as to one of five Celtic goddesses: Blodeuwedd, Rhiannon, Ceridwen, Arianrhod, and Branwen. By journeying to these spots on the Isle and working with the goddesses, you embark on a journey of growth, guided by one of the priestesses of the blessed land. The book also gives an in-depth description of how to perform a solitary Avalonian ritual.

  The book contains an intriguing method of interacting with the Wheel of the year, which will be of particular interest to women interested in Celtic paganism, and the Arthurian legends in particular. Pagans frequently mention the pursuit of wisdom and inner growth, but in many sources the topic doesn't seem to receive much more coverage than that. Avalon Within takes it further, offering up a way that we can come to that wisdom and growth. The book did leave me feeling like I had a somewhat vague understanding of the process, but that will probably improve as I work with the journeys and activities in the book. Also, any lack of knowledge and understanding could be filled in with other sources, including those on working with the spirituality of Avalon, those on Celtic spirituality, those on the five goddesses, and Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.

If this type of working resonates with you, you may wish to look into the Sisterhood of Avalon. You can visit their site by clicking here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick and the Snakes?

  Admittedly, I've never known much about St. Patrick or the reason he is celebrated so voraciously every March 17, so I supposed it's not too surprising that, until now, I've been unfamiliar with the story of St. Patrick and the snakes.  Apparently, Isaac Bonewitts celebrated an alternative day which he coined "All Snakes Day," as the snakes which mythology described St. Patrick driving out of Ireland were believed to be a metaphor for the Druids.  Now some controversy has emerged over whether it is appropriate to celebrate "All Snakes Day" in reaction to St. Patrick's day.  I'll leave you with three links covering the history and mythology of St. Patrick and how it relates to pagans and the snakes.

Jason Pitzl-Waters at the Wild Hunt gave the facts, along with his opinion, last St. Patty's day.

D.R. Bartlette over at Witches and Pagans explains why she still celebrates All Snakes Day.

                                                         Finally, Morgan Daimler gives her take at Woden's Wandering Witch.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Whole Foods Market and GMOs in the News

   Whole Foods, a national chain of grocery stores with a strong emphasis on natural foods, announced Friday that it will begin labeling all products containing GMOs(the deadline has been set for 2018). GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals which have been altered by having genes added or removed. This is usually done to make growing plants or raising animals easier, and genes used may be from a plant or animal within the same species, or from an entirely different species, as in the case of this tomato with an anti-freeze fish gene added. Whole Foods' move is an exciting development in light of the fact that California's Proposition 37, which would have required all genetically modified foods sold in retail outlets in the state to be labeled as such, failed to pass this past fall and Washington state will attempt to pass a similar law this year. A quote from nicely sums up the situation:
 Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled...? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
   GMOs were first seen in our markets in 1996, and have since become commonplace in the US. Given how ordinary they seem, relatively little is actually known about their affects on our health and, interestingly, they are not nearly as accepted in most countries. The first long-term animal study on the effects of GMO consumption was just published in September 2012 and showed an increased rate of cancerous tumors in rats who had consumed them. As with all studies, experimental design must be critiqued in order to see if the results truly mean what they seem to. But whether or not the study was flawed, the fact remains that our knowledge of GMOs is uncertain and consumers have a right to decide whether or not they wish to take part in this nationwide experiment.

   The response to customer demand by Whole Foods is both a promising and intriguing sign. While the proposed legislation would result in FDA regulation, a wide-spread response from the private sector could be even better. As a government agency, the FDA has many conflicts of interest and the interest that may not always win out is trying to do what is actually best for the health of the public. First, private companies like Whole Foods Market, Earth Fare, and Trader Joe's responded to our desire for better food. Now, Whole Foods is leading the way in responding to our desire for better information. I can see this availability of the real food we want getting better and better over time, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Implications and Uncertainty

   Lately, I've been thinking about theology. I've considered the question: If I don't feel the need to hammer out every single detail of my religion, forming a complex, literally-interpreted story frame, then what is the value of pondering theology for a pagan like me? Theology can be a way of analyzing and critiquing our theological beliefs, finding the ones that aren't logically consistent with the others and rooting them out, evolving our beliefs into a more sensible whole. But another definition I encountered recently seems particularly helpful to me. That is, theology involves exploring the implications of our beliefs. This makes sense from a pagan perspective because no matter how we feel about belief, it's clear that what we believe will impact how we live and how we think about life.

   Different beliefs cause different results in our lives. If we believe, for example, that divinity is within everyone, we are more likely to treat others well than if we believe that only the self is sacred and others are of no import. There are many different, even contradictory, beliefs that have positive implications in the lives of those who hold them. It is useful to ask ourselves, which of our beliefs(both religious and non-religious) have positive implications for us and the world around us, and which have negative implications?

  In the 1600's, Pascal came up with his famous Wager, the philosophical argument that it is most sensible to live as though (the Christian) God exists, whether He does or not. If He doesn't and we live as though he does, the logic goes, we lose only some material pleasures. But if He does and we live as though He does not, we lose your soul in the end. Pascal clearly cared about the implication of belief, rather than simply its accuracy or inaccuracy. As a former Christian, I always found this silly. If God did not exist, I'd say, I'd rather live my life in reality, rather than believing in some fantasy. I still feel this way, but what I was not taking into account in the past was that there is no way of definitively knowing whether we are right or wrong in this lifetime. In light of this, can we be comfortable with a way of looking at the universe around us, knowing that it is ultimately uncertain? Can we be content knowing that this persepective is having a positive effect on our lives in the present?

   Some may believe in an inner knowing, beyond physical experience and mental logic and this may lead to a more comfortable place between phases of greater uncertainty. Right now, I am not in a place where I hold many beliefs close to me. I use some of them as lenses occasionally, peering through them to see what tint the world takes on. For those of us who are in this place right now, let's sit with the uncertainty and appreciate the loving arms of the Universe, whether felt through the trees hovering over us as we walk in the woods, or goddesses walking by our side, whispering wisdom, or molecules of hydrogen and oxygen lapping at our legs as we wade into the ocean. Belief, after all, may be as liquid as those molecules that form, reform, and form again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Host

   I have to admit, I'm kind of excited about The Host coming out at the end of the month (March 29th, to be exact). After seeing the trailer a few months back, I was intrigued. Having not been entirely impressed with the Twilight series, I was skeptical, but I found the book in the adult Sci-fi section of my library and brought it home. And read, and read, and read. The genre's a bit different, as it's more sci-fi, whereas Twilight was more paranormal romance. But the biggest thing to me is that it's a better story, hands-down. It's a well-written book with a unique plot that draws the reader in and plays with their heart strings. Is it destined to become a classic? Probably not. But it was destined to become an enjoyable way to spend my time, and that's enough for me.

You can click here to check out   the book on Amazon.  So who's with me? Let's get us some silver, reflective contacts and head out to the theater!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Some Ostara Egg Magick

  Since Ostara is getting closer, I've been finding some time to think about what I'll be doing for the Sabbat. Ostara is a time to think about new projects. We spent the dark of winter reflecting and looking within, we spent Imbolc planting seeds, and now it's time, as spring comes near, to start growing them. Eggs are an important symbol of new life at this Sabbat, and the following spell, which would be appropriate to include in your Ostara ritual, is a great way to start growing what you want in your life this year. I came up with this variation on some other spells with the city-dweller in mind. (Burying an egg outside my apartment building door just wasn't practical...not to mention, the neighbors might have looked at me a little funny.)                                                                                                       
                          Ritual of Rebirth

Materials needed: One egg and supplies for decorating it as desired.

1. Think about what needs to be reborn in your life. It could be a quality like peace or discipline, or something more specific.

2. Cook your egg.
(Allow it egg to reach room temperature. Then place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water just to a boil, then remove the pot from heat and cover with a lid. Allow it to cook in the water for 17 minutes(for a large egg).  Allow egg to cool at least 10 minutes in cold water.)
3.  Decorate your egg in a way that represents what you want to be reborn. You can color the egg and draw meaningful symbols on it.

4.  Place the egg in your hands and focus on what you want to be reborn. Imbue the egg with that energy, feeling it coarsing from your body, through your hands, and into the egg, maybe visualizing it as colored light. When you feel you are finished, crack the egg. Place the egg somewhere as an offering to your gods or the Divine, possibly in a bowl on your altar. Find a place to set the pieces of shell. You might wish to ask for a blessing over them.

5.  Later, take the shell outside and leave it on the ground. If you can take it outside your home, great. If not, just put it in a plastic baggie and take it with you to the park sometime. It is biodegradable and will break down into the soil, becoming nutrients for new life. As it slowly but surely breaks down and becomes part of the life cycle, so what you need will be reborn into your life.