(In which Jen hangs around with pagans, casts a few spells, makes a big mess, and possibly makes a cat immortal.)
You guys, my favorite restaurant,Afrah just won a pretty considerable contest--the Dallas Morning News's "Final Fork." After a citywide online poll, Afrah beat out the last restaurant standing 56% to 44%. So if you haven't already booked your trip to the Metroplex for the sole purpose of eating at this restaurant, it's time. Let's go. Let's go. No pushing. No shoving. Plenty of shwawarma for everybody.
Where was I? Oh yes. So after my foray into Christianity, I ended up in Texas hanging around with a group of pagans. They were actually organized, sort of, into a church-like structure. Nice folks, mostly, with a few glaring exceptions that I probably shouldn't talk about. We hung around with them for a while, though, and finally left over a squabble as to whether or not people should be allowed to carry concealed weapons into the building. (Texas has some interesting laws about firearms. One of them says that firearms are fine-a-roo inside a church, unless the church decides to ban them. So if the sermon gets overlong, you can--never mind.) Mind you, I never carried a concealed firearm in my life, unless you count sticking my car keys in my pocket (they could, after all, make nifty brass knuckles). But the whole thing wasn't so much about firearms as it was about getting rid of one particular person who always carried concealed, and that was, well, kind of uncool for a body of supposedly religious folks. Though not, as I learned later, uncommon at all.
After that I stumbled uponst a group of women, a coven of sorts I guess, that got together around eight times a year and did celebratory stuff. It's telling that my first question, uponst being invited, was whether or not pants stayed on at this event. (Answer: Yes.) Good folks, good times, but deucedly weird. And there was all the stuff to memorize, the lists of important days, and again the moon phases. I can't for the life of me calculate moon phases. If there isn't a calendar with little symbols on it for the full moon and the new moon, I'm completely clueless. So I didn't make a very good pagan, all in all. You gotta know what the moon is up to, and as far as I was concerned, the moon was up to what the moon's always been up to; circling the Earth, dodging space rocks and continually moving a little farther away.
And then there was the whole wacky notion of casting spells, which owes a lot to particle physics and is pretty hard to distinguish from prayer, in my opinion. But, I did cast a few spells. Here's how they turned out.
Spell: That 5-year-old Caesar the Cat, who had just been diagnosed with cancer, might live a normal span of years and die of something else.
Success ratio: 100% successful. He's 15 now and may never die.
Spell: Asked Mars, the god of new jobs, for a new job.
Success ratio: 100% successful. I got new jobs in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014...
Spell: That nobody would burglarize our house.
Success ratio: 100% successful to date, although the fact that we don't have any flashy toys, like a boat or ATVs, and that our TV is 20 years old and doesn't have a game console hooked to it, might be more of an explanation.
Spell: That the new car would not get plowed into by anything.
Success ratio: 50% successful. The car's been backed into and hit twice on the freeway. Still, no one got hurt, and the car repairs were pretty minor. So it worked a little.
Spell: That I might learn to read Tarot cards effectively.
Success ratio: 100% successful, and I read Tarot cards so effectively that I scared the bejabbers out of myself and several other people. The moral of the story here, kids, is don't ask questions to which you really don't want answers.
Anyway, I really didn't make a very good pagan. That whole modern science thing kept getting in the way. But then, that might have been my problem with Christianity, too. Science. Any kind of religion requires faith, or belief in things that can't be proven. Science, on the other hand, keeps proving things over and over again, including its own reason for its continued existence. Furthermore, you don't have to believe in science for it to work. It just does.
So it's kind of cool that there's some scientific proof that parts of Buddhism work. Obviously not the part about all the arhats and bodhisattvas floating around in the sky granting favors and so on -- that came about as Buddhism, like Christianity, overlaid traditional religions and absorbed all their gods--but the part about meditating, which is a big part of Buddhism. Scientists have tracked people who became regular meditators and found that within a month, their blood pressure went down, their heart rates stabilized, parts of their brains that they weren't using became active for the first time and they generally reported being happier, calmer and better-rested. Furthermore, you can prove this to yourself. Start meditating an hour a day. By the end of the year you will be a different person, and your life will be unrecognizable from what it was before. I also happen to know this because I tried it and it worked. Whatta concept.
So anyway, that was my foray into paganism. Sorry it wasn't more exciting. Paganism, like most things that sound deliriously naughty, is actually kind of mundane once you get to know it.