Category Archives: spirituality

Women in Horror: Sèphera Girón Part II

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteSèphera’s back today, talking about earning a living as a writer and specifically about Patreon and how it works.

One of the things that help people like me, single people who don’t have a partner to support me financially or emotionally or even with posting a tweet and trying to figure out how to earn a living and keep all the balls in the air and get the work flowing again, is a Patreon.

Nowadays, a lot of people can turn to fund-raising events like a Go Fund Me or a Kick Starter for a specific project and things like that. I myself had a very successful Go Fund Me a few years ago. I had hoped to go to the Stanley hotel for a writers’ retreat to try and get back on track with my writing and I wanted to pay my own way, but the recession was huge here with no jobs at all, not even Starbucks would hire me. I took Amanda Palmer’s advice and laid out some of my story on Go Fund Me and asked for help. People were very generous and kind and understood how important that this retreat was. It wasn’t just me trying to go to a retreat every year and make people pay for it. It was important for my mental health to really try to get there to be with horror peers and to see where my favorite book originated, there was rumour of casting for new horror TV show, and things like that. So, I got to do the retreat through incredible generosity from the horror community and I have been very grateful!

I saw another platform called Patreon which seemed to be a different approach. The first Patreon I started, I was trying to do it more like a Kick Starter and that was not successful at all. I was trying to write a book about ghosts and ghost hunting with major emphasis on the Lizzie Borden house and I also wanted to do a New England tour. I was trying to get funding for that through Patreon and I didn’t. Patreon is not for those things but back then it wasn’t really clear what Patreon was.

Giron_APennySaved_VR3I found Patreon because I kept seeing Amanda Palmer coming through the various aspects of my social media talking about “don’t be afraid to ask for help.” I saw her blogs and TED talk and she talks all the time about not being afraid to ask for help, being on Patreon, interacting with fans and so on. For those of you who don’t know, Amanda Palmer is married to author Neil Gaiman, so theoretically he reaps the rewards of her hugely success Patreon platform.

I tried my Patreon again, taking her words more to heart than I did for the Go Fund Me and the first Patreon attempt. I restructured my Patreon and I’ve had it for over three years now.

When I first started it, I thought, “OK, I’m too depressed to write horror and so I’m going to write science fiction and I’m going to work on a space opera.”

For the first year I wrote a chapter a month for my space opera and I had one patron for the longest time (and I didn’t even know him in real life!) but then I started to realize from reading market reports that where I want to send it won’t take work that is previously on the Internet and specifically named Patreon as being previously published so I removed my monthly installations from my Patreon.

Now, my main goal is to show people the crazy writer’s life that I lead since a lot of people tell me my life is weird and it is and so I share my life with my patrons. I write or video several blogs a week, I talk about if I’m on a TV show or movie, I discuss what’s Giron2bugging me, I am disgusted with my weight, weird things happened to me such as I burned myself waitressing. Patrons of a certain level got to see pictures of my horrible burns and scars. I get weird allergies, so my patrons get to see my face all puffed up with hives and silly things like that. I might sing or do other stuff but it’s all part of the writing process, part of the being a creative human being process and so I like to amuse my patrons with various things. Sometimes I’m able to share short stories I’m working on, depending on which market I’m writing them for. Sometimes I’ll just put up rough drafts. Sometimes I’ll just put up the cue cards for the character notes, it depends on the project. There are three books I keep working on and off on for over the last few years. When they are finished, my patrons of a specific level will be acknowledged in the professionally published books. All of my patrons are thanked whenever I can on some YouTube videos. I did thank some patrons in a couple of books I republished that had been published long before I ever had a Patreon (A Penny Saved, Captured Souls, Gilda and the Prince). My patrons got to see the rough version of this blog post!

A lot of people consider Patreon to be begging. This means they don’t understand what it’s about. There are, I think, over a million creators on Patreon now. When I joined, there were a couple thousand, now there are over a million.

There are a lot of very important famous people on Patreon who have thousands of patrons in that they make thousands of dollars a month on Patreon. There are huge writers on Patreon who make thousands of dollars a month. Everybody expects something different with what they want to give and with what they want to receive.

I like to think that since I do a lot of things, I offer different experiences. Patreon is only one of many ways I attempt to earn an income so that I can get back to the business of creating actual novels and other entertainments for people. I do love to entertain other people. But when I see people calling Patreon creators “beggers” I always find that upsetting.

Patreon is more like a subscription service. There are writers who write books in a month on there. There are musicians who will create songs for you. Artists who will draw for you. YouTubers who will mention you. It’s endless in what you can offer and receive. I would bet many of us creators on Patreon work pretty hard for your subscription.

Giron7I look around on Patreon sometimes. You can only see so much if you’re not actually paying however, I do notice that some writers have Patreons and they haven’t even posted for their followers in over a year, sometimes many months, and yet they still are getting thousands of dollars. So this shows that those of you who are thinking about setting up a Patreon but not sure what to offer, some fans just want you just to get those books written and out in the world and they don’t care if you actually post on the platform, they just want to support you in your career and help you get some dental work done or see a doctor or whatever.

Speaking of which…here in Ontario, yes, we have free health care as in going to the doctor but if anything’s wrong with you, you have to deal with it. I’ve been be so grateful to my patrons that I’ve been able to get prescriptions when I got bit by a dog, had to get various prescriptions and bandages for burns and allergies, when I didn’t have money in my bank account for such things. I dream of the day I can see the dentist for the first time in ten years if my teeth stop falling out so that I have some teeth left to fix. Whether it’s through an influx of pledges from Patrons (I’d need a few hundred patrons!) or whether it’s from advances and royalties from work I’ve been inspired to create because I have patrons rooting for me doesn’t matter.

I have some health issues, a shaky hand for a few years that is growing worse every day, so my waitressing days are over. One can’t discount the impact that emotional illnesses can have on a creative person and yes, we have free “healthcare” here in Canada, but we have to pay for dentists, eye doctors, prescriptions of every kind, birth control, psychiatrists and psychologists, therapy, counsellors, chiropractors, and more. We can get diagnosed by a family doctor and can get “free” surgery, but god help you if you have anything you need to take drugs for and don’t have insurance. I’ve had dozens of jobs over the decades and have never once had insurance as it’s not a given widely here as it is in the States. I’m supposed to be on a few prescriptions like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication and something related to the gall bladder operation, but I can’t afford them, so I just plow on through and lose days/weeks/months of work when the Black Dogs bark.

When you’re going through trauma, “going out and getting a job” isn’t so easy and when you have no present-day skills and are over fifty, well…

These days, everyone is an editor and the fees that hobby editors charge are destroying the industry much as writers who write for free destroy opportunities for all writers to get paid better. It also seems that everyone is now a tarot card reader as well so my tarot business has also been destroyed when people can get cheap/free tarot readings everywhere including from apps instead of paying a proper wage for skilled, professional work. My safety guard backup careers are just as unreliable as writing at this point. Background work pays minimum wage and I usually work one day a month. So, what do you do when you’re pushing sixty and divorced and lost everything you ever had?

So, my longwinded point in this blog, is that, ladies, especially single ladies (even if you’re married) who get nothing from the government, nothing from any spouses−I don’t get any support from anyone except my patrons−ladies, consider starting a Patreon. Patreon is a blessing for me, emotionally and financially.

I’m happy to see more people join the platform. Everyone who has joined my Patreon has stayed on the ride. Only one person ever quit on me ever in all the time I’ve had my Patreon.

Giron5So maybe I’m doing something right. I don’t know but it’s a fun platform for me. It keeps me from being depressed and from spending days going “what the fuck is my life?” because I have to answer to my patrons. I do make schedules and I try to hit them. I take pictures and videos at events, knowing I’ll be sharing them with my patrons. It’s helping me get back on my feet, really helping me focus on having most of my space opera finished, most of my next Witch Upon a Star book is nearly finished and I’m almost halfway through my next horror book.

My Women in Horror Month wish for all of you is to start a Patreon if you don’t have one. And if you have some extra money kicking around, consider supporting an artist or two on Patreon. Even if you sponsor for $1, when one hundred people give $1, that’s $100! (minus Patreon fees, of course!)

Be warned, you cannot find someone on there. Their search function sucks. There is no way to look for writers or anyone else, even if you punch in their name! The only way you can find someone on Patreon is if you already know they are there. Feel free to add your links at the bottom of this blog.

Patreon is a really great tool for getting focused and organized, building your fan base and rewarding your fan base. You can create whatever rewards you want depending on whatever it is you do and your finances.

Interesting that three times I put a call out on my Facebook for people, women, to post their links for a Women in Horror Month article I was writing about Patreon. I was hoping for lots of women for this article. But much like calls for horror stories and novels, men are quicker to respond. In a nutshell, you can see by the Patreon response, how it likely reflects horror writer submissions.

Even though I have nearly four thousand Facebook friends, you can see here, how many people shared their links.

Do we need a Women in Horror Month? I’m still not sure. But I do know that some of us sometimes need a helping hand to get back on our feet, or maybe to get on them for the first time. Keep writing and more importantly, submitting. Don’t worry if you’re a woman; you’re a WRITER! Use your real name and stand proud behind your work.

First, let’s acknowledge Amanda Palmer who drew my attention to this ride:

https://www.patreon.com/amandapalmer

http://www.patreon.com/sephera

https://www.patreon.com/GaryABraunbeck

Http://www.patreon.com/monicaskuebler

https://patreon.com/maryrajotte

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=1002984

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2887829

https://www.patreon.com/ObnoxiousAnonymous

https://www.patreon.com/westonochse

GironSèphera Girón is an author, actor, tarot card reader, and mom. She has over twenty published books. Watch for Taurus in the Witch Upon a Star series to be released this year from Riverdale Avenue Books. She has stories in Dark Rainbow, Dawn of the Monsters, Abandon, Group Hex 1 and Group Hex 2, Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror and more. Sèphera is the astrologer for Romance Daily News. Be sure to watch for her monthly horoscopes at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ Sèphera lives in Toronto.

Drop by Sèphera’s Twitch TV channel and get a free daily tarot card reading. Be sure to follow so you know when she’s online. Click Witch Upon a Star for her series. Sèphera can also be found on her website, her Tarot Card Reading website, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out Sèphera on YouTube. Be sure to follow so you know when the next video is uploaded!

Sèphera’s courses are also available on Udemy!
https://www.udemy.com/secrets-of-a-background-performer/?couponCode=BGYOUTUBE3
https://www.udemy.com/read-tarot-cards/?couponCode=TAROTCARDYOUTUBE
https://www.udemy.com/so-you-want-to-be-a-horror-writer/?couponCode=BLOGHORROR2

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Women in Horror: Sèphera Girón

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteStraight-shooter Sèphera Girón talks about earning a living and is my last blogger for Women in Horror Month, though you will have to come back for part II as she will post over two days. I lost a few writers to health and work commitments. It seems only fitting that since I started with a Canadian, and am a Canadian, that I also end with one.

Trying to Earn a Living as a Writer in 2019!

Well here we are in another Women in Horror Month. I’ve been working in the horror field since before Women in Horror Month was invented and at the time, I didn’t really feel like it was something that was truly necessary for I didn’t see the world quite as I see it now.

Giron DarkRainbow_I think because I came from a mid-sized University town and from very educated parents who already worked in the arts that it never occurred to me that I couldn’t grow up to be a horror writer as I had dreamed of since I was around 14 years old. And it never occurred to me that I was a woman or that being a woman meant anything at all. In my naivety, I thought that the best story would be picked, and it was up to me to work as hard as I could and learn as much as I could about the horror genre and how to be a writer in order to become successful in the horror field.

I was off to a flying start; I read voraciously, I took writing courses, I even graduated from York University with a BA in Fine Art Studies. By majoring in Fine Arts, I was able to embrace my love of all the arts because even to this day I still have my finger in several artistic pies. I am a writer, I’m a working actress, I’m a podcaster or YouTuber, I dabble in drawing badly, I still pick up my violin once in a while, and I love to sing. I’ve not done musical theater in many years, but I do earn a bit of a side income as a background performer in various movies and TV shows that come through Toronto.

In my quest to become a writer, I started to attend conventions in the late eighties, and I was one of those people who would sit in the audience and actually take notes and try to learn secret tidbits from the professionals who would give us wonderful advice. Back in those days, you really couldn’t get that advice unless you actually went to a convention and listened to these people speak. There was no Internet and so you had to wait a long time to get information month to month from the Horror Writers Association newsletters or from market reports like the Gila Queen and so on.

It was a much different time.

So, as far as I was concerned, my hope to become a woman horror writer just meant I Giron Gilda_and_the_Prince_Cover_for_Kindlehad to work really hard and it never occurred to me I would have to work harder than a man or anything like that. I just knew I had to be the best writer I could be. I spent a lot of time (YEARS!) writing and re-writing my books and eventually became a Leisure (Publishing) author until Leisure died and then a Samhain (Publishing) author until Samhain died and I published at several other houses as well alongside those. (Never put all your books in one market!) However, over the years it did come to my attention that perhaps women weren’t getting the recognition that they needed to get. For me, I believe that I got all the recognition I needed for the work that I did because it just never occurred to me that I didn’t. I still stand by that.

As time has gone on and society keeps changing, it almost seems like things are going a bit backwards. Now there is more call for women writers, diversity, and so on. Now the world seems to be splintering into factions of labeling and stereotypes, everyone is sorted into a little compartment and quotas are created to be filled. And yet, now, it does seem that women do have to work harder to get ahead in some instances because now there’s a big ol’ spotlight on us. And I still say, despite all that, editors just want to buy a good story, they don’t care who writes it, just make the publisher lots of money!

Giron6I have said this many times and I will continue to say it, that a large part of the problem with an imbalance of women in horror (and I can’t speak to any other genre because I haven’t asked people in other genres) is simple to see. Over the years I’ve spoken to many women authors while gauging whether there is a problem with women being published and recognized or not. It did come to my attention several years ago that often women aren’t getting published in horror because they aren’t writing it and they aren’t submitting it. PERIOD.

Sometimes women have to be encouraged a little more than men to actually show their work or to get it out there. It is not enough to say you’re a woman horror writer and that you are writing when in fact you’re not submitting and getting published. You are responsible for your own career and you need to make it happen. No one is going to come to you and ask to see your novel. You have to put it in front of people’s faces. And using initials as your name doesn’t fool anyone, so cut it out.

I guess in my naivete in not believing that I would ever be told “no” simply because I was a woman has definitely helped me in my career because I’ve always felt that if I want to do something, I can do it and I’ve always been that way about most parts of my life. So even though I’ve not been terribly prolific the last few years, it is because my energies are a bit scattered, because I am enjoying other aspects of my life as I have mentioned and also I had some emotional issues that have taken me about ten years to deal with and writing horror didn’t really go along with some of the stuff I’ve been trying to work through. In my case, the only person to blame for not having books out right now is myself because I have been taking an emotional break. However, this is all changing, and I do have many stories out or about to be out and I do plan to finish and have my publishers put out a couple of books this year.

One of the tools that has helped me heal and get refocussed is that I created an account on Patreon. Now before I get into my Patreon spiel, I also would like to recognize that in my twenty or maybe now it’s thirty years in the business that I’ve had observations about ways that women aren’t as supported as men when it comes to relationships; a kind of behind the scenes sort of thing.

I have met many male writers over the years who have the luxury of being full time writers because their wives work full time, or their wives at least make enough money to support them both until the husband earns a better income. These husbands are often very productive, they eventually earn a lot of money as writers because they can focus on their work and ultimately have a double income with their wives. Sometimes the wives not only provide an alternative income, but they also are the ones that do all that boring business stuff that writers have to do. It is fine to write a book or a story but then there is so much other work that goes into it, especially these days. Back before self-publishing and before publishing houses got all splintered and weird, you basically wrote a book, sent it out and then you would have to market it, send out press releases, maybe do a party, a reading, a launch, and more. A lot of these male writers let the wives do all the business aspects, like administrative assistants, secretaries, personal assistants, shoppers, and groomers. The wives would send out press releases, they would send out to markets, they would search market reports, they would deal with the agents, editors, publishers. They deal with publicists as they could hire publicists because they had double incomes, they arrange the parties, they do all the taxes, they do all the income, outcome, receipts, letter writing, letter campaigns, the fan clubs, the blogs, deal with the children, aging parents, and so on. This continues to this day.

Giron3I just began online teaching almost a year ago and I attended a workshop here in town put on by the company as a “road show” not long ago and I saw this exact same thing going on with online teachers as well. A lot of male teachers prepare their courses, write them, and film them while the wives do all the film editing, the marketing deal with the phone calls, and students and getting press releases out, preparing downloadable handouts, uploading endless hours of videos, promoting, creating coupons, and blasting it all out on social media. It was actually discussed at the workshop that the spouse should do these exact things to help the teacher spouse. It’s part of the strategy of success.

 The male writer or teacher gets to just focus on being a creative entity and put out the best work they possibly can with lots of time for writing and re-writing and dealing with the editorial notes because the wife is taking care of all the business side and so they don’t have to worry their pretty little heads about all that. I have never seen it in reverse. I’ve never seen quite the same dynamic where the woman is the sole writer breadwinner and the husband does everything else. I do know there are lots of supportive husbands who will help a little bit. There are husbands who will do some of the stuff but not like women do for men. I know this sounds sexist but hey we’re talking about Women in Horror Month and the Reality of Life. I figured as my own life went on, I would see more of the dynamic going the other way, but I don’t. I never saw it in my personal life at all and never expect to. There are a lot of men recognizing the hard work their wives do but I don’t see a lot of men actually giving up their lives to become personal assistants or secretaries for the women writers to make the women’s careers super dee duper although there are always exceptions and feel free to pile on me in the comments of how wrong I am. This rambling leads me to explore the reality aspect of things, which is earning a living as a writer in these totally difficult times of 2019.

In the nineties and early two thousands, I actually was earning a living as a writer and an editor. I made decent money, I had a beautiful home, I could put my children into various classes and activities. I wasn’t wealthy but I could do my thing and get by, go to conventions and things like that. However, over the last ten years my personal life took a huge blow, I was thrust into instant poverty for the very first time in my life, and at the same time, there was a massive recession with NO JOBS AT ALL, traditional publishing crashed and burned, and self-publishing became a thing. I don’t have the beautiful income I used to have, my editing job that I had for about ten years went good-bye that same year (thanks to off-shoring to cheaper countries) and major horror publishing houses went good-bye and so it’s been a matter of creating a new life in a new world order. After many years of struggling just to survive in this expensive city and being on a waiting list for five years, I ended up in an artist co-op which is where I am now, and I’ve been here for about a year and a half. This helps a lot with the rent and things like that because the rent is a bit lower than regular Toronto rents so that buys me a tiny bit of wiggle room as I re-calibrate my life and career and move forward.

(Tomorrow, I’ll continue with the second half of Sèphera’s, where she continues talking about earning a living as a writer.)

GironSèphera Girón is an author, actor, tarot card reader, and mom. She has over twenty published books. Watch for Taurus in the Witch Upon a Star series to be released this year from Riverdale Avenue Books. She has stories in Dark Rainbow, Dawn of the Monsters, Abandon, Group Hex 1 and Group Hex 2, Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror and more. Sèphera is the astrologer for Romance Daily News. Be sure to watch for her monthly horoscopes at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ Sèphera lives in Toronto.

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Adler & Davies

Lost ToysPlayground of Lost Toys hit the stores in December and is available on Amazon and through Exile Writers. The holidays and being in no WiFi land put another gap in the posting of these interviews so without further ado, here is Nathan Adler and Joe Davies. Nathan, who wrote “The Ghost Rattle,” gives us a a tale about consequences of mistaking something for a toy.
1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

 I’d finished a novel, and wasn’t ready to commit to another large project, so I started writing short stories. The Ghost Rattle fit the theme, so I submitted.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

It was important that the teenagers in the story weren’t the good or bad guys, just the run of the mill fuck-ups a lot of us probably were when they were younger.

3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story.

ghost stories, nostalgia, fantasy, horror, First Nations, Indian

Nathan Adler brings us “The Ghost Rattle,” a different take about Indian burial grounds.

I started out with the idea of having three objects, and three characters, and three ghosts, and how the objects which had once belonged to the dead connected them all together. It was important that the ghosts weren’t purely malevolent, they needed to be as well-realized as the living characters. Tyler’s story-arc is part of a larger narrative that follows the arc of his friends, Dare Theremin and Clay Cutter, and the associated objects and hauntings.

I wanted to tackle the trope of the Indian Burial Ground, which is a pretty common theme in horror movies as the basis for a bunch of scary shit happening, but it’s usually a back-drop without much depth: “Oh yeah, also, this pet cemetery/hotel/house was built on an IBG,” and then never mentioned again. I also had real world events like the Oka Crisis swimming around in my head, which revolved around the construction of a Golf Course on an IBG, and also the flooding of my reserve, Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, which unearthed coffins and damaged traditional burial sites.

I think part of mainstream horror narratives is the discomfort settlers have with the reality that this is Indian land, that it’s basically all stolen, and an IBG is this blank canvass for stories of white guilt and fear. So I didn’t want to fall into any of those ways of approaching a story about an IBG with mindlessly angry ghosts. Instead the ghosts have their own histories, and react in very different and unexpected ways.

4.Tells us anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology.

The setting of Ghost Lake is part of a larger fictional universe. The story also operates as something of a back-story for the character of Dibikazwinan, as she has living descendants who appear in other stories, and she also has a cameo appearance in a novel I wrote called Wrist, as a minor (living) character in 1872.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

My novel called Wrist is slated to come out in the Spring of 2016 through Kegedonce Press, Available for pre-order here: http://kegedonce.com/bookstore/item/73-wrist.html.

I have some of my published writing on my blog here: https://nathanadlerblog.wordpress.com

And I’ll probably be having a Book Launch for Wrist in Toronto sometime in the summer, and doing some readings. And I’ve been working on a collection of inter-related short stories, as well as another novel that follows after Wrist.

Joe Davies wrote “The Compass,” another piece that deals with the consequences in childhood of taking something that is not yours.

The idea for my story, “The Compass,” evolved the way many of my stories do. It began with an image, a moment, in this case two boys pushing their way through tall grass on a bright summer day and that feeling of being young. For me it was an evocative enough moment to build a piece around, but to be honest, I don’t remember the details of the rest of the process very well, or even how the compass presented itself as the lost toy to be. When I write, it feels like what I produce comes together by cobbling the bits and pieces out of whatever I happen to come across while feeling around in the dark. A lot of it may be associative, but if it is, those associations made while writing aren’t usually available to me afterwards when I try to figure out what it is I’ve done.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Joe Davies is the author of “The Compass” where nostalgia and regret play a part.

The genesis of each story is a bit of journey, and a bit of a mystery. The only other thing I can really think of to say about the process is that I know that when I’m writing I don’t try to make a story bend one way or another. I try to respond to what’s happening on the page, to what kind of story it could be, what different directions it could take and to be open to the possibilities. In the case of my story, “The Compass,” I had a couple of details: the image mentioned above, and knowing that somewhere along the way a toy was going to be lost and then found once again. Enough to get a good start.

At the moment I’m working on a couple of projects, both of them short story collections. One is a set of short absurdist pieces where the basic premise or setup of a story gets repeated in another to become a different kind of story altogether. At the moment this project has the ridiculous title Fluff & Balconies (one story of which will appear shortly in The Dalhousie Review; others have appeared recently in PRISM International and Crannog, in Ireland).

The second project is a collection of longer pieces that are derived and spun out of changes happening in our society, for example, the changing roles around gender, and with a particular eye to how men are (or aren’t) adapting. And actually, there’s one other project I’m tinkering with. Lately I’ve unearthed a novel sort of thing I wrote almost twenty years ago, and I’m just weighing the prospect of a rewrite.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Ed Willett

Ed Willett, SF, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, Canadian authors, faith, spirituality

Ed Willett is author of more than 40 books of fiction and nonfiction. Read his story in Tesseracts 17.

Ed Willett is our only Saskatchewan author in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast. I would say this puts us nearly halfway through Canada but once I hit the Atlantic provinces for interviews I’ll come back across the northern parts of Canada.

CA: “Path of Souls” is a beautifully rendered world, told by an outsider who makes it home. But that home is in some ways a gilded cage. What was the most important aspect of this tale for you?

For me the heart of the story is the decision by one individual to take responsibility: to do what must be done, what is the right thing to do, despite the personal consequences. That is, I think, the only definition of heroism that makes sense to me. Whether that decision makes sense to someone outside that individual’s personal mindset is another matter, of course. The actions of the main character might be seen as foolish in the extreme: she essentially throws away her previous life for many long years of service to an alien religion. But she is convinced that what she is doing is what is right, and that doing what is right is more important than her own personal wants and desires.

Over and over in my fiction I find myself returning to the theme of individual responsibility. In so much of the world, especially in the realm of politics, we pretend as if people are defined by a few simple characteristics: gender, skin color, income, place of residence. “Can such-and-such a party’s policies resonate with voters-of-a-particular-ethnic group?”, etc. But none of us are defined by the various groups into which we fall—not entirely. Each of us is an individual. We build our lives from a series of individual decisions, and while the easiest path to follow is always that most often taken by those with whom we associate, we have the power, the free will, to break from that path, to take “the road less travelled,” as Robert Frost memorably put it. And that moment, when an individual truly acts as an individual and separates him or herself from the herd, especially if that moment arises out of a powerful moral sense, is a moment that greatly interests me as a writer.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

The title of the piece is “Path of Souls,” but it’s really about the path taken by a single soul: an individual who makes a difficult decision to do what she has become absolutely convinced is the right thing to do, despite the cost to herself.

CA: In one sense it’s religious, or spiritual, but there is a dark side that the outsider discovers. Do you think people see the inherent pitfalls in their own faiths?

Religious belief is a powerful thing, as we know from our own world, where every day religious fanatics blow themselves and others up in suicide attacks, murder sleeping students in their beds for the sin of getting a western education, terrorize shopping malls, and on and on. They are, to carry on my answer to the previous question, individuals who have made a decision to abandon all further individuality in the service of what they see as a greater cause. It’s a decision that seems almost incomprehensible to those of us who do not share their convictions. But within their own minds, they are doing what is right and holy, what must be done to make the world a better place—although their version of a better place would be a nightmare to those of us who do not share their belief. By my previous definition, they are heroes: not to us, not at all, but certainly to themselves.

Religious belief seems to be hard wired into humans (and, in my story, into aliens as well). It can be a powerful force for good and beauty, and a powerful force for evil and destruction. Those at the extremes of religious belief do not, I think, see any inherent pitfalls. When you have given over your individual responsibility to orders that you believe are coming directly from God, there’s very little room for doubt. There are, of course, millions of believers who do have room in their beliefs for doubt and questioning. Some religious belief systems are more open to internal questioning than others, and those, I think, are at less risk of turning to the dark side (okay, that reference is from Star Wars, which is perhaps a step down from Robert Frost, but still, it fits!).

So, do “people see the inherent pitfalls in their own faiths?” Some do, some don’t. Once again, everything comes down to the individual.

CA: This is also a story of reflection, a journey in and of itself. Many spiritual paths are just that, journeys of discovery. Is this a theme you have explored before?

I think all characters in my stories are on journeys of discovery, because characters who remain unchanged by the events of the story are boring. So it’s really a theme I explore over and over, in pretty much everything I write.

CA: Will we be seeing other tales on this particular world, or are you moving on to new worlds?

This is the only tale I’ve ever set or anticipate setting in this particular world. But I’m very fond of it, partly because it’s one of those stories whose genesis I can pinpoint with some accuracy. A few years ago, Globe Theatre here in Regina held, perhaps three years in a row, a fundraising event called Lanterns on the Lake. People bought and made paper lanterns and came down to the shores of Wascana Lake to light them and parade them. The image of that endless string of lights stretching down to the moonlit water struck a chord with me that eventually resulted in “The Paths of Souls.”

It’s also a story I’m fond of because it’s a bit of a tribute to a book I absolutely loved as a young science fiction reader: Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. That idea of humans coming to a world they think they understand and falling into trouble because they don’t really understand it at all was something I wanted to use, and I also wanted to capture the deep sense of strangeness and wonder Norton’s book woke in me when I was 12 or so. I think maybe I manage it, at least a little.

I hope readers think so, too.

Edward Willett is the author of more than forty books of fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults and adults. Born in Silver City, New Mexico, he moved to Canada with his parents from Texas when he was eight and grew up in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where he began his career as a newspaper reporter, becoming news editor before moving to Regina as communications officer for the then-fledgling Saskatchewan Science Centre. For the past 20 years he’s been a fulltime freelance writer. Ed won the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009 for his science fiction novel Marseguro (DAW Books). His newest book is Right to Know (Bundoran Press). November will see the release of Masks, the first book the Masks of Aygrima fantasy trilogy for DAW Books, written under the pseudonym E.C. Blake, and in the spring, Coteau Books in Regina will release Song of the Sword, first book in a five-book YA modern-day fantasy series collectively called The Shards of Excalibur, with subsequent books to appear at six-month intervals. Shadows, the second book in the Masks of Aygrima, will be out next summer, along with an as-yet untitled sequel to Right to Know. In addition to writing, Ed is a professional actor and singer. He continues to live in Regina with his wife, Margaret Anne, their daughter, Alice, and their cat, Shadowpaw.

 Ed is online at www.edwardwillett.com, on Twitter @ewillett, and can also be found on Facebook.

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Hallowe’en: Costumes and Fun

I’m not going to rehash last week’s comments on women’s costumes all being sexy or costumes being politically correct, except to say that where I work three people showed up dressed as Indian (North American First Nations) women. Of them, one woman is Arabic Asian, one is white and one is mixed blood. None of them seem to feel they’re making fun of or disrespecting the historical dress of long ago.

costumes, Halloween costumes, dressing up, gods

Kali was a last-minute creation. (no creative commons on these)

So I’m just going to go through some memories of my past Halloween costumes, with pictures. A long time ago a friend sewed me a costume out of pewter satin. It involved a cape with shoulder pads and a skirt rucked up into gathers. I wore green with it and maybe antenna and was an alien of some sort. I’ve been a witch, a fortune tell, which in it’s second incarnation involved sitting at my desk at work and having people pay .25 cents to get a fortune, like those old, glass-enclosed fake tellers. I’m big on theme parties and have done one where it was blues and therefore blue clothes, gods, bad boys and bad girls, fairy tales and a mad hatter party. The Kali costume to the right was last minute. I bought a bunch of dolls from the dollar store and strung their arms and legs around my waist, their heads around my neck and had a spare pair of stuffed arms. Really, I should have had at least another set and I should have been blue but it was good enough.

I’ve been Little Bo Peep, complete with sheep purse, and Sleeping Beauty. I’ve been a pirate, a virgin (as in the Medieval sacrifice style), and a Middle Eastern dancer (which is cheating since I do bellydance). I’ve done Bride of Frankenstein, twice. The second time I used chicken wire to pull my hair up around the frame, already having the blonde streaks. I painted the skin

zombie, Halloween costumes, horror, costumes, dressing up

Zombies are popular, with or without brains (no creative commons on these)

appropriately, used actual thread that I made into stitches and adhered with spirit gum, and cut a thread spool in half and glued it to my neck. I recycled the cheaply sewn dress into a zombie costume last year. The makeup is fairly time-consuming and can take up to two hours to do. I’ve also made up a few friends as zombies.It’s pretty each to start with white, add blue and black for shading, or even greed. I then draw blue veins over the top, and add fake blood. The good thing about being a zombie is that your makeup doesn’t need to be very precise. Splotchy is okay. Some zombies are with just white makeup and some red blood. Some are greener. It all depends on how you want to do it.

The problem for me is that I never start thinking about a costume early enough and then slapdash stuff together last-minute. This year, I was going to go as fall. I picked up a bunch of leaves of the ground (before the rain started) then dipped them, before they dried out, in paraffin wax. I was then going to sew them into a garment. Well, I couldn’t quite figure out the logistics of waxed leaves and sitting down. Maybe they’ll become a wreath.

Instead I lucked into a costume through a friend who sews for the stage and sometimes checking your local stage production groups might net you a costume for a rental and cleaning fee. I went as Marie Antoinette, and though the costume worked, I couldn’t get in or out of it by myself.

costumes, Halloween, dressing up, Halloween costumes, Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette (no creative commons on these)

My sister tells me that in Calgary some religious fundamentalist group was trying to “reclaim” Hallowe’en and call it Jesusween, saying costumes were evil. That’s pretty typical of any fundamentalist religion, where facts aren’t checked and sweeping statements are made. Hallowe’en was never a Christian holiday, though they did adopt the day after as All Saints Day. Something tells me that the stupidly named “Jesusween” is not going to catch on. I think dressing up isn’t just for kids, nor just for Hallowe’en. That’s why I’ve had theme parties. It’s for fun, when life gets too heavy. So here’s to Hallowe’en, in all its connotations, from a time to dress and forget the cares of the world, to a time when the veils thin between the worlds and the spirits step near, and a time to honor the dead who have passed in the year before.

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Reflections on Water

I found some scribbled notes in my purse and recall writing it one night while sitting in the bar. Here’s how my mind thinks at times.

Creative Commons: by Lorna is flickr

Glasses lined like hardened ethereal soldiers, the larger toward the middle protected by champagne and port glasses. Then the sturdier ranks of snifters and martinis, a veritable chessboard of glass.

We waste water so much, where there is purified ice and water in a martini glass to cool it, that ice is tossed down the drain, steaming water, heated with detergent to clean glasses. Pouring in a stream from a running tap, straight down the drain.

In the Middle Ages people died from uncleanliness, cholera, e coli, from not washing and from inadequate sanitation.

We are coming full circle, needing to be reminded to wash our hands, which was common place fifty years ago and little about super bacteria killing people in hospitals because it just wasn’t spread. There was more politeness, more structure, more manicured and precise clothing and styles but more secrets were hidden.

The shadow side was under control, but perhaps too dampened down. Now it is in full flight. It is the light and the brighter side that is becoming hidden, being tamped down. Our shadows are winning and we are still out of control: too politically correct, too balanced to the point of sterilization.

Creative Commons: D Sharon Pruitt

We make heroes of the bad guys, wearing gangster clothing and black clothes because it’s cool or hot or the new white. We cherish the gun-toting, car chases and children emulate the drug lords. We are spinning into the vortex of darkness, embracing it with heady exuberance and forgetting the balance is still needed, that we need light and dark, and should let these out in controlled ways not in darkness masking itself as the light. Evangelical crusades, religious tirades, justice by sacrificing rights. We must be careful.

And water…more precious than gold, more pricey than oil for we cannot drink these other commodities. Look at Haiti, look at Japan. Water polluted by fecal matter, by radiation, by the dead. And here we are in North America, letting the liquid more precious than all just run down our drains, grace our cups as luxuries that we don’t necessarily appreciate. I love water but I could be much more frugal about it and hope I will consider not wasting it.

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Traveling in India: A Khasi Way of Life Part I

When I went to India in the late 80s I spent two months traveling. The first month was in my friend’s home state of Meghalaya, in the northeastern part of India. There is a tiny join at Darjeeling before the country opens up to seven tribal states. These states were never truly conquered by the British and have self-autonomy. This means they are under the governance of India but maintain a unique cultural identity, which is protected. These states are Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

For most of these states, especially at that time, they were barred to foreigners (and sometimes other Indian nationals) or you needed a special visa. I probably obtained a visa only because my friend was from the state of Meghalaya. When we arrived, besides Hanocia’s husband, there was only one other white person, a child (so presumably there were parents somewhere) in Meghalaya.

The capital is Shillong and the most populous people are the Khasis. The Garo and Jaintia tribespeople make up the other majority and this states sports a majority of Christians. Many of those Christian Khasis blend their faith with the traditional animist beliefs. Although once part of Assam state (by way of the British) Meghalaya was made a separate state. Even when we were there, we had to fly out of Assam and the borders were closed because the Assamese and the Khasis, traditional headhunting enemies, were fighting with each other again.

It’s been many years since I was there but I do remember some aspects of Meghalaya that made it quite different from many other places in the world. First off, the Khasi people are matrilineal. This is slightly different from matriarchal where women would be in charge of everything. Western civilization is still trying to throw of the yoke of patriarchy, as well as other cultures, where women are not allowed certain positions because of their gender. This used to pertain more to jobs and still does in some countries, or that women cannot vote, work or be ministers of certain religions. Matrilineal means that the lineage runs through the women, and other certain aspects of society.

The Khasis are a tribal people–even if they live in houses, they still have traditional tribal roles. A child will take its mother’s last name, not the father’s and it’s common for the man to move into the wife’s or mother-in-law’s house. This of course makes more sense because you will always know who your mother is but there is no sure way to know who your father is. The women are the inheritors of the wealth and instead of the oldest son of the oldest son inheriting, the youngest daughter of the youngest daughter inherits and is keeper of the family lands. This too makes a lot of sense in it being the youngest because the youngest will be around longest to support the parents in their old age. The Syiem is the hereditary ruler of Meghalaya, although there is a full government. This is traditionally a man but it is not the man’s son who inherits, but his sister’s son or the next in line. Hanocia told me that it is mostly a figurehead position these days and when one king died he laid in state, in the palace, until his successor stepped forward. No one wanted the position and so he laid in state, rotting for a long time.

The Khasis are a diminutive people and at 5’4″ I towered above most of them. Their language is similar to the Khmer of Burma and the land lies very close to Myanmar/Burma. This language is back of the throat, glottal and akin to swallowing part of a word. At one point, for the month I spent in Meghalaya, I was trying to speak a few Khasi words one night. Something like “ngam thlen.” After a few tries Hanocia turned to me and said, “What are you trying to say?” “I’m trying to say I’m hungry.” She matter of factly said, “Well you’re saying you give blood sacrifice.” Everyone found this hilarious, coming from the foreigner, but should a Khasi have said it, it would have been a serious thing indeed.

The Khasis have a belief that if a person seems to come into sudden wealth that they may be performing thlen worship. I’m not sure I remember this correctly but a thlen is, I believe, a snake-like creature (maybe part cat?) that can grant wealth in exchange for a human sacrifice. The sacrifice must be killed without spelling blood (choking, hanging, suffocation, etc.). In the late 80s, people were still being accused, occasionally, of this.

Just as I mentioned my experience in eating the kwai (betel nut) in Shillong, the experience with the language caused an amusing reaction. What was also interesting was experiencing what it’s like to be a minority but not ostracized for it. Being one of very few white people, in some cases I was the first that many people had ever seen. Watching a school parade one day, of the Catholic schools and bishops in neon orange and gold lame’ robes, I took a few pictures but couldn’t get to where I was staying as there was no way around but through the parade. As every child walked past their heads all swiveled to look at me. Another day, I walked out of one of the shops to about 15 men, women and children just standing across the street staring at me. It became disconcerting and I began to wonder if I was doing something wrong or was under scrutiny. Of course, I was just a curiosity.

There is much more to say about this: the matrilineal structure, the stones, the way of life but that’s all for today.

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Pilgrimage Tourism

In my research for a story during biblical times I have come across the bizarre business of what I call pilgrimage tourism. By the Middle Ages, parts or bodies of saints had begun to surface, literally. They were found in sepulchers, under churches, in the naves, perhaps a grave yard, and various other places. Some of these saints may have done a lot more traveling after their deaths than they did before they died.

Monasterboice, Ireland

Some traveled far and wide and one was likely to find  the remains of every saint at some point or another. The only person whose remains were never found were those of Jesus because he was supposed to have ascended bodily to heaven and to find his body would have whacked a giant hole in the tenets of early Christianity. So only his image on shrouds and capes, and parts of the true cross came into bearing.

After the first few saintly parts appeared and were ensconced in a church, or in the foundations or a reliquary box, the faithful visited these churches to venerate the saintly body, even though supposedly Christians believe in the transmigration of the soul, which means there is no spirit in the remains. And then, of course, cures or other miracles began to happen in the presence of a dead saint’s remains. In a way you could say that early Christians venerated a certain zombie aura to the dead, considering saints’ flesh or bones reanimated enough vitality to touch the living.

When the faithful flocked to these churches they needed places to sleep and food to eat, which not only buoyed and increased the wealth of the town but also filled out the coffers of the church. A richer church meant a bigger church and more items of gold and jewels, illuminated manuscripts, attention from Rome, larger flocks, etc. Soon, saintly remains were showing up everywhere.

A great many saints seemed to have left the environs of the Holy Land after Christ’s resurrection and traveled to Gaul or southern France. Why, I’m not sure since Italy was closer but it may have been to escape the Romans. And as the business of spiritually imbued remains grew more popular, grave robbing became a pretty regular business. If you were a saint you could bet that there would be no mortal rest for your body, nor for your soul as you would be dug up, dismembered, sold to various churches and pilgrims and then called upon for daily miracles. Busy life, busier afterlife. But of course, Christianity has only maintained that it is monotheistic, worshiping one god. Oops, but then there are saints galore.

Suddenly, or perhaps not that sudden, the early Middle Ages saw grave robbing as almost respectable. The fine line between good and bad was stretched a bit thin. On top of the grave robbing, churches started stealing the venerated saints from neighboring parishes and monks/priests were praised for such actions as obviously the saints had let them know they wanted to be moved.

But a problem started to arise, which neither Christ nor God could control, and it exposed a shady side to religion that was the ultimate downfall of a few churches’ prosperity. The dead saints seemed to multiply. Mary Magdalene had five bodies and numerous legs and arms. There was more than one head for other saints, or enough finger bones to populate a centipede’s legs. In truth the saints became legion and pretty much any suitable grave would be pillaged for body parts for nearby churches. There was no DNA testing then and the distance between towns and cities was much greater, with the only common modes of transportation being by foot or horse/mule. Often it was easy to have the same saint in a few places, until the mother church started to hear about it.

At first complicit in venerating saintly bits, the church had to curb the ghoulish trend. Just imagine a zombie army of saintly limbs and torsos and heads able to not necessarily animate, but to cure a host of ills. And all of this for the longest time brought hordes of faithful to various towns and cities. Popularity of saints waxed and waned but Saints Peter, Paul, John, Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Virgin Mary were popular at different times.

However, the multiple parts that each saint owned, and the full bodies or extra heads started to mar the validity of not only the Catholic church but also the belief that these were the holy remains, which could cure the ill and perform miracles. There was probably a couple of centuries worth of great tourism for pilgrims and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (a pilgrimage route to St. James) is popular to this day by tourists, hikers and the faithful.

It’s obvious that in two millennia of Christianity its role and rules changed and evolved, and perhaps the original teachings of Jesus got skewed quite a few times. What this says about humanity is fascinating: that for the sake of religion (and fame and fortune within that) even if you’ve taken a vow of poverty but you live in a monastery, you’ll do anything, even the illegal things, to bring glory to God, Jesus or the saints. You’ll cheat, swindle and create fake holy items. And if you’re just a worshiper, you’ll forget that it’s the soul that’s supposed to matter, and venerate desiccated body parts, that if ever tested might show the wrong gender or someone of origins other than Jewish for those first Jewish-Christian saints. Makes for an interesting evolution of a man-made religion with creative intervention.

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The Grisly Quest For Body Parts

I’m working on a story that involves research into some ancient Christian practices. And I’m reminded yet again about the weird human penchant for bones.  When people die we either bury them in dirt or burn them. Some places like Cuba and New Orleans, which have little dirt due to high water tables, bury their people in above ground caskets where there is less chance of a body floating away or unpleasantly moldering in a hot climate. Most cultures inter their dead one way or another.

But along with the ritualistic aspects of burying the dead comes the adoration, idolizing and power of those people  who gained fame and notoriety.  Ancient Celts would save the heads of their enemies, as an honor to the fighter and for the power that would be imbued to them. Drinking from skull cups (kapala) has been done as part of ritual, to honor the defeated person, or for power to pass onto the drinker in Hindu and Buddhist cultures, Celtic, Chinese, Scythian, Rus, Bulgarian, Uzbek and even Lord Byron. Shrunken heads of the Amazon also fall into this except the skull bone was removed.

People have a grisly fascination with that which supports us but yet remains invisible until we die. Bones. The early Christian church was no slacker in this regard. Any body part of a sainted individual was ready for demolition and salvation in a reliquary. Finger bones, skulls, leg bones, you name it. If it could be found and sanctified the churches and monasteries would hang on to such a reliquary to make each of them special. Never mind that the vaunted saint might not rest easy when their bones were scattered far and wide. Funny that we’re very touchy about our dead getting proper rites and their remains being undistrubed…unless their saints. Then it’s a wholesale grabfest for every pious group.

Of course any place that boasted of owning the used hanky, holey sock, or toothpick of a saint would have a chance of getting more believers to view the grisly religious tourist attractions. Of course this wasn’t just the Christian religion, with the Vatican being the biggest repository of weird sideshow bits of dead people. Buddhists often used the skull cup and other beliefs have their body parts too.

Of all the prized possessions it seems people have sought the head most of all. Coinciding with this research I’m doing CBC was talking about the stolen heads of famous musicians like Beethoven and Haydn. It was a pretty popular sport in the 1800s to dig up a grave and grab the head of a famous poet or composer. In some cases the macabre quest was for science. What had made these people so great? In some cases it was for grisly rewards. Own the head of Marie Antoinette…yours for $100,000. And in some cases it was for that nebulous religious aura. I touched the finger bone of St. Peter and therefore I’m blessed, I’m closer to heaven, I will get that X that I prayed for.

Whatever the reason, we are similarly repulsed and drawn to aspects of the dead. Don’t look at a corpse, and  bury the bones, but oh wait if it’s got some power, well then I will touch it, look at it, revere it. Humans are very odd, at one point fearing everything to do with death and the dead and at the other end, eternally pulled to and fascinated by it. Look at vampire fiction. There is a crossover with the dead and the living; and zombies, though not as sexy as vampires, are definitely gaining mainstream time but usually in  a more campy way. But in the true essence of humanity our natures our dichotomized by our logic and our beliefs and I’m sure in the future we’ll continue to see body parts revered in some way or another.

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I Don’t Get Religious Coverings

I should title this “I don’t get religious head coverings” but in essence it applies to any covering. Now I imagine this post will probably get me in the bad books of a lot of religions, but let’s just say I’m not against a religious covering in one religion or necessarily all religions. I’ve actually put off writing this for a long time, not out of fear but because I thought I should educate myself more. But there are a lot of religions and no matter how much I read I’m likely to miss some crucial element somewhere. And like every layperson out there I have questions that probably only a scholar could answer.

So, let me frame my confusion with this statement: I am an egalitarian. I expect and believe that everyone should be given an equal opportunity, whether in jobs, lifestyle or religion and that one group is not made to do differently than another because of gender or race. I have a huge problem with any religion that allows priests/clerics/spiritual leaders to be of only one gender. And there are many. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism. There are sects in these religions that often allow for female leaders but overall, the pope can only be a man, the Dalai Lama (only one sect of Buddhism) is always a man, Jewish and Muslim leaders/holy men seem to only be men. Hinduism does seem to be one religion that has no leader over others though different sects might worship a female god or a male one. Paganism likewise has both male and female priests but again there are sects that are male or female exclusive.

But when it gets down to the clothing and the headgear I ask why does one person wear it over the other and how does this treat all human beings as equal? Jewish men wear the yarmulke/kippah (as well as the pope and other ranks in Catholicism), Sikh men wear the turban, Tuareg men wear the veil/turban but the women don’t. Muslim women wear the burka or veil, but the men don’t. Catholic nuns (some of them wear the wimple) but the men don’t though they wear a mitre or kippah on their heads. Why?

At one time in all these cultures’ histories, their robes were the style of the time. Then the religion became codified and traditionalized, setting like cement in time and never more to have the clothing change. Why do Christian priests wear cassocks and the nuns wear wimples: because it was the style when the church finally gained its true strength. Clothing wasn’t part of the religion and then it was. And suddenly, what was cultural dress became symbolism for faith. I can understand a faith that says your hair or head needs to be covered under the eyes of God (or whatever) but then it shouldn’t be a veil for women or a turban for men while the other gender gets to wear nothing or little. I also wonder why, if God created us, in all these religions, why he should want us to then hide? Shouldn’t we shine with the glory of his/her creation?

I’ve attended Native/First Nation sweats where a man could go in, in shorts but a woman had to be covered from neck to ankle and to wrist. Why? Because  a woman might be enticing? So, does that mean a semi-nude man isn’t enticing and why is it the woman’s responsibility for a man’s reaction? To me that says that men are animals, wild and uncontrollable and if that’s the case, they should not be in charge of anything, should they? The sweat was pitch black and so hot you didn’t want to touch yourself let alone anyone else and the farthest thing on anyone’s mind was sex. But still the women had to carry the brunt of this bigotry.

So why is a woman made to wear a burka or cover her hair? Why doesn’t a man have to do the same? Is a woman’s hair too beautiful and God is jealous? Are men going to turn into ravening, covetous animals? Shouldn’t they be chained and hobbled then? Is a man’s hair too boring to be enticing? How is it fair in any religion where a god or gods treats one half of his/her creations better or worse over the other? That already sets up a hierarchy of favoritism just based on gender. Not very good grounds for believing if you’re the underdog in the religion.

It is not the belief or faith, or tenets of the religion itself, where the pursuit is spiritual enlightenment that bothers me. It is the strictures and restrictions on only certain groups within the religion (or those outside of it) that disturb me greatly. Albeit, in all these religions, and the ones I haven’t mentioned there are sects, and a range of tolerance from acceptability to fundamental condemnation, and I use the word fundamental with all its horrid connotations. Fundamentalism in any religion is a sign of intolerance and fear, without a willingness to believe that people are different. But people should be able to choose, not be shamed, guilt-tripped or subjugated into the role of religious unworthy in their belief system.

If a religion requires a robe or a headcovering, then make it the same for everyone, not of two different levels depending on whether you’re blessed or only slightly blessed. I would find it hard to follow/convert to any spiritual belief where my god already saw me as a lesser being than my fellow believers. I’m waiting for someone to enlighten me.

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