Archive for July, 2007

July rituals

Monday, July 30th, 2007

July 1, 2007

Canada Day – we were outdoors. I have no idea what the ritual was about. It was a small gathering. The participants did a spiral dance – from a distance, that dance does look like a neat spiral. Guess that’s what it looks like when the Priestess knows what she’s doing.

July 8, 2007

Thunderstorm watch all day. Thus, we moved indoors for ritual – good thing too because it rained the whole night. It was nice to be in the temple again, although it was hot and humid. Some nights I don’t feel like dealing with the mosquitoes or any strangers in the park.

July 15, 2007

We had the Interfaith Group as guests for this ritual. Although it looked like it might rain, ritual was outdoors. Luckily, it didn’t rain. It’s interesting having the Interfaith Group at ritual – people always have lots of questions and are curious. Hopefully, we made a good impression.

July 22, 2007

This was a public Betrothal ritual for two members of the community. They specifically asked for a public Betrothal because they thought it might be nice for people to have the opportunity to see one and because they felt like sharing with the community. It looked like a nice ritual. Hopefully I get to see one when I’m not busy being Summoner.

July 29, 2007

Lughnasadh/Lammas sabbat ritual. It was a little quiet for a Sabbat night. The ritual looked interesting – something about looking in the woods for “blue succulent sweetness”, which was just someone in blue carrying a basket of blueberries.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

A reflective moment

Friday, July 27th, 2007

The gods have a way of reminding you of the important things in the world.

I went to a party on Tuesday. Amidst all the silliness, you learn much about the people around you. You learn something of yourself as well, such as a seemingly unexplainable attraction to a new young male in the community. (Though astrologically, my Moon conjuncts his Sun and his Moon trines my Sun.)

Perhaps my instincts have improved over the years. Having met this person briefly a few nights earlier, I thought he seemed intelligent and thoughtful. Tuesday at the party I observed his interactions with people. I introduced him to Nathan who’s a good judge of character, and a little party shy unless he’s talking with someone bright and interesting. They got to talking about acting and writing while I admired both of them from a distance.

What am I reminded of, you are wondering?

I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have someone like Nathan in my life. We have a totally open and honest relationship. We tell each other everything, even our little “crushes”, our admiration of other people. We are honest about this because it is natural. It is inevitable that you will find other people attractive or have some bond or something in common with someone else besides “your one and only”. We don’t think of each other as objects to be possessed (although I like to joke about him being all mine). We just value the time we share together. We value the fact that we like being together. As Nathan likes to put it, he’s just glad I’m here.

Relationships take work. Part of that is honesty, with yourself and each other. Otherwise, it will just fall apart. Relationships are not about limiting yourself – they are about expanding yourself. Relationships nurture and should allow you to learn more about yourself. I’m reminded of the things that have happened in my life that Nathan has been there to witness – all things that have helped me grow and expand as a person.

First, I was Handmaiden for a semi-private women’s group, and I was in six months of physical therapy after recovering from knee surgery. I tested and received my first dan black belt in taekwondo in the summer of 2004. I had my Dedication in March 2005. (After years of already knowing I was a pagan, I finally decided to have a Dedication.) After about five years at one do jang, I switched do jangs – not an easy thing to do once you’re a black belt (you have to get used to the new do jang and its internal social structure). I tested and received my second dan black belt at this new do jang in the summer of 2006. In September 2006, I was given the chance to be Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC. In October 2006, I was Neophyted into the Odyssean tradition of Wicca.

These are all major life events that Nathan has been witness to in my life (he had to deal with my grumpiness while fasting for my Neophyting ritual). Through it all, he always encouraged me and never held me back. He encouraged me to write more (something I knew I should be doing) and to pursue my goals. No one has done more for me than he has – ever. I am eternally grateful for all he has done for me. (And yes, it is a bonus to be able to admire other attractive young men without him being jealous and possessive. Although, he is protective of me – a big difference to being possessive.) He even encourages me to have fun when life gets too serious and a tad stressful (even buying me an Emily the Strange comic book 😀 ).

For some reason the gods have decided to bless me with him in my life. I love him dearly. What would I do without him in my life, I do not know. I imagine I’d feel more lost than I already occasionally feel at times. He keeps me grounded and yet promotes my dreams and aspirations (as I also try to do for him). For those wondering what love is… well… if this isn’t love, then I’m not sure what really is.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Training blog update

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

July 3, 2007

I went for a run. I ran 1 mile. My time 9 minutes 6 seconds – a slow run, but okay.

July 5, 2007

Taekwondo day – took the 7 p.m. class and then walked home after with Nathan (he came to pick me up after his tai chi class since he was walking home anyway).

July 6, 2007

10k run – I did okay, a little slower than last year. I made the mistake of having some chai with milk the night before. Thus, I was feeling heavy and bloated for the run. I had to walk off the light cramps I kept getting each time I ran a lap and a half (600 m). I spent 46 minutes 31 seconds doing that – run, then walk for thirteen laps. Eventually the cramps eased up and I could increase the amount of laps I could run before stopping again. The next seven laps took 21 minutes 49 seconds. The last five laps took about 13 minutes (I forgot to time a lap I walked, so I estimate adding about 5 minutes to the 9 minutes 2 seconds I timed). My total time was 1 hours 21 minutes 20 seconds give or take a minute or two. A little slower than last year, but last year I ran the whole thing and didn’t have cramps. Anyway, there’s always next year.

I did notice that my legs didn’t feel as stiff as after last year’s run – I suppose I’m just getting used to the distance – my endurance might be increasing. Overall, I’ve found the running to be good for my knee – it helps build up the cartilage where it was damaged and helps to build up the legs muscles so the ligaments don’t have to do as much work (i.e., my knee won’t act up because the muscles are doing the work as they should).

After the run, those testing for their black belts had to do 1000 skips/jumps, then we administered the written test – that gave them a chance to rest a bit. Then started the curriculum part of the test. First, the candidates were warmed up with some punching drills, then they did all their patterns. After that was one-step sparring and kicking techniques. Then, of course, full contact sparring. Finally, board breaking which probably takes up most of the test. Everyone has to break with hands and feet. There are four hand breaks and four feet breaks. Everyone does the same breaks. Higher black belts have to break more boards equivalent to the level they are testing for (1st dans must break two boards to get 2nd dan; 2nd dan must break three boards to get 3rd dan, and so on). The hand breaks are punch, knife hand, elbow strike, and ridge hand. The feet breaks are front snap kick, side kick, back kick and spinning hook kick. Concrete breaking is not required due to the fact that many students have hurt their hands from it. (We have many small students, simple physics dictate that more weight exerted on a board or concrete is more likely to break it – smaller students have to compensate by being extremely good at their techniques and frankly, even then, concrete is still hard to break for smaller students.)

I helped out with the test. The hardest part was holding boards for those breaking them. Those not trained in martial arts may not realize that the board holder contributes to a successful board break. The board holder must provide resistance so that the board will break on contact. Some say that 50% of the work comes from the board holder; and of course, you can’t break a board without someone holding it for you. The other hard part of it is if someone kicks your fingers (ouch!) 😉

July 7, 2007

The second part of the black belt test is the do jang BBQ in the park with colour belt test and black belt demo. This is the fun part. All the black belts performed well and had interesting speeches – children are always so quiet with their speeches.

July 20, 2007

I took some time to rest and recuperate after the 10k run, plus life has been too stressful. Finally though, I decided I needed exercise. I ran one mile. My time was about 8 minutes give or take a few seconds. It felt good to do an 8 minute mile again. I really need to try to get to a 7.5 minute mile pace. I went to the gym after the run (actually I ran to the gym the long way around).

COMPLETE LIST OF WEIGHT TRAINING EXERCISES:
Machine/apparatus Exercises:
Pull-ups/chin-ups (this machine works on a counterweight, which means you are lifting your weight minus the weight you set the machine to; thus if I set the machine to 35 lbs, I’m really lifting 70 lbs if I weight 105)
-overhand (palms facing front) – 35 lbs
-underhand (palms facing back) – 25 lbs
-parallel (palms facing towards each other) – 25 lbs
Dips (same apparatus as for the chin-ups) – 20 lbs
Weighted squat machine – 120 lbs
Leg press – 275 lbs
Hamstring flexor/seated leg curls – 105 lbs both legs
Hamstring flexor (lying down on stomach) – 50 lbs both legs, 20 lbs single leg
Hip adductors – 100 lbs
Hip abductors – 100 lbs
Seated row – 65 lbs
Seated chest press – 75 lbs
Lateral pull-downs – 75 lbs
Pectoral fly (sometimes done using free weights) – 45 lbs
Reverse deltoids – 40 lbs
Shoulder fly – 40 lbs
Shoulder lift/press – 45 lbs
Back extensor – 180 lbs
Bicep curls (usually done using free weights now) – 30 lbs, or 15 lbs single
Tricep extensor – 40 lbs (the dips do a good job of working the triceps, plus a special kind of push-up that I learned from taekwondo)
Leg lifts (I do a set of 30 reps. Lift legs out in front, the right, and the left. Doing the leg lifts to the sides helps work out the obliques/side muscles. I hate the new apparatus for this. I can only tolerate the apparatus once in a while because it aggravates my back, even though it’s supposed to be ergonomically designed.)

Free weights:
Two additional shoulder exercises
– lift weight in front using shoulder muscles
– bending at waist lift weight out to the side using muscles along the scapulae (this is the same as the machine that works in reverse of the pectoral fly)
– wrist strengthening – 15 lbs
– dead lift – 30 lb bar

Other exercises:
Pushups (I’m slowly working on single handed pushups – it’s very hard! For now, I’m just holding myself up on one hand for a 10 second count)
Situps
Cycling
Elliptical

July 23, 2007

Finally went to the do jang. After taekwondo class, I stayed and practiced some hand techniques – ridge hand, knife hand, elbow strike, and two-inch punch. If I plan to test in about a year and a half, I need to get ready to break those two boards again (I’ll remember to check if they are dry this time). After the do jang I went to the gym for weight training.

COMPLETE LIST OF WEIGHT TRAINING EXERCISES:
Machine/apparatus Exercises:
Pull-ups/chin-ups (this machine works on a counterweight, which means you are lifting your weight minus the weight you set the machine to; thus if I set the machine to 35 lbs, I’m really lifting 70 lbs if I weight 105)
-overhand (palms facing front) – 35 lbs
-underhand (palms facing back) – 25 lbs
-parallel (palms facing towards each other) – 25 lbs
Dips (same apparatus as for the chin-ups) – 20 lbs
Weighted squat machine – 120 lbs
Leg press – 275 lbs
Hamstring flexor/seated leg curls – 105 lbs both legs
Hamstring flexor (lying down on stomach) – 50 lbs both legs, 20 lbs single leg
Hip adductors – 100 lbs
Hip abductors – 100 lbs
Seated row – 60 lbs
Seated chest press – 75 lbs
Lateral pull-downs – 75 lbs
Pectoral fly (sometimes done using free weights) – 45 lbs
Reverse deltoids – 40 lbs
Shoulder fly – 40 lbs
Shoulder lift/press – 45 lbs
Back extensor – 180 lbs
Bicep curls (usually done using free weights now) – 30 lbs, or 15 lbs single
Tricep extensor – 40 lbs (the dips do a good job of working the triceps, plus a special kind of push-up that I learned from taekwondo)
Leg lifts (I do a set of 30 reps. Lift legs out in front, the right, and the left. Doing the leg lifts to the sides helps work out the obliques/side muscles. I hate the new apparatus for this. I can only tolerate the apparatus once in a while because it aggravates my back, even though it’s supposed to be ergonomically designed.)

Free weights:
Two additional shoulder exercises
– lift weight in front using shoulder muscles
– bending at waist lift weight out to the side using muscles along the scapulae (this is the same as the machine that works in reverse of the pectoral fly)
– wrist strengthening – 15 lbs
– dead lift – 30 lb bar

Other exercises:
Pushups (I’m slowly working on single handed pushups – it’s very hard! For now, I’m just holding myself up on one hand for a 10 second count)
Situps
Cycling
Elliptical

Chinese ancestor grave ritual

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

In Chinese culture, there is an emphasis on ancestor worship. There is a national holiday in China where everyone must perform a ritual at the grave sites of their ancestors (Qing Ming which takes place around April 4th). There are also other important days in which one must perform these rituals.

Recently, I went with my mother to the cemetary where my paternal grandmother is buried. I hadn’t gone with my mother to the cementary in a long time and thought to go this time where I helped her with the ritual for the ancestor.

At the grave site, we first cleaned up the area around the headstone. Since the headstone was not upright but put into the ground, the grass can grow over it. Thus, it is important to trim the grass around the headstone and ensure that the ancestor’s name is completely visible. Incense and flowers are placed in front of the headstone. In front of the incense and flowers, is a tray holding three small libation bowls each with a set of chopsticks and a big bowl of food. The bowl of food consists of a large portion of cooked pork, two eggs cut in halves, three pieces of traditional Chinese sponge cake, three pieces of Chinese dough stuffed with sweet bean paste, and three pieces of Chinese dough stuffed with a mixture of ground pork and vegetables. To the right of this setup near the headstone is a cauldron for burning “hell money”. After some time, rice wine is poured into the three libation bowls. Then paper with gold foil (not sure what these are called, may be symbolic for gold) and “hell money” is burned. This is burned so that the ancestor has money to pay off demons in the otherworld. After burning the gold paper and hell money, some time is spent quietly with the ancestor at the grave site. Then finally, before packing up, one must bow to the ancestor’s grave three times with hands held together in front. After everyone has bowed, only then can you pack up. The food laid out for the ritual may then be taken home to eat.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Rituals in June

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

June 3, 2007

Public ritual was inside as thunderstorms were expected. The ritual was an experiential ritual. The participants were blind-folded, then they held hands as they walked carefully around in a circle while the presiding Priestess and Priest read something akin to a meditation to them.

June 10, 2007

Out in the park again – I got mosquito bites again. What a pain! I should never listen to anyone – mosquitoes bite through my clothes. I had pants on and I still got bit on the legs. It might be because the legs are close to the damp grass – the mosquitoes just crawl up my legs – eek!

At least the ritual didn’t take very long.

June 17, 2007

Public ritual involved making a community portrait, a”Portrait of Summer”, to be hung at the church. The portrait is to remind us of the warmth of summer during the winter months when we are indoors. We signed the back of the portrait before ritual started. During the ritual participants were to glue flowers to it on the front. I placed my flower before ritual started. Overall, it was a simple, nice ritual. The portrait looked lovely.

June 24, 2007

Midsummer was a ritual play based on the story of Diancecht, a healer deity in Celtic mythology. Afterwards herbs were given out as a form of divination as well as for personal uses. Since Nathan was there, I asked him to grab a herb pouch for me. I had a feeling I was going to get something significant to my role as Summoner. I got tarragon, a herb associated with Mars. The description says “Promotes care and compassion for others. And also protects against unhealthy self-sacrifice, promotes strength and independence.” What’d I say? Significant, huh? 😉 Note the “protects against unhealthy self-sacrifice” – very important to a Summoner!

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Training blog update

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

June 26, 2007

I went to the gym.

COMPLETE LIST OF WEIGHT TRAINING EXERCISES:
Machine/apparatus Exercises:
Pull-ups/chin-ups (this machine works on a counterweight, which means you are lifting your weight minus the weight you set the machine to; thus if I set the machine to 35 lbs, I’m really lifting 70 lbs if I weight 105)
-overhand (palms facing front) – 35 lbs
-underhand (palms facing back) – 30 lbs
-parallel (palms facing towards each other) – 30 lbs
Dips (same apparatus as for the chin-ups) – 20 lbs
Weighted squat machine – 120 lbs
Leg press – 275 lbs
Hamstring flexor/seated leg curls – 105 lbs both legs
Hamstring flexor (lying down on stomach) – 50 lbs both legs, 25 lbs single leg
Hip adductors – 100 lbs
Hip abductors – 100 lbs
Seated row – 67.5 lbs
Seated chest press – 75 lbs
Lateral pull-downs – 75 lbs
Pectoral fly (sometimes done using free weights) – 45 lbs
Reverse pectoral fly (not sure exactly what this is called, it works the rhomboids in between the scapulae/shoulder blades) – 40 lbs
Shoulder fly – 40 lbs
Shoulder lift/press – 45 lbs
Back extensor – 180 lbs
Bicep curls (usually done using free weights now) – 30 lbs, or 15 lbs single
Tricep extensor – 40 lbs (the dips do a good job of working the triceps, plus a special kind of push-up that I learned from taekwondo)
Leg lifts (I do a set of 30 reps. Lift legs out in front, the right, and the left. Doing the leg lifts to the sides helps work out the obliques/side muscles. I hate the new apparatus for this. I can only tolerate the apparatus once in a while because it aggravates my back, even though it’s supposed to be ergonomically designed.)

Free weights:
Two additional shoulder exercises
– lift weight in front using shoulder muscles
– bending at waist lift weight out to the side using muscles along the scapulae (this is the same as the machine that works in reverse of the pectoral fly)
– wrist strengthening – 15 lbs
– dead lift – 30 lb bar

Other exercises:
Pushups (I’m slowly working on single handed pushups – it’s very hard! For now, I’m just holding myself up on one hand for a 10 second count)
Situps
Cycling
Elliptical

Then I went for a run since the gym was closing. I ran along Bloor from Bay to Bathurst. The distance was 1.8 km. My time was 11 minutes 43 seconds – a leisurely run in humidity.

June 28, 2007

I ran from Yonge and Charles to Bay, then headed south on Bay to Edward Street. The distance was just over a mile (1.7 km). My time was 9 minutes 21 seconds – another leisurely run.

June 29, 2007

I went for my 5.7 km run. I timed the run in four parts.

Part 1: running North on Mt. Pleasant from home to Roxborough – time was 8 minutes 15 seconds
Part 2: running along Roxborough Streets to Avenue and Dupont – time was 9 minutes 6 seconds
Part 3: running along Dupont to Davenport then along Davenport to Yonge – time was 11 minutes 42 seconds
Part 4: running along Church from Yonge to home – time was 8 minutes 12 seconds
Total: 37 minutes 15 seconds

Okay, I’m ready for the 10k.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame