Karma: Is it Really a Bitch?

Image by Activedia from CC0 via Canva

Many times, during discussions in the Pagan community – particularly those revolving around perceived negative behavior – you’ll hear someone invoke the idea of Karma, the notion that what goes around comes around. However, the original concept of Karma is far more complex than simply a giant cosmic payback machine. Let’s look at the way some eastern religions view Karma, and how it’s been adapted by the modern Pagan and metaphysical communities.

About.com Hinduism Expert, Subhamoy Das, has a great article explaining Karma as a law of cause and effect. In other words, it’s not just bad stuff that comes back on you, but good works and actions as well. Furthermore, Karmic results often do not appear in this lifetime, but in the next. He says, “Hindu philosophy, which believes in life after death, holds the doctrine that if the karma of an individual is good enough, the next birth will be rewarding, and if not, the person may actually devolve and degenerate into a lower life form. In order to achieve good karma it is important to live life according to dharma or what is right.”

In Buddhism, Karma is also a law of cause and effect, but as Barbara O’Brien points out, many westerners use the term “Karma” to refer to the results of Karma, rather than the action itself. She explains that to Buddhists, Karma is non-linear, and has multiple loops and turns. This means, she says, “although the past has some influence on the present, the present also is shaped by the actions of the present.”

In modern Paganism, Karma is often interpreted slightly differently than as a law of cause and effect. Instead, it’s sometimes seen more as a cosmic payback. Do good things, and you’ll have good things happen to you. Treat people badly, and someday, Karma’s going to catch up with you, and respond accordingly – after all, they say, Karma is a bitch.

Much like the Wiccan rule of three and the Law of Attraction, Karma doesn’t always work in a way that we see as fair or just. If it did, people who are jerks would always have bad things happening to them. Those who are good and pleasant would be surrounded by nothing but good things. The fact is that – at least on the material plane – that’s not always the case.

However, many people prefer to look at Karma on a universal and metaphysical scale. Do good things for others? Awesome! If you don’t get good things in return this time around, you might have them happen in the next lifetime.

So, to answer the question: is Karma real?

No one can answer that question with any degree of certainty. After all, much like many other questions in the metaphysical realm, everyone is going to have their own unverified personal gnosis that colors their answer. However, it’s probably safe to say that if you can live this life in a way that is honorable, fair, and acceptable to your own moral standards and to those of the people who are important to you, then it doesn’t matter whether you’re building up Karma points for the next lifetime or not.

Saturday Spellwork: Shiva Stones

The Shiva Lingam is a stone that is found in many aspects of Hindu belief and folklore. A symbol of the god Shiva, the stone itself is sometimes simply called the Lingam. It’s shaped a bit like an elongated egg, but it also has a good deal of phallic symbolism attached to it. Because of its shape, it is connected with both the male and female aspects of life creation. In some of the metaphysical disciplines, the Shiva Lingam is tied to all of the different Chakras, and can be used in healing and energy work.

In particular, it is associated with sexual fertility and potency – men who are suffering from impotence can carry this stone in their pocket and, according to folklore, find themselves restored to full sexual ability. Because it is connected with all of the Chakras, the Shiva Lingam can be used for whole-self healing, and to balance the entire body, not just the sexual aspects.

About.com Hinduism Expert Subhamoy Das says,

“The Linga is like an egg, and represents the ‘Brahmanda’ or the cosmic egg. Linga signifies that the creation is effected by the union of ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha,’ the male and the female powers of Nature. Linga also signifies ‘Satya,’ ‘Jnana’ and ‘Ananta’ – Truth, knowledge and Infinity.”

Hindus believe that the Shiva Lingam is one of the most sacred stones in the world, and that’s partly because of the way it is obtained. It is a stone found only in the Narmada River, which is part of the Mardhata mountain range – one of seven sacred pilgrimage sites in India. Because it is a river stone, the Shiva Lingam can only be gathered during the dry season. Local residents gather the stones, in every size possible, and polish them for resale to the rest of the world. It is believed that the markings on each stone represent the markings on the forehead of Lord Shiva.

These beautiful stones range in size from less than half an inch in length to several feet long. Each one is unique, and symbolizes divine creation and the sacred balance of the soul. It is said that every stone contains a microscopic form of the universe itself.

Carry a Shiva Lingam for general healing and well being, as well as for power and energy. A Shiva Lingam stone can be used in meditation exercises to help bring balance and harmony.

When I Eat All the Things at Yule

Does this hat make me look chubby? Image by Hasloo via Canva

Okay, y’all, I make no secret of the fact that I’ve struggled with my weight all of my adult life. I’m pretty healthy and strong these days, but I know I’ll never be skinny. Regardless, because I love to cook, the holiday season can be a real challenge for me – but I’ve figured out over the years that if I set a few basic rules for myself, I can keep things under control during December. This way I don’t spend January through April hating the way my ass looks in a pair of yoga pants.

Watch Your Portions

One of the biggest mistakes you can make during Yule is using a large plate. After all, we’re all trained to finish whatever we take — which means if you have a big plate, you’ll end up with a big meal. Use a smaller sized plate, and you’ll automatically end up with less food. Remember, a “serving” is a specific amount, not how much you can eat in one sitting.

Add Some Greenery

No matter what you plan on eating, make sure at least fifty percent of your food is green vegetables or fruit. Make your first course a salad or a pile of savory veggies. The vegetables and salad will help you fill up on healthy calories, which means you’ll eat less of the food that doesn’t have much nutritional value.

Hurray for Soup!

Many nutrition experts will tell you that the human stomach feels full about twenty minutes after you start eating. Start off with a bowl of soup or broth before your main course, and that way by the time your entree arrives, you’ll be well on your way to being full already. A full feeling means you’re done eating. Also, it means that the slower you eat, the less you’ll eat.

Schedule Your Snacks

It’s really easy to graze on snacks all day, especially if you have them sitting on your desk at work, or on the counter in your kitchen. Instead, schedule your snack time just like you do meals. Plan on having a healthy snack halfway between breakfast and lunch, and again in the middle of the afternoon. This not only will help you cut back on calories, it gives you something to look forward to.

Get Up and Walk

Feeling a little bloated after eating Grandma’s turkey? You’re not alone – but you don’t have to be miserable. Go for a brisk walk around the block, and you’ll feel rejuvenated. Plus, you’ll be burning off some of those calories you just gobbled down!

Don’t Eat on the Go

Most people find they consume more calories if they eat standing up, in the car, or straight out of a package. To combat that, only eat sitting at the table, and use a plate and fork. Don’t wander around the kitchen picking and grazing. Take the time to sit down, and you’ll most likely eat less. Besides, this gives you a chance to spend a few minutes with family at the end of a hectic day.

Eat Before You Party

It’s tempting to go to a potluck dinner and sample a little of everything, but that’s a really good way to pack on the extra pounds. Before you go to a party or event where there will be food, be sure to eat ahead of time. Snack on a bowl of soup, some peanut butter, or an apple and some yogurt. Don’t ever go to a party hungry, or you’ll make yourself miserable.

How to Be a Good Holiday Shopper and Not an Asshole

So, this is something I wrote a few years ago when I worked at the Big Chain Bookstore that rhymes with Yarns and Boble, but because I’ve seen so many examples of horrible shopping behavior this year, I wanted to share it again.

Here you go, gentle readers. Ten ways to be a good holiday shopper… and not act like a dick to the retail peeps.

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The December holidays are nearly upon us, and even though Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice are still a good six weeks away, many of my friends are gleefully rubbing their hands together in anticipation of Black Friday shopping. Everyone claims they think Black Friday is an awful concept, but y’all are still going to do it, and by about noon, at least one of you will have made some poor retail employee hate you. Why? Because while there are plenty of tips on how to get the best deals, there are rarely any suggestions on how to shop without being an asshole.

Brisco says to be nice. Or he will derp all over you.

Thus, gentle reader, as someone who will be at work at 7:30 Friday morning to greet the squeeing masses, I have an early Christmas present for you. Here are some tips on how to be a good shopper – the kind of shopper that makes me think, “Wow, the last ten people were dicks, but this guy was just SO NICE.” Follow these guidelines, and it’s quite possible that you – and the people who are getting paid just slightly more than minimum wage to put up with your shenanigans – will have a much better experience.

Feel free to use these the rest of the year too.

1. Be Patient.
Yeah, I know you’ve been out there in your sleeping bag since 5 am so you could get the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever. So have the other nine hundred people. Guess what. You’re gonna have to wait your turn. Employees will help you when they can. Don’t be a dick, and understand that YOU’RE SHOPPING ON BLACK FRIDAY. No matter how many employees are working, it’s not going to be enough, so suck it up and play Candy Crush on your phone for a few minutes.

2. Read the Fine Print.
If the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever is on sale for a special price, and the ad says down at the bottom “While Supplies Last,” then guess what? After the store runs out, they no longer will be able to give you that special price. If that happens, accept that you didn’t get there in time. Move on, instead of throwing a tantrum.

3. Use Some Common Sense.
Ethel the Employee is helping a customer, she’s also answering the phone, and she’s trying to look up something on a computer while four other people are waiting for her assistance. Walking up behind her and saying “Scuse me I just got a quick question!” is not cool. Use your brain, and get in line like everyone else. There are no quick questions, other than “Where’s the bathroom?”

And it’s along the back wall under the blue Catch-22 sign.

4. Common Sense Part 2
You see an employee wearing a name tag, but also carrying her car keys, a cup of coffee, and her purse, as she makes a beeline for the doors to the parking lot. What do you do?

Image result for customer service meme retail

a. Ask her to help you locate that special color Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever that you can’t find because someone just took the last one but you’re sure there’s some in the back even though you’ve already been told they’re all gone.

b. Recognize that she’s probably off the clock and leave her the hell alone.

Choose wisely, young Jedi.

5. Don’t Argue.
Yes, we know the online price for the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever is cheaper than it is in the store. That’s because it’s online, and you have to wait for shipping. You can argue all you want, but that’s not going to make me sell you the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever at the online price. If it makes you feel better, think of the extra cost as your Instant Gratification Tax.

Image result for customer service meme retail

Also, don’t yell at me because I won’t price match, just because you know Best Buy and Target will do it. Best Buy is selling $2500 flat screens, so there’s a bit of wiggle room. You’re buying a six dollar paperback with a 10% Membership Discount and a coupon. How much more of a discount do you think I can give you? Spend the extra $1.03 and move on.

6. Shit Happens.
Sometimes people make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes will inconvenience you. If a cashier accidentally gives you the wrong change, or the guy at Customer Service points you in the wrong direction, it’s okay. It’s not done out of maliciousness or even incompetence, it’s done because it’s Black Friday and we have nine hundred people in our face screaming because we just ran out of the latest Bill O’Reilly book and there’s not enough coffee in the world to alleviate the hell that we are in. Be patient, wait your turn, and let whoever made the mistake fix it, without you making their day even more miserable.

7. Know What You Want.
Image result for customer service meme retailMy favorite customers, all kidding aside, are the ones who come in with a list. They know exactly what they want, they just need me to show them where it is. Good for you, people – buy your stuff, and continue being awesome. My second favorite customers are the ones who aren’t sure what they want, but they are happy to take suggestions. Need a book for a ten year old boy who reads at an eighth grade level and likes monsters and magic? I’ve got a good dozen ideas for you, here they are, and you can pick which one works best for your little gift recipient.

8. Gift Cards Are Good.
You have to pick out a present for that cousin you haven’t seen in eight years and you have no idea what he likes because you don’t talk to him anyway, but now he’s showing up for Christmas dinner. Great! Seriously, it’s perfectly okay to get him a gift card. Most people love them, because it allows them to go select their very own present at a later date. If you feel weird about it, remember that gift cards help the economy too – we get a sale when you buy the card, and we get a sale when someone comes in to redeem it.

9. Be Prepared.
You’ve done it! You got your Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever and now you’re waiting in line at the cash register. While you’re waiting, it’s a good time to do things like dig out all those coupons and your discount membership card, as well as write out the date and retailer’s name on your check that you’re still using even though everyone except your grandma is using debit cards today. Don’t wait til the last minute to count out your spare change, and don’t ask the cashier to wait while you run and get that damn Elf on the Shelf that you promised to by for little Skippy but you forgot to pick up. Also, if you need gift receipts, tell the cashier BEFORE they start ringing things up, not after you’ve paid and they’re waving the next customer down to the register.

10. Don’t Be an Asshole.
Nothing says Happy Birthday Baby Jesus like making some minimum wage cashier cry. I tell all the new seasonal people at work that they don’t get paid to be abused, and if someone is being mean to them, let a manager (or someone who’s got thicker skin and gives no shits) know about it.
I guarantee you, if you come into my store, and you make an employee cry (especially our poor little Noobs who are on their very first job ever), there is a special place in hell reserved just for you. Try to remember that the whole point of the holidays is to celebrate the love you have for your family and whatever faith it is you follow. Celebrate it by not being an asshole to people who don’t deserve it.

Chocolate Santas

Everyone loves Santa Claus, and everyone loves chocolate. Put them together, and you’ve got a delicious holiday treat. But what inspired this idea in the first place? Who came up with the idea of chocolate Santas? And is it really nothing more than ritualized cannibalism?

Ho ho ho, y’all. Image by Webandi from CC0 via Canva

Chocolate is known as an aphrodisiac the world over today, but until fairly recently, it was mostly the domain of the Aztecs, the Mayans, and European royalty.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Industrial revolution brought equipment that mixed dried cocoa powder with cocoa butter. This resulted in a form of chocolate that was not only pourable, but easy to mold.

Most likely, the Germans can take credit for making the first chocolate Santa Clauses — December 6 is known as Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas’ Day, and the traditional gift appears to have been a toy and a piece of chocolate. Even today, nearly thirty million chocolate Santas are sold each winter in Germany alone by the Lindt & Sprüngli Chocolate Company, according to a 2013 interview with marketing director Heike Bootz.

 In the book Pagan Christmas, authors Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Eberling posit that the ritual consumption of the chocolate Santa is a way of “butchering” Father Christmas after we’ve unwrapped our gifts. But maybe — just maybe — we do it because chocolate is really, really delicious!