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Witch vs. Witch

September 2, 2010 1 comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

I found your site in a search for ways to protect my home from a guest who I am going to have to invite into my home, but this woman, who is also a Witch, does not not like me and I do not trust her. I am Wiccan also, my distrust isn’t due to her beliefs. I need some advice on ways to protect my home when inviting an unfriendly guest who could cause harm into it. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Blessed Be,

Kelly

Dear Kelly,

There’s an old saying that goes “guests are like fish, they stink after three days”. Ok, it’s not a very nice thing to say, but there is something to it. Back in the day, maybe our parents generation, folks knew what it meant to be a guest. This included cleaning up after yourself, offering to cook one night, and generally not trying to be much of a burden on the host. Now-a-days, guests expect it to be like at a hotel, where they are waited on hand and foot. Some open communication with your guest could really help–especially establish when she will be leaving.

I assume that since you have to invite this guest into your home, that you are either 1) related, 2) working on a business deal, 3) trying to please your partner who wants them to visit, or 4) taking a charity case and you are the nicest person ever.

In Wicca, we recognize that sometimes people we don’t like are actually very like us. It is what we see in them that we don’t like about ourselves. So what is it about this woman that you dislike so much? Is it her manners? Her attitude? Or just the fact that she doesn’t like you? And does she really not like you? Or do you just think that she doesn’t like you?

I don’t know what kind of harm this woman can do to you that you would allow. If she breaks something like a vase, that harm can often be mended. Even if it is irreplaceable–it’s just stuff. If she leaves “bad vibes”, you can clean them up when she’s not looking, and recognize that it’s probably only upsetting you anyway (you’re the sensitive Witch, after all!). Will she physically hurt your animals or children? That’s unacceptable for anyone, Witch or no, and she should know better (after all, who needs that kind of 3-fold return Karma??). So what kind of harm are we talking about?

Not everyone will like you. Sometimes they are projecting their own past on you. Perhaps you symbolize something distasteful to them. Sometimes they just have the wrong impression. Often their values are different than yours. It doesn’t make sense, but I think you know it is true. Something about you scares them–and that there is valuable information that you should try to find out! With that info, you can work on it and learn to help them have some compassion for you. Here’s the thing: it goes the other way, too: As Above, So Below, right?

Remember that Wiccans work for the highest good for all involved, especially because we reap our own Karma. Is starting a Witch War going to help you do that? Your guest may not have the same values that you do, even if you are both Witches, but hold true to YOUR highest ideals and strive ever toward them (Thanks Uncle Al!).

So, it sounds like you can’t change the situation. But you can change your mind. Imagine this woman is, well, a Witch–she challenges you and rubs you the wrong way and might cast a spell on you. You can’t fight her with sword and shield, so you must defeat her in less obvious ways. You are the hero in the journey and story of self-awareness and personal growth. You will defeat her because you know the ways of magic. You know that you are powerful, and nothing she can do will truly harm you (after all, a curse only works if you believe in it). You listen to her and are kind to her because you know that she can teach you something about yourself and about the world.

My advice in real life? Kill her with kindness. Make food she’ll enjoy. Make her comfortable. If she gets petty, take the highest road. If you think she’s casting spells on you, utterly ignore them. If her vibes are trashing your house, cover them with your light vibes of peace and tranquility (and a little sage or cedar never hurt either). Do not sink to her level and engage in a Witch War. I promise you will both lose.

Perhaps this isn’t the advice you wanted. But I honestly believe that when you cast spells on people, your Karma gets tangled with theirs. And I know I don’t want to be tangled with someone I don’t actually like. I trust that the Gods and the Laws of Karma will even things out in the long run. Until then, I’m free to change myself–and so are you. You have a valuable opportunity for learning here. I suggest you take it and run with it!

Otherwise, check out this article on clearing spaces and keeping magically safe.

Tangled Karmic Yarn.

Farewell Familiar

August 9, 2010 1 comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

My cat, who was my familiar and my feline soulmate passed away last October. My neighbor poisoned him with antifreeze and I rushed him to the hospital, but they couldn’t do anything to stop it, and I had to make the horrible decision after much crying and begging the deities to help, to let him go.


Since then, my life is empty and I feel lost. What can I do to get my life back on track and is he still with me? I don’t feel him. Am I just too overcome with emotions?  Please help guide me back to the true path.
Thanks,
Suisan

Dear Suisan,

I am so sorry about your loss. What a sad case! Antifreeze is so dangerous to animals. I can hardly imagine the pain you are going through. It doesn’t surprise me that you are still grieving over the loss of your friend.

First allow me to say that grief takes as much time as it takes, and where you are and whatever you are feeling is exactly where you are supposed to be and what you should be feeling. That being said, in order to process grief, you must address it. Writing to me is a good step, and sharing your feelings with others is important–you are already on your healing path. Have you allowed yourself to have closure through ritual such as a funeral?

I think this grieving and healing process is complicated by your neighbors actions. It seems so malicious–who would hurt an animal? I am wondering if you are feeling betrayed, violated, or perhaps depressed. It was traumatic and difficult to go through. What support and help have you received from friends and family during that time?

In Paganism, our pets are important relationships and have a significant impact on our lives. Perhaps it is because we don’t have “dominion over the animals” and we see them equally as children of the Goddess and God, or recognize the inherent divinity in animals. Consequently, the loss of a pet can hit one as hard as the loss of a family member. Yet our society tells us to “get over it” and to “just get another pet”–as if you can replace family members!

Yet animals come and go in our lives for many reasons. They come to teach us lessons about trust, unconditional love, dependence, and play. What lessons have you learned from your cat friend? The harder questions is, what lessons can you learn from the death of your cat friend? Forgiveness? Independence? Letting go? Permission to feel pain and anger? Honor those lessons, even the ones that hurt, and you’re friend will be honored and a part of you. Being in constant pain awash with grief does not honor your friend.

When my cats disappeared mysteriously, I placed strips of fabric in a tree with a prayer to each of them, inviting them to come back and to give me a sign that it is them. I wished them well on their journey and told them I loved them–a sort of funeral for them. I knew that if they weren’t with me, they were with another family that needed them, or would be reincarnated where they were needed. Is there a prayer, spell or ritual that you can do to mark the passing of your friend?

As to not being able to feel him, it is because you have not integrated the lesson he was trying to teach you. If you feel that you just HAVE to get in contact with him, perhaps contact a pet psychic to help you find that lesson and help you contact your friend.

The anniversary of this event is approaching, and it is likely to stir up some old feelings–that’s ok. Dying is part of life. Hurting is part of healing. This is the path–not just the light side, but the dark nights, too. You know that if you keep walking, it will get light again.

See this post on grief for more information. My heart goes out to you.

[Humor] Bring Me the Head of Apollo!

Now, my mother is not Pagan. But she loves the Mediterranean and the art of old Europe. Since she retired, she’s been traveling the world taking classes with famous glass lampwork artists. I’m still working on getting her to take me to Greece…

Anyway, since she’s retired, she’s also taken up decorating, and has done things to the house and the garden that are quite lovely. My favorite is the sitting area in the yard, with a three-foot tall statue of Demeter, revealing her leg. It is a replica of a classic statue, and the leg is filthy from the farmers that have touched it, asking for her blessing. I do the same when I am there. The sitting area also includes a statue of Athena, and a head of Apollo. That is, until recently.

Mom: Um, sweetie, I don’t mean to accuse you of anything…but could you bring my head back?

Me: The what?

Mom: Apollo. He’s been stolen!

So apparently some really tough kids or possibly gang members have stolen it. I told mom that, perhaps, he just got tired of sitting in the yard and wanted to go places. Surely, she’ll receive a post card from him soon. Like that traveling gnome in Amelie. But maybe, since he’s just a head, he’ll send pictures of him wearing different hats from around the world.

You wish your vacation was this awesome!!

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Paganism and Race

April 25, 2010 21 comments

First let me say that I have always intended that this blog be a place of learning, where nothing is really off the table as long as the discussion is polite. I believe passion and intellect can live together in harmony. I am also working on becoming a better person, and my posts reflect my attitudes and beliefs in the here and now. Of course, people are individuals, and talking about any individual as a whole group is always tricky. So of course I recognize that what I am saying might not be true for all people. But for the sake of the discussion and the idea, I am talking about race and culture–a collective experience that might not be true for each individual. That being said, please, gentle reader, read on!

I was recently reading a post in a private message board about someone’s deep desire to see the Paganism revival become more multicultural. She lamented the fact that there are few people of color who worship with us. She was quite worried that maybe we weren’t being open and accepting enough, which surprised me, given the attitudes of Paganism towards sexual/gender minorities, those with alternative lifestyle, etc.

Um, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but Paganism is about as White as you can get. Our beliefs are based in Celtic reconstructionism, Greek philosophy, occult knowledge which comes out of Western Europe, the witchcraft trials that also came out of Europe, folks beliefs out of the UK and, well, Western Europe.

So why would someone with Chinese, African, Pacific Islander, Indian or Native American ancestry be at all interested in our religion?

Truth is, people don’t convert to our religion, they overwhelmingly see it as “coming home”. What it is is a return to our ancestral roots, to our own White culture. When most of our ancestors came to America, they worked hard to assimilate, which is where we got the idea of the melting pot. After awhile, it didn’t matter if you were from Ireland, Italy, France or Britain, as long as you spoke English. In our race to assimilate (pardon the pun), we forgot our background. But as part of the majority, White people were able to keep to themselves and exclude racial minorities from taking part in the formation of culture. While this happens to a much lesser degree today, one honestly has to acknowledge that the majority of White culture has assimilated Western European values over time.

This will probably be very unpopular, but race matters. Yes, we are all human beings, deserve the same rights, etc. But the truth is that our cultures hold different values. As part of our own White privilege, we aren’t necessarily able to see the forest for the trees, and miss the markers that make our culture different from others. Neo-Paganism is the ultimate expression of that culture.

Take our value of Personal Responsibility. It’s this idea that we should strive to become the best individuals that we can, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make something of ourselves. It means that we are in charge of our own fate.

This idea is entirely Western European, and very very American. Many cultures, even today, don’t share these same values. Take Chinese culture, for example. To them, family is the most important thing, and your birth order determines your role in the family. Older siblings may be required to care for youngsters, and the youngest is required to “be the baby” perhaps their whole life. Consequently, your fate is determined by the needs of your family as outlined by your father.

Many African-Americans have historically been denied equal access to jobs and education–which sort of puts that whole individualized fate thing out of the question. Many see the Black community (such as the neighborhood, or the church) as an important piece of identity. To leave that community, even if it is in your best interest, might be seen as denying your roots. Joining a Pagan community might be understood as assimilating into White culture, and abandoning one’s Blackness. Upon return to their home community, they might be subject to “authenticity testing“, in which the community (often children or immature adults) “tests” them to see if they are “Black enough” to come back to the community. It is a very difficult position to be in.

Pagans and many Americans see personal responsibility as a value that should be embraced by everyone, but by expecting that, we are pushing our values on other people–this is oppression, and obviously not our intent. Perhaps this is why we do not proselytize–to avoid this oppression which, for many, was the reason they left their original religion to begin with.

Paganism is a return to roots, it is a look at our heritage religion before Christianity. So think about this for a moment: If you are Chinese and want to return to your roots, you practice the folk religion of China, or become Buddhist or Daoist. The Japanese return to Shinto. An African-American might turn to the African folk religions, or a blended one like Voudoun. A Native American would look to their tribe and find religion there. There is no need to turn to European roots to fine ones own roots. I believe that is why the Heathens, who celebrate the Norse religion, don’t interact much with the Pagan movement–they have their own movement!

Those are just a few examples of the hardships a racial minority would have in joining the Pagan community. While we welcome those who truly seek our path, no matter what their background, I don’t believe we will ever have a truly multicultural religion for all people. That’s what Christianity tried to do, and clearly that didn’t work for everyone, or else there would be no need for Paganism!

So let’s just accept that our religion is for us, and strive to make it the best it can be in serving the needs of the people actually doing it. Let us strive to remove our blocks and hang-ups about race by working on ourselves and becoming aware of racism and discrimination in society. Let us strive to be open to others without pushing our values upon them, but in respecting that their values have deep roots, even if we don’t agree with them.

So Mote it Be!

*I got the information about culture and race from a few books:

Ethnicity and Family Therapy” and “Counseling the Culturally Diverse

Fear the Witch?

March 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

Do you cast spells for free ? This is just until I get over my fear of becoming a witch.

Sincerely,

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

There is so much here that makes me sad. In response to sentence 1: No. In response to sentence 2: …um…really?

I don’t cast spells for other people for free. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that nothing in this world is free. I’ll cast a spell for you, but you’re gonna have to work for it. I’m not going to tie myself to a stranger’s Karma. Studies show that people don’t value things they get for free, and if you do any spell, you should be very tied to the outcome.  When you expect things for free, you get what you pay for. The Rule of Three applies, and 3×0 is still nuthin’.

With my tarot readings, spells, and even my writing, I expect to get paid in some way–or else, why would I do them? The client is paying for my time and attention, as well as my many years of education and experience. When you pay for something, you get better results, pay more attention to the outcome, and are more likely to use it. However, you don’t always have to pay with money. Many readers are happy to take a trade of equal value. Remember, EQUAL value. I once did a trade tarot reading. I wrote four pages for her…she wrote me two sentences. There was nothing fair and equitable about it and I felt robbed.

Many Craft coven laws explicitly state that you cannot sell the Craft for money. And I completely agree with them. That is why I write articles explaining how to do things–they aren’t secrets. With tarot, I can show you a dozen books on how to do it. Heck, every deck has a little booklet that tells you what it all means. What you pay for is the skills of the reader.

So…no. For everyone’s benefit, I don’t do spells for free.

As to the second part, I guess I don’t really understand it. What are you afraid of? Sure. There are some hard things about being a Witch, like deciding to come out of the broom closet, personal responsibility, and regularly facing your inner demons.

If you’re not already Pagan, and are coming from the mainstream culture, I can imagine that you are afraid of the dark occult forces, of losing your salvation through Jesus, and of conjuring up devils and demons. I suppose the attraction to you is this Faustian desire for power in this life. But if that’s what you want…seriously, Wicca doesn’t want you.

Wicca and Paganism are serious religious life paths. People are attracted to them because they already feel like they are Pagan, and just haven’t put a name to their beliefs yet. That’s why we don’t convert–practitioners recognize the religion as something they’ve been looking and longing for. They may be afraid to jump in the deep end without doing some more research, but most of the time, they already are Witches in one sense or another.

So, anonymous, if you are afraid of being a Witch because you aren’t sure what it means or entails or if it is right for you, then I encourage you to do some more research. Witchful Thinking is happy to answer any question you might have. However, if you are afraid of going to Hell and demons and so forth…well, then I encourage you to do some more research, if only to educate yourself about the multicultural world we live in. Try some non-Christian derived sources, yes? Don’t worry. You won’t go to Hell for reading about Witches.

Additionally, anonymous, I encourage you to learn to cast your own spells. Not only will they be  tailored to your situation, but you will be more invested in their outcome. The process of learning to do your own magic can be very empowering and healing.

How to Identify A Witch: Part the Second

March 2, 2010 4 comments

It is so easy to mock our Salem ancestors for assuming that everything about them makes them a Witch. But how can we identify each other now? This is an ever-evolving list, like a living document, so add on your own thoughts in the comments!

A pointy hat and a cauldron also helps in identification.

So here we go, in no particular order….How to Identify a Witch!

  1. Tattoos–look to the quality and quantity of them. It’s not that we’re into pain, or anything, but we are into expressing ourselves, yes? While the fact of having some ink isn’t a dead give away, ask them why they got it and you’re likely to get a very personal and spiritual answer. I had thought to make a blog dedicated to Pagan tattoos, the symbolism and why they got them. I wish I had more ink.
  2. Long or wild hair–we aren’t known for being uptight and responsible. Many Witches I know have that curly, uncontrollable hair. I wear my hair quite long, as do many Pagan men I know. Perhaps it is our hippie ancestors coming out, or a general disregard to societies mores about personal appearance. I could go into Pauline accounts of why women should cover their hair and aren’t God-like, but who has the time.
  3. Always know the moon phase– I don’t know why it should come up in conversation, but a Witch always seems to know if we are waxing or waning. A good one will know what zodiac sign it is in and do magic accordingly. As a woman, it’s also handy to keep track of when to expect one’s menstruation.
  4. They offer a natural remedy for a problem–I love natural remedies. I often keep several salves in my purse for different skin problems, or a anti-bug spray, or some natural digestive enzymes. It is likely that the Witch has made the salve.
  5. Lots of candles–A Witch won’t mind when the power goes out, she’ll just make a romantic evening out of it! But she won’t light the candle that is consecrated for a specific spell. Nope. We are very particular about our candles.
  6. Incense in aromas other than patchouli–don’t get me wrong, I love the earthy smell of the stuff. But I also recognize there are a lot of other uses for incense besides covering up…you know.
  7. A rather large collection of books–this has always puzzled me. If Wicca is a nature religion, why the heck do we have so many books? Maybe it’s because we don’t have the “one” book, so we use lots? Well, look for subjects like mythology, herbalism, shamanism and alchemy.  And Buckland’s Big Blue book is probably a give away too…
  8. Talking to Animals–dogs, cats, birds, snakes, rats, horses…just like our witchy ancestors were accused of doing, we definitely do it. When you believe that all animals are beloved of the Gods–including ourselves–then it only seems polite to talk to them, ask them about their day, and tell them when we’ll be home. Learning to see the world from your pet’s point of view is a wonderful exercise in empathy and compassion.
  9. Rather too many rings–we call it the Pagan Brass Knuckles when you have a ring or two on each finger. I suppose we are expressing our plurality, and the silver looks really cool all together. It’s customizable, so you can change it based on the moon or the day of the week.
  10. Wears a Pentacle–this is the big give away. Look to the throat region for what one wants to keep close to their heart. Things people wear as necklaces almost always convey something they value dearly. Especially if they wear it every day. I take choosing a pentacle very seriously, and have only had three in the time I’ve been practicing Paganism to denote certain periods of my life. It’s a great way to identify each other when you don’t know how out they are. A simple “Nice necklace” can subtly say “I know who you are” and implies that you are probably one too. Then they are free to start a conversation, if they are so inclined, out of the broom closet, or have the time.

Religion and Blogging

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

My colleague at Wild Hunt is included in this new book. I thought that, as connoisseurs of religious blogs that ya’all might be interested.

The Social Science Research Council has released a study titled “The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere.”  You can read it online!

I think she's bowing to her computer screen. But I guess the image interpretation is subjective.

“Blogs have given occasion to a whole new set of conversations about religion in public life. They represent a tremendous opportunity for publication, discussion, cross-fertilization, and critique of a kind never seen before. In principle, at least, the Internet offers an opportunity to break down old barriers and engender new communities. While the promise is vast, the actuality is only what those taking part happen to make of it.

This report surveys nearly 100 of the most influential blogs that contribute to an online  discussion about religion in the public sphere and the academy. It places this religion blogosphere in the context of the blogosphere as a whole, maps out its contours, and presents the voices of some of the bloggers themselves. For those new to the world of blogs, there is an overview of what blogging is and represents (section 1). The already-initiated can proceed directly to the in-depth analyses of academic blogging (section 2), where religion blogs stand now, and where they may go in the future (sections 3 and 4).

The purpose at hand is to foster a more self-reflective, collaborative, and mutually-aware religion blogosphere. Ideally, this report will spark discussion among religion bloggers that will take their work further, while also inviting new voices from outside existing networks to join in and take  part.