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9/11 One Witch Won’t Forget!

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not really that excited about America. That is, I’m not particularly patriotic. I think most demonstrations of patriotism are closer to fascism. I’m the kind of person who quit saying the pledge of allegiance everyday because it has “Under God” in it…you know who else did stuff like that? The Romans. And Nazi Germany. But there’s something about 9/11 that makes me feel grateful and happy to be in America and to be an American.

My experience of September 11, 2001 was quite different from many peoples. I was 18, and had graduated high school in June. For the previous three years, I’d been saving money for a trip to the United Kingdom, and through a very odd series of coincidences, I was saved from a mess of trouble. My trip was to be 15 days, and I was scheduled to fly from Seattle to New York, and then on to London. A week or two before the trip, I had the travel agent (we had those back then) change it to a direct flight from Seattle to London. When I arrived at the airport with my parents in tow, the plane was grounded due to mechanical failures, and my travel agent pushed the entire venture back one day.

As a result, I was not on an airplane on Sept 11th flying to New York. I was still in Ireland, with a ticket home while everyone else was freaking out. Absolutely, the Gods were looking out for me then.

Because I was on vacation, the company I was touring with didn’t want to ruin our experience by telling us of the horrors at home. I had been in a bus most of the day, stopping and shopping at little towns. I should explain that, over there, by simply opening your mouth and speaking, people know exactly where you are from. So every time I asked a shop keeper where the restroom was, or the time, or where the bus would come from, they would apologize and treat me extremely politely, but with a grave solemnity. It was only at the third or fourth person that I stopped to ask what was going on. They showed me to the TV, and I could see these buildings and it looked like they were on fire. Everyone was speculating–an accident? an explosion? No one thought terrorism. I watched the second plane hit the towers. People in the shop gasped. Someone from my tour group was crying. All the Aussies and Kiwi’s kept asking me how I was going to get home. That was my thought too.

As a result, I barely knew what happened. By the time I returned home, everyone was burned out and grief-stricken from talking about the details. It was all about what to do. There was a cry against terrorism, and I watched my country unite against hatred and desperate to do something and not knowing what they could do.

Over the next couple of years, it was only with the specials on TV coming out that gave me the details. I think because it was so abstract for me when it actually happened, that I didn’t really deal with the emotions of it. It’s been almost a decade, and I still can’t stand to see the footage of the towers falling. 9/11 is more real for me than Veterans day or even Independence day. The emotion is really present for me. I feel for those families that lost someone, I grieve for the people who felt like this was their only option. My heart aches for soldiers and their families who are fighting to keep us safe–my heart even goes out to those families whose soldiers are fighting for our stupid excuses. I hate war, but Athena has taught me that it is sometimes necessary, if done with thought and care. This was wasn’t, or we’d be done by now and Osama Bin Laden would be charged for crimes against humanity.

9/11 is still real for many people, but there is a difference between being angry and scared at being attacked and in taking it out on people. Muslims did not do 9/11 to us FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE did! That is something I’ll never forget. Muslims died in 9/11 because our country honors the fundamental right that people have a right to their religion. America welcomed them with open arms as immigrants and the children of immigrants. Just like they did with my ancestors coming from Germany, Ireland and England. The only difference is about 150 years, but we are all still here together as Americans, and every one of us was attacked that day.

So when I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE burning Qur’ans, it, no offense, gets my panties in a wad. I’m pissed about it! How absolutely un-American (but I’ll support your right to do it, so how American is that??). When I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE booing and hissing at a fellow who wants to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, I’m embarrassed at the reaction of my people. Clearly they didn’t learn what I learned from 9/11. What happened to that Unity? What happened to people being open and accepting and tolerant of other religions? Why does our unification have to be at the expense of someone else? Why does the spread of Democracy have to be so…undemocratic. WTF?

Have you read the Qur’an? Did you know it has many of the same books as the Bible? It has a lot of beautiful poetry. I keep a translated copy next to my Book of Mormon, the Tao Te Ching, and a book about Hinduism. Because being American is about letting every voice have a say, and every person have an equal opportunity for happiness, and it is up to me to learn what these voices are saying and where they are coming from. I protect their right to speak because I know if we can silence one group, we can silence another. Pagans are all about polytheistic plurality. We see diversity as a good thing because diversity in nature makes a healthy ecosystem for everybody. My magic is to stand up and speak. Yes. It is that important.

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.

Read Periodically

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A great way to get to know the Pagan and Wiccan culture is to subscribe to magazines and periodicals that cater to those of us who fancy the magical. They can help you learn the “who’s who” of the Wiccan world, and you’ll pick up customs and etiquette (not to mention find out where to get some sweet stuff!).

In the Witchful Thinking Store, I’ve added a section for magazines and periodicals such as calendars. There are some great ‘zines for organic gardening, green living, homesteading and, of course, tattooing. But there were some great magazines out there that (for some inexplicable reason) I can’t seem to get into my store. But I’m excited about them and want you to know about them anyway!

One of my favorites is Witches and Pagans, the magazine for, well, just what it says. It used to be PanGaia, the magazine for thinking Pagans, but they merged it with one focused on natural magic. The result is a great publication with articles on spellcraft, astrology, Wiccan lore, ethics, theology and the occasional archaeology report. Plus issues focused on magic, music and much much more.

SageWoman is focused on celebrating the journey of women and finding your inner goddess. It is full of rituals and wonderful writing. Some of your favorite female authors have probably written for this publication.

These are all published by the same company, BBI Media, which means you can totally subscribe to them all and save some cash. Some even come electronically so you can save paper (or if you just prefer to archive your magazines on your hard drive). They also have a magazine dedicated to older women and mothers called Crone. So there is really something for everyone. I was able to get that one in the store, so check it out there!

If you know of any magazines or periodicals that Witchful Thinking readers might be interested in, send them to me! I’ll add them to the store or at least share.

[Poetry] Summer Poems

June 20, 2010 2 comments

A few years ago, I worked as a motor coach driver in Alaska. Based out of Anchorage, I used the opportunity to re-connect with my father, whom my mother had divorced when I was very small. Spending time with the family was wonderful, and I always associate Midsummer with connecting my father and the Sun God. It is a magical time and Alaska, too, is a magical place. The land is so alive with animals and plants, which go crazy with growth when the sun is out for so long.

Alaskan Summer

[Midsummer]
In Alaska,
the mountains give birth to the sun
every morning
He rides the Sky victorious
over the Back of the Whale
and he takes all day to do it.
For 23 hours and 15 minutes,
He conquered Darkness.
But Our Lady laughs
and calls him to her breast,
so like husband or child
He goes.

[Lughnassadh]
Here is a subtle shift.
He is still King
Victorious!
Yet he misses his partner so
He rushes toward Her
faster every day.
He doesn't care
that the wildflowers
are turning to berries.
The leaves soak up the sun,
but in spending so much time
in sunrise and sunset,
they copy the golds and reds
His blood sacrifice
He knows he must
give in to Darkness
But
Not Today.

Ritual Purification and Nudity

Dear Witchful Thinking,

It is very fascinating to hear about some of the teachings of your church.  I was interested in your references to nudity during rituals — Victorian thinking on this is quite a contrast, but in other cultures, nudity is often associated with rites of purification — even old testament teachings suggest, but don’t come out and say that people may go through rituals where clothing is taken off or put on, depending on the symbolism intended.  Also, that people are “washed” in various ways to become cleansed.  Any of this part of your tradition?

Cheers,
Prof. Suz

Dear Professor,

I’ve never been asked this before, so I’ll do my best to answer. At the church I attend, because it is for public worship, we do not do nude services, although I know of a semi-private Pagan church that does, but they have a lot more property [and a lot less neighbors] than we do). At a festival, where we use other property, there might be nudity in the ritual. Nudity is not associated with purity, but with rebirth. Wiccans have a sacred writing that is pretty consistent throughout the diversity of groups called the “Charge of the Goddess”. The text is spoken aloud by a Priestess who has invoked the Goddess, so the words are divine (even the tiny changes made are correct–so the text is quite alive. See some variation here). Anyhoo, the Goddess tells us that, as a sign that we be free from slavery, “you shall be naked in your rights” and that “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. So there is divine approval for both nudity and sexuality as worship.

Some groups do worship in the nude and are described as “skyclad”. But this is typically done with tight-knit groups. The focus is usually on freedom from societal pressure, being beautiful as you are, humor, healing, sensuality, expressing your true/divine nature etc. I’ve been to festivals where a coven will host an open skyclad ritual (so it is open to people outside their tradition, but only to people at the festival, who are probably all Pagan). They have a way of doing it which takes the focus off of the sexual excitement of seeing naked people (which is something I think the rest of the world needs to figure out too, that nudity does not equal sexual excitement).

We aren’t particularly focused on purification on the whole, at least in my tradition. Although we ritually purify ourselves before entering sacred space, the purpose is to clear your mind of negative thoughts, because it is believed that thoughts are amplified in sacred space, and the Gods can see and hear you better. Wicca does not believe in original sin, nor follow any other Christian thought like that, so there is nothing inherent to purify. However, purification might be a part of a ritual or spell. I recently did a type of purification ritual after people were talking trash about my writing on the internet. I had started to feel that what they said might be true or hurt me in real life, and honestly made me feel kind of tainted–plus, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. So I did a purification ritual involving mindful bathing, visualization and meditation, and am now “clean” of these thoughts. The magic is in the psychology.

Ritually bathing another does not come up very often, but I have seen it associated with initiation into a religious mystery, and as a symbol of being cleansed after birth or rebirth. So the dead are ritually bathed, as they are being reborn in an afterlife. Babies are ritually bathed by others after birth, and during a ritual which introduces them to the Gods (different from baptism in that there is no commitment on the part of the child).

I hope that answers your question!

Magical and Romantic Partners

April 30, 2010 2 comments

As you know, our boundaries about relationships is different from other peoples. In honor of Beltain I wanted to talk about a specific one.

Very likely, if you are just beginning your magical practice, this won’t be a problem for you, but as your practice grows and your magical identity deepens, you may want to consider choosing a magical partner.

A magical partner is a person with whom you do magical work with. This work could be spellcraft (like a two person coven), service to the community (such as leading a group), doing a Great Work, or a mature teacher/student relationship. A magical partner is someone you work closely with as you grow in the Craft. In Wiccan communities, your partner is typically the opposite gender. It is an unusual relationship when looked at from outside the community.

A magical partnership is not inherently a romantic or sexual relationship, although it can take on the characteristics. A magical partnership is based upon the work you do together, but the nature of the work can be very intimate and emotional, with or without sexual activity. The relationship is very much like professional dance partners.

Some things to consider when choosing a magical partner:

  • Magical practice: choose someone who has the same style that you do, or who magically thinks like you do, or is of the same tradition. Your styles need to mesh and come to some agreement about how you will go about your practice.
  • Your romantic partner: what would your spouse or significant other think about this magical relationship? What are the boundaries? At what point does it become emotional cheating? Think about what energy and parts of yourself you would be keeping away from your partner. Come up with some rules to avoid jealousy–remember that in a serious relationship, your partner comes first. Obviously if your magical partner is your romantic partner, then this is not a problem.
  • Focus and intent: what will be the nature of your work? Will you be working on a project? Leading and teaching the community? Worshiping a particular deity? Working on a particularly difficult psychological problem? Exploring other realms together? You and your partner should be on the same page.
  • On the Outside: how does this relationship look to outsiders? Not that it matters, on one hand, but you had best be prepared for rumors if you aren’t willing to explain yourself. If you are leading a Beltain ritual and one of you invokes the Goddess and the other invokes the God and you spend half the ritual flirting and making out with each other, people are going to wonder if there is anything between you and what your significant other thinks about it. You may tell yourself that it is just ritual and, like actors on stage, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but for the observers, the energy is there and it looks very real.
  • In the Pagan community: while those not in the know about your relationship may be whispering to each other, those in the know in the community may treat you like a couple. For example, they may invite you and your magical partner to a ritual or gathering, and neglect to extend the invitation to your significant other.
  • A magical partnership is very serious: the Karma and energy accumulated in a magical partnership is amplified, just like in Circle. Personality differences, psychological scars and spiritual crisis are more likely to come to the surface quickly in this kind of relationship. Luckily, you have this partner to work through it with! You will experience a deep sense of loyalty, almost like family, that comes from being emotionally intimate with someone else. This relationship is a chance to experiment, and the work you do here is likely to influence how you are in other relationships. In order to experience the best of the other, you will have to give them your best. It is a serious commitment.
  • This relationship has cycles: it begins with a lot of energy, experiences growing pains and conflict, and may eventually end or change form, just like any other relationship. It may not go in the direction you expect, but you will certainly grow and learn from it. Be prepared to commit to it as long as it is productive, and be ready to release it when it is time to move on.

Having a magical partner is a beautiful and intimate way to experience Divinity and do the work of the Gods. But it is a very mature relationship, both personally and magically, and must be thought through just like any other magical endeavor. Rather than searching one out, I think you’ll find that you’ll fall into one naturally as you grow in the community and in your Craft. You will end up working with people on rituals and may find a powerful energetic chemistry between you. You will likely end up partnering with someone you already know–partnering with a stranger is unwise when you consider the possible ramifications.

[NBA Project] About the Needs-Based Assessment Project

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

(I have no idea what is up with the formatting. Please bear with me as I play with it and try to not make it look like poo.)

I belong to a unique religious community that is starting to become more focused on service to the community. In Paganism and Wicca, there is no central organizing structure, indeed no outlined rules for inclusion or support in the community. People from all walks of life and beliefs tend to gather geographically in groups for socialization and networking, and do smaller coven and religious work separately from the main social group. Many practitioners do not belong to any group. As our community grows, many are becoming elders, having spent much of their adult life learning and teaching the ways of the Craft. As a religion that requires no intermediary between an individual and Deity, many are working hard to become their own Priests and Priestesses—some more successfully than others.

But there are many who do not have the time or dedication to become a well-trained Priest/ess, assuming good training can be found. These people desire ritual service (which elders are happy to provide) but this laity also wants pastoral counseling and help with real life problems, which the majority of our elders are not equipped to handle.

Members and elders of the community take great pride in their individuality and their group traditions, and despise being told what to do. A community based project or program would be the only real way to help them directly. My idea for a program would be to sit down with leaders and elders in the community and work to solve this pastoral counseling problem. I think we can all agree that there is a lack of education here, but some good experience. Because Pagans and Wiccans come from diverse professional backgrounds, it is likely that there are skills in the community that can be shared and catered to the Pagan population. The goal would be to create a clergy education program that is sustainable, applicable and accessable.

Principles

  1. Strengthening families in our time must be done mostly by families themselves, working democratically in local communities.
    1. For our purposes, Pagan and Wiccan groups, groves, hearths and covens are often tight like family. Some groups are close to other groups, while others seem disconnected from everybody. The challenge will be to reach out and get representatives from all these disparate groups.
    2. The greatest untapped resource for strengthening families is the knowledge, wisdom, and lived experience of families and their communities.
      1. Because of our diverse professional and religious backgrounds and educations, we have much we can teach each other. Pagans are among the best educated religious groups today, with a strong majority holding bachelor degrees or higher.
      2. Families must be engaged as producers and contributors to their communities, and not just as clients or consumers of services.
        1. In our case, the community has an active dislike of being told what to do. Additionally, these groups often do not have monetary resources to consume many services.
        2. Professionals can play an important role in family initiatives when they learn to partner with families in identifying challenges, mobilizing resources, generating plans, and carrying out public actions.
          1. Pagans sometimes do not trust professionals because it is believed that their academic knowledge disagrees with the Pagan gnosis, but there is a recognition that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The community would want to know that the professional was familiar with Pagan thinking and living paradigms and not trying to somehow “convert” them to a certain way of thinking.
          2. If you begin with an established program, you will not end up with an initiative that is “owned and operated” by citizens. But a citizen initiative might create or adopt a program as one of its activities.
            1. There are already several Pagan seminaries of varying qualities. Many are expensive, aren’t aimed at the local community, or are somehow academically elitist. One that is “owned and operated” by the citizens would not feel that way.
            2. A local community of families becomes energized when it retrieves its own historical, cultural, and religious traditions about family life–and brings these into the contemporary world of family life.
              1. During planning phases of this project, we need to make a space for all voices to be heard and somehow come to a consensus about what to do. Each group will want their tradition respected in the process.
              2. Family and Democracy initiatives should have a bold vision (a BHAG–a big, hairy, audacious goal) while working pragmatically on focused, specific goals.
                1. They will need to be taught how to do this, and decide what the local level of involvement will be. The hardest part will be getting a commitment from people and then having follow-through.

Key Strategies for Implementing Action Initiatives

  1. Employ democratic planning and decision making at every step.
    1. Consensus is essential so that no one feels hurt and tries to sabotage the project. Perhaps utilizing Roberts Rules of Order will help formalize the process.
    2. Emphasize mutual teaching and learning among families.
      1. We will have to identify the strength that already lies in the community.
      2. Create ways to fold new learnings back into the community.
        1. Perhaps through a dissemination process, where representatives from groups are taught certain skills and take it back to their groups to teach others. It should be a very hands on process.
        2. Continually identify and develop new leaders.
          1. Pagans have problems with power struggles. We will need to utilize a procedure that is democratic and fair to prevent coups.
          2. Use professional expertise selectively–“on tap,” not “on top.”
            1. Professionals should make their expertise known to the community, rather than offer their services. The community should invite the professionals to talk or teach on certain subjects.
            2. Generate public visibility through media and community events.
              1. This will help disparate groups get involved, and build credibility for the religion in the eyes of the world. We will need a skilled person or team to coordinate this.
  1. Forge a sense of larger purpose beyond helping immediate participants.
    1. The group should create a mission statement that includes improving the community beyond the groves and covens. For example, service projects that are aimed at the public at large, and not just the Pagan population.