Monday, 23 May 2016

Lenses and Filters

There's a person I've kind of known for some time now.  Let's call them Fred.  In the last few weeks, I've been talking with Fred more often and I have found myself realising that Fred is actually a good person and I really do like them.  That might not sound like a big thing to realise, I know.  But there is surprise with that realisation.  I'm surprised to find that I like Fred.  I am surprised to find that they're really a good person.  This made me think.

It came to me that most of my interaction with Fred up until recently has been coloured by another person.  We'll call them George.  George has known Fred for longer than I have and doesn't have a particularly high opinion of them.

It shocked me that I'd only seen Fred through the lens of George's opinion.  I had thought after being caught out by this sort of thing in the past, I'd learned from it.  I had thought I'd be better able to recognise it.

It then occurred to me that seeing many things in life is often coloured by the lenses and filters provided by other people.  This is a huge part of the conditioning we receive as children - our parents ideals and opinions shape the way we see the world, then the teaching we get at school, the books we read and the tv channels we choose to watch.

As an adult, I like to think that I'm past all that.  Question everything is a huge part of my personal philosophy and I know I drive a lot of people a little bit nuts by questioning things they take as gospel.  I play Devil's Advocate often when someone says something that I'm sure they haven't thought through very well.  So it really did shock me when I realised that I'd allowed this to happen.

Why am I writing about this on a Pagan/Witchcraft blog? Because I feel it's relevant.  Much of my frustration with the idiocies I have to deal with as an admin online comes from, I believe, the lenses and filters that people have.  There are a heap of dreadful authors out there - this isn't news, I'm sure - many decent groups have a "recommended reading" section and a "books/authors to avoid" section.  While we're busy bagging Silver RavenWolf, DJ Conway and Edain McCoy, there are still times when they were the first things we read and we still see our paths through the filters they initially provided.

This may be and probably is an unconscious thing for most of us.  We haven't thought about where an aversion to something comes from, why we shy away from certain types of work or the way we still tend to think of Goddess as a generic all-encompassing Divine Feminine Cosmic Barbie Doll.

For me, much of my early days were Dianic.  I found it unfulfilling and unbalanced and I found myself besieged by bestial masculine Gods who demanded Their share of my attention.  But every now and then I still find myself seeing things from a Dianic point of view.

I think if we make a conscious effort to examine our ideas and beliefs every now and then we can take away the rosy tint, fuzzy focus or blinkers that our early learnings have placed over and around our vision.  Make an effort to consider the whys and hows of what we think.

It can be brutal, I'm not going to lie to you.  Any time you go through a process of honest self-examination, there are things you find that challenge the picture you have of yourself, that show you up to be not the person you think you are or aspire to be.  The trick is to accept it, learn from it, change what needs changing and move on.  If you allow yourself to wallow in self-loathing (which is easy to do), then it turns into a blame and punish situation rather than an opportunity to learn and grow.



Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Please stop calling them ISIS

Small rant.

I love Isis... She's my patron Goddess and showed me the door to the pagan world so many years ago. (Yes I know the Isis vs Aset argument but this isn't about that). 

I'm currently writing a short story for submission to an anthology about dark gods and benevolent ones with dark sides so I'm writing a story featuring Isis' shadow side.  Without going into details I thought I'd do a quick google search for possible weapons She might use.  

In my naivety (and before engaging my brain) I googled 'weapons used by Isis'.  NEVER do this.  I'm sure I'm now on some FBI watch list.  Yes I can google weapons used by Goddess Isis but I am just ranting about my disapproval of the name of a Goddess being corrupted by this terrorist group.  

They have been referred to as a few different names including ISIS and ISIL.  Both of these attempt to legitimise their claims as they stand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (an archaic term used to describe the lands around Syria which includes modern day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan).  They are a terrorist group not a state and aside from corrupting the use of a Goddess' name, calling them the Islamic State is what they want, so I'll not do it.

I know on a whole it's a small inconvenience for me to have to change how I google something or to be questioned if I worship Isis when asked.  (Yes one deluded individual actually argued with me about my support of a terrorist organisation).  But please, stop calling them ISIS.  Call them Daesh, call them monsters, call them bastards or arseholes or any number of other expletives but please don't call them by a name they want and stop besmirching the name of the Goddess Isis.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Why I Don't Run Pagan Events Anymore

Luana and I spent roughly ten years off and on running Pagan Coffee Meets.  I saw great events happening in other parts of the country and went through a resentful and wistful patch of "why isn't there anything like that happening here?".  Then one day I thought about it more sensibly and decided that if I wanted one, I should start one.

I advertised my first coffee meet in New Zealand forums (this was back in Eziboard days, well before facebook was a thing) and also on Meetup.  I spoke to local shop owners and left my number so anyone interested could contact me.

Meetup decided there weren't enough numbers responding on it's page and officially cancelled it, but we went anyway.  It was attended purely by my friends.  There were five of us in total, having a drink in a quiet corner of the Dux de Lux and we spent most of it planning our next ritual since it was effectively a meeting of our ritual group.

I chose not to be disheartened by it and planned another for next month.  We had a phenomenal turn out for Christchurch.  20 new people came along.  I was excited by this, I felt validated and justified in giving it another go.  Then I learned that many of them had come along because they'd been told that last time we'd sat around backstabbing others in the local community and bitching about people.  They'd come to set us straight on a few things.

I can only assume that there was some other meeting going on that we'd been confused with.  It had only been our little group and there hadn't been anyone close enough to eavesdrop on our conversation.  I didn't know many other people in the Christchurch Pagan Community to gossip about and neither did any but one of our group.  To this day, I've never learned where this had come from.

After a few months, the New Zealand Pagan Centre was created and we chose to come under it's umbrella, continuing coffee meets that were advertised through it's network.  The NZPC soon turned into what can only be described as a clusterfuck and stopped running in anything but name.  We continued our coffee meets.  We had a great core group that met every month.  We'd moved to the Coffee House and the staff there had gotten to know us very well.

When Luana and I created Cauldrons, we began to advertise the coffee meets through our website.  We changed the time to lunchtime on Saturday and had another great group of people start to come along.  We got up to a fairly consistent 10 - 20 people at each meet and caused several connections and friendships to form between people just wanting one or two others to befriend and practice with.

I stopped Coffee Meets when the earthquakes destroyed the central city.  I did look at other surrounding areas but they were always too problematic for people.  Buses and carpooling were just too hard it would seem.  Then I moved out of Christchurch anyway.

After a few years, someone was asking about Coffee Meets again in a local facebook group.  He didn't know enough people and wasn't confident to start one himself, but was adamant he'd turn up if one was offered.  Several other locals echoed his words.  So I set one up.  I advertised it, I posted reminders several times leading up to it.  And I sat there with my close friend and oldest daughter as not one of the buggers turned up.  Well, I had a lovely visit and nice lunch in the sun anyway.

We were also asked on a fairly regular basis about holding a Festival.  We'd both travelled to and worked at other Festivals in other parts of the country, so we set about organising one.

The budget was rather prohibitive.  We found a rather low-cost but also low-amenity venue, but getting public liability insurance was a nightmare - it took over half of our total budget in the end.

We chose not to try and get big overseas names to speak as there was no way we'd be able to afford to pay for their travel alone, never mind any of the other normally associated costs.  We put it out there for anyone in the local community who wanted to share their wisdom.  It was our thought that there was a lot of local talent that went unregarded.

Two weeks out from the Festival, we had four confirmed and paid for bookings.  That's four people in total.  Two of them were children.  We had more volunteers who we'd promised a very cheap weekend to in return for working for most of it.  We were reaching the last cancel-without-paying-full-price date and getting nervous.  A last minute appeal to everyone brought in enough last minute bookings to make going ahead worthwhile.

We'd contacted a local coven to run a ritual as we didn't want that added stress on top of our first festival.  Two members of the coven stayed for the whole weekend, the remainder turned up for the day of their ritual.

Now there are always things that happen unexpectedly.  I don't think it's possible to plan for every eventuality.  Our only real issue was that the main Saturday night feast was late by nearly an hour.  Four different spit-roasted meats.  It was that or we risked undercooked chicken and pork as part of the feast.  I overheard some rather rude snark and bitching about it as though it was a deliberate insult to these people.

I thought everything else went reasonably well, most of the feedback was positive.  The only complaint that was ever said directly to us was that it wasn't long enough, can we pick a long weekend next time?  But I still have stuff come back to me indirectly about that weekend.

We've run another three Festivals, each with their own drama queens making them memorable for the wrong reasons.  Each with small hiccups but mostly they've run smoothly.

Each with associated snark and bitchiness that followed.  Sometimes from people who have never attended a single one we've run.

A friend tried to set one up in her separate part of the country.  She was getting close to the last date she could cancel by without paying full price for the venue and had two bookings.  That sounded familiar, so I was lending support and experience.  Someone piped up and told her she just needed to be more understanding because that person was a "last-minute person" and that was just the way she was.  When I pointed out how rude and disrespectful such an attitude was to the organiser, I was blasted as being "negative" and "the wrong sort".

There are always a few volunteers that go above and beyond what is expected of them.  They are people to be treasured, even though they'll usually just humbly tell you it was nothing when you express your gratitude.  There are equally always a few that can never be found when they have jobs to do or will refuse to wipe the dishes, sweep a floor, clean the loos or even check toilet paper levels.

So as you can probably tell, by now I'm rather wary about doing anything like this.  People piss and moan about how there's nothing in their area, but when there is, they don't support it by turning up.  When they do turn up, they piss and moan about how they could have done a better job, or this was wrong or that was done badly or they invent issues to bitch and backstab about.

For the time being anyway.  I'm done.  You want events, you organise them.  I have enough to do without trying to cater for a community that doesn't respect the time, money, blood, sweat and tears that goes into any event.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Warning Signs That a Leader or Teacher Might Be Unhealthy For You

I started to write a big long essay about warning signs in Pagan and magical groups (both online and in meatspace).  Then I found Morgan Drake Eckstein's The top thirteen signs that a leader or esoteric group might be too rotten to bother with.
He covers it so much better than I would although I do want to add a few things to this.  For a start,  a perusal of :

The Advanced Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame  and see how it fits with the group that you're looking at.  It can be scary how many facebook groups tick too many of these boxes, never mind offline groups that meet in person.

I'd also look at how questions are treated.

I ask a lot of questions.  Sometimes it's because I don't understand how you managed to come to that conclusion and I'm trying to figure out the whys and wherefores.  Sometimes it's to see if we're using the same word but have different meanings.  Sometimes it's because I've never heard of what it is you're talking about and I'm always keen for a learning experience.  And sometimes because by making you think about the questions I'm asking, I'm hoping you'll figure some things out for yourself.

The responses I get can be very telling of whether you're someone worth listening to, someone to just ignore or someone to run from.  And I'm not just talking about the content of the response.  I'm talking about the way in which the response comes.

Does the response seem angry? (As in "how dare you" rather than projected emotion). Does it seem to make them nervous?  Does it get ignored or brushed off?  Do you suddenly have a lot of others jumping in to tell you off for asking?  Does it get treated as 'negativity' or 'being a smart arse'?  Do you find your question has been deleted?  Do you get a lot of waffly ramblings that skate around it but don't actually answer your question?

I treat all of these as warning signs.  Sometimes it's warning you that they don't really know what they claim to know but won't admit it and sometimes it's a warning that you're dealing with a megalomaniac who's trying to control everyone.  Sometimes it's a warning that there are mental health issues going on.

A worthwhile teacher or leader doesn't mind being questioned.  As long as it's done with respect and not as a demand or expectation.

Another one that Morgan touches on but I wish to expand further is the following:

5. Does not cite sources – magical and spiritual knowledge does not grow in a vacuum. A leader or teacher who never mentions who taught them or the books that they have read is guilty of trying to conceal their past. If they try to conceal their past, then what else are they hiding? Especially troublesome are those who claim that all their knowledge comes from Secret Chiefs that only they are spiritually and magically advanced enough to meet.

Morgan is speaking more of Ceremonial Lodges than the average pagan or witchcraft group, but this does carry over.  The point I wish to highlight in this is the last part - all their knowledge comes from Secret Chiefs that only they are spiritually and magically advanced enough to meet.  I've met self-appointed leaders who get all their information from "their guides" or "the Gods" or some special spirit they've channelled. Unless there is some way to verify the information, be very very careful. 

A prime example of this type of thing is the Ramtha Cult.

One I've experienced claimed she had a channelled message from "the Goddess" for everyone at our ritual.  I've never found the Gods shy about making their wishes known to me, they've never used the flowery "dear one" type language when talking to me and the instructions (and yes they were instructions) fit neatly in with what the channeller had been pushing for, but were completely against the direction my Gods had been pushing me.  I left that ritual angry at her for her attempted manipulation of everyone present and for believing that we would be gullible enough to fall for it.

I'm sure there's more I've missed, I'm sure there's stuff that's become other people's personal red flags.  These are just the main ones that I've experienced.



Tuesday, 19 January 2016

UPG and Weather Magic

Yesterday, in a group I admin, someone posted looking for others to help them with controlling the weather.  They rambled on about jet streams and that we're doing it unconsciously anyway, why not make conscious changes.  It also became clear that we weren't talking about holding off rain for an outdoor wedding, we were talking about working on a global scale.

Aside from all the obvious "Why would you?" and "That's above my pay grade" type responses, there were also the expected smile, nod and back away slowly.

I'm sure we've all met someone who claims and possibly even believes that they can affect the weather on a grand scale.  One chap I met a few years ago, rang me to tell me that he was responsible for the fine weather we had last week and seemed to honestly expect me to thank him and show some kind of homage.  Most of the time, it falls under the heading of UPG - Unverifiable Personal Gnosis - they may be sure their work created that change, but there is no way to prove it and it is therefore impossible to know whether they did it or whether it's pure fantasy.

Thing is, this question and the initial discussion came just before I went out to milk my cow.  As I slogged through the cold rain and mud to my leaky milking shed, it occurred to me that this is the wettest Summer I can remember.

Last Summer we had a crippling drought.  We couldn't mow lawns for fear of hitting a stone and striking a spark, it didn't really matter because they dried out so much that they didn't grow enough to be worth mowing for a whole year.  Animal feed and hay was like gold.  Local farmers were destocking to the point of sending their prize breeding animals to the freezing works.  This Summer was expected to be worse, with a prediction of a 95% chance of the worst El Nino Summer ever recorded.

I've had several friends from normally wetter parts of the country tell me they were working to send their nuisance rain down to our part where the drought was making national news.  And the last few weeks have been mostly notable for the rainfall.  Sometimes it's just light rain - the good sort that soaks into the ground and sometimes it's heavy downpours, but there has been more rain than dry weather.

It is possible that the last six months of drought predictions were wrong, or something in the natural weather patterns changed drastically - so drastically that the East Coast is getting all the rain expected for the West Coast, but part of me finds it terribly unlikely.

So at what point do I go from thinking of weather magic on a grand scale as being delusional fantasy and start being more impressed by their skills?  How could I know that it is their weather magic and not the combined prayers of thousands of farmers?  Is there any way to tell?

Thoughtful Blessings


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Call of the God

I am both proud and humbled to have contributed to this wonderful new anthology edited by Frances Billinghurst.

It's available on Amazon here.

Lurking amongst the shadows, slipping through our nightmares, teasing our peripheral vision, or simply crashing into our ordered lives, the Pagan God makes His presence felt in many ways.

From prehistoric paintings to the mystical wilderness of Arcadia, the power of the Pagan God can still be felt in this modern age as the beat of His hooves upon the earth entice us to reclaim the true power of the Divine Masculine.

"Call of the God: An Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine within Modern Paganism" is a unique smorgasbord of essays, poems, fiction and artwork depicting the numerous manifestations of the God and how the Divine Masculine is depicted within modern Paganism around the world.

This anthology includes work from:
* Michael Howard (editor of "The Cauldron" as well as some 38 books),
* Pete Jennings (past Pagan Federation president and author of many books),
* Anna Franklin (author of 30 books and decks including "The Pagan Ways Tarot" and "The Sacred Circle Tarot"),
* Tony and Candia McKormack from British Pagan band Inkubus Sukkubus,
* Frances Billinghurst (author of "Dancing the Sacred Wheel", "In Her Sacred Name" and editor of this book),
* Shauna Aura Knight (mixed media artist and author),
* Polly Lind (New Zealand based tapestry artist),
* Peter Coughlin (writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction),
* Patrick Larabee (artist and author of "Whisperings from the Void"),
* Rev Christian Ortz (author of Reiki Lunar and founder of the Mexican ezine "El Caldero-Espiritualidad de la Tierra" (The Cauldron-Earth Spirituality)).

Other contributors include: Adam Hearn, Michael Vickery, Rebecca Buchanan, Fabienne S. Morgana, Kali Cox, Cara Fenton, Chattering Magpie, Ilana Sturm, Steven Posch, Tania Poole, Martin Samson, Michelle Jeffrey, Jeff Brown, Eddie Massey, P. St Clair-Martin, ElSharra, Wayland the Smith, Ian Foot, Harriet Lock, Debbie Dawson, Donna Swindells, and L.J. LaBarthe.



Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Cycles and Learning from Them

It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to have the same dramas over and over in their lives and never realise that there is a single common factor each time.   Surely, a simple examination of what has happened in those events would lead anyone able to tie their own shoes to the conclusion that the common factor is at least part of the cause.

Recently I noticed a facebook friend had frequent complaints of how people weren't there for her, she never had any money and was always sick with terrible migraines and what she was sure was a neurological problem.  From a distance admittedly, I was having my suspicions about what the causes were, but they were confirmed when people who knew her better staged an intervention and made it public.  She's an alcoholic who gets sick when going through withdrawals.  She takes advantage of people who then get sick of her crap.

However, she's in complete denial.  Everyone else is the problem and the world is against her.

A teenage girl of my acquaintance has the same sorts of things.  It's always the same drama, just the supporting roles are played by different people.  At what point will she realise that her choices and the types of people she surrounds herself with are the cause?

Now if you stick a fork in an electrical socket, you learn not to do that again.  Why is it that when given the equivalent electric shock of having your choices or behaviour repeatedly called out doesn't ever seem to teach the same lesson?

It really doesn't matter how right you convince yourself you are, if the same dramas keep happening in your life, it's something you are doing.  You are the common factor.

If you keep putting yourself out for other people, unsolicited, then you should expect that it's not going to be very well received and that you won't be respected for it.  In my experience, most of the time, it's interfering, not even remotely being helpful, regardless of what you tell yourself.  The people who do it might have the best of intentions on the surface, but there's usually also a sense of superiority that goes with it.  For the most part, such 'help' is often rude and unwanted.

You might bleat about how you've made sacrifices and are disappointed because your expectations weren't met.  If those sacrifices weren't requested or required, if you were just assuming that you knew best what other people wanted or needed, then that's all your own fault.  This isn't people taking advantage of your generosity or good nature.  I personally do not respond well to other people's expectations of me if I have made no commitment to meet those expectations - and often, I'm completely unaware of those expectations until I'm being bitched at about them.

This is just people, you might say.  Silly people.  And I'd agree.  But this disappoints me more in Witches and Magicians.

Now I'm not saying that we're any better or different, we are human first with all the beauties and failings that go with that.  However, with any serious magical path there is usually a lot of reflection, self-examination and looking for cause and effect. Self-honesty is important (in my opinion) to magic, because if you're not honest with yourself about your true deep down motivations and intent, then you're setting your work up for failure and unexpected results.  It's something I heard early on in my Witchcraft journey and I took to heart at the time and have had no reason to remove it from my praxis.  Witch, Know Thyself.

When patterns are repeating in my life, my first response is to see if there is something I am doing that may be causing it.  Am I allowing people to push me into doing things I don't want to do?  Do I need to say "no" more often?  Have I been enabling things in other people?  Am I that much of a bitch?  Do I keep being hearing the same complaints from different unrelated people?  Have I not learned the last two times I gave that person another chance?

It's not a pleasant process every time.  Sometimes it's quite demoralising and depressing.  Sometimes, although not often, it's heartwarming.

It's only after I can honestly say that the cause is not of my own doing that I look outwards for other causes.  Is there a physical reason for these cycles and patterns?  Is it repeated after a certain event or activity? Does it repeat at a regular time?  Could it possibly be that someone else is just an arse?

In a magical setting, this kind of brutal self-honesty is essential.  When you're planning a spell or working, if you're not truly honest and open with yourself about what your goals and motivations are, you could be working at cross-purposes with yourself.

There's a woman I've written about before.  She was wanting me to do something to get rid of her ex-husband.  I spent hours asking her questions (seriously, it was hours) and it seemed that she genuinely wanted him to be gone from her life and to leave her alone.  It was the three weeks of phone calls that I got afterwards that showed her true motivation - she really wanted him to realise he'd treated her badly and that she really was the love of his life and to come back to her and treat her like a princess this time.  It was never something she admitted to or even said, but it was clear in the way she talked about him, it was obvious in the way she hoped that if she called him for help with this thing, he'd feel some sense of honour or duty and choose to behave differently (this is something she actually did say).

I use this example because it's an easy way to paint this picture. Imagine if she'd been doing her own spell and working.  She was adamant she wanted him to be gone from her life and just leave her alone.  If she'd crafted a spell for that, but underneath she really wanted him back as her repentant shining white knight, how do you think that would have worked?

Even if it had been successful, how happy do you think she would have been with that result?

If you're trying to heal yourself but deep down you enjoy the sympathy and attention you get from being sick or injured, how well do you seriously think that's going to work?

If you're doing a spell to get a job, but really it's not a job you are truly interested in or you'd rather be at home collecting benefits, can you honestly say you'd put the required energy into the spell?

I personally believe that the cycles are lessons about yourself.  I don't have any clear idea whether I believe there's some Oversoul or Cosmic Teacher guiding these things but I have noticed that in my own case the lessons are repeated until I learn from them.  When I break the cycle, I stop being challenged in that way.

But it's always up to me to learn and break it.