Monday, 17 December 2012

My Goddess Wants...

These two statements recently came up together on a facebook discussion:

" I believe my Goddess wants me to be happy & kind to others. 
Life is full of problems, isn't the magic about overcoming them together?"
 I'm afraid this left me somewhat gobsmacked.  Really?  What kind of person seriously believes this?  
Let's break it down into the two separate statements - Firstly "My Goddess wants me to be happy and kind to others."
Gods and Goddesses have absolutely zero track record of this kind of behaviour.  The normal 'wants' (as far as we can claim to know Their minds) is more about wanting you to be the best person you can be so that you may better serve Them.  Your happiness is usually quite low on the list.
The way growth is achieved is more through trials and tribulations.  Tests, obstacles, difficulties and personal challenges.  It is only through adversity that we truly find out what we're capable of.  How does being happy and kind fit into this?
These statements, it must be explained, came after this lady had told us off for not being nice to someone who was making grand claims and then refusing to back them up with anything.  Side note: If you claim lineage or to be in a tradition, expect to get asked for validation.  Normally anyone who refuses to validate their lineage is talking shit.  Most frauds are harmless, attention-seeking drama queens but there is always the odd one or two who are a bit more dangerous than that.  This is why they are questioned rather than the eyeroll and polite ignore that they would otherwise get.
Being kind and being nice are not the same thing. 
I raised it for further discussion in the same group.  The closest anyone came to suggesting a God or Goddess that may fit the bill was Quan Yin - that She wanted folks to attain enlightenment to minimise suffering.  This isn't the same as being "happy and kind".  Achieving enlightenment isn't normally an easy or passive road.  The wisdom that points toward enlightenment comes from overcoming difficulty and learning the hard lessons that life presents.  Real life that is, not the pretty pictures with lovely poems about wonderful positivity that abound on pagan groups and pages.
 I call bullshit that this lady has had any kind of genuine communication with "her Goddess" at all.  It smacks to me of a fantasy-based delusion about what she wants to hear.
Now to the second statement - "isn't the magic about overcoming them together?"
Magic is the art and science of creating change in accordance with will.  That's it.  Anything above or beyond that is purely personal and subjective.  Magic is a tool used to achieve the ends you want.  There is magic in a sunrise, in a newborn baby, in raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. But that's more a turn of phrase than "the magic" that is normally used in a specifically Pagan and Wiccan forum.
I have too much to do with my own life and magical practice to a) give a flying fuck for the opinions of random strangers on the internet and b) waste any of my time working to fix the problems of said random strangers.
This may sound rather selfish and I guess on some levels it is.  But it's come from some of the wisdom I learned when I was more available to random strangers.  The random strangers who would ring me up and take up hours and hours of my time with their "magical problems".  This was my time with my children or partner.  This was not something they paid me for or even (with one exception) appreciated at all.  I tried and tried to get through to one chap and he wouldn't listen to a damn thing I told him.  He'd twist what I said around to make it fit what he wanted to hear - even when I'd said the complete opposite.  He didn't want me to help him, he wanted me to validate his interpretation of events.  Another received the same advice from another public and available witch as he did from me, that didn't stop him, he went to several psychics and finally listened when he'd paid someone for their time and still got the same advice!
I've also had this behaviour from people who called themselves my friends.  So yeah, to paraphrase a saying from Christianity - The Gods help those who help themselves.  
Grow up and sort your own shit out. 
Edited to Add:
A further discussion has led to some other comments that I think are worth adding to this post.
I'm not saying that being "happy and kind" and "having trials and tribulations" are mutually exclusive.  Often the Gods have a different idea of what you need to be happy than you do - after overcoming the testings, you often find a different truer happiness than you previously expected.

I took the original meaning from the lady who said it to be as though the Gods were like your ser
vants, existing to smooth obstacles from your path and make you comfortable in every way.
A further comment was made that a God/dess that didn't want your happiness wasn't one worth worshipping.  I don't worship the Gods, I serve them.  There is a difference!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pentagrams and Pentacles

This is a pentacle.
There is always a lot of discussion about which is which.

The most recent piece of idiocy I found was this one.  On the surface, it appears to be well (if selectively) researched, but there are inconsistencies within it and if you read to the end, it's a warning against the occult for Christians.

A pentagram is a five pointed star.  That's it.  The word doesn't mean or even imply upright or inverted.

pen·ta·gram [pen-tuh-gram] 
noun - a five-pointed, star-shaped figure made by extending the sides of a regular pentagon until they meet, used as an occult symbol by the Pythagoreans and later philosophers, by magicians, etc.

Word Origin and History 
pentagram -"five-pointed star," 1833, from Gk. pentagrammon, properly neut. of adj. pentagrammos "having five lines," from pente "five" + gramma "what is written."  
Modern Language Association (MLA)
"pentagram." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 03 Dec. 2012.
Historically, the pentagram has been used to portray so many different things, including it's use (inverted) as a Sumerian pictogram. In our modern neopagan times, it's symbolic of the five elements - Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.

A pentacle is usually described as a pentagram enclosed in a circle. However, Solomonic Grimoires show a range of pentacles with all sorts of different shapes (and symbols and inscriptions) inside the outer circle - depending on which planetary influence and Goetic Spirits are being summoned. In other texts, the word "pentacle" is only used to describe the plate on your altar.

Grand Pentacle of Solomon.

I find that using pentacle to describe the pentagram in a circle is easier than saying "pentagram in a circle", because with the circle, it's no longer just a pentagram.

I read one long and mostly useful explanation of the differences between pentacles and pentagrams. It was on one of those terribly flaky, filled with unicorns and fantasy, facebook witchy pages. I say mostly useful, because it was fairly sensible until it described the inverted pentagram as being purely for evil or satanic (not the same thing) purposes. I made the comment that in Traditional Wicca, the inverted pentagram is the symbol for second degree, depicting a journey within. It was immediately deleted and I was banned from further comment! You can lead a horse to water as the saying goes - maybe we should invent a new one - you can lead a fluffy to knowledge, but you can't make them think.

I'm starting to believe that the neo-wiccan movement that is mostly expressed in these bright and sparkly pages, where a comment that disagrees, however politely, is called bullying and trolling (whole different rant there) feel a need to be either "holier than thou" or "more persecuted than thou" - it seems to swing between the two.

I really should stop looking at these pages, they make me grumpier than usual and they make me want to smash small cute fluffy animals into small smears of grease.  However, they provide inspiration for much of what I write, they show me where neo-pagan "teachings" are terribly lacking. I can hope that when they do get a sweetness and light overdose and start looking for something with a little more substance, that such people may find this blog and learn to question some of the idiocies they've been spoonfed.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Do What Feels Right

This is so frequently stated as wisdom in Pagan Circles.  And indeed I believe it has come from older wisdom, but it’s missing the most important part.

After some research and training, when you know and understand how things work and how they’re supposed to feel, then you are free to do what feels right.

Well, I bet that sounds arrogant and snotty to a few people right now.  But let me describe a few situations where beginners “doing what felt right” went badly wrong.

A lady of my acquaintance fell madly passionately in love with a man who didn’t know she existed.  Her first ever spell was a love spell to make him love her.  They were married, but unfortunately it took over 13 years of mental, verbal and physical abuse before she was able to tear herself away from him.

She wouldn’t have cast the spell if it didn’t feel like the right thing to do, she was perfect for him, she just needed to make him see that.

Another group got all caught up in the New Age buzz for all things Native American.  It “felt right” to them to do a bit of magic calling on the spirits of those Native Americans.  Then things went wrong, they reached a point where they felt cursed and asked for help.  A young Native American man told them what to do to honour those spirits, ask their forgiveness and told them not to mess with a culture they don’t understand, and that it had been deeply disrespectful for them to call on those spirits in the first place.

A lady on an internet forum described a ritual she did.  There were a lot of things about herself that she didn’t like and wanted to be rid of, so it “felt right” to do a ritual to remove them.  She ran herself a bath, and as she washed herself, she saw all these negative traits being washed out of her and then going down the drain with the water.  As the water left the bath, she felt more and more drained and empty, she fell into a deep depression that started with a hollow numbness.  It soon led to suicidal thoughts. She hadn’t realised that when you remove something you must replace it with something else, for instance what you like about yourself, or qualities that you’d like to have.

Challenging yourself and leaving your comfort zone always feels uncomfortable, but its how we grow.  What is “feeling right” anyway?  If something feels uncomfortable, does it mean that it feels wrong?  Will we then stagnate and never grow spiritually?

I’m rather over hearing “do what feels right” as justification for every bit of silliness that beginners (and those who’ve been around for a while) can think of.  I am eclectic myself, but I have made an effort to study and learn about what it is I’m borrowing from, whether borrowing can be done respectfully and if there is something else I need to understand before I use it.  If it doesn’t work outside it’s original culture or path, then I won’t use it, I won’t stop learning about it though.  Most eclectics though are the dabblers with a pretty ‘cut and paste’ morality and don’t see that they can possibly be doing anything wrong because “it feels right”.

I was recently criticised for feeling that New Age practices are polluting Paganism and that there is much about the two paths that isn’t compatible.  It very quickly turned into a “how dare you tell me what I can do” which wasn’t what I was saying and a snotty little cow throwing words around that she didn’t understand.  The same person also suggested that my recommendation against the use of Ouija boards was fear-based, but had no reply when I explained fully why it had nothing at all to do with fear, why I recommended against them (because I end up cleaning up the messes created by those who think they can use them fine and safely, but aren’t around for the clean up) and how they actually work.  It came from a place of knowledge not fear.  

The problem I see is that too many people nowadays dabble in things they don’t fully understand.  They don’t realise that they don’t fully understand it and think they’ve got it sussed.  Based on their incomplete knowledge they think “it feels right” and they create a spiritual mess that someone else has to clean up.

A little bit of training, or having a teacher who can assess your knowledge and abilities can prevent a lot of nastiness, but we are the free-thinkers right?  We don’t need authority or someone else to tell us what to do, we do what ever we want as long as it “feels right”.

I once asked an Alexandrian High Priest what he saw as the single main difference between British Traditional (ie Initiate) Wicca and American (book-learned, self-initiated etc) Wicca.  His answer was simple - standards.  It seems rather elitist at first glance, but think about it for a minute.  In Initiate Wicca, there are things you are taught according to your grade or degree.  When you have learned those things, you ask to go to the next level.  If your teacher agrees, you are tested (and not by your teacher) and initiated to the next degree where you learn things that are better suited to your level of understanding and experience.  We have the same thing in schools, you learn this year what is appropriate to your age, intelligence and understanding of what you learned last year.  You are tested on it and if you pass, move on to the next level.  In American Wicca, where people learn all they know from books and form groups based on their ideas of how it all should be, there is no experienced teacher to watch over  progress, to decide whether they are ready for the next phase of learning.  You do what feels right.

I have oversimplified in my use of American vs British Wicca here - there are American traditions that are well structured and have standards and teachers and there are British groups that don’t. I needed to find a way to differentiate between the two and this was the most obvious - no offence is intended to anyone.

What makes this worse is the prevalence of facebook groups set up by self-styled teachers.  They gain a following of other beginners and fill their pages with utter nonsense.  Any experienced person who comments on the misinformation finds their comments removed or that they are suddenly subjected to rants of “You don’t have to like my page” or “but every one is doing it” or “you’re so mean, why are you bullying me?”

No true or worthwhile teacher objects to being questioned.  They know that there is always something more to learn and those lessons can come from the most unexpected of places.

There is a growing trend among those more experienced people to sit back and let natural selection take it’s course.  The silly child who thinks that making memes of the facebook profiles of those who have questioned her and adding horrendous captions is “standing up for herself” and that it’s okay because “they started it”.  Mind you, the same silly child thinks that she’s been called by the Morrigan and that the Morrigan will give her strength and fight her battles for her.  Her page is somewhat inspired by/based on the ‘Sons of Morrigan’ which I’m told is from a game!  We can only pass around the popcorn and wait for the inevitable.

Even those who raise concern because they see where it is heading are treated as a troll.  This will end badly and all I can hope for is that her children get proper care when it does.  She may have the best intentions in the world, but that doesn’t make up for a lack of proper research and finding out what is right, rather than what *feels right*.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Power of Words

Words have power.

Words can create beauty and they can destroy lives.

Words can heal a multitude of hurts and they can create a whole lot more.

“I’m sorry” or “I love you” in the right time and place can change the world for someone.  So can “thief”, “cheat” or “sexual predator”.

Most creation myths begin with words causing the universe to come into being and the naming of all things.  In Kabbalah, knowing and using the names of G!d gives you the power to overcome evil influences.  In Egyptian Legend, Aset (Isis) gained power over Ra by tricking him into telling her his true name. In Folklore, there is many a tale about the power of true names - think of the story of Rumplestiltskin for example.  Many a modern fantasy has had a side plot based around true names - not just of people, but of everything.

A newspaper headline can infer greatness or destroy a career.  A human interest article can draw attention to something worthy but overlooked.  A throwaway comment can ruin a public reputation.

There are people who spend their entire lives trying to justify other’s words with “what I think he really meant by that is” and lawyers who can play with words until not even the person who said it is really sure what they meant.

We know all of this.  I’m sure nothing I’ve said so far is a surprise to anyone.  But we have sayings like “it’s only words” and “sticks and stones” and “words are meaningless”.

Which is true?  Are they both true?  Is it a case of which words are used or overused?

NLP is based on the use of words and inflection on certain words.  Positive affirmations uses the right words repeatedly to create change within yourself and your world.  Bullying (especially cyber bullying) is the use of words to harm or belittle.

Is it the intent behind the words that gives them power?

Words change meanings.  Not just over a long period of time either.  I’ve had difficulty explaining to my seven year old daughter why the word “gay” means happy and joyful in the song she was singing, while my teenagers use it to describe something lame and stupid and others use it in place of homosexual.  How can one little word mean so many different things?  How do you explain this to a child who is just learning many of these words?

Dictionaries are no help.  Dictionaries can give you the historical meaning of a word, it’s roots and etymology.  They are also constantly changing to suit more modern and often colloquial usages.  The Urban Dictionary can be added to by anyone who cares to do so.

So many words mean different things to different people.  A witch is an ugly old hag, an evil sorceress and a practitioner of folk magic.  All are correct, but very different.  Your and you’re are used interchangeably (which is incorrect, but common).  I like to describe this as the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.  There, their and they’re are more that get muddled.  These are simple grammar rules that we should have learned early on in school.  Why is it so hard to get these words right?  The meanings of these words change depending on which one you use.

Knowing the power of words, many witches will tell you to take care with the way you word a spell or working.  Clarity is important, so is the intent behind the words.  But when you’re not in the midst of a working, words are still powerful and important.  When you have worked with magic and have some experience, you come to learn that the things you say in any setting can be powerful.  So why do so many throw words around like they mean nothing?  Why is it so hard to have integrity?  To say what you mean and mean what you say?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bullies on the Interwebs

bul·ly[bool-ee]  noun, plural bul·lies, verb, bul·lied, bul·ly·ing, adjective, interjection

1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
2.Archaic . a man hired to do violence.
3.Obsolete . a pimp; procurer.
4.Obsolete . good friend; good fellow.
5.Obsolete . sweetheart; darling.
Maybe I'm getting a bit old, and I know words have a tendency to change their meaning (check out the above - bully once meant positive things!!) but I'm struggling with the use of the word bully lately.
In my day, a bully was someone you were shit-scared of.  They'd beat you up for your lunch money, or make you do bad things to avoid a beating.  We had one at my school who certainly tried it, but as I was bigger than average, it never worked on me.  She even tried to intimidate my mother - and we're talking about a 12 year old girl here - that didn't work for her either.
Lately, on the social networking sites, especially facebook, it seems that a bully is someone who says something a little bit mean about you.  Or disagrees with you.  Or makes a blog post describing something you've done or said (with or without naming you).
Have we really become so thin-skinned that this kind of behaviour is bullying to us?  As a society, do we really expect everything and everyone to be all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?  Do we deal with a disagreement or being upset by something someone has said to us by whining "bully" at anyone who will listen?
Making a sock puppet with a similar name is not bullying.  It's taking the piss certainly, but how are you terrified of someone Gods only know where sitting at their computer screen making fun of you?
Making a parody page of your page is not bullying you.  It's taking the piss again.  If it increases your traffic, why is it such a problem?  And let's face it - that page is really funny.
Insulting people on a group and having them insult you back is not you being bullied, it's taking what you dished out.  If you don't like it, don't do it.
If someone calls you on plagiarism that has been posted on a page you admin, the smart thing to do is to remove it.  Bitching and moaning and whining doesn't fix the blatant law-breaking.  As the admin, it's your responsibility.  Starting a petition is even more childish by the way.  To then complain that the bullies are backing you into a corner and forcing you to restrict your page isn't fixing the problem either.  The problem is that you haven't removed an illegal post.  It's your own actions that have led to this.  No one is bullying you, my dear flake, you are doing wrong and consistently making things worse.
Seriously, how is a keyboard warrior a bully?  Are they sitting outside your house with a gun?  No they're sitting at their computer, probably miles away, and possibly even in another country - what can they really do to you that makes you so afraid of them?
Sadly though, the real bullying that there are many groups working against - the kids who are frequently assaulted in schools, or too afraid to go to school - this kind of thing is serious.  People who overuse and misuse a word belittle the real meaning behind it.  Bullying will become something that people just need to harden the fuck up about, and those in real danger from bullies (actual bullies, not just meanies on the net) will be ignored.  Is that something you really want on your conscience?  Because every time you describe someone being a bit mean to you as a bully, this is what you are creating.