Friday, 5 December 2014

Intent is All You Need

I keep seeing this said in comments on spell requests. 

Intent is everything or If you have pure intent then that's the best you can do.

I find myself wondering if the people who say this have ever really performed successful  magick.  Because quite simply, this isn't true.  This is very similar to Wishcraft or Begcraft as some friends like to refer to it.  Using prayer instead of spells and not understanding the difference.

So what is the difference you may ask?

Prayer is asking for something else, Gods, Spirits or some Higher Power to do it for you.  What is missed is that it is at Their discretion.

Spellcrafting is taking matters into your own hands and doing it yourself.  This may or may not include the guidance or assistance of a Higher Power, but it is not relying purely on Them to bring about the change you are asking for.

I often get a picture in my head when someone talks about how much they've prayed for something or over something.  It's a picture of their Gods looking down on them and saying "Again?! I've given you the tools, grow up and deal with this stuff yourself!"

How does Intent fit into this?

Intent is the purpose for a spell.  It is what you mean to achieve and the change you are creating.  It goes deeper than "meaning well" or "thinking positive" or "trying to help".  It is all your true motivations, emotional need, whim and fancy that goes into the reason you are casting a spell.

If intent is all you need, then you should just sit back on your chuff and assume that your every wish will be provided for.   How do you think that will work for you?  Let me assure you it won't.

It may be your intent to get a job.  But until you actually do the work - like applying for some and putting your cv or resume out there - it's not going to happen.  No one goes out of their way to find a person they've never heard of to hire them with no knowledge of their experience, personality or work skills.  The people who get headhunted for jobs are the people who are already showing brilliance in their field or are well known to the employers.

Intent is what you mean to do.  This is a world away from actually doing it.

Everything takes work.  Intent is a great beginning, but that is all it is - a beginning.



Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Colour of Magic

This is a subject that rears it's head with far too much frequency.  Putting colour to the type of witchcraft that people are drawn to or like to label themselves.

Always there are arguments about what constitutes each colour, as though the world should conform to such a narrow view and those who, like me, reject this classification completely.

White Magic

White magic is most commonly seen as good and selfless.  It is positive and constructive and involves healing and harming none and yoga and tantra and all sorts of feel good positive self-esteem stuff.

People who claim to only use white magic or be white witches often spout platitudes regarding karma, threefold law, personal gain is bad and not using magic to affect the free will of another.

Black Magic

This is the nasty stuff.  This is doing magic to destroy or harm - binding, cursing and hexing primarily.  In some texts, a black magician is not a real witch because they only do good things. 

Sometimes this is also referred to as Dark magic or Shadow magic.  The people who like to claim this will often also try to convince you of how twisted, tortured and terribly gothic they are. 

Grey Magic

This is a balanced place.  Using both sides of the polarity as needed.  It's a middle path that sometimes seems to have one foot on both of the other paths.

Grey magicians will use phrases like "harm none but take no shit" or "I do only positive magic unless you threaten me or mine".

What These Really Mean

Each of these colours are completely vapid ways to categorise and classify witches and magicians in such a way that the person doing the labelling comes out in a morally superior position.  It is nothing more and nothing less than a way to sit on your high horse and look down your nose at someone you feel is less than you.

Doing only White Magic means you do no magic.  None at all.  In fact it means you do nothing in your life. 

Harm None - in modern popular usage, not it's traditional meaning - is a completely impossible rule to live by.  You may choose a vegetarian diet for this, but plants have feelings too, the rainforests of Sumatra are being stripped for palm oil plantations which has made the native tigers endangered and severely harmed the survival of other species of rainforest flora and fauna.  Where were your shoes made?  Under what conditions were the materials obtained?  Do you drive a car?  Do you have any idea of the worldwide damage that comes from fossil fuels?  Not just climate change, but wars for control of oil fields, the damage to the land from roads (the road itself, the emissions and the volume of animals killed on the roads) and the thousands of people killed and injured every year in normal vehicle use. 

Free Will is one of my favourites.  I think that not affecting the free will of another is the same as a truly selfless act - there is no such beastie.  If you do magic to protect your property from theft, burglary or unwanted intrusions, you are restricting the free will of the thief, burglar, the Jehovah's Witnesses or your mother-in-law.  If you look deeply into any spell, there is nothing you can do that will not affect the free will of another.

Doing only black magic means you build nothing in your life.  I also believe it's like true anarchy or chaos - it doesn't really exist except as an abstract concept.  An order will arise regardless - growth and patterns will emerge and there will be constructive elements and not just destructive.

Grey magic is a difficult one for me.  It describes how I feel for the most part, but I still don't like the colour application.  I frequently say that I have two hands, why would I tie one behind my back and not use all the tools at my disposal?

I also feel that while polarities can be useful to partition up the world around us, balance must come from more than two points (black and white).  When casting a circle, you are creating a crossroads of north and south and east and west, but also your place between upperworld and underworld.  There, you are at the centre of six directions made up of three polarities.  Those polarities are also symbolic of states of mind or being - active and passive and logic and intuition among many others. 

I've heard it said recently that white and black magic came from racist roots - that the implication was that white magic was tied to white folk and black magic to black folk.  I personally think this is a superficial look at the origins of the terms.  I believe that in the black vs white usage regarding magic white is tied to light - to daytime when most things are visible and seen, when we are made to be active and doing things to improve our lot in life.  Black is tied to dark - to night-time, to sleep and dreaming and shadows.  To the times when most things are concealed by the darkness and our fears come out to play.

All Colours of the Rainbow Magic

But then we have other colours of magic now coming into popular usage.  People are describing themselves as purple witches and red witches and all colours of the spectrum.  I can cope with Green Witchcraft - that is less of a colour descriptor and more of the colour of the things they work with.  Green Witchcraft concerns a lot of plant work, herbcraft in particular.  But the rest don't seem to make a lot of sense to me.

There are spells that use colour correspondences for a specific area of life.  I suppose it can be turned around to say that an emotional spell is blue magic or warlike spells are red magic but it feels rather contrived and simplistic to me.  I am aware that Isaac Bonewits used this system of classification in his book Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Light.  I haven't read the whole book, but I have read the excerpt in which this system is described and can only hope that the content improves. 

While it may be a useful (or not depending on your viewpoint) way to classify different spells, I still struggle with taking that "colour of magic" and turning it into the colour of the practitioner.  Does this mean that a red witch will only do magic for anger, sex and the things they're passionate about?  Are they unable, unwilling or does it not fit their path to do magic for wealth or healing?  How does that work?  It seems terribly limiting and to be honest, rather childish to narrow your options down in such a way.

I know that some people like or need to categorise the world to make it easier to understand.  To be able to file things in little boxes in their minds and have everything cross-referenced from there.  I don't get it.  I like to try and see the whole picture, rather than cut it up into small chunks.



Saturday, 1 November 2014

The New Modern Super Powers.

I've come to the conclusion that reading comprehension and critical thought are fast becoming super powers.  Rare gifts that only the few special people possess.

Quite frequently, it seems that knickers get knotted, tempers rise and people everywhere get themselves worked up into a right old state over a non-issue that could have been avoided simply if they bothered to read the source properly.

The event that has brought this up for me is not a new thing.  A pseudo-news site (although not noticeably a satire or troll site) took a fragment of an article out of context and turned it into something totally different.

I think it's probably best if you begin with the original article.  Time Magazine's article about the surge in popularity of the TV Witch.  I found it to be an interesting piece about how witches are currently film and tv winners.  The fascination with witches and a bit of history and opinion about why this is.

A quote from a book, explaining some of the hysteria around witch-hunts (specifically the Salem Witch Trials) became the basis for this piece of ... well, I can only call this trolling.  Actually, a number of words leap to mind, but I'm not going to use them.  This little shit-stir article that is doing the rounds of facebook and getting the "more persecuted than everyone else" brigade all up on their high broomsticks.

It's even led to this piece of head-deskery.

I found a great blog post that summed up my issues.  It can be found here.

Sadly though, there will be people who think that Time has given Witches and Pagans a Bad Name.  Most either will not bother to go and read the original, or if they do, they'll skim it to find the bits they can be offended by.

What they don't seem to realise is that their whining, hand-wringing pleas of "an offensive portrayal of a positive religion" actually do far more damage to paganism and witchcraft than what they think the article said could ever do. 

Simple reading comprehension - reading through an entire article and concentrating enough to absorb what is really being said - shows that such a reaction is completely unfounded.  Nothing in the Time article had any relevance at all to modern witchcraft or paganism.  But who cares right?  Who lets the truth or reality get in the way of a good tantrum and moan.

Let's make all witches and pagans seem like a group of ignorant whiny little bitches who can't read properly.  That's so much better.

Even sadder, it seems to be a trend.  I made the mistake of not going back to read the original for a similar type of shit-stir "this big reputable media outlet just said something really offensive" article a few months ago.  I felt a bit of a twat when I realised what I'd done.

I applaud the writer at The Inquisitr for misrepresenting the original so badly.  As I know from personal experience, the writers get paid by page views and she'll be laughing all the way to the bank from this one.

There are writers making money from taking snippets of articles, twisting them into something attention grabbing and playing mind games with readers.  They'll keep doing it too, because reading the original without buying into the bias placed on it by the muck-raking article takes critical thought, it takes the ability to comprehend what you read and as I said at the start, they seem to be extremely rare super powers.



Friday, 31 October 2014

Yet Another Halloween Rant.

Last year I had a bit of a rant about Halloween.

This year, Halloween has inspired me again, but in a different direction.

Just like last year, the people preaching, judging and making claims about what everyone else should and shouldn't be celebrating has been a theme this week not just on facebook, but also on our local news website.

Everywhere I look this week, I seem to be confronted by people complaining about other people's choices.  Choices that in no way have any real impact on the complainants, no effect at all except to offend their sensibilities or in other words, be different from their own choices.

When it comes down to it, I know the origins of Halloween.  I know the connections to Samhain, I know that it's changed over the years, generations and geography.  I'm quite over having to explain that Halloween is not the same as Samhain.  The origins are cool to know, but they're not relevant to every single discussion or mention of Halloween.  Nine times out of ten, no one cares and the person pontificating again just gets ignored.

As such, I'm quite baffled by all the people who think they have some right to tell everyone else that they can't celebrate anything in the way they want to.  My news feed this morning was filled with New Zealand pagans and witches moaning about how often they have to tell people that it's Beltaine, not Samhain and so they shouldn't be dressing their kids up in scary costumes for school parties or to go trick or treating.

Hang on, who gave any of you the right to dictate such a thing?  And isn't this the kind of thing you complain about when someone else does it to you? 

Why do you care so much what other people choose to do with their time?  How does that affect you at all?

As I said elsewhere, celebrate what has meaning to you.  Don't celebrate the things that don't have meaning to you. Don't rain on the parade of anyone else doing the same.

In other words, Wheaton's Law applies - don't be a dick.



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Spelling in your Spelling

Many years ago, I found an article online, I think it was called "A Pegan at the Alter: Why Spelling is Important".  It may possibly have been a Themestream article.  I thought I knew who had written it, but when I do a search, I can find most of her writings from that time frame, but not this one.


Spelling and Grammar

I am a geek when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar.  I've never quite made it to Grammar Nazi status - there are a few things I'm just a bit lazy or rusty on and I got to see how obnoxious it was when my daughter and her friends were doing it.  However, I find that I lose the message if it's badly presented.  I glaze over if a sentence starts to look more like computer coding - b4 gr8 - aren't they coordinates on a chessboard?  Or if there are too many letters or numbers in place of words - r u able 2 b ready?  It's not as though there are too many places where you have a character limit anymore.  Text messaging charges are far more flexible - I do remember the bad old days and going through $20 credit in a day, 20c a text message back then, and you had only 80 characters I think - although having to scroll through them in capital letters was a bit painful.  Facebook got rid of the character limit on posts.  I think Twitter still has them, but half the attraction for twitter is the little bites of life.

I don't see any excuse for the sloppy spelling when damn near every interface that you are typing into these days has a spell-check built in.  Yes, I do often tend to ignore some of the red squiggly lines because I'm not American and I totally reject putting z in everything and taking out the u.  But that doesn't account for some of the really awful spelling that is still consistently in use. Predictive text and autocorrect should be able to help out too - even if some of their fails are highly amusing.  Ironically as I write this, the only word in that paragraph that has a little red squiggly spelling notification is autocorrect.

Someone recently invited everyone to a new facebook group they'd created.  Tragically, in the name and in the url was "peganism".  It made it hard to take it seriously.  I frequently see people posting pictures of their "alters" and it drives me crazy.  I can cope a little with "insense" because sometimes there are words that I just can't put together on that day and I rely on the red squiggly line to help me out with them.

Some words that have come from Hebrew have multiple options for spelling.  I can cope with that.  The vowels are usually left out so QBL can be spelled Qabala, Qabballah, Cabala, Cabballah, Kabala or Kabballah or any variation thereof.  It took me a while to get my head around that one and after seeing a comment about it today, I'm clearly not the only one.

For the record, an ALTAR is a table used as sacred space, ALTER means to change or is a shortened version of Alter-Ego.

You cast a spell, you will cast a spell and you have cast a spell. At no time is the past tense "casted".  It's like talking to my 8-year old.  I'm frequently having to explain the unusual past tense words to her - brought and not bringed, caught and not catched.

The Witches Who Can't Spell

There seem to be a few jokes about Witches having bad spelling, but jokes aside, I do have to wonder how successful you can be in your magic if your basic written language is so lacking.

To create successful magic requires more than just intent, regardless of what the latest still-wet-behind-the-ears, fluffy beginner might try to preach.  Intent is a great place to start - as I've said more times than I can count - but it is not all of the story and stopping there can cause all sorts of misfires, unexpected outcomes and magical mistakes.

Successful magic requires precision, both of thought and of deed.  It requires specifics, you can't have vagueness or generalisations unless you want a vague and muddy outcome.

How does this relate to lousy spelling?

It's quite simple really.  Above I've explained how there really is no excuse for bad spelling any more.  It takes willful laziness and a total disregard for other people to still be spelling so badly.  My former brother in law used to say things like "If it's any constellation, or to be pacific" but then when gently told what the correct forms were "consolation and specific" he'd get all pissy like I was being horribly rude to him and say "listen to what I mean, not what I say".  Then he'd go on to keep using the words wrongly, knowing they were wrong.

Listen to what I mean, not what I say.

How does that work exactly?  How do you know for sure what he means if his words suggest something different?

So this becomes laziness and arrogance and willful stupidity at times.  It shows a complete disrespect for people around you by telling them that they should just 'know' what you really mean.

Now let's transplant that little snippet of personality into a magical setting shall we?  People don't suddenly change persona when they're spell-casting.  You have laziness and arrogance and willful stupidity mixed with a spell to create change in the world.  A spell using magic, which as I said, takes the path of least resistance.  So if the easiest path is not clear, if it has been lazily constructed and has several possible interpretations - which would translate as several easy paths - can we now see how this becomes a problem?

I'm not saying that none of their magic would work but that there is huge potential for muddy results.

In any magical setting, I was always taught to be careful what you "put out there" and that words have power.  Think about what the wrong words could do when put out there.



Thursday, 7 August 2014

What is Folk Magic?

When I am asked "What is Witchcraft?" I always define it as the use of folk magic.  In all honesty, I always thought that covered it nicely.  It seems however, there is some confusion or differences of opinion as to what is folk magic.

Folk Magic is the magic that was performed by the common folk.  By the everyday folk, by Cunning folk, by the practical down to earth people.  It is not necessarily Hedgewitchery, nor purely rural farm-based or herbal magic although all of these are somewhat related and intertwined.

Folk magic is sometimes referred to as Low Magic or Dirt Magic.  This is as opposed to High Magic or Ceremonial Magic.  For the main differences between these two, we need to step back in time a couple of hundred years and more.

High or Ceremonial Magic

High Ceremonial Magic was generally performed by rich men.  How do we know they were rich men? 

  • There are many prohibitions in the Grimoires regarding women.  You cannot teach them magic, you cannot speak to a widow during ritual preparation, you cannot come into contact with a menstruating woman during ritual preparation.  There is so much misogyny (which was also just the standard way things were) throughout these ponderous tomes.
  • The tools, clothing, incenses and oils required were not cheap or easy to attain.  Having several knives or swords that were kept purely for magical purposes is an indicator of wealth and of nobility.  If you had the means to have such a wasteful thing as a knife that was deliberately blunt, then you were rich.
  • Having the available free time to devote yourself to days and weeks of ritual purification, cleansing, prayer and meditation means that you were not working from sun up to sun down.  It means you did not have to worry about where your next meal was coming from, taking care of your animals yourself or taking part in the production of your food.  The only people able to do this were wealthy or clergy.
  • The simple fact that they were literate and able to read the Grimoires, to study the heavens for Astrological transits and to draw the shapes, sigils and often Hebrew lettering required for a circle.  This indicates an education which was generally only available to the wealthy or clergy.

Yes there will be exceptions to all of this, there always is.  I'm speaking in general terms.

High or Ceremonial Magic is strictly structured, it requires that all instructions are followed to the letter.  That the right words, prayers, actions, symbols or sigils be used in the right order, in the right place at the right time.  There is a vast body of learning and theoretical knowledge required for this magic.

The focus and purpose of most magic of this type is to make contact with Angels, Demons and Celestial Intelligences.  To have those spirits do your bidding and bring you the results you require.  These results all lead to The Great Work, which is to raise the magician to a level of purity, holiness and power that they achieve unity with God. 

Yes this is greatly simplified for the purpose of this discussion.

Folk Magic

Folk Magic was what was performed by the not so rich.  It was the magic of the common people.  It was practical, using what is readily available and it was performed by anyone and everyone.  There were the Cunningfolk, Wise Ones or Herbwives that people could go to for special help.  But at the same time, there was much that the folk did for themselves.  Many of our superstitions, old wives tales and folklore still contain hints of the simple folk magic of a few hundred years ago. 

Until Gerald Gardner did his thing in the 1940s and 1950s to claim the word and redefine it, Folk Magic was not witchcraft.  Witchcraft was purely evil intentioned magic.  These days we seem to forget that simple fact.

Today, Folk Magic is still the practical magic.  It is tangible, common sensical (I will make that a real word one day) and anyone can do it with a bit of training and work.  Some combine psychic abilities with their Folk Magic and many don't. 

Folk Magic and Practicality

Being practical, something which is dear to my heart and an absolute virtue, Folk magic has no need for special or specific items.  Even the newer books on the subject contain huge appendices of substitutions.  You use what you can lay your hands on right now.  If you want to wait and perform your magic when you have that particular item, herb, gemstone or candle available, then by all means do it. But if you can't wait or you can't afford or source that item then whatever you do use is just as valid.

A former acquaintance used to wax lyrical over how your pantry herbs had no power.  Any Witch Worth Her Salt would know this and only buy certified organic herbs from a reputable witchcraft supplier - which was supposed to be her.  This attitude (all self-serving motivations aside) seems to be thankfully in the minority.   Many reputable Witches well worth their salt speak of grabbing pantry items to perform their magic.  Having a special cupboard where your magical versions of culinary herbs goes seems the opposite of practical to me.

In my own experience, most of my serious magic has been to deal with an emergency.  I've had a need to do something right here and right now, it will not wait until the planets are in the right alignment or my daffodils are blooming or anything else.  I may have some of the things I want previously collected, dried and stored, but equally, I may not.  It doesn't mean I need to spend time looking for a substitution or a spell that will only require what I have on hand.  It means I need to be practical and create my spell using what I do have.

When I talk about things previously collected and stored, that speaks of another level of practicality.  Be aware and conscious of what's around you.  Seeing that the hawthorne hedges are in fruit and collecting the berries. Picking up that unusual stone when you see it.  I carry spare bags in my car and if I see something I might need on the side of the road, I will stop (if I'm not on time constraints) and gather what I need.  Sometimes that's flowers or berries and sometimes that's road kill.   I gather the rainwater during thunderstorms, morning dew, the water from mists and fogs, hailstones and snow.  It's not just a herb thing.

Spoken Charms

Within some of the traditional Folk Magic lore is a wealth of spoken charms.  These are often small rhymes, phrases or prayers.  Psalms especially are abundant in quite a wide variety of folk magic applications.  Pow-Wow and Hoodoo, two reasonably well known forms of American Folk Magic both make extensive use of Psalms and prayers.  The Swedish Svartkonstboks (Black Arts Books or Magic books of their Cunning folk) contain many charms that end with saying "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" three times.  This is also a pattern in most European Folk Magic texts that are older than the last fifty years.

For many modern Witches, anything Christian is absolute anathema. They're horrified and offended that there can be such a thing as a genuinely Christian Witch.  The truth of the history was that many of our Folk Magicians were Christian.  Not as a safety pretend-to-be-so-you-won't-be-persecuted thing, but genuinely Christian.  Folk Magic is not religious.  Adding prayers and Psalms gave it an added boost, an extra layer of blessing.  Many people also included their faith into almost everything they did, including it in Folk Magic was just an extension of that.

I often cringe at some of the rhyming stuff that is bandied about.  I hear Charmed, I often hear overly flowery flaky ideas, really lousy poetry or poorly chosen words being used just to make it rhyme.  I often have an unfair aversion to any rhyming spell.  I say unfair, because some of the most successful work I have done has involved a rhyming chant that I wrote myself.  It's a simple two line chant that I repeat as I raise energy that I weave through my words and give them power.

Again, go back to some of the stuff that we do have from our ancestors.  Nursery Rhymes.

Rain rain, go away, come again another day,
Little children want to play, rain rain go away.

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, 
I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.

Folk Magic and Positivity

In all of my research into Folk Magic, my many years of study and practice, I have yet to find anything (that isn't brand spanking new and New Age as well) to say that Folk Magicians were nice people.  There are no prohibitions against cursing or hexing, no dire warnings of rebounds, threefold law or cobbled Westernised (and bastardised) versions of Karma.

There are spells and folklore giving advice on how to curse, how to protect against curses and hexes and plenty of simple spells to coerce someone - from making a thief own up or return your property to making a shotgun shoot crookedly or laming a racehorse.  There are equally spells and folklore for healing, for stopping your cattle from straying, for divination into all things and for bringing good luck into a home.

Like most things in Witchcraft, the ethics and ways to use it are purely up to the Witch or Folk Magician.

Sources and further reading:

The Book of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage
or this version

The Key of Solomon the King
or a revised edition here

The Long Lost Friend

The Works of Henry Cornelius Agrippa (most notably the Three Books of Occult Philosophy)

Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus

 The Witch of Forest Grove - Sarah Anne Lawless

Grumpy Old Witchcraft - Cassandra Latham-Jones

Gemma Gary

Plus a variety of awesome groups and people on facebook!



Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Fantasy Magic and Works of Fiction

Artwork by Alexander Liptak -

In one of my groups, there seems to be a weekly rinse and repeat cycle of someone new asking about the Necronomicon.

There immediately follows someone pointing out that it's fiction, someone disputing that and saying it's really ancient and inspired the fiction and someone claiming the Simon Necronomicon is the real one. Shoddy history, butthurt and fluffy OMG it's so evil reactions abound until it dies down, drops down the page and then starts again next week.

The useful part of the discussion that came this week though was about inspiration from fiction and works of fantasy.  This also extended into Sir Terry Pratchett's Pagan credentials and Harry Potter.

As you should know by now, I'm always pushing that you should write your own spells, that your magic should come from the heart and be an outward expression of you.  To me, these discussions highlighted that in many ways.

Where you find the inspiration for your magic doesn't necessarily have to be the Pagan books or the Spell books or all the experts you might find online.  It might come from a line in a fictional work, it might come from a Harry Potter spell or it might come from something seemingly small on your favourite sitcom.  The only thing that is required is that this inspiration works for you.

I have used something similar to the Ridikulous charm from Harry Potter.  Even before I'd read the series.  When my children had nightmares they'd tell me about the giant spiders chasing them or clowns or something.  I'd listen, hug them and then we'd make whatever had frightened them into something ridiculous and silly.  Their spiders would be wearing sequined top hats, fishnet stockings and tap dance around the kitchen sink, the clowns became cute little shelf ornaments and tigers were suddenly fat spoiled lap-cats with big shiny bows around their necks.  While it may not have been magic as such, it was still headology and Granny Weatherwax would approve.

I found myself inspired by the system of magic slowly revealed in Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars series, I spent months working on building my City of Memory but I could never quite manage to use it as a filing system the way Liath does.  I found the Mage's Ladder very similar to the system of Gates I've found in some witchcraft books.

I know I'm not the only person inspired by Terry Pratchett's liminal half-moons.  In one book (I don't recall which one) he goes into the way witches stand in the liminal places, the boundaries, doors and portals, the places that are between two states being both and neither and how the half moon is all the more special for being liminal although it's terribly overlooked.  A good friend makes an effort to have a special half moon ritual twice a month.  She sees them as points of balance where the positive and the negative have equal value.

Many years ago, I had a challenging staff member who was the master of the sidetrack when you were telling him off.  Before you knew it, he'd taken you down so many tangents you'd just walk away feeling confused and not quite sure what just happened.  To deal with him, I created my Seven of Nine glamour.  I'm sure the Trekkies will get it, but for the others, Seven of Nine was a character from Star Trek:Voyager, she was half human and half Borg - rescued from the Borg and she became a member of the crew.  As a half-Borg, she would be extremely emotionless and cut through any crap with clarity and precision.

Before I had to deal with this staff member, I'd take a moment to feel I was channeling Seven of Nine, I'd lay a glamour of her over me.  When he started off on his tangents I found I was able to simply say "That's irrelevant" and repeat my previous statement.  When I didn't get distracted by his rubbish, he tried to wind me up and make me angry instead.  Seven of Nine also helped there.

Any inspiration, anything that works is useful in magic.  You could be visualising your protection as prowling centaurs, the Wall from Game of Thrones or the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth, if it works for you then it's valid.  If you think it will draw ridicule, don't share it.  You do not owe anyone an explanation about your methodology. 

Now, while I am saying that your inspiration could come from fiction and be valid, I am not saying that it is valid to make that fantasy or fiction into your reality.  That is something altogether different.  You cannot summon the demons from Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches or from Charmed.  Whatever you get will not be what you may think it is and is unlikely to behave in the manner you expect.  I have yet to meet anyone who was genuinely a were-anything despite hearing many claims. I am not going to enable anyone's beliefs that "Everything is true (or could be) and has value" because I'm too old to play those games.  I have too much hard experience under my belt and I have spent too much time cleaning up other people's messes when they've tried to make this stuff work.

So, with that grump over with, go out and be inspired.  If something moves you or works as a way to picture something then use it.  Use it without embarrassment, use it consciously and make it yours.



Thursday, 10 July 2014

Discharge without Conviction

Over the past week or so there has been a lot of debate, well not much debate, more just public outcry about the Maori King's son, Korotangi Paki, getting discharged without conviction.  If you've been living under a rock and don't know what this was about then Google is your friend.

What has disturbed me most is the self righteous indignation and pseudo legal arguments by many people who believe that this avenue was only made available because of some privilege afforded to him as the son of the Maori King.  Let the punishment fit the crime has been the catch cry of the week.  Unfortunately what people don't seem to comprehend is that this is exactly what the judge was doing when ordering a discharge without conviction. 

Let's look at the what seems to have fueled so much debate.  When a judge has to decide on what punishment to impose they look at legislation such as the Crimes Act 1961 and the Sentencing Act 2002.  Within in these Acts are the rules around sentencing and the minimum and/or maximum penalties for each offense.  These penalties have been determined by lawmakers (politicians) and is a guideline for the courts when deciding on a sentence, taking into account things like the age of the offender, remorse, if and when they plead guilty etc (s9 Sentencing Act 2002 outlines the possible aggravating and mitigating factors).  

Lawmakers understand that there are times when people are just stupid and do stupid things, or sometimes find themselves in unfortunate situations.  They realise that the act of receiving a conviction, even if the penalty is simply a fine, would unduly place a burden on the offenders that is disproportionate to the original offense.  For lots of people a conviction would ruin careers or negatively impact future opportunities, and in the case of Korotangi Paki, it would have affected his eligibility for succession. 

Section 106 of the Sentencing Act 2002 states:

s106 Discharge without conviction
  • (1) If a person who is charged with an offence is found guilty or pleads guilty, the court may discharge the offender without conviction, unless by any enactment applicable to the offence the court is required to impose a minimum sentence.
    (2) A discharge under this section is deemed to be an acquittal.
    (3) A court discharging an offender under this section may—
    • (a) make an order for payment of costs or the restitution of any property; or
    • (b) make any order for the payment of any sum that the court thinks fair and reasonable to compensate any person who, through, or by means of, the offence, has suffered—
      • (i) loss of, or damage to, property; or
      • (ii) emotional harm; or
      • (iii) loss or damage consequential on any emotional or physical harm or loss of, or damage to, property:
    • (c) make any order that the court is required to make on conviction.

This means that if there is no minimum sentence that must be imposed for the crime, then the court can discharge without conviction.  Section 107 specifies that it must be because a conviction would make the punishment outweigh the crime.  

s107 Guidance for discharge without conviction
  • The court must not discharge an offender without conviction unless the court is satisfied that the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction would be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence.

You may have heard of Diversion - which essentially has the same result and is at the discretion of the police - it doesn't even get to the courts.  

Both Diversion and Discharge without Conviction are life savers for many young adults who don't know better and older ones who should.  You may not even realise that there are people you know who have been given diversion or a discharge earlier in their life.  People you wouldn't consider hardened criminals, who made a mistake, and instead of having that conviction hanging over them for their lives, have been given a second chance.  

One Law for All 

Let's go back to Korotangi Paki.  People believe he was given the discharge because he was the Maori King's son.  Yes and no.  There was no special privilege afforded to him because he is the King's son.  It was because by being convicted he would not be able to become King someday.  There is a difference.  If Paki was his second son (with no right of succession) or if there was no restriction to succession based on his criminal record, then the argument, of the punishment being unduly severe, would not be supported.    

Let's look at this from another point of view.  I've read so many arguments and had discussions with people based on the fact that there is some special privilege for Paki because of his father.  What they fail to realise and even when they're told specifically, is that this isn't a privilege set aside for a select few.  It's available to all of us, based on the circumstances of our crime and lives.  If you commit a minor crime, because you're a dumb ass, that carries no minimum penalty, and can show that to be convicted of such you would experience undue hardship - perhaps be disbarred, be deregistered as a teacher, be kicked out of school or uni, who knows, and that this hardship is disproportionate to the crime you committed and the penalty imposed for that crime, then you too can try for a discharge without conviction.  You don't have to be the son, or daughter, of anyone special.  

Let the punishment fit the crime.  

Should he have been punished?  Yes, I believe so.  He did commit a crime and in s106 there is a provision to make an order for payment of costs, restitution of property or compensation to the victims.  Without knowing the specifics of the case, because that was not the focus of any of the 'news' articles, I don't know if there was any order made for this.  But lets look at the case.  He drove while under the influence, and while out drunk with a few mates, as stupid dumb asses do, flogged a couple of surfboards and some clothes.  No harm to person or property was reported.  While I think he should have been punished, and fair and reasonable compensation should have been ordered, stripping him of the ability to become king is too severe for the nature of his crime.  A discharge without conviction, is fair and justified, in my opinion.

What really pisses me off about this saga is that in the time since the furor over Paki's discharge, the front page of Stuff has had two articles where people have been given a discharge without conviction for assault, where neither were reported to be the son of the Maori King or anyone else of significant media worthy note.  I've tried to create discussion about them on various websites, and Facebook pages, and the only ones who dare reply have been friends who understand the law aka lawyers, and someone who genuinely didn't know that discharge without conviction was a valid thing so didn't know that it wasn't just something for the privileged few.  

But he's a role model - if he does this he shouldn't be king. 

Do people really think that he was a role model?  A role model is someone we point out to our children as being someone to look up to.  Before this happened could anyone honestly, and I mean honestly, say that they knew who Paki was, or had put him in a place where their children were to emulate him?  If you're like me, and 99% of NZ I'm willing to bet, you had no idea who the Maori King's son was let alone thought of telling your kids to follow his example.  This is just an excuse to pile more crap on the kid.

Racism in NZ 

I wasn't going to mention this but I can't ignore the fact that under the thinly veiled guise of one law for all, there has been a rather racist reaction to this case.  I'm not talking about people who genuinely had no idea that discharge was available to all.   However even when the discharge is explained there is still a large number of people who are using this to make race based comments (there's a Facebook group I know of - not the only one I suspect - that is quite blatant with this) and that really angers and saddens me.  I thought we were better than that as a nation.  Unfortunately, every now and then I'm proven wrong.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

An Open Letter

I know I often write about shitstorms and meltdowns that have occurred on the internet. I know that for some people this appears to be feeding trolls, passive aggressive whining or a sign of how messed up our society is these days. I find it indicative of how our society is changing.

This blog is to and about a young man of my acquaintance. He is a real person.

I first met you online several years ago. You made some sensible reasonable contributions to discussions in NZ Pagan Community forums. Then you vanished for a while. Then you came back, but different.

I thought you were an utter tosser. You would enter into a discussion with a rant that had little to nothing relevant to the discussion. The most memorable being a post about recognising logical fallacies in discussions, debates and arguments. You were the first comment, ranting about how logic had no place in religion. I read your comment several times to see if there was something I had missed. Had someone else commented to put those two together and then deleted it? It couldn’t have been someone who had me blocked because they wouldn’t have been able to see the post in the first place. Here you were spouting off that they didn’t belong together, but there was no one putting them together except for you in your comment about why that was wrong. Perhaps you were demonstrating what a circular argument looked like?

I shrugged and went to bed. I’d try to make sense of that tomorrow.

When I looked at it again the next day, it hadn’t improved. You’d gone on about Philosophy and stuff like that. I saw one person had made the valiant effort to try to understand where you were coming from. He was asking you where your viewpoint came from and how you came to that conclusion. You were insulting and condescending. You said things like “Imma break it down and use real small words so you get this, m’kay?” Did you not realise that this terribly patient person was currently in the midst of his PhD in Philosophy? Did you make yourself clear? Oh I think so. That discussion seemed to end when you complained that you didn’t care, you were drunk and had better things to do like saving lives and shit.

Ah. You were drunk. That makes everything okay doesn’t it?

I recalled your posts filling my feed one night about how you were drunk and someone needed to come and bring you pizza. It reached the stage where you were demanding that at least one of those insensitive bastards you called friends owed it to you. When someone pointed out that pizza companies deliver and you could order one yourself, you insulted everything that was important to her and her most special achievements.

All of a sudden, and possibly because I was looking for it, everywhere I saw your name pop up, I saw your abusive behaviour. I saw an overweening arrogance. I saw you act as though being a Mall Cop was something pretty fucking special and how the Police were so grateful for your intervention. I saw you repeatedly tell people what your IQ was as if that made you something even more special. I saw you insult and demean a lot of wonderful people that really didn’t deserve to be treated that way.

I met you in person at an event. Firstly, I was surprised at how tiny you were. All your posts had made you out to be at least average size in a guy and closer to big for a guy. I was expecting someone at least 5’10” and built like the proverbial brick shithouse. Not this skinny weedy little fellow. But I thought that explained a few things. A bit of small man syndrome, bantam rooster stuff.

About six months later, you were outed to me. It was quite by accident. This mutual acquaintance didn’t know you were active in the Pagan Community. He knew you through the transgender groups that you’re active in. He said, “hang on, do you mean X? Transgender X?” Ah, suddenly so much about you made sense. Your irrational ranty aggressive behaviour could be fueled by all the testosterone you’re having to take in your transition. Even the questionable profile pic that was a close up of your barely covered genitals now made sense - even though I still found it distasteful and unnecessary.

I saw you again at the same event the next year. This time, I had two young women with me. Both vulnerable and dealing with some pretty nasty stuff of their own. That either of them had chosen to come at all and spend a weekend with a bunch of mostly strangers was pretty huge for them.

You got drunk. We had a chat and decided to see if we could mend fences and at least try for some sort of understanding. You mentioned your big “thing” and I told you that I hadn’t known about your big “thing” until a few months earlier. You were surprised, you thought everyone knew. It’s not a secret in this ‘family’ you told me. You went on to tell me all about how hard it was for you because you’d really like to have a girlfriend and things go so far and then they find out about FRANKENSTEIN you yelled while pointing at your crotch.

It didn’t get better. You were loud, you were drunk and obnoxious for most of the weekend. You didn’t seem to participate in anything other than the drinking and some sort of competition to be the most strident voice in any conversation. You were behaving like a complete arsehole.  You went on to near strangers attending their first one of these events about all your problems with your parents.  They learned nearly all of your issues while waiting in line for something.

At different times, both of the young women that had come with me came up to me freaking out over your behaviour. You’d been too in their space, you’d yelled things about freaks and frankensteins and how you didn’t want to be M any more so often that they were becoming really frightened by you. Both would most likely have pulled pins and gone home, if it had been something they’d had more control over.

“What the fuck is the deal with that creep?”

So I told them your big secret that wasn’t a secret in this group. It allowed them both to understand you. It was the only thing that allowed you to form friendships with either of them. Actually, knowing your secret that wasn’t a secret was the only reason I was open to forming a connection or friendship with you again. I know it’s not an easy place to be in, and perhaps with some more support you’d tone down the idiocy.

You sent me a message on Friday night telling me off for outing you. I asked where this had come from and you told me it was one of these young women. I apologised. You accepted my apology and complained about how you’d finally worked up the courage to tell her and found out that she already knew and that stole your thunder. I’d told you that I’d also told the young woman closer to me. She tells me that she hadn’t let you know that she already knew, but you then blew her up for not telling you this. I thought about the situation and felt that total honesty was required. I told you that in the case of these women, I would do it again in the same situation. Even with your “If you do this again then we can’t be friends” decree.  Normally, I wouldn't have outed you, but you needed to take responsibility for your own actions, understand why I'd broken this "rule" and perhaps be able to prevent it from happening again.

I had a responsibility to keep them feeling safe and you were threatening that. Your right to privacy stopped when it threatened their safety. Safety is not just purely physical circumstances. You can call this excuses all you like, you can pass it off as I have a sad, miserable life (you clearly have no clues at all about me) but nothing you rant at me, or anyone else who is sitting in self-appointed judgment of me will change this. If there is something I know that can make a difference to the situation these two were in, not sharing it for the sake of the privacy of a clown who has just told me that it’s not a secret and has yelled it to an entire campground, well that would be negligent.  And given that you'd yet to ask who told me showed another inconsistency in your problem.

You can tell me it’s about self-preservation. Right back at you. This was about their preservation. Yours was of lesser importance to me. And your hypocrisies and inconsistencies in this make it even odder. You’re supposed to be smart aren’t you? A 140 IQ should realise that you’ve dug yourself a hole and stop before it’s too deep to get out of.

Then I learned about the way you’d been behaving to these women. I’d been somewhat concerned about the tone of your conversations with one of these women since then. You were constantly chatting with her, presenting this persona of over the top masculinity and she was still trying to be understanding with you. She has other transgender friends and has a pretty good understanding (well almost as good as it gets from the outside) of what it’s like for you.

I didn’t know that the persona you were projecting onto the other young woman was the opposite. You’d chosen a part that was somewhat pathetic. She tried to justify your most recent behaviour to me as “the poor thing, he tries to hard to measure up to the macho male thing and just can’t feel comfortable with it. He doesn’t have much contact with anyone else in the LGBTQ+ communities.”

It was at that point I told her where your outing to me had come from. Not much contact with these communities? Really?

You see, we’ve all heard the stories about the way you behaved regarding your two ex-girlfriends in the community and the stories you’d told one of my girls about one ex didn’t match the person we knew. We were not there, we weren’t going to try to make sense of any of it or take sides. But the two different personalities you were presenting to the girls suddenly looked sinister. They’re both smart girls, smarter than you (in case you hadn’t figured that out) and while they were both vulnerable, neither would have fallen for it for long. One in fact realised just how insidious and mind-gamey your interactions with her had been.

That you spent a day and a night trying to turn my own flesh and blood against me, while she was visiting and sitting in my lounge with me shows a remarkable level of stupidity.  You can talk smack and try to use your own twisted brand of logic with her, but as I said, she's smarter than you and that didn't work so well did it?

Now you’re doing a big poor me bleat about how you’ll only ever be known for that label. You talk about all the questions you get when people realise and then they switch off. Did you get a single one of those questions from me or my girls? Did we treat it as anything other than a part of who you are, like your hair colour?

Do you honestly think that we’ll remember you for that transgender label?

Nope. Not even close.

If you don’t grow up and try to be a better human, you’ll just be known for one of a number of different labels. Or possibly all of them.

Arsehole. Manipulative bully. Perpetual victim. Abusive loser.

None of those have anything to do with what’s in your pants. Stop using that as an excuse to keep justifying and reinforcing those labels.  Try to be a decent human being first and the rest should follow.


I've had a long and wonderful conversation recently with one of the folks who outed you to me.  He pointed out that one of my most outspoken critics in this publicly outed you some time ago without your knowledge or consent.

She had a big thing on her facebook about how cruel it was of our government to not allow you a passport that reflected your transgender identity.  Your comments expressed your surprise that she had posted on your behalf and your gratitude that she was going in to bat for you.  Nowhere was there any kind of issue about being outed without your consent.

I guess it's okay when it's political and can be used to whine about our government.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Researching, Writing and Learning

I am in the process of writing my second book.  I have written some chapters and I have outlined others.  I have found some sections extremely easy to write about and others I have struggled with.  There are parts that were touched on in my previous book and I don’t want to just have a reprint of those parts with perhaps the odd changed word or phrase, but I’m not sure how to restructure it without losing anything.  I have spent a lot of time up to the eyebrows in other people’s books.  Doing research, looking for validations for my opinions - something to back up a point I’m making or a slightly different way of looking at it that will enable me to make it clearer.  Even refutations of my opinions are welcomed.

It has been quite a learning process.  In my head, when I started to write this book, I knew all I needed to know.  I was sharing the wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years with those who have less experience.  I was arrogantly assuming that there was little to nothing of substance left for me to learn in this field.

I pored over several books and ancient texts.  I found what I wanted to find, I had a couple of small surprises and I didn’t find what I hadn’t really expected to find.  I remember my excitement (and smug self-satisfaction) when one scholarly work verified and validated a conclusion I’d drawn on my own.

Lately though, reading through the last couple of books and concepts I’ve come to a realisation.  That through this research and writing process I am actually learning more.  There are concepts that I’ve had a faint grasp on, a shallow intellectual understanding of that I now get at a far deeper level.  I’ve had my “aha!” moments, I have found my somethings to back up a point I’m making in a different way and different ways of looking at things that will enable me to make it clearer.  I just didn’t expect that the way they made these things clearer was for me to understand them better.  For the deeper meanings to sink in and make my surface knowledge something deeper and truer.

There are components of ritual that our group always did.  We always did them because our High Priestess had always done them in her previous group.  They were never explained to us with whys or deeper meanings and to be honest, I’m sure that if she’d known them they would have been explained as often and clearly as possible.  I could explain why we did them.  I could give you a perfectly reasonable understanding of the function and necessity of these things.  But it has been while reading the book I’m currently in the midst of that a better understanding of some of these components has occurred for me.  It’s also fascinating for me that even with my imperfect understanding, I still had made the choices to include or not these actions in various rituals I’ve led correct.

I saw a quote recently.  It says:

We Learn…

10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss
80% of what we experience
95% of what we teach to others

- William Glasser

In writing a book, I’m teaching to others.  I’m learning more about these concepts that that I thought I understood.  I’m understanding them better by finding my own words to explain each concept.  In some ways, I feel almost as though I’m writing this book for me, not for anyone else.



Monday, 30 June 2014


Negativity is Bad

Oh no.  We don’t want or can’t have your negativity here.  It’s bringing us all down.  It’s something to be ashamed of donchaknow.

Memes and quotes and exercises abound, filling your awareness constantly with their messages about removing negativity from your life, surroundings and consciousness.  Lightworkers and Spiritual Coaches lecture you on focusing purely on the positives and letting go of all that is negative.

Cancer is negative.  I let go of all cancer.  I no longer acknowledge it’s existence or it’s power to harm those I love.  Cancer has no power over me.

Do you think that worked?  Can I now think positive and choose to never have another Cervical smear or mammogram because that would be inviting negativity back in?


It’s a word that you’ll hear a lot in Pagan circles.  What does it mean?

There seems to be a number of ways it gets used:

  • Anything perceived as bad or evil
  • Anything that makes you feel challenged or uncomfortable
  • Any time someone disagrees with you
  • Anything that takes away from your self-esteem (deserved or not)
  • A buzzkill
  • An expectation or projection of judgment or criticism (again deserved or not)
  • Worrying or concern

Negativity has become a cliched catch-phrase that is supposed to make you feel bad for displaying anything other than bouncy nauseating optimism and positivity.  Even neutral things now come under the heading of negativity.

Most recently I was called negative for giving my reasons for disliking and not recommending the works of a certain author.  Apparently it is bad of me to think that advising a teenager to be dishonest with their parents is wrong.  I questioned a blanket statement “witchcraft teaches us that we can’t do magic for personal gain”.  Questioning this person and asking him to back his assertions allegedly qualifies as negative banter.

I find this most fascinating in magical circles.  Especially those circles where the way magic works is described using electricity as an analogy. Magic is just like electricity apparently.

I also inform all clients that magic is like electricity.  It is energy that feeds off other other energy (the intent of the Enchantment & how well you follow my instructions on following through with prayers and/or meditations after the Enchantment is completed). 

In some ways, magic is like electricity. It can flow from one source to another.

Magic is like electricity; if you do not give electricity a specific way in which to travel it will fit [sic] the quickest route to ground itself, which usually ends up with someone being frazzled.

Magic is like electricity, it will choose the method which is both direct and energy efficient. Therefore a bolt of lightening would be quite energy inefficient, when a spell is cast. It would be more likely that it would be an energy packet (quantum energy) which would interact with the environment on a quantum level, hence no balls of fire.

Magic is like electricity--it has a purpose but can't do everything.

Psionics use the inner strength of a person to operate and like any other physical exercise can and will tire a person out. Magic, however, does not draw on a person's essence to operate. Magic is like electricity, it is power and people are the shapers and users of such energy.

Never mind all the ones that go into dark or light purposes…  Well, sticking with the electricity analogy.

I’m sure that at some stage in school we’ve all done that little exercise where you make a small circuit with a battery, some wire and a light bulb.  Now picture that battery in your mind.  Do you remember how it has two terminals on it?  Two opposing poles?  How are they labelled?  Yeah, positive and negative.  What happens if you only attach the positive terminal to your circuit and not the negative?

In magic, there is no difference.  Your lightbulb won’t glow if the source isn’t balanced, that is if the connection to both poles isn't present.

I think some of this phenomenon has come from a misunderstanding.

Positivity and Negativity

Affirmations leap to mind for me as my next and best example.  Affirmations allow us to change our reality, to improve ourselves and the world around us.

Affirmations must always be positive.

Now this doesn't mean that they must be filled with childlike optimism and naive choices to ignore reality.  It means that you can't use negative words in your affirmation.  Not bad words, negative words - "not", "don't" and so forth.  The reason for this is that your brain doesn't really hear them - it filters out many of the filler words.  If you were to make "I will not get sick" as your affirmation, your brain will hear "will get sick" and filter out the rest.  This is why your phrasing must be positive - "I will be healthy and well".

When you're phrasing a magical intent, the same rules apply.  "Only happy thoughts shall enter" is better than "sadness is not allowed".  You can have things that are thought of as negative "I will take my vengeance" (yes, it's melodramatic but it's fun) and it's still a positive phrasing of intent.

The negative is seen as the bad things.  The things we don't like about ourselves.  Some traditions refer to these things as Shadows rather than negatives.  Your Shadow side is still a part of you.  Denying it's existence or pretending that it's not there or that you can be rid of it is as silly as trying to cut off your actual shadow on a sunny day.  Are you Peter Pan?

If you are frightened of or threatened by your shadow side, then it has power over you.  It becomes a driving force and isn't that the opposite of what you're trying to do? 

I've done readings for people who've been freaking out over something they perceive as negative or bad.  I recall one lady whose husband had died about six months earlier.  She had been told it was time for her to be moving on with her life and letting it go.  I told her it was okay for her to be mad at him, it was okay for her to be still mourning him.  It didn't make her bad, it made her human.  It had been eating her up so much that she was so grateful for that one sentence.  She'd almost been making herself ill with the idea that it was negative, bad or wrong for her to be still sad, mad and caught up in her husband of forty years. 

Turning Wheels

Why is it that we can accept that night follows day and will pass at sunrise tomorrow.  We can accept that Spring and Summer follow Winter.  The darkness and the light follow each other in these cycles and it's natural.  We accept that these darknesses are essential and temporary, but when we face our own darknesses it is something wrong, it is to be feared, treated and medicated?

I know I can't change the world.  I know I can't beat everyone around until they grasp this concept.  I can only try to reach those who are willing to listen.



Monday, 23 June 2014

Winter Solstice Musings

Saturday was the Winter Solstice.  I had planned my usual solstice party.  I'd even chosen to open it up and put it out there in a couple of local internet pagan groups.  Especially as one of those groups contained a couple of people living not too far away, who had complained about being unable to find anything in their area.

I had several maybes.  I had several "Oh yes, we'll definitely be there".  I had a few nos, but thanks for asking.

I planned and wrote a ritual.  It was quite a deep and transformative ritual while being terribly simple.  One of those things that sinks in later, days or weeks later.  It was about recognising that darkness happens and light follows in endless cycles.  We know and accept this in our night and day.  We know and accept this in our yearly seasons.  But we don't seem to know or accept this in ourselves.  The dark times are something wrong that needs treating.  Or sometimes it just needs a little of someone else's light to remind us that the light is still there.  The ritual also contained being able to say something nice about yourself.  Something positive, something you are proud of.  Without any embarrassment, without comparisons (well, you should have seen me last year or you should see my sisters), without any projections (she just said she was smart, thinks she's smarter than us) and without any justifications.  To just be able to stand forward and say "I am smart, I am funny, I am strong" whatever it was that you are and to have that be supported by everyone else.  It was a phenomenal ritual.

It's just a shame that we never did it.

I've spent the last couple of years struggling with ritual.  Doing battle with ritual.  Ritual has almost grown into a larger than life nemesis for me.  No, I take that back, I can do ritual fine when it's someone else's ritual.  I can take a role and do that fine.  I can judge their rituals in the armchair comfort of my own head and pull apart what I would have done differently (and therefore better of course) and what worked for me.  What I am doing battle with is leading ritual for others.

I thought that by telling enough people that I was planning one, I'd be able to force myself into actually taking that step and doing it.

Now I have all sorts of justifications and reasons rolling around in my head as to why I didn't do it.

  • A lot of those 'maybes' and 'definitely be theres' bailed out and weren't there.
  • I really didn't feel this ritual would be right or well received or taken seriously with the people who were present.
  • I was disorganised and didn't give a clear start time so by the time I was ready for ritual, many others were drunk, going to sleep or heading home.
  • I should have planned to do the ritual first and dinner stuff after.
  • Sabbat celebrations are more about the gathering of people for me.
  • I'd woken up that morning with a dreadful migraine and been taking medication all day to keep it at bay so I just felt tired and sore and brain full of fuzz.

All of this is true and none of it is - all at the same time. 

I did still love the gathering.  I loved the mix of people and feel glad that some new people came along, as well as some people from many years ago.  I enjoy the pot luck dinner.  I enjoy sitting outside around our bonfire on the longest darkest night of the year.  Having one side toasty warm and the other feeling the cold.  I love that we get a different mix of people every year but don't seem to have any dramas with them.

I also love the next morning.  Sitting in the cold weak winter sunshine in my pyjamas with a cup of coffee and a great group of friends.

I am both grateful and a bit pissy that no one mentioned the lack of ritual. 



Friday, 13 June 2014


“Do you have a moment to talk about Amnesty International?” A very polite and somewhat attractive young man addressed me outside my supermarket.  His little table was covered in pictures of Malala with a single tattered laminated leaflet on top.

That day, I really didn’t.  I had a very small window of time to get my grocery shopping done before I had a series of appointments and commitments.  I said as much and offered a simple cash donation.  “We’re not taking donations today, we’re just taking registrations” he told me.  I was a bit baffled, so I asked for clarification.  He went into his spiel telling me about how they have a direct debit system and their minimum fee was $6 per week - the equivalent of only blah di blah.

Sorry lad, sorry Amnesty International, you lost me at the words “minimum fee”.

It’s not new though.  Over 20 years ago when I was a poor, struggling beneficiary, a collector for Greenpeace knocked on the door to my flat asking for donations.  At the time, my total income was $97 per week.  Out of that came my share of the rent, the phone and power, and the groceries.  I was still happy to give this young man some of my change - maybe $3 or $4.  “Oh no,” said this man, “Our minimum donation is $20”.  He left with nothing and I’ve never made another donation to Greenpeace.

I was a bit angered when Campbell Live did a piece on St Johns Ambulance.  John Campbell explained about how they survive purely on donations.  I looked from the tv to the tax invoice and threats of debt collection that I had from St John’s for the third ambulance call out I had last year.  I’d already paid for the first two ambulances at $84 each, but I was struggling with the third.  They were life-saving call outs too - not something minor or time wasters.  I don’t begrudge them the money, they save lives and do a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances.  But this was quite a misrepresentation.  How is payment for services surviving on donations?

Now I accept that some of this may be that I have some Oppositional Defiant issues - my husband certainly complains that I don’t do what I’m told - but I’m sure I’m not the only one who tends to object to this.  A donation to a charity is supposed to be a voluntary offering of what I am able to spare, isn’t it?

At what point does a charity become a business?  I was sure it has something to do with profit and non-profit.  But as I have a business that has yet to make a profit and profits are not our focus, doesn’t that blur that line already?  Benefiting the wider community? There are other non-profit organisations that benefit the wider community (TimeBanking is an immediate example for me) that don’t count as charities.  Giving goods or services away to those in need with no expectation of return was a suggestion from my husband.  Surely the $252 in total I was invoiced by St John’s ambulance made that argument invalid.  I’m also aware of a religious group in New Zealand, a group of maybe 5 people at the most that have registered as a charity and are constantly asking for donations, but I have yet to see what they are doing for the community around them to qualify as a charity.  In case you’re wondering, they’ve been registered for at least 5 years.

I’m saddened by all of this.  I think all these charities do some wonderful work.  However, whatever small amount I have to spare I will share where I please, when I please.  And it will be a donation, not a weekly fee.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Giving up Smoking

I’d decided that I was giving up smoking on Friday last week.  It worked out that the last cigarette of my packet was smoked Friday morning with my first cuppa as I woke up for the day.

File:Cigarette smoke.jpg
By Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin from Chalakudy, India (cigarette.. like a cigarette in the rain) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I started smoking when I was 13 or 14.  I gave up for four years around my late 20s and early 30s, then my marriage broke up.  I started to spend time with a great group of women - we’d have a few drinks every Thursday night and most of them smoked.  They did keep telling me not to buy my own smokes, just to smoke theirs while we were drinking.  By the second night, I was really uncomfortable with this.  I remember buying my first packet.  I sat and stared at the small, white, cellophane wrapped, unopened box for about 15 minutes wondering what I’d done.  It was one thing to have the odd smoke and another to buy 20 of them in one go.  It was a huge turning point and I didn’t really know how I felt about it.  This small inoffensive seeming handful was so heavy and symbolic of so many other things.

When I wrote my book, I made a bargain with my Gods that included me giving up smoking.  It was to be my sacrifice.  Then I couldn’t make myself do it.  I was afraid, I made excuses and I had my world ripped apart around me.  Several times I’ve had friends comment that they don’t know how I stayed sane coping with some of the events of the last year.  Several times, I made the decision to give up.  This was to be my last cigarette.  Then my son attempted suicide.  Yeah, I bought smokes on my way into the hospital following the ambulance.  That was never going to last in those circumstances.

Twice I managed to go 8 days with no problems.  I didn’t tell anyone until I’d gotten to a week.  I didn’t want to hear everyone’s advice, expectations or even how proud of me they are.  I’m sure they all mean well, but I find it… actually, I don’t know how I find it, I just know I don’t like it much and it annoys me for some reason.  It annoys me just as much when people are being understanding about how I tripped up with it now and then - I would react (inside) in just the same way as I did when I was being judged for being weak. With those two bouts of 8 days, I had stresses, I had situations where someone hurt me very badly and I wanted to hurt him physically as if that would fix it.  I heard the lies that person told to try and gain sympathy from others and justify what they’d done.  So many times, I didn’t want a whole cigarette, I just wanted a puff.  If I happened to get a puff I was all good and didn’t want a smoke anymore.  But that wasn’t always possible.  I bought a small packet and hid it.  I could get a puff now and then when I needed it, but could still pretend I wasn’t smoking.

The problem with having a pack is that the pack is like a commitment.  There are 20 or 25 or 30 smokes there that need consuming.  They call out to you, you are always aware that this little packet is there and maybe, once you’ve finished them all and you’re free of this little pack, you’ll be okay to start over.  To be smokefree.

The odd thing was there was not a physical need for a smoke.  It was all the crap in my head.  I would catch myself justifying buying a pack of 20s to myself and even trying to plan how I’d hide it.  No, I would tell myself firmly, I don’t do that anymore.  But I’d still find I was scheming, it would be quieter this time, almost so that I couldn’t hear myself doing it.  It’s okay, with what you’ve been through lately, no one would blame you, I’d hear inside my head.

I listened to other people talking about their final triggers to give up.  One guy said he suddenly realised that he doesn’t enjoy smoking, it costs him money he can’t afford and that was his thing.  He looked at his pack and said “Fuck you, get out of my life.” And that was that for him.   Another friend was having a throat cancer scare.  Someone else had just realised a gym membership cost the same each week and made the decision to do that instead.

For me, it was the promised sacrifice but also the money.  My car needs about $500 spent on it for a wof and that’s $500 we don’t currently have to spare.  I’ve been trying to compare smoking to eating chocolate.  Yes there are times that I crave chocolate, but if I have none in the house, I’m hardly going to drive 10kms (my nearest shop) to get a chocolate bar.  So Friday morning it was to be.

I was to have a fairly busy morning which I thought would be a good thing.  There was a woman coming to pick up a bull I had borrowed and once he was off and away, I had two appointments to make.  Keeping busy should keep me sufficiently occupied to cope with not smoking, or so I thought.

Without going into too many details, it was a catastrophe.  Almost everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong - up to and including the bull being in very real danger of dying - he jumped halfway over the bar across the front of the float and got himself stuck with a lot of pressure on his heart.

Once all had been sorted and he’d made his way to his next port of call, I was physically, mentally and emotionally wrung out.  I wanted a drink and it was only 10am!  I bought a packet of smokes and gave myself until Monday.  In my head, I was telling myself off for making excuses and giving in too easily, but also telling myself it was better than hitting the vodka on a Friday morning.

Monday, again, I had one cigarette left and that was gone by 6:45am.

I spent half the day kinda wandering around feeling like I’d forgotten or was missing something.  I was fidgety, like I had an itch that would be impolite to scratch in company.  It dominated my thoughts for most of the day.

For the most part, I thought it went okay.

But I was amazed though at how everyone else suddenly became a perfect angel.  Their behaviour was totally beyond reproach.  I was obviously just cranky because I was giving up smoking.  It was all my bad attitude that was the problem.

I saw this type of thing when I was pregnant and again when my first marriage broke up.  I couldn’t possibly be telling someone off because they’d deserved it - it had to be hormones and stress on my part.  Roll your eyes and pity that woman who is clearly not coping.

I stopped speaking in the end.  My dearest darling hubby had bitched and moaned and picked holes in everything I said.  I couldn’t say anything right, I was snarled at and spoken down to - but you see, it was all me, I’m just grumpy because I’m giving up smoking.  That sounds so much worse than it really was.  He was in a mood and was cranky, but he didn’t pick on me all night.

Tuesday.  Second day.  I thought my first one of the morning would be the hardest one to miss.  I think it was more the one when I get back from the school run.

Today I ate.  I snacked, I picked, I “tasted” dinner while I was cooking it so much that I was so full I actually felt sick before I’d even sat down to eat my dinner.  I wasn’t actually hungry, I wanted to taste something.  I still ate my dinner.

I needed to empty the ashtrays today.  I was starting to eye up some of the bigger butts.  They were looking good even though they suddenly smell really strong and really foul.

In other words, I’ve noticed a huge difference to my sense of smell, already.

Wednesday.  Third day.  I didn’t sleep very well last night.  I’m coughing more than I did when I was still smoking (can I say that yet?  It’s been three days), but I’m still feeling overfull and somewhat sick from eating far far too much yesterday and last night.  I think I’ll be drinking a lot of water today and not consuming much else.

I know that the biggest thing, well, one of the biggest things for me is habit.  I noticed yesterday though, I felt as though I’d been busy for half the morning.  I’d gotten plenty done, it must have been around 11am, I thought.  Then I heard the letterbox bang shut and the postie drive away.  I checked the time, it was quarter past nine.  I’d gotten all of this done in an hour or less?  Right, time for a break and a … snack.  It’s partially the habit and partially a reward I’d give myself for getting some stuff done.  It’s something to do with my hands when I’m on the phone.  It used to be my little piece of time out.  When you have an Aspie/ASD child, having the space to take even 5 mins for yourself some days is a rarity.  The toilet/bathroom doesn’t always work, I’ve been followed into that several times. It got worse once he hit his mid-teens and started smoking.  I didn’t have that escape, he’d come with me for a smoke.

There is also a lot of fear.  Fear of gaining a lot of weight when I already have cholesterol issues.  Look at the way I ate yesterday, that was only my second day!  Fear of getting sick.  See, I’ve done this a few times now.  I know that getting rather ill a short time after giving up smoking is completely normal.  Smoking kills off some of your immune system, but at the same time, it replaces it and works in the same way.  When I gave up for that four years, I sniffed and snuffled as though I had hayfever for two full years.  I had a constant slightly runny nose that whole time. 

There’s another fear, but it’s tied to stop-smoking medication.  My parents used one very highly recommended form after Dad had a heart attack.  It worked very well, my mother used to be bad for keeping a hidden pack, or coming to visit and having one of mine.  This time there was none of that - much to Dad’s surprise.  Unfortunately, since taking this medication, Mum’s short term memory has become somewhat patchy and unreliable.  It may not be connected, it may just be a fluke of timing.  I heard a suggestion that there was a rare link between this medication and messing up memory, but I haven’t heard it formally and don’t do the chinese whisper thing (which is why I’m also not naming the meds).  But what if?  I’m going to do this on my own because it’s a sacrifice, it’s supposed to be hard - that’s part of the point.  I’m afraid of the medication in case I’m suddenly the person who asks the same question 5 times in a half hour phone call, in case I’m suddenly forgetting birthdays and getting confused about plans for later on this afternoon.  I don’t want to be the person that others are suggesting should be in a home when I’m clearly far too young for that and quite frankly, still functioning fine in everything else.

There are a lot of jobs that need doing.  Many of them are away from the house down in the paddocks.  I think that might be where I spend a large portion of today.  I have fences to secure to stop the sheep from going under and through and into paddocks where I don’t want them to be.  I have trees to plant, trees to prune and trees to move.  I have rocks to shift, a garden that needs work, cattle that need separating for the homekill this weekend.  I also have another book to work on, research to complete, sources to find, taxes to do, a calendar to finish, half-written blog posts to tidy and post (more than one blog).  I have plenty to keep me occupied.

Wish me luck!