Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Call of the God

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

It's available on Amazon here.

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

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Cycles and Learning from Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Just in case you missed my notification in the comment section of the last post here it is.

Comments are not going anywhere nice. I've decided that comments are now going to require confirmation from me before they will be published on this blog and if they offer no additional value to the article/argument other than serving to insult then they will not be confirmed. If you don't like it, tough titties... go read another blog.

I will not tolerate personal attacks of any sort.  If you want to bully people then piss off and grow up.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Medicinal and Magical Herbalism

I've always been fascinated by Herbalism.  Once upon a time, I had fantasies of having a cupboard that I could go to and be able to cure any ills that beset my family.  It fitted in with the idealistic image I had of a Traditional Cunningwoman.  Herbs hanging from the rafters, jars filled with remedies, cures and charms and the ability to fix everything.  I pictured myself as an infallible healer of all things physical and spiritual.

Then I spent a year training at the Canterbury College of Natural Medicine.  I have a Certificate of Natural Health.  In that time, I learned that it's really not that simple and is usually a lot of work, trial and error.  There is so much more to it than reaching for the right herb or even the right part of the herb.

My certificate was a taster in a variety of modalities.  There were more in depth and advanced courses that could be taken to specialise in any of the areas that we studied.  While I did learn a lot of useful things that have made a difference to most minor ailments in my family, I recognise that it does not qualify me to treat anything more serious and I wouldn't try.

With this background in place, I am frequently horrified by herbal recommendations that I see online.  Many groups now have rules against giving medicinal herbal advice and with good reason.  Many apparently safe herbs have nasty contraindications and bad interactions with medication.  You can't know for sure when reading someone's question what the source of the problem is.  You can't know that they're telling you the whole truth, learn about family history and you can't know anything about their physicality - all of which are important.

Now there comes people wanting to be special and create their own websites.  I wrote about Mr V and his appalling website just a couple of days ago.  I am not going to provide a link to his website, because he takes page views and shares as validation - even though I know many of those views and shares are people reading it in horror and sharing it to other places as a warning about bad and dangerous information.

Instead, let me do a screenshot (he gave permission for this) of his latest offering, under the heading Angel's Turnip: A Monograph:

I guess we got lucky in that he's now citing sources.  But I also read up on one of those sources, the Plant Biographies by Sue Eland and found that he missed out some really important information.  To be specific:

Warning – bitter root is poisonous and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It can cause nausea, purging, lowered heart rate, vomiting, appetite loss and death. The milky juice can cause blistering on the skin. Livestock have been killed by eating the leaves.

I'm quite sure that any of you reading can see why this is problematic.  On his website, he recommends chewing on a root as a cure for "some weird western medication" while one of his sources says it's poisonous and should only be used under qualified supervision.

This was raised, and well, I'll give you a snippet of how the conversation went:

This is a fairly standard response from this chap.  I pointed out that I have a herbal that recommends white lead and mercury in salves and ointments but so far that appears to have been ignored.

What really, really scares me about this is that people share his view that warning about the dangers of untrained, unqualified advice like this is just fear-mongering and that it's all perfectly safe.  He has no formal training - he has freely admitted this, he is picking and choosing what information to share from useful websites (leaving out the safety warnings) and using other questionable websites.

If a few leaves can kill livestock - animals with a digestive system designed to process many things that will kill people and weighing at least three times the average person and usually more like five or six times the weight of the average person - imagine what it will do to you.

Sadly, he just doesn't seem to take any of it seriously and beyond giving out warnings, I don't know what else I can do.

Will it take a death and a lawsuit before it stops?

Still disheartened


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Learning to Walk Before You Can Run

One of the reasons I started writing was because of the sheer volume of rubbish that is available regarding Witchcraft and Paganism.  Some of it is superficial, some of it is incomplete, some is very prejudicial and skewed towards or against certain paths, some of it is pure fantasy and some of it is completely incomprehensible.

It has always left me confused as to how some of it comes to be published.  In some cases, it's clear that a person practices that way and possibly it even works for them (if they actually do most of what they talk about), but their tone or their words say that this is the only right way to do it or that.

In the last couple of weeks, I have watched the creation of a new website that first laid claim to being a Shaman's archive and is now claiming to be a Wiccan archive.  The creator of this website, lets call him Mr. V, posts it up on his facebook group, now that he has decided to be a part of his group again, and asks for feedback.  There follows generally a loop:  Firstly, the experienced practitioners point out failure to cite sources, that this article has been scraped directly from another website or out of a book, going through the flaws in each article one at a time and suggestions that spellcheck is your friend and that an editor or proofreader would be a valuable thing.  Then Mr. V says things like "You guys have opened up my eyes" and "Okay I get it" and removes all content from the website.  He asks for suggestions and gets a lot of useful ones about learning to walk before he can run, getting some experience before trying to teach others and perhaps keeping a journal detailing this stuff he's trying rather than putting it up somewhere public where other beginners may assume that he knows what he's talking about. I can only assume that the next step is someone in the background blowing smoke up his arse and bitching about what a bunch of negative nellies those people are and he changes his mind and puts it all back up again and the cycle begins anew.

Normally, I would laugh and leave most of this alone.  But some of the information he has put up has been dangerous.  He claimed some things were safe to eat in small doses when really they are not.  They are toxic if uncooked and/or unripe.  Other completely toxic herbs had no warning about the dangers of ingesting them.  On his facebook group there were recommendations for ingesting crystals.  When this was thoroughly discussed including warnings from medical professionals, a PhD in Chemistry and others pointing out his failure to state which crystals and how they were prepared - it came way later that he was talking about only two specific crystals (which still remained unnamed) and making elixirs rather than grinding and eating the crystals as was first implied, he just told everyone that we have no idea how much he knows and what he's done successfully and finally he just deleted the thread.

The other concern about Mr. V is by his own accounts, he took a bunch of the herbs he claims are perfectly safe, to go on a Shamanic journey and ended up spending time in a Mental Health Facility after having a three month long psychotic break.  He's only just come back into society from this event.  We can't possibly know all the ins and outs of the story, but it doesn't inspire confidence in what he has to teach - especially as it doesn't seem like he wants to serve as a horrible warning or a "What Not To Do".  He also believes that because he's in Canada, he won't be legally liable for an American teen coming to harm by following his herbal advice.  This is completely fallacious by the way.

He claims he'd like "constructive criticism" this time, but what he means is a validation echo chamber.  He doesn't want to hear what is wrong with his article, he wants his ego stroked and for all of us to suddenly recognise how wise he is and how wrong we were about him all along.  We frequently hear complaints of "You don't know me, you don't know what I do or what I know" in petulant tantrums worthy of a terribly misunderstood teenager.  He's right, we don't.  All we can judge him by is what he posts and that is dreadful.

Although today that took a new turn.  Apparently he's fed up with the women picking on him even though he expected it because such sexism is common in pagan circles.  Somehow he's totally missed the men have been calling him on his stuff just as much as the women.  For the most part, the women have been far more polite.  But well, why pass up a chance to be a victim?  And such a whiny pathetic victim he was.

None of this is new, many people before him have done the same things and I know that.  It just scares me that there is this entire community of people basing their practices on this kind of website.  I keep telling myself that I know the type, they won't hear the warnings from those who know better, but I try anyway.  I keep feeling disappointed when they don't hear the warnings and resort to name calling, perpetual victimhood, flounces and bannings.  But I still find it in me to hope that the next one will be different.

Disheartened Blessings


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

What Does It Mean?

Within witchcraft and paganism there is plenty said about seeing messages in everyday things, finding meaning in the simplest of things.

While I agree that messages from higher powers can come in the simplest forms, I am often somewhat surprised by the lengths people will go to in order to find meanings in everything.

These two pictures are the kinds of things that commonly pop up in witchcraft groups.  They are vague, filled with unnecessary woo and feed the rampant stupidity that is taking over.

When you discover a feather, it means that a bird has lost it.  In my own case, the wind has probably blown through my chicken coop as I have birds of many different colours in there.  There are also a multitude of wild birds around.  They moult, they are caught by cats, hawks and magpies - all things that will cause them to drop feathers.  Discovering a feather usually means nothing more than it's no longer attached to a bird.

If you were to discover a feather in a place where it shouldn't be - in your handbag or underwear drawer (assuming you don't have any reason to have feathers there) - then and only then I would consider it to be a message or have another meaning.  First however, I would rule out all mundane options.  Then I would ask that if it's a message for it to be repeated and be made clearer.

If a feather is posted to you, depending on the type of feather, it can mean that someone wants you to know they're cursing you.  Or wants you to think they're cursing you.

As for candle flames, there are many reasons for a candle to have a strong or weak flame, for the flame to dance or jump or make noises or even for there to be two flames.  A poorly trimmed wick, the wrong wick for the size of the candle, a cheap candle that has been badly made, dirt or other materials on the wick or in the candle sometimes at the time of manufacture or even a faint draft.

When I was fairly new to all of this and believed that every little thing held a message, I used to frequently use essential oils in a vaporiser - one of those ones heated by a tea-light candle under the dish.  My vaporiser was round like a vase and had a teardrop shaped hole in the front for the candle.  The shape of the vaporiser meant that every time I burned a tea-light in there the flame danced and turned in circles.  But I do recall that I felt awestruck and filled with woo the first few times.

One time I was certain a candle was behaving oddly and there was a message in it was at a ritual for a specific Goddess.  The altar and the room were filled with candles.  The two on either side of the Goddess statue had flames standing strong, 4 - 6 inches high, while all the other candles were normal flames.  Those candles with the extra tall flames also burned considerably slower than the others, despite being the same candles from the same manufacturer out of presumably the same batch.  We took that as a sign that the Goddess was aware of being honoured and was pleased with it.

Another one I have come across:

"I got a double yolker egg this morning.  What does that mean?" 

I have hens of my own and I work in an egg farm.  Double yolkers are nothing particularly unusual or special.  It means that either a pullet (young bird just starting to lay) didn't finish yesterdays egg and you ended up with two eggs fused together in one shell or an older bird was interrupted partway through the egg formation process and didn't finish it until the next day and you ended up with two eggs fused together in one shell.  You can often tell a double yolker by looking at the shell.  There will sometimes be a raised line about a centimetre wide or less where the two eggs meet.  Less common, but it still happens is an egg inside an egg.  This is usually when the hen was interrupted earlier in the process - sometimes this tiny egg (without a yolk) is laid as a tiny egg of it's own. 

It isn't a sign of good luck (well, except that you were lucky to get two eggs when you were expecting one) or anything else. 

Driving to my nearest city one day, I passed a field that had three horses standing in a row.  They looked like some kind of sculpture.  They were almost nose to tail, in a straight line, with the same stance, size and identical in their position.  The front one was black, the middle one was brown and the last one was grey.  I had never seen horses do that before.  I thought it was odd but didn't think any more of it until I saw the same thing again in another field 50 kms away.  Another three horses with the same colouring, same order and same positions.  I asked then if that was supposed to be a message and if it was, could it be repeated and made clearer.  I didn't see anything like that again, so I have to chalk that one up as strange coincidence.  Perhaps that's a response to a weather pattern that I just hadn't seen before - I learned at a young age, when you see all the animals in all the paddocks facing in the same direction there's usually a storm coming from the direction they're facing away from.

I have never found these pictures and woo-filled memes to give an accurate representation of what the message might be, yet people persist in copying them down, repeating them to others as "ancient wisdom" and worst of all (to me) discouraging people from thinking for themselves.

When spirits or Gods or Higher Powers are sending you a message, it's in their own best interests to be sure that the message is clear to you and make sure you get it.  It doesn't make sense for them to give you obscure messages and then you have to rely on going on the internet to ask a bunch of self-styled wise folk what your message means.  Think about it.  There's the popular saying, ask 12 witches and get 13 different answers.

When a message is for you, it is for you and will be symbolic only to you.  If you're not sure whether something is a message, ask!  Ask for it to be repeated to be certain it's a message, ask for it to be made clearer because you don't understand.  If it's a message and not a random happenstance, then it will. 

Just because there's magic afoot doesn't mean there's no place for common sense and logic.  Think, rule out the mundane options and only then look for something supernatural.  Darwinism still works in witchcraft - the stupid and gullible don't tend to last long.



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Sacred Storytelling and Mythology

It took me years to grasp the concept of Sacred Storytelling.

On the surface, it seems obvious but really it is not.  I thought it was the Myths and stories of Gods and Heroes, an attempt to understand Them but at the same time a thing that diminished Them.  It reduced Their strengths and virtues, Their passions and rages to human concerns, human emotions and sometimes an all too human pettiness.

I felt that it was a humanocentric way of pigeonholing Beings that were really beyond our comprehension.  Rather tragically, I think this may be the way many people think.

Many of our Deities are described in scathing terms because of what may have happened in one of the stories.  People rail over a different interpretation, or ask how can you worship a God who is little more than a serial rapist or a Classical version of a bitchy sorority princess.

Then there are those who take the stories as facts.  As lost history that has been covered up by the "winners".

Both are missing the point.

The Stories are more than that.  They can be the language of worship much like invocations and ritual.  They can be our way of telling our Gods how clever or wise or powerful we know They are.  A way of praising and honouring Them.

They can be a way of expressing our spirituality.  Even rewriting or retelling old stories with a slightly new twist can be a meaningful expression.  I read a version of the tale of Persephone and Hades that was a seduction rather than abduction and rape.  It was a beautiful and moving story that spoke to me about perceptions depending on the point of view of the storyteller.

They can be teaching tools.  Most stories have a lesson involved.  The Boy who Cried Wolf and Red Riding Hood are obvious ones from a Fairy Tale point of view.  I saw George RR Martin's open letter about the deaths in his works and I believe he raises the same point.  The deaths in A Song of Ice and Fire (or it's tv alterego Game of Thrones) all serve a purpose - they teach the consequences of foolish choices and decisions, especially those where the concept of honour has led to those choices.

For me, it was when I read Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes that I got it.  She talks about the bones of the stories.  How those bones hold a truth that speaks to us on an instinctive spiritual level.  Everything around the bones, the meat of the story, the skin that covers it is a way to support and protect those bones.  These are my words, it's been a while since I read it.  She describes the stories as map fragments, psychic markers and soul vitamins.

The stories might not have the same meaning to everyone but they often cause a reaction somewhere deep down.  For me, there was a story about a river woman who married a farmer and had his children.  Every so often she would creep off alone to sit by the river for hours, an activity she described as "going home".  It was something she needed to do to be able to continue in her life as a wife and mother.  In that story, I finally understood the roots of the breakup of my first marriage.  I grasped on a deep soul level the boundaries I'd failed to set for my own well-being and what I needed to do to heal.  I learned how to be a better me and it empowered me, it required me to be stronger about my own needs and not allow myself to feel selfish for doing so.

The old stories do have a kernel of history in them.  They tell us about the morals and values of the time, they give a glimpse into how life was for those who told them and those who listened to them.  Sometimes that glimpse is about what is considered to be fantastical and the pinnacle of desires and dreaming.  Sometimes that glimpse is about what is normally done in a day's work.  Sometimes, those glimpses are easily overlooked - in Dickens' tale A Christmas Carol, almost no one seems to notice that the shops were open on Christmas Day (otherwise he wouldn't have been able to go out and buy the feast for Cratchit and his family), people were working and going about their lives as they did every other day.

There are aspects of society that have a strong oral tradition.  Many claim that their stories are told the same as they have always been for thousands of years and that makes them more valid.  This may be true (even allowing for translation and semantic shifts) and this may be thousands of years of chinese whispers.  It is my own belief that the bones of the stories, the kernels of truth within them will still remain even if the meat has changed species completely in the meantime.

However, I don't believe anyone should be telling others what those bones are.  In my own beliefs, the truths you find will speak to you in a way that is for you alone.  You'll find the bones that you need right now and not notice the ones you're not ready for.  When you reread a book (fiction or non-fiction) you last read years ago, have you ever noticed how you get something different out of it?  There are parts of the story or details in the telling that you missed completely first (and sometimes second) time through, but they stand out glaringly obvious when you read it again.  This, I believe, is about the changes in you in that time.  Your growth, your priorities, what you value, the way you think will all have changed.  So if you can get different things from reading the same text twice, think about what it would be like for a different person entirely.  Their bones are for them, they'll have their own "Aha!" moments, their own lightbulbs going off and their own realisations and revelations.

And that is the heart of the Sacred Story. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Debbie's Rules for Magic Use (And Life in General)

These are my rules.  They apply only to me.  These are not rules for anyone else unless you find them of value - that's up to you.   They change from time to time and I'm not perfect at following all of them all of the time.

1.  Own Your Shit.

Take responsibility for your actions.  If you can't take responsibility for something, then don't do it.  Take the time to consider the potential consequences first, so that there are no (or few) surprises when it comes time to be taking responsibility.

2.  Own Only Your Shit.

You are not responsible for other people's shit.  There are almost no circumstances when it's necessary for you to apologise for, explain or justify anyone else's bad behaviour.  Unless it impacts upon you personally, there is likewise no reason for you to fix it for them.  This is enabling their shit and isn't healthy for anyone.

3.  Obey The Laws of the Land (Or Your Workplace) - Everything Else is Your Choice.

When there are rules for the use of a thing or a building or for your continued employment etc, follow those rules.  This includes going into a pub, driving on the roads or joining a facebook group.  This means traditions - if you're going to use a tradition name to describe your practice, make sure you understand what their rules are and that you actually understand what they mean.  This also includes if you live under someone else's roof. 

You don't get to decide whether a rule is sensible or stupid, unless it's one you made for yourself. This also means that what you view as your religious right doesn't trump the laws of the land or a festival.  If an athame is classed by law as an offensive weapon, you don't get to claim religious discrimination when told you're not allowed to wear it on your belt.

If something is not covered by rules or laws, things like simple morals, ethics and values, these are your choices to make and live by.  It's important to understand that these choices only apply to you (Rule One) and that it's not really any of your business what morals, ethics or values anyone else lives by (Rule Two).

4.  You Will Never Know It All or Question Everything.

My Father has always said "the day you don't learn something new is the day you die".  I've found it a rule worth living by.  There is always something new to learn and researching things that you think you know very well is still a valuable thing to do.

5. It's Okay To Not Have An Answer.

When someone shares something huge or says something way out of left field.  It's okay to say "I don't know what to say to that" or "I don't understand what you mean/where you're coming from".  It's better go away and process it or make the effort to understand what they really mean than to jump to a conclusion based on a knee-jerk reaction.  As the saying goes, it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

6.  Truth is Not Constant.

The world was flat and that was the truth, until it was proved that it wasn't.  The Earth was the centre of the universe and that was the truth until it was proved that it wasn't.  The atom was the smallest building block and that was the truth until it was smashed open.

Our entire concept of truth is based on assumptions - if a then b.  There is never a solid truth that holds for everything.  What is true for you, may not work for someone else.  See Rule 4.

7.  Fairness and Justice Are Human Constructs.

You have no right to expect life to be fair.  It's not.  The Universe doesn't care.  Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  Suck it up and carry on.  Revenge does not equal justice.

8.  Everyone Is Entitled to An Opinion.

They're like arseholes - everyone has one.  It's not okay to state your opinion as fact and then fall back on "I'm entitled to an opinion" and it's not okay to expect your opinion to count for anything more than an opinion - it doesn't trump anyone else's feelings, beliefs, choices or their own opinions.

9.  You Don't Need to Be Liked By Everyone.

Not everyone is going to like you.  According to something I learned in a psychology/philosophy course, one third of the people you meet will like you on sight.  One third will dislike you on sight.  One third won't care either way.

If someone doesn't like you, it's not necessarily a failing in you.  Don't waste energy trying to change their like or dislike of you.  Remain polite if you can and let it go.  In certain situations (supervisory positions and parenting come to mind) if they all like you all the time, you're not doing your job properly.  If you need to be liked in those situations, you are going to make poor choices and not be able to do your job properly.

10.  If Shit Needs Doing, Then Do It.

This isn't just about procrastination.  If you need to justify an action, even to yourself, then some part of you thinks it's wrong.  If it needs to be done, then do it.  If you're not sure, work out why you're not sure - then do it or don't.  If it doesn't need to be done, then don't do it unless there's a valid 'improvement' type reason for it but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

How does all of this relate to magic?  

Run anything magical you might be considering through these rules and think about it some more.

For example:  I'm thinking of doing a prosperity spell.

Rule One:  I own it.  If I do it, then I did it.
Rule Two: Someone else's poor choices might mean they need the money more - but that's not mine to fix.
Rule Three: I choose to do it in a place that doesn't ban it.  I have no moral issue with using a spell to gain money.
Rule Four: Is there a different or better way to do it?  Have I considered everything?  Define what I mean by prosperity.
Rule Five: Isn't relevant in this case.
Rule Six:  My truth is that I need money, others may see it differently.
Rule Seven:  Prosperity isn't owed to me, I'm not doing anything because it's fair.
Rule Eight and Nine:  Others may have a problem with my spell.  That's their problem not mine.
Rule Ten:  It's needed so I'll do it.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

REAL Pagans and Witches

Often I see some comment to the effect of "A Real Pagan wouldn't say/do/behave like that" and it both baffles and annoys me.  Almost as much as "A Real Witch" does.

Pagan is an umbrella term, a genre if you like, that describes a wide variety of beliefs and specific religions.  It is vague at best and completely unhelpful when trying to narrow down anything.

Often there are pretty platitudes and memes to say that Pagans have no doctrine or dogma.  The sun, rain and wind write the words of our religion on the pages of the clouds, trees and earth.  Or Nature is my church.

So I'm sure you get the idea.  We have no rules, we're free spirits, following nature blah blah blah.

Right up until you say something that they disagree with.  If you don't follow karma or the threefold law, if you have absolutely no issues with hexing and cursing, if you don't like the outdoors except as a place that separates different indoors, if you call someone out on their stupidity, if you expect people to use logic and critical thought, if you don't follow exactly their path - then you are breaking the rules that they said we don't have.

I spent years rejecting all labels because I didn't want to be associated with people like this.  I can honestly say I have faced more harrassment because of my beliefs from other Pagans than I have from any other faith.  That might be because I discuss them more with other Pagans than I do with anyone else, although I've had some lovely chats with Jehovah's Witnesses who ended up being more interested than telling me I was wrong.  I managed to deal with some Born Again Christians who couldn't fault anything I said when they came specifically to harrass me and tell me where I was wrong.  I never lied to them, although to be fair, I didn't necessarily tell the whole truth either - but they couldn't fault it, they found nothing worthy of bugging me any further.

In something else I saw recently, someone told a Hard Polytheist who didn't identify as Pagan that they needed to learn what Pagan meant because "duh, you're Pagan".   Given that the old and out-dated (according to modern dictionaries) definition of Pagan was anyone who wasn't Christian, Jewish or Islamic, this could be vaguely true, but in a derogatory sense.  It's certainly offensive to many of those Hard Polytheists and worse when it comes from a Pagan.

This led to a discussion about defining Paganism.  I've found the only useful way to define a Pagan is "someone who identifies as Pagan".  Everything else is going to exclude some Pagans.  So who is a Real Pagan?  Someone who calls themselves Pagan.



Monday, 13 April 2015

Vent Groups

As I'm sure most of us know, there are a lot of facebook groups that form for Pagans and Witches.  There are various sub-groups, there are some that are open to everyone and others that stay closed to and have criteria for joining.  Some have a specific focus, some don't.

I am a member of a few that are amongst other things, a safe space to vent about things members have seen in other groups.  Someone will ask a really silly question* or will ask a sensible question but get really silly comments and answers.  Let me provide one simple example.  Yes this really happened.

Q: What does it mean if you can smell sulfur?

There a couple of answers that were sensible - check gas lines, check any eggs in the house, where are your matches kept could they have gotten wet, do you live near where there may be geothermal activity?

The majority weren't sensible - OMG it's a demon, you need to smudge with sage.  Carry a rose quartz with you at all times.  Do the LBRP to banish the demon.

My response was that it means there's a source of sulfur nearby.

The original poster claimed that they were outdoors walking the dog when they noticed it, but also claimed that every possible physical source had been checked and discounted but at the same time, they didn't know that sulfur is a component in many fertilisers.

It went on and on, seemingly the wanted response was demons.  Why? No idea - well actually I have a few ideas but I would be guessing.  Anything that suggested a common sense approach was rejected and then complained about as "negative".

* I used to say when I was training people in the workplace that the only silly question is the one you didn't ask.  But having spent time in fb groups where people are expecting everything to be spoonfed to them and can't even be bothered running a search on google for the simplest things, I have come to the conclusion that there really is such a thing as a silly question.

There comes a point in discussions like this where I give up.  There is clearly no point in continuing the discussion, nothing sensible is going to be heard because it's not feeding the drama or validating a self-important delusion.  This is when I do go into another group and vent.  I will snark about the people creating the drama and I will snark about those feeding it.  I will also snark about those who complain that anything that doesn't validate what they want to believe is attacking and negative. Including asking questions for clarification - I've been told I'm trolling on several occasions when I was simply trying to understand where they were coming from.

I vent and snark in this group because no one's feelings are hurt, no more drama is created and the other members get it and can sympathise.

Sometimes there is a meme that is completely vacuous or filled with assumptions that many of us find offensive.  These sometimes get shared into the vent groups as a bit of comic relief.

Sometimes there are screenshots that are members asking "Was I out of line?"

Sometimes someone has something like the picture below come up on their news feed and cannot believe that it actually got shared.

On the odd occasion, there is a screenshot from another group shared because just giving the general gist of a conversation is open to interpretation and abuse.  A screenshot allows everyone to have the whole story.  Never is anyone targetted and often names are changed.  I've shared screenshots where I've changed the names, many others have names blanked out altogether.  Occasionally, names and groups are left in, but these are the exception.

Typical Screenshot example - For the record, most of the responses were "Yeah - me!"

To be fair, there are a few members who can be somewhat like terriers on certain subjects.  Plagiarism, sharing free copies of e-books that are still under copyright, and a few well-known Big Name Pagans who have behaved in intolerable ways (doxxing an entire group because they wouldn't support his attempt to buy credibility for his partner) are the kinds of things to get them going.  They'll keep going until the group either does the right and legal thing or boots them.  And in the case of plagiarism etc, they'll already have notified the authors and artists.

Apparently the "bad behaviour" of a few members makes the entire group a bad thing.

The owners of a couple of large groups on facebook have decided that such a group is bullying and harrassing their members.  I must say the distinct lack of any logic or common sense in such a stance staggers me.  These are supposed to be Elders in the wider Pagan Community but I have to wonder who makes sure they put their shoes on the correct feet in the mornings and then ties their shoelaces.

To be bullying and/or harrassing people would require those people to be facing it directly.  There really is no difference between what goes on in this group and conversations held everywhere at coffee meets and festivals.  You know the ones where someone says "You are not going to believe what I heard today..." No one is intimidating the person being talked about even if they take the time to figure out who it is.  The people mentioned or whose words are screenshotted don't know about it at all until some little shit-stirrer passes it back to them.

On the topic of some little shit-stirrer - I've heard a number of people tell me categorically that in this group we make fun of beginners (Nope - they get a free pass.  No one is born knowing it all.  We differentiate between beginners and fluffy bunnies), that we pick on people with mental health issues (Nope - that's generally pretty obvious and they usually get a free pass too, unless their mental health issues are something like extreme narcissism) or those for whom English is a second language (again Nope - again we sympathise and will make the effort to understand what is meant) and on one memorable occasion, I've been told we were making fun of someone with cancer (No idea - been in that group since it started and I have never seen anything like that and would stomp on it fairly quickly - unless it was a case like one I have seen, where someone was a complete arse often and publicly and he also happened to have cancer.  The cancer wasn't raised as an issue or anything to poke fun at).

Two things become clear from this - people are lying and making it up to create this drama.   I have seen several (who were booted from this group quite quickly) talk up what goes on in there.  They claim to have seen this and that, sometimes they even claim to have screenshot proof that they won't share because that would be "sinking to their level".  I'm afraid that in order to be credible, you need to back it up.  If you make a claim, the burden of proof is upon you.  If you say you have proof but won't share it, then your proof is nothing more than hearsay and as such is completely worthless.

Secondly, people are paranoid and/or know they've said some stupid stuff but thought they could pass it off as wisdom.  If you don't believe you've said anything stupid, or you make sure you don't, then you'd have no reason to worry that such a group might be laughing at you.

I've also been told that we target specific people and we're always on about one person in particular and the large group he owns.  He has made demands to be allowed admission or to have the group made open so anyone and everyone can see what happens in there.  He banned all members of this group from his groups and made everyone guilty by association.  He goes around multiple other groups stirring shit and trying to garner sympathy for his view.  Usually with lies and drama and accusations of harrassment.

Because he bans anyone from his group who is also a member of the vent group he's targetting, there is no option for the members of his group to see for themselves for fear of getting banned.  They have to take his word for it or risk being seen as one of the bad guys.  I believe that's called bullying when that type of restrictive behaviour is demonstrated in the workplace.

The truth is, with the exception of sharing his announcement that anyone who shares screenshots from his group with the vent group will be banned, his name and his group hadn't even been mentioned in months.  No one cared what he was doing, no one cared what was happening in his group, they weren't even the faintest blip on the radar.  He and his group can't accept or believe this however.  He started a campaign in his group where he called upon all of his members to report the group for harrassment.  When facebook rejected their reports - quite quickly I might add - he's now saying that facebook suggested he start a petition to have the group removed.  Which he has now done.  I call bullshit on facebook suggesting he start a petition - if it violated the terms and conditions it would have been removed, since it doesn't, it won't.

Somehow though, he's managing to sell it to folks that he's the victim of bullying and harrassment, instead of clearly the instigator of such behaviour.

Sad and tragic really.  This is what Paganism is coming to.


Apparently we have new terms.  I think it's important to share this, because it highlights the problem.  This was posted by the chap who has started the petition.

Now, I have shared this because I think it highlights the depths of stupid we are dealing with.  Or to be honest, I believe this fellow has a few mental health issues.

Firstly, he thinks it's reasonable to be able to monitor what goes on in a group that isn't his and has nothing at all to do with him.  Will he next be expecting to monitor everything each individual member does on facebook?  Or outside of facebook? 

Secondly, we're a facebook group made up of people.  We have no leaders, we're all individually responsible for our own actions.  Why does he think that any one of us would be able to control the actions and behaviour of others.  He seems to think he can control his group and whatever they want to do and that is scary.

I'm disturbed that this is being treated as right or reasonable by anyone, let alone by the special snowflake who posted it.  I'm disturbed that people who believe they are 'Pagan freethinkers' have been sucked in by this.



Monday, 23 March 2015

Week 12... I think: Home and Hearth

Happy Equinox Everyone. I wonder what you all got up to. If you completely missed the Sabbat, if you had a huge celebration or if, like me it was more subdued. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

I had planned a few small celebratory activities and observance but decided against it as I just wasn't 'feeling' right. As I sit here today reflecting on another Sabbat gone past (the days just run away with me) I've realised that I actually did spend the weekend in very autumnal activities anyway. Just like with Spring cleaning, Autumn cleaning is important. The change in seasons is a great time to physically cleanse the house in preparation for Winter. I cleaned this weekend and let a very gusty (and cold) wind blow through all corners of the apartment. After cleaning came the cooking. Cooking for family on both days and also preparing meals for future dinners and lunches. Though it's not quite the same as preparing for the scarcity of winter, it was a nice time to reflect on the changing seasons. Especially with the break in the heat with the cool wind.

Of late my pagan celebrations have been less overt but I like to spend some time reflecting on the meaning of the day and how it is relevant to my life. It might seem simple but I like that it can be like that. Big elaborate rituals are great but sometimes the more intimate personal thoughts can be just as powerful.

Oh and you may have noticed I've been a little slack with blog updates. It's not that I've thrown the New Year initiative out the window but rather I've amended it so that I'm not filling this blog up with inane junk. Also I've been rather busy with work and life so much so that while I still am writing (like that would change) I've not had the time or inclination to edit my writing to a standard that I would be happy to share it with the wider public. I'll get back to that when everything settles down here.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pagan Unity and Councils

Yet again there has been a Council formed to represent Pagans and Witches.  Another American Council, planning to revisit the 13 Principles of Belief that was the only outcome of the 1973 Council before it fell apart due to internal divisions.

This one didn't make it that far before imploding it seems. 

You can see all the drama on this blog.  There is also a good discussion about it on The Wild Hunt I particularly recommend reading through the comments, although take care not to be drinking anything while using a screen that won't tolerate having liquid sprayed over it.  Repeatedly.  I also feel a need to share this blog because it's awesome and sums up many of my own personal feelings.

History has shown that such a venture is doomed to failure.  Any group that tries to speak for such a varied and disparate collection of individuals would make cat-herding look like child's play.

Not so long ago, there was an attempt to form a Council of Elders in New Zealand.  I received a call from a then-friend and was told I "needed to get on board so I could look after the South Island".  What was meant by "look after" was attempt to control.  I didn't really understand the purpose of such a group and didn't trust the motives of those who were trying to create it so I never got involved.  It never got past the discussion stage, it would seem because I wasn't alone in my reservations.  I think this is no different from what has been happening in America - just theirs is on a far larger scale.

Pagan Unity

Pagan Unity has been presented as a reason for this Council, or a justification for why it's believed to be needed by some. I'm afraid it just sounds like a cliched catch-phrase to me.

When Pagans cannot even agree on what 'Pagan' means or what it means to be Pagan, how can any kind of Unity be achieved?  Then let's throw in Witches - many of them aren't Pagan for a start - how are you going to gain Unity when we also can't agree whether Witchcraft is a religion or a skill set?

Personally, for all I'm both Pagan and a Witch, I reject unity in any form.  I frequently tell people off for referring to me as their Pagan Sister because that is something that's earned with me, assuming that kind of familiarity based purely on a shared label is something I find to be presumptuous and rude.

"Unification through Diversification" is the oxymoronic catchphrase of United Pagan Radio.  They claim "We CAN be unified as pagans and hold onto our unique diversity."  How exactly is that supposed to work?  Many bash anyone who disagrees with their own narrow view - be it harming none, karma, the Burning Times Myth, Christianity or whether self-initiation is valid - most of the time, agreeing to disagree isn't an option as both sides seem to think that the other has disrespected their path.  When rampant sexism (misogyny and misandry) is treated as a virtue in some paths, racism in others and paedophilia in others still, how can we want to achieve any kind of unity with these people.   I certainly have no wish to be associated with any of those groups, but I would be if this vague ideal were realised.  I have to question the values of anyone who would want that kind of association.

It is also my personal belief that even without the 'fringe elements', unity would mean a kind of homogenisation of belief.  A watering-down and dumbing-down that would render it meaningless.

Now don't get me wrong, I've run coffee meets and festivals, I am not against Pagans coming together, but there is a major difference.  In coffee meets and festivals, there is a place for people to meet and discuss ideas, to learn about each other and perhaps organically form connections with like-minded people.  There is no forced unity, there is no expectation of agreement or over-riding requirement to get along.  There is a requirement for manners, but if you don't like someone's path, you don't interact with them. 

For some people, this lack of unity is seen as a failing and one of the major flaws in the Pagan Community.  I choose to see it as a strength and a beautiful thing.



Saturday, 28 February 2015

Week 9 (and 8 because I was away): Powers and Gifts

I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to a lot of things within the Pagan realm. You'd think someone who works with magic and Gods and other unseen entities would have less disbelief towards others' claims of 'powers' and 'gifts' and yet I often find myself rolling my eyes and scoffing when I hear claims of this that type.

What prompted this musing was a question on a Facebook group about the 'gifts' people have and the ensuing discussion. There were a lot of claims of 'gifts' and 'powers', each one appearing to be a one-up on the previous. I sat reading, shaking my head at the stories people offered up, thinking about how deluded each person was. Then I sat back and wondered, why did I react like that? It's not like I haven't personally experienced many of these things; dreams, visitations, the success of a spell and the fluctuations in energies around me. This got me thinking. Why the skepticism?

Personally I think the experiences are the exceptions and not the norm. I don't mean I'm the exception and I'm not discounting that things can happen, but I don't think they are 'powers' and 'gifts' that a person has. I've been known to ask for rain during a hot, sunny and cloudless day only for the heavens to open up five minutes later. I've also found myself out in the sun with no shade and burning from the heat wishing that the wind would pick up and blow a cloud across the sky to cover the sun, which has happened on a couple of occasions. With this sort of 'success' do I think that I have some special weather power/gift? Not at all. I'm inclined to believe it's a happy coincidence. Yes I believe words/thoughts have power, but my ego is not big enough to think that my thoughts are actually going to change the weather, regardless of how strange and closely correlated the events are.

Do I believe some people have talents that can be learned and exercised like any other mundane talent? Sure. I've seen some great tarot readers who have had to learn and hone their craft. Do I believe people who have psychic talent are crackpots? Of course not. Many of my friends have psychic leanings and of those I would trust a few with my life so if they see/feel things then I believe they see/feel them.

I wonder if my skepticism at someone claiming to be a great and powerful XYZ is that I'm really a scientific girl at heart. If a claim can't be quantified and verified then it is harder for me to accept it happened and wasn't a part of an imagined experience. I sometimes wonder if my own experiences are imagined because of this same skepticism. Is that something that other practitioners experience? A self doubt? I'm not talking about bringing doubt into spell work because I never doubt that. Doubt leads to failure. I mean that after you get good results, or after you have an 'otherworldy' experiecnce, do you have a moment of doubt where you wonder if it is just a coincidence or perhaps you just imagined it happened?

I will say though that I should be more tolerant when someone makes a claim of having experienced something. Sure it might not be verifiable, and could quite possibly be a coincidence, but does their believing it actually hurt me? As for my own experiences, why does it matter if the end result is the same? Do I really crave validation that my experiences are real? And real by what standards?

Unfortunately today's post is loaded with more questions than answers and crazy idle thoughts.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Week 7: Fiction - Introducing Charlie Turner

This is the beginning of a story about Charlie Turner, a young witch with a secret that she's kept to herself for most of her life, partly because she didn't think it strange in the beginning and then because she was worried about being thought of as a little too weird (and considering she's a witch in a predominantly Christian small country town that's saying something).  The story is only partially written as I got pulled in another direction. Perhaps, I'll be able to finish it here.

Breathe. Nice and slow. In through the nose. Feel the air as it revitalises each cell it touches. See the light of life flowing with that air. Breathe. Out through the mouth. The used toxic breath leaving the body, its task complete. In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. Slowly energy rises and the circle traced around me begins to glow, gently at first, and illuminating more and more with each breath taken. Roots earlier sent into the Earth, draw living energy from the Mother to aid in the task that lies ahead.

To the outside observer I’m merely sitting cross legged on a brown corduroy cushion, eyes closed, perhaps meditating, not unlike a myriad of devotees at some far eastern ashram. The small room devoid of furniture is lit barely by the soft flicker of a single black candle that sits slightly raised on a stack of books before me. The sound of a pan flute probably played by some java swigging hippie as he sits on the bank of a river, disguises my structured breathing. Completing the scene is the sweet aroma of clove incense, fingers of fragrant smoke curling through the air, dancing into each corner of the room.

Smack dab in the centre of this is me. Charlie, well Charmaine if we are being accurate though only my gran calls me that, Turner. Long black hair hanging freely past my waist, where a purple cord is tied around a well worn and wash discoloured white dress. Charlie Turner. Plump first year law student, who turned 18 four days ago. Charlie Turner. Witch. Yes that’s right. Sitting there on the set of what could be a very cheesy porno flick is a witch. I don’t look like what you might expect a witch to look like if you've never met one before. No I don’t have the hooked nose with the wart on the end. I don’t wear flowing black robes (often) nor do I wear (or even own for that matter) a black conical hat. But regardless of Disney stereotypes, witch, I am.

There's no significant calendar reason for tonight's activities. It’s not a Sabbat or a pagan holiday; and by the enveloping darkness outside it certainly is not a full moon. What I’m doing is something I’ve done many times before, and will probably do many times again and though how I do it has changed since I was young it always seems to start the same. Earlier this evening, I began by cleansing myself, which tonight was a long languid soak in a bath richly scented with home blended oil. As I lay there, relaxing in the warm, but rapidly cooling water, I let my worries drain from me. I pushed outward any negative thoughts and feelings that rose, letting the water wash it away. In addition to bathing in the cleansing water, I was surrounded in a soft white light, which came from within me to settle just around my body, leaving an iridescent glow. When I felt that I was ready, that I was cleansed and pure of mind and body, I rose from the water, towel dried off and donned the loosely fitting white dress.

The dress isn’t anything special. It’s not something I have had made just for ritual. It’s not even something I wear exclusively for magic, though it is getting to the stage where I doubt I'd wear it in public. I found it at a thrift store about a year ago when I was looking for furniture for my future student flat. The dress just caught my eye, and I couldn’t believe when it fit so well. It's the same with most of the tools I use for ritual. Each item has multiple uses or began life as something else. My censor is just an old beat up brass pot-plant holder I found at a country fete, the dishes that hold my water and salt are similar garage sale discoveries and the altar cloth is an old scarf I wear from time to time. I didn’t intentionally set out to find these items; to be honest I think they found me.

The censor is the only tool being used tonight. It sits on the stack of books beside the candle and from it incense swirls upwards. Right at this moment though, I don't notice any of it. I cannot see the candle. I cannot see nor smell the incense. I cannot hear the pan flute in the background. If you look closely you would see that my breathing has altered and is no longer a controlled and deliberate breath but has become soft and barely audible. My eyes no longer move beneath eyelids that also remain still. All tension has gone from my body and it sits there, completely relaxed in quiet repose, barely a whisper from sleep.

As the candle flame flickers in a fiery dance, one realisation would come over you.  I'm not moving because I'm no longer in my body.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Charging for Services

Recently there was a discussion (read argument) started about charging for magical services - tarot readings were included in this.

The person who started this discussion claimed that if someone comes to you in need, you have an obligation to do what they need and not charge for anything more than materials.  She did also go on to say that anyone who charges in that situation is an asshole and not a Real Witch.  Someone else said all people who charge are fakes.

The inevitable back and forth between several people followed.  There were several points raised though that I would like to explore further.

Magic For Personal Gain

There seem to be a few firmly held beliefs regarding the morality of using magic for personal gain.  Some seem to believe that there's some Universal Rule against this and that using magic for (any) gain is black magic or dark and evil.  However, their idea of what constitutes personal gain seems to be limited to monetary gain, love spells or power over someone.

Others hold that no personal gain is like a selfless act - there is no such beastie.  No matter what you do, you will be gaining from it in some way and that to tell yourself that you're against it is delusional.  They often also go on to point out that this "rule" has come from the tv show Charmed.

The Wiccan Ordains or 161 Laws based on Gerald Gardner's Old Laws was raised.  Specifically numbers 119, 120 and 121.  They read as follows:
119. Never accept money for the use of the art, for money ever smeareth the taker. 'Tis sorcerors and conjurers and the priests of the Christians who ever accept money for the use of their arts. And they sell pardons to let men escape from their sins.
120. Be not as these. If you accept no money, you will be free from temptation to use the art for evil causes.
121. All may use the art for their own advantage or for the advantage of the craft only if you are sure you harm none.

A commentary on the provenance and validity of these Rules can be found at Wicca: For the Rest of Us .

Interestingly, using it for your own advantage is not a problem - just money.

I learned that even Gardnerians don't necessarily agree fully with them or follow them - that comes down to each individual coven.  But even if they did, these Ordains or Laws apply to Wiccans and cannot be assumed to cover all who use the word Witch.

It was pointed out that Cunningfolk and Traditional Witches (Pre-Wicca) would expect payment.  If you didn't pay, you didn't get the work done.

What Constitutes Payment?

A further point in this discussion was about what constitutes as payment for services - trade, barter, gifts, donations (or koha as we'd call it in NZ).  No real answer was given from the Soapbox shouter.  

Someone raised using spirits, Gods or ancestors in magic or calling upon them for help.  In many traditions, the spirits demand payment - in some, they set the price.  That payment may take the form of specific foods or beverages as offerings, some valued item as sacrifice or time spent in praise and worship.  They may require that you charge $X and that half of that is to go to a certain charity.

As many wise folk have said repeatedly, it is foolish to constantly beg for favours from your Gods and Spirits and do nothing in return.

In the case of the person who raised this topic and used it to insult everyone who charges, she gets paid in warm fuzzies for having helped someone, testimonials and a sense of moral superiority.  These are all still payment for services rendered.  She benefits from her acts.

Value and Worth

Frequently raised by those defending their right to charge was placing value on yourself and your work.   This was countered by asking for payment "cheapens" or "prostitutes" magic.

For some people, tarot readings and magic for others is their livelihood.  This is what they do so that they can afford to live, eat and have choices in their lives. 

For others, charging separates those who seriously have issues from those who are just time-wasters.  I know someone who will now only take a booking with a deposit.  She's had too many people make a booking and not turn up for it.  She is turning others away because she is booked at that time.

In my own experience, I have learned that generally people don't value what they can get for free.  There have been a rare few that have valued and appreciated the things I've done purely out of the goodness of my heart.  More commonly, it becomes an expectation that I'll keep doing it whenever and wherever they happen to need it again.  I had a friend who asked for a reading on a fairly regular basis.  It got to the point that she'd come and visit me or I'd go and see her, we'd have coffee and a chat and I'd time how long it would be before she asked for a reading.  I was also always having to rescue her from some magical drama.  After a while, I said I couldn't read for her anymore because I knew too much and didn't trust that I wasn't just projecting my own crap into it.  I haven't seen her in a few years now.  I guess my friendship was all about doing things for free.

There is another woman who calls me every so often.  She almost demands (in an emotional blackmail, terribly desperate, so much drama way) that I drop everything and do what she needs.  She ties up my phone line for ages, not hearing me when I tell her I can't talk right now, or that I can't do anything at the moment.  She seems to have no concept of boundaries either - she's even asked if I had a spare room she could stay in.  She treats me as if I have nothing better to do with my life than step in and solve her latest drama.  Now to clarify, I've never actually done anything to help her in any of her dramas except listen to them a couple of times - it's not an expectation that has any basis in historical actions by me.

Another chap used to ring me up with some drama.  I did a couple of readings for free and offered some simple and common sense advice for his issue.  I found out he'd done the same with a friend who offered the same advice and gave him the same answers in a reading.  He called me about a month later to rave over a reader he'd paid who gave him this wonderful advice - which was exactly what he'd been told for free by me and the other friend.  He didn't listen to anyone but the one he paid.

I choose to place some value on myself and my abilities.  I value the wisdom I have gained and the time it has taken to get there.  I believe that anyone else can get to the same place with time and a little effort.  All the knowledge is out there, it just takes work to turn it from theory into practice.  I will not be treated as a doormat by someone who believes it should all be free.

Knowledge and Wisdom

I don't know why the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom is still so hard to understand for so many people.  One of the arguments in this discussion was that knowledge should be free.  Knowledge is free.  Wisdom is different - no one can give you wisdom, you need to understand the knowledge before it becomes wisdom.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting tomato in a fruit salad.

This argument is also used as justification for illegally pirating books.  But it misses that in the back of those books is usually a bibliography - effectively a list of sources ie. where the knowledge came from.  However, the author took those sources and created something new and different with their own wisdom and bothered to make that wisdom available for others.  That effort deserves compensation.

Doing Tarot readings or magical work for people is no different.  Anyone can pick up a tarot deck and tell a story.  Anyone can learn all the book meanings for the cards and how laying the cards out this way means x, y and then z.  Most tarot readers take this to a deeper level.  Their experience in reading is not something you can just pick up from a book.  You aren't just paying for someone to flip over some cards and recite an arbitrary memorised meaning - you are paying for the wisdom and experience that recognises this card in this position with that card over there has usually meant something deeper. You are paying for their talent and abilities to hear other messages, to recognise patterns and to relate that to you.

A Need for Magical Intervention

Another point raised by the poster was how she'd never turn away anyone in true need.  When someone knocks at your door absolutely beside themselves, crying, shaking, hurt, scared and so on, you'd be a cold-hearted person indeed to demand payment before doing everything you could to help them.

At no point however, was she able to give us an example where a spell is needed as a first response over say, Police, Ambulance or some other form of professional help.  Only after a lot of questioning did she say that she recommends counselling or does any form of divination, digging or fact-finding to find the truth of the matter.  It had been directly asked enough times for me to wonder if this is true or if it was something she said to shut some of her detractors up.  She just said over and over that she'll do her spells for free for people in need and that anyone who turns away someone in this state is an asshole.

I have had close friends and family come to me in this state.  I will always do what I can for them.  Unless they're always in this state and it's time for a harsh life lesson about standing on your own two feet and not needing to be rescued repeatedly.  I think that's a completely different thing from having a random stranger knock at my door wanting or needing my help. 

Still, I can't think of a single situation that would require a spell first or in which a spell would be a good idea.  I can think of situations where I have called in magical help but only because I knew the back story and it wasn't a sudden out of the blue random visit.

Frauds and Scam Artists

Apparently, in the eyes of several, anyone who does ask for payment is a fake, is scamming you or is purely in it for the wrong reasons. 

No one disputed that there are fakes out there, there are people who'll take your money for little to no real work done.  However, to tar all who charge with the same brush is unfair and ill-informed.

I certainly wouldn't pay anyone online to do any work for me even if I wasn't perfectly capable of doing it for myself, unless they had come with strong recommendations from people I trust.  I've seen one crazy lady share photos of a curse that she was allegedly casting on our group.  Funnily enough on her blog, the description of the curse her husband was casting on another group altogether fit the pictures she sent to us.  Wow, multi-purpose curse, that's some talent.  And I certainly hope it had any effect on the other group because none of us have noticed anything at all.  My point is, how could you know that the work you'd paid for had been done?  If a photo is sent to you, how would you know that it isn't the same photo sent to every other sap who's paid for work?   There can be no guarantees, there is no way of separating the real from the fake.

Just as in any case when you are spending money on something you can't get a guarantee for, use your common sense.  If someone does a reading and then tells you they'll remove this curse/bad energy/negative spirit/some other terribly scary sounding affliction from you that you'd never previously noticed for a sum of $X - you're being scammed. 

The Conclusion of this Discussion

At the end of it all, the Original Poster claimed it was just a troll, lots of laughs and she learned a lot.  Thanks to everyone for handing her her ass on a plate.  Still somewhat cynical about this sudden back-down, but hey, it gave me food for thought.

The general consensus was that if you want to charge, then charge.  If you don't, then don't.  If you're willing to pay, then go to someone who charges and if you're not then go to someone who doesn't.



Sunday, 15 February 2015

Modern times and Paganism

There is a thing I am struggling with somewhat, bear with me, I'm finding it a bit of a challenge to adequately put words around.

In our modern world, we have this tendency to find amusement in old fashioned things.  Old ways of doing stuff.  Well, some stuff.  I am rather old-fashioned in my crafts, I don't just knit and crochet (which has my husband referring to me as a Nana) but I also spin and weave.  What I'm talking about though is different.

Medicine for example.  While herbalism has a fairly steady following, we'd fall about laughing if someone suggested bleeding us to cure a headache, flu or any other illness.

Technology is another, who writes letters any more?  Remember the old dial phones that were hard wired into the wall wherever the installer decided to put it when the house was built.  And having to wait up to a month for a line to become free when you moved somewhere.  I'm not quite old enough to remember party lines, but I do remember growing up on an Air Force base where we had to dial 2 before calling anyone off base and had to add three digits to our four digit phone numbers for anyone outside to call us.  Two tv channels and they finished at 10pm when you got either static or a test picture after that.

In so many ways, the old ways of doing things are met with a fond nostalgia, but little interest in returning to that way of life for any length of time.

Except Pagans.

It seems that for anything in Paganism to have value, it has to be old.  It requires some amount of antiquity and tradition to be right or valid.

Technopagans are a source of amusement and ridicule.

Fairly recently, I saw someone saying not to bother with any occult book written in the last 50 years.  And it was widely agreed with.

I'm trying though, to understand why this is.  Why is it that Pagans who will happily spend hours on the internet doing their research will scorn LED tea-light candles?  Anyone doing anything overly new, or trying to create something new is met with derision and snark.

There is a woman I know online, I won't refer to her as a friend, who swears by The Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus, an old spell book of vague provenance.  It is available here for anyone who is interested by the way.  She claims to use the medicinal spells from it as her "go to" quite frequently.  I have been left wondering how she's getting along with all the white lead and mercury and praying over wounds although maybe that would explain a few things.

I mentioned to someone that I've been reading a number of these old spell books and their eyes lit up, "Oh, I would be very interested in reading that", right up until I tell them the websites where they are freely available and public domain.  As if being available to everyone who knows how to use Google somehow tainted them.

Suggest a modern spellbook and most of them roll their eyes.  They assume someone is making all sorts of crap up to cash in on beginners and new agers. 

Many of the Witchcraft histories that I've also been reading suggest that Cunningfolk used whatever worked.  When something new came along, they'd learn and incorporate it if it was useful - not sneer at it as being "not traditional".  This is why circle casting is now such a core part of modern pagan practise - even though it came from Christian Ceremonial magic.

I don't understand this.  I don't get it.  Why does something have to be traditional to have value?

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Week 6: Anti-vaccination is BS

I'm preempting this week's post with an warning that this is me ranting.  There are some who will be offended by the tone and content and accusations but to be perfectly honest if you are upset when the post content hits too close to home because you are one of the people this is aimed at, then frankly I don't care.  Vaccinate your children for all our sakes.

Anti-vaxxers make me mad. Really mad. I've had my run in with a few online and I even work with one.  What's an anti-vaxxer?  A parent who refuses to vaccinate their child against a number of diseases, some which can be life threatening.  Someone who, in their naivety (at best) or stupidity and negligence (at worst), puts not only their child at risk, but others, who for some reason are unable to be vaccinated. 

It's not that I don't believe a person is allowed to make decisions for their lives.  I do.  And parents should be allowed to make decisions for how they raise their children.  But there is a limit.  A line that needs to be drawn where we just say to parents, you don't know what you're talking about and you must do it this way.

There are some areas where this already happens.

  • No, you aren't allowed to shake your baby.  
  • No, you can't drive your car with your baby sitting on your lap.  
  • No, you can't leave a baby in a hot car while you go shopping.  
  • No, kids under 14 aren't allowed to look after themselves while you go out drinking, or to bingo, or to the country club or wherever. 

Of course there are the sane parents who will have looked at the list above, shaking their heads, knowing that they would never do any of those things. However they're not the reason the rules exist.  You see, the reason for the rules and laws about how we treat kids is because some parents will inevitably do these things and then some. They've been done, time and time again and just like any person who breaks a law (we call them criminals) the law enforcement people (police :P) need a mechanism to punish the criminals and deter others from following suit.

So how does this fit in with this rant about those parents who choose to forgo vaccinations for their children? It's simple really.  I believe there needs to be a rule, a law, that protects kids from the stupidity of their parents.   Just as there are laws requiring parents to buckle their kids into car seats, I believe there should be laws requiring vaccinations.

My question is why do some of the same parents who understand the rules above, and want to have no harm come to their children, also believe that they, in their lack of medical training, know better than all the trained professionals who say you need to vaccinate your child?

Dr Jennifer Raff wrote a great open letter to parents about all the arguments the anti-vaxxers use and the lies they try to sell to make their point, and discredits them with links to support what she says.  I could rehash it here, but to be perfectly honest, she has the PhD, not me.   You can read her words here

I don't think these parents are being malicious in their intent.  I think that many of them truly believe that vaccinations are bad and these parents think they are doing what's best for their kids.  It's that when confronted with the facts, these parents choose to figuratively stick their fingers in their ears and ignore the science.  Ignore those who have spent years studying and working in these fields.  Doctors, scientists and other professionals who know what they're talking about. 

This is why I think the choice for vaccinations needs to be taken out of the parent's hands.  They obviously aren't making a properly informed decision.  It's not really their fault.  In this day and age it's so easy for people to be bombarded with information and there's not a whole lot that can stop the dissemination of lies that many of the proponents of the anti-vaccination movement use to try to convince parents to join them.  They sow seeds of doubt and that doubt grows to the point where a once sane parent may look at their child and think, what if they're right?  What if it does cause XYZ?  Better safe than sorry.   And then the parent is hooked and the child is put at risk.

Parents can be highly emotional.  These parents, in their normal daily lives, are probably level headed and capable of making rational decisions based on fact rather than emotion.  But you put their children into the mix and instill a fear that something might happen, and that rationality disappears.  Instead of thinking, well there are hundreds of studies that prove that vaccinations are safe and don't cause autism, they read about that one fraudulent study by the doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who has now had his medical license revoked and the study results proved to be false and think, oh my, it might happen to my child, I better not risk it.

My dislike of anti-vaxxers comes from having a father who contracted polio as a child.  He was one of the lucky ones and only has a leg that is weaker and almost half as skinny as his other one.  The polio vaccine was not available when my father was a child but luckily there is no need for a child to suffer the deformities that can come with contracting polio.  After a lot of effort, polio has been eliminated in most countries and is one of those diseases that we hope will be eradicated.  There is a global push to do just that.  Unfortunately there has only ever been one disease that has been eradicated in human history and that was small pox which was declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1980. 

I think there is some confusion in the terminology used when discussing diseases.  Eradication is different from elimination.  Eradication is the complete annihilation of a disease from the global population, though true eradication would be completely destroying all stocks of the disease.  The global initiative to eradicate small pox started in 1958 and took just over 20 years, and while it is eradicated, there are small stocks kept by some countries for study etc.  This is different from elimination where the spread of a disease is stopped in a country or other specified area but it still exists.

If more and more people move towards an anti-vaccine stance, then this can thwart eradication efforts.   One such disease is measles.  The measles vaccine was first used in 1963 and combined with the mumps and rubella vaccines, to create the MMR vaccine that became the focus of this crazy anti vaccine crusade, in 1971.

Many countries are striving to eliminate measles because of the high mortality rate of those who contract the illness.  It hasn't been eliminated in NZ yet, but in 2000 the US declared that it had been eliminated from within their borders.  How long it retains that status, in light of the recent outbreak in California which has been linked quite heavily to children who were voluntarily not vaccinated, remains to be seen.

According to the WHO, in 2013, there were 145 700 measles deaths globally.  This equates to about 400 a day or 16 deaths every hour.  Why should people be dying from an illness that we have a vaccine for?  It makes zero sense.  If these parents really love their kids, why would they put them at that risk?

Penn and Teller say it best in the video linked here.  Anti-vaccination is bullshit!