perzephone: (stfu)
What the fuck is it with modern Heathens/Norse-centric/Odinist/Asatruar Pagans that they seem to feel they are somehow better than any other Pagan (and most of the time, any other person) on the fucking planet? They all seem to be mighty concerned with the supposed purity of their family lines, family honor, all that jazz, and Gods forbid if you happen to not know who you're related to, or if you've forsaken your familial bonds. They take the term 'white trash' to all new levels of disdain.

I don't really care on a personal level, but the more I've encountered that attitude from that particular group of Pagans, the more annoying it is. I think it's because of the hypocrisy inherent in most of their claims. If you're of European descent, unless you are actually about to inherit some title, there is no fucking way that you are 'pure' anything. Even if you are about to inherit some title, there is a lot of hanky-panky going on in those royal/landed/titled families. Not to mention the practice of fosterage/hostages back in the day, which entangled families across borders.

Using myself as an example... My father's father's family were from the Prussian/German Empire (at least, according to my dad, who was a fantastic story-teller... I could go get a DNA test and see just how much of a mutt I am but it doesn't really concern me), and bastards of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kaiser Wilhelm was the last of the Hohenzollern family line, and the last of the Teutonic Knights that Christianized the area of the world known as Ducal Prussia. The area of Ducal Prussia was originally inhabited by pagan German tribes, followed by the Teutonic Knights & the Hohenzollerns. I could be part Slavic or Polish, since Prussia was once unified under the Slavs, who became the Polish people. I could also be Lithuanian, since those people became the Prussians... or Swedish, since the Swedes invaded Prussia at some point, too. And who were those original pagan German tribes? Scandinavians, Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Francs, Gauls, Saxons, etc. & so forth. Prussia was fucking huge, and its borders were amorphous. It kissed both Russia and the Roman Empire throughout its lifetime.

My father's mother's family was primarily Welsh. Wales, being part of Britain, has the same variable ancestry as Prussia. Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, Jutes, Normans... My mother's family were French Canadien, meaning there's the whole history of France, the intermarriages with indigenous Canadians... and American immigrants and natives, because my mother's family came to America sometime in the early to mid 1800s. I am not entirely sure if my mother's family was from the St. Lawrence River area or if they were Acadian, but since there is indigenous blood in there (my mother was about 1/8th, so I think I'm like, 1/16th or 1/32nd or some shit - and no matter how much Jody nags on it, I am not on any registry because there are real indigenous people who need the recognition more), it was probably SLR French Canadien.

Given my background, I flirted with Norse-centric Wicca. It didn't work for me. I felt about as much connection to the Aesir and Vanir as I do with YHVH/God/Allah. The only connection I have is with Loki, and that's only because when you work with one trickster, you sort of end up with them all (I've got a connection with Anansi, too - doesn't mean I'm connected to all the native African Gods). None of the Germanic deities truly call to me, and the one half-possession experience I had with Frigga cemented that. She was so alien, so foreign, so unnatural... we were both uncomfortable. I flirted with the British/Celtic pantheon, and only found affinity with Herne. Part of me becoming a former Wicca was that I could no longer call on Cernunnos or Cerridwen with any faith. They were not my Gods, any more than Odin/Woden or Freya were. I found my religious home with deities and practices so far removed from my ancestry it almost feels forced. But it's what happened.

And then for some heathen to come along and disparage my practice as shallow and dishonorable... to disparage anyone who has the same kind of religious journey as I have had... makes me just want to punch them in their hypocritical nose. Which is why I told the guy he was insulting and high-handed and left it at that. Can't punch someone through the internet.

perzephone: Wednesday Addams as played by Christina Ricci (be afraid)
I've been at an extremely low point lately, to the point where I can't even write about it with any depth. I need to, I should, but I just fucking can't.

So I read, and embroider, and play WoW, but it's patch/maintenance day for Azeroth.

Aside from nomming some tasty zombie short stories (The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams), I've picked up The Temple of Twelve: Novice of Colors by Esmerelda Little Flame. I've read one person's personal pathworking through it, a few reviews and other random stuff on the 'Net about it. It seems to be good for helping folks open up to their artistic side, and since my embroidery is technically 'creative', I figured, eh, why not. There is a lot of color symbolism in the Tarot itself, and since I'm already pathworking with that, I had kind of hoped that TToT would add some vibrance.

I get irritated sometimes when people on the Pagan forums or in chats & what-not regarding magic(k)al work tell someone "oh, colors mean whatever you want them to mean" or "colors mean different things to different people". Yes, personally, colors can be pleasing or displeasing to various people, or remind people of different things that have happened during the course of their lives... but magic(k)ally speaking, colors mean what they mean, and have always meant. It's one thing if you want to use, say, a pale blue candle to represent yourself and a flaming orange candle to represent the object of your desire. That's personal symbolism. But, generally, the planetary daemon of Venus is not going to look kindly on your blue and orange candles, just because they make you personally think of loooooovve.

Why can't you take the New Age road with colors? Why can't they just mean whatever the fuck you want them to mean, thousands of years of symbolism be damned?

Because they vibrate at various frequencies and do different things for different reasons. Lenses and refractors and prisms produce singular colored rays or rainbows, with the colors in a specific order, for a reason, not because it's some random thing created by dysenteric unicorns. I don't feel assed to go into the scientific reasons why yellow is yellow and blue is blue (this is my blog, I don't need references, dammit) but there are definite reasons - and because our brain is a science-type thing as well, different parts of our brains respond to different colors the same way as anyone else's brain responds to those same colors (try to eat rare meat under a blue light f'instance... go ahead. I'm waiting - and then try it under natural to slightly reddish light).

cut due to spoilage )

I'm going to seriously try to finish the book, especially since during my rant I realized that yes, at some level, even though I'm not a visual artist (or any type of artist) colors are important to me. They do speak to the inner witch, even though I don't do magic(k) any more. I've got synaesthesia to some degree, and I do love my colorin' books. I keep telling people that embroidery is 'coloring with thread'... so, there you have it.

It's only mid-March & we're already in the 80s. With the a/c already on. Fuuuuuuuuuuu....
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Conflicts in my life:

The ceremonialist: rigid, disciplined, ascetic, controlling

The shamanistic: flexible, wild, indulgent, going with the flow

The spiritualist: somehow in between ceremonialist and shamanistic.

How do I tie these desperate impressions together and bring it to the outside world?

Once upon a time, many years ago, towards the end of my career as a ceremonial magic(k)ian, I summoned a spirit into the triangle outside my protective little circle. I had all the timing right, all the correspondences correct, the directions, the words; I had fasted, I was purified. In other words, I did what a ceremonialist does best and the ritual worked according to plan.

I had the most interesting conversation with this spirit.

We played a game of riddles and truth or dare. I asked the spirit at one point if the ritual truly compelled it to appear before me, or if it chose to come. It declined to answer, which made me believe at the time the spell truly compelled it, but it didn't want to tell me that because spirits are often embarrassed when summoned by teen-aged girls instead of powerful older magic(k)ians. I also asked the spirit, "If two people summoned you at the same time, do you appear to both?" It gave me a pat answer of "I am Legion". I tried to push it a little more, with questions about the nature of the universe, and I found myself at the short end of the intelligence stick. It's kind of strange to watch something like What the Bleep Do We Know and have a physics lesson taught by a minor spirit come back to haunt you.
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I'm admitting a little secret here.

I honestly have no clue what the problem with Silver Ravenwolf is - I've never read any of her books cover to cover. I mean, I hear about her historical inaccuracies, her condescending tone, her dumbing-down of Wicca, her poor advice - but I'll never really get it. Frankly, because it is Wicca, I don't want to get it, either. I got To Ride a Silver Broomstick after I'd stopped being a card-carrying Wiccan (it was published in 1993), skimmed through it a little, dismissed it as Wicca & gave it to Jody. I ended up giving all three books to Jody. I don't even know what she thought of them. I remember vaguely thinking that using the drawing down the Moon ritual to walk down a street in a bad neighborhood was kind of stupid, but that was about it. It's hard to believe that SRW's only been on the scene since the '90s... but it's hard to believe, at least for me, that 1993 was 16 fucking years ago.

The only reason I'm mentioning her is because someone on one of the pagan forums I visit replied to a post in which I mentioned a feature of lunabar that tells you when the moon is void of course. He said that the whole 'not starting anything new' when the moon is v.o.c. was brought about because of SRW. I'd been hearing that about the moon being v.o.c. since I was 10 & living w/my cousin who had all of Linda Goodman's astrology books, about 10 years before SRW even hit the scene. People sometimes forget that before Wicca became Kind of a Big Deal, many of us who would become Wiccans of one ilk or another were wallowing in the softly filtered rosy-quartz glow of the New Age movement.

Thinking about it now, that may be part of 'Fluff-Bunny Syndrome', at least here in the U.S. (I don't knock 'fluff-bunnies', either, mainly because I really don't give a fuck if someone wants to have a nice day, as long as they don't take it out on me). Many people my age and slightly older had post-hippy parents and went through the New Age. I think it's worse if you lived on the west coast for any length of time in the mid-80s. Now, if you mention Sedona, people will look at you with a noticeable 'Huh?' sign over their heads, but in its heyday, Sedona was the New Age hot-spot. Yes, I have been to Sedona, basked in its (at the time, I don't know how it is now) overpriced rosy-quartz glow of its vortices and power-places, oohed and aahed at the gaudy baubles of entire quartz caves packed onto one necklace or pair of earrings, and didn't feel a thing other than the creaky springs of my hotel mattress stabbing me in sunburned nether regions. I also lived near Lacey, WA when J. Z. Knight/Ramtha had the ashram up there - the woman that's in the memory foam mattress commercials was one of her supporters, I think she was on Dallas at some point. My dad's psycho-bitch-girlfriend-from-Hell was heavily into transchannelers & this thing called 'Ur' - and the spacebrothers... All I see now when I look at JZ Knight videos is classically tailored shoulder pads & the worst 80s hair known to mankind.

But that was what a lot of us Wiccans grew up on. The New Age concepts of Light, Peace and Love. I suppose it's not all bad - if America could put up with a collective bunch of loonies like that, Wiccans and neo-Pagans were fairly low-key in comparison. The New Agers channeled Ascended Masters, the Wiccans channeled Gods & Goddesses from mythology anthologies. The New Agers believed in turning the other cheek, the Wiccans proclaimed, in pseudo-OE, 'An' it harm none!' The Wiccans weren't quite as apocalyptic as the New Agers, and the New Agers weren't quite as sexy as the Wiccans, but a good time could be had by all.

In health news... )
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When I think of calm, comforting, nurturing elements in my life, I usually think of either the Moon or the ocean. If I was somewhere with a coastline, a desire for a loving deity would send me straight into the arms of the Pacific. To me, She is a Goddess in Her own right and when I lived in California and Washington, I actively offered worship to Her, in all Her moods and tides and weather. I don't talk about it much, but I did like living in southern California, and if the cost of living wasn't so high, I'd much rather live there than anywhere else. I think my Grecian soul found it familiar, with its pseudo-Mediterranean climate, the endless expanse of sand and sea that made up its coastline... at heart, I am a California girl, lol.

But here I am, in the Great Big Empty, no ocean in sight. So to whom else can I turn when the ocean isn't there?

All along, I've always thought of the Moon as 'Mother Moon', and gazing upwards at Her has always filled me with a sense of peace and stillness. She's always been there, like the sea, watching over me, watching over us all. Honestly, I don't think of Her as Diana or Artemis, or Luna or Selene - They are not the Moon, but the Moon is in Them. The Moon just is. I have a little in common with Bob in that - he's a moon-dog, a lunatic, and so am I. I watch Her cycle closely, I follow Her across the sky, I keep in tune with Her rhythms. I have a kinship with dogs and coyotes and hares... I see Her face in my favorite drum. Maybe all along I have been just neglecting to see what's always been there.
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Ok, I've been Pagan all my life. I've got patron deities, spirit guides, totems, ancestors (well, they may not be related to me, but I consider them my ancestors more than my actual ancestors)... but for the life of me, I have no clue about this particular situation.

I'm in the market for a new deity. I'm tired of serving and serving and not really getting much in return. I'm tired of getting my head run into brick walls. I'm tired of being kicked around. I'm tired of the school of spiritual hard knocks.

Back in June, I honestly started asking the Universe for compassion, comfort, nourishment, creative guidance and all I've gotten has been white noise.

So, what's the general consensus on consciously choosing a deity to worship? For instance, if I just decided to start worshiping and giving devotion to say, Brighid or Diana, is that acceptable?
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With a screen name like Aradia Silvermoon... how can you honestly expect anyone to take you seriously? /headdesk
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The awesome [ profile] moonvoice asked if anyone who worked with spirits had any that they turned to for comfort or compassion.

It gave me pause.

I've never even thought about having a totem, spirit guide, deity or other spiritual entity in my life that I would turn to for compassion, comfort or love. I mean, I guess there are compassionate, kind and loving deities... like maybe Jesus and Krishna. Ganesh comes to mind, as does Kwan Yin (your spelling may vary). There are some motherly deities like Isis and Yemaya. 

There are some that I've had encounters with Who, while not harsh and strict, are a Hel of a lot of fun to party with, but They aren't exactly kind and loving - Coyote, the Barons, Eleggua/Papa Legba. Tricksters can still teach some hard lessons. I've had guardian spirits - but the twin jackals weren't there to romp and play with me - they were there for protection.

Most of my deities, totems and spirit guides are harsh and demanding. I ask for nothing while They ask for everything - which is probably why I've let my spirituality take a back seat to the everyday world. Eventually, I get tired of giving and serving without any reward other than being allowed to serve. I think for me, even if something innocuous, like Ladybug or Hamster, were my totem, I would still end up being thrown against brick walls. Maybe I'm missing out on something - maybe They've all been enjoying a joke at my expense. It doesn't feel that way, but I could be handed a sign and still not recognize it.

Among many of the spiritual people I've known, it's some strange badge of pride to have harsh deities, totems, guides & what-have-you. I know a lot of people whose patrons are Kali, Hecate, Odin, Tyr, the Morrigan, Ogoun, Chango, Oya, raven gods, death gods, war gods... and virtually none who hearken to Aphrodite, Erzulie, Oshun, Isis, Gaia... Are we all beating ourselves up? Are we all so desperate to avoid being thought of as New-Age-White-Lighters, or even worse, the dreaded 'fluff bunny' that we deliberately seek out the hardest, meanest, most savage patrons in the spiritual world? Or do we all actually need these brick walls and hard roads?

Over the past two days, I've been in intense pain. It doesn't let up, and it just keeps going. It feels like I'm tied to horses going in opposite directions & my legs are getting torn off. My back is wrenched, I can't take deep breaths & nothing really helps - I took 8 fucking codeine Sunday & it didn't even take the edge off - and now I'm out of codeine. Tequila doesn't take the edge off. I've got a high pain tolerance, but damn. If it <i>was</i> a kidney stone, from what I've heard, I'd get breaks in between the waves of pain. A sex change operation is sounding pretty damned good right now.

 So I'm sitting here, thinking to myself, "Who would I ask to help me with this pain?" and the truth is, no one. Not one of my patron deities, not one of my totems or spirit guides. I probably wouldn't even ask in the first place - it's my body, it's my pain, I'm dealing with it & it shouldn't be anyone else's problem, immortal, spiritual or otherwise. I feel like a big baby for even complaining about it, but yes, it hurts <i>that</i> much. The headache I had the night I almost had the stroke would be preferable, because at least it might go away within 24 hours. I guess some people do ask their spiritual helpers (and just that word combination, 'spirit helper' is note-worthy) to take pain away, or at least help ease pain - and I guess it's an acceptable relationship for them and their spirit helpers. It's kind of funny. I've surrounded myself with spiritual entities all my life, been surrounded by them... and I've always been willing to serve Them... but when it comes to my problems, I still feel very alone.
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This has been kind of percolating through me, and my boss being in a meeting all afternoon has given me a rich opportunity to brew it into a heady draught of words. And I'm not sticking this one behind a cut, so there.

Life as an Archetype: The Warrior


I was born the same year that the Vietnam conflict ended, and in the early 1970s, there was still a lot of animosity towards the returning armed services. They couldn’t get jobs, they got spat on while walking down the street, people would drive by and throw stuff at them… I remember Jody, my oldest sister, carried the POW/MIA stickers everywhere & plastered them everywhere. Many of her friends who had come back from Vietnam buckled under the constant pressure of hatred and became drug addicts, alcoholics and suicides. Back in those days, syndromes like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries were not well understood and received little, if no, treatment.


Many of my male relatives are veterans. My father was a vet, although due to his propensity for story-telling, I don’t know what branch of the armed forces he was in and he had so many social security cards on him when he died – none of which were his – that the Veteran’s Association could not find any record of his service. I know from his photographs (now lost during multiple moves) that he did serve during the early years of Vietnam. His father & older brothers served in the Prussian army & the early days of Germany, and fled when Hitler rose to power. I’ve got uncles on my mother’s side who are veterans, one of whom has PTSD and suffers from intense flashbacks. He served during the last part of WWII and in Korea in the Navy. Jody was in the Army but received a discharge during boot camp. Rob was in the Air Force, but received a discharge during Tech School. Rob’s dad served in the Army during Korea, and many of his uncles and grandparents fought in civil conflicts in Yugoslavia, Prussia & Hungary. I’ve got a good friend who put his time in the Navy and still serves in the Naval Reserves.


I am a pacifist. I pretty much have been all my life. I do not support wars on foreign soil. I’m not an active pacifist – I don’t feel like getting arrested for protesting, but I do support those who are willing to put their civil rights on the line. I try not to invest in companies who support the war machine, and I let my conscience guide me at the voting booth. I’m not a militant pacifist, though. I believe that countries should have the right to defend their own borders against invaders. I understand that sometimes, wars are necessary – for one, it thins out the human population. Secondly, even in real life, there are ‘bad guys’. I’ve also had a strong opinion brewing since September 11, 2001. Hate the government, not the soldier.


One of my coworkers’ (I’ll call her Alice to minimize confusion) boyfriend was serving active duty in the Air Force in the years following September 11, 2001. So far he had managed to avoid being called into the Middle East – he stayed home and maintained and guarded the air base. It was a constant source of worry and stress for them both, though. She was equally worried about the possibility of another invasion. John Mayer’s song, Waiting on the World to Change came on the radio & it made Alice angry because she felt he was protesting the movement against Iraq & how people like him were no better than the terrorists. It was mostly the lyric, …”When you trust your television, What you get is what you got, Cause when they own the information, they can bend it all they want’… that pissed her off the most. How dare this guy insinuate that the media and the government were lying to us all? Very quietly, although apparently loud enough to make everyone in the room inhale and turn to look at me, I said, “He’s right, though.” Alice called me out on it, “You think the government is lying to you? You think that none of us are in constant danger? That no one’s actually dying in Iraq right now?!” I told her that not one of us really knew for sure how big a threat these terrorists were, if they were indeed going to attack us again, and at that point, many of Bush’s commands had been proven to be, shall we say, ineffective and mislead. Even Bill O’Reilly had apologized to America for supporting Bush’s search for weapons of mass destruction. Alice took it the wrong way – she felt that my saying that meant I did not support our troops, the boys in blue and green who were in Iraq or serving at military bases across the U.S.


I let it slide. Things were tense between us for a couple of years, but eventually as her man was home more and the constant stress lifted, things were forgotten. I don’t know if she thinks about it whenever she hears John Mayer on the radio. What got me to thinking about it was another song entirely – Offspring’s Hammerhead.


… I'm just doing what I'm told

Every single man and woman who chooses to serve in the military, be it our military or another country’s military, is living life as an archetype. They may be a clerk, a medic, a general, a grunt, a runner, a pilot, a ground unit, a mechanic, a special forces elite… they are all embodying an ancient ideal. They are all warriors.


In ancient times, mighty Gods and heroes arose Who were the patrons of the warriors. Ares/Mars, Athena, the Morrigan, Thor, Tyr, Freya, Achilles, Cuchulainn, Anahita, Indra, Mithra, the Badb, Huitzilopochtli, Ogoun, Sekhmet – the list is probably endless, and many of these Gods are still propitiated today by modern Pagans. In ancient cultures as in modern society, people filled various roles and duties in society – there were healers, priests and priestesses, hunters, farmers, rulers, administrators, crafts and trade people, builders, and warriors. There used to be rituals and ceremonies central to each little group – harvest and planting festivals for the farmers, rituals for healers to perform on the sick and on themselves to cleanse themselves of illnesses, sacrifices and thanksgivings for the hunters to keep the game in balance with the predator, blessings of new buildings for the architects. There were also rites of passage – a child becoming an adult, marriage, birth, death… and for the warriors, there were rituals not only of initiation, but rituals to ensure success on the battlefield, propitiating the Gods that ruled war so as not to be chosen to end up among the slain, protective runes and rites, and very important rituals to ease their reintegration back into society once the fighting was done.


It’s easy for a pacifist like myself to sit back and think, “What a fucking idiot. That soldier is putting his life on the line because of some whack-job politician’s misguided attempt at foreign-policy-via-blunt-force-trauma”. Who am I to think I have the right to judge an archetype? That’s really what the soldier is – he or she is one of the most ancient archetypes – the Warrior.


Living the Warrior archetype means being willing to kill someone (in some cases, it also means assassination, torture and slavery). In many societies and cultures, killing another person has always been a major taboo. Although it doesn’t always seem this way, murder is not generally condoned. Condoning murder means lawlessness prevails and communities crumble. The warrior has to be able to bridge the cultural inhibitions that prevent a logical, community-minded person from killing someone else.


I am the one, camouflage and guns
Risk my life to keep my people from harm
Authority vested in me,
I sacrifice with my brothers in arms

I'll take a life that others may live

 Not everyone has the ability to do this, to make this choice. A warrior on the battlefield, whether it was an ancient plain where people fought face to face with axes and spears or a modern scenario where bombs are dropped on an enemy from miles above, faces that life-or-death decision every time he or she goes out to fight. The soldier may simply be protecting him or herself against another soldier, or he or she may be protecting his or her squadron, or some gods-forsaken outcropping of rock in a strategic position… but underneath it all the soldier is protecting the greater ideals of his or her country, his or her fellow citizens, his or her government and all for which it stands. I’m not making the distinction here of ‘right or wrong’ – to the soldier, the warrior, there is no ‘right or wrong’ because he or she is serving. He or she has made the decision to put the life of his or her countrymen before his own.


Stay the course, reasonable force
I believe I serve a greater good


Society has lost many meaningful rituals. We still have our small rites of passage – weddings, funerals, graduations, baby showers. I think it is still important to draw those bold, heavy borders on the timeline. I think something that may help people like my shell-shocked uncle reintegrate back into a life of peace would be some small ceremony – cleansing away the taboos of murder, removing the stigma of serving an unjust government, opening a heart that has closed itself off to pacifism so it can cope with killing. Even a ‘Welcome Back’ party could serve as this – a time to say thank you, a time to let the Warrior step off the tank and gun turret and be healed by companionship and re-acceptance into society. Hopefully the next few years will see many homecomings and opportunities to reunite with friends and loved ones who have been gone far too long.


I think, as a whole, most people have forgotten that the soldier is an archetype. I believe in free will, and I believe that people can make choices in their lives that will keep them safe from harm. I tend to assume that people follow their logic. Until recently, it had not occurred to me that maybe, even without a mandatory military draft, the soldier may not really have a choice. It could be that the need for that archetypal role to be filled by someone pulls the soldier, the Warrior, into service. Part of why I wanted to write this out was to, in some small way, honor the men and women who are fulfilling that archetype.


Thank you, Warriors, soldiers, servants of the armed forces, for stepping forward in times of need to protect us all.

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Ok, I revised some of the wording and finished it. Constructive criticism is welcome.

Actually, any criticism is welcome because then I'd know at least one person read this, lol.
Spellcraft 101: Theory and Philosophy

Let me share my philosophy on who can practice magic. I believe that anyone can practice magic. I don’t believe a person has to be a Wiccan or Pagan to practice magic, although if a Catholic, Christian, Jew or Muslim practices witchcraft, they may want to make peace with their God before doing so, since it does seem to be a no-no in those religious frameworks. I personally do not believe that the power behind spells is granted to us by the Gods. I am pantheistic and believe that everything is connected by a greater spiritual force, like a web of energy binding everything together as one. Because we are all connected, I believe that it is possible for something someone does has the power to affect something or someone across the globe.


I also feel that magic’s greatest power is over our own psychology. When someone performs a spell, not only are they affecting the object of the spell, they are influencing themselves. If someone does a spell to be more attractive, they will respond to that spell by walking with more confidence, dressing more confident, becoming more outgoing – in truth, they will become more attractive.


I’m of a mixed mind when it comes to curses and hexes. I’ve actually never cursed anyone or hexed anyone. I’ve done more than my fair share of ‘go away’ spells, but I don’t feel that banishing spells are necessarily curses or hexes. I’ve asked for ‘divine justice’ in a couple of occasions, and seen that in action. I don’t doubt that curses and hexes can and do work – but I also know that protective spells and actions can effectively negate the energy of a curse or hex. Personally, I’m not afraid of curses or hexes – and I’ve had people tell me they put a curse on me. It seems kind of naïve or one-sided to say that magic works and in the same breath say that curses and hexes don’t work. But from my experience, curses and hexes seem to have less effectiveness and a greater chance to fail than positive spells.


A bit of etiquette to bear in mind: always ask someone’s permission before doing a spell on their behalf. Letting someone know that you want to help them out magically is respectful, and if the person has a lot of psychic self-defense mechanisms at work, they will be able to clear the way for your assistance, and possibly even help the spell along. If it’s a curse or hex or something negative, of course you’re not going to tell the object of the spell, “Hey, I’m putting a curse on you!” – at least, not until after you’ve done it and you want to scare the crap out of them. Sometimes, telling a person you’ve cursed them is more effective than actually putting a curse on them.


If a spell fails, chances are no one is going to be harmed by it – and most likely, no one will ever know the spell fizzled. Sometimes they do backfire or have unexpected results, but anything we try in life, from learning to ride a bicycle to asking someone out on a date, runs those same risks. When embarking on magical pursuits, it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind and open heart.


So here is my contribution to the world: Spellcraft 101.


First Point: Practice





I used to be one of those people who felt that magic was the last resort, that a person should exhaust all other avenues before performing a spell. I don’t know how I ended up with that belief – probably because other people respond that way. Magic is one of many tools given to us. Just like other tools, the only way to become a masterful spell-caster is to practice casting spells. Although I’ve met people who claimed wild success with their first spell, there are very few true ‘wild talents’ when it comes to witchcraft.


When a person is first starting out, it is best to start small, with inconsequential things, things that only affect the spellcaster or a willing guinea pig (not an actual guinea pig, mind you, but someone who has given their permission to be used as the object of a spell). It’s also easier to begin with positive or protective spells instead of launching right into cursing, hexing, banishing or binding spells.


Healing spells are an excellent proving ground as long as the illness is not one that is immediately fatal. Helping a friend eliminate migraines or helping oneself resist getting the flu would be better than trying to cure someone of cancer or HIV. Not that wanting to cure someone’s cancer or HIV is a bad thing, especially if it works, but it’s always best to start small and with something that will help build confidence and self-assurance. Protective spells are good beginning spells, too, but the results are usually not as tangible.


Many people, me included, tend to make fun of people who cast spells for every little thing. You have to recognize when a mundane solution to a problem is faster and more effective than a spell. While learning spellcraft, though, cast spells for everything.


Second Point: Taking Action


Magic will not do anything unless some kind of real-world action is also taken. There’s an old joke about this guy. Every day he prays to God, “God, please let me win the lottery!” Days, weeks, months, years go by with this guy praying to win the lottery every single day. One day, he wakes up, goes for a walk & prays to God, “Please, God, just let me win the lottery!” God taps the guy on the shoulder and says, exasperatedly, “Hey, Schlomo, buy a ticket!” Performing a spell to get a job or make more money will do nothing unless something is done to help the magic along. Taking classes to improve skills, sending resumes to prospective employers, and speaking to a manager or supervisor about taking on greater responsibilities or getting a raise – and some spell work will help the most.


Spells work best as a means to potentialize action. They can sway a situation to one’s advantage, or push a decision one way or the other, but for the most part spells are not miracles.  


Referring back to recognizing when mundane solutions will work better than magical ones, once past the practice stage, this is a good thing to remember. If someone is the victim of a dangerous domestic situation, doing a spell asking for ‘divine justice’ will not help if the victim is killed by their abusive partner. Doing a healing spell won’t help someone who is bleeding to death unless they’re already in the ER. Doing a spell to keep kids off drugs won’t help if the parents are abusing drugs and setting an example for their children to follow.


Third Point: Self Discipline


One of the principles of magic is the ability to visualize the outcome of a spell. In order for visualization to be effective, it requires concentration, energy and focus. If one has a five-minute attention span, chances are their spells are not going to be successful. Some people are born with a natural ability to focus their attention on something for long periods of time. Others have to train their attention, like any muscle or skill. Being able to maintain focus for long periods of time can have advantages outside the spiritual world – computer programming is one clear example, surgery is another.


Attention and focus are part of the training needed for practicing witchcraft. Sometimes, if a spell is done within the confines of ritual or ceremonial magic, it may need more time and involvement than just 15 minutes or so of candle-burning. If a person cannot reign in their body and mind, all the preparation that goes into a major magical undertaking is kind of pointless.  One of the most common pieces of advice seen in any spellbook is ‘turn off the phone, turn off the TV., close the bedroom door…’ – in other words, tear oneself away from all the nitpicking little distractions of modern life.


Honestly, the way I see it, any religious or spiritual practice requires a modicum of self-discipline. Learning to meditate involves calming the chattering nonsense running rampant in the brain – quieting the ‘monkey mind’. For those following a shamanic path, vision quests, underworld/Otherworld journeying, and other shamanic technologies involve being able to get past all of the physical body’s nagging needs – being able to ignore hunger, thirst, discomfort, an itchy nose, a cramping toe, having to pee really, really bad – as well as telling the monkey mind to shut up for awhile. 


Fourth Point: Timing


Timing is everything. Once a person begins practicing magic or following a spiritual path, it becomes easier to ‘tune in’ to the natural rhythms of life. Even in major urban centers, there are still seasons and tides. At first, spells may just go awry even if every detail is attended to, every step is followed. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time – the Universe has something else in mind.


Here in Las Vegas, the city is still part of the greater desert around it. We have a definite monsoon season from mid-July through August. People who have been living here for awhile seem to get antsy and irritable during the weeks preceding the monsoon. Everyone seems cranky. There seems to be extra stress put on everyone, like we’re living in a pressure cooker. Shortly after the 4th of July, the clouds roll in at night and the air becomes heavy and humid, and it seems like all the cranky antsy desert dwellers inhale – and hold their breaths. One afternoon the clouds don’t burn off and the first lightning flashes are seen, followed by thunder that sounds like it’s cracking the world apart. The rain comes, and everyone, the desert itself included, exhales in a giant “ahhhhh”. That is what magical timing feels like – a great pressure, a need to do something to solve a problem or fill a gap – the spell is that first lightning bolt, the thunder is the pent-up energy being released in a sudden flash, and the rain is the spell doing its work.


So there it is, my philosophy on becoming a successful spellcrafter. Bear in mind, these are my experiences and observations, and as many Pagans say, “your mileage may vary”. 


Ó Janelle Feldes, July 24, 2009

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June got me thinking about how I put my Pagan values into action. Truth be told, I don’t take much spiritual action on anything. I’ve been thinking about this whole ‘teaching’ thing. How I value educators and instructors, and I value the act of learning. I’ve always kind of felt like I was unqualified to teach anyone anything spiritually, that I wouldn’t be qualified until I was a grey-haired, stooped crone going blind from cataracts, my fingers clawed with arthritis. I don’t have kids, so who would I pass all my knowledge on to, anyway? Slowly, things have been changing where I’ve been feeling as though maybe I do have some experience that I could share, lessons I’ve learned that I could teach others. The internet is as good an apprentice as any snot-nosed sniveling brat, hah.

It’s been a long time since I’ve practiced magic. I’ve got various reasons as to why I no longer perform spells. For one, I no longer feel as though I desperately need anything – love, luck, money, vengeance. The Universe usually provides. Granted, I could be richer or have a choicer job or more lovers… but I’m lazy and content to keep what I have. I don’t get all that angry at people, not to the point of wanting to smite them with mighty hoodoo powers. Secondly, I’ve come to terms with feeling like I’m not meant to have certain things, like more money. My financial spells never got very far. I probably should have just saved the money instead of fattening occult store cash registers buying spell supplies. Thirdly, and probably most importantly – I have always defined magic in league with Aleister Crowley’s philosophy. Magic is the act of manipulating the Universe to act in accordance with one’s Will. Who am I to inflict my Will on the Universe? Nowadays, instead of casting spells to make magic, I try to recognize the magic in every-day things and the world around me and my place in the world.

So I'm working on an article about 'Spellcraft 101' for my future website. It's mainly about attitudes and concepts involved with successful magic work. I'm having this problem with tone, though. I sound to myself like I'm a condescending, pompous asshat.

Anyone got any suggestions?

Here's what I have so far - behind a cut because it's loooooong, and most likely boring as fuck.

Spellcraft 101 )
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I'm not an initiate and I currently do not practice but I've been studying Vodou and Santeria since I was 12. I don't go further than what I'm doing because honestly, the lwa have indicated to me that they would really like me to be more dedicated and I just don't have the kind of life where I can offer myself to them. If I'd stayed single, I would probably be an initiate, and maybe someday if I get a divorce or become a widow, I'll put myself out there. But in the meantime I can further the cause of Vodou by being a PR agent :D

This is just the most basic stuff, which is probably widely available online and in bookstores, but why crawl the internet when I can put it all in one handy-dandy location?

A Brief Introduction to Vodou

Vodou is probably the most well known religion that developed from the African Diaspora. The African Diaspora was the dispersion of African culture created by the slave trade, and the African Diasporic religions are the ones that developed from the traditional African religions as the people settled and integrated into their new locations. Many people classify the African Diaspora outside Paganism, and they are not widely understood or accepted. They seem so interlinked with Catholicism as to be some strange offshoot of Christianity. Some of the other African Diasporic religions include Santeria or Lukumi, (Cuba & South America), Candomble or Macumba (Brazil) and Obeah (Jamaican). Vodou in its original form is still alive and well throughout Africa and has been declared the official religion of Benin.

Even in our age of communication and rapid access to information, Vodou is glamorized beyond recognition in the media and feared by many people. Many people, especially animal-rights activists, are uncomfortable with the role of animal sacrifice in Vodou, and I’ve met many Wiccans who decry it for that same reason, quoting ‘an it harm none’ Vodou is a beautiful and living religion steeped in centuries of culture, tradition… and to be fair, blood - the blood of slaves.

Vodou is monotheistic, but the Creator God, known by many names, most commonly ‘Bon Dieu or Bondye, is distanced from His/Her/Its creations. It is up to the spirits of the ancestors and the lwa (also Vodu, loa or Les Mysteres as lwa means ‘mystery’) to be the intermediaries between God and humankind. It is a practical, down-to-earth religion, more concerned with solving problems than enlightenment and union with the Divine.

Most of the information available about Vodou in America is New Orleans Voodoo. N’Awlins Voodoo is distilled from traditional practices of Central & Western Africa, primarily the Fon, Benin and Yoruban people, during the 17 & 1800s, carried across the ocean to Haiti, where it became syncretized with Catholicism and the indigenous Haitian native practices, and finally dispersed into the teeming port city of New Orleans where it picked up practices found in European witchcraft, local folk magic and shamanic practices of the southeastern Native American tribes. Haitian and New Orleans Vodou are more focused on magic than their older African relatives.

Some of the more misunderstood aspects of Vodou include:

o Vodou is an ecstatic or ‘charismatic’ religion. The rituals involve extended drumming and dancing that induce altered states of consciousness. While in these states, the participants often play host to the spirits of ancestors and the lwa. During this time, it is said they are being ‘ridden’ by the lwa. It is usually full possession where the spirit subsumes the personality of their ‘horse’.

o Other participants will know which lwa is riding the horse by their mannerisms or by things they ask for – a lwa associated with love, romance and prostitution may mount a man & want to be doused in perfume and wear gold earrings and a dress – that’s Erzulie; the Ghede, a family of lwa also called the Barons, will want a top hat, a cane and make lewd jokes for they are the rulers of death and sex. The horse may display feats of unusual strength by lifting other participants into the air and tossing them around, placing hot coals in their mouths, firewalking, drinking strong rum (clairin) that’s had hot peppers steeping in it (sometimes, when possessed by certain lwa, the horse will pour this mixture into their eyes or onto their genitals). Generally, the lwa does not harm the horse, but may pass messages to other people to give to the horse when the ride is over.

Voodoo dolls
o Voodoo dolls are not a part of Vodou at all. In some African traditions, a doll is kept as a pwen, nkisi or bocio, which is closer to a fetish or power object. A twin who has lost their brother or sister may also carry a doll as an effigy of the departed, since in many of those cultures it is bad luck to be separated from one’s twin, even by death. It is generally believed that Voodoo dolls became associated with Vodou after African slaves were exposed to poppets used in European folk magic. The dolls may also have been used to make threats towards or intimidate plantation slave owners but were not a normal part of magical practices.

Animal sacrifice
o Yes, there is a lot of animal sacrifice done at Vodou rituals. It is not a murderous destructive rampage, though – all the lwa are hungry and want to be fed. Once the lwa are fed, the community is fed. Animals are not left to rot – this is a religion from poor people who certainly would not waste food in this manner. The only exception might be if the animal was sacrificed to aid the curing of a bad disease or remove a particularly malignant hex, in which case it might not be spiritually safe for people to consume.

o The lwa are picky eaters. Damballah (he is the ‘Serpent’ of ‘The Serpent & the Rainbow’) is almost as old as Bondye, and very pure. He will accept only the cleanest, whitest foods like rice, pure white flour, a white egg, a pure white hen. Other lwa want black goats, or red chickens… Papa Legba, who is a child and an old man all at the same time, prefers candy. Almost all the lwa like a fine cigar and rum.

o Bokors are the black magicians of Vodou. These are the people you pay to kill your enemies, dry up your rival businesses, harm your competition, make zombies out of your least favorite in-law… and yes, they do exist. In traditional Africa, the bokor had an important social role to play – the bokor could safely carry out revenge and justice, which often involved violating taboos, without worrying about becoming tainted. The bokor could freely speak with the recently deceased as well. As Vodou carried over to Haiti and politics invaded Vodou, the bokor’s role became less altruistic and the modern version of a bokor is that of a magical (and often not-so-magical) assassin.

Secret Societies
o There are numerous ‘societies’ associated with Haitian Vodou, not so much in New Orleans Voodoo or African Vodou. Most of these societies took the form of vigilante groups and gangs, and only had loose ties to the religion itself. The more benign societies acted as underground railroad stops for slaves and political prisoners escaping from Haiti, and mothers could use them as a threat to bring unruly children back into line. Some were also ‘neighborhood watch’ groups who used anonymity and social status to bring unruly community members back in line.

o The Ton Ton Macoute was a militant secret society that were most well known for their role as a corrupt public militia in the dictatorship of Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier.

o Probably some of the greatest misunderstanding has arisen over the creation of zombies (nzambi or zombi). Zombis are not people who have died and then been resurrected by a bokor. In more traditional areas, they are people who have committed a wrong against their community and are forced into servitude through careful use of social conditioning, drugs, torture and brainwashing. Sometimes these people are either forgotten by their families or forgiven, but they usually cannot reintegrate back into their communities once released from their servitude. In a strange twist of charity, some families will adopt a stranger who is possibly schizophrenic or otherwise mentally disabled & unable to care for themselves, claiming the person is a zombified relative who finally returned from the bokor.

o Two of the more famous zombies who ‘returned from the dead’ are Clairvius Narcisse & Ti Femme, popularized by Wade Davis’ Serpent & the Rainbow. Much of Davis’ research on the drugs used for zombification has been called into question but it is not the drugs alone that create the zombi.

o Hoodoo is the folk magic practices of Voodoo – at least here in America. Hoodoo usually involves the use of charms and fetish items like herbs, stones, feathers, etc. & pouches imbued with energy or ‘power’ called gris gris (gree-gree) bags. Juju is beneficial, mojo is generally self-serving or malignant. Both juju and mojo is the power driving the spell or enchantment that the gris gris holds. Another word for hoodoo is ‘conjure’ – there are conjure men or conjure women, and also ‘those who work the root’. Having your mojo working is a good thing; if someone puts the mojo on you, it is a bad thing.

o In American & Haitian Voodoo, anyone can work hoodoo because it does not involve any of the lwa. In the Vodou religion, eclecticism is a good way to piss someone off – you can only really work with the lwa who adopt you and become your patrons. Some people only have one, others may have quite a few. Some of the lwa are jealous of one another and fight over their ‘children’.

o In Africa, hudu is an integral part of traditional Vodu worship and cannot be separated from the spirits and ancestors who are called upon for healing, protection, fruitful harvests, healthy cattle and babies, vanquished foes or luck in gambling or love.

A priestess is a Mambo and a priest is a Houngan (in New Orleans, they are Kings or Queens, and men are also referred to as Doctors). The assistants are hounsis and the temple (which may be simply a pole erected in someone’s yard) is the hounfor. There is no strict hierarchy in Vodou, and it is not matriarchal or patriarchal (Santeria, by comparison, has a very strict hierarchy and is generally patriarchal). A man or a woman can serve the lwa, and most followers of Vodou are not initiates, as initiations are elaborate and expensive affairs. Most adherents will go through the necessary divinations to determine which lwa ‘rules their head’. Even though a child of the lwa only pays heed to their patrons, worship given to one lwa is seen as worship and energy given to them all.

Decent Beginner Resources:
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Voodoo by Shannon Turlington

The Serpent & the Rainbow & Passage of Darkness by Wade Davis

Tell My Horse – Zora Neale Hurston

Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti – Phyllis Galembo

Mama Lola – Karen McCarthy Brown

Divine Horsemen – Maya Deren
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I started thinking about my teaching post, and how I should be more willing to share my experiences and things I've learned.

So, on the pagan forum I frequent...

I pm'd a mod & volunteered to start an 'Ask a Student of Vodou' thread.

She said 'go for it!'

Now I've got to like, write an introduction and whip out my resources.

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I've been finding it harder and harder to define values that are a part of my spirituality, a part of me being Pagan. Most of my values have developed independently of my faith.

There is one value that has everything to do with my faith and very little to do with my mundane life.

When I speak to the Gods, spirits, elementals, spirit guides, totems and assorted and varied entities that surround me, I speak to Them directly. I have no need of a priest or intermediary to speak to my Gods for me, or on my behalf. I have not met a theistic Pagan yet who felt they needed a priest, priestess, clergyperson, minister, reverend, or any other person to translate their words to their Gods. The only exception to this has been when the person is possessed. It's kind of hard to talk to your God when your God is wholy in you and whatever is you is subsumed by that greater entity. It's why the lwa tell the attendees at a Vodou ritual, "Tell my horse!" when they have something important to tell the person they're riding. Of course, no one at a Vodou ritual would dare misinterpret the words of the lwa to the one the lwa possessed. The lwa also have the modern gift of speaking in relatively plain English (or French or Creole or Haitian).

It is a great feeling to know that when I pray, I am not praying to some guy in a funny hat who is then passing my words on to whatever deity it is to which I'm talking. There is no confessional, either. If I transgress (which is relatively hard to do, considering my deities haven't handed me any rules), I pay for it in karma, not by counting little beads or flogging myself. If I do step on toes, the entities Themselves let me know, and it's usually quick and unpleasant and not soon forgotten.

Of course, this is not unique to Pagan experience. Priests were once absolutely necessary in the Christian faith because of literacy. The common, average folk could not read, so their Bible was useless to them. They needed the priests, the learned men, to read the book to them and clarify the laws and tenets of their own faith. Nowadays, I've seen among Christian people that there is no longer a great need to attend church to have the bible read to them. They can read the Bible themselves, interpret the words for themselves and apply those words to their own lives. It is a blessing of modern times.

I think this is a large part of the reason why I've always been a solitary practitioner. When I was Wiccan, I tried to start a coven a couple of times, but realized that I didn't want to be a leader or constantly have to tell people what to do. I've also tried to get involved with covens, but it's almost impossible for me to hand over my autonomy. I was banished from a Wicca class for using an oil that was not ordained by the Priestess/instructor. Who was she to tell me I couldn't use an oil I preferred in a homework-assigned spell? If I wanted to follow rigorous and rigid instructions, I would have joined the military. And if I wanted a bunch of sheep blindly following me around, I would have started a cult.

Another part of spiritual autonomy means I don't have to go to a special building to worship. I don't necessarily need to be outdoors to feel the presence of the Divine. Sometimes it shows up in my kitchen, or even comes through the front doors at work (not my current work, but jobs that have been open to the public) to say howdy. I may, on occasion, build a shrine or an altar, a place to focus my attention while I pray or someplace to leave an offering, but I don't need the place to feel sacred. The world around me is sacred, every last bit. It is thoroughly infused with the spark of the Great Divine, the Great Mystery. It flows through everything, sanctifies everything. My backyard is no less sacred than a huge marble temple or a small wooden church. I remember going to churches with my friends when I was little, sitting in Sunday school. Sunday school always seemed to be held in a stuffy little room, away from the main church. It was, if nothing else, almost exactly like a school room. I remember looking out the smeary windows onto a rolling lawn that no one ever got to walk on, or play on, or pray on. I don't know why all the churches I went to had such beautifully manicured lawns. Funerals, maybe? I played in more cemeteries as a child than on church lawns. We never had Sunday school outside. The first church I ever went to that utilized its outdoor space was the Greek Eastern Orthodox church in Memphis. I almost converted because of sitting out on the lawn after Mass, eating barbecued goat, watching the men furtively pass around a flask of ouzo - which even crossed the priest's hands a time or two, watching the sun move through the trees that flanked the lawn and cast long shadows that never seemed to touch the church itself.

Even though Christians say God is everywhere, I get the feeling that some of them may not truly believe that. Why else build churches and temples? Why else expect to spend Sunday mornings cooped up in a building instead of going out and enjoying God in the wild places? Sometimes I wish I could be like one of the Christians who converted to Paganism, so I could more fully understand the whys and hows of the religion. No matter how many times I've read the Bible, how many Christians I've spoken with, it's still baffling to me. I probably confuse Christians, too - I mean, how is it possible for me to believe in their God but not worship Him? I always think of Him as "that God named God". I believe in their God because there are so many millions, probably billions, of people who believe in that God called God... but it is a privilege of my polytheism to believe without the need to worship.
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In keeping with my last Pagan value, something that I know I share with many other Pagans is a love of learning. Most Pagans I have met are well-read, enjoy debate and are critical thinkers. We question everything, even our own beliefs. Wikipedia isn't good enough for most of us. We want footnotes, indices & appendices. Pagans today keep up with current events, science, exploration, innovation and invention. We want to know the past and the present and try to divine the future. There is no blindly following the will of our Gods - we always want to know why we're being asked to do something. We don't want to be spoon-fed and if something is handed to us, we're usually more suspicious than grateful. I think this is why so many Pagans favor deities and spirits who teach hard lessons.

Alongside learning is open-mindedness. Most of us aren't content to stay in society's little boxes. We're curious about everyone who is different from us, places we've never been, cultures vastly different from our own. Most Pagans I know have honorary degrees in Comparative Religion. It's a constant striving and yearning to know and experience. True Pagans are expansive and inclusive. We don't want to insulate ourselves, and fear is always another opportunity to learn.

Of course, this sometimes works against the community as a whole. I've seen so much disdain, hatred and anger directed on those Pagans who choose to be on the New Age side of the scale... the dreaded 'fluffy bunny', the 'white-lighters', those who truly follow the Wiccan Rede and Rule of Three, those who believe that Wicca is a few hundred thousand years old, the ones who want to be white witches and only acknowledge that which is good and light in the world and their fellow humans. Just as bad as the 'fluffy bunnies' are the hardened, cynical Pagans who love to tell people uncomfortable truths in as mean a way as possible. I could not imagine going through life with blinders on, seeing only one side of a story, knowing only my immediate surroundings, but I am not so cynical and hardened that I cannot see the wonder in the world around me or share it with other people. Yes, I gnash my teeth and smack my head on my desk sometimes when my oldest sister gets on one of her 'Universal justice' kicks, and some things people say (especially online) make me wish I was an atheist so I wouldn't be associated with said comments, but I've become a bit more tolerant and accepting in my old age & no longer feel the burning need to pounce on anyone who makes a moronic statement about Paganism in public.

This is really an amazing place we live on - the Earth Herself, and it's an amazing time to live in. I think, right now, there is so much ease of access to information that for people to not want to learn is foolish. It's so easy. Of course, turning that knowledge into wisdom is a complicated alchemical process involving Will, time and slamming into brick walls often.

Some people tend to think that knowledge runs counterintuitive to faith, that knowing too much can rob you of your sense of wonder and awe. I have not found that to be the case. I've developed, over time, a belief in a variety of Intelligent Design. I don't believe that some God or Goddess created the earth, the stars, the waters, the land, that people sprouted up overnight from some clay kiln or popped up in a garden... I don't know if it was a Big Bang or a Gnab Gib that set the clockworks in motion, and I'm not too sure of how evolution really works, but when I look around at all the marvelous coincidences of the results of whatever it was, I know that there is something Greater behind it all, guiding it, giving little nudges of Divine inspiration. Why else would our brains have receptors that respond so well to chemicals found in plants? Or why certain flowers developed that can only be pollinated by certain insects? Or why this little blue-green ball in the middle of whirling space would have just the right combination of elements and the right distance from a burning source of light and heat to be inhabited with all manner of life? There has to be a purpose... Someone or Something wanted us here for a reason.

Science fascinates me. I wish I had better math skills so I could truly partake of the magnificence that is science and truly understand things like string theory and quantum physics. The smidgen of understanding I have makes me long for more, but even the tiny glimpses I catch of the overall significance of some of it blows my mind and leaves me reeling for days. The scientific arts are just one tool we have to understand our surroundings, and that understanding brings us closer to knowing that everything we do effects everything else around us. We are part of a great web of time, space and life, and we are so insignificant in the greater tapestry - but on this small corner of the warp and woof, we are all so very important. To deny ourselves that knowledge is to cut the threads that bind us to the loom and the Weaver or Weavers stitching it all together.
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If you don't know anything about Paganism, here's all you need to know.

1. Pagans worship the Earth as our spiritual and literal home, which we venerate through gods and goddesses who...oh bollocks, forget all that.

2. Paganism covers a wide variety of people with variety of outlooks and beliefs. It includes atheists, pantheists, monotheists, polytheists and hedging-their-bets agnostics. It is, in summary, disorganised religion.

3. Ask ten Pagans for a definition of what Paganism is, and you'll get ten different answers.

4. Ask them while they're all the same room, and you'll also get an argument.

5. Trying to organise a bunch of Pagans is like trying to herd cats.

6. Spend any time on the executive committee of a Pagan society, and you will truly gain a deep insight into the above saying.

7. The ones who look a bit fluffy, read books on aromatherapy and shop at Halcyon Daze are the Wiccans.

8. The ones who wear robes and unfeasibly large beards, and fling themselves in front of bulldozers are the Druids.

9. The ones who refer to near-lethal doses of mead and real ale as "breakfast" are the Norse Heathens.

10. The ones who hold long conversations with themselves in Classical Hebrew and disturb their housemates' early morning hangovers by screaming "HORUS" are the Ritual Magicians.

11. The ones who just say yes to drugs are the Shamans.

12. The ones who fit characters from Star Trek into the Kabbalah and worship HP Lovecraft as a prophet are the Chaos Magicians.

13. The ones who upset their neighbours by getting pissed on rum and drunkenly singing in Creole are the Voudou practitioners.

14. The ones with more imaginary friends than the average 5 year old are the Eclectic Pagans.

15. The ones who base their spiritual practice on Silver Ravenwolf books... well, they ride the short brooms...
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As a Pagan, one of my values is education. Humans have an immense capacity to learn.

Now, if you believe in the Burning Times, a lot of knowledge was supposedly lost to the ages. People could not maintain an oral tradition, they could not write anything down, nothing could be made public, everything was locked away and hidden from plain sight.

I used to believe very much in the Burning Times, but as I grew older and read more history, political and religious, it wasn't really that much of a Big Deal. Yes, people did lose their lives in the Inquisition and the witch hunts, but it wasn't so much witches or Pagans who were specifically being hunted down. It was people who owned land the Church wanted. It was people who were heretics in the eyes of the Church. It was people who just weren't liked by their communities. I don't know if the common '6 million' figure is accurate or not, but a good number of innocent people lost their lives due to (to borrow a phrase from Rob Zombie) superstition, fear and jealousy.

I know that in some African countries, people do still lose their lives for practicing, or being accused of practicing, witch craft. In some more conservative areas of the U. S., occult and psychic stores are vandalized and protested into closing up shop. I've been pretty much a west-coaster all my life, and luckily I have never encountered persecution. I've met a few Holy Rollers who were obnoxious beyond belief, but I've always had the rare privilege of being a 100% out of the broom closet Pagan. When I was a teenager, I was quite militant about it. I wore enough pentagrams and crystals & mojo bags to ensure my death by drowning if anyone pushed me into about a foot of water, I had the ACLU's phone number memorized, I could quote state statutes banning witchcraft from the birth of the nation, I lobbied for looser regulations on psychic arts business licensing (in Clark County, it's a time-consuming, rigorous and expensive process to prevent con artists from taking advantage of people), I wore robes in public.

Today, though, anyone with an internet connection or a library card can obtain a great amount of information about witchcraft and Paganism. I think in all total, there are probably more Pagan forums, commercial occult & psychic stores, occult websites, etc. than anything else online except maybe porn. Hel, there's even Pagan-centric porn out there (no, I'm not counting this one website Rob & I encountered featuring 'vampire lesbian nuns sucking Satan's big red cock).

Bearing all this in mind, I think the Pagan community as a whole does not place enough value on passing on information. There are many who complain of poorly researched and written books, the abundance of 'Witchcraft 101' books on the market, the 'fluffy bunny' take on Paganism that many of these poorly researched and written books have. But, when it comes down to it, very few people are willing to teach. I used to complain about this one AOL chatroom called 'Ask a Witch'. I don't know why the majority of people were in that chatroom, other than to pounce on the unexperienced & unsuspecting & make them rue the day they ever tried to ask a witch anything. I can understand that yes, in a situation like that, it is going to attract a lot of people who either want love spells or want to murder someone. It would be like me throwing a hissy fit anytime anyone asked me where the restrooms were at the Excalibur. Just because 15,000 people have asked me that doesn't mean that it's not the first time they all asked that question. They honestly didn't know where the bathrooms were (even if they were standing right in front of them) & I happened to be the closest thing to an employee they saw walking by. People also tend to forget that they were new once, too.

I think bad attitudes chase people away from exploring Paganism on a deeper level. They get kicked around so much when they first discover it that mistreatment turns them off & makes them wish they had never gotten the urge to explore it in the first place. I know Paganism is not evangelical, we don't get gold stars for converting people to the pack, so to speak. But if a person walked into a Catholic or Christian church, or a Jewish or Muslim temple and asked someone there to tell them about this God they'd been hearing so much about, would anyone blow up in their face? No. They'd be welcomed in, invited to explore & hang out. I don't know why it's so hard for Pagans to do the same thing. I mean, we're not telling people to go out and tell all their friends about us, but... what does it cost to be nice to someone? (Yeah, I know, coming from me that's a lot. For me, being nice is like slicing my face off or something... but I have the capacity to change, too - don't forget that).

It also irks me that it's always the whack-jobs who end up on television telling people about Wicca or witchcraft or Paganism in general. Always gotta be the whack-jobs. Why can't it be a relatively normal Pagan? Yeah, Tom Cruise screwed the Scientologists over on Oprah, but he's just one guy - every Pagan who ends up on t.v. seems to be a Tom Cruise. I go on web sites & read comments left by other Pagans whenever one of these whack-jobs shows up on the national news or a talk show & they all complain or 'try to set the record straight' about whatever damaging image the whack-job presented... but it's all after the fact. No one cares what people have to say when they're in damage control mode. We need more proactivism and less hindsight. And what is one of the easiest ways to be proactive about the image of Paganism in the media?


Whenever someone asks me a question about my beliefs, I just try to be open, straight forward and honest. I don't go all New-Age white light and bunnies, and I leave out Unkle Al and Anton LeVey and the thing about the hot dogs and buns... and I just answer the question. I never generalize, and I always remember that I am not just speaking for myself, I am a representative of every other Pagan out there, whether it's Wiccans, reconstructionists, neo-Pagans, Dianics, Druids, Odinists, Asatruar... If I am the first Pagan someone meets and has a conversation with, I want them to be comfortable thinking that one of their neighbors or babysitters or banker might be Pagan, too. I don't want them to look at me and think I'm going to sacrifice their cat to my Gods. It costs me nothing except some of my time. I'm also never afraid to give referrals - books, stores, websites, forums, other resources.

I think it would be amazing if 'Mystery Schools' were opened, physical campuses dedicated to Pagan religious studies. Model them after the Catholic schools, so the students are still getting the fundamentals - history, literature, the sciences, but supported by Pagan concepts and attitudes. I know there are correspondence classes online, but why not colleges? If I had the resources at hand, I would consider it, but I'm mostly broke and have no background in education, lol.
perzephone: (Default)
I ran into another snag, this time about plastic surgery.

Do I think it's a desecration of the body as a temple? Yes.

Now, what about body modification, like tattoos, scarification & piercings?
I have tattoos. I've had my nipples pierced & my ears are pierced. Do I think it's desecration? Wellll, yes, if I drew that line in the sand, I'd have to say yes, because tattooing, piercing & body modification could be seen as a shallow attempt to live up to media standards... if your media was solely based on fringe culture.

I think there are limits as to what I find to be edifying versus what I find to be desecration. There seems to be a different mindset that people who go for extreme body modification do not share with people who get facelifts, tummy tucks, boob jobs, nose jobs, etc.

Ok, so you get a chin-lift, maybe a size added to the boobs... not really too bad. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, has fucked himself up. There's a definite line that's been crossed there between getting some new window dressings and smashing the building with a wrecking ball. I've seen some people who have mutilated themselves for fun and pleasure, too. They split their penises in half, they get horns and ridges and things installed under their skin, get their tongues split, get whiskers and multiple face lifts so they look like some nightmarish version of the Cheshire cat... but for some reason I see this more akin to someone getting a gender reassignment. These people are trying to be more of who, or what, they see as themselves.

As for myself, I've hated my skin since I hit puberty. Honestly hate it. I wish I could peel it off - I've tried in places and it's horribly painful - I passed out a couple of times. A couple of my tattoos are to cover scars. I wish I scarred more extensively because even scarred skin is preferable to my own 'healthy' stuff - instead even deep burns heal up like nothing happened. I've always been accident prone, so there were never any awkward moments of 'How'd you manage to perfectly cut lose a strip of skin, Janelle?' - I always had a ready excuse. When I got hit by that car & had massive road rash over a good half of my body, I was hoping when it healed I would have skin that was soft & unblemished like a new born. Nope, no such luck. Acne, rosacea, it was all there all over again. I tried covering it with makeup through most of my teen years and it just made it worse. For me and my skin, there is no such thing as 'non-comedogenic'.

I like how my skin looks with the ink on it. It looks right. If I had the skill, I'd tattoo the rest of my body. There is a cleansing catharsis about the pain induced by a tattoo gun. I've experienced it a little bit when I had my nipples pierced, but it wasn't the same, it didn't work out well and I've come to the conclusion that piercing just isn't good medicine for me.

But it brings me to a point... If I see others who do incredibly damaging things to their bodies as trying to become the person they see in the mirror - maybe I'm too harsh on people who go for more traditional and mainstream surgeries. Maybe not all people who get cosmetic work are vain, shallow and addicted to biased media imagery. Maybe they, too, are just trying to be the person they see when they look in the mirror?

I guess this is an example of another one of my personal values. Many Pagan paths are paths of duality. Goddess and God, male and female, yin and yang, give and take, Sun and Moon, black and white, Fluffy-Bunny White-Lighter and Satanic Chaostician. I try to walk the 'Grey Path' - the Middle Road, trying to take nothing to the extreme and trying to see things in every direction. Part of being on the Middle Road means being able to see both sides of a story, even if it flies in the face of something I believe or hold dear. I never truly take sides. If a friend comes to me and wants advice because their relationship is falling apart, I commisserate with them and ask them how they think their behavior has made their partner feel. If a coworker complains about a boss, or a boss about a coworker, I sympathize and point out things that the complainer could have done differently. I believe in diplomacy and mediation. I never see anything as being truly evil or truly good - there is always a spark of light in the eye of evil, and a spark of darkness in the eye of good. Without the light, we would never meet our shadows, and without the dark we would never appreciate the light.
perzephone: (Default)
I'm not normally a Christian-bashing Pagan. I generally try to practice tolerance and acceptance when it comes to people who believe differently than I do (which is pretty much everyone). One thing about Christianity does give me pause. In Christianity, if you transgress against your religious rules, and you own up to your mistake (or, if you're Catholic, you confess it to a priest, they give you a punishment & you perform whatever act is asked of you) you are forgiven by God or Jesus and your sin is wiped clean. It's a pretty nifty system. I know it's probably more complicated and layered than what I make it seem, but that's the gist of it.

As a Pagan, when I do something 'bad'... I have no one to apologize to, and no one forgives me, and my slate is not wiped clean. If I hurt someone, yes, I can apologize to that person and be forgiven by that person, but I still bear the karmic burden of my action. It adds up. Enough of that karmic stuff piles up and I'm reincarnated into an even worse circumstance than what I got in this life. But I have no one to blame for my circumstances except myself. I keep thinking how I must have been the Boston Strangler or something in my last life. Thinking about it now, it seems pretty silly to choose a religion in which one is responsible for every thought, every action, every word when I could belong to a religion where you can screw up often and be forgiven and go out & screw up again, ad nauseum.

The thing is, I like that sense of personal responsibility, and it is probably my strongest religious value. It makes me feel like I'm in complete control of my own destiny. The words I speak are my words, and only my words. The actions I perform are my actions. The thoughts I have are my thoughts. I am responsible for how I use them. No one can make me do anything against my Will because all acts I perform are performed willfully.

(Yes, a lot of times when I am talking smack, I blame it on Coyote. "Coyote made me do it". "It's my Coyote medicine"... or my favorite, snagged from The Simpsons, "I am a Coyote, after all". Yes, having Coyote medicine may play a part in my orneriness, Coyote does not control me - I choose to act in a Coyote fashion. And, much like Wile E. Coyote, I do pay for my more Coyote moments. I embarrass myself. I stick my foot in my mouth, and I must like the taste because I do it regularly and with relish.)

I also hurt people. Unlike someone else who can cover up a cruel joke or saying something mean... I can't say, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't really mean that!" No, for me, it's more like, "Aw crap... I didn't want you to hear that..." Whatever it was that I said, I meant it, and I meant to say it, just not loud enough for the entire room to hear. Well, no, I meant for everyone to hear, just not you. Well, no, I wanted you to hear it, too, because I can't stand you. I can't just blush and shuffle my feet and apologize because, it was intentional. In the same vein, though, I don't give people meaningless compliments. When I say something nice to someone it's because I mean it, and I'm not just trying to be nice. Which is why some of my compliments may sound a little strange, or I pick up on strange things to compliment. I once told a woman I was attracted to that her butt was 'huge and awe-inspiring, like Mount Everest'. I was dead serious - her butt was awesome.

Generally, people that I hold in high esteem are people who own their thoughts, words and deeds. I like people who can admit they made mistakes, who can admit that they broke something, who can admit that they screwed something up somewhere. I also honor people who own their good deeds and take credit for their own work. Yes, God or Jesus or Brigid or Thoth or your mom may have inspired you to do something great, but in the end it was your hands that did the deed.

People who do horrible things and then blame Satan or their dog for it... unless they are clinically schizophrenic or paranoid delusional or have some other severe mental instability, it doesn't fly with me. OJ Simpson is not sitting in prison because he got a bum rap or had bad defense attorneys - it's because he committed a crime and got caught. I'm not saying that if a person commits a crime and owns up to it they should not face social ostracism and punishment - I'm saying that it's their fault they ended up in that situation and have no one to blame except themselves. If I went out and committed a crime and got caught, I would not be sitting in prison blaming society for my woes. I'd be figuring out how to get out of the mess I'd landed myself in and doing the work necessary to achieve my freedom. If a person says something hateful and spiteful to another person, and get their words thrown back in their face, those words belonged to them. Now that I think about it, it sounds a whole lot like another Wiccan saying: Whatever you cast out on the waters of life shall return to you threefold. What you own will return to you in time. In other words, if you can't eat it, don't dish it out.

I guess a word on addiction is due. I believe that addiction is a disease. Yes, a person is responsible for substances they put in their body - things that are nourishing and things that destroy. A person can choose to smoke a cigarette, drink alcohol, take a drug... and they choose to repeat the behavior. At a certain point, though, the spirit of the substance takes over and the disease begins. Not everyone can master certain substances. Tobacco is a prime example. The tobacco spirit is very strong, and only the most powerful and trained shamans can palaver with it on equal footing. The rest of us are feeble compared to that particular Jaguar. I feel pretty darned smart when I think of all the times I smoked cigarettes and never got hooked in by the Jaguar's claws. I have another downfall in alcohol. Right now, I can hold my own against that spirit, but it's a tenuous hold and the joke will always be on me. Rob likened alcohol to a Crocodile, and he's so right. I can swim with that Crocodile but eventually it's going to get hungry - and I must always remember that the Crocodile is waiting for me to get tired. In my beliefs, a person is responsible for getting drunk or high, but once a person is drunk or high, their active and knowledgeable responsibility stops and they become a temporarily insane person who really can't be held accountable for their words, thoughts and deeds (buzzed doesn't count, I'm talking truly wasted) at that moment in time. If someone makes a mistake while intoxicated, they should be given an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, but they should still be held accountable for the mistake - otherwise they will never learn how important their decision to become intoxicated or to avoid becoming intoxicated is. I include myself in this. I can be a moron when I'm drunk, and I'm the one who decided to get drunk, and once I'm sober I expect to pay the price for whatever stupid stuff I did when I was drunk. So far, I've been lucky and haven't made any truly tragic mistakes - probably due to me not driving. But I always know something bad could happen. And because I'm a Pagan and I'm responsible for my own actions, even if I did it while drunk and therefore temporarily insane, I would have to live with the consequences of my choice for the rest of my life.

This could easily turn into a rant for me. I get annoyed easily by people who blame their upbringing, their environment or some substance for acting crappy. Yes, I was poor - Hel, I'm still on the border of lower middle class & upper lower class - my mother abused me, my father was immature, my various other relatives have heaped abuse and indignity upon me, I had no direction or guidance in life... but it's not their fault how I turned out. And ya know what? Just as much as no one else is to blame for how I turned out, no one else can take credit for me, either. It's all me, baby. It's my fault because I am not creative or emotionally intelligent enough to move forward in my life. I jokingly say that the Universe hates me, but it's not true. I am 100% to blame for all of me, and I am 100% to thank for all of me, too. The good along with the bad. My failures are my failures and my successes are my successes (granted, I did have some help, and I am grateful to the people who have supported me over the years).

Getting back to the lucky Christians, I think I've gained this smug sense of superiority. To me, Christians are kind of weak because they can't live up to their own actions. Their God doesn't seem to really even want them to take credit for their own actions - He wants all the fame and glory. God likes touchdowns and lottery wins and giving birth and lucky escapes from precarious situations. God's kind of like Al Gore - God probably wants people to think He invented the internet, too. Christians hand all responsibility over to their God and live these carefree lives, knowing that as long as they do everything their God tells them to do, they get to go to some paradisical afterlife. My Gods are more concerned with keeping the Universe running than taking credit or blame for everything I do on a daily basis. They also don't micromanage. My Gods give me hints to do things occasionally - the big things, but I've pretty much had to be a self-starting employee who does well on my own. Even if I do everything my Gods tell me to do, I still might come back as a cockroach. There is no Heaven, no Hell, no eternal reward or damnation... just me and my karma, the wheel keeps going around & around, from thought to word to deed, from birth to death to yet another life.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I am responsible for my words, but I do give myself some wiggle room. I can tell you this much - I never lie, I just tell stories.)
perzephone: (Default)
I'm feeling very Pagan-y over these past coupla days. Dunno why, but I went out & saluted the big, beautiful glowing moon outside, just because She's there.


perzephone: (Default)
Rainbow Serpent Woman

August 2014

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