Tag Archives: Self Improvement

Simple Witchery — Part 1

revelation-2937691_640

What is simple witchery? Perhaps an explanation of witchery, or practicing witchcraft, is first called for.

Truly, there are so many schools and styles of witchcraft, and so many more personal takes on each, that trying to even touch on all would be a herculean task and not at all in the spirit of keeping it simple. You have Google for that.

Know this, the first rule of witchcraft is to seek knowledge, always.

It may be easier to explain some of the things witchcraft is not.

Witchcraft is not devil worship. In witchcraft there is no devil of the widespread Christian understanding. Witchcraft holds that all that is good and all that is evil coexists within each of us, much as in the Cherokee story of the two wolves. Witches acknowledge and work with their shadow side to recognize, understand, and in most cases, temper its influence, or at least reserve it for specific use.

Spells are not conjuring or working with the devil. See above, there is no devil. Spells are focused intention, usually a petition or expression of gratitude. In that way they are not unlike a prayer. However, unlike prayer they are not always directed to a deity or spiritual entity. This makes them also like a mantra or positive affirmation. To whatever extent science confirms the success of positive thinking, self fulfilling prophecy, and fake it ’til you make it, it also supports the success of spell casting.

Spells are also science. Whatever science has proven about quantum physics, it proves the same about sympathetic (or correspondence) magic.

Ethical witches do not attempt to manipulate the free will of others. This is probably the number one rule among true witches and translates to the shorthand, “You do you.” It applies to how you practice your craft, and all the personal choices you make both in magical and every day life. A coven or other gathering of witches may have guidelines and rules, but those are upon your voluntary membership—if you are accepted and join (initiate) you agree to this and that.

This is why most witches worth their salt will not cast a love spell to inspire or change the feelings of a specific person. A love spell is worked either on yourself to prepare you for the right relationship when it comes along, or to appeal to the powers that be (energies) that the right love be sent your way.

Witches do not always belong to a coven. Many witches practice their craft as solitaries. Take appropriate cautions if you join a coven, as you would joining any group of people you don’t otherwise know, remembering that a coven is considered a family bound by oath—you will likely share vulnerability and deeply personal aspects of your life.

If a witch ever, in any situation, asks you to participate in something that goes against your values and ethics, get thee away from said witch(es) post haste and never, ever return.

So, while were on the subject of covens and groups . . .

Sky clad (naked) ritual is not necessary. It is practiced by solitary witches and covens, but you don’t fail at being a witch if you don’t dance naked under the moon, or in the hot tub or whatever else may be the setting for stripping down. The reason for sky clad ritual is to show to the deity God/Goddess that you come in perfect love and trust with nothing to hide. It also demonstrates the same to your coven.

Again, if you join a group or a coven that does make sky clad ritual a required part of their group practice, it should be stated up front and understood. You can and should decline joining if it makes you uncomfortable. You should also leave any coven in which you feel there is an abusive element to naked ritual. I do not practice sky clad; for one thing, it’s too dang cold six months of the year in my realm to even consider it.  I doubt that I would ever join a coven that requires it—but never say never!

There is no rule against personal gain. Other than those which apply to dishonor and greed in every day life. So go ahead and cast that spell for a raise, or promotion, or the winning lottery numbers. It never hurts to try.

There is no threefold rule. Other than the every day concept that you get what you give, you reap what you sow, the golden rule, etc. The idea that whatever you send will come back to you times 3 is part of the folklore, crafted by some of the early, modern day witches. However, do not take this lightly, every witch has a story to tell of the spell that manifested with consequences not anticipate, even though they thought they had considered every possible outcome.

There isn’t even a rule of do no harm. That too, was written in by the modern day practitioners. Ethical witches are also just ethical people; we practice under the same real world laws of nature, physics, human emotion, and civil laws as everybody else. The important thing to remember here is our belief that all life is connected and what we do to any one, we do to all, including ourselves. For deity witches, there is also the belief that every living thing harbors the Divine within, and so to harm any is to harm the Divine. “As above so below, as within, so without, as the universe so the soul.” ― Hermes Trismegistus

Before we leave this concept, all witches believe in complete acceptance of the consequence of our actions. We do not deflect, we do not whine, we do not say, “Woe is me.” To know this down to our bones, greatly governs our actions.

Witchcraft in and of itself is not a religion. Wicca is a recognized religion, but not all witches are Wiccans. In fact not all witches practice the craft as a religious/spiritual practice. Some practice strictly as magic, magic being the understanding of the laws of nature and the physical world, and using that understanding to create (manifest) their intention, to the extent that many modern day witches study quantum science and string theory. Some witches are simply on a path of personal betterment without high magic.

Many self identify as folk, garden, hedge, herbal, kitchen, or green witches (not referring to skin color, but working with nature elements). Others identify by the deity they primarily worship, such as Hekataen witches, Dianic witches, etc. There are traditions pertaining to pantheons, such as Celtic, Norse, Italian, Slavic, etc. This is a comprehensive list.

Witchcraft is not all about the magick, but the magick is fun. First, magick with a  K differentiates the craft of the witch from the art of illusion practiced by magicians.
Magick is real. Think of it this way. Fire was magick to the ancients – sent by the gods in lighting bolts. It remained magick until they discovered the science behind fire, until some astute being observed that friction could also create fire and that s/he could create friction. And so it went until we were cooking with gas, not to mention short wave radiation! Magick happens all around us, understanding how it happens allows us to discover ways of harnessing it.

And while we’re on cooking . . .

Cooking is magic by definition. Taking any number of ingredients, applying either heat, cooling or some physical action, to arrive at an end result that is more than just the sum of its parts, is alchemical magic. Take the simple act of whipping egg whites into meringue, or churning milk into butter. Or combing milk, butter and sugar to make caramel. In a time before these things were common skill, they were first magick. Once upon a time, only nature could make a diamond, but not any longer.

Your near ancestors were witches. Women mostly, but men also, were kitchen, hedge and hearth witches, they were water diviners, weather predictors, and tillers of soil. Whether they called themselves such or not, their ways were the ways of the witch, they worked with the seasons, natural elements and physics. They practiced folk remedies and cures with plants and herbs. They tossed salt over their shoulders, hung symbols in their homes, planted their gardens and harvested their crops by the moons. Some of their traditions were part of a religious faith, but not all of them were. They lived with an understanding and working knowledge of the physical world around them.

Witch, as we know it, is a word and concept that was created by the early patriarchal religions of the world to wrest the power of a relationship to the natural world, divinity and faith, and cultural belief, from the hands of the masses. Power was shifted to the governing body of the church. Pagans were simply the unlearned, unbaptized country folk in the beginning—the simple folk. Most often, when they were persecuted, tortured and murdered, it was for ulterior agendas (such as property and land grabs) or out of ignorant fear.

As I said in an earlier post, my practice of witchcraft is a reflection of my reverence for the Divine signature in all living things, especially humanity. It is an ongoing effort to rise above ego and seek the greater good. My practice is rooted in the simple faith that there is something bigger than myself, bigger than humanity, bigger than this life as we know it. It doesn’t matter what I call it or how I aspire to connect with it, because when I do, when any witch does, we are woke to the knowledge that God and Love are one and the same.

Blessed be and journey well.

Click here to read Simple Witchery — Part 2


Historical Trauma Is Not A Free Pass for Creating More Harm

Reaching for the LightI belong to a lot of online communities, among them groups for writers, groups for artists, and groups for spiritual seekers. I mention these three because they come together in a hybrid practice of seeking deeper relationship with the Divine as we each know it, through creative expression.

Like other communities (both online and off) dealing with endeavors in creative and intellectual spirituality, there are sometimes concerns over cultural appropriation. Those advocating against dipping into and borrowing from culture practices not your own, encourage seekers to dig down and find their own roots, find the traditions of their heritage and culture, and practice in alignment. To do otherwise causes harm to cultures that have been historically oppressed and/or enslaved, suffered cultural genocide and/or are disadvantaged in a marketplace where white European descendants are more favored and white privilege gives advantages non-whites do not enjoy.

If you want to better understand cultural appropriation with good examples , read Pulitzer Prize Winning author’s, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Arguments Over The Appropriation of Culture Have Deep Roots.

As might be expected, there is room for disagreement and misunderstanding at every level. What exactly is appropriation? How does it cause harm? What about freedom to practice the religion or spirituality of my choice?

One example, that of Indigenous Americans’ ritual of smudging, has been talked about in every group community I belong to (note that burning herbs and incense to purify person, spirit or space is found in many cultures from ancient times to modern).

In popular culture, we think of smudging as burning sage in an abalone shell, using an eagle feather to move the smoke. But there is much more to the Native American practice of purification, including the use of not only sage, but sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar for different purposes. 

If you are not of Native American bloodlines, or were not specifically taught the practice by a Native American, it is considered appropriation to smudge in this fashion. To do so without understanding the deeper meanings and various uses does not honor the practice. Widespread practice without proper knowledge dilutes the deeper meaning. Appropriating and sharing the practice as a teacher or facilitator, even writing about it results in profit or gain, whether financially or simply by building credentials.ricky-turner-585075-unsplash (1)

I will disclose here that I have Native American (matrilineal) bloodline, Ojibwe. Though not a percentage sufficient to be enrolled in a tribe, I have been taught by a tribal member how to smudge and gifted the tools to do so. Still, what does it matter if I make that declaration? I can’t prove it. I don’t carry around a gold edge certificate stating I received the right instruction, or that I was named by an elder and welcomed by the community, nor that I participate in spiritual ceremony with them. I can’t credit my indigenous mentors when I perform the ceremony (as is often suggested) because they are private people, they don’t want their names bandied about social media or in public. Even if I were to give names of teachers, few people outside the tribal community would know who they are.

I don’t look Ojibwe. If I’m smudging outside of my personal practice and I’m questioned about appropriation, I can answer honestly that I followed the respectful path. But, so can anybody who hasn’t followed a respectful path—how is it to be proved or disproved?

Unless we want to go so far as saying that cultural practices shall only be performed by those that are obviously (visibly) of said culture as to not question their heritage, there is no way to regulate it. I don’t think anybody wants to travel down the slippery slope of entitlement or restriction per cultural identity.

This is just one example of the a chasm of ambiguity that troubles me. Any online group or community can urge right practice, they can urge refraining from cultural appropriation, teachers and facilitators can lead by example, but when compliance depends on making assumptions about another’s cultural heritage, how do we rightly proceed? Will those of us putting ourselves out there as mentors, teachers, and leaders all wear armbands issued from some authority designating what we may and may not practice?

artem-bali-572467-unsplash.jpg

The thing is, there are no cultural or spirituality police in this country or within the online community—at least not any with actual authority for enforcement. Nobody is going to come break down my door and confiscate all of my herbs, my sage or incense, crystals, prayer beads, or rosaries. It won’t happen even if I’m teaching others. The choice not to engage in cultural misappropriation is entirely individual and depends entirely on the honor system—and enforcement (even attempted) is in direct opposition to honor.

As it stands now, within the online community, public conversations among and about teachers and facilitators who fall short of the desired standards in enforcing right cultural practice, often become heated, burning with accusation, demands that offender apologize and indignant flouncing.

Followers and students often have front row seats to the facilitator wars. Not good. It’s like sitting in the faculty lounge watching administration and teachers in a heated battle over classroom policy. As an online student, I have witnessed while one faction of self appointed cultural police have so harangued another over the title an imagery used in her marketing material, that she was forced to take the course down, even after making changes and apologizing.

The woman in question makes her living offering online classes and workshops, and was effectively hamstrung by her competitors, in the name of right practice. I am left wondering what is right about that?

In the example of smudging, I’ve seen many students sickened with shame and fear that they are doing something wrong if they practice cross cultural rituals in the privacy of their own home. Others are angered by what feels a whole lot like policing of the faith-based practices in which they can and cannot engage.

Teachers and facilitators, even thought leaders and bloggers, have an obligation to their students and followers and should take care to tread lightly in the territory of personal values and standards. The challenge is drawing clear lines between encouraging right practice among peers, and imposing personal values on impressionable students and followers.

Likewise, those offering their knowledge and skills  must take care they don’t fall under the spell of their own hubris; honestly there is no way to prove right or wrong in these issues and teachers who claim to know the only right way in matters as ambiguous as personal values are treading into troubled waters. Again using cultural appropriation as an example, how do we know that the increasing emphasis on bloodline entitlement, isn’t going to lead to even deeper division, harassment, and increasingly violent spaces?  

Even beyond values and right practice, in seeking to learn the pre-Christian spiritual practices of our ancestors, who of us knows the entirety of our cultural roots? My 95 year old patriarchal Auntie just received her DNA profile. There is only a small sliver of her pie that is not South Central European—and she knows her mother and father came to the U.S. from the same village in Yugoslavia. But you need only read the history of the multiple invasions of Slavic people throughout the centuries, or for that matter look at my own daughter and a nephew, who are often mistaken to be of Middle Eastern heritage, or my cousin with her very almond eyes, to realize Balkan people carry a rich mix of ancestry from East of their historical borders.

Further, my patriarchal name, though likely a boggled Americanization of something more Slavic, hints at an Irishman in the mix. Even if Auntie’s DNA seems to disprove this, who knows for sure? One contribution of Irish DNA several generations back, would become pretty watered down in all that Slavic blood. Yet, like my daughter, nephew and cousins who are visual throwbacks to ancient ancestors, could there not be spiritual throw backs as well? A family member unexplainably drawn to Celtic tradition?

Additionally, we must consider the incidence of non-biological children by adoption, and those by donor eggs or sperm. While were at it, lets not forget children born of secret liaisons and, yes, rape. It would seem, then, that if we are strongly attracted to a spiritual practice we have no apparent connection to, there may be (so called) good reason for it and we should be left to follow what our gut, or blood, is telling us.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is a certain irony in all of this; spiritual seekers are generally quite accepting of the ideas of collective consciousness, Akashic records and even reincarnation, you’d think they’d also be accepting of being drawn to a cultural practice otherwise unrelated to present characteristics.

And let’s not discount the power of capitalism to influence the American Gestalt. We are experiencing a shift of consciousness, falling under the thrall of yet another feat of marketing magic. Test your DNA, find out who you really are! Trade in your lederhosen for a kilt. It seems we have gone from holding unity as an ideal, to becoming the much more interesting, flag bearing embodiment of our separate cultures. I suggest proceeding with caution. Go ahead and test your DNA if you’re curious, but not to use as a weapon in the war over who gets to rightfully smoke a peace pipe, or play a bagpipe.

If you are an online teacher, facilitator or thought leader working hard to establish and maintain an ethical standard among your peers, I respect and appreciate that, but please, don’t overlook the potential pitfalls. And please stop soft selling what is a very militant movement by saying people are being called in, not out. It may start as a call into the fold, but as soon as there is non-compliance, it quickly becomes a calling out and sometimes a tearing down —own that, don’t neutralize it to make yourself feel better about what you’re doing. 

When engaged in a controversial topic, stop counting those likes on your comments—accept that being in the majority on social media posts might represent a false endorsement, because those who don’t agree are either afraid to speak up or have simply grown weary of being dismissed out of hand and just scroll on by.

Admit that you are using your loud voice (because we all know what a loud voice is online even without the shouty caps), and that doing so along with with the many other loud voices of dogged insistence comes across as intimidation, regardless of the intention—own that, too. Do not soften it by calling it educating. I wouldn’t stand for an educator treating any student that way in a brick and mortar classroom.

If you, or others you know offer sound advice and information in the comments of social media posts, please refrain from later declaring that some people deserve to be paid via their Patreon or other similar monetizing sites for their contribution to the conversation. I have been a consultant in the business world. Would that I could drop facts and helpful information on people, completely unsolicited, and then send them a bill for payment.

This is not to say those who are offering insights don’t have valuable information worth monetary compensation, but perhaps a more professional approach would better serve their cause and their credibility. “I believe I have some helpful information. Here’s a link to my site with info on my experience and credentials, my hourly fees, and a payment link. If (X-number) of donations are made (or X-dolllar amount reached) I will join in the conversation.” Barring that, understand that any advice given is given freely. If he conversation doesn’t go your way and the game is no longer fun, you can’t demand payment for your ball before taking it home. 

And can I just say, if you are an expert working in your field, you should be too busy actually working to spend a day repeatedly commenting on social media.

Not that giving a tip, or buying a coffee should be off the table, we can all use the little extra income. Likewise there is a better way to encourage others to do the same“Hey, peeps. I was recently in a discussion where (name) dropped some real pearls of wisdom on us and I’m visiting (site) to buy her a a cup of coffee.” 

Finally, if you are taking it upon yourself to facilitate groups, please understand the weight of your responsibility regarding impressionable students and followers. Consider providing a concise, written/downloadable/printable statement, easily accessible in your marketing materials and also provided by email at course sign-up, listing your values, standards, and expectations in your online classrooms. Consider directing students to a well written, easily digested explanation of cultural appropriation (and anything else of import). Encourage them to do their own work, inform themselves and make their own decisions on right practice.

When debate arises within your own community of leaders and facilitators, please do not carry it over into your instructional spaces. If you feel you must make a statement, because you previously endorsed an individual or program you no longer wish to recommend, keep it simple—”I am no longer endorsing (teacher/program) because she doesn’t align with my values regarding (xyz).” Refer students and others with questions back to your provided statement of values and standards, and remind them that they have to do their own work and arrive at their own decisions.

Finally, given the room for so many unknowns in cultural heritage, please consider the fact that as altruistic and ardent as you may be in the cause, there is a huge potential for turning your passion into a bully pulpit, regardless of all good intention. Understand that we are all on individual journeys to spiritual fulfillment, and there are many different points along the way, some of us are more ready for the hard work than others. Each of us should have a wide array of online class choices to meet our current need when we are paying for personal enrichment.

Remember, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Your students will find you and you them.

As for myself, I stand firm in my conviction that past harm is not a carte blanche excuse for creating more of the same. Today’s bloodline entitlement is tomorrow’s discrimination. If all we manage to change is which culture or group is being oppressed or restricted in their choices, then there is no change at all. It is not progress and it is not healing

*          *          *          *          *          *

Comments for this post are disabled—not because I’m avoiding dissenting opinions, nor did I write this for any ego boost derived from “likes” and positive comments. I’m not allowing comments because I don’t want this to become another showcase for the problematic behaviors that concern me.

I also want to thank those who have informed my understanding of cultural appropriation thus far (there is always more to learn), and those whose ethics classes gave me solid foundations, but I’m not going to name any—you know who you are, you are doing your work and you are encouraging and allowing me to do mine.


When Good Is Good Enough

woman-1207671_640

I have been the MAD Goddess for so long now I have to dust off my math skills to figure out that this alter ego, the Middle Aged Mouthpiece in me, has been around for almost half my life.

At early 30-something I was, maybe, inching my toes into the stream of midlife. Never-the-less, the MAD Goddess voice was strong and she had a lot to say about aging while female in our American society. She still does at 60.

I may have been young in years then, but I felt old emotionally, if not physically. I had aging parents, three children and a husband. I worked part-time and honed my writing skills in whatever minutes were left over. I was always in the middle of something and being pulled in more directions than I cared to follow.

I came of age during the first wave of women told we could have it all. I’ve often said women were not having it all, so much as we were doing it all; and most of the time we were doing it all by ourselves, despite spouses and extended family.

For women in two career households, there might have been extra money for living the good life, whatever that might be. But more often than not, it ended up being spent on childcare and hired help to do the domestic chores—formerly housework, still largely women’s work.

Even now we continue struggling to figure out the pros and cons of all this upward mobility, and don’t even get me started on how the prevalent middle class dream paints a pretty picture of white-privilege America, while brushing over the class subjugation of people of color.

But there is something else on my mind today. Prompted by a social media post, it’s something I’ve been noodling over for a while now. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome, the idea that we have to undergo personal transformation to be shiny, happy, better people than we are.

As with much in our society, there is a money trail to follow. The pursuit of perfection is big business in America. We’re told daily that we must have perfect, white smiles, fit bodies, eat super-foods, wear dazzlingly laundered clothes, live in Pinterest-perfect homes and shit in sparking toilet bowls.

If it isn’t bigger, better, new or improved, it isn’t good enoughAnd that includes us. So, not surprisingly, with the arrival of middle age for the women who’d been doing it all, came a new industry—personal reinvention. Now that he kids were at least old enough to be somewhat self-reliant, possibly even old enough to leave home, middle class women had a sliver of time on their hands and money in their designer bags.

Instead of forking out their hard-earned cash for child care, they could hand it over for courses of self reflection and personal development that encouraged them to re-imagine their life, presumably one that was better than their current situation. There was a lot of misdirected belly button gazing going on, a lot of faux spiritual connection and self-care than translated to spa services. We were all supposed to come out virtually glowing with the outward perfection of inner enlightenment.

As the MAD Goddess, I was on that bandwagon for a while. I became a certified personal coach, a midlife midwife. I developed a four step process for achieving desired, measurable outcomes, whether a client wanted something as straightforward as finding a better job, or as esoteric and finding deeper purpose.

Being the rebel that I am, or that the MAD Goddess in me is, I focused my coaching on finding the right fit, not changing to fit in. I didn’t work with clients to reinvent or reimagine themselves, as if they were somehow inherently flawed or a broken thing that needed to be repaired. Instead, I encouraged them to rediscover who they’d always been,  to remember what gave them joy—or at least satisfaction if joy wasn’t in their emotional took kit. I led them in returning to their core values and embracing good enough.

Self improvement is not a bad thing. I think we all secretly desire to be better in some aspects. I’d like to be a better artist, I want to play an instrument, I want to write a best-selling novel, I’d like to eat healthier, be more physically active, and dress better. I think I should be a more patient wife, a less demanding mother and a more involved grandmother.

Some of those desires are to please me, and some are to please others.  The motivation behind both is the desire to meet some standard of my own design that is a combination of gut feeling and what I’ve been spoon fed to believe. Bottom line? I believe I should make changes that would presumably make me a more likable and lovable person to others. Pressure!

One thing about moving from middle age into Crone, is that I’ve stopped obsessing over what others think of me, if they like/love me or not. My circle of loved ones is growing smaller all the time, because I no longer have the inclination for wearing many masks or doing the exhausting work of pleasing everybody.

Because I love my husband and kind of want him to stick around and keep loving me, becoming more patient and understanding is worth the effort it takes. Same with going a little softer on my daughters and being a more hands on grandma. And as much as I like being all hermity, writing, painting, gardening, foraging and wildcrafting with plants and herbs (basically being village witch), I nudge myself to make time for my friends, because they are an important part of my life that I don’t want to lose.

And here’s the thing, these people who I love and who love me, they know my house is a mess most times, they know I’m a sort of absent-minded professor too focused on my projects, they know I’m mostly low energy and would much rather sit on the deck and share a bottle of wine these days, than go out to make a show of having fun.

These people don’t care that I’ll never play an instrument, that my art is mediocre or that my novel didn’t make any lists, let alone best seller. I’m good enough for them just the way I am.

More and more, I’m finding I’m good enough for me.

 


%d bloggers like this: