Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.


I is for Insanity ala Einstein

One definition of insanity has nothing to do with mental illness:
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
This is the situation a lot of people are in when it comes to the economy and the climate.
Conservatives believe (not know, believe)
"A rising tide lifts all boats." - J.F.K. (mistakenly)
Yet in practice, the "rising tide" lifts only the boats that are seaworthy, and those with leaky boats or no boats at all drown, with no hand in rescue from the people who were born with the money for a good boat.

So they cut taxes, again and again, believing that it will improve the economy and lift people out of poverty. Yet every time the economy struggles even more, and more people end up further down the economic scale - further underwater. Insanity.

A similar form of insanity is expecting everyone to have had the same advantages and opportunities that the average has. These are the guys who are born with boats. A rising tide doesn't hurt them, they just sail away from those who are not in their elite club. But using this type of person as the norm on which to make policy? Insanity.

Global warming and climate change denial is yet one more type of willful insanity. Yeah, guys, the tide is rising, soon your beachfront property will be underwater, and you'll be howling for the government that you despise (and want to drown in a bathtub) to come and fix it.

What does this have to do with pagans?

Turns out a great deal. Most pagans are not the privileged demographic that these policies favor. While pagans have their own problem with the government, primarily due to institutional prejudice based on policies that privilege straight, white, cisgender, protestant, upper-middle class males, the US Constitution does promise us more freedom than we are actually granted by society.

Taking an active interest in government, and keeping the unsavory elements of the corporatocracy out of our lives, pocketbooks and bedrooms is actually a major undertaking. Yet if we don't, if we go off trying to walk outside the system and acting like it doesn't affect us, we should stop being surprised when the different result we expect, leaving us alone to do our thing, doesn't happen.

Turns out that even the most benevolent corporation is focused by its nature on profit, and will use every tricky, dirty and underhanded or not, to boost said profit. To expect anything different is insanity. Leopards don't change their spots. Rules are required to make these constructs/homunculi follow the will of living humans. The rules are called regulations and laws, and they are enforced by the government in the name of the people. But if the people who pass the laws and enforce the regulations are corrupt, or not held accountable by the people to the people, it all breaks down. If the people don't pay attention, are so self absorbed that they don't care to look, the callous actors take advantage, and the construct corporations take control. This is what fascism truly is - the weeding of corporate power to government power, the privatization of government in favor of corporate interests.

The most simple magical act that a person can do to help fight against the insanity is to vote mindfully. Follow the money, consider carefully who you will throw your vote magic behind, and then cast a ballot in every election. This includes the local ones especially.

Most of the Randroid nutjobs (fascists, IMO) in government today are there because they suckered uncaring local elections into putting them into low level offices, and thus start their fundraising capacity. Even if it's for dogcatcher, pay attention to the outlook and statements of your local candidates. Don't let them use your ignorance or apathy to propel themselves into higher office.

Yes, there's a lot more you can do - protest, write letters, make appointments with your local elected representatives, give money to worthy causes and candidates, educate yourself about people who aren't like you, etc. But voting intelligently in local and national elections is basic.

The midterm elections are coming up. Register and remember to vote intelligently. Don't follow the campaign commercial hype or so-called news (after all, Fox won the right in court to broadcast falsehoods as "news", even if it is known by them to not be true.) Do your own digging, search engines are your friend, and work your magic.

Apathy and ignorance are no longer affordable if you want to be free of corporate and politically motivated oppression. You have to take action to preserve your freedom and livelihood.


H is for Homelessness

Several years ago, in my early twenties, I was literally within weeks of being homeless. My car was dead, I was unemployed and almost out of benefits, had been eating rice and ramen for almost 6 months, and I was being evicted from my apartment because they were raising the rent by over $100 a month (30% more), which was more than my UI. I was literally less than a month from losing everything I had. The "public assistance" stuff at that time was only available to women with kids, not able-bodied students.   I already had too many men catcalling me on the streets, following me home from the bus, etc - how the fuck would I survive without even a car to lock myself into? How would I cook, what could I eat or drink?

I had no one to turn to, just my own skill and magic. I had to make some luck, and fast.

I was lucky, I had some magical skill, and a stubborn will.  I spent weeks calling temp services, and working rituals to get a job and apartment.  No fancy shit with robes and props, just focus of my will on what I needed. Action plus magic, with purpose and will.

I found a (temp) job I could get to by transit, and another apartment that I could (just barely) afford. I moved on the last weekend before the end of my notice. All during this time I had no medical insurance, of course, so even when I trashed my ankle a few months later, I just ace bandaged it, stayed home from work for two days (unpaid) and took lots of ibuprofen.

But I will never forget, staring into a dingy bathroom mirror on a soon to be overpriced slum apartment (complete with roaches), telling myself I would never let myself get that desperate again. Another "spell", and one I remember and reinforce every time I think about it.

Ever since then, I've always had a few months of food "in case". I've always tried to keep a car that I could sleep in, if I had to. I always had "camping gear" available, ready to hand. I've always had a plan B, plan C, and plan D, and fret if I don't. I have my magical senses tuned to the flow of the world around me.  Mundane action, and magical awareness.

I always will.

I wasn't raised a few weeks away from homelessness. I was middle class, professional parents, raised a good little Christian girl, etc.  But that was before Ronald Reagan was president, and the shredding of the safety net., and the rise of the institutional hypocrisy of the Religious Right.

So every time someone shits on the homeless, I take it personally. That could have been me, but for a job from a temp agency. The only difference, in a lot of cases, is that they never got that call, never had the magic or the luck.  They didn't have the magical skill to bend probability just a little bit. 

Two of my roommates were homeless before they moved in with me. Both veterans.

I don't go on marches and all of that. But my friends know that if they're a bit short on food, if I've got something they can use to eat, it's theirs for the asking. If someone needs a couple months crash, if I've got room, they can have a roof for a while, but not necessarily forever.

I will not vote for a Republican who is heir to anything resembling Reagan's "legacy".

No matter how much I make, no matter how high I rise, a part of me will always be a terrified twenty-something looking at living on the street with nothing, desperately working every type of magic I knew to change my situation.



G is for Growth

Hey, it's spring! Shit is starting to bloom, people are putting in gardens, pollen is making people miserable. Stuff is growing!!

The question is, are you?

No, I don't mean gaining height, or even girth. I mean inside.

In many traditions, winter is a time of contemplation and reflection, an inactive time where we reflect on the year past, and what we want to do in the future. The custom of new years resolutions is one facet of that.

But as magical practitioners we do a little more that vow to go to the gym more often, or pay more on our credit cards. We pay attention to what is going on with our selves, our dreams, and our relationships to the universe around us.

Sure, it's easy to vow to meditate more often, or do yoga, or make more frequent offering to our gods, but that actually involves no introspection or inner change.

Everyone, at least everyone who has been a pagan for at least a few years, should be aware of themselves, their good points and bad points. But have you accepted the stuff that's there? Are you still thinking of yourself as this nice person who treats the world with fairness and goodness all the time? Are you aware of the things that trigger the not so nice parts of your personality? Are you still associating with toxic people and places? Are you still lying to yourself about the world around you?

Surprisingly enough, the practice of magic has a grounding in reality. You can't know what is changed if you don't know what is there now. The biggest area of pitfall for a mage is to not truly know yourself. Your will and your intention are your most powerful tools. If you have stuff that you have hidden from your conscious mind, it will still be present in your will and your intention subconsciously, and can lead to very unintended consequences. Self sabotage is the most common form of failure.

So the process of self knowledge and self control is one of personal growth.

This doesn't mean that you are supposed to control how the world around you affects you, because in truth you can't. It means that you know what things trigger what reactions in you, and how you deal with the reaction.  Fighting words are still fighting words, but you can control whether you associate with people who set you off. It means that you can understand why some things irritate you, and take steps to avoid the sources of that irritation.

When you know yourself, your triggers, and your reactions to the world around you, you can learn to evaluate if people or situations are likely to set you off, and then avoid it, diffuse it, or even prevent it. Knowledge is power. Once you start to have that self knowledge, you have more choices, and more control over your situation, more warning of potential pitfalls.

Everyone has internal conflicts. Part of personal growth is reconciling and resolving those conflicting desires and feelings. Yeah, you'll get more as you go through life, but if you regularly assess who you are, good and bad, you can regularly re-balance those internal tensions.

In general, a good honest self inventory, good and bad, will go a long way toward making sure that you don't get blind-sided or surprised by your own reactions to the curves that life throws you.

That is growth.


F is for Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
-- "Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear" (Frank Herbert, Dune)

While I never read the later Dune books, and was somewhat annoyed by the earlier ones, this little ditty got me through a lot of scary times. Just the concentration to remember it and recite it five times was enough of a meditation trigger to keep me out of the fear cycle spin-up.

While it was produced in a work of fiction, it still has validity on a Pagan path. Unlike some, I am not unwilling to adapt practices from fiction into my real world life.

Let's take a closer look

  • In the first three lines, the reciter is reminded of why uncontrolled fear is a danger. Essentially, it says that unchecked fear will take over your mind, and become all consuming, paralysing you from action.
  • The fourth and fifth lines are the way out of the trap. Facing it and allowing it to be absorbed, rather than consuming you, will put it into perspective.
  • The final three lines reinforce the triumph of will over fear. You have taken it in, understood it, absorbed it and moved beyond it. You haven't denied its existence, you have taken it inside, let it advise you of any actual dangers, and then let the fear fade to nothing. It's not fear any more, you've faced it and owned it.

What does this mean to pagan practice?

Some traditions practice what I call "Dark Work" - that is to say, exploring and facing some of the darker emotions in our own psyche. The two biggest are generally fear and anger. There is also jealousy, greed, vindictiveness, and a host of other nuances between them. Dark work is done as a part of getting to know, accept and understand your whole self, not just the parts you like or are willing to see. It is not something for beginners, but for those who have entered the personal growth and self knowledge phase of their pagan lives.

The little ditty above is useful as part of a long term method for handling what initially can seem to be an insurmountable piles of fears, terrors and even insecurities. Using it as a meditation can focus you on the steps needed to accept and understand what you are afraid of, and why, and how to face it.

Many fears in our daily lives are rational, but maybe out of proportion to the actual risk. Fear of fire, drive by shooters, auto accidents, airplane accidents, infectious diseases, or even spiders has some basis in rationality at some point in time. It's when they start to interfere with our ability to live, or our ability to understand our selves that we need to pay a closer visit to what causes them. In many cases, a meditation, litany or chant can help us get a handle on them.

It isn't instant. Learning to understand and work through fear is a long term process, and practice makes perfect. To be able to use something like the Bene Gesserit litany above in a crisis you need to have made the habit of using it when things were calm, during introspection. But if you do, you have yet another tool in your arsenal for staying calm in a crisis or situation that would ordinarily paralyze you with fear.

Thanks, Frank.


D is for Dangerous

Last weekend I spent a day at PantheaCon.  I couldn't afford to go to the whole thing, with having to work and all, plus I was feeling rather ambivalent about the "community" as present at the con, and running it.

To me it seems that the community has been taken over by the white-light tone police.  These are the people who admonish you if you post angry blogs, or swear, or point out problems, or are actually angry about things like cultural appropriation and fat shaming in paganism.  They "tsk, tsk" at your "outbursts" that they see as "dangerous" to the community.

"How dare you be angry!  No one will listen to angry people! You have to speak reasonably, with 'love' in your heart. Don't endanger the respect people have for us." is the message I hear in the pagan blogosphere.

Fuck. That. Shit.

If that's what I have to do to be considered part of your little white light, goody two-shoes, social norm enforcing, non-threatening community, then you can take your damned community and shove it up your "my shit doesn't stink" ass!

If we can't, or won't, listen when people are upset about stuff, but feel the need to silence them with tone policing to "preserve harmony", "not be dangerous" or some such bullshit, then I feel we have failed as pagans, as servants of the gods, and as people who can and will change the world.  If we value conformity and "niceness" more than we value truth and fairness, then we're no better than a bunch of Baptist hypocrites.

If that is now our community standard, the silencing of the aggrieved and marginalized until they learn to "talk nicely" about their issues, then we are as bad as the quasi-liberals who want peace and order more than they want justice and change.

If being listened to on the web or at a conference requires us to couch everything in terms of what is pleasing to others to hear, we are actually nothing less than unwilling to hear that which might make us uncomfortable.  Then we become just another "three monkeys" community, not magicians willing to examine ourselves and our lives.  That's the real danger, but people won't see that.

Oh, it's "acceptable" to "peacefully protest" environmental causes, as long as we aren't "angry" about it.  It's "acceptable" to protest the treatment of people who are other than us, like "the homeless", as long as we are "the calm voice of reason and peace".  Meanwhile, we ignore the real economic hardships withing the community, although maybe we'll contribute to a nicely worded Kickstarter. 

What a joke.

We have lost our fire in the rush to become "mainstream". We have lost our will to be angry and change things.  We have lost the ability to accept anger as a valid emotion, and allow it to have healthy outlets - and I don't mean silencing it and trying to meditate it away.  We have become a "respectable" minority, always speaking in uplifting, reasonable words, and have lost our fire and heart.

We. Have. Lost. Our. Soul.

I would challenge people in the pagan blogosphere to write one blog post where they were passionately angry about something, where they saw an injustice that was so totally outrageous that they would swear and rage about it.  Gods only know there is plenty in our world to be angry and outraged about.  Find it, and say it.

Tell the tone police to go fuck themselves, and find your voice again.  Save our community from the "calm voice of reason" and forced cheerfulness.  Post a good, solid rant. Be dangerous.


C is for Comfort Food

Most everyone has their favorite comfort foods, the foods they like to enjoy when they are feeling down, lonely, cold, or stressed.  Part of being pagan to me is being aware of these things, and their place in my life.

Comfort foods are often picked up / set in childhood.  They usually combine familiarity with emotional attachment to the preparation, with a huge helping of yummy on top.  Very often they are cold weather foods, but not always.  Sometimes they are "You're feeling sick? Let me make you some ___" type of folk remedies (chicken soup is a classic for this.)

Comfort foods help fill an emotional niche in our lives - they help us re-connect with happier memories and feelings from our past.  Common American ones I know of are things like mac and cheese, franks and beans, chicken soup, hush puppies, brownies, split pea soup, aroz con leche, etc.

Anyway, here's my recipe for a biiig batch of one of mine:

Split Pea Soup with Ham

8 cups dried split peas
18 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bullion (vegetarian: use vegetable bullion)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 cups sliced carrots (more if you like more carrots)
2 pounds ham, diced (vegetarian: omit this, add more carrots, onions. Don't use TVP or tofu.)

1) Rinse and drain the peas (takes a really big strainer)
2) In at least an 8 quart stock pot (err on the side of bigger), combine rinsed peas, water, and baking soda, and bring to a boil.
3) Skim off the foam into a measuring cup, pouring back the liquid that settles out.  Do this until it doesn't foam, just bubbles.
4) Add bullion, garlic, carrots, and ham.  Return to a boil.
5) Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for an hour, stirring violently no less than every 5 minutes. (Yes, I said violently, keep it swirling to prevent lumps and scorches, you want the peas to fall apart.)
6) Serve and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers.

We prefer to package it in 16 oz portions.  When it cools you can stand a spoon up in it - thin it if that's too thick for you. I don't put celery or celery seed in it - I'm allergic, and so is my mother.  The ham we use is the inexpensive canned hams, and if you are really feeling adventurous, substitute Spam for the ham, but cut it up really small so it blends in well.

This batch should serve 12 or so, if you use 16 oz portions.  The peas we buy in bulk (25 lb bag bulk), so they cost under $1/lb (find the best prices at a restaurant supply, or an east Indian grocer.)  The hams we get for about $5 each (canned), the carrots etc are about $1.  So the whole batch runs about $14, which works out to under $1.20 per serving.   Each serving is roughly 300 calories, 7 grams of fat.

Think about your favorite comfort foods, and maybe make some for the next circle potluck.


Boundaries, Respect Them.

It seems to be a thing, these days, to claim your boundaries are being stepped on while you are actually stepping on someone else's.  Maybe because people don't understand what boundaries are.

If it's crossing your boundaries to allow another person to live their life, you are the one who is wrong.  Personal boundaries aren't about someone else, they are about you and your self.

Pagans often get into this "we have to be one big, happy, tolerant, anything goes community, with emphasis on commune" type of peer-pressure norm, and anyone who doesn't conform is crapped on, or "not a Real™ Pagan".  Sorry folks, but people are entitled to their own lives, space, lifestyles, and opinions.

So no, you don't get to:
  • Walk into my kitchen and judge the food in my cupboards, especially against some boycott list.
  • Police my weight, or how much you think I eat, or whether you think I'm "healthy".
  • Express displeasure with the car I drive, or criticize whether I walk, bike, transit or drive to work.
  • Push to know what work I do, how much I get paid, or what I do with the money I earn.
  • Lecture me about my fashion sense, or lack of same.
  • Wheedle me to have sex, especially with you, because you've decided all pagans must be "Sex Positive™", which you think means fucking all comers on demand.
 None of that shit is your business, and it crosses my boundaries.

Boundaries, then, are how we enforce our personal sovereignty over our own bodies and lives.  They are an extension of the concept of personal space, and govern what others can to with regard to you.  They don't give you permission to stomp on others.  You can't say that someone refusing to have sex with you "violates" your "boundaries".  Boundaries are ultimately the right to say no.

Now, when I do a "woo" working, I set boundaries to my working space.  Again, so no one interferes with my working.  If I'm with a group, the group is included in the boundary.  This type of boundary keeps things in and out.  Good fences make good neighbors and all of that.

Groups, too, have boundaries between themselves and outsiders.  If your personal boundaries and the boundaries common with the group don't mesh well, and the group "norms" trample on your boundaries regularly, that group is wrong for you.  If everybody's boundaries are regularly trampled, the group is just plain toxic.

Part of proficiency in magic(k)al work is knowing your own boundaries, and being willing to enforce them.  While the later sometimes is easier said than done, it is needed to develop a strong will and sense of self.

Bonus exercise: Take a piece of paper, or a text editor, and write down as many of your boundaries as you can think of.  Be as subtle or broad brush as you like.  Think on how you enforce those boundaries, and who has exceptions to them, if any.


A is for Ancestors, Before Us They Came

Many pagan traditions pay at least lip service to ancestors.  But very few realize that we inherit more than our dashing good looks and health problems from them.  We also inherit the society that they built, warts and all.

One of my ancestors was FFV - First Families of Virginia.  Let that sink in to your head for a bit.  If you are at all socially conscious, you are aware that Virginia was a "slave" state, which means my ancestors owned other human beings with the full force of law behind them.  Not a thing to be proud of, and not an attitude that I want to "inherit" or perpetuate.

I can't disavow my ancestors, they were who they were, good and bad.  Part of my pagan path includes honesty with myself, about myself.  Not always a pleasant thing.  I have to acknowledge that I am heir to people who created a society that made other people slaves based primarily on the color of their skin.  Sure, I have other ancestors who came to these shores later, but they had their warts too.

I'm not going to embrace all of the attitudes that they held, or even a large part.  I'm not going to go off and be a whacko white supremacist because my ancestors were European and colonial American slaveholders, who probably participated in the subjugation of Native Americans, too.  But I can't run away from the truth, either, and sweep it all under the rug with "Oh, but that was then, we've all changed now", when the attitudes, stereotypes and systematic racism that they built their society on still persist today.  I inherited their privilege, and I would be ignorant to deny it.

Then, therefore, comes the question: If your tradition has an ancestor reverence component, how do you honor them and atone for the horrible things they did?  Because you do, in many ways, inherit the fallout for the screwed up things that they did.  If you are white, you inherit the white privilege and structural racism that they built their, now our, society on.

This comes into play for everyone, in a large or small way.  All of us have ancestors who weren't perfect, maybe who were criminals, slaveholders, liars, fanatical Christians, whatever.  Our ancestors were human, and had all of the foibles and imperfections that we and our friends have.  Yes, they also have their good points too.

For me, I honor them as who they were, and also consider it my duty to "do better", to be a better person, to help undo any wrongs they have wrought.  Even though I have, and will have, no children, I consider any small increment of improvement that I can contribute to society and the world my gift to the future, to those who would consider me an ancestor in spirit.

I can't undo the harm that my ancestors have done.  The past is fixed. But the future, and the wyrd of the world is still mutable, and I have the will and the magic to change it,even if only slightly.  Accepting this, and being the best I can be, is one way in which I honor my ancestors.  How about you?