Thursday, September 28, 2017

9 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Water Down Witchcraft





   For whatever reason this morning my Facebook feed was filled with some interesting links to “articles” about Witchcraft.  They featured pictures of women with their eyes closed, face frozen in a state of ecstasy and arcane power.  Like they know the secrets of the universe and its all moving through their bodies in one giant sexy Witch orgasm that reveals the secrets of the universe by osmosis.  And to be honest they are my biggest pet peeve, and you’ve probably seen them too if you are Pagan and have the internet. 9 Reasons Why You Are A Natural Witch.  8 Reason Why Being An Empath Makes You Wolverine.  5 Reasons Why Being Psychic Means You Are Destined to Save the World From the Rapture, and similar nonsense.  Harmless right? The problem is I see people accepting these things as legitimate statements about Witchcraft, and statements and images they need to attach to their identity as a Witch.  The images attached to these articles are always the same and project a certain stereotype a lot of modern Pagans feel they need to imitate or fit into.  I see a lot of folks who feel they need to always project an air of zen harmony, or buy all the “right” Witchy clothes to be taken seriously.  They have to be like the women in those picture that have the secrets of the universe whispered to them and are all powerful in their lives.  And that is not Witchcraft at all.  Sometimes the whispered secrets of the universe shatter you so hard you have to rebuild the pieces of your life as they lay on the floor.  Sometimes your best use of your craft as a Witch is when you don’t have all the answers and your life is anything but zen.  Sure I have ritual clothes but half the time I do ritual or magick in a T-Shirt and jeans.   

   Now don’t get me wrong. I like mindless internet fun on occasion too.  I’ve done those silly quizzes that tell you what Egyptian Goddess you, or which mystical animal is your Patronus (I’m pretty sure mine is Deadpool, or at very least Xena’s love child with Deadpool).  So aren’t these other article just the same thing? At first glance they might be, but how we portray Witchcraft both to the world and among ourselves is important.  Because just like words have power images do too.  Is this the image of a Witch we want to create and inspire? I think not.    

So I thought I’d put together my own list: 9 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Water Down Witchcraft



1. It Makes Things That Shouldn’t Be Taboo, Taboo:

  I’ve talked about declawing war gods, well this is declawing witchcraft - you need the dark too. Hexing, cursing, defensive magick, blood magick, and even warding to some degree are becoming increasingly taboo to talk about much less practice in modern Paganism.  These are practices that have been a part of Witchcraft and magick in general from its very beginnings.  Sometimes magick is about leveling the playing field and giving those with no other means of doing so to invoke justice or simply defend themselves.  If you don’t think ancient people used curses, there is a plethora of archaeological evidence that proves otherwise.  The curse tablets found at the temple of Sulis-Minerva are very interesting.  All I can say is don’t steal pants in the ancient world, or people will curse your ass.   These are all practices that you might not often use but are worth understanding the mechanics of.  You might need them someday down the road, or you might be on the receiving end and need to know how to handle it.  No knowledge is ever wasted.      
 

 2. Love & Light isn’t Balance:  
   Life is hard. And sometimes it just outright sucks. People go through difficult times and situations.  It’s part of living, and if we are lucky we can learn and grow from the darkest parts of our lives.  But when we portray Witches as always being in a state of all knowing bliss, it sends the wrong message.  It says that being broken is bad, not having life figured out is a failure.  It’s not.  Not even the gods have everything figured out.  The goddess Akhilandeshvari whose name means “Never Not Broken” is portrayed with her body shattered into many pieces. She is constantly reforming, and fitting the pieces back together into something new.  When we stigmatize darkness, and try to always be positive we will ignore the gritty difficult things we need to work through in life. Ignored problems, and not solved problems. And our spirituality of choice should foster us through such times. When we teach people it’s not ok to have these emotions people become afraid to show they need help or have life issues. 
 

3. Hard Work isn’t Sexy Buts its Reality:

 Master your craft. Mediate every day, do something magickal every day, do daily devotionals, whatever it is. Practice your craft, to master your craft.  There is no such thing as 9 easy steps to becoming a Witch. It takes work and time.  Being an empath, seeing spirits and visions arent some cool mutant power that doesn’t make you all knowing.  From experience, I can say being an empath means you need to really master your skills at energy work. Seeing sprits or feeling the emotions of other isn’t always fun or easy.  These are things that can take a lifetime to master, require daily work. 

4. Do You Want to Be a Dress Up Witch Or A Real Witch?:

Images of those ecstatic women should not be seen as empowering, sometimes Witchraft is doing what is needed on a dime and on a moment’s notice, it requires practicality and sometimes its done when you are crying and snotting on the floor and a real mess. It’s not pretty, and it’s not supposed to be.  You don’t need to look pretty to be a Witch, or have fancy occult clothes and jewelry.  Those things can be used to get your mind into a different state, but ultimately you are the source of power that drives your Will and magick.  It is you that are speaking to the Gods, not your fancy wand.  I like bling as much as the next Pagan but all the bling in the world isn’t going to make you better at your craft.  In the end dress up Pagans don’t integrate their spirituality into their life, it’s just to feel good.

 

5. Being a Witch Isn’t About Being All Powerful, or Always Knowing the Right Answer:

  This is kind of a follow up to some of the above points.  When our mental image of a legit Witch is based on these images of Witches dressed to the nines seeming zen wisdom from their every pore it attracts followers and students to the wrong people.  Because there are people out there who put on that exact image to draw people in.  People who want to manipulate others and can be dangerous.  The cult of ego is very real and when people put teachers on pedestals, it can be hard to take them off those pedestals when they realize they are just human too; when the cult of ego is harmful and not really about teaching but rather to make the predator feel empowered.   

   Remember that your teachers are human too, they make mistakes, they aren’t all knowing so don’t expect them to be.  Think for yourself, and recognize the cult of ego when you see it.  Witchcraft isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about finding them along the journey and making them a part of your life.

6.   If We Start Taming Our Craft We Will Start Taming Our Gods:

 I’ve talked about this in other blogs and I think to some degree this is already happening.  When we shun the darker aspects of life and ourselves we in turn try to make aspects of our Gods less threatening.  We refuse to see them from what they are.  We can see this with the general taboo nature of dark gods, or gods connected to battle.  Just because we are uncomfortable with battle does make Ares any less a war deity.  And even if we don’t go off to actual warfare now it doesn’t mean he can’t teach us valuable lessons.  It’s only the surface of what he, and other dark, Gods embody.  What it does not mean is somewhere along the way Ares was demonized and turned from a god of picking wild flowers into a mean god of war that we can now tame back into his hippy flower picking ways.  It’s just not how this works, it’s not how any of this works. 


7. Witchcraft Isn’t Something You Do, It’s A Way Of Living:

This is a big one. Being a Witch is something your become, and at the end of the process it’s a part of your everyday life. It’s not an alter ego you put on when it’s the full moon or just on Wednesdays.  After all the revelations, mystical rituals, classes, there is a point where you need to run all the threads through your own life and make it your own.  The first time you experience ritual or feel the presence of a God can be mind blowing, then the next step is to make it part of the ordinary.  You wake up in the morning, put pants on, pour whiskey to the gods, say a daily devotion, go to work deal with your boss, etc etc.  It’s not separate from your life.  



8. Trivializing Magick Diminishes It:

I find it really surprising when a magickal practitioners is shocked that their magick works, or that dealings with Gods can have consequences.  Yes, magick is real. Yes, the Gods are real.  Trivializing your magick is a sure way to either not get the results you expected or for you to have spent a whole lot of time and energy shaping you Will and energy to just make it go poof.  If you don’t believe it’s real, guess what, it’s probably not going to work that well.  After all your beliefs and thoughts are what is shaping it.  Trivializing the Gods can have far worse consequences, anything from you realizing how very real the deity actual when your life turning upside down or having them turn their backs on you. No one wants to talk to someone who doesn’t even believe they are real in the first place.  



9.  Magick Isn’t Attention Seeking:

  There is a reason why it’s called occult after all.  Magick is between you and the gods, and the forces of nature, spirits, or whatever else you might be connecting and working with.  It’s not entertainments, or a stage show.  It’s something that should improve your life and your relationships with the world around you.  It’s not 9 easy steps, or 9 signs that you are Dumbledore. What is your goal?  Why do you want to be a Witch?  If it’s to post pictures and memes to either make people afraid of you or envious of you, then you’ll just be the same person you always have been just with a veneer of crystals and arcane symbols.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cauldrons in the Dishwasher: Devotion in Action


   This will be a short post, as I’m writing it in an underground bunker at the moment.  Well not exactly a bunker, but we are below the ground surrounded by poured concreate. Maybe we can call it the Raven Lair.  I’m lucky enough to have a partner who’s job both requires him to ride out hurricanes at work (making sure everything stays running) but also welcomes family and pets to ride out the storm in a safe location complete with generator, water and snacks.  Maybe the internet will hold out long enough for me to finish this blog post.

  This week has been a long one of watching the weather channel and getting a crash course in armature meteorology.  So as a category 5 hurricane barrels across Puerto Rico and Cuba, and heads toward my home in Florida along with all the other mundane hurricane preparations of boarding up windows and filling water cubes and the bath tub, there have been other less mundane preparations happening as well.  Libations poured, offerings made, advice asked for and received. Now that everything is done and we are set up in the Lair, safe and waiting for the storm to do whatever it is going to do, I realize just how important my devotional work is to me.  How interwoven and vital it is to my life.  In between organizing food stores in the pantry I light the candle on the Dagda’s sprawling altar.  It was much smaller at one point, and I had this incredulous image in my head of him with a raised eyebrow saying “Really? Me. I’m going to fit in this tiny space”. He has an entire shelf now, his items somehow have become sprawled out like that person who is a bed hog and just stretches and takes over the whole space.  I pour him whiskey and ask Him to stand between us and danger.  His cauldron which is a resin replica is fragile so I put it in the dishwasher so if anything does get through the windows it is safe.  I saw a post online about putting photos and things you want to keep safe or from water damage in the dishwasher.  Other people are putting photo albums in there, me I’m storing God Bling for safe keeping.

   We board up the windows and later that night I make offering to Hekate to guard the boundaries, to protect this place and those who dwell here.  Each morning I made offering to the Great Queen, going through my usual prayer cycle and adding to it a prayer for protection written by Morgan Daimler.  There are other offerings made, to Oya, to Brighit, and to all the Gods I have a deep relationship with.  Its as vital to me and the practical things we are doing to prepare for the storm.  Their voices are familiar, the prayers I say are familiar too, because I speak them often, they are a regular part of my life.  And I realize how important these relationships are to me.  

   Devotional practice is often a difficult subject to describe to others. By its very nature it is a very personal practice and each individual will go about it in a myriad of ways.  In the end its all about building a relationship with the divine.  Its not a 1-800 number to the divine vending machine, and its not a number you dial only when you need something.  Building a relationship with a deity is a rewarding experience.  Just like any other relationship you learn to recognize Their voice, likes and dislikes. The strength of that bond is carried with you in everything that you do.

  Devotional work, our relationships with the Gods, should be something that sees us through hard times.  Its not just there on Mabon or Samhain etc, or the next Pagan festival.  Its there all the time, fulfilling us, urging us onward and sustaining us as only the Gods can.


   

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Halidom of Macha: Oaths on the Point of a Blade


"Fergus said: ‘By the point of my sword,
halidom of Macha, swiftly shall we wreak vengeance.."
-Tain Bo Cuailgne

   The topic of oaths has been on my mind lately.  There are many different kinds of oaths, and none should be entered into lightly.  The oaths we take often can shape our lives, our relationship to the Gods, and the very core of ourselves.  Because once spoken, they can never be unspoken.  They weave threads through our lives and choices.

   This past Morrigan’s Call Retreat myself and a few priestesses were asked to facilitate a private dedication ceremony for a member of Morrigu’s Daughters.  I loved how we all came together to create something meaningful and beautiful for that person.  Challenges were met, and one of the items used in the ceremony was a sword that I had sworn my own oaths on, with the blade point resting again my chest.   That sword has a story of its own.  If our little tribe of Morrigan devotees have our own magickal treasures, like the Tuatha De, this sword would be one of them.  You can check out Morgan Daimler’s blog posts about its creation which literally involves being forged in a storm (http://lairbhan.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-story-of-sword.html) 

   In the Tain there is a line about Fergus making an oath on a sword dedicated to Macha (again see Morgan’s blog for more about this) and it reminds me very much of that sword and my experience with it. I’ve seen people make grand oaths during ritual, oaths that are forgotten shortly after, not unlike new year resolutions, and then soon after they find their life is in an uproar and don't understanding why.  In my experience the Gods expect us to make good on our promises, especially ones made in a sacred way.

  I’ve made oaths during initiation rituals and when I dedicated as a priestess, but I think the one that has truly impacted me the most, shapes my life and myself by holding true to it, is the one I made upon that golden sword forged in a storm and dedicated to Macha.

  Here is part of something I wrote about the experience after that first retreat.   

   The candles flicker in the small room, a gentle glow that illuminates the golden polished bronze of the sword pointed at my heart.  The bite of its point against my skin feels so welcoming, and I would impale myself upon it if I could.  Not in a real sense, but there is power there, flowing from the woman who holds it fast in her hands, and I would soak it in.  I would let it fill me, no matter the danger. So I hold my arms out welcomingly, and lean towards the danger, because I am not standing before a mortal woman anymore, but a goddess. 

  After a devotional ritual to Macha deep in the woods of Massachusetts the rest of our companions had returned to their cabins and tents, while myself and two of the priestesses who had facilitated the ritual returned to the little screened in building we had created as a temple to the Morrigan and her many guises for our stay in the woods.  The camp we were staying at had been using it as a mediation area, up high on top of the mountain, and that is where we had hauled our altars, swords, and statues for the Great Queen.  And I’m not even sure how we managed to make it up the small dirt path, that we had been jokingly calling a “goat trail”, in the dark after an exhausting ritual.  But we did.  Nothing is easy with the Morrigan, at least not at first.  

   During the ritual one of the priestesses had channeled the Morrigan in her guise as Macha, and we had called for those who wished to speak to Macha to come forward to meet Macha’s challenge and offer her their oaths if they wished.  I had felt the need, but resisted.  I was helping facilitate the ritual, I was there to help the others move through the ritual.  And that is how we have ended up here, in her temple, just the three priestesses, in the dark.  Because there is more to say and more to be heard.  The ritual isn’t over.  Not until the Morrigan says it is.  And when I look into my friend’s eyes they are not her own, there is a vast wild depth to them.  I am almost afraid to be caught too long in their gaze, but I resist looking away all the same.  Her voice has a new familiar edge to it, I have heard that voice in my dreams.   And she seems taller, perhaps the only time I have ever felt short next to my friend who is easily a head shorter than myself. 

   Those eyes look at me expectantly and I say my oath, three in fact.  Three promises that would shape the course of my life and practices for the next several years, and I have no doubt will continue to.  Because once said an oath can’t be unsaid, it’s as binding as steel.  And then the Morrigan speaks, and there is truth and warning in her words.  And prophesy, always prophesy.         

   The Great Queen spoke for a long time that night.  Afterwards we sat exhausted on the wood floor of the temple.  Candle light illuminating her statues, my friend drained but back in possession of her own body again, the bronze sword returned to its sheath.  The sounds of our friends’ laughter further down in the woods calling us back to the normal world.  But the Morrigan’s words stayed with me. The feel of her blade pressed against my breast remained. 

   It would not be until a few years after that I fully understood all of what she had said or the path that my own words would set me on. That night in the woods I made what was both a heartfelt vow and one that I foolishly thought I could easily keep.  I stood before the Morrigan and vowed to fight for my own happiness.  Simple right? Well I thought so.  I wasn’t happy with many of the circumstances or people in my life.  And some part of me felt, if I just did the right spell, asked the right deity to help me, it would be easy to fix.  All the puzzle pieces that I was desperately trying to force to fit together would magically connect with ease. Or perhaps my perspective would change.  I couldn’t really be unhappy with my life, I was just looking at it the wrong way.  I would gain a new perspective, and learn to be content.  Of course that wasn’t the case.  What I had to accept was that what I had to do was turn my life upside down, burn parts of it to the ground and remake myself out of the ashes. I would also make some unpopular choices, but ones that were for my own good, even if others did not like them.  I would leave a long broken relationship.  I found one that nourished and fulfilled me.  I moved and found a better job.  I pulled the dead things out of my soul, and realized I couldn’t please everyone.  That I didn’t need to. Deep powerful magick, doesn’t come without a cost.  Healing festering scars doesn’t happen until you burn the rot out of the wound.  And the process isn’t easy, nor is it without pain. Nor does it happen without criticism.   Yet I don’t regret it. I chose to fight for myself that night. I put myself first.  Not everyone was happy about that, it is amazing the amount of enemies you’ll make when you stop placating people, and when you do what is right for yourself despite the opinions of others. Or when you speak your truth no matter the subject. But I can say that once you have burned your life down to ashes and risen up from them renewed, you’ll never be afraid to do it again.  Because you’ll know exactly how strong you are, you wont put up with the bullshit of others so easily.  You wont be as afraid to have unpopular opinions, because you’ll know yourself, and you wont loose site of who you are as easily. 

    An oath isn’t something you say once and forget, its something we are constantly reaffirming.  Something we are constantly challenged to hold true to.  A constant reaffirming of our devotion to the Gods and ourselves.