Hanging out in Malkuth and other Witchy Things

Hello again.

I know it’s been awhile, but settling in here in Chicago has taken some time. I’ve also been doing a lot of discernment and thinking about where my ministry is going, which is, as those of us who are clergy know, an ongoing process.

Lately I’ve been working on an initiation series based on the magickal Kabblah, and recently wrote the first of the initiations, which is based in Malkuth.

And apparently, I’m also there until I start writing the next one. (This is where all the witches say “duh!”)

What’s been interesting about this, though, is that being in this sphere has made me really look at this plane of existence and just how much we really do live here. Or, at least, how much I can really live in the here and now.

How do I explain this?

There are times where I can see and feel everything: all the sorrows, all the joys, all the fear, anger, happiness. The present, past, future. It’s as if it’s all laid out in front of me in a long line, or like a film reel. Sometimes it’s all of the possibilities, too. All of the futures, all of the pasts. So my spiritual practice allows me to be here, in the present. In my present.

Then, sometimes, I become too “stuck” in the here and now, especially is something emotionally bad is happening, and can’t see beyond where I am.

I know that clinically, this is my anxiety and depression, but there is a magickal component to this, too. Being stuck magickally generates a lot of the same symptoms.

So, being stuck in Malkuth isn’t a great thing for me, even being the Earth Girl that I am. Working on it, though…

***

The other night I was talking with the wife about the latest pagan blogosphere things. The first being that paganism is dying (not really true), theist pagans telling atheist pagans that they can’t be pagan (totally not true), and people getting it in their heads that all paganism has to be Earth Centered Spiritually (not always true).

Here’s the big point: “Paganism” is an umbrella term that is a really really REALLY big umbrella. It’s not really dying, it’s just changing, especially away from excessive dogmatic paganism, or any paganism that is exclusionary in its practice. I know I’m pretty tired of the witchcraft/paganism that is of the “I’m a real witch/wiccan/pagan and you’re not!” variety.

Seriously, it’s 2017. It’s time folks got over themselves about that kind of crap. Yes, an atheist can be a pagan. Yes, someone who’s Christian can also have a magickal practice. Yes, someone can be pagan without being Earth Centered.

If someone says they’re pagan, then they’re pagan, whether they have a lineage, or a teacher, or are just reading from books. This is true for any religion, regardless of what I, you, or other practitioners, think.

Some folks don’t consider me a “proper” or “real” pagan because I practice both Wicca and Christianity. So what? These days, the wife and I think of ourselves as sorcerers more than “Earth Based Spirituality” because we focus a lot more on magick and magickal systems. It’s not that we don’t care about the Earth, or honor the Earth’s turning, etc., it’s just not our primary focus. And if it is someone else’s primary focus? That’s all good. We need witches and pagans who have that as their focus. Again, so what?

Seriously, people need to stop expecting that all paganism should look and practice like theirs. That way lies the very thing many pagans say they are running from when they talk about Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity (or other oppressive religious traditions). Just like those traditions, specific pagan traditions don’t corner the market on truth and enlightenment.

(And IMNSHO, if your social justice demands that I have to do my spirituality a particular way, then your social justice isn’t very inclusive, is it?)

Recent Reflections (with expletives)

  1. I like makeup, and I’m having fun with it, even though the butch side of myself is going “huh? wut?”
  2. I am an activist for some things, and I’ll do the work when I need to, but I’m not so keen on the community around activism sometimes. There are times when the very far left sounds quite similar to the very far right, especially in the “I will shout at you until you believe like I do” school of activism.
  3. Speaking of politics, I am not an anarchist, even though I’m pagan. I love all you Anarcho-pagans out there. Keep doing what you do. I just am not. I’m very much a New England Yankee Democrat.
  4. I’m not Hillary’s #1 Fan or anything, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world that Bernie didn’t get the nomination. I don’t think there was any actual conspiracy on the part of the DNC to see him not win, either. Having grown up in New England with history nerds for parents, I’ve lived and breathed politics from the cradle. What the DNC has been doing is what usually happens during elections. Unless you get a surprise winner like Barack Obama in 2008, most of the time they have a general idea of who’s going to end up with the nod.
  5. That said, the Republicans have gone batshit crazy, and what they have is certainly not normal. Trump is nasty and should not get in office.
  6. Personally, I think a third party vote is throwing votes to Trump. But you know what? You don’t have to give a fuck what I think, and I don’t really give a shit who you vote for as long as you actually vote. There are plenty of down-ticket things that still need your attention, even if you leave the presidential vote blank.
  7. I keep wavering about running for office. Sometimes I think I should and sometimes I think that way lies madness…of the bad kind.
  8. Working with Ereshkigal keeps the “give a fuck” tank low and the bullshit meter set on high sensitivity. The extra helping of hormones does not help this.
  9. It’s rather fun watching my wife watch the DNC. She’s getting a real education about American politics this year.
  10. Pink is my favorite color. Most of you know this already. I am just reasserting my pink-loving identity. 🙂

Last Week of Lent: Social Justice Work Comes At A Cost (Paganism, Christianity, and Me)

I want to be able to say something profound here about my working, but I just can’t. At least, not in any way that’ll make sense to people other than myself. Most of what I’ve learned this week is that I shouldn’t read any social media until after I’ve done my morning prayers, had breakfast, and done my writing for the day. I’m writing about social justice, and reading other people’s social justice stuff, or about the election, before I get into my own work makes things difficult. My wife says “Social justice work comes at a cost.” and that’s quite true.

In my meditations, Jesus keeps telling me that even He had to go find solitude while do His public work. Gethsemane, the desert, and many other times He would go alone somewhere to pray. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons from Him: that quiet prayer time isn’t a bad thing to schedule into the day. Or, rather, schedule my day around the prayer time. Public work is hard, especially when you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall.

Speaking of that, one thing this week I commented on (yes, yes, I shouldn’t have bothered, but I was feeling ornery), was a post on Patheos where Gwion Raven was ranting about his identity as a pagan. Mostly about what it is, what it isn’t, and what he didn’t like about Christianity. This isn’t anything new, really, and when I challenged him on his wording, there was a “oh, well, I didn’t mean it that way” kind of response.

Gwion made it pretty clear that he wants anarchy for paganism. But here’s the thing: that’s fine for your tradition. That’s what works for you. You don’t want institutions or churches? Ok, then don’t build any. No one’s forcing you to build any or go to any. Just like no one’s forcing you to accept Christian lore or ritual in your practices.

My problem isn’t really with any of that. My problem is with the unspoken assumption that multi-faith pagans, especially those who are Christo-pagan, are somehow less than “real” pagans. I get it. I get that you don’t want to look like Christians, act like Christians, or have anything to do with Christian ritual. (Although I think that’s tough to do, given that any Gardnerian based tradition, which is the model for most witchcraft in the US and parts of Europe, has Judeo-Christian roots. I’d say that it’s a bit too late to be complaining about that. Doubly so if you’re in a Golden Dawn tradition. But I digress.) Again, that’s fine…for you.

But don’t insinuate that Christo-pagans are “fence sitters,” or delusional, or are only Christo-pagans because they don’t want to be “fully pagan.” While being neopagan and Christian is somewhat relatively new, traditions that combine magick and Christianity are not. And, really, many of those are seriously bad-ass magickal traditions in their own right. I wouldn’t want to tell a practitioner of one those traditions that they are somehow “doing it wrong.” Never mind the Euro-centrism of denying mystical Christian traditions.

Again we have a case of someone saying “All pagans should do X.” or “A proper/real pagan is…” I know the pagan community is full of humans doing stupid human tricks, but for once, I’d really be happy if people would really take a good look at and think about what they’re saying.

These lines are familiar aren’t they? Here, let me spell it out for you: “All Christians should do X.” and “A proper/real Christian is….”

Or what about: “You aren’t really bisexual, you’re either gay or your straight.”

Or: “It’s just a phase. You’ll get over it eventually.”

*sigh*

Yeah, we’ve been down this path before. Many people became pagans to run away from this type of thinking, and yet, here we are. Saying the same things that we came to paganism to avoid.

Why people don’t seem to see that they are guilty of this, no matter what progressive community they’re in (since this happens in any movement), while they loudly proclaim that they aren’t being exclusionary, boggles the mind. It’s as if the people they are railing against are the “them” and not really humans!

Oh, wait…

4th Week of Lent: An Appreciation for Getting Things Done

Reflecting on the 4th week of Lent where I’m still in the Dagda part of my working, I realize I’ve done quite a bit. I’ve “normalized” my work day and have gotten more written on my book this week than I have in several months. I cooked a lot, and have a lovely visit with my friend River and her little one on Thursday. I created a booklet of the prayers I need for the next phase of my working and shared that with those who I thought would be interested. I called the gardener and had them come sort out our yard (before the rain started). I got a new phone and set up our fancy new lights that we can control with our devices!

In other words, it’s been a busy week.

I keep wanting to write about some of the interesting conversations and thoughts I’ve been having about the state of clergy in paganism, but it seems like I need to think about the more before I write on it. I keep starting and deleting, so…

One thing, though, is that my social media need is way down. More often than not I’m just checking Facebook to see if there’s anything specific I need to address, and then I move on. Same with Tumblr. The further I get into this working the less I really want to deal with social media. If it wasn’t good for the podcast or the way I communicate with a lot of the east coast, I’d just jump ship from Facebook all together. As it is, not being on Facebook a lot has done a some real good for my mental health.

A definite thing to come from this working is that the twice daily meditation is doing a lot for my anxiety and depression issues. I know it’s one aspect of this working that I’ll definitely keep up with afterwards. Even the wife has noticed a real difference in my mood because of it.

This is just a short update since, apparently, the other stuff I want to write about is going to be saved for a later date…

2nd Week of Lent: Pantheacon and What I’m Doing This For

I’ve tried to start this a couple of times because, well, Pantheacon is always hard to sum up in the week after and 2016 is no exception. In short, it was a really good convention all the way around. Time seemed to warp around the con and this week it’s been really difficult to get back into “normal” time. I know next week things will settle down, especially after I catch up on my sleep debt.

The big things:

  • My coven is super awesome, and I’m excited we’ll be adding more awesome people to our little family of weirdos.
  • “Crossroads of Memory” kicked some serious ass, and CAYA Coven was awesome! Hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate again! (Dobby is a free elf!)
  • Many excellent conversations were had in the suite and I was really happy that the Body Policing/Body Shame panel on Saturday became a really deep discussion. The gender discussion on Sunday was also awesome, and moved from gender issues to a deep discussion about gender, race, and intersectionality.
  • My workshop on radical inclusion went really well, although we ended up going overtime a little. The best part was seeing light bulbs go off in people’s minds about what radical inclusion is. That is the awesomest thing about teaching, I think.
  • We had a beautiful 2nd Degree ritual on Thursday night, and it seems it be becoming a tradition to initiate someone at con.
  • Great dinners and chats with new friends, old friends, and seeing folks I haven’t seen in a long time.
  • Much priesting of one form or another.
  • Helping out some folks when they experienced some not so nice things at con and being a safe place for people to just be.
  • Learning not to apologize for doing self care.

One thing that was difficult for me was trying to do my meditations during the con, especially since, except for Thursday, we stayed up until well past 1 AM. Hecate said not to worry about it since I was doing a lot of priesting anyway and I was following other aspects of my agreements (She had me wearing all black for the con, taking care of the north altar, and I was doing daily meditation times publicly).

I was still worrying about it when we got home, and one of the things I remembered was Sarah telling me not to apologize for doing self-care. In my meditations this week Hecate has been telling me that the point of what I’m doing is not necessarily about what I actually do in my meditations, but learning the discipline of daily practice. I’m doing this to get closer to my deities, but I’m also doing it to create the foundation for doing the other work I want and need to do. The meditation is really helping me a lot, especially in the anxiety department (although cutting out caffeine hasn’t hurt, either!), and I’m also learning a new grounding technique that was really helpful during the con and is still helping post-con to bring me more down to earth.

I also needed to change out my Hecate statue. One of the problems with being someone who works with the dying is that sometimes I can get stuck in that mode and forget that there’s life out there, too. The Hecate statue I was using was one I made when I was still doing ceramics and sculpture at home and it is Her in Her role as Death (it’s a bit similar to Santa Muerte in that respect). I needed to remember that She has other aspects (Goddess of Initation, of the Crossroads, etc), and I needed some other representation to reflect that. I got the new statue today, and we’re both pleased (if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ve already seen it).

On Monday I’ll be switching over to the Dagda part of the working. It’s been interesting because there’s more logistics required for this part of the working since it requires making meals for others. I’ll be re-doing my altar for it, too. It’s always interesting to compare what kind of altar bling each deity likes when I offer it. All three have relatively simple tastes, which is a good thing!

Could I do this working without the bling? Sure. The bling is mostly for me as an outward representation of what I’m doing, but it’s nice when the Deity in question happens to like it, too. It’s also a place for me to focus, and sometimes it really does take the bling to make it work when I’m feeling scattered. Candles are useful, too, when it comes to that.

It also makes me think about the how all things can be sacred if you let it. The kitchen stove will be my altar for a couple of weeks. My altar is a repurposed microwave stand. I use coins for offerings. If it’s a sacrifice I can make, I will. If it something I need to negotiate, I will. If it’s something I can’t do, I’ll tell my deities so. This is a relationship, and relationships are meant to be based on communication and respect. And so it is…

A general post of New Year’s goals and putting out my shingle

It’s a new year, and there are many posts and memes about New Year’s Resolutions going around. I tend not to bother with resolutions because, when I make them, I end up feeling bad if I break them. I have enough of my own anxiety that I don’t need to add more on top of it. Instead of resolutions, I like to think about projects and goals for the new year.

The first project this year is to finish a book. I realized the other night that I actually have two books in the works: one on radical inclusion for the pagan community, and one about our coven’s traditions and teachings. I’d like to get the radical inclusion one to at least a finished first draft by the end of the summer (earlier if possible). I’ve probably got about 1/4-1/3 written, so this is do-able if I knuckle down and just get on with it. If I can get a first draft of the Cerridwen book done this year, too, that would be a bonus, but I’m ok with shuffling it into 2017.

The second set of projects are around TWIH: First, I wan’t to try doing quarterly live Google hangout panels about particular topics. I’d like to shoot for doing the first one in March, and I hope I can get the folks I’d like to get for it. It’ll take some logistical wrangling, but I think it’ll be interesting. Second, I need to revamp my Patreon page and make more interesting goals and incentives. (Although, feel free to contribute any time, if you feel so inclined!) I’m also considering maybe a Patreon contest or fund drive, but I’m not sure. The third one is probably a long-shot, but I’d like to do a live interview (or interviews) for charity. I’m still thinking about who to ask for that one, and if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

The last goals, as far as online content is concerned, is to keep writing, at least weekly, for this site. I had thought about doing a vlog on YouTube, but doing both a weekly audio podcast and a video would be a bit much for me, I think.

I’d also like to get some more freelance projects for either writing, editing, website work, or even some A/V work. If you need this type of work done, or know someone who might, please let me know! I’d also like to do some more workshops and speaking at other conventions/festivals, so if anyone runs some of those things and would like me to be there, send me an email!

As far as priestly work goes, besides my work with the coven, I’m planning on doing a big personal working for Lent. I’ve felt a bit disconnected from deity and devotional work for awhile, and my wife had the suggestion to use the Lenten season to do it. It should be a pretty intense working and of course I’ll be starting the Tuesday before Pantheacon. (So if you see me run off to go do something at certain times, that’s why!) There’s also an ordination this weekend (yay!), and maybe even doing a wedding at some point in the future (well, it may or may not happen this year, we’ll see).

Heh…now that I’ve written this all out, it seems I’m doing a lot more than I thought. The wife has a lot of new stuff going on, too, and so far, 2016 is behaving. Hopefully, the rest of the year continues this way!

 

Bigotry, Age, and Respect

In the last couple of weeks or so it’s happened again: some Pagan “Elders” spouted off online about their transphobia. For two of them, it seems they have realized that what they’ve said is a problem, while the last one has pretty much doubled-down on her usual bigoted (and factually inaccurate) rhetoric. You can read Ruth Barett’s essay in our anthology if you want to know what she thinks about transgender women. Suffice it to say that the posts by the other women were similar in their bigoted rhetoric against transgendered people.

There are a lot of folks who think we all should let these remarks slide since the Elders in questions are “pioneers” of the community and have contributed to the building of the current Pagan movement. Putting our Elders in the craft on such a pedestal like that means that they also can fall really hard.  While this can be problematic for the clergy in question, since they are treated as more exalted then their peers, this also means that they will come under way more scrutiny for their actions, online and offline. I think it’s good to recognize the work that these Elders have put in to the Pagan movement, since they do deserve the recognition for that. However, this doesn’t mean that they get immunity from the consequences of their actions.

Age is not entirely relevant here. I do think that it’s appropriate to respect our elders in the general sense: they have been through some stuff and know a lot of things. That doesn’t mean that they get a pass for spouting off hate and intolerance. While age and history are a factor in behavior, it’s also a poor excuse for someone’s bad behavior. I don’t buy the idea that a person is a “product of their time” either. That can make it more difficult for a person to wrap their head around certain topics, but it doesn’t necessarily make it impossible for someone to learn a new way of thinking. (Personally, I think it’s a lazy excuse not to listen to what others are telling you.)

What really gets me about this is that there’s always the “But I’m not a bigot!” cry from the perpetrator when this happens. Sorry, but yes, actually, you are:

Full Definition of BIGOT

: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

If you don’t want people to see you as a bigot, then the answer is simple: think before you post, write, or do bigoted things. This goes for anyone, really. If you don’t want people to think you’re racist, then stop posting racist memes on Facebook. If you don’t want people to think you hate Muslims, then don’t post anti-Muslim memes or spout off about it in writing. And, in this case, if you don’t want people to think you hate transgendered people, then don’t post bigoted material about transgender people, no matter what you think of them or how “funny” you think the meme is. Because, believe me, it’s not funny.

While I think it’s good to be respectful of elders in our society, actual respect for someone’s words and actions isn’t, and shouldn’t be, automatic. That kind of respect is earned, and doing bigoted things online is not how you earn that respect.