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.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

I have fears.  My new job brings with it some concerns.  New laws in Ohio threaten the future of my institution, but then again, it’s been threatened with closure nearly since its inception.  If they are hiring, I can only assume they are not fearing that they will come to an end.

And I think it is fear that causes people to stop looking out for our everyone’s best interests.  It was interesting to me that someone posted a meme on Facebook starting that Denmark is the happiest country in the world for a number of reasons–and one of them was a $20/hr minimum wage.  Another person said, “Yeah, but they pay 38% in taxes.”  Newsflash: our tax rates are not that far behind, I have the tax return to prove it, and I don’t make much more than Denmark’s minimum wage.  Yet they have free healthcare, free college, and free childcare.  My brother in law did the math, and the take-home pay after taxes is still $12.40/hr–MUCH higher still than our minimum wage BEFORE taxes.  Taxes are not the devil.   Americans have this weird notion that taxes ARE the great evil due to our revisionist type of American history.  Boston Tea Party, anyone?  I had a great history teacher, and I know for a fact that she taught us the truth behind the American Revolution, but if I ask almost anyone I went to school with, they will stay say we revolted because of high taxes.

No, no dear children.  We revolted because we were taxed without representation.  Jolly Ol’ England was considered to be out of touch with the needs of the colony.  It wasn’t the fact that there was a tax but rather that governing laws were being decided like we were the redheaded stepchild across the pond.

I don’t bring this up to stir a political debate.  I’m not trying to say liberal socialist agendas are any better than conservative capitalist ones.

I’m just tired of a society that lives in fear.

Fear of the future.  Fear that we’ve been doing it wrong.  Fear that, yeah, we may have made mistakes–a lot of them.  Fear that someone might come along with a better idea that challenges our preheld conceptions of, well, anything.

Fear that maybe Christ isn’t coming back.

Fear that maybe there are worse things than flipping someone five bucks so they can eat a damned cheeseburger and have a clear pair of socks.

Fear that maybe my Wicca is just as valid as Gardner’s Wicca.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Does it matter?

Fear that I can’t walk to my car after a long shift because someone might see me limping due to my plantar fasciitis and decide I’d be an easy target.  Again.

Fear that my experience is somehow wrong, or my feelings are unjustified, because I have a uterus and am therefore hysterical.

Fear that maybe none of this matters.  In a few hundred million years the Earth will be engulfed by the sun.  Then what?

I’m tired of fear.

So let’s DO something about it.  Let’s teach our children not to instill fear in others, but to instill LOVE.  Let’s show everyone that there’s a better way.  Let us be mirth and reverence, beauty and strength, power and humility.  Not “or.”  AND.  These are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Let’s create a world where we aren’t ruled by fear.  Where our daughters don’t have to wonder what our sons will want after dinner is bought and paid for.  Where our sons don’t have to choose between their boyfriends or a roof over their heads.  Where, “Your mother wears Army boots,” is a simple statement of fashion choice and not a derogatory judgement of her femininity.  Or maybe it’s a celebration of her choice to serve her country.  Where I don’t have to be afraid to say that yes, I will be working at an abortion clinic.  Where no Witch has to worry about the stake, no Christian has to worry about the lion.

Fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Let it pass through us and become as nothing.  Let us remain.

Vivamus atque amemus. (Let us live and also love).

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Gettin Crafty!

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witchCRAFTing

I’m excited.

(Why are you excited?)

So kind of you to ask!

I’m excited because today I’m having a witchCRAFTing party.  Much–too much–of my life over the past several years has been in service of scientific/rational pursuits.  Honestly, it makes me cranky.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVElovelove science, I love nursing.  Sometimes, though, it has the unhappy effect of making me suspicious and skeptical.  There’s a certain amount of skepticism that’s normal.  If we take everyone at face value, there are all kinds of crazy ass nutty buddy things going on out there (you know, like “legitimate vs illegitimate rape”).  When I’m too steeped in it, though, and out of balance with the arts, I lose the ability to see possibilities, and Wicca is all about possibility.

Today I take steps to rectify this oversight and get in touch with my inner Picasso (at least I can pass off my half-arsed attempts at art as an attempt to emulate Picasso…I like blue, and I’m sure everything is going to come out cubey).  I invited all kinds of people to come over, Pagan and non-Pagan alike.  The coveners in particular are coming to make stuff for fundraising at PPD (Pagan Pride Day), everyone else is invited to just hang out and be crafty.

And we’re going to watch some of my most favorite awesomely bad witch-themed movies.  Teen Witch?  The Craft?  Practical Magic?  Oh yes, yes, this is totally happening.

I’ll try to remember to post pictures later.

First, time to vacuum up all the cat hair…

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Wicca is Not a Family Religion

I remember when I was in nursing school, and I was dating a guy whose family was Catholic.  They weren’t Catholic out of belief that the Roman Catholic church was the one true authority on God or the only institution able to unlock the doors to the kingdom of Heaven.  No, apparently they were Catholic because they always aligned themselves with “power,” and it was their position that the Catholic church was the most powerful religious institution the world.  True or not, their reasoning had little to do with faith.

I remember also that his parents were not exactly thrilled with my choice to be Wiccan.  It’s one of the few times I ever considered converting–he was a good looking guy, his family was well off, and he adored me…for a little while, anyway.  These are not good reasons to convert, and, obviously, I didn’t.  I in no way regret that choice, nor am I ashamed of the thought processes going on at the time.

Nonetheless, it bothered me.  Were we so unenlightened that a simple disagreement over religion was more important than love?  Well, it wasn’t love, but I thought it might be at the time.  I talked to my Catholic aunt about it, and I asked her, “If you had a son and I weren’t your niece, would you allow him to marry me?”. She was quiet for a moment, and then softly replied, “No.  No, I wouldn’t be OK with it.”. I was living in her house, eating her food, she was sheltering me, but that would have been crossing a line for her.  It was eye-opening in many ways.  And yes, it hurt.

Then I had the joy of shocking her in turn–I informed her that I would not raise my children in Wicca.  This was confusing to her: “Wait, you would practice a religion you do not deem fit for your children to practice?”

Uh, no.

It’s always interesting to me to see Pagan gatherings or groups that are specifically family friendly and welcome children. I think it is wonderful that they are sensitive to the fact that parents need spiritual fulfillment, and they provide resources to help introduce children to what the Pagan community is about. It is a difficult thing for parents to choose just how they want to handle spiritual education for their children, and I am glad that we are providing resources to aid in that endeavor.

Wicca isn’t merely a set of benign beliefs.  My plan, at the moment, is to raise my children with my personal philosophies, and, as they grow, to expose them to many different religions and discuss them to help them make the most right choice for themselves.  If, as adults, they want to pursue Wicca, I would embrace them with open arms.  But Wicca is not a family religion.

I’m speaking directly about Wicca.  I have no issue with Pagan parents wanting to raise their children with Pagan philosophies as that’s exactly what’s going to happen in our home.  Our children will learn several different mythologies, a reverence and respect for nature, how to honor the moon and sun cycles, and we will likely do lots of arts & crafts.  Wicca is not the same as being Pagan. Wicca is a priesthood, a system of not only beliefs but also practices that require proper training. It is in our vows only to bring the properly prepared to the magic circle—how can a five year old be properly prepared to maintain a world between worlds?  This is true in other religions. You do not have five year olds who are permitted to take vows and preach from the pulpit. Children who show promise may be fostered and guided to a spiritual life, but they are not made clergy until they are adults with the fully formed faculties to make that choice and be effective leaders.

This has nothing to do with maturity, or whether children are “old souls” or not. It’s about recognizing the fact that Wicca as a religion is not the same as Christianity as a religion or Hinduism as a religion or any other path. I know of no traditional covens that will accept students who are underage unless they are the children of current members, or they are of a minimum age with parental permission. Even then, in our tradition, teenagers are limited to reading and learning philosophy. This is not meant to hinder them but rather to allow them to develop into fully functioning adults, giving them the faculties and resources to best make use of their abilities as priests and priestesses. Teenagers are a little volatile by nature anyway—it protects them as well as their elders by carefully guiding their development. I was a teen Wiccan once; I remember the frustrations that came with it very well.

It has nothing to do with elitism, either. I remember being accused of it, once upon a time. “Wiccan elitists, think they’re the only ones who are doing it right.” It doesn’t have anything to do with practicing Wicca the “right” way and everything to do with understanding that we are priests. Not every individual in a community is meant to be a priest—some are cooks, some are warriors, some are sanitation engineers, and so on and so forth. Within a coven there are people who hold those roles as well, but a coven is a group of priests who are in service to their community at large, howsoever they choose to define that, even if it is just that coven. This is part of that beautiful tapestry I spoke of in a different blog entry, the wide variety of the types of people we have on this planet. Not all of them are called to be clergy, let alone Wiccan clergy, and that’s OK. Remember, Wicca does not teach that it is the only right way to worship.

I enjoy being Wiccan. I enjoy sharing the joy and contentment I find in this religion with those I meet. But it’s not for everyone; it’s not for children. It is not merely a faith, a set of guiding principles. If we choose to follow those principles and teach them to our children, then they are Pagan, and that is a wonderful, beautiful thing to share with them. Wicca, however, is something else. It is not meant for families—it is meant for priests.

**This blog post may be an exercise in semantics. No offense was meant to any parents who have chosen to raise their children in any particular fashion. I do not judge your choices—rather, take this post as food for thought. I honor you for the difficult choices you have undoubtedly had to make in your role as parents, and I would never pretend to know better what path any one person ought to have taken. Only you as parents and individuals can know what is most right for yourselves and your families. Blessed be.

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An Ye Be a Doormat

I was a Wiccan hermit for a long time. I did this on purpose, primarily because the in-fighting was exhausting and the witchier-than-thou pissing contests were aggravating. Not to mention the level of cray-cray people in my life seemed to expand exponentially when I came out of the proverbial broom closet. Paganism attracts fringe people—it’s a community of socio-economical outliers. You have no idea how much it excites me that I have a soccer mom from the suburbs in my coven.

When my High Priest passed, I began to question the wisdom of that hermitage. I started this blog. I joined a few Facebook groups. I got a new coven off the ground. Goddess help me, I even hope to have a booth at Cleveland Pagan Pride Day this year. That’s one huge shift from hermitage in barely over a year.

Now I’m beginning to question the wisdom of trying to remain P.C. Pagan. I’ve tried to write this blog in such a way as to be “professional”—articulate, a little artistic, minimizing value statements, using inclusive terminology, and so forth. I am still of the opinion that there is value in remaining objective, especially in the public forum, and that’s what a blog is: public. I am not here to argue and debate. Seriously, I do enough of that in my real life (I’m constantly reminding why husband why he can’t throw his douche-bag of an ex-friend down a flight of stairs, which is primarily because I can’t afford for him to go to jail).

Increasingly, however, I find myself confronted with evidence that shows that this tactic may be fueling an ongoing misunderstanding of what it means to be Wiccan. For instance, when discussing Wiccan ethics the Rede is usually the foremost topic discussed. Somehow during my time as a hermit “An it harm none” has been translated into “An ye be a doormat.” My High Priestess’s head would have exploded at this notion–Sylvana was not one to take ANYTHING lying down, and to this day my brother says she was the best ball-buster he ever met (and he was living with a bunch of college dudes at the time).  My favorite story was the time she tried to use a traveler’s check at Value City–and the girl looked at her blankly and said it wasn’t a valid check (being unfamiliar with traveler’s checks), and my High Priest’s eyes got big and round and he left because he knew EXACTLY what was coming when Syl got very quiet and asked for the manager–who, by the time she was done with them, personally carried her bags out to the car.  This doesn’t sound very “harm none” to most people, but let’s get a Wiccan-grip for a moment.

The Rede is often referred to in order to soften the ethical issue with a religion that has a long list of right vs. wrong because those people often mistakenly believe that morality only comes from religion—and many times they are then left to interpret that our “harm none” philosophy must therefore indicate what is meant by their laundry list style moral code because people believe that said code IS how we minimize harm and behave as “good” people.

But it’s just not true.

I’m not going to say their morals are wrong. That’s not my point. My point is that “harm none” is not a simple edict to never do anything that would cause any kind of negative, or harmful, effect. The notion itself is utterly ridiculous. I have probably killed thousands of ants by walking in my yard. They didn’t do anything wrong, and I would be a strange Witch indeed if I never touched a blade of grass. However, knowing that there are living creatures in my yard, I have walked every inch of my humble quarter-acre.

I am not going to be squished by a pile of ant bodies for breaking the Rede. In fact, I haven’t done ANYTHING wrong, period.

Would I cast a curse?

Would I hex?

You bet your sweet witchy-ass I would.

Would I be violating the Rede?

No.

And I’m not sure that continuing the politically correct, “Oh but our main ethical code (law?) states to Harm None so really there’s nothing wrong with my religion,” diatribe is getting us anywhere.

I don’t have a solution. It’s something I’m contemplating. I do not much care still for the in-your-face tactics, and I believe there are modes of communication that are far more effective than others (I like civilized discourse but have strong pro-taboo language beliefs).

But I am not a doormat.

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Lunar Magic

auntietarot

Moon-Tree of Creation

By Madeline Montalban

Anyone willing to study the practical side of occultism is soon brought in touch with the mysteries of the Moon, which corresponds to No. 2 in the Tarot: the Priestess, or the female interpreter of the arcane law. One of her symbols is the Moon-tree, which has many forms, and symbolizes the power of “making bricks without straw,” or operating the magic creative force by the use of imagination and will, both part of the mind, which is the real force of the hermetic art.

Before telling you about the Moon-tree, an explanation of the symbols may help. The four-branched Tree of Creativeness (symbolizing the four phases of the Moon) springs from the Horn of Power. This in itself is a symbol which incorporates a winged sun-disc, surmounted by the Horns of the Moon. This represents material power, as a result of understanding the…

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Live and Let Live

One of the things I find beautiful about humanity is the variety.  Tall, short, fat, thin, the rainbow of melanin, brown eyes and blue (and grey and green and all the fun contacts out there)…

It’s amazing to me that with all of the physical variety that anyone could think we’d have any less variety in our spirits.  Atheist, Catholic, Buddhist, Wiccan, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, Druid, and so on nearly ad infinitum.  Even individuals within those faiths have differing opinions, on both major and minor issues.  Not all religions teach this, but there are enough that teach they are the “one true right way” to believe–the one true god, the one true moral code, one true afterlife, etc.  Even for those who don’t teach this, it can be difficult for people to conceive of seeing the world from a vastly different viewpoint.  And how not?  Your experience is what it is, you cannot have the same exact experience as another person even if you are joined at the hip.  We can be empathic, but our lived experiences are still different.  This is what helps to create the wondrous tapestry and allow for the infinite possibility of life.  No one person, no one religion, no one way of life is more, or less, deserving of respect  than any other.

This is evident in the New Age movement and much of the occult.  As much as I am a traditionalist and love established teachings and rituals, there is still a large component that depends on the individual Wiccan’s experience.  My experience of the Mysteries is mine, but no less valid than another Wiccan’s.  When using crystals in healing, the researched and published use for a crystal is a great guideline–but if you don’t get the result you looked for, and instead get it from a different stone, is it any less valid?  No, of course not.  As a crystal has its own resonance frequency, we as humans also each have our unique frequencies, and it is to be expected that the way those frequencies come together and affect each other will be different, person to person.  What works for “most” frequencies won’t work for all.

This is true in medicine as well.  Cardiovascular disease is something of an epidemic in America.  My time as a heart transplant nurse taught me one thing: Every body is different.  Not everybody–that is true, too–but every body.  Our service was lung and heart transplants, most of which were lungs.  All of them were started on Prograf, but over time many patients didn’t tolerate the side effects, or had breakthrough rejection episodes, and would have to get switched to a new anti-rejection medicine–Neoral, Rapamune, etc.  No one rejection medicine works the best for all patients, but all start on Prograf because the others are associated with higher levels of necrosis at the anastomosis site.  Our heart transplant patients had similar variety, and hypertensive patients will all tell you–there are several different medications to treat what is, basically, the same problem.  Every body requires a different treatment, a different dosage.  Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE-inhibitors, diuretics, etc.

This understanding needs to be translated into every day life.  I just accepted a new job.  I’ll be providing nursing care in sedation services at a clinic that provides legal abortion for women who have made the choice to terminate their pregnancies.  During my shadow experience there, I learned that people from all backgrounds, all belief systems, all races, all ages have to make a difficult choice.  And it happens more than anyone wants to talk about.  It’s truly not a simple choice of life or not life.  It is not for me or anyone else to make a moral judgment call for these people–however I can treat them with kindness, compassion, and respect, and to give quality nursing care to all persons, regardless of their reasons.

Live and let live.

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