Monthly Archives: July 2013

Greening your magics: Candles

Just about every pagan and polytheistic tradition active at this time have a love for candles. Those flickering flames can set an otherworldly mood perfect for ritual and can fuel their own magic. They are also cheap and ubiquitous. So, no problem right? A quick trip to IKEA, buy a pack of tealights, and you’re good to go.

Did you ever consider why those candles are so cheap?

The answer comes down to three little letters: oil.

candles
(Photo used under Creative Commons license)

Paraffin-based candles are all made from oil. They are big business and have a huge environmental impact. Back in 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report about the impact of burning candles in the home. (source) Burning these candles can create a toxic environment in the house and wreak havoc for anyone with respiratory issues. Plus wicks in these candles often contain lead.

Sometimes it seems like a person just cannot win in these matters.

So what can you do? A few weeks back my good friend Sufenas wrote up e’s own post on such matters though I do not know if e is aware of the reason why candles are so specifically toxic.

You do not have to burn candles for all your rites, that is for certain.

In my own case this is not as much of an option, as the Kemetic Orthodox rite of Senut includes a lighting portion of the rite, either with candle or oil lamp.

There are safer candles out there. Beeswax candles do not emit the same kind of chemicals as paraffin wax candles do. And while I have yet to find any formal studies, there are anecdotes available online from those who have found the candles may even benefit people with asthma and allergies.

During this year I have made a conscious decision to switch over as many candles as I can to beeswax. The cost is a factor and I will not try to deny that. However, as some of my practices do involve candles on a regular basis and I can afford to do so, I will buy them. I also see it as another way to support real beekeeping, since the wax would not be available otherwise.

Beeswax candles can also give your magic an extra boost. In the spring I bought a box of beeswax sheets for making candles, and it also came with wick. The candles get rolled tightly around the wick and lit. But before you do that winding you can make a seemingly innocuous candle into something with a punch. Sigils can be carved on the inside of the candle, and you can put your oils, herbs, or powders in there as well. (I think I first got this idea from Ellen Dugan’s Herb Magic for Beginners book but I have been unable to find a page number in there.)

To be fair though, I have not made a full switch in candles. Since some of my practice includes serving the lwa and some hoodoo, I have yet to find a good replacement for glass-encased candles. In fact, it was because of hoodoo that I first became aware of the base material. When the price of oil began to spike up in the mid-2000s, those of us in Miss Cat’s hoodoo course were told that the prices of her candles would be going up for this reason.

You can also use soy wax candles, but as I am not a fan of soy in the diet I tend to stay away from the candles too. In this case it is your choice. They would most likely be much easier on your home’s air quality than most candles.

You can find previous posts in this series here.

Ritual: Physical Accessibility, Transgender Inclusion, and more

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–By Shauna Aura Knight

One of my values, as a Pagan leader, is to make rituals and spiritual experiences that are accessible and inclusive. At least–as much as I’m able to. I talk to a lot of Pagans who vehemently agree with this concept…and who then present rituals that–for various reasons–are not very accessible or inclusive. Their rituals may present difficulty for people with mobility challenges. Or the rituals may not really be inclusive of gay, lesbian, or transgender community members. And there’s lots of other ways rituals could be inaccessible and exclusive. Often this is done unintentionally; however, there is still an impact.

I’ve said before that activism is sometimes saying the unpopular thing. Often, it’s standing up for those who do not have as much power in a dynamic, whose voices are not heard.

In this case, the unpopular thing is the idea that we–Pagan leaders and ritualists–may need to change how we approach rituals in order to make our rituals more accessible and inclusive. We may even need to re-evaluate some of our dearly-held theological beliefs. If we want the dominant culture to change, to legalize gay marriage, support people with disabilities, eliminate racism…don’t we have to do that work first ourselves, within our community?

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Be Careful Out There

My personal and professional life went a bit topsy-turvy on me this week and, despite many reminders relating to this post, it never materialized.  Instead of putting something together at the last minute, I thought I’d take the opportunity to say a few words and invite everyone to do a little magic this summer.

I’m not the only one with a lot going on at the moment.  From the Fearless Summer campaign, to the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina, and to the work of activists opposing restricting a woman’s right to choose in Texas, there’s a lot of work being done out there.

It’s arguable, that the pace of our activist lives quickened not recently but rather a few years ago during the 2011 Wisconsin protests regarding unionizing rights in that state.  Or, maybe it was similar protests at similar times dealing with similar issues in Ohio.

And it’s not just the United States.  The last few years have seen Iran’s Green Revolution, the Arab Spring, and, more recently, protests in Turkey and Brazil as those countries come to grips with the constraints we’re all feeling on our day-to-day lives.

And, most recently, Egypt.  Again.  You may recall that at the same time we were seeking to protect union rights here, Egyptians were working to oust the Mubarak government.  They did so.  But, the changes they sought were not to be found in the Morsi administration and so the people returned to the streets, and to Tahrir Square, to protest again.  These latest Egyptian protests, in the end, resulted in violence as the Egyptian military and the supporters of the Morsi administration skirmished resulting in the deaths of (at least) 51 civilians.  And whether you liked or disliked Morsi or his government or his religious beliefs and ideology, violence and death is never a good thing.

Thankfully, things have not gone that far here in the US.

Sometimes it all seems a little too big, a little too insurmountable, and we just don’t know where to begin.  A teacher of mine once said:  “We’re witches; we do witchy things” and perhaps this, at least, is something that we can all of us do.  Whether you call it prayer or magic, whether it’s the intentions you carry in your heart or those that you share with others, whether you believe in gods or not, one thing we’ve learned is that we’re all connected.

No one, not one of us, is an island remote, cut-off, and separated from everyone else.  When violence erupts in Egypt, you can be sure that the American government is watching and wondering what we’ll need to do and whether we’ll need to get involved.  But, not all of us can stand up in the same ways.  Not all of us can afford to be on the front lines risking our freedom and our bodies the way that others can.  And these limitations exist for a variety of reasons that cross every social boundary from race to religion, from class to gender.

Take the time this summer to do some magic, offer some prayers, or do whatever your tradition, your beliefs, or your conscience asks you to do to help protect those who are on the front lines.  And, to those of you out their risking yourselves, be careful and know that we’ve got your back.

Energy Exodus

UntitledOver Labor Day weekend I’ll be joining thousands of people on a march from Fall River, Massachusetts to Hyannis, Massachusetts in an epic march to end reliance on fossil fuels. Called the Energy Exodus the march promises to be a “lunch counter moment” for the new century. This 70 mile walk is being planned by youth activists from around New England to bring the plight of our ailing planet to the forefront.

This march is part of a larger movement to end reliance on fossil fuels. Two campaigns have commenced around the nation. Fearless Summer has been implementing protests, sit ins, hikes, and other small scale events to educate the public about the destruction fossil fuels require to power our homes. Summer Heat is also a number of large scale events to bring media attention to actions across the nation. Energy Exodus is one of Summer Heat’s large scale actions. The two groups are working cooperatively.

Around the nation churches of different denominations have begun to divest from the fossil fuel infrastructure. Leading the way is the United Church of Christ whose leadership decided to divest. Individual churches have also made divestment promises such as the South Church of Portsmouth (NH). With the call for divestment from President Obama promises further divestment actions. (If you need infomation on divestment check out that link).

1013016_635895346423199_467862768_n I am calling out to the readers of Pagan Activist to join me on the Energy Exodus. Pagans Against Climate Change* can march together spreading the love in our hearts for Mother Earth, creating spells, and doing whatever it is your personal worship compels you to do as a Pagan in healing ritual for Mother throughout the march and a large ritual at the end in Hyannis.

Fear keeps many I talk to about this event from joining. Some fear they will be arrested on sight. Others fear they will not be able to march the whole 70 miles. I too had those fears until I talked with the organizers. There are calls for civil disobedience but you make the choice to be arrested. There will be plenty of opportunities to step aside and let those prepared for arrest to be so. If you do not think you can walk 70 miles (I believe it’ll be about 10 miles a day with stops at night to eat and sleep) join the march along its route and walk as far as you can. If you live along the route, offer up your yard for tents, offer to cook meals along the way, or other methods of support. It’s a long walk for those of us doing it (and I fear I won’t be able to but I’m saying “to hell with the fear, I’m doing it anyway!”) and we will need lots of support. And from a personal perspective, I don’t want to be the only Pagan. I would like the spiritual support of my fellow Earth worshipers and the physical and mental support of those whom I circle with.

Another comment I hear is “oh, well that’s on Labor Day weekend.” Yes, it’s the last weekend of the summer which is why the organizers planned the event over the long weekend. It has been designed to bring as many people together as possible. From my perspective, however, I can think of no better way to celebrate Lughnasadh than to be part of the global conversation against the destruction of Mother Earth. So many rituals and events, small and large, can be organized around this holy day on a holy march.

So much of what Dash, Shauna, Soli, Debra, and I talk about is encapsulated in this event. Join me as I put my Pagan practices into action.

*I just came up with that. What are your suggestions?