Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Wisdom in Anger

AkshobhyaTo be an activist, very often, is to be angry.

An activist is a person with a sacred vision of the world that they are trying to manifest. That means living in a world that runs counter to what you hold most sacred. Otherwise, what are you acting for or against? And in my experience, activists aren’t just working for a world that would be nice, but fighting for the world that they believe should be. That’s not always emotionally easy.

And when you’re out there doing your work – whether that’s protesting, lobbying, leafleting, talking with your friends about the issues you care about – you’re basically dealing with people who disagree with you. They may be actively working against what you hold most sacred. That can be outright maddening.
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A Voting Dilemma

We’re coming up on a season that I often dread. No, it isn’t Autumn. It isn’t Winter. It’s election time. You know, the season of negative ads at every turn, debates that leave us with as little insight into the candidates as we had before the exchanges and the pressure of knowing that the decisions we make may literally affect history. So here we are, coming up to elections for offices across the country and I find myself asking some nagging questions: What is a reasonable course of action when we deem none of the candidates on the current ballot worthy of our vote? Do we stay away from the polls? Do we vote for the “lesser of two evils”? Do we vote for third party or independent candidates who have little chance of winning? Do we write in the name of a person not even on the ballot?

I’ve always considered voting to be not only a right but a responsibility. When people complain, whether about individual politicians or entire party platforms, my first question is always whether or not they voted in the last election. Basically, I view voting as the basis upon which our rights to protest rest.

Staying away from the polls is not a personal option for me for this reason although the notion of not participating in a system that seems, at times, to be ineffective and unworkable is appealing. While some consider not voting to be an act of revolution, it strikes me as an act of simply giving away our power.

Voting for “the lesser of two evils” is an option that many people reject. Some refuse to make any choice at all when all candidates are deemed unacceptable. What qualifies a candidate as acceptable? Is it their agreement with our personal agendas without exception? If that is the case, I doubt many of us would ever be able to vote for anyone on the ballot. Does the perfect candidate exist? I think not. Someone who upholds my environmental values may not have the same views on gun control. Someone who shares my goals for tax reform may not feel the same way about immigration. Perhaps it makes sense to identify the candidate who represents our views on one or two issues that most concern us and give them our support, hoping that what we find reasonable in their character will allow them to be further swayed on other issues in the future. I’m not aware of any group, be it political, family, friendship circle or activist coalition where members hold 100% of the same views and priorities.

When we are fortunate enough to have the possibility of a third party or independent candidate upset the status quo, our options can seem even more complicated. We often hear that third party or independent candidates might swing the election in favor of our least liked option. We hear voters who are loyal to the two party system tell us that a vote for a third party or independent person is a wasted vote at best and a dangerous vote at worst as it might result in the election of the greater of two evils. This situation has had my attention for quite some time now. After a lot of consideration, I’ve come to rue my decision to play it safe in a past election when I truly believed in an alternative candidate but bought the argument that voting for him would simply weaken/bolster the chance of the most desirable/least objectionable candidate from winning. I now wish I had voted differently. Voting for either of the two major party platforms, even when they do not meet our values and expectations, helps to perpetuate the status quo and thus give away our power as surely as if we hadn’t voted at all. It allows our decisions to be ruled by fear rather than hope.

Writing in the name of a person who is not even running for office is a way to make a statement but not one that is bound to be noticed by anyone other than the individual voter. My write-in vote for Jane Doe does little else than allow me to say that I did in fact vote, therefore keeping alive my right to rail against the election outcome to my heart’s content when it’s all over.

So, here we are with choices to make.  This year’s state election still find me undecided.  As for the national elections coming up in 2016… I am so grateful that I have a bit of time to decide the best course of deciding my vote. I find myself hoping that a particular independent candidate will be part of the equation and that I’ll have the courage of my convictions when the time comes.

Greening your magics: From the ground up

Throughout this series I have sought to bring awareness to ways in which regular spiritual practice and tools can be altered to help benefit our world, reconsidering strip mined jewels, petroleum based candles, and offerings which either may not decompose, or, in the case of food, be packed with industrialized ingredients and not nourishing for the body.

Today, my last in the series (for now?), I want to talk about herbs and plants. But instead of talking about plants which are overharvested for New Age and Pagan markets (white sage and sandalwood being two contenders I am sure many of us have in our tool kits, I would rather turn my attention to plants which can be easier to obtain and more plentiful.

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10 points to anyone who knew this is mugwort gone to flower. Odds are good that for a good portion of the country, you’ve seen this plant before. Mugworts exist in several parts of the world, and are used for culinary, medicinal and magical purposes. Since I am not an herbalist nor have used the herb in cooking, I will focus on magical properties.

Mugwort is a member of the Artemisia family, which also includes wormwood. As such, this makes it an excellent herb for any psychic work. It can be burned as part of a psychic incense, or made into a tea or oil for consecrating scrying tools like a black mirror.

This next item is included FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND I ABSOLVE ANY RESPONSIBILITY IF YOU TRY THIS. The tea can also be drunk to further enhance psychic abilities, but as its active ingredient is thujone, it can build up in the body and potentially become toxic. If you are curious about working with wormwood as an herb but are unsure as to your reaction, this might be an option.

Mugwort is also a very protective herb. If you are looking for an alternative to sage or other bundles for smudging purposes, consider mugwort. A bundle can be ready in six weeks by harvesting several stalks of the plant, binding together with thread, and hanging to dry in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

If you are someone who works in a more ceremonial tradition, mugwort can be in your kit as well. It is a feminine plant, ruled by the planet Venus and the element of Air.

Another option if you’d like to move away from sage bundles is sweetgrass, which was used by many First Nations peoples in different parts of what is now the United States. It has a sweeter (hence the name) smell than sage, and if you react strongly to those bundles this may be a good alternative. Also, if your spiritual practices include honoring the local land spirits, and you live in an area where the People used to use sweetgrass, your local spirits may feel very appreciative. One of my Heathen friends in the area told me many years ago that among her offerings for the land wights she would include things like cornmeal and tobacco, since that is what they used to receive.

For some further ideas of how you can incorporate local plants into your workings, this recent post by Sarah Lawless should provide some good inspiration.

I do hope you have enjoyed this series, as I have enjoyed writing it. If I’ve influenced some of you into looking at your practices with a new or fresh eye, then I have done my job.

Are there any other aspects of magical or spiritual practice you would like to see “Greened?” Or have you incorporated sustainable practices into your regular workings, such as bioregionalism or general socially responsible? IF you would like to talk about any of these things, please leave a comment on this post and I will get in touch with you. My plan is to continue the series by talking about bioregionalism in paganisms/polytheism/witchcraft/magic but I would also like to know other ways people have put these ideas into practice.

Resources:

Beyerl, Paul. The Master Book of Herbalism.

Cunningham, Scott. Magical Herbalism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mugwort

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_%28genus%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thujone

Additional information:
Scylla on the use and overuse of Palo Santo and white sage

Activism, Leadership, Trolls, and Accountability

shutterstock_41419060— By Shauna Aura Knight

Lately I’ve seen a lot of examples of Pagan leaders acting badly. Or, perhaps to be more accurate, spotlights on leaders who have acted badly and are finally being called on the carpet for their poor behavior. There are a lot of conversations happening in the Pagan blogosphere, particularly since the arrest of Kenny Klein on charges of child pornography, about problems with sex, abuse, and poor leadership.

The ripple effects of that–and the questions it has raised about Pagan community and events–have brought up further issues of leadership. What does this have to do with activism?

If you’re an activist, you’re a leader. Whether or not you wanted to be one. And when you are a leader–when you stand up, when you take an action–your actions have more consequences, more impact. Leaders must take more responsibility because we have a greater impact.

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Activism and Boundaries : Not Every Cause Must Be Your Cause

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Being an activist is hard work.  Most of us understand that the road to improving our world is riddled with potholes and boulders.

We spend hours reading about instances of injustice and atrocities.  We sign and create petitions to get the attention of our representatives, attend rallies, perform civil disobedience, fundraise and blog.  This list could go on for days and still wouldn’t cover the many things various activists do for their beliefs.

Planet Earth is a messy place to live.  The war on women continues and gets worse all the time.  Our LGBTQ community is constantly under attack in any number of ways. Political corruption is rampant.  Pagans and practitioners of other non-Christian faiths are often discriminated against.  On top of everything that is going wrong with the world we still have jobs, families, hobbies, and passions and there is only so much of a person to go around.

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