Tag Archives: magic

Racism and Activism at Pantheacon 2015

FB_IMG_1424196654259–by Shauna Aura Knight

Yesterday Pantheacon ended. Pantheacon is the largest Pagan conference and has almost 3,000 attendees and takes place in San Jose every year. I’m posting this a day late because I’ve been at the conference and wanted to write about activism within the Pagan community and specifically on activism-related issues that come up at Pantheacon.

Several years ago, Pantheacon was rocked by the exclusion of transgender women from one of the women’s rituals, and that controversy rippled out (and is still rippling) across the broader Pagan community.

This weekend I was proud to be part of a panel discussing racism within the community. Unfortunately, that panel began on a sour note as I learned that there had been something hurtful and racist written in one of the various newsletters distributed at Pantheacon.

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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

Greening your magics: Bones of the earth

A few days ago, I bought myself some new jewelry. I’d been feeling pulled to find some pink tourmaline and rutilated quartz, and succeeded. And I also succeeded, knowing full well what this post would be about.

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I’ve loved semi-precious gemstones since I was a kid. And for a long time I have been well aware that they do not make it to the market through altruistic means. The process of mining gems, precious or semi-, most often involved damage to the earth (like other forms of mining), the use of toxic chemicals, and exploitation of workers in the most disadvantaged parts of the world.

That said, I’m not here to shove some sort of guilt or privilege on you, readers, for even thinking about buying gems, whether for spiritual purposes or because you like the piece. My hope is that you will put some thought into your purchases, and maybe consider other options.

But what if there is a stone which would be perfect for your upcoming magical workings, and you don’t already own it? That’s what I had above. Incidentally, it turned out my intuition for being pulled to both stones had merit. Pink tourmaline is said to support the adrenal glands, and rutilated quartz can give energy to people dealing with chronic health problems. Both are still problems for me, and I am still working on healing. It may be psychosomatic, but I am already feeling a change in my state of health, and for the better.

In addition to educating myself about mining practices, I’ve decided to take a few courses of action with gem buying now.

1. Buy with intent
In the past, yes I have bought gems because I thought they were pretty, shiny, and just because I could. Which means that now I do have a nice little collection and can cover a lot of bases with spiritual needs. If I feel pulled to having something new, I will look around and find the right piece. Not just buy a few and hope one of them works out.

2. Buy vintage
Or even secondhand. I’ve bought some lovely stones in the last few years from friends selling off some of their collection. Should you be worried about unwanted energies hanging around the stones, you can clean them with water (where applicable) or put them in sunlight. But not all stones can handle such cleaning. My favorite way to clean gems now is to set them on a piece of selenite. The gem is also said to be self-cleaning which means I do not have to worry about cleaning IT in addition.

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3. Look outside your door

Several years ago, I left my house one day and discovered a regular round rock sitting on the ledge of one of the flower beds. Now, the land around my house isn’t all that rocky, and my neighbors aren’t the sort just to leave stones near the door. I’ve kept that rock, even though I don’t know just what its purpose is yet. But gem and rock work is not limited just to shiny polished stones fit for jewelry. A rock from your property can be used for protection work, healing (by drawing out illness), or any Earth-related magic.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about going to a gem show, hoping to find amethyst and pyrite. There was little to be found that day. According to one of the vendors, a high demand from the New Age market (and yes I am kinda throwing us pagans and polytheists into that group) meant a limited amount of material available. I would hate to think that our demands would also mean these gorgeous materials would no longer be available.

Resources

Bendell, Jem, et. al. “Mindful mining.” in The Journal of Corporate Citizenship. 12/2009, issue 36.

Duffy, Rosaleen. “Gemstone mining in Madagascar: transnational networks, criminalisation and global integration.” in Journal of Modern African Studies. 45:2. 2007.

Keeping cool

How do we keep our cool as activists? I’m thinking about this not only in terms of keeping our cool in the moment – when directly confronted with something inherently wrong – but long-term. We talk about recharging and doing self-care and avoiding burnout, and all of those are vitally important, but I also mean something more: how do we keep going when there isn’t an action to do, or when the very necessary action we have to do is waiting?

It’s times like Litha that make me need to ground. (Grounding and centering are of course part of the answer, but not all of it, I think.) It’s days like these midsummer ones when I long to be outdoors, even if the heat and the air pollution aren’t really good for me, and I have to stop myself and put on sunscreen and just generally exercise so much more restraint than I would like. (Explain to me again why I can’t be topless on my own balcony? Never mind.) The energy of these times is pulling me up and out and into action. But sometimes that’s not what I need to do.

I was talking with another Witch about how frustrating it is that when we are confronted with what seems like clear-cut discrimination, the first thing you have to do is wait. You keep your cool in that moment, and you document, and you ask firmly and politely, and you document the responses. You don’t start shouting about the Constitution and firing off curses even if that’s really what you want to do. You don’t crawl away resigned, even if you are shaking a little bit out of shock, even if that’s what a lifetime of being a woman tells you to do. You begin to work the system, gathering allies and mounting a response, and then you wait.

And you wait for a long time. Consulting experts takes time – even finding the right people to consult about something can be a significant challenge. (Your cousin’s niece’s friend who worked at Starbucks by the law library for six months, or anyone else you encounter on the Internet, is probably not the expert you need.) Once you find them, the experts go to work, and you wait some more. You remind yourself that all your other options remain available, but once you get aggressive, you can’t go back, at least not easily. You listen to the advice of the experts, and you wait. Somehow, you sustain yourself.

I’m writing here from the perspective of the issue that I went through trying to get my ordination recognized, but I think the same issues arise in a lot of other activist work. Even when it is not so purely personal, there is a ton of waiting involved. I know I’m waiting right now to hear the Supreme Court decision about reproductive health care requirements in the ACA. That case was heard in March, and the oral arguments were just the latest step in a long line of developments. Now we wait.

Experiences like this are challenging me to develop a more nuanced view of activism. It seems like activism should be all fire – acting and making changes in the world. Litha should be high time for activism. But just as I am learning that I need to ground at Litha, I am learning that activism isn’t all about catching fire. As often as not, the fire will catch you. It does that. The challenge is learning how to channel it, how to direct it, and maintain it, banked and smoldering on a gray and rainy day of waiting.

I am only beginning to come up with my own approaches to this problem. One of them is everyday activism, trying to make better choices on an ongoing basis, in the hopes of contributing to gradual change. This approach is necessarily limited; I do not fall into the trap of believing that consumer choices alone will motivate the necessary developments, even in areas where my consumer choices can make a difference. At the same time, I need to focus on my personal work, and stay connected both to my everyday and to the bigger picture, so seeing my choices in both contexts is helpful.

Another approach is magic. The emotion that develops while waiting can be powerful fuel for magical energy, if I can direct it and not be overwhelmed by it. Gathering up and directing that emotion into energy for change is a powerful experience, and it is not limited to a single time and place; I can do magic for my purposes many times while waiting, and it can be a fruitful outlet.

I would love to hear about your own strategies for “keeping cool” in this sense. What I notice about the two approaches I have mentioned is that both are ways of nurturing hope. Concentrating on my smaller individual choices helps me hope. Doing magic can change emotions of frustration, anger, and even fear into energy that sustains my hope for a different outcome. I think that’s the underlying message that I’m learning about sustaining activism and keeping cool: when I’m not acting, I’m hoping.

Media, Mind Control, Myth, and Magic

4880615–By Shauna Aura Knight

Your mind is being controlled. Really. It’s happening all the time, and at a subtle, insidious level.

You are being programmed.Every time you read a billboard, watch a commercial, even a TV show. You are being brainwashed. Ideas are being thrown at you. You’re being told a story, you’re being told what to buy, what to believe, what to value, what you should be doing with your life.

You’re being told who you should be. And the problem is, it works.

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Greening your magics: an introduction

If you don’t respect the earth, you starve.Eli Sheva.

Since Michelle first asked me last year if I would contribute to Pagan Activist, I’ve been struggling with the very idea that I might be an activist. I’m not someone who participates in protests, or writes letters, or anything overt. If I am one, I am an activist in my day to day living. When airlines first started offering carbon offsets, and the discussions came up as to their effectiveness, I decided that I would make a donation of a tree through Heifer International every time I flew. I stopped eating Nestle brand anything 20 years ago when I learned of their atrocious policies around baby formula. I share what I learn. And over the years I have discovered that other people have taken my mentions of doing these things as inspiration. It feels like an Emerald Tablet approach to activism.

In April, an idea started to brew in my head. There was Shauna’s excellent post here about not accepting offerings distributed in nonrenewable materials., and a post I now cannot locate on Tumblr about alternatives to sage for smudging. My overt magical practices are being revived and I have noticed that my ethos has reshaped how I handle my spiritual life. Some of what I am doing is coming a lot closer to my physical home. Alchemy happened in my brain and the idea came forth.

I am a pagan, a polytheist, a practitioner of magic. Surely I am not the only person looking at this blog who does some form of spellcraft or puts out offerings for the spirits.

Perhaps instead of talking about current events or activism in the theoretical I can start to go into the practical applications. A series of posts covering ways in which our actions, our supplies, our ritual work, our outlook, can reshape and be a form of activism. Let us consider the ways in which our desire for certain plants and stones can damage the environment. The pollution from all those candles. Let us consider that our actions have reprocussions.

Let us also consider bioregionalism. Lupa’s documentation of Therioshamanism over the years has shown a path morphing from animal spirit work to one tied heavily to where she lives. My friends Beth and Jo have made great strides in tying Heathen festivals to the weather patterns of their new(-ish) home of Eugene, Oregon, as well as development of festivals based on local celebrations. On my own front, I have been learning over the last few years of how the three Kemetic seasons of Innundation, Harvest, and Fallow Time can be felt even as I cycle through New England spirngs, summers, autumns, and winters.

If Lykeia can find the rhythm of the Olympians while living in Alaska, they can be found anywhere.

Perhaps I am preaching to the converted here. Perhaps not. I feel the need to discus these matters and hope that you will accompany me along this ride.

As of right now, here are my planned topics of discussion:
offerings
herbs
stones
candles
bioregional spirituality
(possibly) earth healing rituals

If there are any topics you would like to see me cover, feel free to leave a comment.

In the meantime, perhaps you will consider perusing some reading material to spark your mind on these matters.

James Endredy. Ecoshamanism.
Yasmine Galenorn. Embracing the Moon. (includes land and species protection rituals)
Marian Green. A witch alone.
Lupa. New paths to animal totems. (One section is about working with bioregional totems)
Rosa Romani. Green spirituality.
Starhawk. The earth path.
Peter Lamborn Wilson, et. al. Green Hermeticism. (because even “high magic” workers can find something in this discussion.)

Blogs:
Sarah Anne Lawless (formerly Witch of Forest Grove)
Therioshamanism
Wytch of the North (my friend Beth, mentioned above.)
Strip me back to the bone (my friend Jo, again above.)
Beloved in Light
A Forest Door

Your Voice. Your Vote. Your Move.

We live in a pretty freaking awesome country.  Sure, it has its problems, not a few of which are connected to our politics, but there are some really great things about living in America.  If there weren’t, people wouldn’t still be trying to join us in as we continue our grand democratic experiment.

But there’s something that each of us should do, a role that — as citizens — we should perform that too few of us actually seem to accomplish.  It’s a fairly simple thing but, as we’ve learned, it can become deceptively complex.  If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s voting.

I read an article this past week about Christians planning to abstain from their vote.  Effectively, to give up their voice in this election; to give up their ability to help choose our direction.  And, they seem to be doing so because they find neither President Obama nor Governor Romney an appropriate candidate.

But, there are more options than that.  Voting for a third-party candidate can seem futile; we all know the likelihood of a third-party candidate actually winning the presidency is pretty much slim to none.  But, your vote shouldn’t simply be cast based on the likelihood of a candidate’s successful campaign.  You should be casting your vote to make your intentions clear.  When considered in that light, voting is a magical act.

While I suspect that many of you are familiar with the Obama and Romney platforms, you might be less familiar with the following presidential and vice presidential candidates:

Voting shouldn’t only be about helping someone win.  It’s about making your intention clear to the pollsters, to your friends and family, to the nation, and — if you believe as I do — the gods.

On November 6th — or earlier if your state allows it — make your voice heard.

It’s your vote.  Make your move.