To keep the peace in Cleveland

There has been so much violence lately. I have so many thoughts about the proximate and ultimate causes of those incidents, and I am glad that our society is having some of the heartbreaking and necessary discussions around those issues. I cannot contribute more to those discussions today. What I want to do right now is first aid, attempting to staunch the bleeding, in particular in the overheated environment of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

I believe that one thing that would make everything worse is an outbreak of violence at the Republican convention. Whoever starts it, however it ends, I believe that it would further divide our country and entrench fringe positions in power. If you disagree, then you can do whatever work you think best. If you agree, then here’s what I’m doing to try to keep the peace in Cleveland for this crucial stretch of time.

I am a Witch, and right now I am a Witch in touch with the land of Ohio. This is my job. Anyone who wants to help can help; you don’t need to do it exactly the way I do it, and you don’t need to use the same tools I use. Pray, dance naked in the forest, drum for the rivers, do whatever works for you. But if you want to help with this, I’d be grateful, and if you’re not sure how best to help, maybe my work will give you some ideas.

I used a map of Ohio. Just a plain old highway map. (Yes, I rode dinosaurs back before we invented GPS and we used these paper things called maps to point our brontosauruses in the right direction according to the sun. It’s old tech but it still works.) If you don’t have one, print one out. Or draw it. Just the state of Ohio with the city of Cleveland marked on it. Or the watershed. Whatever works for you.

In my sacred space, I oriented the map so that north on the map was facing north in the physical world. (I think this is one of the few crucial parts of using maps. If you’re holding the map upside down compared to the real world, any kind of magic I’m familiar with would be very, very confused.) I sank my awareness down into the soil of Ohio, this glacier-scraped plain shot through with slow and winding rivers, and laid my hands on the map and asked it to become one with the places it represents. (Think of this as just like when you ask the water in the bowl for the west point in the circle to become one with all the Water of the world and what it means metaphysically.)

Then I made offerings. You should make offerings that work for you; mine are shaped at this moment in time by the relationships I’m working with. I poured out honey for the Good Folk, the more tricksy of the spirits of the land, and whiskey for my deities, who mostly come from the Celtic pantheon, who came over with their people when enough of them settled here to make Dublin, Ohio, a reality. I offered tobacco for the spirits of the First Nations, who I do not forget, even though I do not know them very well. I offered tobacco for the wrongs done under slavery, and as a reminder of Ohio’s role in trying to change that sinful system. I offered olive oil for Columbia Athena, who I believe to be the matron spirit of our government and of our nation as it exists now.

I laid out physical objects to express my intentions. My intention for this working is simple: let violence go to ground. Let every human being in and around Cleveland be influenced, in whatever way is possible, to be physically peaceful. This is an earth spell, so I used stones to express it. I put a lead bullet on top of Cleveland on the map, and on top of it and around it I piled black tourmaline, for grounding, and jet, to absorb evil, and a metallic meteorite, to bring things down from heaven to earth.

Obviously the bullet represents gun violence, but lead is also the metal of Saturn, the planet of restrictions and limitations. I am trying to hold down violence of all kinds, but especially gun violence. The guns are already present in Cleveland, in the hands of police and non-police, in the hands of people of all races and genders and political identities. What I am trying to do is keep them from being used.

This is a binding of sorts, but I am thinking of it mostly in terms of gravity: making the weapons of violence too heavy to lift, too heavy to wield, too heavy to fight.

You could do the same thing with stones from your landbase. Or black stones, or whatever stones represent earth and grounding and heaviness for you. The tools are just tools – you are the one doing the work.

With all this in place, I began to shape my intention, to give it voice and form and power. It became something like this:

May all the weapons be too heavy to lift.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May every hand that is raised be lowered again in peace.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May batons and sticks remain heavy on the ground.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May knives be blunted and fall from the wielder’s hand.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May guns hang heavy in their holsters and remain there.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May bullets find only earth and not flesh.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May grenades fall to the ground as duds.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only words be exchanged.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only voices be raised.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only emotions flow in rivers on the land.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May only hearts be lifted.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May people recognize each other’s humanity.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May people value the land they live in.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

May everyone survive.
Earth, mother of all, keep the peace.

While saying this, I put my hands over the stones on the map, and sent my energy into them. When I was done, I gave thanks, and ended my work.

Please note that this is NOT a time to light candles. The situation in Cleveland – and across the country, truth be told – is already volatile enough. It does not need any more undirected, ravening energy of change. If you want to join in this through visualization, great. Through praying to your land, crying to your rivers, speaking to your air, great. But don’t, for the love of all that’s holy, think you can extinguish gunpowder with a candle.

May it be so, for you, for all of us.

Stones for chakras

Much of the way I use stones, minerals, and crystals is based on how their colors correspond to the chakras. In my introduction to the chakras, I described how each one represents an area of life. I use stones corresponding to the chakras to support or stimulate certain qualities within those areas. For example, if I need more self-confidence, I want to use stones that correspond to the solar plexus chakra, so I’ll choose yellow stones.

When working with stones, your mileage may vary significantly, of course, but if you’re trying to get to know a stone, mineral, or crystal that you haven’t worked with before, making an assessment based on its color is a good place to start theorizing what its qualities might be. Experience changes these first guesses, of course. And like all systems of correspondences, the classification by color is only one factor that describes the nature of a stone.

Some stones have specific associations that either contradict or have nothing to do with their color – rose quartz, for example, is a very heart-related stone, even though it’s pink, not green. There are also multi-colored stones and stones that don’t really fall under one of the basic spectrum colors, such as pink and brown stones. I may address some of these specific stones in future posts.

Within a specific color family, different appearances lend themselves to different uses. I have found that stones which are more opaque tend to be more calming and regulating, supporting the functions of a chakra without necessarily overstimulating it. For example, I find calcite to be especially gentle and calming, and it is conveniently available in many colors and pretty affordable. I’ve also found that stones which are physically softer (fluorite, calcite, selenite, etc) tend to have gentler energy.

Conversely, the more transparent and harder a stone is, the more it will be useful for opening and energizing, tending to increase the energy of a particular chakra, whether that’s what is best or not.

There are many, many stones that are frequently used in magic, but here is a list of crystals that correlate with each chakra in my experience:

  • Root chakra: garnet, red calcite
  • Generative (second, sacral) chakra: carnelian, some amber, orange calcite
  • Solar plexus chakra: citrine, sulfur, yellow calcite
  • Heart chakra: emerald, malachite, bloodstone, green fluorite
  • Throat chakra: aquamarine, amazonite, turquoise, kyanite, blue calcite
  • Insight (third eye) chakra: lapis, sapphire, dumortierite
  • Crown chakra: amethyst, lepidolite, purple fluorite

Some people associate clear quartz with the crown chakra, but I’ll get into the subject of clear and dark-colored stones in a future post.

Imbolc – Poesis

I was called away from home suddenly a few days before Imbolc, and things have only settled down now. I am continuing to republish a series of essays originally written in 2012. I currently plan on moving in the middle of March, so things will probably continue to be intermittently disrupted for me until at least Ostara.

So far in this series, I haven’t written much about magic, or about specific deities, but for Imbolc, I’d like to delve into both areas, and in particular the way that my matron goddess, Brigid, helps me understand magic.

There are lots of Celtic influences in Wicca, and one of the most obvious is the Sabbat of Imbolc, which is traditionally the feast of the goddess Brigid. [1] No other Sabbat is so closely tied to a particular deity; even the rebirth of the Sun at Yule can be interpreted within a multitude of cultural contexts, historical and modern. And while Imbolc can be celebrated as the recovery from that rebirth and presage of spring, many people come together to honor Brigid at this time of year. She is an enormously popular matron and a figure that nearly anyone can turn to, which is perhaps why she was adopted as a Catholic saint and her worship continues in multiple forms down to the present day. I think her continuing popularity and accessibility are due in part to the way she embodies some of the fundamental ideas of magic as a way of interacting with the world.

Traditionally, Brigid has three specialties: she is the matron of healing, especially midwifery; of smith craft; and of poetry. Her history as a healer would be enough to explain her popularity, since nearly everyone needs healing at some point. But the other two areas seem like a strange combination: blacksmithing is not usually associated with either healing or poetry, and it is even more unexpected for a goddess to take an interest in what is traditionally a male-dominated craft. But the piece that seems not to fit is in fact the key to understanding the relationship between all three areas, as well as her continuing presence in Wicca. Smith craft is just that, a craft, and healing and poetry can be approached as crafts as well. It is this idea of crafting in many different forms that makes Brigid such a good representative of witchcraft as well.

Another way to understand this is to start with the idea of poetry. This English word comes from a Greek root, poiesis, which has to do with the whole concept of crafting and creating, almost in the sense of shaping. [2] To me, the way a skilled poet can go to the heart of a matter with just a single word exemplifies poesis. By the very faculty of naming and describing, poesis can influence the nature of a thing. This is not creation ex nihilo; it’s about emergence and shaping the way something develops in the world.

All three of Brigid’s areas are forms of poesis: healing is a process of transforming a situation, and a midwife in particular has the unique opportunity to help both mother and baby. Blacksmithing is also literally a process of shaping and forging something; it turns lumps of rock into useful tools. As these examples show, poesis is not just about words, but to me, the use of language in shaping reality is one of the most amazing examples. When a skilled writer crafts sounds and squiggles to produce meaning . . . well, that’s why we call it poetry. To me, all of these are magical processes, making Brigid fundamentally a goddess of magic itself.

Now, when I say that smithing is a magical process, I don’t mean that it is purely magic in the “Harry Potter” sense: the smith doesn’t wave a wand and instantaneously transfigure iron ore into horseshoes. The very idea of sorcerous shortcuts eliminating the hard work and necessary effort of the craft is antithetical to my understanding of magic. It doesn’t break the laws of nature, it works within them, just like everything else in the world. [3] This is why I don’t tend to ask whether something is “magic” or not. Instead I ask how magical it is. Think of something as simple as a seed sprouting: I can understand the biology, the chemistry, and the physics of it, but the simple fact that an apparently inert object can, under the right circumstances, transform itself into a living being thriving on simply dirt, water, and light is magical. It fills me with awe and joy. It is the numinous in the mundane which is characteristic of what I call magic.

Looked at this way, healing is also terrifically magical, whether it comes about because of meditation and mind-body work, or because of pharmaceuticals and surgery, or (better yet) some of each. Terry Pratchett observed that stopping someone from choking “doesn’t even sound magical until you understand that a way of turning nearly dead people into fully alive people is worth a dozen spells that just go twing!” [4] If you’ve ever seen someone suffering from low blood sugar have a dose of glucose administered, you’d think it was downright miraculous: in a matter of minutes, a person can go from passed out cold to walking and talking as if nothing ever happened. Understanding how that works so that healers can use it to help people, to make a difference in the world, makes it even more magical to me.

When I practice magic, it is closest to a form of poetry. I may use many different tools – stones, herbs, candles, cords – but what I’m doing, deep down, is describing things, crafting an understanding of the world that transforms from one thing to another, the way that the twist of a good poem suddenly transforms your understanding from one thing to another: snowflakes aren’t just snowflakes, they’re bits of lace. That juxtaposition of different understandings that changes the whole situation is the closest I can come to expressing what practicing magic is like.

These acts then become part of the narrative that I am making of my life, and taking that narrative into my own hands is most magical of all. It empowers me and it challenges me: if I really have these choices, what do I do with them? It helps me be more the storyteller and poet of my own life. I don’t have complete control, of course; this isn’t a work of fiction. But here in reality, it makes a difference, even about the things it can’t change. Magic and poesis do not “magically” fix all of the hard situations in my life. They help me face hard things gracefully, with understanding.

[1] There are myriad ways to spell the name of this goddess, including Brighid, Breed, Brigit, and more.

[2] See poesis. It actually comes by way of Latin, because while the Romans excelled in rhetoric and oratory, they admired Greek civilization for its much older and broader tradition of literature in all forms, and many of the great Roman writers considered themselves students of this Greek heritage. Another form of this root survives in medical terms like hematopoiesis, the process by which blood is created.

[3] This is why I both agree and disagree with Clarke’s Third Law: yes, technology can be magical, but to me, obfuscation is not a necessary part of magic. Understanding how something works increases my appreciation for the wonder of it and is part of why I find things magical.

[4] Pratchett, Terry. A Hat Full of Sky. HarperCollins e-books, 2004. Kindle location 4198 of 4579.

Home Warding

This article originally appeared in Circle Magazine, Fall 2013.

I live in a busy urban area, so warding my home is vitally important to me on many levels. Creating a sense of mental and emotional privacy is a necessary part of urban life. More than that, though, my warding designates my home as a space set aside, defined by my intention as the place I and my partner live and love. Casting and maintaining this magical boundary is not just about defining the edges of our home, but about shaping the very meaning of home in our everyday lives.

The basic pattern of my warding is a triple circle casting. Our apartment’s floor plan makes it possible to start at our doorway, which faces north, and move deosil through all the rooms, returning back to the door. The first circle I make is to delineate the boundary of our home area by visualizing a white line of energy at about waist height. When I come back to the place where I started, I visualize this continuous boundary growing into an irregular bubble that extends above and below our apartment to enclose it completely.

Once this boundary is established, the second circle is a cleansing with salt water. In each room I sprinkle the boundary that I’ve just defined, but also the space within the room as well, and visualize the saltwater clearing and dissolving anything unwanted within the space. This was especially important to me when we first moved in as a way of removing any residual energy from previous occupants. We renew this warding every year on the same day, and now the clearing with saltwater serves as a sort of regular cleaning to give us a ‘fresh start’ from anything we’ve struggled with at home over the previous year.

Finally I go around the apartment to bless it with incense. Sage and sweetgrass have both worked well for me, but I think almost any sweet-smelling scent would be a good choice. As I walk, I say out loud the intentions that I want my home as a whole and each room in particular to hold: “May this be a place of peace, of joy, of love…” In the bedroom, I might ask for rest, and also passion; in the living room, for hospitality and companionship; in the kitchen, for nurturing and community.

It’s important to me that this boundary is not an impermeable one. With both the water and the incense, every time I come to an opening in our home – a window, the door to our balcony – I draw a pentacle that fills the entire opening. I envision each of these as a particular kind of filter: for example, our windows should let in air and light, but keep us safe during storms.

The most important opening in this spell is our doorway. There are many different traditions that have to do with protecting the liminal space of the doorway. Since this warding is based on a circle casting, and most people practice not crossing over the boundary of a circle once cast, it would seem counterintuitive to incorporate a permanent doorway in a circle. In my adaptation, instead of seeing crossing the circle as an act that weakens it, I deliberately place the strongest parts of the spell at the doorway and use every time I pass through it as an opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce my warding.

When casting the warding, I start and end each circumambulation by magically anchoring my work in a small carving of a trinity knot that hangs just inside our door at eye level. This symbol represents to me the union of differences that give rise to all things, especially as reflected in the coming together of individuals to create a relationship. Since I see relationships – with deities, with nature, and with each other – as the heart of Wicca, this simple symbol reminds me of the essence of my religion and what I value about my home all at once.

As I leave, I touch the carving and send a small pulse of energy to the spell, saying:

Lady watch my going out and coming in again.
Lady ward my hearth and home, and all who live therein.

When I return home, I touch the carving again, and send energy, saying:

Lady watch my going out and coming in again.
Lady ward my hearth and home, and all my friends and kin.

I use the word “Lady” here to mean both the Goddess in general and my matron Brigid in particular.

We often talk about the power of the liminal in doing magic, and the doorway is one of those liminal spaces, neither inside the house nor out in a public area. Anchoring the spell at the doorway helps me use that liminality as a source of power, not weakness, for my warding. The warding itself is an honoring of liminality, a way of defining and delineating the difference between private and public, home and throughway, in and out. I use that power of creating a boundary to shape both the boundary between my home and the greater world and the inner nature of my home itself.

When I pass through the doorway, I am also acknowledging the existence of liminal times. These moments combine prayer and spell work, stitching a thread of reverence through the fabric of my everyday life. Pausing for a moment to say these words and re-empower my warding reminds me that entering and leaving the home is a holy moment, one worth approaching with intention.

When I leave, I reinforce my warding and ask for blessings on my home and family until I am able to return to them. When I return, I give thanks for my blessings, and send my love outward to all my loved ones’ homes as well.

Both parts of this practice grounds and centers me in the meaning of home and family, which is part of what I believe makes this warding as powerful as it is. We often talk about doing magic by phrasing our intentions in affirmative terms, rather than describing the negative that we do not want. This warding is so much more than just protection because it is centered on all the positive qualities that energize my home and the life we live in it. When I leave my home, I visualize those qualities, and the power that I put into the boundary is automatically protective in the sense that nothing contrary to those intentions can intrude. It’s not just that I am visualizing positive things instead of simply trying to counter negative ideas, it’s that there is so much energy wrapped up in the positive visualization that the boundary is much easier to sustain.

When I return home, connecting with that visualization again is a way to help me make the transition within myself. Whatever I have encountered while I was away, whatever else has been going on, taking a moment to acknowledge that I am now home, inside my own wards, with my family, helps me adjust and reorient myself. My partner and I enjoy living so close to the city, which reduces our commute time significantly. The downside of this choice is that we do not have a long car ride in which to let go of the stresses and troubles of the workday. Taking this moment in the doorway thus becomes an important tool to keep our home life separate from the world of work. Whatever we encountered there does not have to dominate our lives at home; we can choose to leave it outside and return to the intentions we’ve set for our space and time together.

If you would like to adapt this warding for your own home, I suggest that you begin by thinking and meditating deeply on what you want your home to be. Take a walk around your space and imagine all the possible visualizations you could include. This particular approach is best adapted for the physical space of a home rather than the entire boundary of a piece of property, but you could include a deck, garden, or even back yard, if it is a place where you spend time regularly. If you have a large property, I suggest that you use this form for your house itself, and create a separate perimeter for the land, one which is created in concert with the spirits of place, and takes a different form.

Within the home, choose your main point of entry as your anchor. Don’t feel that it has to be the “formal” entrance to the home, either. If you’re going to go in and out through the garage door, then make that your starting and ending point! For every other entryway that you encounter, visualize it outlined with energy, filled with a pentacle, and serving the same purpose as your main doorway. If you use the idea of a physical anchor or touchstone the way I do, try to get similar items to use at each doorway. If you’re working within a freestanding house, you might also want to include the roof and the foundation or basement as part of your visualization as well.

Including your whole family in the setting of the wards can make it a lot of fun. As you walk around the home, there’s plenty of time to express lots of different positive intentions together. If the kids want to bless the living room so that they can finally beat that video game, go for it; if a teenager wants to include a wish for individual privacy in her or his bedroom, incorporate that. The important thing is to cooperate in creating the meaning of your home as a place where you all live together.

My home warding is an integral part of my everyday life which operates on multiple levels. It is so much more than just an outward-facing protection spell; it is also an inward-facing focusing of intentions for our home. Casting it is an annual renewal and celebration of our dwelling in this place. Its presence establishes this as our space, carved out to be private and nurturing even in the midst of a busy urban situation. It contains and focuses the energy of our home to shape it into the kind of place we want to live. My frequent acknowledgment and renewal of this warding gives me opportunities for gratitude and reconnection. My warding serves as a context for all the daily acts of love that are the true magic of hearth and home.

Magic for the buds

Tonight I’m snuggled up and trying to stay warm while (yet another) snowstorm hits, here in February when we might expect things to be getting if not spring-like then at least a little milder. Tonight I will chant the names of plants and animals, and include many a prayer for the ones I do not know. Tonight I murmur over the unknown names of the people who are out of doors for any reason. Tonight I chant the names I know of my landbase, and include silence for the names, to borrow Eliot’s words,

…the names that you never will guess;
The names that no human research can discover—
But the land itself knows, and will never confess.

Tonight I say the names, and I keep the silence, and I pray my prayers to the nearly-full moon, and to all beneficent powers, to be merciful to the buds which have just appeared, and to the people who are out of doors, and to the land.

budsWhat are you doing to turn the Wheel?

Imbolc: Make a Brigid’s Cross ritual

It’s almost Imbolc! In honor of Brigid’s day, you might want to read my stories of Brigid, think about making an affirmation to engage Brigid’s gifts of fire and poetry in your own life, or try this simple ritual. Whatever you do to celebrate the day, enjoy, and may Brigid bless you richly!

Ritual: Crafting a Brigid’s Cross

Making Brigid’s crosses is a traditional Imbolc activity. In this ritual, we use strips of paper and empower each strip with an intention that we send to Brigid. Each strip can be a separate matter, or you can weave together multiple intentions all related to a single project or issue.

Materials:

  • Strips of paper. You can make these using regular typing paper, but I recommend construction paper if you can get some. Try multiple colors! Cut the strips lengthwise, about a half inch wide. If possible, use a ruler and pencil to sketch straight lines and cut with a long pair of scissors to make the strips even. You will need about 12 strips to make a single cross.
  • Writing instrument that will show up on the paper chosen.
  • Tape to seal the ends of the cross, or glue.

Ritual:

Cast the circle and call the Quarters. You can focus your invocations on Brigid and the theme of Imbolc, or tailor them to fit the intentions you will be instilling into your project.

Invoke Brigid with a poem, chant, or song. “Way to the Well” and “Holy Well and Sacred Flame” are especially well-suited to this Sabbat.

Write your intentions, wishes, or prayers on the strips of paper. Don’t worry about filing them all; it is better to have a few blank ones included than to have too many to work into a single cross.

Leave one strip blank, or just write Brigid on it. Lay it down in the center of your space, pointing up and down.

For the next strip, read it aloud, and say, “Brigid, hear my prayer.” Fold the strip in half with the words on the inside, folding it across the center strip with the ends pointing to the right.

Rotate your cross a quarter-turn counter clockwise. Now the single center strip is pointing left and right, and the strip you just folded is pointing up.

Read and bless the next strip. Fold it in half across the previous one with the ends pointing to the right.

Repeat the previous two steps until your cross is a size you like.

For a visual example of the folding, see these instructions or this example with pipe cleaners.

When you are done, use a little bit of tape across the ends of the arms to hold all the strips in place. (If you prefer to use glue to glue together each strip as you go, follow the instructions in the first link above.)

Holding your completed cross, repeat your poem, chant, or song and give thanks to Brigid.

Thank the Quarters and open the circle.

Afterwards, keep the cross and hang it somewhere where you can look at it and draw on its energy. If this is a short-term project, then when it is completed, dispose of the cross by burning, recycling, or composting it as a thanks-offering to Brigid. It is especially appropriate to burn it on one of the fire festivals (Beltane, Lunasa, or Samhain) if you can. If the cross relates to a long-term project or concern, dispose of the cross at the next Imbolc, and make a new one if you wish.

The Fool: A full moon ritual of play and possibilities

To start off the new year, here is a ritual I’ve written to engage with the Fool card of the Tarot, and specifically with the theme of play. Playing can be a way of opening ourselves up to new possibilities and to opportunities for re-envisioning our path forward. Especially for us as adults, this is not always easy, and it does not always seem reasonable. It’s not supposed to be reasonable – it’s play! Try approaching this ritual with an open mind and open heart.

To set the space, we play with each of the four Elements: with words, with actions, with laughter, and with what we wear (the way we present our bodies). Then we invite the goddess Luna to inspire us with her foolishness and wisdom, and try to bring that inspiration into being by playfully creating something. In addition to the freedom of experiencing playfulness, this creation can be a source of divination and possibly inspiration to help us imagine new possibilities for the year ahead.

Materials:

A silly hat or something else to wear that makes you feel playful. If in doubt, take something not normally worn as headgear and put it on your head.

Creative materials: crayons, water paints, construction paper and a pair of scissors, clay, whatever strikes you as fun. It’s important that you choose something that is open-ended, something where you don’t feel like you have to reach a designated end state or do it “correctly.” Have lots of starter materials (blank paper) available. You may want to start over, make multiple pieces, or something else: the point is to play!

Fool card: you may want to have the Fool card from your favorite Tarot deck available as inspiration. Any time you feel as if you can’t handle the silliness, look at the Fool and invite her to lead you a little further.

Ritual:

Cast your space by doing something foolish. Skip, jump, or hop your way around the perimeter of your circle. Imagine your circle as a giant trampoline and bounce up and down in it to get it moving. Visualize this time and space as a blank canvas for you to express yourself in ways that might surprise you.

Circle, circle, round and round, circle cast upon the ground.

Circle, circle, round and round, circle here and now is bound.

 

I open myself to the divine wisdom of foolishness!

Face East and use these or other nonsense words to invoke the playfulness of Air:

Snicker-snack, snicker-snack, the vorpal blade goes snicker-snack!*

I call the Air to hear my joy and send it onward, send it back!

Face South and use the silliest actions you can think of to invoke Fire. Start with sticking out your tongue and go from there: make faces, wave your arms, dance if you want. If you do this long enough, you should start to laugh at yourself, which leads to…

Face West and laugh. Laugh at yourself, at a funny joke, at a stupid joke, at the hilarity of the universe, and when all else fails, laugh at nothing.

Face North and put on your silly hat.

In the center, invoke Luna with these words or ones of your own:

Goddess of the full moon,

change the way I think and see,

bring your light and lunacy.

 

Foolishness here in play is revealed,

and deeper within lies wisdom concealed.

Engage with the kind of playful creativity you have chosen. Do whatever it takes to get yourself into a state of openness and activity. Try things like letting your eyes go out of focus or working with your nondominant hand. Practice observing what you create without labeling or evaluating it. Create something first, and then tell a story about it afterward, rather than trying to express a story. Try creating more than one item.

When you are finished – and only you know when that happens – rest, and ground and center yourself.

Give thanks to Luna for her inspiration and promise to spend time considering what you have created.

Bow deeply to the North as you take off your silly hat.

Grace the West with a smile and possibly one more laugh.

Blow a kiss to the South.

Tell the East:    I give thanks for the divine wisdom of foolishness!

Open your circle – perhaps by hopping backward? – and give yourself more time to rest and return to your usual mode of being.

Afterwards, possibly the next day, you may wish to journal about how it felt to do this ritual. What was difficult? What was easy? What surprised you?

Spend some time reflecting on your creation. Treat it as if it were a new Tarot card that you were trying to get to know: look for patterns, images, suggestions of all sorts. What does it suggest to you? Is there something here which might seem foolish but point the way to some other ideas for you to consider?

*With apologies to Lewis Carroll; this is part of my favorite nonsense poem, so it evokes the idea of playing with words for me.

Simple New Year’s ritual

I didn’t realize it until now, but this is the perfect time of year for Crossing the River to come out, as we’re about to cross over the boundary from one year into another. You can read more of my musings on boundaries and liminality around the new year over at Pagan Square.

On a similar theme, I want to share a simple but fun ritual for New Year’s: after the stroke of midnight or first thing in the morning, make noise and chant:

Old year is gone away,

New year is come today!

See? I promised it was simple!

Seriously, though, the new year is a great time for change. Combined with the fact that the new moon is on January 1st, this is an excellent time for doing the kind of work that I’m starting to think of as “editing” my life. It can be banishing and removing, but I like the idea of editing, which is a process that removes what doesn’t belong and reorganizes and improves the rest in order to create a better whole overall. The “editing” metaphor is more intuitively accessible to me, and it’s more intuitively focused on a positive outcome. As always, use the visualization that works best for you.

This mini-ritual is simple and easy, so it’s an accessible way to engage the energy of this time even if you  haven’t been able to do a year-end review and set your umpteen thousand goals for the next 20 years of your life along with a detailed plan of how to achieve every single thing you’ve ever dreamed of…yeah, right. You don’t have to get too bogged down in the details here; just engage with the energy of the changing calendar and turning Wheel of the Year. Open yourself to the possibilities that a new year brings, and use that to kick-start your reflections and actions.

I have to admit, this ritual can also be fun and cathartic. There’s something visceral about making noise, which anthropologists dryly describe as a “primitive” way of scaring off bad spirits, but which can also be a way to change one’s feelings and experience, as I use it here. It is important to observe, however, that noise is NOT necessarily cathartic or fun for the people around you, especially if you’ve had more to drink than they have, so please exercise good sober judgment about this. If you live in your little Wiccan paradise and can go out to your own personal stone circle with no one around, take some pots and pans, take a whole brass band, and go to town. If, like most of us, you live in a place where others are around, or you’re fitting this into your other celebrations with friends and family, perhaps just clap your hands and blow one of those paper noisemakers.

Either way, make the most of the liminality of New Year’s; may it bring you an abundance of good things!

Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul published

Bad news first: Crossing the River has been delayed slightly, because the publisher had to deal with another anthology first. We’re shooting for January now.

Good news: The anthology Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, edited by Tara Masery Miller, has been published by Immanion Press, and it includes two of my pieces, “Speak for Yourself: The problem of victim-blaming by magical practitioners,” and “Sick or Well: False Dichotomy.”

Here’s the opening of “Speak for Yourself:”

Blaming people with disabilities for their conditions happens all too often. Some common metaphysical interpretations of disability and disease – as indicative of a person’s power, purity, or lack thereof, or as signs of past wrongdoings that are being worked out – carry tremendous potential to hurt people already facing difficult circumstances. Although some tout these understandings as empowering, even narratives intended to be helpful can easily degenerate into victim-blaming. To counteract these destructive potentials, I suggest that anyone who uses these potentially problematic approaches be very careful not to impose it on anyone else; if you are going to use these interpretations, speak for yourself.

Voting is still a holy act

When I voted today, it was a holy action. That doesn’t mean it was a perfect one, or a sacred one, but it was still holy.

It can be tempting to say that politics is just too messy, too ugly, too banal, and that we don’t want to deal with it. Or to claim that if no politician or party accurately represents my position, I just won’t vote at all. I get that, I really do. I believe there are times that abstaining might be the better option. I just don’t think that today’s election in Virginia is one of those times.

I’m totally underwhelmed with who I voted for, but I could not in good conscience stand aside when a social conservative more interested in regulating private oral sex between consenting adults than instituting background checks on gun purchases is trying to gain control of my home. And don’t get me started on his positions in the war on women and his anti-QUILTBAG stances. His running mate is, doubtful though it might seem, even further out on the far right wing. And their slate’s candidate to replace Cuccinelli as AG is no prize, either.

Voting against them doesn’t make me happy about who I did vote for, but it did make me convinced that it was necessary to vote. This situation is a murky ethical choice. But we make these kinds of choices every day. When you deeply consider the ethical and environmental ramifications of your choices about what to eat, wear, and do, the intricacies quickly become overwhelming and the lack of “pure” options is starkly depressing. But we do make choices; we try to make better choices, weighing the kinds of harm and the situations involved, and most of us, most of the time, make a choice and try to do our best. I see voting – at least in this situation – as the same kind of closely considered imperfect act. But those imperfections don’t necessarily remove it from the realm of being holy.

For me, the work of voting is also an offering to Columbia, the American Athena. But that isn’t just “goddess-washing” the act of voting. It goes to the heart of what I’m talking about here. Athena is a goddess of practicality, and of humans and how they live together. She knows all about trade-offs and difficult legal situations. She stands over the current Capitol, and although the situation inside that building may be dysfunctional, I don’t believe that means we should scrap it all or lay blame equally and try to start from scratch. We’ll see more about that when next year’s elections roll around. But Columbia wants us, I believe, to work together, and to do better. That means starting from where we are, imperfections and all.

This idea of working together, even when that is difficult, is why, for me, voting is still holy. Voting is the core action of participating in the larger whole, in the democracy of our country that is supposed to include everyone. The business of how we manage our joint, civic lives is right down there in the connections between all of us. As such, it’s never going to be “pure” or “ideal.” It’s not sacred in the sense of being set-apart from the everyday. But it is essential. Voting is a piece of magic where I reinforce my participation in what makes us a whole, and that makes it holy.

I hope you have the chance to vote today.