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.

The Goddess and Weakness

I went into my lobbying efforts with a deliberate desire to put my ethics into action and to dedicate that work to the Goddess as I know her and as she exists in every woman and every man. That mattered to me, and it helped me do a good job. I had some interesting experiences along the way, which I share here for others’ interest; these are not meant to be definitive for anyone but me, but I was surprised at the ways I experienced things that matched up with what other people have talked about in terms of ethics and some of the best means of responding to injustice.

I meditated and prayed before I began; I repeated my personal oath, as I do every day, and I promised myself that I would work extra-hard to measure my actions by that oath as I went into this new and challenging effort. As I started out, I had a deeper measure of calm than I expected, and at times, when I was taking a deep breath and refocusing myself, I felt that I could slip in and out of in a very, very light trance state, one where my personal awareness of deity and the beings around me was heightened, and one where my personal ethical commitments were foremost in my mind.

I used grounding and centering techniques repeatedly throughout the day. This was extremely helpful in dealing with the nervousness that comes from doing a new and challenging task, and especially when learning how to talk to staffers and present myself. When I did a quick review after each drop-in visit, I first grounded and centered, and that moved me right past the “I can’t believe I fumbled that word!” and “Oh my god they probably think I’m an idiot!” and on to the useful, important matters of how to improve for the next time. Of course, grounding and centering is also the best way to prepare before starting the next such encounter, too. It helped me not get trapped by anger or frustration or hopelessness.

Most of all, grounding and centering let me speak not just from my place of strength, but from my place of weakness. When I made the one real connection that I counted as achieving my personal goal for the day, I made it by speaking honestly and openly about how truly frightening these proposals are to me, and how truly dangerous they are to me. I was able to be strong in my weakness rather than try to cover it with anger.

Oh, I’m angry, too, and sometimes I showed that, but most of all, I wanted to show people that they’re not just causing anger, they’re causing fear, and they will cause harm if they continue on this course. Anger can be answered with anger. But a heartfelt admission of fear, especially a well-justified fear, is often harder to dismiss, harder to meet with cruelty and ignorance and abuse. Weakness became my strength.

In a lot of ways, I used the same approach when I went to silently counter the anti-abortion protesters. I couldn’t have done that, and certainly couldn’t have been as (minimally) successful as I was, without the grounding I relied on. If I hadn’t already thought deeply about the ethics of the situation, it would have been all too easy to get drawn into an argument with them, or to be shamed, or hurt, or appalled, or infuriated by their lies and hurtfulness.

And to tell the truth, I did feel all those things. But using the intent I had established for myself ahead of time as a touchstone let me feel, first and foremost, a kind of grace and peace that surrounded me, enfolded me, and healed all those hurts so that I could go on to do what I wanted to do. I exposed my weakness to them in a different way, by being silent, by not justifying myself or engaging with them, but simply being there. It sounds trite to say that their responses proved me right and reinforced me in my endeavor, but it was true for me.

Chanting very quietly to myself helped me ignore them physically and mentally, but it was also the perfect exercise for why I was there in the first place. Pulling up part of that light trance state helped me see the man yelling at me as not just someone who wanted to hurt me, but as also someone who has been hurt, who is trying to do the best he knows how, who also has a connection to the divine within him. As a result, I was able to focus on the feelings of sorrow and hope for his healing, to be filled with mercy and grace even as he yelled at me. He, too, comes from the Goddess, and to her he will return.

I was able and willing to be weak, and silent, and to let my fear become also part of the grace, because of the absolute conviction that what I was doing was right, and necessary, and worthwhile. I paid the cost, and paid it gladly, and would do it again. And by approaching it that way, the cost was made almost nothing.

I realize that can sound kind of condescending to the anti-abortion protesters. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard them praying something about asking Mary to forgive sinners very loudly right behind me, with the clear intent that I was the sinner they had in mind at the moment. (The particular people I saw seem to have been part of a tiny fringe Catholic organization.) I’m not saying that I had the right to be condescending to them and they didn’t; I am saying that I tried to make my external actions not condescending (while theirs were more so) and that this understanding helped me do something that I think, on an external judgment of impact, was an ethical action.

I can’t say that the Goddess was acting through me – in fact, even though I prayed to Ogma for eloquence and assistance in my speaking, it was precisely when I was talking to staffers that I felt not at all trance-like – but I do think that I succeeded in dedicating my actions to the Goddess. Some of the basic energy management techniques I’ve been exploring were a huge help, not just grounding and centering, but also the idea of a shield that automatically earths or transmutes negative energy sent at me. It was amazing how quickly the situation got easier for me, especially with that visualization in mind.

I have no training in nonviolent protest or civil disobedience beyond a bit of light reading, but what I felt was truly wonderful and powerful. It was also deeply spiritual, much more so than I expected. I can see myself doing that again in the future.

Finally, I want to send a huge thank you to the friends and family who sent me good energy and prayed for my endeavors that day. I felt it, (again in ways I didn’t expect!) and it helped, and I couldn’t have done it without you. This is what the work is about – and we are doing it together.