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Change Consciousness at Will

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One well-known definition of magic, sometimes attributed to Dion Fortune, is the ability to change consciousness at will. I want to ask you to do some magic, come the Tuesday after the first Monday in November (November 4th, this year).

No, it’s not a presidential election, so you may not have heard too much about it. It’s a mid-term election, when many states, counties, and municipalities, will elect Senators, members of Congress, County Commissioners, members of the Board of Education, etc. In some ways, these midterm elections are even more important than the every-four-years and much-vaunted presidential elections. Every president needs a Congress and a Senate that will confirm hir appointments, vote for hir programs, sustain hir vetoes. And the people elected today to local Boards of Education, County Water Boards, and State Legislatures often show up a few years later on the national stage — having cut their teeth on local elections, done some networking, gotten some experience. They’re often the ones that State and local parties send as delegates to the every-four-years national conventions to select presidential candidates.

Most magic requires a bit of preparation. You have to have learned how to ground and center. You have to have memorized the spell or the chant. You have to have dug dirt from the graveyard, pricked your finger and squeezed blood into the alabaster bowl, ground the deadly herbs with a mortar and pestle smudged with sage. Voting on November 4th is the same. You have to have registered to vote. (Dates for this vary, depending upon your State.) You have to figure out what kind of id you may need to bring with you to the polling place. You have to spend maybe a half an hour or so online deciding for which candidates you will vote. And, then, you have to show up and vote.

You can do it as I do: invoking the Suffragettes, a grandmother born before women could vote, and Columbia, Libertas, and Hecate (elections are a crossroad), in the early morning, coffee cup in had, and standing for a few minutes in the lightening dark with my neighbors before I walk into the sanctum sanctorum, the voting booth, cast my votes, close my eyes, whisper, “So mote it be,” and then drive to work. Or you can go at lunch, or after work, or around 11:00 am when the polls are likely empty. It’s very unlikely you’ll have to stand in any kind of long line for a midterm election, which is yet another reason why, even if you don’t vote for president, you should vote in the midterm election.

So why do I call it magic? Why do I say that voting is a way to change consciousness at will?

Single women, young people, and minorities are the groups least likely to show up to vote — and that’s especially true of midterm elections such as the one coming up in a few days. Even though Republicans — who are not popular with women, many young people, and minorities — are no longer able to appeal to a majority of voters, they are considered more likely to win midterm elections because older, privileged, white men are more likely to show up and vote in midterm elections than are women, minorities, young people. And so, not too oddly, Republicans have decided that it’s safe to conduct a war on women, voting regularly against equal pay for equal work, voting to restrict women’s access to health care, announcing that young women just don’t know enough to vote and should, as a result, stay home and paint their fingernails.

You know what? They’re terrified that you’ll actually show up and vote. You can change not only your own but also their consciousness at will.

Tell me in comments that you showed up to vote in the midterms. Tell me that you did magic. Tell me that you made them afraid to keep shitting on you to make an ever-vanishing crowd of evangelical wing-nuts happy. You can use your will to change their consciousness.

It’s magic.

Picture found here.

And I Only Am Escaped Alone to Tell Thee

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A beloved friend invited me to come over this weekend and sit with her and her mother as her mother was slipping between the veils. I’ve loved and done magic with both of these women and so it was a special benison to be able to sit in the warm Autumn sun, and knit, and chat, and make tea, and be present for this moment at the Crossroads.

One of the things that I love about Witchcraft is that, for me, it’s a religion for everyday. It reminds me of the wonderful dialogue from Much Ado About Nothing:

DON PEDRO
Will you have me, lady?

BEATRICE
No, my lord, unless I might have another for working days. Your Grace is too costly to wear every day. But I beseech your Grace pardon me. I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.

Like the dialogue a bit before, my everyday religion “keeps me on the windy side of care.”

Many people only really need religion at major occasions: when someone is born, or gets married, or dies. And that’s OK; it’s good that religion is there to help people get through those milestones. But with my Sun in Pisces, religion is more to me than that, and Witchcraft is my religion for working days as well as for “high days, and holy days, and bonfire nights.” And some working days I just get up, commute, don the cloak, become Columbia’s priestess — an officer of the Courts, a Druidic law-speaker — and go home to pull weeds and meditate. And some days, I invoke Hecate, and am present while another Witch walks up to the Crossroads, screws her courage to the sticking point, and fingers the veils, testing for that sweet spot where she can slip betwixt and between.

And I like having one religion for both kinds of events.

When I was driving home, I was thinking how almost everyone who comes through such events says, in one form or another, “Tell the people you love that you love them. You won’t approach the Crossroads sad that you didn’t watch more tv or spend more time arguing on the internet. But I only am escaped alone to tell thee to spend more time doing what you love and being kind to people.”

And so I am going to do less of one and more of the other.

I won’t be gone long. You come, too.

Picture found here.

Monday Halloween Poetry Blogging

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A Witch

~ William Barnes

There’s thik wold hag, Moll Brown, look zee, jus’ past!
I wish the ugly sly wold witch
Would tumble over into ditch;
I woulden pull her out not very vast.
No, no. I don’t think she’s a bit belied,
No, she’s a witch, aye, Molly’s evil-eyed.
Vor I do know o’ many a-withrèn blight
A-cast on vo’k by Molly’s mutter’d spite;
She did, woone time, a dreadvul deäl o’ harm
To Farmer Gruff’s vo’k, down at Lower Farm.
Vor there, woone day, they happened to offend her,
An’ not a little to their sorrow,
Because they woulden gi’e or lend her
Zome’hat she come to bag or borrow;
An’ zoo, they soon began to vind
That she’d agone an’ left behind
Her evil wish that had such pow’r,
That she did meäke their milk an’ eäle turn zour,
An’ addle all the aggs their vowls did lay;
They coulden vetch the butter in the churn,
An’ all the cheese begun to turn
All back ageän to curds an’ whey;
The little pigs, a-runnèn wi’ the zow,
Did zicken, zomehow, noobody know’d how,
An’ vall, an’ turn their snouts towárd the sky.
An’ only gi’e woone little grunt, and die;
An’ all the little ducks an’ chickèn
Wer death-struck out in yard a-pickèn
Their bits o’ food, an’ vell upon their head,
An’ flapp’d their little wings an’ drapp’d down dead.
They coulden fat the calves, they woulden thrive;
They coulden seäve their lambs alive;
Their sheep wer all a-coath’d, or gi’ed noo wool;
The hosses vell away to skin an’ bwones,
An’ got so weak they coulden pull
A half a peck o’ stwones:
The dog got dead-alive an’ drowsy,
The cat vell zick an’ woulden mousy;
An’ every time the vo’k went up to bed,
They wer a-hag-rod till they wer half dead.
They us’d to keep her out o’ house, ’tis true,
A-naïlèn up at door a hosses shoe;
An’ I’ve a-heärd the farmer’s wife did try
To dawk a needle or a pin
In drough her wold hard wither’d skin,
An’ draw her blood, a-comèn by:
But she could never vetch a drap,
For pins would ply an’ needless snap
Ageän her skin; an’ that, in coo’se,
Did meäke the hag bewitch em woo’se.

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Resolutions, and Goals, and Objectives . . . . Oh, My!

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We seem to be careening towards Samhain at an incredible pace; there are fewer than two weeks left to this liturgical year. The veils are already tissue thin. Family members (living and dead) populated my dreams last night and my brother (who was about as unreligious as you can get) told me, “I was always better at theology than you.” I woke up thinking, “But I am better at praxis.”

For many Pagans, Samhain is a time to make plans for the coming year, to set new goals and objectives, to organize new ways of working in the world. Maybe it’s a way of casting an anchor forwards to a time when the veils won’t be so thin, of helping to assure ourselves that we won’t wander too far in the Autumn mists. And maybe it’s a way of working really deep magic — the kind that changes your life and the world — at a time when our landbase itself is magically transformed by green leaves turning crimson and fluttering to the ground.

I’ve posted before about my practice of selecting a Word of the Year, a technique that I learned about from Christine Kane. You can find her worksheet (which I fill out every year) here. There’s certainly nothing wrong with simply writing a basic list of goals and objectives and there’s plenty of information about how to do that. What I like about the Word of the Year practice is that it provides an organizing principle. I develop my list of goals and objectives around my word and find that I’m able to achieve more when everything is related. I’m still thinking and meditating about my word for the coming year.

Poet and novelist Theodora Goss recently posted a helpful technique that she uses to accomplish her objectives.

I’m the sort of person who wants to do everything: Teach. Write novels and stories and essays and poems. Spend time with my daughter, of course. But also learn Hungarian, and go to the ballet, and read books. Travel when I can. Decorate my apartment. There’s time for all of that, but I have to figure out when and how to do each thing so I’m doing it well, and not exhausting myself. That takes pacing.

So for example, I’m decorating my apartment. My impulse is to do everything at once: to buy the bookshelves, put them together, stain and finish them. Buy the pillows, the fabric to cover the pillows. Sew the pillow covers. But I don’t have time to do everything at once, because I’m also teaching and writing. So instead I do a little each day, and I find that as long as I’m doing something each day, eventually it gets done. The shelves go up, the pillows are covered and put on the daybed.

It takes having patience, and being able to divide work into discreet tasks so you can do it a bit at a time. So for example, today I’m going to stain the shelves, then let them dry overnight, turn them over, and stain the other sides tomorrow. They should be completely stained by this weekend, when I can put the whole bookshelf together and finish it with oil. Soon, and by soon I mean at the end of the week, I’ll have a bookshelf, and the books that have been sitting on the floor will have a home. I do hate books sitting on the floor, so not having a place to put them has been an exercise in patience. But I know that as long as I work on the shelves every day, a little at a time, I will eventually have a floor without books on it.

As I get older, I find that, more and more, I have to approach chores this way. My energy may not hold out to let me finish an entire project in one day, but, with a bit of planning, I can make a schedule and accomplish what I want over a few days. (Have I mentioned recently that calendars are every bit as much magical tool as athames, wands, goblets, and candles? They are.) And, like Ms. Goss, I can feel that I’m making steady progress. Pacing, Ms. Goss writes, requires three things:

1. Prioritizing. Know what you actually want to do, and get rid of the things you don’t want to, to the extent you can.

2. Dividing tasks over time. Figure out how to divide what you need or want to do, and do part of it each day until it’s done. But almost anything you do, even the things you love to do, you will tire of, if you keep doing them long enough.

3. Dividing your time into tasks. What do you want to do when? What are the things you most need or want to get done today, and how are you going to arrange them? Can you fit in the things you need to do, the things you want to do, and the things that will give you a break from everything else? Remember to take a walk, read a book . . .

What word might organize your goals for the coming year? What techniques do you use to keep moving forward?

I leave you with some further good advice on making resolutions from my brilliant friend Elizabeth Engel:

Picture found here.

Mid-October PotPourri

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* This morning, I drove to work through Autumn fog. Occasionally, the thick moisture would part to reveal asters in mad bloom along the banks of the Potomac River. As I crossed the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, I saw my favorite Autumn tree: a white-barked sycamore, with golden-yellow leaves. A huge Virginia Creeper vine has reached almost to the top of the tree and its leaves are brilliant crimson. The vine really isn’t good for the tree, but, just now, the color combination, shining out of the fog, takes away my breath. If you pay attention to your landbase, it will talk to you. What’s yours saying these days?

* I adore Rima and (full disclosure) am lucky enough to own a few pieces of her art. And some of Tom’s poetry is copied into my own Book of Shadows. And so, in spite of the fact that Jason Pitzl-Waters‘ more-than-worthy campaign got the largest chunk of this quarter’s Hecate Donation Money, I’m going to scare up a bit for Rima and Tom. Come along with me if you’ve paid down your debts and have a few month’s salary in the bank. If not, maybe you can post their plea on your own blog, Book of Faces, Twit thing?

* Leonard Cohen is one of my oldest and most passionate crushes. He just turned 80 and, quoting his old Buddhist teacher, keeps saying, “Excuse me for not dying.” I hope that he’s with us as long as he likes.

I love the lyrics to Come Healing:

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace
O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Wednesday Evening Poetry Blogging

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Samhain

~ Annie Finch

(The Celtic Halloween)
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

Picture found here.