How It Started, How It’s Going

Dr. Gwendolyn Reece recently gave a fascinating talk to the Washington, DC Theosophical Society. Her topic was modern Paganism, Witchcraft, and Wicca. Even if you’ve been practicing a long time, I think you’ll find her insights very worthwhile. I certainly did.

Turn, Turn, Turn

As I write this, we’re just over five days from the autumnal equinox here in the magical Mid-Atlantic. And as Hecate is so fond of reminding us: “A Witch’s Job Is to Turn the Wheel and Round and Round the Wheel Must Turn.”

Mabon is the “witches’ thanksgiving,” where we draw in and count up our harvest, and celebrate our hard work and the bounty of the earth, the universe, and the deities we revere.

But this particular harvest season has me thinking a lot about loss and endings.

It’s partially because this week, the United States passed the dreadful milestone of  670,000 people dead of COVID. That’s 1 in 500 Americans. Wives and husbands. Mamas and babas. Tias and tios. Nonnas and nonnos. Bubbes, abuelas, play cousins, friends, lovers, children. Dead.

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg planned a memorial to the dead on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and by the time she could get it installed, it was already outdated.

On a more personal note, a close friend of mine of more than 25 years was just diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. They caught it early, in part because he was experiencing other health problems so was working with a medical team and being closely monitored already, and he was able to have surgery right away, because thankfully our hospitals here in Blue America are NOT overwhelmed with selfish idiots. But the five year survival rate is, basically, zero. His daughter just started college three weeks ago. His wife threw together a last minute birthday party for him just before surgery comprised of a tiny group of vaccinated people because, his relentlessly positive attitude notwithstanding, we’re all worried it will be his last.

At the moment, it’s hard to feel celebratory, or joyful, or even particularly thankful.

Then again, there IS a time to weep, a time to mourn, even, in fact, a time to die. Because that’s a part of turning the wheel, too.

And I hope we are all able to find a time for peace this Mabon.

Full lyrics to Pete Seeger’s lovely Turn, Turn, Turn:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

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Time to Apply the Ballard Query

I was reminded today of the Ballard Query:

“[A]in’t you people got no gods to worship? No holy days to celebrate? No Ancestors to deal with, er I mean venerate? In short — don’t you people have some sacred work to do? Justice work? Environmental work? Community weaving?”

To which I’d only add: No landbase to relate to? No wights for whom to pour blots? No foxes to know?

I was reminded of Byron’s wise words by several recent posts by Pagans whom I do admire, but, well, it can become too easy to spend a lot of time telling other Pagan that they are doing Paganism wrong.

The first post was one of a genre you see reasonably often. It warned about doing magic or asking deity for something without framing the request very, very, very, very carefully. The underlying premise seems to be that the universe is dumb, and the Goddesses and Gods aren’t too bright either, and if you’re not super careful, well, you can do a spell for prosperity and find yourself with a chunk of change — that you inherited from the parents you killed with your incautious magic.

And, of course, I’m all in favor of spending the time to think through exactly what you want. I spent my working life as a lawyer and I’m a big believer in exact language. But the universe isn’t a stupid GIGO computer and your Goddesses and Gods understand nuance. I am a fan of adding something to the end of a spell or prayer along the lines of “This, or something better, manifests for me.” That gives the universe some credit for being creative and bountiful.

The second post was complaining about the use of some terms for Sabbats; “Eostara” and “Mabon” came in for particular criticism. And, sure, like a lot of modern Paganism, we could quibble (And, oh, boy, could we! Well, there’s little enough that we CAN’T and DON’T quibble about, to be fair. ) over the provenance of those terms. But, you know, religions change, languages change, practices change and it’s OK. Unless you’re practicing a strictly reconstructionist version of one form or another of Paganism, it’s OK to let people enjoy their pumpkin-spice-cinnamon-latte Mabon.

As we move into Mabon, let’s all look for some balance. Some things need to be called out. And some things, well, they should remind us to “venerate our ancestors” or “weave our communities,” as Byron says.

(Sorry. I know I’ve used it twice, but I just love this picture. It’s me every morning setting out to walk these hills and dales. Apologies to whomever created it because I don’t know who you are or I’d credit you!)

Words for Wednesday

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. ~ Maya Angelou

All Politics Are Local

I’m going to make a point I’ve made before; some of you know this drill.

The last few weeks have made painfully clear that we ignore state and local politics at our peril.

Watching what’s happening to women’s rights in Texas (coming soon to another red state near you!) and to public health issues in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and other red states should concern all of us. Bounties on women are a test case for bounties on LGBTQ people, black people, and members of minority religions. Efforts to deny science and force hospitals to administer ivermectin are a test case for forced conversion therapy, re-implantation of ectopic pregnancies, and an end to birth control.

And all of these horrors spring from state and local government.

They spring from Governors like Greg Abbott in Texas who started out in Texas’ Young Republican Club, was a state trial judge and then on the Texas Supreme Court. He then worked for Bracewell & Giuliani (yes, that one) before being elected as Texas’ Attorney General. After that, he was elected Governor. He’s clearly planning to run for the White House. Someone could/should have shut him down when he was trying to become a trial judge.

They spring from Governors like Ron DeSantis who started as a Florida Congressman and then was elected/stole the Florida Governership. He’s clearly planning to run for the White House. Someone could/should have shut him down when he first smirked his way towards Congress.

Let me contrast Texas and Florida with Virginia. While Virginia was once the heart of the Confederacy, today it stands as a beacon of what the New South can be. With a Democratic Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Legislature, Virginia has abolished the death penalty, protected the rights of women and LGBTQ people, expanded voting rights, funded rail, regulated guns, taken down Confederate statues and re-named streets, protected school children who eat lunch at school, implemented sensible COVID regulations . . . . The list goes on and on. We have a budget surplus, we’re rated the #1 state for business (Amazon recently located here, drawn by our inclusive policies and well-educated workforce), and we are expanding rural broadband. That didn’t happen overnight. And in Virginia (where we have at least one election every single year), voting starts this week in a tight race for control of Richmond. But Virginia women can get birth control and reproductive care without fear. LGBTQ people can marry, work, buy homes. COVID cases are no where near the levels in Texas and Florida.

But those good results are down to local and state politics. They’re down to grassroots activists doing the not-always-glamourous work of electing county supervisors, who then go to Richmond, who then run for the U.S. Congress, or electing board of education members (trust me when I tell you that Republicans are maniacally focused on local boards of education for a reason) who then run for the county council or the soil and water board and then wind up as judges. Those aren’t the sexy races that make the national news. They’re almost always underfunded and understaffed. But they really matter. It’s just that you don’t realize how much they matter until a Greg Abbott is sicking his bounty hunters on your daughters or pregnant aunts.

One good thing about local and state races is that you can have a much larger impact on them than on, say, a presidential election. Those matter too, but, you know, Barack Obama started out in the Illinois state senate. Joe Biden started out in the county council of New Castle, Delaware.

So what can you do? Spend an afternoon learning what your local and state structure looks like. Start following your representatives on social media. Plug their numbers into your phone and call them regularly with your opinions. Donate to Emerge or Run for Something. Pick a local race and volunteer. They need people to phone bank, deliver yard signs, drop bagels at the campaign office, and, yes, donate. Maybe think about running yourself for sheriff, or the soil and water board, or town council. Do some magic.

Local elections matter.

(I borrowed the image from Facebook and I sadly don’t remember where.)

Mabon

As we slip slowly towards Mabon, I want to encourage you to find some time to go out and sit with the land. If you can sit on an actual rock or some dirt, that’s best, but you know what’s doable for you. A park bench is fine. A front porch stoop is OK. Doing it now beats a grand plan to get away for a whole weekend to an out-of-the-way spot you’ll never really have time to get to.

If you can, maybe come carrying an offering. You’re a priestess (or priest) and it makes sense for you to carry offerings to the land. Some water that’s been sat in the moonlight is wonderful, as is compost you’ve made from scraps, or some cornmeal, or a perfect squash from your garden. But so is water that you ran from the tap, or birdseed, or a beautiful leaf you found.

Spend some time considering how it’s now dark when you get up, dark when you go to sleep. Listen to the Canada Geese in the morning. Watch the wildfire-enhanced sunsets even from the East Coast. There is beauty in destruction and destruction in beauty. We’re here to help midwife the planet’s transition and all deliveries involve some glory and some pain.

It’s all too much, right now, with a plague scouring the land and the plague’s priests shoveling living offerings to Patriarchy while they demand that we “honor life.” It’s all always too much. As I say every morning in my meditations, “It’s all real. It’s all metaphor. There’s always more.” *

But for today, just for now, find some time to go sit out with the land.

*I have been saying this so long, that I forget where I originally read it.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

War on Women

They’re not just a cool feminist punk band from Baltimore.

With their vigilante, forced-birth bullshit, Texas has declared all-out war on women.

(Yes, I know: pregnant people. Because of course trans men and non-binary people can – and do – get pregnant. I’m neither stupid nor ignorant. However, rigorously insisting on talking about pregnant people in abortion politics just obscures what’s really driving the pro-forced-birthers. It’s not concern for babies, and it’s not sticking it to trans people – it’s MISOGYNY. Something experienced by WOMEN.)

And Texas is just a little out ahead of a pack that includes most of the old Confederacy (have I ever mentioned that racism and sexism often go hand-in-hand?) and large chunks of the Midwest – the Washington Post has a very clear graphic that clearly lays out the disaster that lies in wait for millions of women across the US when Roe falls.

Because, despite the DOJ doing what is in their power to do, Roe is going to fall. They have the numbers on SCOTUS and, as many, many of us warned LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY in 2016, that’s it. Game over.

I know Hecate just wrote about this, but:

  • If you think you want more kids but not now, and you’re pre-menopausal, get long-acting birth control.
  • If you’re done having kids and you’re pre-menopausal, get sterilized.
  • Purchase Plan B and condoms and store them according to package directions.
  • Do the research NOW on pharmacies outside the US that will discretely ship mifepristone and misoprostal to women across the border, no questions asked.
  • Make sure your passport is current in case you need to get to Canada or Mexico to get healthcare.
  • Relatedly, if you have the means, donate to abortion funds – these help women in wannabe-Gilead states who need abortions travel to places where they can get them. (They also help poor women in women-friendly states afford abortions – thanks a lot Hyde amendment. Everybody wins!)
  • Donate to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other groups that provide abortion care and advocate for women’s rights to bodily integrity and self-determination.
  • Keep fighting to elect Democrats, particularly at the local and state levels. The GQP has been planning this since 1978. We’re going to have to have a similar level of dedication and focus to claw this back someday.

Do these NOW if you live in a Roe trigger law state. Do them soon even if you don’t.

And, I swear to the Goddess, if anyone EVER accuses me of being “hysterical” for giving priority to abortion rights EVER again, I am punching him right in his fat face.

One more, for your listening pleasure, and TURN IT ALL THE FUCKING WAY UP.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Words for Wednesday

Little Lesson on How to Be

BY KATHRYN NUERNBERGER

The woman at the Salvation Army who sorts and prices is in her eighties
and she underestimates the value of everything, for which I am grateful.

Lightly used snow suits, size 2T, are $6 and snow boots are $3.

There is a little girl, maybe seven, fiddling with a tea set. Her mother
inspects drapes for stains.

Sometimes the very old and lonely are looking for an opening.

She glances up from her pricing and says something about the tea set
and a baby doll long ago.

I am careful not to make eye contact, but the mother with drapes has
such softness in her shoulders and her face and she knows how to say
the perfect kind thing—“What a wonderful mother you had.”

“Yes, she was.”

Why do children sometimes notice us and sometimes not?

From the bin of dolls: “What happened to your mother?”

“She died.”

The woman at the Salvation Army who sorts and prices is crying a little.
She seems surprised to be crying. “It’s been eighty years and I still miss
her.”

When my daughter was born I couldn’t stop thinking about how we
were going to die. If we were drowning, would it be better to hold her
to me even as she fought away or should I let her float off to wonder why
her mother didn’t help her? What if it’s fire and I have one bullet left? I
made sure my husband knew if there were death squads and he had to
choose, I’d never love him again if he didn’t choose her. If I’m lucky,
her crying face is the last thing I’ll see.

The mother with drapes is squeezing her daughter’s shoulder, trying to
send a silent message, but children are children. “Why did she die?”

“She was going to have a baby and—And she died.”

“But she was a wonderful mother.”

I’m holding a stack of four wooden jigsaw puzzles of farm animals,
dinosaurs, jungle animals, and pets. Each for a quarter.

“It’s silly how much I still miss her.” She takes out a tissue and wipes
her eyes and then her nose.

When my grandmother threw her sister, Susie, a 90th birthday party,
one hundred people came, including 5 of the 6 brothers and sisters. At
dusk only a few of us were left, nursing beers with our feet kicked up
on the bottom rungs of various walkers.

Susie said then to my grandmother, “Can you think of all the people
watching us in heaven now? And our mother must be in the front row.”

Grandma took her sister’s hand. “Our mother—Estelle.”

“Yes—her name was Estelle. I forgot that.”

They looked so happy then, saying her name back and forth to each
other. Estelle. Estelle.

Monday at the Movies

I’ll give this a try, although it may be too formulaic.

Unconscious Sexism Has Real-World Results

Picture found here.

Both times that Hillary Clinton sought the Democratic nomination, it was pretty common for Bright Young Things to announce “I don’t vote with my vagina!” Like John Roberts on race, they had decided that we lived in a post-sexist society and, nope, being a woman didn’t mean that they were going to vote for that woman. They weren’t worried about the Supreme Court, either. Come on, Roe v. Wade had been the law of the land for a long time — well, for THEIR whole lives, anyway, and it was just fear-mongering (in fact, the word “blackmail” got used) to think the Court would overturn Roe.

If that was you, go stand in front of a mirror and pat your sweet young self on the back. Good job. Might want to stay out of Texas (and soon a large number of other states), though, because, in Texas, your vagina now votes you.

Also, they are coming for your birth control. If you do not plan to have any or more children, get sterilized now. Stock up on Plan B and condoms and store them carefully. Delete the period app from your phone.

And start voting with your vagina.