Words for Wednesday

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Meditation on a Grapefruit
~ Craig Arnold
To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
                    To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
              To tear the husk
like cotton padding        a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
                             To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully       without breaking
a single pearly cell
                    To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling       until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
                  so sweet
                            a discipline
precisely pointless       a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause     a little emptiness
each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without.
*********
Picture found here.

Guard the Mysteries. Constantly Reveal Them.

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Starting this coming Saturday, I’m going to put up a series of Resistance meditations that will be loosely modeled on Dion Fortune’s World War II letters, as published in The Magical Battle for Britain.  In the Introduction to those letters, Gareth Knight explains what Fortune did:

In the crisis of confrontation with the evils of Hitler’s Germany, when England stood for a time alone against the Axis powers, [Fortune and her working group] helped to maintain the strength and resilience the group mind of the nation by the evocation of relevant symbolism.

I think we can do the same.

There’s been some good discussion in the comments to the post in which I announced this work.  Some of the concern centers on the possibility that not all who participate will be experienced occultists.  In some ways, that concern has been expressed for decades within Paganism, ever since someone published the first Book of Shadows on an ancient ListServ.  But Dion Fortune also confronted this concern when she initiated her work to protect Great Britain from the Nazis.  And she erred on the side of bringing even brand new workers into the fold.  As Gareth Knight explains in his Introduction to Fortune’s letter:

For the first time the Fraternity’s doors were opened to anyone who wanted to join in and learn the previously secret methods of esoteric mind-working.

He goes on to note that Fortune’s letters:

are virtually the casebook of a working occultist at a time of national and indeed world crisis, when the barriers of confidentiality were down in the urgency of the hour.  . . .  Those were heady and unusual times.  Exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional remedies.  “Those who were with us in those days,” [Fortune] recalls, “will remember how we opened our doors and welcomed all who would sit in meditation with us and taught them the esoteric methods of mind-working that had never been revealed outside the Veil of the Mysteries, and that this work was done with a view to bringing into manifestation those very ideas that we are now manifesting. “

Indeed, Knight refers to Fortune’s letters as an example of how an early Western Revival Occultist (my characterization, not Knight’s):

when confronted with abnormal circumstances, coped with running an extended and informally structured meditation group capable of becoming a formidable force in the group soul of the nation.

It is true that, once Fortune’s work began to achieve results, and as more and more people joined in the work, she did begin to circumscribe the group.  Knight recounts how Fortune found that:

 Outsiders who came in at the beginning grew with the work, but once the work had developed in the way it did, it was no longer possible to take in outsiders.”  . . .   The weekly open meditation work was eventually discontinued, not because it was unsatisfactory, but because it had developed to such an extent that it had become unwieldy.  Not only had the number of participating increased beyond all expectation, but the work had developed a degree of power that made it no longer possible to maintain an open door.

 

Guided by Ms. Fortune, I am willing to open this work up to anyone who wants to participate.  If I begin to sense that the group should close, I’ll figure out a way to do that.

A second concern voiced in comments to my introductory post was that Resistance work can have “blow back,” aka unanticipated consequences.  And, yes, that’s true.  It’s true of all kinds of Resistance work, including both the magical and the “mundane.”  I wear a safety pin on my coat into work every morning.  A few important people at my firm supported Trump and they’ve given me the evil eye when we go up in the elevator together.  Who knows what that could mean for my career down the line?  I’m still going to wear my safety pin.  Your boss or a prospective client can see a picture of you at the Woman’s March.  Your rich uncle can write you out of his will when he finds out that you showed up at a Congressional Town Hall and demanded funding for Planned Parenthood.  Your car can get keyed for your “And yet, she persisted,” bumper sticker.  And, as we move farther into fascism, things can get worse.  Your phone and social media can get searched at the border.  The IRS can target you for donations to “suspect” causes.  Fascists can blow up your synagogue, temple, community meeting, coven.  Resistance workers can get rounded up, sent off to camps . . . it can get a lot worse if past is prologue.

Beyond that, I will freely admit that my own lived experience tells me that Trump has some at least moderately-powerful occultists working for him and he certainly, as Mrs. Whatsit noted, has “prayer warriors” who support him.  (I go past the White House several times a week and, each time, I send energy for positive work towards it and, each time since January 20th, when I have done so, I have felt an immediate physical attack, manifesting in dizziness, blurred vision, fear.  (This never happened under either W or Obama.)  And I will continue to do my spell work every time that I go past the White House.  But I would be a fool not to understand what is happening.)  Doing Resistance Work on the astral plane is no more free from risk than is doing Resistance Work on the street where you live.

So.

If you do not feel called to this work or if you are not in a position to accept the possible consequences then, by all means, and I mean this most sincerely, YOU SHOULD NOT DO THIS WORK.  You can do other Resistance work.  You can call your Senators on a regular basis.  You can register people to vote.  You can bake muffins or offer child care for campaign workers.  You can plant herbal birth control.  You can strengthen your own roots between your physical body and the place where you live.  You can go out of your way to smile at and to speak to your neighbors.  You can be kind to everyone you meet.  You can plant trees.

To paraphrase Rumi, there are hundreds of ways to work for the Resistance.

Like many modern Pagans, I don’t believe in a mechanical “Rule of Three.”  What I believe is that you cannot shit where you eat.  And I understand that I eat everywhere, that there is no “downstream.”  So I believe that I must be prepared to accept that I cannot both change the system and exit the system in zero time.  I also do not believe that the universe is stupid.  And I do not believe that the universe punishes those who try to do clean up, provide protection, save children, and animals, and trees.  Yes, weeding the garden leaves my fingernails dirty.  Sure, tending the sick can give me a fever.  OK, punching Nazis leaves my knuckles sore and raw and my right arm in pain  True, no one can drink melange without, some days, also drinking bitter spice.  But I do not believe that doing magical work to protect democracy will result in a three-fold wind against self-governance in your own life.  But that’s just me.  If your understanding of the three-fold law differs, then you should maybe do different work.

All of that said, if you’re still interested in doing this work, welcome.  Spend some time this week strengthening the wards on your home or wherever you’ll do the work.  Get some deep, delicious sleep.  Go outside a few times.  Stretch.  Drink some strong tea.  Eat what a priest or a priestess would eat.  Listen to music you love.  Put your fingers deep into some dirt.  Look at some art.  Make love.

We can do this.

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

Rum famously said that there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.  And there are hundreds of ways to punch Nazis.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

The Magical Battle of America

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If you’re doing magical Resistance work, you should really get ahold of and read The Magical Battle of Britain.  This collection of the letters that Dion Fortune wrote to her magical group during World War II demonstrates how England’s occult workers fought the Nazis.  Fortune sent out a series of magical workings for her followers to perform on the astral plane.  The plan was for everyone to work together on the same day of the week, at the same time.  Sable Aradia’s written an excellent summary of what Fortune did and how it worked.  She explains, inter alia, that:

Dion Fortune’s magickal act worked on several sound magickal theories:

  1. She believed that trained ritualists could combine their efforts to influence the collective Will of the British people, not any one individual.
  2. She utilized easily-recognizable culturally-based spirits and egregors whose meaning would be intuitively understood by thousands of people.
  3. She drew upon spirits and egregors already associated with the purpose for which they’d been called.
  4. She created simple acts of magick that could be easily imitated, and contributed to, by a wide range of individuals in disparate geographical locations.
  5. She was doing a Working in a cause that thousands of people were passionate about.

It seems to me that any act of magick intended to influence the actions of such a large group of people would do well to keep these principles in mind.  Trying to get a large group of people to do something complicated is challenging.  Trying to get them to do something simple that they feel strongly about is much easier.

Beginning next Saturday, I’m going to post a weekly series of similar workings adapted to these times and to the current Resistance.  I don’t expect, in today’s world, that everyone will be able to work at the same time, but I also think that’s less important, especially on the astral level, than it is for as many people as possible to engage in the work.  However, to the extent that you can set aside a regular time each week when you’ll join the working, that’s probably a good thing.

Here’s some prepatory work that I’d like to ask you to do.

  1. Place and/or strengthen the wards on your home (or the place from which you’ll do the working).  This doesn’t have to take a long time and you can find online a number of ways to do it.
  2. Read Sable Aradia’s summary and, if you can, get a copy of Fortune’s book and read that.
  3. Decide when and where you’ll do the work.  If possible, you may want to make a small altar with pictures of your ancestors, pictures of American mythical and/or historic figures, a candle, flags, whatever reminds you of why you joined the Resistance.
  4. If you feel comfortable doing so, please leave a comment below explaining why you will commit to this work.

Our country and our world are under attack from dark forces.  As a wise person once said, “We’re Witches.  We should do something about that.”

I shan’t be gone long.  You come, too.

Picture found here.

On the Importance of Self-Care

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Can you believe it’s only been four weeks? I don’t know about you, but after all this letter-writing and calling and poster-making and marching and getting more involved with local politics and volunteering and spell-casting and relentless trolling of @realDonaldTrump on Twitter (still only me?), I’m beat! And we’re still at the BEGINNING of this race.

Yes, the term “self-care” is annoying. It seems – to use yet another annoying term – so “basic,” conjuring visions of pumpkin spice lattes, scented candles, Uggs, Taylor Swift, and Lululemon yoga pants. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that stuff if you like it – you do you, hon.)

But we are in for a major shitstorm under Donald Trump. The work is going to be hard, exhausting, unrelenting, and potentially dangerous. So it is really important to take care of yourself to make sure you’re up for the task.

What that means is going to look different for each person, and there are at least two components.

On the one hand, it means things like:

  • Less TV, more reading stuff that makes you think
  • Less booze, more tea
  • Less take out, more cooking
  • Less social media, more face time with people you love
  • Less bar time, more evenings at home with the cats
  • Less shopping, more volunteering
  • Less aimless flipping through your Facebook feed, more walking – and thinking
  • Less binge-watching, more attending local government meetings
  • Less Buzzfeed listicles, more long-form journalism (and PAYING for it with a smile on your face)
  • Less wanting to fall in love with the perfect candidate every four years, more contesting every goddamn local and state election, down to dog catcher

But in a larger sense, it will be vitally important not to lose track of what brings you joy (like my adorable cats up there). When you’re fighting for the soul of your country, shit gets serious as a heart attack, like, immediately, and stays that way all the time. It’s so tempting to become all business, all activist, all seriousness, and to dismiss anything that’s not directly contributing to the struggle as frivolous.

That would be a mistake.

You can’t be a serious, committed activist all the time. You have to fill your well, so there’s a place in you that you can work from, give from, sacrifice from.

This is also going to look different for everyone. For me, one of my main loves is live music, particularly blues and jazz. And when I and my spouse are out of town, no matter where we go, that’s where you’ll find us most nights – out hearing live, local music. But when we’re in town, it’s way too easy to say: “I’m in my sweats and fuzzy socks, and I have a good book and purring cats – I’m not putting on real pants and going out.”

Well, not this year. We’ve committed to go out, and not just to big, expensive venues that bring in national acts, but to the little tavern around the corner with the weekly blues jam and to the church a few blocks away that features jazz players from the local arts school and to the $5 cover, bare bones joint in the next neighborhood north of us that provides a space for up-and-coming local artists.

We’re in for the fight of our lives. Nurture your body, soul, and mind, and fill your well. You’re going to need it.

Image by the author. If you copy, please credit appropriately.

At the End of Desire

In the Patriarchy, remembering who we really are is an act of resistance.