Mid-January Potpourri


* Here we are, a mere two weeks from Imbolc. I can see a definite difference in the amount of daylight we get, a lessening of the Winter character of the darkness that envelops me when I wake up for my morning meditation. Can you sense the shift?

* Speaking of meditation, there’s more good news about what happens when you do it.

[T]hose who practice mindfulness can change their brains—in how they make decisions, stay focused, and respond to emotional triggers. It’s something that science columnist Sharon Begley explores in Mindful magazine: how mind training can strengthen the brain circuitry that supports emotional resilience.

But how long before we see enduring results?

“The structure of the brain can change in 1.5 hours of practice,” renowned neuroscientist Richie Davidson said at the Train Your Brain webcast in New York City in the fall. “Really short amounts can make a difference.”

Which is good to know. Some mornings, I have lots of time for my daily practice. And some mornings, I’m carving out time that I really don’t have, and don’t get to spend as much time as I’d prefer. Is it like that for you?

hat tip: Arlington Personal Fitness

* The latest issue of Witches and Pagans should be on your doorstep, or in your bookstore, any day now. If you haven’t yet read Anne’s opening statement, you should. Here’s a taste:

Back when I was a newbie Pagan, I fell for the Pagan trope that “witches are just harmless nature worshippers unjustly maligned by the patriarchy.” But I’ve learned better, and today I say proudly: “harmless witches? What a load of hooey!”

I understand the motives for this decades-long whitewashing campaign: after all, nobody enjoys being rounded up and burnt at the stake. The tactic is even relatively sound for avoiding persecution in a secular and materialist culture. Nobody strings up a covey of harmless eccentrics, and that’s how we’ve been promoting ourselves for some time.

But there’s three serious problems implicit in this “friendly-up witchcraft” public relations project.

The term “witch” is not a religious designation: it’s a vocational one. There’s a reason that the classic phrase is “what witches do,” not “what witches believe.” Clearly, there is this little problem of the disconnect between the outrageous powers attributed to legendary witches (and further juiced-up in Hollywood depictions) and the subtle arts practiced by the likes of you and me. But I will be blunt: take away a witch’s use of magick, divination, and any and all associated mystic arts, and you might as well call yourself a Unitarian.3

Wicca and witchcraft are two different things. This has gotten terribly confusing in the sixty+ years since Wicca’s founders brought English magick out of the shadows. But it’s quite simple: Gardner created — or co-created, with Doreen Valiente (and maybe the help of English traditional witches) — a modern, nature-based mystery religion, complete with theology, rituals, ethics, and all that goes with an organized religion. However, Gardner did not create witchcraft, as the magickal arts have been traced back to the ancient civilizations of Sumer and Babylon. Witchcraft — the use of magick as a functional art — is a fundamental part of human cultures from the earliest to the modern.

Perhaps most importantly: When we renounce our power, we destroy our identities as witches. The primary reason that people have persecuted “witches” over the millennia is because they are afraid of them. Why? Because they believe that the witches have power. But remember that old adage: “if you cannot hex, you cannot heal.” There’s a logical inconsistency in putting out the idea that witches are harmless, and then expecting to do efficacious magick. If we, as witches, claim to be able to heal, offer counsel (using divination) or perform any of the magickal arts, we cannot also assert that there is no reason to fear us. That’s like saying you are a karate black belt, and not expecting people to think twice before they start a bar-room brawl with you.
So, why do we put that great big bulls-eye on our backs? I can only answer for myself. I say, with pride, “I am a witch.” What I mean is: “I claim my own power, I am not afraid to seek knowledge, and I will use what I discover in service of me and mine: my family, my community, and my planet.” By claiming witchhood I am not trying to scare anyone: but I do have to expect to encounter disdain, disbelief, and, upon occasion, fear and hostility. If I wanted to kneel down before gods and men, and to be thought of as “harmless as a dove” I wouldn’t use the “w” word.

There’s also a discourse on what “Witch” means to me.

* Do you have bear genes?

* Ms. LeGuin is right.

* This tickles me.

* Baby, it’s cold outside.

* But Spring is coming.

* It’s complicated, but if your deity needs you to “avenge” it against something other humans do, you need to reconsider whether you’re listening to deity or your own insecurities. Monotheism. It’s a problem.

Hat tip: stoat

Picture found here.


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