- Everybody! Trump’s tweets about Issue X are just a distraction! We need to focus on Issue Y! Eyes on the prize!
- Please! Don’t have a demonstration! Demonstrations are not useful anymore. The press won’t cover it and it will just give Trump’s people an opportunity for violence.
- Hey! Trump’s tweets aren’t a distraction; his tweets are the issue. We need to counter them.
- You can’t call it a “Women’s March!” That will make men feel unwelcome. Also, you are not doing enough to include Group Z!
- You shouldn’t hit Nazis. That will make people think we’re violent and against free speech.
- Don’t knit silly pink pussy cat hats! That takes away from the seriousness of the Resistance. It’s too girly.
- Town Halls aren’t the answer; we need to elect Candidate A to the DNC!
- Hey! Everybody! Everyone needs to quit telling other people what not to do to resist Trump! That’s counterproductive.
It’s almost impossible to log onto the internet these days and NOT read that someone, somewhere, is somehow doing Resistance wrong. It’s the old “someone is wrong on the internet” theme writ large. And it’s not surprising. Trump and his administration are such serious threats that, of course, we all want to figure out the most effective way to resist. But, as my grandma used to say, there’s usually more than one way to skin a cat.
Recently, we’ve had a bout of this on the Pagan interwebs. Ever since a group of Witches publicized a spell to bind Trump — we’ll call it the Orange Candle Spell for simplicity — we’ve seen dozens of posts explaining that ZOMG, those people are doing Witchcraft WRONG.
I want to say a few things about this.
First, as I’ve explained before, if you find any form of Resistance work — magical or, you should pardon the expression, mundane — problematic or not to your liking, then you should probably not do that Resistance work. Fortunately, there are many, many ways to resist what’s happening and to work to bring about the changes we want to see. Someone brilliant once said that you should find the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need and you should DO THAT THING. So if the Orange Candle Spell is not your thing, that’s OK. You be you.
One shadow issue that occurs and re-occurs, however, throughout the history of modern Paganism is this need to be “authentic,” to claim “authority,” to assert that others are wrong because they aren’t “real” Witches/Druids/Heathens/Magicians, etc. It’s not difficult to figure out. We’re still not really sure we own/can claim ancient Paganism. We know that others view us as “fringe,” not really a valid modern religion. And so even Uncle Gerald was put to creating a more ancient Stone Age lineage than he could really support. For decades, we played games about whether our grandmothers had initiated us in the woods or whether we could trace our tradition back to some matrilineal coven that survived the Burning Times. Books written in the 1960s and 1970s were passed off as ancient grimoires and Witch Wars were fought over who had or hadn’t initiated whom. If any silly teenager who watched Buffy or Charmed, or who read a Lewellyn book or a web page, could just light a candle and say, “I’m a Witch; I’m a Witch; I’m a Witch,” well, how special could we still be with our third-degree initiations and our years of study???
And it seems to me that a good chunk of the criticisms of the Orange Candle Spell come from that place. The son of some Big Name Pagans put up a post that was stunning it its “Respect Mah Authoriteh!” vibe. “I’ve studied this all my life and I say it won’t work and you should LISTEN TO ME!” He wasn’t alone.
Sorry, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, and I’m really a big proponent of scholarship, but we need to get over this. You know that old woman who lived on the edge of town? The one that your great, great, great grandmother went to see when the lord’s son raped her daughter and she knew she’d get no justice from the lord’s courts? That old woman to whom she paid a chicken and some firewood to make the lord’s son impotent because, throughout most of history, that’s what “justice” was for disempowered people? Well, that old woman, I hate to tell you this, but that old woman was not an “experienced occultist.” She couldn’t trace her lineage back past her mother’s mother. She probably couldn’t read and the spell that she worked, while it may well have worked, owed much more to her sincerity and strength than it did to being a carefully-constructed work of high magic. She likely mixed a bit of bad church Latin into her spell and blended saints in with some local deities. She probably didn’t have a good list of correspondences and almost certainly didn’t have the correct crystals and incense for the working. In fact, that silly teenager who’s read a bit of Lewellyn is almost certainly a far more educated occultist than that old hedge Witch.
So let’s get off our high hobby-horses.
We’re going to need a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of work to turn this mess around. Let’s not waste time telling so many of them that they can’t do the work unless they’ve sent away for the mail order initiation or spent thirty years in the wilderness learning four different kinds of runes. I’d prefer for them to get interested in this work and maybe use that as a springboard to further study.
Another criticism making the rounds is that the Orange Candle Spell is a bad idea because of the Rule of Three. I’ve explained my thoughts on this before, so I’ll just repeat that any kind of Resistance work — magical or mundane — can have blow back. You need to choose accordingly which work is your work. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that magic is quite often a tool of people who lack mundane power precisely because magic avoids dangerous blow back. You may not have the temporal power to challenge an evil-doer, but magic will let you work undetected for justice. I do not believe that the Universe is either malevolent or stupid and I don’t believe that those who work for justice need to fear that work.
A final criticism of the Orange Candle Spell is that by making it public, its workers invite Christian “prayer warriors” and Nazi occultists to do counter work. This, in my opinion, is the most valid criticism. I’ve written recently about the fact that Dion Fortune decided, when combatting Nazis during World War II, to make her working public. Could a Nazi spy have gotten onto her mailing list and been receiving her weekly letters? Yes. We know the Nazis were interested in the work of British occultists and astrologers. And we know that Christians, Breitbart “news”, and others found out about the Orange Candle Spell and vowed to counter it. I’m not sure, in the Age of the Internet, that this can be avoided. Even if we were all to communicate via some secret ListServ or snail mail, we could be found out. I, at least, an not willing to concede that this means that I should just give up and do no magical Resistance work. I’d be interested to hear what others think.
Picture found here.