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Archive for March, 2013

Crafting a Prosperity Spell

Last night:

Full moon, on a Wednesday.

My husband, who left a soul-killing job several months ago and is looking for something in a new field, jokingly asked for a prosperity spell. I went to work.

Looking up correspondences– now, I don’t, myself, believe that stones have actual magical properties, at least not in the hocus-pocus sense of “attracting business;” but I do believe that any symbol can have magical properties in the witch sense, of altering your own mindset and realigning your efforts with the possibilities that nature and other people offer. So the question was, what do I wish for him? (That’s apart from the other question of which stones does New Age People carry at a price I can afford).

Malachite: money, prosperity, self-confidence, energy, focus; an end to depression. Maturity, wisdom. Tiger Eye: self-awareness, an end to stubbornness (he took that well), an increase in self-confidence. Releasing guilt– he had talked about the choking guilt and shame surrounding the memory of how he’d sometimes mishandled the job. Tiger eye is for balance. Sodalite: release of guilt and anger, stress, inner conflict, and other negative energies. Learning. And a silver dime for financial prosperity.

And now selecting things for the spell had become a meditation, a reflection on what we need to work in a balanced way, and more concretely, what I knew of his particular struggles. This movement toward his actual needs became an exercise in compassion, something I had been short on at times when hearing about his work stress.

Herbs and incense: this was less of a stretch for me than looking up stone correspondences, since I resonate with plants. And with smells. Scent is connected to the deepest emotional centers of the brain, so I have no problem saying that mint is for energy, rosemary for healing the past, and so on. As for incense– patchouly is the money scent (or, as my husband called it, “the power of positive stinking”).

Animals: crocodiles and alligators are earth elements, and stand for money, prosperity, and patience. Patience was the first thing I’d looked up in tables of correspondences. I wanted work and rest, diligence and patience. Alas, New Age People was fresh out of alligators and crocs, and there was no time to order. Ditto, bees (patient labor). But they did have dolphins, and these are supposed to convey you from rough waters to smooth, which is where he seems to be heading. I bought one made of tiger eye, to combine its healing of guilt with the dolphin’s movement to easier waters.

Green candle for earth; money.

So now the question was, what to do with all this stuff?

I already had a chant for patient labor: “Plant and pull, plant and pull / Garden fallow, garden full”– but how to add the work and rest? “Work and rest, work and rest / Patient labor’s yield is best.” We could chant that outside, after using the full moon to charge the elements.

And would I make him a talisman to carry? I didn’t think he would, and besides, would it really engage him at the right depth just to put something in his pocket?

“Plant and pull, plant and pull ….” So what about planting? I bought a basil plant, for energy and prosperity, but also for love. I have reacted to years of work stress by pulling away; choosing basil was a little scary for me– it made my love, my engagement, an essential part of the power of the spell.

I prepared a pot of soil, and placed all the things I had bought– plus a dime– in a bowl. I put an offering of compost in another bowl.

I cleansed and cast a circle that ran around the perimeter of the backyard, came into the house, and included the sunroom, where I keep my altar.

We carried out, over the icy back steps, the two bowls, a small cauldron of water, the candle, and my athame. (Also a crystal ball to charge beneath the full moon, but that’s another story). The moon was just rising. The dogs came with us– the older dog is a stargazer, a night sky lover in all weathers, so I regard her as my familiar. She can sit for hours just watching the night horizon, completely attentive, as if she is receiving something.

I offered the compost, and dumped it in the bin. This entailed trudging through deep mud, as well as patches of still unmelted snow and ice. Difficult footing; it needed care. It needed care.

Rejoining my husband, I held up the small bowl of herbs and stones to the full moon. At which point his eyes widened apologetically, and an attack of the runs forced him inside. So I continued to stand there, lifting the bowl to the moon, wondering how long he would be in the bathroom.

When he returned, I placed in the cauldron of water a sprig of rosemary; one of mint; one of parsley (for money and business); of sage (for wisdom and balance); a bay leaf (for success); and a cinnamon stick (to augment the spell). I stirred it with the athame, blessed it, held it up to the moon, expressed the hope that it would bless my husband’s efforts. Then we went inside.

He buried the herbs and the dime in the soil, planted the basil, and watered it with the contents of the cauldron. He arranged the malachite, tiger eye, sodalite, and the dolphin in the soil around the plant. He and I each drank water from the chalice, and I poured the rest around the plant.

Thanks; blessing; opening the circle.

He said he thought he’d been “purged,” both physically (the runs) and emotionally.  We forgot, incidentally, the chant; no matter– it’s more important that the spell “flowed.”  My husband had never seen me do a ritual or spell, and was impressed by the “reverence.”

He will have to tend the plant, which was the point: magic is not passive. I can’t do something to make employers hire him, or to make him work effectively, or to make him let go of the guilt, anger, or fear that might get in his way. But I can act out with him the process of realignment, and prepare a daily reminder of the inner qualities he will need to be at peace in work or out of it, and of the renewed love and concern that go with him.

He said he felt calmer, and appreciated the care I put into it. I feel more heart whole for his having valued my effort. And now it’s just a matter of tending the basil.


On human sacrifice

Witches are against it.  If only our culture were.

Yesterday I watched the CNN news clip of convicted rapists Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond apologizing to the victim and her family at the end of their trial.  Mays’ apology:  “No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.”  Hard to say whether he’s apologizing for the assault, or the existence of evidence.  Richmond’s apology:  “I had no intentions to do anything like that.”  What on earth was he intending to do, then?

The news outlets were sincere in their sympathy for the rapists, whose lives “are now ruined.”  According to one CNN opinion piece, the “game” (of rape?) has changed.

And rape has been treated like a game, really.  All that talk about whether she was drunk, or was dressed appropriately, or was out too late, or too flirtateous, or has a “history.”  These were the “in bounds” rapes.  These were the technicalities that allowed rapists to do what they wanted to do anyway, to some woman or other– only with impunity.

I’ve mentioned in other posts that I work as a psychotherapist.  I have tended to work with sexual abuse survivors, men and women.  But lately I’ve been getting more men, and they are mostly, to one degree or another, angry with women.  They feel they’ve gotten a raw deal.  Women make them want things, then don’t gratify their wishes.  Instead of fulfilling men’s fantasies, women want men to fulfill their own fantasies (and apparently, men are defenseless against these wishes).

Some of these men feel this entitles them to express their anger by buying films of women being beaten and raped.  They tell me that filmed sex just doesn’t do it; it’s got to involve humiliation, or “discomfort” (they don’t like the word “pain”).  Some of them are not precisely proud of this, but it’s important to them that I go on liking them, even if they choose to vent their hatred against my kind in this way.  They feel hurt and ashamed when my face tightens, just a little.  They look for ways to get me to smile on them again.

They point out how brave and honest they are for ‘fessing up to something so ugly.  They worry aloud that if they’re not permitted to violate women just a little, on the periphery, so to speak (by paying other men to violate women and film it), they might just be driven to even worse behavior!  And after all, they can’t help their feelings, can they?  If I am just nonjudgmental enough, somehow, in time, they will have their emotions magically restructured so that they will no longer need to see my kind brutalized in order to quell the turmoil inside.

Meanwhile, the fact that the women on film have done nothing personally to these men is irrelevant.  Women are interchangeable, so paying to see a random woman hurt is a legitimate way to express your anger at some other woman (just as lynching one black man, any black man, is a way to express the white community’s anger for imagined wrongs).

In one of Mays’ texts, he said he just “needed a little sexual attention.”  And later, that he “should have raped, since everyone thinks [he] did.”  Apparently– as with the men whose usually undercover fantasies I’ve been permitted to witness– what mattered here was Mays’ “needs,” Mays’ reputation, and since he’s paying the price, he is at least entitled to the benefits of having raped.

And the clients’ need for validation is really, in the end, more important than my outrage.  Granted, all  therapists have to “contain” their own and the clients’ feelings– this is what we’re paid for– but I’m expected, moreover, to make legitimate shame and guilt disappear.  It’s what women are supposed to do: absorb men’s bad feelings until men feel better (for awhile).  Above all else, men feel that they should leave my office feeling good about themselves.

They don’t seem curious about how all the women I see who’ve been hurt by men, who have “needs” no one has rushed to fill, who have fantasies men don’t conform to, manage to deal with it.  Women, apparently, and not men, are the appropriate livestock for sacrifices to the gods of entitlement, frustration, and rage.

If only our culture would stop practicing human sacrifice.


Spell, spell, what the hell?

If you would be kind enough to indulge my inner word-geek for a moment, I promise to get on to the enchanted frog part soon.  The following etymologies for the word “spell” come from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

spell (v.1) Look up spell at Dictionary.com“name the letters of,” Old English spellian ”to tell, speak,” infl. by Old French espeller ”declare, spell,” from Frankish *spellon ”to tell;” both Old English and Frankish from Proto-Germanic *spellan (cf. Old High German spellon ”to tell,” Old Norse spjalla, Gothic spillon ”to talk, tell”), from PIE *spel- ”to say aloud, recite.” 

Meaning “write or say the letters of a word” is c.1400, from notion of “read letter by letter, read with difficulty” (c.1300). Spell out ”explain step-by-step” is first recorded 1940, American English. Spelling bee is from 1878 (earlier simply spelling, 1860).spell (n.) Look up spell at Dictionary.com“incantation, charm,” Old English spell ”story, speech,” from Proto-Germanic *spellan (cf. Old Norse spjall, Old High German spel, Gothic spill ”report, discourse, tale;” German Beispiel”example;” see spell (v.1)). Meaning “set of words with magical powers, incantation, charm” first recorded 1570s.

The term ‘spell’ is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will — unlike charms for healing, protection, etc. [“Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore”]

The first thing to notice is that the taproot of the word, the meaning from which later meanings grow, is “speech.”  We go from there to telling, written language, reading, reading with difficulty, story, and finally, speech as magical power.

And language does bring power.  We use it to try out ideas before we act on them, to get others’ feedback, to rework our plans.  We use the written word to communicate with the dead or the far distant, when we read what they’ve written.  We use it to persuade, to incite, to comfort, to torment.

Our self-talk has everything to do with how we move through the world, and psychology and religion both use language to help us modify our ways of being.  In therapy, we put words to our unrecognized wishes and fears, which makes them available for revision.  (What a great word, re-vision– the ability to see anew, to forge a new vision!).  In religion we use mantras and prayers to realign ourselves with what we believe to be the deepest reality.  People within the Abrahamic traditions who pray will tell you that their prayers aren’t necessary to get God’s attention, or to keep God informed; as Jesus says, “your Father knows what you need before you ask.”  Rather, the prayer is to place you in a certain relationship to this God, as well as to other people– to acknowledge your dependence, and learn to care about others’ welfare; to make your own spiritual growth your daily focus.  The seventeenth-century devotional poet George Herbert, in his poem “The Flower,” thanks God for the restoration of his ability to write, adding, “Thy word is all, if we could spell“– if we truly mastered and internalized the truth of his faith.

Likewise, Buddhist meditation is a relaxing of the self you have, and the formation of a new awareness of your true nature and place in the world.  Mantras aid in this process, partly through the content, but also through focus on the sound itself.  Catholic rosaries, litanies, and chant can have a similar effect, using sound to draw the meditator into an inner silence.

To return, as promised, to the enchanted frog piece, I don’t actually believe that the power of words overrides nature.  Rather, they work with the natures we have– the brain structure that makes us susceptible to rhythm, music, visualization, sound– in order to change our disposition to the world.  We can also use them to affect others’ welfare, for good or ill (to quote Tim Minchin:  ”Sticks and stones / may break your bones / but words can break hearts”).  Except for the odd, outlying scary person, witches (sane and decent ones) direct their efforts to good.

So when I “do a spell,” I am harnessing the power of repetition, rhyme and rhythm to take an intended stance toward life and internalize it, make it part of the very rhythm of my being.  When I write a spell for someone, I’m hoping to give them a way to coast into a new kind of experience.  The spells are, in this sense, a kind of autohypnosis, to be used intentionally for the purpose of healing.

This makes a “good” spell one that:

1) works with nature, instead of trying to override it (spells are not used to tamper with others’ freedom);

2) is undertaken along with informed, constructive effort, not as a substitute for it (spells are not about instant success);

3) is undertaken with the understanding that we are not all-powerful, and that pain, failure and death are realities we must face (spells are not escapist);and

4) is written in a way that reaches the practitioner deeply, simply, gently– collaboratively.


Do I really believe this crap?

Literally, no.

So I was relieved to read in Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance that “[t]he myths and stories that have come down to us are not dogma to be taken literally, any more than we are meant to take literally the statement that ‘my love is like a red, red rose.’  They are poetry, not theology.”

To accept “poetry” as the basis of a spiritual life would have been impossible to me even a few years ago.  I would have felt the way author Flannery O’Connor felt about the Eucharist.  Once, when in the company of friends who were agreeing that it was, of course, just a symbol, she replied, “If it’s just a symbol, then the hell with it!”*  It was the union of symbol with stark literal reality that made Catholic spirituality such an adventure for me.  Catholic sacraments both mean and are; the Eucharist is a symbol and is Christ.   If I no longer believe in that kind of a world, or that any “supernatural” beings or powers exist, why make something up and play pretend?

But I began to notice that while this seemed to me impossible, even silly, in the context of religion, I was accustomed to allowing my psychotherapy clients just this freedom to live in a poetic, non-literal world, when it was clearly helpful to them.  People with Dissociative Identity Disorder (what we used to call Multiple Personality Disorder) not only experience themselves as a collection of persons, they sometimes have quite an elaborate picture of the “inside world”– where the “others” live in it, and how they relate to each other.  I know that there are not literally rooms and little people inside their heads, and I can explain their experience with reference to the way trauma has affected their brain structure; nevertheless,  I can do the most good by intervening at the level of this imagined world.  Is there a frightened child in a closet in the “inside” house?  Can we at least give her an (imagined) light, blanket and teddy bear?  Learning the lay of the land gives me the power to reach someone who is hurting, until she are ready to let go of her literalism about this world.  But that happens in her time, not mine.

The growing use of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) for recovering from trauma gives further testimony to the value of a person’s own chosen imagery and associations in healing.  There is a mass of empirical evidence that activating both the left and right hemispheres of the brain simultaneously, while encouraging the client to pursue her own associations, opens paths to resolution that had been previously hidden.

D. W. Winnicott (a psychoanalyst of the object relations school, who died in 1971) used the term “transitional space” to refer to that realm in which we both create and find our reality.  It is the world of child’s pretend, which we don’t challenge, though we and the child both know that her dolls are not real in the same way her baby sister is.  It is the world of art, where we suspend disbelief awhile and allow Van Gogh his heavily textured skies, or Shakespeare his ghosts, looking for an inner truth which these help us find and express.  It is the world of therapy, where free association, imagery and metaphor become ways for the client to experiment with ways of seeing his world.  The transitional space allows us to bring our authentic, creative selves to the outside world.  It is the “cauldron” in which we mix our subjectivity with what we find around us, and gain the strength to engage the world on our own terms.

We remain children in this sense– in our need for a safe zone where we’re protected from premature criticism, so we can play with our ideas until they work to our satisfaction.  A space where the plant can grow before we risk disturbing the roots by weeding.

For this reason, I part company with Christopher Hitchens (whose work I greatly enjoy) when he asserts that religion “comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs).”  My problem with this is twofold.  First, it simply isn’t true that all religions foster an attitude of escapism from the realities of suffering and evil.  For many, it is a starting point (cf. Buddha’s first noble truth, “Life is suffering”).  My second problem is with the tone– the implication that the needs of our youth are somehow contemptible.  Pascal Boyer restores the value of compassion in confronting our childlike qualities:     “This charge [that religion is rooted in infantile longings] may well be correct.  The problem is that those who level it are themselves often involved in a denial, a denial of the needs of childhood.  In their zeal to attack believers whose frailties have led them to embrace the supernatural, atheists may neglect the frailty that is an inevitable feature of all our lives.  They may label as childish particular needs which should really be honoured as more generally human, for there is in truth no maturity without an adequate negotiation with the infantile and no such thing as a grown-up who does not regularly yearn to be comforted like a child.”

So there is no need to despise our “childish” imaginations– our need to use personification, symbol, and ritual in the service of organizing our lives around our central values.  But how do we avoid turning our spiritual practice into mere wishful thinking?  How do we avoid group delusion?

If you’ll allow me to go the long way around in answering that question, I think I can get us there.  Bear with me.

St. Anselm of Canterbury (12th century) tried to prove that his God existed, basing his proof on a definition:  “God is that than which nothing greater can be imagined.”  He figured that if you start there, you have to ask yourself, is it better to exist or not exist?  And since existence is better, and God is better than anything you can imagine, voila!  He must exist!

Yeah … that doesn’t work.

But what a rich starting point for a poetic spirituality!  Because, as any novelist knows, imagination has its own integrity.  We’ll suspend our disbelief for some elements of fiction (supposing there is a ring of power, or that a Mr. Darcy owns most of Derbyshire), but we won’t swallow just anything.  A good story can involve make believe, but if it doesn’t ring true at least to our sense of what people are like, or of what life teaches, we lose interest.

If we know that our symbols are human inventions, we don’t have to expect too much of them (such as the timelessness of their current form), and we can stay open to the new.  On the other hand, no symbol will survive unless it rings true.  In the symbols that survive to inspire many people over a long period of time, the merely idiosyncratic tends to drop away, and the forms that persist tend to do so because of their peculiar power to touch us deeply.

So while I know that Kali and Quan Yin, Cerridwen and Brigid have no literal existence outside of the human imagination, I know that they convey an accumulated wisdom that both helps me express something and also draws me beyond myself at the moment.  They live in the “transitional space,” where the personal and the transpersonal, the time tested and the new, can meet.

*  I have no idea where to find this quote, or even if it’s authentic.  A literary friend of mine once quoted it to me.

Sources:

Boyer, Pascal (2012).  Religion for atheists.  New York:  Random House.

Hitchens, Christopher (2007).  God is not great: how religion poisons everything.  New York:  Twelve.

Starhawk (1999).  The spiral dance: a rebirth of the ancient religion of the great goddess.  New York:  HarperCollins.

Winnicott, D. W.   (1971).  Playing and reality.  London:  Routledge.


A bit of personal history–

What follows is a former intro to a blog that never got off the ground.  Still like it, want to keep it.  It’s part of the path to Witchery.

So … how to start a letter to the world?

I’m a psychotherapist who is haunted by God.  It’s a stormy love, marked by honeymoon periods, raging quarrels, and stony silences.  I’m haunted not only by God, but by gods, lots of them, the gods of millions of people out there whom I’ve wanted to please (the gods and the people), even when trying to rebel.

I was raised Catholic, was intermittently agnostic, and currently practice both an uneasy Catholicism and Zen.  When I’m not out of sorts, that is, with the whole business.  I feel almost bipolar, or even “multiple,” when it comes to God.  The careening back and forth among several different positions has made it hard to take myself seriously in any pose.  And a pose is what it often is.  I’m great at staging sudden conversions.  It begins in doubt or guilt lashed into turmoil, resolved in a climax of insight, an afterglow of remorse and resolution… then lather, rinse, repeat.  These episodes promise closure for awhile, but don’t last.

That tells me that my questions are off the mark.

Meanwhile, my work has put me in touch with a lot of people who’ve lived through deep trauma, and that contact has changed irrevocably the lens through when I see any belief system.  I have been forced to abandon platitudes I know I could never say to my clients with a straight face; I’ve been forced to trust that compassion, not judgment, is the last word on the anger, despair, and fear of people who’ve been hurt this deeply.

All religions evolved within some context of trauma, if only the trauma of human striving against an implacable natural world.  All have evolved in contact with violence, privation, and pain.  All of them show the marks of trauma-based thinking: the self-blame for tragedy, the attachment to an abuser, the hope that we can love and please someone who dominates us, and learn to love that condition.  It seems to me that the trauma survivor who tries to find a home in any faith tradition gets confronted sooner or later with these larger echoes of the personal traumatic world, and has to figure out whether belief of some kind means succumbing to trauma-enforcing messages, or re-creating their traditions in the service of freedom.

I want to hear from a wider variety of people who encounter this struggle.  I will write about my struggles with the tradition I know best, and would love to hear others speak from their own experience.  It doesn’t have to be god-centered experience; any larger frame that promises meaning, whether that’s science, Wicca, non-theistic traditions like Buddhism– it’s all grist for conversation here.

How this blog shapes itself will depend on how many people get involved.  Meanwhile, peace, Shalom, Shantih shantih shantih, live long and prosper,

and may the force be with you!


Introduction: Why I’m Doing This

I’m not a scholar.  I once tried to be, but I wanted babies more than I wanted the degree, and in the end I couldn’t do both well.

So now I have a smattering of outdated knowledge of Medieval and Renaissance literature rattling around in my head, along with the things I was reading when I should have been working on the lit degree (mostly theology and spirituality), the things I read in second-career-grad-school (psychotherapy related, plus more theology), lots of rock songs and gardening info– and the experience of marriage and child rearing.

I’ve been Catholic, agnostic, Catholic again, then atheist; Democrat, Republican, and Democrat again; feminist, traditional, feminist again.  I’ve made the acquaintance of Zen Buddhism, read a little Rumi, and now, against all odds, have taken an interest in Wicca, sort of.

I’m basically an atheist feminist solitary eclectic witch.

Why witch?

For starters, because I want to remember the women who, under that label, were killed for standing out– including, btw, my Catholic patron saint.  But I’ve settled on it as perhaps the least misleading of all the misleading terms I could apply to myself.  I’ve been googling “witch,” “wiccan,” and “pagan” for some time, trying to figure out if I’m flesh or fowl or good red herring.  The world of Wicca sounds a little more organized than I’m comfortable with at present– though you can practice as a solitary, and there are no orthodoxy police.  There’s a hierarchy, and steps involved in joining and advancing (if that’s the right word) in a coven, and, as Huck Finn would say, I been there.  It may be very different from the hierarchies I’ve dealt with so far, but– call me phobic– I don’t want to join another damn community of believers till I’m very, very sure what I want, and what are my cues to leave.

I’m also too much of an atheist to comfortably refer to “the goddess” or “the Lord and Lady” without an asterisk and an explanation that I am, of course, just personifying some positive trend in myself, my history, or the world.

As for pagan … you may, if you’re old and a former Catholic like me, remember when “buying a pagan baby” (i.e., sponsoring a foreign child in a Catholic mission) was a popular classroom charity.  And then there were the textbook pagans, people in fancy antique garb who bullied Christians in sandals.  They were the “other” team, the guys whose ways we were not to adopt.  Even as an atheist, it sometimes feels creepy to me to be doing stuff that “pagans” did.

But even setting aside the remnants of an old prejudice, “pagan,” like “wiccan,” seems to be too bound up with deities.  As for “secular pagan,” while I do recycle, I’m less focused on green politics than they seem to be (though I am an ardent fan of Jethro Tull’s Songs from the Wood album, and that should count for something).

So, you ask, “witch” is not misleading?

Well, yes, and the neo-pagan definitions I’ve read involve such a broadening of the term that it is barely recognizable.  A witch, I’ve read, is anyone who does witchcraft, and witchcraft is any use of energy to manipulate the natural world in a way that brings about change.  So, for instance, a doctor, a cook, and an artist are all practicing witchcraft.  And as a psychotherapist, so am I.  There’s nothing objectionable in that, but also nothing much resonant with the flavor of the word “witch.”  Why adopt it, then?

Initially, I labored under the misconception that “witch” came from the same root as “wizard” and “wise,” as well as “wicked.”*  In fact, some source I can’t remember claimed that at one point, the English language did not distinguish between a “witch,” a “wise woman,” and a “wicked woman.”  As the bumper sticker says, well-behaved women rarely make history, and indeed, educated and unconventional women were popular targets for witch hunters.

But as cool as that bogus etymology is, it’s wrong.  “Witch” and “wicca” come from the Anglo-Saxon word for “to bend.”  Witchcraft is about bending, shaping, reality.   And this is cool in its own way– witchcraft is not about breaking, ignoring, or violating nature or ourselves; it’s about working with it, within its capacities, to influence it in whatever constructive ways we can.

And “magic”?  The term comes up in Wicca, witchcraft, and paganism.  I’m too lazy to drag out the OED, so I’ll wing it.  Magic …. Magi: the three “wise men” of the nativity story, but the root isn’t about wisdom.  Magister … it’s about mastery, mastering something.  From my lit days I remember C. S. Lewis pointing out that in the Renaissance, both “magic” and “science” were about the mastery of nature– but in the sense of domination, or even, if you will, rape.  They were about getting minerals or demons or chemicals or people to do your bidding, against their will, if need be.

But there are other ways of “mastering” a skill or a situation.  Through understanding.  Through attunement.  Through patient negotiation.  This is the “magic” of the Horse Whisperer, or a good parent.   Modern witches, wiccans and pagans tend toward this kind of magic.  The wise-craft of a witch, then, would ideally be a skillful understanding of herself and others, and a skillful adaptation to her surroundings that helps bring about change.  Good change.

Now that’s a witchcraft I can get behind.

And why the blog?  The only point, apart from my needing to think out loud, is this:  The major religious traditions are all rooted in patriarchy.  Moreover, history shows that goddess worship does not guarantee respect for real, living women.  Feminist-pagan-wiccan-witches are trying to build from the ground up, with the shards and spiritual jetsam we find, fleshed out with our imaginations.  We’re making it up as we go.

But women can’t afford to abandon critical thinking, not now of all times, when women of advanced nations finally have access to education, and women in the third world are still fighting for it.   We won’t become empowered by buying (or manufacturing) snake oil.

Any religious tradition that lasts and has real power to give us meaning has to emerge from the cauldron of many hearts and minds, allowed to simmer, allowed to mature.  And any religious tradition that hopes to be a vital and empowering force in the future had better not pit itself against hard realities, in particular scientifically and historically verifiable realities.

So without claiming the power to dictate or define for others, maybe we do owe each other the kind of input that will aid the refining process– or to go for a witchier metaphor, the kinds of ingredients that will cook up the richest brew.

Here’s my handful of spice.

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Note:  this blog has a twin, “Solitary Witch.”  “Skeptical Witch” is focused more on examining the practices and beliefs of the pagan-wiccan-witch world, using critical thinking to understand what gives them their potency, and to critique what is mere superstition.  I speak only for myself in this– a small voice in a growing and increasingly complex conversation.  “Solitary Witch” is more of a public Book of Shadows, including reflections, “spells,” and other odds and ends.

Welcome, and enjoy!