The autumn equinox is fast upon us – the time when the balance tips from the light half of the year to the dark half. Daylight hours are on the wane and soon the night and twilight hours will take precedence, allowing us a time for rest, for thought and for reflection....
I'm sure many of you have heard or read something about at least one Facebook page with a title which many witches are finding offensive. I'm not going to give you access to them from this blog nor will I mention them directly. The quick fervor whipped up around the name of this page, led me to all kinds of questions, and a few extremely important answers...and some perspective. I'd like to share what I've learned, hopefully it can move all of us forward on this issue.
Facebook doesn't get to decide what hate speech is, the law does.
When I reported the page for 'hate speech', as so many others had done, I was also told in a very fast reply, by an automated system on Facebook, that the page wasn't 'hate speech', and so it wouldn't be removed. How could that be? The title sure looked hateful to me!
Who is Facebook?
Since I felt that Facebook was being negligent, I figured the next step was to report Facebook to someone, but who? A state attorney's general office? The USDOJ? I needed to do some more book work to know. As it turns out, Facebook was originally incorporated in Florida, but that was later moved to Delaware, a popular state for incorporation because of favorable tax laws....
It seems obvious that magic should instill some kind of change within you, but I feel compelled to write this article because so often what I see in occult texts is a emphasis on changing the environment around you, as opposed to changing yourself, or a focus on changing yourself solely through spiritual means and the assistance of spirits of some type. There's this dualism within Western Magic, where you apparently have two schools of magical practice. The theurgic school is a spiritual school, wherein the magician practices high magic in an effort to connect with spiritual powers and and gradually change him/herself via that contact. The thaumaturgic school is a practical school, where magic is done to solve problems and change the environment to one that is more pleasing. I think of it as reactive magic, done to solve the current crisis in one's life. This approach to magic breaks down various magical actions by the results, and depending on what the results are a magical action is lumped in one of the two schools of magical thought and practice.
March’s shadow card is The Hermit. We are still in the winter months and it is the time of year where we go in and work on our inner selves. I did not purposely choose this card but I find it fitting that it was a random draw. This is very much a card of introspection and deep searching. It is one of seeking guidance and knowledge and looking within oneself to uncover the truth. The card from the Steampunk deck by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell shows a man standing on a heap of rubble holding a lantern and from it, emitting what appears to be lightening. In the book, Barbara Moore states that the pile of rubble signifies the information and ideas that he has collected in his journeys. He appears to be an older gentleman with a long graying beard, further suggesting a wise and sage person who has spent their life accumulating the knowledge that he is standing on. The lantern suggests that he not only holds the answers in his hands but there are new sparks of ideas that are itching to get out.
The shadow of this card takes solitude to the extreme…spending too much time by your self, being withdrawn from your family and friends, cutting yourself away from everyone. It can also indicate paranoia, or fear – fear of being by yourself, fear of your thoughts or feelings, fear of your journey or what you might find out. Fear holds us back from many situations so we keep ourselves in seclusion to keep from getting hurt, but it doesn’t really work. What we end up doing is hurting ourselves in a different way…we don’t go out and live life, experience it. If we don’t experience pain, can we truly experience joy? Ignoring our thoughts and feelings doesn’t make them disappear; we have to face them eventually, as difficult as that may be....
Peter Dybing gave Sunday's keynote speech, "Stirring the Cauldron of Pagan Sensibilities." A worthy pursuit to my mind. In an animated talk, Peter emphasized that Paganism was not a monolithic institution. He also spoke of the need for boundaries, avoiding what he called "the 2 a.m. crisis." During feedback, I reminded folks that one of the required courses for degree-seeking students at Cherry Hill Seminary is Boundaries & Ethics. I took the proto-class from Cat Chapin-Bishop back around 2000 and found it one of the most valuable classes I've ever taken.
He itemized several issues and then compared the attitudes about them of older Pagans and to those of younger generations. He said that older Pagans generally held tightly to beliefs whereas younger ones welcomed debate. I think this is true of any social phenomenon when it achieves some years; however, I don't think it's universal. I count many Pagans, myself among them, as being open-minded, adaptable, and willing to engage on current issues, far from being hidebound.
It was helpful for me to hear, even though it's obvious, that we bring with us the cultural attitudes of our times. I know that the feminism that underlies my being, religious and otherwise, has informed my views and practices. I know that my experience pre-Second Wave Feminism is very unlike the experience of women who, for instance, grew up in a world where reproductive choice is a given. And that's just on one issue. I know that the zeitgeist of my formative years differs from the zeitgeist of subsequent generations. Sometimes hearing something stated clearly from another person gives the fact a more crystalline ring. Thank you, Peter.
Reading is as necessary to my life as air and water. I read lots of different genres, but one that's captivated me the last several years, in part because of the genealogical research I've been doing, is history, American history in particular. I read history in order to understand humanity and the way we humans have organized ourselves, intentionally or not, into tribes, states, nations, even neighborhoods.
I also read to try to understand the lives, the circumstances, and the motivations of my ancestors. As Samhain approaches I reflect upon the lives of some of my ancestors. For instance, my maternal grandfather's grandfather, William H. Van Tine, (pictured here) served in the Pennsylvania 58th Infantry and was killed in April 1863 in a battle in New Bern, NC, so I've been reading some Civil War history. Another ancestor, my grandmother's grandfather, The Rev. Alpha Gilruth Kynett, was, among other things, a founder of the Anti-Saloon League. His brother Harry, a medical doctor, served on the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the state of Iowa. The Sanitary Commission was a private relief organization created during the Civil War to care for sick and wounded soldiers, the precursor to the Veterans' Administration.1
It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)