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Newtown, CT

b2ap3_thumbnail_candles_sm.jpgChildren are the reason for the home. They are our descendents and will hopefully be ancestors themselves. They are the continuation of our species, our joy when they succeed, our pain when they fail. The shooting in Newtown CT happens in my home ground. My massage practice is in Newtown, my retired horse lives there, and I have friends who live there. It is two towns over.


No one wants this to happen again. Ever.



On Sunday night, I held a small candlelight vigil for the 20 children and 6 women whom the shooter killed. I ran a chime for each person while my friend lit candles; tea light for the children, and white tapers for the women. So far, we only know how two of these women died and they are both stories of heroism. When the chime had been rung 26 times, I asked the Ancestors to collect their children, leaving none behind. And then we sat for a time in meditation.

After the meditation, when we gathered in the living room, one of my guests, a sympathetic atheist who attends a Unitarian church, asked if excluding the shooter was a conscious decision. It was. Indeed, I was not sure who would be in attendance and did not want to disrupt anyone’s healing process. Most often, anger and grief must come before forgiveness. And often we must also have understanding before we can have compassion, and that takes time and information.

I find myself deeply angry at a political process that leaps upon one very politically charged answer with no consideration of the possible consequences. The shooter struggled with learning disabilities. He was the child of divorce and his parents were widely separated. He was socially isolated and probably depressed. He liked to play shooter video games. And he had access to guns because his mom was a prepper.

A spot light focus on gun laws by nature excludes serious conversation about all other issues. The shooter’s mother had these guns because she was a single mom, and because she feared the collapse of civilization, a fear that is not uncommon. As a woman, I would never begrudge her the right to defend herself in any way she saw fit. But how did her son get access to her guns? Were they locked up? Did she have any awareness of his mental state? She knew he was pulling away from her, but to what extent? How much responsibility do we give this woman? How much does his father carry? No doubt this guy was depressed, was he on one of the anti-depressants known to cause violent and suicidal ideation? My guest described his own experience with those drugs. He said he was grateful (grateful!) that he had faced suicidal tendencies earlier in life, and as such, was able to recognize that the violent thoughts he had were not his own, but chemically induced.

And how about the video games? Why is it that we as a culture have no problem with making murder into a game that earns points? Claiming it is just a game is absurd, because the brain doesn’t know the difference. The military teaches soldiers to kill, but they also teach them to start and stop when a commanding officer says to. The system is far from perfect, but certainly no one thinks it’s a game. 

Guns and lots of ammunition allowed this boy to be a more efficient killer. Video games allowed him to disconnect from humanity. Without guns he would have killed fewer people. Fewer children. But I do not doubt he would have killed. We need to understand what went wrong with the Newtown shooter, not just what guns he had access to and how.

I like to think that Pagans make good parents. If the kids I see coming out of this community are the standard, then I have to say, I’m impressed with the confidence and creativity they display. I like to think that our religion gives us access both to a sense of connection, and multiple ways to amuse ourselves that are actually healthy for our brains. Story telling, fire spinning, dancing, drumming, singing, making music, making ritual, and volunteering are all human-centered activities that both heal us and make us better people. We often excel in people skills. We are schooled in personal boundaries and identifying feelings. And we read. Oh how we read. This is who we are. I believe that a world where there is more singing and less TV, more dancing and less video gaming, and more story telling and less gossip would be a better one.

The next question is how do we share these skills? And can we afford not to?




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Tagged in: 2012 Newtown
Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


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