Invoke (v.): To petition for support; to cite as authority; to conjure.
What does it mean to invoke?
The word "invoke" derives from the old Latin word vocare, meaning "to call" and is related to the word vox, meaning voice.
All three of the meanings included above are related and involve a form of identity. Essentially, we are calling upon a person or entity with some measure of power/authority to act in our behalf or through us. It is a means of identifying with or even as something/someone that is normally outside of ourselves.
Patti Wigington defines invocation as "a form of voluntary possession. When you invoke a deity being, ... you're inviting it into yourself, and that god or goddess will manifest through a human host."
I've long been convinced that the Hebrew commandment not to take the name of YHWH in vain relates, not to four-letter words, but to the practice of invoking the god's name frivolously. This is serious stuff; even more so because it applies not just to deities, but to things in the mundane world we often overlook or even ignore.
Whenever we identify with something, we are invoking the power of its nature and its definition, applying that definition to ourselves.
It might be a spiritual label; a political party; a product; a sports team or whatever. Identifying with any of these things is a form of invocation. Something as simple as declaring you're a fan of "The Walking Dead" both claims and invokes the power of those words to communicate something about yourself.
Why do successful sports teams have more fans than those that more often post losing records? Because more people are attracted to their power/success and, therefore, identify with them.
Why are celebrities more powerful, in some senses, than lesser-known individuals? In part, it may be because of their personal charisma, talent or skill. But in part, it is because of a bandwagon effect: Others gravitate toward the popular and successful and seek to identify with it in order to share that popularity or success. This then snowballs until the celebrity's status is often (though certainly not always) out of proportion to his/her skill or talent.
Deities are prone to the same phenomenon. The more we invoke/identify with them, the greater their status becomes. Shifting statuses within pantheons offer one example: Zeus may well have supplanted Chronos at the head of the Greek pantheon because more people came to identify with him: More worshipers invoked his name and attributes. Another example is the rise of the Christian god, whose cult overwhelmed older spiritual traditions as it spread. This is, admittedly, a sensitive area. Gods, whether you think of them as literal or archetypal, have their own charisma, talents and skills that attract adherents in the first place, just as celebrities do. But the snowball effect works with deities in just the same way: The more people gravitate toward them, the faster their worship will spread.
Invoking involves not only identity, but authority, as well. By invoking something or someone, one can call upon the authority of that entity to settle a dispute. No one offers a greater degree of authority than a deity, but other sources of authority can be invoked in the same way, whether they be political leaders, religious figures or scriptures. In debate, the strategy known as "appeal to authority" is a form of invocation. One identifies with the authority as a means of ending the debate. (Ken Hay used this strategy in his recent debate with Bill Nye about creationism when he appealed to the Bible as the ultimate authority in scientific matters.)
Appeals to authority don't further debate about an issue; on the contrary, they shut it down. Instead of focusing on the ideas, our attention is shifted to an authority figure who supposedly is the last word on the subject. Discussion ends, people stop listening and, often, one side feels as though it has not been heard. The result is often anger and frustration.
I recently decided to stop referring to political leaders and parties in my online posts, because doing so tended to shut down discussions. When I did so, people often became angry and responded with insults directed toward the leaders/parties in question, rather than listening to the ideas I wished to communicate (which were, ultimately, far more important to me than the individuals espousing them). Suddenly, no one was listening because of what was, on my part, a careless invocation.
The lesson I learned from this is that invocations, whether of deities or other sources of authority, should never be undertaken lightly and should be used sparingly. While the source of an idea can lend it credibility, truth will always be able to stand on its own, regardless of whether a deity, politician or celebrity endorses it.
The lack of complaints also speaks to the tone set for the event in the workshops, rituals, classes, concerts and other activities. There was a sense of unity among a diverse collection of people. We were willing to celebrate our differences and learn from one another, eagerly and without prejudice.
Complaining is all about making one's feelings known - specifically, feelings of dissatisfaction. Sometimes, it's necessary, and some complaints can certainly be legitimate. But listening and learning are all about gathering information, and (barring an emergency), it's best to do as much of this as possible before complaining. Often, complaints turn out to be misplaced simply because we haven't taken the time to learn more about what's causing our dissatisfaction.
Panel discussions can be great forums for analyzing that dissatisfaction and identifying the source of it. At Pantheacon, the Pagans and Privilege panel was particularly effective in this regard, because it exposed a large group of attendees to a variety of perspectives within the community. The more we seek to learn about one another, the less time there is for complaints and, often, the less basis there is for them.
The diversity within the umbrella Pagan community means opportunities for learning and listening abound, and never more so than at a convention of this scope. I'd like to personally thank the organizers for giving us a space to get to know one another a little better. I know some of my complaints were resolved before they were even uttered, just because I took the time to listen to others' perspectives.
Already, blogs and posts are appearing online offering more such perspectives in the aftermath of the conference. Here's hoping they will stimulate a lively and positive discussion. One downfall of the Internet is that it often tends to foster complaints more than listening. The spirit of PantheaCon offered an antidote to that mentality, but now that the convention is over, we are faced with a challenge: combating the tendency to pull back into our individual online "camps" and stop listening because we can't see one another's faces. It's always easier to listen to others face to face and easier to complain from behind the keyboard. I'm hoping we can continue in the tone of discovery set at PantheaCon throughout the year.
On a personal note, my favorite events included the Weiser authors panel (no surprise there, as I am an author myself), Kenny Klein's Mojo, Magick and the Blues, Don Shulz's drum workshop and, of course, the concerts. If you haven't seen Michael Mullen's "Trio of One" show, give it a try. You're in for a treat. Pandemonaeon rocked the house, as well.
I certainly look forward to returning to San Jose for this event again in the future.
There's great sturm und drang in the Pagan communities right now over a number of things. Most are being played out here, in one place or another. Rancor, condemnation, hurt, fear...the standard variations that come back to bite us on our collective butts again and again.
Some of my thinks about it included--
my community is full of idiots
my community has too much time on its hands
my community loves to fight and argue
my community should be about the business of our various spiritual systems and notions of divinity
My community--which is made up of an impossible-to-know number of subsets--is like barely interlocking rings in a disordered chaos of time and space. We are humans, for the most part, and we like to put ourselves and each other in tidy boxes, so that we are easier to understand and to interact with. The problem is the boxes don't fit exactly and then I'm in a box and you're in another box and then we get territorial about our boxes.
And because we are often a minority within a minority group, we get a little hinky about our prospects for being heard, for being respected, for being safe. Sure, we've peed in all the corners of our own box but what's that I smell? Have you peed on the corner of my box? How dare you.
For my sins, I am a Pisces with Moon in Scorpio and Scorpio on the Ascendant. Before I knew much about astrology (and please understand, I still know next-to-nothing about it), I got the whole Pisces Sun thing. Mystic, intuitive, creative, empathic. But what I didn't get was the Scorpio interface. See, I'd be all Piscean--soft and mystical ad nauseum--and someone would hurt my feelings. Really deeply, because I'm a Pisces--I have lots of feelings.
When that happened (let's be real here--when that happens), there was an interesting thing that occurred hard on the heels of the aforementioned hurt. I wanted vengeance. Big time. Now that I know about the Scorpio thing, I describe it this way--someone hurts my big gooey Piscean feelings and that double Scorpio comes out on either side, like velociraptors. Someone has hurt us. They will be destroyed.
My community--you and you and you and yes, even him--reacts in much the same way. We either keep on keeping on, doing what we know we need to do, whether it is worship or growing food or reading tarot cards. Or we get our feelings hurt and go hide in a corner and vow to never interact with Those People ever again. Or we lash out and defend our territory and our honor and our beliefs. And we renew peeing in the corners of our boxes and know we have triumphed.
Or we do a combo of all of the above.
And we are acting out of ancient human patterns that have come down through our Ancestors, riding the double helix of our DNA. It is encoded and it takes effort to break the code, even if we choose to...and I'm not suggesting that we do. What I am suggesting is that my community is mostly the fringes of the dominant and dominating culture and we have patterns that grow from that position within the larger culture. As we grapple with notions of territory and hierarchy--when we peer from the bottom rung of the ladder--we grab on to tried-and-true ways of scrambling to the top, often treading on the tired hands of the people most like us.
Perhaps it is time for, us as we mature (or not) in these wonderful spiritual systems, to remember our collective history and find ways to let all paths lead the walker to the envisioned destination, to mind our own business and practice the ancient ritual of hospitality.
I'm sure you'll let me know if I'm mistaken about any--or all--of this.
Synchronicity is a mysterious muse who has always danced in periphery of my life. I have seen her out of the corner of my eye on what often seems to be a daily basis. Today was no different except to say, this time she danced across my news feed.
The other night as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed and came across a post by Witches & Pagans editor Anne Newkirk Niven. She had written that she had just gotten her a** handed to her by some readers regarding her editorial. Being no stranger to having my a** handed to me, I was among the first to offer a supportive comment.
The next morning I found a related link to Peter Dybing's Pagan In Paradise post about Pagan Intolerance. And Being no stranger to having my a** handed to me, I was quite happy the issue is finally being addressed. And I am a huge proponent of "Sacred Regard."
But where's the dancing muse you ask? Cue the music...
Because last week the Pagan Alliance and the House of Danu called an Emergency Pagan Conclave to address concerns regarding the new regulation changes by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
The concern was concentrated around their [CDCR] new Religious Property Matrix (RPM). The gist of the RPM is this; there has never been a single list of religious items approved for personal possession by inmates. This singularity has left the sally ports* open wide to abuse, exploitation, discrimination and extensive, expensive litigation. Well, the CDCR has finally come up with a list, which has been called Orwellian; "that which is not permitted is absolutely forbidden"
As one the few Pagan Chaplains actively engaged in Prison ministry here in California, I received an invitation to speak on the topic alongside my peers. Based on the content and tone of the event page it was fairly obvious that my opinion on the matter was not going to be a popular one.
At the conclave I offered my opinion and views of the RPM based on my own direct personal experience, and more importantly, the opinions and direct personal experiences of the inmates I serve; which is actually an expression of hope rather than outrage. Considering the fact that it was the view of those actually being affected by the topic, I felt it was relevant.
This alternative perspective was contrary to egregore of the collective and was for the most part, polity, publicly dismissed. But the flaming wreckage of fallout that followed took place via personal email, through which I was told that I was ignorant to the subject matter, undermining the cause, speaking without authority or qualification and accused of falsely representing myself. I've had loyalties challenged; my ethics questioned and have basically been called an ignorant sellout.
The sad part is, this was not the first time, and probably not the last.
The unfortunate truth is that in the few years I have served as a volunteer chaplain I have experienced more adversity and endured more disparagement from members of my own Pagan community than I have from the Department of Corrections.
While I find statements like these deplorable, they are irrelevant.
My soul concern has been always been, and will always be, the spiritual welfare of the inmates, rather than the opinions of the outmates.
For those of you who may feel as though you are in an opinion closet, within the broom closet, I say come out; come out, be heard and stand your ground. Offering an alternative perspective or opinion can be a public service, if the public is mature enough to discuss it.
I'm sharing my experiences and feelings on this matter in order to emphasize the need for change. Change in the way we engage, respond and simply communicate with each other. I support Peters "Sacred Regard." I think this philosophy must be accepted and instituted as a sacrament within the Pagan collective. I feel the absence of sacred regard only diminishes the solidarity we need, now more than ever.
I thank the Lord & Lady for the gift Fortitude and request the gift of Temperance for us all. Blessed Be.
* Sally Port is secure, controlled gate, door or entry way within a prison.
and sometimes I think we don't talk enough.
When I was coming up in these spiritual systems, it was all about connecting with some Divines, usually a cobbled together "pantheon" of cultures and attributes that we liked. We set that up within the elegant framework of the Wheel of the Year. I love the Wheel because it is a sweet crucible for connecting, as well as celebrating and honoring. Simple and very user-friendly. There are two Solstices and two Equinoxes (and don't bother to correct me--I know those aren't the accurate plurals)--placeholders that mark the visible change in seasons in those places that still have four of those. They actually happen--they are not based on lore or myth. You can look them up--they happen for everyone at the same time.
In between are the perfect markers for the four things that rule our lives, or should. In between the Quarters are the crux of the agricultural year--a time to plant, a time to tend, a time to harvest and a time to rest.
Simple, elegant. You can layer whatever cultural overlay you like and then get on with the business of your spirituality. We celebrated holidays and honored the Divines. Sometimes we gathered together to do these things and sometimes we went out in the woods behind the house and did our thing.
That was decades ago in times that now seem so much simpler than today. We were all called "Pagans" and many were called "Witches"--both carefully capped. We usually got training in some tradition or other and we often got degrees that showed either how far we'd advanced in training or how useful we were to the group.
Yep, there were now-legendary "Witch Wars"--territorial more than dogmatic--that shattered vulnerable communities and fractured existing groups. We began to behave like every little Independent Baptist church in the South--when the leadership no longer worked, we left to form our own.
And we continued to meet in groups and follow the Wheel, deepening our knowledge of the Mysteries, figuring out what we believed (if anything) and working out ways to express that through ritual, ceremony and the written and sung word.
We shared new rituals with each other and tried them out, seeing what worked for us and what didn't. And though I am using the past tense--we still do that. The sharing and the experimenting are part of what makes these spiritual systems so vital, so attractive to Americans who feel that the churches of their upbringing no longer serve their spiritual needs.
And here we are--connected globally with all sorts of interesting people doing all sorts of interesting things. I have a friend in South Africa and a friend in Australia with whom I natter and compare, trying always to remember that while I prep for Beltane, they are getting ready for Samhain. And vice versa.
Now, I spend time reading through conversations on Facebook and here and over at Wild Hunt (amongst other resources) and I simply stop reading part-way through. Tit for tat, strawman arguments, assertions of correctness and authority. These discussion go on and on, seemingly never finding a place to land. No compromise and no retreat.
It's exhausting to read them--I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to continue them, day after day. And the thought that floats--unbidden--into my head is--don't you folks have a holy day to celebrate? A dark or full Moon? Aren't there Divines to honor (and sometimes appease and entertain)? Isn't there a garden that could be started and a community to see to?
And before you start in on me, go revisit the first line of this post.
For some people, there is still so much to say, so much to explore and understand, so many points to get across. We are all learning how to find solid ground in this shifting spiritual world and one of the first things we need to do is to find out where we already stand in relation to our kindred.
I do get that. Tit for tat. Marking territory like spraying cats. Who are the Divines? Who am I? Who are "we?" I personally love the information-gathering and sharing. What I object to is the sense of judgment about what others do or don't do. What does it matter if you think the Divines are singular or plural? "Real" or archetypes?
It only matters to you and those who celebrate with you. Haven't we learned from other proselytizing religions that we don't change other people by arguing that we are right and they are wrong?
So, if you need to fight on a public forum and point out the error of someone else's practice or belief, you have every right to do that. I may even choose to do it myself on occasion. But isn't there a garden to grow? A community to tend?
Isn't there a holy day to relish and share?
Mercury in Retrograde-what is it?
The planet Mercury, like all planets follows an elliptical orbit. Three times a year for about 3 weeks (see a pattern?) there are times when Mercury appears to go backwards in its orbit (it doesn't really reverse course but it looks like it from our earthly vantage point.)
In Western Astrology the planet Mercury rules over communication, technology, organization and its the ruling planet of Virgo and the natural ruler of the 6th house-both of which are associated with health.
Mercury in Retrograde has a terrible reputation-people experience communication breakdowns, there are fights, there are lost hard drives, important agreements fall through, legal difficulties emerge and travel drama ensues-it can all be rather...unpleasant.
The God/dess/es do not care about your rice krispies nor are their messages to be found in the snap, crackle, and pop. I have had what I believe to be genuine communication with the beings that I consider to be Deities and have experienced a number of forms of divine embodiment, or divine possession if you prefer. As such I do believe and have personal experiences that deepen the belief that the Great Ones do directly affect our lives. However, I regularly encounter people who report a chatty, friendly, rapport with the God/dess/es that they work with and/or worship. I have puzzled about this and in many cases it seems very sincere, but I doubt that beings whose scale of perception and consciousness are large enough to be considered Deities engage in small talk. I will warrant that this may simply be a limitation of my imagination and sensibilities, but I have another thought.
I talk to my dogs, and like so many other doting dog lovers, I also talk for them. There is real communication between us, but there is also much that I add for my own benefit. Many humans are prone to anthropomorphizing pretty much anything as a way of bridging the gap between what we are and what is different from ourselves. This is actually a very sound and useful strategy as a starting point, so long as we remain aware that it is not the end of the process. The same is true when we theanthroposize, when we ascribe human emotions and thought patterns to a God/dess. Once again a good beginning point but one that requires heightened vigilance. This is complicated by the fact that many in this culture have a religion of origin that encouraged the idea of a personal relationship with God. Upon making the transition to some form of Paganism, this concept of personal relationship often remains relatively unchanged and unexamined. This can create another overlay of expectations that interfere with true communication with the Divine. I do believe that we each have a personal concept of the Divine and a personal way in which we relate to the Divine. Accordingly, I do suggest that a full and extensive re-examination of the parameters of human and Divine interactions is a good idea when we move to a new faith.
While it is probable that the Great Ones make efforts to interact with us in ways that are accommodations to our size and scale and nature, I believe most of the adjustment occurs at our end. You can imagine that we are like radio receivers and that the Divine communications are like the signal upon the aethers. It is the radio receiver that must adjust itself to match the signal. The signal, for its part, must only be in the range of what is possible for the receiver to detect and accept. Allow me to expand this comparison a little bit more. We are really more like advanced multiband radio receivers. Part of the trick is in determining whether we have tuned into the local AM station or have dialed in the shortwave station from the other side of the world or perhaps the other side of the universe.The reason I think this is a matter of concern is that there is the potential for some rather bad outcomes when we confuse the message from a small and local source with one from a more expansive realm.
There are entire books written on the topic of communication with spirits or with Deities. There are also solid and lengthy apprenticeships for those that wish to engage in this sort of work. That said, here is one of the first tests that I apply to a communication to see how large or from how far way the source of the communication may be. I ask myself what is the scale of the conversation and communication. If it is about my day-to-day activities and affairs, then it is likely to come from a source that is very close. Perhaps the source is some other part of myself. Or perhaps from some smaller or more local being than a Deity. Another test that I apply is a bit harder to describe. I try to determine if there is a sense of vastness, grandeur, or alien otherness. Some part of me must feel a sense of awe if I am to believe that it is a God/dess. By the way, there is a lot of wise and useful information that comes from beings that are far less than Deities. Part of how I discern how to use information comes from my best guess of the source of the information. Of course if you work with a particular God or Goddess regularly, there will be their imprint in your energy, a small representation of them within you. Sometimes this is the source of the information as mediated by your higher self.
When we work with the invisible, it is vital that we also make our own process as transparent as possible. If we don’t, there is the risk that the old bumper sticker that says “I do whatever my rice krispies tell me to do” will actually be the truth.