Sunday, September 24, 2017

Of Gods and Internet Service

We live in a world where technology is everything and electronics are everywhere. We craft new names and personas for ourselves in cyberspace. We decorate it with art and photography. We forge bonds with people, real people, half a world away and angrily bludgeon our neighbor with our words on social media. We can influence the life of someone we will never get to meet face-to-face. We can live a second, completely different life, in cyberspace than what we live in spacetime. What if the gods reside in cyberspace with us? What if Brigid actively influences a young woman's interest in smithing through ads on Facebook? What if Loki plants the seeds of chaos by kicking out certain letters in emails and thereby changing the words and the meaning of the whole sentence? What if Bast preens in adoration of the billions upon billions of websites dedicated to cat-kind? What if Gwyn ap Nudd is mortified at the seeming ability of humankind of suddenly be immortal? What if our gods are alive and, very much, well because of the internet?

Some months ago, a friend suggested this very notion to me. The gods rest beyond the physical realm. They always have. They rest within a realm of pure energy. Is the cyberspace not that very thing? Is it not a space of pure energy apart from, but not outside of, our own physical realm? Why wouldn't the gods reside there and, importantly, why couldn't they mete out justice in within cyberspace for infractions committed within cyberspace?

Let's just go with the gods influencing cyberspace. Let's say that they have taken residence up there. What could that look like?

Well, what if you spent months or years being a jerk to people who really didn't deserve it? Maybe you spent some time abusing people who didn't deserve it, using them for their money or sex. Or, maybe you lied to someone, broke their heart. The scenarios are endless. You know, Zeus is a big fucking jerk and a god of justice (among other things). How dare you out-jerk him!! SMITE! Maybe your email is hacked or your Instagram. Maybe people get to see that you aren't really a jerk, just scared or hurt or insecure. There's your karma.

Are you a control freak? (I know that I am!!) Maybe the gods remind you that nothing is within your control when your computer gets held hostage by a virus that was embedded in a link you didn't mean to click.  Dammit! Loki, stop touching things!

Don't like someone you see on social media frequently? Does their face make you want to vomit? Why not just block them? No, no, don't be salty. Don't report them to Facebook! Damn. Now, Hera, stop being petty. You don't have to like everybody. What about when one of those stupid 'copy and paste' this posts comes across your newsfeed on Facebook, except it's not one of the stupid ones, but the number to the suicide hotline and you were just about ready to give up. Osirus is reminding you that it isn't quite time.

Is it too far-fetched to believe that Thoth and Minerva and sitting at a table at the local library, laptop screen to laptop screen, staring at each other in awe of our hubris and stupidity? "Do they even know that we have, literally, given them all of human knowledge?" Thoth asks, aghast.

"The greater question is 'do they know they carry it in their hands and pockets' and why won't they use it?" Minerva responds, exasperated.

"Have we failed?" Thoth questions. "Have we failed them so utterly?"

"No," Minerva responds, "some of them are listening."

The world we know is changing and we, as a people, are changing with it. Why wouldn't our gods adapt, too? Why wouldn't they use very real and concrete ways, such as the internet, to influence our thinking? Why wouldn't they use something that this, literally, their realm within our own to their advantage to guide those who are actively seeking?

Brightest blessings, Friends. Thank you got coming along with me on this journey. We are, officially, 100 posts in as of today!
River














Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Cult of Self-Importance and Delusions of Grandeur

This writing may strike a cord with a great many of you, dear readers. If it does, you should take note because I'm probably talking about you. This writing is not meant as a judgment. It is not meant as a verbal takedown of any kind. It is not meant to be any more than a reminder. It is a reminder of who you actually are and where you actually come from. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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Since coming to the pagan community nearly a decade ago, I have noticed a huge culture change. Those who were once our teachers, people who put decades of work into their craft, are being ostracised or pushed into the background for younger, more beautiful, versions of themselves who promise enlightenment in 6 easy steps! These same people are charging their students through the nose for these 6 easy steps and in just a few months time, BAM!! You've bought enlightenment and can go on to be a guru yourself.

The problem is that enlightenment is not easy. What we, as pagans, are doing is very similar to when the Catholic Church sold Indulgences. You can't buy enlightenment, much in the same way that you can't buy forgiveness. We are creating this culture of self-important idiots with delusions of grandeur who believe that they can do as they please without regard to people or consequences. Yes, I used the word 'idiot'. I used the word idiot because it is the idiot or fool who blindly sets out toward a goal. It is the idiot who, in their own blind confidence, plows over anything and everything in their path, leaving a trail of destruction and debris, or as the tarot car suggests, walks straight off a cliff into the unknown that just might be one's own destruction.

We are, literally, seeing that in our communities today. Our teachers and Elders, the keepers of knowledge, are backing into the shadows. Many of them are shrugging their shoulders and letting people be who they are, where they are. Many are pointing out the snake oil salesmen and paying the price. Aside from human nature, why is that?

I suspect it is a combination of several things. First, we think that we can buy experiences. If someone is promising you something that will change your life, it is one of two things, either it's an exaggeration or you are going to have to work at it to change your life. I know more people than I care to count who demand these life-changing experiences. They jump from teacher to teacher, path to path, looking for that next spiritual high. The thing I have noticed is that these people always jump ship or get mad or don't have the time as soon as the studies get hard or time-consuming or super in depth.

In keeping with the 'this is not a judgment' statement, there's nothing really 'wrong' with moving from teacher to teacher. We are free to do these things as we please, however, there is a lesson to learn both the jumping around and from staying. I think they both boil down to 'what are you running from'? Facing the lesson is where the life-changing experience comes from or running to the point the lesson can no longer be ignored, that can also be life-changing.

Second, if you have to insist that you are qualified and repeatedly say fantastical things to 'prove' you are qualified to discuss a topic, then you are not qualified. Period. If you are 20 and claim to be some 10,000 year old Atlantean Fae, I'm sorry, you have just lost me. If you look me in the eye and, at 20, tell me you have the craft experience of someone twice your age, you can damn sure bet that I'm going to start asking you questions. Basic. Questions. And, you damn sure better know the answers.

Now, don't get me wrong, Therianthropy and Otherkinness are absolutely actual things. People absolutely are fae, elves, dragons, spiders, and other beings or creatures. I'd never debate that, having experienced what I have, personally. (See what I did there?? *winks*) However, if you have to announce your race to me as some kind of magical street cred, that lets me know that you pretty much don't have a clue, especially if I am a relative stranger and I haven't revealed who or what I am. If you, in any way, have to 'prove' to me that you're qualified (aside from an offer of credentials or a request for credentials) then, I know that you probably aren't. I also know that you need to feel important or needed or relevant or any number of other insecurities you might be feeling.

As a group, we also have this need to make sure that no one is left out. People like to beat their chests about how inclusive their group is. People like to brag about how the members of their group don't have to 'prove' anything or how they are so compassionate and give others second chances that they might not get otherwise. In a perfect world, this would be how things should be. This is a dangerous mindset, though.

Yes, most everyone deserves a second chance. I wholly agree with that. However, do you allow someone on the sex offenders list in your group because of the story they give you? Do you allow drug dealers, arsonists, and frauds in your group because no one else will give them a chance? If not someone who is a convicted felon, what about someone who likes to steal or lies? I certainly don't want someone who lies to me in my home!

The fact is, we all have some place where we belong. Sometimes that place is on the fringe. There is a lesson in standing on the outside and looking in. There is a lesson in standing at the edge of the group, yet not being included for whatever reason. It is not the end of the world. Sometimes, that lack of inclusion is the biggest blessing in the world! Sometimes, that lack of inclusion means that we do not have to pretend to be someone we are not. It means that we do not have to choose a mask to wear or a dance to perform to placate the people who included us.

Lastly, we live in a world where we are told that we have to be somebody. Extroverts are the best. Overachievers are the best. Leaders are the best. Excel at everything. No! This is out of balance!

Sometimes, it's the introvert who draws up the plans and then stands in the shadows watching the extrovert carrying them out who is the hero of the day. If everyone is a leader, who is there to follow? If everyone is in charge, who is there to do the work? So often in life, the work that needs to be done is the scut work. It's mucking out the hog pen. It's crawling on hands and knees to weed. It's sitting in front of Photoshop for hours on end hoping for inspiration and ending up with a blank screen. It is seventy-two interruptions as you are trying to write a blog and you really, really don't care about your sister's ratchet ass friends, but you listen anyway because that's what is needed from you at the time. That is the important work. Putting yourself and your own wants aside and giving to someone in need.

No, you don't have to be someone. You only have to be someone to the person who needs you the most.  You have to be the best you.

This cult of self-importance leads most people to delusions of grandeur. Once we die and return to the elements, no one is going to remember most of us. No one is going to wax poetic about all of the work most of us did. Once the shock or trauma in the psyche of most people we know passes and we are returned to the earth, our beingness is going to begin to fade. Our realness is going to begin to fade. They won't remember what a great leader we were. They won't remember how hard we worked. They won't remember how many blogs we wrote or spells we cast or tarot readings we got right.

If we are to be remembered, we will be remembered by how much and how often we gave of ourselves. We will be remembered for the kind words to those who were in pain. We will be remembered by the compassion we gave the dying and those whom they left behind. We will be remembered by how much we lied. We will be remembered by how we disdained people and how we went out of our way to hurt them. We will be remembered, not by how relevant we wanted to be, but how relevant we actually were and how we fed and nourished the people around us.

Don't fall into the cult of self-importance. Don't convince yourself that if you just... Then you'll be loved/liked/wanted/happy/whatever. Do the right thing. Do the thing that benefits others above yourself. If you have extra, give, be, do and do it because you can. Being a selfish twat never benefitted anybody.

Brightest blessings, Friends!
River

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Internet Trolls: A Lesson in Relevance

Recently, my local pagan community has been experiencing some drama, as happens when you put large groups of people together. The drama surrounds a teacher, who is a mandatory reporter, reporting some alleged abuse that was (thankfully for all involved!!) proven to be false. As happens when humans are involved there has been this huge, public, backlash because some people are less than honest and have admitted they would have looked away from the allegations using 'common sense' to determine they were false, while others of us would have just reported it as we are required by law to do and let the proper authorities investigate it and determine if anything illegal had been done.  To be fair, I do not believe that some of the people who admitted that they would have looked in the other direction have any idea what it means to be a court mandated reporter. I do not believe that they understand as a CMR one does not have a choice in the matter.  I do not believe that they understand as a CMR reporting abuse is not an option. All that said, as a mandatory reporter myself (due to my job) I publically agreed that what the teacher did was the right thing to do.

This firmly held belief in the law opened me up to an interesting internet troll. I get few of them these days. I suppose it's because I don't engage stupid or emotional well anymore. Without publically humiliating her and just posting screenshots of the attempted bullying, she dropped a lot of f-bombs (my favorite!!), told me I was irrelevant, and then told me to fuck off. I'm not sure where I was supposed to fuck off to since she was the one who messaged me, so I decided to fuck off to right here. 

What sparked my inspiration, though, was her need to invalidate my existence. She told me, a complete stranger, several times that I was irrelevant and my opinion was irrelevant. I'm not sure if that was supposed to make me feel less than or what, but the joke is on her. We are all irrelevant. We are all nothing in this grand work of the universe. All. Of. Us.

Of course, due to my training as a priestess and my inherent nature as a healer, after laughing at her statement of obviousness, I wondered why she would project something like that onto another person. I wondered just how many people had told her that in her life. I wondered just how miserable and emotional and powerless she must feel to think that it is okay to tell a literal stranger something like that.

There are people in this world who are inherently good people. They are good people who are a little too self-absorbed and emotional. They, obviously, haven't read The Four Agreements. I believe this stranger is probably one of those people. Life has wounded her to the point that to feel any kind of power or satisfaction, she thinks that she has to be a complete twat to someone she disagrees with.

Yes, I understand that her friend was hurt by the abuse accusation. I know the accused, too, but I refuse to tell the reporter that he did a bad thing. Because. He. Didn't. I hate that the accused is having to deal with this situation, but honestly, that's a whole other blog (which will happen!!)

Even as pagans, we often forget just how small we are in the grand scheme. In universal time, our three-quarters of a century lifespan isn't even a full blink of the eye. In our very human need to find significance, we will often try to extinguish the light of another if they question our status. We have come to the point of dehumanizing people and it is simply not necessary.

Aren't we supposed to be above such petty and, quite honestly, Christian things? Is it not the church who calls out anyone who questions its authority as a blasphemer? As pagans we really don't have a central authority, so we have all of these people who have read all of the 101 Craft books who think they know something. They forgot to read How to Win Friends and The Four Agreements. They forgot to read and meditate upon The Tao. They forgot to read Hawking and Kaku and they forgot to watch What The Bleep. In their hubris, they focused outward, on being 'somebody', and forgot to focus inward. They forgot about the wounded child or teen or young adult inside who screams and lashes out when something doesn't feel good. They forgot that our outward life is a direct reflection of our inward life. They forgot that because the macrocosm reflects the microcosm, anyone with eyes can see within. If your outward life is one giant pile of shit and struggle, what does that say about your inward life and why would I want to bring that energy into my life?

So, yeah, I'm totally irrelevant, but so are you and you are too blind to see it. In this great, wide multi-verse our existence is the very essence of fleeting. What legacy will you leave? Are you a brave internet troll who loves to cuss out total strangers and hope you somehow make them hurt like you are hurting? Good luck. Are you willing to say and do the hard thing because no one else will? Are you selfish and self-serving? Good luck. Do you give so much of yourself that there is nothing left for you? Do you simply do as you will regardless of the rules and when you get caught blame everyone else? Do you do nothing for fear of retaliation? Good luck with that, as well.

Relevance is a subjective thing in this world. If it gives you a sense of power to treat people the way you feel inside, then great. Do it. You can absolutely treat people the way that gives you the most power. However, when your ego puts you in a place where your belief is absolute and you think you are an authority on the relevance of another sentient being, you are simply being abusive and spreading your own, internal hurts. If you believe that it is your job to tear down another on behalf of yours or your friend's pain, then you are as much a part of the problem as the accused. Why are you not focusing your energy on helping your friend through this tough situation? Wouldn't that energy be better spent building up your friend instead of tearing someone else down?

Yes, let's talk about relevance. Let's discuss the microcosm and the macrocosm. Let's discuss how everything only exists by comparison.

Blessings, dear Friends, and next time you become so emotional that you want to lash out at a stranger, remember that that stranger may be a writer who has readers from all over the world. That writer just might use you and your words of pain as a lesson for others to learn from. Thank you random internet troll for telling me to fuck off after attacking me. As it turns out, I have a lovely place to fuck off to. And, no matter what the people in your life have told you, you matter. You matter inasmuch as any of us carbon meatbags matter on this plane of existence.









Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Fool-hearted Notion of Radical Inclusion

In modern paganism, there are so many wonderful things. We have the ability to pick and choose our deities, our practices, and whether or not we are involved with the community. For all of the good things, however, we are human and our humanity often sees us accepting concepts that, in theory, are great, but in reality are dangerous or naive. Radical inclusion is one of those dangerous notions.

I have seen this scenario too many times: A person comes into the community, makes a few, well-placed friends among the elders, and within a few months the rumors start. The rumors come from various places. They come from someone who has done a background check on this person. They come from someone who has taken a story this person has told and it has been researched to be found false. The list of rumors goes on. Those around the person push the rumors away. They hush the people talking. They assure the people that this person is okay. They diminish the concerns of others by saying things like, "Don't be so judgmental," or "Everyone deserves another chance."

When I hear those phrases and others like them, what I hear is, "This person is furthering my own agenda. I know they are not good, but at this point, I don't care. They are disposable... eventually." What I also hear is, "I don't like it when I'm told I'm wrong before I want to acknowledge it." These things are a function of the ego. When one flatly refuses to look at the evidence in front of them and chooses to elevate a person who is dangerous to those around them to a place of power for fear of being 'judgy', is a, flat out, dumb decision. Radical inclusion is the concept where these poor choices come from.

No one in the pagan community would knowingly let a child molester come to their rituals with children present. (And if they do, well, they don't deserve those precious babies.) Just as no one in the pagan community would allow a known rapist into their circle. I have known, at least, one child molester who was utterly appalled to find out that his community wanted nothing to do with him after he betrayed them so. His clergy did an awesome job. They offered him various other opportunities to have a community (such as it was) and ritual without the children around and without those of us who would actively and openly not stand in circle with him. He, of course, refused, because 'how dare they judge me' and 'who are they to judge?'

No one in the pagan community would knowingly allow a rapist in their midst because s/he 'deserves' a second chance. They would not allow a rapist to stand in circle with them in 'perfect love and trust'.  Why? Because, like child molesters, rapists are considered monsters. Interestingly enough, though, if one hasn't actually been caught raping or molesting, the community will, literally, always take the side of the person the rumors are about. Without question and without fail, the community will turn on people who stand up and say, 'this rumor is true because I am one of the victims'. How do I know this? I have seen it on, at least, 3 separate occasions. That's right, victim blaming. But whatever happened to including everyone right where they are? Don't those victims count? So, does that mean this radical inclusion only counts if we can use the people who are included? Or, does it mean we don't include liars and those who would stir the pot? But what about those who lie with every breath and word that comes out of their mouth?

The notion of radical inclusion really isn't that radical and it really isn't that inclusive. Radical inclusion is just another justification for our own ego. Radical inclusion openly allows us to include those into our circle whom we can use to further our own agendas. That same theory of radical inclusion gives us a false sense of superiority over those who would openly and honestly look at the people around them and refuse to participate with those who are not honest or good people. That same theory of radical inclusion gives us a sense of false equivalency when we say things like, "Oh, I don't want to judge Spiritual Practice A because I do this particular Non-Spiritual Thing that is kind of similar in looks but not the same thing at all."

Radical inclusion is fool-hearted, at best. It openly ignores the predators in our midst and gives them the forum and the power they need to predate upon those who are weaker than they are.  It then gives those same predators a platform to ostracize their victims in the name of radical inclusivity. The pendulum only swings the other way when the predator is caught red-handed or enough trustworthy victims come to the fore and share their stories. Until that point, most folks are too willing to believe that the person in question couldn't possibly do that. Then they are shocked to find out the person did the thing. Then they are angry at the betrayal. Then, they go through the cycle again with another person.

This notion we should see the good in all people and each other is a wonderful one. I can always find the good, even in a bad person, but the notion that a tiger will change its stripes or a leopard its spots is foolish. If a community has a man or woman (because it happens and we all know it) making unwanted sexual advances toward people and they don't stop when asked, that person is looking for their next victim. Period. Radical inclusion says, 'maybe they are just overtly sexual and that makes insecure people uncomfortable.' Common sense says, 'maybe this person needs to hear a harsh truth that nobody wants them and to cut it out.'

People often call me a good judge of character, not because I like everyone or even see the best in everyone, but because when I see  (or, feel intuitively, actually) something that set off alarm bells within me, I don't ignore that. I don't ignore it and I don't hesitate to ask others if they feel the same. My intuition has never been wrong. Not once. Sometimes it has taken a while for me to be proven right, but I always have been. Being a good judge of character means looking past other people's glamours. It means looking past your own desire to be included or feel important. It means looking past our own comfort zone. Once that happens, we find that being 'judgmental' is just another way that we protect ourselves from getting hurt.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!
River

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Hermit's Walk

Recently, I moved again. It was probably one of the most grueling and agonizing things that I have done in my life. This is not because physical labor is hard, but because I was physically incapacitated at the beginning of the move and only had a little help. Literally, I was in a cast and not supposed to be putting weight on it, so I was completely dependent on others for almost everything... In theory. Well, I'm too much of a control freak for that. At the end of the first day, we and our two friends (who are amazing!!) got about half of what we needed to do done and in the moment, it was frustrating, but looking back, it's okay. I learned who my friends are and some other very valuable lessons. The biggest lesson is that of the Hermit.

According to Biddy Tarot (my personal favorite tarot website for years now), the Hermit represents soul-searching, introspection, being alone, and inner guidance. Reversed it represents isolation, loneliness, and withdrawal. As an introvert, I need a larger amount of alone time than your average person. I am prone to 'hermiting' from time to time. I rarely feel isolated or lonely anymore because of things like what happened with my move. I know that I do not 'get out' much and thereby people see me through whatever filter it is they need to see me through. As a general rule, this world does not like an introvert. I'm okay with that.

Being the Hermit is so much more than just hanging out alone and learning cool stuff so that you can pass that wisdom along when others are ready.  Often, people get caught up in the alone-ness or the loneliness, but honestly, if you embody the Hermit, you'll end up feeling alone in a group of people, too. For me, the worst part of being the Hermit is being 'up the mountain'.  In many decks, the Hermit is depicted traversing rocky, mountainous areas. This is part of the mystery of the Hermit.

The Hermit stands upon his path, high in the mountains and as such, can see a larger perspective. For instance, if I am standing at sea level I am not going to see as much as the person standing at five hundred feet above sea level, just as they are not going to see as much as someone standing a thousand feet above sea level. I say this not because it is 'better'. It simply means that those who embody the Hermit have traversed further upon their own spiritual wanderings and because they are 'higher up' are further sighted than those who walk the mountains below. When one is farsighted, one often gets ignored. It is easy to miss the impending avalanche until it is too late when the snow is beginning to slide underneath your feet.

The Hermit is also aloof. That detachment is another one of the Hermit's mysteries. When embodying the Hermit, one can see the good or bad up the road and in seeing it for what it is, can remain detached. When warning others of trials up the road, this detachment helps everyone to move forward. The Hermit tends to be ignored while the trials are traversed, and when completed (or not) the Hermit either gives praise or advice, when asked.

Which brings me to another of the mysteries of the Hermit, being the person who works because the work needs to be done without thought of praise. As a culture, we are conditioned to be praise/admonishment motivated. When one feels appreciated, one always works harder. However, the Hermit does not need the praises of others to keep moving forward. The Hermit does not need others to acknowledge him or his work to feel accomplished. The Hermit sets goals and works steadily toward them to achieve them without thought of others. The Hermit does not need to hear how awesome he is. He does not need to hear how much his work means to others. He does not expect others to even notice what he is doing.

Some time ago I was told that my path would lead me to be the Hermit, as though it were a bad or scary thing. Unknown to the person telling me this, I already was. What they didn't realize they were seeing was me coming back to being comfortable in that role. I am and have always been, most comfortable with people coming to me for the lessons they need and then moving on. I have always recognized that I am different. I have always known that I am not everyone's cup of tea. I have also always recognized that I need to be around people like myself and we are so, very few and far between.

The Hermit's Walk can be a scary one. It is a lonely walk, sometimes. It is, occasionally, dark and foreboding. It can lead to a great many conversations with one's self that wouldn't be had if one were with others. The Hermit carries the lantern of wisdom and shines that light for those who need it without thought of praise or, even, community. That is simply what the Hermit does.

Brightest blessings, Friends!
River

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Conscious Destruction: Waltzing with Death

**Please disregard my excessive use of the word Fuck in this blog. I have been using it a lot lately more as a descriptive and less as an emotive.**

As of late, I have been blogging for the intermediate and more advanced practitioners of Craft. This blog is no exception and, as such, is probably dangerous due to the very nature of what it is. Meaning, don't try this shit at home and if you do and you blow yourself up, well, I fucking told you not to do it. (There's your fucking disclaimer, by the way.)

In recent weeks, there has been this huge fucking discussion regarding ritual animal sacrifice and the validity of the practice within my home community. Legalities aside, if done properly, it is no different than Kosher or Halal practices and the animal is given a quick death and its body feeds the family or community. I don't see any wrong doing with this. That is my view. However, I also do not believe that this practice is something that should be readily available to just anyone to witness, either. This practice is one of those mysteries that we don't think about as being a mystery. Why? Well, because in this way we are an active participant in something becoming dead, taking a life.

In today's society, unless you have grown up on a farm that slaughters its livestock or you hunt and fish, you are most likely not going to come across the opportunity to kill something larger than a spider or a snake and who cares about spiders and snakes, right? Well, maybe some of us do, but the point is, in general, we don't value those particular lives like we do, say, a horse or a dog or even a chicken. (And, honestly, that is a mistake we all too often make.)

Looking into the eyes of an animal as it is about to cross over, watching the realization of immanent death in its eyes and watching the trust it had in you shatter, or in the case of a wild animal, watching the fear in its eyes if you don't make a clean kill shot and you have to slit its throat in mercy, changes you on a fundamental level. Yes, I have assisted in livestock slaughter and I have gone hunting a time or two. The very primal, base energy of death changes you.

Magically speaking, this type of death energy is different than what we normally think of in our cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The normal, everyday energy of the cycles is cyclical death energy. It ebbs and flows much like the cycles of the seasons. The conscious destruction of a life is Death Energy (note the capital letters there). As the practitioner, you are taking an active part in choosing when that creature realizes its fate. In that moment, you become death.

Now, imagine, if you will, a sacrifice ritual with a dozen active participants and another hundred onlookers. How much energy is going to be raised in a rite that large? A metric fuck tonne. What happens when that energy is released? If you have a good facilitator, it is going toward whatever magic has been spun, whatever offering has been given to the gods, but we all know that no matter how good the facilitator is, some of that energy isn't released.

Everything that was touched by that energy absorbs it, at least some of it. Ritual jewelry, wedding bands, watches, clothing, earrings, body jewelry. All of it will absorb that energy. This doesn't include the energy that is absorbed into the walls of buildings or the ground, trees, grass, chairs, tents, picnic tables, and any other physical thing you might have with or on you. All of those large festival-type rituals have a burst bubble type of action when the energy is released. If it is directed upward (as it should be), little droplets of the energy are going to fall down to the earth like rain because it didn't exactly adhere to the big swell or ball of energy thrown upward. The number of people not letting go of the energy can and does contribute to this.

I'm sure at this point, you're thinking, "Well, ok. So, let's just throw some salt at it or smudge it and make it wonderful, happy energy." Except that doesn't work with Death Energy. That energy is a base energy. It is not changed or transmuted because that's what it is at its very core, much like pure elements in chemistry. One atom of Death Energy is Death Energy just as one atom of gold is gold. It is not the type of energy that you smudge away with sage. There is no 'raising its vibration' to change it from what it is. Conscious Destruction will never be anything other than that.

Okay, well, since Death Energy doesn't change, what does it do? Glad you asked. Death Energy kills things. Plain and simple. Death Energy looks like a blessing in disguise or a curse. This kind of energy often strips away titles. It strips away labels. It strips away all of the outside 'stuff' that we think gives life meaning. We find ourselves looking around us and wondering where all of the people went who make us feel important. We look in the mirror and wonder why people no longer tell us we are beautiful. We wonder why, suddenly, no one wants to hear our words or why, suddenly, we stumble over the strings of our guitar or keys of our piano. Death Energy forces us to look at ourselves, naked and vulnerable with no filters and to find worth in that.

Not only does this energy kill things, but it calls to those who need it. It calls to those who are weak, sick, or desperate. It sings gloriously to the lonely and the scared. This energy embodies the essence of Shadow Work. One must know where one is weak to shed that weakness. One must know why one is lonely to make peace with it. In discovering our weaknesses, we can turn them into strengths if we but work with them.

What about those who aren't ready to deal with Death Energy? What about those who think this is all a load a hooey and salt and sage and sandalwood, et cetera. Well, those are the people I worry about blowing up themselves or others. Those are the people who rail against the world when something doesn't go their way. Those are the people who like to blame everyone and everything around them for their own life going to pot. Those are the people who run up against the wall every time they get just a molecule of Death Energy and stagnate for months or even years. Those are the people constantly looking backward at what was because 'things were better'. Those people don't see the blessings death brings. Those people are not mature enough to recognize the energy for what it is, either. Thankfully, because of the basic and primal nature of that energy, it recognizes the difference between the novice and the master. It gives the novice no more than he can handle while meting out a harsher lesson for the master who should have known better.

As pagans, our lives are always more than simply observing the seasons, the sky, the creatures. There are times when we are allowed to play an active part in the creation or destruction within those cycles. When we choose to consciously destroy life, we take a waltz with death. While on that waltz, we look into the hooded face of the grim reaper. Sometimes we see the gaping maw of the abyss as that death consumes us. Sometimes we see the gaping maw of the abyss as that death consumes us and then explodes into a big bang of the creation of a new cosmos.

Death is not a mystery that most are ready to explore. They are not ready to know what it is like to become death. This is a mystery that many stumble upon without realizing just how much change happens because of it. This is a mystery that, if begged for, the gods don't often deny. It then becomes a case of : Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.


Regards,
River

(Oh, and if you have managed to read this far, I honestly don't care what your opinions on animal sacrifice are, so please don't bother commenting on the morality of it. I believe that is a choice that we make as we walk our individual paths and nothing you can say will change my mind on that. Also, no, I do not practice it in my path. However, if you have commentary on your experience with this type of energy, please, feel free to expand all of our knowledge with your wisdom, as it is always welcome.)

**Also, I'd like to add that I know of only one person besides myself who works so closely with this kind of energy. In fact, she is the one whom I go to when I have lessons that I need to work on with this energy or when I know that I am missing something. If, like me, you are that kind of weirdo, rest assured that you are not alone and there are those of us who quite enjoy raucous conversations about these things.**

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Practical Paganism: Psychic Attack

If I had to guess, there is a metric fuck tonne of literature out there on psychic attack.  I'm sure that I have even written on it a time or two through the years. However, this seems like a good time to do a guide on the different types of psychic attack as well as how to combat them in practical ways.

First, we must describe what a psychic attack is. A psychic attack can be defined as negativity sent toward a person, whether conscious or unconscious, with the intent to do harm. This includes both general negative juju as well as astral entities sent with the instructions to be bothersome. So, what can be done about it? Glad you asked!

Most suspected psychic attacks just simply aren't psychic attacks. What I mean by this is that another person isn't sending the negative juju, we are attracting it. Yes, it happens. Yes, it happens more often than we want to admit. Energy follows the path of least resistance. All energy. From a lightening bolt to an arc welder to a television, energy only wants to complete the circuit and do what it is meant to do. Psychic energy does the same thing. If you have a bad day and your thoughts turn to the negative, what happens? Things kind of snowball. When you go to bed, you reset and you get up the next day maybe feeling better, maybe not.

As human beings, we don't want to hear that we are the cause of our own harm, but we oftentimes are. Those negative thoughts tend toward lowering our vibration and allowing more negative (or maybe more appropriately, low vibration) energy in, which in turn, affects us and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

What happens, then, if a psychic attack is just that? What can a person do to combat such an attack? Most books and websites out there make many of the same basic suggestions: smudging with sage, black stones (usually black obsidian and black tourmaline) shielding, bathing yourself in a white, loving light via visualization, etc. These things are suggested because they work.  They are suggested often for the same reason. That said, what happens if you do these first line things and they don't work? Well, they aren't basic, first line things for nothing, right?

If basic stones, shielding, and smudging don't work, I like to do a combination of basic things next. That may sound silly, but sometimes layering works. What do I mean by layering? I mean using multiple artifacts for multiple purposes.  For example: Smudging and placing a combination of black stones near any opening to my physical space. Maybe use tumbled hematite to reflect the energy back (tumbled hematite is shiny and can be used as a mirror) or raw hematite to absorb and ground the negativity. Then, use obsidian to 'cut' the energy. It is, after all, volcanic glass.

After that, a protection and banishing oil using salt, black pepper, cinnamon, bay, rosemary, and cayenne pepper can be made. The salt creates a boundary. The black pepper (again) 'cuts' the energy that might get past the stones. Cinnamon and cayenne pepper are hot and will burn (both literally and figuratively). Bay and Rosemary are both for protection. **A word of caution when using this oil. Cayenne and black pepper will burn the fuck out of your mucous membranes if you don't wash your hands thoroughly after using it!!!!!** Mix it as you would any oil, and anoint your doors and windows with it. I would not suggest using this mix on yourself, as again, the peppers and cinnamon can burn your skin.

Once these things are done, wait and see.  If things get better, you have protected yourself.  If things don't get better, there are other things to be done that are not quite so basic.

One, not quite so basic thing that can be done is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  If you haven't ever done it or don't know what it is, you can find this (particularly good) instructional on YouTube. The LBRP is an excellent tool for banishing all negativity. Yes, it does use the archangels, but this is from the Golden Dawn, so it's expected.

Another not so basic tool is the mirror. I say not so basic because mirrors can be broken (as can hematite, from above!!) Of course, one can not simply stick a mirror on the wall and call it good. It needs to be cleansed and charged for its purpose before being placed mirror side out. That's right. You want to see the back of the mirror. These must also be cleansed and charged every so often because they are magical tools in this instance.

A third not so basic exercise is to look your attacker in the eye and tell him/her you know what they are doing and it isn't working.  This is, probably, one of the more dangerous things you can do. It is dangerous because if your will falters for even a moment, your attacker might just know it and can use it against you. It is also dangerous because it is, in essence, psychological warfare.

What I mean by this is that you have to use all of your own confidence and charm when confronting your attacker. How many of us can muster that up? Not many. It takes courage, confidence, and most of all, knowing ones self. You absolutely must be confident in your self, your will, and your magic for this to work in any capacity. The moment a doubt enters your mind, you have defeated yourself.  So, this particular approach isn't for everyone.

However, if you want to try it and you succeed, then your attacker will be caught off guard by a few things.  First, said attacker will be caught off guard by how bold you are. Your bravado (false or otherwise) will let said attacker know that you are not what you seem to be. Secondly, if done right, your bravado will plant a seed of doubt in your attackers mind. This is the reaction you want. You want your attacker to second guess him- or herself. Finally, if this approach works, anything you say after calling out your attacker will plant a seed that you are not to be trifled with.

If calling your attacker out isn't your style, there are other not so basic exercises you can use. I will reiterate, these may not be palatable to some as they are Craft and, as such, may fall within the realm of gray or black magics. (Oh, yes, yes she did!!) And, as we all know, the Universe does not like a vacuum, so what we put out always comes back to us. Before moving on, I ask that we all be aware of these things.

If you're still reading, good. The next exercise that can be done has two different meanings. The fith-fath. In the Irish and Scots Gaelic, a fith-fath is a charm, often spoken in rhyme. It is used to obscure a person from the site of another. We often hear children use fith-faths.

"I'm rubber. You're glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks on to you."

Oh, you've heard that one before? It's a bit of sound defensive magic, I think.

A fith-fath is also the making of a poppet. To create a fith-fath there is a whole ritual that goes with it that I will not get into here, but must life must be breathed into it. If you are interested in learning more about fith-fathing, please feel free to research. These can be used for bindings and other, similar, forms of magic.

A fetch is similar to a fith-fath. Again, depending on your information source, your fetch is created in the physical (like a poppet) with a ritual and sent to do your work to be undone when the task is complete. A fetch can also be an astral entity, similar to an elemental but created by you in the astral realms, sent to do your work and cause change or create havoc in the physical. Either way, once the work is done, it must be undone.

And finally, the Witch's Bottle. Oh a great many things have been written on a witch's bottle, but it's because they work. You can find recipes for them online, so I won't go into the mechanics of constructing them. I will, however, discuss the magical actions that having one creates.  First, they are an excellent all around protection. However, they protect against all negativity indiscriminately. What does that mean? Well, it means that if you have one and you and your best friend have a big fight and said best friend spends the next 3 days (attacking your psychically) and wishing you dead, then said friend dies horrifically and unexpectedly, it could have been the bottle protecting you. Yes, I have seen something similar happen. One does not need to aim the bottle at a specific person.  The inherent magic in the bottle (your intent and its sole purpose) is a very potent passive magic.

The other side to a witch's bottle is that particularly skilled practitioners can find a way to break them, therefore breaking the magic. If it is buried, they can find them and dig them up and then they have something of yours to use in magic against you.

All forms of magic, defensive and offensive, carry risks and benefits. Not all suspected psychic attacks are actually psychic attacks. As always, it is important to wield your magic with responsibility. It is important to weigh the costs and benefits of such magics. Protecting ones self and family from psychic attack is important, but also striving to do the right thing is, too. Always be practical in your workings and always be aware of how they can affect yourself and those around you.

Until next time, brightest blessings, Friends.
River Mourningstar


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Doing What Feels Good in Your Spiritual Practice

Greetings Dear Readers! It has been a great many months and a great many changes since I last stopped by. While I won't say that mundane life has taken over, I will say that it hasn't been all flowers and unicorns with rainbows shooting out of their asses.  Life has been... life: some of it joyous and some of it not-so-much, but I have grown.  I have grown as a person and I have grown in spirit.  Which brings me to the subject at hand, a phrase that has always annoyed me when it is said in spiritual conversations: Do what feels good.

When I hear those in the position of elder or teacher tell seekers to 'do what feels good' it annoys me to my very core. Why? Well, do we tell toddlers to 'do what feels good' regarding playing with other children? Do we tell our tweens and teens to 'do what feels good' when they want to go out and spend time in the mixed company of friends? Do we compassionately look upon our addict friends who are struggling and tell them to 'do what feels good?' No? To all of these? Then why would we tell spiritual toddlers, tweens, teens or even, addicts this?  The phrase 'do what feels good' is one of two things: a misnomer or bad advice.  Here's why.

First, doing what feels good is much different than following one's instincts or spirit guides or gods. Why? Well, most people new to the Craft have to learn patience.  They have to learn to be still and quiet. They have to learn to slow their mundane 'monkey mind' and move past it to actually focus.  Focus is what we look for during meditation. It is how we learn to listen properly.

Doing what feels good tends toward being the path of least resistance. In most instances, this is not a bad thing (and therefore, is not always bad advice) but true meditation takes, literally, years of practice.  When I say 'literally', I mean a long fucking time. I mean daily practice working up from 5-10 seconds at a time (because that's all you get in the beginning if you're lucky) to 15-30 minutes or more. This kind of devotion to a practice is not easy and it does not feel good.

Typically, we do not teach true meditation first. We may instruct seekers on how this is done and tell them to practice on their own, but we teach them other skills to go along with this because true meditation is tough, even for more advanced practitioners. Oh, we tell people to meditate, but what we really mean is for them to learn to focus, relax, and maybe even visualize. Most of those things, in time, lead to true meditation, but none of it is attained by doing what 'feels good.'

Secondly, what 'feels good' to me probably isn't going to be as good for me spiritually as I want it to be. For instance, it 'feels good' to put people in their place with the truth. Got a co-worker or friend who likes to blame the world for their problems when you can clearly see where their actions or inaction has caused the troubles? Don't you just want to look at them and remind them that only they can fix their situation? Yes, we all do. However, honesty and brutal honesty are two different beasts. One can lead said person around until they come to the conclusion (and feel good about it) or one can brutally hack away at said person's argument (which is, honestly, my favorite because it quickly gets to the heart of the matter) and show them the naked truth. I may be doing what 'feels good' to me, but that brutal honesty feels pretty bad to the other person. Haven't we all been that other person? Yes, we have.

Third, and something you don't hear a whole lot about these days, it is almost a guarantee that if it 'feels good', then you can bet the ego is behind it.  The ego likes easy things.  It likes to be right, to be stroked, to be listened to.  It likes to 'do what feels good.' The ego hears 'do what feels good' and smiles.  It says, 'meditation is hard.' It says, 'you don't have to meditate to be adept.' It says, 'you can make it up as you go and people will believe you.' The ego doesn't want us to grow beyond it. The ego doesn't want us to see past what it can show us. The ego wants us to live within our basest desires.  The ego likes it when we 'do what feels good.'

All of this brings me to my final point in the 'do what feels good' talk. As modern neo-pagan practitioners, we have a litany of information out there. We want to believe that everything is fluid and nothing is set in stone, but that simply is not true. (The truth is the truth whether we believe in it or not, remember that.)

There are certain laws that we must live by. (Here, I bet you are challenging this statement in your mind, aren't you?) We must live by the laws of physics. We must even live by the ones we haven't discovered yet. (Gravity, anyone? XD) Spiritually, we must do the same thing. The 7 Universal Laws are a good place to start. It doesn't matter your path, they are universal laws for a reason.

Other laws that aren't necessarily laws, per se, reside in Gardner's 8 Paths to Power and refer to the cost of magic and magical practices. Learning to astral travel via meditation costs a whole lot less, energetically speaking, than learning to astral travel via drugs, sex, or pain. Drugs, sex, or pain may be the path that 'feels good' and it may be 'quicker' option, but the cost will always be greater. There is no bartering. There is no sharing that cost. There is no passing that cost on.  These costs go beyond Wicca, as well. Just because it is Gardner who made them known, does not mean that non-Wiccan's are immune.

Remember, the next time you (or I or any of us) are in a position where a seeker asks for advice or a 'how to', don't just give them a generic 'do what feels good.' Doing what feels good is leading to a generation of spiritually handicapped individuals. Telling a seeker to 'do what feels good' could ultimately lead to that seeker being spiritually maimed or killed. Advising a seeker to 'do what feels good' could lead them down the road to animal or human sacrifice (on your advice) and put blood on your hands. Advising someone to 'do what feels good' could lead them to hooking up with 17 different people on Tindr and getting a disease. (Guess who gets to reap the energetic consequences of that, yup, you, for giving really bad advice.)

Next time, instead of telling a seeker to 'do what feels good', think about the potential consequences of  'feeling good' and, instead, say what you actually mean, unless you actually mean 'do whatever makes you feel good.' However, remember that is a double-edged sword and no matter what happens, you are ultimately going to be affected by the decision that seeker makes due to your words of wisdom. Words have power, right? It's why when we put them together they call it 'spelling'.

Brightest Blessings,
River Mourningstar