26 February, 2013

Short & Sweet (Fox News, Wiccans/pagans, prejudice reduction)

Hey, Readers,

I'm sure by now you have all heard about Fox News' crew, Fox & Friends, saying some ridiculous things about Wiccans and Pagans. It all started because the University of Missouri recognizes Wiccan/pagan holidays on their academic calendar, so that professors cannot give exams on religious holidays, which means students no longer have to choose between studying or attending an exam and practicing their religion. It's not a day off classes, just no exams. This is great! With the large pagan population at UM, it's also completely understandable. But if you try to find information about this online, at least in my experience when I tried it, the majority of articles are neither neutral nor praising UM, nor are they pagan-centered. The majority of articles that came up when I searched it were from Christian-based sites (many had Christian in the name of the website, so I knew immediately, while I had to click on others with non-specific names which revealed their religious status on the page top) arguing that UM is wrong to include these holidays because Wiccans and Pagans are too small a minority, or too much of a "fringe" religion/belief (I don't even think most of them granted us the word "religion") to have our holidays recognized.

What happened was that Fox News did a segment about this, expressing their opinions. A few things they said were said as fact and are not, of course, but they were at least expressing their opinion and the views of the channel. Anyone who knows Fox knows that they have a distinctly conservative bias to begin with. I don't know if they know this, but there are certainly conservative pagans out there, even if most of us are more liberal. So while I and my friends never watch Fox News, there could have very well been some pagans out there watching. I only watched a partial clip of what people are now calling their "attack on Wicca," where the main comments were things such as (and I am paraphrasing but as closely as I can remember),

  • There are pagans and Wiccans out there, I guess, though I don't know if they constitute a significant portion of the population.
  • (in response to the previous) They don't. [laughter]
  • Fully 20% of the holidays at UM are Wiccan/pagan holidays! (Said as though that were absurd.)
  • (Shortly after) Wiccans have 20 holidays!
  • I bet Wiccans can't even name all their holidays. Who can name 20 holidays?
  • But we can't say Merry Christmas? [nervous laughter]
  • I guess if you're going to choose a religion, pick the one with the most holidays, haha.
  • Any religion that has Halloween as their most significant holiday, I just can't take seriously.
  • All the Wiccans I know are about the Earth and for the Earth. That's nice.
  • All the Wiccans I know play D&D and live in basements or are middle-aged women who have been divorced multiple times and work as midwives, hahaha. Also something about loving incense.
  • I don't know a single Wiccan!
And so on and so forth. And this was only in a few-minutes-long partial clip. The things I heard about the rest of what they said go on to things like "I wouldn't want to see a Wiccan when they're angry," and "They all hate Christianity." So as you can gather, the things they said were just silly, not researched (they even confused their own data, going from 20% into 20 holidays total), and clearly biased. I mean, we understand this simply based on the channel that aired it. Anyone who knows Fox probably was not surprised. The closest to accuracy they got was the person who admitted knowing that Wicca had something to do with the Earth and nature, but that was quickly bowled over by the other person's stereotypes.

Still, I did a response video, addressing things such as the fact that they said they don't know any Wiccans, so now they know me; the amount of holidays we have and that we can name all eight; the percentage issue, because they never said how many holidays UM celebrates, which I learned from a Washington Times article is 42, and 8 of 42 holidays is 19%; the fact that UM recognizes more Jewish holidays than Wiccan/pagan ones (11 as opposed to 8, so I guess if you choose the religion with the most holidays, go for Judaism); and so on. I kept this video as short as possible because I know people aren't going to want to watch something long, and I planned for the possibility that Fox might actually see my video. I kept this video respectful, because while some people may not earn our respect, I believe it does not benefit us to call names or get riled up and prove their point.

Now, I have been informed that one of the people from Fox did "apologize" on Saturday morning, but I didn't see it. From what I heard, his comments were brief, insincere, and basically just said something like I didn't mean to offend any Wiccans, Wiccans have never done wrong by me, live and let live. Which I guess is a nice sentiment, but I don't need any "apology" that is purely to be able to say you apologized. I know they don't feel bad or even realize why the things they said were wrong (the others didn't even apologize, only one person, though I think it was the guy who said the most ridiculous things, at least), so I say, don't even say anything! I didn't sign the petition to get an apology because 1) I knew it wouldn't be sincere and 2) that's not what we need. We need understanding, education, prejudice reduction.

And you know what? It's on us, too. Since this started, YouTube has been recommending other videos that people did in response to this situation, and while I watched some by people I usually watch (linked in my video's description), others were by people whose names I recognize but don't watch, or from people I've never heard of. Most of them were 15-35 minutes long, and the thumbnails revealed the person's face or body language in a position showing anger, lack of control, or generally looking like they were "ranting." One thumbnail shows someone with their face contorted, hands thrown up in attack mode. Another shows a sarcastic look, mouth open mid-challenge, and the incredible length of the video is what told me it must be a rant. I say to you, fellow Wiccans and Pagans, how does that help us? Do you think they're going to listen to an angry witch yell at them for half an hour or even fifteen minutes? Do you think name-calling and raised voices make them take us any more seriously? It was with all these things in mind that I did my video. I scripted it to make sure I said what I wanted to but did not ramble, I put in my real thoughts about their negative biases and lack of credibility while still remaining respectful and calm, and I attempted to include a solution. My video invites those at Fox News, or anyone watching it, to ask me or any other Wiccan or Pagan about our religion. It invites people to educate themselves, because education is the key to prejudice reduction.

We deal with things like this all the time, whether from family and friends, or from strangers online or through TV. In my opinion, we should speak our peace and not stand by and let people spread falsehood against us. We should be honest about what was said incorrectly and what was wrong that needs fixed. But we do not need to follow their example. There is no need for name-calling, stereotyping and generalizing, shouting, or other such things. While these things certainly make us feel better (and you can bet I did my fair share of laughing and cursing while explaining this ridiculous occurrence to my mother and boyfriend), that's not how to handle interpersonal relationships. And actually, if I got a chance to speak to the Fox News people in person, I wouldn't be ashamed to admit what I said in private to my mother and boyfriend, because I still didn't call them names or belittle their own beliefs. So the point is that we can deal with these things in a way that remains respectful and respectable while still sticking up for ourselves, and there is no need for these extra-long, rambling videos that YouTube keeps recommending to me. Sometimes it's best to keep it short and sweet.


19 February, 2013

Experimenting with Magick, Observing Results

Hey, Readers,

This blog entry goes along with a video I did today for The Pagan Perspective, about the science of magick. I want to provide a little context here so that this blog entry can be read alone, as well as in conjunction with the video.

In the video, I talked about how we can study or experiment with our magick by recording our methods and results, somewhat like a lab report. From what I learned in my course last year (the one in which I did my research on prejudice against pagans, where we learned about many different groups throughout the whole class, from weightism to racism to ageism to discrimination against differing levels of financial wealth, and more), the way many of us (at least, I think many of us do this, I'm not actually sure!) record our magickal work is basically a way of conducting empirical research. We are noting our methods/process, writing down everything that could be relevant to the "experiment," and then recording/reporting what we observe occurring. This can be used to further our practice by tracking what is effective and what is not. As I mention in the video,
You can't say it means MAGICK DID THIS definitively, but you can record what you did and what you observed. You also can't say IT WORKS THIS WAY ALL THE TIME because I personally believe magick differs from person to person, so the methods I have found to work best for me MAY work best for you but they may not. Still, each individual can try various methods, write down exactly what they did, and what they observed. Then you can go back and see, okay this method didn't work at all any time I did it, at least not that I could see any results from. But I did see results each time with this method, so I will scrap that other one and do the one that works.
Here is my personal example:

For years I tried to cast circles as described in books. While I did everything right and visualized it correctly, I still felt like I was just going through motions and it wasn't working, or actually doing anything. So I stopped casting circles for the most part because to me, it didn't matter. It was more effective for me just to call the quarters/Deity than to go through the circle process, so that's all I did.

Now, in order to understand the whole experience, you have to know how I believe energy works in my body, personally. You may have learned the opposite or not use these ideas at all, but it's relevant to my interpretation. I believe in energy circuits through the body as therefore meaning we have a sending and receiving hand. When we put our hands together, energy flows in a certain direction. You can change the direction, of course, but I believe one way works best for each person, or is the way energy flows easiest, following a charge like a battery would. For me the dominant hand is the one we use to send energy and the non-dominant is the receiver. I am right-handed. So for me, energy moves counterclockwise, from my right hand into my left and back through the whole circuit.

When I would cast sunwise circles, up here in the northern hemisphere that means walking to the right, but I wanted to use my SENDING hand, which is also my right hand. As you can imagine, this would mean walking to my right, crossing my right hand in front of my body to cast the circle to my left. This was incredibly awkward! So instead I just used my left hand (my downstage hand to use a theatre term, the hand toward the circle's edge). In retrospect, I think this is exactly what affected my results, because I was attempting to CAST energy out using the hand that I believe brings energy IN.

When I started doing shadow work last year, the book required counter-sunwise circles during the waning moon. (During the waxing moon, I still cast sunwise. This idea makes sense to me, so I adapt based on the phase that way.) To cast countersunwise, again being in the north, that meant I was walking to my left and using my right hand, which was comfortable AND felt effective. And when I opened the circle, I was then walking to my right and using my left, receptive hand, to draw the energy back in. From the very first time I did this, I physically felt vibrations and tingling in my receptive hand as I brought the energy back in. As I went around the usual three times, the tingling traveled up my wrist and lower arm. It did not continue once I was finished opening the circle. THAT to me is a definitive result showing that for ME, casting with my sending hand and opening with my receiving hand has a noticeable effect.

When I used to do it the opposite way, I never felt any kind of physical difference. In my early journal entries, I wrote things like "I don't think it did anything," "I didn't feel any change in the environment." But when I switched directions and tried it a different way, I observed a positive difference in results. So while various books I read at first said never to cast a widdershins circle, I immediately took to the practice once I tried it. It felt more natural, made more sense from a body positioning standpoint, and actually "worked" for me.

As I said, that doesn't mean everyone should do this instead because "it works better." It just works for me. And as I mentioned, I do still cast sunwise during the waxing moon, because I believe in the circuit of energy flowing a certain way in relation to the moon, as well. But I have begun using what I feel is the "appropriate" hand for each part, and just positioning my body differently so I don't feel as much that I am awkwardly crossing in front of my myself. Actually, I think in a few circles I didn't use my hands at all, but just walked around, which removed that obstacle. (Which is another experiment you can do! I tried it standing in one spot and turning in a circle, and then later I tried it physically walking around the circle. I found I have a personal preference so now I don't use the other way.) Anyway, it all depends on the individual circumstance and what works best at the time.

And no, I wasn't originally going to put ALL OF THAT in the video, but since I decided to post it here, I did add a little more so that it would make sense when read, rather than leaving it as short notes for me to read from. =)

Do you record your practices for your own personal reference? What kinds of things have you discovered through trial and error (of course only things you would share, as I certainly support keeping some things private)?

Thank you for reading!

08 February, 2013


Absolutely crazy!

I started this blog for those times when I have extra information to add to YouTube videos, and need a place to put it. And I do use this blog for that quite a bit, as you've probably noticed (especially recently).

But since I had the blog, it helped me to start adding additional blogs for other moments along my path. The Witchy Stuff, at least. Now I've gotten to share little thoughts about my path, videos, silly moments, and more. And while I started blogging with no one else reading (maybe one or two), I somehow now have 70 people following this blog! I usually don't remember numbers like that (I thought my YouTube channel had 6,000 subscribers for months now, but I recently learned I have over 7k currently. I just never check!), so I tend to think "Hmm, no one has left any comments, maybe no one read it." But I realize that is not the case at all. Sometimes there just isn't anything to say! I understand that. I just forget.

So thank you all for deciding to follow my blog. I'd keep writing even if no one was reading, but it is awfully nice to know that you're reading, hopefully enjoying, possibly getting something from it. Who knows! I have big goals for the future, and you all are even more important than just my efforts.

Speaking of goals, I do mean to make videos for a lot of the topics I keep thinking about. I also want to blog about a lot more topics, but I don't like to crowd it with multiple per day, or even one every single day. It's the same with my channel: I have no ideas for a long time, and then a ton of ideas all at once! I try to space it out for the times when I have no ideas again. =)

There are several subjects I want to blog/vlog about soon:
  • Sex Magick (I already shared some thoughts with someone else, but want to lay it out more clearly)
  • Gender
  • Prejudice reduction
  • Measuring progress
  • Seeking faith
And so on. It seems like every day I wake up with a new all-important subject on my mind, and there are just so many, and more research and brainstorming and thought-clarifying that I want to do, that they all pile up and I haven't mentioned any of them to the greater world yet. But I will, eventually. In videos, or here, or both. Whatever seems the best medium for the subject at the time.

Thank you for being here and reading whatever it is I come up with.


06 February, 2013

Dianic Wicca & Transgender Pagans QUOTES

Hey, Readers!

I really don't like posting so many things so close together, and I just published my blog about Enlightenment yesterday, but I have some supplemental materials to post that go along with my Tuesday Pagan Perspective video (which, unfortunately, took so long to upload due to our recent internet connection issues that it is now Wednesday).

This post outlines some specific quotes I looked at for my quick research. The previous post is the script of my notes for the video.


Dianic Wicca & Transgender Pagans SCRIPT

Hey, Readers!

I really don't like posting so many things so close together, and I just published my blog about Enlightenment yesterday, but I have some supplemental materials to post that go along with my Tuesday Pagan Perspective video (which, unfortunately, took so long to upload due to our recent internet connection issues that it is now Wednesday).

This post is the script of my notes for the video. The following post will outline some specific quotes I looked at for my quick research.

This script is not word for word. This time I'm posting my notes exactly as they were! So there may be improper grammar and stream of consciousness, rather than full sentences as you would see if I were writing it as a blog. The video took forever to render and upload (a good six hours, ending at 5am), so I'm not taking the time to edit the notes. This is just here in case someone wants to look over text after hearing it spoken, or to refresh on the points made.


The topic comes from runesofshamish
--"I have just come across the practice of Dianic Wicca. They only accept "Women born Women" . So no males are allowed, this includes transwomen (male to female transgender). Taking this beyond the realm of Wicca and into the larger pagan community. How do you feel about Women only or Men only circles and groups and transgender pagans? Do you think Women's groups should include transwomen (mtf) and Men's groups should include transmen (ftm) ? Or somewhere in between. I.E., yes except if the group does some work sky clad, they could be asked to leave."

05 February, 2013

Enlightenment Road

Hey, Readers!

Sometime last year, my mother gave me yet another wonderful gift: a small box of cards, labeled "Words of Wisdom from His Holiness the Dalai Lama." She got the set from a friend and thought I would be interested in it. She knows me very well! I immediately read the biographical information about the Dalai Lama on the first card, learning a lot that I hadn't known before just because I never really researched him specifically. Then I decided to look at one card each day. I kept that up for a while, but of course missed a lot of days, as well. Now, I change to the next card whenever I remember or feel the need to. Sometimes one message is necessary for more than one day.

My "Words of Wisdom" card for the day.
Today, I switched the deck to show the next card in the stack:


My enlightenment rests on my shoulders.
Your enlightenment rests on yours.

This is a very important thing to remember. It is not Enlightenment (capital E) that rests on you, only YOUR enlightenment. It is personal and individual. No one else is responsible for our own personal journey to enlightenment, whatever that means for us. And likewise, we are not responsible for anyone else's journey. Each of us will get there in our own way, in our own time.

Luckily, we can still help each other along the way, sharing ideas and insights and experiences, and we will and DO benefit so much from each and every person we encounter. This is wonderful and beneficial to all involved. The past several weeks at the UU church I attend have been centered around Buddhism, the basics of the beliefs/philosophy and how we can incorporate them into our own lives. I really like the unison Chalice Lighting we have all said each week, and I think it applies here:
"May no one who encounters us ever have an insignificant contact. May the mere fact of our meeting contribute to their fulfillment. May we be a protector of the helpless, a guide to those traveling the path, a boat to those wishing to cross over. May we be a lamp for those in darkness, a home for the homeless, and a servant to the world."   -Shantideva, 8th cent. Buddhist spiritual master and mystic
A Unitarian Universalist "Flaming Chalice"
Photo by Nancy Pierce, from UUA.org

For those unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalist practice, the Chalice Lighting is whatever words are said to accompany the physical lighting of the Chalice, a symbol of UU faith. It has a specific look in most cases (the photo at left shows a traditional style), but can be any style of lamp or flame. At my church, the Chalice is a stout pillar candle sitting in a large, shallow ceramic bowl on a stand. The bowl/stand itself is a work of art, clearly handmade though I don't know by whom.

The words said vary from week to week, but always reflect the idea of the congregation being a light, illuminating something for ourselves and each other and the world. So for this Buddhism series, the minister chose that quote and chose to have us all recite it. (The first week, we were also making scarves for the homeless, making our position as "a home for the homeless" that much more relevant. I'll write about that another time.)

The Dalai Lama's words are important to think about. This past Sunday at church, we focused on meditation, and this card's simple message could be a great mantra. Shantideva's words are also poignant and meaningful. While these two ideas may seem contradictory--one saying it's up to you, and the other desiring involvement in other people's journeys--they really do work together. We can and should be helpful in other people's lives, and we should strive to make every meeting and connection a positive one for all parties involved and for the world at large. And that striving to positively influence others is part of developing our own personal journey to enlightenment. My personal enlightenment absolutely includes leaving positive impressions on everyone I come into contact with, as well as learning from those who can leave a positive impression on me in return.

I'm aware that this sounds a lot like the cycle of Selflessness-to-Selfishness that my undergrad history class discussed in relation to Saints and other religious figures. The idea is that although people are being selfless, putting themselves out there as servants of God, it is also because the work makes them feel fulfilled or promises them a good afterlife. Therefore, the more selfless their work, the more selfish they are, and in being selfish they work harder to be selfless for other people. It's impossible to tell exactly where in this cycle they lie, because it goes around continually. So yes, this topic sounds a bit like we're being selfish, but that makes sense. Of course my own enlightenment is about me! Yours is all about you, too! It is self-centered, by nature, in the most literal sense. Our journey is centered on our Self. It has to be. If we do not put our own enlightenment into our own hands, who will? No one else is responsible. Other people can help, and I could name so many people right now who have been and continue to be instrumental in my journey! But it should not offend them, nor should I feel that I am offending them by saying, that when it comes right down to it, we are all responsible for taking action toward our own Truth, our own Enlightenment.


It doesn't mean that we can't assist others, or that we should ignore others by focusing resolutely on ourselves. It simply means, to me, that I have to remember one thing: If I desire to be Enlightened, then I have to make that effort. It's not up to the people who help me along my path to make sure I reach Enlightenment. I have to make the effort, put in the energy, make the changes myself. I already know that my personal Enlightenment Road passes by many areas where I help others and they help me. But I also know that I've already had to explain to some people that THEIR personal enlightenment/journey/spiritual experience is not my responsibility. I can lend a hand, give ideas, and share what I personally have experienced, but that cannot and will not replace someone's own experiences. I can write as much as I want on here, or make as many videos as I want sharing what I have learned, but that will never substitute for my readers or viewers having their own epiphanies. (And knowing how great those moments are, I would never dream of taking them away from someone!) Similarly, I can seek advice from my spiritual friends, but it only supplements my own path. I have to do the work of thinking about their advice, ruminating on it, trying things out, and figuring out how it applies to me. And I believe it is the same for you, and for everyone.

Paths cross. People walk together. One long, wide road is made up of many smaller, overlapping paths. Whether moving forward in a crowd, or taking another route utterly alone, you are on your path and no one else's.