Country Pagan/City Pagan

Howdy all,

I have been trying to explore new creative outlets recently, and so I thought that today I would post the first in what I hope becomes a series of comics on ThisPaganLife.

Country Pagan/City Pagan is inspired by the contrasts between my life experiences as having been a pagan in the big city (NYC) and now living back home in small town Texas.

I should note that I, in no way, intend disrespect to the practices of pagans who either prefer smaller scale rituals or who have to do so due to space constraints as I once did.

To all my friends up in the north east, I love and miss y’all. Drawing these reminds me fondly of our time together.

Lastly, credit for the subject of this first comic came from my best friend for the past ten years and coven sister, Bobcat. Nothing without you.

Hoping you laugh at this as much as I do.

-Jude

The Essence of Magic

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Howdy Y’all,

It has been a few days since I have written. I was in my hometown visiting friends and family before the term begins. I won’t get the opportunity again for at least a while. During my visit, I asked my friends’ advice on topics to write on. So, today I am writing about what constitutes magic, and also giving a big shout-out to my friends back home for helping me add to The Bloganomicon!

Magic comes part and parcel with paganism in the western world today yet still; pagan religions don’t have a monopoly on magic. The practice of magic and mysticism also permeates mainstream religions. Roman Catholicism has it’s universal ritual of the transmutation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and Judaism gave us the Qabalah. Magic takes many different forms and does not always involve incantations, waving wands, and invoking the ancestors.

So, what fuels the magic of other religions? Is it the same thing that fuels our magic? Does the magic of nonwestern pagan and Abrahamic faiths work just as well as ours?

Well, let’s investigate!

In occult traditions from Wiccan groups with kitchen witchery to Hermetics and high ritual magic, there is a universal tenet of “Do What Works”. Even the great Aleister Crowley is quoted saying, “It is the mark of the mind untrained to take its own processes as valid for all men, and its own judgments for absolute truth.” (A. Crowley, Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on The Book of the Law) Hence, the advice of doing what works (for you) in all introductory magical texts. Magic is, therefore, primarily individual – but still the question of why it all works remains. How is it possible that so many magical traditions can all achieve the same goal with thousands upon thousands of different methods?

The answer, frustratingly enough, is found within.

The secret to fueling the fires of magic is you. To get your magic going, regardless of the form it takes, all you have to do is ask yourself three questions, “What is my intention of this spell?”, “Do I really want this?”, and “What will make my spirit soar so high that I am sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I have the power to get it?” In simpler terms, you have to know what you want to happen, you have to truly want it, and you have to know how to build up enough power to get it. Scott Cunningham in his book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, gives a similar description of this process, but goes into much further detail about the practice of magic and the different sources of power.

If you can master this process, then you will have attained a basic understanding of how magic works. You may now be asking yourself, “Why did they bother to write all of that out? It all seems rather simple!” My answer to you comes via a mundane world example. It is Friday night, and you’ve had a shitty week, you are sitting in front of the computer, and a notion strikes you. You want cake. You decide that cake is a great idea, but to get the cake you will have to bake it yourself as all the stores that sell cake are closed. You start thinking about all of the reasons you shouldn’t have cake be they calories, sugar content, or your personal bunglings of attempted cakes past. You still want cake. However, you now realize that even though you have braved your inner, decidedly anti-cake, demons, that to bake a cake you must leave your chair and get up and expend energy to make the cake. You are lazy and tired tonight, and you stop there. You are a lousy cake magician, and your ritual is a failure and all you get is, “or Death”. You see, not as easy of a process as you thought. Now, imagine that instead of stopping you realize you need to inspire yourself to drum up the energy to bake the cake. You focus on how much you really like cake, how good it tastes, the positive cake memories that would cause tremendous euphoria if paired with eating cake, and how relaxed you usually feel after cooking. Success! You can now manifest a cake! You had the intent to bake it. You defeated the demons that said, “No Cake” because you really wanted it, and. Finally, you knew how to motivate yourself (as well as how to bake – I hope that was implied, if not you need the motivation to read a cookbook first), to get up and BAKE IT!

The differences in magical practices amount to the differences in what motivates you, the tools you use, the innovations you make to what you have learned such as seductively using Dark Chocolate when the recipe calls for milk (Mmmmm), as well as the flavor of cake you make. Do what works for you, and if you have friends that like cake the same way you do, start a religion! Err … baking club.

So, is all magic, including that of other faiths, fueled by the same stuff? Absolutely. Can a Christian or a Hindu person bake a cake or cast a spell as well as you or me? Yes, no exceptions.

Now get up, and bake that cake (DAMMIT!)! I hope this has been as informative for you as it was entertaining for me to write.

With Blessings of Saint Betty of Crocker, may you never hunger.

-Jude

Ps. Thanks to my best friend for his grammatical skills and introducing me to Grammarly.

The Bloganomicon: August Full Moon

A perigree full moon or supermoon is seen, Sunday, August 10, 2014, in Washington. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth at the same time it is full. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
A perigree full moon or supermoon is seen, Sunday, August 10, 2014, in Washington. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth at the same time it is full. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Happy morning to all of my readers!

Tonight is the full moon! To the many many pagans of a different stripe as well as all of my fellow Wiccans from Gardenarians to Braided Wheelers, the full moon is a sacred time during the month. One of the things I find lacking in a lot of the neo pagan literature, though, is how to celebrate our holidays. How to celebrate is a question that is on almost every mind that is new to paganism and The Craft in general; this comes as no surprise considering that almost all of us grew up in a culture where the popular religious holidays have very specific traditions for celebrating.  So, once a month and better yet when the moon is full, I will be sharing with you the way I am planning to celebrate the full moon that evening to give you a spring board for creating your own celebrations. Let’s get started!

You may or may not have noticed in your perusings of La Grimoire de Google the moons of each month have a different name and that there seems to be no consensus on which names are the correct ones. My advice to you is by and large to ignore these designations because in the long run they are a lot more trouble than they are worth, especially when you consider that the names of the moon often correspond to key points in traditional agricultural cycles that may no longer apply to our modern world. For example, tonight is the sturgeon moon (the fish that is harvested for caviar) and according to the good people at The Old Farmer’s Almanac this moon was a signal to some Native American cultures that the time was right to catch sturgeon. Today, sturgeon is farmed year round in order to keep those of us who like cheaper caviar knee deep in fish eggs as well as to prevent the depletion of wild populations via over fishing. However, for those of us who like to use the name of the moon as inspiration for how to celebrate – myself included – I would defer to the names given by The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The OFA is a great tool for witches and pagans because it gives a calendar of weather predictions for the whole country in addition to forecasting celestial events and noting the dates of the solstices etc. Also, the OFA in this context is a standardizing tool, allowing friends of many pagan paths to literally all be on the same page when it comes to celebrating the full moon.

“But JUUUUDDDDEEEEEE! You still haven’t told us HOW to celebrate!”, you cry in frustration. Well, wait no longer. The full moon has some themes that are constant across several cultures and neo pagan traditions that can be found in La Grimoire de Google. Specifically in Wicca, though, we see it as a time of completion and fertility as the full moon is the symbol of The Goddess in her Mother aspect. So, the full moon is a time to honor the culmination of projects that you have been working on or perhaps just acknowledging that whatever you are going through in life has passed its worst juncture. I find the full moon to be a very spiritual occasion for me and I like to use it to give thanks to the gods for working with me and guiding me. In a purely magical context, the full moon is a time of enhanced psychism, so performing divinations during your ritual would receive the added bonus of FULL MOON POWER! The same goes for any sort of fruition spell you may want to cast. The chief thing to remember when celebrating any full moon is simple – It’s a party! You know how to throw a party! In my opinion there should be games, friends, music, and dancing etc, if you want them, on the night of the full moon before your ritual. Once you and your pagan compadres decide that it is time to get down to ritual, I recommend more music, dancing, and laughter. These are all great ways to build energy which can be used in a magical working, or simply offered to the gods in thanks. Some people may think that ritual is a very “Serious” occasion and that you shouldn’t be messing around and telling inappropriate jokes while in the circle. However, ritual isn’t sunday school. Our religion(s) is about freedom, our connection to Mother Earth, and doing the things that make your spirit explode with ecstasy. In the words of my spiritual grandmother, Lady Sheherazahde, “Ritual is serious but not solemn.” And so, there you have it. You’ve known how to celebrate the full moon this whole time simply by virtue of knowing how to party!

Now that you know the things that you didn’t know you knew, let me give you an example of what my friends and I are doing tonight for the full moon. My two best friends from back home and I don’t get to see each other very often, so tonight starts out in just a few minutes! Juliet has, in fact, arrived early and is sitting on a chair across from me as I finish this post. We will be spending the day together catching up, telling jokes, and SHOPPING! Once we are tired of that we will probably head a nice dinner and finally to one of our backyards to light a fire of some sort. We are Texans, we like fire, lots and lots of FIRE (Please use fire responsibly). We will observe the ritual traditions we were trained with and as for the actual celebratory part of our ritual, we may just sit and soak up the moonlight. There will be laughing, possibly drinking (please drink responsibly, and age appropriately), the telling of filthy jokes (especially at the expense of Donald Trump aka Tiny Hands), and being thankful for what we have and our friendship most importantly. Tonight, your ritual should reflect whatever you consider to be a good time with friends – this is the key to success.

Singing to the moon with you,

Jude

Ps. Here is a nifty old chant that I learned recently for the night of the full moon.

Full moon shining bright, Midnight on the water. Oh Aradia, Diana’s silver daughter.

Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk

Good morning everyone!

I don’t know about y’all, but when I first started studying witchcraft, one of the things I went overboard with was reading about protection magic and magical self defense. I find that a lot of people I talk to that are new to the craft usually make this same mistake, understandably so, because we are all concerned for our own safety. However, it’s easy to get carried away. Those of us who have a little more experience know that in almost every entry level text there are warnings about imagined psychic attacks, curses, hauntings etc which, as par for the course, go unheeded by a lot of budding witches. I certainly remember reading such a warning by the late Scott Cunningham when starting out and thinking, “Yes, well … One can never be too careful.” The lesson that I learned from my early work is that yes, you can be too careful, because building up your space like a fortress with countless talismans, charms, and incantations needlessly feeds the fear that whatever is out there can break your barriers, making you feel it necessary to barricade yourself in with everything but the kitchen sink.

All of that being said, warding is a vital skill that shouldn’t be written off as the practice of the paranoid, because it does add to our peace of mind and it keeps out the nasty things that may cause you harm, including curses, as well as the uninvited benign entities. I have woken up many a night from a bad dream, scared, only to be assured by the fact that my wards keep out anything truly dangerous both physical and astral. So, the question I get asked a lot by the new practitioners I meet is, “What works?” The answer I give is a simple one (Prepare for title reference). I tell them to use chalk.

In my opinion, no witch should ever be caught without a good piece of chalk. “Why chalk?”, you might ask. Well, chalk is very easy to come by. I’ve even seen it sold in gas stations in many places across the country. Chalk is also extremely versatile because with chalk, you can etch out any number, size, and style of protective sigils you can imagine. Sigils are old and very reliable magic because they are a part of creating a tangible barrier between you and X nasty thing – much like drawing a circle but with much more permanence. Sigil magic can also create barriers that vary in strength and scope from bug zapper to fiery wall of death – it all depends on the sigil you choose (a run of the mill pentacle will serve any purpose just fine) and how much power you put into its creation. Another reason to use chalk is that it’s pretty much invisible when used on typically white surfaces such as doors, and easily missed on surfaces such as glass, this is useful when it comes to living situations with folks that aren’t friendly to magic. In apartment living, chalk is ideal because it is easily removed when it is time for you to change address. Finally, chalk is cheap. Anyone who has practiced magic can tell you that often it is not the most cost effective of endeavors, and because of that I always employ the least expensive methods (which are no less effective) as they are accessible to everyone. And remember this if nothing else about warding; allowing your fear to master you is an instant recipe for failure.

With love and light,

Jude

Tl:Dr Version: Use chalk to draw protective sigils because it’s versatile, cheap, and concealable. A few well constructed wards are always better than dozens of weak ones. Don’t get carried away. Fear is the enemy of effective protection magic.

Cultural Appropriation & Neo Paganism

SugarSkull

Morning all,

This morning a friend of mine and I were reunited after she had been away for a long time taking care of family matters in Mexico. My friend surprised me with a gift to thank me for praying for her. The gift was a gorgeous clay sugar skull.

I have had trouble all of my life connecting to my culture because of my skin color (I’m Mexican and my skin is white.) and so I found this gift particularly heartfelt. The Sugar Skull also reminded me of a few conversations I’ve had over recent years about a topic that seems to be a powder keg to polite conversation everywhere – That of Cultural Appropriation. So, taking my new sugar skull as a prompt from the gods; I am going to try and discuss this issue this morning (Everyone, this is your one chance to get coffee before proceeding.)

The issue of cultural appropriation is not that other people pick up and practice aspects of other cultures that resonate with them – far from it really. Cultural appropriation is what happens when people begin practicing aspects of other cultures with no reverence to where it came from. To some, this statement may seem trite, but that is because it is incredibly misunderstood. When I discuss cultural appropriation and its ills, I am discussing a power dynamic between groups in a society.

In America today, the majority frequently takes on aspects of its cultural minorities and makes them mainstream – that isn’t the problem. The problem occurs when the historical attitude of X practice by the dominant group was one of derision and discrimination up until they decide it’s trendy. An example of this are certain Halloween costumes such as Native American ceremonial dress. The complaint isn’t simply that people are wearing the ceremonial dress. It isn’t, “how dare you copy me,” it’s, “how dare you murder our ancestors and then put on their clothing.” Cultural appropriation is a matter of context and that is why it is so hard to define and even harder to communicate. The history of white dominant America with Native American cultures is one of genocide. Take a moment and consider that. If someone stole your land with force, murdered your ancestors, and then paraded around in their clothes; how would that make you feel? If the history of those two groups had been one of total equanimity the present day situation would be different.

At this point the thoughts of a lot of people trend toward a “Sins of The Father” argument, but in many ways we are responsible for the sins of our ancestors – especially when we don’t say or do anything about it except for say, “That wasn’t me, and you can’t hold me responsible.” We are responsible, perhaps not for the genocide itself, but certainly for acknowledging the history between our people and also for not rubbing salt in the wound.

Let’s take it a step further. When I was in my undergraduate career, some hapless white guy described himself as a whigger (white nigger) and claimed that he understood the racial challenges faced by black Americans. The support he gave for this argument was that he wore FuBu (For Us, By Us) and went to high school with a large black population.

As a white skinned Mexican American, I can tell you from first hand experience that the type of discrimination I face as opposed that of my darker skinned relatives is vastly different. I don’t know what it’s like to be called a spic or a beaner on sight.

The white guy I encountered in my school days is guilty of cultural appropriation and being a racist, because there is no way in hell he can possibly claim to have faced the challenges of the black American community to warrant that self description (nor can any person with white skin).

Now back to The Sugar Skull. Recently, Americans have become much more aware of a practice of my people – the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos. I think that Americans are becoming aware of the wonders of my culture is fantastic. However, the enthusiasm has gone quite a bit off the rails. If you walk into any department store in America, the chances of you finding some piece of popular culture decorated as a sugar skull on a T-shirt are pretty good. Buy the shirt, wear it with pride, but don’t turn around and be a racist towards the Mexican people. It’s the act of being a racist asshole after dawning the art of my people that makes it cultural appropriation – and much worse.

So how does all of this relate to neo paganism you ask? Well, that’s quite simple. Many neo pagans in the U.S. and abroad practice an eclectic path. I know I do. When it comes to my gods, who are of Celtic origin, I have no cultural connection to their worship. The only thing that I have that connects me to them is that my study of them makes my spirit soar. If I were to worship my gods while maintaining a hatred for Irish people, I would be guilty of cultural appropriation. However, because I study the history of my gods and have a reverence and respect for the culture that birthed them, what is happening in my practice is cultural diffusion.

We can see many instances of cultural appropriation when it comes to magical practices as well. In my culture, our folk healers are known as curandero/as, and it’s generally a title you have to either work for by study or you have so many years of experience in the traditional practices that no one would question the validity of that title. If I were to run around calling myself a curandero/a I would be considered extremely disrespectful among my own people. When a person who is not of my culture learns to perform a Limpia (Mexican folk cleansing) and calls themselves a curandero/a that’s appropriation. Why? Because you didn’t earn that title through study nor practice and the fact that you are part of the dominant culture allows you to get away with it. You aren’t a curandero/a, you’re an asshole that wants to sound edgy because they learned one folk ritual from a different culture. The difference between that and someone who is a true student of curanderismo is respect regardless of race or ethnicity. Respect for the people that created the practice, respect for the people who practice it today, and respect enough to interrupt the appropriation of the practice when you see it; meaning simply that if someone is making sugar skulls and then cracks a joke about Mexicans, you call them out for it.

In my Wiccan tradition, we put a premium on scholarship. When I decided that I wanted to practice a Celtic pantheon I was expected to read the Mabinogi and other related legends. Scholarship, a Google search, respect, and awareness of context are all it takes not to commit cultural appropriation. Our job as neo pagans, as revivalists of the old ways, is to be mindful of where the old ways came from and to increase the awareness of their origins out of respect for all of our ancestors and for each other. I hope my comments have been helpful.

May the Might of Morrigan bolster your step,

Jude

 

New Pagan Authors

Howdy all,

Lots has developed in my life since I last posted because I got into the PhD program of my dreams! With Funding! So, yay me! I have also been working my tail off to get this blasted website in some semblance of working order (Grrrrr!). Enough about all of that though, the good news is that I have resurfaced and just in time to bring you something astounding.

As you know, I focus a lot on social justice work in my personal life and in particular with Lgbt+ community issues. In my experience, I have learned that the greatest tool for social change is awareness created by people sharing their personal stories. I have recently come across a very talented new pagan author and friend, Hamsa Joshua.

In one of their latest works they detail their life as a trans person and reflect on the meaning of the events therein. I found this piece incredibly moving on merit of its honesty and poignance. As a gender fluid individual not identifying as a man nor as a woman, there were several aspects of Hamsa Joshua’s that hit me close to home. I am very grateful to have read it and even more so that Hamsa Joshua has allowed me to share it with you here. For any denizen of the Great Gender Non Binary or our allies, this is a must read. I will also be providing a permanent link to Hamsa Joshua’s website in the Links section.

Post-Trans by Hamsa Joshua

May Brighid’s Fiery Arrow Light Your Way,

Jude