Twelve Healing Stars is a yearlong project in cooperation with the Temple of Witchcraft that explores social justice through the lessons of the 12 Zodiac Signs. This is part five.
I live a few miles from Disneyland. We are close enough that throughout much of the year a loud cluster of explosions from the park’s impressive fireworks finale announces the arrival 9:45 p.m. It’s kind of nice, like the old time village criers announcing “9:45 and all is well!” It’s our little community ritual.
Tucked way in the back of the Happiest Place in Earth is one of its most famous yet least popular rides: “It’s a Small World.” The ride was originally created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Billed as a “salute to the children of the world,” the ride is a journey by boat to different areas of the world. Each scene features not-quite-audio-animatronic children from various areas of the world singing the ride’s signature song to you in multiple languages. It’s a cute, though perhaps overly optimistic view of the world.
But that song! Songfacts.com calls it both “the greatest earworm of all time” and “the most performed and translated song of all time.” It’s so catchy the even Disney made fun of it in The Lion King. And now it’s stuck in your head. Sorry.
It’s really easy to ridicule this simple little piece of music, but the world would certainly be a better place if we could get past our cynicism and really listen to the lyrics:
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears.
It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears.
There’s so much that we share,
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all.
In a world where cartoonists are shot for ridiculing one of the world’s most popular religions and where young black men are suspicious simply for wearing a hoodie, we could do much worse than to remember our kinship with all residents of the earth. Everyone struggles, everyone has pains, and a world where we focus on our kinship and healing our differences instead of accentuating the things which divide us from each other could only improve the planet for all of us. Sharing, caring, and forging community bonds with all people is the focus of Aquarius.
There is more to social justice than protest and boycott. Some people are called to help those in need, the people who suffer, whether their suffering comes from injustice or natural disaster. Oppressed communities need help, but so do those who are down on their luck. I remember the desperate attempts to get water to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Water is life, and Aquarius, the Water Bearer, seeks to bring life to all who can’t sustain it on their own. The Aquarian mentality seeks to make the world smaller.
Lisa, the Aquarius Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft, puts it more succinctly: “When the going gets tough,” she says, “you need a community that is going to step up.” She’s not alone. Religions of all kinds take their share of criticism, and much of that is fair. Especially with the recent Charlie Hebdo shootings, it can be easy to write off all religious practice as encouraging exclusivity and violence.
Yet in their highest aspects, religious communities of all kinds work to help people. Catholic groups around the world help the poor. Many Christian groups participate in programs such as Toys for Tots. Islam requires its practitioners to donate a fixed amount of income to help the needy. The Pagan community does its own work.
Lisa oversees the TOWER (Temple Of Witchcraft Emergency Response) program. Like the Tower card in the tarot, sometimes your life falls apart all at once. In these situations you need help, and Lisa’s ministry offers that help. At this time, help is limited to the TOW community, but she says “we are working on ways to facilitate emergency response for larger, worldwide emergencies.”
Many other Pagan organizations are doing this work. The Reclaiming Tradition’s Five-Point Agenda states that, “Misfortune comes to everyone in life. The cost of illness, disability, or natural disasters should not be borne by individuals alone but be shared among many,” and their work is famous for putting that responsibility into practice.
Reclaiming Tradition member Ravyn Stanfield is a prime example of a Pagan whose spiritual practice led her to go out and help heal the suffering. Inspired by “hundreds of well-run Reclaiming transformational rituals, consensus meetings, and personal development exercises” to work to increase consciousness of communities.
With her spiritual community she has advocated for more just communities. Professionally, though, she works to heal those communities. Stanfield is an acupuncturist, and her friends in Reclaiming connected her to the organization Acupuncturists Without Borders. She began serving AWB after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, providing trauma relief through acupuncture to the victims of that disaster on a volunteer basis. Since then she has been employed by AWB, which she says, “provides caring, compassionate treatment in a group setting so everyone treated may experience relief from stress and trauma together.”
In the true spirit of creating communities, AWB also travels to sensitive areas of the globe, where they “train local health care workers, provide clinics, fund community projects and exchange knowledge with traditional healers” as well as treat children who have escaped from the sex trafficking industry. This is a great community to a very special and valuable kind of work. While we can’t all be acupuncturists, we can help support AWB’s work through donation. Stanfield provides workshops, presentations, and healing services through her website at www.gerriravynstanfield.com.
Author T. Thorn Coyle has written about her own helping work in her local soup kitchen, and for the past few years she has helped to organize a blood drive at Pantheacon, the indoor Pagan convention held every February in San Jose, CA. Most Pagan Pride Days include a canned food drive. Like any other religious group, Pagans are out there helping those in need. We may be small, but we care.
Every agency that provides assistance is always in need of supplies. While we may not be able to get out into the field the same way that Stanfield and Coyle do, we can help support that work. We can donate your time or your money to the organizations who help. The Red Cross says that monetary donations are the most effective because it allows the organization to purchase exactly what is needed for each situation. However, their disaster preparedness list is also a good guide to the types of donations one could make to help others in case of disaster:
Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
Battery-powered or hand-crank radios (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
First aid kits
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cell phones with chargers
Maps of the area
For your own disaster preparedness needs, further suggestions include extra cash and a supply of any medications you take.
The Hurricane Katrina response showed us all that sometimes the supplies have trouble getting to the people who need them. It couldn’t hurt to back up your physical donations with some magickal work to ensure they make it to the needy. In ritual, charge a key to open doors to the needy and send it with your items. Or, to work with the imagery of Aquarius, fill one glass with water and leave another glass empty chalice with water while visualizing healing reaching its target. Then make your donation or volunteer your time.
We are a small community, but we are part of a small world. As recent events have shown, minority communities easily can be misunderstood and misrepresented. Helping others also helps us, making us visible and easing us toward that other Aquarian ideal of sharing community with other world faiths. Valuing community over differences can offer healing of a different kind, a world where we focus more on what we have in common and how we can help each other rather than the fences that drive us apart. As the repetitive Disney song reminds us, “Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”