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 seven.
“So it is with skillful warriors – their force is swift, their precision is close. Their force is like drawing a catapult, their precision is like releasing the trigger.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I’ve always struggled with activism. I know it’s the right thing to do in many cases, but there are so many justified causes that it can feel overwhelming. If you put your finger on one problem, another head of the hydra pops up in its place. You want to be a warrior, but there are enemies everywhere. It’s easy to lose track of where to aim and how much force to use. It can be depressing and paralyzing.
It feels like we often wish to fight against injustice, but we don’t know where to start. So we don’t. We stop paying attention. We learn to get comfortable looking away from this problem, that enemy. As long as we can be comfortable ourselves, as long as we have our distracting “bread and circus,” those who perpetuate injustice have a much easier time doing their work. It’s tempting, but self-defeating, to yield to the siren song of inaction. Instead, if we truly desire change, we must charge forward like the ram of Aries and courageously butt heads with those who oppose us.
According the Michael Cantone, the Aries Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft, the lessons of Aries can be difficult for many modern witches and pagans to understand. “It can be hard,” he says, “because the warrior is about war and the witch is about peace.” Paradoxically, however, Cantone adds that “The warrior is a peacemaker. They seek justice by fighting for it, and the true warrior knows when it has been achieved and when to stop fighting.”
One of the cures, then, for the paralysis that many of us feel when faced with all the problems in the world is to actually get up and do something. “Fighting for a cause balances your emotions,” says Cantone. “The warrior walks with confidence.” The paralysis leaves, and the warrior always knows the next step toward his or her objective and that he or she can prevail in the battles they choose. Know justice, know peace.
On the other hand, it’s extremely important to understand the entire battlefield and know exactly where to strike and the precise amount of force to use. Cantone says that, “When you know your enemy, you know the most effective ways to defeat harmful causes and intentions.”
As an example, he cites the Gay Pride movement. The Gay Pride marches that we see all over the country really are protest marches, but, as Cantone points out, “They are done in a jubilant way, with style.” Instead of wasting energy exploding all over their enemies, the Pride movement has taken a more effective tactic: get out in public, host a big party, and have fun. Through this and other venues, the gay community has made extraordinary gains. There’s more work to do, but the movement has made won many victories partially by being deliberately non-antagonistic. Even when battling the vicious Westboro Baptist Church, the community’s tone has been decidedly jubilant:
“Think about the philosophy of witchcraft,” says Cantone. “What you put out returns to you threefold.”
But it isn’t all parades and parties. Sparrow, the co-host of the popular pagan podcast The Wigglian Way, was recently arrested as part of her protest against the pipeline that Kinder Morgan wanted to build through the mountain she calls home.
“My decisions about how ‘far’ I will go or what I am prepared to do at each given protest depends on many factors,” she says, but, in the quest to protect the Earth and her home, “I knew I was willing to do anything I had to.”
The most recent episode of her podcast includes an excellent interview with Patheos blogger John Beckett on the “care and feeding” of activists. He makes a wonderful point about the value of support, saying that “Charlie the Marine may be doing the fighting, but he needs Rosie the Riveter supporting him in the factory.” Not all of are adept with the weapons of war, so it’s important to know your skills and provide the support that you are best at providing. Someone has to feed those who handcuff themselves to trees. They could use a bit of laundry and some media support too. As always, Know Thyself.
Author David Salisbury, a witch from Washington D.C. who works for the Human Rights Campaign in his day job and spends much of his personal time advocating for animal rights, is an activist through and through. Yet he also knows that there is more to fighting than protests and arrests. He’s currently trying to organize a National Pagan Advocacy Day in which Pagans from around the country would come to the U.S. capital and lobby their representatives for issues that are important to them.
“Our idea is to bring people together from all over the country to meet with their legislators about issues that matter to them, openly as Pagans,” says Salisbury. He stresses that it’s not about the issues; pagans differs widely in their political opinions. It’s about visibility. “Visibility is so important to legislators,” he stresses, “because once they see that they have Pagan constituents who are involved in their area, they may be less likely to pass future legislation that could harm us.”
Recognizing that not every Pagan could attend such a day, Salisbury also hopes to organize an online version of the Day of Action in which, “Pagans around the nation would be encouraged to write letters, send emails, and make calls to legislators, openly as Pagans.” As an extra enticement he hopes to also organize a tour of the nation’s capital for those who attend, because Washington D.C. is “absolutely drenched in occult and esoteric symbolism and architecture.” Interested?
This is working within the system for change, but it also demonstrates to those in power that Pagans and witches are real people, not stereotypes and not evil. We have faces and voices. Doreen Valiente did this when a Member of Parliament proposed re-instating the UK’s anti-witchcraft laws 20 years after they had been repealed. After one pleasant conversation over tea, the MP chose not to pursue his proposed legislation.
Every problem, every enemy, has a different weakness. The warrior learns to direct her force toward that weakness with precision. Sometimes we fight physically, sometimes in the halls of Congress, sometimes in our local forests and neighborhoods. Sometimes we fight with parades, other times we become keyboard warriors who blog/meme/tweet for justice.
Magickally, some of the most effective ways to join the battle are to work on yourself. Cantone, who is a martial artist, suggests that those who fight a cause “Learn to read energy and intuition.” By doing so, you “Understand the psychology of a situation so that you know the best and most effective response.”
He also advises psychic defense meditations and improving your self-awareness. Shielding meditations and attunement to the elemental energies in any situation can help you in the fight. “Strip off psychic” in psychic awareness, he states, “and what you have is aware. The warrior must be aware.”
Sparrow echoes this idea. Especially as she focuses on environmental causes, she says that “grounding is good,” as is “connecting to the spirit of the land” in a given situation. Ultimately, though, she reminds us to be confident in ourselves. “In essence,” says Sparrow, “I gird myself in the knowledge that I am doing the right thing. The armor of doing the right thing and connecting with Spirit are all I need to really deal with confrontation.”
Cantone adds that a lot of the world’s confrontations come from fear of the unknown. He suggests spell work to alleviate this fear. Resonating with his thought of preparing yourself, he also suggests that you use physical exercise in your magickal work. “Exercise purges impurities, releases stress and tension, and builds confidence,” he states. “Work out before performing a ritual or incorporate physical exercise into your work. Make your workout your spell.”
No one will ever be able to fight on all fronts. But, as Sun Tzu classically stated, that would be a waste of time anyway. Your energy should be directed exactly at the enemy’s weakest point with exactly the right amount of force behind it. If you know which weapons you use best, you can effectively decide when and how to use them with precision.
Sometimes movements seem amorphous, ambiguous, and lacking in clear message. These are the movements that fail. The most effective warriors know how to gather just the right energy and strike at just the right point to bring victory. They know exactly when to draw the catapult, where to aim it, and when to pull the trigger.