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 nine.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
In October 1962, the world watched breathlessly as the United States and the Soviet Union played a now-famous 13-day game of brinksmanship over the placement of Soviet nuclear weapons 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The Cuban Missile Crisis was perhaps the largest face-to-face conflict of the two superpowers during the Cold War, and certainly the one with the most at stake for the rest of the planet. With one wrong move, the entire Earth could have found itself devastated by nuclear war. Two ideologies, two world powers, came dangerously close to destroying everything.
One of the results of the crisis was something revolutionary for the time: a hotline was established between the White House and the Kremlin. This would have been unthinkable before those 13 tense days, but both sides realized that, no matter their rhetoric, no matter how diametrically opposed their values were, the only way to remain alive was to talk to each other. It sucks to talk to your enemy, but it sucks more to destroy the planet.
We live in a diverse world. While we may share a common desire for security, love, justice, and happiness, we often disagree intensely on how to achieve those things. We often succumb to the temptation to caricature our opponents with all sorts of epithets, but that only stirs up anger and worsens the problem. All issues are more complicated than a cursory glance makes them appear. It may be uncomfortable, but for any real change to occur it is vital to speak our own views cogently, listen (really listen) to the other side, and intelligently decide on a course of action. Debaters must be respectful of each other even in their disagreement. It seems paradoxical to honor your enemy, but effective communication is vital for true change. The Trickster in Gemini loves to challenge us, and paradox is one of his favorite tools.
There’s even more paradox in this tricky little soup. We should be getting closer together as a planet. All of those things ruled by Gemini – travel, communication, technology, information – are better now than they have ever been in history. We have more access to other ideas, beliefs, and cultures than ever before. Anything we wish to know is just a Google search away, and we can quickly travel anywhere we wish to go. And yet, it seems we are growing more and more apart.
Have you seen this video on what the 90’s sitcom Friends would be like today?
…Or these brilliant cartoons that illustrate the barriers we erect in our efforts to stay connected?
These examples are funny, but in Trickster fashion there is a tragic flip side to them. Now that we are all locked behind our phones, more and more groups seem to be isolating themselves behind the walls of their own ideas and blocking out all information that contradicts them. When rioting tore apart Baltimore, each side had awful names for each other that precluded their humanity. We’re seeing “religious freedom” acts passed in order to allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community, public beheadings broadcast over the Internet by Muslim extremists, and a toxic political culture is Washington that butters its bread by vilifying the other side. Kennedy could talk to Kruschev at the height of the Cold War, but our elected officials can’t speak civilly to each other for fear of losing the support of their base or having the wrong quote turned into a meme. Connection has separated us; the tools of communication have been turned on their head, and they must be set right again.
Steve Kenson, Co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft and the Gemini Lead Minister of the organization focuses on “communication, expression, and queer mysteries” in his ministry. With these mandates in mind, he says that his social justice focus is on “expression, freedom of association, and diversity.”
“Diversity affects everyone,” says Kenson. “Oppression or marginalization of any one group or class is not only unjust to those people, but it affects the whole.” He notes that feminism, as an example, is more than just the fight for equality for women. It extends into questioning “many of the gender assumptions implicit in a culture that affect and limit men and queer people, who are tangled up in that web of gender rules and requirements.” The same logic applies to all groups who fight for equality. There are assumptions implicit in both sides of the fight that must be exposed and dealt with.
“Freedom of expression,” says Kenson, “is the key to helping ensure diversity.” He adds that “Marginal and minority voices must be heard,” adding that, “Such communication can be the basis for empathy, compassion, and understanding, the cornerstones to creating a culture of diversity and power-with rather than power over.”
As Pagans, we often look to the natural world for guidance. Kenson stresses that, “Nature teaches us that diversity is strength and prosperity, while monoculture is weakness and vulnerability.” In yet another paradox, only diversity of thought and opinion can ensure the health of our own opinions, no matter how much we wish the whole world would suddenly convert to our beliefs.
There are real things win the real world that everyone can do to help facilitate greater diversity within the world. Kenson advises three important real-world actions:
- Communicate: While we are blessed to live in a time of incredible access to communication, “Such communication can also alienate us if we choose to allow it to make us callous and unsympathetic toward the real people we are communicating with.” We’ve all had our social media rants and those times when we’ve called out those who disagree with us on an issue. Whatever you think of their opinions, those people are real people, and your rants do nothing to win their hearts. In fact, they probably hurt your cause. They make you feel better, but they negate the humanity of your opponent and turn a debate you may be able to win into an attack that closes the opponent’s eyes to your views. It’s natural to put up stronger walls when people attack you.
- Educate: The same technological resources that make communication possible also give you no excuse to be ill-informed on a topic. “Ask respectful questions and get answers rather than making assumptions,” says Kenson. “Find out how to be an ally, a supporter, or a champion of causes you care about.”
- Express: “Cultures are self-policing mechanisms, and we are its creators and maintainers,” he says. “Express clear and direct opinions, both supporting the culture you want to see and calling out behaviors or ideas you feel are harmful.” After all, “If we don’t act to try and create a culture of diversity and openness, we can’t expect others to do it for us.”
On the magickal level, Kenson advises us to, “Create safe and sacred spaces of all kinds. Spaces for women, for men, for children, for queer people, for elders, for people of different races and backgrounds…and use those spaces to heal, to journey, to lift up, to empower, to ground, and then to return to the world where we all live together to share those lessons.” In many ways, this is an “as above, so below” issue. Create sacred safe spaces, act in a way that encourages diversity on the magickal planes, then let that energy return to the physical world.
One of the most important pieces of this, says Kenson, is to always be sure you are working on yourself. “One of the greatest magickal things we can do for the world,” he says, “is to work out our own stuff and become the best people we can be.” In perhaps an even stronger way, your example of being the best possible person you can be does more to change the world around you than any spell or journey.
Importantly, Kenson warns, “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking yourself a superior and enlightened being helping poor unfortunates, because you’re down here in the dirt with the rest of us.”
It starts with yourself. “A spell for social justice is good,” Kenson emphasizes, “but a spell backing a donation, volunteering, or speaking out is even better. If you want to work for change, do it on all levels.” Writing was the original magick, the first form of permanent communication. Simply communicating respectfully with your opponent is a powerful form of creating change.
One of the hardest lessons in the realm of Gemini is that you must speak to your enemies. As Kennedy learned during the Cuban Missile Crisis, straw men and caricatures of the black-hatted “bad guys” only get you so far. They inhibit communication and only make the world a worse place. Any spell calling upon the deities who govern communication, entities like Hermes, Thoth, Raven, Coyote, and the other Trickster deities to facilitate communication among all parties in a conflict can be helpful in its resolution. Many of the Trickster/Messenger deities also govern magick, so they are excellent choices to help you manifest your desires.
Languages are being spoken by all kinds of people across the world. The oppressed may speak in the language of riot. The colonized might speak in the language of revolution. The privileged might speak in terms of economics and assimilation. The paradox comes with the realization that none of them are intentionally evil. All of them are right, but all of them are wrong. It’s the quicksilver fluidity of genuine communication that can bridge the gaps and help create a better world.
Even at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy realized this. The hotline connection to his enemy gave the two powers an opportunity to communicate clearly whenever their competing interests threatened their very existence. If he and Kruschev could solve the paradox despite such terrifyingly high stakes, surely we can. As Kennedy stated in the aftermath, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”