Intersections

Exploring the crossroads of religion, culture, and science through a Pagan lens


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Hidden Figures and Pussyhats

The new film Hidden Figures tells the story of three black women (among many) who helped to save the American Space Program.  In segregated Virginia, these women battled both racism and misogyny, deftly fended off micro- and macro-aggressions against both race and sex, and figured out the very mathematics necessary to launch Americans into orbit and bring them back safely.  Ultimately, their work helped to win the Cold War.

Source: Educationworld.com

Their stories have been largely untold until now.  Their lives were mostly unknown by the general population.  Sadly, despite their incalculable service to their country, despite the fact that they fought against all odds and proved their value and their capabilities, the same fights are still being waged.  Racism is alive and well; misogyny is on its way to taking power in the White House.

After the movie, I happened to overhear two people discussing what they had just seen.  “They didn’t complain,” said one person.  “They just accepted things for the way they were and worked harder.”  These two moviegoers went on to praise the three main characters in the film, not for their genius or their bravery, but for being quiet and meek about the injustices they were forced to overcome.  It was, in their minds, good for these three black female heroes to remain hidden.

Someone clearly missed the point.

As a Pagan, I’m proud to be part of a religious community that is on the forefront of the fight for equality.  We aren’t perfect.  Racism and sexism and other injustices still crop up, but large numbers of our community believe in and actively fight for the equality of all people.  To the general public, we are often hidden.  They want us, and others who believe in equality, to remain that way.

No.

With an administration that has openly insulted women and advocated racist and xenophobic policies, those who believe in equality can’t afford to remain hidden.  What is hidden needs to be revealed, and it needs to claim its power.

One way women are doing that is through the Pussyhat Project.  Inspired by President-Elect Trump’s now infamous claim that he can “grab” women “by the pussy,” knitters have created a hat design to bring their support for equality out of the shadows.  They are taking a term usually used pejoratively and taking back its power.  Many plan to wear the knit hats as they protest the inauguration in Washington D.C. and across the country.  It’s a simple, but visible sign of protest.  It’s a method of claiming power and refusing to stay hidden.

Source: thestranger.com

Contrary to the views of the ladies I overheard, remaining hidden does not help.  The three women who sent America into space may well have succeeded in changing the culture of NASA, but it took a larger and more visible fight to make progress against legal segregation.  There’s a larger, cultural reason that Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan were unknown before this movie.  The contributions of both women and African-Americans is largely absent from standard history books.  That leads to ignorance about their contributions.  Ignorance leads to hatred and fear.

The only remedy for ignorance is exposure and education.  I’ll be wearing a pussyhat proudly and I look forward to helping my black and female friends shine a light on their contributions to society.

 

 

 


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Newt Scamander, Politics, and the Value of Caring

In “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” J.K. Rowling presents the familiar wizarding world she originated with Harry Potter, but turns it on its head.  Instead of Britain, the film takes place in the United States.  Different laws apply to the witches and wizards of America, a fact which becomes a source of both humor and tension.  Our main characters are not children, but adults.  Instead of spending multiple installments worldbuilding and introducing a magical system, the new series is able to jump us right into a fully fleshed out world where we all know the rules, allowing more focus on storytelling.

But more importantly, our new hero is very different.  Newt Scamander is nothing like the Boy Who Lived.  Where Harry knows from the day he enters Hogwarts that he is marked out as the savior of the wizarding world, Scamander is really nothing more than a dedicated animal lover who seeks only to rescue and preserve the world’s most misunderstood creatures.  He’s a conservationist, not a warrior.

This brilliant article explains it much better than I can.  While Harry was a swashbuckling Gryffindor, focused on courage and great deeds, Newt is a Hufflepuff – a member of the most underappreciated house at Hogwarts.  If the houses are elemental, Harry is a fire and Newt is an Earth.  Harry must focus on strength and justice and the will to fight.  Newt’s goal is to save the earth’s magical creatures, care for them, and educate others about their importance.  He’s much happier digging in the dirt to feed his beloved “beasts” than fighting wand-to-wand with dark wizards.  Hufflepuff’s key word is Loyalty, and Newt is unfailingly loyal to the animals that depend on him (and he’s happy to fight and dark wizards who might happen to threaten them).

Harry exemplifies the classic Hero’s Journey.  Newt’s largest concern is ensuring that his thunderbird gets fed.

Harry Potter. [Source: Playbuzz.com]

Harry Potter. [Source: Playbuzz.com]

Newt Scamander [Source: Warner Brothers]

Newt Scamander [Source: Warner Brothers]

The two heroes couldn’t be more different from each other, but in truth they complement each other.  They represent two different ethical ideas from psychological research: The ethic of justice and the ethic of caring.

Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg was studied the moral development in children.  His method was to give children a problem, known as the Heinz Dilemma, and ask them their reasoning.  In short the Heinz Dilemma is as follows:

In Europe, a woman was near death from cancer.  One drug might save her, a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered.  The druggist was charging $2000, ten times what the drug had cost him to make.  The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could get together only about half of what it should cost.  He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or to let him pay later.  But the druggist said no.  The husband got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife.  Should the husband have done that?  Why?

Kohlberg would collect the children’s answers and categorize their reasoning.  In his research, he identified a three-level system of moral development with two sub-stages per level.  The first level focuses on following rules and avoiding punishment.  The second is more about social approval and maintaining order.  The final stage is when a person guides their reasoning based on higher, philosophical ethical principles.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

It all sounded fine until Carol Gilligan, one of Kohlberg’s students, noticed a trend.  Young girls and women tended to score on the lower levels of the scale more often than boys and men.  Males were more likely to be scored in the upper categories of moral reasoning.  

This did not sit well with Gilligan.  What she realized was that Kohlberg was bringing a masculine bias – a concept referred to in the linked article as “Toxic Masculinity” – to rate his respondents.  Gilligan theorized that men tend to reason through an ethic of justice, while women tend to utilize an ethic of caring.  She developed the Dilemma of the Porcupine and the Moles to test this theory:

It was growing cold, and a porcupine was looking for a home. He found a most desirable cave but saw it was occupied by a family of moles.

“Would you mind if I shared your home for the winter?” the porcupine asked the moles.

The generous moles consented and the porcupine moved in. But the cave was small and every time the moles moved around they were scratched by the porcupine’s sharp quills. The moles endured this discomfort for as long as they could. Then at last they gathered courage to approach their visitor.

“Pray leave,” they said, “and let us have our cave to ourselves once again.”

“Oh no!” said the porcupine. “This place suits me very well.  If you’re not happy, then you should leave!”

As with the Heinz Dilemma, what is important is not the answer, but the reasoning.  Gilligan developed a model of morality that placed self preservation at the bottom, self-sacrifice in the middle, and the principle of nonviolence at the top.  She found that female participants scored higher overall than they did in Kohlberg’s model.

 

I don’t believe that the two ethical approaches are as clear cut across binary gender lines as it may seem.  Indeed, two men – Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi – famously exemplified Gilligan’s highest principle of nonviolence.  However, I do see both ethical models as valid.  And, rather than pitting them against each other, I think we should see them as partners.

The world needs its Harry Potters: the young (or young-at-heart) people willing to risk life and limb for justice. Especially now, we need our activists on the front line protesting DAPL, taking to the streets to advocate for equal rights, and taking to social media to light the fire under under everyone else’s collective asses.

We also need our Newt Scamanders.  We need those who stay calm, assess the situation, and select their battles out of concern for those they care for.  We need our Hufflepuffs who are willing to help those in physical and emotional pain, see to the physical needs of our more vocal activists, and to tame the wild spirit of rage that can sometimes get diffused. We need those who process calmly but get the job done.  As Newt Scamander placidly states while he approaches a dangerous capture: “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”  

We are entering into a dark time, both in the Wheel of the Year and in American politics.  Dark times are painful, but they can lead to growth.  Dr. King intentionally led his followers into painful situations to stimulate change.  The discomfort of dark times can stimulate growth and manifest will, but it takes the Hufflepuffs caring for the wounded and as much as the Gryffindors on the front line.

It was Albus Dumbledore, the wisest Harry Potter character of all, who said that Love was the most powerful force in the world.  Love inspires frontline activism as much as nurturing of those who fight and those who fall.  In dark times, each person needs to choose where to focus their love.  Justice is vital, but so is Caring. When the future looked bleak, all of Hogwarts, even the Hufflepuffs, had to come together to defeat Voldemort’s fascist coup.


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Pokemon, Privilege, and Pagans

Two trends rolled over the Internet last week.  One involved people striking out into their world to capture things that no one else could see and displaying them to a disbelieving world.  The other was Pokemon Go.

 

At the same time that the wildly popular Pokemon app was inspiring children of all ages to brave the world outside the confines of their homes, a real struggle was gripping the country as the Black Lives Matter movement was handed two more obvious examples of why their movement must continue to have a voice.

 

Two more examples of the normally unseen were blasted across the web, and these two horrible incidents made the issue even harder to ignore.  Their names were Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  They forced anyone with a modicum of paying attention to acknowledge that, yes, there really is something going on beneath our very noses, and it’s not the presence of a Rattata.  It’s a very real and very insidious privilege that is burning away at society.  It may be harder to see than a Pikachu lurking in your closet, but it is much more dangerous and a lot harder to capture.

 

The Pokemon Go app advises its players to be “constantly aware of your surroundings.”  That’s good advice, but not just in the game.  Here IRL, we also need to be actually aware of what is going on around us.  When the black community takes to the streets to protest the killing of yet another innocent young man, it’s not the whining of “thug.”  They are not claiming that only their lives matter.  They’re not asking for special treatment.  They are crying with their whole souls: “Look at what is happening to us!  Please acknowledge the value of our lives!”  They are begging those of us outside the community to see what is occurring right before our eyes.  If we can do it to capture a venemoth, surely we can do it to facilitate the survival of our fellow human beings.

 

Those of us in the Pagan community tend to believe in the reality of that which is unseen.  That should apply beyond believing in the Otherworld and extend out to a different reality experienced by our brothers and sisters of color.  It may be difficult for us to see personally if we are not people of color, but we have enough evidence, littered on the streets in the forms of a slew of dead black bodies, to know it is real.

 

One of the hallmarks of Paganism is the belief that all in this life is sacred.  We don’t believe in a fallen and sinful material world.  We believe that this life, and all that is in it, is sacred.  It’s time to actually live up to that belief and to honor and support the innocent, sacred black lives that are lost every day.  To honor black lives is not to dishonor any other life.  Rather, it is to acknowledge that those lives are just as sacred as any other life and should be treated with as much respect and reverence.  When they are suffering, we support and help them.  Those of us who are not of color may not fully see and understand their experiences, but our sight is limited.  As Pagans, we know that no single perspective is correct, so if we open our minds we may be able to capture all sorts of monsters that we had never seen before.

 

 


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Twelve Healing Stars: Virgo and the Spirit of Organization

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 12.

Passion is a wonderful thing. It fuels our fire and motivates us to take action. It gives us a purpose to serve. But it takes more than passion to effectively advocate for change. It takes organization.

“Organization” is in the very words used to describe social justice movements. Laborers “organize” into unions to advocate for better wages and working conditions. We talk of “organizing” protests; national political “organizations” such as the NAACP, the Human Rights Commission, or the Occupy movement bring people together to more effectively advance their cause. Without organization, social justice has no form. Without organization, causes devolve into random smatterings of cranky people with signs.

Organizations contain the message, sharpen its delivery, and take the time to train their members in the art of skillful advocacy. It’s not glamorous, and much work is done behind the scenes, but it is vital to any cause. It takes that organized and meticulous Virgo mindset to transform zeal and belief into real world change.

Organizations facilitate change. They are the real-world representation of any cause. Over time, and with patience and effective management, they build financial and political capital to the extent that they become the spirit of a cause. Affiliation with a larger organization gives a single person with strong beliefs the credibility and the resources they need to help make change at the local level. It’s about effective service. The organization serves the cause it stands for and gives its members a way to serve the cause they believe in.

There are many secular organizations doing great work, but there are also some that are expressing Pagan values through their work. One example is the new PaganAid organization. This is a fledgling charitable organization in the U.K. that is the brainchild of Druid Ian Chandler. PaganAid’s goal is to, “break the cycle of destitution and destruction” of the Earth by helping indigenous communities earn money and “develop their own livelihood and the environment around them.” Environmental problems are often exacerbated by the destruction of forest land or other natural resources when large corporations kick out the local people, cut down the trees, and create unsustainable industries like pastures or mining. PaganAid helps indigenous people make money while also protecting their resources. You can learn more about PaganAid on the most recent episode of DruidCast.

Organizations like PaganAid takes that purpose that we all wish to serve and turn them into realities. They take people who wish to serve a purpose and give them the means to do so effectively. But before you can contribute to an organization, you need to know your own Will, your own purpose. What is the cause you wish to serve?

Temple of Witchcraft Virgo

TOW Virgo Ministry Sigil

“Everybody seems to ask, ‘What is my purpose?’ ‘Where is the place I belong?’ ‘What is my True Will?” says Adam Sartwell, co-founder and lead Virgo Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft. However, he says, “We need to re-frame the question to ‘How can I serve?’” All of Arthur’s knights may have quested for the Holy Grail, but in the end the real question was “Whom does the Grail serve?” In the same way, our True Wills in some way serve a higher will, and perhaps and organization that provides the structure for the cause we wish to serve. So in the end, finding out whom we serve, like with the Grail, helps us enact our True Will.

Also like the Grail, “The answer changes for each situation you are in,” adds Sartwell. He advised that we take some time to meditate on the true answer to the question in each facet of our lives. In meditation, he suggests, “Ask your psychic self these questions.” Don’t just stop there. Continue with more questions:

“How do I serve?”

“Why do I serve?”

This last one, says Sartwell jokingly, “can be repeated multiple times like you were an annoying three-year old who just learned the word ‘Why.’” Further, it can be seen in all aspects of your life. “Project yourself to work,” he suggests, “and ask these questions. “ “Project yourself to your house and ask the questions,” and finally, “project yourself to your place of power and reverence and ask these questions…the answers may surprise you.”

“Ask yourself what you think this tells you about your True Will, your purpose, and the place you belong,” adds Sartwell. In this way, we can better identify, understand, and serve our True Wills. And serving that Will often tells us what kind of organization we wish to align with in our individual quests to make a better world.

“Asking these questions may make you want to serve in a way that helps a particular organization,” he says. First, “Do your research about how you can help this organization.” Go to their website and check for volunteer opportunities or donation programs. After you have helped the organization physically, “You may want to add your spiritual energy to the organization.”

Sartwell, who is also the author of 21 days of Reiki, explains that a spirit is created when a group of people organize to do any kind of work. “This spirit is a lot like our higher self that needs to be fed energy so it can make needed changes to improve the group,” he says. With this in mind, Adam Sartwell, has written a meditation to meet with the spirit of the organization that you wish to serve, the group doing the work that is the most in line with your own True Will. Magick always helps drive the real-world work that creates change. In that spirit, I present Sartwell’s meditation here in full. Whatever your cause is, it can always be beneficial to attune to it directly and serve your organization on levels beyond the physical.

***

Get into a relaxed meditative state by your own preferred method or by following this countdown method. Relax your body. Allow it to sink into the surface you are on. Focus on the top of your head and relax the muscles. Begin to move your way down the body, relaxing each part. Let a wave of relaxation flow down from the top of the head to your forehead, to your jaw, and down into your neck and shoulders. Relaxation flows down your shoulders and into your arms and down to your fingertips. Relax your chest and back. Relax your abdomen and your hips. Relax your legs and your calves. Relax your feet and toes. Let a wave of relaxation flow through your body. Relax your mind and let all worries and thoughts flow away. Relax your heart and emotions, letting them drift away. Relax your spirit and let its light guide you.

Create before you in your mind’s eye a screen. It could be a theater screen or a blackboard. On it you will visualize a set of numbers from 12 to 1. With each number you go deeper into a meditative state. Visualize twelve on the screen of your mind. Visualize eleven on the screen of your mind. Visualize ten on the screen of your mind. Visualize nine on the screen of your mind. Let the numbers take you deeper. Visualize eight on the screen of your mind. Seven on the screen of your mind. Six on the screen of your mind. Five on the screen of your mind. Four on the screen of you mind. Deeper and deeper. Three on the screen of your mind. Two on the screen of your mind. One on the screen of your mind. You are now in a ritual consciousness where you have complete control of your psychic and magickal faculties.

Once again you will count down from thirteen to one, but release the screen of your mind and relax and just let the numbers take you down. Thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one. You are now in a deep state where all is possible.

Imagine on the screen of your mind a tree with a door. Upon that door is the symbol for the group or organization you want to help. Before you go through that door, call out to your higher self, your Watcher, your Aumakua, and ask them to aid and guide this meditation. Knock on the door and through the door say that you want to talk to the spirit that is the higher self of the group. Open the door and step through. Notice your surroundings. What is this place? Look around until you find the spirit of this place. This is the Higher Self of the group you called out for. Talk to them and get to know them. What is the spirit’s name? What does it look like? In your conversation tell them how much gratitude you have for the work being done by this organization. Tell them about how you wish to act on that gratitude by supporting them. Ask “How can I serve you?” “What can I offer you?” Or ask a question of your own making. The answer may not be in words and may need interpretation. Ask the spirit what its sign of thanks and presence are.

Thank the spirit again for its time and answers. Say goodbye for now. Step back through the door and close it. The door fades in your mind’s eye and you come back to yourself. You can do this in your preferred method or the count up method offered here: Begin to count yourself up to an awakened state going from one to thirteen. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen. Wiggle your fingers and toes and come back to body consciousness.

Count up again and don’t bother with the screen, just concentrate on the numbers: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.

Sweep your hands over your head down your body, visualizing all energies not for your highest good being swept away. Say “I give myself clearance and balance. I banish all that does not serve.”

***

“The most important part of this is to actually do what the spirit asked of you,” Sartwell emphasizes. “The reason you ask for the sign is so there is an exchange between you and the spirit, and so you know that your work is recognized by the spirit.” The organization may like your psychic energy, but what it really needs is your feet on the ground. “Don’t be surprised if it just asks you to do some physical-level work such as volunteering or giving resources.” Practical, real world work may be necessary. Even though the stereotypical Virgo may cringe at this turn of phrase, you may have to get your hands dirty.


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Twelve Healing Stars: Honoring the Sacred and Secular Feminine in Cancer

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 10.

Back in grad school, we studied the book Failing at Fairness by Myra and David Sadker. The book distills 20 years of research into how America’s schools consistently implant a sense of inferiority in young girls, and then it goes on to show how that unfair socialization plagues women as even as successful, professional adults. It demonstrates that there is always a specter of insecurity which follows women through their careers and documents the damage done to the lives of women1 by the educational system.

In one of the most powerful sections, a class is asked to imagine suddenly waking up as the opposite sex. Most girls were excited to test out being a boy. They respond with things like, “When I grow up, I will be able to be almost anything I want, including governor and President of the United States.” That same girl says that if she were to wake up as a boy, suddenly, “People will listen to what I have to say and will take me seriously.”

The boys, however, were horrified at the thought of waking up as girls. “I would scream,” says one boy. “I would hide in the corners and never go out until dark,” says another. Many boys state flatly that they would kill themselves, one by setting himself on fire and another by stabbing “myself fifty times in the heart with a dull butter knife,” then running in front of a semi-truck.

One group of boys wrote a poem about how awful it would be to suddenly become a girl:

 Wake up in the morning

I’m the opposite sex

Look at your private parts and check

Sit up and cry

I’ll do anything but die

Would my friends tease me?

I have to sit down to pee.

Oh no, I lost my hairy chest

And I’m stuck with a big breast.

I’ll hide my hair in my hat

Push in my breasts so they are flat.

I’d have to wear pink underwear

And spend forever with gook in my hair.

Would I like it, no or yes?

What if I get PMS?

Would by name be Sue or Chrissy?

On the 28th day would I act all pissy?

I hate playing with girls’ dolls.

Turn me back so I can have balls.

 Children show an unfiltered version of the inequity they learn from society. This inequity, socialized from a young age, carries into adulthood. Failing at Fairness documents that too. The Sadkers write that the early teen years are where young girls fall “from self-confidence to self-consciousness.”  Also. boys learn early, if subtly, that they are somehow superior to their female counterparts, and that training can follow them into their professional lives. By now you’ve probably heard about Nobel Prize winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt’s comments about women scientists being unfit to work in a lab because, “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

In response, female scientists pounded social media with #distractinglysexy. Their posts are a perfect, hilarious argument to Hunt’s dismissive remarks:

 

 As effective as the #distractinglysexy campaign was, the very need for it is evidence that women still have many battles to fight. Sexism is real; sexism is deeply rooted in society; sexism painfully obstructs women’s lives2. Society’s relationship with women is twisted into some male fantasy of stereotypes and unrealistic expectations of beauty. Paganism and feminism have a long, intertwined history together. In this time of Cancer, when we see the Earth Mother pregnant with the bounty of the fields, is a good time re-examine at our relationship with the Mother, and her daughters, the women of the world.

I would like to avoid falling into the trap of mansplaining, so from here on out, I’ll leave it to women to discuss the issue.

Silver Lyons, the lead Cancer Minister in the Temple of Witchcraft, emphasizes that, while equal rights may be the goal, “We have such a long way to help bring balance to the rights of women.” She agrees with the findings of Sadker & Sadker, saying that there is, “A lack of awareness and sense of empowerment with women of all ages coming into their self-worth.” Women, she says, “continue to feel unworthy,” and she considers the healing of this problem a major goal in her ministry.   Patriarchal cultures, adds Lyons, harm men too, because they “perpetuate the myth that women are less than, which, sadly, can sometimes take away from the genuine work our enlightened brothers are assisting us with.”

Temple of Witchcraft Cancer

TOW Cancer Ministry Sigil

Yeshe Matthews (AKA Rabbit) is the founder and High Priestess of the Come as You Are Coven in the Bay Area of California. For her, “feminism and spirituality are inseparable aspects of a single fabric.” Echoing Sadker & Sadker, she says that, “Our cultural biases against women run very deep in our psyches- deep into our language patterns, thoughts, and expectations.” It starts early in life and worms its way into young people of both sexes. “Therefore,” says Matthews, “to counter it, we need to deliberately, mindfully commit to turning our thoughts to the positive, the empowered, and the good about women, their labor, their worth and value as human being, and the gifts of their presence and wisdom.” In short, “We have to teach ourselves to think more highly of women in general.”

 

Lyons adds, importantly, that “The oppressed woman creates an oppressed society,” and our evolution as humanity will be easier once we “free ourselves from struggle,” and, “this starts with healing the feminine principle.” “If we negate the Mother,” whom she defines as all women, “then we teach our children to negate women.” Looking back at the work of Sadker & Sadker, we can see that this negation begins early.

 

As in many cases where an oppressed group stands up for equality, feminism has been saddled by its opponents with an unfair reputation. If you can’t attack the ideas, you insult the people. Lyons suggests we start with, “Educating ourselves,” especially in understanding that feminism, “isn’t about women hating men; it’s about the aggression, oppression, and subjugation of a human culture,” and through that violence, “Women have greatly suffered through the loss of their sovereignty.” It’s not about elevating one sex over the other, but about achieving actual equality in all realms of life.

 

The key, she says, is “radical listening.” She suggests “holding a container for our sisters to be heard,” and, “safe and sacred space to rise up and have their voices heard and honored.” Men can be part of the struggle if they “Rally with their sisters in support of their right to choose what is correct for their bodies; see women as [their] sisters to be heard, [their] mothers. [their] daughters, and not [their] servants, whores, or minority.”

 

Matthews also states the importance of listening to female voices. She says it is especially important to, “Listen when women speak on subjects related to mathematics, science, engineering, economics, law, medicine, natural living, safety, ecology, [and] architecture” to bring balance back to these overly masculine fields. She also suggests that we consciously “support women business owners” as well as fight for employers to offer more paid time off for “post-partum or post-adoption,” health care that is not based on religion, workplace child care, “flex time and unique schedules for mothers” and other caregivers, and “task-based rather than hourly labor.” This could be a radical difference in the workplace, but it could also make for happier, more effective employees, thus benefitting the business as well.

 

But there is more to women than motherhood and career. Matthews advocates embodying the nurturing aspects of women by “caring for, supporting, and befriending elder women,” ensuring that they are “well-provided for in their wisdom years” and “treated with dignity.” This goes beyond being a caring society; it also recognized that women “have value in our society beyond their reproductive capacity or physical objectification.”

 

Finally, Matthews suggests that we vote for more women and support those who run for public office. She qualifies that applies mostly to those who run on a “pre-woman” platform, a nurturing platform characterized by being “pro-choice, pro-ERA, pro-socialized medicine.” Women in politics often have more difficulty than men because they are “shouted down, underfunded, picked apart for their physical appearance, slandered, and degraded when they make the effort to represent their ideas to the public eye.” Anyone who remembers the depictions of Hillary Clinton during the socialized medicine debate can sympathize with this.

 

Magickally, both women agree that women need spaces to be together and to become empowered. Lyons believes that it begins with women’s “blood mysteries,” their natural cycle, and “releasing the barbaric language of it being a curse and arriving to their innate power.” She suggests creating a sigil empowered with moonblood to heal this relationship. Matthews emphasizes freedom. She calls for “ritual and social spaces where we can be free in whatever way suits us.”

 

This includes, if needed, “being separate from men.” She says that it is important to be “free form the male gaze and the ways it influences women to act toward one another as well as the incursion of male energy itself.” “Feeling free is the kind of greatest ritual gift we can give women,” she says, and “we should give that to women on their own terms.” Matthews recognizes that not all women need this type of space, but for those who do it is empowering.

 

Matthewss spearheads CAYA’s  Mothers of the New Time working. She designed it to, “Elevate the feminine, honor and value women, and create change in our global and local ideas around women, freedom, sustainability, community, and ecology.” You can join this working here.

 

For men, Lyons advises performing ritual to “heal the wounds patriarchy has created that have harmed the women you know and love.” While some of these wounds are apparent, others have occurred down the ancestral line. She asks men to “heal that same bloodline” to heal the wounds passed down from centuries of patriarchy.

 

Paganism is a modern religion. Historians argue over whether ancient societies were matriarchal, but we do know that modern people have inherited a legacy of sexism and patriarchy that started before Christianity and has been passed down through 2,000 years of domination by a religion that imposes the will of a monotheistic, male god. I often think of modern paganism as the Goddess weaving a new religion to bring balance back to that patriarchal legacy. Yes, we need both a Yin and a Yang, and yes there is more to gender than the binary, but it may be that we need to spend some time empowering the Yin because the Yang has become bloated and tumorous. Only by empowering the marginalized half of humanity can we stop failing at fairness.

1NOTE: Gender exists outside of the male-female binary.  That is a whole other post. 

2NOTE: Comments that deny or justify sexism will be deleted.

 


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Hope from the Indiana backlash

I am dangerously close to thanking Indiana.

Someone had to test the waters. While there are at least 20 states plus the federal government who have passed so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,” Indiana’s was singled out because, as Pagan lawyer and blogger John Halstead explains, it expands the definition of “persons” who can be protected and it allows the use of the law as a defense in civil suits. In other words, it gives people and private business owners with religious objections a potential shield to discriminate against the gay community.

The backlash has been immediate and intense. While Indiana Governor Mike Pence continues to claim that the law is not meant to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, people have taken to social media to show otherwise. The most powerful image is this one:

Then, businesses, including many influential tech companies that attend a major convention in Indianapolis, pulled out of the convention citing a belief in non-discrimination and equality and their reason. The Indy Big Data conference includes both top tech producers and hot up-and-comers who seek to turn Internet information into profit, and by doing so bring a river of cash into Indiana. After the RFRA bill was signed, major tech companies such as Salesforce, EMC, Cloudera, Pivotal, and Platfora pulled out of the conference.

To their credit, Indy Big Data supported the withdrawal of these companies, and they called upon their home state to immediately take notice of the significant economic harm this law was doing to the state within days of the bill’s signing.  GenCon, another convention held in Indianapolis, has come out against the law as well.

To add to that, more immediately recognizable companies have rebelled against the state. Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his disdain, Amazon pulled out if Indy Big Data, and Angie’s List ended their plans to expand in Indiana. Supportive cities started restricting business travel by their employees to the state.

Then there was Memories Pizza. After announcing that they would openly discriminate against the gay community by refusing to cater gay weddings, it got slammed with social media hate from across the Internet, including a slew of nasty Yelp reviews. The company closed very quickly. It started a crowdfunding campaign and did receive over $25,000 in donations within hours (which is really scary), but you can’t run a business very long with a GoFundMe and an axe to grind.

With all of the economic turmoil in his state, Governor Mike Pence called for the state congress to send him a new bill that would clarify that Indiana’s RFRA could not be used to justify discrimination. He signed those changes today. As always, the almighty dollar trumps “sincerely held religious belief.”

But here’s where Indiana becomes so amazing. Arkansas passed a very similar bill earlier this week. Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed it, stating that even his own son signed a petition asking him to reject the law. I, however, have a sneaking suspicion that Wal-Mart’s call for him to veto the bill had a much greater impact. Wal-Mart is based in the state of Arkansas. It’s hard to believe that mere family ties inspired Gov. Hutchinson when the world’s biggest retailer was publicly breathing down his neck. Today Hutchinson did sign an amended version that made the Arkansas similar to the federal bill, which did not bring private businesses into the matter.

The protests have had an effect.

On the religious side, there has been a wonderfully wicked response from the Wiccan Aquarian Tabernacle Church. High Priestess Dusty Dionne has made the news in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by praising Indiana’s bill. She is “happy” that her new religious freedoms allow her to express her own religious beliefs through “plural marriage, drugs, and nudity.” “Love is the law,” says Dionne. “If I want to marry a horse, I can marry a horse.”

Admittedly, Dionne’s enthusiasm is not genuine, but it sticks at the weak point of “religious freedom.” You cannot constitutionally protect only one sincere religious belief. “If they are going to open this can of worms, we are going to stick it right in their face, says Dionne. I’m sure the Temple of Satan is not far behind on this. They always have the perfect response when it comes to religious freedom. I doubt any governor wants to invite whatever they have up their sleeves.

So Indiana has stuck its neck out, and it seems to have been chopped off quite cleanly. The governor has backtracked. After Pence turned tail, every other state considering a similar bill is on warning.  They know exactly what will happen if they attempt to sanction discrimination.  So…thanks Indiana?


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Twelve Healing Stars: The Force and Precision of Aries

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.

Temple Of Witchcraft Aries

TOW Aries Ministry Sigil

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.