Monday, November 3, 2014

When is Diversity too Diverse?

Just had another inquiry from a young lady looking for a coven to join. Since moving back to Minnesota, I've been a solitary practitioner. I briefly tried looking to start a Circle last fall but the only queries were from two mentally ill women. Witchcraft draws out the crazies...its true. This recent querent seemed "normal" enough upon her first message but after a few back and forths on Facebook, it came out that she doesn't have a driver's license, would have to get her mom to drive her to her interview, and that she is suffering from sort of anxiety and depression. This was after I had mentioned the gals I interviewed last year were turned down due to mental health issues.  I told this woman I myself have anxiety and I understand mental health issues very well. She then opens up and tells me she actually has some sort "psychosis-I'm not sure what it is". Uh,okay....I had to chuckle. This is exactly why I bring up very early on in these conversations the issue of mental health. Obviously, I told her that her state of mind must be stable and confident before starting any sort of magickal practice and that when she feels she has it under control and has a driver's license (how on earth was she planning on attending Circles? just that simple fact she didn't consider is evidence enough of an unorganized mind) she should get back to me. In the meantime, she can be Facebook friends with me and I will be happy to answer any questions she has. That makes 3 for 3 for mentally ill women contacting me and wanting to join a coven.
I feel disheartened and a little sad.
Witchcraft is my spiritual practice. I hold it Sacred and dear. I am saddened that it draws out so many "crazies"- mentally unstable people seeking empowerment. Please don't go off with the politically incorrect stuff. I have spent years devoting my life to the service of the mentally ill, its my bread and butter money. I have sympathy and empathy for those who feel lost, dis-enchanted.  When we think of the word "witchcraft" most people think POWER. The ability to work spells and change their circumstances. Its what drew me as a teenager to it. Though most won't admit it, its why most people come to it in the beginning. Its one thing to be a teenager searching for their way in the world, or someone who needs a map to feel a spiritual connection and forge a better life. Its another to be a soul  lost in a tangled spiderweb brain believing in hocus pocus, a sprinkle of faery dust to gain a movie star lover. Those truly suffering psychosis are walking between worlds, walking on tightropes without nets. They need medication, therapy and spiritual support, all three together. If one is not stable mentally, one cannot feel the deity connection or understand the elements of magick. It would be easy to become even more trapped in a dark and scary place. There is no shame in mental illness. But there is a responsibility to seek treatment or for those in contact with the person, to help them find resources for treatment.
When I go to Paganicon (a midwest Pagan festival) or see witches/pagans portrayed in the media, its always striking how many are seemingly "weird".  A preponderance of those with green streaks dyed in their hair, faces full of piercings, theatrical personalities. The gay and lesbian people always seem so strikingly obvious. I know there are gay and lesbian Lutherans, why aren't they so obvious in church? Am I doing something wrong in my own witchcraft/paganism? Do I have to color my hair magenta? Carry a staff? Wear a crescent shaped tiara? Part of me longs to go to a public Pagan gathering/festival/demonstration and just wear an old flannel shirt and bring a casserole. I am sad I feel out of place by just being me. I have no desire to call attention to my private spiritual practice. I am not ashamed, just uninterested in having anyone know by my dress what religion I am. Where are the vanilla people? Just plain ol' "normal" witches and pagans? I don't always want to know immediately upon seeing you for the first time that you are a witch, that you are lesbian. Why do we always need to make statements? Or am I just feeling sorry for myself because I have no statement to make? I don't know. With age comes wisdom? 25 years ago maybe I would be one of those people with a pentagram Tshirt in glowing fuchsia. Now I almost feel ostracized because I don't have one.
Its understandable that those without power, feeling the need to be different, to be NOTICED flock to witchcraft. But can we ever be accepted by the rest of society if we always present, as a whole, in a semi bizarre manner? Or do we even need to be accepted?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anatomy of a Curse

Curse, hex.... The words themselves conjure up dark images of crones and cauldrons, dark and rain, ravens and snakes...Modern witches may not even know the meanings of the words. To today's pagans, cursing is a lost art. Something awful, relegated to the dusty cobwebs in the corner, the book at the bottom of the pile. "Black magick".

Today's witch does not curse. It’s simply not politically correct. After all, isn't there the 'law of threefold', wherein any energy sent out into the Universe is returned back to the sender, three times magnified? And let’s not forget the Wiccan Rede that states we may do as we please, as long it harms none.

But who exactly made these rules and regulations? Those celebrating the new "Wicca" religion perhaps sixty years ago? Someone, still looking nervously over their shoulder lest one of those pesky, righteous Christians be standing too close?

Surely it wasn't the wise woman in the glade from centuries past...stirring her carefully gathered herbs into a dusky brew. A brew that could either kill or cure. I'm doubtful whether it was the woman at her side, crying brokenheartedly for her murdered child, long before the advent of the magic box and "America's Most Wanted".

It’s also hard to imagine it was the woman banished from her village as an adulteress, carrying the child of a rapist. What recourse did women have back in the olden times? There were no police departments, as we know them now. Women were chattel, possessions worth as little as dogs. When wronged, where was their justice? Not all women were willing to turn the other cheek.

Thus was born the curse.

If we were to find the earliest examples of curses, we would have to go back to the beginning of Time itself. Ancient peoples could only bemoan the scarcity of game in the winter, the broken bones from a fall, when the fire went out...nothing they had consciously brought upon themselves, acts of nature. Nature and the Goddess. Surely the Mother was angry when these things happened. Surely they had somehow courted Her wrath.

They'd been cursed.

Ah, you say. All that is centuries we have scientific knowledge, police, court systems, justice, even the Moral Majority. There's no need for such vicious thought casting anymore. Or is there?

What sort of situations would merit a curse? Surely not something as petty as the neighbor's cat snatching a cardinal from our birdfeeder. We can forgive the errant teenager down the block who snuck our case of Mountain Dew off the back porch. It’s pretty easy to overlook the crotchety guy at the gas station who routinely overcharges us on the candy bars, too. Hmm, it would have to be something of real consequence. Such as a broken heart.

And therein, is the anatomy of a curse.

Get yourself a cup of tea, or better yet, a steaming hot latte. Settle yourself in the rocker and hear my story on what lead a reasonable and compassionate woman to curse.

Being still under ten years young in the Craft, I, too, used to have the rigid boundaries I'd learned about right and wrong, starting with my Midwestern Lutheran upbringing to always take the high road and 'turn the other cheek'. In my early Wiccan days, I faithfully followed the Wiccan Rede and Law of Threefold. Wasn't it what every good, modern Wiccan did? I never even questioned it.

It was if I were a new cook. The recipe said to use whipping cream, not milk and that’s how it is. It is 'common knowledge' and one does not question it or vary from the recipe. A poor analogy perhaps but the best I can do while trying to impress upon you how we are all spoon-fed our beliefs, at least to some degree, as we shall see.

I'm no spring chicken. I am approaching cronehood (although I much prefer Lunaea Weatherstone's 'Queen' term) . I've been around the block, several times. I work in a helping profession and have been a soft touch for everyone and everything from orphaned kittens to psychotic schizophrenics. But nothing could have prepared me for The Dark One. That’s as fitting a name as I can conjure up for my lover. It fit him emotionally and physically. He had Greek god dark good looks including a mane of brunette rock star curls and chiseled muscles. Emotionally, he was deep and tender, and deep and dark. Never had I encountered such raw animal magnetism.

His soul and mine met head on, entwined like cobras on a hot August night before tumbling head first into Hades.

Early on, I knew he had a powerful addiction problem. What flavor his particular addiction was doesn't matter. It was soul shattering and with my support, he entered treatment. At first all seemed well. His recovery, though tenuous and new, brought out a strength and solidarity in him that had been hidden before.

Our love grew and prospered. I was heady as a maiden drunk on mead. No one on this earth felt as much like 'home' as he did to me. But then things went bad...The addiction returned. My lover's demons returned. In desperation I fought for his life and his soul. There was nothing I wouldn't do to save him from himself. If they gave awards for being a co-dependent martyr, I would have solid gold trophies on my mantel place. To make a pathetic, harrowing story short, I poured my life's blood into this man. In return, he lied to me. Used me for my hard earned money. Accepted my tender trust and unconditional love and twisted it into something ugly and broken.

And then he threw me away.

It culminated on a cold January night when he told me he had moved a new lover into his home. Into his bed. A woman he'd met earlier in the week. A scant three days before. Three days after we'd made love. Three days after he held me in his arms and whispered "I love you".

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

At first I hated myself. I could see my co-dependency in stark detail. My friends had warned. My family had shaken their heads. I hadn't listened. Love is not only blind, but also deaf and dumb. Almost two years of my precious life, wasted, gone...all for nothing. I no longer had good memories. He wasn't a changed and better man. Just a bored one, who'd used me up and tossed me aside like a Kleenex.

Now, a good witch would have me do a self-esteem spell, visit a psychologist and move on with life. All of which I did with good result. Eventually. But at the time, not only did I get mad, but also I got even.

By the time I started researching curses, I wasn't concerned about what would come back to me, threefold. Nor did I spend even two minutes pondering how it would interfere with his free will and harm him. Simply put, at that time, my own emotional needs were paramount.

My own personal Goddess has always been Hecate, the Witches' Goddess, protector of women and children, meter out of Justice. How terribly convenient. I had learned in my studies of Hecate, that when one invokes Her and asks assistance, you'd best have your own ducks in a row, first.

Hecate will grant her Justice but with absolute fairness. Everyone involved deserving of punishment will receive it. Not necessarily just the intended, if you follow my drift.

On the night of the dark moon, at the appointed hour, I cast my circle, lit the black candles and implored the Dark Goddess for her divine intervention. It isn't pertinent the exact dimensions of the spell. It will suffice to say there was a nauseating wormwood incense (please don't forget to open the windows when using!) , a photograph of him and some nails. Lets not forget a whole heckuva lot of angst, tears and anger. All in all, my carefully crafted curse took about ten minutes.

Did it work?

Within a couple weeks of casting the spell, the man and his new woman broke up, most unpleasantly, I might add. Then I'd heard his ailing mother had died. Shortly on the heels of her death, he lost his job. His addiction was back in full swing. Last I heard, he'd gone on a date with a new gal and broke his leg in a horseback riding incident. To be honest, I don't know where he is today. Possibly in jail, or prison. I no longer care.

Did my curse work? It could be argued that with his addiction, the events, excepting the death of his mother, could have been predicted. Maybe; maybe not. In my eyes, as the spellcaster, it was a rousing success.

Before I feel the arrows in my back, I hasten to add I liked his mother and in no way would have ever wished her death. I think her passing was incidental, but hearing of it added to my projections whenever my mind revisited the cursing. The purpose of my curse was to regain some of the personal power I had squandered on this man. That included forcibly attempting to bring about his karma, now, by asking Hecate to speed it up.

Was it all worth it to me? Do I feel better now?


Would I recommend cursing to someone who's feeling wronged?

I don't know, possibly.

To my own thought system, it all depends on badly one feels wronged. Its one thing for someone to maliciously throw a brick through your window, its another to maliciously and with intent, break your heart.

With the warnings about how Hecate hands out justice, did I get evil returned to me threefold? Nope. Quite the contrary. I am now in the healthiest, happiest relationship of my life.

I hate to let down all the alarmists, but I feel none the worse for the wear. I found the curse to be very healing for myself, enabling me to let go of the situation and move forward. I could even argue that being as I've had nothing bad happen to me, my curse was justified.

I know this hexing business is highly provocative and controversial and many reading of it will be both shocked and offended. To them I apologize.

And to you others, hmm, its just food for thought.