I Put a Spell on You…and Myself

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A witch casting spells over a steaming cauldron by H.S. Thomassin

Let’s talk about magic.

I’m currently working on developing a binding spell for Trump’s presidency to limit the damage he can do. I realize that it may not work, but it feels better than doing nothing.

Depending on where you look in the world of magic, you can get very different messages about binding spells, some warning that you should never ever do them and others suggesting that sometimes it’s appropriate but you’d better have a good reason.

In both instances, the fear is that a spell designed to interfere with the free will of another has the possibility of creating some…karmic payback.

Wiccans in particular cite the “Rule of Three”—the idea that what you put out into the world will return to you threefold.

I don’t personally believe in the rule of three in a literal sense, nor do I ascribe to a spirituality that is all positive rainbows and sunshine. Darkness, destruction, and shadow emotions have their place. I also don’t expect myself not to have emotions such as anger because binding spells are usually my response to boundary violations that have gotten out of hand. Anger is entirely appropriate.

But I never let myself cast the spell when I am actively feeling vindictive. I think it’s valuable to consider how I would feel about being the recipient of my own spell because it makes me consider my intentions. For me, a binding spell is about setting a boundary not about “getting even.”

I write them in a way that if I were to be on the receiving end, I could live with what I was doing. Thinking about myself being the recipient helps me keep the best interest of the person in mind. It reminds me that I don’t want to prevent them from being happy. I don’t want to prevent them from accomplishing good.

I do want to limit their capacity to harm others (including me)…and I am totally okay with that coming back to me threefold or twentyfold because I also want to limit my capacity to cause harm to others.

Generally, I don’t even write the spell to force their choices or actions to change. I write the spell to interfere with how effective they can be if they make those choices.

In other words, I don’t try to mess with their free will. I just try to stimulate failure for any action that might be abusive or harmful.

So far, I have done three binding spells—all of them scarily effective considering that those people pretty quickly chose to exit my life afterwards.

Trump is definitely different because I don’t know him personally so I don’t know what his good intentions or positive qualities might be. It’s a little more tempting to wish him ill.

I also realize that it’s not enough to just cast the spell and rest comfortably in the hope that he won’t harm me personally. I have to also keep a watch on how he is affecting others and stay involved to the extent that I am willing to stand up to injustice, even if it’s not knocking on my door specifically.

However, I recognize that wishing him general failure means wishing the nation failure as well because, like it or not, he will be leading us come January. I have to work even harder to ensure that my motivations are pure, fueled by righteous anger but not coming from a place of malice because I don’t doubt that malicious intent towards someone so influential will have ripple effects on the rest of us.

In this instance, I specifically want to bind him from causing or inciting violence. I want to open his ears to hear the people who are vulnerable right now. I want to tie his success to justice, and call up failure on anything he attempts to do that would violate the rights of others.

And as with the other spells, I design my spell with every intention of having to live under it myself. I am committing myself to the same values with which I want him to lead. More than that, I am binding myself to staying active in the cause.

If you are a spell-worker, will you commit your energy to the same?

 

 

 

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I Choose Hope

This week feels much more like we have reached the other side of a national disaster or suffered a collective death than like we have elected a new President. The atmosphere around me has been one of quiet fear, confusion, anger, and sadness. I have had my fair share of those emotions since waking up on Wednesday.

I don’t want to diminish the weight of what people are feeling. The fear is legitimate for many.

I have heard of misogynistic and racial attacks on individuals already, and Trump hasn’t even ascended to the Oval Office yet.

And in addition to the terror of what might happen to minorities through policy or mob, I have the very unique terror of realizing that we have just handed the most powerful position in the United States over to a man who meets all the qualifications of a cult leader, from the charisma to the totalism to the manipulation of the masses.

There is a part of me that just wants to curl up into a ball and scream…because once I got out of the IFB, I thought I would never have to face this again…because ever since I got out, I have lived in abject terror that it could happen again.

But currently, I am consciously choosing hope.

Hope is a funny emotion. It’s positive, but not the way that joy or happiness is. Hope is not necessary when things are going well. Hope is not a certainty that things will turn out the way we want them to.

Rather, hope is that strange emotion that shows up when things are going badly. It’s a bright emotion to dark and ambiguous circumstances.

In Tarot, hope is represented by The Star card. It tends to signify that things aren’t necessarily great right now. The night isn’t anywhere close to being through, and the darkness is thick. But the stars promise that there is still light somewhere. And even the little twinkling that comes from so far away can help lift the darkness that surrounds in the moment, if only just a little.

I have no doubt that we are guaranteed to have at least four difficult years. It’s hard to say exactly how difficult it will be because there are many aspects of this election that are unprecedented and unpredictable.

So today, I don’t want to pontificate about how dire things are or what the risks are. So many of us are already aware of all that.

Today, I want to talk about what is giving me hope.

  • I have hope that, in this moment, we still have choices and power within ourselves to affect the future. Our civil rights movements have shown what can be accomplished when people work together for equality. We had enough people who were able to vote Trump into power, but we have still more that I hope will stand up to abuse where they see it.
  • I have hope that this election will be a wake-up call for people to begin listening to each other, to fight the urge to lock oneself in an echo chamber. This election, more than anything, has shown me that isolationism doesn’t help us grow. Coercion doesn’t eradicate bigotry. It’s time to engage in the tough conversations. We have seen an uptick in homophobic, misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic speech, and the sad part is that liberals have participated just as horribly. But I refuse to accept that it has to be this way. We can put down our word-weapons, lean into the discomfort of trying to have reasoned discourse, and collectively learn together.
  • I have hope that people can change, even the ones that I might have labeled “beyond hope.” Not everyone does, and this is not a hope that is based in naivety. I will not overlook abusive behavior in the “hope” that it will stop. However, it is a reality that people can and do change. I have. Some friends have. Recently, I’ve come to think that perhaps others like Glenn Beck have. Perhaps we won’t agree on everything, but when people make a genuine effort to challenge themselves and listen, there is hope in that space.
  • I have hope that we can overcome adversity. And I have history to validate that hope. For every national tragedy, there are glowing bright spots of love, of people coming together to help one another, of courage, and of strength. We are a resilient people; many of us have already survived much. It’s not fair that we might need to again, especially for those of us who have experienced oppression and/or abuse already within our lifetime, but I have every confidence that we can survive more.
  • I have hope we have the ability to influence each other in positive ways when we reach out in vulnerability and love, that conversation is the most powerful form of activism, that respect is possible, and that the majority of people want good things for themselves and others. We might not all have stellar ways of pursuing those desires. Communication, above all, is a skill and an art that needs to be honed and practiced. But there is opportunity if we can tap into the universal truth that none of us want to suffer and all of us want to be happy.
  • I have hope that some of those who voted for Trump will stand against abuses of power, fight for the rights and dignity of others, and hold him accountable. I have even more hope that the 49% of voters who didn’t vote in this election will fight against apathy and will choose to engage in meaningful discourse and action on the side of freedom and equality.
  • I have hope that I can make a difference in the world by making a difference in the personal lives of those I know. These last few days have been difficult to sit with people in their pain and fear while I myself am in so much pain and fear, but there is magic in connection. I am appreciative of the special role I get to play in helping people become their best self. That feels more important right now than ever.
  • I have hope that we can learn from our mistakes. When we get to the end of this term, may we realize the shit-storm we created and take definitive action to make positive changes to our political system. May we realize the importance of checks and balances on power. As nice as it might be to think that a “good” President can put a “bad” guy in jail without due process…perhaps now our nation will see that stripping people of their rights in the name of good intentions only creates the possibility of having that used against us later.

Hope is not a promise.

There is much work that needs to be done in order for my hopes to bring me through the night and into the morning, but with hope, I can dedicate myself to that work and invite others to join me. It fuels my motivation to be actively involved and helps me see enough through the darkness to take up the power and choice that I have and use them to advocate for my and others rights.

 

 

 

Adventures in Proselityzing: It’s Not a Religion. It’s a Relationship…With Someone Who Tears Me Down

It’s been a really long time since I’ve found myself cornered by an Evangelical Christian hell-bent on telling me all the ways that they aren’t “religious” but “in a relationship with Jesus” who, of course, is the best friend, counselor, teacher, etc. that I could have if I would only convert.

This week brought that streak to a sudden halt.

It came out of nowhere…it had to in order to catch me off-guard and prevent my escaping before it happened.

I was surprised by what it brought up for me. Or rather, what it didn’t bring up.

Generally when I have previously been witnessed to, I’ve been able to hold my ground, but inside I’m trembling, triggered, angry, and secretly terrified that the spiritual onslaught will never end. I’ve never been the type to lash out at those who try to slip their proselytizing into a “casual” conversation, but I’ve never felt particularly strong or compassionate either.

Usually it mirrors the way that I feel about getting harassed by a stranger at a bar. I might smile and decline politely, but it’s coming from a place of fear that suspects that things will only be worse for me if I express outrage. It’s a placating kindness.

However, when I suddenly realized I was in a room with someone who was going to “witness” as if my life depended on it (which to her it probably did), I was shocked to realize that it didn’t feel threatening.

I still didn’t want to listen. I’ve heard it all before. Hell, I’ve said it all before!

But the dominant emotion wasn’t fear or rage. It was somewhere on the spectrum of pity and amusement.

Amusement because despite her attempts to sound genuine as hell and to convince me she wasn’t talking about a religion, it was as canned a response as if she had broken out into a Hail Mary. They were memorized phrases that she had been instructed in how to use in her witnessing to convince others that her religious expression was more genuine than any other type of Christian’s.

The pity came in at the way that she couldn’t help but devalue herself in the process. In order to talk about how wonderful Jesus was to her, she had to talk about how unworthy she was of God’s love and how imperfect and depraved a person she was because, for her, the wonder of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice was in that it wasn’t “deserved” but given in spite of it all.

She couldn’t build up the object she wanted to share with me without creating a foundation that tore herself down.

I realized at one point that we actually shared something in common. As a Pagan, I also don’t believe I am particularly perfect. I have a shadow side. I have less than admirable motivations and compulsions to work through. I make mistakes.

However, the difference is that I don’t see myself as needing to be “saved.” I don’t see my flaws and imperfections as indications of how worthless I am. I especially don’t think that the answer is to eradicate myself and replace myself with an inner Jesus.

Within her framework, there is no room for anything but shame towards the self.

In contrast, my spiritual inclinations help me celebrate that I am not perfect. Perfection would be boring. Or just nauseating. It’s in the imperfections that growth happens…and growth is part of life.

I have no desire to destroy those parts of myself that are flawed. Rather, I want to engage with them, learn from them, integrate with them, and transform them.

Having come from the same shame that I saw her expressing, I can remember how devastatingly awful it was. Brene Brown says, “Shame drives disconnection.” That is true especially with the existential shame that certain sects of Christianity try to foist on members. This kind of shame drives a repulsion of the self, which in turn drives shallow interactions with others built on judgment and fusion.

I could recognize this time around that this woman posed no threat to me. She wasn’t even fully present in the interaction as she spouted off her memorized phrases. She was speaking from a fragmented and alienated self, and I felt sad that she was caught up in that and desperately thankful that I had escaped.