Abuse Within Paganism – A Taboo Topic?

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions.

From Emma Kathryn

5be4ba5c8a922da07f3b7d6c

If you are a member of the Pagan community (whatever that means to you – we’ll discuss community later), then you may well remember when a well know witch published a blog post that talked about the abuse she’d suffered from within the Pagan community. The post did cause a little bit of a stir. It made the snippets of the popular Pagan outlets, and aside from a few private blog posts from other Pagans and witches, not much more was said.

That woman was Sarah Anne Lawless, and you can read that particular blog post here.

Sarah’s story kind of touched a cord with me. You see, many years ago, a close family member of mine was herself in an abusive relationship, and I guess I saw a few similarities between Sarah and my family member. Both are strong, fierce women. Fiery and quick to speak their minds. I would hear people question why my family member would stay with the woman beater? She’s a strong woman, why did she put up with it? Why try to hide it? Maybe they like it, you would hear people say, even other women. And so when I saw those same things said or implied about Sarah, it made me realise, though I suppose I already knew it anyway, that this topic is one that spans all divides.

Curious to discover how things had turned out for her, I recently called Sarah, and we had a chat about what’s been done since first airing her experiences.

And the truth is, disappointingly little.

In fact, that wouldn’t be the worst of it. Not only has Sarah been all but shunned by those communities she thought she was a member of but her businesses have been attacked, with anonymous reports to various agencies about the products she makes and sells. The platforms which enable her to sell those items have also received anonymous reports and have even been suspended in some cases.

And all because she dared to highlight her instances of abuse within the Pagan community, by some of those within it.

I asked her what kind of reaction had she gotten from others, generally speaking. She replied:

“It’s been a bit of  a mixed bag. Some have been sympathetic. And from others, mostly men, I’ve either had complete denial or a misunderstanding.”

I also asked if other victims had reached out to her.

“Yeah, many have, sharing their stories with me. Only one other came forward to the police though, but here that’s not enough to carry forward an investigation. But I also get why others didn’t come forward. And who am I or anyone else to try to force these women to do something they don’t want to, especially after the trauma they’ve  already faced. If it helps them, sharing their stories with me, then that’s a good thing.”

And she’s been all but ignored by Pagan media outlets.

”I’ve been in touch with a couple of different places, but after initial contact, I haven’t really heard back from any of them.”

Indeed, here in the UK, it’s not been much of a story. It’s almost like there’s a wall of silence, or perhaps a wall of ignorance around the whole affair, and for me, this must lead us to question why.

IS THERE A PROBLEM? WHAT CAN WE DO?

So is there a problem with Paganism and how we respond to abuse claims? I think there is, and there certainly seems to have been in Sarah’s case.

I find the biggest problem is that Paganism seems to operate in its own atmosphere, away from the general rules we might ordinarily apply in real life. So, in the everyday world, if a woman, or anyone else for that matter, came forward with claims of abuse, those claims would be investigated. We would expect them to be.

I also think the fact that the word ‘community’ doesn’t really cover what it actually means to be a Pagan. The draw for many is the lack of uniformity, the freedom and independence to believe and worship however they see fit.

Take a moment to consider the many differing forms of Paganism, and then all the subsets and categories and regional differences and that’s without considering those who might be solitary or eclectic. When we consider Paganism in this way, it becomes understandable as to why defining a Pagan community becomes difficult. There is no one set of beliefs. There is no right or wrong way to worship.

And so if there is no community, how then can we begin to tackle the issue of abuse? By calling it out, whenever we witness it or are made aware of it. And from that call out, investigations must occur, and then the appropriate action taken. We must not close ranks, afraid that any truth may corrupt our beliefs. Instead we should root it out so it doesn’t corrupt or spoil the hard work and dedication that others have put in. We should expel it like the pestilence it is.

And abuse can be insidious. It can be incorporated into the very foundations of an order or tradition. There’s nothing stopping anyone from setting up any kind of group, and I really do cherish that freedom, but with it comes the responsiblity to call out and report abusers. If an abuser happens to be an elder or someone with a respected position within a tradition, this shouldn’t exclude them from any investigation or punishment if necessary. They should not be allowed to slip off the grid and start up elsewhere.

We should not excuse shitty behaviour because the one being a shit also happens to be some sort of leader, or someone with that kind of power, or has followers who look up to them. If anything, it is imperative that such types are called out and reported. We should call out fakelore where we see it, and let’s be honest, you come across it quite often in the Pagan sphere.

We also need our Pagan writers and journalists to not fear tackling such subjects. Of course there is that line, that is to not portray someone as guilty when they have not been convicted and all of that, but we must also tackle those stories and bring those issues to the fore. We need writers and journalists who are unbiased and tell the truth. We need publications to talk about these claims when they arise, and also about the issues that may arise because of them.

I will take a moment to just say a word or two about those accusations that are false, that are made out of malice and badness, that are untrue and told to inflict damage. As damaging as they may be, those false reports do not detract from the truth of most claims. Those who make those false claims should also be held to account, but then it all comes back to taking the time to investigate thoroughly all abuse claims.

We must make those who think that Paganism tolerates abusive, controlling behaviour aware that they have no place within our traditions. Doing so will only strengthen them. Doing nothing will lead to their fall.

We are witches and occultists and brujas and so much more. We have the power to make our crafts and traditions what we want them to be. Let them be places where abusers find no solace. Let’s do ourselves justice.


Emma Kathryn

epMy name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook.

The Cloud Seeders Part Two

the disappearance of “the hedge of mist, and the magic and enchantment”… symbolises the banishing of the gods of the mist and practitioners of weather magic from Britain’ 

From Lorna Smithers

Glastonbury Tor Calan Mai 2013

This is the second of a three part series exploring the roots of the coercive technology of cloud seeding. The first part can be read HERE.

IV. Banishing the Mists

After the Roman Empire collapsed in 476 the Roman Catholic Church retained its power. Throughout the early Middle Ages Christians worked to bring about the conversion of the Western world. People were converted and pagan shrines and temples reconsecrated in the name of Christian God.

Many stories passed down orally from this period and penned by Christian scribes contain scenes where Christian saints and warriors battled directly against pagan gods and spirits identified with devils and with wizards and witches who served them as prophets and weather workers.

In Adomnan’s The Life of Columba (640), Broichan the wizard threatened to impede Columba’s voyage with his ‘power to produce an adverse wind and to bring down a thick mist’. When Columba and his people headed to Loch Ness it was covered by ‘a great mist’ and ‘a stormy wind was blowing against them’.

The narrator relates this to ‘the art of devils’, ‘legions of evil spirits’ who attacked St Germanus when he was sailing from Gaul to Britain ‘stirring storms and blotting out the daylight sky with a mist of darkness’. This was ended by Germanus’ prayer. Similarly Columba called on Christ, set off directly into the wind at ‘marvellous speed’, turned the wind, and reached his destination.

The ancient British god of death, Gwyn ap Nudd ‘White son of Mist’, is a ruler of Annwn who contains the fury of its ‘devils’. He hunts for souls travelling ar wybir ‘on the clouds’ and wears a cloak of nuden which ‘claws at one’s vitals’. It seems possible he was associated with these dark mists.

In two saints’ lives Gwyn and his ‘devils’ were supposedly banished from their sacred site on Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury derives its name from Ynys Witrin ‘The Glass Isle’ and was also known as Avalon ‘The Island of Apples’. In The Charter of St Patrick (13th century), Patrick discovered an ‘old oratory’ which may have been the remains of a Romano-British temple dedicated to Vindos/Gwyn, and spent three months fasting against and dominating ‘devils and beasts of many forms’. In The Life of St Collen (14th century) Collen threw holy water over Gwyn and his ‘devils’. Their ‘fairest castle’ and sumptuous feast disappeared, leaving nothing but ‘green hillocks’.

Several medieval Welsh stories depict Arthur battling against Gwyn and his family and slaughtering witches. Dafydd ap Gwilym refers to mist as ‘the ointment of the witches of Annwn’. These witches were likely to have been prophets and weather-workers who venerated Gwyn and the spirits of Annwn.

In Culhwch and Olwen (1190) Arthur sided with Gwyn against his rival, Gwythyr, and slaughtered Orddu ‘Very Black’, a witch who lived in a cave in ‘the Valley of Grief’ ‘in the uplands of Hell’, cutting her in twain so she was ‘like two vats’, and bottling her blood. Peredur slew one of the Nine Witches of Caer Loyw with a blow ‘on top of her helmet, so that the helmet and all the armour and the head were split in two’, then Arthur and his warband killed the rest.

A noteworthy exception to these massacres of magical women can be found in a tradition recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Vita Merlini (1150). He speaks of ‘nine sisters’ who ruled the ‘island of apples’ (Avalon). Amongst them was Morgen, a healer who could ‘change her shape’, ‘cleave the air on new wings’ and slip ‘down from the air onto your shores’. After Arthur was wounded at the battle of Camlan he was taken to the island and Morgen offered to restore his health.

Morgen re-appears as Morgan in male guise in Geraint son of Erbin (1250) serving Arthur as a healer. He healed Edern ap Nudd (Gwyn’s brother) after a fatal wound. Geraint ‘struck the knight on the top of his head so that all the armour on his head shatters and all the flesh splits, and the skin, and it pierces the bone and the knight falls on his knees.’ The repeated image of head-splitting may be based in the belief the skull was the seat of the soul, which could live on in the head of a pagan enemy unless it was split.

Morgan’s miraculous healing of Edern may have a basis in a pagan cult wherein nine priestesses resurrected a slaughtered god. It’s my intuition that the story of Arthur being taken to Avalon to be healed by Morgen may have replaced a myth in which she healed Gwyn after his annual battle with Gwythyr.

Geraint won Enid, the daughter of Earl Niwl (niwl means mist) and defeated Owain, who owned a fortress surrounded by a hedge of mist, which contained ‘a great many stakes’ with men’s heads on them. The story ends with the disappearance of ‘the hedge of mist, and the magic and enchantment’. This symbolises the banishing of the gods of the mist and practitioners of weather magic from Britain.

Gwenddolau, the last British pagan warlord, fought his Christian enemies in a battle-fog. He is named as one of ‘Three Bull Protectors of the Island of Britain’. ‘Protector’ is translated from caduc, ‘fog, gloom, darkness, covering, armour’. This suggests he conjured a defensive fog, perhaps with aid from Gwyn, who gathered his soul after his death in the Battle of Arfderydd in 573.

After the rulers of Britain lost their relationship with their deities they were soon defeated by the Anglo-Saxons. The Germanic peoples and then the Norse brought their own gods, including the thunder-god Thunor/Thor who gave his name to several landmarks, but were eventually converted.

V. How They Raise and Stir Up Hailstorms

Once Christianity was firmly established as the dominant religion across Europe attitudes towards magic amongst the ecclesiastical elite became sceptical. The Canon Episcopi, which originated in the 9th century and became the canon law until the 13th century, condemned the very belief in witchcraft.

In ‘Of Hail and Thunder’ (815), Agobard of Lyons wrote of the ‘foolishness’ of beliefs that ‘storm makers’ produced thunder and lightning. He also mocked the idea they were in cahoots with ‘aerial sailors’ from the realm of Magonia who arrived in ships from the clouds to collect the damaged crops.

However, as witchcraft was assimilated with heresy during the Inquisition and demonical aspects came to the forefront there was a turnaround which re-established the reality of maleficent magic. The Papal Bull of 1448 condemned those who have ‘abandoned themselves to devils… slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals.’

Weather magic was notably included amongst the maleficia. In The Malleus Malleficarum (1478), in a chapter called ‘How they Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning to Blast both Men and Beasts’, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger gave the practice a theological basis in collusion with ‘devils’. Devils have ‘their place… in the clouds of the air… and around the fiery sphere’ because they are not allowed to dwell in heaven or on earth. Having ‘power from God’, ‘with God’s permission’, they ‘disturb the air, raise up winds, and make the fire fall from heaven.’

Kramer and Sprenger cited a number of examples. In the Formicarius (1436 – 1438) a man able to ‘easily cause hailstorms’ confessed: ‘first we use certain words in the fields to implore the chief of the devils to send one of his servants to strike the man whom we name. Then, when the devil has come, we sacrifice to him a black cock at two cross-roads, throwing it up into the air; and when the devil has received this, he performs our wish and stirs up the air, but not always in the places which we have named, and, according to the permission of the living God, sends down hailstorms and lightnings.’

dieter-pelz-608936-unsplash-med

Within their experience, in the diocese of Constance, ‘a violent hailstorm destroyed all the fruit, crops and vineyards in a belt one mile wide, so that the vines hardly bore fruit for three years.’ Two women, Agnes, a bath-woman, and Anna von Mindelheim, were examined by the Inquisition. ‘In the torture chamber’ Agnes admitted ‘a familiar came to me and told me to go with a little water to the field… he said that he wanted to make it rain. So I went out at the town gate, and found the devil standing under a tree… The devil told me to dig a hole and pour the water into it… I stirred it with my finger, and called on the name of the devil himself and all the other devils.’ The hailstorm occurred after ‘just sufficient interval of time to allow me to get back to my house.’

In Waldshut, also in Constance, ‘there was a certain witch who was so detested by the townsfolk that she was not invited to the celebration of a wedding… Being indignant because of this, and wishing to be revenged, she summoned a devil and, telling him the cause of her vexation, asked him to raise a hailstorm and drive all the wedding guests from their dancing; and the devil agreed, and raising her up, carried her through the air to a hill near the town, in the sight of some shepherds.’ She afterwards confessed that as ‘she had no water… she made a small trench and filled it with her urine instead… and stirred it with her finger, after their custom, with the devil standing by. Then the devil suddenly raised that liquid up and sent a violent storm of hailstones which fell only on the dancers and townsfolk.’

To what extent these confessions reflect genuine magical practices with a basis in relationships with demonised weather spirits is impossible to ascertain because they were made under torture. It is impossible to know whether the victims confessed full or partial truths or simply repeated what they thought their interrogators would want to hear based upon prevalent superstitions.

In England Henry VIII passed the Witchcraft Act of 1542, making witchcraft punishable by death, and the Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 made both witchcraft and consulting with witches capital offences.

During the 1560s, in Germany, at the beginning of the Little Ice Age, links between witchcraft and bad weather were reiterated. The Witch Trials of Trier, which resulted in the persecution of 368 witches, were connected with crop failures. The letter that initiated the Shongau Inquisition in 1589 reads: ‘inclement weather, showers and hail spoiled these dear people’s fruits of the field… the Almighty has allowed them to be so sorely afflicted by the devil and his damnable agents, and we order that you should secretly pay close attention to evil persons and witches.’

A peasant named Christopher Gostner accused of causing a storm in Tyrol in 1595 claimed ‘he pushed the weather back to the highest mountains, where no cock crows, nether hay is mown, no ox lives and no flower blooms, so it could do no harm, and so the storm became just a weak rain.’ Of course, he was then asked why he didn’t stop a another storm, and resorted to claiming he was too drunk.

In 1589, in North Berwick, in Scotland, between 70 and 200 witches were tried, tortured and executed on suspicion of causing a storm which prevented King James VI of Scotland from collecting his new bride, Anne, from Denmark. Their persecution was based on superstitions about covens meeting and dancing with the devil at St Andrew’s Kirk, which overlooked the seafront, and a rumour about a witch sailing ‘into the Firth of Forth on a sieve to summon the storm’.

Under duress of horrible tortures (implements included the scold’s bridle and a ‘breast ripper’) Agnes Sampson, a midwife, and Gellie Duncan, a healer, confessed to digging corpses from graveyards, dismembering them, tying the limbs to dead cats, and throwing the body parts into the sea to summon a storm to kill King James. In this case it is clear the confessions resulted purely from torture.

In 1597 King James published his Daemonologie, which backed the persecution of witches with Biblical teachings. After his accession to the English throne, he passed the Witchcraft Act of 1604, extending the death penalty to anyone who invoked familiar spirits. This laid the ground for the persecution of hundreds of witches across Britain including the Pendle Witches (1612) and the victims of the East Anglia Witch Hunts (1645-47) led by the Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins.

It has been estimated that around 60,00 witches were killed in Europe during the witch hunts. Scholars such as Wolfgang Behringer and Emily Oster have linked this period with the revival of superstitions about unnatural bad weather during the Little Ice Age. Oster’s graphs demonstrate an overlap between the coldest segments of the Little Ice Age and the heights of persecution.

There is a horrible in the irony in the fact that, deluded by the church, the peoples in places blighted by cold weather and storms turned against the weather-workers who may have been able to help them.

The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason and science, put an end to the irrational thinking that lay behind the witch hunts and to the persecution of witches. The Witchcraft Act of 1735 made witchcraft an impossible crime and punishments were instead issued for the pretence of witchcraft. The cost of the ending of the witch hunts was the end of beliefs in spirits, witchcraft, and weather magic.

*Part three will look at the origins of meterology, how the agency of aerial spirits was replaced after the Renaissance by mechanistic principles, and the development of the technology of cloud seeding.


SOURCES

Adomnan of Iona, Richard Sharpe (transl.), Life of St Columba, (Penguin Classics, 1995)
Agobard of Lyon, W. J. Lewis (transl), ‘Of Hail and Thunder’, Internet Medieval Source Book (Fordham University, 2001)
David Bressen, ‘Medieval Witch Hunts Influenced by Climate Change’, Scientific American, (2014)
Emily Oster, ‘Witchcraft, Weather and Economic Growth in Renaissance Europe’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 18, No. 1, (2004)
Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, Montague Summers (transl.), The Malleus Malleficarum, (Dover Occult, 1971)
J. Gwenogbryn Evans, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Boughton Press, 2008)
King James I, Daemonologie, (Project Gutenburg E-Book, 2008)
Rhiannon Anderson, ‘The Systematic Demonization of Medieval Witchcraft’, Journal of the History Students at San Francisco State University, (2007)
Sioned Davies (transl.), The Mabinogion, (Oxford University Press, 2007)
Terry Stewart, ‘North Berwick Witch Trials, Historic UK
Wolfgang Behringer, ‘Weather, Hunger and Fear: Origins of the European Witch Hunts’, The Witchcraft Reader, (Routledge, 2008)
Yuri Leitch, Gwyn: Ancient God of Glastonbury and key to the Glastonbury Zodiac, (The Temple Publications, 2007)


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Profile July 2018 MediumLorna Smithers is a poet, author, awenydd, and Brythonic polytheist. She is currently exploring how our ancient British myths relate to our environmental and political crises and dreaming new stories. As a devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn, she seeks to reweave the ways between the worlds. She has published three books: Enchanting the Shadowlands, The Broken Cauldron, and Gatherer of Souls and edited A Beautiful Resistance. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist.


Hey! We pay Lorna and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂

Here’s how you can help us do that!

Economic Egregores: How Belief Drives the Power of Money and What We Can Do About It

“[S]ince it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?”

From Sable Aradia

dollar-bills-dawn-hudson
Dollar Bills by Dawn Hudson. Courtesy Publicdomainimages.net.

A thoughtform is a semi-autonomous manifestation created when someone — or several someones — will it, or believe it, into being. As of that point, it is no longer entirely subject to the will of its creator(s), but in essence, acts and reacts in its own way. It has no physical reality as we understand it, but it has a virtual reality; it might as well be real because we engage with it as if it is. Which, in a sense, makes it real.

An egregore is a thoughtform that has been created by a group, and it influences the thoughts and actions of the group that engages with it. But it is also influenced by the thoughts and actions of these same people.

This is not a unique concept to the occult: William Gibson wrote about what he called “semiotic ghosts” in popular culture. To me, it was evident he was talking about egregores. I wrote an article about this recently at Between the Shadows.

The examples of a corporation and a meme are probably excellent ones for a modern reader. A corporation exists independently of its creators. The Board of Directors, the shareholders, and the employees who work for it, can change completely — leave, die, or be replaced — and yet the corporation continues.

In our modern age, money is also an egregore, and this is why it has no physical value (after all, money is no longer backed by a gold standard.) Its perceived value governs its real value on the world market. The two are effectively one and the same.

It’s extremely difficult for one person to significantly alter the nature of an egregore. A person who wants to will such a change would have to convince a majority of the other people who engage with the egregore that its nature has already changed. For example, these major brands either started their lives as Nazi corroborators, or developed significantly as corporations while doing so, but of course we no longer make these associations with them.

There was an excellent object lesson in the transformation of an egregore in the 1990s in Brazil. Plagued by runaway inflation, Brazil embraced a daring plan; they created a new currency to restore people’s faith in money. They called it the Unit of Real Value (Unidade real de valor)(1). And it was entirely fake. No bills or coins were ever printed. It was intended to absorb the effects of hyperinflation and was set at a fixed value of parity to the U.S. dollar.

Instead, people developed more confidence in the URV than in the cruzeiro real, which was the legal-tender Brazilian currency, and it replaced Brazil’s legal currency. Officially it was “extinguished” and replaced with a legal-tender currency called the real on July 1, 1994.

A semi-virtual currency exists in Canada in the form of Canadian Tire money. This is effectively Monopoly money that is given out by Canadian Tire as a reward for shopping at their stores. It’s a fraction of the value of what you bought; a very early loyalty program.

But many places in Canada began accepting Canadian Tire money as well as real money, because why not? Canadian Tire doesn’t really care where it came from, because at one point or another it came from their store, and you can still exchange it there for real goods.

Unfortunately Canadian Tire is now trying to force their clientele to go to a card system instead, citing a risk of criminal enterprises making use of their alternate currency as an excuse. I’m sure that’s a real threat: criminal enterprises profit enormously from the existence of shadow economies that don’t depend upon the whim of the World Bank. But then again, so would we.

One might also consider the bitcoin bubble. Bitcoin is an entirely virtual currency that has a certain perceived value; and it has that value because of that perception.

That’s not a new concept either. Stock values are also entirely influenced by perceived values. One of the flaws in our current economic system that is coming to a point of reckoning is that stock values can plummet, not because a company has lost money, but because it has not gained as much as people thought it would. Twitter and Facebook both recently bore a significant loss of stock value because their growth, falsely projected on false identities and bot accounts which political pressure has forced them to limit, was not as great as those false projections had assumed it would be.

insecurity-dollar-symbol-john-hain
Insecurity Dollar Symbol by John Hain. Courtesy Publicdomainimages.net.

What this tells us is that any free market theory is fatally flawed. It is assumed in the study of free market economics that stock value changes based on information. Traders become aware of trends, new technology, expansions, etc. which will increase the income-making potential of a corporation.

But since it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?

The question then becomes for the magician: how can we best utilize egregores? Can we make significant changes to the harmful effects of existing egregores, such as the value of currency and how it is determined?

Marx said that in order to address income inequality, workers must control the means of production. But he failed to visualize the development of technology and the value of virtual goods. How do you control the means of production when all the production is virtual?

I think the answer is that the common people must direct the egregores instead. Right now, we have been absorbed by the semiotic ghosts of futility, apathy, and the inequalities of capitalism. And Money has become a god in and of itself. To combat this, we must embrace new egregores, and helpful, older egregores, like the Enlightened Rebel and the Will of the People.

To change the perceived value of money, and who has it, we need to re-think what we’re basing that value on. Right now, the world thinks of money in terms of national currencies, so the perceived economic well-being of nations is what drives the world economy. This creates haves and have-nots by nature. It’s dependent on the idea that some nations have more economic value than others.

It’s also, in part, determined by corporations. The more big corporations a country is perceived to have, and the bigger their stock values, the more valuable their currency is perceived to be.

Canadian Tire money erodes that economy just a little bit, because it takes a small fraction of the value of currency out of the hands of governments and stock traders, and puts it into the hands of consumers. Still not great; still capitalism, but a more decentralized capitalism.

Bitcoin is an early attempt to rethink the way we value currency. It has established a currency value on information. Bits of data are what form the essential unit of a bitcoin. But the flaw of this approach is that those who control information can control the value of a bitcoin, which is why it has already achieved a speculation bubble that makes it completely unattainable for regular people.

Perhaps we should come back to Marx. Perhaps we should be basing the value of currency on labour-units. One hour of labour might equal one credit, which could buy one full meal. Think of how wealthy artists would be! Of course I can’t think of a way to track that which wouldn’t risk intense violations of privacy. No change of this nature would be quick or easy, and each would have its own drawbacks and unintended consequences that we would have to consider, and deal with.

The question for us is: what do we consider to be of real value? And what would we like the economy of the future to look like? Which egregores should we give power to?


  1. I think it’s worth noting just how difficult this reference was to find. I remembered hearing something on a YouTube video about this and I went searching for a reference to write this article. I typed “South American country that created an alternate currency” into Google. This yielded an article called “How Fake Money Saved Brazil,” which originally came from the NPR website. It’s referenced by a plethora of other blogs and articles, but you can’t get access to that article anymore; just a couple of forums where people sneer at the idea, despite the fact that it demonstrably worked. I finally found the name of the currency — “Unit of Real Value” — in a snippet from a site that might be an archive of the Wayback Machine from a site called Neatorama.com. I searched this on Google and finally found the Wikipedia entry, listed only under its Portuguese name. Now why was this so hard to find? The most benign answer I can come up with is racism. I suspect it’s a lot more complex.

Sable Aradia

I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I owned a dog, whom I still miss very much, and am still owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.


Hey! We pay Sable and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂

Here’s how you can help us do that!

Equinox Musings – Of Spirit & Land

Don’t you think ghost stories are another herald of the darker months? Not the stories of gore designed to frighten and elicit screams, but stories with more than a hint of truth, the stories of loss and tragedy ….. These are the kind of stories to be told with friends in candle light over a glass of good brandy or rum.

From Emma Kathryn

cobbles-dark-light-69791

The equinox has been and gone. Autumn is here. The darker months have arrived.

The nights are drawing in now, so that when I meet in the woods with my sister (biological & magical) tonight, it’ll already be dark beneath the boughs.

All over the town you can smell the sugar beet factory. It is another herald of the autumn. I love the scent of it, pungent and sweet.

This time of year, as much as I love it, always makes me feel somewhat melancholic. Perhaps it’s my natural state. Not in an overly depressive way, but rather my thoughts turn inwards (as within, so without, and all of that), and I think about the year so far, time passed, and those months still yet to come. It is a time of recollection and introspection. Anyway, I got to thinking about my connection to the land, not only the woods and the fields and the river, but the town itself. The places where I walk day in, day out.

Sometimes, especially when I’m walking through the town centre (it’s real old, many of the buildings and whole parts of the town date back to before the English civil war and in some cases are hardly changed at all), it’s easy to imagine the past seeping into the here and now. There are hidden alleys, quaint buildings with crooked roofs and a cobbled market, complete with red and white striped stalls, and then the church, a huge gothic affair, easily the tallest building in the town, overlooking it all.

Because of its age, because of its history, the town is full of ghost stories.

Don’t you think ghost stories are another herald of the darker months? Not the stories of gore designed to frighten and elicit screams, but  stories with more than a hint of truth, the stories of loss and tragedy.  Like the story of the ghostly friar, murdered in the times of Henry VIII, who now stalks his former home, the Friary, though now that building is separated into private homes, and the grounds are a public park. Or the phantom horsemen who, it is said, can still be heard galloping through the narrow streets . Or the Scotsmen who died whilst digging tunnels beneath the town in the civil war days.

These are the kind of stories to be told with friends in candle light over a glass of good brandy or rum.

But these stories also hint at something else as well. They show us that spirits are everywhere.

Why should the spirits of land, of nature be any different?

Sometimes, or quite often in fact, when I write about connecting to the land I do talk about my woods, or the river. But the spirits of nature are everywhere. If we accept that there are spirits in this world, if we accept the spirits of the dead, in ghost stories and otherwise, then why not the spirits of nature, those felled trees or filled in ponds? Don’t  they remain also? Do they not endure as well?

I believe they do. A few years ago, the local council decided to fell one of the oldest trees in the town. I can’t remember the reason given, only that it really wasn’t much of a reason at all, in my own humble opinion of course, and people were quite offended, at least it seemed so, judging by social media posts. But at least they were bothered in some way, right? On some level at least, they knew it was wrong. Anyway, the point is, what do you think happened to the spirit of that tree? Did it just go? Did it die along with the tree? I think not.

And what of the spirits of those who once walked where we do now? Is connecting with them not a way of connecting with the land too? One of my favourite novelists is Kate Mosse. In many of her stories, often set in the Languedoc,  time is stretched and played with, manipulated, so that you have two stories of two different peoples from different times, but set in the same landscape. There is magic in such stories, and there is a truth in that magic. I can remember the first time of reading her work, and that feeling of recognition, not of any one thing in particular, but more of a feeling, a knowing. Something I couldn’t put my finger on then. But the more I read of her work, the more I realised that it was the land and the connection to it, and the centrality of the land within her works, that was what stirred those feelings inside of me.

In all great stories, even the most fantastic, there must be authenticity. It has to work. You can’t fool the reader, and besides, the reader is there to be swept away. Bad story telling doesn’t do that, and so there must be something real, and the truth of her stories is that the land does connect us to the past, and will connect us to the future too. It is in this way that the spirits of those who came before can be a link to the land. That the land is a connector of people, of beings, and of time.

Those things, people and otherwise, that die, that are buried beneath tons of concrete and steel, they are still there. Their spirits remain.

So when I talk about connecting to the land, and those spirits of the land, of nature, know that they are there, wherever you are in the world. We are not apart from them, even though it may feel like we are at times. You don’t need to go anywhere special or exotic to connect with the spirit of the land.

So as the nights draw in, and as the winters chill breath grows stronger and colder, then light your fire, open the good brandy, and with friends share stories: folklore and ghost stories and old wives tales local to where you live. Find the spirits, forgotten and new, of where you live, and remember it is the land that connects us all.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


Hey! We pay Emma and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂

Here’s how you can help us do that!

 

 

How to Buy a Religion

i-1-sephora-is-selling-witch-starter-kits
Source

What’s wrong with Sephora’s witch kit?

Is it crass to reduce a religious practice to $40 of mass-manufactured perfumes and Tarot cards? Probably, but haven’t Pagans been debating “pay-to-pray” back and forth for years? Sure, an independent Etsy artisan needs to make a living. But doesn’t Sephora also have to tap new markets to survive? The scale’s different, but what about the essence?

Is the mall any worse than the metaphysical shop?


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

Karl Marx

Capitalism alienates.

It takes parts of you and makes commodities out of them. Your time, your physical activity, and your mental energy all get sold on the labor market like Tarot decks and perfume. Your body contains more than itself – it carries your community, the work and care of your loved ones, everything they do to keep you physically and psychologically functional. Without all that, how would you make it out of your door every morning with enough resiliency to work? After all, capital is hungry. A business needs to grow, or else other companies out-compete it in the market and force it into bankruptcy. The ones that can grow, survive. The ones that find more ways and things to eat, grow. They need your ability to work, to produce goods and services they can sell. All of the ingredients that go into your work, they consume.

Capital imposes its needs onto the dispossessed, the ones who don’t own businesses or rental properties and so have nothing to live on but their ability to work. The whole community depends on the money its wage-workers earn, so it has to organize its collective life in whatever way maximizes their employability. Wage-workers are exploited, and they incarnate entire communities of labor, exploited alongside and through them.

Religion is one way the dispossessed survive. Capitalism cuts you off from your basic nature: your capacity to flourish, to form relationships as a free being. It demoralizes in both the current and the older sense: the mindlessness and futility of wage-work, housewifery, and unemployment teach despair and induce depression, but when capital reduces you to an instrument, it de-moralizes you in a larger sense. The more of you that goes to satisfy capital’s hunger, the less of you is left for self-cultivation, creativity, and relationship-building. You are alienated from yourself.


vice-witchcraft
Pop-culture resurgence: Internet tabloid Vice offers dozens of witchcraft-themed articles. Source

Sephora sells to women.

The social base of religion (Pagan and otherwise) is not only the dispossessed in general, but specifically the specially-oppressed along racial, national, and gender lines. Even when the ministers and bishops are men, it’s women who cook meals for sick parishioners, clean up after services, teach Sunday school, and fill most of the pews. Capitalism, by definition, only pays for waged work. But, the health and functionality of wage-workers is costly; it takes a vast expenditure of unpaid work in the home and the community to feed and support wage-workers, take care of their kids and elders, and ease the emotional strain of their alienation. So, there’s a division of labor between paid and unpaid work, and it falls along the lines of gender. Culture, ideology, and discrimination harmonize with the pervasive reality of anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence, forming an elegantly self-reinforcing feedback loop; gender roles both flow from and reinforce the overall social system. Those who don’t fall in line get hurt.

Religion sits at a key point in the cycle. It allows the racially and nationally oppressed to rely on each other for support, fellowship, and existential meaning without their oppressors in the room for a few hours each week (is it a coincidence that in the US, Black people report being “absolutely certain” of God’s existence at a higher rate than self-identified Christians do?). Religion takes the edge off of alienation, offering a relationship with something bigger than you, your job, and your daily life – a bedrock of connections and values deeper and older than capitalism. At the same time, it transmits gender roles and racial social segregation from generation to generation, helps the dispossessed stay psychologically healthy enough to work, and gives bourgeois clergy a medium to preach patience and forbearance towards oppression rather than revolution and collective action. From time to time, though, it takes on an opposite role, providing mass movements with a moral language and the institutional infrastructure they need. Religion is politically contradictory. It keeps the dispossessed in line – except when it’s helping them liberate themselves.

Paganism has an even sharper gender skew than most religions. After all, it actively encourages women to take on sacerdotal and leadership roles (not to mention its historical ties to lesbian feminism and LGBT culture). Sephora sells to women, so selling women’s religion is an intuitive next step, especially given that pop culture is currently more infatuated with witchcraft than it has been since the 90s. When Sephora sells Paganism, it’s offering more than a deck of cards and some quartz.  Sephora is no less responsible for capitalism’s crushing alienation than any other business. It helped create the ailment. Now, it’s promising a $40 cure.


SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503
Metaphysical shopfront. Source

Unlike most religions, modern Paganism’s basic institutional anchor isn’t the congregation. Rather, it’s the metaphysical shop. Jonathan Wooley explains:

The authors, makers and the shops that stock their wares could operate without moots and open rituals; but moots and open rituals – in their current form – could not exist without the “Pagan Business”.

The point here is not that those who make their living through Paganism are being greedy or venial. On the contrary, writing words, speaking spells, crafting holy things, and making ceremonies that heal, enlighten, and empower is important work, and those working in these ways cannot survive on mere air and good wishes. The problem arises from how we are currently supporting the work that they do, and the centrality of this (commercial) arrangement in our community. Before all else, you have to pay. By relying upon the Market to directly transmit our lore, to fund our gatherings, to supply our goods, we become complicit in it. It means the fortunes of our traditions turn not with the wheel of the year, but with the shifting fashions and stock prices of the global publishing and wellness industries. Our community is directed less by the will of the gods, and more by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The heartbeat at the core of our living traditions becomes the ring of a cash register.

This dominance of the logic of the Market within Paganism is not surprising, even if it is disquieting. Paganism is one of the few religions to have arisen within the Modern Age, when Capitalism was in its ascendency. This has very real consequences for us all. Let us not forget the prototypical “gateway experience” for a seeker – traditionally – was buying a book from an occult book shop. The fact that the internet and Amazon have replaced the knowledgeable local bookseller is to be lamented; but it is not so meteoric shift as we might suppose. Whether your spirituality is expressed through buying knowledge from a kooky shop on Glastonbury High Street, or from Amazon, your spirituality is still being expressed through shopping. Equally, this shift demonstrates the extent to which our infrastructure is dependent upon the vagaries of the market to survive: the rise of the internet has caused many Pagan bookshops to close; depriving local communities of an invaluable opportunity to meet, learn, and socialise. Indeed, it is precisely because we have relied on the Market that this transition – from a friendly, in-community, low-profit enterprise, to a distant, global, high profit one – has taken place. The very means by which our lore is spread has been transformed for the worse by the dictat of the Market.

In other words, Sephora and a PantheaCon vendor don’t differ in essence – only in scale.


800px-nitrogen_cycle-svg
The nitrogen cycle. Source

When Paganism is commercial, it’s filling religion’s conservative role, reconciling the dispossessed to their oppression. After all, if shopping is the way out of alienation, then capitalism, if not benevolent, is at least neutral. Collective action isn’t even on the radar.

But that’s not the only Paganism.

We’re all of us embedded in a living relational web – humans, the biosphere, the land and sea and sky, the gods and the dead. The nitrogen cycle and the water cycle have a sacredness. It’s holy when through death, an organism becomes food, transmuting into new life. The Sun is slowly spending itself. It feeds plants and algae with its energy, and that energy sustains the same animals who then nourish plants when they die and decompose. Gods are at once embodied in and emergent from each nexus of the process, standing at the fulcrums where nature moves humans and is itself moved. Paganism is what the mutually-conditioning cycles of ecology and evolution teach you when you pay attention to them, learn their rhythms, find where you are inside them. Prayer, devotion, myth, and ritual all orient you towards that ground of your being and make a sacrament of your participation in it. Reciprocity is cosmic, both an imperative and a fact. Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is at the heart of both polytheist sacrificial theology and the Mystery that governs the process of life.

You were born with a capacity for eudaimonia: balanced, all-sided human flourishing, the Greatest Good of ethics and philosophy. You can develop eudaimonia if you cultivate virtues: self-knowledge, self-control, justice, and right relationship. Capitalism is a social process that alienates you from that capacity, but it doesn’t destroy it. It does, however, determine the form that it needs to take.

Self-development, ritual and political practice, and reverence for the Gods, the dead, and the natural world are the foundation stones of revolutionary virtue. Paganism holds a radical seed: given the reality of capitalism and empire, the communist organizer, the Stoic sage, and the nature-mystic devotionalist must all become the same person. Each component of revolutionary virtue is incomplete by itself. They need each other, just like plants, decomposers, and nitrifying bacteria.

And it’s all unbuyable. The people trying to sell you Paganism are promising to cure your alienation with more alienation, only in disguise. They can sell you a Scott Cunningham book, a handmade pewter pendant, or a $40 “starter” box, but do those contain the Mystery? At best, they’re dispensable props. At worst, they’ll actively mislead you; like any religion, Paganism can teach you to accept your oppression or it can teach you to fight it.

If you really want to buy something, get Marcus Aurelius or an ecology textbook. Read myths. Go out and see how mosses and lichens grow on trees and how trees that die feed mushrooms and bacteria, fertilizing the soil. The relational web spreads out from there. It reaches to the sun, the atmosphere, the microorganisms, and the gods who take their embodiment in that dynamic interplay. Find your nature, your inborn potential for virtue, eudaimonia, and right relationship. You are in the web. Root yourself. Capitalism uproots you and disrupts your nature. It’s throwing the whole world’s processes so off-kilter that if it isn’t stopped, the ecosphere will endure – but it will be so changed that humans won’t be able to live in it.

Paganism lives in that knowledge. It’s a method – you learn the context of human life and you choose to act accordingly. Sephora can’t sell it to you, but neither can the vendors at Pagan Pride.

You can’t simply opt out of the alienation capitalism imposes. But, you can choose what to do about it; you are existentially free. Paganism can be a path to knowledge and revolutionary virtue, or it can be an “opiate of the masses.”

Sephora wants to sell you one of those. But you’re free to choose the other.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


Gods&Radicals would like to know how we’re doing. Mind taking a four-minute survey?

EMPIRES CRUMBLE 4: “The Witch”

Why is being a “witch” suddenly popular? What does the rise of the witch identity mean for actual witches? Why are capitalists trying to sell us stuff? And what are the dangers of this trend?

In Episode 4: The Witch, Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth look at the questions (and try to keep their focus while ravens call, a dog barks, and a door randomly opens while they’re talking about the dead…)

Listen via: (iTunes) (Stitcher) (Soundcloud) or in the embedded player below, or find more episodes here.

You can now support this podcast on PATREON.

Finding The Real

“Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, this is truly the time to get yourselves out of doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.”

From Emma Kathryn

bridge-dawn-environment-288164

‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’

~ Albert Einstein

The the darker months are almost upon us, and as you know, it is my favourite time. Everyone talks about spring and summer being the outdoor months, and as much as I adore the cycles of nature, now is truly the time to get yourselves out-of-doors and immerse yourself in nature. This is the time to learn of nature and all of the hidden delights.

Even for witches, there is always something new to be discovered. Perhaps that is the truest definition of what witchcraft is – uncovering the secrets of nature.

Sunday just past, this witch went walking, looking for those magical plants that can unlock the secrets of soul flight. And though none could be found, there were other hidden delights that set the soul ablaze.

It was my partner’s idea to go out early that morning. He’s an angler, a fisherman, and the river is his stomping ground.

The river is about a ten minute walk from my home. It’s one of those places that is split in two, a liminal space, if you will. If you head towards the retail park and just along the side of it, you can get to the Riverside Walk. It is nice there, if you like your nature a little more tamed, a little more controlled. The tarmacked path cuts through trees and bushes, but then opens on one side to reveal the river. There are benches that overlook the marina, and then you can cross the bridge and head into town towards the castle and the Riverside Park.

But for those of us who prefer the wild, there is a different side to the river.

You used to be able to go under the road bridge and across the train tracks to get to the river, but the gates there are welded shut now – closed for safety reasons we are told, but I’m guessing the real reason is money related. Anyway, you can still get to the wild river, you just have to cross the scrapyard now.

If you head away from the town centre, following the flow of the river, you go under a rail bridge and come to a small stream that joins the river. There’s a bridge across the stream, but nowadays it is blocked off in the middle, for the land on the other side is owned by British Sugar and we are not allowed there.

But for those of us who have grown up here, especially those who grew up on the council estates, the river was our playground as youngsters. We went where we pleased. Some of us still do. Nowadays though, we tell our children to stay away from the river, for I feel there is much lost, from one generation to the next and some of that, heck, most of that is knowledge. That’s progress for you I suppose, but when we were kids, we spent those lazy summer days at the river. The braver ones amongst us, usually the lads, would jump into the cold waters, usually from off one of the bridges, but us others would paddle. Most if not all of our parents were poor, the working kind of poor, and back then it was normal to be left alone or with an older sibling while they went out to work. That’s why we got away with so much more in those days.

However on this day, my partner and I didn’t cross the stream here. He knows another way for he knows this place better than I. So we made our way alongside the stream, pushing through brambles and thistles and nettles, the paths of his youth long overgrown and little used, if at all, now. More than once thorns, wickedly sharp, would scratch me, even through denim, and the nettles were higher than my waist, but still we pushed on.

Everything requires a sacrifice.

Of some sort at least, and in any case, the discomfort was momentary and soon forgotten. There’s a disused bridge, crumbling and overgrown and we crossed the stream this way. It was almost like being in a fairy tale, what with the crumbling brickwork and concrete, bindweed, brambles and hawthorn and the  grey sky above us.

I can’t really describe where we came out. There were enclosed meadows, and smaller areas of thick grass as well as marshy areas. The only way to tell where those boggy patches are is by the grass that grows in such places. Here thick green reeds shoot up, and it would be easy for those not used to such areas to end up muddy and wet.

As we walked, in the distance I spotted the unmistakable lope of a fox. He was some way off, but still, I pointed him out and we watched it for a few seconds before moving on. We walked on for a while until, about fifty metres in front we spotted another. We were down wind of it, and it and so remained undetected.

It was hunting. We watched as it would leap into the air, coming down hard with its front paws. Then it would stand still, it’s big bushy tail, red with a white tip, swaying, almost cat-like as it listened to where it’s prey hid. Then all of a sudden it would leap into the air again. Either it grew bored or its prey had managed to escape because after around five minutes the fox stopped for a scratch and a lie down. When it finally saw us, it turned and disappeared through the trees.

Watching that, the world of the everyday seemed a million miles away. It was a profound, sacred experience. Perhaps this is magic itself, that connection to the land, to nature. To the real. Sometimes in modern Paganism, I find this experience is what is lacking.

‘You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.’

~ Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

In the last couple of weeks, the hot topic in the Pagan and witchcraft sphere has been the Witch Starter Kits, produced by the fragrance brand Primrose, which were going to be sold by Sephora. Well, the Witch community was divided., and after a lot of backlash, the product has been scrapped. Some were appalled that a company were appropriating their religion, their spirituality, whilst others saw the kits as a good thing,  a way to reach those who might have no other option open to them.

I’m not even going to get started on what I think of the situation, though I will say that I think the discussions on both sides misses the point.

Whether or not the makers were appropriating witchcraft is neither here nor there, at least that’s how I see it. After all, that’s what the Capitalist State does. Everything is a commodity, everything is for sale. Nothing is sacred.

Witchcraft is already appropriated and sold. Look at all of the mass-produced tat, probably made somewhere by brown people with little or no worker rights. I went to my local Pagan Pride this year, and whilst I had a great time and bought a print from a local artist, there were so many stalls flogging cheap resin statues made in China, or the obligatory tumbled stone, or cheap and perfumed incense, stuff you could buy at any New Age shop.

The point is, none of that shit is real. Not really. We don’t need it for our witchcraft practise. We only need ourselves and, of course nature. Those experiences out by the river were real. It is difficult to describe, that feeling that you are home, that you could indeed spend hour upon hour out there. Time seems to move differently there. It seeps and pools here and stretches out there, so that you lose all sense of time. You think an hours passed and really, it’s been two or three.

That is real.

And everyday, our access to these areas are restricted. When all the land is lost, how will we connect to what is real? Then, all of the ‘things’ in the world will not help our crafts. When you have found that, what is real, what speaks to our souls, then you will know what it is I speak of here. And if you already have that connection, then you already know.

As the northern hemisphere begins its descent into the darker months, go out and connect with the land where you live. Find the Real where you are, wherever that may be.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


We now have t-shirts! Sales directly support our work. Order by clicking the image below.

Folk Magic and Freedom

“Folk magic belongs to the poor and dispossessed wherever that may be. It doesn’t belong to any one people, isn’t black magic or white magic. It’s magic for the everyday. It’s the magic of the people.”

From Emma Kathryn

bare-clouds-countryside-1103972

Folk magic is as old as time. Sometimes I wonder if magic is the right term, for the practises may not seem magical in themselves alone, and I suppose it depends on your own definition of what magic is. For example, is knowing where to find plants and their practical applications magic? I would say so, but you may not. But whether you believe in magic or not, these practises have their uses in everyday life.

Folk magic was often used by those who could not afford otherwise. When doctors were too expensive or too far away, it was the local wise woman who would be called upon for medicines made from local herbs, treating illness, unwanted pregnancy and what ever ailed the local community. People turned to folk magic when there was no one or nothing else that could help them.

Occultishly speaking, some might say that folk magic is simple, that it is low magic, and perhaps it is, but that does not take away its effectiveness.

Folk magic belongs to the poor and dispossessed wherever that may be. It doesn’t belong to any one people, isn’t black magic or white magic. It’s magic for the everyday. It’s the magic of the people.

I practise witchcraft and my particular flavour, as I’ve no doubt mentioned before, is a mixture of Traditional British witchcraft (non-Wiccan), Obeah and Vodou. A right mixture, I know, but as far apart as they may seem from one another, what makes them so compatible is that many of the practises from each tradition can be described as folk magic.

Each one of those practises, individually makes use of plant knowledge and lore, of connection to the land, of singing and chanting and the power of words, of actions and of nature.

Did you ever read American Gods by Neil Gaiman? Bloody great book, and the series was okay too, but I always thought, and think now, that the message might have been lost (or perhaps I read into it too deeply, or perhaps I just saw the truth in it, because the best stories are true, if only to themselves).

Throughout the book, the protagonist discovers the reality of the old Gods and comes to be involved with their struggle with the new, modern Gods. The one the protagonist doesn’t really get or understand is the buffalo that appears to him. Turns out the buffalo is The Land, or at least a physical representation of the land.

What I took from that novel, the truth I saw within it, is that the land is always there. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in many Gods, one God, none, or maybe you’re unsure, it doesn’t matter because the land is there. It is connection to the land at the very core of folk magic. It is changing with the seasons. It is knowing what plant is used for what. It’s about cooking from scratch with real food. It is about getting back to basics. And it doesn’t matter where in the world you are or where you are from, if the land is where your ancestors hail from or not, wherever you are, you can connect to the land beneath your feet.

I believe that we can incorporate and use folk magic practises in our everyday lives, and in doing so loosen the grip Capitalism has on us. Don’t think this is an outright attack, a fight to the end. Instead see it as becoming less reliant on the State. Think of it as chipping away. If it were a fight, then folk magic would be the equivalent of footwork and body movement rather than the knock out blow, but the footwork and the body movement put the fighter in the right place at the right moment to land that power punch.

Also, it’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean you must refrain from all aspects of modern life, but in learning these things, and learning them in a way that is relevant for today, it gives us those tools, the knowledge and skill set if you should ever need it in the future.

And maybe you might just find that you actually enjoy doing it.

So what is folk magic? What I’m going to share from here on out are all things that I myself do. Everything is from my own experiences and I offer them here to you, fellow seekers.

I love nothing more than to be out in nature and foraging is an excellent way to do just that. Working with plants is probably the core of my folk practise, and that’s solely because plants can be used for so many things.

But before working with plants, you need to be able to identify them properly. A good identification guide is a must, one that shows detailed pictures of the whole flower, the petal and the leaf. And then you’ll need to get out and about where you live. Look at what grows there. Identify it. Research its uses. Harvest it. Dry it. It is quite easy and extremely enjoyable when you get going, but you do have to make an effort to get out.

A couple of words on foraging responsibly: Firstly, never decimate an area, after all, it will be in your interest to make sure there will be a plentiful supply next year; also remember we don’t inhabit the land alone, so leave more than enough for the creatures that rely on it for food and shelter.

I’ve already hinted that plants can be used for medicine. Whenever I write about this, sometimes people think I’m saying very ill people should stop taking their medication – I’m not. But that said, for many common illnesses there are natural remedies. When you take cough medicine, or cold medicine, or headache tablets, these types of medication don’t actually make you better, but rather soothe the symptoms of whatever ails you. Big pharma is big business, and you can save your hard-earned cash by not buying these kinds of product, or relying on them less often.

The first thing is to learn of the medical applications of the trees and plants where you live, for example white willow is the precursor to aspirin and grows along rivers.

When it comes to a lot of plants, they are both medicine and food. Teas are a good way to hydrate and will have different properties depending on the plant used. Use dry or fresh flower heads or leaves and steep for a few minutes in hot water before straining and drinking.

Then there’s decoctions, which are made by adding plant matter to water, then boiling until only half of the liquid remains. Tinctures are made by steeping plant matter in alcohol such as vodka, rum, or my own particular favourite, brandy. Some of the plant oils are not water-soluble, however alcohol extracts them and so the plant’s goodness is drawn into the alcohol. Both tinctures and decoctions can be taken as medicines to ease symptoms including sore throats, coughs and colds. They can also be taken , a spoonful a day, as a health tonic.

Poultices can be used for a variety of minor ailments, including spots, aches and pains, eczema and so on. A poultice can contain so many things depending on what is needed, can be warm or cold, and are typical held against the skin , bandaged in placed and changed regularly.

Witchcraft and Paganism continue to become ever more commercialised, and in the process, causes harm to people, animals and the environment, like commercialisation of anything generally does.

Returning to folk magic means that we can resist, if only in some small part, that which goes against what we believe.

Right now where I live, so many of the plants I use in my own practise are ready to pick. Mugwort and wormwood are just beginning to bloom, and the Datura is flowering. I love datura. It is a night-blooming plant, and has large creamy trumpet-shaped flowers that smell better than roses. When the flowers die back, large spikey seed pods grow big and round, finally rupturing and spilling their seeds onto the ground below.

I make ointments with all of those plants and use them in meditation, to induce lucid dreaming and other such practises. But, used carefully and always with respect, these ointments can be used to ease muscular pain as well as arthritis and other conditions. When using such plants, you must always take into account your own health and any medical conditions you may have.

And it’s not just those exotic, almost stereotypical witches plants that can be used either. Flowers including honeysuckle, roses, marigolds, lavender, and so many other common plants can be used in many witchcraft and / or folk practices. Think about making your own incense blends instead of buying. Leave offerings of flowers and seeds instead of tying ribbons to trees or leaving resin statues and the like.

But folk magic is more than medicine and food, though these issues are very important. Folk magic is about connecting to and working with the land and the spirits that abide there. I am an animist and I see everything in the natural world as having a soul, a spirit. Connecting with that spirit is an important part of my practise, and all of the things described above, going out foraging and working with plants, adds to and builds upon that connection.

Folk magic is also about taking our cues from nature. Today we are so disconnected from the natural cycles and rhythms. We go to work all year round in climate controlled shops, offices and factories. We can eat whatever we like, no matter the season. We’ve lost touch with nature and folk magic is about getting that back.

So go out and connect with where you live. Whether you practise magic or not, whether you believe or not is irrelevant, for the benefits getting back to the land offer will be for all who make the effort. Rediscovering folk magic will give you another tool in your arsenal to use in your fight against the Capitalist State.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.

Support our work here.

New Course: Circling The Star with Anthony Rella

(go directly to the enrollment link here)
Circling the Star: Esoteric Psychology and the Iron Pentacle

What is the relationship between cosmology and psychology? What is a Pagan approach to the tensions and conflicts of the Self? What arises when we embrace our “base” instincts and make them the material of our “divine” work?

Designed and instructed by Anthony Rella, participants of Circling the Star will learn through videos, texts, and online conversations:

  • How braiding Sex, Spirit, and Love brings dignity and depth to our relationships.
  • The relationship between stories about ourselves and the creative Self that is beyond language.
  • Practical methods for bringing more joy, depth, and passion into your life and work.
  • How our experiences of conflict, longing, desire, and disappointment may become keys to our divine work.

This course is designed to be accessible to those with minimal exposure to the Iron and Pearl Pentacles or any tradition that comes out of the work of Victor and Cora Anderson. Nevertheless, those with deep experience in these subjects are welcome to participate.

General Information

Instructor: Anthony Rella

Course Length and Schedule: The course will last for six weeks, from 2 September, 2018 until 13 October, 2018

Time Commitment: Participants will be expected to devote a minimum of four hours each week (24 hours total) to the course. This expectation includes time devoted to reading course texts, viewing video lectures, and engaging in conversation with other participants.

Cost: $60 US per person (with provided digital text). $70 US for participants who would like a print copy of the course text (Circling The Star, by Anthony Rella). NOTE: Print option must be ordered by 15 August to ensure delivery.

Subsidies are available for low-income participants.

Maximum participants: 35

Course Requirements: Physical requirements include internet access, a computer or smartphone capable of accessing course materials and viewing videos, and each participant will need to create a login (free of cost) for Discord.

Course Materials: Each participant will be provided a digital copy of Circling the Star, by Anthony Rella. Participants who prefer a print edition of Circling The Star in addition to the provided digital option have the option of purchasing a copy at a greatly reduced price. In addition, participants will be given access to six video lectures grafted by Anthony Rella specifically for this course.

Venue: Weekly course conversations will occur on a dedicated Discord server, where participants will engage in discussion with each other and the instructor, as well as be able to communicate directly with the instructor.

Cancellation/Refund policy: Full refunds of payment are possible up until the end of the first day of the course. After that, the course is 50% refundable until 8 September. No refunds can be given after this date.

Other policies: In the very unlikely event that a participant creates a hostile environment for other participants or the instructor, and if attempts to address the behavior do not correct the problem, the instructor reserves the right to end a participant’s participation. The above cancellation/refund policy will apply in such cases.

Enrollment process: To enroll, remit payment by purchasing the course access at this link by 30 August, 2018 (15 August for if the print text is selected).

By 1 September, 2018 you will receive links to course material and the private Discord server. Links to video lectures will be provided weekly during the course.

Subsidized enrollment: If you would like to request one of the 6 reserved slots for subsidized enrollment, please send us an email at Distro@ABeautifulResistance.com. You do not need to explain your income situation to us, only let us know how much you will be able to pay instead. (Please note: these slots are on a first-come, first-served basis).

About Académie Hérétique

Académie Hérétique (Heretic Academy) is a series of online course offerings from Gods&Radicals Press. Académie Hérétique‘s focus is on political theory, philosophy, esoteric and occult studies, history, and tactical skills for people with little to no academic background or previous knowledge of the subjects taught. Instructors are committed to accommodating varied learning backgrounds, styles, and abilities as much as possible.

Académie Hérétique courses are priced at the lowest rate possible that still enables us to fairly compensate our instructors for their labor, and subsidies are available for those who cannot afford them.

To stay updated on upcoming course options, please subscribe to the Gods&Radicals Press mailing list.