Solstice Musings

As I write this, the solstice is almost upon us. I always think that this time of year takes on an almost dreamlike quality, and time seems to warp into something else so that the New Year and Imbolc seem like distant memories and like yesterday all at the same time.

From Emma Kathryn

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Your skin like dawn

Mine like musk

One paints the beginning

Of a certain end

The other, the end of a

Sure beginning

~ Passing Time by Maya Angelo

I think it was Stephen King who once compared writing to time travel or being psychic, perhaps both. I can’t remember where I read it, but it certainly stuck with me because he’s right (of course he’s right, it’s Stephen King!). But consider the idea for a moment. Here I am in my present, the day before the solstice talking to you in the future; as you read this, you’ll be in a form of communication with my past self. See, psychic time travel indeed!

In all seriousness though, time is a funny old thing really, when you think about it. We think of it in terms of minutes and hours, days and weeks, something that is quantified and measured, and so it is in a way. It helps keep the machine going, to measure the hours of work right down to the second, but also because we now live linear lives, moving from one stage to the next: school, college, work, family, more work, retirement (though for many there is little prospect of a comfortable retirement if, that is they even get one at all. My generation probably have to work ’til we drop).

But time is not just linear. Sometimes its a spiral, and sometimes its slick and slippery and slides by too fast for us to notice, and when we do, it’s too late and we can only reminisce and look back on memories we didn’t even know were memories yet. Sometimes though, time can seem heavy and thick and moves like glue, slowly, agonizingly slowly, flowing by. And sometimes it gathers in the shadows, shimmering like a hidden cave pool,  and in these places time seems to gather and stand still, if only for a moment.

For me, the summer solstice, or Litha if you follow the wheel of the year is like that.

As I write this, the solstice is almost upon us. I always think that this time of year takes on an almost dreamlike quality, and time seems to warp into something else so that the New Year and Imbolc seem  like distant memories and like yesterday all at the same time.

I like being outside at this time of year and so last night I went to the woods with some witch friends of mine. It was still light, the sun still had heat, though beneath the trees it was comfortably cool and smelt of the woods, you know that smell; earth and mulch, soft smell of old decay, the smell of new green.

We found our place, a small clearing and tidied away the rubbish that had been left there, drink bottles and crisp packets. Part of me is glad that still others come to the woods, but it saddens me that they have so little respect for it that they would toss their rubbish upon this sacred ground. The trees here are elder, hawthorn and birch, and they’ve grown so that they look like they are dancing, entwined together as they reach towards the light. Sitting beneath these trees so close to midsummer, time takes on that feeling of nostalgia, all sepia tones and line dried linen scent. It becomes thick and flows  like treacle. When Shakespeare wrote A Mid-Summers Night Dream, he really did capture the essence of this time.

The woods felt alive, and even the constant throb of the industrial estate that borders it becomes nothing more than a drone, a background noise you soon learn to ignore. The woods will not be quieted, and they still cling on, despite the increasing encroachment from both sides, on one houses, the other factories.

Litha is generally seen as a time of fun. Traditionally the hard work of preparing the land and sowing would be over and the harvest still some weeks away. The dog days of summer have arrived and soon schools will finish for the summer break. It’s time to ease off. If only. Now, for so many, they have lost their closeness to the land, and so have fallen out of sync with the natural cycles of the land. You can feel a hint of it though, can’t you, especially when on a beautiful morning in the height of summer, instead of being able to enjoy this time, instead we must head into our air conditioned offices, windowless factories and spend the most glorious of days doing meaningless work. And that’s if you’re lucky. All you have to do is take a look at the world to see just how much worse we could have it.

This time of year always reminds me of the summers of my youth, when all of the kids from the estate would walk the mile or so to an old  abandoned concrete barge that sat at the edge of a lake connected to the river by a small stream. All of our parents worked, and in those days it was perfectly acceptable for older brothers and sisters to babysit. Only  older brother and sisters don’t want to stay cooped up inside, and so us younger ones were taken along too, much to our delight. Anyway, we would go there and swim in the lake.  Some of the older ones would jump off the concrete barge in to the deeper parts of the lake, though I never dared. On the way back, we’d stop at a church and drink from its outside tap and pinch plums from trees that overhung from the edges of gardens.

Those were the days! Those summer days! How long ago they seem and yet I can still feel the cold water on my skin.

And now, the solstice is almost here, feeling like that again, and it is time to face the fact that half the year has gone already. Time to pull ourselves from the past, and as you do, it dawns on you how lucky you are, or it does me anyway. Here I am writing about midsummer and the land and the good times, and yet the world is going to the dogs. You only have to take a quick glance at the news to see that. It would almost be funny, like some sort of joke if it wasn’t actually happening.

And what can we do against the face of empire? What can we, the poor and the powerless do in the face of such a colossus? It’s easy to feel helpless. And when we feel helpless, we can do only what we can to try an alleviate it. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to work on your connection to where you live.

Let the solstice be the time when you connect to the land and those around you. Build those relationships for those things can often be the bedrock of solidarity. Don’t waste time, because, as we have already discussed, time is a tricksy thing indeed, and before you know it will be gone.

Go out if you can and delight in the beauty of a new day and feel that connection to land and to others, even if it’s the only thing you can do, everything starts with the land. Enjoy it while there’s still time.


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


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The Factory Floor & The Witch’s Stake

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

The following essay is adapted from Rhyd Wildermuth’s speech, “Witches In A Crumbling Empire,” to be republished as part of his next collection, Our Time of Springs, Our Time of Flames (August, 2018)


The Empire under which we all suffer, under whom we are all ruled, was born upon the factory floor and upon the witch’s stake.

Industrialised capitalism started in England around 1760. Before then, almost everything humans used was made by humans with human effort, without the input of petroleum. So, in the early 1700’s, any clothing you wore and any food you ate was made or grown completely without fossil fuels.

The first coal-fired factories were built in cities swollen with refugees from the surrounding areas. Those people had just lost all access to land and the means to support themselves because of laws called the Enclosure Acts. No longer could they raise animals and plants from the earth with their own two feet firmly planted on the ground; now, their only option was to stand on wood and stone factory floors for 14 hours a day making things for other people.

Humans are hard to control. Humans don’t like working all day for someone else. They have to eat, and piss, and shit, and rest. Many women bleed every moon, sometimes they get pregnant and have to care for their children.

But Coal doesn’t tire. Coal doesn’t show up to work late after a night of drinking or fucking. Coal doesn’t need a rest, doesn’t get menstrual cramps, doesn’t daydream about how life can be better. Coal also doesn’t demand wages.

So the great ‘revolution’ of industrialisation was the slow replacement of human labor with black carbon labor from the earth. In the Americas, the people called Black were also used to replace waged labor. In both cases, the rich tried to find a low-cost, easily-managed, fully-predictable means to gain wealth.

Slaves revolt, though, and kill their masters. Coal and oil blacken the cities and skies with soot, but burned through filters, the carbon becomes invisible, escapes quietly into the atmosphere, warming the earth at such imperceptible rates that it could be ignored until recently.

What could not be ignored was the tendency of humans to revolt against their masters, be they slaves or peasants, workers or servants. Humans don’t make very good machines, we are unpredictable, tire easily, and anyway would rather be creating art or eating, then doing monotonous work for little pay.

The same era which saw the birth of industrialised capitalism also saw the birth of all modern forms of government and control. The modern city, the nation-state, so-called Democracy, representative government, prisons resembling factories resembling schools which resemble prisons. It also saw the birth of the modern police and the political order under which we now live.

But what is Empire?

By Empire I mean America, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean Capitalism, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean colonization. I mean industrialisation. I mean the slaughter of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans. I mean the carbon in the air and the worker in the factory. I mean all the newly extinct species and all the dying forests. I mean the corporations which own the internet and the corporations who profit from the computers and smartphones you read this on.

By Empire, I mean the foreign wars. I mean an Arab woman cradling the corpse of her decapitated daughter and shaking her fist at the gay Black dude from Los Angeles who only joined the Army to get money to support his mother.

By Empire, I mean the Mexican child screaming as her father is taken away by an ICE agent whose grandparents fled the Nazi advance in Europe.

By Empire, I mean the Black father mourning his son killed by a cop whose ancestors sold themselves into indentured servitude rather than starve to death during the famine in Ireland.

By Empire, I mean the intersectional feminist writing essays about the exploitation of women and children on a computer made through the exploitation of Asian women and African children.

And by Empire I mean the Arab man who massacres gays in a nightclub to retaliate for atrocities none of those people committed.

By Empire, I mean the single white mother driving her disabled kid to a doctor’s appointment over roads lain by migrant workers who are about to get deported.

By Empire I mean the civitas and the polis. I mean civilization and the police, the laws and logic, the political order, the thou shalt nots and the prisons where you go when you refuse to listen.

But more than anything, I mean the Empire in each of you and the Empire in me.

I mean all that was once wild and raw and sacred in us that is now ground into machine-parts and mechanical obedience.

By Empire I mean you, and by Empire I mean me.

And finally, by Empire I mean this thing that is crumbling around us, gasping for air, begging us to keep it alive.

The Empire that is crumbling around us was born on the factory floors and the witch’s stake, and both were assaults on the human body.

Silvia Federici said it, in her essay “In Praise of the Dancing Body:

Capitalism was born from the separation of people from the land and its first task was to make work independent of the seasons and to lengthen the workday beyond the limits of our endurance…. What we have not always seen is what the separation from the land and nature has meant for our body, which has been pauperized and stripped of the powers that pre-capitalist populations attributed to it.

If the first task of Capitalism was to separate us from land and nature, they have more than succeeded. One need only look at the vastly artificial surroundings we all live in, the devices we use to speak with each other, the manufactured foods and synthetic medicines. Can you walk outside your home and find something edible growing by the pavement? Do you know which birds share your neighborhood with you? Can you point to where precisely the sun will rise tomorrow morning without a compass? Without looking outside tonight or at the internet, which phase is the moon in?

But it’s useless to rail against this disconnection. What separates us from the land and nature is not a current assault in an ongoing struggle: the war was won by them long ago. We are an occupied people, often occupying occupied land cleared long before any of us were born.

If that war was lost, though, the other war is still on going. Says Federici again:

Mechanization—the turning of the body, male and female, into a machine—has been one of capitalism’s most relentless pursuits.

Capitalism has needed us to act like machines so we can fit into the system as mere, fully-interchangeable cogs. Many of use don’t fit, though: be it our bodies themselves or our failure to conform, the process of turning us into machines is never fully complete.

Those of us who gum up the gears aren’t welcome in the factory, but Empire has a place for us too.

Empire was born on the factory floor, and it was also born on the witch’s stake. Failure to file down your rough bits, refusal to conform to the will of the political order, and worst of all encouraging others to do the same will land you at best in jail, or riddled with mental-illnesses that were non-existent in pre-capitalist lands, suffocated with a crushed trachea for daring to sell loose cigarettes or bleeding to death in the street for looking non-white when the polis tried to enforce its will.

There are countless technological distractions and institutions which have helped us forget our bodies: the masturbatory fantasies of video games and pornography, the medicalisation of any bodily refusal to be a good worker. Gyms look like factories for a reason, for it’s in the mills and on the mechanical looms where we first lost the meaning of muscle and blood. And then there is clock time, our smartphones and alarm clocks, schools which teach kids to move from class to class to prepare them to move from task to task.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our body because it is the land and the body which tells you this is all wrong. The land screams as species go extinct, forests die, icecaps melt. Your body screams when you treat it as a machine.

Your body tells you this is all wrong. Starting from the body, you know you tire faster when you are doing meaningless work. You know the food on offer to you at the supermarkets is empty, you know that the air you breathe is often toxic. You know sitting for eight hours staring at a screen hurts more than just your eyes, that standing behind a counter slinging coffee to exhausted people makes you a poorly-paid drug dealer.

All that knowledge is what capitalism needs you not to know.

All those feelings are what Empire fears you’ll feel.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies for another reason.

Your body is always in contact with something else, something outside yourself. Your feet, the lowest part of you, the easiest part to ignore until they hurt, they connect to the entire world-soul. Taking your shoes off, standing on the grass or the sand or stone, you become no longer a machine but a body again, part of something always bigger than yourself, with a different logic, a more intuitive time, a deeper truth.

Your feet on the earth, you cannot be disconnected from the earth and the seasons, because you are also the earth and its seasons. Work in summer is not work in winter, the time of your waking and the cycles of your sleeping follow a different rhythm fully separate from the time of money-making, the time of machines.

Capitalism needs you to forget this.

Witchcraft tells you to remember.

If Empire was born on the factory floor and on the witch’s stake, it spread into every last bit of our existence, making subjects out of each one of us. While Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies, Empire needed us to become passive subjects of the political order.

Passivity is not receptivity. As a gay man I can assure you, more action goes into receptive sex than merely closing your eyes and thinking about the Empire. I suspect most women would concur.

Receptivity opens us to the world of senses, of feelings, of meaning. You are being receptive now, taking my words into you, playing with them, weaving their meaning into the tapestry of you. But passivity makes you a victim, a mere tool in the hands of the powerful. Passivity is consumption, selection between lifestyle options, an identity defined not by what you do but by what you choose. Did you vote Democrat or Republican? Drink Coke or Pepsi? Use an iPhone or Android?

Passivity reduces will to mere consumer preference. No longer will to power but a mere checkbox on a ballot or a selection on a screen. No longer desire and suffering but mere distractions to dull the fatigue of work and the anxiety of alienation.

You cannot force someone to become passive except by long applications of torture. But there is another route, a slower one, by which you can conquer the will of others by telling them not ‘thou shalt not’ but ‘thou cannot.’ Like the God of Eden’s lies to the woman in the garden, we are told we cannot survive without capitalism, cannot be safe without police, cannot find meaning outside of waged work, cannot find love without cosmetics.

And so what we did not lose on the factory floor we lost with the death of witches. Not only the women with herbs and poison roots, not only the crones bearing stories from times before private property, not only the maidens urging worship in temples of wild lust, not only the mothers feeding us from their bodies. Not only them, but also them: the women who reminded us an entire world can be made not from city and machine but forest and dirt.

Not only them, but also the heretics, the mad, the dreamers, the rebels. The men dressed like women tearing down fences along with women drest like men, refusing the enclosure of the sacred commons and the seizure of land for the profit of the few. The indigenous elders gunned down by settlers, the traditional healers dead in the hulls of slave ships. All of them taught what Empire needed us to forget: the earth knows what the computer never will, that the body bleeds a liquid more powerful than petroleum.

With them gone, we started to believe we can-not. We cannot heal ourselves without pharmaceuticals, we cannot feed ourselves without factory farms. We cannot make our own clothes, cannot craft our own homes. We must now suckle at the toxic teat of the Market while it slaps us with an invisible hand.

We started to believe we cannot resist.

But in the screaming defiance of the immolated witches was a reminder: we can refuse to submit, even in death.

It took centuries to shape us into what we are now, passive sniveling subjects of Empire and Capital. Though this may seem long, we lived outside Empire much longer. Capitalism is new and short-lived, compared even to Feudalism. It differs only in its full permeation of all our existence, and it is for this reason I call it Empire.

It is also collapsing.

The climate change caused by Capitalism cannot be stopped any longer, and its effects already cause famines and resource wars throughout the world. Between 30,000 and 140,000 species go extinct every year now; at the beginning of the 1800’s, this number was no more than 1000 yearly. Cities are beginning to flood, water tables depleting, while the oil-wells which makes the entire Empire run are going dry. Climate change will increase the refugee crises currently fueling the nationalist parties in Europe and the US, and whether they are fleeing from resource wars or unmanned drone bombers, they are undoubtedly the first quakes of Empire’s impending collapse.

Empires always pompously declare themselves eternal. The British swore the sun would never set on them, the third reich was supposed to last 1000 years. Western Democratic Capitalist Empire declared itself ‘the end of history’ in the 1990’s, but of course Fukuyama’s prediction sealed its fate.

Empires have always tried to cheat death and this one is no different. But the crone that stands on the other side of death’s door revealed her trump card, and now few can deny what this means.

Some still cling to the vain hope that Donald Trump is merely an unfortunate set-back to the progress of civilization. But reversing civil protections, installing fascist theorists in positions of power, rattling the chains of other world leaders, building a wall to keep the Mexicans out—these are not mere reversals of Empire’s progress, they are Empire trying to save itself.

Consider this wall between the US and Mexico. See past the obvious racism of such a thing and its absurd cost to what’s lurking beneath the political veneer. Consider the impending flood of climate refugees: remember your geography, look at a map displaying where the major destruction will occur first, and suddenly Trump’s idea isn’t mere xenophobic delusion.

The increase in surveillance powers, the militarization of police forces, the dismantling of the courts and the rights they are sworn to protect, the stoking of fascist flames: these are not just the actions of a psychopath, but of an engineer shoring up the ruins of Empire.

The same is happening everywhere else in the world. The capitalists know we are remembering to resist again, and so they are raising again the stakes, piling faggots beneath them, waiting for our next sign of revolt.

To accept what is around us now, to call such things “good” and “necessary,” is to laugh in the faces of the screaming witches who died so this Empire could arise. To chase after like mongrel dogs the trinkets and crumbs the capitalists throw down to us on the floor–the “rights” and “freedoms” and all the glossy junk cluttering store shelves–is to jeer at the sorrow and sufferings of our ancestors hauled to work in chains or prodded into mills by the terror of starvation.

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

To fight Empire is to stare in the face of our own deaths and laugh, knowing the worst that might happen is Empire might burn us, too.

But to the witches who risked the stake to avoid forever the factory floor, the insurrectionists who risked bullets to forever avoid submission, and any who risked the rage of Empire for the possibility that Empire might fall, the choice was an easy one.

So is ours.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals Press and a co-editor of godsandradicals.org.


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Wild Witchcraft

“Do not allow others to tame your craft. Do not tame it yourself out of fear that others will look down on you or reject you. Embrace your wildness. Sometimes it may alienate you from those others who dare not lose themselves in the wild.”

From Emma Kathryn

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”A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.”

– Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith.

Do not let your witchcraft be tamed. Do not allow yourself to be tamed.

Witchcraft is my escape from the world when everything seems too much. Witchcraft is my weapon against the world, or more specifically against those who would control me or scare me or threaten me. Witchcraft is my everything. It is always there, sometimes in the background, sometimes to the fore, but it is always there.

It is my strength.

Do you ever just look at things and think ‘shit’? Look at all the doom and gloom in the world. Poverty, exploitation of people and nature. Capitalism and all of the other ism and schisms that divide people from one another and the land. What’s the point in trying to fight back? What’s the point in trying to help others against the rising tide of shit thrown at us, all of which we have no control over?

I think those things, sometimes quite often.

But I don’t give up. I just can’t. I can’t roll over and give in. Perhaps it is the fighter in me, always ready and game for a tear up, the working class woman, the council estate girl who has had to battle for everything in life. Everything I have and everything I have achieved has come about through sheer hard work, determination and will.

Sometimes in this world, it is hard to resist, to keep your witchcraft as something wild. Sometimes even other practitioners and pagans will warn you against something or other, which is fine if it is just a general feeling of wanting you to be safe, or to take care. However it is when these become overbearing and judgemental when it becomes an issue.

I cannot tell you the times I have been warned about appropriation, or told not to use flying ointments because they are dangerous, or warned to be careful I don’t violate the threefold law. And whilst such sentiments are offered with well-meaning intentions,  mostly anyway, what this really is, is someone projecting their fears, their limitations onto me. And whether they mean it to or not, such sentiments can end up taming you and your craft.

Do not allow others to tame your craft. Do not tame it yourself out of fear that others will look down on you or reject you. Embrace your wildness. Sometimes it may alienate you from those others who dare not lose themselves in the wild.

You know, I joined quite a well-known pagan group on FB, and they have thought of the day type posts. A while ago, the topic of stealing came up and how it was wrong to take things like magical items. Fair enough, you might think, and perhaps rightly so but what about the theft that occurs daily around the world. Is it not theft to pay people wages they cannot survive on?  Is it not theft to destroy forests and poison waterways for greed and profit? Is it not theft when people are displaced from the land. Are these thefts not more important? You don’t see these issues covered very often on mainstream pagan sites and when they are, people don’t really listen with an ear to truly listen to the other party and engage in meaningful debate and the sharing of ideas and opinion. Instead everybody wants to be right. We do listen, but not to understand, but instead to come back with a witty remark or some other fact or report that proves why the other is wrong.

We don’t find solutions but instead argue over the semantics. we do not take action but argue about taking action.

If we really are Pagans, as in the modern usage of the term, is not our spirituality based on nature, on the wild and acknowledging our place in that web? Of course we pagans can and do also fall into the trap of materialism, of becoming over reliant on tools and imagery and aesthetics. And it’s easy to do as our connection to what is real and truly meaningful is lessened over time.

Wild witchcraft to me speaks of the relationship between the witch and the land. The land comes before all else and everything else comes from that. You see, the land, well, everything comes from it doesn’t it? It does in my experience. It is through the land that connection with spirit begins. Hermeticism tells us that the land – earth comes before all else. The element of Earth relates to all matter, but what is it we have on our altars to represent it? Soil perhaps, or a plant, a memento from the land itself. It is through our connection to land that we build relationships with th spirits that reside there.

Find the wild where you live and honour it. Spend time in it. Just accept it for what it is. All too often in mainstream paganism the wild is tamed, made more ‘perfect’, pruned and primed. We buy crystals that, we are told, have energies that connect us to the all loving and all caring earth mother and yet where do those crystals come from? Where are they sourced? Who was it that mined them? We give honour to this god or that all the while forgetting that they are the forces of nature incarnate, that they are wild things too.

Accept nature, in all of her incarnations. When predators kill, we do not ask them not too, when the storms roll in we batten down and prepare, we don’t beg it to change course. We respect its power. And yet, we are asked to tame ourselves. Why? Why must we not use our craft in our protection, in our defence, in our attacks? Why must we polish it and groom it, make it presentable and palatable. Why must we not use it to protect nature?

We can and we will.

A witch ought never be afraid, not even in the darkest forest for she should be sure in her soul she is as wild as the forest.


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


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Review of Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries

Review of Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries, edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin (Mystic Productions Press. Scheduled publication date April 2nd).

From Anthony Rella

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Note: This is a review of an advance copy provided to this writer by editor Lee Harrington. This writer has a social acquaintanceship with some of the included contributor and co-editor Tai Fenix Kulystin, as both once sat beside each other in a graduate school class and one day Kulystin observed this writer doodling and said, “Nice Unicursal Hexigram.” This writer is also a member of the same spiritual community as contributor Adrian Moran. It is difficult to be a queer writer interested in magick without some overlap, apparently.)

While the term “queer” has veered closer to being a mainstream catch-all for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, it continues to retain all the layers of trauma, danger, and transgressive excitement layered into its historical uses. What is queer is that which could not fit into the norms prescribed to us, and thus needed to find its own space to grow: on the edges, in the cracks and corners wherein it could grow unfettered. Queerness exists for itself, and it is medicine that heals and brings wholeness to culture.

Thus queerness is elusive, evolving, pluralistic. So too is the collection of pieces gathered together by editors Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin in Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries. They have accomplished an impressive feat, publishing the voices and images produced by a wildly diverse and fascinating array of individuals along the axes of class, gender, race, ability, spiritual tradition, and more.

One significant theme threaded throughout the works is the queer magical power of embodiment. In the essay “Living with Attunement with Sensation Rather than Identity,” Z Griss offers a queer praxis in which the sensory body leads in anchoring and producing the self in all its emerging complexity. Rather than encasing our experiences in labels and identity scripts, Griss shows a productive arc in which the body teaches and reveals mysteries of the self. Yin Q’s “Blood, Body, Birth, and Emptiness: Queer Magic in my Life and Work” articulates power and possibility within stigmatized experiences around cutting and BDSM, transforming her experiences of cutting into “rituals that affirmed life, whereas in prior years, [she] had focused on the thrill of annihilation.” In “The Endlessly Unfolding Mirror: An Introduction to the Queer Sex Magic of Traditional Witchcraft,” Troll Huldren offers body acceptance and eroticizing the Abject as a path to magical power.

Another queer theme emerges as the multiplicity of identity and porousness of self. M.C. MoHagani Magnetek’s “thaMind-Sol Lady’s Revenge” tells of an experience of duality between the speaker and an alter-ego, in which both strive to seek effective strategies to maintain dignity in the face of transphobia. The Reverend Teri D. Ciacchi articulates an experience of self as multiplicity, using the pronoun “we” “to express my internal experience of being a collective
of beings, a multiverse of personas, an individual embedded in an ecological web of relatedness.” Ade Kola and Aaron Oberon in their respective essays explore the fluidity and multiplicity of identity through experiences of ritual possession, articulating ways in which deity contact becomes an unexpected site of queer transformations.

In an anthology of so many gifts, one of the highlights are the interviews of wolfie, who brings in the perspectives of First Nations queer elders Clyde Hall and Blackberri. wolfie’s “chapter 23: the plague years” speaks to their own history and experience of living through the height of the AIDS epidemic. Kulystin and Harrington dedicate this anthology “to our queer ancestors and magical forebears,” and reverence for those who came before permeates the work, particularly in pieces such as Pavini Moray’s “The Glitterheart Path of Connecting with Transcestors.”

Tradition and authority are particularly charged topics in any tradition, and for queer folks who have been marginalized by ancestral traditions, we have needed multiple strategies to mine a healing and empowering spiritual practice for ourselves.

These writers show several paths forward—even if one does not adopt their practices and beliefs, one can see practices of queering existing traditions, of redefining and reinterpreting the past in a liberating way, such as Yvonne Aburrow’s “Inclusive Wicca Manifesto,” Ivo Dominguez Jr.’s “Redefining and Repurposing Polarity,” Steve Dee’s “The Queer Gods of Alchemy,” Sam ‘Eyrie’ Ward’s “The Maypole and the Labyrinth: Reimagining the Great Rite,” and Steve Kenson’s “The Queer Journey of the Wheel.”

Other writers reveal paths of blazing bold new trails, or taking pieces from multiple sources and quilting them into a queer-affirming path, such as in Jay Logan’s “Hunting Lions and Slaying Serpents: An Execration Rite,” Adrian Moran’s “The Magic of the Eight Queer Deities,” and Thista Minai’s “Sharing a Sacred Meal.”

It would be remiss not to mention the inclusion of potent art and sigil work provided by Inés Ixierda, Laura Tempest Zakroff, Adare, Papacon, and Cazemba Abena. These artists show images of magic beyond binary identity, the interstitial spaces of power.


 

Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School and a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


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Witchcraft, An Act of Resistance: Part 2

“I’m not really alone, that my solitary acts are not really solitary, not if they are practised by many, many others, each resisting in their own little way, doing what they can.”

From Emma Kathryn

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“The night is warm, though not quite balmy, not in the mountain at least. There’s no moon in the sky, though thousands of stars burn brightly in its dark depths, their glow not enough to cast even a glimmer on the canopy of the jungle, much less penetrate it. Below the canopy, men and women, fearsome with their machetes and knives, follow the narrow path through the trees, down the mountain. To the plantation.

Tonight, they follow their queen once again, to free those stolen from their homeland, imprisoned and put to work in the brutal plantations, treated worse than animals.”

-Queen Nanny of the Maroons; spiritual leader, military strategist and chief. Obeah woman.

Part one of this article was my very first piece for G&R and you can read it here, if the fancy takes you. At the time of writing, I thought it would be a one-off, but here we are, once again on the topic of witchcraft being an act of resistance. That’s because it is, and always has been. Witchcraft has always been used by the poor and oppressed.

I won’t go into too much detail about that first article but I will say it was a rallying cry, a call to action for those of us who practise, to utilise our craft in the fight against the capitalist system. I stand by what I wrote in that piece, and would argue that the need for our craft to be a resistance is more important than ever.

But whilst a call to arms is all well and good, it isn’t enough. It’s not enough for writers to sit behind computer screens and tell others to act out, but it’s also hard to know what to do, how else to affect change on a larger scale. Sometimes it feels like our individual efforts are not enough, and it’s easy to get disheartened, or to lose sight of your goals, of the end game. Sometimes, it can feel like our solitary acts of resistance are worthless, indeed, I was just thinking along those lines the other day. But then it occurred to me that I’m not really alone, that my solitary acts are not really solitary, not if they are practised by many, many others, each resisting in their own little way, doing what they can.

When I was a kid, my mum used to watch this show called Allo, Allo. It was a comedy set in German occupied France during the second world war. I absolutely loved it. It followed the escapades of a French Cafe owner, caught between the German officers and the French resistance. Each episode would follow the reluctant and bumbling cafe owner passing on information or carrying out small acts of sabotage against the occupying force. He didn’t ‘defeat’ the occupying forces alone, and the resistance needed this one mans help.

Often times, it is the smaller acts of resistance, carried out by small cells or individuals that all combine against the enemy, the effect accumulative, each small blow adding to the overall effect. It’s like in fighting, a knockout is exciting to watch, but many times the fight is won by smaller blows finding their mark, beating the opponent one punch at a time.

As witches, sorcerers and occultists, why would we not utilise our craft in creating and carrying out our own acts of resistance, our own small sabotages? This second part then, is this writers way of uniting our smaller acts of lone resistance. Everything herein I have learnt through my own experiences, and I share them here in the hope that you, my fellow seeker, find them inspiring and useful too.

Freeing Yourself

Freedom from the capitalist system or from any kind of oppression you find yourself under can seem like a lofty goal or ideal. Ultimately the path towards our own freedom is long and arduous and ever ongoing, but the first step on that road involves becoming aware of the ways in which we are trapped and how deep this entrapment runs.

A must read for any would be rebel witch or occultist is Dr Bone’s Curse Your Boss, Hex The State, Take Back The World. The good doctor does a fine old job of fully explaining the ways in which we are trapped in a system, and how we have been programmed or forced into thinking that there is no way out of the spectral cage in which we find ourselves. Indeed, the concept of the spectral cage is highly important in our quest to be free from oppression. Within the book are practical steps one can take in different circumstances to help free oneself. I have used some of them to good effect, my favourite being the card in the boot conjure working. It’s become my go to working for work related issues. It can also be adapted to suit various other circumstances. I cannot recommend this book enough.

In freeing ourselves, we must be honest with ourselves. It won’t be easy, in fact will be downright uncomfortable and hard and there will be tough choices and decisions on the road ahead, which leads me onto my next point, baneful magic.

To Curse Or Not To Curse

Within the world of witchcraft there are many who abide by ethical and moral codes of conduct, whether that be the threefold law, karma, or any other system of belief that aims to censor our behaviours. As such, baneful magic such as cursing and hexing can cause quite the conundrum for those practitioners who abide by such rules.

Like I said, this journey will not be an easy one, and we will be forced to confront dilemmas such as these, problems that force us to reconsider our stance on many issues.

Now, for myself, I don’t hold to the threefold law. I just don’t believe it, and in saying this, I mean no offence to any who do, after all, we should each be free to decide for ourselves what it is we believe, without having to justify it to others. In my opinion, the threefold law and karma are highly complicated concepts that have been watered down into easy to say mottos that sound good but mean very little. That’s not to say that these concepts are worthless, but, especially in the case of karma, they are far more intricate and complicated than how they are presented to us within mainstream modern paganism.

As I said to a fellow witch a few weeks back (one who cited the threefold law to me when the topic of cursing came up), I simply do not believe in the threefold law, and the answer to why is simple. I know countless people, mostly good, who go through life trying their best, who don’t hurt others, who keep themselves to themselves, who go out to work each day, and yet they get shit on. Constantly. Where is their reward? Where is  their three times returned goodness? They simply never get it. Oh yes, there might well be the odd bit of brightness, but it sure as shit aint three times what they’ve given out. And the reverse is also true; there are plenty of arseholes who spend most of their lives being selfish, not caring about others, who make other people’s lives a living hell and who, in return, never suffer for it. They don’t get their shittiness returned threefold either.

So it will be up to the individual to decide how far they are willing to travel along the path of malevolent magic. It will not be for everyone, and that is fine. I will say though, that self-defence is a must, and never be afraid to defend yourself, by whatever means available, and to me, this includes using witchcraft.

Community

Connecting with other witches, seekers and occultists will be an important aspect of using your craft as a resistance. Not everyone will have the same political leanings or world view (there’s so many debates, arguments and factions between pagans today, it’s no wonder we’re an eclectic mix!) and that’ fine, in fact can be a good thing as it broadens the minds. You’ll be exposed to varying opinions and approaches, some will inspire you, others provoke debate, and others will turn you right off, but knowledge is power, and the scope for learning more becomes so much wider when you expand your magical circles.

Besides from the practical benefits of the sharing of ideas and honest and open discourse, connecting with others is a good way of forming networks with other practitioners. Building friendships and relationships will lead to the mutual exchange of help, and so the beginnings of solidarity are formed.

The Land

At the beginning of this piece, I talk about Nanny of the Maroons, a rebel who led her people to freedom. So successful were their attacks on the plantations and on the British that Nanny and her community were left alone by them, partly due to her ferocious attacks in which hundreds of slaves were freed, but also because of her connection to the land. Nanny came to know the mountain well, and as an obeah woman, you can be sure she was connected to the spirit of the land. The British army couldn’t find their way up the mountain, through the forests, whereas Nanny knew the land well and could navigate it easily.

The land is the beginning and the end. Forging a relationship with it strengthens your witchcraft, and as such, your resistance based on it. Get to know the land where you live; what grows where, the creatures that live there, the natural cycles and rhythms of nature. Feed the birds, pick up rubbish, care for the land where you live and over time your relationship with it will grow and flourish.

And there you have it fellow seekers, my thoughts and opinions on the topic of witchcraft as a resistance. I hope you find them useful.


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


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Meet Me At The Crossroads

Those of us who know that this world is a mysterious place, who have not forgotten our place and inter-connectedness within it, who remember and hold dear the knowledge that the stuff of stars is also inside of us too, it will be us who must be ready to fight, when the time comes.

From Emma Kathryn

Something is coming.

I am an obeah woman. I have seen and heard things that frighten me, but that’s okay. When you grow up poor and on a council estate you learn from a young age that you have to face or fight those things that scare you.

I don’t write about my own personal experiences very often; never, in fact. But today, dear readers, I shall share with you a vision I had whilst in trance. I think it was meant to be shared with others, others like you, others who would take up the fight, others who want change.

And it’s obvious, isn’t it, that change is going to come? It has to, the world cannot possibly go on as it is.

Something is coming. I can feel it. Can you?

Mudslides, wild fires, earthquakes, pollution, climate change, politics, racism, sexism, capitalism, human rights, the list of problems we face is huge. These things have been around for years and years and years, but this feeling I have has only been simmering for weeks and months.

Something is coming, but I don’t know what.

I work with plants, and poisonous plants are a passion of mine. There’s something so beautifully alluring about those delicate blooms that have the power to kill. They have a duality, these plants, to harm and to heal. They have secrets to tell and it is the job of the obeah woman, of the witch, to hear those secrets, and if necessary, to act upon them.

Of all the witches plants, the Datura is my favourite, the one to which I feel the most connected, the deepest affinity. Such a beauty! It produces trumpet-shaped creamy white flowers. Their fragrance truly is divine. When the flowers die, they leave seed pods,  which grow into huge spiny covered balls that burst open, spilling their seed. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but it is with the seed that I make flying ointment.

This ointment is psychoactive and is used to induce trance, for soul flight and hedge crossing, call it what you will. I make it and use it often enough to know what I’m doing, which makes the experience I’m about to relate all the more surprising.

After preparing in my usual way, I laid down on my bed and immediately entered a trance state. It never happens so fast.

It was like being in two worlds. I was in my bedroom, but somewhere else as well, where it was dark, just utter blackness.

But in my room as well.

I was freezing cold, and got beneath the covers, and curled up trying to warm myself. It didn’t help. It was like being outside in midwinter, naked.

There was nothing for it but to move forward, into the darkness. I didn’t want to, not at first. You see, that’s the thing about all of this, it’s fucking scary! It would have been oh so easy to get out of bed, to go to the bathroom and wash off the rest of the ointment, and part of me wanted to. It would have ended things right there and then. I would have gone downstairs and had a coffee had I wanted to severe the link I had made, to end the trance.

I did want to do those things, I can’t lie. But I just couldn’t. I knew I would regret it if I did, and not in any mystical sense, but purely because I don’t like to give in. It’s that same thing, the same grit that makes me get into the ring, that makes me fight. There’s always that what if. And besides, whatever is coming would continue to do so whether I chose to ignore it or not.

So I pushed forward, and the cold got worse. It came in waves, each one colder than the next, and with each pulse it became harder to go on, until at last I couldn’t. Turns out I didn’t have to.

A figure was kneeling down, as if brought to his knees by pain or grief. The figure had no features, wore no clothes. Was like nothing of this earth, of this reality. It emitted a glowing, swirling blue light that moved like mist. This man shaped blue mist was screaming, his hands held to his head, only his screams were silent. His screams were the pulses of cold. This close it was excruciating.

When I thought I couldn’t take anymore, a voice whispered in my ear, a familiar voice, one I have grown to love. She took my hand and I felt warm. As I turned away, the trance ended, and I was simply Emma again.

I slept that night and didn’t dream.When I awoke the next morning, I felt anxious and frustrated. What did it mean? I’ll be fucked if I know. I felt restless, like I needed to do something, but I had no idea what. That feeling lasted weeks. I still feel it now.

Something is coming. This I know, if only because it is inevitable. Perhaps it will be an accumulation of civil unrest, a financial crash, or perhaps nature will finally fight back against the pest she has spawned. Maybe it’ll be all of those things combined, a societal meltdown brought on by extreme climate change. Perhaps none of those things.

I do think this year will bring significant change, though for the better or worse, well, it’s too early to say.

Perhaps I know nothing at all.

All I know, or feel to be true though, is that we must make our actions count. No matter how small. Part of that for me includes my connection to this site, to the writers and the readers and all that we may hope for, everything we aim to achieve.

I know we must stand up for the oppressed whenever we can, in whatever way we can. I know that we must do more to live in a way that doesn’t kill the earth. I know we need to look out for those we care for, and sometimes even those we may not even like very much (but that shit is dependant, we ain’t no walkovers either!). I know there’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of it dirty.

I also know that when the shit hits the fan, I’ll be glad to have allies like G&R, its writers and readers.

Since having that trance, and this is the first time I have told anyone, other than my sisters, I just cannot get away from the idea of forming networks with like-minded folk, people I can rely on and trust and who can expect the same from me. It is the wide variety of skills, of the learning from one another that excites me about this. The possibility of taking for ourselves our own futures.

I am a fighter, always have been. I love to fight, and when the challenge is huge, the victory even sweeter. We will have to fight for what we want, for the state is stacked against us. Many will want to stick their heads in the sand, and do so already, blissfully ignorant of the challenges we face, kept quiet with their iPhones and the glamour of technology. The screen is king in today’s world.

Those of us who know that this world is a mysterious place, who have not forgotten our place and interconnectedness within it, who remember and hold dear the knowledge that the stuff of stars is also inside of us too, it will be us who must be ready to fight, when the time comes.

Something is coming and we will be ready. I’ll meet you at the crossroads.


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


The pre-sale for Circling The Star ends 14 February.

Why People Are Racist & How Witchcraft Can Help

Want to support our work? Follow the link at the end of the essay. And thanks!


From Sable Aradia.

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Beyond Mere Witchcraft

“Oh, I used to study Wicca,” says the 22-year-old woman with a patronizing smile, “but I’ve gone beyond that now.”

“Have you?” I ask, arching my eyebrow while I sit at the fair table where I’m selling the witchcraft books I wrote.

Realizing she has made an error, she backtracks.  “Oh, well, you know, I think it’s perfectly fine for some.”  She is unaware of her derision, her dismissal.  “But I find I get so much more in the path I’m following now.  And I don’t need all those tools.”  Her tone is smug.  Her implication is clearly that I must be less enlightened than she is, because she thinks I do.

Of course she does.  She’s left witchcraft for the New Age community.  She’s 22 years old and offering classes on the sacred feminine, communicated with special miracle health food, yoni crystals, and retreats at her home temple space.  All for a monthly subscription price.  Naturally the stuff costs extra.  I don’t know who, if anyone, is paying for it.

I offered a free class on the sacred feminine two years ago, built from material that was handed down to me from a woman who was my teacher.  No one came.

The Law of Attraction and Social Class

I get it.  Sure I do.

We must look archaic to a lot of people.  Perhaps we even look a little bit ridiculous.  Look at how much farther they’ve gotten than we have!  We always seem to be grappling with some major moral issue.  We’re always railing at the injustice of the world.  Meanwhile, they just think happy thoughts all the time, and never indulge in negativity, and the Universe provides all they need through the Law of Attraction.

No one mentions that most of the women I know who are involved in the New Age movement have married rich husbands because they came from upper middle class backgrounds.  And I find it interesting that the ones who didn’t — like the lovely 22 year old I have mentioned — have all the same struggles I do.  They have bad relationships and personal struggles and, above all, financial problems.

What’s wrong, then?  Perhaps their ability to think happy thoughts and believe in the Law of Attraction to protect them isn’t good enough?

I think they tell themselves that.  I think they convince themselves every day that if they just believe a little harder, things will get better.

So they follow the latest “conscious living” fad (and believe me, they come in fads — in the time I owned my metaphysical store I saw the rise and fall of orgone generators, the healing power of water, Stones of the New Consciousness, the Flower of Life, colloidal silver, and zen wands, to name but a few).  In many cases, they spend thousands of dollars, when I know for a fact that what it cost to make the item could be expressed in hundreds of pennies.

But every time they embrace the new trend, everyone around them reinforces their choice.  They tell them how wonderful and enlightened they are, that they can open their consciousness to these new methods, which science is too self-absorbed to understand.  They compliment one another’s cleverness in that they are able to see through the bullshit of the rest of humanity.  They talk about how the coming New Age of consciousness (which will happen any day now! Like Y2K/the great planetary alignment/the end of the Mayan calendar/etc.) will change the world so that only the peaceful, conscious-living people will survive while everybody else goes to hell in a handbasket.  And rather than ever acknowledging that the fad they spent so much money on didn’t seem to be as effective as they’d hoped, they just move on to the next one, maintaining their positivity.

In this world, there’s no place for discernment, or doubt, or even calling out abuse.  It’s all about plastic smiles and appearances over reality.

You’re Special, Just Like Everyone Else

It’s only natural for people to want to feel special.  People want to hear that if their lives are good, it’s because they deserve it.  Our ego loves to hear how wonderful it is.

We need our egos to survive.  These are the constructs that give us our sense of self, and without them, we become hiveminds and doormats.  Many psychological disorders — I would say possibly even PTSD, as someone who suffers from it — is all about crippling damage to our egos.

So the ego is the most greedy, self-centered creature on earth.  It doesn’t ever want to hear anything that takes away from its central position in the Universe, and it never, ever wants to be questioned.

In the New Age movement, and indeed, in some poisoned halls of Paganism, it never has to be.  People are told that they’re weird because they’re indigo children, or they are crazy because the gods are speaking specifically to them as Their Chosen Ones.  There’s no room for discernment because there’s no place for judgment.  After all, to have judgment is to be judgmental, and everyone has their own special truth to share with the world.

And I believe that, I do!  But sometimes, people are weird because they’re suffering from undiagnosed PTSD or bipolar disorder or autism, and sometimes people are crazy because they’re having a psychotic break due to mood disorders, malnutrition, heavy metal poisoning or schizophrenia, and they need treatment and maybe medication.

A dear friend in the New Age community, one who does not fall for the fads, one who believes in authenticity and is generally authentic in her own life, believed that her newly acquired inability to digest meat was a result of a newly raised vibration; when it turned out to be, in fact, a parasite acquired from tainted water that did lasting damage to her digestive tract, since she ignored it for quite some time.

Questioning and discernment are important.

Witchcraft: A Path for the Underclass

It is said that on the gates of Eleusis was the inscription Know Thyself.  Witchcraft, if you follow it long enough, and seek to find its deeper mysteries rather than attend Sabbats once in a while and do a spell whenever you want a new job, is all about that.  It’s about Shadow Work.  It’s about confronting your ego face to face, kicking it in the crotch a few times, breaking it down, and rebuilding it — with, hopefully, healthier boundaries.

We recognize this.  We know it so well, that we even recognize the symptoms of an ego fighting to save itself. in the wake of this aggression.  We call it High Priestess’ Disease, and far too many places in our community are run by the people doing this Work.  Eventually many of them have breakdowns.  Others, I think, make it through the treacherous forest, at least in part, and then disappear.

I’m not saying we’re immune to the constructs of ego.  We most certainly are not!  But the willingness to question ego, to challenge its authority, can be a good path to take.  We’re by no means the only ones who do this.  We didn’t even invent it; we can probably credit the ancient mystery cults for that, or maybe even certain Vedic traditions which are older, or perhaps even the ancient mysteries of the hunter-gatherer civilizations of our prehistory.

But it’s hard.  It’s so damn hard!  We’re constantly facing this exhausting challenge if we continue on this path.  Our self-esteem is often in ruins.  And it’s not like it brings us money, or prestige, or even any personal spiritual satisfaction aside from a plague of doubt and questioning and a deep belief that we will never, ever complete this exhausting Work.

What it does give us is greater anger directed at the hallowed halls of power, and greater empathy for the suffering of others.

No wonder most of us give up.  No wonder people would rather believe they can achieve enlightenment simply by thinking positively enough.  And isn’t it convenient that wealth, health and happiness are also brought to them through that path? Or at least, so they believe.

Which may be why witches are notoriously cheap.  Maybe it’s because rich witches join the New Age movement, where everyone will tell them that they’re wealthy, healthy and happy because they deserve it.

Never mind that Dr. Wayne Dyer, who once bragged that the Law of Attraction was the reason why he hadn’t had a cold in twenty years, died of cancer.

It’s no wonder no one ever wants to hear about anything negative in the New Age (and part of the Pagan) community!  Everyone wants to believe they’re special.  Everyone wants to be believe they’re immortal, and their happiness and healthiness will last forever because they’re nicer than everyone else, or because they’re better at manifesting, or that they’re a better Christian or the gods have otherwise chosen them.

No one wants to talk about how affluent, and how white, these people are.  Or how better nutrition and less stress leads to better health.

Why People Are Racist

And this applies as much to the overculture as it does to the subculture of the New Age and Pagan movements.

People don’t want to face the fact that their happy, privileged life is the result of good luck or selling out.  They don’t want to face the fact that they might someday go bankrupt or get cancer.  They are terrified that the only thing that keeps them from starving in the street is the presence of an entirely arbitrary number that represents their portion of an entirely fictional system of wealth, founded on nothing but belief.

They don’t want to admit that the only reason they have the things they do is because others do not have those things, and the criteria of what determines that is unfairly weighed in favour of one gender and one race.

So they make up stories.  They tell themselves that Native Peoples and Hispanics are lazy.  They tell themselves that black people are labouring under a “victim mentality,” and that if they just tried to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, surely they would succeed!  They tell themselves that women just aren’t as good at business as men are.

They tell themselves that God has chosen them to succeed because they’re better people, or better Christians, or smarter, or sexier.  They tell themselves that Haiti is beaten by hurricanes because they practice devil-worship, and they ignore or deny that tropical climates just have more hurricanes and that their white ancestors were the ones that brought the ancestors of the Haitians there.

And if they aren’t doing as well as they think they should be, they convince themselves that all they need to do is try harder.  Work harder, save more, budget better, come up with a cleverer idea.  And they ignore the fact that they’ve been doing the same things for twenty or forty years and falling behind, not getting ahead.

Because otherwise, they would have to confront their egos.  They would have to admit that oppression of others and good luck for them are all that save them from the difficulties that so many others struggle with.  And the ego doesn’t want to hear it.

Well, witches, maybe it’s time to help others to confront their egos too, don’t you think?


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 own a dog and am 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.


You can support our work here.

The Dark Months Are Coming

We look out for one another. These are my people, but I am not theirs. They know it and so do I. I am a part of their world, and not of it.

I am witch.

From Emma Kathryn

The dark months are coming and I await them eagerly.

I cannot wait to hide in the darkness, to become invisible, to become myself. The dark is comforting, like a mother, holding me in its embrace. It nourishes my soul, heals it, and makes it whole again.

It is at this time that I feel the pull of nature, of the great outdoors the most. I love all seasons, but these darker months are mine.

I can hear my woods call to me, can feel it. It is an urge that must not, no, cannot be ignored, and so I pull on my boots and whistle for the dogs, and together, witch and hounds, we set off.

The sky is a tumult of grey, boisterous clouds, heavy with the promise of rain. I can smell the ozone.  I love this place, where I live the most on days like these, always have. I don’t know why, except that maybe because it seems to match this council estate.

“The concrete jungle,” people call the street on which I live…when they are being nice. It, and its residents are the butt of all jokes. When you tell people where you live they struggle to hide their distaste and hold onto their bags a little tighter, as though my living there makes me a criminal.

I suppose it does, to some.

I love these people. They are mine. Weed dealers, single mothers, struggling families, terrible teens already disillusioned with life: the estate is a veritable melting pot of life’s downtrodden. I trust these people. These people  will argue with you, fight with you, but I trust them.

We look out for one another. These are my people, but I am not theirs. They know it and so do I. I am a part of their world, and not of it.

I am witch.

I turn my back on the estate, if only for a while, and head across the playing field and onto the industrial estate. It’s never quiet here, not even in the dead of night. The factories never shut, not even for one full day a year. God forbid anyone should have any time off. We kill ourselves for this, to come and work in these giant grey windowless behemoths for a wage that doesn’t stretch, doesn’t even cover the basics.

The dogs pull for they know the way, are eager to swap the concrete for grass and soil. These woods are theirs too, and they know they can be free, if only for a while. We turn a corner and, snuggled between more grey buildings, is a narrow gravel track. We follow it, past yards of piled tyres and rusting machinery.

On each side, the trees, sparse at first, grow thicker and denser, the path steeper, until you finally reach the top, a big wide meadow. The tall grass is yellowing and soon it will die back, but for now the dogs disappear in it. They reemerge, running and nipping one another, playful things, enjoying the simple pleasures of being free, with the wind in their faces and the grass beneath their feet.

I sometimes think we could learn a thing or two from dogs. How to be free. How to be content with our own naturalness.

I follow them slowly, lost in the beauty of this place. It’s not a secret, but it feels like it is today. There is no one, other than myself and the dogs here, on this grey and gloomy day. Finally, I can breathe.

The churning of the industrial state, ‘productivity’, can still be heard if you listen for it, but it’s easy to block it out, ignore it. The sounds of nature take over.

Kestrels circle overhead, hovering every so often, uncannily still in the air.

Rabbits hurry to find cover, but the dogs are oblivious to them; they are still too far away, and there are too many scents that delight their noses between them and the rabbits. I sometimes think that dogs have got it right. Look how happy they are to be outside, to be free; to just enjoy the fresh air in your face.

The track leads into the woods, a narrow opening between crowded trees. It’s not a big woods, but it’s mine, and not the straight rows of man-planted pine common in so many areas.

We slip off the track, disappear into the trees and it’s like a different world. Hushed, but alive. The moss covered trunks of hawthorn and birch and oak rise from the ground, and I let my hands linger across them as I move past them, deeper into the woods.

Devils Woods this place is known as. I don’t know if that’s the official name, but as kids we would come here, and Devils Woods it was then, and is now. They’ve tried to reclaim this wildness, it is now run by a trust. The work they do is good to be fair, without them these trees would no doubt have been torn down, replaced by more of the housing or industrial estates that ever seem to creep closer.

But they also want you to stay on the track, and tracks are not for me.

The dogs dart here and there. They love it beneath the trees and I let them run. They will not stray, ever the faithful friends.

I’m nearly there now, my clearing. Others have been here, they leave the remains of campfires, rubbish too. I pick up the rubbish, and can feel the thanks of this land. Then I sit down and just be. No meditation or ritual today, though it almost kind of is.

Here I can just be. I feel the power of the earth beneath me, can feel the spirits of land and tree and animal. I wonder if more people knew this, could feel this, would they do more to protect it?

We are connected to this land, to this earth.

Find your spot and protect it.

The threat of fracking creeps ever closer to my town. We can’t look to the local authorities to protect us, because even when they try, Big Government slaps them down. So much for democracy.

I won’t let it happen here, or anywhere in my town, and to stop it will take action on all fronts, magical and mundane. I will fight. Fighting is second nature to me. I relish it. But I must do more, as must we all. It is all of our responsibility, don’t we all rely on Mother Nature?

I close my eyes and breathe deeply, take in the smell of the soil, the scent of the woods. I can feel my strength returning, the healing of my soul, and know that it is time to go, even as I wish I could stay for hours. Time to go and put on my many masks, go back into the world of man.

I call the dogs, and they know, but relish every moment of their freedom, and come running past me and back out onto the tracks, back through the meadow and onto the gravel track. Back into the world of man and commerce and impositions. Back to the forty hours of mindless work a week for wages that do not stretch.

I am of this land, I am of these woods, I am of the rivers and the oceans and the sky and the stars. We all are. Never forget it. It is our strength, this knowledge, this truth.

Rediscover your own wildness and you will rediscover yourself.

 


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 magick, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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Acts of Love And Pleasure

Short fiction from Emma Brooks


“The blessings of Aradia and Cernunnos be upon this creature of salt.”

There’s an itch on my arse. I try to wriggle, rub it without being obvious, but my hands are bound too tightly to my chest.

The smell of sandalwood and cinnamon warms the room, and the radiators click and creak. The heat only makes the itch worse.

What if it’s a spot? I should have checked.

I should have skipped that pasta yesterday too. I must have the biggest belly here.

Under the blindfold, I can see the pebbles they used to lay out the circle, and I prod one of them with my big toe.

Should I have painted my nails? Would that have looked a bit shallow?

Dave finishes his speech, and the room is silent, except for the scuffle of naked feet on the carpet, and the occasional small cough.

Stop it. You’re not supposed to be self-conscious, it’s meant to be spiritual.

There’s a clink, and a shuffle, another short speech, and it’s ready.

The circle is open.


I met Dave and Yolanda at work. They seemed a lot more exotic than your average phone monkeys, Yolanda with her dangling pentagrams and loose long hair, and Dave, who wore a rune carved from an antler around his neck, and made awkward Lovecraft jokes on Facebook. They reminded me of some of my mum’s friends, who all had perms and read tarot and tea leaves, and told people that their grandmothers had taught them how.

Dave and Yolanda introduced me to their group; Dave and Yolanda introduced me to the clearing in the woods, where you could sit on a moss-cloaked sarsen and watch the red kites glide in wheels overhead, and get that strange feeling of ease, the feeling that ordinary things might have magic of their own.


Dave takes my shoulder and I flinch. Shit. Pay attention, they’re going to think you’re a right idiot.

The cold point of a knife is pressed against my forehead. I can see his feet now, wide, with dry skin cracking on the joints, and a couple of grey hairs on each toe. He touches the knife to my throat, and down to my chest. Then my belly button. Then another spot, the place just above my bits, where the hair starts. He bends down to lay it on my feet, and I catch a glimpse of the top of his head.

He asks me the password.

“Perfect love and perfect trust.”

It’s cheesy as hell, and my voice cracks like a teenager made to read something out in a classroom.

He puts his hand on the rope and pulls me in.


The first time I realised they weren’t just hippies, born out of their time, was in the office, when I heard one of the managers complaining that they’d taken time off.

“I mean I’m here late every day,” he said, leaning into the supervisor’s cubicle behind mine, “But I can’t just make up some shit about being a jedi or a witch or whatever and get a long weekend, head office’d laugh me out of the building. But it’s alright for them, just ‘cos they’ve got away with it every year.”

“Careful though,’ the supervisor chuckled. ‘She’’ll put a curse on you.”

“Someone already has. That’s why I still work here.”

That was the first day I googled ‘Paganism.’

Not because I wanted to learn how to curse people, or a spell for a less pointless job, not because I wanted to dedicate my life to new-found deities or the powers of nature.

I just really needed a day off.


He uses another length of rope to attach my wrists to the cord around my neck. I am taken around the circle, slowly, like a goat on a lead. I worry I might trip and so keep my eyes down, focusing on the carpet, and the new set of feet I’m brought to at each quarter point, as Dave continues, in a sing-song voice,

“Take heed, watchtowers of the east”

-that must be Julie, no-one else would own nail polish that pink. I bet her boobs are still amazing even without a bra.

I’m tugged around three times, enough to feel lost when we stop. He says something else, but my head is spinning, and I can’t remember from the training which bit this is.

Gently, barely touching my skin at all, he brushes my forehead with his lips.

Oh. It’s this bit. Just stand still. He’s the high priest. It’s meant to be spiritual.

The kisses follow the same points as the knife, lower, lower towards my feet but not without a quick stop at the more intimate places first don’t laugh don’t laugh don’t laugh.

When he reaches my ankles he ties them together. He taps my shoulder and I remember I’m supposed to kneel. Dave turns to the side slightly so that I don’t end up with a face full of unmentionables, and pushes my head down until it meets the carpet.

If there was anything I didn’t want them to see, it’s too late now.

Less light sneaks under the blindfold and I feel strange, dizzy, a bit cold, wondering whose idea this was, waiting with my arse in the air like a child getting a spank.

Which is pretty much what’s happening.

“Are you,” Dave proclaims, “Willing to be purified?”


I’d had enough, one lunchtime. An elderly woman had been confused on the phone, and my supervisor had told me to press ahead with the sale anyway, despite it being pretty bloody obvious that the silly old woman didn’t even know what she was buying. There was a decent commission on that one, but it didn’t feel good.

There was a park behind the estate, where retired people walked dogs, and office workers came to eat sandwiches on the old concrete seats. I left the path, and trampled between the trees, trying not to care about the mud rising up my trouser legs.

I stopped at a friendly–looking beech, took out my little plastic tub stuffed with salad, and looked around, making sure that nobody could see as I shuffled half the salad down onto a root. I kept checking that no-one was there, feeling watched, exposed, as if any minute now somebody normal was going to walk around the corner and find me giving half my lunch to a tree.

It didn’t seem to notice. It whispered it’s silver-green leaves, unconcerned to find itself the centre of attention.

Should I say something? What if someone heard?

I stood there for a minute, failing to remember the various phrases I’d seen online, overblown poetry from rituals I didn’t have the equipment for. Instead I just stared at the tree, hoping it would know what to do.

A line of ants climbed between patches of moss, tracing their route around the trunk. Up in the branches, a pigeon rustled, and began to warble. The sun was on my face, and my mood dissolved into the spring air, as if weeds could inhale thoughts and puff them out clean.

On the way back I clung tightly to that feeling, that little green peace, and when I got to my desk I noticed, for the first time, that I had a view; I could see the tops of the beeches from the office window.


Ow, fuck-

Dave slaps me across the back again with the leather scourge, not half as gently as I expected. Isn’t the ordeal bit supposed to be metaphorical? This isn’t bloody metaphorical.

Another slap, closer to my buttocks this time.

Do I really want this? I just wanted to learn more.

I should have just bought a book.

My skin is getting sore, and I’m losing count. I’ve no idea if he’s still sticking to the forty slaps in the plan or if he’s just going for it.

Is he enjoying this? Is this the sort of thing they get up to on their own?

My back starts to tingle. After each hit, he strokes the scourge’s tips softly across it, and the heat in my skin and the dark of the blindfold and the feel of my weight on my elbows and knees all make me feel bolder, like I’ve had one glass of wine too many. My hips begin to rock in time with the beating of the scourge on my back.

It’s over almost as soon as I start to enjoy it.

Dave stops, comes back to stand in front of me, and speaks my new name, the one I’m supposed to keep secret.

The blindfold is removed. Yolanda pounds on a bongo drum, and Dave, Julie, Gareth, and Paige are all there, inside the circle of tea lights and beach pebbles, swaying to the simple beat, not a scrap of clothing in sight.

Dave holds up his horn and offers it to the gods before passing it round. I drink more than I mean to; sipping from a giant horn is harder than it looks, and I have to gulp it down to stop it ending up all over my chin.

A few more passes of the wine, and I’m pulled from side to side by the rhythm as it speeds up. My skin is still flushed. On the table are small brass statues of the horned god, his erection poking out towards the circle, and Aradia, a tacky moon-shaped mirror stuck to the back of her head like a halo.

They watch me as I dance as if the dance itself could be something to offer.

I don’t question if my dancing is good or bad or if the others think I look stupid. I’m celebrating, I don’t need their approval, I am nature, newly-named, dancing in honour of itself.

I worry about tripping on the candles and burning down Dave’s house.


In the week after my initiation I leave the office.

I walk out with a file full of numbers for clients, customers, people I know have been overcharged or talked into buying some shit they’ll never need.

It isn’t much of a resistance; no walls are being torn down, no fires lit. Nobody will lose their jobs except for me. It’s a small thing, but it’s my thing, bigger than salad, bigger than dance. I am nature, living in honour of itself.


Emma Brooks

I’m 33, living in Wiltshire, in the UK, with my husband and daughter, where we write, cook, and attempt to grow vegetables before the slugs get them. I have a blog at ironwood.blog for short fiction and heathen ramblings, inspired by magic, paganism, and folklore.


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