On Community

“I truly believe we, especially those of us who consider ourselves witches and occultists, have the power to create our own communities, ones based on mutual trust, aid and respect. Solidarity, if you will.”

From Emma Kathryn

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I love the little town where I live. It has beautifully old and historic buildings, a rich and vibrant history. I love its cobbled streets, its higgledy piggledy buildings, the huge church that dominates the skyline, a gothic affair with huge stained glass windows.

When my little sister comes home from where she now lives, down south, she says she’s coming back to the sticks.

Isn’t it funny, how the perception of a place varies from person to person. At work, my area manager thinks it’s a posh little town, mostly because of the historic architecture and the fussy town council. But recently, a BBC report named my humble little town as one of the most deprived areas in the UK and one of the worst places to grow up poor.

The report, which goes into great deal regarding my town, says that there is a lack of opportunity for young people, lack of job security and so on and so forth. The usual stuff.

I must admit, I was quite surprised at the negativity in this report. Perhaps it is because those of us used to being poor find nothing surprising about the situation. We’re used to it. It’s like when some middle class feminists talk about women and working and all of the issues faced, it comes from a middle class perceptive. They talk about the high costs of childcare and how it affects them; about pay disparity (only today, as I write this, a BBC presenter has resigned despite earning well over one hundred thousand pounds a year and being offered a forty-five thousand pound pay rise). All of those things should be addressed, of course, but to me it highlights a clear problem within the fight for equality. Those at the bottom don’t count.

I think my town and the people in it are no different to anywhere else in the country, or indeed, the world. Poor is poor. When you can’t afford to feed your family, or to clothe them, when you struggle to keep a roof over your head, it doesn’t matter where you live, and it’s hard to feel that the woman presenter, is akin to those women, those single mothers in council houses struggling to make ends meet; or the mother and wife, who works full-time and still scrapes through life on less than the basics, but it’s all very middle class isn’t it? Though she shares a gender with those working class women, that’s it. There are no other shared traits, no other commonality.

The council estate where I live probably has the worst reputation of anywhere in the town. But what we have is a sense of community. I know all of my neighbours, could call on them for favours in times of need. When there’s car trouble and no money for mechanics, you can bet that after a few minutes of tinkering under the bonnet, at least two neighbours will be out with their tool boxes, helping if they can. When a kid goes missing, the whole street is out looking. When trouble comes, we band together.

And it’s not just the street where I live. In recent years, and with the rise of social media, whenever there has been an accident in the town, when people have been left homeless with no belongings, with nothing to their name, the town has rallied round, with donations of money, bedding, clothes, kettles, cutlery. The basics of existence. The little things that help to make a hard life just that little bit more bearable, and all from others who have very little themselves. We have community.

Don’t get me wrong, the town does have its problems, but no more than other places, and there are many diamonds in the rough.

The problems faced by the residents of this town, and countless others, countrywide and globally stem from the same source. From an unfair, capitalist system. In the UK, if it’s not London, Parliament doesn’t care. The political structure is a corrupt machine, not fit for purpose. It doesn’t matter what political party is in power. Politics is a stage show, the politicians actors, our lives the stage on which these skilled deceivers sell us their lies. We, the vast audience are taken in by their show, kept quiet with the  power of the almighty vote. We think we are the directors of the show that is politics. We think we have control.

We do not.

But we can take it. And it starts at the grassroots. It starts with the land, and those with whom we share it. It starts at home.

When I talk about community, I think some people think I mean all love and light and all that nonsense. I do not. There are people I just cannot stand, who live on my estate. I just don’t like them. I don’t like the way they play into the hands of the media, acting the stereotype. I don’t like that they are apathetic. I wish they would take a stand, to fight back against  all of the detritus thrown at them. But I’ll tell you something, they are more honest than all the politicians combined. I’ll tell you something else as well, they would have my back and I theirs.

But community means more than people. What about the other beings we share the land with?

Once, on an outing with a couple of pagan friends, the conversation turned to the topic of animal welfare, or rather the lack of it. Now, I am a vegetarian, would be vegan but for eggs and honey, and so animal welfare is a big deal for me. We were discussing factory farming, specifically the production of meat. Can you guess what a fellow pagan asked me? She asked if I thought then, because of my stance vehemently opposing factory farming, that animals had feelings?

Yep, you heard right. Do animals have feelings? My response was for her to go home and kick her dog, and then to come back and ask again whether I thought animals had feelings. Now, obviously I didn’t actually mean for her to actually kick her dog, but it’s so strange to me how a pagan, or any one who shares their home with an animal could even think to ask me such a question. Do they not feel fear, or pain, happiness and sadness. Of course they do and anyone with a bond to an animal will tell you the same.

For me, community goes beyond those who live on the same street as you. Now I know some do not like the word community, seeing it as a category of people lumped together based on their postcode or some other shared trait, and in a sense, this is true. But again, for me community means more. I truly believe we, especially those of us who consider ourselves witches and occultists, have the power to create our own communities, ones based on mutual trust, aid and respect. Solidarity, if you will.

Today, distance need not separate us and we can connect with others thousands of miles away. This is community too.

Wherever you are in the world, seek out those other like-minded folk, and build your community based on solidarity.


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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Solidarity Forever Poster

Solidarity Forever

When I was ten years old, my parents sat me down and with tight lips they explained that Daddy’s union was on strike and so we would be “tightening our belt” for a little while.

“How long?” I wanted to know.  I wasn’t sure exactly what “tightening our belts” meant, but since my parents were usually worried about money I was pretty sure that it couldn’t be good.

He shrugged impatiently.  His anger and frustration were all over him.  My dad didn’t talk much, so when he did, I listened intently.  “Could be a couple of weeks,” he said.  “Could be for months.”

Months seemed like an eternity to my ten year old mind.  “Why is the union on strike?” I scowled. Surely if the situation were understood, it could be fixed!

“Well,” Dad explained (having become accustomed to his strange, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who always had to know the reason why) “the company wants to reduce our pensions because they’re having financial troubles, and the union is having none of it.  I’m not happy about it.”

“Why not?” I demanded.

“I just don’t think that striking was a good idea,” he said honestly.  “I think it’s going to cost us a lot more than we’ll gain.”

“Well, if you don’t want to strike,” I suggested shrewdly, thinking of how much better it would be for my family individually, “why don’t you just go to work then?”

I never forgot my father’s response.  His eyes flashed and he half stood up in his seat.  “Never,” he hissed.  “I am not a scab.”

“Dear,” cautioned my mother as she gave him a stern look.

I was stricken.  I didn’t understand why my father had become so angry so quickly.  “I’m sorry, ” I apologized.  “What is a ‘scab’?  Why do you have to do what the union tells you?”

His shoulders relaxed a bit.  “A scab is someone who breaks a picket line when the workers of a company have decided that all work should stop.  They’re traitors.  The only means that workers have to protect their rights is to stand together, so if we don’t stand together, we have no rights.  And they’re teaching you about how democracy works at school, right?”

“Yes.”  Of course, they don’t seem to teach that to ten-year-olds anymore, but they still were then.

“Well, the union voted to strike,” he said firmly.  “And I’m part of the union, so I have to respect the vote.  You have to support the decision of the majority.  That’s how democracy works.”

When I think about that time, I seem to remember my parents fighting a bit more, and some more frequent Kraft Dinner meals (which made me happy; I loved Kraft Dinner), and that was about the limit of the changes over the next few months that stand out in my mind.  But the importance of unions was a lesson I never forgot.

So when the teachers went on strike at my school a few months later I supported them.  They took the time to explain that a lot of what they were striking about had to do with class sizes; as well as some personal things, like job cuts and wages, since the BC government was in the middle of a period of scarcity politics.  School wasn’t that far and in those days a child was actually allowed to go out in the daytime if they were home before dusk, so I stood in their picket lines with them.  They eventually went back to work, but the fight continued.  In 2002 the current BC Premier, then the Minister of Education, Christy Clark passed a law that denied the union the right to bargain class size and composition.  The fight between the BC Teachers’ Union and the BC Government continues to this day.


The eighties were a time of unbridled right wing capitalism.  Ronald Reagan was President of the United States; Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada; Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain.  They preached the gospel that the corporate owned press and the billionaire-funded economic think tanks now pour into the ears of our leaders like poison; deregulation is the key.  Labour is expensive.  You have to support “trickle down economics” if you want to boost the economy.

All of these policies resulted in the Great Recession of the 1990s, the world I, from my working class background, graduated into.  And one of the most significant propaganda campaigns that the Corporate Choir managed to inject into the public consciousness during that time, which we have yet to outgrow, is the myth of “Big Unions.”

“Big Unions lock up the labour market,” say the corporatists.  “They make unrealistic demands upon industry until it’s not profitable to run the industry anymore.  And look at all their big pensions and their high wages and their lunch breaks and vacation pay!  You guys aren’t getting any of that, are you?  Why should the unions do so much better than you do?”

Except that the Big Unions that they talk about aren’t nearly what we’ve been led to believe.  Of the 14 largest national unions in Canada, one is a media performers’ union and another is a merged union that represents auto workers and people who work in communications, energy, and paper.  And it didn’t save them from job loss when Conservative (politically expedient) budget cuts hit the CBC, nor the closing of several Canadian auto manufacturing plants.

Of the 14 largest national unions in Canada, five are teachers’ unions, two are postal unions, three are unions for public service employees, one is a nurse’s union, and one is an office workers’ and professionals’ union.  Most of these unions have voted to strike in the past ten years.  All of the teachers, the postal workers, the nurses, and the public service employees were just legislated back to work by the government that oversees their industry, since they were deemed to be “essential services,” without any kind of attempt to even negotiate worker rights or needs.  Even in the rare cases where arbitration decided in favour of the unions, new legislation just arbitrarily changed their bargaining rights, and they had to take their governments to court. And the public let them get away with this, because the public was jealous of the benefits and higher wages that those unions had, and they did not.


What a beautifully executed bait-and-switch!  Instead of hating the company we work for because they pay us slave wages, we hate the union because they don’t work hard enough for us.  Instead of hating corporate owners for lobbying our governments to suppress the labour market by relaxing regulations, we hate the union guys for making more money than we do.  Instead of demanding that shareholders crop the salaries of their Boards of Directors, or accept slightly lesser dividends, we get mad because company unions won’t let them reduce wages and cut pensions.  Instead of getting angry at the corporations for hiring illegal immigrants or Temporary Foreign Workers at slave wages and abusive conditions, we get mad at the immigrants themselves.  The corporatists have effectively turned us on one another.

Rather than asking why the union guys get all of the benefits they do – benefits that, once upon a time, were considered just decent and proper working conditions and compensations – what we should be doing is asking why the rest of us don’t.  And when unions act on behalf of the people they represent, we should support their action, rather than bitching because we find it inconvenient.  If we did that, they would support us in our struggle for the same rights, especially when we chose to form our own unions.  There’s no reason why we couldn’t have the Retail Employees’ Union of North America; or the Gas Station Attendant’s Union.  And those unions would have power to get things done.


This weekend Canada Post is threatening to strike.  They’re striking because Canada Post wants to get rid of door-to-door delivery and not pay their employees overtime for overtime work.  While the company is claiming that they can’t compete in the market because of this, their first quarter profit was $44 million dollars because of their growing parcel service – so I don’t believe them.  Because I believe in the rights of the worker, I will be temporarily shutting down my Etsy shop until the strike is lifted.  I will not be sending packages by Purolator.  I am not a scab.