Book Review: Egyptian Revenge Spells

Book Review: Egyptian Revenge Spells

Egyptian Revenge Spells
Claudia R. Dillaire
Crossing Press (June 23, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1580911900
192 pages
Reviewer: Lupa
Full starFull starFull starFull starNo star
 

It’s no secret that the original pagans were no stranger to curses. From tribal shamans to priests to everyday people utilizing folk magic, part of most magic-workers’ arsenal was curses and other maleficio. The Egyptians weren’t an exception to this, and contemporary examples of magic that would make white lighters’ toes curl can still be found today. Of course, “black magic” being antithetical to the Wiccan Rede and many other neopagan ethical guidelines (or, at least many neopagans’ interpretations of said ethical guidelines), curses can sometimes be a subject that gets skirted around — or subjected to flame wars.

Kudos, then, to Claudia Dillaire, for writing a book on something new for a change! In this case, it’s revenge that’s the topic of the day, whether dealing with a jilted lover (including those with stalker-like tendencies), ruining someone financially, or simply messing with someone who has already messed with you. There are dozens of incantations, spells and rituals for multiple uses — and while some of them are most definitely for revenge, there are also some for more benign forms of protection, reflection spells, etc.

This isn’t a book of old Egyptian spells, but is instead a collection of modern Wicca-flavored spellcraft with some Egyptian influence. There’s a decidedly Wiccan feel to them, with the common inclusion of candles, crystals, common “witchy” herbs, and incense, and the fairly standard spoken portions. While they do incorporate calling on Egyptian deities, in some ways this could be any of a number of spell books.

I’m not entirely sure how the author interprets Egyptian neopaganism in the first few chapters, where she’s establishing some context for the spells. Sometimes it seems like she’s comparing “Egyptian magic” to Wicca (in particular, as opposed to general neopaganism); other times, it’s as though she’s trying to differentiate between them. Given that the spells themselves are pretty heavily Wicca (or at least witchcraft) flavored, I would have hoped she’d be a little clearer about how much Wicca and witchcraft influenced the unique brand of Egyptian magic she compiled from research and practice. In fact, if there’s anything seriously missing here, it’s a better explanation of where, exactly, she’s coming from. I was left a little unsure as to where the connection is between ancient Egyptian religious practices that spanned several millennia, and her personal practices today.

I’m also not a Kemetic pagan, and Egyptian religion and culture aren’t things I know a whole lot about, so I can’t speak too much to the quality of research. There was nothing glaringly wrong, and the bibliography had a mix of scholarly and practical source material. I could have hoped for in-text or other citations, especially for the historical information, but it’s a bit late for that now!

If you’re looking for some inspiration to unleash some wicked magic — or at least vent some frustration creatively — this is a good book. Don’t pick it up as an example of historically-based Kemetic paganism, however; it’s rather too eclectic for that. It’s a unique creation of the author, and gripes aside, I think it’s a nice change from the usual strict adherence to “Harm none.”

Four pawprints out of five.

Review ©2009 by Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

The Witches’ Pyramid #4/4 – To Keep Silent

March 21, 2007 by  
Filed under magick, paganism, theory, wicca

The Witches' Pyramid #4/4 - To Keep Silent

Silence is golden, according to the old saying. Remaining silent seems to be one of the hardest things that anyone can do, especially in the face of different pressures.

It’s human nature to want to brag about the accomplishments and choices that we make. I believe this stems from the desire for approval from others and validation of those choices. This desire is normal, but in magic it can be dangerous and counterproductive.

The major component of any spell is the willpower of the caster. Just about everyone can agree on that. Belief in yourself, your spell, the magick you raised, the inevitable outcome of the spell – all have to be absolutely trusted in to ensure success.

So why would anyone want to voluntarily give away their power and the success of the spell by talking about it to others? That’s the core of this corner, staying Silent – not to hide the spells from others, but to keep others’ disbelief from affecting the belief of the spellcaster.

I mean, the very act of casting a spell sounds ridiculous on the surface, to the layperson. I took this power out of the universe and tempered it with the knowledge with the goal that I would get what I desire. I lit candles and chanted words – basically, I did all this ritual stuff, and I will get what I want. Sounds nuts, right?

Well, it is, and it is all based on a faith that our Will cannot be denied. No matter how open minded some non-magickians are, they will refuse to see that they do the same thing (perhaps in a different way) with their rituals and religions. It is nothing but believing in something that cannot be proven. This comparison tends to make most people very uncomfortable.

Why? Most of us are raised in modern Western Society to be rational. We are encouraged to give up pretending and fantasy play at an early age, and encouraged to start living in the “real world.”

But even though the world of magick is a rational one, with rules and laws that need to be obeyed and which can be bent in very specific circumstances, it looks from the outside to be a world of fiction. Mummery, blue smoke and mirrors, wish fulfillment, hope and coincidence is all magick looks to be.

First, convincing yourself that magick actually works and that you can do it is a huge step, one that is absolutely necessary. This leads me back to this corner of the Pyramid.

Casting a spell, putting yourself in that mindset where you Know to the bottom of your soul that you will have this outcome is a major accomplishment and a critical step. Talking to your best friend about that is likely to lead to a conversation in which your friend questions your sanity. He will probably quiz you long and carefully to make sure that you haven’t slipped a cog in your brain.

This, then, will possibly make you question your own sanity. Maybe you really are just living in a world of fantasy? Perhaps it is possible that you dreamed it? Was there something in that ritual wine? Were you drunk?

This trend leads directly to you starting to doubt your own spell, and thus canceling your own power in the magick.

Honestly, it is incredible that any spell works when people often completely counter the spell by doubting it after the fact. One of the most common pieces of advice that I have heard given to new practitioners of arcane and esoteric paths is that you must continue to believe in the spell and the process of the spell after you finish.

Therefore, talking to a friend and discussing it with them will erode your belief. In fact, simply wanting to get their input can be a subconscious need for their approval, and thus their Will as part of your spell. If that approval is not forthcoming, it can have a tremendous effect and possibly cancel the spell entirely. You should strive to need nothing outside your own conviction.

Additionally, their belief (or doubt) now becomes a direct component of your spell, not just as approval. Their disbelief is now warring with your belief and it will cause problems for you in attaining your desires.

You will be setting yourself up for failure by inviting them and their opinions into your spell. It’s much easier to simply Keep Silent and not put yourself (or them) in that position.

One more thing to think about in this corner of the Pyramid: Think about every time you knew a secret or something that your friends didn’t. Remember how it gave you a sense of power, of control, of being better than everyone else? That’s an altered state of consciousness. Walking around knowing a secret about your spell puts you into that altered state of consciousness and keeps you there. This effectively puts you permanently in Sacred Space, in the same frame of mind you are in when casting the spell.

This makes any simple act of life a magickal act and a sacred act. Living in a state where everything is a magickal act is the very core of Crowley’s definition of magick, “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”

Holding a secret from everyone means that you will automatically be in that altered state. While in that altered state, things taken on a different hue, and you can see patterns you never noticed before. Everything changes around you, and you begin to see the interconnectedness of all.

When the mundane becomes the sacred and everything is an act of Will – that’s when magick is most effective. That is when the promise of “change in conformity with Will” becomes the tool to cause the world to move.

Knowing when to start the changes is paramount.

Willing the change into being is the next step.

Daring to begin effecting those changes to occur and then remaining Silent about those changes until they are fulfilled is the means of having Magick in your daily life, inseparable and one with you completely. Attaining that point is the alchemy of life, the way to transmute the base metal we start as into the Gold of a spiritual being.

The old magical masters knew this. The Magician’s Pyramid promised this, but like most of their advice, they had to hide it in common sense sayings that could mean anything to those who stumbled across them, hiding in plain sight the essences of magick.

It is only when we see that advice from the perspective of knowledge that we realize the hidden message in it.

A pyramid is a perfect shape for these corners. Each corner or point is dependant on each other, and each supports each other, none higher than any other and no part more important than any other part. The pyramid can be turned on any side, and it still supports itself and supports us.

I have enjoyed writing this examination of the Pyramid. I hope I have given you something to think about with regard to this old piece of advice.

©2007 Eric “Daven” Landrum. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Eric “Daven” Landrum is a Seax Wiccan and the author of Daven’s Journal.

Magical Aftercare

Magical Aftercare

Okay, you prepared your space. You sat and raised the Circle. You called your allies and astral entities to help. You have called the Quarters, done the Middle Pillar, communed with the Spirits, traveled to the Akashic Record.

You cut the Circle and dismissed the elements. You sent the energy off to do whatever that Power does to cause your spell to work.

Now what?

What happens next? Most individuals will start putting away the trappings of their ritual and get on with their life, but I think there is a time here that is more important to the magician than simply cleaning up.

This is the time of magical aftercare.

In most sexual practices and relationships, there is a time when after the deed is done and you and your partner are lying together, when you simply exist in each other’s arms for a while. You lay with each other, commune with each other and just be. There is no pressure to do anything, no real discussion of anything; you simply exist in the after glow of an incredible experience, mutually shared.

Why can’t we do that with our spells? Why can’t we use that time to commune with the Gods and to exist with Them? Taking time to revel in the energies raised and to exist for a little while in that sacred space that you spent so much time creating and getting into — why must you destroy it by immediately starting the cleanup?

Some activities to think about in this period after the spell and ritual for you and your group include:

  • Divination — Do some tarot readings for everyone, for yourself, and to see how successful the spell is going to be. After all, you spent all that time and energy getting into the mood and working to get into an alternate state of mind to do the magick, so why not use the time while you are in that state to do some related workings that aren’t as labor intensive?
     
  • Reinforcing the Wards on your place of worship — It has always confused me: you spend all that time raising power, getting it to do what you want, making it move in certain specific ways, just to send it all into the Earth when you are done. Why? I understand that loose energy is a danger to the practitioners and to those in the immediate area, but why waste it? Spend a few minutes pulling that Power together and using it to shore up your personal defenses or your group Wards. The Power won’t show up anywhere except in your protections and it won’t be attracting things that should not be there. It will be helping you keep safe and it’s not just sitting there like a patch of tar on a white carpet.
     
  • Grounding — Instead of grounding the energies into the actual ground, why not ground the energy into a “power sink,” i.e. a metaphysical battery? By doing this, you recharge the battery from what bleeds off and you put that grounded energy to a good use. You can do this with any enchanted object you possess and it thereby becomes another source of Power for you to draw upon next time you do a ritual or spell.
     
  • Partying — Here you are, you invited all these spirits to you — your ancestors, your allies, your Gods, possibly even some angels. And once you are done you just dismiss them and move on with your life? How crass can you be? Calling them out of their warm homes to give you some power and then you say “KTHXBY!” Oh, you may tell them thank you, you can even say “stay if you will,” but what about saying, instead, “okay, go if you have to, but we are going to have a party and you are invited to participate!” Then commune with them. Allow them to be part of your life, and be part of theirs. I know your ancestors will be interested in finding out what has been going on, how you and your children are doing, and even finding out how your parents are. Most ancestors are gossipy old things, and they need news, so share it with them. Talk about your family to them, tell funny stories, and make it an event.
     
  • Creation — Once again, you are in a ritual mindset. What’s wrong with using that mindset to create something? You already started with the ritual and the spell, because isn’t that just creation of a set of circumstances you desire? So why not go the next step and actually use that mindset to create amulets, talismans, sacred art, ritual tools, or just to write in your ritual book (whether you call it your grimoire or your Book of Shadows)? How about taking that mindset and using it to write down your impressions of the ritual, so that the event is preserved for future magicians? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just needs to be what you saw and felt. If everyone in the ritual does this, think of the group mind that can be built from that spiritual consensus.
     
  • Gardening — I know it sounds nuts, but why can’t you spend a few minutes hugging a tree and letting that tree absorb some of the extra energies, or planting a seed that has to be planted at night? Some plants do better if planted in the light of the Full Moon, and the Gods know there are enough potions and spells that call for components from plants harvested at night. So mark those plants while you are out one day with some nice wide colorful ribbon and go out looking for them after your ritual. You won’t have to get into a sacred space again to harvest the herbs, since you already are there.
     
  • Reinforcement — I know that once you have cast your spell you aren’t supposed to think about it anymore, but there occasionally comes a time when you have to do reinforcement of a spell you already cast. It can be as simple as giving it extra energy or as complex as re-targeting it to another changed goal. But those spells usually have to be helped along by the caster’s active participation.
     

As with any exercise or activity, use your head. It will be massively counterproductive if you do a ritual to create a servitor for your group and then do another major ritual which involves the creation of Wards after everything is pulled down, dismissed and put up.

Maintenance is the key word here. If you would normally do a small ritual to maintain a spell or process that already exists, this time after another ritual would be perfect to maintain and repair it. It’s a small use of power that pays out immensely when you have the time, and you can avoid doing a whole new ritual for the purpose (which is what most people do).

Once you feel tired and like you are coming down from the high that the ritual has put you into, simply stop and move on with your life. But you have to do something to dismiss those extra energies or they can stay and pull in even more energy to it, and those new energies aren’t always the nicest of effects. Frequently, they cause far more problems than they solve.

Eating food, drinking a sports drink, grounding the energy into the Earth — all these are the classic ways of getting rid of excess energy after a ritual. Try to see if you can’t come up with other means of using that extra energy and focus the next time you do a major ritual. If you can, then that’s one more rite you won’t have to do later.

And Time is always at a premium.

©2007 Eric “Daven” Landrum. Edited by Sheta Kaey

Eric “Daven” Landrum is a Seax Wiccan and the author of Daven’s Journal.

Veiled Issues #1A – Perils of, and Alternatives to, Bunny Hunting

February 13, 2007 by  
Filed under paganism, semi-regular, veiled issues, wicca

Comments Off on Veiled Issues #1A – Perils of, and Alternatives to, Bunny Hunting

Veiled Issues #1A - Perils of, and Alternatives to, Bunny Hunting

Veiled Issues

Okay, first things first. We like Daven quite a bit. He’s a cool person, and really knows his stuff when it comes to magic and paganism (as his many writings and correspondences attest). We just happen to be diametrically opposed to him on the subject of bunny hunting (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s good when you have intelligent, experienced people on both sides of a debate, because then you get a clearer view of the issue). However, we perceive bunny hunting to be an extreme reaction to problematic pagans.

Neither one of us has participated in a bunny hunt, which as you may have read from Daven’s essay, is the art of proactively preventing the spread of misinformation (including dangerous ideas, such as suggesting that belladonna is good for you) within the pagan community. A bunny isn’t just a newbie, but rather is someone who has access to good information yet remains willfully ignorant. Lupa, however, was a part of an online community for several months that organized bunny hunts, particularly that surrounding Elder Ravenfire (ERF), a twenty-two-year-old self-proclaimed elder of his own Wiccan tradition.

For the record, we have absolutely no problem with making sure bad information gets curbed. The same goes for dangerous people, such as sexual predators and plagiarists (who are dangerous for very different reasons). The problem is that since the pagan community is still relatively young and is still in its formative stages, there really isn’t any proscribed way to deal with such problematic pagans. Most of what we’ve seen has been the “spread rumors and shun” method, along with written diatribes (primarily online) about specific people (usually authors). Rarely is there any moderation or oversight on these efforts, which raises a lot of questions as to the legality, particularly of the written actions taken, but even more importantly when such actions go beyond ethical considerations.

Then there is the bunny hunt itself. This is a relatively new phenomenon that appears to us to be somewhat of a mix between the “spread rumors and shun” method and a good old-fashioned witch war. It’s not intended to be as such, but in its more advanced stages it certainly resembles these. For example, a bunny hunt may start with people who have knowledge and experience enough to be considered authorities being on a forum where a bunny is spewing all sorts of esoteric garbage. Said authorities will do as most sensible pagans do and correct the bunny’s misinformation. The bunny, not being a sensible person hirself, will take offense and get all pissy about the fact that s/he’s just been pwned.

This is where things can get ugly, and where we disagree with what happens next. Rather than ignoring the bunny and letting hir stew in hir own juices (and make a fool of hirself in the process), the hunters may respond to the bunny’s bitching and moaning (albeit in a much calmer, informed fashion). This causes the situation to escalate to a point where nobody’;s going to convince anyone else of the Truth. And this happens in regular situations as well. Ever heard of a flame war? Even if you only have one side actually spewing epithets, the other is still contributing to the argument by continuing to respond to the bunny. This may carry on to other forums and message boards, as bunny hunters may follow the bunny from place to place to prevent misinformation from occurring elsewhere. At the same time, they are also harassing that bunny, to the point that s/he may be discouraged from trying to learn because the bunny hunters show no sign of moderation or restraint in their activities. If there was any chance of salvaging the bunny’s potential to learn saner ways, the experience of being hounded across the internet may kill whatever was left. For sure, the hunters have the best of intentions and may not see what they’re doing as harassment, but as Taylor has pointed out before, the intent you have and the impact it has on others may be entirely different — and does the end really justify the means?

Still, so far there’s nothing here that’s really out of the ordinary. A lot of this is just the usual online politicking. However, it’s the latter stages of the ERF hunt in particular that have caused us to really question the effect of the hunt in general. For example, when Lupa was on the aforementioned hunting community, she observed increased aggression on the part of the hunters. The thing that finally caused her to leave was seeing several people discussing, with obvious glee, how long it would be before ERF cracked, since he was showing signs of mental illness. Is this how community leaders and authorities (and -dare we use the term — elders) are supposed to act?

The Bunny Trail

Now, since this was in a private community, we can’t really show evidence of this particular instance beyond hearsay. What we can show you is The Bunny Trail. This website appeared at the end of January 2007 and appears to be the result of the ERF hunt. The site mainly seems to be composed of ERF’s personal information, as well as a couple of examples of flame wars he’s been in as a result of the hunt, emails (without headers) from people commenting on ERF, and the author’s personal opinions on what s/he has observed about ERF’s behavior.

Some of the site has been edited recently; as of the time of this writing, the address and phone number had been removed; however, thanks to the joys of Google cache and screen shots we have an older version of the site showing the address and phone number. We’re not going to post it here (since that’s one of our initial complaints), but if someone absolutely must have proof of this you may contact us about the possibility of getting a copy.

Obviously, with the help of the internet you can find anyone’s personal information within a matter of minutes. What we disagree with is placing that information in conjunction with a bunch of negative accusations against the person (lacking in sufficient evidence, we might add from an editorial point of view). That’s just begging for people to harass the target, even if it’s just for the sake of harassment. And it’s only recently been that internet defamation lawsuits have been awarded in favor of the plaintiff2 so people often have the idea that they can say whatever they like without fear of being accused of slander or libel. After all, it’s the internet — people say all sorts of things, right?

However, we’re not here to discuss legalities; we’ll leave that to the lawyers in the event ERF decides to sue. What we’re concerned with are the ethics of this practice. For example, one of the criteria of determining a “toxic bunny” is people who are involved in slander or libel.3 To our minds, what the bunny hunters doing is dangerously close to exactly what they’re trying to protect people against. The main difference is their justification: that it’s okay for them to do this because they’re protecting the rest of us from the scourge of ERF.

And it’s that justification of actions that this whole thing seems to hinge on. It seems that whoever has designed the Bunny Trail site has determined for everyone else what a toxic bunny is. While some of these (like the aforementioned sexual predation and plagiarism, as well as teaching minors without parental consent) would probably be agreed upon unanimously, others aren’t so neatly defined. For example, “Those who continually rewrite history to suit themselves and with the goal of making themselves look to be the victim.”4 What the hell does that mean? Are we the only people who think that this statement could be interpreted in any of a number of ways just to get revenge on someone the hunters didn’t like? Granted, right now it would appear that the focus is still on people who spread dangerous information and otherwise are serious problems. However, the Inquisition was also set up to protect the Church and populace from dangerous people — and we all know where that went!

This introduces the idea that there doesn’t seem to be any moderation or oversight by people not belonging to the bunny hunting community. The justification of protecting people is also worrisome, because it brings to mind the Patriot Act and other decisions made by people in power to “protect” others. The question is whether protection is really occurring, and whose agenda it serves to have this kind of protection in place. Who protects us from the protectors? That none of these details have really been addressed by the bunny hunters indicates that in their zeal to protect us from others, they haven’t instituted a means to insure that someone is placing a systems of checks on what they do in their bunny hunting activities.

Additionally, let’s look at one of the details of the fifth piece of evidence: “Those who advocate illegal activities like drug-use.”5 So now they get to make decisions on what people do with their own bodies? I suppose that means that every traditional shaman, chemognosis psychonaut, and anyone else who happens to use peyote, psilocybin and other hallucinogens in their practice, no matter how long they’ve been doing so and no matter how respected an authority they might be, is a toxic bunny. There goes Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, a number of the essayists from the Generation Hex anthology, and a good bit of Shaman’s Drum magazine, not to mention traditional shamanic practitioners worldwide! And what about the right of people to have their privacy? Will “Mabon” start knocking on pagan doors, demanding urine for drug tests? Is an otherwise respected member of the community going to be blacklisted simply because s/he likes to indulge in a little Mary Jane now and then?

Okay, okay. We are exaggerating the effects. But our point remains the same: bunny hunting, no matter how well-intentioned, has the very real potential of leading to the ostracism of people from the pagan community who aren’t actually a danger to anyone. Whether this abuse of power leads to petty arguments turning into modern-day witch hunts, or someone deciding that a practice that they (but not all pagans) find unsavory is a problem, the result is still the same: Big Brother may soon be sporting ritual garb and carrying an athame, telling us how to conduct our spiritual lives and even tell us how we must appear in public in order to “set a good example.”

The Bunny Trail isn’t alone, either. We invite you to peruse the following links:

All three of these go well beyond correcting misinformation and into what is basically trolling and internet harassment. While ERF might not be the best representative of the pagan community, are people who stoop to this sort of petty, immature behavior any better? How is this benefiting anyone? Granted, these people don’t represent all hunters, either, but if this sort of behavior is not only condoned but encouraged among hunters, how is this any better than allowing toxic bunnies to run rampant?

Ethical Concerns

What’s not clear is whether bunny hunters have any ethical constraints or moderation placed on their activity. It seems as if the only authority bunny hunters answer to is themselves, and we question the ethics in such a case, because there is no one to provide an objective examination of what they are doing or provide some moderation on their activities should they start to go overboard. The bunny hunters have basically taken it upon themselves to police the pagan community, with no thought given to how they themselves will be policed for their activities.

What motivates the bunny hunting is also of concern. Suppose a bunny hunter claims, for instance, that hir god/dess has told hir to go and take all of the bunnies out. We have to wonder how this is any different from the far right evangelicals who make similar statements for their activities. Such claims that deity made me do it leave unexamined the hunter’s personal responsibility and why s/he feels personally motivated to do the hunting. In addition, this kind of reasoning leads to the fanaticism that has caused so many wars throughout history. It leads to dogmatism that proclaims that any other way than mine is wrong. We feel that neither fanaticism nor dogma has a place in Paganism and that such activities as bunny hunting must be questioned critically to ensure that fanaticism and dogma aren’t used as reasons for bunny hunting.

The motivation behind bunny hunting must be exposed and questioned. When bunny hunters feel it’s a holy or righteous mission they are on, they need to be reined in and questioned about how they’ve determined that motivation. It’s healthier to educate people, as opposed to harassing or punishing them. The ERF bunny hunt is an example of punishment as opposed to education. While early on attempts were made to simply correct his misinformation and prevent him from convincing people of some potentially dangerous things, we believe that in the latter stages the hunt was carried entirely too far. Not surprisingly ERF lashed back, no doubt because he felt cornered by what he perceived as personal attacks. When the bunny hunters view that as harassment, we want to ask how it justifies their activities and how they feel about the result and its effects on them. Do they spare any thought to wondering if this is how they’ve made people feel when they’ve felt the need to hunt them down and force them to recant their views?

Alternatives to Bunny Hunting

“Well, okay, Mr. and Ms. Smartypants Bunnylovers,”; you might be thinking right now, “if you know so much and you think that bunny hunting is so bad, what are you going to do about the problem?” We’ve thought about this, because we do admit that there are definitely problems that bunny hunting is an attempt to solve. And we do commend the hunters for at least trying to do something about the problems. However, we disagree that the method they’ve been using is a healthy one. So here are some alternatives that we propose.

1. Get more good information out there — We are, of course, biased towards this one because we’re authors, and we like infecting people with the writing bug (more reading material!). Since we both work 40 hour a week jobs at this point along with our writing and other independent business endeavors, we’ve had to learn to be good at time management. This is why we’ve tried to limit the amount of time we spent online, other than networking and checking email. If a person spends an hour a night, five nights a week bunny hunting, that’s five hours a week that could be spent writing. Believe it or not, there’s a lot you can get done in five hours, even if it’s in one hour increments — the trick is to have the discipline to actually sit down and write rather than getting distracted (including by the shiny internet), and it does take practice.

So what do you write? Books are our favorites, but articles work, too. The advantage of writing books and articles is that you not only get to convey information to a wider audience than your average internet forum, but you also get to meet many people in person and teach classes, which can be quite useful for showing bunnies why they might want to do some research. In addition, while anyone can argue on an internet forum, the arguments on forums are mostly perceived as just opinions. Writing your book or article, and most importantly showing your research, can validate and strengthen the claims you make.

2. You can’t save everyone — So you’ve written a bunch of online articles scattered across the internet, and your book is on Amazon, waiting for orders. You’ve promoted the hell out of both, and you’ve got 30 weekends a year scheduled for gatherings and classes at pagan shops. You’re doing everything you possibly can to make your information widely available. And then it happens — there’s a bunny! You counter hir argument with one of your well-written articles and maybe even refer your book. And you get ignored. Or even flamed.

Sometimes it’s best to just accept that people have free will, and they’re going to exercise it no matter what. You can’t make others’ decisions for them, nor can you change their minds if they don’t want them changed. And often, doing anything other than presenting basic information will be taken as an attempt to convert people. After all, conversion doesn’t have to be from one distinct religion to another; it can involve differing viewpoints within the same religion. Though hunters may not think that what they’re doing is conversion, it may be perceived as such by some because of the vehemence with which debates may be made.

You know that saying about horses and water? Yup. This is one of those times. Even when we’re just talking about newbies, you can’t force people to read your words or even accept them. Chances are good that if you keep pressing the issue, you’re going to come across as pushy, and turn people off. Sure, you may have the philosophy that it’s worth it if you get through to just one person — but if in the act of saving that person you turn five more away who had originally liked your work but got disgusted with your behavior, is it really worth it? There’s also something to be said for allowing people to make mistakes. Taylor learned magic on his own and made lots of mistakes over the years. But he also learned from those mistakes. The same can be true for any person, provided they have the room to make those mistakes. Correct misinformation when it can be lethal to people reading it, but if it’s just someone who’s trying to find hir way and doesn’t want to listen to you, let it go. That person will learn best by making mistakes and dealing with the consequences, as opposed to having some bunny hunter hover over hir shoulder scolding hir for everything s/he does.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from life, it’s that you can ultimately only be responsible for your own actions. That doesn’t mean that you should shut yourself in a box and hope the world either agrees with you or goes away; we need activism in many areas of life. However, at some point you have to accept that people have free will, and that no matter how much good information you throw at them they’re simply not going to listen. This is especially true if you try to muscle your way in. Being one of a couple of people on a forum who routinely correct bad information is one thing; being one of a half a dozen or more who follow a person around the internet in order to make sure s/he doesn’t dare say something wrong lest someone believe hir is counterproductive. No matter how good your intentions are, you’re still going to come across as a bully to at least some people. Trying to force people to believe what you believe or forcing them out of the community you’re a part of will eventually result in resistance to what you do, and not just from the bunnies you hunt. You can’t convince everyone to agree with you. For example, chances are there’ll be a lot of people who agree with us on this whole bunny hunting issue, and a bunch who agree with Daven, and probably even some who either don’t care, think we’re all bitching about nothing, or otherwise have another perspective on the matter.

3. Think (and speak) positive — And this is where we get into the next piece of advice — keep it as positive as possible. No, we’re not saying be all sweetness and light and unicorn giggles. But the way you convey your information is very important. You can have the best information in the world, but if you come across as a jerk (even if you didn’t intend to) it doesn’t matter what your content says. For example, at one of the many events we presented at we had several people come up to us and make some pretty outlandish claims, the kind of thing you hear in fantasy novels and roleplaying games — and they’d apparently been believing it for a good long while. Instead of jumping down their throats, telling them that they were wrong, we politely presented our own perspectives and experiences. We even did healing for one of the people. The upshot was that they bought some books and they left a bit more thoughtful than before; we’d had really good conversations with them. There’s no guarantee that they’ll stop being fluff bunnies, but chances are that we got them to think and left to them form their own conclusions, without forcing our views on them.

People are generally more receptive to a positive tone than a negative one, especially if they’re innocent bystanders. Additionally, the newbies that you’re attempting to save from the fluff/toxic bunnies may not really have enough context to understand why people are arguing, and so may side with the person they perceive as the “victim’ (even if that person really is a predator!). They may view you as the predator because you are coming so strongly, without consideration of how your presentation affects peoples’ responses to you. Remember that most professionally published books on paganism tend to deal less with debunking bad information, and more on actually providing information. The reason we point that out is that while you can debunk bad information, providing accurate information is more important than proving so and so is wrong and shouldn’t be listened to.

If you dislike the positive/negative dichotomy, think of it as constructive/destructive instead. Destruction might be easier to do, but construction creates longer-lasting effects. You can tear anyone down, but helping a person learn and knowing when to provide that person space can do much more for you and help spread the good information around. What needs to be remembered is that people remember how you presented yourself long after they may forget the content of your message. Show people a reason to dislike you and they will remember that and tell other people, but show them that you’re professional and chances are they’ll remember and may even come back to you for advice. The impact of how you present yourself is just as important as the intent behind the presentation.

At the same time, we do need to continue dialogue about what to do when someone really is a threat to others. In some cases, such as plagiarism and violent crime, there are legal avenues in place to deal with these issues. However, in cases where the solution isn’t so simple, there’s a lot of questioning as to what the S.O.P. ought to be. As the pagan community matures, we believe more solutions will be found, effective ones. We are still a young subculture, comparatively speaking, and problematic pagans are a part of the growing pains that can’t be ignored. However, while bunny hunting may seem like a great idea, it has the potential to become a toxic well all on its own.

We have no doubt that bunny hunting will continue, but we end this article with the thought that bunny hunters may also someday be hunted down for how they treated people. They would do well to remember that the judgment they cast on others can be cast right back. When there is no moderation, no sign that the bunny hunters answer to any authority other than their own, we must question the ethics and actions of the bunny hunters. Otherwise we risk the rise of a movement in paganism which is just as virulent as the evangelical fundamentalists and just as willing to take matters to an extreme that is unwarranted. By questioning the activities of the bunny hunters and monitoring what they do we can insure that they don’t set the standards by how someone is accepted in the spiritual communities we are all part of.

Sources

  1. ERF in Yahoo cache.
  2. USA Today Internet Defamation Story.
  3. ibid.
  4. Quote.

©2007 by Lupa and Taylor Ellwood.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.

Food Totems

Food Totems

In recent months I’ve been working with some rather unorthodox totem animals in an attempt to break through the Big, Impressive North American Birds and Mammals (BINABM) stereotype of Neopagan totemism. BINABM refers to the tendency for most modern pagans who work with totems to stick with critters such as Eagle, Wolf, Bear, Deer, and other high-profile North American animals. This trend stems from earlier works on totemism which laid this particular practice almost exclusively at the feet of Native North Americans; much of the early Neopagan literature is a bastardization of indigenous lore all wrapped up in a pan-Native pseudo-tradition.

One of the groups I’ve been working with is what I call the “Food” Totems. These are primarily domesticated animals that, in this culture, are seen as sources of meat and other comestibles as well as leather and other products. While Pagans and Magicians have a tendency to be more aware of the sanctity of animal life in general, wildlife tends to be more glamorized than domesticated animals with the exception of dogs, cats, horses, and other American non-edibles. Totems are animals that we either have been taught not to eat (dogs, cats and horses) or ones that we generally don’t eat on a regular basis (wildlife). We assume a predatory role with regard to nonhuman animals, even if it’s only a result of conditioning that lies primarily within the subconscious mind.

This means that very few people actually work with such totems as Pig or Cow. Some do not even acknowledge that domestic animals can be totems, often stating that domestication has caused these creatures to lose their “medicine” (this word, by the way, is another bastardization of an indigenous concept). This displays quite clearly a predatory, consumerist bias. If an animal is unattainable for some reason, it must have some form of power, while the “dumb” animals that we slaughter by the millions every year in inhumane conditions are obviously powerless.

However, if we take an honest look at indigenous cultures around the world, many of them did eat sacred animals. Some members of the tribe may have abstained from eating the animal that represented their clan totem as a part of a traditional taboo. However, if we look at the case of the Lakota, the bison was (and still is) one of the most sacred animals in their totemic system precisely because they killed and ate it. The bison represented life to this culture; this is where the stereotype of “Indians always use every part of the animal” originated.1

Pig, Cow, Chicken, and Turkey hardly have that sort of reverence attached to them in modern American culture. All of them are seen as stupid animals, and Pig is additionally stereotyped as dirty, stinky and gluttonous. Yet the majority of Americans rely on them to survive, though not as completely as the Lakota and Bison. Because we can live without eating meat, and because we assume that meat will always be available, drained of blood and wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam, we take these animals for granted. There is an overabundance of domestic livestock; we even impact faraway places like Brazil in our hunger for beef, with thousands of acres of rain forest being slashed and burned to create pastureland for cattle.

This is an unhealthy relationship on all levels. Factory farming demonstrates just how low our consideration for our fellow animals has sunk. At least deer and other wild animals are glamorized by the “thrill of the hunt” (no matter how macho and canned it may have become). Domestic animals live their brief, horrible lives in cramped, filthy quarters and die terrified and surrounded by the mechanically slaughtered carcasses of previous victims.

Totemism can be a way to reach out to other species. Totems, in the archetypal sense, translate information between their respective species and humanity. They are the Collective Unconscious’ answer to our increasing distance from the immediate natural world. All species have archetypal totems, descended from the Animal Master of Joseph Campbell’s theories on Paleolithic religious rites and artifacts.2 This includes domestic animals, both edible and otherwise.

Experimentation

One night a few months ago, after a supper of crab legs, I realized that I shared the cultural irreverence for the animals that I was eating. The entire steamed crab was brought out to me, a reminder that what I was consuming wasn’t just something manufactured in a factory somewhere, but had been alive and well just a few hours before. This connection to the life of the animals is something I’ve worked to be mindful of not only with my food, but also the animals whose skins, bones and other remains are incorporated into my artwork. Sitting there looking at the shell of the crab, I began thinking about how I was taking this animal for granted, seeing it solely as a delicacy to be dipped in melted butter. I thought about how I would react if I saw a slab of wolf meat on my plate, and realized that my reaction would be much more respectful — not just because I would be eating an endangered species, but because I was eating my primary totem.

That night when I got home I did a meditation to contact Crab. I invited her to come and talk to me and allowed her to say whatever was on her mind, as I figured she probably didn’t get many people talking to her. The first thing she homed in on was my perception of her as different because she wasn’t a vertebrate. She showed me the strength and functionality of the exoskeleton, and the delicate gills that allowed her to extract oxygen from water. Then she contrasted it with my own soft flesh wrapped around calcified bones, and lungs that drew in air.

She explained to me that part of the reason that I saw her differently from other animals was because she was so alien in concept. Humanity in general seems to have a primarily negative view of invertebrates; crabs and lobsters are seen differently because they’re “useful.” But ask most people to hold an insect, spider, or other “creepy-crawly,” and they’ll very vehemently decline. (I’ll admit to being more uncomfortable with “bugs” than I was as a child.) Sure, I could eat a crab, but I was less willing to see the totemic Crab as an equal with Wolf or Elk.

Granted, Crab isn’t a domestic animal; neither is Salmon, another animal that commonly ends up on my plate. However, I noticed that I treated them the same way as Cow, Pig, Chicken and Turkey, and I’m not alone in that. I’ve since then talked with Chicken and Pig, as well as Cornish Game Hen (which, if bought from Tyson Foods, is actually just a very young chicken). They have emphasized in various ways the need for respect for their physical children and, by extent, themselves. Chicken took me on a tour of life in a battery cage, while Pig very strongly recommended giving the respect that’s due if we’re going to have a relationship.

And it is that last point that particularly concerns me now. I’m continuing to talk to these food totems, but it’s going to be a while before they trust and respect me enough to work with me. I have to do some serious revamping of my attitudes towards them and their children. They all have lessons to teach, but they’ve been so burned and hurt by the ill treatment of their children and the cultural attitudes in general that they seem incredibly reluctant to work with a human magician, at least until the concerns of respect have been thoroughly addressed.

This doesn’t surprise me. The relationship between human and totem is not as simple as evoking the animal and saying “Do this for me because you are an animal spirit and therefore you are always willing to help me.” Instead, these relationships have to be cultivated, and it’s hard to do when there’s not enough respect involved. So I’m going to take my time with these unappreciated totems, and really consider my relationships with them. I’ll keep y’all posted on my progress.

Footnotes

  1. Brown, Joseph Epes (1997). Animals of the Soul: Sacred Animals of the Oglala Sioux (Earth Quest). Rockport, Massachusetts: Element Books. Pgs. 6-7.
  2. Lupa (2006). Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic. Stafford: Megalithica Books. Pgs. 19-20.

©2006-2013 Lupa. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Avete #2/5 – A Little Rant About Antiquity

Avete #2/5 - A Little Rant About Antiquity

It still amazes me that some Wiccans insist on claiming that their religion has existed since time immemorial. That statement is only strictly true if we consider the 1940s to be too far back to recall clearly. Wicca, of course, is only one example of the general occult trend of ascribing antiquity to traditions and ideas in order to gain them more credibility.

I am not trying to offend Wiccans with this editorial. The fact is that I, too, am a Wiccan! At the time of this writing, I await my first degree Alexandrian Witchcraft initiation this very weekend. The difference between myself and some others, however, is that I do not think that any religion or system of magic has to be older than the birth of Christ in order to be valid.

The history of Wicca is a pretty simple one, all things considered. It does not involve the political intrigue of Christianity, nor the wars of Islam and Judaism. While there are aspects of Wiccan history that many of us will never know (not having been there), we can still be certain of the majority of the story. A summary, including a bit of theorizing on my own part, may run thus:

When Christianity came to power, it did not do so all at once as many priests and preachers (not to mention the public school system’s history classes) tell it. Instead, it was a gradual process which involved politics, war, and a few willing and peaceful conversions to sweeten the mix a bit. The paganism of Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Middle East, and the remainder of Europe did not simply disappear. In many cases, clear survivals occurred in which people of both common and noble stock were found to be practicing something akin to a Pagan religion within their own household or community traditions for centuries after the spread of Christianity. It is well known that many more subtle survivals occurred within the Christian traditions themselves, especially Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. The cults of the Saints, praying to icons (or “ikons” for the Orthodox Church), various holidays, and more cultural traditions than I know of are all clear survivals of paganism. As an interesting note, the word “superstition” itself comes from the Latin word superstes, which refers to a survival, or “that which survives.”

It is quite evident from the above that some elements of paganism survived for quite a long time right under the noses of Church officials. I don’t believe that we have to stretch to suggest that various family and small community Pagan traditions survived even into the modern day in certain parts of Europe and the British Isles. It seems quite possible to me that Gerald Gardner could have been initiated into just such a small community tradition in the form of the New Forest Coven.

The New Forest Coven was unlikely to have resembled what we would call Wicca today. More likely, it was a rather incomplete grouping of celebratory ceremonies, superstitious beliefs, and odd bits of folk magic. Gardner clearly had to fill in some gaps when he formed his own tradition, and he did so with the material which was extant at the time: the ceremonial, Kabbalistic, and Hermetic materials of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and of Crowley’s Thelema. Gerald Gardner was definitely an initiated member of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis in his day and was an enthusiastic Thelemite. I say this not to disparage the traditions of Wicca, but merely to show where many elements of Wicca find their source.

Many people read explanations and historical surveys like this one and immediately jump to the conclusion that Wicca is fabricated or fake. Such an attitude cannot be further from the truth, and here is the essential truth of the matter set down as clearly as I can make it:

It does not matter how old a tradition is or how it found its birth. What matters most is the relevance of the tradition for those who practice it. There. I’ve said it and I will not take it back. Those occultists and skeptics alike who speak disparagingly of Wicca because of its recent birth and mythologized beginnings need only look at their own traditions to see parallels. Even modern materialist science has been cobbled together from odd bits of scattered hypotheses put forth by numerous individuals, and has not existed in any real shape for more than a century and a half. Has modern science proved useless as a consequence of its recent advent, or the fact that many people still worship Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as gods? Hardly. Similarly with occultism. Most of what we call the Western esoteric tradition was born with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who themselves mythologized nearly all of their source material. Much of their ideology was lifted whole from the writings of Éliphas Lévi, who himself practically made everything up out of his own head. Much of the Golden Dawn’s practical material came from Francis Barrett’s The Magus, which was a very poor plagiarism of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Agrippa’s material itself was cobbled together from numerous sources, including Zoharic Kabbalism, Hermetic and Pythagorean philosophy, and Catholic Neoplatonism. Despite all this, the Golden Dawn’s system of magic is still one of the most influential and widely used traditions today. I will not argue that the Golden Dawn’s methods are ineffectual, as they have proven themselves to me as being extremely powerful when used properly. All of this comes down to two essential points:

  1. There is no reason to lie about the origins of your own tradition. It is what it is, and as long as it works, there is no need to defend it.
  2. It is pointless to put down the traditions of others as long as they are effectual for those who use them. It is nothing but a waste of your time.

No matter what anybody else has to say about it, I will continue training with Franz Bardon’s textbooks in my office and then retire outdoors to dance naked under Luna’s light with my Coven. For as long as these methods work for me, they will be my philosophy, my religion, and my magical traditions.

©2007 Nicholas Graham. Edited by Sheta Kaey

Nicholas Graham is the author of The Four Powers. You can read his blog here.

49 queries. 1.583 seconds