Month: January 2010

One project sort of down, the next to go!

Diana in car, with that hat
Indulging myself with this true self portrait shot from two winters back.

My writer’s website is now available for public consumption. You can see it here. I would say it’s “done” but even non-dynamic content online is never truly finished. Over the years I will have things to add, things to remove, things to revise. And of course, since I’ve put so much energy into this project I’m having one of those “drifting at a loss” days despite always, always having much more to do in every single aspect of my life.

This drift isn’t exactly a productivity killer. In fact, I think it’s a productivity protector, because it forces me to take a break, play Mafia Wars, maybe read a book or two before I jump back in to the next thing. The end of project “drift” (or pause in project, I guess) actually helps prevent burnout. This is a good thing, and one I embrace.

However, since I do struggle with end-project drift, I built myself a safety-net this year. I sat down and constructed a slew of planning documents for 2010. I may not get to every task, physical item or goal in that list – I’m giving myself more of a decade to accomplish a few of these things. But so far, I’ve gotten a few things done. I have my indoor garden up, and while it needs more lights (or more cowbell) it’s trucking along quite nicely. I put it in Saturday and I’m seeing sprouts in most of the plants already. I got the website completed, so that’s something. I’ll need to add some book outlines, etc. But the idea is there.

I also have the foreword and intro up for Urban Wicca. I’d like to get this in front of people who already practice and support technomagic and urban-based magic, or who have non nature-based traditions. I don’t want this to be an “opposed” or “in favor” thing – as some people practice “nature” magic, some people practice “urban” magic. That said, I do feel rather protective of this work but I do want to share it. I just really want to put something out there that says something other than “Oh, you’re stuck in a city, I’m so sorry.” While the book that said this was otherwise awesome, I found that attitude as short-sighted as it was shitty. Especially since the nature-lovin’-livin’ isn’t always exactly “green.”

Today I’m allowing myself a little drift. I’m going back to my writer’s workshop, so I can offer notes on someone else’s work. I’m still doing the Vein of Gold series by Julia Cameron, and the Artist’s Way is very much part of my daily magical work. I’m even contemplating asking her permission to create a few things for magical people to practice the artist’s way.

Also, I ate some undercooked squash last night and my hypersensitive system reacted predictably. So one way or the other, I have to spare myself the usual challenges today.

So..uh…what do you write?

Maybe I got spoiled in Mankato, where everyone was (at the time) small fry and all accomplishments were viewed (hopefully by most) as  “shared by the group.”  One person’s achievement was an achievement for our tiny community, or at least, that’s how I felt among the members who managed to be pagan without being too terribly fucked up. Maybe all those classes in speech and nonverbal communications ripped off a blindfold and woke me up to all the hostility I’d been oblivious to. It’s been a good eight years, and at this point, hard to say anyway. Still, the first time I mentioned that I published/wrote on magic at a local pagan gathering in Saint Paul the reaction was…nasty. I was completely surprised, and got a reminder that I am still often naive, since where I’d been living, for all its flaws, such endeavors were responded to with “let me see!” and “tell me about it! Now let me tell you what I’ve been working on…”

Instead, these are some actual reactions:

“So what, you’re Silver Ravenwolf?” (People who have met her assure me she’s very much the real deal, but in these parts, she’s a swear word a la Martha Stewart, Hummer and Barbara Streisand.)

“You write for that publisher?” (Yes, because that’s one of the very few publishers publishing on the subject matter I primarily write. I can’t spend my life listing articles of the best ways to wear Spanx.) One person I knew referred to it as “the devil publisher.” But he forgave me, since he thought I was hot. (Pagan men are only as enlightened as their mothers raise them to be. However, in some circumstances a cattle prod or a good left hook helps.)

“How much did you get paid?” The implication being that to be paid anything was just dirty.

I retreated, puzzled and hurt and have for the most part kept this part of my life under wraps from my local community – I almost never tell a person at our first meeting that I’m a professional writer, that I’ve been at it since I was 16 (bringing me very close to the 20 year mark in this career) and that 99% of them are completely wrong about how any writing career functions but most especially they’re wrong about how a career based in occult-writing happens.

I figured out that some of the nastiness was a knee-jerk reaction to my youth. There’s this undercurrent with some but certainly not all members of this community that anyone under 40 has nothing valid to say. There’s not much I can do for this attitude – I try to respect my elders, but sometimes my elders just don’t deserve my respect. Honor is a two way street, and passing an age marker does not exempt you from behaving like a decent human being – and someone being younger than you is also not a valid reason for behaving discourteously. Now, if the young kid is an annoying snot that needs a punch in the nose, gods bless it. But wait to see if an annoying snot lies behind that unwrinkled exterior.

I later figured out – after I mentioned at another gathering I’d scored an interview with Starhawk – that there lies a core of people who heartily resent the famous, and who assume  absolutely incorrectly that publishing = big bucks. There is a certain lottery ticket spirit to book writing; you can get it on shelves but that doesn’t mean you’ll win big. There are national releases of many books that have only sold five copies, and occult publishing pays at the bottom of the scale. I don’t know what Starhawk made when she came and spoke at my alma mater, but she sure as hell isn’t spending her money on Gucci loafers.

I think I see the thought process of the angry inquiries, though: some people here think any success or recognition is somehow “wrong.” Not everyone, of course, but a few loudmouths who’ve anchored into the community for quite awhile.  Since the only recognized fame/success among most pagans is publishing, that’s where all the resentment gets directed. It’s not just simple jealousy; if we were Christians someone would be twisting some Bible verse to shame the authors, but all the (specifically resentful) pagans get to work with is dirty looks, hostile social behaviors and a non-shared value that people shouldn’t make “money” off their beliefs – regardless of how greedily pagans consume books (and the books would get paid for how?)

In the artist’s way, these people have a tidy label: crazy makers. And they are to be ignored, or simply not shared with. Besides, it’s a big waste of time to defend what you’re driven to do when you could be ignoring the asshats ((for jillithian!)) and writing more stuff, that some of those same resentful people will still consume – as long as they don’t have a face to match their grudge with.

Yes, work IS in progress

January is my slow down for the details month, which is why you’re not visually seeing much on the production end for me. My current visible project is DianaRajchel.com – I got it up with the content changes, etc. but as my husband kindly pointed out, I’m no web designer and I currently don’t have the means to pay one. So the next week or so will be applying some design consistency. I also need to make room for the information about Handparting: a guide to Wicca and Divorce, including an outline, sample chapters, and video footage of some people who consent to be interviewed for the book. I have my notes and what I’ve currently written in a considerable pile on the floor, and I’m going to get OVER myself and get a proposal written and in front of publishers this year. Anyone with any specific suggestions as to what publishers might find my work a good fit, please contact me. I know who I want to hire for any publicity work, but I also need to find an agent to handle the contract stuff. It’s time. As it is, I’m going to set up a fairly long survey for those who have been divorced for a year or more, and I’d like to gather a few interviews to tape as well as some online. It’s a really LONG interview, so finding the willing may take a lot of work.

On another front, I’m also in the process of installing my indoor garden. It’s a very DIY setup using desk lamps bought at Target with plant bulbs installed, and a slow aggregation of seeds from places ranging from Home Depot to Botanical Interest. I’ve got the raw material so now it’s just a matter of setting it up and getting started. My first two crops are going to be catnip and cat grass – I intend to sell these to cat owners so I can raise funds for the rest of my garden plans, and possibly for a few household details. While I can sell off some of my clutter in exchange for small improvements, I also have an eye towards intentional decor – even though I’m well out of the broom closet, I still like having a few pretty things that are under the radar but still visually fun.

The Wicca and Divorce book

This entry is part 4 of 25 in the series Divorcing a Real Witch

I’ve had this book on Wicca and divorce hanging over me for a few years now. I have two outlines, and somehow magically recovered material that really had been deleted several months back – at that time it seemed it was irrecoverable. But when I went on a file cleaning mission on my server, lo and behold, there it was last week, just waiting for me.

I’ve veered away from working on the book for several reasons, the biggest one being my qualifications: technically, I have none. This is all about magic to help ease the transition, because all that other stuff can’t even be handled properly by the qualified professionals.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a marriage counselor. I’m a priestess, but I’ve never led a coven and while I’m certain that will happen in the future if the circumstances are right, right now it’s just not going to happen.

I am a woman who has been divorced, who is also Wiccan. I got to discover firsthand that while I would say almost the majority of magical types in my area have experienced at least one divorce, for those going through divorce there was almost no support, and for the younger divorce’ there is significant and nasty stigma.

I’m not discovering a new world here. Other women have written guides on divorce survival. And, given the people out there who are determined to run around declaring who is and isn’t Wiccan apparently as their faith practice ((it sure doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything else)), I’m concerned this book, even if it does get published, will end up being just pissing in the wind because someone will get so hung up on the “legitimacy” of it that any information offered just won’t get used.

It’s an uncomfortable but real subject, and most of what’s out there starts off with “so, you failed.” Which is such judgmental, self-serving bullshit. It’s also really not fun to write, and as a newlywed, a bit awkward – although at least this relationship with my husband has already existed a very long time.

As I restart and rethink my approach once again, I’m asking a bizarre and improbable question: how can I make writing about dealing with divorce at a magical level fun?

Kids and religion

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While I disagree strongly that religion is the only way or even necessarily the right way to instill the basic values of respecting property, using violence only when necessary, communicating honestly and truthfully, and encouraging respect through asking questions rather than operating on labels formed by parents, it is for the most part the system we have and the only system parents themselves know. It’s often the false belief that you can only be a good person if you have religion, or all too often, if you are Christian (with a patronizing “maybe” for the other monotheists at the party.)

I certainly don’t believe that religion is the only path to “righteousness” or as I prefer, “decency.” I’ve seen plenty of firsthand behavior that has demonstrated devout Christians, Muslims and neopagans being terrible, terrible people and every single one of them had some excuse crafted from a convenient and deliberate lie to themselves from their own religion. Religion as a tool for community in instilling positive values is a great thing as long as the values are placed ahead of the religion. Sometimes, that’s just not so, unfortunately.

So when a minor comes to me with questions about practicing Wicca and getting away from their familial religion, those children certainly have my empathy, although I frankly question their motivations the same as I would any adult practitioner. Even though they have my empathy, I will get away from that line of dialog as fast as I can.

Why?

Mainly because there’s a good chance their parents are crazy. Lawsuits for corruption of a minor or even worse implying some sort of inappropriate acts with the children flash before my eyes. I do not want some kid’s parents stomping over my home and privacy because that kid just wants to hang a pentacle in his or her room.

Also, because as long as the parents are not abusive, those kids have no civil rights. None. Not until you’re 18, and thus old enough to die in a war. You do get Miranda rights – you’re still responsible to behave legally, you just can’t sign any contracts ((which is why I consider confirmation vows made before age 18 invalid)) and your parents get to make all the decisions about your welfare – religion included. Some parents are more lax about it than others, but ultimately the parental units make that final decision about how much freedom you do or don’t have.

I realize if you really want to practice Wicca, that sucks.

But since I’m pretty sure a good chunk of people don’t want to practice Wicca so much as they want to be “just like Willow,” I think it’s fine.

I don’t believe Wicca – or any other form of neopaganism – is or ever was supposed to be a growth religion. And when kids get “into it” it and then drop it when they find out exactly how mundane and non-dramatic magic really is, it devalues the longterm cultural legitimacy of my faith. It already took us until 1980 to get recognized by the IRS, and even that’s shaky ground.

For the rare and truly serious child, there will be a few things quite evident early on:

Wicca is a religion of calling. It is not meant for everyone, it should not be meant for everyone and we don’t have a particular message to bring to the masses. We are part of the crowds and a fair chunk of us do our work from there. ((I’m sure some predatory Evangelical will make hay with that one.))  To practice Wicca, you do not need a pentacle. While the Burning Times was a myth, an interesting part of that myth is also an interesting object lesson: part of the myth is that brooms, bells and besoms were used as ritual implements because it was what they had on hand anyway as they were common household objects. Why nowadays it’s only valid if it’s specially purchased and obviously different or it’s “olde” comes back to a long list of personal insecurities revolving around being a younger-sibling religion.

If you are under 18, I would say that unless your parents are Wiccan, you don’t need to be Wiccan, either. I would suggest the following if you really and truly want to emerge as an adult Wiccan the following:

1. Keep going through with your family’s core faith. God/ess can find you anywhere. The better you understand your religion of birth, the better equipped you’ll be for spiritual experience outside of it. Explore other versions of your birth religion’s faith: I think people who come to Wicca as damaged Christians hating all Christianity when they know only a fraction of it range between the tragic and pathetic, and those wounds give you a crap foundation for magic.

2. Journal, and look closely at yourself. If you tend to be petty and jealous, you need to work on that before it turns you into a warped adult of any religion. This is true even if you think of your own jealousy as “normal.”  If you know things are wrong in your home, find the courage to get help somehow. I realize a lot of people are attracted to Wicca because of the lack of control in their lives, so getting in some third party help is a good thing. Just be prepared, and be totally honest about what’s going on. Have evidence. We no longer live in a world where people can take you at your word, so making up stories for attention is a spectacularly bad and damaging thing to do.

3.  Pray. No, seriously – taking time out daily to pray is generally acceptable by parents and can help you get a handle on what’s going on around you. You can pray to your family’s god or to God/ess, just get used to having that line of dialog open, and make sure you have some moments of “silent prayer” to give God/ess an opportunity to talk back.

4. You don’t need to read books on Wicca to learn about magic. Depending on how strict your family is, you can read up on ancient history and civilizations, mythology, physics and other sciences, skeptical reasoning, interpersonal communications and body language and a bunch of other stuff that will definitely come in handy should you choose Wicca as an adult.

It’s a complicated matter, and when you’re a kid you’re either guessing blind or not thinking about the future at all. I was guessing blind – my every thought was about the future as that was where all my hope lived. But to make it work, you have to work with your present – and having one less thing to fight with your mother about (assuming it’s possible to avoid fights with your mother) is probably a good thing.

You’d better be Creative commons

One of the things that proved a big problem back in the early days of the Internet (early being hilariously laughable to me since it was only long ago to people who had the privilege of growing up with computers) was – and still is – rampant plagiarism. This was especially true among Wiccan sites.

Plagiarism really goes all the way back to the days of Francis Barrett in Western occultism, probably earlier than that. It’s practically a tradition in itself. By the time the occult reached the Internet – and the interface became visual enough to interest a 12 year old – the tradition of pretending you hadn’t plagiarized had long been dropped.

So along with the spinning pentacles, glittering unicorns and the basic text of the charges of God and Goddess, various copies of the Rede and much of Scott Cunningham’s work somehow made its way onto the web. I was completely unsurprised to find works I’d written, both credited and not, appear on many a website and there was an early internet foray where a bunch of other people copyrighted work landed on my own website. ((This was corrected with some scandal involved. Long story, unhinged lady who had an agenda that was about something much less legitimate than protecting her own copyright who only found out when I had ASKED HER FOR PERMISSION TO REPRINT and then launched an attack campaign that was the equivalent of Cartman screaming “Respect Mah Authoritah!” She actually called my university’s tech administrator, who I worked with at his radio show – and he essentially told her to fuck off.))

For the most part, I haven’t bothered chasing down copyright violators. I think I’ve only intervened when the ambition would guarantee the violator a lawsuit s/he would not be able to afford – like the person who copied pieces of a book verbatim because he was “sure the author wouldn’t mind,” and another person who stated the intention of putting the whole of Llewellyn Magical Almanacs online.

I will say that the popularity of blogging and the rising age of the internet user has made a real difference. More people produce original material, much of it drawn from their own lives. ((Those who use the Internet as their life are another discussion altogether – and I don’t think it’s necessarily an illegitimate choice.))
Because of the way blogs work, no one really reads personal websites – and what would go on a personal website now pretty much lands on Facebook.

The Internet is ultimately a social tool, and it’s the way we entertain each other – which is why ICanHazCheeseburger works so well. The Creative Commons structure gives hundreds and thousands the freedom to amuse each other with captions.

Which is why I’m thinking a bit more about Creative Commons. Since I’ve uploaded some videos to my website and I’m also releasing bits of poetry soon, I’m looking at a new possibility, one I wished for often in the early days: a you’d BETTER be creative license. The idea is that if you grab something from what I created – you then turn around and upload it with your variation, notes on the differences, and thus expand on the idea. I think it would be incredibly cool.

This would also prove especially useful in ritual writing. Given how much poetry gets used and adopted in ritual speech, free permission to adopt poetry into it would be great and give some significance back to poets – poetry would once again have a function outside of three chord structures in pop lyrics.

I’m progressively going through my flickr stream and making 10% Creative Commons attribution – I’m just wondering what else I could inspire or promote that way.

A coming feature on my writer’s website

Every year I’m kind of proud of what I’ve come up with for my personal website design, and then it gets to a year later and I suddenly realize that holy crap, it’s a hot mess. I also still wonder who the hell visits personal websites anymore – the way I use the Internet I’m either buying something or reading a blog with a few variations involving forums and fandoms. ((I’m also in the market for a new really good forum – I haven’t found one that captures my interest since Daria fandom 2001, in any genre/interest.))

Still, since it’s necessary for any artist who wants attention or the possibility of a third party publishing work, I’m sucking it up and continuing with that old habit of personal websites. It isn’t like Medea’s Chariot way back when when I was passionately writing short articles of dubious accuracy every night, but it’s something. I also wanted to make it something a little different that is pagan-friendly and fun but still kind of useful.

Which is when I came up with short meditation movies. It turned out my husband had the same idea in the back of his mind: he had also wanted to tape short, soothing things. The idea is that you can pull up my site during the workday (unless you’re horribly firewalled) and watch a soothing visual that helps you get back to whatever you intended to do – just in a calm mood.

The above was taken on a hike in Hawaii. Hawaii has great hiking. I did not have great hiking shoes. Still, there were lots of soothing and lovely visuals I was able to get on my digital camera and on my Flip (TM).

Just thought I’d share. I’m making some nice progress on the site offline, but who knows what bugs I’ll find when I upload it.

Mamas keep track of your babies…and what you publish


The video is of me playing whack-a-mole in Vegas. I think it’s a good metaphor for my decluttering issues.

Maybe it’s hitting my 30s that caused my new, intense focus on decluttering. Maybe it’s because after one pain in the butt move after another, followed by a few spectacular computer crashes here and there, followed by environmentalist guilt, concern, and at long last discovering where to recycle electronics, but I’ve finally started to put a powerful emphasis on keeping everything in my life in order and under carefully watched moderate consumption. Along with clearing out an excess of items of low practical value and discovering the wonders of digitzing sentiment, I’ve been discovering exactly how chaotic I was in teens and twenties.

Quite.

My casual disorganization is especially biting me in the butt now. I’ve had a seventeen year writing career, more or less, and since I did not properly track my early publications on a spreadsheet, in a ledger, or anywhere else (there was a scrapbook but this became cumbersome) I’m having a tough time getting what I’ve published, a CV or sorts, organized and coherent for my website. I’ve been doing an overhaul offline like I do once a year, and I’m really kicking myself for not dutifully noting down every time something I write gets published. There’s even stuff I wrote last year for an online diy fashion magazine that I haven’t properly tracked. I accept that it will probably not be complete, and besides, does an editor really want to read every single book review I’ve ever written? Likely not. I’m not even sure who all reads mine outside of my editor.

Still, a writer’s website should at the very least have a list of what of his/her works are published. I’m just afraid mine won’t be too terribly thorough. I’m not even sure if you’re supposed to use full bibliography form, or if giving the article title and publisher is sufficient to verify through a library.

I’m pretty sure my fanfiction has been better archived than my other work.

My efforts to get my act together digitally as well as physically, however, did lead to a small miracle today. Last year, I inadvertently deleted my entire writing folder. I was ready to do something awful to myself over it, and my husband’s attempts to recover it for me were for naught. Today, as I clicked through some stray folders…they reappeared. Maybe I accidentally copied them to two different folders or something. Maybe I’m getting a little help from Someone Special – lately I’ve been much appreciating the way I have been magically recovering things. This is very hopeful, as the book on Divorce and Wicca I’ve been laboring at had a huge setback as a result of this, and it’s part of why I turned my attention to slooooowly working through the much more fun Urban Wicca. ((I write articles fast. I’m terrified of books, and thus I inch along.))

I can’t always count on miraculous recoveries, and I still have a knack for losing thumb drives, so I think I will be working out a new system of tracking this. I do have a series of lists and plans for 2010 on Google Documents, and I’m not overly worried at their determination to archive everything that ever existed. If you don’t want it documented for posterity, don’t put it online.

Even so, I’m much relieved to have a lot more to work with than I thought.

Yes, back at this blog

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It seems there’s limited interest in going over to the other blog, and while I’m not sure how well I’ll do with maintaining regular posts here or keeping it “interesting” I’ll do what I can. This year’s organization plan involves yet another website overhaul – my friend Liz pointed me to CoffeeCup html editor, which is really great for a person with my lack of skill in editing – and I’ve loved it so far. It’s been much more predictable and much less painful than any other editor I’ve worked with before. And I also have tons of photographs I want to share in general; the past year has been very, very click happy.

So hopefully when the new website goes up you can all page through, give me your thoughts, let me know how “surfable” it is, etc. I’m hoping to spend much more of this year working on content/material and less on appearance. Although I have to admit I’m quite pleased with how my Livejournal looks (yes, I still use a Livejournal.)

Ouch

I tapped my arm with a heat gun for one second on New Year’s Eve and now I’m six days into nursing a nasty burn wound. It only hurts right after I change the dressing, and while so far we haven’t seen fit to take me to a doctor, I am starting to have paranoid imaginings. Ultimately, though, the skin seems to be growing back, there doesn’t seem to be much moisture from the wound and once I figured out that adhesive bandages are contraindicated on burn wounds, I feel pretty confident.

For those who must know WHY I had the heat gun: our balcony door had frozen shut. We’re require to keep it open due to fire codes (yes, yes, laugh it up, irony lovers.) I was wrapping the cord and it just glanced off my arm. Yes, it sucks. But it’s not exactly the end of my world.