Month: September 2011

There are two kinds of people in the world…

Living and dead. I spend plenty of time with both. When connected to death from birth, you become very aware of how little a difference life or death makes in personality. Life and death have meeting points. They share us. You never ever have an expected experience when you encounter them.

For me, the more difficult stuff is the day-to-day. Which is why I consider my experiences with the dead, the very thing that scares me the most and that I often wish would just go away, what saved me from a half-life of living up to expectations.

There are living, and dead, that see the world as having two kinds of people: bullies, and victims. This is why ghosts who experienced terrible deaths then turn around and do terrible things to people that cross their paths. It’s why in life, so many women implicitly or explicitly involve themselves in the victimization of other women.

I do not see the world this way. We have other choices, options three, four and infinity. They are not the popular or easy choices, but alive or dead, we have them available to us.

It is not that we have no limits. It is that we ultimately have unlimited in choice in how we choose to behave.

There’s more than good or evil. You will probably have more than one true love in your lifetime, and at least half of those loves you will never have sex with and probably will never want to. Soulmates come in packs, and most are unpleasant. No two marriages, snowflakes, stars, or dogs are the same.

We all have choices, and the ultimate evil is the evil of taking another being’s choice away.

There is more to the world than bullies and victims. When you learn things that some might consider dangerous, unfeminine or frightening, you do not have to learn them for the sake of seeming more power-dominant. You can learn them to evolve, to have tools prepared for when the bullies and victim subscribers cross that line, to do the ultimate magic: make sure nothing happens.

Hoodoo scares the crap out of people. Just mentioning it to some friends causes them to visibly flinch.

I’ve reading about hoodoo, but not for the power. I have absolutely no need to seem more scary.

My involvement in Wicca was never about power-seeking and it actually nothing to do with my feminism. I have always had plenty of power.

Information really is power, and I’m good at getting it.

My wedding guests made it clear they planned to be themselves all the way through my ceremony, so as a preventative measure, I mixed up domination oil. I never used it, as the guardians I work with saw my making it as an indicator of how much I wanted their help. Still, I was advised to hang on to the oi, that I would know when to use it.

One strange evening, a woman who frequently asked me for my magical skills found the  domination oil in my repertoire. She saw it before, knew I had made it, but acted as though I hadn’t. This time, she immediately assumed the worst, because at the time she was looking for an excuse to cast me as a bully and to confirm her continued role as a victim.

It was also projection. To her mind, if she had domination oil, she would use it, and therefore that’s what I would do.

I suspect I’m keeping it around for the next woman who finds me when she needs to get out of an abusive relationship alive. Bullies and victims are quite real, after all, and the bullies and the victims that become bullies are forever fucking up life or frustrated that they aren’t for those of us who are choosing something else instead.

When you look at its cultural history, hoodoo is all about the bully or be bullied mentality. It has undeniable roots in African-American culture, and is one of the byproducts of American slavery.  Hoodoo developed, as did all magic, as a method of survival.

According to Judica Illes, most domination and compulsion work was extreme self-defense, to avoid getting raped, killed or accused of a crime you did not commit.((and sometimes to avoid consequences for crime you did darn well do yourself.))

I turned to Wicca because I was desperate to prevent other people from taking away my future. But I already had power, and I used it to find a way – the way I found was Wicca.

I’m interested in hoodoo because, after years of Wiccan magic, I want to become better at what I do. Hoodoo has follow up, discipline and a worldview of “use what is at hand” rather than “judge what is at hand,” that resonates with me. While I can never call myself a Conjure – my beliefs just won’t line up – I appreciate the artistry and discipline behind the practices that look raw and frightening.

Many hoodoo practitioners are on to options 4 – 1000 themselves and used their magic to make those options. What would a life with magic in it, that allows for possibilities beyond be the bully or be the victim, look like? My own vision isn’t a perfect world peace, more of a society where a lot of people wear “Work in Progress” T-shirts.

Prohibiting Magic as an Avocation

Disclaimer: This could very well all be wrong. There is no malice aforethought here.

Hoodoo has some interesting aspects to it: it’s the jazz of witchcraft practices. By that I mean it’s uniquely American in the continental sense of “America.” It also, in its principles, seems to steward every taboo known to Wiccan magic workers: it does have death spells, revenge spells and curses. Those coffin nails are not mullein, they are actual coffin nails. Conjure men and women charge for their magical services. These all make those outside the practice so uncomfortable that most do not realize there’s a lot more to the practice than the broken taboos.

I’ve been reading about hoodoo, and spending time on the LuckyMojo site. To clarify, hoodoo is not a religion, it is a magical practice with foundations in Abrahamic faiths. However, it seems pretty necessary for its practitioners to be people of very strong faith, and that is usually a religious faith.

My American-eclectic Wiccan religious outlook is unlikely to change. I believe strongly in reincarnation and in-life consequences for actions both spiritual and physical; I also believe in the absolute necessity of a feminine presence in the divine as well as a masculine one. I also think that God/divinity is utterly separate from religion, and while religions have unique beliefs and subsets of belief, they are at times outfits you wear while trying your road to a single, unknown  purpose that begins with  understanding what is.

Magical systems and traditions live in a strange area between religion and, for lack of a better and much more appropriate term, science. It often taps into some stream of energy that lives right next to what faith produces, but with slight flavor changes. What I get when I practice Ceremonial Magic differs just a little from how I feel when I perform a Wiccan-style uncrossing.

Hoodoo is jambalaya magic. It has the CM here and there, along with other forms of traditional/culture grounded witchcraft. It feels like it’s more about getting the job done than it is about perfecting the form.

…and  for a conjure man or woman, it’s a job. People get paid to do this.

I have not seen any indication it’s a lucrative job.

The myth of the shallow divorce

People get married for shallow reasons. Not everyone, not all the time. Most of the time people get married for all the socially designated appropriate reasons, and for the most part, they mean it when they do. Sometimes, however, it’s just because someone wants to have a wedding or be acknowledged as an adult. ((If you need such acknowledgment, you’re probably not there yet.))

The marriage rate has slowed as little girls break from the “plan your wedding for your entire life” programming and start looking at the relationship instead of the floor show. Boys are also being more conscious, up front, or not buying into it.

Still, marriages can indeed be shallow. Look at Britney Spears.

As to divorce – despite a selection of bitter and spiteful things I’ve heard over the years, I have to say… divorce ain’t shallow.

After talking to nearly 200 + individuals (with more to go) about divorce I know without a doubt that divorce is never requested on a whim, for a bad reason, or just because of boredom.

In the course of 200 authentic conversations, no one gave me what I would consider a frivolous reason for divorce. That 200 people have been so gracious as to answer my series of  questions on such an incredibly touchy subject has been to me a humbling miracle.

Yes, a few might be lying, but the Vegas odds on that are about 1%, which makes possibly to prevarications so far. While the reasons given are all very private (and that I will generalize to the point of non-identification later), I can tell you the common reasons the loud and bitter claim – and the reasons I am not hearing or seeing as I work on this book:

  • Boredom. No one left his/her spouse because s/he got bored.
  • Money. No one divorced anyone in order to get money. Pagans are not wealthy, and even amicable divorce gets expensive. When rearing children, forcing financial support outside the house decreases income – between alimony or the security of a present and accounted for spouse, staying married is the financially smarter option. ((It is not, however, what is better for the children.))  If a married person with children wants a spouse out of the house now, it’s because there’s enough emotional (and in a third of cases physical) violence to endanger the children. No one divorces as a financial strategy. They do, however, divorce when marriage has failed them as a financial strategy. When spouses can’t hold jobs, refuse to discuss money, or can’t control spending or money hoarding behaviors, it can seriously damage a relationship.
  • Sexual incompatibility. Yay for premarital sex and Viagra, you can’t marry a person without knowing this stuff first. I do not count “changes” in sexual orientation in this, because that’s so far from shallow as to live in a different universe on a different shelf of self-help books.
  • Another man/woman. In less than 5 cases did someone marry the person that s/he committed infidelity with. In all cases of infidelity (polyamory being excluded) there was emotional abuse, and in half the cases, physical abuse preceding the infidelity.  I acknowledge that the emotional abuse is highly subjective and may need probing, as some personalities consider “No, this is what you agreed to,” as abuse. Right now, however, every respondent that has raised infidelity as a marriage-dissolving issue has reported it alongside an environment of emotional violence. Both the cheaters and the cheated on consistently report  these tensions. In cases of polyamorous infidelity, while so far there is less violence reported (admitted? understood? recognized as violence?) it literally has to be examined with each and every relationship contract established – it’s definitely possible to cheat/be unfaithful/do the dishonorable thing in polyamorous and polyfidelitious relationships, and from what I’m hearing and seeing as I ask these questions for my book is that there are more ways to do it.

I’m not here to judge “shallow!” or “not shallow!” I’m here simply to understand, to look for patterns, to answer the problems at hand from my own place as a Wiccan divorcee’. The big pattern I’m seeing behind marital failures so far all leads back to a)not understanding at the outset of a relationship that emotional violence is real, and therefore not having the tools to avoid commitment to people who do this and b)a sense of “marriage” as status that makes marriage itself an entity that has little or nothing to do with the actual relationship of the people married to each other.

Those of us with Christian backgrounds still think of marriages as somehow “belonging to God,” and especially as Pagans, that somehow short-circuits a spiritual connection between the two people that worked beautifully until marriage set in.

Marriage used to be mainly a financial and property arrangement including sex; it lingers as an impersonal social status that we mistake for a personal relationship. Marriage is a contract, and while unromantic to westerners, it is very much about compatibility beyond romantic response. Just as businesses dissolve when they no longer profit their owners, marriages similarly fall away.

Diana’s list of good things in the world

I’m thinking of making this a monthly or even possibly weekly post. I’m going to look for 4 things that are going right in the world, that are getting better, that show signs of hope, progress, and positive action.

Sunrise Shots
sunrise off building in NE Minneapolis - photo by Diana Rajchel

This is not blind Pollyanna stuff – this is concrete results, people putting forth solutions to problems. This world is not just a place to be seen as a “terrible place,” as so many relish going on about, nor is it a “wonderful place.” The Earth has its miracles, and its tragedies. The human world has, in its morass of injustice, imbalance the possibility for discovery and a wealth of people willing to imagine new possibilities. Without those imaginations, we might not even notice the injustices. This list isn’t “yay sunsets!” It’s “Yay, solutions! Failures! Trying stuff!”

The bad things in the world aren’t static. The bad things are just where the work is to be done. You can’t do all of it. Neither can I. But you can find what speaks to you, what rings through you from head to toe, and put yourself in that one. Every problem does not need every person – it needs the right person, the exact correct number of cooks in the kitchen, the right mindset. You will have to change your mind about a few things every so often  – everybody does, and the miserable people are the ones that refuse to.

So I give you four good things happening in the world, as people take on solutions to the world’s problems:

  • The worldwide infant mortality rate has dropped dramatically. It’s still a work in progress – but there is progress.  This includes drops in maternal death rates – except in the southern United States, where women’s mortality is rising because male legislators and certain brainwashed counterparts are making the very things that save the lives of women and children illegal in the name of more white babies to adopt. (Let’s not lie to ourselves about that one.)
  • King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will allow women the right to vote in 2015.  I’m cheering for him, and if his mother lives (I hope in excellent health), I’m thinking of sending her a thank-you note.
  • Elizabeth Warren is an actual senatorial candidate to vote for, speaking out against the GOP’s whining/faking being the victim for dominance accusation of class warfare. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own – nobody.” Exactly – somebody had to spend money on your stuff, and thus far it seems that liberals and conservatives agree on the necessity of stoplights.
  • The Grameen Foundation empowers artisans in 3rd world countries to create income for themselves, slowly making inroads into world poverty. Actual lives have been changed.

Some weeks it may be harder than others to find good things, but right now – this is what’s out there, and it’s good.

At Mabon, laid to rest

Only a week ago the streets of Paris bustled with the usual autumn tourists, and the mild weather made the occasional rain seem more like a romantic affectation than some cold and wet inconvenience. Back in Minneapolis, the streets run colder – mornings open to 38 degrees Farenheit. Yet the leaves have yet to change color on either side of the Earth. As the last light blazes its last bursts of crimson and yellow through the leaves, as shadows move independently while the waning sun thins the veil between worlds – so many, many worlds – and as I sigh and fork my car keys over to Mike for the next six weeks so I don’t cause accidents braking for things only a few others can see without drug use – I do have to pause and reflect on what this equinox and rebalancing brings, and also, what it leaves behind.

In Wiccan mythos cycles, some call this harvest. My personal interpretation has been that this is when the God of harvest, the steward of the people, dies. This is a harvest yes – and a funeral. “For the carrots, it IS the holocaust.”