A possible forward for the Wicca and Divorce Book

I was reading the book Epilogue: A Memoir
and the author’s discussion about her husband’s death, about her grief, about her attempts to find new companionship brought to mind my divorce and my grief over it. It also made me think of an acquaintance going through a divorce, and how what she’s written of her experiences are so very similar to my own internal life when it first happened. It’s also brought to light one of the reasons I’ve had so much trouble getting the book on Wicca and Divorce of the ground: yes, it’s been years, yes, I’ve moved forward into a new relationship, but no, I’m not quite done and it’s not the sort of thing I can or should force. Emotions and loves don’t wrap up in end in neat little packages and it’s a disappointing behavior of modern life that people think they should; I blame this idea on too many people modeling their emotional lives after thirty minute sit-coms. Living doesn’t give you neat conclusions; otherwise you wouldn’t shit yourself when you die.

With that perspective, this is what poured out of me this afternoon.

A Spell-Casting Picture Book – reviewed in Facing North

Facin​g North, a revie​w site on occul​t mater​ial,​ has poste​d a revie​w of the Spell​casti​ng Pictu​re book.

facingnorth

Says Lisa McShe​rry about​ this book:
“No nonse​nse,​ no mucki​ng aroun​d,​ no moral​izing​,​ and total​ly direc​t.​ In anoth​er,​ it compl​etely​ belie​s the absol​ute FUN that the reade​r will find herei​n.​ A spell​book,​ fun? Absol​utely​.​”

Positive Thinking: the How to Edition

Learning to think positively demands a much different approach to your own brain than does reactive thinking. I think most of us, naturally, wait for thoughts to come marching across our heads, or get them started at some point in childhood and leave them tramping around, unherded ever after.

When we engage in positive thinking, the first and most difficult step involves corralling those thoughts into a cohesive order. The techniques to do this are many: in Buddhist meditation, you are to grab those thoughts and examine them as you would stones you pick up out of a pool, to release them again on their way when you’re done. In Western practice where psychology attaches itself to nearly all our meditative practices, you are to examine that thought, find where it came from and root out the emotions attached to it. By understanding the source, you are able to control how the source of the thought colors your mood and outlook.

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But this is only the first step of a long process that might not be mastered in a lifetime.

Understanding your own thoughts, however, doesn’t entirely change their impact on you. It does, however, give you some leverage over your own mind and opens the door for you to become allies rather than adversaries.

You need to look at these and understand your thought patterns – are you prone to catastrophization and worry? Do you think about yourself too much? Are you constantly concerned what others around you are thinking? Are you overly focused on pleasure-seeking? All of these are natural, to a point, but can become a sort of intellectual nutritional imbalance – just like you should have a variety of fruits and grains, you need a variety of thoughts in your head.

In my own case, my bad thought-habit is catastrophization. I constantly catch myself envisioning the worst thing possible happening, because on some peculiar human level, I enjoy experiencing disaster. ((We will need to talk some other time about why we make enjoyable things destructive in human culture, or just enjoy destruction when it’s not at its most applicable.)) I finally managed to get a handle on it by applying a technique I read about in Christopher Penczak’s Instant Magick: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Spellcraft. It was one he picked up from Laurie Cabot years before, where you catch the catastrophic/worry-based thought and visualization (put it on pause) and say firmly “I neutralize that thought!” while visualizing an X over it.
Certainly worry is a function that reminds you to take precautions and consider safety – but set on overdrive, it’s much like being mentally chained to a wall when you’re not the kind of person who enjoys that sort of thing.

It took some practice to use, but I consider myself much more mentally functional now. With less worry clouding my head I can spend more time examining the other thoughts parading around my head and catching them and figuring out what, if anything, to do with them.

Positive Art

I’m moving soon, and part of that moving means re-evaluating the decor in my home. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of visual arts that embrace the negative – women in tears, sarcastic comments posters and even T-shirts, even too much in the way of dark colors. As I choose materials for my dwelling/workplace, I am constantly asking myself the question: do I want to bring this energy into my home?

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The answer, despite my personal aesthetics, is often no rather than yes. It’s a complicated issue, since I do support local and independent artists, and many of them are creating art that reflects the pall cast across creative communities since 2000. I want to support some great artists, but when their expressive moods leads them to build images of darkness or print up sarcastic and mean-spirited commentary pieces, I just can’t embrace it. This is putting me in conflict with my peers, who are often giggling over T-shirts that say horrible things in various languages or who pride themselves on their sarcasm and cynicism. ((I have had a reputation for sarcasm since I was 13. It was wholly undeserved at 13, and while more deserved now, it tells me that a lot of people still mistake genuine intelligence and blunt honesty for sarcasm.))

Art is magical energy embodies in a physical form; that energy can still be positive or negative, and usually can be seen pretty plainly upon examining the object – or from looking for what the artist has named it. So when I see a beautiful piece in layers of reds with wonderful textures, and I’m about to fish into my savings for it, and I see it labeled “Murder” I pretty much put my pocketbook away. I do not want to bring that turmoil into my home.

I’m not suggesting artists restrict their muse – there are some things that need to be said, and the only way to get the message across requires expression beyond the verbal. Art has long been about awareness-raising, but awareness-raising is not and never has been a form of reality creation, and that’s what I’m about: I already know what is. I know what’s wrong. But I want to make something right. That’s where positive energy creation – positive thinking, as it were – begins.  This isn’t about painting puppies and rainbows and the world will be all better; it’s about starting with your version of puppies and rainbows at home and allowing it to become the first layer of the reality you want to create. It’s about having that positivity well of the home around you to draw upon as you confront life’s challenges in a proactive manner rather than a reactive one.

The images and objects we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on our psyche, and our psyche has a profound impact on our health. So when I’m choosing everything from a mouse pad to a shower curtain, I’m actually thinking about the daily imprint I want to leave on my brain, especially since that imprint will result in magical activity and personal creative expression.

I will opt, probably, for something other than puppies and rainbows.  And I fully expect to have to do a whole lot of scrubbing, no matter what I hang on the walls.

Microfame

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of people who approach me about articles I’ve written in the past year. Perhaps this is because I’ve become more available online again and just overlooked the conversation, or perhaps it’s because that Google emails me every time my name appears online so I know when I’m being talked about now, or when something I’ve written is being passed along in Internet forums ((I really wish y’all would instead create something inspired by what I’ve already written and post that in the forums and flora out there.)) It’s an odd feeling to get a letter or a Myspace comment saying, “Are you that Diana Rajchel???” I feel especially bad for the elderly lady living in the southeastern United States who also bears my name and possibly has some genetic tie to me. I can just imagine how she must feel if she flashes her credit card to the wrong employee at a Barnes and Noble, especially since odds are in favor of her being a Catholic with some degree of devoutness. While I am (usually) flattered at the recognition, I do cringe on her behalf, too.

I’ve also been experiencing increased recognition with my work on Etsy, and in other endeavors I have created situations where people know who I am. It’s peculiarly like being a senior in high school again, where all the underclassmen knew my name and I was thoroughly bewildered as to how they knew. Except this time, the how is much more evident, which does comfort me a little. It’s strange, though, to find my name travels when I’ve only been on television a few times in my life and when I write for a national but very narrow market.

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But I’m not alone in this experience – there are others I know who have achieved recognition in specialized areas, usually as a direct result of participation in the Internet. Everyday people are finding they have fans.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome (somewhat misnamed, according to the entry linked to) or Celebrity Obsession is, in actuality, pretty new. Before the distribution of mass media, we pretty much knew our leaders and our entertainers; if we thought of a person as a “great mind” it was likely because we spent a lot of time thinking about the same things. If someone whose worked we admired did not live in the same locale, then an exchange of letter writing would commence. Those connections formed on paper were far more intimate and personal than anything we would have space for in today’s view of celebrity.

Mass media led to depersonalization, which led to being able to see people and have the illusion of intimate familiarity without knowing those individuals at all. So when watching shows like the Real World, or even outright fiction (Buffy, anyone?) we have a sense we “know” these people when really, we’re simply projecting our interactive imaginings onto them.

Something about not being able to directly touch or get an immediate response from that person creates that celebrity obsession, and it seems to happen on the Internet in the same way that it does with television and movie actors; people develop “net crushes” and individuals gather followings, whether it’s through blogging, through becoming a Big Name Fan, or becoming a well-recognized and followed voice in a message board. Sometimes just recognizing a person’s name from somewhere else is enough to accord them some fame, favors and privileges that they might not enjoy if those people were among the “hordes” of a given messageboard or blog.

A friend of mine was telling me about a forum she frequents, and about an unrelated issue where a friend of hers is solving a financial issue for her. I feel kind of guilty accepting her help, my friend tells me. She’s one of my fans. My friend has a very high profile on the message board she met this person on, and feels guilt about the privileges and favor people offer to do for her because she her persona is so well-known. And while I can tell she’s flattered to have fame, she senses a burden of responsibility – she admits herself that there are a lot of examples she’s set in her online behavior and in daily life that she would prefer people not follow. And while making mistakes is a necessary part of continuing adulthood, those who are observing our experiences from the outside may not recognize that we are finding out what lies at the end of the action, not just blazing a trail for them to follow.

In a fandom forum I frequent, some friends I met through fandom are being interviewed. They are highly notorious in this particular fishbowl, and I’m thrilled to see them getting positive recognition that they deserve. But the first volleys I see towards them are critical: Why are you so mean? is one plaintive question. The comment and work my friends have done in that particular fandom are exceptionally low-stakes; there is no possible way to build a career or solve the world’s problems  through this particular avenue. Yet they are treated with the most severity, though what they’ve done is the least deserving of criticism. The fishbowl has warped the perspective, and their impact is viewed as much larger than it actually is. ((I contend that perception equaling truth is corporate baloney, drawn upon conveniently to fire people at will.))

This suggests to me ever more that fame is not and should not be a goal. Becoming a household name is meaningless – our names are known around multiple households these days, whether by our given names or by Internet handles. And as each of us can pursue ever-narrower points of interest, the people we know who share those interests become inflated and more important – and strangely, ever the more disconnected.

Superstition…

I’ve been kicking this thought around for about a decade or so, and now I want to trot it out and give it a try. I use tarot cards to fish for any further information I can get about unknown situations. I do believe dead ancestors may drop by for a visit (but I try not to discuss this aspect of my life with medical professionals.) I honestly believe that when I have sex with someone, there is an etheric transference that occurs wherein I take up some of the other person’s characteristics, making it enormously important for me to be highly selective and limited in partners.

I do have a set of specific, mystical, to date unverifiable beliefs that are consistent with the way I experience life. I can’t reasonably expect someone else’s life experience to match mine, although there is always camaraderie formed from having similar experiences.

Now, having said all that, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m not superstitious.

((photo by zettmedia))
In fact, I suspect that those who are part of mainstream religions that get the “rational enough” social award are frequently more superstitious than I am.

Let’s start with tarot reading. Almost every time I’ve done readings at a street fair, some Christian type walks by and with real fear in their eyes, states that they “don’t believe in it/don’t mess with that stuff.” Now, I don’t think that everyone in the world should be forced to have a tarot reading. If you don’t think it has value, then you won’t benefit from it and I’ll be annoyed at the waste of my time.

But if you really don’t believe in it, why are you afraid? Tarot cards in and of themselves are not occult objects. They may be used to transmit that information, if you’re open to it, and yes, my call to Wicca did start with an energy jolt from a deck of cards. But the cards were just the medium of delivery; I’m lucky that the divine didn’t resort to dropping books on my head, because bird poop is bad enough. All those rules and rituals about how you’re supposed to obtain the cards (be gifted) and borrowing decks – they’re meant as etiquette, not energetic stamps.

Tarot cards are just pieces of cardboard with pictures on them. That’s all. I have yet to encounter a good reader who brings up dead ancestors, and the only dire warnings raised had to do with stuff I already knew about. Most of my readings have no spooky-ookie to them whatsoever; the majority frequently turn into low-level counseling sessions where someone just needs guidance looking over options they already have full information about, and the tarot cards with their western symbolism make a useful key for doing so.

Astrology is actually similar in that, once I lost my superstition that astrology had no relevance, it finally became useful to me. I really think there is something to Mercury Retrogrades – even if it’s just the timing of when every warranty ever made expires. I also think that progressive astrology is relevant and useful once you understand what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean your fate is in the stars – it’s in your own rump, and where decide to have that rump be, and the influences around your rump. The energies and gravities and influences of various stars will eventually be quarked out in a rational pattern by an overworked quantum physicist soon enough.

And then there’s the Harry Potter books. Fundies view them with such fear, and it’s hilarious. Perhaps in some parallel universe there is a Hogwart’s – and in that universe, magic is wholly necessary to keep the world running. In this universe, however, little kiddie’s minds will not be corrupted reading about the magical adventures of a little boy unless there are additional influences that make it appealing. If there’s real concern about children assuming occult practices because they look fun ((since real occultism frequently requires considerable discipline and discomfort; it’s really a tradeoff for some of our outward hedonism)) then perhaps, rather than banning books, perhaps it would be a good idea to find a way to re-engage children in their religion of birth. I recommend C.S. Lewis as a starting point for that.

Besides, I’ve tried leviosa.  Can’t float a damn thing.

So much for that superstition about needing to know Latin to practice magic.