One of the issues that seems to crop up a lot on Ask a Witch a Question is the problem of combating depression. I’m often asked for ways that witchcraft and more specifically magic can be used to tackle depression and other mental health related illnesses. As regular readers will no doubt have noticed most people asking for mental health related help on this site are advised to seek assistance from their GP or a counsellor. Mental health is a serious business and people who suffer from depression need to have their illness treated with respect and given the appropriate health care. It would be irresponsible and egotistical of me to offer advice relating to medical depression when I have no health or counselling qualifications.
That said, there is a distinct difference between genuine clinical depression and low mood. In instances where a person believes they are suffering from depression it is always the best course of action to seek medical guidance. If however a person is not depressed but suffering from a drop in mood – or the blues as the songs like to title it – then there are ways in which the practise of witchcraft and/or magic may assist. It is these mood boosting ways of employing the craft that I would like to discuss today.
However I do feel it important to first point out that attitude can play a big part in your own mood. One of the things that concerns me greatly about the spectrum of mental health is how quick so many people are to write themselves off with the label depressed. For some the label even becomes the excuse not to fight for a positive mood which - in turn - perpetuates the depressive state itself. Many of these people are not suffering from depression, they are suffering from a drop in mood or simply having a normal reaction to one of life’s rougher patches. I think it is important to recognise when this is the case and to understand that periods of low mood will pass and normality will be restored. Giving into it or being too quick to reach for the label is ignoring the universal truth that everybody, without exception goes through hard times on occasion.
I also think it is crucial to make every effort to avoid the one-upmanship battle that mental health seems to have become. I have (seriously) seen adults fighting over the millograms of Prozac prescribed to them in a bid to be seen as “the most depressed.” This is most certainly not the state of mind you want to be in to ward off low mood. Instead of fighting for sympathetic recognition from others, fight for happiness in your own head. If you are not as depressed as somebody else then that is a positive. Go with it and be glad about it.
That said – and with the full understanding that we are looking for ways to combat low mood and not clinical depression – let’s look at some of the ways this can be achieved. The first and probably the most important point is that hiding away from the world is unlikely to help. Maintaining a routine encourages you to get washed and dressed and to undertake your daily tasks. Allowing yourself to get behind with your jobs will only make you feel less out of control and promote the sense of failure that you are falling behind with the things that need to be done. If at all possible – work through it and soldier on.
Important as it is to maintain a routine and keep yourself occupied it is also crucial that you give your mind a chance to process anything that is causing the low mood. Keeping yourself so busy that you can’t tackle what is going on in your mind will catch up with you eventually and you will simply wear yourself out. Try setting aside 15 minutes to just sit and focus in silence on all the things that are worrying you or playing on your mind. Sometimes an anxious state of mind can be brought on by the understanding that something is bothering you which hasn’t yet been addressed by the front of your conscious mind. Tackling these worries head on can often reduce the worry they inspire.
Worries that impact on the mood can feel like baggage that has to be carried around all the time. Chronic worriers often have a sense of dread that if they stop focusing on the worry it will somehow become worse while their attention is diverted from it. This constant holding of a worry in the mind can be exhausting. One of the best ways to combat this is to write down everything on your mind. You can use a worry notebook or - for the more magically inclined - the preference might be for a worry jar. Write down every current concern that a 15 minute meditation has generated and then fold up each piece of paper and seal them up in a jar with herbs like lavender and chamomile to promote calmness. The worries can be accessed at any time and are stored “safely” but having brought them to the forefront of your mind and recorded them you no longer have to bear the constant weight of them. It is the preference of some witches to take direct action with the recorded worries and to burn them to banish and destroy the subject matter of the issue.
In much the same way as recording the worries with pen and paper you may choose to utilise cord or knot magic to record your thoughts and combat your mood. Try taking a piece of thread and focusing on each worry as you tie a knot in the thread. Infuse your anxiety into each knot until it has transferred from yourself into the thread. The thread can then be locked away, burned or cast to the winds to rid you of the source of your worries.
If the low mood isn’t caused by a tangible worry then you might want to consider a working to allow the essence of the low mood to leave you. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to take a jar with a tight sealable lid and to breathe deeply into the jar while visualising all the negativity, misery and anxiety leaving your body with the released breath. Seal the jar and store safely. (For those of you inclined to the more aggressive magics this can be an excellent ingredient for future hex work!)
Meditation can be an extremely positive way of combating low mood. Setting the scene with candles and incense will help you to relax and make it easier for your mind to immerse itself in the meditation. Meditation as an exercise of stepping from one world into another can be a total rest for the mind. Think carefully about what type of meditation you are going to use. Try and make it as visual and as realistic as possible. This is classic “happy place” territory. Imagine yourself somewhere where you know you will be at peace and focus on the sights, sounds and smells of the place your mind has gone to. The more you can direct your senses into focusing on the object of your meditation, the less of your thought processing is being used to fixate on your worries. Think of it as holidaying for the mind…
Taking a bath can help to clear your mind and one of the best ways to use a bath is to stay inside it when the plug has been drained. Lie back and concentrate on the lightening weight of the water as it drains down the plughole taking with it all the worries and stresses absorbed by the water from your body. As the bath drains you will feel a very definite sensation of getting lighter and by the time the bath has drained completely and your worries have all washed down the plughole you will feel a positive sense that a great weight has been lifted from you.
Magic can play a part in lifting the mood but I'll reiterate my first point - your own attitude is the major player in choosing your state of mind. Think down and you'll stay down. Fighting for happiness with every power at your disposal is the best way to beat back the blues for good.
There are few topics more hotly debated in the present political climate than the concept of freedom of speech and how this fits into the structure of human rights. The issue was once again forced onto the agenda of public discussion with the shooting of several journalists at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris earlier this week. Although definite motive has yet to be established it is looking increasingly likely that the shooting was a reaction to the social media posting of a cartoon depicting the Islamic leader of Islamic State.
Many articles will be written in the coming days discussing reactions to the shooting and questioning whether the response could ever be considered justified or if it was simply an act of terrorism. That isn’t what I want to discuss today – I want to focus on the initial action itself. However before doing so I do feel it necessary to make my own viewpoint in that murder can never be a rational response to satire. My personal view on this is that the people who gunned down journalists allegedly to avenge their Prophet were morally and ethically wrong to do so. I have nothing to offer to justify the taking of innocent life and it is not my intention to attempt to do so here.
What I do want to discuss is the initial action itself – the act of publishing blasphemy in the form of cartoon satire. I have listened to a lot of people expressing a viewpoint on this over the last couple of days and the main focus of the argument seems to hinge on the question of whether or not the journalists had a right to publish images likely to offend those of the Islamic faith. Setting aside the very natural emotional responses to the murder of the journalists and ignoring completely the idiotic extreme far right cry to “Kill all Muslims” (yes that hashtag genuinely trended on Twitter this week) the one thing that seems to me to be missing from all these discussions is the word responsibility.
I do not believe it is profitable to have a discussion relating to rights without also taking into consideration the concept of responsibility. The fact that somebody has a right to do something is not an indication either that they should do it or that it is a good thing to do. What appears not to be considered by most people when discussing the right of free speech is the fact that in an integrated and diverse society there is an implied obligation to use free speech in a manner that doesn’t infringe on other people. In other words – you may have a right to say what you want but you do not have an absolute right to offend, to abuse or to use your free speech to hurt other people. In much the same way that racism and homophobia are not free speech, deliberately setting out to hurt and mock religious beliefs is not free speech.
I would question the motivation – not just of publishing images that mock Islam – but of publishing images that mock any religion or indeed mock any matter so close to people’s hearts. One journalist discussing the Paris shootings stated indignantly that Charlie Hebdo had also made fun of the Catholic Pope and respected figures in other faiths. His point was “Look – only the Muslims overreact.” But my point is why publish material mocking multiple faiths in the first place? The intention is obviously to offend. Putting such images into the world offers no contribution to making the world a better place. The journalists publishing their satire may well have a right to do so but they also have a responsibility not to do so. If the sole outcome of an action is to offend and mock then surely it is reasonable to conclude such an action is best not undertaken.
The whole issue of human rights is clouded by the issue that the rights of one individual frequently contradict the rights of another. Yes a magazine may have a “right” to publish cartoons that offend members of a faith but equally religious persons have a “right” not to be distressed by public ridicule of their beliefs. In this instance it was the Islamic faith being satirised but to be honest I wouldn’t be too happy if a satiric publication mocked my faith either. Granted my only probable reaction would be a disapproving tut and - I’ll say it again – in no way does printing satire justify killing as a reaction but on the flip side the overreaction in this instance does not automatically imply that publishing the satire in the first place was the right thing to do.
I was particularly irritated by one individual (journalist Tom Holland) who claimed that his right to draw cartoons of the Islamic prophet means as much to him as the Islamic faith does to its followers. He missed the point entirely – to a believer (in any faith not just Islam) core religious beliefs are sacred and intrinsic to life. I am sure Mr Holland could live his life without the loss of religious satiric cartoons impacting on him too greatly. To separate a follower from their faith on the other hand would be akin to losing a limb – their faith is a fundamental part of who they are. This is what I mean by the problem of one right clashing with another. But in this instance depriving Mr Holland and other journalists of the momentary “fun” involved in publishing their cartoons will have little effect on their wellbeing whereas the resulting publication will cause genuine distress to the followers of the faith being mocked. From a utilitarian perspective if the loss of one right causes greater consequence than the loss of another it should follow that the fall-out be minimised by the right with the greater consequence being the one which is upheld.
Or, going back to the issue of responsibility – the responsible thing is not to cause distress in others for no good reason.
Much has been made of the inalienable right of journalists to publish these images and in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity there have been calls for these images to be spread far and right – to “stand up for the right of free speech.” Three wrongs however do not make a right any more than two wrongs do. It was wrong to publish the cartoons in the first place, it was wrong to kill the people who published them and it will be wrong still if multiple national newspapers continue to reprint these images. I’m not saying don’t publish because of fear of repercussion - I’m saying don’t publish through genuine humanity of not wanting to hurt and offend under the guise of humour.
There has to come a time when we stop thinking about what we have the right to do and start thinking about what it actually is right to do.
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