May 1st sees the Pagan wheel of the year turning to Beltane. Beltane is the best known of the three Pagan fire festivals (the others being Imbolc and Ostara) and is termed a cross quarter day, marking the midpoint between days and nights of equal length (Ostara) and the longest day of the year (Litha).
Beltane is considered by many Pagans to be the first day of the Summer. The symbolism of the growing strength of the Sun is echoed in the festival’s link to fertility and growth.
Traditional elements of fertility have become incorporated over the years into general culture with the phallic symbol of the Maypole remaining a particularly popular May Day ritual in many communities today.
The fertility of this festival is linked to the development of the God and Goddess on their journey around the wheel of the year. At Beltane the God has reached maturity and becomes the lover of the Goddess. It is their union that gives birth to the summer.
Beltane reminds Pagans of their links with the world of magic and is believed to be the day of the year when the veil between the world and the world of faery is at its thinnest.
The tradition of annual well dressings (still very much in evidence in Derbyshire where I live) was originally intended as an offering to the spirits, faeries and deities of the otherworld.
Beltane is an excellent times for the start of magical workings which will come to fruition as the wheel of the year continues to turn. Many Pagans, Wiccans and Witches will also use this festival to communicate with the otherworld and ask for guidance and support in the coming year ahead.
Beltane is closely associated with fire, the significance of the flames being for cleansing and purification but also for the increase of fertility. The fire represents the awakening of passions, energies and desires. Fire plays a key element in most Beltane ceremonies, notably in the ritual of “jumping the bonfire.” Jumping over the bonfire is a ritual designed to bring luck and happiness for the year ahead. (I suggest you don’t do it in your long robes though…)
Beltane is a time to look toward the coming months and decide where your passions, priorites and energies will be invested. Its a time to make plans, to stop procrastinating and to get out there and do it!
“Bring out the best and the worst you can be…”
I write a lot about the positives of being a witch and following a magical path. But sometimes I wonder if I come across as being a bit biased about the upside of witchcraft. I think its important to be balanced when representing anything, particularly something as fundamental as a religion or spiritual way of life. So I’m devoting my spare time this week to telling you a bit about the downside of being a witch.
Nobody sums it up better than the singer Billy Joel (who no doubt was talking about something else entirely….) with the phrase: “Brings out the best and the worst you can be…” Becoming a witch forces you to confront which parts of yourself are compatible with the path you have chosen to take and which are going to go by the wayside. The parts that remain after the culling of your old self are distilled into a more extreme version of who you were. Witchcraft gives you the confidence to be you, right down to your essence. This is not necessarily always a good thing...
I came to witchcraft several years ago from a fatalistic sense of ennui. I wanted more… actually I wanted a great deal more than my life at the time was giving me. I wanted to awaken those parts of me that had lain dormant through those interminably conformist years of my twenties. I wanted control, power and self actualisation. Particularly the self actualisation (actually, probably if I'm honest, particularly the power!). I deeply longed for the freedom to be unconstrained by the image of what people believed I should be.
And so, after brief flirtations with other religions and other paths, I started to study and practise witchcraft. And the more I studied, the more I felt my personality start to change and morph into quite a different person. And I’ll admit, not all the changes were for the better….
I used to be a living in the detail kind of person. The type who always had a tidy house and a clean kitchen. But the more I became absorbed into the mysteries of the unknown, the more I started to question whether it mattered if I had a few coffee cups dotted about my kitchen. And what exactly in the point in cleaning a bathroom on Tuesday? You only have to do it again on Friday…. Why bother? I went from slightly neurotic to completely devil may care. It annoys the hell out of my husband. I’m kind of the opposite of the OCD sufferer. Nothing really matters. I can talk myself out of anything worrying me. But the downside is that neither am I the organised and motivated person I once was. Most of the time I just can’t be bothered…. My own place in the universe is so staggeringly unimportant that I don’t think the state of my kitchen surfaces has any significance on the cosmic scale. (I can almost hear my husband grinding his teeth….lol.)
This casual recklessness was really a side effect of spending too much time thinking about philosophy. When you broaden your mind to take in some of the bigger concepts, it becomes very hard to focus it right back in to the little pin prick that is day to day reality. It is difficult to concentrate on what you want for dinner next Tuesday when your mind is off in the clouds, floating around merrily and thinking its own abstract thoughts. And I think there is also a certain degree of recklessness in the sense that: a) It doesn’t really matter what happens any more, I’ve got the power to put it right and: b) It doesn’t really matter what happens any more, I’ve got the spiritual strength to deal with it if it does.
Which brings me nicely to arrogance. If you asked my close friends and family the single most annoying change in my personality over the last five years it would be arrogance. I struggle very hard not to be arrogant but it is unfortunately a very intrinsic part of my personality. I’m not completely sure why. It doesn’t stem from any rational reasoning. I’m not particularly beautiful or clever or talented. I am however very good at my workings in the craft, so perhaps my success in this area spurred on the arrogance a bit. But arrogance is very typical of a lot of witches (most in my own opinion). Once you start to have the power to influence yourself and the world around you, there is a very natural reaction in that you start to feel a little invincible, a touch less vulnerable to the fates than others. It isn’t a nice characteristic. My husband called me “smug,” the other day and he’s right. But is a hard personality trait to shake off. The absolute best witches, the really wise ones have learned to embrace their own humility. For many of us lesser gifted souls, every day is an upward struggle not to let that self adoring little quirk have too much head space.
When I first started studying witchcraft I kept it quiet for a long time at first. I disliked the idea of being judged or stereotyped for my beliefs or my practises. But gradually, I inched my way out of the broom closet and I’m now pretty open with most people. But one of the things I found difficult was where to stop sharing information. I had expanded my own boundaries with my study, my numerous personal contacts in the witch world, forums, Twitter witches etc. And many things in this new world were a lot more socially acceptable than outside it. And I completely failed to understand where the boundary should be drawn. The look of horror on the face of a colleague when I told her I had spent the weekend boiling a dead badger…. the innocent request that someone keep a look out for roadkill…I asked a friend the other day for some menstrual blood to fertilise my plants and she looked at me like I had gone out. What is perfectly normal for witches can often be offensive and even frightening in non witch based communities. And the confusion it has left me with has been a real downside of crossing over for me. I’ve even lost a few friends. Not close ones but on the fringe conservative types. Shame in a way, I suppose.
But the single biggest hurdle for me in the personality change that followed my crossing over was my embrace of the nastier side of my personality. I have always seen myself as being quite a nice person, indeed quite a tolerant and moderate soul. But the more I explored my real self and got to know what monsters lurked in my basement, the more I realised that part of me is actually quite a bitch. And not just a bitch but a self seeking, self serving, slightly vengeful bitch. Hard to come to terms with in all honesty. But like I say, being a witch forces you to seek out all parts of yourself. You can’t work magic with only half your intent and you can’t actualise your intent without knowing yourself. So while becoming a witch did not make me malicious, it forced me to acknowledge the hidden parts of myself that were already there. And I was more than a little shocked to uncover quite so much enthusiasm for cursing….
So crossing over shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ll be tackling some of these issues into my fifties. Becoming a witch didn’t just change me, it changed my own perception of me and shook the bedrock of the person I believed I was. Not that I’d do it again any differently…but be advised, it isn’t all as sunshine and roses as some witches would have you believe.
A mate of mine asked me recently why I practise as a solitary and why I’ve never shown any interest in joining or starting up a local coven. I gave him my usual spiel about preferring to work on my own, but then I got to thinking about why solitary practise at this stage in my life works best for me.
The trouble with covens is that, as with any other hierarchial structure, there has to be a certain amount of power exchange. So essentially you have to choose whether you want to be a leader or a follower and either join an established coven or be instrumental in founding your own. If you go with joining a coven that is already established, you face the inevitable problem about having to compromise something about the way you work to fit in with the others. To some people that may be a worthwhile trade off. There are real benefits to being in a coven - shared experience, like minded people, calling upon the power of group energy…. But to other people, and I count myself among them, the thought of having to adapt the way I work to suit others does nothing for me. And I dislike the idea of being told I have to turn up every second Tuesday just because that is when the coven meets. Ironically I am actually very structured in the way I do practise – I complete formal ritual work every Sunday night and very rarely move it. But sometimes (usually when I’m hopelessly caught up in writing one of my novels) I’m just not in the mood and I move it to another night. I like the fact that I can do my magical work when it suits me. Same with the moon phases. Some periods I’m very aware of the moon and follow it through its phases. Other times I lose track of what the moon is doing. So it follows that some Esbats mean more to me than others. I don’t always acknowledge them. Same with the Sabbats actually. I’m very connected to Imbolc but Litha isn’t a big thing for me and nor is Beltane (because it always – literally - rains on my bonfire).
So joining a coven isn’t really for me, but of course the problems of compromising only really exist if you are a member rather than a founder of the coven. However the thought of founding my own coven is a daunting one. The abilities required to be a spiritual leader are very different to the attributes needed to be an authority figure in any other walk of life.
The way I see it, in general, figures of authority fall into one of three clear categories. Teachers are normally, (not Mr Duffett at my old school, lol) patient and articulate. Managers are structured and organised and leaders are charismatic and inspirational. None of these fit the mould of the coven founder. Spiritual teaching is not about the giving of knowledge, it is about the drawing out of skills and attributes that are already there. A coven leader who sought only to place knowledge in the minds of others would never bring her coven to realise its potential. Management is a pretty useless tool for the coven leader as well. As you are dealing with people who want to be where they are, have a vested interest in what they are doing and have demonstrated enough ability to be in the coven anyway, it is unlikely that they will need all that much managing. Leadership skills are probably the most useful but it is so very easy to cross the land from charismatic leadership to the cult of the individual personality and at that juncture spiritual direction becomes worse than useless.
All this is quite good news for me. I’d be the worst teacher in the world – no patience and no real interest in helping others learn. I’m a rubbish manager, far too much of a soft touch and I tend to let people just drift off and do their own thing. Nor do I have the charisma of a natural leader. Which of course begs the question, if I don’t fit into the conventional mould of the authority figure, could I have what it takes to found my own coven?
Well actually no. At least not yet. I’m still at that stage in my life where I haven’t learned enough humility to guide an entire group of others. I’m still arrogant and judgemental. I’m learning not to be but I still like to think I know best and until that arrogance has been knocked out of me, I’d be in danger of manipulating the group to suit my needs and not theirs. A coven founder needs to be a good deal more selfless than I am. I’ve said before – humility is one of the most important tools of the witch. It is only when you really understand your total and utter unimportance that you should even begin to think about taking on responsibility for others.
I’m also too young. To be honest I think being in your thirties is too young for most witches to found a coven (not all, some younger witches do it very successfully). I would not be at all surprised if founding a coven is something I come to in my forties. I can already see me starting to head that way with my website, the spiritual direction I undertake and something tells me that my first proper apprentice is starting to make herself known….But I’m rather enjoying life at the moment. Running a coven would be hard work and take up a lot of my free time. My poor husband barely sees me as it is. And I’m still far too inclined to step completely out of the real world and live in my novel for a few weeks. That would be unfair on the witches who would look to me for direction.
So I’m going to cruise the rest of my thirties and enjoy the remainder of my selfish years. No doubt my experience in teaching and directing will grow as the opportunities continue to present themselves. And one day when I’m suitably humble, a little more experienced and perhaps a little less inclined to silliness, I’ll give founding my own coven some very serious consideration.
So I’m not saying never, just not yet...Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1174069 (Svilen001)
I’ve always prided myself on not having any “isms…” And by that I mean that I tend to approach people I meet as individuals rather than a representation of their age, sex, class, race or religion. This is probably because I’d rather be judged as an individual myself. There is nothing that would annoy me more than somebody saying – well you would think like that - all dumpy, white, middle aged, middle class witches think like that. Grrrr!
But upon a bit of further thought, I’ve come to wonder if the whole “ism” thing is a bit reactionary. We’ve become so bogged down with the negatives associated with discrimination in our culture that we no longer dare admit that some of those stereotypes exist for a reason. And I’m not so sure that we can forget stereotypes entirely just so we don’t offend the sensibilities of the easy to offend individual. Take my husband for example. I married an Irish man. And I think you’d know it if you met him. Not just to look at him, but his easy going laid back manner that is so characteristic of the Irish (lol, well he was before he met me…), his propensity to drink spirits and his astonishingly hot temper when you finally push him to the end of his tether….
Now I use the word stereotype
in italics deliberately – because to me a stereotype is borne from people in a definable group sharing a common characteristic. It doesn’t mean that everybody in that group shares the same characteristic, it just implies that a fair few of them do. So I cannot legitimately make a claim that all Irish men like a whisky or two,
(any teetotal Irish man could shoot down such an argument with one flick of his orange juice…) but I certainly can comment that my husband, is in general, typical of the Irish because he’s more than fond of his single malt.
And this kind of thinking can be seen in any “ism” today. We can’t assume all gay men listen to Kylie Minogue, all Indian people are hard working, all old people are uncomfortable with modern technology and no women can read a map. What we can be confident of is that enough people in each of these groups meet the criteria for this to become a commonly perceived trend.
The problems and the social issues with “isms” come when you take a general characteristic and apply it to an individual. “You must be xxx because you are yyy.” The insult behind racist/sexist/ageist behaviour is the assumption that the person is not an individual, that they are just behaving in a manner indicative of their “type.” The insult is the assumption
, not the characteristic itself.
And this seems to confuse a lot of people. The confusion comes in particular with positive assumptions. It is just as racist to say “All black people sing well,” as it is to say “No black people sing well.” To make either
statement is to remove the concept of individuality from an individual and to reduce the individual to a stereotype of their race. The non racist way to behave is to treat the person on their own merits. Some people can sing, some can’t. The one thing you can guarantee is you can’t work it out by the colour of their skin. Try asking them to sing….
But the misconceptions of the “isms” works the other way too. We have started to become fearful of expressing comments about entire countries or communities in case somebody accuses us of racist behaviour. But if we agree that stereotypes exist for a reason then I don’t have a problem with expressing an opinion based on a common trait of an identifiable group of people. A statement like “The French eat horse,” isn’t racist. It’s a comment. Its true of a lot of French people. It probably isn’t true of some of them, but as a communal collective, the French do eat horse.
I personally dislike the fur trade in China, the bull fighting in Spain, the whole nuclear weapon hoohah in Korea and the attitude of the super healthy in California. But that doesn’t make me a racist. If I met a Spaniard, I wouldn’t accuse him of spending his evenings taunting the local bulls. I wouldn’t assume
. (OK if he told me he was a bull murdering bastard, that’s a different story, I’d probably give him a good slap, but my point is that I would treat him exactly the same as I would anybody else. I would respect his right to be an individual and to have beliefs and personality traits that don’t fit into the stereotypical characteristics of his race.)
I do believe in stereotypes, some negative, some positive. I think some cultures have got things seriously wrong. Others are so alien to my own way of thinking that I can’t understand them at all. I’m happy to express a positive opinion (I personally find most Polish women attractive) or a negative opinion (Most old people walk so slowly they annoy me…) and I don’t consider myself bigoted for doing so. Because as long as I continue to treat everyone I meet as a blank slate and I’m willing to take them at face value as who they are without preconception, then I think I’m doing ok avoiding the “isms.” And my advice to you is to do the same. People are so much more than the stereotypes would allow you to believe.Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1380778 (rojijaune)
On the list of things despised by the Degu Witch (Tescos, people who talk too much, Boots advantage card, people who like sport, tea, mobile phones, people who disagree with the Degu Witch, Pandora bracelets, discrimination, 5p pieces, chewing gum, cheese flavoured crisps, cockroaches and the Conservative party …) one item shines as a beacon of hatred worthy of its own blog. Litter.
I hate it. I hate those completely oblivious fools who throw their litter to the floor thinking somebody else will pick it up. I hate the kids who think its funny, the adults who don’t care, the parents who don’t teach their kids respect. I was brought up to never drop my litter. I’d have got a good smack from my mother if I’d gone around dropping my crisp packets on the floor. And quite right too. She brought me up to respect the environment and to take responsibility for my own mess. And how hard is it to put a crisp packet in a bin anyway?
Its not any one generation to blame. I see as many old people chuck their wrappings on the ground as I do teenagers. There just seems to be this whole attitude that it is somebody else’s problem. I personally don’t know how anybody can bring themselves to just carelessly drop something on the floor. I chase anything I accidentally drop down the high street…even in a strong wind. I’d rather flash my knickers to an unsuspecting public than be tainted with the foul stench of the litter lout.
To give you an example - I went out for a picnic last summer with my husband and a couple of friends. Very pleasant. Upon leaving our spot we packed up everything carefully, cleared our litter into my husband’s rucksack and left the spot exactly as we had found it. Nearby where we were sitting was another family who were also enjoying the rare summer picnic weather. However when they wandered off, they left all their litter behind, the remnants of their picnic, plastic bottles, dog mess and would you believe it, even dirty nappies. Disgusting. And so completely unnecessary. As far as they were concerned, they had had their fun and they didn’t care that they had made the place horrible for the next family who came along. (Mind you fellow witches, pretty handy to pinch a bit of dna for a spot of revenge? These idiots obviously don’t think that one through….)
Litter has a real impact, beyond mere frustration and unsightliness. It pollutes the rivers and lakes and poisons our fish and birds. Those nasty plastic things that keep cans of lager together can trap animal heads and strangle them. Birds swallow chewing gum and it sticks their insides together. Left over food attracts rats which bring disease into our towns.
There is a major environmental issue here as well. Do you know how long it takes an empty coke can to biodegrade? Two hundred years. That means that coke can you chuck on the ground could still be kicking around in the time of your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchild.
Plastic? Bottle tops and the like? They can stick around for 400 years. So if they had had plastic at the time of the gunpowder plot and James 1st had dropped one on the floor, that could theoretically have survived until the present day.
When are we going to wake up to the fact that we can’t choke our beautiful planet indefinitely without consequence? And when are we going to realise that we are not as important as we think we are and instead of banging on about our “rights” to do we should be looking harder at our responsibilities and duties to do things. And these very much include caring for the only habitable planet we have.
Nature will win in the end of course. I watched this brilliant documentary about Life after People and it showed how long it would take for nature to entirely reclaim the planet when (and its when and not if) people are finally wiped out. Most signs of man even including monuments like the Statue of Liberty would be gone without a trace after 10,000 years. Roads will crumble, buildings will fall, the green and the wild will once again rampage through the planet. Animals will return to our cities and within just a few thousand years you wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where London, Tokyo and New York ever stood. That reassures me somewhat.
But even so you horrible, ill mannered, ignorant litter louts – your contempt for your world and for those around you revolts me.
There is a real polarity in the way witchcraft is perceived by the general public and it is interesting to see how some people view witchcraft as a science and others much more as an art. I think this distinction even extends to witches themselves. There are witches who focus very much on the practical and scientific aspects of the craft – herb growing, potion making etc and witches who are drawn more to the artistic elements such as spell writing or poppet crafting.
As with any cross section of the public, some witches have a more scientific bent than others. Some seek out rational explanations of how magic works and others have no idea why it works but embrace the fact that it does.
I know some brilliant witches at both ends of the spectrum and I don’t believe a fundamental interest in science is a barrier to being a witch. I’ll be honest, it isn’t the way I personally approach the craft. I’m not very interested in knowing why or how things work and I don’t like getting too bogged down with an intellectual appreciation of what I do. I just like to get on with it. I actually have little personal affinity with science (I’m even secretly a bit dubious about the whole evolution business…) but I can see how an academic reasoning behind their craft can help some witches to commit to what they do.
Generally most people have a bias as to whether they approach the world with instinct or intellect. Some people are very considered and think before acting, others have a more “hope for the best approach.” Both approaches bring their own benefits and challenges to the craft.
Instinct is usually based on subjective knowledge, personal experience and gut feelings. It is an “in the moment” philosophy. A witch who is guided by her instinct will feel her way through the craft, she will perhaps be less inclined to the theories of books and more drawn to trying new ideas out for herself. An instinctive witch is much like an instinctive cook, she probably won’t follow spells or recipes, she will try a little bit of this and a little bit of that until she comes up with something that works for her. (And when she’s done it, she probably won’t be able to tell you how she did it….) The instinctive witch reminds me of George in Roald Dahl’s “George’s Marvellous Medicine.” She’ll try a bit of everything with great enthusiasm. It might work, but of course it also might blow the house up….
The advantage of being an instinctive witch is that you are not stifled by the thoughts, ideas and practises of others. Your path evolves along original lines and is likely to be an eclectic one pulling from bits and bobs that have personal appeal. However the downside of being an instinctive witch is that sometimes not enough learning is completed to gain a sound understanding. This can be a real barrier - for example in a witch who wanted to follow a particular tradition. Set traditions can’t just be made up as you go along - you need to learn the rules and the fundamentals of how that tradition works and practises. Although you can go quite a long way in the world of witchcraft without any book learning, an understanding of how witchcraft itself has evolved and a knowledge of what has worked for others is necessary for a witch to progress beyond the naturally limited confines of their own personal experience.
An intellectual witch is likely to study the craft extensively. She will understand different traditions and ways of working and will be inclined toward spells, rituals and documents that have worked well for others and have a historical base. She will question the meanings behind why things work for her and will incorporate or reject elements into her workings based on whether she rationally believes that they are of tangible benefit in her craft. The intellectual witch’s sound understanding of the mechanisms behind her work may mean that she has a stronger belief that what she does will work for her. Certainly she can be confident she has the knowledge to know what she is doing.
The advantage of approaching the craft through intellect is that it opens up a wider base of knowledge and allows the witch to explore viewpoints different to her own. She will spend less time experimenting and more time with the tried and tested. She will have a wider pool of knowledge than her own to draw from.
The disadvantage for the intellectual witch is that sometimes she can be so attached to the study of witchcraft, she never gets her hands dirty with actual workings. So while she may often have a greater knowledge than her hands on sisters, she may never develop the same level of skill as she always has her nose in a book….
You know what I’m going to conclude… The best witches use a blend of both instinct and intellect to further their path in the craft. The combination of book learning and personal experimentation is a powerful one for the witch. Experience builds on the solid foundation of theory and knowledge to further the progression of the individual witch. Both intellect and instinct have a valuable role to play in witchcraft and a witch ignores either at her peril….
Ok, for those of you who have requested I do something to show you some pictures of my tarantulas....this week for the non arachnophobic among you there is a chance to meet Charlotte and co and see some pictures of my beloved scuttlers.Click here to see the tarantulas.
Don't click if you don't want to see pictures of my tarantulas.....
(You will not come across the pics anywhere on the site accidentally, I've done this as a separate page only accessible from the click link so I don't scare those of you who don't like them).
For the rest of you, here are some of the pictures I have created to promote my site on Facebook page. The page is called "Witch Path Forward" so no real surprises there....
A common theme on Ask a Witch a Question is the morality behind performing magic on another person without their consent. A lot of people seem to worry that they will have magic cast on them against their will or without their knowledge.
So I thought I’d explore my own position on this a bit in today’s blog post.
My views have changed over the last couple of years. Initially I was very live and let live and quite conscious of not treading on the toes of other people. But the more I work with magic, the more strongly I feel that if I can use it to achieve a benefit in my life then why shouldn’t I do so? As a fundamentally selfish individual, I’m all about making my life as easy as possible. If I can eliminate a few obstacles here and there, I’m going to do it
Also, working with magic is an intrinsic part of what I do. It’s hard to define what is or isn’t magic. There is no clear demarcation in my day to day business anymore. The magical part of what I do is tightly woven into the other parts of what I do. There is little discernable boundary. Standing on my welcome desk at work earlier today and giving every one of my customers a smile that makes them leave the branch happy is working a little magic in itself. But few people would object to having this kind of magic worked on them.
Admittedly, of late, my views have become a bit less sympathetic to others. Put simply, a lot of people (actually, most people) annoy me. Some on purpose, some inadvertently. Even those who don’t go around annoying me often get in my way. And if somebody impacts my life negatively then I am becoming increasingly less concerned with taking direct action to push them out of the way or stop them doing whatever it is that I don’t like them doing. So when the behaviour of another person affects me
I am quite likely these days to interfere. I don’t really have a moral problem with this. I’m proportionate - I don’t go flinging curses around just because somebody gets on my wick (Unlike some witches I could mention….). In fact, for me to take an aggressive stance, you’d have to really go out of your way to be a thorn in my side. But in terms of manipulative magic or defensive magic, I’m quite happy to employ them where needed. Not that I’d advertise the specifics of course! (Also, if you know someone practises witchcraft and you go out of your way to irritate them, you’re kind of asking for it, aren’t you?)
I’ll give you an example. If I felt someone was nagging me, I’d work a spell to shut them up. I wouldn’t hurt them, harm them or punish them but I would ensure that in relation to me, they shut up. I might do this proactively by shutting them up or I might do it reactively by changing the effect their nagging has on me. Either way, I’d bring about a situation where it would bother me no longer. This, in effect, is using magic on a person without their knowledge. Opinions will differ widely as to whether or not it is acceptable. For me, it is becoming a much more acceptable way of conducting myself. For others it is perhaps an unjustified action. (To be fair, I’d look at my own behaviour too, if I’m doing something so stupid that the nagging is justified, just stopping doing it might be the answer to my problem!)
Malice is a different game entirely. I can be pretty tolerant with people who annoy me and exceptionally tolerant of people who affect me negatively for positive reasons of their own. If my feelings happen to be the “fall out” I can understand that. I’d never do the whole woman scorned thing and I’d never blame someone for putting their choices/feelings in front of my own. That’s just how life works. However, if someone displayed deliberate intentional malice toward me, I’d take a very gloves off approach. I’d be deliciously vengeful and I’d enjoy it deeply.
I’m very hands off when someone makes poor life choices that don’t affect me. I’m still of the mind that it’s probably none of my business what other people get up to. Some people make what I consider to be astonishingly terrible life decisions, but I’ve always been a believer in personal responsibility and hold the view that a lot of situations are down to the person to sort for themselves. There are exceptions of course. If my little niece ever got bullied at school, I’d interfere magically like a shot. Equally if someone asked
me to interfere then I probably would. But I don’t have either the extreme arrogance to believe I know all the answers or if I’m honest the effort it would take to go round the world being a moral crusader. Its very hard to make choices for other people. People are complex creatures. You don’t know enough about them to know what the right choice would be to make for them. I’d be really angry if someone assumed they knew what was best for me and I would therefore hesitate to do it to someone else. I suppose I can imagine extreme exceptions where I might intervene in someone else’s life, but generally I’ll let people get on with it unless they a) get in my way or b) ask me for help.
The only time I ever do go on a moral crusade and proactively get involved with something that has nothing to do with me is when I go through the papers and do the odd curse here and there for people who have hurt animals. (You are so going to regret what you did to that hamster James White ….. and I mean really regret it). Possibly a bit vicious of me but it’s my little way of fighting injustice in the world. I’ve worried about the morality on occasion, the possibility of getting the wrong person etc. etc. But my eventual conclusion was what the hell, just do it. It serves them right and it makes me happy.
So really, I have my own personal rules and I rarely stray beyond them. I put myself very much at the centre of what I do and so I think do most people if they are honest. I don’t have the fluffy viewpoint of making the world a blessed and sugary place for everyone I meet, I’m primarily concerned with making my own life work for me. I do try to conduct what I do within some confines of morality and I do try not to permit neither temper or personal dislike to cloud my judgement but ultimately, I use who I am and what I do to get what I want. I don’t think this makes me any less lovely than the next person, just perhaps a little more honest……Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1109760 (mc kenna 7 1)
OK Mr Cameron, step aside. I’ve watched you messing things up for too long now and I think I can do a better job. So Degu Witch for PM.
The Degu Witch Manifesto
Now, I'm aware that the country is in a bit of a mess financially, so the first thing I'd do is boost up the treasury a bit.
I would scrap Trident on my first day in power. Yep, I’d slash the defence budget until they could barely afford a solitary hand gun. And as I wouldn't be following the American constitution on their right to bear arms any time soon, I probably wouldn't let them use it anyway. We're a small island with no real power any more, we don't need a massive defense budget. The only people who want to invade us are too far away to manage it anyway.
So I'm already a few million quid up on the Tories.
OK. Taxation. I'd have a much more tiered system and anyone earning over £100k would be taxed at 70%. But my real focus here would be on big companies. I would make public disclosure of profits mandatory even for private companies and I would enforce such eye wateringly large fines on tax evasion that it just wouldn't be worth doing it. I'd scrap the FSA and all their pernickity little pressures on the banks and I'd set them to work spotting tax fraud instead.
That's saved me a few billion a year.
I'd tax the knickers off junk food, chocolate, alcohol, takeaways, fizzy pop, sweeties and processed food. This would have the impact of a) more money from taxes, b) eating healthy would be the new cheap option c) save money from the NHS as impact on better health.
I'd also use monetary fines as more of a punishment in the legal system. I'd financially penalise white collar crime, thus reducing my prison bills and boosting my coffers from the fines. I'd fine anyone dropping litter as well – I'd fine them a lot!
Now I'm in charge and I'm rich I can start actually doing stuff...
I'd completely overhaul the sex offenders register and apply a much needed dose of common sense. 16 year old lads bonking their 15 year old girlfriends would not be considered sex offenders on my list.
I'd legalise prostitution (and tax it), cannabis (tax it a LOT) and I'd employ a good deal less prudishness on the porn laws with the obvious exception of child porn. I'd toughen up on that by forcing Google and co to disclose key word search history data (I know they can do that...)
I would unprivatise all the key utilities and ensure water, gas, electric, rail and the mail were all non profit organisations. (And I wouldn't compensate the share holders either, they've had enough money over the years.)
I'd do a massive overhaul of the welfare state. The trouble with the welfare state is that those who need benefits don't get enough because people who don't need them claim them. Take child benefit for example – I wouldn't give that to the affluent middle class as a basic right but I would give more to people to whom the money really makes a genuine difference. And I'd go entirely on household, not individual, income. None of this two people earn £30k each so they qualify nonsense.
Environmentally I would heavily tax the second car in a household but I would take tax off petrol. The idea being that necessary journeys become more affordable but unnecessary trips are minimised.
I'd bring in mandatory pet licensing for all animals and give the RSPCA rules some serious power against animal offenders (maybe that handgun will come in use after all....) All acts of cruelty would result in a lifetime ban. I'd ban fox hunting, badger culling and bring in strict
rules for more humane pest control.
I'd cut management in the NHS and use the money for more nurses. I'd tell teachers to suck it up, stop going on strike and be grateful for their long holidays. I'd go further with the services, I would make it illegal for any of the public services to go on strike and I would make it punishable by jail sentence.
I'd make all schools multi faith and insist that discussion of all faiths forms a core part of the syllabus. Traditional days of worship across all the world religions would be equally noted. This would promote knowledge of others and general tolerance from an early age.
I'd return common sense to the legal system and appoint the judiciary from completely non legal walks of life with an emphasis on weeding out thousands of pound payouts for some mewling mare who's had her bottom slapped (whichever journalist said a real woman would deal with it, I agree with him wholeheartedly....)
I would ban mobile phones on all public transport and use some of the billions I've saved to put up mobile blocking signals in areas on national importance.
I'd stop censoring naughty words in songs on the radio. I'd be pretty tolerant with censorship full stop. I'd let practically anything go through the cinemas but would be tougher on dvd release as more chance of falling into underage hands. I'd take a harder line on gratuitous violence than sex because I don't believe watching a bit of nudity ever harmed anyone.
I would criminalise chewing gum. I'd make it illegal to sell, buy or chew it.
So there you have it – the Degu Witch manifesto. Do I have your vote??
Ok, a slightly fragmented blog this week. On the Pagan blog project we are currently working with the letter H and I and I suspect many of my literary witchy colleagues just can’t resist the chance to let this one pass without a quick nod to Harry Potter.
Unlike many witches, I’ve got rather a soft spot for JK Rowling. I’ve fought her corner a few times when her writing style and her knowledge of the occult have come under fire. As someone who knows a bit about both writing and magic I don’t think she strays all that far off the mark with either. The books kept me entertained for many years and – here’s a rare confession from the Degu Witch for you – yes I did queue up at midnight to buy the last one….
So I thought today, what I’d like to do is pull a few fictional examples out of the Potter Universe and use them to illustrate some of the inspirations and roots for where the fiction originated from.
There are many historical, mythical and cultural (Azkaban/Alcatraz anyone?) references but the focus here is on actual magical practices.
So to start with – wands. Witches get asked all the time if they use wands (some do, some don’t). I do personally. I can’t confess to have a phoenix feather or unicorn hair in my wand but what I do have is several crystals attached to each of them. The idea of a wand is that it is used to direct energy. Although energy can be directed just as effectively with your hands (and many many Trad witches prefer this method) the idea of using a wand is that your intent picks up the characteristics of the wood and the crystals that the energy is generated through.
And interestingly enough, I do have a wand made from elder….
The whole idea of the horcrux has got to stem from the traditional idea of making a witch bottle. With a witch bottle, a witch will seal her essence inside, often protecting it with baneful herbs, glass, broken nails. I’ve done this with serenity spells by sealing my essence inside lavender and giving it a shake when I want to feel calm. It’s the idea of separating a part of yourself so it cannot be harmed, which fits in very nicely with JK’s soul splitting.
A witch learns how to become invisible. Not literally (which is a shame) but she learns how to blend into her surroundings, how to be unobtrusive and covert, how not to draw attention to herself. This is obviously where JK gets the idea of the invisibility cloak from. However, in her world, invisibility sounds a lot more interesting!
Witches work with spirits. In the real world this is often achieved through a séance, a Ouija board or simply by opening up the spirit channels. JK has a lot of fun inventing ways for her characters to speak to the other world. Probably the most charming to my mind are the portraits of the Headmasters in the Headmaster’s study at Hogwarts. And as witches may seek the advice from the other world, many of the magical characters in the Potterverse are advised by the various pictures and portraits that bridge the gap between the worlds.
Scrying is a method of divination. It can be done with a crystal ball (a la Ms Trelawney), a mirror (The Mirror of Erised) or any flat shiny surface really, even a bowl of water. JK really picks this up with the whole looking into the Mirror to see the future thing. However, unlike modern witches who use scrying more as an aid to unlock the inner wisdom of the mind than to actually physically “see” an image (though that can work as well) –the characters in the books see the visions as clearly as they would their own reflection. Which is taking the whole scrying idea and souping it up somewhat.
Incidentally, talking of divination, many people still read their tea leaves. I don’t personally, I cannot abide tea. But it is still a future foretelling method used widely today.
One area where our friends at Hogwarts seem to have it a lot easier than real witches is spell casting. All they seem to do is mutter a few random non rhyming (mostly gobbledygook) words and amazing things start to happen. Yes, there is a parallel to spell casting, words are important, they frame and express your intent. To keep the focus, many witches will rhyme their spells. But there is a world of difference between mumbling a word or two and writing a spell to lay out specific intent. I always think spell writing is much more akin to writing a formal legal contract – its important to consider all the loopholes…
Sticking with spells. Bellatrix Lestrange comments how you really need to learn to hate to work a curse. She’s right. Cursing is a tricky area of magic. Going into it tentatively or doubtfully will achieve nothing. This is why curses are real one off, probably not used very often spells. Not many of us can sustain the levels of anger and hatred needed to work a curse. Different with hexes, the lighter side of aggressive magic, much less hate needed. Vexation and irritation. (And people who use their mobiles on the bus. Slap my wrist!)
Culturally I think JK Rowling is making some interesting sociological points about racism when she refers to the non magical beings as “Muggles.” However there is also a definite cultural link to the world of real witchcraft where many an argument burns about whether witches are born a witch or learn to become a witch. Hereditary traditions can often be quite scornful of a witch who comes to the craft rather than being born into a family or tradition. Equally, many traditional witches are negative about Wiccan witches, seeing them as inferior because they only practise “fluffy magic.” As with any generalisation, it isn’t a behaviour you see in everyone, but it does exist and the backbiting between the various groups can be every bit as vicious as Lord Voldermort’s dislike of the Muggles.
For me, the best book in the series is the Half Blood Prince and I think the ending is one of the scariest chapters I have ever read in a book ostensibly intended for children. The army of the dead who rise from the waters bear an uncanny resemblance to the Voodoo (voudou) zombies of Haitian legend. Dead in soul and spirit but alive in flesh. There is something terrifying about an enemy who cannot be reasoned with and JK uses this imagery very effectively to chill the blood of her readers.
As this has turned into rather a long blog post, I’m going to throw a few more ideas at you now and then go have my dinner (which I’m rather hoping is fish and chips….)
The witch’s familiar? Voldermort’s snake, Harry’s owl, Hermionie’s cat….
Astral Projection? Harry’s death, the Dementors, the time travelling device?
Meditation and mind clearing? – The Pensieve?
Sacrifice? The blood offering in the cave in the Half Blood Prince.
Ok, I’ve made my point. In my humble opinion, JK has done more research than her critics admit. She’s got a pretty thorough knowledge of the magical world and a good understanding of myth and legend (maybe a blog post on that one day, who knows….)
And why do I get the feeling I’ve only scratched the surface here…? That there are thousands more I’ve missed. Let me know if you think up any more. x