Thank the Goddess for the First Amendment

3rd Wednesday: Current Events (issues from one Wiccan Witch’s perspective)

Ohio prisoners who identify as Pagans are no going to be able to practice their religion, and receive ministry in their religion, while in prison.  Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction approved 50 religious groups who will be allowed to visit inmates, including all manner of Paganism and Witchcraft. Ohio is joining West Virginia and a few other states in this step forward to ensure religious rights.

You gotta love the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Music to my ears. I can’t imagine living in a country without laws similar to the First Amendment. My heart breaks for so many countries in Africa, where people – especially children – are still being violently persecuted for suspicion of Witchcraft, or the attempt to exterminate Christians in the Middle East .

Life is not problem-free, of course, even when you do live in a free country. Laws can’t stop every nut case out there. Sure, there are cases in the U.S. of bigoted people harassing, trying to deny rights, or (in some isolated cases) severe persecution that seriously threatens a person’s health, liberty or well-being. In in this day and age, and in this place, we’re in better shape than most of the world has been throughout history, or even than some parts of the world are right now.

Of course, like with everything else, the First Amendment comes with a trade-off. We have the freedom to post our blogs, hold our rituals, celebrate our sabbats, raise our kids in our faith and post our endless supply of empowering memes. But for us to have this right, the First Amendment also has to allow those we disagree with to practice their religion.

Not only do they get to practice it (like we do), but they get to speak out against ours. Free religion and free speech kind of go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways when you think about it. We get to write books and give speeches on YouTube videos about why  we disagree with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, etc., etc. But the same rights are afforded to Pat Robertson calling Wiccans ‘evil’ on his television show, or the Westboro Baptist Church showing up to say ‘God Hates Fags’ outside funerals.

Being Pagans, especially being Witches, we understand this. Everything is a give-and-take in nature, and in life.

That’s why in Washington D.C. people could peacefully assemble one week wearing pussyhats while trying to bring attention to their right to their birth control of choice, or an abortion if they choose to get one. While the very next week, at the March for Life, people who believe babies are being murdered, got to express their concern.

Sometimes when we have our own passionate beliefs, when something we disagree with truly offends and repels us, it can be hard to be supportive of the First Amendment. Look at Milo Yiannopoulos fleeing from UC Berkeley a couple of weeks ago. Some people are actually cheering that he was shut down because they hate the things he has to say. I have no problem with hating the things someone has to say; but I have a real problem with denying people First Amendment rights, then trying to justify that with a ‘but’. If you find yourself saying, “I support the First Amendment, but not for (fill in the blank),” then guess what? You don’t support the First Amendment.

I have to be honest, it freaks me out a when people celebrate stifling free speech with violent riots (what went on at UC Berkeley do not qualify as ‘protests’; they were riots). Because that’s the same kind of thinking behind the villagers who grab the pitchforks and the torches to go after the Witches.

It also freaks me out when people want to make certain religions illegal, when peaceful assemblies turn violent, when people abuse their right to criticize the government by trying to villainize/demonize those they disagree with, and when the press abuses their power by being deliberately dishonest and manipulative—trying to promote a narrative and an agenda rather than giving the cold, hard, unadorned, unexcused facts.

The Freedoms of the First Amendment provide us with an incredibly strong foundation for society, but every time we use a ‘but’ to justify chipping away at them we are contributing to the crumbling of that foundation. Sometimes there is cause for a ‘but’, of course (like someone directly inciting violence or sacrificing babies, for example), but those times should be exceedingly rare.

These freedoms are never going to be easy to execute in diverse nation; the founding fathers knew this when they framed the Constitution. And the more troubled times are, the more the country is divided on which values to embrace or which solutions are best, the harder it gets to put vehement disagreements and personal feelings aside in order to stand up for the First Amendment.

But I’m afraid I have to side with Evelyn Beatrice Hall on this one: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

I can’t help but think of our Pagan ancestors being persecuted for their beliefs, and how many of their persecutors thought they were justified. With every fiber of their being, those persecutors truly and wholeheartedly believed Pagans were practicing some repulsive, offensive, deadly stuff, so they justified their own oppressive behavior.

Freedoms like those afforded in the First Amendment were a huge step forward for human societies (and it still took time to catch up in practice with that massive philosophical threat); it truly chills me to the bone that these days we seem to be taking a step backwards. People are back to intolerance, back to justifying their actions, to denying that attempting to oppress that which they hate.

Dennis Prager, conservative talk show host and author, says, “I prefer clarity to agreement.”

While I may not agree with all of Prager’s positions, I do embrace that particular bit of wisdom. It rings true to my religious values, and it helps me remember just what a stroke of brilliance the First Amendment is, and why we have a responsibility to watch our ‘buts’. If we’re not careful, we could pull our own foundation right out from under us, and I can’t imagine where we, as Pagans, might be then. With two-thirds of the world being Muslim or Christian, two religions that believe we’re ‘the enemy’, anything that would weaken First Amendment rights is the biggest threat we face in the long run.

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Moving Magic Part I: Looking Out Toward a New Horizon

2nd Wednesday: Cottage Witch Corner (everything home, garden & family)

So, as many of you know, there are a lot of life changes going on for me these days. It’s as though my soul went through the dead of winter, but now Imbolc has passed and my soul has started to stir again. Spring may not yet be here, but I’m starting to turn my face toward the sun and feel the warmth of hope washing over me. It’s still faint, but I’m motivated to look ahead.

The next big hurtle I face is finding a new home. I’m moving to a brand new city, and it feels like a great way to start over. It’s like getting a fresh notebook and pack of pens. All those clean, blank pages– they mean possibilities. A new chapter. A fresh start.

So, there’s some magical plans in the works to help this goal along.

Speaking of magic, don’t forget to check out my Witchcraft workshops:

 

Getting Ready:

At this phase of my moving plans, I’m mainly focusing on finding a place I’ll love and projecting as much positive thoughts as I can into my future. I started with positive affirmations about my future:

  • I’m loving my new home, my new city, my new life
  • This move is the best thing for me and is opening doors of opportunity for family, friends, work and fun
  • I am moving into a river of abundance and am being washed over with health, prosperity and happiness
  • I hold the power to make my life whatever I want it to be

So these are just  a few of my affirmations that I have been drilling into my subconscious on a daily basis.

My next project was to create a small altar toward my goal. I don’t want to talk to much about it or post a picture of it right now, because it’s still in the works and I don’t want the wrong energies interfering with it. Generally I don’t talk about magical workings very specifically while they’re still going on, but pictures of what I want, candle and container magic, prayers, petitions, the right symbols and crystals and herbs, etc. are all contributing to the working.

Of course, divination is also very useful. I like to use my pendulum, like I did when I was looking for my car. I shop around and print out images of the possibilities then turn them over and do a ‘blind’ reading over them with the pendulum. I prefer to do it this way so that when I do a reading over each ‘image’, I don’t see it. Seeing it can influence the outcome; like I might LOVE the look of one totally cute place, and might misinterpret the reading because I’m so hopeful of getting it. I don’t want my opinions to influence the interpretations of the answers coming through my divination tools.

I ask questions and write the answers that come on the back of the image, then I turn them over and see what answers I got for each one. I ask questions such as, ‘Will this place suit my needs?’ ‘Are there any problems I should be aware of?’ ‘Will I be happy here?’

With pendulum, I start out with yes/no questions, then I attempt to ‘hone in’ on the answers by playing ’20  questions’. Or, I get out my chart of letters/numbers and  use that to get more direct messages spelled out for me (literally) if I feel like my guides are trying to tell me something.

Finally, I’ve been doing some cleansing as I start preliminary packing. I physically and spiritually cleanse an area before going through and packing it. No need to bring any negativity when I move.

And of course, I’m doing the practical stuff, too: checking the credit report, searching the market,  figuring out what I can afford, etc. Hopefully within a couple of months, I’ll be settled somewhere new.

But until then, I’m still here, and still hanging in. Until next week :o)

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Mailbag: Ask Sage (5)

I have to admit, I’m not one to literally believe in the Threefold Law (here’s my take). But raising negativity to banish it shouldn’t bring anything down on you… you’re pretty much raising whatever is already there and affecting you in order to push it away, right? So it’s kind of like taking the antidote to throw up the poison.

Negative magic in itself isn’t bad; it’s simply getting rid of something. Especially what you’re trying to do—expel an excess of harmful energy that’s keeping you from being balanced. Just remember to fill that vacuum you create when you do get rid of it— take a cleansing bath, drink an infusion of herbs that replenish peace and happiness (a little lemon tea is generally enough for me), and spend some time over the next few days meditating on more harmonious things.

The thing you want to be cautious with is baneful magic, or magic you’re using to initiate harm towards someone/something. If you’re doing it for petty, selfish reasons, then you’re definitely going to be wallowing in a lot of negativity that is going to take its toll on you. But it doesn’t sound like you’re doing anything like that so you should be fine.

 

Good question! I encourage you to look up the theory of abundance vs. scarcity, you will learn a lot about how much attitude can do.

There’s nothing at all negative about prosperity—unless, of course, you’re prospering by mugging old ladies or conning vets out of their retirement funds. But prosperity is actually good for everyone all around. When you prosper, you alleviate yourself of stress and worries. It frees you to become a better person, and a better Witch. In turn, you have more to offer others.

Whenever I invoke Gods for a spell or a prayer petition, I give them thanks and praise for it. Of course, you can thank the Gods even if you didn’t directly ask them for help, because they’re part of your reality, and by virtue of that alone it’s worth a nod to them occasionally.

But in general, if you’re cultivating an attitude of abundance, you are already part of a cycle that is beneficial to mankind. And that’s only going to keep you on an upward spiral (as opposed to a downward spiral).

 

 

Hi, and welcome to the path! Relationship with deity is definitely at the heart of Wicca, but at the same time, like any other relationship, it’s going to take time to develop. So first off, don’t worry about rushing it. This is something that will develop over time.

Different Gods revel themselves to different people in different ways. The first step to getting to know them is reaching out to them: pray. It doesn’t have to be prayer, just say what’s on your heart. Make it a daily ritual. Go to your altar, call to them, ask themselves to reveal themselves to you, perhaps make a little offering (burn some incense, leave a flower or some dried herbs, etc.).

Next step is to listen: meditate. Stop and practice a few minutes of mindfulness after your prayer and see what comes to you.

You can also do some research on different Gods and Goddesses, and this might help you hone in on the right direction for you to take.

It might be a good idea to get some books aimed at beginners, too. Check out my recommended reading list!

Until next week everyone, enjoy your Imbolc and have a great weekend!

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