Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pagans Respond to Japan's Plight

People often ask me, how can I, as a Pagan, help in the case of catastrophes like earthquakes, in a way that shows we also share concern for the commonweal? We normally join with mainstream relief organizations and support them with our dollars. This is great. But it doesn't show us in a more distinct and identifiable way as Pagans. That shouldn't matter, but the fact that we are often misunderstood and outright discriminated against gives such a public stance importance.

Further, in my interfaith work I encounter groups that have very strong presence in specific areas of service. For instance, my friends the Dominican Sisters have a Social Justice Committee that does such things as antiwar activism and protesting state executions. We Pagans are not mature enough as a movement to have created much in the way of such institutions. I don't mean that as a criticism, but as a fact; we simply have not been around that long nor have we created much in the way of lasting institutions. For that matter, many Pagans do not see this (creating institutions) as important or valuable. That's a discussion for another time.

In the wake of the devastation that Japan has suffered and continues to suffer, my friend Peter Dybing, who as a first responder himself knows a thing or ten about disaster relief, has initiated Pagan Japan Relief project to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders. We Pagans -- you and me and our friends and colleagues -- can make a statement while making a difference. Please contribute what you can at Pagan Community FirstGiving.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What To Do in Case of Psychic Attack or of Being the Victim of Malevolent Spell

Being a relatively visible public Witch, I get plenty of requests for spells, which I politely decline to do. I tell people two things: One is that it's best to create one's own spells rather than have someone else cast them. The other is a caution against performing any magic that would interfere with the free will of another. The exception to that would be a binding of someone else, making them unable to do further harm.

Today, through the agency of the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy of all places, I received this request:
could you get to O[...] [in] contact with a Wikkin [sic] Practitioner who may be able to reverse, break, heal from witchcraft spells. O[...] has a cousin who has a girlfriend from Morocco (speak English) who believes she has had a witchcraft spell put on her.
This has inspired me to publish this brief blog in response to this query and any similar queries that may come my way (or yours) in the future.

If you believe someone has put a negative spell on you (usually called a hex), here are a few things you can do to protect yourself, and possibly reverse the spell.

First, purify your person. Take a shower, or better yet, soak for a while in hot water containing sea salt, bath salts, or Epsom salts. Allow the salt and water to neutralize any negativity within yourself; think of this as you soak. Let any contamination be washed away with the water spiraling down the drain, out of your house and out of your life. Drink lots of water to wash out your insides. Wash your hair, brush your teeth, put on clean clothes. You may also wish to drink mint tea or another tea that you find refreshing.

Second, purify your dwelling. Dust, sweep, vacuum, tidy up, polish. Air out the rooms. Wash the windows with a mild solution of vinegar and water. This allows purifying sunlight and moonlight to illuminate the room as well as making the glass more reflective to deflect unwanted energies.[1]

Circulate through the rooms where you live with sage or other purifying incense, making sure to fumigate everywhere -- stairways, closets, underneath stairways, basement, attic, garage if attached. If your dwelling is one that you can circumnavigate, you may wish to walk all around the outside of the building wafting this smoke.

Then mix salt and water and sprinkle it around the house. As with the incense, do this around the outside of the home, too, if you can. Be sure to cense and sprinkle all openings to the outside -- doors and windows, of course, but also skylights, electrical outlets, heating vents, chimneys, ventilator hoods, toilets, and sink, tub and shower drains. Also do this to mirrors.

While you're doing these things, speak the words, "With Earth and Water I purify this space," and "with Fire and Air I consecrate this space," because that's exactly what you're doing.[2]

Third, ward your space. If you're the witchy sort, trace a protective pentacle with the salt water on all doors, windows and mirrors. Rosemary grows in abundance where I live, so I like to use a sprig of it to sprinkle the salt water. Then I like to leave rosemary sprigs on all the window sills.

When you've done all these things, take a step back, be very quiet, look around, listen and note how different your space feels to you now.

You may also wish to perform these acts at other places where you spend a lot of time, such as work, if you can.

One last thing you may want to do, although it's not as easy and practical as the rest. You may wish to hang little mirrors in the windows or on the outside of the building to reflect away negativity. The mirrors aren't really necessary; they're just extra insurance, if you will. You should be fine just doing the other things I've recommended.

Now envision yourself within a bubble. Project this bubble around you and around your home. Nothing can pass through the membrane that has not been invited by you. Anything unwelcome bounces off the bubble. Build a strong image of this bubble in your mind. If you have a small object, maybe a clear quartz crystal or a piece of rosemary, that reminds you of this visualization, carry it in your pocket or keep it someplace handy. You can't be expected to hold this image in your consciousness all the time. But if you have this object, then at times when the image has faded and you feel you need to reinforce your working, take it out and look at it and touch it to reawaken your sense of your protective bubble.

As with all magic spells, you needn't stick with the formula offered here. If other ingredients call to you or other actions spring from you, trust your intuition and go with them.

These are my recommendations. For another approach, here's a Lemon Uncrossing Spell (to break a curse). I have never tried this so I can offer no assurance of its efficacy.

[1] For a super-duper heavy cleansing of a home, say if you're just moving in after someone else has been living there, and if you have the time, get some dragon's blood incense and burn it on a piece of charcoal in a container left in the bathtub or shower. As soon as you light it, leave and let it fumigate the entire house. You don't want to breathe much of this stuff. Then return a few hours later and open all the windows to let out the dragon's blood fumes.

[2] Some additional things you can do to cleanse a new or dirty home: Walk throughout the rooms with noisemakers, rattles, a drum to frighten off unwanted spirits. Do this before censing and sprinkling. After censing and sprinkling, ring a little bell at the windows and mirrors.

(c) M. Macha NightMare/Aline O'Brien, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Helicon Nine

On Saturday Corby and I took a day-long workshop called "Courting the Inner Muse," with my old friend Willow Kelly and her partner Crow, who are visiting from Virginia. Besides working with two visiting teachers, we shared the experience with Reclaiming Witches from what appears to be a thriving North Bay Reclaiming community. I guess, technically, since we live in the North Bay, this could become our home community.

During the invocation to the divine at the beginning of the day, I could only remember five of the nine names, so I repeated those five over and over again. Thalia, Urania, Erato, Calliope, Polyhymnia. I know they heard me. I revere the other four as much. So to reinforce the work we did Saturday, and to put a spell for inspiration out into the world, I solicit the influence and aid of the Helicon Nine.

Daughters of Zeus and the Titan Mnemosyne, I call to you in your home high on Mount Helicon

Chief muse, Calliope (beautiful voice), may your writing tablet become my laptop. Bestow eloquence to my public speech. Grant me serenity and good judgment.

Erato (passionate or lovely), muse of mimicry and erotic poetry, I appeal to your favor of crows like me. May the song played upon your lyre bring pleasure.

Thalia (festive or flourishing), fill my life with laughter.

Urania (mountain queen), mistress of the celestial, may my path follow your stars. May I know when to keep silent and when to speak.

Polyhymnia (many songs), grant me the ability to remember sacred songs and to compose new ones in praise of all that is holy.

Clio (proclaimer), speak through the books I read and write, may the lore I pass on by true to our history and informative to those who listen.

Euterpe (rejoicing well or pleasure giver), manifest in me through harmonica, frame drum, soprano recorder, and voice.

Melpomene (songstress), may I speak fluently and convincingly of serious matters.

Terpsichore (rejoicing in the dance or whirling), may I move with your grace; may my voice sing in harmony and fullness with other voices.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Hindu-Pagan Interfaith Devotional to Our Great Mother

Since deep in my Witch's heart I feel much sympatico with Hindu beliefs and practices, I consider myself fortunate to have been invited to to assist in the performance of the ritual referred to in this press release. Amadae, a Dianic priestess, coordinated the ritual with people from the Hindu American Foundation. Its purpose was devotion (bhakti) to the Great Mother.

There was a two-sided round altar, with Hindu altar objects on one side and Pagan ones on the other. Reclaiming priestess Kala created the Pagan half of the altar. After the puja mentioned below, flowers and petals adorned both altars.

The ritual opened with the beautiful singing of Sangeetha Venkataraman; Corby and I had the pleasure of hearing her at the HAF Annual Dinner last September.

The sitar player, recently moved to the SF Bay Area from Ann Arbor, is a student at the Ali Akbar College of Music about a mile from our home, where he works with Arjun Verma. Arjun was one of four performers at Marin Interfaith Council's Annual Music of the Beloved sacred music concert last month. I invited my new friend to let me know when we might find a chance to visit when he's in San Rafael. I hope he does.

Cosette Paneque, of Beachfyre Coven, EMLC-CoG and Social Networking Coordinator of Cherry Hill Seminary, called upon the spirits of Air; Christine Kraemer, Department Chair at CHS, called Fire; I called Water; Wendy Griffin, CHS Academic Dean and frame drummer, called Earth; and Amadae called Spirit.

The pujari who led the Devi Ma puja and the men who sang with him had strong voices, made louder by the unnecessary use of a mike. This was unfortunate because we were performing in a hotel ballroom, separated by not-very-soundproof, floor-to-ceiling movable partitions from adjacent hotel ballrooms where other PantheaCon events were taking place: Yes They Are! queer gods ritual on the West side and Tarotist Mary Greer on the East. Having been in rituals in these ballrooms when another, sometimes louder event is taking place right next door, I know from past experience that it's a challenging situation for all. In any case, the men chanted for about 20 minutes. I was pleased to find that I was able to understand some of the words they chanted from having gone to many Kali pujas in my town and from kirtan singing.

After that, six lovely temple dancers, with bells on their ankles, exquisite gestures, and smiling faces, arrived to perform a dance to Lord Ganesha so that he may remove all obstacles to the worship of the Great Mother. This dance made me misty, for some reason. I later learned that none of the dancers was over 18 years old, and they had to perform these prescribed dances perfectly for years before they can perform alone.

The dance concluded with a spiral dance led by Amadae, to the chant "We all come from the Goddess..."

As a ritualist, I felt that we Pagans had more flexibility to adapt our ritual to age-old Hindu practices than the other way round, and we did. The fact that the participants wore big smiles at the conclusion convinces me of its effectiveness for each individual participant and as an interfaith collaboration. Those I spoke with expressed pleasure in the working.

As far as I know, this is the first anyone has blended traditional Hindu practices done by traditional Hindu practitioners (as opposed to Western attempts verging on cultural appropriation) with contemporary American Pagan practices. I was pleased and honored to be a part of it, and I was proud of my Pagan colleagues. I hope other opportunities to share sacred space with our Hindu friends present themselves. I will be ready.