Just Another Incident of Living While Female #YesAllWomen

I went for a walk tonight in my neighborhood.  This should not be news worthy expect you know – I’m female. If you happen to be a woman, all sorts of normal, everyday things suddenly become dangerous.  Because living while female is inherently higher risk than other kinds of living.

As I reached roughly halfway thru my walk, a vehicle stops at a stop sign for an inordinately long time.  The driver must have seen me walking: in my sweat pants, t-shirt, and a sports bra underneath. I’m red-faced and sweating, hair unkempt in a loose bun.  This is probably not a good look for me; not cute at all.  I look like every other chunky white girl out for a walk when clearly, I should do more walking.  I hesitate on the other side of the stop sign as I approach.  I move into the grass to allow more than enough room for the vehicle.  I can’t make it out yet.  I wait: no movement.  We are in a stand-off.

I play through scenarios in my mind.  If I turn left, where does this street go?  On the other side of the stop sign is a lake and only two more houses.  Those houses do not usually have garage-sitters to watch my nightly attempt at exercise.  I turn off my iPod to make sure I can hear everything going on.  I wait.  The vehicle does not move.

I resume walking, crossing the street and picking up the pace. I move far enough away when I pass the vehicle so that any door that may swing open will miss me.  As I approach I see it’s a red truck.  As I pass the driver turns on the overhead light.  Inside the truck are two young men: probably 18 to 22 years old, crew cuts, clean-shaven and baby-faced.  They gaze at me coldly.  No smiles, no hint of anything other than that cold leering all women at some point have experienced.  I make eye contact with this boy I am likely a decade older than.  He stares me down.  I maintain eye contact planning what I will do if he gets out of the car.  As I have passed the bed of the truck, he slowly begins to roll through the stop sign.

I pick up the pace and keep walking.  What was a pleasant walk on a nice evening has been ruined.  I wonder if the red truck will reappear.  I think of an incident a few years ago.  I realize I have forgotten my phone. I only have an old iPod with no way pretend to be on the phone or do any of the number of things we women have come up with to protect ourselves.  Every time a vehicle approaches I glance over my shoulder hoping it’s not a red truck.

Ten minutes have passed and I glance over my shoulder: a small red truck approaches.  I pick up my pace and put my head down all the while following the truck with my eyes.  It appears to be the same truck and it slows down as it approaches.  Now the truck rolls past me at a crawl.  I pretend to ignore it, growing more nervous.  I look at the houses ahead, praying to see an open garage door and a light.  The truck rolls on down the street, I sigh.  I’m still only three-quarters of the way home.

Soon enough, the red truck makes another slow roll, this time passing on my side of the street.  I am sure to maintain enough distance that I am not in the reach of a passenger side door.  He does not turn on the light but I can clearly see him leering, leaning over the steering wheel now to watch me walk.  He does not smile.  This is not a compliment.  Suddenly a terrifying thought: what happened to the blonde passenger?  The other young man is no longer in the truck.  Could he be somewhere on the road ahead waiting for me?  The truck has done another roll by and is only tail lights down the road.  I look ahead searching the in darkness for blonde boys in white shirts. I continue walking.

A figure approaches.  From the silhouette it appears to be a man, solidly built, white t-shirt, dark long shorts.  My stomach drops.  I glance nervously for open garage doors with garage-sitters.  As I approach I see the man has dark hair – and is walking a dog.  I sigh, relieved.  Men who walk dogs are safe. Dog walkers are not rapist-murderers, at least not tonight.  I wonder if the man noticed my fear.  If he did, what would he make of it?  Why would this random woman walk out of her way to avoid him?  Will he just assume I was afraid of his boxer?  Or will he wonder if something else was going on?  If something happened – would he have helped me?

As I approach the final stretch, the red truck takes another slow roll by.  I pick up the pace, turn the corner once he’s out of sight, and book it home.  Terrified and furious wondering how I could have prevented this encounter and still manage to live a productive life.  Angry because my gender alone makes me a target.  Angry because what was supposed to be something nice I do for myself has become something that next time I want to do, I’ll think twice.  Angry because out here in deep suburbia where everyone talks about how “safe” and “nice” everything is – I know the truth: I am not safe.  We are not safe.  Far away from “dangerous” cities and “dangerous people”, in white-washed suburbs I am still “at risk” because I am a woman.

Posted in Feminisms, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

PBP: Guarding Our Communities

Earlier this week, Pagan author and folk musician Kenny Klein was arrested and confessed to possession of child pornography. Reactions from the Pagan world have not exactly been diverse. I am glad no one is saying it’s not a big deal.  I enjoy Klein’s books but, another part of me understands the “I’m not going to keep his books in my house” bandwagon too.  When someone has done something you find so reprehensible it’s normal to not want any of their work around or incorporated into your spirituality.  Child pornography is pretty bad on it’s own; that a person had it, presumably was looking at it.  Given the information we know, we can surmise as much happened.  We cannot know if he is a child molester, rapist, or even that he made the child pornography. Any ideas about such are pure speculation unless there are victims speaking out.  I have no problem with people being outraged, upset, or any shows of outrage about this happening within our community – so please, rage on!  However I love art, I love film and I love music.  It’s a disturbing fact that much of our popular culture is built on the exploitation of love and adoration of very young women verging on girls.  Two great directors of films have been accused and one convicted of some form of sexual assault on a minor: many people still love their films.  I can understand Pagans who don’t want to give their money to someone with this past. However to devalue someone’s work in light of a personal indiscretion seems wrong when we don’t do it in so many other areas.  (I know there are other Rosemary’s Baby loving Pagans out there – don’t lie.)

The Pagan community is relatively small, but not different than other communities.  We are not special or immune to the ugly parts of reality. No matter how much “light and love” you vibrate that’s not going to protect you from predators.  In fact, as a woman, I can tell you going around vibrating light and love and smiling at everyone you meet is a good way to get a lot unwanted attention including unwanted touches and possibly more.  (Vibrating light and love or even flirting is not an excuse for sexual assault, don’t even go there.) I wish Pagan communities would take more care in policing boundaries, using good judgement, and calling out predatory behavior.  This is the part of the discussion where we have to separate the Klein incident and focus on our own local communities and experiences. I don’t know Klein, and unless you do you can’t speak to his predatory behavior (and by “know” I mean you’ve been in a coven with him or actually interacted with him more than once or twice). I don’t know if he was a predator in Pagan spaces or rituals.  Incidents like this will always happen, no matter what we do, because that’s the ugly side of human nature – but other incidents of predatory behavior happen in our community right in front of us.  Instead of looking the other way, making excuses, or ostracizing those who speak up we need to start acting as guardians of our own community.

There are two kinds of sexually predatory problems I have seen in Pagan communities.  The first is behaviors and the behaviors have to stop.  No matter what the circumstance, I don’t care what happened before, last year, or even 30 minutes ago: “no” means no.  When a person says “no” whatever is going on stops.  Some women dance around fires topless, that may be the right time to look at their bodies, in ritual is not the time for that.  If you find yourself unable to control your gaze, I suggest you try to avoid sky-clad or clothing optional events for a time until you can focus on things at hand.  I get it to some extent, everyone gets sexually frustrated, and while I feel for you in a way ritual circles are not the time to let that energy out. Unwanted touching or using authority to get someone to allow you do something they do not want you to do are obvious problem behaviors and I hope there are no communities where this kind of thing isn’t called out.  The second issue, and the deeper problem, are sexually predatory attitudes found within the community. These attitudes and beliefs come from the dominant outside patriarchal culture this is not just a “Pagan” problem.  The classic “boys will be boys” or “men are…” issue.  Bottom line, men and boys simply “aren’t” one way or another: men and boys act the way they act and think the way you allow them to as a community and parents.  If you set appropriate boundaries and are willing to police those boundaries, you wouldn’t need to make these excuses.  These attitudes are those that allow the aforementioned behaviors to happen, continue, and push back against those of us who seek to stop them.

It should not be acceptable for a man to openly boast about finding a “plaything” at a Pagan event and collect the youngest, most impressionable young woman present.  I witnessed this happen and I am disappointed in the Pagan men who allowed it to happen.  Maybe they did not have know what to do – and as a woman, I can give a little encouragement but I don’t know how to answer that.  He did not sexually assault her, he did not physically harm her (that I witnessed), but he used her inexperience and relative youth to take what he wanted from her.  He used her need for love, approval, and attention against her to get whatever he wanted and when he couldn’t get what he wanted anymore he moved on to someone else.*  When Pagan leaders in the community tried to step in, it had gone too far and were unable to do more than stand by and watch the aftermath.  Those who overheard these statements should have put an end to it right then.  That attitude should have been checked, a simple statement along the lines of “that sort of thing isn’t welcome here” would have sufficed.  Even if it didn’t change his mind, one simple statement can change the attitude.  When we do this in a meditation we are setting intention: setting intentions for our sacred spaces starts the minute we arrive and begin mingling with others.  We cannot expect to have safe ritual spaces if we do not set intentions; part of making safe ritual spaces is to set clear boundaries for sexual safety.  Setting and maintaining these boundaries is our job as Pagan community members, we must be our own guardians.

*I used an example where a male was the predator, but I have seen women use sexuality in a predatory was to meet their needs (often material needs) in Pagan communities as well and this is as reprehensible.  

Posted in Ethics, Pagan Blog Project, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday: Witch Crafting

20140326-162140.jpg

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , | 1 Comment

PBP: The Fantasy and Reality of Witchcraft and Paganism

My first glimpses into the world of Wicca, Paganism, and Witchcraft came through a somewhat uncommon source: estate sales.  As a child I went to estate sales every Saturday and Thursday morning with my Granny.  Granny was creative, so she encouraged my creative fancies and was willing to get whatever reasonably price or well-bargained down thing I wanted.  My tastes verged more on the flower-child, hippie end of things and by the age of 10 I had amassed a huge collection of vintage clothes, psychedelic floral linens, retro owl accessories, and any number of crewel work samplers.  Mixed in with the “hippiedom” as my family called it was also a number of small brass censors, crystals, cauldrons, and old New Age books on reflexology, healing touch, positive thinking and tarot cards. One morning, I discovered a huge portion of Witches Almanacs from the early 1970s.  Granny bargained down the price and we took the lot. As an adult I’m not sure if she knew what they were and didn’t care or if she simply assumed it was fine reading for a 10 or 11 year old girl.  She generally didn’t provide a lot of censorship or judgement on my treasure hunting at estate sales. The vintage Witches Almanacs finally pulled all of my stylistic preferences, religious ideals, and appetite for the odd into one place: the world of the 1960’s and ’70s Occult Revival.

Maxine Sanders from The Power Of The Witch (c. 1960's or 1970's, UK)

Maxine Sanders from The Power Of The Witch (c. 1960’s or 1970’s, UK)

I think we all come to anything with a degree of fantasy.  We want to join a group, get a certain job, become a certain “kind” of person. My Witch and Pagan fantasies were fed by Crowley and the Golden Dawn, 19th century bohemians, and the kind of pageantry LeVey and the Sanders.  I longed to be one of those beautiful, doe-eyed, blonde, perfect bodied priestesses.  I dreamed of white lace dresses, black robes, sheer veils, flower crowns, Maypoles, outdoor rituals in lush fields, perfect bonfires, and large covens full of welcoming, progressive people. I would make elaborate altars with flowers, candles, and well crafted tools.  In my fantasy, I actually USE an athame (unlike in my real practice). In this fantasy I would be a priestess, I would conduct beautiful rituals, jump fires, draw down the moon, laugh with other beautiful women, flirt with lovely witch men, and there would be a tight-knit if secretive community of other skilled, magical people to talk and play with.

As for magick practices, outside of the spells and rituals found in the Almanacs, I suppose my biggest influence has been horror movies. As a child I read plenty of fairy tales and had the usual amounts of fantasy.  I was in the age range for Harry Potter, and did consume the books but they were not my first “glimpse” of witchcraft – though I love them.  I read Tolkein, because it was something I felt I “should” read – but the fantasy genre never became one of my favorite things.  My fantasy was somewhat shaped by horror movies – especially The Wickerman (1973), but not about how I fantasized or expected magick to work.  While I would love to fly and it might be nice if the reality of witchcraft could be like what was portrayed in The Craft; it’s not and I never expected such things. However, simple folk magick practices, and of course, lovely flower children ridden rituals celebrating the sacredness of life may have been just as unrealistic.

In this fantasy everyone is lovely, there are no dangerous sexual predators in the midst, and everything is just lovely.  There are no tumblr fueled mental-mastubatory fights over theory, no sitting in rooms paying for conferences, and certainly no disappointing drama queen encounters. I did not envision rituals without threefold kisses or bringing fandoms into play.  I never considered any number of lovely rituals and experiences I happily partake of now.  I did not think about how much money I would spend over the years on yoga class or yoga accessories.  Never once did I consider how many hours I might spend with my nose in books only to sigh at the end of it and declare the entire book a waste. While learning had been in my fantasy, it certainly wasn’t done solo with a Llewellyn publication!* Also note in this fantasy I am suddenly transformed into a Hitchcock blonde and given my body type have much more self-discipline than I was given in life.  As for the captivating beautiful priestesses, I just don’t see myself as that kind of girl.  I’m not sure what kind of girl I am; but I think perhaps not that kind.  However, like my goddess-priestesses, I am kind, I try to make others comfortable in and outside of ritual, I believe in looking and doing my best, and I will be down for a flower crown or circlet on any occasion.  Like all things, fantasy rarely perfectly matches with reality.  Sometimes we have simply set the bar too high and other times, it’s a matter of adjusting to our own limitations given what may very well be a reasonable expectation for someone else.

*There is nothing wrong with Llewellyn but as they are one of the largest occult publishers with the widest distribution, they do tend to take up a large portion on any magical person’s shelf.
Posted in Famous Witches and Wizards, Life, Magick, Pagan Blog Project, Paganism, Uncategorized, Witchcraft | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Altars – what’s yours like?

Samhain Altar 2013

Samhain Altar 2013

I have kept an altar for most of my practice, but I have also gone years where it is not possible.  So, right now I am once again in transition and probably won’t be keeping a big formal altar in the foreseeable future. It is not necessary to keep an altar but I personally find it enjoyable.  If you choose to keep an altar let your personal preferences and space guide you.

This was my big altar all done up with ancestors and the Beloved Dead for Samhain 2013.  As you can see, this is Sabbat altar included are family heirlooms (to honor the dead), tarot cards from the Wildwood Tarot (to honor the God and Goddess), and candles.  This altar was set up right before the Sabbat and slowly put away days after.  Keeping an altar can be a daily devotional practice or something you do for celebrations.  The purpose of this altar was to serve as the altar for my personal Samhain ritual.  Many of the photographs and items from this altar were taken to a group Samhain ritual and placed on their ritual altar for some time as well.  I usually also like to include flowers and “pretty” items on Sabbat altars.  These altars are typically changed out for the Sabbat and can be disassembled afterwards.

I also keep ancestral altars.  These are permeant altars where I keep a scared space to honor deity or my dead.  I use these at certain times: performing rituals of remembrance for the dead for example, or special days to honor a deity where I may not have a full ritual.  Additionally, these small altars can be places for daily devotionals and meditations.  They can be as big or small as you want – a few photographs on a shelf, an entire shelf, or even a whole dresser top.  Other things I sully keep on this altar is an incense holder, crystal skull, and a sugar skull shadowbox.  The pictures obviously represent those who have passed away the skulls represent both the ancient ancestors to which I owe my life, and my spiritual ancestors in this path and witchcraft.  Honoring both these “ancestors” is important to my practice but to keep life simple I only have one “spirit” altar.

Finally, I keep a personal altar for myself and a “working” space for doing spell crafts and making things.  My working space is generally in my kitchen or a private space depending on the kind of work.  My personal altar usually can be found in my bedroom.  These altars are specific sacred spaces in which I meditate or do spell work.  I can safely keep tools and items there to remind me my own divinity and the work I am doing.  These are my most important altars because they help put in mind to do work. On my working altar I generally keep a cauldron and some kind of candle holder.  On my personal altar I keep things sacred to me, my animal spirit guide figures, a few crystals, and a candle.  I use the personal altar for meditation and “inside” work.  The working altar is for “outside” work and making things.

How do you use altars?  I don’t have any rules for how I create mine, do you?

Posted in Pagan Blog Project, Paganism, Rituals, Sabbats, Witchcraft | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Have You Heard The Story of LaVena Johnson?

I re-blogged this story for two reasons. First, this is an important issue: sexual assault in the military and the abuse of females in our military – via rape and other horrors. As the public, we should be disgusted, ashamed, and most of all – angry. Only through our anger can we reach critical mass to make a change. Second, I went to high school with this woman. I know she was a happy, motivated, promising young woman. I also know she would have stood up for others – and herself – when necessary. I do not think these two things are unrelated to her death, and that makes this so much more awful.

The MadMan Chronicles

Have you heard of the story of LaVena Johnson?

levana-johnson-silent-truthLaVena Johnson was a soldier who enlisted in the Army in 2003. She was the first woman from Missouri to die in Iraq. What happened to this young black woman was appalling.  She was found in her tent with a gunshot wound to the head, a broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, acid burns on her genitals, and a trail of blood leading away from her tent.  What’s even more appalling is the Department of Defense has officially ruled her death a suicide.

The autopsy report and photographs revealed that her death was inconsistent with a suicide, and looked consistent with a rape-murder, but as far as the U.S. Criminal Investigative Command for the Army is concerned the case remains closed.  Her father became suspicious when he saw her body in the funeral home and decided to investigate.  At first the…

View original post 59 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Onward 2014!

A year in review … well, I wasn’t here much that’s for sure.  I got to play at ensuring women have access to reproductive healthcare, I was able to be there for various people in their time of need, and I made some great new friends.  I also learned valuable lessons – some of them a re-hash from 2011.  I am not going to forget them this time and so while my life just got a lot more complicated, hectic, and difficult – my only resolution this year is to continue writing. I will make sure this blog gets the attention this year by continuing on the PBP tradition, which if I make it through all of the alphabet this year will be a first for me in three years.  I think we can do it.  

For you, my readers, I wish you health, wealth, and happiness in abundance.  Straight away to an amazing 2014.  

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Talking with the Beloved Dead

20131006-234131.jpg

My ancestral altar or spirit shrine

A devotional practice for the Beloved Dead can be a comforting practice.  While I believe the dead are always with us, creating a sacred space for them in your life can give you a way to deal with difficult losses.  It’s not that I did not miss my great grandparents or grandparents who have passed away but those losses are expected, normal.  Losing my best friend at 22 was devastating, even if given the overall circumstances not exactly a surprise.  She is also one of the spirits I have had the most interaction with: it’s because of her that I set up my spirit altar.  She had this way of just being present: palpably, unbearably present at times.  Sometimes when I needed her, sometimes just because, and sometimes when she needed something from me.  One thing she needed from me, was a space, and energy: so I set up a shrine and try to have a regular practice.

Ancestor worship is common around the world.  Each culture has it’s own specific rituals for ancestor worship.  Some cultures believe the dead must be fed, or they will seek retribution, and others do not deem it necessary but still believe the dead are with us.  In my personal belief, I think both theories are somewhat true.  If an ancestor or familiar spirit can help, why can’t they hurt?  Not to say that a spirit necessarily would want to hurt you, but if you have done something offensive I don’t think there’s any reason to believe it’s not possible for spirits to harm us.  On the other hand, I do not believe one’s ancestors are really harmed if you do not set up an altar, talk to them, or feed them in any way.

I serve my ancestors and the Beloved Dead because I love them, out of respect, and a hope that if I keep their memories alive they will be more inclined to come to my aid. Some spirits need more or less of this kind of attention and feeding.  Especially those spirits still clinging to this realm on the outskirts: to see loved ones through, to complete unfinished business, or out of pure love for the living; their spirits need nourishment.  Common offerings to nourish the spirits include favorite foods (unsalted), white or blue candles, flowers, cigarettes, and alcohol.  I also burn incense, especially spirit blends, which are better attuned to the spirit realm to nourish them.  I try to spend a little time at my shrine at least one a week cleaning and talking to the spirits.  Generally, at this time I will burn some incense, talk with them, and listen to see if they have any messages for me.  This is also the place I go when I need advice or comfort.

Performing rituals to the dead, or leaving special offerings, may included more tools.  For example, many cultures create spirit boxes or houses which hold the deceased ashes, belongings, or other symbolic items.  These are vessels to house the spirit in this world.  I do have this kind of box for one spirit: to allow her easy access to come and be with me.  It’s important when making these vessels not to bind a familiar or ancestral spirit to the vessel.  I mean, really think about it, that would be pretty awful if your grandchild bound you to a box – no matter what the reason, even if just because he or she could not bear to let you go.  I also leave offerings and practice personal rituals to honor the dead on anniversaries of their death, birth days, or other special days.  This time of year, and throughout the dark period, I also leave them special foods and offerings during the sabbats.  In the dark of the year, when the veil is thin, I have a more active practice.

Posted in Magick, Paganism, Uncategorized, Witchcraft | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Creepy Uncle Sam’ would like to give you a pelvic exam

I’d like to think this Koch brothers campaign is missing it’s mark since Gen Y (who are now in college btw so target audience for this) are less racist than the Boomers (who are paying for this). While I was NOT surprised by the racism in the 08 and ’12 presidential races I’d like to believe that it’s much more a minority of young people that respond positively to this kind of tactic – and thankfully statistics are on my side if not my personal experience with my peers in Missouri!

| 2 Comments

Placeholder!

I haven’t forgotten about this blog!  I promise, these last few weeks have been pretty busy IRL over here.  However, I will have a real update this evening!  

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment