Rain Water Washes Her Away

I must apologize for not writing sooner, my laptop is currently without a charger. This post comes to you via my phone, I hope y’all enjoy.

rain

“Let’s go back, back to the beginning
Back to when the earth, the sun, the stars all aligned

‘Cause perfect didn’t feel so perfect
Tryin’ to fit a square into a circle
Was no life I defy

Let the rain fall down and wake my dreams
Let it wash away my sanity
‘Cause I wanna feel the thunder
I wanna scream let the rain fall down
I’m coming clean

I’m shedding, shedding every color
Tryin’ to find a pigment of truth beneath my skin,
‘Cause different doesn’t feel so different
And goin’ out is better than, always stayin’ in
Feel the wind”
-Coming Clean (Hillary Duff)

Last night the rain came to town. It rained all through the early morning light. Now it’s almost lunch time and I’m sitting outside in shorts and a tank top in January. Things could be weirder.

I love the soothing sounds the rain creates when it hits the roof and windows. It usually lulls me into a nice dreamy state and allows me extra beauty sleep. However, this rain storm was not so inclined to live up to my fantasies.

I did not sleep soundly, I tossed and turned but most importantly I dreamed. I dreamed a dream that was so real and so terrifying it shook me awake. At 7:30 in the morning I’m usually not the most pleasant person to be around but today has been different. I woke up to the quite of the early morning, the birds weren’t even awake yet. I decided that laying back down, falling back into dreamland was not what I wanted to do. I got up and started getting ready for the day, fed the animals, and let them outside. After the morning fuss was taken care of I wandered back into the bedroom and lit some herbs to relax me. I sat there, still brutally haunted by my dream and even the herbs weren’t helping.

The only thing I could do now was to think about my dream and what it could have meant. In the dream I lost someone close to me and it was heart shattering, it broke me. In reality, I never thought the person from my dream would make me upset to lose them.

So here’s what I think. I think subconsciously if I opened myself up it would break me, so to speak. But in my conscious mind I am comfortable with saying I don’t miss them in my life.

I have decided that I want to open up and let the rain wash away what I’m holding onto on a subconscious level.

Recently, someone took red acrylic paint and painted a streak in my hair. It showed me the part of myself I had gotten rid a few months ago. A part of the real me, I caught a glimpse and I wanted her back. I cleaned the paint out of my hair and applied red hair dye. Last night I also decided to give myself a baby dread. Just one for now, until my hair grows back out.

So, I have two transformations occurring at the same time. I’m washing away everything that was you and isn’t me and reclaiming myself. At the same time I’m acknowledging my subconscious feelings and taking the steps to change, let go, and move on.

I cannot say I haven’t been avoiding coming to terms with this for a while now. This isn’t the first dream that’s pushed me in this direction either. I am taking responsibility for my actions and becoming the respectable person I know I am.

With everything that’s been going on in my community recently I’ve been doubting things, but if I sit back on the sidelines watching them play ball, I can’t really complain when my team loses.

So as part of my goals for the new year I am taking an active part. I want to be able to look back and know that I was a part of making my community and town a better place for us all no matter what you believe in or what team you play for. I will not stand back and let my community become divided and fall. I was raised in this town and I’m proud of it.

The rain has stopped for now but the grey clouds still float overhead and it makes me wonder if there’s more storm to endure…

Until we meet again,
Hazey
Blessed Be xoxo

Put that in your pipe–Yerba Lenna Yesca

I thought for a minute about writing about Ymir and his proto-productive armpits (like a good Heathen), but then I found myself giving a mythology lesson instead of actually reflecting on something. Then I reflected on the lesson I gave last night about the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) and looked forward to the lesson on the Shemhamphorash but then remembered—“Damn, I can’t blog about that.” I know I want to write about yoiking (a Sami practice) and how it parallels to the vocalizations in Völvaspæ, but I want to do that later. I ran across some interesting Yucatan death gods in last week’s research—only to find that their names (the ones that begin with Y) are corruptions of the correct names.

So, with my end-of-term grades two-thirds-finished, I decided to take a short break from the academy and visit with y’all and have a little herbal lesson.

I used to smoke. On and off for most of my life. Not while pregnant or nursing, mind you—that was a stretch from 1993-2000ish. I teased that I was so good at quitting that I liked to do it often. Aside from one (or three) of those crush-the-filter because it’s too fun not to evenings recently, I’ve been tar-free and following “doctor’s orders” since early-July. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t found alternatives.[1] Now, don’t get any crazy ideas—I believe that cannabis should be legal, but it ain’t in my state (check yours); so, THC is not, um, on the menu.

Katt Williams on the “nature” of weed. Go ahead, watch it–I’ll wait.

I have never been one to shy away from putting “that” in my pipe and smoking it.[2] Turns out that mugwort can make you dream of bridesmades and the impending zombie apocalypse. Morning glories, various nightshades, digitalis and other lovely botanicals have entheogenic effects—but I don’t recommend an untrained hand in the preparation as “Seeing God” might be just what happens for ye. I don’t tool around with it. Um, anymore. Damania, passion flower, mullein, sweet fern, blue lotus? Have at it. IMHO, smoking wormwood is a lot like eating Domino’s Pizza—you could and it won’t hurt but why would anyone do that? Especially when there is perfectly good Absinthe on the shelf.[3] Most people prefer teas to smokes anyway. Me? I love to burn shite.

A little wild tobacco and dittany of crete in a sensor? Breathe . . .

When I took “union breaks” prior to July, that meant stepping out on to the porch to grab a dose of arsenic and formaldehyde. Not so today.

While I don’t light up the flora like I did in my youth, I have a favorite smoke: Yerba Lenna Yesca.[4] Sometimes it’s touted as being a weed-free high, but it’s not. While YLY serves to relax without stoned-lethargy—especially when I have a cough, which seems to be always these days[5]-anyone who says that YLY is “like pot” has never actually been high. We seem to use herbs a good deal for our “spells” and such, but sometimes we should stop and think of a more direct approach–it’s what our predecessors did.

Union break over. Back to work.

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).


[1] Googled “things to smoke” and found this: http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/406903/1. Laughter is the best expectorant.

[2] I bought the husband a hookah a few Yules back and have acquired a stash of unsmoked shisha—“Th’damn thing takes too long.”

[3] Never drink Absinthe straight. It tastes like the green Formula 44 of childhood nightmares.

[4] It translates as “woody-herb for burning.” Helpful, eh?

[5] Ironic, no? Smoke to quiet a cough.

Q&A With TRLT: Part 3, Sorcery

The Road Less Traveled gave me quite a compliment in recognizing the efforts I make to be evenhanded about my opinions. I am not God, not even a Bad God, therefore I can only speak to my human beliefs and my personal preferences. I’ve learned that, unfortunately, there are those who do not respect the convictions of others – surprisingly, even among Pagans. And I do make a real effort. Perhaps it is my legal background but I learned early on that it’s better to think things through before committing them to writing. If something is worth saying, it’s worth saying well, no?

Thanks for the very real kudos.

Let me begin by saying that not all folks who consider themselves Witches adhere to ritual structures as found in Wicca – or any structures at all. As I pointed out in “Part I,” not all Witches are Wiccans. And as I pointed out in “Wannabethans,” there are plenty of Witches who unknowingly use Wiccan practices. However, there are plenty of Witches who fly by the seat of their broomsticks. No circle, no quarters, no nothin’. They are still Witches. Further, there are some Witches who do not “practice Magic” at all. They consider themselves spiritualists, philosophers, herbalists, healers, and folks who observe the cycles of the earth. Sometimes these people are sensitives, mystics, and prophets – but that’s not a “requirement.”

Like I said in my reply to your second set of questions:

My view [of nonWiccan Witches] is that there are potentially as many ways of practicing as there are practitioners. . . . I actually kinda hate it that the only amalgamated definition we have for non-Wiccan Witchcraft is a definition based in what it is not: non-Wiccan. From a Lacanian perspective, this is disempowering – “lack.” If you have another term, I’d love to hear it! I’d be a big fan of coming up with a new, holistic, empowering term. Sadly, Traditional Witchcraft and British Witchcraft connote Gardnerian Wicca.

So, given all that, I would say seiðr is not a European folk magic in that it is a sort of sorcery. . . .

But what is the difference between Sorcery and Witchcraft, you ask? So much that there is an ongoing discussion that ranges from A to Z and back again. There are volumes of books, article, and blogs dedicated to the subject(s). So, I know you will understand that I am just hitting the high-points here. The nuances are so varied that I can’t possibly include them all in one post, but will make some attempt to point them out in later posts if there’s an interest. Deal?

Before I throw my hat in the ring, here are a few outside sources for you. I wouldn’t want you to just take my word for it!

  • I disagree with about half of this WitchVox article – the connotations of half of it at least – but feel it’s worth looking at anyway.
  • Then there’s this forum repost of Silver Ravenwolf’s perception of High/Low Magic.
  • In this thread, SingingBear argues that, “The real names should be Ceremonial and Earth Magic not High and Low Magic.” I think that’s a better delineation; it avoids the misunderstanding that there is a value judgment involved. But, like I mentioned earlier – I don’t remember where, Sorcerers can be, admittedly, imperious. I tend to like that about us.
  • This post addresses the possible confusion between “Low Magic” and “Dark Magic” or “Black Magic,” a subject I may end up covering in a post sooner rather than later.

To me it seems to be a bit like this:

I’ll repeat some of what I said in “High Magic Versus Low Magic, What’s the Difference?” (Bear in mind that “High” and “Low” are not value judgments. You might say it has a little to do with “astrological” and “terrestrial,” respectively.) Low Magic is a pretty broad set of practices and philosophies which do not require specific ceremony and ritual. Low Magic does not require intensive study or understanding of ancient traditions. Low magic is what you might call “every day magic.” It’s “practical magic.” You do this kind of magic to practical, terrestrial ends. Low Magic frequently requires nothing more than the individual’s will and maybe a handful of materials. More importantly, Low Magic typically seeks to create “spells” that offer tangible/terrestrial/material benefit to the personal/earthly self. This includes protection spells, money drawing spells, spells to encourage good luck, and love spells. This is where Witchcraft typically corresponds.

High Magic, on the other hand, includes a set of very exacting practices which require specific tools, including  – often exotic – ingredients and astrological timing; language use, not always English – hell, not always terrestrial languages; and even “real estate.” Consider the requirements of the Abramelin Operation – no kidding Crowley bought a house in, no shite, Loch Ness, Scotland.[1] High Magic is far more formal and utterly saturated with ancient and esoteric traditions: the Hermetic Arts, Alchemy, Sacred Geometry, Kabbalah, and Angelic Evocation.[2] These require a great deal of ritual and ceremony. Often, operations take a very long time: days, months, up to a year, and longer. John Dee, adviser to Queen Elizabeth – and the original 007, and his sidekick, Edward Kelley took many years to complete the “Angelic Reception” of what is now referred to as Enochian. If you don’t know about these characters and are interested in Sorcery, I advise you start here. Though Dee’s is one of the most complex systems, it is worth the time and effort spent in studying his process.

Quite possibly the greatest difference is purpose. The goal of High Magic in the Western tradition is to have knowledge and communication with the Magician/Sorcerer’s personal agathodemon or Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), the embodiment of one’s truest divine nature. High Magic also differentiates itself from Low Magic in that High Magic is generally has a more intangible goal. It is geared toward nothing more than self-enrichment and enlightenment. “Being closer to ‘God’.” It is intended to have the goal of communication with “higher” entities (Divinities, Spirits, Angels, etc.) in order to bring one’s self into accord with Divine Will.[3] But, of course, it’s even more complicated than that – I assure you.

Further, Sorcery or High Magic is not a religion. It is a set off praxes and can (like Hoodoo, I suppose) be practiced alongside a religion. There are Judeo-Christian Sorceries, Islamic Sorceries, Chinese Traditional Religious Sorceries, etc. It is from these arts that concepts such as casting a circle, invoking deities, and evoking spirits is adopted liberally by “New Age” practice.

This leads me back around to another aspect of Low Magic. Low Magic, aside from “Craft-Work,” also encompasses the highly ritualized communication with “lower” entities. Yes, I am talking about demons. But I am not talking about worshiping demons, I am talking about wrangling them into a cooperative state and putting them to work. Look up the legend of King Solomon. (Here’s one source.)

I don’t want to get into Goetia or demonic evocation too much in this post since I could go on for pages and pages. But, in a nutshell, my idea of a demon is a “disorganized” entity – not necessarily evil but certainly capable of deception and unwarranted destruction that could, to a human perception, be interpreted as evil. For those of you who have no experience with demonic evocation, the best metaphor I can use is this: imagine a demon as a feral three year old on a party-party-sugar high. Left to its own devices, it will be destructive and loud and bothersome. Calm it down and give it something constructive to do and you’ll have better luck. Further, for those of you who still have Christian remnants of “demons” hiding under your metaphorical beds, imagine this: If we believe in an omnipresent deity, and I do, then there is nowhere where God is not. So, guess what? If there is a hell, however you define it, God is there too. If we believe in an omnipotent deity, and I do, then there is nothing beyond God’s use. If there are demons, however you define them, they can be put to divine use.

Yes, it’s more complicated than that.

Because I would be remiss in this discussion if I were not to include a word or two from Lon Milo DuQuette, here is a page from Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head … You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2010. 10-11)[4]:

So what is the source of this power? For me, it seems that some of the power comes from the intercessory “spirit” or “entity,” some from the Sorcerer, some from the ritual itself. But given that all of those parties derive power from “The Almighty Creator,” that’s from where all of the power ultimately comes. But, alas, I am not divine and can only relay my perception. I believe in an all-God because that’s how I’ve experienced my life and how I’ve learned to articulate those experiences. I can imagine that there are others with entirely different perceptions and ways of formulating those perceptions.

Finally, you asked if, as Maman Lee stated would happen to a hoodoo, can power be divinely revoked from a Sorcerer or Magician?

I’m going with, “Yes.”

For three reasons.

If I believe that God is all-powerful, and I do, then it stands to reckon that God has the authority to revoke any and all talents given to a human.

Also, there are ways of granting a Magus or Witch precisely what s/he asks for but doing it in such a way that it utterly destroys his/her life. Whereas the “Witch’s Duh” is a shortfall in the spellwork itself, I believe that there are other kinds of divine retribution. Be careful what you want – it might want you back, sort of thing. Getting what we want instead of getting what’s “good” for us is often the best cosmic punishment.

Further, if the architect of the ritual believes that s/he has trespassed, s/he will place her/himself in a psychological state where no Magic is possible. i.e. We can “psych ourselves out.” In this case, I still see it as God revoking power from the practitioner. In my opinion, this is a case where The Creator has “built in” a default auto-destruct mechanism. This idea deserves a post of its own. Someday.

There is so much more to it all. I can’t hope to cover everything there is to cover in this meager blog, but I hope that I have pointed you in a direction to pursue your own truth.

Well, that was a fun foray into comparative practices!

Blessings, Quarks, and 93,

The Bad Witch


[1] He also bought an “Abbey” in Sicily – from which Benito Mussolini’s government eventually chucked him in 1923. I mean when Mussolini kicks you out of Sicily, you’re not doing a low-prep “spell” for personal gain.

[2] This is just to speak to Western systems. There are Middle Eastern (aside from Jewish) and Far Eastern systems of which I know very, very little.

[3] Yes, of course, there are secondary and tertiary benefits to this aspiration.

[4] I used to set my clock by DuQuette. I don’t anymore. But this section – this I still like.

Q&A Part II – Voodoo and Hoodoo

To pick up where I left off with The Road Less Traveled’s set of intricate questions, I will actually end up mirroring the methodology of the post which I submitted yesterday. I love writing about this kind of stuff and my noodle is brimming with commentary about the more intellectual aspects of Paganism, so this is all perfectly timed. Plus, taking many pages of commentary and boiling them down to three or so pages forces me to concentrate on the real crux of the issue. I just hope y’all enjoy eavesdropping on my answers to TRLT as much as I enjoy composing them. I think I’ve exhausted the portion that asks, “What is the main difference between” Witchcraft(s). Here I will look at the variation among Voodoo(s) so that I can also address Hoodoo later in this post. Sorcery will have to wait.

Just as across Europe there are sets of non-homogenous “versions” of Witchcraft, some falling under neoPagan Gardnerian paradigms, some not, there are many, many ATR-based[1] (African Traditional Religions) religions. Voodoo itself, like Witchcraft, is not a uniform system. In several countries Voodoo is practiced with varying traditions, purposes, and structures.

Bear in mind that my information regarding Voodoo and all other ATR-based religions is derived from a scholarly perspective only; I am an outsider of these traditions.

We are most familiar with Haitian Voodoo,[2] which is likely the most visible of the Voodoo traditions. Since the decline of Duvalierism, Voodoo has been instituted as a national religion with official status. This makes a big difference when you compare it to South American Voodoo. (Yes, I mean South American Voodoo – not Santeria. I’ll get to Santeria in a minute.) Consider the freedoms granted in a religion that is sanctioned by the government versus one that must operate in clandestine modes. In Venezuela, for instance, the accepted religion is Catholicism, however, folks practice Voodoo as a regular course. We are familiar with the syncretic correspondences made between Catholic saints and Voodoo loa (and Santarian orisha) and understand that this arose out of the need to veil the practices from the eyes of officials. In Venezuela, as I understand it, Voodoo practices are not outlawed, yet citizens “identify” themselves as Catholic. So it seems to me that Voodoo could be envisioned as either a systematic religion in toto (as in Haiti) or a limited practice with a syncretic relationship to Catholicism (as in Venezuela, Cuba, and other locales). Both must be, in my opinion, deemed valid; however we should be cautious to identify what we mean when we refer to “Voodoo” since there is such variance across cultures.

I know you didn’t ask this part, but I’d like to offer the information since I have it on hand. There are many other ATR-based religions that are alive and well in the 20th Century. Across the Caribbean and into South America, there are as many variations that stem back to African religions as there are Witchcraft traditions (as there are Christian denominations, for that matter). Just to name a few, consider Umbanda of Brazil, Candomble of Uruguay, and Cuban Santeria.

At this point, I’d like to jump ahead to one of your latter questions that I will answer in full later. You asked if a non-black could practice Voodoo. Based on what I’ve just said, the answer *must* be “yes.” Of course, one cannot be a Haitian Voodooist (or Voodooisant) unless one is, in fact, Haitian. (I’ll discuss New Orleans Haitian Voodoo soon.) The connection between the people of Haiti, its historical politics, its government and local officials, and its religion is strong.[3] Nonetheless, given the variety of Voodoo sects, we have to acknowledge that not all of their adherents are the same race.

Hoodoo, the way I have come to understand it, is not a religion per se. As a matter of fact, most hoodoos are Christian and regularly incorporate Biblical passages into Workings. Rather, hoodoo is a set of practices based on folk magics from many cultures. These cultures include: multiple ATRs, multiple Southeastern NATP (Native American Tribal Practices) – especially Cherokee –and (believe it or not) white European traditions like those brought over with the Pennsylvania Dutch hex-meisters, Scots-Irish herbalists and midwives, and Germanic occult practices. If you want more information, I recommend Hoodoo in Theory and Practice: An Introduction to African-American Rootwork by Catherine Yronwode,[4] the most recognized author in American Hoodoo. Part of her work explains:

Hoodoo consists of a large body of African folkloric practices and beliefs with a considerable admixture of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. Although most of its adherents are black, contrary to popular opinion, it has always been practiced by both whites and blacks in America. (“Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork: Definition of Terms”)

This makes sense the more I learn. For instance, The Bad Witch loves etymology. The origin of a word can tell you everything you need to know about a concept; or it can point you away from long-held misunderstandings about a concept. The etymology of hoodoo surprised me. Of course, hoodoo can be used as a verb, a noun referring to the practice, a noun referring to the practitioner, or an adjective. But while most dictionaries link hoodoo to voodoo, I found that the word hoodoo enters the American language in 1875, just before conjure comes to be used as a synonym for hoodoo in 1889.[5] So a connection between hoodoo and voodoo doesn’t make any sense, and is likely why the connection is disregarded by linguistic researchers. For example, Daniel Cassidy, author of How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (CounterPunch Books and AK Press. July 2007), hoodoo is actually connected more clearly to the Gaelic, Uath Dubh, which is pronounced hoo doo.[6] So, it sounds to me that hoodoo is intended for anyone at all – but seems to have originated in Appalachia.[7] Hoodoo is also directly connected with and alternately referred to as “conjuration.” To conjure is both to summon and to influence. In the form of influencing, this is nothing more than basic Witchcraft. In the form of summoning, this is a little more like Sorcery. In my next post, I’ll talk about the difference between Goetia and Theurgy. This will, I hope, flesh in issues of Hoodoo conjure.

Also, as I understand it, hoodoo is non-hierarchical and non-initiatory. Whereas Haitian Voodoo adheres to a strict code of initiation, “couche,” and formal training (again, see Filan for the politics of the situation), hoodoo does not. This is likely where Louisiana or New Orleans Voodoo comes in. NOLA Voodoo is formally initiatory and prospective hoguns and mambos are expected to go to Haiti or Africa for initiation. I met one man in NOLA who claimed to be an authentically initiated Voodoo hogun; he was white. So it seems that whites can, in fact be Haitian initiated Voodooists. But, I have also heard that there are scammers in NOLA who claim to be trained or initiated in Africa, but are not. And I have heard that there are scammers in Africa who charge exorbitant amounts to conduct initiations for Americans, initiations that are not officially recognized by native practitioners. The lineage of white Voodoo “leaders” is often suspect – whether this suspicion is founded or not.

Most of the scholarship I look at argues that because Voodoo was a way for African-Americans to have a measure of influence over whites, they would have never conferred legitimate power on someone without any African lineage. But, this contradicts what I know: Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman is Jewish/Ukrainian, right? And only three (?) of the Mambos on the Haunted New Orleans “top ten” list (however valid that is) are black.

I am, admittedly befuddled on this subject. And we can’t really take anecdotal evidence here, considering the possibility of scams, now can we? Can anyone offer clarification?

To address your question of the origins of power, my understanding is that hoodoo attributes magical acts to personal power and to the natural properties of herbs, roots, minerals, etc.[8] As for a pantheon? Because hoodoos tend to be Christian and not Pagan, I would imagine that Jehovah is a viable supreme God; but because hoodoo is not a religion, but a practice, it seems to me that you should be able to Work within any religion that did not contradict hoodoo. There is also at least one commonly recognized African deity; known as Legba (aka Nbumba, Nzila, Ellegua, and Eshu), he is the “dark man” one can meet at the crossroads. As the keeper of the gate between life and death, a trickster, he seems to be more like the Pagan Devil than Biblical Satan. Where hoodoo connects the idea of “sin” and “evil” is beyond me at the moment. I do get the impression that death and hell are not nearly as terrifying as they are in many other Christian systems. And it also seems to me that it is not necessary to be a Christian to practice hoodoo.

The same goes for sorcery – which I’ll address tomorrow!

Thanks for hanging in there!

TBW


[1] And when I say “ATR-based,” it is with the realization that “Voudon” is historically (whether accurately or not, I haven’t checked the sources) to Nigeria and Dahomey. Yorùbá comes from, well, Yoruba. Both of these are the more recognized stem-religions from which most ATR-based traditions, like Palo, Congo, and Bantu, branch.

[2] And if you are not, there are two films I recommend: The Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti, based on Maya Deren’s work between 1947 and 1954 – so long as you promise to take it in a historical context – and Buying the Spirit, by Journeyman Pictures (2003).

[3] If you are interested in this topic, I *highly* recommend The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan (Destiny Books, 2006).

[4] I have been instructed to read it in its entirety by Maman Lee. It’s truly fascinating. Yronwode explains the admixtures of of not only ATR, NATP, and European occult practices as mentioned above, but she also discusses Middle-Eastern (Kabbalist and Judeo-Christian) and Eastern (Hindu and Taoist/Buddhist) influences on Hoodoo. Some really cool and well-documented stuff.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary. “Hoodoo,” n and adj , 1; “Conjure,” n, 3.

[6] Uath Dubh means:

Dark specter, evil phantom, a malevolent thing; horror, dread; a dark, spiky, evil-looking thing. Uath, (pron. voo) n., a form or shape; a spectre or phantom; dread, terror, hate. . . . Dubh, (pron. doo), adj., dark; black; malevolent, evil; wicked; angry, sinister; gloomy, melancholy; strange, unknown. (O’Donaill, Niall and Patrick Stephen Dinneen. Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla/Irish-English Dictionary. de Bhaldraithe, Tomás. English-Irish Dictionary. Dwelly, Edward. Faclair Gàidhlig gu Beurla le Dealbhan/The Illustrated [Scottish] Gaelic- English Dictionary)

[7] By the way, there is a newfound interest in a thing referred to as “Granny Magic.” I was very keen on the concept, but the more I read the more I think it is misrepresented. Maybe I’ll tackle that later. Maybe in answer to the new question you posed!

[8] This doesn’t contradict my earlier statement that I believe power comes from the Creator. In panetheistic views, the Creator is always already immanent in all of Creation. So, cool.

Q&A With The Road Less Traveled: Part I

This one is for The Road Less Traveled who posed some questions after my “Interview With Maman Lee.” I’m going to have to break this down a bit since no one really wants to read an article length blog post! Plus, I rekon having this in my scholarly voice instead of the Badness you’ve all grown to know and love, will make the ride a little different road.

Let me take a minute up front to thank you for the intricately detailed and elegant set of questions you’ve posed for me. I have been modestly berating myself for working more on “fun” projects then getting to the framework of my research (I have over 27,000 words of the “innards” but none of the (sometimes tedious to develop) super-structure. Thanks to your prod in the right direction, I have churned out these posts and about 30 more pages of a much-needed exoskeleton, thereby freeing me up to dedicate the weekend to research. Being encouraged by this headway has renewed my attentiveness to the project. So, thanks.

Bear in mind that I am not Haitian, nor am I descended from Haitians; I am not a Voodooist (initiated or otherwise). I make no claims to proficiency, expertise, or secret knowledge. But I will do my best to make a response based in logic and research. Also bear in mind that in our fields there are varying opinions, to say the least. The only reason I venture to address these topics is because I was asked to, not because I feel a need to create some sort of standardization among those opinions. What follows is simply my scholarly “take” on the questions at hand.

For instance, some folks lump Witchcraft and Wicca together and have good reasons for doing so. Ethan Doyle White, for one, argues that because of “common use,” we should not differentiate between initiates of Traditional Wicca and eclectic practitioners who refer to their practices as “Wiccan” (“The Meaning of “Wicca”: A Study in Etymology, History and Pagan Politics”. The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 12 (2): Feb. 2011, 185–207). I happen to disagree. This does not diminish White’s claims or his argument. It simply means that, as a scholar, I can accept his argument as valuable while still holding to my own rationale.

Like my daddy says, “Just ‘cuz them beans give me gas don’t mean no one should eat’em.”

OK, maybe it’s not just like that but still.

This segues well into the first set of questions.

The first half of the first question TRLT asks is:

What exactly is the main difference between European Witchcraft, sorcery, and Hoodoo? Aren’t they all different forms of magic? Is there difference simply the way people who practice these different systems do things?

This is laden with many questions so let me parse them out as best I can. (I’ll address the second half of that question and questions 2-3 as we go along this week. Maybe even ending on a PBP post – what is it this week? Still R?)

As for the difference between European Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Hoodoo, there is a basic difference in cultural development. First, I must address the multifold differences in European Witchcraft alone. Not only are there differences in folk-ways across the continent, there is a distinct difference between folk magics and Wiccan-based crafts. European Witchcraft is not a homogenous model. In itself, the multifaceted set of traditions contains a number of divergent cultures. Both Norway and Italy are in Europe, yet the Vǫlur’s practice of seiðr, in the form or galdr and other shamanic practices is very different from the folk magics of, say, Sardinia. Further, today’s vala and gyda will have very different practices (based on access, technology, laws, and cultural necessity) than their ancient ancestors. What’s more, practices in Italy itself can vary greatly from the mainland to the islands.

As for the variances of traditions based on Wicca, consider Stregheria (Italy). While I have not studied Grimassi’s tradition[1] (1970s) in detail, I know that it is founded on Gardnarian paradigms. Though  Leo Martello was the first recognized author to claim an Italian “family tradition” of Witchcraft (Witchcraft: The Old Religion. 1970), Grimassi popularized the “Aradian Tradition,” inspired by English author, Charles Leland’s,  Aradia, Gospel of the Witches (1899), a literary translation of Italian folklore combined with Leland’s characteristic narrative style. Here, Leland blends Roman mythoi with Middle-Eastern apologues to create a foundation for Mediterranean system – which was then adopted as a Celtic underpinning.

Likewise Buckland’s reimagination of Pictish Craft.[2] Because we have little or nothing left of the insulated Pictish people, subjects of cultural absorption and genocide and without an extensive written culture, we have no way of authenticating the recovery of their craft. However, I am of the mind that there is no historical evidence to believe that PectiWita and Gardnerian Wicca (considering the relentless Roman invasions and ensuing cultural changes) would have anything in common at all.

The opinion one has about “European Witchcraft,” it seems to me, hinges upon one’s opinion of Gardnerian British Traditional Witchcraft and the ensuing conglomeration of neo-Pagan Reconstruction movements. Those who agree that Gardnerian Wicca, and those that emulated it, are derived from uninterrupted (or even authentically recovered) customs, methods, and mythologies reaching back to antiquity will be of a mind that is very different from the opinion of those who believe that Gardner borrowed  heavily from Crowley and The Golden Dawn to recreate a manufactured tradition (perhaps driven by his desire to have extramarital sex). Of course, I don’t want to represent a falsehood here – there are opinions in between.[3]

Like mine.

I’ve mentioned a few in these posts: (“It Must Be. . .Wikipedia,” “ Dead Horses . . .,” and “Wannabethans” – likely others as well).

And then again, there is a sizable difference between Wicca as an initiatory system and Wicca as an eclectic set of practices. Initiatory Wicca, limited to a select number of vetted lineages, is not even the same as Wicca which does not have its foundation in one of these lines. Also see here.

It’s a lot like apostolic succession for the Papacy.

Of course, we should recognize solitaries and eclectics who choose to refer to their practice as “Wiccan” as legitimate. Some do not. It’s a matter of personal politics. The Bad Witch doesn’t have a dog in that fight.

Of course, there’s the possibility that there is a tradition surviving in Europe that has nothing to do with mainstream “Traditional Witchcraft.” If they exist aside from Teutonic Shamanism, I don’t know anything about them and cannot give you any information.

Being The Bad Gydia, I can tell you that the rituals of seiðr have little or nothing in common with Wicca when it comes to ritual. What is common among them is repetition (of musical chanting of a sort and drumming) to achieve the states of altered consciousness wherein Magic is performed. Other than that, most of the things practiced in contemporary Heathenism are derived from Wicca in effort to be “friendly,” not because they are authentic to Germanic practices.

My opinions regarding these concessions is beside the point.

So to answer whether the “difference [is] simply [in] the way people who practice these different systems do things,” I would say, “yes” and “no.”

The way things are done is certainly different; but nothing I would call simple. The way things are done speaks not just to a practical difference, but to a difference in philosophy.

For instance, in Wicca (and Western European Sorcery) the wand and the athame are decidedly phallic. In many Western Esoteric traditions, the phallus is venerated as the source of creative power.[4] The “wand-carrier” or völva is, by definition, a woman. As a matter of fact, it was expressly forbidden for Norsemen to “assume” female magical powers. This is not to say that they could not practice magic at all, which eventually became the case after the influx of Christianity (it’s very complicated), but that men were forbidden to perform magic. For this reason, I have to believe that the “imagination” of the “source of power for their workings” is different.

In my panentheistic belief system, all power comes from “God” or “The Almighty” or “The Creator” or whatever one calls the supreme and eternal animating force of the cosmos. The issue remains that, even if we all believe this tenet, we may all define this divine presence differently. Exactly where the source of power is derived is above my pay grade.

Alas, I am only qualified to speak to my own belief.

There’s so much more to come.

B, Q, 93 for now – TBW


[1] Grimassi, Raven. The Book of the Holy Strega (1981) and Italian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe, previously titled Ways of the Strega (1994). Consider also Stregheria.com – “The Home of Authentic Italian Witchcraft.”

[2] Buckland, Raymond. Scottish Witchcraft: The History & Magick of the Picts. Llewellyn Worldwide, 1991.

[3] If you are interested in more information, you might look at this one that argues that all of Gardner’s credentials are fabricated. Or this one that offers around 80 (I quit counting) other articles that criticize Wicca, Gardner, and Wiccan Witches – accompanied by  the claim that too many Wiccan initiates censor any and all criticism of their movement. And then there’s this guy (who, I openly admit, I did not watch yet but plan to) who has a four part YouTube criticism of Wicca. While most of the reviewers use unnecessarily crude language, I do not suggest we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

[4] It happens to be one of my main projects to use Norse traditions to recover a system of female power not based in phallic influence (or the “lack” thereof).

Bonus Round

Back when I was talking about Mercury going direct, I mentioned that if “between July 14th and . . . August 8th . . . you ‘react[ed]‘ to something you should have ‘reflected upon” and now you seem to have screwed yourself into a sitchyation without a decent exit plan, “there’s always the Blue Moon (conjuncted with Neptune = water) at the end of the month to try your hand at amending the situation.” I suggested that this was particularly good for “those bells that can’t be unrung, stones that can’t be unthrown, words that can’t be taken back, and acts that can’t be – um – unacted.

To elaborate on what I said in “The Gale,” the intersection of Confrontation and Forgiveness is a two way traffic exchange – a cross roads if you will. Four way stop sign. Yield. Right of way and all. (I don’t know what I’m saying, now I’m just rambling and hoping this means something to one of y’all.)

Well, that’s coming up on Friday, isn’t it? Just around 8 AM, to be precise. In a Mercurial hour (in my neck of the woods). Flow tide (to high) indicating change.

If timing is crucial to your Work, then take a look at all the water/emotion and communication.

  • Full Moon
  • In Neptune
  • At Flow Tide
  • At Mercury Hour
  • If only it were a Wednesday. . . And while Libra is “air,” we still have the concept of the scales of balance and justice.

If you aren’t too busy at 8AM Friday, maybe it’s your bonus round good for a do-over, an apology, a little backsies.

For me?

I keep thinking about forgiveness and how, like recovering from addictions, it’s a daily commitment. I have this one person (not) in my life who ripped my heart to shreds, stomped all over it, tore my family life to bits, threatened everything I had ever worked for, forced me to make choices rivaled only by Zofia Zawistowski’s (not exaggerating), and set me on a road to four years of unnecessary penance. I was actually expected to be happy when this twisted relationship married into my family (they announced the engagement on my birthday, btw). When I wasn’t, I was ousted.

By my sister. The one who practically raised me. And then, in turn, I took care of her children. Who then took care of my children. Who now cannot speak to two beloved cousins, an aunt and uncle, and second-cousins their own age.

I wasn’t invited to the wedding, by the way. As a matter of fact, the bride told the groom that if I showed my face, she wouldn’t go through with it. “It’s her or me.”

I met with my “niece,” my former-best-friend (and magical partner of sorts). A Sagittarian who, despite her constant mantra, “I apologize!” couldn’t make a sincere apology if her life depended on it. I met with her in the weeks after the wedding and told her, “I know you didn’t ask me to, but I forgive you for everything you did to me and my family.” I couldn’t carry that hurt around anymore. So I laid it all down, sword and shield. Laid it down at her feet and left it for her to deal with. Walked away.

DownDown. Both of em downDown by the riverside. Sword and shield. Don’t study war no more. Lay all that mess down. Sword and shield. (Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 120.)

I thought that was going to be that. But – I have to decide every galling day not to pick it up again. I see it: my sword and my shield just laying there getting rusty. I want to pick them up. I want to pick them up and slay things. I want to wage war on every birthday, every Mother’s Day, every Christmas, every time I hear Night Ranger, every time I run across a photo of my nephew as a baby or my sister and me at my graduation, every time my mother calls and we have to avoid the subject, every time I drive near their neighborhood. But I don’t. I resist. With every fiber of my being.

Anyone who thinks forgiveness is “passive” has never really forgiven. Maybe never been forgiven. Because knowing, as I do, what a daily struggle it is to forgive – to actively forgive – I think that if anyone were to forgive me a transgression that big, I would realize what a gift I had been given.

Now, before you go beatifying me Saint Bad Witch, A) I’m not dead yet B) I haven’t been able to replicate that feat. There’s this other, not unconnectedthing. We’ll go with “thing.” I vacillate between A) being full of rage and hate and anger and hurt and B) not giving a rat’s arse.

This is not forgiveness. This *is* passive. This is, perhaps, avoidance.

Like I told Aubs earlier today, the most crucial step in forgiveness (according to Bertie) is in “confrontation.” It requires articulation. In my case, I have no desire to confront or articulate or spin any amount of energy on that – issue. We’ll go with “issue.” (See, I’n such a state of avoidance I can’t articulate – even when I try.)

So, is this where Bert says to elicit divine intervention? When confrontation and articulation are unattainable? And I don’t mean intervention to sic the gods on the other – I mean to intervene and cause a situation where articulation is possible.

I always assumed she meant unattainable because the guy is dead or the woman carries a Glock. But maybe an argument could be made for asking the divine to give us a hand when we just can’t get ourselves arsed-up enough to articulate, to confront, to forgive.

But that means working on myself. Right? Asking the divine to change me so that I am prepared to and capable of confrontation and articulation and, therefore, forgiveness. Alas, as the great prophet Michael Joseph Jackson taught us, “If you wanna make the world a betteh place, take a look atcha self and then make that – change.” And then we are back to my regla número uno: Change your insides in order to manifest exterior change. Above, below, microcosm, macrocosm, blah, blah blah. It’s easier said then done when you’ve got a groovy sword and shield that could make some serious external modifications. And right fast too.

No worries, readers. I have no desire to use the sword. The shield, I’ll hang on to if it’s all the same. And if it comes to blows I can be like Tyrion Lannister in the Vale. (For those not Ice and Fire geeks, he kills an attacker with a shield.)

For Friday, I believe my bonus round will be to work on tenacity. On accout’o’ I’m getting worn around the edges with this forgiveness crap.

Last week I felt sincere Schadenfreude when I heard that she had suffered a series of losses. This is not my usual character. I felt a wave of relief when I realized that I didn’t have to see her name (with my family name attached to it) on a door-plaque every time the elevators opened one floor too soon. (Yes, we worked together too.) I hoped against hope that something would happen that would cause someone to get peeved enough, see my weaponry laying at her feet, and skewer her with my discarded sword.

Indeed, I am losing the grip I once had on this forgiveness thing.

Maybe I’ll even find what Dr. King called, “radical forgiveness” (Strength to Love). Bearing in mind that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing, maybe I can locate the strength to lay down that other sword and shield too. (Instincts screaming, “Noooo! Keep the shield, keep the shield!”) But then again, maybe I’m going in the wrong direction. Maybe when working on forgiveness I best start with the man in the mirror.

Peace y’all.

TBW

The Gale

Batten down the hatches!

There’s a hurricane in the Gulf. (Last I checked it went back out and is headed in for a second helping of Alligator Sausage Cheesecake.) Best of luck to everyone in Isaac’s path. I mean it. I’m-a-prayin’.

I was recently told, in a commentary about how busy I stay, that I was the kind of person who, if it were raining outside, I’d do a rain-dance and call up a hurricane. I don’t think it was intended as a compliment, but I decided to take it as such. It’s accurate anyway. My reply was, “Well, hurricanes are nature’s way of restoring balance.”

Can I go on a bit about some things that seem unrelated if I promise to try to make sense in the end?

The Tempest, 2010. Helen Mirren as Prospera

In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero brews up a storm to bring his wrongdoers’ ship ashore to where he can exact justice. Restore balance.

This was never my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays but I love what Julie Taymor did with the film in 2010. By casting Helen Mirren as “Prospera,” Taymor changed the whole tenor of the story, in my opinion. The dynamic becomes “female sorcerer” (and you know how I feel about that) and “mother/daughter,” which is both less creepy for a modern audience and more believable – and perhaps a little more forgivable in the way Prospera treats both Caliban and Ariel. Well, Caliban at least. And it nicely mirrors Caliban’s relationship with his mother, Sycorax. Good Witch, Bad Witch sorts of stuff.[1]

As the storyline goes, one thing leads to another, one revelation follows another. Folks we thought we could trust end up being bumbonnets, folks we thought were unscrupulous end up saving the day, and Russell Brand does a little dance. Just like real life.

The thing for which Prospero/a needs justice is defamation by and subsequent unlawful loss of his/her dukedom to his/her brother. Would n’t it have been awesome if Taymor had cast a lady villain too?

By using spells and incantations and a spirit named Ariel, Propspero/a get to the bottom of the misdeeds. Those who don’t reckon reveal spells and reversal magic can be bent to operate according to the will of the sorcerer have very limited imaginations, and (I suspect) limited experience. Prospero/a, like many Rennaissance magicians, is very inventive – and experienced. In the end, s/he gets what she wants and all is forgiven. Balance restored.

That’s right. Forgiven. Go figure. It’s fiction.

As an interesting (to me) note: Bertie wrote a book about forgiveness, not as an intrapsychic (i.e., love and light) sort of thing, but as an interpersonal phenomenon where the maltreated are required to confront their aggressors – and if it’s not possible or ill-advised, victims should elicit the assistance of the divine for confrontation and retribution.

All this talk about “justified Work” along with the emails and comments I’ve been getting from some of y’all makes me want to sit and ponder a hurricane for a spell. And what it means to be in balance.

They tell us that Isaac has veered away from my particular part of the state and that Furfur and friends have their sights set on other locale; but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel its effects. Yesterday, an oppressively warm wind blew across the plains and made The Bad Witch’s hair do that thing where no fastener in the world will keep it in check. This morning I awoke to a wet lawn and four little hens facing their first week without a rooster,[2] asking me, “What’s up?” and “This coop isn’t going to blow away, is it?”

On Facebook, in private messages, all over, y’all let me know that having some clearer parameters of “justified” work has helped you out. I’ve passed the word on to Maman Lee. But I want to be clear about something. When the winds are whipping , you have to know that you are going to feel the effects – even when the storm veers to the west. Because we put energy out there. The energy will seek balance. There might be a bit of reverb on that. No, I take it back – there will be a bit of reverb.

Not all reverb is bad, mind you. I can really dig a G major with an E in the bass.

But the point remains, when we believe that we belong to an interconnected universe, how logical is it to believe that sending energy out will provide us a totally insulated space where none of the aftershock or recoil or whatever metaphor you like will not reach us? It’s not logical. Newton: Law III. We can plan well and try to assure that the “equal reaction” will work in our favor. (Oh, yes we can certainly do this.) But we have to plan for it.

Plan. Construct. Craft.

Let me share a TV plotline. I recently got wound up with The Newsroom. Smart show, btw. Totally fiction. Anyway, the main character revises his contract to get a little something he wants – specifically to have a little power over the female lead. Then, a few episodes later, he discovers that this negotiation left him open to a direct threat from executives. In his renegotiation, he forgot to close the window that said his ratings had to be somethin’-somethin’ lest he be summarily dismissed. (Or somethin’.) Now, he no longer wants the power he so desperately desired – and yet, his arse is flapping in the wind. On account of – he asked for it. Isn’t that just how it goes? You cast a little “mojo” and get what you want and all is well and then, before you know it, Jane Fonda has you by the metaphorical balls.

I’ve told you about “The Witch’s Duh.” This is it. Sometimes balance will be restored and it will do so in such a way that leaves our hair twisting in the winds and our chickens wondering, “Will this thing blow away?” Balance is not always “nice.” It is always, however, right.

Go ahead. Grumble. I’ll wait.

Another pop culture reference? The Butterfly Effect. Only without Ashton Kutcher. You can think that you have all of your ducks in a row and then, duh, a butterfly sneezes in the rainforest. Or something like that.

This is all just to say – know that when we cast, justified or not, we are changing things. She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes (Starhawk). And She will always – regardless of how we feel things should work out – create balance. This is why I always urge my students to work on interior change to manifest exterior change. Because guess what? Exterior change will manifest interior change. It just will. And if we are off-balance when She decides to blow a hot wind on a Tuesday night, we will blow right over.

I’m a little beat from a wild and windy Tuesday, y’all[3] and I realize that I may not have lived up to my promise to make sense. But I didn’t want to get tucked in before I cleaned up that pothole for you. Watch out for this one, sometimes you think the road’s been paved and – bam – like a myoclonic shock during a freaky dream, you are suddenly slammed wide awake wondering, “Will this thing blow away?”

The Road Not Taken, I haven’t forgotten you. I just want to make sure I give you good info – so let me double-check some things and I’m on it, deal?

Good night, see you tomorrow.

TBW

[1] And for crissake – I mean this to say that there is no difference between what is perceived to be goodness and what is perceived to be badness. Untwist your panties and move the eff on.

[2] I took Lola, the rooster to North Alabama to live with The Bad Daddy’s hens and make some behbehs.

[3] I made the mistake of taking a substitute teaching job for the week, oi.

And I have lots of friends in NOLA; been arranging transportation and lodging via text since Sunday. Fortunately my two favorites are in Alabama and New York at the moment, so Phew!

The Bad Witch on The High Seas

Originally written on 7/19. Now that I’m back on U.S. soil with the internets, I will show you what I’ve been doing.

I watched the bayous slip behind me for several hours today. I kept thinking, “I have the sun (fire) and I have the water and I have the wind (air). Will I miss the earth?”

As an aging Sagittarius with mouths to feed and mortgages and tuitions to pay (and an airy spouse to keep on some kind of beneficent tether), I have had to learn to temper the blazing fire in me and become more practical, more pragmatic, more pedantic. My moon is in Gemini and the air likes to fuel my Sagittarian fire. However, as I work toward equilibrium with all elements, earth seems to win out more and more these days – which may not, in the end, be a very good thing at all.

I have the intuition and generosity of water, the bookish rationale and wit of air, the passion and inspiration and gregariousness of fire, but more than all of those things I am all about longevity. I tend to be tolerant of bullshit (to my own frustration). And I tend toward physicality in my expression of affection, in aesthetics, in emotional outlets, and in my sense of humor – which tends toward the lower stratum. (Like many folks of Scottish descent, TBW loves a good poop joke – but it has to be a *good* poop joke.) I can be very bull-headed indeed. But I am also very well-grounded. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the scarier earth problems like stagnation or agoraphobia. That would never do on a ship like this.

So, as I sit with the sun above me, the wind in my hair, and the uncustomary roll of water beneath me, I want to look at earth. More particularly my relationship with earth.

A fire/air native, you can imagine what a ball of intensity I was at twenty. Fiery red hair to boot. I had already lived through more commotion than most adults ever meet, and I seemed to burn the brighter for it.[1] I had become accustomed to the audible gasp folks made when I walked in the room. I perceived it a normalcy that traffic and attentions and great bodies of water parted when I walked past. Not because I was particularly more attractive than anyone else in the room, nor because there was anything especially charismatic about my demeanor: just because I was a living blaze of dynamism.

Eventually, I grew to realize that I couldn’t just pour out my energies unreservedly lest I deplete myself. I’m not sure when that happened. I was sincerely wild, rebellious, idealistic, imaginative, and entirely emotional. But unlike many fire/air natives, I was able to channel all of those qualities toward results.

Despite a family of origin where a high school diploma is rare, I had already had (and abandoned) a career in finance,[2] had already had (and abandoned) a military fiancé, had married a man I fell in love with (literally) at first sight and had three children with him and together we owned a home in a major metropolitan area. I had earned a double-major BA and an MA (without financial assistance of any sort aside from scholarships and fellowships), was teaching at a fairly-competitive private university, and was a published poet. I had also completed three of five arduous levels of magical training at the knee of my exacting mentor and had (momentarily) converted to Anglicanism and had become a postulant.[3] All before my thirtieth-birthday.

In my mid-thirties, I had moved a thousand miles from home, had earned a PhD, had published a number of academic articles, had resolutely returned to my Pagan roots, was elevated to the fourth of five arduous levels of magical training at the knee of my exacting mentor, and had climbed well into middle-class-dom.

At thirty-seven, I got tired.

Damned tired.

In my exhausted folly, I recklessly mistook age for wisdom and followed the bad counsel of an older friend to let the fire inside me erupt. Inside four months I was left with nothing but smoking ashes – even the bad counselor had deserted me. As a reaction, I used all the earth I could find to smother the flames I had brashly ignited. Terrified of backdraft, I built walls of earth to brace against the wind that swirled around me.

This is a fairly understandable reaction, no?

But the long-term consequences of burying my innate disposition in earth and stone have been a little more unkind than self-immolation would ever have been. About two years after the initial explosion and subsequent um . . . snuffing . . . we’ll go with “snuffing,” the residual effects of that short-term burst continued to decompose the landscape around me. So I threw waddle and daub at the problem.

For two more years I remained fearful of a sudden flashover, so I built my temple of earth, earth, earth. Then, not too abruptly, I realized that in meditation, I would “get stuck” in my third chakra. Know what I mean? If you do, then you do. If you don’t, then I can’t really explain it. Everything was quiet on the southern-front: too quiet. I had sacrificed my nature in the name of balance.

Eventually, I realized that pyrolysis was inevitable, even the earthiest edifice would eventually crumble. I was honest with myself. I knew what I was: unadulterated fire with an abundant oxygen supply. I realized that if I put enough earth on a volcano, it would blow sky-high at its inescapable ignition. So I spent two more years working toward digging at the embers of my being while maintaining a safe perimeter.

  • Silly as it may sound, I dressed as a phoenix for Halloween.
  • Silly as it may sound, I wept openly when Danerys Targaryen survived her own death-pyre and brought dragons back to The Seven Kingdoms.
  • Silly as it may sound, I asked for a Kindle Fire for Yule and got it – with a red case.

As most of you know, I had a shite week-from-Hades about a month or so ago. The unrelenting emotionalism of that particular roller-coaster-ride left a crack in my edifice.

Just enough for the smoke to rise and make the whole dadgum neighborhood smell like barbecue.

Just enough for the heat to make ripples in the air around me and flat-out-frighten the idiots who had been carelessly pouring gasoline around me for the past four years.

Just enough to make a whole group of cold and hungry folks (knowing the warmth and nourishment found in flames) come out of the woodwork saying: “Ooooohh” and “Ahhhhhh” and “Ohhhhhhh.”

Just enough to make me sit up and say, “Enough dirt, dammit.”

Just enough to land my ass on a cruise ship with no earth to be found.

This is the art that was just outside The Bad Stateroom.

So, as I sit with the sun above me, the wind in my hair, and the uncustomary roll of water beneath me, I want to look at earth. More particularly, at sloughing (some of) it off.

I think y’all might just be in for viewing a metamorphosis.

Imma toast this unfamiliar fruity little drink that my waiter, Fernando, just brought to me to the phoenix as she rises from the ashes. Join me?

Sláinte!


[1] I grew up in Latin Kings’ territory on the South Side of Chicago but ran with a number of Satan’s Disciples just before the big war between SDs and Two-Six; TBW could whip a Two-Six-Folk gang sign like no other white-girl. We met in Brother Preacherman’s church and hung out in the church parking-lot; many of my other “brothers” became Evangelical preachers. This makes me giggle.

[2] For which I had a real estate license, a securities agent license (Series 63 and Series 7), and state and federal insurance licenses.

[3] That lasted about two years. Considering what I learned in those years, I don’t regret a minute of it.

Bad Witch, “Goad” Witch

I have been asked, on a number of fronts, “If you’re The Bad Witch, who’s The Good Witch?”

After explaining that “The Bad Witch” didn’t originally apply to me, but to the Bad Witches on whom I was reporting (ergo: The Bad Witch Files) and that I took on the moniker as a bit of a joke (based on a snarky t-shirt) which I ended up embracing (blah, blah, blah), I try to explain that by “Bad” I really mean “Challenging” or “Intending to be a goad.” In other words, I like to poke y’all ‘til you squirm.[1] And because I’m bored with defending myself on this front,[2] I thought I’d write one long post and be done with it for good.

The Bad Witch is a gadfly. If she bugs you it must mean that you’ve got something to bite.[3]

We are all pretty familiar with the good cop/bad cop interrogation routine, right?

Imagine: David Caruso brings you in for questioning. You’re sitting all alone in a cement-block interrogation room with a two-way mirror. Who do you prefer to see? The Good Cop or The Bad Cop? You aren’t in any trouble, really; they’re just trying to uncover the truth. Then the Heavy comes into the room. She asks you direct, pointed questions, makes you very uncomfortable, and leaves. You sweat for a minute then The Softie comes along and brings you a soda-pop and a snack, tells you soothing stories, holds your hand, listens to everything you have to say, looks into your eyes, and says “Trust me; if you tell me everything, I can make sure The Heavy doesn’t come back.”

Then she lifts your prints from the soda can and reports everything you told her.

While the good cop/bad cop routine is teamwork used to close a criminal case, the good witch/bad witch routine doesn’t really work like that. Primarily because the good witch and the bad witch are not in cahoots. Our metaphor applies to a set of non-cooperative constabularies: me and the anti-me.

Anyone who knows their Freshman year rhetoric knows about the false dilemma (either/or fallacy). Things aren’t always as dichotomous as they seem – or are they? For me, it seem that the issue between “good” magic (and witches) and “bad” magic (and witches) is caught up in a linguistic strand of signifiers that prefers bipolar morality to the difficulties inherent in ethical choices . . . and intent.

It’s slippery isn’t it?

Ethically, we do not work magic in order to hurt people; but we do work to protect people, right?

Right?

Hmmmmmm.

As an (extreme) example, consider this: Pedophile Joe has eluded the police and you are concerned about the children in the neighborhood. When you protect the children, don’t you – by default – “harm” Joe? I bet he’d see it that way.

Likewise, when you seek to bind someone to a situation (even if you perceive it as positive), you are exacting a manipulative and “controlling” influence.

The trick is – why are you doing it and what do you hope to gain?

The Bad Witch could wholeheartedly get behind throwing Pedophile Joe in the cauldron; at the same time, I would exhort you not to attempt to keep someone you love by your side – even if that’s where they want to be.[4]

In its purest form, magic is a gift given to us to bring us closer to the divine; therefore, it should be directed inward, not outward. That’s not to say that magic can’t be used to affect material situations, just that we must study ourselves very carefully before we decide if it should be used for those purposes.

My mentor always taught me that we don’t use magic because we want to make something happen, but because we want to make ourselves worthier of the gift itself. And that “bad” magic or “black” magic is that which is intended to manipulate or control others or situations.[5] Most agree that “Black” magic is the manipulating of energy planes done by the self for the self, not necessarily to the detriment of others, but to gain something (typically material) for oneself.[6]

So does that make us all Bad Witches?

Sorry, that answer is above my paygrade.

Therefore, let’s go back to the good cop/bad cop scenario.

The Bad Witch is direct, will call you out on poor manners, will tell you when you’ve effed up (and will, likely provide a way to make it better), will make you very uncomfortable if you are lying, and will leave when your company has become trying. However, TBW will not deceive you. What you see is what you get. It’s all on the sleeves of her scary, scary black robe. [7]

The Good Witch is the one that gives you someone else’s ruby slippers and tells you that magic can and should be used to get all the candy in the candy store. The Good Witch brings you a metaphorical soda-pop and a snack, pacifies you with anesthetizing stories, gains your trust and promises to protect you from The Bad Witch.

All while running your prints.

That, my friends, is The Good Witch.

If I am indeed The Bad Witch and my goal is to goad you into a new level of introspection (while exploring my own innards)– then what is The Good Witch doing?

If The Bad Witch is the one who tells you the truth (follow me on an uncustomary binary headtrip for a moment), The Good Witch must be full of shite.

Let me take it a little farther. Most likely, The Good Witch is all touchy-feely and lulls you with a false sense of love: initially preferred to “tough love” for its saccharine charisma. But how nourishing is saccharine?

The Good (“Fun”/“Alluring”/“ Mollifying”) Witch only offers “false love” – that psudo-psychology term for the kind of relationship that poses as love but really asks for sacrifice in return for domination and abdication of selfhood, the kind of “love” that hampers personal growth out of fear of being surpassed, outdone, or abandoned, the kind of “love” that wants us to limit contact with others by making us doubt, mistrust or be suspicious of others. What’s more, it’s the kind of “love” that makes others doubt, mistrust or be suspicious of us.

Admittedly, The Good Witch is more fun to party with, she has a nicer ass, and her cookies always have just the right amount of chocolate chips.

But will she respect you in the morning?

Or in a year.[8]

The Bad Witch (read Tough-Love Witch) will goad you into thinking for yourself. And then let you make informed choices, sometimes you will do this kicking and screaming. But she will be devoted to supporting your choices. That’s hard work – for both of you.

But where does that road lead? Not many are willing to travel alongside a Bad Witch down a tough road. (Remember: If she bugs you it must mean that you’ve got something to bite.)

The Good Witch (read False-Love Witch), on the other hand, wants to tell you what to think, who to care about, what to do/read/eat, when to jump and just how high; then she will pat you on the head like a good puppy when you comply. This is a much easier road – for both of you.

But where does that road lead? Are you willing to follow a Good Witch down a false road?

Many are.

I pray for them.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Not entirely unlike the ha-satan who observes human activity with the intention of locating folks’ sins and challenging them. Like the celestial prosecutor who brings human iniquity to trial. He got called “Devil” too.

[2] Not from you, my loyal readers; from those who have been fed a series of bull-cupcakes – and they ate them with a spoon. They lick the poop-icing off their fingers and everything. It’s kinda fun to watch. Gross, but fun.

[3] And there is no The Good Witch. There are some people who like to think of themselves as my counterpart. Some who like to believe they embody “The Good Witch.” However, after we study this designation, I don’t think anyone is going to strive for that sobriquet.

[4] I always ask my Momma not to “pray” for me for these reasons. It’s bad enough that I seem to be stuck living in Alabama, I don’t need to move to North Alabama.

[5] I’m using scare quotes to indicate my understanding that the values “bad” and “black” are arbitrary.

[6] Yes, yes, there is a such thing as “grey” magic – a balance or “middle path” that helps you without harming anyone else. But, to be honest, most folks find “balance” too difficult to maintain because they find it easier to rationalize their desires and disguise cravings under a veil of altruism. This extends beyond the scope of my argument, so I’ll save it for another day.

[7] Because, after all, I am very menacing. Grrrrrr. Argh. And boogadaboogada!

[8] In my experience, I’ve seen that people like this tend to have rotating relationships that vacillate between devoted to discarded.

The Bad Witch and the (Bad) Dennis Quaid Metaphor

(Game of Thrones – Season 1, Episode 2 and Walking Dead- Season 2, Finale spoiler alerts. Not very big ones, I promise.)

I was watching this Dennis Quaid movie last night. No nevermind what; it weren’t any good. But the opening scene involved a man, about to be murdered, yelling at his loyal and trusting dog to “Go Home!” as he chucked a stone at the dog’s big-brown-eyed lovingness.

He knows he’s in for it, right? No sense in taking Fido down with him.

Like the classic White Fang, It happened in Game of Thrones too. Arya sent her direwolf, Nymeria, off into the darkness alone so that she wouldn’t be blamed for stoopid-head-Joff’s injury. (Sadly, Lady, her sister’s dog, became the scapegoat – but that’s a different post.) It happens all the time in movies.

In the movies, sometimes the dog goes and sometimes it refuses to go, refuses to go far enough, or keeps coming back out of curiosity or loyalty or fear – and gets itself and/or its owner eaten by The Whatever. In real life, when the dog doesn’t heed? It makes you question its loyalties – or at least its understanding of the situation at hand.

Something kinda funky happened to me today and it made me wonder about dogs who get chucked in the head by their pack-leader.

Now, I can’t speak for the dog, but I can speak for the dog-owner.[1] It’s hard to reward affection with rejection. Even if it is in the other’s best interest. Tough love is called tough for a reason (it’s also called love for a reason). And occasionally, we end up the bad guy. Even when the show’s over and the titles are rolling and the ending is happy and the denouement reveals, “Ohhhhh, that’s why she . . . .” – in real life, protecting someone can make any witch seem like a Bad Witch.

Side note:

Four out of five of my dogs would take a bullet for me. Even the one with the spinal injury. Even the little-bitty one. But there’s this one guy. He snarls and barks and snaps and wants me all to himself. He seems to be a little confused about who, precisely, is in charge. He makes a grand hullabaloo when announcing to all the other dogs that he is the center of my attention. But if things were to get ugly, I know he’d be too chicken-shit to jump into the fray for me. (And TBW has loads of experience with chicken-shit these days.) He’s the kind that’s all, “Love me, pet me, adore me – and *only* me or I will show you my teeth.” Then he becomes the kind that’s all “Tuck-tail-and-run-cower-in-a-corner when lightning flashes or a frog jumps on the porch.”

I love him but he’s a dick.

Five out of five of my dogs would “Go Home” when told. But, I think only four would go home and stay home. Now, I don’t doubt that they would worry about me ‘til I got back – but they’d stay put like they were told. Unfortunately, I think this one guy, the territorial one, would slink back to where I am and be a dead giveaway. The vampires or dragons or zombies or dinosaurs or serial killers or Ugly Whatever would be positively bamboozled about my whereabouts until he crept his spotty-Spaniel-ass back onto the scene and then, wham, I’m a goner.

I just know it.

It’s because he can’t just give in and trust that I really am in charge, that I really do know how to run this particular show.

Here’s another one – who’s watching Walking Dead?

So, Carl.

Right?

Are you with me on this? His parents love him, sure; but I’ll be damned if that child isn’t trying to get every last character eaten by zombies. Problem is, Carl actually believes he’s competent. He thinks he’s “got this.” He has the cock-sure conviction that wandering into the swamp to throw stones at a walker is a fine idea. But the adults know better. Not because Carl is impaired – just because they are adults. Just because they’ve been doing this longer (well, life, not life with zombies – but survival tends to be a translatable skill). But that little son’magun won’t just face it that he’s a little kid throwing stones at zombies and getting everybody killed.

Really, it’s kinda the same thing. Carl, like my dog, can’t just give in and trust that he needs to follow directions. Carl, of course, isn’t a dog, but a terrified child.[2] Carl is a member of the survivor’s club, sure, but – Carl isn’t fully-fledged yet.

Think about it. How ridiculous would it be for a dog to turn around and say, “You’re not the boss of me”?

And yet . . . this is what has happened.[3]

I stand here with (le’see, 2012 – 1987 = 25) a quarter of a century of uninterrupted *practice* at witchcraft and magic. Years of intensive training – both formal and informal – and years of hard-core study – with and without books. And some tenderfoot wants to tell me that I have no authority.

OK, Zombie Bait. I’ll get the duct tape.

I’m not even pissed. I know this one will wander around the battlefield – I have my eye on her – she’s not giving away my position to The Ugly Whatever. Not today, anyway. As a matter of fact, she’s providing a welcome distraction. So all of the potholes are her’s to fall into. When she’s tired of bruises, I have the first-aid kit. (She just best not ask me for a band-aid when The Ugly Whatever is looking.)

But here’s some real questions I want to ask:

Does anyone ever say to the dog-owner, “Bad, bad, bad. I hope your dog never comes back”? [4]  Or do we say, “Hot damn, I bet that was heartbreakingly hard to do”?[5]

And then, I wonder about the one that just won’t be docile. The one who thinks she should make decisions. When does this one realize she was being sent home in effort to protect her from a greater danger? Like Carl, does it take having to shoot a man in the head to realize – “Ohhhhh, zombies . . .”

And I also wonder how we go forward with forgiveness after the show’s over.


[1] And I can say that I distinctly dislike the “dog” metaphor I’m using.

[2] And that doesn’t help me like the metaphor any better. I want to be talking about near-peers (not dogs and wayward children) but with one distinct difference: experience.

[3] It’s not like I was strutting around all “Sherriff in Town” to begin with. Can you imagine The Bad Witch in a poly-permapress uniform? In brown? *Shivers.* I’m more of a wax-on-wax-off kind of teacher/authority figure. I keep my mouth shut and let folks stumble along their path (because, it is, indeed, their path). I only put an arm out to brace against cliffs, put a finger aside my nose to indicate a rattle in the brush, or keep a paddle ready for when they’ve decided that they’ve had enough drifting. (I know, you’re thinking: “Lady, if you were all that you wouldn’t have to talk about it.” To which I say, “It’s a blog, folks. My inner monologue – exhibitionist style.”)

[4] Still don’t like the dog metaphor.

[5] If Rick and Laurie were to tie Carl to an effing chair and strap skateboards to the bottom of that shit, would anyone say, “Bad parenting”? Or would we all sigh with relief that we could keep some of the members of our stellar cast? Right.