I Don’t Wanna! (talk about gun control)

I actually have been writing.

I wrote several blog posts and then chucked them. I wrote like a madwoman yesterday to meet a deadline.

But there’s one thing I’ve been avoiding. Admittedly, I haven’t even been reading much in order to avoid the subject.

I do not want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I DO not want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I do NOT want to talk about Sandy Hook.

So, here goes.

I really don’t talk about politics too often, do I? There was that DC40 thing last fall and the PantheaCon thing. But I don’t usually “go there.”

Today, I feel like I have to “go there.”

I have a ton of friends with small children. I guess I was ahead of the procreation curve, my kids are in high school and jr. high. And as I read my friends’ posts on social media about how hard it was to put their babies on the bus and how they gave extra hugs and kisses, I keep thinking, “Am I callous? I didn’t struggle with sending my kids to school. And high school is where we are expected to worry about guns.”

All this as I took the third batch of cookies since Friday out of the oven[1] and stirred the homemade mac-n-cheese while finishing some of the kids’ chores for them before they got home from school.

Perhaps we all mourn in our own way.

I haven’t been able to process this event. I’m sure you are all having a hard time with it too. But I just want to go into my mom-cave and hide until 2013 (which *is* coming, btw). On top of the normal response, I’ve started some of the lighter prep work for a solstice oracle. So, I am as open as convenience store. With some of my filters removed, I am admittedly testy and should not be in polite company—or Online.[2] Tomorrow should be a blast.

Today I got into two tussles with a brother with whom I typically have no contact aside from birthday and holiday wishes. I had a go at a stranger in the grocery line. I dropped the ball in magic-class. And I’ve had to walk away from family TV time—twice. This is not how I function.

Let me backstory before I go on.

When my cousin died when I was about twelve, I cried. A reasonable response. My brother chastised me, “You barely knew him.”

As a kid, my sister used to sing, “Gentle Shepherd” and “Shannon” to me just to make me cry. She thought it was hilarious. I was always emotive when it came to music.[3] With some songs it’s instant and consistent—doesn’t matter who sings it, I cry immediately.[4] And I’m not a sad, maudlin, or morose person—I’m Pippi Longstocking in a pointy hat. I just cry with music. And not cute little soap-opera tears, either. Big “boo-hoos” (and sometimes even some snot).

These family tidbits are just to explain why I shut-down “when bad things happen.” I always have Brother’s voice in the back of my head: “You’re being ridiculous. You don’t even know anyone in Connecticut.”[5] And I even hear my sister laughing at me as I cry.

I stayed offline for most of the weekend, even reblogged a post just to avoid thinking. (That worked out well.) Husband had some friends over for a birthday celebration for me on Saturday where there was absinthe and Prince–no thinking. And I took care of some grove business on Sunday. On Monday, a little tired from a magic class gone slightly cock-eyed, I crashed on the sofa to watch the finale of The Voice with my daughter.

Goddamnit!! if Blake Shelton didn’t stand there with a card that said, “Emilie Parker / 6,” as a piano and string instruments in C guided the soft candle lighting into focus. I’d know that Leonard Cohn song anywhere

And I saw what was about to happen: They are all going to be holding those babies’ names.

Blake didn’t even get to tell us about David’s secret chord before I had my hands in my face yelling, “Noh, noh, noh, don’t. Fast-forward! I can’t!” and ended up stomping out of the room so my own Emily could watch it without me.[6] After that, I pushed it waaaaaaaay down: “I will deal with this emotion at a later date.”

Guess what today was.

A later date.

Yesterday some of you saw my rant on FB about the t-shirt meme. My niece posted it first, then my brother. I commented on both. My644188_526552814037754_1413004826_n (adult) niece removed my comment. My brother and I went tête-à-tête. The crux of his argument was, “If a school is not teaching about God then, by default, it is teaching atheism.”[7]

The crux of mine was that God is everywhere—even where children die. And prayer *is* allowed in school—it simply cannot be enforced. And that religious education *is* allowed in public schools—as longs as no one religious dogma has preference over another.[8] That’s the trouble with rhetoric like this—all finer points that could be very good debates get boiled down into a sound bite, tossed on a t-shirt, passed around social media, and then cut off any meaningful discussion at the knees.

Then, after hearing my President speak, I quoted him: “‘We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to guns.’” I added, “Folks, I’m totally pro-gun (just not in *my* house). You see, it’s not about taking things away—it’s about providing access to the right things.”

This was followed by this The Conservative’s Club post which equated the human rights infractions in The (former) Soviet Union, Turkey, Germany, China, Uganda, and Cambodia to U.S. attempts at gun control. The only point I agreed with was: “With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.”

Mind you, I was only on FB for a little while. And on-and-off at that.

Bam, bam, bam!

With the post that I just reblogged debating the etymology of The Rede—which followed one discussing the ethics of The Rede as it applies to cabbage worms—I am starting to wonder how my fellow Witches feel about guns and how y’all are handling all this shite. We are a pretty emphatic crowd. I can’t be the only one who can’t watch Adam Levine sing “Hallelujah”—especially through the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift.[9] This has to be doing a number on you as well. Can we struggle through it together? (I promise to peruse your blogs as soon as I can do it without breaking-down.)

Here’s where I stand. I’m pro-Amendment 2; not because I like guns but because I believe in an armed citizenry to maintain a modicum of balance. I certainly don’t want an armed authority while I’m systematically disarmed. (I know, I don’t have access to nukes–but I’m fairly confident my government isn’t going to nuke my house.) Plus, I don’t want a gun in my house–but will protect your right to have one in yours.

However, I do not believe that “armed” should not mean “without regulation.”[10] So, I am also pro-gun-control. Gun control does not mean completely disarming. I can even imagine a world where I could be (conceivably and philosophically—if not viscerally and morally) amenable to automatic weapons—so long as they were only in the hands of well-trained and regulated citizens, and that I could be reasonably sure that they would remain only in the hands of such folks.

Ergo, *control.*

It’s like what I said about boundaries. Can debaters stop resorting to either/or, all or nothing reasoning? A boundary is not a rejection.

After I posed most of this on FB, (1) there was an odd explosion in town—but I don’t know what yet. Some lights went out across town—but it was startling. (2) I discovered that there was a (very real) gun threat at one of my kids’ schools. (No worries, it’s all in hand.) (3) I was told that a family neighbor killed (himself and??) his family this morning. This hits close to home, y’all.[11] WhoTF are we as a people? These aren’t anonymous strangers today. I know these people.

So advise me, my friends. How do we live practical lives surrounded by human violence? Yeah, yeah. I got the spiritual, ethical, philosophical end of it. I mean practical lives. The day-to-day and I have to live here end of it.

For instance: When a mentally ill person decides to follow through on threats to feed my dogs “antifreeze-steaks” and then attempt to kill me and my family, can I harm some?


We’ve all pretty much decided that “self-defense” doesn’t count in The Rede. So let me push the argument. Didn’t we already harm the mentally ill person by not providing—and also verifying that s/he undertakes (there’s lots of folks diagnosed with shit for which they refuse treatment)—proper mental health care? Or do we wash our hands of that? As a Heathen, I cannot.

The argument that I keep hearing is tantamount to “That’s not my responsibility.” Well, who the fecks is it then? You certainly don’t expect the mentally ill person to be responsible for his/her own care, do you? Really??[12] And people close to the mentally ill? They tend to get so wound up in life that they believe they’ve “got this,” that they can manage the situation in a domestic way. We can’t count on them to be objective. So what do we do? I certainly don’t advocate rounding people up for Orwellian “therapy” or institutionalization. But there has to be something in between.

Has to be.

If I know that I know that I know (or even reasonably suspect) that a community member has at least three personality disorders, a grudge, a handgun, and a rifle—what are my obligations? If not as a citizen, as a Heathen? Because, if not me—someone else. Even if so-and-so doesn’t come after me, if s/he decides to go after someone else, did I not do harm by passively allowing it?

If we are in a community with an unstable person and we know that they pose a danger to someone (even if we don’t care about that individual on a personal level—hell, even if we actively dislike the target), what are our obligations? How do we do no harm?

I need a compassionate and ethical sounding-board unencumbered by Christian dogma and the political trappings that have somehow become part of “religion.”

You in?

It’s time:


[1] Entirely non-holiday related. That didn’t even occur to me until later.

[2] Let me apologize to anyone who poked the typically placid bear and got an arm bit off.

[3] Still am. I bawl at the first two notes of “O Holy Night” even if I don’t have a connection to babies in mangers and shit. And it doesn’t have to be sappy songs. “Don’t You Forget About Me” does it as fast as “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton, plz). I had to work at desensitizing myself to “Amazing Grace” so that I could attend funerals with a modicum of dignity. I can do it if there are no bagpipes.

[4] Except Michael Bublé. He only makes me feel ennui.

[5] As an adult, I know grief for a stranger is not a ridiculous reaction. But it’s hard to shake our hard-wiring.

[6] When it was over, I had a huge glass of wine in my hand and my darling girl said, “I saved it for you so you can watch it when you’re ready. It was lovely.” Damn kids. They never stop being precious.

[7] His children are/were homeschooled. That’s a whole story . . .

[8]    Brother: There is only one God

Me: I agree. Not everyone calls Him Jehovah.

[9] Coz on a regular day, I’m all about all of those things.

[10] Heck, I willingly make myself subject to lots of regulations: I can drive, but within a speed limit and in a particular kind of vehicle; I can purchase and view pornography, so long as everyone is a consenting adult; I can put ugly gnomes on my lawn, so long as they don’t pose a public hazard. I can’t marry a woman and I can’t grow or buy pot—but we’ll work on that next.

[11] Don’t get me started on the other shit that has gone on this week—like the guy who carved a pentagram in his son’s back. Do you know about this? Hazey told me since I was avoiding the news.

[12] This is not an invitation to indict Lanza’s late mother. We don’t know everything yet.

J is for Jargon

A few posts back, I – admittedly – misquoted the Wiccan Rede and was called on the carpet by a reader and fellow blogger, Drea.  I love when this happens. It keeps me on my toes now that I am permanently on the other side of the desk (and cauldron it seems).[1]

But, let’s face it. This is a blog, not doctoral work; and sometimes I slack off. I often write my posts right off the cuff, with no reference books at hand – I do this between feeding chickens and drinking coffee. Often I misspell thinks. On occasion, I commit the crimes of comma splice, poorly phrased modifiers, and usage error, and (gasp) I have been known to mis-cite or misquote.

As ever, the misstatement didn’t change the crux of anything I was arguing, but it sure did open a can of worms (caterpillars?) in The Bad Witch’s academic psyche.

And in her email. Some people get so hung up on religious formulae that they forget that words have meaning.

Over the past few days I’ve been busily writing a syllabus for a new secular Lit course, noodling around a proposed course on High Magic, toying with the idea of accepting a slot on a Pagan radio-show (I turned down the TV documentary BTW), and looking for a Bible study class that will teach my daughter (committed to a Christian path) how to understand Christianity rather than simply accepting its tenets as so many of its followers do. Somewhere between finishing a chicken coop & run, squashing caterpillars (which are finally big enough to pluck off and bring to the chicks without eviscerating), raising teens who are hell-bent on raising Cain this summer, fighting some kind of RA related BS, reading voraciously before I have to go back to work in less than 24 hours,[2] and writing as many thoughts down before I lose them in the aether, I started thinking about our attachment to particular expressions. You know, the kind of attachment which prevents us from looking into the real meaning behind our religious expressions.

I’ll call it “Pagan Jargon.” It’s kinda like “Drill Baby Drill” for Pagans. [3]

I’ve seen Pagan folk (who turn around and accuse Christian folk of the same error) recite doxology without thinking. My opinion is that, like many ideologies, if folks were to think about it for a minute, they might feel some chagrin at not knowing the (correct) origin of their favorite phraseology. Or at least they should. Look, it don’t make no nevermind to The Bad Witch what you believe, just be able to defend it with some sort of logic that hangs together a little more tightly than “The Buckland Tells Me So.” But, it’s embarrassing to say that I have seen Pagans latch on to a narrative that is comforting to them, one that helps them justify their actions (and often their biases). What’s worse it I’ve seen them proceed to perpetuate the misinformation. Like the idea that connects Saddam Hussein to 9/11, some folks believe that if it is said with enough frequency, it becomes truth. Fact is, it just becomes another piece of propaganda.

To illustrate my point, I want to rehash that post about “The Wiccan Rede.” This time, I don’t want to talk about the practicality of the notion; I want to talk about the words. As a matter of fact, The Bad Witch will revel in the etymology of it all.

One of the assignments I give in my classroom is a critical explication using contemporary etymology to make meaning of an older text. I have my students find key words from the text then look up alternate and historical definitions using the Oxford English Dictionary,  “The definitive record of the English language.” With guided attention at the level of the word, new meanings emerge. Some of the definitions illuminate a text’s (sometimes double) meaning; others are interesting but are not helpful.

For instance: In John Donne’s “The Flea,” Donne states, “Though parents grudge … we’re met / And cloistered in these living walls of jet” (15). A student might argue that during this time period it was common place for parents to send their daughters off to convents for protection of their virginity as well as education; in this sense, cloistered is: “Shut-up or dwelling in a cloister, monastic; confined as in a cloister, recluse.” And they’d be right. But what’s more interesting is Donne’s use of the word “jet.” Sure, it’s a synonym for “black” it refers to the stone-hardness of the flea’s exoskeleton, but then again, randy old Donne just might be inferring another definition of jet: “A projection, a protruding part” like his erection, “a sudden movement of fluid” as in ejaculation, or “a jerk of the body” as happens during orgasm. How fun is that?

This assignment works best with arcane poetry since there are words in, say, Seventeenth-Century Religious Poetry that we use today yet do not yield to their contemporary meaning. We have to go back and look up their former, more apropos, meaning.

Let’s do this assignment with the Wiccan Rede.

Note: Doreen Valiente wrote her poetry in the Late-Twentieth-Century. This is when Wicca was invented; for this reason, something about the term Traditional Witchcraft seems anachronistic to me.[4] Therefore, the poetry is not timeworn, but Valiente still made an attempt at using arcane language. For the sake of clarity and brevity, I am using her 1964 couplet: “Eight Words the Wiccan Rede fulfil: / An it harm none, do what ye will,” as my point of investigation. To look at the Ostara 1975 Green Egg (Vol. III. No. 69) article, “Wiccan-Pagan Potpourri,” which contained Gwen Thompson’s longer poem, “Rede Of The Wiccae,” would make this explication article length. Also, to look at Adriana Porter’s “Wiccan Credo” of 1910 (the text on which Thompson’s version of the poem was purportedly based), raises questions of authenticity that I am not interested in arguing in this post.[5] Maybe later.

To begin, the assignment states that the reader/writer should catalogue all of the interesting words. I choose: “an,” “rede,” “harm,” and “will.” Given my misquote of last week, I would like to add “mote” to the list.

Also, I am using a digital (meaning “most updated thing possible) university subscription of the OED. I’ll give general citations of the definition number but won’t cite the OED in full – seeing as I just told you where I got my info.

The next step in the assignment is to gloss the words using their contemporary meaning. But how do we decide on what “contemporary” means given that Valiente was writing in archaic language but during the Vietnam War Era? *Sigh* We roll with it. While I know that Valiente was writing in 1964, I’m assuming she was aiming for a pre-Christian – at least pre-Roman – lexicon. Just to give you some context, Beowulf is sited as OE (Old English) in the Fourth-Century. There are older texts cited eOE (early Old English) prior to the Christianization of Briton. I won’t gloss every definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED); rather, I will look at the definitions that are most likely to be useful – perhaps footnoting anything that looks amusing. The final step is to develop a concept of appropriateness for reading the text. Here, we apply what we have just discovered.

An – Used as a contracted conjunction (and) beginning around 1160. A nonstandard form, there seems to be no history of the word prior to the High-Middle Ages. In writing, it almost never occurred at all, save, in what is assumed to be, scribal error. So basically, the word means “and.” However, it didn’t appear until well after Christianity entrenched itself in medieval-Briton. Just sayin’.

All of that aside, it does not and never has meant “if” as a lot of folks like to say.

Rede – Aside from Tolkien and Joyce (and Wiccan poets, I reckon), no one uses this word anymore.

Someone very kindly pointed me to this article. The author of this article claims that the word “rede” “is derived from an Old English word ‘roedan’ which means to guide or direct.” The footnote to this information leads to a blog that states the same thing verbatim and is uncited. As a matter of fact, in all of my searches for the word “roedan” the only information I find is someone talking about The Rede, saying the same thing word-for-word, and not citing from whence that information is derived.

This is what I’m talking about. Drill Baby Drill. Memorize and regurgitate with no investigation.

Being The Bad Witch that I am, I had to know the history of “roedan.” So, I looked in my inclusive OE dictionary, consulted my Bruce Mitchell texts, looked in the OED, and – just to be extra bad – asked a colleague whose expertise is Old English.

Guess what?

Roedan is not a word. Never was.

Roeðe and Roeðen (past participle), however, are. But, that’s not a D, ladies and gentlemen – that’s a thorn, a TH. So, the word to which they are all trying to link is pronounced Rō Thᵊ. Roeðe redirects to réðe – again, that’s not a D! Réðe is an adjective – not a noun. It means “righteous, right, just” it also means “fierce, cruel, savage; 1. applied to persons, (a) in a bad sense; (b) of justifiable severity, severe, stern, austere, zealous; 2. applied to animals, wild, savage, fierce; 3. applied to things (punishment, calamity, etc.) severe, cruel fierce, dire.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not the word we are looking for.

Now, getting the word wrong doesn’t change the meaning of the word rede or The Rede itself, but it sure does cast suspicion on sources that would so entirely eff-up a trivial bit of information. I mean, if that’s wrong, what else has been schlepped out for the parade?

The original meanings of the actual word “rede” (with a D) are mostly related to (no surprise here), “Counsel or advice given by one person to another,” as well as, “A scheme, plan, or method for attaining some end.”

Because I am The Bad Witch, and because I don’t take any stock in what Wikipedia has to say about anything, I went ahead and looked at all of the definitions of “rede” that applied in what many neo-Pagans like to believe is the correct time frame for their sources. What’s interesting is that the older eOE meaning of the word is “Fate, lot.” In a second, later OE definition, rede means, “To have or exercise control over; to rule, govern, guide.” Later this “guidance” was translated into the 15th Century usage: “To save, rescue, deliver.” There is a definite theological statement to be made here because rede also means to be “saved” by Christ or The Virgin Mary. I couldn’t make this shit up. Reality is so much more interesting than the things we fabricate. It also means, “To decree; to appoint, select.” Ironically, it also means “interpretation.”

Harm – Strange to discover, but this word didn’t really wheedle its way into English until the eleventh century.[6] Prior to that, it was used in Old High German, harmjan, “to calumniate,” or to injure with words, and in Old Norse, harmr, “grief, sorrow.” Turns out, it rarely meant “harm, hurt.” Fun fact.

It’s possible that the word had a cognate with Sanskrit śrama, “labour, toil,” but I doubt Valiente knew that.

Will – We are most familiar with the definition, “Desire, inclination, and disposition” and “To wish, desire; sometimes with implication of intention.” This word, too, did not join our lexicon until after Romanization. According to the OED, “The most remarkable feature of this vb., besides its many idiomatic and phrasal uses, is its employment as a regular auxiliary of the future tense, which goes back to the Old European period, and may be paralleled in other Germanic languages, e.g. Middle High German.”[7] Now this idea of “disposition” is the older definition of the word and it goes a little further to suggest that things should be “arranged or distributed in a particular order.” It’s as if “will” has something to do with “order.” This doesn’t negate Crowley’s idea of Pure Will and Transcendental Will – it actually reinforces it, hot damn.

Mote – This has many definitions as a noun, but as a verb it indicated only one thing in Old English[8]: “Expressing permission or possibility: am (is, or are) permitted to, have (or has) the opportunity to, may.”

If this Rede were something handed down from preRoman, preChristian sources as traditionalists would like it to be, “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, / An it harm none do what ye will,” would translate as: “Eight words are my council [most likely ‘concerning your fate’]; let them guide you: / If you use no words to injure others,[9] do what meets your desire [with a hint of ‘as long as it is in the grand scheme of things’].”

Sounds anti-climactic to me.

If my incorrect statement: “so mote it be” were part of the Rede, we would have an expression of “possibility, permission, and opportunity.”

That sounds a little like magic to me.

So, couple of things:

1) If the Rede is “An it harm none, do as ye will,” we have a lot of weeding to do in this word garden. Especially if we start taking into consideration Crowley’s writings on what is often misstated as “true will.” Crowley actually never wrote directly about “True Will.” In The Book of the Law, he addresses “Pure Will” (CCXX I:44); in The Law of Liberty, he mentions “Transcendent Will.”[10] It is only in commentary, when, presumably he was just mortal Al, and not a divine messenger imbued with the knowledge of Thoth, that he uses the phrase “true will.”[11] I like to think that the gods know what they mean when they send messages.

2) The word “rede” means so much more than either “advice” or “law.” When we start talking about Pure Will, throwing a word that translates as “Fate” into the mix is either meaningful or careless.

You pick.

I prefer a little meaning with my words.

My point is that when we start talking about the actual theological meaning of doctrine, each word matters. The Jewish tradition has an entire system of exegesis: Midrash and PRDS or “Pardes” (Peshat Remez Derash Sod).[12] When I earned my degree in Religious Studies (at a little Jesuit University in Chicago, no biggie) I learned to focus on hermeneutics. So thoughtlessness in dogma doesn’t fly on the same broom with The Bad Witch.

3) So, if the Rede doesn’t mean “do no harm,” as the Hippocratic oath suggests should be any healer’s first option, WTF does the Rede mean when you put it back together with a little bit of sense rather than simply an active imagination and a flair for cheesy poetry?

My opinion is that it means whatever you want it to mean.[13]

For TBW it means my rights end where yours begin. Likewise, yours end where mine begin. I might be a Libertarian Witch at that. And should your little toe creep over the line into my arena of rights?


[1] What I don’t love is when I’ve clarified myself and yet arsehats continue to argue a point which has become moot.

[2] I wrote this post on Wednesday. Class starts Thursday. I’ll be posting this for PBP Friday, but doing it on a Saturday which turned into a Sunday.


[4] Traditional Wiccan just seems like an oxymoron. Calling Valiente “early” seems kinda like calling Philadelphia “an ancient city.” Now, antediluvian cuneiform. . .

[5] Everybody seems to have learned “The Craft” from their grandmother. Sadly, they all started publishing when associated with Gardener. What are the odds?

[6] I’m a bit of an Old English poetry fan-girl so I have learned to pull random etymological facts out of my arse from time to time. When I can’t, I research. All damn day if I have to. But I never accept someone else’s word as fact – unless that someone is heavily and widely covered in source-work, or unless that someone is my momma.

[7] Did you also realize that the word (used as late as 1871 as such) means “Going or gone astray; that has lost his way, or has nowhere to go for rest or shelter; straying, wandering, ‘lost’”? Now this definition is only used in the dialect of Shetland, but it’s still interesting.

[8] In a recent (17th Century) Scandinavian colloquialism it means “to find fault” and in some rare modern occasions it means “to travel by motor vehicle.” Cool – but not helpful.

[9] Words, spells, lies, namecalling, blogs, all of it.

[10] Watch, this is where someone will argue, “Same thing!” The point of this post is that it’s only the same thing if you are talking about broader concepts. When you talk about theological rhetorical meaning and doctrinaire, it’s different.

[11] Please let me save that for another blog before y’all jump on me for that one?

[12] Why would we not investigate each word in each text upon which we base our religious beliefs? Because it’s easier to be spoon-fed religion. That’s why. It’s also part of why I’m neither Christian nor Wiccan.

[13] My theology contains concepts like “Justified,” “Wyrd,” “O·pv·ne·tv.”

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.”

The Bad Witch’s Kill Count – Squabbling With “Harm None”

Looks like this photo was taken when I was barely the size of a holiday ham.

We all know the idea of the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, so mote it be.”

I was watching this documentary (of course, it conflated Wicca and Witchcraft and all of Pagandom in that way which makes The Bad Witch’s eyes bleed) and an Anglican priest was saying that “Harm None” was problematic in that, with the far reaching implications of magick, one can never know whom one might be harming.

Then again, said priest also indicated that he didn’t believe in magick. Immediately followed by the statement that all energy can be manipulated so we should be careful with magick. So – take it with a grain of salt, right?

I sat up and argued with the TV/DVD player like I do when there is a sudden illogical leap in problem solving on Criminal Minds or House. “It’s a very misunderstood statement. Much like The Christ said, ‘Not my will but Thine be done,’ this statement, ‘An it harm none’ is an acquiescence to divine cosmic order – a recognition that there is wisdom beyond our understanding.” Then I called the TV a “dufus.”

While I understand the concept of “harm none,” I can’t quite understand how we are supposed to live it out.

I see the value in practices like those found in Jain Buddhism – not eating a root vegetable as that “kills” the plant. I understand the Wiccan stance against abortion since it ends a life and creation should be venerated. I admire my fellows who catch spiders and place them outside rather than squashing them with a flip-flop. I understand anti-gun passivism. I value organic gardening, veganism, and ecological sustainability. Heck, I practice most of these things. But here’s my problem: I am not an island. I have to live among others. I find that I cannot live my ideal given that I must also be a citizen among citizens.

A) Abortion. The Bad Witch is openly pro-choice. While I think the necessity for abortive practices is a sad state, I still think they are a necessary option. Remember the late-90s when anti-choice arsehats were taking photos of women as they went into women’s clinics and then posting those women’s photos on the web as “murderers”? Well, back in the day, TBW gathered a few black umbrellas and a few pals, drove to Birmingham’s PP clinic, and escorted women from car to door. Their decisions were hard enough without feckheads.

While I would love to welcome every baby into the world, I know that this is illogical under our current political structure. A system that denigrates single mothers, that fails to support healthcare and preschool across the board, and that vilifies the poor is not one in which we can support Utopian ideals like “abort-none.”

B) Guns and war. The Bad Witch was born during the Vietnam Era. I was very impressionable when I saw those men come home. Some of them were even alive. Some, like a favorite cousin of mine, remain somewhere in between life and death. I hate war. I don’t even like war movies. I finished A Farewell to Arms and threw it across the room, shattering the spine. (I have only done that to a few other books: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Color Purple, and Jacob the Liar.)

However, I come from a gun-toting family and I adore my family. My brother’s house looks a little like the Branch Davidian compound must have. Same goes for my in-laws. I live in a gun-toting community. I have students come to class straight from a morning of hunting. Still in their camo with GSR which spreads to their daily reading quizzes, they have gun racks on their trucks – that still have loaded guns on them. (At a university, this is not terrifying at all. Time for a policy update, I say.) But I have no guns.


The Bad Daddy is taking me out to buy a rifle and a handgun in a few weeks (The Bad Background Check and all). It seems The Bad Momma has a bad feeling. (Please don’t preach to me about guns amplifying violence. I’m singing in that same choir. But these are my parents. Old as I am, I still obey them.)

This has me thinking. Guns + Self Defense = Harm, right? So imagine: My momma’s bad feeling comes to fruition. The Bad Witch stands between tragedy and her teenagers – or her chickens – or her gonna-be-here-any-day-grand-baby. Does she choose to “harm one” in order to save t’others? Hells to the yea. Thank the gods m’daddy made me learn to use that pistol I’ve been cussing about for three days.

“Oh, well,” you say, “self-defense is a different story.”

Is it? Really?

Then how do you feel about a jinx? I have an acquaintance who owns a store; he places a jinx on any goods removed from his store without payment. This is psychic self-preservation resulting in loss-control, right? But it’s still a jinx. Same as self-defense with a gun is still harm.

C) Caterpillars – Technically Corn Worms. This one’s driving me nuts. Over the past few years, my garden and I have been fighting an uphill battle with corn earworms. Now, I don’t grow corn, but I grow most of my own produce. This is more than a hobby, it’s how I feed my family from late-May to December (February if you count the occasional winter squash). These little boogers will eat a plan to a nub in 24 hours like the nematodes on Spongebob if I don’t catch them in time. Typically, they show up in late-June or July – about the time you’d expect corn to ripen. But this year, they hatched early and are chewing up my garden early. Typically, I have time to wrap up the Spring semester, get into the groove of Summer School, and make my organic gardening “potions” to thwart everything from black-spot to snails and from corn-worms to aphids (I heart Jerry Baker.) But this year, everything’s early. My plants are huge and producing. This is good. Pest larva are hatching and eating. This is bad. Especially since my bug-patrol chicken corps is not ready for the outdoors just yet. (Bugs: nom, nom, nom.)

So, everyday, two and three times a day, I go out to my collards and broccoli (they haven’t quite hit my peppers and maters yet – but

The day I discovered that the worms had hatched, I had already lost almost a full plant.

they will if I let them) and hand squish each corn worm I find. I turn over each leaf and *pop* the newly hatched and still itty-bitty worms. On Saturday, my kill-count was 120. Sunday, it was 54. So far this morning, it’s been 27. I feel like I should put notches on my garden gloves like the helmets in a Kubrick film. I’d love to put them in a bird feeder and let the birdies have at them. Truth of the matter is, I don’t want to run the risk of escape! I’d even prefer to pick them off, bring them in, and give my hens a snackaroo. But I cannot pick them off. If you know about corn worms, you know that they attach themselves to the stalk. In trying to remove them, I inevitably tear them in two.

So what’s a witch to do?

Harm one to save one.

My goal is to have a healthy garden and there’s only so much “companion planting” that will do the trick. In the end, I have to pull (and therefore kill) a few weeds, squish a few bugs and/or eggs, deter a few predators (thereby denying them a meal), encourage yet another set of predators (ever see an Euglandina Rosea at work?), and bait a few traps (fire ants, y’all – seriously).

And since when is forcing nature to yield at our convenience not harmful?

Farming and agriculture, while a wonderful technology that I appreciate and try to use to the least detriment and most benefit, is *not* natural, ladies and gentleman. Farming and gardening, practices and lifestyles most dear to my Bad Witch heart, even when it’s not Monsanto-rific, is not good for the planet.

We like to tell ourselves that it’s “natural.” But we lie.

So when and where and for whom does “harm none” apply?

Unless we intend to go back to the wilderness, live entirely off the land – as it is, not as we cultivate it, and become entirely acetic, we are full of crap if we say it applies to us.

All we can do is our best in the moment.

*Love & Light.* (For my best frenemy, SKW.)

Blessings, Quarks, & 93

The Bad Witch