Archive for July, 2017


Cherry Picked Politics

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Recently went to a Pagan space in Baltimore for solstice and they had a new sign on the door: “Leave your politics in the car”. Also known as “how you know you’re surrounded by White people”. This is mainly why I don’t really engage with the rituals there. I just chill inside with the air conditioner and work on Black Witch stuff and listen through the window. That and because they sometimes film their rituals and I’m not showing up so some moron can point to me on film and say “see, we’re diverse!” They’re not. Not interested in being the token, I just have one favorite person there and that’s pretty much why I show up. And free food. Basically, come for the favorite person, stay for the free food.

Choosing politics is moreso a sign of privilege than not. Usually it’s not really all politics, because then people would be stuck with talking strictly about the weather – wait, no, global warming is considered political as well. Ok, so basically nothing – Either way! There are some politics that are very, very okay, just not the ones that tend to make those with privilege emo.

The thing about saying “leave your politics at the door” is that this is pretty coded. Since it is at a Pagan spot and it is a extraordinarily White place, it’s pretty obvious which politics are gonna fly and which aren’t. And what started this “politics-free zone” thinking was because they made some major missteps with their last rituals in regards to race and general politics. Stuff like summoning Sacagawea and Harriet Tubman to share the same space with slaver Thomas Jefferson at recent rituals, among other things.

Usually in White Pagan circles, they kind of work almost in the same vein of White feminism: it’s a problem when it directly affects them, and when it doesn’t, it’s a “distraction” and an act of “being divisive”. Doesn’t help that most of mainstream White Paganism is pretty much ran by and loaded to the gills with White women so it’s no surprise that it would have the same gaze as White feminism. This creates cherry picking politics.

It’s “cherry picking” because, frankly, everything can be seen as political. A trans person trying to go to the bathroom is seen as political because transphobia and gender politics. A Black person wearing their hair in its natural state is seen as political because of anti-blackness and race politics. These are really simple acts, using the bathroom and picking a hair style. However, enough people get up in arms about it, it gets framed as “political” because all politics is, is debating human-involved issues. From whether we should chop down all the forests in the world to if it’s wrong to have a fur coat, these are issues that involve humans somehow and thus can fall under the banner of “politics”. Doesn’t make it a bad thing, just simply what it is.

This means that talking about merely being Pagan is also political because religious freedom – something that isn’t considered taboo in the Pagan group…because it’s a Pagan group. They’re also okay with basic feminism because this is a group ran by primarily women, which is also politics – gender politics. They also don’t try to separate the trans people from the rest of the group because according to their politics, that’s not cool. So, they don’t mind politics, as long as it blends with their politics. This is not an act of “leaving politics at the door”, it’s simply agreeing to abide by an already established set of politics, regardless how lopsided or prejudiced they are. This is cherry picking the politics. Some are okay (“support basic feminism, don’t be a jerk to trans people”), some are not (“don’t bring up racism in a way White folks feel bad and non-saviorist, don’t acknowledge that the “feminism” they subscribe to is blanche neige White feminism”). All of this is bullsh*t.

Usually I hear the, “I don’t like politics” chant mainly from White folks who simply don’t like the fact that their privilege may not be seen in a good light and for really strong, deeply historically grounded reasons. They don’t mind whinging about Trump (despite voting for him), fussing about how they can’t believe prejudice still exists (despite constantly enforcing it in both de jure and de facto ways), and how they love different cultures (as long as the people attached to them are preferably silent and invisible). However, start bringing up where their thinking is wayward and, all of a sudden, they have declared this area a “politics free zone”. Because your politics may not match up with theirs and that might cause thinking, which will induce bad feelz. Won’t someone plz think of the White feelz?!

Thing is, if someone is bringing up why what another person or group did is prejudiced out of it affecting them personally, it’s not “politics” to that someone. That’s their life. If a Black person is saying “Hey, these police murders aren’t cool. Summoning abolitionists and indigenous explorers with exploitative slave traders is also not cool,” that’s because race and historical identity is not an armchair topic for them. It’s not a fun topic to chat about with others until their coffee is done, it’s their life. It’s a cop out to respond with “Well, I think you’re getting political about this, I don’t wanna talk about it. [Despite the fact I knew that race was political and did it anyway]” And expecting that person to abide by those lopsided rules is also an act of prejudice in and of itself because the person with the privilege in the situation is trying to determine the rules of engagement to spare their feelings over another person’s experience.

If things only got “political” when the topic stopped being “oppressor/privilege friendly”, then what the person doesn’t want is for things to stop being “political” suddenly – they just want a free pass to be as much of an ignorant jerk as much they want and with no one to argue with them. Which isn’t how the real world works, not even in modern Paganism. By trying to subtly cherry pick what is ok and what is not, it just shows a cranberry bog of problems.

Oils and Magick

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I’m getting into more oil-based spellwork and candle work recently. I don’t really know why, I just am gravitating more to using oils in my practice extensively. Mainly in the form of using oil burners, which I’m currently in the market to look for. And I rather buy them from Pagan business since this is for Pagan work. I don’t want to use incense much anymore because while incense makes for wonderful makeshift wands that are hyper-specialized for spell work, regardless of what the spell is for, I just am sizzled out with them. That and there’s the smoke and ash issue, where I just am simply not a fan of it. Especially if I get incense that are a less purer quality than I thought I purchased. I still don’t mind having small sticks around if I need to quickly awash something in smoke but that’s pretty much it. And I rarely do that, at that.

I’ve been looking for proper oil burners, primarily from Pagan stores before going to more general purpose locations. I generally look in places such as Gryphon Moon, and search for other shops like Eclectic Artisans before going for general shops because I want to buy from Pagan business for the simple fact that I’m Pagan and the purpose of the item I’m getting is for a Pagan practice. It’s not that I think the burner will be more infused with more magickal energies than if I got it from some faceless entity on Amazon, it’s simply an economic choice. It’s no different from the reason why I buy only Black-owned hair products.

So far, I just been doing the rudimentary method of simply drawing the oil on the side of the pillar candle, two lines going towards the center for invoking, two lines going away from the center for evoking. Very basic, simple to do. I simply would like to combine whatever oils I have, or purchase oil combinations from trusted Pagan sellers, such as dragon’s blood oil and rose oil, throw it in the oil bowl, stick a candle underneath and call it a day. I always like to keep my rituals super, super simple and quick to do. This also means I can create whatever combinations I want and store them for whatever future use. Not to mention, I also like to easily put them out of the way when I’m done the ritual (unless I am doing one with a meditative bit in it, where I meditate until the oil/candle/incense runs out – which I need to get back into doing). I don’t mind drawing over the candle with oil but I also have to clean the candle holder out when the oil runs or worry the sigil/design is going to bleed together. I don’t mind making a special oil concoction, take some flash paper, write whatever I need to on it, infuse with a dip in the oil and put it on the candle with tweezers. This is very simplistic for me and I like simplistic.

Also, since we’re on the subject of oils, here are some must-knows:

Tweezers are awesome, not fingers: Please use tweezers, flash paper (especially oil soaked flash paper) will go up quickly. Do not use your fingers! It may break the “ooh, oh so magickal” feel of the ritual but it’s a lot better than getting 1st/2nd degree burns or trying to drop the flash paper accurately into the flame. The deities will not protect you from your own stupidity.

Burn only pure essential oil, nothing with carrier oils: You will quickly regret this if you burn oils that have carrier oils in them (jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, etc). The point of a carrier oil is that they are supposed to dilute the oil to make it safer to wear on the body. They smell absolutely awful if you burn them. If the oil is not pure essential oil, you’re going to be able to see it, smell it and it won’t smell very good. A great book to have is The Idiot’s Guide to Spells and Potions and, of course, Lauren Manoy’s Where to Park Your Broomstick, she has a fantastic section on burning oils.

Fire safety is good: Working with heating oil is great for spell work but oil has a flash point where it goes from liquid oil to raging inferno (ditto with candles that have too much stuff in its wax pool). Please have sand or baking soda – NOT Water – to extinguish the flame safely. Water and oil does not mix, water will make the oil (and the flame that exists on the oil) spread. Same thing if you blow on the conflagration. It will become a bigger mess because of basic fire chemistry. If you are the freak-out type, have a bag of sand or box of baking soda beside you so you can quickly dumpy the mass on the flame while you’re having a “Fire! Fire!” flailing session. If you’re the cool, calm, collected type (also known as the “firebug with experience” type), still have the sand or baking soda with you. Pour on flame and you’re done. You can also smother the flame using big enough cookware but sand/baking soda is very small and compact to carry with you.

Do not apply pure essential oil to body, always dilute: Essential oils can irritate the skin if applied by themselves. Some essential oils can’t ever be applied to skin. Always check if it is ok. Do not believe the extremely harmful myth of “everything in nature is good for you” because that’s not true – Hurricanes exist, hemlock exist, volcano exists. Nature is chaotic, some parts are good, some parts are not. Some oils are dangerous to wear, don’t do it and risk poisoning yourself. Wear an oil diffuser locket instead.

Do not drink essential oils: If essential oils can cause problems on the external parts of your body, they definitely will wreak havoc on your innards. Learn to get better with teas if you want to drink your concoctions.

Don’t have animals around or have them secured: Yes, there are familiars but this is not Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, your cat/dog/ferret/hamster/gecko/chinchilla will not calmly and idly sit by your side as you do spellwork. They will run around, knock things over, get into stuff and create a great fire risk. If you do not want to flambe your pet accidentally, keep them out of the room. You can hold them but keep a good hand on them and extinguish the flame if you’re about to let them go so, again, you don’t accidentally flambe your pet.

Store oils in dark bottles and at room temperature: Amber bottles, cobalt bottles, these are great for storing oils and preventing them from going rancid. Keep oils at room temperature, do not keep them in very hot or cold places.

If you burn yourself: Get an actual burn ointment, do not put butter on burns. That soothes nothing and can cause infection. You are a person, not a biscuit. At least have vaseline or pure aloe handy (if you have both, make a mixture!) but get a small packet of burn ointment.

Ok, moving on.

Oil work in magick is really great for me, I never really done it a lot because oil upkeep can suck when you have a crowded apartment or worse, you still live with your family that didn’t know you were Pagan and, thus, have to be stealth about it. If a bottle breaks or leaks, that’s most likely all your amount for whatever scent oil it was. Also, pure oil can be pricey because of the process that exist to make such oils. There’s so many reasons why having oils about can be annoying and a bit high maintenance. However, if there’s a spot to hold the oils and keep them contained properly, without risk of breaking or being in sunlight, it’s really a nice thing to have.

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