Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Women Warriors

I had this idea about writing about woman warriors in the aftermath of Women's day, as well as in light of a lot of things that are going on in the world today...and as I was looking for a picture to use, another reason immediately became apparent:    women warriors are held to completely different standards!

Search for a picture of a 'woman warrior' and the vast majority will be model skinny women, in skimpy clothing, holding weapons in a sexy pose.  Now, I like sexy women warriors.  I've always been pro sexy armors and clothing for women in video games (but I'm also for sexy clothing and armors for male characters...and for conservative options for both...variety!).  This comes from my own personal perspective and desires:  I view sexuality as a strength, and I like portraying myself in a sexy way (even in virtual space).

But I do find that the idea of women warriors ends up a bit skewed, because it's like a woman who is a warrior isn't a 'real' fighter, she's just there to look pretty.  ((random aside:  there was an absolutely brilliant trend on social media a while back about female scientists and how they were 'distracting in the workplace' and the flood of responses of pictures of female scientists in their 'distractingly sexy' work wear was just awesome))

I think a part of it is that we tie so many things into the concept of gender and being a warrior is seen as a very masculine thing.  It confuses people that women can be warriors, and if you put them in regular (aka: realistic) armor, it confuses people even more.  I've actually heard people say "but then how do you know they are a woman?" which I find sort of hilarious.  It reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings, where the Eowyn kills the witch king (because 'no man can kill him')...and of course no one knew she was a woman in her armor...but she was still every bit as effective!  Her being a woman had absolutely no bearing on her being a warrior.

Myths and legends have tons of stories about women warriors.  And it makes me sad now that little girls (and little boys) growing up today don't have these kinds of stories of female strength to look up to.  We have taken the women warriors out of the stories, and left them with only very specific ideas about what a woman can and should be.

But women warriors are more than just fighters.  One woman who comes immediately to mind, when I think of women warriors is Malala.  She fights with words and actions, but not as a literal fighter.  There are so many women warriors in our world, who fight with the tools at hand.  And we talk of them as survivors (which they often are), but they truly are warriors.

There is a fallacy in the idea that being a warrior means being violent.  Even when you are a literal fighter, knowing how and when to fight is part of being a well as knowing when not to fight.  There are many different ways to approach a confrontation, and a warrior doesn't always rush in weapon first (that is a berserker....big difference!)

I have always found it sort of strange that being a fighter as a man is considered the peak of manliness, but when a woman does the same things she is accused of being overly emotional or hysterical.  Even if she was only defending herself from worse violence.

And that, to me, is the saddest thing about this.  That we are a place in history where anyone needs to train as a warrior in order to just live their own life.  I keep thinking that we should be more civilized than this.  But the world proves otherwise.  There are many places where people, both men and women, know that just by being who they are, their lives are in danger anytime they leave their house (or even at home).  And stereotypically, women are at a higher risk, and are less likely to have been taught to fight back.

We need to reclaim the image of the woman warrior!  We need to find her stories, and tell them loud and proud.  We need to teach our daughters to be warriors, and to fight for what they know in their heart of hearts to be true.  We need to teach our sons also to be warriors, and to fight for justice for all.  We need to see women warriors in all their faces, whether they fight with words, with silence or with their words.  And we need to respect other women warriors, even if they fight in a way that we don't...because their battles are their own, and you can never know what someone has truly been through.

The more we build women warriors up, the more supported they will be, when they fight.  The less people they will have to face.  The more backup they will have.  Every time a woman warrior steps up, another person sees her, sees her strength and her power, and the harder it is for those who pray on the weak to find targets.  And this is the way we change how things work in this world.  By recognizing the woman warriors and all the work they are doing in this world.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sabbat Gods that aren't yours...

Like many Pagans, I enjoy celebrating the eight Sabbats throughout the year.  There are many, many ways to honor the Sabbats, whether you want to focus on the physical changes in the world outside your window, the symbolic seasons as they fall neatly into this eight-sectioned wheel, one of the mythic cycles (the Oak and Holly King, the Lord and Lady's story, etc...) or the psychological cycle of creation, destruction and resting.

But as you start reading about the different Sabbats, one thing you may encounter early on is the strong associations with many of the individual Sabbats and particular deities.  Yule is associated with Odin, La Befana, the Oak and Holly Kings.  Imbolc is Brigid's day.  Ostara connects to Eostre, Persephone/Demeter and Freyja.  Beltane belongs to the Horned God or Greenman.  Litha is claimed by any number of Sun deities (take your pick!).  Lughnasahd takes it's name from Lugh, and Mabon!  Samhain represents death and the underworld deities:  Hel, Hecate, Baba Yaga, the Morrigan.

Looking at this list of deities, they come from many different paths and traditions, many different pantheons.  And many practicing Pagans focus on a single pantheon, or draw mainly from a particular pantheon (with select other deities making an appearance in their practice).  It is also perfectly valid to be a practicing Pagan/Witch and not work with deities at all!

Which leaves many people in a bit of a predicament.  They want to honor and celebrate the Sabbats, but there is this strong connection to a deity that they may not personally work with.  Of course, you can work around this, either by focusing on the non-deity specific cycles, or by looking within your own pantheon and gods and finding the ones that really speak to you for each Sabbat.

But many people also celebrate Sabbats as their main time to connect to the greater Pagan community.  Public (or semi-private) rituals may work with the more well known Sabbat connections and deities, and you might be faced with the choice of working outside your own deities or not attending the ritual.

I personally really enjoy taking part in rituals where I am introduced to practices and deities that aren't mine.  I love when the people I know share their practices with me, and introduce me to deities that I may not be familiar with.  I often think of it like being taken to someone's favorite restaurant.  It might not be food that I have ever had before, but for one night I can try something new.  I may never go back to it, or it may become one of my new favorite places.  Even if I find it really not to my taste, I can sit and enjoy the company (and politely decline to eat lol).

This gets a bit trickier if you are doing your own rituals, and you want to work with deities that you only work with around Sabbats.  It can feel a little strange and possibly uncomfortable, like you are inviting a stranger into your house.  But I think that this can be a really interesting experience too.

I don't personally work with Lugh, Mabon or Eostre outside of Sabbats, but I do call on them for my Sabbat rituals.  Brigid is slowly making her way into my larger practice, though I wouldn't consider her one of my primary deities.  The really nice thing I find, about keeping my Sabbat practice focused on particular deities, even if they aren't ones I work with during the rest of the year, is that each year that I come back to them, I find my connection a little bit deeper.  Kind of like a distant uncle that you only see at the once a year family reunion, but each time you see him, you learn one more thing about him, and slowly he becomes more than just 'Uncle Joe'.

I very much connect to deities through their stories, and I connect to Sabbat energy through stories as well, so for me, looking into the myths of the season works very well.  It allows me to connect the deities to the celebration.  It gives me structure for my own rituals, as well as insight into how I might work with the deities in the stories, even if it is for only one night.

I think sometimes we feel like we need to completely understand a deity before working with them, but this isn't my experience.  I have worked with deities that I know very little about.  I find that it is through working with them that I come to know them.  But, the less I know about a deity, whether it is through book research, hearing stories from people I know or my own personal experiences, more I give and the less I ask for.  Most of the time, my Sabbat rituals don't involve personal work at all, at least not in the 'help me with X problem' kind.  My celebrations focus more on "this is where I'm at right now, and here is what I want to honor about this place."

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, because it bears repeating.  I don't feel like there is a 'wrong' way to practice, only what doesn't work for you.  So, as you approach Sabbat celebrations, don't be afraid to reach out to a deity you might not have worked with before.  Make an offering and be open to the experience, and over the years, you may find that you develop a relationship, even if you only work on it one day a year.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Luck Magic

When we talk about luck magic, certain things come to mind:  four leaf clovers, horseshoes, wishing on a star.  And yet, when you really think about it, all magic is luck magic! 

What is luck?  Luck is when things line up in your favor, when a random occurrence turns out for the best, or conversely, when everything seems to go wrong.  And these are the things we use magic to effect.  We want to nudge the odds, so that things aren't quite so random, so that more of the balls fall in our court than against us, and so that the things that we want to

If you think of luck as someone picking your name out of a bag, under normal circumstances, you have equal chances as everyone else.  If there are 10 names in the bag, you have a one in 10 chance that it will be your name that is pulled.  But we alter our luck all the time!

Most things in life aren't truly equal.  If the example above was a job opening, then the different people have different qualities:  their papers might feel different in the bag.  If one of the people has been championed by multiple people already working their, they may have multiple pieces of paper in the bag.

To me, this is what luck magic is:  changing the odds into our favor.  It's also what we do every time we do magic.  Whether we are sending our attention to particular aspects, which may make our name shine more....or just giving attention to the goal (putting more names in the draw), when we work magic, we are making our desired outcome more likely.

Many 101 books remind people that no matter how powerful a spell you cast, you still have to do the work.  You have to put your name in the bag.  You can cast a hundred job spells, but if you don't put any applications in, there is nothing for your spell to enhance.  I'm not saying it's impossible....there is always that one in a million chance that some random series of things will let your dream job fall into your lap...but really, do we want to work that hard?

If you think of your spellwork and your actions as working in tandem, the idea is to stack the deck as much in your favor as you can.  You want as many cards in the deck to have your name on them, and you want those cards to stand out.  You go out and do the work, both mundane and physical, in order to create the odds you desire. 

I've often thought of myself as lucky.  I am good at winning contests, and I have been since I was a child.  I still am.  But I also enter a TON of giveaways.  And the ones I really want, I think about, a lot.  I send my energy towards them.  I think about what it would feel like to have them.  I visualize myself with them.  I figure out how to share stuff on Instagram (seriously, everything nowadays requires Instagram....and it confuses me no end!)

I definitely don't win everything I put my name into.  Not even close.  But I also try to be mindful about what I enter, so I'm not spreading my energy about.  I think about whether or not the things I'm after are really things I want (or if they might be better for someone else).  That way, when I do commit myself, I can do it fully.

I think all of magic works this way.  The more we invest ourselves into our magic, the more powerful it is.  The same spell can have a very different effect, depending on who is casting it and why.  One person blowing out a candle can make a wish and change their life.  While another person can't wish their way into a new pair of shoes.  Because the first person has a deep, emotional need, while the other person has an idle want.

To me, this is why luck magic, why wishing, why spell work of all kinds works:  because we believe in it.  You have to accept the power of magic, of the mind, otherwise you are just thinking thoughts.  If you pick up a four leaf clover, and think, "Oh, it's my lucky day!" then you are putting yourself in a place where you are expecting good things to happen.  If, on the other hand, you think, "Pft, who believes in luck anyways, it's all a bunch of nonsense, you just watch, I bet nothing good happens to me," then you're actively ignoring all that could be happening to you.

The crazy thing is, both those people could have the exact same day...but depending on your outlook, it will change how you experience it.  The person looking for luck, will see every good thing as a blessing.  They will look for the good in the bad things that happens to them, and they will be happy.  The person who is wanting to prove luck doesn't exist will watch for every thing that could be twisted into a negative experience.  They will ignore the good stuff, especially anything that is small scale, and at the end of the day will grumpily feel justified in declaring that luck is fake.

But it's like a pond, with your outlook being the stone that ripples outward.  When you are in a good mood, when you are looking for good things, you act as if everything is possible.  You reach out to people, and you are open to new things.  This changes how your life unfolds.  This is isn't just random things that happen, it isn't whether the penny falls heads or tails, it's what you do when you catch the penny.

They say luck is what you make of it, but I say you make your own luck.  Spell work is deliberate changing of our luck.  It is choosing which threads go into the weave instead of taking whatever we happen to find.  It is deciding what we want to cook, finding a recipe, gathering ingredients and following the steps (including waiting while it simmers!), and not just eating whatever is in the cupboard.  This is the way we create the life we want to live!  And the more adept you get at culling your luck, the better and smoother the journey is...because you are at the steering wheel instead of being dragged along behind wild horses!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Redefining Womanhood

I think we are poised at a very interesting point in time, where we are really starting to question and talk about what things MEAN.  One of the topics that is coming up a lot, for many people, is what does it mean to be a Woman.  So, in honor of International Women's Day, I figured I'd talk a little bit about this today.

We are raised to think of things as being gendered, especially animals (which humans are!).  But many people also anthropomorphize things (give them human like traits), which means they tend to gender other things as well...especially if you speak one of the languages that uses gendered words for just about everything.

But for many years, we didn't really question many of our gendered associations.  Baby girls get dressed in pink dresses with lace, are gifted dolls to play with and are taught that when they grow up they will be mommies.  Some of these associations are SO strong, that people kind of freak out when they are broken...if your boy plays with a doll or wears pink (seriously, since when is a color gendered???) then he is somehow 'less' than the other boys (though I do love when people point out that boys playing with dolls would just make them good fathers).

In Pagan circles, there is often a clear male and female line drawn even in ritual.  We call upon the divine masculine and feminine, some groups pair up in 'opposites' (by gender), we also tend to split up into gendered groups, for women's circles and men's circles.

I've never been terribly comfortable in groups of only women.  I've always been a tomboy, and most of my friends are men.  I'm learning how to be friends with women, and how to interact in women's groups.  And even as it's becoming more familiar to me, and even sometimes a desired thing (I swear, the first few women's groups I ended up in I was equally baffled as to how I got there and to what I should do now that I was part of it!), I still often feel uncomfortable or as if I am excluding people by being part of a female exclusive (or centric) group.

Now, most of the women's groups I am part of are not exclusionary.  They are just women-focused, and so they draw in more women.  Some are exclusive, and men are not invited to join.  And here is where it gets tricky for me.  We have definitions of what is female and what is male, but I feel that, in many ways, those definitions are outdated.

The most obvious issue comes to transgendered people.  If you were assigned male at birth, but identify as female, where do you fall?  You wouldn't be comfortable in a men's group, and some women's groups wouldn't accept you.  I've actually seen some groups say that you have to have ovaries (or any other of the female reproductive organs) to be a 'real' woman (which, by the way, I think is utter bunk).  But this creates even more issues, because there are many women who were born women, who identify as women, and who have lost their reproductive organs due to different circumstances.  Are they any less of a woman?

From there we go even further down the rabbit hole.  If we center out definition of womanhood on reproductive organs, are you only a 'real' (going to be using the quotes here to indicate my disdain of this usage of with full ironic tone!) woman if you have bred babies?  If they survived to make more babies?  If you breast-fed them?

It seems a little ridiculous (at least to me) when put this way...but how many women have been treated as if they are less than if they don't have children?  How many have been asked, point blank, by absolute strangers, when they will be having kids, or why they don't have them?  There is this assumption that all women will have babies and become mothers, and I think this is a really harmful stereotype for many reasons.

Obviously, some women medically can not have children.  And how heartbreaking is it to be constantly reminded of this fact, especially if you deeply desire to be pregnant (yes, they can still adopt, but for many women, that time of pregnancy is particularly sacred). 

On the flip side, I am a mother (though my son is grown now), and I'm sure you've heard me say before that as much as I loved him, I never really embraced the role of motherhood.  I was not someone who adored pregnancy (I had to pee...all the time....thank goodness I was spared morning sickness though!).  I had very mixed feelings about breastfeeding.  When both of those were done, I have had almost no desire to ever experience them again.  So, for me, when a women's group is so focused on these aspects of being a woman, it makes me feel very excluded.

When I was younger, my best friends were male, so I never had those girlfriend experiences that are in every movie and tv show in existence.  I had friends who were girls, but my close friends, the ones I talked to late in the night and shared my deepest fears, craziest ideas and crushes....they were all guys.  I was also not into the 'girly' stuff (like makeup, dressing up...yeah not really sure what else to clump in here) when I was younger, so I sort of watched the other girls as if they were another species...they were interested in things that didn't appeal to me.

One of the things I found particularly interesting, as I grew up and started to realize there were outliers to the stereotypes, was that women who acted not very 'womanly' were often called out as being lesbians.  It was one of those things where if you were loud, tough, or 'manly' in any way (dress, behavior, likes/dislikes), then obviously you must like women.  And the same worked in reverse, a man who displayed 'womanly' traits must like other men.  We have entwined the ideas of gender and sexuality in ways that I just think are a bit crazy.  I mean, if I like things that men like...wouldn't that just mean that I have more things in common with the guys, and therefore have more to relate to them, if we were in a relationship?

It goes back to the gender idea though.  That we associate traits with a gender (man=strong, woman=passive), and people who are attracted to those things must just be confused (aka lesbians like 'butch' women because they actually like men *boggle).  It goes back to trying to force people to fit into these black and white molds of what society says we should be.

But today, we are starting to see more and more broad definitions of what it means to be a woman.  We are seeing women's groups that are embracing all aspects of womanhood, and it is glorious!  Many of the groups I am in are very open, and when I speak up about how I feel about things (and how unconnected I am to certain aspects of being a woman), not only do I feel welcome and supported, but often there are other women who say they totally feel the way I do...and that is super cool. 

What I find even more exciting is that we are starting to see more and more broad expressions of womanhood in everyday society.  We are seeing very different expressions of being a woman in the media...and while some people still fuss about it, the appearances are getting more common and more varied, and the people fussing are struggling to fuss about it all!

Now, this leaves us in a sort of limbo though, when it comes to what exactly we define as womanhood.  I have always been of the opinion that we each define what 'being a woman' means to us...and that our individual expressions of womanhood are perfectly valid.  It is one thing that I have always thought about in regards to feminism too....if we are fighting for female rights, than my right to WANT to stay at home is legitimate, even if another woman thinks that it would feel demeaning to her.  It works for me, and I should be free to do it, if that is what I want.

This is one of those topics that I don't feel has 'answers'.  I think this is a discussion that needs to be had, with an open heart and mind...with the intent of finding new ways to embrace our differences, to allow each individual to blossom in the way that makes them shine, and to accept that my womanhood may express itself very differently from yours....but we can still sit together and appreciate the things that we share as well as what sets us apart.  And I think that if we had more discussions like this, the world would be a better place.