The Way of the Witch

This afternoon, I anointed a candle, said a little incantation that I devised on the fly, and lit said candle.  

 

It felt like the thing to do.  

 

The spell is one called “Road Opener”, and it is meant to do just that–open roads, in the proverbial sense. I felt a shift happening, and I feel a shift is needed, so I used the tools around me to ask The Divine for a little boost in that area.  I asked for some opportunities to present themselves, and for the peace I need to close the chapters that aren’t meant for me and to let go of things that I am holding on to without good reason.

 

Last night I felt this rage rising in me.  I was infuriated at wrongs against me, and the ways that people spread lies and misrepresent others and make up stories to fit a narrative they prefer, instead of the way things really are.  The way things are? I’m being slandered by a selfish, insecure, jealous girl who for one reason or another sees me as the enemy that traps her where she doesn’t like being. Whether that is because she admires something in me that she lacks, or she sees something in me that connects with something in her that she dislikes about herself, I cannot begin to guess at or understand correctly.  But the crap thing is that she isn’t being aware enough to see that the thing that bothers her isn’t in me, but in herself, so she is gaslighting and lying and verbally assaulting and slandering in order to make me into the enemy she so desperately needs. And that makes me the enemy of her friends, by some strange loyalty that I have yet to comprehend–because logic has always been somewhat more important to me than loyalty.  

 

But the Universe intervened time and again as that feeling rose in me.  

 

Flex came in and kissed me hello.  Kory forgot that we know one another and introduced himself again.  Mark started yelling my name from the corner in a slightly disturbing manner, but I knew that in his damaged brain it was an endearment and not an offense.  And then I met a wonderful man whom I hope to meet again and again. Chai told me to go after what is good for me and makes me happy, not to wait around for things that won’t likely change for the better.  Raven texted that she will be out tomorrow and can’t wait to chat with me about her week.

 

At one point I ignored all the love that I was being sent and still went back to the other establishment where I had been mistreated and slandered.  I wanted the owner, whom I had always been on good terms with, to know that the situation that had happened with the girl was not one that I meant to impact him, and I hoped to say my goodbyes to him, since he is selling said establishment.  But the girl and her sidekick were present, and the owner treated me just as poorly as they had earlier. Clearly the narrative was spreading, and I was being painted as the enemy of all.

 

I felt that frustration and rage rising again.  I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I went back to the place where the love was being poured out earlier.  And there was more love on tap.

More good conversation, more assurances of my worth, and more positivity swirled around.  I put a few songs on the jukebox and basked in the glow of goodness that I had found.

 

So, today, I knew that what needed to be accepted and anointed and encouraged in my life was this opening up to the places and people who show love and acceptance and encouragement, and a closing of the door on people and places that do not.  The best way to embrace that was with a ritual that I know to express and to empower such a thing.

 

I’ve been one of the many who misunderstood “witchcraft” over the years.  I took it as opening up doors to devils and demons. I took it as power that you couldn’t control or understand.  I took it as one half of a supernatural or spiritual war that had Jesus and an angelic host on the other side of the field of battle.  And I even got sucked into these ways of believing after I had practiced witchcraft of sorts, because I saw and experienced things that I didn’t fully understand or have the rubric for explaining.  I didn’t have the framework in which to hold the powers that be.

 

I’ve been building that framework for about 26 years now, and I have a much broader understanding of these things.  I’m not scared of the devil anymore. Spiritual warfare isn’t really a thing–life is life and it isn’t divided into physical and spiritual bits, whether you are connected to your spirit or totally unaware–and demons aren’t attacking you on the regular.  Spells don’t welcome evil spirits and start horror movies. They are rituals for those who are connected to The Divine. They are kind of like the Eucharist for a Catholic–only less stuck in the age of men who thought the universe revolves around the earth and taking money in exchange for the promise of heaven was ethical.  

 

Honestly, I think it is far less weird to use some herbs and oils and stones to acknowledge my desires and questions and fears and strengths to The Divine than it is to wear a torture/murder device around your neck as a symbol of your adherence to ancient codes of conduct.  And I am an ordained minister with degrees from both Evangelical and Jesuit seminaries–so I’m not really biased toward, but away from, Earth Magick and Celtic practices.

 

Getting in touch with what is going on inside of me–my spirit–and then assessing how that self is interacting with the world around it–the Universe–and connecting with my understanding of deity–The Divine–for guidance and assistance in having better understanding and connection all around, seems like a totally normal, necessary, and sane way of living life.  It doesn’t seem weird to follow this way of being and interacting. It doesn’t seem evil or dangerous. And I am sure that there are many who would quote the few bible verses that say witchcraft and divination are evil and forbidden. But I don’t think that the ancient Hebrews had much contact with the Druids, and I believe that the understanding of witchcraft and divination that would have been expressed in those passages was much different from the using of stones and herbs and oils to affirm and express and seek to align myself with positive and helpful energies.  Context is important.

 

There isn’t any shame in the way I align myself with positive and helpful energies.  And I’m not afraid to have my smudge stick and my tarot deck and my books on herbs and shamanism and spiritual discovery displayed on shelves in my living room.  These are all ways that I seek wisdom, align with positive energy, and keep myself in a healthier space.

 

It might seem strange to some, but there have been threads of witchcraft running through all of my theological study over the years.  I learned to be a witch before I learned to map ancient Israel or translate biblical Greek text. At Fuller Southwest, one of my cohort used to call me Jesus Witch, throughout our Saturday classes, after learning of the ways that Sufi converts keep using their rituals after learning of Jesus.  I would often smudge my apartment and carry crystals even while I studied at Loyola Chicago. There was never really a time when the knowledge of the needs of my spirit left me, even though these practices were not seen as normal or acceptable in mainstream religion. I never stopped needing these things to keep me healthy, in touch, and connected to The Divine.  When I tried to leave these practices behind, I stopped being healthy, in touch, and connected–not just to The Divine, but to myself and to the people around me. They are essential to my wellbeing.

 

The way of the witch is a part of my overall “religion” (a word that I generally reject, because of the way that organized religion has tainted it–I usually claim to be “spiritual but not religious”).  I’m not a Wiccan, in the sense that I have joined that organized group either. I simply find that my connections and my energies and my rituals are essential to my overall health, and that using these forms of witchcraft are one piece of that puzzle.

 

I’m healthier, stronger, more balanced, happier, and less stressed when I use these rituals–whether that be the lighting of the candle and incantation of this afternoon, or cooking with particular herbs, or sage smudging the house, or carrying particular crystals with me during the day, or using more involved spells and incantations, or reading tarot.  Some days that means going out to the beach on the new moon and dancing to the drumbeat and fire. Some days that means setting intentions. Some days that means noticing the rainbows that come from the strategically placed prism in the window. But it always means following the way of the witch.

 

If you want to know more about it, email me or comment and I’ll be happy to share some of my favorite resources for beginning such a journey.  

 

I’m hoping the roads open even more.  I’m hoping that I get to see Raven tonight.  I’m hoping that my new acquaintance becomes more than an acquaintance, because he seems–wow.  I’m hoping that the old things pass away without me concerning myself with the insecurities of others, and that I can move forward and keep being my best self.  I’m hoping I can hold fast to Chai’s advice and do what makes me happy, taking a better road and leaving behind a dead-end sort of situation. And in many ways I don’t have to hope.  Because I have already affirmed it, chosen it, anointed it, and lit it on fire–telling The Divine that I am willing and ready to move and that I am asking for all the helps to do so.  I have yet to be denied those helps.

 

So let it be.

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Diet

I think that this title is somewhat of a “dirty” word.  Most of us think of it in terms of restrictions and frustrations and defeats.  I know that is how I often view dieting.

This is also a somewhat new concern for me.  I am one of those people who was born fit and stayed fit for most of my life.  I ate all the carbs and all the candy and still kept my 120 pound perfect figure.  When you look at pictures of me in my youth, I am bronzed and buff and looking like a tiny body builder.  And then, in my teens, I had that great T and A with a tiny waist that was apparently super desirable.  And that figure stayed well into my 20’s, though a couple of pounds more T and A were added.

But then, I got sick.

I didn’t even know that I was sick.  I just knew that I was tired, and I was gaining weight.  I decided to take up running.  I would make it about a half mile and then be in pain and walk back.  Then it would be four to six days before I could summon the energy to run again, with similar results.  I started spending more and more time on the sofa and less and less out trying to run.  And I kept gaining, slow but sure.  140.  145.  And then I had three or four rounds of steroids.  160.  Trying to run again.  158.  162.  And then the dreaded diagnosis happened.  The reason I had been so tired all those years, and complaining of fatigue came to light—fibromyalgia.  I started on Neurontin and kept on gaining.  I went through a really bad year, where almost all of my time was spent sleeping or lying on the sofa depressed and in pain, and I gained even more.  170. 180. 198.  And then the horrible moment when I hit that mark I was struggling against: 200.

I’m currently 208.  And my BMI is 35, which puts me in the category of the “obese”.

And I found the bright side in that by saying, “at least I am not morbidly obese!”  But inside something was cracking and a fissure that could swallow my obese butt was opening.

For the past several years we have been trying all sorts of things to keep my weight from climbing.  Switching up medications, sending me to physical therapy regularly, getting me into the pool to swim, increasing my calories, then decreasing them after new studies showed my low calorie diet actually made sense given the way that fibro bodies metabolize in comparison with “normal” bodies.  And nothing has been helping.  And it is ridiculously difficult to cope with this, after a life of great bodiness.

I know that I shouldn’t be saying some of these things in this manner.  I know that there are men and women who have struggled for an entire lifetime to manage their weight—kids who were “husky” from childhood and who were constantly challenged by body image and weight control.  And I don’t mean to deny their experience or trivialize that struggle.  But I didn’t know that early struggle, so becoming acclimated to a big body has been really difficult for me.

I used to be able to put my foot behind my head, or do the splits, and now I can’t touch my toes without a blob of belly fat getting in the way.  It is quite the transition, and not in a “good” way, according to most.

But in some ways I have learned good lessons from this experience.  I have learned that I only judge myself by societal standards of beauty and size, and not my friends.  I have learned that I don’t accept or love myself well at any size.  I have learned that bodies aren’t all made to appear the same, but we are very diverse.  I have learned that health and size are not necessarily linked in the ways society teaches us they are.  I have learned that bodies are still amazing, complex, beautiful, and fantastic at any and every size.  And I have learned that all of the things that I was taught about “calories in/calories out” can be thrown out the fucking window, because it just isn’t always true.

One lesson that I haven’t quite learned is to love my own body in this state, and not to shame myself for being larger than I once was, or being larger than society and the media and whatever other influences dictate as appropriate or beautiful or “healthy”.   I’m working on that.  I have this fabulous yoga sequence I do from yogaglo where I get naked and jiggle my parts and offer love and thanks to all the parts of myself that I struggle to accept.  I have a list of things I love and am grateful for about my body.  I work on dissecting my illness from my personhood, and instead of saying things like “I’m so dumb today” I correct and say “my fibromyalgia and PTSD are really affecting my cognition today”.   And I am far from perfecting these strategies and loving my jiggling parts wholeheartedly, but I am on the road to accepting who I am as I am.

And I think that is the space we all need to start from before we seek to make any changes, ever.

I spend a lot of time using mindfulness exercises to stay in the present moment, and to accept that moment as it is.  This is a coping strategy that is basically saving my life.  Chronic pain and chronic mental illness are really difficult to manage, and learning to accept the present moment, and to sit in it without reacting to it in any way helps.  Separating pain from suffering, letting go of thoughts, noticing my environment, and being more aware have all helped me in myriad ways.

And this way of being aware and of accepting are transformative.  So, when I think about transforming my body, I can’t begin without finding an awareness and acceptance of my body now.

Getting naked and letting all the parts wiggle and flop and whatever else they may do is part of that, but so is looking at the ways that food and I interact, and noticing the ways that I am influenced by outside media and standards, and looking honestly at how healthy or unhealthy parts of me are, and being able to recognize and embrace all of the amazing things my body can and does do.  I mean, have you ever stopped for a moment and considered the process that happened in order for you to pee?  It is kind of amazing.

My body has lots of flaws—dissociated parts of the brain, pain where there should not be pain, benign tumors hanging out in a few places, a pelvic floor that can’t figure out when to hold tight and when to release, weak quadriceps, ruptured bursa sacs, a CMC joint that can’t seem to get its shit together, and the list goes on.  But it also has lots of amazing power and strength and goodness and health.  The fat bits are just one part of the whole.  And the whole is actually pretty fabulous.

I am scheduled for a visit with a nutritionist the end of next week.  And I suppose you were not expecting to hear that, after all of this loving the fat bits talk.  But I want to choose my best self, so even though I have tried many ways of eating and exercising in the past, and even though I think that diet should refer to an abundance of good foods, and not refer to restrictive and uncomfortable programs that usually fail us, I want to make certain that I am actually doing what is most healthy for my body, and for my life.

Choosing my best self includes ensuring that I am eating well, and not allergic, and not suffering from some metabolic issue, and being certain that there isn’t a disconnect between what I think is healthy behavior and what science says is healthy behavior.  And that doesn’t mean that I am going to “go on a diet”.  It does mean that I am going to work toward my best body.  If I don’t lose an ounce, but I find that I would be healthier with less sugar and more fat in my diet, I will still be pleased with the experience. Because awareness and acceptance create change.  I don’t fully understand why or how they do, but they do create change.  Being aware of myself and being accepting of my body as it is moves me toward changing myself and my body in positive ways.

People often use a saying that the Buddhist gains nothing from meditation, but then goes on to list all of the negative things that have been removed or lost.  This is what I think needs to be kept close when I think about diet and body image and size and health.  I gain nothing from accepting my body, but I lose the tendency to criticize or compare myself to others, I lose an unhealthy connection with food, I lose the need to prove my beauty or strength to myself or others, I lose the need to force my body into a mold made by unrealistic normative standards, and I lose the habit of speaking negatively about this amazing body that offers me life.  And losing all of that is more important than losing pounds.

My body might always be this size.  The nutritionist might say that all the medications I am taking and all the ways my diseases harm my cells are not things that I can overcome with dietary changes.  The verdict may be that I remain above that 200 mark, that I am always hoping to get below, and that I need to set more realistic goals for my body and my life.  Or, conversely, I might learn that I have terrible habits that are contributing to the ever-increasing waistline, and be taught ways to eliminate or manage such habits to reduce my weight.

Either way, I intend to remain committed to the jiggling of the naked parts and the offering love to my body.  No matter my size, I still know that awareness and acceptance are the tools that bring me the most good, and the least struggle, in every part of my life.  Skinny or fat, frail or fit, tall or short, dark or light, broad or petite, stout or lanky … none of that matters more than the awareness and acceptance of the self.  And, really, none of that matters at all.   I won’t love you any less because you are short and wide than I would were you tall and thin.  And anyone who would offer love and compassion and kindness only to the thin or the tall or the light or the petite or the whatever is just an asshole.  Because the point of this post may be that we are all human.  And all humans are equal.  And all humans deserve to be treated with respect and kindness and compassion and love.  Just because.

So, I encourage each of you to go get naked (probably in private, given the laws against public nudity in some areas) and shake out all those parts, and offer them love, and thank them for being, and start being aware and accepting of your body and self.  Bask in the glow of the beauty of being.  Revel in humanity. Love existing in space and time.  Love your body. Love yourself.