Writer, clinical sexologist, sex counselor, and hypnotist formerly from the San Francisco Bay Area. Working on a fantasy novel series: The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits and The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Neopagan polytheist. Lokean. She/her pronouns.
Living as I do in a chemically avoidant “bubble” (meaning I stay home most of the time), I confess to some envy of those who move freely amongst the populace without gasping for air or succumbing to unpleasantly dizzy brainfogs, making a swift retreat and bedrest a necessity. However, the people I envy the most are not those who casually sashay through the detergent aisle of the supermarket (though it would be nice, as cat food is always across the aisle from the really awful smelly stuff), but those who are right out there making outrageous stuff happen–art, music, revolutions, burlesque, whatever!–without getting sick.
Life is not passing me by–I get stuff done. I write. I teach. I create. I sometimes help people from afar. Sometimes I see friends or my kids. And I am in life-long service to cats… But I confess to an occasional vicarious fascination with people who puncture the norms in the outside world. I like to watch them do it (yay for the internet) and I cheer them on, also from afar or in the comments section of a YouTube video. My all too active imagination performs a sort of recombinant conceptualization of a world that doesn’t exactly exist, but that I would like to join. My favorites are all there. I won’t name them here but their music, performances, art, and words remind me there is more to living than the interior of my house.
Sometimes I conjure, then cut and paste their attributes into characters in my books. For example, my “Ornamental Hermits” and their magic companions are partial composites of the outrageous “friends” I’d like to have over for tea and magic rituals. Since there’s no way to socialize in the real world, I set these characters in motion against real estate developers and supernatural bad guys. Sometimes these characters fall in love with each other, which is often a surprise! And on the real world stage, similar things are happening. We (the arty, the weird, the transgressive) stand opposed to the truly monstrous and cruel, but we haven’t yet morphed into a global fellowship, combining our powerful energies and visions into an unstoppable force for renewal and joy, for sex and life, for art and transformation. Perhaps we never will.
I can only sense the pulsations, observe from the sidelines, and stir my witchy “thought potions.” My “wicked fascinations” are ingredients added to the creative cauldron. I stir winks and shimmies, a puffy clown suit button, swear words and sass, tears of anguish, shouts of triumph, a blackened eye, the sweetheart who died, and a pair of sequined pasties, into my brew and serve it up hot–or cold–as the writing demands.
And then I exhale over the simmering stew and invite my spirit companions to do the same, charging the mixture, bringing it to life. Thought forms emerge, pledged to carry my vision into the places I cannot visit in the flesh. They go forth in books not yet read.
I’m getting some post-PantheaCon discussions coming through my social media feeds, with much said on the topics pertaining to inclusion–the need for great heaping gobs of it–for “everyone.” Reading these posts, I always have the pitiful question, “does that mean people like me too?” Generally, it doesn’t.
I ‘ve never gone to PantheaCon or any other neo-pagan convention because my disability is seldom accommodated. I didn’t go to this last PantheaCon either–the very last, ever, apparently–but some friends of mine just got back from it. These are people who have a long history with the event and with some of its founders. I’m talking “Old Guard Pagans” who have been active for a long time in Northern California. One of them brought back a stack of ephemera from the conference so I’m looking through the flyers and postcards, as well as the conference program, to see what I missed.
And, frankly I’m also looking to see if any one of these organizations, events, or teachers bother to put the magic words, “Come Fragrance Free,” on their ephemera. But before I get too curmudeonly and critique-ish about the program and ephemera, I need to say a few things first and ask a few questions.
Here’s the Pathos.
Please take a few moments to consider the following. Can you imagine:
Living like an “almost hermit” for a major portion of your life, simply because consumer toxins, including fragrances, are in wide use?
Becoming ill, asthmatic, or brain-fogged after ordinary outings such as trips to the grocery store, dental and medical appointments, buying new tires, meeting a friend for lunch at a restaurant, going to a concert or event, attending a class, filing out forms at government agencies such as DMV or Social Security, venturing outside when a neighbor is doing laundry, taking public transportation, using a public swimming facility, and pretty much any other activity that involves other people and poor indoor air quality?
Finding out that friends, family members, and lovers or spouses prefer their toxic products to spending time with you?
Finding that you’ve lost the love and concern of people you deeply love, because accommodating you is just too much work and they’ve grown tired of it?
Not having a job, as there are practically no fragrance free workplaces, and not being able to get disability benefits either?
Having your options for affordable housing severely limited due to toxins used in building products and home furnishings, as well as by people who could have been roommates?
Finding that most of your social contact takes place online, but then being shamed for it?
Being told that your sufferings are imagined or exaggerated, or the result of negative thinking? Being told you don’t “look” sick or disabled?
Seeing medical and mental health professionals who have little or no idea what you are talking about?
Being constantly exposed to substances that make you sick, tired, brainfogged and frustrated, just in order to have something that remotely resembles a normal life?
And finally, can you imagine all of the above and also being denied physical entry to spiritual communities, fellowship, and solace?
I could go on.
Welcome to my life and the life of every other person I know who copes with “Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance,” also known as “multiple chemical sensitivity,” “chemical injury,” or “environmental illness.” We not only cope with “invisible disabilities” but are also invisible ourselves, as we “don’t get out much” and most dialogue about inclusion & disability and environmental health & justice take place without us. For most people, we do not exist. And there are no social programs to assist us with our special needs. There are no celebrities or major philanthropists championing our cause. As for allies–there are only a few.
Now For the Curmudgeonly Part
Back to my examination of the PantheaCon program and ephemera. In the program, I don’t see any of those magic words that address disability accommodation and indoor air quality, such as “please attend fragrance free to allow people with asthma and enviornmental illnesses to attend.” The program also does not have a section with disability access information. I do notice “no smoking” and “no incense, smudging or candles” policies are in place, and those are certainly helpful to preserving some semblance of breathable air. However, the lack of restriction pertaining to fragrance use in public spaces, workshops, and rituals makes the PantheaCon (and any conference) a dangerous place for someone like me.
I also skimmed through the “Event & Ritual Etiquette,” looking for some awareness of “share the air” manners, but there’s nothing. None of the hospitality suites, workshops, ads, or group events contain accommodation language either, EXCEPT for the following:
(1) Katrina Rasbold’s The Limpia: Cleansing the Mind, Body, Spirit workshop (p. 20) specifies that “no smoke, scents, or scented sprays are used in this workshop.” Reading this makes me want to adore her!
(2) Dree Amandi’s Aromatherapy Magick-Spellcraft warns that “we will be actively using essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils in this space.” Such warnings are also deeply appreciated, though use of such substances in a workshop may also affect my ability to attend adjoining workshops in that time frame, or workshops which take place in the same room or nearby afterwards.
Workshops that might be expected to use this inclusive accommodation language would include anything with a breath, “eco,” or healing theme, such as: Selena Fox’s Circle for Planet Earth and her Brigid Healing Ritual; EcoActivism & Climate Change, which was put on by Circle Sanctuary EcoActivists; The Power of Yoga–Energy and Healing with Lisa J. Hamlin; Chants for the Earth with Starhawk and Evelie Delfino Sales Posch; Eco-Magical Activism with Starhawk; possibly The Healing Isle with Christopher Penczak, though the talk of “potions” and “plant essence” makes me nervous; Theurgic Activism Panel; Tomorrow’s Pagan Panel: and Envisioning the Future of Paganism with Solstice.
Such compassionate and inclusive language would also be nice for Elysia Gallo’s Pagan Speed Friending, as I couldn’t risk being “speed friended” by a well-meaning person off-gassing toxic petrochemicals in the form of personal care products. And for anyone talking about inclusion and diversity as part of their program–likewise. Set an example of inclusive welcoming by asking people to be considerate on behalf of those who depend heavily on the “kindness of strangers.”
Of all the many pieces of ephemera gathered by my friend, only one is inclusive of people with multiple chemical sensitivities and respiratory ailments. This is the postcard advertising the “JeWitch Camp,” an event with “Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Starhawk, and Friends.” It has the magic words: “come fragrance free.” (And again, I want to adore them!)
I think you get the idea.
I won’t say I never go to conferences, ever, but the ones I attend are professional conferences which enable me to gain CE credits to update my professional certifications and/or may help boost my diminishing private practice–my only means of work. Still, I don’t go to more than one every few years, and I build in recovery time and escape routes and limit my attempts to socialize. It sucks, frankly. Read my Fragrance-Free FAQ on my professional site to know more.
Why Are Pagans OK with Polluting the Air-One of Our Four Essential and Sacred Elements?
Ea is a word in the Hawaiian language that first means “sovereignty, rule, independence.” Its second meaning is “life, air, breath, respiration, vapor, gas; fumes as of tobacco; breeze, spirit” (Pukui, M.K. & Elbert. S.H. (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, p. 36). To me, the connections between these two categories of meaning are highly significant.
And I want to know why–when air is our sacred elemental symbol of mental powers and intelligence–we humans are short-circuiting our brains with deliberate inhalation of toxic, petrochemical fumes, via consumer products? And why are we so stupid as to deliberately pollute our air, INDOORS and out, along with our water and soil? As pagans, shouldn’t we be extra aware and respectful?
And why isn’t consensuality considered? Why is the physical violation of other people’s bodies with airborne toxic chemicals not a matter of discussion? We ban smoking in public places. Why not scents and fragrances and essential oils, which contain some of the same cancer-producing and respiratory irritant chemicals found in tobacco smoke and vaping?
The answers to the above questions have lots to do with capitalism, entitlement, and industry pressure on legislation and policy. And they also have a lot to do with who we feel is worthy of “accommodation” and assistance. There is something in the American psyche that despises the “snowflake”–those seen as weak are deemed unworthy. And people with significant adverse reactions to chemical toxins are among the “snowflakiest” of us all.
In 1998, Scientific American published a study that claimed that the air in the average American home is MORE polluted than the air around most outdoor Superfund Clean-Up sites. Here’s the PDF: SciAM-EverydayExposure-3 As for me, I’d love to have a study done on the air quality in the average pagan conference in an average hotel. And then I’d like something done by way of solving this problem, so that we may all breathe freely in fellowship with each other. Pagan conference organizers, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. What say all of you? Or can you still not hear me and those who are like me? A 2018 study showed that one in four Americans suffer from environmentally caused illnesses (Ann Steinemann study–download here). So, with this increase in illness, how long can you ignore the effects on people in pagan communities? How long can you refrain from a proactive examination of this issue of indoor air pollution, and from creating policies that seek to diminish the health consequences of attending your events?
Spirits of the Air, I conjure thee–give us the awareness to do better, help us heal your sacred substance, and that of the earth, and of all living bodies–else we be doomed to choke on our hypocrisy and ignorance as all living things perish around us, through our selfishness.
I was up at 4:30 AM this morning. When I bleerily began to check my social media feeds after trying to go back to sleep (and failing), I found two very strong and important statements that I feel moved to share.
The first statement is Misha Magdalene’s posting of The People Who Aren’t There: Closing Remarks, PantheaCon, from a presentation given this last Friday (Patheos, Feb. 15, 2020). It concerns the painful lack of inclusion of people of color, trans/non-binary people, and people with disabilities at PantheaCon and other neopagan gatherings. (Misha Magdalene is the author of Outside the Charmed Circle, which I recently reviewed.) Please read Misha’s statement at PantheaCon and then share it with others.
I was especially struck by Misha’s statement as I recently had an old-time pagan tell me about encountering a transgender woman and her mother at a public event. The old-time pagan recounted how the mother continuously misgendered her daughter in front of him and others. The old-time pagan kept saying, “but it was okay because it was her mother” and I said, “no, this is NOT okay, even if it IS her mother doing the misgendering.” Most people who are trans and/or non-binary emphatically do not want to be misgendered by their parents, family, and friends–but they may feel helpless, fearful, too triggered, or make a choice for other reasons to not speak up at a given moment, especially in public circumstances. It might not feel safe to do so. I felt furious at old-time pagan’s assumptions and could easily see how such ignorance has persisted in places like PatheaCon.
Before he told me this story, I had recommended this old-time pagan attend Misha’s presentation as he was going to PantheaCon. I wonder if he did, and I wonder what he made of it?
The second statement is below.
However, I may need to offer some explanation of terminology. In case you don’t know, “cis” and “cisgender” refers to people whose gender identities are congruent with the gender they were assigned at birth: an example of gender congruence would be someone born with “average” female genitals who has a corresponding internal sense of female gender. “Cis” is rooted in chemical terminology, and is not a perjorative. The use of “cisgender” alongside “transgender” and “non-binary” is more polite, as it helps to reduce the “othering” of trans and non-binary people, and also reduces the persistent positioning of cisgender people and socio-gender expectations as “the norm.”
P.S. The binary-esque categories of “transgender” and “cisgender” do not necessarily include people who are intersex. And some people are “gender diverse” and non-binary without considering themselves trans, though “trans” has become something of an umbrella term.
The author of the following statement wishes to remain anonymous. Here is the statement below:
OK so here’s the real tea: some of the things cis people don’t know
1. Everyone perceives gender differently. That person you think doesn’t “pass?” They may be “passing” just fine 90 percent of the time.
2. Therefore your “passing tips” suck. There’s a good chance that the thing you told your trans friend to do to seem more feminine, is the exact same thing some other cis person told them seems too masculine. That’s why we ignore you. You don’t know what you are talking about.
3. Your sexual arousal is not a magic gender detector. For example, if you are a straight dude feeling attracted to a trans man, surprise! Doesn’t magically mean he’s really a woman.
4. “Passing” is a bullshit concept that just means “looking cis.” Maybe we don’t all wanna look like you. Maybe you aren’t as great lookin’ as you thought. Maybe trans is beautiful.
5. Being trans means dealing with a ridiculous barrage of misgendering and dysphoria-triggering moments. It makes you want to die. You can’t help it. That’s just how fucking dysphoria works. (And you don’t even have to have body dysphoria, social dysphoria is just as real and awful.) So yes, someone slipping up on a pronoun may have just made an innocent mistake, but these are innocent mistakes that literally make you want to rip off your skin/never leave the house again/just die already. And also for every innocent mistake there’s some gaslighting motherfucker who is flubbing your pronoun to fuck with you. Why would you trust it’s innocent? Eventually you WILL snap.
6. As soon as you snap you will be labeled over-dramatic, triggered, a snowflake.
7. Eventually a lot of trans people learn to keep their mouths shut and just swallow all the horrible feelings. These are your “good trans friends” who don’t get upset with you for your bullshit. They are martyred goddamn saints and you have no idea.
8. The “bad trans” are the ones who can’t or won’t shut up and swallow the pain. They will be punished forever.
9. There are a LOT of valid reasons why a trans person may not be transitioning in the way you as a cis person think they should. It may be money. It may be medical. It may be career-related. It may be simple lack of desire. You don’t know. All are equally valid and you are not allowed to have an opinion on how trans people manage our fucking bodies.
10. It’s none of your business. Whatever stupid crap you’re about to ask about, it’s none of your business. Just use the fucking pronouns. We are tired.
Whether you’re in service to spirit beings who dig it when you work for a good cause in their name or a kitchen witch with a soft spot for drag queens and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment–or any other witchy sort, actually–you might enjoy whipping up a nice prosperity spell for the sponsorship webpages of those who’ve pledged to ride in the upcoming AIDS/LifeCycle, which raises funds for the SF Aids Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And these funds help sick and poor people get the life-saving help they need!
Disclaimer. I’m not writing as an expert in the craft! I’m a learner. What follows are merely ideas, with references to work by those who ARE well-respected experts.
A few days ago, I encouraged readers of this blog to sponsor Disasterina as she prepares to ride “545 fucking miles”–in drag!–from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. So go ahead, watch the video below and give money NOW by clicking this link to Disasterina’s fundraising page. And readers, do remember, this kind of sponsorship is not just a charitable gesture, it’s a gol-durn Act of Resistance! As Disaterina reminds us in the video below, this is the stuff of community here, and we sure do need to come together in this time of increasing fascism and brutal repression of all we hold most dear (more on that in an upcoming blog).
Honey Money Jars & Other Prosperity Spells
Use Your Western Witch Privilege To Help Others
In the U.S. and many other Western countries, we witches are no longer tortured, hung, or burned for our practices. (Let’s hope another “Satanic Panic” isn’t in the works–many lives were ruined.) However, people in many other countries ARE harmed, killed, or shunned for the kinds of things we gleefully post on Instagram. Plus, even if we are seldom destroyed or ruined for wearing a pentagram, other people in this here country experience injustice, neglect, bodily harm, and even torture and death for being gay, lesbian, trans and gender variant, intersex, black, indigenous, otherwise “of color,” immigrants, Muslims, and so forth. Even kids and old people are not protected. We can take our pentagrams off–or cover up tattoos–and go stealth if we must. Other people are not so fortunate. People with HIV/AIDS are still among the neglected, and must suffer and die if they cannot get help. (I watched my own uncle dying, in the days before retroviral drugs, and it was not a good death.) So nonprofits and community clinics are essential. They need our support. AIDS/LifeCycle is an important player.
In this spirit of using Western Witch Privilege as a form of allyship to this cause, I also asked my readers to consider using their witchy superpowers to charm Disasterina’s sponsorship page, to encourage even more donations to come pouring in. Of course, as a star of Dragula (a show with lots of witchy references), Disasterina has a large fan base and platform from which to draw support. I am sure she’ll reach her $10,000 goal. However, there’s nothing wrong with us witchy types adding a little extra plus plus, is there? But remember, folx, we’re charming the sponsorship page, not the person. Consensual magic is what it’s all about.
For a great discussion of queer magic, including the importance of consensuality, please visit your favorite independent bookstore and order a copy of Misha Magdalene’s Outside the Charmed Circle. (Chapter Seven is the specific chapter.)
In addition to Magdalene’s book, I’m basing this blog post on some of my other favorite books and sources. Let’s proceed.
Step One: “Get Help.”
If you work with one or more spirit beings, let them know what you’re doing. Get ’em on your side. I’m talking deities, land wights, ancestors, demons–whatever! Talk to them about why this particular cause and sponsorship is important to you and make the appropriate offerings. If you have a devotional practice, dedicate your magical efforts and spellwork as an act of service.
For example, the gendershifting, shapeshifting Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, aka the “mother of witches,” is my main focus, though I work with others too. I’ve already promised extra donuts on the altar to gain his assistance in this matter. And because he’s known to be a champion of outcasts, and is very LGBTQIA+ inclined, I am sure he’ll be delighted to help out.
For thoughtful and practical suggestions for magically cultivating and working with “invisible friends” of all kinds, I highly recommend Aidan Wachter’s book, Six Ways (see references below). It’s one of my favorite “go-to” books.
Step Two: Charming 101
A talented witchy educator, Ariel Gatoga, disappeared from internet land halfway through 2017. (His website was hacked and who knows what else was going on?) His Witches Primer podcasts were very important to me during a difficult time of my life, and I’ve also enjoyed many of his lectures for the Druidic Craft of the Wise, though his tradition is not my own. Though he has disappeared from the public eye for the time being, his podcast lectures are preserved in Google Docs.
His June 2, 2017 lecture, “A Charmed Life,” is one of my favorites. His main theme is if you want to live a charmed life, you actually work to charm your life. This means constant attention to the active practice of “charming,” spells throughout the course of the day, attached to everything from wallets to shoes and other objects.
The first eighteen minutes of this hour-long podcast episode concern a raffle and answering some online questions. You can skip that part. The latter portion lets you know how to charm everything–including money. This is solid theory and practice. You’ll want to add this understanding to your spell for Disasterina’s AIDS/LifeCycle sponsorship page.
One of the things Ariel emphasizes is the importance of saying things out loud as opposed to silently. So here’s an example of a spell for Disasterina’s sponsorship page that you can say out loud:
At h-t-t-p colon forward slash, forward slash: We ask all Powers to grant big cash.
At w-w-w dot fight HIV: We ask for ten thousand, three times three.
Dot org, forward slash, go to, forward slash: Sponsors contribute great gobs of cash!
Disastereeeena, the Qween of Flash, rides five forty five, on a Green Money Path!
To banish all AIDS & HIV, her page draws ten thousand, three times three!
Step Three: Elements of Spellcrafting
Jason Miller’s Elements of Spellcrafting book is a guide to “macro- and micro” enchantment. It’s another one of my favorite books–a great guide for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The idea is to cast the big “macro” enchantment–in this case, “$10,000 three times three”–and then enchant every single element of the circumstance you want to influence, persuade, and charm. So as you create a nice, donor-boosting spell for Disaterina’s webpage, consider ways you might want to add a little more bang to your spells for sponsor bucks.
For example, if you feel increased media coverage for Disasterina’s efforts would bring more sponsors, and that this would be a great element to include in your own spell, you can: (1) take a practical action such as copying your social media signal boosting to major and minor media outlets on Twitter, such as @latimes, @sfchronicle, and other newspapers, television, and radio stations along the AIDS/LifeCycle route; (2) then include those twitter names in your spellwork via paper petitions and/or sigils. Skillful use of hashtags can also be incorporated of course. Any of our usual social media outlets can be worked in this manner. Other enchantable options might include the name of the newspaper ripped from an actual printed page, or a bit of soil from the media outlet’s parking lot (often there’s some vegetation somewhere!). You are not trying to enchant the actual media outlet here, just connect their energies to the sponsorship page.
Step Four: Set Your Intention with Visualization and Guided Imagery
When you go to Disasterina’s sponsorship page (and have donated something yourself), you’ll see the “Personal Progress” section on right side of the page. You can see the current amount and percentage of funds raised, along with a red bar that can expand from left to right as more funds come in. Visualize (or think or feel or simply imagine) that the red bar is growing quickly to the right (which unlike politics is a good thing), growing larger and longer and more robust, swelling with donations, bursting into a crescendo of a glorious 100% of the goal of $10,000 and more! Remember to bless the page as you click away.
And yeah, if you wanna do a little sex magic at this point, be my guest. (Solo is fine.) Just keep that visualization present as you reach your own thrilling crescendo. (Jason Miller has a good book on sex magic. See below.)
Step Five: What Kind of Spell?
There are many kinds of prosperity spells. Ellen Dugan has an entire book of them. You can do candle magic and jar spells. You can charm objects. You can include planetary influences, moon phases, crystals, herbs, sigils, and yes, sex magic too. With regard to sigils, I’d like to become proficient, but I’m a rank beginner at present. But I do like Laura Tempest Zakroff’s book, Sigil Witchery, as a “how to” guide.
I really like jar spells. They are earth-friendly, since you are using a recycled object. The jars and their lids keep everything in one place. Jar spells are transportable–you can bury or carry them. The spells can be assembled on a kitchen counter, using many materials that are easily at hand. Glass, as an “amorphous solid,“ feels nicely liminal. And if you’re a hipster, you’re already deeply in love with Mason jars, so there’s that. You can also incorporate sigils or written petitions for money and burn green or gold candles on top of the lid, for more juice.
A “Honey Jar Spell for Love, Prosperity, and Protection” can be found in Besom, Stang & Sword on pages 74-76. Honey Jars can also use sugar or other sweet substances. I also like their “lucky nutmeg” spell on pages 76-77, and think a whole nutmeg might be a nice addition to a prosperity spell jar.
You’ll probably find yourself consulting the internet if you don’t own the above books. That’s fine. Know that you’re probably going to be working with some variation of these basic elements:
A glass jar with a lid; a candle (green or gold); paper and pen for writing a petition or sigil (in this case, the page URL: https://www.fighthiv.org/goto/disasterina); oil to dress the candle; honey or sugar (optional–use if you want this to be a “honey money” spell to attract donors to the sponsorship webpage); money attracting herbs and spices such as basil, cinnamon, bay leaves (such lists can be found in many magic books and websites), crystals (pyrite, peridot, malachite, etc.) and/or lodestones (along with metallic sand to “feed” the lodestone). However, you might want to check this article on the crystal mining industry and its adverse impact on the environment (including indigenous lands). Make sure your rocks are ethically sourced.
Ellen Dugan also likes using three different colored coins in her Lodestone Witch Jar Spell: gold, copper, silver. Duggan also recommends adding extra dollars or coins to the jar for a six month period (depends on the size of your jar, I guess).
Examples of Money Jar Spells on the internet can be found here and here, There are also merchants who make and sell special oils and ingredients for Money Jar Spells. You don’t actually need these, or you can find a way to make your own.
Step Six: Timing
Our next new moon is February 23rd. Our next full moon is March 9th. Between these two dates, or on March 9th, You’ll have plenty of time to research and gather materials for your magical workings. If you work in group rituals, that also gives you time to alert your colleagues. Some people also prefer various days of the week, or times of day.
Step Seven: The Actual Ritual
Do the usual: state your intention, ground and protect your space, build your energy, ritually add the ingredients to the jar, say your words of power, seal it (unless you plan to add more cash later), burn the candle, envision the spell having worked, and put the jar where you’d like to keep it. This link has a good set of basic instructions for jar spells.
Step Eight: Forget About It & Thank Your Helpers
Okay, you’re done. You just did a good thing. Thank your spirit helpers. And then put the spell–and the jar–out of your mind. Let your magic unfold as it will.
While I do think there’s no better way to age-out in this life than to become an “old witch,” I do wish someone had warned me that this time of life is as confusing (if not more so) than adolescence! I feel like a teenager again: confused about sex and my changing body, experiencing weird hormonal shifts, pissed at the way society dismisses me, concerned about my economic prospects, the way people act around me, my place in the world…
I talk with my friends about how weird this is. We’ve not yet reached the point where we’re dying off (yet), but we’ve entered the realm of “near-death” experiences even as we consider a life on social security. What I mean by “near-death” in this case is the momento mori nature of becoming gradually more invisible to those who still exist, apparently, in The Land of the Obtuse Living. We who are visibly aging beyond what is fashionable no longer matter as we once thought we did, no matter what our accomplishments. We are pushed ever more to the margins of all human consideration–familial, economic, artistic, social…
A long-time friend called me a couple of weeks ago. It’s been about five years since we talked. She and her husband recently moved. They had an economic need to downsize and that meant leaving the city where she lived for so long, moving to a town on the outskirts. She’s socially isolated as a result. I was commiserating with her (yes, I feel that too) until she mentioned an 80-year old neighbor across the street who was friendly, but then she said something to the effect that this neighbor “won’t be around for very long so why bother?”
OMFG. When even the younger old can be this callous toward the older old, who are we as human beings?
I’m also preparing to move. I’ll be saying good-bye to this lake and those mountains sometime this spring. I’ll be moving closer to a real city, closer to people in general, nearer to some friends and medical care. I need to be in a place where I can access things like food and care if illness and infirmity strike. Here the nearest bookstore is twenty-two miles away. I’d like a situation that’s more walkable.
I moved to Lake County to be as near to my adult children as I could afford (150 miles away from the SF Bay Area). But after two years here, and not much in the way of visits, I have no hope of much attention from my children, so it no longer matters how far away I live from them. It’s difficult enough just to get an appointment to FaceTime with them once or twice a month. I can’t blame them, really. They are attempting to navigate the hell that is young adult life in a world of accelerating climate change, citizens of a fascist country that is greedily genocidal. (We elders are costly–I presume we’re among the “disposable.”)
I am bewildered. This is not what I thought would happen to me at this age. I thought I would be cherished a little. And though I remain interested in so much (and interesting too, I hope), and long to participate in many of the exciting movements and resurgences that are going on right now, I realize my role can only be as a quaint onlooker unless I galvanize a bunch of other pissed off older witches, artists, writers, and musicians to Do Some Stuff and Kick Some Ass. I’ve always been quietly audacious. I now find myself wanting to throw my aging back in everyone’s face much as I used to want to throw my youth. Here’s the story of (some of) my life:
“You want a pregnancy test? I’ll do it. You want punk rock vinyl fashion? I’m making it happen. You want a feminist space group? Already done. You want a sexologist for a wife or a girlfriend? Watch me! (Oh, you didn’t want that after all? Too bad!)You want a three-part fantasy novel? I’ve got one in the works! You’re expecting fierce commentary about what it means to age in the 21st century? I’m so fucking on it!“
And so I find myself saying it still, the same thing I’ve said for at least fifty years: “World, don’t you dare underestimate me, not even now. Just watch what I’ll do next!” The funny part about all this, of course, is that no one much cares and I know it. But I really have no choice. It’s an all-out, bat-shit old lady thing.
What has kicked off this melancholy musing? A combination of things, really. Looking around at all the things I’ll either pack or give away. The boxes of family photos no one seems to want. Stuff I’ve collected, written, drawn. Business records and “archives.” More fine china than I actually need… It’s not that I feel I live in a museum (yet) but I’m still ravenous for dynamic interactions and transformations. And so I blog, leaving wordy breadcrumbs for the “children” (who may not be mine) who may teleport into my fragrance-free witch’s lair, filled with cats, books, art, and talk of sex and magic over tea.
I’m not done with this world yet. But it seems to be done with me. If the margins are all that’s left, that’s where I’ll be. Actually, it’s pretty much where I’ve always been. I’ve always drawn sustenance from the outer limits. I just didn’t know that life here could feel so diminished. It’s up to me, as a bat-shit old witch, to serve this up with fire and fury.
This is a signal boosting post to laud Disasterina’s commitment to raise $10,000 for the AIDS LifeCycle, riding a bicycle in drag for “545 fucking miles,” from San Francisco to Los Angeles, (May 31st to June 6th). The money she raises will ultimately go to the SF AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LBGT Center, via AIDS LifeCycle, to provide free HIV testing, medical care, and services.
So send your dollars, why doncha, to this link here and support/sponsor Disasterina in this epic fund-raising ride on California’s highways to hell, all in a good cause!
But dear witchy readers, I’m going to ask for something more from you–if you can’t spare the cash (and even if you can and do!) won’t you consider also casting a nice, fat, juicy Money Spell to charm and boost Disasterina’s fundraisingwebpage to attract more cash? You want the spell to be directed at the webpage, by the way, not at or on the person doing the fundraising (consent issues here.)
You can do this. I know you can. Get yourself a green candle (don’t forget a match). Get yourself a jar. Throw in some basil and other prosperity herbs, lucky coins, a lodestone or other stones known to draw abundance, green edible glitter (not the ocean polluting kind), and/or any other magical element you like to use to bring in extra cash. Then write the words “AIDS LifeCycle 2020” and this URL: http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/disasterina.
If you want to add a little picture of a bicycle, you can. Whatever! Then do your witchery! Get out there on the next full moon, make offerings, beseech support from your invisible friends, bury the jar, and visualize glorious abundance filling Disasterina’s fund-raising coffers via the above URL. Wouldn’t it be great to know your MagicQ is boosting this effort?
Speaking of “boosting,” signal boosting is also helpful. Use your social media superpowers to get the word out! Whip up support!
I know I’m going to be offering up a few extra donuts to Loki, on behalf of this good cause. And I’ll bring a request for cosmic support to our next group ritual, next time we gather.
But why is this cause important to me? And why am I so struck by this particular performer’s efforts on behalf of people vulnerable to HIV/Aids? Here’s why this cause is important to me:
Personal: I lived in San Francisco, in the Outer Mission and Castro, during those first years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I saw many people learn their HIV-positive status, and some who died during the time I knew them: clients, co-workers, friends. My most beloved uncle, David Rath, was one of the early casualties. He was diagnosed a couple of weeks after I married and my new husband and I moved into the apartment below his to be close to him during that time. I was with him a lot and helped care for him during his last year. He left his affairs in my hands. During that time I also worked for a public opinion research company that developed the first AIDS surveys for the SF Department of Public Health. Some of my co-workers went on to help found and volunteer for the Stop AIDS Project in 1985.
Today, my oldest kid is in an “at risk” group. He is informed, aware, and I trust him to take steps to decrease his risk. Even so, any time he tells me he’s “been sick a lot lately” some part of me goes into a silent scream. (I’ve never told him that–I try to keep my alarmist fears out of his life as much as possible. I don’t always succeed.)
Professional: As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I am utterly committed to supporting LGBTQIA+ people and issues. I care about this issue and try to stay current on such things as PrEP, safer sex practices, and who provides services in my community.
Donor: I’ve also donated money to past participants in the AIDS LifeCycle rides and to other organizations that deal with HIV/AIDS and sexual health.
Why I’m Supporting Disasterina in 2020: Gosh, that sounds awfully political, doesn’t it? Damn, now I’m having a presidential campaign fantasy. She would be the best person help us feckless “A-merkins” to throw off our chains (the non-consenual kind!) and to dismantle this pathetic and ruthless oligarchy! I can see the Boulet Brothers in her Cabinet (if there was one big enough for their hair) and a few other “Drag Super-Monster” appointments… However, I digress.
First of all, I love it when performers and artists I enjoy and admire reveal themselves to be people of compassion and conviction in their private lives. So, there’s that. How I enjoyed Disasterina, “LA’s Most Disasterous Drag Queen,” in Dragula Season 2 (now on Netflix)! Yeah, I’m a fan, but not in that weird fangirl-y sort of way (I save that for my main deity, Norse Loki) but as a mature former burlesque artiste/punk wearable-artist turned sexologist witch who deeply appreciates punk/goth drag laced with rapid-fire wit and visual puns. (This description of Disasterina’s artistry is not really adequate, I know. I know…) But for me, given my own unsavory past and off-beat cultural references, Disasterina serves it–hot! And now, riding from SF to LA to raise money for HIV/AIDS testing and treatment? How can I resist this? Big respect!
I also can’t resist the prankster-esque nature of her video appeal! Oathed as I am to a trickster god, I can’t help but see Disasterina (and the artist/performer behind her) as one of Loki’s ilk, if not one of Loki’s own. (I feel the same way about Nina Hagen.) I mean–bright red hair, clown glamour make-up, gender fuckery, and puce-colored fake fur!–the visuals in this particular video are all there for those of us who spend precious hours of social media time discussing “who reminds us of (Norse) Loki” when we should be looking for work in our serf/gig economy. Of course I shared the video in Loki’s Wyrdlings FB group, hoping others in my spiritual community would also be moved to support (in spite of the fact that many of us are, as I said, under-employed or in danger of losing our social security or SSI benefits). But there’s a bunch of witches there, so… prosperity spell jars, anyone?
I could go on, I suppose, dissecting the nuances of performance, and my giddy delight in them, which serve to motivate my enthusiasm. I will just end with a heart-felt “well done” to Disasterina and others who are making that ride later this year, and look forward to the accounts of this epic journey, as they are vlogged, blogged, tweeted, or whatever!
To Disasterina, best wishes for enduring make-up, a really good bicycle seat, inflated tires, an excellent adventure, and a sweet homecoming to your dear ones at the end!
Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Magical Practice, by Misha Magdalene, is a challenge to review. That’s because the book is so deep, so rich, and so necessary, that in order to do it justice you almost have to quote great heaping gobs of text. I’ll try to not do that–I want you to read the book itself.
I was privileged and honored to read a PDF draft in advance. When the book was published I ordered two copies, one for me and one for a family member. This is the kind of book you want to talk about, the kind you want to give to others, the kind that makes you want to shout “YES!” into the oak groves at midnight or wave at passing motorists by day.
So why am I, a witchy person and a sexologist, so darned enthusiastic about what Misha Magdalene has to say? Well, it’s also that I’m kind of like that “over-enthusiastic PFLAG mom” meme that was going around a few years ago, only I’d be in a black t-shirt saying “My Transgender Witch Child Makes Me So Proud” and I’d be wearing less bracelets. So, the topic of “exploring gender & sexuality in magical practice” is deeply personal on several levels. I feel its urgency. At the core, I want my children (both cis and trans) to be respected and safe, and I want everyone else’s kids to be safe and respected too. It’s just basic human empathy and justice, qualities which are lacking in this world and sometimes this lack bashes into our spiritual lives, where we go to be strengthened, but are also frequently deeply vulnerable.
In spite of the topic’s complexity, this book is quite “user friendly.” Each chapter contains exercises to help the reader think through and experience the material. The appendices and bibliography are also wonderfully helpful.
In the introductory chapter, Misha Magdalene describes their book as “an exploration of magic through the lenses of gender and sexuality.” I think the reverse is also true. The book asks also us to examine gender and sexuality through the lenses of our magical practices and beliefs. Magdalene is extremely qualified to write from and through both (and several) perspectives. For me, in this book, intersectionality reveals its liminal nature, and liminal, magic practice reveals its intrinsic intersectional necessity. Circles and spaces, within and without, all are essentially “charmed.” If I’m interpreting correctly, I feel this may be one reason why Magdalene writes “magic is queer.”
The second chapter, “Getting Our Bearings, Knowing Our Terms,” is a helpful “101 and beyond” navigation through sex and gender terminology, which–as Magdalene points out–can and does change over time.
The book focuses next on the body, embodiment, and all the baggage that may be heaped upon bodies, often internalized. This third chapter is practically a body-positive “user’s manual,” a way to set ourselves up–not just conceptually but also physically–for the body’s ability to be “an instrument of magic.” For myself, as a person who is finding the physical and social transition to old age as bewildering as adolescence, this appreciative and mindful focus on the body as a location of self, wisdom, and power, provides a much needed reminder to take care of what I’ve got. I have a hunch other readers will appreciate these reminders (if not for the same reason).
The fourth chapter, “Gender Theory and Practice,” takes us deeper into considerations of this topic and how gender essentialism is incorporated and enacted in various magical traditions. (And now I find that these chapter descriptions are so simplified that it is almost embarrassing. Just…read…the…book…)
The next chapter moves powerfully into a discussion of queerness, queer deities, and more. I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) particularly resonate Magdalene’s description of queerness as “a metaphysical yearning for something beyond the scope of our understanding” and also as a “pursuit” of potentiality. While I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) don’t presume to the label of “queer,” this chapter helps me to understand my own allyship and the underpinings of my own spiritual quests.
My only quibble with this chapter (and it is a small one) is that an important aspect of Loki Laufeyjarson–the Norse trickster and shape-shifter–is overlooked. He was/is a mother not just once, but twice. In the Norse Voluspa en skamma, Loki ate a burnt woman’s heart (an offering?) and promptly gave birth to innumerable “troll women.” “Troll” was another word for witch. Loki, therefore, is a Mother of Witches, an important (gender-shifting) ancestor of magic practitioners. I would have liked to have seen this aspect acknowledged. But as I said, this is a minor criticism.
Chapter six brings us to one of my favorite topics. It’s called “Safer Sex Magic for Beginners (and Experts)” and I must say, this chapter is a thing of both sexological and magical beauty. I highly recommend the section called “How to Learn Sex Magic in Three Easy Steps” and the exercise for working solitary sex magic. In fact, I highly recommend the entire thing. Just…read…it!
The next two chapters on consent are also full of common sense and wisdom. The second one, chapter eight, concerns the process of negotiating consent with gods and…wow. Just wow. One of my professional interests, as well as personal/spiritual orientations, concerns spectrosexuality and god-spousing, and I can honestly say that so many people need the perspective and information contained in these chapters! These chapters are a stunning example of sex education at its best.
The last three chapters bring everything together in a context of individual magical practices and working within (or without) magic communities. Can I just say that even as I flip through these pages, as I write this review, I find myself wanting to swoon with admiration? So much common sense, so much compassion, so much inclusivity, so much impeccable information…
I believe this pioneering book is destined to be a classic. It is certainly one that I will take from my shelf again and again, and will continue to recommend whole-heartedly to all who are interested in such topics.
Well done, Misha Magdalene! I look forward to your next book!!!