Yes, it’s that time of year again! The star Lokabrenna, otherwise known as Sirius, will be rising in August. And we Lokeans will be hanging out on Zoom for five days, doing what Lokeans do. (And doing it very well, I might add.)
Go to HERE to register as you will not be able to click on the image above no matter how hard you try.
What? You think that just because it’s free you won’t have to work for it?
Disclaimer: In this post, I’m going to write first in a general way, as if I actually know something about this topic, or might be able to find out more. And then I’m going to focus on how I think I might be able to de-weaponize my own tears, in conversations and confrontations about systemic racism and my own internalized prejudices. Will it work? I don’t know. But I promise to strive toward this.
We make tears when we cry. Science identifies three kinds of tears: basal tears which continuously clean and lubricate our eyes; reflex tears which help get rid of specks, eyelashes and teargas; and emotional tears (also called “psychic tears”). Emotional tears contain stress hormones, which perhaps indicates a chemical-cleansing function. Emotional tears are a form of non-verbal communication.
People cry for a lot of reasons: sorrow, shame, frustration, helplessness, joy, tenderness. Tears can flow during depression or after trauma. Emotional tears provoke emotions in others: compassion, sadness, frustration, as well as anger and resentment, especially if the other person’s tears are experienced as manipulative. Yes, tears can be manipulative too.
As a counselor, I do believe that expressing emotions can be a healthy thing. However, there are also times when it behooves us to be responsible for our own nervous system responses–including tears if we shed them–to let people know that they are not responsible for our comfort, that we do not ask them to do emotional labor in response to our responses, and that we are willing, with good will, to continue conversations through our own discomfort and self-regulation.
And one of those major times is now. It’s time for white people to de-weaponize their tears and other sympathetic nervous system responses so we can ALL get on with the task of dismantling systemic racism that has been killing people for centuries.
Why Are White Tears Harmful?
In her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018), sociologist Robin DiAngelo dissects the mechanisms that white Americans use, consciously or unconsciously, to (1) buffer themselves from deep engagement with necessary conversations about systemic racism, personal prejudice, and necessary reforms, (2) redirect the focus back to white equilibrium aka white power, and (3) put the other person in the wrong, most often BIPOC. These mechanisms includes crying. And this is f’d up. How f’d up? I’m not going to whitesplain.
So. Let’s say you’re a white person who realizes it’s time (and if you don’t know this by now, please step up your game). There are conversations that are overdue. Perhaps there are important conversations in your past that were cut short by your tears. Maybe you feel badly about that. Maybe you don’t. But no one is giving you (or me) a pass anymore.
I can imagine crying during the course of a difficult conversation (about almost anything, really). Shame in particular is a very painful emotion and most people will do anything to avoid it. And tears can be part of processing that. Where tears become weaponized is when they are used to manipulate and avoid, when they are used to undermine or dismiss the substantial time and emotions that the other person or people in the conversation have invested in talking with you! If you use your tears to just walk away from the conversation, or shutdown, or center the attention on yourself and your needs, that’s textbook weaponizing right there.
• Historical Context: Self educate. Learn how the mechanisms of racism create life and death situations designed to pound away at Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. Understand that the tears we white folks might shed at being confronted by our shortcomings and faults are AS NOTHING to the rivers of tears shed by people, families, and communities destroyed and killed over the centuries, right up to present day.
• Communication Context: I know I can be a bore about the communication tool known as the Johari Window, but honestly, I feel a lot of privilege and racism lives right there in that window pane (upper right hand) of “known to others, not known to self.” That’s where the “Clueless Family” lives (you know: Karen, Brad, and Becky…). And when some of that stuff gets shown to us, yeah, it can be painful to understand that yes, we really are those people. Now, it might not be our “fault” that the stuff is there (unless we are people who actively cultivate hate in our lives) as we white Americans have been swimming in racism and privilege for hundreds of years, but once revealed, we have a chance to work on these things, to examine them, disgard them, and vow to do better.
But that’s painful. And you might cry. Other people might be around when you do. Here’s what you can do to protect them from your emotions.
• Calming Skills: Prepare yourself in advance for the thought that you might have a myriad of feelings when dealing with issues of racism or a situation which has become racialized or when someone is calling you out, particularly if there is something you might have done that hurts another. Decide what you can do to acknowledge those feelings for yourself but refrain from giving way to your “flight, fight or freeze” sympathetic nervous system reactions. We can often choose receptivity over reactivity, but it might take some work. So practice some calming skills in advance, such as slow deep breathing.
• Think of Others: Remember that other people are also likely to be triggered by your emotions, so calm yourself for their sake as well. Remember, they’re likely not loving this. And if someone else cries, be compassionate and ask if there is anything you can do for them.
• Take Responsibility: If you have the opportunity, say something at the beginning like, “Please ignore me if I cry during this conversation. I do not expect you to take care of me and my emotions, and I intend to do my own work to calm my nervous system and work through emotions so I may give you my best attention and so we may have a constructive conversation.”
• Time Outs: In advance, establish a protocol for a brief “time out” if anyone involved in the conversation needs time to calm. Make sure you commit to a return to the conversation as soon as possible, preferably within thirty minutes. Do not let the “time out” become weaponized as a technique for avoidance.
• Emotional Repair: If needed, take the initiative in asking if it is possible to do emotional repair. Be prepared to hear no, and lump it. If you are allowed an opportunity, listen more than you talk, and again let the other person know that you are taking responsibility for your own nervous system reactions (and then do so).
If anyone has additional ideas on this topic, I hope you will add them to the comments section. Thank you so much for reading.
At 22:40, Senator Mitchell referred to SB 227, a bill concerning the use of grand juries that “became the law of the land” and then she said:
“…then the court challenges come and the district attorneys find a D.A. in a rural area to put forward the challenge and they’re strategic in finding a court that will very likely overturn it and so while this legislature and the previous governor and our attorneys here in the legislature felt that the bill was constitutional, it was signed into law, it was challenged in the court. It was brought to court by the district attorney from El Dorado County, Vern Pearson, in December of 2016. The 3rd Appellate District Court ruled the measure unconstitutional and tragically our CA Supreme Court chose not to hear it.
And so while we fight the battles here legislatively to talk about [how] grand juries are not the appropriate place for peace officers who commit murder to have their day in court–unlike every other citizen–once we pass the bills and they become law, the court system is then manipulated to continue to protect those who take our lives everyday. And so those are the challenges we must face as black legislators. It’s not enough to carry the bills and get them signed by the law. It’s not enough to carry the bills and fight against the district attorneys, the police chief, the sheriff’s association, to represent the needs of black people. Then we go to the courts and we experience bias once again.”
This video, and Sen. Mitchell’s statement opened my eyes to the kind of strategies used to undermine all legislation designed to curb police and sheriff violence.
As I live in a rural county without street protests, and am also SIP due to Covid-19, it seems clear to me that one of the most constructive things I can do is begin to pay close attention to legislation put forth by members of the CLBC, and to encourage my CA Assemblymember and State Senator to support their legislation.
Finally, Sen. Mitchell’s rebuttal to LAPD Chief Moore.
Fireplace Altar: The only place in the house where candles are lit and incense burned. Features a glass of water offered to the ancestors (since I’d packed up the Ancestor Altar a few weeks ago, thinking I’d be moving). Candles from right to left: Gerda, Freyr, Loki’s red pillar candle, Brigid, Bastet, Freya. One ancestor and two servitor tealights in front.
Group Deity Altar: Offerings of wine, cookies, and cinnamon bread to Brigit, Bastet, Freyr, Freya, and Gerda–and a glass of whiskey for Odin (as a courtesy). Painting of The Conjurer by Disasterina in the background.
My statues and drawings of Loki were packed a few weeks ago, when I thought I’d be moving. What remains are some ritual objects along with a stack of hardening donuts (fresh supplies difficult to obtain due to “shelter in place” restrictions), a dab of Nutella, and glasses of wine and Fireball Whiskey. Also, the daily cup of cinnamon tea. As for the gingerbread house, this is an offering that has greatly delighted him–and he is much attached to it. It stays on the altar all year long.
The artificial candle in the back has been running literally for months, 24/7, on one battery that has never been replaced (ordinarily, it should have exhausted itself in ten hours of continuous use). Every now and then it dims, and then I mention it to Loki and it suddenly “recharges.” I am not making this up! I am reminded a bit of Thomas Pynchon’s “Byron the Bulb”from Gravity’s Rainbow–is this a manufacturing miracle or something more? Who am I to argue with mystery?
The above altars are focuses of a practice which is now becoming daily again. Some daily elements have always been consistent, others not so much.
Thanks to no longer having a roommate and to now living alone, in Covid-19 lockdown, I’ve been able to establish the practices again without distractions.
For those who don’t know, MCS stands for “multiple chemical sensitivities,” a rather unfortunate term which has often branded its sufferers as “special snowflakes,” hypochondriacs, and misfits. “Environmental illness” is another broad term, often abbreviated EI. And you may often seem these terms used together as EI/MCS.
I wish I could convey to you what it means to have this condition–one which results in years and even decades of partial or even total social isolation–in times like these, a time of massive, world-wide (but hopefully temporary) “social distancing.” Linda Sepp does an excellent job of this in two of her recent Seriously Sensitive to Pollution blog posts: Dear Quarantined and Socially Distanced and Two Tales: Temporary Quarantine or Long-term Segregation. As she states in Two Tales:
“Many other people are worried about having to stay at home for a couple of weeks, without access to their regular activities, because they have never had to think about what it’s like, but some of us (indeed millions around the world) have been forced to stay confined and isolated, sometimes for most of our lives! Our stories are seldom told, and when they are told, they’re often dismissed as anomalies and quickly forgotten.”
Please note that such isolation is usually not just social, but also economic, medical, spiritual, familial, recreational, and educational. We fucking know how hard this is–but unlike the rest of you who do not have this or other chronic illnesses or disabilities– there will be no return for us to what most people consider a socially normal way of life.
In fact, it will be even harder for us. With the uptick in the use of heavy cleaning products and germicides in all public places, including grocery stores, we MCSers are well and truly fucked.
I’ve had 30 years of dealing with EI/MCS, and periods of partial isolation. During the last four years, while living in semi-rural areas, I’ve had long stretches where I haven’t seen a living soul besides my cats for days and weeks at a time. There have been many weeks when a grocery store clerk has been my only in-person interaction. I am heavily reliant on the internet and social media. Loneliness is now known to be more detrimental to health than 15 cigarettes a day. Just think about that. Think about us.
It’s airborne toxins which are the main problem for most of us. I can’t access disaster shelters (in a region known for several fires a year) or senior centers due to widespread use of fragrances and scented personal care products, combined with heavy cleaners. I’ve had to give up exercise classes, forego the comraderie of senior lunchs and the local UU as well as a fraternal organization that promised me scent-free accommodation at meetings and then didn’t honor that promise. Yes, I have a private practice but it is very part-time in this rural area. I could use something a little more regular in this gig economy (and I know that goes for millions of other people besides!). I’ve tried to educate, I’ve complained, I’ve asked for equal access, and I’ve cited studies–all for naught.
And my home, which is my environmentally clean safe space, is not always “free from contagion.” The choking fumes from heavily scented detergents, coming from my neighbor’s washing machine (located in an outdoor driveway) often seep into my house. Another neighbor will sometimes gun a motorcycle engine or leave a car running for several minutes at a time. I smell that in my house too.
Before I launch into the pagan/witchy portion of this blog, I want to share the medical and public health information that we should all pay attention to, regarding the spread of Covid-19, which as of today March 11th, is now officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. (WHO updates may be found here.)
I don’t know the source of the above infographic, but notice the bottom right–using a paper towel to turn off the faucet. Not all “how to wash hands” information includes this key piece of information. The recommendation is to wash hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds at least.
One thing seldom addressed: wash your hands before (and after) doing or touching up your make-up!
Below, the general U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.
Next, something about how to support those in higher risk groups. Remember that older people are already prone to isolation and loneliness, recently shown to be more hazardous to health than 15 cigarettes a day. Therefore, if you have an older relative or friend, check in with them frequently, daily if possible. It’s not so hard to do. Email, text, phone, or post on social media. Let them know you care.
I give importance to science and public health data, and I act on the common sense recommendations which have served humanity well in situations like this. But I also find ideas, comfort, and inspiration in my polytheist/pagan and witchy spiritual path for extra added “oomph.” (Can’t hurt, could help!). So here I will share a few things that have been shared with me that could be added to a pagan or magical practice to boost health, resilience, or to ward and protect.
Magical Social Distancing
Use this social “down time” to do magic stuff. Work some spells. Clean your altar. Listen to witchy podcasts. Catch up on your witchy reading. Get in touch with nature. Look for hagstones in the riverbed. Make friends with a new tree. Stuff like that!
Here’s an Immunity Boosting Sigil published by sigil expert, Laura Tempest Zakaroff, on March 8th. It is a shared magic sigil. Zakaroff gives permission for its use via Creative Commons licensing (see text below sigil). Please click the above link to read her blog about its development and use. Zakaroff’s book, Sigil Witchery–A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols, can be found on her page, here.
Energy and Breathing Practices to Boost Health, Resilience
Most of us know about yogic breathing and its cousin, tantric breathing, and other such practices. Here are two breath/energy practices that might be less familiar.
This is a brand new discovery for me, and I intend to delve and dive into this man’s work much more deeply. At the moment, I just suggest trying this (on an empty stomach, sitting or lying down). I’ve done a lot of energetic and breathing type practices in my life, but I’ve never felt anything quite like this. I’m making a habit now to follow the guided breath video below, as soon as I wake up. I really like what it does!
Six Healing Sounds
My dear friend, the late Marcia Kerwit (Wexler) was a senior instructor for Mantak Chia’s Healing Tao. She shared the Six Healing Sounds practice with me many years ago. I have just found my old page of instructions and intend to pick up this practice again! According to Marcia, this practice “talks” to your organs and keeps ’em happy. Here’s a link.
“Masturbation causes a rush of dopamine, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the “love hormone.”
This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases cortisol, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress.”
According to the article, masturbation and orgasm increases white blood cells and the hormones seratonine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine (which counteract stress hormones, thus lowering inflamation), and generally “promotes a healthy immune system.”
And when you add solo sex magic to the mix… perhaps incorporating the above sigil to boost your health and immunity… hey!!! (For a great book on this topic, check out Jason Miller’sSex, Sorcery, and Spirit:The Secrets of Erotic Magic. (Link to all his books here.)
Offerings to Deities, Ancestors, Others
Who do you work with? Is there anyone who is particularly focused on healing? Now is the time to make some extra offerings and/or cultivate a more regular practice, in order to ask for assistance. For example, one of the deities I work with is Brigid, a Celtic goddess who assists with healing (among other things). I’ve been making offerings to her on a (mostly) weekly basis now for several months, so I feel comfortable about asking. I also have asked my patron deity, Loki Laufeyjarson, to help me keep an eye on my health. He gets an offering of cinnamon tea every day, plus other beverages and goodies throughout the week. Again, I feel comfortable asking for extra help during this time, because I’ve taken the time to cultivate the relationship with more offering and less asking. On the other hand, another one of my deities has expressed a lack of interest in working with me at this time and so I have to take that “no” with grace. (The above ascertained using pendulum divination.)
Others have suggested working with White and Green Tara, but I personally haven’t worked with the Buddhist traditions. For those who have, here are two links that were given to me:
Two of my favorite guides for working and collaborating with unseen allies include the above mentioned Six Ways by Aidan Wachter and Daniel Foor’sAncestral Medicine.
Obviously, there are many, many options for contacting and working with unseen healing allies, depending on your own spiritual and magical practices and the pantheons you work with.
Talismans, Wards, Protection Spells, Servitors
There is so much to say on the above, and I am no expert in any of these methods. I am considering how to best use Zackaroff’s sigil, which is a form of talisman. And I did renew contact with a previous servitor and have enlisted its help in keeping uninvited or unruly “guests” away from my house. This includes any harmful microscopic guests who, with all due respect, are not wanted here at the moment.
One person on social media suggested that talismans and servitors could be used to warn us away from areas of contagion (so pay attention to that little voice of caution if you use such methods). Other people made health and protection recommendations, including: Benebell Wen’s book of Fu Talismans; the “2nd Pentacle of Mars from the Key of Solomon;” smoke cleansing of the home; working with the “Forty Servants” deck of servitors, particularly The Healer, The Depleted, and Harvan.
As you can see, there is something for almost everyone and the above list is a very short sampling of what’s out there. As I said before, can’t hurt, could help.
On social media, one person mentioned talking to their doorways, windows, and thresholds of all kind (to keep contagion out), as well as communicating with all foods, supplements, and medicines–asking all for extra boosts to the immune system and protection from illness. Practical animism dovetails with talismans and warding work.
Émile Coué (1857-1926) was a psychologist and pharmacist known for his use of suggestion and autosuggestion. The Wikipedia entry says:
“Coué noticed that in certain cases he could improve the efficacy of a given medicine by praising its effectiveness to the patient. He realized that those patients to whom he praised the medicine had a noticeable improvement when compared to patients to whom he said nothing. This began Coué’s exploration of the use of hypnosis and the power of the imagination.”
Coué later discarded hypnosis in favor of autosuggestion. He is known for the famous affirmation, “every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
As a professional hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, I’ve been aware of Coué and the power of self-talk for several years. Thanks to him, I’ve been charging my presciption meds on my altar, and I offer blessings and thanks as I consume them, along with self-suggestions that I will have the maximum benefit and minimal (or zero) side effects. I am reminded now to extend this to all foods and supplements which enter my body.
Such practices can have real results. I know a hypnotist who underwent chemotherapy. She did self-hypnosis to increase the benefit of the therapy and to prevent suffering from side effects. She had absolutely no side effects. Suggestion might have also played a role in the recovery of Precious Reynolds, an eight year old girl, who in 2011 was one of the few people in the world to survive rabies without getting the shots. From the article in SF Gate:
Her grandmother sat beside her bed, and every day she gave Precious the same stern encouragement. “I’d tell her that she had a big bad bug inside her, and she had to fight this big bad bug,” Shirlee Roby recalls saying to her granddaughter, who happens to be an avid wrestler in her Humboldt County town of Willow Creek. “I told her she had to put him on the mat and put him in a half-nelson and pin him,” Roby said. “And by golly if she didn’t do it.”
Note: A study has shown that positive affirmations are more effective when you deliver them to yourself in the third person, using your full name. See this article which references the study.
Cultivating a Conscious Relationship with “The Smalls”
Again, this isn’t something I’ve done yet, but I find it intriguing. Check out the website and work of scientist and animist Siv Watkins. Her video conversation with Daniel Foor (mentioned above) contains many interesting ideas that could be woven into a spiritual and/or magical practice. The feeling I have about this is collaborative and respectful.
On social media, at least one person has suggested making an offering to the spirit of the novel corona virus (Covid-19) to ask it to leave us alone.
The Sassafras School of Appalachian Plant Craft offers a free PDF document which is very well written, called Herbal Treatment for Coronavirus Infection by Stephen Harrod Buhner via their Facebook group. For your convenience, you may also download it here: coronavirus
I’ve come across a caution against using elderberry in this instance. It is apparently okay-ish as a preventative (ask your doctor!!!), but NOT to be used once you get ill, in case your illness is actually Covid-19. This is because of the herb’s normally helpful increase of inflammatory cytokine production can backfire with Covid-19, causing an autoimmune “cytokine storm” at about the third day, which may damage the sick person’s organs, and increase the chances of a fatal outcome. (Scientific evidence of elderberry’s normally helpful impact on cytocine production can be found here.) Also, read Buhner’s PDF above for a better explanation of all this than I can give here. (Echinacea is also contra-indicated for a similar reason, apparently.)
[A word about essential oils and aromatherapy. Don’t please. These products can be bad for children and pets, and for you too. I have studies to prove this. But I’m not posting them here.]
Of course there is a lot I haven’t covered in this blog. I would love it if my readers would share some of the things which they rely upon already, or plan to investigate, in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wishing us all health in the coming weeks! Thanks for reading!
Yes, I know all about the “Witch’s Pyramid,” including the silence part. However, in a previous blog I said I would be making a money jar spell by the next full moon to help boost Disasterina’s AIDS/LifeCycle fundraising efforts — as she has pledged to ride her bike “545 fucking miles” from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Please donate so she makes her pledge goal. Here’s the URL for the sponsor/fundraising page:
Well, today, March 9th, is that full moon I spoke of. It’s 9 degrees Virgo, with a sun conjunct neptune. Plus, Mercery retrograde ends today. All good stuff! So it’s time to make a witchy plea to the powers that be, on behalf of this valiant fund-raising effort!
Above you see the inside of the jar, which contains basil for prosperity, organic sugar to sweeten the deal, rose quartz chips to bring lots of love to the fundraising drive, three coins to triple the money coming in, and a petition for dollars containing the above URL. Plus, I dumped in a lot of coppery/gold glitter eyeshadow so it looks rather pretty in there. Then I used a Disasterina sticker on the front of the jar. The green candle burning on top of the lid has been inscribed with the words “AIDS LifeCycle” on one side and “Disasterina” on the other. The candle is dressed with Basil infused organic olive oil.
The candle is burning now, even as I type.
That Blue Burning Candle
That’s for me. It’s a Jupiter spell for general luck and prosperity, which I need right now. I have a complex set of changes to make in the next couple of months, and I’ve begun this time of mucho magicQ with (1) an offering to the lake where I live, as I pulled the “Lady of the Lake” card (surprise!) from the goddess deck today; and (2) the Jupiter spell. In the coming days, I have way opening, protection, health, and certain other spells to craft. It’s going to be a busy, busy time–and I’ve had to get out of the daily practice doldrums and renew that too. I can’t do this without my spirit allies!
Certain material I’ve come across recently also encourages me to cultivate relationships with “the smalls”–microbe magic. Go to microanimism.com and check out the work of Siobhan Watkins, Ph.D. Can’t hurt, could help. (I’m in the high risk group–age and pre-existing health conditions–so I am thinking about this stuff rather a lot these days.)
So… people… we’re gonna need all the luck, resilience, and smarts we can possibly muster in the days ahead. Bring in your protection wards and health-strengthening magic while you’re washing your hands for more than 20 seconds. Charge your medications on your altar, if you have one. I also recommend you check out the Healing Tao “Six Healing Sounds” and do them–particularly the lung sounds and poses. Do anything else that strengthens you.
There is so much to say…but perhaps that’s another blog post. Be well!
Loki Laufeyjarson has a lot of “kennings” (descriptive phrases used instead of a name or a noun): “The Sly God,” “The Bound God,” “Worldbreaker,” and so on. You can find a number of these names listed on this page of the Grumpy Lokean Elder blog and in many other places. But what I haven’t found yet is a kenning that expresses the loving side of Loki’s nature, with regard to his family as well those who work with and/or honor him.
Earlier today I was listening to this new podcast episode of Gifts of the Wyrd. This is an episode which focuses on Loki and his family. Bat Collazo and Luke Babb were the show guests and John Hijatt is the show host. One of the topics of conversation included feelings of being loved and accepted when in contact with Loki. I have heard and read this so often from people who work with Loki that I would venture to call this a “verified community gnosis.” This feeling of love and acceptance–sometimes spontaneous and surprising–is one of the ways I know he’s “around.” In fact, as soon as this topic was broached during the podcast, I felt this love coming from him. My first response was, “oh, there you are!” (since I’ve been a bit disconnected from spiritual practice lately) followed by “how lucky I am!”
There’s an incredible sweetness associated with many of my dealings with Loki, often accompanied by a simultaneous sense of “unholy glee.” I find this mixture intoxicating and fascinating. It’s deeply enjoyable. It’s joy.
For some, I suppose it could be a bit startling to realize such feelings radiate from a deity who has been reviled as “the Norse Satan” or a cause of destruction or pointless mischief.
I’m not saying Loki is “wholly loving” though! Most of us know that many of his more unnerving kennings are also well-deserved. But I think it’s past time our community shared a kenning that acknowledged Loki’s powerful love for those who honor and trust him.
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.