This personal blog is the place where I write what I cannot express anywhere else. The main focus has always been “magic, sex, Loki and liberation,” but you can find other topics as well. The category I call “biohazard” is a pun for autobiographical material that I also write occasionally. But in these last few months of pandemic “sheltering in place” it’s been difficult to post, except for signal boosting and quasi-political commentary. My own feelings and thoughts have been all over the place and some days its difficult to focus.
I’ve been almost entirely alone, you see, confined to a pleasant house with a view — so I am quite lucky in that respect. I know that. It’s part of my (almost) daily practice to acknowledge blessings, make offerings to my ancestors and deities, and ask for guidance. But seldom seeing a human being, even at the distance of six feet or more, has been difficult. I already have lived an almost entirely hermit-like existence for the last three years since moving here, but not having the option to mingle safely, or sit quietly in a restaurant with a book, means that the last few chances for in-person social interactions are gone. Three months in, and I find the constant isolation is beginning to wear away at my resolve and resilience. And perhaps a bit at my sanity.
Why hermit-like? Three main reasons and I’ll try to make this brief:
(1) Multiple chemical sensitivity/environmental illness. Once I only dodged airborne toxins like fragrances (often with a mask), now I also hope to avoid a potentially deadly virus. (I’m in a couple high-risk groups.) This has been my situation for thirty years. I am so used to wearing masks in public, you wouldn’t believe it. And part of me is kind of thrilled that other people are now having to wear them, though I am sorry for the reason.
(2) I’m new to the area where I live and aside from a few friends in Lake County that I seldom see (and a brief period spent living with a roommate) I have been alone here for the last two and a half years. I have no community outside of social media. Older friends are far away, in the Bay Area and elsewhere. I have no lover in proximity.
(3) A divorce in 2015-2016 meant that the domestic community (aka family) that gave meaning to my life, especially in my role as a mother, is no longer available to me. My adult kids live far away. It was hard enough to visit them already but now with Covid-19 pandemic raging, I am afraid I will never lay eyes on them again. And we seldom talk via phone or Facetime. I’ve grown tired of begging for contact.
What I do have for company: seven cats to love. I’ve got social security. I’ve got an irrepressible muse/teacher/partner/deity named Loki Laufeyjarson (and a few other spirit guides besides), the love of my ancestors, and the ability to create and work, and the hope of moving from this rural, red-necky area someday. I’ve got curiosity. I’ve got passion for social change. I’ve got a working computer and social media. My sense of humor is intact. I’ve got one long-distance friend that I talk with daily. I have anti-depressant meds. I am blessed with water hot and cold. These are the blessings I count.
And there is my body. I should take better care of it, really. It doesn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I am too fatigued or scattered to cook. It doesn’t get enough exercise, but sometimes this body dances. Often it sleeps and the cats cuddle and the air here is clean until fire season. I’ve got a car that will get me and the cats away from here if a fire rushes over the wooded ridge behind my house. If I can get out in time…
It feels strange to write like this. Sometimes I am aware of a gradual loosening of “strings” holding my life together. A resignation. Feelings of shame and regret about life’s mistakes. Other times, I have the simmering, unholy glee that I associate with Loki and with my bravest self. I will fight. I will dance. I WILL see my children again. I WILL be able to rescue myself and move to a place where I feel happy and whole and valued. Maybe I’ll even have a non-spirit lover again someday. So I’d better keep that body strong. I’d better call upon my ancestors and my deities for help–as no one, but no one, will ride to my rescue. I do have sources of support, though. I don’t want you to think I don’t.
For example, Loki indicated recently that he will sometimes “hold the bowl” for me when things get too tough or too sad. But he won’t hold it often or forever. There’s a lot that this old lady has to do for herself.
So, plenty of magic here. Plenty of study and writing. No sex, but I am a sexologist and I help clients with their problems sometimes. Loki? Yes, of course–sometimes distant, sometimes near, but always at the ready. And liberation? As I work for the world’s from my warrior keyboard (since I can’t get out much), I also ponder my own. When, and under what circumstances, will my “liberation” come looking for me?
I don’t have to tell you all, but this is a time of intense, scary weirdness. Here in the U.S., the pandemic is going to overwhelm our medical system and our “social order” (such as it is), thanks to the criminal ineptitude of our federal government. Many state and local authorities are more competent, but they are hampered by federal grandstanding, lack of money, lack of vital equipment, and federal budget shenanigans. And, unlike Germany, where Chancellor Merkel assured her citizens that all will be cared for, many of us here in the U.S. are considered disposable. Our impending demise is supposed to be “good for the economy.” Now, that’s always been the case here–people who are marginalized, exploited and oppressed in the U.S. have always been considered disposable and many of this country’s policies have always been brutal and genocidal–but the Covid-19 pandemic shines a glaring spotlight on this shadow side of our national history and character.
People like me, who are old, now find we have an “expiration date,” a “shelf life.” I guess that’s one way to ransack the social security system, huh? Just kill off the older people and that’s more moola for 45’s golf games.
So, this is a time of tumult, suffering and uncertainty for all, on all kinds of scales. Personally, I have been totally alone since February 27th, with approximately five actual in-person human contacts since then. I live a reclusive life anyway, but I did cherish my ability to go to the grocery store now and then, or have a meal out, alone, with a book for company. Now I don’t dare. My cats are my dearest companions in this time, as everyone else I love is far away. I’m kind of holding on to a thread right now, hyper-alert to the sounds of traffic from Highway 20, a voice from the neighbor’s backyard, and the sight of the mist that travels over the mountain outside my window. However I do talk more to friends and family on the phone, or the internet. And I do know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and some canned goods in the cupboard (though my toilet paper stash is low).
So, with all this happening, it was amazing to be graced with two magical miracles this month. On the same day, March 10th, two beings (of very different kinds) returned to my sphere. Both were important to me (for different reasons) and I thought both were gone forever.
The Cat Returns
For most of 2019 and the first part of 2020, I had been feeding and gradually taming an outdoor cat which I named Arya because she was such a tough little thing. She was a beautiful silver-grey cat with extra toes on her front paws and celadon green eyes. She had one clipped ear because she’d been spayed by the owner who’d abandoned her on my property (Meowington was another one of those cats). She became feral and fearful. I worked hard to earn her trust with regular meals placed near her lair in a wood pile, sitting near (but not too close) while she ate. She got used to me and I moved closer. Once she began to trust me, she began to enjoy my petting her while eating. She became a faithful creature, always watching for my appearance at the back door once dinner time approached. She was very punctual. And her confidence in me was precious.
By mid-January, I thought she was at the point where she might let me pick her up. (I wanted to get her into a crate and take her to the vet for shots.) I was also considering if I should bring her into my indoor cat family. (I have six indoor cats already and taking on a seventh might be too much).
But during the coldest part of January, a neighborhood tom cat began trying to chase her off around mealtimes. (He’s not a cat I feed.) Sadly, he succeeded. She disappeared for a couple of days and I tried to not worry. Then she showed up for dinner again at her usual time. I was so relieved! But the tom cat must have scared her away again because after that one meal she never came back. A neighbor told me she saw Arya one evening a couple days later but no one saw her after that. I would call for her during my walks, worried that she’d gotten stuck in someone’s basement or garage. Finally, I gave her up for dead–figuring a coyote or wild cat had killed her.
I grieved for Arya. I missed her more than I anticipated. So I was stunned and shocked when she appeared on the road outside my house on March 10th, near her usual dinner time. It was an incredible coincidence–I’d just gone outside to take the trash cans out. Arya was super-skinny and wobbly. At first she was too nervous to come to me. But a large bowl of canned food drew her near enough for me to touch her. I could feel every bit of her spine. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in weeks. I went indoors to grab a cat crate while she wolfed down the food. She was so intent on eating that I was able to scoop her up and plop her into the crate. This scared her of course. But once I had her indoors in the enclosed sun porch (somewhat separate from the rest of the house), she relaxed after a few minutes of panic. More food calmed her. I stayed with her as well, petting her until she felt comfortable.
(Bottom left, Arya before she disappeared. Middle, Arya half-starved when she reappeared. Right, Arya getting plump and healthy again.)
I’ve been caring for her ever since. One of the few times I’ve gone out in March was a trip to the vet, so she could get her shots and be tested for feline leukemia and HIV. She now has a clean bill of health, along with flea, tick, and worm treatments. She’s eating well and putting on weight. I have resolved to keep her indoors as the mean tom cat is still around. I am in the process of introducing her (carefully) to the rest of the cats.
Arya’s return is the first of March’s miracles.
The Teacher Returns
And now for the second, which gives an important boost to my determination to use magic (and common sense) to get through this pandemic.
The Witch’s Primer course, offered online by Ariel Gatoga, was an important resource for me during 2016-2017, when I started my first Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy novel and began planning my move (my escape!) from Hawai’i back to California. I had stumbled across The Witch’s Primer on the internet and was quickly captivated by the material as well as Ariel’s voice and humor. Each class helped me to focus my energy and pay attention to self-care. In this way, Ariel became my first official witchcraft teacher. I have studied, and still study, other esoteric traditions and have had some wonderful teachers. However, I don’t think I ever enjoyed a teacher’s personality so much.
In addition to the Primer, I spent many hours listening to his lectures while preparing my house for sale (painting bedrooms, cleaning…). For months, thoughts of magic and magic practices permeated my house. I am not surprised it sold quickly once it was on the market. (FYI, A Charmed Life is one of my favorite lectures. I’m revisiting it again as I prepare for my next out of state move!)
Then Ariel dropped out of sight in the middle of 2017. There was no explanation. It was all very abrupt. I was very sad. I missed the teachings and his humor. I worried that some catastrophe had happened. And then I moved on–basing my subsequent explorations of witchery on other books and sources, yet weaving them in with what I’d learned from the Primer. Ariel’s teaching remained foundational as I began to develop a regular, eclectic practice.
Fast forward to March 10, 2020. Suddenly a group email appeared from Ariel Gatoga (I’d been on his previous mailing list). The email heralded his return, which now consists of a new website, links to all his vintage lectures (plus new materials) on a new YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account. And over the last few days, Ariel has been offering online Tarot readings (group and individual). I encourage all who are interested to visit his site and his offerings. I think you’ll be pleased.
As for me, I couldn’t be more delighted to have Arya the Cat and Ariel the Teacher back in my life. Magic is alive. Blessed Be!
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
Let’s overshare, shall we? I got some unwelcome news the other day–though it wasn’t exactly a surprise–and sadly, I doubt my sojourn at an Adventist hospital will be anything like the video below. No medical staff in TERF bangs and black leather lab coats. No long-haired singing surgeons. And though the one I’ve got promised me two small tattoos on the inside of my colon, I doubt I’ll be sporting a teensy skull and crossbones in my “anatomy, anatomy… ”
Shucks. My own body is sooooo not “Zydrate” cool. And unlike the character of Amber Sweet in Repo! The Genetic Opera, I won’t be getting anything as simple as an eyelash transplant. Truth be told, I’ve got two different sets of surgical events coming up in my near future. The question at the moment is whether they can be done on the same day by two separate surgeons or not.
But there’s actually a point to this blog post–I’m not just sobbing into a witchy cup of herbal tea.
Surgery as a Liminal Space Challenge
If I have to go through this (and it appears that I do), I want more than the best possible outcome for my old lady body. I want my steel tempered and my temper adamant. I want my Will ‘o the Witch firmly in place, and a surfeit of crispy, creamy offerings tossed to the Guardians of all Thresholds, well in advance. I want to hallow the hospital ground and make like an earnest animist with the spirits of surgical instruments. And even though the Adventist god is not one of mine, I’ll offer respect there too. Pre-surgery hypnosis? That’s on my list. As of this moment, I am in training.
In the next couple of days I’ll be creating a program based on physical, magical, mental, and spiritual steps I can take to prevail in this liminal space challenge. I’m not boasting here–I’m scared and I don’t want to be. I figure if I can approach preparation, surgery, and recovery with everything I’ve learned in my life to date, I can replace that fear with proactive, powerful mindsets and actions. I may fall short of the bad-ass triumph I imagine today, but I’ll certainly be much better off doing this than approaching my wyrd passively, as a “patient.”
So I’ll reaquainting myself with certain books in my library, such as Jason Miller’s The Elements of Spellcrafting and Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways.
Miller’s book contains a method for enchanting not just the larger goal (“a successful surgery and recovery”) but also every single step along the way. He writes:
“How enchantable is your body? How enchantable are your habits? How enchantable is your environment? These are questions to ask when we are doing healing magic. Magic, energy healing, and alternative medicine all help, but they are not going to rewrite your DNA, replace your gut bacteria, or remove the need for effort and change on your part” (pp. 40-41).
Exactly. Words to live by.
As for Wachter’s book, lots and lots of ways to work with the unseen beings and energies of what he calls “The Field.” I’ll be looking to this book (and others) for ways to court and nurture alliances, remove inner and outer obstacles to success and healing, and ways to call in the logistics and support help I’m going to need–that kind of thing.
Other practices that I’ll fold into this will include Ho’oponopono (the real kind), medical self-hypnosis, wards against fragrance and chemical exposures while in the hospital, enchantments for transportation and the highways, blessings and protections for my cats while I’m away, and so on.
Asking the Spirit World for Help
As I’ve said often, I’m a polytheist. I have some wonderful deities that I honor on an almost daily basis (sometimes I miss a day). And I work with and honor my ancestors and make offerings to the local wights. I probably need to get with the wights over there near the hospital, to ask them for safe harbor and safe passage. And there will be a lot of consultation and divination throughout.
There’s a lot to do. I also have to figure out medicare in the middle of all this.
But I do have time to over-prepare. After this blog I won’t be saying much more than what I’ve written today. I believe in secrecy during magic, in cultivating a quiet and determined mind. But I write this blog today because there may be the start of a roadmap here for someone else facing surgery or medical procedures.
The most important element is to approach each surgery as a liminal challenge, a rite of passage, and as an opportunity to “level up.” I expect to be even more of a bad-ass after this, with a much improved quality of life.
“May there be peace between us for all of our days.”
Traditional offerings or those a devotee chooses via intuition and “personal gnosis”–that’s our devotional topic for today. Others are blogging on this topic, of course, and Kyaza’s blog for Day 10 presents an array of modern choices beyond the usual cinnamon-flavored goodies that I and others offer to Loki. Ky mentions “intangibles” too, such as community service, which are as legit as donuts and not so likely to attract ants.
As far as days of yore, no one knows if Loki was given offerings. However, people may have toasted him with mead…so…there’s that.
I’m a fan of the series, Sense8. And though I have many favorite scenes, I have a special fondness for the ones of Kala Dandekar talking to Ganesh while offering really tasty plates of food. These scenes epitomize a loving and personal relationship between a devotee and a deity.
But why make offerings in the first place? Doesn’t it just mean a bunch of food is going to waste? Well… offerings are a way of cultivating and deepening relationships, of course. And they don’t have to be edible.
Here’s what some of my favorite magic authors have to say:
Aidan Wachter writes that “much like bringing your guy chocolates, we bring the Spirits and Powers offerings with the intention to make them happy, and with luck, to have them look more favorably upon us” (Six Ways–Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic, p. 79).
In The Elements of Spellcrafting–21 Keys to Successful Sorcery, Jason Miller talks about simple offerings as “gumball magic”–put something in, get something out (p. 81). He goes into greater depth with regard to researching folklore and history to understand which traditional offerings are appropriate for a particular spirit or deity. You don’t want to offer something inappropriate, no matter how heartfelt! He also says it’s good to make it a habit to make regular offerings, just ’cause. Again, this enables you to cultivate a relationship. Disposing of offerings also requires some care and thought. I recommend the chapter in his book which addresses these topics (pp. 81-91).
And for those who are new to the process of developing relationships with deities and spirits, I highly recommend Misha Magdalene’s Outside the Charmed Circle–Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Magical Practice, especially the chapter “On Negotiating Consent With the Gods. The book won’t be out until January 2020, but I was privileged to read an online copy, courtesy of the author. It’s SO GOOD! Preorder it!
This last weekend’s full moon in Scorpio was one heck of a wild ride. Between deeply grieving over my deceased temple cat and attending Saturday’s sunrise ceremony to honor ancestors of the local Pomo community who were killed in the 1850 massacre, it was already pretty intense. Then I got the news that Australia’s Channel 7 “Sunday Night” was finally going to air their segment on objectum sexuality.
Objectum sexuality is an affectionate, romantic, and/or sexual orientation involving emotional and physical intimacy with belovedobjects as partners. This is far beyond using sex toys or having a fetish.
As a sexologist, I was interviewed by the “Sunday Night” crew back in February. I had been wondering when the segment would air so news of the broadcast cheered my weekend. Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a link to the show that works for me here in the U.S. so I have no idea if my lipstick was on straight or–more importantly–if I made much sense.
First let’s talk about animism: the idea of ensouled and conscious matter. Animism is fundamental to many forms of magic. After all, why bother with magical practices if we don’t believe that the objects and spirits we wish to influence will understand and respond to us?
Science now validates this ancient concept, asserting that consciousness appears to be an intrinsic quality of matter. (Here’s a link to a PBS/Nova article on these new findings. It’s possible to find many more.) But for many Westerners, even a scientific validation of consciousness-infused matter will be tough to accept. Westerners are so used to thinking of “things” as inert receptors that we seldom entertain a notion of mutual relationships with “non-living” sentient matter. However, it’s interesting that we’re now seeing such things as legal recognition of the personhood of rivers. May this trend continue, including recognition of our planet as a legal person!
Enter the phenomena of objectum sexuality. But I want to start first with people who actually do detect personalities in various objects. This is known as object personification synesthesia. You can read an entire case study here. In 2009 I proposed object personification synesthesia as a possible explanation or component of objectum sexuality. But this is a hypothesis at present. We need a proper study to confirm or deny causality or correlation. We need to find out if any of the various forms of synesthesia are found among any or many OS people, and if so, is object personification synesthesia one of them? And if that is so, does it have an impact on their partner preferences and erotic desires or is some other factor at play?
It’s an interesting hypothesis, since people with object beloveds feel quite natural about this part of their lives. In the documentary Animism (below), Erika Eiffel said she feels “wired” for these kinds of relationships. When I conducted my 2009 survey with a small number of OS people, their accounts of their relationships, emotions, and “ups and downs” were pretty much what you’d expect from anyone in an intimate relationship. A few people did report instances of trauma and a few had mental health conditions, but these did not appear to cause OS. For some, the recognition of object attraction predated a trauma or condition. Given all that, why not investigate object personification synesthesia, since it is already acknowledged in scientific literature, and see if it helps to explain why objectum sexuals so often describe their attraction to the personalities of their beloved objects? Somebody fund something, please!
Veering back to the connection with animism, many OS people identify as animists. I mentioned the documentary called Animism: People Who Love Objects. Here’s the trailer. (I found it on Netflix several months ago. It might still be there.)
While OS people offer love to their object partners, magical practitioners partner with objects by charging them with ritual significance, power, tasks, or thought forms. Animism is why we hug trees or pray to the sun and moon, why we bless the food we eat or the car we drive. It just doesn’t make sense to me that these are vestigal superstitions, only “myths to live by” which serve no practical purpose. I’d rather explore the common sense benefits of this outlook and to cultivate awareness and good manners along with my magic skills.
More speculatively, does the existence of object personification synesthesia mean that some human beings are gifted with a natural ability to sense forms of non-living consciousness (beyond just having their senses “cross wired”)? Did our ancestors develop rituals to reach non-living beings, based on the perceptions or directions of synesthete shaman? Why have people throughout time and in every culture taken such pains to develop rituals and practices to contact beings (both invisible and non-living)? Why so much work if none of this is real?
Scientific proof of animism will be resisted in capitalist consumer cultures until enough humans have contact with non-living but sentient material beings (and post about it on social media…LOL). “Artificial intelligences” may reveal profound and surprising discoveries, drawing upon not just their programmed capacities for learning, but also from their own innate material sentience. And the relationships of those outliers currently known as objectum sexuals will begin to make more sense to more people. When we reach these tipping points, profound changes are inevitable.
Of course, we have a long way to go. There are numerous cruel people in the world who can’t even accept the personhood and rights of other humans and other living beings. Such people aren’t likely to care about the rights and personhood of a river or a chair. In fact, they’ll probably take extra pleasure in destroying objects when they hear that a “thing” could experience some of what living creatures feel and think. The rest of us will develop rites and rituals for communicating and engaging with non-living sentient beings, from the pill in a medicine bottle to an old car that would rather not be junked. We’ll need to find ways to ask permission and gain consent, cut deals and negotiate courses of action, to forgive or ask forgiveness, to release, transform and transmute…
Oh wait, we’ve already got lots of that stuff lying around! To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future we’ll all have fifteen minutes of magic. And marriages to a bridge or car will become just another thing that some people do. No big deal–only awkward when the china pattern IS the groom.
Now comes the fun! Please go to the Survey page for a look at raw data charts of responses to questions 2-10. And stay tuned to upcoming blogs where I’ll discuss the question responses in detail, included some excerpts from the open-ended comments sections.