Thursday, December 26, 2013

Adult children estranged from parents

I have been reading around this heart-wrenching subject. Some of the stories - on both sides - are very distressing, yet this seems to be an increasing phenomenon. I would point to several common factors in the cases I'm reading about:
1. The parents have difficulty allowing the children to grow up. Sorry but that's just something that happens & there's no point avoiding it.
2. The relationships that I'm seeing described are usually quite unboundaried, by which I mean the parent will do something that the child finds unacceptable. That is one thing but the parents tend to ignore requests to stop, or attempts to put personal boundaries in place, which leads to...
3. The relationships are usually quite invalidating, which means that the reasonable wishes & views of the child are not respected.
4. This has a tendency to carry on through generations.
I call as my first witness (yes, I know this is a strange phrase to use, but this has a purpose, since the Hound's going somewhere with this)  this passage:
'I am pretty much estranged from my whole family, most of the time, for the last 23 years since I stopped drinking. I don't know your situation, mine has to do with I wanted a path of healing and recovery, and not one person in my family wanted the same. I was quite self destructive in my early 20's, until I began recovery/healing, and really, I often wonder if my family of origin would be more comfortable with me if I had continued to self destruct. I have two brothers who died way too young, one at 18 and the other at 42. Just in a nutshell, what I said wanting recovery and I felt that to get that, I had to leave that family, for the most part.' (
This person was clearly left with no option if she wanted to stay alive.
Again, & this example better illustrates the kind of relationship I'm describing above:
'My mother is just a garden variety control freak, not abusive, but my college roommates, ex-husband, and now SO have all picked up on something "off" about her. As an adult I realized that it's that I always had to be the one to draw the line as a kid, because there was a sense that she wouldn't stop at anything to get her way. (Unfortunately, my ex-husband is similar in his dealings with me.) I can see from others' postings that my mother actually didn't take it very far, but it was a little scary to feel that sense that she might. Her own mother was alcoholic and abusive, and my mother, as the oldest girl, had to raise her younger brothers and sisters, so that situation improved from one generation to the next--my mother drinks but isn't alcoholic, is a control freak and can be mean and use "spankings" or slaps but never got out of control and beat us.' (
I call as my next witness a clinical psychologist in a newspaper article. Unfortunately the article (a capture illustrates this post) is not very clear but I can see how this problem foments in parent/adult child conflict around growing up & the way it persists across generations. I mean, so does alcoholism. Your parents really do fuck you up in all sorts of ways (I'm secure in the knowledge I'll never be a parent myself). The source of that article is:,762833. From a Witch point of view, if you have reached a point where your relationship with someone is so destructive that there is no option to get out, then that may be your will. This, of course, is one of those cases where ones Will & decision-making will not be completely without conflicting emotions & ambivalent feelings.
I have one more source to quote on this, it is by an etiquette expert called Mary Jewell ( One of the suggestions that comes up on google when you search for adult children estranged from parents is, interestingly 'How do I become estranged from my parents?', & this was right there on the first page. The sources I have referred to above are all ones Ms Jewell uses, in fact her article is my primary source for the difficult things reposted above, but she uses them differently. I always understood etiquette to be about manners, but she is not writing about that, she is writing about morals. An etiquette article on this subject would be about how to behave in this kind of difficult family situation, but she is rather interested in criticising children who make the decision. For a start she describes the relationship as unnatural, which is more the province of theology & philosophy than etiquette. Her theological posture is made clear by her quoting the Bible at the beginning of the article: if this was really an article on etiquette it would not begin by telling people they were breaking one of the Commandments. I also notice that the newspaper she quotes has a heavy Christian slant, & that her other articles on assert such things as that parents should be married - in fact I haven't seen one article by her that seems to me to refer to etiquette rather than morals.
And this is where it seems to me she gets very naughty with her sources (since she doesn't seem to know what etiquette is she has presumably not heard of netiquette). I have quoted these sources at length to provide the original context as a foil for direct quotes from Ms Jewell's article to show her use of them. For a start she draws her description of estrangement as 'unnatural' from the article by a psychologist in the newspaper article. I'd have to repeat that the newspaper clearly has a Christian agenda (therefore, I'm thinking, pro-God-created nuclear family), however the article also seems to me to allow much more for the complexities of a situation than Ms Jewell is. It is not going straight to 'you've broken a commandment & chosen an unnatural life'.
Ms Jewell refers to the first quotation I make (with a direct link) like this:

'Reading blogs written by estranged people can be interesting. People work hard to justify their choice of an unnatural relationship, describing beliefs and reasons for which they choose estrangement from their own family.'

Obviously having beliefs & reasons for a choice is wrong. There is also *no* compassion for the obvious difficulty & distress of the person in my first quote. But her use of the second quote is more unfair, taking one phrase *completely* out of context & choosing to ignore the indications of a difficult family life given in a lengthier extract:

'[...] a person just needs to select some dynamite descriptive words, such as 'garden variety control freak' or 'toxic.' to label one or both parents. Next, a person must select 'happy' people with whom to socialize.'

The irony is she has a point, which needless to say she completely (I would hate to imply wilfully) misunderstands: it is totally likely that the pattern of estrangement will continue over generations. She implies in her article that these parents function as bad role models. I think it more likely these parents are so screwed up by their own parents, they cock it up themselves & get estranged. But Ms Jewell wouldn't know that, because she's intent on not listening, criticising people's morals, & painting these already damaged people as somehow bad.
Do I have concrete suggestions? You bet. 1. Parents, listen to your children. Really listen. Show an interest in them. Take time to talk with them.
2. Most important, give credence to what your child says. 'Oh, you exaggerate,' repeated enough, becomes, 'You're a liar'.
3. If your child tells you they don't like something, stop doing it.
As an adult if your relationship with your parents is deteriorating, try to get a disinterested party as an intermediary. Both sides must be prepared to hear some hurtful things. If you try & fail to make it work (on either side), then, the blessing of the witch upon you. We cannot always work relationships the way we want.
I wanted to end this post with a quote on etiquette or manners, but I think it may be wasted on Some People.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Urban grimoire: ancient incantations for use on plumbers, electricians, & other trades

I'll grant you the illustration to this post is somewhat gratuitous, but suited to the subject none the less. Today I want to share with you two powerful incantations that have marvellous effects on all builders & other tradesmen. They have been passed down in my family tradition for years & years, & are one of the things I learned from my mother, when she was teaching me witchcraft. Truly, the effects are miraculous if they are used properly at the right time, but the instructions must be followed to the letter, or all is lost.

Essential preparation: Paying for work done by cheque. This step is traditional & essential to the working of the spell. It is not necessary to do anything to the cheque, although further effects may be caused by allowing the cheque to carry other spells.

Correct timing: After you have paid for the work but before the cheque has cleared. One of the advantages of this method is that most traders present cheques to the bank in multiples, which increases the time frame you can work this spell.

Essential disposition: You must be dissatisfied with the work. The importance of that cannot be overestimated. On the other hand it works better is you can manage a certain icy coolness. Raging fury will not help much here.

How to use the incantations: they can be used several ways, as long as the actual words communicate themselves to the trader, whether by phone, text message, email, whatever.

The spell is in two steps.

First you ring your bank (or log on) & cancel the cheque. The effect of the incantations is lessened if you don't actually do this. Remember the Witch must be a person of her word.

Next your ring up the trader (or write, etc) & say the words of the incantation to him. The words must be said aloud & it should need only one repetition. The words are:

'I have stopped the cheque I gave you.'

This will cause the trader to stop in the middle of whatever excuses they're giving you & take a deep breath. It is at this point they will start eating out of your hand. The trader should not give any more trouble. If they do you can use the second incantation, once again being prepared to follow through. This one has regional variations. In Britain the version that works is:

'I will report you to Trading Standards'.

At this point the wind will be taken completely out of their sails & any remaining bluster will vanish, to be replaced by placatory pleadings, which is when the Witch will tell him what he's going to do now.
I know this works: I used these incantations only this morning. The plumber changed from protestations of unavailability for the next six months, to being in my house ten minutes later, & the problem being sorted, to my satisfaction & for free, half an hour later.
This may not seem like a terribly sensible post, but darlings, this is what is meant by all acts are magical acts. Magic of course is causing change in conformity with Will. In my previous post I talked about the lack of attention to what they are doing that happens among those who do not live the Willed life. Sometimes these people will meet someone who does live the life, & will find that change is occuring before they know it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A particular problem in dealings with non-witches

This one has only really dawned on me recently, even though it helps to explain much of the ridiculousness in the world.
First things first: delineate what I mean. It is apparent that there are a number of ways in which people approach their daily round, & deal with the people they meet. The exact opposite from the witch's approach may be that of a clergy sexual abuser: they are quite happy to proclaim one thing, some of them may be tortured by their urges (although plainly a lot of them are simply not bothered), but what they say & what they do are two different things. I am *not* saying anything about Christians per se here, I have chosen this as the perfect example of the opposite of the witch's approach.
The witch's approach is this: this morning I gave a bag of stuff I've cleared out to the RSPCA shop round the corner (Hecate will accept this as an offering: she has a particular fondness for Guidedogs for the Blind, but actually cats & red mullet were also sacrificed to her in the ancient world). I signed up for gift aid to stop Mr Taxman taking more than the law insists. This, from a Witch point of view, is a holy, a sacred action, the work of the Divine through us & within us.
This is also reflected in the attitude the Witch takes to it. I may merely be giving a bag of stuff to a charity shop, but my Will is that cruelty to animals stops, & those who are cruel to animals are punished. There should be no small action of the Witch's life which is not willed in such a way. When I put my clothes in the washing machine, my Will is that I am clean & nice-smelling. At work my Will is to give the best service possible, to earn in return the money I live on.
Like this, each action fits into a greater 'plan' of living the Willed life. By doing this I affirm my importance in the world, the importance of each of my actions, & the relative importance of everyone one & every thing else. For example my donation to the RSPCA affirms the importance of protecting animals thrown out at this time of year. The ideal for me would be that no one of the Witch's actions is thoughtless, unWilled, unconsidered, on the spur of the moment. The Witch *must* aim to be completely trustworthy, completely living a Willed life, because sooner or later we will have to exert our Will to changing reality, & if we're not in shape, we won't be able to.
And this is where it becomes difficult when dealing with non-Witches, who won't feel the need to have something so for no other reason than that I say so. Between the completely Willed life & the other extreme where you think everyone is pretending (which is what you get in a personality disorder), there is a huge chasm of people who aren't bothered. They 'get away with' whatever they can: they do as little as possible at work, they steal what they can from people, they make *no* effort to Will their life.
Once again please understand that I am talking about two extremes & lots of shades in between. Witches fail in their Will, & similarly people who don't call themselves Witches can live in the way I describe, they might just label it differently. And I certainly don't have a problem with that if that is their Will. Imagine then what I thought on coming home today to find two girls 'delivering' collection bags for the RSPCA in my street: in reality dropping them on the ground outisde each house. They obviously were not bothered, & plainly were quite shocked suddenly to have a man giving them a bollocking (I didn't feel the need to hold back) for this: as far as they were concerned they were doing the minimum required.
My Will is that cruelty to animals stops. This will plainly be best served by efficient fundraising & donation collection, rather than turning the collection bags into litter sponsored by the RSPCA. I have used the magic tool of an email complaining about this & telling the RSPCA's head office how I shall not be donating again (the local shop didn't answer the phone). My Will is that this stops, so I have also put that out in a little spell. Those girls are going to stop doing that or they are out, for their lack of consideration.
Over-reaction? Nah. Once you start the Witch you might just as well give up now, because this is the other thing living the Willed life does: it makes you act decisively & effectively. Just watch it if you're delivering charity bags!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Season's Greetings

We have entered the dark side of the year with a vengeance now, so this post is to say Season's Greetings & a cosy & cuddly Yule. The illustration shows a sequence   from the fourteenth-century Graduale Birminghamiensis. It was published by the Henry Bradshaw Society at the beginning of the twentieth century, but did not achieve wide use beyond St Agatha's Sparkbrook & St Alban's Highgate. My own translation (you see, I've got hidden depths, I can play Scrabble) of the first few lines is:
A reindeer there was, Rudolphus,
In possession of a bright red nose.
And if it should ever happen that you saw it,
You would say that it glowed.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A sorbet opportunity

I was going to make a colossal linguistic error in this post by commenting on how the Chinese character for 'crisis' includes the character for 'opportunity'. Fortunately I checked my facts before writing this, & it turns out the component mistranslated opportunity is better translated as crucial or critical point (, which as it happens better suits where I want to go with this post anyway. This is the test for evidence-based witchcraft: when you find confirmation in the hedge, you're in the right direction.
Years ago I read Margot Adler's 'Drawing Down the Moon', in which she has an interview with Z Budapest. I don't have the exact quote in front of me to hand, but Budapest speaks about her suicide attempt being a turning point in ther life. After that she returned to the true attitude of a witch, that of turning bad things around & using them to your advantage.
This definitely refers to an outlook on life characteristic of us, refusing to be put down or give up. This is what has happened to me this week. I was actually talking to someone at work about how I was fed up with doing the same incident report for a matter which is obviously not being solved.
Than a customer's relative presented me with my crisis/critical point, & blasted the matter into a whole different playing field. She thinks she is being critical of me, she thinks I am the root of the problem she's identified, but with knowledge she doesn't have I know I am not. I have been thinking about bringing a grievance about this matter, but if I turn this crisis into a critical moment, hopefully I won't need to.
Give a Witch lemons, & she'll turn them into sorbet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I Like Silver Ravenwolf

I'm reading one of Silver's books in bed. An innocuous pastime, you would think, but strangely nobody ever thinks I'm being serious when I say I like her writing - I don't really even have a problem with her personally, apart from the relentless exhausting positivity of her earlier books, which seems to be toned down a bit in the one I'm reading now.
She is also probably one of the Wiccan authors who gets the most bashing, both on the internet & when her name is mentioned at any witch gathering. To me the reason for her getting such a bashing is self-explanatory, & is not the obvious one, so I want to give my own take on some of the things I have heard or read about her.
She is often accused of Christian-bashing. True she says some very negative things about the Christian religion, some of them probably not as well judged as others. There's a passage in Teen Witch where she talks about something along the lines of obedience to a slave god. She may be overstating the case to make a point, also I don't know her own background, whether she has had bad experiences with the Christians, but given that Wicca & Witchcraft have developed in conscious opposition to the surrounding Christian milieu, I would call that a fairly accurate statement of the difference between us & monotheists. I think also some of the things she says are clearly aimed - misguidedly or not - at young people who in the nature of the case feel misunderstood & are seeking to define their adult personality is contrast to their parents & the world they've been brought up in.
One of the most criticised passages in Teen Witch - where she tells the teen witch that parents may not understand but Silver does, & if they don't understand, to explain witchcraft to them as the worship of angels - is to me a wildly misjudged attempt to deal with a difficult problem. Alternative religions are always misunderstood, but a better way of telling people would be to say that the person is interested in a religion whose name is witchcraft, which is a 20th century creation, & suggest reputable sources of information. Silver has, to me, clearly tried to help the troubled teen & gone badly wrong, in terms of the repute of the religion. Interestingly she speaks in a slightly different vein about this subject in the one I'm reading now (Solitary Witch), aimed clearly at young people but not as obviously as Teen Witch, in the context of people having difficulty dealing with a loved pet dying. Her tone in this book 'sells' the subject better, & would hopefully make it plain to a parent finding this book under the bed, that our religion has ways of dealing with death & dying aimed at being helpful while being different to those around us. I also find it interesting that she plumps for angels, the immediate source for this in a magical context, of course, is the grimoire tradition, where they also served at times as a camouflage for the magician!
As a magical person I feel the need to respect other people's magic. This is the point. The whole point. There is almost no other point, because this is the point of the willed life, that your own magic, rightly understood, will lead to the development & distinction of the self, & will not clash with other people's wills, rightly understood. If somebody wants to do witchcraft a la Martha Stewart, if this is their will, up to the point it clashes with other people, my will is not to have a problem with that.
Similarly, her publisher (we know who I mean) tends to publish books aimed at either beginners or a mass market. Leave the poor woman alone, already, she's given so many people a foot up into the witching!
My main criticism of her is this: she plainly has not (or had not, the tone of her books has changed slightly over the years) taken on board the concept of polarity. Broomstick, Cauldron, & Teen Witch are exhausting, one-dimensional feasts of obsessive positivity, trying to banish any action that may or may not be construed as negative, or even the emotions that may lead to that. And *this* is the reason she gets the bashing: if you concentrate solely on one end of a polarity, you attract what is at the other end. I suppose I would reluctantly accept that I am a 'dark pagan' myself. Reluctantly because it's making the same mistake the other way if you concentrate only one side. The proprietress of a magical shop I only go in occasionally tried to get me interested in gothy vampire tarot decks, & I'm not interested, because for me the darkness is the stuff we don't talk about easily, which when really encountered truly allows you out into the light. Similarly my shadow side picks up snails off the pavement after it's rained, to stop them being trodden on.
Those who would only focus on the light invite their darkness, & vice versa. Similarly fluffy bashing invites you to be surrounded by militant white lighters & fluff bunnies at every opportunity. Would you really want that?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What I Really Want for Yule

Don't worry, the picture isn't what I want, it's to illustrate my general attitude to a feast dedicated to pretending to be bothered by anyone else's plight, in the dark side of the year. You see this post was inspired the other night when I was sitting waiting in the Chinese & looking through The Big Issue. I don't buy it myself, the principle of it is supposed to be 'a hand up, not a hand out', but the sellers round here take the beggar's approach of looking pleadingly & manipulatively at people.
I also understand that The Big Issue must be heavily dependent on advertising revenue, but it still struck me the nature of the adverts it had, most of which were appeals for various heart-rending causes, with variously heart-rending pictures. These ranged from stray cats in Greece to a charity aimed at preventing loneliness among old people at 'Christmas'. I consider myself fairly immune to advertising, or even retail tricks. I know many of the tricks, & for many years haven't routinely watched broadcast TV: when you only watch recorded TV programmes of your own choosing without adverts, it changes the kind of attention you give to advertisements, reducing the passivity that leads to the adverts getting into your subconscious. Rather, you develop a heightened awareness of the disjunction that happens when an advert appears & you become more aware of how the advert is drawing your attention.
Be that as it may, the adverts in The Big Issue pressed buttons in me - to the extent that I have no recollection of what the actual articles were about! It reminded me of the sheer extent to which the world is not the way I would will it to be. Abuse suffered by a stray cat in Greece at the hands of a human is not the cat's fault; the loneliness suffered by an old person may or may not be, since humans have more agency, & frankly if you're an old devil you bring it on yourself. It made me want to *do* something - interestingly not quite the adverts' desired effect since I got no urge to give money to the charities in question.
If this was anyone but me it would make me think that this is such a witch thing, the urge, when seeing something you know not to be right, to do something to rectify it. It's also such a witch thing to be aware of my relative impotence in the face of global injustices. And of course being me I want to get hold of the whole picture & find a longer-term solution. What do I really want for Yule? I want a world where all beings are the right size. I want a world where people who cock it up for themselves don't do so or else are able to find ways to sort that. I want a world where people are unable to take advantage of other people. I want a world where nobody & nothing is used & abused.
Of course I'm aware I'm being idealist - *somebody* once said 'the poor will always be with you - but I'm a witch & see no reason why the size of the problem should deter me. People who say to themselves, 'I'm being impossibly idealist' are the ones who are guaranteed never to attain their ideal. Faced with the hugeness of the problem I'll start chipping. I may influence individuals only but this is how the re-enchantment of the world must happen. I suppose this is what I really want for yule.
Because it must begin here. Recently a friend started something that began with her bringing a grievance against her employer. She had no idea what she was starting, yes she had huge doubt as she went along, but has now completed what she started & brought something much greater to fruition. And of course Nelson Mandela has died this week, & we witches know that the end of one thing always brings on the beginning of another thing. The important thing is that what comes next is Willed.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On right questioning

The illustration to this post has set me thinking about certainty, doubt, authority & questioning, from a Witch point of view. You see, the phrase 'question everything' makes me uncomfortable since nobody ever actually questions everything, everybody actually always has some certainty, or at least theory on which to build. The sarcastic example here, of course, would be to comment that the person who sprayed that graffito obviously didn't question his or her right to deface a public place with an inane comment!
'Question', in this context, I suppose is therefore a criticism of some kind of authority. The implication is 'Don't believe everything you're told', which is different from not believing anything. At its extreme it leads to an excessive dualism where nothing is real - dangerous when taken to where Christian Science takes it, although they merely deny the reality of the 'physical' & accept the reality of the 'spiritual'.
From a Witch point of view we have an embarrassing relationship with evidence for our position, namely that there isn't any. We also end up red-faced in the search for authority for our position: attempts to find an authority - usually founded on an invented or mistaken history - leave us without an authority. My personal opinion is that since Witchcraft as a modern religion has always been created in conscious opposition to virtually everything conventional religion stands for, we might as well continue this & take the position that we do not need an authority for our Witchcraft.
This also draws nicely on another element of the Witch figure, that of the outsider onto whom people project everything that they don't want, making us these anti-authority figures. I mean, these same people are quick enough to turn to us as an authority when they need some magic!
It is, of course, essential to examine our own presuppositions & the basis on which we pin our certainties. This is in a great magical tradition of the necessity of knowing yourself, since it's the magicians who have some unacknowledged interior stuff going on that tend to come unstuck. I do love the story of the chaos magician who did a paradigm shift to that of a fundamentalist Christian & has been one ever since.
Which brings me nicely to the question of 'everything' - it is actually humanly impossible to doubt everything at once, since you really would go off your head. Perhaps a better word would be 'examine', & this is another activity that can bring magical people into trouble, if they neglect it when necessary. My anecdote for that is the famous one of Tanya Luhrmann, who was completely upfront that she was seeking admission to Gerald Gardner's original coven for the purpose of research. She comments in her book on the perceptive shift she found happening in herself, by which she became less questioning & more inclined to interpret things as caused by magical agency.
I personally don't have a problem with this idea, since in magic the principle of 'It is so because I say it is so' is so often the turning point to the free exercise of the Will which causes real change to occur. I'm sure she would hate this idea, but she actually cast her spell on the coven. I have limited sympathy for the coven's feeling of betrayal when she published the inner workings of the coven: she was upfront about what she was doing, but she describes them forgetting this. Their failure to examine what was happening caused the 'betrayal': they should either have refused her admission or come to some other relationship of limited exposure with her.
In true Witch fashion I have come full circle back to where I was at the start, the nature of questioning, the need to do it, & what everything can mean. Also in true Witch fashion I don't feel inhibited from tackling these truly monumental questions in a single blog post!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Internalised (& externalised) gay self-hatred

Bias statement: This post will largely consist of my own undiluted opinions which are not those of the LGBTQ community, & will quote at least one hate opinion.

There is an opinion current among the fundamentalist Christian community & others (this source is one I chose at random from a Google search):

'Homosexual marriage invites God's judgement. And so they have A.I.D.S. to deal with. And want us to pay for it through Obama's socialist healthcare law. This country needs to return to core Christian values.' Source

There are several issues here, all of which are begging me to get my teeth into, but of course being me I want to come at it from the other side. You see, kids, the people who first & foremost hate homosexuals & homosexuality are homosexuals themselves.
This is first & foremost seen in queer bashing, in whatever form it takes. Research repeatedly shows that men who hate homosexuals have responses that way themselves:

'The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.' Source

This is externalised hate of something you can't cope with in yourself. Also frequently you find gays hate themselves & their own homosexuality. Anyone who reads this blog will know that in my opinion this is found most frequently in aping the heterosexual world. At the moment this is obviously found in the push for gay marriage & equality. Let's make it plain why I think this is internalised self-hatred: I am not straight & see no reason why I should take the heterosexual world as normative. Sometimes gays are pushed into this by an apparent lack of contemporary or historical models for gay life nowadays, but I remain convinced that heterosexual life & society should *not* be the model for gay life.
Another example is the whole top/bottom thing. Radical feminist lesbians of the 1970s got this one sussed by refusing to be pushed into male/female models of sexuality. Gay men of the 21st century are falling for the self-hatred trap of modelling ourselves on heterosexual society. We can take a leaf out of the radical lesbians' book by not being polarised into male/female roles. Are you a top or a bottom? - Neither. This exchange changes the question rather than the answer. Gay sex also need not revolve around anal sex, I personally have always thought straight sex must be boring in the inevitability of its ending. I would also even question the subconscious motivations of those who maintain that penetration is in some way necessary to sex, to which everything else is a mere prelude.
This may seem to have moved far away from the way this post started, talking about G*d's judgement. But there's a marvellous twist in the tail to this story of self-hatred & the judgement of G*d. As we know HIV is passed through bodily fluids and mucuous membranes. And this is the bit where the queers get the last laugh: some of the more kinky sexual activities carry a much lower risk of transmission of HIV than vanilla anal sex, because there is less contact between risky bodily fluids and mucuous membranes. For example watersports & lots of bondage-type things are much lower risk. This is also the reason there are such low rates of HIV among lesbians, because they don't tend to do the sort of things that pass it.
This tickles me, needless to say. I don't often think I have a message of hope for the world, but I might have here. Leave the fundamentalist Christians to their conclusion that HIV is G*d's judgement on homosexuals & have different sorts of sex. Like that you can both love yourself & escape the so-called 'judgement of G*d'.
Can you hear laughter?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Spirit of Place: Key Hill Cemetery

I have posted before on Key Hill's neighbouring cemetery, Warstone Lane Cemetery, but had actually never been to this one until today. The reason Birmingham has two cemeteries next door to each other is one was for the nonconformists, namely Key Hill. It is actually the older, since Warstone Lane was only started after Church of England churchyards started filling up.
They are both now closed to new burials, & both on preservation registers, yet feel subtly different. For a start, I'm surprised at the exaggerated height of the surrounding buildings, on what is already a sloping site. This means the key feature at Key Hill is mush, damp, sludge (at least today). It is also apparently not as well cared for as Warstone Lane: the paths are clearly visible in Warstone Lane today, but indistinguishable in Key Hill. Both have had their chapels demolished.
The gravestones at Warstone Lane are more flamboyant, whereas at Key Hill they bring the feeling of the solid nineteenth century Nonconformity on which so much of Birmingham was built. Many of the great names of Birmingham's early history are buried here, & their scientific interests bring to my mind the dead atmosphere of nineteenth-century Deism. Yes, darlings, it is possible to reconcile Christianity with rational thought, & what you end up with a strange moral Christianity with almost nothing supernatural in it.
What did I feel there? Absolutely nothing. The people buried there are either long gone or horrified at the thought of me. I've never got on well with Christian nonconformity, preferring Anglicanism & Catholicism, where at least you get to dress up. My mother was brought up as a Primitive Methodist, giving her a strange approach to drink: the man she describes as the 'black sheep of the family' got that title purely for drinking, which is rank hypocrisy when you think what some of the rest of the family have been like.
Actually, I did meet someone there: I met the stock from which my mother's side of the family comes. I wound up getting in contact with my roots, because let's face it, saying 'I am a witch' is about as non-conformist as you can get. I had not thought before that what I do is actually in a great family tradition, even if those people would turn in their graves at the very thought of me. But here's the difference: I aim to live on many levels at once in a multitude of worlds & possibilities. They aimed to close possibilities, & even memorialised their attempt by slamming the mausoleum door shut.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Not cosy

There is something about this time of year - my favourite time of year - that changes what I want to fill my mind with. Often I have turned to Boswell's Johnson in the past, or sometimes to Sherlock Holmes, only short-term because I want to slap Holmes. This year I'm finding myself listening to cosy Golden Age murders. One I listened to recently, Agatha Christie's The Moving Finger, has set me thinking.
It is very clear why these Golden Age mysteries continue to be popular, despite their often cardboard characterisation & plots holed like old socks, the reason is the world they portray. The Moving Finger is set in a village, with all the characteristic intrigue you get in a Christie village, despite the simplicity of the solution, which Miss Marple insists is perfectly obvious. She fulfills the role of providing a safety net in a world invaded by a dangerous murderer, but which otherwise is inhabited by safe stock characters. The book invites the reader to become a native of the village for a time, which would necessarily mean being surrounded by people one had known all ones life. The feeling of familiarity & safety would be incredibly seductive.
But the point I want to make is that this is not real. For me personally the very idea of living in a village makes me want to flee to the nearest city screaming for anonymity. The life in a Christie village would be so stifling, & actually not cosy at all. Small communities have ways of imposing their own standards on their inhabitants. Having grown up in a Black Country village - one which was superficially well in communication with larger places near by - I can witness to the horizon-narrowing effect of small communities.
Those kind of places are the kind of places that people like me get out of at the first opportunity. If anyone is tempting to hurl the 'snob' epithet at me, do an experiment: move to a small village. Act as if you are a transsexual, without saying 'I am a transsexual', but otherwise act as if you were. Believe me, you'll want to be out of there in no time.
It boils down, as so many things do, to the person that you want to be. Obviously sometimes it's to do with the person that you just are, when it includes such things as sexual orientation, gender, & race. Sometimes you just have to get out of where you are.
When other people do things that we don't want, we have the option if we swish to try to negotiate with them about what they are doing, in addition to the option of getting out. Otherwise you have the potential to create yourself as you will yourself to be. Sometimes they mix. For example, I am very very high maintenance - but you'd sussed that, hadn't you? I take offence very easily & throw a hissy fit easily. So, for example, if I send a friend a text & he doesn't reply I will automatically start looking for reinforcing evidence that I'm not being paid enough attention. And of course sometimes that is actually true: as we change our relationships change.
But here's the nub, & the bit that will explain why I can't do cosy, because living the Willed life is never cosy. I don't want to be a touchy old queen. I don't want to be a difficult old man - at least no more difficult than I already am. My will is to become hopefully more flexible & easy-going as I get older. Hence the recognition of my own touchiness & a lack of comfort at it is essential. Cosy means stagnation, & I flatly refuse to go there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

When it goes quiet

There are times when the witch's life goes quiet. This is the reason for the scarcity of my posts lately.
My personal opinion is that these times illustrate one of the differences between us and conventional religions, which are very insistent that you stick to their prescribed practices come rain or shine, regardless of how inclined you feel to do so. They also have an experience called spiritual dryness, when you don't feel like it at all.
I would like to think that we witches live in a world that we are in a relationship with, & it & we respond to each other accordingly. I've posted before on how often the witch is actually dragged kicking & screaming to a task, so I certainly wouldn't want to imply that what we do is dependent on our feelings, but more that we respond to the tasks & challenges as they appear in front of us.
This is the true school of witchcraft, & this is what is meant by the tradition of putting down the books & just doing it. I would personally resist a too rigid daily practice: I mean, G*ddess knows I'm probably the least disciplined witch in the world. For me, there is no point trying to set a daily discipline & stick to it. I can't do it. Working shifts also interferes with it. The failure to stick to the discipline I set myself ultimately leads to 'ought', 'should', 'must', & guilt, & the one discipline I insist on is not feeling guilt because I haven't stuck to an arbitrary rule. I feel for the witch guilt is a suspicious emotion: it suggests something is being imposed on us - even when we do it ourselves - & dammit I *will* be free from slavery!
I also avoid any negative implications of these times, seeing them instead as part of our natural life cycle, of times of busy witchiness alternating with rest. If we're truly trying to be responsive to the world about us, these hints from the universe will be welcome, & paralleled by the necessary times of rest for fields.
Because nothing doesn't happen in these quieter times. In fact they're the prelude to activity. For example I cast a spell on someone before this rest came along, it seemed like nothing had happened, but it now seems like it's working. It was a spell that she would see & not deny a given situation. She actually told me the whole situation today, & the sitch itself is certainly feeling very pregnant, & ready to pop!
Perhaps that's the secret sometimes: sleep on it & don't force it...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More thoughts on the Library of Birmingham

I've now been into the library a number of times & actually used it so am in more of a position to assess its quality as a library.
There is a very clear difference between this one & the previous one, illustrated by the two pictures I've chosen. One shows the secret garden on the top but one floor. I went up there after sunset yesterday evening. It was exhilarating being up there in the dark during rush hour with the traffic out of the city like ribbons of light way below. I had this sudden strange urge to ask the security guard for sex & I assume it has that effect on other people because of the large signs warning about CCTV.
The other picture shows the space under the old library's inverted ziggurat as it was originally meant to be. And this is the difference: the old library was a statement in architecture & shape, sacrificing function to form. The present library is designed for its users.
I have a few qualms about its likely effect on its staff. Despite the large sign at reception stressing how important welfare of the staff has been, my impression is that the staff are very exposed to the all-critical eye of the public. There are walls of glass into offices & meeting rooms: the sense of continual scrutiny must be extraordinary.
In terms of using the library it doesn't have the strange 'underground' feeling of the old one - caused by little natural light & few windows. It's actually the other way around - it's spacious to the other extreme! Once you get your head round where the subjects are thing - with the *huge* exception I will mention below are actually easier to find now. There are a variety of places & things to sit on on every level.
The only major criticism I have of the library as a building is I think mistakes have been made in some of the surfaces used. I mean in terms of usability: the fashion in public spaces is away from carpets, but they would make it much less noisy than it is. Also I mean in durability: some of the floors & walls are looking rather scuffed, weeks after library's opening. And, darlings, black shows dust. If you're going to have empty black shelves high up you have to organise the dusting of them or your new library looks very tatty.
My other criticism isn't really of the Library of Birmingham as such but a criticism of the management of the central library for the past forty years. The old central library had two catalogues running at once, one a card index, the other electronic. There was an overlap but the card index seems to have been what was taken from the previous library in the 1970s, & a single catalogue was never created. This is something that should have been remedied when an electronic catalogue was created. Similarly the works that were done to move to the new library such as rationalising, preserving & cataloguing the collection, all seem to me tasks that *should* be the day to day work of a library. The impression that the bread & butter work of maintaining the collection has been neglected is irresistible. I understand that in the public sector there are no doubt financial constraints to taking on the personnel in Britain's second-busiest public library, & that I have the impression that the excellent staff's  customer service may have been prioritised at the expense of behind-the-scenes work.
It was a relief to notice the complete absence of card indexes in the new library. I therefore assumed that there is now a single catalogue. I therefore thought that I'd wander through the catalogue at home to see what I could read on a visit today. I found the location of a children's book that I've been wanting to revisit for some time: I wish I'd pinched more than one copy from school all those years ago: I could sell them for £30 a time on ebay now.
Then a terrible thing happened. I've been wanting to read Philip Hesleton's biography of Gerald Gardner & I wondered if they'd bought it, so I just did a keyword search for Gerald Gardner. Nothing. In. The. Whole. Of. Birmingham. I thought that must be wrong, they used to have a first edition of Witchcraft Today, so I did an author search for Gerald Gardner. Nothing. A title search produced nothing. An awful fear came over me. So I searched for the (first edition) Witch Cult in Western Europe. Nothing. Had they got rid of them?
I got my answer today: the stack is not yet fully catalogued or accessible at all. This to me is a real problem, & here's why. Libraries have difficulty making magic books stay on the shelf, not because they fly around but because magical people are dodgy people & steal books. For this reason the best stuff in that library has always been in the stack, as far as I'm concerned. I don't object at all to either presenting extra identification  even to sit in the reference library with a book, or have to sit right under the eye of the staff, if this is what it takes to keep expensive magical books in the library rather than nicked by some muppet.
What is good is that recataloguing will create a catalogue of what they've actually got, since the card catalogue was not altered to reflect what was missing over the years. However as I say this should have been done well before now, because the sum result is that the majority of the library's stock, & much of what is of interest to me personally, is inaccessible still. And that, for whatever reasons it's happened, isn't a lot of use, is it?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tarot: The Hanged Man Today

I must come clean at the beginning of this post & say that I don't really like this card. Of course this is for the reason that it is one of the most multi-faceted tarot cards in the tarot, with virtually all of these facets having a sting in the tail somewhere. That said, what set me thinking about it again was that it was my card for the day yesterday. I had real difficulty thinking how a totally pedestrian day at work of trying to hold people back from some unwise decisions could relate to this card, until I realised I was actually being one of the supports, not actually the man himself! It was as if I was creating the necessary 'suspension' for other people.
My personal main connection for this card is lengthy illness I had some years ago, when this kept coming up. The card's feeling of discomfort is connected to its likely inspiration:

'This picture of a man hung upside down by one foot is what was known in Italy as a pittura infamante, a defaming portrait. It was used as a kind of rag publication that showed thieves, traitors, those guilty of bankruptcy or fraud in this punishing position and displayed in centers of public view. Those paintings weren't literal, in that the depicted victims were not actually hung in this manner but were shamed by the portrait. They were akin to our political cartoons except that they were approved and even requested by the municipal civil authorities as a form of public punishment. They began to lose popularity when they began to be appreciated more as an art form, like the political cartoon, rather than be seen as a form of punishment. The intended effect, shame, was lessened, and the practice diminished.
'But why use this particular positioning of the figure to shame someone? That answer can be found in even earlier paintings of a more religious nature. Religious art from the 13th through 15th centuries, before the creation of Tarot cards, show various scenes of the Last Judgement and the unrighteous receiving their eternal damnation. In many of these scenes one can see people dangling from their feet over the pit of Hell.' (

This far-off inspiration makes it difficult for us to relate to thus facet of the card now, because we don't live in a world where we have pictures of eternal damnation up to frighten us, nor shame convicted criminals by displaying their pictures. However I feel there may be some mileage in connecting this card with the publication of suspected paedophiles' names by vigilantes (this references the Judas theme in this card). It could even feel like seeing a CCTV picture of yourself on the news, saying that you're wanted to help the police with their enquiries (this may be more like the St Peter crucified upside down theme).
Whatever this card portends, it's going to be involuntary, & almost certainly not a straightforward punishment that will soon be over. If the man was hanged the right way up, it would suggest a penalty for a capital crime, bringing it on himself if you like. The fact that he's upside down for me makes him look like the picture of the man plummeting to his death from the World Trade Centre on 9/11. The 'obvious' card for that event would be the Tower, but I think it feels more like the Hanged Man, because it is an involuntary, not brought on yourself at all event, and in the time it takes to plummet, you would definitely have the full experience of how this card feels & what the thoughts that go with it are. I would determine the difference between this & the Tower, is that whether you admit it or not, whatever happens in the Tower you've brought on yourself whether you admit it or not, here it is totally un-asked-for.
The other discomfort is the man's expression. Nobody in his position should look that serene. I have deliberately chosen my tarocco piemontese to illustrate this post because it shows what happens when this card is made more like a normal playing card. It just looks even more weird than normal. if you do reversals, it's the card that is reversed when it's upright, & vice versa. I feel this sting in the tail relates to its meaning of self-sacrifice, involuntary in this case, of course. Those who are sacrificed become heroes but this has a damaging psychological effect on those who remain in crippling survivor guilt. This totally fits this card: heroic self sacrifice screwing up the beneficiaries for life.
However the man's serene expression indicates what is going on while the suspension required by this card is happening. Suspension is a management intervention in the worlds of education & work that puts things on hold while things are investigated or else as a punishment before complete exclusion. It is a state of being on hold, & those to whom it has happened describe exactly the feelings of powerlesness that this card depicts. The point of his serene expression is the difficult lesson of this card: we cannot always act, sometimes things happen where acting will not work, & the only thing we can do is wait. Illness is the perfect example really because some things you just have to wait for them to heal.
Of course suspension means something else:

'In chemistry, a suspension is a heterogeneous mixture containing solid particles that are sufficiently large for sedimentation. Usually they must be larger than 1 micrometer.[1] The internal phase (solid) is dispersed throughout the external phase (fluid) through mechanical agitation, with the use of certain excipients or suspending agents.' (

My own interpretation of this would probably have most empirical chemists laughing hollowly, but there is something alchemical about this in a magical context. There isn't really a change in the solid, but it together with the fluid make a suspension of the solid, which can be used differently to just a powder. In a magical context, I feel we would be more likely to interpret the experience of this card as the suspension process leading to transformation.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A mark of the witch

I have commented before that one of the remarkable things about the modern witchcraft movement is that we can both share the same experiences without having to meet or be taught them, & also differ completely on matters of importance without it being an 'issue'. This explains why it seems as if there ought to be historical evidence for us as a movement: don't worry, there isn't & our movement is a completely modern one. Rather, what has happened has been that different people in different places have done the kind of things that we call witchcraft, culminating in certain historical turning points, such as Gerald Gardner joining the New Forest Coven. As I understand the evidence, it indicates that there were co-masons & others doing magical things in the New Forest. It does *not* indicate the existence of an ancient religion. People create/believe/are taught 'lineages' for themselves because people who are confident enough that the mere fact of them doing what they are doing is enough to validate what they are doing, are few & far between.
One of the commonalities that mark us is a certain ability to pass among all sorts & conditions of people. Now if it be your will to take a more political or class-conscious approach to witchcraft than I do, I don't have a problem with that. Some witches identify as anarchists, for example, & may spend their time in direct action at correcting injustices. I would be surprised if the early Wiccans voted anything other than conservative. The point I'm making is that it is not necessary for witchcraft or witches to identify with a particular political or class 'current'.
Rather what I mean is that what we deal with as witches surpasses the compartments we divide people into. It's as if we are dealing with the vibrations - which could manifest as class differences on the material plane - that underlie these things. As clergy of the world's most freaky religion we can expect our 'congregation' to be also incredibly diverse. And boy do they come to us, whether or not it is conscious or they know we are witches. More often people's paths cross ours at times of significance for them, which is when they need the witch most. They may not even know that we would interpret their story in mythological or eternal terms, but at that moment of us being involved in their world, social differences disappear.
And the purpose of all this? We don't have a specifically religious message nor seek to convert people. Instead if people's lives can be made easier, if they can deal with their own 'stuff', if they can feel a spark of enchantment in their lives, surely that is what it is all about.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ghost Walk round Birmingham

This is the clearest image I have seen of light anomalies caught on film. These huge orbs are obvious evidence of supernatural activity.

This evening a walk round the haunted sites of Birmingham city centre, with the group I go to on a Tuesday evening.
We started off at the Wellington on Bristol Street, which unbeknown to us is rumoured to have about five ghosts, one of whom tidies up. Then via Hurst Street to the Old Rep, then the Alex. This bit was interrupted by reminiscences of the olf Midland Red bus station there, with its associated cottage. I had no idea that New Street station is rumoured to have so many ghosts, mainly of people who have died in variously tragic circumstances.
Whatever you do, don't live in Brindley Place or the general environs of Broad Street: this area is plagued by unhappy spirits, mainly seen on Friday & Saturday nights. Actually they are poltergeists, notorious for their apports of vomit on the pavement.
A funny thing happens when you do something as a group in a city, you attract other people. There were only four of us, for heaven's sake, but we still managed to attract two other people interested in doing a ghost walk!
I have mixed feelings about the Trocadero. The instant we got in the back room one of my companions felt he could sense Henry, but I had the slight problem that the last time I sat at that same table with another friend my dad wandered through. This evening I sensed absolutely nothing of the rumoured supernatural personages, including Henry, but will admit that the room felt colder in places. It was also interesting that everyone in the pub was at the front of the building, when on paper the room we were in was more attractive.
I brought up the subject of Borley Rectory at one point, in which I was once a passionate believer, but am now of the opinion that there is certainly something weird about the place but also a lot of hype. You only sense these things in moments when you're receptive & for me that always means alone. I have never sensed a ghost that I had already been told was there.
Oh, we were lucky in having a marvellous guide, who should certainly do it professionally: if he can cope with the audience he had tonight he can cope with anyone.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weird shit: Sedevacantist Catholicism

The illustration is a cuff belonging to Pope Pius XII. Now there was a man who knew how to dress for church.

This was going to be one of my weird shit posts, about the Holy Prepuce, but I see that speaking or writing about it is now punishable by excommunication & I can't risk that! In fact it would seem very similar to my post at St Valentine's about the number of St Valentine's heads, which Jesus seems to have trumped by having something like thirteen foreskins at one point.
I have posted repeatedly on here about the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church; amongst the reasons I think can be adduced for it is that these people plainly do not believe their own religion. I have a lot of time for orthodox (I.e. Right-teaching) Christians. I expect them not to accept me, & similarly I would expect real Christians not to protect child abusers.
What is not trumpeted so loudly is that there are a number of faithful Catholics, who while they are Catholics themselves, essentially take exactly the same position as I've just taken on paedophile-protecting clerics, amongst other issues, that they are not the real thing at all. Take, for example, this reporting of the Anglican-Rite liturgy recently approved for Anglican Ordinariate Catholics:

'Francis-Bergoglio's New Order sect has rolled out a new version of the Novus Ordo Protestant-Masonic-Pagan service, this one based directly upon the invalid service of Thomas Cranmer, Heretic Archbishop of Canterbury, who colluded with English King Henry VIII in the imposition of an invalid Protestant service on the English Catholic people and in the murder of St. Thomas More, Catholic Chancellor of England.

'The newly-approved invalid rite, used for the first time on October 11, 2013, contains sections of the Protestant Church of England service. Originally fabricated for use by Benedict-Ratzinger's "ordinariate" for Anglicans, Newmonsignor Andrew Burnham, a senior cleric in the ordinariate at the inaugural Novissima Ordo service, admitted that something that was until now "merely Anglican" had become part of the Newchurch of the New Order. The inaugural Mess was accompanied by music in the English vulgar tongue. This "ordinariate" was similar to the one proposed for Bernie Fellay and his Neo-SSPX.

'The new invalid and heretical service was given the Novus Ordo seal of approval by Newvatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the [Non-Catholic] Faith and the Congregation for [New Order] Divine Worship and fully approved by Newchurch. Newmonsignor Burnham specifically praised the Arch-heretic, who composed the Protestant Book of Common Prayer to replace the Roman Missal. After the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary, Cranmer was finally put on trial for treason and heresy and, after several cowardly vacillations and recantations, was hismelf executed after the fashion of St. Thomas More, whose execution he helped engineer just a few decades before.' (

The sometimes strange phrasing (mess means Mass & newchurch means what most people would recognise as the Catholic church) is because this is written from a sedevacantist point of view. I can't do better in defining sedevacantism than wikipedia:

'Sedevacantism is the position, held by a minority of Traditionalist Catholics,[1][2] that the present occupant of the papal see is not truly pope and that, for lack of a valid pope, the see has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.
'Sedevacantism owes its origins to the rejection of the theological and disciplinary changes implemented following the Second Vatican Council (1962�65).[8] Sedevacantists reject this Council, on the basis of its documents on ecumenism and religious liberty, among others, which they see as contradicting the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and as denying the unique mission of Catholicism as the one true religion, outside of which there is no salvation.[citation needed] They also say that new disciplinary norms, such as the Mass of Paul VI, promulgated on April 3, 1969, undermine or conflict with the historical Catholic faith and are deemed heresies.[9] They conclude, on the basis of their rejection of the revised Mass rite and of postconciliar Church teaching as false, that the popes involved are false also.[1]
'Traditionalist Catholics other than sedevacantists recognize as legitimate the line of Popes leading to Pope Francis.[11] Some of them hold that one or more of the most recent popes have held and taught unorthodox beliefs, but do not go so far as to say that they have been formal heretics or have been widely and publicly judged to be heretics. Sedevacantists, on the other hand, claim that the infallible Magisterium of the Catholic Church could not have decreed the changes made in the name of the Second Vatican Council, and conclude that those who issued these changes could not have been acting with the authority of the Catholic Church.[12] Accordingly, they hold that Pope Paul VI and his successors left the true Catholic Church and thus lost legitimate authority in the Church. A formal heretic, they say, cannot be the Catholic pope.[13]
'Sedevacantists defend their position using numerous arguments, including that particular provisions of canon law prevent a heretic from being elected or remaining as pope. Paul IV's 1559 bull, Cum ex apostolatus officio, stipulated that a heretic cannot be elected pope, while Canon 188.4 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law provides that a cleric who publicly defects from the Catholic faith automatically loses any office he had held in the Church.' (

Now of course it will immediately be obvious that this is bang up my street. This is exactly the sort of thing I love. It's also not difficult to work out who my sympathies are with, since the opposing argument to that of the sedevacantists' always boils down to: ubi papa, ibi ecclesia - the pope would always have to be the locus for the church. I have a terrible confession to make, that I'm a bit of a closet Thomist, that is I loooove the theology of Thomas Aquinas. And here is the thing about real traditional Catholics - they have been nourished by the true greatness of the Catholic faith. This is why for centuries Catholicism was the religion of the intelligentsia: Thomism is such a satisfying system. Also because we Witches are not a missionary religion we can forget the sense of urgency that Christians get because they are. I am posting this as weird shit (because it is) but the protagonists are deadly serious about what is at stake. The sedevacantist position again:

'Communion in the Catholic Church is always based first upon unity in the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.  That is why, in the history of the Church, we see not only popes but also bishops, priests, and laypeople refusing to be in communion with those who no longer have, or are suspected of no longer having, the immemorial Catholic Faith transmitted by the Apostles.
'Indeed, the pope has "the fullness of power over all the churches" (St. Bernard, Epistulae 131), but this power is limited to confirming and defending the faith of Peter, not for altering it or encouraging those who would alter it.  This is the limit, set from on high and proclaimed dogmatically by the First Vatican Council (Pastor Aeternus, cap. 4):  "For the Holy Ghost was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or Deposit of Faith transmitted by the Apostles."' (

In fact for traditional Catholics these matters are important because they depend on Vincent of Lerins's test of what actually is Catholic:

'Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.
'What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.
'But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in various times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.' (

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Spirit of place: Cheltenham/The Loneliness of the Mid-30s Gay Man

I swear I have been to Cheltenham before, & not incredibly long ago, I mean I was definitely an adult when I went there. If I had gone there as a child it would have created an acceptable reason why Cheltenham is *nothing* like my recollection of it. I suspect I am conflating Cheltenham & Ryde in my memory, which with my memories is doing an extreme injustice to Ryde. Instead what I found today was exactly what I would have envisaged if I had had to imagine Cheltenham in my head.
It is largely a spa playground purpose-created by the Victorians, the sort of place where Mapp & Lucia would (later) have taken houses (in different price brackets) for the season. It would be facile to say it's posh - it doesn't quite live up to its reputation of doggy old ladies. Rather it's a place of two halves - one half of the populace is sheltered by their prosperity. If you look into the eyes of the other half you can see the desperate lives of criminality & frequently the empty eyes & poorly-nourished bodies of the druggie.
I came across this excellent blog when I was reading about Cheltenham before going there: He makes the point, having lived in both London & Cheltenham that people in London are ironically more friendly, but their friendship isn't as enduring once you get in. I don't know who he is, but he's a good theorist of gay life & he can't half write.
There is something unreal about the spirit of place in Cheltenham: I actually got a sense of a strangely unhappy spirit, which felt quite stressful. It also felt quite invasive: I felt observed in Cheltenham bit not welcomed. It was very strange. The train station is also some way from the town centre, which to me gives the impression of visitors only being welcome to go to the spa & then go. I think the reason people may be more friendly in big cities may ironically be the relative anonymity: individual interactions with others assume less importance because of the very real possibility that you will never see them again, while strangely allowing an impromptu intimacy which may take decades to develop in a small town.
I was sitting in a pub some time ago with a friend who runs the group I go to & talking about the irony that we go to a group for like-minded people, are actually not like-minded at all, but this is just not a problem. He identifies as pagan, I as a witch; he as gay, I as queer; he is pro-gay marriage, I am vehemently against. I feel in a smaller place we would feel obliged to take sides with each other. With more space we can differ but still be on the same side.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How we see the world

I'm on annual leave. Since I'm frantically keen on old telly & have nothing particularly to do, I'm spending it watching TV series of the past. It is interesting to observe the world-view of different TV series.
Of course The Avengers is the hallmark for 1960s weirdness & was also among the 1960s series on which I cut my teeth. The actual first were The Man from UNCLE, where the baddie is an organisation in opposition to the goodie organisation, UNCLE, & also Mission Impossible, where the goodies are expendable freelancers. Here, for me, is the thing: no society which treats its public servants - regardless of which side of the counter they operate on - is a well-ordered society. Of the two I prefer Man from UNCLE - in retrospect it's camp as tits, & Mission Impossible seems stodgy by comparison. The shortcoming of course is that in real life the 'baddies' seek out individual positions of power, & also make alliances among themselves, rather than the Cold War - era  perspective of an organised opposition, which may be hidden amongst us goodies, a perspective which seems somewhat simplistic in retrospect.
The (original 1960s) Avengers alternates between both these two visions of the world. The two or three avengers are inside an organisation or freelancers, depending on which series it is. The evil forces they avenge also vary between being organised opponents, individuals who have gone off the rails, and either or both who may be hidden in high society.
I've been watching some episodes of The New Avengers - I always forget how much I like them, I think I ought to approach them as I would any other 1970s detective series such as The Professionals, but the authentic Avengers world is always there under the surface. The goodies are very very organised in The New Avengers - the organisation they're employed by is obviously huge & has actual offices as well as facilities for training & what have you. The way this series sees the baddies is often as part of a (non - specific) power. These baddies may try to infiltrate our good establishment, & so it is justified for the avengers to play outside the rules.
The reality is that institutions don't like people who break their - often unspoken - rules, even in the interests of defending the institution. With greater organisation comes the demise of the gentleman adventurer, & also comes professionalism, the kiss of death to individual dedication & quirks.
It is for this reason that I would resist paid clergy in witchcraft: who pays the piper calls the tune. Far better, I think, for us to be a collection of enthusiastic amateurs, if this does risk over-enthusiasm & unprofessionalism. Being paid for something is no guarantee of quality: doctors & dentists get struck off, & so on.
I'm watching a series that is new to me, Spyder's Web. Here the goodies are expendables, definitely in the pay of government, but off the books, & working under the cover of a film company. The baddies are whoever their paymasters tell them are baddies, I.e. Anyone threatening to the government. For TV buffs, it was definitely a nostalgic look back at The Avengers. Also it is made more sombre for me by the fact that the lead actress, Patricia Cutts, killed herself by a barbiturate overdose after being turned down for a part in Coronation Street.
So where does this leave us? The pertinence to witchcraft is in the stories, depicting ways in which we can 'place' good & evil in our world. It is very clear that the dominant cultural norm is to see ourselves as good & some 'other' as bad.
How dangerous is this?! I'm capable of being a complete c*nt, myself, & will admit so.
Contra this prevailing cultural norm I would suggest there are two things a witch can do to create a more healthy world view. The first is obviously a self-examination so that one can see ones conscious or unconscious c*ntiness. I would suggest the other is to create a portrait of what one thinks should be an enemy. It will help if this concentrates on actions: so that ultimately ones identified enemy should be, for example, 'someone who rapes women'. The other purpose is to prevent us projecting our enemy-picture onto a group of people who may or may not be guilty of the actions we want to be gone.
Don't get me wrong - one of our missions must be to rid the world of turds, but we must be specific. What a lot of witches & wiccans do is buy into the 'we're all good' mythology, which is dangerous because it will lead us to find an explanation for 'evil' & project it onto someone else: down the same road as the Christians, in other words. And look where it's got *them*. Have an enemy, please do, just make sure it's the right one.

I was going to end this post with a tarot reading into why Patricia Cutts killed herself & her present state, but I'm getting a very strong sense of resistance so won't go there.