Tea and Biscuits

Last one for awhile, I promise.

I’ve been foraging again, or at least the kids have. This time I sent them out ahead of the lawnmower gathering up dandelion flowers before they fell a foul of the blades. This is pretty much the only time we gather dandelion flowers given they are so critical to biodiversity. This has been driven home some what by this weekend’s warm weather and the various butterflies that have been attracted to the garden.

So far this year I have seen a Speckled Wood butterfly and what may be a Small Blue butterfly. Normally we only really see Red Admirals later in the season so this has been a real treat.

Butterflies are one of the most popular spiritual insects around, and their meaning and associations are rather pertinent meaning to me and my family at this time. As well as being associated with freedom and transformation, something that is very much a theme with our domestic lives at the moment, they often are taken to represent the souls of loved ones recently departed and the immortality that comes through the ttransformative rebirth of the soul after death.

A loved one has recently passed over after a short illness whigh was as much to do with age as any health condition. One of my personal believes about death is that the soul rests between leaving the body and joining the Ancestors. This is not a purgatory, limbo or a place of place of punishment, it is simply a place where the soul is allowed to heal and recuperate before moving onwards. The time spent may vary from soul to soul, and some may take a very long time to move one, but it is nice to think that she has already moved on in her journey and this signaled in the appearance of the butterfly.

This lady was an avid baker and gardener and this was at the forefront of my mind when I chose my recipies for today. Dandelion Flower Biscuits and Dandelion Tea.

I did tweak the recipe slightly, using a full cup of dandelion flowers and golden syrup instead of honey. One reason for this was I couldn’t find my vanilla essence anywhere but the flavour of the golden syrup made up for it. The resultant biscuits was sweet but the liget taste of the flowers was still very evident. Most of the family enjoyed them, though I don’t think they were sweet enough for the YD and her young sweet tooth. She settled for a chocolate flake nest bun made the day before with her aunt.

Dandelion Tea couldn’t be simpler. You will need about 8 mid-sized flower heads per mug. Pour freshly boiled water over the flowers and leave to brew for up to 5mins. You can strain the tea before drinking, but the flowers are a nice garnish. If you like your tea sweet flavour with honey.

Spring is my second favourite time of year for foraging but the resilence of dandelion, and their long growing season, means that these sweet treats can be enjoyed all year around.

Dandelion’s Rule

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Flower Madness

Seen as though my head is a little out of the game this week I thought I would give you a sneak peak at some of my crochet inspirations at the moment. I’ve been slacking in the blog department simply because I have been wanting (trying) to get my current work in progress to a point where it is a) finished and b) I can write up the pattern. It will be appearing on the blog as my Nth Degree Blanket Pattern so watch this space.

 

One of my greatest sources of inspiration when it comes to crochet is definitely Lucy of Attic24 . Not only is she from God’s own county like me she has an eye for colour that I hope and aspire to and in addition to winning a number of awards and being published she is one of the faces and minds behind the highly popular Yarndale expo which takes place in Skipton each September. If you haven’t heard of Attic24 and you love and live crochet I highly recommend her blog and all the wonderful (free) patterns she has listed there.

I could go on fangirling, needless to say, I am a big fan and thanks to the creepy world of Facebook I am able to follow her exploits and it is always exciting when waiting on her next colour pallet or pattern to hit the blog.

 

Hydrangea Inspirations

Hydrangea Inspirations (c)Attic24

Most recently she has been building up to the Hydrangea Striped Blanket and Friday was a big squee moment when both the Ta-dah moment and pattern hit her blog and the colour pack appeared in her online shop over at Wool Wearhouse. I so snapped one up on the first day.

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When I’ve finished the Nth Degree Blanket I am all over this beautiful blanket.

 

I’ve also been taking a leaf out of Lucy’s playbook in finding my own inspiration in flowers. I recently bought myself a bunch of roses in all my favourite shades and I have been inspired to make my own crochet roses to keep indefinitely. Ravelry is a bottomless source of crochet inspiration and on this occasion, I have gone with the designer Sandra Åhlberg’s Roses pattern.

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I will have to update the blog again later but I am looking forward to making myself a dozen roses to beautify my room.

 

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Spring Foraging

The Equinox has past and it is time to get foraging for those yummy spring greens.

As you can see, out favourite foraging patch is in full swing. Storm Doris brought down a number of trees in the area but the growing season hasn’t been too badly effected. I am being extra careful with how much we gather this year, and from where.

This year have made Wild Garlic Salt, which can be used in all sorts of ways but particularly in this lovely tear and share Wild Garlic Bread recipe. It was as yummy as it looks. This wild garlic salt can be substituted in any recipe that calls for garlic salt (like the stuff you buy in the supermarket) and in its own right as a marinade. I am also planning to infuse wild garlic in olive oil which will be frozen to use as pre seasoned cooking shots.

I was also somewhat fortunate to find myself some floof. I’m not sure what else to call it.

Walking home with the kids we came across a quantity of animal molt. It is either dog or rabbit, but either way it was perfect for spinning in the grease. I picked out the big peices of dirt by hand and was able to get the rest of the loose by carding it with my little hand carding paddles. I didn’t wash it, because spinning in the grease is a lovely experience, despite how it sounds, and as you can see I got a good half spindle from it.

I have no real end plan for this. I did contemplate using it as a single for weaving but I am not decided. The other thought in mind is that I could ply it and make a little charm pouch. We shall see.

However you decide to participate in nature’s bounty, enjoy.

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I’ll Second That – Witchcraft is Not Safe

I am blessed to be connected with some very interesting and connected people through social media and every now and again they throw up interesting blog posts which make me think. The most recent has been http://seohelrune.net/witchcraft-not-safe/ which got me thinking about my own practices, experiences and the experiences of people I know. The post focuses on the author’s experiences at a burial mound late one night and although their experience is not my own I am in almost total alliance with their sentiment.

 

 

Working in Nature

When you work out in nature you are going to attract attention. Gone are the days when the lines between the spirits of the land and the ancestors were just on the boundary of your settlement. The background noise of modern life drowns out so much that when we come face to face the underside of the spirit world it is very unnerving and many feel unprepared when that connection occurs.

My own experiences of working in the great outdoors are limited, so much so that in planning this blog I had to approach a friend for her experience so that I had something relevant to relate. There are a number of reasons for this but the main one is that I realise just how easy it is to attract the attention of something Other and often I have the two witchlets in tow. Visiting ancient sites and monuments in daylight and conducting limited ritual activities above ground always feel much safer, certainly, I have only ever felt that the attention we have garnered has been light interest and anything which may have followed us was left at the location if not the door of our house thanks to my wards.

The most unnerving experience I have ever had was as a teenager when I and a group of friends went down to the beach late at night and performed a small spell. We garnered attention that night, and we were all left frightened to one degree or another. Now, almost 20 years on, it is hard to distinguish between what was interaction with spirits, be they of the dead or the land, and what was in our imagination so it doesn’t really serve in this context. As such I will relate the experience of my friend, who we will call A.

A was camping with a number of friends out in a local woodland, with the intention of carrying out a ritual to celebrate the turning of the Wheel.  After the ritual, she and a couple of others left the area where they were actually camping and wandered off to commune with nature more directly for a time. They had sensed they had been watched during their working and wanted to experience something more directly. As they walked they felt the urge to sing, not anything in particular, just vocalising in a melodic way which fed off each other, increasing in volume and tempo as they went. The more they sang, the more they were aware of the sense of being watched, by many presences which were drawing ever closer. The situation began to feel very intense and suddenly worried that they didn’t really know what was being drawn towards them the ended their singing and hurried back to their tents and turned in for the night. A tells me that she was very aware of every single movement taking place outside the walls of her tent, movement which seemed to be something other than local wildlife. Her friends reported a number of experiences after turning in which left them all with the sense that they had been noticed and investigated and when they left they did so with a strong sense of relief.

Their experience was certainly no way as intense as that relayed in seohelrune’s blog however it does nibble at the edges. The spirits wakened by A and her friends were clearly more curious than angry, and there were no reports of attempted possessions, but it goes part way to show that it doesn’t take much to stir some interest.

 

Protection In Nature

So what can we do when working in nature to protect ourselves? The most obvious method would be to work within a cast circle. A circle can be used to keep out anything you don’t want in your working area but it doesn’t stop you drawing attention and once you step outside the circle you are fair game.

We’re on their turf so we don’t have the opportunity to call on home defence and have to carry everything with us. There are any number of talismanic protection charms and methods which can be employed to protect oneself out and about. Such things can be small and hidden about the person but should only really be supporting your own personal protective skills. Making sure that you enter the space well grounded, having used visualisation to form protection, ensuring that everyone working with you has similar understandings and protections etc will all help in keeping yourself safe.

The issue then becomes one of relative strength and confidence. If you encounter a spirit or entity which is stronger than you and your personal wards you are then in a whole world of potential trouble. This is one reason why I would say never work outdoors, and particularly away from your own property, on your own without being fully familiar with the location. If you have worked there before and have a positive relationship with the genius loci then you are in a much better position, though there is no guarantee that you won’t one day be caught off guard. At the very least check out the area in daylight and make sure you are comfortable with it before going ahead.

I don’t want to put someone off working outdoors. A sensible precaution, confidence in your own abilities and a willingness to push your abilities and boundaries are the watchwords of the Witch. I agree with the sentiment of seohelrune that if you aren’t scared or having that “this s**t just got real!” moment you aren’t doing it right.

In the situation presented by seohelrune there was a very near possession and at that point, you are reliant on the people around you but, assuming that the worst possibility is that something may follow you home there are something you can do to protect you and yours.

 

 

At Home

Seohelrune and I disagree somewhat when it comes to what it takes to deal with spirits you encounter within the home. I differentiate between those spirits that are resident in your home, belonging either to the property or are associated with a particular object, and those which have made their way in by piggy backing in on your or other family members.

The first group are resident and belonging, in some instances more so that you as the living occupant of the home. So long as relations are cordial there is no need to take any action and thought should be given to not aggravating them if at all possible. Where that isn’t possible these spirits need to be addressed using a particular set of tools and skills and things that may be useful in dealing with the second group will not be relevant here.

For example; wards will not help. The spirits are already present and active and it is impossible to keep something out when they are already in. Other suggestions such as LARP will have some effect but to effectively deal with residents you need to bring out very heavy guns and perform full blown, household banishing’s/exorcism which may even need to be repeated a number of times to ensure that the spirit is fully routed out or compelled to cross over. At that point, it is an exercise in making sure that something can’t return. Full and regularly laid wards, hunting out objects that may have been connected to the spirit and ensuring they get special attention or even removed from the property. There are no short cuts in dealing with this first groups.

In the case of those spirits which may follow you home they are less well connected to the location it is somewhat easier to expel them if dealt with quickly, and frankly, can be stopped at the door if you have sufficient and effective wards. There are many different types of wards which can be employed, too many to go into here today. One good book on the subject is Protection and Reversal Magick by Jason Miller (link).

But dealing with something that gets in can be very simple, particularly if you are faced with a simply curious spirit who wants to know what goes on at your place. What you don’t want is for them to decide they like it at your house and you want to make it as uncomfortable for them as possible and this is where I think this is where Seohelrune and I disagree. I find the whole banging of pots and wide-ranging swear language routine very effective for dealing with transient spirits. These spirits have no vested interest in sticking around and it is very easy to dislodge them. That being said, it is a sliding scale. If a spirit isn’t addressed quickly or is particularly aggressive bagging a few pots will not be effective and you need to step up the game.

 

By Invitation Only

There is a third group of spirits, those which you summon. Witchcraft often works with the invocation of spirits, are drawn to use spiritual tools such as Ouija boards and other practices which are necromantic in origin. Again, I don’t want to put people off. I have had some very good, and “this s**ts real” experiences with these practices. My first, and so far only, experience of the goetic spirits shook my 15-year-old self to the core and convinced me that the Spirits of the Key were not only real but were something I shouldn’t be messing around with. Fortunately, beyond being shaken by the presence I got off lightly. The work was completed and I have had no trouble since and you would think I would have been raring to go again but at the time I decided to leave well enough alone. I was working alone, with no guidance and I realised I wasn’t working with the best material (though I *wish* I could remember the name of the book!) and decided not to go down that route again. Now there are a lot better resources available should I choose to explore it again but as it is I am happy working with my Goddess, my beloved ancestors and the spirits of the land around me. I just tap into interesting podcasts and writings on the subject now and again.

Saying that working with ancestors spirits is not a failsafe option either. Fail to keep your end of a bargain and you will likely start to experience the repercussions, offer them something they don’t like (or like a little too much) and you will know about it. My ancestor pool is by necessity small until such time as I can research my family tree, although there are some that, based on my current knowledge, I really keep to work with. I just want to avoid offering alcohol to anyone who may have had a history of alcohol addiction…

When working with spirits the number one rule is “never summon what you cannot banish” because by inviting them into your space you are walking them past your wards. Things can get out of hand when spirits go their own way unsupervised. As I said to someone recently in an open group – If you don’t know how to banish spirits as part of summoning, or at all, you are not ready to summon spirits. If you do have this knowledge/these skills then have at ye!

 

 

Witchcraft is not Safe

The problem is that when Witchcraft is “safe” it becomes a shallow and stagnant pool which frankly is no true reflection of the Craft at all. It is filled with posers and the passive aggressive who have never pushed themselves to experience that “oh s**t” moment, preferring to play around with their candles and crystals. Now, there is nothing wrong with candles and crystals, but there is so much more depth to Witchcraft that simply limiting yourself to these experiences is simply not enough.

You need to get down and dirty, or bloody, and really finding your connection with spirit, be they of the land, ancestor, gods or de(a)mons. Witchcraft is not a fast track path to spiritual enlightenment, nor is it a place of total acceptance. The phrase “Love and Light” is better placed in a spiritualist context where it is the most over-used and passive aggressive phrase out there on forums and groups. As one clairvoyant I used to know would say “Love and Light dearie, now f**k off”. A lot of people come looking for some kind of brother/sisterhood similar to that they experienced in a former religion or as a replacement for a lack in their lives. I do feel sorry for some but kinship comes through blood and choice, not some shared religious pick on the Facebook profile set up. I will call people on presuming to add me to their kin list whether it is through attempted coercion, presumption or sloppy language, much to their distress because to do so shatters their illusion that the Craft is somewhere where everyone is accepted without question or challenge. These sorts of challenges are very necessary given the fact that as a group we can enable a lot of very unhealthy and destructive beliefs and behaviours.

But as a practice Witchcraft was never intended to be a “safe”. It is meant to be done in the dead of night where the only sound it a bitch-dog howling to the moon; it should cause the hairs on the back of your neck and freeze the marrow in your bones and it should be a process through which the job gets done. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible is part of the process so staying in a “safe place” is not an option for growth.

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Hekatean Cord Cutting Visualisation

In my Hekatean Binding Spell  I made reference to a visualisation technique called ‘Cutting the Cord’. This technique is popular for severing ties with a person (or group of people) but is also useful for breaking away from bad habits,  addiction and generally anything that you wish to make a clean break with on both a physical and metaphysical level.

The visualisation is a signal to yourself and the universe that your association with the subject has come to an end. As it is not a spell in of itself it is not making a change in the world around you but empowering you to do it yourself. As such you must exercise willpower, or discretion depending on your subject and situation, in order to avoid becoming re-entangled again in the future.

You don’t need any physical objects for this kind of visualisation, however, if you would like to make it a bit more of a ritual I suggest gathering the following items

  • A representation of the subject – preferably a picture. If you are dealing with an addiction a picture is a strongly advised as having the substance or associated paraphernalia present may lead to a relapse.
  • A knife or scissors
  • Matches and a Heatproof bowl.
  • Hekatean Cutting The Cords

Preliminaries

Settle yourselves into a comfortable position in a temperate room. Body temperature often drops during meditation so you want to avoid getting cold. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting up or lying down but avoid a position in which you may fall asleep last.
Decide on how you will word your request for aid in advance, particularly if you are compleating this visualisation as part of a ritual. Your more passive request for aid will need to match the active statement of intent. For example ‘aid me in overcome my addiction’ should be rendered as ‘I have overcome my addiction’.
This meditation should take no more than 10 minutes and I recommend using a meditation track (without words) of this length which incorporates a callback. I personally prefer drums but use whatever works for you.

Visualisation

You can download the Cutting Cords Medititation in pdf form here nut for now, here is a road map of the steps involved.

  1. Prepare for meditation in your usual way.
  2. Enter visualisation
  3. Approach Hekate and ask for aid
  4. Body scanners and cut cords.
  5. With torch sever cords and wounds.
  6. Draw energy and blessing
  7. Thank Hekate
  8. Exit meditation

Ritual Element

If you are using this meditation as a ritual in its own right you will perform the ritual actions after completing the meditation.
Take up your picture and cutting implementation and make your statement of intent regarding the subject of your ritual. It should be an actualised statement, meaning that it assumes compleat success for the ritual; for example “(name) is cut out of my life for now and ever more”.
Now cut up the image into as many pieces as you want and put them into the heatproof container. Light them up and watch them burn, recalling both the resolve and strength you felt during your meditation.

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Pagan Parenting – Ages 5 to 8

Time to go to school. This milestone is one everyone who puts their kids through the mainstream education system will experience. Formalised RE, multiculturalism and Assembly time in a closed community. Yay!

I exaggerate but from my perspective, these things were all great things. The girls hadn’t really socialised widely without the buffer of a family member and in the case of YD she has a cousin in her year group. For the sake of everyone’s learning potential (and sanity), we’d consciously requested they be in opposite classes.

I was most nervous about the whole process with regard to the ED, by the time YD joined her we were old hands at it. I had prepped myself a letter, which is now in the form of A Very Brief Introduction to Paganism, and gotten myself up to date on all the law around religion in schools and was all ready to give a full explanation of Paganism but found it unnecessary. Fortunately, and despite the school being relatively new, the teacher assigned to ED’S class was an experienced teacher and she took it all in her stride.

Overall our school doesn’t really seem to have an issue with any of the pronouncements the Girls make, or the weird things that I encourage the kids to do (like send in rune cookies for party days)

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We have had a couple of wins, like ED writing about herself to a new teacher
“I like History and Maths but I don’t like RE because we do not cover Paganism.”

SCORE!

History and Religious Education

She’s not wrong; most mainstream school does not cover paganism as a general rule. There are a couple of local authorities which have taken steps to include paganism under the RE heading but it is done as a reflective view of a historical practice. More widely children are covering more and more in their History lessons, learning about pre-Christian cultures including  (but not limited to) Greeks / Romans, Vikings and the various prehistoric cultures of Britain.

I’ve found the trick is encouraging them (the girls) to look beyond what is being taught in class and to ask questions of school and me. ED has most recently been doing the Vikings and Anglo-Saxon and readers who know me personally will realise that the Norse Traditions are a minor feature of the household.  ED has had a lot of questions and whilst I haven’t gotten into the detail of modern movements with her we have discussed magical subjects such as the Runes, Volva (though we spoke of Wise Women) and the Nine Herb’s charm.

One expressly magical thing I just tied into her school work was to give the ED a first introduction to combining a magical craft with stitch and yarncraft. Her half term holiday project was a cross stitch pillow of a Vikings Boat. No only did she stitch it herself, making it her first proper cross stitch project, we spent some time discussing the possible magical symbolism of the boat, our choice of thread colour and what she should think about as stitching. Okay, so she probably put most of her brain capacity into placing stitches correctly and counting them but the concept has been introduced. We also linked the very Viking symbolism with the Anglo-Saxon 9 Herb Charm by including a tea bags filled with the herbs in the pillows stuffing with the finished product being a protective charm for long journeys.

More generally I haven’t seen any evidence of confusion in the girls regarding the various religions they have encountered through school. They take everything in their stride and as a learning curve. They soak it all up and accept that there are many religious and spiritual “Truths” and just as many paths which you can take to find them. They have occasionally been on the receiving end of hurtful and ignorant words from other children but in truth beyond a little indignation, they have been content to ignore the words and individual in question.

At Home

At this age very little escapes their notice and it is almost impossible for them to miss what is going on around the house. Every shrine and altar space are there to be seen, seasonal celebrations are acknowledged in some way, even if it simply a bunch of seasonal vegetation,  and from time to time candles and incense are lit whilst they are awake and of course an explanation is demanded and in most cases given.

Now ED has hit the upper ranges of this age bracket I can see that she has spent a long time absorbing information from the things I have said and done. My shopping habits are apparently very telling. There will be more on this next month but for now, I will elaborate on some of the activities we’ve done.
Special Spaces

For a very long time, the children have had their own special space which was theirs to decorate and use as they wish. Located on a spare shelf in ED’s bedroom it represents a collection of their special items and old ritual items of mine. Everything from leaves and stones from a nature walk and shells from the beach to special awards and merits has made it onto this space.

As time has gone on the ED has used the space in different ways, including for potion making and honouring her relatives and Hekate. There is no real form or structure to what she does, and I have left her to explore how she can use the space in her own time.

One of those terms has been around developing her own spells and mostly they have revolved around having good dreams, confidence for school events and the like. Most of these consist of her talking to the statues in the space and asking for help but sometimes she gets a little more practical, and her sister likes to help. They have been known to make potions, which involves them gathering plants and flowers from our immediate surroundings (or from my flower displays) and suspending them in tap water whilst muttering incantations. It is all well and good but getting the finished concoction out of the room before it turns into a slushy mess can be challenging.

And this is the biggest problem with this idea; housekeeping. ED is not exactly a neat freak, and she can get very attached to her stuff. Establishing an understanding of the need to maintain these spaces a and not hold on to every leaf, acorn and shoe (yes, shoe) have been a bit of a challenge but we have prevailed. Were I to do this again I would establish firmer ground rules earlier on but this situation has not been insurmountable. 

Arts, Crafts and The Great Outdoors

Little legs are longer and their minds are developing all the time, so more of the same is always in order.

With YD just reaching this stage our further foraging into our local has been limited still but as you can see from our trips up Verbeia’s waterfall we are striking deeper into the Moors. They are aren’t quite our playground but we are getting there.

Arts and crafts are always perennial favourites, with the favourite summer activity being ‘stick’ painting/decorating aka wand making.

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Consent in Paganism

Consent is a huge issue in the modern pagan movement. From hugging without permission, all the way trough to ritual abuse there are many issues to be found in Paganism relating to consent. I am no expert – what follows are my thoughts and feelings about the conversation going on, or which needs to go on. If you are interested in further reading one book I recommend is Pagan Consent Culture by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow. 

Consent as a Cup of Tea

The place to start is the best analogy for consent to date the cup of tea, a conversation tool used to discuss consensual sex and rape culture. I strongly recommend that you watch the video in full but for now, here is an abridged version.

You’ve met someone for the first time and you’ve decided that you want a cup of tea with them. You like tea but you don’t know if the person you met does as well. Do you…

A) make them a cup of tea and force them to drink it regardless of what they say?

B) make them a cup of tea and guilt them into drinking it?

C) make them a tea and complain when they say no?

D) make them a cup of tea and accept that they may not want it?

E) ask them if they would like a cup of tea and accept their response and respect it?

Sounds a bit of a no-brainer doesn’t it? You’ve only just met this person and you have no idea if they even like tea, let alone whether or not they want to drink a cup with you. The sensible and reasonable thing is obviously to ask first rather than assume and I am sure that many reading this would have gone with option E.
It all seems quite nice and civilised, there is a clear boundary of ‘ask, don’t assume’ but swap out ‘make a cup of tea’ with other concepts people start to get some very strange ideas about what is sensible and reasonable.
Let’s start at one end of the scale and work forward.

 

Sibling Terms

There are some in the pagan community that feel they simply must use kinship terms when speaking to people. Some think it a term of respect whilst others seek to establish a connection based on what they perceive to be shared interests. There are other who simply wish to acknowledge a shared connection as human beings, looking to the genetic Eve’s for some kind of commonality. These people are taking option D as their starting point. They don’t know if the person they are talking to will like being called Brother/Sister but they are going to use the term anyway.
The counter arguments to these beliefs and assumptions are many and wide ranging but regardless of the reasons a lot of people, myself included, are uncomfortable with this level of familiarity from strangers. Many reserve such words for their immediate kinship group, such as blood relatives or those acquired through marriage. Even where kinship terms are used in a religious or spiritual context it is limited to a single denomination/group where the numbers are small.
In the case of the latter it is a choice made by all parties and the terms is only used in amongst a select few. The words have meaning and imply degree of connection and knowledge regarding both parties which they value and hold dear and by having them applied to them by a strange can seem highly presumptive at times.

 

So how does consent apply?

Most people I know will simply ask the person talking to them to not use those terms. They withdraw consent, politely, and establish a boundary. In most cases people will respect this request, staying at option D. In some cases people will pout and a whine, sliding into the territory of option C but by and large they respect the withdrawal of consent and stop.
Unfortunately, it is common for the person to persists in using the sibling term, totally ignoring the withdrawal of consent. They place their preference over and above that of the person they are speaking to and settle into a category between an A and C depending on their response.
Now this issue has as much to do with about common courtesy and respect as it does consent. Someone has said ‘stop’ and the polite thing to do would be to do as requested. Continuing on with the method address once asked to stop shows a total lack of regard and respect for the other person.It may seem a small thing but in society where consent culture is in a fledgeling state and so easily overwhelmed by privilege  (real or perceived) it is an important line.

Let’s move this up a scale.

 

Give Them a Hug

This is definitely more of a real life thing. Some people are hugy whilst others are more aware of their personal space. Paganism isn’t alone in experiencing this phenomenon but there is this on going assumption that if you’re at a Pagan gathering hugging is mandatory.
This is a different level to sibling terms entirely because it involves personal space and sovereignty of self and potentially unwanted physical contact.
Now again, many people will try and communicate their preference but in this case it may be a non-verbal form of communication depending on the confidence of the individual. They may step away from the hug, shake their head or even attempt to avoid the huggy person in some way such as putting other people or objects between themselves. This is often interpreted as being very ‘negative’, with people being seen as rude or standoffish and the hugger may feel rejected, if indeed they notice the avoidance tactics at all. In this case consent is established but option C like behaviours are displayed, which make for a rather unpleasant environment when there no real need (I’ll cover why in a moment).
Unfortunately it isn’t always possible to avoid a hug as physical contact is all too often initiated before there is time to react at all. When this occurs consent is completely forgotten about and the act is forced upon someone regardless of their thoughts and wishes.
At the core of this issue is personal space and sovereignty of self. So much time is spent in modern pagan literature is spent on discussion how it is important to remain true to oneself and be aware of ourselves and those around us but only one aspect of these teachings seem to be taken up. People become aware of themselves and begin to express themselves freely but completely ignore the people they come into contact with subconsciously forcing their preferences on to the people they meet without a second thought.

Undermining Consent Culture

We live in a world where consent is under almost constant discussion in regards the rape culture which dominates certain sections of our society. We see rape culture in many places today, from t-shirts and comments in the street to the legal rulings of clear cut rape cases; the idea that the will of one individual can be imposed on another in the most intimate of ways should seem abhorrent but yet we allow it to occur at all points along the scale.
People get just ad upset when you discuss hugging in terms of consent ss they do with regards to sibling terms. They don’t see these things as carrying the same weight as rape or sexual abuse but what they fail, or refuse, to see how these things are part of the drip-drip breakdown of a consent culture which is really struggling to gain a foot-hold in the face of a very entrenched mindset of ‘might gives right’.
Whether is is calling someone by a term of endearment after they have asked you to stop or hugging some even though they have pulled away once you carry on or repeat the action after consent has been withdrawn a message is sent about the worth of an individual’s right to consent to what happens to their person, and for some that message can be life defining. This is one reason that when my daughters refuse to give an older relative quality hug or a kiss I will defend their right to choose not to.  It isn’t an insult or a sign that they don’t love that older relative, but it is a process through which they are defining their boundaries and ultimately their sense of self-worth in relation to others. These lessons may not protect themselves from everything that life throws at them but they will certainly help.

Fighting Back

Consent culture is becoming increasingly important to Paganism and organisers of pagan events, particularly in relation to hugging. Those people who are uncomfortable with hugging, particularly where invasions of personal space can relate to traumatic life experiences, can find it difficult to engage in ‘real life’ Pagan events. Some events operate a ‘sticker’ system which allows people to communicate their preference on this matter very clearly like, and there have been a number of cases where events have been managed through live streaming, such as the new Live function on Facebook, which enables not only pm those less physically mobile to attend but individuals who have social anxiety in one form or another.
Another reason for its increasing importance as a discussion topic is around the central role that sex has in some traditions.

Why Consent is Important in Paganism

In some Pagan streams sex plays an integral role, whether that is the act in itself or by representation. Clear conversations about consent not only protects the prospective initiate but also the group or coven which incorporates it.
Let’s go back to our basic example, though there needs to be a bit of a wiggle round to add a few new options which I see as subsets of option B.

B/i) make the tea and present it as the only avaliable option

B/ii) make the tea and lie about the benifits

Sex and sexual activities as a form of initiation are of course perfectly legitimate pathway to gnosis but it is one that is open to misunderstanding and abuse. If the issue is misrepresented or coercion used by one group then the actions of other groups can be called into question. This can be problematic for legitimate working groups and this is why consent is so important as a conversation.
Sexual initiation isn’t the only form of initiation. It may the only route in a particular traditions but if someone is uncomfortable with the idea then that stream really isn’t for them. A responsible group will guide the seeker to a path which is better a better fit for the individual, not pressure someone into an act they are not comfortable with. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case and many find themselves being tricked into giving consent.
I also included an option around being lied to about the benefits of the tea. Frankly put, not everyone offering sex-based initiation are actually offering any form of initiation at all. It is simply smoke and mirrors designed to trick people into consenting to one act or another either expressly or by implication (by which I mean sending sexy photos, agreeing to meet for the purposes of sex or engaging in naughty chat).

Note for clarity – evidence of implied consent doesn’t make a crime less real or damaging but it does make it harder to prosecute. One of the reasons to really shout about consent and make it a topic for discussion is to make sure that the reality of implied consent is firmly in the mind of everyone.

Enter Mr Lady Gardens again. He offered a spiritual awakening through sexual initiation. He did have a working coven, nor was he even attempting to build one, but he was claiming that sex with him would lead a great spiritual awakening. Now I didn’t have sex with the guy but I’m pretty sure he was fibbing in an effort to get vulnerable women in a position where they were even more vulnerable.

People like Mr Lady Gardens are unfortunately common, particularly on social media, and they aren’t always so blatant. Predators are not easy to spot and it is all too easy to get tricked into implying consent which is one reason to be self-aware and maintain a healthy level of scepticism when connecting with people over social media.

Closing Musings

As I said above, people get upset when the ‘smaller’ issues of kinship and hugging are brought up as part of a consent discussion, or even at all in some cases. I’ve put that in bunny ears because I don’t view them as small, I view them as the start. Ignoring the relationship these things have with consent is the point at which we start to undermine all the efforts to build a working consent culture not only within paganism but within society as a whole.
Rape is the ultimate betrayal of consent but by continuing we normalise the ‘small’ things; the little breaches which may be more thoughtless rather than malicious, we not only send messages to people about the behaviour they can or can’t engage in we also indicate what people are expected to accept in their day to day lives. We also establish moving goalposts for boundaries for any issue which is touched by consent culture when really we should be should be establishing a very clear culture of option D. Ask first, don’t assume.

Posted in Musings, Rant, Uncategorized, Witchcraft | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments