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Monday, March 30, 2015

Witches and Community | Mystic Cauldron Blog

My friend draiga has a new blog post at her very excellent Mystic Cauldron blog on "village witches." And in a moment of synchronicity, I have been thinking on this very perspective the past few days; of what it means to think of oneself as a "witch" and connection with others in that context.

Witches and Community | Mystic Cauldron Blog: To understand the small town witch, I can’t help but notice that the Conjure and Hoodoo community work in very similar ways to the old village witch. They too, will do “work” for members of their local community and are paid for
their services. When I was living in the South, a friend of mine came from a family of witchy practitioners. But they would never call what they did “witchcraft”. They were good Christian folk, and just did what they did. It was just a family tradition. If a neighbor needed help with certain matters, they would come to her family. And there were matters that her family didn’t handle, but another local woman did. So when her family felt hexed, for instance, they would go get Miss Amy, (as an example) because Miss Amy knew how to handle it, and get their luck back.

I like seeing that people are rediscovering their role as village witches. There will always be those who remain incognito in their general community for various reasons, but it’s nice that some are now making themselves available to the general public. When people call on a witch to help them, it is usually their last resort. They feel the only thing left is magic or a miracle, and they’re hoping the witch can make that happen for them. (draiga, at Mystic Cauldron)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

From The Wild Hunt: article on coming out as pagan in the workplace

From Manny Tejeda-Moreno, at The Wild Hunt, on workplace "micro-aggressions" in the workplace towards pagan co-workers.
Column: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace | The Wild Hunt: For me, this raised questions about the experiences of Pagans in the workplace. Pagans are, essentially a rarer find in the social fabric of faith where the most common thread is Christian. In other words, when an individual says “I’m Christian” in the United States, most people think some variant of “you and 260 million other Americans.” With less common faiths, such as Judaism, individuals may be marked by stereotypes, but are also recognized as present in the mainline religious experiences. However,if someone says “I’m a witch,” most people – almost exclusively those unfamiliar with Paganism — are just left with Halloween imagery or TV episodes as a way of understanding the statement. That left me with questions about the kind of discrimination potential that could occur when someone discloses their Pagan faith. In other words, what happens when someone’s actual identity collides with the identity society expects us to have? (Manny Tejeda-Moreno, The Wild Hunt)
Micro-aggressions is a term social scientist Tejeda-Moreno used in the article. It's like teeny moments of passive-aggressiveness. A few years ago, at work, a co-worker "teased" me about being a "crystal cruncher." I took it with good humor and never made a thing about it, but this comment was uttered often, in front of others. (Can you imagine calling someone a "crucifix cruncher" or some such?) Those comments about my being a "crystal cruncher" were forms of micro-aggressions. Those of us open about our pagan and/or witchy ways expect such responses, I suppose, but then again, we are always faced with the issue of hiding vs. coming out. It's something each of us need to decide for ourselves. For myself, I am who I am and find myself very unhappy trying to suppress myself. That's just me however. I would never tell anyone to come out, or, not.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fortean Card: Spring Heeled Jack; Steampunk Tarot

Unexpected birthday gift: Steampunk Tarot: Wisdom from the Gods of the Machine, designed by John and Caitlin Matthews. I haven't explored this deck yet, but this card did get my attention: Springheeled Jack. As any Fortean knows, Spring-Heeled Jack is a mysterious -- and quite steampunkian -- figure. Spring-Heeled Jack was a real person, or entity, (we don't know if he was human or not) that terrorized London in the 1800s:

In January 1838, the Lord Mayor, Sir John Cowan, drew public attention to a letter he had received from a resident of Peckham giving details of an attack by the so-called "Spring-Heeled Jack." This public acknowledgement of the rumors by the Lord Mayor immediately led to a flood of letters from individuals who had been too frightened and embarrassed to report their own encounters previously.
        On a February night of the same year, Jane Alsop, who lived with her father and two sisters, was assaulted by a devilish -- some say alien -- being who spat blue and white flames at her and scratched and tore at her with iron claws, only to leap away into the darkness when one of her sisters called for help. Less than a month later, Lucy Scales and her sister met Jack as they walked home through Green Dragon Alley in Limehouse. A tall, cloaked figure leaped from the shadows and belched blue flames into Lucy’s face, blinding her and causing her to collapse. As her sister attempted to help, the cloaked figure walked quietly away. (From Anomaly Info.com)

Sightings continued for decades afterwards. There is an interesting related phenomea that occurred in the U.S. in the 1940s: The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Illinois:

The oft told tale of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon — also known as the “Mad Anesthetic” — began (aptly enough) in the small town of Mattoon, Illinois in 1944. Between the dates of August 31st and September 13th, a thin, black clad assailant would spread a reign of terror with a series of unprovoked and invasive “gas attacks.” Although police and FBI agents attempted to dismiss the whole thing as a classic case of mass hysteria, the evidence supports the reality that during those weeks in 1944, an unidentified person (or persons) managed to infiltrate the homes of local citizenry with an unknown gaseous substance, which rendered — through means as yet unidentified — the occupants incapacitated or violently ill. (Rob Morphy, Mysterious Universe)

The Spring -Heeled Jack card in this deck is the Major Arcana "Death" card. Not representing literal death but transformations, changes. Although at first glance this could also represent the Devil card, however, I haven't seen the Devil card in this deck yet.

As to the usefulness of this deck, to each their own. I have no opinion yet since I haven't worked with the deck. I'm engaged in a debate with my dear one concerning "being arbitrary" and "playing around with symbols." That's a whole other issue though! What do we think of creating new decks with new symbols to stand in for more traditional ones, new contexts and designs, etc? More on this in a future post.