Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The "Witches and Wicked Bodies" exhibition and thoughts on how the witch's body depicted in art, how that affects persecution and feeds into the popular imagination

'Before vampires swooped into popular culture and satiated our appetite for sexualized supernatural characters, there was a time when witches, witchcraft and general feminine maleficium held a prominent place in our hearts...'

So starts the article as published via the Huffington Post very recently.  How do we view women and femininity through the witch as a seductress or hag, so tied to her body and how it expresses her?  Why are the most raw and wild aspects of femininity expressed through the female witch's form & clothing?  Is there more to it than just the "bad girl" image, or is it a part of our collective unconscious that celebrates woman being wild and free?  Is she anarchy on a broomstick or just the woman that everyone wants to roam free but may not feel comfortable coming out of the broom closet...  Or just loving her body?

Witches both male and female are taught to honor the earth, their own cycles which tie in with those of the universe and to adore their body as a representation of the divine.  In embracing our nature in its purest form that make us great role models as feminists and for showing others the power of having full confidence in how your body expresses itself and being in tune with your body's needs.  If we feel comfortable in either a solitary ritual or with our coven, we go skyclad, meaning to be clad only by the sky, or in layman's terms: naked.

I will, however, lean towards the stereotype that all witches are women - purely because the majority of depictions of witches in art feature women.

That natural self expression in the face of 'civilised' society as we know it is seen as 'wild' and thus is misinterpreted as an act of exhibitionism with the aim to seduce.  And yet on the other end of the spectrum we have the aged hag and nothing inbetween: these images rarely depict a women of middle age.  Rarely do these stereotypical images of witches feature their own children or the daily activities which make up our spiritual lives and thus the witch is generally depicted as a lone wolf and renegade wench with no family of her own with an insatiable desire for sex or death...  

Or are they society's 'punishments' for taking that path portrayed via the olde version of the media: art?  Are those facets seen in art the qualities those of a women who has been shunned from society: no family, no friends, no regard for the moral fibre of others which all result from her being a "slut" because she is proud of her body and proud of her divine and natural self?  Is that where the stereotypes of the witch really stem from as we see her develop from a beautiful young seductress but never see the years inbetween as a woman on her path?  At one point she was a harlot with a beautiful plump body and the next she's depicted 50 years later missing one eye and cackling.

You'll notice that I went from talking about the divine body to the slut in a very short space of time.  What I wonder is: is the label of "slut" only handed down to witches because of the 'new' standards that Christianity brought to society?  Was the control over the seductress a way to aid people towards the new religion by punishing those who dare express their sexuality openly by controlling society using guilt and the image of the lone witch, forever alone to ward off women from expressing their true wild nature?  If we hate the slut so much and are scared of the old wild hag, then why are we fascinated with her?  Is she so removed from reality and into the popular imagination that she's now a novelty for our entertainment?...  It would seem so.

It is the belief of many that the fashion in which the witch has been depicted over the last 500 years has taken her away from being the healer, the seer, midwife and comfort of a community to someone to be afraid of, to despise for being a "slut" who leads people to ruin and for being the killer of children, crops and fortune.  We once lived in communities who were in touch with their wild side via and thanks to the local witches and shamans who opened doors for people.

Everybody is a sexual being - of all ages and of each gender, just at various stages of their personal development and sexuality.  

Our contemporary practice of honouring the earth as we do ourselves, of loving our bodies and expressing the Divine through our form and clothing makes us role models for all men and women who need to reconnect. 

We reconnect through dance, exercise, meditation, prana, asana, eating good food, feeling the strength in our bodies, being skyclad in ritual and absorbing the elements at different times of the year, rather than running and hiding from it.  We use the body during ritual as a vessel or conduit for the divine to channel through with dancing, meditation, Sufi drum breath, chakra tones, trance, dreams, astral travel and many other techniques to help us raise energy and access the Divine. As the Buddhists engage with mindfulness, we engage with all of nature and the Web of Wyrd through our bodies. 

As witches, we should be proud of that and truly own the healthy and rewarding path that we walk today.

Blessed Be,

)O( Elspeth.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review of Promethea

Level of reading: I would suggest having three years of reading and experience under your belt before approaching you, but don't let me dictate you from not reading this series as soon as possible!

Promethea is a comic book series for the lover of magick and all things mythological and arcane.  Created from 1999 to 2005 by Alan Moore, J.H Williams III and Mick Gray I was glad to have the entire series available at my whim to soar straight through because there is no way that I could have waited for any length of time to see the whole series through as they were produced.

The artwork is so varied and detailed as well as being perfectly paced and laid out for the reader to interpret - there is never a dull moment!

Promethea takes you through the magickal journey of Sophie Bangs - an average American girl  living in a futuristic world who writes poetry which sees her enter into magickal realms and experiences.  The more that Sophie Bangs writes, the more she realises that she is tied into her heroic role as Promethea who must steer mankind in the right direction.  Throughout the book you are taught about aspects of the occult, tarot and how the tarot links in with the Hermetic Qabbalah as she walks the Qabbalistic Tree of Life.  It certainly helps to already know of characters from the real world such as Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or John Dee but it isn't vital.

This is an incredible series for anyone wanting to learn more about the Qabbalah from scratch as I personally found it hard to pick up like any other form of magick - the Qabbalistic Tree of Life is very complex!  I found that from here I was able to merge so many of the things that I had learnt throughout my magickal journey through the art of the comic book, which as Moore notes is the best way to learn and retain information..

I can safely say that Promethea is an incredible philosophical and magical learning experience, combining so many years of my own reading and training into five comics which aesthetically and theoretically blew me away.  This comic series only added to my learning and has provided me with great respect for Hermetic Qabbalah.  For your own information, the Hermetic Qabbalah  *"is the underlying philosophy and framework for magical societies such as the Golden DawnThelemic orders, mystical-religious societies such as the Builders of the Adytum and theFellowship of the Rosy Cross, and is a precursor to the NeopaganWiccan and New Age movements. The Hermetic Qabalah is the basis for Qliphothic Qabala as studied by left hand path orders, such as the Typhonian Order."

Apparently its writer Alan Moore - a ceremonial magician, had been criticised for pushing his own religious believes, though I think this is really a series for anyone - but certainly more for those who love magick.

A must read and well worth owning your own hardcopy of.

*Source: Wikipedia

First image from Pink Ray Gun
Second image from Elephant Eater

Friday, February 8, 2013

Intentions set at Lughnasadh

I realise this is a week late for those in the southern hemisphere, but it could be a good reminder for you given that it's only less than one week!  I'm also only just celebrating Lughnasadh with sisters today and wanted to share this with everyone.

The Goddess gives birth to the child conceived at Beltane: the dark God and the death of the Holly God hail the beginning of the sun's waning path. The harvest is collected for the winter, manifested as we share our personal harvest of the last year: our successes and proud achievements.
This is the first harvest of the year, which now is represented by a psychological and practical harvest of the past year’s achievements.  As the sun wanes and ‘sets’ towards Yule, we seek to ‘set’ patterns for the winter months.  The collection of our successes, achievements and recognition of our abilities is beautifully represented in this story of Lugh:

As a young man Lugh travels to Tara to join the court of king Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper will not let him in unless he has a skill with which to serve the king. He offers his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman, but each time is rejected as the Tuatha Dé Danann already have someone with that skill. But when Lugh asks if they have anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper has to admit defeat, and Lugh joins the court and is appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé Danann are at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh is amazed how meekly they accept this. Nuada wonders if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lugh is given command over the Tuatha Dé Danann, and he begins making preparations for war.

From this story we can see the empowerment of seeing our strengths and the year’s achievements in front of us – to prepare for the rest of the year and perhaps in the sense of war ‘fight to keep our rights’ and to also focus on what this new moon represents for us as an esbat which focuses on independence, originality, progressive ideas, reformation, universal love, inventiveness, heightened perception, resourcefulness and individualism.  Just as Lugh approached the doorkeeper with individual skills, combine yours & the year’s past achievements to pass the doorkeeper that is in your mind which may hold you back.  The new moon is a time to restart and set new intentions, so with what skills and strengths you have – push them forward and celebrate those who have helped you to achieve these milestones.  This ritual looks at setting those skills and strengths of the last year in place to move forward.  This is the time to ignite your torch of inspiration for winter.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Waxing moon: time to make a vision board!

A beautiful idea that a friend of mine introduced to me recently was the vision board.  A vision board is  a great way to put your subconscious desires down onto a piece of card to hang above your altar or even at work (if you can get away with having a small one!).

A few months ago I was feeling really flat and a great friend of mine said that I needed to produce myself a vision board to set my goals and intentions and clearly see my heart's desire in front of me.  She grabbed a pile of magazines, pens and newspapers and we sat for ages talking, pasting and writing all over our vision boards without any conscious thought going into the process - like automatic writing.

Now that I've achieved all of the goals that I had down on my first vision board I'm now onto my second one following the new moon and into the waxing moon where intentions can be set alight and developed.

I can't recommend it enough.  I paste mine above my altar so that I can meditate on my goals and see where I have set myself for the future - which literally with pictures and powerful words to guide me.  These vision boards help to guide my workings in both low and high magick, so get started!

)O( Elspeth.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eco tip of the week: snap lock bags for your food storage

It sounds simple, right?  All you need do is buy a 50 pack of snap lock plastic food bags which you can clean out after each use.  You can freeze portions of food, including bread, store refridgerated items and separate your lunch box goods using them.  You'll find many different ways to use them.  Keep the rubber bands from your vegetables to tie them up that little bit tighter if you need to compact the plastic down before sealing the ends.

Image via Burnt Muffin

Some very wise words from a wise sister

I don't often put this kind of thing on here, but I couldn't resist sharing this one!  I've been meaning to write more on here and now that I've given up reviewing for the arts I can really dedicate more time to this blog, its interviews and more eco advice sections for readers.

And now to the lovely words of wisdom from Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland , Ohio.

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 42 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short – enjoy it..

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.

9. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

10. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

11. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

12. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

13. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it...

14 Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

15. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

16. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

17. It's never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

18. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

19. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

20. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

21. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

22. The most important sex organ is the brain.

23. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

24. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

25. Always choose life.

26. Forgive but don’t forget.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does..

31. Believe in miracles.

32. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

33. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

34. Your children get only one childhood.

35. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

36. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

37. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

38. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have not what you need.

39. The best is yet to come...

40. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

41. Yield.

42. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."