Saturday, 9 April 2011

Witchy Lessons Found in Fiction

Well readers, yes I mean all 3 of you, I've decided to start a new series.

The History:
I love fiction, always have. When I was about 7 years old, the last hour of my homeschooled day was divided between "Reading" and "Afrikaans". I hated Afrikaans so I would do anything I could to prolong the time I spent on Reading as it would mean less time spent trying to pronounce the word "groen". The book I was reading - 'Alice in Wonderland'. It was the first book I ever read cover to cover. You don't really get cooler than that.

For most of my childhood, I spent my Friday afternoons in the Library. My parents would drop me off there for a few hours to browse while they did their grocery shopping as it was right next to the store. This installed two things in me: a Fear of Librarians and a Love of Books. I would spend hours choosing the books I'd take home with me for the week. I didn't pay attention to the names of the author but I did have a fetish for all fantasy stories. Hell, anyone raised wishing she could find a way into Wonderland or Narnia would. I loved magic, and I loved characters who could do magic.

When I was 13 my Dad broke his leg while we were on a trip to England. (We live in South Africa.) The result was that we'd have to stay in England another week. The lady we were staying with offered to allow me to get a few books out on her library card. I picked up a Terry Pratchett book for the first time. I selected "Guards! Guards!" because it had a dragon on the cover, and, as all 13 year olds know, dragons are cool. I wasn't really all that keen on reading it. The lady who had first told me about Terry Pratchett told me the basic plot line of Reaper Man. I was horrified. A book about Death? That's so gross. Also, the covers were ugly. (I love those old Josh Kirby covers now - if they weren't so gaudy I would never have recognized the Terry Pratchett section in that English library.) Still, she really did claim this author she liked was brilliant and I was stuck in England for a week so I figured I'd give it a go.

Well, that was it. Today, I identify as a Discordian Humanist which is, I reckon, about as Pratchett influenced as a person can be. If I told you the fictional works I've spent my life reading have not shaped my entire worldview on everything from magic to religion, I would be lying. From Shakespeare to Dickens to Pratchett to Rowling, I expect every work of fiction I read to do a lot more than tell me a good story. I expect it to make me think. I expect an author to be a philosopher who is trying to get a message out into the world. It could be Shakespeare trying to teach the world about all the greys that exist between black and white, Dickens trying to get people to realize the terrible ways children were treated or Mark Twain trying to get the world to see that they were enslaving human beings. Those who write fictional works (and movies are included here) are our teachers, influences and guides whether we realize it or not. Of course, sometimes the author's view is bollocks, or they say something I disagree with. In this case, I'm still made to think, as I really have to figure out why exactly I don't agree with them.

Personally I think people underestimate the powers and importance of fiction.

The Concept:
I started researching witchcraft from the age of about 12 or 13, and over the years I've read a good many non-fiction books on the subject. To be honest, the fictional stories I was raised with shaped my views on magic and witchcraft long before I even read my first Wiccan author. Maybe that's why I never became a Wiccan. Either way, to this day some of the most important lessons I learned about magic came from stories.

So why not share that? 

Starting today, I'm going back and working through all the various sources I can to bring you this series: Witchy Lessons Found in Fiction. I will be taking books and movies and highlighting the important lessons I gained from these sources. Terry Pratchett is going to feature a lot, but so will many other authors and even some movies. Since I am still reading the first book I want to talk about (Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett - yes, I'm about to work my way through every one of the "witch" books of the Discworld series) the first actual post in this series (besides this introduction post) is going to be about a movie / tv miniseries from 1998 named Merlin. If you haven't watched it yet, oh my god please do, even if it's just to see Sam Neill as Merlin and Helena Bonham Carter as Morgan Le Fey.

You will not regret it.

Much love..

Aiko Kasumi

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

What's In a Name? Witches, Warlocks and Christian Day

Having thought things over since the interview I spoke about here, I've come to the following conclusions:

1) Non-Pagans tend to think all Pagans and Witches are crazy freaks. 
It doesn't matter how much you dress up in a business suit. If you believe in magic and believe you can cast successful spells, the majority of people out there are probably going to think you're a crazy person who needs a reality check. Christian Day didn't make Pagans look any more "freakish", so stop whining about his image. If you think a mainstream image would make any witches or magic practitioners seem less insane to the general public, you're in denial.

2) I really only disagree with Christian Day on one point: I don't believe a serious binding ritual was justified.
At the same time, Christian seems to feel very, very strongly about the accepted use of the word "Warlock". If I felt as strongly, I may have done the same, either because I really did dislike Charlie Sheen's use of the word, or because the media attention a binding received was just plain worth it as far as getting my message out there went. Either way, while I don't agree with the act of binding Sheen, I can understand the motivation behind it.

3) Charlie Sheen Aside, Day Has a Point.
I've said this before, but Christian Day's point about the use of the word "warlock" is incredibly valid. I'm surprised anyone has issue with that. The dictionary definition of "witch" has been something to the effect of "evil, devil-worshiping woman" for centuries, and we're completely ok with using this word purely because someone added the disclaimer of  "no we're not", but we're not ok with the word "warlock" because it has bad connotations? Really? Has anyone who's gotten all fired up about this issue even thought about it for half a second?

Much love..

Aiko Kasumi

Wheel of the Year: Do the Stuff Challenge

I've been thinking about Sabbats lately.

I am not Wiccan. I do not even really consider myself Pagan, as to me that is a word that refers to a religious or spiritual path. (I can see I'm going to have to think about this a little more though.) Somehow I feel I should not celebrate the Sabbats. I may be entirely wrong, but as far as I know the current 8 Sabbat Wheel of the Year is purely Wiccan in origin. Either way, the Sabbats seem to be very religious days. The death of The God is celebrated, or the coming together of the God and Goddess. Persephone's descent into Hades may be recalled, or the fight between the Holly and Oak Kings. While I might very much enjoy a good and appropriate myth, offerings to any gods will never be a feature in my practice. I don't feel a connection with deities. I acknowledge their existence, but I don't worship them, honour them, request their guidance or anything else. This doesn't mean I don't respect them. I tend to like them; they're just not a focus in my life. I've been leaning towards the feeling that celebrating Sabbats would be pointless and even possibly offensive to those these holidays have deep spiritual meaning for.

At the exact same time, I have been feeling a crazy, intense desire to start celebrating the Sabbats again, or at least some of them. Unlike a lot of people, I love every season of the year, but I feel a little different during each season. Seasonal changes are a big deal to me. When I celebrated the Wheel of the Year years ago I loved every Sabbat. Having just had one of the most perfect summery summers of my life, the change of season that's happening now took me by surprise and, for a brief moment, saddened me. It's kinda hard to let go of the summer, but there's been a lot of changes in my life... a hell of a lot of changes. All this was happening in the back of my mind when I noticed Fire Lyte's blog post, "Do The Stuff Challenge: Ostara". I wanted to join in the challenge instantly! It was a cold day outside, and I was feeling the season change more than ever, so I decided to at least look at the various things Mabon symbolizes. (Southern Hemisphere - Mabon just passed here) Ideas for a late Mabon ritual started forming almost as soon as I started looking for information. Even the meanings of Mabon and the things we are meant to celebrate fitted where I am in my path right now. Sure the day itself had passed already, but the weather and actual evidence of seasonal change matters a lot more to me than the actual date of the Wiccan Sabbat when I'm considering a celebration rooted in the change of seasons.

Still, how do I get past the problems I mentioned already? I guess it comes down to what's most important to me. Practices that matter to me or practices that matter to other people? I feel Gardner made up the Wheel of the Year as it is now. Is my choice to follow it (albeit vaguely and according to what works for me rather than strictly) any more ridiculous and illogical than Gardner's?
"Well, yes. You don't worship the God and the Goddess. You don't worship any deity. Altar decorations? You don't have an altar. What are you going to do on a Sabbat? It's a sacred day. A holy day."
This has got me really thinking about spirituality, religion, and myself.

People do tend to think "non-religious" means "uncaring soulless bugger". Well, I am ginger (of the strawberry blonde variety) so I don't have a soul. That aside, humanism just means so much more to me than any religious path ever had.

I've heard the following phrase over and over again. "All religions are basically the same. All teach the same basic things. Be a good person. Be good to your fellow man."  I suddenly realized I disagree. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on religion, but from what I can tell, the number one priority in any religion is the god / goddess / animal / ancestor / meatball / eggplant involved.

Theoretically this worship, love and glorification for said god / goddess / animal / ancestor / meatball / eggplant creates a love for one's fellow man that wouldn't exist without the presence of that deity in your life, and there's certainly rules that generally request humans treat each other with common decency, but, (based on my mediocre knowledge and understanding) this seems to be a slightly less important duty than glorifying your deity is in most of the largest religions.

Either way, in my philosophy humans take priority over everything else. Gods really don't matter to me, but people do. Does this mean I can't celebrate the Sabbats? No. It just mean I might celebrate them a little differently. It means my Sabbats are a time for me to focus on the cycles of nature, my position in nature, and other people. 

So here I am, taking on my own "Do the Stuff Challenge". My resolutions:
  • I will celebrate every Sabbat for the next 6 months
  • I will mold each celebration to reflect and reinforce my dedication to humanism and witchcraft. 
  • I'll blog about each one explaining how I've chosen to do this.  
My reasons to do this:

  • I'm only just beginning to understand and fully explore my own beliefs. This will help me to do that.
  • I need a way to keep on my witchy path, and this is the perfect way to go about it. 
  • I love a challenge. 

 Ready, steady, here I go. Much love...

Aiko Kasumi

Project Pagan Enough - An Update

If you haven't read my original post, it's over here.

Coincidentally, Fire Lyte, the founder of this project, posted an update on Project Pagan Enough the day after I joined it. His post, "Project Pagan Enough: 2011 Edition" can be found on his blog here. This and the reactions to my post on Witchbook got me thinking.

My previous post points out some of the flaws and problems I've come across in the Pagan community. Rereading it I realized it makes it sound like all Pagans I've ever met are whackjobs.

This isn't true. There have been some horrible incidents, but there are some good, decent Pagans in my area too. 

I'm not so sure my choice of going completely solitary was ever a solution. The South African Pagan community is still relatively small and relatively new, especially compared to America. There's going to be some growing pains, but if everyone like me, like Fire Lyte and like some of the other people I've met go completely solitary and refuse to interact with other Pagans, there'd be no such thing as PPE. By joining PPE, I've had to reexamine my own prejudices. I consider myself quite liberal minded, so spotting some of my own prejudices came as quite a shock.

The honest truth? I've written off some people in my area because I've assumed I'll never really fit in with them and get on with them.

Here's my challenge to myself. While I don't see myself turning into a "coven witch", as solitary practice is just that much more natural and powerful for me, I'm getting back involved.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Project Pagan Enough

Well, here's my story. I first started exploring witchcraft as a teenager. I practiced as a solitary inconsistently - ie, whenever I got a chance to and wasn't interrupted by my Christian parents who, of course, had a rule against devil-worshiping-baby-killing-rituals in the house. My witchy dream was that I would one day join an actual real coven.

I grew up, moved out and joined a coven. Enter shattered witchy dream. I started getting the following impressions on what you must be to be a witch:

To be a Witch, you must hate all Christians.
Every coven meeting seemed, to me, to consist of talking about how absolutely evil all Christians everywhere are. Considering my Christian parents, family and friends, I felt more and more uneasy about constantly being around people who appeared to want to see all Christians mutilated slowly. Occasionally they really would make a complete and absolute bullshit statement about Christianity. I found out that way how fast I could become quite disliked by everyone by trying to argue the Christian side. I do, in fact, fully remember being surrounded by a group of women who had by this time all actually started yelling at me, one in particular was screaming in my face. I found internet forums were the same. Woe betide you if you feel Christianity is actually quite a beautiful and misunderstood religion. Heaven forbid you don't want to see all Christians torn apart by lions. 

To be a Witch, you must eat bullshit.
I wasn't popular in my first coven. Even when the big C didn't come up, I had a horrible tendency of suggesting Wicca isn't actually ten million years old, that green is just as good a colour as brown to represent the element Earth, that there's no such thing as "white magic" or "black magic", that "Mists of Avalon" isn't actually a perfectly historical account of what happened and other such petty matters. I also didn't believe the lady who claimed to be the reincarnated Morgan Le Fey. This is when I discovered something that shocked me. Witches and Pagans don't necessarily think outside the box. There are many who believe whatever they're told or whatever they read. I actually had to educate my own freaking coven about how the Sabbats change in the Southern Hemisphere. I came to realize many Wiccans and Pagans are even worse at eating bullshit than the Christians they so often point fingers at and laugh about.

To be a Witch, you must weigh 300kg, only wear black velvet and never, ever wear make up.
Most of my female friends do a lot of modelling shoots and I've only just started moving my lazy butt into exercise so I won't call myself the thinnest thing out there. I'm also not the girliest girl in the world and I've always preferred reading and internet to things like manicures. At some Pagan gatherings, you'd think I was Barbie. When I started realizing I was thought a bit of a bimbo because I wore colour, cute clothes and make up to a ritual, I couldn't stop laughing. (Just to add, if you do weigh 300kg, only wear black velvet and never, ever wear make-up and that's how you like to look, there's nothing wrong with that. It just doesn't make you more of a witch than me.)

To be a Witch, you must Gossip.
This High Priestess hates that High Priestess and that High Priestess hates this High Priestess but you won't believe what that High Priestess said and what this High Priestess is doing with that High Priest and she performed this ritual with and this witch used to like and respect that High Priestess but now she doesn't because of the spell that High Priestess did and the energy this witch felt and oh my god you wouldn't believe it Jesus Fucking Christ I don't CARE!

To be a Coven, you must be completely indistinguishable from a Woman's Bible Study group.
I've been to both, and I got the fuck out of both.

The "Pagan community" disillusioned me big time for many, many years. It was a shock to my system to realize Pagans are just a bitchy, cliquish, gossipy and judgmental as Christians. I've wound up actively avoiding it, except online where one can switch off one's involvement without giving it a second thought.

Started by Fire Lyte of Inciting a Riot, "Project Pagan Enough" is defined on his site as:
"A movement to encourage pagans, and those of like mind, to react with kindness, intelligence, and poise in situations involving religion, practice, dogma, etc."
In other words, it's a movement to treat all fellow Pagans, fat and thin, gothic and colourful, intelligent and... less intelligent, serious and fluffy, clean and hippie, etc with respect, kindness and grace. It's a movement that says no to prejudices and cliques and one where we actively accept each other despite our differences. It's a movement where we discuss and debate our differences and learn about each other's beliefs rather than just dismiss them because we don't like the look of each other. Another quote from the original post:
"Get to know the other person and their reasoning for saying or believing as they do. Educate both yourself and the other person in a respectful manner."
It's a project that reminds me to search myself for my own prejudices and destroy them, such as the prejudice I had begun to develop against Pagans. It's a project that reminded me and challenged me to listen to Fire Lyte's interview with Christian Day with an open mind. 

It's also a project that encourages a more open-minded approach towards other religions.
"We should acknowledge the religion itself as yet another path to the divine. We should also not lay blame on all members of that faith for the actions of a few fringe members. Every faith, including Paganism, has its share of those that do harm in the name of that faith."
I am officially joining Project Pagan Enough, and as such, I am asked to promise the following.
You are Pagan Enough, because you try fervently to explore what it means to be pagan and apply it to your life, despite your physical appearance, personal tastes, level of experience, or other factor that others might use to say you are not pagan.
I don't really claim to be "Pagan" as personally I still view that as a spiritual or religious path, but since I'm a witch, I believe in the existence of all the gods and I make a large part of my life about connecting to the cycles on nature, I think I'm just "Pagan enough" to be part of the community and to join this project. (Admittedly I don't own Practical Magic so I might not be Pagan Enough after all ^_^)

You recognize others are Pagan Enough despite how they may look, act, or believe, as long as that person feels they are fervently seeking the divine on a pagan path.
I recognize this.

You attempt to debate those that have opposing viewpoints, learning from one another despite how passionate the debate becomes, instead of simply writing others off for not being up to your standard of ‘pagan’.
I vow this.

You welcome, befriend, and encourage others in the pagan community despite their physical appearance, level of experience, age, or other physical or superficial characteristic.
I shall do this.

You promise to treat members of other religions and spiritual paths with equality, fairness, and grace, setting a good example for the Pagan community both in and out of the community, not judging the individuals based on fringe members of their same faith
I promise this.

If you haven't joined Project Pagan Enough yet, do it! Do it now!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Inciting Christian Day's Riot - My Reaction

It's hard to describe how excited I was to hear Fire Lyte was going to be interviewing Christian Day in his latest episode of Inciting a Riot. If you haven't listened to the episode yourself, go do it before reading this post, as this post is about my thoughts on this specific interview. You can find it here.

If you're like me, you won't recognize the name "Christian Day" instantly, but if I mention "that warlock that got all offended at Charlie Sheen" - then you will know exactly who I'm talking about.

When I first saw the news story about Christian Day, I thought it was a spoof story from the Onion. I saw it posted on a forum, and I even sneered inwardly at the stupidity of the poster who'd taken what I felt was clearly a joke seriously. After I realized it was a legitimate news story, I thought maybe Christian Day was someone purposefully putting on a show to make Pagans look ridiculous. It took me some time to realize this guy was serious.

That realization made me choke a little, mostly in between laughs. I couldn't believe there are people so blatantly ridiculous out there. Christian Day surely must realize this is the impression he's given possibly the majority of people: That he's either a joke, or as crazy as (if not more so) Charlie Sheen himself. (Hell, a lot of people will say at least Charlie Sheen 'wins' while Christian Day's binding spell clearly failed.)

Many people, including me, expected Fire Lyte to completely rip Christian Day apart in this highly anticipated episode and, if Fire Lyte's twitter feed is anything to go by, a lot of people are disappointed that he didn't. I'll admit, I would have loved that too, partly because.. well.. can you think of anything more entertaining? And partly because I feel it would be a great episode to play to those who still think all Pagans are stupid. What could be better than hearing a highly intelligent and brilliant Pagan tear apart a "freak" everyone knows from the Charlie Sheen story? The more I listened to the episode, however, the happier I was with the approach Fire Lyte took. He did, in fact, do something that is very typical of Fire Lyte and seem to take the attitude of, "We're not going to dismiss you just because you're 'weird'. We're going to listen to what you have to say, challenge your points and decide from there. We will hear you out fairly." This attitude towards other people and beliefs is one of the reasons I love Fire Lyte's show so much, so this episode is another win for me. Also, it got me thinking about something I probably wouldn't have bothered to consider, and did change my perception of Christian Day a little. I may have originally thought of him as a stupid, sensitive freak who takes himself waaaay too seriously. Now I'm more inclined to think he's fairly intelligent and in some ways I'll even concede to him having a few good points, but I don't believe he's altogether honest and I do believe he's a peacock and an exhibitionist.

Day seems to quite cheerfully admit to seeing the opportunity for publicity and taking advantage of that. Here, I can't fault him. It did work. He is absolutely in the public eye and, while a lot of people definitely write him off as an idiot and a crazy person, there's probably a lot more people willing to listen to what he has to say that there was before. He insists he hasn't purposefully put on a show for the media at all, and claims he's being who he is. Here I can understand his point and concede the truth to it in some ways, but in others I think he's full of it. While his choice of clothing and ritual tools are probably just who he is, (as almost all of us magic practitioners wear and use whatever it takes to get us into a witchy enough mood to cast a spell, even if that means a pointed hat and Nimbus 2000), I don't believe some of the claims he's making about his surprise at the publicity he's received. Day sounds like he's big on getting up peoples' noses and into their faces to shock a reaction. I can sympathize with him slightly here. I used to wear a pentagram simply to get a reaction out of people. Once I had that reaction I would greatly enjoy educating that person by explaining the history and various meanings behind a pentagram. Other times I've been guilty of wearing over-the-top clothing, again for that reaction. I eventually kinda grew out of this habit, but I still enjoy challenging people out of their comfort zone - I'm just not as abrasive about it. Day is definitely very abrasive about it. He sounds like there is absolutely nothing in this world that will cause him to sugarcoat anything about himself, his views or his path. I will admit, I can respect it. I think he's a bit of an asshole sometimes, but I can respect his unwillingness to cater to people with already very closed minds.

With that being said, there is no way you can tell me Day's decision to perform a public binding ritual was anything other than purposeful attention seeking. Day, being someone who I really think enjoys shocking people, knows exactly what will shock people by now. I find it hard to believe his choice to publicly perform a ritual straight out of The Craft was motivated by his concern for Charlie Sheen, or out of any real concern at the use of the word "warlock". I do personally believe he chose to add the ritual to his objections simply to completely ensure public focus would be on him, that he would become a headline. This is actually a kinder view of him, since the alternative is really that Christian Day gives a damn about Charlie Sheen's use of the word "warlock".

Before I go any further, I need to point out I do agree with Day's core point. For a long time, I've felt we should take back more words than just "witch". I think any word could have become the recognized and acceptable word used for modern magic practitioner, and that "witch" just happened to be the one chosen. I think it's good that there are movements out there to bring in more words - the gods know we could do with a few more since "witch" these days covers almost too wide a variety of practitioners. Words like Magi, Wizard, Warlock and Sorcerer are words that, to me, need to also come out of fairy tales and into modern Pagan life. I won't say we need to reclaim them, but I will say it's about time we do claim them and make them our own. I do, absolutely and one hundred percent applaud and support Day's choice to use the word "warlock". Anyone who calls themselves a witch is completely hypocritical to shun this decision, as our own word was once filled with bad associations and meant many awful things too.

With that being said, who the hell is Day to claim he's the only one who's allowed to use the word "warlock"? That's as bad as Wiccans who claim they're the only ones who are witches, and that there's no such thing as a Satanic witch. IT guys are referred to as wizards all the time and you don't see Oberon Zell-Ravenheart bitching about it. To Christian Day: Charlie Sheen has as much right to decide he likes and wants to use the word "warlock" as you do. Get over it. 

Now, I get the impression Day seems to think the commotion from the Pagan community about him mostly comes from a hatred of the word "warlock". I can't speak for others, but personally my issue with him has nothing to do with his being a "warlock", not a "witch". If anything, that's about one of the only things I like about him. Personally I just have an issue because he's a bit of an embarrassment. Sure, what he's done is probably good for himself, but it's been a step backwards for Pagans as a whole. Day seems to think the huge media attention means non-Pagan people love him. They don't. They really don't. I may not be in the Pagan community all that much, but I am absolutely a part of the non-Pagan community, and believe me, Christian Day is getting attention because he's considered that much of a joke. There aren't many non-Pagans who see Day as anything else than proof that all people who believe in magic are psychotic morons. Christian, you're the Rebecca Black of Paganism.

Still, I'll admit to one or two more things. Sometimes Day makes a good point. I found myself kinda agreeing with what he had to say about Fiona Horne, and I definitely think he's a lot more intelligent than I expected. I think Day might just achieve what he set out to do too -  at least in the Pagan community. Hell, I just listened to an entire hour of him talking, and I'll be honest, I'm even thinking of getting his book when it comes out. Day might have embarrassed us, he might have whined about the pettiest thing, but the fact is he is getting his point out there. I guess I now understand fully the answer to the first question I had when I realized he's actually really a real person: Dude, why??

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Fairy Pod Parents

I really can't blog any further without mentioning Velma Nightshade and Fire Lyte, my Fairy Pod Parents (A term coined by Fire Lyte)

It started with a podcast.

Actually, technically it started somewhere after I'd been repeatedly accused of being the satanist in Church (a common accusation when you're a 13 year old ginger girl and huge fan of Marylin Manson in the days where he was still considered the Anti-Christ) and right about around when I watched the movie "The Craft" for the first time. I'm fairly sure my interest in witchcraft dates back to then.

Possibly it dates even further back to the days when I wanted to be a wizard just like Merlin, or able to travel through worlds just like those children in Narnia.

I'm getting sidetracked, which is, in fact, exactly what happened a few years ago, awhile after learning a lot about witchcraft and a bit before losing a bit of interest. 

For the last few years, I have been very, very confused about what I believe. Often I haven't even been sure I believe in magic. I've never felt any more pull to worship the Wiccan and Pagan gods than I ever felt to worship the Christian God. As far as the craft goes, I've felt quite a bit like I've been wondering through the woods. At night. And it's raining.

Very recently I came across a podcast recommendation. Now, I've tried listening to pagan podcasts before. I suspect I just had really bad luck, because every podcast I tried sounded like one of the depressing 70s Christian radio shows my mom used to listen to when I was growing up. Those are pretty hard to describe unless you've heard them yourself, but I can at least think of one word to describe them: Sad. Very, very sad. Sad and pathetic. You worry about these poor lost souls who are comforting themselves with bad religion and worse music.You can almost smell dust and mold just from hearing them talk, and you know, in your heart, that slightly damp, mousy brown hair is the source of that smell.

Enter Velma Nightwood and her podcast, "Witches Brew Ha Ha" (click the link, you know you want to). I figured I had nothing else to listen to and needed to get the supper made, so I put her on.. and became an instant addict. She started off by making me laugh, carried on to present a question I'd never though about before (about reincarnation) and jumped straight into challenging and inspiring me - and I honestly did not expect anything more than a comfortable discussion on various Wiccan 101 topics. If we go back to that dark woods scenario, Velma was a spark of moonlight or a flash of lightning that lit up the path, which I scrambled and scampered to like a bunny on steroids.

It's amazing how one little thing can really just turn things around. I swear to any gods that are reading my blog, I have tried to get onto what I would consider a witch's path countless times before. I've tried joining Wiccan covens and schools and I've tried joining Pagan forums. I've tried to learn about Druidism and I've tried to practice Ceremonial magic. I've even tried to read Silver Ravenwolf. Something about this time, however, just feels right. Perfect. It feels like I'm on my path. The way ahead is not clear at all, but I know for a fact I'm moving in the right direction.

I'm still working my way through Velma's backlog of podcasts. There are many, and, even better, she's still going. I love her because she thinks outside the cauldron, she's not frightened of challenging her own views at all, she doesn't just recycle other authors, and, most of all, she's a practical witch with a deep love and fetish for books! Velma is, above all, a free thinker, which sometimes can be an unusual trait in the Pagan community. Velma also introduced me to the other Podcast I love: "Inciting a Riot" with Fire Lyte.

I will be honest. I avoided trying out Fire Lyte's podcast for awhile, purely because I figured it'd all be about American politics and, as a South African, I'm kinda sick to death of American politics. Of course, Fire Lyte came onto an episode with Velma and the moment I heard it I had to go give his podcast a listen. I now consider his show my ear porn. It allows me to indulge completely in my fetishes for all things intellectual, religious and philosophical. Fire Lyte keeps me fascinated, entertains me, makes me laugh, makes me think, and quite often makes me feel stupid (the man uses long words). Like Velma, he has a voice that's both pleasant and easy to listen to. 

As if these two shows weren't enough, there is a joint show, "Inciting a Brew Ha Ha", which is worth listening to for the arguments alone. The first episode of this show tackles the definition of Paganism, which should give you a clue as to what sort of people Velma and Fire Lyte are from the get go: We're not talking about cowardly Pagans who like to hide from a challenge here by a long shot.

Maybe all I needed was an example of one or two of witches I really respect, admire, and would want to aspire to. I really have seen a lot of stupidity, a lot of small-mindedness, a lot of hatred, a lot of bitterness, a lot of childishness and a lot of just plain ridiculousness in the Pagan community and, while I'm quite happy to step forward and admit to being many if not all of those things myself, I really start to worry when the Pagan leaders act like the teenage goth girls who sneer at anyone whose lipstick isn't black enough.

Velma and Fire Lyte are rational, intelligent, challenging, inspiring and practical. On top of that, they seem to be genuinely nice people who give a crap about the world and those around us. I'm kind of sad to say this is a very big contrast to what I had become used to. 

Either way, I'm definitely on a path, and while I don't have an ancient crone, a seductive witch or a wise old wizard to guide my steps...

This is so much cooler than that!

My Name Is... Magical Names and Such

I've been looking for a magical name for years. It was one of the first things I wanted when I decided I was going to be a witch. My name would be cool, epic, awesome and clearly the right name for a famous and powerful sorceress. Bwahaha! Tremble! For I am... Morgan Raven Le Fey Silvermoon! Just like all the millions of others.... Ok I'll be Griancloch instead. Except no one knows how to pronounce it without spitting and besides, I'm not certain I know exactly what it means. I'll be the Grey Gryphon. Except it sounds kinda lame...

Enter the problem pagans, witches, wiccans and the like around the world experience. Unique magical names tend to be taken, sound lame, have absolutely no meaning to express who you are, or all of the above. I tried working out my "number" and then working out the right name to match said "number". I tried mixing the colours, creatures, astrological bodies and deities I admire/wish i could be like and I've never, ever come across a name that sticks. The right name will feel right, right? Even when I've come up with a really great name, something's felt wrong. I grew up reading fantasy stories and fairy tales, and I know one of the oldest "rules" is that a true name is vitally powerful and important. There's just no way "Aryona Fire" was this for me. Aryona's a word I made up when I was 13 and wanted to be a Lord of the Rings elf. It's pig-elvish for princess. My true name isn't bloody pig elvish damnit!

I eventually decided I would have an outward "craft name", one to be used online, in covens and in other places. This name has changed over time. The most recent one I was using has been shattered due to the meanings and associations it had being completely shattered. I don't want to talk about it -glower- but the name was Arianell. As for my true name - well some people have said it'll pop out and scream at me when I find it. It's said it will arrive and it won't go away. That seems to make sense to me, since it's exactly how my daughter's name happened.

Today, I put together a new name: Aiko Kasumi. Aiko means "love child" and Kasumi "mist". As hippie as it sounds, the Aiko is incredibly meaningful to me. I am a humanist - or one who is chiefly concerned with humans. I love human beings and hate any pain and grief happening around me. I don't really care what someone's religion is, I care what their attitude towards other humans is. If it's one of love, they can be Christian, Pagan, Atheist or anything else. If it's unsympathetic or hateful, i don't respect them. (As for gods... I pretty much fail to see the point of gods, but more on that another time.) The 'Kasumi' is a bit of a memory. Mist has always had a mystical feel about it for me, possibly because a thick mist feels like it could be hiding anything. The veil between worlds feel thin when there's mist around. Even the "grey" from "Grey Gryphon" (I was 15, don't judge) was a reference to the mist. I considered using names like Silver Myst before, but even with the cheesy clicheness of it aside, I'm just not delicate enough to use a name like that. I'd probably break it. Aiko Kasumi, on the other hand, is a perfectly strong name I definitely aren't likely to break anytime soon.

Here comes the cool bit. While I was searching for a good online name, I found my true name. For the first time, I can say this without doubt.

The name covers the essentials of looking cool and sounding pretty. It's not cheesy, and it's not normal, but it's not something that looks like it can only come out of a high fantasy book either. Its meaning is almost soul-shatteringly perfect. It's practically drenched in references. Of course, I won't tell you what it is.