Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?

The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?

I am apart of several online pagan communities and one of the most common phenomenons I run into is the "love and light" movement that is sweeping modern Western paganism. While on the surface the love and light movement may seem like a great thing, especially compared to some recent events, it's actually quite harmful. Now you may be asking yourself, "How in the world can peace and love be harmful to the pagan community?" It isn't that peace and love are inherently harmful; it's the side effects of the love and light mindset that are. However, before I jump into these negative side effects, let's discuss what love and light actually means.

Commonly love and light is used as a blessing, or at least that is what it was originally intended to be. One says this to another to encourage them to find the good (love) in all things and to find the light so they may continue on their spiritual journey. It's honestly a wonderful blessing to bestow on someone. However, it has recently become more than just a blessing, turning instead into a seemingly unstoppable movement. In fact, it is often used as an answer to a question, particularly about hexing, cursing, binding, love spells, or any morally-gray question. Most of the people responding to such questions reply with comments like, "Remember love and light!" or "That is not following love and light! You shouldn't do that!" I understand they mean well, but the phrase has obviously been twisted to be a mantra more than a blessing these days and there in lies the problem.

The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?

So what is wrong with using love and light as a mantra to live by? Why would anyone disagree with finding the good in the world while continuing to grow spiritually? It isn't that I disagree with the sentiment; I disagree with its usage.

The love and light movement has led to a phenomenon called "spiritual bypassing," a term coined in 1984 by psychologist John Welwood. According to Welwood, spiritual bypassing is "the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs." Sound familiar? Spiritual bypassing takes multiple forms, most predominately in the form of suppressing one's own emotions. This is especially true of unpleasant (notice not negative) emotions, such as anger. When entering the spiritual community, one of the first lessons taught is a quote often misattributed to Buddha: "Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of harming another; you are the one who ends up getting burned." This quote is actually from Buddhaghosa from the 5th century and wildly misused. The statement clearly mentions "holding onto anger," not being angry. The love and light movement uses the quote to show you should never be angry, but that simply isn't true. Holding onto anger brings great harm, but being angry is not a bad thing. In fact, recognizing your angry is extremely healthy. Anger lets you know something is wrong and should be addressed. For example, it makes me angry when someone cuts me off in traffic. Why? Because I believe cutting someone off in traffic is not only rude, but extremely dangerous. You shouldn't do it because it puts other's lives at risk. Something is inherently wrong with risking someone's life because you are in a hurry, and my anger helps me navigate the situation. Ever seen the movie Inside Out? Yeah, Anger helped all the characters successfully navigate their lives, while Joy's need to dominate caused a catastrophic meltdown for a young girl (I believe Joy was a villain, but that is a topic for another day). Anger is a healthy and important emotion to have, while suppressing it is harmful.

Because the love and light movement promotes not being angry or having any "dark" emotions, we end up judging others and ourselves for expressing them. Repressing unpleasant emotions often leads to the beast known as Depression and its best friend, Anxiety, especially when you start to feel guilty for not being positive all the time. This constant push for positivity causes many individuals to suppress unpleasant emotions, which is actually leading to an increase in cases of depression and anxiety in the pagan community. Instead of promoting healthy discussions of our emotions, we are telling others to "stay positive." This isolates individuals who then end up loathing themselves for not being able to meet the community standards. We are human. We have unpleasant emotions. Those emotions are part of navigating our world and having healthy, positive conversations about our emotions helps prevent mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety by giving people an outlet to voice their concerns.

The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?

Not only does the love and light movement isolate individuals, but it also causes significant rifts in our community. When others, who may not live by the same mantra have questions or wish to express unpleasant emotions, those who follow the love and light movement often end up judging others for following a different path. Instead of pushing each other up, we end up fighting over who is right. None of us are right. Plain and simple, and that is okay. What isn't okay is ostracizing a large portion of our community, like myself, because they aren't love and light. The time we spend arguing on chat boards about whether or not something is love and light would be better spent practicing witchcraft or educating others. No, saying something isn't love and light isn't educating others. It is completely failing to recognize others may not follow the same path as you. Furthermore, when we begin to judge others for their spiritual path, we often end up gaslighting others. Gaslighting is the practice of manipulating someone into questioning their own sanity. When we force love and light down another's throat, judge them for being angry or depressed or experiencing any unpleasant emotions, we end up causing that individual to question whether or not something is wrong with them. This leads to the aforementioned mental illnesses, community strife, and isolation. None of these are good things for our community.

The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?

So how does this happen? How does the love and light movement cause such problems as repressed emotions and rifts in our community? Simple, by over emphasizing positivity. Sure, being positive is a good thing; I am not arguing that. Sometimes you have to stop and take a moment to count your blessings and move on. However, overemphasizing positive emotions leads to avoidance, especially of unpleasant emotions. "Be positive" is a deflection for people who don't want to do the difficult work of confronting their own internal issues, wounds, or baggage. It is really easy to say things like, "Be positive," "Think positive thoughts," or "Don't focus on the negative!" It is a lot harder to confront those emotions and the emotions of others to begin the healing process. The darker aspects of ourselves don't disappear because we ignore them. In fact, they get worse.

Apart from what I have mentioned, there are a couple other issues caused by the love and light movement. First, it often means we end up being too trusting. Wanting to see the good in everyone and everything is nice, but in practice it is extremely risky. Common sense is not your enemy. Second, the blessing "wishing you love and light" when someone is having a tough time is like saying "I'll pray for you." It offers absolutely no assistance to those suffering. Instead of offering love and light, maybe you should offer a listening ear or financial assistance. And finally, saying "love and light" at the end of a mean/rude/disrespectful statement doesn't absolve you. You were still a dick. Own it.

So what can we do?

1. We can begin by recognizing that not everyone is following the same path. We are not all Wiccan; we don't all believe in the same deities; we each practice our craft differently. Recognizing those differences and accepting them as valid is the first step in healing our community and ending this gaslighting routine.

2. As a community we need to recognize there is a mental health issue. Instead of believing unpleasant emotions are bad, we need to recognize they are a natural part of life and therefore it's natural for pagans to feel them. When we stop judging others for being angry, depressed, or anxious, and lend an ear, we offer the greatest gift we can to the person suffering.

3. We need to stop saying "be positive" when confronted by uncomfortable feelings or situations. You do not have to be positive all the time, and neither does anyone else. I am particularly irritated by the phrase, "It could be worse." Fuck yeah it could be worse, but I don't want to hear that! I don't want to hear about how much worse someone else has it either. That completely invalidates my emotions, which is more likely to force someone to retreat into themselves and not voice their concerns to you again. When someone is happy you don't say, "Well someone has it better than you," or "It could be better." Of course not! What a dick move! So don't say it to someone who is opening up to you about how they feel. Just listen. It was hard enough for them to be honest with you. Don't make them regret it.

4. We need to stop excusing terrible behavior by using the phrase "love and light" or believing through love and light that we can fix another. If someone is doing something blatantly wrong, speak up. Don't try to fix them. It isn't your job. Stop being so trusting. Not everyone is going to do right by you. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Leave the situation, get help, and speak your truth.

5. Finally, when confronted by tragedy, we need to offer more than blessings and prayers. Speak with your actions, not your words. If you are going to send love and light to someone, do more than just say you are. Perform a ritual, send money, volunteer, do whatever you need to do to show support, but take REAL action. If you perform magic for another, send them pictures. Let them know you have worked a spell for them. If you don't, they may not recognize you have sent them anything at all. It is important to show our support through our actions instead of just our words.

The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?

While not everyone may agree with me on this topic, I believe it is extremely important and relevant to today's modern witch. The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing there is one.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Nova Luna Box Review: September

My final box of my Nova Luna subscription arrived a couple weeks ago with lots of awesome goodies tucked inside. Upon opening the box, the first thing I noticed was the information sheet explaining the New Moon in Virgo. Unfortunately this one was not printed on nice card stock like last month's. However, it contained all the same useful information, including a breakdown of the price, a bit about the crystals in the box, and a mantra for the New Moon. Under this card was a second one explaining the ritual for the New Moon. This gave some great advice on how to use many of the tools in the box, which is great for novice and advanced witches alike.

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Nova Luna Box Review: SeptemberNova Luna Box Review: September
Nova Luna Box Review: September

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Under the cards were a variety of items. The first one I removed was a celestial box inlaid with brass. Inside was a lovely celestial bell. I like box as a safe place to store the bell, although it will fit a variety of small items. This box would be great for carrying small ritual items to work, school, or vacation. The bell is small, but produces a beautiful, loud ring, great for clearing spaces and signaling the beginning and end of a ritual.

Nova Luna Box Review: September
Nova Luna Box Review: September
Nova Luna Box Review: September

Next was the monthly New Moon candle. This one smells of oakmoss and sandalwood with slight undertones of tonka, violet, sage, and rosemary. Embedded in the candle is aventurine and clear quartz. When burned, the candle smells similar to eucalyptus and is very relaxing. I burned this candle during my New Moon ritual which honestly took place entirely in the bathtub. Lazy, I know, but can you blame me for not wanting to get out of a warm bath?

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Finally I opened up the crystals: a lapis lazuli and an amazonite orgone pyramid. The lapis lazuli is stunning. I have been looking at purchasing some, but was excited when it arrived in my Nova Luna box. Lapis lazuli is great for boosting confidence, something I have needed in wake of my divorce. The amazonite orgone pyramid is engraved with the elements on each side. I really like this feature as it allows it to be used for a variety of purposes, not just directing energy. Amazonite is associated with intuition and intellect, while the orgone portion is said to be able to remove stagnant and negative energy. I used the pyramid during my ritual to hedge ride to increase my intuition during soul retrieval and to rid myself of old wounds.

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Overall this was a useful box with some great tools to celebrate the New Moon. Based on the listed prices, I received just over the value of the box. The fact that I was able to use all of the items the night of the New Moon was fantastic.

Nova Luna Box Review: September

Nova Luna Box Review: September

***

Since it has been three months, I would like to give you a complete break down of my overall thoughts on this box.

Pros:

  • The box is consistent. It always comes with and information card containing a breakdown of the cost of each item, a monthly candle, a crystal, and 2-3 other ritual items.
  • The item quality is great. Every item is worth more than I paid.
  • The information card is informative, but incomplete. It explains how much each item costs an usually how to use the items in your monthly ritual.
  • This box is available! There is no waiting list!

Cons:

  • The information card is incomplete. Unfortunately there is no mention of where the items came from. In fact, every single time I had to do the research myself. I don't like not knowing where the items came from and what businesses I am supporting.
  • The box is pricey. At $38 a box, this is one of the most expensive boxes I have purchased. While I have enjoyed each box, I have received more items for less in other past subscription boxes. For many, $38 a month is out of the budget. I know it is for me!
  • There is a lot of packaging and it is not eco-friendly. The paper and cardboard box can be recycled, but the bubble wrap is not.
OVERALL: 4 out of 5 stars 

Interested in purchasing this box? Check out Cratejoy. They have a large selection of subscription boxes that cover just about everything.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lammas Altar 2017

Lammas Altar 2017

This post is only how many weeks late? That's okay though; sometimes life gets in the way. Lammas or Lughnasadh is the first of the harvest festivals, specifically celebrating the harvesting of wheat. Because of this, I centered my altar around wheat and the first fruits of the harvest, as well as reds and yellows to represent the still powerful sun.

Lammas Altar 2017

On the left I have my ever-standing representation of the feminine aspect, the Earth. She is where all our food is harvested from, making her the perfect addition to this sabbat's altar. Next to her is a loaf of bread, representing abundance and new growth. Bread is also a customary dish for Lammas, which translates to loaf mass, as wheat is the number one crop harvested during this time.

Lammas Altar 2017

In the center is a bouquet of sunflowers in yellows and oranges mixed with wheat. Sunflowers represent the sun, balance, and fertility. Mixed in with the sunflowers is wheat, the crop harvested at this time, which symbolizes fertility as well. Furthermore, wheat also represents abundance and charity, as Lammas is a time to celebrate with others and give back to our communities. Next to the flowers is my horn, representing the masculine aspect, specifically the sun, as well as fertility.

Lammas Altar 2017

In front of the flowers is a centerpiece of fruits and fall leaves with a red candle in the center. These fruits represent the fruits of the first harvest, fertility, abundance, and prosperity. The red candle symbolizes the Sun and masculine energy that aids in the ripening of said fruits.

Lammas Altar 2017

Lammas Altar 2017

On either side of the center piece are several crystals. On the left are two carnelian crystals representing the sun, citrine for prosperity, moss agate for fertility and abundance, and tiger's eye for abundance and prosperity.

Lammas Altar 2017

At the very end of my altar in my terrarium is salt and a candle. This combination represents the hearth where bread is baked and consumed. It also represents the element Fire and Earth which combine to produce the food we eat during this harvest festival.

Lammas Altar 2017

Draped around the back of the altar is a vine of ivy, representing abundance, grapes, representing fertility and abundance, and wheat, representing fertility.

Lammas Altar 2017

Spread throughout the altar are several candles and lanterns representing the sun and light which still predominates this time and helps ripen fruit, vegetables, and grains. The Sun is particularly important during this festival in combination with the Earth as they work together to produce a bountiful crop prior to winter.

Lammas Altar 2017

I hope everyone had a wonderful Lammas. I honestly missed it, but hopefully next year will be better. I am taking time to be thankful for what I do have, and sometimes that means putting some things, however important, on hold for a short period. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer as it wanes and fall comes upon us.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Last month one of the best things to happen to me was receiving this little box of joy. Unfortunately I didn't do anything for the New Moon last month, but I am still thrilled with the box of goodies I received and will use them in future rituals.

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Upon opening this box, I noticed some things were different. This time instead of a letter I received a card with all the of the information I needed. This card was much nicer than the letter from the month before, showing that the creators of this box are evolving. It was beautifully designed and well-organized. The front of the card gave the correspondences for the New Moon in Leo while the back explained a little bit about the New Moon and the solar eclipse, the contents of the box, including prices, a New Moon mantra, and where to find ritual ideas on their blog.

Nova Luna Box Review: AugustNova Luna Box Review: August

Next I withdrew the candle. This month's candle smelled of roses, sage, violet, damiana, honeysuckle, and jasmine. When burned, the candle smells mostly of roses and filled my entire house with the smell of early summer and love. Embedded in the top were pieces of onyx and clear quartz for amplify and aid in transformation and new beginnings.

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Wrapped up in beautiful celestial tissue paper next to the candle was an herb bundle from Broad Street Collective. There is no mention on the card which herbs are included, but after doing a bit of research I found the bundle contained cedar, sage, and rose. From looking at it, I believe it may also contain lemon grass. While it smells amazing prior to being burned and looks nice, it doesn't smell too pleasant when burned. Furthermore, it doesn't want to smoulder as other herb bundles typically do. This will be a toss-in-the-fire type of bundle for future use. With the herb bundle came a pack of matches. I have to say, as a witch obsessed with candles and smoke, you can never had too many matches!

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Underneath every thing was probably my favorite item, a cloth crystal grid from Crystal Grids. I have been researching crystal grids and have even been thinking about designing my own wooden ones to sell. This was a pleasant surprise and a sign that I need to continue down this path. Accompanying the crystal grid was a clear quartz tower and 4 carnelian crystals. Unfortunately I had to figure out on my own which of the stones I had. The card mentions I could have received any of the following: Blue Chalcedony, Carnelian, Citrine, Mookaite Jasper, or Sunstone. I have to say, I am disappointed I did not receive blue chalcedony or mookaite jasper. However, to the untrained witch, carnelian, citrine, and sunstone all look very similar, which could lead to confusion. It would be been nice if the card had indicated which crystals I received or if the creators had limited it to a one crystal option. The quartz crystal tower is quite stunning and makes a marvelous centerpiece for the crystal grid.

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Nova Luna Box Review: August

Overall, I am pleased with this month's box, with few exceptions. I look forward to seeing what next month holds for me.

Looking for a subscription box, but don't know where to start? Read my other pagan subscription box reviews and check out Cratejoy to see what boxes catch your eye!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Personal Update: August 2017

Hey everyone! Sooo...you may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. A lot has transpired over the past couple of weeks, some of which has been awesome and some of which has been, well, not so awesome. So, where to start?

First and foremost, my husband and I separated. After 7 years, he decided he didn't want to be with me anymore and left while I was out of town. I learned of this via text message while driving home. I would like to go on and rant and rave about everything that happened, but considering I want this divorce to go as quickly and smoothly as possible, I am going to keep my fat mouth shut for a little while longer. There is so much more involved in this situation than him just leaving, and maybe one day I will share it all with my readers. Needless to say the past couple of weeks have been incredibly stressful. I now have a mortgage, utilities, car payment, and student loan payments to make on my tiny teacher's salary. It this point in time I have no idea how I am going to make this work, but I will figure it out. I am strong and resourceful and know I will make it out of this better than before.

Despite all of this, there is some good news. My depression and anxiety are almost nonexistent. It took a couple of weeks, but boy do I feel a thousand times better. Its to the point where everyone, including friends, family, and coworkers, has noticed and commented on how much happier I am. Everyone at work has told me how much I have changed and opened up in the past couple of weeks; that I am joking and laughing whereas before I would have been sullen and complained. The best part? They've all told me how much more they like the happy, joking me. Its a great feeling to be told I am loved for who I truly am instead of being told I am being "childish" or "too much" or "overly emotional." After I got over the initial shock of Jonathan leaving, I realized what I thought was just a chemical imbalance gone horribly awry was actually brought on by the stresses of my marriage. While I recognize I still suffer from depression, my symptoms are currently within my control. I can't even begin to describe how much better I feel. I lost a 155lb weight off my shoulders, and I have never been happier. Now if only I could lose the weight around my tummy and hips! That would make my year!

Also in good news, I got a new cat. When my husband left, he took both of our cats with him, much to my dismay. Before you cry foul, you need to know he got the cats shortly before we met so technically they are his and his alone. While I was devastated to lose both of them without any warning, I know they are with who they legally belong to. My parents were worried when I first came home to an empty house and took me to get a cat a day later. It was at a Petsmart adoption that I met Oscar Wilde, a 2-year-old grey tabby who is the most loving cat you have ever met. He was a gift from the Universe in my time of need. As soon as I walked up to the cat cages I looked at Oscar and said, "That's my cat. He's leaving with me today." My mom responded by telling me to actually read his tag and look at the other cats. Of course I did, but my gut instinct is ALWAYS right. I knew Oscar was mine and he knew I was his the moment we saw each other. He is the perfect cat for me, and I am thankful everyday my mom and dad forced me to get out of bed, take a shower, and go look at the animals available. They paid the adoption fees and helped me purchase a new litter box, cat food, and some toys.




Such a handsome boy isn't he? Apart from all of this, there isn't much else to share other than I am taking classes to get my gifted endorsement, which is time consuming to say the least. I've been super busy trying to put my life back together, at least financially, and just haven't felt like blogging. I've come home and watched The Office or hung out with friends. Not to worry though, I always come crawling back to this baby. I have a Nova Luna box review to post and my Lammas altar to show you guys. Hopefully I will get them out soon.

PS: I am still working on getting all the old posts up and running after the server stopped hosting my images. I promise I will get everything working soon!