Monday, February 26, 2024

Magical and Medicinal Properties of Raspberry

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Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Powers: Healing, Love, Protection
Magical Uses and History: The raspberry was among some of the first fruits cherished by our ancestors with raspberry brambles being found at a variety of dig sites across Asia, Europe, and North America, suggesting that it was a staple in our ancestor's diet. While the modern raspberry is said to have moved into western North America via the Oregon Trail, it has naturalized and now grows wild across the continent. Needless to say, it has long been a staple in the human diet, and for a good reason. Not only are the fruits edible and full of micronutrients but the leaves can also be used to treat a variety of ailments, especially those related to the uterus. According to legend, raspberries were originally snow-white, but highly favored by the gods. In fact, the scientific name of raspberries, Rubus idaeus, means "bramble bush of Ida." Supposedly, a nursemaid caring for the infant Zeus pricked her finger on the thorns of the raspberry plant, drawing blood that dripped onto the berries, staining them red. As such, the raspberry is connected to blood, feminine energy, and fertility, which has been supported by folk and modern medicine. Raspberry leaf can strengthen and tone the tissue of the womb, as well as aid in contractions during childbirth and prevent hemorrhaging, increasing the chance of the mother surviving the ordeal. It was also used to increase milk production in humans and goats, as well as reduce period cramping and pain. In magic, raspberry fruits and leaves can be used in fertility spells and rituals, baked into pies or pressed into jam for the same purpose, in protection spells and rituals for women and children or any person with a uterus, or to bring loving, feminine energy to a spell.

By the Medieval period, the raspberry was not only a food staple and a highly regarded medicinal plant, but it had made its way into Christian paintings where it represented kindness, righteousness, and spiritual merit as its leaves were trifoliate, thus representing the trinity. In some cases, the juice was also used to represent blood, its dark, rich color reminiscent of the blood of Christ. By the Victorian period, the raspberry was said to symbolize perfection, sweetness of character, and modesty. As such, raspberries can be used in spells to bring sweetness, kindness, or modesty or to represent blood.

Finally, raspberries have also been historically used for protection, especially for women and children. Not only have multiple cultures used raspberry to aid in childbirth, but the brambles were often placed in homes or near entryways to prevent unwanted spirits from entering the home or birthroom. In Germany, the brambles were used to tame bewitched horses. As such, raspberry brambles can be used in protection spells and rituals, hung in the home or birthing room, or carried on your person.

Raspberry can be used in a number of spells including:
    Fertility Spells
    Love Spells
    Protection Magic
    Banishing Magic

Medicinal Uses: Raspberry has a long and rich history in medicine, most often being used during pregnancy to strengthen and tone the tissue of the womb, aid in contractions, and reduce or prevent hemorrhaging during childbirth. It can also be used to aid in period pain and menstruation. Its anti-astringent properties can also be used to treat diarrhea, leukorrhea, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, sore throats, and inflammation.

Preparation and Dosage: To create an infusion/gargle, combine 2 teaspoons of dried raspberry leaf with one cup of boiling water. Allow the mixture to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink freely or gargle as needed. As a tincture, 2-4 milliliters can be taken up to three times a day. Externally, the leaves can be used in a poultice to treat minor wounds or burns, especially when combined with slippery elm.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Spiritual Activism: Uniting Spirituality and Activism for Transformative Change

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Spiritual activism is a form of activism that is rooted in spiritual philosophies and practices to dismantle oppressive systems. It combines spiritual knowledge and passion with radical real-world action. According to AnaLouise Keating, "spiritual activism is spirituality for social change, spirituality that posits a relational worldview and uses this holistic worldview to transform one's self and one's worlds." On a large scale, spiritual activism works to preserve and heal our planet and the life that resides here, while on a smaller scale, providing an opportunity for us to grow and mature spiritually. 

Spiritual activism is not part of the "Love and Light" movement. In fact, it works in opposition to "Love and Light" which promotes spiritual bypassing. According to John Welwood, spiritual bypassing is the act of using "spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional 'unfinished business,' to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks." In short, spiritual bypassing is a type of spiritual gaslighting where the individual ignores the "shadow" aspect of humanity in favor of the "lighter" aspects of life and spirituality. Ignoring these problems in an attempt to remain "positive" does two things: it dismisses the experiences of marginalized groups while simultaneously absolving white people of their personal responsibility to combat injustice. I have talked about spiritual bypassing before in The Darkness Within: Is the Love and Light Movement Hurting Us?, and how such beliefs and actions are detrimental to our mental health and well-being. It's important to note, however, that spiritual bypassing upholds also white supremacy, which is in direct opposition to true spiritual activism. (You can read more about spiritual bypassing and how it promotes racism in Unpacking Spiritual Bypassing: Why 'Love and Light' Without Action Can't Dismantle Racism and Spiritual Bypassing: The Work of Anti-Racism in Spiritual Communities.)

Traditional activism is often driven solely by anger and the idea that you have to "beat" your opponent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being fueled by anger; it's completely justified in the face of oppression. When anger is your only motivator, however, it can lead to burnout and ultimately remove you from the fight, which helps no one. Furthermore, the true goal of activism is to secure lasting change, which often means changing the minds and actions of our opponents, not beating them into submission. In the end, traditional activism is not always sustainable for most activists, but adding a spiritual component can help reduce the chances you burnout.

Spirituality is a search for meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. It can root your activism in purpose, one that focuses on not only changing oppressive systems but also self-care. As I say in my book The Green Witch's Guide to Self Care you cannot fill the cauldron (help the community) if you do not first fill your own cup (engage in self-care). Your spirituality and practice act as the soil in which you can plant your intentions and cultivate them daily in a sustainable and meaningful way. But what does this look like in action?

Action Based on Compassion for Justice
First and foremost, there must be a spiritual motivation in pursuit of justice, and this motivation should be rooted in altruism and the desire to build community while removing oppressive systems. Some spiritual activists argue that our motivation should not be to destroy but to build, but I see the value in destruction. From destruction comes new life; just as a fire destroys a forest, it adds vital nutrients to the soil that allows life to prosper in its wake. I believe the same is true here. To build a better world, we must first destroy the systems of oppression in place that prevent our collective liberation. However, by shifting our mindset away from anger, fear, and despair toward compassion and love, we can be driven by a greater purpose and reduce our chances of burning out. Anger, fear, and despair are the killers of motivation when we rely on them as our only driving force for too long.

Recognition of Interconnectedness and Intersectionality
All living things are interconnected with each other and the nonliving things that surround us. When one group faces oppression, we all do, even if we cannot immediately see it. Our disconnect from each other and the world around us leads many to distance themselves from taking accountability for the suffering they cause, such as purchasing from companies that exploit their workers or the environment. When you dig deeper and seek these connections, you discover what is good for the oppressed is good for us all. As I always say, we are not free until we are all free. Furthermore, we must recognize that activism is inherently intersectional. To care for one oppressive group while neglecting or even demonizing another is to engage in oppression. I understand it can feel daunting to help in all areas. I am certainly not asking you to take up every cause. However, you should be aware of how your actions intersect with other causes and make the conscious decision to avoid helping one marginalized group at the expense of another. Recognizing interconnectedness and intersectionality also includes approaching our 'enemies' with compassion and moving away from the "us vs them" mentality toward the collective "we." When we move from separation to cooperation, we are much more likely to succeed at dismantling oppressive systems. This does not mean you back down on issues because it makes someone uncomfortable. Far from it. Always be hard on the issues, even when they make others uncomfortable, but soft on the people. 

Accountability with Action
There are going to be times when you mess up. I have certainly made mistakes over the years and continue to make mistakes today. Institutional and systemic racism, msyigony, abelism, and homophobia are insidious and sometimes present themselves unconsciously. A large part of spiritual activism, or just activism in general, is learning and acting on new information. You must take accountability for your actions, whether you meant to harm or not. I know we talk a lot about intention in witchcraft, but when it comes to activism, your intention matters far less than the impact your actions have. However, accountability without action is meaningless. Societal-level transformations are dependent on the accumulation of changes happening on an individual level. Engage in regular shadow work and make the inner changes required to better the world.

Willingness to Learn
One of the most important aspects of activism work is an openness and willingness to learn. It is a privilege to be able to look away from oppression, a privilege that has no place in spiritual activism. Shielding yourself from suffering prevents transformation. Not only must you be willing to keep your eyes on real-world events, you must be open to learning how your actions harm others without your ego getting in the way. Listen to Black, Indigenous, and other people of Color (BIPOC). If their words provoke you, stop and reflect on why. Again, engage in the shadow work necessary for growth and change privately. The comment section is not your journal and marginalized groups do not owe you their time and energy. When you do learn something, pay the teacher for their work!

Commitment to Spirituality and Self-Care
Finally, spiritual activism demands commitment to your spiritual journey, which includes radical self-love and self-care. You should engage in your spiritual practice on a regular basis, taking time to pray, meditate, or otherwise connect to Spirit, such as journaling, gardening, mindfulness walks, and forest bathing. Heck, hug a damn tree! Engagement in spiritual practices helps us to recharge and refocus our engeries while combating exhaustion and burnout. Remember, we are trying to build a sustainable practice, one that can catapult society into a better, more inclusive future. We need you.

In the end, spiritual activism is about creating sustainability rooted in justice and compassion. You may notice there is a new page featured on my navigation bar titled "Spiritual Activism." On that page, you will (eventually) find links to articles, books, and other resources, as well as actionable steps you can use in your own spiritual activism. It is time we stop being bystanders.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Book Review: Tarot for the Hard Work by Maria Minnis

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Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book via Weiser in exchange for an honest review.

I am going to preface this review with full honesty. I have not finished Tarot for the Hard Work: an Archetypal Journey to Confront Racism and Inspire Collective Healing by Maria Minnis at the time of writing this review. However, don't let that deter you from reading what I have to say. I decided to write my review before finishing the book for a couple of reasons. First, you all need to pick up the book as quickly as you can, and waiting for me to completely finish it is only going to delay the inevitable. Second, it's going to take me much longer to finish this book than I originally thought because I desire to do the anti-racism work described with fidelity. I have no desire to quickly read and skim the exercises just to get a review out faster. This book and the work therein deserve my time, effort, and action, no matter how long it takes. At the time of this writing, I have officially completed four chapters. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but I promise it was more than enough to know this is a book everyone needs to get their hands on, whether you practice witchcraft or not. While Tarot for the Hard Work is centered around tarot, the cards are there to support the archetypal journey we must all travel during our anti-racism work; it's not a requirement for the work itself.

Each chapter centers on a tarot card, starting with The Fool (0) and ending with The World (21), and its relation to your anti-racism journey. Each chapter is structured the same way: introduction to the card, its "embodied keywords", how it appears in liberation work, "correspondences for inspiration", how it can show up as both balanced and imbalanced in our lives, self-identifiers, affirmations, magical practices to conjure the card, exercises, goal setting, reflection, and building a toolkit. Each chapter requires the reader to deep dive into their life and practice as it relates to anti-racism and collective liberation. Minnis encourages her readers to have a journal on hand to document their journey, and that is exactly what I have done. Because of the amount of work and reflection, chapters can take days, if not weeks, to fully and faithfully work through. It's not because they are long, but because the work requires your attention and time. The reflection alone often takes me a day or two to fully mull over, not to mention the time spent on the tasks and exercises suggested in each chapter. This is true shadow work being done that doesn't just benefit yourself, but the whole community.

Exercises and magical tasks range from evaluating your racial biases to starting community refrigerators. Other tasks involved watching videos, reading articles and books, or even mustering up the courage to leave a partner who refuses to engage in this work with you. The first four chapters alone have inspired me to take some pretty monumental steps forward on my journey. Minnis definitely called me out in chapter 3, The High Priestess. The High Priestess is my soul card, aka my soul's purpose. According to Minnis, those who embody the High Priestess "disseminate knowledge through language, action, and energy, all in the name of collective healing." I mean...what else am I doing with this blog if not trying to heal the witch wound while helping others decolonize their practice? In liberation work "their power may be quiet, some may say passive. But make no mistake, the High Priestess is undoubtedly an active participant in their world." Sometimes I don't always post about world events or actions everyone can take but trust that I am always working behind the scenes for collective liberation, an end to systemic racism and oppression, and the end of genocide. "The High Priestess is the witness, not the hero. They're the oracle, not the prophecy." But where do I feel called out? The High Priestess is imbalanced when they need grounding, underutilizes key talents, and ignores intuition. My anxiety, especially my desire to avoid confrontation, often stops me from doing what I know I should be doing, and that isn't okay. It's a privilege to be able to walk away, scroll to the next video, or delete a comment and move on with my life. I am not burdened by the color of my skin, but for the majority of the world, that isn't the case. I must leverage my privilege for collective liberation, and that starts with speaking up and out, lifting marginalized voices, and listening instead of leading.

If you have continued to follow me through the years, you know decolonization/desettling, dismantling oppression, and collective liberation are extremely important aspects of my magical practice. I do not take this work lightly and hope that those of you who have stuck around for the last 10 years feel the same way. If you do, Tarot for the Hard Work: an Archetypal Journey to Confront Racism and Inspire Collective Healing by Maria Minnis is a book you need to order right now. I promise it's a thousand percent worth the price tag. I hope that more books like this one will continue to be published. We are not free until we are all free.

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