drugs

The Sober Pagan

February, 2019

The Universe Has Your Back … and More!

One of the gifts I received at Yule was a set of meditation cards entitled “The Universe Has Your Back”. Beautifully designed by Gabrielle Bernstein, with artwork by Micaela Ezra, these are some of the loveliest cards I have ever seen. I was first going to review them for “Seeing the Signs” but after looking through them thoroughly, I realized that they weren’t divinatory in the classic sense but rather meant just for mediation. Not that Tarot cards, Lenormard cards and Oracle cards can’t be used for meditation – we all know that all these cards can be used very effectively as meditative tools! But “The Universe Has Your Back” belongs to a class of cards that are only for meditation. For this reason, I thought they were perfect for reviewing in The Sober Pagan.

First off, these cards are beautiful. Everything about them – the box, the back of the cards, the card stock itself, the feel of the cards. They are top-quality all the way.

The inside of the box has this little message.

This is the back of the cards. I really like this. Even before you get to any of the meditative messages, there’s this lovely image that begs for its own contemplative consideration. It’s as simple as haiku but every bit as effective.

For the past few weeks, I have used these cards in my everyday mediation session. Instead of using a Daily Mediation book, such as Twenty-Four Hours A Day by Richmond Walker or Each Day a New Beginning by Karen Casey or one of the many other AA-approved books, I decided to simply pull one card from the pack and meditate on it. I’m not shuffling the pack or doing anything like that – I’m just taking the cards as they come – one card at a time – one day at a time. Each card is beautiful. I find myself looking forward to seeing what the card is going to be each day!

So far, these are my favorite cards:

One thing I’ve noticed is that any one of these cards could make an awesome poster. Maybe I’m an elderly hippie but that’s what I think.

So who is Gabrielle Bernstein, the creator of “The Universe Has Your Back” cards? She is the author of The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith, published by Hay House. I have not read this book and the reviews were all over the place in terms of good versus bad.

To find out more, I Googled her and found her website. Here is the link to it: https://gabbybernstein.com/ There are links to lessons on how to “Detox” yourself from being judgmental and how to pray for surrender. There’s another one for a “cord-cutting meditation”. There’s a link to her blog and a link to a place where you can “shop” for all kinds of stuff, including “The Universe Has Your Back” cards.

But of course, Gabrielle Bernstein is only one-half of “The Universe Has Your Back” card team – the artwork is by Micaela Ezra. Here is her website: http://www.micaelaezra.com/ Do yourself a favor and check it out. Although her artwork is based in Jewish philosophical thought, it is universal in its beauty and truth. I read a few of her blog posts and I look forward to taking the time to read them more closely when my surroundings are properly quiet enough for study. And as a craftswoman, I especially love her work with textiles.

So I am quite pleased with this particular Yule gift! Not only did I receive the gift of the cards themselves – and their meditative messages – but I learned about the creator of the cards and the wonderful artist of the cards. And every day – one day at a time – I have a very valuable sober tool with which to work!

I very highly recommend “The Universe Has Your Back” cards.

Until next month, Brightest Blessings!

References:

Gabrielle Bernstein and Micaela Ezra. “The Universe Has Your Back”: A 52-Card Deck. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2017.

Gabrielle Bernstein. https://gabbybernstein.com/

Micaela Ezra. http://www.micaelaezra.com/

The Universe Has Your Back: A 52-card Deck on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Book Review – Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States by Thomas Hatsis

February, 2019


Book Review
Psychedelic Mystery Traditions
Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States
By Thomas Hatsis
271 pp. Park Street Press

Although it has been the subject of great speculation and demonetization by various religious and political bodies, psychedelic mystery tradition remains one of the great buried seeds of Paganism, hidden under mythology, misinformation, and religious and political oppression — not to mention suppression of information. In “Psychedelic Mystery Traditions,” Thomas Hatsis uncovers a vast history of psychedelic spirit plants in Western tradition and ritual, focusing especially on Greco-Roman tradition and the early days of Christianity.

From the earliest prehistoric discoveries of psychedelic plants and their spiritual potential to the conflation of their use with Satanic witchcraft, Hatsis delves deeply, weaving together the political scenes in which each stage of pharmaka* use developed, while following a coherent narrative through the years. For those who were hoping for a more international subject matter, it’s useful to note that Hatsis doesn’t verge far from the focus of Europe and the Near East — you won’t find information here about the use of ayahuasca in Peru, or psilocybin mushrooms in China.

What you will find is an extensively-researched, academic approach to a controversial subject that synthesizes herbalism, ethnopharmacology, entheogenic practice, ritual, mythology, politics, religion, and linguistics. This may make the book a bit slow going for those who lack the context for the work, but anyone with a good familiarity with Western mystical traditions, herbalism, early Christianity, or mythology will probably find something to enjoy here.

The book boasts a treasure trove bibliography. Hatsis occasionally cites and refers to his other book, called “The Witches’ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic,” where the subject matter overlaps, but he also taps an impressive number of primary sources, as well as many modern authors. In a few cases, he points them out only to call them out, diverging at several points to argue some misconceptions, such as the popularized idea that ergotism poisoning is similar to the LSD experience (it’s actually much more dangerous, poisonous, and unpleasant), or that the origins of Santa Claus lie in the historical shamanic use of Aminata muscaria (a popular theory for which there is little evidence). It is clear that Hatsis has great love for this subject, but he also preserves respect for the academic process. In exploring the controversy surrounding the historical use of pharmaka, he has an even hand and doesn’t play favorites on the basis of his own bias, pointing fingers not only at those who dismissed or vilified these spirit plants, but also at those who misused and abused these plants for nefarious purposes, such as poisoning, manipulation, and rape.

This rare glimpse into the mechanisms and mythology of mystery traditions is also peppered with humorous observations, as Hatsis refers to bad trips as “what we would call a bummer,” relates amusing historical anecdotes, and makes the occasional pun. But where the book shines the most is in those poetic moments when Hatsis explores the narratives of mythology and ritual that weaved together the experience of pharmaka by exposing and bestowing new cosmological understanding. In these stories, the relationship between humans and spirit plants takes on a life of its own, illuminating both the dark recesses of the human psyche, and the strange roots of spirit plant practice.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions can be found on Hatsis’ website, https://psychedelicwitch.com/, along with many other writings and YouTube videos as well.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants, Magical Practices, and Ecstatic States on Amazon

[*An all-encompassing Greek term for the various plant-derived substances whose uses included theogenesis, medicine, recreation, aphrodisiac, poison, and more.]

For those whose interests are primarily herbological, here’s a short list of some of the spirit plants and pharmaka mentioned in this volume: 

Aconite, amanita mascara, barley, cannabis, haoma, hash, hemlock, henbane, kykeon, laurel, LSD, mandrake, mushrooms, opium, solanaceae (including but not limited to Atropa belladonna), and wine.

***

About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com

The Sober Pagan

November, 2018

“H.A.L.T.”! Before You Continue Into The Holiday Season!

One of the discussions lately in the rooms of AA – at least here locally – is how to get through the holiday season without relapsing. As someone who has been around recovery for a while, I find my best bet is to stay home and enjoy my own company. This year, my son’s father – Mr. AA himself – is spending the Yuletide season with us, so it’ll be lots of recovery talk and talk about Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Plus lots of good food to eat! I admit, I am looking forward to this!

When people ask me my strategies for navigating holiday parties, I generally say, “Arrive late and leave early.” But of course – you can do this as a drunk, too. I used to do it all the time. I was always on my way somewhere else from some other place and I only had a minute to spare. But the way you lived as a drunk can help you out as a sober person. You just leave out the drinking part.

Lately I’ve been using the acronym “H.A.L.T.” when I discuss dealing with the holidays. Because the holidays – what I term the time between Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) to New Year’s Eve – and depending on where you live – all the way to Super Bowl Sunday – is a giant stretch of time involving endless office parties, family get-togethers, religious rituals, community celebrations and constant reminders that we are supposed to be having a great time!

H.A.L.T. Just stop. Think. What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Sometimes it’s not even about relapsing. It’s about running ourselves ragged trying to make everything perfect – to make up for all those years when we were perfect fuck-ups.

As you probably already know, “H.A.L.T.” stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. Whenever something is going wrong in our lives – it doesn’t even have to be a relapse – usually we are in the grip of one of those things.

I remember when I first got sober in my early thirties. Everyday, around three o’clock, I would get wicked hungry. I would have to get up from my desk and go to the break room and buy a candy bar or get a Pepsi. I started making myself an extra sandwich to get myself through the three o’clock hour. Then one day, I passed a bar with the sign “Happy Hour” in the window and it clicked. I was used to having a drink at 3:00 – I was used to drinking until the dinner hour. I wasn’t hungry – I wanted a drink. Once I understood that, my 3 p.m. munchies largely disappeared.

Anger is one of those issues where I disagree with AA in which I think that there are times that we should be angry and that anger can save our lives. That said, the thing is to use your anger wisely and of course, once you add alcohol into that equation, wisdom usually is not the outcome. Quite honestly, anything I can do sober I can fuck up beautifully when I’m drinking. So it stands to reason that if I’m angry about anything at all, taking a drink is not going to help the situation. Especially if I’m at a holiday party!

Loneliness is a killer but going out drinking seldom helps that. And if you’re with your family and feeling like you’re the outsider, having a drink probably isn’t going to help that situation. The only thing that cures loneliness is learning to love your solitude. And there’s always a meeting somewhere – AA, NA, Smart Recovery, WFS, SOS – find one and find your tribe.

The last letter is “T” and of course, that stands for “Tired”. It is so easy to give up when we are tired. So easy to take that drink that a friend is offering us at a party – so easy to justify it – just one, right? When we are tired, our brain doesn’t make good decisions. I know my brain doesn’t. I’m not sure what’s worse – being hungry or being tired. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to deal with either of them very well. So I always make sure that I am in a safe place when it’s late.

My “Happy Hour” is now spent in my own home – sipping tea and eating my home-baked cookies.

So “H.A.L.T.” – and enjoy the season!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings and Happy Holidays!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan Book Review of Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction by Mackenzie Phillips

October, 2018

Book Review of Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction by Mackenzie Phillips

The last column I wrote was titled “What’s in your toolbox?”, which was posted August, 2018. I missed posting an article last month due to my father’s illness and subsequent death. Believe me, during the stress of the past several months, I have had more than one occasion to open up my toolbox and review all the tools I have in there. In some cases, I polished them off and updated them. Others I just cherished like the old friends that they are. And I added a few new ones because it seems like there’s always another tool to be tried. I once heard that AA meetings are like recovery hardware stores when it comes to finding healing tools to help you become healthy and whole.

Of course, there are other place to find tools and books are one of those places. I have a large collection of recovery books – AA-approved and otherwise. Recently, the editor of PaganPagesOrg, Jennifer Sacasa-Wright, sent me Mackenzie Phillip’s latest book, Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction, published by Atria Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

This is a wonderful little book. I don’t know if you know who Mackenzie Phillips is – she’s five months older than me so we are contemporaries – but knowing who she is really doesn’t matter as far as the contents of this book is concerned. You’ll find out enough about her so that you know that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to using drugs and trying to get sober and eventually achieving that serenity. If you want to know more about her life, there’s an autobiography with all the titillating tidbits that everyone tweets about called High On Arrival: A Memoir

. And of course, there’s always Google. But Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction is just that – eleven short missives on how to get through the worst part of recovery – which, really is all of it.

Each chapter is set up the same way. There is the title of the chapter and a quote from an outside source that defines the chapter. Then she has a story about her own use or maybe someone she knows – someone in her past life or someone she has counseled in her practice. She is very discrete in her disclosures but you always get the message – the strength, the hope, the experience. At the end of each chapter there is a section called “It Works If You Work It”. It’s the “workbook” section of the book – where you get your paper and pen and answer questions about what you just read and apply it to your own recovery. In this way, she makes this slender book into a living act of hope and healing.

Some of the things she wrote about really hit home in a large way. When she wrote about “re-creating history” (page 5) that rang so true, even though I didn’t have a family history of shooting heroin – but I have a family history of alcohol use and abuse – so the idea of “it being so normal” (page 5) definitely rang true. I grew up with the martinis that my parents always drank when Daddy came home from work and the beers that were consumed at every family picnic. The hangovers that were explained as Grampa’s morning “grumpiness”. You had to stay out of his way, ya know? This was normal. And I thought that all mommies drank red wine when they made dinner! So naturally, I re-created this reality when I grew up. Not with red wine but with beer and marijuana. I remember my little son handing me a rolling paper so I could roll a joint first thing in the morning! For my doobie with my coffee! That helpful little guy! That was a wake-up call right there.

Another thing that I could really identify with when she wrote that getting high felt great (page 17). It does feel great – that’s why we do it. There’s no other reason any addict or alcoholic uses – and that’s whatever your drug of choice may be – and I’m including food and gambling and sex and working out with this – getting high feels like a million bucks when you do it. It’s the other part of using that sucks – the hangover, especially – but also the empty bank account and the broken promises and whatever problems are caused by your actions. And even a so-called good addiction – like working out – can have adverse outcomes. There is use – there is abuse – and there is dependence. The question is – where does your relationship with your substance of choice lead you?

A lot of what she writes about is the same stuff you will hear about at any AA/NA meeting or rehab group or therapy session. Mindfulness – trusting yourself and others – acceptance – surrender – forgiveness of others and of yourself – taking responsibility and consequences. On pages 83 and 84, she has a 5-point plan, which I read to be a pre-Twelve-Step plan of action – points 1 and 2 are about thinking about changing your addictive ways and point 3 is preparation for change. Point 4 is action – when you go to AA/NA, check in at rehab, see a therapist, tell all your friends that you’re getting sober. Point 5 is maintenance. She writes, “This is when the real work begins.” (page 84) She doesn’t say that this is when you go through the Twelve Steps of whatever group with which you have chosen to affiliate yourself. But this is what she means: “The possibility of relapse is always real, but this is also the stage in which you arm yourself with a set of skills that will make you less likely to slide back into places that you’re determined to leave behind.” (page 84)

One of the best chapters in the entire book is near the end. It’s about abuse and denial. She writes:

Here’s the hardcore truth: you can smash the pipe, put the plug in the jug, break the tip off the needle, but if you

don’t address the deeper issues, you’re not going to be able to get whole or become a healthy part of the world

around you. Trauma, maltreatment, or abuse, whatever you choose to call it, is a huge, deeper issue that comes

up a lot when we look at addiction. Not talking about trauma and its relationship to substance use would be like

avoiding the larger-than-normal elephant in the room. Childhood trauma and its aftermath is something that

needs to be spoken of and brought out in the open. This is also true of adult trauma, which is often not spoken of

or reported.

(page 123)

I totally agree with this – not only is it true in my own life, I can attest to this, having sat and listened to many other people – at AA and NA meetings, in rehab sessions, and in domestic violence groups.

She talks about trauma in scientific and compassionate ways. How we carry trauma with us for “the rest of our lives”. (page 129) The “before-trauma you” and the “after-trauma you”. (page 129) For those of us who have experienced multiple traumas and different kinds of traumas, this kind of demarcation makes sense – like looking at pictures in a photo album.

Phillips also writes that trauma “takes up residence not only in your mind but also in your body.” (page 129) Trauma victims experience “headaches; pain in your joints; stomach issues; weight issues; feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.” (page 129-30) How many of us have had these symptoms? I know that I took opiates for years for some of these!

The one thing she doesn’t talk about in this book is spirituality. The closest she comes to it is talking about hope. And she writes that “humor and laughter are just other faces of hope” (page 143) and to remember that “hope is the thing with wings”. (page 145) Other than that, she never mentions a word about anything spiritual whatsoever. This, honestly, is one of the book’s strengths. This book has the ability to appeal to anyone struggling with substance abuse regardless of religion or spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. For wiccans and pagans looking to read a book on sobriety that doesn’t cram God-talk down their throats, Mackenzie Phillips offers a really nice alternative to so many of the recovery books that are currently on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores.

All in all, I have to say that this is an outstanding little book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in recovery. In fact, I have a good friend to whom I plan to give it to the next time I see her! I know she will read it and pass it on to another woman in recovery. I hope it goes far!

Until next month – it works if you work it! Brightest Blessings!

References

Phillips, Mackenzie. Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction. NY: Atria Paperbacks, 2017.

Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

August, 2018

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Back when I lived in Lowell, Massachusetts – several years ago – I had Comcast cable and one of the stations I received was called Decades. I guess you can receive it on Spectrum cable too but it’s on some wicked expensive package. It’s a cool station – everyday, they feature the events of that day – whoever’s birthday it is or whatever noteworthy happened on that day – so the programming changes accordingly. Anyway, every day at 8 in the morning, I would watch an old episode of the Dick Cavett show. Back in the 1970’s, Dick Cavett had a talk show that was as cutting-edge as Johnny Carson’s – maybe more so. One day, I saw an interview with Dick Van Dyke. Dick Van Dyke was one of the first major celebrities to come out as a recovering alcoholic – I remember this vividly as a young kid. This was part of the interview. Dick Cavett asked Dick Van Dyke if he was a “member” of AA. I remember Dick Van Dyke answering that “AA was an important tool” in his “toolbox” but “it wasn’t the only tool”. That made a big impression on me.

I found the interview on YouTube and the link is here, It’s REALLY good.


Lots of AA-ers will tell you that all you need is AA and more AA to stay sober. Maybe for some people this is true. But not for me. As happy as I am with my new home group, it doesn’t begin to fulfill all my sober or spiritual needs. I am always looking for other groups to attend – both AA and otherwise – and I am always searching for new sober skills to add to my toolbox.

I created a file called – duh – “Toolbox” – and I filled it with everything I have found to add me on my road to recovery. There’s every version of the twelve steps – or thirteen – or sixteen – that I have discovered – Wiccan versions and Pagan versions and Buddhist versions. There’s a Goddess calendar so everyday I can dedicate the day to the Goddess whose day it is. There’s things I myself have written, like this:

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL

Do not take that first drink. Without the first drink, there is no second drink & there is no third drink & there is no drunk.

With no drunk, there is no running out of money & having to hustle drinks & then getting into questionable sexual situations.

With no drunk, there is no going to questionable places to get other drugs to get higher than the drunk you already have because drinking doesn’t do it anymore & you have to get more wasted. & than spending money that you were supposed to save for other things. & then wanting to die all night long as you go through withdrawals.

With no drunk, there is no hangover. No migraine, no diarrhea, no bleeding hemorrhoids. With no drunk, you wake up in the morning & feel fabulous.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TAKE THAT FIRST DRINK. IT ALL GOES DOWNHILL FROM THERE.

I also have links to ezines like thefix.com and Just For Today Meditation. I also have non-drinking support aids, like “Directives on the Healing Road” from Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart. Sometimes you find sober support in places where you least expect it.

The point is – what’s in your toolbox is up to you. Create a toolbox and fill it with all the tools you can find. And then use those tools! A toolbox filled with tools is no good if it’s never opened and tools are never put to good use!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings! And stay sober – one day at a time! Hugs!

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

References

Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Toronto: ECW Press, 2002.

The Fix: Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Recovery News. http://www.thefix.com

Just For Today Meditation. http://jftna.org/jft/

The Dick Cavett Show on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUKV_q-J0Ds

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

December, 2017

Yuletide Sobriety

Who doesn’t party during the holidays? Scrooge? The Grinch?

But when you’re in recovery, holiday parties – whether they are office parties at work, family parties around a table groaning with food and drink or coven Yule rituals with “cakes and ale” – are a challenge, to say the least. What do you do? How do you navigate these chilly, choppy waters?

I’ll be honest with you – I’ve relapsed over the holidays more than once.

It’s so easy to see everyone else – those so-called “normal” people – with drinks in their hands – laughing, happy – and want what they seemingly have. Yeah! Just one drink. How simple that sounds.

Don’t go there.

If you’re like me, it’s never “just one drink” and it’s never that simple. It’s always a night of drunken manic craziness and a morning of migraine suicidal depression. Even if I’m just mildly hungover, I’m so tired I can’t do a thing.

And then, of course, I have to start all over all again.

I don’t work anymore so office parties are a thing of the past but I still have family. Luckily for me, about half of my family are now in some phase of recovery, so there’s lots of sober support there. I don’t have to go to any party that I don’t want to anymore – that’s a perk of being old and ornery.

But – if it’s a case where I have to go to a holiday party, here is the list of ideas I’ve compiled to help me get through the ordeal. Some I’ve heard at meetings, some I’ve read in books, and some I’ve gotten off of various websites. They were on a list in my diary.

  1. Arrive late and leave early. Say you have somewhere else to go, if people ask you why you’re leaving. You’re not lying. You’re going home, right?

  2. Bring a sober friend with you.

  3. Bring a bottle of ginger ale or coke or something else non-alcoholic to drink. Ginger ale mixed with cranberry juice is a fabulous holiday drink.

  4. Remember HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Don’t let yourself get out of balance in any of these areas.

  5. Remember TAMERS – Talk about recovery, Act on recovery, Meditate & minimize stress, Exercise & eat well, Relax, Sleep

  6. Be careful what you eat – lots of cookies, especially, have alcohol in them – my mother makes a killer fruit cake FILLED with booze! One piece and you’ll be wicked buzzed! So be careful!

  7. Go to meetings! Especially if you’re out of town – meetings are different in every city, so it’s always cool to check out that aspect of AA. And everyone loves the out-of-towner.

  8. Get outdoors. No matter what the weather is doing, it’s always good to get outside and walk off whatever emotions you are feeling. Believe me, you are going to feel better! And it’ll work off all those cookies you’re eating!

So please – Have the Happiest Yule Ever and a safe and sober New Year! Brightest Blessings!

Images found on Pinterest with the exception of the picture of the Niagara River Rapids photo © polly macdavid

***

About the Author:

 

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

 

Book Review: The Witches’ Ointment – The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic by Thomas Hatsis

November, 2017

The Witches’ Ointment

The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic

By Thomas Hatsis

This is a fascinating and unique offering! And a book I will definitely recommend to others, especially colleagues and students. It is well-researched and written in a scholarly yet very accessible way.

In this book the author Thomas Hatsis embarks on a quest to research and tell the (until now largely) untold story of a magical substance called “witches’ ointment.” In this book you will also encounter other names for this mysterious concoction.

Along the way he provides a detailed, thought-provoking account of witchcraft, magic and the use of hallucinogenic herbs. This book is underpinned with many footnotes and references to old manuscripts and publications in various languages.

Psycho-magical ointments had many uses, ranging from the dark end of the “magical spectrum” (bewitching, poisoning and murder) to healing, providing pain relief (such as anaesthesia during surgery) and divination or prophecy.

Psychotropic salves and ointments can trigger powerful hallucinations and surrealistic dreams or even facilitate direct experience of other realms and the Divine. (Your own conclusion will depend on your personal interpretation of this material!)

For me personally the most fascinating and valuable part of this book is the candid (well researched) history it provides of both the ancient art we call witchcraft today and the witch trials. Hatsis also describes in great detail (as the process unfolds over several centuries) the role the Church played in reframing the ecstatic experiences certain people have always sought (often using entheogens) into a satanic experience.

This is crucial information because this perception still casts a large shadow over our culture (and our cultural perception of healing and all things magical) until today. A fear of witchcraft and magical remedies (and my own profession: shamanism) lingers. People involved in such things today encounter that shadow (and the misperceptions that go with it) all the time.

This book is honest and scientific. It neither glorifies nor demonises witches ointments or flying ointments (or other magical remedies) It makes a distinction between the real undeniable shadow of this phenomenon (poisoning being an obvious example of these practices – one 21st equivalent would be the use of a date-rape drug) and a “satanic” layer or dimension deliberately imposed by the Church -that some people accused of witchcraft only confessed to because they were tortured (and told that if they confessed they would regain their freedom – which turned out to be a gross deception as most of those people were subsequently executed despite saying what the Inquisitor wanted to hear).

This book explains why witches are associated with broomsticks and toads and also what role village or folk healers played in European culture long before “mainstream medicine’ became accessible or affordable for most people. This book also makes it very clear that certain herbs (and other ingredients such as toads or mushrooms) have always been used in magical work, right from antiquity up to the present time.

This is an important and unique book. It has the power to shift some of our cultural perceptions – assuming enough people read it. Thank you Thomas Hatsis!

For Amazon information, click image below.

Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, 21 October 2017

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.

For Amazon information, click image below.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

The Sober Pagan

November, 2017

The Recovery Spiral and the Spiral Steps

If you hang around AA for any amount of time, you will no doubt hear that you have to acquire a “Big Book” – the text of Alcoholics Anonymous – and read no other book – unless it’s the “Twelve and Twelve” – the AA book about the Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions – or one of the other “approved” literature that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services puts out. I myself own a Big Book and a Twelve and Twelve. Like everything associated with AA, there’s a lot to love about these books and a lot that honestly pisses me off about them. My own personal copies have color-coded tabs stuck on the edges of the pages so I know where to look for help and I’m not wasting my time with stories that I don’t need. And many times, reading something in the “Big Book” or the “Twelve and Twelve” has kept me sober for one more day.

But I own many other recovery-based books. Not for one minute have I ever believed that “The Big Book” was the only reading material for an alcoholic or an addict any more than I ever believed that the Bible was the only reading material for a Jew or a Christian. There are many places in which you may find wisdom and enlightenment – some are not even within the covers of a book! By all means, read “The Big Book” but read everything else as well!

One of my favorite recovery books is The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash. This book talks about recovery in Buddhist terms. You don’t have to be Buddhist to identify with the issues Ash brings up or his path to recovery. He covers the Twelve Steps and how to deal with them in a non-theistic way. It was an important book in my early recovery and one that I go back to again and again.

Another favorite is Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps by Charlotte David Kasl. (All her books rock). I especially like how she discusses faith development, links patriarchy and addiction, and looks at various recovery groups. She lists various “steps” – the Twelve Steps of AA, the Thirteen Steps of Women for Sobriety, and the Sixteen Steps she herself came up with. She also talks about toxic groups and sexual abuse within groups – it’s an incredible book. It was published in 1992 and it would be great if she came out with an update – things have changed in twenty-five years.

I came across The Spiral Steps quite by accident. I was looking for tarot readings that corresponded to the Twelve Steps and somehow I found a page out of The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing by Cynthia Jane Collins – I think it was on Google Reads or maybe Amazon. I can’t really remember. But I was instantly intrigued. As soon as I could, I bought the book.

It has become one of my very favorite recovery books. It addresses all kinds of problems – not just drugs and alcohol – but overeating, shopping, gaming, sex, working out – whatever it is. The First Step of the Pagan Twelve Steps reads, “We admitted we were harming ourselves and others and our lives had become overwhelming.” (Collins, 3) I don’t know about you but I find this much more appealing that AA’s First Step with its insistence on powerless and unmanageability. And whereas Step Two in AA is a plea to a “Power” greater than any of us peons on earth to “restore” our “sanity”, the Pagan Step Two reads, “Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.” Not sanity – balance.

Here are the complete Pagan Twelve Steps:

  1. We admitted that we were harming ourselves and other and that our lives had become overwhelming.

  2. Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.

  3. Made a decision to move our wills and our lives toward that Divine Presence.

  4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.

  5. Admitted to ourselves, to the Divine Presence, and to others the exact nature of our harm.

  6. Were entirely ready to have our harmful patterns replaced by ethical coping skills.

  7. Asked the Divine to transform us, giving us rebirth in our lives.

  8. Made a list of all beings we had harmed, beginning with ourselves and including our world, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  9. Made direct amends to all whenever possible, except when to do so would violate the Rede.

  10. Continued to take personal ethical inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it and corrected it.

  11. Sought through action and meditation to improve our conscious knowledge and contact with the Divine Presence, seeking only to choose in harmony with the greatest good.

  12. Having had spiritual awakenings as results of these steps, we offered this opportunity to others and practiced these principles in our lives.

As you can see, these steps keep the hard-hitting self-development that the original steps had but they remove the Christian flavor that leave a bad taste in our pagan mouths. If you want, you could easily remove “Divine Presence” and put in the name of whatever deity that you personally work with. Certainly – some deities are more conducive to sobriety than others!

The book is filled with stories of people in recovery and people using the steps and the Tarot readings in various ways. Although the Tarot readings are designed to be used with a sponsor, you can do them on your own. The back of the book had Tarot readings and how to use them. There is also a Recovery Spiral Book of Shadows. This has step rituals, a workbook for each of the steps, chants, and spells. There’s also an awesome bibliography. It’s worth checking out some of the books she lists, if you haven’t read them yet and reacquainting yourself with the ones you’ve read years ago. I know that’s what I plan to do.

If you live in a place like I do – where the sober pagans are few and far between – it might be a good idea to invite the few sober pagans that you do know over to your home for a sober evening. Do a ritual from The Recovery Spiral – chant the Pagan Twelve Steps – raise some sober power. Perhaps this could be the start of the one and only Pagan meeting in your area.

But until that happens – I’m continuing to be the solitary sober Dianic Wiccan that I am.

Brightest Blessings!

References

Alcoholics World Services. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001

Alcoholics World Services. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. NY: Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981

Ash, Mel. The Zen of Recovery. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

For Amazon information, click image below.

Collins, Cynthia Jane. The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing. NY: Citadel Press, 2004

For Amazon information, click image below.

Kasl, Charlotte Davis. Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. NY: HarperCollins, 1992

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

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About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

October, 2017

The Issue of Powerlessness

It’s a beautiful fall day and I am on my way to an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. It’s not easy for me to get to meetings, because I don’t have a car and public transportation in the Western New York area leaves a lot to be desired. To attend a one-hour meeting means traveling at least forty-five minutes to an hour each way on the bus. For years, this dead time on the bus kept me from attending meetings at all and of course, I invariably ended up drinking again. I had to get real with myself – what’s the difference between wasting time with public transportation or wasting time in a bar?

My name is Polly and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.

I once had eight years of sobriety but I went “back out”, as they say in AA, and I’ve been “in and out” ever since. I’ve been trying very hard since I moved back to Buffalo, mostly for health reasons. I have to admit, I really like drinking. It’s really – drinking doesn’t like me. That’s the truth of it. It’s like being in love with an abusive man. I always thought domestic violence was a lot like addiction.

Like all non-Abrahamic religious people – Pagan, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all the non-believers – I have many issues with AA. Unfortunately, in Buffalo – like many cities – it’s really the only game in town. There are a few SOS (Save Ourselves, or Secural Organization for Sobriety) meetings but nothing that I would be able to attend, given my disability. Rational Recovery stopped meeting in Buffalo back in the 1990’s. Women for Sobriety, the recovery group founded in 1975 by Jean Kirkpatrick as a women’s alternative to AA, also has no meetings in the Buffalo area, but I do subscribe to their weekly newsletter. I have tried to stay sober on my own – doing sobriety spells, daily meditation, working out, white knuckling it. Invariably I drink and drug again.

I once had a sponsor who told me, “Meeting makers make it.” So I am getting on the bus and going to a meeting. Even if it takes up my entire morning. Again, what else am I doing? If I drink, then I’m drinking for the entire day. I’m a daytime drinker – I start around 11 in morning and stop around dinner time – that’s how I do it. And then I’m going to be sick for my entire tomorrow. So why am I bitching about a meeting taking up my entire morning? I can go home after the meeting and have the afternoon to write and create art. And I’ll feel good tomorrow. Hello? I have a problem with that?

I think what most of us Pagans and Wiccans have an issue with – first thing – is the idea of being powerless over alcohol and drugs and everything else in the world – an idea that is stressed over and over again in AA and all the “anonymous” groups. After all, the whole idea of being a witch – I consider myself to be a witch, I don’t if you do – is to own your own power. So the idea of admitting powerlessness goes against the grain of everything we have been working toward as Pagans and Wiccans.

However – when we are wasted on alcohol – when we are hungover and puking and have headache that would split the atom – that’s not powerful. Be honest. How many times has someone taken advantage of you when you’ve been wasted on drugs? For me, it’s too many times to count. Too many terrible things have happened to me and I bet, to you, too. That’s what powerlessness is about.

I was on the bus the other day and it flashed to me – one of those lightbulb moments – instead of thinking about being powerless over alcohol, I would think of it as “Sobriety is powerful”. My power is in being sober. I can make better magic, stronger spells, have more meaningful meditation sessions when I am sober. And I mean sober on a daily basis.

If you want true freedom – and that’s what being Pagan is all about – you have to be sober, too. I truly believe that. It took me years to get here, but I’m here now. If you want what I have, well, be here next month and I’ll have something else to share with you.

Brightest Blessings!

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About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.