spirituality

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.

Spirituality Without Religion

October, 2018

Spoiler alert: this piece is not really about Spirituality without Religion. The way of the shaman is certainly not exempt from paradoxes and miracles.

It was August 5, 2018. My Chinese calendar predicted it would be an auspicious day for rituals but a bad one to embark on a long journey. Rituals it was. I went to my favorite café in Bangkok, the city where I was living, and put fingers to keyboard.

It had not been a good week; I had submitted a piece commissioned by a website that receives nine million unique visitors a month, and it had been turned down. My agent pitched the site for an article about living in intentional communities. I was happy to write about that topic, since I had lived in a spiritual, environmentally friendly community in Scotland and had first-hand knowledge of what the experience of communal living was about. Moreover, my first steps in shamanic practice took place during that stay, so it was a subject dear to me.

However, the editor of the website had understood that the piece would go over actionable strategies for people to create more intentional and meaningful relationships in their own communities, like setting aside time to walk around their neighborhood, join new groups, etc. Would I be open to pivoting the piece to touch on this idea?

It had not been an easy piece for me to write; the website preferred articles written in third person, very much “news you can use” and tips with quick, easy takeaways about how to improve the lives of their millions of unique visitors. About 700 words was best. Which was exactly the opposite of what I do: I write long articles, in the first person, reflecting on the perplexing circumstances of modern life, concluding in general that the world is a very confusing place and that most of the questions we ask ourselves are probably wrong. I wish I had easy takeaways to offer; I would be the first one to benefit from them. It is a happy day when the unique visitors to my site reach two digits.

Still, I wrote the piece, but it was turned down. Of course, I was open to pivoting the piece. I was in the middle of the promotion of the recently published Shaman Express, a novel I cowrote that had sold less than one hundred copies in its first month. Any chance to promote the novel was welcome. Take every opportunity you can to post your writing to different platforms was the advice of a blogger writing about how to make a living as a writer. When you first set out to freelance, you’ll have to stomach crummy pay, cantankerous editors, and take on all assignments that come your way. Let’s be honest, in the beginning, you can’t afford to be picky was the more radical advice of another blogger writing about going freelance. I spent the following week honestly trying to pivot the piece to touch on this idea of the neighborhood.

I started by reviewing my most recent experience walking around my neighborhood, which at the time was funky Banglamphu in Bangkok. I spent the first month in a cheap, murky, no “chocolate on the pillow” hotel. I divided my time between writing at a the café downstairs and attending a spiritual group that had me absorbed to the point of firmly believing that everything that surrounded me was a transient, repetitive cycle of suffering based on attachment. Why generate additional suffering by creating attachment to my neighborhood? Then I moved to a condo for the following two months, apparently built for the sole purpose of sheltering young and fleeting Airbnb travelers. After a few days I started recognizing some faces at the next-door Family Mart where I did my late-night shopping. Still, we would not greet each other in the elevator. And I did not use the gym; that alone qualified me as an outcast. No good luck in drawing from my experience here either.

Before setting out on this trip, I lived in a house in Buenos Aires for several years. I could think of only two times in which I had connected with the neighborhood. The first one was a failed attempt at bribing the neighbors with bottles of wine on the eve of my fortieth birthday party. The strategy did not prevent the neighbors from calling the police, in fact repeatedly, with a noise complaint. It was a loud party. The next occasion that I reached out to them was when the Armenian church across the street installed a cellular antenna the size of the Eiffel Tower in their backyard. I attempted to gather signatures to file a robust complaint against the cellphone company that owned the antenna, with the hope that the lucrative agreement between church and big business would be terminated. I asked my pious neighbors to choose between brain cancer hazard, the naughty neighbor I had been, and the powerful grip of the Armenian patriarch. Naturally, I ended up filing the complaint alone. This did not make me any more popular in the neighborhood and killed my chances of being admitted to the Armenian kitchen supper club.

The harder I tried to pivot the original piece, the more evident it became that more than a pivot, I had been asked to perform a quadruple somersault. If you have nothing to say, there’s no point in singing it was the advice of yet another blogger who writes about tech, culture, and startups. To make matters worse, or perhaps better, I had started to study The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I learned that, surprisingly, once we get accustomed to the omnipresent possibility of death in life, we feel greatly liberated. So I resolved the article conundrum by deciding that no matter how strongly I wanted to promote Shaman Express, I had to be honest and not write that piece. The sense of immediacy of freedom was exhilarating.

Then came the possibility of writing about Spirituality without Religion for PaganPagesOrg. My initial idea was an inflammatory article against the Roman Catholic church. I gathered all sorts of evidence and set to reading Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World and Betthany Hughes’ “Ruination in the Name of Jesus.” Simultaneously, I reread the Vatican documents A Christian Reflection on the New Age and Aspects of Christian Meditation, where the Vatican sternly warns its adepts against mixing Christian practice with Eastern approaches to spirituality.

I might have moved from the murky hotel to the Airbnb condo, but I was still attending the same spiritual group in Bangkok and studying The Tibetan Book of the Dead with renewed energy. I was being taught about such spiritually edifying principles as belief means reliance, not defiance. I had sat in meditation to be rid of negative thinking, intolerance, and cynicism. My spiritual teacher showed me money, fame, food, Facebook, fantasy, series, social media, sugar, gaming, gossip, love, lust, work, war, pain, power. The list is without end — and so is the condition. I had even tweeted, We realize that all compulsion is only based on the illusion of substantial continuation, enduring substance, binding essence. Hence, I could not respond to the opportunity of writing about Spirituality without Religion with the cheap line of debasing the world’s oldest continually functioning bureaucracy.

Cornered, I asked for guidance in meditation. I reflected on how to bridge the infinite void of separation. Bob Thurman, in his translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, explains that there are no boundaries to our interconnectedness with limitless dimensions and universes. Buddhism can only have drawn this from shamanism, the earliest form of spirituality in the planet. Later that day, my spiritual teacher talked about a God, not in a religious dimension, but as a form of spirituality that was different from the one I had departed. It implied a connection with the Universe. It was about a psychospiritual change and awakening. He talked about a higher force that we can all plug into, nothing at all like a human relation in the Judeo-Christian system of belief. Not an out-of-body experience either, but a practice that needed training to be perfected. We could find it where we thought there was no possibility of anything to exist. The spiritual part is rather the absence, the space around it, not the object itself, he taught.

He then proposed I should create a balance sheet. On one side I was to list all the reasons I could for believing in such higher force, and on the other side a list of all the reasons for disbelieving. I came up with this:

Reasons for believing:

1. The direct experience of the divine in meditation, yogic practice, and shamanic journeying.

2. The guidance of Helping Spirits that present themselves as friends, fellows, and teachers, recognizable from previous lives.

3. The intuitive knowledge of previous lives in such encounters and thus of the fallacy of separation.

Reasons for not believing:

1. Playing the atheist as an intellectual stance.

2. Scientific information.

3. The toxic political play of major religions, namely Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

My teacher nodded and explained that religions are man’s attempt to organize the spiritual experience. Organized religions, even if organized in an honest, earnest, well-meaning attempt, are always corrupt, because they are about men. A futile attempt indeed, because we know that the spiritual part is rather the absence, the space around it, not the object itself, he insisted. In this quest for spirituality, what we need is to have no escape, so we can experience what happens. Time, then, acquires a different dimension. Space has a different dimension. There arises a new possibility in Spirituality, where before it was just a necessity.

“Very well,” he concluded after reviewing my notes, “your first column is Spirituality, the second column is Religion. That is how you can have Spirituality without Religion.” I was speechless; my teacher had just written the article for me. Spirituality, not Religion, is the faster road to that greater freedom we all seek. The way of the shaman is certainly not exempt from paradoxes and miracles: he who is blessed with the guidance of a wise teacher shall learn to perform formidable pivots.

***

About the Author:

Omar Beretta is the co-author with Bénédicte Rousseau of Shaman Express. A former lawyer, yoga instructor and publishing company owner who – after a near-death experience – left his corporate career to practice yoga and shamanism, Beretta is now a traveling writer. For more information, see www.yacarevolador.com

 

Shaman Express

Interview – Laura Perry: Re-enchanting the World

September, 2018

Laura Perry: Re-enchanting the World

I recently read The Bed by Laura Perry and was pretty much blown away. It was a genuine page turner and you can read my review here. Laura is the author of various books including Ariadne’s Thread, an exploration of Minoan spirituality and Ancient Spellcraft, exploring ancient magics from all over the world. As well as authoritative books on ancient and modern spirituality, Laura writes compelling fiction with a magical twist. She was kind enough to return to PaganPagesOrg for another interview about her latest literary exploits.

Mabh Savage: Thanks for talking to us again Laura! First of all, what gave you the idea for your latest novel, The Bed?

Laura Perry: All my stories start with a “What if…” kind of idea. Here’s the “What if…” for The Bed: I was poking around an antique/junk store one day and I overheard a conversation between two women who were looking at an antique bed. One of them really liked it and was trying to get the other one to buy it. But apparently it was from an estate (the owner had died) and the second woman was concerned that the owner might have died in the bed, an idea that gave her the creeps. So I thought, what if someone did buy a bed that the previous owner had died in? What might the magical repercussions be? Might the bed be haunted in some way, and what kinds of problems would that create for the new owner? By the time I got home from that shopping trip, I already had the main storyline fleshed out!

MS: Who would you say the book is aimed at?

LP: I like to think it appeals to a broad spectrum of people: Anyone with an interest in magic, the paranormal, and witch-y subjects, since that sort of thing is a big part of the book. But on another level, it’s simply a story of a woman figuring out who she is and what her life values really are, instead of what everyone has been telling her all her life, and I think that’s a basic premise that most people can connect with.

MS: The characters in the book are very believable. Are any based on real people; did you draw upon your own experiences at all?

LP: I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t put a real person in a book and expect them to behave themselves and stick to my plotline! LOL. But I am occasionally inspired by certain aspects of individual personalities. The ghost of the bed, for instance, was inspired by a professor I knew in college – I never took any of his classes but I did attend a few individual talks he gave. He was a very interesting man, but as far as I know, was never into the kind of ceremonial magic the book character gets into. And I’ve known people who had some of the annoying attributes of some of the characters in The Bed.

In a sense, the setting of a book is also a character. In this case, the Atlanta area where the main character lives is where I’ve spent most of my life, Emory University is where I did my undergraduate work, and Unicoi State Park is one of my favorite places to visit up in the mountains. So I set up the story in a place I’m intimately familiar with, at least in part because I love this area and wanted to share it with my readers.

MS: Have you ever felt a presence tied to a piece of furniture, or another household item?

LP: Not furniture, no, but I have encountered pieces of jewelry – usually in junk shops or at estate sales – that made me feel creepy, like someone was watching me while I was handling the necklace or earrings or bracelet. I took that to mean that the previous owner’s energy was still clinging to the item and they probably didn’t want anyone else wearing it. Needless to say, I always put those back and walk away from them.

MS: The books contains elements of ceremonial magic, angels, instinctive witchcraft; was it hard to tie all these elements together or was it a fun experience?

LP: It was mostly fun, though there were points in the process where it felt like an uphill climb. All the different aspects of magic and the supernatural tend to twine together in my life. I think this is probably the case for a lot of Pagans; we don’t fit neatly into any kind of pigeonholes, but follow whichever threads look interesting to us. At first I tried to restrict the magic in the book to just the ceremonial stuff, but then Liz showed me that she’s a natural magician (or witch) and I had to figure out how to work that in. Most authors will tell you that their characters run the show, and I think that’s true – they are who they are, and once we’ve created them, we have to follow their lead and not the other way around.

MS: Would you describe the book as ‘Witch Lit’?

LP: I think so. Witch Lit is writing that incorporates magic in one way or another. It’s not just “chick lit with sparkles” but a much broader and deeper genre. I like to think it’s a way of re-enchanting the world.

MS: Do you think magical fantasy is a growing genre at the moment? Why do you think this is, if so?

LP: It does seem to be growing in popularity, and I think there are two main reasons behind that increase. First, the mystical-and-magical side of life (magic, witchcraft, Paganism, the occult) is becoming more and more mainstream every day. So more people are discovering this aspect of thought and of writing and realizing how much they enjoy it. But there’s also the fact that the world is a pretty disturbing and scary place right now, and magical fantasy allows us to escape that for a little while. Not only do we get to dive into interesting stories with fascinating characters and settings; we also get to image ways of combating the dark forces in the world beyond just the simple methods we already have at hand. And that can be empowering, because if we can imagine overcoming our own imperfections as well as the nastiness that’s outside us, that gives us hope that we might be able to do it in real life.

MS: Which authors of fiction would you say have been your greatest inspiration?

LP: That’s a long list! I started out steeped in all the Victorian classics, with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the top of the list along with all the creepy sadness of the Brontë sisters. In terms of modern authors, I’ve always wanted to be able to write like my favorite three: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams. That’s not terribly likely, but I still love their humor, their way with words, and their ability to touch on the magical parts of life with lightness but in a way that still makes the reader believe in them.

MS: Which do you prefer writing, fiction or non-fiction, and why?

LP: Honestly, I like them both. They’re different experiences, both in reading and in writing, but there are places where they overlap. For instance, they both require research as well as organization. In terms of what I’m reading, I tend to have one fiction and one non-fiction book going at the same time. And I’ve recently realized that I’m much the same with writing: I’ll typically have one of each in the works at any given time. Each genre challenges me as a writer in different ways, and I enjoy that.

MS: What’s the biggest challenge with writing a novel?

LP: For me, it’s keeping all the details straight so I don’t mess up the continuity of the story. I don’t want to end up with a situation like J.K. Rowling, where readers realized the Marauder’s Map somehow transferred ownership between the end of one Harry Potter book and the beginning of the next. I simply can’t keep a whole story in my head, so I rely on extensive notes and outlines, and sometimes even spreadsheets, to make sure I don’t screw up the details somewhere along the line and confuse my readers.

MS: And what do you enjoy most about the process?

LP: I love immersing myself in the story, getting to know the characters as if they were real people, and following them through the twists and turns of their lives. There’s a certain amount of “brain work” that goes into setting up a novel: researching the setting and any technical details, outlining the plot to make sure it makes sense, and so on. But once the preliminaries are done, I can just dive in and flow along with the story – and that’s my favorite part.

MS: Any more books on the horizon currently?

LP: In terms of fiction, I’m working on a historical novel set in ancient Crete, right at the end of Minoan civilization when there was all that turmoil and all the cities were eventually burned down. Though it’s a very different experience from writing a modern novel like The Bed, it’s still ultimately about human beings and how they deal with whatever life throws at them.

MS: As an author, how do you get yourself in ‘the zone’ to write? How do you prepare?

LP: I wrote my first two published books when my daughter was a toddler (yes, I’m slightly insane LOL). That experience taught me how to focus quickly and take advantage of short time spans whenever they’re available. I don’t usually have the luxury of spending whole hours at a time writing, since I have so many other responsibilities. But when I do get that time, I’ve learned that it’s OK to allow the rest of the world to just fall away and disappear. That way, I can focus on what I’m doing, on the words I’m writing, and nothing else. It’s almost like a meditation – that is, until the phone rings or someone knocks on my studio door!

MS: And how do you switch off and relax?

LP: Nature is my favorite medicine. I have to have my “nature time” every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes puttering around the vegetable garden or walking in our little patch of woods. After a few minutes outdoors, I can feel my shoulders relax down and my whole body reset itself to something more natural and less busy-busy-busy. When I get the chance, I head up to the north Georgia mountains for day trips to “get away from it all” – that’s some excellent sanity time, if you ask me.

MS: Any plans for the summer [ed note: interview took place a few weeks ago!]? What does the rest of 2018 hold for you?

LP: My daughter just graduated from high school so we’re spending the summer shifting gears for her to start college next month. (Eeek! Where does the time go?) We had a lovely beach vacation earlier in the summer to celebrate her graduation, so the rest of the summer will be at-home time and doing my best to keep up with all the projects I already have going. I’m in the middle of revising and updating The Wiccan Wellness Book, complete with new illustrations. The second edition is due out at the end of September. I’m chugging away on the Minoan historical novel and trying out some new challenges with the Witch Lit crew, like doing video readings of excerpts from some of my books. This October will also see the publication of the first anthology I’ve ever edited, Deathwalking: Helping Them Cross the Bridge. It’s about the shamanic practice of psychopomp (soul conductor) work, and is very much a from-the-heart project for me.

MS: Finally, if you could speak to any dead person, not necessarily tied to a bed (!), who would it be and why?

LP: Now you’ve got me thinking about what kinds of dead people might like to be tied to a bed! LOL, Besides wishing I could chat with my grandmother and ask her advice about the issues I encounter in life (she was an amazingly wise woman), I think I might like to talk with Mary Shelley. She was such an amazing person, writing far more novels and travelogues than most people are aware of, besides her famous Frankenstein. Her life was quite troubled but she had an amazing persistence and resilience, and the overriding idea that we can change society from the inside out by practicing kindness and compassion and teaching our children cooperation over competition. I’d love to hear her views about the world today as well as finding out more about her life more than a century ago.

The Bed and other Laura Perry books are available from Amazon and all good book stores. Find out more at Laura’s website.

The Bed

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

The Naked Goddess III

April, 2018

I’m part of a lot of spiritual groups and on one of them someone posted this.

Well I had a lot to say, because I feel like that gender (which is more complicated than a binary) is absolutely important to talk about. I am never comfortable when someone says we should talk about something. Silence has a very specific power.

My main issue with this is one group or part of the gender spectrum have had the power, privilege and control of everything, including spirituality for thousands of years. We cannot “white wash” this out of spirituality. When you fail to acknowledge this privilege, the differences, difficulties and discrimination that happens, you add to it. There are more than two genders. Yet pretending gender doesn’t have a bias, that wider societies and cultures doesn’t hugely favour one over everything else is wrong. You are ignoring the problem. I liken this to when privileged white people (like me) say “I don’t see colour”. It effectively erases the thing about a person or group you have and historically have issues with. It is literally removing the part of a person or groups identity. It also allows passive discrimination, bias and abuse to occur.

Spirituality can never be divorced from society. The body politic, if you will. That is why privilege always comes in. We cannot ignore the bias towards certain groups or genders. Ignoring what is happen in a larger cultural context doesn’t make it more spiritual. Spiritual is an expression of the sacred authenticity of people. It always has a cultural context. In real life terms this means folks whom are non-binary, trans, LGBTQ+ or female are going to suffer more discrimination, abuse than those not. From harassment to income, to insurance and medical care, one group significantly is more secure, more safe, and better off.

This has an effect. From spiritual courses requiring money and travel to not having a bathroom you can use, it will have an impact. This totally removes the right of those suffering to say anything if there “is no gender”. It robs them of their identity and silences them to the difficulties and joys about their lives that make them unique.

We, spiritual and pagan people should care and recognize gender, in all its diversity. We should care because we should be advocating, creating spaces and being aware that being different is beautiful and a strength.

Spirituality is not passive or weak. Kindness and inclusivity is a strength, it is courageous.

I don’t know, what I don’t know. However I am open to listening. Listening to trans, non-binary and gender fluid people as well as the scores of women around me.

I am aware that the patriarchal hangovers and wider social norms creep into our lives often without us seeing them. There is a darker more insidious message in this short post though. Setting up the Christian dichotomy of “spirit as good and body is bad” that has been used to torture and abuse millions for thousands of years. This body verses spirit things exactly plays to these problems with body politics and gender issues. It robs people of their loving divine connection to their bodies and lives. It villainises healthy sexual desire, normal bodily function, and the power of the physical world. It divorces and stigmatizes the powerful animal instincts that dwell within.

The “animal” within is not a malign influence that must be erased or destroyed or caged. Doing so removes a deep and divine force within. If it is respected and held in balance it is wise. If it is repressed or caged it reacts like any caged wild animal would. Of course if it runs riot we become less, diminishing any part of the whole makes us less. We are instinct and intellect. We are our desires and our ability to wait or let them go. We can dwell within desire, be it sexual, hunger or rage, acknowledge them and not act. Yet unless you learn to respect and listen this animal side will act out. Repressing parts of ourselves (usually out of shame) is deeply damaging and not spiritual.

It might look like it from the outside. It might look saint-like and perfect but it just isn’t authentic to a whole person. Now some folks are wolf-spirited, some are more like deer, or lions or elephants. It is not my place to tell anyone what their inner animal must be. Or their gender. Or sexuality.

Yet I will honour them. I will make space, and listen, most of all listen. I will acknowledge my position of relative privilege as a white bi-sexual female that people are more understanding or accepting of me in certain places than people whom are differently gendered. I will speak up and stand up to the injustices and intolerance. I will bridge my ignorance with kindness and recognition.

 

 

Going Shamanic Radio

March, 2018

 

Going Shamanic” is hosted by Jennifer Engracio on P.A.G.E.  Media Project’s blogtalk radio each month. The show focuses on how to integrate shamanism into every day life. Instead of relegating the spiritual aspect of ourselves to Sundays at church or weekend workshops, this show will support listeners in weaving ritual, prayer, magic, alignment with the Spiritworld and the Earth into their lives to enrich their experience of living.

This month features Power Stories with Carell Mahel…

A Reiki Master Teacher and Shamanic Practitioner, Carell is committed to working with others to empower them on their spiritual journeys.  She is currently collecting Women’s Power Stories for a book project. Carell is co-editor of this compilation.

 

 

Going Shamanic is hosted by Jennifer Engracio, about how to integrate shamanism into everyday life. 

Instead of relegating the spiritual aspect of ourselves to Sundays at church or weekend workshops, this show will support listeners in weaving ritual, prayer, magic, alignment with the Spiritworld and the Earth into their lives to enrich their experience of living. Jen is also the founder of Spiral Dance Shamanics.  

To contact Jen and find out more about services offered go to: www.jenniferengracio.wordpress.com

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic practitioner, Reiki Master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing”

For Amazon information, click image below

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Going Shamanic Radio

December, 2017

 

Going Shamanic is hosted by Jennifer Engracio on P.A.G.E.  Media Project’s blogtalk radio each month. The show focuses on how to integrate shamanism into every day life. Instead of relegating the spiritual aspect of ourselves to Sundays at church or weekend workshops, this show will support listeners in weaving ritual, prayer, magic, alignment with the Spiritworld and the Earth into their lives to enrich their experience of living.

This month’s show answers the question “What is Shamanism?” and covers a variety of topics, including addiction, relationships, choices and learning to listen to our intuition.  It is an incredible show all the way to the end.

Join us to find out how we are all  ‘Going Shamanic‘!

 

 

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic practitioner, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing”

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com


MagickalArts

July, 2017

In-Spired Magick

 

 

 

 

When we are mentally inspired our thoughts come rushing in like a gust of wind; often moving so quickly that we have to pause for a moment and breathe into the excitement of downpour or we miss some of the fine points. Our breath quickens and our heart races at the potential of what has been intellectualized and refined by mental process.

When we are emotionally inspired our feelings flow throughout our being often in a rhythm of ebb and flow similar to that of the ocean’s tides. We breathe into the momentum and allow ourselves to either languish in the beauty of these emotions being gently carried along or anxiously push the unsettling feelings quickly through flooding our sense of reason or logic.

When we are physically inspired, we run and dance; exercise and eat heartily enjoying every bite and physical action. We savor the manifest form we have been gifted and marvel at its capabilities and the complexity of its creation. We breathe deeply to renew and sustain our life and fill our lungs to capacity so we may exert more effort where needed or quiet the rapid breaths of over-exertion.

And, when we are Spiritually inspired we feel at one with the world around us. If this awareness is expanded even further, we breathe into our subtle bodies, each in turn connecting us and resonating with a deeper aspect of our being and the subtle planes. We offer the sigh of release and surrender to the offering up our service and devotion and breathe fully and intentionally into the Universe as co-creator and creation itself.

In all of these states of inspiration the key word is – Breath. We breathe automatically in our mundane lives. Requiring this exchange of air to survive. It is a seamless and transparent action that supports and moves in synchronicity with all of our physiological functions. Applying the same force and flow of breath as we move through ritual and magickal working in an intention-filled way provides the vehicle that carries the energetic sparks that serve to quicken and enliven towards manifest goal.

In-spiring magick is not simply the cerebral activity of having high regard for specific types of magickal practice. It is not simply how you feel and what the intent is for the work. It is not the actions and steps that are taken in the physical gesture of working magick and ritual. It is all of these things that are first primed and called into action when you take that initial inward breath before the exhale of your intention. This breath calls us to attention that something out of the ordinary is being undertaken and that all parts of my physiological and etheric make-up are required to engage and flow in accord with one another.

We are all familiar with the adage, “Energy follows awareness” and it is with this thought in mind that if we take a step further, breathing establishes the point of awareness that then attracts the energetic flow which is moved by the rhythm of breath. That awareness begins in taking note of how you are breathing. In meditative and contemplative work, breath is the start of the process of turning within. Taking notice of the rise and fall of the chest. The rhythm and pace of your breathing and bringing it into alignment with the space in which you are sitting and in accord with the flow of energy that surrounds you.

We often overlook the need to breathe as part of our magickal practice. We participate in ritual and are closed off to the most organic of energetic flow because we forget to apply the force of breath at the appropriate moments. Over the years have come to know the value and need for incorporating breath work into my spiritual practice. Learning to control the breath correlates with learning to control energy. One of the more basic exercises to use as a preparation tool for meditative or ritual working is the Four-Fold Breath*. The rhythm you are establishing in breathing this way creates a foundation upon which you can expand as needed for the working at hand.

Practical application begins with being consciously aware of breathing into your actions at all levels. The next time you are interacting with another, give pause and take a moment to breathe before answering the question asked. The next time you are sitting in a public space, give pause and take note of how you are breathing. Are you anxious? Are you feeling calm? And, then breathe into the energy of the space and enliven your own personal space with whatever positive intention of change or maintaining this energy that you wish.

These are some ways to be more attentive to the application of breath in your Spiritual and Magickal workings. To begin your meditation work, take note of your breathing and as you move through the various stages of consciousness breathe into each sending out your intention infused with life’s breath. If you are tasked with the casting and calling of the quarters in creating sacred space breathe into the scribing of the sacred circle. Infuse the energy you are using with the intention-filled breath of movement and upholding. As you stand before the quarters, take a deep breath in expanding and calling to attention all of your subtle bodies and as the words of opening pour forth send the will and force of that breath in request to those unseen to be present.

As you work in this way and become more aware of the impact of breath in all of your endeavors, the physical transparency of life-sustaining breath and the integration of that same enlivened breath for magickal practice will become one in the same. After all, this is the goal we aspire towards and why we walk this Path. The goal to move harmoniously in the unified space of the mundane and the magickal – 24/7- 365 days a year. So, Just breathe!

Breath work is a staple of magickal practice. Control of the breath and knowing when and how to use the levels of energetic dynamic that can be achieved by breath begins with the basics of learning how to breathe correctly. Energy follows awareness and is move along its current of flow by breath.

The Four-Fold Breath Technique

The Four-Fold breath practice is one from Eastern practice that is used to clear the mind, act as a point of focus and move you into the automatic response of relaxed and even space of inhalation and exhalation with pause of hold in between. It also develops awareness and control of the breathing process, which is the foundation of energy work. This technique also provides greater relaxation and deeper breathing, using fuller capacity of the lungs. This is an excellent way to begin a meditative session or use as way to relax into and open to the journaling process.

Begin by sitting in a quiet, comfortable setting.
Focus your attention on the rhythm of your breath. As you begin to feel your body relax focus your attention more fully on your breathing.

Take a full deep breath inhaling for a moderate count of 1-2-3-4
Hold this breath for a moderate count of 1-2-3-4
Exhale for a moderate count of 1-2-3-4
Hold at the completion of exhalation for 1-2-3-4

You may continue to breathe in this manner for several sets of the four. Eventually, your breath will establish its own rhythm and attention to counts will not be necessary.

Tips: Try to maintain an even steady rhythm of in-flow and out-flow. This allows greater ease of holding at the fullest point of expansion and holding again once the breath has been expelled.


Do not be surprised if the first few attempts bring inability to hold at the peak and base of release and intake for the full 4 counts. Depending on the state of relaxation and possibly any additional pre-existing respiratory conditions, you may fond this difficult at first.

Usually, after several times of practice and with each practice any rhythm, flow or relaxation issues decrease and then generally fade. Remember, for some this may be a new type of physicality and awareness of breathing that is normally left on “auto-pilot” as we go through our day.

Blessings on your journey carried on the wings of breath… Robin

Following the Sun-Wheel

August, 2016

The Shape of My Practice

 

*Dedicated to my High Priestess, Wendy Morris

I am a third degree Celtic witchcraft elder. I live in Norway, a country with covens few and far between. I helped found a coven still thriving in Colorado Springs, with my high priestess, Wendy Morris. I moved to Norway eight years ago to be with my family, but I maintain contact with the coven in Colorado and my close friend Wendy. I have been solitary for some years now, and have developed a style of solitary witchcraft which I would like to share with all who are interested. My practice follows the paradigm of the Sun Wheel, which many will recognize in its calendar form, the Wheel of the Year. However, it is not necessary to practice it on the calendar dates, though that is beneficial, especially if you are in a coven. I will begin and end my description in the North, the Place of Power.

*

Witches chart their sacred occasions around the year on ‘the Wheel of the Year’. The wheel resembles a compass, with the eight sabbats marked out on the eight cardinal and intermediate points. Thus, Yule corresponds to the northern point, Ostara to the eastern, Litha to the southern point, and Mabon to the western, with Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh (or Lammas) and Samhain mapped to the northeastern, southeastern, southwestern and northwestern points, respectively.

The Wheel of the Year can also be used to map the lunar month and the twenty-four hour day. The winter solstice (Yule), the dark moon and midnight correspond to the northern point at the top of the wheel. By following the Wheel, witches and other Pagans can align themselves with the energies of those times.

In addition, the four quarters, marked out on the wheel by the lines connecting the intermediate points (northeast to southwest and southeast to northwest) correspond to the four classic elements 1 of earth (northern quarter), air (eastern), fire (southern) and water (western quarter). These elements contain inner elemental powers, the four powers of the Magus: to keep silent or be still (north), to know (east), to will (south), and to dare (west). The ongoing purpose of witchcraft is to cultivate the four elemental powers in one’s life in a balanced fashion.

Once she is dedicated to learning the Craft for a lunar year and a day, the apprentice witch’s natal horoscope is charted, if birth information is available. The planets’ positions in the various signs are noted with respect to the elements of those signs, and in this way the tasks chosen for the present incarnation are indicated, in order to achieve a better balance among the four elements. As the balance between the elemental powers improves, the fifth power of the Magus gradually becomes available to the witch, the power to go, meaning to go on astral journeys up and down the inner pillar, exploring the various worlds or dimensions encountered along the way.

In my own case, I have most planets in air signs, then in water, then a few in earth and none in fire. This is presumably because I have already done fire work in past lives and now I am meant to emphasize the other elements in that order. Thus, I began by cultivating knowledge (air), then daring (water; daring to explore the unknown), then stillness, both mental and physical (earth), and, as a final touch, will (fire). I am beginning to make astral journeys, first from a state of lucid waking, 2 and subsequently from lucid dreaming, dreaming while being aware I am in a dream. Both are springboards to traveling up and down the inner pillar, cognate with the World Pillar or the trunk of the World Tree.

The Sunward Path

In witchcraft we say that words will have power if we do not tell lies. We are not constrained to tell the truth on every occasion, but have the option to remain silent instead. This is following the sunward path with our speech, and if we do this, the Sun will empower our words. In the same way, if we promise to do something, we should expend every effort to keep that promise. Not to do so is another form of lying. If circumstances prevent us from keeping our commitment, we should explain this to whomever we made our promise, and offer an alternative. Otherwise, our word will be doubted, and we shall have to pull the weight of a broken commitment behind us. That will inhibit and diminish our magical power.

The sunward path is the path of optimum use of energy. It is not an ethically prescriptive path. It does not say, unconditionally, do not lie. It says, “If you want to make the best use of your energy, either tell the truth or remain silent.” It is similar to the Rede, which means advice. “If you want to be free to do as you will, harm none.”

The Hindu teaching about this states that if we take our journey through life facing the Sun (and therefore following the Sun), the shadow of pleasure will follow us. If we turn our backs on the Sun, the shadow of pleasure will ever recede before us. The shadow takes the shape of our own outline, but omits our substance. Thus we will never succeed in catching our shadow.

This does not mean that the witch abstains from pleasure. She is not running from her shadow, and accepts pleasure as it comes to her, but looks toward the Sun, the light of truth and Self-knowledge. As the Sun lightens the world, it both symbolizes and embodies truth.

Cultivating the Elemental Powers

In order to cultivate the four elemental powers of knowledge, will, daring and silence, a certain amount of free energy is necessary. This energy is usually in short supply, because it has been appropriated by habits conditioned by society and largely squandered. The key to accessing and cultivating elemental powers, then, lies in saving what little free energy we possess.

In each quarter, the business of cultivating elemental power goes through four phases, corresponding to the three lunar phases of purification, consecration and charging, and culminating in the ‘earthing’ phase of the dark moon. This last phase lies on the transition point to the next quarter. Thus, the earthing phase of the northern quarter lies on the Imbolc northeastern point, overlapping a little with the quarters of Earth and Air.

Purification is governed by the Maiden and the waxing phase of the moon, and consists in freeing up a portion of our everyday energy, thus creating space for the influx of elemental power. Before we can receive something new, we must let go of the old. Once space has been created, the accumulated power can be put to some focused use. This is consecration, governed by the Mother and the full moon phase. As power continues to accumulate and be channeled into the consecrated purpose, it becomes magnetic, as it were, capable of creating real change in the witch’s habits and perceptions. This is charging, the harvest of power governed by the Crone and the waning moon. These phases need not occur during the actual lunar phases, for ‘she is old or young as she pleases,’ but timing to the lunar month invokes the Lady’s special assistance. Finally, the cultivated power sinks into the witch and becomes second nature, part of her emerging magical personality.

The work of cultivation takes two forms, which may be called practice and praxis. Practice involves performing or inhibiting certain actions at set times and, when possible, set places, preferably on a daily basis. Praxis, a word I am adapting, consists of small actions taken randomly throughout the day or night when we think of them. Both practice and praxis are necessary to cultivation, and should support each other.

The linchpin of praxis is to bear in mind the words “my energy.” At any given moment, you have the freedom to observe what is capturing your energy, and to decide to withdraw your energy from it if you so choose. “My energy, my choice” is the motto of praxis. This is especially important in moments of negative expression, such as voicing irritation, which can whittle away our energy, or outbursts of anger, which can consume all the magical energy freed over the course of a day.

North

In the quarter of the north, praxis involves restraining certain habits of nervous motions when they start up: twitchings, scratchings, tapping the foot, and other small nervous movements which, taken collectively, consume a large amount of our energy each day and promote mental unrest. When some energy has been saved and accumulated through praxis, the witch can try sitting still at certain times of the day, further quietening down the body through regular practice.

As the body begins to be still, the restlessness of the mind comes to the fore. The witch now realizes the point of cultivating stillness, and the full moon phase at the northern point begins, through meditation.

Since the witch is left free at this point to choose how he or she will meditate, I can only describe my own experience. As I close my eyes, I notice my phosphenes 3 briefly, then my current thought patterns emerge. 4 I note them as they recede, and presently I am able mentally to slip between them, falling a little down my inner pillar to quieter thoughts and feelings. This feels like a sudden mild jerk, as in an elevator which has slipped its cable a few inches, or as we sometimes feel while falling asleep.

My mind is still talking to itself a little, but increasingly it is more like whisperings. The usual feelings and images which accompany me in everyday life recede, and presently older nuances of feeling from earlier times in my life float by. These are accompanied with earlier feelings of my own existence, and I seem to become more flexibly myself, like a deck of cards that has been shuffled and re-dealt. I am still myself – it is still the same deck – but there is a new deal.

I may hit some hot spots at times, old obsessions or enthusiasms, and I try to work around these and continue descending into the quieter depths of memory. I am going down into what witchcraft calls my ‘Deep’. How far I go will depend upon how completely I have cultivated my four elemental powers in balance together. Thus, the power ‘to go’, the power of aether or spirit, is approached gradually through many descents. When I reach the Summerland or Tir-na n’og, and come into contact with my root-soul, I may experience aspects of myself from previous lives. One Vedantin monk who went this far presently got up, quit the monastic order, and went into the desert to study wildflowers. He had never desired to do so in living memory, but apparently he had been a botanist in a previous life.

This means to me that when I reincarnate, my root-soul begins growing a new shoot up into Middle-Earth, and as I live my life here, my shoot or inner pillar keeps growing. The way back down to my root-soul, then, lies through my past memories and feelings.

On the way back up the inner pillar to my body resting in Middle-Earth, many feelings from my ‘Deep’ accompany me. These include the way it felt to be me and alive many years ago, along with insights from those times. As I awake into my everyday attention, these feelings and insights from long ago have at first an uncanny, fermenting effect on my everyday personality, like yeast added to bread dough. At the same time, energy flows more freely through my mind, as some of my usual obsessions have been swept aside by the force of my descent and the arrival of past nuances of feeling. I feel more childlike, for I have more free energy not harnessed by mental foci. Children are playful because much of their energy is not directed by a mental agenda. Perhaps this is a foretaste of that joy reported by witches who have reached the ‘true Sabbat’.

As these nuances begin integrating with the concerns of my everyday life, the flow of free energy in me stirs within, and feelings of inspiration and intuition arise. I have reached the boundary between stillness and knowledge, governed by the Dark Moon; I have arrived at the northeastern point.

East

The northeastern point is celebrated at Imbolc, February 2nd, or, more authentically, February 1st. 5 This is the time when ewes begin to feel the stirrings of unborn lambs in their wombs. Likewise, the witch, having reascended his or her inner pillar, feels the stirrings within of feelings and images recovered from the long past, along with the creativity enjoyed then before it was covered over and forgotten in later years.

This is a joyful phase, recalling the enticements of the elf-maid of Brittany, as she lured young men to the plain of Tir-na n’og, the plain of youth:

Deuit ganin-me da gompezenn al Levenez

O! Mar goufec’h e teufec’h’vit atao!”

Come with me to the plain of Joy.

Oh! If you knew, you would come there forever!” 6

Energy must continue to flow freely in order for the ideas it contains to emerge at the eastern point. The praxis for ensuring this is to catch the mind at the point of continuing past conversations, or anticipating future ones. One simply acknowledges them, thinking ‘that is the rehash,’ or ‘that is the rehearsal,’ and the mind will tend to relax into the present sensuous moment. This prepares it for the encounter with unique energy in the form of music, artistic images, or ideas. The Maiden works with this in the phase of purification when she gradually winnows the free flow of feelings and images from the ‘Deep,’ shaping them towards the eastern point of consecration, when the Mother articulates them as ideas. This is the time to surrender to the new, taking it in as for the first time, as we did in childhood. Too much critical analysis at this point, saying “that sounds (or looks) like x,” will assimilate it to past habit, missing its unique quality. A hallmark of such new ideas is that they are taken in lightly, without strong feelings of partisanship. As children we felt free to learn a large variety of things and enjoyed playing at ideas, strong preferences being formed only later in adolescence.

South

According to my natal chart, I have no planets in Fire, and I have interpreted this as meaning I worked with that element in a past life, so that I need to catch up with the other elements. That being so, I should have an overview of the quarter, and in fact I have. The Sun-Wheel is often depicted in ancient cultures as a swastika, but note it is a sunwise-turning swastika, with the bent arms trailing back to the left, the opposite of the Nazi symbol. To me the swastika resembles a fire-drill, as seen from above. The bent arms are twirled sunwise, with the drill making friction in the flints below, in ‘the Deep,’ thus igniting the fuel at its base.

At the southeastern or Beltane point, it becomes clear how one’s everyday life needs to make room for new knowledge. Old habits must be set aside or redirected. This is the purification phase of Fire, and here the fire-drill comes into play, creating friction between old and new habits, and building that magical heat the Hindus call ‘tapas,’ the fruit of spiritual discipline and austerity, which will rush up from the ‘Deep’ when it has accumulated sufficiently.

The practice of purification can involve something I call the ‘Inventory’. A spell, music or other creative act is a projection of energy, and it requires a conduit to carry the energy involved. Most of our conduits are blocked by past projects we have neither brought to completion nor canceled. By making an inventory of the physical clutter in the home, or of an overcommitted schedule, a witch can discern which projects are worth completing and which should be dropped and forgotten. In the case of the latter, the documents and other debris left over from the unfinished project need to be discarded or put to a different use. In the course of doing this, the witch will acquire practice in putting a project out of mind, a process that is of paramount importance in spellcraft, after the spell is cast.

Every project or task that extends over time requires a groove or conduit to convey the energy from one day to the next. By canceling past projects that are no longer needed or desired, and by completing others, the witch opens up a number of conduits which can serve to convey the energy used in spells. At the same time, beginning new projects makes use of the magic of the beginning, which becomes available increasingly as we get free of ever-pending tasks. The witch moves out of the dead calm of in medias res, always being in the middle of affairs, to the creative space of beginning afresh. New projects are then monitored and dropped if they become bogged down and no longer progress towards their goal.

When home and schedule have been sufficiently freed from clutter, and the work needed to optimize conditions for the new project has been done, the witch has reached the southern point of Litha or Midsummer. The Mother at the full moon phase now consecrates it to action. In case of a spell, the witch may now resort to a book of methods. 7 As the witch practices the mechanics of the spell, or the musician masters the new music, it becomes familiar and second nature. The Crone’s phase of charging lends it a personal style, called ‘the knack’ at Lammas (or Lughnasadh), as symbolized by the sacred loaf baked on that occasion and eaten at midnight.

West

Let us review our journey thus far. In the North, the journey back up the inner pillar brings with it liberated magical energy and psychic materials from ‘the Deep’. At the northeastern point these are integrated with portions of the everyday psyche covertly, in the Dark Moon phase of Imbolc. Every time this point is reached, the magical personality grows and partially replaces the old conditioned everyday personality.

At the eastern point, new knowledge emerges, and is articulated, through ideas, music, art, or the sense of a magical goal.

At the southeastern point, habits and conditions in everyday life are identified which must be changed in order to realize the knowledge physically. This identification is intuitive at first, in keeping with the character of the Dark Moon.

In the south quarter, space is cleared for the spell or other creative work by suppressing or redirecting habits incompatible with its construction. This is followed by the construction of the spell (music, art, etc.) in physical terms. The Crone charges the work accomplished by uniting it with the will, so that at the southwestern point the spell or other work becomes the knack, the personal skill of the practitioner. As in previous Dark Moons, this is accomplished covertly, as symbolized by the oven baking the sacred loaf on Lammas Eve.

The western quarter is the quarter of daring, that is, daring to penetrate the unknown. Its element is Water, which seeks the lowest point and goes around obstacles by taking their shape. The work of Fire replaces many comfortable habits with the new construction of the spell or other creative endeavor. These habits are missed because they provided a sense of orientation; they were shields against the onslaught of the unknown.

In the west the witch goes fearlessly into the unknown, in anything from taking a new route to work to undergoing some form of initiation. The portals of the unknown lie in altered perception or attention. The witch spreads his/her visual attention from where the eyes are pointing to the side, top or bottom of the visual field, and the aural attention to background sounds. As much as can be seen of the head without looking in mirrors or some other reflecting surface is held in the attention. This naturally places the attention on the periphery of the visual field. Background sounds are reproduced mentally as a way of increasing focus on the aural environment.

These practices, or praxes, sound exhausting but are actually relaxing because they switch off our usual sensory filters. The witch becomes one with his/her perceptual environment. Every day is like a day at the beach.

Continual practice or praxis of redirection opens up the body at certain points, such as the muscles at the outer corners of the eyes, to an inflow of energy carrying feelings similar to those encountered in the north, during the journey down the inner pillar. The difference is that now these feelings come up by themselves into the everyday world. At the western point of Mabon one’s dead ancestors and friends may begin showing up in dreams. When they do, they may be invited to attend ‘dumb’ suppers through the month of October, culminating in the great Sabbat of Samhain at the end of the month. In the Craft we say that the human dead are released for visits at Mabon, and the nonhuman dead are added to their number at Samhain, in the emergence of the Wild Hunt.

It is at or around Mabon, the autumn equinox, that the ‘fast’ spell is cast, though a ‘slow’ spell can be cast at Samhain, earthed when finally released. 8 This can be timed to follow the actual wheel of the year, or sequenced with previous work following the Sun-Wheel. The Sabbats celebrate these points around the Sun-Wheel and often witches in a coven will time their private work to draw on the solar energies abundant at those times, but shorter sequences can occur outside the calendrical dates.

The spell, then, may be cast in Circle by raising the Cone of Power, working together with other witches, or some more private method, such as the spell of nine knots, may be used. The important point is that the witch should be open to the spirit world through practices of daring, as described in the examples given above. Note that these are my practices, but other witches may employ visualization, mantra, or a number of other methods.

At the northwestern point of Samhain, the ‘slow’ spell is released into ‘the Height’ and (with the Wheel of the Year), added to the Wild Hunt and earthed with it when it returns to the Underworlds. Thence it will rebound into our world of Middle-Earth and accomplish its magical purpose.

It is now forgotten, as though it had never been, as the witch enters the quarter of silence and stillness once more.

*

Bibliography

Farrar, Janet and Stewart, Spells and How They Work, Custer, WA, Phoenix

Publishing, 1990.

1 In modern terms, these four elements correspond to the solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter, and to observable energy or fire. The fifth point of aether corresponds to more subtle states such as plasma.

2 In lucid dreaming, we are aware of being in a dream while dreaming; in lucid waking, we are aware of being awake while waking. Neither state is taken for granted.

3 Impressions of lights and squiggles produced by the pressure of the eyelids on the retina.

4 In dreams these appear as synopses, defining in advance the current dream-situation.

5 Changed to February 2nd by the Church.

6 From Janet and Stewart Farrar, Spells and How They Work, pp. 95-96.

7 Such as Janet and Stewart Farrar’s Spells and How They Work. See Bibliography.

8 A fast spell is released suddenly, as with the Cone of Power. A slow spell is released gradually, as with candle spells, which are cast gradually as a candle burns down.

Finding the Pagan Way

December, 2015

Living with Spirituality
For me, Neopaganism is about reaching out to the universe and listening to the messages that spirit gives us. This is not always an easy task,- accepting the advice of spirit does not always guarantee an easy passage through life. Listening to spirit, or the “God(s)/Goddess(‘s)” is a path which is open to everyone, regardless of belief. Even an atheist who follows their “hunches” is doing exactly the same thing. The beauty and the freedom of neopaganism lies in the acceptance of many paths to wisdom and guidance. My own journey consisted of finding the “truths” in many beliefs, until I reached a point of total acceptance of my own uncertainty,- and the value of every belief system for people at various points in their journey towards awakening. Over time I widened my views until I was able to accept that almost every belief system is a valid tool for dealing with life, for those who are in need of that particular level of guidance. For example,-as a devout Catholic, I received help and guidance in response to my prayers and questions. Then as I explored many other beliefs,- I found the same loving response from the universe, regardless of my particular view at the time of asking.

Angels in the Wind

I stand and feel the wind’s embrace,- as kisses, soft as feathers, touch my smiling face.
Gentle laughter, hushed as falling snow is calling,- and it leads me where I need to go.
Swirling leaves are blowing all around,-that somehow leave a gleaming trace.
But as the seasons meet within my heart, I feel a joy, an all-consuming grace.

It grieves me little now to say that all I think I know will, someday, pass away.
It does not matter that the world will turn and all my dreams may die and never be reborn.
This perfect moment is enough, within the pause between the night time and the day.
With tiny angels dancing all around in laughter and in play.

“Walk with us between the worlds and let imagination fly.
We will show that all who ever lived , will never die.
We will heal your aching heart and help you understand,
That only love can heal the world and soothe the heart of man.”

Patrick W Kavanagh 16/11/2015

by Bill Oliver boysoblue.com

paganway

 

If there was one gift that I could give to the world, it would be the gift of uncertainty.
Tempered with acceptance,- it is the royal road to calmness and peace of mind. When we accept uncertainty as a working principle in our lives , we can learn to no longer feel threatened by the beliefs of others, and can treat those who are desperately afraid with more patience. The evangelist, the fanatics and the elitists are simply terrified of uncertainty. This is why they cannot reason with others or live in peace. Once we accept uncertainty, we can become open to hearing the song of the universe much more clearly,- although our human condition makes full understanding very unlikely, until we have evolved a great deal more. Nevertheless, it is a powerful tool for increasing the likelihood of spiritual awakening.
Certainty

Like a suit of armour,
Polished gold that gleams and sparkles in the light.
That Blessed Shield that keeps our ego safe.
No nagging doubts disturb us in the night.
No second thoughts to make our conscience chafe.

The Joy of never being wrong,
Those great eternal truths that beam down from above.
Our principles that keep us different from the milling throng.
When we love Certainty,
It’s charms can keep us safe from any other love.

We feel misunderstood by those who do not truly Know.
Their dreadful ignorance and anarchy surrounds us every day.
If only we could set them on the path they need to go.
If only they could understand the things we try to say,
Then we could let them bask in our enlightened glow.

But then,
How can I teach the sparrow how to fly?
They seemed to know just what to do,
Before I ever had a chance to teach them how.

I often watch in envy as they dance and weave beneath the evening sky.
The crimson setting sun, that lights their antics, lights the furrows on my brow.
Streaking red and gold across the purple hills and dark green fields,
It’s rainbow glory blinds my eyes and lets me see,
This world was doing fine before there ever was a Me.

Patrick W Kavanagh
01/08/2013.
I believe that we are immortal, spiritual beings who are undergoing transformation and evolution trough our interactions on the earth plane. If this is true, then there are no absolute “rights” and “wrongs”. I feel that exercising, Love, Fairness and Compassion are likely to lead to less suffering for ourselves and those around us, but regardless of our actions, we will all awaken to our true self in time. This is why I consider reincarnation to be a very strong possibility. There seems to be quite a bit of evidence in favour of its reality, but, of course we cannot be certain!. Brightest Blessings.
So Many Worlds in One
So many worlds in one.
Maybe in some far off time they will return to where they’ve first begun.
Spirit flies beyond the bounds of space and time,
The past, the present and the future beat within a single endless rhyme.

The poet and the prophet speak with just one single voice.
We listen to their ramblings and their ravings, for we sense they have no choice.
They only say the things they hear, and try to show the things they see.
But neither they, nor we, can truly understand, until our ego’s cease to be.

Yet the world we know is sometimes kind,
And the worlds beyond this world can heal the heart and mind.
If we open up our eyes and see the vastness of eternity,
It’s there in front of us, if we could only stop the world, and simply be.
Patrick W Kavanagh
27/04/2014

paganway2

Goddesses of Sorcery

April, 2014

The Goddess Can Change the World

Recently I participated in the International Women’s week at Vanier College in Montreal. My talk was called “The Goddess Returns” and I spoke about a very important issue: how Goddess spirituality can decrease violence against women by empowering women.

My talk was held in a large classroom with fifty-plus young people expectantly waiting to see a Witch (maybe with a big pointy hat and black cat!) arrive to tell them about the Goddess.  I did not bring the hat and the cat but I did bring a lot of thought-provoking ideas! I started the talk by asking the students to imagine what God might look like. Then I talked about the different ways that God is perceived in the different main stream religions. I would like to share some of my talk with you.

The Goddess Returns

    When most people think of God, they think of a masculine figure or energy. They use the pronoun ‘he’. If you are a Christian or Jew and believe the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, you may read that man is made in God’s image. The King James Bible says in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  Most people forget the last bit: male AND female…..So what the bible alludes to the idea that God is both male and female. But Christians and Jews still think of God as “he”.

Islam teaches that no one is like Allah.  Quran verse 42:11 says that: Allah is the creator of the heavens and the earth and there is nothing like him. But they still refer to Allah as ‘he’. Some Muslims say that Allah is the same God that is worshipped by Abraham.

Buddhism does not believe in God in the same way, they believe in Buddha. Being human, the Buddha had a human body like any ordinary person. There is also nothing in the teachings of the Buddha that suggest how to find God or worship the god’s of India, (where he came from) although the Buddha himself was a theist (believed in gods), his teachings are non-theistic.

The Buddha was more concerned with the human condition: Birth, Sickness, Old age, and Death. The Buddhist path is about coming to a place of acceptance with these painful aspects of life, and not suffering through them.

The Buddha is not thought of as a god in Buddhism and is not prayed to. He is looked up to and respected as a great teacher.  He was a human being who found his perfection in Nirvana. Because of his Nirvana, the Buddha was perfectly moral, perfectly ethical, and ended his suffering forever.

Does that mean that every Buddhist in the world is an atheist?

No! A lot of Buddhists believe in God, a lot of Buddhists don’t believe in God… And a lot of Buddhists just don’t know. All three points of view are OK if you’re Buddhist because the end of suffering is more important than God in Buddhism. (1)  

Hinduism believes in one universal soul called Brahman that manifests into the world as many forms, mainly Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, a triad of Gods. Goddesses can also be manifestations of Brahman.

    Wicca has a different view point and emphasis than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Wicca is a spiritually that comes from the British Isles and while it is a modern religion, has its roots in antiquity. So Wicca as we know it today all started in the 1950’s when a man called Gerald Gardner decided that Witchcraft should be brought out of the broom closet! Since then Wicca has become the fastest growing religion in North America today. I think one of the reasons is because the people of the world are ready to re-connect with the Divine Feminine, their Divine Mother, the Goddess.

The thread that runs through every Wiccan Tradition is the belief that God/Goddess is immanent: present within nature. Judeo-Abrahamic Religions believe God is transcendental (outside creation), Taoist religions (ex. Buddhism and Hinduism) believe that the world is “maya” (an illusion), but Wiccans believe that God/dess is immanent and the world is sacred. This means that we believe all life is Sacred including plants, animals, the planet and YOU!

The Students Meet the Goddess

    At this point in my talk I had the students close their eyes and relax. I invited the Goddess to enter the room and I felt her calming and gentle presence! The energy in the room had changed! I asked them to return to the picture of God they had imagined at the beginning of the talk and then to imagine a beautiful woman glowing with light standing beside the God image. Then I asked them to imagine this Divine Lady stepping forward and coming beside them, then to feel her putting her arm around them and holding them. I was surprised to see the deep peace and happiness on their faces!

    Sharing their experiences some of the students were shocked that they actually felt a warm arm around them. Some saw the God and Goddess as their parents. One boy said that his Goddess didn’t have a head! I think this is very significant because it shows how our modern society has removed the face of the goddess from our lives. It was a wonderful experience for me as a speaker and for the group.

Next I talked about the impact of Goddess Spirituality on the world.

What would happen if you believed that God was female?

If when I said the word God you not only saw a male figure but you saw the Great Mother standing beside Him how would that change you? If you as a woman realized that not only are you sacred but that you were actually made in the image of the Goddess would you feel empowered?

An empowered woman is not afraid to stand up for her rights. She is confident and strong. She raises her sons and daughters to respect others, because she does not have to prove to others that she is strong, she knows she is. If women were empowered perhaps the violence and inequality against women would change.

I would like to propose that Goddess spirituality empowers women and that the boys raised by empowered women grow up to be men who see women as equals and treat them with respect. This theory is backed up by many feminist studies and scholars. Since Wicca is the only religion in the world where the Goddess is seen as the main Deity, perhaps this is why it is growing so quickly, as people react against the gulf between genders.

Violence against women

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and that “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men“.

In North America, specifically in our beautiful city of Montreal, the inequality against women is not as evident as it may be in other countries. However all over the globe, violence and discrimination against women and girls violates their human rights and severely compromises young people’s sexual and reproductive health. Harmful practices, including female genital cutting/mutilation, femicide, gender-based violence, and early marriage, damage girls’ physical being and self-worth by reinforcing gender-based marginalization and inequality. Gender inequalities and biases pervade cultures worldwide, preventing women and girls from fully realizing their rights to reproductive health and equality. Even here one in four women has experienced violence related to sex and gender!

    Here are some very frightening statistics about violence against women. How can we change this? The only way is to change society from within each home and within each heart. Goddess spirituality and empowered women can do this! Let the Goddess return to the world!

Discrimination against women and girls often begins at conception, especially in parts of India and South Asia.

  • In parts of India and South Asia, there is a strong preference for having sons. Girls can be perceived as a financial burden for the family due to small income contributions and costly dowry demands.

  • In India, pre-natal sex selection and infanticide accounted for the pre-natal termination and death of half a million girls per year over the last 20 years.1

  • In the Republic of Korea, 30 percent of pregnancies identified as female fetuses were terminated. Contrastingly, over 90 percent of pregnancies identified as male fetuses resulted in normal birth.

  • According to China’s 2000 census, the ratio of newborn girls to boys was 100:119. The biological standard is 100:103.


The rate of femicide (murder of women and girls) has significantly escalated over the last few years. 

  • In Mexico, the high murder and disappearance rate of young women in Ciudad Juarez has received international attention for the last ten years, with an alarming recent resurgence.

  • In Guatemala, the number of femicides has risen steadily from 303 in 2001 to 722 in 2007, with the majority of the victims between ages 16 and 30. A U.N. report found that femicides are inadequately investigated in Guatemala.

  • Throughout the region, inadequate record-keeping around domestic violence and the victim’s relationship to the murderer results in a problem of underreporting of gender-based deaths.

In Canada hundreds of Aboriginal women go missing each year and these disappearances and deaths are seldom news! (See the work of Ann Marie Pierce).


“Dowry deaths” are responsible for the murders of thousands of women every year, especially in South Asia.

  • If a bride cannot meet the financial demand of her dowry, she is often subject to torture, harassment and death by the groom’s family.

  • UNFPA estimates that 5,000 women worldwide are burnt to death in murders disguised as ‘kitchen accidents’ each year because their dowry was considered insufficient.

  • In India and Pakistan, thousands of women are victims of dowry deaths.3 In India alone, there were almost 7,000 dowry deaths in 2005, with the majority of victims aged 15-34.


“Honor killings” continue to take place in Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Morocco and other Mediterranean and Gulf Countries 9

  • Honor killings occur when women are put to death for an act that is perceived as bringing shame to their families; this can mean killing as punishment for adultery or even for being the victim of rape.

  • In Pakistan nearly 500 women a year are the victims of honor killings.1

  • In a study of female deaths in Egypt, 47 percent of female rape victims were then killed because of the dishonor the rape was thought to bring to the family.

  • In 2002, 315 women and girls in Bangladesh endured another form of violence against women, acid attacks. In 2005, even after the introduction of more serious punishments for the crime, over 200 women were attacked.


Physical and sexual abuse of girls is a serious concern across all regions.

  • In Nigeria, a treatment center reported that 15 percent of female patients requiring treatment for sexually transmitted infections were under the age of five. An additional six percent were between the ages of six and fifteen.

  • In South Africa, one in four men report having had sex with a woman against her will by the time he was 18 years old.

  • Research conducted among young women in sub-saharan Africa found that partner violence and the fear of abuse stopped girls from saying “no” to sex and jeopardized condom use.

  • According to the Jamaica Reproductive Health Survey, approximately 20.3 percent of young women 15-19 years old report having been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point during their life. Overall, one-fifth of Jamaican women have experienced forced sexual intercourse.

  • A 2009 report released by the Colombian Inspector General’s Office showed that in Colombia, at least 27,000 women and girls experienced intimate partner violence last year – with 74 percent of these being “underage girls.”

  • In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 percent of young women experience intimate partner violence.15


Female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/M) causes serious injury to millions of young women every year

  • FGC is the removal of all or part of the young woman’s genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is most prevalent in parts of West, East, and Northeast Africa, though also practiced in Asia, the Middle East and the immigrant populations of North America and Europe.

  • FGC/M is practiced for sociocultural and economic reasons. Family honor, the insurance of virginity until marriage, and social integration are often used as justifications for the procedure.

  • Between 100 and 140 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide and 3 million girls are at risk of the procedure each year in Africa.

  • A 2005 study found that in Egypt some 97 percent of women age 15-49 had undergone FGM. In Mali, 92 percent of women age 15-49 had undergone FGC/M in 2006; Burkina Faso, 77 percent; and North Sudan, 90 percent.18


Child marriage continues to put young girls at great risk for too-early pregnancy and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, more than 30 percent of young women between 15 and 19 are married.

  • In Nepal, 40 percent of girls are married by age 15.

  • In 2005, the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey concluded that in Ethiopia 62 percent of young women aged 20-49 married before age 18.

  • Worldwide, approximately 14 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year.

  • Early pregnancy and childbirth have severe consequences for adolescent mothers including complications at birth, obstetric fistula and death, often linked to unsafe abortions.



Cross-Generational Sex Poses Numerous Risks to Young Women

  • Particularly in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, socioeconomic pressures force many unmarried 15-19 year old women to engage in sexual activity with a male partner at least 10 years her senior in exchange for material goods, money or higher social status.

  • Based on 2006 Demographic and Health Surveys, among young women ages 15-19, 21 percent in Nigeria, 7.5 percent in Lesotho, and 9.5 in Uganda reported they had recently engaged in high-risk sex with a partner 10 or more years their senior.

  • Girls and young women involved in cross-generational sex have a severely reduced capacity to negotiate condom use, putting them at high risk for HIV infection. As such, young women 15-24 years old are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men age 15-24.

References:

  1. Quote by Kusala Bhikshu, a well-known Buddhist monk, at a talk given at a high school in Los Angeles

  2. Further reading:

UN General Assembly, 61st Session. Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Women. Accessed from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/violenceagainstwomenstudydoc.pdf on January 28, 2010
UNFPA.
UNFPA State Of World Population 2005. Chapter 7. Accessed from http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2005/english/ch7/index.htm on January 28, 2010
Viachova A, Biason L, editors.
Women in an Insecure World. Geneva, September 2005. Accessed from http://www.dcaf.ch/women/pb_women_ex_sum.pdf on January 28, 2010
UNFPA.
Femicide. Accessed from http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:2zPSBS-54v8J:www.unfpa.org/16days/documents/pl_femicide_factsheet.doc+femicide&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari on August 20, 2009
NPR. “Juarez: A City on the Edge.” June 21, 2004. Accessed from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1966988 January 28, 2010
United Nations General Assembly.
Follow-Up to Country Recommendations: Guatemala. Accessed from http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/11session/A.HRC.11.2.Add.7.pdf on January 28, 2010
United Nations Development Fund for Women. “Fact Sheet: Violence Against Women Worldwide.” Accessed from http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/sayno/docs/SayNOunite_FactSheet_VAWworldwide.pdf on January 28, 2010
Garcia-Moreno, Claudia. “Gender Inequality and Fire-Related Deaths in India.” The Lancet 2009; 373 (9671):1230-1231.
United Nations Development fund for Women. “Violence against women: Facts and Figures.” Accessed from http://www.unifem.org/attachments/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures_violence_against_women_2007.pdf on January 28, 2010
0Nazrullah M et al. “The epidemiological patterns of honour killing of women in Pakistan.” European Journal of Public Health. 2009. Accessed from http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/ckp021v1 on January 28, 2010.
BBC. “Fall in Bangladesh Acid Attacks.” 2009: April 25. Accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5133410.stm on January 28, 2010
Moore AM et al. “Coerced First Sex among Adolescent Girls in Sub-Saharan Africa: Prevalence and Context.”
African Journal of Reproductive Health, 2007. 11(3): 62-82. Accessed from http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2367148 on January 28, 2010.
Thomas, T. “The Facts: Reproductive and Sexual Health in Jamaica.” Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 2006.
Procuradua General de la Nacion. “Procuraduría General de la Nación revela preocupante situación de violencia intrafamiliar y violencia sexual en Colombia.” Accessed from http://www.procuraduria.gov.co/html/noticias_2009/noticias_358.html on January 28, 2010
Varia, S. “Dating Violence Among Adolescents.” Advocates for Youth, Washington, DC , 2006. Accessed from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=417&Itemid=177 on January 28, 2010
UNFPA. “Gender Equality: Calling for an End to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.” Accessed from http://unfpa.org/gender/practices1.htm on January 28, 2010

PRB. “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends.” 2008. Accessed from http://prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2008/fgm2008.aspx on January 28, 2010
UNICEF. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. 2005. Accessed from http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/FGM-C_final_10_October.pdf on January 28, 2010
Jarallah, Yara. “Marriage Patterns in Palestine, Unlike Rest of MENA.” Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2008.
EGLDAM. “Old beyond Imaginings: Ethiopia and Harmful Traditional Practices,” 2003. Accessed from http://nctpe-fgm.net/downloads/obi.doc on August 1, 2009. 

UNFPA. “Gender Equality: Giving Special Attention to Girls and Adolescents.” Accessed from http://www.unfpa.org/gender/girls.htm  on January 28, 2010
USAID. “Cross Generational Sex: Risks and Opportunities.” Accessed from http://www.igwg.org/igwg_media/crossgensex.pdf on January 28, 2010.
Tostan, “Abandoning Female Genital Cutting.” Accessed from http://www.tostan.org/web/page/586/sectionid/547/pagelevel/3/interior.asp on January 28, 2010
USAID. Issue Brief: Preventing Child Marriage: Protecting Girls Health. 2009. Accessed from http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/pop/news/issue_briefs/prev_child_marriage.pdf on January 28, 2010
Population Reference Bureau. Combating Cross-Generational Sex in Uganda. 2009. Accessed from http://prb.org/articles/2009/crossgenerationalsex.aspx?p=1 on January 28, 2009

Next »