Banishings and Beginnings

December 21, 2010 3 comments

[Trigger Warning for spiritual abuse.]

Blessed Solstice to you all. For those of you in southern climes, you’ll be marking Midsummer; to those of us in the cold north, it’s the Winter Solstice, and that’s what I’ll be talking a bit about.

At some point I’ll touch upon it a bit more, but according to my personal paradigm, I walk the path of a sayyadina. This is a term borrowed from Frank Herbert’s Dune (a book which was pretty influential in my spiritual development, oddly enough) that roughly means “friend of God”. The “God” in question, to whom I am specifically pledged, is a Goddess associated with elemental darkness which I call the Dark Lady. She has a great deal in common with Nebet-het/Nephthys, and plays a similar role in her own mythos, though these two Ladies are not the same entity.

Working with the Dark as I do, you might imagine that tonight was very special for me. Because of my living situation, I can’t really go hogwild with ritual the way I used to when I lived alone. My few altars are small and discreet, and most of my tools are hidden away. Most of my workings happen on the internal level, through meditation and dreamwork. Still, I resolved to do something tonight to mark the occasion, though I didn’t know quite what until the last moment when things became crystal clear to me.

The energy was very palpable. I was a bit wired all day, admittedly, but as the Eclipse approached, I found myself getting pretty antsy. It wasn’t until I stood outside and meditated on what this night meant that I understood. My personal lesson for tonight was to let go of fear.

This is yet another topic for a future post, but for now it will suffice to say that I’m a survivor of the sort of spiritual abuse that is sadly all too common in the Pagan community. For roughly a year and a half, I lived with a charismatic woman who fancied herself a guru of an eclectic high priestess, that basically took the famous Bonewits Cult Evaluation and used it as a To-Do List. I’ll call her Nancy; if you’ve ever seen that glorious bit of cinematic cheese called The Craft, she was basically that character on steroids. She was paranoid, abusive, and extremely controlling, and not only terrorized her domestic partners, but myself and the entire household to varying degrees.

Nancy did a number on my psychological and spiritual health in the year and a half or so that I lived with her. Even though I haven’t spoken to her in well over two years now, and I’ve moved back to the opposite coast of the country, my experiences still weigh heavily on me. The lessons I received were not necessarily the ones she intended to teach, and they were learned at a very high price. I’ve come into my own since those trying times, deepening my relationships to my Deities and my craft, but I’ve found myself shackled in a lot of ways by a crippling fear that if I were to assert myself magically, to really commit to and claim my path, I’ll turn into Nancy.

It’s a ridiculous and irrational fear on the face of it, really. I don’t manipulate people or abuse them, or play them against each other for my own benefit. Despite the fringe paradigm I work in (I have definite chaote leanings), I have my feet firmly planted in reality, and I’m not ruled by delusions of grandeur. But in some completely fucked up way, Nancy became the model for Spiritual Power in my head, much in the way that children from broken homes fear committed relationships as adults because their dysfunctional parents became models of What Relationships Are to them. That’s where the fear comes from, I think. It’s been hindering my growth in a lot of ways, keeping me from deepening my relationships both with Spirit and the woman I love.

Eclipse energy is very strong for banishings, and this one was especially significant, falling as it did on the Winter Solstice, a day which is fundamentally about rebirth. And this was a night when the energy I work with was especially potent. I understood what I had to do, what all this meant, when I was outside in the frigid cold, and the Dark Lady spoke to my heart.

Internal paradigms only shift when we’re willing to die, you understand. Our egos, our fears, our doubts…all of these things must die for us to be truly reborn. We are a microcosm of the Universe, in that fashion. The phoenix always rises from the ashes, but the phoenix must die, first. Many Pagan mystery traditions teach this very basic truth, but it’s one that I didn’t fundamentally understand until that moment.

Tonight’s a night of banishings, of letting go of the things that hold us back. It’s a time of casting spectres of the past out of our lives and sending them back from whence they came. I made a decision there, staring at the shadow of the moon, to free myself of those self-imposed limitations, because I didn’t do anything to deserve a preemptive nerf bat. I’m freeing myself of the fear; I surrender it and watch it crumble beneath my feet. I’m a survivor, and it’s time to be free.

I’ll leave you with a mantra that should be well familiar to the sci-fi geeks in the house, but one that’s served me very well over the years as a powerful magical tool. I hope it does the same for you, on this night of casting out.

I must not fear.

Fear is the mindkiller.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will allow it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

Take Two.

December 19, 2010 4 comments

So, uh. How ’bout that local sports team?

I don’t believe in bullshitting people, so I’ll just give it to you straight: I’m somewhat notorious for concocting grandiose plans and then failing to follow through on them. This blog just happened to be another sad chapter in that particular book of Zaratha’s Awesomely Stereotypical Gemini Tendencies. In fairness, life sort of ate my face for a while too, but that’s neither here nor there. Before I knew it, guilt about abandoning this idea before I ever really got it off the ground ate me up, and I didn’t know how to pick this up again or even if I should.

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve noticed that the Universe has a way of kicking us in the pants if we’re not doing what we’re Supposed to be doing. By “the Universe”, I mean my patron Goddess, and by “us”, I mean me. It’s not enough for me to piss in the wind every time someone uses racist dogwhistles to defend hir particular spiritual path, or some bloviating douchebag outs hirself as a fascist in the comments of a Very Popular Pagan Blog. It’s not enough to rage in private on Dreamwidth and Livejournal, or on AIM to my partner or friends. It might be cathartic for a little while, but preaching to the choir never really changes anything.

This sort of thing kept happening, and kept happening, and every time it happened, I’d think to myself, “I need to get back to that blog. There needs to be a Pagan space explicitly devoted to anti-oppression principles, or simply talking about spirituality from the POV of a queer Pagan of Color.”

So in the spirit of that notion, I’m cutting away the guilt and dusting this space off. What’s important is that it’s here, and that I’m making a commitment to keeping it here, whether it’s prolific or not.

–Z.

Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s talk, y’all.

April 21, 2008 4 comments

So, who the hell am I and why am I here?

To the first: My name is Zaratha Zarathi. Not my legal name, just one of many magical names. I also go by Morboriel Parthenos. I’m a 27 year old African-American witch, born and raised in New York City, currently residing in the Southwest. I say “African-American” despite despising the term, largely because “black witch” still conjures up stupid shit in many people’s minds (a rant for a future post). I’m a lot of things that Black Women are not “supposed” to be: Gothic, bisexual, polyamorous, gamer chick, anime geek. Hell, I’m even a Mac user. I don’t say this because I think I’m some kind of special, unique snowflake. Quite the contrary. There are many, many more like me out there.

I’ve been practicing various forms of Paganism for about thirteen years. I was featured in a documentary called “Out of the Broom Closet” which has yet to see the light of day, unfortunately. I’ve also had an essay published in a scholarly anthology on teenage witchcraft. I’ve done time working at a fairly well-known witch shop in New York; if you shopped at Enchantments, Inc. some time in the mid-to-late ’90s, you’ve probably met me.

In my time as a Pagan, I’ve explored British Traditional Wicca, Celtic and Norse-based traditions, Feri, Hellenism, Thelema and just about everything in-between. My current path is one of Eclectic Dark Paganism, with Middle-Eastern/Indo-Pagan leanings, though it’s not really anything I can nail down in a short, pithy label.

To the second, why am I here? Because I’m tired of seeing news article after news article insinuating that All Neo-Pagans Everywhere are bored middle class white women. I’m tired of being looked at cross-eyed because I am the only person of color at a public ritual. I’m tired of being followed in metaphysical stores because the proprietors think I’m stealing. I’m here because I am way the fuck over the rampant, unexamined white privilege I see in the community. I’m tired of seeing comment after ignorant ass comment on blogs equating Halloween decorations with the lynching of blacks, and the so-called “Burning Times” with the Middle Passage. I’m tired of righteous middle-class WASP indignation over animal sacrifice in Afro-Caribbean traditions, and I am sick and fucking tired of having to explain that no, I don’t work in those traditions despite being of African descent. Perhaps above all, I’m tired of being invisible.

Really, there’s just a whole lot of Lose and Fail that goes about unchallenged in the Pagan community with regard to issues of race and ethnicity. There are Pagans who valiantly try to put a spotlight on these issues (Jason Pitzl-Waters of Wild Hunt in particular has my undying admiration for continually trying to drop some sense on people). For the most part, though, the silence is truly deafening. More people need to speak up, and my loud ass is volunteering. I will not always be ranting about the Dumb Ass; I’ll also be talking a little about my personal path. I’ll also try to highlight the positive, because as many problems as the community has, there is a lot of good to be found there.

Hopefully I can help you laugh a little, and think along the way.

Categories: Uncategorized