My Drop-Out Experience

As I found out in October 2015, the internet is awash with uni drop-out success stories. For these people, dropping out was the best decision of their lives – they ended up with dream jobs and none of the debt. At this point, I was having a miserable time at university. I wasn’t getting on with my housemates, I barely slept or ate, I skipped countless seminars and felt completely overwhelmed. Or maybe underwhelmed is a better word. I had expected my uni experience to be amazing – again, largely because of endless buzzfeed posts about first year being one huge party. I had been struggling with mental health issues for years and things were coming to a head in my final year of college. Getting to uni, a whole new city with a whole new group of people, was my promised land. It sounds ridiculous, but I realise now that I was expecting it to solve all my problems. After years of family and friends telling me that with my grades and genuine interest in academia uni would be the making of me, I got there and it was very nearly the breaking of me.

I dropped out in late November, a week after I was prescribed anti-depressants. The whole process was horrible. I look back on it now as a blur of panic attacks and arguments, constantly trying to justify my decision to people who would bemoan how I was wasting my intelligence. Not to mention my Personal Tutor was an utter bellend and nearly made me cry when I was finalising the whole thing. Oh, and I somehow got an ulcer in my left eye. Honestly, everything that could possibly have gone wrong managed to do so. Anyway, long story short I moved back in with my parents, got a temp job at M&S and started looking for apprenticeships, intern work, work experience… I applied for the Sky Academy, I contacted museums, radio stations, publishing houses, law firms, anything that vaguely appealed to my interests. Then when my contract with M&S expired, I immediately got another job. In fact, another two jobs. And I kept on sending out CVs, filling out applications, practically bending over backwards trying to make myself into a success story – not a dropout loser, but someone who had gone against expectations and came out on top.

And it didn’t happen.

That’s really what this post is about; I think it’s great to have these inspirational stories about people who have done well without uni. It isn’t for everyone. But while they can be encouraging, they can also leave you feeling like a failure when that doesn’t happen to you. Being realistic, in this day and age with a flooded job market and when an unpaid internship or work experience just isn’t practical for many lower-income people, it is ridiculously difficult to find a promising career even with a degree. Realising that made me resentful at first; I came to the conclusion that to get to the sort of job I wanted, going back to uni was basically my only option. But why should I be forced back into something I hated because I didn’t have any other opportunities? It seemed deeply unfair. In fact, it is deeply unfair.

Luckily I have found a course and a uni that I actually want to do. As I said, I’m a nerd. I love studying. Going back to another uni and a course that is more practical to my interests makes sense for me, and I’ve made enough progress in my mental health to actually look forward to it; something I never thought I’d do! I’m not for a minute suggesting that I shouldn’t have dropped out. It absolutely was the best decision I ever made… but not because it resulted in me achieving a career I love with none of the debt. Dropping out for me made me re-evaluate where I wanted to go in my life. It gave me some distance from the enclosed environment of school or college to think about what I really wanted to do. It gave me the opportunity to pursue other interests – to get more involved in social justice causes, to spend more time on my spiritual growth, to write my novel. It gave me a much-needed break from the constant pressure of deadlines and exams. On a practical level, it allowed me time to work and accumulate a decent amount of money that would help me with the costs of accommodation (and beer tokens, of course). Most importantly, it made me realise that I really wasn’t well and that my first priority should be sorting my head out. The decision to drop out is what made me get better, and now I’m prepared to go back and smash a law degree.

So if you’ve dropped out or are considering it; if it’s what you need, then do it. But be prepared for a hard slog and a long wait for your success story. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I feel like there’s a lot of bullshit surrounding both uni and dropping out (or not bothering with uni full stop). Neither is easy, and neither is a sure-fire recipe for a dream job. It all boils down to keeping your head above the water, making sure you’re as healthy and happy as you can be, and doing what is best for you.

Blessed Be )0(

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Tackling Transphobia in Witchcraft

trans witchHappy Pride Month everyone! In celebration of this month, I wanted to write about another thorny subject in the Witch community – transphobia and cissexism in witchcraft. A little disclaimer: I’m not trans, so I’m also going to link some witchcraft blogs run by trans folk if you want more information. I’m also covering this from a Wiccan point of view, so I’m not speaking for every branch of Paganism or witchcraft and there will be things I miss out. I’m always learning myself, so please bear with me!

Wicca has the reputation of being very LGBT+ friendly; seeing as we don’t have any Holy Book written when being queer was culturally seen as wrong, there’s nothing telling us that gay isn’t okay. Also, most Wiccan traditions don’t stigmatise sexuality (whether straight or not) in the way a lot of more mainstream religions do. While a lot of those religions see sex as something purely for procreation, sex for pleasure is a big part of its importance for most Pagans. As I’ve said previously, pretty much the one solid rule in Wicca is ‘do what ye will, and it harm none‘ – which as far as sex is concerned translates as ‘if everyone involved is a consenting adult, do whatever you like’. So it might come as a surprise that in recent years, Wicca has come under fire for transphobia and cissexism. I certainly was – but reading about it, I definitely agree that we have a problem.

One of the most glaring issues is the equation of genitalia with gender. A lot of  imagery of Wiccan rituals involves phallic and vaginal imagery (the most obvious being the Maypole – traditionally buried in the earth during Beltane celebrations to represent sexual union bringing new life). In itself, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But a lot of Wiccans – and New Agers in general – like to refer to ‘male’ and ‘female’ energies when using this imagery, and therein lies the problem. For one thing, not all men have penises and not all women have vaginas. For another, it completely erases the existence of non-binary witches.

Furthermore, I’ve seen criticism towards Wiccan worship of a God and a Goddess as enforcing a gender binary. Again, I agree with that if taken literally. The God and Goddess are two halves of the Divine All, and presenting them as two opposites erases the fact that gender is a spectrum and there are many, many more than two of them. However, I see God and Goddess as convenient terms for two energies that balance each other out. I don’t see them as gendered beings – it doesn’t particularly make sense that they would be, as part of a genderless entity! A lot of imagery in the more traditional rituals equates the God and Goddess with phallic and vaginal, and this is problematic for the same reason as above. Not to mention I personally find it a little bit odd to focus on what your deities’ have in their pants.

As I’ve already mentioned, using phallic and vaginal imagery in itself is fine – it’s a handy way to represent fertility, union and a host of other things. But what Wicca – and a lot of New Age religions – need to abandon is imagery that supports the conflation of genitals with gender, and enforces the idea of gender as a binary structure. Transphobia and cissexism are already very present in our lives, and getting rid of these ingrained opinions is difficult. But if Wiccans truly believe in doing no harm, then we need to collectively let go of these practice that alienate trans members of our community.

Blessed Be )0(

Trans Witch Blogs:
sapphic-witches.tumblr.com
lgbt-witches.tumblr.com
magicalboyslovingboys.tumblr.com
trans-cendentalwitch.tumblr.com

 

The Controversy of Curses

If we go by spells being a way of directing power and energy to achieve a certain end, then curses are specifically spells that cause some kind of negative effect, usually aimed at a person. This is a pretty controversial subject among witchy circles, largely between Wiccan and non-Wiccan witches. There are two reasons for this;

  • Wiccans as a rule believe in the three-fold law – the belief that whatever energy/intentions you put out into the world (through spells or otherwise) will return to you three times as strong. By that logic, if you curse then it will come back to bite you on the arse.
  • There aren’t many hard-and-fast rules to Wicca, but one most of us abide by is ‘Do what ye will, and it harm none.’ Again, fairly clear why this would make someone against cursing.

However, as I went over in a previous post – not all witches are Wiccans. So while you may choose not to curse, that doesn’t mean you should be policing what other people do. If your concern is someone cursing you, there are lots of methods to protect yourself (herbs like basil and black pepper are particularly good at exorcising negative forces), but that’s for another post. What I’m writing about here is why people might choose to curse – and why I support that, even if I don’t curse myself.

One reason is that if you don’t believe in the three-fold law or karma, then if someone wrongs you it is up to you to take action. I’ve come across a few witches who found that cursing helped them regain a sense of control after some form of abuse, especially if they have been failed by the justice system. I can only imagine how infuriating it is when people who have been through that hear Wiccans preaching at them about a concept they don’t even believe in! Even if it isn’t something as serious as long-term abuse, if someone does something that upsets you, I don’t particularly see a problem with cursing them if it is in proportion to what they have done. Curses don’t always have to be life-altering things.

Another reason is that even if you believe in ‘harming none’, sometimes cursing can be a way of supporting the greater good. There was of course the story of covens of witches banding together to curse Hitler in the forties – while this story hasn’t ever been proven, in more recent years witches across the world have organised mass-cursing of things like the Dakota Access Pipeline via social media. My belief is that in certain situations, you have to take a side – and doing nothing always supports the oppressor. Now, I did spells to support the protesters and offer them protection and strength, but cursing is also an effective way of helping a good cause.

Over time, the more discourse I’ve seen around the morality of cursing, the more I think I am very pro-curse. I don’t know if I could ever curse anyone. I also think, like anything else, there are times when people curse for no good reason. Cursing someone out of sheer malice is something I would never support, and I’ve never seen any other witch support. But it isn’t as black and white as some people have been led to believe.

Blessed Be )0(

Casting Spells

 

witch
Hubble bubble, toil and trouble…

 

I’m relatively new to writing my own spells. I’ve been making charm pouches or doing small scale candle rituals for years, but as far as spells with multiple components done with the works (as in casting a circle and doing them at my altar) I’ve stuck to ones written by more experienced witches. Since the New Year I’ve been trying to write my own.

There’s nothing wrong with using other people’s methods; think of it like following a recipe. However, there are so many different ways of casting spells and so many different things you could use. I’m most comfortable working with runes and herbs so I incorporate those into most of my rituals and spells, whereas I’m less comfortable working with crystals so I tend to avoid using them. I feel very attuned to the element of fire so I do a lot of candle magic, whereas some people prefer to work with water. There’s also practical issues; I do my spells in my bedroom and my circle is about a metre across so there’s only so much movement I can incorporate into them. I’d also love to do more spells outdoors, but living in the third rainiest city in England doesn’t lend itself to outdoor rituals. Not to mention the neighbours.

A pretty solid structure for ‘spell building’ is to first know what your intent is. Say you wanted to do a spell to help you with an English exam – break that down into what you need to do well. Some key things would be communication, confidence, and a bit of good luck! Next choose what you prefer to work with; going with my preferences it would be things like runes, herbs and candles.

So first, some runes:

In order we have uruz (for overcoming challenges), kenaz (for knowledge and inspiration), fehu (for success) and ansuz (for communication). All good things for an exam!

Some herbs that might be useful include:

  • Cinnamon – success
  • Bay leaves – luck
  • Nutmeg – luck
  • Rosemary – improves focus
  • Cloves – success
  • Eyebright – confidence, wisdom
  • Bluebell – communication

As for candles, I try to find one with a colour that represents what I need. At a pinch white can be used to replace any colour (after all, white contains the whole colour spectrum), but for continuing with this example I’d use yellow (for confidence and intellect) or red (for success).

Now to make all this into a spell you need to find a way to put it all together. You could carve the runes onto your candles and chant their names while visualising receiving good results, or write your own incantation praying for good luck and success. You could incorporate herbs by putting them into a pouch and keeping it in your pocket during your exam. As I say, it’s all about finding something that feels right. All spells are an amalgamation of different components to create certain energies – again, just like a recipe. You start with your individual ingredients then put them together in different ways to make something!

So there you have it. Spellcasting really isn’t all that difficult; it’s all about using what you have at your disposal and focusing your intent to get what you want. Following other people’s rituals are a brilliant place to start but don’t be afraid to tweak them, or if you can’t find one that works for you then write your own! There are a lot of fantastic sources online on the magical meaning of herbs, and Soraya’s Witch’s Companion has a detailed section on different components and their meanings that can be used in rituals. I will be doing a post on my tumblr account of some handy witchcraft blogs, so be sure to check that out if you want some more sources!

Blessed Be )0(

Nazis: Don’t Ruin Our Runes

Appropriation of religious symbols is unfortunately neither unusual or new – a particularly prominent example in recent years is the appropriation of Native American religious attire at festivals. While the damages of this kind of ignorant appropriation are well worth discussing (I’ll provide some links below of informative articles on the topic), this post focuses on appropriation of a more sinister kind; one that affects me very personally. That is the racist appropriation of pagan symbols by Neo-Nazi and other fascist groups.

This isn’t a new thing either. Most, if not all, symbols now associated with Nazism were pilfered from religious traditions. The swastika itself is originally a Hindu symbol of good fortune, and was used in religions worldwide. In some traditions, it is a sun symbol, in some it is a symbol of eternity. Never, until the Nazis claimed it, was it used to represent racial superiority. I wish I had known this when I went past a house near mine belonging to a Hindu family that had small swastikas designed into the glass above the door! The Iron Cross also has Celtic origins; the equidistant cross represents (among other things) the meeting between the material and the ethereal, and the main four festivals of the Wheel of the Year (which makes it particularly relevant to Wiccans and other modern pagan traditions that celebrate traditional Celtic festivals).

However, in recent times Neo-Nazis are more discreet than having a swastika-emblazoned armband. Which leads me to the main matter – the more symbols become well-known, the more these groups appropriate them to their cause. Many modern groups have taken to using runes as symbols of their hatred. Two in particular jump to mind:

Tyr-Rune-e1310015319981

This is tyr, which is a symbol of honour and justice. I think it’s pretty obvious what a perversion it is for literal Nazis to use any symbol associated with justice.


elhaz

This is elhaz (also known as algiz or the Life rune). It denotes protection.

 

There are many more runes sneaking into white-power circles – othala (meaning the home/family), nied (meaning determination), fehu (abundance, power)… Runes in particular are a problem as pagans from many traditions use runes in their magic. Reading runes is a form of divination (I have a bag of runes myself that I use to answer questions), and as potent symbols of desirable things many wear them as charms. Some even have them tattooed, which can cause a whole lot of problems during things like screening for the armed forces. I had very seriously considered having runes tattooed on my fingers until I became aware of this.

I’d imagine the reasoning behind using predominantly Celtic and Norse symbolism stems from these being largely white countries; white power groups have tried to make the heritage of white-majority countries synonymous with white supremacy. There are two parts to the message they are trying to get across with using ancient symbols rather than creating their own; firstly, this is our culture. On its own, there’s nothing wrong with that. The real issue comes from the second part – it’s better than yours.

And honestly there’s nothing anyone can say to that other than ‘Get fucked.’

Blessed Be )0(

 

Posts about cultural appropriation:
https://www.thoughtco.com/cultural-appropriation-and-why-iits-wrong-2834561
https://thetab.com/2016/04/05/dreadlocks-white-people-83996
http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/08/honor-native-americans-without-appropriating/

 

Back to Blogging

Not that anyone has particularly noticed, but this blog has been pretty dead recently. Well, completely dead. I’ve not looked at it for months. But seeing as I’ve recently found myself with a lot more time on my hands (read as: I quit my job), I’ve decided to get back to it with a bit more vigour.

Quite a bit has changed. The main thing – I’m going back to uni. And this time round I’ll be studying Law, which is quite a big change! Oh, and I wrote a book. It’s been languishing in my files because so far no one has taken an interest in representing it to publishers, but it is a book nonetheless. So this blog will still be about writing, and it will definitely have some wondering (mainly along the lines of what am I doing with my life?!). What I’m hoping for is to make it a bit more about witchcraft – as a Solitary, I’m a little shy about sharing my rituals, but I feel like I’m ready to do so now and share a bit more about my spiritual journey. I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without witchcraft blogs, so I’d like to give something back. Who knows? Maybe an inexperienced witchling will get something out of it.

Also, less reviews. As in, no reviews. I don’t really know why I started doing them in all honesty, so if you want reviews look elsewhere.

I’m aiming to post every Friday, and I’m also setting up a tumblr page under the same name where you’ll find all my posts as well as sharing anything else related to writing and witchcraft (probably with a bit of politics thrown in – I’m a massive lefty, you have been warned!). Hopefully this blogging attempt will be a bit more coherent, but we’ll see how it goes!

Blessed Be )0(

 

Attitudes towards addicts

This is something that has been preoccupying me for a while, starting from an incident at work. The cafe I work at gets rid of the sandwiches at the end of every day, and I absolutely hate food going to waste so instead I started packaging them up and giving them to the homeless people of the high street on my way home. One of my work mates aired his opinions about that; apparently, I was being naive. According to him, most of the homeless were only there because they would rather spend their money on drugs and alcohol. They have plenty of money for food, but they prioritise destructive habits.

It’s not a particularly shocking revelation that he thought that way; a lot of other people at work agreed to some extent. Others have said that some of the homeless deserve the help while others are just making stupid choices and therefore don’t deserve sympathy. It’s something I’ve heard time and time again. And it upsets me, because quite frankly I don’t care what choices lead to them being in their position, they don’t deserve to die. Having an addiction shouldn’t condemn anyone to starve on the streets. I don’t care what they choose to spend their money on; not one of them deserves that. It seems ridiculous to me that having that opinion apparently makes me so radically left wing? I am firmly of the opinion that an addiction is a disease; no one is making the conscious decision to be so utterly dependent on drugs that they would sacrifice the roof over their heads and put up with so much degradation from the public. It is beyond me how people can have so little compassion for people in such an awful position.

Lets be real; addiction is a form of self-harm. When you would rather spend your money on drugs that have a devastating toll on your health, that is self harm. It is an illness and should be treated as such. Now, I agree that the only person who can break the cycle of any mental illness is the person suffering from it, but help and compassion make a hell of a lot of difference. The worst thing I see is people who I know have suffered from mental illness and have self-harmed having no sympathy for addicts, saying it is their own fault and that their decisions are stupid. I self-harmed. And yes, it was a bad decision and I knew it wasn’t good for me. Did that stop me? Not for a long time, and the temptation to relapse was there even longer. Even though is has been around four years since I stopped, the urge still resurfaces every now and again. Every one who has ever self-harmed knows this, and addiction is exactly the same. For both addiction and physical self-harm, one bad decision can escalate until it takes over your life and becomes the only way you can get through a day. You don’t stop to think whether it is logical or not. So surely you’d think people who had been through this would be empathetic? Unfortunately this is not always the case.

I’m really not trying to shame people with this little rant, but I hope this might make people rethink their attitude towards any addict, especially those whose addiction has lead to them becoming homeless. It isn’t as simple as ‘they are the ones choosing to spend their money on drugs so it’s their fault’. While I have never been addicted to any substance, I feel deeply empathetic towards those who do. Self-destruction is something that coincides with many mental disorders. Anyone who exhibits this behaviour isn’t doing it because they want to be a burden on society and get their hands on your spare change. There is a myriad of reasons for addiction and self-harm. But I think it is undeniable that it all stems from some sort of pain, and that always deserves compassion. Apathy is our worst enemy.

Blessed be )O(