Family Problems and Solutions

Clinical experience and research show that adult children of narcissists have a difficult time putting their finger on what is wrong, because denial is rampant in the narcissistic family system:

“The typical adult from a narcissistic family is filled with unacknowledged anger feels like a hollow person, feels inadequate and defective, suffers from periodic anxiety and depression and has no clue about how he or she got that way.”—Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family

It is common for adult children of narcissists to enter treatment with emotional symptoms or relationship issues, but simultaneously display a lack of awareness of the deeper etiology or cause.

The narcissistic family hides profound pain.

Such families tend to operate according to an unspoken set of rules. Children learn to live with those rules, but never stop being confused and pained by them, for these rules block their emotional access to their parents. They basically become invisible—neither heard, seen, or nurtured. Conversely, and tragically, this set of rules allows the parents to have no boundaries with the children and to use (or abuse) them as they see fit.

The following are some common dynamics of this profoundly dysfunctional intergenerational system. (Keep in mind there are always degrees of dysfunction on a spectrum depending on the level of narcissism in the parents.)

SecretsThe family secret is that the parents are not meeting the children’s emotional needs, or that they are abusive in some way. This is the norm in the narcissistic family. The message to the children: “Don’t tell the outside world—pretend everything is fine.”

ImageThe narcissistic family is all about image. The message is: “We are bigger, better, have no problems, and must put on the face of perfection.”

Children get the messages: “What would the neighbors think?” “What would the relatives think?” What would our friends think?”These are common fears in the family: “Always put a smile on that pretty little face.”

Negative MessagesChildren are given spoken and unspoken messages that get internalized, typically: “You’re not good enough”; “You don’t measure up”; “You are valued for what you do rather than for who you are.”

Lack of Emotional Tune-InNarcissistic parents lack the ability to emotionally tune in to their kids. They cannot feel and show empathy or unconditional love. They are typically critical and judgmental.

Lack of Effective Communication. 

The most common means of communication in narcissistic families is triangulation. Information is not direct. It is told through one party about another in hopes it will get back to the other party. Family members talk about each other to other members of the family, but don’t confront each other directly. This creates passive aggressive behavior, tension, and mistrust. When communication is direct, it is often in the form of anger or rage.

Unclear Boundaries. 

There are few boundaries in the narcissistic family. Children’s feelings are not considered important. Private diaries are read, physical boundaries are not kept, and emotional boundaries are not respected. The right to privacy is not typically a part of the family history.

One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. 

If one parent is narcissistic, it is common for the other parent to have to revolve around the narcissist to keep the marriage intact. Often, this other parent has redeeming qualities to offer the children, but is tied up meeting the needs of the narcissistic spouse, leaving the children’s needs unmet. Who is there for them?

Siblings Not Encouraged to Be Close.

 In healthy families, we encourage our children to be loving and close to each other. In narcissistic families, children are pitted against each other and taught competition. There is a constant comparison of who is doing better and who is not. Some are favored or seen as “the golden child,” and others become the scapegoat for a parent’s projected negative feelings. Siblings in narcissistic families rarely grow up feeling emotionally connected to each other.

Feelings. 

Feelings are denied and not discussed. Children are not taught to embrace their emotions and process them in realistic ways. They are taught to stuff and repress them, and are told their feelings don’t matter. Narcissistic parents are typically not in touch with their own feelings and therefore project them onto others. This causes a lack of accountability and honesty, not to mention other psychological disorders. If we don’t process feelings, they do leak out in other unhealthy ways.

Not Good Enough” Messages. 

These messages come across loud and clear in the narcissistic family. Some parents actually speak this message in various ways; others just model it to the children. Even if they display arrogant and boastful behavior, under the veneer of a narcissist is a self-loathing psyche—that gets passed to the child.

Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. 

In narcissist families, the dynamics can be seen or disguised. The dysfunction displayed in violent and abusive homes is usually obvious, but emotional and psychological abuse, as well as neglectful parents, are often hidden. While the drama is not displayed as openly to the outside world, it is just as, if not, more damaging to the children.

Reviewing these dynamics, one can see how this kind of family can look pretty but be decaying at the same time. If you recognize your family in this description, know that there is hope and recovery. We can’t change the past, but we can take control of the now. We do not have to be defined by the wounds in our family systems. As Mark Twain defines the optimist, I see the recovering adult child: “A person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.”

We can create new life that will flow through us to the future and stop the legacy of distorted love learned in the narcissistic family. If we choose recovery, we can defy intergenerational statistics.

We Can!

Psychology Today

People with narcissistic qualities tend to view life in black-and-white: a world of only losers and winners, victims and victimizers. They loathe feeling like losers or victims. In the case of parents with narcissism they often shunt those roles onto their children.

Why? Because people with narcissism need to be fed. A person with extreme narcissistic tendencies is like a balloon with a hole, endlessly leaking esteem, always needing a refill. Such a person’s air supply: attention. And who better to provide attention than the captive audience of one’s children?

If you had a parent with narcissism, you may have been trained to focus not on your own feelings and needs, but rather on those of your parent. Parents with narcissism may wheedle, confuse, or bully you into attending to them, ignoring their lies, and tiptoeing around their vulnerabilities. They generally need your life to be about them. Some people with narcissism, feeling empty at their core and lacking a healthy sense of self may steal from your very relationship with yourself.

But you aren’t a child anymore. You have power and options you never had as a child. Here are six ways you can take back your life after a narcissistic upbringing:

 SEE BEYOND THE NARCISSISTIC FACADE

People with narcissism tend to be pretenders. Dwelling in a cyclone of shame, they live in mortal terror of anybody saying the emperor has no clothes. They fear being seen as flawed or ignorant and hate feeling powerless or embarrassed. These fears tend to drive their behavior. To avoid feeling flawed, they have to be the best and insist on perfection from others. To avoid feeling ignorant, they act like know-it-alls and rarely admit they are wrong. To avoid feeling powerless, they act larger than life. And when they feel embarrassed, their volcanic rage may erupt, burying anyone in their path.

When you know this, you can see what drives their outlandish behaviors. You don’t have to take it personally, wondering what you did wrong.

IDENTIFY DISTORTIONS AND DOUBLE STANDARDS

When people with narcissism make a mistake, they tend to blame others. When you make a mistake, they blame you. When they succeed, they cite their superior character. When you succeed—thus temporarily stealing the spotlight they so crave—they may take credit for your success, call it a fluke, or diminish it by pointing out other times you have failed.

People with narcissism tend to distract and disguise. Like kids caught with their hands in the candy jar, they may try to confuse, belittle, bully, or otherwise avoid responsibility for their actions.

Don’t be taken in. Pay attention to what they do, not what they say. Their words are often attempts to throw you off and make you feel small or doubtful while making themselves feel big. Their arguments are generally not to be taken seriously or even responded to, because if you refute one argument, they may simply come up with another and another.

When they are abusive, manipulative or withholding, see it for what it is. They are using you to avoid their own issues and satisfy their urges. They may feel entitled to do so. This is not healthy. Nobody is entitled to abuse or use another.

IF YOU ARE DRAWN TO PEOPLE WITH NARCISSISTIC QUALITIES, BE CLEAR ABOUT WHY

If you have been drawn to people with narcissism, it may be because it is simply a familiar dynamic. But it can also reflect an unconscious hope that if you can find a person with narcissistic tendencies who happens to treat you well, it will make up for what you didn’t get years ago from a parent with narcissism. It is an understandable wish. Yet relationships with people with narcissism are often disappointing and superficial because people with narcissism generally don’t care about treating others well.

You don’t have to deny your desire for justice, validation, or reparation. But you can never get back lost years, nor are you likely to get an apology.

If you feel unfulfilled in a relationship or wonder if a friend or partner has narcissism, ask yourself why you are with them. Do you hope to change or reform them? Do you hope someday they will see how good you are and mend their ways? Pursuing relationships with people with narcissism may simply postpone facing the painful recognition that your parent couldn’t be there for you. Accepting and mourning that unfortunate truth can allow you to focus on what is best for you and pick healthier relationships.

You don’t have to deny your desire for justice, validation, or reparation. But you can never get back lost years, nor are you likely to get an apology. You will almost certainly never be rescued if you wait for it. The only person who can make it right is you, by your choices and by how you treat and view yourself.

USE YOUR VOICE

Let’s say, for example, you give a person with narcissism a holiday gift, and they give you nothing. The person with narcissism then says something like, “You’re just trying to make me feel guilty because I didn’t get you anything.” This is classic narcissistic behavior, shifting the attention to you and putting you on the defensive. Simply knowing they are doing this may be enough to help you gain perspective, and you might choose to say nothing. But if you feel that you are shrinking in stature, you may feel better about yourself by speaking up. For example, in a situation like this you could:

Confront it by saying, “No, that is not why I gave it to you. But now that you mention it, do you feel guilty for not giving me anything?”

Use humor by taking their accusation about you trying to make them feel guilty and saying something like, “Well, is it working?”

Be honest and direct by saying, “No, I gave you a card because I wanted to. And now that you mention it, I do feel hurt that you didn’t give me anything.”

Remember, hard as they may try, people with narcissism can never take away your truth, experience, or feelings. They can dispute it, threaten you, and deny it, but they cannot make you give it up. They are projecting on you what they can’t feel in themselves. Don’t take it on.

SEEK BALANCE

Being raised by a person with narcissism can throw your life out of balance. One way to regain healthy balance is to do the opposite of what your parents did. For example:

If you received much criticism and scant praise, you may need to sidestep criticism (including self-criticism) and increase self-acknowledgment.

If you have been compulsively driving yourself in reaction to people with narcissism who called you lazy, you may want to slow down and focus on quality of life. Conversely, if you have been under performing in reaction to pressure from people with narcissism, you may want to push yourself beyond your present comfort level.

If you have felt deprived, allow yourself to desire and receive more.

If you were not allowed to say no or point out what was wrong, you may need to spend time saying no and focusing on what should change in your relationship, family, workplace, or society.

If you have been giving people with narcissistic qualities the benefit of the doubt to your own detriment, you may want to start questioning their actions and believe in yourself, perhaps seeking the guidance of a therapist or friend as you do so.

TRUST YOURSELF

Your parents may have shamed you when you experimented, asked questions, or expressed your views. This may have led you as a child to become more dependent on them or alienated from yourself. Even in adulthood, you may second-guess yourself, struggle to make decisions, and shy away from taking risks that could enhance your life.

When you have to make a decision or when a challenge arises, ask yourself, “If I knew I was absolutely trustworthy, what would I do?” Then assess how you can make that happen. By assuming you are trustworthy, that your feelings are valuable, and that your intuition is reliable, you can see that you have within yourself all you need to handle challenges—despite what your parents may have tried to make you believe.

If you were raised by a parent with narcissism, you are not alone. Millions of adults have had a parent with narcissistic tendencies. No matter how you were treated as a child, you deserve to be seen, heard, and do what is healthiest for you.

Good Therapy

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The Roles We Play by the Green Serpent.

A thought provoking article, tells it as it is!

“Some things become apparent when gathered with true elders of the Craft, especially when talking about the community as a whole.

So many of the same questions come up, many of the same complaints, and if you only hover on the surface it sounds like conversations in other aspects of society and culture, what you hear is “What the hell is wrong with kids these days?”

But it goes far deeper, and it isn’t limited to kids, not by a long shot.

I listen and I hear and I am learning to understand the questions and what they truly mean and I think I am coming closer to some startling and devastating answers.

The questions that I hear are the same no matter who I talk to.

Why is everyone always at each other’s throats?

Why doesn’t the public take us seriously?

Why are events just glorified craft shows?

Why don’t people support events that are truly spiritual ones (with no vendors)?

Why are all of the events indoors?

Why don’t the elders police behavior especially during rituals?

Why aren’t we teaching the young in an open way instead of pushing them to books and youtube to gain their knowledge?

Why does every pagan event look like a cross between burning man and a renaissance festival?

Why does so little actual working take place at these gatherings?

The answers to this multitude of questions and even more like them are actually all the same few answers.

The Masquerade

The Pagan community has a contingent of people who are role-playing in religion instead of actually being practitioners.

These are the folks that are all about playing dress up, pulling out their cloaks, their giant pentacles, their glue on puck horns and their Gandalf sticks and parading around pretending to be Queen Ambrosia the Fae and hoping that no one asks them to bless the altar. Typically they are known by a nickname. Not a magical name because those are kept very private and guarded because there is extreme power in names, but a nickname and man, I have heard some doozies over the years. I was once introduced to a guy who called himself Odinstaff… Really.

These folks while mostly nice and generally harmless make us and our faith look like a carnival. To quote Eric Draven from The Crow. “A whole jolly club, with jolly pirate nicknames!”

I think that people into the whole pagan thing as an elaborate live action role-playing adventure should be allowed to do their thing but I think in order to move forward we need to stop catering to them.

Nothing to See Here

A certain percentage of practitioners don’t actually have any practical or useful knowledge and their egos are too big to admit that out loud. They can’t bring themselves to go back and actually learn the basics and so when asked to lead or share, they instantly find a dozen excuses such as the intensity or personal nature of their rites, or that they were sworn to some kind of code that doesn’t allow them to divulge their Way.

These folks because of their secret, feel truly powerless. For the most part I believe that they actually want to be a part of the Path. They want to learn or to know but they got in over their heads when they were young and they can’t bring themselves to admit that they know very little. These people are usually very kind and would do anything for someone else but they are not extending themselves the same courtesy. Especially when there are genuine teachers available if you are willing to actually dig through the chaff to find one.

The saddest part about these folks is that they themselves would make fantastic teachers, healers and possibly leaders but they are frozen by fear that they don’t know what they are doing.

The Great and Terrible

Then there are those who put themselves in a place of power. They were not chosen to lead, they do not have the experience, the personality or the empathy to be a true, healthy leader but they exploited an opportunity or created one and got lucky and suddenly they were at the head of the table and then their egos took over.

All it takes is a rudimentary understanding of psychology and some basic observational skills to see that these folks hold their places by bullying, threats, passive aggression, blaming the other guy and a heaping dose of  “Oh poor me…” martyrdom.

Nothing that they do is for the benefit of the community. They will claim to teach only to bring on students to be used as ego boosters and lackeys who are too innocent and hopeful to realize that the knowledge they stand to inherit is all Hollywood façade and shadow puppetry.

Their way is THE way and all other paths have terrible weaknesses. They are self-taught at best and at worst, making it all up as it goes along and nothing they do religiously is ever done for anything except for effect.

These people are one of the great dangers to our faith because they are dug in, entrenched and can only be uprooted by a community of elders and warriors willing to stop playing patty cake and getting serious.

The Silent Minority

This is the group that breaks my heart.

It took me a while to pin them down because I suspected that they existed for a long time but I really didn’t want to believe it because of what it would mean. But over the last year as I have been talking to more and more people, I have gotten several of them to speak up and what I learned stunned me to my marrow.

Many members of the community don’t believe.

They do not believe in a Goddess, in any permutation, nor a God, Horned or otherwise. They do not see Nature as a matronly spirit, they do not look to the universe, to Hecate, or to Bast or anyone else across the dozens of pantheons represented in the Craft.

They are scared, they want to be a part of a community that accepts them and the way they look or the way that they act. One that will care for them, defend them, hold them when they are hurting and will listen to their woes but they carry no belief in their hearts or souls whatsoever.

They want to. Some of them need it. Some of them are so desperate for it that they are harming themselves hoping to find clarity and they are looking to their elders for guidance and praying that someone will show them a path that makes sense and feels complete.

And what do they see? The folks listed above.

They don’t see the Goddess. They see her followers badmouthing and backstabbing each other.

They see events that could easily be mistaken for flea markets. They see giant pentagrams and guys who have joined the community because “Witch girls are freaky and easy.”

They see out of control egos and manic people screaming “Look how damaged I am! It’s my birth sign’s fault! Feel sorry for me!”

Missing is the pageantry that they imagined. The breathtaking beauty that their imaginings promised them. The powerful experiences that would lead them closer to a Mother and perhaps even give her a name that would resonated in their breasts.

They come hoping for a transformational and uplifting experience and found a poorly scripted reality show that has gone on for about twenty seasons too long.

I think it is time to cancel that show.

I think it is time for the elders to step up, speak out and begin to change things.

Because if we don’t, we will find ourselves in one of the categories above.”

Green Serpent – liftingserpents.wordpress.com 

The Sublime and Sinister Sides of Yuletide Customs

Although the traditions and rituals of Christmas have evolved through the centuries, many of them have remarkably ancient origins linked to the midwinter festivals of Yule and Saturnalia and the hope of renewed life as the days lengthen with the promise of spring.

Yule, a time for present-giving and indulgent eating and drinking, was a pre-Christian celebration enjoyed by the people of northern Europe.

Today’s Yule log represents the fires lit on these dark days. Oak was the wood of choice, as it was believed to be the most likely to draw the sun back to the earth.

The mistletoe (Viscum album), the white-berried, sickle-leaved evergreen which grows on the oak and other trees such as tall limes and poplars, and on apple trees as a semi-parasite, was believed to guard the tree from evil – including witchcraft. It also has strong links to fertility, which is undoubtedly why couples still kiss beneath it at Christmas time. Cutting mistletoe with a golden sickle on the sixth night of the moon will, it is believed, preserve the plant’s magic. It was even hung in cow sheds to ensure the continued health of livestock.

Tradition still dictates that with each kiss a man should remove one berry and put it in his pocket or buttonhole. On production of the berry he can then claim more kisses on demand. In the past, mistletoe was often dried and kept from one year to the next for good luck in every season. However it has long been believed that a girl or boy will stay unmarried for the year if they are not kissed under the mistletoe at Christmastime.

There are other rituals that are also thought to be worth performing or observing to bring love and luck, health and happiness for twelve months:

  • When a man kisses his would-be love he must pluck a berry and present it to her. Only if she accepts it will her love be true.

  • Keep the mistletoe all year and burn it before the new sprigs are put up. A good sign is a steady flame. For a married couple, or a bride to be, a spluttering one means a bad-tempered husband.

  • After being kissed a girl should pick a mistletoe leaf and a berry. In the privacy of her room she must swallow the berry and prick on to the leaf the initials of the man she loves then stow the leaf as near to her heart as possible

Christmas evergreens

The holly, ivy and mistletoe are the quintessential Christmas evergreens, and it is believed that all must be handled correctly to avoid ill fortune.

They must certainly be removed by 6 January, which is Twelfth Night or the feast of the Epiphany. For their Christmas celebrations, early Christians adapted the traditions of the bawdy Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia, bringing in evergreens to decorate their homes and churches. Christmas Eve is the most propitious day for cutting greenery; if you use it before this date quarrels are, it is said, sure to ensue.

By old country lore, while the prickly holly (Ilex sp) represents the male, the ivy is undoubtedly feminine. The Greeks called it cissos after a dancing girl who danced herself to death at the feet of Dionysus and was transformed into the plant by the god, so moved was he by her art. Unlike holly, ivy (Hedera sp) is not always welcomed indoors but kept for decorating doorways and porches, ‘just in case’. While mistletoe could be brought into the home, it was banned from churches for decoration because of its pagan associations and is still discouraged today.

The Well-Lit Tree

Until it was introduced from Germany by Prince Albert, the Christmas tree was virtually unknown in Britain, though the tradition of bringing evergreens indoors at this season goes back to ancient pagan festivals. One possible origin for the custom of decorating trees for Yule relates to legends that certain trees burst into bloom on Christmas Day. One was the miraculous Glastonbury thorn, believed to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea who, on his mission to Britain, planted it in the ground on Christmas Eve.

Such flowering trees were especially revered in Germany. In 1430 one writer recorded that:

‘Not far from Nuremburg there stood a wonderful tree. Every year, in the coldest season, on the night of Christ’s birth this tree put forth blossoms and apples as thick as a man’s thumb. This in the midst of deep snow and in the teeth of cold winds.’

Trees were cut and used in plays performed at Christmas, telling the whole Christian story from Adam and Eve to the Resurrection. In this context the Christmas tree represented both the Tree of Knowledge and Christ’s Cross.

Lights on the Christmas tree illuminate the dark days of winter as well as the advent of the ‘Light of the world’. Legend has it that it was Martin Luther who first decorated a tree with candles.

Folklore Thursday

The Fearsome Legend of Krampus

In ancient times, a dark, hairy, horned beast was said to show up at the door to beat children, and carry them off in his sharp claws. The Krampus could be heard in the night by the sound of his echoing cloven hooves and his rattling iron chains. The strangest part was that he was in league with Santa Claus.

The Christmas Terror

The unnerving beast was no demon, however. He was the mythical Krampus, companion to Saint Nicholas (known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, etc.) While Saint Nicholas now has the reputation of loving all children and visiting them at Christmastime, judging their character and giving gifts to the ‘nice’ ones and lumps of coal to the ‘naughty’ ones, Krampus plays the dangerous sidekick.

It is believed that the long-horned, shaggy, goat-like monster with a long, angry face and lolling, forked tongue would visit the home of misbehaving children to punish them. It was believed he would give beatings, and kidnap the kids, bringing them down to his underworld lair to live for a year.

On Krampus Night, or Krampusnacht, the eve of December 5, German children took care to not attract the attention of the intimidating beast, in hopes that St. Nicholas would bring presents on Nikolaustag, December 6.

According to National Geographic, Krampus is believed to be the son of Hel in Norse mythology (Hel, daughter of Loki and overseer of the land of the dead). His name is derived from the German word  krampen, meaning claw. He shares traits with other figures in Greek mythology, such as satyrs and fauns, and has been portrayed in a salacious manner in late 19 th century greeting cards, lusting after buxom women.

Feared and Loved

The myth of Krampus can be found in the Alpine regions, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, and the legend has gained long legs, reaching across Europe and around the world. Families traditionally exchanged colorful greeting cards, called Krampuskarten, since the 1800s featuring the sometimes silly, sometimes sinister Krampus.

In the early 20 th century Krampus was prohibited by the Austrian Fascist government, but the tradition was revived with the fall of the government after World War II. Traditional annual parades are still held in which young men dress as the Krampus, and race through the streets snarling and shaking chains at onlookers.

Many cities and towns, in keeping with old tradition, run a popular Krampuslauf, a sizeable gathering of revelers (largely fortified by alcoholic schnapps) dressed in Krampus costume to chase people through the streets. More than 1200 Austrians gather in Schladming, Styria each year to dress up as Krampus, swatting passers-by with sticks and loudly ringing cowbells. Birch sticks are painted gold and displayed to remind of his arrival.

These days on Krampusnacht, Krampus will commonly accompany St. Nicholas to homes and businesses where St. Nicholas will give out gifts, and Krampus will hand out coal and birch stick bundles.

Santa’s Companions

In addition to Krampus, Santa traditionally enjoyed a host of different companions depending on region and culture, reflecting local history and beliefs. These mythical figures have many common traits, and generally play the role of punisher or abductor, in contrast to the benevolent and generous saint. They often carried a rod, stick, or broom, were usually dressed in black rags, and were shaggy, with unruly hair.

Related image

Elves, kobolds, or pre-Christian house-spirits of English and Scandinavian tradition were believed to be gift maker or bringer, but didn’t share the same elevated status as Saint Nick and his companion.

In Germany, Knecht Ruprecht ( Farmhand Rupert , Servant Rupert) was an old man with a long beard dressed in straw or covered in fur. He accompanied St. Nicholas and carried a bag of ashes, and one might hear his coming due to the ringing of tiny bells sewn into his clothing. Knecht Ruprecht expected children to be able to recite Christian catechism or say their prayers, whereupon he would give them fruit or gingerbread. If they hadn’t learned their lessons, it was said he’d leave them a stick or a lump of coal in their shoes at best, and at worst he’d place the children in a sack, and either eat them or throw them in a river. Ruprecht became a common name for the devil in German.

In Palatinate, Germany, as well as Pennsylvania in the United States, and in the east coast of Canada the companion is named Belsnickel. A scary figure, much like Knecht Ruprect, this partner visits at Christmas and hands out gifts or punishments. In some regions, this figure is dressed as a female, and called the Christmas Woman. She is thoroughly disguised in female clothing, with cloth wrapped around the head and face, and carries sweets and cakes, as well as a long switch which acts like a swatting stick, or a charmed wand.

Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is an old mythical figure of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg who has become a controversial figure in modern times. Traditionally a blackamoor (African male figure usually symbolizing a servant), he was characterized as a Moor from Spain, and a helper to St. Nicholas who was to amuse children and give candy.  Actors portraying Zwarte Piet would wear ‘blackface’—dark makeup, curly black wigs and red lipstick—a practice which is now seen as a racist stereotype. Appearances of Zwarte Piet are now protested in the Netherlands.

Ancient Origins

Image – John Isaac

Symbolism of Yuletide

Winter solstice, which takes place in late December, can be a profound way to tune into the magic and beauty of the season. For people throughout the ages—from the ancient Egyptians and Celts to the Hopi—midwinter has been a significant time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. Creating a meaningful celebration of winter solstice, either in place of or in addition to other holiday activities, can help us cultivate a deeper connection to nature and family and all the things that matter most to us. Winter can become a time of feeding the spirit and nurturing the soul, not just emptying our bank account and fraying our nerves.  Throughout history, celebrating the solstice has been a way to renew our connection with each other through acts of goodwill, special rituals, and heightened awareness. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing.

On the solstice, visit a place outdoors that’s special to you—a trail you can walk or a field you can lie down in, a hillside or mountain perch that provides the perfect view, or even the roof of your apartment building or a quiet place on the edge of your garden. Consider watching the sun rise or set from your little patch of the world. Write a poem. Make a list of loving wishes for friends, family, coworkers—even people you don’t know that well. Build a shrine of nature’s found objects. Light a candle. Reflect on your aspirations for the coming months. .Sharing food, an important part of any celebration, is particularly meaningful during the solstice, as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest.

,So however you celebrate midwinter, knowing that you are sharing its traditions with the folk who lived long ago will make it extra special. May it bring you joy, contentment and all that you deserve. Yuletide Greetings to you all.

The Ancient Tradition of Wassailing

Wassailing is a tradition that brings celebration and social warmth to the dark cold days of winter. I have attended many Wassails in Kent, Cornwall and Chepstow, Wales with our Guise Team Boekka .

The following article has information on the festival’s historical origins.

“Wassail, wassail, all over the town

Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown

Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree

With the wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee”

— Gloucestershire Wassail Carol

When you read the lyrics aloud to this drinking song (or hear the tune), you can almost feel that cup of hot alcohol in your hand as you drunkenly sway to and fro, singing at the top of your lungs around the Christmas tree.

The drink, wassail, conjures images of caroling revelers dressed in boughs of holly and fir with wooden crocks full of good cheer in a Bacchus-type parade through city streets. It’s nostalgia wrapped in a warm blanket of cider, mulled wine, nutmeg and floating orange slices. A celebratory holiday gathering around a highly decorative punch bowl. But, wassail has a muddled heritage. Is it warm booze? An action verb? A hearty salutation? A song? Yes. It’s all of these things, and it includes a storied family tree rooted in tradition and branching out in nearly every direction for over a millennium.

I salute thee…Waes hael!

First, let’s rewind to a castle in 5th-century Britain, where Rowena — the beautiful daughter of a Saxon leader — seduces an incredibly inebriated King Vortigern with a goblet of spiced wine, giving the first recorded toast in history to his good health by crying out, “Waes hael!” Taken by her beauty, he immediately beds then weds the girl after ordering her to drink of the same cup and exclaiming, “Drinc hael!” — “drink, and good health!” This moment in British history becomes the foundation on which one thousand years of wassail tradition spring forth and is said to be the first documented “toast” in history. Seems legit, right?

Whether we are to believe a drunken king wearing wine goggles is charmed into bed, then marriage by a potion-bearing, Saxon babe — thus inadvertently setting the course of the Western world’s drinking culture — is neither here nor there. The point is, it’s a great story. One of many attributed to the history and lore which seem to surround wassail. No one really knows what was in that goblet. Was it spiced wine? Mead? Ale? It doesn’t matter. Wassail was not a drink that night. It was simply a salutation — a toast among drinking buddies celebrating the good health of their friend, the king. Whatever the case, the salute stuck. The word as we know it today, “wassail,” first appears in the 8th century poem “Beowulf”. In the poem, it is again not a drink, but a salute to its warriors.

“Forlorn he looks on the lodge of his son,

wine-hall waste and wind-swept chambers

reft of revel. The rider sleepeth,

the hero, far-hidden; no harp resounds,

in courts no wassail, as once was heard.”

Get wassailed

“I’ve always liked the fact that wassail produced a verb — wassailing, which suggests roots in social activity — something arising out of the dark, northern days of the holiday season. I’ve heard people talk about going cocktailing, but that doesn’t have the same ring.”

-Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

Long after Vortigern and Rowena’s intoxicating meeting, wassail continued to dominate English drinking culture in one form or another. The act of “wassailing” dates back to pre-Christian times when farmers living in England’s southeastern apple-growing region would gather in the mid-winter chill in the orchards collectively shouting while pouring cider onto their trees to ward off evil spirits. By wassailing their crops in the winter, it was said to ensure a healthy crop in the spring.

As Christianity began to spread, this ritual evolved further into singing and drinking to the health of next season’s crops on Twelfth Night; the last night of the traditional Christmas season. It seemed only appropriate to attach the celebration of Christ’s birth and his visit from three wise men with the hope for a good yield in the orchards in the coming year. It also assured them not being burned as heretics under the ever-watchful eye of the Church.

In some regions of medieval Britain, wassail involved a large gathering of tenants at the manor house where the master, channeling Rowena, would hold up a bowl of steaming spiced wine or ale and shout, “Wassail!” with the crowd replying, “Drink hail!” before devolving into Christmas revelry. Yet in other regions, wassailing took on a slightly sinister tone with drunken crowds gathering outside feudal lords’ homes while bowls of ale flowed, singing loudly and not dispersing until they received Christmas treats. Hence the line in We Wish You a Merry Christmas, “Now give us a figgy pudding. We won’t go until we get some.” You can imagine the fear of the manors’ inhabitants watching a fire, backlit crowd of drunken idiots demanding food growing larger and louder by the minute. That’s enough to make anyone relent to mob rule.

In the 14th century, someone decided to morph the old story of King Vortigern and Rowena, their boozy salute, and the passing of the loving cup yet again. This time, the act of door-to-door drinking took a cue from the simple act of saluting and celebrating to a healthy, happy new year. Crowds of carolers would visit neighbors rather than their masters with a large wassailing bowl filled with a spiced punch of mulled wine or ale, nutmeg and sugar. People would then dip toasted bread into the mixture to soak up the flavor and share in the merriment. This band of intoxicated carousers unwittingly created our modern word to “toast” by simply floating a few croutons in a bowl of ale. But it was from here, the act of wassailing and its drink would forever merge, forming one of cocktail’s most enduring partnerships.

Wassail, wassail!

By the Renaissance, wassailing had a firm foothold in England’s Christmas traditions. The drunken band of rabble-rousers banging on doors begging for figgy pudding was now simply spreading good cheer door-to-door in the village while singing Christmas carols with a punch bowl of sweetened, spiced ale. But it was during the 17th century the liquid inside the bowl finally started to take center stage in the merry ritual of Christmas and its now 500-year love affair with apples. The rich punch-like mixture called “Lambswool” was considered the wassail drink of choice for the Christmas punch bowl of the day. It contained warm ale or mulled wine, sugar, nutmeg, eggs, toasts, and “crabs” — steaming, roasted crab apples dropped still-hot into the warm punch, bursting upon impact and making a hissing sound as the mixture frothed and bubbled. The crabs gave the punch a tart sweetness while adding a bit of drama. It is from Lambswool that what we know as the traditional Christmas wassail drink was birthed.

From Wassail to Nog to Toddy

What started as most likely mead or spiced wine sweetened with honey has gone through many transformations throughout the centuries. Wassail evolved from a hot punch-like beverage of mulled wine spiced with nutmeg and raisins to keep the winter chill at bay for loitering merrymakers to its modern Christmas cousin, the cider concoction containing wine, bobbed apples, and sliced oranges and in some households, to an even richer, cream-based punch containing sherry, crusts of bread or sweet cakes, and even eggs.

As the punch matured, mixtures of madeira, sherry, or brandy began to appear alongside the traditional ale or cider, becoming a modern, more complex split based punch. When settlers began arriving in America, “wassailing” had become nothing more than a celebratory gathering at home with friends during Christmas with a cider-based punch spiked with rum. An ocean now separated the old and new. Wassail’s American transformation continued as generations grew further from their English roots, streamlining the creamy Lambswool-based punches into egg nog or the cider-rum mixtures into a wassail-for-one with the whiskey-forward hot toddy. It is these drinks we now most associate with our modern holiday traditions as the punch bowl of yore gathers dust on the shelf in the China cabinet.

The carousing traditions of wassail may have gotten lost in its own convoluted history, but the drink that emerged from the lore continues to play a small role in the nostalgia that is Christmas in the Western world. Many still gather around the punch bowl, sometimes singing carols, often happily sipping a cider-based, spiced concoction which today may or may not contain alcohol. Even the vessel has modernized, with wassail being kept warm for party-goers’ convenience in the crock pot; always at the ready for ladling into a punch cup.

Wassail is indeed both a noun and a verb. Mostly it is a salutatory celebration of a long year as you gather with those you cherish and raise a glass of good cheer to toast to a healthy, happy new year and enduring friendships. For wassail is, first and foremost, a salute.

So, we say to you, readers, whatever you believe, “Wassail! Drink hail!”

Tales of the Cocktail

Mumming

Mumming is also an ancient pagan custom that was an excuse for people to have a party at Christmas! It means ‘making diversion in disguise’. The tradition was that men and women would swap clothes, put on masks and go visiting their neighbors, singing, dancing or putting on a play with a silly plot. The leader or narrator of the mummers was dressed as Father Christmas.

The custom of Mumming might go back to Roman times, when people used to dress up for parties at New Year. It is thought that, in the UK, it was first done on St. Thomas’s day or the shortest day of the year.

Different types of entertainments were done in different parts of the UK, particularly in England. In parts of Durham, Yorkshire and Devon a special sword dance was performed. There were also different names for mumming around the UK too. In Scotland it was known as ‘Gusards’ or ‘Guising’; in Somerset, ‘Mumping’; in Warwickshire or ‘Thomasing’; and ‘Corning’ in Kent.

In Medieval times, it had turned into an excuse for people to go begging round the houses and committing crimes. It became so bad that Henry VIII, made a law saying that anyone that caught mumming wearing a mask would be put in prison for three months!

One poem that people said when mumming was:

Christmas is coming, the beef is getting fat,
Please drop a penny in the old man’s hat.

Over the years, this was changed into a very similar poem that is said by some carol singers today:

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

The early settlers from the UK took the custom of Mumming to Canada. It is known as Murmuring in Canada, but is banned in most places because people used it as an excuse for begging.

There’s also a famous Mummer’s Day parade New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, in the USA, which lasts over six hours!

Mumming is still done in parts of the UK, USA and Canada.

Why Christmas

Read more about the Chepstow Wassail tradition and have joyous Wassails wherever you are!

Winter Effigies -The Deviant History of the Snowman

In modern movies snowmen are portrayed as something magical, loved by children and they also capture the imagination.

I remember feeling these magical energies when Cassandra Latham Jones and I built a large snowman during the heavy snowfall of January 2010 in the grounds of the mill house in Crean, St Buryan.

The history of the snowman however is quite different as you will see in the following article:

Dutch queen Wilhemina & princess Juliana as snowpeople in the Netherlands (1913) (via Nationaal Artchief)

Humans are innately drawn to creating effigies of their own likenesses, often forging the figures from a crude stack of frozen balls plopped one atop of another. Building a snowman utilizes materials that are free of cost, easy to manipulate, and plentiful in certain times and places. It requires minimal artistic skill, as the placement of a few simple twigs and rocks can furnish your creation with an eerily expressive personality.

Snowman with charred backside in a 14th-century Book of Hours (via Koninkligke Bibliotheek)

Early snowman documentation has been discovered as far back as the Middle Ages, but we must assume that humans, creative beings that they are, have taken advantage of the icy materials that fall from the sky ever since winter and mankind have mutually existed. Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman found the snowman’s earliest known depiction in an illuminated manuscript of the Book of Hours from 1380 in the Koninkijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands (shown above).

The despondent snowman seems to be of anti-Semitic nature, shaped with the stacked-ball method, and donning a jaunty Jewish cap. As he sits slumped with his back turned to the deadly fire, the adjacent text pronounces the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Apparently, plague-ridden Europeans needed a comical stooge onto whom they could foist their blame and frustration, and the Jewish snowman fit that bill.

Women attacking a cop snowman in a 1937 painting by Hans Dahl (via Wikimedia)

In the Middle Ages, building snowmen was a way for a community to find the silver lining in a horribly oppressive winter rife with starvation, poverty, and other life-threatening conditions. In 1511, the townspeople of Brussels banded together to construct over 100 snowmen in a public art installation known as the Miracle of 1511. This event was uncovered by Eckstein in his The History of the Snowman book.

Their snowmen embodied a dissatisfaction with the political climate, not to mention the six weeks of below-freezing weather. The Belgians rendered their anxieties into tangible, life-like models: a defecating demon, a humiliated king, and women folk. Besides your typical sexually graphic and politically riled caricatures, the Belgian snowmen, Eckstein discovered, were often parodies of folklore figures, such as mermaids, unicorns, and village idiots.

The Snowman Trick (1950), illustration by Luke Limner, Esq. (via Abaculi)

The snowman’s place in the traditional Christmas canon of jolly holiday diversions — along with ice-skating and horse-drawn sleighs — gained a higher status in the early Victorian era, when Prince Albert thrust his penchant for German holiday fun onto England. Santa Claus and the snowman became ubiquitous icons who soared hand-in-hand o’er the land of commodified Christmas kitsch.

A snowman receives romantic advice from dog in Hans Christian Andersen’s “Stories for the Household” (1880s) (via Internet Archive Book Images)

The snowman’s lot in life is complicated — he is immobile, explicitly impermanent, and confined to an existence of ruminating upon his fate. He is the perfect metaphorical example of the human condition: longing for that which we cannot obtain, in his case touch and warmth. It’s believed that Hans Christian Andersen’s 1861 fairy tale, “The Snowman,” wherein a snowman falls unrequitedly in love with a stove, held symbolic implications of Andersen’s infatuation with Harald Scharff, a young ballet dancer at Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre. Andersen wrote about how the thing we love most can eventually destroy us, yet we happily sacrifice ourselves. When the “stove-sick” snowman gazes upon the burning oven from outside, he cries: “It is my only wish, my biggest wish; it would almost be unfair if it wasn’t granted. I must get in and lean against her, even if I have to break a window.”

Modern-day authors, filmmakers, and artists of every ilk have appropriated the Frosty-type character as their own. The snowman has made appearances in hundreds of books and magazines, dozens of films, and seems to materialize at every critical time and place in history, just as long as Old Man Winter, Jack Frost, or any other personification of winter blows his snowy breath onto the land. The snowman’s persona is safe and placid, politically nonpartisan, unaffiliated with religion, and practically androgynous. Today’s snowman is fashioned with much less political allegory in favor of cheap, empty, irony, as he was commissioned to sell products such as liquor, laxatives, and rap albums.

Not unlike how the blank, smiling expression of a clown is inevitably considered creepy, the snowman has a wicked layer beneath his pure face. A snowman has portrayed the evil villain in ‘slasher’ films and sci-fi TV shows, and depicted sexual humiliation in comic strips, kitschy products, and your own neighbor’s front yard. Today’s snowman is as easily a malicious serial killer as he is a fluffy children’s plaything. This marks the period Bob Eckstein refers to as the snowman’s White Trash Years (1975-2000).

Field of Japanese snowmen in Sapporo (photograph by Angelina Farley)

You can wait for a blizzard and construct your own demonic snowperson, or head out to one of the hundreds of snowman festivals and contests. For over 30 years the Japanese city of Sapporo, in the Hokkaido region, has hosted the Sapporo Snow Festival where an infestation of 12,000 mini snowmen cluster in a field, wearing cryptic messages from their makers.

The stalwart “Jacob” (photograph by Schubbay)

There’s also the Bischofsgrün Snowman Festival (Schneemannfest), held every February in Bavaria, featuring “Jacob,” Germany’s über gigantic snowman.

Olympia, in Bethel, Maine (photograph by Chris Dag)

But the prize for the world’s biggest anthropomorphosized snow pile goes to a snowlady named Olympia, created in 2008 by the townsfolk of Bethel, Maine, and named for the state senator Olympia Snowe. Built in a month-long plow fest, the 122-foot-tall conical she-beast was decked in massive snowflake jewels and six-foot-long eyelashes.

The strange ritual of the Sonoma snowmen (photograph by Lynn Friedmann)

Meanwhile in California, every December Sonoma Valley fires up the holiday season with the Lighting of the Snowman Festival. This is what Californians do with a decisively snowless region during winter: plug-in hundreds of electrical snowmen who appear to be marching in military formation.

Symbolically, destroying a snowy effigy can mark the end of icy months and the tyranny of winter. In Zurich, Switzerland, for example, a giant snowman called the Boogg is plugged with firecrackers and detonated to the delight of the cheering crowd.

At the Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-an-der-Bergstrasse, Germany, the mayor leads a parade through town, beseeching the local children to behave obediently in order to earn the privilege of spring. The children agree, naturally, and the townspeople incinerate a straw snowman. Lake Superior State University commandeered this tradition in the 1970s with their own Snowman Burning Day. Over the years, LSSU’s annual 12-foot-tall snowperson has represented slightly more political and social issues, whatever they feel needs symbolic burning, from sexism and cloning to the Ayatollah Khomeini and a rival hockey team.

Explosion of the Böög in Switzerland (photograph by Roland zh/Wikimedia)

Children and adults alike can therapeutically release their anger onto the snowman — really let him have it — without much consequence. Pelt him with snowballs, stab him, and run him over with your car. He won’t resent you! He’s harmless! That is, unless you consider it harmful to endure listening to Perry Como’s 1953 rendition of the hit tune, “Frosty the Snowman.” Atlas Obscura.

The Cyberbully within Paganism

I have copied this excellent article from the site of Sorita D’Este as this matter has become a huge problem within the Pagan Community. Cassandra and I have been on the receiving end of this and so have other genuine hearted friends of ours.

A couple of days ago I wrote about Cyberbullying on my Facebook profile as the result of a few friends being targeted by an individual who has developed an obsession after being pulled up for aggressive debating within a particular community some months ago. Cue an article in my news feed from a pop-magazine discussing the hashtag #iwillnotbedeleted campaign starting on November 12th, which is a cyberbullying awareness campaign. Cyberbullying is real. I have experienced it, most of us have at one point or another – some of us are just thicker skinned than others, or able to numb ourselves at such constant attacks.

When I mentioned to a friend that I am writing this article they warned me against doing so, because it might “make you more of a target Sorita”.  Well, if it does, I can only hope that this (which might be the first of many) article on things which bother me, will be here and available to someone who needs it when they need it, and that it will somehow contribute to someone else not having to experience what I have experienced, and what I have witnessed over the last 20 plus years.  So I am going to share this everywhere, and I hope you do to.

I more often choose to write about the history of magic, witchcraft and folklore, and the practices they inspire today – but tonight I have decided to speak out on what I consider the violent, abusive and damaging way in which a tiny minority of people in the Pagan and occult community abuse the internet today.  I have been involved in esoteric and religious communities on the internet since 1996, and have in one way or another been involved in managing or facilitating such communities since 1997.  I have seen a lot of frustrating behaviour, but in recent years the internet has actively and openly become a tool for bullies in the contemporary esoteric movement to disrupt, hurt and discourage others.  I am well aware that one blog like this cannot stop cyberbullying, but it can help towards raising greater awareness of this type of abuse which is often overlooked.  Members of Pagan, Wiccan, Witchcraft, Occult and other esoteric societies are not only targeted by outsiders who have issues with our beliefs or practices, but also by others from our own traditions and communities.

I like to go back to basics a lot with my own magical practice – and the tenet: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent often takes center place.  This blog brings together elements from this approach.  This article does not present binding spells or curses as tools to deal with Cyberbullies as it is my opinion that those reading this who are equipped to use magic to fight Cyberbullies will already have the knowledge and skills to do so without my input.  And those who don’t should focus their attention on the mundane defences first, and restore balance to their lives before resorting to magic.

And before I continue – If you are one of the nincompoop power-tripped cyberbullies out there who are hiding behind a mask of innocence or anonymity, you will probably think this blog is about you. It is not. � This blog is about me, and every other Pagan, Witch, Priest or Priestess, Esoteric and Magical Practitioner who has been on the receiving end of your bad behaviour.  This blog is about taking back power. Raising awareness.

TO KNOW

What Cyberbullies do:
Bullies are, of course, like everyone else, unique.  Cyberbullies use the internet as a tool to get their kicks, and typically engage in:

  • Repetitive behaviour with the intention of harming;

  • Creating cruel rumours and stories with the intent of damaging the reputation and friendships of the individual they are targeting;

  • Impersonation, pretending to be the individual they are targeting or someone else, to get close to the individual and gather information they can use against the individual;

  • Excluding and isolating their victim, in an effort to weaken their self-esteem and cause them hurt.

Cyberbullying is a real problem.  It has led to suicide, self-harm and real emotional distress for victims.  Not everyone has the pleasure of good friends or family to support them, and not everyone is thick-skinned enough to shrug it off.

Why people become (Cyber)Bullies.

These are among the top reasons noted as reasons why people turn towards Bullying behaviour, in spiritual and secular communities:

  • They are processing their own trauma or stress;

  • They feel powerless, and are looking for ways to exert power over others;

  • They are suffering from low self-esteem;

  • They are looking for attention, and don’t know how to get that in a positive way;

  • They are acting on Peer Pressure;

  • They gain social standing and popularity through their actions;

  • They lack education, and with that, social or cultural understanding.

Bullies are not born Bullies, they become Bullies.  And Victims likewise.  It is possible to stop being a Victim, and it is possible to stop being a Bully.

Don’t want it shared?  Don’t share it!

We have to take personal responsibility for our on line interactions and for our safety too.  Would you leave the keys in the ignition of your brand new sports car, with the door open in the middle of a big city?  Would you hand over your personal banking details to a complete stranger, with a copy of your passport?  Apply the same common sense to all your on line activities – don’t share things on the internet, if you don’t want it to be on the internet.  Even private spaces are not necessarily private –a private Instagram account with hundreds of followers, or a secret Facebook group with thousands of members. Be realistic.

TO WILL

What to do if you are targeted by a CyberBully

If you feel that you are being bullied on line, here is some simple – but effective (and important) advice.  The advice is straightforward, but following it when you are being bullied by an experienced bully is not easy.

  • Do not respond.

  • Report them.

  • Block them.

  • Starve them of that which they crave – attention, feedback.

  • Do so on all the social media platforms you use.

  • Talk about it to a trusted friend who you know in person, and if necessary get advice.

Also: Inform yourself about the laws in your country, and if you believe that laws are being broken, or that you or your loved ones are in physical danger, do not hesitate to report the situation to the authorities.

If you continue to interact with a Cyberbully you are giving them what they want – feedback, attention; and worse you might show them that their behaviour is getting to you.  This is what they crave.  Worse, you may yourself be seen as being abusive if you continuously interact with them, especially when you are upset or angry, as you might write things you later regret.  Continued interactions could also make it much more difficult if you need to make a complaint or if it does get serious and you have to involve the authorities for action to be taken, as Bullies are often very good at manipulating things to fit their version of events.  So just don’t.  I know it’s hard, but when you are tempted to engage, shut down your computer.  Go out for a walk, take some exercise, do some housework, listen to some music, take a bubble-bath, de-stress.  Then go back to the message.  Read it again, and if you still feel emotional, take control and follow the advice: Ignore, Report and Block.

But STOP – Not everyone is a Bully!

The internet is a wonderful resource, and it connects millions of people.  It is very much part of the “real” world we live in today. Just because someone wrote something you disagree with, just because they expressed an idea or shared a lifestyle choice you are not comfortable with, does not make them a bully – it makes them different from you, and it makes for an opportunity to learn and grow.  Make sure that you are not labelling someone a bully just because they see the world differently from you.  If what they are sharing is legal, but uncomfortable for you, you can reflect on whether you have something to learn, and if not you can still decide to unsubscribe or block the individual if you don’t want to see the stuff they are sharing.

Online communication also lacks the personal interaction that face-to-face contact offers, and if someone is technologically illiterate to some extent they can easily post something in an inappropriate place or an inappropriate way.  That doesn’t make them a bully!  All of this can lead to misunderstandings. I am sure you can all think of messages you sent, or received which had some auto-correct or predictive texting mishap attached, I certainly can!  Or even, when you wrote something to a friend or as a status update on twitter or facebook, only to receive rather strange responses to it, before realising that your message was somewhat misleading or had a double meaning, depending on how you read it.

So before you scream “BULLY” first take the time to ask:
1/ Why am I reacting?
2/ Is it a misunderstanding?
3/ What do I know, based on my own experience, about the situation? Is there someone I can speak to find out more?

If you are unsure, respond to the message or comment you received – and ask for clarification. If it wasn’t a misunderstanding, act appropriately.  If it was a misunderstanding, you will save yourself and others a lot of anguish.

TO DARE

Dare to Question what you are told.
In Pagan and other occult circles, we love to think we are all individuals, that we have free will and are able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. If you fall into this category, make sure that the Bully is not using you as part of their campaign. The strategic online Bully might be using you to create a false sense of consensus, which they will use to further isolate and break the self-esteem of their target.  And a social media drama does seem to attract at least as much, if not more attention, than a cute kitten meme these days!

How often do you read something on social media written by one of your contacts about someone you don’t really know in which it is stated or insinuated that the person is inferior or has done something terrible?  The attack might even be veiled in clever humour making fun of the person’s beliefs, mental health, practices, appearance or the way they dress or speak.  These tend to be viewed as less offensive than poking fun at someone because of their race, size, gender or sexuality, and therefore acceptable, but it is not. It really is not. How often do you respond with a “like” or another form of upvote when you read something like that? Why?

A particular bugbear of mine in this regard is seeing attacks made by Pagan and Witchy friends on the beliefs and practices of other majority faith groups and in particular Christian Church groups.  While these are not generally targeted at an individual, it is still unnessary verbal violence against members of that faith group.  The excuses given for such memes are often generic statements such as  “they did it to us first” or some such.  Really?  This kind of attacks are often created in the form of “fun” memes around the Wheel of the Year festivals and often display misinformed and misrepresented facts, which are not helpful to anyone.

Don’t become an unwitting accomplice.

Supporting these kinds of posts (whether by liking, commenting or sharing) on social media gives the Bully confidence.  It also contributes to the feeling of isolation the person or persons they are targetting might feel.  So please stop, think and act responsibly.  Peer pressure can be hard to overcome, but don’t unintentionally become the Bully’s associate. How about this for a dare? – Make a decision to never share, like or comment on posts which are attacks on other people or groups, nor to share, like or comment on posts that contain sensitive material which has been shared with malicious or otherwise vindictive intent  Instead, report it.  It might not be about you, but imagine if it was.

TO KEEP SILENT

Know when to speak, how to speak and when to Shut Up.

Back to basics. If you experience online bullying – do not interact or respond to the Bully!

However, this does not mean you have to remain silent: you simply need to know how to respond appropriately – and in most instances that will simply be to report the offensive material to the relevant social media platform and then to block / delete the individual from sending you more such.  Do not delete what they send you, because if they later resort to more serious behaviour, it might be useful to illustrate the extent of their abuse to the relevant authorities, so keep copies and records. If you or anyone else, is being physically threatened, in any way – whether insinuated or directly, or if you feel unsafe for whatever reason; report the incident to the police or your local law enforcement.

The Big Lie.

In recent years there have been a couple of notorious esoteric-related “hate blogs” which have been set up by individuals hiding behind (apparently) anonymous facades with the intention to disrupt, hurt and isolate individuals within particular communities using the Big Lie tactic. The “Big Lie” (große Lüge) which was a technique coined by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and later developed by others to promote the idea that if one had to lie about something, one should tell lies that are so big they would be believable.  The idea being that it would become impossible to believe that it’s not true – and this is especially the case when a Big Lie is mixed with other well-known factual information.  So question what you are told.  Question why you are being told about it.  And repeat.  Then decide what to do.

In Conclusion

Over the years I have been involved with social media I have had to ask myself many times whether or not I have been to harsh with someone, and sometimes whether my behaviour has been warranted or not.  In the end, it is important for us to evaluate our own behaviour, to take responsibility for own actions, take remedial action and become more self-aware.  These are all essential steps on both a spiritual and magical path.

Bullying is not acceptable. Ever, on line or off.  Look at yourself and do what you can to stop and eradicate it through your own behaviour and your own interactions.  Reach out and support those who are being bullied, even if they appear to be strong people surrounded by friends and family, your support – even if just saying “I am here if you need me” will make a huge difference.

And if you are on the receiving end, please stop, evaluate and act: Ignore, Report, Block– and take further legal action if the Bully persists.

If you read this article because you are currently experiencing online bullying, please also consider exploring the following resources:
https://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/how-to-report/index.html
https://cyberbullying.org/report
https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/report-cyberbullying

 

Handfasting Celebrants November 2018

Cassandra and I have been so busy of late with events and also work. Today we were asked to conduct a Handfasting at Boscawen-un stone circle. The couple decided to take this step on their 20th wedding anniversary. We became acquainted when they attended the All Hallows Dark Gathering in Boscastle and discovered that some aspects of our lives had synchronicity.

The weather was dry and cloudy with a slight chill of the forthcoming winter weather. Today was All Souls Day and the presence of the ancestors could be felt within the stillness of the air.

 

As Cassandra spoke of the ancestors and spirit loved ones witnessing the Handfasting rite, a murmuration of starlings flew over the circle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special thank you to our lovely neighbours Jackie and Lottie for assisting us and capturing some wonderful images of Kim and Tony’s special day. We then joined the couple for a celebratory drink and a meal in our local St Buryan Inn.

Feedback:

“We simply cannot thank Laetitia and Cassandra enough for The Handfasting Ceremony they performed for us. We can honestly say that it was the most romantic, magical and memorable moment in our lives. Anyone who is considering “Tying The Knot”, look no further than Laetitia and Cassandra. From advice to reassurance, nothing is too much trouble. Thank you so much for everything that you have done for us. Wonderful, warm knowledgeable  Wise Women xxx” Kim and Tony