Slow magic makes me smile

Picture of a glacier filling much of a winding valley.

There’s no rush.

I was slow in growing an interest in magic.  I was slow to trust that using it wouldn’t cause more problems than it solves.  I was slow to find a magic that I have confidence in, and that magic is slow magic.

There’s a spell I’ve been working on for three years, and expect to take another seven to complete. At the same time, I’m stitching some intentions into a counted cross-stitch piece that I am making as a gift; I think I promised it two Giftmases past.

That’s what magic is about for me:  expending small amount of energy on a regular basis to effect some kind of change.  Just like life, the consequences of small acts can be felt for years or decades afterward.  Just like life, it requires no planning but can benefit a whole lot from it.

Slow magic isn’t, so far as I know, a particular tradition or set of practices.  It’s just magic that takes a good long time to use.  There are probably slow spells in many different systems.

And there are parallels for how the slow buildup of energy works, like compound interest.

What I like about slow magic is the sheer power involved if you’ve got the patience to let it build.  Earthquakes don’t happen in an instant; the forces build over long periods of time until they overcome the friction keeping the tectonic plates together.  So too is it with slow magic.  Force builds upon force until it is inexorable.

On the other hand, slow magic lends itself to understanding the consequences of our actions.  It’s the unintended effects that give me pause, and by performing a slow working my mind is all but forced to consider the different alternative results.  Because it takes time for the spell to be cast, this can also provide a safety valve if circumstances change; the working can be adapted as time goes on.  Just like life.

Now if only I could get better at knitting, that would open up all sorts of slow possibilities for me.

Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the divinities?

I had a friend once who used as his motto, “No promises made, no promises broken.”  That may be the only way one could honestly answer “no” to this question.

The bargains I have more trouble holding up are the open-ended ones.  Sometimes I will get clear direction to give up or modify a behavior, without it being tied to any specific bargain on my part.  Not knowing the higher purpose of what’s being asked is tricky, but that’s what I generally have to deal with when I don’t initiate the bargain myself.  That’s one of the reasons I never felt particularly led to give anything up for Lent when I was Catholic; the church at that time did a really bad job of explaining why I sh9uld, no one in my family modeled the behavior, and I was never motivated enough to find out why the priests thought it was useful.

When it’s my idea, though, I know what I’m offering, and I know what I’m asking for.  A little concrete thought goes a long way for a practical guy like me.  So I make bargains with Ares to avoid conflict, or to gird myself if it’s inevitable, and I deal with Hermes to protect myself and my home from thieves.  I have a clear goal in mind, and a clear idea of what I want to offer in return — which is subject to negotiation, of course.

Folks who are more sensitive to their gods’ words likely have more productive conversations, and doubtless find bargains initiated by those deities to be less trying.  I don’t hear my gods well, so I make do with what I have.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

What sort of festivals, memorials or seasonal observances do you keep throughout the year?

This is where I have drifted from the traditionalist to the localized form of Hellenismos.  I’m very interested in learning more about ancient Hellenic festival structure and applying it to my practice, but applying it in a relevant, modern, and local context is important to me.  So far the only festivals I celebrate are:

  • The festival of lilies, when I give some of the abundant tiger lilies around my home as offerings, and
  • The Hermaia Agoraia, an opening of the markets for the secular holidays.

I’m in no rush to add more, expecting that new ones will manifest when the time is right for them.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

Ares in Chains


Excellent post on the role Ares plays in dismantling a culture of rape and abuse.

Originally posted on Aspis of Ares:

One of the things that I think is important to discuss in the onus of the recent sexual abuse allegations within the pagan community is the theological importance we levy to our gods. Sannion touched on this briefly , but I wanted to expound on the myth of Ares’ trial for the retributive murder of  Hallirhothios  and the story’s theological and instructive value to both the polytheist community and pagans who assert archetypal philosophies.

Ares Kills Poseidon's Son

The myth is summed up as follows: Hallirhothios, a son of Poseidon, rapes (and this time in the myth, rape definitely means “sexually assaults”) Ares’ daughter Alkippe. Upon learning of the assault, Ares kills Hallirhothios. Poseidon, of course, is pissed, and so brings Ares to trial. Assembled before the rest of the gods, Ares and Poseidon give their cases, and the gods acquit Ares of wrongdoing; the place of the trial is renamed the Areopagus and becomes a…

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Not a leader yet

I won’t be presenting a workshop at the Polytheist Leadership Conference.  While it thrilled me to no end when I asked asked to do so over coffee, I wasn’t able to pull it together by yesterday’s deadline.  (I’m also behind on assignments for a money class I’m taking, and generally exercising imperfect time-management skills regarding my religious life.)

For those who are interested, I was pondering a discussion on ancestral money work, which would explore how our relationship with money is informed by the ones our ancestors had with the stuff themselves.  I think it’s a great idea, and one that I am likely to develop in the future, but perhaps I need to spend a little more time understanding ancestor worship anyway.

What Kenny Klein can teach Pagans . . . about Wikipedia

My work to encourage more Pagans to edit Wikipedia has stalled, probably because I tried to organize it into a series of tedious tutorials.  But when the Kenny Klein story broke, I added his Wikipedia entry to my watchlist, and realized that this one obscure article contains a wealth of lessons.  Here are a few:

  • Don’t write an article about yourself.  This is really frowned upon in the Wikipedia community, although an outsider usually doesn’t know any better.  Back in 2006, when the first draft was posted by user Kennyfiddler, it was actually pretty common, and no one even noticed he’d done it until 2013, at which point the article’s “talk page” was tagged with a note explaining the conflict of interest.
  • Nothing is forgotten.  As one might notice from some of the links I’ve provided already, a strength of Wikipedia is that every edit to every page ever is retained.  There are some rare exceptions, but that’s the rule.  It makes fighting vandalism easier because it’s possible to revert to an earlier version with a couple of clicks.  It’s also an astounding audit trail for any article or editor.
  • Don’t embellish the facts.  Promotional language is a surefire way to annoy Wikipedians.  We don’t need text list this (emphasis mine):

“Through his interest in British music, Klein discovered the Wiccan and Neopagan communities. He learned a great deal about traditional Scottish Witchcraft from New York merchant Eileen Campbell Gordon, and then joined the Blue Star coven and tradition of Wicca, becoming a High Priest within that tradition in 1983. He helped steer the Tradition towards a more traditional British form, discarding Alexandrian and ceremonial rituals and replacing them with British folkloric Craft practices, including the 8 Paths of Power, the 7 Tenets of Faith, and the Drawing Down of the Moon and Sun. Between 1983 and 1992 he and his wife, High Priestess Tzipora Klein (née Katz) were largely responsible for transforming Blue Star from a local coven to a Wiccan tradition of its own.[4] Touring the country during that period performing music, Kenny and Tzipora continued to teach Blue Star Wicca, initiating many people and founding many covens, at the same time recording and distributing lessons on cassette tapes.[5] Klein has continued to teach Traditional Wicca since then.”

The hard and fast rule for Wikipedia:  if it’s not in the sources, it shouldn’t be in the article.

  • Deletion can be a consequence.  In 2012 the article was nominated for deletion, a complex process in which editors debate Wikipedia policy until they reach consensus.  The nominator said, ” He wrote part of the article himself, describing himself twice in the third person as ‘a noted fiddler.’”  Many of the article’s references are to primary sources (things Klein wrote himself, mostly), which do not establish the ever-important notability.  Although it was ultimately kept, articles of lesser interest, such as many in the Pagan sphere, are vulnerable to deletion because the average editor won’t know where to find reliable sources.
  • Innocent until proven guilty.  Wikipedia has been burned more than once because articles about people weren’t entirely accurate.  There’s a rather rigorous policy on biographies of living persons which demands rigorous checking of sources.  In this case, it means that it is not appropriate to include details about Klein’s arrest until his case is decided in court, despite the fact that he apparently confessed.
  • Wikipedia is an alphabet soup.  The site has a vast array of policies, guidelines, and conventions, all of which are referred to (and, more helpfully, usually linked to) with some kind of alphabetic mishmash.  The policy on living people is called BLP, for example.  If an editor refers to something in all caps such as NOTNEWS or TOOSOON, e is not shouting; e is referring to an essay, guideline, or policy.  If it’s not linked, you can find it quickly in the search bar.  Type WP: before the term to ensure you get results from outside the article space; the various opinions and policies all live in a different place, and the WP: will get you there.

Wikipedia needs more Pagan editors to learn its policies and participate in editing articles.  It’s not the most user-friendly site, but it’s possible to learn.  Ask me any questions you like and I’ll do my best to answer them.