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During a recent conversation I said that the Anderson Faery/Feri lineage of witchcraft is helpful for trauma survivors  because it is an embodied lineage with a focus on ecstatic experience – all things that steer us out of over intellectualizing and into body awareness – but only insofar as we work to heal our trauma, else it will retraumatize us.  I’ve been pondering that statement ever since, because while I feel it to be true I have never upacked it.  I’m going to try and do that a bit here.

What is trauma, and what does it mean to be retraumatized?  We often think of trauma as tied to emotional, physical or sexual abuse, war, or natural disasters, but there are a whole range of life experiences that can be traumatizing, like surgery, the loss of a loved one, etc.  Trauma happens when our nervous system is overwhelmed and our coping strategies don’t work.  If the trauma is not processed or if we aren’t able to fight, flee, or in some way manage what is “attacking” us, then we freeze in a way that the unprocessed fear gets locked into our body.

A way some of us deal with the trauma locked in our body is by dissociating –  we try to get away from our body, and thus the traumatic situation — but other expressions of trauma are anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, avoidant behaviors, and addiction.  These expressions of trauma are almost always enveloped by  a sense of shame.  Something happens, we get traumatized and we cope the best we can, then hate ourselves for it because it doesn’t look or feel good.  It’s the shame that binds the entire process together.

Effects of early trauma are a laundry list:  a disrupted sense of self in relation to others, emotional instability, social dysfunction, difficulty recovering from stress, disorganized thinking, a limited window of tolerance, a limited capacity for relationships, poor impulse control, low self-worth, core shame, inability to recognize one’s own needs, a sense of isolation…. Oh, so much!  And oh so many of the very reasons we seek out spirituality, even witchcraft; we are searching for healing.

If that search leads a person to the Anderson Faery/Feri lineage of witchcraft before therapeutic work with a qualified therapist has been done to address past trauma the very tools of the tradition could be dangerously retraumatizing.  In this lineage we are asked to be present in our bodies, to be fully present for Sex, Self, Passion, Pride and Power.  Meditators are now realizing that mindfulness meditation is retraumatizing for the same reason; in mindfulness practice we are asked to be present with the feelings and sensations of the body.  If we have unprocessed trauma fear locked in our body, our own breath and body awareness can be jarring, flooding us and popping us right out of the body.  We feel the trauma all over again and dissociate.  In fact, we will happily watch our body sit and breathe on the cushion – we are well used to dissociating –  thinking we are engaged with the practice, when in actuality we are not experiencing embodiment at all.

Retraumatization is a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in re-experiencing of the initial trauma itself.   It can be triggered by a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics (loss of power/control/safety) of the original trauma. – by Patricia Shelly, MSW, Shelley Hitzel, MSW, and Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, Preventing Retraumatization: A Macro Social Work Approach to Trauma-Informed Practices & Policies

For those of us who dissociate, clearing the mind and entering stillness is a familiar state of numbness.  It can be a blissful state, and hard to distinguish from altered states of consciousness.  Yet, it is not the mindfulness taught in yoga, and it is not the embodiment required to engage Faery witchcraft safely.  Embodiment is the beginning and foundation for more advanced practices in Faery.

Dissociation vs presence?
Table
Meditation instructors and health care professionals who work with trauma survivors are taught to use trauma informed practices which focus on a sense of safety and stabilization (it is not in most of our scope of practice to offer trauma-specific work that focuses on processing trauma).  One thing Faery witchcraft is not is safe, and its tools are notoriously destabilizing.  Some do survive the crash course of a Faery induced healing crisis, others do not.  With so many qualified therapists who specialize in integrating trauma, and so many excellent protocols, like EMDR, there is no reason to risk a student, or risk ourselves.

If you are drawn to Faery, but come from a trauma background, seek out a skilled EMDR therapist first.  Give yourself a year of calming the central nervous system and finding safety within your body.  You will be grateful you did.

*I am not a professional therapist.  My insights come from my own experience and what I have found effective. 

incantation

Incantation; Francisco Goya

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This working requires a sacrifice. Give to a local group engaged in the work of social justice, either by volunteering or by supporting them financially.

Call upon your Mighty Dead to support the work.

Acquire an image of the Lady of Liberty to place on your working altar. This can be in a public place, like your work place.

Offer the litany to her regularly, and any other offerings you feel called to give.

LITANY OF FREEDOM

Liberty, Lady, Mother of Redemption;
Mother of Exiles;
Mother of Eagles;
To you and, through you, to the Dark Mother of the Heavens and the Earth…

Come to me

We ask for the light of your lamp to heal us and fill our hearts with grace.
Let there be freedom,

Come to me

Let our sisters be free to live safely, in public and in private!
Let our sisters be free to choose what happens to their own bodies!
Let our sisters and brothers of color be free to live in dignity and respect!

Come to me

Let our Trans brothers and sisters be free to live authentically!
Let our gay and bi sisters and brothers be free to live authentically!
Let our gay and bi sisters and brothers be free to love openly whomever their hearts are drawn to!

Come to me

Let our sisters and brothers of indigenous birth be free to live in peace and health upon their ancestral and sacred lands!
Let us all be free to speak and create and express as Spirit moves us!
Let us all be free to enjoy the fruits of prosperity and our own labor and right livelihood!

Come to me

Let us all be free to enjoy and honor clean soil, water and air!
Let us all be free to live in peace!

Come to me

Let us all be free to honor and be honored because, and not despite of, our respectful differences!
Let us all be free to unite for our common well being!

Come to me

Let us all be free to join together in resistance to those who would abuse us!
Let us be free to follow the path of beauty and bliss!
Let us all be free of the fears that bind us from our deepest aspirations!
Let us all be free from deception and oppression, and the systems that support them!
Let us be free of the chains even in our own minds and hearts!

Come to me

Let us be free to build anew and better for ourselves and our communities!
Let us be free to speak truth to power!

Come to me

Lady, By your crown,
let those who would abuse us or our loved ones be stripped of their claims to power!

By your lamp,
bring their words and deeds to light, and to the notice of the world!

By your book,
never allow the misdeeds of tyrants to be forgotten, nor the lessons of history fail to inform present events!

Let us be free

Consider placing her image upon the words of her poem:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You can add the creation of a (resealable)cursing bottle, filled with images of the appropriate politicians and organizations, and inscribed with this three part curse on the back:

“May God abandon you ; May knowledge forsake you ; May apathy claim you”

as well as thorns, needles, broken glass, and every manner of vile thing like rotting muck, poppy seeds, ghost peppers, what have you. Piss in it. Then drown it in liquor, and pour your own rage into it. Scream at it. Make them want to die. Work yourself into a frenzy. It might help to be drunk, or to pour your fury and frustration into a cup before the pouring that in the bottle. Then recap and seal it with wax and place it on the altar or hide it away somewhere. If the proverbial shit ever does really hit the fan, take it back out and work yourself into a frenzy again. Shake it and scream at it and name the afflictions you place upon them, focusing on things that will actually make things better and make them unable to carry out their atrocities. Then hurl it and cause it to shatter on an appropriate target, like a federal building, or bury it somewhere likewise appropriate.

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Episode 4 on the folklore podcast

Druidcast episode on the Black Dog

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the Urban Hedge

Living in Ireland is one thing, living in an American city quite another.  I find city magic different from the magic of the countryside.  I also find central Texas magic different from southern Irish magic.  This is common sense really, as there are different partners in the work.

The energy of the American city  I live within is one of motion, and literal energy generation.  Perhaps it is more like a stellar nursery, or star-forming region: a dense area of exotic cosmic brew.

I don’t work with the entire city.  I build relationship with the area I can –and regularly do– walk the bounds of.  Boundary walking, and tending, is the age-old habit of the witch.  It’s where we draw our power.  During the liminal times of day, it is easy to find the urban Hedge.  Within my own bounds, those are odd crossroads, where odd numbers of pathways or streets intersect.  Also, the alleyways.

In any Hedge crossing endeavor, caution is needed.  Persons of dubious nature are attracted to liminal spaces, and times.  Do not trust every Person you meet, corporeal or not!  Victor H. Anderson cautioned his students to make such journeys with their Lights on.  That is, have a strong and direct relationship with your own Godsoul, the ancestral spirit directly connected to you.

Also, test the spirits.

Just because some non-material dude chats you up, doesn’t mean you should give him your number.

During urban hedge crossing, I do not sit and trance.  I walk.  This is a skill I developed working with the Reclaiming Pagan Cluster, and learning to use my magic during direct action protest.  I also carry a protective talisman in my pocket, or on my person.  I set an intention, whether that be exploratory or specific.  These forays are not for entertainment.  They are for the purpose of accomplishing my will, and my work.

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Red Rite

Of all the strange and terrible powers among which we move unknowingly, sex is the most potent. Conceived in the orgasm of birth, we burst forth in agony and ecstasy from the Center of Creation. Time and again we return to that fountain, lose ourselves in the fires of being, unite for a moment with the eternal force and return renewed and refreshed as from a miraculous sacrament. Then, at the last, our life closes in the orgasm of death. Sex, typified as love, is at the heart of every mystery, at the center of every secret. It is this splendid and subtle serpent that twines about the cross and coils in the heart of the mystic rose. -Jack Parsons

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Michael Doherty (University College Dublin) presented on Magico-Relgious Cures of Farm Animals in Ireland.  Professor Doherty was a practicing veterinarian, before taking his position at UCD, and treated animals in both the north and the Republic.  The theme running through the numerous examples given, as seen in earlier presentations as well, was the heavy use of homeopathic thinking in folk cures and charms.  As we saw in the snake charm, these charms were not used on snake bites – rather, they were used to treat like with like.  Since worms were seen as the cause of many afflictions, imagery of another, even more powerful, earth bound creature was used to kill the worm — the image of a venomous snake.

 So it is with the animal charms being used in Ireland even to this day.  For example, the use of red thread to bring vitality back to an animal believed afflicted by a piseóg acted against the belief that “fairy blood is white.”   Or, the ‘turning of sod’ for a lame animal.  Below I will list the various specific cures or charms discussed in the presentation.  Professor Doherty has offered to make an article he wrote on this topic available, and I will post more when I receive a copy. 

 when a cow is “blinked” – it is caused by the evil eye – drench it with garlic and soot

 bewitched sheep – red thread tied in the ears

 pig nut (plant) used for evil eye cure

ruher peist – worm in the tail – treat with garlic (cut a slit in the tip of the tail, garlic / soot / goose dung mix applied

 when a cow goes down – clove of garlic inserted under the skin

 when cattle are dying of blackleg – cut a piece of the leg from a dead cow, dry it with smoke, and take a strip of the muscle from the dried leg to weave into the skin of living cows

 when an animal goes lame – turn the sod – where the animals foot has touched, cut that piece of ground out, toss it into a whitethorn bush while reciting a prayer

 bog bean (plant) – herbal remedy for people and animals

 holly hung in the cow sheds to prevent ringworm 

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The stories you read of Ireland far away; long away, ago, in mist of time forgotten.  Of gleaming paths, crystal jeweled, that stream into the night.  Those nights.  Oh, those nights….that illumine a ribbon winding.  Yes, those nights…they are real!  Those stories are of sight gifted, not by chance or luck or magic, but by birth.  Luck of birth upon these isles where light angles, and mist falls, and some uncanny turn of our starship planet home, gifts this place.

It’s sight.

For stories long forgotten, yet heard upon the winds, tell of this land of shining ways; and of people fair.  Through time was it carried, first by mother, then by child.  

But do not weep, or feel neglected.  Your Place is waiting. For she has magic, too.  Her story is yet written, or was written, yet told many long years…

so long. Ago.  it was forgotten.  In that world of type,print, eye –  knowledge.  

Remember your heart.  It speaks a primal language.  

Let me tell you, as a Witch: those stories we read of this land of mist and Shining Ones….we thought it was some dream land.  Some, myth or story of a trance induced slight of hand.  No, not so crass….but, we read the stories and thought them Other….. Oh, we were Wrong!! It is no more Other than walking out your door!!!  

Oh, if I could bring you here.  To sit in my windowsill, and see the road below agleam with light – and hear the voice of the Wind call…..”come, walk with me.”

It is a natural phenomena as physical as my own lips: my own heart beat.  Maybe it is the tilt of the earth, and the way the sun and moonlight enter the atmosphere on this island.  Maybe it is some chemical component of the soil.  But tonight, as I looked out of my window, I saw a land awake – alive – glowing….. shining like the myths of old.  I walked out into it – because how can a human-person resist that call? 

and to the Ring it took me…where I wept.  This land…. Oh, Gods…… we humans have destroyed so much.  My heart broke.  

But this story must be told, and it is not of me or my pain or my sentimentality.  No….this small ridge on an island in the north Atlantic wants to say…….

The mystery you read in the myths of Ireland: Hibernia of the Trees, Cold land of Mist – the stories you read were of people like you…people who wrote of their experience.  What their eyes saw, their hearts felt, their ears heard.  They met the Living Land of Eire.  

Meet your land.  For she is Sister, Lover, Brother, Mother, Son…..and she has hir mystery, too.  

Perhaps she does not glow in the night of a mist covered Moon, because the light from our brother Sun shines on her more direct.  But, what IS her secret heart and her untold myth?  

Can You tell it?

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