Posts Tagged ‘Pagan’

I am very grateful for the unique opportunity I have been given here in that it is so very rare that writers are asked about the writing process itself. As someone who has taught numerous poetry and creative writing workshops the process of writing or the craft as I have always called it was a major aspect of helping aspiring writers learn how to hone their writing skills.

My book, HER GODMOTHER, is a magical story that addresses the presence of an alcoholic parent that ultimately causes the breakup of a little girl’s family. Firstly, this was a book I had to write as I am the adult child of an alcoholic. I know how this disease impacts on a child but I also know first hand the scars that remain into adulthood. I have met numerous other adults who had a parent that was an alcoholic as they were growing up. Some of them carry scars far deeper than I carried.

It was very important to me to bring this message forward so that children would find a special place within this story to journey with Allie on her road to healing and in so doing touch something magical within themselves to begin their own healing process. As Allie’s mother plans relocation to start a new life she sends Allie to stay the summer with her godmother, Brigid who is very colorful. Brigid sees everyday life as a magical adventure. And in introducing this new insight for Allie into the book, I crafted what is to be a better understanding of real magic and yes, Witchcraft. As a Witch myself and a fan of Harry Potter as well I wanted to demonstrate the magic of every day life that Witches observe, are grateful for and celebrate. You see by being able to see and feel the magic of everything around you, you simply have to heal. Many call these experiences miracles and I believe in miracles. I simply call it magic. A misunderstood belief system, Witchcraft (which in no way is Satanism) is often maligned or grossly misrepresented (no offence to Ms. Rowling for her work is both wonderfully entertaining and provided a venue for interest and even tolerance.) I wanted to help people understand that Witchcraft is a gentle path which I know will surprise many and that it is not flying on broom at all.

In HER GODMOTHER, Allie learns that the responsibility for her suffering is not hers but her father’s because he has a disease and an inability to choose treatment. This subject of accountability is a primary tenet of Witchcraft. Allie’s father must assume responsibility for his actions with a sound treatment plan as pivotal to the hope of recovery. In HER GODMOTHER, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is also a major factor in helping Allie heal. Many children who read this book that may have someone in their family that is an alcoholic may not know about AA. This book will help them realize that there are programs that do insist the alcoholic take responsibility for his/her illness. This is very important for children to acknowledge for I myself, like Allie, always felt that somehow it was my fault that my dad drank. It makes no sense but that is the mechanism of the dysfunction. Adult lives are often impaired by the “ghosts” of self judgment that can haunt the adult child of an alcoholic.

Wicca and Witchcraft to the surprise of many are truly tolerant paths and in HER GODMOTHER, this gentle belief system is exemplified through the example of Brigid, Allie’s godmother. To bring the belief system home, so to speak, the location of this story is in Livingston Manor where I live. The Manor has been a magical experience for me in that it is rural and it is here that I am fortunate to experience the magic of a sunny day and the hardship of the force of winter but each of these and so many other things are magical! Witchcraft is living in appreciation and respect for all things and in harmony with the environment as much as possible. Choosing a country setting and taking the time to go into great detail about what Allie sees and experiences there was my way of assisting the reader in traveling from wherever they are to where Allie is.

As an animal lover I was sure to make HER GODMOTHER rich with interesting animals and in fact one pet is a major character with a story of her own! In this regard I wanted to help children see the soul of animals and pets as I know them to be which is an amazing experience in unconditional love.

These were the points I worked very hard to impart: education on programs that treat alcoholism, religious understanding and tolerance, an awareness of the everyday miracles and magical experiences that are all around us as tools for coping and healing and a sensitivity to other entities that share this home called earth.

I had test readers that were children and adults alike as I continued to rewrite because although HER GODMOTHER is classified as a children’s book, the writing style, while age appropriate for the target audience is also of the quality of many novels adult read.
I knew what my storyline was and simply focused on telling it in a way that would be fun for anyone to read. This was deliberate on my part because I also wanted adult children of alcoholics to experience a respite from their “shadows” and if unfamiliar with AA groups to perhaps begin to research them and ultimately join to facilitate further healing. I very carefully selected words that would make this book fun reading for children and adults alike and based on feedback I have succeeded.

The bottom line is I am extremely proud of having accomplished what I set out to do. I created a book that is well written. It provides insight into healing on different levels that also offers readers the opportunity to experience a catharsis from their demons while delivering entertainment. To this end HER GODMOTHER has not, to date, received less than a five star rating!

Cate Cavanaugh is the author of HER GODMOTHER, available at fine bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com. If you want to read a bit about everyday magic, visit Cate’s blog and, if interested in the science of magic, please visit quantumspirituality.tripod.com

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Editor, teacher and Pagan priestess Elizabeth Barrette writes articles, essays, short stories, reviews, interviews, and poetry. She’s the author of the reference book, Composing Magic, a must-read for fantasy authors. In this interview she talks about magic spells, Paganism, and writing fantasy, among other things.

Welcome to the Dark Phantom Review, Elizabeth. For those readers who are new at this, I’d like first to start with the basics. What is a magic spell?

A “magic spell” is a combination of tools, actions, and words by which the caster seeks to influence reality. It provides a better grasp on subtle energies, so that they may be directed with greater precision and power to achieve the desired effect, much as the handle of a hammer increases the usefulness of the striking surface. As such, a magic spell is a working of human Will.

What is the difference between a magic spell, a ritual, a blessing, a chant, and a prayer?

“Magic spell” has been defined above.
In magical/spiritual context, a “ritual” is a formal activity with specifically prescribed steps (often repeated identically on subsequent occasions) used as a frame for magical or spiritual processes. A ritual can involve casting a spell, but can also involve other goals such as worship, rites of passage, meditation, etc.

In a “blessing,” someone calls on a Higher Power to bestow some benefit(s) upon a person, place, goal, or other recipient. Usually the person giving a blessing is a priest or priestess, but can be a parent or someone else. Typical blessings include health, fertility, prosperity, happiness, and good fortune. This is a request for divine energy, not an application of human Will.

A “chant” is a heavily rhythmic, usually rhymed vocal performance which may be spoken, declaimed, or sung. Chants have many purposes, from timing oar strokes to worship to raising or directing energy in a spell.

A “prayer” is any communication addressed from a mortal person to a divine recipient. Types include daily, thanksgiving, propitiatory, and intercessory prayers.

A key difference between magic spells vs. prayers and blessings is that they are two separate ways of producing change. Magical workings such as spells require the caster to control and direct energy through force of Will. Spiritual workings such as prayers and blessings require the priest/ess to keep their Will out of the way so that divine energy can flow through them to work divine Will (hopefully in accord with the human request).

What is the difference between Wicca, Paganism, and witchcraft?

Wicca is a specific denomination of the wider religious family of Paganism, with its own subdivisions including Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, and others. Wicca descends from European Pagan traditions; it remains one of the most popular and structured Pagan religions. Wiccan beliefs include honoring the Goddess and the God, celebrating the passage of seasons, protecting the Earth as sacred, and rejoicing in human sexuality as a sacred gift of life and love. “The Charge of the Goddess” and “The Wiccan Rede” are widely held liturgies.

Paganism is an umbrella term for Earth-based belief systems and nature religions in general, although it most often refers to such systems descending from European or contemporary American origins. Pagan religions are typically polytheistic, often animistic, with beliefs in the sanctity of the Earth, human fertility, and personal experience of the divine. Pagan religions include Asatru, Druidry, Eclectic Paganism, and Wicca.

Witchcraft can be either a synonym for “Wicca” as a religion (when capitalized as religions are: Witchcraft) or the name of a magical system (when not capitalized: witchcraft) used by Wiccans and other Pagans. The latter use includes the casting of spells, charging of magical artifacts with energy, creation of protective barriers, and other beneficial applications of subtle energies. Wicca and some other Pagan religions prohibit the use of magic for destructive purposes. Some other traditions have different rules which allow magic in combat and other offensive uses considered appropriate by their home culture.

What is the origin of Paganism?

Paganism in general originates from the Earth, its plants and animals, its cycles, and its natural processes. This is a religion which honors life and the world around us. Most religions commonly considered Pagan have their roots in ancient Europe or modern America. Indigenous religions in the Americas, Australia, Africa and elsewhere share many similar tenets and practices; but those religions often don’t describe themselves as Pagan. The term “pagan” comes from Latin, originally meaning “rustic;” Paganism thus referred to the old nature religions surviving in rural areas, while the newly fashionable Christianity swept through the cities.

When did you first become involved with Paganism?

I’ve always practiced Paganism of one form or another. I discovered the modern Pagan community in 1988 or thereabouts.

I found your book, Composing Magic, to be a wonderful reference work for those authors who write fantasy. When you read fantasy novels, or other works of fiction with Pagan elements, do you encounter a lot of mistakes as far as the ‘real’ magic goes?

That depends a lot on the author, the magic, and the Pagan content. Some authors are excellent. Jean M. Auel, Mercedes Lackey, Anne Bishop, and M.R. Sellars have all written stories with different, respectful portrayals of Pagan or similarly flavored religion and/or magic. Other authors are less respectful and accurate. Frequent flaws include equating Paganism with devil worship and using magic to cover deficiencies in plot, characterization, or worldbuilding. Magic has its own parameters, but is not devoid of consistent behavior.

For fantasy authors (or game masters) wishing to present a plausible, realistic, and plot-solid system of magic, the essential sourcebook is Authentic Thaumaturgy by Isaac Bonewits. His mastery of nonfiction in the magical field allowed him to explain the many different types of magic, magical laws, techniques, and so forth in terms useful for creative applications. However, this is also one of the secondary audiences for my book, because I’ve had writer-friends ask me for help in devising a prophecy or other important tidbit of poetry to support their fiction. If your characters are casting incantations or bestowing blessings, and you want them to sound like experts, reading Composing Magic can help you understand how those things work and figure out what your characters would say.

What compelled you to write this book?

There was a gap in available materials; I have a knack for spotting such things. The Pagan/magical books widely recommended writing your own spells and rituals, but none of them explained in detail how to do that. The writing books detailed many types of writing, but few spiritual types and no magical types. I’m good at figuring out how I do what I’m doing, and explaining things step-by-step so someone else can follow suit; so I wanted to fill the gap. It wasn’t until I saw the reviews for Composing Magic that I realized this is apparently not that common a skill. I’m trying to make more deliberate and frequent use of it, now that I know how high the demand is.

How important is the power of words in a magic ritual?

First, the space must be reasonably safe and comfortable. Precarious footing, bloodthirsty insects, etc. reliably kidnap people’s attention.

Second, you must create a powerfully moving effect – that means it excites people’s sense of wonder and gets the energy moving as desired.

Words are among the most powerful tools for doing that. Some rituals don’t have words, relying instead on music or dance or other nonverbal methods. But almost all rituals do use words, and for them, words are vital. The right words can make a ritual that people will remember forever; the wrong words can bore or offend people. Worse yet, poorly chosen words can make the ritual misfire or cause undesired side effects. If you talk about “the rains of the West,” don’t complain if you get wet!

Harry Potter created a lot of controversy, with many people wanting to ban the film. Why do you think some people are afraid of portraying young protagonists in children’s books as witches or wizards?

Some people follow a religion or philosophy that discourages free thinking in favor of faith and obedience; that inclines towards child-raising practices which maximize control. If people want their children to be like them, and they believe that magic and/or other religions are evil – and they know that many children enjoy reading those kinds of books, and that reading encourages thought in general – their best bet is to attack the books and keep children from reading them. Adults are free to believe what they wish, but it is harmful to force their beliefs on children who cannot freely choose otherwise. Children should be free to learn and explore and read. Adults should be grateful that children are eagerly reading anything in an age more given to video games and television.

What are your favorite Pagan authors or novels?

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
The Pillars of the World by Anne Bishop
Harm None by M.R. Sellars

I understand you’re a student of obscure languages. What languages are those?

First, I’m a hobby-linguist, and thus a student of all languages. I have some formal education in Spanish, Russian, and Japanese. Privately I’ve browsed Gaelic, Cherokee, Lakota, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Tlingit, Quechua Mayan, and many others. I’m especially interested in Native American, Australian, and African languages.

Second, I’m a xenolinguist. I study and invent artificial languages – model languages made for fun, auxiliary languages of sizable construction, alien and fantasy languages in fiction. There I’ve gone through Klingon, Tenctonese, Sindarin, Láadan, Esperanto, and many others. Of those, I probably know Láadan (from Native Tongue and A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan by Suzette Haden Elgin) the best, having written a class about it … though there’s also Ai-Naidari, and I’ve done three classes on its contextual fiction (The Aphorisms of Kherishdar by M.C.A. Hogarth), which contains a handful of very enlightening alien vocabulary.

I’ve also constructed numerous alien and fantasy languages of my own. Seshaa is the oldest and largest of those; I’ve been writing about it and its home culture, the Whispering Sands desert, since I was in junior high or high school. Glimpses of it appear in my story “Peacock Hour” slated for publication in the anthology Taking Flight. I’ve also posted some samples of Seshaa on my blog and in the LiveJournal community “conlangs,” where it’s very popular. Other languages have smaller files – the tongues of elves, centaurs, aliens, and other folk.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

The best option is my blog, “The Wordsmith’s Forge,” where I talk about writing, Paganism, magic, speculative fiction, gender studies, gardening, nature, current events, and many other topics: http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com

My old website, “PenUltimate Productions,” is no longer updated but still visible; it contains archives of my earlier work. There’s a lot of Pagan poetry and articles, some speculative fiction, and other things.

For the editing half of my wordsmith work, see “Academic & Clerical Editing.” The ACE site is here: http://www.acediting.com

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

1) I host a poetry fishbowl every month on my blog. Drop by “The Wordsmith’s Forge” and give me ideas for writing poetry. The next one will be June 11 with a theme of language, linguistics, and linguists.

I collect quotes. I also make my own, and I’m a memetic engineer interested in building and promoting healthy memes. Here are a few of mine:

“You can’t keep spending water like money.”
“Meditation isn’t something you do when your mind is quiet. It’s something you do to make your mind more quiet.”
“Don’t borrow trouble. The interest is a killer.”
“If you’re not making any mistakes, then you’re not learning, you’re coasting.”

Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth! It was very enlightning!

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