Monday, November 5, 2012

Paganism, Personal Practice and Ethics with Negative Emotions or Workings

 While I wouldn't normally post twice a day, my first post was very short.  Also, I had a ton of time Sunday so  I have an excess of writing which I'm trying to sort through in a sane and reasonable manner.  To that end we have an unusual and non-habit-forming second post.

Working with Magic and Dark Desires Baring The Agis, placed up an article relating to Vengeance from a Hellenismos perspective. It made me both jealous of the reference texts Recons have to follow and  relieved that my faith doesn't have ancient laws I have to try to modernize.

I am always impressed when someone makes applicable use of ancient customs. It was particularly brave to discuss vengeance in a Hellenismos perspective because as Temperance points out:
My gut instinct says that this practice [of taking blood vengeance on those who committed wrong against a family or the self] was prevalent in ancient Hellas, and was most likely executed more often than we would like to accept in our current law-regulated society.”

The idea of seeking vengeance and justice has separated in modern society, and perhaps it should. I don't think thieves should be murdered just because they pissed off the owner of said goods, though I find rape and murder victims' (and their families) a more slippery slope. Our legal system is set up to help protect the wrongly accused (at least in the USA), but we do sacrifice some in the case of how we condemn the guilty. For the record, I am against the death penalty, but I do question how one should handle a criminal with multiple life prison sentences. They will never be rehabilitated and often cause danger and disruption to prison guards and minor offenders who still may be returned to society (and whose “rehabilitation”--if what is offered in prison can be called that, is negatively impacted).

Towards the end of the article, Temperance turns to the mythical applications of vengeance and honoring darker emotions in modern day. The last line of her post reads: “Sometimes, we wish for dark things, and that's also alright.”

This particular aspect of her post  reminded me of a large part why I'm Pagan. We don't shun our negative emotions or desires. We have different ideas on how to act on those emotions. Some of us choose to acknowledge and release. Some of us petition our Gods or the universe to act out proper treatment to those who have wronged us. Some of us work magic against those who have hurt us. 

There are other schools that believe bad things happening to us are meant to be a teaching tool or opportunity for personal growth and others who believe it is a sign we are practicing incorrectly. Others feel this is a chance for compassion and understanding of those who have antagonized us, and some people believe it is evidence that there is a real and present danger to “their kind” of people. Most of us will use a mixture of techniques/views depending on the level of hurt and the seriousness of the wrong done to us or those we love. We may not agree with the actions/view of another in regard to their feelings, but very few of us deny that we have these desires or pains.

Most of us try to hold space for an open conversation about what happened, how a person responded, and why they responded this way. Whether or not we agree with the person at the end of the conversation is another matter, but I think it's healthiest to hear a person out and to leave each to follow hir own path so long as it doesn't impede own our own personal rights or safety.

I believe in doing good in the world and I believe magic is part of a means to that end. I don't think that we can take our obligation towards others, our world, or ourselves lightly. I'm privileged that my day to day life holds very little violence. There is hostility and frustration, particularly in my work space (the service industry seems to bring out ugliness in other people like few other fields can), but it is not of the nature that threatens my life, the lives of those I care for, or my livelihood. My daily test is to hold energy and try to keep compassion for people who are consciously and unconsciously being difficult/hurtful to me.

There is little place in my practice where I have to consider physical, emotional, mental, or magical violence. Banishing, meditating, and releasing is usually the kind of magic I most require to get through negative encounters in my day to day. Sometimes I ask Gods for more insight into the mind frames of those who have hurt me, or I pray for the Gods and my guides to keep me away from person x until I calm down more. On very rare occasion I feel the need to work a protection spell or call for further protection, because while I don't have the legal means to report a person, I still feel deeply threatened by what is going on. My day to day workings have never escalated beyond this.

I don't think taking magical action against someone who has hurt you is inherently wrong, but it's not something to be done lightly and it's not something I've ever felt compelled to do. I try to hold space open for those who have been more deeply wronged to speak on their experience and their process for vengeance/ justice/ catharsis. Part of what I like about the pagan paths is that there is space for people to explore their pain, being wronged, and taking action against those who have hurt them instead of always demanding mindless forgiveness.

We hear a lot about the rede (which to my mind says nothing about what will happen if we harm others only that anything which doesn't harm others is ok) and the three fold law. Rookies often assume it applies across all traditions. We often see our own pagan representatives assure the media that we all agree with the rede. I am always glad when more experienced and honest pagans come out to remind us that there are those who acknowledge all human aspects in their practice, including wants and desires society as a whole would choose to silence. If the circle isn't a safe space to air those pains and grievances we hold close to our heart, where can we find catharsis and release? If we can not be honest and true to our gods, our guides, and ourselves, then where can we show the entirety of our being and learn love and compassion for both ourselves and others?

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Article copyright Swift Rabbit/ Southern Pagan Muses


  1. You got around to writing the article! I'm very happy about that. I agree with a lot you just wrote. Like you, I tend to avoid the vengeance actions. Yet, that does not mean that--when the system fails--I will not petition the Theoi for swift justice of the BC variety.

    This was a wonderful and engaging read, thank you!

    1. I did get to writing! I'm so busy over the week days sometimes I forget that the weekend will come and after I clean and shop and spend time with the bf I'll have plenty of time to write, so long as I keep it all to a two to three page limit--and provided I can narrow the topic down in the first fifteen minutes.

      I'm glad you enjoyed and and thank you again for the inspiration.


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