Words can cut us from greater “convocation of love”

Words are peculiar things. They can be sweet and uplifting. They can be courageous and inspiring. Words can transport us to faraway lands and lofty ideals. Yet, their powers can also be used to rend, tear, stab, and destroy. They can be used to convey ire, scorn, and contempt with a simple turn of phrase or the inclusion, or omission, of a single one.
Sometimes, words are uttered, or written, in such a way as the owner attempts to appear witty and charmingly wry in their issue. The sneer in text, the burn in idiom, all can be wielded like clubs and blades against an enemy. How singularly poignant they can be when released in a flow of heat and hurt is unimaginable to those who may not have experienced such an attack. Thick skin is indeed required when slanderous gangs of syllables roam the virtual streets of the internet like children denied their candies. Or perhaps the better allegory would be adults denied their grapes, like the fox in Aesop’s tale.

 

You see, there is something special about humanity. We have the ability to see and speak the truth as well as choose not to see and to speak what we wish to be true – yet may be false. That which we no longer love we will find faults within it, and these we magnify to illusions that give strange whispering to our minds.

We have a special ability within our selves that allows us to create entire narratives. We see the grapes of our desires, and not being able to access them in the manner we wish, we create in our minds the affirmation that they are sour, that they are untrustworthy and in all manner unsavory. We may even go so far as to point at a grape and scream out at it, accusing it of being bitter or the choicest among the most rotten. We hold in ourselves the ultimate power of illusion-come-delusion at will.

“Man is the truth and falsehood strangely mixed”

These voices in our heads then can, if unchecked, lead to scattered attacks on people and places meant to wound that which we no longer call our own. Whether through self-imposed exile or being cast out, the pain of being separated from that ideal vision that we held of this cherished body often leads humans to slash at the former object of their affections. Left unchecked, it can devolve into  slander against peaceful peoples who have offered no public quarrel. We draw out our sling and cast our rocks, yet our hands remain in plain sight. The horror of those who watch the spectacle goes unnoticed in our zeal to draw that first blood.

We begin to see enemies and attacks in the face of the postman, the police officer, the teacher, or the television. We write diatribes against folks and try to bring them down. We attack the widow in her grief in our bitter drive, with no regard to the crushing of her grief’s flowers as we grind them under the cart of our complaints. Our thirst sated, we then sit back like a swollen toad on a stone, puffed up in the importance of nothing, surrounded by stale water, and covered in the muck.

And the only one who cannot see the absurd tragedy of the figure we cut is … us. 

Ultimately, this path leads to a madness of spirit and meanness of character that further distances everyone away from us. It leads to furtive looks and the shaking of heads as people learn to avoid the angry, the unlucky, the liar, the slanderer, or the insane. They begin to see that our faces show lines of contempt’s frowns instead of the laugh lines of loving spirit. Our good works turn to ashes and our name is not spoken. The melody of welcome begin to fade away and, if we are not careful. Only the sound of silence begins to greet us at public gatherings, and the bodies of our peers begin to face away from us in conversation, as if we carry a contagion of discontent.

Far better to use our words to uplift and spread our own light into the world. So much is gained by not telling ourselves, and others, our lies. The refrain of envy and contempt that continuously sings through our souls when we stoop to attack other people changes to an aria of enlightenment in the blink of an eye when we meet with others in good fellowship. Only goodness, and joy, and blessings could await the higher part of us if we seek not to bring about destruction.

Only then, can we join the happy few, the light bringers, in the greater “convocation of love”.

I hope I see you, America by Kyle Coviak

Whether you voted for Hillary, Trump, or went third-party, I think we can ALL agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with America today. Heck, even the people that didn’t vote did so because they feel that the system has failed them.

One good thing about Trump getting elected…. all those uncomfortable truths that we collectively swept under the rug about our society are now glaringly out in the spotlight for all to see. We are all angry and scared….but in reality, this is the true America we have been living in for years…. decades even. There is no more passively denying the reality of the situation. America is fucked up.

Today, our nation enters the dark night of the soul. It is up to us to REALLY examine ourselves and how we allowed this seething hatred to continue. It is up to us to state, without blame, what is REALLY making us as a nation soo angry and afraid that we blame everyone that is “other” instead of addressing the real issues.

I hope I see you, America, in the dawns early light… because it’s awfully dark right now in this night.

We can no longer carry on like business as usual because we as a nation are no longer willfully blinded to our uncomfortable truths. Do continue to do so would be a disgrace on everything this nation is supposed to be about.

We are America, champion of freedom, protector of the weak and weary, bastion of liberty. It’s about god-damned time we acted like it instead of blood thirsty savages who’ll kill their neighbor for looking at them wrong

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

 

WE Can Make America Great, Again

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I refuse to allow myself to think that we have voted for the worst parts of humanity. I refuse to believe that Xenophobia, Homophobia, Islamophobia, Racism, and Anti-Femimism,are the things that won yesterday.  I refuse to believe that I must now fear that my neighbors, friends, and allies and family members will be rounded up, snatched from their homes and livelihoods and sent to Conversion Therapy, “back” to Africa, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, India, etc. or killed. I refuse to believe that I or anyone in my community should be or must be afraid to wear headwraps,Pentacles, Afro-Centric attire, jilbabs, abayas, afros, braids, locs or anything else cultural or religious.  I refuse to believe that people who I know and care for; wonderful, loving, kind, accepting and beautiful people who I interact with everyday, that I have prayed with, manifested with, casted with…, hell shared beers with would “not care” for my and all those I share intersectionality with to elect someone who  could cost us health,  safety, and autonomy. I refuse to ever again comfort my children and dry their tears because they fear their friends will have to leave school because their families are from afar.

No. I refuse to think or do any of this. Because I know better, I am better, and I know WE are better.

What I believe is that Fear has created a Servitor, and fear won, on both sides.  From the Tweets, Facebook posts, News pundits, family fights, unfriendings, hate crimes, hashtags and conflicts that both fan and foe of President-Elect Trump are guilty of, if nothing else is clear, what is, is that we have been operating in fear and have manifested exactly what we have focused on.

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Fear drives hate; hate is just fear unchecked. One side is fearful of nuclear war, marginalization, further loss of jobs and industries, and moral decay. The other is fearful of social justice setbacks, loss of economic safety nets, mobilization of the worst members of society,  theocracy, and, well, conservatism. Mix all of this with the fact that a lot of people have a “my way is the right way” attitude( yes, even we Pagans) and you have a recipe for mayhem.

At any rate, what’s done is done. President-Elect Trump,  while not having the majority of the popular vote, fairly won the needed number of Electoral votes. His party has the majority seating in both House and Senate. If his acceptance speech is any indication, the times of division, rancor and stalemate in Washington, D.C. are over and he seems set up to succeed. May Justice, Fairness, and Truth guide him as he leads this country.

Where our focus should lie now, is with being and molding the best humans that we can be. We can kill the Servitor that we have created by intentionally chosing to operate in an opposing energy.  That energy, Friends, is Love.

I choose to believe that we can make this country great again by choosing to be great people. I choose to believe that we all want what is just and best for humanity.  I choose to believe that everything will be well and will get better.  I choose to believe that we all know and recognize the Divine/ Ultimate Potential in each other and ourselves, and will treat each other accordingly. I believe that we ALL abhor the evils of Racism, Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Sexism, Homophobia, and the like. I also chose to believe that we as people will band together and fight these monsters wherever they may appear. I chose to believe that all that was wished to succeed is a change in politics as usual and to give an outsider a chance. I chose to believe that the hope for Change won over a promise of the same. I choose to believe that we all will protect them those whom injustice targets with all we have.

I choose to stop contributing to this Servitor by feeding it with hate, vengeance and division. I acknowledge that I have contributed to and been influenced by It. But I know I am better, and you are better. I know my coworkers are better,my neighbors are better. I know that by you and I treating ALL humans with Love,Kindness, Friendship, and Respect we can defeat the Hate that Hatred has produced.  I believe that we can disagree and still be civil.  I know we will not let our great society devolve into Nazi Germany or 1950’s America as so many fear. We are too great for that. And only by us remembering this, and committing to make our society better one interaction at a time, with all that we come across can we achieve the goals laid out in President-Elect Trump’s acceptance speech:

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me…
I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country. I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign, but rather an incredible and great movement made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their families. It’s a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.

I know we as people, as Humans can do this. only by suspending the fear mongering that has consumed the last 2 years and acting out of love towards all from love of ourselves can we defeat this evil that has infiltrated society.  We know better, we are better,  we can do better, and as Magickal Practitioners and Earth lovers we must do better. Espouse the Good, reprimand the evil, Love all and always love.

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A memorial of DeAnna Gray, a safe friend for a solitary Pagan child

I awoke this morning like any other day. The hurried chaos of rousing a household into motion and the scurrying to get breakfast ready. The air was cold, so I put on the oven to heat the kitchen. In Michigan, we wait til the last of fall to turn on the furnaces. The altar boxes seemed like shadows were unusually soft around them, his and mine, but I paid no special heed to what that might mean.

In truth, I had paid no heed to my dreams this weekend, even though they were messengers, since I was going to analyze them later….always later. This October has been full of dreams, as is customary with the season of the last of the death harvests. Those who have passed away are nearer to us, and seek to reach out to let us know they are there. It is also is a time of goodbyes.

DeAnna Gray, gofundme photo
DeAnna Gray, gofundme photo

Then, on the drive into work, it came. That inevitable “it” that comes in these sort of stories. In this case, “it” was a message request from an unknown person on Facebook. Now, this is not so unusual. I write a lot of things that can cause some interesting reactions from strangers. But for some reason, today I accepted.

In my inbox, there was the image of my friend. Not a friend I see everyday, mind you. In fact, we probably have not directly spoken to each other in over 10 years. We just had not run in the same circles, especially after I moved away from the city proper. But there was her photograph in my electronic mailbox, the image of DeAnna Gray.

DeAnna Gray, the name itself is so small on the page, but evokes so much. She was so much more than those collections of syllables and letters. She was the very first person who accepted me as I am. Accepted me as someone different, and said it was okay.

DeAnna Gray and I met in first grade, after having been tested and placed in classes together. All through school, we were in advanced studies and music and even shared time in the “package lunch room” at Elizabeth Courville Elementary School in Detroit. She was one of the girls who would crochet with the crafty girls with the fuzzy yarn and the fuzzy ribbon in her hair. She was also the one who dried my tears when the boys put a lizard tail on my cornet case because I said I was a witch.

DeAnna was the one in Mr. Peterson’s class who would help me with my art. Our teacher was a hippy with a VW bus, and we had great fun together. She was there the day I tried to draw my first witchy painting and simultaneously look at the scandalizing pictures of Prince in a black G-string behind the clay buckets.

She said that it was okay to be different. She said it was okay. She knew what it was like to be different because she was tall. And boys did not like tall girls, so it was the same. She stood there in corduroy pants and a sweater with little characters marching across in horizontal lines and said it was okay. And she held my hand.

DeAnna Gray’s signature on her folder with the happy little apple face on her name card on a string is in my mind now. She was so neat and her desk was never messy like mine. She wrote well, and we sometimes would smile at each other. She was not a cool kid, but she was in the respectable groups. I was always an outcast, but that was to be expected. In social studies we even had a project together where we laughed as we shut down the boys, especially Steven Walker, when he asked if I could turn him into a frog. She had her cross and I had one too, but mine was enchanted with something other. And that was okay.

In the playgrounds of middle school, DeAnna had taken to being more to herself. We all experimented with makeup in the classroom of the only African-American Catholic woman I had ever seen. Lolita Curtis gave me my first book on magick, and I was outed again. The class bully tried to come at me, and quiet DeAnna stood up, all tall and straight, and stood with me as I stood my ground. We did not fight that day, words are better than animals. Dogs use tooth and claw, and we were ladies. And when Mrs. Linton and the lunch ladies encircled me to exorcise me and pray at me because they said I was full of demons for my beliefs, she gave me her mystery meat and a cookie afterwards (vanilla crème).

We were not best friends. We were friends, though. In high school, she and I had classes together again. In Detroit Public Schools, back then at least, you stayed with you pack. Honors kids with honors kids, vocational students with vocational students, etc. I grew up watching her refine that “D” in her signature from a large letter block print to an eloquent signature. A presence that seemed to always be around with a shoulder, a smile, or even the answer to where I dropped my cornet valve oil – again.

On days nearing the end of our high school year, I got used to seeing her in the neighborhood on 7 Mile Rd. We would sometimes see each other, usually when I was walking home by her mother’s work, M&M Shrimp Shack. Her mom was really nice as well. Her mother knew about the little foster girl with the belief in magick. She was a Christian, but she always treated me sweetly. Blood will tell, and though her mom could sometimes be a bit hard, she never treated me with unkindness in the way that many others did in this city of churches. Especially since I lived right on church row, that meant a lot to me.

Many days, she saw me and would be one of the only ones  nice to me, DeAnna had a great big heart. In the winter, she would sometimes offer me a glove or burgundy mitten. Of course I would not take it, but it was good of her. She would get annoyed by me wearing my band gloves as hand protection. I would joke that I was just really committed and she would shake her head and smile in that lip gloss way she had. But I remember her kindness as she stood in the slush and rain those days.

Her eyes were the kindest eyes I have ever seen. That is not to say she never got mad. Oh boy, could she ever. But they were always the sweetest I have ever seen. They are not gray, but I will be adding a gray candle in memory of them to my altar this week, my ancestral one. Because she is precious to me and I seek to honor the understanding that she had. The understanding was that everyone does not have to believe the same thing to be right.  She touched my life in shades that were not lies of black and white, but full of kind grays … like DeAnna Gray.

 

 

 

 

 

GoFundMe Information for her Burial.

 

 

Unfortunately, on Oct 21st my siblings and I lost our beloved mother Deanna Gray. She was a very loving person with such a giving spirit. To know my mother is to have loved her. Her selfless acts of kindness was enough to win over the hearts of any and everyone who came in contact with her. We are now asking for your help to give back to someone who gave so much. With your help we would like to give her the home going she deserves. Please help us send our angel home properly. My family and I would like to thank everyone in advance for the well wishes and support. God bless you all, thank you. Help spread the word!
Unfortunately, on Oct 21st my siblings and I lost our beloved mother Deanna Gray. She was a very loving person with such a giving spirit. To know my mother is to have loved her. Her selfless acts of kindness was enough to win over the hearts of any and everyone who came in contact with her. We are now asking for your help to give back to someone who gave so much.
With your help we would like to give her the home going she deserves. Please help us send our angel home properly. My family and I would like to thank everyone in advance for the well wishes and support. God bless you all, thank you.
Help spread the word!

I do not do gofundme stories as a general rule. This is my exception. Because I loved her, and still do. I do this because she me my world safer and kept me sane and strong when others would have torn me down. So I share this here, and if you are so moved, please help her family to send her off as befitting one of such kindness.

The campaign is

Burial for Deanna Gray

I ask that if you are moved by the memory of Deanna, and it is in your practice, that you light a gray candle with some pink roses on your altar this weekend. Let us send her family some loving energy. Let us send some love to DeAnna as she takes her journey home.

 

Hail the Beloved Dead.

 

 

Dancing with Soul

Wednesdays are the most exciting, yet busy day for me. Not only is it the usual “hump day” drama, but I also have to go to Church.

Wait, a Witch that attends church?!?! Are you Christopagan?

No, Far from it.

So….. What Gives?

It’s not “Church” or Bible Study in the traditional sense. It is a midweek break that I give to myself to reconnect with My Soul via dance; Afro-Cuban folkloric Dance to be exact.

I attend, Dance Church, presented by the Community Drum & Dance Society!

Photo Credit: M. Graves
Photo Credit: M. Graves

Imagine if you will, running around and stressing all day, coming home, showering, putting on a tank top, some wicking shorts or capris, and 12-25 yards of skirt, jumping in your car to drive to a lively, nondescript building in Corktown, Detroit, getting to the door and suddenly being surrounded in… PEACE!

Me in a 25yd skirt . I'm 5'4. It's a lot of skirt.
Me in a 25yd skirt . I’m 5’4. It’s a lot of skirt.

Sandalwood incense greets you as you enter and all of the stress that was just on you just drops. Your kindly greeted as you sign in with a warm smile and inquiries about your past week.

You’re among your own, no men are here except the Drummers who you hear warming up and getting in their places.

A group of sisters are in the corner sending up prayers and petitions for one another; some are paying their respects to one of any of the altars that are around.Some are stretching on the dance floor. The initiated Greet the Iyalorisha, or Priestess in the Santeria/Lucumi tradition, in the prescribed way; other just give her a warm hug. As you scurry to the dressing room to place your shoes and other gear, you’re greeting again by those dressing for the session. Waist Beads, headwraps and voluminous skirts abound.

Afro-Cuban Master Class with Danys "La Mora" Perez @ Ordway June 2011
Afro-Cuban Master Class

As you re-enter, you find a space and prepare for The Talk. See, the first 15 or so minutes of class is filled with centering , meditation, and then Iya, the instructor, gives us a message of encouragement. Backing her are rhythms of many drums, and yet they are quiet enough where everyone can hear.

She may talk about us walking in greatness, fulling our destinies, stomping out fear, or just remind us that this isn’t a technique class, but a soul class. It isn’t about getting all the steps perfectly, but, lining your soul up with the steps (It’s a difficult concept to grasp at first.).

Not all who are here are part of an African or Diasporic path. In this room are Sisters of many Shapes, Sizes, faiths and backgrounds. Some are married, some single. Some are Straight and Some are Lesbian or Bisexual. Most are of an African Ancestry, however there is Latino, White and other Sisters there too.
We move as one. Some on different skill levels but we all move as

One. One beat, one Purpose. 30-60 women in a small studio with 8-10  Male drummers. We mimic the movements Iya shows us, all doing the same movements, and yet each personality shines through.

There is none of the typical cattiness that comes when women dance in front of men; They are like so professional and trained that they fade into the background, unfazed by the various level of dress or undress between us. Even with skirts flying up and around, none gawk, leer or prey. They are highly attractive, but we dance for the Spirit, not them. We are safe to be us.

ALAFIA at Cuban Music Festival (CREDIT: Jennifer Gonzalez)
ALAFIA at Cuban Music Festival (CREDIT: Jennifer Gonzalez)

We end in a Circle with the drummers making up one site. Here’s where the real magic comes, for anyone who is moved to is given the floor to Dance to the rhythm. As the spirit moves the sisters they take their turns Dancing and gyrating  to the beat, feeling different levels of Spiritual ecstasy. Some dance in pairs, some even throw other West African movements in. When all is past, we gather in front of the drums and bow, then we salute them for the messages they have brought. A collection is taken to show our appreciation, and to make sure we have drummers next time.

Batá drums. From left: okónkolo, iyá, itótele. Photo: Harold Muñiz
Batá drums. From left: okónkolo, iyá, itótele. Photo: Harold Muñiz

drenched in sweat, in different levels of disarray, we redress, or naw, and bid each other farewell with hugs , kisses and bows. You can tell that we linger because we wish it to never end, but as with all good things it must. You re-enter the world and the breeze off of the water cools your heated skin and awakens you from you Euphoria. Well, I  have just enough time to wipe off and head to my overnight shift. I’m tired, sore, and my ankle kinda pops.

 

I can’t wait to do it all again!

UnWrapped VOL 1, Issue 1

Some Nights

 

Beads, Beads everywhere, and not one idea to string…”

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Hanged Beads by 11×16 Design Studio

As I sit here with a hard cider and an amalgamation of beads, wire, and various other findings, I really wonder if customers appreciate the pieces of us that go into handmade jewelry.

I mean think about it: when you are wearing a handmade piece, you are literally wearing Ashe, or Divinely gifted personal creative energy.

More than that, there is literally someone’s blood (do you know the havoc wire working wrecks upon one’s hands?!?) , sweat, and yes, tears (especially if creativity does not come easy) in a nice shiny and one of a kind package.

And people have the gall to scoff at $25 for a price.

Custom piece
Custom piece

See, while you are looking at that ring that  has been meticulously forged from silver or steel and a dream, what you don’t see is the countless sketches that are trying to capture a beauty that was expressed in a dream. You don’t see the long nights spent trying to steal a quiet moment to create because the babies still need time and love, the dog still needs a bath and a walk, and the bill-paying job’s boss still needs that report and those 8 hours at a desk doing soulless tasks.

You don’t see the 5 or 6 other conflagrations of stone, bead , wire and whatever else that were failed attempts at manifesting this vision. You don’t see the cramped hands and cut fingertips from filing, and weaving and cutting; no what you get to see is this uniquely weaved dream that catches the light like you’ve never seen!

But, hey! Our personal issues aren’t your problem! Nay, why should you pay for the nuances of our personal lives?

Well, you , my dear potential customer, aren’t being asked to pay for these issues. That would be unfair.

However, what you must realize is time is a commodity you really can’t value, and yet can never really recoup. And since we’re Capitalists, the next highest commodity is money. So what you are paying for is the hours ( yes, hours) spent roaming our supply stores for inspiration or that unique cut of quartz you haven’t seen before.

You are paying for the high quality steel, silver, gold, brass, copper, pewter, or silver that is American made.  It is verified not to turn that pretty finger of yours green and blistered. You are paying for that hour spent winding, grinding, and wrapping to make sure everything is the perfect size and shape for your needs and vanity. You are paying for that special box and bag, and you are helping to pay for the opportunity to walk by this table and be able to even see these works of magick up close and personal; because most shows don’t have free tables.

So, out of the maybe $150 dollars it took to deliver, you get to take a piece of me home for $25; simply because I refuse (read: don’t know how) to charge for love.

So yes, you could “have your friend make it cheaper” , but will it be this exact piece? Will it have the passion and energy? Will the care be taken in the selection of materials and methods?

Are you sure?

See, you could put a group of us jewelry makers in a room.Then give us all one project to duplicate with the same tools and supplies.  You will still end up with a different piece from each of us. No two artist are exactly the same.

And while one may be faster, a testament to experience,  that would only affect the labor cost associated. (We artists, as a community, NOTORIOUSLY undercharge for this.)  It still doesn’t take into account the cost of those skills.

 

Want something truly unique for less? Order the supplies (buyer beware on that outrageous deal on metals you say on Ebay) and queue up YouTube. Make sure you get some extras for inevitable trial and error. Then devote about an hour or two…Wait, you don’t have time to devote to all of that?!? Well, you have the same hours in a day as us!

 

However, you have other More Valuable things to do, I bet. That is plausible, for value is in the eye of the beholder. But just like you wouldn’t be able to recoup the time spent learning to make your own piece of jewelry, We’re not able to recoup the time we took to create either.

That $25 suddenly seems like a bargain, huh?

So, next time you run across a handmade item you love, appreciate what it took to create it and present it to you. Respect and appreciation is the one thing that makes nights like this worth it to us sometimes.

 

10365438_864739156921132_1818379449913310550_oOnyoja(Onya) a.k.a Phoenix Nightshade is a Mother, amateur blogger, Science enthusiast, and IT minion who turned a love for jewelry and accessories into an entrepreneurial journey. When she’s not sleeping, working or mothering, She enjoys West African and Afro-Cuban Folkloric dance,African Traditional Spirituality,  Water Aerobics, Personal assistant/Concierge work, Desktop Publishing, and creating and seeking out little pieces of magick for The Butterfly & The Phoenix and Aisiki Collective .

Blog: https://thebuildingofagoddess.wordpress.com/

Website: http://thebutterflyandthephoenix.com (She built it!)

Facebook: Onya Jennings