Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Principle of Least Effort

We are repeatedly amazed and puzzled that many people (self-styled "witches" or "magicians") are apt to cast some kind of imaginary circle with a fancy sword or some other comic-book hoodoo paraphernalia. Students of the School of Wicca's international student body have cast thousands upon thousands of circles; and we have tested the effectiveness of the circles both as (a) a container of intentional psychic energy and as (b) a shield excluding extraneous psychic energy (noise) from outside. In serving this two-fold need, such circles provide a safe area in which to work--though only when accurately cast.
As part of our work, we have used a hypersensitive magnetometer to detect the presence or absence of psychic influences. We have tried to encourage other people to do the same, because independent verification or lack thereof is instructive. The results of the experiments have consistently shown that effective circles must be (a) cast in electrically conducting materials and (b) of a very definite specific size.
We have found too that magnetic materials interfere with psychic reception. (You may remember Julius Caesar's report that before rituals, all iron and steel objects were stored away under lock and key.)
Regrettably, the Principle of Least Effort manifests itself all too often. The Principle of Least Effort is a polysyllabic way of describing simple laziness. When it relates to the casting of circles, it implies a certain self-enchantment and an inaccurate assumption that the self-appointed worker has not done his/her homework or is simply too lazy to follow techniques defined through generations of hard and even dangerous work.
In casting circles and in doing most magical work, you will do well to keep the Principle far away from the actual work. If you do sloppy work in an attempt to achieve whiz-bang hoodoos, you are insulting those who have gone before. If you want to play dress-ups or do claw-and-fang thumb games, that's all well and good--but don't call it Witchcraft, let alone Wicca. Lazy witchy-play and comic-book games do no honor to those who have gone to the effort to do the research. Our proud heritage deserves better.

Blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne

Monday, March 25, 2013

Russian Spring

The two witch hazels that bracket our front door are very confused right now: They came into full bloom a couple of weeks ago, complete with the classic scent so familiar from those old drug-store bottles. Yet today they're covered with snow because we're having a Russian "spring" here in climate zone 6. For over a week now temperatures have been below normal--and we're promised that this will last at least another week. Indeed, temperatures are way below the normal for this time of year--and of course the self-appointed prophets of doom are gloating while they trumpet that global warming is a myth.
We're glad to report that Yvonne will never see 81 again. We had a quiet lunch out to celebrate.
Gavin's health seems to be improving though progress is terribly slow. We're sure that all those people who have sent energy have really helped the healing process. Let's recall that his surgeons thought he'd never walk again.
We had a good presenter at the Unitarian-Universalist fellowship last Sunday. He's a Russian exchange student and smarter than two or three whips. Whew. He's kind enough to say he likes it here but will be happy to get back to Russia where people don't wear meaningless smiles all the time.

That's all we know right now. Blessed be Y'all

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gun Control

After the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the whole queston of gun control in the United States has once again become a cause celebre; and once again everyone seems to be throwing up their hands in helpless dismay, giving up the battle before they have really begun to fight.
We had already been invited to give a presentation on the topic to our nearest (Beckley WV) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. In researching for that presentation, we have now come across a very good article--an eye-opener--which we recommend that everyone read. It is contained in the March/April 2013 issue of Mother Jones, the independent investigative journal that repeatedly leads us to say "Hoo boy." Some of the conclusions from the article are worth repeating. Example: The number of guns owned by this nation's military and law-enforcement bodies is estimated to be four million (4,000,000). The guns owned by civilians is three hundred ten million (310,000,000). In the two weeks after Newtown, more than a million guns were sold.
Gun deaths by state came as a shock: Wyoming led with 18 deaths per 100,000 per annum. And of all things, Massachusetts was lowest with 4 per 100,000 per annum. The other thing that was pretty startling to us was that in 2008 there were 11,030 gun deaths in the United States. Contrast that figure with 11 in Japan. The commonly held idea that video games produce gun homicides is sunk by this statistic: In Japan $55 per person is spent on video games per annum; whereas only $44 is similarly spent in the United States. Also everyone believes that the NRA controls gun legislation--and indeed that is true. But when polled, 74 percent of NRA members say (note: they say) that they support background checks for all buyers of guns. You might like to know that 40 percent of guns are sold without background checks, mainly at gun shows and on line. Also 67 percent of NRA members would support background checks for buyers of ammunition. And 45 percent say they support a ban on assault weapons.
After we looked at these (and a lot more) statistics in the Mother Jones article, we came up with the talking points below for discussion at the Fellowship. We thought we would share them with you to get your opinion on these and other things that could be done to reduce gun homicides.

Can we act as a group?
Ban assault weapons
Require background check for all sales
Require background check for purchase of ammunition
If you want to purchase a gun or ammunition, you must prove you own a safe in which to store it
Develop a black list naming criminals and mental patients
Install and use more metal detectors at schools, stores, bars, churches, restaurants
Toughen up requirements for permits to carry weapons include handguns, shotguns and rifles
People who buy/own guns must consent to warrantless random searches of vehicles and homes
If loaded gun found not in a safe, first offense confiscation of all weapons and $10,000 fine;
second offense, 10 years in jail with no option, no appeal

Monday, March 11, 2013

Travel Plans, Spring and Summer 2013CE

Greetings Y'all.
Gavin's health is sufficiently recovered that we now feel able to travel. At present our travel plans include Florida Pagan Gathering in Ocala National Forest early in May (see below).
         Additionally we plan to go to Sirius Rising and SummerFest at Brushwood Folklore Center outside Sherman, NY, 30 miles east of Erie, PA. We expect to be away a little more than two weeks for this one, because we are committed as well to a prison visit in the Finger Lakes district of NY State.
         Students who have been a while with the School of Wicca will see that once again their mail will be delayed while we are on these adventures. We don't know how many more such annual trips we'll be able to accomplish, but we plan to continue as long as we can, in case there are people we haven't yet offended. We feel it is especially important to meet again with other old-timers while they too are still able to travel. Example: We are most pleased that Margot Adler has agreed to come to Sirius Rising. We've known and admired her since the days when we were running our pig farm (the early '70s) in rural Missouri.
     We'd love to cross paths with all of you at one or both of the gatherings, Florida and/or New York. We believe sincerely that single voices speaking out for the Craft can do a lot of good; but if we could form real alliances, then the groups could speak with more authority and be genuinely taken note of.
    Gathering Dates, and Location Details

  Florida Pagan Gathering  May 1 - 5 Ocala Nat'l Forest see:
  Sirius Rising  July 15 - 21 Brushwood Folklore Center, Sherman NY
  SummerFest July 22 - 28 Brushwood Folklore Center, Sherman NY
For both Sirius Rising and SummerFest see:

See y'all there.            BB Gavin and Yvonne

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ethics Morality and "Sin"

Recently we heard a member of the NRA (National Rifle Association) address a group of students and parents on the subject of gun control. After the usual blah-blah-blah reasons why every American should pack an automatic weapon with a magazine of at least 20 shots to kill off the lethally homicidal deer population, he wrapped up with this thought:
"If someone breaks into your home, shoot to kill. Do not shoot to wound:
If the criminal lives, he or she will sue you."
Naïve fools that we are, we had imagined that most of the members of the NRA, and certainly of the audience of which we were a part, were Christians and thus would subscribe to the commandment, "Thou shall not kill."
The question that occurs to us is this: Was the speaker being ethical? Was he being moral? Or was he committing a sin by suggesting that we the audience break a "sacred" commandment?
Let us deal with the "sin" first. The commandment was written, we are given to understand, by a man (Moses), presumably at the behest of "God" or "Jehovah" himself. Should one regard written commandments as an absolute law? Should a religious law apply to all taxpayers in a nation founded by Enlightenment thinkers honoring absolute separation of church and state?
This is probably a good commandment, even though it is honored more in the breaking than in the usage. Mostly we obey the laws of the nation. We do not excessively exceed the speed limit on the highways or molest one another. Such laws are developed for the benefit of the whole of society.
We don't consider breaking them a "sin", though: It's merely a risk: the risk of being punished. So the arbitrary labeling of an act a "sin" probably has very little effect on our selection of the ethical set by which we choose to run our lives.
The question then becomes: When we recall the speaker who urged that we break the sacred law "Thou shall not kill", was he being moral? In our opinion the answer is "Of course not!" though in his own weird twisted way he probably thought of himself as a very upright, even exemplary citizen.
The killing of someone has a lower pain threshold for the killer than being sued. Where then do ethics come into this question? Are you "ethically" going to shoot the criminal--and shoot to kill, not to wound? It depends, of course, on what your ethical set really is. If you were brought up in a neighborhood of criminals, you will have an entirely different set of ethics than someone who was brought up in a good, friendly, "Christian" area. (Of course the two adjectives may be mutually exclusive.)
In America the murder rate is approximately 1000 times the murder rate in Japan and 100 times that of France; we are conditioned to think of life as being very cheap. So the ethics of American society permit acts which in those foreign societies would be anathema--unthinkable ... and memorably punishable.
If I go to the dictionary and look up morality and ethics, I find myself directed from ethics to morality and from morality back to ethics. Apparently the writers of our tomes don't know the answer either. The derivation of ethics in the etymological dictionary concludes with "a placing of oneself, hence self-assertion, self will, and habit relating to custom" and moral under "excellent in conduct"--and it is noted that the root of moral is "uncertain". So both ethical and moral relate to the way we conduct ourselves, but it is apparently up to each individual person to define their own level of "morality" and what is "ethical" behavior.
For most of us the dictionary definition is nothing like satisfactory. Many of us alternative individuals cannot and will not turn to the "bible" and St. Moses to improve the dictionary definition. We Frosts can suggest only that you try working out a definition for yourself. The thought of the Wiccan Rede might fleetingly cross your mind.
If it harm none, do what you will.