How Do We Call A Truce in the Gender Wars?

The Storm Cycle

In an earlier post, I made what to me seems like a no-brainer suggestion—that we need a unified movement for gender justice that can span the chasm between trans folks, feminist separatists and everyone in between. Such a movement would be based in solidarity and support for our common, basic human rights—to self-determination, to bodily sovereignty and to be our own moral authority. 

That post generated a storm of outrage—not unexpected as even broaching this topic is likely to piss off everybody. But storms bring the rain that nourishes the land, and without them, everything stagnates, so let me now step even further into the tempest and suggest some of the ways we might begin to build such a movement.  It starts with calling a truce in our intra-movement battles.

Culture Change is Hard!

We are in the midst of a huge, attempted cultural shift in the way we view sex and gender. I was born in 1951. My mother used to tell a story about me, that when I was about two years old, barely able to talk, she was picking up my father’s clothes from the bedroom floor and grumbling about his messiness. I responded: “My fadder is not a mudder. You’re supposed to pick up his clothes.”

That’s how deep gender conditioning goes. At two, I not only had internalized the roles, I’d taken on the job of being a mini-enforcer. And my mother—herself a proto-feminist who chafed against the restrictions of her expected role—nonetheless told this story with great pride.

Shifting culture on this profound level is not easy, or quick, or painless.  It takes immense perseverance, many wild experiments, great audacity and courage, and many mistakes.  So it might make sense for us to practice a few of those values long assigned to women—like caring and compassion, for a start—and call a truce in the sex and gender wars so that we can support one another in the diversity of tools we choose with which to dismantle patriarchy.

How do we do that?  These are my suggestions…

Acknowledge Trauma and Stop the Violence

At the root of much of the pain and outrage is trauma—the constant assaults, low-level and intense, inflicted by a system that enforces narrow gender roles in order to maintain the power of a few men over women, gender-diverse folks and most other men.  So we might do well to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and remember that the reason we are screaming so loudly at one another is that we are in pain.

When we’re wounded, we lash out. We fight hard to protect ourselves, and every fight can feel like a fight to the death. We often lash out at those nearest to us—not necessarily at those who are actually inflicting the injuries.

So a movement for gender justice must be a movement that acknowledges trauma and seeks and offers means of healing. The personal is political—and healing our own wounds and offering support and care for one another are political acts.

But being traumatized is not an excuse for inflicting trauma on others.  If we are going to make an alliance in the gender wars, we need to stop traumatizing one another. One thing I hear from all sides is “I don’t feel safe.”  We’re not safe—in a world of patriarchy and its condoned violence—and we definitely should not amplify that violence against one another.  That means:

1. No Physical Violence

It shouldn’t have to be said, but it does. Physically attacking people, no matter how strongly you disagree with them, is not okay.

2. End the Verbal Violence and Name-Calling

It’s time to put away the “I punch TERF” signs, the imagery of violence against women even when couched as ‘performance art’ as in the recent exhibit shown at the SF Library. We need trans folks and their allies to speak out against such things, just as we need to retire the ‘men in skirts’ meme and the imagery that dehumanizes trans folks. 

TERF—trans-excluding radical feminist—might have started as a descriptive term but it has become the N-word of the gender wars. As for calling people ‘nazis’—hey, there are real, bona fide, Aryan-loving Nazis out there, despite how 1930’s that might seem—so let’s reserve that word for them!  Terms that dehumanize people encourage and justify violence against women and all gender-nonconforming folks, and reinforce patriarchy.

3. Don’t reinforce rape culture by using or condoning the use of rape imagery.

Just don’t.

Practice Non-Binary Thinking

Binary thinking is not just about gender. Whenever we fall into the trap of either-or thinking, ‘my way or the highway’, ‘zero tolerance’, ‘with us or against us’ we reinforce a binary view of the world in which people are either good or evil and those traits are seen as fixed and unchangeable. As Audre Lorde said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Binary, authoritarian thinking cannot dismantle binary sex-roles or binary, authoritarian structures of power. 

We need a different world-view, one that sees the world as a web of relationships, and sees people as complex, nuanced, imperfect but capable of growth and change.

Accept That People Make Mistakes  

A movement of perfect people would be a very small movement, indeed!  To make deep, overarching changes in culture and power structures we need a broad movement, one made up of imperfect people, as we all are.  We need to find ways to welcome people in, to grow and learn and change together.

Hold Each Other Accountable for What We Do and Say

Don’t label people as something they ‘are’. If you say, “Mabel is a TERF” it implies that “TERF” is a fixed, unchangeable identity, like being a Martian. It obscures the actual views that Mabel might hold, or the acts she might have committed, and actually makes them more difficult to name and challenge. If Mabel holds trans-exclusionary views, or supports oppressive policies, be specific in naming what they are and how they could be changed.

Welcome Conflict, and Learn to Do it Well

Conflict arises whenever people come together and care about something, because we have differing ideas, values, needs and priorities. In the binary, authoritarian world-view, conflict is easily framed as good vs. evil. We have no choice but to fight to defend the good, and eject the evil! 

But our intra-movement conflicts are rarely between completely good and completely evil people or positions—they are more often differences of opinion, of interpretation, of priorities, or needs.  If we engage in respectful dialogue, if we argue passionately for our perspective without dehumanizing our opponents, we actually strengthen our own arguments.  And we model the freedom and openness that a libratory movement must stand for.

Let’s Focus Less on Language and More on Rights  

Language is important, but in progressive movements today it has become almost a fetish—as if by getting the language just right and policing one another to use the proper terms, we could force change to happen. New terms and new linguistic formulations can broaden our minds and give us new ways of thinking—but they can also become markers of who is in the know and who is out. 

The jargon can become a substitute for thinking and mask the lack of true understanding—especially when it comes from academia and cannot be intuitively understood unless someone explains it. There are times when it is extremely useful to talk about ‘cisgendered women’ or ‘female-bodied persons’, but if we are looking to build a broad movement for major social change, there are times we need to just talk about women, and use the language that is commonly understood. 

We can differ on just how we define all of these terms and still stand in solidarity to defend one another’s basic human rights.

From Safety to Solidarity

We can shift from a framework of safety to one of solidarity. Of course we all want to be safe—and especially so if we carry a history of hurt and trauma. We should make sure our movement spaces are free from physical and verbal violence. 

But if we define ‘safety’ as meaning ‘no one will espouse views that might upset someone else’ we actually create unsafety by fostering an atmosphere of mutual policing and thought control. I would love to be able to assure my trans friends or friends of color that no one will inadvertently say something insensitive or use the wrong gender pronoun or commit some subtle microagression in any space for which I’m responsible. But there is no way I can truthfully give that assurance, no way to prevent people from making mistakes. And when I attempt to do so, I actually create the unsafety of silencing that is especially traumatizing to those who have suffered from the censorship of the larger culture.

What I can offer is solidarity. I can say “I will stand with you in this space or any other and defend your rights and your humanity, and ask others to do so.”

Practice Restorative Justice

We need a framework of education, dialogue and restorative justice. Restorative justice moves us out of the frame of revenge and punishment, and instead sees wrongdoing as tearing a rip in the fabric of community. Restorative justice aims to repair that fabric and find a path back into community for the person who has done the harm. 

Offenders can be reintegrated when they take responsibility for their actions, and make amends. No one is discarded. Everyone—even a serious offender—is seen as capable of change.

Institute Fair Evaluation Processes for Accusations

Banning, shunning and de-platforming should not be the go-to solution for resolving conflict or dealing with differences. They are forms of violence. Too often I’ve seen someone shut out of a conference or denied a speaking opportunity because of allegations made on the internet or accusations that some group will not feel ‘safe’ if this person speaks. But an atmosphere of silencing reinforces the trauma suffered by every survivor of sexual abuse, of assault, harassment, of the homophobia and transphobia that have silenced so many for so long. Conferences and institutions need to have fair, transparent and accountable processes for evaluating accusations.

Space to Meet Our Own Needs  

Needs may sometimes seem to conflict, but they do not have to negate one another. Trans women need to feel seen, validated and included. Women-born women, in a political moment when legal abortion is threatened and misogyny is still rampant, need information about their own bodily workings and health. 

We may need some of the tools we developed in the second wave of the feminist movement, from self-health sessions learning to use a speculum to menstrual extraction. In a world that objectifies, sexualizes and ultimately hates the female body, we need to learn to honor and celebrate it. 

Meeting those needs should not be seen as negating transwomen’s identity, but as opening space to honor and value all bodies and challenge the overarching structures of patriarchy that oppress us all.

Build a Broad, Welcoming, Body-Positive, Life-Affirming Movement

Misogyny is like the toxic air we experienced in the Bay Area as fires raged through California—permeating everything, not always detectable but always injurious. While it is specifically the hatred and objectification of the female sex, gender and body it also ultimately denigrates all bodies of any gender. 

It’s part of the frame that separates spirit from nature, and assigns goodness and value to all that is high, light, white, male (but not too fleshily male) and disembodied, while devaluing all that is connected to earth, body, flesh, dark, female, and embodied in the natural world. That overarching frame underlies sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and more, as well as our complicity in the destruction of nature’s life-support systems.

To counter it we need a movement that embraces the body—in all its forms, that values bodily pleasure, that celebrates life, health, nature and connection and that understands that human beings exist in a web of complex, dynamic relationships, not a set of fixed categories. 

A true liberation movement is a messy, murky and ever-changing process. It calls for courage, resilience, and compassion. But it feels good to stand together and support each other—just as it feels good to stand in the heart of the storm as the wild winds blow away the smog, and together breathe free.

Note: While I’m sure this will get posted on Facebook, that’s not a place I find productive in engaging in discussion. I encourage people to post comments to my blog. I do try and monitor comments on my own Facebook page, but I don’t have the capacity or the consistent internet access that would let me do it completely effectively. 
I take responsibility for anything in this post, I am not responsible for what other people say about it.

A Unified Movement for Gender Justice

We Live in Extreme Times

In the recent elections of November 2018,  we have seen more women, LGBTQ folks and people of color elected to positions of power. At the same time, we’ve seen an anti-choice judge confirmed to the Supreme Court who threatens women’s right to choose. The Trump administration is attempting to define transgender folks out of existence and mount an assault on their rights. States pass Draconian restrictions on abortion—and all this and more is just in the last few months!

We need a unified movement for gender justice—a movement that sees itself as one facet of an even broader justice movement that also works for racial justice, immigrant justice, religious freedom, and all forms of human rights and self-determination. 

Too often we have seen the movement for trans and nonbinary rights as separate from the movement for women’s rights that arose from the second wave of feminism. That division only serves to reinforce the structures of authoritarian male rule. Our issues are not separate, and our interests are far more common than they are divided. 

A Unified Movement Can Be Built on a Framework of Human Rights

If we see our interests as united, then we can build a unified movement around our basic human rights.

  • The right to self-determination: the right to define for ourselves who we are and how we present ourselves in the world.

  • The right of bodily sovereignty: our human right to determine what happens to our bodies, to have our boundaries respected and our bodily integrity inviolate, and to make our own choices. This right encompasses the right of a pregnant woman to choose whether or not to bear a child, the right of nonbinary folks to redefine what gender means to them and to choose how they live in the world, the right of those who need it to have access to birth control or hormones or surgery, the right to research that might inform decisions about medical interventions of all sorts and the right to make those decisions for oneself, the right of all genders to be free from rape or harassment, and more. All of these are linked, and we need to stand in solidarity with one another to defend them.

  • The right to be our own moral authority: Politics, media and social media pressure us to stake out clear, simple positions and defend them vehemently. But many decisions are complex. Whether or not to have an abortion, whether or what type of medical intervention to seek—so many of the choices we make around issues of sex, gender, biology and identity are actually very deeply personal and intimate, and don’t always fall into easy sound-bites. We have the basic human right to struggle with that complexity ourselves, to choose our own advisers, define our own guiding principles, and be the arbiters of our own conscience.

A Clear Critique of Patriarchy

An understanding of how patriarchy functions would also be key to a unified movement to counter it. Patriarchy reinforces the rule of a few over many by keeping us divided. It enlists men in its service by offering them entitlement to women’s bodies and the bodies and services of all those of lesser power. 

For male supremacy to rule, gender must be strictly binary and divided—men must be manly men and women womanly to keep us insecure, striving to live up to gender ideals. Women are assigned the realm of nurturing, caring, and feeling—a realm which is devalued. Protection, aggression, assertiveness and violence are assigned to men—and overvalued. The strong are revered and the weak despised.

Male supremacy is the twin of white supremacy—they march together and reinforce each other and we cannot defeat one without also challenging the other, along with their brothers and cousins of all sorts of discrimination and economic oppression. 

The women’s movement that arose in the late ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies did the heavy lift of identifying patriarchy and naming the damage it inflicts. Today, younger activists are often challenging the construct of gender altogether, pushing its edges into new and creative places. Both strategies are important ways of challenging the current structure of power, and they do not need to at odds with each other. Each has their own strengths and limitations, and each might be used more effectively if we can build a unified movement for gender justice.

A Framework of Solidarity and Restorative Justice

A unified movement must be built on a framework of mutual solidarity—that we agree to stand together and support one another around these goals. Solidarity does not mean that we agree on everything, or that we like each other, or that we don’t sometimes have grave differences of opinion on serious issues. It means that we agree to support one another on these basic rights, regardless; that we understand we have vital interests in common and opponents who threaten us all. It also means that we seek ways to engage in meaningful dialogue, constructive critique, and mutual education and relationship-building.

What do we do, then, when one of our allies does something we truly find hurtful or offensive? Most often in our movements our immediate response is to demand they be cast out, ejected from community, or silenced. The intention is protective, to make our communities safe, especially for those who have been targets of oppression.  But often the impact is very different—for those responses create a frame of transgression and punishment which is itself authoritarian and binary and often shatters community.

Instead of creating safety, radical spaces come to feel less and less safe when anyone can be cast out. Moreover, history shows us that liberatory movements that take the route of purification and purges become repressive when they gain power, but more often, self-destruct along the way.

Instead, we can adopt a framework of restorative justice, which has been proposed and used successfully as a counter to the deeply unfair and damaging criminal justice system. Restorative justice has the aim of supporting the community as a whole. When someone does harm, they tear the fabric of community. 

Justice aims to mend that rip, not to cast out the offender but to stop the harm, assure accountability, and as far as possible, heal the wounds. Offenders who take responsibility for their actions and make amends are offered a path back into community. 

Trauma and Healing

Speaking out about these issues feels risky.  The level of pain, outrage and sheer vehemence that erupts on social media when these subjects are broached can be hurtful and intimidating.  The intensity is often rooted in the legacy of trauma and pain we carry from living under a supremacist system that condones assault and violation.  Yet when we respond out of unhealed trauma, we may inadvertently cause further pain.  We may lash out at our allies, or attempt to protect ourselves or others by adopting a framework of condemnation, silencing, banishment and punishment that comes from the very system we are fighting. 

A unified movement for gender justice must include awareness of the affects of trauma and offer tools for healing. We need ways to grieve our losses together and support one another’s resilience and strength. For if we allow unhealed pain to drive us apart, we will be less effective in countering the system that generates the trauma. 

In an era of the rise of right-wing neo-fascism and increased assault on all or our communities, we need both the insights that arose from second-wave feminism and the gender challenges and creativity of the third wave. Our movement will be far stronger if we seek for ways to complement and support each other and work together. Our lives and our future are at stake.

Gifts for the Earth

The Earth, She Is Changing…

Just a few weeks ago, Northern California was covered with what felt like the smokes of Mordor. The most destructive fire in California’s history—still not fully contained—continues to burn in the north—and for the second autumn in a row we have endured over a week of smoke and bad air so dangerous that schools were closed and outdoor events cancelled. 

Climate change is already causing devastation and costing lives, and the latest predictions grow increasingly dire.

Don’t Despair, Take Action

It’s easy to feel hopelessness and despair, but there is so much that we can do! 

The non-profit that I co-founded, Earth Activist Training, teaches the skills and insights of resilience that we need to heal our world. We combine the ecological design ethics and principles of permaculture with a grounding in spirit and a focus on organizing and activism. Throughout our courses, we also weave social permaculture—tools for designing and sustaining beneficial human relations.

A Focus on Diversity

One key ecological principle is that diversity brings resilience: in nature, a more diverse ecosystem can better weather a storm or an attack of pests, and bounce back after a disturbance. Earth Activist Training offers Diversity Scholarships for people of color working on environmental and social justice.  In human systems, a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives enriches everybody’s understandings and experience.  Training a diverse student body helps diversify the larger movement, and provide leaders in communities most impacted by environmental and social injustice.

Our students are doing inspiring work—from organizing a permaculture course and garden at Standing Rock, to originating programs to empower young women in Oakland’s inner city.  They’re working with energy-saving programs and planting model gardens in upstate New York, and helping to mitigate the damage of the fires in Northern California. They are doing the work that is our best, long-term hope for redressing climate change and creating a healthier, more just world.

This spring we’ll be launching a longer-term training program in Regenerative Land Management.  It aims to provide the training and experience that will prepare a student to take over managing a piece of land—rural or urban—in ways that regenerate surrounding ecosystems, produce food, assure a livelihood and sequester carbon.  If climate change represents massive, global ecosystem meltdown, the counter is heal landscapes and build thriving communities—and we will train the people who can do it.

We Need Your Help!

Every donation to Earth Activist Training helps us carry on our vital work and launch our exciting new program. If you can make a donation monthly—even a small one—it goes even further by helping us plan and set our long-term priorities.  Every dollar is a long-term investment in the future, helping us train those who can forestall the worst damage and regenerate the land.

Donate HERE 

You can also donate by check to our fiscal sponsor:

Alliance of Community Trainers
1405 Hillmont
Austin Texas 78704 USA
earmark it: EAT Scholarship Fund

3 Ways to Support Earth Activist Training

  1. Make a one-time donation – or make it monthly, annually or quarterly!  
  2. Pass this appeal on to your friends and social networks.
  3. Come take one of our courses!  We have upcoming permaculture design courses and courses in Social Permaculture.

We are so thankful for your support!  It makes our work possible.

 

With Gratitude,

Starhawk & The Earth Activist Training team

For the Love of Our Ancestors... VOTE!

It’s Election Day

All the campaigning has been done, the ads and speeches and fundraising—nothing left to do but get out the vote! If you can, today, volunteer to make calls, to help people get to the polls, to encourage everyone to be part of this vitally important election.

I voted early, on Halloween, which seemed magically appropriate somehow. This time of year is when we honor the ancestors and the Beloved Dead, with our beautiful Spiral Dance Ritual last weekend, with nearly a thousand people dancing a spiral, with some private time on Halloween itself to remember a dear friend who died this year, and finally with Dia de los Muertos—the huge procession and festival of altars that takes place each year in San Francisco.

Inspired By The Beloved Dead

For so many years I’ve lost count, I’ve been honored to march in the front of the procession and help to call in the directions at each of the corners. For something like two decades, I supported the poet Francisco Alarcon, and I still feel his presence beside me on that night even though he passed a couple of years ago. 

 

This year I followed the dansantes from the group Coyalxauahqui, who danced in all the directions with such spirit, grace, and amazing stamina. They had been up all night dancing and holding vigil, and I felt in awe of their commitment and strength.

 

I find the procession so moving—thousands of people lining the streets, thousands walking together, holding candles, different groups drumming and dancing, an incredible diversity of people from every culture and background, all of us united in remembering our beloved dead. The park is filled with altars that people create for their loved ones, filled with color and candles and crowds dancing to African drums and writing notes to the dead to hang on strings or offering their own prayers and songs.

 

 

Ancestors, We Call You

As we enter this election day, as so much hate and violence and cruelty swirls around us, I take inspiration from the Day of the Dead, from the peaceful sharing and honoring of cultures, from the simple humanity of people remembering that love does not end with death. 

May this spirit spread over the land, reminding us that in diversity lies resilience and enrichment and joy. May the cruel and uncaring be struck with the urge to stay home and binge-watch House of Cards, may the cheaters and vote-suppressors be confounded, and may a blue wave energize all those who thirst for justice and who stand with the immigrant, with the refugee, with the children, with women, with the gender diverse, with the homeless, with the earth.

The Synagogue Shooting

On Saturday, as we were busy preparing for our 39th Anniversary Spiral Dance to honor our Beloved Dead and celebrate the Witches’ New Year, I heard the news of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. I felt heartsick. I come from a Jewish family, and with all the Witchy stuff I do I am still very connected to my Jewish roots. The victims in Pittsburgh are so familiar to me—they could be my grandmother, my mother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, myself.

For those of us raised in the immediate post-Holocaust era, this blatant anti-Semitism triggers some of our deepest fears. Yet we can take some cold comfort in knowing that we are not alone as targets of hate. A white gunman shot two black people in a supermarket in Louisville just days ago, when he tried and failed to get into a black church. In 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at the African Episcopal Methodist Church in Charleston. Mosques have been vandalized and bombed and Muslims are targeted repeatedly in racist attacks. Immigrants of all sorts are at risk. Even children have been gunned down in their schoolrooms.

In an atmosphere where hatred and violence are legitimized, no one is safe. When the President dehumanizes one target group after another, when he lends legitimacy to neo-Nazis and blames victims rather than perpetrators, when Fox News and right-wing media repeat his lies, when politicians whip up fear and hatred to inflame their base and when they blatantly suppress the votes of the historically disempowered, they bear responsibility for the violence that results.

We cannot counter hatred with hate. Instead, we need to build a movement of solidarity, where we unite with all those who have been targeted and resist attempts to divide us. We need to stand together–Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of all religions, people of color, immigrants and refugees, women, LGBT folks, gender-diverse folks, and what I truly believe is still the vast majority of white folks and men who believe in justice and equality. All these identities overlap and intersect in multiple ways—all of them contribute to the richness and diversity of our individual identities and our collective culture.

We need to embrace and celebrate that diversity, and build a movement strong enough to counter the fears and lies. Violence will not daunt us, but instead inspire us to reach out, unite, and invite in all all those who long to be agents of healing and justice for this world.

Politics and Pastry Creme


The Leaves Are Changing, and Congress Can Too!

It’s October—the month before what may be the most crucial elections of our lifetime. The November midterms will determine whether the Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate, and whether there is any hope of defeating the racist, misogynist agenda and massive corruption that Trump represents. 

Climate change is ravaging the planet, inequality is growing and being enforced with rampant brutality, and so many of us are reeling from the traumas re-stimulated by the Kavanaugh hearings! We need everyone to stand up and use our power to call for a different vision, one of integrity and caring.

Or at the very least, to show the arrogant liars that crime does not pay! 

Sometimes Voting Seems Like a Civics Test You Haven’t Prepared For  

What are all those initiatives on the ballot?  What does Comptroller mean anyway and how do I know who would be best for the job?

That’s where the pastry cream comes into it. 

Politics and Pastry Cream is a tradition started by my dear friend and neighbor Carin McKay—who happens to be an incredible chef and author of a fabulous cookbook, Culinary Magic, together with our mutual friend and pastry-cream-maker extraordinaire Max Rosenblum. 

Overwhelmed by the amount of study required to make an informed decision about who and what to vote for, they decided to make a party of it and have some fun. Who doesn’t love pastry cream?  (Vegans, we have an alternative for you!) Of course it goes with politics! 

And vavoom, 7 years later we have a tradition!  Now we are wanting to encourage others have their own Politics and Pastry cream events!  

Create Your Own Politics & Pastry Cream Voting Party:

1. Set a date.

2. Put the Word Out (to the right people)

Invite a group of like-minded friends who share your political values. The purpose of this gathering is mutual research and support—not to pick an argument with your most right-wing acquaintance. It’s ideal to do this a couple weeks before from the election so you will understand any further debates, discussions happening in the news.

3. Delegate Research

Assign each person two to three issues or candidates to research depending on how many are on the ballot. I vary the assignments between individual candidates, state and local issues. I tell people to study at least 20-30 minutes on each issue.  Send people some good study links beforehand. (Locally, we like the SF League of Pissed Off Voters, or the Bay Guardian, and the voter guides sent to you are also a good starting point.)

4. It’s a Voting Potluck

Ask your guests to bring their voting propaganda plus some drinks and snacks to share!  

5. Whip Up that Cream!

Make the pastry cream the day before the event.  Put it in tart shell or puff pastry- use your favorite recipe for that—or get them pre-baked. You can use our recipe for pastry cream below, or use the wonders of the internet to find your own. 

6. Assign Roles

Pick who is going to facilitate the discussion. If you are hosting, it will likely be you. Pick a time keeper.  Based on how many people are there and how many issues, decide on a total time allotted per issue. We often choose 7-10 minutes per issue. 

7. Organize!

Go down the list of issues and ask, for example, who is in charge of prop A?  That person will have about 3-5 minutes to give a report of what the issue is, what are the pro’s and con’s, who is for or against the issue. Then open it up for others to contribute their information to the discussion. 

8. Keep It Flowing

We will often bounce between local and state measures when we are asking people to give their report. You want to keep it moving so no one person does all their reports at once.

9. Indulge in That Sweet, Sweet Pastry Cream!

At the mid way point of your party, stop and have some pastry cream and snacks to gather steam for your second wind! Put on a record! Carin has an actual stereo and a collection of real records. Keep the music streaming for the rest of the evening! 

10. Resume

Finish up your educational rounds (and your pastry cream.) At the end, if you want, weigh all the propaganda you have gotten in the mail.  If you want, you can toss them in the fire stating your intention for the election. Or, recycle ’em.

11. The Most Important Part

At the appropriate time—VOTE! If you’re in a place that votes by mail, you can have everyone bring their mail-in ballots to the party and have some stamps on hand. 

 

It’s as simple as that, it’s fun, pleasurable, and who knows—you might make a new friend or change the world. And when you go into the voting booth, you’ll feel well-prepared!

 Recipes For Change

Below are the recipes for a dairy and vegan version. Warning—if you use these recipes, you MUST vote, or we can’t be answerable for what will happen. 

Remember: voting lowers cholesterol, and well-prepared voting will boost your immune system and greatly reduce your stress levels in the coming year.

So, in his own words, here’s Max’s recipe:

Here is my master recipe for creme patisserie to create the nourishing change we wish to see in the world. To be enjoyed with friends for greatest effect! 

2 cups milk

1 vanilla bean

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

6 egg yolks

Bring milk to a boil slowly with vanilla bean.

Lower to a simmer and add remaining ingredients. Continue stirring while adding all your hopeful intentions for the upcoming election being mindful not to let the cream burn.

Keep stirring as the cream thickens~resistence takes time to build!

Neither politics nor pastry creme is an exact science and it is important to start building your instincts around both. Continue stirring for 7-10 minutes at sea level or until *you* feel it is ready. 

Remove from heat and transfer to a container to cool.

Can be enjoyed straight, with fresh fruit, or in a pastry shell with berries on top. 

Enjoy the fruits of your labor with your gathered friends and neighbors and stirring the pot for social change.

We know some of you are vegans, or dairy-free. We’re not, and I’m sure you are Better People Than We Are! In the interests of not suppressing the Vegan Vote, Carin suggests this coconut pudding recipe

Voting Is A Revolutionary Act!

Voting might take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours of your life—and even if you would rather see a revolution it won’t deter you for long from your dedicated work of fomenting. It will make a difference!  There are a few hundred incarcerated children at the border, hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised voters, and 20 million people who stand to lose health insurance who can tell you that sometimes what seem like small differences can be crucial!

Are You Registered?

 You can find out at Vote Save America, a website from the folks at Crooked Media. I have really been enjoying their podcasts, especially Hysteria (all women!) and Pod Save America, which is kind of like listening to the smart guys on West Wing talk about current politics except these guys are real former staffers from Obama’s White House. Anyway, their website is an easy way to check and to find out how to register if you’re not, and full of great resources and suggestions of how to get involved.

Eat, discuss, engage, vote, and make change! 

A Spell for the 4th

Happy Fourth of July—or not so happy. This year again we celebrate the birthday of our nation—a nation that espouses beautiful ideals it has yet to live up to—and this year truth, justice, freedom and basic common human decency seem to be slipping away from our grasp.

So—time for magic! In June, I suggested an ongoing spell to begin on Solstice and culminate tonight on the Fourth of July!  A spell to break through the false miasma of illusions, to call us back to caring and connection and courage—a spell that acknowledges our imperfections, as the Liberty Bell itself is cracked, yet calls us to the belief that we can nonetheless become agents of greater justice and healing in this world.

A Spell for Justice Part 2

You can do this spell any way you want—if my suggestions don’t work for you, create your own!  But here’s how I see it working…we use the power in all those patriotic songs, in those firework displays. 

✔ Set up an altar with the Statue of Liberty or the sigil or any image that works for you. 

✔ Sing any song you like—but sing it as a spell, as an affirmation of what can be. 

✔ Believe that we can be, commit yourself to make sure we become Sweet Land of Liberty, O beautiful for spacious skies, a place where freedom can ring! 

✔ Visualize the flame of justice coming out of Liberty’s torch like a laser beam, piercing through the veil of lies and fake news and confusion, bursting the bonds of the psychic Teflon that protects the powerful from the consequences of their callousness, touching hearts and awakening us all to courage and compassion. Imagine each firework, as it bursts in the sky, spreading the magic. 

✔ Recite the charm below:

By the crack in the Liberty Bell,

False attractions now repel!

As fireworks burst to stars so bright,

All are drawn to truth’s great light.

Care for the earth, for every child,

Protect the water, love the wild.

And from the mountains to the sea,

Raise the torch of Liberty,

Ring the bells and heed the call,

Justice, justice now for all!

✔ Then ground the spell by taking some real action in the world to bring about greater justice. You know all the things you can do—do them, and challenge yourself to be a little braver, a little more committed, a little more determined than you might have been otherwise.

If you need more instruction, here’s the original video:

These are hard times—but oh, how good it will feel, does feel, as we turn the tide and join together to create that world of liberty and justice for all!

A Spell for Justice

What is Magic, and When is Political Magic Called For? 

I’ve always liked Dion Fortune’s definition of magic as “the art of changing consciousness at will.”  The ‘art’ part of that is using sensory imagery and symbols that evoke emotion.  The ‘will’ is directed energy and intention. Together they shift consciousness—and while that may be purely internal and psychological, those of us who practice magic believe that that shift can also mobilize greater spiritual forces around us. We swim in an ocean of swirling emotion-thought-energies, and our focused intention can and will shift the tides.

When that ocean is full of toxic currents, when we feel forces moving that go beyond reason, when a poisonous tide of callousness and hate seems to be seeping into every area of life, when we constantly find ourselves asking “how did we get into this weird reality?” That’s the moment to mobilize spiritual forces to cleanse and counter the nastiness.

Magic works best when it is grounded with real, practical actions in the world. So this spell is not meant to substitute for all of those other things we need to do—from contacting our representatives to showing up for demonstrations to organizing campaigns and taking actions. It’s meant to strengthen and reinforce them—and to strengthen and hearten all of us who care for justice.

Working Magic for Justice

Here in brief are the elements of the spell I suggest. We can begin on the Summer Solstice, and let it culminate on the Fourth of July.

1. Create Sacred Space

Do this however works for you, in whatever spiritual or religious tradition you identify with.  For me, it would mean honoring the original peoples of the land I stand on, and asking permission to do this magic, then grounding, casting a circle, and calling in the four sacred elements, plus the fifth, spirit. 

But it could be saying a prayer, or setting up an altar, or, if you are a flagrant atheist who doesn’t believe in any of this (but nonetheless wants to do some magic) you could take a  moment and read an inspirational poem or play a piece of music.

2.  Call In Your Spiritual Allies

Who inspires you?  Whose qualities, experience, energies do you want for this work? Call in your ancestors—of birth or, if you are adopted, you also have a line into your adoptive family’s heritage. Call in those ancestors who were immigrants and refugees, and those who were indigenous to a place and welcomed others.  Are there Goddesses, Gods, orishas, angels, djinn, faeries, other spirits who might be helpful? 

I’m feeling a call to work with the Erinyes, the Furies—ancient Goddesses that predate the Greeks but survived in their pantheon as guardians of justice, punishers of oathbreakers, moral crimes and murderers.  But work with whomever or whatever calls to you.  Or simply with evoking personal qualities—courage, determination, compassion?  Ask for help and guidance.

3.  Meditate on Justice and Raise Energy

Justice is an abstract concept, so to raise magical energy we need to think about how Justice feels, looks, acts—to personify the qualities.  I suggest using the Statue of Liberty, who was originally supposed to be a black woman slave breaking her chains, and whose name is “Mother of Exiles.”  I think of her as our tutelary American deity, a form of the ancient Celtic Brigid, Goddess of fire and water, smithcraft, poetry and healing. 

Many of my friends and I have worked with her for a long time, envisioning her as holding aloft the light of truth.  And here is the poem inscribed on her base:

The New Colussus
By Emma Lazarus

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
M
OTHER 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!”

Remember, we can’t counter a negative energy with the same quality of energy. Or, to quote Audre Lorde’s more poetic framing, “The master’s tools will never demolish the master’s house.” So make sure to stay out of that self-righteous, zero-tolerance state that infuses Republican rhetoric—but also many times infects the left as well. 

Take a breath and humbly acknowledge that each of us makes mistakes, each of us sometimes fails to live up to our own ideals and values.  Focus on holding some compassion for yourself, and broaden that to include compassion for all who are impacted right now by injustice—for the children, for the immigrant and the refugee, for the earth.  Imagine your heart opening with love and care.  Think about how much you care, how much you want a world of balance and justice, how much you want to be an agent of that transformation.  Feel that burning desire, and let your heart send out a stream of fire.  Imagine all those streams converging on the torch of Liberty, to free that imprisoned lightning to strike down injustice and bring home the consequences of their actions to those who perpetrate it.

If you don’t happen to have an image handy, here’s one created by Deborah Oak:

And this is a sigil—a magically charged image—created by Flame Tiferet, Zay and others:

Pour energy into that image—by breathing, visualizing, making sound, singing.  If you do this in a group, singing can raise great power.  Maybe this dates me, but I’m thinking of that old Pete Seeger Song, “If I Had a Hammer…”  Here’s Pete singing it, and this is Peter, Paul and Mary’s version

Or you might repurpose some of those patriotic songs—like God Bless America, the one Trump couldn’t remember the words of. 

To bless is a powerful magical act—it’s a calling-in of those great forces of compassion, love and creativity, and you can substitute any word you like for ‘God’—Goddess bless, we bless, Earth bless, etc.

4. Ring the Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell has a crack in it—which always makes me think of the Leonard Cohen song:

Give up your perfect offering,

Ring the bells that still can ring,

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.

Which itself refers back to the Kabbalistic myth of the world’s creation—that the vessels which hold the world cracked from the sheer radiance of the light of creation, and it is our job to repair the world—Tikken Olam.

So—ring a bell to send the energy out and seal the spell.  Keep a bell handy when you listen to the news or check your newsfeed, and ring it whenever you hear a lie.

5.  Ground the Energy

Touch the ground, and consciously let any remaining energy go into the earth.

6.  Thanks and Opening

Say thank you to all the allies you’ve called in, and open your sacred space.

7.  Repeat!

Try to do this ritual as many times as possible between Solstice and the Fourth of July. On the Fourth, imagine every exploding firework carries with it this magical lightning. 

Make it Your Own

If any part of this doesn’t work for you—change it into something that does.  You are your own spiritual authority.  If you have additions, questions, new songs or poems to suggest, post them in the comments section.  I will continue to add to this as I can over the next weeks, and to post some more expanded thoughts on how magic works.

Again, this is no substitute for action. Do the spell, then call your representatives, donate to a cause, go out and march for what you believe in, organize, do the next positive thing that presents itself. And for all that is just in this world, get out and VOTE! 

Together we can mobilize great powers of compassion, justice and healing. And in these challenging times, we must! 

The Children Are Counting On Us!

I am horrified and sickened by the Trump administration’s forcible separation of parents from their children at our borders. There is no legal, moral or strategic justification. 

Today I read that the Pope has condemned these actions—and that speaks well of him. I cannot understand why every priest, minister, preacher, rabbi, imam, rinpoche, and spiritual leader in the land isn’t crying out “Foul!” from every pulpit. While many are, where are the voices of those who are so quick to trumpet ‘family values’?

We Pagans have no Pope, no one who officially speaks for the views of our spiritual community. We are each our own spiritual authority. But as someone who has some influence and a measure of leadership in our community, I will say that these actions are utterly abhorrent and contravene the values that we hold—that every human being is a child of the Goddess, that great forces of compassion and creativity infuse the universe, that each one of us holds the potential and responsibility to be their avatar, and that the bond of love and nurturing between parent and child is sacred.

But surely, whether you are Pagan or Christian or Jewish or Muslim or atheist, if there is one moral value that underlies every basic idea of human decency, it is the protection of children. To punish children for their parents’ decisions, to deliberately inflict trauma and suffering on children for any cause is wrong, wrong, wrong—and to try and justify it by quoting the Bible or invoking laws (that don’t actually exist) is truly sickening hypocrisy.

We need to take action to end this abusive policy. Speak out—and encourage your friends to do so. Contact your representatives, join in the many marches and demonstrations being planned. If you can’t show up to a march, you can donate to one of the wonderful charitable organizations who are aiding immigrants and asylum-seekers. AND: don’t forget to get out and VOTE in November this year- and mobilize your friends and family to do the same! 

Know of any actions being planned?  Post them in the Comments below. 

The children are counting on us!

Why Permaculture?

The Dirt On Our Climate Future

The news cycle is so constant, so outrageous and often so distracting that it’s hard to tear our eyes away from the meltdown of our social and political worlds. But there’s another meltdown going on, one that will affect us and all of the planet for generations to come—the meltdown of the earths climatic system and the massive, global ecological degradation that it represents.

From the literal melting of the arctic ice to the massive floods, intensified hurricanes, droughts, devastating fires, and freaky weather of this past year—everything scientists have predicted about climate change is already coming to pass. Yet we spend very little time thinking, strategizing or organizing around it. Trump’s latest tweet or the newest erupting sex scandal claim far more headline space.

Perhaps we avoid climate change because it feels too big, too remote, too hard to have any impact. Yet there are many things we can do—and not just changing our light bulbs.

Real Solutions

If we think of climate change as representing massive ecosystem degradation, then what we need to do to counter it is massive ecosystem regeneration. And the good news is—we know how to do it!  It’s doable—and it has already been done in many places on large scales. Check out John Liu’s documentary, Green Gold, and see how China revitalized the Loess Plateau, an area the size of Belgium. 

Look at how World Vision has regenerated forests on hundreds of thousand of hectares in the Sahel.    

Or visit online some of the inspiring projects of Aranya Permaculture near Hyderabad, India—providing land, food and empowerment with a special focus on women. 

Or the Chikukwa Project, which has successfully revitalized a whole region in Zimbabwe.

Or some of the great work being done with urban agriculture in Detroit

There are many feel-good stories, but they don’t make me complacent. In fact, I’m even madder because I know that farmers can provide abundance for their families and communities while rebuilding soil and sequestering carbon, that we can reforest the desert edge and turn blighted areas of our cities into gardens, that we can regenerate whole ecosystems on a large scale.

Permaculture: Designing Systems of Regeneration

Knowing about these solutions and doing something about them are different things. That’s why I spend so much of my time teaching permaculture—a powerful, integrated system of ecological design that works with nature to provide for our human needs while healing the environment around us.  For me, it’s the practical complement to the earth-based spirituality I practice that honors the sacredness of nature and straws strength and hope from her beauty and diversity.

If you want to know how to take a piece of damaged ground and restore it to health, whether it’s a clear-cut forest or an abandoned city lot, if you want your work to make a positive difference, if you long to contribute to the healing that the earth so desperately needs, you need the understandings, the skills and tool-box that permaculture can provide.  

Maybe you’re a young person who dreams of growing food in the country, or a teacher who wants your students to learn lessons in the garden. 

Maybe you’re looking for your life’s work, or seeking to change careers in mid-life, or wondering what to do with your retirement? 

Permaculture is not just about gardening or homesteading—it’s about designing systems, which include the social, economic and political systems that determine what happens to our farms and lands.  It’s for entrepreneurs, policy makers, and activist citizens who want to know what policies to advocate.  Really, it’s for everybody—it’s the basic, grounded set of skills we all should have learned in school and mostly didn’t, for designing fulfilling lives that make a contribution to the great challenges of our times.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Earth Activist Training, an organization that I co-founded, offers a variety of courses, from two-week permaculture design certificate courses to intensives in social permaculture and a Sacred Earth Apprenticeship.  You can learn more about them and see all of our upcoming courses HERE. If our courses don’t work for you, there are many, many other opportunities to learn these vital tools.

If you happen to be on the east coast of the U.S., I have an upcoming course at the beautiful Rowe Center in Massachusetts in May-June. We have a special discount available for this course for two or more friends/family who register together- save $250 each! More details and registration HERE

If you’re in Western Europe, I will be co-teaching a Permaculture Certificate Program in Switzerland in July.

Yes, the Situation is Dire…

…and the timing urgent, but this is no moment to despair. We can regenerate our human and natural communities, and you have a unique role to play in making the transformation happen. A flourishing, abundant world of beauty and balance is everybody’s birthright. Together we can bring it into being.