(originally from my blog-The Weaving Serpent)
I am a member of several communities: the belly dance community, the reptile community, the pagan community. The list goes on and on. I am an eclectic spirit. I love so much and do so much.
One thing, however, that I have noticed, is the lack of community within humanity as a whole. People are always angry. Bitter, upset, blaming others, taking things personally. It seems to me, that people live solely for themselves. There is no outside. “Its all about me, all the time,” even when its not.
Aside from my “other lifestyle”-I work in healthcare. I love it. Its trying at times, but I love meeting new people and taking care of others. One thing I have seen however, is this complete lack of general empathy among people. Patients will argue over small insignificant meaningless things. They will have a cold and expect to be seen that minute, even though what they have isn’t an emergency. If there is an emergency situation they expect to be served before the person who is having the emergency. Other patients will be upset if their doctor is on vacation because they refuse to see the covering physician. There is this complete and constant need to argue. Yelling and screaming at people who are trying to help you is not going to make the process move any faster. There are some points in my day where I literally spend 10-15 minutes arguing with someone over something that is so small it seems like a waste of energy. And it is. By the end of the day, I am mentally and emotionally exhausted.
The other portion is people taking things so personally. Its overwhelming at moments. People who are just having a bad day, say the wrong thing and it gets misconstrued. People who are normally talkative and now are quiet have people thinking that the person is upset with them–rather than just having an “off” day. A doctor just spent 20 minutes with a patient and says something to someone else who takes the words and spins it around to make it about them. Its like we live in a society where we are constantly walking on eggshells. Anything can be taken the wrong way. Anyone can make someone an enemy in the amount of time it takes to blink.
Is is really all worth it?
I have an anxiety disorder. Its not as bad as other people I know, but its significant in how it shapes my life. On top of having anxiety I am also a deeply emotional, spiritual and empathetic person. Its hard for people to understand why sometimes, though I am mostly a social person, I have moments where I am withdrawn. And rather than accepting that I am having an “off day”~they take it personal. Surely I must be upset with them otherwise I would be chatty.
Have we come to a society where everything is suddenly a one person “all about me” issue? Are we so out of touch with one another–with the simple fact of the human condition–that we have to constantly take everything so personal? Or make mountains our of mole hills because its the only way we can relate to one another?
Times are hard now. People are stressed out over finances, work-just plain living. The world seems like an angrier place than it used to.
I do think there is a lack of spirituality in the world-and by that I don’t mean religion. I mean the willingness to look inside oneself and say, “you know what, its really not that big a deal-it really isn’t about me”. About accepting the Universal Law of what you ask for you receive.
If we constantly live inside our own minds, then the ability to understand others is null and void.
There has to be a point where we can step back from a situation and say, “I cant control that,” or “that person is just having an off day, its not about me.” Otherwise, we get into a loop of negativity–negative thoughts begat negative thoughts begat negative actions–and as whole–the collective energy of humans living this negative ideology spreads, and creates a cycle that is damaging to ones psyche–and the spiritual energy of the world in general.
Humans are not perfect. No one is perfect. But berating, arguing, fighting and finding a way to make things personal is not helping the community of humanity.
As an empathetic person, and as a person living with anxiety, I sometimes find the world a difficult place, though I do find time to find the beauty and peacefulness in the moments I am blessed with. However, I find myself becoming more and more withdrawn from people and finding myself more drawn inward than outward. I enjoy the moments of silence. After a day of work, where its hectic and non stop-I prefer isolation and solitude. Meditation, writing, painting help to ease my thoughts for the day. Its often hard for people to understand that sometimes, I cant deal with people around me. I need moments of solitude. Its often at these points that people take things personally. And I need to step back and realize, that that is their issue and not mine. Even though at times, I want nothing more than to make them understand.
Perhaps in the future, we will have a community of humanity. Where we cast aside issues, don’t take things personally and appreciate everyone for who they are not try to change them because they feel their personality is about them and not the other person.
I have been noticing a plague within the pagan/occult community. I know it’s nothing new, but with Facebook, Twitter and the other hundreds of social media outlets- the plague seems more predominant in our daily bombardment of social media.
What is the plague? Malice.
Pagans malice? Those studying religions that have been persecuted, defamed and stereotypes are malice?
Yes. Sad but true.
It seems every day I am hearing or reading stories about how one pagan group hates another. How one occult practitioner feels they have more knowledge than every other practitioner. There are those who act like they are hiding some deep mystical mystery that they themselves only know and to share it with those they do not deem “worthy” would be devastating to the world. I have heard countless remarks by covens and groups how they were not allowed to attend an event because the organizers either didn’t like them or believed that what they were practicing was not the “real thing.” I have heard of those being excluded from teaching, events, etc. because they can’t believe in one thing and not another.
Then there are the pissing matches. The personal attacks on those in the pagan “community” (more on that word later). Nasty public feuds in which there are personal (very personal) attacks in which name calling, public slander and other nasty things are flung around the internet.
I have one question…what is the deal? Seriously? I always find it ironic when people toss the word “community” around and then go ahead to isolate certain groups or people because of XY and Z reasons. Community is defined as “a feeling of fellowship with others, because of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals” That “feeling of fellowship” should mean that when pagans from all paths come together, they should feel welcomed not ostracized. Additionally, the younger generations should absolutely respect their “elders.” I would not be who and where I am without the guidance and education of my teachers. The “I know it all” attitude within the younger generations is only adding fuel to the fire. And because occultism and paganism are so vast, with no lineages – AND because most of those who practice are practicing a reconstructionist form of whatever our ancestors liked doing – there are no real leaders to rope things in. It’s not like there is a Vatican for Wiccans.
This was one of the many reasons I left the “Craft.” When the group I was with for 8 years split, I tried finding another group in which I felt that familial spiritual connection that I had with my previous group. Unfortunately, I repeatedly came across groups that were secular and only let those that they felt practiced “the right way” in. I met with a woman who ran an Alexandrian group—and she absolutely would not allow me in – even to see if it was a fit because I was eclectic and primarily a practitioner of Ceremonial Magick. And then the groups that were based in Ceremonial Magick wouldn’t allow me in because I had practiced Wicca and therefore wouldn’t fit in because they could out Thelemic me.
I tried starting my own groups, but they would always feel flat- and I wanted to be learning as well as teaching. It was hard to plan rituals, write them, make sure all items were there (kudo’s to all my teachers who did this-especially Balaam- it’s a lot of work and not often appreciated by those in a group!).
I found that being solo was great. I avoided all the negativity and the high school behavior of what is now what I feel like they decline of ethics in paganism and the occult. My path has also changed. Wicca and paganism ultimately brought me to Voodoo (in which a fresh start for finding my place and my home has begun).
My point here, ultimately, is that for a religion that has been stereotyped, mocked, slandered and the worse—we should not be throwing stones in glass houses. Why exclude? Why start trouble with other practitioners? Why get so personal and spiteful? We are all in this shit show together. Regardless of what path one follows or which Deities one believes in—it all gets dumped into the same category in society. And with the internet and social media—let’s just have society see the best rather than the worse. I certainly am tired of all the programs that assume all those who practice the occult are secretly killers in waiting.
My love of reptiles started as a child. Little did I know when I turned 18, my relationship and love of snakes would go beyond the regular "pet" relationship. Snakes have been a integral part of my life; and over the last 12 years they have come to be family and artistic dance partners. But this post isn't about that. Rather, its about a rescuing of sorts.
In 2006 I was given a beautiful adult ball python by a friend who I had met through the New England Herpetological Society in Weymouth, MA. The snakes name was Kaala. She was about 6 when I was given her. My friend did not have time to focus on her, and Kaala had been used to teach educational programs to children on snakes. Kaala's demeanor was the most sweet, loving and kind. She just had this energy about her that sometimes took my breath away. Her and I began a friendship that was inspiring. Not only did she become my dance partner, but she also became an ambassador for ball pythons. We taught classes and workshops together. The most memorable was a Serpentine Mythology workshop that I had taught at Circles of Wisdom in Andover, MA. It ended up being a healing workshop of sorts. A woman who was in attendance at the workshop had some deep emotional and physical trauma caused by abuse in her childhood. Unfortunately, this abuse also involved snakes. She was horrified of them. One of the reasons that she signed up for my workshop was to try and overcome her fear and let go of the trauma she had endured as a child. Towards the end of the workshop, I asked the woman if she wanted to just touch Kaala. What happened next was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed. The woman, her eyes streaked with tears, not only touch Kaala, but held her! And Kaala, who was so sweet, just laid still on the woman's lap. It was such a beautiful moment. Kaala had a presence! She ended up in a music video, in magazine articles and even performed with me for a famous Hindi actress who was in the movie "Nagin."
In 2013, my beautiful Kaala passed away. I was beyond devastated. And while I had other snakes (six to be exact), I never felt the connection that I had with Kaala with any of the others. It was a heartbreaking. Four years later she stills is a major part of my life. And while I could blog all day about her, its about Kira.....not Kaala.
In the summer of 2016 I came across a Craigslist ad from a man selling off his snake collection. He was "breeder" and wasn't having any luck and decided that it was to costly to keep his collection. I emailed him about one of the snakes and he got back to me. I met him in a parking lot and he handed me this beautiful adult ball python. I could tell something was "off" about her, but nevertheless I had my heart set on getting a python again. He told me adamantly that she would only eat live rats and said that he never had luck getting her pregnant.
Well, not only was she pregnant- but she was in the most horrible shape I had ever seen a snake in. For years, when I was living in Boston, I rescued snakes from bad owners--rehabilitated them, and then found them good decent forever homes. I was used to dealing with all kinds of issues- from mites to burns. I treated my snakes until they were healthy enough to be adopted out. But this poor girl......Not only was she pregnant, but she had a horrible case of mouth rot and a huge hole on her head from where a live rat had gnawed on her. Yet, this girl had some vibe about her that reminded me of Kaala. So I named her Kira--which means "beam of light" (ironically Zehara Nachash means "bright serpent!). After she laid her clutch that ended up being non fertilized, I took her to the vet to get a good grasp on an infection that was in her body. She was put on three treatments of antibiotics. The infection was so bad that it destroyed the bottom part of her jaw to wear it now looks like she has horrible overbite. Yet, despite all that--her energy was strong. She was a fighter! When I first performed with her, I felt that connection I had once with Kaala. We moved together as if we were one.
My relationship with her has grown immensely since I have to constantly stay on top of her care. The whole on her head healed leaving only a small scar, but her mouth has to be cleaned and disinfected weekly as its exposed from losing her scales from the mouth rot. She is a happy healthy sweetie now. And while I believe great animals were once humans who had reached enlightenment--and I like to think of Kaala as my spirit guide now--a part of me still believes that Kaala somehow reincarnated into my beautiful Kira. After all, Kira was born the same time and year that Kaala passed!
On a side note, I also rescued a male lesser ball python from the same man who I named Kyphi and who takes a liking to my sweet Kira.
I recently made a comment on how I always feel like I don’t fit in with people/places. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt out of place. I have always been a seeker—a lone wolf. Now, I am moving to a new town in few days. It’s the second major move that I have made in my life. With all moves and changes, there is a time of reflection. One thing I always reflect upon is the people I have met over time. Let me preface before going further: I have a BIG personality. Whether it’s from my New England raising (I am originally from Boston, Massachusetts) or whether it’s because I am a Scorpio born the day of All Souls---I am ambitious, fearless and not afraid of trying and failing.
Two years ago, I moved to a relatively small town in Arizona. Mind you this was after living 33 years in a major city! I thought I would be ok in a small town---I needed to be somewhere that was not oversaturated with big personalities—as is the case in most big cities. I learned after about a year that small town living isn’t for me. I began to feel like I was suffocating—and boredom for a city girl sets in quick. Small town living can’t satisfy my personal, spiritual or creative needs. As I tried to embrace my situation I began to reflect on the people I have met on my life journey thus far. The more I reflected—the more I realize that a lot of people suffer from CBS—CAGED BIRD SYNDROME.
CBS is not just a small-town thing (though it seems more prevalent since everything in a small town is a bit compact). I knew people back East who suffered from the same disorder- and my friendships with them would be over in a blink of an eye. I could never figure that out—but then I realized that whole “it’s not you it’s me”—really was true. It is ME. I just can’t relate. My whole life has been an adventure thus far. Not all adventures have been super fantastic-but they have been a part of my life and continue to shape who I am becoming. And I can’t stay in a place, situation, relationship, etc. where I don’t feel like I can grow. I approach life with the mind set of an employee—If there is no room for growth—I am not going to stay. And this is true in my relationships and friendships.
And there are so many people who have CBS that it makes me sad. I understand it’s their life not mine, but it makes me sad when I see so many people who have so much potential not grab life by the balls because they are stuck and afraid. Whether it’s a personal cage (unhappy marriage, bad job, troubled relationship, financial issues) or spiritual and emotional stagnation that has them caged-the fear of what’s outside the cage is sad. If the cage door swung open—and the bird had a chance to fly—how far would it go? How does a beautiful bird in a cage feel when it sees the other wild birds fly?
I had a friend who was an amazing dancer. She was beautiful and captivating. When she was on stage- you couldn’t stop watching her. One time we were at dinner and she told me that if she hadn’t gotten married—she would have done so much more with her dance career. I remember that night so vividly. She wanted so badly to spread her wings, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her husband—she just had wished that he appreciated her love of dance as much as she did. Rather, he clipped her wings. Or did she allow him to?
The cage is a boundary that both, people put around themselves and that other people put around them. It creates a limitation and prevents them from being who they are. I have seen what the confines of a cage does to people. And I see the fear they must break free. The fear isn’t about breaking free---the fear is what happens once the cage door is open. The caged bird gets so used to the cage, that it knows of nothing else. The habit is hard to break. The bird gets used to the feelings- to the hand that feeds it. It starts to lose its wild nature and embrace the metal container it’s found itself in.
I hate when I meet people who has so much more to offer the world than what they are currently doing. To see unknown potential sitting there. I try to always encourage those people to spread their wings- even if their feathers still touch the cage. Its why I love being the one who opens doors for people. I love seeing people have a moment where they can break free and recognize that there is more to them than they thought. The hardest part for me is watching them go back to the cage. They flew for a moment-and then it’s over.
And that is why I will never fit in. I am a wild bird. I can’t have my wings clipped. I can’t be set inside a boundary. I think in part, because I am not caged, some find it hard to swallow-that I can just pack up my things and move forward. I realize that the world is a lot bigger than just me—a lot bigger than a cage. And just like a wild bird---my nature is to fly.
I originally wrote this article in November of 2012. It was picked as a featured article on WitchVox.com and was also published in several pagan based magazines in Europe. 5 years later and it still is relevant!
Dance As Magick
Author: Zehara Nachash
Posted: November 4th. 2012
Times Viewed: 3,065
I am a dancer by nature. I have been dancing since childhood. I have studied various forms of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, Russian Gypsy, African and Belly Dance. Dancing is what I do when I am happy, sad, stressed, anxious, chipper—its also what I do when I am feeling a need for a deep spiritual connection.
I have been a practicing Pagan since I was 17. So its no surprise that dance started to creep into my spiritual practice. I started integrating dance into my magickal work during a Beltane ritual in which I felt this sudden "urge" to move. It was almost as if my brain had completely shut off and the only noise I heard was the pulsing rhythms of the drums. I was completely taken over my spirit. That was the moment that I realized that dance and magick could be used together to create something so primal and pure--the true essence of the human spirit.
Dancing has been used for thousands of years as a means of communication to Deity or in reverence of a higher power. There are many various styles of “ritualistic” dance: the Middle Eastern “zar” dance, Morris dance, Long Sword dance, Circle dance and most notably, the Sema or “Whirling Dervish” in which dancers whose continuous spin forms a deep spiritual mind set much like the peaceful state induced during meditation. One can look at ancient cave paintings and Egyptian art to see paintings of temple dancers, honoring their Gods via movement and expression.
As a dancer, my dance has always had spiritual roots. I fell in love with gypsy dance because of the passionate and magickal sound of the violin-the music invoked a sense of magickal mysticism and my body moved with the violin as if I were apart of it. I fell in love with belly dance because of its complex earthy rhythms and the ability to connect to the Mother Goddess. My new love of African and Aboriginal dance has come from the primal earthbound roots I feel when performing it. When I am performing, some aspect of my spirituality is invoked.
To me, dancing is magick–a spell. If I want to banish something I will do a sword or fire dance. When I want to manifest something I perform with my snakes. Like the symbols of the Tarot, I am connecting to the elements via dance. There is so much music out there--and so much to connect to. There have been moments when I have been compelled to create a choreography solely inhabiting an aspect of an element. I created a "Dust Storm" dance in which I combined aspects of Aboriginal dance and the usage of a veil--all to invoke the power of the element of Air. It’s at those moments where I feel connected to the power of nature through movement.
One aspect of dancing that I love is when I feel inspired–or more like-taken over-by the spirit of a Deity or Higher Being. I feel inspired to create and perform either a number dedicated to them or as them as a form of invocation. For the past three months I have felt strongly connected to Pan. This coming from a gal who is typically "all Goddess" energy. How odd that I suddenly felt this strong masculine energy overtake me. Perhaps I was being reminded of the balance I needed!
Pan's playful mischievous energy kept popping up around me and I would feel constant urges to want to "frolick". I also started finding without thinking, that I was purchasing more and more jovial flute music! Pan also invoked a deep emotional feeling of happiness and joy that I would call upon whenever I felt down or anxious. Over the past month, I began forming a dance around His energy and eventually performed as Pan at the Samhain Festival hosted by Laurie Cabot and the Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple in Salem. It was for me, a magickal moment. Throughout the performance, I felt Pan’s energy flow through me, and when Laurie exclaimed, “we had Pan here among us!” after my performance, I think I did a good job invoking the ancient God of the woods.
I have invoked many Gods and Goddesses over the course of my dance career–including Mami Wata, Pythia and a few fairies, demons, angels and sprites. It’s deeply moving when I am able to transmit their energy through my performances–its almost like being an acolyte to their mysteries and having them coach me along the way. It’s more meaningful for me. It’s also a lot more work–costuming, music and make up all have to be just perfect. It’s a lot more powerful to when the audience understands who I am without me having to even announce it!
Using dance as a magick is an ancient and old power. It can be as simple as turning on music and dancing around your room to create high levels of energy before spell or ritual work. Sometimes invoking that primal energy can help release any anxiety that you are feeling prior to spell work and ritual–help cleanse your mind and prepare yourself for the work ahead. It can also help to induce a meditative trance inducing state, much like the Dervish or Zar. Dance in itself is cathartic. Creating an atmosphere where you can dance out your feelings. The best part is you don’t have to be a trained dancer to let your body move to the rhythm--it’s allowing yourself to be moved physically by the music--and being able to let go.
During ritual, one can even create a small performance as the particular Deity to help call Their power into the circle (hmm, now I am thinking Brigid dancing with a candle tray for Candelmas!) .
Dance is a powerful form of energy work. Its why its been used as a form of ritual for thousands of years. Besides, the Gods and Goddesses love when you sing and dance and be merry in their name!
This is probably an odd post for my first post on my new site.....but its a relevant post. Its about spiritual growth and the continuing journey to finding ones spiritual path.
When I was 13 I purchased my first ever tarot deck, in of all place, Spencers Gifts. Being a naive 13 year old, I automatically assumed the pentacle was the mark of the devil. That was until my cousins girlfriend at the time explained to me what it was really a symbol of and thus began my journey into WICCA. I felt immediately connected to the Craft. It offered so much, specifically the idea of a Mother Goddess - a powerful female figure that embraced all. She was open to everyone embodied everything that a woman was-- sensual, sexual, powerful, beautiful and full of knowledge and wisdom. Not a bad role model for a teenager! Of course I began to read up and absorb everything that I could. Naturally, it made me a bit of an outcast in high school, which reflectively, I think made me a stronger person. Fast forward to when I was 20. I was seeking a group of like minded people. I met with several "covens" but none of them really felt like a family. It was more of an ego trip for most. Then I finally met the group I was to study and become an initiate of totally by chance (lets say that AOL Instant Messenger, an AOL profile and Our Lady of Enchantment was involved). It was fated. I love the Temple of the Seekers. I learned so much, but more importantly I learned about things I wouldn't have found in any other group-namely, Ceremonial Magick. Here before me was a whole new additive to my spiritual practice. And it was something that I would continue to study for many years. At or around the same time is when I started having very vivid dreams about a white serpent who spoke to me. He became my guardian. I didnt quite yet understand all that he was to become, but I learned later just who he was.
Life started happening of course and I had to step away after 8 years. I still studied whatever I could. I practiced regulary even if solitary. I met other people who were interested and we would do rituals once and awhile. I got married, got divorced and then.....thats when everything changed. I started having dreams of the white serpent again, and after a recommendation from a friend I started to read "Mark of Voodoo" by Sharon Caulder. I started feeling a connection. Especially when the photos showed a house full of Ball Pythons. For those who dont know me, I used to be a professional Snake Dancer. My snakes were always my companions. But, how was a white girl like me supposed to connect to an African based religion. I learned it didnt matter. When the Lwa call....the Lwa call. The more I read about Voodoo the more I began to understand who my dreamtime companion was....Damballah. Damballah is the White Serpent in Voodoo is said to have created the Earth. And he was and still is with me constantly.
The more I studied the more I began to find a real sense of coming home. I began to intertwine my practice of Ceremonial Magick into Voodoo. Needless to say, I feel more comfortable in New Orleans based Voodoo since its a mixture of several things. When I relocated to Flagstaff, Arizona from Boston, MA, I was in a complete culture shock. No covens, no groups, no metaphysical shops---nadda- nothing-zip. I attempted to start my own study group, but it was hard. And the hardest part for me---was that most people practiced WICCA--and I, well, I grew out of it.
Its not that there is anything wrong with WICCA, but to me, it feels immature. Not immature in a bad way--but it does not have the ancient roots that Voodoo and Ceremonial Magick have to offer. WICCA is afterall, a reconstructionist religion. It has the ideas based on something ancient, but there is no direct line, no direct lineage save for the fact that it was reconstructed by Gerald Gardner. Belonging to a lineage that can be traced back is something deeply powerful and meaningful.