OUT OF THE BROOM CLOSET: a reading/discussion/practice group

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The W*U Hall is excited to announce a new reading/discussion/practice group. It is based at the anarchist info-shop, SubRosa, on Awaswas Ohlone Territory in Santa Cruz, CA. This is an in-person group, but we are making the links to the readings, discussion questions and exercises available on the W*U Hall site for anyone who is interested in connecting to this work from afar, either on their own on or in a group.

The intention of this group is to meet regularly with community, share ideas, learn and practice together at the intersection of magick, spirit and politics in order to build capacity, intimacy and a framework for other branches of collaboration to be created and supported.

If you are interested in hosting a group like this in the place where you are, we have offered an outline at the bottom of this page that you can reference for ideas about logistics and structure.

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DECEMBER:
Whiteness, White Supremacy and Fascism in Pagan/Occult worlds

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WEEK 10:
Forging the Body of the Witch by Peter Grey

 

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WEEK 9:
Rewilding Witchcraft by Peter Grey

QUESTIONS:

  • What is the difference between Death and Extinction in terms of the grieving process?
  • How do we scale-up practices like “Death-Doula work” onto a societal level?
  • Where do you find yourself in the 5 stages of grief? What keeps you from moving through the process fully?

EXERCISE:

  • Peer-counselling session: Taking turns with a set amount of time, listen compassionately to your partner express whatever has come up through this reading/discussion. They are welcome to cry, shake, yawn, basically whatever they want. You may reflect statements that seem to have a lot of resonance for the person but do not comment or ask questions. Physical contact is encouraged if welcome. When the time is up, take a moment and ask the person if they need help coming back. A helpful question to ask is “What is something you are looking forward to?”. Switch.

 

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WEEK 8:
Cognitive Sovereignty: Breaking Convention by Peter Grey

QUESTIONS:

  • How have you engaged psychedelics to expand consciousness or in your magic practice? If not, do you have any desire to? What has kept you from doing it so far?
  • Is there support within the traditions you work within to use these tools? Are there taboos against it? What are you told is the reason for this? Do you suspect there may be other reasons that are not stated or even acknowledged?
  • What can you imagine would be the consequences (positive and negative) of having spiritual traditions condone the use of psychedelics for spiritual purposes?

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WEEK 7:
Beneath the Rose by Peter Grey

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you notice the feeling of being watched that Grey describes? Do you do anything to try and counteract this? Is it effective? Do you avoid thinking about it?
  • How does your relationship to the internet and social media in particular relate to your magickal practice? Do you try to represent that part of yourself online in some way?
  • What activities, actions or relationships in your life counter that phenomenon of the subject-object relationship that Grey describes?

EXERCISE:

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WEEK 6:
Coming Out of the Woo Closet by Andi Grace

A piece written for the Little Red Tarot blog, about the systemic stuff that keep us from our magickal selves.

QUESTIONS:

  • How have you experienced the “woo closet”?
  • Can you sense a part of your magickal self that has been hiding (from you or your community or the wider world) that is asking to come out? Are there any dangers you will have to face in doing so? If so, what support could you access to aid this coming out process?
  • How is the struggle to “come out” as woo connected to queer struggles in your life or community? What opportunities are there for solidarity?

EXERCISE:

Create a Ritual to help free your magickal self from the confines of the Woo closet using any/all/none of these prompts.

  • Ground, cleanse and set up some kind of magickal container, invites any elements, spirits, allies that could help you do this work
  • On strips of paper, write things that keep you from being out about your magick. Put them together in a paper chain, representing the repression and control that is exerted upon your magickal self. Break it apart somehow, burn it, bury it, dissolve it in water, whatever feels appropriate. In doing so you are freeing up trapped energy that you can put towards the support and liberation of your magickal self.
  • Speak aloud your desire to be reunited, made whole or integrated with your magickal self. Speak aloud your commitment to supporting, protecting and defending your magickal self.
  • Imagine some kind of adornment that can represent being out about your magick. A cape, a crown, a piece of jewellery, a marking of some kind. Visualize yourself in this way when you need support. Think of it often.
  • Thank all the beings you called in to help, open your circle.

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WEEK 5:
WHAT IS MAGIC FOR? by Mandrake

Another kind of a report back of a different magickal gathering. Also, recommended are reading the comments at the bottom of the article, as there was some interesting back and forth between the W*U Hall and the author back when it came out last year.

QUESTIONS:

  • what are some concerns that you think the author is pointing to with their question?
  • have you had experiences with trying to do magick in ritual with others who don’t share your social norms? If so what were they? How did you navigate those differences? Did they enrich or detract from your experience or both? How?
  • What do you use magic for, practically?

EXERCISE:

  • (Deep listening is a philosophy/practice developed by composer Pauline Oliveros). Get comfortable, close your eyes. Use your breath to get into a relaxed state. Tune into your listening sense… try to listen to only the sounds that are within your own body (take a minute or more for each step)… expand your listening sense and try to listen to only the sounds that are about an arms length outside your body… expand further to only hear the sounds in the room or immediate environment if you are outside… expand further to outside the room or immediate environment… expand to try to hear impossibly distant sounds… return back step by step until you are hearing only the sounds within you body… open your eyes.

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WEEK 4:
Shady pine trees and rivers of light by Gersande La Flèche

This piece is a bit of a report back from a Witches Sabbat that happened on Algonquin territory in the Ottawa Valley this year.

Gersande La Flèche is a nonbinary transgender artist, writer, and programmer who lives in Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), Québec, of Colombian, Breton, Italian, and Québecois-Irish ancestry. They are an animist particularly interested by the philosophical questions created by posthuman and nonhuman theory, and like to write about ecocritism and environmental ethics, as well as diving into subjects such as colonization, feminism, literature and video games at Gersande.com.

QUESTIONS:

  • What are some thoughts on the writers use of the forest metaphor, specifically the poisonous pine needles as agressive and protective. Have you ever used magic in this way, how, why or why not?
  • What are some reasons for the taboo against cursing?
  • Can you imagine that some of these taboos may actually have been created by enemies of witches?

EXERCISE:

  • What are some forms of protection, magickal or otherwise, you utilize when you feel you may be under attack? How do you perceive them to work?
  • Guide each other through a magickal protection skillshare.
  • Create a permanent protective circle in the space and perform a banishing

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WEEK 3:
PENTACLE OF THE GREAT TURNING

Inspired by the work of Joanna Macy, and written by Riyanna Moon, this piece describes a recently developed pentacle made of the points Desire, Surrender, Transformation, Solidarity and Manifestation.

QUESTION:

  • what do each of these terms mean to you in the context of the great social, environmental and consciousness shifts that are being described in this piece?

EXERCISE:

  • “run the pentacle” in your body. Stand with arms outstretched and feet shoulder width apart. Use your body to anchor each of the points in these places: Head/Desire, Right foot/Surrender, Left hand/Transformation, Right hand/Solidarity, Left foot/Manifestation. Create a circuit for the energy of this pentacle to run through your body in a continuous loop in a pentacle shape, using your breath and visualization to help move it through you and build energy. What do you notice?

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WEEK 2:
RECOLLECTIONS OF AN OCCASIONAL PAGAN ACTIVIST

It’s a blog post by Phil Hine, an important part of the British Chaos Magick scene from the 80’s/90’s who was also heavily involved in Pagan Green (A) activity around the same time. This reading gives a short intro to some ancestors-of-path from not that long ago who I imagine most of our community aren’t aware of, and puts forwards some opinions on how to go about introducing magic into non-magical activist community.

Because it’s a blog post, there are a few references that might be obscure for Americans who are unfamiliar with British culture and politics and that don’t get explained. Here is a glossary of sorts to help with understanding:

  • Kenneth Grant – Student of Crowley, ceremonial magician
  • Crisis UK – political punk band
  • Combat 18 & League of St. George – underground fascist groups in the UK; many of their members have interests in the occult and paganism.
  • British Nationalist Party – Far-Right political party in the UK
  • The Dole – welfare
  • “Maggie” – Margaret Thatcher, ruthless conservative Prime Minisiter of the UK, similar to Ronald Reagan.
  • Dragon Environmental Network – Eco-pagan activist community from the UK
  • Greenham Common – a Women’s Peace Camp protesting Nuclear Weapons

QUESTIONS:

  • How does this reading make you reflect on your own magickal and/or radical communities?
  • What are people’s thoughts about the swastika spell?
  • The author offers opinions about how to engage with Muggle activists in a magical way. Do any of these suggestions ring true for you?
  • What does it bring up about ancestors of path?

EXERCISE:

  • Take yourself on a guided meditation, get comfortable, lying, sitting or moving, whichever works for you. Make your breath slower and use it to get into a deep, relaxed state. Find yourself at a tree in a forest on the edge of a meadow, which will be your beginning and end point. Familiarize yourself with it so you will know it on your way back. When you’re ready, move through the meadow until you come to a walled city with wide open gates. You enter the city and move through all it’s sights and sounds. Eventually you come to a quaint establishment, perhaps a dive bar or cafe, somewhere that you feel welcome and comfortable. You see people coming and going through a door in the back of the space. They look really happy and animated and they have cute tote bags and things in their arms. You decide to see where thay are coming from and go through the door…. You find yourself in a huge hall, filled with tables and booths with people vending. It only takes you a moment to realize that you are in the midst of a huge magickal anarchist book fair. You being to explore… notice who is there, what is at their tables, what are you drawn to, take time to really look around and use all your senses to discover what is here…. after you have had a good while to poke around, have conversations, whatever you need to do, decide if there is anything you need to bring back with you, negotiate what that exchange looks like…. when you are ready, go back out the door you came, back through the city sights and sounds, through the ciy gate which is still open, through the field and back to your tree. Open your eyes and say your name if you need help coming back.

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WEEK 1:
In Praise of the Dancing Body by Silvia Federici

Silvia Federici is an Italian American scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition. Many of us have been deeply influenced by her book, Caliban and the Witch, which has recently inspired an online class taught by rain crow called The Burning Times Never Ended. This short essay, originally published by Gods and Radicals in their print publication, Beautiful Resistance, is a testimony to the liberating potential of dance in reclaiming magic and resisting the pervasive discipline of capitalism on our bodies.

QUESTIONS:

  • What has been your experience of this liberating potential?
  • What are the barriers you experience to accessing this power?
  • What role do social spaces and their norms play in this?
  • How does music factor into this?

EXERCISES:

  • With music, do the thing that helps your body relax and let go. If you are in a group, take turns sharing these movements and mirror them back to the person offering them.
  • Try to find a movement, whether subtle or grand, that your body has NEVER DONE BEFORE. Use the things in the room, furniture, walls, other folks, to help you move in new ways.
  • From this place of discovery and potential, think of a time that you strongly felt the liberating potential of dance. Recall that moment as clearly as you can, how it felt, how is smells, any sounds you can hear. Create an anchor to that somatic experience by combining a symbol/image, a word and a place on your body that will act as a kind of “shortcut” to this embodied liberation. With practice, the combined action of saying the word, visualising the symbol, and touching that part of your body will help bring you to this state quickly.

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OUTLINE FOR CO-FACILITATORS

Here are some suggestions based on the preliminary work we have done to make this group happen.

  • have 2 people co-facilitate if possible. It models shared power, helps generate ideas and allows some flexibility if things come up. Ideally, different people facilitate from week to week, but you might want to prepare to do it for the first few weeks while folks get comfortable with the format and decide if its something they want to be involved in.
  • start a shared folder with a document for the basic structure and a document for each week detailing notes and ideas for the reading, discussion and exercises. It allows for less meetings in the lead up and for people to work on it as they are able. Its important for it to be low barrier so that new people will step up to offer to facilitate without feeling like its going to be a ton of work.
  • think about access needs and try to anticipate them in advance. Are there people in your community who will need childcare or rides to attend? Think about this when choosing your location and time. Reach out to people and ask them what they need. Be open to helping accomodate a variety of needs that may be different from your own.
  • Try to be consistent, either every week or every 2 weeks, especially if it is an open group. We alternate every Monday and Tuesday to try to accommodate different folks schedules.
  • How are you going to promote it? We have an email list and a small handbill at the space and at a few collective houses.

BREAKDOWN:

week before:

  • make shared doc for co-facilitators
  • pick a reading (we love Gods and Radicals for short essays that are fairly accessible)
  • send it out to your group at least a few days before
  • co-ordinate childcare, if needed

day before:

  • send out a reminder email
  • print out a paper copy of the reading to reference or pass around if you’re going to be reading it together at the event.

day of:

  • set the space/lighting/altar/snacks/tea
  • do a soft start (6:00)and a hard start (6:30) if you want to allow some flexibility and time to socialize.
  • welcome, territory acknowledgement, say the intention of the group for folks who’ve never been, mention that the group is co-held and ask folks to just think about whether they would like to co-facilitate one in the future
  • check ins, names, pronouns, why you came, access needs
  • facilitators do an intro of themselves and the piece, why they chose it, any context needed
  • either read the piece together, or perhaps start with an excerpt to jog peoples memories. Ask for initial reflections before jumping into the prepared discussion questions.
  • have someone take notes if desired. they don’t need to be rigorous, just to keep track of some of the things that come up, reminders to send out links etc.
  • take a short break to transition into the embodied exercise portion. Give people the basic idea of what is planned and offer any adaptations that may be needed.
  • After the practice piece, come back together and give people a chance to offer reflections, give feedback etc.
  • Do a quick check-out, maybe with a short phrase about what they’re taking away from this experience
  • ask if anyone feels called to host the next one, offer support for folks who are on the fence, be prepared to do it yourself if no one steps up right away.
  • tidy up

Of course, these are all just suggestions, take what’s useful and leave the rest! We’d love to know if any groups form in conjunction with our own, so let us know if you start something….