book review – “inner witch” by gabriela herstik

book reviews

the review was originally published on Goodreads on November 24th, 2018

To keep it short: this particular brand of spirituality did not appeal to me at all. I think it’s because my relationship with gender-based approaches to paganism/spirituality is evolving, and texts that are so so heavy on women, and even femmes, just fall flat. This is another book that argues for the empowering nature of “witchcraft” while extolling the virtues of “smudging” and makeup magic, yet takes absolutely no time to address the complexities of those topics, all the while branding it for the masses. Feels irresponsible and hollow to me.

I’m tired of small-picture, micro-spirituality. Maybe big-picture spirituality isn’t the point of this text, and that’s fine. But then I wish books like this wouldn’t position themselves as responses and countermeasures to patriarchy and oppression, when their overarching vision is no such thing.

Not anywhere near as frustrating as Lister’s Witch but also not as engaging for me as Spalter’s Enchantments.

nile dweller, dwelling on the nile

musings

Today, over breakfast and out of the blue, my mother suggested I talk to my dad about going with him next summer on his annual trip to Egypt.

It’s where his family lives, besides me, and I’ve never been. For a lot of different reasons. Some of the easiest  reasons to name are money (and lack thereof), the strained relationship with my father, and time (again, the lack thereof). But there are also reasons much harder to give name to. To speak neatly into words.

I’m Egyptian only on my father’s side. As a child, he didn’t speak to me in Arabic, feed me Egyptian food, or raise me with Islam. Part of this was because my parents divorced when I was three, and I lived with my mom. Part of this is because my father renounced Islam well before I was born, and has a very strained relationship with his home country himself. But as a result, I spent most of my youth under the impression I was a white American with a darker skinned dad, and no real understanding of what my foreign name (which I wanted to change to Amy) and his foreign accent meant. I didn’t have much contact with my family in Egypt (the occasional letter and embarrassingly awkward phone call), and I wasn’t very interested in changing things.

book review – “witch” by lisa lister

book reviews

this review was originally published on Goodreads on June 19th, 2017

I don’t know where to start with this text. Its transphobic/reproductive-centered approach to womanhood and femininity? Its easy dismissal of cultural appropriation? Its absurd disapproval of more or less all modern medicine, and particularly the use of hormonal birth control? Its blatant misunderstanding of history? Its relative lack of any actually useful information on paganism/witchcraft?

Which is, essentially to say, that I found this book summarily awful.

There’s a lot a person can do when tying to update and re-imagine the concept of the witch. This bizarre, “pussy” obsessed version is not one of them. For any woman, cis or trans, who doesn’t obsess over sex, who has a complicated relationship with their genitals (or lack there of) that can’t just be written off with a lackadaisical, “but they’re where ALL my power sits!!!”; who is infertile or surgically altered, just know…this book does very little to make you feel valid as a magical practitioner. You may read it and disagree (and I suppose that’s a good thing, if it turns out the book is more inclusive than I thought), but know this book emphasizes over and over again how necessary vaginas, ovaries, wombs, and clitorises are to womanhood and magic-making. So if you don’t have those things, or do and would rather you didn’t, I wouldn’t recommend this text. (Note: I myself am cis–if a trans/nonbinary person thinks I’ve overstepped, let me know so I can correct myself.)

This book is also very white. The author is of Romani descent (and she uses the term g*psy constantly–her prerogative as a member of that community, but something I want to mention either way), but she’s also part Traveller, and she considers herself white. The picture in the back supports that notion, and her carefree way of picking from cultural traditions that are not hers without second thought and encouraging her readers to do the same, fits right in line with white (patriarchal) ideology. She’s not concerned with making people of color feel safe in her book, and as a woman of color, I took a lot of issue with that.

Reading this book was a struggle for me, and its scary to think there are people who believe this is what a modern witch needs to be like. This version of magic and spirituality is exclusive and alarming. This version of history is whitewashed and incomplete. This version of womanhood is reductive and offensive. Also she quotes Joss Whedon like he’s not a terrible example of “male feminism” and that’s honestly the last straw for me.

a new chapter; an open letter.

musings, tarot

Dear whoever might be reading this,

I’ve always wanted a proper blog. And if I’m being honest, the truth is that I’ve always wanted a proper brand. I think, or like to think, that’s the Capricorn in me. Normally my sea-goat vibes manifest in stubbornness, depression, and a pragmatism I’m quite proud of. However, in this one area of my life, the ambition and status-seeking comes through with a strength that always surprises me, considering I’m not otherwise a very ambitious person.

I’ve started a ridiculous number of blogs in my adult life. I probably have a dozen abandoned attempts on Tumblr, and another half dozen right here on WordPress. I start them in a moment of unabashed enthusiasm, spend hours making them look cute and functional, and then immediately forget they exist within a week of their inception. They go nowhere, accrue no interest from outside parties, and make no great impression in my life or anyone else’s. They are, in a word, lame.

I don’t know if this blog will face the same fate. If it will become yet another entry in a long line of failed attempts at a consistent, meaningful, online presence. But what I do know is that I’ve attempted to approach this blog differently than the others that came before.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my interests. And not just the things in which my interest is consistent, but shallow (like writing, which I adore but do very infrequently and without much seriousness), but rather the interests I have that are sustained and extensive. I’ve been thinking about what interests I have that excite me and energize me. Which ones I engage in frequently, whether that be through conversation, personal reading, or personal writing. As I thought, certain things became clear.

I am passionate about paganism, especially the practice of tarot. I love reading about it. I love doing readings (for myself and others). I love collecting decks, creating spreads, and talking about tarot with others who share that same love. I’m also growing my sense of spirituality and my relationship to nature through other means like astrology and ritual work. If I’m going to blog, paganism needs to be a big part of it.

I’m also passionate about equity and social justice work. This passion has informed much of my life for the last five years. I studied media through a postcolonial-feminist lens for two years in grad school (the inspiration for my blog name here), and now I work in education for an equity-heavy public charter school organization where I’m an active member of our site’s Equity Working Group. I don’t think I can blog if this kind of work doesn’t make an appearance as well.

And finally, as I mentioned above, I’m an educator. I teach second and third grade, and this work is all-consuming, exhausting, and deeply meaningful to me. My life is dominated by my work, particularly the way my work is benefited by social justice. And I’m learning as I get farther into this career, that I have thoughts and perspectives that warrant further discussion and development. Blogging seems like a pretty apt way to do just that.

More importantly, I’m incredibly excited to see how these three subjects can be interwoven. So much conversation in the online spirituality world is centered on privilege, access, and appropriation, and it’s easy to see why. Similarly, my job in education is heavily filtered through the prism of social justice. And ultimately, I think the goal of helping my students grow into critical thinkers who are curious about the world around them and excited to help it improve can start with simply teaching kids to tap into the energy of the natural world around them, and to understand that every living thing on this planet is important. That they all matter, and deserve respect.

So, what will it look like to further explore the intersections of these topics? What will it feel like for me to find the connecting threads between them? How could this positively impact my work as a developing pagan and a developing teacher? I have no idea! And I’m happy to find out.

I pulled some cards for the future of the blog. They’re in the picture posted up top. I think I pulled some pleasantly prophetic cards. The Queen of Swords, a figure who has seen some shit and come through the other side of it. Whose pain is now transmuted into wisdom. Then, of course, we have the Magician. The resourceful figure who uses the tools around them to manifest something bigger. Who works within that liminal space between spirit and earth. And finally, the Knight of Pentacles, a card of hard work and determination. A figure still in their youth, who doesn’t have it anywhere near figured out, but who’s ready to put in the work anyway.

I think all of these cards speak to the same energy. The same mission of growth through effort and reflection. As someone in the midst of her Saturn return and a huge career change, I can say with confidence that this has been a theme for me over the last couple of years. And I think this a very fitting message for the blog itself. Because what is the point of this space if it isn’t used for growth through effort and reflection?

So, if you feel drawn to these topics (or interested, as I am, to discover all the ways they’re interconnected) then please join me on this journey. I can’t promise to post frequently or consistently, but I can promise that when I do, I’ll be as thoughtful and purposeful as I can manage! Let’s see where it goes….

❤ amina (the postcolonial pagan)