Friday, February 24, 2017

Sustain-ability: Home Economics

When I was in middle school, in the late 1980s (yes kids, I'm old), HomeEc was for losers. Seriously, it was an easy A for girls who weren't smart or ambitious, who's life goals involved marrying an airman so they could escape our shitty little town and see the world (An Officer and a Gentleman resembled my hometown to a striking degree, except with younger girls).

I didn't take HomeEc. I took science and math and AP classes. I was headed for college and a more self-directed way escape our shitty little town and see the world (method, different; goal, the same). Which meant that when I did go off to college, I was singularly unprepared for the practicalities of adult life. I couldn't cook, or do laundry effectively. I didn't know how bills worked or how to rent a place to live. I was good with my checkbook (all that math) but not so good at making the money last. Interestingly, I could sew and mend and knit, because my mom enjoyed those things and was willing to share them with me. But there was plenty I didn't know.

When I met the young man who would become my husband, one of the things that impressed me was that he was much better at these adulting skills. And he was particularly good at cooking (being a chef and all). He'd been living on his own since he was 16 and knew how this stuff worked. He could run a household.

I'm a big believer in the concept of a household. And I think it's a concept that's kind of been downtrodden for a host of social / political reasons (the deprecation of traditionally 'women's work' the continuing existence of gendered spheres of influence, industrialization, dual-income family necessity, the outsourcing of things like food production, etc.). But despite being an almost stereotypical "successful career woman" I'm trying to rescue the concept of the household from its current debased state.

First, to be very clear, household is a malleable concept. It can be you and your nuclear family, your three roommates, your six cats, your hetero life mate and his kids, your non-gender specific group marriage, your parents and kids, your sister and her wife, your farm hands, and so on and so forth. You don't even all have to be in the same house! It means that you work together toward shared practical and financial goals, that's all. Let's get past all the bullshit that's been troweled onto the idea in the last 80 years or so.

If you live someplace, you have a household. Even if it's a household of one.

So what? Well, the household can be (and I would argue, should be) considered an egregore. An entity even. Something that you can identify and personify. Why? So that you can define, direct, and enchant the hell out of it. By defining the household, you can draw a line around it and determine who's in and out. For those who have challenging relationships with immediate family, this can be a powerful way of creating healthy boundaries. You can also expand your household to include people / animals / spirits you care about (over the years, we've had friends live with us for various period of time and those people were defacto part of our household).

Households can be independent of place. If you're like most magicians, you probably spend some energy on enchantments and protections for your house. But what if you have to move? Or what if you are traveling? Or what if you are travelers, without a permanent place? The concept of household allows you to easily take your magic with you or impact you even if you are in disparate locations. Protection for the household means where you live yes, but it also means the people you've included and where they live (your spouse stationed abroad, your child away at school, etc.).

I am very distantly related to some minor nobility through my German relatives. One of my uncles used to get the "family" newsletter (despite, seriously, being like 8th cousins a billion times removed or something). One of the things that fascinated me about this, was the concept of "A Family" as an entity -- with a crest and motto and all that.

Which is why our little household of five (two adults, one teen, two dogs) has its own household name, Latin motto, and family crest (unregistered). Yes, it could be pretentious, but it's not like I sign my letters that way or send out a family newsletter (imagine the Christmas letter!). It's just that having this entity is a great target for magical work.  Here are some examples:
  • The family crest isn't just symbolic, but magical. It's made from three magical talismans that map to three high level areas that we want to develop (for example, prosperity is one of them). These filter down directly into goals (like my ongoing successful career goal), which are used to create the various backlogs of sigils, spells, and other work that we do. The colors are obviously symbolically tied in as well.
  • The motto has a overt and subtle meaning that provides a ethical guide for the house. The existence of the house also provides a sense of responsibility for the members of it. Unlike some families, who kick their kids out at 16 or decide to stop supporting them when they make choices they don't like, our house protects and supports its own. You can always come back to the house.
  • The house has patrons (Saints, Gods, ancestors), which can only be a good thing.
What my household doesn't have is inherited wealth, huuuuge tracts of land, or political power... but who cares? There are plenty of old houses in Europe who don't have any of those things left either.

But as useful and, frankly amusing, as all that is, the household also demands a certain level of responsibility. As an entity you have to take care of it and make offerings to it. What offerings? Well, a full pantry, regular maintenance of the place the household is currently residing in, a general sense of order and well-being. In order to have a household, rather than just a place that you crash, you have to run it. 

And that brings us back to Home Economics. Once upon a time, before the many domestic conveniences and outsourcing of things related to the home, it was at least a full time job to run a household. Some person or persons had to be responsible for keeping the budget, gardening / farming / foraging / hunting, stocking the larder, keeping everyone fed, cleaning, raising children and husbanding animals, preparing for the winter, and coordinating the work of the house. Yes, this ended up being "housewife work" but for many long generations, this was EVERYONE'S work. Before the industrial revolution, people were much more likely to live in multi-generational and multi-person households that produced more of their own food and goods, and where fewer people of any gender worked outside the home.

Not to get all Victoria Pastoral about it. And not to be too political either. There were plenty of negatives in those times and plenty of inequity. What I'm saying is that there are benefits to having and maintaining a household. So let go of the baggage and give it a try.

Here's a short list of magical suggestions related to the household:
  • Protection for the household (which does double duty for the place and the people)
  • Calling on spirits to bless the household
  • Household altar (ours has a statue of Fortuna)
  • Statements of intent: "In our household, we..."
  • Decision-making considering the household as having a vote
  • Inclusion of non-physical entities into the household (benevolent ancestors)
  • Household cleansing and cleaning (spells for house cleansing often transfer neatly to the household)
  • Energy work for the household (like peace or contentment)
  • Spell craft -- if you create a simple glyph for your household, it can be easily incorporated into sigils or spells that you want to impact the whole house
  • Calling on the house to protect its members
  • Creating, blessing, celebrating the household
I've been talking a lot about agile magical practice (and that will continue). But remember how I said that contrary how some approach it, agile isn't without goals or structure? This is the kind of structure (household, motto, talismans, high-level goals) that fits perfectly into an agile framework. It provides an overarching sense of place and culture (think corporate culture here, only for a household) but with maximum flexibility on the ground to try different things, iterate fast, fail quick, and pivot as necessary. 

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Year of Being Agile -- Jet-lag Update

I was in recently in the Far East for a week and the jet-lag has been pretty brutal. Some people get directional jet-lag (moving East worse than moving West or the reverse), but I always get hit with the jet-lag much worse on my return home.

This is because I can't afford to be jet-lagged when I get there. First, because I'm in a different country and want to enjoy every damn minute of it that I'm not working. Second, because I'm, hello, working.

And that is why this advertisement bugs the hell out of me:

I mean girl, you are in Tokyo! With the top of the Skytree outside your window! Turn off the TV, and get yourself up and moving! Keep that sun on your face (you're lucky to have it, jet-lag is much worse when it's cloudy). You're in one of the most amazing cities on the planet, and one that's safe and easy to navigate without a word of Japanese. OMG, don't waste it.

Also, don't look with skepticism upon the Japanese toilet until you've tried it.

The day I land and think "Yawn, Tokyo again, how about a nap?" is the day that I give up my job and move to a farm. This trip alone involved an entire day of shrines and temples, real and fresh Kobe beef, bullet trains, Chinese dumplings, too much sake (always!), restocking my stationary and writing ink supply, and generally running fast and furious every minute. It's not always pleasant -- my dress shoes need to be resoled immediately and I learned the hard way to avoid unfamiliar train station food -- but it's interesting.

Of course, that means you get hit with the jet-lag on the way home. Mine with a bonus dose of respiratory illness. Don't worry, I caught it from the Budding Psychonaut after being home for a couple of days -- this is a God-given, red-blooded, American illness, not one o' them commie-socialist ones.

Being agile doesn't just mean keeping options open, it means grabbing them when you have them and dealing with the snotty and exhausted consequences later. It means building yourself up during the calm times so you can respond with grace and vigor (or at least not fall asleep during your presentation) during the crazy, busy -- and often wonderful -- ones.

Chaos and change are often seen as a priori negative, but that's far from the case. When life is changing is also when life is the most interesting and the most malleable. Stuff's in play and the odds are the most open to manipulation. You really don't have a choice but to act -- physically, magically, all in. Otherwise you're just groggy in a hotel room while the world keeps spinning.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

The Year of Being Agile -- Individuals and interactions over hierarchy and rules

As part of my year of being agile, I'm going to explore each of the four values in my Agile Magic Manifesto in order to a) help create actionable items and b) define my own plan for the year (one of the secret benefits to blogging is that writing about stuff helps you get shit straight in your own head).

Individuals and interactions over hierarchy and rules

This isn't just about the hierarchy of magical orders or who's who in the occult or Pagan communities. This is about levels or divides that keep us from connecting in real ways. It's about external rules that dictate who you talk with or what you can believe. It's about "real" news versus "fake" news. It's about building, and defending, community. It's how we stay out of the bubble.

I'm focusing on people I trust rather than institutions (just like Martin Armstrong predicted, dammit). I'm prioritizing the experiences of those I care about and their lives rather than some sweeping declaration of what's right for everyone. And to follow the very good advice of my dear friend Val: "I'm focusing on doing good things for myself and my community instead of all the bullshit."

These tools I'm sharing (magical and mundane) can be used to build bridges or build walls. To connect or divide. To reach out. Yes, this is a philosophical position, but it's also a highly practical one. Remember, the original agile manifesto was created to help programmers make better software. What the founders of agile discovered was that prioritizing these connections over formal documents and agreements made for better working relationships and better project results.

My last post garnered a really lovely comment. I don't get many comments, and I love each one of them that I get -- hint hint -- but this was particularly meaningful and relevant:

I'm using your articles at work as examples for my team and I like the 'agile' angle. We house people temporarily in our accommodation and try and work with them to be able to manage their own tenancies (99.9% of our clients have substance misuse, offending histories, mental health issues as well as experiencing homelessness.) Each tenant has a support plan which staff draw up with them but it's often difficult to engage the tenants and support plans are often too wishywashy - I want plans to be SMART but realise my team need to be flexible with the tenants they are working with. Your posts are helping me present that to my team - despite our funders forever changing the goalposts!

Apart from being very humbled by this, it's a perfect example of the power of agile. It's also really relevant to this particular post. When you are working together to meet a shared goal, or working to help someone else meet their goals, interacting with people directly is a powerful tool. Because you can't make a plan or goal for someone else, they have to have ownership (Taleb would say "skin in the game"). It's not that you never have an agreement or contract, but you value the personal connection and communication more because that's what makes the more formal agreement work.

This has been a very busy time for me in my professional life. It's also another travel week for me. These are great for learning and perspective, but not so good for making many posts on the blog.

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