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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