A Rethinking of Shielding…

Well, I was initially going to write my typical “takeaways” post about the amazing Virtual Hoodoo Heritage Festival 2021 that I attended a couple of weekends ago… but time slips… and this COVID testing gig that I initially liked is now becoming really difficult. We’re getting more angry “Karens”, more temper tantrums from clients, more refusals to cooperate, and one client in particular punching one of our other floor staff.

Yep. The world has gone insane.

Actually, it’s about the same — we’re just living in a time now that, when people have personal explosions and public and get confrontational for utterly irrational reasons, we as a society are allowing it. Rather than calling security or police, or gathering around someone and stating, shame on you, this is never acceptable behavior… we turn away from it, hope it goes away or, worst of all, film it and put it on the internet or others can see that if they act this way, they can get what they want, too.

A “Karen” got in my face and screamed at me because she didn’t like the tone I used when telling her kid he needed to stop running around the center. I’m ashamed to say that I was so taken aback, I lost my cool. (It won’t happen again. I’m already contemplating social jujitsu for next time. A shame that we know there will be a next time. A shame that we’re contemplating bouncers at COVID test sites…).

I’ll spare you the details, but it does bring to my brain what limitations there are on personal protection magic when the threat to you is a social phenomenon…

And even as I write that, I’m aware that this can vary from culture to culture, system to system, person to person. I do see very often that the first lessons in magic and energy manipulation in many Western trads and Wiccan groups is to ground and shield. Thus there’s lots of personal shielding, and more and more personal shielding, shield-ING, to the point that maybe there’s just too much bubble wrap around folks. If you’re convinced that you need to stay inside your forcefield to stay safe from the world, you won’t see your role in helping change the world… so that everybody doesn’t have to wear themselves out shielding to survive.

It’s clear that those not in the magical know are feeling powerless. Well, join the club, folks. Some things are out of your control and you have to learn to roll with the punches sometimes. The blessing of magic is that you can exert some control… over yourself, if not a situation… and that is why we often seem aloof or weird to non-practitioners. We never really feel stuck. That said, we share a world with those that do, and they don’t have the ritual background, training, or resources that magicians use… so when pressured they tend to… explode. Like a shook up soda bottle being opened.

I’m already bedecked with evil eye amulets, but that doesn’t help with evil mouth, evil voices, evil bodies — evil hands reaching out to hit you. So, there are other ways to approach social change magically… but that’s some cultural digging that has to happen.

(It hasn’t escaped my thoughts, either, that too many people think disgust or discomfort is the same as danger. We’re providing saliva tests and folks are so eew eew grossed out, oh, I could never spit that much, blah blah… and two weekends ago I am watching an evil eye repelling presentation where Dr. Jeremy Weiss is spitting into a glass to demonstrate how in the Mediterranean, the whole village spits into a glass and all that communal saliva is then smeared on a kid’s face to cure him of the evil eye. Yep. Some of us had grandmas that smeared gunk off our faces with spit. And Dr. Weiss would finish a COVID test in 30 seconds…)

The historical and cultural lessons of hoodoo and conjure are very relevant here. The culture bearers of hoodoo are the African American Christian community, a community whose history here includes enslavement, apartheid, random murder, terrorism, social systems created to keep them oppressed… all at various times enforced by society, and still socially sanctioned. There was no recourse socially for the wrongs done to Black Americans. It’s still the case presently, in many places. They certainly use personal protective magic, and protection magic in the home… but the lessons of hoodoo, that work hidden in plain sight, is more and more to me useful in thinking in terms of magic as a method of social change.

I also am contemplating — and I’m sure I’ll catch flack or criticism for this, but for critical engagements’ sake, I’ll throw it on the table — if the socially privileged in our society, and their constant avoidance of discomfort or difficulty, is precisely the root of their powerlessness. A whole section of society has engineered their separation from everyone else, created their shields, if you will, and from a complex world they can’t control… and they are now being forced to contend with trouble, and they have no tools with which to do it. So they cry out and scream like children.

No, no one deserves trauma. But surviving trauma gives many folks a level of perspective and power that the shielded don’t have. The traumatic events that happen to somebody are never acceptable… but who they become after enduring and surviving it is exactly the resilient and compassionate and powerful person they are meant to be. And that’s power. That power needs to be recognized and acknowledged.

My years with the Shambhala Buddhists in Milwaukee, and the warrior training they taught, wasn’t about learning to bust people’s heads with your toughness. It was about being brave enough to let the world touch your heart, wound it, even. What drives your warriorship is your desire to protect and help people live and prosper in a dangerous and damaged world. Shielding yourself from it, wrapping a cocoon around yourself, doesn’t protect you; it just keeps your inner world stuck and dirty. And it makes you fearful and angry.

All that said… that’s not an invitation to take shit from crazy people.

So, I’m contemplating the balance between these two approaches. It’s more thinking than I expected to do about it. In the meantime, I’m thinking of what I can five-spot in the testing site space before opening the gates to clients to keep the site calm, healthy, protective, and safe for both clients and staffers. No shields. But no doormats either…

In the meantime… to my fellow magicians: can you try something other than shielding for a while and see what you learn? I’m interested in these perspectives… and they may well help mine…

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