This is the second of the two entries I wrote which were posted on the DeafDC blog, relating to my thoughts about the Gallaudet Protest which occurred in October of 2006 (The first entry, titled “The Spirituality of Gallaudet,” can also be found posted in this blog). As a Gallaudet alumnus myself, I followed this protest closely, and like many others, I was concerned for what I saw happening. As a Deaf Pagan, I attempted to use my spirituality as a way of trying to make sense of the crisis, and convey my thoughts and feelings to others.
I don’t know if any of this makes any sense to anyone…but if it gives you something to think about, then it will have served its purpose.
To a witch like myself, a big part of my spirituality is the practice of magick.
True magick is the art of creating change. And change is something that makes a lot of people mighty uncomfortable. Change is challenging, which is perhaps why so many people shy away from it; it’s demanding, which is perhaps why so many react negatively to it – not wanting to meet the challenge, they instead criticize it.
Marion Weinstein, herself a respected leader and author in the Pagan Community, states that
“The work of magick involves transformation, and the first transformation is the shift of perception.”
The shift of perception. As I read the countless blogs which circulated about (and continue to circulate) in regards to the Gallaudet Protest, the one thing that became pretty clear is that the transformation was indeed happening; that people’s perceptions of Gallaudet University – of what it is, and what it could be, and what it should be, and what it has become was clearly undergoing that shifting. The change is happening, whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do is accept it, and prepare for it.
But change to what?
To a fuller range of possibilities, to a broader spectrum of spirit. Not change to something else…but to something more. First we learn to know ourselves, then we expand… stretching our hearts and minds and souls, and exploring and developing new new territories within ourselves, and within our community.
Yes, I can sense it now…people rolling their eyes and thinking
“what kind of horse manure is this woman trying to preach at us? This all sounds like New Age baloney to me! I’m not falling for that Witchy Voodoo crap!”
And of course, eyes open up wide, jaws drop, and folks ask me…
“You mean to say that <gasp> MAGICK took place at Gallaudet???”
Well, certainly! And it still is! In fact, it’s going to take even more magick to help us get through the coming days. The change is only beginning. There’s a lot more work to be done.
Magick can happen anywhere, and often in the most unexpected of places. That it would be happening at Gallaudet University should hardly come as a surprise…considering the sacredness of the campus in the hearts and minds of the people who now fight to preserve that very sense of sanctity.
In her article “Toward an Activist Spirituality” Starhawk writes of the use of magick:
“Much of our magick and our community work is about creating spaces of refuge from a harsh and often hostile world; safe places where people can heal and regenerate, renew our energies and learn new skills. In that work, we try to release guilt, rage, and frustration, and generally turn them into positive emotions.”
Hmmm…correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this what the Deaf Community has been working for all along?
Isn’t this at the heart and soul of what Gallaudet means to us – the creation of that space of refuge, a safe place where people feel free to be who and what they are; to share what they think and express what they feel…to regenerate, to renew, to release?
And would it be perfectly normal…that a community which has raised so much energy, and focused that energy towards the creation and sustenance of such sacred space…would react with vehemence at any action which threatens it?
This doesn’t mean we have to constantly remain in that state of anger and frustration. What it does mean is that we need to use our magickal tools – our identity, our pride, our heritage, our unity – to face those sometimes overwhelming realities that confront us, acknowledge those thoughts and feelings, and transform them into positive change.
Magick is about power – about calling forth power and utilizing it for positive change. But if we are going to raise that power and channel it as energy for achieving our goals, then we need to understand what it is…and what it is not.
Power, to those of us who work magick, should never be a power over another. Rather, it is a power that comes from within.
Power-Over is basically the power of oppression, a power of domination, a power of annihilation.
Power-From-Within, which is the power that I speak of, has nothing to do with oppression, nothing to do with domination, nothing to do with annihilation. It is a power that takes its definition from the root meaning of the word – podere, from the Latin “to be able.”
Power-From-Within develops from the ability to control ourselves, to face our own fears and limitations, to keep commitments, and to be honest. To be able to channel this power requires personal integrity, courage, and wholeness. It cannot be assumed, inherited, appointed, or taken for granted…and it does not confer the right to control another.
As I read all those blogs, it strikes me that what the Gallaudet Protest was really all about (as are most protests) is power…and the perception of power. Undoubtedly each side will accuse the other of that Power-Over, and in fact already has.
I’m not going to debate who’s right and who’s wrong in this regard, because frankly that is besides the point at this time. The Protest is over, the Board has made its decision, and now it’s time to move on. Casting fingers at each other regarding such seems rather moot.
The fact is that we all have within us the potential for both types of power – the potential to do good and to do bad, to build and to destroy, to empower and to oppress, to love and to hate. If we are going to accuse others of such behaviors, we better be ready and willing to take a good hard look at ourselves.
What Power-From-Within dictates is that we must act responsibly…that we must utilize that power properly, and ethically. Yes, that merger of the spiritual and the political often does mean that we must act to challenge systems – particularly those which perpetuate that hate and oppression. We must act to recognize those who have too little social power, and those who have too much.
As Starhawk explains, trying to equalize that power means changing the system. And systems don’t change easily:
“Systems try to maintain themselves, and seek equilibrium. To change a system, you need to shake it up, disrupt the equilibrium. That often requires conflict.”
Conflict in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; oftentimes it is an essential part of change and transformation.
But conflict isn’t violence. Control isn’t coercion, maneuvering isn’t manipulation. If we are going to practice the concept of Power-From-Within, we cannot act on Power-Over principles.
Violence can be defined as the act of using Power-Over.
Now before anyone starts yelling at me, I want to clarify that I am not accusing anyone of using violence during the Gallaudet Protest…although if we use the definition of violence as explained above, we can certainly find examples of such perpetuated by both sides of the protest.
What I am saying is that if we are to truly move forward from this crisis, if we are to truly heal ourselves from all that happened back in October of 2006, if we are to truly learn anything from this protest…
We need to take a good hard look at these two concepts of power, how they were applied – by both sides – during the protest, and how we can get beyond these power struggles to a deeper understanding of the issues, and a greater appreciation and respect for one another.
Once again, I am indebted to Starhawk, as well as the many other Pagan writers, leaders, and teachers who have shared their knowledge with me over the years, knowledge which has assisted me in the writing of this blog.
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