Grounding, Centering, Shielding, and Cleansing

JGI / Tom Grill Blend Images / Getty Images

JGI / Tom Grill Blend Images / Getty Images

We often put on special gear to protect us when we engage in certain activities. Aprons, overalls, gloves, hard hats, and goggles, for example, protect our clothes and our bodies, and minimize the risk of getting something on us or getting hurt. When we’re done, we take it all off and clean up.

When we work magick, we also need to gear up and clean up. There are physical safety measure that we sometimes need to take, but this article is about protecting yourself energetically.

When we are in a devotional space, in prayer or ritual, or working magick, we open up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable in order to connect more deeply with the gods, the spirits, the land, etc. Beginners may struggle with opening up, but after a while, it’s closing those doors that becomes more challenging. That’s why it’s important to develop a few important skills early: grounding, centreing, shielding, and cleansing.

Grounding and Centreing

Grounding and centreing are two different processes, but they are often discussed together. They basically involve visualization and meditation exercises to help you relax, feel connected, and focused on yourself.

Basic grounding techniques involve closing your eyes, taking some deep breaths, and visualizing some kind of connection with the earth, the sun, or moon, etc. A popular and beautiful visualization is to feel roots extend from the soles of your feet deep into the earth and branches from your arms reaching towards the sky. You can pull energy from one end, send it through your body, and release it at the other end. It’s a great technique whether you feel depleted and need extra energy or whether you need to release excess energy, or simply enjoy the connection to the earth (or sun or moon) through that current.

While grounding is about this link to the earth or other source of power, centreing is about getting in touch with yourself and locating that little place inside where your true and whole self lives. If you believe in the immanent divine, this is where it resides.

Finding your centre can be tricky. I suggest quieting down and listening to your body. Where do sense that your energy emanates from? When you raise energy, does it feel like it’s coming from a particular part of your body? What part of your body feels like a repository of energy? It might be your head, your heart, or maybe your gut.

Grounding and centreing are useful not only during magickal work, but any time you are feeling stress, anxiety, or just scattered.

Matthias Clamer Stone / Getty Images

Matthias Clamer Stone / Getty Images


Shielding is your safety suit, a protective energy barrier around you. Shielding is often viewed as magickal defense. While I’ve never been concerned about what people magickally throw my way, psychic, mental, and magickal attacks are a concern for some Witches and so I think this aspect of shielding is worth mentioning.

Another approach is to look at shielding like an apron, something that keeps the dirt off of your body. If you’re dusting, you might get some dust on your clothes. Shielding prevents the energetic dust from getting on you. It’s also useful when you’re entering a space with a lot of energy and you don’t want to get swept up in it.

Shielding is a basic skill in magickal work and an easy one to develop. The basic technique is to visualize yourself enveloped in some kind of energy container. Some people visualize something like an egg or a bubble surrounding them. You can visualize it as being deflective or even reflective to bounce the negativity back to its sender. I prefer to filter it into the earth to be neutralized.

If you’re the kind of person who is often affected by the emotions of others or feels exhausted after encounters with certain people, shielding can help you stay energized.


PM Images / Digital Vision / Getty Images


Ritual purification is a feature of many religions and the aim is often to remove defined uncleanliness prior to a type of activity such as the workship of a deity. Different religions have different ideas about what consitutues uncleanliness. Examples include menstruation and disease. In Wicca, we’re not especially concerned about ritual pollution. We may cleanse prior to our rituals as a way to release worries that may hinder us during our work or to help shift our consciousness. We may have other reasons for ritual cleansing based on other polytheistic practices we may engage in. I advocate ritual cleansing as part of magickal hygiene. No matter how good our shields are, we can’t keep those up every moment of every day. Just as we inadvertently get dirt on our clothes, we can also pick up magickal dirt. Routine cleansing is refreshing. It just feels good.

There are many techniques for spiritual cleansing. A bath or a shower will do nicely. Make it special with herbs, salts, candles, or a dedicated wash. In South Florida, we love cleansing with the Florida Water, a popular cologne water. You pour a little in your hands and use it to rub the negative or dirty energy off and away from your body starting from your head down to your toes. You could also use salt water or go for a dip in the sea or river. Smudging is another popular cleansing method. Light white sage or an appropriate incense and fan the smoke around your body. Or try this spiritual cleansing method using an egg.

Remember that visualization is important to all these processes. Your ability to hold a fully realized form in your mind is a prerequisite to materializing an authentic new experience.

Improving Concentration for Magickal Practice

Getty Images / Aleksandar Nakic / Vetta

Getty Images / Aleksandar Nakic / Vetta

Concentration refers to your capacity to choose what you pay attention to and what you ignore. It’s an important magickal skill (an important life skill in general). You’ll need to concentrate fully whether you are performing a devotional act, in prayer, during ritual, while casting a spell, teaching, or learning. Sometimes it seems impossible to do. The dog is barking, the neighbour is mowing the lawn, the kids are fighting. Plus there are a lot of things competing for our attention and studies suggest that our attention span is decreasing.

Despite all this, we all have the ability to concentrate. Think about the times you were engrossed in a superb novel, spellbound by a fantastic movie, playing your musical instrument, or dancing. Without an external device to capture us, such as a novel or a movie, concentration can be difficult, but think of it like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Let’s look at some tips and techniques for improving concentration.

The first things are boring scientific stuff you already know: drink plenty of water and get enough sleep.

Become aware of when you are most focused. For instance, my mind is sharp in the morning and starts to get fuzzy around 4pm. Knowing this means that I schedule my most important tasks in the morning when I am most energetic and productive. It also means I know when to take a short break, have a snack, and recharge.

Focus on one task at a time. We live in a culture that often glorifies being busy and uses business as a measure of productivity and success. Multitasking actually reduces productivity, wastes more time, results in more errors, and creates mental blocks. When you do one important thing at a time, your brain just works better.

Set aside time to worry. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate, relax, or even sleep because we can’t stop thinking about things we have to do or issues we are struggling with. The most effective method I have found for this is to take a few minutes and write it all down. The possibility of forgetting something important contributes to your anxiety. Obviously it won’t win you the job or pay the water bill, but it feels like you’re getting it out of your head and it will give you a sense of relief.

Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the intentional, accepting, and non-judgemental focus of your attention on your thoughts and emotions on the present moment. It’s being fully in the present. When learning how to be mindful, concentrate, and meditate, we can be really hard on ourselves. We compete with ourselves and beat ourselves up for becoming distracted. Mindfulness may be the the first step towards achieving deep concentration because it is the ability to simply accept, without judgement, where you’re at. Mindfulness doesn’t react; it simply observes and has no fixed object of focus.

Clear away distractions. Turn the phone off. Say no to Facebook for an hour. Settle into a peaceful, comfortable space with dim light. Light a candle or burn some incense.

Choose to block out distractions. It may seem to contradict the advice on clearing away distractions, but the reality is that there will always be a dog barking, a child crying, a lawnmower powering, etc. It’s wonderful to have a quiet space to meditate or perform magickal work, but it isn’t always possible. Don’t wait to have it and, if you don’t have it, don’t let that stop you. You can let the noise bother you or can choose to ignore it. It may be extremely difficult at first, but don’t give up; you can do it.

Learn to meditate. We can gain concentration through meditation. Whereas concentration is about fixing your attention on a point, meditation includes a wide variety of techniques and applications that train the mind to help you get there.

Practice concentration techniques. A Google search will result in a number of techniques from health, psychology, and spiritual websites. There are also a number of books available on the subject. Here are a few:

Practice with a physical object. Direct your attention towards a physical object and study it. Examine its size, shapes, textures, colours, etc. Relax and be fully present with the object. If your attention wanders, return it to the object. Begin with a minute or two and slowly progress to more time.

Practice with nature. Many of us have touched upon a deep level of concentration while watching the waves crash upon the rocks at the shore or gazing at a beautiful sunset. When practising with natural phenomenon, attend to it wholeheartedly. Notice the light, the sounds, the colours, the vibrations, and so forth.

The white dot. I find this technique boring and pretty challenging, but you might like it. Draw a small black dot on a white piece of paper. Stick the paper to the wall with the dot at eye level. Stand two or three metres from the paper and then look at the dot. And keep looking. Don’t look at anything else. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the dot. Practice this daily and increase the amount of time.

Remember to take breaks and be gentle with yourself. Emphasize quality over quantity. It’s better to focus fully for five minutes than struggle with a wandering mind, boredom, and anxiety for ten.

How is your level of concentration? What techniques do you use to increase your focus?

Pagans and Prison

You know how sometimes you’re thinking about topic A, you start to move to related topic B, and then you quickly run through the alphabet, and end up somewhere only distantly related to A? That’s how this entry came about.

There’s been so much in the Pagan webosphere lately about predators and safety in our community: Robin Fletcher here in Australia, the arrest of Kenny Klein for possession of child pornography, debates over the Frosts presenting at Florida Pagan Gathering, and child sex abuse allegations surrounding fantasy novelist Marion Zimmer Bradley.

I’m really glad to see ongoing conversations about safety and consent in the Pagan community. It’s a good and much needed conversation. How do we set and maintain boundaries within our groups and at our festivals? How do we respond to allegations of abuse? How do we support victims? In thinking of all this, I eventually got to wondering about perpetrators.

I don’t know how many Pagans there are in prison and I don’t why they are there. Like many people, I struggle with ideas about what rights or privileges prisoners ought to have. It’s easy to think a person should just be locked up and the key thrown away, but I also know that the criminal justice system is imperfect and not always all that just. And what happens when they are released? Is there a place for them in the Pagan community? What does that look like? How do

I’ve never been moved to do prison ministry so I thought I’d ask someone who is.

M. Macha NightMareM. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien) is an American Witch and Priestess. She has a long list of accomplishments including being among the founders of Reclaiming Tradition and NROOGD, a well-known member of the Covenant of the Goddess, and involved with Cherry Hill Seminary. You can learn more about Macha at her website and her blog Broomstick Chronicles. She has also been writing more on Creating Sacred Space with Pagan Prison Inmates over at Witches & Pagans. You can read parts one, two, and three here.

How long have you been doing prison ministry?

About a year.

Why did you get involved with prison ministry?

Because I was asked and the prison is close enough to my home for me to do it.

What are the goals of your ministry?

My goals are several. One is to assure that Pagan (in this case, Wiccan, tho I myself am not Wiccan, per se) inmates are allowed to meet. Another is to give them some knowledge and skills that they can use anywhere they find themselves — in a cell, in a stress situation, out in the world if they’re paroled or released.

Why should Pagans support Pagans in prison and/or prison ministry?

Well, I’m not so sure they should support it — I resist ‘shoulds’ — but I do know that there are Pagans in prison and that they need support they’re not getting, for the most part. In California, religious groups need to meet under supervision. So if they need someone and no prison chaplain is available, I can help. I’m supervised by the Native American chaplain.

One thing I do know is that, unlike Xtians and other Abrahamics, Pagans don’t have institutions to provide study materials and tools (rosaries, for instance). I’ve received donations of tools, supplies, books, and other items from private individual Pagans who trust that I’ll use the money for that purpose (if they give me money) and/or who have some compassion for the inmates and want to see them well served. But we have no system. We have no institutions. I, and by extension the Wiccan circle at San Quentin State Prison, have received monetary, books, and other donations from ppl who know me personally and feel that this work is worthy of their support. For instance, one prominent supporter does so because his father was incarcerated for much of his childhood and I suppose he knows how grim prison life can be. That supporter is Pagan, but not Wiccan, and I doubt his father was Pagan.

What place do former inmates have in the Pagan community?

This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot. I don’t have an answer. What I do have, however, is one inmate just released to a halfway house in Los Angeles who asked me if he could email me when he got out. I said yes, but didn’t give him any contact info. That said, I’m easy to find. Another is due to be released in the SF Bay Area in a matter of weeks, and he’s very interested in seeing who’s out there in Pagandom. I’m guessing he’ll find open circles to check out. I like both of these men, but I don’t know them outside of the inmate circle. I don’t know what crimes they were imprisoned for. We volunteers are not permitted to be personal with inmates. In other words, I don’t feel I can vouch for any of them if someone were to ask. Of course, they can use my name and say they know me, and ppl can take that as an endorsement or not, without checking with me. Nothing I can do about that.

So you see, Cosette, more questions than answers.

Review: Maleficent


Warning: The following may contain spoilers.

Aside from the well known mythology of historical pagan polytheistic cultures, Contemporary Paganism, particularly Wicca and Witchcraft, have some modern myths as well. One of these myths tells us that, once upon a time, there was an egalitarian, matriarchal, earth-based way of life, and it was usurped by the warrior, patriarchal, mountain men. A similar myth posits paganism against Christianity instead of matriarchy versus patriarchy. We’ve seen these themes on screen before with films such as the Mists of Avalon 2001 TV miniseries, Agora, and the 2009 Czech film The Pagan QueenMaleficent presents us with similar themes, but whereas most of the time, it doesn’t go well for the women or the pagans, Maleficent gives us a feminist, pagan-friendly story with an ending we can cheer for.

Since 1937 with its release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney has been largely giving us characters that have been clearly good or evil. It introduced some complexity with Beauty and the Beast and finally gave us a book-loving brunette heroine, but a story about a woman who falls in love with her beastly captor is not without its problems. But since then, Disney has been delivering more interesting, smarter, and tougher female characters such as Esmeralda, Megara, Mulan, and Merida, and movie goers and critics alike have been hailing Frozen as Disney’s most progressive animated film yet. Scott Mendelson of Forbes wrote, “Frozen is both a declaration of Disney’s renewed cultural relevance and a reaffirmation of Disney coming to terms with its own legacy and its own identity. It’s also a just plain terrific bit of family entertainment.”

It’s not just in animated films that Disney has been exploring what it means to be good and evil and what it means to be a woman in the enchanted forest and beyond. Its ABC series Once Upon a Time successfully blurs the lines between good and evil, has given depth and complexity to the Evil Queen and Snow White, subverted Disney’s typical fetishization of true love, and given us more nuanced looks at motherhood. Maleficent achieves similar accomplishments.

In Disney’s new fantasy, live-action film, Maleficent is a fairy resident turned queen of the nature-oriented Moors, a magical realm bordering a human kingdom. She befriends and falls in love with Stefan, a peasant boy from that human kingdom whose ambition for its throne overshadows his love for her and, ultimately, leads him to betray her in a horrific way. He becomes king and the next bit we know.

Maleficent is never far as Aurora grows up raised by the three fairies and, despite her initial dislike of the child, grows fond of her, but there’s that little problem of the curse and of Stefan, who is so obsessed with Maleficent that he doesn’t seem to care that his wife is dying, and later dismisses Aurora when she finally returns to the castle. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that this is not the kindly Stefan and the evil Maleficent we thought we knew, and that it’s certain now that Disney knows true love isn’t necessarily romantic, heterosexual love at first sight, and fairy tale traditions be damned.

Maleficent is a feast for the eyes and I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Angelina Jolie playing the title role. She is not only beautiful, but powerful and mysterious, and she lends subtle emotional richness to the role.

For years, we’ve been bemoaning the negative ways in which Hollywood depicts witches, as nearly always evil hags, women as prizes, and nature as something mysterious and dangerous that needs to be conquered. Disney defies all those stereotypes with Maleficent. Is it safe to say that Disney has entered a new era when it comes to good/evil and its female characters? I hope so.

A Beginner’s Guide to Honouring Ancestors

Getty Images /  Space Images / Blend Images

Getty Images /
Space Images / Blend Images

Friends in the Northern Hemisphere are celebrating Beltane, but Samhain looms here in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the final harvest for Wiccans, the harvest of blood, the time to honour our ancestors.

I believe we should honour our ancestors year-round, but if you don’t and would like to, now is a great time to start.

What does it mean to honour our ancestors?

Veneration of our ancestors is generally based on the belief that the dead have a continued existence and may have the ability to influence the living. Even people who do not believe in a continued existence after death may still honour the memory of the dearly departed. This is not an exclusively Pagan belief or practice and is widespread in a secular sense. Consider Anzac Day.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli (in modern day Turkey) during World War I. The day features dawn services with hymns, prayers, laying of wreaths, a period of silence, and the national anthem. It is not specifically a religious event nor is it thought of ancestor reverence, and yet that is precisely what it’s for, and it is perhaps Australia’s most important national occasion. Other secular ways in which we honour the dead is by naming children after them, displaying their photos, visiting their graves, and creating impromptu shrines where people are killed.

While it may look the same for all intents and purposes, ancestor veneration is not the same as worship to those that engage in these practices. While respect, honour, love, and devotion may be involved in both, “worship” is generally an idea applied to deities not ancestors.

Why should we honour our ancestors?

If we believe in a continued existence after life, then our relationships with the people we love do not end at death. Generally speaking, we honour our ancestors in order to maintain our relationships with them, to ensure their continued well-being, to remind them that they are loved, and to aid their continuing spiritual evolution. Other reasons include to honour their memory, to maintain family histories, to carry on family traditions, and to discover more about ourselves. At the very least, consider that, because of those that came before you, you have a body, blood, DNA, knowledge, freedoms, heritage, and so forth.

Like most healthy relationships, our relationship with our ancestors is reciprocal. If you care for your dead, they will care for you. In Santeria, ancestor reverence is extremely important. It is the foundation for a healthy spiritual practice and for a stable home. Many people will go to their ancestors first before going to the orishas with their needs. This is because orishas are enormous, powerful, sometimes chaotic, forces. Oshun is love and sexuality; Ogun is war; Oya is the hurricane. But our ancestors are just like you and me and they are said to better understand our daily human struggles. They understand what it means to struggle financially, to be out of a job, to have a relationships fall apart, and so forth because they likely experienced these as well.

Who are my ancestors?

An ancestor is most commonly defined as a person from whom one is descended. However this definition can be and often is broadened to include people in our adoptive lineage. In Santeria, we also include our spiritual lineage. I also include my Wiccan lineage. You might also include family of the heart (dear friends, pets, mentors, etc.).

What if I don’t know my ancestors?

You don’t need to know your ancestors in order to begin a practice of honouring them. First, it’s impossible to know all your ancestors anyway. Even if you can trace your lineage a few generations, eventually the data ends somewhere. Second, they all know you and, as you develop your practice, your ancestors will step forward and make themselves known to you.

How do I begin a practice of honouring my ancestors?

My egun shrine.

My egun shrine.

Create an altar. In Santeria, we have two types of shrines. The first is rooted in traditional Lucumi practice and involves setting aside a space on the ground in which offerings are made to the egun, our family ancestors. Offerings typically include a white candle, flowers, water, and food and drink offerings our ancestors may have enjoyed (commonly coffee and rum in Cuban Santeria; cigars are often included as well).

The second type of shrine is the bóveda, which is rooted in Spiritism, and is generally for non-ancestral spirits. It involves an altar covered with a white cloth upon which several goblets of water are placed along with a white candle.

Your altar doesn’t have to be large or elaborate. If you have photos of your beloved dead or family heirlooms, you can place them there. You can also add items that represent special people or your cultural ancestry (e.g. a Celtic cross, a coat of arms, a particular type of flower, etc.). Avoid placing images of living persons on your altar.

Although your altar can be established anywhere, keep in mind that it is a place where energy dwells in a concentrated way. You might consider setting up your shrine somewhere out of the way and in a room where you don’t sleep. A fixed space is best, but sometimes that’s not possible. One portable method I’ve heard is to use a box. Keep your items in there, set it up and close it down as needed. I recommend that your ancestral altar be a separate space from where you worship your deities.

Make offerings. Offer your ancestors the kinds of things they may have enjoyed in life – flowers, food and drink, incense, etc. Water and a candle are often found on ancestral altars not only because they are easy offerings to make, but because water is a conduit, is cleansing, and refreshing, and a candle offers light and warmth.

Talk to them and practice active listening. Direct contact with your ancestral spirits is cultivated through ritual action. Visit your shrine regularly and talk to your ancestors. These are your family, your friends, your guides – spirits that love you. Share with them the good things that happen and don’t be afraid to pour your heart out. Your ancestors are an important part of your support system. The challenge won’t be getting them to respond, but rather trying to distinguish the mental chatter from direct spirit contact. This refinement comes in time with a balance of faith and scepticism.

If you’re not sure how to get started, one good method is to announce yourself. For example, I would say, “I am Cosette, daughter of Marta, grand-daughter of America…” and keep going as far back as you can (this is my maternal line, but you may also use your paternal line or a combination of both). Keep it simple and heartfelt: “I come to honour my ancestors. I make these offerings.” Invite your loving and protective spirits in, ask them to be part of your life, and let them know they will be cared for. If you know the names of specific people whose love and energy you want to invite, call to them.

What about people I didn’t have good relationships with or that were unpleasant in life?

Spirits are not necessarily any more perfect than we are, but there may be some that are especially difficult to work with such as abusive family members, angry spirits, restless dead, and people that may have committed serious crimes or even atrocities.

There are various opinions about how to proceed with them. Here are two. One is that you don’t have to honour those ancestors. The second is that we should work with troubled ancestors; they need us the most, helping them evolve spiritually helps us as well, and may open new channels. Working with troubled ancestors can be a healing journey for both the spirit and you. There are some interesting techniques for working with troubled spirits, but I reserve these for a later blog entry. I think beginners should start with establishing a regular practice and nurturing relationships with loving, protective spirits.

How often should I tend my ancestral altar?

As often as you like. I recommend at least once a week.

A few tips:

  • If you follow a particular historical paganism or pantheon, I recommend you do some research about how the people of those cultures honoured their dead.
  • Consider days that are meaningful to your beloved dead such as birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Be patient. Ancestor reverence is simple, but not easy. It can take time to feel connected and engaged.
  • Use your favourite divination method to learn more about your ancestors.
  • Talk to your living family members to learn more about your ancestors.
  • Consider a genealogical DNA test to learn more about your ancestry.

Have you ever worked with your ancestors and other spirit guides? If so, what has your experience been like? Do you have any tips you can share? If you haven’t worked with ancestors before, why not? Do you have any questions or concerns not addressed here?

Ethics Roundup

Getty Images franckreporter

Getty Images / franckreporter

The arrest of Kenny Klein for the possession of child pornography has prompted lot of discussions about sexual misconduct, safety, and general ethics in the Pagan community. It can be hard to keep up with all the discussions and even harder to stomach some of the comments so I have collected some of my favourite writings on the subjects, pieces that I feel avoid gossip, conspiracy theories, and unreasonable opinions, and focus instead on support and what we can do to keep our communities safe.

Cat Chapin-Bishop’s guest post at the Wild Hunt, Responding to Abuse in the Pagan Community, is the most thoughtful and compassionate piece I’ve seen on these issues. Cat has more than 20 years of experience as a counsellor specializing in work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. She looks at what we know about perpetrators and victims, the effects of abuse, how we can support survivors, and how we can make our Pagan gatherings safer.

Those who prey on children are also friends, family members, wage-earners… And sometimes they are artists, musicians, teachers, or members of a spiritual community whose work is missed when they are removed from those communities.

It is dangerous to caricature offenders as all alike, easily spotted, or wholly monstrous.

The trouble is, if we begin to believe that all perpetrators of child sexual abuse are like comic-book villains, we risk becoming blind to the cases that don’t fit that simple picture. Our communities may begin to make excuses, to minimize, rationalize, and deny the abuse. We say to ourselves, “But she was a teenager—she could have stopped it,” or “He’s not like those other perpetrators—it was only because he was drunk (had just lost his job/ had been divorced/ was depressed.)”

And then we may not pick up the phone and make the report—or we may not enforce a community statement that says we have a “zero tolerance policy” around sexual abuse. Or we may try to “fix” an abuser through compassion and good intentions, without understanding that those are not the tools needed for this particular job. To prevent that, we need to go beyond rhetoric and slogans, and understand the real world of perpetrators and their victims.

In Sex, Ethics, and Paganism, Shauna Aura Knight talks about what it means to be sex-positive and how we can build a healthier sex dynamic in our communities.

Sex positive does not mean I should be pressured to engage in experiences that I’m not comfortable with. In fact, that’s quite the opposite, that’s peer pressure and shaming. Being sex positive means, I support someone’s choice to not dress in a way that is sexy, not get naked, not have lots of sex.

Christine Kraemer describes how we can create a culture of consent in our Pagan communities in her piece, Consent Culture 101: Basic Practices and Teaching Games.

Building consent culture involves confronting issues of power and vulnerability. It requires that both the initiators and receivers of touch improve their communication and listening skills. It calls us to deepen our empathy and bring mindfulness to all our interactions.

In Addressing Safety at Pagan Conventions and Festivals, Cara Schulz looks some of the best practices adopted by teachers and festivals.

David Salisbury, whose books and workshops are often geared towards teens and young adults, says he is rethinking everything in relation to how he presents to minors. Although he feels he has a good system in place, he is making one important change, “I will not teach youth without one or more other adults present.” He also plans to spend more time explaining to adults why he does this so it becomes a more commonplace practice.

Here is my own piece on Safety in the Community.

The Integral Options Cafe blog has an very good 2010 entry, Ethical Guidelines for Clergy and Spiritual Teachers, that looks at how the Zen community responded to issues of sexual misconduct by a teacher. It includes the ethical guidelines that the Zen Society adopted and an FAQ from the FaithTrust Institute on sexual misconduct by clergy/spiritual teachers.

Sexual contact or sexualized behavior within the ministerial relationship is a violation of professional ethics. There is a difference in power between a person in a ministerial role and a member of his or her congregation or a counselee. Because of this difference in power, you cannot give meaningful consent to the sexual relationship.

Geek Feminism Wiki has excellent resources to help organizers develop anti-harassment policies at conferences. Although aimed at open source, computing, or technology-related conferences, they can be easily adapted to suite Pagan festivals and conferences.

And, finally, I strongly recommend taking a look at the Youth Protection program of the Boy Scouts of America. Although the Boys Scouts have not been very progressive in certain areas, they realized years ago that a youth organization is a perfect place for perpetrators looking for access to children. It has developed a balanced and wise approach to tracking issues, training leaders, and protecting children.

Review: The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules

Even if you’re not familiar with classical mythology, you may have heard of Heracles, or Hercules, the Roman name by which he is more popularly known. The son of the mighty god Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, the strength and adventures of the divine hero are, well, the stuff legends are made of. Too bad director Renny Harlin didn’t go with any of those legends in his disappointing action fantasy film The Legend of Hercules.

Classical mythology is incredible. That it has provided subject matter for all forms of art as well as pop culture and even scientific naming is a testament to its enduring power. Hercules has not been given much cinematic regard, which is a shame, because his story is remarkable, and any one of his Twelve Labours could make for one terrific film. So, we have the material, and the bar for cinematic approaches has been raised by the likes of Gladiator and Rome. We know Hollywood can do better than the typical sword and sandals flicks of the 1950s and 1960s. Someone should have told Harlin.

The Legend of Hercules begins in ancient Greece, in a land ruled by King Amphitryon. Tired of her husband’s warmongering and thirst for power, Queen Alcmene prays to the goddess Hera, who tells her that she will bear a son by Zeus, and he will be the saviour of her people. The boy is named Alcides by the King, who rejects him as the son of another, and is secretly called Hercules by his mother. Twenty years later, rivalry erupts between Alcides and his despising and jealous older brother Iphicles over the affections of Princess Hebe, who loves Alcides, but must marry Iphicles for political reasons. To get him out of the way, Alcides is sent to join a campaign of soldiers in Egypt. Soon, he finds himself captured and sold into slavery. He must make his way back to Greece, to his kingdom and to his love.

You couldn’t give Hercules a more generic treatment if you tried. It actually gets worse, but I don’t want to completely spoil it for you.

The movie was filmed in Bulgaria and looks and feels like Eastern Europe. I was never convinced I was looking at ancient Greece or Egypt. The actors don’t look or sound right. The clothes are wrong. It delivers a lot of muscular guys in skimpy armour fighting and roaring in digitally-enhanced battle sequences, but that’s not quite enough to save this clichéd and boring clunker.

The Legend of Hercules is rated PG-13.