Violence is Never the Answer. Well, At Least Not to a Curse.

I try to keep an open mind when being exposed to other cultures or belief systems, but there are some things I just can’t abide…and guess what?  It isn’t animal sacrifice, but that’s another blog.  It’s the practices employed by many different religions and cultures when dealing with someone who is believed to be possessed by a demon or somehow cursed.  The stories abound, and trust me, when you go to Google News and type in the key word “witchcraft” as often as I do, you see a lot about this.  I think it’s the fact that I didn’t go looking for this news story that made me notice it more.
There I am, visiting The Drudge Report website when I see the Drudge headline of “Girl nearly loses sight in eye-gouging exorcism…  It lead me to the story of a 14 year-old Maori girl in New Zealand that nearly lost her eyesight when relatives scratched at her eyes in an attempt to drive out a curse.  The girl’s cousin drowns during the same curse lifting ceremony.  An estimated 40 members of the family attended the ceremony.  Five other members were worked on, but not injured.
Let’s not get into a debate as to whether a person can actually be possessed by a demon or evil spirit.  Let’s just say, for the sake of this blog, that a person can.  That, in my opinion, is no excuse to cause physical harm to anyone.  From what I understand, the general concept is, a demon inhabits a body, so make the body uncomfortable and the demon will leave.  (Much the way that sage smudging drives away negative energies from a home.  The sage makes your home stink so much that spirits leave.)  I get it, but um, so what?  Your child or whatever is possessed, so suddenly you don’t give two craps about their body.  Cursed or not, it’s your kid’s eyes you’re scratching out, not the demon’s.  Maybe I’m a sap, but I think a human’s soul is way stronger than their body, so let’s take it easy on the scratching and water, okay?  In this particular case the ceremony was held because one of the family members stole a stone lion from outside a hotel.  I don’t have children, so perhaps I’m wrong here, but if you find out your child stole something I’m pretty certain that you don’t start with scratching out their eyes.  Call it a hunch.
Can I suggest that if you think that you or someone you know is possessed by an evil spirit, to go see a medical doctor.  I know, it’s horribly unromantic, but the fact is, every single day scientists are learning something new about how the human mind works.  Also, if your priest or other religious community leader ever suggests that causing physical harm to yourself or someone else is the answer, kick them to the curb.

“Your Altar” Can Be Your Road Map

When you first start to read “Your Altar” by Sandra Kynes, you may feel a bit overwhelmed.  If you’re like me, when you think of setting up an altar, particularly a home altar, you imagine a wonderful jumble of icons, mementos, crystals, and aromas.  Set up solely to please the eye, with no deeper thought than that.  Then you open up “Your Altar” and you find yourself going, what?!  You want me to follow set ups?!  Some so involved that I may want to chart them out?!  Whatcha talkin’ about Sandra?
Then as you continue to read, you realize what’s going on.  Sandra Kynes is providing us with a guide to exploring our relationship with our altar.  She offers various game plans from approaching one-part altars (you know, altars with one thing) up to nine-part altars (you can guess the difference right?).  I know, this still sounds complex and overwhelming, but once you settle in and surrender yourself to the book all becomes well.
“Your Altar” isn’t just a book about altars, although obviously it could have been.  This is a book about symbolism, history, meditation, archetypes, and how all of that can be used to create your personal altar.  Each altar set up is its own chapter, rich with details, charts, and diagrams all designed to help you determine what is right for you.  Honestly, the book is so authoritative on matters of symbolism that I will probably add it to my stock of reference books that I go to when writing articles about symbols for The Magical Buffet magazine!  This book isn’t a rulebook; it’s a guidebook.  A map to your altar, if you will. 
Before you start learning about different altar set ups Kynes talks about meditation.  It’s a wonderful little introduction to the concept of meditation for someone new to the idea, and a nice reminder of how it should be approached for those familiar with the practice.
The first Appendix to the book gives a very brief overview of the history of altars.  Obviously, I found this to be tremendously interesting and could’ve read a whole book just about this.  Perhaps that will be Kynes next book.  She follows that Appendix with a second one about preparing crystals and gemstones for use.  A very helpful section that serves to remind us that you cannot just slap a quartz point down and call it a day. 
“Your Altar” although at first may seem constrictive in the end can be a map to personal spiritual freedom.