i want to talk a bit about love and what it means to me on this day for lovers.

love, to me, is inherent to the structure of this universe. hell, even the multiverse potentially, but this universe for sure. i say this because we are able to exist here. the laws of physics arranged themselves into a ruleset that allows the formation of complex life. to my mind that is evidence that our universe is at least capable of love, if not composed of it entirely. and if we are made of the same stuff as the stars, as the universe, are we not also meant to love and be loved by each other? are we not also meant to link ourselves together into constellations of care?

love is the dark matter that holds us together. evil is that which turns us away from love, away from each other. there is no epic battle between anthropomorphized god-creatures that we must choose sides in. there is only the choice to come together and love each other or embrace the systems that are keeping us apart.

when i look at the world as it is currently constructed, i feel a deep sense of mourning. we have been forced so far away from the truth of love. the truth that we are here because we are loved. these systems that we live under—capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, imperialism, cisheteropatriarchy—are designed to institutionalize evil, to make us forget we are born loved. to make us hate each other and ourselves. they convince us that we must learn to love ourselves despite all odds, or that we must seek love from a partner or a friend, and that we are only worthy of that love if we’ve attained a certain level of social acceptability or popularity or enlightenment. but universal love is accessible to all of us, all the time. it is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the plants and animals we consume for food. we are here because this universe loved us enough to shape itself into something we can inhabit.

in my own spiritual practice i call the universe god, and in a sense that is correct. the universe is so much more powerful than i am, so much more intricate and unknowable, that it might as well be a god. but what i am really invoking with my reference to deity is the idea that love is a force, that the universe itself is a force, and that if we can tap into its love energy we can make magic happen. when we organize together and dream together and work every day at loving each other we are making magic happen. we are counteracting the forces of evil that drive us into our silos of individualism and achievement.

it is from those same silos of individualism and achievement that we are encouraged to love ourselves. self-love is a capitalist substitute for universal love. it is impossible to feel loved consistently in a world built to separate our souls from our minds and bodies, but self-love tells you that you must somehow overcome all the structures set up to separate you from your ability to tap into divinity on your own. that if you only love yourself enough none of it will matter, and if you cannot love yourself you must spend the rest of your life learning how. but universal love tells you that this is all wrong. universal love reminds you that what prevents you from loving is not your flawed psyche, or a lack of will, but the systems of oppression that were constructed to keep you mired in hate.

universal love asks you to look at the earth, at your mere existence on it, and use this as evidence that you are loved.

this philosophy is not dependent on a belief in divinity or magic. if you aren’t about the woo, i understand. but you are reading this, and you are alive. outside of all the bullshit of the human world, life is a gift. it is a result of a specific set of circumstances that may or may not have occurred outside of our universe. i choose to see this confluence of randomness as evidence of love in action.

i believe love is the strongest force in the universe, stronger than gravity or nuclear attraction or even change. when we are tapped into a sense of universal love we are capable of so much. we are capable of dismantling capitalism and colonialism, halting climate change, transforming the world into a place where we can all feel loved and cared for. we can articulate our needs and support others in getting their own met, without shame and bitterness. we can see beyond our immediate crises and into a future where we aren’t making decisions based on the lesser of two evils.

my own magic is centered on harnessing universal love, on bringing people into a mental space where they can realize their divinity and go forward knowing they are loved. and most importantly, knowing they are capable of focusing that love into a transformative force for social change.

on this day of commercial romance and beyond, i encourage you to root yourself in such love. with every single breath.

i am on a makeshift writer’s retreat at our out-of-town friends’ home in the mountains of glendale, california. last night, wind gusted against the house, kept me up half-wondering if someone was trying to break in. this afternoon, the rain stopped, and tonight, the wind has calmed down some, but it is still freezing. 50 degrees and breezy. blessedly, they have central heat, which i have cranked up past the point of financial/environmental sustainability because they love me and i know they would want me to be warm, and i love myself and i know that one night with one house doing the most as far as emitting co2 isn’t going to tip the planet past the point of no return. i mean, we’re probably there already.

not as much physical writing has been accomplished as i might have liked, but so much psychic writing has been accomplished. reflection and solitude are crucial for me to access the sacredness within myself that allows me to create. i love our home, but it is small, and it requires care, so it can sometimes be difficult to cultivate long periods of time in which i can just sit and reflect and journal and then write about what i have learned, or translate that lesson into art. particularly when i am depressed or vulnerable to become it, i need hours and hours of consecutive, simultaneous alone and quiet time before the emotions and experiences that trouble me can be documented and moved through. that’s pretty hard to come by, so i am eternally grateful to our friends for lending me their home, and i am eternally grateful to my partner for taking care of the chores at ours and handling the eventual clean-up here.

this ritual is an oldie but a goodie, dressed up with some oils or herbs. use whatever you have available to make it smell good, cultivate the appropriate energies, and/or attract beneficent entities. the plant helpers you select should promote psychic healing, connecting to spirit/divine, clearing unhelpful energy, and accessing your intuition.

you will need:

paper (preferably brown but i used white printer paper cause they ain’t got brown)
essential oils or herbs (they have the fancy doterra essential oils here so i used those cause luxury lent with love has got to attract abundance)
the oils i used were star anise oil, lavender oil, cinnamon bark oil, rosemary oil, and sandalwood oil.

for 2020, let go of twenty attitudes, beliefs, practices, and/or values that no longer serve you, or that never did.

write each item down on a slip of paper. fold them up and throw them into a bowl. drip essential oils on them until you concoct a fragrance to your liking. (mine was heavy on the cinnamon, lavender, and anise.) use a spoon and stir it up so the oil gets on all the paper. if you’re working with whole or ground herbs, shake the bowl a bit.

take the bowl outside and dump the contents onto a pyre or other firesafe surface/receptacle. light that motherfucker up.

as it burns, imagine yourself lighter. imagine each of those beliefs, values, practices, behaviors, etc. vanishing into the welcoming and forgiving vacuum of space, once again becoming part of the universe. a part of the universe far, far away from you.

remind yourself of your power. remind yourself you are loved, you are love. promise yourself you will reach for the heavens and never settle for the earth alone. but also promise yourself you will stay grounded. that you will press bare feet into the dirt even as your head floats among the clouds.

gather the ashes and bury them in the earth.

thank your body, thank the land, thank your ancestors, thank the divine. àse, amen. peace.

may your 2020 be heavy with prosperity, community, and joy. and may you find something of value in whatever darkness comes.

a black cauldron with burning herbs sits among crystals and tarot cards on an altar draped in turquoise ankara fabric. i did this spell last full moon and was pretty sure it hadn’t worked. then, on the last day of the moon cycle, it manifested in the most beautiful way: with my community pulling together to support me financially through the last part of the month.

so far, this spell hasn’t brought abundance and prosperity in the sense that i have a job or a savings or any stability. but i survived last month, and i will survive this one, and maybe the work i’m continuing to do will produce more bombastic results with time.

gather the following ingredients:

* cramp bark for general good luck
* star anise for same
* rosemary to purify capitalist/colonialist connotations of “prosperity”
* hyssop to purify capitalist/colonialist connotations of “abundance”
* sandalwood to grant wishes
* calendula, patchouli oil, cinnamon and chamomile to draw money
* angelica to break the jinx of white supremacy
* sage to reverse the evil of capitalism
* high john oil to draw money and for good luck

grind with mortar and pestle or dedicated coffee grinder and add to cauldron.

write the following (or something like it) on a brown piece of paper:

all earthly blessings will flow to us
the obstacles of colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy will shatter under our feet
the struggle for survival will abate
a new day of peace, abundance, and joy will grow
from our resistance
and our prayers
universe, we call upon all forces for good
for god
to see us here this full moon night
and grant our request
for respite.
let abundance and prosperity coexist with our determined opposition to capitalist exploitation.

fold up the paper and place it along with the herbs in the cauldron. set a lighted charcoal on top of the paper. open a window if you’re not outside.

repeat let abundance and prosperity coexist with our resistance to capitalism as many times as you like.

bury the ashes in the earth.

a white sand beach with footprints in it leading to clear ocean water.

this tea is named for my new friend mars, who recently moved to clearwater beach, florida. i made this tea for their going away party and it was so amazing i wanted to share.

9 tsp chamomile flowers
4 tsp hibiscus flowers
2 tsp sweet orange peel
1 tsp holy basil (rama) leaves
1 tsp peppermint leaves
1 whole star anise
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
18 cups water (4 boiling, 16 cold)

bring 4 cups of water to a boil. add herbs and spices to a large mason jar and pour boiling water over them. cover and steep for 10-15 minutes. strain into a large pitcher and stir in sugar until dissolved. add cold water. pour into ice-filled glasses (if desired) and serve with optional straws. can be enjoyed lukewarm or cold.

on the day of the hearing, sing:

let no evil come by you, [name] let no evil come by
you will be set free today, [name] you will be set free
all our love will guide you, [name] as you stand calm within the storm
no evil shall come by you, [name] today you will be bound no more

or whatever words you feel called to sing that invoke collective liberation, breaking chains, uprooting systems of oppression.

as you sing, write the name of whatever system, institution, group, or individual is responsible for the activist’s incarceration 3 times on a piece of brown paper bag in black ink. turn the paper 90 degrees and write the activist’s name three times in red ink. fold the paper into a square.

combine dill weed, galangal root, calendula flowers, licorice root, cassia chips, rosemary leaves, eucalyptus leaves, cascara sagrada powder, and sandalwood chips in a cauldron. light charcoal and add to cauldron. place folded name paper on top of charcoal. open a window.

while lighting a rainbow taper candle (any protection candle color will also work), visualize the activist safe, protected, home with their loved ones. sing. let the candle burn to the end.

make sure all plant material in the cauldron has burned. bury ashes and wax in the earth.

wonder at the miracle that is our collective body of loving support and ferocious action.

Brown rice soaking in ACV and salt.

Lately I’ve been really into learning traditional ways of preparing food to maximize the nutrient availability, and that’s led to me reading a lot of what I would term kind of “hippie mom” blogs to get methods for soaking grains and nuts. I say “hippie mom” with no disrespect whatsoever, as if I ever somehow decided to have a kid, I would end up falling into that category. Anyway, after reading a recipe on one such blog and absentmindedly straying into the comments, I started clicking into the “about” page and kind of fell down a hole. The blog was a Christian-centered blog; Biblical scripture was featured throughout the author’s description of herself and she described receiving her husband’s permission to start her blogging endeavors. I wasn’t really bothered by this, because although I am no longer practicing, I was raised in a Christian family, went to a Christian elementary school, and religion when used positively gets the high sign from me. I actually thought her story was kind of endearing, in a wholesome kinda way. No shade intended.

But then I clicked on a link to a blog post about a Christian singer coming out as gay, and I was sad. I was hoping she might be one of those free-love type Christians, but she is not. I got to thinking about how to communicate with people who hold beliefs that are so fundamental in an effective way.

The whole impetus for the blog post was that a Christian singer had said he was coming out to be honest with himself, or something to that effect, and that God would want him to live a live where he was his truest self. The author took issue with this attitude, and the trend towards tolerance in Christianity in general, as he (it was a guest post) mentioned that he was disappointed to see Christians applauding his decision to come out. He basically said that Christianity is about denying yourself, and since homosexuality is sinful behavior, the singer should have stayed in the closet and been grateful for his wife and children. He also said that after all the interview requests and fanfare over his coming out dried up, the singer would feel empty and alone because he had turned away from God. So, I’m guessing that means he believes any out queer person is actually deeply unhappy and just deluding themselves.

This is a really self-fulfilling belief system, and it’s difficult to think of a way to persuade someone to embrace supporting the human rights of queer people when they have this setup. I realize that one interpretation (hell, maybe even the right one) of Christian mythology is that humans have free will, but we are corrupted by sin and our moral compass is pathologically flawed. Therefore, we must surrender to the moral compass of God, because, you know, he’s perfect. Since God doesn’t really talk to us (except, arguably, in our heads), we have to go by what’s in the Bible. And the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, in this interpretation.

Now, I have wagered on science and my own intuition and the beautiful spirituality of the observable (and unobservable) natural world. So I don’t believe that the Bible is the word of an all-mighty God that is passing out tickets to a placid paradise only accessible upon my departure from this material realm. Therefore, I don’t believe that my own moral compass is irreparably damaged by an original sin. And I know that my own moral compass spins wildly when I watch the human rights of any group violated, when I see violence perpetrated against them by the state and society, and when I see them isolated and targeted as a group to vilify and demonize. I want for all people to experience love and light in their lives, to live the fullest, most authentic life they can in this world, and to know true equity in our society. I don’t care who you love, what gender or lack thereof you claim, what the color or size or age of your skin is, how much money you have or owe – you deserve that as a living organism on this planet. We are blessed to see this planet as it is today, not by a benevolent or arbitrary deity, but by odds. We shouldn’t squander this life, not because of the possibility that there might be a greater reward in the next life, but because of the probability that there isn’t, and this life is all we have together, here, on this planet, with all this beauty.

But if you’ve surrendered your own moral compass to a deity that may or may not be there, I can’t appeal to you with this argument. Even if you felt a twinge of wrongness when considering the struggles of queer people, you could chalk that up to a manifestation of sin. I imagine that for some, a beloved family member coming out as queer or trans can sway them. Familial ties are much stronger than the abstract tie you have to some random gay person you see on TV. But for so many, as evidenced by the high rate of teen homelessness in the queer and trans community, even familial ties don’t shake their faith in their own lack of moral compass (to be frank). How can these individuals be convinced to support social change that includes equal rights for queer folks and other oppressed minorities, when you can’t use empathy as a weapon?

“Weapon” is a little dramatic, but usually when you’re making a persuasive argument for the humanity of another, you can appeal to the heart of the person you’re making the argument to. In the case of those who have ceded their morality to a higher power, however, since empathy is emotion, empathy is to be distrusted. Our emotions are sinful, because we are sinful. So regardless of whether or not one personally feels bad about the oppression of another group, or even feels it’s wrong, if it’s God’s will for that group to suffer and be marginalized, it’s pointless and even detrimental to one’s own salvation to intervene. And, again, the Bible says, in this interpretation, that homosexuality is a sin. For this straw population I’ve constructed for the sake of this essay, no amount of empathy is going to change what the Bible says, or what they understand that to mean in terms of the social position of queer folks in the world.

I talked to my mom a bit about this subject, because she is a Christian, and my deceased grandfather, who I adored and deeply respected, was a pastor for his entire adult life. I wanted to know what she thought he would have said if I asked him about this stuff, because I grew up feeling that he embodied what Christianity could be at its best. Unfortunately, by the time I was mature enough to be willing to listen to his wisdom about Christianity without argument, he was at the end of his life and not in a mood to have the kind of conversations he so frequently had, and loved, when he was younger. It turns out my mom feels the same regrets about not having those kinds of conversations with him! Because she knew he tended towards the Republican end of politics, she avoided talking to him about how he reconciled his love for all humanity and his kind, redemptive nature with some of the policies of the GOP and some of the verses in the Bible. If we were unwilling to have that hard conversation with my grandfather, who was a relatively reasonable person to talk to about controversial topics, I can only imagine how many families go through their lives without ever challenging each other’s beliefs and trying to understand them. I’m not going to say it’s this kind of situation that led to the election of the current President of the United States, but it’s sure the kind of situation that led to people being shocked his election was even a possibility.

I digress. This has been a long, windy road to conclude: I’ve realized I can’t save them all. I am going to have to accept that there are going to be some folks who will only be brought into a more just and loving society by force. It sounds counterintuitive, but is nevertheless true. Some people are just going to fight us tooth and nail and never concede or give up.

Still, it’s hard to accept that it’s possible we could all agree that soaking our grains is good and making kombucha is amazing, but not agree that we’re all equally divine and worthy of each other’s love and acceptance.