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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community

Thursday, July 16, 2020
“The Tender Border between Hedonism and Activism” by Danielle Dulsky, author of SEASONS OF MOON AND FLAME

All magick is a conversation. As Witches living in precarious and changing times, we are keenly aware of the many ways we are cocreated by innumerable forces, including those born from long-outmoded societal, economic, and political systems. Witches exist on the fringes of the overculture, naming their spellwork, their lived-out-loud stories, and their many altars as agents of change; this is true no matter the season, but the light of the summer sun makes that tender border between hedonism and activism all the more visible.

As the Wheel of the Year turns, so does our magick. In autumn, we are in a state of active releasing, of space making and banishing. In winter, we open ourselves to divination, to oracle work, to breaking the rules of linear time. In spring, our manifestation work begins just as the seeds start stirring below the soil. And, finally, in summer, we reach a state of fruition, a high-fire Craft that burns right on that tender border between hedonism and activism.

Meeting the Desert Hag
In my recent book, Seasons of Moon and Flame: The Wild Dreamer’s Epic Journey of Becoming, the reader journeys to the four houses of the Sacred Hags. These crones are all storytellers, and they open the portals of each season by offering the reader the medicine of story before offering spellwork, ceremonies, and poetry for each phase of the moon cycle. The reader is asked to consider where their personal story is situated, how their unique tale of becoming is orchestrated, in part, by the solar and lunar seasons.

As the summer portal opens in the book, we are met by the Desert Hag. The Desert Hag is an ancient one. The Desert Hag is a heathen poet. The Desert Hag urges us to peel back the tougher skin from our own hearts, to lay bare the desires we might hide beneath colder moons. Hers is not a Craft of secret keeping and mystery work. Hers is a Craft of open-armed sharing and communal fire tending.

The Desert Hag points us toward our deepest core values. She asks us to consider how every spell we cast, every tale we tell, is a conversation with the cosmic infinite about the kind of world we want the children of the future to live in. Witchcraft is in many ways an art, and all art is infused with the fundamental desires, still-bleeding wounds, and stubborn hope of its maker. In this way, our summer Witchcraft is activism, but not one that burns so hot it exhausts us, leaving us charred to a crisp and oscillating between overconfident warrior and defeated martyr. 

It is possible for our activism to coexist with timely indulgence and gratitude, and our magick in summer affirms this strange braiding of a pleasure-loving body, a grateful heart, and a fiery inner altar that burns brightly in the name of a more equitable and Earth-revering world. On the cusp of summer solstice, we ask ourselves where our own hedonism meets activism. We ask ourselves why our right to fall in love with our Witch bodies, to nourish them in all the peculiar ways they want to be nourished, is an important salve for the Witch-wound that still aches from the burning times. And we ask ourselves to befriend a softer heart simultaneously.

How do we open ourselves to gratitude when we can still feel the stake at our backs? We affirm gratitude as radical, and the Witch’s sensual freedom as the stuff of rebellion. We form a new kinship with our own grateful hearts, and we acknowledge that we are sovereign within a grander, still healing collective.

The Inner Solstice
Both summer and winter solstices are points of pause, calls to rest at the peak of fruition or in the depths of the void, respectively. Like pleasure, pausing is an act of the outlaw in a society that values constant productivity and hyperspeed. One of the key lessons of early summer is this: When you find yourself spontaneously met with gratitude, when you can feel an eruption of pure thankfulness be born from beneath the ribs, take just one full breath and pause. Create an inner Witch’s solstice. 

Begin then to keep track of these moments, these moments when no one is forcing you to be grateful, dismissing your wounds by urging you to “just be grateful” for what you have. These ephemeral moments are simply you finding yourself in a fleeting state of gratitude.

Witches understandably want proof that their magick works, and when you begin to track these small solstices, you will find they become more frequent. More importantly, you will find that these moments point you toward what is yours. Often, when people come to Witchcraft, they are intrigued by that thing called “manifestation,” but when they are asked to discern what it is exactly they would like to manifest in their lives, they face a notable challenge. From a very young age in our society, we are conditioned to be divorced from what we truly want and need; this is, in part, because what we truly want and need does not always feed the engine of capitalism. 

A Witch may, for example, seek to work their manifestation spells for money or marriage, but when tracking their gratitude moments, they find they are met with gratitude most frequently when alone in nature with only the clothes on their back. This does not mean they cannot work their spells for their original intention, but it may mean that there is an inner contradiction, a notable paradox energy that must be held in order to bridge this disconnection between what truly nourishes the individual and what society names as good. Your gratitude patterns will point you toward what you truly value for both you and future generations, with your spellwork an energetic bridge between those things we might call “present” and “future.”

A one-size-suits-all Craft does not exist, of course, and there are innumerable events that pull us away from both pleasure and gratitude. The Desert Hag invites you to embody it all, to hold the tension of all your infinite contradictions, your many dualities, and still make space for a better world for both you and the yet-to-be-born. Our Craft can hold it all, and we live so close to this knowing it can often overwhelm us. The future’s potential can blind us, can temporarily freeze us in a state of tender-hearted hopelessness. In these moments, we must pause. We let our rest be radical, our gratitude be anchor, and our magick be a dialogue with the Mystery about what is possible for ourselves and this wild home we call Earth.

On my grave will be written nothing but the poetry of moments, rhyming and rhythmic thanks-yous to no one in particular, only those holy crossroads of time and space, those sacred and fleeting points of becoming when I was nothing but a flesh-and-blood shrine to sheer heart-born grace. My life was built from these moments, after all, and from the ethers I shall watch the world go on without me, warmed by those many ephemeral glimpses of who I truly was, those embodied reminders that I was living well. Surely I made the most of my time housed in this soft, feeling flesh.

# # #

Danielle Dulsky is a heathen visionary, pagan poet, and word-witch. The author of Seasons of Moon and Flame, The Holy Wild, and Woman Most Wild, she teaches internationally and has facilitated circles, communal spellwork, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of the Hag School and believes in the emerging power of wild collectives, cunning Witches, and rebellious artists in healing our ailing world. Find her online at






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