Are you in tune with the moon? Starting a Lunar Practice

I’ve been working with the waxing and waning lunar cycles for nearly 20 years now; starting out with following the moon phases, and then weaving in the astrological signs and houses. Over that time my practice has changed and evolved and I’m feeling ready to pass on what I know in the hope it will be helpful.

But it almost feels too huge. Where to start?
I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to get started working with the lunar cycles in this post…
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Step 1
Observation
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Make a point of knowing which phase the moon is in as she waxes and wanes. You can record this in your magical journal/ book of shadows/ bullet journal – whatever you use.

You can use a special almanac or diary which shows the phases every day, to support you in this practice, but nothing beats actually getting outside, or by a window, and seeing the moon for yourself. Different phases are visible at different times. I’ll go into this more in another post perhaps.

Also note how you feel at different phases. Are you more outgoing at full moon? Do you dream more when the moon is in a certain phase (or sign, if you’re working with astrology already).

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Step 2
marking the major phases with ritual
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I do this on full and new/ dark moon, and usually also a little something on the quarter moons too. This can be as simple as a ritual bath with salt and candles every dark moon. Or as elaborate as a group meet up for drumming, chanting, trancework and partying on the full moon.

Add these to step 1. Note how your rituals feel. Perhaps try the same ritual on a different phase. How does that change things?

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Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

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Step 3
utilising the cycles in your workings
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If you’re already familiar with spell work then you can tweak things a little to sync your spells with the moon (and if you’re not casting yet, simple spells corresponding with the moon phases is a great place to start).

The general rule is, from new to full ie. the waxing (getting bigger) moon, you cast for things you want to grow bigger. For example, financial abundance, love, promotions at work etc.

Then from full to new ie. the waning (getting smaller) moon, you cast for things you want to get smaller/ go away. For example, illness, weight loss, bad habits, annoying people etc.

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Step 4
experiment and notice
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Try things. See how they feel. Try different things. Does divination work better for you at certain phases? Do you have more energy for spell work at certain phases?

If you have a bleeding cycle, how does your internal moon phase sync, or not, with the external moon phase?

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Step 5
research and review
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Read and learn more about working with the phases. You might like to add working with the astrological signs and houses into your practice. Perhaps a different aspect is calling to you. As with all parts of the craft, continue to learn and grow. How we relate to the moon can wax and wane as we get older too. Stay curious.

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I’ve uploaded a video about how to start working with the cycles over on my YouTube. So if you prefer your info in video form you can find that here. It also includes the resources I like to use and more info I couldn’t fit into this post.

 

ENDNOTE: I know this is a simplistic overview of a HUGE topic. I hope it makes sense and is helpful, but I’m conscious there is so much more to cover. If you have any questions please ask.

What would you like to know about working with the moon? How do you already tune into the moon in your practice?

Wheel of the Year Card Spread

For the last few years now I have offered “Wheel of the Year” readings. I have decided not to do them this year (sorry) mainly because of time constraints. I am committed to quite a few projects at the moment and I am shifting from doing frequent tarot readings to focusing more on teaching tarot – which is a change I am really enjoying.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Chinese Proverb

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So, in the spirit of lifetime feeding, here is the spread I use to do these readings, so that you can do your own.

Wheel of the Year Spread

I hope you find it useful.

Happy New Year!

The Rainbow – A Bridge between Magical and Mundane

“Two bubbles found they had rainbows on their curves.
They flickered out saying:
“It was worth being a bubble, just to have held that rainbow thirty seconds.”
― Carl Sandburg

I said I was going to wrote a post about the significance of rainbows. But somehow it just wasn’t flowing, and there is already so much out there. You already know the wonderful promises which that coloured arch across the sky, appearing, as it does, at times of rain AND sun, holds. (Though, according to Wikipedia, in some rainforest locales, they are seen as a bad omen, probably because of the weather that comes along with them). An emblem of tolerance, a reminder of a child loved and lost too soon – and a child who came afterwards. A message. A promise. A hope.

 

So, I thought instead I would share with you something else. Something you won’t find anywhere else (unless you have a copy of my book). It’s a story I wrote a while ago, when I was very sad and needed to feel better. I hope you like it.

Iris’s Rainbow

One day a woman had a baby girl. That baby girl grew up, and one day she had a baby girl. This girl was called Iris. Iris loved to dance in puddles, sing loudly, and never wanted to go to bed when it was bedtime.

Other people said to Iris’s mama that she had spoiled Iris. “She needs to learn that she cannot always have her own way,” they would tell her sternly.

Iris’s mother said nothing and just smiled. She knew that she had not spoiled Iris and that she can always have her own way. She fed her when she was hungry, cuddled her when she was sad, comforted her when she was cross and told her stories when it was late at night and the other mamas had sent their children to bed. 

Iris loved her mama and grew into a strong and generous woman. She painted, sang and wrote beautiful stories, bringing joy to all around her. And she still liked to dance in puddles. 

One day Iris fell in love. She sang songs to her love and he sang to her. They both loved to curl up beside the fire and share stories. Soon Iris’s belly blossomed and swelled. Her baby, a girl, was born. Iris was so happy. She loved being a mama. Her days were full of sunshine (and, of course, a little rain, and she would dance with her daughter in the puddles). 

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When Iris was forty years old her own mama got ill. Really ill. Iris fed her when she was hungry and cuddled her when they were both sad. They stayed up late at night sharing stories. And then one day Iris’s mama died. 

Iris’s heart was broken. Her mama was her rock, her foundation. Without her in the world she felt like a kite tossed by the breeze, a drifting leaf in a huge lake. She had no anchor. She lost her joy.

Days passed and Iris drifted. She was empty. Her daughter would wind her arms around her neck and try to fill the hole but it was too deep. Weeks passed and Iris still felt hollow. Months passed and Iris’s daughter felt her mama slipping away. 

“Mama, let’s go for a walk, please.” Iris didn’t want to walk but she loved her daughter so they put on their coats. It had been raining that morning, but Iris didn’t dance in the puddles. She didn’t even splash. Her daughter held her hand. 

They walked and walked till they came to the top of a hill. You could see all around and about. Above the next hill they saw a rainbow. 

“What is a rainbow, Mama?” 

“It is a bridge between worlds.” 

“It’s beautiful!”

“Yes,” Iris replied, and then after a pause, “Yes, it is.”

Iris looked hard at the rainbow arching over them, no beginning, no end. Iris saw her mama in the rainbow. She remembered her voice, her smell, the feel of her arms around her. And Iris laughed and cried and laughed and cried and laughed and cried. She was found. 

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Review of “Witch” by Lisa Lister #wakethewitches

 

“I didn’t decide to become a witch. I remembered I was one.”

Witch, Lisa Lister

I’ve been following Lisa’s work for a while now. Her first two books, Code Red and Love Your Lady Landscape are really good reads and I’ve recommended them a number of times to people feeling out of tune with their bodies and menstrual cycles. So I was keen to read Witch.

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The fact that Hay House had picked up the book (and they sought Lisa out) piqued my interest even more. This was kicking things up a notch or ten.  In Lisa’s earlier books she definitely had an embodied, kind of magical/ holistic take on things, but this is the first book where she’s properly come out of the broom closet and declared herself Witch.

“The witch represents the part of each of us that has been censored, ignored, punished and demonised. And it’s a part that wants – no, needs – to be accessed and fully expressed.”

Witch, Lisa Lister

What’s in the Book?

Witch is divided into 13 (of course) chapters.

The first seven cover history, herstory, different witchcraft practices, plus some autobiographical stuff, but the main thrust of this first part of the book is making the case for women (and I’ll get onto how woman is defined by the author later) to remember who they are and take back their power. Lisa wants to #wakethewitches.

The second half of the book goes through the five main goddess archetypes, as Lisa sees them, alongside a kind of witchy 101 of information about practices, spells and correspondences. The final chapter is a rousing call to brooms – The Witch Has Woken!

Overall this structure works, but it does feel like the chapter titles came first and then some of the content was shoe-horned in afterwards.

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The book has sold a LOT of copies, it’s been consistently top of the Amazon charts in pagan/ wicca/ spirituality etc since it’s release) people are buying it in numbers. But if you read the reviews it does seem to be dividing opinion, and I think that’s because it is intended for a very specific audience – and if that’s not you, then you probably won’t like it.

So, who is this book for?

The ideal reader of this book is a natal female, still in her bleeding years, who has an interest in witchcraft, but not a great deal of knowledge or experience. Even better if she’s at a place in her life where she’s had enough of patriarchal bullshit and is ready to step fully into her power and start taking steps to fully realise her life as she wants to live it. If this is you, you will likely LOVE this book.

Who is it not for?

*If you are following a specific pagan or witch path then you probably won’t jive with the pick and mix approach taken here. It’s more suited to an eclectic, and solitary, style of practice.

*If you’re easily offended by crass language and swearing (why are you reading books on witchcraft?) you’ll probably struggle to see past the language used here.

*If you are a woman who does not have usual female biology and/or monthly bleeds (or if those years are behind you now) then you may not enjoy some of the ideas and language in this book as it is very much an embodied practice Lisa describes here. This has led the book to be criticised for it’s narrow definition of woman – and I’ve seen Lisa being called a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) by some. I’m not totally sure how I feel about this. As an intersectional feminist I do feel very strongly that all marginalised groups need recognition and support to eradicate discrimination. But does that automatically mean that every writer need to address every person’s experience in their work? Some will say, yes of course, but I don’t think so (or even believe that it is possible to do this). I am aware that could lead to me also being “called-out” as a TERF, so be it. In Witch, Lisa is addressing a history and a present which keeps women in a position lesser than men, and she’s calling time’s up on that. I feel that is a positive message.

Summary

Overall the book is a quick and interesting read, which some have found to be incredibly inspiring and powerful, but is not for everyone.

If you connect with the ideal reader definition above you’ll likely get a lot out of it, and even if you’ve been a practising witch for a long time you may still connect with the message and some of the practices shared here. I enjoyed it, and I’ve been walking a witchy path for almost three decades now.

There were a few things that niggled me in the book (some of which I wonder may have been due to a little but of push/ pull between Lisa and Hay House) that I won’t go into here. But I’ve also made a video review of the book where I talk about this in more detail.

Have you read Witch? Let me know in the comments. 

 

 

A Simple but Effective Blue Moon Ritual

In January 2018 we have a blue moon in the sign of Leo AND a total lunar eclipse. Have you heard? You probably have. It’s all over the Internet. But what does this mean? Here is a practical guide for real people making real magic.

What is the significance of a blue moon?  

A blue moon is when we have two full moons in one month, which is fairly rare.  All full moons are special, it is a time when energies are heightened and our sensitivity to our surroundings is at its peak. At a full moon our bodies absorb everything we put in or on them more fully than at any other time so we need to take care that those things are good for us. On a blue moon this normal monthly heightening is magnified further. Even those who don’t usually feel anything around full moons tend to get a bit weird, perhaps headaches or bursts of energy. Those who are tuned in (you) can use their awareness by creating a simple ritual to supercharge the energy of this time and to clear out some old shadowy crap that has been hanging around for way too long. Sound good?

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Photo by Tyler van der Hoeven via Unsplash

What is the significance of a lunar eclipse?

A lunar eclipse happens when the sun, moon and Earth are aligned with each other, with the Earth in the middle. So it is the shadow of the Earth (or umbra if we’re getting fancy) that is blocking the sun’s light from reaching the moon. In ancient times eclipses were seen as somewhat dangerous and scary and the general recommendation was not to start anything new, or to make plans while the moon was eclipsed (unlike at dark/ new moon time, which is excellent for dreaming up new things).

What is the significance of Moon in Leo?

Moon in Leo, the sign of the sun, calls us to shake loose a bit, have some fun. Though, with the eclipse thrown into the mix, things may feel a tad more serious. Rather than looking for a good time in the external world, it’s a time to look for what is good within. Finding what shines brightly inside us, and also what is in darkness. Confronting darkness (yes, that means shadow work, sorry, not sorry) and letting go of things that are no longer needed, and are holding us back.

What does this all mean in practical real-life terms?

So, the nuts and bolts. What to do to make use of this info.

Firstly, this is a great time for journaling of all kinds. Delve into your heart and find what is lurking in the shadows there. Now is the time to bring it to light (only for your eyes, you don’t have to tell anyone else unless you want to) and heal it.

I am planning on going through my old journals at this time and physically removing pages which hold hurts and collage them into new art. I find this recycling of my heart into art is so powerful. For some people guided visualisations are really useful, to find what we are still wounded by. If you’re into astrology look at where Chiron is in your natal chart, that will give you a clue to the wound that keeps on giving.

Whichever method works for you, find your own way to uncover what is lurking in the shadows and drag it, kicking and screaming (possibly literally), into the light.

Blue Moon Ritual

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Blue Moon Cleansing Ritual

Here is a super simple ritual, which is also amazingly powerful at all full moons, but pure magic now.

Preparation

You may want to physically cleanse yourself beforehand, however you prefer to do that. A simple bath or shower works fine. A special bath or shower makes it more special.

Gather the things you need: candle (white is best, a tea light in a jar works well, especially if you’re outside as it doesn’t blow out); paper; pen (fountain with dragon’s blood ink or biro/ pencil); black thread (regular cotton is fine); matches/ lighter, any of the optional extras you are using (see optional extras below).

Choose where you will do this, indoor or outdoor. I prefer to do this outside but it works well indoors too. Just make sure you’ve got a nearby window that you can open as it will get smoky, and perhaps put something down to catch any debris. Outside, you will need to be able to see well enough to write on some paper (without it blowing away) and without freaking out your housemates or neighbours.

Centring/ Creating your space

Once you have everything you need and you are happy in your chosen place spend a few moments tuning in to your breath. Let go of anything that may be bothering you so that you can focus on your ritual. It can be helpful to say “I am Jessica, I am present” (obviously inserting your own name instead of Jessica, or that would be weird).

Light your candle. Take a moment to look into the flame as it flickers.

If you work with spirits or deities then now would be the time to invite them in. If you don’t then don’t. Similarly with the elements/ directions.

Working Part

Take your paper and free write onto it anything that is troubling you. Pour out your heart. You don’t need to worry about spelling, grammar, legibility even. Just put it down. The paper can hold it all. If you need more sheets use more.

Roll up the paper you have written on like a very tight scroll. If you are using herbs pop them in the centre of your scroll before you roll it. Use the black thread to wind it around and keep it tight.

Get under the light of the moon (or darkness, if the eclipse is visible in your area). Easy if you’re outside, but poking a face, or arm out of your window also works.

Take three more deep breaths and consciously feel each time you are breathing out that you are letting go of these things which no longer serve you.

Set the paper alight. Watch it burn (it can sometimes take a little while to get going so take a few matches or a lighter). I like to gently blow to keep the smoke going. If you blow into the lit end the smoke pushes out through the other too which always pleases me for some odd reason. Try it.

While it burns you may like to visualise something which helps with releasing, like darkness flowing out of you and back into the earth, or millions of little insects flying away. You may like to say some words, wither pre-prepared or ad lib. Move, dance, sing, play music, drum, chant. Whatever feels good.

If your bundle stops burning just light it again. Try to burn it until it is all gone. (Any bits and pieces that are left can be put outside on bare soil, or gifted to a house plant).

Closing

If you invited any spirits/ deities/ ancestors then say goodbye to them now.

You may want to add some closing words of your own here. Or just a simple thank you to the moon, sun and Earth is perfect.

Ideally let your candle burn all the way down while you settle into what has been done. If that’s not practical snuff the candle. Clear any debris.

Optional extras

You can add an extra sensory dimension to this ritual by adding some dry herbs into the rolled paper. Bay leaves work really well. Sage or mugwort would also be good choices.

You could sing or play music

Move or dance

Say some special words, either pre-prepared or ad lib

Wear special clothes and jewellery

Journal about your experience. It can be helpful to keep this going on a daily basis until, at least, the next new moon.

Or you can just do the basics: write (to discover) and burn (to clear).

That doesn’t sound too hard does it? Reading about it won’t have the same affect though (I know, it’s a shame right?). Doing it is where the magic is. And it works, powerfully, even if you think it’s a bit silly, things start moving in new exciting ways. Try it.  Let me know how it goes.

I’ve Joined the Vlogosphere

Hi all, just a quick one to let you know I’ve started vlogging. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now (about a year!), and a couple of weeks ago I dived in and started posting videos. Just testing the water at the moment but aiming to do a video a week in 2018. Feedback greatly appreciated – but please be kind.

Here’s the link to my channel

 

 

 

My Story

A woman sits in a high-back chair carefully stitching a small patchwork quilt.  Her hands cradle the fabric. It is not a usual or easy task for her but she perserveres. Each day adding a few patches more.  As the quilt grows so does her belly.  The baby inside is nearly ready to be born.

patchworkmamaStitching the quilt helps the woman to stay calm and centred while she waits, impatiently.  A lens to focus her love.

Wednesday. Thursday. Friday.

By Friday night the quilt is finished.

“There”, says the woman, “it is done.  Now she must come”.

And sure enough that night the surges begin.

By Saturday the woman was exhausted but the baby remained inside.  Her body started to slip away into the gloved hands of those around her.  Her mind numbed.

Her labour stretched on and on under the dark Taurus moon.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon a beautiful baby girl with shining copper hair was pulled from her womb with a metal tong.  The woman was relieved it was over.

The baby girl, Sunday’s child, was bright and loud.  Her curly copper hair marked her apart – no need of a ribbon on her cot.  There was no mistaking her.

A week later the woman took her baby home.  The patchwork quilt warmed her as she slept.

******

As the girl grew her light and passion shone like her hair and she was beautiful.  The girl loved to sing, to dance, to paint and draw.  She saw colours everywhere around her.  Colours of real things and those special aura colours which they tell us not to see.

When she was older she learned to write, which she did every day.  And she always loved stories.  They were her food and she savoured them.

The girl with the copper hair wanted very much to be good.  To be loved.  She saw that many things she felt and did brought light to those around her so she did those things more.  She saw that some of what she felt and did and knew and saw was not wanted and caused pain and fear to those around her.  Those things she took and stuffed into the shadow bag which lay always at her feet.  Hiding them in the dark.

Into the bag went her power, taking part of her passion with it.  Into the bag went her ambition, her ability to set boundaries, to say no.  Into the bag went her deep connection with the other worlds, taking as well her empathy. As she grew so did the shadow bag.  It was almost as if she didn’t notice she was dragging it around with her always.  By the time she was a woman the bag was full.

******

20160526-_DSC7763The girl, now woman, knew she had gifts to share.  Gifts of healing, of intuition, of wisdom, creativity, and love.  She began her work healing, inspiring and teaching others.  And it was good.

But without her power people could take things from her.  And they did.

Without her fierceness people could hurt her.  So they did.

Without her wild romanticism she could make decisions with her head but not her heart.  She could appear rational.  But she could not feel she was loved.

The girl was happy as she knew she was blessed and cared for but always there was the shadow bag with her.  Reminding that she was only loved partly, loved for her light.  Those things were there lurking in the darkness.

******

One day the girl had a child of her own.  The birthing was unlike her own.  It was gentle.  Healing.

Through the birthing journey the girl with the copper hair travelled within to find her baby’s soul and bring it into our world.  On this journey she encountered some of those things which she had hidden in the shadow bag.  Her determination.  Her deep wellpool of love.

With the baby came these things, back out of the bag.  Into the open.  They helped her with her mother journey.  And she began to see that some of the other contents of the bag was good too.

Becoming mother was powerful.  Her energy was flung outward.  Exploding.  She reached out to the world.  Learning. Connecting.  Growing.

Her life, which before then consisted of separate unconnected parts, became sewn together.  Or at least that is how it seemed. In reality it was always connected, her patchwork life quilt, but it was by becoming mother that she saw her full self.  The girl realised that throughout her life she had been working on “patches”.  Through her work as teacher, writer, healer, doula, mentor, she was creating beautiful individual patches.  Through her connections of daughter, grand-daughter, sister, lover, wife, friend and now mother, she sewed those patches together.

The patchwork quilt of love, made by her own mother, was now resting on her own daughter’s cot, but not on the baby.  She slept on her mama’s chest.

A few years past and the girl had another baby.  This time a boy.

Again an explosion.  But this time, like a star collapsing, the energy rushed inwards. It was time to look within.  To reassess the family rhythm.  To find consistency in her writing and creativity.  To create peace and deep connection. To make real, practical magic

The girl knew it was time to start rummaging again in the shadow bag.  It was time to bring those hidden parts to light.  All of them.

Is Zootropolis (or Zootopia if you’re in the US) a feminist movie?

So, last week I took my two year-old and six year-old to see Zootropolis – or Zootopia if you’re in the US.

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We had watched the movie trailer and the film looked good. (Ok, so if you’re on the ball you’ll have spotted that the film is no longer in cinemas so I’m a little behind the times – I started this post in April and then didn’t finish it, because, you know, I write books and, as I already mentioned I have two kids, I’m busy, hope you’ll stick with me, better late than never).

 

ODEON says…
In the city of ‘Zootropolis’, all animals live together peacefully – predator and prey. In this world where humans never existed, the first rabbit police officer must prove her worth.

New to the city and to the job, Judy Hopps is as bouncy and enthusiastic as you’d expect. But her colleagues don’t take her seriously, and she’s assigned to parking duty. When Nick, a fast-talking fox, is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, he and Judy go on the run to uncover a conspiracy.

The film has grossed $697 million as of March 27, 2015, placing it as the third highest-grossing film by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Wow! And I’d read a lot of articles cheering it on for its portrayal of diversity and the issues with modern western society in a format which makes it accessible to talk about with young children. Made by the same people who did Big Hero 6 and Wreck it Ralph. I’ll be honest, I was expecting great things.

SPOILER ALERT: In order to discuss whether, or not, Zootropolis is a feminist movie I have had to give away certain aspects of the plot. Please only read on unless you don’t mind knowing in advance about what happens. Cheers.

At first it seems straightforward. The main character, rabbit Judy Hopps, wants to be a police officer. Various other characters, including her mum and dad (also rabbits, is that stating the obvious? Perhaps not, in the context of this weird anthropomorphic mash-up) try to dissuade her but she’s determined, so she beats the odds, graduates from the rigorous training academy and gets her post in the Zootropolis Police Department (ZPD). So far so cliché.

But when you delve into why Judy can’t be a police officer things get complicated.

imagesThe only answer given explicitly is because she’s a rabbit (or dumb bunny, a phrase which appears throughout the film) and they have never been police officers before. Apparently it is her species, her size and strength, which is the issue. Her gender is not mentioned. And yet, she’s a female rabbit, surely that’s no accident?

Apparently Judy wasn’t the original star of the show.

The initial pitch revolved around Nick Wilde, the fox character, but the writers needed someone who wasn’t disillusioned with “Zootopia” so they could show up the problems with the system, so Judy’s character was born and people loved her. BuzzFeed bill her as “the hero your daughter has been waiting for“. And this happy addition was welcomed as a way to break old tropes:

“Audience expectations point towards female characters needing a love interest, and that is not the case,” the movie’s co-writer Phil Johnston told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “The more sophisticated we get as storytellers and stray from that old formula that is so tired, the more exciting films are going to get and the more interesting female characters we’ll see in movies.”

Except that, by the end Judy fully admits to being just a “dumb bunny” who needs male help, and finds her love interest in the original lead, Nick Wilde the fox. Hmmm.

Judy’s story is one we know well. The way to “make it” if you’re female (and it suggests inevitably prey) is to be better – much better – than your male counterparts and then pay your dues to the system until you finally get some reward and recognition. It’s exhausting and only the outliers will make it. Judy Hopps is an outlier. A female prey in a system which favour males. She makes it but the system remains unchanged.

Contrast this with Assistant Mayor Bellwether’s story arc.

The mayor, a lion, is obviously condescending to Bellwether. She’s there to make the stats look good (they want to encourage more prey animals into positions of power, sound familiar?) and he treats her “like a glorified secretary”. She has no power, no agency. It’s a sham. Yet, seemingly mild and timid, Bellwether is revealed in the climax of the film to be the villain. You almost don’t see it coming. Who would suspect, a female, a prey animal – a freaking sheep! In the fashion of best endings it’s both surprising and inevitable that she is the villain behind it all. Here is someone so disillusioned by the system that she is prepared to risk people’s lives to bring it down. Ok, this is not good human (or anthropomorphized sheep) behaviour and yet this is the only action in the film which actually challenges the broken system.

images-2By the end of the film Bellwether is incarcerated and, flanked by male guards, forced to watch Gazelle singing the film’s theme song “Try Everything”. Obviously try everything only refers to accepted actions within the patriarchal set-up, not actually anything which might question the system itself. (Contrast this with the male Lion Mayor who was discredited at first when it turned out he had done some dodgy stuff but is reinstated by the end as he did “the wrong things for the right reasons”. Can’t get much more conclusive and damning than that.)

The saddest thing of all is I think the writers may well have thought they were writing a truly empowering story here. There are many references to prejudice and it does open the door to having conversations about how “the system” operates. This seems to have been the conscious aim of the movie:

‘Zootropolis’ imagines a world where animals took over in our absence. Turns out it’s not so different after all!

And this is exactly the problem. It’s not different.

The female chapters are still treated as less than, than males. The waters are muddied with the whole predator/ prey binary that is set up, but when we dig a bit deeper it’s clear that this film might well be about reflecting the problems apparent in our western society but it certainly isn’t challenging these issues, rather it reinforces the status quo. Judy and Nick are great characters, and there are many clever and thought-provoking ideas about how we make judgements based on preconceptions. But the resolution of the film shows that real change, whether from a gender or racial equality perspective, is still considered impossible. And underlying it all is the uncomfortable theme that in order for society to function our true natures must be in some respect dampened and hidden.

This article makes a good point, that the folks at Disney have bitten off way too much metaphor than they can chew here. But whatever you think is being challenged here (and lots of critics and bloggers alike have praised this movie for challenging prejudices) the fact remains that by the end there is no change. Status quo is preserved. Whether you’re female, or black, you’re still in the same position of non power with no hope of movement. In that way it is one of the most frightening of the Disney movies I’ve watched. At least with the others the sexism, racism and prejudice are right out there for everyone to see. This movie is all undercover. Terrifying.

And I’m sure some people will say it’s “just” a kids movie, don’t get your knickers in a twist, why does it matter anyway?

It matters because the stories we share are important. It’s the way we understand ourselves and the world.

Stories like this one which reinforce the stars quo while seemingly challenging it are the most dangerous in my opinion. They both offer hope and snuff out possibility in an hour or so of very well done animation.

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What do you think?

Still not sure and want more? Here’s a round-up of some of the blogs I found on Zooptopia and feminism…

This blog sees it as a critique on white feminists not being intersectional enough “So, yes. This is a movie about white feminism and the need for intersectionality. I mean, yes, it’s also a movie about racism, but it’s a movie about how even the most well-intentioned people who believe they’re overcoming the greatest obstacles of discrimination in their world can completely miss how their privilege gives them a leg up.”

This is what Mode came up with for a Zootropolis feminist search http://www.mode.com/stories/is-zootopia-the-best-feminist-animated-film-ever/12455932

Or if you want the mens rights perspective (you might enjoy this if you didn’t like mine, though essentially we agree that the film isn’t feminist – the MRA like it) https://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/49ghdg/why_zootopia_might_just_be_the_opposite_of_sjw/

And last, and probably least, a weird MRM (mens rights movement) fan fiction story on Judy forgiving Bellwether when she visits her in prison (warning, this contains a dodgy furry sex scene, I only found out furries was a thing today, sheltered life I know) https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11864721/1/Zootopia-Breaking-Bellwether 

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What can a live rock concert teach us about storytelling? Pearl Jam Let’s Play Two: Live at Wrigley Field

Last night I went to the cinema to see Pearl Jam “Let’s Play Two: Live at Wrigley Field“. I went in expecting to see a live Pearl Jam concert. I came out with so much more.

The film weaves together the stories of the baseball team Chicago Cubs, Pearl Jam as a band, the personal story of lead singer Eddie Vedder’s relationship with the Cubs, and individual stories of both Cubs fans and Pearl Jam fans. The way it is knitted together is intricate, using old and new footage of Cubs games, plus Eddie Vedder and the band in the 90s, juxtaposed with the live concerts that took place in 2016. The director, Danny Clinch, and the team who worked on this totally nailed the story arc.

Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series

Photo via Time.com

I did not know (or care) anything about the Chicago Cubs before I saw this film, but, as with all great storytelling, it makes you care. It shows the Cubs progress from a club that has not won anything for over a century, through the qualifying stages (not sure what they call it) and into the world series. And, despite the apparent complexity, it follows a classic five act structure:

  • The opening sets us up with the history of the club and Eddie’s personal relationship with it. He used to go to the games as a child. (Act 1)
  • The club make some bold changes and start winning games more than they have for a (very) long time in its history. (Act 2)
  • The stakes are high and things get tough but the Cubs manage to get into the World Series. (It made me laugh that it’s called the World Series, there are no non US teams). (Act 3)
  • The first games of the Word Series go badly and the Cubs find themselves 3:1 down (I’m not sure what this means in baseball terms but it’s bad, and pretty much no teams come back from it). Things look bleak. All is resting on the next game. They need to win or go home. (Act 4)
  • They win (of course) and go on to win the next games and the World Series for the first time in over a hundred years. (Act 5)

Each act is enhanced by the skilful additions of the history of the band, showing some of their early gigs in Chicago, and adding in personal and moving stories of their fans relationship with the band. And of course, the soundtrack is killer.

The theme of this movie is very much about what it means to be, and have, fans; to belong to something bigger than ourselves. It explores what it means to be devoted.

The Cubs fans are not denigrated in the way sports fans very often are, but explained and uplifted. Clinch is also careful to point out that the people in the band are also very much fans themselves. It shows this most explicitly through Eddie Vedder’s obvious devotion to his home town team, but also through Jeff Ament’s more private honouring of those bass players who came before and inspired him. He has their names inscribed along the neck of his guitar.

The connection between fans and spiritual devotion is obvious in the movie, and must be deliberate. The band’s relationship with their fans is depicted as that of priest with congregation (repeated imagery of Eddie Vedder, arms outstretched, is intense and powerful). My husband (who doesn’t always notice these things) commented as we left, that Vedder is a very spiritual man.

image via The San Diego Union Tribune

Throughout, the music is emotional and spiritual. The band are clearly performing a service. Guitarist Mike McCready is moved to tears on stage, and the ground, Wrigley Field, is referred to as “sacred”. A space where people come together, week after week, their hearts full of hope even though they know the odds are not in their favour. And honestly, it really did feel that powerfully spiritual, both during the footage of the shows and of the baseball games. It made me want to go there. To pilgrimage myself. It made me want to act – in the way that all good storytelling does. It changes you. It changes how you see the world, it changes your relationship with the world.

If you haven’t seen it yet I’d totally recommend it. Even if you aren’t fan of the band or of baseball (and there are those who argue that the Cubs victory was not as against the odds and well-deserved as it seemed here) but that does not detract from this lesson in bringing together characters, setting and plot. If you’re a fan of great storytelling you will love it.