Looking for a way to change the world? Start with magical activism. - Upworthy
Rachel Lang, astrology, magic activism, feminism

When the world around you is teeming with oppressive power structures, disconnection and fear, what can you do to make a real difference? As history has shown us, it can be achieved through magical practice.

Rachel Lang is a highly sought-after astrologer, author and scholar of magic. Her Instagram is filled with astrological insights and ritual ideas, and promotions for her new book, "Modern Day Magic: 8 Simple Rules to Realize Your Power and Shape Your Life," published in September. I recently interviewed her to get a better understanding of what "magical activism" really is.First off, let's define magic by stating what it is not.

As Lang put it: "Magic is not witchcraft, or a religion. It's our innate spiritual power, heartfelt passion and creative potential that brings us into a wondrous relationship with all life. Think of that little sparkle you feel when you're like, 'oh my God, I'm in the right place at the right time. I just had deja vu'. We all have that experience. And so we all have magic coursing through us."

When you put it that way, many of us practice magic under a different name. Call it "law of attraction" or "using the force," we all have our little ways of trying to enact change in tangible ways. Whether it's as mainstream as meditation, or as "woo-woo" as drawing a tarot card or spritzing some rose water.



Rather than a religion, magic is "a more body-centric experience that creates a shift in an awakening within ourselves and then compels us into having more compassion, more empathy," she said. "And we start seeing ourselves as a part of the whole, not just as these isolated people out there doing our own thing. And, you know, and I think that that's the gift of magic. … We connect with the planet and we connect with one another in a real way."

Combine that with activism, and you have activating your own innate personal power in an effort to create lasting, positive social change; connecting with something greater than yourself, to affect the greater good.


Take for instance the suffragettes, who incorporated seance rituals of spiritualism to fight for women's rights in the 1800s. Matilda Joslyn Gage, suffrage leader and writer of "Woman, Church and State," even claimed herself as a "witch."

Or in the '60s, when the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (aka W.I.T.C.H.) paraded down the streets of New York with brooms and pointy pants, chanting hexes on Wall Street bankers and campaigning against the sexism of beauty pageants and the Playboy Club. A day later, the stock market reportedly fell 13 points. As if by magic.

WITCH: Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell www.youtube.com

Fast forward to the year following Trump's presidential inauguration, when protestors dressed as witches carried signs reading "Witches Against White Supremacy," "Hex White Supremacy" and "Good Night Alt-Right". There was even a "Spell to Bind Trump and All Those Who Abet Him" posted online. And in 2020, people were coming together to create sigils—magical symbols or drawings—to protect democracy during the Biden and Harris presidential inauguration.


Magic Activism "The Living Democracy Sigil" created in a magic workshop.Patheos.com

"It only makes sense that it rises in popularity in major times of needing to take personal ownership of our expression," said Lang.

Hexes and broomsticks aside, the disenfranchised continue to turn to magic because it's inherently about standing up against what is wrong in our world. As Lang put it, "We are a country that needs healing. We have a history of racism, of sexism, of violence and of spiritual abuse. If we are truly going to change as a society, we need to distance ourselves from that religious rhetoric. And one of the ways we can do that is by reclaiming our magic and reclaiming the word. When we do that, we distance ourselves from the colonial past."

Lang suggested that one way to do this is through community.

"When we gather in groups, we can generate so much more energy together than we can alone. We rally around a shared intention of being a part of something. We get energized. And that's really powerful. I think in many ways, it's going back to indigenous practices," she said.

If the thought of joining a coven sounds a little too intense for you, it might help to know that mysticism has found its way into the digital space. Take a quick glimpse at #witchtok and you'll see there's no shortage of people looking to add a bit of mystical power into their lives. It might not be exactly as our ancestors did, but it's a step in that direction. And as we have seen in the past, when individuals form a group to combine their passions with purpose, big things can happen.

Or, you can start by reclaiming your own magic, aka personal power. That is more than enough to start changing the world. How to start? It might be simpler than you think…

Lang ended our interview by saying, "When we bring spiritual presence to the everyday activities of our lives, like cooking dinner, taking a shower or cleaning our rooms. When we find sacredness in the mundane aspects of life, then we open ourselves to all kinds of possibilities for feeling connected to the world that we live in, to spiritual forces beyond our understanding and to one another. It becomes a way of life and suddenly you feel more passion, you feel more alive and centered. And so you start tapping into that deep well of feelings you might have suppressed. That's the realm where magic lives. I'm a big advocate for everyday rituals to make life feel more magical."

If you're looking for a deeper dive on this topic, or for ideas on how to make your everyday world more magical, I highly suggest reading Lang's book. It might be the only invocation you need to start making a difference.

Hands Globe Earth - Free image on Pixabay



Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

This article originally appeared on August 14, 2016


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015


Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

GIF from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

And continues through adolescence, still through entertainment.

"I'd rather die than stay away from you."

GIF from "Twilight."

And then guess what happens? We're peddled some more of what we're supposedly meant to be aiming for when we're adults.

"I was the one girl he chose from 20 other girls to be with. Now I know I'm special!" — me, mocking probably very sweet people.

GIF from "The Bachelor."

There are so many examples of this, it's difficult to narrow them down. Not to mention all the social cues coming in all stealth-bomber-like to beat one's psyche into submission. Like when single people go to weddings, their family members casually ask them, "When will YOU settle down?" And when a friend goes through a breakup, it's almost instinctive to reassure them that there's someone out there for them.

But what if not everyone is supposed to pair off? What if some people are — wait for it — happier when they're single?

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