Monday, June 10, 2013

To Dare: Throwing off the shackles of other peoples limits

The title for this blog post is a bit misleading. It doesn't really take courage to reject other peoples limits or expectations, you just have to do it and accept that there may be consequences you can't foresee. You don't have to prove to anyone that you're "pagan enough", because you set your own limits for who and what you should be.  Back in the days of PI (Pre-Internet), when Llewellyn only had a few books out and everyone was trying to struggle through Drawing Down the Moon, if you were lucky enough to find a teacher of Wicca one of the earliest things you learned was the Witch's Pyramid – To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Be Silent. With a heavy emphasis on being silent about what you were learning, who you were learning it with, and what you were doing.

These days, lots of people have broken their old oaths and broadcast everything on the Internet. Well, almost everything... some of us old-timers still have plenty of secrets we don't make public. Unfortunately, the down side to everything being so public and so accessible is that people are learning everything on their own (not always bad), from potentially questionable sources (bad), without any structure or proper monitoring of their energies while learning new psychic and magical skills (potentially awful). Think of it like a weight lifter without a spotter – if your form is wrong or you're lifting too much weight at once, you can seriously injure yourself.  If you were learning to juggle, a smart person would start with tennis balls.  Some people are trying to learn to juggle with swords, and hurt themselves because they don't have the skills yet.

The really big problem I see with this learning model is the complete and utter lack of self-confidence. A lot of self-taught pagans these days haven't done the deeper Shadow work to throw off the mores and expectations of their previous religion. That, my dear readers, is the part that takes courage. Self-examination, objective analysis of your own motivation and patterns, and finding a way to live free of those old patterns. If you're looking to others for your validation, you're looking in all the wrong places. While it's true that in an initiatory Mystery tradition you have to be initiated by someone to really be a part of it, that's not the only valid path in the meandering forest of paganism. Without having someone around to validate what you're learning by teaching you, it takes more work to validate it internally - but it's totally doable with enough internal objectivity.  However if you haven't thrown off the need for validation or example from someone else, you're doing yourself a disservice, and the gods a fair amount of disrespect.

And here's why. Your connection to Deity is YOURS, not someone else's. Oh, a good teacher can help you find the way to build your own connections to the Elementals and the Gods, but in reality you don't always need us for that. If you ignore your birthright to connect to the Mysteries of the Universe, you're basically throwing the gift in the trash. Everyone has that access themselves, if you look deep inside enough and learn to listen without your ego getting in the way. That's what a good teacher is for – to help you find your own power. My happiest moments of teaching in the past have been when my students have realized that their connection and their way of touching the Divine was different from mine, but correct for them.

You're going to have a more difficult time finding and keeping your connection to the Life around you if you haven't let go of old patterns, though. There are many choices other people make with their spiritual practices that I simply don't agree with, and don't or can't understand. But you know what? My opinion doesn't matter, because that's their path. I just hope they're doing what's truly right for them and fulfilling for them in every way, without being damaging.

So become your own role model. Establish your own parameters for what a “good” pagan is, and then figure out how to live up to it. Routinely (at least once a year) re-examine what you're doing and how happy it's making you, to see if you need to tweak something to be happier and more fulfilling. Don't be shy about asking for opinion, but don't take anything someone else says as gospel. See how you feel about it, internalize what works for you and get rid of the rest. Don't be a sheep, be a nice independent goat.

And don't put other pagans up on a pedestal. They're human, just like you are. Celebrate their wisdom as part of the tribe, but don't pretend they're some Catholic saint, because they're not. Expecting them to be is really unfair. I adore Selena Fox, I celebrate the marvelous hard work she's poured into public paganism and the amazing strides she's made for all of us over the decades. That lady totally found her passion and dared to make it a reality. But she's human. She laughs, she gets sad, and I'm sure once in a while she even has moments where she loses her temper, or farts or something. I would love to meet her, and some of the pagan authors I admire, but only because I think we'd have a great time hanging out, not because I think they're going to poof me into some neo-angelic being with their presence.

Am I making any sense, or have I rambled too much? Feel free to comment or leave questions, I'll do my best to answer. Just remember, I'm not perfect and I don't know everything. Just like you.

Peace out, Witches.


  1. "If you're looking to others for your validation, you're looking in all the wrong places."

    If I agreed any more with this, I would probably snap my own neck with all the nodding. No one: not you, not me, not High Priestess All Knowing Suprema can tell us how to go about getting to were we need to go. A person might offer some guidance, which will be infused with what he or she did to find himself or herself, but in the end it will only be what worked for them.

    The most valuable thing we can teach to anyone is to think and to trust their decisions; and of course, to hope that what they've decided works for the best.

    Life happens, and people will fart every now and then.