Witch In Progress

When I first started this blog it was always my intention that it would be more of a journal than anything, over the years it seems to have strayed away from the initial idea and wandered off down a path of its own making. Nothing wrong in that, however I think its high time to get back to the grass roots journal idea and start writing more about my personal experiences of Witchcraft and I want to start by writing about a few of the most challenging of challenges I face during my day to day life as a Witch, and how I have navigated my way down this most perilous path in 21st century Britain.

Let’s start with People…

There are really two groups of people who are the most challenging for me, and I’m sure many others! The first group are those, who in the nicest possible way, really don’t seem to have a clue about Witchcraft. Witchcraft, specifically traditional, seems to be the latest in a long line of fads within the neo-pagan community, everyone is a ‘Witch’ these days and many seem to have abandoned their Wiccan title without actually abandoning their Wiccan beliefs (as if Wicca and Witchcraft are the same thing!!). Social media is full of people rambling on about allsorts without really doing their homework and for those who have worked hard and dedicated years to their arte this group of people in particular can be the most challenging to encounter and interact with. It’s taken me a long time to accept that decades of misinformation, a society where anything goes and everything is acceptable is not something we can undo overnight and some people just refuse to listen to the views of others. It’s no one’s fault, and I’m not criticising anyone, most people are, sadly, the product of the society they are brought up in. But how do I deal with them? Well, honestly, I don’t…far better to just keep my head down and get on with my own business and leave others to theirs. Don’t get me wrong, my finger has hovered over the account deactivation button on Facebook and Twitter several times.

Then there’s the second group. These people live on the complete flip side to the others. These are smart, intelligent occultists we respect and admire to the point we sometimes can’t help but feel inadequate in comparison. We read their blogs, their posts on tumblr or their books, and it’s so damn hard not to compare ourselves and our own experiences to theirs. I have stumbled into this frenzy of self-doubt so many times, thinking others are better than me, smarter than me, more gifted or talented than me, I’m rubbish, I should just give up and throw in the towel, boo-hoo woe is me etc! Some may attempt to emulate “Oh Witch X has a load of bones and dead stuff, I need to get me a load of bones and dead stuff” thinking that’s the way to go. The result being that we spend so much time trying to mimic the witchcraft of others and we forget to develop our own, we waste time trying to be someone we’re not. When I feel myself falling prey to ‘Witch Envy’ I do two things. Firstly, I remind myself that what we see online is a mere fraction of the person, life…it’s not glamourous, and it’s certainly not witchy and enchanted all the time, we are all just people with very mundane lives as well and I suspect that the reality probably doesn’t always live up to the pedestal we put people on. Then, I go and do something I know I kick arse at. As Witches we have to know our strengths and weaknesses. Find what your good at and do it often, it’s a great confidence boost!

The Cult of Personality…

This is sort of related to the above, but here I’m talking about a very specific group of people…the ‘celebrities’. They are usually folks who have written a few books and probably have an online presence two. They have a group of ‘followers’ and may even have a bit of a ‘guru’ complex about them, they speak in riddles, profess to have a direct link to the universal architects and great power! These people have something the rest of us don’t…or at least that’s how they behave. Those new to the path, often like moths to a flame are drawn to the charisma and apparent status of these individuals. Once you have been around the block a few times you soon realise that some of them are about as wise and powerful as a wooden spoon with about as much substance to boot! There are people out there who simply crave the attention, who will seek out new comers to the path, promising to teach them the ‘secrets’ of Witchcraft and it’s easy for those who don’t know better to seek out these individuals, motivated and misguided by a perfectly innocent desire for knowledge. I was the same, I spent months fawning over people I thought had all the answers, scrambled for every crumb they felt fit to toss in my direction! Humiliating! My Nan always used to say, “Empty vessels make the most noise” and never has this saying been proved more than in the ‘magical# community. I soon realised that no one *needs* a teacher unless perhaps you are looking to join a particular tradition and a genuine teacher would probably never call themselves such! Some of the wisest most influential people I have ever known have been the most humble and the most grounded! Beware the ego and trust your instincts!

We have nothing to fear but fear itself…

Fear has been by far my biggest ‘demon’. I would be lying if I said I never felt fear or wasn’t afraid of anything anymore. Witchcraft, when worked with any real measure of sincerity, can take you to places that aren’t particularly pleasant. Sometimes it promotes experiences and feelings which can be dark and friggin scary, we learn things about ourselves which make us uncomfortable, it brings things into our consciousness we don’t want to face and probably didn’t know existed. Sometimes we call our Master and guess what…He comes…He takes us by the scruff of the neck and drags us to the brink of madness, He forces us to stare into the darkness of our own souls and seldom is it butterflies and rose petals!!! When we read about Witchcraft we often read rituals and historical accounts, the idea of a lone fire lit ritual out in the woods at midnight sure sounds inspiring and romantic, just the sort of thing ‘real witches’ do. What they don’t tell you about is the overwhelming fear, the heart pounding sense of panic, the feeling of ancient eyes upon you, as if at any moment something is going to come out of the shadows and rip you limb from limb…I will tell you this…there is something in the shadows…and it will devour you…so do you run or so do you seek it out? I remember once being stood frozen in fear at a pitch black cross roads shaking to the point I couldn’t stand on my own two feet….it happens and sometimes it gets the better of us. Our Master wears many a guise, but it is us and our perceptions which adorn Him. Fear is a necessary part of our self-preservation instincts but it’s also a necessary catalyst for development and spiritual growth, Truth can be found beyond the gates of fear, once the powers have tested ones mettle. We must approach our fears with perspective and we must strive to understand them. We are animals after all, you think the mouse isn’t afraid of the Owl watching her with eyes unseen? You think that fear stops the mouse from leaving her nest seeking food for her litter? It is natural that we should fear the unknown and natural that we fear Death…but that shouldn’t stop us striving to understand Him. I believe Power is found for the Witch who has everything to give, but nothing left to loose. I haven’t overcome my fears, there is always something more, something lurking deeper inside, for every demon we conquer, there is always something twice as scary and ugly we have to face. As Robert Cochrane said “wisdom comes only to those who deserve it, and your teacher is yourself seen through a mirror darkly”. This is something we all must deal with and something we all must experience if we are to truly understand the Old Ones, it is the path to initiation. I once read somewhere that if Witchcraft don’t scare the shit out of you occasionally, you probably not doing it right…

The Urban Witch…

Above I referenced the image of the lone Witch working midnight rituals in the woods by firelight…well, I live in the South East of England and I say good luck finding somewhere suitably wild in these parts where one can be sufficiently alone to (a) get the work done undisturbed by civilisation and (b) get the work done without fear of being mugged, assaulted or tripping over a used hypodermic syringe!   As I said above, overcoming fear is a big part of the Witch’s journey, however fear of being beaten by a crowd of rowdy teenagers or arrested by ignorant law enforcers is not the sort of fear I mean!! One of the biggest challenges I face regularly is finding a site where I can be alone to work without being seen by either innocent dog walkers or less innocent trouble makers. I was always in a bit of a catch 22 situation, do I work outdoors where I can feel closer to the spirits and the land but always on my guard and less able to let go? Or work indoors where space is confined and I have to work damn hard to get the spirits attention but when I do I can really let rip? Both have their merits. We live in the 21st century and many of us have to deal with the decline or complete non-existence of wild space and privacy…but ya know…working indoors *is* OK!! We don’t need to feel any guilt about working indoors or that our craft is less valid, many Witches of the past worked by the hearth or gathered in barns etc. Despite what people may say ‘out there’ working outdoors isn’t the be all and end all and it takes a long time to build a connection with a place where you can respectfully work. I have a very special place outdoors where I feel completely rooted in the land, and not to sound too cheesy it is my ‘spiritual home’ and a place I feel very fond and protective of, sadly it’s a place owned by the national trust and highlighted on every ordnance survey map, footpath and sign post in the area, I am seldom given the opportunity to be alone there, and I have never worked a ritual there. However, I still visit and spending an hour there, leaving a few offerings, perhaps tidying up after the public occasionally and just ‘being’ is usually enough to keep the lines of communication open and it doesn’t matter if every man and his dog are there at the same time. It’s a complete fallacy that Witches always gathered up on a lone hill under the light of the full moon…great if you can (I shall contain my envy J) but for us in urban Britain, sometimes it’s better to cut your loses! I seem to have found a good place outdoors now although it’s never always free from interruption and I could tell some stories…perhaps another time!

Patience is a virtue…

After fear, impatience has been my second nemesis. For years I wanted it all yesterday, I wanted to master every skill…scrying, spell work, healing, herb lore….you name it I wanted to master it all and understand everything NOW! I have learned the hard way and even now I occasionally feel like time is slipping by and I’ve not accomplished half of what I hoped to! It sounds like a really small thing, to be impatient, but actually being too keen can really hinder progress on the path. In an attempt to learn everything we actually master nothing and we can do a lot of damage to our confidence. My advice would be relax, especially in the early years. Read a lot, get out as much as you can, try different things and if you find something you take a real shine to, devote yourself to it…be the best seer you can be or maybe you find you have an affinity for herbs so spend your time on that. No matter how long we live, or how long we devote ourselves to our craft we can never truly master anything, let alone everything and Witchcraft isn’t something you ‘finish’ doing and over time other innate skills may emerge which you can progress on to. Take it from me as someone who has taken years to ‘get it’, it does happen when we learn to relax and let things happen…you can’t force the river. Equally that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels and expect to wake up one morning suddenly ‘psychic’… everything takes work and practise but approach your practise in a relaxed way, keep expectations minimal, enjoy the path and focus less on the end result and you will be surprised at what you can do!

Time is precious…

Completely related to the above! In the 21st century when we all have jobs, families and what not time is a really precious commodity. This was a harsh lesson for me to learn, and I got a few stern talking’s to I can tell ya!! There is no place for laziness in the craft and there comes a point when we must be honest with ourselves…can we realistically devote time to practise and learn? If not then there may be paths better suited, but ultimately Witchcraft is who we are, it is our lives and by no means a hobby, a past time or something we dabble in. Finding a balance is something I really struggle with. Sometimes life just ticks along nicely and I can really knuckle down and focus on my development, other times all hell breaks loose, I get ill, or life gets insane and it feels like I’m neglecting my craft. The answer for me has been integration. As I said above, Witchcraft is who we are…but what do I mean by that? When we integrate the craft into or daily lives we discover that actually we don’t need extra time… its seamless. From the moment we wake we are practising our craft, when we clean house, make dinner or tend the garden, there are ways to integrate our practise. OK so it’s not going to fast track our development necessarily, but we have to be realistic and kind to ourselves when life gets crazy…do you think God is up there keeping score of rituals performed? We are not Christian, we do not buy our way into heaven, God really doesn’t give a shit how many times we attend ritual. This is what separates us from other faiths…we live in the now and take personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth, if we want to practise Witchcraft, obtain wisdom, understand the greater mysteries, whatever you want to call it, then we can but it’s up to us and it’s our responsibility to get there, God will help but we have to show willing and you get out what you put in. This for me has been a hard lesson to learn, we gotta earn money, we gotta get stuff done in life, but you have to ask yourself, am I genuinely busy or just making excuses because it’s cold out, or raining, or I’m tired after work? Everything does fall into place and I have found that getting a good routine going means that when something happens, illness or catastrophe, then my craft just continues and nothing suffers…like I said….seamless! And let’s not forget…when life hands you lemons, Witchcraft gives us the tools to make Lemonade…what better way to keep your hand in than sorting out magically what you can’t get done otherwise!

A shortage of good info…

The epitome of my frustrations, certainly in the early days! I always felt like I was only getting half the story when I read some books. I found it really challenging to read some authors who seemed to write in riddles, it felt like there was this big library of information out there somewhere I just wasn’t getting access to or simply no longer existed. I was trying to assemble a box of jumbled up puzzle pieces without being given an image of what the finished picture should look like. It felt like an impossible task and I have been lucky in that I have formed friendships with some incredibly knowledgeable people who have helped me beyond thanks. Ultimately the information is there, a lot of what I do know has come from instinct and experience by trial and error. It’s easy for us to get stroppy and throw our toys out of the pram when we aren’t told everything, it took me a long time to understand that Witchcraft, unlike many other paths, isn’t practised that way…we learn though direct encounter with the spirits, the Gods and our inner selves, it’s truly a practise, we read something, try it, modify it, try it again and so on. Over the years we glean a little more, merge somethings, get rid of others entirely and a personal practise begins to develop…again it takes time and patience but after years I realised just how much of the puzzle I had started to assemble. Patience (again!)

Water, Water Everywhere….

As well as time and patience we need to learn how to discern what’s good information and what’s utter crap! I only have to google the word ‘witchcraft’ and I reckon it would take me a month of constant solid reading 24 hours a day to digest every website which pops up. When I first started there were very few websites and even fewer books on old craft, in fact I didn’t know anything other than Wicca existed until I really started looking. Old craft is still very much practised in the shadows, there are precious few good authors out there willing to put their heads above the parapet and share their years of knowledge and experience. We live in a time when anyone can write, say or do anything and call it Witchcraft to the point where the market is on the brink of saturation (says this guy sat here writing…about what he call’s Witchcraft!). It’s only with experience and continual learning that we are eventually able to separate the real gems from the rest of the junk out there. And what’s more frustrating is when you then have to listen to people repeating and regurgitating all the misinformation they have read (to deal with that challenge I refer you to back to the beginning). It’s confusing, you read conflicting information, sometimes the same people seem to contradict themselves and…well…I can’t count how many times I’ve sat on the brink of insanity reading the likes of Robert Cochrane’s letters or trying to understand the Qabbbalah!! I wish I could offer some advice on how to navigate the thicket but sadly there is no substitute for experience and a lot comes down to personal taste. I will however say that nowadays I really value word of mouth recommendations, I think the last five books (at least) have been recommended by someone I respect or written by authors I have experience of reading and know to be good. One of these days I will get round to positing my recommended reading list although I buy very few books on Witchcraft now because all too often they end up being books about something else!!!

So there is a brief guide to my personal ‘demons’, challenges, obstacles and frustrations they are as valid now as they were last year, 5 years ago….We all have them, not everyone’s are the same and some disappear only to be replaced with others. Witchcraft is not a religion, Witchcraft is not about what we do…it’s about who we become, and we are all a work in progress!

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7 Responses to Witch In Progress

  1. wrs16 says:

    Some very true words said above. We need to live witchcraft and it is a craft. Once you set upon the path it takes dedication through practical and theoretical work. We must take in what surrounds us and shape it to our personal needs. The work will take a lifetime and will never be finished as there are always stones to uncover.

  2. Danielle says:

    Such lovely and refreshing words to hear! I find it a rare treat when other magical folk are open and honest with the struggles associated with practicing and growing within our craft. I would say it’s a fair assumption that we all have some of the same or similar experiences, and I value the minds that are willing to share. It’s reassuring on those days when we’re not feeling on top of our game or feel like we should be more and doing more, and it’s inspiration to keep plugging away when we seem to have hit that stubborn brick wall that pops up now and again. Thank you for sharing.

  3. cayers says:

    Wonderful article……and some things I really needed to hear. Thankyou

  4. theenlightenedone23 says:

    Truly excellent article!

  5. Cherie says:

    Thankyou for the refreshingly honest article, well written with much wit and humour, I ever chuckled out loud a couple of times at similar observations, lmany blessings to you and yours from me and mine

  6. thebandwitch says:

    Wonderful..do you have a contact address so I can contact you?

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