‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Perfection delights the soul of the super-orderly person. The perfect relationship, the perfect gift, the perfect time, all these things give the would-be perfect person the belief that everyone and everything should be perfect.
Far too often, perfection precludes love. Without love, nothing remotely perfect survives. With love, the imperfect is either lost from view or is so beautiful in its own way that we see it as beautiful.
Whatever we give of ourselves with love is the perfect gift. It is given at the right time and in the right way — and it is free of attachments, such as owing a return gift, having to be without even the least fault, and allowing others the freedom to be themselves.
Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.
Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet:http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com
Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org
Elder’s Meditation of the Day – January 18
“Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind and spirit.”
–Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa), SANTEE SIOUX
Be still and know. All new learning’s, all ideas about new things, creativity, daydreaming and mental effectiveness come to those who learn about silence. All warriors know about the power of silence. All Elders know about stillness. Be still and know God. Meditation is about the place of silence. This is the place to hear God’s voice. We can find tremendous amounts of knowledge in the place of silence. This is the sacred place of God.
Great Spirit, teach me the power of silence.
January 18 – Daily Feast
Talk to your body, talk to your mind, and give support to your spirit. These are your friends, your life mates, your agility, your harmony, and your joy. Degrade them and they will fail you – not out of revenge but because it is you who keeps the in working order, who supplies them with the strength and well-being they need. Tell your legs and feet and knees how strong and steady they are, and tenderly clean the mind of trash you may have inadvertently thrown there. When something is out of order, call it back into place – and give thanks for the privilege. These are precious things, never talk negatively to them or condemn them – because you will be condemning yourself.
~ The Indian thinks of places and sends his prayers there to win help and blessing. ~
DAKOTA WISEMAN – 1800s
“A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
If you try to make it all better all at once you’ll end up frustrated. But you can make it a little bit better, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more.
If you are fifty pounds overweight you won’t be able to lose all that weight by next week. Yet you can lose a pound or two, and then more the next week, and so on until you’ve reached the goal.
Just because you can’t do it all at once is no reason to be dismayed. In fact it is a good reason to go ahead and do what you do can right now.
Time will dependably pass and you can use every moment of that time to make progress. The incremental progress you make will quickly add up.
An hour from now, you can be one step closer to your goal than you were before. Take that step now, and then be ready to take the next one.
Put time on your side by putting it to use, doing what you can, when you can. Start now, take control of your destiny, and keep going.
© 2016 Ralph S. Marston, Jr.
From The Daily Motivator website at http://greatday.com/motivate/160118.html
Sending Love Ahead to Your Day
Days of Affirmation
Send love to your day ahead and remember to stop and catch the miracles.
Upon waking, many people consider the coming day with trepidation. Because of the natural human tendency to focus on what we fear or dislike, it is easy to unwittingly send a message of unease into the future that negatively impacts the quality of your day. However, while our lives are busy and frequently replete with challenges, they are also rich with joy and experiences worth savoring. We can attract this natural bliss into our lives by starting each day with a message of love. When you send love ahead to your day, that love will manifest itself in your interpersonal interactions, your professional endeavors, and your domestic duties. Tasks and circumstances once made trying by your own anxiety are transformed by your love, and you will find yourself approaching life’s subtle nuances with great affection.
Each morning, when you have cast off the fog of sleep, take several deep, grounding breaths and reaffirm the love you have for yourself. Speaking a loving, self-directed blessing aloud enables you to access and awaken the reservoir of tenderness in your soul. Before you leave the comfortable warmth of your bed, be sure to tell the universe that you are eager and ready to receive the blessings it has set aside for you. Then as you prepare to meet the day, visualize yourself first saturated by and then surrounded with a warm and soft loving light. Gradually widen the circle of this light until you are able to send it ahead into your future. If you are commuting to work, send love to the roads upon which you will drive, your fellow commuters, and your parking space. If you have colleagues who arrive at your workplace before you, send them love. Likewise, a day spent being a parent or addressing household chores can benefit from the sentiment that precedes you. Sending love ahead to everyone you will meet and everything you will do can ensure that your day is suffused with grace.
If you have difficulty sending love to those situations and individuals you deem particularly frustrating, consider that the warmth and tenderness you project can change your life for the better. Each morning, in sending this love, you will exercise your power to control the ambiance of your existence and to color your day with positivity.
Responsibility, Free Will and the Craft
Author: Rhys Chisnall
Responsibility is a byword of Initiatory Craft and as Craft initiates we are expected to be coping adults and be able to take responsibility for our own actions. We don’t believe in the Devil and so can’t pin our own shortcomings at his ‘supernatural’ door; nor indeed do we seek as Vivianne Crowley says in ‘Wicca: the Old Religion in the New Age’, an unrealistic sainthood. Rather we seek to take responsibility for our own world. I was told during my training that ‘Witches happen to life, life does not happen to Witches’. Sure, ‘sh*t happens’, says another much quoted real world centred Craft saying, but we have a responsibility in how we deal with life’s inevitabilities. This article examines whether we can have responsibility.
Responsibility seems to imply free will, after all most people would agree that we need to be free to make choices and decisions about our actions in order to be held responsible for them. It seems intuitively unfair to lay blame and responsibility for a crime if the perpetrator had no choice in committing it. An individual could hardly be blamed for holding up a bank if they had a bomb strapped to them by a criminal who told them that the device would be exploded killing them (and others) if they deviated from the plan. We would not hold them responsible, as they had no choice; they were coerced in to doing what they did. Likewise if a person was brainwashed or hypnotised into committing a crime we would be loath to blame them as we would we feel that they were not responsible. They were forced to do things against how they would have normally acted. The opposite is also true, when someone chooses to do something particularly brave or good, or copes with a debilitating disease with dignity and grace we praise and admire them. We view them as responsible for their actions. When someone chooses to put others needs before their own, again we either praise them or consider them mugs for the responsibility for their choices.
Responsibility need not have a moral aspect as it can also be seen as self-empowering. If we take responsibility for something then it comes into our sphere of control; we can do something about it. If we blame other people or events for our misfortunes we are effectively saying that we are powerless. We are putting ourselves in the role of the victim and that is not something that sits easily with Witchcraft. Looking at responsibility in this sense also seems to imply free will. Responsibility seems to suggest that we need free will to make the choice to take control of our own lives, to influence where life is taking us thus making us powerful individuals. It is in this meaning of responsibility where we find one of the empowerment sources of the Witch and a fundamental cornerstone of Initiatory Craft thinking.
Free will is an important concept in many different religions. For example in Christianity free will is a doctrine and is required for someone to either accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and be saved, or reject them and be damned. It is viewed as a gift from God and without it God would not be able to pass judgment, as sinners would not be responsible for their actions. It is a foundation of Christian belief and causes those Christians interested in philosophy huge headaches. Likewise to believers in the New Age movement and popular Wicca, who adhere to the simplistic morality of Western Karma, free will is an important but self-contradictory concept. Free will is required to make choices on actions which will later go on to influence what happens to that person in terms of fortune or misfortune caused by the accumulation of negative karma from bad acts and positive karma from good ones. I am sure you can see the potential for contradiction.
But does free will exist? This is a subject that metaphysicians have explored over the ages and although there is not a complete consensus (such a thing does not exists on anything in philosophy) , free will seems extremely unlikely. What is more it is extremely unlikely in any possible view of the world. It seems that free will could not exist in a deterministic universe as revealed by scientific method nor even in a ‘possible’ universe were random non caused events could occur.
First let us take the scientific, deterministic paradigm of how the Universe operates. British Post Feminist Philosopher Dr. Janet Radcliffe Richards explored this in her book ‘Human Nature after Darwin’. If we ignore the Quantum world for a moment (where random events do occur and where probability rather than determinism rules) science works on principals of determinism, effects have causes and those causes have other causes all the way back to the Big Bang or Quantum world. This means anything that you choose to do has to have a cause, which itself must have also been caused. As such any action you perform has causes that extend back way before you were even born. There does not seem to be any room for free will as everything was set in motion by the big bang. Your choices are subject to a chain of causes extending back beyond your existence, so how could you be held responsible, how could you choose freely to do anything?
Science makes no assumptions of free will. A recent example is an article on teenage responsibility in the ‘New Scientist’ (25th Sept 2010) . Jessica Hamzelou discusses recent research into the growth and development of the brain in young people with its implications on responsibility. In particular the research looked at development of White Matter in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the area that deals with being able to understand the long term effects of one’s actions. The argument being that as this part of the brain does not fully form until a person reaches the age of about 20 this explains why teenagers often make very poor decisions. Although they know the difference between right and wrong they cannot be held fully accountable for their actions, as they do not yet have a full understanding of their behaviours consequences. Isn’t it funny how biological psychology has reconfirmed the old idea that a person isn’t an adult until they are 21?
This report implies that there is no free will and the causes of behaviour in young people are determined by their biological development. It is not hard to make similar arguments based upon hormones, education, social influences, poor parenting, genetics, influence of peers, environmental factors etc. These in turn are caused by evolutionary pressures, which operated on the person’s gene pool millions of years before they were born. There seems to be no room at all for free will in the massively complex interplay of the huge amount of various layers of causes on an individual’s behaviour. Young people and by extension ourselves have no real choice or free will in what they or they and we do.
But if you think that it is looking bad for the existence of free will in a deterministic universe so far, like they say here in Suffolk, ‘you ain’t seen nothin’; it gets even worse.
Consider the fascinating research done by the American Physiologist Benjamin Libet and others. Libet discovered that when we believe we are making a decision our conscious awareness of our decision-making is a relative latecomer to the game. It turns out that we have already unconsciously/pre-consciously made the decision. We don’t become aware of our decision until a fraction of a moment after we have made it.
Think of it this way: You know the opening titles of the ‘Simpsons’ where baby Maggie thinks that she is steering the car, but the camera pans back and we see that it is Marge who is actually driving? It turns out that our conscious awareness of making decisions is actually like little Maggie, and is reacting to decisions made pre-consciously rather than making them itself. However, we should also remember that the pre-conscious makes our decisions based upon our beliefs, which goes to show just how important beliefs actually are. However, it is important to point out that this research is not without its critics. The American Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist Daniel Dennett is not convinced by the methodology of this research and another philosopher (also a supporter of determinism) Alfred Mele is not convinced by its form. However none of these concerns doubt the difficulties of free will in respect to determinism.
Come to think of it you don’t need to be a physiologist or a cognitive scientist to view other people’s behaviours as having causes. We often interpret people’s actions in everyday life and circumstances as the result of causes. For example, we might say that John was late to work because he was lazy, or that Bill shoplifted because he fell in with bad company after having a deprived childhood. Looking for causes in our own and other people’s behaviour was called Attribution Theory by the social psychologist Harold Kelly. Two parts of which are known as Fundamental Attribution Error and the Actor/Observer effect. In the west, we are culturally determined to explain other people’s behaviour in terms of internal causes, e.g. they are lazy, they are hard working, they are selfish, etc. When it comes to our own behaviour, we tend to explain it in terms of external causes, for example: I was cross because he annoyed me, I lied because she put me in an impossible position or I was late because the traffic was bad. In either case, we intuitively seek to explain behaviour in terms of deterministic causes.
Those who believe strictly that all our actions are determined in a continuous chain of cause and effect and believe there is no such thing as responsibility are called ‘hard determinists’. This is a view similar to those who believe in fate. That everything in life is already determined and we are living a kind of script. The American philosopher Professor Theodore Sider has devised a simple test to find out if hard determinists really do have the courage of their convictions. The test is simple: punch such a person on the nose and see how convinced they are that it wasn’t your responsibility. Tell them that the act had been pre-determined since the big bang. My guess is that they will not be too keen to practise what they preach and accept your reasoning. Mind you there is a way around this as they could claim that your actions caused them to deterministically retaliate in kind.
There does not seem to be much room for free will in a deterministic universe as described by science. Is this a reason for rejecting scientific determinism? Does free will and responsibility do any better in a spiritual world, or a world were random events occur that are not caused?
Both Sider and Radcliffe Richards along with many other philosophers have dealt with this problem and have come up with the same answer. If a random event occurred then surely it can still no longer be free will. To demonstrate this point Professor Ted Sider uses this colourful example in the book ‘Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics’. Imagine the following scene: In a Universe where random uncaused events occur, Mother Teresa is working with the poor of Calcutta. While working away she randomly picks up a hand grenade, pulls out the pin and throws it into an orphanage killing hundreds. The event was completely uncaused and random. The question is was she responsible? Remember that the event was completely uncaused as there was nothing in Mother Teresa’s past, personality or mind that caused it.
Surely as Mother Teresa did not intend or have anything within her that caused the mass murder she can’t be responsible and therefore she was not exercising fee will. Randomness and uncaused events cannot be the product of free will, because and for free will to exist it needs to be caused and causal. Without cause, there can be no free will as in a non-causal universe free will could not cause anything. Random events that happen in the Quantum world also do not save free will, as randomness is uncaused and nothing can take responsibility for randomness. If nothing causes free will, then it does not come from the person so the person cannot be responsible and free will can’t exist.
It seems that free will simply can’t exist either in a random universe or a deterministic one. Besides a random universe is problematic as it just does not accord with our observations of nature beyond the quantum level. As Crafters, we ought to be suspicious of the concept of a world of random non-caused events as this does not fit with the idea that magic can be effective. After all magic, while not clearly understood, seems to works by a variety of mechanisms all of which are deterministic. The Magician or Witch performs the spell that causes, via complicated processes, the desired outcome.
What about free will existing in a universe in which souls and spirits exist? After all, religious people often see the source of their free will as residing in their souls, these being a gift from God to see whom he can trust to let into Heaven. Radcliffe Richards points out that if such was the case then the spirits and souls would still be either existing in a deterministic world where they would be subject to cause and effect (why should spirits be free of determinism?) , or in a random world where there could be no responsibility as nothing is caused. Both are equally problematic for free will and responsibility.
Radcliffe Richards goes on to claim that free will is a necessary nonexistent. By this philosophers mean that there are some things that don’t exist in an ordinary way (weird as that sounds) , for examples fairies, spirits, hobgoblins, nice tasting American beer, etc. These things are not real but they could exist in metaphorical ‘other world’. Some other things just cannot exist in any world, they are just too contradictory, and these are necessary non-existent. For example, things like four-sided triangles, round squares, two plus two equal five and so it seems, free will. In other words, there is just no such thing as free will as it is assumed to exist in normal discourse; it is completely impossible for it to exist in any possible world.
So is Craft philosophy with its emphasis on personal responsibility completely scuppered? Perhaps there is a third option that we could explore.
There is a branch of the freewill/determinism metaphysical debate that could come to our rescue. It has a revised concept of free will, which is still part of the deterministic world in which we live; in fact it is compatible with it. This is a view that is held by most modern philosophers and is called, funny enough, compatiblism or ‘soft determinism’. The Stoics championed it in ancient times and more recently several major philosophers of the Enlightenment, including the famous 18th Century Scottish philosopher David Hume, supported it.
Although a hugely complex web of events that extends back beyond our existence causes everything we believe or know or do, soft determinists believe that we have ‘free will’ when we act without external coercion from another agent according to how these causes have made us. By ‘coercion by another agent’ we mean being forced into doing something such as being brainwashed or hypnotised, etc. Essentially this is what the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer meant when he famously said, “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”. So although who we are is determined through cause and effect, soft determinists see us as acting freely when our actions are consistent with that tapestry. In Initiatory Craft we call this massively complex pattern Wyrd.
To be fair it isn’t the traditional free will of common discourse, but it is the situated agency of humanistic psychology. It is when we act in accord with how we have been determined to be, in accordance with our personalities, beliefs and character within the constraints of our situations and context.
Soft determinists claim that we are the product of hugely complex causal forces. These include evolutionary forces, physiology and biology, our culture, education, experiences and the beliefs that they form. It can be successfully argued that part of this rich tapestry of causal personhood is responsibility. In other words, the concept of responsibility, a belief in taking responsibility and being responsible for our actions is a causal part of our makeup. The idea of responsibility, all things being equal with other causal factors, makes us take responsibility. However this only holds true if we have been exposed to the concept and have the kind of character and experiences that causes us to take these beliefs on board which in turn enables us towards self-empowerment. In other words we have been caused to take responsibility, which makes good education in my view extremely important.
Taking responsibility will influence our decision-making processes as much as anything else, making it part of the soft deterministic world view. It makes us act as we are determined to be, having situated agency or what the soft determinists refer to as liberty. It is taking responsibility for the unfolding process of Wyrd through self-knowledge that is relevant to the Craft view of what a Witch is. It empowers us in shaping our lives in accord with the deterministic forces that have in turn have shaped us. If we have been determined to accept this responsibility then we can do nothing else, it is our Wyrd. Responsibility gives us a degree of agency.
In the end, despite there being no such thing as free will in any possible universe, there is still an important role for responsibility as it is viewed in the Craft. Taking responsibility, which is so important to the Initiatory Craft and to self-empowerment in general, is part of the vastly complex tapestry of causal forces that include concepts and beliefs that goes into making a person. Therefore the Initiatory Craft view of taking personal responsibility stands up to the philosophical scrutiny and refutation of free will.
The Nature of Good and Evil?
Good and Evil are concepts that are used by certain established religions to enforce their way of thinking. Remember that, according to some of those religions, we are Evil simply by virtue of not being part of their faith. How, then, can any Pagan hold on to these concepts while seeking to explore his or her own faith?
Let me just say that what I seek to discuss here is Good and Evil, not good and evil. The difference is quite great, as a perfectly ordinary human being can commit an evil act or a good act without necessarily recognizing any fault. Evil and good are a matter of perspective. But Evil and Good, with the capital letters, are grandiose abstracts.
One of the first things that I learned when I became a pagan was that Good and Evil do not exist as the great abstract powers that I was always taught about in church, nature (in paganism) being a matter of balance rather than opposition. Recently, however, I have heard individuals of the Pagan persuasion talking about Evil entities in exactly the same way Christians would describe devils and demons. It has made me wonder, not whether Good and Evil truly exist, but whether any of us can really escape the heavy-handed religious teachings of our childhood.
There is a reason why I say that Good and Evil do not exist. It’s quite simple, really: Have you ever seen an Evil animal? An Evil stone or tree? No, because in nature there is only motivation and action. Balance is maintained because it is the way things work. Humans have been led to believe that because we are cognizant, we are better than animals. This is the source of the idea of Good and Evil; our ability to think about our actions beyond the instinctive level is taken to mean we have greater control over ourselves, which is true to a certain extent.
Being capable of thinking about our actions should mean that we are able to accept the consequences of our actions and not blame an abstract concept of Evil or Good. It is easier to excuse an ill thought or downright malicious action by saying ‘The Devil made me do it’ than to admit that you are at fault. It is easier to say ‘He’s just plain Evil’ than to realize that society is failing a lot of people and allowing psychologically disturbed individuals to go unnoticed (In these cases, perhaps the nature of Evil is apathy and complacency, of which we may all be guilty.)
When I hear intelligent Pagans talking about Evil or Good entities, I have to ask myself if there is not some misunderstanding. All the spirits and energy entities with which we work have their own motivations (which they are very unlikely to disclose). There are malign beings who will use the unwary to suit their own goals, but that makes them no more Evil then any human being seeking to use another to meet their ambitions. People do morally abhorrent, stupid, ignorant and pointless things every day, but they are not necessarily labeled as Evil: just human. Why should spirits be any different simply because they are incorporeal?
I don’t claim that spirits are the same as living humans, but they exist when we are not calling upon them, and so must have their own reasons for doing things. Perhaps if we understood their drives and aims a little better, we would be more selective as to how, when and who we called upon to aid us in our workings or we might find that we could allow ourselves more freedom in our communications with Otherworld inhabitants.
So, what of the nature of Good and Evil? As Pagans we should not use these terms, but rather acknowledge that intent, motive and action are all part of free will and that by choosing to act in a particular fashion, we also choose to accept the consequences for what we do, be that physical or metaphysical.
By proclaiming ourselves to be Pagans, we have rejected the established religions that preach of Good and Evil, telling their followers of what glory or damnation await in the next life and that the absolution of all acts in this life that can be achieved through their chosen devotions. There are reasons for these established faiths to maintain their belief in Good and Evil, but I cannot think of one that is positive. These concepts are used as a ruler with which to rap the knuckles of unruly followers, rather then expecting the faithful to learn through discussion and explanation. Good and Evil are the religious equivalent of ‘It just is’ giving no further reasoning and offering the believer no leeway in which to make up his or her own mind.
I know as I write this there will be a number of you who are thinking about Hitler/Stalin/Mussolini, etc. Even theyweren’t Evil and by thinking that they were, we give more power and importance to such individuals than they deserve. Most of history’s monsters are misrepresented by the documentation, or they were so mentally disturbed that it is a wonder that they could function on a day-to-day basis at all. Yes, their actions were evil, but in most cases they had delusions that it was for the greater good of their people or nation. Only later were they consumed by their own addiction to power.
Paganism is meant to be as much about thinking for ourselves in all aspects of life as it is about worshipping the Gods of our ancestors. When a Pagan uses Good and Evil, he or she brings into his/her thinking something that belongs to book religions that seek followers who do as they are told, rather than thinking believers willing to argue and change what they think. When you are researching and studying, remember that when a writer uses the words Good or Evil, you need to look beyond and find more information from different sources and perspectives because that source is not providing you with enough information.
The Importance of Daily Magical Practice
Author: Taylor Ellwood
One attitude that I find to be odd in some magical practitioners is the attitude that you don’t need to do a daily practice of magic. It seems that instead you just cast your spell and sigil whenever you really need it and the rest of the time magic is put to the wayside until needed again. This approach has always puzzled me, mainly because it treats magic as a tool, much like a shovel. I’ll grant that you don’t need to use a shovel everyday of your life (unless you work at a job where it’s an essential tool). Also a shovel is used for a specific set of jobs and won’t fit every circumstance in your life.
Perhaps that’s the case with magic as well. Perhaps for some people it really is just a tool and only applies to when they need it. The rest of the time magic goes into the shed, until it’s needed again. But I think such an approach ignores some realities of magic that sometimes are glossed over in favor of obtaining results first and asking questions later. Some of these realities are practical, while others fit into the spiritual aspect of magic, but all of these realities are important and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The first reality involves the practical application of magic, not just to a situation, but also to life. Magic is a process, not a result. Even the results that are obtained in magic end up feeding into the process of magic. You get a result for situation and that situation is resolved, but what about the impact of that magic on your life, on the relationships you have with other people, events, your environment, or your job?
These factors and many others are impacted every time magic is done, even if that impact isn’t overt. And the result of that impact is that inevitably magic draws you back into the process because some other situation needs to be addressed or explained or mediated or dealt with and magic can provide an answer.
The second reality is a spiritual reality. For many people magic is a form of spirituality, a way of meaningfully connecting with each other and also with forces large and small, seen and unseen. Such an interaction isn’t one that can just be discarded when you don’t need it.
I was recently reminded of this when I did a ritual to help me locate work in Portland. The spirits informed me they’d be happy to help me out, but that they also felt really neglected, because I hadn’t done any of the usual rituals I’d usually do with them. I prayed each day, but there hadn’t been a major ritual done just for them, with nothing being received on my end, other than the satisfaction of having connected with these beings that I identify as meaningful in my life.
I could easily provide excuses, including my current living arrangements, but the truth is that I had to acknowledge that spiritually I felt a bit devoid lately with my magical practice. Actually doing the ritual to get their help to find a job helped a lot in connecting with them, but it was easy to perceive why they felt used, because that ritual was about a purpose and goal, but it wasn’t a celebration of the bond between us. The spiritual component of my magical workings had been ignored and magic, at least for a short while, had been more of a tool and result and less of a process and spirituality for me. I’d taken the connections I had for granted, even with daily prayer. Fortunately for me this could be rectified with rituals and a willingness to recognize the importance of those spirits in my life.
We all stumble from time to time on the path of our individual spiritualities. In stumbling we are forced to look at where we are going and actually cultivate an awareness of what’s important right now, as opposed to what’s far ahead. That cultivation can take many forms, but one of the most notable ways to manage it is to actually hold yourself to a daily practice of magic.
Now I know some people will say, “But I don’t have the discipline to do that” or “You don’t really need to do a daily practice to make magic work.” Sadly, I must disagree with these statements, for these are the kind of statements that most often engender an approach to magic that is primarily results based and only sees magic as a tool to be put aside when it isn’t needed.
I also believe that just as muscles atrophy without use or exercise, so can a person’s ability and talent to work magic fade if s/he doesn’t maintain a consistent practice. Without regular practice you can’t build your relationship with magic or test the limits of what you can do. And while there’s always the possibility that daily practice leads to a plateau, where nothing new seems to happen, varying your routine, or more importantly just sticking it out and doing the work will inevitably attract change in your life (sometimes much more than you want).
On the other hand, if you do incorporate a daily practice into your life it will allow you to flex those magical muscles. In turn this will increase your ability to handle magic and even allow you to build reserves of energy that you can draw on when you really need them. My daily practice mentally and spiritually refreshes me. I always feel more energized after meditation and other exercises I do.
Make no mistake though, daily practice is work. It involves making time each day to do that work, not just when it’s convenient for you. There are days where I don’t want to wake up at five thirty in the morning to do my daily exercises, but I know when I don’t do those exercises I always feel less centered and focused. The result is found in the work, in my choice to renew my spiritual commitment to magic, myself, and the spirits I work with everyday. The result is the process, and so I’m not obsessed with getting to the end of the journey. There is no end, but the journey itself is a multitude of beginnings and endings, which my daily practice connects me to.
To really appreciate the impact of magic in your life, make the time to incorporate it into your life. Walk with magic everyday in your heat and mind and be open to all of its manifestations. But don’t treat it like a tool to be cast aside when the need is no longer apparent. While you might get the results you want now, you may find at a later time that just when you need something to happen it won’t, because you don’t understand what you’re working with. And that brings me to my final point.
A daily practice allows you to experience magic, and through that experience come to understand the dynamics that inform how magic works. When you understand the dynamics, then you know that what you’re working with isn’t a tool. The dynamic involves living magic and your daily practice is just a tiny fraction what it means to live magic. But living magic will bring you experiences that you might otherwise miss out on.
So open yourself to cultivating a daily practice and from there let that show you how to manifest magic into your life.
The Way We Were vs The Way We Are
Author: Ryan Hatcher
If we are to look back to the inception of modern paganism and the people who were the force behind it and were to observe how they practiced, worshipped and worked magic and compared it to how we practice, worship and work magic in modern times, while there is guaranteed to be a great deal of difference, the basic, core values should have remained the same.
I was in Norwich yesterday, a city with a strong pagan undercurrent of its own, for a brief look around the shops to pass some time while my partner enjoyed a 2-hour birthday massage, because of which my wallet had experienced a mass weight loss. So window-shopping it was. On my journey around the city I ventured into a Waterstones bookshop to have a look at their MBS section and had a skim through some of the material. Now, 90% of these books were paganism 101, which is fair enough for a standard mainstream bookshop, but reading through some of these 101 books — some of them recently published — it got me to reflecting: what is taught and considered western paganism now is much different than what it would have been considered to be 60-70 years ago.
What do I mean by this? Well, much of my personal pagan practice is inspired by these ‘old school’ methods with a touch of the modern for flavor (I’m talking about Doreen Valiente and Kevin Cochrane for the older styles, particularly Valiente; the Farrars (Stewart and Janet) represent an in-between period. Kate West and Christopher Penczack add the modern flare.) as I feel their values and ideas resonate with me. Now, keeping Valiente and Cochrane’s ideals in mind (again, more Valiente than Cochrane) , compare them to a lot of Penczack’s work and the work of similar contemporary styles and you’ll see what I’m trying to get at.
The styles and traditions of Valiente and Cochrane (hereon called the ‘older styles’) focus more on the earth-based worship side of paganism: seeing their Gods as personified manifestations of the forces of Life, Love, Death and Rebirth as well as the forces of nature in all it’s guises (be this as the four elements or simply as the grass in your lawn) . I also feel that animism in a subtler form was still there, if only felt and respected rather than overtly expressed.
The crafting of magic seems to have been simpler, as was the training (which doesn’t mean it was by any means easier than today; I’m inclined to say it was harder) . Metaphysical ideas such as energy centres, auras and layers of existence appear to have been acknowledged but were not the priority. The same for ‘the mysteries’ of the craft such as hypnosis, astral projection/trance journeying and psychism in all its forms. The works of the older styles show that they were an important part of their practice along with magic, but they were not the primary focus. I feel they were considered tools and techniques that developed along with the witch as he or she progressed down the spiritual path and was able to understand themselves and their developing abilities better and learn to control, focus and use them.
In contrast, the works of Penczack and his contemporaries (hereon called the ‘newer styles’) seem to focus more on the metaphysical ideas of paganism (energy centres, auras and layers of existence) , ‘the mysteries’ of the craft and magic as being of primary importance and therefore many chapters are devoted to these concepts. Now, I’m not saying this is strictly a bad thing; it may well suit many a new student to paganism, but when it comes to the core values about the spiritual and worship side of paganism, we start to enter the world of ‘love, light and blessed be’.
The realm of the FB, and those big furry ears seem to be cropping up more frequently in pagan literature. The spirituality of the newer styles appears to see the Old Gods as playmates: happy, fun, smiley and They do anything their precious ‘hidden children’ ask for. And unfortunately kids, you just have to look at the global history of paganism and myths of the world to now that is definitely not true. The honouring of nature and the earth extends as far as litter picking and recycling, which are very, very good ideas, and more is being suggested such as planting new trees, getting involved with wildlife protection trusts etc. Unfortunately, I feel many of the witches of the older styles, though some did get involved in these things, chose not to, possibly considering ritual devotion to be sufficient.
Ritual then is the moot point of both the old and new styles. As we are all aware, spiritual practice is a subjective thing, especially when it comes to ritual. Both new and old styles of witchcraft and paganism have placed varying levels of focus on ritual, and all have varying styles and methods in ritual that meets with their needs and the ideals of their respective traditions. However (there had to be a however) , and this goes for both old and new styles of paganism, whatever happened to just going out there and communing with nature face-to-face? No pomp and ceremony, no matter how elaborate or simple, just getting out there and being in the presence of the forces that we as pagans honour and worship.
I say, if you’re in a situation where celebrating a sabbat or an esbat with formal ritual isn’t an option, but you are within distance of a beautiful woodland, then screw it! Go for a walk in the woodland, sit under a tree and meditate! Commune with the spirits of the natural world around you and feel the power of the Old Gods, the powers of life, love, death and rebirth and pour your heart out in gratitude for all you have and for all that it means to be alive.
Wrapping it up: to me, the older styles and the newer styles and those of the styles in-between all have their good points and their bad points. The older styles are more grounded, simple and earthly. The newer styles are more flighty, ‘new-age’, hippy-esque and spiritual (in the modern concept of the word) . I’m sure you can see we have a Yin-Yang situation. And like the Yin and Yang, symbols of the older and newer styles do have parts of the other within them, but what we need to achieve is a balance between the two.
Paganism is a living and growing spiritual path and naturally changes with time, but it shouldn’t lose its heart. If we can bring together old and new, Yin and Yang, then we might be able to evolve paganism further, making it stronger, more refined and give us a definitive direction for us to aim for.
I hope that this essay will encourage pagans, both old hands and new, to review their beliefs, practices and crafts… to look back at the old, and freely explore the new and therein decide what is the best way forward in their spiritual path.
Witchcraft for Tomorrow – Doreen Valiente
Witchcraft a Tradition Renewed – Evan John Jones with Doreen Valiente
The Witches’ Bible – Janet and Stuart Farrar
The Real Witches’ Handbook – Kate West
Gay Witchcraft – Christopher Penczack
Instant Magick – Christopher Penczack