Zealous or Thorough…What Kind of a Magickal Person Are You? (Part 1)
Author: Kestryl Angell
When seeking our own personal balance, both as human beings and as practitioners of a variety of magickal paths, it is always wise to ask ourselves several questions about the nature of what we seek to become by their working. For instance, do we wish to be zealous? Passionate almost to the point of losing ourselves entirely in the belief or practice!
Or do we wish to be thorough? Paying all attention in the world to every minutest detail of a rite or practice and being completely bound by its structure, nearly without individual thought or expansion being allowed or accepted.
Do we wish to lean toward revelry or reverence? What are we truly seeking to accomplish by using magick for the task before us? Could the goal be accomplished another way that might not include magickal “pushes” from us or do we need to do the working to illustrate the act of creation for ourselves? Let’s look even a bit more closely at the first of those ever-telling questions above.
For the first, do we wish to be Zealous or Thorough?
We’ve all met our friendly neighborhood Zealot. He’s the one that bashes you over the head with his bible in trying to get you to “share the word of God” or “hear his Testimony!” She’s the one that shoves endless volumes of empirical evidence up your nose to the contrary of what you are trying to share with her in discussions of faith vs. science rather than seeing that, to those that look more closely, science is only the proving of magickal theories that have been called “magick” for so long due to our ignorance that is now being disproved to find so much of what is called “supernatural” is actually just a part of the “natural” we hadn’t seen before.
He is the one that believes only in numbers when it comes to business and not in expanding a “vision” of an overall company outlook. She is the one that staunchly stands on long-disproved “facts of life” as being “correct” because it is all she’s ever been taught and she’s afraid to see anything past her own truncated viewpoint.
He is the one that feverishly swears that “this new product will remove those unwanted pounds in DAYS instead of weeks, months or years, without the need for invasive surgical procedures!” when he knows its really just a vitamin supplement with trace minerals that often help relieve common ailments and inflammations with “miraculous” ease.
They are the Salesmen and women of Hype.
Regardless of whether it is on a magickal path or simply on a path of learning, whether it is about personal moral and ethical belief structures and practices or whether or not science supports or refutes the supernatural as truly “existing” within our sphere of understanding, you will know a zealot by the uncanny fire (see crazy swirls spinning madly in the glistening wideness of their eyes, revealing a depth of passion with little spin on the fullness of what reality might be) in their eyes and their unswerving devotion to their own viewpoint.
You may say to yourself, “but pagans are loving, wonderful, non-judgmental people that would NEVER do to them what others have done against their beliefs after suffering so much difficulty at the hands and beliefs of others!
Oh yes, boys and girls, there ARE most definitely pagan zealots-haven’t you had any visit your local gatherings lately? -Look for some of your wilder nudist types that insist that to wear robes in circle is “sacrilege” or those who staunchly feel “EVERY pagan should stand up in this modern day and age, regardless of personal risk to life, family structure, livelihood, etc. and speak up for the practice of their faith ’til someone acknowledges their RIGHT to practice it publicly without ridicule!”-There are other examples, and this is by no means a “slam” to those that choose to have those beliefs strongly for their personal practice. However, your right to do as you feel is correct is just as important as mine is to me.
Guess what? The time when all people simply have the smarts and compassion to just let one another BE what they are without judgment or ridicule will be a wonderful day-and those guilty of DEMANDING their RIGHT to be heard when they already HAVE these things not only by national law, but by Constitutional Right-in fact, they are exercising them in the very moment they are ranting about someone else’s repression of their beliefs or practices-they are just as guilty of judgment of another’s beliefs and their right to state them freely as those they are rally-crying against for supposedly repressing them.
The general idea of balance in the face of an overly zealous person, regardless of their personal belief structure or practice, is to not necessarily practice yourself what they believe or practice, but simply to ALLOW them to do so. You don’t have to agree. Tolerance is not about supporting some one else’s beliefs or practices by doing it ourselves. Tolerance is about allowing them the God/dess given right to do, be, feel, think and say what they feel is correct or incorrect about the running of the world around them-just as it is ours.
However, in an effort to study balanced practice, which is what we started out to do, we must also look to the other polarity of common practice. Those, that rather than choosing to be purely zealous about their practices, beliefs and such, choose to be thorough in how they study it and use it in daily life. These folk are often studious, sometimes to the point of being reclusive. They often have huge libraries that they have read repeatedly, usually cataloging in extreme detail all along the way so that all their references may be at a moment’s touch.
They are the ones that are drawn to proving what is and isn’t “historical fact” and what is simply the growing mythology of a collective set of belief structures caught under the mutual “umbrella” called “Paganism.” They are what in my old days in the Society for Creative Anachronism were called, the “period police.”
They are the ones that look for just the right number of folds in that Tudor crinoline collar and make certain that you hand pressed every single one of those 50, 000 petticoats before stepping into your period appropriate undergarments and all the other properly stitched and beaded layers that you wish to sit uncomfortably beautiful in for the next 3 ½ hours of court that await your already aching ears.
Now I do not wish to appear here to be saying that an attention to detail is not important. When studying the various paths of magick, I am the first to advocate those that choose to do so with the greatest of possible detail.
However, just as pure zealous response can lead to an opposite response to what we are seeking, so too does too studious an approach lose our purpose, at times, in the seeking to line up all the appropriate signs, sigils, times of day, week, month and year, the appropriate herbs, incense, oils, candles, sabbat oil, blessing oils, and more to the point where the original reason and the passion for it is lost in the expectation of perfection in the tools being used to accomplish the goal.
Magick should always, regardless of the tools available at the time, come from within the worker of it, for it will never come from the tools they use it if did not first come from them…nor will the magick return to them, but to the tools.
For some workings, having all portends correct and every type of power available aligned just so is not only appropriate, but completely necessary to the working’s success.
However, as with the difference between needing a picnic lunch and a full seven course dinner, there is a skill to learning what is what and what to use when…and when you’re just going for complete and total overkill in the details department. Keep in mind, you can ruin the best soup with just one too many spices. The same is true for magick.
Simple is good for many things. Use “complicated” when you must. Don’t use magick at all, if it can be accomplished in another way.
Now I can already hear those out there who are of paths that consider personal gain to be an “awesome and totally acceptable reason to use magick whenever possible!” starting to kvetch and gripe that they “don’t believe in the three fold law so it doesn’t effect them!” and I say if you haven’t seen karma as a Universal Rule on your own, you aren’t looking closely or clearly enough.
It doesn’t have to read in your mind or book of shadows as “the Three-fold Law” or the biblical ten-fold references. But the simple Universal Law of Averages and of “what goes around comes around” are concepts so obvious to enlightened human beings that if all you’re arguing over is the numbers or the particular path stated (i.e. you’re “not a WICCAN, I’M a (enter your chosen path emphatically here—and don’t forget the “!!!” at the end!!!)
In this case, you’re being too detail oriented and not seeing the Universal Brickbat for what it is. That is just one of the lovely ways the Gods find to tell us every time we stumble in our oh-so-human way…”Nope, you don’t have it yet, pup. Keep trying though, you’re very amusing!”
The Key we’re truly trying to discuss here, however, is the balance between being Zealous and being Thorough in our practice and, one hopes, in our overall response to the world at large. So, first and foremost remember, “moderation in all things… including moderation.”
This means pick the appropriate tools or lack thereof for the job. Don’t overdo. Give reverence to the past for bringing us to where we are now in terms of our knowledge and our powerbase in connecting with Deity. But do not be so bound to the past and its rules-which were made for another time, place and set of people’s lives than those we live now-that you cannot take what is beautiful, good and strong from the past and make it into something even deeper and more meaningful to you and to your future generations.
Part of the beauty of our faiths-in my humble opinion-is that they are, generally speaking, growing and living faiths. They are growing from a past that is deep and vast, regardless of whether we carry on family traditions that have been passed down through the eons…or whether our path just became a recognized belief structure 15, 20, 50 or 100 years ago.
Whether they have been passed from blue blood witch to blue blood witch for generations or whether it was practice by our grandfathers and grandmothers, whether it was brought to us by an anthropologist or was channeled in sweat lodge, whether it existed when cavemen painted their sacred images on the walls of their sacred places or whether it was woven together only within your own lifetime of experiences-no one has the right to tell you that your practice is any more or less “Valid” than any other.
That is not their call, nor is it their right.
That particular “mystery” is between you…and Deity.
It is not a viewpoint’s age that makes it valid. Nor is a viewpoint all there is to beliefs of faith. But in matters of faith and religion it is our belief that, for us, how we see things being organized and connected to is the way things are for us that matter.
We’ll look at the other questions in Part 2!