Perfectionism And The Craft
Author: Phoenix Forestsong
The moon is high and heavy; its silvery light beams down, illuminating this sacred outdoor altar. The wind blows softly and lightly upon your face, bringing with it the moist fragrance of forest night. With you are members of your coven, all here to celebrate nature’s beauty and grace together as one. It’s nearly your time to speak, your lines have been memorized, your actions recited, and your will is strong.
As you approach the altar, assuming the masculine stance of the horned God, you begin to speak your lines, making a wide gesture with your hands as proscribed, and knock over the Lord’s candle. The flame sputters out, gold wax courses down the natural rock stone of the altar and your Coven’s Book of Shadows gets splattered.
Of course you feel horrible, and very horrified, but the family of your coven just laughs and passes it off. You’re still shaky, worried that you ruined the ceremony, and your performance is off a little, but you eventually recover and enjoy the evening.
The question is, did you actually ruin the ceremony?
The answer is, of course not! There is magick in laughter, and magick in mirth, as humans we are not perfect beings, in fact, even our Gods are not perfect beings, and this article has been written to accentuate that point.
Perfection in the Eyes of God
My background, and that of many modern-day Witches, is from Christianity. While I’d love to say that Christianity is a loving, caring, and forgiving religion, for me it was not the case. I was raised to know a God that demanded perfection from everything in his presence, including his people and their gifts. Because of the absolutism of Christianity, at least in some branches, “thou shalt not…”, “…the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ…”, “…burn in a lake of fire…, ” etc. it tends to breed perfectionism in its followers. A God that demands perfect worshipers will breed perfect worshipers.
From early on I learned that God loves you, but if you ever break one of his rules it’s an eternity of punishment for you. As most sane people know, this type of attitude is not actually love, it is abuse through fear, and it was my childhood.
Of course, as I grew older, my understanding of the world changed, I became a new person, a deeper individual, a man who learns, studies, and thinks. Always though, as a Christian, I kept running to a god who never changed, who was as inflexible in his rules as he was in his heart. Do as I say, when I say, and how I say, and you can come spend your time worshiping me in heaven after you’ve denied your passions here on earth.
See where I’m going with this? Now, that’s not all of Christianity, but it is a big factor in Christianity for a lot of branches of that faith; the inflexible, omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect God. So, I came to learn that only the best, most perfect stuff went before God, and as a human I kept falling short, as we humans tend to do. Obviously I came to learn another path and I now follow my own Wiccan way. However, I brought along some of my old Christian baggage, and I feel that many other Witches do, or have as well.
When I first truly devoted myself to my path, thus ending my relationship with Christianity, I brought along a lot of old baggage. For one thing, I did not attempt to do things for fear of failure. I did not want to present failure to my Gods, I did not want my Gods to see me in the light of failure, and I wanted to prove to be a worthy Witch. It may be something that we’ve all gone through, or it may be that I was just a bit off my rocker in the whole Spirituality department. Regardless, I let my fear of failure, my fear that my work would not be good, or good enough to interfere with my worship.
Of course as time passed I got over that stage and began to see things in a new, logical, and very real light. Even our Gods are not perfect. Do you work with the Greek pantheon? Do you worship with Zeus? Zeus may have been the Master of Mount Olympus and head of the Gods, but he wasn’t perfect by any means. How many children did Zeus father and how many were conceived under false pretense? Zeus’s fatal flaw is that he could not keep his godhood in his toga. Those who worship him know this and accept it as his flaw. Let’s look at another Divine Being.
Hera is sacred as the Goddess of Women and Marriage, yet she was not too kind to children. After Zeus fathered Athena without her, Hera bore Hephaestus without Zeus and, upon seeing his ugliness; she threw her newborn child from Mount Olympus. Hera…the role model for motherhood.
In another tale, Hera tries to prevent the birth of Heracles by tying the legs of Alcmene, his mother, into knots to prevent his birth. When Alcmene’s servant informed her that the child had already been born, she let go of Alcmene’s legs in surprise. With her legs free, Alcmene finished birth and Heracles was born. Hera, furious at being tricked, turned the servant into a weasel. Do we see Hera as a wonderful role model for all women to follow, or do we see Hera as she is, a Goddess, but a flawed Goddess.
Obviously there are many more examples of frailties and flaws from Gods of pantheons the world over. The primary difference is that as Pagans, we understand that perfection is an unattainable goal. It’s unnatural. We learn that it is not the end result that is important, rather it is the path we have to travel to get there that teaches us and causes us to grow as an individual that is the greater concern. In Witchcraft, there is no all-powerful perfect divine being that threatens the destruction of your immortal soul for not living up to his standards; there is only peace, patience, and understanding.
So…I’m Still Worthy?
I say this not to bash Christianity, rather, to point out that while some of us strive to be the best that we can be, sometimes we must look back and realize that we don’t have to prove ourselves to our Gods, rather, our Gods have to prove themselves to us first. It is not a sin to not believe in Aradia. She won’t hurl fiery bolts from the heavens if we displease her or don’t acknowledge her existence. It is a pact that we enter into with our Gods, a willful, thoughtful pact that goes both ways. If we are honest and work for the good, our Gods will work with us. We don’t work for them and they don’t work for us, we work together as one to accomplish a goal.
When we first began our journey, you too were probably unsure about whether these old Gods were real, so as a result we tested them. If they lived up to our expectations, we worked with them. If we did not get along with a certain deity, or felt uncomfortable with their energies, we no longer wasted our time on them.
When coming to Wicca from Christianity, there are several hang ups that occur to people, especially due to the perfectionism that is at the forefront of Christianity. We worry that a spell won’t work if the candle color is not correct, or maybe the candle is too orange instead of red. A spell may call for Dragon’s Blood incense, but you only have Lavender right now because you’re short on cash. Or perhaps a ritual calls for fresh vervain, but you only have sage. Our God’s don’t care. The Magick will still work as long as you believe it will.
Substitutions occur all of the time in the Craft, and there in no one right way to do anything. Every Witch has his or her own method of working spells, certain traits that they like to add to their spells, almost like a signature. I myself have replaced entire herbal components before because I did not understand them at the time. I replaced the herbal components with gemstones, which I did understand, and the spell still went off without a hitch with the results manifesting two weeks later.
To grow in the Craft, to self-actualize into the Witch that you truly know you can be, the first step is “don’t take yourself so seriously.” Laugh at your mistakes, enjoy your failures but learn from them, and celebrate life. The ultimate thanks that we as humans can give to the Universe is to enjoy the time we have while we are in this incarnation. To worry and fret over something not being ‘perfect’ is to waste the life that has been granted to us.
We should enjoy everyday, be thankful for the sunshine in our lives and even for the rain, for to know happiness one must also have known sadness. To know peace is to have known anger. To know deep love for another, one must have previously known heartache and pain.
There is no perfection in the Craft, our Gods are not perfect, we are not perfect, our tools are not perfect, even our magick is not perfect. There is nothing on the face of this planet that is whole, untouched, and perfect. Perfection is much like Plato’s forms, it cannot and does not exist in the real world, but as a concept…it’s perfect!