To Advance …Or To Go Within
Several years ago I was on a mission to find what books, what outlets, existed that went into the Advanced arts of Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, etc. I didn’t succeed very well, in fact, after several days of religious online searching and bookstore hopping I became rather disenchanted by the whole concept of advancement. I did learn, however, that I am not alone in this. Hundreds if not thousands of pagans that enter into our respective paths reach a point where the 101 books are not only redundant, but become rather irritating with the same replicated material.
I realized, and constantly have to remind myself, that looking for advanced methods, an advanced teaching is the wrong approach. It isn’t about how to advance in one’s path, but how deep you have gone, and could go. And not just how deep into your path, but how deep into yourself.
With the massive amounts of books, websites, groups, etc. throughout the country I have noticed one thing: they all teach you the basics (which are bloody necessary in the beginning and throughout, for many concepts) but they don’t really teach you to stop looking out and start looking in. I have read Silverwolf’s books, Grimassi’s books, Cunningham’s books, Buckland, Conway, Morrison, Penczak, Andrews, etc. I have read their books, their 101 and branched-off books. They are all wonderful authors in their own right, and amongst each other. But their books are all about them, what they have learned, what they have done (Well, duh, you say, how else would they right a book, if not about what they’ve done?) , which is great! Many do have their little disclaimers stating that what they’ve done might not work for everyone, with a slight passing sentence stating that you need to figure out what is right for you.
In this day and age, when the young and the middle and some of the old are always looking for assistance, especially when they do not have the ability, in any way, of being around people with experience and with the knowledge and wisdom to pass on, that someone could hint or blatantly tell them that: you need to STOP reading this, and look at what YOU believe, what feels right to YOU and base your path, your actions on what YOU have learned about YOURSELF.
Which brings me to another point that I would like to mention: the lack of depth from the very beginning. Everyone who identifies himself or herself under the umbrella term of Pagan knows, if not in the beginning then later on, that the paths that we choose are not easy; they are bloody difficult. There are immense ups and downs, trials and errors, good times and bad times; but no matter what, at the end of the cycle when you stop and look back at what happened, what you overcame, you are damn proud of yourself, and even better you learned a lot about what it is you can do in your life. Even though the books and websites may say that it is hard, they don’t explain what that means. They don’t teach how hard it is and how much work you really have to put into it. Most of all, they don’t teach that the focus of your intentions, the focus of your work isn’t the world around you, but YOU.
I have always found it interesting when I see people performing Reiki, or some other psychic healing who are just as traumatized by their past as the people they are trying to help. How can you help anyone when you have done nothing to help yourself? Everyone wants to pick up on how to work with the many cool things that Pagans have at their disposal (which is one of the things I love about being Pagan!) , but they don’t want to stop and fix themselves first.
I also see, overwhelmingly, what happens when someone who has no concept of just how deep our paths can get see with their own eyes…and then freak the bleep out. Which is also probably the reason that I see so many young people coming into Wicca for a brief amount of time. They see some real sh*t, and then disappear.
I also find the ‘hidden’ seriousness of our paths is the reason that people have come up to me and said they had ‘dabbled’ in Wicca or one of the paths, before returning to their previous religion. [By the way, the following will be a severe digression from the above and below: these are the people who see the tattoo on my left arm (which happens to be a very personal symbol – that I created – of the goddess, triple moon with a pentacle in the full moon and the triquetra being help up by the goddesses’ arms) and feel the need to impart that they were ‘once Wiccan’.]
The discussion usually stems from my interest in talking with someone who knows about the different paths. But then I become irritated with these people when they inform me that they scared themselves by delving into the black arts. At which point, I want to ask them if they are truly racist and see the world only in black and white. At which point they call me a witch and walk away. But that is a whole ‘nother essay on my feelings towards Black vs. White…oooh, I’m leaving it at that.
I know what I am saying because I did the same thing. I came into this walk in my life bumbling along until I experienced my own Shamanic Death, which forced open the layers in my life and forced me to see why I do the things in my life that I do. And quite honestly, I did not handle it well: It took two AWOLs from the military and nearly cutting off all ties to my family and friends before I found the brass bra to start picking myself up out of the chasm I threw myself into.
All I am saying, really, is that maybe we should try to not surprise the new ones with the depth of what really takes place along these paths later on, but let them know in the beginning that there is a deep level of seriousness that underlies the laughter, parties, and joviality that are far more apparent by sight. That, while they are learning the basics of herbs, incense, the elements, the casting of the circle, the gods, they should also be working on their own lives, their pasts, their wounds and, also, what part of what they are learning actually means to them.
And if it is too late to learn this in the beginning, then to say: instead of looking for advanced concepts and practices, how about deepening yourself in your path, deepening your knowledge and wisdom? Instead of going out, go in.