Haters Gonna Hate

Yesterday a young, dynamic, new friend of mine posted on his blog that he was done with witchcraft. Definitively and decidedly done. His post is down now, so I won’t bother to link to it. It was a problematic post in many ways, hurtful to his allies and dismissive of his own considerable talents. Yet there were some hard truths about the witchcraft ‘community’ in his post, some of which I want to address here, because he is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to struggle with not feeling potent enough, talented enough or magical enough.

I have struggled with my place in witchcraft for many years. In fact, I am not a natural joiner and generally feel like the odd one out no matter where I am. Over the years I’ve realized part of this is cultivated, as an act of self-protection. For a long time I was too Christian for the Pagans and too Pagan for the Christians. For the style of witchcraft I practice I tend to think I’m too happy, too ‘normal.’ I don’t wear enough black or pentacles or go to Renn faires. Other than children, I can’t grow things at all. I wear jeans most of time, I listen to cheesy pop music and opera, and I watch a lot of cartoons with my kids. It’s not a Dark Pagan Life most days. It’s silly to get hung up on external trappings, but it’s so easy to do.
Albrecht Durer's Four Witches, also known as Vier Hexen, 1497.

Albrecht Durer’s Four Witches, also known as Vier Hexen, 1497.

And then there are the doubts of magical efficacy, or growing understanding and connection to whatever spirits or gods we choose to work with. Feeling as though we have power in this world and can create change in our lives according to our will is, in my experience, an important part of the magical life. Sometimes it feels like nothing shifts, we’re still stuck on the same issue we’ve been stuck on for years, or our spells don’t seem to work. These things can suck the joy out of our devotions and practice.

I think these feelings are normal. I felt similar things when I was singing and when I was in graduate school. I’m going to let you in on a secret: all of the people I know who hold PhDs (and I know a lot of them) have said they have felt like a fraud at some point. Clearly, these doubts apply to the best of us.

That said, there are some serious poseurs and jack-asses out there. The internet is full of them, no matter the community. The wider world of Paganism has a love/hate relationship with exclusion and inclusion. I find Traditional Witchcraft to be particularly persnickety. Some of this is due to the inherent nature of keeping oaths and not passing along publicly information that can be misconstrued or damaging to those who don’t understand. This can sometimes make people feel that they are not ‘worthy’ enough for the ‘secrets.’ Yet some people have a way of communicating arcane wisdom without excluding.

Some Big Name Pagan authors love to write with purple prose and in such a way that any reader not within the author’s immediate circle will be obviously excluded. To those authors I ask, why write at all? Just send out your stuff on email lists and be done with it. But some authors, Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold being the first that comes to my mind, have an ability to keep obvious secrets yet write in such a way that any thinking witch or magician at any experience level can access something of worth.

Sadly, there are always going to be people out there trying to keep others down in order to build themselves up. They feel special because they think they have something that others can’t have. I myself have struggled, wondering if I have the Magic or the Juice. I’m only just getting over that. I have long been too up in my head. I still can’t trance easily. I don’t see the dead. The gods don’t talk to me often. I’m more a mystic, a thinky theologian, than a shaman. And right now, shamanism is hot.

But Trad Craft and the public face of it, is not the only kind of magic out there. I am finding my own magic. You, dear reader, have yours too. Maybe it isn’t Traditional Witchcraft. Maybe it’s Buddhism or basket weaving. There is magic in almost anything. That thread weaves and that hum and thrum beats in the trees, in the waves of incense smoke, in the melodies of Schubert lieder. In my eyes, magic is an approach to life. In my studies of religions over the years, I have seen that all of them have magical lines, and those lines share certain aspects or techniques. There are many cooks, painters, singers, gardeners, parents, teachers -anything!- that have that magic in them and their lives. And plenty of Dark Witches and High Magicians that have none.

So here’s my pitch to the struggling: don’t give up on magic. Don’t forget those moments that rang true for you. Don’t discard the experiences that spoke to your soul. Get back before your altar (whatever that is). Get back to your basics. Cling to your truth, your experience, and the Magic will you lead you true.

In the meantime, fuck all the haters and poseurs. I don’t have time for them. I’m too busy living my kick ass life.

About Niki Whiting
  • http://gravatar.com/mountaineremite mountaineremite

    What this brings to mind is Imposter Syndrome:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imposter_syndrome

    Seems to be the bane of intelligent, creative people everywhere. :P

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Yes, and even sincere and possibly talented people can suffer from it!

  • Eleanor

    This post rings true on so many levels for me. I am surprised to hear you had thoughts of not being magical/pagan ‘enough’ for the community, because you are one of the most magical people I know! Perspective is relative, I suppose.

    In my own exploration of spirituality I have felt many of these feelings and more. It’s only within the past few months that I’ve become more comfortable with my ‘level’ (for lack of a better word) of paganism, and begun to recognize that it is no less valid than that of anyone else. I think it’s helpful to have mentors, or people whom you look up to, but comparisons do you no good.

    I am not connected to any particular group, which has been a challenge for me, I long for that connection….but it’s also saved me from feeling excluded. There are pluses and minuses to everything.

    I hope you friend recognizes that he needn’t through out the baby with the bathwater….magic is within him, even if the community in which he was participating didn’t feed his soul.

  • Pádraig

    This is why I’ve always thought you’re damned brilliant.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Aw shucks! This is high praise from some I admire so much!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    There is more than one kind of witch! And I agree, while you are figuring out which kind you are, sometimes it can feel like you’re not one at all (especially if your role models are all of a certain type).


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