5 Requirements of Will

Last Tuesday I went outside to celebrate Lughnasadh with a brief devotional ritual. I made offerings to Lugh and to Tailtiu, and I prayed a fairly common prayer to Lugh: “please grant me Your strength.” I have many challenging tasks ahead of me (as do all of us) and the strength of Lugh would be a big help.

Lugh answered, but it was not the answer I was looking for.

Do not pray to Me for strength. You have strength enough. We have told you what must be done. Find within yourself the will to do it.

I asked for strength but was told what I really need is will… and that I can find it within myself. So I think that’s worth exploring will in more detail.

Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight or stop smoking by “will power” understands that simply making an intellectual decision and then trying to force the rest of your being to submit is a recipe for failure. In Make Magic of Your Life, Thorn Coyle said will is like a muscle: it must be exercised and trained. I agree – exercising your will in small things teaches you how to exercise it in larger things.

But even starting small and working your way up is likely to fail if you don’t begin with the requirements for engaging your will.

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Will requires context

Our common understanding of will is based on imperial and military assumptions: the superior issues an order and the subordinate obeys without question. This works for military commanders because they have the ability enforce their orders – disobey them and you can find yourself demoted, imprisoned, or shot. Your intellect has no such ability.

Successfully exercising your will requires knowing why you want to do something and what it means to do it. In the context of people who spend all their time making money and watching TV and those who have no concept of real Gods, this Lughnasadh message is a quaint fantasy.

But in the context of a world full of Gods and spirits, and of the difficult times in which we live, I have plenty of reason to get off the couch and do something.

Will requires knowledge

Now that you understand why your goal is important and what it means, you’re ready to do something. But what, exactly, are you supposed to do?

Before you decide, you need to know what your options are. And if you don’t like any of those options, you need knowledge of how to create new options. If you want to stop smoking, you need to know the processes, risks, side effects, and success rates for nicotine replacement, prescription drugs, hypnosis, and cold turkey. Then you can consider the options and make the best choice for you.

In my case, I know what I’ve been told to do. I’ve shared some of it here – other parts remain private, for now. Most of it I know how to do. The rest I know how to approach even though I don’t know exactly what’s going to be involved.

If you’re trying to exercise your will but you don’t know where to get started, you probably need to do some basic research. Will requires knowledge.

Will requires inspiration

Even when you know you need to do something – and even when you want to do it – actually doing it can be hard. What gets you off the couch to go run? What gets you out of bed to go help your CUUPS group do roadside cleanup? What gets you to sit down and meditate for 5 minutes, or 15 minutes, or 30 minutes? We all need inspiration.

Inspiration isn’t an intellectual thing and “good reasons why” aren’t inspiration. Inspiration is an emotional thing – it comes from stories and from art. It’s how you feel about what you’re doing and what you expect you’ll feel like when you’re done. That was the purpose of 12 Movies to Inspire Your Magic. We know we can’t ever be Gandalf, but watching Gandalf makes us feel magical, and that inspires us to work the magic we can do.

What inspires you may not inspire me, and vice versa. In this case, my inspiration is a vision of stronger and more intense relationships with Gods, spirits, ancestors, humans, and other living beings; relationships that help us get through the coming dark days. Reality is likely to be somewhat different from my vision – maybe very different – but it is the vision that inspires me to work toward creating that reality.

Will requires sacrifice

“Sacrifice” has two meanings in common usage: “to give up” and “to make sacred.” Will requires both.

If what you want – what you’re applying your will to manifest – is something you really want, you’ll work hard to get it. But if it’s something sacred – something special, something holy – you’ll work especially hard. Sacrifice it: dedicate it to the Gods and make it sacred.

And when you do, expect to give up something. No matter how smart, how strong, or how rich (money is often a substitute for time) you are, you can’t do everything. You have to prioritize. In saying “yes” to some things, we must say “no” to others.

The work of which Lugh spoke is sacred work: demanded by the Gods (or rather, by certain Gods) and dedicated to Them. But doing it requires giving up other things. I haven’t read fiction in months. I enjoy certain authors, and fiction can be inspirational, but I simply haven’t had time for it. I’ve also had to cut back on my internet time (less downside there).

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Will requires perseverance

This is the part that’s closest to the popular understanding of “will.” What you want – what you will – will not come easily. If it did, it wouldn’t require will. Things will get hard. There will be setbacks. There may be times when you think you can’t go on, or when you question if you really wanted this to begin with.

Context told you why this was important. Knowledge let you see how you could get there. Inspiration let you feel it in your soul. Sacrifice made it possible. Now you just have to keep going. Perseverance is a virtue.

This, I think, is the gist of Lugh’s message. The context is clear, the knowledge is adequate (though still less than I’d prefer), the inspiration is there, and the sacrifices are being made. All that’s left is to keep moving, keep working, and keep doing what I’m called to do.

I am thankful to the Master of All Arts for His presence in my Lughnasadh ritual and for His message. Now it’s up to me to find the will to do what must be done.

Do not pray to Me for strength. You have strength enough. We have told you what must be done. Find within yourself the will to do it.

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