Last night I walked into a class well underway. They were reciting the holidays of the Celts in Gaelic. I sat and found homework I hadn’t done on my desk: geometric drawings, vocabulary that seemed like it was Gaelic and, of course, what was currently underway, a discussion of the Sabbats. As the class began to recite the Gaelic names for the festivals celebrated by the Scots, Welsh and Irish, my professor, a colossal man whose lack of inflection creates a dream-like quality that has often put me to sleep, took my hand. He started walking me through the giant map of the Sabbats while saying the Gaelic names for them. Halfway through I tugged free of this recital and said loudly, “There are only eight holidays!”
“Nope. There are more than eight,” he replied, without any indication that he was upset at having been interrupted.
“Okay,” I replied slowly, trying to give myself some time to work through what I wanted to say. “I’ve only ever celebrated eight because that was all I was taught.”
He just looked at me.
“No one ever told me there were more. And I am an urban witch — do you know what kind of pain it is to find some green space to have ritual?”
From his height of six and a half feet, he stared down at me through his glasses, which he slid up the bridge of his nose with his third finger. Other than this unconscious resettling of his glass, he did and said nothing. In the background, the rest of the class continued to recite Gaelic-sounding Sabbat names interspersed with many words I didn’t recognize and some I did.
“Lughnasadh, Ostara, Kali, Torc, Ngetal, Demeter, Findias, Uscias, Pan, Diana, Hecate, Samhein, Yule….”
I began to worry about the obvious use of Kali and where that might fit into to the Gaelic pantheon.
The teacher continued to stare. I squirmed in exasperation and retreated to my desk. Sitting, I looked down at the mounds of incomplete homework and realized that I was totally going to fail this class again.
I never start awake. I drift awake much like I go to sleep. I have been taught how to remember dreams, and part of the trick is to stay in that sleep/wake place for some time. I purposely do not move and allow my dream to filter back to me. I remember that professor because I did fail his class miserably. He taught philosophy and often reminded me of the classic lecturing professor who had so much in his brain; teaching a 101 class to silly underclassmen trying to fulfill a humanities requirement drove him to try to download as much knowledge as possible for the semester he had us.
I reflect on that weird semester in college. I did fail miserably that semester. As I lay in my bed miles away, I deliberately keep myself in the half-awake state and continue to let my mind drift, considering why I failed.
I rarely showed up to class. Seriously, I made skipping class that semester an art form. Of course, the alcohol poisoning midway through that semester was of no help. Still, I never showed up.
I certainly didn’t do my homework. That much of this dream was completely accurate. In my mind’s eye, I conjure up sheet after sheet after handout sheet of information that was never completed or touched.
I continue to do what I was taught to do: I start to ponder the significance of the teacher, the incomplete work, the not showing up. My mind wonders around to things I need to do today, and that includes writing several articles I am putting off.
“Incomplete work,” I muse to myself.
Then I think about a tradition I have recently stumbled upon that I really wish I could take classes with. They are in another country, and I think about the correlation between my inability to go to those classes and the fact that I never went to class one semester years and years ago. (Let’s just say years and years and not discuss how long, okay?)
Then this column floats into my head and I think about things differently. I think about the Caitlin Matthews tarot deck someone gave me months ago (Thanks Rene!) that I didn’t even realize was a tutorial on Celtic mythology.[i] I found this out while teaching a class on tarot this past weekend. I had grabbed the deck for teaching purposes and stumbled upon this revelation right under my nose.
I think about the course on medieval astrology I have paid for and all the work related to it I haven’t done.
I think about how I WANT to set a regular schedule for study in my life and how Sherlock Holmes and fiction books have a way of taking precedence over my continued spiritual study.
Not showing up.
I think about several people I know who all want to study the craft a bit more seriously and how I continue to put them off, opting instead for unstructured and undirected classes because I feel like I am inadequate.Not showing up.
I consider how my continued illness makes me seek sleep when I am not working because the effort of doing much other than sleeping, reading or watching TV seems overwhelming. I think about that great fictional book I have just read that had me looking up words on every page. Which reminds me of the AXCT vocabulary box sitting unused on my shelf.
Incomplete work. Not showing up.
Then I think about why I created Family Coven. It was to empower families to seek out their own way without a by-your-leave from some High Priest or High Priestess. I wanted families to feel like they did not need another person to strike out on their own, study, move forward spiritually. My attitude since then has been that of my own teachers when I first came to the Craft.
If you want to learn, you will, and no amount of poking and prodding on the teacher’s side will change that.
In this dream cocoon I use to examine my dreams and their meanings, I realize I have been completely frustrated with the little community I am surrounded by and in the same thought, I understand that I am the source of a lot of my irritation.
While I consider all the ways I am inept, I come to the awareness that I continue my ineptitude because I am undisciplined. It isn’t a lack of resources. My office and home are filled with learning opportunities. It is my own inability to show up and do the homework that keeps me maladroit.
And this is why Family Coven doesn’t take off. There is no course materials to follow. There is no book requirement to meet. There is no one to tell family members they are progressing and doing well. In Family Coven, as with lots of family-oriented endeavors, there aren’t even outsiders who can appreciate the work done. Spiritual opportunities can be a novelty to children, and often adults see the novelty wear off and with no one to impress, they slide into not showing up and doing nothing. It is easier than fighting one’s natural inclination to laziness and a child’s short attention span.
In my book, I suggest that families have regular classes, like any coven would. I suggest they play energy games, study a particular book, or simply read myths and legends about different gods and goddesses. Of course, this assumes that each individual person is doing some study.
I recall reading an author talking about her daily spiritual routine. In her zeal to further her knowledge, she quickly realized that her morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime studies were literally bleeding into each other. She had no time to work, do laundry, cut the grass, or bathe. Her desire was so deep that she was trying to do it all and found she could do nothing more.
For busy moms and dads–heck, for people, regardless of whether they have children–for people who are thirsty and long to gulp down knowledge quickly, the idea of a disciplined, long road toward knowledge is frustrating to our raw, dry minds.
Frustrating enough that most of us quit before we begin. If we can’t do anything more than study the esoteric, then it seems better to do nothing in the first place.
So we don’t show up. We don’t create any homework for ourselves. We tend to the television and other pastimes to keep ourselves from being let down by own ineptitude. In this preemptive strike, we are being inept.
You and I have heard it before. Set a time and place to meditate at least fifteen minutes a day. Set a time and place to study on a regular basis. Exercise outside to reconnect your energies to the earth. Be a good steward of the knowledge and learning you have access to. Get your family together once a week for an in-house spiritual learning session. Play energy games or practice psychic skills. Read mythologies. Study tarot decks or runes or the Ogham.
Do the work.
Join my Facebook page. I will post a daily opportunity for you to brag about how you set your family coven’s studies up and to show off what study you did that day. You can hold me accountable as others hold you accountable. Show up. Do the work.
[i] The Celtic Wisdom Tarot; Caitlin Matthews; Godsfield Press Limited; 1999