I would guess that personal alchemy—the mindful mixing and remixing of our individual traits, core belief systems, and ways we understand and choose to interact with the world—is probably a hallmark of most pagans and witches.
Our core belief systems are tensile, able to be stretched. We can be open to fresh learnings, aware that they may offer new truths that can be added to our internal mix, much like adding, say, cilantro instead of parsley to our tried-and-true soup recipe.
It’s still essentially and recognizably the same recipe—your belief system is still essentially the same—it just has a little tweak to it. Maybe you keep the change; maybe you discard it and go back to your original mixture. Either way, it didn’t cause you permanent damage to try something new and you at the very least experienced a new learning from the effort.
That’s kind of where I’ve been at with spell-casting lately. It’s the season of balance these days, the Fall or Spring Equinox depending on which hemisphere you inhabit. And, as much as I try to train myself to interact with the world in terms of “both/and”, not “either/or”, I often find myself thinking of balance in terms of perfection, of perfect alignment.
For me, there’s this push-pull that happens around the Equinoxes. In a sense I’m hoping to spin out this momentary balanced gyroscope of time (extended though it may be) until I can check in with all of my systems, internal and external, and make sure that they’re all in perfectly attuned alignment. But we’re not static beings, and of course, too, the Equinoxes are cosmically brief and not in the least static. We—beings and Universe—are energetically in motion.
I experience Equinoxes as times in the Wheel of the Year for self-reflection, for rebalancing, as mentioned. This year my attention has been on spell-casting.
My personal belief is that spell-casting is prayer (A rose by any other name would smell as sweet). I recently read an article in Politico, an excerpt from the forthcoming book Piety and Power by Tom LoBianco, about the current Vice-President in which I read the following paragraph:
As they were debating their next steps, [Nick] Ayers received a call from the Trump campaign: Pence should get ready for a call from Trump in 30 minutes. They did not know what was coming, but they had a feeling. As they grabbed one another’s hands in a circle, Pence asked [Jim] Atterholt to lead them in a prayer. Atterholt, a devout evangelical like Mike and Karen, chose a “hedge of protection” prayer. “I prayed to put a hedge of protection around Mike and his family. I prayed for peace and wisdom and for God to protect his family,” he recalled.
Wait, I thought as I read this; that’s a spell. That dude’s casting a spell.
When you’re radically open to Spirit it’s surprising what can spark a new way of looking at things, what elements start to make themselves known to you. Since reading this article it seems like a lot of my down-time attention—those times when I’m not actively engaged in writing or editing or accomplishing the various day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that need doing—has been focused on reevaluating my approach and somewhat self-defeating attitudes about the mechanics of spell-casting.
Truth be told I don’t do a lot of spell-casting, except on the Full Moon and Dark Moon. I’m not as a rule chanting spells on and off as I go about my day. I do say a quick ‘thank you’ when things go my way (successful left turns on to or off of busy roadways get a lot of those), but—to be completely honest—the short-verse rhymed couplets that seem to comprise the vast majority of spells I’ve seen just do not speak to me.Part of this, I freely admit, is a result of some lingering English Lit Major snobbery on my part. It doesn’t make me proud to admit that, but it’s the truth. I learned in my grad school Shakespeare courses that classically, short rhyming verse (anything less than iambic pentameter) was reserved for comedy.
I’ve never been able to forget that. When I read most spells—and so many of them are short rhyming couplets—the very first thing that crashes into my head is that I’m reading serious intentions shaped in comic verse, and I can’t get past that. This experience creates a dissonance that then distracts me from the intent of the spell and at that point what usually happens is I just move along feeling vaguely frustrated and dissatisfied.
But, in this season of rebalancing, of mindfulness and paying attention to the metaphysical ingredients I’m stirring into my inner cauldron, I’ve decided to address this out-of-balance part of my belief system. I’ve taken on a new Practice of chanting a short rhyming verse several times across the day as needed:
WHERE ENERGY GOES, MAGIC FLOWS
#3 Where focus goes, energy flows
This is true, and it is tricky, and it is a pain in my ass. More accurately, it’s a pain for my authentic self because my shadow side thinks it hurts so good. Indulging in all manner of harmful behaviors from self-defeating thoughts to gossip distracts us from living our truth. But, sometimes, I really need to vent. Awareness of the thoughts and behaviors that keep us from being all we are meant to be is the first step. Then we have to refrain from doing it. One of my favorite practices is, “just for now,” as in “just for now I am not going to let myself think I am fat,” or “just for now, I will not talk about so-and-so’s outrageous behavior.” I’ll end up mired in the spiritual muck if I’m into super-shadowy actions, feelings and behaviors.
For the past week or so whenever I’ve started to extravagantly squander my free time playing Angry Birds or Plants Versus Zombies, I say to myself Where energy goes, magic flows. Is falling into the time-sucking vortex of destroying virtual piggy empires or zapping pixel zombies really serving me or my personal goals well? Where energy goes, magic flows. I’m not saying a little mindless fun in my off-time isn’t OK, but looking up and wondering where the last half hour went? Where energy goes, magic flows.
I’m early in this new Practice, but it does seem to be having a positive effect on how I’m choosing to use my energies. I’m finding that after I chant my little reminder couplet (my spell), I tend to choose an activity that supports my personal growth in some way. Rereading an article in an old issue of Sage Woman or Witches and Pagans. Going out to tend the enormous bamboo bush in the meditation garden we’ve created in our front courtyard (So. Many. Dead. Fronds.). Spending time with the cat as she explores nooks, crannies and potential escape routes on the screened back deck.
To paraphrase from I thank you God for most this amazing by ee cummings, I feel like “now the ears of my ears are awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened”. New understandings are ripening all around us, waiting for us to notice them. Small changes can have significant impact if, instead of dismissing them as too puny, we open ourselves to their subtleties. If we pay attention.
Where energy goes, magic flows.