By this time of year, a lot of us have failed in our resolutions and new year goals. I didn’t make resolutions this year. But I do have goals and obligations. One of those involves learning the ‘basics’ (of religious Witchcraft) again.
It’s been…an experience.
Being willing to place ourselves in the position of student, the ‘recipient of knowledge’ (though a lot can be said of how we conceive of this hierarchy itself, the dichotomy of teacher and student), is an important part of growing in our life. Even when we have mastered our chosen subject, should we have one, we can always learn something new.
I no longer believe in true mastery – to practice magic is to perpetually be a student, no matter how high you may rise in any given tradition and no matter how many years tick by.
And I’m not a teacher or adept, not really. (I blog because I write, and, unfortunately, I will make that everyone else’s problem.) My work with the spirits leaves me always feeling like I’m on the cusp of revelation and understanding. All that said, I do feel confident in what skills I possess. As a devotee, a spirit worker, a diviner.
I found myself confident enough to be annoyed when forced to return to ‘basic’ exercises: beginner visualizations, simple energy work, newbie contemplation prompts.
‘I know how to do this,’ I thought petulantly. Why should I have to do these exercises again? Why should I put myself in this position?
But I was interested in my negative reaction. I am always telling myself that 101 skills are important to hone. So why was I so grumpy about having to do them?
I realized that when I encountered these in books/workbooks, I would just nod and proceed to the ‘fun stuff’. (At most, I was perfunctory in my application of them.) I already knew how to do ‘all of that’. ‘Let me get to the meat,’ I would think.
Relatedly, these foundations aren’t very glamorous. It’s much more exciting to set the altar and ask the gods and spirits for Their stories. To seek their holy fire. To have one’s heart unmade by the Gods.
But the only reason I can even have those experiences is because of the foundation I built. The boring repetition of visualization and contemplation and energy work. The ecstasy flows easiest when my daily prayers are well attended to, after all.
When I returned to these basics, what did I discover?
Well, my competency was what I expected. Even if I don’t do these foundational exercises as much as I should, my skills were as I anticipated. My visualization could use some sharpening. My energy work improved after focusing upon it intensely, but it wasn’t poor.
I had not suddenly lost these core parts of my practice. Rather, I had built upon them labyrinths that could be better navigated by returning to these basics.
Consistency and diligence – these boring facets of our lives form the strongest core upon which we build the ecstasies of the Gods.
A spirit I have had the (mis)fortune of working with in close quarters for the past few weeks proposed a deal to me. A very simple pact, if we should call it that.
“Offer me incense, once a week, for a month. I’ll grant you a small boon, something humans like, in exchange.”
My hackles were raised, my suspicions high, but I rarely turn down offers from spirits I know. There is a reason I know them by name, after all. Knowing the name of a spirit (especially any spirit closely aligned ot the ‘fairy’ end of the spectrum) is meaningful and binding in its own way. I quizzed him on what type of incense, when exactly to offer it, where. Every detail that could be known, I wanted to know.
“Don’t care about the kind of incense. Offer it wherever. Any day you want. Any time. Any day. It doesn’t matter to me. Just do it. Once a week.”
“What if I fail?” I pressed.
He had sighed and told me only, “I guess I’ll be disappointed in you.”
But his meaning in such a simple task was clear and biting:
You think this task is so simple and beneath you? Let’s see if you can do it.
A Bit of Shadow Work
Putting oneself into the beginner seat was one I needed. It forced me to acknowledge my arrogance, which was the core of my annoyance. Shining new unflattering light on my persona, it illuminated shadows. Once seen, we can either accept the shadow or hide them away again in the recesses of our mind and soul – pointlessly hoping they won’t rear their head again.
Better, I think, to extend our hand to our shadow and accept them as they are. Flaws and all. We are no more capable of excising our shadows as we are of excising our own ignorance; there is, eternally, always something to learn, always something to be unveiled in the light of knowing.