For many of us who practice witchcraft, our craft is a craft of willpower. It is based on our emotions, our thoughts, our inner strength and the very essence of our beings. Witchcraft, for many of us, is a magic based on the self – we are the power, we bring the power to life. Or, if it is not based on self, the self is still the conduit for the power and our beings will influence the power flowing through us.
So I have to admit that I feel a bit crazy when reading 101 witchcraft books that state the simplest things as fact, without ever giving even the most basic YMMV. When it comes to our craft, our emotions matter and if our emotions, or some other part of ourselves, do not match the 101 then the magic will not flow the way it does for everyone else. I would go so far as to say that the lack of YMMV can be dangerous. Witchcraft is not always a safe practice, and if you use some 101 bit of information because, that is the way it must be done, even though it goes against every fibre of your being – the possibility exists of you screwing up pretty damn bad.
Magical backlash from a messed up spell (not failed, messed up) is not something fun or even always easy to get over. There are people who suffer from that sort of backlash for months, years even! With physical pain, magical blocks, stunted sensory perception (including the extra-sensory perceptions), or any number of other things.
YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary. Or, what works for one person may not work for everyone. What’s bad for one person may not be bad for everyone. YMMV is something I see used a lot in blogs and blog comments, but not often in those classic witchcraft 101 books. In fact I don’t know that I have ever even read, heard, seen anyone talk about the lack of YMMV in older 101 books and why they need them so badly (if you have written about it, let me know). And I hope the more modern 101 books (of which I haven’t read because I am past 101 stage) do include the disclaimers and caveats of, not everyone is the same.
The Elements and Directions
The easiest one to discuss, and I have spoken of it in depth before is the elements and which of the directions they are in. This is very 101 but also quite important for calling quarters and all of that. Most 101 books are northern hemisphere based, so they reflect things up there. This was one of the first hints I had that something was wrong with all the books I was looking at (and even Aussie magazines perpetuated this most of the time).
South is fire. South is fire. No, here in Aus south is bloody ice! North is hot, thus, with the equator up there, north must be fire. South, in my opinion, is best suited to water or air. I prefer air, because the icy cold makes me think of cold steamy breath, and icicles in the lungs. I might be weird, but it is what it is.
If I tried to call fire from the south, I would fail or worse. My mind, my heart, my very being shouts at me that fire is not in the south. I couldn’t possibly work magic with fire in the south, it wouldn’t work for me and my being would fight it so hard, the chances of backlash are rather high. But plenty of people in Aus use the northern directions successfully, because they don’t have that fight in them making it not work. More Aussies use directions that aren’t northern, but are also different to mine.
It is also worth noting that there is more than one type of element-direction correspondence. Actually there are far more than I ever realised – some of them are not based on the mundane world, and so where water is physically has little bearing on the magic. The very existence of these other ways and the fact we can choose which works best for us, is not often mentioned in older 101 books.
Nearly every 101 book will have that list of colours and their meanings, their correspondences. Green is a fertile colour, and it’s good luck and all about abundance and growth. Even psychology says that certain colours have a certain meaning, they seem to bring out certain emotions in us – that’s why red is the colour for war, anger and lust, because it is a colour that can bring out anger, or if we are angry to a certain level we literally see that colour.
But psychology also recognises that not everyone is the same, environment changes our reactions, how we feel about things. Thus it is that if something amazing happens to us, and a certain scent is present in that moment, for a long time after whenever we smell that scent, we feel that elation again and remember that amazing moment.
So, what if you grew up in an abusive home and the colour of the room you were most often abused in was green. Now the colour green often conjures up feelings of pain, horror, anger or fear. Do you really think that green is going to work for you as an abundant, lucky and fertile colour? Or might it be better used to represent something else, more akin to your emotions?
Herbs and Oils
Herb and oil lore comes in two parts for us witches. There is the medicinal side of things, which this post is not about! And then there is the correspondence side of things, which is what we want to look at here. This is almost exactly the same sort of thing as the colour correspondence issue. Lavendar for love, lavendar for love. Unless, of course, you were raped by someone who smelled like lavendar. Well, I wouldn’t call that love and I don’t think lavendar would conjure love in my magic and my crafts if I had that experience.
It doesn’t even have to be so drastic a reason either, indeed it might be you don’t even know the reason – but if you feel it, deep in your bones, that lavendar is in no way good for love – I suggest not using it in that way.
Of course it is important here to realise that some of the correspondences arise from the more medicinal side of things, or the potions side of things if you prefer. Potions and poisons are of course based on the physical nature of the plant, as well, in part for some of them, as the correspondences. A poison is a poison is a poison of course, so don’t even try testing that with your will. Please. But potions are little more tricky, potions are sometimes a mix of the herbs natural power and the power of correspondence and will of the maker of the potion. Care is needed.
All of the Correspondences
Now we’ve had a little bit of an in depth look at why colour and herb correspondence can’t always be trusted, we can just list some of the other correspondences that may be similar – with minimal explanation.
Symbols – I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the cross makes me feel the way a lot of others feel when they look at it. Such feelings changes how it works when working with the will.
Minerals – Gems, crystals, stones etc. This is like the herbs one though, because in some part crystals have their own power to them. This would depend on how you’re using them. But I wouldn’t suggest wearing a protective stone if it makes you personally feel weak, for example.
Plants – Flowers, trees etc. But again this is similar to herbs in that it is dependent on the difference between correspondence and the objects natural power.
Animals – Again, like herbs and plants.
Food – Again, like herbs and plants. But honestly, if you’re allergic to something, it’s probably not going to represent any kind of health to you!
That’s not everything, I probably couldn’t think of everything that is open to interpretation, let alone list them all. And not all of the above, nor those I haven’t mentioned, are entirely reliant on the individuals will, emotions and self – some of these things have a power on their own, and that’s why they are given the correspondences or listed as having the uses that you usually see in books.
But most of them do rely, in some part, on the person using them. Too many people, when starting out in Witchcraft, take 101 books as gospel in a way. And if every 101 book says the same thing? Well, the more gospel the information becomes to newbies (and some oldies too). So they aren’t willing to go with their gut feeling, they trust the books and the experts too much to trust themselves.
That’s why it matters so much, in my opinion at least, that 101 books, magazines, blogs and the like, really need to point out that these things can and do vary from one individual to another. Sure the way they are listed are the more common interpretations – but they are not the only ones that exist. And it is important for people to be told that. All these books really need is a single disclaimer at the start of the book.
“Everything is open to interpretation, including the things listed herein. If you feel, deep inside of yourself, that one of the things mentioned in this book is wrong – then trust yourself, it probably is wrong, for you. But it stands as being right for others.”
The will is the way. But if the will isn’t willing, there is no way.