Last year I posted an article called Everything is Open to Interpretation. In this I discuss how the way we feel about certain things, namely correspondences of things like colours and symbols, will have a direct impact on how these things work in our magic. Just because a book says that the colour pink is for love, doesn’t mean it will work for love if the colour pink makes you feel ill.
It’s a fairly simple concept and one that many witches and Pagans are open to. Our practices, our beliefs, our magics are quite individual. There are as many witchcrafts and Paganisms as there are Witches and Pagans.
But sometimes this idea might be taken too far, causing people to think that in witchcraft and magic, there are no real hard and fast rules. There is no one right way, therefore there is no one wrong way either.
This is a dangerous idea.
The Natural World Has Rules
We rely on our will to control our magic, and so create our own rules, so to speak. But, it is important to remember that the world we live in, indeed the entire universe, has rules that we are bound by to at least some degree. Herbal magic is a great example of this.
I did bring this point up, in passing, in that post last year but it pays to be clear. Our will can only go so far. Sure, you can feel like monkshood is a great plant for love spells (generally it’s for protection), and use it in sachets and the like. But you can’t go using it in potions and meals for the sake of some love magic. You won’t get love from that no matter how powerful your will, and even if you did – it won’t last long because you or the other person is like to die.
Gravity is a real thing that we cannot escape, even if you can levitate that doesn’t take you outside of the rules. Still, you will come down, you will always come down, you cannot stay up there forever. Don’t go jumping off a tall building just because you think you have the will power to withstand gravity. Hint: you don’t.
There are rules that must be followed, even in the simple magics. Poison will kill you, however powerful you are and so will gravity.
You Can Deviate From A Recipe, But Only So Far
In normal mundane cooking, there are recipes for cooking. Many of us start by following the recipe to the last dotted i and crossed t, but over time, if we find ourselves cooking the dish a lot, we adapt, we add and subtract things, we substitute things, we change it up and stop following the recipe.
We do this in Witchcraft too, or should. Witchcraft that is strictly one thing is no fun and leaves us no room for real growth, real evolution of power and knowledge. Without deviating from the recipe, the spell, the correspondences, the rules, we become stagnant. What’s even the point of such a practice that brings you nothing but the same old thing?
But, like in cooking, there are some things that generally remain the same or if adapted can only be adapted in very specific and strictly measured ways. Consider the simple act of cooking a quiche – if you add too much water to the crusts dough, if you add too many eggs or not enough eggs or too much milk or not enough flour to the filling…. It will not work. It will be too runny, or too solid, or too lumpy. It won’t work. If you cook a thing for too long, or not long enough, or at the wrong temperature for your oven… it will not work.
Some magic, some witchcraft, is just like a recipe, tried and true. These “rules” don’t exist just because someone decided to make up some arbitrary rules – they exist because time and experimentation has come up with some perfect methods for doing certain things. Can you expand and make it better? Perhaps. But not always, especially if your oven is too hot.
The Gods Don’t Care About Your FeelsSome Witches, and of course many Pagans, will bring the Gods into their practices and crafts. Most deities also have correspondences, sacred symbols, animals, plants and the like. Most deities have things They love and hate. Most deities have things they want humans to do for Them, or not do for Them.
Many deities interact with us on slightly, and sometimes massively, individualised levels – what Hekate accepts from one person, She won’t accept from another and vice versa. But there are also times where a deity, even one who happily accepts deviations from tradition, just won’t take any substitutes. There are certain things that some deities won’t allow you to deviate from. There are some deities who are just not okay with changes at all – do it right or go home. Some Gods are okay with changes, some aren’t and sometimes it depends on the person They are interacting with.
This is why we get some differing advice among Hellenic Pagans. Some of us will say, nah it’s fine if you can’t burn your offerings – others will say you have to burn offerings. Some will say, no animal sacrifice isn’t necessary – others will say it is mandatory, especially for certain deities. Some will say it’s perfectly fine to eat the offering we give a God – others say never ever eat the Gods portion.
But no matter how much the rules change between one deity and another, between one human and another – there are rules and it is best to follow them. Those rules are sometimes individualised for our needs, but sometimes they are not for us at all. If a deity asks you to sacrifice an animal to Them and if you don’t that means you can never interact with that deity again, what will you do?
There is no deviation, your will doesn’t factor into it, your feelings don’t matter. You either do what you’re told, or move on and lose out. There is a choice – but either choice you make, you follow Their rules and not your own. It’s not open to interpretation.
It’s Not All About You
Many Witches, Pagans and similar, interact with other beings and entities. Apart from the Gods, there are ghosts and spirits, monsters, daemons and demons, angels and fairies and so much more. We interact with these other entities and when we do, we have to follow the rules or perish.
If you are going to summon a demon, it really isn’t the best time to go about deviating from the prescribed methods and following your feelings. Because it is not about you, it’s about them. The reason for the protective symbols, circles, candles, shapes, plants, crystals or whatever is meant to be there, is not for you – it’s for the demon. It’s to keep it bound, so it doesn’t hurt you or others. It is to control it, leash it, force it. See, it’s not your rules, it’s their rules. Just like we are bound by certain immutable rules like the need for oxygen, so they are bound by certain rules.
Same goes for fairies and spirits and monsters and angels. Fairies are the worst ones here though. So many people who don’t realise just how dangerous fairies are, and so don’t even look for the rules to follow. But hey, if you want to willpower that pentagram to protect you go ahead. Don’t come crying to me when the fairies snap it to pieces.
There are Rules and Rules
Witchcraft is considered an act of rebellion, all by itself. Witches are meant to be outside the norm, we are meant to deviate from the traditional ways, we are meant to break the rules, smash them all to pieces. We should do that, we shouldn’t be afraid of doing that. We definitely shouldn’t let ourselves become stagnant.
But there are rules that exist for the sake of having rules, and there rules that exist as intrinsic parts of nature, or because someone else has to follow those rules and we need to make sure they do.
Witches are meant to break the rules. Good Witches recognise when it’s important to follow the rules.