Here are a few more questions from the last Conversations Under the Oaks.
How do you feel about people who constantly brag about how witchy they are, how much the Gods hang out with them, how psychic they are, etc.? My feeling is that it sets up newcomers for disappointment if their own Craft isn’t like this. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and mine ain’t!
On one hand, it’s good to talk about our experiences. We live in a society where the loudest voices scream there is only one God and the second loudest scream there are none. The first group insists that magic and witchcraft are evil, while the second group insists they’re self-delusion.
When we say “I’ve experienced many Gods” and “I’ve done magic and it works” we make it easier for others to accept that their experiences are real and that their religious and spiritual paths are as valid as anyone else’s. That’s one of the reasons I write what I write, including some stories that defy rational explanations.
On the other hand, this kind of talk presents problems.
Some people tell stories that aren’t true
The first is people who are telling stories that in all likelihood simply aren’t true. I do my best to take other people’s accounts of their religious and spiritual experiences at face value, but some people flat-out aren’t believable.
I talk to a lot of people who work magic effectively, or who’ve experienced the presence of a God, or both. All their stories are slightly different, but they all have common structures and elements. The more a story varies from that common form, the less likely I am to believe it – particularly if it includes structures and elements from pop culture.
Some people aren’t credible witnesses. I touched on this in last week’s post on imposter syndrome. The more people make it about themselves and how special they are, the less likely I am to believe them.
Lies and exaggerations harm our community. They give ammunition to skeptics and they set impossible expectations for beginners – and sometimes for intermediate practitioners as well.
Others make it all about themselves
The second problem is people who tell the truth (more or less) but who do so in a self-aggrandizing way. Making themselves out to be big powerful witches or some such is bad enough, but the serious harm comes from the expectations they set for others.
I sometimes talk about my ecstatic experiences of the Gods, but I try to make it clear I practiced diligently for five years before my first such experience. It was three more years before it happened again. Even today, I cannot command these experiences – they come when the spirits involved decide. If I talked about it all the time I would give some people the impression this is something they should be doing on a regular basis, which would set them up for disappointment.
To keep silence
There is much to be said for the idea of keeping silence. There is also much to be said for the Masonic idea (that made it into some forms of Wicca) of only revealing certain things to “a proper person, properly prepared.” This isn’t gatekeeping – it’s showing reverence and respect for sacred mysteries.
So while there is value in normalizing non-ordinary experiences and practices with a wider audience, there is also danger in sharing things with people who aren’t ready and willing to hear them. And people who make it all about themselves are doing far more harm than good.
Tasks from the Gods
And now another question, one that appears to be a synchronicity. Karen Hinton Phillippi asks:
Do deities ever contact a person for a specific task? I feel no connection to Hekate, but She appeared in a dream and gave me one task, which I am doing.
Short answer: yes.
This question is completely separate from the question above, but it serves as an example of what I was talking about. Karen – who gave permission to use her name – isn’t someone I know well. But her story is very similar to other stories I’ve heard from other people who turned out to be telling the truth.
Gods have appeared to people in dreams for at least as long as we’ve been human – the stories of our ancestors have many such accounts. Those stories continue to this day. I’ve had dreams like this myself. So all of that is entirely possible.
Hekate is one of the most active Goddesses in our world today. I don’t have much first-hand experience of Her – my take on the Who is Hekate? mini-controversy in 2019 dealt with the process of how we discern who we’re talking to. But I’ve seen enough to know that Hekate calling someone and giving them a task is something that happens with some frequency.
And finally, Karen says Hekate “gave me one task which I am doing.” Nothing big or flashy. Nothing ego-boosting. Nothing that screams “look how special I am.” That matches other credible reports I’ve heard from different people involving different deities.
Now, it’s entirely possible Karen has misinterpreted some part of this experience – I’ve done that more than once. But her report has many of the common structures and elements of similar stories from other people, so I’m inclined to affirm it.
Good luck completing your task.
Children and Tower Time
Another question asks:
How does one prepare and explain Tower Time to a child without giving them nightmares?
I do not have children, so I’m probably not the best person to answer child-related questions. But I have friends with children, and I pay attention. Plus I was a child at one point and I have a very long memory. So since you asked…
You didn’t give the age of your child – that’s critical. Young children shouldn’t be burdened with troublesome projections about the future. Teach them skills they’ll need, because everyone can use practical skills, and because learning new things is fun. Make it a game, not training Hit-Girl. Otherwise, let them run and play and do the things their friends do, because everyone should have a stress-free childhood. Many don’t, but that’s no excuse for making theirs more difficult than it has to be.
As children get older and start thinking about their future in the adult world, your obligation changes from protecting them to preparing them. How old is that? I don’t know – it depends on the maturity of the child. The best way to prepare them is to set a good example. That’s better than trying to sit them down for a “conversation” that’s both one-sided and scary.
Remember: Tower Time is not an apocalypse. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not something that’s coming – we’re already in it. Teach your child good spiritual practices, practical skills, and help them be a part of a supportive community. They’ll be fine.