I have been struggling with the concept of “chosen” for a few weeks now; it’s been in my drafts folder, staring at me. It’s a complex topic, fraught with the potential for misunderstandings or defensiveness. Even so, I can’t shake the feeling that I’d like to address it—primarily within the scope of what it means to me, and to folx like me that may feel intimidated by the whole thing.
In short, I’d like to talk about Hekate. Or, more precisely, Hekate and those like her (Chauntea, Torm…) that are said to bestow the calling to witchcraft (divinity, magic…) to a witch (cleric, paladin…).
…Yes, I’m a D&D player, how can you tell?
Anyway, the thing is this:
I never understood the concept of a calling of the deific sort. Which is to say, I’ve never experienced being chosen by any sort of divine process. In fact, I can barely even imagine what it must be like.
When playing D&D, I shy away from clerics or paladins. Rangers and sorcerers have long been my favorites (my absolute loved of all time being an ugly, tough, scarred mountain elf ranger whose primary enemy was goddamn giants, come at me bruh); note there is no divine calling in either class. I honestly had no idea what being chosen by a god was supposed to look like. What does it do? How does it proceed? What am I supposed to feel? See, or hear? How does it work?
I felt utterly blank; one of very few subjects on which I have zero sense of grounding.
Some background: I work for the publishing industry—or rather, in the publishing industry. As a full time author of science fiction and fantasy, I’ve met my share of gatekeepers. They are often bigoted white men, or women cultured by the patriarchal industry to believe that genders must be written within gendered lines to be successful. Or worse, they are well-meaning professionals who offer guidance that ultimately ends up being exclusionary.
Hey. Is Kace comparing the calling of a god to the gatekeeping of assholes and ignorance?
Yes and no. Here’s why:
Because of the culture of toxic masculinity we have all grown up in, the best of intentions often lead to the concept of Club Members Only. You either can, or you can’t. You either are, or you are not. You have what it takes or you just don’t; so do what you can but you can’t come in here.
I was not raised within the circle of witchcraft or magick, yet like most religions, there is a lot of talk about being “touched”, chosen, worked through by a deity. Being “raised” in the publishing industry, there is often talk of getting lucky, favored or “chosen” by publishing houses…
When one is a struggling author, a publisher is one’s god. And a god that does not bless one with the same intensity and focus said god blesses another, no matter how hard and long and often one works for it, leads to a sense that one is not worthy of the club.
In essence: the gate has been shut.
Are the two worlds apples and oranges? Absolutely.
But they’re both fruit, so bear with me. We all work from within frames we begin in.
Blessed by the Divine: Chosen and Answered
Many devotees of Hekate talk about experiencing intense spontaneous communication from her. These messages can come in many forms, including:
- hearing Hekate speak to you, either through a voice or seeing a written message in your mind’s eye
- having a vision of Hekate
- unexpectedly seeing one of Hekate’s symbols
- our interpretation of events
- a knowing
Shortly afterwards, I had my first ecstatic experience of Cernunnos. His being, His essence, merged with mine, at least to some degree. I was still aware of what was going on, but the presence of Another in me was strong and undeniable. Afterwards, one of the people in the ritual said she saw antlers coming out of my head.
On the one hand, I really do enjoy reading about these things. It seems like such an otherworldly experience!
On the other… I can’t imagine what that feels like. To be blessed, to see, to experience. It’s a giant vacuum inside my head—how strange it is to not even be able to imagine something! To me, it’s like hearing that fire is hot, but never experiencing the heat of it myself. What is a fire’s “hot”? Is it like a summer day? Is it like a fever? Is it like acid? Or an abrasion?
Of course fire is a unique experience. Fire burns like fire. Without knowing the touch of it, one may never have anything to compare it to. One may guess or rationalize… but one knows it when one feels it.
In a different article (When Hekate Calls: A Practical Guide for Answering), Dr. Brannen wrote:
I’ve always been intrigued by others stories of being summoned by Hekate. In these stories, the calling usually comes exactly when we need it the most, even if we don’t realize it at the time. These encounters are usually spontaneous, and have clear imagery associated with Hekate (like torches, keys, dogs). Often, this calling comes to someone who had little (like me) or no existing knowledge of Her at the time. Sometimes, the imagery is not mental but an actual out-of-the-blue event. Once during a ritual, a big black dog came bounding out of the woods, jumped up on one of the participants and planted a big, wet kiss of her lips. I knew what I had witnessed.
See, I do believe that these practitioners and pagans have 100% felt something, or experienced something. It’s far too sad to err on the side of cynicism and say that all of these stories are made up, and while I may be cynical about so many things, I still believe in things often unexplained. A cynical romantic? A romantic cynic… Whatever I am, it’s p’much all conflicted.
What I do know is that I’ve never experienced anything like this. Nothing stands out. No yokai has crawled out of the woodwork to leer at me, no black cat has crossed my path and left a wake of shadows, no deity has wandered by to ruffle my hair or… well, you get the idea.
Does it mean that I do not belong among the real practitioners?
Call Out the Divine: Choice and Will
There is in this world a new kind of plague; a social and mental plague called FOMO—fear of missing out. Often, it’s this fear that keeps us glued to our social media, just in case something happens among our circles and we miss all the fun. Or drama. Or whatever.
It’s what has us constantly checking in on work or going out to socialize even though we are exhausted. Why we feel jealous or abandoned when we are not invited to parties or to That One Slack or That One FB Group.
And when fury or determination or hunger isn’t the cause, FOMO is responsible for the desperate desire to get through a gate that bars us.
Let me be honest: I do feel that the concept of a calling by the divine is a gate. I feel that should I never experience this, I am only pretending to be a witch—hell, perhaps I can’t even do that much. Is it possible that I simply don’t deserve to be chosen by deity or entity or energy? Is it that I must spend years and years striving to be worthy of one?
… Just as I am spending years and years striving to be worthy of the title “author”?
If I never feel that energy, if I never make a bestseller list, do I have any right to call myself witch or author or…? And more importantly… should I never feel the hand of Hekate or hear the pipes of Pan, am I only playing at witch and power and magick? Or is choice, of magick and practice and belief and faith, just as valid as that of divine summons?
Ask anyone how to get magic, and the answer they will give you is simple and correct: practice.
But anyone who has been this for a while can give you a million analogies as to why this is not the full answer anymore than someone asking how to build muscle and you’re told: lift more. You do all of those squats and before you know it, you have an injury. Why? Because while you were lifting more, you weren’t lifting correctly.
Magic isn’t all that dissimilar.
This is not new ground for me, at least. To compare that apple to my orange, ask any one of us how to get published, and we will say: write.
And like Scarlet says regarding magick, so is it true in writing. Often, our first few books are terrible. Even if they become published, they may become something of a cringe-worthy addition to our back list, simply because of how much we may have done wrong. But writing is practice, and so… practice, practice, practice. We learn, we get better, we write more and better books.
Yet as we are all aware, even badly written books can sometimes still get published. And badly practiced magick, I assume, can still (sometimes?) work. Does a bit of success without Hekate’s or publisher’s focused brand make us witches and authors? Or… just lucky?
Once again, in a different article at Under the Ancient Oaks, John Beckett reminds us:
Damh points out how experience leads to belief, as we try to make sense of our experiences and place them in a wider context. Or it can go the other way, with belief leading to experience. Experience, belief, and practice form a virtuous circle, and that circle can go in either direction.
So is choice just as valid as divine involvement? And should there be no divine touch at all—should belief simply lead to a more earthly form of practice, which then bestows experiences of magick and cause and effect—would that also be valid? Or is it that, such as the no-doubt surprised woman and the large black dog, one may call themselves a witch and find themselves called by an entity long after they choose the role? …And must all witches wait for this before they are considered a member of the inner sanctum, as it were?
Ultimately, and inevitably, I suspect there is no one answer. No two answers. … Possibly there is an answer or three for every witch and bard and priestess (and cleric and paladin and templar and…ahem) there is. I suspect the answer is both yes and no; if, then, that or else. Yet in my case, all I have is what I have experienced. And have not experienced.
Among them, there is no calling. No hand upon my forehead or horns or even dreams. (My dreams, tho… one day, we’ll talk about those. Goddamn.)
But also, I can’t help but wonder: does all this really matter to the whole concept of being a witch? Is there a divide between those chosen by the divine and those not? And if one never feels the touch of a deity, yet still remains successful at their practice, does it make any sense at all to question this?
I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts, whether you count yourself among the chosen or among those who have not felt a god or goddess within (or around) you. What are your experiences? Do you feel chosen? Do you care?