Failure, Quitting, and the Aftermath

Failure, Quitting, and the Aftermath July 9, 2015

IMG_7070So I have a confession.

I’ve been failing at Timothy Roderick’s Wicca: A Year and a Day since, like, 2005.

The premise of this massive book is like a Type A personality daydream: every day comes with a task that promises to push you further along on your path to witchdom, whether it’s spellcasting, meditating, communing with the earth, or reading tarot cards.

I like structure. I like homework. I like a busy day, especially one that centers on anything magical, so when this book came out while I was seeking (still in college) I pulled the trigger without any hesitation.

And…quit. The massive supply lists, the chants that didn’t mean anything to me, the days of silence (yeah right)…it just wasn’t happening for me. This wasn’t really like the Wicca I was pretty sure I was looking for, anyway. But I did end up with a bigger collection of herbs.

You know things are serious when the Bagabi Chant comes out.  In red ink, no less.
You know things are serious when the Bagabi Chant comes out. In red ink, no less.

Every now and then over the next few years, I’d pick the book back up (I can’t stand feeling defeated, even if it’s over something trivial) and give it a whirl, always quitting somewhere around Day 12.

I have a whole journal that documents my repeated quitting of Wicca: A Year and a Day. I pulled it out last week (laughing) during a conversation with Eos, a member of my outer court, who was feeling a bit discouraged after her own escapades with Timothy Roderick.

“I picked up this book, you know, to supplement OC stuff? I can’t think of the title, but it’s got activities every day for a year. And I made myself a binder and was all pumped about it and now I just can’t bring myself to do some of this. Or I don’t care enough. Or something. Maybe it’s just me.” And then she laughs and rolls her eyes in her trademark self-deprecation, taking a large sip of her cocktail.

When I guffawed in recognition and told her I understood, disappearing upstairs to grab my Book of Quitting for her perusal, we had a long laugh.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that proficiency is born out of failure, and usually a lot of it. Journals and books of shadows are great for collecting thoughts, keeping track of projects, and hoarding information, but their real value for me has been the insight into my many (many) foibles and failures.

Years since first picking up a book and fumbling through your first bedroom ritual, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be totally green. One of my favorite teaching points in outer court begins with me allowing seekers to read the journals from my Teen Witch and college years. I was simultaneously insecure and convinced that I knew everything, and I think sharing that stage with my seekers is important. It’s not enough to only demonstrate proficiency; you have to also let people see your failures. My life in the Craft has been up and down, but all of those downs ended up teaching me a lot, whether it was quitting Timothy Roderick (repeatedly), that time I set my book case on fire during a ritual (whoops), all of those times I tried to start reading groups, or that phase where I suspected that all Wiccans must be hopelessly stupid and delusional and OH GOD WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME.

Critical things.
Critical things.

It’s all part of the process, and it’s normal. Failure and doubt—whether we’re talking magic or just social interaction—comes with the package. Being upfront about it quells egos, allows for straightforward conversation (and therefore progress), and relieves the anxiety that seekers sometimes feel around more experienced practitioners.

I’m not sure I could write a worthwhile review of Wicca: A Year and a Day, but I will say this: I look forward to New Years on YouTube and in the Wiccan blogosphere, when suddenly there are a bunch of new channels and blogs by people who’ve resolved to work through this book. It’s better than TV. For about twelve days.



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