What Does Your Practice Bring You?

What Does Your Practice Bring You? December 3, 2018

I love that the scent of my coven’s incense lingers in my home long after ritual. I notice it if I get up in the middle of the night, and in the morning its scent is sometimes stronger than that of the freshly brewed coffee waiting for my wife and I in the kitchen. On weekends when we host two or more rituals its scent lingers even longer, lasting into Tuesday and Wednesday.

Late fall landscape, photo from Pxhere. Public Domain. Even frosty mornings bring joy.

The perfume of our incense lingering through the house is a small thing, but it’s one that brings me great joy. When I smell it near our ritual room I generally break out into a big grin, I just can’t help myself. The happiness my Witchcraft brings me is something that I still acutely feel. Before sabbat rituals I’m often downright giddy, excitedly jumping around like a four year old on Christmas morning.

Joy is not the reason I am a Pagan, nor is it why I practice my Craft. The Wiccan-Witchcraft I’ve subscribed to for the last twenty-five years is about many things. It’s about forging stronger and better relationships with deity, and it’s about finding my place on the Wheel of the Year and connecting to the natural world. Practicing magick connects me to a current that is thousands of years old, and helps me to better understand both the Mighty Dead and those who practiced paganisms past long before the Modern Witchcraft revival.

Closer to home, my coven practice has given me a chosen-family, a community to share the highs and lows of life with. Covens are not always perfect, no social group is, but my coven(s) is really damn good. It’s full of people I love and trust and through our shared experiences we grow closer to the things that matter to me as a magickal person. (It often saddens me that so many people mistake a “coven” for the “wider Pagan community,” the two are nothing alike.)

My daily practices of devotion and observance bring me joy. Lighting incense for Santa Muerte pleases me as much as it pleases her, and pouring a libation for Dionysus is a magickal act, connecting me to both him and the little plot of land I call home. It’s cloudy and cool outside as I write this, and because I have to keep a window open while burning incense to the Pretty Lady, I can feel that cold across my legs and feet (even with jeans and shoes on). But this doesn’t bother me, and it brings me closer to the natural world at least in some some small way.

“The Feast of Bacchus” by Jan Brueghel the Younger. From WikiMedia. This has nothing to do with the article.

Certainly Witchcraft can be full of pain and sorrow. I cry when the last spirit leaves our circle at Samhain, and I’ve felt fear when looking into the Goddess’s eyes. But afterward even these more anguished moments often result in joy. “All that dies shall be reborn” is not just a line my coven says in ritual, it’s a truth that we know. The Goddess fills me with awe and trepidation not because I doubt her, but because I know she’s real and a part of my life. Once my anxieties and tears subside, these things then do bring me joy.

I’m often unsure exactly where my Pagan practice ends and/or begins. Unlike most people Paganism has become my life’s work. I write books and tend to Patheos Pagan, in what has become a full time job. Scheduling posts on social media is when “Paganism” turns into a mundane job, but sharing the voices from this place is still something that brings me happiness. Away from my desktop, I think playing in my garden and observing the world around me (most often hand in hand with my wife Ari) are magickal and spiritual acts. Decorating my house to reflect the turn of the seasons might feel mundane to some, but to me, it remains a way of connecting to the past, present, and what is to come.

Often my professional life as a Pagan takes me to festivals near and far. These are almost always magickal experiences. No matter how much drama a festival might kick up, once there, it becomes a transformative event full of people I want to communicate with and get to know better. Our differences are always so much less when we actually speak and talk to one another. There are hiccups along the way sometimes, but looking back at nearly every festival I’ve visited over the last twenty years, there has been at least a moment or two of joy.

Life is not easy or fair. I know that many people lack the creature comforts I take for granted: a home, food, warmth, a bit of money in the bank in case of an unexpected bill . . . . and when faced with such difficulties on a day to day basis it can be hard to find joy. I have been in these situations, I know how difficult they are. Being anguished, fearful, resentful, and angry in such situations is certainly justified, and no amount of candle magick is going to fix all of those problems.

I often look at some of my friends both online and off and wonder if there is any joy in their magickal practice. When I’m having a bad day I take solace in my faith, I don’t use it as a cudgel to bludgeon or demean others. Magick is about transformation, and generally we want those transformations to be positive ones. How we affect the change we wish to see becomes a part of any spell we might Craft. If your practices aren’t bringing you joy, try setting them aside, and focusing on the ones that do.

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