Some time over the summer tour, I was scrolling through Instagram on my phone when I saw something that tripped me up. I’m a relative latecomer to it for a variety of reasons, but I generally like it. Especially as an artist, I like to look at images, see what folks are up to, get inspired. (I am also currently trying to figure out tumblr…)
Me + technology aside, the image I was looking at was a display of handmade jewelry. Really neat design-wise, then I looked closer to see what was written on it. Words like damaged and broken. Huh, I thought. That’s bold. I looked at the comments, which were enthusiastic. Then later that day, I came across clothing with similar words. Hmmm. That’s a thing. That’s a step beyond using that word to describe yourself vocally – it’s a definitive, visual label.
I suppose you could say displaying these words on yourself is brave, possibly even empowering. Demanding the world to accept that you’re not perfect. To warn people to not have certain expectations of you. To both challenge and celebrate one’s identity. I totally get that.
But there are two important things to keep in mind:
We are all wandering around in human suits.
First let’s tackle the magick of words. I’m not going to argue the power of “negative” vs. “positive” thinking here. Too many buzzwords and hairpin curves. Instead, let’s look at metaphysics. A great deal of spellcraft is based on the principals of sympathetic magick. That is, “like affects or draws like” and “the part can affect the whole.” We chose certain oils, colors, stones, and herbs because they are said to have properties in line with what we wish to accomplish. Poppets made with hair or clothing from someone – or made to look like them, is believed to be able to cause change with that individual.
The same can apply to the words we use to describe ourselves. What happens if you describe or label yourself ultimately as damaged or broken as your normal state, as the flag you choose to fly? It gives you very little room to maneuver past that the longer you hang on to these words as descriptors. There’s a lot of slang and nuance for these words, but let’s look at the definitions provided by google:
Damage: inflict physical harm on (something) so as to impair its value, usefulness, or normal function
Broken: having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order.
Who says you don’t have value when you choose that label? (Hint: You.) What is normal function anyway? What is working order? Who defines usefulness? Are you saying you are incapable of repair, change, or growth? Who’s in charge here anyway? Do those words make you different or special? (Hint: No, we’re all bumbling around making mistakes.) And to pull the title of this post in, are you also in a sense defining yourself as a victim? Is that something you’re looking for? Why?
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with admitting you’ve been hit hard by life in one way or another. Rather, I think it’s vitally important to address challenges, losses, gains, and changes. The problem with taking on a solid association with these words is that you’re buying into the false pretense of perfection, at the same time you’re trying to buck against it. You’re buying into a flawed dichotomy of good and bad, right and wrong, normal and abnormal.
To which I have to say: Fuck that noise.
We’re born into this world a swarming mess of cells and fluids – influenced by our parents’ DNA and the physical and emotional environment of the womb. There is no perfect pregnancy or birth, simply a collection of experiences – shaped by how we enter the world. From there we are exposed to all kinds of organisms, ingest new foods, run into contact with all manners of matter (gases, liquids, solids, plasma, etc), and ideas that shape our brains, spirits, and bodies. From our earliest moments, we are constantly in a flux, changing and being changed by the world around us.
It’s good to acknowledge when we have been hurt – either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, and take the time to heal. It’s healthy to be aware of tendencies that can impair our growth, of what we’re addicted to, have habits that are hard to break, or patterns we weave often unintentionally. It is powerful to take stock of the impact, but at the same time, to not let yourself be defined by the effects. It’s also important to realize that everyone else is in the same mess, whether they show it or not. Which is where compassion comes in, and learning to look beyond our hurts and damages to see others.
Choose words that inspire and ignite you. Choose words that connect and grow you. Be more than those words.
A tree is similarly shaped by the world. Its DNA determines what kind of tree it is, but where the tree grows will have a large part in how it grows. The soil and water content will affect nutrients, its neighbors may help determine how tall it grows, the winds may shape how it grows, at times snapping off limbs and tearing leaves. When faced with loss and change, it grows new roots and branches to balance itself. It attunes to the seasons and those around it. No matter what happens, the tree is still a tree, until it dies and becomes part of the cycle in a new way.
You can look around the world and see that everything has gains and losses – plants, animals, civilizations, and landscapes. The mountain grows and it also crumbles. Seas flourish but also dry up. Everything is animated. Everything is connected.
As Witches, it’s our job to connect the unseen, to recognize the spirit. The Witch is the one who changes, shifts, weaves, and bends. A Witch is not one moment in time or one instance or event, but rather all of the moments spiraled upon each other. We are more than our parts and pieces – we can lose these things, but we don’t lose us. We acknowledge and embrace the potential for growth and change. No matter what happens to us, the Witch remains. We can be damaged and at times broken, but underneath and overall – we still survive, persist, and overcome. We move forward.
We are the weavers, the creatrixes, the makers and the changers. We put that aside when we choose to dwell too long on a word that isn’t us, that isn’t who we are. We deny ourselves and our power when we do that. Witches are not society’s small, frail flawed idea of perfection, we are nature itself.
We are the ferocious raw beauty that is all the blessings and all of the curses that is Life combined.