The Witch’s Breath: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

The Witch’s Breath: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff August 16, 2018
Photo by Oliver Pacas on Unsplash

One of the things I’ve learned over the last few years when it comes to both Witchcraft and various forms of community: sometimes you just have to separate the wheat from the chaff.  You have to carefully evaluate what is needed and unneeded, and let the latter be trimmed down, taken away, cleansed, or banished.

By the way, me referencing wheat in a metaphor is I suppose the closest you’re going to get to me doing a Lughnasadh post. (Yeah, it’s a little late now, but I started writing this about a week ago. It’s the thought that counts right?).

Separating wheat (the useful, edible parts) from the chaff (non-useful bits) sounds like a pretty hands-on task.  Like how you might husk a corncob or shell a pea pod. But if you read about the agricultural process called wind winnowing, gravity and air are the main factors involved.  Per Wikipedia: “In its simplest form it involves throwing the mixture into the air so that the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall back down for recovery. Techniques included using a winnowing fan (a shaped basket shaken to raise the chaff) or using a tool (a winnowing fork or shovel) on a pile of harvested grain.”

Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash

Let’s unpack that a bit more. You take the crop you spend months (or years) growing and tending to in order to get a good harvest – and then you toss it into the air with the hopes that only the unwanted parts blow away, and that gravity will collect the good. You hope that the winds don’t blow your whole harvest away, and that the unwanted pieces do become separated/removed.  There’s a fair amount of risk involved here from start to finish.

If the expression “separating the wheat from the chaff” sounds familiar, it’s probably because somewhere along the line, you ran into the biblical reference Matthew 3:12. One could view this passage as separating the good (saints, god-fearing folk) from bad (sinners) – and many Heaven/Hell enthusiasts often do – with the lesson being that the latter face eternal damnation per the line “unquenchable fire.” But if you’ve ever actually built a fire and maintain it, you’ll know that small particles like straw burn very quickly. They may help start a fire, but they don’t sustain it. The fire would be unsatisfied. I take that to mean that the unwanted parts aren’t worth the effort, they can’t keep things going very long.  I know that’s a bit of a weird interpretation, but several biblical scholars have also noted that unquenchable does not equal eternal (so hence not damnation) – so I’m taking both a more practical and elemental approach to fire.  Cause I’m a Witch.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

So getting back towards Witchcraft. For a while I have been struggling with my feelings and headspace regarding a community I used to be heavily involved with. I still love the heart of what created and fed that community, but I found myself unable to deal with everything and mostly everyone else surrounding that heart. Particularly after watching a metaphorical forest fire run through the community, burning so many. I knew I was exhausted of investing so much of myself and my time, while constantly dealing with abuses that tore about my heart.  So I was also angry, hurt, and disappointed.  How could people do and say horrible things to each other and the heart if they claimed to love and cherish the same thing?  The forest fire wasn’t started by one person or a few people, but rather had been years in the making by many people consciously and unconsciously supporting a myriad of abusive behaviors in their quest for ego, money, and popularity. In their minds, everything was framed as a competition, no room for collaboration, compassion, or creativity that would protect and feed the heart.  They had no qualms about lying, cheating, using, and stealing as long as their needs were met, so their poison got into everything. Everyone suffered as a result.

Basically, the chaff wasn’t getting separated from my wheat and it was turning everything else moldy.  There was no wind to take it away.  I was wasting my breath, and running myself down trying.  That had been my survival tactic for over a decade, so it took quite some time to unravel and unlearn.

Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

All of this past stuff sprang to mind last week, seemingly out of nowhere (though I’m sure Mercury would like to take the credit).  Maybe because I had been contemplating what makes things work so well in my world now.  I have removed a lot of people from my life who are/were not healthy for me or other people I care for, by tossing them to the wind and collecting who/what matters most.  I did it mundanely and metaphysically – a mixture of ripping, tearing, burning, and cleansing. Painful and hard work, but a world of healing in the end.

Those voids have been filled by people I can’t believe haven’t been in my life all this time. I love them so much  – I feel very blessed and inspired. I don’t have one community, but multiple overlapping circles that beautifully intertwine. I know that the people I interact with most, consciously support each other’s art, writing, music, and other creative outputs. They give feedback, support, love, friendship – while simultaneously maintaining themselves and fostering community. It can be so easy to generalize why any community at large sucks or fails, but look towards the roots of it.  Are there people interested in growing a harvest together?  Are they willing to do the work from start to finish?  Or are they only looking out for their needs, doing as little as possible? Are they in it to sustain a fire for everyone, or only themselves?  They will burn and fade away soon enough.

Photo by Nonki Azariah on Unsplash

It’s also very easy to get up into counting the harvest and hours spent in the fields, forgetting that it benefits everyone.  The grain that feeds us and our chosen endeavors, feeds the mice which feeds the cats, and so forth. We can’t hold on to everything, nor can we can control it. Sometimes we need to change crops all together, or let the field lay fallow for a while to be replenished. Some things just need to kiss the air a bit before they settle back down.  Other things are meant to be blown far away. We have to step back, release, and watch to see how it goes.

As Witches, we can definitely use our breath to summon strong winds to destroy and tear asunder.  We can take useless things and start fires with them without thinking what will happen down the line.

But we can also use our breath to call soft winds that gently separate, letting the Universe sort it out.  We can carefully build bonfires that will light the darkness. Lastly, we can breath in the sweet aroma of a harvest shared with each other.




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