Lately, I’ve been thinking about “relative oddness.” I realize that I must sound crazy as a loon to the folks who do not perceive the world as I do. I mean, witchcraft?…seriously. I regularly question my sanity and do little reality checks with my peers, just to make sure I’m still on the rails. Some days I wonder if I’m the lunatic; other days I wonder if I’m the last sane person on earth.
It’s hard to forget that being a witch, seeing visions, and hearing the messages of the unseen hosts, as we do, was a capital offense not nearly long enough ago. <Ahem:cough> Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition. (1) Countless people have been executed or locked in mental institutions for being “differently aware,” and acknowledging a weirder reality than the average muggle. (2)
Working at a metaphysical store means that our staff meets all kinds of folks, from all kinds of backgrounds, and they ask all kinds of questions. Much like being a bartender, standing on our side of that battered glass display counter means that on any given day we can be asked to serve the role of priestess, counselor, healer or confessor. That day we might be what stands between a customer and the ledge. They come to us crying sometimes, or angry, desperate, or terrified. It is our honor to be their safe port in the storm.
They begin their questions with “this might sound crazy, but…” or, “I know this sounds weird, but…” My standard responses are, “there are no crazy questions here,” and “weird is relative; we are all weird here.” I do make a concerted effort, no matter what my customer says next, to arrange my response in such a way as to be neutral, informative and nonjudgmental. I am long practiced in the arts of straight-facery and subtle correction. I think I do OK with this task, most of the time.
Aliens? Possibly. Which race, from which star?
Faery? Depends. Terrifying and erotic, didn’t you think?
Ghosts, guardian angels, spirit animals? All par for the course.
If you *actually* released a demon through your Ouija board, NO I don’t think burning sage will be enough; NO, I do not vanquish demons; get thee to a Catholic priest!
To a Panentheist Witch, this is all Normal and Natural
Etymology: meaning “all-in-God”, from the Ancient Greek πᾶν pân (“all”), ἐν en (“in”) and Θεός Theós (“God”) (3)
A belief system which posits that the divine interpenetrates every part of the universe and extends, timelessly beyond it. The divine is both immanent within nature, and has a transcendent consciousness that is greater than the sum of its parts.
In my panentheistic paradigm where the entire universe is divine, then all these amazing things are my normal. The way I understand the language, words like paranormal and supernatural imply an entirely different paradigm. These come from an Abrahamic paradigm, and need to be dismissed from the pagan discourse, lest they drag in all their dissonance with them. In my humble opinion, there can be no paranormal if all of existence lies on a wide-ranging and relative scale of “normal.” Just like there can be no supernatural, if nothing can be “above” nature. But that’s just me.
Per my paradigm, nature is a diverse and multifaceted beauty of both seen and unseen, matter and energy, all polarities, a tapestry of divine consciousness the likes of which we are only beginning to comprehend, and while that may be weird to some, I embrace the wyrd-ness. Bottom line: we can all be relatively “right” and that doesn’t have to mean you are “crazy.”
My normal day at the office is to take students on meditative journeys to explore other spiritual dimensions, past-lives, the heavens and the underworld. They all come back with unique tales of who and what they experienced, and as far as I am concerned, they are all correct for them. To some folks, this work is crazy. <shrug> I do believe that people are evolving into a broader awareness, we can just see more now. Allow me to illustrate…
Imagine you’re driving down a dark, country road at night, seeing only the plain black asphalt that lies immediately before you. In the lonely quiet you might think you are separate and isolated. Then, like kicking up the high beams, you awaken from the illusion of your separateness. The patch of lit road widens, lengthens, and suddenly you notice the road is lined with wonders and perils. You’re in break-neck traffic on a stacked free-way with all manner of spirits, gods and monsters riding your bumper. (Imagine Houston, Texas on LSD.) Your dead Granny is riding shotgun and shouting directions. At first, these new perceptions can be overwhelming.
Then dawn breaks, and patterns form; a detailed map of the universe unfolds before you. It isn’t even a car you’ve been driving all along, but a Tardis from Dr. Who, rendering time and space fluid and luminous. You can go anywhere you want to go, but you’re on a one-way trip, never able to go home again. Try putting THAT white rabbit back into the hat.
In a witch’s world “normal” is spectacular; “natural” will blow your mind. Who am I to question what you are perceiving? She who is without oddness, cast the first stone!
Since we opened the shop in 2009, I’ve seen a mass awakening into this relatively broader view. From my perspective, humanity is leveling-up! The veil of the apocalypse was ripped away and we are finally seeing the gritty, wondrous, unpleasant truth of things. Call it what you like, there are more and more of us now asking the important question: Have I gone mad?
I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are. ~ Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
And Yet…Mental Illness among Witches is a Real Concern
All that being said, there are days when I run across witches with perceptions and behaviors that even I think cross the line into a mental health concern. WOWZA! If *I* think you’ve gone off the rails, that is really saying something!
At Pantheacon in 2015, I took a workshop with Diana Paxson on mediumship and divine possession, where she made the very important distinction between truly channeling the voices of your gods, and being mentally ill and “hearing voices.” She implored us to be diligent in our reality checks with each other, and discretion in how we act on those messages. Try not to forget that mass murders have happened because “God told them” to do it.
When I’m evaluating the messages I receive, I ask myself: Is this in alignment with my core values? Does this message seem consistent with the body of lore surrounding this messenger? Does it encourage me and others to be a better person, with better health, balance, love, and happiness? Does it live up to the laws of the land? Good taste or sense?
If the answer to any of those questions is ambiguous, then it is very possible that your fears and imbalances are burbling up, and being projected onto the outer world in an unhealthy way. If “demons are everywhere” I’d go seek some professional help. The good news about neo-paganism is that we cannot only converse with our gods, we can argue with them. We have free will to say NO.
The Moral of the Story:
While I may not perceive the world the same way as all my customers, I’m going to lovingly and helpfully coexist with them, even if that is at a distance that I define. Namaste Away. I also am going to be the reality checker when necessary, being honest when I believe that they have fallen into imbalance. However, I’m not knocking on any doors, either. If you come into my shop to see the village witch for advice, don’t you want me to be (constructively) honest with you?
Today, I ask myself where I draw the line between relative oddness and mental imbalance and I think that line is when the behavior or idea in question is sourced by fear, becoming anger, hatefulness, dis-ease, destruction and harmful actions.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” ~Yoda, from George Lucas’ Star Wars
Sure, you may have a wild idea, but how are you acting on that idea? If ever I find myself staring down that line with a fellow witch or a customer, then I may see fit to help that friend by finding the psychiatric help or law enforcement needed to prevent further harm. This is the same obligation a social worker or teacher has to report to authorities when someone is clearly a danger to themselves or others. This is how I’ll show perfect Divine Love and Trust that day.
To even flirt with Witchcraft is to welcome a kind of madness. (Or is it to be truly sane?) We are all mad here! Be free in your oddness! Be the brightly colored, glittering and strange flock of my like-feathered kindred! Y’all make my strange corner of the world a very interesting place to be and I’m grateful for that. But let’s also be diligent with our reality checks for each other, okay?