I had a row with a friend the other day. An excellent friend, the kind of friend where the friendship can survive any number of rows. (And we do it properly – loudly, publicly, occasionally drunkenly, invariably vehemently but always parting the very best of friends afterwards).
The subject of this particular argument was poetry. My friend is a highly accomplished singer songwriter who believes passionately (as a result of his own work with song writing) in the merits of structuring poetry into formal metre. He argues that poetry has more worth when it follows a structure and that as a resulting of structuring to form it shows more effort must have gone into writing the poem. He believes that the value of poetry is expressing what it is you are writing about in a set way.
To him, the form appears to be greater than the subject (If I'm misrepresenting you dear its probably because you conduct most of your arguments with your fingers in your ears going la la la…….) I won't repeat some of the language he uses to describe the concept of free verse as it doesn't conjure up a very flattering image of how some of my favourite poets do their writing. But in summary he thinks free verse is highly pretentious and extraordinarily easy to write.
I am an avid reader and occasional writer of poetry and I disagree with him entirely. He seems to think rhyming is an art. Well it isn’t. I could write you any amount of rhyming couplets. Really I could. I could do you a couple of hundred lines in an evening, no effort at all. They would scan correctly, appear fairly clever and literate but crucially would be utterly devoid of meaning or worth. I would fool you into thinking I am a poet because I understand the structure of poetry. But I am not a poet. A true poet distills the beauty of an idea into words on the page. They take an image or an idea and represent it in such a way that they take you with them into their emotion. They know how to make you feel. If, out of every poem I have ever written I have more than one or two that has achieved anything even close to this, frankly I'd be surprised. I can trick you into thinking what I write is profound, I could trick you very easily but the truth is that I haven’t that spark of whatever it is that brings you across into my world. An ability to understand and emulate rhyme, structure and form does not make a poet.
(Incidentally, a sound grasp of poetic structure is an excellent asset to being a witch. I’m very hot on rhyming spells. I find it a lot easier to write spells to a structure. This is probably a good thing. If I were to hang around waiting for that gem of inspiration for a free verse spell, likely as not I would never get anything done. And so many people would go unhexed. That would be such a shame!)
What my friend means when he says anyone could write free verse is that he thinks anyone could string a load of random sentences and images together. Well yes, I agree, I am sure that most people could. But the point is that if they can’t do that and achieve emotional engagement, they are not writing poetry and they may as well be writing their shopping list. True, some free verse leaves me cold. Some of it is genuinely is pretentious nonsense (I’ve never liked anything by Ted Hughes). But some of it is also completely non compromising unvarnished passion. I’m biased of course, my love affair with TS Eliot has lasted for years. But nobody (Please Goddess….) nobody, could read Eliot’s Waste Land and wish he had made all the sentences the same length and thrown a few more rhymes in. If he had chosen to force his mighty vision of a poem into a conventional structure so much of his voice would have been lost.
Writing free verse is a bitch. It entirely rests on the imagery and the language of the poem. You can’t hide behind a clever rhyme or the rhythm of the poem’s flow. It is your ideas and emotions that are being scrutinised. There is nowhere to hide. The perception of whether your poem is good or bad relates directly to whether your reader has an empathy with your emotion. So to me, once you step out from the confines of rhymes and metre, you are up there on the high wire, out on your own. Conventional poetic structures can mask a myriad of false emotions. Nothing can mask whether you can write poetry or not when you use free verse.
Take that absolutely worthless piece of crap by Auden. It means nothing. The imagery is pathetic. It is one of the worst poems I have ever read. Yet it makes top 100 poem lists with astonishing regularity. Classic example of a familiar rhyme masking the fact that the poet simply has nothing to say.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
(See what I mean - abysmal!)
My friend would argue that a good poet should be able to formulate his ideas into a structure without compromise and that that is the true art of poetry. But again I disagree. Simply put, there may not be a way of getting the entirety of a single idea onto the page in any structured format. Language demands that there must always be a degree of compromise. To him compromise for the sake of form is worth it, to me it isn't. I don't care what poets have to do to generate emotion in me, I don't care if they break form, make up words, drop words out, even change language (I’m looking at you Eliot). I don't care if they have no understanding of assonance or alliteration. I'm an emotion junkie, all I care about is the feelings they are able to inspire in me. And I don't want the poets to have to compromise anything at all as they pass an image from their mind into mine. I want the genuine experience, not some modified reworked second rate retelling.
I think, to be fair, that writing poetry is different to writing songs. The song writer has no choice but to consider the music. He may think he is free to do whatever he desires but he is deeply constrained by the tune and rhythm of the music. The poet has no such constraints. He can focus entirely on passing the image and emotion into the mind of his reader. The line between the two is blurred at times (Bob Dylan?) but essentially the poet does not have to work to a structure and the song writer does. I would probably argue that song lyrics lose something in the translation from idea to melody. My friend would tell you the ideas are better when worked on for long enough to create a fit to form and melody. Likely we will never agree. Nor would I want to. I do not have enough people in my life to argue about poetry with.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1182631 (mzecha)
Of all the big questions, the ones about death are the biggest. Individually and culturally there are so many theories, beliefs and ideas about what actually happens after we die.
I remember getting quite cross at university when the Athiest Society took it upon themselves to put up posters quoting the philosopher Bertrand Russell: "When I die I'm food for worms." I took most of them down - they really annoyed me and it became quite a hobby seeking them out and ripping them up. But that's what the whole subject of death has the power to do, it gets you worked up because we all have a personal investment in it. The one thing we all do agree on is that at some stage we are all going to die.
Even among segmented groups of people there is no agreed truth where the after death is concerned. Take witches for example. Some witches believe in reincarnation, others in an afterlife as a final resting place for the soul, yet more in the return of the soul to a communal ether. And some (like dear Mr Russell) believe in nothing at all.
Religion doesn't have the answers either. Most religions tend to agree that the soul doesn't end with death but again they differ wildly from that point. The Catholic idea of Purgatory is at odds with the Protestant definitions of Heaven and Hell. Hinduism believes in reincarnation, Buddhists in achieving Nirvana ( the state of absolute perfection) and Muslims in a tiered hierarchy dependent on individual merit.
There's no real empirical way of knowing what happens after death. The near death experiences of people who have experienced physical death for a brief time can be explained by scientists as being the product of oxygen depletion in the brain. Yet, equally that experience of the white light tunnel could be evidence of transgression to another astral plane. But we don't have enough evidence to PROVE it. No matter how you look at it, if you want to believe in any form of life after death you need to take a leap of faith.
I do believe in life after death. As a witch I work with the spirits of the dead. As a believer in deity I can't conceive of a creation as alive and vital as the human fading to nothing. I just can't imagine it all.....not being. Possibly I'm either too arrogant or too stupid to imagine simply becoming......nothing.
So last year I took it upon myself to seek out some proof that would convince me (maybe not enough hard evidence to convince anyone else but to convince me) that death is the next step of the journey and not the end.
I sought out a respectable practitioner of past life regression therapy and I asked her to transgress me back to my previous lives and specifically the deaths that ended those lives.
We talked through a couple but the one that really convinced me was when I transgressed through my life as a very elderly black woman dying of natural old age in a hot country. I was convinced by this because I was able to experience emotions that I have not lived long enough in this incarnation to understand. I have not yet learned total acceptance of my own mortality, I cannot comprehend as a thirty four year old what it means to be so old that you welcome death as a release from the effort of living. As a young woman this concept is alien to me. But in the regression I felt these emotions acutely, I felt so tired and so very ready to sleep forever. I felt my time on the earth had come to a natural end and I had nothing left to do but close my eyes and fade away. And I welcomed that with a quiet joy that I simply cannot yet get my head round yet in this life.
So in the same way that some people transgress back to previous lives and speak languages they have not spoken in their current life, I experienced emotions I have not learned in my current life. It was a reassuring experience, it took any fear of death away from me and it confirmed to me that I was right to believe that there is more, that death isn't and doesn't have to be the end.
As I suspected would be the case, I learned nothing through my experience that could be used to prove evidence of life after death to others. Psychologists deny regression on the basis that it does nothing but stimulate the sub conscious mind into recall that the conscious mind is unaware of. Scientifically I have no grounds to dispute that. But it doesn't matter. I set out to understand and confirm my belief, to validate in my own mind the leap of faith I have long been prepared to make. And I achieved what I set out to do. And the rest of my life will be spent without fear or dread of death. That's a powerful payoff for daring to investigate the big questions.
To those of you seeking the answers to the big question, I'm afraid I can't offer you any kind of definite conclusion. All I can say is if you want to spend your life doubting you will always find a reason to doubt. If you want the answers - your answers - go out into the world and find them. They might be different answers to the ones I have found but you'll know them when you find then and they will be right for you. In the end that's all that really matters.
image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1311447 (robbie_m)
The subject of fears and phobias seems to have come up a lot in my house recently. Its probably because I now own such a diverse range of animals that most people are likely to be scared of at least one of them!
Take my latest pet for example – Charlotte - named after the eponymous E.B. White character (and just as likely to spin a web). When I first bought Charlotte I’ll admit it, I was a bit scared of her. Not in a phobia kind of way, mine was a very sensible fear, she has the potential to deliver a venomous bite and I'd rather not be bitten by anything at all, least of all by anything venomous! But I said to my dubious husband – just give me six weeks and I’ll be cuddling my new pet like I do any of the others. Six weeks later and what do you know, we’re the best of friends and I’m completely fearless in my handling of her.
So did I know I would overcome my fear so quickly? Well pretty much because I’ve been on this merry go round before and I've worked out what to do. I used to be terrified of rats – really terrified – to the point where I couldn’t sit in public parks in case one turned up. So what did I do? I bought three huge rat like creatures (my infamous degus). Now a big black sewer rat could share a sleeping bag with me and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Same with my fear of cockroaches. I bought two geckos who eat horrid black cockroachy looking crickets. At first I had panic attacks if I dropped one with tweezers, now I pick the crickets up in my fingers with no trouble. By seeking out and familiarising myself with the objects of my fears I was able to gain control over the fear itself. (Next stop is probably installing a great white shark in a swimming pool in my back garden – or is that going too far..!)
I was also pretty confident that animal wise I could bond with just about anything. I knew my instinct to look after my pet would be stronger than any fear of it. And I was right. Apparently I can mother anything!
Its been very interesting for me to see how other people handle their fears. My head on acclimatisation approach doesn't seem particularly common. But other people have their own individual ways of coping. My husband, for example, is mildly arachnophobic, not at all keen on anything with more than four legs. But he knew how much I really wanted Charlotte so he was able to put his own fears aside to give me something I wanted. In his case fear was overcome by his feelings for his wife (though to be fair I did swap my right to have a Charlotte for something he really wanted so his fear was also negated by the desire for his own gratification).
My closest friend (a very stubborn girl indeed) is also arachnophobic and I didn’t think she would want anything to do with Charlotte. But she is so completely rational that she just talked herself out of the fear. It was actually quite funny watching how stern she was with herself. And after deciding there was no rational basis to her fear she simply brushed it aside. Several weeks later she’s gone from being a person who keeps all the windows shut in summer to letting Charlotte put a leg or two on the back of her hand. Now that really is a true triumph of rationality over racial memory.
And everyone who has had contact with Charlotte has commented on how they feel less scared about her species in general. Familiarity really does seem to breed comfort. I wonder sometimes if fear itself is more frightening than the actual object of the fear. Or do people just become so entrenched in fear that they lose the ability to imagine living without it?
There were of course other reactions to my placid new pet (devoted though I am even I have to admit that she doesn't actually DO much...). One close friend refuses to set foot in my home anymore. And another is so irrationally terrified that I can’t even tell her I’ve got Charlotte (I pop her in my knicker drawer when she comes to visit!)
While I would never intentionally use my pets to frighten people I actually find these reactions to be quite alien to my own way of thinking. I don't understand how it isn't possible for people to overcome these primeval fears. Surely they see being fear free as desirable? So why do nothing about it? Why let fear have an impact on the way you live your life?
If something frightens me I see it as a challenge and I challenge it right back. Nothing gets that much power over me. I don't understand why anyone would cede that level of control to a fear or a phobia. In all honestly I'd rather be thrown naked into a pit of cockroaches themselves than admit defeat in the face of fear... (Actually I'd probably also prefer the cockroach pit to the medically preferred psychotherapy treatment, but there's an alternative for those of you who don't fancy the hands on approach...)
So here's some free advice to anyone struggling in the grip of irrational fear. Bite the bullet, get out there and face it. If you don't like snakes, buy a snake. If you can't cope with buttons start hanging round the local haberdashery. Face it, confront it and overcome it. Because if you don't you're giving the driving seat to your fear and you're letting it defeat you. And fair play to you if you don't mind being beaten and you're ok with being the loser in the battle but if you'd prefer to be in control of your life take the power back and get it sorted.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1035400 (cielieke). Because nobody can be scared of penguins!
One of the reasons I prefer Traditional Witchcraft over the modern practise of Wicca is the fact that it lends equal weight and value to both the light and dark aspects of magic. The path I follow embraces the duality of dark and light, good and evil, hidden and open. This is reflected in the duality of the deities I worship, God and Goddess, representing both male and female, the sun and the moon. And in a sense I embrace both the positive and negative with the deities each incorporating the darkness and the light within them.
I dislike the modern belief that a God must only be good. I particularly dislike the Christian practise of splitting good and evil into the separate entities of God and the Devil. This simplistic view of evil does nothing to help us comprehend the complexity of deity. And it gives us a false view of the world that the only path forward is only one of light.
The deities represent higher versions of humanity. And we are a pretty complex creation. To imagine the higher form of us to be so spiritually simple as to have a single core of wholly light or dark is unimaginatively unlikely. The deities (for those of us who acknowledge them, I am aware many witches choose not to work with deity) have a higher level of complexity, a greater awareness of the duality of light and dark and a deeper understanding of the conflict between good and evil. They embody all the elements of life (not just the pretty shiny ones).
Like it or not, we turn our back on the dark at our peril. If we fail to acknowledge evil exists we fail to recognise and react to it when we encounter it. Taking a biased approach and only seeking out that which can be defined as good means you are unprepared for what you may find in the world.
And a witch needs to be prepared. She needs to know how to fight fire with flame. There are times when a situation warrants more than light and fluffy magic can throw at it. A witch who refuses to curse, hex or bind denies herself half the power at her disposal. You wouldn't become a soldier and think it not fair play to fight with both hands? Then why be a witch and voluntarily choose to limit your power to such an extent?
There are also times when taking a utiltarian approach to magic can advance the greater good. That man you bind, how much harm have you prevented? That curse you cast, he won't do that again will he? Sometimes we can cause more harm by not causing harm. Sometimes its a better moral choice to be the proactive bad guy than the non acting good guy. Sometimes people deserve all that you can throw at them.
To be truly focused as a witch you need to have all the different parts of your character integrated. And shutting those parts of yourself off, just because you would rather not think about them prevents this integration. When we look deep inside ourselves we all have selfishness, malice, even cruelty. If we shut ourselves off from these emotions it weakens us as a person. It leaves the monsters clanging in our basement as a reminder that there is a part of ourselves that we daren't confront.
So as a witch I look within myself and work with all aspects of my character. I look to do the right thing and indeed the moral thing but I understand that morality is a more complex matter than following a list of moral imperatives or refusing to acknowledge anything beyond that which others would perceive as good. I strive to strike a balance, to see the world in its many shades of grey. I strive to see everything and to appreciate the balance in the world, in myself and in my deities.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1341396 (S Hinni)
PAGAN BLOG PROJECT 2013
BBC Radio Four have recently announced their intention to broadcast the full version of Tony Harrison's poem V. This interests me greatly as when it was scheduled on Channel 4 a few years ago it caused controversy near hysteria and nearly gave the Daily Mail a heart attack! (And I'm all in favour of anything that kills off the Daily Mail....)
Harrison is one of Britain's most famous poets, renowned for not only his own poetry but his authoritative translations of several classical works, most notably The Oresteia.
V is a multi stanza rhyming poem that tells of Harrison’s true life experience in going to the graveyard in Beeston Hill, Leeds where his parents are buried to find that their graves had been desecrated with sprayed expletives and the V sign - representing the versus of the various football loyalties close to the United ground.
If buried ashes saw then I'd survey
the places I learned Latin, and learned Greek,
and left, the ground where Leeds United play
but disappoint their fans week after week,
Which makes them lose their sense of self-esteem
and taking a short cut home through these graves here
they reassert the glory of their team
by spraying words on tombstones, pissed on beer.
The V (a pun on versus/verses) takes on a greater symbolism throughout the poem as it comes to represent the divide between rich and poor, living and dead, educated and illiterate, young and old, left and right, communist and fascist. Through the exploration of the divide, Harrison expresses both his own pain at the desecration and the pains of the imaginary skinhead youth responsible for the graffiti to whom he sincerely wishes he could credit with a greater purpose than mindless vandalism. We see Harrison reaching out to idealism to make sense of the mess and to allay his own fears of violence without motivation,
Though I don't believe in afterlife at all
and know it's cheating it's hard not to make
a sort of furtive prayer from this skin's scrawl,
his UNITED mean 'in Heaven' for their sake,
An accident of meaning to redeem
an act intended as mere desecration
and make the thoughtless spraying of his team
apply to higher things, and to the nation.”
Harrison's attempts to understand, justify and exonerate the skinhead are the backbone of the poem, with the inevitable collapse into failure as youth and age fail to meet across the widening chasm of the versus.
‘The only reason why I write this poem at all
on yobs like you who do the dirt on death
's to give some higher meaning to your scrawl.'
Don't fucking bother, cunt! Don't waste your breath!
'You piss-artist skinhead cunt, you wouldn't know
and it doesn't fucking matter if you do,
the skin and poet united fucking Rimbaud
but the autre that je est is fucking you.'
As the poem reaches its conclusion we clearly see the divide within Harrison himself - the skin head graffiti scrawler representing his working roots and the middle aged poet trying to defend (to himself?) how he has travelled so far from both his youth and his own working class Yorkshire background.
He took the can, contemptuous, unhurried
and cleared the nozzle and prepared to sign
the UNITED sprayed where mam and dad were buried.
He aerosolled his name. And it was mine.
You get the feeling with V that it was write it or go mad. The torrent of emotion unleashed in the lines of the poem needed to be released and as a poet Harrison had the perfect outlet to do it. Interestingly enough there is a clear parallel between the educated Harrison expressing his frustrations on paper and the uneducated skinhead scrawling his frustrations on the graves. Which of course is the message Harrison intended to convey all along.
V is a brilliant poem and like many brilliant poems it would probably have been consigned to academic obscurity were it not for the vernacular employed by Harrison in his work. V is sadly best known as "that poem with the C word." I believe our literate friends at the Daily Mail actually went through and counted how many times each different expletive appears......information they triumphantly served up to their (presumably equally philistine readers) in an article expressing outrage that such filth can be shown on national television (at eleven o clock on channel 4....)
Now you can't deny that some of the language in Mr Harrison's poem might seem a bit fruity for the average dinner party. But as an emotionally honest reaction to what must have been a pretty devastating discovery, Harrison's words hit the mark. Equally, I doubt his portrayal of the sneering skinhead would have been as effective if the lad has spoken BBC English. In making the decision to eschew the stuffy taboo about naughty words, Harrison brings a realism into his work that only adds to the poignancy of his own very genuine reaction at the state of his parents graves.
Of course you can't expect any in depth literary criticism in the Daily Mail. They'll have missed all the layers of meaning because they were too busy making their tally of the rude words. Which is a shame, because if the papers were a bit more focused on literary merit and a bit less focused on creating scandal where it doesn’t need to exist then a lot more people would be exposed to a lot more good poetry. Although, contrarily, I could be wrong - possibly the best thing the papers could do is to go ahead and condemn the poem. For as a consequence of all this publicity far more people will read it than ever would have done…… And to me that’s a win for good poetry and a sound defeat for narrow minded literature fascism....
Its a funny old world where age is concerned. In UK law you can get married before you can legally purchase cigarettes or alcohol. You can drive before you can vote. You can stand for Parliament before you can teach someone to drive. You can have sex before watching a film with explicit sex in it. I mean........what a jumble!
This whole legal confusion suggests that there is no real agreed coming of age of when a child becomes an adult. We flounder a bit in indecision as to whether a person in their teens is a child or an adult. The law doesn't know how to treat them, fond though it is of sticking age restrictions on everything....
And the child/adult thing has implications in the craft as well. Many covens employ an over eighteens only rule (though I believe a lot make exceptions for coven family members). The big question is, should we encourage and support young witches in following the craft?
To examine the case for "No....."
Young people have less life experience and are therefore possibly less well placed to discern genuine witchcraft from fakery or even potential abusers. There have been cases in the news where abusers have posed as magical practitioners in order to attract children. There is the potential for danger if young people are lured into cults with an ulterior motive.
Witchcraft is perceived as glamorous and is often portrayed as such in the media (think The Craft or that rather terrible tv series Charmed). Young people are sometimes more attracted to the glitter than the gold and this can lead to disappointment. Young witches can also have a tendancy to see magic as the first solution for all problems and this can result in them becoming a less balanced individual with a limited world view.
But I think there is a much stronger case for "Yes...."
I don't think we can make the assumption that common sense kicks in at eighteen. There are plenty of middle aged idiots running around and plenty of teenagers with a sensible head on their shoulders. It just doesn't seem logical to link common sense to age. And if we are throwing out that assumption then we have to acknowledge that there are plenty of young people savvy enough to be able to discern genuine witchcraft from the jiggery pokery stuff.
And witchcraft, practised properly, isn't something young people need to be protected from. Granted there are the shamming abusers who warp the path for their own twisted desires. But people like that exist in every walk of life. It isn't witches we need to protect children from, its abusers.
As you get older, your passions start to dwindle a bit. And I mean all your passions. You don't feel love as intensely, you don't anger as quickly, you don't flucuate as wildly between elation and despair. Your mind settles down and stabilises itself. So what better time to start working in a craft dependent on the intensity of your will than when you are still young enough to have the power of all that emotion behind your will? Young witches potentially have more power behind them than any of us older more staid types. And channelling some of that raw teenage emotion into spellwork might siphon off some of all that turmoil (that I remember so well from my own younger days) and that has got to be a positive for any young witch.
Then there is education. Young people today (and I don't care what the Daily Mail tells you about exams getting easier) have a tough and rigorous academic upbringing. So we are saying teenagers are bright enough to study Trigonometry, Geoffrey Chaucer and learn any number of foreign languages but we don't think they can get their heads round witchcraft? Well frankly I credit our young people with more intelligence than that.
Children grow up quicker these days. They learn about the responsibilities in life a lot younger than we ever did. My exams were a bit of a lark, young people today are very aware that their future may depend on their grades. They have a maturity that we didn't need to have. So if we are going to expect them to shoulder adult responsibilities, maybe we need to credit them with something back, a belief that they might just know what is best for them.
My own personal view is that if a young person genuinely wants to study the craft their age should not be a barrier for doing so. Obviously you should never force your own beliefs onto a child (or anyone else for that matter) but if a young person expresses a genuine interest in witchcraft then we should do them the courtesy of taking them seriously. Today's young people are the witches of the future. And to be honest, looking at some of the young witches I've met through my own site and others, the future's looking pretty good to me.
image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1205234 (Eastop)
I recently made a decision I've been pondering for sometime. I asked for a voluntary demotion at work. Not a decision I took lightly as no matter what spirit such a step is taken in, there has to be acknowledged a certain element of failure in finally deciding you've been trogging along on the wrong path for years.
The trouble was that I got sucked into the expectation that you work as hard as you can, progress as far as you can and earn as much money as you can. And while that might work for some people it really doesn't work for me. I never actually wanted a career. I wanted to be a housewife! I deliberately picked a degree with little future employment prospects and I used to dream about opening my own cake shop and learning how to make pretty patterns with icing.
And for someone who still insists on buying all their clothes in charity shops, why would I ever need a lot of money anyway?
But as I started to progress in the working world I felt the pressure of applying for the next rung on the ladder, increasing my salary and my status and taking on additional responsibilities. They didn't sit well on my shoulders, I've never been a natural leader, I'm what's known in the business as a soft touch. I don't motivate or push people because I'm more concerned with them as people than I am with the profit and results they generate. So although I enjoy my job when I'm helping and supporting customers I was never cut out to be the boss and direct others. I'm a lot freer now that pressure is lifted.
One of the problems with being....ahem....clever is that people expect you to be a success. But I struggle to translate the skills and type of intelligence I have into succeeding in a work environment. Many of my highly successful colleagues would be the first to admit that they couldn't write a novel or answer spiritual questions from all corners of the globe and equally I have to admit that I find it hard to juggle all the plates a manager has to keep spinning. Especially as approximately seventy percent of my mind is usually wandering off in the clouds and thinking about something completely different........
While I'm not specifically criticising the company I work for as I've worked for several and the ethos is the same everywhere, there's this expectation that you bring a certain amount of passion to your role. And I just can't dredge up the required passion for profits and figures. I have passion for my witchcraft, my friends, my family, my bed partners, certainly my pets. But I can't get excited about watching the pounds stack up. It just doesn't push my buttons.
I've known for a long time that being a witch and a bank manager aren't compatiable. I wore myself out a bit trying to pretend they were. But in the end, one really mattered to me and one really didn't. So although I'm aware I've lost a bit of kudos in the "real world" I've gained a great deal of self respect for doing the right thing, even though it has taken me ten years to do it!
And those who matter have supported me all the way. I spoke to several close friends before making any decision and received the pretty much unanimous advice to throw in the towel and focus on what is important to me. Several commented that they found it hard to understand why I'd ever gone down the career path in the first place and one particularly astute friend asked why I was capable of blazing my own trail in every other aspect of my life but felt I had to conform by having socially acceptable career aspirations.
In some ways I feel I'm marching out into the unknown. And its made the path I've chosen to take in life all very real. Up until now I've always had that safety net, that I could slip back into a conventional framework and forget that I ever wanted more. But it wasn't enough. I couldn't bear to devote all of my life to work and television. And I'm not prepared to swap spiritual awareness for a sports car and a pandora bracelet. The truth is that I want more from my life and I'm finally far enough along my path to understand the changes I need to make to get it.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=787902 (Ayla87)
There was an excellent thread on my favourite forum recently. Each post named two items and a desired spell effect and the next poster had to explain how they would use the two items magically to achieve the result. There were some weird and wonderful results - pity the poor witch to whom I gave a bag of frozen peas and a bowl of sugar and asked her to make a peace and harmony spell. Lol!
(I made rather a good job using a marble and an oyster shell to create a sound sleep spell, even though I do say so myself....)
The more serious message underlying what turned into a very interesting and amusing thread was that traditional witches are not limited to specific resources when using magic and that indeed the more spontaneous, use anything at hand approach can often work out better than poring over books and lamenting the lack of specific and expensive ingredients.
Correspondences are spell builders if you like. They can be found all over the internet (including my site) and can be general or personal to the witch. Correspondences can relate to oils, woods, colours, candles, incense, moon phases, pretty much anything you might use in working a spell. They work on the basis of association, for example the colour orange is associated with luck so you may choose to employ an orange candle in a spell designed to boost your luck.
Not all witches use general correspondences, some will only use associations based on their own experiences and intuition. Other witches will use them to some extent but improvise where necessary and make substitutions with what is at hand. Think of it as like cooking, you wouldn't bow out of making a chicken casserole just because you've run out of basil, you'd just stick tarragon or oregano in instead.....
But there is a third type of witch, usually quite an avid reader of spell books and undoubtedly new to witchcraft who believes that spells are like sacred recipes which don't work if varied or changed in any way. So I'm earnestly told that they can't do a luck spell tonight because they need to go into town tomorrow and buy orange candles.....
This kind of witch is missing the point a bit. If spells were just as simple as lighting the right coloured candle then who wouldn't be a witch? Everyone would be witches! If witchcraft was merely just about matching up the right candle and the right oil from a list on the internet to the spell you want to cast, it would be a simple craft lacking any mystery at all. And believing witchcraft is nothing but the memorising of correspondence lists gives practitioners of the craft very little credit for what they do.
And what do we do? Well we think and we improvise. Magic is about guiding your intent into actuality. Whatever works for your intent will work for your spell. I made an extremely powerful protection spell the other day in a washed out jam jar. The spell would not have gained any more power from being cast in a jewel encrusted antique bottle. It was my intention that was important.
And its the same with correspondences. Use what you've got. If you only have blue candles then for goodness sake, your luck spell won't suffer just because your candle isn't the colour someone on the web said you needed. It WILL suffer if you only believe spells will work if they are lifted straight from the correspondence sheet, but then, with the greatest of respect, if you are holding fast to that belief, your magic isn't going anywhere very fast anyway.....
So I honestly believe its time to put the spell books down and think about what you do have and how you can use it (believe me, when I suggested the peace spell with the peas and the sugar I had a very definite idea about what I would do with those items to achieve the result). Don't let yourself be limited by the associations and beliefs of others. If you think something will work for you, try it and keep on trying and experimenting and improvising until you've crafted out your own foundations for the magical path you want to follow.
Part of Pagan Blog Project 2013
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