I don't think I could ever explain myself better than this does.
Image - Facebook. Credit to the FB page "Word Porn" Link
I first heard of the concept of existentialism long before I came across Sartre, Camus or Kiekegaard. I actually got it from Adrian Mole. I remember looking it up to find out what it meant (I liked learning impressive long new words to annoy my teachers at school) and becoming even more confused by the dictionary definition - I rather got the impression the Oxford English Dictionary compilers were having a similar problem to my own...they didn't get it either!
Thirty years later, I can put it down quite simply, the concept of existentialism is the idea that personal existence cannot be defined by an imposed criteria. Definition of the self is determined by both the actions of the individual and by what the individual perceives themselves to be. There are no constraints beyond that of the individual's own will. If a person wants to change the essence of themselves they can but they must accept the responsibility for the choice of doing so. Boiled down to its most basic premise, a person isn't so much what they are but what they do. By placing the individual, not their environment, as the primary focus, existentialism also implies a certain amount of disassociation between a person and the world they live in.
I think an interpretation of existentialism is very relevant to those who choose to practice witchcraft. I get a lot of young people asking me how they can 'become a witch' and my answer is invariably always the same – stop thinking about the label and just get on with being one. A witch practices witchcraft, if you choose to practice witchcraft then you're a witch. Its a simple as that in my view.
Its interesting though to get differing opinions on what makes a witch. The existential view would fit in with my own, its the doing that creates the definition. But there is of course a school of thought that witches are born and not made and this contradicts my own view entirely. Others believe that it isn't the doing, its the success of what you do that makes a person a witch. I can kind of see their thinking on this - the label itself means little if nothing is gained from the actions you perform - if all your spells flop you may well call yourself a witch but doing so won't have a very positive influence on your life. It is the act of doing but doing it successfully that makes you what you claim to be. And witch or not, labelled or not, if you can't use the powers you claim to possess in order to influence your own life for the better you should probably go back to the drawing board and look for a different path more suited to yourself as an individual.
I think there is a clear difference between what a witch does and how a witch behaves. The behaviour is the stereotype of what people perceive a witch ought to be. As an individual I behave nothing at all like I would popularly be expected to behave by those with a conformist view as to what a witch does. I don't dress in gothic clothes, I don't come across as mysterious and ethereal, I don't even come across as particularly wise or sensible. In fact, come to think about it, I often come across as a bit of a twonk! The essence of me as a witch is simply that – me - flaws, silliness and all. I don't choose to change my behaviours to fit in with the image that is expected of me on the path I've chosen and I'm entirely comfortable with that as how I am perceived has no bearing on my identity as a witch. I identify as a witch for the simple reason that I work with the craft on a daily basis and, humility aside, I'm very good at what I do. Its also important if we're relating this all back to existentialism to understand that personal identity is derived from the individual, not from the perception of oneself by others. I don't have to fit an image to prove to others I am a witch because the definition of what I am is determined by what I do, not what other people believe me to be. If you take this a step further, labels themselves become redundant. I don't need to call myself a witch in order to work with the craft - if what I do is what I am, I don't need to label myself anything in order to do it. Which is exactly what I'm getting at with my young witches. Throw away the preconceptions and just get on with it!
But the relevance of existentialism has a deeper link to the craft than the simple labelling of what it is to a witch. The concept strikes at the heart of what it really is to be a witch. A witch is to an extent the creator of her own reality. The real world becomes almost extraneous to the everyday existence of the witch. I see checking into the real world as a bit like checking my email, I do it most days but to be honest,I tend to ignore a lot of it. My reality is the world I have created for myself inside my head and I prefer it that way. (That's not to say the real world has no value or that all witches live in the clouds, the important thing to understand is not that witches live outside the real world but that they shape the real world with their own concept of what they want reality to be.)
On a day to day basis I use the powers I have attained through my study of the craft to manipulate the world around me and to actualise as much of my own reality as possible. Sometimes I mean this literally, I quite frequently spend eight hours or more in a meeting writing my novel while everybody else present thinks I am taking copious notes. I choose my reality to be the world of my novel, not the world of the meeting. (Of course being a witch with some pretty good hiding in public techniques does give me a bit of an advantage in doing this. I suggest those of you lacking this particular skill don't try it unless you fancy a telling off from your teacher or boss.)
Sometimes the leap is more of a mental one, again to give you an example, when I'm feeling particularly stressed I remove my mind from the situation and place myself mentally in the peaceful environment of my Grandmother's old house. Its important here to differentiate between the imagining of yourself in another place and the act of actually taking your mind to a different reality. I'm not saying it helps me to think about my Grandmother's house, I'm saying a witch will interchange realities to suit her purpose. This is taking existentialism to the next level and making the claim that not only does the essence of self rely on the perception of the self but so does the entire nature of the reality surrounding the self (well at least for witches anyway). If you can imagine what I'm saying, you're probably half way to being a witch already.
In addition to the alternative realities created and shaped by the individual's own imagination, a witch may of course also choose to visit other tangible realities. I'd be flamed from here to Yule if I implied the spirit world existed only in the imagination of the witch, of course it doesn't. A witch understands how to step between the worlds. Call it crossing over, hedge riding, slipping the veil, whatever... a witch isn't restrained by a single instance of reality. Her perception of the bridges between worlds is fluid enough to allow her to pass between them. Again, to relate this back to existentialism, the individual doesn't just become what they are by what they do, they can live in the reality that they choose simply by choosing to live in that reality. Or to put it more simply, if you believe that other versions of reality exist and you behave like other versions of reality exist, they exist.
There is of course very little discernible truth in the world. Even the simplest things are based on interpretation and belief. Reality isn't the absolute that so many people would have you believe. And next time somebody accuses you of living in a fantasy world, I'd feel a bit sorry for them if I were you. It must be very dull indeed to live in a world with a single solitary reality.
Image http://fav.me/d4xhr1n (ErinM31)
Generally I like to offer my readers a fairly neutral approach to the topics I discuss. A balanced well rounded world view that encourages people to think for themselves and to view both sides of an argument with compassion and clarity.
Sometimes however I tackle a subject so fucking disgusting that no amount of neutrality is possible. Nor would I want to be considered neutral. Its the closed minded individuals who sit on the fence and refuse to consider the impact of the true atrocities in the world who contribute to the increasing moral apathy endemic in our society today. Sometimes it isn't enough to be objective, sometimes you just have to fucking care.
You can see from the picture what I'm referring to. The deliberate premeditated murder of a creature that this vile creature herself refers to as "Majestic." Certainly a lion is a majestic animal, possibly the most majestic of all the inhabitants of the animal kingdom. And like most of us, it does a better job of doing its majestic business alive than it does dead.
Melissa Bachman is a killing tourist, a person who takes obscene personal delight in travelling to foreign countries with the specific intention of killing the animals who live there. She pays anything up to $45,000 (that's about £27k to us English and incidentally about the average full time wage in England) for the privilege of taking the life of another living being.
Numbers of lions in Africa's wilds have reduced from approximately 200,000 at the turn of the century to estimates as low as 20,000 today. If we contrast that with the 7 billion people currently on the planet you could put forward a cogent argument from scarcity that murder of a lion is actually a more serious offence than murder of a human. The disappearance of you or I would hardly be noticed but, stats wise, one death in the lion kingdom really matters.
You might choose to argue that you and I really matter too. That we have friends and families, possibly even children who rely on us to feed them. Well I'd throw it right back at you with - so might the bloody lion. Ever stopped to think about that Melissa? Ever stopped to think that the lion you slaughtered for the thrill of your own cheap gratification may have had a family as well? It is naive to imagine there are no emotional repercussions to the animals left behind when one of their pack is brutally murdered. It is naive in the sense of ignorance because those of us who own animals and interact with them on a daily basis know better. Only the truly stupid would deny that animals have feelings. The truly stupid and of course the emotionally closed minded.
I'm truly sick of the articles defending this sick bitch. I'm sick of being told its ok because locals ate the lion. How does eating an endangered species make its death morally defensible? (And don't quibble about the legalities of endangered species, when 90% of your kind are slaughtered within a 100 year period, that's an endangered species in my book). I'm sick of being told that the backlash against Melissa in the press is a sexist agenda (What does it matter if a man or a woman pulled the trigger? The backlash is about the death itself and the shameless bragging of the killer, not her gender.) I'm sick of being told that the South African economy relies upon the funding of killer tourists. This is extremely offensive to the people of South Africa who have according to the World Bank - A politically stable and well capitalised banking system, abundant natural resources,and well developed regulatory systems." Oh and indeed a "Sophisticated financial and industrial economy." Not exactly the sort of culture that needs to go round killing lions?
But the thing that particularly frustrates me, in fact the thing that has me howling from the ceilings in rage is the argument that we should overlook Melissa's behaviour because according to Rebecca Davis in the Daily Maverick, the blame should lie at the feet of the African government for handing out "gilt edged invitations" to hunters in the first place. You know what, you could bombard me with invitations to go hunt lions to the extent that Hogwarts sent letters to Harry Potter and still I would exercise my right to tell the murdering bastards where they can stick their gilt edged invitations. And why? Because I believe in fucking personal responsibility, because I believe each one of us has the choice as to how we live our lives and that when we make the wrong choice we haven't got the right to go wimping out, pointing the finger and saying "Please Sir - they made me do it." No you sick bitch, they didn't make you do it. Nobody made you pull that trigger but you. You looked at that innocent animal, you shot it and then you posed for a photograph that you were stupid enough to share with the world showing just how damn happy you were that you shot it. You disgust me and you disgust any human with enough humanity to empathise with that poor dying majestic creature.
I'd like to say I hope you die horribly but I'm a witch. I think I can do better than that.
Here's the petition to keep the lions of South Africa safe from Melissa Bachman.
Having built an established website with a decent volume of followers, I wanted to reach out and communicate with interested people and other witches in a less formal way than the question and answer section on the site permits. Social media of course is excellent for this purpose. At this present moment in time I have a community of 2200 witches, all posting and interacting together and sharing thoughts and ideas. This, compared to many of the Facebook communities is actually pretty small but then when you consider what a niche market Witchcraft is and in particular Witchcraft with no particular affinity to Wicca, I'm really pleased with the results so far.
The focus of the community is mainly to swap ideas, so there are plenty of posts with ideas for spells and ritual and basic housekeeping little tips for recipes and keeping plants alive. We post shares to other pages and welcome images sent in by readers and community members.
One of the things I really enjoy producing for the site are "memes." These are occasionally my own work but more often than not are made up of pictures and quotes sent in by the community itself. Occasionally I'm inspired to write a poem or two and I've even snapped the odd image but I owe most of the creative input in this area to those who support the Witchpathforward community.
I'll share a few of them (below)....
And if you'd like to join the Witchpathforward Facebook community, click here.
Don't forget that most of the memes are also cross posted on the site - the list to date can be accessed by clicking here.
Divination as defined by common belief is generally associated with witches huddled over packs of tarot cards or tossing rune stones into the air over pentagram marked cloths. There is certainly a place for this - what I would term formal divination - in the life of most witches but the working of formal tools is only a part of the divinatory guidance assisting in the life of a witch.
For those of us choosing to listen, the Universe has messages to give. Our lives are filled with signposts pointing us in the right direction. The world of the mundane has easily as much relevance as that of the spiritual and a witch who chooses to ignore it does so to her own disadvantage. I’d like to focus today on some of the less formal day to day forms of divination and to explore what they can and do mean to those who choose to seek them out.
Perhaps the most important element of informal divination is repetition. If something happens once it may have no significance but if you find it happening again and again it may well have a message for you. Look for a word or phrase that keeps coming to your attention. It might be a line in a book, a chance conversation, a snippet of television… The source is irrelevant but the repetition in your life may well suggest a personal significance. A witch will look out for these instances of repetition and consider/meditate upon the message it has to give.
Messages can come from the most unlikely sources. A chance encounter with a stranger can offer invaluable advice. Listen for the words that may be spoken lightly but can be interpreted for personal meaning. Even overheard conversations between others can yield necessary insight into your own life. Sometimes such insight may be inspired by something as simple as an overheard song lyric in a shop. A witch listens and takes what she can from everything around her.
The significance involved in repetition is often confused with coincidence but in many cases it is a personal choice whether to take a coincidence at face value or to look beyond for a significance. I’ll give you a personal example – in the village where I currently live, next to where I get the bus, is a telephone post numbered exactly the date of my birth 14-09-78. Such a coincidence could happen to anybody, the choice is mine whether or not to see it as indicative of a deeper meaning. A sceptic may see little or no relevance but such a coincidence could well be a heads up that I am on the right path at this stage of my life. A good dose of scepticism is healthy, it would be silly to see everything in life as holding a hidden message but it can be equally short sighted not to consider that we can learn things of value about ourselves and our path by looking out for what the Universe has to tell us.
Numbers often have a significance of their own (and I’m not talking Numerology which to be honest I have very little faith in). If the same number occurs regularly in your life it may be worth taking a closer look. A friend of mine cancelled a house move at the last moment as the house number kept recurring in her life with distinctly negative connotations. Such an example is not necessarily hard and fast evidence that something terrible would have happened if she had chosen to move into that particular house but by acknowledging her own interpretation of the negative association she chose to move into a different house where indeed she has been very happy. She allowed her intuition to influence her decision. Like I say it isn’t evidence but then again this isn’t science.
Patterns are all around us in the natural world. Divination by cloud pattern is a popular way to identify images but pretty much anything can be used by the open minded seeker. Shapes in soil or leaves, the reflection of light on water, even the silhouette of shadows can be used to identify recognizable images which help to point an individual on their path. I’m not a fan of text book divination and looking for specific portents or omens but I will admit that I use cloud patterns regularly in my own work. I can usually detect whether to expect peace or trouble in the day ahead with a bit of cloud concentration in the morning. There’s nothing like seeing a great big fire breathing dragon in the morning clouds to know the boss will be on the warpath that day!
When discerning the path ahead it is crucial not only to look for signs in the world around you but the world within you as well. Obviously the dream world (which I’ll touch upon in more detail in a future post) is a rich source of symbolism and imagery. Recurring dreams can be an indication not just of possible future events but to your own psyche and subconscious mind. I pay quite a lot of attention to signs from my sub conscious mind. The images behind my closed eye lids (another widely accepted form of divination) help me to pinpoint my current focus and understand what might be blocking my thoughts and preventing me from moving forwards. I also look quite carefully at what I doodle when I’m distracted. Often I will find myself drawing the same shape over and over again and some of these doodles, particularly those that bear a close resemblance to individual runes, can be very useful in helping me understand my attitude to a situation.
It is important to understand the relevance that informal divination can play in your life. These messages are not a foretelling of a prescribed future but more of a nudge to direct your life in a certain direction. A witch takes control of her life and listening to the subtleties of the world around her is just one of her many tools for doing so. The power within this, as with everything, lies not in the signs themselves but in the ability of the individual to perceive, recognise and utilise those signs to achieve their individual ends.
Image http://www.deviantart.com/art/Signpost-71999355 (FalseNames)
Power in its many shapes and guises is one of the most fascinating attractions known to man. The need to command and control both our own lives and the lives of others is one that most people can understand and identify with. The desire to be masters of our own destiny is a simple facet of human nature.
An awareness of power is perhaps for a witch doubly compelling. A witch cannot but help be aware of the powers around her, both the powers she can wield effectively and the deeper powers that she may be unable to manipulate but which she can sense even if she does not consciously aspire toward them. Power is as intrinsic to the practise of witchcraft as breathing.
But power brings its own problems and often these problems are overlooked by outsiders admiring the glamour of the craft. With power comes responsibility and it is a poor witch who puts her desire to pursue her own abilities before the need to behave responsibly both toward herself and others. Now when I say responsibly, I don't mean that a witch necessarily has an obligation to act in a certain way. But what I do believe is she has an obligation to consider the effects of her actions and to act in accordance with her own moral compass. And this is very much where the problems with power come in. Remember that man who first climbed Mount Everest? When asked why, he replied; "Because it was there." This attitude is one to be avoided at all costs in the pursuit of the craft. We should not act simply because we have the power to do so but because we have considered the alternatives and believe it to be the best course of action. A witch has no obligation to follow a set of moral rules but to my mind a witch of value takes the time to look inside herself and question whether she is doing something because she believes it to be right or simply because she can.
Acting within the confines of personal morality is harder than it looks. There are some real pitfalls involved in being a witch, none the least being the fact that an awareness of your own power breeds arrogance, self delusion and egoism. The temptation to push things further, to see what happens...to test the limits of your own abilities... its heady stuff. And every time you experience success it strengthens that little voice in your head that insists on whispering just how wonderful you are. I'd be surprised to find any witch who hasn't fought a battle against the demons of her own ego. But its a battle worth fighting because the path of arrogance
leads to the magician, the illusionist and the wonder worker. Its building a house of cards with no foundations to your magic. And like any house of cards, its liable to all come crashing down the first time you are forced to seriously question your own ability. The self worth of a witch should come not solely from her power but from the rounded elements of what make her a witch, her compassion, her morality and her ability to discern right from wrong.
Something I have seen among friends who practise the craft, which if I am honest rather saddens me, is a tendency to turn the back on compassion in favour of personal accomplishment. In some circles compassion in a witch is genuinely perceived as a weakness and caring for others seen as an unnecessary constraint on a witch's chosen path. Although developing abilities is undoubtedly a worthy pursuit for the individual witch, I would personally caution that she should not choose to do so at the detriment of her humanity and her own conscience. Progression at the expense of others is costly progression indeed.
An awareness of power can also bring conflict in relationships with other people. Many witches make the mistake of believing themselves to some extent better than non practitioners of the craft. The mistake of course is in taking success in one area to be indicative of overall supremacy - again the pitfall of arrogance... A witch needs to understand her abilities in perspective with the achievements of others. Out there in the world are talented musicians, artists, business executives. If you don't consider yourself lesser than these individuals for not playing on their playing field then my advice to any witch would be not to look down on those who don't choose to play your game. And also I'd advise to bear in mind that there are non practising witches with powers far greater than even the most disciplined of regular casters. Remember - not everybody chooses to do just because they can.
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