“Bring out the best and the worst you can be…”
I write a lot about the positives of being a witch and following a magical path. But sometimes I wonder if I come across as being a bit biased about the upside of witchcraft. I think its important to be balanced when representing anything, particularly something as fundamental as a religion or spiritual way of life. So I’m devoting my spare time this week to telling you a bit about the downside of being a witch.
Nobody sums it up better than the singer Billy Joel (who no doubt was talking about something else entirely….) with the phrase: “Brings out the best and the worst you can be…” Becoming a witch forces you to confront which parts of yourself are compatible with the path you have chosen to take and which are going to go by the wayside. The parts that remain after the culling of your old self are distilled into a more extreme version of who you were. Witchcraft gives you the confidence to be you, right down to your essence. This is not necessarily always a good thing...
I came to witchcraft several years ago from a fatalistic sense of ennui. I wanted more… actually I wanted a great deal more than my life at the time was giving me. I wanted to awaken those parts of me that had lain dormant through those interminably conformist years of my twenties. I wanted control, power and self actualisation. Particularly the self actualisation (actually, probably if I'm honest, particularly the power!). I deeply longed for the freedom to be unconstrained by the image of what people believed I should be.
And so, after brief flirtations with other religions and other paths, I started to study and practise witchcraft. And the more I studied, the more I felt my personality start to change and morph into quite a different person. And I’ll admit, not all the changes were for the better….
I used to be a living in the detail kind of person. The type who always had a tidy house and a clean kitchen. But the more I became absorbed into the mysteries of the unknown, the more I started to question whether it mattered if I had a few coffee cups dotted about my kitchen. And what exactly in the point in cleaning a bathroom on Tuesday? You only have to do it again on Friday…. Why bother? I went from slightly neurotic to completely devil may care. It annoys the hell out of my husband. I’m kind of the opposite of the OCD sufferer. Nothing really matters. I can talk myself out of anything worrying me. But the downside is that neither am I the organised and motivated person I once was. Most of the time I just can’t be bothered…. My own place in the universe is so staggeringly unimportant that I don’t think the state of my kitchen surfaces has any significance on the cosmic scale. (I can almost hear my husband grinding his teeth….lol.)
This casual recklessness was really a side effect of spending too much time thinking about philosophy. When you broaden your mind to take in some of the bigger concepts, it becomes very hard to focus it right back in to the little pin prick that is day to day reality. It is difficult to concentrate on what you want for dinner next Tuesday when your mind is off in the clouds, floating around merrily and thinking its own abstract thoughts. And I think there is also a certain degree of recklessness in the sense that: a) It doesn’t really matter what happens any more, I’ve got the power to put it right and: b) It doesn’t really matter what happens any more, I’ve got the spiritual strength to deal with it if it does.
Which brings me nicely to arrogance. If you asked my close friends and family the single most annoying change in my personality over the last five years it would be arrogance. I struggle very hard not to be arrogant but it is unfortunately a very intrinsic part of my personality. I’m not completely sure why. It doesn’t stem from any rational reasoning. I’m not particularly beautiful or clever or talented. I am however very good at my workings in the craft, so perhaps my success in this area spurred on the arrogance a bit. But arrogance is very typical of a lot of witches (most in my own opinion). Once you start to have the power to influence yourself and the world around you, there is a very natural reaction in that you start to feel a little invincible, a touch less vulnerable to the fates than others. It isn’t a nice characteristic. My husband called me “smug,” the other day and he’s right. But is a hard personality trait to shake off. The absolute best witches, the really wise ones have learned to embrace their own humility. For many of us lesser gifted souls, every day is an upward struggle not to let that self adoring little quirk have too much head space.
When I first started studying witchcraft I kept it quiet for a long time at first. I disliked the idea of being judged or stereotyped for my beliefs or my practises. But gradually, I inched my way out of the broom closet and I’m now pretty open with most people. But one of the things I found difficult was where to stop sharing information. I had expanded my own boundaries with my study, my numerous personal contacts in the witch world, forums, Twitter witches etc. And many things in this new world were a lot more socially acceptable than outside it. And I completely failed to understand where the boundary should be drawn. The look of horror on the face of a colleague when I told her I had spent the weekend boiling a dead badger…. the innocent request that someone keep a look out for roadkill…I asked a friend the other day for some menstrual blood to fertilise my plants and she looked at me like I had gone out. What is perfectly normal for witches can often be offensive and even frightening in non witch based communities. And the confusion it has left me with has been a real downside of crossing over for me. I’ve even lost a few friends. Not close ones but on the fringe conservative types. Shame in a way, I suppose.
But the single biggest hurdle for me in the personality change that followed my crossing over was my embrace of the nastier side of my personality. I have always seen myself as being quite a nice person, indeed quite a tolerant and moderate soul. But the more I explored my real self and got to know what monsters lurked in my basement, the more I realised that part of me is actually quite a bitch. And not just a bitch but a self seeking, self serving, slightly vengeful bitch. Hard to come to terms with in all honesty. But like I say, being a witch forces you to seek out all parts of yourself. You can’t work magic with only half your intent and you can’t actualise your intent without knowing yourself. So while becoming a witch did not make me malicious, it forced me to acknowledge the hidden parts of myself that were already there. And I was more than a little shocked to uncover quite so much enthusiasm for cursing….
So crossing over shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ll be tackling some of these issues into my fifties. Becoming a witch didn’t just change me, it changed my own perception of me and shook the bedrock of the person I believed I was. Not that I’d do it again any differently…but be advised, it isn’t all as sunshine and roses as some witches would have you believe.
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