Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Best Misunderstand Me

There are popular misunderstandings of my teachings, and it's been suggested that it's far past time to address them constructively. So, here I go.  I note that many people read into my words things that I don't believe I've said, and certainly things I do not believe in myself.  While there are some people who benefit from misunderstanding me for personal reasons, I'd like to believe that the majority prefer the facts.  Hence my reason for writing this blog.

One of the things I often talk about is the benefit of traditional training.  I believe it has value and is important.  If you want to misunderstand what I'm saying, then read this as though I mean it's the best and only way you'll ever learn anything.  That's a very popular way to misunderstand me, and by doing so you can belong to a large club!  But, if you prefer to understand what I actually mean, all you need to do is read each word without adding anything to it.  Because what I actually mean is that I believe traditional training is beneficial.  I don't believe it's the only way to learn or achieve your goals.

What I do know about traditional training is that it's a faster way of learning and achieving expertise in ritual and magic than is trial and error.  For example, by analogy if I train under a Master Woodcarver, I can learn wood carving faster than by taking a Learning Annex class, reading some woodcarving books, and whittling away for hours over months and months, trying to make it all work out right.  Can I skip the Master Woodcarver and learn to carve wood on my own - of course!   But the Master knows things that maybe aren't in the books, and things that can save time and make your own work better than you could at first imagine on your own.  But yes, you can say "Fuck you , Master Wood Carver" and do whatever you want.  It's your life and your time, and so there you go.  But may I suggest that you don't be pissed at the Master for advertising Wood carving classes and existing in your neighborhood.  He has as much right to do his thing as you do.

Here's another easy way to misunderstand me.  When I say that initiators within a Mystery Tradition can guide you into a realization of the inner mysteries, read that as though I'm saying you cannot ever discover them on your own.  That's a really effortless way for you to walk away thinking I'm an elitist know-it-all who considers you to be a wandering idiot.  Can't be easier than that.  But, if you prefer to understand what I'm really saying, again just read the words.  Because what I said is that initiators can, and I did not say you cannot.

You see, what I believe is that someone who has already penetrated the Mysteries can direct you in time saving ways by helping you avoid dead ends and time consuming labyrinths of study that are not necessary to arriving at your own enlightenment.  Such initiators can help you fine tune things, and help you have a clearer idea of things as you shape your own vision of the inner mysteries and your own connection to them.  But, you can certainly say "Fuck you, initiator of the Mystery Tradition" and take as many years as it takes to arrive at where he or she can lead you to in mere months, not years. An easy way to misunderstand that last statement is to regard it as snarky as opposed to what it actually is, which is a consideration of simple practicality.

In closing, the most effective way to maintain a misunderstanding of me is to disregard and reject the rest of this blog.

You see, I am actually trying to be helpful with my views, writings, and what I teach in workshops and classes. I believe that all the decades of my own training and experience have likely produced some things that can add to your own experiences in some useful way.  I don't feel better or superior than anybody - I just know that I've learned some things that maybe others have yet to encounter.  In other words, I'm an old witch, but not a useless one.  You can regard me as outdated, but the truth is that I engage in the currents that flow through time from the ancestral spirit that whispers in our blood to each of us.  That is timeless.

I believe in the things I write about, and I have a passion for them. I am proud to have studied under the Masters who taught me the Ways that were passed to me, and I feel fulfilled to be where I am in life at this point.  But no one ever stops learning, and yet at various times we can pause for reflection and acknowledge our own achievements.

It has never been my intention to be offensive, insulting or demeaning to anyone in anything I have written or teach.  I respect the experience others have had, but like my own, I believe there is more to learn. We can all learn from each other, that's one of the gifts the gods have given us by putting us together here in this material realm. I have my place and you have yours.  We can be allies if we chose to understand one another.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

How did it come to this?

Many Publishers of books on Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, Magick and so on, are seeing a sharp decline in the interest of such books among the public.  In response fewer books are being accepted for publication, and in some cases none at all.  While the poor economy is a contributing a factor, there is, I believe, a larger contributing factor.
It is said that Generations come into the world with a like-mindedness.  Those of us born in the 1950s were the teens of the 1960s.  The 1960s saw the resurgence of the Occult and its related arts - palmistry, tarot, witchcraft, and mysticism.  There were few books and materials available on the subject at the time, and fewer places where seekers could find kindred spirits.  The lucky few ended up being taught by practitioners of old lineage lines.

The 1960s was a time of great experimentation.  We took the available knowledge along with the guidance of those with experience, and we worked hard to integrate such things and to develop ourselves.  There was simply no other way to make things happen.  We had no Internet, and few cities contained shops that offered anything to people with mystical, occult, pagan, or witchcraft interests.

From the1960s and 1970s arose individuals who fought on the front lines against those who condemned the rising interests and involvement in paganism, witchcraft, and the occult arts.  Many cities had laws against "fortune telling" and it was a difficult time to practice our beliefs and ways openly.  A large percentage of the people who fought for recognition and acceptance in mainstream society, and equal treatment by governments agencies, are now dead.

The 1980s introduced a departure from training and experience, along with an abandonment of lineage systems.  Self-styled ways, intuitive approaches, and the philosophy of "do whatever feels right" took the place of time-proven and time-honored ways.  It was also at this time that "Wicca" was separated from "Witchcraft" and the new generation dubbed Wicca as a religion and Witchcraft as a practice.  This was a severing from the past, where in ancient literature we find references to the witch Medea as a priestess of Hecate, and southern European witches calling upon such goddesses as Diana and Proserpina (along with Hecate).

Many of the popular authors of 1980s, 1990s (and now into the 21st Century) had no formal training.  They drew upon the written works that contained the experience of other people (most of who had no formal training themselves).  With this they designed their own teachings and systems.  This is an observation and not a criticism.  From these decades arose the eclectic formations that mixed various cultures, deities, beliefs and practices together (or attempted to reconstruct preexisting traditions of the past).

What the lineage traditions offered was the understanding of the inner mechanisms that supported the beliefs and practices of our ancestors.  This mechanism is sometimes referred to as the inner mysteries or the Mystery Tradition.  It is the "why" behind the "how" and the template for understanding and integration.  This is what empowers a tradition, and it is what makes practical sense along with the mystical revelation of it all.

Over the past several decades the market has been flooded with material of little substance.  What many people believed they would find in the overabundance of books, they did not.  Instead they found cute and fun spells, whimsical musings, home spun charm, and a rehash of concepts and techniques that were largely generated by the misunderstanding of non-initiates who were passing them on.

I believe that many seekers became disheartened with the available material.  They thought "Well, if this is all there is, I think I'll move on to another path" - and many have. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of what is available to them on deeper levels.  They assume that all authors are putting out the standard tripe, and that there is nothing of substance, nor anything beyond what they have already read.  So they have stopped buying books and they avoid books by authors they have yet to read.  This is truly unfortunate for everyone.

Another contributing problem is what passes for book reviews these days.  I know several people who "review" books they have only skim read.  This is like passing by a restaurant, looking in through the window, sniffing the fragrance of food cooking, and then telling friends what a good or bad establishment it is.  How would they really know without the full experience?   Truth is, they can't.

Some people establish themselves as influential on Internet Forums, and they provide other members with a list of books and authors to avoid.  Many members thank them and they avoid these books and authors (of which they have no first hand knowledge).  They allow others to make up their minds for them.  While I believe it is helpful to share our experiences and insights, we have to have our own in order to possess an informed opinion.  There are a lot of uninformed opinions and borrowed insights out there.

The danger that we face as published books are declining and readerships are dwindling, is the return to a previous time when finding anything on the subjects of Wicca, Witchcraft, Magic, and Paganism was a hard challenge.  Local communities have withdrawn their monetary support of local New Age and Witch Shops, and all across the country many are going out of business.  This is a yet fully realized tragedy for these communities.  While it is true that you can buy a book cheaper on Amazon.com, or buy a candle cheaper at a discount store, Amazon.com and the Discount store don't care about your spirituality and won't take the time to council you in a crisis, or help you network with others of like mind.  Saving a dollar or two that results in losing your local shop seems counterproductive.

In recent times, attendance has been very low at Pagan Festivals and conventions across the United States.  One very popular festival, for the first time in its history, had Mead vendors end up with most of their stock still in hand.  When you can't even sell alcohol to Pagans at a festival, I think we are seeing the "End Times" - lol.

As Wiccans, Witches, and Pagans, we love our individuality.  But we need to understand that this should not separate us from others.  We can have unity through diversity.   We can belong to a community without losing our self identity.  Our hope lies in helping each other and supporting each other; not simply with words but with actions.  If our ways and beliefs are to survive for future generations, then we must work to make them survive here in our own time.  What you and I do today, or fail to do, will shape the future.