Sunday, 10 July 2011
Of Babies and Bathwater
When I first discovered there was such a thing as modern Paganism and Witchcraft, I was so excited to find there were other people out there who shared my beliefs. I now had a word for what I believed, and I was not alone! This is an experience that is shared by many people within the neo-Pagan community.
I quickly read everything I could get my hands on - actually not that much was available back in the 1980's, but I soon gobbled up what there was - and began trying my hand at creating spells and rituals. I was also determined to do it right, and that meant following every witchy cliché in the book. I dressed in black. A lot. I bought cheesy 'occult' jewellery. I listened to godawful faux-Celtic New Age music. I did bazillions of spells (and couldn't understand why they either failed to work or spectacularly mis-fired), and I longed, longed, to be in a coven (fellow witches not being that thick on the ground back then either). I just knew that all those other Pagans were wise, wonderful, perfect human beings and I wanted to be with them. I wanted to be them.
Well, I grew up. I got tired of wearing so much black. All colours are the colours of the Goddess, right? I stopped wearing lots of occult jewellery and found a few pieces that actually had some meaning for me. I kicked the New Age music right out in favour of stuff that didn't make me wince. I stopped doing spells and instead worked on my understanding of how magic works - and now I use it both rarely and judiciously. And I met up with my fellow Pagans. And guess what? They're human beings, just like everyone else. They're wonderful and infuriating in equal measure; they're imperfect but mostly trying to do the right thing. Just like the rest of the world. Just like me.
Somehow, we manage to make the most simple things complicated. We think to fit in, we have to change who we are and adopt the opinions, fashions and tastes of those we seek to join. Yes, of course, we need some common ground, but should we really have to give up our own unique selves? I am a Pagan, a witch. I have been all my life, and for the last 25 years I have also had the correct title to label myself with. But I am still me. To be honest, I think people would be hard-pressed to pick me out of a crowd as a Pagan, but that doesn't mean I am not serious about my Paganism. It just means I don't feel the need to point it out to the world with every nuance of my being.
Don't get me wrong. Paganism has definitely been a huge influence on my life. I have learned so much on this path, both about myself and the rest of the worlds. Paganism has definitely changed my perception about many things. Yet isn't that what life does anyway? I'm sure not many of us die the exact same person we started out. Or if we do, what a waste of an amazing learning experience!
There is a Zen saying, "Before I studied Zen, mountains were mountains, and water was water. After studying Zen for some time, mountains were no longer mountains, and water was no longer water. But now, after studying Zen longer, mountains are just mountains, and water is just water".
Eventually I saw there is magic in everything. Everything - the washing up, the car, gossiping with the neighbours, making myself a cup of tea. It's all in the perception. Magic really is the art of changing consciousness at will. And I have learned how important it is to be true to myself. I have learned to hang onto the baby (what is important), and throw out the bathwater (what doesn't work or doesn't have meaning for me). All those things I mentioned like wearing black etc? They're all fine if that's who you are. But being a Pagan runs right through me and how I lead my life. It's not just a costume I put on to tell the world who I am.
Here's one thing I've learned: above all, make sure you know who you are. Find your place in the world and plant your feet there firmly, whether it be a solid foundation or merely the first step on the right path. Then you can flourish (pointy hat optional).