Posts Tagged Halloween

Finding Magic

One of the most common questions that I get asked is ‘How did I get into Druidry?’

Now, for me, this is like asking a writer where they get their ideas. It seems a reasonable question, but the answer just isn’t as simple as ‘It came in a flash of inspiration from the heavens!’ There’s always a much larger story… which those asking may or may not want to hear. But I’m happy to share portions of it.

One of the first things I did when I discovered that Witchcraft and Druidry existed was to head to my local bookstore (fortunately I lived in London at the time, so this was a gigantic branch of Borders on Oxford Street). Books were acquired relatively easily, and I soon began to find what suited me – or not.

I’ve spoken about this before. I wasn’t keen on Wicca for its proscribed, almost dogmatic rituals and emphasis on gender binaries (yes, I was reading the Farrers). Scott Cunningham struck a louder chord, but after trying some of his words for myself, I quickly realized that a huge part of any spiritual practice for me would be formulating my own workings. I don’t really like having someone else’s words in my mouth (how unpleasant does that sound?!).

Even so, as a beginner, I kept looking for inspiration. As a bookworm, I was deeply interested in other people’s practices, and how they Did Things. But back then, there was relatively little in the way of pagan biographies or histories. Ronald Hutton wasn’t about yet, and the majority of the stories were from Gardnerian Wiccan points of view (still fascinating, but not quite me).

This week, I found myself looking through some of Rachel Patterson‘s work. And I felt that old urge within me once again: that wish to actively seek out inspiration through the work of others Pagan folk… only now, they were those I could call contemporaries, peers or friends.

I was reminded of how magic must be relevant. It must be sincere, without doubts or worries. It isn’t dependent on a particular place, and the tools used are only as good as the person wielding them.

Kitchen Witchcraft: Spells & Charms‘ has Rachel chatting amiably about her own practice, in the manner of a kind but determined Witch. She knows her stuff and is happy to share it, but you need to put the work in if you expect results.

I felt the shade of that beginner inside me stir. How long is it since I actually worked any magic for myself? I shared a ritual just last week at a local gathering, but with the turning of the year to Samhain, maybe this is the kick I need to clear space for whatever the winter holds.

But there again – that phrase sounds pretty complacent, doesn’t it? Witches definitely don’t sit back and do nothing, waiting for whatever they want to land in their lap! This is about connection as well. With the wider world, with those who guide, and with those who stand with you.

This week, then, I will be pondering what magic I intend to work on Samhain. No matter how busy I am professionally (and having fun with local Trick or Treaters!), I always keep time for what needs to be done that night. For the first time in many years, Himself is working Samhain night shift, so our family ritual will be the following evening. On the night itself, it’ll be just me.

The spell has begun now, in fact. I’m sharing my thoughts: what I do to prepare. First of all, I’ll be looking at intention: what am I hoping to achieve with my working? Then, how best can I form that into being? What ingredients might I need, tools and tactile objects – no more, nor less than is necessary.

What do I need to do beforehand – and afterwards? Cleaning before, grounding myself with appropriate food and drink after!

I feel like I’m making something that’s a cross between a Nigella Lawson recipe (complete with innuendo) and a Haynes car manual. Purpose, intention, visualisation, action, outcome… all of which I have to set up, instigate and then carry out. The latter can often go on far beyond the time of the specific ritual itself, of course, as I work within the momentum which I’ve started by throwing this tiny snowball downhill.

Also, I’m not just doing this for the sake of it. This actually feels as if it’s overdue. That I need to spend time with myself, my personal practice, the ritual aspects of my spirituality that have been somewhat lost in the amount of group work that I do. Something I’ve not been doing because of Life evens, lack of spoons… any number of reasons/excuses. So.

I get my thoughts together. Here they are. Now it’s up to me to metaphorically crack my knuckles and get on with it.

I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on. Do share your own plans (and results) likewise, eh? It’s a good time of year to get in touch with our magic.

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Everybody Knows…

I’ve noticed that one of the most common conversation-starters recently is ‘You’re never going to believe this but…’ or ‘I’m not crazy but…’

When people find out that you may be even a little bit sympathetic or knowledgeable about ‘the supernatural’, the stories start flowing. Ghosts, strange experiences, things that you don’t talk about as a matter of normal life for fear of being mocked, embarrassed or locked up in a room with rubber walls and crayons.

This week, I heard some wonderful tales about a ghost kitten that plays with the living cats around a house, a policeman who still performs his duties in what is now a domestic residence, the comparative effect of personal energy levels based on the weather, crystals or other people… call it what you will, there are things in this world that are currently unexplainable, but commonly felt.

I’ve never studied science formally past GCSE level, but have become fascinated with quantum theory and the effect of energies as we discover more and more about this great universe. I once asked an online science forum whether there were any studies of human energies (eg auric fields and suchlike) with a view to investigating how they can affect and be affected by their surroundings. Given that we clearly produce energy – by being living beings – the response I received was rather surprising. “Why bother, what’s the point?” Basically, such theories would be ‘bad science’, and best left to the likes of Uri Geller.

And yet, the theory is clearly tacitly understood by most of us. The ‘Matrix’ movies openly suggest human bodies can be used as batteries. A unit of energy consumed and burned by every one of us every day is immediately familiar – the calorie. These are the same calories that can be quantified by burning any fuel: coal has a calorie content (bad news for those pregnant ladies out there).

One of the basic beginner lessons in most ‘magic’ or energy work texts is the simple game of rubbing your hands together fast, then separating them while still remaining aware of the charge between your palms. Once you become more skilled, you can become able to sense (or even see) the energies of others, or direct focused energy yourself. From using a wand, a staff or even your finger, most of us have been ‘zapped’ at one time or another – hence ‘grounding’ is also a crucial beginner lesson.

Short of being nervous of the unknown, I am puzzled as to why so many feel such familiar actions or mysteries are not worthy of study – perhaps because the empirical scientific method may not be able to accurately assign meaning and category easily. Surely Jung’s widely known theories of the collective unconscious are worth pursuing? If divination is bunkum, why is it still practised – and practised successfully? There are still many things to be discovered about both the world around us and ourselves in relationship – curiosity should be encouraged, not stifled!

As I said at the beginning,  a lot of people simply want to tell me about their experiences, with a look in their eyes that just hopes I understand. They’re not mad. They experienced something as real as a handshake, as solid as a wall, as visible and tangible as anything else around us. To be then told that this was somehow ‘not valid, not real’ is both disrespectful and, frankly, ignorant.

Why simply ignore another’s story? Dismissing someone without listening, without even attempting to understand, degrades them and prevents you from possibly learning something new. Even if it’s something so unusual, unfamiliar or frightening, I try my best to comprehend what they experienced, to listen to the tone beyond the words – why are they telling me? Do they expect me to have an explanation (sometimes), or just wanting to be heard (more usually)?

Yes, sometimes judgment is impaired. Sometimes there is misdirection going on, misunderstanding or simply assigning the unusual to a basic activity for the sake of excitement or a ‘wow’ factor. But still, it can make a good story! Very few tales are utterly worthless; there is always a reason behind the telling, as well as the ‘data’ involved. Is it worth exploring further? Maybe, maybe not – but we all know, inside, that everyone has experienced something unexplainable. It’s whether they are brave enough to look deeper, or not.

If you’re walking this path of modern paganism, you’ll have experienced so much unusual ‘stuff’ that it’s probably not even unusual anymore. That’s the next level – realizing that the ‘supernatural’ isn’t. Even if we can’t quantify it with statistics, what exists in nature is, by definition, natural. So our experience is immediately validated – let’s press on, try to see what it means.

We’re just starting to move clearly into the dark time of the year. People are starting to think about Halloween, ghost-walks are going on in town centres, the television is full of ‘alternative’ entertainment. Ultimately, we as society like a good story, and a ghost story around the campfire is a tradition as old as humanity. We come to learn about living with the unexplained because we have to – there’s not an easy answer to everything.

But as the scientist can explain the intricacies of a healing drug, the engineer the workings of technology, so the druid, shaman or priest can help with the stranger side of life. Yes, it can be silly or funny to hear about a ‘supernatural’ experience… but it can also be deeply disturbing. This is why most feel the need to share with an ‘specialist’. Why they come up to me and nervously stammer ‘you’ll probably think I’m nuts, but…’

No. I don’t. I’ll listen. And then we’ll see what next. We move on together, explore, work with that connection.

Life is full of magic and mystery, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s up to us what we make of it.

Keep exploring, friends. The fire’s burning over here, if you want to come and sit awhile.

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