Question the status quo, because it’s not ‘just how it’s done’, because the wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented every time but you need to understand what you’re doing before you can change it..
Question authors, relentlessly, because their bias isn’t the be all and end all thought they’ll certainly paint it that way, look up their sources, demand their sources if they don’t offer them and burn their books if they’re trash because you deserve better on your shelves.
Question the gods, before you agree make sure you know what you’re getting into, before you decide to worship them make sure you know what they want from you.
Question the spirits, they will lie to you without second thought, they will omit anything they can from information and send you stumbling down the wrong track, they will bind you into agreements that will fuck you over if you’re not careful.
Question yourself, poke at your brain and you beliefs and your innermost workings over and over and over till you know what makes you tick, till you’ve distilled that vague belief into something concrete in your mind.
Question everything, it keeps you out of trouble and gets you into trouble.
It’s the only way to grow.
Question, and then think critically about the answers.
Someone telling you your practice is invalid because it doesn’t fit some arbitrary criteria?
Answer: Fuck off.
Spirits in your house causing mischief?
Answer: Fuck off.
People in your community being made of creepy and inappropriate?
Answer: Fuck off.
Magic being directed at you from out there and you don’t want to play ball?
Answer: Fuck off.
Fuck off can be flip, and teasing and light and laughing, but it can also be venom and rage and anger. It can be turned into a two word spell able to be thrown out on an instant’s notice. Throw your voice behind, growl it, snarl it, let anger reach it and fill it and direct it’s venom straight at the recipient. Flip it off, make it snide, dismissive, snarky and let it fob the recipient off as unworthy of your time and attention.
Magic doesn’t have to be complicated or tool laden, it doesn’t have to have spirit’s and deities intercepting on your behalf. You’ve got plenty enough power alone. You can cast with a word or a gesture on a heartbeats notice, or you should be able to. You won’t always have the luxury of time or privacy. A snarled word, a hand gesture or an ice cube pushed about with the tip of a finger should be enough at a press.
And for the love of all that is merciful fuck being nice about it. To HELL with this harm none love and light shit. If you’re threatened fight, and if your loved ones a threatened fight harder again. Don’t live in a bubble of light and fail to protect yourself and your people. Don’t be a damned victim because someone said asserting yourself and fighting for yourself and others were only things bad people do.
One of my international friends asked an incredibly loaded question recently about where we go after 101 as solitaries. She and I are both solitaries and we are both way too familiar with the lack guidance once you’re past that 101 stage. She asked, specifically, about spiritual investment and how we help teach that as it’s hard to really pick up alone.
I’m not going to get too much into the actual topic she was speaking of right now, but rather the frothing, raving ranting masses and what they bought to mind. The most active people on the topic have been the ones saying you can’t teach people that kind of thing and then going forward to snipe and snarl when it’s suggested that because they can’t or won’t doesn’t mean that no one can.
Active engagement with the spirits, with your practice and with the community.
Yeah, I know, sort of random. From a personal perspective I’m quite good at being actively engaged with my practice. For the most part the spirits and I are happily working together – I have some blanks when my depression gets bad or I’m super busy and let things slide but I’m only human and all that.
My engagement with the community, actual engagement not behind the scenes work, is lacking however. I’m a member of a few forums. I’m a mod of one of the biggest facebook based ones (and isn’t that a whole new world of fun on a daily basis). It’s not much. I have a lot of knowledge tucked away, and a good practice based on a lot of trial and error that is constantly shifting and growing. I have a lot I can teach in the abstract sense if I am willing to step out of my ‘fuck off and die you’re all annoying’ box and engage.
There’s a risk in engaging however. In the pagan community if you don’t engage people in a certain way, give a certain type of service and refuse to compromise yourself you’re more likely to be attacked than anything else. Anyone who steps up and lays themselves open anywhere risks brutal and petty responses, but it’s something I’ve found particularly rife in the Pagan community. A nasty kind of tall poppy syndrome where anyone who doesn’t toe the party line is seen as trying to show up the community or control it.
I’ve never really been interested in making myself a target, and yet…
I can hardly continue to bitch about the state of the community if I am unwilling to step up and share my own experiences with people. So here’s to an attempt to share what I do a little better.
I had planned on putting some lighter, and maybe personal, stuff in before I went back and looked at this post I had locked away in the draft folder because I haven’t quite been able to get my thoughts coherent, but Octopus Dance linked me to this post as a response to this one over here and my responses to her in the comments and I think it can go up now. Albeit it is now a responsive post rather than just a generic one born of watching the pagan hashtag on Tumblr.
The quick version, for those of you too lazy to go read those links *pokes y’all with a point stick*, is that Octopus Dance thinks that everyone’s path is entirely personal and there is no wrong or right…
And I disagree. I believe there certainly is a wrong or a right in many situations and here’s why in 4 points:
The need for a common language a.k.a. labels are important.
I’m starting with why I used Octopus Dance’s Soul Retrieval post as an example in my post and that was in part because she had called something soul retrieval and that thing had nothing to do with soul retrieval…
Common language is important in discourse.
Say you have spoon, but you call your spoon a knife. Regardless of whether it’s a personal quirk, a mislabelling, or you simply don’t know any better, you are going to confuse people by calling a spoon a knife because of common language. A spoon, in the common language, is a blunt instrument used for scooping things up and a knife is a sharp implement used for stabbing or cutting.
This goes the same for labels in magic and it is important to use the right label for the right thing if you want to open discourse because it is at best confusing and misleading when you don’t.
And yes, I include using the correct labels for your practice in this. A Chaote is not a Wiccan is not a Traditional Witch is certainly not a Shaman is not a Druid is not Neo-Wiccan is not a Ceremonial Magician and on we go. No path is better than any of the others, but they are not the same things. Use the correct labels.
Witchcraft and magic is a dangerous sport. Seriously.
The majority of us handle toxins at one point or another. Many practices, like Soul Retrieval and Invocation, can be dangerous to ones mental health if not performed properly and appropriate preparation and aftercare seen to. And spirits? Spirits, and Gods and most other entities to be honest, will fuck your shit up if you go in half baked and not knowing what you are doing.
A responsible practitioner of magic will call out* misinformation when they see it. They will point out when someone is doing something stupid like advising someone to use a plant that is highly toxic when burnt in incense, they will point out that Kali is not some benign mothering goddess, they will advise people not to go and just do shit without researching it first.
Why? Because safety is a thing.
Because we don’t actually want to see other people get hurt, made ill (physically or mentally) or accidentally kill themselves. A lot of magical practitioners and Pagans scream blue murder when someone says you’re doing it wrong like the people saying it are somehow trying to control them…
What most of us want is to make sure you are not poisoning yourself or undertaking an extremely dangerous practice with no clue about how dangerous it is, because we’d really like you to remain safe, sane and whole.
Sometimes we take slightly odd routes of doing this. For example I will often address issues I see enmass as one post with maybe a link or two to examples if they’re relevant rather than addressing individuals on their own blogs, because a lot of people take being told they’re wrong or doing something dangerous as you saying they’re stupid which, at least with me, is not the case. I am well aware that there is a lot of misinformation out there so I try not to add to it and to gently correct it when I see it… Gently being relative because I’m a bit rough around the edges (which is the other reason I rent to stick to not addressing people directly).
* There is a distinct difference between calling something out and being a cunt. You can say ‘you’re wrong’ without calling someone names, being rude or implying they’re an idiot. You can disagree with someone without doing all of that too.
Cultural Appropriation is a Thing.
Short and sweet: If anything you do in public space falls under ‘cultural appropriation’ then you are wrong and you should be called out on it.
First Nations practices and ritual items like war bonnets and dream catchers are not yours to adopt as you will.
Shaman is a specific title for a specific person amongst certain European cultures and is not yours to adopt as you will (I will write a post on Shaman vs shamanistic practices another day).
And so on and so forth.
Bigotry is a thing.
Anyone participating in bigotry needs a boot put so far up their ass they’ll never get it out.
Z Budapest was not and will never be right in her bigoted attitude and behaviour towards trans folk.
Heathens/Asatru using their religion as an excuse for racism are not and will never be right.
Pagans who marginalise and isolate members of the gay, lesbian, trans, intersexqueer and queer community because they don’t fit neatly into their gendered practices are not right.
Witches, magical workers and Pagans of all stripes who believe the physically and mentally unwell should not be practicing magic are discriminating against the disabled and mentally ill … THEY’RE NOT FUCKING RIGHT!
Now I want to make something very clear here: I in no way advocate a ‘one true way’. My path is very much a mish mash of UPG, random practices and intuition so I am in no position to advocate the one true way…
That doesn’t mean I won’t say something when I see someone calling two disparate practices by the same name, or being a bigot ‘because their religion says so’, or generally doing something a bit stupid that will probably result in them or someone else getting hurt (whether by accident or because they’ve been fed misinformation), or just spreading misinformation on things that CAN be verified. Because there are history books, there is documented lore, there is documentation on practices from indigenous cultures through to current modern magical techniques, or and there is basic common sense and reading a book that isn’t Pagan 101 fluff.
And, finally, you don’t have to listen to people who call you out. You don’t. You are in no way required to hear people who call you out or to respond to them at all. If you are doing something flies in the face of everything tradition, lore, and history (and even common sense, good manners and scientific fact) and you’re more interested in following your heart rather than figuring out why that is so**, or not poisoning someone/yourself then go for it, but don’t expect people to not say anything if you’re talking about it in public space.
You post or say it in public then you open it up for dissection and criticism.
** I find this actually really weird. Sometimes chasing down why your UPG, especially in regards to spirits and deities, doesn’t match what tradition and mythology tell us can open a whole shit ton of doors for someone and provide a much more fulfilling and powerful practice. So I’m never going to understand people who say ‘but this is how they appear to me’ when it’s pretty much the opposite of everything we know about said entity. That’s me personally, and by all means don’t let me stop you (I’m not the type that generally will comment on those kinds of posts anyway), but I’m just putting it out there that I don’t understand people who do that. At all, it is very limiting from my perspective.
Pagans have this really bad habit of latching on to a practice that they know fuck all about and then using and abusing it obsessively. Sometimes it’s just painful to watch the stupid play out and other times it is actually concerning.
Soul retrieval is in the latter category.
Soul retrieval is dangerous. It shouldn’t be done by the inexperienced and it shouldn’t be done alone. It should be done with ready access to a mental health carer of some form because the fall out can be pretty huge.
Soul’s don’t just randomly fragment. A piece of your soul isn’t going to randomly vanish. Soul’s fragment due to trauma. Big trauma or ongoing trauma, but not by attaching yourself to a person, place or thing in a fairly normal manner and then leaving it or having it taken away. That’s a different thing entirely and I’ll get to it in a minute. The point right now is that a fragmented soul involves trauma, and when you re-absorb that fragment you are suddenly going to be dealing with the effects of that trauma in ways that you’ve not had to deal with before…
Welcome to mental break down land. Which is why experienced practitioners, experienced psychologists and a whole lot of care is required. This is not shit you do at home, kids. It’s also not what the pagans I see talking about soul retrieval are actually talking about.
That? There is nothing there that even hints at the need for soul retrieval. It hints a lot at the general unease we all have when we realise how much we’ve changed and how it’s not in the direction we’d have liked. The author also talks about really ingraining that place and time into herself…
What she’s done is lain down lines to that place, and that time, that are holding her there in a manner that will drag her back there. She put out the line and sunk the hook in very deep without realising what she was doing. What she needs to do isn’t try and find some missing fragment of her soul, but rather remove those hooks and bring the lines of energy she’s sent out back into herself or at least enough of them that her relationship with that place and time is more natural and less inclined to hold her there.
This hooking oneself to something, somewhere or someone and needing to loosen the hooks and reabsorb the lines of connection is what most people are actually talking about when they’re babbling on about soul retrieval.
And on to something helpful and practical:
I’m not going to try to do a complicated how to here, but for me I see the lines as literal ropes of energy with a big fishing hook attached. To remove them I simply unhook the hook mentally and pull it all back inside of me. In some cases, like the end of a mutual relationship, you’ll find that you’re not only hooked to the person but the person has attached themselves to you. In these cases pull their hooks out of you and cast the lines back at them. It’ll be up to them to reabsorb them…
I found in the case of my last, unhealthy, relationship that my former partner managed to reattach himself a couple of times because of his obsessive behaviour. So keep an eye out for that. In general it’s worth keeping an eye on what you’ve attached yourself to, or allowed to be attached to you just because.