One question I get from time to time is a classic when it comes to magical discussions – someone is concerned that someone else has been doing unwanted magic to affect them, and wants it to stop. This essay summarises a number of possible responses to this.
One question that comes up for a lot of people is the question of coming out of the broom closet – when do you tell people about your change in religious interest, views, or practice?
Before I go any further, a recommendation: Dana Eilers’ book The Practical Pagan is an excellent resource on this topic, and she has a lot of great advice about how handle issues of sharing details about your religion both with family and in workplace settings. Highly recommended.
Like anything else we do, there are some useful safety notes. (And I’m sure, looking at this list, I’ve forgotten some, and will continue to come back.) I talk about safety considerations in beginning group work on its own page.
When you read books about Wicca or witchcraft, you see lots of them talk about doing some specific motions, or saying some words. Often, those things seem pretty silly.
And yet, lots of books talk about them. And so do lots of teachers, and lots of groups that have been doing this for a while. So there must be something in the robes and the tools and the standing there saying poetry, and chanting. What’s up with that?
My theory is that it has to do with four things:
- Getting your brain out of everyday thoughts and actions.
- Using multiple senses.
- Engaging your subconscious and other parts of your mind.
- And sometimes, the specific actions work for specific reasons.
[author’s note: I wrote this essay in 2001, very early on in my serious exploration in the Pagan community. Since then, I’ve had far more group work, finished a Master’s in Library and Information Science, and have had a lot of thoughts about how I might edit and expand the information in this essay. I haven’t done so yet, but want current readers to know that while I still agree with what’s in here, it’s not what and how I’d write the essay today.]
Critical thinking and Pagan books
I’d like to talk about how to critically evaluate the books that you read, and why it is important to do this.
This is particularly complicated when we talk about Pagan books, because many people who write Pagan books and materials are writing about things they’ve experienced, and about a religion or practice in which there are traditionally accepted concepts and a strong oral tradition. Many authors don’t reference where they learned their ideas – or in many cases, they learned it from a teacher, who learned it from another teacher, who learned it from someone else.
That doesn’t mean that this kind of learning (or their experiences) are any less true or valid (or that it’s any less powerful when used in ritual) – but it does make it very difficult to determine what to question or where to find more information. As well, there are times when accuracy of information can be very important, such as in toxic effects of herbs, or other possible dangers.
When you’re looking at any kind of introspective, internal, transformative work, you should have space in your life to do it. If you’re already in the midst of other major changes, you may want to wait before diving deeply into learning a new religion, or especially in seeking out an initiatory path. Those other changes may be amazing and wonderful – but you’ll get a lot more out of all of them all if you don’t overload yourself.
In other words, when we seek to change ourselves, we should probably plan as if we’re going to succeed, and leave space to learn about and integrate those changes, rather than trying desperately to juggle too many things in the air.
Most of what’s here is aimed at people looking to work with groups or teachers, but it’s also good to think about these issues if you’re working on your own, to help you balance your learning with the other important things in your life.