Along with the things that are part of my witchcraft, I thought it might be interesting (and amusing) to talk about some things aren’t part of my practice and why.
That’s not because these things are bad or wrong or not a good idea. They’re just not things that make sense for me. (I do have a caution about one of them.)
Brigid (by whichever of the spellings you prefer) is a fine goddess, and I know a lot of people who find strength and power and beauty in honouring her and doing her work in the world.
I’m not one of them. It’s not because I don’t value the things she’s focused on (though I admit her main interests are a bit to the side of mine – poetry, healing, and smithcraft.)
But every ritual I’ve been in that’s focused on Brigid, I’ve gotten this sense of polite ‘you are not mine, let’s all be cordial’. There’s no sense that I’ve done something wrong, or accidentally given offense or anything. Just that polite, amiable distance
Because Brigid is such a popular goddess in the larger Pagan community, I’ve been to multiple rituals where a Drawing Down, inviting her presence into the body of a priestess (in all the cases of the rituals I was at).
The most useful commentary I got out of any of them was “My, you’re short.” (I’m 5′, so this was not exactly news to me.)
Why is it like that? My best guess is that my relationship with one of the primary deities I honour and work with is close enough to crowd this particular interaction out. Or something like that.
What does all this mean? I’ll go to Brigid-focused rituals (as you might have guessed from the above), but I don’t assume they’re going to be super moving emotional experiences for me. I will probably need some other reason to turn up.
I’m also very unlikely to focus on a Brigid for a ritual I am writing or significantly helping to lead. (I’d do it to support someone else with a strong connection with Her, but not without someone else having that connection, basically.)
A lot of people are fascinated by fairies (or faeries or the Fae or the Good Folk.) I find the stories fascinating too.
But they are not a part of my religious path and practice, or my magical path and practice, other than in a general polite way. (Via offerings to the local land and nearby spirits, a category that includes them but is not just them.)
I don’t think they’re good. I don’t think they’re evil. I think they’re very foreign to humans. My favourite description is from Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, where a character says: “They’re like Linear A. They look as if they ought to mean something, but you can’t tell what it is.”
My experiences with them, interestingly enough, have been generally pretty good. Far more blessings than problems.
But I suspect that a large part of that is that I am courteous and don’t make demands when I do make contact. I know I don’t know enough to negotiate well, basically. I certainly don’t do enough in this realm to feel comfortable suggesting things to other people.
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Morgan Daimler’s work. Morgan has an excellent roundup of references she uses on her blog.
In this case, I won’t run a ritual or plan a ritual that centres on the Fae. But I probably also won’t go to one, either. I’ve been to one too many that was badly managed and ended in disconcerting chaos. I am too tired to do that again.
Elaborate altar setups
Some people make the most incredible works of art out of their altar setups. The group I trained with was like that – lovely cloths for each Sabbat, statues, objects, things to draw and delight the eye. I appreciate all of that.
I don’t do that. Our tradition’s altar does require a number of tools, if we’re doing the full formal setup, but beyond that, I do not get super fancy.
Some of this is sheer space. The group I learned the tradition in was in a house, with storage space. Basement space. Attics.
I live in an apartment with adequate but not at all expansive closets. (And given Boston housing prices, I can’t assume this part is going to change…) I’ve done three long distance moves on the cheap.
I just don’t have space to store ritual items I use only once or twice a year. I’m working on stretching things to have a full set of black altar cloths and a way to cover my bookshelves for Samhain and initiations, but that’s probably as far as I’m going to manage..
More than anything else, I have chronic health issues that include not only exhaustion, but clumsiness. I’ve unfortunately lost some treasured pieces over the years because I’ve gotten clumsy at just the wrong moment. That’s a horrible feeling (and it’s even worse when that’s a thing you need to use imminently for ritual.)
It’s meant that I’m careful about what pieces I add, but I also try to limit how many times I need to move things around. Moving ten things is probably fine. But if it’s 20, and some of them are glass or otherwise delicate? That might be trickier, especially when I’m cleaning up after ritual.
Maybe at some point, this will change – I’ll have more storage space, plus people who are reliably able to help with both setup and cleanup. But not for a while, at the least.
For right now, I’m keeping things simpler. My tools, one or two decorative elements, a few splashes of colour.
Outer court or teaching-focused group
I love teaching witchy things – and I actually really love teaching people who are relatively new to witchcraft. They ask great questions so often, that make me think about what I do in new ways. I love helping them figure out how they learn best, and what they care about when it comes to witchcraft.
But teaching is also tiring and time-consuming. I’m in a stage right now (as I was last year, and will be for a year or two – I’m writing this in the summer of 2020) where teaching is a key part of forming the kind of group I want to be part of. (People who have a solid shared set of experiences together, and are interested in a bunch of the same things.)
However, my goal is to do that long enough to build a (reasonably) stable group of initiates who want to go deeper into the work together.
I’m not up for the Inner Court/Outer Court model, where there’s a group of initiates working together (the Inner Court), and also a group of people who have not made those commitments or choices (the Outer Court).
The group I trained in did something pretty close to that for a long time, and I learned a lot doing it. But I also burned out, and learned that it takes a really significant amount of time and energy to manage.
It’s not just the time in the actual rituals or classes or what have you. (That’s the part I enjoy, and find pretty easy.)
It’s the planning time (and coordinating the planning time with the other people who need to be in on the planning.) It’s the having to adjust last minute when some people don’t show up to do their parts without warning (also happens sometimes with committed initiates, but generally a lot less often.) And some of the interpersonal issues can eat every spare minute you have, for weeks or even months.
Again, been there, done that, find it exhausting.
I believe very strongly that my witchcraft is a key part of my life. But it is not the only thing that gets time in my life. I have a full time job I love and want to be excellent at. I write romance novels, I knit, I do other crafts. I hang out with friends online without any particular purpose, and watch silly movies. I need time to do those things (plus things like cooking and keeping my household running).
My coven is, long term, for other people who are proactive about their learning and growth, and committed to doing that together. I expect we’ll likely have ongoing regular periods where we have students learning about the group and tradition.
But as long as I’m running things, we’ll have to make a decision at the end of their Dedicant training about whether they’re initiating and joining the coven, or whether we part ways.
Posted October 10, 2020