I was reading the Strategic Sorcery blog*, and yesterday he posted five things that he thought Western Occultism was too wrapped up in and needed to escape from. This got me to thinking about things that Witches get a little too trapped in, and decided to make a short list of my own. However, I decided to go the opposite direction with my list, and instead point out those things I think need more attention. Warning: Highly Opinionated, and in no particular order.
Tons of reading, reflection, and theorizing about metaphysics and the spiritual is wonderful, and Witches, regardless of the brand, have tons of that. For some strange reason though, we as a whole, mind you not everyone, tend to neglect learning about what ecology has to say about the world in which we live in. If you have no clue what a watershed is or how it effects the environment then it might be time to do a bit more of this type of learning. It is important, as Witches, to know how the pieces fit together. It is particularly important to know how the local ecosystem works and where the Witch fits in.
What are the local major geological land features? What is the major source for drinking water? What birds/mammals/fish/reptiles are native? Are there any invasive plants or animal species causing a problem? Questions like these, and many more, need to be known.
For some strange reason, Witches neglect to read source mythology, electing to instead take someone else’s word for it. Worse yet, many only get their mythological knowledge from Contemporary Pagan books. Again, not everyone falls into this category. For example, assuming the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon has entered your life, it would be best to crack open the Mabinogion first, and read what it says about Her. Do this long before googling or seeing what some introductory list of Deities has to say about Her. After reading the myth, find out what mythology scholars have to say. Only after doing all that, and spending time thinking about what it all means to you and your relationship with the Deity in question, do you look at how others have incorporated the material into their practice. Read the myths, they tell us about the Gods and Goddesses as close to first-hand as you can get, minus direct individualistic experience.
So this is my item on the list that isn’t about reading, or more specifically isn’t normally achieved by reading. Yes, I know that reading a good book can induce altered states of mind, but that is beside the point. Out of all the various practices that Witches engage in, meditation is perhaps one of the most important and most neglected. A Priestess I know once pointed out during conversation, that when things begin to get a little hectic, stressed, or busy that meditation is the first thing to go. You know what? She is right. Witches don’t dedication enough regular and daily time to meditation. That’s right, I said daily. Meditation needs to be done every day. Not reflective thought or guided journeying, but actual focusing the mind ‘as best as possible’ for a prescribed period of time towards a single thought. Do it and your spiritual, mental, and mundane lives will all improve. It will seem like someone opened a flood gate of spiritual epiphany.
4. The Classics
Personally I think the ancient classical works are horrible reads, HORRIBLE, but I say this from the stand point of having read quite a few of them. As much as I had to force myself to keep reading Plato or the Iliad, I did get through it and thought it was very important to do so. As a Contemporary Pagan it is crucial that we read the various works of the classical world. Hordes of books and stories exist that were written from a Pagan worldview that had never experienced centuries of monotheistic thought. You may not agree with everything that was written, but that’s not the point. It’s about knowing what these people thought.
5. What They Read
So Witches, and Contemporary Pagans, have a long standing, and not likely to end soon, love affair with books. Unfortunately, I have noticed a trend lately. Many of those new to our Religion don’t dig beyond the newest book available at Barnes and Noble, or some of other giant chain bookstore. Now, I’m not saying to ignore these books, new books are written everyday that can and do have significance. I am saying, read what your authors read, and so on and so forth.
I remember the first time I did this. I had re-read, “The Witches Bible” and wanted to know more about something mentioned. So I flipped to the reference page and started researching those books. This led me to many very important books that helped to shape modern Witchcraft. I specifically remember ordering and reading for the first time, “The White Goddess” because it was listed there. I have done and continue to do the same for many many different books.
Sure, many of us have read the books by Gerald B. Gardner, but how many have looked at the books he listed in his references? Or within other influential and a bit more popular books, such as, “The Spiral Dance” and “Drawing Down the Moon.” Then after reading those books, flip to the back and track down what those authors where reading.
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."
*Go read it.