Pagan Paths

Witchcraft Philosophies, Action, Leadership, Humor, Outrage, Awkward Mishaps, Lovable Lessons, and a search for Grace with a clumsy Witch.

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Activate Darkness

Blessed Darkness....Soothe now my Burned Soul,
In the Cooling Blanket of Your Blackness,
Alleviate my Blistered Heart....

Twice a year, my Coven takes Dark Time. We do not meet or lead rituals. I do not email our broader community. These two time periods take place Yule-Imbolc and Lughnasadh-Mabon. We are a very public, hard-working group and these two breaks are indelibly helpful to our work. I still assign Craft homework during this period, and this period's assignment was to treat this time as more than a few more free Saturdays on our calendars. Each of us would need to surrender something in our lives and actively use the newly gained time to pursue individual rest.

I don't assign homework unless I'm willing to do it, too. This time, I chose this activity for my Coven because I needed it--possibly more than they. 2014 was an incredible year, but toward the end of it, the scary creep of burnout was starting to move in. Between writing a book, starting a new job, teaching classes, helping found PEC-NYC, and coordinating a Pagan presence at the Climate March, taking Tarot clients, and leading our private Coven and public events, by the time Yule came around, I was tired! (Please refer to my blog about what "delegation" really means for leaders before commenting that I "should have delegated more." Thanks, y'all!)  I forgot Tarot appointments. When people asked about joining the Coven or if I'd be teaching more classes in 2015, I wasn't flattered--I was frightened. At public functions where I normally take the front-and-center position, I sat in the corner while wearing a mask so people wouldn't know I was there.

I was fried.


There's work in getting to a place of rest. I started by taking January away from Tarot clients. Lucratively, it wasn't the best choice. The New Year is a prime time for annual forecast readings. But mentally, I had to do it. I had to let some standard regulars know my break was coming up, which led to a rash of last-minute requests, and offering referrals if someone simply couldn't wait until February 1 to have their cards read. I then took it a step further: I asked my Coveners to hold their requests for spell assistance, dream interpretation, or counsel (unless it's an emergency). Finally, I took the private step in not lighting candles or lending energy to any cause except myself and my partner until the warming light of Imbolc comes around. In the new time I've created, I pull cards for myself and do healing work to replace what I exerted in 2014.

I have to be honest--even writing this blog is tough. In my head, I see a list of "How-to's" that I could offer for other leaders to better cultivate their own rest, but I feel that I need to veer away from that this time. My apologies to anyone who read this far down only to learn that this blog post is all about me. One of my Shadow issues is helping people--hiding from the work I need to do on me is easier when I can focus on helping someone else fix themselves. I think that's what the therapists call "co-dependency:" the need to be needed. Leaders commonly fall into that all-too-tempting trap of being there for others and to be very clear, it is very selfish.

Over the holidays, my partner and I made a couple of trips to Macy's. While I watched the public actively grab and purchase consumer goods as if they needed them as much as water and shelter, I wondered what in our collective soul has gone so terribly missing that we need to fill it up with purchases. The same goes for food and alcohol. What void exists that we are trying so desperately to fill with temporary physical fillings that can harm us or make us feel sick afterward? For leaders, what kind of emptiness do we have inside that inspires the need to make ourselves so very central to the goings-on around us?

Judy Harrow said in Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide that one of the worst things a leader can possibly do is be available to their students at all times. The student becomes dependent. They may begin to believe they cannot do anything without their Priest/ess's guidance. What happens if that Priest/ess moves to another city or leaves the vocation? Many of us left the religions of our youth because we did not want a person or an institution telling us how to practice or believe. We inadvertently replicate this model when we try to help too much. We repeat the pattern of belief that a person needs a mortal intercessor to become entwined with the Divine. Leaders are gate-keepers and torch-bearers: We can open the doors, we can light the way. We must never become the gates or the torches, themselves.


Why is it selfish? In a way, we don't have to think for ourselves when we can be the gates or torches. Our student's needs can become our identities. Their perpetual needs mean our lives are important. By denying them the chance to stand on their own, we are alleviated from the fears of being unworthy and forgotten. That's not our students' job.

It's tempting to jump on a FB chain and interpret a Tarot spread or a dream. I want to reach out when I hear a Covener is having a rough day (but one that's not an emergency). I want to write a bullet-point list right here of all the things that would help leaders like me, but I won't. I'm writing it because it helps me to get some words out on the screen, so I appreciate your time in reading it.

I am not simply embracing the Dark Time of this year...I am activating its cooling presence and restorative gifts. I restore myself in quiet balance so I may be renewed at the first stirrings of Spring. I need to do it for me so that I can face the scary reality that the world is just fine without my meddling with it and that there's a responsibility in restoring me. 




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Courtney Weber is a Priestess, writer, Tarot Advisor, performer and activist originally from Portland, OR living in New York City. Her writings on Witchcraft have been published in numerous publications, including Spiral Nature and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess" and "Tarot for One: The Art of Reading For Yourself", both through Weiser Books. She is the producer and designer of "Tarot of the Boroughs" a contemporary Tarot deck composed of original photography set in NYC. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and cats.


  • Molly
    Molly Saturday, 10 January 2015

    Really appreciated this and the link to the "delegate" article as well.

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