For some individuals, witchcraft is a journey of finding one's unique style of magic, own cosmology, and personal philosophy.
Have you seen the popular lists of different types of witches—e.g., traditional witch, Gardnerian witch, Faerie witch, eclectic witch, hedge witch—with precise definitions for each category? These charts help some beginners. Learning you fit a certain style can be validating and reassuring. It also makes some newcomers feel they belong.
But this post is for beginners who find the categories make things really difficult. Everyone else, I'm not naysaying what works for you; this entire post is simply ideas and methods that work for me, in case they're useful to someone. I don't want the charts thrown out. They're great for some people. And with that:
At a recent occult meet-up, the topic of the discussion was "Goddesses" and we had gotten to the point where we were discussing our experiences and perceptions. Perhaps because there was a light focused down directly where I was sitting, I was especially talkative at that meeting.
During one of my ramblings, the following description dropped out of my mouth: "With my art, versus my personal practice, I can't say that I'm specifically aligned with any certain deity or pantheon. Rather it's like there's this mystical psychiatrist's couch in my studio, and They line up to have a lay down and tell me Their problems and what They want for art." Up until that moment, I had never really voiced it, but that's exactly what it feels like to make my art.
When I was at the Parliament of the World's Religions in October, I had the pleasure of hearing Drake Spaeth speak briefly. Drake is a clinical psychologist and professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. His professional interests include existential and humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, Jungian psychology, and shamanism. Drake is a also an ordained Pagan minister and ritual facilitator of the Sacred Hunt, an ecstatic ritual of consciousness transformation, which has become a fixture at Pagan Spirit Gathering and other festivals.
At the Parliament, Drake caught my attention when he said that "Carl Jung was not entirely kidding when he called himself a polytheist." Drake was responding to the notion that seeing the gods as expressions of Jungian archetypes diminishes the gods, an idea which he said results from a misunderstanding of what Jung wrote. When I got home, I listened to some of Drake's earlier interviews. This one, with T. Thorn Coyle, was interesting, as Drake discusses gods and archetypes -- a frequent topic on this blog. A portion of the interview is excerpted here. (You can listen to the entire interview by following this link.) My own understanding of gods and archetypes parallel's Drake's.
This past summer, Morpheus Ravenna delivered the keynote speech at the Many Gods West polytheist conference. Her speech was entitled, "Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods". It was later published at polytheist.com, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety. I’ve been meaning for some time to write a response to Morpheus’ speech, for a couple of reasons. First, I am always interested in the intersection of Jungian psychology and polytheism. In fact, it was the pairing of these ideas in Margot Adler's 1979 Drawing Down the Moon that drew me to Paganism in the first place. Second, I think Morpheus is one of the most interesting polytheist writers out there, and I am often surprised at how much of what she writes I agree with. Her keynote speech was no exception.
I recently came across these five questions posed to "Pagans who believe that the Gods are merely psychological archetypes and are created by the mind of [hu]man[s]." I will answer each in turn. (But first, let me say that I object to prefacing the word psychological with the word "merely" -- something I've written about before here.)
1. Do you believe that the Gods can assist you with anything physical in nature? If so how can the Gods assist you with anything physical in Nature given that they are only psychological?