Do you truly value your work?
This weekend I gave a lecture at 2nd Star Festival in Florence, OR. Originally the idea was to give my "Visual Alchemy" lecture, which looks at the history and intersection of art and magick - but at the festival itself, there wasn't much description for attendees to read besides the time and "Tempest, artist/dancer", so I decided to go off the rails a bit, and hope no one complained that I wasn't dancing as I lectured.
2nd Star is a neat fledgling festival that is a cross-section of steampunk, fairies, pirates, mermaids, and other sorts of myth/creative folk - a little of everything fantasy. Just before I took the stage, the previous lecturer Josh Kinsey was answering a question about the title/use of the word maker. I think that seeded the field a bit for the direction I went.
I started off with my basic introduction of defining art and magick, showing some slides of various kinds of art from early civilizations. Then I talked about art that is temporary - such as sand paintings, and art that is long-lived (temples, henges, etc), yet they are linked by intent and both equally important. And then I talked (ranted) about the value of art in today's society.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of today's society does not recognize the importance and inherent value of art. Art is more than something that matches your couch and looks nice, or is tucked away in a museum. It's essential for human expression and well-being. It defines and advances civilizations, building cultures. It bridges the gap between different people and finds a common soul. It connects us and teaches us.
When you, as a maker/creator/artisan/artist/master of the ephemeral exist in a society that doesn't understand the value of art, you're most likely going to have a hard time valuing your work. When the artist doesn't value their work, then the society doesn't see value in the work or the worker for that matter. It's a vicious ouroboros.
So in my rant--err--lecture, I challenged the folks present to reconsider art as something that is integral to their lives, and especially to the creators present - to re-evaluate how they see their work. If you value your own work, then others in turn will start to see the value in it. It should be priced with respect to the quality of the work, the materials, the amount of time, and true market value - versus what you think others (especially yourself, your friends, etc) may pay for it. Nor does it matter if it's what you do for a living or as a hobby on the side, the effort and the result is the same.
Just the simple act of believing and acting on the sense of value of your work causes a shift - in yourself, as well as those who interact with your work. If you define magick as the art of changing consciousness in accordance with will - then valuing your work is also a form of magick. You see value in your work, your work will be empowered, and others will respond to that shift in value, and see it for themselves.
Success in the arts is never overnight. It doesn't come through one perfect connection, but rather years of hard work and dedication. However, that sparkle of success rarely comes without belief in one's work, and a dedication to value. Go forth and do some magick.
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Do you truly value your work?
I overhear a lot of conversations that become arguments, and I just want to smack my head because, as an outside observer, it's so clear to me why the two parties are having a difficult time communicating. Why, in fact, a pretty benign topic can become a full on argument. Often it really boils down to intention. What's your intention? What are you trying to communicate? What's your goal? What do you want to get out of this communication/interaction?...
The grain harvest is being collected in the fields around my home. The usually still and silent evening air is filled with the sound of combine harvesters, accentuated every now and then with the hoot of a tawny owl. Lammas is upon us.
Standing on a footpath that divides two large fields, one side filled with barley just reaped, the other with wheat standing pale golden in the sun, I raise my hands to the blue sky and give my thanks for all that nourishes us. I walk a ways into the cut field, the harsh stubs of barley amid the dry, sandy earth and place my hands upon the soil. Thank you for your blessing, may the land be nourished even as it nourishes us. Hail and thanks be to the goddess. I then move to stand on the edge of the wheat field, allowing its song of potential to flow through me. I brush the bent heads filled with seed and say another prayer of thanks.
This is a wonderful time of year, when the songs of the ancestors flow through the rural heartlands of Britain. Though the way we harvest is different, still there is that cycle of growth, of planting and harvesting. After the long hot days of midsummer, the lengthening evenings are welcome, bringing cooler air. Though the dog days may still lie ahead of us, there is something different in the air at this time of year. The scents have changed, the leaves are dark green and heavy, the foliage beginning to choke out and fall back.
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:
Following an earth-based tradition such as Druidry is wonderfully empowering, and also beneficent to the whole, if we move beyond our self-centredness and work towards a life in service to our environment, the gods, the ancestors, the spirits of place. With such a tradition, there is no requirement for a belief in anything. There is no supernatural. There is only nature, glorious nature, right in front of our eyes. What we see, what we interpret with our senses, requires no belief, only a willingness to experience, to learn, to think and to create truly deep, inspiring relationships.
This sort of tradition, this sort of thinking, means that Druidry is different for each individual. What that also means is that we accept the experience of others within the tradition, and there is no right or wrong, per se, only interpretation and experience. There is no liturgy within Druidry. Yet we find it rooted in a landscape and in a culture, to which we can honour and learn from while making it work for us in an individual sense. Coming from a standpoint of no agreed standpoint, this can seem confusing and bewildering to some in the Druid tradition, and a source of great freedom for others.
The gods in Druidry are the gods of nature, both the natural world and of human nature (and beyond). They are forces of nature that without due respect, can kill, injure or destroy. Love, lust, rain, storm, wind, sun, snow, ice, war, birth, death: all of these are gods. Yet they are not gods to whom we bow down in some religious hierarchy. The gods of nature are those that we work with, together, in order to function properly in an ecosystem. There is no hierarchy in nature either; the concept of a food chain is a purely human invention to make humans feel superior, and therefore able to exploit, all life forms beneath them. The shark that swims with you in the ocean has another point of view on this so-called food chain. So does the flesh-eating virus, or the wildfire.
If we believe in some hierarchy, then we need to submit to an authority. The Druid knows that there is no authority in some uber-being above us. There are only the forces of nature that we work with, that we create relationship with, which we try to understand so that we may move through life in greater awareness and with more ease. If we submit to the forces of nature, we will perish. If we submit to the ocean, as my teacher Bobcat used to say, we will drown. There is no room for this sort of attitude within Druidry. It's all about relationship.
I am going to delay the next article in the series "Blurring the Lines of Community" for an obvious reason.
The LGBT community has been deeply wounded. That community has been the inspiration of many of the things we have been trying to do over the years in the Pagan Community. I have often held up the LGBT Community as an example of what can be accomplished by a repressed, suppressed, and marginalized community. Same sex marriage is now the law of the land. Battles over equal rights continue, but the LGBT Community has done an amazing job over the last few decades of moving the discussion from one of pure hate and complete lack of understanding to an emerging view in America that their members are simply other members of the larger community. There is still far to go, but the LGBT inspiration has had a massive impact on the Pagan Community and how we are now attempting to become more accepted by the legal system and American society as a whole. There would be no "Pagan Pride Day" if it weren't for the LGBT Community blazing a trail for us.
These past few months I’ve been working with the Otherworld and the Sidhe, trying to come to understand them from an experiential point of view rather than a mythological or academic perspective. We can read about it all we want, but the Otherworld must be experienced for it to be truly integrated into a particular tradition.
I’ve written previously about the Otherworld and the concept of duality last year on my other blog site as we approached Samhain, and have been pondering it ever since. Preparing myself for a conscious encounter, so to speak. I’ve encountered the Otherworld before, meeting beings on my wanderings out and about the landscape, but haven’t made a concentrated effort to really connect with them, whatever they may be and wherever they may originate. I’ve had difficulty in the concept of an Otherworld, for to perceive a conscious split between this world and the Otherworld interferes with my ambition of pure integration. Or so I thought.
The premise that I am now leaning towards is not so much a separation between the Otherworld and this one, but more of an overlay, a deeper perceived reality than what we can experience with our physical and mental awareness when it lies half-dormant. The Otherworld is this world as well, but on a deeper level. It is a Deeperworld, where beings exist that require a deeper connection to the landscape than on a superficial level. Perhaps I was simply getting too caught up in the name, the Otherworld. For me, in my journey towards pure integration, there is no Other.
The pitfalls of taking things too literally.
And so I made my journey to the nearest tumuli, a Celtic burial place that lies halfway between an old Celtic settlement and a ritual henge along the Suffolk coast. I had planned to meet with the Sidhe, those beings who dwell in the Otherworld and who can traverse the perceived realities between the worlds with greater ease than we can. I had a friend come along to share in this Beltane ritual, and also to keep watch. But the energy was not quite right, the timing was off. The hawthorn had yet to bloom at the beginning of May, the weather was all over the place, sunshine one minute and hail the next. As our ritual progressed on the hilltop next to the tumuli, a headache turned into a migraine that left me feeling really rather ill. As I still persevered in my attempts to contact the Sidhe, the Shining Folk, my head pounded and I suddenly heard “Come back when the May is in bloom”. And so we ended the ritual, strange energies swirling round our ritual site, the low clouds threatening, and made our way home.
A few weeks later, the hawthorn blossomed and I had my chance to get back to the tumuli. I originally had planned to spend the night there, but plans had changed, and so I was given only a couple hours grace to visit the site. Alone, I hiked there, the scent of the May blossom heady in the hedgerows. As I approached the tumuli, walking through grazing sheep at the base of the hill, the warm sunshine opened out over the landscape and washed it with light, almost making everything sparkle with life.
I walked around the tumuli as I always do, past a small flock of beautiful black and white goats resting in the shade of an oak tree. The energy around the site was calmer than the previous time, for which I was glad. It was more settled, but very strong, almost clear. After circumventing the tumuli I walked to the top and sat down, simply breathing and attuning to the place, a squirrel running through last year’s leaf fall, collecting nuts and acorns from his hidden caches.
When I felt fully connected with the landscape, not merely an observer or traveller to this land but a living, breathing, active and aware part of it, I placed my hands on the ground before me and let my soul sink into the soil, opening my nemeton to the spirits of place. Almost instantly I felt a presence all around me, a small group of beings, three or four, standing in a circle looking at my form sitting on the earth, hands pressed to the ground. Not wanting to break the moment, I kept still, my eyes closed, and saw them with my mind rather than my physical senses.