Today was laundry day. And unpacking day. And grocery-shopping day. I returned late yesterday from Festival of Souls near Memphis and it was my second festival in as many weeks. I am grateful to be home to settle into Samhain and wash my socks.
Two weeks ago, I was teaching at the Southeast Wise Women's Conference, which used to be called the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference. It is exactly what it sounds like. In a gorgeous mountain setting--that was the site of the old Black Mountain College.
In the Process of Magic class, one of the expectations I lay out there is that people taking the class will ideally do daily work. I feel that daily work is an essential part of magical practice, and not something which can be ignored if you are really serious about studying magic. However daily work is only part of the equation. Another part is making sure that the core skills of magical practice are developed. You need to build a foundation that supports the magical work you do. This means spending some time learning those core skills, which may not be glamorous, but nonetheless are important because of how such practices provide the necessary experience to handle more advanced work.
Still the question that may arise is this: Is it is possible to make magic more accessible, to teach it in a way that makes it possible for anyone to pick it up? The answer to that question is both yes and no. It's yes, in the sense that it is possible to write about magic in a way that strips away the esotericism and focuses on the technique, but it's no in the sense that unless the person is actually willing to do the work, willing to apply what is read into actual, experiential practice, it is very hard for a person to get a lot of meaning out of magic. The student must do the work. Without doing the work the magic is just a concept, and the student is just an armchair magician. In the process of magic, one of my goals was to explore the fundamental process of magic by examining how techniques work. I feel that if you can help someone understand how a technique works, understand the principles that inform the actions, then what you do is make magic not only more accessible, but you also show a person how to personalize magic.
I'm home from Sacred Space Conference where I had the very best intentions of blogging it day-by-day. But here's what happened--I was so busy teaching and seeing old friends and having an excellent time, that I simply didn't do that. I'm going to try to encapsulate some of the juiciness of this good conference over the next few days, as I unpack and do laundry and prepare for some new workshops in the Asheville area and prepare to go out on the road again in about a month, when I visit the Gulf coast.
This was my third time at Sacred Space and I will say that the third time was the charm for this conference. I was a featured teacher the first two times I went up but this time I was a regular old teacher, doing two classes and participating in a panel discussion of Appalachian folk magic.
Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you about the time someone criticized my student and I nearly lost my friggin’ mind.
I see my Coven the way most people see swans. Graceful and lovely on the surface; pedaling like mad beneath the surface to keep all things going well. Guests may see them as the calm and friendly people who call the Quarters, take the suggested $10 donations, raise the energy, and don’t let anyone open the wine until Fellowship. What they don’t see are the hours driving to NYC (for those who live in CT or Westchester), or the local members shuffling their shoulder bags full of ritual gear onto the subway, setting the space, performing the rite, cleaning up, and then shuffling everything back onto the subway, but usually with additional baggage in tow: canned food, toys, or clothing for various drives. The life of the Urban Witch often demands long journeys on foot, up and down long flights of stairs while jostling staffs, swords, candles, and goods among drunken strangers on and off of subways. It’s work. It’s a task of the Spirit and one I believe we are all glad to give. But what guests also don’t see is how many hours are spent in Circle outside of Sabbat, working on strengthening their Magickal and Energetic prowess as well as working through and with their Personal Shadows as part of becoming better Practitioners.
For this months shadow card, we find ourselves working with the Hierophant, being represented by the Teaching card from the Snowland Tarot.
In this particular card, we see an owl standing before an open book resting on a tree stump.His audience of forest animals seems attentive as he shares his wisdom while the snow gently falls around them.
I read a lot of blogs, go to a lot of conferences and festivals, teach a lot of workshops, and have lively discussions with friends related to all things Pagan and Magickal. Although I can say that ease of access to ideas through the internet, bookstores, and Pagan and Magickal events has increased awareness of many social issues, ideologies, religious and theological perspectives, and the vast amount of minutia related Pagan culture and fads, there is an increasing percentage of the Pagan community that is magickally illiterate and innumerate. I’m not saying that people are less serious, less devoted, or less committed to their path. Nor am I saying that the level of discourse has dropped, in fact in many ways it is much more sophisticated in exploring the development of Pagan culture. What I have noticed is that the technical end of things, magick theory, sacred sciences, and the like, are less well known. I've also noticed a trend towards focusing more exclusively on the lore and mythology of a specific people or a specific time at the expense of a generalized understanding of how magickal paths manifest in a variety of cultures and communities.