Coming Home From Templefest!

I spent the last weekend of August in beautiful New Hampshire (after several hours at less beautiful Boston Logan International Airport) attending Templefest, the Temple of Witchcraft’s annual event. It was my first event with the Temple, and I had a blast. I got to know online friends, met lots of new friends, talked writing with Christopher Penczak over morning coffee, and shared a bottle of wine with a roomful of Patheos bloggers. The weekend left me with a lot to think about, including the impact of the Pagan Internet, exploring multiple traditions at once, and rekindling a personal practice.

Traditional Wicca Release!

Traditional Wicca2It’s out! It’s out!

Some of you, no doubt, could hear me screaming all the way from Charlotte, but for everyone else, Traditional Wicca is now available for purchase from all major booksellers, your local witch stores, independent booksellers, and directly from myself.

I reread the book yesterday, nervous. The fact is I wrote this two years ago. How would I feel about it now, after such a long production? I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’m still immensely proud of this book. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

The early weeks of a book’s life are critical, so please pick up your copy early! If you’ve already finished reading it, please leave a review on Amazon, even if you purchased elsewhere. Amazon reviews critically impact how books are ranked and promoted (or not). The key is more reviews, not necessarily perfect reviews, so please don’t feel like you can’t be honest! I appreciate constructive feedback of all kinds, and you’ll be doing a lot to help other people find me and my work, which means I can afford to keep writing and traveling to Pagan and magical events for workshops.

Buy from Amazon here!

Buy an autographed copy from me here!

You can also buy directly from Llewellyn!

Also check back at http://www.thornthewitch.com for my new events page, where I’ll post upcoming book talks, workshops, and other appearances as I tour for the book over the next few months.

An Ode to My Mindless Job, or I’m Glad I’m Not a Professional Witch

bullet journal spreadThere’s this thing I do that I’m trying to get a handle on. It’s like it’s some inherent part of my personality that I just can’t shake, and it gets me in trouble: I take the things I’m passionate about and I turn them into work.

There’s this maxim that’s been floating around forever that if turn your passion into your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. Near as I can tell, this person (who, according to the Internet, was either Confucius or Marc Anthony, so what does that tell you) probably had someone else’s income and health insurance to supplement those passions. Good for them.

There are lots of people in Pagan and witch communities working to turn their traditions and magical skills into sources of income. Instagram is full of “Boss Witches,” and half of my YouTube friends ask for support on Patreon. I myself have a book about to drop, and am plotting out several others. I’ve sold candles and zines and all manner of other things over the years. We build tarot websites and open up witchy Etsy stores and leverage our social media followings into patrons rather than friends. Many of us can barely try out new recipes for oils and incenses without thinking, almost involuntarily, “Hey, I could sell this.”

On the one hand, it’s kind of awesome that there’s a market for these kinds of things. It means many people don’t have to work jobs they hate, at least in part. Witches have always worked for a price, and I’m no naysayer in that regard. There are many witches and Pagans out there who I’m very happy to throw my own money at because their work is amazeballs.

But there’s a thing I personally can’t seem to get around: when something becomes my job, it starts to drain me. I stop enjoying the thing, and it stops feeling like passion.

I don’t necessarily mean “job” as in “thing I do for income,” either. I mean “job” as in task, obligation, duty, or work.

Those of you—myself included—who are involved in any kind of planner community, even casually, should immediately think of the people who turn every mundane, automatic thing into a bullet journal checklist, just because it feels so good to check the box that says we finished something. Drinking water and recording the weather becomes a job. What started out as a fun, creative hobby that has the side-effect of making us more focused now makes us feel shitty when we can’t decorate an elaborate weekly spread that includes fancy Japanese animal tabs marking every stupid thing we watched on Netflix or every type of booze we drank that week. Where once we were happy, now we feel confined. Obligated.

I can barely read fiction because it feels unproductive. And when I do, I have to productify it by keeping track of HOW MANY BOOKS I CAN READ IN ONE YEAR or some such. It works for a while, but I find that the joy eventually drains out.

I’ve watched as this has happened to my witchcraft, my practice of tarot, my writing, my art, my practice of HEMA, and even my relationships (I’M GOING TO CALL ONE PERSON EVERY DAY TO SAY HELLO SO I CAN BE A BETTER FRIEND). I fall in love with a thing, I throw myself into it, I turn it into an obligation, and then I stop giving a shit because WORK.

It’s no good.

In the simplest terms, I’m not great at living from moment to moment. Everything I do I treat like a step within a larger project, and it sucks out the joy. It’s true that discipline is valuable, and it’s true that the disciplined usually reap the rewards. If you want to be a well-known professional writer, you need to write on a schedule, practice, produce, and make sacrifices where the rest of your time is concerned. If you want to look like a swimsuit model, you need to strictly track your diet and workout vigorously. There are no cheat days.

The difference between mediocrity and greatness is sacrifice, one of my music professors used to say.

She was right, but here’s the rub: those aren’t the only two options. It’s okay to choose something in the middle.

I’m going to try doing what feels good for a while, and not forcing myself into a set schedule on things that I love, just because some part of me thinks that I need a task list in order to be good at anything. As a high priestess, circle with my coven became a drag when I turned it into a chore and started neglecting other parts of my Craft life. Writing became a drag when I instituted unmanageable daily word counts. Fencing became a drag when I let the outcome of tournaments define the value of the thing itself. And my bullet journal is for fun, not for punishing myself when I ignore it for days on end.

It’s cool to make money writing and doing witch stuff, but when I have to, I eventually stop loving what I’m doing. On those days, I’m grateful for my meaningless paycheck-driven job that I can leave at the door every day. It turns out, at least for me, it’s not always a good thing to turn our passions into our jobs. Especially when we’re already not great at finding that balance between work and not-work.

Sorry, Marc Anthony.

December Update

Traditional Wicca2I’ve been pretty quiet on the Internet lately. I haven’t blogged, haven’t posted to Facebook, and have just generally been keeping to myself these days. The Internet is pretty amazing a lot of the time, but I think sometimes we use it as a replacement for actually getting out and doing things. I find that I get online to check something or look something up, and suddenly I get sucked into some rabbit hole and lose whole hours. I needed a break.

I’m up to a lot these days. Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide is up on Amazon, and I just can’t get over it. A friend pointed out just this weekend that I now have an author profile on Llewellyn’s website. It’s incredible to me that I grew up in the Craft (and in general) reading Llewellyn authors, and now I’m one of them. This process has been wild. It’s slow, too. I wrote the bulk of Traditional Wicca almost two years ago, and in between I’ve worked full time and gone back to school. I get so busy with daily life that I actually forget about it sometimes, and then I get an email from my editor asking for me to look at something, and I go through the shock all over again. Holy crap I wrote a book.

Check out what Ray Buckland wrote about my work:

“Thorn writes with obvious sincerity, with feeling, and from experience. Her book covers everything from defining Witchcraft, through the workings of a coven, to actual initiation and beyond. She warns that Wicca is not for everyone and–I am personally delighted to see–includes a chapter on recognizing ‘red flags’ when first contacting others . . . especially those who might claim to be more than they actually are. This book is the quintessential guide for the true, sincere seeker.”―Raymond Buckland, author of Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft

I was literally screaming when I first read this.

The best part is that now that I’ve done it once, I know it’s doable. I’ve got other projects in the works, and writing no longer feels quite as daunting. Currently, my focus is on the young adult novel I’ve always wanted to write. When I was a teenager, I loved Isobel Bird’s series Circle of Three and Cate Tiernan’s Sweep. I still love them. When I’m feeling shitty and need a pick-me-up or just want to feel that inkling of falling in love with witchcraft again, I reread the first books in these series. For a long time, I’ve wanted to take those same tropes and revisit them through my own experiences as a young witch (and can you believe those books are now as old as they are? First published in 2001, some of them you can’t even find in print anymore). The world needs more realistic teen witch stories.

Non-fiction is in the works, too, but I’m getting a kick out of shifting gears these days.

Changes are afoot in my online life more broadly. I’m doing some consolidating. I’m in the process of moving my tarot content to my main website, as well as some of my old Patheos articles. Just for the sake of keeping track of things and not feeling like I’m being spread so thin. I anticipate writing more on all fronts in 2018. I’ll be setting up a mailing list this upcoming year, too, so keep your eyes peeled.

Classroom Witchcraft

IMG_0618It’s the start of a new school year and I’m back in my classroom getting my space ready for students. I’m also bracing myself emotionally. Last year was really, really hard, and I had a rough summer punctuated by some astoundingly alienating professional development seminars that made me seriously question whether I wouldn’t be better off looking for another job. Teachers are just so…extroverted. My coworkers are constantly talking about their “passion for teaching” and putting their “heart and soul” into their work. They spend their paychecks on classroom decorations and school supplies, and every one of them seems perfectly happy to sacrifice evenings and weekends to lesson planning, researching new strategies, and socializing at student events.

I am not that teacher. I’m a good ten years older than most of my coworkers, and I’ve worked other jobs in my life. I care about my students, but I’m not particularly sentimental on the whole. I don’t believe that careers are inherently supposed to have anything to do with callings, and I know that being a classroom teacher isn’t mine anyway (being a priestess is, but that doesn’t come with healthcare). I’m very introverted and guard my personal time fiercely. I don’t use platitudes, play trust games, or abuse exclamation points in my emails.

This makes my job challenging, as you can imagine. I’m good with students, my kids perform well, and I don’t mind the long schedule most of the time. I just feel like I’m constantly being asked to pretend to be someone I’m not.

But this is a new year, and I’ve decided to try to magic my way into not dying on the job. I’m going to woo my way into the skin of someone who Truly Cares, and I’m brainstorming ways to do it. It’s been funny, as I’ve been setting up my room I’ve found myself thinking a lot about Coyote and Fox, two spirits I’ve spent a fair bit of time with in the last two years or so. I’ve been hoarding white paper (a valuable commodity in the school system), making off with unguarded extra supplies, hiding food around my room, snagging copies of keys to rooms I’m not technically supposed to have, and anything else I can think to do to make this year more comfortable. I’m thinking about erecting a discrete shrine to Coyote and Fox in my classroom. (I’m just really into natural history. Yeah.)

There are also old standbys, like spelling the jewelry I wear, incorporating a glamour into my makeup routine (“I give soooo many fucks about today’s meetings. I am burning with passion about thinking maps. I totally understand all the acronyms. I loooove collecting inspiring quotes to hang.”), and placing magical items around the classroom (sigils behind posters sounds awesome). I’m also going to just generally try to be better about self-care (eating like a human being and not a starving coyote, running regularly, not waiting all day to pee, getting a massage so I don’t go legitimately insane because of touch deprivation). I also started a new bullet journal just for teaching. I’ve been bullet journaling for a year, but I’ve staunchly not incorporated my job stuff out of weirdly misplaced spite. I’m going to use teacher washi tape and everything in order to generate enthusiasm. Go me.

What am I missing? Are any of you witches classroom teachers? Send help.

Deck Showcase: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot

tarot oneI received the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy way back in February. I’ve only just now opened them. Why the wait? Partially, it’s because they were a freebee from my publisher, along with a bunch of awesome books (at conferences, it’s often more cost effective for publishing houses to send sample copies home with attendees than it is to ship or fly materials back to some warehouse, hence my pile of booty), so I didn’t have the same kind of investment I normally would if I’d actually used my own money to purchase them. Further, I’m just not usually very impressed by mass published decks. There are absolutely some gems out there, but they tend to look the same to me after a while.

But I started to feel bad about letting this poor deck languish in its packaging and finally opened it tonight. I’m happy to report that I’m genuinely impressed. I hadn’t read any publisher descriptions or reviews at this point, but was struck immediately by the obvious attempt at inclusivity in the artwork. There are people of color on several cards in every suit as well as in the Major Arcana, and effort has also been made to include relationship models beyond the usual heteronormative depictions in the classic Waite-Smith (two men in the Two of Cups, for example). Low and behold, the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot is billed as “inclusive” and “multicultural.” There have been some really awesome self-published tarot projects in the last couple of years working to represent queer and POC communities (offhand I’m thinking of the Slow Holler Tarot and the Slutist Tarot), and it’s good to see mainstream releases following suit (haha see what I did there), however slowly.

I need to pause for a second and go on about these Knights, though.

tarot fourThe Knights are some of my favorite cards, and I love what’s happening with their mounts. The Knight of Cups—on his bigass fish—is easily the most delightful tarot image I’ve seen all year. These guys are just such…dudes. Take away their horses and give them giant squirrels and suddenly they’re a thousand times more relatable (in my world, oversized forest beasts = relatable).

I do wish the cardstock was thicker. I could see myself actually using this deck to read for myself, but I’m pretty sure a couple of months in heavy rotation would be all that these cards could take. Otherwise, though, this deck is one of those gems I mentioned earlier.

tarot two

tarot three

Things Unfinished

IMG_8536Have you ever signed up for something and then not finished? Or maybe just haven’t been able to work at the rate you’d prefer?

I’m still working through the Correspondence Course through Tarot School. I’m a little over halfway, which feels like a huge accomplishment given how much I’ve done since I first signed up (earned a graduate degree, got a teaching license, got my own classroom, wrote my first book). My teacher, Wald Amberstone, tells me that hardly anyone actually finishes. Plenty of people sign up, but most of those don’t make it beyond the first lesson. I’m guessing that it’s because it’s a lot more work than people expect, and much of that work is tedious. Right away, you learn exercises for contemplating cards at many levels, but then you actually have to write these contemplations out for literally every card in the deck. I enjoy these sorts of tasks, but even I find it to be really challenging. It takes me forever to finish individual lessons, just because of how much writing each entails. I always learn a ton, though, so the work has been well worth it.

Increasingly, my practice of tarot has almost nothing to do with divination. I still think divination can be valuable, but for me it has a very definite time and place, and that only rolls around once in a great while. Further, sometimes I just don’t want to know things. I’d rather suss things out gradually, tracing the strands in my own journaling and discerning patterns. Without that kind of context, drawing cards can feel starkly off the mark. Only later do we go, “Oh, hey, that’s what that card was about.” By then the information is less useful. We just add the experience to our mental bank and hope to be a bit more astute next time.

I also think there’s a danger in becoming overly dependent on things like daily draws. As meditative exercises, yes, absolutely. But I’ve seen a lot of people get so hung up on what they pull each morning that they give up some of their own agency, resigning themselves to “what the cards said” or making far-fetched connections that, while perhaps valid, don’t actually depend on having a daily divination ritual. Sure, the 9 of Swords could be about your laundry, but did you really need a deck of cards for that?

I’ve never left that liminal space where tarot is both sacred (a map of the universe), but also totally mundane and accessible (laundry). I’m sure it’s something I’ll always wrestle with.

My next project is reviving and reformatting the newsletter. I’ve been writing a lot lately (most recently at Patheos) about identity, and I really want to consolidate some of my web presence. I do a lot, and it’s gotten hard to keep up with the various versions of myself. And if you’d like to keep up with me and my assorted adventures, you’ll be able to do so in one place (more or less)!

Meanwhile, I’m doing all of the things that go along with publishing a book, after the manuscript is done. Turns out there’s a lot! The release date for Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide (with Llewellyn) is still almost a year away, but there’s still a ton of work to do. I should see my cover in the next few days, though, and I’ll be sure to share it with you all!