Contemplating the 7 of Wands

IMG_4193Some fights just aren’t worth having. As I get older, I appreciate how finite time is and how quickly it passes. I started my course with Tarot School, just as an example, in 2012. I bought it for myself as a present for winning a graduate fellowship at my university. I was in my first year of an MA program in religious studies, on my way to a PhD, by anyone’s account. But that didn’t happen. Life stuff came up, I got deeper into the academic life, and I realized that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I finished the MA and left. In the years that followed, I wrote and published my first book, worked as a professional tarot reader, went back to school, got a teaching certificate, started teaching high school, and put more and more energy toward writing. I also went back to school, this time for English, concentrating in creative writing. I’m about to be 35. Most of my friends are married, have children, and are a decade into their careers. Their lives are more conventional, and I’m often left feeling like mine has just been a string of false starts and bad choices. I’ve done plenty I’m proud of, but I always think, “Man, what if I’d known what I wanted from the beginning and had just gone for it? How much more could I have done by now?”

I’m a late bloomer, for sure. Always have been. It’s been a big part of my depression, which really took hold of my life in my early twenties as I watched all of my friends graduate (with better grades, tighter relationships, and buttloads of solid plans) and go off to start careers or graduate programs or marriages (i.e. to be better than me, who was off to a part time job at Barnes & Noble…in the café, without even the books to comfort me). Years later, I’m much kinder to myself and I’ve got a better sense of what’s actually important, but it’s these experiences that help me to understand the 7 of Wands.

The 7 of Wands often indicates struggle, an unfair situation (look at that poor bastard…even his shoes are mismatched), the need to persevere in the face of challengers, or the anxiety that comes with being outnumbered, unprepared, and exhausted from trying.

IMG_4194But it’s also about choice. Imagine the 7 of Cups—often taken to indicate the need to make a decision without getting lost in fantasy—except instead of resting gently on a fluffy cloud, someone’s beating that guy with all of those goblets while everything goes flying, making a giant mess. That’s the 7 of Wands. This guy, swinging his wand around on that cliff, is trying to take on all of his battles at once, and he’s about to get his ass kicked. Not because he’s deficient in any way, but because he’s not focusing on what actually matters.

Sometimes, we need to walk away from an opponent. It’s not a coincidence that we can’t even see who’s holding the other six wands; this guy doesn’t even know who he’s fighting. What to focus on? Where to pour your effort? What’s really important? What’s just you wearing yourself out unnecessarily out of stubbornness or pride? He got himself onto this cliff, but he can get off by making a choice. What fight is actually worth his time? Where should we be directing out Will?

I’m only just now learning this lesson, so I empathize. I used to think this card was all about the need to persevere and keep struggling, that victory would be hard won but assured. But the truth is he could just as easily be clubbed to death and find himself at the bottom of that cliff.

So when the 7 of Wands shows up, ask yourself: What is my time and energy worth? If I had to choose where to spend it, what’s my priority? What fight is worth having, and when should I put my ego down (he’s holding a giant dick metaphor, let’s not forget)? Oh, and maybe start keeping a bullet journal or buy a planner.

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.

The Hipster Witch: Aesthetics, Empowerment, and Instagram

“Who the hell is Lisa Chamberlain?”

Corvus looked up from scrolling. Ever the attentive friend, she’s been closely monitoring my new book’s progress on Amazon. As it’s gotten closer to the release date, she’s become very familiar with the top 100 charts in “Wicca” and “Witchcraft” on the site.

“No, seriously,” she said. “I’m looking at the bestsellers in Wicca, and I don’t know any of these authors. Have you read Lisa Lister?”

“No, but I know what book you’re talking about. It’s all over Instagram right now.”

“How about Shawn Robbins? She’s got two books in the top ten right now, and all her bio says is that she’s a psychic, paranormal researcher. Dude, Lisa Chamberlain has, like, a dozen tiny books. And she writes about Heathenism and runes too?”

We spend several minutes like this, with Corvus asking me if I’ve heard of so-and-so and me going, “Nope.”

Maybe we’re just old. This is usually how I feel when my tenth graders make me classroom playlists and all I hear is autotune and synths. I still think of myself as young and cool, but since becoming a teacher I know that this is, in fact, untrue. We’re closer to forty than thirty, and our favorite books about Wicca and witchcraft came out mostly in the seventies and eighties. Hey, it was bound to happen.

But there’s something else going on here, and I don’t think it’s just us and our inexorable senescence.

Read More…

Finding Community on YouTube

I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but I got my start as a writer and Internet witch (that’s a thing, right?) on YouTube.

I was studying French in Paris in preparation for beginning graduate work in religious studies, and I was miserable. Not because I was in Paris—Paris is amazing and this was a highlight of my life—but because I’d just escaped an abusive relationship with a dude who, aside from being an asshole, also thought Wicca was stupid (I believe the word most used was “childish”).

I’d spent more than three years not practicing, barely having contact with my Pagan friends, drinking unbelievably, and abusing amphetamines when I wasn’t hysterically trying to use my GPA and academic pursuits to make myself feel like a worthwhile human being. Oh yeah, and I was cutting myself.

Read More…

When Communities Break

I’m watching various dramas unfold in my Pagan life right now, mostly having to do with community: A popular YouTuber converted (remember when that happened to a popular writer a few years ago?). Two Pagan Pride events in my state imploded. My conversations with peers are increasingly turning to “this new aesthetic, social-media-witchcraft that’s so popular right now.” Some of us are feeling a little threatened by the latest trends (when are we not?).

Fundamentally, this is all about change being scary.

Read More…

 

Going Within, Going Without: Exploring Multiple Traditions to Deepen Practice

I confess to being one of those people who gets a little suspicious when interacting with people who claim to be initiates in multiples traditions. In traditional Wiccan spaces, it’s common to hear tales of wayfaring strangers out to collect initiations and titles for the sake of being able to assert more authority in their community. These sorts of people are supposed to blow through, get their stamp on the forehead, and then move on to the next group. Their website biographies are usually some variant on “Lord High Priest Magnum Ravenface is a third degree high priest and magus in the ancient tradition of überwicca, as well as Tumbleweed Wicca, the Moon Raven tradition of High Witchcraft, and an adept in the Ordo Templi Golden Dawn. He’s also a Reiki master, a fourth degree black belt, and an ordained doula.”

It’s hard to take people like this seriously. The reaction they’re going for is, “Wow, that guy sure does know a lot. I should totally give him my money.” But in my case it’s usually more like, “Damn, this dude can’t commit to anything,” or “I wonder why he keeps getting kicked out of all these trads.” Rather than being impressed, I’m wary.

Read More…