Moving, Materialism, and Finding My Feet Again

58480548420__DCFD3CB4-E232-4B1E-ABF9-EFE9718B1AF7Moving teaches you a lot about yourself.

I don’t know if this is real, or what sort of metric you could even scientifically apply here, but I’ve read several times that in terms of stress moving is on par with a death in the family. I suppose that depends on who’s dead and on how far you’re going. In any case, it’s fucking stressful.

I’m feeling very unmoored, for many reasons.

Seeing all of your stuff boxed up and laying in piles really makes you consider how much it’s possible to acquire being stationary so long. I’m not even talking about the books, because, sure they’re heavy, but they’re at least relatively uniform and easy to explain. The giant pile of old program flyers from Pagan festivals collected in the last twenty years? That’s trickier. Magical tokens gifted from friends over the years, spells remnants, magicked objects that felt very necessary five years ago but aren’t so much now, and an ungodly amount of snake shed collected from outdoors and my own pet corn snake…that’s a lot harder to justify keeping. I have floppy disks containing old book of shadows information, and no way to access their content. What do I do with such things? Not only moving, but downsizing, means that some of it simply has to be let go. Along with furniture and dishes and art and hobby supplies and things that fall into more normal categories.

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Working with Personal Cycles

I’ve learned that, like the Wheel of the Year itself, my life moves in cycles. I can remember being a Blue Star Dedicant years and years ago and realizing—courtesy of my very astute teacher who told me I needed to keep track of these things, which sounds obvious now but totally was not at the time—that my interests, moods, relationship with my body, and connection to the gods all ebbed and flowed according to the seasons. I am the happiest and most ambitious over the summer. In August, I have to be mindful of depression, which will set in as school starts. Halloween is fun, but I tend to be sick or injured this time of year. December is a good time to talk to the gods and feel them most strongly in my life. Imbolc always has be gunning to start some new spiritual project that’s usually a little beyond my scope at the time. I spend too much money in May, because all of my Taurus is hanging out and I feel good about the coming time off. And so on.

Years of doing this, and I finally have a reasonably good sense of myself. I used to try to fight it, but I find that it’s easier to just flow and be patient with myself. Work isn’t going away, and neither is depression, tax season, or final exam schedules, so better to just do what I can to prepare and move through these things as gracefully as possible.

My coven has a cycle to it to: times when it’s easier to meet often, times when people need extra support, and times when I feel like the worst high priestess in the world because I have to relinquish much of the coven’s functional work to others for the sake of my mental health. It’s not a problem, but in the past it’s been very frustrating. When you don’t recognize patterns and respond accordingly, it can feel like everything is just happening to you beyond control.

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Conversion and Trauma

I turned in my first short story to my writing workshop last week. I’m new to fiction, and I had a blast writing thirteen pages (haha) about a Wiccan shopkeeper who’s lost his belief in magic.

Mostly, I wrote it to amuse myself and my friends. I knew going in that the biggest challenge would be writing a story that felt authentic without excluding my non-witch audience. How to work in community jokes and contemplations on stuff that really matters to my personal experience while not alienating a roomful of people (one of whom is responsible for my grade) who might have zero experience with any kind of Pagan anything?

The feedback was surprisingly useful, and I was pleased that they seemed to think I’d pulled off something worthwhile (or, at least, not just produced a steaming pile of garbage). As a room, however, one snag sat at the center of the critique:

“I need to know this narrator’s religious background,” said my professor.

I should add, here, that the rules of our workshop prevent the author from speaking. We’re required to listen, take notes, and be thoughtful. I was not permitted to engage and instead practiced my (still bad) poker face.

“A loss of faith narrative could be interesting, but it matters where he’s coming from. Was he raised as a witch? And, if not, what trauma led to his conversion?”

Whoa. Trauma?

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Review: Wicca by Harmony Nice

harmonyHarmony Nice is one of the leading voices in this latest incarnation of Wicca, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this book does what Teen Witch by Silver RavenWolf did in the nineties, both good and bad. Though I’m not its target audience by any stretch, I see myself twenty years ago in this book. Adult me is uncomfortable with that at times, but it’s the truth.

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Beginner Books that Don’t Suck

It’s been a long time since I’ve been a beginner, but being active on the Pagan and witch Internet means that I’m constantly in contact with newcomers. I see their questions (and sometimes have them directed at me), I check out the books they’re reading, and I watch what’s changing since I first got started in the nineties (a lot, for sure).

Recently, I was telling Mat Auryn that I wish those of us who have been around for a while would recommend different books. After all, the community has changed, people’s values and interests have shifted, and there are generational differences that we should respect. We know more about the history of Wicca and witchcraft, we have different ideas about what it means to be Pagan, and we have myriad more paths and traditions available for newcomers.

So why are Scott Cunningham, Ray Buckland, and other oldies still at the top of most of the reading lists floating around?

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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.