Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Magical responsibility


In the wake of all that is going on with the world, the idea that we, as Pagans and Witches, have a responsibility to create change in the world, keeps coming up.  And, for many people, this idea of bearing responsibility for change carries a lot of weight and brings up a lot of issues.

I think that the first thing we need to talk about, when we discuss creating real change in the world, is the idea of free will and how that applies to magic.  As I have said before, I am not a follower of Harm None, but it is still quoted so often in our community, I feel like I need to touch on this.

When you think about it, the main idea of the tenant of Harm None is to not use magic for 'bad' reasons.  But sometimes the choice isn't between good and bad it's between bad and worse.  If we don't act, out of fear of harming someone, do we allow greater harm to come to us or someone we might have protected? 

Where I think Harm None really falls apart is when it is taken to the "never cast a spell on someone else without their permission because you are infringing on their free will!!!!"  In many ways, this is just one more way to shame and threaten people into being complacent and passive...to letting other people hurt them because they don't want to be loud or to fight back.  

I feel like there is a very big difference between doing a spell to make someone break their leg because you are mad that they said your friend looked prettier than you did and doing a spell to get other people to understand a different perspective or even doing a spell to stop people from attacking and hurting others.

There is a trend, in many new-age circles, to keep our magic self-centered, to only work for one's self, for self-improvement.  And even then, we are expected to keep our magics internal, to work on our inner issues, to not directly work to effect our physical world (because somehow that is interfering with other people's free will or creating harm to them).

And I have to say a little something about this.  Because magic is something that is available to everyone.  It isn't some kind of innate power that only some people have, that gives them a undefendable advantage over people who don't have it.  It's not a form of privilege that you are born with.  It is a skill that we work on, an ability that we cultivate and an action we can take...that anyone can take.

Trying to limit our magic usage to internal-only uses is like trying to tell someone, "It doesn't matter how many hours you spent working on learning how to play the violin, you can't ever play in public because someone else might feel bad that they can't play...and you definitely can't audition for a job by playing your best, because that's not fair to people who haven't practiced."  It sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it, when you put it in those terms.

Now, I titled this blog Magical responsibility, because I do feel that we have a responsibility to others and to the world.  None of us live in a bubble, and no matter how self-centric your viewpoint is, helping other people is just good business.  Every person on this earth (honestly, every thing and being on this earth...and in the universe), relies on the success of other beings to survive.

And as a society, the greater issues, the ones that we are struggling with right now...effect us all.  We have a vested interest in how these things unfold and resolve.  Now, I'm not going to tell you what you should think or feel or what causes you should get behind, because that's not my place.  But I do think that, whatever you feel strongly about, you have a responsibility to try to make the world a better place.

One of my favorite memes lately was in relation to the protests, and it put things in an RPG slant.  It pointed out that not everyone can physically attend a protest, but there are many ways to help the cause.  You might be doing support stuff, helping with supplies or logistics.  You might be emotional fuel, keeping up the spirits of those who are going out and doing the physical stuff.  You might be doing the scholarly thing, doing research and finding ways to share the information.  But if you care, there is something you can do.

And magic is one of those things.  There are tons of ways to help magically, and direct casting is only one of them.  Maybe you want to research ways that magic can help, different approaches (like using spells to create greater understanding and empathy instead of directly going after the end goal).  Or you might want to signal boost, and share spellwork and coordinated casting events. 

We are in this world, in this lifetime, and I think we owe it to ourselves (not to mention to our descendants), to make the most of it.  When we see something that we feel is wrong, it is in our best interests to look for ways we can make it better.  Sometimes this is as simple as picking up a piece of trash and throwing it away, or sometimes we feel this is our mission in this life and we tackle getting more people to be aware of how trash impacts our planet and finding new ways to handle the trash we do create.

As it has been said recently, silence is loud.  Doing nothing is a choice and an action.  Not getting involved is making a stand, and avoiding thinking about the hard topics is a decision to support what is going on.  If you don't act, you are helping to create the world we live in today.  So if you don't like parts of our world...do something to change it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Different isn't wrong


There is a very serious flaw in the way most of us were taught.  Think back to when you were in school....the teacher would assign a lesson, you would learn it, then you would be expected to demonstrate that you knew what was taught.  There was almost never any room for variance or perspective.  It was a fact-oriented education, we were taught facts and we were expected to be able to recite them.

Even in the more creative realms, there were 'right' and 'wrong' ways of expressing yourself.  There was a generally agreed upon meaning for just about everything, and if you didn't produce something that lined up with that understanding, you were graded poorly, because you 'obviously didn't understand the lesson.'

And this concept of learning persists in how we approach our spiritual learning.  There are so many different places where this idea of right and wrong exists, and we often aren't aware of it.  Sometimes we end up sabotaging ourselves because our experiences aren't what we expected, and so we tell ourselves we must have done it wrong.  We discount what actually happened because we had our sights set on the 'correct' outcome.

But while there are some things that do exist within these failure or success parameters (you either light the wick of the candle or you don't), so many more have many, many different ways of working (a circle can be cast in countless different ways).

Our brains want things to fall into nice, neat little boxes.  We want to think that all red berries are dangerous and that when we meditate 'successfully' we will be filled with peace and tranquility.  But for most of life there is no simple answer, no one true meaning, no ultimate correct way of doing something.

And this makes us feel unsure.  If we can't have some objective way to measure our success, then how do we know things are working?  If there is no ultimate meaning to a symbol, how do we know we are interpreting it right?  How do we validate our experiences without a yardstick to measure by?

I was lucky enough to have gone to a school that expected us to not just recite back facts, but to think about them and to explain those thoughts.  I had parents that had discussions with me, and I have always liked looking at things from other perspectives (and trying to imagine those perspectives were my own).  So, for me, it only seemed natural that different people, with different backgrounds, would experience things differently...and that was okay.

And yet, I still held myself to expectations of what 'should be'.  I struggled for many years with thinking I wasn't connecting because I don't have movie-quality visions.  I thought I wasn't grounding because the imagery didn't work for me.  I didn't feel like I was getting divinatory messages because it feels like thinking to me.

A somewhat mundane, and yet also somewhat perfect example is hair.  There are a lot of myths that involve long (and often unbound) hair.  Hair can be a vehicle through which we express ourselves (think of how many teens do drastic things to their hair).  And in magical circles, long hair is almost always the 'mystical' ideal.  There are many different explanations for why more hair equals more power or why cutting one's hair is bad.  But for me, I find it is the exact opposite.  Not only do I feel more myself with short hair, but it physically bothers me to have long hair.  And not just that it's so heavy it makes my head hurt, but also longer hair makes my thoughts sluggish.

It's not something I can logically explain, but I've lived it and it's real to me.  These are the experiences that I have and my truth, and it just doesn't make sense for me to subscribe to someone else's model of long hair meaning more power...because it doesn't work that way for me.  Whenever my hair gets too long, I feel wrong and bad, and every time I cut it I feel amazing.

And this works in other areas too.  Sometimes, we just need to get out of our own way.  If I am thinking about whether or not my rune interpretations are right or wrong, I start to doubt myself.  I feel like an imposter, like someone who is trying to recall this book or that book or like I need to list my sources.  But I work with the runes every day and have for years.  I might not have academic, historic knowledge of them, but I know them.  And I can sit and talk about how they speak to me...if I stop worrying about being right and just talk.

I think it is an important skill to work on, and something that we may struggle with for a long time.  Because we are all new at everything at some point in time, and we do feel like we may need help and instruction.  It can be hard to leave those feelings behind, especially if we are self-taught and not going through some kind of certification process with tests and levels we can point to and say, "look, see, I passed this, someone else thinks I can do this."

Maybe it's not even a matter of being objectively capable.  Maybe it's more a matter of claiming our own experiences.  Of recognizing that our perspective matters, and even if it goes against everything that everyone else knows, it is still our perspective and that no one can take that away from us.  Maybe it just comes down to accepting and voicing your truth, no matter what form it takes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Divine Masculine....expanded


I looked back, and I actually wrote about the Divine Masculine last year.  With Father's Day coming up, my mind returns to this idea of not only the Divine Masculine, but how we relate to the idea of masculinity in our greater world and in our faith.

I think that we are starting to look at ideas like male and female in a different light, or more specifically in a broader spectrum.  Many of the qualities that were typically associated with being 'masculine' are now being looked at as less then idea...and we are realizing they aren't really tied to masculinity at all.  Things like strength, aggression, assertiveness...these are qualities that anyone can have and the lack of them doesn't make a person less masculine.

Things become a bit more convoluted when we consider the Divine Masculine though.  The Divine Masculine is an archetype, it isn't a specific person, or deity.  It is one half of the coin of Divinity, if you think about the sides as Masculine and Feminine as an archetypal duality.  The thing is, that this two-sided-coin way of looking at the world is one that we are starting to outgrow.  We realize that the world is more than just two sides, there is the edge, the rim, the interior and the 'not-coin' parts of the coin.

And yet, a lot of our practices still involve the twin ideas of Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine (even if you also work with other deity-forms and accept other expressions of gender), and I think this is because our dual-divinity is based on the creative principle...it is literally a divine reflection of our biological procreation process.

When we think about the Divine Masculine and Feminine, in a Pagan context, we are looking at the procreative powers of the natural world, the way that new things are made, and for most of nature this involves a male and a female.  We see the Divine Masculine as the archetype of all the male's of all species and types, in all the world, and the same for the Divine Female.  It is only through the two combined that creation (of new life) happens..for most of life on this planet.

But we don't always acknowledge this fact...that our concept of dual-divinity is based on this biological process.  We try to link similar qualities to the physical act, so the Feminine is the vessel, the one that holds and nurtures life, while the male is the protector and the spark that ignites new life in the female.  This is spirituality imitating nature, and it's all well and good until you really start to look.

There are lots of examples the break this mold, where the females are the hunters and protectors or where a couple-bonding doesn't occur, or where the males tend the babies/eggs.  As with most things, I think we are conditioned to accept information that we are given, and not really think about it..but it is through looking with our own eyes, uncovering our own truths and really thinking about the deeper meanings, that we come to our own experiences of how things are and what things mean.

We acknowledge the fact that our deities are not biological beings and don't always follow the same rules as we humans do.  And yet, we still want to humanize them in many ways, and the way we look at the Divine Masculine (and Feminine) illustrates this perfectly.

If you think, you can probably name off a handful of Gods who fit this very traditional role of Divine Masculine.  They are the warriors, the fathers, the strong.  But I bet you can also name off quite a few who are less traditionally 'masculine'.  These are often the tricksters, the poets, the dreamers, the artists...and yet they are Gods and we accept them as such. 

We see ourselves as reflections of the divine, that divinity lives in us.  And it doesn't just match up Masculine to male and Feminine to female.  We each hold both within us, and we can express either in any given moment. 

Looking back to the myths and stories of the Gods, we can see how different traits are beneficial in different situations.  If we are racing towards battle, with swords in hand, then being able to spin a compelling story with your words isn't that useful...but strength of arm and fierceness of spirit is.  But after the battle, when you are telling the children what happened, so they can take your experience and learn and grow from it, then being able to craft a story that will be remembered and that captures the essence of the experience is much more needed than knowing how to swing your sword.

The Divine Masculine is a part of all that is, but we may not be seeing it clearly.  Our understanding of the world is changing.  The way we treat each other in society is changing.  Right now, a lot is in flux.  And it may be time to revisit our understanding of the Divine Masculine and Feminine.  To look at how they manifest in our world and in our Selves, and to decide how we want to relate to them.  If we are working with outdated expressions and understandings, then it may be time to look deeper, to question what we know and why we have accepted it as truth...and to figure out where we are going in the future. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Celebrating the ordinary


To say we are living in interesting times would be an understatement, but I think we are opening our eyes and finally recognizing all the amazing, ordinary things that we have in our lives, the things we take for granted.  Now that we are faced with not having access to all the things we rely upon, we have realized just how precious they are to us.

When we think about our ancestors, we think about things like Sabbat celebrations and holidays, the big, elaborate festivals that celebrate big events.  But if you read and think about what these actually celebrated, they were often very basic, everyday things.  They celebrated the rising of the sun each morning, because it wasn't certain in their world view.  They celebrated the turning of the seasons because it meant seeing another year.  They celebrated births and birthdays as accomplishments because life was fleeing and a child who lived to see their first birthday was a miracle.

I feel like we have lost a lot of this awareness of the specialness of everyday occurrences.  We may appreciate the beauty of a sunrise, but we don't typically celebrate the fact that the sun rose and a new day has started.

Many people are being faced with the idea that life is fleeting, perhaps for the very first time.  This pandemic has shown that it can effect people of all ages, all states of health, all socioeconomic levels. Some people are facing the idea that they might die, not in some far away tomorrow, but that they might be sick, right now, without even knowing it, and that they might not live to see the end of the year.  This is a very new thing and it has made a lot of people recognize how ephemeral life really is.

Because, of course, life has never been certain.  There are no guarantees.  Live can change in an instant, and it can change forever.  And while this brings fear, this also often brings a strange new joy for many people.  Colors seem brighter, simple things bring them more pleasure, they are learning to appreciate the things they have instead of only wishing for what they don't have.

And this can be hard to do, in times of scarcity and restriction.  We don't have access to a lot of things that we normally would.  But what remains is still amazing and wonderful!  Here I am, sitting in my home, typing out words that will be shared online for anyone from around the world to read.  I can pick up my phone and call friends that I might not be able to see.  I can video chat with family.  I can go outside and feel the sun on my face and the earth beneath my feet.

Taking time to celebrate these ordinary things can help us keep our spirits high and are perspective firmly grounded.  When we start to get scared, or concerned about what is going on in the world (and who wouldn't be...there is crazy stuff going on!), when we need a break from all of that, we can turn to something as simple as drinking a glass of water, and appreciating the clean, cool liquid.  We can turn on a favorite show and give thanks for the ability to stream content whenever we want (or watch a recording over and over).

One daily ritual I have kept for years is to greet the day.  I say a modified prayer that greets deities and asks for blessings.  It's a way for me to start each day with a bit of gratitude and a bit of thanks giving.  Even though the words don't specifically focus on gratitude, for me, it feels like a gratitude practice.  I look out the window and see what the day has to offer, and I feel grateful to be able to do that.  I am grateful for my gods for the day they have provided, whether it is bright and sunny or overcast and rainy.  I am grateful for my health and for my ability to help others (two of the things I ask for in my prayer).  I am grateful for the earth I live on and all she has to offer.

 I often thank the things I use everyday, like my computer and my house.  I talk to my cats and I tell them how much I love that they cuddle with me or how cute they are.  I reach out to touch my husband, as he's sleeping, just because I am grateful he is there (snores and all!).  

Another practice that works really well for me is to stop and give thanks for things when they stop working.  It's based on the idea that we don't always think about things until they aren't there, and normally when something breaks on us, we get upset and angry.  But instead of focusing on the feelings of loss, I think that there is something really powerful in taking that moment to appreciate what we are missing.  When internet goes out, instead of fussing and getting worked up, I try to send out a prayer of thanks for the connection and freedom the internet gives me (and how our internet is normally very reliable!).

One great return of this kind of practice is it brings you out of that 'lack of' mindset and sets you back on appreciating what you have (even though you don't have it right at that moment...it's sort of an oxymoronic practice, but hey it works!).  It resets your mind back to a place of contentment and gratitude.  It's a bit of "this too shall pass," and focusing on the positive makes the negatives that much easier to bear.

So, even as the world is struggling and changing and life as we know it may never be the same, we can choose to celebrate the small moments, the ordinary moments.  Take the time to be happy the sun rose at night or that the night brings darkness for rest and sleep.  Appreciate the food and drink you have, and all the little, silly, strange, amazing things that you love, whether it is a feather you found, a tv show that makes you laugh, a loved one or a stain on the ceiling that looks a bit like a flower.  If it makes your life better, celebrate it, and through these celebrations you capture moments of peace.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Blending Faith and Fandom


Stories have always been retold and different versions have evolved, as the teller puts their own spin on the story.  For anyone who has had a relative tell 'their version' of a fairy tale, this is a familiar experience.  But we are seeing very modern versions of many of the old myths and legends, and for some people this creates problems.

Sometimes, the new versions vary greatly, changing so many details that the stories are only alike in name, but other times only a few details have been altered and the essence of the story remains true.  As modern Pagans, we are often faced with many versions of the stories and deities we work with, both historically (as the stories change and evolve), but also in our modern world, in the form of books and movies.

I am sure I am not alone in my love for the modern tales, and if you include a witch, Pagan deity or ancient myth in a book/movie/show, I will want to watch it.  I love consuming fiction that centers on things I am passionate about.

But I also find that sometimes these stories begin to flavor my own understanding and relationship with the deities and stories.  Often, this serves to personify the stories, as seeing a character acted out on screen means I begin to associate their image with the character, and hearing their words spoken (or reading them in several books, as actual dialogue), means I hear their 'voice' (tone of voice, mannerisms, etc).  They become real in a different way to me.

And I think part of this is that we have lost so much of the old stories.  We are hearing the academic retellings, the stories pared down to their essential facts and the most commonly shared details.  We aren't hearing the campfire versions of the stories, with all the embellishments that a good story teller would add.

So the 'official' tales, the ones we read in mythology books or the descriptions we get of deities are more clinical, leaving a void behind.  The modern versions, in their full technocolor drama bring those flat characters to life.

I feel like there is a tendency to fixate on either the first version of a story we hear of the one we feel is the most 'official'...and sadly official often translates to generic.  This often reminds me of the evolution of fairy tales, and how many of the early versions are quite different from the ones we grew up hearing.  The darker aspects have been edited out for a modern audience, as we tend to shelter our kids from the harsh realities of the world much longer now. 

But the different versions of the same fairy tale can highlight different parts of the same story.  They let you experience it from different perspectives, and it makes you think about what is really going on...and why it's important (and sometimes why it was changed).  I think the same kind of thought process is really useful, when looking at our deities and myths.

I've said it before, and I know I'll say it again, but we don't live in the same world our ancestors do.  And I personally don't believe our deities are static.  The deities I work with aren't stuck back in the middle ages or the height of their cultural dominance...because if they were they wouldn't be of much help to me (nor I to them).  In order for the deities I work with to be relevant, they have to had adapted to modern life.

We don't always think this through, but most of us work off of this idea.  We bless our phones or ask for help with internet situations, or maybe in getting that job interview...but if you stop and think, pretty much all of those things would be utterly meaningless to people who actively worshiped our deities in their historically active period. 

So modern retellings make sense, because not only do we need to feel like our deities understand us, we need to understand them.  Just as aspects of our life might not be immediately accessible to someone of a different time period, aspects of their life aren't always friendly to a modern mind.

There are LOTS of traditional myths that are pretty bad when held up to modern morality.  Even just looking at the ages of characters in stories, some of the tales become problematic.  We really are different from our ancestors, and so the way in which we relate to our deities and myths should be different as well.

And this isn't something that is either on or off.  This is a whole range of inclusion that you have to navigate and see what works for you and what doesn't.  You might love watching movies that feature deities you work with, but you don't see them as anything other than entertainment.  Or you may see them as modern myths, as a new lens through which you can find another aspect of a well-known deity.  You might love ancient art and wish to use only historical images in your magical work, or you may fall in love with modern artist's takes on how deities look.  You might enjoy using mass marketed statues (toys!) or you may not.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of fandom and modern retelling, it is always good to remember that the storyteller is sharing their perspective.  These are not things that can be objectively proven with facts and records.  These are living, breathing stories, and they are flavored by both the teller and the observer.  Your relationship with them will depend as much on you as on the versions you are exposed to.  And even when you discover a version that doesn't click for you, it can be helpful to ask yourself why it doesn't work.  It is these thoughts and questions that bring us deeper into our relationship with our deities, and the myths that represent them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Looking back on hard times


"Where were you when..." is one of those questions that lingers.  It's what we ask when a life defining moment happens.  It's what we connect over, as these big experiences change us forever.  And these moments can be personal or they can be global. 

On a personal level, events could be like how you found out you were going to have a baby or how you found out that Santa (or the Tooth Fairy...or any other childhood figure) wasn't 'real'.  People bond over these shared experiences, even though we each go through them differently and at different times.

On a larger scale, perhaps a big storm hit the town you lived in, and everyone talks about the 'winter of (*insert year here)" where people were without power for days or buildings were destroyed.  This creates a bonding effect with the people you see everyday in your life, your neighbors and the folks you run into at the store.  It also can become a dividing line between natives and 'outsiders'....people who might have moved to town after the event happened and don't have that shared experience to reminisce over.

Then, you reach the national level, and we come to more 'once in a lifetime' type of events.  I thought that, for me, it would be 911.  That was definitely a "where were you when you heard about the towers?" moment.  And these type of events become rallying flags that the country gathers behind.  It drew us together, it helped us set aside our differences for a while.  People were inspired by the volunteers and heroes who worked tirelessly to try to rescue as many survivors as possible.  People called loved ones or even vague acquaintances they knew who might have been in the area, wanting to know they were safe.

And now, we have reached the global scale.  This (hopefully!) is the once in a lifetime event, the defining moment of every generation that lived through it.  And it has the added uncertainty of not being a human threat.  There is no adversary we can attack, no leader to vanquish, no one to capture to put an end to this.  It is both bringing people together and driving them apart as fear captures people in different ways.

But the thing about defining moments is we don't have control over what is happening to us...what we do have control over is how we respond.  And every one's situation, even in this shared global event, is different.  We all have different personal situations and different resources and different needs.  We will all walk through this obstacle differently, but we will all face it.

In the moment, everything feels bigger.  The silences and the waiting feel longer, the tragedies hit us harder, the restrictions feel more suffocating.  And as time goes on, we start to adjust.  Things that felt insurmountable a month ago have become commonplace.  We have begun to figure out how to make due with what we have, to sort out new ways to solve problems with different tools. 

We don't know what the future will hold, but we do know that when that future comes, we will look back on these times and these are stories that will matter.  For the most part, our daily lives and activities will pass unnoticed.  What we do, on a particular day, isn't normally going to make the history books.  What makes times like this so remarkable is that the everyday stuff, the unremarkable things we do....have become noteworthy.

Think back to any historical event you read about.  Sure, they always highlight the big moments:  when the battle turned, when the cure was found, when the building collapsed.  But they also looked at all the ordinary moments, they made a note of what daily routines were like, what kinds of foods people ate, what new methods were employed.

It can be hard, while in the middle of it, to make sense of all that is going on.  But knowing that one day we will be looking back on these times, can help us keep our perspective.  We will get through this, one way or another.  And sometimes we just need that lifeline, the knowledge that all the little things matter.

Faith and spiritual practice are often tested, in these extreme times.  And you may find that your mundane struggles have eclipsed your regular practice.  This is absolutely normal and it doesn't mean that you are any less dedicated!  You may need some space, you may need to devote your mental energy to getting through the day, and you just don't have anything left.  Or you might find that you need more spiritual connection...this is also normal!  You may find that instead of relaxing with a hobby, you are drawn to more introspection, more journaling, more prayer.

You may fluctuate between the two, going days without feeling any kind of spiritual spark, and then feeling the need to dive deep for a while.  Listen to what your soul needs, and honor what you are feeling.  You might feel called to do more work for others, to seek out people who are wanting help...or you might need to withdraw some of your energy and focus on your own issues for a bit.

The biggest thing to remember, is these are extra-ordinary times....they are outside the realm of normal.  So normal rules and expectations don't apply.  Don't feel like you need to hold yourself to your 'regular' activities.  Give yourself the flexibility to do what feels right...so that in the future, you can look back and say, "Yes, I lived through that time, and it was hard, but here's how I made it..."

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

One small step at a time...


Anytime you start something new, it can feel intimidating.  You have this idea about what a practice should be, and you look at the people who are at the top of their game, the experts, the public figures.  You see these beautiful pictures of elaborate setups and fancy tools, you read descriptions of complex rituals, daily rituals and the cycle of the year, and it feels like you don't even know where to start.

I recently read something that talked about how most of us aren't extraordinary, and yet we hold ourselves up to that standard.  We look at experts and professionals, and those are the people we compare ourselves to...and this is a really bad practice!  Most of us don't have the luxury of our spiritual practice being our livelihood.  And especially when you are starting out, you don't have those years of experience under your belt. 

There is also this fear of doing things wrong, of making mistakes...of failing.  And often with both magic and spirituality, there is a deeper fear of a serious consequence that will come from a minor mistake.  We read these horror stories about someone who messed up the wording in a money spell and a beloved relative died and left them money (which really is a horrible story to tell beginner witches...I really dislike fear-based prohibitions). 

Media doesn't help either.  We watch movies about magic where 'the dark side' is always tempting magic users, trying to get them to do bad things.  Or where someone makes an innocent mistake (like forgetting to leave an offering to a deity), and now they have a vengeful God out to get them.  And while most of us know that movies and such are fiction, that idea still lives in our head, that we might anger one of the beings we work with if we mess up, and we worry if we would be forgiven.

It has actually been my experience that walking a spiritual (and magical!) path is very forgiving.  Sure, there are mistakes you can make, and there are consequences for those mistakes...but typically speaking, the results of your actions are in line with what you actually did.  I don't feel like we need to fear catastrophic backlash from what I would call 'learning mistakes'.

When you learn, you make mistakes, that's just part of it.  If we didn't make mistakes, we wouldn't need to learn....and often it is our mistakes that teach us. It is through trying something, noticing how it didn't work and what the consequences are, that we figure out what works and what doesn't.

We also seem to have this idea that if we can't do something fully and completely, we shouldn't do it.  We are prone to wanting to wait until we 'know everything' to start working.  And while some people are great at book learning and doing the mental work first, others learn through experience, and trying to memorize the meanings of every card in a tarot deck before they ever actually work with their cards is an exercise in frustration.

I think that every practice we want to build can be learned from the ground up.  It can be broken into very simple and small steps, and sometimes that is all you can manage...and that's okay!  I love the idea of accessible practice, that you can do what feels right to you.

Since I was talking about tarot (and this applies to pretty much any divinatory practice), lets think about learning tarot for a minute.  There is this image of a professional tarot reader, who pulls a deck out of a wooden box, where it is kept wrapped in silk.  They shuffle perfectly, and lay the cards out, murmuring appropriately at different cards.  Then they weave together all the cards in the layout, uncovering these mystical 'truths' about the client, who is amazed at how perfectly the reading matches their situation, and all the hidden details it reveals, things they never told the reader!

And this is the image in our head, when we think about reading tarot.  We may feel unworthy at working with our cards until we know all the meanings for every card (and let me just say that you can't know 'all' the meanings).  We may feel frustrated that we don't see anything when we look at a card.

We may not always feel like we have the time or energy to do a full, big reading...and that's just fine!  You can pull a single card, and start seeing what pops out at you.  And sometimes nothing will, or the thing that comes through might not make any sense (this is often where making notes of your readings helps...but if that's not your thing, that's fine too...I don't keep records of most of the readings I do). 

Even more than that, you should feel comfortable just handling your deck.  Maybe you don't feel up to interpreting the cards, you just want to spend some time enjoying the pictures.  I love looking at the art of my decks.  The more time you spend with your cards, the more familiar they will become to you.  You will notice more...because you have taken the time to really look.  And sometimes, you may just want that physical connection.  Maybe you want to shuffle your deck, or just have it near you.

These same micro-actions can be used to get more familiar with other parts of our practice.  Whatever it is you want to do....start doing it! If you want to honor the Sabbats, there are a ton of ways to do that, not all of them requiring any type of circle or ritual at all.  You might see pictures of people online who are dedicating a whole day to celebrating the Sabbat, who have a big community group who gather together and make larger than life effigies or other ritual observances, and you flounder trying to figure out what you can do.

Things can be scaled back.  If you don't have a group (or room) for a 50 foot Maypole, you can make a smaller one with a stick and some ribbons.  If you don't have time to cook a themed feast, maybe you can find one food that reminds you of the season.  You might watch a seasonal movie or find some great pictures to look at.

The thing about practice is that it starts really small.  I love the analogy of body building as practice.  We look at some of the world class body builders, and they can lift crazy amounts of weight.  It seems super human, and yet at one point, they were all just like everyone else.  They didn't just start tying to lift their max weight, they started where we all do...trying to lift something slightly heavier than what was easy.  And it doesn't matter how much you can lift when you start, or how long it takes you to graduate to the next level of 'heavy' along the way.  If you keep practicing, you will get better.

That is how I view spiritual practice.  And sometimes it feels like you aren't making any progress....because while you are in the middle of it, slow progress feels like nothing.  But just keeping at your practice is progress!  Doing little things becomes habit, and over time you look back and realize that the initial action, maybe it was just putting on a meaningful piece of jewelry every day, has led to a morning prayer, a shielding practice, a gratitude practice or any number of other things.

It doesn't matter how tiny the action is, or how removed it may seem from your 'goal' practice.  If it brings you joy or makes you feel a bit more in tune...do it!  Let your path be paved with a million tiny actions, because they all add up.  And by continuing to come back to these small actions, you will find that the larger ones become that much easier.