Continuing with my more recent theme, and probably one that runs steadily throughout my blog, and still rather in keeping with journal entry blogging… Why do we do we things?
I don’t generally want to write posts about how one might do a thing, complete a ritual or spell work. Even as a teacher I find I’m not really that prescriptive. In truth, other people do that better. That I don’t describe publicly my rituals is not because I don’t think they work, but because I don’t think they work as stand alone rituals. Rather embedded in deeply idiosyncratic, individual, and dynamic practice that has to be understood as a whole. And because they are personal, and mine, and there are lots of personal things I don’t share publicly. Besides that, I still think “the why” is where the glory lies; in the why is where one finds the fullest expression of the individual, and the seed from which the great diversity of the how should grow.
In my last two posts particularly, ‘Reading, Riting, & a Rhythm Stick‘, and ‘Quarters, Elements & the Problem of Direction‘ why and how are explored in terms of my own practice and others’ around the country. It is inside the why that the student is going to find the best lessons, and something of the Great Mystery that results in such diversity, some of which is exampled in my posts. I’m pro diversity.
But the why is generally not where most students start. Kinda… I would say that most people who find themselves at the beginning of their Crooked Path, it’s “why” that led them there. Answers to “why?” that end in circular arguments and logic certainly led me to the Crooked Path I tread. But when we first decide to walk that strange path, we are often most in need of who, what, when and where. Particularly when we have a teacher or an established tradition leading the way. When you macerate inside the wholeness of a tradition or system, the question of “why” is answered, often in surprising ways.
Esoteric, magical, occult and mystical systems are not as clear cut in terms of why they are what they are in the same way other things might be. In this way, it is sage advice to follow a system as it is, before you get to creative with it. There is a point, that a tradition or system sort of flowers in our understanding, and, be it a decent, working one, enters into the witch’s understanding in a way, for myself, seems able to reconcile what might seem as otherwise opposing ideas in a mundane, or more strictly logical, sense. Practices, traditions, ideas, are not unlike the Songlines and Ghost Roads, and a system, whole as it may appear on the outside, unravels, not falls apart, but leads us to deeper places of understanding, ourselves, and the World.
Most people I talk to I find are general not where they started. Sometimes that is because the system or tradition itself, as they learned it, or even as they tried to construct it on their own does not open out to the myriad of secret paths of the great human tradition, but instead, they find walls of dogma and practices, dead ends. The answer to “why” becomes evidently “because, that’s why!” And so they were abandoned, pulled down or otherwise negotiated. The more you learn the less you know. And systems that work, even in part, invariably lead to new things, ad infinitum. This seems to be why most pagans I come across are also veracious readers, and always seem to have a new idea to blog about.
Either the individual finds new meaning within the system that seems to spiral, whole, or, as in my case, one finds that the path leads them back full circle. At least it would seem. Not because there is a dead end, but rather paths that were otherwise not apparent to me, open within the tradition I learned, that now must be further examined.
British Traditional Craft is a bit like that. There is barely a pre-Christian system that existed in Europe that has not entered into it, been filtered and distilled inside it. Folk customs, ceremonial magic, Christian and Jewish mysticism, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Hindu, philosophy, astrology and even psychology. Once it enters the Americas one can add a host more indigenous practices from two continents, and then African traditions.
This is not a criticism. It is what it is. And these things are no more or less immune than any human endeavour when it goes worldwide. But goes a way to explain how it is that English speakers seem infinitely more varied in the flavour of their practices. In the same way that Sydney has a whole street dedicated to every nation’s cuisine it’s encountered. Either way, I’m not complaining. For better or for worse eclecticism and appropriation are our devils.
How we combat, or work with those devils is of course up to the individual. It can be done well, or very poorly. For myself, when I went down the path of solitary practice, it was clear to me, the test against poorly done rested upon three things, and the level of synchronicity between them in regards any one practice: Ancestry, Land and Inspiration. Though the British, and threads of their Craft, have been here in Australia for over 200 years, it was clear to me that Ancestry alone could not form the bedrock of my practice. Indigenous I am not, European I am, and thus it was necessary for both Land and Ancestry to inform my practice. Though disinclined to rest a magical practice on “I like it” alone, Inspired I must be, or practice it I won’t, as my kitchen is currently testament to.
So these are the Three Fires of my Spiritual House. And everything is filtered through the lens of that triangle. It is often the case that where two things seem at odds, it is the third that reconciles them. It might be that answer is thrown up by the Land itself, expresses itself in an ancestral practice or lore, or history, in which something similar has already transpired and been accommodated, sometimes it is inspiration taken from the syncretic practices of other traditions who have reconciled seemly opposing thoughts seamlessly.
When everything comes to be viewed through this filter is not always before the practice is adopted. And I sometimes find a little retrograde analysis is required. And I’ve written about this before. And in regards to the odd practice I pick up along the way, it is not always requiring much greater consideration. But when one begins to see a collection of practices, well…
I find myself at my starting point. As I said, there are many influences in many traditions, and the one I learned was no different. By Fate, luck, sheer bloody mindedness perhaps, two roads diverged in a yellow wood…? There’s a kind of headiness to being a student again, at the beginning. And that is one of the glorious truths of the Craft; when are we ever not?
P.S. ‘R’ is for “Retrograde”! This post participates with the Pagan Blog Project 2014.