Seems like there are a lot of folks going around being really crappy people to their Craft Sisters and Brothers these days. And I don’t mean inter-tradition witch-wars. I mean people who claim to be Witches while, at the same time, going psycho, and berating others with no apparent rationale.
Generally, it’s people who don’t understand what life – or the Craft – is really about. Yes, I’m criticizing those people right now.
Because if – like the psycho I encountered last week – you claim to be so “old hat” and “mature,” but you want to email me snide remarks for updating information on my website, and then tell me I need to question my spirituality, you got another think coming, honey. I’m not obligated to you for a gawd-damned thing, and the more you make those snap judgments, the more I realize you need some emergency surgery on your Craft. And maybe a good lobotomy, to boot.
In light of the psycho’s email “conversation,” I’d just like to take a few moments to discuss the top 3 mistakes that I see Witches make. You might think these are reasons to question your spirituality or your magical oomph, but … so let’s get into it …
Mistake #1: Ego is a bad thing, and must be transcended.
Let’s make this clear from the outset: there is a big difference between ego, and being an arrogant braggart prick. Ego is a part of your identity. I’m not talking political stance, and I’m not talking about your personality, and I’m not talking about your level of humility.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if service is beneath you, leadership is beyond you. Service to others in your space is what makes the world go round. In fact, not serving others will make you unsuccessful in business, as well as spiritually inept. Humility is a beautiful thing. But humility isn’t bending over so someone can go in dry, and it’s not the opposite of ego.
No, ego is the part of you that gives you a sense of your identity, of who you are. It is your self-esteem. It is that part of you that needs self-care on a regular basis to be effective.
If champions had no ego, they wouldn’t be champions. If actors and actresses didn’t bolster their egos on the applause, they wouldn’t be actors. Most actors and actresses will tell you that they do it because they love what they do. What they really mean is that they love the attention they get from you for doing what they do. And that’s all ego.
The actual ego is neither good nor bad. It is, in fact, neutral. It is identity. For different situations in your life, you need different identities, yes? You are not the same person with your work-mates that are you are with your spouse. You are not the same person with your Coven that you are with your mother-in-law. You can say I’m incorrect, but you’d just be lying to yourself. No one is exactly the same with every single person in their life. These are different identities.
At work, I am Support Specialist. My focus in on troubleshooting proprietary software living in the cloud. With my Coven, I am High Priest. My focus is on serving my Coveners by modeling our core values. (Do no harm, but take no shit, because in all things, balance.) With my husband, I am spouse. My focus is on creating a happy, productive life together. (Okay, sometimes that’s my focus. Okay, fine, it’s really just not smacking the shit out of him some days. But only some days – the rest of the time, he’s a dream, and I really can focus on creating a happy, productive life together.)
Ego (a healthy self-esteem, and a drive to succeed) are necessary for life. Without ego, you’d lose your sense of self in every situation you take part in. You’d be constantly indecisive about who you should be, and likely be overly focused on making sure everyone else likes you. You’d be a people-pleaser with no focus on whom to please, or even who might or might not deserve your constant efforts to please them.
Mistake #2: Spirits are just figments of the imagination.
I hate to say it, but the Wicca 101 material that I’ve been exposed to was always so negative when it came to animism. Most if said that spirits of any kind (including gods and goddesses) were “psychological constructs.” It’s a fancier way of saying, “figment of your imagination.” If the material didn’t outright say spirits didn’t exist, it would use the word “archetype,” and couch Witchcraft in some kind of covert monotheism.
I hated that crap. I still do. It’s why I’ve primarily stuck to the old occult grimoires, and similar works. At least they considered the idea that spirits might be real, and that they might be summoned up for some kind of work.
When we ignore spirits – whether they’re Ancestors, Gods and Goddesses, or Spirits of the Land (such as the Fey, or plant Devas, etc.) – we set ourselves up for failure. It takes a long time (like it or not) to deprogram from modern psychological brow-beating, and realize that animism is the foundation of an extremely productive form of the Craft.
I realize that there are different paradigms. In the psychological paradigm, it’s all about reprogramming the subconscious, or at least implanting cool shit in it. In the “energy” paradigm, it’s all about raising, programming, and directing the life force that flows through the universe. In the spirit paradigm, it’s all about calling on spirits or deities. There’s also a self paradigm, where all power lies within one’s own being. There are so many, I couldn’t possibly define them all.
I approach everything from a mix of spirit/energy/self. I’m a polytheist – which means I believe multiple spirits exist in and of themselves (external to me) with their own individual personalities, traits, quirks, egos, etc. This includes gods and goddesses. I’m an animist – which means I believe that everything has a spirit all it’s own, and can be communicated with on inner and outer levels. This includes the ingredients of spellcraft.
But mostly, I believe that, to neglect certain spirits of nature is to limit one’s ability to do spellwork that … well, works.
Mistake #3: Casting spells to benefit oneself is “selfish,” and “unspiritual.”
It baffles me how I still meet people who think this. I don’t mean to be critical or offensive, but the fact of the matter is that this type of thinking is a leftover of Christianity. Particularly, the type of Christianity that ingrains in you a poverty mindset.
It is not “spiritual” to live in poverty. It does not make you a “better person” to be unable to afford that which you desire. It just makes you financially unstable. You’re not a bad person for feeling this way, or for continuing this pattern. It is not your fault. You were affected by outside programming. It happens to the best of us.
But that programming can be changed.
You really can use spellcraft to make your life better, and it doesn’t make you less spiritual or more selfish.
In fact, I’d argue that being selfish is necessary in our day – to protect your health from being overrun by stress and anxiety. If there are people who make you feel guilty for not jumping at their every beckon call – give yourself permission to explore your core beliefs, recognize that the guilt is not yours (it’s always from a program implanted by an outside source, usually the Big C religion ingrained in American culture), and reframe it so that you can move forward in a happier, more productive way. You need to be able to say no.
It’s okay to be selfish. It’s okay to do spellwork for your own material needs. It’s not “childish” to believe that spirits are real, and that magic works. And it’s okay to have a healthy level of self-esteem, and identity.