Keeping a Book

Writing things down that happen in your coven or in your rituals is not just a useful tool for keeping track of what happened, but can lead to insights that you might have otherwise missed.  Certainly, many of us can relate to the idea of “circle memory,” which is actually a lack thereof.  What happened in circle can quickly become hazy once you’ve stepped out of that frame of mind.  Connections insights, and experiences that were crystal clear at the time may slip away from you, especially the longer you wait to talk about them or record them.

Some groups keep a coven book with ritual details and information about the members, but keeping a private journal for yourself is also a good idea.  Of course, some of us shrug at that idea and go, yeah sure, I’ve tried to do that before and it fell by the wayside after a few weeks or months.  Certainly, that was my feeling and experience in trying to keep a diary over the years.  Yet a ritual journal is not necessarily the same thing, though you can choose to start a journal that encompasses both your spiritual and everyday life experiences.

Keeping a ritual journal can become part of your spiritual path.  Each time, after you’ve done a rite for yourself or attended a group event, you can go home and write down not just what happened, but what you felt and figured out, including any insights and visions.  Over time, this becomes not just a record of your experiences, but a guidebook towards getting a better view of your path–where you are, where you came from, and where you might yet be going.

You can expand on the journal by adding in any dreams that relate to your spiritual journey, divination results, and even important phrases that jump out at you from books, movies, and classes.  Put all together, the puzzle pieces can begin to reveal who you are and why you are here.  They can show you what sort of rituals you might want to create to take you another step onward, to push the envelope just a little bit further.

Despite my failure with various diaries, I’ve somehow managed to keep a regular journal now since 2004 and its filled with not just my circle experiences, messages from the Gods and other spirits, bits and pieces of articles and books in progress, but also poems, stories, and plans for what I wish to accomplish each year.  Looking back at the early books, I can not only see just how far I’ve come, but can find insights that I missed at the time or that simply needed the passage of the years to unfold.  Those scribbled words in black and green ink have proven priceless, not just for my own sense of self-understanding and exploration, but for aid in creating what I wish to send out into the world at large.

© 2009, Veronica Cummer, author of Sorgitzak and Masks of the Muse.

To Be or Not to Be . . . Together

Over the years I’ve heard much debate (and even argument) over the up and down sides of being a solitary practitioner as opposed to working in some sort of group, whether it’s defined as a coven or not. Of course, some paths tend to be made more for group work than for someone practicing alone, a state which then is often considered just a stop-gap until you find another group to hook up with. While other paths are more conductive to solitary practice, falling into alignment with the thought that the villages witches and cunning folk of old were loners, outsiders even. Still, a few paths seem to fall somewhere between the two, with those who tend to practice on their lonesome occasionally getting together with birds of a like solitary feather for special occasions.

I’ve known those who fall into all of the these categories and, after hearing their tales of triumph and woe, have come to consider that all have their good and bad points.

A person who is primarily solitary has no one else to rely on magickally speaking and no one to sound a warning bell should they be in danger of falling over the edge of sanity or good sense. However, they also can be made stronger by having just themselves to count on. They can avoid the in-fighting and politics that often plague group work, but it may take them longer to get where they are going because there is less of a power base to build with. The only knowledge they have is their own–and any spirits or Gods they connect to–but they also don’t have to fight to get themselves heard and the knowledge that they work with can be as personal as they like it to be. The symbols and rituals don’t have to work with anyone else’s worldview.

A person who operates out of a group has more folks they can rely upon, both to aid in magickal spells and in advice and support in all aspects of their lives. Of course, that can also be bad if they start to use that group as a crutch or if the group–or the Priest or Priestess–begin demanding undue amounts of control over their lives. Also, in a tight-knit group, everyone else’s problems can become their problem. But they also have more of a resource of potential problem-solvers because of the wide background and talents that each person can bring to the mix. When a group works well and is focused on a singular goal it can work wonders. Conversely, when it is broken it can become a hell on earth for those involved.

But what about the idea of solitaries who sometimes come together for a specific goal or event? Personally, that’s what I feel the village witch or cunning folk were all about. For the most part, they practiced alone and in service to their local community. I mean, how many witches can a really tiny village support anyway? Yet, as needed and when the call went out, these outsiders gathered in the wild lands beyond the boundaries of the villages, in the land beyond the boundaries of the Seen world, and did what work as was required of them. As a group. Probably not always easily, for each was used to being their own boss, but knowing it needed to be done and that they were the ones to do it.

I’ve heard the comment more than once that getting Pagans or Witches together to do something is akin to “herding cats.” Yet, it must be pointed out, that cats do gather into working groups with a structure. They’re called “prides” and even domestic cats will form them under certain circumstances. The purpose of a pride is to protect the group as a whole. Yet, when such prides do form, a hierarchy tends to come with it–alpha males and alpha females and so on down. It’s not just the behavior of certain felines either for primates are even more known to create strong social hierarchies and structures.

Considering that human beings are as much social creatures as other primates as a rule and, in groups, the jostling for position is entirely natural and so pretty damn inevitable, perhaps the real issue is not that some Witches crave being solitary and some do not, but that in any group made up of Witches, Pagans, and Cunning Folk the issues that arise do so because there are just too many Alphas in the cauldron. After all, part of being a Witch is having a strong sense of self, will, and opinions galore, and not being afraid to express them.

Maybe, the problem then–if problem it is–is that too many of us want to be King or Queen of the castle. That, being natural outsiders in what might be termed “ordinary society,” we find it hard to work and play nice with others. Most especially others of our kind. We’re all used to getting our own way, or putting our will and strength behind trying very hard to do so. Yet, if we can find something we believe in enough (more than getting our own way) we can still come together to work for a greater good. If we can come anywhere close to agreeing on what that is.

Sometimes. When the moon is just right. Or Mercury isn’t retrograde. Or the runes or tarot cards aren’t telling you to stay in tonight. Sometimes. When the pride needs taking care of…us cats all together, making a big noise and trying to get things right, even if we hiss and spit at each other a lot in the process.

© 2009, Veronica Cummer

Skyclad Stripped Bare – Naked Freedom

On the surface level, being skyclad does mean a freedom from the restriction of clothing, which allows for more movement and the ability to dance and to leap (and can be a good idea especially if you decide to leap over fires).  It also means freedom from any reference to what walk of life you may come from, especially in the past when your class could have been seen in your choice and quality of attire.  But, most of all, the freedoms implied in going skyclad are that of being free to be yourself, to enjoy who you are and why you are there.  It symbolizes the ability to express love and pleasure and joy and your own particular light, your own innermost being.

Flesh is beautiful enough, especially by the mystical glow of candlelight or the full moon and in shared ritual, as it is a symbol in and of itself of our will to be born into this world.  When we then further choose to wear jewelry or tokens, they are donned knowingly and specifically to be meaningful of our lives in the Craft, in a particular coven, or where we are along our own personal path.  We wear them for the signs they are, as reminders of promises, of hopes and aspirations, and of any understandings that we’ve reached along the way.

Naked Freedom

The key here is that all we put on in ritual is done by choice then, and with knowledge that they are symbolic of greater thoughts, ideas, and mystery.  In this regard, they are as much expressions of freedom as going naked in the first place, so long as we don’t fall into the trap of attaching ourselves too much to the specific thing or to what has no true connection to our innermost selves, to our truest natures.

For that is a huge part of what being a witch is about, shining with your own particular light, being a unique thread in the grand tapestry of the ultimate divine.  In fact, we are charged to be and to do just that—to strive towards letting who we are light the world through the window of our physical forms, and to always remember that we are free beings, free to choose and free to act.  Because to forget that is the first step towards giving it away.

Forgetfulness of freedom is forgetfulness of self.  It is sad neglect of our own personal star, our personal thread in the tapestry of life, and one that allows others to use our own energies to line their pockets or further their agendas, some of which hurt us, those around us, or even the Earth Herself.  Except that every time that we strip off our clothing and step naked into ritual we are in-acting our right of choice, we are becoming living symbols of freedom, and of the very qualities that the Goddess most delights in us to have.  Qualities that the rest of the world sometimes forgets are there and that we have to keep reminding them of to the best of our ability—the taste and touch and pleasure of freedom, of hope, of life, and joy, and, most of all, of love.

Copyright © 2009, Veronica Cummer, All Rights Reserved.

Veronica Cummer is the Author of Sorgitzak: Old Forest Craft and Masks of the Muse