Instinct vs Research
Article ID: 13669
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: January 31st. 2010
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“This is what happens when you dabble! You can’t practice the Craft while you are looking down your nose at it.” ~ The Aunts from Practical Magic
So why do I have to do all this required reading and research? Isn’t that work? Its so time consuming and the books are hard to read! Why can’t we simply practice solely based upon our instincts and natural talents?
Instinct is only one part of the equation.
Imagine that your spiritual practice was a house. Now, try to build that without blueprint, without a plan, without the knowledge of how to properly the use a nail-gun and electric drill. You could probably build yourself and nice little shanty but it’s probably not going to keep you very warm come wintertime. It is also certainly not the four bedroom post and beam home you had hoped for either.
It’s all about balance. It is all right if your spiritual path leans more on the instinctive side than the research side, or vice versa. After all you should build a house you’d actually want to live in. However leaving out one or the other entirely is just plain irresponsible.
An adult doesn’t go into a job interview with having some experience at that job, or without at least doing a little research first, or else they wouldn’t get hired. So a Witch shouldn’t be summoning spirits, ancestors and gods without having a clue as to what they are dealing with and how.
I know a number of Witches and Pagans who practice almost totally based on instinct and natural talent alone. It’s wonderful to be blessed with strong instincts and natural talent, if you have it. However these instincts only Witches will, more often than not, report frightening and bad experiences or a lack of anything “special” happening at all. Why you may ask? This is because instinct and talent is the starting point, not the be-all and end-all.
They go walking into ritual and situations they are not properly prepared for and wind up doing more harm than good. If instinct and talent were all that was required than these instincts only Witches would not be having such bad experiences in the first place.
Working based on instinct and talent is supposed to come after years of research, practice and trial and error. Practicing a beautiful and fulfilling non-scripted ritual is your reward for years of practicing with a script in hand until you don’t need one anymore.
Starting at the 101 level without a script, with out doing your research, is taking a shortcut. It is lazy, immature and irresponsible. It will never be as enlightening and fulfilling as a ritual, rite or Craft that you earned the hard way. There is no such thing as “good enough” in a spiritual practice, especially what that “good enough” mean you did next to nothing at all. A spiritual Path is not supposed to be easy and the gods don’t like lazy people.
The gods, spirits and ancestors do not reward people who do not do the work to earn their respect. If you want to develop a relationship with the Otherworld and the Spirits of the Land you have to earn it. You cannot simply show up with your hand out expecting a prize, for no work, like a spoiled child.
This is witchcraft, not a revealed religion. You cannot just show up, sit down, open one book and expect heaven to be handed to you for no reason other than that you are a good person. Declaring, “I am here and I am good” may work for monotheism, at least on the surface, because they are on a conquest kick and want as many people to join as possible. Yahweh and Allah just aren’t all that picky, its enough that you are willing to show up and feel guilty for the bad things you do and then try to coerce other people to join too.
Our gods expect a little more from you than that. After all, they put you here and they made you good (at least that’s how you started out anyway) so showing up and saying “I’m here and I’m a good person” fails to impress them. Our gods used to be worshipped by people who would sacrifice their very best goat to them and now you expect them to hand the Mysteries over to you because you showed up with Enya playing on your MP3 player? For shame!
You cannot expect your ancestors, people who fought battles with swords, who pushed horse drawn plows, how would walk many miles to the yearly feast grounds, to give you long lost lore for nothing. What we must look like to them, we who are so spoiled and pampered that we whine and complain when the processional to the ritual is longer than 3 city blocks. How can you ask for their aid or protection or knowledge when you are willing to do little more than pour half a bottle of cheap whiskey out to them once in a while? The processional for the Eleusian Mysteries in ancient times took a whole day.
Now I know I am being a bit hard on you here. I do so because I care and also because I myself have learned these lessons the hard way. I was once a young aspiring Hedgewitch who covered herself with too-potent, homebrewed, flying ointment only to have a truly terrifying, mind shattering, life-changing experience. The kind I would not wish on my greatest enemy. So I speak from experience here, not a high horse.
Allow me to give you another example from my own experience. I have a staff that I now call my “fluffy staff” made many years ago when I was younger and impatient it is covered with poorly researched runes and ogham, silly markings and glued on crystal beads. Truly it looks like a cheap prop for a small community’s stage production of Harry Potter. I grimace every time I look at it now and vow that one day I will sand it down and start gain.
In the meantime however I have spent the last six years slowly creating a most wonderful and beautiful stang. Made of juniper wood from an uncles back yard and seasoned for three years. It has been carefully laid in the sunlight and moonlight, placed in the winds of the great Canadian Rockies, the Kootenays, the wind off the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Carefully carved, each stroke with the knife researched, planned and mediated upon. Lovingly hand sanded over an entire winter until my hand ached. I have loved this piece of wood for the better part of a decade now; I know every millimetre of it better than I know my own body. All I have to do it touch it to enter into a light trance state and it has not yet been blessed.
This stang is nearing completion and will be finished in its seventh year of creation; it will be one of my proudest achievements as a Witch. And it will be a tool far more potent and powerful than anything even an Elder could whip up in only a week’s time. I know al this work and worry, waiting, plotting, planning and research is worth it. I know that when I come into the presence of the gods with this tool in my hand, they will see plainly my dedication to the Craft and approve.
I have learned to earn my right to call myself Pagan, Witch, Priestess and Shaman. How about you?
“Properly prepared I must always be” ~ part of the 2nd degree oath as written by Gerald Gardner.
Copyright: Juniper from the Hedge 2009, feel free to reproduce so long as you have my name attached.
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
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