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Imbolc Musings: We're All Broken

Author: Sorbus
Posted: January 10th. 2017
Times Viewed: 4,602

We’re all broken.

Seriously, all of us carry around a bit of emotional baggage from our life experiences. Supposedly we’re supposed to gain as humans as we age, but sometimes it comes with side effects…

Recently I spoke with a girl from the UK at an event near my home. We were in adjoining booths and she was selling pentagrams so I asked if she were Wiccan. “No”, was the vehement reply, “I’m a Witch!” More curious than offended, I asked could she explain? She declined to elaborate but did explain it had to do with her considering herself a Hedge Witch as a way of apology and she had nothing personal against Wiccans in general but that was the end of any real conversation between us. Afterwards I felt sorry for the whole exchange. I’m sometimes oblivious to social nuances and miss the landmines others have lying in plain sight.

So obviously there was some personal baggage there. No big deal, I’ve got a bit of my own after over fifty years and some change in the world, but really what I want to talk about is the kind of growing it takes to become a compassionate person and not merely deal with those outside of my personal circle with caution and emotional distance. I care quite a bit even if I’m not good at being a shoulder to cry on. I’m just not somebody who has an ability to read other people and say or do the right thing every time. Honestly it shuts down many promising interactions with others. Progressing into that stage of life where I’m supposed to have gained some hard won wisdom, I’d like to know how it helps to be better and not just a silent stranger at social events.

For many our childhood gives us a few breaks right from the start. If you’ve read any of my other articles you know I come from a family that went through the holocaust. To my dad’s dying day he was emotionally scarred by the experience and he tried to protect his kids from what he went through as a child yet desperately wanted to share things he’d learned as a result. Instead, he tended to be gruff to the point of cruelty about many things. As the person in the family who was gifted with a sense of seeing deeper issues even as a child, I came to understand there are some things that are too awful to explain but must be learned in some way. It can hurt a lot to go through this when young and the effects continue into adulthood. There are days when everything just piles up and take its toll. Sometimes I do let it color my reactions, but I also know that it doesn’t solve anything to be cold to others, nor does it help the other person any to inflict it on them either.

There is a dark mirror side to the Crone. In this she is the bitter old hag living in the fringes of our world along with all the other discarded things that litter the shadows. This is the popular image of the Witch and not exactly a role model I want to embrace. Her bright reflection is the other side: the elder that has lived long enough to move beyond the shadows to embrace the world without illusion but with no bitterness either.

I’ve seen all too many people so wounded by their life’s experiences that it leaves them bitter and resentful towards anything or anyone outside of a small circle of family or friends. From what I’ve seen, many Wiccans are particularly prone to this. Happy people who are raised to be comfortable within a faith don’t do something as radical as leave it to embrace a very different system, after all. When a person feels that they are an outsider, it tends to create an “us vs. them” sort of mentality. Personal problems like a broken relationship or two added to the mix and even intimate relationships can become excluded. It is sad, but we all know people like this. There are people who live in a very small bubble of a world, sometimes even without a meaningful intimate relationship with another person. Saddest of all is the person who doesn’t even know when they are at that place.

Perhaps those Catholic lessons of my childhood, long before I rejected the rules of that spiritual path, still cause me to look for outlets to justify myself. I went from being indifferent to any spiritual path to a fascination with the ideas behind religion and then finally it awakened a very personal quest to learn and believe. One thing I didn’t leave behind was some of the intellectual hallmarks of the teachings from early childhood. I am very scholarly in that I favor a history of educated interpretation. Another is that all too Catholic tendency to use guilt and humility. Both can be great teachers for learning how to deal with a world that can be so full of pain and trials. When I embrace the Crone or her Consort in his winter guise of the hunter, I know darkness is ever present in this world. So the guiding question here is: how to deal with it and grow instead of just being another casualty of fate?

Try to find ways to cope. I find an outlet in music though I am not musical myself. I was fortunate to grow up in one of the most wonderful of generations for its music. I frequently play music when I write because there are just so many profound songs to listen to. The music helps me frame a deeper meaning, to find the correct way to express complicated ideas. Poets and musicians have a secret. They have learned to turn their pain, dreams and life experience into a way that brings beauty to so many shared experiences. If we could all be poets, artists and gifted musicians perhaps we’d find a way to share our experiences in a way that would add beauty to this wonderful, though sometimes tragic, thing we call life. The next step is how do you share this with others in a way that actually helps?

It seems that every generation has to learn the lesson of life in its own way since the world just keeps changing so quickly. For those of us who are looking back at the lessons they have learned, it can be frustrating to see others missing obvious lessons, easy breaks where we had it hard, or just the realization you made some mistakes that simply cannot be undone. Wisdom is both a learning process and one of forgiveness. While you can’t tell other people how to avoid making the same mistakes as you did, you can be compassionate about the silly and sometimes tragically stupid things people do.

If there is something that Wiccans can do in ritual more, it would be to make ceremony more in tune with our human frailties. I’ve been in too many rituals that try to be solemn and end up as stilted formula and rhetoric. I have also been in circles cast that have moved me to tears when the muse was there in the casting. It is an essence, which is hard if not impossible to quantify, but when it was right, it was so very moving and magical. I don’t do magical workings anymore. It is partly out of a secular outlook I have towards spirituality and partly because I don’t feel I deserve to bend anything in this world to my will. However sometimes the magic will come, and when it does I know it and accept the gift for what it is.

I personally don’t believe that some omnipresent spirit watches over us all the time. However if one did they would have to have a very good sense of humor. How else could this divine spirit forgive so many tragically foolish things people do to each other and the way people react to misfortune with a blend of grief and hope. I do ask questions. In Norse Mythology, Odin hung himself in sacrifice for nine days. He gave one of his eyes to gain the wisdom he desired. He proudly wears his scars on the outside as a token. How about we mortals? How do we gain the wisdom to lead, to understand without becoming broken debris by the experience? We are only mortals after all and don’t get the chance to die and come back as the same person transformed as a God can.

Years ago I worked in a prison. Was doing this a mistake, or a part of me growing to be a better person? I honestly don’t know, but it had a deep effect on me and I ultimately had to leave that line of work because it was affecting me in a variety of negative ways. One thing stuck with me however. A person at some point while I worked there taught me a short ditty that has stuck. “Two men stare into the prison yard, one sees only the mud, the other the stars.”

So what can a person do, in the mundane world or in a magical sense to make use of all those ways we can become broken by life’s experiences? Wicca, or Witchcraft if you prefer, draws many people who are social outsiders in some way. Whether it is the singular quest of the solitary, or the social issues embracing so many different things in the world out there, our related paths bind us even as we draw apart from so many others. Who said “one road, many paths?” Everybody needs a positive outlet of expression. For some, spell working is an outlet. For others a different course has to do. It can be as simple as how you face a single day or a whole path of existence. I know my prison work ultimately led to become an elementary teacher and I learned how to grow by constantly dealing with so many people through their children. It worked for me, but it is my path not yours.

I will give this advice: find a path and a personal character trait that suits you to follow it. For me, the courage to do something I really don’t want to do and the persistence (or call it pig-headed stubbornness) to finish what I start is a personal trait I have. Honesty is also a virtue even if I wish I could just keep my damn trap shut instead of saying what I know to be true even when it isn’t wanted advice.

So do I have all the answers? Not even close. Am I asking the right questions? Maybe not yet, but I think I’m getting closer. Blessed be to you as well.

Copyright: A. I. Mychalus c. 2016
Reproduction rights given with credit so long as not sold or distributed for profit.



Location: New Park, Pennsylvania

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