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Article ID: 3665

VoxAcct: 8

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 6,546

Times Read: 5,690

Beyond 101

Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: October 14th. 2001
Times Viewed: 5,690

Speaking only for myself, I'm not so sure that there really is anything beyond "Wicca 101." As well as being a Witch, I am in recovery and hold a black belt in ju jitsu. In both recovery and the martial arts, it is a truism that "you learn all you need to know in the first 90 days." In regard to the Craft, I might amend this to say "you learn all you need to know in the first year and a day, " but the idea is the same. In any holistic system, mastery is simply increased proficiency in the fundamentals.

This is an oversimplification, of course, but it is essentially true. With a few exceptions, the martial arts techniques that I practice as a black belt are the same as those I learned as a white belt. The only difference is that I practice them faster, harder and in more diverse combinations. But all of that comes simply from continued and diligent practice of the basics.

The same holds true in recovery. There is no "Advanced Sobriety." The person with 20 years clean and sober stays that way by doing exactly what the person with 20 days does. We joke that the person with the most sobriety is the one who got up earliest on any given day, but there is more than a grain of truth in that joke.

What really sets apart the person with long-term sobriety or the experienced martial artist is not possession of arcane knowledge. Rather, I believe that such people have practiced their chosen "craft" with such diligence and dedication that they have truly come to "own" that craft, uniquely, individually and personally. Most such people would deny this, and insist that they are still struggling with the basics. But to those of us who watch them on the mat, in a meeting, or in the course of their daily lives, their mastery is readily apparent.

My ju jitsu Sensei told me, at the time of my promotion to 3rd degree brown belt, that the real challenge from that point forward was to "make the art my own." And it took quite a while before I began to understand what he was suggesting. He wasn't urging me to go out and start my own school, or create my own "style." Now that I was reasonably competent at the basics, Sensei was suggesting that I focus more of my energy and attention on fully integrating those basics into my own body-mind-spirit complex.

Just as no two people stay sober the same way, no two people execute 'o soto gari' (greater outside reap) in the same manner. And yet, as beginners, we are guided by more experienced practitioners to do it this way, not that way, because the more experienced people have made all the mistakes we have yet to make, and they know, in a broad sense, what does and doesn't work for the majority of beginners. So, in effect, we first learn how to do things somebody else's way. In time, as our competence at the basics increases, we begin to make small changes that make things work better for us.

I was blessed to have a Sensei who didn't insist that there was "one right, true and only way" to practice ju jitsu. Yes, there are boundaries—you can only change something so much before it becomes something else entirely. But within broad parameters, Sensei encouraged us to adapt techniques so that they worked for us as individuals. You see, Sensei was more interested in results than in slavish devotion to rote tradition. What good is it to mimic an "ancient and venerable" technique perfectly, if that mimicry is ultimately uncomfortable and unreliable in a real-life self-defense situation? Sensei felt it was better to make minor changes so that the technique worked when needed for each individual, than to worry about "preserving tradition." But please don't think that Sensei is an iconoclast - he remains very devoted to his tradition. He merely tempers that devotion with pragmatism and concern for the survivability of his students.

Similarly, I have been blessed to have a very enlightened sponsor in recovery. While, in many ways, he is an "AA Fundamentalist, " he also acknowledges that we are all individuals, and that a sustainable recovery program comes from harmony, not antagonism, between that individuality and the "suggestions" of the 12 Step program. It is the cultivation of that harmony that marks "Advanced Sobriety, " not the revelation of hidden truths.

I see the Craft in much the same way as I do the martial arts and recovery. While there are Mysteries, there aren't any mysteries. Everything you will ever need to know to practice the outward aspects of Wicca you can get from a good selection of books from your local metaphysical bookstore. Of course, that doesn't guarantee that you will be Initiated into the Mysteries at some point, but then some people dedicate years to the serious study of the Craft within the structure of a coven, and are never Initiated. The Initiation I refer to is not that granted by a coven, but rather that Initiation that can only be conferred by the Gods. Similarly, the Mysteries cannot be communicated in words, but must be experienced by the Initiate. As someone once said, "When It happens, you will know It!" This is analogous to the sublime moment in each martial artists life when they execute "The Perfect Technique, " or the moment in recovery when someone "Gets It." You can talk about it all you want afterward, but you will never be able to adequately capture in mere words the sublimity of that moment.

People have accused me of being too "Zen" about the Craft. I suppose there is some truth to that. My approach to the Craft is certainly colored by years of exposure to Zen and Taoism. I find that, for me, "less is more." I still enjoy a "full blown" ritual every now and then, but for the most part my private rituals tend to be pretty minimalist. And yet, I find them quite powerful and moving. For me, "Advanced Wicca" is not about bigger, more intricate rituals. It is about coming more fully into harmony with our chosen way, and how does one "teach" that? There is no way that I am aware of, other than to insist that the student practice the basics over and over and over again, until they are absolutely sick of them, and then make them practice some more. In some areas, we call that "discipline." Some Pagans don't like that word, because it smacks of "power over." But the discipline with which I practice the martial arts, recovery and the Craft is not imposed on me from without, and I don't practice it for somebody else's benefit. It is something I have chosen to do for myself.

If there is anything that I think our Elders need to teach openly and strongly in the community, it is the importance of balancing a disciplined commitment to the basics with an "individualization" of the Craft. Rooted firmly in the basics, with room and encouragement to grow into her or his True Power, the novice will blossom into a fully integrated Witch.

Personally, I'd like to see a little more emphasis on dedication, discipline, study, work and all those other nasty words that the bulk of "Wicca 101" books seem to avoid like the plague. Nor do I automatically fault the authors. I think a good deal of the responsibility lies with the editors and publishers. And, to a point, I can understand that. When you are trying to sell to the widest possible audience, its financial suicide to alienate that audience by taking a hard-line stance on anything that might be controversial. Like hard work and discipline.

On the other hand, one benefit that lies in the huge number of Wicca 101 books is that the chances are pretty good that anyone who is interested can find a Path that appeals to them. But no path, no matter how attractive, will get you anywhere, if you don't put your boots on and start walking.

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