Lammas is tomorrow, making tonight not any Full Moon but the Blue Moon, and the eve of the first Harvest Festival. In my online circles I have seen a lot of postings about this Lammas. One of my favorites was an essay about how Lammas is the “bread festival” and how she uses the holiday to work bread magic, which is something I first learned maybe 7 years ago or so but have only practiced once. I’m interested again this year in performing some kind of bread magic, especially since I have a successful herb garden this year. It will be a tight squeeze to get a fresh loaf of bread baked before ritual tonight, but it’s do-able for sure.
I want to take the opportunity of this very special day to write down some thoughts I have right now regarding my spiritual practice and my magical practice.
I have been putting a lot of focus lately on these things in my life. Although witchcraft is something I live daily, I tend not to put a great deal of conscious focus on what it MEANS to me, except for two or three times a year around special Sabbats, and maybe for a day or a few days at most. This, for maybe 10 of the past 13 years that I have been practicing.
For the past 3 months or so, however, I feel a deep pull to reconnect with the meaning of what my life is and what Life is – with the big L.
There is one woman a came into contact with several months ago who has played a large part in inspiring me and guiding me through this re-evaluation of where my beliefs and practices stand. Like me, she is a pagan, she is a witch, and she is a pantheist. And she sometimes struggles to balance how those all blend together, like me. She has a very esoteric approach to witchcraft that I really love.
When I was 13 and I first discovered this path, I read and was told again and again that if I walked this path throughout my life, it was going to change and develop and, most importantly become an inextricable part of who I am – I could not walk away. Even with all of the “warnings”, nothing anyone could have said would have prepared me for where I find myself now.
I stopped reading books on witchcraft a long time ago. Many of the books lacked the depth that I was hoping for, so I quit them. What I have found in the years since then is the reason for that: there is much about witchcraft that cannot be written about or taught. You have to live it, experience it, find your own footing. Nobody can do that for you, or even tell you how. Witches gather. Work together at times. But mostly, it is a path you have to walk yourself. And when I learn about the practices of other witches, I am in constant awe at the beauty of their path.
I think what I’m finally ready to dive deeply into now, is the development of that for myself – which, to be frank, is something I kind of thought I was doing before, but never so consciously and deeply. In a way, I feel that my path is starting anew – or like I am taking a new, sharp turn on this Crooked Path.
First, I’m reconciling how to get in touch with my roots. Witchcraft is defined in many ways by different people. It is one of the broadest of broad terms you can use. As a student of anthropology, I find I feel comfortable with the ambiguity of the term. For many, witchcraft is a tradition that they trace back to their ancestors. Traditional witchcraft is something I have felt drawn to for the past several years – it comes from various parts of Europe but many folks I have found specifically trace their practice to parts of England, being British Traditional Witches… Specifically I am most interested in Cornish Witchcraft which of course is from Cornwall, England. Like so many other words associated with these practices, even Traditional Witchcraft which to me first seemed specific, turns out to be quite broad. Witchcraft today is in such flux….
And that is a fact I have chosen to feel intimidated by in the past. Today, however, I feel empowered by it. With Wicca’s popularity waning and more people becoming comfortable embracing the dark to create more of a balance, I feel more comfortable fitting into the larger community with my practice in which I feel comfortable leaning well into the darkness.
But I’m getting off topic again.
Ancestrally, my roots go back to two places, generally speaking: the British Isles, specifically including Ireland and what is today Great Britain, and Mexico. But I am American. Again, as a student of anthropology I have struggled with the meaning in this. As a logical person who aims to remain respectful of cultural traditions, I want to avoid nonsensical cultural appropriation. At the same time, I yearn to get in touch with some deeper sense of ancestry, and a deeper sense of identity in my practice of witchcraft.
But here’s the facts: Witchcraft is so diverse and multi-faceted, even in a small faction like Cornish Witchcraft as an example, because of the fact that historically people’s individual practices were largely influenced by their locale and their personal preferences. (I’m including family traditions with the concept of locale being important.) What was available to these people, whether they were win Mexico or Wales? What seasonal cycles did they experience?
I’m originally from California. From the desert. I’m a desert baby, born in the Sonoran Desert and living a good chunk of time in the Mojave desert. Yet because of the influence of traditional forms of European witchcraft on people here in the United States and people who write books on the subject here, I feel that since moving to Illinois where there are 4 distinct seasons, I have been able to get in touch with the Wheel of the Year since the 4 years I’ve lived here more than I ever was in the past. It has been a blessing to live here and experience these seasons. But I experienced these seasons back in the desert too, just differently… with the lack of guidance in how to identify what I was experiencing there, though, things felt lacking.
And that shouldn’t be the case. Again, it’s been wonderful living here. I love it and sometimes I’m not sure if I ever want to leave, unless it’s to live in another country. But I think one of the beautiful things about witchcraft is adaptability. There is no reason that a witch should find him or herself startled in a new landscape.
I feel like I’m getting off topic again… It’s been a while since I’ve written like this, so excuse me!
Developing Personal Practice
Simply put, I feel comfortable now with making a connection with my ancestral background and incorporating elements of that into a practice that I develop from my very PERSONAL experiences.
We like to give things names, put them in categories, and make them seem very esoteric and special. I think in reality, the basis of almost any form of magical practice is very, very simple. The fundamentals underlying what is taking place. Approaches vary, ways of understanding it vary, ways of gaining that contact vary.
To me, there is a sacredness in any form of witchcraft. And that is why it is spiritual. I am sure there are some who would disagree with me, but I think a common, fundamental thread in all of witchcraft is that we are consciously making an effort to gain contact to a power, a force, that is inherently creative, and to focus on that to the effect of realizing some shift or change in the realm of what we experience. And that’s it. That foundation is what makes me a witch. Some people identify that force in different ways, or the way that change or shift happens, or how to make it happen, or what the nature of all of this is… there are thousands of various takes. Literally. But basically? Simple.
I think if I had to pin myself into a specific kind of witchcraft, I would even move away from the Traditional Witchcraft title and go with something like Natural Witchcraft. That feels comfortable to me.
And then… how do my views of divinity play into this? Some say Witchcraft is a religion in and of itself, and if you’re from certain parts of Europe I’m sure that could be true… but I can’t ignore the rest of the world. For me, Witchcraft, at least for now, is not a religion in and of itself. My beliefs about deity and nature interweave closely with witchcraft, but they have a distinctness to them as well. I could easily believe these things, but not PRACTICE witchcraft. And I could practice witchcraft and do magic without these beliefs, I feel.
Tomorrow is Lammas. Tonight is the night of the Blue Moon. As one of my favorite pagan authors once wrote, “Magic is afoot.”
I’m thinking about approaching Sabbats differently. Like a lot of Pagans, the Sabbats for me have tended to be about focusing on inner change and reflection. Because of this, I think they have tended to also not have a sort of celebratory and devotional energy to them. My celebration of the Sabbats is typically solemn, quiet, sacred in that way.
I think I will also renew my commitment to celebrating the lunar cycle, dedicating that time at the dark and full moons to my personal work.
So now I’m off to buy a bread pan since I lost mine in my last move, and get some studying done before making loose plans for ritual tonight.