This is a loaded subject and one for which there is a lot of debate and controversy. It will probably be highly unpopular with many who follow neo-pagan philosophies but, I felt it had to be said. My opinion is purely my own and based on real life experiences of myself and my family.
First of all, let me state unequivocally that most occult practices, tenets, foundations and principles CAN be taught. Through studied research, discipline in practice and experimentation and perseverance, most any occult or magical practice can be instilled in a devoted student.
All things that are PRACTICAL in nature and deal with physical aspects of working with the Web are highly teachable and beneficial for most. The time frame may be different for each person depending on maturity, discipline and focus, but really, just like any science, the ‘technical’ aspects of Witchery are fairly standard with variances primarily due to culture, geographic region and nature of the Working.
But then, there is the other side of Crafting; the psychic, intuitive, clairvoyant, necromantic and premonitory side that can NOT be taught – that eccentricity and phantom side of Spirit; the obsessive component of a Worker’s personality that knocks her to the left of center, renders her mostly insane and drives her to distraction. She is haunted and tormented by the Old Ones and the Old Ways and there is no escape. This ‘possession’ and solitary pre-occupation with Witchery is what cannot be taught. One is born with it, or not. It cannot be cultivated.
I love to paint. I have yearned to be an artist on the same level as the old masters with flawless techniques and breathtaking skill. I have to admit however, that I will never attain that level of adeptness. I am not a ‘born’ painter. I paint for enjoyment and self-gratification, but I am not ‘painterly’ in mind and Spirit. I am not obsessed with colour and form. I read that Van Gogh was so in love and obsessed with colour, that he actually ‘nibbled’ on his oil paints¹, taking them in and trying to ingest their beauty. That is the quirk, the plague and the torment. That incredible desire for complete surrender to one’s passion is what makes someone a true musician, a true painter, a true writer and a true Worker. Insanity is useful and I maintain, even necessary, to the Adept of any science, art or philosophy.
I have to be truthful and say that sometimes, I wish I could ‘unknow’ some of the things I know and change what I am. There have been times in my life where I tried to shelve my practice and deny who I was. I did this to fit in, to make others around me happy and to conform to society’s ideal of the perfect wife and mother. My denial of self cost me dearly and destroyed much of what I was trying to protect. So it goes. I am wiser for that experience, however, it has scarred me deeply and in that wounding, I hold my tradition and my practice all the more sacred.
If you feel you are ‘called’ to this Path, please be aware – those who enter the Way to dabble, just to ‘see what happens’ or those who are bored and looking for a distraction may find themselves in serious trouble. The Ancient Powers are in no way kind; They don’t forgive easily, nor do They suffer fools gladly. When you take that leap of faith and dive off into the deep end, you will be embraced, but not as a prodigal son or daughter, but as one of the Dark Faith. This is no watered down Craft, practiced by urban yuppies once a month on the Full Moon. This is serious business. This is the life-blood of the Ancients, the eternal hum of Aether. It will cost you. But did you really expect less?
What do we all hope to attain at the end of our lives? When the twilight comes for us, what will we have accomplished at our life’s end? I believe our paths, no matter how learned, no matter how gained, will all end at the same place – to remember ourselves in Death and to recall our life’s lessons; to have honoured our callings as given and our Gods with passion and devotion – to have always been ready to speak the truth and be honourable, even when not in fashion.
We are all called to be ourselves without reservation and to strive in our Spirits for unity with the Divine. Ultimately, THAT is the course of true learning and that is a calling for all.
As our will and intent is expressed, so may it be blessed by the Gods. May our lives ever be an honour to Their presence.
Image: SOLITARY WITCH by *RareEarthGallery