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Author Topic: Witchcraft and fear  (Read 6306 times)

Snowdrop

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Witchcraft and fear
« on: February 14, 2013, 04:05:42 pm »
I have a question for people who are well-versed in some form of the craft. I'm having difficulty even trying to phrase what I'm getting at correctly, so please bear with me.  

Let me start out by telling you a dream.  It was a completely normal dream; I don't think there was anything supernatural about it --- but it illustrates the point I'm getting at well.  I had sleep paralysis, which I have fairly often.  In this particular dream, the sleep paralysis was blamed on Lilith, who was supposedly levitating me off of my bed.  My first thought was, "I should become a witch!  Then if something like this happens again, I'll actually understand what is going on and how to deal with it."  Then my immediate next thought was, "No, that's a terrible idea; if I were a witch then I'd have to acknowledge terrifying situations like this instead of ignoring them."  

When I woke up, I realized that that's pretty much an accurate picture of my feelings about the craft.  First, I get interested in it, and go, "Ooh, that looks shiny, I should investigate more."  Then I decide that I find the whole idea very frightening and that I want nothing to do with it.  Then I think that perhaps it's something I should learn specifically because I find it frightening --- i.e. overcoming fears by demystifying them.  

I can never make up my mind as to whether I have any interest in witchcraft or not, and I guess I'd really appreciate it if someone who does have experience in it could tell me what parts of my thought process seem reasonable/realistic and what parts don't.

LiminalAuggie

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 04:23:47 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96335

I can never make up my mind as to whether I have any interest in witchcraft or not, and I guess I'd really appreciate it if someone who does have experience in it could tell me what parts of my thought process seem reasonable/realistic and what parts don't.

 
I have a lot of the same anxieties about What's Out There, I think having a healthy amount of fear for what could go wrong or get inside your space is good for cultivating caution and developing processes to deal with things when and if they go wrong.

I don't identify as a witch anymore and I rarely do magic of any kind, but back when I did the only kind that was effective at all and really worked was my protection-oriented stuff. I think that's because I had that fear to back it up and give me an emotional reserve from which to process and direct energy.
Does...that make any sense?

Tana

Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 05:13:36 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96335



There is this joke going around, that a witch - upon meeting something scary - might first jump, but then comes back with a pointy stick, saying: Interesting, what will happen, if I poke it?

This.

I had my share of scares, too, still do (truth is, tho' the scares change, you'll never be finished with them). I never was able to keep away from it for good. I felt always drawn back to it.

Personally I think that fear is a gatekeeper.
If you keep coming back, you finally grow strong enough to overcome it.
\'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation.
That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance.
You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long.
All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.\'
Terry Pratchett \'Lords and Ladies\'

Confuzzled and proud. :p

Jenett

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 05:23:13 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96335
First, I get interested in it, and go, "Ooh, that looks shiny, I should investigate more."  Then I decide that I find the whole idea very frightening and that I want nothing to do with it.  Then I think that perhaps it's something I should learn specifically because I find it frightening --- i.e. overcoming fears by demystifying them.


I have been known to say that the people who do best with the kind of witchcraft I do are the people who, when presented with something unsettling, tend to say "Huh. I wonder why it's doing that?" and poke at it until it makes sense, rather than "Never mind, let me go do something more comfortable"

I think there are forms of magic and religion where comfort is a high priority.

I personally believe that religious witchcraft is not one of those places, given the long cultural history of walking the spaces between worlds, living on the edges of communities, and being a person who must balance competing (and sometimes entirely unreasonable) demands with a strong sense of self and internal ethics (not just because those things are good for society, but because those things make the kinds of magics involved work much better, in my experience.)

There are lots of people for whom poking at the sore spots is not the thing they ever want to do. Where they may have problems, but they are more inclined to look for the thing that solves - or avoids - the symptom, rather than dig for the underlying cause.

And there are plenty of people who *do* do them - and regularly - but where poking at a particular sore spot at a particular time is not the useful thing. (These people are comfortably within my venn diagram for "happy with this kind of witchiness". The people in the previous paragraph, not so much.)
 
I should note here that society benefits, in some very real and powerful ways, from having people who *don't* poke at every damn thing that is a sore spot. That kind of persistent poking is hard on our psyches, hard on many kinds of relationships, takes time and energy that we could be using to do other things (art, science, complicated community work, etc.)

It's not that one of them is automatically better than the other in general - it's that they're very different ways of interacting with the world and with our inner selves. And that - pretty logically - each approach is more compatible with a particular style of religious work than the other. (It's also not necessarily about the 'religion' part of this: I have tended to get along very well with, say, Jesuits or Jesuit-trained folks, because they do a lot of the same kind of poking at stuff.)

There is also an argument I've been thinking about lately, that what leads to danger and destruction in magical work is a lack of self-awareness, and a lack of awareness about what we can cope with. That's a *big* complicated conversation, because people are (for a bunch of complicated but psychologically sound reasons) not always good at evaluating their own boundaries without a lot of practice and calibration.

(And this is part of why one can make an argument that it's so critical to have a teacher or mentor in certain kinds of initiatory or major self-development magical work - because that outside perspective, of someone who can direct your attention to necessary concerns, is a way to reduce a lot of the points of potential lasting damage. Not all of them, and they can present others. But it can help a lot, and make the process a lot more usefully directed. Suffering you don't learn from is especially pointless suffering.)
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Tana

Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2013, 05:29:15 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;96342
I have been known to say that the people who do best with the kind of witchcraft I do are the people who, when presented with something unsettling, tend to say "Huh. I wonder why it's doing that?" and poke at it until it makes sense, rather than "Never mind, let me go do something more comfortable"


Ah, yes, you said it originally!
(Swiss cheese memory of mine...)
\'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation.
That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance.
You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long.
All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.\'
Terry Pratchett \'Lords and Ladies\'

Confuzzled and proud. :p

Darkhawk

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2013, 05:56:24 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96335
Then my immediate next thought was, "No, that's a terrible idea; if I were a witch then I'd have to acknowledge terrifying situations like this instead of ignoring them."  

 
Yes, pretty much.

And as someone who's currently dealing with a giant chunk of this as part of training: stuff you didn't know was a problem will come up as part of pursuit of the Craft.

It's not just the "this scary night terror, I don't have to wrestle with that if I'm not a witch".  It's the "No, really, I have to get to the bottom of the problems in my relationship with my partner that started fifteen years ago", the "wow, all of the structures I've built to manage my disability are actually horrible traps now that I've managed to beat the medical establishment into starting to get me appropriate treatment", the "I can't just hope that this thing I desperately wanted and thought I was on the road to getting will appear by magic; I have to face up to the ways that expecting other people to meet the obligations they claimed to be taking on are not working out for me."

To pick a few of the things that I've been actively dealing with since November.  This is all scary stuff, not in the oogety-boogety way, but in the stakes and the way that it requires an almost terrifying level of honesty and diligence.

And it's possible to go by without dealing with any of that stuff.  Gods know I have been for years and have managed to have a reasonably functional existence that way.

But.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Catherine

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2013, 11:24:53 am »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96335
"I should become a witch!  Then if something like this happens again, I'll actually understand what is going on and how to deal with it."  Then my immediate next thought was, "No, that's a terrible idea; if I were a witch then I'd have to acknowledge terrifying situations like this instead of ignoring them."  

 
I think I'm the odd one out here.

As a general rule, my witchcraft is a practical thing. It's a way to get things done. Sure there are questions of ethics, motivations, etc. I do take the time to think about what I'm doing and why. I try to consider how my actions might impact others. But for the most part, the "poking at stuff" comes from the spiritual/religious side of things.

For example, I say all the time that Juno is the boss of me, but what does that really mean? Being devoted to Her forces me look at how I live my life. Am I living up to my responsibilities to my family, my community and myself? If I'm failing, I have to figure out why and find a way to fix whatever it is in me that's causing me to fail.

However, that would happen whether or not I'm casting spells and charms. Juno isn't really involved in that stuff. In fact, She couldn't care less.

Sometimes, doing a spell or even discussing certain kinds of spells will cause me to have to examine something that I may have buried. But for the most part, that's separate from the kind of crafting that I do.

Hmm, I hope that made some kind of sense...

Micheál

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2013, 12:25:12 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96335
Then I decide that I find the whole idea very frightening and that I want nothing to do with it.  

I guess in order to answer we have to start with the roots. What exactly are you frightened by?

Naomi J

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2013, 12:29:25 pm »
Quote from: Catherine;96407
I think I'm the odd one out here.

As a general rule, my witchcraft is a practical thing. It's a way to get things done. Sure there are questions of ethics, motivations, etc. I do take the time to think about what I'm doing and why. I try to consider how my actions might impact others. But for the most part, the "poking at stuff" comes from the spiritual/religious side of things.

For example, I say all the time that Juno is the boss of me, but what does that really mean? Being devoted to Her forces me look at how I live my life. Am I living up to my responsibilities to my family, my community and myself? If I'm failing, I have to figure out why and find a way to fix whatever it is in me that's causing me to fail.

However, that would happen whether or not I'm casting spells and charms. Juno isn't really involved in that stuff. In fact, She couldn't care less.

Sometimes, doing a spell or even discussing certain kinds of spells will cause me to have to examine something that I may have buried. But for the most part, that's separate from the kind of crafting that I do.

Hmm, I hope that made some kind of sense...

 
I feel much the same. Sometimes I ask for the help of gods with magic, but usually it's my ancestors to whom I appeal for help with it. But like you, it's practical and comes from necessity. My spiritual development, the fear-facing stuff, the inner work - that's more about my religious work with deities. The two sometimes cross over, but not often.
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Catherine

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2013, 12:44:29 pm »
Quote from: Sophia Catherine;96415
I feel much the same. Sometimes I ask for the help of gods with magic, but usually it's my ancestors to whom I appeal for help with it. But like you, it's practical and comes from necessity. My spiritual development, the fear-facing stuff, the inner work - that's more about my religious work with deities. The two sometimes cross over, but not often.

 
Yes, this. Except for the ancestors part. I don't really ask them for help.

It seems like the longer I do what I do, the less crossover there is. I don't know if that's a good, bad, or neutral thing, but that is what's been happening. Especially over the last year or so.

Darkhawk

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2013, 03:34:52 pm »
Quote from: Catherine;96407
I think I'm the odd one out here.

 
I think there's a distinction to be made between witchcraft the set of magical practices and religious witchcraft, and that makes a big difference.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Snowdrop

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2013, 10:55:44 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;96346
It's not just the "this scary night terror, I don't have to wrestle with that if I'm not a witch".  It's the "No, really, I have to get to the bottom of the problems in my relationship with my partner that started fifteen years ago", the "wow, all of the structures I've built to manage my disability are actually horrible traps now that I've managed to beat the medical establishment into starting to get me appropriate treatment", the "I can't just hope that this thing I desperately wanted and thought I was on the road to getting will appear by magic; I have to face up to the ways that expecting other people to meet the obligations they claimed to be taking on are not working out for me."

To pick a few of the things that I've been actively dealing with since November.  This is all scary stuff, not in the oogety-boogety way, but in the stakes and the way that it requires an almost terrifying level of honesty and diligence.

And it's possible to go by without dealing with any of that stuff.  Gods know I have been for years and have managed to have a reasonably functional existence that way.

But.

 
Hanging this off your quote, but replying to what several people said --- so, would I be correct in saying that suitability for religious witchcraft is determined by:
A. Having a personality that is generally curious and willing to put work into investigating things, and
B.  Being responsible enough to recognize what the potential risks of this are and plan accordingly?

Snowdrop

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 11:04:17 pm »
Quote from: Micheál;96414
I guess in order to answer we have to start with the roots. What exactly are you frightened by?


It's two things: the first is simply fear of the unknown.  The other is the "look long enough into the abyss and the abyss will look back" thing.  
 
I'm afraid that if I have anything to do with the supernatural, I'll accidentally extend some kind of invitation I'm not aware of and wake up one night to find skeletons with ten heads crawling out from my bed.  I mean, that's an exaggeration, but I hope it gets the point across.

MadZealot

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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2013, 03:03:02 am »
Quote from: Snowdrop;96453
It's two things: the first is simply fear of the unknown.  

Completely understandable.  Generally speaking, this fear slowly recedes after enough study and practice.  

Quote
The other is the "look long enough into the abyss and the abyss will look back" thing.

Also understandable.  Darkhawk's comments are spot-on, and imho it's essential to "know thyself" when working within a religious framework.  How can you have an honest working relationship with divinity if you can't do the same with yourself?  Good news is it's a progressive process, so you don't need to confront your shadow immediately or all at once.
 
Quote
I'm afraid that if I have anything to do with the supernatural, I'll accidentally extend some kind of invitation I'm not aware of and wake up one night to find skeletons with ten heads crawling out from my bed.  I mean, that's an exaggeration, but I hope it gets the point across.

And that's why you wear gloves and safety goggles.  Metaphorically speaking.
There are numerous practices, from simple cleansing to full-bore banishing rituals, that you can use to create safe space and ward off any oogieboogies.  Perhaps that's where you should start your learning?
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Re: Witchcraft and fear
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2013, 03:06:55 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;96429
I think there's a distinction to be made between witchcraft the set of magical practices and religious witchcraft, and that makes a big difference.

 
This is a good point. Although, for me, there are plenty of things that cross over. Lots of my druidry and spirit-work with the land are somewhere between religious and magical.
"We're all stories, in the end. Make it a good one, eh?"
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