I Cannot Forsake Myself.

Almost 35 years old, I’ve gone back and forth between believing in something and nothing, in myself and only what I can perceive with my senses. I’ve investigated Catholicism, Judaism, different denominations of Christianity and then, for some time, decided there was no God. Or if there was a God, I certainly didn’t care because God certainly did not care for me. An essential port in the emotional storm of my youth was Wicca. I was introduced to it by a friend in middle school during the mid 1990’s when the occult captured the American imagination and it was fashionable to be broody and mysterious. My Judeo-Christian upbringing pushed up against the allure of this ancient and esoteric spiritual path. One that offered a means of taking control of a world that tossed me around like a cat toy. To this day I remember being preoccupied with a song lyric from Matthew Sweet’s Dark Secret, in the film, The Craft: “And if the world won’t understand you, you can make it disappear.” I worried that I was getting in over my head when I seemed to be making things happen, casting working spells, sometimes without an actual spell even! A few strands of hair and an incantation in a home-brew ritual and suddenly cruel classmates are being sent home ill and suffering other misfortunes. I soon walked away from what I thought was Wicca. At the time I didn’t understand that cursing others is not a Wiccan practice at all. Wicca is a religious path that affirms life, embracing love and light.

I would revisit Wicca during periods of spiritual crisis, much in the way some Christians only give any thought to their God when someone dies or when they are at their most desperate. One such time visited me only a year ago, when I felt myself buckling under the pressure of adulthood at a time when I should have been equipped to handle these. Being in my mid-30’s and having matured, so I’d hoped anyway, the demands of society that I be somewhat self reliant should leave me undaunted. Yet I struggled. I felt myself sinking and even a kind of madness creeping into my psyche. I worried I might be breaking down. So once more, I sought out the Goddess and the God for strength and insight. I dug up some Tarot cards I’d been neglecting, set up an altar with what I could find on Amazon and in boxes left unopened for years prior. Through practice, with meditation and study, I found myself able to face the world more effectively. I’d resolved this time however, I was not going to take what I needed from Wicca and then abandon it until I had use of it again. So I set about erecting a proper altar, working Sabbat and Esbat observances into my schedules, and stockpiling provisions like candles, incense and herbs. Most importantly, I started to furnish my own little library with selections on Tarot, Astrology, histories on Witchcraft and the occult, manuals of Wiccan practice and books on mythology. I was not going to merely dabble when the occasion suited me. I set out to make myself a true practitioner of the magickal arts, a supplicant of nature, a mystic: a witch.

I’d maintained focus and dedication for some months, but as I’d grown stronger and my need weaker, I fell away from regular spiritual practice again. Wicca and Witchcraft (these terms not used interchangeably, but in concert), are not paths for the casual student or spiritual tourist. Provisions can become expensive, study takes time and focus and practice even more of both. Even though I have some experience and exposure, and identify myself a Witch, if a neophyte, there is a great deal to learn before I can claim anything like a First Degree. To even get to this point, I’d need to complete my 366 days of study; a period during I would be expected to maintain regular study and practice. Therein lies my challenge. Life is filled with distractions. In fact, for most people, outside of those awful places where our paychecks are held hostage, distractions are all we have. Studying toward degrees of Witchcraft however, are in-depth personal projects of self exploration and spiritual connection. It is every bit as involved as study toward  a degree you earn in secondary or post-secondary school. Which is all the more nerve racking if you are actually pursing degrees of witchcraft and education concurrently, as I soon will be.

With a renewed focus on study and meditation, so I may prepare my first Book of Shadows, I’ve decided to keep this online Mirror Book. Here I will set down pre-writing that accompany designs in my sketch book, the prayers, incantations, chants and mantras I keep in a handwritten journal and the study notes I keep in an electronic notebook. The products of all these will become entries in my master Book of Shadows. I can’t say I know when I will fill the nearly 300 pages of the oversized bound black book. Before I start college again in the fall, my goal is to at least get some of the basics down, some fundamentals of magick, Wicca and Witchcraft. Such entries should include general tenets of my spiritual practice such as the 4 elements, the goddess and god, meditation and energy raising, circlecasting and observation of the esbats and sabbats.

My very closest and most beloved friend told me once that I only ever seemed really happy when I was involved in some form of the occult. Somehow this connection with primal universal forces brings me to serenity, calms the stirring madness within me. I sometimes wonder if I am not sharing my body with an enemy, working to actively undermine my goals or break me apart. Perhaps there really is some kind of chemical imbalance or  borderline personality. In any case, I have some to understand that I require a well maintained spiritual condition in order to continue functioning, to be productive and useful. These are things I need and I cannot forsake myself.