Eclecticism can meet with a certain level of scorn, judgment and/or dismissal by some in the Pagan Community. Some think that we’re just plain indecisive. Raymond Buckland even omits Eclectics from the conversation altogether in both his “Complete Book of Witchcraft” and “The Witch Book” –which is meant to be an encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca & Neo-Paganism.
The idea that this path is somehow “less valid” than the paths of those who follow more
“established” traditions– Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, Celtic, Romani, Strega, and British Traditional Witchcraft, just to name a few– doesn’t make sense to me. I know, I know you’re probably thinking “of course it doesn’t make sense to you, you’re one of those Eclectic Types”. Yes I am, but the reason it doesn’t make sense is held in the concept of “All Paths Lead to the Divine” that most pagans also tend to believe. It seems like some believe that one’s path must be an established path…but think about it…While Witchcraft, in one form or another, has been around for centuries, Wicca itself (in it’s capacity as a somewhat organized ‘non-organized religion’) is a fairly new path. So, viewing a path of Eclectic Witchcraft as somehow invalid in comparison seems rather short-sighted to me…but I guess that’s for others to discover in their own time.
ec·lec·tic [ih-klek-tik] adjective: 1. selecting or choosing from various sources. 2. made up of what is selected from different sources. 3. not following any one system, as of philosophy, medicine, etc., but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems.” dictionary.com
The spiritual world of the Eclectic Witch, or at least this Eclectic Witch, is not as easy as many may think. With the exception of my Core Beliefs, it has taken much time and study to form my personal practice (which is still under construction, even after almost 11 yrs of study). I also tend to disagree a bit with the definition of “eclectic” in that I didn’t select the components that make up the foundation of my practice. What I mean is, I didn’t set out at the beginning of my journey thinking I would end up with a little of this and a little of that…nor did I seek out the elements that my practice is comprised of. These elements presented themselves to me…but, I guess they were selected by someone, so I’ll not quibble about it.
My Core Beliefs are notions that have been with me for the majority of my life…they’ve just acquired shiny new labels along the way.
My Core Beliefs:
)O( Everything Happens for a Reason – Good/Evil, Sickness/Health, Happy Events/Sad Events…Everything we witness and experience has a lesson held somewhere within. The goal is to learn as much as possible, as this not only helps to understand and accept the events of One’s own Journey but also makes it possible to help others who may need assistance in understanding their own Journey.
)O( Everything is Connected – All living things and most matter are comprised of the same chemical elements. Beyond this, all things are made up of molecules, atoms, particles, etc…all of which are made of: Energy. Energy is exchanged between all things (albeit at different rates of exchange). I have sensed this connection between people, animals, and the whole of Nature since I was a child. As Carl Sagan once said: We are all made of star-stuff.
Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.” ~Carl Sagan
)O( Do No Harm, But Take No Shit. – I follow The Rede to the best of my humanly ability. I am not one who interprets it as a license for others to use me as a doormat, however. I try my best not to impose harm on any living creature (Mosquitoes and roaches are exempt from this though…I just can’t abide them *shudders*, so I’m willing to risk any Universal repercussions), but as The Rede is meant to not impose harm upon anyone including myself, I have no problem defending myself or my loved ones…whether that includes physical or magickal means (These are not to be used casually).
)O( Justice is Blind, Karma Sees Everything, and Boy do They Talk! – Meaning, that if you are going to do something, be mindful that there may be consequences and you should be prepared for them. If you ask for true Justice in any given situation, be prepared to pay for whatever part you may have played in the event, even if your part was unintended.
My Primary Deities:
)O( Hecate – Greek/Thracian Goddess of the Crossroads, Transformation, Childbirth, Witchcraft, Justice
)O( Anubis – Egyptian God of the Dead/Underworld, Embalming, Keeper of Poisons & Medicines, Protector of the Scales. Patron of Lost Souls & Orphans.
)O( Brighid – Celtic Goddess of Fire: the Fire of Poetic Inspiration and Divination, the Fire of Healing and Fertility, and the Fire of Metal-Working and Crafts
)O( Pan – Greek God of Nature, Shepherds, Flocks, Goats, Mountain Regions, Sexuality and Fertility
)O( Danu – Celtic Goddess of Fertility, Knowledge, Wisdom, Abundance, Mother of the Faeries, Protector of the Land and Waters
)O( Ganesha – Hindu God of Education, Knowledge, Wisdom and Wealth, Lord of Obstacles and Lord of Success
Now, this group of Gods & Goddesses may seem like quite an odd mash-up to most. In fact it was even odd for me for a while. Each of these deities revealed themselves to me in their own time…I never went looking for them, as I never expected to have any other ‘regular’ Gods & Goddesses beyond Hecate & Anubis, but they seem to have other ideas.
Yesterday it occurred to me why this group is indeed perfect for me (something THEY were all undoubtedly aware of). As Pagans and Witches we are very often talking about the belief that we all contain the Divine within. Well, when looking at my seemingly indiscriminate Pantheon, I discovered that each one of the deities it contains speak to the very traits, skills, drives, and desires that make me who I am. This group truly represents the core of my being…I have to say, that was one hell of a revelation!
New discoveries and ideas regarding my practice are coming to me every day it seems…and what I’ve shared with you is really just a glimpse at some of the bones of its structure. The idea was to convey the message that Eclecticism is not a willy-nilly flight of fancy, but a legitimate spiritual path that is not always chosen, but is sometimes thrust upon those who embark upon it. Not to say that there aren’t a good many flakes out there using the Eclectic brand…but, aren’t there a few in every religion? lol However, even the ‘flakes’ are on a path…who the hell am I to say they’re wrong?
But I digress…
It can sometimes be quite difficult to find the connections between the components of one’s spiritual system. This is true regardless of what path you follow. There are always revelations and epiphanies to be had…always a new level of understanding and connectedness to be achieved. Witchcraft, whatever the tradition, is a path of Mystery. It can often seem dark, unknowable, even daunting…but the discoveries we make along the way illuminate the next portion of our Path, whatever label we may give it.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past week, and frankly, I think the Dark gets a bad rap in the eyes of many in the Pagan community. I’m not just talking about hexes/curses here (they are a part of this conversation, but I’ll get to that later).
I’m starting off by what many seem to forget as being part of the “Dark Side” of Magick: The Shadow Self. Shadow work is diving deep within yourself and facing all the things your Ego has shoved below the surface as a coping mechanism. A lot of this shoving of nasties into the boxes of our mind occurs when we’re growing up because we’re just not emotionally equipped to deal with them yet…others get shoved in along the way because we think we’ll be ridiculed, or embarrassed if others don’t see the quality in a certain aspect of our personality. These mind box dwellers are our fears, our rage, our unbridled lust…anything your Ego may have seen as a sure sign you would be marked an outcast by society and/or your peers. Huge Props to Carl Jung for introducing this portion of our Psyche to us *Insert Old School Arsenio Hall Dog Pound woofs and fist pumps here*.
Personally, I’ve been delving into this dark, sometimes murky, place within myself for most of my life…which is probably why Hecate was destined to be my Main Goddess-Squeeze (yup, just called Hecate my Main Squeeze, it’s ok, She digs me. 😉 ). Walking a torch-lit path of Self & Universal exploration that has lead to more periods of transformation than I could shake a freaking stick at, and I know there are more to be had along the way.
“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.”–Carl Jung
Here’s my Pixie Geek Epiphany on the subject: Even Yoda knew that Luke must face his own Darkness when he sent him into the cave on Dagobah. When Luke asks him what’s in the cave, The Jedi Master replies “Only what you take with you”. Which turned out to be the fear of and anger towards Vader…and that he may destroy himself in the process of destroying his enemy. (I also believe this scene embodied his fear that a great Darkness resided in himself as well).
Yoda says “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” This is correct…if all of these feelings go unchecked. However, if you acknowledge them and then set them aside –much like we’re taught to do with thoughts of “what should we have for dinner” during meditation– we are then able to focus our energy on what needs to be done. Luke had to accept and acknowledge his darkest fears in order to be able to effectively channel that energy into fulfilling his destiny along the Path of Light: Restoring Balance to the Galaxy. (I think this is something Luke discovers and fully processes between episodes, and is echoed in Luke’s attire in Return of the Jedi. As the “white knight” of the story, he now wears black.)
And now we get down to the nitty gritty that’s bound to get some people’s knickers in a twist: Curses *Dun Dun DUNNNNN!!*
I’ve been reading a lot of opinions on the subject and decided to have a little “Witch Chat” with a friend, let’s call him “M” (for Magnificent!), who is quite skilled in this arena and see what insight I could gain from his experience. I found that much of what I had discovered through my research coincided with his hands-on knowledge.
I kept encountering different versions of a quote…that quote got me thinking, so I decided to see if I could track down it’s origin. I was finally able to attribute it to Z. Budapest (Now, whether she was the FIRST Witch to say this, I have no idea, but if anyone happens to know, I’m all ears!)
“If you cannot hex, you cannot heal. If you cannot curse, you cannot cure.” – Z. Budapest
This idea intrigued me, and does make a certain amount of sense. Basically, if you don’t know the ins and outs of how hexes and curses work, how can you effectively counter them? Think of it in terms of another sort of healer: The Doctor (and, unfortunately, I do not mean the one that get’s to fly around in a blue box through the whole of time and space…*sigh*). For a physician to be able to cure their patient, they must first understand the disease and how it works. This knowledge comes as a result of much study, both from books, and in a lab. Studying how a particular virus reacts with this, that and whatever. These diseases are also generally studied on lab animals to test treatments. While this is the ‘darker side’ of the medical world, it is generally thought to be for the Greater Good of humanity.
Staying with the physician angle, the phrase “First Do No Harm” comes to mind…Sounds a lot like our own Wiccan Rede, right? This widely used nugget of wisdom, thought by most folks to be part of the Hippocratic Oath, was actually coined by Thomas Inman around 1860. Regardless of its origin, it is held in high regard in the medical community, and seems to be a rather sound ideal.
Here’s the thing though, a surgeon must cause harm in order to heal their patient…you heard me right they MUST cause harm in order to heal. They have to cut through layers of tissue, and sometimes remove organs or masses.
A curse or hex can be used in the same manor. A localized strike to eradicate the cause of a malignant situation. I also believe that, much like surgery, all other options–both mundane and magickal– should be considered heavily before easing on down the cursing road.
“We all need to look into the dark side of our nature – that’s where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we’re busy denying.” ~ Sue Grafton (Mystery Author)
My wonderfully insightful conversation with “M” also brought up the notion that most people, including most “regular folks”, curse one another rashly & irresponsibly on a daily basis. Think about it…a great many things have escaped our lips in the heat of anger when someone cuts us off in traffic. As Witches we realize that “thoughts are things” and we (hopefully) carry that practice over to our mundane lives. Understanding the Power that resides within your words and actions helps us to better choose the appropriate time and place to wield it.
My Mother ingrained the phrase “There’s a time and a place for everything” into my consciousness at a very young age, and I think it also applies to the act of Cursing & Hexing. One could even say that, on occasion an act of “Compassionate Cursing” may be in order. Alright, yes, I see the confused and perplexed looks on many faces, so let me explain what I mean.
Contemporary Thelemite Ryan Murray points out in his lecture “Curses, Hexes, and the Magical Destruction of One’s Enemies“, that Aleister Crowley defines Compassion as “A rooting out of the weeds and a watering of the flowers”. Which is to say we feed and nurture the beautiful, while destroying that wich sucks the life/beauty/energy out of that which is beautiful (Murray uses the term ‘Vampiric’, which seems to bring the point home quite well). He makes the point that a Compassionate Gardner removes/destroys the weeds because, if allowed to remain, the Gardner would eventually have no flowers, fruits or vegetables because the weeds will have taken over. (I have had this happen…it’s not pretty, lol)
In a Magickal context, there may be things/situations that act as weeds in our lives, sucking the nourishment from the very soil that surrounds us (or someone we wish to help) while overtaking us as we become weaker (What can I say, I love a good analogy!). In such situations, when we’ve tried everything else –weed blocker/mulch/crushed stones (which equate to protection Magick and mundane avenues in the “real” world) it may become necessary to take on the role of the Compassionate Gardner, and eradicate the problem swiftly, and deftly…with the least amount of upheaval to the garden as a whole, in order to save it and help it to thrive…and to regain Balance. (Oooooo, there’s that dreaded “B” word, showing its bumpy self in yet another post!)
“The more we deny that we have a dark side, the more power it has over us.” ~Sheryl Lee
Whether or not you wish to explore what can be achieved by tapping into your own ‘Dark Power’, Your Dark Side should at least be confronted, and integrated into the “whole” of your being, in order for you to be able to realize your full potential in both your magickal and mundane life.
My purpose for writing this post was not to start a heated debate on “Light” vs. “Dark” Magick…mainly because Magick is Magick. It has no color, it just is. When I was younger, I used to think in absolutes. Things were either right or wrong, black or white, this or that, but I have come to firmly believe that the Monkees were on to something when they sang “Shades of Gray”. My purpose was to get you to think, to question, to explore, and to challenge things you thought you knew…or to simply see another point of view in an objective manner.
Oh, and the cookies?? Turns out they were actually Nuggets of Wisdom in the form of quotes…So, I guess all those T-shirts were mistaken 😉
I first dedicated myself to my Witchy ways in 2003. In 2004 I was fortunate enough to discover my Patron Deities, and as of today, I have been approached and called upon to work with 4 others. I’ve researched, and continue to research, their respective mythologies, their origins, and the cultures they each emerged from (As it’s quite an eclectic bunch, there is a ton to discover!). I always pay close attention when they are mentioned in books, and I love to examine artistic renditions of their images.
With all of this research and dedication on my part to learn all I can about them, the thing I think I’ve been lacking is a commitment to make a conscious connection with at least one of them on a daily basis. This never used to bother me, as I do (usually) remember to acknowledge at least one of my Patrons before I head off to dreamland…but lately, I’m feeling like it’s time to deepen my bond with my entire personal pantheon.
The feeling has gotten stronger since I wrote the coven’s open Imbolc ritual this year. Brighid, while not my Patroness, is one of my Goddesses, and this was the first time I had written anything in honor of her. I was inspired to write chants, and create an Imbolc oil that I used to anoint the candles used in our working, and it felt AMAZING to do all of this in honor of Her, and it has driven me to want to do more for Her and the rest of my beloved Gods & Goddesses.
It is only through devotion, and devotion alone, that you will realize the absolute truth.” ~Buddha
So now I am in the planning stages of creating prayers, chants and/or poems to use as a means to show my devotion to them all on a daily basis, along with an oil to anoint myself with each day as I do so. Just the decision to embark on this new adventure in my personal practice has filled me with joy, and I already get the feeling that I am on my way to having a much deeper and fulfilling connection with the Divine.
And isn’t that is exactly the point? Connectedness is what we seek when we walk along the Path of the Wise. Connectedness with Nature, with Community, and with Divine is only possible if we are devoted to achieving it. The deeper our Devotion, the deeper our level of Connectedness, and the more likely we are to discover our own Truth…at least that’s what I believe.
So how do you go about it? Well, there really aren’t any “rules”, but here are a few things to keep in mind when starting a practice of Daily Devotionals:
- Size Doesn’t Matter – Devotionals can be as long or as short as you wish.
- To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question – While it may seem ideal to write your own, if you come across a poem, chant or prayer that speaks what your heart feels, it’s perfectly ok to use it!
- No Frills Required – Stones, Candles, Circles, Oils, or other Magickal ‘Bells and Whistles’ aren’t necessary, but if you feel the need, by all means go for it.
- They’re Portable – Devotionals can be done wherever you happen to be, no special room or space necessary.
- Timing Isn’t Everything – While some may feel the need to have a set schedule for honoring their deities (Upon rising, meal times, before bed, etc…) It is only necessary if you feel it is.
- Daily Does It – Consistency is the key to developing the relationship with the Divine that you seek. So, regardless of when you choose to perform your devotionals on any given day, the act of doing them Daily is the point. Not to say you won’t miss a day here and there, as we all know: Crap Happens. But if you do miss a day, get right back on that devotional horse the next day.