It has been a very, very long time since I wrote. A lot has happened, some of it good, some of it fair, some of it… well. There’s a curse for that.
Since my last post, I found myself in strange communities, having fallen out of a potential community, and free falling while adjusting to a new job and all sorts of mess. As we all do- we do live in a strange world, and there are all sorts of strangers here. Today, however, I want to talk about how we move forward after community drama and witchcraft “professionals”. And by “professionals” I mean people who “know all the things and are ‘experts’ in this thing called witchcraft”, whatever that may mean.
In my daily life, I work with technology. As a person who most often presents as female, I get my fair share of being told how things are done, and being told what should be done in certain ways. These little gems of information are packaged as “mansplaining”, and it’s something that’s been going on since the dawn of time. Women are not the only people subjected to mansplaining, but those who present as women do get it packaged in a different form sometimes. Our expertise is often in doubt, and, we are often expected to be either wowed or cowed by the delivers of such news. When I started to branch out to try and return to a more public facing occult practice, I was surprised to encounter the same attitude amongst pagans and witches. Of course, as someone who had studied germanic craft for as long as I have, I had been prepared for the lore thumpers and the general tone of “If you haven’t lore or archeology to back yourself up, then you are ignorant and wrong!” What I had not anticipated, having opened myself up to learn from the traditional witchcraft community and grimoire communities, was the strange way it manifested in that world.
It kept creeping up- from my fetch was obviously an imposter because it didn’t fit a certain individuals world view (who then, when they realized that I was not going to placate them, used my conception of fetch against me, lying and essentially trying to destabilize me), to more subtle forms: where I was being told how to run my business because Big Important Occultist didn’t know what the kind of work I do was, because they have never studied germanic craft and therefore it must not be a term ANYONE knows. Because Big Important Occultist is the master of all crafts, and if they don’t know it, then no one will.
I bring these two up for a really important reason: those Big Important People are not always in the know of everything. And, in both cases, they had flaws that were important for me to keep in mind. In the case of the Fetch Doesn’t Match guy, they were a narcissist, who felt that they could package cultus sabbati practices as UPG, without citation or sources listed, and generally believed that they could build a practice that looked more like D&D than a functional, expandable, breathable witchcraft practice. If they were questioned, then the questioner was made to feel stupid, and then be berated because their experience didn’t match their very limited rule based system. As I’ve distanced myself from this person, I’ve watched a lot of people reveal the damages that they have done. I had found my peace with it, but I see others who have not.
In the case of Big Important Occultist, I decided do more research into them. There’s nothing inherently damaging in what they do. Their perspective is of a complete and total adoption of Neo-liberal financial practices, and their occult practices are modeled on a colonialist perspective of neoliberal growth. They adapt and adopt any practice they see fit, and then package it up for sale as quickly as possible. This is their practice, and where I find it sad that this is a brand of magic, in the end after I realized that it’s okay that my ‘package’ doesn’t fit their neoliberal mold (and why would I want it to?) I moved on.
But, social media being what it is, moving on is really freakin’ hard.
(Peter Binsfeld, 1592 drawing, available in public domain)
So, how do we move on?
Both of these are small events in my life, where there have been far worse things occultists have done to effectively undermine and hurt me. But here’s some thoughts on this:
First, we have to give ourselves space to feel badly about these things. We have to give ourselves space to feel betrayal, angry at being led to feel stupid, and being upset about being ‘put in our place’. These are very real feelings, and they don’t just go away because we want them to. We have to let them be what they are, even if they are small betrayals.
Second, we have to walk away from these people. We have to hide them, unfriend them, and do whatever we need to to insure we aren’t exposed to them on a regular basis in our social media feeds. This is a really hard thing to do, because sometimes it means letting go of online communities that we got a lot of support from, have friends in, and generally don’t want to leave behind. I’ve had to do this a few times now, and it’s hard, but the payoff is so very worth it. I usually retain a couple of friends from these communities that I leave- those people I just can’t see not being in my life- and then just cut everyone else associated with these people out. It’s brutal, it may even look immature, but I don’t care any more.
Years ago, a teacher told me that they practice good magical hygiene when they threatened to stop being friends with me online because of an internet association I had made. I thought it was petty at first, and now I don’t think it’s as petty as it seems. We have to do what we have to do to be okay, to not deal with toxic energies and terrible people. These threads drip down in unforeseen ways, and we have to be okay with letting things go. If every time you turn on social media you are reminded of people who suck and drag you down, it filters in and hurts you, even if just a little bit. It’s okay to let go. There are other people to know in this world.
After I started to “let go” virtually, I felt better. And I was reminded of the writings of Dion Fortune on Psychic Self Defense. She suggests getting away from communities, taking breaks from magical practices, and all sorts of things to rebuild yourself after these terrible encounters. I see her ideas as quite useful now, where at first I thought they were arcane. But it’s true: you have to let yourself heal, and sometimes, that means making tough choices.
I’m lucky that I’ve retained good friends from all of the communities I’ve been a part of and left. The encounters above are mild compared to some of the witch wars and general stupidity I’ve had, but it doesn’t discount the reality that even minor encounters can be damaging- especially when the person doing the damage to us are Big Names.
Oh, and one last thing:
The spirit world is real, and when you encounter these people who do damaging things, just remember that you’ve had an encounter with profound unseen things (or you can still, if these wounds are happening before you’ve learned to trust).
You don’t have to lose your spirit friends, allies, and familiars just because some asshat witch/warlock/priest/occultist says so. They don’t get to take your magic away from you. Don’t give them that power or satisfaction. This is yours, you worked for it, and you are entitled and allowed to have it and keep it.