Areas of Expertise

It seems like I’m writing a lot of “inspired by” posts lately, but there’s just been so much awesome in the air that it just makes me want to participate.  Alison Leigh Lilly and John Becket have been discussing the need for us each to specialize somewhat, rather than to be Experts in All Things Pagan.  Having once, myself, wanted desperately to be such an EiATP, I am more than sympathetic.  Mr. Becket has outlined a variety of disciplines that he thinks people might divide themselves between.  Inevitably, I feel the need to place myself within it.

Mystics. These are the people who are walking between the worlds: the shamans and hedgewitches. They experience gods, spirits and the Otherworld directly, and some of those experiences are as real to them as your experience of today’s lunch.

This is very much the primary direction my practice has been taking over the last several years.  As strange as things have been getting, I know that I am only beginning to push the far edge of “Novice”.  I have a long way to go on this road before I’m ready to get off, and things are only going to get stranger.  Of all my callings, this is one of the strongest.

Magicians. From the high magic ceremonialists to the low magic kitchen witches, these people are all about causing change in conformance with Will.

Readers of this blog know that, having neglected it for much of my life, this is where the majority of my efforts are currently focused.  I will not be one of the great magicians of my generation, but it it my hope to someday be much better than I am.  And I hope that my experiments will be informative and inspirational to others.

Environmentalists. Whether they see the Earth as a living being or simply as the only planet we’ve got, these people emphasize living sustainably and with deep concern and respect for other creatures and ecosystems.

While these issues are deeply important to me, the fact is that they take a back seat to almost everything else.  Although I will strive to live ever-more sustainably throughout my, and recognize the intersectionality of environmental issues, an absolute dedication to environmentalism requires more sacrifice than I can currently afford.

Advocates for Justice. The political Pagans, questing for the rights of religious minorities and for an end to exploitation of the environment and of the poor.

Like environmentalism, this is a hugely important issue that I simply can’t make enough time for.  Unlike environmentalism, I’m trying a lot harder.  My social justice work, so far, consists largely of striving to live a publicly feminist and sex-positive life, and calling out people on issues when I see them.  This is insufficient.  I want to start volunteering with the local Planned Parenthood, and the campus sexual violence and queer organizations.

Artists. Writers, poets, musicians, dancers, painters, film makers, sculptors, liturgists, costume designers and all the people who articulate Pagan concepts and practices and who make them beautiful.

The conection between art and magic is something that I have dabbled in my whole life, but only recently begun to explore seriously.  Devotional images, masks, talismans and tools, even a bit of poetry (people who know me will laugh at this; I hate poetry, and I’m terrible at it).  Tattoo art, sigils, tarot decks, visual meditations.

I’ve been drawing since I was a child.  It is inevitable that would eventually find a way into my magic.

Culturists. Historians, anthropologists, folklorists, linguists and others who study what our pagan ancestors believed and did. Some attempt to re-create or re-imagine ancient practices, while others simply try to understand our ancestors so we can better honor them.

I am currently attending college to study History and Classical Greek.  I have long said that the neo-Pagan movement needs better scholarship.  Happily, we have been getting better scholarship, particularly in the last decade or so, particularly in the reconstructionist quarters, but not limited to that.  I intend to be part of that trend: to help reconnect the neoPagan movement to the Graeco-Roman tradition it so often invokes by advancing the field of scholarship in the mystery cults and providing translations and adaptations that are both accurate and relevant to modern Paganism.

Priests. Priests and priestesses serve their gods and goddesses and they serve their religious communities. They are the glue that holds covens, groves and other groups together. They do the planning, organizing and leading of our seasonal celebrations and other rites.

Some day I hope to build a temple.  Until then, I will do what I can to aid other priests.

Theologians and Philosophers. (added on prompting from Alison Lilly) The people who study our beliefs and practices and organize them into a rational framework that helps us understand and explain our experiences.

As much as it fascinates me, this is not really my work.  I don’t have the mindset for formal logic, nor the patience to write apologia for an unsympathetic world.  Instead, I will provide the primary sources for those theologians and philosophers to contemplate and cite: “Here’s the crazy shit I did.  It was awesome; I’m’a gonna go do it again.  Someone else make sense of it.”

That’s an awful lot of areas of expertise for me to try to lay claim to.  Life will probably whittle me down a bit further.  But no one achieves greatness without trying for something more.  Fame happens by accident, but not greatness.

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2 Comments

Filed under art, scholarship, witchcraft

2 responses to “Areas of Expertise

  1. I don’t know. Specializing sounds great, in theory. But I still feel these distillations of the way we interact with the divine are somewhat disingenuous. As a “magician,” for example you need the focus of an artist to make really beautiful “magical weapons.” Obviously, no one is *required* to do so. Yeats’ weapons look like a child scrawled magical symbols on them with crayons. If you want to write breath-taking rituals, you need some poetical skills. And so on. And while he author you linked to indicated that one could “dabble” in all of the above, I feel he still does the community a massive disservice – though unlikely on purpose – by suggesting that there is some sort’ve dividing line between theurgical mysticism and thaumaturgical prowess.

    That is perhaps my biggest issue. It is convenient to break up experiences like astral travel from thaumaturgical Magick. But, alas, I have discovered that a thaumaturge without the ability to travel astrally or maintain astral sight is a sad, pathetic caricature of what he or she could be instead. It may not he true for everyone, but I have found my “astral sight” has developed as a byproduct of meditation, gaze tehniques, and astral travel. Without these things, it would be much harder to protect myself, or even gain information to become better at thaumaturgy.

    It is, in my opinion, a false dichotomy. And one that must end.

    • You raise some valid points which I had failed to consider.

      Part of what sparked my renewed interest in ceremonial magic, in fact, was the realization–facilitated by Dion Fortune’s instructional novels and Mary K Greer’s /Women of the Golden Dawn/, which heavily emphasized the role of astral/visionary work in the Golden Dawn–that there was more overlap between that work and the work that was already familiar to me.

      The distinction between advocacy for environmental versus social justice is similarly problematic. The two overlap strongly in terms of effort, methodology, and even ideal, differing chiefly in to whom they are writing their letters and in front of whom they are protesting. Interestingly, there is sometimes (in my experience, at least) a similar disconnect and animosity between the people who identify with one rather than the other.

      Such distinctions are always arbitrary, and often problematic. I still think that the core thesis–that one need not be an expert in All Things Pagan–is correct, but you are also right: one needs to more than “dabble” outside one’s chosen area of expertise, particularly when there are broader implications and applications to the core skill sets.

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