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I was reading recently about a book that takes on the differences between world religions. The book is called God is not One, by Stephen Prothero. Caveat: I have not read the book, only several articles about it, but I liked the premise enough to want to ponder it in the context of Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft (because those religions aren’t included in his book, as far as I can tell).

Anyway, the basic premise is that each religion answers a major problem about the world (or a major question):

Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
Confucianism: the problem is chaos / the solution is social order
Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening

And I was wondering if Wicca fit into that. I’ve asked my HPS about it (I’m officially an apprentice to their coven now, which is exciting and crazy all at the same time), and got her answer, but I think this might be one of those times where there isn’t one right answer. This path is so experiential that I can see a lot of different “right” answers.

So what do you think? What is the question about the world that Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism answers?

Or, to word it another way, to what question is “Wicca” (or Paganism, or Witchcraft) the answer?

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Short version: I start my new job in about a week!

Long version: After doing some opportunity-drawing magic, I found a job opening at a friend’s company and jumped on it. Several interviews and quite a lot of magic later, I was offered the position. I did most of the work for the interviews, as preparation to help present the best side of myself, as well as a good bit of visualizing myself in their office, working at the desk they had open, with a business card with my new title on it.

Probably the most work I’ve done with a single focus in a long time – I usually do most of my workings on the fly, as I need them. This took a good bit of preparation and the like. While it was effective, I’m not sure it’s my favorite way to do the magic – I like things a little simpler than that!

 

Magical Employment

Both my husband and I are going through some job related situations lately – his because of a coworker/superior that’s causing a lot of frustration, and mine because I am so beyond done working in retail. (The holiday season has reinforced this, even though I’m working part time right now.)

It’s caused two different sorts of magic to be ongoing, one a sort of road opening spell for husband’s coworker (who is not a bad person, just… really shouldn’t be in the job he’s in) and one a different sort of spell that I’m still working the nuts and bolts out of as I prepare to start job hunting again.

I don’t want to jump right into the job hunt just yet – for one thing because major change and I are on tenuous terms (my anxiety does a lot better when I get a chance to step through things in a process rather than jumping in head first without looking).

So instead of doing a full out job-searchy type spell, I’ve done several smaller things, geared more towards helping me prepare mentally for the whole process of job searching. The last time I was unemployed, it took a big toll on my resources, so I want to avoid feeling drained like that this time (which will, I’m sure, be aided by the fact that I still HAVE a job, of course). It’s also easier, when working holiday retail, to do several smaller steps towards job search magic. With a ton of other stuff going on, adding in a bunch of large planning for magic working just makes my brain hurt.

After reading up on Divination in Paul Huson’s book Mastering Witchcraft, I’ve been inspired to get back to doing frequent Tarot card draws (If you’ve not read the discussion over at The Used Key, you’re missing out!)

Of course, by “inspired” I kind of mean reading it I felt rather sheepish and inadequate about how little divination I’ve done lately, but whatever. Life is nothing if not a constant stream of turning over new leaves.

Today – Friday November 4th – I drew the Six of Swords:

This card, to me, suggests a time of renewal – a relief or an escape from the troubles and trials that usually come with the Swords. The past – whatever is behind the characters in the card – is blurred out and unreachable, they’re moving into new territory, shepherded by a hermit figure.

Given all the hell I’ve been through lately with mental health stuff, and feeling pretty relieved to be on the other side of it, I can identify pretty strongly with this card today. It’s encouraging, in a way, to know that even though sometimes it seems hard, and a lot of times stuff sucks, there is a moving forward. It’s also a challenge for me to really let go of some old stuff that I’ve been lugging around.

I’ve also gotten more Sword cards since I started working with my coven – the Ace of Swords comes up a lot, as did the 4 of Swords for awhile. I’m hoping this is a good progression, and not a suggestion that at some point, I’m going to wake up in the 9 or 10 of Swords!!

Wren Watching

All my life, it seems, I’ve had a weird kind of connection to wrens.

They lived in my yard as a kid, and slept in the wreath my mom kept on the back porch. In college, there was a wren’s nest in the courtyard of my apartment complex. Once I got married, they slept in the wreath on the front door of our apartment, and would come and drink from the saucers under the potted plants on the porch. And now, in our house, they’ve been hanging out all around the place, even raising a clutch of babies in the wreath by the front door last spring.

Wren, from the Druid Animal Oracle

Four places in a row that I’ve had wrens as active parts of my yard and local experience – and at least two of them from before I had any inkling of Paganism in my life. (I didn’t know that there was such a thing AS Paganism until I got to college, though I did some admittedly Pagan things growing up.)

Right now the wrens are back to sleeping in the front porch wreath – a perfect place to sleep in any weather except a direct east wind, which we so rarely get that they’re happy to snuggle up there, where it’s warm, protected from the wind, and free of cats. It’s also a good place to dive-bomb anyone who goes door to door in my neighborhood…

The ones in my yard here are Carolina Wrens, who chirp mightily at the cats and sing their “teakettle!teakettle!teakettle!” song from the top of my woodpile. They also like eating bugs in my herb garden. They look just like the wren in the card image above and are quite adorable with their little round bodies, bopping around the patio with their tails straight up.

A little bit of Google-Fu turns up a lot of information about Druidic/Celtic belief in wrens as symbols of musical poetry, art, and song – which makes sense for all their singing. They’re also seen as messengers of the Gods, particularly the god of Thunder and Lightning (Taranis) and is often seen with the Oak tree.

What that means for me specifically, I’m not sure yet. I think it’s well past time that I actually asked the wrens why they’re here and if they have a message for me.

Magical Names

Trothwy, over at The Used Key, has been publishing a discussion on Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft (after having discussed it with a book club that I only got to attend once, to my great disappointment). She’s posted several chapters worth of responses from various public and published Witches, and I’ve been following along eagerly.

I’d not run into Huson’s book before – and I’m really not sure why, when I’ve gone looking for older, more traditional Witchcraft books in the past. Perhaps I needed to be reading it now instead of then. Either way, I’ve enjoyed reading it, as Huson doesn’t pull any punches with regards to power and craft. There’s no “only good magic is allowed” fluff – magic is magic, for good or ill. I’m of the opinion that occasionally it’s right to step into a negative situation magically (even if I don’t hex the toenails off people nearly as often as I ponder the idea).

Anyway, so I was thinking about the discussion on Chapter 2, and since the comments there have focused on tools and crafting them (and whether or not using blood in the consecration of an athame is acceptable – it’s excellent, you should check it out), I thought I’d take my little ponderings on Witch Names over here.

(I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, so we’ll consider it just an exercise in random thought.)

See… I don’t have a craft name.

I have the name I use here – River Daughter. I have a name I go by elsewhere on the internet. And I have a legal name.

I’ve thought for years about magical names, but never really come up with one I thought I could use consistently. I’ve even tried on a few – usually animal names like Rabbit or Little Owl – and never really felt like I was connected to them in a meaningful way. I’ve even thought of using River Daughter as a magical name, but it felt too weird, having already used it online in various places for awhile. If a magical name is supposed to be secret, the name I use to blog sure ain’t.*

So, for most magic, I use my legal name, since that’s the most personal name I have. I feel it’s appropriate for me to use that name when I’m working with the Gods.

Which is weird, and sometimes makes me feel a little inadequate, to be honest. Everyone ELSE gets a cool new name, how come I can’t come up with one I like? (that’s my 4th grader voice, by the way)

I mean, people talk about magical names all the time – especially online. Which I also don’t understand, as this is The Internet ™ where EVERYTHING is public. Why would you even want to share something secret with the whole flipping world? It’s almost like a right of passage with newbie pagans, and so they want to show it off, in the same breath that they talk about how the Gods give out magical names and they’re super secret and powerful.

Circular thinking is circular.

Maybe I don’t have a specific craft name because I haven’t truly needed it and haven’t felt the need to adopt one just to have it. Would I like one? Sure. I love the idea, and I think Huson has some good steps for finding some names that might work. I think a Witch Name might even have power, should I choose to give it power.

I don’t think names have too much innate power, beyond the “particularness” of a person – they can be useful in magic, but so can a piece of hair or an old belonging. When you’re identifying someone, it’s the particularness that matters, not the name.

But with a name comes an identity, and mental cues are extremely powerful to the subconscious. If every time I do magic, I identify myself with a special name, that name becomes a trigger for my unconscious that magic is about to happen. In a way, the names I use on the internet already act as those cues. When I am writing as River Daughter, I know that has a certain context (this blog, and other pagan blogs and websites), and I know that I am speaking publicly. Signing in to the blog becomes a cue that this is public speaking, so to speak. Those names also afford me a level of protection online. It’s possible for someone to track Real Me down only knowing Online Me, but it takes a good bit of work. If I used my legal name here, it would be a lot easier.

Which I guess works in a witchcraft sense as well. If you’re just getting to know someone, it’s much safer to use an assumed “craft” name (where I would use River Daughter, in this example) instead of your legal name, especially if you’re not public about your involvement in the craft. There are a lot of places where being “out of the broom closet” could cause a lot of problems. But I see that as different than a Witch name, and I think Huson does as well (at least in this particular instance). The name I’d tell random strangers to keep them from following me home is different than the name I would use to work with the Gods.

There’s also a level of permanence to a craft name – if I want to introduce myself to the Gods, I want it to be with a name that means something, either to me personally or within a tradition (should I get that far), and not a name I just picked out of a book. Though I suppose if your method of divination is flipping through books, you could bring yourself to a focused state and grab a book of magical names/words/herbs, choosing one by blindly pointing at it. (With my luck, I’d end up pointing at a name like Belchweed or somesuch.)

Anyway, as mentioned, I’m not entirely sure where this is going. I’ve not had a big revelation in thinking about it, only peeled back a few more layers of the onion.

I still don’t have a craft name. And I still kinda wish I did.*

*Also, I’d be concerned that everyone would assume I’d picked up the name River/River Daughter from Firefly, and not from Tolkien. For some reason that matters.
**Maybe I’d not use it even if I DID have it. Who knows?

I’ve tried recently to be more open about some of the things I struggle with alongside learning the Witchy stuff, talking about them with my HPS/HP – especially now that I’ve apprenticed with their coven – and generally not trying to hide the stuff that’s going on. Mostly it’s major mental health struggles, for which I am in a lot of therapy, taking a handful of medications, and doing magic to help manage (some things never go away, but they can be managed and made livable).

But when things get really sticky, as they have the last few days thanks to a major fuckup with the doctor’s office, it’s hard to follow through with plans for magic and witchcraft.

Tonight is the full Hunter’s moon, and I had planned to do a ritual in celebration and do some magic to help with my current job struggles. Instead, I’m going to content myself with tea in moonlight and focusing on being present to experience the magic that is *this moment* – my brain can’t handle anything more right now. Leaning on my meditation practice doesn’t feel as witchy as a full moon ritual, but I have to keep reminding myself it’s only wise to do what I can do, and not try to do more. *

Sometimes it makes me wonder if I’m cut out to be a “real” witch, because I can’t control my own mind, and the crazy!brain takes over instead of the part of me that I’m familiar with and I can work with.

(Then I wonder what a “real” witch is, if not someone who is self aware enough to recognize and not do magic when shit gets bad?)

*While what I struggle with doesn’t hold a candle to Lupus, the Spoon Theory is a good one for those unfamiliar with the idea of ever-changing amounts of mental currency. Link is a PDF.