Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a lot of questions surrounding information that some author put in their book.
“Do I have to follow everything that is in this ritual?”
“The author said that this was the way to do this type of magickal spell work, but I don’t see the need for this/that component/process.”
“Do all Druids/Witches/Pagans do things this way?”
I get these folks’ perspectives. Much of what I do as a Druid runs somewhat counter to what I have been taught. In discussions, I tend to catch a lot of flak over the changes that I make and the things that I exclude. I try my best to explain that I did things the way it was explained and taught to me. But I still catch the lower level of Nine Hells for making changes. And I catch even more of the lower levels of the Nine Hells when I tell people that what I have learned through OBOD is not the freaking gospel either. I have been told I am not a “proper” Druid because I don’t do things exactly the way I was taught. Well, my normal default answer is a lyric from a Garth Brooks song:
Well, I guess I was wrongGarth Brooks, Friends in Low Places
I just don’t belong
But then, I’ve been there before
Everything’s all right
I’ll just say goodnight
And I’ll show myself to the door
Don’t take this as me leaving OBOD, that’s simply not the case at all. This is me not falling into line with what I perceive as an aspect of fundamentalism. See…I don’t see much of what is in Paganism to be a “set in stone” moment, particularly when it comes to ritual and spell work. There’s a basic framework that you work from, but even that framework can be altered. To me, the idea is to embrace what the ritual is about – not the framework. The idea is to manage your intent in spell work, not be overly worried about whether what you have developed adheres to some structural aspect. Now, for some folks that framework and structural component…it matters to their practice. it provides them a stable aspect to which they can relate to. Honestly? There’s not a single thing wrong with that, at all. For me, it doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.
For example, casting a circle for ritual. I don’t. I don’t want an implied barrier between myself and the Universe around me. I want my rituals to be open for any and all to come forth and witness…so long as They do so in peace and love. However, for spell work or ritual that has a spell component attached to it…I do want that circle barrier. So that I can work with the magick I raise and not worry that I unleash my intent beyond the narrow focus that I am working with. Most of that probably runs counter to what a lot of folks do. I not only understand that I also respect that. Because everyone will take their own unique approach, even those that follow a prescribed framework or structural perspective.
But here’s where I may rub a few people the wrong way. I would posit that what is written in books, journal articles, and even in blogs (particularly this one) are merely guidelines and suggestions. Or to quote Captain Barbossa….
“First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner!”
See, authors and writers will write what they know and how they do things. If it’s the very first time you are doing something that they have written about – by all means, I suggest that you follow everything exactly by the steps you have. However, if you’re more experienced and already know what does and does not work for you…altering what is stated, well… it’s probably already gone through your mind. Or you might be muttering to yourself “that’s the wrong way to do that.” I absolutely get it. What is in those pages flies in the face of what you know. That doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it won’t work for you.
Thus, I get labeled as not being a “proper” Druid because I do things my own way. Fuck, I mean I’ve been on my Path for over thirty years. I’m already well versed in what does and does not work for me. But that doesn’t mean I’ve seen it all. I try to keep my mind open to the possibility that something will come along that I’ve never encountered before. I’d have to try it before I’d say that it doesn’t work. On top of that, I’m also not arrogant enough to believe that something I tried before and decided didn’t work for me – won’t work for me now. If you want some admission of that, read the blog post “Break Glass in Case of Emergency.” But to be honest, I stopped worrying about whether or not I am a “proper” whatever…I’m me. I have my own faults. I can be stubborn (ask Shadow), and sometimes I have to be gently walked over to a solution that I don’t want to consider. Every single day is a learning experience. You just have to open your mind to the possibilities. To illustrate that, I’ll toss out another quote – this time from Metallica.
And if I close my mind in fearMetallica, The Outlaw Torn
Please pry it open
Remember folks. These people that wrote books, these people that write blogs….they are just as human and fallible as you are. Want to make your own path in Paganism stronger? Focus on your intent. Find what works for you. Focus on the reason behind the celebration instead of the structural components. In my opinion, your Paganism is about what you intend for it. Your Paganism is about the experience and emotion that wells up inside of you. Whatever works to make that stuff rise up in you…that’s what all of this is about. How you get there…well, that can vary from individual to individual. I’m far more concerned in finding my experiences within my Paganism, finding the meaning for me behind each ritual aspect I encounter than I am worried about being a “proper” Druid. Whatever the fuck that is.
My theory on pretty much everything is easily summed up in a quote from one of my favorite games.
The D&D game has no rules, only rule suggestions. No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination. The important thing is to enjoy the adventure.Tom Moldvay, from the foreword of Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook
I pretty much apply this to everything in my life. Cooking, baking, knitting, sometimes speed limits … (kidding, … maybe). But I read the instructions and then generally follow them but make changes as needed. Clearly, some things can’t just be winged. If I’m baking a cake I’m more likely to follow the directions closer than if I’m throwing together chicken and herbs into a skillet. If I’m knitting straight mindless socks then I’ll fudge the numbers, even with some patterns. If I can make it look intentional then it’s fair game. If it’s intense lace, well, I’ve been known to perform surgery on it to undo several rows and make it exactly as directed.
And when it comes to my witchery? Yup, same thing. I’m :checks calendar: thirty-eight and I’ve been practicing magic since I was 5, untrained and by instinct. I do what feels right. Originally I kept my alter exactly as I found in a beginner’s book. One day I rearranged everything to something that felt more natural to me. I used to pull up a circle for every single thing that I did. Now? Only if it’s incredibly important and I feel that it’s worth “bothering” the elements or deities. Do I think I’m actually bothering them? No. But if I’m putting thankfulness, positivity, or stirring my coffee with the intent of having a good day then there’s no need to call upon everybody. They’ll hear me anyhow. When my husband was sick with Covid I pulled up a circle, called all of the quarters, and called upon both a god and a goddess for his renewed health.
What it really comes down to is what fits best for you. Try this, try that, try it again, just in case. Keep what works, toss what doesn’t, and understand that my connection to the natural energies is not the same as yours. And that’s good because it takes all kinds to keep this world going. We all have our place in the great scheme of things.