Monday, July 19, 2010

In Your Hands, Ophelia.

When learning basics, most of us want to rush through and get to the good stuff. When can I start summoning things! When do I get enlightened! When do I light candles with the poooooooooooooowers of my miiiiiiiiiiiiiind!

Let's say you've been a good little hearth witch worker bee. You've learned to iron crisp pleats in your apron, you cook so good your kids don't bitch about it, you can pull a Flylady drive by cleaning no problem-o, you can sew a button and a button hole.

Where's your prize? What's the carrot? How do you power up?

Here's the secret to 300 Level Hearth Witchery: Your hands.

Let that really sink in for a minute so you can understand how shit scary this system of kitchen witchery is. You don't have thousands of years of recorded historical tradition and practice to rely on. You know why? While holy men (and an occasional woman) were busy in their ivory towers, you were busy being pregnant, sowing the fields, burying your children, churning butter, burying your spouse, jarring, canning, sewing, creating fabric, laughing, crying, fucking, and dying. Because you were never given the luxury to do anything more than that.

Do you think that these midwives, these hedgewitches, these stregas were any less holy because they were not given the luxury of a life of contemplation, my hedge sisters, my blood? FUCK. NO.

You are not any less holy or profound than your brethren who now spend their lives in contemplation, meditation, and book discussion.

You are too enmeshed in the business of living to have the luxury of devoting your life to a system, even a modern one. Even if we had one we'd be too busy to follow it. You have children to feed, clothe, and entertain. You have a hearth to manage. You have food to put on the table. You have a day job that you bust your ass at. Your sister is short on rent. Your brother is crying. Your kid needs a new pair of shoes and your spouse needs new buttons on her shirt (again).

You need to be like Ophelia. You are more than a drowned sidenote to some emo prince's trip. Natalie Merchant's Ophelia. You need to be a novice rebel girl sweetheart demigoddess mistress circus queen. A tempest cyclone, a goddamn hurricane.

And there is no manual, my darlings. No manual at all. We have no proven structure giving us a safety net, no meditational structure to hold us up, no spirits to compel. All we have is our hands. Your hands to grind herbs from the kitchen from the grocery store with a mortar and pestle you got on sale at Target. Your hands to light candles and say prayers to your gods. Your hands to call whatever phone tree you're in charge of. Your hands to scribble down a recipe, a receipt for whatever spell you came up with on the fly to use with your iron will. Your hands to bake bread. Your hands to sew. Your hands to write. Your hands to put in soil. Your hands for your children to hold. Your hands covered in blood, sweat, tears, and vomit.

It's all you're given in this path. It's not glamorous, you'll not win in an occult power dick waving contest. But you'll get shit done. You'll work hard. You'll be able to charm or hex, you'll see results. You'll have the grace that is found in simplicity, even in magic.

Your hands. That's it. End of lesson.


Mr. J. said...

I Love you so hard. So. Hard.

Carrie Turner said...

OMFG. You'll never know how much I needed this today. Thank you for reminding me I'm not powerless and just because I don't have formal training or all the ingredients on some list doesn't mean I'm any less of a witch. I'll no longer be living a reactive life. I intend to grab hold of destiny and choke all the joy out of it I can...folks can get on board or they can fuck off.

Norma said...


Thank you.

Lavanah said...

Well...I want to applaud nearly everything that you've written, with one mega BUT. I haven't seen the movie version of Hamlet that you are referring to, but unless the screenwriters completely rewrote Shakespeare, Ophelia, no matter how riotgrrlish she is written still dies young, mad and ultimately, ineffectual. Not the role model I would choose for my sisters and daughters of spirit and craft (or blood and bone, for that matter!)

Rei said...

Like someone said above, you have no idea how badly I needed this right now. I live in bumfuck where there is noone around to talk to who understands about using blood and sweat and tears and not a lot else...- I have count them 2 pagan friends, one of which is an intellectual and has dozens of books and an English Degree and half a masters in History and is very structured, and then I have the fluffy bunny who is still confused but happy. I just found your blog through witchvox and I've read every entry you've written (does that sound stalkery, sorry?) I just wanted to say thanks, I can't wait till your book comes out!

Fairydust said...

This is just perfect. Thank you so much for this post.

Anonymous said...

The wizard-in-ivory-tower idea exists only in movies I'm afraid and whomever says he is practising magic (high and low) but is not challenged consistently and oftenly in his life, is in the least deluding himself. Transformation can only occur in the crucible of life, not in reading books.

The dichotomy of which you speak is not true (at least not anymore). And believe me, ceremonial magic is far from glamorous. You get beaten in the head too often for that.

I'm far from being an apologist, but this seems to bleed over in every post of yours.


Deborah Castellano said...

@ George - All I can speak of is to my own experience. And typically ceremonial magic is considered to be a more formally structured form of magic, it's also typically better respected in occult circles to this day. I can see how you would view my views as attacking higher magic verses defending higher magic.

Many people see the "hybrid" form of magic as necessary blending high and low. While yes, in an ideal world, for serious practioners magic would be a #1 priority, it doesn't always work out that way. Frankly, I've never practiced the high arts. There's nothing wrong with them, but I'm not trying to go the places they want me to go. I think it's possible to have a serious and fufilling magical "career" without them, which is not often said anywhere.

There is a metric *ton* of books and higher magic practioners (some even have guilds and whatnot), but there's not a lot of resources for the modern hedgewitch. We don't have books full of secret languages and arcana and the life of the hedge witch *has* changed a lot. What I am saying is, many people call themselves hedge witches because they cook and clean and deal with daily life, that's not true (as I've said). But we do also have modern amenities that our ancestors did not have. Most kitchen witch books are a compendium of recipes. We're more than that and this journal is my personal journey to figuring out what it means and sharing it with others.

If I seem a bit prickily about ceremonial magic, it's because I am. I personally have been relegated to the kitchen a lot to play with my barbies because *surely* I can't be a serious member of the community without some nice (usually) man to back me up, ideally with a whole written tradition of magic. My impulse isn't to ask nicely and say please to sit at the grown up magic table, my impulse is to start a revolution (viva la resistance!). It's who I am.

But if it's any consolation, my significant other is a ceremonialist and there is still peace in our house most of the time!

Deborah Castellano said...

@ Lavanah - I have a soft spot for crazy 'ol Ophelia, and I've been chewing on what you said. I do agree, but I'm also a (filthy) reclaimist so for the purpose of my article, I was considering Natalie Merchant's vision of Ophelia, a girl who was possibly crazy but envisioned herself as many, many things (and she took a whole album imaging all these different bits of her) and I really like that idea. :)

Anonymous said...

"If I seem a bit prickily about ceremonial magic, it's because I am. I personally have been relegated to the kitchen a lot to play with my barbies because *surely* I can't be a serious member of the community without some nice (usually) man to back me up, ideally with a whole written tradition of magic."

It's easy to play the low dog in the situation and somewhat find meaning there. We all have the occasional insecurities and need of acceptance of others. But this shouldn't color our practice. Magic is not about having the respect of others in some table, at least in my book, that is for academic committees. As long as you feel that what you are doing is "home" (heh, pun) you should not worry about the other kids not playing with you. As long as you truly feel you are doing what you need to be doing. Your practice should empower, challenge, transform, suck you from the other end and spit you back , and while this can take years even to start, when it happens, you will get respect without even trying, because you will be "abiding in yourself" to put it poetically.

And fuck consolations, we're wizards.

Unknown said...

"You need to be a novice rebel girl sweetheart demigoddess mistress circus queen. A tempest cyclone, a goddamn hurricane." How I love you right now!!

grayeyeshut said...

I ran across this article on witchvox today, and it was exactly what I needed to read, even though I had read it before. Thank you so much. So very much.

grayeyeshut said...

Oh, I just read your comments. You got yourself a mansplainer. Luckily no one fed him and he went away. ;)

And since I'm here again, I'll say that I enjoy all your work immensely. Your point of view really resonates with me.

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