Friday, September 16, 2011

Never Home for the Harvest

                 Though many of us consider the end of summer to be Labor Day, or even the first day of a new school year, we recognize the true beginning of autumn with the coming of the Equinox.  Fall has always been a time to bring in the crop, so to speak, and plan for winter.  Harvesting what is passed, planning for the future, and celebrating the good fortune of both are central to the Fall Equinox.  We give thanks for the blessings of another season.

                That’s enough of the lesson!  Now for my take on the issue.  The Equinox is about those things, yes, but it’s also about reflecting on the process.  The seed planted last fall slept through the winter to bloom in spring.  Now it is ready to be picked so we may enjoy it.  This same cycle is played out for each of us whether our own patterns of creation are yearly or not.  Some of our plans only take a week or two to manifest, some take months, but the pattern remains the same.  We harvest and we enjoy.  Some of the big harvests (large-scale projects like a new home or the completion of a book) call for parties, sharing the great news with friends and family.  Smaller ones might be shared between a few friends or, in the case of we witches, the coven.  “So, that awful woman at work got fired, eh?  Good job!”  “Let’s have a few drinks and celebrate the wonderful healing work Lucy did for her aunt!”  We should always celebrate happy endings.  That way, we know where they are.

                Reflecting in this way is an important part of the process.  When we begin something, we always know it’s beginning.  When we’re working toward a goal, we know it’s in process.  But when we finish, and do not take the time to recognize it, and only start again on a new goal, it doesn’t feel finished.  We turn the hamster wheel only to see that, with the next step, it needs turning again.  

                This, in a nutshell, is me.  I am forever on one project or another—usually several—and when one is nearing completion; another idea pops up ready to take its place.  It’s somewhat like a relay race—the baton is passed with both parties running like hell.  So I am never done, my work is never done.  There is research work, writing work, spellwork, divination work, recording work, and teaching work…and research work, writing work…   Where one leaves off, another picks up.  

                Most of the time, this unlikely system works for me.  Of course, that’s not to say it doesn’t cause me irritation at times but it’s become so normal that I expect it every time.  Usually people like to strike a balance between work and rest.  This pattern, however, means that the only way to keep balance is through momentum.   

                I doubt that I am alone in this situation.  A lot of people consider witchcraft to be a “hobby.”  Even if the practitioner doesn’t feel that way themselves, others around them will, and expect the same level of free-time from a witch as they would any other person.  But those of us in the magical community know that magic is no hobby and can take a substantial amount of time in its practice and training.  So sometimes the pressure to do more with less time comes from within and sometimes from without.  

                When we come to the Fall Equinox, we’re supposed to be taking stock of all this.  We reenact rituals with heartfelt thanks to the Gods.  We talk about bringing in the harvest and settling in for the calm of winter.  But do we all really do this?  Do I (or anyone like me) do this?  Hell no!  We plan and arrange for the ritual, we bake and cook to make a great feast for everyone, we memorize lines, and we guide others, but we don’t settle in, there simply isn’t time.  Constant progress means that while everyone else celebrates the harvest contentedly, we’re out in the field, either still gathering or putting down a new crop.  And the time that follows this sabbat is only for preparation for the next.  After all, Halloween is the biggest night of the year—there’s a lot to do and not a minute to spare.  We take a moment during the ritual to touch on thankfulness but there’s no time to explore it.

                I suggest that if any of readers are now nodding (or grimacing) to the familiarity of all this, as I certainly am, we all STOP and take a deep breath.  I have the answer.

                We do nothing.  That’s right – nothing.  I’ve tried all different kinds of solutions for this problem – meditating, changing my social patterns, different books, different spells, different everything – and it still persists undaunted.  So now is the unveiling of my new plan – Nothing.  I propose that all we overworked, over-stressed, over-stimulated Pagans take a certain amount of time (no less than a week) and do nothing whatsoever to do with our path nor our practice.  Now, to some, this is counterintuitive, to others, counterrevolutionary.  But it is in fact a healthy part of practice.  Just as the moon has her period of absolute dark (where she decides her “me time” has nothing to do with lighting your evening), so should we too have down-time of calm and rest.  

                I began this method sporadically a few years ago.  It was from an absolute burn-out, and that has been my only use of this “Dark Moon” ever since.  But now I see that it can and should be a regular part of the cycle, not something to be drawn out only when I feel overwhelmed by the expectations of coven, friends, family, self, and clients.  Our Dark Moon can be incredibly relaxing and help us come back even stronger.  During this time I don’t read books on witchcraft/Paganism/the occult at all, nor do I visit websites or talk about it with others; I don’t cast spells, research in any way, plan coven meetings or events, gather components, or even watch movies/documentaries pertaining to these topics.  Nary a charm crosses my lips and my almanac languishes unopened for a week.   For me, that’s a lot.  It turns out to mean a lot, too.

                So, this Equinox, while you’re standing in the circle, reciting your piece and mentally running to-do lists for after the ritual ends, remember to make time for a vacation.  Believe me, you will have plenty of time during it to count your blessings and give thanks for every one.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The March of the Shameless Pagan

     I want to get all religious on you guys for a moment.  Yeah, I know, settle in for a rant.  You’ve seen them before—all over Witchvox and any other public Pagan forum—the ol’ “What I Think of Christians” thing.  It’s nearly as popular as “Would You Like to Hear How I Became a Pagan?”  I’ll try to keep it brief and only talk on points of ponder for the moment.  Hopefully this will be fresh news for you as well.  This is also the angriest you will probably see me in a long while, so tuck in.

     So you all (you countless throng who flock to this blog…hey—I can dream) know that I like to discuss religion and spirituality, no matter in what form it may come.  I come here and on our coven’s website (**shameless plug** to talk about magic and Paganism with as much openness and enthusiasm as our readers rightly deserve.  I tell you to be honest with yourselves and honest with others.  I give any interested party advice on handling being a happy outsider in this exclusive society.   But what I rarely do is talk about the real nuts and bolts of my beliefs.  At first it was that I figured no one would find it interesting.  Then it became that I have bigger concepts to be dealing with, and so does the reader.  Finally we arrive where I am now—it’s nobody else’s business.

     That’s right.  Just like what I do in the bedroom, who I do it with, and what tunes I sing in the shower in the morning, ain’t nobody’s business but my own.   I have found that the more I tell people about my most touching moments in the presence of the Gods, the less amazing they begin to seem.  Maybe keeping it all for myself makes me selfish but at least I’m not engaging in those boring “who’s had a cooler experience with Hecate” debates.  I don’t like one-upmanship.  So my religious sentiments, while well founded on our predecessors, are my own thing and likely will remain so.

     But one thing I feel very strongly about sharing is my right to be Pagan.  Now I don’t inject it into every conversation but it may occasionally come up in polite society.  There’s no reason that it should be a topic the equivalent to abortion or diarrhea, discussed in hushed tones out of earshot to “regular” people.  (Ha! Get it?)  It is just as worthy as talking about your grandson’s Christening or last Sunday in church.

     As an example, the local preacher struck up a conversation with me one late December: 
“Are you ready for Christmas?” he said with a big smile. 
“Not me.  There’s a lot left to do!”
“Well, you only have 12 days left!” he chided.
“Actually our family celebrates the Winter Solstice, so I only have 9.  I’d better get a move on, eh?” 

     Pretty painless, right?  Yes, his smiled sort of slid to the left as though it was melting but I think that was more shock than anything else.  Ever since we moved here I’ve been 100% genuine with my neighbors.  It hasn’t won me any popularity contests but, naturally, lies are so much more polite.  Failure to hide what makes you different around here is the same thing as blowing your nose on your shirttail.  So I’m not beloved but I’m not gossiped about either.  Before they knew me I was, of course, but now, nary a whisper.  I give them no ammo so now they can’t shoot.

     But I’ve often heard about Pagans who fear these shots so much that they construct elaborate lies to hide their core beliefs from everyone they know.  They tell the neighbors they’re “going to visit family upstate” as they pack for a festival.  They are too afraid to ask for the Sabbats off from work, lest someone should find out why.  They find a person who may or may not be “one of us” and ask a series of semi-innocent questions and look for tell-tale answers, like a secret handshake.   Seriously people!  Is this really necessary?

     Let’s go back for a sec, way back.  Christianity began as just another oddball sect in a time when oddball sects were rising up like the death toll in Deuteronomy.  Through time, promises, war, murder, money, and missionaries we arrive at the present time when this one system has gotten so big that it has branched out into dozens of smaller offshoots with their own churches, books, and leaders.  Christianity has become so big as to be considered the norm.  Now, let’s explore that for a bit.  In the area in which I live, SUV’s, acrylic nails, and Nantucket capris are the norm.  If I were to take my cues from what is most popular, I would look and act like a total douche.  So I don’t do that.  I go my own way and I have no shame for it.

     And there’s my revelation.  NO SHAME.  What do we owe big-box religion that we must tell lies and hide ourselves?  What are we so afraid of that we cannot celebrate what we like when we like?  You say that one gets treated unfairly in the community?  Brother, it’s just like high school—they’ll hate you for one thing or hate you for another; the reasons don’t matter at that point.  You say one may be in danger of losing one’s job?  I say we have laws for that, no matter where you are in America, and there are plenty of lawyers looking to snag an easy case like that.  You say that businesses have been vandalized, threats declared, and people harassed?  I say look at the facts: How many of them have been reported to the authorities?  How many victims have found hostility in their community but demanded their place in it nonetheless?  The deal is to learn the law and your place in it, speak up for yourself, and have ready a lawyer to whom you can refer if necessary.  Prepare yourself so you can go in without fear.

     And here comes fear again.  What makes one faith so grand that it is automatically larger than all others, larger than the law?  Now, I’m not one to run to the police for anything.  I take the same stance on police as I do doctors and dentists.  I’d better be bleeding or decomposing in no less than two places before I’ll submit to going there.  But the police can be a real asset—when you know your rights.  Don’t let them write you off as too much paperwork.  Demand to be heard.  You have nothing to fear.    

     My neighbor from Texas says “It just ain’t safe in Texas.  If we’d met in Waco, instead of here, I would have lived next door for months before ever finding out you were Pagan.”  That’s where I said “No way, because that’s not how I am.”  You see, the place is irrelevant.  The situation is irrelevant.  The Bible may be popular but it doesn’t own the Bible Belt.  Zip codes change but I am the same wherever I go.  And, as an aside, Texas seems to have more Pagan/occult shops than any other state in the US.  The listing in Witches and Pagans Magazine (issue #22, “Southern, Pagan & Proud” ) was quite impressive.

     I’ve always seen Atheists as a kindred spirit though, admittedly, they might not see it that way (being that I am far from God-free, having way more Gods than Christians, who are their main combatant.)  When I hear Athiests speak, though, I hear rationality and pride.  They take what they see, what they’ve learned, and what they feel and assemble it in a way that is separate, but just as heartfelt, as any other worldview.  As Pagans we should take a leaf from their book: learn how to debate sanely, how to stick up for your right to be different, and how to live free without shame.  With no secret handshakes.

     We all deserve that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Half-Year of Living Covenlessly

            As you probably have noticed, I have been away from this site for a while.  In fact, I’ve been away from my coven leadership duties just as long.  What was at first a trying situation soon became quite nice.

            Allow me to explain.  And when I say explain I mean to bare my soul in all its gory glory.  Or at least, as much as I will ever know how to do for a faceless public.

            First came Yule.  Now Yule to our family is not a supplement to Christmas.  It is the true winter holiday complete with music, presents, games and a huge feast.  I love going all out for Yule and I generally overdo things by a mile or so.  But this past year I felt harried and late for all the things which usually give me the greatest pleasure.  The day itself was lovely, the ritual was divine.  But, through it all, something felt off.  I just didn’t get that spark.  You remember that wonderful, flighty feeling you got as a child?  That feeling of anticipation, excitement and sheer bliss that made you feel like a pop bottle full of fizz?  Many people lose that as they get older.  They get into the business of the holidays and forget all the things which once gave them wonder.  I absolutely hate when people say “The holidays are for the kids”.  That just means that they have given up on ever finding a child’s level of happiness for themselves.  I don’t want to do that.

            But somehow, this past year, while beautiful and rich in every way, left me sans spark.  It eluded me until the day ended.  And I was left with the question: what did I do wrong?  Wasn’t everything perfect?

            After all this while, I understand.  It was in my very efforts to be perfect, to make everything perfect, that I kept the spark at bay.  So that was my Yule lesson.  Next year I’ll learn from that and focus on the spark instead of the perfect mashed potatoes or the perfect number of cookie varieties.  

            (But keep all of this in mind because it will come around again in my story.)

            Within this span of time, our coven began to show signs of trouble.  The group, always a small clutch of Pagans in the decidedly non-Pagan area of rural central PA, was losing two more members.  Our membership requirements are more about dedication to working with the coven than tradition or prior knowledge so many of our past members have been of dubious training.  Comings and goings are nothing new to us.  I don’t really think that is too surprising for most covens today since it’s as hard to find a dedicated member as it is to find an inspiring coven to which to be dedicated.  But this was a bit different for me.  This time it was not only a group they were leaving but the entire Pagan community.  Somehow, they no longer wished to be Pagan.  They left the whole damn religion.  I was shocked, hurt and a little scared of what part my leadership played.

            So there I was asking those fateful questions again: What did I do wrong?  Wasn’t everything perfect?  

            It took some time but I’m sure you are following the answers at a much faster rate than I came up with them.  I had drained away the spark, in myself and maybe in the rest of the coven, by focusing on perfection.  Sure, being perfect in a group which holds meetings, magical workshops and large celebrations for each sabbat complete with music, feasts and memorized rituals is a little harder than perfection one day out of the year.  But that was always my goal.  I worked so hard at it.  Now, it may be that the couple’s leaving was a simple matter of personal issues coming to a head or it may be that the input we ask from our members was too much for them.  But though I may never know whatever it really was, the point is that it wasn’t working for any of us they way things were.

            So Imbolc came.  I hoped things would start to come back into focus.  I still carried that weight of failure but now cynicism was starting to settle in.  I tried to be hateful about our issues only in private, when possible.  We didn’t perform the group’s ritual but did uphold our own family traditions of the holiday.  I had to admit, it was refreshing to only have to concern myself with the one ritual instead of two.  

            And Ostara came.  I was thinking I might actually get used to this.  We held our own practices with the family but also held the group’s big outdoor ritual as well.  I noticed how little I worried about when it was just us.  We had our own tempo and I could just let the event play out in time to it.  And I was starting to get it: a coven isn’t defined by the number on the roster.  It’s the richness of their experiences together that matter.  I was starting to see that value.

            For Beltane, where this tale ends, our family skipped out completely on the concept of holding a ritual of our own and, instead, ran off with thousands of other happy folks to the Fairie Festival in Glen Rock.  We all got a much-needed dose of carefree pleasure.  We saw such wonderful examples of individuality and creativity yet no examples whatever of criticism.  It lifted my spirits considerably (as did the three shows we attended of the incredible Wendy Rule!)  It was great to think of myself as being totally without responsibility to anyone other than my family.  The only preferences I needed to concern myself with were those of my husband and children.  I knew and agreed with our tastes in foods, music, waking time/bedtime and even the pace at which we walked through the fair.  There were no meetings (nor the stress of realizing that one needs to be scheduled right away), no events to record, no website updates.  We just acted on our own behalf.  If we wished to attend a ritual, it would not be one I wrote, lead or provided all tools and ingredients for.  If we danced the Maypole, it would not be one of Artayous’ construction.  He would not have to erect it and I would not have to lead the dance.  Maybe it was this selfish irresponsibility I loved.  Maybe it was freedom.  Maybe it was that wonderful blend of each for which the Fay are so well-known.  Whatever it was, I was engrossed in it.

            The point of all this is that leading a group is a challenge that even a person who loves doing it will certainly stumble under sooner or later.  It’s nice to lay your burden down for a while.  But before I take this pack up again, I need to adjust some things.  I want to be sure that I only have what I need in this cumbersome pack and that, if I must carry the weight of many, I’m frugal about their options as well. After all, a coven leader carries much but she should never carry her coven-mates.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Christian Day and the Debate Over Public Greatness

Hello again, my fellow Pagans.  You may have noticed that I haven't written in a long time.  Part of that was the stress of performing the spinning-plate act which is my life as a mom/wife/writer/witch and part of it was that I forgot my password.

There.  I said it.  I'm fallible and forgetful. 

Moving on...

Naturally, I found both time and password to talk to you for the simple reason that I felt I just had to, one way or another.  There is something very troubling happening in the Pagan community right now.  What began as a simple scuffle over magical monikers has become an online WWI.

Yes, I'm talking about Christian Day, Charlie Sheen and the binding heard 'round the world.  To give the short version, Sheen makes wild and cryptic remarks about his 'awesomeness', uses some touchy words in describing himself and a few live-in porn stars, the Witches of Salem get wind of this, disapprove like crazy, vow to stop him from using words like "Warlock", "High Priest", and "Goddess", cast a binding on Sheen with intent to cease his bad behavior and get him back into "doing what he does best", media tide starts to turn, Sheen starts being depicted as drug-addled and a dead-beat dad, and finally the magical community goes nuts  -- some in favor some against -- but all livid. 
Now, before I get into my take on this, I want to be very clear on a few things:

  • Charlie Sheen is barely a celebrity and barely an actor.
  • Christian Day didn't just appear during this debacle; he's been a figurehead of Salem for many years and has had countless interviews and appearances before and since.  Look him up in Judika Illes' "Field Guide to Witches".
  • Flooding media coverage often blows an issue out of proportion and headlines put words in people's mouths.  Read carefully.
  • Media is for everyone.  If you want to be covered by the local paper, do something impressive/relevant and call them up.  Same goes for TV and internet.  There's no rule against public magic or what we can and cannot do to promote our practice.
  • Virtually none of the people screaming over the actions of Christian Day know anything about his contributions to the Pagan community.  Even less of those people are active in their own practice.

So, now that we have some foundation to this problem (and now that I sound really pissed off) let me just say that this whole thing leaves me with one thing -- sadness.  What has happened to us?  Where did we go wrong to make our community so willing to tear each other apart?  Has it always been this way and I just never saw it?  Is it the internet which makes an individual so ruthless, so bloodthirsty, that they'd nonchalantly tell a person that they should be dead for their opinions? 

Yes, I've seen people tell each other that they deserve to die because they took one side or another.  It sickens me to think that my own people so hate each other.  I stayed quite positive on this front for some time, saying instead that when one is not face-to-face bold things are said carelessly.  But now, I'm not so sure. 

Perhaps the independence from mainstream society has turned us into the permanent rebel who must make their 'in-crowd' smaller and smaller just to prove how special they are.  So we demand a person's credentials, we give no one the benefit of the doubt, we sneer at any attempt to inspire togetherness.  Suddenly, we're obscure to even the obscure crowd.  We claim that in order to be truly great, no one must ever have heard of you.

Or perhaps this is only a problem faced by those of us who try to congregate online.  The internet is a harsh place, full of potential fraud and lies, especially for Pagans.  Books are plagiarized, personal artwork and writings are stolen or altered, names are libeled, magic is bought and sold at disturbingly high prices. But for all its flaws the internet essentially fulfills the same purpose now as in its inception: bringing together people -- for good or bad -- for the exchange of ideas. 

So why have these ideas become so hateful?  Well, this Sheen thing is a thorny issue which was bound to raise some folks' hackles.  The fact that Christian Day is not claiming to hurt Sheen (and in fact wanted to help him) makes it hard for people to be straight-out angry with him.  Instead they pick on his publicity.  Here, too, Day makes waves: he welcomes publicity and, living in a tourist town, knows the game better than most.  This really riles up the practitioners who either a) don't believe it is proper/helpful/safe to invite media attention, or b) never get their own opportunity to invite media attention.  So, again, frustration.

Maybe that's our answer: frustration.  I know that I am frustrated; I haven't achieved my goals yet and every minute I spend in these pointless debates only sets back that time-line.  Maybe all these angry people are feeling the same way.  But when this noise came to my attention in a very personal way (my brother became one of the noisy detractors, though I really thought him better than that), I stepped up.  I supported my fellow practitioner and spoke on his behalf, as have many many other Pagans.  I didn't do it because Day and I are friends (I barely know him and my last encounter wasn't very positive), I did it because it was the right thing to do.  Day has created events, stores, a radio show, and a public persona and presence which have been very positive for the Pagan community nationwide.  I don't agree with everything he's done (and I've repeatedly told others that they needn't either) but I do believe that he's done us good and continues to do us good.  Even if you categorically despise what Day and his group has done, ask yourself, "Is an entire history of positive work to be wiped away the first time I disagree with its maker?" 

If this is your take on things, you must do like your fellow detractors and be as careful as possible never to do anything of merit, lest others flay you if you betray their vision of perfection. 

The point is, we cannot go forward if all we wish to do is pick at the feathers of those standing nearby.  This gossip, in-fighting, and lying gets us nowhere.  I'm not even talking about how we look to non-magic folk.  I really don't give a fig about what they think of us or me personally.  No, the set-backs are simply within our own potential to do good for one another.  If we're so busy making each other feel little for whatever we do, when will we have time to create our own greatness?  And even if we do create it, who will be bold enough to present it, knowing it will be eviscerated before our very eyes by those who were supposed to be our people?

Well, I will still write.  Despite all the non-professional internet critics who will hate my books.

I will still read.  Despite all those who say my choices aren't traditional enough, obscure enough or popular enough.

I will still lead my coven.  Despite all those who may say it's not big enough, powerful enough or rich enough to be worthwhile.

I will still teach my children and the public the magical arts.  Despite all those who may say they know best who magic is for and who should be banned from it.

Please, please all of you -- do the same.  Just for me.  Just for you.  Turn off your computer -- well, after you're done reading, please -- and start working on your greatness.  Don't listen to the angry know-it-all's who only want to tell you no/can't/mustn't.  Tell yourself yes/can/must -- say it now and say it often.  You are a generator of power and that power is wasted unless it is set to work. 

No one is racing against you but you are racing against the clock.  We only have a short amount of time to make our mark on the world and by waiting, we give ourselves fewer and fewer chances to start making that mark.  There is no test you must pass before you're "qualified" to be great and there is no one person or body of persons whose favor you must curry with your greatness.  There is only you, your potential, and what you're going to do with it.

For those of you who don't know what you could contribute -- or -- for those of who who are uncertain whether or not your current contributions are your best, here's a starter list:

Your greatness can be recognized by:
  • It creates.  Even if your actions initially tear something else down, they also must build up again.  If not, you are not great -- if you only take and not give, you are a jerk.
  • It is humbling.  Authors are giving away cherished information.  Artists are letting one-of-a-kind work leave, never to be seen again.  Musicians and singers bare their souls to the audience.  Even if they are immensely popular, they will always carry that sacrifice. 
  • It brings you together, not sets you apart.  We are a community.  We need each other, like it or lump it.  Your greatness should connect you with other people.  It may feel strange if you're not normally social, but it will also feel very good.
  • It makes you smile.  Your greatness will give you that good feeling which goes beyond ego-gratification.  It's about being good at what you do but mainly just about being good.  You don't have to be a fluffy-bunny to just be a good person.  I've met good and bad of every magical stripe but those people who are doing something important in their lives are rarely unhappy.  Happy people know they're worthy of happiness.  Unhappy people feel that no one is worthy of happiness.
  • You care about it, you strive for it, you work to make it better.  If you don't, then your heart isn't in it.  If your heart isn't in it, then it will never be worth a damn.

Take a look at your goals, your current attitudes and actions.  Take a look at those of the people you know.  Look, too, at this Day/Sheen mess.  Are you aware of who is reaching up and who is swinging wild?

Begin now, for all of us, to reach up to greatness.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Signs Along the Way

Between the many things which have come and gone from my lives (personal, professional, public) lately, I have come to an understanding about a few key issues.  I know that in the grand scheme of life, the little things are of no value.  But, in the act of living, the days are made of little things.  When we give too much time and thought to the details, though, we forget where we were going in the first place. 

That kind of thinking detoured me for quite some time, actually.  Now I'm back on the right road and picking up speed.  What follows are some of the signposts I've passed and maybe a few I see up ahead. 

  • Spirituality isn't for a special day.  It isn't about hurrying up and getting everything done so we can carve out quiet time in which to recognize our "oneness."  It's about going about your life, in a spiritual way.  Awareness that this day will never come again and the time we have with loved ones cannot be counted.  
  • It is never too late to rearrange your dream.  The perfect plan is normally the third one you come up with.
  • There will be ten nay-sayers for every one person who is supportive.  Don't rely on the world to listen politely, no matter how wonderful your message.  Get a thick skin to criticism but let compliments sink in without restriction.
  • We're only running a race against ourselves.  I'm not in competition with you and you're not in competition with me.  Our True Will is not a contest.
  • Age means nothing.  I'm far more advanced than some people ten years older than me; I'm also less than some who are ten years younger.  
  • Magic doesn't need to constantly happen in your life in order for your life to be a success.  Magic is what you do in order to improve life.  Once those improvements are here, enjoy them without hesitation!  
  • Do what you do with all your heart.  No one can see the goal you set in your head, they only see what you've done.  Make it the best you can!
  • Meeting new people is never wasted.  Even when the person is a good-for-nothing, you will certainly learn something from the experience.  And remember that speaking your mind (with tact) and recognizing opportunity is, in fact, learning.
  • It's far better to look back and say, "That didn't turn out as planned" than, "I wish I had tried that, but I was scared to fail."  Logically, we have a 50/50 chance of success.  Roll the dice!
  • We do not have enough books, art, music, groups, gatherings or dancing in the world.  Don't let anyone say that you can't make it or that your talent isn't needed.  
  • As Confucius said, "The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Stick to what needs done right now, and nothing further.
  • Everything important will get done  And just because something is important doesn't mean it has to be perfect.
  • Whatever you do, make sure it is because you truly want it.  When all is said and done, you cannot fault resent others or be angry with yourself.  You were doing what made you happy at the time.
  • Covens are not badges of honor.  It's a service to the community, a family lineage.  Don't get hung up in bragging rights.
  • The Gods are not "out there" somewhere but they are also not constantly peeking over our shoulders; you must talk to them, worship them, connect with them to bring them out in your life.  If you say you follow a deity, show Him/Her, not me.
  • Swift action is not always a bad thing.  If someone needs to hear your painful advice, say it short and fast.  If an upstart needs a swat, hand it out and don't regret it.  You're the only unhappy one when you spare everyone's feelings but your own.
  • There is a magical community everywhere.  Some places have more people or more gatherings but there's no substitute for quality.  Find the quality where you are, and you will have struck a goldmine.  

I hope this has been as enlightening a season for you as it has for me.  But if you find yourself on some unfamiliar roadway, speeding far from your destination, remember that it is never too late to say, "Stop a second and gimme the map."