Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cracking the Seed Coat.

Some seeds, the germ of life for plants, are surrounded by a thick seed-coat. This thick coat will actually prevent the seed from growing. In the end, the seed-coat must crack, so that the plant may grow. To do otherwise stagnates, and eventually kills the seed - life ceases, the potential for growth ceases.

In Paganism/Crafting, the same sort of thing exists. Our own preconceptions, misconceptions, bias, bigotry and scars form our seed-coat. They trap us into ourselves, and deny us growth. Our own over-fullness, means nothing can -get in- to let us develop into something more. We must crack, or have cracked, this hard shell.

Even then, the seedling of our spiritual path is not self-sustaining. We must weed around it so that it receives enough sun, and room to grow. We must ensure that the soil it grows in is fertile. We must keep away predatory things that might nibble it to nothing. And finally, we must work to harvest what grows from it, or it will rot on the vine.

No Pop-Pagan 101 book that I have ever seen has addressed this topic, not the self-sacrifice needed to begin on the path, nor the hard work that comes after. Most authors water down Crafting to "Do whatever works, and if it makes you uncomfortable it's evil, so don't do it."

You will get no rewards, no growth, nothing - if you do not first make an effort. In short, without cracking yourself open a little, you're just rotting in the soil. Our spiritual development challenges us to grow, and if we turn away from the discomforts (some small, some large) that come with such challenges, we never reap any sweet harvest.

Now, I also understand that it's not everyone's path to BE challenged. It's also not my path to engage those who are, for all intents and purposes, play-acting the part of pagan. I will not provide spellwork, rituals, or "fruit" from my hard-won plot for people who take a bite, chew it half-heartedly, and toss the rest on the ground.

I do feel that those embarking on any spiritual path need a warning. You'll be cracked open a little, drenched, dried, and buried. You'll watch the weaker ideas wither, and die as you harden off. You'll struggle, reach, and bring forth fruit. Maybe not a lot your first season, maybe only one or two things will come out "tasty", but look at what they went through to become ripe, full, and ready.

I'm tired of standing on a soap box - do it, or don't. But don't come banging on the door of the local Hedgewitch at god-knows-when in the morning, tear-streaked and panicked because you didn't know what you were getting into, or because you think your spells backfired, or because you can't put down what you summoned up. Grow, change, evolve, develop a pair of gonads worth having - or get the hell out of the Green.


  1. Hmmm... And where is service to one's community in all this?

    Or is that one more thing to abandon to the past? Mind you, I ask myself this question quite often.

  2. That's a valid point, really. I -do- community outreach. I teach others things when, well... they're capable of learning.

    I generally have a "three strikes" policy on growth/change or lack thereof. Not always three, not exactly three... but if they keep striking out, I realize I'm wasting my time. Though, I have a FIRM three-strikes about "But in To Ride a Silver Broomstick..." meaning that any time someone says that to me I strike them, firmly, three times.

    With extending my services... my patience varies. When the same person approaches me over and over for "keep a lover faithful" spells, I realize that I'm doing them no favors, and they're doing me none either.

    Community outreach has been ... difficult. There are a few folks in the community (mostly old, pack-a-day-voiced, ladies) who are fun, engaging and Know Their Shit... and then there are others. The folks that leave me banging my head on a table, and wondering why I bothered.

    Mostly, this post is about picking my battles, and about how much I hate the 101 market.

  3. "meaning that any time someone says that to me I strike them, firmly, three times."

    That's perfectly traditional!

    "Mostly, this post is about picking my battles, and about how much I hate the 101 market."

    I can't really disagree there. But then, I avoid teaching period. I'm 26. If someone expects to learn from me while I'm still figuring out what works best for me, they've got another thing coming.

    On the other hand I have an open "coffee for sigils" lecture/trade offer open to anyone who wants to learn how to "make spells" that aren't retarded. Thus far, no one is willing to pay me in coffee. LOL.

  4. I really like the metaphor of the seed coat. This fits into grimoiric magic as well, where there's this prevailing rule (with very good reason) that 'practice makes perfect', and that progress happens when the student is ready to see it, etc, which is a great way to cull the uncommitted from the herd; they get bored. I've seen at least one example of the cracked seed coat in occult-flavored writings, and that is in The Red Goddess by Peter Grey. He touches on the topic of moving beyond taboo and therefore out of the comfort zone, specifically in order to go further in practice and reach a deity. But this isn't a 101 book, needless to say.

    Something that keeps me a solitary practitioner is the lack of common ground and intent in the community, which seems by and large peopled with an ever-changing group of 101 dabblers. I just want to be left alone to do what I do, and not be messed with because someone's pagan-curious, or angry at a BFF and thinks they need 'help'. The 101 books don't address those of us who are called to work with Deity, for starters, which by virtue of its nature calls for sacrifice and effort that the 101 books do not. In fact, if I look at my bookshelf right now, and this is spanning from when I was in highschool... I don't have a helluva lot of occult-flavored books there. It is mostly plants, cooking, tarot and brewing.

    The 101 books appeal to vanity. Day in day out practice appeals to purpose? In other words, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Sometimes a broom is just a broom. :)

  5. @ Jack - I teach simple stuff. How to make your own oils, or incense. How to craft tools, wildcrafting, and working with the land.

    Beyond that, I tend to say: "Find your own path. You're the one who will be walking it for the rest of your life, not me."

    My "payment" tends to be on the lower end. Bags of tea lites, weird rocks/crystals, incense ingredients, a used book or two, or a very character-filled bit of wood.

    @ Sara - There is an overwhelming lack of common ground. But I find people I can at least form a harmony with - sometimes. Here, the local pagan community is very "churchy". It's meet on the moon, draw a circle, do a little dance, YAY PAGANISM! - Er... that may work for them, but not for me.

    For me, it's not a sabbat until the goat is medium-rare, and we're all stinking of wine and sweat.

  6. I like the seed coat metaphor also. I thought immediately of scarification--for those not familiar with the term, scarification is a germination method whereby the seed coat is injured in some way (grinding, boiling water, acid, freeze, fire) in order to help moisture make its way in to the seed embryo and give it the strength to awaken. I can look at my own experience and see that yes, scarification has had to occur in order for spirituality/spirit to come in and help me to grow. I feel like this has happened only relatively recently, even though I got my first tarot deck and did my first spell 40 years ago.

    I've got tons of occult books, both by practicioners and scholars. I get more out of the ones by scholars because they have less reason to bullshit and because it is easier for me to read between the lines. The 101 books are difficult to stomach. They're pretty much like stuff on TV, although I feel I should at least look them over so that I know what my customers are dealing with. And you never know when someone might come up with something good.

    The best book I have read about combining magic and spirit is actually Crowley's stuff on the magical diary. He was a hedonist and could be a blowhard, a sometime fascist with imperialist ideas, etc., but he was also willing to work really hard to acquire magical skills and spiritual experience, willing to look foolish, and to force himself to do a practice over and over until he got it.

    I'm still getting the hang of doing work for others and learning where my lines are, when I will say no and when yes. So far, they aren't where I thought they would be. So there's that. But in terms of my colleagues or would-be colleagues, I do try to teach some of what I know (which is by no means a huge amount) as much as possible in the same mode I did when I taught composition. Show people the tools. That is a teacher's job, IMO, and it is one of the most basic ape traits (see this stick? You can use it to do this). The rest is up to the student. They have to create their own path and come to their own revelations at their own hand. If they want to stick in the playpen of fantasy and self-delusion, that is their choice. If they want to step outside of it, they must be willing to be scarified.