To be a witch is to be a liminal being in a world that loves absolutes. The phrase we learn early on about casting circles is generally something along the lines of “a time between times, a place between places.” From the very beginning of our dabblings in witchcraft, we learn to bend our perception in order to operate in this between-ness. As we progress, we pick up more tools for going deeper into both our personal truth and the deeper layers of our reality. We learn breath work, shadow work, chants, and drumming. We experiment with intentional movement practices, fire circles, fasting, group ceremonies, solo rituals, and divination. We follow the threads deeper and deeper, picking up and setting down techniques as we go to figure out which ones will support our circling toward the center. We come to the practice from thousands of different places, and not all tools work for all witches. It is a slow process at times. And, at times, it is like jumping off a cliff into the sea.
Against this liminality, this path of grays, this between-ness, we also must live in the world of hard edges. We’re taught truth in absolutes as children: this is a cat, that is a desk, dirt is not food, bugs are bad. These consensus-reality truths live with us now: we must pay the rent, file our taxes, brush our hair, go to the dentist. And somehow, the path of magic and the path of edges must be held in order to survive. Most of us know someone who has gone too far into the mist and is unable to function well or at all within the world of hard edges. Most of us know someone who came seeking magic but couldn’t or wouldn’t release their grip on absolutes and left the path.
The mantle of witchcraft is not for everyone. We see color and pattern, depth and shade where others see nothing. We hear messages from beings who do not have human voices. We receive omens and visions, visitations and other strangeness. We rewire ourselves, year after year, until our resemblance to those who never push past the world of edges is eroded. This is why, even at a time when we are no longer hidden from society, some people find us uncomfortable or alarming.
So, how do we exist as both? How do we hold the mystery in one hand and the consensus-reality world in the other? For my own part, I cultivate a few perspectives that might be useful to you, especially as your path takes you deeper.
Truth is largely subjective and specific to its originating plane of existence. We have a small handful of real absolutes. Everything else is someone’s experience of reality that became accepted on a large scale. Within a world that includes physical, spiritual, and energetic planes of reality (and probably a few more), most folks still operate in just that first one. When you choose a richer, more layered reality, you’ll find that some of the boxes and boundaries are not helpful, or do not apply. This is your truth. The tricky bit? Everyone else’s truth is real for them, too. Relaxing your hold on absolutes is a deep piece of deprogramming, but a worthy one. I’m a Unitarian Universalist along with a Pagan and a witch, which means I share meaningful connections with people whose truth is wildly different and sometimes counter to my own. And I’m okay with that in the same way I’m okay with the ability of birds to see a different color spectrum than I do. We’re all experiencing something real and true, but it’s specific to us as individuals. Remember that when something as basic as color is not an absolute, why would anything else be?
Your truth can make other people uncomfortable. When we walk the edge of society and strive to see outside the boxes and boundaries, we begin to relate differently. We try to create new, healthier patterns of connection with the world. These patterns can look nothing like the patterns of the world of edges, of consensus-based reality. When trees and plants have feelings, when the old gods are as real as the new ones, we make choices that can look very strange from the outside. This is what causes others to see us as challenging, maybe even dangerous. Most of the time, we’re simply trying to create a better world for all the beings we’re connected with. It’s okay if other people are uncomfortable. That’s their issue, not yours. Yes, even if they’re friends. Yes, even if they’re family.
It’s less about code switching and more about integration. I do a lot of Pagan Pastoral Counseling – helping folks find and implement spiritual and magical ways to navigate challenges. One mindset I encounter frequently is this idea that we’re witches when we’re doing witchy things, but somehow that entire world ceases to exist when we’re dealing with a bad boss, financial hurdles, problematic relatives, or an overwhelming schedule. I think we’re so used to code switching into and out of our magical selves that we inadvertently support some of the absolutes we absorbed as children: “magic isn’t real.” Except, of course, that it most definitely is. Remember that you can see deeper due to all that rewiring you’ve done. Look at your life with your entire vision, your deeper vision, and new solutions present themselves. Witchcraft isn’t just for festival season and full moons.
It’s okay to feel a little crazy sometimes. When we stumble out of yet another deep mystical experience and back into the world of edges, it can feel a little weird. Sitting and filing an expense report feels strange when you’ve heard the deep song of the trees and boulders. Making an appointment to get your oil changed when a deity just dropped a message into your lap can feel almost laughably ridiculous. When I hit those spaces, I just give in and giggle. We have so many templates for divine ridiculousness – trickster deities, the Fool dancing through the Major Arcana – that we know it’s okay to embrace it. Mirth is the counterpoint to reverence, and is just as important. Feeling a little crazy, a little silly, won’t hurt you. In fact, it might shake loose some really useful stuff.
It’s just one world, ultimately. My own take is that our sacred spaces and activities are less between than among. Less separate-from than expanding-through. The magic that flows through energetic and spiritual reality so smoothly also flows through physical reality, and is subject to the situations and actions that occur in the world of edges. This is why the best prosperity spell in the world is sometimes no match for the late-stage failed capitalist systems around us. As with all things, the only way out is through. And the path through is the fully integrated one where we bring our entire selves to our beautiful, broken, enspirited, inspiring world.
So, how are you holding the threads? How are you navigating the liminal world and the edges? Hit me up in the comments – you never know when your perspective will be exactly what another witch needs to read.
*This article was inspired by Moira Ashleigh
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