In early April, I attended, taught at, and helped run the Sacred Space and Between the Worlds Conference in Maryland. As a conference that focuses entirely on intermediate to advanced occult and magical practice, Sacred Space occupies a unique space: it’s great for finding your next spiritual breakthrough.
Most of us who have been at this for a while have a pattern: we find a practice or spiritual focus we love, we dive in headfirst, it’s nourishing and amazing, and then we plateau for a bit. That plateau period, if it goes on too long, can be what teacher, leader, and author Christopher Penczak calls “hitting the Wiccan wall.” We love our practice and faith, but we need something more, and we’re not sure where to find it.
I posted on social media about the conference’s ability to break through those plateaus and a friend wrote to ask a very good question: What about folks who don’t have access to the conference? Or to large Pagan gatherings in general? Where do we go when our spiritual practice has plateaued? How do we fall in love with witchcraft again given a limited budget or barriers of geography and accessibility?
As always, I have a lot of thoughts, and a lot of different things that have worked for me. I’d also love to hear from you – feel free to post your own comments about how you’ve broken through the “Wiccan wall.”
1) Step outside your “normal” path. Most of us have a cultural area of witchcraft we occupy whether we realize it or not. Maybe that area is the vaguely-Celtic-influences of 90’s and aughts era witchcraft. Maybe it’s Heathenry (like me). Maybe it’s High Magic. Part of what makes the witchworld so fascinating and diverse is that there are many cultural regions to explore. So, get outside your area: look into Appalachian folk magic practices, pick up a book on Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) magic, learn about Romanian magic, take a deep dive into magical gardening (yes, even if you have a “black thumb,” which is bullshit by the way but that’s the subject for another blog) and if you’re a white practitioner like me, make sure to pick up a book/course/video by someone who isn’t.
What makes that practice helpful? Looking at witchcraft through a different lens, even if we don’t engage in the practices we learn about, crystallizes our own ideas and shakes loose some useful connections. This is a bit like solving a problem by going to a museum. We’re encouraging our brain to forge some interesting new links. We’re also learning about the way another part of our larger culture does things, and that’s always useful.
2) Get deeper into history and folklore. If you’re a historian or folklorist already, obviously skip this one. For the rest of us? We usually have some grounding in history and folklore, but not a ton. Learn more about the history of the practices you happen to follow. This can be done both through Pagan sources as well as historical ones. There are a TON of documentaries on video streaming services. Learn about the cultures our practices arise from. Most modern magic has a hint of folklore, but a lot gets left behind because it’s not in keeping with current cultural norms. It’s fascinating, though. Learn about the old magic that doesn’t get used anymore. Learn about where all this comes from.
What makes this practice helpful? Feeling more deeply rooted to our own history frees up some nourishing energy and gives us a broader sense of connection to the flow of time. That alone is often enough to break a plateau. If we add in the specifics of what learn from history and folklore, we often find that we shift our practice in meaningful ways: a few different words here, an addition to our rituals there, a changed perspective about why we do a particular action…it’s all really great stuff that enriches our practice.
2.5) Bonus points: Learn YOUR region’s history and folklore. A lot of us are deeply in love with the dream of a culture long since transformed by the passage of time. We send our energy and thoughts “over there…somewhere.” So, if you haven’t already, get started on the land you live with. Your home has its own stories, history, and folklore. What are the ghost stories? Who are the cryptids in your region and where did they come from? Which people have settled your region, and what are their stories?
What makes this practice helpful? A witch should intimately know the region immediately around their dwelling space. When we understand the land we belong to, our roots run deep into the bedrock. Local history gives us a better perspective and different tools for connecting with our own land spirits.
3) Shake up the media you consume. We tend to get into a rut with where our information comes from. Witches of a certain age, like me, are very book-oriented. Others are website-oriented or social media-oriented. Shake it up. Change things. Listen to some Pagan podcasts (my personal faves are Down at the Crossroads, The Heathen History Podcast, and Weird Web Radio). Head over to Youtube and watch some BronxWitch or Thorn Mooney videos.
What makes this practice helpful? It shifts the way we interact with information, which can cause a change in how we experience what we’re hearing/seeing. Also, shows and podcasts that do good interviews often contain these shining little bits of different perspectives/techniques/information that can really enhance an established practice – the sorts of small things that don’t necessarily get talked about in a book, but come up in a free-flowing conversation.
4) Do a Deity Internship. This is an assignment I give my second year students and I often do it along with them because it’s good for pretty much everyone. Select a deity you do not work with and are not interested in serving in terms of long-term devotion. Bonus points for selecting a deity well outside your regular pantheon. Spend a week or two researching them. Then, either using journeywork or a divination system, make an offering and ask that deity whether you can practice devotion to them for a window of time (I like three months – it’s long enough for some really cool stuff to happen). Most deities are ALL ABOUT IT. More preferred offerings for them, plus attention from a human that they normally wouldn’t have access to. If the deity agrees to the terms, set up a sacred space for them and practice devotion in the form that they prefer. Set up some regular check-in times with the deity to see if they have any messages or requests. Remember that you can always say “no” to requests: this is practice, not a devotional relationship. At the end of the practice time, give thanks and a final offering, and create an opportunity for any last messages.
What makes this practice helpful? So much. There’s a reason I assign it. First, the Pagan community is highly varied in terms of deities. Having allies in different pantheons is incredibly useful. Think of this practice as being similar to establishing political alliances as an ambassador. Second, exploring devotional practices outside your normal pattern often adds useful ideas for your regular devotional practice. Third, if interacting with the Gods has been an uncomfortable thought, doing a practice round can be a great way to explore without committing. Fourth, the Gods are real. They express appreciation and connection in fascinating ways. My deity internships always end up including some amazing experiences that simply wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Those experiences then feed my own sense of connection and wonder, which keeps my practice rich and exciting.
5) Identify a need and create a long-term Working for it. Where is your life being more of a pain in the patootie than usual right now? Communication? Finances? Health? What could use some support? Remember, magic isn’t just for the spiritual: we learn witchcraft so we can help ourselves and others. Create a Working that builds slowly and steadily: one that requires repetition/feeding every week. This style of magic is very good for shifting a particular pattern into a new shape while preserving stability. Go full bore here – look up all the correspondences, write an amazing incantation, acquire the supplies (remember that Goodwill and thrift shops often have candles and other items that can support spellwork), and really throw everything at the wall.
What makes this practice helpful? Witches do magic, but a lot of us fall out of the habit of the bigger lifts. We’re fully on board for candle magic when a friend or loved one needs a boost, but we forget that magic is also for our own lives. Moreover, designing a spell that requires regular feeding means that we’re connecting with our own power frequently. That which is fed increases.
6) Create a magical “Bucket List” for the season. I live in the mid-Atlantic, which means we’re barrelling toward some glorious spring weather right now. What activities support your connection to the cycle of the seasons? For me, visiting botanical gardens and plant nurseries is incredibly nourishing. I also love some of the spring festivals – I’m looking forward to the Green Man festival in Greenbelt. It’ll be warm enough to put my kayak in the water again soon as well. Figure out some activities you enjoy that are seasonally oriented, and make a bucket list for now til the next High Holiday. Then, see how many you can knock off the list.
What makes this practice helpful? Spirituality involves more than just our minds. I think a lot of us can get stuck in our heads and forget that the experience of spirit is sensual. So, feed your senses: go experience something beautiful, fun, or healing. Or all of those things at once. By leaning into the senses, we give our spiritual connection a chance to illuminate us in new and different ways. Plus it’s just fun, and joy is vital to survival.
So, these are the things that work for me when I need to break a plateau in my practice. What works for you? Hit me up in the comments. You never know when your ideas are exactly what another practitioner needs to see.
If you enjoy my weekly blogs, please consider supporting me through Patreon. Patreon is what enables me to invest time in writing, teaching and exploring the wide world of spirit. Through small monthly donations from supporters, I am able to make ends meet and devote time to this Work that would otherwise be spent at a mundane form of income generation. Here’s the link: https://www.patreon.com/glassewitchcottage