(A note from Daven: I have Elf’s permission to repost this here. Please link back to this post if you repost this in whole or in part. I’ll see about putting up her email, website and/or user icon at some later time.)
ELF of Elfwreck; 11-09
I read a lot of posts and comments, on Pagan forums, about not discouraging people from finding their true paths. This is generally an admonishment not to argue too much, or not to use harsh words, or not to tell seekers they’re wrong about something, but instead to be gentle and welcoming to them. Elders and mentors, we are told, should not be causing them to doubt, not be dissuading seekers during their time of confusion and need.
I am baffled by this notion. My husband is baffled by it. My mentors are baffled by it. My friends are baffled by it. We are all horrifically confused at the idea that we have even the smallest capacity to turn someone away from her “true path.”
No amount of internet debate is going to keep anyone away from that. Your true path is the one where every argument sounds like an enticement and every obstacle feels like comfy furniture and you can’t figure out why all those other people aren’t enjoying dancing with the fireflies, oops, I mean “through the landmines.”
Your true path is the one you want to walk when boulders are rolling down the hill at you. If all the paths are lined with roses and run through fields of clover, how can you tell which one is yours? How do you know you want to, you need to, be on *this* path more than any other? Your true path is the one that calls you to walk naked in a hailstorm, and you can’t figure out why anyone else has a problem with it. You get bruises and frostbite and you remember them fondly as “the fun parts.”
A substantial part of my job as a priestess is to actively drive away potential converts. To tell them this *isn’t* fun, isn’t pretty, is instead full of annoying work that nobody understands and even your spiritual kinfolk think you’re crazy half the time. That the emotional support network is erratic, that the communities are crammed full of wannabes and fuckwits and pretentious jerks who haven’t noticed the difference between “12 years experience” and “1 year experience, repeated 12 times.” That the media thinks we’re demons or perverts or bored housewives with eccentric hobbies, and that’s going to be the case for a very long time. That, if you get any skill at all, total strangers will send you emails detailing their life problems and begging you to help them, and you’ll pray that whatever advice you manage to choke out doesn’t cause a divorce or a suicide, while mentally screaming I am not your guru! Find someone you actually *trust* for this shit!
That you will hit some point of ethical dilemma with some of your oldest and dearest friends, and have to walk away from contact with people you’ve loved for decades. That witchcraft training can shatter families and destroy careers. That it can make you despise people you remember caring for. That there is something hard and cold and bleak about these paths, with no friendly savior or enlightened master to light the way and say “you’re doing it right.”
A good portion of my responsibility as a priestess and witch is to say, “g’wan, kid, get outa here.” Go find a nice UU church; they’re friendly and open-minded. Go study some western eclectic Buddhism; it’s got a lot of poetry and some very solid ethics for living in the real world with peace and graciousness. Find some Pentacostals if the bible doesn’t sicken you; they’re big on ecstatic experiences, and they have a supportive community as well. Hang with the Quakers; everyone likes the Quakers. Even me.
But this religion–pagan witchcraft, where everyone is a priest or priestess and “every man and every woman is a star”–isn’t open to everyone. Isn’t welcoming or seeking converts; it’s seeking witches, people who are hungry for power and madness and want to be one step out of synch with the rest of the world. It is not a comfortable place, and it’s not for people who shy away from discomforts. Not for people who could be dissuaded by a stranger’s words on a screen.
If I could write an essay (or a disagreeable comment, or a vicious snark) that turned you away from your religion–then this is NOT the religion for you. Go away, and find something that nurtures who you are, not who you think you’d like to be.