In beginning any endeavour, we often find ourselves bumping up against the ceiling our own own ability, wrestling with our own limitations, baggage, fears, and habits. Part of the process of advancing in our chosen discipline is effectively grappling with these challenges and finding ways to either work through or around them. Thus, it becomes vitally important if we want to progress in anything to encounter our failures constructively.
Becoming a witch, at least in part, means taking upon ourselves the cultivation of our own power, both to accomplish tasks in our lives and to effect change in the lives of others. Our spellcraft is one such method of catalyzing these changes. We begin to weave our spells, dipping our fingers into the elemental stream of consciousness and reality and reveling in the points where they touch.
We will fail. Failure itself is a sign of progress. When we begin to fail in our magick, we know that we have finally met the boundaries of our own abilities. This is where the most constructive work takes place. When we send out an intention towards the fulfillment of our desires, such intentions can be encoded with myriad shades and nuances of meaning. If, in our heart of hearts, we do not believe in the potential of our workings, we can begin to work against them, sabotaging ourselves in achieving the very things that we are pursuing.
So, how then do we dig into these failures and make work of our shortcomings? One of the most useful exercises in the crafting of magick is the maintenance of some form of journal or log. Affecting real change in physical reality should be approached scientifically (sort of), in that we should be able to hypothesize, perform an experiment, and then record the outcome of our experiment in order to revise our original assumptions and to make a more informed hypothesis. It is in this way that we can begin to wade through the sometimes confusing realities that we are engaged in and find a method that actually works for us.
The difference between magick and the hard sciences is that there isn’t one objective method for achieving results. Results will vary depending on the personality and mind of the individual, and the techniques that are most effective will depend on the makeup of each person. This is why it is important to devise a system that works best for your individual psyche, and the best way to test this is to systematically experiment until you begin to achieve results. In this way, you can begin to achieve your will in ways that you can reasonably predict.
Related: Why you should keep a magical journal, by Michael Reese
Related: Self-discipline on your own terms: Exploring nontraditional approaches, by Chrysanthemum White Alder
Discerning our will
Another, and perhaps deeper, aspect of failure is found in the Great Work. While we move through life, try to get ahead and achieve our desires, we are also in the process of refining and purifying the spiritual content of our souls. Every failure offers the opportunity to peer deeper into the stuff that we are made of and gives us the opportunity to understand what makes us tick. When I fail to get what I want, one of the things that I do is to look inward to try to detect the invisible obstacles that I am putting in front of myself, if any. Both in failure and success, I learn about the limitations in my vision towards achieving the ultimate object of my desire.
What is it that I really want? Is it a bigger paycheque, is it healing, is it love, is it the fulfillment of merging fully with the divine, is it becoming a God in my own right? No one really knows what the end of desire looks like, but we are all on the pathway towards finding out. Each spell, each yearning of our heart marks another stepping stone towards the unknowable.
It hurts to fail. Suffering is born out of the gap between our desires and their fulfillment. I feel empty when I fail, dejected. At that moment, I look back towards the beginning of my working and begin to piece together what happened. In hindsight, I can begin to analyze my motivations. Was my desire to achieve my aim pure? Did I actually want what I was asking for, or did I think that it was the only thing I could get? Was there doubt in my heart about deserving it? Did I judge myself for wanting it in the first place? Doing self-reflection can turn the suffering of failure into a constructive process of revelation.
If you keep a magical diary, go back over the spell. Did any aspect of the construction bring about a negative association? Do you remember feeling inhibited during the process at any point? In examining each material, procedure, and phrasing, do you feel doubt or insecurity about some aspect of the construction of your spell? You might want to include in your journal the insights you have about the process and any reflections you may have about how to improve upon it in the future.
Related: Disentangling “will,” by Seth Harris
Related: Powers of the Sphinx, Part II: To will, by Jarred Triskelion
Related: Mirror magick and self-love, by Chrysanthemum White Alder
Related: Three magical self-care rituals: Uplift, energize, and protect, by Donyae Coles
Methods of self-discovery
There are many methods for pursuing knowledge into our own motivations, desires, and fears. One such way is insight meditation. Sit down with a question in your mind. Focusing on your breath and cultivating an attitude of non-judgement, begin by allowing your thoughts and feelings to flow, unhindered by your conscious mind. Allow your mind and body to manifest in their own way, without intervention. Bring up your question in your mind, and allow your thoughts to flow through it and bring up any insights that might be available to you. Try not to filter your thoughts or apply your judgment towards them. Simply attempt to reside in the curiosity and not the outcome. In this way, you may be able to access those impulses that you are hiding from your conscious mind or seeking to escape from.
Related: Trauma-informed meditation: Processing the past, by Chrysanthemum White Alder
Related: Meditation: Four techniques to get you started, by Mercury
Automatic writing is another potentially helpful technique. Begin by writing the question at the top of a sheet of paper. Start a timer for 15 minutes or half an hour and write for that entire time without taking the pen off of the paper or pausing. Write as quickly as you are able and try not to judge what you are writing. During this process, the conscious mind can be put to rest and thoughts that are buried can be allowed to surface.
There are many other techniques you can use to access the subconscious, depending on your particular talents. Many use tarot as a means of accessing subconscious thought processes. There is also pendulums, channelling, trance visioning, and many other effective methods. The main goal is to get around the blockages put in place by your conscious mind. You need access to the deeper desires held within your subconscious in order to figure out both what you truly want and why you haven’t been able to get it.
No matter what the process may be, getting what you want out of life is not the point. If you simply get what you think you want, you are not growing.
Challenge and pain are where the growth occurs. It may not be easy to face our own growing pains with a constructive attitude, but when all is said and done, it is through our ability to tango with the darkness that we find our power.
When you send a spell out into the world, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come back to you in the way you intended. Instead, try to be receptive to communication from the universe.
Image credits: Mike Bonnett Jr., Barry Silver, Ariel Grimm