I have yet to meet a Pagan who does not love books, does not love learning. And I will be the first to admit that I am no different. This week for The Pagan Experience we have been asked to discuss a book which influenced us, or one that we like above all others and I find myself drawn to talk of this from a different angle.
Twenty-five years ago, Pagans and witches with a bit of experience under their belt were lamenting the number of newcomers coming in after having read one really great book, and deciding that made them too a fully-fledged, experienced witch or a Priest/Priestess. Twenty-five years ago, I don’t think we could have predicted just how much information we would have right at our fingertips through the miracle of the internet. These days, some are calling themselves witch, Priestess, Pagan after having read a webpage or a blog. And the older, more experienced are still lamenting.
There is nothing at all wrong with reading, with discovering, with exploring. Explorations have to expand beyond the written word though.
The majority of written works however are written for the newcomer, the beginner at the infancy of his explorations. So much more has not been put into written words. Not because of a lack of authors making the attempt, and not because it is forbidden, oathbound, or some geat secret. But because these are things which can’t be adequately explained or described using words.
Most Pagan religions are described as being experiential (the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing). Some are called Mystery Religions.
This isn’t a mystery in terms of something being hidden, or secret, or some great riddle. Mystery and experiential because there are things that can’t be learned through reading. Things that can’t be understood by opening a book.
What I have found is that because most books are written for the beginner, without mention of there being something more for the more experienced practitioner, too many who are new to the Pagan religions, and to witchcraft, think that what they find written in a book or on a blog (even this one) is all there is.
So, close the book. Move beyond the theoretical and actually experience the mysteries. Even if you intend to work as a solitaire, take the opportunities when they arise to be part of a group. Even if you intend to only work in a group, take the opportunities to work alone.
Even the most poorly run ritual can have an oppportunity for learning, if you are open to receiving. Even when that learning is a lesson in what you wouldn’t do. I am reminded of a public ritual I attended some years back at Oestara, where the women playing the role of the young maiden Goddess was at least 20 years older than me. (And I am in my 40s!) The energies of this public ritual felt very off to say the least.
Books can teach you how to do things. They can’t teach what these things feel like. They can’t help you to understand the mysteries. That can only come through experience.