Those who know where they are from and have an explicit inherited or adopted pantheon have a bit easier road to spiritual practice, but not necessarily witchcraft. One of the traps a young witch may fall into is getting overly involved or invested in a religious group or standardized customs that don’t really serve certain specific needs of the people. The philosophy may be stifling, or the way of interacting with the deities too sustaining of an illusion of division.
I have seen this in many cultures wherein spirituality is mainly the domain of a priesthood. Some are very good at serving the people in practical, honest ways, but sadly most are a sort of a cartel where they keep laypersons and lower level priests in a sort of blissful, lazy ignorance. It is run more like a business or multi level marketing than a spirituality.
For the average person, even the average polytheist, this may work just fine. They get to go about their lives and daily business, and leave the spiritual concerns to the priests. When they are fortunate, this priesthood truly cares about their needs, and allows them total honesty with the clergy member serving them. The problem is that some needs or desires may be considered “sinful” or “base”, and people are embarrassed to talk about it with a person who is supposedly more “enlightened”.
Since most religions are based on a principle of ascension above or transcendence beyond earthly/worldly concerns, there is a need for witches even in places where the religion is polytheistic. The witch may or may not be seeking ascension or transcendence, but the approach of the witch to life enhancement and problem solving requires esotericism. The witch is one who seeks understanding of the forces of Nature, and puts that understanding into practice regardless of religious mysticism.
So the hurdle for the new witch from a polytheistic or polyentheistic background is to make sure that one’s approach to deity is one’s deities are integrated into one’s worldview.
Again, this message is not for average religious practitioners. For them, it is enough that the Great Father is the father of the deities, the Great Mother, the mother of the deities, the Sky God(dess) controls the sky and weather, etc. That’s as much as most are going understand without getting too deep into philosophical thinking to function normally. Some can handle the Great Father being embodied by the act of fatherhood and other such principles. The witch needs to go deeper, and apply this to practical purpose.
Going back to the Gatekeeper, almost every belief system has at least one. At least in the case of Eshu, the Yoruba Gatekeeper Orisha, this is the personification of the principle of balance, borders, the useful illusion of division that keeps us from marrying flowers because they are beautiful, and on the less humane side, a sort of trickster who will allow or even induce harmful illusions to teach a lesson or undo the overly harmful people.
In the legends passed down to the average Orisha adherent, Eshu has worn a multicolored hat to teach hard lessons about perspective, he has multiplied himself into millions of Eshus. He has goaded the machoistic egotistical to do things to damage themselves, while at the same time upsetting the manufactured, overly guarded perfection of a different sort of egotistical being. The legends teach us something about Nature, both our own as humans, and general.
Eshu lives in every physical and psychological corner, every angle, every crossing, every line or border, every in-between place, every doorway, every beginning, every ending, and every choice. So where as adherents, we pray to Eshu, “Eshu please do not undo me,” as witches aligned with at least some of the Yoruba pantheon, we also invite Eshu into our workings through his symbols, fetishes, and ingredients that embody him. A similar application can be suitable for almost any deity that is considered a force of Nature, or honored Ancestor, or helper spirit, or active archetype.
To learn to do this well requires both study and practice. You must become respectful and observant of the deities in your pantheon, and study their legends from as many eras and perspectives as you reasonably can. You must study Nature. You must study the work and writings of elders and contemporaries who do sound, effective work. You must also however, understand that you won’t be able to get it all in one lifetime.
There will be things you are good at, and things you are terrible at. You may have the time to study in a field in which you have talent, and have to sacrifice other fields because you don’t have the time or energy. There will be trade-offs. You will agree with some things and not others. You will learn that though some things bother or disturb you, they are natural and therefore, simply more suited to someone else’s tolerances rather than wrong…and when faced with something that is wrong or too hostile to be sustainable, you will know that just as someone else can further their interests, you can further yours as well. You can be arbitrary, and that’s okay.
I strongly encourage seeking a live guide. If it is at all possible, you need a teacher that you see face to face occasionally. If there is none, then you may struggle more, and make more mistakes, and encounter more misfortunes along the way, but you will learn if you are willing to. You can also ask questions here, and discuss things with others along a similar path.
Blessings and Ase!
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Blessings and Ase!