17 March, 2013

13 Goals of a Witch, Interpreted

Hey, Readers,

I got a message on YouTube from someone wanting to know exactly what these 13 Goals of Cunningham's mean, in layman's terms. If you Google the subject, you'll find many pages where other people have given their personal interpretations of the goals. So I thought, why not post my answer to my blog, for future reference? My interpretations are not drastically different than anything I already read, which is good. It means we're all on the same track about what we should be doing! But I did find some things in other people's pages that I wouldn't have thought to say, and I also have some quotes and things I like that I haven't seen elsewhere yet. Without further adieu, the 13 Goals of a Witch, interpreted by yours truly.

The 13 Goals of a Witch

1) Know Yourself -- This one comes first for a reason. Have you ever heard the saying, in these or similar words, "For anyone else to love you, you have to love yourself first"? It's the same concept. In order to learn about the rest of the world, in order to make magick happen effectively, in order to create positive change in your life, even in order to have healthy relationships in general, you have to know yourself first. It all starts with YOU. So what does it mean, to know yourself? It means to know who you are, what you believe, what you stand for, what you like and dislike, what you feel deep in your heart about different situations, and most of all it means being HONEST with yourself about who you are. It means knowing your strengths and being proud of them, and also knowing your weaknesses so that you can work on them. In the story of Rumpelstiltskin, he is bested by the character who learns his name, because names hold power. Think of Rumpelstiltskin as one of your negative traits, something you know is part of you that you want to work on. It is much easier to defeat something if you can name it. (Back when exorcisms were still something Christian clergymen did, part of the process was learning the entity's name in order to banish it correctly. I read that recently and I would direct you to the source if I could but remember it, I read so much...) When you recognize your own short-comings and negative attributes, you can better see them coming and work on improving. But don't forget to recognize your positives, too. Give yourself what credit you deserve! This one is all about YOU, knowing who you really are, and being the best you that you can be.

2) Know your Craft -- This one may seem pretty obvious, but it's important to remember. This is about knowing your stuff! Strive to know as much as you can about the Craft in general, but also about your personal favorite ways to do things. Find out different ways to do the same thing, try them all out, and see what works best for you--YOUR craft. If you don't know yet what works best for you, that's a sign to test different ways. Observe or chat with other people to find out how they do things, and try it out. Read about new ideas, even when you have a pretty set way of doing things, just to freshen it up and stay sharp. Your tastes may change, or you may just add it to your growing knowledge of the craft and how people practice it. I think it's very significant that the word "your" is used here. Know the Craft, but also know your Craft.

3) Learn and Grow (sometimes written as just Learn) -- You've heard me say it before, and I will never mind saying it again. We are ALL, ALWAYS learning! Life in general is about learning. This path is one of learning and practice, trial and error, trial and success. It's called a "practice" for a reason. Learn from books, websites, and other people, but also remember that a lot of your learning comes from your own experiences, nature, and if you believe in a deity concept, from Deity, as well. By learning as much as you can, and accepting that there WILL always be more to learn, you ensure that you are constantly growing. Be ever a student, of this and all subjects. Even when we "master" certain things, there are always yet more things to learn along the way.

4) Apply Knowledge with Wisdom -- Okay, you did all that learning and growing and studying and practicing, and now you know a lot of stuff! Good for you! Now comes what may be the harder part: Using that knowledge wisely. Sometimes this can mean applying common sense. Other times, it might mean thinking creatively or outside the box. (You can almost hear your older family member, handing you a few dollars and saying, "Use it wisely...") Essentially, this goal is about remembering that knowledge alone is not always enough to work out there in the real world, whether it be in magick or mundane aspects. The knowledge is necessary, a separate goal in itself, but it's not much good if you don't know how to apply it.

One quote that I love, from the Tao Te Ching: "In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is acquired. In the pursuit of wisdom, every day something is dropped."

5) Achieve Balance -- This is what it's all about, man! Haha. Wicca especially, is a religion about balance. But even for non-Wiccans, balance is an important goal. On the spiritual side of things, we might be talking about the balance between Yin and Yang energies, masculine and feminine, light and dark, positive and negative, fire and earth or air and water, or between earth, air, fire, and water, or between elements of other cultures and belief systems, like earth, metal, water, wood, and fire. In Yoga, you might try to achieve physical balance, mastering a pose you couldn't do before. Gymnasts, dancers, and other athletes certainly strive for this kind of balance, as well. But it goes beyond even these things. You should strive for a balanced diet, a balanced meal, one of the other links I read mentioned a balanced checkbook! A balance between school and social life, or between work and play. A balance between caring for your family and caring for yourself. There are many, many aspects of our lives where we need balance, and this is why it's a goal. Not only for witches, but for everyone.

6) Keep Your Words in Good Order -- It may be a cliche, but it's for good reason: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." That's just one part of this goal, in my mind. Keeping your words in good order means thinking before you speak, absolutely. And when you think about it, the best decision may be not to say anything at all. Cutting over into the Wiccan Rede, "Speak ye little, listen much." Maybe it's better to save your words for now. But another part of this goal is just finding the right words. It's not always appropriate or even helpful to remain silent, so keep your words in good order by thinking about what you're going to say and saying it in the best way possible. Many people speak before they've thought it through and may end up regretting their words, either immediately or later on. Save that trouble by being aware of the words you're using. Know why you use certain words. Use the best words for the purpose. This applies to speaking, writing, spellcraft, any time you use words to communicate.

7) Keep Your Thoughts in Good Order -- One of the other links I read switches this goal with #6, making the point that before we can keep our words in good order, we must first keep our thoughts in good order. Thus, think before you speak. I like to think of it that way, though I maintained this order for the list. Very similar to the previous, this goal is about keeping track of what we're thinking. I do a lot of spellcraft using positive affirmation. I believe that thinking positively affects our lives for the better. And I know for a fact that negative thinking breeds negative results. Without even getting into the psychology of it all, I think many people, witches and non-practitioners, can agree on the fact that the way we think influences our actions, our relationships, the way we interpret things that happen to us, and so on. Keeping your thoughts in check is extremely important, and also extremely difficult for some people, or even for all people at certain times in life. We think things before we even notice it consciously. I will not pretend for a second that I have this goal mastered. Remember, that's why these are goals. Know yourself, and be honest with yourself, enough to keep working on the goals that elude you. It's all a process.
Helpful Hint: You know how people knock on wood after saying or thinking something that might "jinx" a situation? I definitely do that. Always three times! This comes from knocking on trees to ask the spirits of the trees, or creatures living inside, for help. You can knock on wood as a reminder to yourself not to think a certain way. Or, you can do what my mother, Rev. Rose does! When she thinks or says something that she realizes is not the best order for her thoughts or words to be in, she looks up to the sky, sometimes points or gestures, and emphatically says, "Cancel that!"
A theatrical trick: Just then, I said "not to think a certain way." This is not the best order for my words! In the theatre, actors are given motivation for their character. As a director, one of the least helpful things is to tell an actor what NOT to do. Think about it, when someone tells you "Whatever you do, do not look at that lamp," it's going to be really hard not to look there! "Don't think about polar bears." Same! It's much easier to give an actor a positive motivation, such as "Look at the door," or "Think about water buffalo." So take a stage hint, and give yourself a POSITIVE motivation. That is, give yourself something TO DO, instead of trying hard not to do something. One of my old roommates had the personal mantra, "DON'T PANIC." I used to replace her notes to herself which said that, with the positive mantra, "BE CALM."
8) Celebrate Life -- Yay, Life! Spiritually speaking, we revere life. We revere the cycle of nature, which is the circle of life (cue The Lion King). Birth, life, death, rebirth. There are many different cycles, not all of which I can name in a short paragraph. This goal is just about that. Celebrate Life in all its forms. Celebrate your life, the life of others, the life of non-human animate beings, and even the life and existence of inanimate beings. Celebrate life rather than mourning death. Honor the Life of all things, all peoples, all places. Sometimes, when a baby cries and screams in a public place and other people are getting annoyed with the child and its parents, I tend to smile to myself remembering this goal. I have to smile, because yes that baby is crying right now and that may be distracting and sad, but that baby is ALIVE and doing what babies DO! And that's awesome! People in general can get really annoying and make you sad or angry or any number of negative emotions. Some people just really are not worth our time to worry about. But hey, that's just another part of life, too. Adversity. Experience. Life. Life is worth celebrating.

9) Attune with the Cycles of the Earth -- Okay, I just talked about cycles. But this goal is specifically about tuning into that cycle of nature I just mentioned, being on the same frequency, riding the same waves. Maybe even literally! Many pagan paths are nature-based. And even if not, our own lives follow the basic cycles we can observe in nature. So however you have to view it in your own mind, in order to make it fit your path and your way of seeing the world, attuning to nature is a great goal to have. You learn so much more about things when you focus on them, and really find them interesting. The Earth continues in its revolutions and orbit no matter what we're focusing on, but when you tap into that energy yourself, and become an active part in the cycle, that is so much more. Don't let the world just go by without you, under the radar, doing its own thing. Make it part of your thing, happening with you, not to you or despite you. You are a part of Nature, and you live on the Earth (presumably?). You're a part of this. Be an active participant.

10) Breathe and Eat Correctly -- If you follow the Wiccan Rede (I say if because I do hope that non-Wiccans read this, and I truly believe most of these goals apply to many more types of pagans/witches, and even to completely non-magickal people, and all the goals apply if you think of them in your own context), then you may see this goal as being an essential part of following that advice to Harm None. Harming None starts with the Self. This goal is so simply stated, but so hard to do for a lot of people. It is just about taking care of yourself, for you are your greatest asset, your most prized possession. Staying healthy and working toward that actively is a necessary goal for anyone, but on a pagan path it extends to our non-physical body, and affects our practice. It may also mirror our belief. If you believe in taking care of Nature, you are part of Nature and should therefore take good care of yourself, too. If you like meditation (more on that soon), then breathing correctly is important for your health but also for your focus, intention, and relaxation. Whatever your reason is, this goal is about caring for yourself, and is a very important goal.

11) Exercise the Body -- Remember all that stuff earlier about reading, learning, studying...? That's a lot of exercising for your brain! But unless you run back and forth to the library, that stuff doesn't necessarily take care of the rest of you, namely, your physical body. For some people this is very difficult, and personal conditions always vary. But quite simply, that's the point of this goal: Remember that working out your brain is great, but you cannot neglect your body. Your physical being is still YOU. A part of you. Your vessel in this realm, if you like to think of it that way. Your physical body is just as important as your mind and spirit, which is why we frequently talk about the three together.

12) Meditate -- There are so many ways to meditate, and so many purposes for meditation. You might meditate to relax or to clear your mind, or you can also meditate to focus and work out a problem. Meditation involves practice in correct breathing, posture, focus and concentration, maybe also visualization, practice in receiving messages auditorily or in other ways... Basically, since there are so many ways and reasons to meditate, everyone can do it. You just have to find the way that's right for you. Some people meditate while walking or driving, often subconsciously. We get focused on a single task and part of our mind wanders and goes through different streams even while our conscious mind remains completely alert to the task at hand. This is why I have often found myself snapping back from a meditative state while driving, even knowing full well that I was at no point ever unaware of the road or unfocused on driving safely. When I was in high school concert band, we played the same songs so many times that during class and even in concerts, I would find myself ending a piece, not remembering having played ANY of it because my mind was in a meditative state, yet knowing that I had played the entire piece accurately and with complete attention from a different part of my brain. My point being, anyone can meditate, and most people probably DO meditate without even knowing it. Meditation doesn't always have to be sitting in the lotus position with zither music playing in the background, or with incense burning and someone gently intoning the instructions for what you should be seeing right now. I think many people shy away from meditation thinking it's not something they would like, or would want to do. But I posit that there is a way for everyone, and the benefits of meditation are multiple and varied, so it's a good goal to strive toward.

13) Honor the Goddess and God -- Obviously, the way this goal is written makes it the most belief-specific. In a Wiccan context, it's pretty self-explanatory. Honor the Goddess and God in your own way, respect them, and respect them by respecting yourself, for you are their child, their sibling, their lover, their friend. Give them a place in your rites, in your heart, in your mind, and in your life. Thank them for what they have given you, what they've done for you. Thank them and know that they are (t)here. If you're not Wiccan, but are some other sort of Theist, this goal can easily be thought of as honoring whatever Force or Form you do honor and revere. For my mother, this goal might be simply "Honor God." For other polytheists, maybe "Honor the Gods." For even me, beyond God and Goddess I usually refer to what I feel is the ultimate connective power, that which the Goddess and God represent to me, which the energy of the Universe itself, Universal Energy. I may choose to instead think, "Honor the Universe," or even "Honor Your Connection with the Universe" which would mean my relations with other people and things on this earth as well as the over-arching concepts of the Universe at large. The final principle of Unitarian Universalism is "respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." That could easily be thought of as this last goal. And if you're a non-theist, atheist, agnostic, or some other such term, think of this goal as being about whatever it is that you do believe in and hold dear. Maybe you believe, above all, in Truth. Honesty. Friendship. Loyalty. Maybe you want to Honor Honor. Maybe it's Family. Love. Humanity. Not everyone has religious faith, or even a spirituality, but people still generally hold something very close to their hearts. Something personal, a code they choose to follow. That's what this goal is about.

Thank you all for reading, and I do hope it helps not only this questioner, but those who have wondered about these goals in the past, and also those who will find it in the future. Do read other people's interpretations of the same goals to get a different feel, and try writing out what the goals mean to you. I will put some links at the bottom, to the two other pages I read (which I mentioned here), and there are many more online for you to find.

I wish you luck and light on your journey.

Here are some other people's interpretations:

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