Where Have All the Happy Witches Gone?
Author: Autumn Heartsong
Like many of you, I didn’t have the experience of being raised Pagan. My baby feet never toddled on a Pagan path and I was well into my middle adult years before I stepped out on that road. I’ve not looked back, save for an occasional glance over my shoulder to compare the road I’m on to those I traveled before. As you might expect, there are vast differences between them, but it is a similarity that has been top of mind lately, one that touches what is, to me, the very heart of a Witch’s walk.
I was raised in a Christian faith that put a great deal of value on reasoning, study, and careful thought. Services were quiet, orderly, and structured. Even the music was quiet. There were no choirs, no soloists. Most of the time it seemed as though everyone in the congregation was trying to under-sing everyone else, as if actually being heard would somehow lessen the holiness of the moment. I always felt, no matter how much knowledge we acquired, our worship was cold and empty. There was no joy, no bliss, no celebration. It was all head and no heart.
As a young adult, I ventured away from that branch of Christianity into more charismatic churches. Ah, I thought, here were people who knew what bliss was! They really understood and felt their faith! They sang lustily, prayed loudly, even danced in the aisles. Yes! I loved it! But when I began to ask questions about the basis for their faith, I found very few answers.
“It’s all a mystery, ” they said. “We’re not meant to understand.”
Not meant to understand? You mean my eternal salvation or damnation depends on some mystery I’m not meant to grasp, on a book I’m not really meant to study, and on questions I can’t know the answers to? That didn’t sit well with me, either. Empty ecstatic celebration might as well have been a rave as a religious experience. It was all heart, no head.
I became a spiritual wanderer, looking in every book, under every rock, and up every tree for answers, listening for the ring of truth. When I found it, more in the rocks and trees than in the books, the ring of truth sang out from inside me where it had been all along. And in that beautiful realization I found the balance I had sought, a path that used both my heart and my head. The more I learned, the more I had to celebrate, and the more I had to celebrate. I was so filled with wonder and joy and happiness at finally finding my place in the Universe, my role in the great scheme, how could it not overflow into my every thought and word?
Imagine, then, my confusion when I look around and see so little expression of that ecstatic experience in my pagan community. There is a hole in the happiness landscape of our everyday life. Where have all the happy Witches gone? Where is the joy?
How is it that people who are deeply connected to the rhythm and flow of nature, who commune with Deity without shame, guilt, or intercessor are not beacons of happy light in the world? Why aren’t more people spontaneously dancing in the moonlight and singing with the stars? Why aren’t we so caught up in the rapture of our connection to the Universe that we find ourselves unable to keep words like “happiness, ” “bliss, ” “joy, ” and “Yes!” out of our everyday vocabulary?
Yes, I’m aware those last few lines were a bit over the top, and I know how difficult it is to be ecstatic when your back hurts, your car payment is late, and your 401K balance is plummeting. I am aware of the state of the world we live in and know intimately the press of the “real world” from all sides. And I’m respectful of the seriousness of my path, the personal responsibility and accountability I take on when I choose to work with the fundamental energetic building blocks of the Universe. I know those things, and I’m still filled with joy and wonder, still dancing in the moonlight at every opportunity.
I have heard the naysayers among my Pagan brothers and sisters, the ones who cast knowing glances at each other and mutter “newbie” (though I’m hardly a neophyte) or, my personal favorite, “fluffy bunny.” They equate my ecstatic expression of my faith with naiveté, my joy with the zeal of the newly converted or a lack of respect for the serious nature of my path. On the other hand, there are those who welcome my celebratory enthusiasm but turn away when the conversation moves toward deeper topics. They’re content with mysteries they aren’t meant to understand.
It seems that some in the Pagan community are squaring off into two camps, head versus heart, much like the churches of my youth. I’m not willing to join either camp. My “church” is in the dance of both perspectives, where head meets heart and knowledge spawns celebration.
My enthusiastic embrace of a more charismatic Pagan path is neither naïve nor fluffy. It is a conscious choice – the choice to allow reason and emotion to overlap, to be aware of the less-than-perfect nature of the world without letting it become my focus, to grow in knowledge and experience without allowing myself to become jaded, cynical, or too sophisticated to feel wonder. From where I stand, every new bit of knowledge I gain only increases my sense of wonder and awe. I choose to embrace both head and heart in my walk – to know and to feel, to think and to dance, to see the shadow and still walk in the light.
As a Witch, I believe embracing a life of awe with will and intent is my birthright and my responsibility. It is a conscious act of creation wherein I take the gifts and insights offered to me and transform them into a life that is both grounded and ecstatic. I would wish for each of you a life filled with wonder and joyful expression. May your learning open doors in both mind and heart.
Whether you choose to physically dance in the moonlight or dance privately in your heart – dance, Witch…dance!
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