Twelve Healing Stars is a yearlong project in cooperation with the Temple of Witchcraft that explores social justice through the lessons of the 12 Zodiac Signs. This is part three.
I once had a college professor who had a theory about know-it-alls. I’m sure we’ve all come into contact with a few know-it-alls in our lives. They have advice for everything; they seem to always be able to one-up anything you say, and they often spend a lot more time talking rather than listening.
Anyway, this professor placed a dot on a piece of paper and said, “This is what a know-it-all actually knows”:
Then he drew a circle around the dot, saying that this circle represented all possible information. There is a lot of information that know-it-all does not know:
The intersection – where the tiny dot of knowledge meets the expansive blank space of ignorance is what a know-it-all knows he does not know. It’s the information he is aware he lacks. As you can see, that space is tiny, so he believes they know everything.
As a person learns, their dot grows, but so does the intersection between the dot and the blank space inside the circle:
So the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Learning helps you understand new things, but it also opens up a world of wonder where each new piece of information both adds to your understanding of the world and gives you a glimpse of just how much more is out there. At the same time, the more we shut ourselves down from learning new things, the less we realize what we’re missing.
This is why knowledge is so important to social justice, magick, and all of life’s endeavors. All witches may be healers, but just as you wouldn’t trust a first year medical student to perform surgery on you, a witch without knowledge and training is not going to be effective in their work against injustice. In astrology, this knowledge and learning is the realm of Sagittarius.
Author Christopher Penczak is the Sagittarius Lead Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft. His ministry is responsible for training in the mysteries. He notes a tension between those who come to Paganism and the Craft for their own spiritual development and those who focus on activism. “There is a string of esotericism wanting to guide the evolution of society by presenting principles and offerings wider teachers and action,” he says, “and those who want to focus on the evolution of the soul.”
This tension can be seen in the history of Paganism and Wicca in the U.S. Gerald Gardner and the early forerunners in
modern Witchcraft had little interest in social justice issues. “Elders and teachers had a ‘live in the world but not of it’ kind of vibe” at the time, says Penczak. But as the movement reached the U.S., and especially as it migrated westward, many strains developed a focused on activism, especially around issues of equality and environmentalism, as a primary spiritual practice. Some pagans want to focus on their own growth. Others want to be activists. “In this Aquarian Age,” stresses Penczak, “we must do both and create models of education that support both.”
The problem, he says, is infrastructure: “The number of seekers and students now far outstrips the number of available grounded, teaching covens and we have to create more models of esoteric education, I think the real important issue in our ministry with social justice is the training of priestesses and priests, high priestesses and priests and ministers concerned with the magickal community being involved in social justice, and capable of being able to approach the problem through both real world actions and magickal action.”
Scott Cunningham’s very simply stated Goal of the Witch is a driving force to this kind of work: “Learn.” Train yourself, both magickally and intellectually, and you will grow your dot. Avenues will open, and you will find ways to be more effective in your social justice work. Penczak echoes Cunningham in the necessity of gaining a good, solid esoteric education. “The biggest and most unpopular suggestion,” he says, “is that magical people in community should get a solid education in magick, and in self-knowledge, before taking larger leadership roles.”
It is tempting to get right out there, but, “When you don’t have that self-knowledge and the self-awareness skills in place, groups dedicated to change can also serve as pools of unrest and drama because people are working things out unconsciously on each other the things they should be working out in their spiritual practice.” Anyone can offer their help to a cause, but activism is a powerful force and, “Those who take big roles have to have the knowledge and skills, magickal and otherwise, to contain and manage it.”
We live in a time when there is a ton of information available about esoteric studies. The internet has opened up these formerly secretive mysteries. Unfortunately, with such an embarrassing wealth of information out there, a seeker can easily drown in a sea of 101 books and Wikipedia articles. There are a lot of resources out there. The challenge is to find a trustworthy, knowledgeable teacher who can guide you down the path. The mysteries open up slowly, and we often jump straight into them with a burning desire to learn all we can right away. The teacher serves the role of soul guide, helping you “contain and manage” that fire. They help you focus, take aim, and shoot your fiery arrow straight.
Brick and mortar metaphysical stores are becoming less and less common. If you have one near you, it’s a great place to start. Many offer classes and bring in teachers from various traditions. Some train is specific traditions. With the atrophy of physical stores, online education has become more common. Penczak offers online training in the Temple of Witchcraft tradition. Author Raven Grimassi has recently begun offering online courses. Experienced teacher Storm Faerywolf, teacher/podcaster Devin Hunter, and their partner Chas Bogan are offering a fascinating new course of study called Black Rose Witchcraft in addition to their other teaching endeavors.
Other online programs are available too, and they are a great option for those who either can’t find physical teaching where they live or want to develop their souls without committing to a coven, although it does take some discernment to sort out the quality programs. Perhaps Lydia Crabtree’s new project, Pagan Pro, will assist in that. For activist work specifically, opportunities such as this weekend’s online Pagan Activism Conference can be fantastic ways to learn and grow as a person who cares about social justice.
The desire to help end injustice in the world can be like a flame. Properly controlled and managed, it can light the way to wonderful new pathways. Uncontrolled, it can burn incinerate all you hold dear. Social justice work can be similar. There always will be something to fight. The more you know yourself, your values, and your skills the more you can focus your efforts in ways that are truly effective. While we may want to burst forth to tackle every new issue that presents itself, doing so wastes your flame by dissipating it. You may look like you’re doing something, but you’re not. Your energy is too diluted, and you will burn out quickly. Is your activism about actual help or just looking helpful?
In this Sagittarian time of year, take some time to get to know yourself. What do you really stand for? If you think of yourself as having limited flame, where do you want to place that energy so it offers maximum help, both magickal and physical, to the causes that are dear to you? Perform a meditation and request to be connected to an inner teacher who can help you see your true Will, the causes that will feed your soul and keep you passionate about your Work. Ask to know yourself.
Educate yourself about the issue. Online memes don’t teach us anything, even if they include a picture of Morgan Freeman. Research the true causes, history, and context of the issues you wish to work on. If there are victims, learn what they truly need. If it’s truly something you’re passionate about, learning all you can about the issue should be a joy, not a burden.
Check your sources. Recently, Heather Greene at the Wild Hunt researched last month’s story about the Jacob Crockett, the supposed teen “warlock” who was reportedly killed by a radical Christian. There was a predictable outcry over the pagan streams of social media. Greene found that the victim was actually a Christian, and the perpetrator was most likely just mentally ill. It had nothing to do with religious friction, and a lot of people wasted their time and resources. Contain your flame until you have the kindling just right.
“I’m a big believer in setting the energy of change with magick first, with spell work, and then going about the real world action,” concludes Penczak. Set your intention with a spell, perhaps a candle spell in this fiery time of year, then go out and do the work. Work for your passion with all knowledge about the issue providing you a clear shot at your target. The larger your dot of knowledge, the larger its effect on the world.