Learning From Your Mistakes
Last month I wrote about learning in the face of adversity. In those situations, the difficulty is beyond our control and it is up to us to make the best of the circumstances. When we make mistakes, the fault is ours and it is up to us to rectify the situation, learn from it, resolve not to do it again, and go on.
There are mistakes which are humorous in nature. We forget words in ritual or say the wrong ones, place objects in the wrong location or leave something we need outside the circle. These are minor things that we should laugh about, then continue. Getting upset over them is just going to disrupt the energy of the ritual and stress yourself and anyone who may have joined you.
Deborah Lipp relates that a water worn rock which represents water to her, is normally placed to represent earth when someone else sets up the altar for a group ritual. She simply moves it to the west. (1) Scott Cunningham wrote about a humorous mistake in a ritual with two other people. The skyclad participants were dancing on a slippery floor, so they all fell down. They laughed about it, got back on their feet with difficulty and continued the ritual.
There are mistakes we make because we are not clear in our intentions. Magick is an energy and like electricity or flowing water, it follows the path of least resistance. While being too specific may exclude solutions seen by the Universe but not by us; leaving things too open can result in unintentional, even humorous results. At one time, I had a neighbor who had a flood light on their garage which shone in my bedroom window so brightly it was impossible to sleep without hanging a blanket as a curtain. Talking with the neighbors changed nothing, leaving a note angered them and calling the police only resulted in me being accused of harassment. I made and charge a charm to repel the neighbors’ negativity; then hung it on the outside of my house facing the neighbors’ garage during a waning moon. Tensions quickly dissipated and the light was turned off in about a month. But after about two weeks, I noticed that when my first wife and I went to bed, she suddenly became argumentative. I figured out that this began when the moon changed to waxing, so the magick somehow reversed its effect. I removed the charm, deactivated and burned it, stopping the unintentional side effect. As a safeguard, during the closing of all acts of magick, I now say, “for the free will of all, with harm to none.”
A humorous example comes from an author/HPS in Pennsylvania who worked magick for her husband to bag a buck while hunting. She asked that he would see the biggest buck in the forest and assumed that as an excellent shot, he would bring home venison. He saw the deer, but was taking care of personal business, so he came home empty handed. In retrospect, she realized that she assumed he would be able to shoot the deeer and did not contact the power animal for the buck. (2)
As much as we may say, “harm none”, it is still human nature to be angry, jealous, possessive and vengeful. While few Pagans would say that it is wrong to work dark magick to protect ourselves or our family, there can be a fine line between defense and lowering ourselves to the aggressors level or becoming aggressive ourselves against an imagined threat. Several times during conflict when I was confident that it was justified, I invoked the Morrighan. She will protect you like no other, but She brings powerful warrior energy, so I was specific about the purpose and time frame. Since I felt Her passionate energy within me, I have decided that it is safer to call on Her to protect me or others who need Her protection rather than draw Her energy directly into me. During my divorce proceedings (2006 – 2008), it was necessary to be strong and protect myself and my daughter, but act in a civilized manner. Those of you who have been divorced, especially with children can understand the need for controlled passions.
Late in June 2008, I was informed that my ex-wife’s health was failing and she would probably live only a few more days. I had been informed almost a year before that she was terminally ill when court papers were ordered including a provision for me to take my daughter from Indiana back to Ohio for the month of July. I was told through my ex’s lawyer’s office that my daughter would only be in Ohio for 24 hours, then returned to me. Imagine my anger when I received another call from my ex’s lawyer’s office the next afternoon that my daughter was now going to be in Ohio the entire month and claiming no knowledge of the 24 hour deal. My struggles to get her back only resulted in anger and frustration, so I made a witch bottle to turn back the negativity, but the worse was yet to come.
My ex-wife passed away July 29th and as I drove to Ohio to pay my respects and bring my daughter home, I found out that hours before the funeral my ex-wife’s sister went before a judge and obtained temporary custody of my daughter by claiming I was abusive and dangerous without any physical evidence or eyewitness testimony. I won’t delve into the legal maneuvering and struggles that lasted 49 weeks, except to say that it defied logic and was very stressful on both my present wife, who loves her as a mother, and myself. We had to work within the system and be careful what we said and did, but hate grew within both of us. The end of the struggle came as a trial date before a new judge who had a reputation as a children’s advocate as well as ruling based on law and evidence drew near and the aunt announced she could not afford to continue the fight. But we feel that more importantly, both my wife and I gave up our thirst for revenge and hatred at the same time, unbeknownst to each other. The lesson we learned was that hate and revenge are not the answer; they consume you and bring you down to the other parties’ level.
We Pagans are just as human as everybody else, so as much as we know that we need to learn from our mistakes, we too often find ourselves repeating the same ones. It is a fault of mine to crave attention and sometimes I have taken it in ways that were wrong. Almost two years ago, my wife (not yet legally married) was in Florida with her father and sister and I was talking online and on the phone with a woman in another state. While I believe that people of the opposite sex can be just friends and a majority of my friends are women, there is a line that should not be crossed out of respect for your partner. This woman persuaded me that she was the one for me and encouraged me to tell my wife I didn’t want her anymore. She also told me she was Pagan (which I now doubt), she was having dreams about her and I being together, and she claimed she was receiving messages from my deceased son. Not only was my wife heartbroken when I told her, so was my daughter who loved her as her mother. Even though I denied it, I was miserable inside. My wife came back to Indiana to get her things, but it hit me like a board to the head that I could not live without her. I told the other woman goodbye, but no amount of apologies or remorse could change the fact that I had hurt the two people who loved me the most and I had allowed this woman to mess with my head and feelings. All I could do was learn, love and move on.
Only a few months ago, I met a woman in Indiana online and things seemed innocent enough at first, but after a few weeks, it became too “friendly”. The Universe was telling me how wrong this was by the feelings I was getting while praying that the Lady and Lord were not listening to me and were displeased and my altar caught on fire from candles because I forgot to go back into the basement to put them out, but I remembered to call this woman. I even ignored the fact that I made a wrong turn in Indianapolis and went miles out of my way while going to meet this woman. I admitted to my wife what happened and had to go to be with her in Florida or throw away our marriage.
One evening after I came home by myself, I saw this woman online and made the huge mistake of chatting with her. After a while, her and I met up again and once more I stuck my figurative fingers in my ears, ignoring obvious signs that I was messing up big time. Friday evening, her and I went to see a singer performing before a small audience in Indianapolis. While everyone was waiting for the singer to arrive, there was time to talk with the other people there. Several of them looked at the other woman and I with expressions that showed they did not think we were a real couple. Even the singer, who is Pagan, talked with the woman and I after the show and asked with an air of suspicion, “You two are in a relationship?” while her eyes darted back and forth. Sunday the woman and I went to a Ren Faire in another town and I decided to try a free reiki reading while she looked around. The reiki practitioner asked no questions other than what was bothering me, to which I replied that my neck was sore. I carry tension in my neck. I could feel the energy while she was reading mine. She told me that I had a problem with my heart, but not in a physical sense and I was not grounded. Here was a stranger who could tell something was wrong or was being used as a means to tell me I was doing wrong. Minutes later, my phone rang and my wife told me she knew I was with someone else so she was coming home and the other woman had better leave. She later told me she had a bad feeling that something was wrong Friday night. My wife has been in tune with me since early in our relationship and it was stupid of me to think I could pull this off without her feeling it and figuring it out. She had to leave her family and our daughter to come back to Indiana to deal with my mess. Why? I was stupid to take this kind of attention instead of being thankful for the loving attention my wife has always given me. Since then, I make daily devotions giving thanks for my marriage, asking to be a better husband and banishing my fault of getting attention at any price.
No matter what our beliefs, we can all mess up and it is never too late to correct mistakes and put them behind us if we really set our minds and wills to it. Listen if the powers that be are trying to tell you something. Honest mistakes are one thing, but in my experience, karma will come after intentional wrong. See your mistakes as learning experiences and use them as tools to improve your life. Take heed to the inner voice.
(1) Deborah Lipp, Elements of Ritual, page 18
(2) Silver RavenWolf, To Fly a Silver Broomstick, page 150