Back To School
As summer nears its end, a new cycle begins. It is a time not just for preserving the harvest in readiness for the winter months ahead, putting the garden to rest and excavating your cold-weather clothes from the back of the cupboard – it is also time to go back to school.
Though most of us left full time education behind many years ago, the onset of autumn is an excellent time to start new study projects. The combination of cooler weather and longer evenings make the prospect of curling up by a cosy fire with a book, or getting engrossed in some fascinating research much more attractive than on a balmy summer’s day. And let’s be honest, no matter how long you’ve been travelling your spiritual path, there is always more to learn, more depth and perspective to gain, new skills to add to your witchy bag of tricks.
If you’re not sure just where to start, it can be helpful to take stock of your past and current training and skills. One useful method is to put together a ‘CV’ of your Pagan and magical experience and training to date. Start right from your childhood, listing any natural skills you were born with, or any early psychic experiences. As a child did you have a magical imaginary friend? Did you see fairies or make wishes that came true? Did you just know somehow when things were going to happen? Did you talk to plants or trees or animals? Write it all down, everything you can remember.
As you got older, did you learn skills such as divination, or read books that influenced your thoughts and/or practices? Did you sharpen your natural psychic abilities or study new subjects such as herbalism or tarot? Which tradition(s) did you find yourself attracted to, which classes or workshops or courses did you take? Who were your mentors and teachers? Were you initiated into a tradition or lineage?
Try to list everything in chronological order, and include even those old interests and avenues of enquiry that seemed to have been mistakes or dead ends. These too will have been valuable learning experiences, even if the only thing you learned was that they definitely were not right for you!
When you have added everything you can think of, take some time to sit down and read your CV through carefully. You will probably be surprised by how much you have already accomplished and how much you have learned. Then take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Looking at your CV again, does one area of interest or study predominate? Are you, for example, an expert on the Celtic pantheon? Or is astrology your passion? Could you design and lead a ritual from scratch if the need arose? Or do your skills lie in the bardic arts? Congratulate yourself on any expertise you have gained over the years. Even natural talent needs practise, hard work and discipline to really shine. Label the first column on your sheet of paper ‘Strengths’ and write those skills in this column.
Then look at those areas that need a bit more work and development. These are skills and abilities you may have acquired but not yet totally mastered. For example I am an adequate drummer. I can hold a steady beat for trance or use a drum to build or shape energy during ritual. But I have not yet developed my drumming by learning more complicated rhythms and I am happier following a more experienced, confident lead drummer than holding that position myself. I intend to work on my drumming skills this autumn. What skills will you be polishing? Label the second column, ‘Areas of Growth’ and add to it those talents you need to work a little harder on in order to really master them.
Your final column should be labelled ‘Challenges’. Revising your CV again, be totally honest with yourself. Which areas are your weaknesses? What skills do you lack? Where are you short of confidence or ability? List them in the ‘Challenges’ column.
This is the tough one. No one likes to be reminded of their weaknesses. But be brave. Take a deep breath, let it go – letting any negativity go with it – and re-read the ‘Challenges’ column. This is useful information. We can’t all be good at everything. You may have to accept that you will never acquire some of the skills listed – I doubt I will ever master clairvoyance for example. But then again, with a little extra effort you may surprise yourself at how proficient you become over time.
Finally, look over the CV again and notice if there is a whole area of study missing – maybe there are absolutely no forms of divination, or perhaps you have not listed any artistic abilities at all. Have you really no interest at all in those matters, or is it a simple lack of self-confidence or a fear of failure that is holding you back? This is where the Magical CV can be a useful aid in awareness and self-development.
Comparing your Strengths, Areas of Growth and Challenges should give you a useful overview of your magical development and achievements to date, and a sense of which direction to follow next. This autumn, have courage and give yourself opportunities to try new things and polish your skill set. Push yourself to work on your weak spots and experience a more balanced set of abilities. I guarantee you will have fun, impress yourself and your friends, and find strengths and talents you never realised were there. Who knew going back to school could be so much fun! Now where did I put my drum…?