It is far too early to write about California, but I will get to that later this week. What I am thinking about is the pagan community and the loss of Richard Ravish. I did like Richard and he was always polite to me. It is too bad he was lost to the community and to his wife at this time. Cancer is not the way I would choose to go. This will be a blow to the Temple of Nine Wells and to Gypsy, and I wish her family peace and comfort at this time.
That being said, I was also reflecting on the younger group of pagans, a lot of them my students and friends in Kithrowan, and thinking about how this is the next generation. I look at them and I see the same optimism that I had. I see my daughter Rosie, and I think of how lucky she has been to have grown up within such a loving community. I wish I had had this when I was a kid. Growing up at A.S.P. has been a treat for her. The younger folks coming in now like Beschen and Kitty, are going to have the benefits of having older mentors to get them over the humps and the issues of walking a magical life.
This was something I did not have. As a young pagan, when I was 21, or even further back in my teens, when I was learning the skills from various places, from books and films, I did not have a solid leadership to fall back on. I had the spirits who taught me, often by obscure methods (here, this book looks good. See what you get out of it), I had what little of the community I could find when I was 18, and I had a scant handful of actual pagan books that were valid. Starhawk and Adler come to mind here. I learned by experience. We teach the basics, but most of the value that our students will get will come from experience and self-discovery.
Books can teach a lot, but not how to feel the energy in the earth, or how to intuit when there is something else present. That takes trial and error. Like everything in life, magic is an art cultivated over time. Like writing, reading, drawing, painting, or dance, it takes time to learn how to manipulate the forces around you. I can understand how the early Christians feared this in the cultures they strove to ‘save.’ Or why the Inquisition saw the devil everywhere. There is a lot of power in the old ways, and it takes a lot of responsibility to use it for the right purposes.
That is why I teach the young who have come to me. Guidance is needed so that the students don’t go down the darker paths of magic. There are plenty of traps for the unwary, and there are dark beings out there that do try to corrupt and seduce the innocent, but proper training can educate them, just like with anything else. How do we recognize evil in the pagan community? When something attempts to sway one’s opinion towards something that we know isn’t right, that is evil. When the whispers on the wind cause one to feel afraid, that is what we stand against. Evil can be seductive and good can be difficult to perceive, but the trained mind can find the way through the darkness, and with guidance, the next generation will grow to bring their children closer to enlightenment of the soul.