Audacity: Friend or Foe?

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

To Dare! One point in the Witch’s Pyramid. One must be daring to be a Witch, to even claim the identity of Witch, at least on some level. How could I not? It is what I am. Many people are things they cannot verbalize or accept, so this daring is an act of magick. In this sense, we can and should embrace our daring, our boldness, if we seek a magickal life. Bravery is required to step into the dark and commune with unknown gods. Bravery is required to set your will and take action, spellcraft and otherwise, to make it happen. Being a Witch is not everyone’s cup of tea. So be audacious!

Yet there is the audacity that forgets the other points of the pyramid that balance this wisdom—to know and to keep silent. To will, the last corner of our pyramid, partners well initially with daring, but audacity that is not partnered with knowledge and awareness of both self and others—especially the recognition of when to speak and act and when not to—leads to the type of audacity that is rudeness, impertinence, and impudence.

While we have our own codes that are not understood by all of the outer world, a Witch’s honor is akin to that of a chivalrous knight or samurai. It may be written uniquely on the stars or upon sacred bark or in the scarred flesh of our own hearts, but we live by a code of honor. My code is not necessarily your code, but like Witchcraft itself, we recognize the heart of this honor in another Witch.

Sometimes we think we are honoring that code, being daring and brave, when in reality we are embracing rudeness.

A friend just shared with me that at a Pagan gathering, another Witch, considered somewhat an authority as a presenter at said event, told him that something he shared from the tradition he was trained in was “wrong” and that he and they needed to stop doing it immediately or otherwise they were being harmful to everyone in the community. Spoiler alert: what they were doing was not harmful, nor was it controversial in 95% of Pagan, Witchcraft, and magickal spaces.

She did so under the veil of great kindness, generously offering “needed” aid by taking him aside, but her act was filled with a level of assumption and presumption, having never experienced their ritual directly, being ignorant of the deeper theology and meaning behind why they did the practice, and without an understanding of what the members of the tradition experienced when doing the ritual. It simply did not conform to what she personally felt was appropriate for her, but instead of asking further questions—or even permission—before offering authoritative, unrequested advice, she told him it had to stop.

In short, she had the audacity to not only believe she knew what was best for a group of Witches she didn’t even know, but also to voice that opinion, presuming a level of authority or responsibility under the aegis of making the world better, i.e. outwardly conforming to her virtues, assuming that her directive should and would be followed. But this wasn’t her class. He hadn’t asked a question. She was nothing more than a new acquaintance of his at social time during an event where people were informally sharing on a particular topic after hours. No one else voiced concern about the supposed “harm” he was doing.

When I first heard about his story—and that at the time, he wasn’t in a place to either engage more deeply or tell her to fuck off, since he wanted to keep this after-hours social hangout pleasant—I got mad. I personally know everyone involved and was just stunned at the audacity. I get deeply concerned when speakers, leaders, and teachers in Witchcraft act this way. I am concerned when anyone does it, but particularly when the strong voices in our magickal community do it.

While today it appears the thing for public figures to do is offer their opinion freely as what others should do, in the metaphysical world, good leaders and teachers generally eschew forcing their beliefs on others. If someone is acting illegally or causing actual direct harm, we take direct action, but in matters of metaphysical or theological opinion, it’s not our place to dominate; otherwise occultism/Paganism/Witchcraft becomes another tradition where authority figures tell you how to think, act, and be. Ours is a mystical tradition of personal unfolding on the path. We can guide those with whom we are in a sacred student-teacher relationship or those who have come to a workshop, but even then, though we can presume they have come to listen to our view, we nonetheless can’t presume or force our view on others. Right for one is not right for all, and our traditions are of multiplicity. There are many things that I disagree with in many magickal groups, but thankfully, I am not part of those groups The caveat is that those things are wrong “for me” or “for the people I work with at this time,” but everyone has the freedom to seek in their own way on their own.

It reminds me of the popular internet graphic originally from A Small Fiction by author James Mark Miller, and often erroneously attributed to the author Terry Pratchett:

“Why do the townsfolk fear you?” she said.

“Because I can do things they can’t,” the witch said.

“Like?”

“Mind my own business, for one.”

Likewise, on the other side, I recall an episode of the HBO show True Blood where Holly, a Witch, gives the shapeshifting bartender Sam a bag of herbs to ease his rage. His response, “You got anything that works for nosiness and bad boundaries?”

Those are the two sides of this. Knowing when to dare is as important as the daring itself. Am I called to take action here? Who is calling? Is it my soul, my gods, or my ego? Can I be divinely audacious and live that magickal life, doing what is necessary? Or will I confuse Divine Necessity, the weaving goddess of fate, with my own self-importance and desire to be in charge?

Most good Witches I know have been on both sides of it, myself included, because you need to experience both and become conscious of it to choose your divine audacity. Most of us go through it. It’s a natural stage of our growth, but hopefully we outgrow it before we are in a position where we could abuse any perceived authority. The trick is not getting stuck here. Choose wisely.

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