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The Power of Personal Responsibility

By Penny Novack
(Used with permission)


When I first came to the Craft I had no interest whatsoever in magic. Or Magick. Whatever. I was looking for Goddess because the Moon told me that was what I needed to continue on my spiritual journey. Since the Moon had long been my confidant but had never before spoken to me -- let alone held a conversation -- I paid attention. And the sort of Goddess which the Fates held out to me was contained in the Old Religion.
But Magic? A waste of time. A distraction from Spiritual Growth. A temptation to idiocy.

I was already so positive I knew better than the Gods as to what was valuable in this life. Magic existed but was just a toy to distract the serious Seeker. Brilliant!

Grumpily, I followed the disciplines I was taught. Learned not only about Goddess but Gods and anthropology and archaeology and the physical and biological Sciences and the Classics and... One step at a time I moved away from knowing everything to knowing everything was still to be learned. And at some point, I learned that Magic was not only a natural Force, like gravity or wind or water. I learned that all things are a process of magic. The entirety of the universe flows in patterns and I am a tiny turn in the patterns of the universe. I learned that I have a great Magical Power which I had always wielded -- but without focus or Will or awareness or even, mostly, Love. It is the Power to create my share of the future. It is the power of Choice. Magic study taught me that to be honest is Power. Truth is Power. Mindfulness is Power.

And I learned that not only are my acts intertwined with all other parts of this magical universe thus weaving the future realities we all face but that I am totally responsible for how I have used these acts of Choice.

Responsibility. How many times have I tried to unravel to someone the path of consequences only to be told I'm "On a guilt trip?" Guilt is only the warning buzzer that something is not working correctly. I know that for some people guilt is an addiction. What a foolish choice! But to truly enter into power as an aware human being it is important to never throw away the meaning of Choice. The examination of results -- karmic return -- is a massive education in Magic. Guilt might be the warning buzzer but when you are sensitive to that buzzer, you claim your Power, for the willingness to take responsibility for all our acts is the foundation for being capable of clear and focused Magic.

It is also the foundation of ethics -- or, even better, the process of learning Right Action.

I could not say Goddess has ever told me how to live my life. Out of love for Gaia and the other forms of Sacred Beings I have taken lessons in living gently with Nature but living with my species, my fellow human creatures is such a subtle maze that I am left on my own. But, no, that is not true. With my studies of the Old Gods I was blessed with the study of Magic. Cook book magic perhaps formed the earliest attempts. But following the processes of learning within that work taught me about consequence and personal power and responsibility in ways no amount of rules or edicts or stern pronouncements could ever have affected. When one realizes how deeply connected everything is, there is a constant flow of guidance and feedback.

I learned from my teachers that working deliberately on the energy levels and astral levels (well, ok, they're related) creates strong karmic waves which can travel further than mundane acts usually can. After having bullied me (well, patiently instructed, to be fair) into learning Magic, they told me that the best use of Magic is not to use it. Just to be aware and to now and then nudge the path of things. Not too much. The young and inexperienced were to be expected to jump in and splash around. Gaining finesse and awareness of consequence was the mark of the finest Magicians.

For all Beings are Magicians. Being a Witch, to my teachers, meant that we were Magicians within the service of the Old Gods. Not all to be leaders -- not all to be showy, magically. In the service of the Old Gods. Which brought me back around to my first goal. And which gave me a better basis for humility than I would have had without the awareness which knowledge of Magic taught. I was so haughty when I came to them.

I learned that becoming a Witch did not make me any more Spirit than the leaf in the wind. Nor more worthy of admiration than the college kid at the Laundromat. Neither did it make me "perfect" and beyond reproach. I learned that laughter and pleasure were sacraments and that all who Seek are only Fools on the Path. I learned that being able to See the patterns of magic does not confer the right to mess with them.

Who taught me? Ultimately, all the world has taught me. But without the all-too-human guidance of my Craft teachers who nevertheless did not fail the Goddess in service, I learned the most powerful ethics I could ever have learned. I learned I have deep powers of Choice and I have learned to claim the karmic meaning of my acts. This is responsibility.

When I tell people about Magic, when I teach, I don't say, "Be pure." I don't tell them, "Follow these rules, they cover it all." I would never suggest that any ritual would give them the right to "Do as you Will."

I tell them:

"Try to behave yourself. If it's rude to do on a mundane level, it's quite rude to do on a magical/astral level. If it's wrong to do on a mundane level, it's even more wrong to do on a magical/astral level. Just TRY to behave yourself."

Because, once you are aware of consequence, once you respect yourself, your Power, and have gained some sense of consequence, you know what is rude, you know what is wrong. However, you will still be human. You will still be a Fool on the Path. All we can do is try. And be ready to accept karmic return and affirm our Self and our Power of Choice by taking responsibility for what we have done -- or not done.

May you be blessed in your Path. May the joys of life guide you and the ills bring you strength. May you be serene within your Self and learn to Dance with Magic and never fear the Sacred Pratfall.


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This page last updated May 8, 2004