Monday, August 9, 2010

Lessons for My Son: Discernment and Integrity

This is the second installment of a regular feature called "Lessons For My Son". In it, I hope to express ideas and concepts that it has taken me 40 years and many mistakes to learn.

The lesson today, Rowan, is that there is no shortcut to becoming an good person. There is no one religion, one book, one guru, or one exercise that will assure that you will make the right decisions, respect others, and be compassionate. All that work must be done on your own. Obeying the law and being a (fill in the blank religion here) does not necessarily build character or make you ethical.

Integrity comes from a lot of hard self work. It does not come from a prescribed set of laws or morals from either government or religion. That is a shortcut for society at large that largely does not work or make for ethical people. (Church going child molesters and cops who murder are examples of this sentiment.) I intend on helping you build your own set of strong ethical convictions, and can help you along the way by modeling, exposing you to as much diversity of thought and experience as I can, and asking strategic questions along the way- but this is your life; your project.You must do the work to make you a good person.

In Feri, we believe that the human soul(s) need to be aligned with the Divine in order to follow what we call "Flow"- or Law- the natural order of things. (Law is a point on the Pearl Pentacle for good reason, coming immediately after the point Love- God Herself's Law is Love)*. When you are aligned with the Divine, you cannot possibly commit evil (like murder, rape, genocide), because evil is borne from the state of disconnection. Evil is disconnection itself.

In a scientific framework, we are all connected to each other. Feri and other religions takes that idea one step further- that we are connected to each other AND the Divine (or that the connection itself is Divine in nature). When we align our soul(s) and tap into that connection, we are "in the flow". When we disconnect ourselves (which in this culture can easily happen) from each other and nature, we lose the flow. That's when things are a struggle. That's when we wage war, cut people off on the freeway, and think of ourselves and not others. It is only in this state that we can commit evil.

Staying connected and compassionate is hard work and requires a regular practice and diligence, Rowan. Much like the Buddhists, I personally do some of this through a sitting practice. Our religious tradition also has amazing tools of alchemy that help transform and purify us (so that aligning with the Divine is easier to do). But don't think that you can do it once and check it off your to-do list. It is not a constant state; instead, we are constantly striving for it. And because we Feri witches deliberately strive for it daily, we are highly integrated, discerning, and ethical people. (That's not to say that we don't make mistakes and aren't mean sometimes. Some of the best people I know slip and fall from time to time.) Feri is a warrior tradition. Using the tools of this tradition makes you strong. But Victor Anderson reminded us that not only do we "not coddle weakness", we also "respect our frailties" as well.

Integrity comes being accountable for our actions. And while we cannot know all the consequences of our actions, I hope you understand that I am teaching you that we are responsible and accountable for what we say and do in the worlds. I hope that you can report years from now that I set a good example for you to follow.

Rowan, you should know that mommy and daddy are witches, but not all witches think the same. Our religious tradition may differ from other forms of religious witchcraft, so I am only speaking as a Feri witch here. Given that many traditions (mine included) are initiatory mystery traditions that you must study, experience, and be initiated into firsthand, I can only speak for me and mine. And given that I have not yet been initiated (commonly one studies for at least 7 years before that may happen), I do not hold ALL of the mysteries yet. Daddy is one step ahead of me on the path.

* The Pearl Pentacle is a tool of Feri alchemy. The five points on it are Love, Law, Knowledge, Power/Liberty, and Wisdom.


  1. Beautifully articulated! ~goosebumps~

  2. Incredible wisdom for a very fortunate son. You are also an inspiration to this grandma. Thank you.

  3. Dear Lily,

    Echoing what ANONYMOUS and RevSHARON posted. Hard lessons to learn, esp. because of the hard knocks which accompanied them (in my case), but totally worth the scrapes.

    This piece gives me comfort. My life experiences are teaching/have taught me the same things that you have written to your son. It's just nice to know that one is not alone in having the same perceptions. One doubts one's self at times, esp. if the lessons go against the popular views. :)

    "Integrity comes from a lot of hard self work. It does not come from a prescribed set of laws or morals from either government or religion. That is a shortcut for society at large that largely does not work or make for ethical people." -- Wow!

    "Feri is a warrior tradition. Using the tools of this tradition makes you strong. But Victor Anderson reminded us that not only do we "not coddle weakness", we also "respect our frailties" as well." -- Double WOw! Hope one day you'll write about the tools, and give examples about "not coddling weakness/respecting frailties" thing.

    PARDON ME, just curious, why did you remove "Witch Mom" from your banner? It's lovely and catchy. Thanks.

  4. Hello, everyone!

    Fear not, "Witch Mom" will again be in the header soon! As you can see, I am in the process of remodeling- some new artwork was done for me (pretty, is it not?) and we are about to move to a new home,

    Thanks for the feedback. It's nice to know that people like the blog and my writing!

    One day, I will write about the tools themselves, but in the meantime, the tools cannot help but make their way into posts anyway! They're a part of my worldview, so how could they not?

  5. Experiential traditions make simple knowledge of the tools meaningless without context and practice with someone that truly understands them. I could hand you any number of the tools I use for my job and -- without knowledge of how they were used or when they should be used -- they would be little more than decoration.

    Personally, I think that's one of the problems with some types of Christianity. They believe it is something you can pick up completely by reading the Bible. How many people know that "The Eye of the Needle" was the name of a gate to Jerusalem and that to get a camel through it you need to unload it and walk it through unburdened? The context and meaning of the knowledge is -- in a large part -- never written down. It is implied in the culture and background of the people who are expected to read it.

    To understand any experiential or initiatory spiritual path you need to walk it and feel it in your life. It is a progression as the full meanings are sometimes impossible to communicate with words. They can be described, but if you've never experienced them personally the descriptions are meaningless.

    For instance, if your great-grandchildren lived their lives on a planet with no moon and they read memoirs about how you enjoyed walking in the moonlight and the importance of this on your faith, they would be left questioning and confused. They'd know about moons in theory but the underlying feelings you were trying to describe would be lost without context.

    As cultures progress all context shifts and is lost. The big benefit of experiential and initiatory paths is that they adapt to the current culture. New ways are found to communicate both new as well as old truths. When old words no longer accurately convey the meaning new words are used. They can do this because there is always someone who understands what is being communicated beyond the words.

    Perhaps I ramble. I'm an experimental polytheist. I believe the written word is responsible for holding humanity back in terms of spiritual growth. I believe this, and yet I still blog about my beliefs.

  6. Hey Steven!

    While I agree that the tools themselves are just tools unless put in the proper context, they can be introduced by someone who has used them. In my tradition, that would be the job of an initiate who teaches.

    We are all beginners on our paths- some have more experience in one thing or another, but "beginner's mind" is a valuable thing to retain.

    I remember the first time I worked with and moved energy- it was amazing and breathtaking. Now I do it all the time with nary a thought.

    I had one teacher in Feri who truly believes that the alchemical tools in our tradition could benefit all of humanity, regardless of their experiences and religious background. Her blog is here.

  7. I have never seen a great, great tree with roots that reach to the center of the earth; that, with rocks, formed a cavern through which a big river runs through. Yet, when Rae Beth asked her readers to imagine this Underworld in “Hedge Witch”(?), I did so before going on with my reading. There were similarities between my experiences and what she wrote further on. (Sorry, I could not find that part of my journal.)

    When I was in my teens and early 20s, I was fond of Barbara Cartland novels. Obviously, I have never experienced the past centuries she wrote of. Even were I to watch movies set in the old centuries, I wouldn’t recognize many of the things she described because Cartland’s culture isn’t like mine and there is the language difference. Yet, when I drew people in old-style clothes, I noticed similarities in clothing details in water color paintings or photos of the actual clothes that I saw much later on.

    Or, how about when I wrote an unfinished Regency romance set during the Anglo-Franco war. I put in details and characters there which I thought I had invented, because I was too lazy to do an in-depth historical research. Yet, years on, I would encounter the same details and somewhat similar characters being involved in the actual events of 1812.

    It’s like my imagination became a real bridge to worlds I have never “visited” and, through the ‘tools’ I had at my disposal, taught me whatever it is I needed to know.

    Hope I made some sense (despite the length of the post).

  8. Your post is so well written I don't know what to add here. I completely agree and am glad to see that I am not alone in trying to teach these things to my children.


Comments are welcome but moderated. Please be respectful when leaving a comment.