I had planned to write about cycles; however, when my computer began its cycle of sluggish behavior, preventing me from posting, I shifted my thoughts toward communication. I have very little contact with the “pagan” community, or other witches. There was a time when I more regularly attended public rituals and gatherings, mostly because I was involved in organizing those events, but for the past several years, as was the case before I discovered “paganism”, my spiritual practice (if it can be called that) is accomplished quietly and on my own. I fancy that most people who meet me have no idea of my spiritual leanings and I suppose I prefer it that way. Being cut-off as I am from the wider “pagan” community I can’t speak knowledgeably about communication in that context. What I can speak about, and what I think this meandering post may end up being about, is why communication is important.
There was a time, not so long ago, when information was shared by word of mouth. Most of us were illiterate. That word has such a nasty taste in the mouth now, doesn’t it? It conjures all sorts of images, from gross ignorance to cruel acts committed by those same ignorant individuals. I don’t like those conjurings, so will make my own reference phrase up…which may have been thought of already by scholars who also ponder such things. There was a time, not so long ago, when information was shared orally, when we were all other minded, and animatedly literate. We saw the world in pictures. A tapestry of sound, vision, taste, texture; all woven into a whole. During this time my vocal sounds blended and joined the vocal sounds of the other animals that lived around me, along with the verbal sounds of the wind, the trees, the water. All auditory stimulation combined to communicate something to those who listened.
My ancient ancestress would have been acutely aware that the water was listening to her. The rain that fell outside the house heard her mumblings and hummings and murmurs and sighs. The water paid attention, and knew. The trees also. They looked in at her through the door opening and heard her speak words out-loud to herself, or to her children. They listened, and knew. Oh, how careful was she in what she said. How deliberate was her choice of word and phrase. All of the animate, living World heard her. What would they think? What might they do?
During this time of animate literacy, information was shared from human to human by way of Story. These beautiful mnemonic techniques we have for passing important knowledge allowed for abundant creativity and ingenuity. Shared around a toasty fire, over a hearty meal, they were comforting entertainment and essential reminders. Most of the world’s indigenous population told these sacred stories, which very often involved warnings and wisdom about the natural world, during the winter. It may seem that they were told during winter for purely pragmatic purpose. What else was there to do? It was dark and cold and we were all indoors, under a skin flap or wood hut. Ah…but why else might winter have been the time to share stories about the living world?
That world was asleep! The tree who peeks her knowing eyes into my hut during summer, sleeps deep within her trunk in winter. She does not hear the warnings shared about her nuts and leaves, thus the humans do not offend her. She rests, and we respect her by not gossiping within ear shot! Yes… I like that notion.
So, we communicate in order to share valuable information, to pass on customs, express affection, request help, process emotional pain, and pass the time. All those are important reasons to communicate but it seems what I want to say has nothing to do with that. Rather, I seem concerned with HOW we communicate. Namely, with respect. As a witch I work with the natural world as both part and parcel. I am the natural world. I am one with it and I am a component of it. Just as I hear the Raven call, perched high in our native scots pine, she likewise, hears me. Just as I hear the west wind sing in the tree tops, he likewise, hears me.
Mutual respect and strong relationship are important to my work and life as a witch, and as a human. I need a harmonious relationship with the elements. What in the world would the north wind think if she heard me bad-mouthing her! My word! She wouldn’t be any more desirous of working with me than I would if I heard a friend gossiping behind my back! And let’s not forget the rain! He eventually winds his way back to the ocean, and I certainly would not wish to offend Her! A wise witch minds her words and communicates to ALL beings with respect and courtesy. Not speaking more than is needed, and remembering the wisdom of the ancestors – some secrets are best woven into Story and those Stories are best shared when the world sleeps. ssssshhhhh