I’m talking about Bao Ding balls of course. What did you think I meant? (Not to be confused with Ben Wah balls! You’d be surprised how many people make that mistake). Anyway, Juniper recently wrote an excellent post about how Witchcraft and spirit work is Hard Work. It seems to be making to rounds in the blogosphere. This is my 2 cents on the whole matter
When I was a kid my dad used to bring me to the local flea market. One of the stalls that drew me was an Asian man who peddled various sundry goods of Asian origin. One of these items was various sets of Bao Ding balls in all sizes, starting off as little itty-bitty to gargantuan how-can-you-hold-them-both-in-your-hand types. Upon request he demonstrated them, bringing out his own (massive) set of balls and rotating them effortlessly in his hand. They seemed to glide across his palm, never once touching (to truly use them right you’re not supposed to let the balls touch each other, they should glide across your hand without knocking together).
When I tried them with the smallest itty-bitty pair I was horrible. They knocked together and I couldn’t make them rotate no matter how hard I tried. I bought that pair and spent the rest of the summer practicing until I had mastered them. I would spend time each day to work with them, patiently gaining in skill. By the end of the summer I could make them glide with subtle motions, never once allowing them to touch. The following year I bought the next larger set up and continued the process. After a few years had passed I tackled the largest pair, the gargantuan set that most people could not even hold in one hand without dropping. I mastered those too with much practice. This was the culmination of years of practice by this point.
From time to time I would show this skill to people. Since I made it look easy everyone always wanted to try too and I’d let them hold my own (massive) balls to find that most people would immediately drop them upon trying to rotate them. Every single time, the answer they gave was the exact same. Not once or twice, but every single damn time. If I was a gambling man I could of made a mint predicting the responses for cash.
You know what the response always was: “Well you can do that because you have bigger hands than I do”. Never mind the years of daily practice, no that didn’t matter at all! The reason I could do this, and they could not, could all be explained away by some innate advantage in anatomy I supposedly possessed. Time after time a comparison would show that my hands were no bigger than anyone else’s.
This experience taught me something. Most people don’t want to learn any skill that takes work. There is an all-pervasive myth of “innate skill and talent”. You can only do advanced math if your “naturally gifted” at it. Can only ice skate if your graced with superior agility at birth. You can only bench press 300lbs if your genetic stock makes you the equivalent of the horrifying bastard offspring of a gorilla and a neanderthal. What? Hard work and practice to attain these things? Fuck that! Most people think that if it takes practice and work it’s not worth doing, and will furthermore seek any way they can to take away and dismiss any work you have put into something by explaining it away with natural talent or quirks in anatomy. It also lets them off the hook to attain the same skill ” There’s no use in me trying to do that, I don’t have the necessary ability. Guess there’s no use in wasting all that time trying”.
For this reason I hate it when people tell me I can’t do something. The quickest way to earn my eternal ire is by telling me I’m “not cut out for something”. I never thought of myself as someone who could rock climb, that was always something cooler/stronger people did. One year I gave it a try and I SUCKED at first. I really, really, sucked. I couldn’t even climb the most modest rock face, literally. It was embarrassing to even try in front of all these guys who could scale a crag face like spiderman in seconds (one guy in particular I swear must of been an experiment in human/monkey hybrids by the university). By the end of that same year I was out-climbing some of those same veterans (and I loved the looks from hikers as they pointed and thought I was crazy!).
My point is, Witchcraft and spirit work take a lot of hard work and practice. This is why I hate the concept of “Witchblood”. It tend to make one lazy and rely on this “innate talent” BS. I’d take someone who works hard at their craft daily over someone naturally gifted and does nothing with it, any day of the week. This is also why daily practice is so important to me and I get cranky if I don’t get it in. My biggest fear is becoming an “arm chair magician”, someone who just practices their craft on full moons and holidays and reads about it the rest of the time. For me Witchcraft is in the practicing, the mistakes made, the frustrations, the constant burning desire to learn and to Do. There is no substitute for this, no matter how many books or blogs you read, no matter how much you can discuss they intricacies of your pet magical model, etc. Just get in there and do it. Then do it again. Then again. A Witch is what a Witch does.
I love Junipers example of giving offerings for weeks only to finally have a breakthrough in being taught a technique. My experience has been similar. There are long times of spiritual dryness. Going through the motions and not feeling anything. Wondering if your better off giving up? Then finally a breakthrough that makes it all seem worth it.
While I love reading blogs and the like, I think a lot of us get the impression that everyone else out there is doing it effortlessly and doesn’t even need to think about it. As a result we think that if your not having supper with the gods on a daily basis and talking to spirits every moment of your day when your just starting out, your somehow worthless or not fit for the work. We don’t see all the sweat and hard work that has gone into attaining that level of skill. It’s natural human nature for everyone to write about the successes, those are more interesting. Those successes are the result of lot and lots of practice, frustration, and hard work.
So you want to practice Witchcraft? Then practice it.