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Next Level Witchcraft: Recognizing a Rut and Taking Steps Forward

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Sometimes, stagnation hits us so slowly that we don't even notice until we're entrenched. It can happen at any point, too. Beginners, experienced witches, community leaders, and teachers all fall into ruts, hit plateaus, and get stuck. No matter how dedicated we are, and no matter our tradition (or lack thereof), hitting walls is an inevitable part of being a witch. The good news is that this is often a sign that it's time to level up. Let's take a look at some of the most common signs that you've arrived on a magical plateau and consider strategies for taking next steps.

  1. Books are boring.
    You've read a fair bit. Maybe even a whole lot. So much that you're starting to feel like all of the books you're reading are repeating each other. The truth is that witchcraft is fundamentally about doing, not just reading about doing. We tend to love books, and we often hold up authors as points of authority in lieu of more formalized or centralized leadership. Even though we understand that our traditions are experiential, we tend rely on the written word for guidance, encouragement, and inspiration. When you've been around for a while, though, this love for reading loses its luster. Sometimes the problem is with the books, yes. There's a lot of material out there—beyond the magical studies section at the bookstore—and you could simply ask for a different sort of reading list with more complex or more specialized titles. But that doesn't really address the problem! Sometimes, instead of just adding more reading, we need to choose something to take off the page and put into action. What one thing have you been curious to try, but are still "researching" (i.e. procrastinating)? Close the book and go do it.

  2. You've stopped with your regular routines.
    When we fall into a rut, often the first thing to suffer is our spiritual routines: our daily devotions, our prayers, our morning affirmations, our talks with familiar spirits, our meditations, our regular observance of the moon, and whatever other small things you may have built into your regular practice over the years. The causes are many. You could be dealing with family drama, an illness, pandemic fatigue, depression, or a suddenly chaotic work schedule. But the fact is your old routine isn't serving you anymore, and it's time for a revamp. When regular routines fall apart, I recommend completely starting over with a single thing. Lots of people trying to revitalize a waning practice will come up with something overly ambitious that doesn't factor in their new life circumstance, and then they'll become overwhelmed and frustrated when they fail. Just like how a new fitness routine will fall flat if you overdo it at the gym on the first day, a spiritual practice won't stick if you're trying to live up to an ideal that isn't realistic. Choose one thing—no more, seriously, even if you feel like you can handle it—and stick to it for a month. Maybe that's saying a devotional prayer every morning when you wake up. Maybe it's sitting in meditation for ten minutes at lunchtime. Maybe it's journaling. Whatever your thing is, stick to it for one month, and then allow yourself to add one more thing. Change doesn't happen overnight, so give yourself the grace of time. You will be shocked at who you can become if you approach with patience and diligence.

  3. Rituals feel like chores.
    Has celebrating seasonal change lost its appeal? Did you completely forget that last eclipse until Instagram clued you in? Is the coven coming over and you'd rather just watch Netflix? It's not just you—a lot of practitioners find that they become less enthusiastic over time, especially during periods of stress. The pandemic isn't making things any easier, for sure, and I don't need to tell you that when your spiritual commitments start to feel like drudgery it's time for a change. But that change doesn't have to be drastic or overwhelming! Just like establishing a new routine, when we shake up an old one it's better to take it easy and treat yourself gently. When your usual ritual work has started to stagnate, it's likely that the things that were once important to you just aren't so much anymore. Instead of thinking of yourself as a slacker or a failure, consider that the meaning has simply moved, and it's time to go find it again! You don't have to celebrate the same holidays and celestial cycles as every other witch, nor do you have to stick to the same sort of ritual framework you've been using for years just because that's how you've always done it. What is important to you right now? Build your practice around that.

  4. You're feeling like there must be more out there.
    There's always more to learn, more to explore, and more to develop as a witch. If lately you've had the sense that you're just missing something—something that feels important—then you're probably right. Sometimes we fall into ruts because we've slowly mastered something (or just grown into something else), and what was once fulfilling is now holding us back. This is especially true for witches who have been practicing for a long time. You might be in a leadership role in your community, or a recognized authority within a particular tradition, but that should never stop you from exploring what else is out there. Now might be a good time to read something from a different tradition, attend an online workshop or festival to which you've never been, or seek out different voices and perspective than the ones to whom you’ve been listening. If you're an old hand and it's been a while, consider reading a beginner book from a newer author who has no connection to the materials you've relied on in your own training. If you're a younger practitioner, seek out elders (who may not be on social media at all) and ask for their perspectives. The magical world is so much bigger than just our own little corners—challenge yourself to step out of your own bubble.

  5. You're overwhelmed by multiple possibilities.
    There are so many traditions to explore! So many books to choose from! So much information flooding social media! And so many magical disciplines and techniques you could explore—way more than anyone could reasonably learn in one lifetime! We don't usually think of overwhelm as its own plateau, but it certainly is. It particularly impacts beginners, who often struggle with where and how to take their first steps. If this is how you've been feeling lately, try to approach with a feeling of fun and adventure. Give up the worry that you're going to choose incorrectly. There's no such thing. Sure, you'll read the periodic problematic book, you won't enjoy every workshop you ever take, and sometimes you'll get halfway through exploring something and realize it isn't for you, but this is not time wasted. In all cases, you're still learning, and that means you're making progress. You're also just objectively going to die before you learn it all—hate to break it to you, but that's true for all of us. So shift the focus to what's most engaging in the moment, with the understanding that you can choose differently later.

It's normal to hit bumps in your development as a witch. Sometimes there are very practical solutions to getting over them, and other times it's a matter of shifting your thinking. For more, no matter what type of witch you are (or want to be) and no matter how long you've been practicing, check out The Witch's Path: Advancing Your Craft at Every Level</em..

Looking for more from Thorn Mooney? Visit her on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

About Thorn Mooney

Thorn Mooney is a Witch of more than twenty years and the high priestess of Foxfire, a traditional Gardnerian coven thriving in the American South. She holds graduate degrees in religious studies and English literature and ...

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