Book Learnin’ or Book Leanin’? Being Street Smart in the Craft

Today, with the wind shimmering the six foot windows of an AU classroom, Dr. Seba asked twenty something freshman to fly.  “Take out a piece of paper.  Now.  Draw circles and in them write one word that describes you.  Then, piece them together on a cohesive statement on who you are.”  These younguns have been so boxed in, from twelve years of highschool and hundreds of “texts” and standards, that they have no sense of what makes their hearts thump anymore.  I heard such little pleas as “but, you have to help me” and “I don’t know what to write, Dr. PD.”  Ah hah.  Then I’m on the right track.  Push down as deep as your primal memory of yourself will allow and do it.  Then, write a paragraph on anything, be it peanut butter or politics, fueled by the “self” you have identified.

They didn’t even see me coming.

“Now.  Write your name at the top and pass them forward.”  Tell you what, when I shuffled those pages and handed them back to strangers, you cut have cut the tension like moving a piano wire through butter.  “Now.  Read the identity in front of you . . . and attempt to emulate it in your own paragraph.”  Y’all, it was like I had suggested rolling in hog sweat.  A while in, this sweet young man in the front row put his hand against his head and hollered: this is making my head hurt!  Mmm hmm.  Haven’t tried thinking in a while, have you son?

Had yor’ head stuck up some standardized text.  Memorized every word.  And, suddenly?  Someone asks you to look into another library: your head.

Personally?  I find books to be akin to salt on taters.  Makes ’em taste better, but it shor’ don’t make ’em taters.  You feel me?

Now, let’s be clear here: I hold a doctorate in, well, books.  Most of my walls are covered in everything from Stephen King to Michael Foulcault–they get me all slobbery and sweaty and have pushed me to evaluate the soot and ash of over 2,000 years of thinking.  They make my own thought processes salty.  But here’s the crux: allowing those printed words that started out as the blurry/sharp, sane/bat-shit crazy ponderings of another brain to become the ontology of my own thoughts is, well, the ultimate lazy act of a soul without faith in itself.

Let’s try it in a kitchen witch sorta way.

You’re reading along on some audacious, Foodnetwork-sanctioned recipe by your favorite chef.  Somewhere between the saute of peppers and the addition of chicken stock a–goddess forbid–thought crops up: that sounds like too much stock.  And, laws, I would have added a smidge of wine to that to scrape up the brown bits . . . but the recipe doesn’t dictate that and you are working extra hard not to think and follow blindly through to the end.  Baaaaa, said the sheep.  All would have been fine, except for that moment when the fork hits your tongue and that lingering almost thought tastes a bit bitter.  You wonder: what if I had put my own stamp on it?  What if I had let myself fly?  What if it had been the most succulent bite of my life?

And there we have it.  Worse than regret.  The great “what if” of not following your gut.

How many analogies can y’all factor here?  Lesse: that person gives me the willies.  Give that one a bit, consider instead their tightly-crafted resumes and ignore the feeling.  Let me know how that turns out.  I’ll bring the wine.  Or how about this: that person feels like family.  Ignore that one on the basis of a rough resume, let’s say on account of unemployment or a skin color that you don’t share.  Enjoy your great “what if.”  Or, better yet, go with that one, then pull a chair up to my rocker in ten years.  Tell me all about the love of your life or the friend that fed your soul.  Revel in what yor’ gut brought to the table of your mortal travels.  I’ll bring the wine for that one, too.  [1]

Let’s turn back to college, shall we?  Hang on: I’m Southern.  We have to lean on the fence post a hot minute.  [2]

I teach books. That’s right, lots and lots of books.  And this is the way that rocks in Dr. Seba’s class:  you read it?  Good.  Now put it the fuck down.  That’s right.  Put it down.  Tell me what you think.

If I had a nickel for every time my babies begged me to tell them what I (their illustrious teacher) or the academy (that damnable hooker bitch) or theorists (self-masturbatory, anal old hags) had to say first, well, I could retire and be the minister I want to be.  I can’t blame them.  Must be scary, to forge through all that published thought and ivory-tower crap and have a thought.  ‘Specially when they’ve been methodically trained to do otherwise, lessen they have their hand smacked for not reciting the “correct interpretation.”  But: there I stand, pushing them off the proverbial cliff.  Looks like they forgot to fly.

Now.  Y’all didn’t think I was talking about college, did ya’?

I have been chastised, quite publicly, for what appears to resemble a misconception of my regard for book learnin’.  While I find this to be, at the very least, humorous considering my job title, I found it to also be a learning moment in itself.  And here it is, for clarity and prosperity:

Read.  Read all you can put your sweaty hands on about the craft, magic and the traditions that have come before you to carve a tapestry of paths across our little planet.  Then put the fucking books down.  That’s right.  Then put them down.

What do you think?  What do you feel?  You know, it just tickles me pink to think of my ancestors (the Celts and Cherokees and even the Apaches) in a bit of a magical pinch: Aw, damn.  I don’t know what to do.  Anyone wanna give me a ride to Barnes and Noble?


Brotha, please.

Real magic happens inside.  You know, when you have a thought that hasn’t been policed, presided over or graded.  For lack of a better way to put it: get yor’ street smarts on.  [3]  Push.  Think.  Feel.  And if somebody/somewitch shows up, in a blog or in person, and blasphemes those sacred umphs?

Well then.  Send them to me.  I do more than rock on my porch.

Blessed Be the soul who reads.  And bless the soul who listens to their primal thump.  For they will inherit the Earth.


1.  You know, heh heh, I have also been condemned for drinking wine in the afternoon.  My bad.  I was under the impression that we were all Pagan here.  “Toasts to the air.”  To each, their own.  I haven’t been drunk in years, maintain a legal and lovely life, work three jobs and homeschool my awesome Jacob.  I’ll let you know when a glass of wine becomes a problem.  (Good grief.)

2.  Sometimes, writings (in print or in cyberland) are hyper-intellectual to hide fear and other smelly emotions.  Mine has no truck with that sort of pretention.  I’m a storyteller.  I’m Southern.  Get over it.

3.  And try not to do it like SKW did.  Bikers and drugs are nothing to dance with when you are only fourteen, my friend.  But: get yor’ feet dirty on the streets of yor’ soul.  Be blessed.  But do it full throttle.

P.S.  For the record:  I get most of my understanding of Biblical names from my Momma.  A Methodist teacher, a Sear, a Witch from birth and an educated, hot chica who has read the Bible, cover to cover, over and over.  You would be amazed at how they thumb at her when she calls folks out on their own, personally-motivated and strange interpretations.  Go Momma.  Keep it REAL.

Or, just skip reading this post and watch this:


17 Comments on “Book Learnin’ or Book Leanin’? Being Street Smart in the Craft

  1. I feel ya sista. I live my life like I cook. I ain’t never followed no recipe rote. It gets my own touch and so does my life. Just look at where I been and what I’ve experienced. None of that good stuff would have happened to me if I had followed the rules. Even the bad stuff that happened cause I walked my own path was there to teach and make me who I am today. I think, therefore I am!

    • My big brother! Ain’t that the truth? And, laws, do I love the you I have come to know.

  2. Such a wonderful post! …
    I’m an oldest-child Virgo with OCD who was raised in a parochial school – following rules and toeing the line has been a part of me down to my core from day one. It took quite a while before I was able to start listening to my instincts – and even now there are times that stepping away from “safe” scares the ever-lovin’ buh-jeezus out of me. But with such amazing examples of courage and audaciousness around me… how can I cower in fear?!?!
    Love you… thank you for your words.

    • Oh, and I love you, Ms. M. And you are too beautiful to ever cower. 🙂

  3. My need to do everything “the right way” has influenced every thing I have done in my life. Until four years ago I refused to do anything unless I could find where someone had done it before. I think I needed that assurance that it was ok to do and that it was safe. Since then things have changed. Safe isn’t always necessarily RIGHT. Following my intuition and listening to my ancestors leads me to places I never thought I would find. Thank you for these words. They definitely hit my CORE. Love always.

    • You cannot find that in a book, darlin. I agree. Safe does not always mean right. xo

    • Thank you! And: me too. Hard headed as they are, this is critical when it comes to peer pressure. Whew. Raising kids has turned my hair white, lol!

  4. Seba,
    You can have no idea of how I look forward to reading your posts. I have been “studying” Wicca and the craft for about 2 years now. I get so caught up in what I’m told to do from books that I have forgotten a very important fact, I have a brain myself! So, I want to thank you for reminding me of that! I also want to thank you for your “stories”, as they make my soul smile brightly. And even though we have never met, you are quite a mentor to me in the craft and in life it self.

    • Heather, I am so moved by your comment. Thank you so much for reaching out and responding to this post. It’s just the support I need to keep true to my own spirit. Love and Light!

      • You are very welcome. I know you must be a busy woman, but I have begun a blog of my own and would love it if you could pop over sometime and possibly help me with some questions I may post. Brightest Blessings!

  5. These kids don’t realize it now, but years down the road (if they heard and DID any of the things you speak of here) they will still be using that to which you opened their minds. In the previous phrase I typed and then revised “taught them” to “opened their minds.” Just as one needs to set the book down after reading it, the same is true of “hearing a teacher.” If a text only requires the student to repeat back word for word what the teacher or book says then you have not opened their minds. Some teachers only create parrots; true teachers open the students mind. The info/facts one retains may be useful down the road, but if the teacher has opened the students minds, even if they have forgotten the facts, they will still be using their education – to create and live meaningful lives.
    I’m a retired Episcopal Priest, most of my career I wrote and read sermons. After I retired I was occasionally invited to preach again. Having gotten out of the habit of writing sermons, I often created the sermon in my mind as I drove to the distant church. I consistently received more compliments and affirmations regarding these sermons than I ever did during the years I read my sermons. Why had I read my sermons instead of preach them? I think I was because I was hung up on the facts and getting them exactly right. If i wrote and then read the so called “sermon” the facts (and grammar) were correct, but people rarely heard me. After beginning to preach from my heart and right brain, the listeners actually heard what I and the SPIRIT had to say.

  6. Different tack on your same thought, I love yarn craft, but I’m particular about my tastes. So I’ll take a pattern and buy different colors, maybe more colors or fewer; and everyone around me says “wow you’re so creative!” Then I think, “No, creative was the person who thought up the pattern in the first place, I didn’t make anything new out of thin air. I followed their map.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a good map with it’s advice, warnings about pitfalls and such… but it’s advice, we still get to make our own choices about it. I’m just curious enough to go explore that big misty area on the map for my own self. And I’ve been known to bite my tongue and let my baby explore her own. “But she could get hurt!” they say. “Yup, but then she’ll learn not to do it again.” And sometimes she does, and I pick her up and love it better, but you know what… sometimes she doesn’t get hurt, and she learns to be brave, or strong, or clever, and aren’t those worth it? Without those kinds of lessons, she’ll never learn how to live without me, and one day she’ll have to. Seems only fair to give her a fighting chance.

    Your posts always give me a lot to chew on, and the cooking is wonderful. Thanks for all of it.

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