Pagan Studies

Focusing on the Arte Magical as a practice and profession, we study various facets of magic through the lens of both classical and modern perspective. From ancient myth to urban legend to fiction and philosophy, all viewed through the eyes of a very practical magician.

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The Chosen One: an Imbolc-Inspired Ramble

Now, I know a lot of people like to tout Samhain as the pagan new year, but for me, my year always sort of starts on Imbolc.  I think of it as "time to make the doughnuts," in a way.  It marks the end of my hibernation.

This year in particular is going to be a very big one for me- it marks the biggest Witchcraft 101 class I've taught in ten years, and it also marks the last of that series I'll be teaching for a while.  For the last decade, I've dedicated myself to the education of witches in the basics, teaching everything from healing and conjuration to ritual practice and different models of deity work.

I've had a huge love for this work.  It has been the single most rewarding thing about my career- the ability to watch people come to know the wonder inside of them, to help them grow into gifts and strengths they didn't know they had.  It's been a blessing.

Imbolc, to me, has always been a time of blessings.  For my practice, it's when all the wild and fey magic of the world really wakes up.  It's the Sabbat of fairy godmothers and sainings, of wild and messy birth, and of "once upon a time."

I start and end my year on Imbolc because it keeps me connected to the Wheel, but also because it reminds me of a very important piece of lore I learned as a student- the Chosen One.  This is central to my geekomantic practices, as it often pertains to the journey and trials of a hero.

When I was studying magic and faery lore, this was what I was taught: in the ways of old European magic, our nature is our fate.  The Norse called it wyrd, the Celts called it d'an, and there are of course many other words for it.  The idea was that a person was born with a nature to them, and that nature was their purpose.  They could no more defy fate than defy their biology- their very struggles to change their outcome would bring it about.

This was less of a "predestined doom" sort of concept, and more of a "you're here for a reason" thing when it was taught to me.  When my teacher taught me about this concept, it oddly made me feel a lot better about my life.  I felt like I was needed, like I had a reason to be here and that no matter how I screwed up, I was still at least fulfilling my destiny.  Of course I was still responsible for my actions, but even then... what we count as a system of justice is really more of a harmonious pattern produced by many people, all with their own natures and destinies.

So, I didn't worry about it.  Instead, I set out to do my work with a will, to follow the vision I had inside me.  I didn't worry about "getting my way," so much as "making my way."  I had a reason to be here, and that reason was enough.

Imbolc is a time of vision, in my tradition.  People's dreams are born during this time- and that's not always easy.  It's a time for hope, for wishes, but also for heartbreak and pain.  After all, nearly everything that is born in this world comes forth in a flow of blood and tears.  It's part of the mystery of Birth.

Still, sometimes we wish for things that we ourselves cannot bring to be.  In the pursuit of our destiny, we find ourselves longing for more than what we are or have become.  Sometimes this is scoffed at or mocked, called "a midlife crisis" or perhaps "a fickle heart" or something.  Or perhaps in the course of our work, we learn of a new vision that we wish to believe in, but to follow it would be impossible, as we cannot fulfill its requirements.

That's where the Chosen One comes in.  When one's fate runs further than one's feet can travel, one can call upon the wyrd to bring another to carry on and fulfill the vision.  Teachers of old magic often would choose a successor for their wisdom, families would birth a new child of promise, and occasionally a hero would come along to save a village from its terrible burden.  This is the stuff fairy tales are made of, and of course, in order to exist they must draw upon the magic of Faery.

The classes I taught are the best work I've made in my life so far, but now others have stepped forward who desire to take up that mantle.  This is exciting to me, because it means they will have a chance to help spread wonder amongst people who are in need, and they will know the joy I have felt.  Whether they will succeed or fail is irrelevant- they will have the opportunity.  And their chance is mine as well: a chance to travel and discover new things to bring home.

My geekomancy practices are becoming more central, my books need to be written (I've already written several, but there are many more words needing to come out), and my family has new vistas to explore.  With new teachers taking my place, I can begin these new projects, and initiate into new mysteries.

Imbolc is a Sabbat about new beginnings, about starting something again and about moving forward.  The myths associated with it are tied to light, to fire, to warmth returning from within the belly of the mother, and of the strength of the healer, warrior, and smith.  The goddess Brigid is the traditional patron of Imbolc, and her messages and wisdom are everywhere in this festival.

This year, I feel like the Chosen One, but I also feel like others are the Chosen Ones around me.  I feel us called into battle, into work, into healing.  I cannot wait to see what is in store for us.

To all of you, I offer this blessing- may the promise of your wyrd be upon you, and may you know its mark full well, and know that this was why you were born.

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S. Rune Emerson has been practicing witchcraft and sorcery since the early 90's, and has been teaching since 2004. He is the founder of the Risting Tradition of American Witchcraft, which is a large title for a small local tradition based in Northern Nevada. He also heads a coven tradition called the Cabal of Nocturne, and works as a diviner at Pathways Spirit, a metaphysical shop in Reno. He likes to describe his life as "extraordinarily simple." He is fond of observing that magic as a profession is the somewhat honest alternative to those of the same mindset as criminals- smart, lazy, and prone towards thinking outside the box, often in areas of questionable morality. He believes in a strong standard of accountability in magical practice, and has very strict ethics. He's also very opinionated about nearly everything.


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