Round Pegs and Round Holes

Or Shut Up and Stick It In

square_peg_round_hole[1]Sometimes magickians go out of their way to make things more complicated than they need to be. That in and of itself could be a series of rants, but instead I want to focus on something that happened to me recently. I performed a mo dice reading from a friend, and got Ra-Na, The Dried Up Tree, it’s not a good answer, but the piece of advice was to perform rituals of offering for deceased family and ancestors.

So I explained that things didn’t look good, but he should give offerings to his dead family and ancestors, not to get them to fix it, but to make sure they’re maintained. Hungry ghosts are disruptive ghosts. So we talked a bit and he said something that gave me pause, so I asked and found out he thought I meant family/ancestors as in his past lives. Admittedly sometimes the tradition we work with uses that language-coding, but I had to clarify this time I meant blood family, and actual ancestors, not ancestors as code for past-lives.

“I don’t have any dead family, none of them stuck around.” So I explained one of the models of the soul in several parts which says that the “soul proper” reincarnates, but leaves a shade or remnant behind, an echo that can be animated. My Grandmother died seven years ago, and her soul has moved on, but she still visits me, and I have good conversations at her grave. “I don’t have any connection to my family that is dead.” I explained that it’s not about a connection like that, that’s why some systems of ancestor work uses people who died long before you were born or even parents or grandparents were born, it’s not about a standard idea of familial love, but this idea of supporting your legacy. So even if you didn’t connect in life, or weren’t alive at the same time doesn’t mean you can’t give them offerings, and that they won’t help out. I also explained that offerings to dead family can be made to their current lives, whoever/wherever Grandma is, I can offer her my merit to help out, in the belief that it will benefit her current life.

After a while he responded “So I guess I’m screwed and there is nothing I can do.”

This baffled me. He spent a large portion of our conversation transforming the round peg I offered him into a square peg that no longer fit. I wasn’t asking for a huge change in beliefs, I wasn’t railing against his ideas, I didn’t suggest anything drastic. All I said was to perform an offering to dead family and ancestors, tea and bread by the pictures I know he has up of them. Instead he complicated the issue by trying to force it to match his beliefs “So by family you mean past lives?” “I don’t have any dead family.” “I don’t have any connection to my family that is dead.” “There is nothing I can do.”

Now granted, I hate people who pull, twist, and mixmatch traditions improperly, and appreciate synthesizing beliefs intelligently. On the other hand when you ask for advice, and get clear advice (mo is straightforward there, which is part of why I love it), and you’d rather mangle the advice until it can’t fit or work in your world, then you’re doing something wrong.

Yes I’m picking on a friend a bit here, but I see this a lot. Sometimes life gives you a round peg and a round hole, so shut up and stick it in. Occultists seem to like complicating matters, yes, synthesis is brilliant, but sometimes your attempt at synthesis is more akin to blindfolded jigsaw puzzles.


7 Responses to Round Pegs and Round Holes

  1. Gordon says:

    Oh wow, I feel your frustration from all the way across the ocean. Let me just add “been there”.

    Inevitably, people prefer the drama of their own problems rather than taking even the tiniest step to fix them. That goes for most magicians as well, I suppose.

    Maybe next time say: “Look, give me a hundred and fifty bucks and I’ll fucking do it, numbnuts.” 🙂

    • Kalagni says:

      I guess my problem, yet again, is that I want to hold sorcerers to a higher standard…you know, like wanting to fix their problems rather than just complain. (Actually that’s part of the big reason I dropped from local pagan scene.)

      I should change, but even though I do sorcery for hire I hate charging for simple things that people should do themselves. Rituals, conjurations, contracts and constructs, sure…but just making offerings or doing a prayer. Dammit people, do it yourself already.

  2. Stacey says:

    Reblogged this on Coffee & Blood.

  3. Andrew says:

    I echo what Gordon says: I’ve been there and encountered that… and honestly, I’ve blown the opportunity to make $150, too. 🙂

    I like the idea of Mo Dice, though, and I may have to look into working with them… maybe making them, too, as a carpentry project, which seems to be a major part of my current efforts at the moment. Very shortly I’m going to have access to a very nice workshop. 🙂

    More importantly, touching on the theme of magicians who overcomplicate things… When I started running the design program at my school, I was given fairly explicit direction to focus on the ‘abstract thinking’ part of design — the empathy, the brainstorming, the higher mathematical reasoning, and so on. We did that, for a while, and it drove me (and many of my colleagues) to deep frustration. Abstraction, whether in brainstorming or in mathematical reasoning or in problem-solving from empathy, doesn’t actually solve problems that design can fix; as much as you concentrate on the higher-order skills, the rolling cart doesn’t get built if someone doesn’t go out and buy the plywood, the drill and the circular saw; and even then, you still have to drill the pilot holes and drive the screws and lay out the glue…

    What I’m getting at, of course, is that this is a broad and common problem. It’s not just magicians who overcomplicate. It’s everyone who complicates. For years, we resisted getting furniture and equipment for the design lab, because “we couldn’t afford it.” Yet it turned out that we had the skills and tech in our own community to build most of what we needed, for a tenth of the cost of purchasing. Our own original emphasis on abstraction got in our way, and kept us from seeing a genuine path to success.

    Ironically, the moment we took up the tools, our eyes were opened. We picked up the hammer, and saw.

    • Kalagni says:

      I like that analogy, that’s totally part of the problem. People get so caught up in their models, theories, and abstractions, that they forget to actually do something. Sure you might hit your thumb with the hammer, or put the nail in the wrong spot, but gods dammit at least you did /something/.

  4. firechildk says:

    What are mo dice?

    • Kalagni says:

      Mo, really just means divination in Tibetan more or less, and there are several systems of dice divination. The one I’m referring to is the six-sided style, but there is another form that I’m less proficient with that involves “dice” that are really long rectangular prisms, almost like squared off chopsticks.

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