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The impact of silence could promote complacency and disconnect depending on context and situation. It is often weaponized in situations of power and privilege in greater society and within some interpersonal dynamics. Yet silence is also utilized as a means of survival and self preservation for many people, and within many scenarios. There are a myriad of different perceptions about silence and how it is used, yet silence can be a powerful tool.
In the age of internet usage at our fingertips, and social media as a primary means of interpersonal connection, immediate responses and action appears to be the social norm of engagement. We see this on everything from news articles, blog posts and even Facebook; we live in a world of instant gratification. Within larger overculture it could be argued that how fast we respond, how much information we obtain, and how well we present on social media indicates a measure of success or power. Silence within these same contexts can be looked at as being uninformed, unable to keep up, or suspect.
Much differently, as a social worker we are often trained to identify moments of silence as potentially useful and necessary. These moments of pause can give way to reflection, introspection and clarity within a variety of situations. In such a fast paced world, having a moment can be worth its weight in gold and hold valuable therapeutic opportunities.
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, sometimes I work to support or create a moment of silence to promote deeper thinking and engagement with the self. Sometimes that means sitting in my own silence to model its power to those I am working with. There are so many ways to engage with the usefulness of silence and to define its relevance.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines silence as “forbearance from speech or noise, muteness, absence of sound or noise, absence of mention”. Within a spiritual context this definition could expand and grow. Silence isn’t just the absence of something, but it could also be supporting a space of contentment, learning and presence.
While silence is not always the answer to solving problems that arise on our paths, engaging in the act of silence as a tool can be a means to connecting with purpose, desire, clarity and intention; all of which happen to be some of the most useful and necessary elements of effective magic. It is essential to state that the impact of silence is always very different for marginalized people or when referencing oppression. As Karina BlackHeart eloquently states in her book A Witch’s Book of Silence, “When we fail to raise our voices in opposition to injustice, we contribute to it. When our silence is complicit in obscuring truth, we are guilty of lying. Yet as a Witch, I want to unpack the equation of silence and complicity or death differently”. While we are not approaching this article from the lens of injustice and oppression, it is always a part of the conversation and always a factor in how we think about such intersecting topics related to our community and our practices.
How exactly do Pagans see the usefulness of silence? If we asked 10 Pagans this question, we might get 48.39 different answers, but it is an interesting thread of consideration to ask ourselves about our spiritual practices. Does our use of silence within the magical realm begin and end with meditation? Are we keen to the variety of ways that we engage silence as a means to connection with the Gods? Do we utilize silence as a way to expand our spiritual capacity and to act as our own council? Do we see our own silence as something useful or harmful within spellwork or ritual?
We hear of magical theories like the Witches’ Pyramid and the concept of “To know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent” in magical circles often. It is clear that some traditions and practices incorporate such principles into their workings, yet this doesn’t appear to be something widely discussed or accepted in modern Pagan overculture. Or is it?
Since this could ignite a variety of discussions, it is important to note that there isn’t going to be one right answer to such inquiries. Instead of looking at this from a dichotomous perspective of right or wrong, I began to wonder how silence is talked about in our magical world.
I looked to several Pagan and Polytheist authors who have written about some of these topics to see what they have shared on the necessity of silence and its usefulness.
In T. Thorn Coyle’s book Make Magic of Your Life, she explores the power of silence and its connection to purpose, power and desire.
Silence allows us to listen, and listening brings us into a state of trusting. We learn to trust ourselves better when we listen deeply, because our thoughts and emotions are better informed and not running around crazed with energy and suppositions. We learn to trust the world and our responses to the world, because our interactions with the world are more and more based upon what we actually see, sense, hear, taste, touch, and know, instead of what we think we should see or what our emotions tell us about how things have been before. We can face the world fresh – with experience, yes, but not with overly programmed assumptions or knee-jerk reactions.
In “A Witch’s Book of Silence”, Karina BlackHeart talks about the unfolding importance of silence in the development of the self.
Practicing silence is a way for us to drop beneath the layers of the monkey-mind, beneath the barrage of fears, anxieties and fantasies and deeper into the place where slow thoughts arise and disperse. We go deeper still to the pool of presence which is our true mirror. In silence we see ourselves clearly – – in all our power and terror, all our beautiful flaws, all our messy intensity and imperfect humanity. Here we come to know – – and also love – – ourselves in all our parts.
In silence, if we listen long enough, we find our truth: The irrevocable core of self. When we know ourselves we are able to move through the world of funhouse mirrors and noisy distractions unaffected. Operating from our core, we enjoy the company of others but do not seek or need their approval.
It is from this core that great power is won, breath-taking art is made, real love blossoms forth, ecstasy is experienced. We return to this core for our sustenance. It is here, in silence at the pool of presence that we keep our own counsel.
Archer wrote in her blog piece “Five Days of Silence” about her deeply insightful learning experience at a buddhist retreat.
I talk in self-defense. Or at least that’s how it feels. I talk to seek reassurance and attention, to fill the silence, to make myself real. My words are a thicket, a fence flung up to keep threats out. It takes a lot of work—a lot of words—to keep this little ship of ego afloat.
The verbal flow will always be a part of me, but sometimes I feel trapped within the facade it creates. It’s as if the words construct this superstructure on their own, with little contribution from my deeper self.
So I welcomed the idea of all that silence. Once I got to the retreat, where the only sound would be the bell that called us to meals and meditation, there was indeed a deep release in being with others without having to perform, or worry about what they thought of me. As we entered silence together, I felt a connection with them that ran deeper than words. We were all in the same boat, all dealing with the same problem: ourselves.
The first thing silence teaches you is that the loudest place in the world is the inside of your own head.
In my own practices of life and magic, I have found that the transition between the ways that I use my silence holds significance. In my work it often is a skillful and useful technique, where in my personal relationships silence often is my coping mechanism when I am feeling harmed, unsafe, or sad. Silence plays a vital role in my professional and political life because it is important for me to use my words wisely, listen carefully and make my words meaningful in the sound bite of time I am given. As an activist silence isn’t my go-to tool of interaction.
Within my engagement with the ancestors and Gods, I have been silent a lot lately. I have invested my practice in the listening, learning and humble practice of service. While this is a different approach to the powerful use of silence, it is interesting to reflect on just how similar all of these differing aspects of my life are with one another.
How do you use your silence? Does it vary in the intersecting pieces of your world?
There are plenty of ways that we can benefit from incorporating a routine of silence in our mundane and spiritual lives regularly. While meditation is one very useful and known technique to do this, it is not the only one and maybe not even the most effective for all people.
Honing our skills to seek out moments of silence to connect to the inner core of our being, and to increase our knowledge and power could be quite a useful tool to put in our magical toolboxes. Whether sitting in silence on your drive to work, pausing before responding to an email or post on social media, practicing deep breathing before engaging in interpersonal communication, communing with nature in silence, utilizing mindfulness techniques, engaging in dance, or being in sacred space without words or noise; connecting to our own inner knowingness can be therapeutic and rewarding.
In the article, “10 Ways to Embrace the Power of Silence”, Jean Nicomedes Stone states,
“In the midst of all the noise, silence is remarkably easy to find; it’s everywhere around us. We should learn to unmask the noise by deliberating and consciously making an effort to create silence. In so doing, we can help remove tension and anxiety from our environment, recharge our internal batteries, and create peace with ourselves and our surroundings.
In a world that is so fast-paced, noisy and full of expectations, bringing this empowering and undervalued tool into our spiritual practices might just support many of us in the chaos of today’s world.
May we all be inspired to be our own council. Give yourself permission to seek silence.
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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.
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