I hear a lot of Pagans talk about dismantling the boundaries in their lives and in themselves, as if that were the most important aspect of the spiritual journey. And that may be true, for them. But, not all of us are so ready to break down every wall that separates us from the unknown. In fact, not all of us are in need of that type of dismantling. Sometimes, boundaries are there for a reason, and we would do well to learn how to care for them properly, for our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Maybe it’s my personality type, but I have a very bad habit of allowing myself to be viewed and treated as somewhat of a doormat. It comes from not having a very well defined sense of self as a youngster.
I have always served others. Since I was a child, I have been cleaning up after my loved ones in so many ways, whether it be housekeeping, or conflict resolution. The primary reason I get out of bed in the morning seems to be attending to the needs of others, whether they be my family or the spirits and deities. Which is wonderful, as I get a great deal of satisfaction from my role as caretaker, but I can also become quite overwhelmed by the desires and demands of other beings. This is where having a well defined boundary of individuality comes into play.
A person has to be able to say to themselves (truthfully), what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, for them. For instance, when I was working a lot with Dionysos, I felt incredibly free to cast off old ideas and to adopt new practices at will. But, as the inner-work delved deeper into who I really was, I found that what I had originally assumed would be one of the first things to be discarded (Witchcraft) was actually where the line had been drawn.
I was not supposed to reject my Craft training. Even though it had been (and still has been) ages upon ages since I last cast a spell (I’m not counting the warding spells on my property here), I still identify as a witch. Why? Because the wall whose bricks collectively form my Craft knowledge was never broken down, never discarded or abandoned.
There are other types of boundaries that we should care for, also. Such as our interpersonal boundaries. These are the boundaries that I have the most trouble maintaining, since I have a tendency (vehemently supported by my in-laws, and what I perceive to be Texan culture) to view myself as merely an extension of the two people who matter most to me. My husband and our daughter.
In this line of thinking, my time is no longer mine, but becomes the tool of my husband, used to delegate household responsibilities, and to generally dictate the state of affairs, at all times. In this view, if I am not working (cleaning, cooking, serving), I’m not being productive. It’s very much what I imagine being a robot would be like. Which, brings me back to the boundary that separates self from other.
So, how does one not become entangled within a net of authoritarian control, or control of any lesser degree? First and foremost, by being honest with oneself about what it is that you want/need, in your own life. Speaking these truths aloud can be a very positive way of affirming our desires. And, of course, speaking truthfully to ones gods should be obvious. Who better to assist us in our mindful shaping of self, than those beings who continually shape our realities? They don’t want us to be the slaves of other humans. They (usually, and from my observation) want us to be open and viable receptacles for their Power. And one can not be an effective vessel for the divine if one is constantly being filled by the energy (desires and expectations) of our fellow homosapiens.
When I realized this, it became much more urgent that I learn how to keep myself, and my goals, separate from the people around me. Our goals may overlap, certainly, but I no longer believe my place is to be an eternal cheer-leader for someone else. We can help each other succeed. There is no reason for life to be so one-sided.
The last type of boundary that I wish to discuss are those physical boundaries that enclose our sacred spaces, which for me (and for the purposes of this discussion) is the property line separating my land from my neighbors’. This is important to me, as an aspect of Queenship, as I must regularly update the warding spells around my property. Why do I do this? Because if I do not, then the constant “prayer for salvation” (cursing) coming out of the local Baptist, Christ and Catholic churches would be a royal nuisance.
We Pagans and Polytheists do need to ward ourselves from that kind of magic (and it is magic), whether it is meant maliciously or not, because it can wreak havoc in our lives. In my case, it was a malicious prayer assault aimed at “turning me away from the Devil”, and it caused a terrible depression to fall onto our home. Which is what prompted me to come up with the simple warding spell that has successfully blocked all of their negative intent since the day it was originally placed.
I can not stress the importance of correctly maintaining our own individual boundaries enough. When we allow others to walk all over us, what does that say to the gods, to our gods, who so generously volunteer their time and Power to teach us humans how to become self-sufficient? If we are not going to take their lessons and incorporate them into our lives, then we aren’t really listening to them, are we? And if we aren’t listening, why would any god want us as vessels, or priests, or for anything else? And for that matter, why would we even care?
Define your boundaries. Know them, maintain them, and they will in turn maintain you.