Anyone who has ever had to do woodwork in high school or do renovations for themselves or something similar has come across the problem with using a hammer. If you hold the handle close to the hammer’s head, you can hammer a nail more accurately but it takes a very long time to actually get the nail in. If you hold the handle near its base, far from the hammer’s head, you can get the nail in without much effort but chances are that you’ll miss the nail several times. There’s also a good chance that you’re going to smash your thumb no matter what you do. As a metaphor for learning how to compromise, it does its job fairly well. It also serves as a decent metaphor for relationship between power and control. This is another one that saw use in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in relation to Willow and her quandary. She is not being very effective when using very little power, but is afraid that if she puts more power into her magic she will loose control (again).
The relationship between power and control is not exactly a new idea, however I have been coming across it more and more in the recent weeks. For some reason people in the various things I read, listen to and watch have been mentioning that this or that person is someone they really respect ‘and they are such a powerful practitioner’. It raises certain flags for me when respect and power are mentioned in the same sentence, however that is not what this article is concerned with. Rather, I find it unusual that power is the term used to describe these practitioners and I find it unusual for two reasons; firstly the Pagan and Heathen community never abates in its declaration that power corrupts et al and that practicing magic to have power is the wrong reason to practice. Secondly there are numerous other words that are far more appropriate that don’t contradict the first reason. Make no mistake; I do not see power as a dirty word or anything akin to that however it seems unconsciously hypocritical to have the sentiment of the first reason and to ignore the reality of the second.
There are not many things that I have come to understand in the pursuit of my praxis but the one I am most certain of is that power is neutral, Other. Power does not inherently have any quality other than its own, once it is being used by someone or something it gains qualities which make two expressions of power different. Much like how all energy is energy but not all energy is runic or positive etc energy, all power is power but not all power is bad or corrupt etc power. Similarly it strikes me as being further counter intuitive that in a community where practice is a noun and a verb, skill or talent or expertise are not the attributes being praised. I don’t see anything wrong with praising a person’s power, but the Pagan and Heathen community as a whole seems have some complicated sentiments about it some of which would seem to be contradictory.