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The Developmental Journal
by Judy Harrow (HPS, Proteus Coven) and Mevlannen Beshderen
"Keep a journal!" It's universal advice, from Judy's eleventh-grade creative
writing class, through the Masters program she took in counseling, through
just about every self-improvement or spiritual growth program or practice
either of us has run across. Whatever their differences may be, everyone
who has some idea of facilitating any aspect of human psycho-spiritual
growth realizes that one important part of the process is to monitor that
growth. Now, in our turn, we offer the same advice to our own students:
keep a journal.
There are many kinds of journals. Magical journals are typically more
like lab notebooks than anything else, records of rituals or meditations
undertaken and results achieved. Diaries can be simple narratives of our
days, or they can go deeper. Therapeutic journals are used, sometimes in
a highly structured way, to delve into our inner selves, hopefully to heal
long-buried hurts. Dream journals record our dreams and our attempts at
dream interpretation. Each of these and more have their specialized uses.
The developmental journal, the kind Judy kept in graduate school, takes
a more holistic approach. In keeping track of your development as a priest/ess,
your journal should chronicle any experience, in any part of your life,
that seems related to Witchcraft or to your own psychological, spiritual
or magical growth. Rather than teasing out the various threads of your
development, the point is to show how they all weave together to make you
a Witch and priest/ess.
It's good to start any new journal with a brief autobiography. Even
more important is an assessment of your current situation. What do you
feel are your particular strengths and weaknesses as a priest/ess? What
are your strengths and weaknesses in your life overall? What would your
life look like if you were to describe it in terms of a Tarot spread, the
four elements, the seven planets, or whatever your favorite structure of
understanding is? What about you or your life do you hope will change through
your study of Witchcraft? This will give you a baseline, a sense of where
you're starting from, not in your entire life, but in this particular phase
of your journey.
As you go along, date each entry, and note the phase of the moon. Next
take a few quiet, meditative moments to relax, ground, center and clear
your mind, then consider the general feeling or tone of the day (or of
the moment). What is today's color, texture, taste, scent? Describe today
in terms of your favorite art form. If today were a note, what instrument
would it be played on? If today were a dance, how would it be costumed?
After that, anything you do or experience that relates to your study
goes in: books or articles you read, dreams, workshops you attended, contents
of your meditations and reveries, rituals you participated in with a group
and rituals you did alone, museum visits and walks in the woods, divinations
you did for yourself or had done for you, anything.
You might also include occasional short excerpts from other people's
writing or artwork that particularly move or inspire you, usually with
a bit of explanation about what it means for you.
The most important items to include are events in your ordinary life
that seem related to your current Wiccan training or activity. Are you
facing any major problems or decisions at this time? The most important
thing we are learning together is how to perceive the Sacred and the magical
as they permeate everyday life.
Your journal is a place for you to explore the interconnections between
all of these different experiences and how they all work together in your
development as a Witch. So the idea is not just to report, but to reflect,
to explore how you felt about it, what it meant to you, what you learned
from it. Here are a few possible questions for reflection: they won't all
apply to the same experiences, and there are an infinity of other possible
Journal entries are not limited to words, and certainly not limited to
words in paragraph form. Poetry, calligraphy, charts and diagrams, symbols,
pictures you draw, even things you clip and paste in from elsewhere, all
are appropriate. Remember, some of us are relatively more visual and others
more verbal. Your journal should reflect your own learning and expressive
styles, the way your own mind works.
Why did you seek this experience? If what you are recording is something
you chose to do, like read a book or go to a workshop, what was your original
interest or hope or expectation, and to what extent was it fulfilled? Did
the experience contain any surprises for you?
Why did this experience come up for you at this particular point?
If the experience was unplanned, like a dream or an apparently related
event in your secular life, what connection do you see between the experience
and your Wiccan work? What might your deep mind or the Gods be trying to
What did you (or what might you) learn from this experience? How
does this experience relate to, interact with, confirm, contradict, build
on other Craft-related learning or activities you are engaged with at this
stage? Does anything about this experience perplex you? How does this experience
extend your personal knowledge base?
If you could do it over, would you respond to this situation differently?
If so, how? why?
How might you share what you have learned? Do you want to offer
a workshop or write an article or in some other way share some of your
new knowledge with the coven or with the community?
How do you feel about this experience? Do you have any emotional
reactions to this experience and what you've learned from it? Does this
reaction surprise you in any way?
What does this experience and your reflections on it mean to you?
How does it support, challenge or expand other beliefs, understandings,
meanings and values in your life?
Have you acquired any new skills from this experience? How might
you use these skills to foster your own growth or to serve the community?
Do you think you'll be doing anything differently in either your
religious or your secular life as a result of this experience?
Where would you like to go from here? Does this experience raise
any interesting questions for you? How do you think you might explore those
Now, a few points about the practicalities of journal keeping
(as shared with us by Lady Iontas of Circle of the Dragon's Weave)
Still other people like to have their journal with them at almost all times,
so they can catch ideas and feelings as they bubble up. Feel into your
own work style, and follow your own preference. All that really matters
is that you use your journal frequently.
The book: For some people, having a beautiful artifact to write
in helps establish journal-keeping as a special and sacred activity. There
are lovely bound blank books available in shops, or you could even make
and/or decorate your own blank book. For others, that type of book is almost
intimidating, too pretty to mess up -- a plain spiral notebook works better.
They will be less inhibited knowing they can remove a really badly spoiled
page. In any case, you'll want a book that easily opens and lies flat on
a table or your lap. Using a word processor to make your journal entries
allows you to keep an up-to-date index of topics. This is particularly
good for ritual records that might be consulted years later. On the other
hand, unless your computer is fairly sophisticated, you are limited to
words in straight lines. And, unless its a laptop, you are confined to
your desk. A notebook and pens can go anywhere, allowing you to maintain
your journal at festivals or write out in the woods. If you use a ring
binder, you can combine different types and colors of paper, handwritten
and computer printed material, and even include clippings, artwork and
photography in page protectors. But it's easier to lose pages from a ring
binder (it helps to number the pages so that you can recover when all the
pages slide out in a heap on your floor). All of these are entirely your
own choice. Do whatever works best for you.
The paper: Lined paper is easier to write on. Unlined paper is easier
to draw on. Rough-textured paper may cause ink or paint to bleed. Recycled
paper is more Earth-friendly. Acid-free archival paper lasts longer.
The pen: If you think you'll be doing a fair amount of drawing,
you'll want a collection of markers in different colors, not just a pen.
Either way, you may find it helpful to regard your pen or pens as ritual
tools and avoid using them for more secular purposes. In fact, it's a good
idea to ritually consecrate both the book and the pen or pens.
The setting: Some people like to have a set time and place for journal
work. Experiment. First thing in the morning works best for some, bedtime
works best for others.
Your journal is not so much absolutely secret as absolutely under your
control. Don't leave your journal laying about. Nobody should ever see
it without your carefully-considered permission. Do not show it to anyone
casually. Don't let it be commonly known that you are keeping a journal
at all, as journals have sometimes been subpoenaed.
No one should ever be required to show anyone else their journal. We
believe that even requesting to see another person's journal is unacceptably
invasive. Nonetheless, you may someday choose to share your journal with
a mentor or a partner within a context of deep trust. Sharing on that level
is entirely your prerogative.
Although there is no particular goal or end point to a process of life-long
growth, it's a good idea to repeat the full-scale assessment exercise as
you approach any major life passage. Initiation and Elevations are obvious,
but also consider marriage, divorce, starting a new school program, becoming
a parent, major career moves, or any other significant turnings in your
life as occasions for thorough self-examination. It also might be good
to make a practice, perhaps at Samhain, to read through the last year's
entries and consider setting some goals for the year to come.
Used in these ways, your journal becomes an important way for you to
nurture and guide your own growth as Witch and priest/ess. It will also
give you a resource for guiding your own eventual students through similar
developmental processes. If an elder is someone who started sooner, your
journal will help you be a conscious and helpful elder. Write on!
To learn more about journal work, read Life’s Companion by Christina
Baldwin (NY: Bantam, 1991).
written by: Judy
Harrow and Mevlannen Beshderen
updated: February 17, 2002, © 1997, 2002 by Judy Harrow
the address of this page is: proteuscoven.com/journal.htm
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