Western culture prizes logic, reason and being able to explain how you worked something out. It’s hammered into us through school maths and science from an early age. On the plus side, reason is, by its very nature, easy to explain to others so they can make their own decisions. Reason does not require trust.

However, it’s recognised in psychology that that process of becoming an expert in pretty much anything, involves moving into a state where you can’t rationally explain what you’re doing, or how. Experts who try and explain can find their performance quality drops for a while as a consequence. Becoming an expert means working with your intuition, not reason.

It’s easy to see how this applies to something skills based, like music, juggling, art – there comes a point where you can’t consciously handle everything you know, and don’t in fact need to – in just the same way that most of us can catch a ball without thinking about it, even if some part of our mind has to do very complex equations to get our hand into the right place!

Being open to our intuition enables us to work more fully with our own capacity, but there are reasons for caution. How do you tell the difference between intuition and imagination? Or paranoia? Sometimes what feels like ‘gut instinct’ is born of fear and bad experiences, not rooted in reality at all. It’s important to be mindful of this, and make sure that we compare intuitive knowledge with knowledge available by rational means. If they do not match at all, then proceed with caution, and honour.

I’ve met people who imagined they were uncannily aware and intuitive. There was a memorable young man at a moot, years ago, who felt he was ‘unusually gifted’ and talked about himself and his ‘powers’ at great length. I could tell the others around the table shared my irritation with him – body language was also a clue, and he had no idea. So much for his intuition. I was able to check my perceptions afterwards, so I know my impression was correct. Whenever possible, find ways to cross reference your intuitive knowledge with other forms of insight. It helps fine tune your perceptions, and can save you from embarrassing mistakes. 

It’s also important to be careful when dealing with people who claim to be intuitive. There are, occasionally, people on the pagan scene who will attempt to assert themselves as being more knowing, more powerful and therefore more important than everyone else. Frequently they aren’t, and often those assertions come from fantasy, insecurity, or both. It’s worth being wary of people who are vocal about magically ‘knowing’ things no one else has access to. In my experience, people who are genuinely sensitive often won’t volunteer much unless they have reason to trust you, not wanting anyone to think they are creepy, crazy or manipulative. Folk on an ego trip or trying to manipulate you are much more likely to claim they have special powers, and that they ‘know’. It’s very hard to defend yourself from the accusations of someone who magically ‘knows’ you have a problem with them, ‘knows’ you are creating bad vibes, ‘knows’ you want to cause them harm. (I speak from experience.) All you can do is walk away. I’ve often found those ‘knowing’ folk create self fulfilling prophecies – nothing puts a person’s back up like being told they’re being aggressive, psychically, when they aren’t. Be careful what you pretend to intuite, reality sometimes has a sense of humour!

Intuition, used thoughtfully and honourably, is a blessing. We can feel our way into more than we can consciously handle. But, in using intuition, especially when dealing with people, it’s important to remember what we have is impression, not fact, that gut feelings can be wrong, and that ‘I know more than you do’ is a very unpleasant weapon in the hands of people who have no honour.