Posts Tagged With: Witchcraft

A Modern Perspective On Traditional Witchcraft

A Modern Perspective On Traditional Witchcraft

Author: Baudrons

One thing I’ve noticed in the pagan community over the past few years is the increase of people identifying themselves as “traditional witches”. Most of the time, they fail to claim membership in any specific tradition but are quick to point out that what they practice is good, old-fashioned “traditional witchcraft” and not some watered down pap like Wicca. As someone possessing a lifelong interest in witchcraft, these assertions piqued my curiosity. Just what could this dark stream of magic swirling through the shadows be?

After witnessing the deconstruction of Wicca by scholars, accredited and pseudo, I found the prospect of some genuinely old traditions of witchcraft free from the idiosyncrasies of retired British civil servants intriguing.

Although the clichéd granny stories that have circulated for years promise a glimpse into hereditary forms of witchcraft, they rarely, if ever, deliver. Most of the time, the witchcraft purportedly passed down from one’s elder family members turns out to be some eclectic form of Wicca. A romantic childhood memory aside, just because one’s grandmother was superstitious, had a penchant for burning candles, and was handy with the folk remedies hardly qualifies her as a witch. Considering that the grandmother in question is invariably unavailable and no one else in the family is around to substantiate these tales, most accounts of hereditary witchcraft tend to fall apart like cheap furniture. Alex Sanders, holder of arguably the best grandmother story of all time, later recanted as have others so it seems reasonable to indulge in a bit of healthy skepticism when confronted with an account of family witchcraft.

As so many non-Wiccan witches describe themselves as practicing traditional witchcraft, defining the term seemed a logical place to begin my investigation. Witchcraft is a notoriously slippery word. Categorizing witches is like filling a box with those little Styrofoam packing peanuts. You can get most of them in but there’s always a couple that wind up on the carpet.

Isaac Bonewits did a fair job sorting out various types of witches and witchcraft years ago but I found his categorizations a bit too broad to be of much use. The historical accounts of witchcraft I read usually portrayed witches as disaffected loners working malfeasant magic against a society that feared and rejected them. In stark contrast to the glamorous and powerful sorceress of mythology, the historical witch- overwhelmingly female- was an unfortunate wretch depending on charity and likely to seek vengeance when refused.

Others, the so-called “white witches”, acted as healers and midwives, using their skills to the benefit of others. Armed with a comprehensive knowledge of herbalism, divination, and healing methods as well as a keen insight into human behavior, their abilities were prized as truly magical. These cunning folk, however, were careful to refer to themselves by culturally specific terms like pellar, power doctor, root worker, or cuandero in order to avoid being confused with the witch, their diabolical counterpart. Often times, these practitioners were employed to reverse the effects of witchcraft leveled by their more evilly disposed brethren. In some cases, if paid enough, the more mercenary cunning folk would level curses themselves.

The people who caught my attention claiming traditional status were ostensibly of European descent so I narrowed the scope of my search and focused on the British Isles with its rich history of witchcraft. In my research, I discovered some uncanny similarities between the witchcraft of Europe and that described by the Scotch-Irish settlers in the Appalachian region so it made sense to turn my attention across the Atlantic. Having picked up the trail in Albion, I began to explore the long history of sorcery there. Another task was to explore the term “traditional” and how it relates to witchcraft.

Were I to ask random passerby what they traditionally associate with witches, I’m reasonably certain the response would include such things as pointy hats and black cats, bubbling cauldrons, and broomsticks, the classic Halloween stereotype modern witches simultaneously rail against and embrace. While this image of the witch owes its popularity more to The Wizard of Oz than historical precedent, it has its origins somewhere. The witchcraft popularized by Gardner is vastly different in its trappings and suggests a different source. To follow the spoor of traditional witchcraft, it was necessary to look past these 20th century influences.

When I first became interested in witchcraft, the party line was that it represented a link back to the halcyon days of pre-Christian Europe where matriarchal tribes sang paeans to their gods under ancient oaks. That pleasant myth has long been discredited but modern pagans cling to vestiges of it by refusing to abandon the idea of pre-Christian fertility and ecstasy cults entirely. The theories of Margaret Murray may have fallen by the wayside but more modern scholars such as Carlo Ginzburg, Ronald Hutton, Claude Lecouteux, Emma Wilby, Eva Pocs, and Owen Davies have since picked up the academic mantle for today’s witches to use as standards of scholarly respectability.

In addition to their work, superstitions, rural customs, folktales, legends, and songs get trotted out as evidence for traditions of witchcraft predating Gerald Gardner’s controversial claims. In an ironic twist, the hodge-podge of evidence used by Gardner’s detractors actually bolsters his position. Various elements present in Wicca can be demonstrated as having their origins in places other than the New Forest but there is also much to suggest the wily old goat was privy to things other than ceremonial magic and Margaret Murray. That witchcraft existed prior to Gardner there can be no doubt. But was it the same as what modern “traditional witches” make it out to be?

Probably not.

I’m no history major but I do know that the British Isles have been subject to the influences of outside influences since Roman times. The Romans themselves may have brought their gods with them when they invaded Britain but classical deities play a very minor role in traditional witchcraft. Indigenous Celtic deities have their place in traditional witchcraft but the pantheon championed by a good number of self-described traditional witches, the one exerting, the greatest influence arrived later with Saxons. These Nordic god forms took root in British soil and were imbued with Saxon influences, names, and influences. Gods such as Odhinn the All-Father and Dame Holda wield a profound influence on what some consider traditional witchcraft. Legends like that of the Wild Hunt, shamanic practices similar to those found in other Germanic lands, magical use of runes, and a shared cosmology are evidence that much of what is called traditional witchcraft has origins in the pagan cultures of northern Europe.

Yet, in keeping with witchcraft’s evasive nature, another crowd of traditional witches eschews the Teutonic for the Biblical. These practitioners hew more to an altogether different worldview and populate their craft with fallen angels as well as pagan nature deities. These fallen ones, Lucifer and the Watchers being chief among them, are regarded as Promethean figures and the original teachers of mankind. Rather than a source of suffering, they are thought to bring illumination, spilling their light into the dark recesses of ignorance. It is from these divine teachers that mankind first received knowledge of agriculture, metal craft, medicine, art and science. Quite often, Cain, the first murderer, is described as the primal source of “witch-blood”, the spiritual thread linking practitioners together through the ages.

Dragging the waters for more evidence of traditional witchcraft kicked up even more mud. As I peered back into pre-Gardnerian, post-Saxon England, I chanced upon an even more curious influence: Christianity.

England, Ireland, and the other regions of the British Isles have been Christianized for centuries. The Christianity in some regions serves as a thin veneer for indigenous forms of Paganism but, over centuries, the two have become so intertwined that there is no easy separation. Wicca is clearly Pagan in origin but Judeo-Christian symbolism has crept in around the edges. The same can be said for traditional witchcraft. Just about every charm spell I read pre-Gardnerian 19th century tracts call upon the power of one saint or another as well as that of Jesus Christ himself. The more-Pagan-than-thou among us, seeking to divorce themselves from Judeo-Christian influences in their magical practice, face an uphill battle because the whole of western occultism is shot through with it.

Many of those claiming to practice traditional witchcraft are influenced, directly or indirectly, by the work of such notables as Robert Cochrane, Nigel Jackson, and Andrew Chumbley. Cochrane and Chumbley, both deceased, claimed hereditary status, that their witchcraft had been passed down through previous generations. However, both of these gentlemen appeared in Gardner’s wake and their work contains elements found in Gardnerian Wicca leading to a chicken and egg dilemma.

In the case of Robert Cochrane, it has been demonstrated that much of what he had to say about himself was less than truthful and that he was himself either a Gardnerian initiate or, at the very least, had a mole in a Gardnerian coven. Chumbley, on the other hand, was in possession of genuinely old material and his works show clear influences of pre-Gardnerian cunning craft as well as post-Gardnerian constructs such as chaos magic. Chumbley’s pre-Gardnerian influences fall more along the lines of Biblically influenced rather than Pagan witchcraft and suggests ties to the cunning folk of the 18th and 19th centuries. Both men can be considered brilliant in their own right but, as with Gardner, other influences can be discerned in their work.

The explosion of Wicca’s popularity during the 1990s unfortunately led to a spate of substandard works being published in order to capitalize on the fad. As with all such cultural phenomena, there was the inevitable backlash. Disenchanted by the glittery marketing of purportedly Wiccan materials and linked together by the Internet, another witchcraft community formed. Taking its cue from historical imagery and sources, it formed its own conventions and aesthetics to link disparate sources together in a tenuous but somewhat cohesive form.

Initially, the most solidarity I’ve observed among self-described traditional witches came from a dismissive attitude towards Wicca and eclecticism. Yet as one digs deeper into both traditional Wicca and witchcraft, those hard and fast lines start to blur it becomes apparent and I began to see that, minus Gardner’s idiosyncrasies, Wicca is simply a regional form of witchcraft, similar to but distinct from that found in other areas of the British Isles.

What Gardner did was give the surviving fragments of witchcraft found in the New Forest a more defined structure by borrowing liberally from other sources. Had he settled in another area of England and made contact with witches there, contemporary Wicca might have taken a radically different form or may never have come into being at all. Indeed, it is a salient fact that Garner spoke only of witchcraft and witches he called the ‘Wica’. What has been spread across popular culture in recent years is simply not the same thing.

Some have taken exception to my conclusions but so far I’ve seen precious little evidence to convince me that I’m on the wrong track. The history of witchcraft is just that, history. It informs the practice of all modern witches, no matter what their identification. To claim one form of witchcraft as purer in substance as many are wont to do is a waste of time and effort and ultimately denotes insecurity rather than confidence. With witchcraft, tradition is a much poorer measure of validity than effectiveness.

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Footnotes:
Nigel Jackson
Andrew Chumbley
Robert Cochrane
Gerald Gardner
Mike Howard
All the intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure of arguing this subject with

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Your Daily Charm for January 10th is The Crescent and Hand

Your Charm for Today

The Crescent and Hand

Today’s Meaning:
Guests and visitors will come calling. Their visit brings happiness and joy. This aspect will reflect these emotions for weeks after the visit.

General Description:
Crescents were worn by the ancients to safeguard them against witchcraft and danger. From the very early Eastern symbol, horseshoes came to be regarded by the Greeks and Romans as charms against sickness and the plague. In the middle ages horseshoes were used as amulets for witchcraft and even today are looked upon as lucky. When the representation of the hand of strength was worn with the crescent it signified hospitality and generosity. Hands of Might are painted on houses in Italy, Syria, Turkey and in the East to protect the buildings from misfortune and the inmates from death. The blue beads were worn to avert the evil eyes.

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Your Charm for January 4th is The Hei Tiki

Your Charm for Today

The Hei Tiki

Today’s Meaning:
Now is an ideal time to learn. Your mind is particularly keen at this time for the study of witchcraft, divination and esoteric subjects. Knowledge affects this aspect.

General Description:
The Hei Tiki amulet is used by the Maoris of New Zealand. It is carved in jade, the sacred stone of the natives. Worn as a neck ornament for good luck, and to protect from witchcraft and evil spirits. These charms are regarded as valuable heirlooms, and are carefully handed down from father to son, as the talisman was believed to possess all the good qualities and virtues of their forefathers. THe Hei Tiki is a curious and distorted representation of the human figure in the attitude of listening, the head leaning on the shoulder.

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Let’s Talk Witch – Once Upon A Time, Our Real History


Burning Times Comments & Graphics

Once Upon A Time, Our Real History

 

Once upon a time, before the rise of the “big three” patriarchal religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) nearly everyone was Pagan. The word comes from the Latin ‘paganus,’ meaning ‘rustic,’ or ‘country-dweller.’ Today neo-pagan is a blanket term that covers many belief systems including Wicca, shamanism, Native American belief systems, and other nature-based religions. Before the patriarchy became so prevalent, paganism was simply what everyone practiced. They had the same Goddesses and Gods and fire festivals to celebrate the seasons in the country and the cities. In the country the people worshiped under the sky and needed no priest or temple to talk with their deities. Among the pagans in Europe at least (and probably everywhere) there was a smaller group of ‘wise women or men,’ or ‘cunning women or men,’ who would have had specialized knowledge, including herbal wisdom useful for healing and the ability to cast spells or make charms. They would perhaps have done divination and communicated with ancestors and spirits, and known about stones, the stars, and the seasons. We will call them witches for clarities sake. They are often likened to the clergy as against the general population of parishioners. They would have been respected for their abilities and learning, and sought out for help in times of need.

Things began to change at some point, although it is hard to put an exact date on it. There is some evidence that contributors to the Old Testament were, in 550 BC, the first to suggest the stoning of witches. The Old Testament features such passages as Exodus 22:18 “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and Leviticus 20:27 which basically states that a man or woman with a familiar spirit or who is a wizard shall be stoned. That was only the beginning. A persecution followed; a scourge that lasted many centuries and is not completely over today. Constantine I was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, and issued the Edict of Milan in AD 313 which was designed to restore and keep order and stop fighting among traditional pagans and new Christians. The Edict stated that all people should be free to practice faiths of their choosing including Christians. All well and good, if only things could have stayed so tolerant and accepting! In 420 AD Augustine suggested that witchcraft was impossible and the pagan people were in error in their belief in any power that did not come from God. Paganism and Christianity did continue to co-exist for some centuries, but Christian missionaries were very zealous. In order to make conversion more palatable many pagan festivals were incorporated into Christian practise. For instance Yule, December 21rst, the shortest day of the year when we promise ourselves that light will return became the birth date of Christ, a fine time for revels in the bleak winter (Many theologians and historians suggest that the Jesus’ actual birthday was sometime in March). Ostara, the Spring Equinox turned from the rebirth of the Sun (or the God) into the rebirth of the Son with Easter.

However, it seems that the Church of Rome was not satisfied with the conversion rates they were getting. At some point they decided that all competitors or even anyone who chose to believe something different must be totally stamped out. We have the Crusades, so blood soaked they are hard to contemplate, the persecution of the Cathars (who were suggested to be devil-worshipers in 1208 AD, perhaps where the idea that devil worship was an effective slander came from) the eradication of the Knights Templar, and the witchcraft oppression. Pope Gregory IX established the famed and bloody Inquisition to deal with non-Christian activity in the early 1230’s AD (although he personally did not advocate torture). In AD 1273 Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican monk, put forth the idea that demons “reap the sperm of men and spread it among women,” starting the idea that demons were real and had the desire to corrupt humankind, as well as starting up ideas of unusual and sinister sex practices among certain factions of the population. In 1450 many captured Cathars admitted to the use of witchcraft under torture and the Church began to define the so called “evil” practices they wanted to subvert.

In 1484 Pope Innocent the VIII announced that satanists in Germany were having meetings with the devil and causing crops to fail. After Heinrich Kramer, a Dominican Inquisitor asked for the authority to persecute witches Pope Innocent VIII issued a Papal Bull (Summis Desiderantes Affectibus) that organized and regularized the oppression. Kramer and Jacob Sprenger wrote and published the “Malleus Maleficarum,” (Maleficarum is a Latin word meaning ‘wrong doing,’ or ‘mischief,’ and generally referring to malevolent magic) ‘The Hammer of Witches,’ or ‘The Witches Hammer.’ This terrifying document refuted prior claims that witchcraft didn’t exist, explained that most witches were women who got up to dreadful things and was used to educate magistrates and other authorities on methods of pursuit and conviction of witches. Among other outrageous ideas the Maleficarum suggests that female witches collect and keep twenty to thirty male members in a birds nest in a tree and infers that orgies and pacts with the devil are common (does this sound a bit like some men were feeling emasculated by powerful women and those men wanted to take that power away from women?) At this time there was a prevailing feeling that some people (witches) possessed special knowledge and power and this was no longer considered beneficial. These abilities were now believed to come from the devil and therefore be heretical and go against the rule that there should be no power but from the one true God. The Church now stated that Christians had an obligation to pursue and destroy witches. The Maleficarum is an interesting read and definitely worth a look; it would almost be humorous if one could forget the bloodshed it led to. Reprinted copies are available today over the Internet.

From the year 1480 to the year 1750 it is estimated that between 40 000 and 100 000 men, women, and children were executed for witchcraft in Europe. About seventy to eighty percent of them were female. That was certainly one way to virtually eliminate powerful women, the Goddess, and people making magic and having control of their fates outside of the Church and its teachings. Not to mention all the valuable land, personal possessions and money that became property of the Church when its owners were executed. Women in these times in Europe were mostly considered the property of their husbands or fathers and had very few rights whereas once they had been venerated (have a look at images of Palaeolithic stone carvings of the ripe female form, the Goddess of fertility from which all life springs).

The year 1515 saw some 500 witches burned at the stake in Geneva Switzerland. One thousand were executed in Como Italy in 1524. In 1591 King James of Scotland authorised the use of torture on suspected witches and it was widespread in other nations. An accused man from the Court of Charles IX of France in 1571 announced that he had some 100 000 fellow witches in his country which fuelled massive hunts and executions there. Although torture was not allowed in England to extract confessions Matthew Hopkins, an extremely feared witch judge travelled the country between 1645 and 1647 teaching sleep deprivation and other techniques, such as “dunking,” or “ducking,” where the accused were immersed in bodies of water. If they sank (and died) they were pronounced innocent, but if they floated they were killed, the rationale (if you can call it that) being that they had rejected their baptism so the water was rejecting them. Many who were tried and convicted probably considered themselves Christian, whether they practised some herbology or spells or made some charms or not. A person might be convicted on the basis of having a ‘witches mark,’ such as a third nipple or mole, and might be accused simply for having a pet cat. The death of animals, the failure of crops and any kind of sickness often began a mad frenzy of witch hunting.

In 1682 the last witch, Temperance Lloyd was executed with two other women in England, and in Scotland Janet Horne was the last witch executed in 1727. By this time many prominent figures were criticizing the executions and the methods used to obtain convictions. In 1735 a final Witchcraft Act in Great Britain led to prosecutions for fraud rather than supernatural powers and was often levied against Roma (gypsies) and fortune tellers. The attitude that witchcraft did not exist was back. The final witchcraft laws in Great Britain were repealed in 1951. In the new world about 150 people were accused in the Massachusetts colony and about 40 were executed. The New England witch hunt lasted from 1648 to 1663, while the Salem witch trials were later, taking place in 1692 and 1693 in several villages around the colony. One man refused to plead either way and was crushed under heavy stones to attempt to force him to do so.

Family Tradition Witchcraft
Kit McGoey

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Let’s Talk Witch – What Exactly is Green Witchcraft?


Witchy Comments=

What Exactly is Green Witchcraft?

In popular perception, the practice of green witchcraft is a nature-based expression of spirituality that focuses on the individual’s interaction with their natural environment. Witchcraft itself is a practice that involves the use of natural energies as an aid to accomplishing a task or reaching a goal. In general, witchcraft acknowledges a god and a goddess (sometimes solely a goddess) and recognizes that magic is a natural phenomenon.

Witchcraft is frequently confused with Wicca, which is a modern, alternative, nature-based religion. While Wicca and witchcraft possess many similarities, including reverence for nature, Wicca is a specific, formal religion. There are a wide variety of forms of witchcraft, with varying degrees of structure. For the sake of this book, the term “witchcraft” refers to the practice of working with natural energies to attain goals, without a specific religious context.

A green witch, then, is someone who lives the green path and is aware of how the energy of nature flows through her life and environment, even if that environment is not the traditional garden and forest setting popularized by fairy tales and romanticized notions.

Green witchcraft is not a formal tradition in the sense of Gardnerian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Feri, or other established traditions. When I use the phrase “the green witch tradition,” I do not refer to an unbroken line of initiates or an established body of lore. Instead, I am referring to the various practices from diverse places that come together to inform the modern green witch and wisewoman.

Because the path of the green witch is an individualized solo practice, any modern book on green witchcraft is simply a single author’s way of interpreting the practice. Initiation into green witchcraft is technically impossible. There exists no body of formal knowledge passed on through careful training, no established group mind to which you are connected by sacred ceremonies performed by elders. Some modern eclectic groups may base their regular practice on the ideals of green witchcraft, but it’s not the same thing.

A practitioner of green witchcraft may pass on her personal knowledge, including her personal notes and writings, to another, but that’s not an initiatory process. Reading a specific author’s ideas and views concerning the path of the green witch is a form of apprenticeship in which you learn a new way of looking at your world and discover new exercises and techniques that will help you refine and deepen your connection to the natural world around you. This process cannot be as intensely personal as traditional apprenticeship, where the apprentice worked beside the master, but it is a modern form of acquiring the knowledge and skills of one particular practitioner.

The concepts of healing, harmony, and balance are all key to the green witch’s practice and outlook on life. These concepts embody three distinct focuses:

1. The earth (your local environment, as well as the planet)
2. Humanity (in general, as well as your local community and circles of friends and acquaintances)
3. Yourself

The earth is often singled out as the green witch’s main focus, which is slightly unfair. The green witch understands that the earth incorporates the planet and all living things upon it, including animals, plants, and people. In this respect, yes: the earth is a collective term for all living things. However, the green witch also knows that to lump them all together means that we sometimes forget the more individual emphasis each deserves. We can decry the general mistreatment of our planet’s water supply, but local action often has more of an immediate effect on our environment than demonstrating in front of
an office tower. “Clean up your own backyard” is a phrase the green witch understands well.

Finally, the green witch must function in harmony with the realities of her own life. This means working out your own goals and obstacles, knowing your own self so that you can apply your energies and skills to the best of your ability. Your true self is not necessarily the self you wish you could be; it is the self you actually are. Finding this true self can be a remarkably difficult goal. We lie to ourselves on a regular basis, often so well that we are completely deaf to certain aspects of our personalities until the day we die. Working with that shadowed side of ourselves can be rewarding, however, and maintaining a harmony between darker aspects and positive aspects bring out personal energy into balance.

Source:
The Way Of The Green Witch: Rituals, Spells, And Practices to Bring You Back to Nature
Arin Murphy-Hiscock

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WOTC Extra – How to get over the “Incovenience Factor,” enlist the aid of a Buddy!


Mermaid Comments & Graphics
WHY HAVING A BUDDY HELPS WITH YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

Having taught hundreds of students over the last 30 years, we have observed that students who undertake the study of magic or witchcraft with friends, partners, or significant others generally have much better results.

Therefore, before you commence to build your spiritual practice we suggest that you attempt to find a “buddy” to work with. A buddy can help you stay on track, remind you of the inconvenience factor, and trade experiences with you (especially when you feel that the rituals or spells “are not working”).

Your buddy can also help you “see” some effects of magic or witchcraft in your life. We all have blind spots , and buddies can help us see through them. For instance, many people can see when something “good” happens in their lives, but fail to see when a negative influence has left their lives.

For instance, we often counsel people about health care. We often ask them to tell us if anything has changed or improved with their
health after we have completed a treatment regimen. Many times the person says, “No, nothing has changed.” But when we ask them whether they still have headaches or back pain, they suddenly become aware of the fact that the pain is gone. We often fail to notice when pain leaves our lives. Pain or negative events are usually noticeable only when they are present. So be sure to have your buddy help you check for anything negative that might have left your life.

It is easy, especially in the beginning of a spiritual practice, to become overwhelmed with the daily tasks of life and forget to do your spells and rituals. Having one or more partners to check with throughout the week will help you remember that you are a practitioner engaged in paying into your spiritual practice. Plus, having partners makes this study much more engaging and fun!

Source:
Learn How to Do Witchcraft Rituals and Spells with Your Bare Hands
Alan G. Joel

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Your Charm for October 19th is The Crescent and Hand

Your Charm For Today

The Crescent and Hand

Today’s Meaning:
Guests and visitors will come calling. Their visit brings happiness and joy. This aspect will reflect these emotions for weeks after the visit.

General Description:
Crescents were worn by the ancients to safeguard them against witchcraft and danger. From the very early Eastern symbole, horseshoes came to be regarded by the Greeks and Romans as charms against sickness and the plague. In the middle ages horseshoes were used as amulets for witchcraft and even today are looked upon as lucky. When the representation of the hand of strength was worn with the crescent it signified hospitatlity and generosity. Hands of Might are painted on houses in Italy, Syria, Turkey and in the East to protect the buildings from misfortune and the inmates from death. The blue beads were worn to avert the evil eyes.

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Reflecting on Witchcraft, Then and Now

Reflecting on Witchcraft, Then and Now

Author: Crick

These days I find myself in periods of reflection on my experiences in the Craft and the ways that is has affected my personal views on life. As part of this reflection, I often wonder in what direction the Craft is now undertaking.

My girlfriend of many years, who is a Druid, and who has spent hours engaged in discussions with the old guy, will occasionally tell me, “you just aren’t right” before flashing a huge grin. When she says this I feel honored because it confirms that I have walked through this life as an individual. And it is has been the experiences of being involved in traditional Witchcraft that has made such a life experience possible.

But now I find myself in a quandary as to my personal views of witchcraft.

When I was growing up on a farm in Tennessee in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and later in suburbia in MD, our family quietly practiced the Craft as we knew it by way of our Irish heritage and the Appalachia influence that we grew up around.

Outwardly we were like any other family at the time; just our beliefs were a bit different from some. And though we referred to folks outside of our personal family as “the others” we were never obvious about such beliefs and so folks around us in the community had no clue. In fact, only one outsider, a Mrs. Bowie, who was a retired minister of a mystical Christian church and close friend of my grandmother Ina and a family from Ohio that used to visit my grandparents when we lived in MD, were the only non-family members that were aware of our ways.

Were we special?

Absolutely not, we were just as dysfunctional in some ways as any other family from that era. However, we never believed in publicity as far as our particular beliefs in the Craft. This was not due to fear of any public backlash or what have you; it was just our way to be private about our family ways.

In those days, folks believed that went on behind closed doors stayed behind those same doors. When my mother branched off into a coven separate from our immediate family at the beginning of 1970, a coven whose focus was primarily on Astrology and its influences on life, the ways of silence were such that though I as a teenager was aware of the existence of that coven, I knew next to nothing beyond that tiny morsel of information.

Some of you may have met my mother at some point in time for during the 1970’s she performed astrological and Tarot readings for a cruise ship liner that traveled between the coast of Florida and the Bahamas.

At any rate, during the mid 1970’s I spent three years in Germany with the military and during that time I was associated with a coven that engaged the path of Hecate and thus would probably be seen as a “dark” coven by Neo pagans today. And yet, though we were very active, we did not seek and in fact went to great pains to avoid publicity.

And now I come to my reservations and thus conflicting emotions about the openness if you will of witchcraft in today’s times. During the years that I have mentioned above, privacy was something that was as a natural way of life at the time and was respected as such.

I am keenly aware that during these same times, that those of the Wicca were in fact moving in the opposite direction and actively seeking publicity at every opportunity. Beyond this observation I personally have no comment to share about the Wicca during those times, for I am speaking about witchcraft as I know it from my personal experiences and not about the fledgling religion of Wicca.

In today’s day and age, with the advent of the Internet where information is readily assessable and where there are now a plethora of Wicca and witchcraft 101 books, it is difficult to find folks who adhere to the tenets of privacy that witchcraft once knew. My personal concerns are that is such openness really a positive step forward in regards to witchcraft?

When I examine my personal views of witchcraft, I see a spiritual path that is wide open to “personal” discovery. Nor do I see any valid restrictions on what or how a practitioner of witchcraft may engage in order to arrive at such discoveries. If one sees the need to conjure up a spirit or other entity in an effort to experience such a discovery, then so be it. If one needs to resort to witchcraft to correct a wrong from another, then again, so be it.

As a witch, I believe that each of us is an individual and as such I do not believe in Karma, a concept that is foreign to the art of witchcraft. But I do believe in maintaining personal responsibility. As an old school witch, I feel that I know my personal goals and the experiences needed to achieve them far better than any group of folks such as those found within the many religions that make up our world. If I make a mistake than I am the one who has to pay for them.

I personally do not believe that a public forum has the right to outline boundaries that defines what steps I am allowed to take to arrive at my experiences in witchcraft. As an individual I do not believe that anyone outside of me has a say on how I personally pursue the path of witchcraft.

Again, I am the one that has to answer for any trial and errors that I engage in within the parameters of witchcraft. And yet this is exactly the perception that we are at in today’s Neo pagan community.

Witchcraft is now defined (erroneously to my mind) as a religion. And as a religion all of the tenets that were once diametrically opposed to the tenets of witchcraft are now accepted as being the norm.

Because of the instantaneous communication of the Internet, folks who engage in witchcraft are cast into a false image of being light and fluffy folks. I personally do not believe in Good and Evil, as these is primarily concepts that originated with the Abrahamic religions. I do believe that there are shades of light and dark, but only in the sense that we need such labels in order to put a sense of understanding on such concepts as they relate to the human experience.

And so I have to wonder, if we took the overwhelming desire for publicity that defines the art of witchcraft today, would witchcraft still be defined as it is by today’s standards. Or would the freedoms that were once a tenet of witchcraft, flourish yet once again?

And are such modern standards, which in effect are enhanced by way of the Internet, realistic as it pertains to the practice of witchcraft?

Massive publicity may bode well for a religion in the sense that it needs such attention in order to boost its membership. But is such publicity really a positive and useful approach to a mystical spiritual path that requires no such membership beyond that of the individual practitioner?

Is the personal responsibility that has always been an unavoidable tenet of witchcraft still possible or even a consideration in the concept of witchcraft as it is defined by today’s standards? Has such massive publicity made witchcraft into a completely unrealistic concept in order to be acceptable to today’s society? Has such publicity taken away from the base realities of witchcraft?

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