Reflecting on Witchcraft, Then and Now
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?