Hello lovely readers, it’s been a while.
If you thought perhaps that I had died: I am still, in fact, alive!
I’m been a busy bee this last month. In addition to the start of a new semester, my grad school applications were due. Now I’m preparing for the interviewing process. One of which requires a mock therapy session where I have to counsel a fake family. I’m also beginning my senior thesis, which will be about intimate partner violence in LGBT relationships.
Needless to say, I haven’t had much time to sit down and write. Any down time I do have is devoted to freaking out about grad school and sleeping.
I’ve actually began making YouTube videos. My latest video pertains to my thoughts and feelings about Traditional Witchcraft. I thought for the sake of keeping this old horse alive, I’d put that video in blog format as well.
First things first. The term “Traditional Witchcraft” isn’t very useful. Witchcraft is a highly expansive thing. It includes many different cultures and practices throughout space and time. Therefore, trying to create a neat little box of what is “traditional” is nearly, if not completely, impossible. I think of it like trying to define what is “normal.” It just doesn’t work. The definition of Traditional Witchcraft depends on many factors including the culture, time period, and the individual who is defining it.
My personal conception of Traditional Witchcraft relies on the archetypal Witch. The Witch has existed in every culture in some form or another. They may look different or have different names, but they tend to follow the same base practices. These are things like working with herbs, healing, hexing, communing with spirits, and soul flight. These are practices that are common throughout Witchcraft lore. They are broad enough to allow flexibility because they do not include more specified practices or things like religious structure. When you begin to include the latter, it gets harder to define what is Traditional Witchcraft in a way that is useful and well-rounded.
Why is that? Well, again, Witchcraft is an enormous entity and doesn’t belong to one singular group of people. Therefore, what is traditional to one group may not be to another. Again, showing that this term is really only useful to the one using it.
The second point I’d like to bring up in this post is the very adamant attitude a lot of Trad Crafters hold, which is that absolutely do not, under any circumstances, practice Wicca. That’s fine and well, until you see someone mention blatantly obvious Wiccan concepts/practices. For example, I’ve seen numerous individuals who make take the absolutely-not-Wiccan stance in turn mention things like their “Book of Shadows.” While the concept of magical texts and recording keeping is age old, the term Book of Shadows is not. For anyone who is curious, Gerald Gardner picked the term out of a 1949 copy of The Occult Observer. An advertisement for his novel High Magic’s Aid was published opposite an article titled Book of Shadows. This article was about an old Sanskrit manual which dealt with telling the future based on the length of shadows. Prior to 1949, the term Book of Shadows didn’t exist in the realm of Witchcraft. This is just one example of Wiccan concepts that are commonly held by Trad Crafters, most likely without their even knowing.
Another example is using the Wheel of Year. Certainly, the festivals have roots in ancient cultures. However, the synthesis of those eight into a wheel formation is a Wiccan invention. In early Wicca, there were only the four major Sabbats. This was supposedly an influence from our good friend Margaret Murray. It wasn’t until later that the solstices and equinoxes were added. The names of which come from Aidan Kelly, a Wiccan initiate.
Other examples include: casting circles, worshiping a horned god and moon goddess, using an athame.
The point of this is not to disparage anyone or their practices but to demonstrate that Wicca has a lot more influence on Traditional Witchcraft. More so than I think a lot of people would care to admit.
That being said, let’s discuss the tired argument of who influenced who. There is a lot of debate about whether Wicca has influenced Trad Craft or Trad Craft has influenced Wicca. Obviously the former is true, as seen above. But the latter is just a true. The answer is that they have both influenced each other.
Whether you are Wiccan or a Traditional Witch, we all owe Gerald Gardner a lot of respect. He brought Witchcraft in the modern era. Without his work, we may not have the practices we have today. This may chap some peoples’ asses, as they will likely disagree. But really it would be like trying to argue that the women’s suffrage movement would have happened without Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Maybe, but all we know is what has happened. Wicca has dominated the modern Witchcraft movement since the start, and it’s only enviable that it’s influence is felt by many different practices.
On the other hand, Wicca incorporates Witchcraft. This includes those base practices I outlined earlier. It can be argued that Gardner worked upon the material he was given by the New Forest coven (which could be looked at as a Tradition Witchcraft coven). Furthermore, he was supposedly connected to Old George Pickingill and his nine covens.
There is nothing wrong with either group taking influence from the other. The problem arises when people either don’t understand where their practices come from or are just shady bitches about it. Again, we see the issue of not enough research and reading of quality material. People are taking what is on the surface level, what is aesthetically pleasing, and running with it.
Just look at the younger generation of Witches today. I don’t just mean age wise, but also the newbies. They have an increasing online presence, through Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr. It’s on these sites that they are seemingly learning their entire Craft. Through idiot memes and stolen black and white photos of anything creepy or “Witchy.” They treat shows like Salem and American Horror Story: Coven as historical fact and authentic Witchcraft practices. When we know that is simply not the case, they are television shows meant for entertainment not education. If there is any book learning it comes from Gemma Gary. They treat Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways as a bible. It is the entirety of their practice. You’ll see a large portion of Trad Crafters claim that they are “Cornish Witches” despite the fact that they live in America and have no ties to Cornwall. They seem to have missed the parts about regionalism in the Craft. The practices outlined in that book are not strictly bound, historically, to Cornwall and that the Cornish part of that text has more to do with specific landmarks in that area. Additionally, they seem to skip past Gary’s own admission that her books are her own work and while they draw inspiration from folklore, they are not meant to be historical manuals.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Traditional Witchcraft. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I am certainly fall somewhere within that term. While there are a lot of misinformed, and sometimes rather stupid, people out there (Trad Witch and Wiccan alike), there are also a lot of brilliant, well-read, resourceful people. I may have gotten a
little sassy and made a few generalizations about Trad Witches in the above, but that’s because I’m highly passionate about Witchcraft and I hate seeing people falling prey to bullshit information and bullshit people.
So here’s my diagnosis:
How to NOT be a bullshit Trad Witch
1.) Read. Read everything you can get your dirty little Trad Witch hands on. Read books about Wiccan history. I understand you want nothing to do with Wicca, this will help you understand where certain practices come from and help you avoid Wicca at all costs! (Hint: drop the Wheel of Year and other assorted practices mentioned above). OR accept that you are using Wiccan practices and drop the anti-Wiccan attitude (it looks douchey anyways).
2.) Turn off the television. Salem and AHS: Coven are not reality. Sure they are entertaining to watch. However, if your practice looks like you just binged watched these shows and put on a wide-brimmed black hat, sit your ass down and open a book.
3.) Don’t shit on Wicca. You wouldn’t have your ‘proper old’ without it’s influence. Don’t agree with me? Come back when you’ve read more than Gemma Gary and stupid Tumblr posts.
4.) Do your own thing and stop bashing on other peoples’ practices (maybe this one is a big hypocritical but it’s for your own good). You don’t own Witchcraft. You’re not the supreme.