Most of us have heard or read all of this a million times. The sticking point for most people is in not wanting to acknowledge the less pleasant methods that Witches have historically employed to work their magics. While on the one hand I can completely understand wanting to avoid the parts of our magical heritage that are less glamorous than others, there is a danger in completely overlooking reality. In the past several decades, there have been many courageous Witches who have publicly acknowledged their Witchcraft and stood up for the rights of all Witches. The late Dr. Leo Martello was one. Rev. Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem, Massachusetts, is another. They proudly proclaimed what we are and showed the world that Witches are not evil or crazy, but that we are different. They have never tried to hide that fact. Witches are different from other people. Not better or worse; different. We have an entirely different focus from most people. We know that we can create change and communicate with Gods, spirits and the fae. We know that no intermediary is needed for our calls and spells to be answered; the link exists between ourselves and our Gods and Ancestors. Most people have little to no magical knowledge, training or even interest. We, on the other hand are magical.
A large part of modern spell work uses ordinary candles, nontoxic herbs, and ornate tools. Rather, some of the spell work of the past was a bit grittier, using such things as bones, blood and animal parts along with the candles and herbs. While in my personal practice, I do not use such things (well, occasionally some of my own blood), I do acknowledge that this is part of our magical heritage. To acknowledge that something is true or has occurred is not necessarily condoning it; just acknowledging it. To deny that something is true or has happened is just that; denial. I don’t see denial as serving any positive purpose. If someone has to lie or deny something in order to feel comfortable with it, that something may not be right for them. Now again, I am not trying to say that we as Witches have to love the idea of using bones and blood in our rites in order to be genuine Witches, but I am saying that to live in denial of the fact that some Witches have/do raise spirits or use bones in their practice does nothing to further our cause or our individual spiritual evolutions.
I have noticed that when confronted with the stereotypes made of Witches (eating babies, satan worship, orgies, nudity, animal sacrifice, curses, et cetera.) many modern Witches get very defensive and turn around and make us sound exactly the opposite; like some kind of Glinda/Mary Poppins hybrid with a penchant for meditation. The latest trend seems to be to try to completely eliminate the title *Witch* all together and I find this both shocking and distasteful. No, of course Witches are NOT Satanists and we do not kill or eat babies, but in all honesty, we HAVE practiced (some still do) ritual nudity and sexual magic and our history DOES include animal sacrifice (does Samhain, the Sabbat of death/the meat harvest; ring a bell?). The truth does not mean that we are evil or demented or “illegitimate” or non-spiritual; it is just the truth of the history of our people.
The original impetus for this post was years ago when Christian Day’s book, The Witches’ Book of the Dead came out and so many people vilified him in reviews saying that he wasn’t writing about “true Witchcraft” that “Witches don’t use such things as skulls or try to invoke the dead” and I was just stunned at what I was reading. Even as a preteen, I knew that one of the skills of the true Witch is the ability to communicate with the Otherworld and that some of our methods use blood or bones. No we don’t kill anything, but to deny that spirit communication is a part of the Craft is ludicrous. The personal attacks were even worse against him saying that he wasn’t a real Witch (I’m not even going to enter the whole, “Warlock” debate) and didn’t know what he was talking about when he seems to be more qualified than most.
After reading these reviews, I bought the book and found it to be excellent. After reading it, I began reading some of the modern “standards” and I noticed that more than one respected author has actually encouraged dropping the title *Witch* in public discourse at least and it seems as though this trend is increasing. When Laurie Cabot made a video for You Tube regarding the word Witch, and stated that “the word Wicca is a colloquialism but the government recognizes it so, now we’re all Wiccans, but in reality what we are is Witches” there was actually a backlash against her from several Wiccans saying she didn’t know what she was talking about and that they are Wiccans NOT Witches. To examine this, first let us all realize that Laurie Cabot has been a Witch since she was 16 years old and she is now 80, so I think she knows what she’s talking about better than most of us ever will. Secondly, Wica, Wicca, Wicce, Witchcraft; are all different words but they need not be divisive. Witches are not about division, we are about union; connection with all life. Modern people that are coming into the fold seem to be bringing their religious baggage from other paths and imposing it on Witchcraft. Let me make this abundantly clear; Witches do NOT share in the Puritanical “morality” that Christians have perpetuated for the last (nearly) 2,000 years. We are free of such constraints.
While there are some Witches that incorporate elements of Judeo-Christianity such as invoking angels (and I make no judgments about this), at its heart, Witchcraft is entirely non-Christian; we have a complete system of philosophy and practice that is devoid of the repression and self-denial that is so common in the dominant religions. We needn’t be bound by others’ more restrictive views. The time has come where we as Witches need to break free of the notion that we must “justify” or “qualify” our religion to anyone else, whether they be Conservative Christians calling us satanic or other Pagans questioning the “correctness” of what we do. It is time to stand in our own power and our power lies in our heritage (all of our heritage), our common bond and the truth of our ways.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with people doing things differently or being eclectic (as long as it’s well thought out and carefully done), but I do have a big problem with people who profess an authoritative view on Witchcraft when they are excluding or denying huge chunks of the truth. I don’t think all Witches need to be “dark” or goth or whatever but I very much think that all Witches need to be Witches, if get my meaning! If someone is uncomfortable with the “label” or uncomfortable with the practice, then why align yourself with us?
I’m not trying to be divisive (I swear I’m not!) but it is imperative that we as Witches need to bring forth genuine and authentic Witchcraft for it to survive. Watering down Witchcraft runs the risk of leaving seekers without the ability to make that spiritual connection that is so intrinsic to the process and could thus result in feelings of spiritual emptiness. It used to be that if you became a Witch, you were always a Witch (it still is), but lately there has been a growing phenomenon stemming from the eclectic neo-pagan community of “former Witches”. I feel that this is an incorrect term resulting from confusion of what Witchcraft is and from improper training. I feel that a more appropriate term for them would be “almost Witches” since being a Witch is not really something you “become” as much as it is something you discover you already are. This is not an elitist statement, Witchcraft isn’t for everyone and that’s not a bad thing. We are all different and thank goodness for that.
Please remember that being a Witch is a continual process of evolution and not something that someone becomes after they reach a certain level like in a video game. All Witches don’t know or practice all things Witchy but all Witches do continue to learn and grow in their Craft, which is what we share. I’m not against modern practice or eclectic practice or “fluff bunny” ways if they work for the individual, more power to them. The key to any practice is if it works and no one way works for everybody. My problem is if we allow our heritage to be slandered and abandoned by our own people, what are we left with? The answer is that we may be left with style and no substance, form and no practice, the body without a spirit and that to me, is unacceptable. We must be authentic as Witches if we are to be Witches at all.