Seeker: A witch or something else?
Posted by loona wynd
The topic of this post is meant to bring questions to your minds. What I am about to post here are thoughts I have regarding why I consider myself to be a witch and why I define witchcraft the way that I do. In time I plan on having each aspect of my definition as its own series of essays which I hope in time will become a book.
So as I write these essays I have a question that I ask myself and I would like you my readers to ask yourself as well. It is only by asking myself these questions that I am able to really define my own practice and my own philosophy. The development of ny philosophy is the most important thing for me as I am a philosophy and anthropology major whose primary interests are Northern European cultures (Norse, Celtic, Germanic, ect) as well as the native magical religious traditions in the US (this is where anthropology comes in as occasionally anthropologists become part of those groups and can really learn their ways). Any way the goal of these essays are to explore my thoughts and get my self and you to think about and help develop your own path.
To define a seeker:
These essays come from the eyes of a seeker. I consider a seeker to be one who explores many different paths in order to discover the “truth”. A true seeker knows that the truth of the universe will be different for every one as no two people can have the same perceptions of the world. That doesn’t mean we don’t question our selves or others. It is actually just the opposite. As a seeker one must learn to be a skeptic. A true skeptic is one who will give and question all facts until they have come to their own answers and decisions, So in essence these essays are going to be written with the understanding of questioning what I say and also being willing to accept what I have to say by testing it yourself.
The primary focus of these essays will be paths that relate to witchcraft in some way as I identify as a witch. I am not that familiar with other magical traditions. As I study and explore more views of magic, mysticism I will add them to my topics. For now I stick with witchcraft. It is what I know yet do not know and what I am. I am a witch and I am proud to call myself a witch. I have only recently really accepted my self as a witch and have come to terms with what that means. Now it has started to become little by little a part of my day to day life.
Witchcraft is defined as many different things. In reality the statement ask ten witches what witchcraft is get twelve different answers is not far from the truth. In most of the supernatural forums I belong to and post in I become one of the central authorities on witchcraft. Over time I have come to have my own rather broad definition of witchcraft.
By the nature of the craft, there is no way that there could be one united definition of witchcraft. Through out history no two witches or two groups of witches ever practiced identically. While many of them may have had the same tradition or same basic back ground, how each of them were taught or learned is not the same due to the very nature of perception (which is a topic to be dealt with at another time). For this reason I decided to cover all of the definitions I have come to understand and accept as part of my development as a witch.
For the sake of this essay and all future essay’s by myself witchcraft shall be identified as:
A religious, mystery, spiritual, philosophical, magical, and craft where by working magic and manipulating the subtle energy of the universe the practitioner is able to manifest direct changes to their reality at will. Will here is meant as desire or force of interest.
As you have seen there are many aspects to the definition of witchcraft. That was the simplest definition I could come up with that encompasses everything I know about witchcraft from personal experience, research, and conclusions based on the experience and research. The following segments define what each of those sections mean.
For many people witchcraft is essentially a religion. The rites and rituals they do are done as an act of worship towards their deities. The rituals they enact have highly religious over tones to them. In many cases the religious aspects are different. A Christian Witch who used her witchcraft to worship Jehova would have different religious overtones than a witch who practiced Asatru whose spells would be an act of worship towards the deity.
The central theme of religious witchcraft is that the spells and the craft is about an act of worship or service to their deity. There are several well known witchcults out there. None of them have anything in common aside from the use of witchcraft to access the mysteries and commune with the deities. The most commonly known witchcult is Wicca (and most calling them selves Wiccan, or a member of Wicca are not actually Wiccan). Wicca is a witchcult, and there are specific reasons it is a witchcult. Again that will be dealt with in an other essay when I cover the religious aspects of my own witchcraft.
Other witchcults include:
- Traditional * more on this later*
- Black Forest Clan
In the above discussion I mentioned mystery and mystery aspects of witchcraft. That is where I add in yet another addition to my definition of witchcraft.
In many ways witchcraft traditions and practices are mystery traditions. A mystery tradition is one where the practice helps you come to your own understanding of how the universe works, what deities are, and the like. The mysteries are the central themes of these religions and are the lessons that can not be learned through a book, but must be experienced. The temple tradition is a Mystery tradition in that regards.
Witchcraft for many is a spiritual path but not necessarily a religious path. A spiritual path is one where a person as they practice their path are trying to better themselves and become something more than they are. It may or may not include beliefs in spirits and other realms of being. Spirituality like witchcraft is a personal thing. One central theme though has been becoming something more than you are right now. This is in many ways what AA has in mind when they mention having a relationship with God as “you know him”. They simply mean to try your hardest to find your way to become more than what you are at that moment. Self improvment.
Philosophy and magical practice are both intertwined as magic is by it’s nature a philosophical concept. The concept however is a specific philosophy which is why they addressed as separate points. I feel that it is the core philosophy that leads to the explanation as to what magic is and how it works.
Witchcraft is a philosophy. In this case it is a way of looking at the universe and of reality in general. It is a way of being able to manifest changes in your own world and your own life. By thinking about the philosophy of witchcraft and working and acting as a witch you are in control of your reality.
Philosophies are essentially how you look at your life and the world around you. Each witch is able to practice witchcraft due to having their own understanding of how magic works. The essentail goal of philosophy or the study of philosophy is knowledge and truth. One of the most famous sayings about witches is when asked about how magic works and what we “believe” is :
“Witches don’t believe. We know”
Knowledge is a philosophy and way of gaining knowledge. There for philosophy once again comes into play. Philosophy does mean love of wisdom. Knowledge and knowing how to use what you know are the keys to wisdom. Witchcraft when used as a philosophy is a way of gaining wisdom. It is a way of knowing and understanding the world and how you play a part in it.
Some forms of witchcraft are based directly on a specific worldview. A person’s world view is one of the many philosophies that they will engage in their lives. For my own practice my central worldview is based on different cultures and personal gnosis. It is a world view simaler to that found in The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill and Hedge Rider with the flavors of Hermetics as understood in the Temple and Cabot traditons as well as Wyrd and the nine worlds found in Asatru.
Magic is how witchcraft manifests changes. Magic is the practice and process of manipulating energy and force directing it to the universe through various means ingestion or release/use. That is why witchcraft is a philosophy and a magical practice all in one. Magic only works due to a person’s understanding of the nature of reality. There are many theories and philosophies as to how magic works. Each witch will most likely have their own understanding of their magical practice and how magic works.
For myself I have a hermetic view of magic. I have made an earlier post about hermetics and will post more thoughts about hermetics as I continue to review and reread the Kybalion for at least the 10th time. I am developing magical training exercises to help understand the hermetic principles and find ways of using them in my witchcraft.
Craft, skill, and practice:
For many people a craft is the same as a skill and a practice. In this case specifically for witchcraft I would have to agree that they are essentially the same being. In order to become good with a skill you need to practice the skill. In order to use the skill effectively for a craft you need to practice a craft. This it’s self is an example how Craft,skill, and practice are tied together.
There are many people out there who identify themselves as witches that have no religious or spiritual aspects to the actions. It may be a philosophy/magical tradition for them. In some cases the craft maybe simple family folk remedies and folk beliefs. To some the above may be considered spells and witchcraft and others it would not be.
The craft in this case refers to how the spell is written, created, and enacted. The spells could be food based, potions, candle, poppets, or take many other forms. There are as many ways to cast and create an effective spell as there are witches out there. That is why there are no specific ways of casting spells. There are types of spells, but every witch and magician for that matter needs to find their own way of casting spells.
Identify as a witch:
As I pointed out above there are many reasons a person would be confused as to what witchcraft is. For myself witchcraft is all of the above and maybe more. I call myself because my beliefs are aligned with some of the above listed religious witchcraft traditions. I also feel that my philosophy aligns well with witchcraft. Every magical practice I have tried has been under the name of witchcraft which is yet again why I identify as a witch.
Could I call myself a magician? I could as I work magic. Some aspects of my practice have been influenced by sources which are in general not considered to be witchcraft such as the LBRP which I learned from the HP of the local OTO a few years ago. The LBRP has influenced my ideas as to how to banish energy from an area, and also works when I am doing a ritual with a christian flavor (for my christian family). That I would not consider by it’se self (meaning the LBRP) witchcraft, though many rituals used in religious or ceremonial witchcraft are based somewhat off the OTO.
Some day I may add magician onto my identification. For now I am a witch. I have done rituals to dedicate myself to witchcraft. Some people say that only a witch can make another witch. In some cases and traditions that is true. If I am to identify myself as a member of the Temple tradition I must have done the proper rites to do so. I am a dedicant of the Temple tradition recognized by my teacher and co-founder Chris Penczak. In initiatory traditions in order to become a member of that tradition you must be formally made a member of the tradition. Initiation into Traditional Wicca makes one a witch and a wiccan.
Many of my friends consider me to be a priestess. Once again that is a label I deny. I am training to become a priestess and hopefully one day a fully trained reverend in the Temple tradition. As of this moment I am not a priestess nor a pastor of any sort. I would consider myself sort of an acolyte or hand maiden. I am able to preform rituals for myself but not for others. I can preform a ritual with my family, but I do not feel comfortable leading strangers with ritual. When I have gained that status I will identify as a priestess.
In the end if you identify your magical tradition as witchcraft then most likely it is witchcraft. If you identify as a witch you are a witch (unless you wish to belong to a specific tradition). I can not myself say you are a witch. If you asked me if I considered your practice to be witchcraft most likely I would say that it is. All I can do is give you my idea and understanding of witchcraft from personal experience and study.
About loona wyndCall me Loona. I am a part time model and an amateur writer. My blogs serve as my primary method of publication at the moment. These blogs are also a way for me to build an audience and get my name known. I have been involved with my spiritual path for half my life now. I have spent that whole time seeking and exploring every path I could find. While I will always identify as a witch and a Pagan, I do believe there are lessons that every path can teach me. When I am not writing, or modeling I spend my time watching science fiction (I'm a big Doctor Who fan as well as Warehouse 13, Eureka, Babylon 5, and other shows). I also enjoy shows like Ink Master, Bar Rescue, Hotel Hell, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. I also love Bones for the anthropological aspects. When not watching tv I spend time playing video games. I'm a retro gamer at heart. I would rather play a game on my NES than the newest game for my PC. I actually have more NES and SNES games than I do Wii, N64 or PS2. I do play Starcraft2, Everquest, Guild Wars, and random Facebook games. I also enjoy reading. My reading will often be in the spiritual or philosophical fields. This is what I enjoy to study. I also love to read science fiction. Anne McCaffery is actually my favorite sci-fi writer. Her Pern and Accorna series are my favorites. I currently hold an associates degree in Liberal Studies or Liberal Arts. My focus is on folklore, philosophy, classics of world lit, anthropology, and history. I do have a vast interest in Physics. I was actually happy with how much my physics teacher was able to connect modern physics with ancient and modern metaphysical philosophy.
Posted on July 17, 2011, in magic, Metaphysics, Occult, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality, Witchcraft and tagged Neo Pagan witchcraft, traditional witchcraft, Witchcraft. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
Having read through this, I find that there are parted we agree upon when it comes to defining what makes a “witch.” I heartily agree with your definition of “skeptic” – it’s a label I identify with and one that I wish more people would consider as legitimate. For now, “skeptic” is usually frowned upon in some cultures.
Witchcraft, to me, is one of the grittier forms of magic. It deals directly with the pulsing energy of the Universe instead of standing back some, as I find other magical practices to do. It’s also not as refined as other magical practice. For that reason I’m drawn to it, as a label and as a practice. I’m not for this highfalutin magical practice and the idea of casting does nothing for me on a spiritual level (though I’m sure it works wonders for other people). Magical practice needs to have some kind of life to it, some kind of energy that you wrench from yourself and throw into your practice, and to me, that is what witchcraft is.
I also agree with you on the idea of religious witchcraft. I see nothing wrong with combining religion and witchcraft and I see the latter as a way of manifesting the former. That is not to say, however, that you must be religious to be a witch, not at all. The two can easily co-exist but they need not do so in order to validate one another.
There is a lot to defining what is and isn’t a witch. There is a lot to what does and doesn’t define witchcraft in general. I felt that this post explained a few of the terms associated with witchcraft in the world today. This comes from my own personal experience and the definitions I have seen from others. In the end there are also cultural definitions that come into play.
I think that as my time as a witch goes on my definition will expand. I have been a witch for 13 years now. I realize that the more I learn the more I realize there is to learn. I used to feel extremely limited by the definition of witch. There was a story published in The Inner Temple of Witchcraft that explains why some one never used the term witch before. Then later on in that person’s life they came to understand and accept the label of witch.
I don’t want people to put me as a witch into a single category of magic. I as a witch practice witchcraft. Witchcraft as a practice has borrowed from many other magical traditions over the years including Christian religious influences. That is why I sought to cover several aspects of witchcraft in this statement.
You mentioned that you don’t agree with me completely. I was wondering if you could expand on what points you disagreed with me and why that is. I hope that your insight can help me expand my overall understanding of witchcraft. I also would like to have other input and insight into the topics I discuss on this blog and website so your input is appreciated.
I have met and had discussions with people who will not accept non-religious witchcraft as a practice. I would like to see where they get their definitions from, but again I want to gain their insight. That is another thing I hope to achieve through this blog. I hope to achieve a place where people feel free to post their disagreements with me and gain a community.
I touched on this a bit in another comment, but I’ll elaborate a bit here, if you don’t mind the quasi-disagreement. I’m very technical and detail-oriented. If you want to call yourself a Witch and say that what you practice is Witchcraft, it doesn’t offend me, nor would I call it disrespectful or blasphemous of Traditional Witchcraft, per se. But. In another essay, you speak very passionately about how there are lots of traditions that use “Wicca,” while not having any sort of lineage to Gerald Gardner and that they are not real Wiccans. So, I wonder, why do you identify as a Witch, having no lineage to Traditional Witchcraft? Or more specifically, since you’ve made your own definition of Witchcraft to justify yourself, if it’s okay for there to be Traditions that use the title Witch and call what they do Witchcraft, like yourself, why isn’t it okay that people have done the same thing with Wicca? I tend to avoid these gray areas for myself. Traditional Witchcraft, at least as I understand it, is not eclectic and does not have self-initiations, which you did touch upon in your article. As such, I do not identify as a Witch. I don’t identify as a Magician, either, because magic is a tool for me, not a requirement, nor something that I use regularly. Nor am I a Wiccan for the exact reasons that you discuss in your other essay. The thing about humans is that we use our reason to make justifications for why we do things. You, and many others, have found justifications for why you identify as a Witch, while not practicing Traditional Witchcraft. But I would encourage you to think on the questions I’ve posed. I hope that you don’t view my comments as an attack on your beliefs because I don’t mean them as such. Just some food for thought. 🙂
I am actually glad that you commented on this post. I am glad that you asked me about my use of words. I try and be clear with what I write but it’s not always possible with words. When you get to witchcraft the language can get even more messy. There are so many different traditions and ways to practice witchcraft that it can be difficult to come to one cohesive definition that all witches will accept and find covers everything.
I don’t see witchcraft in general as requiring any specific religious ties. I also don’t believe or accept that the Wiccan religion is the only religious witchcraft out there. There are many other religious witchcraft traditions. There are eclectic traditions (like the Cabot and Temple traditions) and there are initiatory traditions and there are free flowing do as you wish traditions. Religious witchcraft is as varied as non religious witchcraft.
Witch for me does not denote religion. Witchcraft is a craft and spiritual practice which I touch on in this essay. Witchcraft for me is a magical tradition. There are practices that overlap with other traditions, but essentially witchcraft is a magical practice. In many ways the practice of witchcraft is native to European countries.
Wicca is a religion that is based on the proper practice of the rituals. The only way to learn the proper context for those rituals is through a properly lineaged coven. If the rituals are changed then they cease to be Wiccan rituals and the religious practices cease to be Wiccan. In essence Wicca is only Wicca because of the rituals performed. If you don’t have those exact rituals then you are not Wiccan ad you do not practice Wicca.
Eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft religious traditions that call themselves Wiccan do not have these rituals. They do not have the practices. They may have some similarities, but with out the mysteries which are only experienced through the proper performance of the Wiccan rituals. With out the mysteries of Wicca which are experienced through the rites of Wicca you have no Wicca.
Eclectic neo-pagan witches who practice a religious witchcraft are not bound to any specific deities. Many of them are soft polytheists so they work with different deities at different times and in different rituals. I am an eclectic witch and also use this practice. However it can never be a Wiccan practice. In Wicca there is a specific God and Goddess who are worshiped. The names of these deities are known only to the initiates.
Eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft is based on the non-oath bound practices of witches. This practice bases itself on witchcraft as described by Valientine and other authors. Witchcraft is not limited in a religious practice to Wicca or Traditional Witchcraft (preGardner witchcraft). Witchcraft is now even more eclectic. No longer are initiations required to practice non traditional witchcraft. If you practice traditional witchcraft it may require initiation or it may not. That depends on tradition.
I’m not sure you understood what I was saying, though. Let me try to simplify. According to you, if it’s not Traditional Wicca; it’s not Wicca at all. But if it’s not Traditional Witchcraft; it can still be Witchcraft. You can’t have it both ways. Either everyone can rework a religion/philosophy to their own preferences and meanings or everyone can’t. To be okay with one and not the other is called discrimination and hypocrisy, and I don’t think that’s what you are intending. At least I hope not. This is the reason that I am very explicit about what my Trad is and is not. Being Pagan does not mean one is a Witch. I don’t practice Witchcraft because what I do is eclectic and it does not follow an existing lineage, which is something required for it to be Witchcraft, by technical definition. If you can have your own version of Witchcraft, that deviates from the technical, original definition, why can’t there be people with their own versions of Wicca that deviate from the original?
Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft are not the same thing though. There are religious forms of witchcraft that are traditional and not Wicca such as the 1734 tradition or the other Cochrane tradition. There are other forms of traditional witchcraft that are not inspired by Cochrane, but other practices as well. You have Strega and the New Forest as well as any preGardnerian form of witchcraft. Religious traditional witchcraft may have inspired Wicca, but because the rites are different it became a different religion.
Eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft is religious witchcraft that includes elements from many pagan religions and practices. The rituals are based on the formula described in the books by the Farrars and other Wiccans (Gardner at the time). However they do not have the same deities and mysteries as either Traditional Witchcraft or Wicca. They practice essentially the same sorts of rites, though the context deities and mysteries experienced are quite different.
Religious witchcraft are nature or fertility based religions. The rites focus on a God and Goddess that are a mated pair. These two are the creative forces of life. There are a total of eight holidays celebrated by these religions. They all focus on the cycle of birth, growth, life, decay, death, rest, and rebirth. The earth is sacred and all life is sacred. All life is connected. Those are key essential beliefs and practices with in religious witchcraft practices.
Witchcraft is also a craft. It is a practice. This is part of the word. If you look in the original post you will see that I bolded the craft part of the word witchcraft. This is the non-religious central aspect. Through the craft of a witch spells are cast and created to cause changes in ones life. In many of the rituals there are spells crafted for the aid of ritual possession and trance flight. These are historical practices found in many places. The spells can also be used for day to day life.
Witchcraft holds many meanings. I hope I was a bit more clear here.
I meant to reply sooner, but I’ve been rather caught up in life. You’ve expanded on your personal definition of Witchcraft, but you haven’t answered my question. Let’s see if some yes or no questions will help you understand the point I’m trying to make.
1. Can someone be a Wiccan if they are not following a Traditional (Gardnerian/Alexandrian) Wiccan Tradition? (Y/N)
2. Can someone be a Witch if they are not following a Traditional Witchcraft Tradition? (Y/N)
If the answer to 1 is no and the answer for 2 is yes, then something isn’t matching up your thought process on this, at least from my perspective.
If anyone can “make-up” (for lack of a better term), their own version of Witchcraft, that doesn’t have to do with a Traditional Practice and call it Witchcraft, why can’t someone make up their own version of Wicca?
I understand life gets in the way. So no worries.
1: No. You have to realize that there are a few more traditions than just Gard and Alex. These traditions are:
*Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
-Assembly of Wicca
What makes those traditions Wicca is the core rituals, the mysteries, and the deities they worship. If the tradition maintains the core rituals established by Gardner then it is Wicca. If the rituals are changed in any way it is not Wicca.
2: Yes as witchcraft is a practice and a craft and not a religion. There are religious traditions of witchcraft (Wicca, Dianic, Feri, Temple, ect) which use their craft to contact their Gods, but essentially it is the magical practice of witchcraft that makes one a witch.