PBP Week 4: British Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft

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Week number four of the Pagan Blog Project! Hang in with me, because this is all about semantics and the history of the words and practices of Wicca (being that of British-Traditional) and Witchcraft (regarding Traditional Witchcraft – of the European derivative).

You lay a compass? Oh, sorry for calling it a circle. Nice ram skull on your altar — I mean “workbench?”, can I touch? Nice Horn, want to see my Chalice? *awkward wink*

“There’s a problem, you say?” — Indeed there is! Apparently, at least. Well, sort of… How.. do I……….begin?

</begin brief history lesson>

Ages ago in a land far far away (more precisely the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s in the New Forest region of England) there began a religious cult known as The Wica (yes, with only one “C”), also known today as the “Craft of the Wise,” Wicca, British Traditional Witchcraft (In the 1970’s, though, the term “British Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft” was coined to discern between initiated Wiccans and non-initiates of the Craft.), and American derivations such as Georgians & Mohsians. The many derivations of this cult began with one Gerald Gardner, forming offshoot traditions from this man and his New Forest Coven, mainly the one I am currently involved in: Gardnerian Wic(c)a (Witchcraft). To clarify, though: During this period of emergence, there were (and continue to this day) two faces of Gardnerian Wicca. One face is for public encounters. The reason being: During the time of the Witchcraft Acts in England, people could be prosecuted for practicing witchcraft; it scared the public. A softer tone of witchcraft was presented to the public so as to shed light on something people were afraid of: the unknown. Another face is the face still brought about to this day, but is unseen by the public. One could also equate this to the concepts of Outer Court and Inner Court. The inner-court face is not shown to outsiders.

Along the same time period, give or take a decade, as these practices are coming to light, there were a few other Traditions on the rise in England that were equally coming “into their own.” Some of these include Roebuck (Cochranian, which Doreen Valiente herself was apart of), Clan of Tubal Cain, Sabbatic Witchcraft, Cornish (Cornwall) Witchcraft, Chumbley, Artisson, 1734, Anderson’s Feri, etc.

However, of the aforementioned traditions, there was little written history as to when these were founded.

“Most of the evidence relating to non-Gardnerian pagan Withcraft before 1960, however, derives wholly from retrospective testimony,…” (Hutton p289)

</end brief history lesson>

As these traditions came about, many would try to disprove each other (including Wicca), attempt to scrutinize another’s beliefs, or berate the practitioners because of their supposed practice. Each group chastised one and other for “haphazardly making up rites” here and there, which is of the least importance. According to Ronald Hutton in regards to “The Man in Black” (Cochrane), Triumph of the Moon:

… if he actually did compose all the rituals and their underpinning ideas himself, then the word for him is surely not ‘charlatan’, but ‘genius’. (p316)

This can certainly be said regarding anyone’s practice. Whether or not it has been fabricated from nothing, stolen from another, or an amalgamation of historic importance. It is still “inspired work,” which has resiliently (and brilliantly) existed until today. How it all began is of little consequence. How it operates is something different entirely, of course.

Many of this vitriol has come about for a variety of reasons, both personal and impersonal. In effect, there has been a resurgence of this “detest,” or rather unwritten rule that Wicca is beyond the bounds of Traditional Witchcraft, that it is apart from it. In fact, much of what Traditional Witchcraft practitioners are saying today has been said by Wiccans back in the 70’s. One can only imagine years from now what will be said, or who will be claiming these same title-specific ideas.

To examine what Traditional Witchcraft is (or claims to be): Traditional Practices stemming from European Witchcraft, lore, myths and legends, and folk magic; usually incorporating the veneration of Spirits, Ancestors, etc. Traditional Witchcraft plays itself off to be more dark, mysterious, or enchanting. Many a resource will testify that Trad Craft is less involved with ceremonial working (bullshit, oops), less focused on the religious aspect of the practice, and more worried about individual experience of the spirits, elements, and self. Some might say Gard craft is more family oriented, whereas Trad craft is more land-focused and region-based. In my experience, though, Traditional Witchcraft is just as varied as its practitioners (as is Gard craft), leaving room for a wide array of practices that sprung forth from the belly of what we know today as Traditional Witchcraft.

Then there’s the fact that many Traditional Practitioners use Biblical Christian text in their workings, incorporating some “Folk Practices” from the surviving stories of Witches melding in with society (more appropriately known as Cunning Folk/Pellars/etc.). So, if religion is not a factor within this spectrum, it can be ascertained that Traditional Witchcraft is a practice that can be adapted by most any Religious system, within reason. Yet these practices are described, today, as invariably Non-Wiccan. Is this a deliberate differentiation, something psychologically impeding these self-proclaimed Traditional Witchcraft practitioners to respond to? Are these issues arising from a non-initiate based Wicca, Neo-Wicca, and more eclectic nature of the fluff bunnies pandering around? It seems like that’s why the problem has become so widespread.

Perhaps it is because of the WORD Wicca. It’s short, spoken softly, and carries historical undertones of Women carrying an important role, whereas in other traditions it is a Magister/Magus.

Groups, forums, chat boards, etc. within the spectrum of Traditional Witchcraft (as defined above), abhor the topic of Wicca. Let’s just sit on that subject for a moment — Comfy? Me neither. Because it makes little sense. The only awkward reason I can think of, which turns me off from Neo-Wicca, is the sheer amount of people that read the um-teen amount of books that cover eclectic Wicca and its “practices.” Much like what is happening to the African Diasporic Religions – taking things out of context, not reading up on history, requirements, etc. Many people believe they’re entitled to a name or title (such as Wicca), much like Christianity is accessible to the lay person. But that’s for another time, another rant.

Traditional Witchcraft is more dark? Older (HAH)? Many of our practices fit well with those of Trad Crafters. Why? Because:

Traditional Witchcraft IS Wic(c)a. The main difference being that Wiccans are a part of a more religious spectra (of Traditional Witchcraft); a priesthood. Much like the term Pagan: Trad Craft is an umbrella, describing practices that you’ll find resonate with Gardnerian Wica tremendously. Of course, unless you’re initiated, there are source materials, oral stories, and experiences that will never be had or known. That is why it’s dubbed British Traditional Witchcraft (Wicca), and a mystery cult.

My advice to stuck-up Traditional Witches? Leave Eclectic Wicca off the table (Hell, we do, too) and let’s talk like grown adults about this. Our history, rituals, magic, lore, et al. is not that far off from yours. Just let it happen.

-You think Traditional Wiccans follow the Three-Fold Law? Well, I L.O.L. at you, sir (or madame… sorry). Will, and have, hexed. 😉

-Wiccan Rede? That word synonymous with advice? Get with it, [gender-neutral] dude(tte). I’ll advise you to REDE again.

-Gods? You have no idea.

-Rituals? You have no idea.

-Magic? Whether high or low magic (folk magic). You have no idea.

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Know why you think you know?

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So let’s get something gay (as straight would be counter-productive and icky), my sassy ass will be calling everything I do Traditional Witchcraft. Because that’s what it is. All this argument seems to boil down to is: “I’m a hipster witch that had these practices way before you, and you’ve probably never heard of them.” Well, surprise surprise, we’re here, we’re queer, get… oops. Wrong schtick. Wiccans exist as Traditional Witches. COME AT ME, BRO. (Ouch, that actually hurt to type.)

Do not get me wrong: I’m not looking for a broader community in which to settle – Hell no. Gardnerian Wicca has plenty of souls that are just as sinful as I (even more so). Gardnerian Wicca (British Traditional Wicca, as well) stands on its own, it doesn’t need to be placed UNDER anything.  But the question still remains: Why the distaste in your mouth? Eclectic kool-aid taste too eclectic for you? That’s fine. Ever taste this Gardnerian PUNCH in the face?

Careful, it’s a biter. (Color me corny)

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Our Three-fold Response

The best response EVER to a “Rule of Three” comment.

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(If you haven’t read the Shove Your Three-fold Somewhere Else post, read it here first.)

Today, I learned that someone I’ve never met (or even heard of) had “a serious bone” to pick with me.  Apparently, she thinks that the members of my religion give out verbal lashings about some cockamamie (sp?) rule that originated at some point when a bunch of uninitiated witches half-assedly (is that a word? No? Well, I’m coining it.) attempted to culturally appropriate something from my cult and warped it into some nonsense about anything you send out being returned to you three-fold.

Without getting into the lunacy of that logic causing endless spiraling fractals of chain events to run amok through our world and the universe, let’s get back to this witch’s beef with me. She says that when we get called out on precisely what I just described above and how impolite it…

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PBP Week 3 – Brotherhood

Eddy Gutierrez Memorial Fund

B is for “Brotherhood.”

While I’m not a huge fan of saying: “Brothers and Sisters,” in the craft, there has been a great outpouring creating a sense of community that is just screaming for attention.

Eddy Gutierrez — Both in his life, and in death, this man exudes love, and such is shown by the various donations in the above link.

At age 38, he’s done more to improve the lives around him than I could ever aspire to. It is only with a warm heart that I dedicate this week’s PGP post to a generous role model.

He was apart of the Pagan Blog Project, as well. He survives now through his reputation in his local communities, various groups on Facebook as a Teacher, Elder in ATR, Member of the Minoan Brotherhood, Founder of The Unnamed Path, and his Partner and Mother, Family, and Friends.

It is not often we see the various traditions and Pagan faiths come together to support one goal, but this Death has united many a person, and has given an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the life of a modern hero.

To read various articles on the life and death of this man, follow the links below. To support the fund raising and aid his family and loved ones in such a tragic time, please follow the link posted above to assist in any way you are able, to give money (any amount) or share the link with your friends or small communities. I have and am continuing to.

Wild Hunt Article

Matt’s Vodou Blog


PBP Week 2 – American Horror Story

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Of course, the obligatory post regarding media and its pull towards Witchcraft in the past few years.

Mostly, because I’m lost on another “A” word, this is just a random post to treat those who enjoy media to keep said beliefs in the media. <beginrant>

Helping moderate a group of Pagans on Facebook and being a frequent on many other groups, it’s easy to spot odd-men-out — those who bring Fantasy life into religious beliefs through fictional stories. The problem here is differentiating between beliefs, which have background in history and a praxis for which to adhere to (usually accompanied by a system of beliefs rather than just spirituality). Fantasy crosses a line of “this works” to “this sounds like it would be nice if it worked.”

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American Horror Story, in particular to this season’s “Coven” storyline, comprises Salem witches migrated to Louisiana to get away from persecution, and a rivalry between Vodou Queen Marie Laveaux. While the story sounds nice if it were actually true, it is a string of stories brought about by a story-teller, an exemplary cast, and crew of TV-based dramatic “engineers.”

There has been a resurgence of Witch movies, television shows, and book series that play into plots that are less based in historical, traditional (hell, even eclectic), witchcraft or Paganism, and more based on People with superpowers. The resurgence of witchcraft interest is not based on the premise of actual belief or history, it is based solely on the idea that people enjoy watching seemingly equal humans performing superhuman feats.

Basically, an X-Men extravaganza with a subtle hint of “ooooh, sparkly!”

This then feeds in to the whole unutterable term: Fluffy Bunny. Because of its negative tone, it’s been assumed that anyone to utter it is down-grading their beliefs; in effect, calling their beliefs less than, or apart from another. In essence, to the victim goes the spoils.

Don’t take me incorrectly, as it too was what allured me to the interest of Witchcraft (books and tales). Of course, after studying the Craft and delving into its Mysteries, it’s easy to discern that the likes of Charmed, The Craft, The Witches of East End, The Season of The Witch, The Wicker Man, American Horror Story (Coven), and so many others like it have taken the Pagan path and utilized it as a means to gain wealth through storytelling. This is all well and good, until someone uses these fantasy settings as real life. For instance: (I have substituted bullshit for fantasy)

Otherkin. – Fantasy.

White Lighters – Fantasy.

Magical Fire Throwing – Fantasy.

Pre-Christian Paganism – Fantasy.

The Burning Times – Fantasy.

I think we get the point.

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Many pardons for those who take offense, but the fact of the matter is: If you take fictional stories, fantastical drama, and mix them in with something that’s academically inclined, you more than muddy the waters of the already firm chaos that denotes living Traditions and historical accuracy within the Pagan Community.

Don’t get me wrong, some stories that comprise many Pagan traditions are less than impressive. Contrived at best, ridiculously cluttered with third-hand accounts at worst, but usually denote a sense of experience to bring about enlightenment in an otherwise fantastical setting. These stories make up the paradigm of a religion, or are set up for the creation of a movement of a belief structure. To take things that were meant solely for entertainment (usually outside of the realm of physics) and attempt to pass them off as religious-based beliefs on a public forum is a slap in the face to any Pagan participating in Academic Discourse.

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Now, to that end, what you do on your own time is your business. I could care less if you involve these ideas in your Unverified Personal Gnosis, because it is yours. However, bring it to a public forum, and I will join the legion that berates said atrocities. I am in no way a purist, but the laughable bit is when you demand that Pagans believe what you’ve come to include in your amalgamation of fantasy-meets-paganism-meets-misapropriation.

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Fantasy by way of entertainment and religion do not belong together, and if Paganism is to gain any ground in achieving some semblance of credibility, we as a community have to discourage acts of Fantastical impairment. Though stories might attract you, enhance your spiritual leanings, leave them where they belong: in a book, on the television, the big screen, Broadway shows, etc.

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PBP – WEEK 1 – A: Afterlife

Starting off my long 2014 journey of the Pagan Blog Project, I choose irony and begin with the end of things. A post I think apropos in regards to the symbolism of the vulture.

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“Afterlife” is an odd compound word consisting of the pre-stage, that which is already known to humans. Life is movement, sensing, knowing, being aware, engaging, interacting. But what is this afterlife? Is it anti-life? It’s difficult to pigeonhole into the paper clips and tape-jobs of language. Like Gods, death seems to be infinite. Is this a return, a movement from the finite (life) to the infinite (death)?

The Afterlife, in regards to Traditional Witchcraft, is varied beyond variations. It is said (by me, that’s who!): For every one trad crafter, you’re apt to find 8 different answers to one basic question. This is all in the understanding that Traditional Witchcraft does not have a specific discourse for beliefs in Gods/Goddesses or the afterlife, but rather the praxis of how one works, or where they receive their lore. Lore on life after death has been mostly centralized around the idea that it does, in fact, exist, and Trad Crafters work with it constantly. On the question of death, the answer many look for their entire lives within religion, also quite ironically, is what lies after the peak of life, the abyss to which our bodies rot and decay; our souls break free of the vessel of this world. The inevitability of it all frightens, it puzzles, consumes, paralyzes and leaves us motionless at the thought. The reason: life is equally as mysterious as death. tarot-death

My partner struggles with the concept of death. He’s stuck in the idea that it is nothingness. A vast expanse of limitless void. And perhaps it is. Perhaps his concept is spot on, and even so – there are comforts in that moment, that sheer embrace of silence, enlightening dream states, and these comforts he refuses, nay, questions. Yet, we believe — I say “we” assuming my reader is interested in the subject, which assumes you’re also searching for such an answer. Perhaps you’ve already found it. What is it about death, the absence of life, of movement, of interaction, that makes us turned off by it? What is it that makes us intrigued by it? I don’t know if I have the answer to these questions, myself, but thinking about the absence of the above mentioned is damn-near impossible. You cannot experience what you… cannot, uh – experience! To exemplify my problem, I’ve prepared a poem.
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Did you enjoy that void?

The macrocosmic effects shine similar on the human plight of death. Seasons changing, Stars dying — it’s all a part of the great forces of nature.

The afterlife, though, within Traditional Craft is one of veneration and adoration of the Spirits or Ancestors. Not only is it relevant, it is a prevalent and integral nature within Trad Craft and how one works. Petitioning spirits (such as a fetch, genus loci, spirit or ancestor) to aid you in your working is very commonplace within this paradigm. Among petitioning, there is also a sense of learning, communing, and listening to your spirits in times of question, hardship, etc.

A particular of the “Waters of the Moon” ritual being to attract and rouse up the spirits, the life of a specific species of toad must be taken and its remains buried. After which, the bones are cast into a creek, coupled with screaming winds and howling trees (of course, this isn’t all their is to it, but stay with me). This rite, most appropriately called the Toad Bone Ritual or Charm is quite an initiation into the understandings of death and how spirits react to such a rite. It is said this is a talisman that controls beasts and men. Does it do so in “mastering” the mystery of the afterlife? In capturing that moment of the death of a toad, and using it’s remains to tap into that understanding, there begets an initiation into the realm of death, the void, and attracting of the spirits. (When you have the time, money, and interest, research Grimoire of the Golden Toad, Andrew Chumbley.)

How can one go about reaching, communing, or contacting those in this Unseen/Otherworld? Technically, that is up to the practitioner themselves. There are certain “keys” that can help one to travel between the worlds, certain items that can house spirits, and all usually have practical applications. If you are a relative of the spirit you wish to contact, you already own a part of them: your blood. If it’s the spirits of the land you’re looking to sway to your liking, having a meal by a bonfire is quite potent in getting their attention. Give to yourself the blood of life (wine), and then give that blood to the land. Rinse and repeat.

How do you view the afterlife? Where is this void that we escape to? In what ways do you connect?

Afterlife. After. Life. After. After.

Those beneath the mounds will take you there,

if you only let them.


Traditional Tip

Traditional Witchcraft is a living, practical, tradition.

There are many who utilize Folklore during a time of religious persecution (no, not the “burning time” – that’s crap) — these stories and traditions involve the melding of Witchcraft with Christian Structure. Whereas many Traditional Witches use Christian Doctrine, Holy Text (the Bible), and other pieces inside that paradigm, there are Witches (such as myself) who lean towards a more Pagan Witchcraft. Neither of which is more truer than the other, but the practitioners are just as varied as the Practice, itself.


Why the Vulture/The New Year

A symbol I use in both the occult and my art, the Vulture is a triumphant devourer, an entity that takes the inevitability of physical death and purges it from this realm. Poisons are heated by sun-bathing, urination on their own legs is utilized as a sanitary bath, and their very appearance: bald headed, black feathering, is all a part of the system with which it copes in its environment.

The ebbing and flowing of heat, patterns in wind conditions — these buzzards see the unseen, and encircling these heat waves, they rise and fall, gracefully soaring with little movement of their gross wingspan.

I choose the vulture as an item of interest, to mirror my love of and calling to Traditional Witchcraft. As the new year approaches and the days draw warmer, I keep this symbolism strong beside me, and enjoy the momentary pauses of the ebbing and flowing of the heat.