There is a real polarity in the way witchcraft is perceived by the general public and it is interesting to see how some people view witchcraft as a science and others much more as an art. I think this distinction even extends to witches themselves. There are witches who focus very much on the practical and scientific aspects of the craft – herb growing, potion making etc and witches who are drawn more to the artistic elements such as spell writing or poppet crafting.
As with any cross section of the public, some witches have a more scientific bent than others. Some seek out rational explanations of how magic works and others have no idea why it works but embrace the fact that it does.
I know some brilliant witches at both ends of the spectrum and I don’t believe a fundamental interest in science is a barrier to being a witch. I’ll be honest, it isn’t the way I personally approach the craft. I’m not very interested in knowing why or how things work and I don’t like getting too bogged down with an intellectual appreciation of what I do. I just like to get on with it. I actually have little personal affinity with science (I’m even secretly a bit dubious about the whole evolution business…) but I can see how an academic reasoning behind their craft can help some witches to commit to what they do.
Generally most people have a bias as to whether they approach the world with instinct or intellect. Some people are very considered and think before acting, others have a more “hope for the best approach.” Both approaches bring their own benefits and challenges to the craft.
Instinct is usually based on subjective knowledge, personal experience and gut feelings. It is an “in the moment” philosophy. A witch who is guided by her instinct will feel her way through the craft, she will perhaps be less inclined to the theories of books and more drawn to trying new ideas out for herself. An instinctive witch is much like an instinctive cook, she probably won’t follow spells or recipes, she will try a little bit of this and a little bit of that until she comes up with something that works for her. (And when she’s done it, she probably won’t be able to tell you how she did it….) The instinctive witch reminds me of George in Roald Dahl’s “George’s Marvellous Medicine.” She’ll try a bit of everything with great enthusiasm. It might work, but of course it also might blow the house up….
The advantage of being an instinctive witch is that you are not stifled by the thoughts, ideas and practises of others. Your path evolves along original lines and is likely to be an eclectic one pulling from bits and bobs that have personal appeal. However the downside of being an instinctive witch is that sometimes not enough learning is completed to gain a sound understanding. This can be a real barrier - for example in a witch who wanted to follow a particular tradition. Set traditions can’t just be made up as you go along - you need to learn the rules and the fundamentals of how that tradition works and practises. Although you can go quite a long way in the world of witchcraft without any book learning, an understanding of how witchcraft itself has evolved and a knowledge of what has worked for others is necessary for a witch to progress beyond the naturally limited confines of their own personal experience.
An intellectual witch is likely to study the craft extensively. She will understand different traditions and ways of working and will be inclined toward spells, rituals and documents that have worked well for others and have a historical base. She will question the meanings behind why things work for her and will incorporate or reject elements into her workings based on whether she rationally believes that they are of tangible benefit in her craft. The intellectual witch’s sound understanding of the mechanisms behind her work may mean that she has a stronger belief that what she does will work for her. Certainly she can be confident she has the knowledge to know what she is doing.
The advantage of approaching the craft through intellect is that it opens up a wider base of knowledge and allows the witch to explore viewpoints different to her own. She will spend less time experimenting and more time with the tried and tested. She will have a wider pool of knowledge than her own to draw from.
The disadvantage for the intellectual witch is that sometimes she can be so attached to the study of witchcraft, she never gets her hands dirty with actual workings. So while she may often have a greater knowledge than her hands on sisters, she may never develop the same level of skill as she always has her nose in a book….
You know what I’m going to conclude… The best witches use a blend of both instinct and intellect to further their path in the craft. The combination of book learning and personal experimentation is a powerful one for the witch. Experience builds on the solid foundation of theory and knowledge to further the progression of the individual witch. Both intellect and instinct have a valuable role to play in witchcraft and a witch ignores either at her peril….
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