Witchcraft is enjoying a revival at the moment and basking in its new accepted place within pop culture. The traditional magical paths have become accessible to all thanks to the popularity of cult television and the accessibility of information available via the internet and social media. If you want to be a witch these days there are 100 websites telling you how to do it. This does have its positive side - gone are the days when informative sources were furtive and unverifiable. Learning no longer has to be based on trusting an individual or an individual's viewpoint. The wealth of information available allows people to evaluate for themselves what is and what is not worthy of learning.
The downside is that every man and his dog is a witch these days. Now I'm not the elitist type and I'm glad to see all these witches roaming free, but sometimes when the worlds of the Traditional Witch and the New Ager collide, I do find myself wondering if the traditions of what it is to be a witch are being watered down to the extent where the definition can only be applied so loosely that the term witch doesn't really fit at all.
Take secrecy for example - throughout history the safety of the witch has depended on her ability to be secretive. In much of the modern world the safety aspects don't apply as much today, but the pendulum has perhaps swung too far to the other side. What was once the practise of secret and private arts has become akin to a public spectacle. Witches proudly display their witchy status and they campaign for rights at work and even recognition for their witchlets at school. It smacks to me a little of the need for public recognition and validation. Certainly my close family and friends have a good understanding of what I do and I'll admit to being quite frank with my work colleagues and Facebook as well. But I'm quite content that the stranger on the bus doesn't need to know I'm a witch, nor does my doctor, my customers at work or the elderly members of my distant family. In short, I am happy to be discreet. For me, being a witch isn't something I need to shout about. The new age wave of witches who insist on telling everybody everything doesn't sit well with me. Discretion is power, secrecy is power, baring your soul to the world...? Lets be honest, there's a bit of attention seeking going on. (Incidentally this attention seeking isn't just confined to those just starting out. I recently visited the shop of a well known Wiccan witch and was amused to see she had her own personal altar right in the middle of the shop for all to see. Entirely unnecessary and in my own (not so humble) opinion, rather silly posturing.
I'm also bewildered with some of the viewpoints espoused by the new age witches. The horror when they find out my slightly scathing views on threefold and their beloved karma... The trend seems to be for witchcraft that focuses solely on the light and the lovely. Again, I'm tolerant but I will admit to bring frustrated when I'm told with earnest sincerity that every negative piece of magic I perform will come back to bite me on the bottom. I assure you my bottom is free of tooth marks (with the possible exception of my husband's teeth if he's feeling particularly randy) and as for magical bounce back, you can forget it. I hex with the confidence that I know how to direct my energies. This new age loveliness is all very well but its based on idealism (and dare I say a little ignorance) rather than reality. The truth is that any witch worth her broomstick makes use of every type of magic to fulfil her aims.
I think I'm more tolerant than most with the fluffies but most witches will sigh in exasperation when faced with an individual who has read one of Silver Ravenwolf's charming little teach yourself witchcraft books and suddenly decides they know it all. Part of coming to an understanding of your own path is opening yourself to the realisation that you don't know it all, that you in fact know very little. Its almost a paradox, the wiser and the more experienced you become, the greater the clarity of your understanding as to how little you actually know. I get a little tired of the attempts at dogma and the striving for scientific precision in a craft that has more basis in intuition than in fact. The new age witch who insists on treating magic like she would a recipe book (it says green candle and rose oil so if I've got those the spell HAS to work...) irritates the knickers off me. I have a great respect for anybody prepared to think and to use their own imagination in their workings but someone who just reads from a book is fooling themselves in my opinion. Magic isn't about utilising someone else's thoughts, its about formulating your own. Sadly, some people just don't get it.
I've also noticed a real confusion in terms of the definition of what a witch actually is in the
uprising of the modern flock of witches. There seems to be this attitude that a witch is all powerful and that any power ever demonstrated by any witch has to be claimed if they are to be taken seriously in their craft. This leads to some pretty outlandish claims of power and some quite frankly total lies about their personal practises. I was assured on a website the other day that one individual uses the fat of unbaptised babies in ritual. Like hell they do, they said it because they think it sounds good. Its cobblers that all witches are psychic or all witches communicate with spirits or mix potions, or work with herbs etc. etc. What you're more likely to find is that each practising witch has her own area of ability and a cheerful admittance that other aspects of the craft are not for her. I'm not psychic and I can't scry for toffee. Does that make me less of a witch? Not at all, I'm the best bet you'd have if you wanted a manipulation spell performing. Horses for courses. But every time I hear someone telling me they've got every trick in the bag, I grind my teeth. A little humility mixed with a little realism would serve some of these enthusiastic wanna be witches well.
I can't deny it, the modern world has been good for witches. From the safety elements to the ease of meeting others of like mind, the technology and general acceptance of the world has been a positive step forward. But I hope that this new found openness doesn't become the death to the traditions and the practises of old. I'd like to think some secrets aren't published all over the internet and I'd like to think some witches still have the common sense to keep their mouths shut about their practise of what has long been a secretive craft. Most of all I'd like to hope that something as wonderful and as dark and mysterious as witchcraft doesn't end up being reduced to a politically correct social trend shining so much love and light everywhere that it illuminates everything except the slightly shadowed path to where the real power lies. I hope not.
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