Witchcraft is a wide, wide world. Since no one can agree on just what it encompasses, it has at times included everything from mediumship and healing to any non-Judeo-Christian (or Muslim) religious and folk practices. Open-minded people call Spiritualists (practitioners of the religion of Spiritualism) mediums, and close-minded people may just call them witches, and scream about how dark-sided they are, like Wife Swap’s the God Warrior.
Witchcraft changes people, usually for the better, but sometimes for the worse. Minds can be opened, usually by the acquisition of knowledge and the utilization of compassion and empathy. But minds can also grow closed through fear and insecurity. People don’t like fear. They don’t innately like the unknown, as much as they are also inherently drawn to it (hence, witchcraft). People who live in fear often times fail to control those fears, and instead turn their minds toward controlling what causes their fears. They attempt to control their environments, their families, their children, their politics and countries, and in the worst cases, large swaths of the world, leading to some of the most dreadful events in human history.
Fear is a very strong force in this world. Fear leads to a need to control. Sometimes fears are warranted and control is good, like when an invasive species takes over a certain locale and checks need to be put in place to balance out the environment, like this amazing project explaining How Wolves Change Rivers. But sometimes a lot of the time, fear leads to unhealthy actions, like attempting to control other people.
We’ve all heard the stories when it comes to Wicca: such and such a hypothetical person, let’s call her Luna, is looking for information on Wicca online. She’s read a few things, maybe even quite a few things: books and websites and listened to podcasts and studied her little heart out! Then she takes the next step: actually talking to other people online. (We know this is a hypothetical situation. Obviously no modern-day person from AMURICUH would wait until after amassing knowledge about something before talking about it. And pontificating about it. And acting like they know everything about it. But this is OUR story and we won’t let you ruin it with reality or facts. And you’ll see why as we continue to describe a certain type of individual ;)
So Luna has decided to talk to other witches. She likely reads a few sites, visits a few forums, and eventually ends up where everything on the internet ends up: Facebook. She allegedly joined a group that is supposedly about traditional Wicca.™ There are a hundred or so other people in there and the HPS who owns/runs/moderates it allegedly presents herself as a High Priestess of a tradition of Wicca, which sounds quite respectable and knowledgeable! She easily spouts off a few well known platitudes about traditional Wicca, like “Traditional Wicca never costs money!” She seems legit to our dear Luna. This alleged traditional HPS, let’s call her something normal-sounding (which is odd for online Wiccans these days), like Jordana Smith, HPS™. (Though we all know she has like 237 different names and switches between them all because pagan name, craft name, circle name, trad name, real name, title she gave hersel…we mean, that her tradition very validly and ostentatiously bestowed upon her, etc…) Besides, she’s pushing 60 and mentions it A LOT! No one that old would misrepresent themselves!
So young, self-taught, slightly naïve-but-using-her-brain-nonetheless Luna begins to learn. She hears Jordana Smith, HPS™ spout off about such erudite Wiccan concepts as teaching within the Craft, her book, mythology, and the like. She speaks of respect for other peoples’ traditions of Wicca, all of them! She says that they do not all operate the same and that we must all respect that those differences exist. She says that if your opinion or experience differs from hers, she has no problem with that. And yet, she brings up legitimacy and validity, which implies that some are, and some definitely aren’t. It gives her an elevated, insider air. She’s presenting herself as someone who is capable of pointing the finger and saying, “No. They are not legit. They do not belong,” frequently about people from outside her own tradition, or outside of any tradition.
Luna, gods bless her for the burden she bears for it, was born with a functioning brain. She starts to sense, subconsciously at first, that something seems ‘off’ here. She is reading these things about peace and love and harmony and respect, and then seeing, well, things that don’t quite jive with those oft-touted concepts. She starts to wonder about what Jordana Smith, HPS™, is saying. Some things sound great, but other things sounds a bit contradictory to what she’s learned elsewhere. There is a seeming conflict of information to her, and so, in a common act of simple naivety, she decides to ask about it.
She pipes up, saying, “But I learned something different from this other tradition. The Gardnerians teach something different. (Cause like everyone knows who we are, cause we named ourselves after our founder by making someone hate him so bad that he gave us a name, Gardnerians, in an attempt to dispel us like the Nothing in the Neverending Story. But really, he threw our proverbial Dobby a sock and unleashed us onto the world, and for that, we are grateful to him. RIP.)
Luna says, “But I read that not all Wiccans follow the Rede in everything. It’s just advice that applies to situations which cause no harm. It’s not a law across the board.” And Jordana Smith, HPS™ hisses and recoils. The heretofore polite HPS-apparent replies, “Well surely you adhere to the 161 Laws,” but Luna shakes her head (online. Somehow.) and replies, “But, those were made up after Wicca got off the ground and running and only like 1 of Gardner’s HPSes paid them any mind at all. Most of them saw them for what they were, some fancy old type of speak that doesn’t really apply to the modern world in which witches/Wiccans think for themselves, because they’re all equal at 3°. Also, gays are fine and Gardner wanted Doreen to step down because either he wasn’t into her or she was actually as much in control as he was and so he came up with an excuse to solve that little problem.”
Jordana Smith, HPS™, hisses again, recoiling even farther. But she would not give up her hold…err, hope just yet. She greeted Luna with a hello and informed her that everyone needs a high Priest or High Priestess and Elder in the Craft to teach them like she does EVERY PERSON WHO ENTERS THE GROUP JUST IN CASE SHE CAN BE THAT PERSON (HINT: SHE’S IMPLYING THAT SHE FITS THAT DESCRIPTION. PERFECTLY.) So she issues a further challenge, saying, ‘SURELY YOU ADHERE TO THE THREEFOLD LAW!”
Luna, at this point, should probably just nod her head and curtsy and say “Of course I do, my Lady, because if you say that its required dogma in traditional Wicca then it must be so!” But Luna is accursed with the affliction of a functioning brain, and she responds almost without thinking, “What? There’s no Threefold Law of Return in traditional Wicca. That came from a misinterpretation of something in a work of fiction that Gardner wrote in the 1950s. I read it on some crappy Gardnerian blog.”
Jordana Smith, HPS™ has had enough. She flies into an ALL CAPS RAGE!!!!11one and roars “CERTAINLY YOU MUST SEE WICCA AS A RELIGION!!!” To which Luna’s bane of a brain/mouth combo replies without even a thought, “Actually, Wica is traditionally the name of the priesthood of the witchcraft that was practiced in the New Forest region of the south of England in the first half of the 20th century. The actual religion itself has no name.”
Jordana Smith, HPS™ does the only thing that she can possibly do in such a situation. She is being presented with conflicting information from another person who got it from arguably the most well-known and oldest Wiccan tradition on the planet, and her group rules say quite clearly,
“it is imperative that everyone understand before discussing Traditional Wicca that all Traditions are different and may not adhere to the same practices within their respective frameworks.
Everyone needs to respect everyone else’s way of doing things.”
So Jordana Smith, HPS™ BUSTS OUT THE BAN HAMMER SO FAST, THOR THOUGHT THAT RAGNAROK HAD COME BECAUSE NOTHING SINCE MJOLNIR HAD BEEN ABLE TO KNOCK SOMEONE OUT OF THEIR WORLD THAT QUICKLY IN 15 CENTURIES.
While this fictitious character, Jordana Smith, HPS™, couldn’t possibly be real, there are people out there who are just like her. Such people have their own Facebook groups where they spin their tangled web of Wiccan lies in order to construct a universe that fits them instead of trying to construct themselves in a way to fit the universe (or Wicca). What seekers have to worry about here is being lured in by a bunch of erudite-sounding shit and then finding out that the person or idea that they invested so much of their time and spirit/identity into turns out to not be what they thought. It happens all the time, sadly, and it continues to happen to this day. Why? Because we’re an unorganized religion. We don’t have a Vatican or a Holy See or a Pope to sit on high and proclaim what and who is official and what and who isn’t. So people can get up on a soap box like a protestant preacher on a sidewalk in rural Pensacola and proclaim themselves a High Priestess, and there’s no way to fact check it. The onus of proof lies with the person making the claims to the priesthood. If they can’t prove it, don’t take their word as fact.
This is why we need things like community, even as fiercely autonomous and independent as we are. We need to have a body of peers to review, from afar, what is going on, and to voice their collective approval or disapproval, kind of like science before Ted Cruz got put in charge of the congressional subcommittee of science and became the very anti-science pope that rationalists have feared for centuries.
What can an honest seeker do to be aware of people like this? They need to have (and use!) a functioning brain. If a purported HPS™ has fancy claims of lineage (which turns out to be bullshit, but most seekers won’t be able to debunk that on their own), they are most often undone by themselves, through the time-honored tradition of hypocrisy. When they ban/kick out EVERY SINGLE legitimate and valid British Traditional Wiccan priestess in
her their group who happens to disagree with her them, that’s a great red flag for seekers. When it becomes so much, so often, that it’s the majority of what goes on there, and known Gardnerian High Priests are casually dropping the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Form in that group as a simple conversation piece, your functioning brain should recognize a warning.
But then again, when your cockamamie idiocy and draconian behavior gets featured on some shitty Gardnerian blog, then you really know you’ve made it ;)
Blessed Be, Witches.
P.S. Apparently other witches have come forward to offer up the same warnings that we have about this fictitious person. It’s amazing how much coverage a fake character in a story on Facebook can receive from such different types of witches. While hypocrisy is usually an unintentional red flag warning that such persons tend to send up on their own, sometimes if you just have a really good comments section on your blog, you’ll also give them enough rope to hang themselves as they wade tactlessly and idiotically into a conversation about rape-culture and child pornography.
P.P.S. This little gem was also brought to our attention. The beloved Donald Michael Kraig dodges bullets while giving a wonderful assessment of the Rede and the Threefold Law. Unfortunately our girl of the hour still finds a way to change the very meaning of words. That is some powerful magic.