magick

All Wiccans Are Witches. Period.

Every day online, people are being bombarded with misinformation. From the Westboro Baptist Church to Fox News to ex-gay reparative therapy success stories like Michelle Bachman’s husband, the world is full of people who will lie to you because they desperately want to believe in the bullshit they’re spouting. It’s just a part of human nature, and it’s something that we, as witches, need to remain aware of. Sometimes people say untrue things to your face, and don’t even know that they are lying.

Take a five year old who tells you that Santa is coming to his house on Christmas to drop off gifts. It’s adorable. It’s cute. It’s something his parents told him on purpose. It’s not his fault that he believes it, because he’s five years old. Well, that’s the same as when people say “I’m Wiccan, but I don’t practice witchcraft. You can be Wiccan and not a witch.” It’s funny, it might even be cute in its obvious naivety, and it’s usually touted by total n00bs who are pretty ignorant about witchcraft and Wicca, but anyone with a functional brain can see that it’s patently false. The real question here is, “Why would anyone want to be Wiccan, but not a witch?” It’s like saying that you’re Christian, but not a member of an Abrahamic religion. Christian, but not monotheistic (zip it for five seconds you fabulous Mormon anomalies; we’re trying to make a point).

The simple truth is that Wicca is a type of witchcraft. The old adage is true: Not every witch is a Wiccan. Wicca is just one type of witchcraft. You can certainly practice other types of witchcraft, from Tubal Cain to Sabbatic Craft to… Sorry, we don’t really know of any other kinds because we’re ego-centric Wiccanate privilegers and well, we don’t need to know about any other kinds (love you, Feri peeps. Keep up that noble activist shit for the rest of us!) So while not every witch is a Wiccan, every single last Wiccan on this planet is, in fact, a witch. Or they’re full of shit about being a Wiccan.

All of this discussion relies on one thing, and that lynchpin to this retarded internet argument is unsurprisingly the one thing the witchcraft community on the interwebz likes to argue about the most: definitions. The definition of witchcraft that one uses will dictate what falls into that category, and what does not. Noting this simple truth, we concede that if your definition of witchcraft requires the sacrifice of one fluffy bunny per sabbat, and you simply don’t adhere to that rule, then according to your own guidelines, you can be a Wiccan without practicing witchcraft, and we want to sign up for this fabulous new type of the Arte magical. But let’s be real, the mistake that people are making online when championing this mentally disabled theory is in thinking that the only definition of witchcraft is casting a spell. And when I say casting a spell, I mean only in the most rudimentary, Hollywood type version of the phrase (i.e. DO MAGICK THINGS TO MAKE SHIT HAPPEN IRL OMG RULE OF THREE REDEREDEREDE!!!11one)

This can be best explained as the simplest of all assumed thaumaturgical (if it’s not a word, it is now, says us) endeavors:

  1. Light one green candle on a Thursday with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice on it
  2. Cast spell
  3. ???
  4. PROFIT!

But anyone with a brain will easily recognize two things: the spell and its ingredients above is way beyond the knowledge of most people claiming to be Wiccan but not witches, and that witchcraft encompasses so very much more than this. Typically within Wicca, many practitioners will not practice magic on the Sabbats, because you’re supposed to celebrate a holiday as your main endeavor. They can, but they tend not to unless it’s needed. That shit is usually best left to the full moon esbat or other astrologically ideal time. Does this mean that a Wiccan sabbat rite in which no “MAKE THIS HAPPEN RIGHT MEOW” magic is practiced is not technically witchcraft? Hardly.

Let’s get down to definitions. What is the definition of witchcraft? In a world where Merriam Webster’s dictionary has decided to abdicate rational thinking in favor of a Kim Kardashian universe app and declared that literally also now means figuratively because enough idiots pumpkin spice latte-drinking white girls were using it incorrectly, how can any word have meaning at all? Definitions have always changed over time to reflect evolving languages and populations, but nowadays it’s a struggle to hold on to any meaning when it comes to witchcraft. So what is essential to witchcraft? What is, in academic religious studies terms, its sin qua non? Well, let’s explore a few definitions of witchcraft, but not the OED’s because apparently you need to pay for that shit now. Fuck.

Merriam Webster:

  1. the use of sorcery or magic (duh)
  2. communication with the devil or with a familiar (by this, they mean spirits)
  3. an irresistible influence or fascination (come on, you know you own at least ONE Silver Ravenwolf book.)

In the Bible (according to Dictionary.com)

(1 Sam. 15:23; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chr. 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Gal. 5:20). In the popular sense of the word no mention is made either of witches or of witchcraft in Scripture. The”witch of En-dor” (1Sam.28) was a necromancer, i.e., one who feigned to hold converse with the dead. The damsel with “a spirit of divination” (Acts16:16) was possessed by an evil spirit, or, as the words are literally rendered,”having a spirit,a pithon.”The reference is to the heathen god Apollo,who was regarded as the god of prophecy.[sic]

From this, we get the idea that the word witchcraft, as it has been used over time, encompasses the presence of and communication/interaction (either directly or simply through communication) with spirits, specifically referring to spiritual beings or entities other than the Judeo-Christian God. So we see here that witchcraft is both the casting of spells and conversing with spirits, and the definitions of spirits abound.

So let’s pretend, for just a moment, that a self-proclaimed Wiccan who adamantly insists that she is not a witch, is practicing a Wiccan ritual devoid of any spellcraft as she knows it. Will there be, unbeknownst to our poor damsel, any incognito witchcraft in that rite? No, because all of the witchcraft in a Wiccan rite is as fucking obvious as daylight to anyone who can see; she’s just an idiot.

Typical Wiccan ritual consists of:

  • Cleansing and purifying the space and the practitioners. This alone is witchcraft. Smudging/saging (thanks, Native American cultural appropriation), incensing, creating holy water and asperging self and space, all are acts of spiritual cleansing, which, when not done in the name of the Abrahamic God, constitutes an act of witchcraft. Witches have historically performed cleansings on themselves and others to rid them and their space of unwanted and undue or evil influences. Wiccans do this, regularly, and any Wiccan who doesn’t is obviously not practicing Wicca correctly. This is witchcraft sign #1.
  • Casting a circle. This is a big one. A circle is an act of magick. The witch is literally projecting energy to make manifest a spiritual/energetic boundary that creates a separation between two worlds, removing a space and creating it anew as betwixt and between, a place in which to work magick and communicate with spirits and the Gods. This is most assuredly an act of witchcraft by every definition.
  • Calling/invoking/evoking the Quarters or Guardians or Watchtowers or elements. This one is so obvious that it should need no explanation, but since there are people in this world ignorant enough to think that Wicca is not witchcraft, perhaps it bears pointing out. What you are summoning, stirring, calling up and otherwise evoking, invoking or trying to grab the attention of, are spirits. They go by many names. The Guardians of the Quarters. The Watchers. The Grigori. The Airts. The Mighty Ones. The Dread Lords of the Outer Spaces. Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Madonna, and Elvis. Whatever. You are literally and figuratively calling out to spirits in an act of obvious and overt witchcraft by any and all definitions of the term held since its inception.
  • Performing rites to the Gods. This usually involves speaking with the Gods or communing with the Gods, who are technically spiritual beings. This is also witchcraft as per the above definition adhered to within the English-speaking world.
  • Cakes and Wine/Cakes and Ale/Cookies or Crackers and Apple Juice/Purple Drank and whatever’s handy. (Don’t forget to use the Crown Royal bag to store your tarot cards after it’s gone.) This is further communion with the Gods intended to internalize some part of Them or Their blessings similarly to Christians cannibalizing their dead God in order to grow closer to Him. Obvious witchcraft here, because it involves pagan deities.
  • Doing everything in reverse. See above for why this was all witchcraft the first time around and use deductive reasoning for why it’s all probably still witchcraft the second time around.

Just because you’re not practicing one aspect of witchcraft doesn’t mean you’re not practicing another.

Just because your circle/rite/ritual did not involve casting a spell for prosperity, health, love, revenge, or to keep your mom from coming into your room because she’s such a nosy bitch in her own house and gods you can’t wait to move out, does not mean that your Wiccan ritual was otherwise devoid of witchcraft. If you took all of the witchcraft out of a Wiccan circle, you’d have a Buddhist meditation on nothingness, because you’d have yourself and nothing left. Maybe some incense.

It is perhaps important to note that the word Wica was originally used in modern English to refer to the practitioner, and not the religion. The witch was one of the Wica, and he/she was practicing a religion that had no name, that was most times referred to as The Old Religion, or, more often, witchcraft or the Craft. As British members of the Wica began to receive attention from the press, the media wanted a name for their religion, so the name of the priesthood was applied to the actual religion, but the Wica know from whence it came and how it is to be properly used and that the Old Religion is witchcraft.

We hope that this polite public service announcement has helped to clarify why all of Wicca is witchcraft and why all Wiccans are witches. So the next time you see someone online claiming to be a Wiccan but not a witch, feel free to drop the url to this article in the comments section and tag them in it. Every witch needs a good clue-by-four to the head early on in his/her Craft, and we’re happy to supply the lumber from the Tree of Knowledge. Oh wait, that *is* Christian. Oops.

As an addendum to this magico-religio diatribe, we’d like to leave you with the entry for the word Wicca in the Online Etymology Dictionary, to make a very simple point:

Wicca (n.) – An Old English masc. noun meaning “male witch…” see witch.

Wicca is the old English word for witch. You may now pick your jaw up off of the ground.

 

P.S. We’d love to hear our new favorite YouTube witch Thorn’s take on all of this. We bet it will be pithy, hilarious, and to the point.  Check out all of her videos, you’ll love them as much as we do.

P.P.S. As usual, she delivered. Check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Shocker: There Is No Universal Threefold Law in Wicca

The popular misconception that there is a Wiccan Rule or Law of Three or Threefold Return comes from a misinterpretation of a passage in a work of fiction written by Gerald Gardner, the grandfather of modern Wicca. The book was called High Magic’s Aid, and he wrote it with the permission of his High Priestess. It had to be fiction because at that point, witchcraft was still illegal in Britain. In that book and its fictional story, the protagonist undergoes a sort of initiation rite in which he is taught “mark well when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold.”

This means that when someone does good by a witch, according to the witchcraft teaching in this *very* fictional novel, the witch is bound to return that good threefold. This is a far cry from “anything at all that you send out into the world will return to you threefold.” It actually means that what you do to a witch should be returned by her threefold, and specifically good acts. Which means it’s really, really good for you to bless, help or aid a witch. The idea is that the witch returns things triple, not the universe. The witch is herself the agent of a threefold response, not the universe. So if I, as a witch, do good work for a friend who is not a witch, there is no threefold return in that, because the non-Wiccan person was never taught to return good acts threefold. If I, as a witch, do a good work for my non-witch neighbor, there is no threefold return in that. But if I, as a witch, do a good work for my coven mate or my witch friend, then that friend or coven mate should return that good work threefold. if I, as a witch, do some nasty shit to my asshole neighbor, said neighbor will not return it to me, and even if she were a witch, she would only return it to me threefold if she somehow found out that something had been done to her, and who did it, which means that I did it poorly, and deserve the retribution.

You can find a copy of High Magic’s Aid, which is fiction meant to teach a few very broad witchcraft principles in a fictional way, here.

The part we are quoting is found on page 188. We recommend anyone who is familiar with the term Rule of Three to give it a read and think about what it really says and what it does not say. Keep in mind that this is a work of fiction which Gerald Gardner wrote to share some very generalized principles of the witchcraft he was taught at a time when witchcraft was still illegal in Britain (1949).

The insanely high number of uneducated voices on the internet that cry out “The Rule of Three!” whenever anyone even mentions negative magick tends to obscure the actual source into oblivion in favor of some fake, fluffy version of this principle which has been applied across the board to all magical undertakings in a rather ignorant and totalitarian manner. So the next time someone yells that phony baloney shit at you, politely inform them to eat a bag of scholarly dicks and drop them the link to this blog.

Blessed Be,

A Gardnerian

The Book of Shadows

The Book of Shadows is the collection of the rites of the Wica, as they were learned, fleshed out and passed by Gerald Gardner in the mid 20th century.  There is a very common misconception today within the eclectic witchcraft community which claims that any witch can write a personal grimoire (a collection of spells, workings, magickal information, meditations, etc…) and that this book becomes his or her Book of Shadows. This is untrue.  Such a book would be relevant only to that witch and his/her experience and would have little or no bearing on another witch.  The Book of Shadows is used by the entirety of the Wica, from Gardnerians to Alexandrians to other traditions within the modern religion of Wicca which continue to pass the rites which Gerald Gardner made available.

We actually like the Wikipedia article about the Book of Shadows and recommend that each witch give it a quick read. While we have read most of Stewart and Janet Farrar’s writings, own a copy of Lady Sheba’s work, and have read Charles Cardell’s writings, we have yet to come across an actual, complete copy of the Book being made available to the public. While there are certainly plenty of little parts of the original which have been published, these writings, devoid of the oral lore which traditionally accompanies them, would leave a witch rather confused and unable to work the rites in a very effective manner.  It’s rather difficult to hold a proper rite for the Goddess of the Wica if one does not know Her Name, or how to do it, outside of some verbiage and loose, context-less stage directions.

Without getting into how Gardner developed the Book of Shadows, attention should be drawn to the purpose which it serves in modern day Wicca. The Book of Shadows is both an object of focus & learning and a tool which facilitates the actual learning process itself. There are many different mechanisms and formalities which have evolved around it and its transmission from initiator to initiate. We have heard a plenitude of accounts from others of the Wica about the wonderful time spent at the covenstead (the location in which the coven meets, frequently the home of the High Priest/ess or other member of the coven) physically copying the Book of Shadows in their own handwriting while asking questions of their high priest/ess.  In this situation, the book itself serves as the source of primary information, as well as a focal point around which learning is facilitated. We have found that much, if not most, oral lore is passed this way, in the presence of the BoS or during its copying. Some treat this process as sacred in itself, a sort of passing of the tutelary tradition within Wicca, with which we agree.

There are, however less common, plenty of covens in which physical copies/xeroxes of parts of the book are passed from initiator to initiate, for the initiate to hand copy on their own. This is a system which is usually found in situations where the coveners live at some distance from each other, which makes the ability to meet more challenging and likely less frequent.  In almost all cases, if not all, the initiate would still be asking questions as copying progresses, though frequently via telephone or online communication with his/her initiators.  Regardless of the manner in which the Book of Shadows is passed, it serves the same functions for most witches who possess it; it passes the tradition (rites and accompanying information) of Wicca and it serves as a point of learning and understanding of what is being passed from initiator to initiate.

If one were to espouse only a shallow view of the Book of Shadows, one may fall prey to the simplistic idea that any religion attached to a written text becomes old, archaic and frequently outdated. The Christian Bible espouses such awful and archaic practices such as slavery, selling one’s children into said slavery, and a host of other offences to the decency of modern man (stoning is such a lovely thing, regardless of which millennium in which it’s implemented, no?). But the Bible is also something that is interpreted differently by different sects of Christianity. The Westboro Baptist  ‘God Hates Fags’ motto is a far cry from the inclusive, loving and Christ-like attitude of the Anglican communion.  Similarly, diversity exists within traditional Wicca, with different traditions and even different covens in the same traditions placing more or less emphasis on certain aspects of traditional praxis found within the Book of Shadows. One of the old Wiccan adages is that one should not remove from the tradition, though one is certainly free to add to it (within the spirit of the Craft). In this manner, the tradition, or the core of the practice of Wicca is preserved and transmitted to each new generation of witches within our cult while the freedom to improvise, experiment and infuse new life into the Craft is assured and celebrated.

How does your tradition of Wicca view the Book of Shadows? Feel free to comment below.

(+5 points to anyone who recognizes the image!)

Our Three-fold Response

(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 would be for me to jump down another witch’s throat for daring to practice witchcraft, we hide behind “karma.”

Girl, let me tell you something you already know about karma, because it will sound almost as condescendingly pedantic as most of your poorly researched rantings: karma is not a part of Wicca.  Karma has never been a part of Wicca. Karma belongs to Hinduism. While we mostly love Hinduism, being the good pagans that we are, most of us aren’t Hindu. The vast majority, even. Karma implies that Samsara exists.  Samsara implies that we are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of reincarnation that we are attempting to free ourselves from by pursuing Samadhi, and let me tell you, as fucking fabulous and high on the hog I frequently feel because of how great it is to be one of the Wica, moksha is certainly not on the horizon for me. I love Brahma and all, but I feel no overwhelming desire to reunite my atman with Godhead, because I don’t think it was ever really severed from it.

Witches aren’t trying to escape rebirth; we embrace it. It’s one of our very few tenets. We want to come back again and again and party like rockstars with all of our loved ones as we attempt to be good shepherds of the Earth our dear Gods granted us for that very occasion.  So drop the karma thing already, k?

If you think that part of your purpose here on Earth is to scold people you’ve never met over some bullshit some other people are falsely applying to their religion, then you need to go back to high school and retake whatever classes on critical thinking they offered. You are doing to others what you are protesting having done to yourself. I dunno what your witchcraft has taught you, but mine has shown that to certainly not be the way to break a cycle.

I love your definition of traditional witchcraft. Mostly because it sounds exactly like everyone’s definition of Wicca from the 70s. Let’s see how that changes over the next few decades, shall we? You want to call yourselves pre-Christian? You go right ahead. You want to call yourselves traditional without any semblance of any unbroken line of praxis coming down through the centuries? You go right ahead.  The earliest “Trad Witch” I’ve heard of in my extremely limited and uneducated on who holds that title currently was Robert Cochrane. And wasn’t he, gasp, a Wiccan? (This may not be true. Look at us, learning things!)

Your explanation of what you do with your dead and the bumps in the night etc applies to any witch, and is something that we figured out before your first contact was made with each other. Hell, most of your first contact with each other was likely facilitated by us, because we came out of the broom closet first. So yes, please show us how great and smart you are by stating common sense, since everyone likes to accuse us of failing on that front because we’re way easier for the non-magical public to identify. Did I leave a ‘k’ out of that word there? Well shit, there goes that stereotype.

Now, to the Rede. I really like what you wrote here. Doreen may have been the first Wiccan to publicly utter the Rede, but she certainly didn’t invent it. I don’t care if it’s ascribed to Gardner, Dafo, Crowley, King Pausol or or a 4th century Christian saint (thanks, Wikipedia!). It’s good advice, and it prohibits nothing. The fun part is where you bring up cultural appropriation when someone tries to fling the Rede into someone else’s face. That’s not appropriation, yo. That’s proselytization, and das est verboten in Wicca. Cultural appropriation is when I decide that Yemaya is a Goddess of the Ocean and decide that she is a Wiccan goddess, and so I have circle around my toilet bowl (BECAUSE WATER) to venerate her and then design ads featuring cute white girls wearing her accoutrements in an attempt to sell fashion.

You’re also completely disallowing for the inevitable development of syncretization, but let’s not go there just yet, because it’s way more fun to have outsiders finger-pointing over disagreements between Yemaya’s depiction among Yoruban, Cuban and Brazilian cultures. There’s your hot topic right now. Cause Wicca has been culturally appropriated into oblivion, but people are hot as shit about fending off the same inevitable fate from the ATRs.  We Wiccans will be sitting up in the nosebleed section cheering our ATR brethren on to success where there were far too few of us to compete.

The fact that you state, full blanket statement here, that hexes, curses, jinxes, etc are shunned in Wicca pretty much sets you up for failure. That statement right there shows that you are not a Wiccan and do not have a copy of the BoS. I don’t even need to go any further here, but good for you for thinking you know it all girl. That’s a winning attitude. One day I hope I feel that way about ‘trad craft,’ because then I’ll remember to kick myself in the balls and get real.

Allow me to impart unto you the words of a witch named Terry, of Artemesia Botanicals in Salem, MA, who is not (as far as we know) a Traditional Wiccan in the BTW sense but who, as an ex-Cabot , is psychic enough to just flat out intuit something very, very obvious: “I’m not a Christian, honey. The only cheek I turn is this one!” She then slaps her ass. That woman is frequently brilliant, and that’s probably the most Wiccan thing she’s ever said.

So now that we’ve reached the point of terminal verbosity in this morning interlude of ecumenical lambasting, allow me to impart some knowledge about my cult, Wicca, to you, dear outsider. Wiccans can and do curse. We have lots of very, very detailed and specific ones that are nasty as shit and would be super, SUPER fun to share with witches we like. But we can’t because we swore not to.  Wiccans have ways of killing people. Wiccans have ways of killing other Wiccans. Wiccans have ways of causing your crops to blight and your cows to dry and all of the hilariously old school shit you would expect but never really see. Because we also have that fun little fourth part of that oddly named pyramid to adhere to. We keep silent about it. We don’t post altar pics of the nasty shit we do and then put up more pictures in an etsy shop and start selling that shit to the highest bidder.  That shit is between us and our spirits and our Gods.

And then, oh sweet culturally appropriated baby Jebus, you go ahead and admit that the majority of the idiots you are railing against under our name aren’t actually Wiccans! Why the huge diatribe then? And then you ask why we’re treating each other like the Christians! Well, it’s about perpetuating that cycle I mentioned above.  But please know; we love a good fight.  We’re kind of like the Irish in that regard (ps, I don’t care what the other half of us say, Wicca is fucking ridiculously Celtic). We have a shit ton of fun fighting with each other all the time until an outsider becomes an enemy, and then all of us bandy together despite years of feuding and have a very, very good time with our mutual efforts.

I’m not about to put you to the torch for being a protestant and failing to drink good Catholic whisky, so please don’t lend credence to a bunch of awful cultural appropriation of my religion by accepting it as fact, whole hog, railing against it to me and my cult by name, and in the same breath denounce exactly what you are doing. It kind of reeks of the hypocrisy that comes from a simple lack of awareness, and when someone comes at us, we prefer them to do it with something significant.

In love and light (lol),

A Gardnerian