“Witchcraft Today–60 Years On”

witchcraft-today-60-years-on

 

Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is an anthology of written work gathered from various expert sources. Pagans, Wiccans, Fae, Druids, male and female all contribute information regarding their path, beliefs, and journeys. The reader is given a nicely rounded-out account of how witchcraft has developed in the 60 years since Gerald Gardner’s seminal work.

The first chapter gives us a succinct look into Gardner’s Witchcraft Today (1954)and its development. Following are chapters on  Alexandrian Witchcraft, Seax, Eclectic, Dianic, Hedge, and Egyptian traditions. There’s even a chapter on the future of Witchcraft as an ever-growing entity. What may sound like a boring subject is made fascinating by the personal, heartfelt accounts of each of the contributors. Their devotion is inspiring, and their knowledge and intelligence captivating!

The final part of the book is devoted to personal accounts of various adherents who were forced to take a circuitous path to their calling in the Craft. The stories of those who began in controlling Christian religions resonated with me the most.  As a child, I remember feeling intrigued by talk of Witchcraft and the occult, even though I was taught to fear it. I was fascinated to learn of others who felt the same pull between 10-14 years of age, but were more courageous than I. Some of them followed their heart at an early age–I waited another 20+ years before I had the courage to do so.

Recently, I have allowed my Craft to wane since I moved across country and most of my supplies are still in storage. Reading this book has fired my enthusiasm to get back to something that brought me so much comfort and empowerment as I recovered from my Patriarchal roots. The chapter on Hekatean Witchcraft showed me where my next path lay. When I first started studying Witchcraft in 2011, I was drawn to Hecate. I was born in the dark of the moon and it is my favorite time of the month. Samhain is my favorite holiday and Autumn my favorite season. I am fascinated with the world of the dead and beyond. I was informed only older women can be devotees of Hecate, so I chose someone else, but it never felt right. Now I realize I can embrace the patron who feels right to me and I am excited to do so!

This book is for anyone who is curious about Witchcraft and its various paths. It is faith inspiring to read of how others live in accord with the earth and its spirit. And it can fire up anyone whose interest has waned or wandered.

Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is available as an e-book or paperback for a very affordable price. (In fact, it is the first e-book I have read entirely on my Nook, something I have been viciously opposed to till now.) It is brand new from Moon Books and edited by Trevor Greenfield. You can find it through the publisher’s website or  Amazon.

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Coven Cautions

About eight months after I decided I was done being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses it occurred to me I could believe anything I wanted. I know, I know–why did it take me eight whole months to figure that out? I had 38 years of other stuff to sort through. I spent most of that time unlearning everything I had placed my faith in. I visited a lot of ex JW websites and partook in a lot of forums–all intended to uproot a lifetime of indoctrination.

As I said, at some point I realized I could learn anything I wanted and worship in any way I wanted. I knew I was fed up with Christianity and organized religion as a whole. JW’s spend a lot of time convincing their followers what is wrong with every other religion out there. Once a person realizes there is something wrong with JW’s there really isn’t much left. So I chose a path that has intrigued me since I was 13 years old–Paganism. I remember the stories in the Old Testament of the evil and debauched Canaanites whom God drove out of the Promised Land. Their sex orgies, temple prostitutes, drunken revelries, and illicit sex made their religion sound a whole lot more fun than burgeoning Judaism and its many rules.

Now, I could be a pagan if I wanted. I could study witchcraft or the dark arts, if I wanted. I could even (perish the thought) touch a Ouija board or have a seance, if I wanted. However, I had no idea where or how to get started. I didn’t even know what to look up online. I didn’t know the proper terminology or anything. I was on Craigslist last summer and found a couple in a nearby town looking to form a coven. They even offered instruction for those with little to no experience. I promptly shot them an email and heard back within a day or two. They wanted to meet and interview me before they let me know where they lived. No problem. I met them at the local Barnes & Noble. They were a pudgy couple we will name Jerry and Sandra. Jerry claimed 16 years of practice as a Wiccan and was a high priest. He also, apparently, had numerous large and successful covens in the Portland area. (Even one in which he was the only man and they all tried to put a love spell on him, according to him.) Once i had heard all the foregoing I felt I was in good hands, and, once I apparently passed muster, they informed me of the books I would need for instruction and ritual. I ordered the books (cost me $50) and arranged to attend the first meeting. It was about this time I was informed that the three of us, and one other, made up the whole coven.

We had our first coven gathering the following weekend. It was supposed to be a picnic near the river. I drove 50 miles to attend this coven gathering and the other gal, the other newbie, didn’t show. Not only did she not show this day, she never showed. I never met our potential fourth. The picnic was a disaster and every instinct I had told me to run. They brought four dogs on the picnic and Jerry’s mother, who he proceeded to fight with most of the time. The whole picnic was spent fighting the damn dogs: they didn’t have enough shade, they didn’t have enough water, they wanted to eat our food, they wanted to lay on the blanket after getting wet, etc. Now might be a good time for me to clearly state that I am a cat-person, through and through. I find dogs demanding, messy, needy, loud and irritating (I also find I tend to avoid children who display the same tendencies).

Now that I have alienated 80% of my readers I will continue–soon after this ill-omened picnic, Jerry decided to schedule the first initiation of his wife and I. Sandra and he had only been married two years. She had left her husband and two kids in Louisiana to be with a man 5 years her junior. They had met on the internet. Sandra was more a victim of cult mind control than I. She didn’t have the capacity, intelligence, or self-esteem to escape her southern Baptist roots. She was always apologizing for things, and though I felt a lot of pity for her, I find her shouting at the dogs during rituals rather annoying.

So she and I were initiated without having the slightest idea what we were doing or why. Jerry performed the Alexandrian First Degree initiation ceremony as laid out in the Witches Bible by Stewart and Janet Farrar. He performed the 5-fold kiss on our nude bodies. I don’t have a problem with nudity, never have. After the ceremony, he lights up some marijuana and I take a drag or two. It’s pretty good stuff so I am feeling it and we’re just sitting around talking. It’s not long before he informs me how much he likes the way I smell, then they start talking about sex. I find they are open to most everything: menage a trois, polygamy, swinging, etc. Well, I should say, that Jerry is open to himself swinging but he gets violently ill whenever his wife tries it. I seemed to be the only one in the room aware of the unfairness in this situation. Eventually, the high tapers off and I go home. I must say, I was feeling pretty good about myself for the first time in a long time–somebody actually found me attractive.

Over the next couple weeks I keep trying to get Jerry to show me things or teach me or even answer questions and he just looks at me with a look so blank that his narrowly spaced eyes almost cross. They live in a huge apartment complex in a one bedroom. Their bed is in the living room so they can make the bedroom the ritual room. There is a big black and white flag on the wall with the words FUCK YOU and a picture of ‘the bird’. Oh, and by the way, Jerry is an ex-con. It is becoming quite clear that I am going to have to educate myself. So I start to ask if they have any recommendation for a good book on solitary witchcraft. He lent me a couple books by Silver Ravenwolf. I devoured them! By the time I was halfway through the first one I started implementing the things I was learning at our coven meetings and I quickly realized I knew more than he. I also had more than he did: a besom (broom used in ritual), a pentagram (also important in ritual), a sword (nice to have but not as necessary as the previous two), a scourge (necessary in some initiation rituals)and a bell (also necessary with certain rituals). I had all these things within the first month (the sword, scourge and bell I had for years). I quickly realized he spent most of his money and time on pot. Sometimes I would drive the distance to attend a coven meeting only to find the plan was just to smoke and talk. That is not what I was there for!

He finally found a fourth. A nice guy who worked at the local Burger King and looked like Captain Jack Sparrow–I am not kidding you. A month after he had joined, Jerry decided to initiate him into the coven. I volunteered to act as High Priestess and spent hours sewing a chiffon ritual robe. On the night of the ritual I brought my sword, bell, athame, robe, scourge and the books I was returning. That night belonged in a SNL skit. As we were burning incense and sage for the ritual space the smoke detector kept going off until I reached up to the ceiling and ripped it down. Then the dog pee’d in the hallway. During the ritual, the neighbor walked into the apartment and informed us she had fallen in the parking lot and was bleeding, but could she please take our pictures in our cute ritual robes. WTF? All of this was occasionally punctuated with Jerry telling me how beautiful I was and what a beautiful body I had. This after informing me some weeks earlier that if I wasn’t getting enough sex at home he could help me with that. Fiasco doesn’t even begin to describe that night, and Captain Jack Sparrow never returned.

About this time, I was introduced to the genuine pagan community of my local area. Where there were full moon ceremonies every month and Tarot and Reiki classes all offered by a licensed professional counselor. I loved the group I met at her house and the energy was intoxicating. I paid one more visit to Jerry and Sandra’s. I wasn’t there for 5 minutes before I felt like someone had sucked the energy right out of me. I could tell there was some negativity in the apartment but I felt like everything in me was telling me to run. I left with some stones they gave me as I was just getting into the power of different gemstones. A few days later I couldn’t figure out why I was so depressed, then I remembered the stones. I hadn’t cleansed them. I quickly burned some sage and cleansed them of any impurities or negativity. I had learned to do that through a school I had found online called Witch School. I had also found a font of books and literature and have joined a group on Facebook of exJW pagans who are always teaching me.

I think I do owe Jerry and Sandra for showing me the proper direction in which to take my self-instruction. Jerry couldn’t teach me anything because I honestly don’t think he knows much. Even after 16 years he didn’t have any ritual, invocation, or chant memorized. Everything was read from a book. Which I think seriously inhibits energy and power. I am constantly working on memorizing rituals and invocations. They keep advertising on Craigslist for coven members and in fact their recent advertisement asks for people only within their city limits–this was a blatant slight against me because I told them I couldn’t come and meet with them since money was tight and I couldn’t afford the gas. I thought that was better than saying I didn’t respect them and couldn’t stand the psychic drain in their company. Why must he surround himself with a coven? His rituals are empty of feeling and spirit, so it couldn’t be the prospect of a greater cone of power. I think it is a power trip for him. He likes being in the lead, with his own private harem. I don’t know what happened in his previous covens but sex, and sex with him particularly, seemed his primary concern. Unfortunately for him, all I needed to do was read a single book before I knew more than he.

Since then I have run into a few solitary witches who flat out refuse to join a coven and I can understand why. If you are a practicing, or aspiring, witch be careful in your choice of covens. Interview them to assure you’re a good fit, and don’t make any commitments until you have attended some rituals. Don’t be too trusting until your trust is earned. And make sure if you choose to have sex with the High Priest/Priestess that you won’t hate yourself afterwards.