Recently we have been reading some of the older texts on occult phenomena, typically Montague Summers’ Geography of Witchcraft, and other books written between, say, the 1850s and the 1920s and ’30s describing the “horrors” of being or becoming a Witch. The key to these gasping scenarios seems to be a complete lack of understanding of what it means to investigate freely all that life and living have to offer–what it means to be someone not bound by the irrational and baseless restrictions that the abrahamic religions–Judaism, Christianity, Islam–strive to impose.
As just one example: with the increased sexual freedom of which we are aware today, we think nothing of young adults–consenting young adults–making love with one another. Of course this is a terrible sin, we’re told, when they have not been legally approved / sanctioned so to do.
Take a step back and get an overview of the whole situation: Who has an axe to grind here? Who is striving to exert centralized power over others? But this sexual freedom was one of the “horrors” of being a Witch.
In the same way, various groups have experimented with such research as running ouija boards, table tapping, ghost hunting, dark sitting, and attempting to change their consciousness through various methods including the use of psychedelic drugs. The good people writing tomes such as the Geography of Witchcraft universally labeled these practitioners witches.
Wait a minute here. The fact that someone is sexually free and experiments with the occult does not in any way imply that they are actually a Witch or a Wiccan. They can be a Wiccan without ever doing any of the aforementioned activities. Being a Wiccan means that you are willing to accept the fact that we still have much to learn about real occult phenomena. A Witch is likely to accept that ghosts probably exist–but never see one and never join a ghost-hunting group. She may heal a sick child by using herbs; she may heal an adult hangover by laying her hands on the sufferer. “Magically” the child gets better and the person gets over their hangover or whatever else was causing the headache. What we don’t yet understand we tend to label magic. Yvonne is a hands-on healer with many healings on her record; she is proud and grateful to be called a Wiccan. But her healing ability does not of itself make her a Wiccan. Nor is it magic. It’s just one more thing we haven’t yet explored or documented in a rational way.
When you talk to her you will find that there are many facets in her mind as to what makes her a Wiccan (her consciously chosen spiritual path), from belief in an unknowable indifferent Ultimate Deity through belief in progressive reincarnation, through the healing power she has, through many other aspects of her life, and her commitment to a certain code of ethics, all together make her a Wiccan. Remember Socrates? “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
You’d think that current writers would be more aware of what is and is not a belief in a true religion–a spiritual path–and they’d refrain from attacking someone else’s religion just because they can’t comprehend that person’s viewpoint. Yet, regrettably, they enjoy the notoriety that they get from publishing unfounded reports of Witches (gasp) in the village. Little do they realize that today there are Witches in every village and town, Witches who are not benefited by being accused just because they try to help or heal someone. Small-minded armchair generals and second-guessers–who themselves have absolutely no achievement in their résumé to boast of–apparently can find nothing better to do than to vent their envy and spite by malicious gossip about individuals who actually do quietly achieve good works.
We have called these musings Truth in Advertising. It would be just as valid to call them Accurate and Inaccurate Labels.