Analyzing The Modern Witch
Witchcraft is a spiritual path; you walk it for nourishment of the soul, to commune with the life force of the universe, and to thereby better know your own life. — Christopher Penczak
The above is by Christopher Penczak, and he’s like the Dalai Lama to Paganism. Okay, maybe not that important, but he’s pretty big in the world of witchcraft. On a personal level of knowledge, by word of my mother, who studied under him, he is quite pompous. However, from my research, most people love him, find him charming, and enjoy his work.
When I first began conducting my research on the modern witch (who she/he was, what they did, why they did it, where it all came from) my first question was:
What is the difference between paganism and witchcraft?
a religion other than one of the main world religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.
a modern religious movement incorporating beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship.
a form of modern paganism, especially a tradition founded in England in the mid 20th century and claiming its origins in pre-Christian religions.
Thus leading me to figure out that, witchcraft such as Wicca is a form of paganism.
“We are witches, and we come from the beginning of time.”
Now that that’s settled, let’s look at witchcraft through the ages. Witchcraft was established in 20th-century England, though technically it dates back to the paleolithic period, 40,000 years ago. There were secret covens of witchcraft all around England, they studied the works of writers such as Margaret Murray. As time went on, more books were written on the craft, such as books by Gardner, on Gardnerian tradition. More writers emerged, Scott Cunningham, Paul Huson, and such. This initiated more and more into the strange, yet fascinating world of Magick.
It turns out, you have to be initiated into covens, which I do assume means showing your loyalty to the religion, and maybe even completing a series of tests — do correct me if I’m wrong, but as it turns out, they are very secretive with the initiation part.
We’ve all heard the story of the Witches of Salem. Witches were discovered, kids disappeared (apparently because of the witches), things happened to the town and they blamed the witches, decided they needed to burn them. Yeah, we all know about it. I still decided to dip into the Salem Witch Trials simply because — what are we missing? Were they witches, or was the town just going crazy (schitzos, all of ‘em!)?
Here’s what we know. The witch trials started in 1692. A cluster of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed they were possessed by the devil, or a demon of some sort, and they blamed it on local women, saying they were witches. I imagine it went something like, “These women are witches, they made the devil himself possess me, and I don’t have any evidence of it but oh well.”
A court, just for this cause, got together to hear the cases in Salem; Bridget Bishop was the first convicted witch, and needless to say, she was found guilty (the poor woman didn’t even have a chance!), and was hanged that June. Over 150 men, women, and even children were accused over the next few months. It was as if Salem had gone absolutely loco. Witchcraft was a thing to be feared, and boy did they fear it.
Eventually the mass hysteria faded, opinions changed, and the court annulled guilty verdicts. Of course, that didn’t do any good for those who were long hanged and gone. Families mourned, and lingered bitterness filled Salem.
This goes to show, witchcraft has long since been regarded as a devil-worshiping religion. This stems from the idea that, people (witches) were given special “powers” to harm others, from the devil himself in return for loyalty. Though today, we know that is not the case.
I interviewed a proud Wiccan the other day in hopes of finding out some secret about the mysterious spiritual path. Misty Evans sat in front of me on her porch, sipping green tea with honey (which by the way was amazing!) and listened to me rattle on about the Salem Witch Trials before I actually started asking her questions. I asked Misty how she would describe her religion. She seemed to get excited for a minute, and she told me she would definitely not describe it as a religion, instead a way of life. She further explained that to her, a religion was more strict, more straight-forward, like a one-way street. However, in Wicca, you were capable of going many ways, and doing many things, believing in many ideas.
“Wicca is mostly about Earth. Mother Earth is our everything, and everything we do usually stems around her. It isn’t really about a Divine power, though it certainly can be — we believe in Gods and Goddesses, and we pray to them often, but Earth…Earth is ours, we definitely don’t deal with the devil, in fact many of us don’t even believe in him. We want to make Earth a better place, take care of her. Yet we get so much hate and that, that is the part I can’t understand.” By the end of her answer, she was crying. I felt so bad for her, she honestly seemed hurt, so confused with the misconceptions about her religion — or, spiritual path.
When asked about what a modern witch does, she laughed. “We don’t slice open goats and bathe in virgin blood, that’s for sure. I can’t account for what my ancestors did, that was many, many, many years ago. What I do, what most modern witches do, is pray to Mother Earth, or a God or Goddess, do a few spells which are usually leaned more towards manifestation and intention than anything — you see, we believe in Magick, but that’s Magick within us. We just…work within ourselves, I’d guess is the best way to explain it.”
I was impressed with her answer, but I had to ask: “Do you really have dragon’s blood and dove’s blood in jars?”
She said yes.
Modern witches do not worship the devil, they do not make sacrifices, they don’t dance naked (but they can!), and they don’t harm people. In fact, it’s in their Wiccan creed that says, “Harm none, and do as ye will” or something like that.
Witches do perform spells, they do hug trees, they do pray to several deities, they do have covens, and they do like cats. Apparently, they do have dragon’s blood and dove’s blood — though, I think Misty was just trying to freak me out. In short, witches and Wicca and Paganism and what have you, are all okay. They’re just spiritual paths, they’re just different walks in life.
Blessed Be. (Term used in witchcraft that Misty told me to say to you all.)
Don’t forget to recommend this post so others can learn about modern witches, and also follow so I’m not lonely.