A Brief History of Witchcraft

Which Wica is Witch?

I’ve come across many online articles, essays, posts, and Tumblr accounts that prattle on in detail of how Wicca is not Witchcraft and all of the myriad things that distinguish the two. Since I describe myself as a sorcerer and my magical practice as sorcery, watching the degree to which witches will argue amongst themselves over whether they are witches or not can be confusing at best, but I recognize that this is an expression of the Problem of Authenticity that plagues modern witchcraft and pagan movements. There is a lot to unpack in this issue, from bad scholarship and creation myths to lineage disputes and politics, but people will do what they can to define their group in relation to others, I suppose. Continue reading

Myths and Explanations

We like to have explanations for things that don’t readily make sense.

There are a lot of “explanations” for how magic and psychic phenomena work. Some of them make more sense to me than others, and some of those make more sense to other people than to me. And while the metaphysical community likes to pride itself on nonjudgmentalism and openness, and insist that what’s right for you is right, some of those explanations are just plain wrong.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know why or how magic works. We have no real understanding of how the metaphysical and physical world interact with each other. There are some interesting ideas, but for now we don’t really know.

And the fact that we don’t know for sure is the only thing we really do know. And it’s one of the reasons I distrust anyone whop claims to know just how it works. And why it makes me sad when they resort to explanations that have been thoroughly debunked.

What am I getting at? The 10% Myth. You’ve heard it. Movies and books reference it. Even otherwise credible occult texts (some in my own library) rely upon it.

Still not sure what I’m talking about?

Noob: But why are some people psychic and some aren’t?

Guru: Because most people only use 10% of their brains, and psychic people have managed to unlock the unused areas.

Noob: Oh, you are so wise and all-knowing!

Guru: Yes, I have all the answers. Take my workshop and buy my newest book.

There are a lot of people out there convinced that they only use 10% of their brains. (Ask them which part they don’t use. Do it with a straight face. It’s fun.) This nonsense has been so completely, utterly, and repeatedly debunked that O’m embarassed to actually have to link to the Wikipedia page devoted to it.

And that’s what really bothers me. It’s not that people are speculating about how something they don’t understand might work. It’s that they resort to explanations that are easily and demonstrably false. And when you point out that this is the case, they get upset at you for judging their beliefs. Because what feels right is right, and there is no absolute truth, or something. And referencing fact is just your dominating ego contributing to the oppression of the Patriarchy.

Early this year, this garbage was circulating the internet:

It is blatant nonsense, and it is shameful that it was being circulated predominately by atheists trying to “debunk” Christianity by “educating” ignorant Christians on the “facts” of their religions But other people have taken this travesty of history apart pretty well, and that’s not my goal here.

Now back in March, it was. And there was a woman who posted this on her Facebook page. With “sources.” Sources that consisted of official-sounding dead links, and this page: http://www.lasttrumpetministries.org/tracts/tract1.html

Yeah, I had a pagan woman referencing an old Christian tract as proof that Easter was really Ishtar.

So I presented information demonstrating the falsehood of this sad theory, with links to some pretty basic sources that pretty handily dismissed these claims. Like Wikipedia. (My point here is that I didn’t have to go very deep into Google to find reasonably credible information to debunk this.)

She went ballistic on me. She accused me of attempting to invalidate her personal truth. She accused me of succumbing to an ego-fueled desire to prove that everyone was wrong and I was right. Because I pointed out that she was spreading false information to justify her hatred of Christianity. Because for her, the narrative that Christians stole pagan religiosity (something that is so well documented that you shouldn’t have to make up stuff to demonstrate it) needed an example that was immediate for the season, and that made sense to her, and not only was she unconcerned with the facts of the matter, but she held them in open disdain. (She at one point ridiculed me for having a degree in Religious Studies, claiming that my background resulted not in a particular familiarity with the subject, but just made me a know-it-all. I am a bit of a know-it-all, but fail to see how that invalidates my academic work.)

Certain beliefs give us comfort. They explain things we don’t understand or justify and support positions we already hold. And oftentimes they can do so without requiring us to go through efforts of learning the details of history or the complexities of quantum physics and chaos theory. We can also avoid having to entertain possibilities that we may find unpleasant, such as the fact that Christianity actually is based on real spirituality and Christians aren’t motivated solely by hate and oppression, or that science has disproved some theories of magic, and may actually explain others as a physical, material phenomenon. (I’m a Pete Carroll fan myself, but admit freely that his theories are speculation at this point. And that’s the point: we don’t have enough evidence to know for sure. Yet.)

Discernment is vital for a practitioner of magic. And that includes checking up on a comfortable-sounding explanation to see if it holds any merit. And if it is speculation, acknowledge it as such. And if it is easily demonstrated false, rejecting it.

The Moon is not made of cheese. The dead do not dwell in a hole in the ground. Heaven is not in the clouds. You use all of your brain.


The Rede of the Wicae

There is an old joke floating about the internet that equates various pagan groups to the different races and organizations found in Star Trek. First on the list are Wiccans, who are equated with the Federation:

The Federation means well. They let just about everybody into their little social club, so long as they agree to play nice. They don’t talk about rules much, but keep referring to one Prime Directive that all other laws are based on. That said, they frequently violate that rule when the need suits them. Often heard speaking in various UK accents, even though they’re not from the islands

I’ve observed that central dig on many occasions. There’s really only one rule, and it’s ditched whenever people feel they can justify it. Which happens a lot.

Yeah, I’m about to tear into the Wiccan Rede. Continue reading