A Very Berated Witchcraft

An interesting debate arose earlier this week, on the stomping ground that is the social media universe. This was in the wake of Channel 4’s screening of A Very British Witchcraft. One of my good friends wanted to know, does it work? What’s the point? And is it perhaps simply just something impressionable people fall into, in order to feel that they are a part of something larger than themselves? Surely if witchcraft did work, everyone would be at it?

For the latter statement, the simple answer to that is that the vast majority of folks will dismiss it out of hand, because to most people witchcraft is something unreal, illusory and frightening. So I don’t believe we will ever be in a society where using witchcraft is the norm, as it has too many dark connotations attached to it.

This hypothesis was held up by the comments my friend received on his post; biting, cynical comments and brutal displays of wilful ignorance. Opinions ranging from wanting to slap witches to simply mocking their ‘naivety’.

Surprised and a little dismayed at the approximately 80% lash out against the idea that people of intelligence and common sense might practice witchcraft, I posted the following response:

“Firstly, don’t confuse Wiccan with witch. They are not the same. A Wiccan may be a witch, and vice versa, but you can also be a witch without having any religion whatsoever. Witchcraft is simply another method of taking control of your life, focusing your intent and working towards your goals. No, it can’t make the impossible possible. No, rarely will it bring riches or fame. Because generally witches understand that these things are not what are important; so witches will (and I generalise horribly) tend to use their magic for more private and personal goals, often to help others in need. And a true witch doesn’t give a crap who thinks what as it works for them, and that’s what counts.”

After this, the discussion moved quickly into the necessity and impact of ritual and ceremony, and the differences between working a ‘spell’ and simply engaging in positive thinking in your life. What do you think? Does my definition live up to your idea of a witch? And why is the idea of practicing witchcraft still so ridiculous to many people? Is that perhaps a good thing, in that the supposed fairy-tale nature of it protects it from being used by those who would abuse it?

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2 Comments on “A Very Berated Witchcraft

  1. In my humble opinion Mabh, I think it boils down to the fact that there are still an awful lot of people out there for whom the default reaction to anything they can’t understand, or is beyond their belief system, is to kick out and condemn – often quite aggressively.

    It matters not whether it’s witchcraft or one of the ‘mainstream’ organised religions; witness almost any news bulletin and you’ll find religious disagreement fuelling outrage and violence somewhere in the world. Yet the fact remains that none of us has any proof that one belief system is ‘better’ than any other. As you eloquently put it in your book, ‘belief by its very nature implies the existence of doubt’ (or words to that effect!).

    What sets witchcraft and paganism apart from most organised religions though, is the absolute and utter faith in the certainty of nature – the turn of the years, the seasons and the growth and decay that comes with them. Simply put, faith in the clockwork running of the known universe – and that, at a physical level, is something for which there IS clear evidence. It’s not that much of a leap of faith to believe that if we can tune in to nature – including one another’s energy – that if we do it in the right way, then perhaps there are certain outcomes we can influence within the grand order of things, or if not, then at least accept – and celebrate – their mystery and inevitability, believing that the universe will give us what we need, if not always what we want.

    I think that, even in the 21st century with all our science and technology, too many people are still ruled by fear and have been brainwashed by religious ideals, in many ways no differently than was the case in the 17th century. Organised religion has always been a convenient way of controlling society and keeping order; open-mindedness and challenge have never been considered virtues. Paganism was hijacked long ago by the mainstream religions, but along with the ‘good bits’ (like Yule and Lughnasadh) the undercurrent of fear and hostility deliberately created 400 years ago still exists in many people today, passed on through generations and drip-fed into sub-consciousness in childhood through the media – Shakespeare and Disney alike: wicked witches with pointy hats and warty noses, who gather round cauldrons, cackle incessantly and turn people into frogs. Is it any wonder that in later life, at the mention of the word ‘witchcraft’, that’s the image conjured up in the minds of the less-enlightened? Fear of the unknown, demonised.

    I can only speak from experience, but all the witches I know are the warmest, gentlest and most generous souls imaginable – respectful of nature and the environment, and in-tune with fellow humans and creatures with whom we share this life.

    And, I rather suspect as it always has been – and always will be.

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    • Very insightful! I’m currently reading Stifyn Emrys’s book Requiem for a Phantom God which takes some of the arguments for monotheism and pretty much pulls them to shreds, but he also highlights how ‘head in the sand’ people can be when they simply don’t want to accept the simple fact that not everybody looks at the world in the same way they do.

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