Traditional Witchcraft, Spirituality, and Ethics

FDG2016TphatCurrently, it is a prevalent opinion among Pagans that traditional witchcraft was strictly magical, lacking theology or moral aspects. While I can respect that theory, it is not congruent with my own experiences. I suspect whether traditional witchery had sacred or ethical aspects varied by locale or by family tradition.

I never argue with anybody’s experience, only their theory. Theory is ever-changing. I’d never want to invalidate anyone’s experience, including my own. I’ll share mine below.

My experiences lead to conclusions that differ from the aforementioned current popular Pagan position. I hope to add to the Pagan dialogue on the topic, and provide support for those who, like me, have an unpopular point of view.

Growing up in a family tradition, I learned magic and a mystical worldview con leche. Therefore magic and mysticism were a given, as much a part of life as the air I was breathing. In the process, a religious and ethical worldview was deeply ingrained in my cells.

Note I say “my cells,” not “my brain.” It took my entire childhood and adolescence to imbibe the tradition’s basics, because cellular lessons take time.

The understandings of the tradition were so deeply imbedded in our home life that much of the family tradition was taken for granted, not out and out spoken, but more implied and lived. This includes the theist or moral aspects.

In fact, calling it an understanding in the above paragraph is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not so much an understanding as a way of being.

In any case, a lifestyle with many of its important aspects being subtle or unspoken seems an earmark of many traditional witches I have met.

When I got older, I saw that this subtlety sometimes causes people who were viewing the family tradition from the outside to not see the tradition’s deep religious and ethical roots, only the more overt—and perhaps less core—trappings. When I participated in family traditions in Europe, I usually found deep religious and ethical roots in them.

Observers are not engaged in the family culture. They are standing outside it, watching. Only by being part of a shamanic family culture over a long period of time can one can really understand the culture. The notion that to watch something is to fully understand it is a fairly current concept of scholarship. As I said above, learning the traditional witchcraft of my family required an experiential, long term lesson.

It has become almost de rigeur to insist traditional craft never had sacred or principled aspects. This makes it important to me to write this post about my family tradition, because I feel I’m speaking up for my Gods, for my witch ancestors, and for others who feel as I do.

I do not like it when a theory ceases to be a theory and becomes a mandated belief—in other words, when someone is mouthing somebody else’s words to, consciously or not, invalidate other seekers. Unfortunately, the concept that traditional witchcraft had neither ethical nor theological base has become yet another Pagan rote declaration, usually said—or written—in an intimidating tone of I-know-better-than-you-so-whatever-you-think-is-stupid.

I can admire people who authentically believe other than I do. An informed and friendly exchange of ideas about traditional craft, spirituality, and ethics could be a lovely thing. Healthy debate is a wonderfully educational process for everyone involved. A supportive, respectful, and thoughtful exchange of ideas can do wonders.

But debate is not the same as trying to legitimize and define one’s path by invalidating someone else’s. That hurtfully invalidates a lot of newbies who already feel insecure about their belief system. This can crush a newcomer’s spirit.

Coming to our community, hoping to finally find fellowship, but instead encountering someone just as invalidating as mainstream society, can be doubly heartbreaking, because they thought they had finally entered a safe space. So they often never participate in our community again, and end up without support in their Pagan explorations.

People who need to squash others in order to validate their own power have less power than they think, and more mere bluster than they realize.

Thus, I felt impelled to write this post to support invalidated Pagans.

A last thought on traditional witches and ethics: perhaps in some cases, a lack of morality had less to do with any tradition and more to do with human nature. Some people just take anything, even that which is moral and sacred to begin with, strip it of those roots, and use it for their own selfish—or even evil—goals.

I hope this post is a useful contribution to Pagan dialogue about traditional craft.

If you want experiential lessons in traditional craft, I teach The Third Road, a tradition I channel, informed by the magic of my ancestors and my mom. (Channeling teachings is part of traditional craft.) I teach mostly via group phone calls—aka teleseminars. Here’s the link to subscribe to my newsletter, which tells you about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

Bless you.

Wyrd 2014

My wyrd New Year’s resolution: Ecstasy and ease.

Sometimes, it is vital to do things the easy way. I work hard on my spirituality. That’s important. But we can get stuck in the idea that growth has to be all work, no play. The resulting experience sucks—I do not want to feel like God’s drone!—and does not always make for the most inner growth or power. So I constantly create fun modalities for inner change, for my students and myself.

Life and growth will not always be easy. When I’m counseling a trauma survivor, we may be in painful tears together. That is a good thing. Hard work, balanced by fun and ease, has been my ongoing approach.

Empowerment can be accomplished through joyful simplicities. Joy nurtures the spirit. For example, I receive commissions for fantasy portraits, which I paint in trance. They affirm the client’s wondrous essence, inner and outer beauty, and power. Below is one I did of myself. Scroll past it for the rest of the blog:

MddleManagment4ChaosGod2012WT

With the Divine, we can grow spiritually, and overcome obstacles, the easy way, sometimes. Heck, not just sometimes, but a lot of the time!

Recently, I asked one of my students to give me a spiritual challenge—whatever she felt I most needed to work on. Oddly enough, it was to do things the easy fun way. Huh? Me, who is already so good at that? I mean, I have a ball in my life. There is mega-laughter in the classes I teach. And my Gods have a great sense of humor, too—we have a blast together.

But you know what? My student was right. There’s always another level to reach toward. I’m forever wanting to achieve more for the community and in my private life. And I am not, right this second, referring to more fun and ease, but to what I want to accomplish overall.

After meditating on the assignment my student gave me, I realized that the progress I envisioned, for both my private life and what I want to accomplish as a community shaman, could only be achieved through a new devotion to fun and ease. Hah, what a great challenge—to have more fun than ever and go easier than ever!

2014 is my year of doing that.

With so many demands on our time and money, streamlining our lives and choosing pleasure may not seem possible. Nor may there seem time to get needed spiritual support. But here are three easy ways to do all that. There’s that word again—”easy!”

1) Ignore new year promotion-hype that sells you a lot of product, which is the same old stuff that never worked before. Stick with the tried-and-true. Sometimes, we blame the tools we have, instead of our use of them. If you’re not using a hammer, it’s not the hammer’s fault that the nail never gets driven in. Revisit one of your basic tools that has supported you in the past. Use it a little.

2) Ignore hyped up approaches that demand more time than any sane productive person has. Instead, take a moment. For example, keep your tarot deck or runes by your bed. When you wake up in the morning, pull one card or rune, as you’re scrambling out of bed to feed the kids. While you go about your morning routine, spend a few moments thinking about the card. I’m not suggesting you go into trance, sit in a lotus position, or have deep thoughts. I’m saying that, if you cannot do a lot, do not be discouraged and forsake all attempts—just do what you can. Giving a tarot card or rune some consideration, even for a few moments, can open us to Divine guidance, inner resolve, or peace, regarding the day ahead. It can really be a benefit.

3) When you finish reading this, keep heart open to fun, easy ways to: Grow, overcome life’s challenges, and have support for your life.

Here is a way to have all three. Enjoy a Spirit Portrait—it is a gentle, organic process of empowerment. And you give me a chance to fulfill my New Year’s resolution. I adore mirroring people’s wondrousness to them; it is truly some of the best fun. My spirit grows a bit with every painting. Together, we make a great 2014. . . . Wow, I love that idea! Providing joyful support, having a great time in the process, and our shared happiness? Yes! Info at http://www.outlawbunny.com/2012/03/16/fantasy-portrait/

May our fey-touched hearts enjoy 2014 to the max!

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