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.

Fey Witch

This is excerpted from the two-volume Third Road Book of Shadows, available here: http://stardrenched.com/2016/10/01/book-of-shadows/

FeyWtchCal

ScrollBarHI am a fey witch. Magic is my heritage and my salvation. I will not be deprived of it. I will remain ever immersed in the magic that flows through the entire cosmos.

This subtle current dances about me all day, even in my sleeping hours, empowering me and making me whole. It heals me, delights me, and celebrates me. It relieves me of my pains, doubts, and flaws. It removes obstacles.

Oppressors deny magic, lest we use its ever available power to live wild and free, with direct access to Deity and the gifts Deity bestows, independent of dour religious institutions and oppressive societal hierarchies.

But magic is real and a Goddess-given right. I would go further to say magic is a living aspect of my Goddess. No one will rob me of my Goddess and Her power. I live in magic.

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In the two-volume Third Road Book of Shadows set, the above prose-poem is ornamented with more detailed art than I could post here if I wanted this webpage to load in less than a decade.

But the graphic at the top of this post is part of the art in question. And I made the little graphic at the side especially for this post, because I love ya!

Did you enjoy the post? Get the book set here, available only from the author: http://stardrenched.com/2016/10/01/book-of-shadows/

Meeting Lady Olivia Robertson

My dearest Olivia, Below is a post to honor and celebrate your birthday. The piece was written over a decade ago, but you may remember it, because you told me twice you wanted it as your memorial reading. A birthday is a much happier occasion, I am blessed to post this as a birthday offering.

FOInitiationB

A treasured picture of my FOI initiation. Click on it to see it less blurred and large.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve been in touch—only once or twice in a decade—which saddens me. I wish my health had allowed otherwise. The multiple sclerosis (that’s what my illness probably is, we still don’t have a definitive diagnosis) ate up my life for years. It got so bad that it looked like I’d only a few months to live. Not to worry, now I’ve another 10 to 30 years left, because I made a deal with the Faerie queen. She needed some community work done, which I now do, and she keeps me going.

My health, though greatly improved, is nevertheless challenging: I use a wheelchair and require caretakers to perform many of my daily tasks, such as dish-washing.

But I am able to continue my work, and am still very happy in it, serving community with the shamanic skills that I was given for that purpose. And the relative improvement in my health has allowed me bit by bit to reconnect with some folks: I’m so grateful to be contacting you and re-sharing with you the piece you enjoyed.

With love, Francesca De Grandis

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Meeting Lady Olivia Robertson
Francesca De Grandis, September 2002

In the early ’90s, I was given a vision of Olivia. I saw her to be very similar to myself, what I would become. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant; Olivia is one of the public priestesses I most admire and my admiration for her also extends to her simply as a mystic with an enormously inclusive and remarkably warm heart. Thus, to say I think we are alike might sound uppity. But in fact, it’s not that way. It’s just that, simply speaking, we are quite alike! Take that as you will.

So I went on a pilgrimage in Ireland to meet her. To her castle in Clonegal. And I wondered: Since I only had that one brief visit scheduled, how was I going to forge the connection that I was spiritually driven to make?

Waiting for her to arrive, I suddenly sensed a presence behind me. Knowing she had come into the room, I turned and there she stood, wearing bright green eye shadow and her bathrobe, the latter clearly—somehow I knew this—worn as a ritual robe. She had posed herself precisely, and her entire aspect proclaimed, “Aren’t I magnificent!?” And she was. She truly truly was. I knew that my vision had been real and correct.

We sat and chatted. Thinking that I had to grab her attention immediately, and somehow impress upon her that we had a reason to go further than a brief, amiable discussion, I took a risk: I told her who I was.

I said to her, “Olivia, I had to meet you. Because I’ve been told we are alike. I’ve been told that, like me, you are eccentric, a remarkable counselor, and an equally remarkable ritualist.”

She responded, “Why do think they call us eccentric?” And then she went on, answering her own question, “You know, they did this book. And, in it, so-and-so lay on an altar and such-and-such-other-person was leaping over a fire, and they called me eccentric! But you know why I think they call us that? It’s because we don’t do it for the money.”

FOInitiationA

A treasured picture of my FOI initiation. Click on it to see it less blurred and large.

Oh, but I gulped at that point. Because of what I knew I had to say next. To tell her who I was. Only the truth, as always, would do. And I said, “But, Olivia, I do get paid for my services.” I didn’t tell her that I do far more free work than the work that I get paid for, because that wasn’t the point.

She looked at me, perhaps startled, and said, “Ah, I know why they call you eccentric. Because you are sincere. You believe the gods are real.”

She understood. And although we had scheduled a brief visit of an hour or two, she cordially allowed me to spend the rest of the weekend with her.

There are many things I could say about Olivia. Not only in regard to what happened between us that weekend and since then, but also about her work in the world. But for now I will say this: She embodies a gracious inclusiveness that I think is sorely lacking in almost every other spiritual leader and religious organization I have seen. She understands that each person’s path is beautifully valid and, therefore, welcomes everybody into the Fellowship of Isis, blessing each soul who appears before her, querying each person with delighted questions about their unique journey. And I will add this:

Years later, she came to dine with me in my home which, being oh-so-truly-humble, unlike myself, was a sharp contrast to her castle. And as we sat in my kitchen, breaking bread at my Formica table, I happened to tell her that I had spent seven years in Faerie; a time in which I was in trance 24 hours a day. And she asked a question that no one else had ever spoken, no one had had either the insight or forthrightness. She said, “Were you celibate during those years?”

She, again, understood; she is not only a profoundly loving person, though that would have been enough. She is far more. Often, when someone has a big heart like Olivia does, others assume that the good heartedness lacks depth. People tend to think that a person has to be one-dimensional—as if one can have a good heart or brilliance, creativity or amiability, cheerfulness or insight. No, people are much more complex and wonderful than that. And in Olivia’s case, the “more” is that she is also a true not to mention brilliant mystic, and a woman I suspect has made heart rendering sacrifices to serve the community.

At the time of this writing, I have not seen Olivia for maybe three years. And I will get to be with her again in a week. During her last few visits to the States, I had to be at different conferences than she was at. I hated it but, you see, to use the old, trite, but so apt expression, duty called. I am a priestess and must go where Goddess sends me.

So this chance to see her face again, to tell her how much she means to me once again, and to pay homage in any way I can is exciting. I do not use the word homage as a sycophant; for I, too, am one who can proclaim her own magnificence. I have no false humility. But in my struggle to be a community servant, in the day-to-day fierceness of battling for a better world, I, warrior, lift my sword in salute, paying homage to my comrades in arms. To those who walk beside me, believing in greatness, sacrificing far too much for the good fight—you know, there’s no other way to fight the good fight except to sacrifice far too much —, I say, “I could not continue this battle, this terribly difficult work, without you by my side. Even if I never see you, simply knowing that somewhere you are doing the work that needs to be done allows me to keep doing it myself.” And I look up to the spiritual servants, though I am one myself. Lady Olivia Robertson, one warrior and lady to another, blessings on your magnificent soul.”