Tag Archives: Witchcraft

Monday Night at the Movies

If you’re looking for a movie to get you in the mood for Samhein but, like me, you’re not a fan of most horror and monster movies, you can’t do much better than Bell, Book, and Candle.

Wikipedia tells us that a bell, a book, and a candle were used to excommunicate someone from the Catholic church. Of course, made in 1958, the movie ends with our modern Witch giving up her powers to fall in love — it was either/or. Hence, the excommunication here is of the Witch from the Craft.

But that need for the woman to abandon her powers was not unusual for that time. Many movie plots were based around career women giving up their careers when they fell in love, independent ranch-running women who fell in love and moved inside to cook and have children, women whose careers ruined their families. The tv show Bewitched was centered around Darren’s demands that Samantha give up the powers of her Craft and her, always unsuccessful, attempts to comply.

And, of course, there’s the lovely song of the same title.

Let’s make a list. What do you watch to get you in the mood for this time of year?

Witchcraft, Pagan Horizontal Hostility, the Holocene Extinction, and the Wings of the Storm

The Wild Hunt recently posted about a lecture that Peter Grey, of Scarlet Imprint Press, gave from his book Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Mr. Grey uses some Biblical/Christian language (e.g., Babylon, apocalypse, Satan, The Whore) that I wouldn’t use, although I understand his reason for using it, and the curtain behind him is close decorative kin to the wallpaper that led Oscar Wilde to say, as his final words, “One of us has to go,” but his messages are, IMHO, spot on. The whole thing is worth a listen.

In particular, I think Mr. Grey has important things to say to the Pagans who are enjoying their attempts to fracture Paganism and to those of us who believe that Paganism has an important role to play in the politics of the Holocene Extinction.

We have the power to destroy the world and we are doing so. Witchcraft must respond, as it always has, to the events which unfold around it with the gifts we have been given and those which we have won the heath.

. . .

Yet now we see something interesting occurring: the manufacturing of a schism between a supposed traditional Craft and initiated Wicca. This is an attempt to separate the inseparable and to rewrite a history of shared protagonists. . . . We have an island of wildly diverse practices that we cannot simply neatly embroider into one overarching, gypsy myth. . . . But to define oneself in opposition to your closest allies in a battle for authenticity seems fatally flawed, especially when much of our shared history is chronicled by our enemies and further spans the shifting landscapes of literature, poetry, vision, and dream.

Furthermore, how exactly is a Cain/Lilith myth any more different or valid than a Diana/Lucifer myth? Who exactly enforces that Wiccans do no operative magic or ensures that traditional crafters have no religion and no mythic underpinnings? In fact what we see now is a supposedly traditional craft enthusiastically fashioning the kind of ritual Witchcraft that [for which] they decried the Gardnerians. A curious fix.

The reason is that both these seemingly competing streams of Witchcraft are part of a divided whole, which is not simply true of Witchcraft, but of our entire culture, which is in a schism and a denial of the complete Goddess, whom we know as “Babylon.”

This horizontal hostility between people who should share the same interests is exactly the tactic employed by COINTELPRO. It splinters; it dissipates; it prevents us engaging or recognizing the real enemy. There are more pressing issues than whether we work naked or whether we work robed. Enough. I say, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend When I say “Apocalyptic Witchcraft” I mean the destruction of the false divisions between Witchcrafts and between people.

I would argue that Gerald Gardener’s Witchcraft was not ultimately about the form, but was about the force. A culture was crawling out of the bombed cellars of London into a new world of pill and possibility. The Witchcraft of Jack Parsons was not about form. It was about the force of the bohemian sexual revolution and the newly found entheogenic drugs. Traditional Witchcraft is not about form. It’s about the loss of folklore, the loss of rural life, and, crucially, the loss of meaning in an increasingly urban and postmodern world. Apocalyptic Witchcraft is about [living in] a world at war with the last remnants of wild nature, the last remnants of humanity.

So today, I’m concentrating on conjuring that force, rather than entering into the trap of circumscribing it. Those who have read the Red Goddess will know that I am adamantly opposed to the imposition of orthodoxy. So when I say “Apocalyptic Witchcraft” I am describing a set of ideas that can be embodied in any Witchcraft approach. We should celebrate every form of emergent heresy. Our emails are, after all read by the same intelligence agencies. Our ritual sites are photographed by same military satellites. Our wells are poisoned by the same fertilizers, fracking, and pharmaceuticals.

We must never forget our enemy. . . . Without understanding the enemy or the shape of the battlefield, there is no answer that can be given [to the question of why “the enemy” became the figure of the Witch and why the Sabbat attained such prominence].

What is clear is that the creation of a purely malefic figure of the Witch, was an attack on women, though men, too, were burned. Women were attacked [as Witches] in this way for a reason: in order for the state to enclose the common land. Woman was attacked to remove her control of her womb. Woman was attacked to divide the sexes and to rend the social fabric. Woman was attacked to destroy all sense of the sacred in nature. We do not need to follow Marx; we simply need to follow the money. This process of demonization and destruction of the commons has continued because the enemy has inexhaustible greed and diminishing returns. It is not simply the commons, now, that are enclosed, but everything is being sold into the hands of the few. This inexorably means war and the war is upon us.

The Sabbat arose in such a landscape as a conspiracy to destroy the rotten edifice of church and state. It meet on the heath to avoid the gaze of authority, guised in anonymity, and foreboden. This revolutionized the nature of Witchcraft, regardless of the pre-existence of the Sabbat form. . . . We see these same attacks on freedom of assembly in the destruction of the free festivals, rave culture, the Occupy Movement. These [attacks] have been met by the masked and anonymous Anonymous, the faceless, blackbloc anarchists, the radical direct actions of the E.L.F. These are expressions of direct, popular Witchcraft and have been persecuted by the same inquisition that once came for us. Please note, I don’t say that any of these groups are examples of operative Witchcraft. I say that we, the people who are the Witchcraft, have a sacred duty to join this war. We need to celebrate the great Sabbats again and infuse them with our Witchblood, with our cunning.

So here’s my prophecy: Witchcraft is going to get both aroused and angrier. Nature will rise. We’re not only coming for your children. We are your children and all those who are about to inherit the ruins of the Earth. Welcome to the apocalypse. This is the year that we finally realize that the climate is broken. And it’s all blood and roses from here on in. As Witches, we should prepare to fly on the wings of the storm.

I Have an Idea

Mother-Maiden-Crone

If you don’t read anything else this weekend, you should read Sarah Anne Lawless. She makes so much sense and writes with such real grace about the passing of the wand that is now going on in American Witchcraft that, even on what promises to be one of the most spectacular weekends of the year for outside activity, you’d do well to read her post.

I wonder if we could come up with a set of standard interview questions that people at Pagan conferences, festivals, Pride Days, etc. could use as a basis to interview our elders before they’re all gone and that could then be sent in to some central collection point. I don’t even necessarily mean famous elders or those who founded something local. I mean everyone and anyone who came to Witchcraft in the pre-internet era. I’d really love to preserve a history of those who lived through the founding of this American religion.

My proposal springs partly from Ms. Lawless’ brilliant post and partly from a discussion that I was having with a friend this evening, over dinner on the porch, about how absent social service projects are from Pagan gatherings.

I’ve blogged before about how some of the conferences that my friend attends always include opportunities to do volunteer projects. She was telling me, too, tonight about how, when her company shows up for a monthly volunteer day at the local food bank, there’s always a group of twenty-somethings from some company or other. Those companies, she says, have figured out that, for this age cohort, doing volunteer work on company time is viewed as an important benefit. (She cited a study; I don’t remember the source.) So that’s the monthly experience, and then there’s the conference experience.

She noted that sometimes the conference’s volunteer opportunities take them out into the community where the conference is located, shoveling mulch onto park paths in Atlanta or cleaning out animal shelters in St. Louis. But sometimes the volunteer opportunities are located within the convention hotel; one time in LA, she and a group assembled bikes that had been donated for homeless children. The conference arranged a big hotel room, gave everyone a screwdriver and some directions, and people went to it.

So what if some historians or anthropologists were to develop a questionnaire, maybe something that could take 15 minutes to complete, but that could also lead to evening-long discussions between the generations, to collect information from Pagan elders? And what if Pagan conferences, festivals, Pride Day were to distribute these questionnaires and ask attendees to commit to gathering or providing the information? Each attendee could do important community service AND have an ice-breaker for social events. All that would be needed beyond that would be for some academic or some journal to collect the data and begin to — I hate this word — curate our history.

But our history matters. We’ve lost too much of it over the centuries as it is. We’ve been forced too often to follow Monique Wittig’s advice:

You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.

Perhaps now is the time to preserve what we may need to draw upon in the future.

Picture found here.

Wild Nights Should Be Our Ecstasy

Now the winds are picking up and my old trees are swaying dangerously back and forth. I’m an old, risk-averse woman with a bum ankle and I’ve done pretty much (little enough) everything that I could do to prepare for this once-every-thousand-year storm. There’s now No Way Out But Through, and we’ll see if we’re in still in Kansas anymore once we’ve gotten through.

And, so, in my comfy, well-stocked basement, I’m thinking about what it means to be the Witch of This Place in the middle of this kind of storm. One of the things that first attracted me to Witchcraft was the statement (and I wish that I could remember where I read it or who wrote it) that “A Witch Takes Responsibility.” I’ve never understood that in a Carolyn-Myss-New-Agey-The-Promise-If-You-Got-Killed-By-A-Tsunami-Your-Higher-Self-Wanted-To-Learn-A-Lesson-From-The-Tsunami kind of way. I understand it to mean that, if you’re going to walk between the worlds and do between them what may affect them all, then you’d better be well-informed enough to take responsibility for what you’ve done, you’d better be ready for it when your own little node on the web reverberates, you’d better be responsible for your own reactions. I made, almost a decade ago, a sacred pact with this small cottage and with this Bit of Earth. I’m responsible for it and I’m responsible for what I’ve done to contribute to the global climate change that is now wracking it mercilessly. And I’m responsible for being grown-up enough to acknowledge and accept that the Universe is often random. Sometimes, shitty things happen to good people and it’s not because Jehova hates gai people. It’s because randomness (that most liminal and Hecate-blessed quality of the universe) is absolutely necessary (“Hail,” as someone once wrote, “Eris, full of Grace, Holy Queen of all this place,”) to everything else. That’s all.

Another thing about Witches, and I think that T. Thorn Coyle may have been the one who said this, is that we’re not afraid of the dark. OK, maybe, tonight, I am kind of afraid of nature’s dark and destructive power, but I am still willing to recognize it, to appreciate its role, and, even though I am scared, to ask it to come in, sit down, and help me to pay attention to it, because paying attention is a very large part of my own spiritual work.

And, so, today I am asking Sia’s wonderful question: “What Are Witches For?” and adding (you know, the way that you add “in bed” when you read a fortune from your fortune cookie, only not like that at all) “during Hurricane Sandy?” At some point, the power is going to go out, except for the generator that will (Goddess willing) keep the sump pumps, refrigerator, and an outlet on, and I’m going to just stop, sit with the storm, and try as hard as I can to be present instead of afraid. And then I’ll be present to being afraid. Because even when all that I can be is afraid, I will still be an afraid Witch and, thus, I will take responsibility for paying attention to my fear. And I will not forget what my Bene Gesserit sisters have taught me:

I must not [fear; that’s the word that Frank Herbert left out, fear: “I must not fear fear,”] fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Facing fear and allowing it to pass over me and through me seems, to me, to be another way of saying “being present,” of saying “paying attention.” And, once I’ve actually done that, only “I” will remain and “I” am both the observer and the observed.

Samhein’s coming. This year, it is not coming gently. I can hear the Wild Hunt’s horns and it’s not yet clear for whom they blow. My dreams are increasingly intense. My ancestors and descendents (genetic and spiritual) inhabit my dreams. I will lie down tonight — underground, beside and enwrapped within the roots of my beloved old trees, under a Full Moon in Taurus, beneath a raging storm — the Witch of This Place. Maybe She has something to say to us, this Storm. She’s certainly yelling loudly enough. And I will lie down and listen and dream with a willing heart because I want to say, like Jefferson, that:

[L]ife was freakish
But life was fervent,
And I was always
Life’s willing servant.

Maybe we could do it together. Maybe you could set an intention tonight to learn what this Storm is trying to tell us. Maybe you could tell me tomorrow what you learned. After all, if we’re going to hunker down, we might as well do it with purpose.

And, of course, I can’t help but be reminded of a poem by E. Dickinson:

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!

Moor your spirit tonight someplace where it wants to be. And then see what the wild night has to say. If anyone can fly along wild October winds and enjoy them, then surely, we.