“I may have only been born yesterday, but I was up all night.”
The twists and turns of today’s Pagan “community” sometimes never cease to amaze me, or rather, piss me off. Since I happen to worship a Goddess of Discord (let’s not name any names here as I feel that today She is not in a good mood), when I get pissed off or irked/irritated, I let it all out. I try to be constructive about it, since discord is best used in creatively chaotic ways (though I will admit there are times when destruction is called for as well; this is also part of creation).
Now when I meet Pagans whom I don’t already know, I tend to be a little bit more welcoming and understanding, since we do share certain spiritual values and/or characteristics. There is one thing that has really started to bother me, as of late. It is a phenomenon, or pattern of behavior which I thought was dying out. Due to Pagan elders and researchers debunking this behavior, I thought it was on its last legs, so to speak. But that was my own conclusion, it seems, for the following will show that the behavior is very much alive and well…and is a potential killer-virus that must be slaughtered. Let me set up my twin May bonfires and pass this potential sickness through it. Okay?
I have met, and will (unfortunately) probably continue to meet people who identify themselves as “witches” and claim it’s a family tradition that goes back for generations. Some of these people have then had the gall to suggest that I learn from their ‘traditions’ since I am so obviously at a disadvantage. Heh.
Now I like to think of myself as not so stupid. Perhaps this is because I question the green-jesus out of everything said in such an assertive way. (By assertive, I don’t mean “aggressive” or boastful. Some people who have idiotic or lying assertions can be quite nicely passive about the whole thing.) So you can guess that I question such people.
Here is what happens when I do so. (Keep in mind that for the purposes of this little essay, I am combining my experiences in a generalized way, but would be happy to relate any specific incidents/examples not covered in the following. Just ask me to do so at some point.)
Miss (it has been by far mostly “miss” in my experience) Family Witch usually gets offended that I don’t take their assertions at face value. (I tend to chuckle when I hear such assertions.) They then query me as to my affiliations to Pagan traditions or Magical traditions. This results in many things. A succinct summary of my magical practices and training for one. A nutshell description of the influence of Buddhism on my lifestyle for another. And THEN the most damning: My dedication to Neo-Pagan Witchcraft…usually just called Wicca for the sake of “getting on with the argument.” (Perhaps when/if Wicca-lite dies out, I will accept that moniker again.) Miss Family Witch now knows that I am a Witch and then proceeds to berate my lack of experience, skills, insights, and knowledge about “Wicca” or “Witchcraft.” Pretty neat, when you think about it, since Miss Family Witch just met me and really doesn’t know me from the trees.
I usually question them further as to how they could come to know about my own Witchcraft practices so much. They then proceed to give me some spiel about how much better it is to have come from a family which has handed down the ‘Craft’ for generations. (Which really doesn’t address my question. It just repeats their assertion which started the whole discussion.) Now, no one really enjoys going around in circles all that much, except when in ritual, but we’ll leave that aside for now. Spinning around in circles can be a little fun in the beginning, but when you finish you feel like shit because your equilibrium has decided then and there to exact karmic revenge on you for being so dumb. In discussion, going or spinning around in circles does not really do that much good, though it can be fun for some Discordian reasons I will leave out of this essay.
So I drop my “how-do-you-think-you-can-know-the-quality-of-my-practice-after-just-meeting-me” line of questioning for the purposes of moving forward. I proceed to question them on their family traditions and such. I ask about rituals, magical actions, tools, and all the other thingies I know about since they tend to be included in Witchcraft of the Neo-Pagan variety. Miss Family Witch usually answers them in an effort to prove her innate and inherited superiority…her High Priestess-itis cannot resist. And here’s what I discover, much to my delight. Heh.
Miss Family Witch, who has inherited a tradition handed down from generations appears to be practicing Wicca or Neo-Pagan Witchcraft….which, last time I checked, was really only a couple of generations old. She knows about pentagrams and quarter calls and actually knows the different pentagrams for the different elements (which actually IS A GOOD thing, since she has done research at least). She knows about certain deities. She knows about cones of power. She uses an athame, even though it is claimed to be a family heirloom. (A few said theirs were hand-downs from Gypsy ancestors.) She has a Book of Shadows which is hundreds of years old. She knows about certain magical thingies like astral travel and spell crafting. She senses energies….the whole nine yards. This to me, shows some good in that Miss FW has done some research. She still would have to prove her abilities and knowledge a bit further. But I am usually satisfied that they at least KNOW something about Witchcraft or Wicca. BUT KNOWING ABOUT THESE THINGS just shows that she read up on it. It still doesn’t prove her assertions. In fact, it can disprove them. Since she is making the claim of being a Family Tradition Witch and attaching to it the idea that that makes her practice so much better than mine, then I would expect her to know a thing or two, or perhaps several, that would demonstrate to me that she actually DOES have more knowledge and a better practice. I would also expect her to be able to tell me a thing or two about why her Family Witchcraft is so similar (suspiciously, I will add) to what anyone walking into a Borders bookstore can glean from reading the fifty or so books about Paganism and especially Wicca. Heh.
Or: (You forgot that I started the last paragraph with an “either,” didn’t you?)
Miss Family Witch gets offended that I would ask her to divulge any of the secret/mysterious elements of her family’s practice. In other words: I can’t tell you because you are not ONE-OF-US and you have to take me on as a teacher before I determine whether you are worthy to learn. Now keep in mind, I have been at this Neo-Pagan Witchcraft thing for some years, and I am also an avid practitioner of magical rituals and other doings. I understand certain things need to be gradually revealed to people…some things need to be secrets until one has demonstrated an ability to be able to handle them…..BUT! I didn’t ask Miss Family Witch for any closely guarded mystical/magical secrets. I asked her to prove her assertions. An intelligent person can prove their ability and level of knowledge to some degree without divulging any “secrets.” (Besides all the “secrets” can be found in books these days.)
Miss Family Witch then writes me off as a poser or as some sort of less-experienced-Witch because I rightfully wanted them to demonstrate that which they claimed to be true.
Or: (More than one ‘or’ can follow an ‘either.’) The least common example.
Miss Family Witch knows a bit about magic and can do certain out of the ordinary things with energy and perception. A few people in her family have also been able to do these things. She has discovered Wicca or one of its Neo-Pagan derivatives and has pieced together a life-system from this. (Nothing wrong with that.) This version of Miss FW can actually demonstrate certain things with energy and magic. She is much like the first example above, except that she can do much of what she claims. But….So can I. And I didn’t come from any family of magical Witchcraft practitioners…and let’s face it people, ninety-nine-point-nine percent of you DIDN’T EITHER. So how does her Family Witchcraft necessarily put her in a better position to learn than I? (Please note that I said “necessarily.”) This version of Miss FW is actually okay in my book, especially after more acquaintance, since they tend to drop the whole family thing once they realize what such an assertion actually says about one’s intelligence.
I have also been unduly criticized for my devotions to certain ‘unpalatable’ or ‘dark’ deities such as Macha or the above-mentioned Goddess of Discord. But that is a discussion for another time.
This Family Witch phenomenon has been going on for some time now. And most of us buy it simply because we either don’t want to appear nasty or we WANT TO BELIEVE it. It’s nice. It’s romantic. And if one of these people’s assertions are actually true than we may actually be able to claim Wicca or Neo-Pagan Witchcraft as REALLY ANCIENT ™ traditions. But people, wanting something to be true does not make it true. And: If it sounds too good to be true…(What? You don’t know the second part of this saying?)
People, this is not a good sign at all.
-Irreverend Hugh, KSC (of the Discordians for Softer Sandpaper Society)
“I will gladly spit in your eye if you step on my toes.”
(- from the Book of Dishonest Truths; A Discordian Book of Shadows passed around and used as toilet tissue for at least a few months.)
This page published by the DSSS/PMM on Chaos 30th. Permission secured by Daven’s Journal to reproduce these articles here.