The New Old Religion (or, Dorian Gray Witchcraft)


“Witchcraft? Is anyone having a little fun? Yes, I would think so. Or did you think I was going to say, no no no, that can’t happen here? I bet there is a lot of remote places where vestiges of witchcraft are still practiced.Stephanie Bax

“Witch rituals, for example, were so ancient and so strange that they had ultimately been terrifying to the superstitious medieval world. Now, anthropologists considered them to be a vestige of human prehistory. The Old Religion, the path of the earth. –Whitley strieber

There are a variety of things I love about Wicca, but I think my favorite is that every year it gets a little younger.

In the early 2000s, the main complaint about Wicca was that it was “only 50 years old.” (Which, if we want to mark the “birth” of Wicca with the publication of Gerald Gardner’s book Witchcraft today in 1954 … okay, sure.) But 20 years later people are still screaming that Wicca is “only 50”, and a few months ago I ran into someone claiming that Wicca was not a valid religion, because it was “less than half a century old.”

Which would mean that Gardner “invented” Wicca about six years after his death.

While I’m admittedly not good with numbers, the math seems a bit wrong here.

Maybe Wicca was created from scratch in 1949. Maybe it’s Maybelline. (Image via Pixabay.)

“Traditional” witchcraft, on the other hand, is getting more and more rude by the day. The Fairy of Senses used to tell anyone who wanted to hear her that her Tradition predated Wicca by several hundred years, and on at least three recent occasions I have heard people describe TradCraft as ” thousands of years’ older than Wicca.

The point is, Wicca and TradCraft share the same roots. Gardner relied on what he would receive from the coven that initiated him; Doreen Valiente discarded the stuff Gardner added and replaced it with his own material; and Robert Cochrane (more than likely a Gardnerian initiate himself) took this standardized ritual framework, went in his own direction, and incorporated Celtic mythology and imagery from Robert GravesThe White Goddess.

The concept of witchcraft is ancient, but the majority of the methods by which it is practiced today are, in the grand scheme of things, decidedly new.

And you know what? Its good.

“Even though I say it myself, I look pretty good at being both 30 and 5000 years old.” (Image via Pixabay.)

Magic doesn’t have to be old to work. I mean, damn it, the Chaos Magic approach has only been around since the late ’70s, and it works great. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when witchcraft was generally understood as the revival of a pre-Christian religion, and in some ways it is sort of. But, more importantly, Wicca and TradCraft are sets of specific practices designed to achieve specific results.

It gets a bit confusing, as initiates of the traditions that fall under the traditional British Wicca banner – Gardnerian, Alexandrian, New York Wica, Central Wicca Valley, protean, Georgian, Blue Star, Mohsian, and Algard, with the Minoan Brotherhood and Sisterhood – all definitely practice witchcraft, while non-initiatory Wicca appears to be religion-driven, sometimes without any witchcraft. And there was a period when basic Wiccan practices were taken out of context and applied to a myriad of paradigms, which is why in the 90s we saw the rise (I’m not making up anything at all. that) of Celtic Wicca and Druidic Wicca. and Northern Wicca and Saxon Wicca and West Wicca and Scottish Wicca and Irish Wicca (all hail the potato goddess!) other permutations.

But if we put all of these variations aside and just compare traditional British Wicca to traditional witchcraft (Tubal Cain’s clan, the 1734 Tradition, The Regency, The Roebuck, etc.), what we will find are cosmetic differences in addition to very similar ritual structures first written by people who called themselves witches in the 1930s.

And that’s just as good.

The medieval witch pulls away from a flying ointment and projects herself into the future. “Is this WitchTok?” ” she asks. But no one answers, because it is a Mystery. (Image via Pixabay.)

I have no doubt for a minute that there were practicing witches before 1954, and at least some facets of their art would probably be recognizable to us today: The 10th century Penitentials, for example, listed drawing a circle around oneself with a sword as a sinful pagan practice, and in the late 1800s, Lady Wilde (Oscar’s mom) collected folklore on the ritual uses of black handled knives. So, you know, some of the things that we do in the modern age have their origins in antiquity. And that’s great, but it’s also not really a necessity.

The quickest way to make any form of witchcraft useless is to make your age a determining factor in whether or not it is legitimate. It would be like saying, “Oh, I can’t read with The Oracle of the Spirits Liminal, because it’s not as old as the Tarot, ”or“ Freezing spells don’t work, because the cunning Renaissance had no refrigeration inside. Witchcraft is evolving – it has evolved and will continue to do so. And we can put all of our energy into complaining about iterations of witchcraft that we think are too young to take seriously, in the hope that people will take it. we seriously; or, we can focus on cultivating our personal practices without comparison and directing our own evolution.

One last little story before concluding: many years ago, a university friend gave me a handout copy of a real and real “pre-gardnerian” grimoire of traditional witchcraft. It was quite amazing. Lots of great tip inside.

And on the very first page, in pretty calligraphy, were the words Book of Shadows.

This is how my fictionalized witch bubble duly burst. (Image via Pixabay.)

Sometimes things that we think have existed for lifetimes turn out to be modern innovations. And sometimes things that we assume to be recent creations have been around in one form or another for longer than we ever imagined.

And more often than not, it doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is what works for us individually; which makes us feel like the witches we’re meant to be. The rest is just an editable story.

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