Before there were public blogs, articles were either published via magazines or posted on websites. The following are original articles that were posted on the Modern Tradition website, circa 1999-2001. They have been preserved in their entirety, which means opinions reflected below do not necessarily represent current standpoints.
Artwork: Detail from "The Cauldron of Annwyn" etching by Laura Tempest Zakroff
Religion Or Practice?
Religion or Practice?
In the realm of Paganism, some see Witchcraft (as opposed to Wicca) as a practice and some see it as a religion. Which is correct?
To those who call Witchcraft a practice, they most often relate it with magick---something that is devoid of worshipful means and can be practiced by anyone of any faith. The truth is that the use of magick in combination with folkloric practices is best described as spellcraft: the art of crafting and casting spells. And no spell will work without the concept and investment of belief---whether it is in deity, self, or fate.
Those who call Witchcraft their religion are those whose belief structure center around the practices of pre-Christian Europe, and differ from the newer Wiccan belief structure, most significantly by the lack of ceremonial magic and Eastern influences. When we consider the cultures of pre-Christian Europe, we find that they did not separate religion from their daily lives as modern society most often does today. What you believed directly influenced every action you made, from where and how you built your home and raised your family, to how you performed your trade. Ancestors were held with deep respect, and the stories of deities
The word religion means "re-linking"---what does this mean? What are we returning to? What are we connecting to again? Religion is the means to understanding ourselves and our relationship with the Divine. It is the means to having influence on our situation through understanding, and therefore being able to alter, change, balance our situation because of this working knowledge. Many religions offer the change of personal situation by means of second and third person contact----confession and absolution of sin, prayer to deities, offerings, indulgences, etc.. In Witchcraft, the means is first person, with a nod to the immediate second person---the Divine. In other words, we ourselves directly affect the direction and outcome of our path. We are individually responsible for the maintaining of balance within our lives.
What is Witchcraft? Simply broken down, the Craft of the Wise. And those who are Wise, are not wise simply because they know many things, but because they seek Wisdom. Origins of the word Witch also suggest that it means "seer" and "one who bends." Those that know their path can see their path, and predict the way it will lead them, as well as the paths of others. And, by being responsible for our own destinies and divinity, we bend the path to our will as well. So, it is a practice and a trade. It is a spiritual outlook and a religion. It is a way of life and a way of being.
The Natural Born Witch?
The Natural Born Witch?
One topic that I have noticed repeatedly that's up for
discussion, though never fully resolved is the concept of the natural Witch. So, I figured why not investigate this a little more, and perhaps this will help to clear some things up for a lot of people, because there is certainly a lot of confusion out there.
I often get letters from individuals who write something along the lines of "I think I'm a witch. I hear it runs in my family, and I can sense things and things in my dreams come true---what should I do?" Well, the truth comes down to this: Witchcraft requires a great deal of studying, research, and training, and this is most commonly done within a Family or Tradition. Why? Because Witchcraft is a religion, a trade--something that is taught. (If you take issue with my calling it a religion, see here.)
You don't hear about much natural born lawyers or doctors do you? Now, I will say that there are certainly individuals who possess natural talents and abilities that enable them to be very talented Witches, but still, one must learn how to use these properly first! And nearly all human beings at one time or another (depending on how well society suppresses them) have "psychic" tendencies---it's not an unusual thing. The Pagan/Mystery Path religions certainly do allow for a great more acceptance of these abilities than other religions, which is why they're often associated with each other.
On Being An American Witch
There are several things I have been mulling over in my head, and I have connected them all to the fact that I live in America.
The funny thing about heritage in America---when people ask about one's roots, the most common response will refer to foreign lineage. Of course, this isn't surprising due to America's reputation as the Melting Pot, but it's very rare to hear, "Well, I'm American!" But really, that's what we are.
We tend to think about our ancestors and their particular countries of origin, but really, even those within their home countries can be mixed, either regionally, or due to the fact that in Europe, everything is fairly close. As I looked into both branches of my own family, I find a great deal of mixing. Sure, one group was mostly Latvian or Lithuanian, but Hungarians and Germans or what have you married into the family. On the other side, the Sicilians were constantly being invaded by the Greeks, Moors, French, etc...and so these lines mixed. The result being that I have been attributed to nearly every ethnicity under the sun except Asian or African. I really do look like I just stepped off the boat, but the question is, which boat?
Most traditions of Witchcraft connect the concepts of deity and ancestor worship, meaning that the ancestors are the gods, or at least, our guides to them and their ways. Well, in that regard, my ancestry stretches so far throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia Minor, that it is quite a gathering of ancestors.
Now, one thing that it is very important to realize (though I think few actually do) is that traditional Witchcraft is very much tied to the land. The land dictates much of the beliefs, customs, and practices. From the geographical lay of the land, it's weather, flora and fauna, to it's biological and cultural neighbors, all these things influence the practices. So what happens when you remove the practice from it's land of origin? Something has to change. Adaptations must be made for adjustment to the new land. So Traditional Witches living in America have been or in the midst of realizing or denying this fact.
Another fact consistent with being American is the aforementioned mixing of cultures. When two families merge, ideas are exchanged, and some are left behind, and some are altered. For example, when my grandmother married my grandfather, she went to live in their household, and so Sicilian mixed with mainland Italian. She had to learn their ways, and she used her own background to adapt and change what she needed to as time went by, creating a new family system. This exchange has been playing itself over and over again since the beginning of human existence. It also the reason why Witchcraft (though it was not always known as such) has survived for so long, because it adapts to change very well. This concept is very important to remember.
And so, as I move ahead on my path, I will acknowledge the truths, ways, beliefs, and practices of my many ancestors and teachers, pulling from those who speak the loudest, and walk the way of the American Witch.
The Year of Entrance (2001)
What will we focus on for the coming year? What should 2001 be a mark for in our community? It is the start of a new millenium. What does this mean for Pagans all over the world as we examine our individual paths, and our faith as a whole? What will change? What will grow? What will be left behind?
I propose that our theme for this year should be "Entrance", for we are entering a new period of humanity. In the coming decade, we are going to see, feel, and experience drastic change. Paganism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, if not THE fastest. It would be wise consider the possibility of a backlash, and how to prepare and protect ourselves, our families, our way of life. How do we move ahead strongly, confident, secure, and united? It is time to cross the threshold and enter the world anew.
Individually, we must consider our own boundaries and environments. How many Pagans do you know in your area? How many know YOU? Of the many paths we walk: solitary, coven, grove, eclectic group---we must consider ourselves part of a whole. Our actions in the microcosm DO affect the macrocosm. Our very belief structure is rooted in the truth that all things are connected,
despite their diversity, in a giant web of life. We must work to maintain, protect, and strengthen this web. We do this by making ourselves familiar with others of the path around us, even if we practice in solitary fashion. We do this by acknowledging other covens and groups, even if their beliefs differ from our own. We do this by agreeing to disagree and celebrating our diversity instead. We don't have to like everyone we meet, but we should be able to respect, tolerate, and support each other. By this design, a web functions.
This is a time of rebirth...we are literally standing just within the birth canal of Gaia, peering out. How will we enter this new world? It is time to make an Entrance...not just as individuals, but as a community. Cross the threshold and introduce yourself.
The Modern Tradition of Witchcraft