Witchcraft – What It Is…What It Isn’t
Witchcraft: Ecstasy-driven, Earth-based, Mystery Tradition/s
Witch: An individual who is aware, and through ignited awareness seeks to serve and celebrate the Life-Force inherent in Self, Community and Cosmos.
I am a Witch, but what does that actually mean?
Many today in the Western world are familiar with the term ‘Wicca’ and perhaps even have an inkling of what it represents. Nature-reverence, a balancing of the Divine Feminine with the Divine Masculine, the casting of spells and the practice of other magickal arts – this is what Wicca brings to mind for those not entirely ignorant. However, is Wicca something different to Witchcraft? Is Witchcraft a religion? Is Witchcraft an authentic spiritual/philosophical/magickal tradition, or is it merely the residual folklore and superstition of an era that externalised responsibility and sought to scapegoat fanciful figures? I can only answer these questions in my own way and I encourage the development of more questions; incisive curiosity is fodder to Witches.
I have defined Witchcraft as Ecstasy-driven, Earth-based, Mystery Tradition since 2007. I have waxed eloquent (and continue to do so) on deconstructing each of these ‘components’ and revealing the underlying hypothesis. However, for me, this is more than conjecture. I am a living, breathing Witch and this definition is one which organically evolved within me. It may change, enhance or completely disappear one day; however it is incredibly meaningful for me today. In my mind all Witchcraft comes back to these three essential aspects – together, but only together, they formulate what Witchcraft is and what it can expand into.
Ecstasy-driven – Ecstasy derives from the Greek ek stasis which literally translates as ‘outside standing’. Within a spiritual or mystical context the word ecstasy implies a blurring of the boundaries of definition and delineation; therefore I perceive the term to mean ‘to stand outside oneself as apart from’. Witchcraft is a spiritual tradition, philosophy and mystical pursuit which therefore is passionately driven by the desire to attain this altered state of consciousness. Witches employ spiritual technology which aims at arousing this state effectively, achieving identification of Self as All-Self – or I (Gede) as Cosmos (Limitless Reality).
Earth-based – This is neither a vague notion nor an obvious one. To be Earth-based is quite literally emphasising the prime point of a Witch’s theological experience and thus perspective/s. If we have achieved the state of Ecstasy we are able to see and feel that all Life is in fact connected and that the dangerous dualism of the contemporary Overculture is innately incorrect. There is no essential difference between that which is matter (deriving from the Latin ‘mater’ for mother) and that which is spirit; the illusory dichotomy is erased and we are able to live sacred lives in a sacred world. Witches connect with the Earth as planet and the Earth as principle – Spirit incarnate/Divinity manifest.
Mystery – In my mind the word mystery is synonymous with the idea of magick, which I define as the life-force of Nature. However, Mystery is what provides the impetus for forming a conscious relationship with this life-force. The word Mystery derives from ‘mystes’ – the ancient Attic Greek for an initiate. An initiate in the ancient world was one who sought the state of Ecstasy to experience the Cosmos in its blossoming wholeness and perceive and partake of its Intelligence as embodied within the many Potencies we name Spirits, Gods, Ancestors, etc. Perhaps the most poignant and poetic statement of this third component of Witchcraft is the summation of the Charge of the Goddess (adapted by the late Witch Priestess Doreen Valiente):
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know that thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the Mystery; for if that which thou seekest thou findeth not within thee, thou wilt never find it witout thee.
For behold I have been with thee from the beginning and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
To speak of mystes as initiate implies that Witchcraft may be an initiatory tradition; an oral transmission of lore and technique entered into by a facilitated threshold crossing (rite of passage). This is absolutely the case, however initiation, in the truest sense, occurs between the individual and the Mystery itself (whether that is carried by deities, ancestors or a human identifying as such), and therefore it is not necessary nor even desirable to be initiated by another incarnate being. In fact, in the WildWood Tradition we are in the Circle ‘alone’ during the final ceremony of initiation.
It can be seen that this definition is simultaneously broad as well as articulated. I cannot imagine one style, tradition or practice of Witchcraft in the modern-day that does not find at least a basic context within this definition. Of course it should be mentioned each different kind of Witchcraft may have other significant components/aspects which specifies their perspective, principles and/or paradigms. For instance, some forms of British Traditional Witchcraft might add ‘ceremonially-guided’ and ‘polarity-fuelled’. Some Feri lines may also include ‘sorcerous’. However, it is my humble opinion (and that is all it is) that without Ecstasy, Earth and Mystery Witchcraft would not possess the technique, philosophy or attitude it has inherited from the mythic wellspring.