Recently I came across yet another self-appointed pope of witchcraft sniffing about who is a “real” witch and who is not. This time, posting on a witchcraft blog that focuses at least to some extent on domestic activities like cooking, the real witch asserted that real witches don’t blog, and if they do, they don’t post about personal stuff, they don’t post about domestic activities, they don’t post about their magical practice (which is, of course, SECRET), and they especially don’t post left-wing political views, the implication being that real witches are Edwardian gentlemen who enjoy blood sports. Now, we have to start from the point that this comment about real witches not blogging appeared on a blog, which means the poster is a hypocrite, but let’s just lay that glaring bit of foot-shooting aside.
And let’s further lay aside the statements that real witches don’t post about domestic stuff, don’t post about their personal lives, don’t post about their magical practices, and especially don’t post about left-wing politics, which are offensive to real witches in the extreme. Instead, I would like to dig down to the root of this pope of witchcraft’s post and yank it out, rejecting the very idea that he or anyone can determine what a “real” witch does or is. There is an enormous difference between discussing the efficacy of a magical practice and taking its inventory.
One of the wonderful things about witchcraft and magic is that unlike, for instance, the Catholic Church, there’s no pope or other infallible authority and no police department or orthodoxy to lay out and enforce the rules of real witchcraft practice that all must follow or forego being a real witch. I am sure that it is gratifying to “real” witches who engage in the policing and critiquing of other (non)witches to continue the cliqueishness and bullying they practiced or simply experienced in grammar school. But we are grown up now. That means if we get the urge to police or critique the witchcraft bona fides of others, we must stifle that urge as unworthy, small, & petty.
The practice of magic has as many varieties and forms as there are human beings. IMO, the worth of any magical practice does NOT reside in whether it was (arguably) passed down in an unbroken line for the past couple hundred years or came from angels or is secret (chose your claim to legitimacy) or whether it was just invented last year by some skeeving huckster who wanted to sell some books and give some “classes.” The worth of any magical practice resides in two things: Does it work? And does it give meaning and value to life? These are the same questions we might ask of any human endeavor at all. The fact that we can ask them about witchcraft as well as plumbing, praying, baking, or overthrowing the state demonstrates how much in fact witchcraft is woven into everyday, dare I say it, mundane life. Far from sitting up in “heaven,” where it is uncontaminated by girly stuff like cooking, acting sustainably, or agitating for better treatment of one’s fellow ape, witchcraft is and must be right there in the public square, the kitchen, and heck, even the bedroom.
Any magical practitioner should at least attempt to integrate their magical practice, politics, religious beliefs (if any), and everyday life. Compartmentalizing those things is, clearly, a great way to end up being a hypocrite and perhaps even a fraud. It’s one thing if you can’t express your magic openly in your everyday life because to do so would result in the loss of your job or the burning down of your house (perhaps with you in it). It’s quite another to have the advantage of Western freedom and yet insist that magic and politics and everyday life must remain separate in order for “real” magic to happen, as if real magic is a soap bubble destroyed by the slightest draft of the mundane. Is your magic that fragile?
A tenet of Judaism informs my magical practice: one of the main functions of ritual practice is to bring sanctification to every aspect of one’s life, to draw the holy into the mundane. That is why keeping kosher is not about cooking and does not find its justification in healthfulness but is instead about sanctification, the unification of the mundane and the sacred. Keeping kosher is an example of how God is not up in heaven in some sanitized area free of the messiness of everyday life but right here in the kitchen with us. Holiness is not about private, hidden belief but about action, about doing, and is not confined to the temple but resides with us in the public square, in our work, in our homes, in all of our lived life.
So is magic.
Secrets are fine–everyone has them, even people who have no interest in magic at all. If your magic consists primarily of secrets, it would probably be best to simply keep your mouth shut about them rather than using the fact that you have secrets as an imagined indicator of magical legitimacy. The idea that secret knowledge is better knowledge is simply false. Outside of secrets, if your magic cannot stand the light of day, the heat of the kitchen, the tussle of politics, or even the rearrangement of some pixels, maybe you need to shop around for a magic that is a little more robust and vital, one that is strong enough to actually inform your life.