Real Witches Blog, Cook, and Have Political Views

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.

17 comments to Real Witches Blog, Cook, and Have Political Views

  • Thanks, I needed that. I could not bring myself to rise to what may or may not have been baiting yesterday.

    Something comes to mind though, now that you mention about a major tenet of Judaism residing in the effort to bring sanctity into mundane and everyday life….

    This behavior of decrying others’ approaches to something which is actually quite universal, the need to bring the sacred into the mundane lest we take it all for granted, reminds me of the otherwise nice people who tried to draw the dood into their ‘we’re the best Christians ever’ clique, as recently as two months ago (they’ve no idea he’s like me). (Why is Sara going on about Christians in a discussion of witches?)

    The reason this is relevant is the nice people who befriended him (it was not the other way around, although he was happy to hang out and talk to them until they became strident, and were constantly poopooing his talk about solar and organic gardening) are quite miserable. Their secular lives are meaningless. There’s no sense of urgency about doing good works, about self-sufficiency, about simple acts of creativity and nurturing such as growing veggies and sharing those with the hungry, etc. But they think it is God’s will that they have difficulties, lead their lives on the periphery letting life happen to them rather than the other way around, etc. Their free time is spent reading the Bible and interpreting it umpteen bazillion ways to justify their misery.

    Lest this turn into a discussion about free will and how that jibes with witchcraft of any stripe, I’ll cut it short, but I got the distinct impression that there’s more than a smidge of misery and self-righteous “I suffer because my God tells me it is important to do so” bluster that pollutes an otherwise clear stream in the traditional corner. And where else do we see that, but in the religion with which traditional witchcraft cohabitates, Christianity. And I refuse to be oppressed or put down by someone I should have more in common with than not.

    Egregores aside, once I assimilate knowledge, I own it. My application of said knowledge is going to differ from my fellow witch’s. And that is not because I am a solitary either. Food for thought.

  • Sean

    I’m pretty sure that any practice which attempts to make available the divine in someone’s life, will always cause quite a struggle. You can’t take such an unfathomable cause and collapse it into what our human minds call rational, orderly, or defined.

    Christians, as Sara pointed out, are horrible about this. But then, they do it to each other as well. Its funny… I wonder when they will realize they worship the Bible rather than God?

    Muslims as well. There’s evidence all over the world at this very moment.

    Jews do it too.

    High magic practitioners too. Look at the arguments between the Joseph Lisiewski camp, the Chaos crowd and the Donald Michael Kraig followers.

    So why not witches? Oh… the old stuff on Pagan communities between Trad Practitioners and Wicca was legendary, vicious, childish and cruel.

    Its funny, I always wanted to ask you Harry, your approach to the topic seems to have elements of Paul Huson… who is the only other author in my limited studies that I’ve found who practices Witchcraft with a real mind toward Kabalah, is this anywhere near correct?

    In any regard, as a happily married father of 2 who spends more time than he wishes engaged in the “real world” of making ends-meet, providing for a family, groaning at the daily news, watching the Carolina Panthers have their worst season, trying to live life with an open heart and open mind, trying to engage the Divine in every magical way possible and seeing God in the Mundane all the time…

    I agree.

    Somewhere in there I made a point. Could be that it is simply, “I feel your pain.”

    Could also be part of “folks seriously need to grow up.”

    Its just very sad when those who are of a like mind, fail to see that differences can exist comfortably.

    Sean

    • “folks seriously need to grow up.”

      When I was a teen and just discovering magic on the net, I always figured the bickering was other children and teens needing to “know it all”, and that they’d grow out of it. Ten years later, I still see children who need to grow up, only now they’ve got beards and fancy clothes.

      Makes me sad.

  • Real Witches(TM!) come in such a wide variety and scope that any attempt to compartmentalize is foolhardy at best.

    I occasionally blog about drudgery. I could put an entire post up about cleaning the temple brass, ritually washing altar cloths and maybe even a bit about soaking swiffer sheets in hoodoo floor washes to use on finicky laminate flooring and to get at those hard-to-reach areas.

    Pretty soon I’ll be blogging about making an altar from sacred woods. And nothing is more drudge-filled than building furniture.

    • Yep. I’ve been known to pour half a bottle of homemade Florida Water into the mop bucket when I clean the floors. As it is, I add a little bit to the rinse cycle in the washer when we need a little purification, too. Or if I’m out of lavender and rosemary infused vinegar for the bleach cycle. (these are both good for cutting out the soap in the rinse). Ya gotta be clean to work clean, after all.

      Off to make a cup of tea and eat a few mystic biscuits, I mean graham crackers…

  • Wonderful post! I am working on something entirely new in a Wiccan blog and I will have to quote this post in a few days. My ideas are very radical (I think) in the world of Wicca. I love the Jewish concepts of bringing the sprititual into the mundane. Or finding the spiritual in the mundane. The convergence…anyway.

    I want to see Wicca expand out of the fantasy books, history books and quirky icons into a real spiritual place that can hold its own in our modern world. I realize that my brand of eco-pagan Wiccan spirituality is not for everyone…but as you said, who cares if it works for me… :> That’s the beauty of the Pagan world.

    Your post was a refreshing voice! And I will be quoting it in the next few days.

    BB
    -Nat

    http://www.poshpagan.wordpress.com

  • I don’t think the aforementioned person ever heard of Sybil Leek’s tenets… all of them in essence are about bringing the Craft into your every day life so it permeates your morals, values, actions, and reactions.

    I’ve always been on the low or folk magic side of things and when I hear comments about what “real witches” do and do not do I get bells chiming in my head saying “this person is probably a ceremonialist of the high magic persuasion who isn’t happy unless performing rituals with perfectly witchy tools, lots of flowery words, and a perfect spooky atmosphere”. I was told once by someone close to me with a ceremonial Wiccan background, that I never do magic and ritual. They didn’t consider all the little things I did around the house (and in front of them) magical or sacred. It quite puzzled me until I figured out where the split in thinking originated – the high vs low.

    I’m now feeling a strong urge to blog about cooking, mead making, and gardening… oh wait, I already do that.

  • petoskystone

    if a blogger feels that ‘real’ witches don’t blog about thier life, world-view, or spiritual/practical path, what are they going to be blogging about?

    • herba15

      I was wondering that myself. I guess stuff like “I did a ritual the other day. Can’t tell you about it, though, because it’s secret knowledge passed down through the ages. It was powerful; you can take my word for that. Blood was involved. ‘Sorry’ to offend all the fluffy Wiccan girly-girls out there.”

      • “I did a ritual involving a toad. Word.” “My tradition is super secret. I probably shouldn’t even mention it, it is so secret.” “Why does no one believe in witchblood?” “My tradition has a lineage of a thousand years. Because I said so.”

        *yawn*

  • Jay

    Excellent post! Thanks so much for this.

  • I imagine that if one took that advice, all blogs would end up looking a bit like CIA reports of domestic activities:
    “October 12th, 2010.

    Approached (deleted), and discussed (deleted). We then decided to (deleted), and (deleted) along with the help of (deleted). We believe that making use of (deleted) will aid in further empowering the ritual to (deleted) and (deleted). Further reports to follow as necessary.

    Yours,
    (Deleted).”

    In certain instances, I’ve felt that my “magical career” and the ethical and moral decisions I found myself making – as time went on – affected my sense of politics more profoundly than I had thought possible. But that doesn’t seem so shocking now to me, because as something that’s helped me change the way I think about the world (at least to a certain degree; I still get pissed about all manner of things I probably oughtn’t get pissed off over) it’s forced me to reconsider a lot of my feelings.

    In the end though, everyone should realize that the only real religion is Thelema. I mean, how could Al be wrong?!

    • herba15

      I would agree that there is a two-way street between magic and politics (and other activities).

      As for Uncle Al, his “Magick Without Tears” was one of the first magic books I ever read (in 1972, when dinosaurs still walked the earth). Mostly I didn’t understand it, but I remember being really drawn to the humor of it. It was so unexpected. Recently I read his “John St. John” on keeping a magic journal and was surprised at how self-critical he was and how brutally honest about his own failings. He was sure no god, but occasionally I am still inspired by his work.

  • “[…]as if real magic is a soap bubble destroyed by the slightest draft of the mundane. Is your magic that fragile?”

    I have to say this was my favorite quote from that post. It reminds me so of my uncle who always asks Christians “Is your faith in your god stronger than my faith in my magic?”

    I totally agree with you. If the mundane life that you live separately from your magical one can ruin your “magical powers” or whatever, then find a different path. I feel that they should be intertwined. Heck, I know a fellow whose wife talks to her spirit guides when she’s doing the dishes! And I myself talk to various objects on my walks and see what they have to say, and my walks are possibly the most “mundane” things in the world.

    Witchcraft should be a path of life, one that is integrated into your everyday life. It should not be that separate. We are walkers between worlds with one foot in the Unseen and one in the seeming reality of the Seen. Find the balance to sit on the Hedge.

    Regards,
    Eric.

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