Currently Reading-->Authentic Witchcraft: The Historical Tradition Revealed
I’ve only read the first two chapters but I can already tell it’s kind of… well, bad.
Now, I understand that it’s supposed to be about “traditional” witchcraft, which he describes as pre-Christian, so maybe I’m just still not well versed enough to know that what the author is saying is correct. Here’s a few statements I have negative views of.
“True Witches (yes capitalized) seek to determine their own destiny without the need for deities.”
“It must be noted that while Murray’s conclusions have long been abandoned by the academic community, the Neo-Pagan community continues to cling to them.” (this just seems kind of rude to me)
“Paganism refers to the systematic worship of ancient gods and goddesses.” Paganism is defined as any religion that isn’t one of the main world religions, specifically non-Christian religions.
“Witchcraft is about physical and spiritual autonomy. It is about deciding our fate for ourselves, rather than petitioning some invented deity to do it for us. After all, why doe one practice magic if a god or goddess can be expected to answer our prayer?”
“Becoming a Witch requires more than just playing the part. One can not simply assume the power of the Witch. Access to the ancestral and archetypal fold requires a transfer of spiritual authority from master to student. This is why the process of initiation is so important.”
“This begs the question; how do the self-initiated know that they have been accepted by the ancestors and archetypal powers? Delusion is the scourge of the self-initiated.”
I suppose I can agree that when you keep these statements in the scope of “historical” witchcraft. I can believe that initation was important “back in the day.” Ill need to do more digging on this.
I don’t like the patronization the author uses when talking about “neo-pagans” or the self-initiated.
I’m also not incredibly thrilled with the way he talks about polytheists. As if it’s so despicable for a witch to go for a deity to help. It makes it seem like you’re not a real witch if you interact with deities. The author doesn’t make it clear whether he refers to modern day witches or the “historical” witches, but it is clear that he has some kind of personalopinion about those who don’t fit this mold.
I will continue to post my thoughts on this book as I read it!
Spiritscraft’s recommended Affordable Traditional Witchcraft books:
Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson
Traditional Witchcraft by Gemma Gary (audio book available)
Treading the Mill by Nigel Pearson
A Deed Without a Name by Lee Morgan*
Flame in the Cauldron by Orion Foxwood*
Authentic Witchcraft by Grayson Magnus*
Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition by Cora Anderson*
A Crones Book of Words by Valerie Worth
A Witch Alone by Marion Green*
*Starred titles have e-reader or PDF versions available
Seeing you answer that question about the Devil sparked a bunch of questions in me... I don't want to sound ignorant or anything and if i do, I am sorry. What is the Devil's purpose in witchcraft? I have been a witch for a few years, I started out Wiccan but after a while chose to just remain Pagan, and I was always told there is no Devil in the craft. So seeing you answer that question about the Devil and gender has me very confused. Any knowledge you could give me would be appreciated.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of hate and rejection towards this. A lot of folks completely want to be away from anything Christian, yet want to be seen as peaceful and be accepted by Christian religions. Basically, white washing or censoring of witchcraft.
However, the devil in witchcraft is a historically accurate thing. But, a lot of people don’t understand who the witches’ devil is, and what his purpose is.
For my particular tradition and belief, you should read these two posts
The Devil of the Witches’ is also known as the Witch Father. He is the source of witch blood. In the lore of the British Isles, he is a the great initiator. He is the familiar king. The one that grants spirit initiation and gives the witch their familiar(s).
For me and many, the devil is a deity of nature. Even the bible says, Satan is a god of the world, of the earth (2 Corinthians 4:4).
He is the one we call upon during our rites in Counter Mass, to drive out ignorance and superstitions. To destroy the oppressors of the world, and to teach us the rites of poison.
As I see it, the devil of the witches is a combination of folklore beings (such as local fairies or deities) mixed along with the devil of Christianity. Why do we refer to such a being as such? For various reasons. Historical connection and recognition, spiritual importance, a desire to seek what others fear and to know it.
Can anyone be a witch? Or only certain people? How'd you discover you were a witch?
This is a common question that many people ask, and it’s quite understandable. There’s a lot of misinformation out there on this issue.
I never “discovered” that I was a witch. I simply started reading about magick and witchcraft, and decided I wanted to study, learn, and practice it. I began experimenting and working, and gradually, witchcraft became a skill I’d developed. This is how it happened with most witches I know. Books like Harry Potter and even Sweep tend to be in love with the concept of witchcraft as a trait carried in the blood, where some people come from a line of witches and discover their powers. It’s entertaining and I do love the tropes, but it isn’t quite borne out in reality.
It’s true that if your parents were/are witches, you’ll likely have an easier time learning it due to being exposed from a young age, but you would still need to study, experiment, and work to learn witchcraft. It’s also true that people sometimes find certain subjects easier than others due to past experience or natural inclination - for example, someone might have an easier time studying numerology, whereas another person might find it difficult and gravitate towards another technique. Regardless, though, witchcraft usually does not involve the kind of near-effortless realization of personal power seen in popular fiction, and either way, it’s a discipline to be studied, not something one is really born proficient at.
There are traditions (and even religions) that have a concept of “witchblood” (see this conversation), but it’s by no means universal to all forms of witchcraft, and indeed few witches seem to have such beliefs outside of said traditions these days. It’s interesting to read about, especially the lore surrounding it in some cultures, but it doesn’t apply to all witches, and should be seen as one tradition’s paradigm rather than a law or absolute truth for every witch.
You will occasionally see someone (especially online) who gives you a long story about how their ancestors were witches at Salem and they’ve inherited their power and are a millionth-generation powerful witches who can throw fireballs or whatever. Such people are usually lying or confused, or conflating personal mythology with reality (not least of all because there’s little evidence of witchcraft taking place in Salem).
You might also come across those who point to their natal chart or more nebulous traits as signs of a natural inclination towards magick, or witches who mention that they have clairvoyant (or other) abilities that lend themselves to magick. Some people will even talk about childhood experiences and claim that they saw ghosts as a kid or could speak with animals, and this proves they’re a witch. This is mostly personal mythology (which can be helpful for some witches) talking again, and even if the person is being honest and not exaggerating about seeing ghosts or whatever, I can promise you that they still had to actually work at it to practice witchcraft effectively.
In the early modern period, there were many superstitions regarding signs or physical traits that marked a person as a witch, but this was often used to fuel persecution, and we can’t expect much accuracy from it. I’ve written a bit about superstitions (as well as ancient religious beliefs) regarding signs of being a witch here, but as I said in that article, I do not find the idea of being born a witch to be productive today.
When you ask “Can anyone be a witch?” you might as well be asking “Can anyone be an artist?” or “Can anyone be a writer?” The answer I’d give to all three questions is pretty much the same. If someone wants to be a witch, there’s no reason they shouldn’t give it a go. They may find that it doesn’t suit them and something else interests them more, or they may decide that their personal skill-set isn’t conducive to witchcraft and, again, take something else up instead. Or, they might find it rewarding and enriching for them, and it might become a lifelong thing. I do not like the idea of people becoming discouraged because they’re told by others that only certain people can learn, and that they must meet certain requirements beyond their control.
Aradia has been discredited many times over. Even more so than Margaret Murray's thesis. There is little to no evidence of a belief in any entity known as Aradia in any part of Italy. SicilianCunningCraft has talked a lot about this, explaining that the evidence suggests that Leland's informant was either lying to him, or that he wrote the material himself. Many individuals have called out the work as entirely fictional. That being said, how do you reconcile this in your practice?
I’ll certainly do my best. My knowledge of authentic Italian witchcraft vs Aradia is lacking…
Aradia’s authenticity has always been in question. There certainly are parts of it that do come from folk magical practices in Italy, such as the “Lemon and Pins Charm”. Other sections, such as “The Charm of the Stones Consecrated to Diana,” are a combination of various things from different sources.
At this point in time, the name “Aradia” is not found in anything pre-Leland. There are some theories that say that the name’s origin is found in Erodia, Aradiade, or even Araja. But at this point in time, there is nothing to truly connect them.
The article “Understanding Leland’s Aradia” makes an interesting note…
The name of “Aradia” itself is intriguing.
In both Italian and Latin, the word ara means “altar.” In Italian it is used as a combine name in both male and female names.
The dia could be a different spelling of dea, meaning in both Italian and Latin, “Goddess.”
Hence, Aradia could be translated as “Altar of the Goddess.”
Maybe. Possibly. I have to be honest. No one I’ve contacted who speaks Italian has agreed with me that this incredibly brilliant insight of mine <wink> has much significance. I suppose dia could be an abbreviated form of Diana, or could be related to another ancient Roman Goddess, Dea Dia, “the Goddess Dia.”
Within Aradia, you’ll find more than just Italian folk magic and folklore, which is quite interesting. There are ties to Scandinavian witchlore, Roman polytheism, Catholicism, and even the Cathars (which I had just learned today :D).
The biggest thing to know with Aradia is that it is not soley ‘Italian’ witchcraft, but a conglomeration of various sources. Without question, pagan Italian practices did not survive as an organized tradition, and Aradia is no where near that. Though even in Aradia, there are bits and pieces that are rather new compared to some that go back only to medieval times.
I also did get a chance to check out
’s post about this, and I have agree with a lot of it (especially the part with
Grimassi). Aradia is a magical history, not a history of magic. Aradia certainly, unless proven otherwise, was not an actual person. I see her as one of the mighty dead, as much one would see Cain, Qalmana, Eve, or the witch of endor. Figures of legend and story.
Whether Leland made this all up, his informant was not honest, if he was ‘channeling’ spirits in his writings, this is a conglomeration of various fragmented charms and tales, ect etc: Aradia is still an important text for modern witchcraft, including BTW, Faery, Alexandrian, and a number of practices under the traditional witchcraft branch.
The spirit of Aradia is apart of modern witchcraft and is an important bit of lore for many traditions and many individuals. Though, it is important to know the history behind it, and not confuse it for something it isn’t. And similar to how I treat Murray’s ‘Witchcraft in Western Europe’ with the thesis being off, while the sources and information provided is important. Aradia’s importance isn’t in pretending that it is about an ancient tradition nor that it is reflective of Italian or Sicilian folkmagic, but rather its importance is hidden in the details. And those details have effected modern witchcraft like few can.
And in the light of Traditional witchcraft as my friend @ioqayin would say, these figures are masks and mirrors used by the witch gods. The witching gods are beyond the gods. Aradia works for what we need, which is why its still around.
Two interesting things worth mentioning. Firstly, I saw that
cauldronborntradcraft had reblogged the post with some really interesting comments?
Secondly, Cain and Aradia (Tana) both have tales of becoming the Man/Woman in the Moon.
May I ask you why you don't like Gemma Gary? I never read her books, just some abstracts here and there on tumblr and this is the very first time that I actually read of someone who dislike her, generally she's praised as a great author and her books are used very often in fancy pics... I'm just curious, I don't want to criticize.
The reasons I don’t like Gemma Gary are less about the woman
herself and more about her books and public presence.
First, she lies about Cornish “traditional” witchcraft. Many of the terms, charms
and traditions she claims to be part of her Cornish practice are pan-British,
or taken specifically from other areas of Britain and aren’t local at all to
Cornwall. She also makes big blanket statements about the magical practices and
concepts of Europe, Great Britain, and Cornwall that are baseless (of course
she sites almost no sources ever) and are highly contradictory to theories and
histories that come from peer-reviewed properly academic texts.
All of that is working solely within the parts of her
writing and media that can actually be attested as “traditional” or part of
folk tradition – ignoring that the word “traditional” is already so misused and misunderstood in our communities. The major basis for
all of her craft is the same modern wave of practice and tradition that lies at
the heart of Wicca, which so many of her followers claim to detest; that is the
ritual structures and philosophies of the 19-20th century occultists
(such as the Golden Dawn) that have no place in vernacular folk magic. She regurgitates
the same structures, philosophies and false histories of her very recent, and
rejected, magical predecessors with newly invented names, symbols, and
explanations behind them. In short, she has made up a new system based on the
same modern systems she rejects with no authenticity to her creativity, and
then has the audacity to call it folk magic and Cornish tradition. She is
renaming parts of Wicca, with words and ideas that excite an audience bored
with 90s hokey witchcraft, and claiming them to be traditional (another
exciting trend-word) and naturally/rightfully keeping all the profit for her creations.
Secondly, Gemma is one of many authors under the same series
of occult publishers who abuse overly flowery/poetic writing that can fill up
30 pages with two paragraphs of actual information. While she is not as bad as
Schulke by any means, this is still an annoying waste of paper, but more importantly
distracts from the substance and legitimate education possible with her media presence. It also is more and more risking exclusion and classism as the flowery
writing gets worse, leaving the texts available only to those of a class or
background able to understand the points of information amid the nonsense.
Thirdly, she plays on people’s desire for authenticity in
witchcraft, for culture, and bluntness, using exciting topics, misplaced folk
terminology, overemphasized rituals and the devil to excite her thirsty
audience while really just feeding into capitalist witchcraft trends, further
continuing the glass ceiling above young witches’ heads, preventing them from
pursuing authentic vernacular traditions of magic and superstition through real
sources or researching through properly academic channels. She is part of a
large system that completely convolutes vernacular practices around the key words
and exciting fads of a suburban internet-based magical audience. If you think
the average cunning-folk of Cornwall two hundred years ago were running about
calling crows in the north and bunnies in the south and asking the great
serpent to envelope them while they pray to the wise devil, if you think they
were proud to call themselves witches and embrace the darkness in the world…you
have a serious gap in your education, further exacerbated by Gemma’s and other
authors’ misinformation and profit-seeking books.
She can do whatever she wants, but the fact that she markets
these lies the way she does, and the fact that she is claiming to be an expert
while she is clearly still struggling through these complex subjects herself are
what rub me so much the wrong way. There are many flaws with her practice and
theory, but that is normal. This is not why I am fed up with her and her
publishing peers; it is that she claims authenticity, tradition, and
reliability in the midst of these blatant flaws. She is such an indication of
the myriad concerns that should be raised within the witchcraft communities
about capitalist profit, trend setting, laziness, and disrespectful
appropriation of real traditions.
I'm really new to reading up on witchcraft and some stuff about familiars is confusing. Like is there a difference between familiars, servitors and fetches or are these all the same? Because I was reading Authentic Witchcraft and that book made it sound like all of a witch's power comes from their familiar. Other books talk about familiars and spirits but don't really say all the power comes this way. Is this true? And is this the same as a magistellus at the Witch's Sabbat? I'm confused, sorry.
Great Questions. I think you misunderstand, but at that is an intro book it keeps things fairly simple and doesn’t cover every power a witch accesses. A witch’s power doesn’t only come from their familiar. A witch is powerful in themselves and also works with the natural energies of the universe. A lot of books have overlooked the familiar, unfortunately because it is a very significant aspect of traditional witchcraft that is present in most of the history. Fetch has three meanings, the main one is synonymous with familiar spirit, the second one is synonymous with servitor, and the third is from Feri witchcraft and it relates to one of the tri part soul parts or as Starhawk called it the younger self. To be honest, you have to catch it by context. If it says something like fetch wife or fetch lover its the same as the familiar spirit. If it refers to creating the fetch then it is like the servitor. Servitors are usually made by the witch to do specific tasks. Whereas the relationship with the familiar spirit is more like a romance.
Can you direct me to any reputable sources for info on familiar spirits that specifically addresses the sexual orientation of the practitioner. I'd prefer to find objective sources that have no social agenda. It seems like most noobs say it doesn't matter if the familiar spirit is the same sex as the witch, but I fear this is out of political correctness. Most of the reading I come across that even mentions this says it should/must be the opposite sex even if the practitioner is gay/bi/etc...
First off it’s not out of political correctness. The reason being that gender and sexual orientation are not a political affiliation nor is recognizing reality a pithy way of being hip. A minority percentage of humans and animals all over the green earth are intersex, bisexual and homosexual. This is not politics unless ducks are politically correct. I watched two clearly male mallard ducks with the dark green heads stay by one another’s sides and have sex multiple times over several years at the duck pond near my house growing up. I disagree with your assertion that only newbies say familiar spirits are not always opposite gender. I have read several books on the subject including academic ones and not all familiars are different gendered from their witch. From a witch trial testimony: “Their spirits usually have knowledge of their bodies…She also saith, that men Witches usually have women spirits and women witches men spirits….” Trial testimony of Margaret Johnson, Lancashire 1663. Note the usually and the explanation of why it’s usually that way. Very specifically usually not always. Grayson Magnus writes in Authentic Witchcraft, “people of alternative genders sometimes have problems relating to their spirit companions. This stems from confusion about the definition of their own gender in relation to it.”
“The answer is simple. Your spirit lover should be the gender to which you are attracted.”
“it is also important to understand that the relationship with the spirit companion will challenge your perceptions of gender identity, regardless of your sexual orientation. This is not a threat to sexuality.”
Two other significant writers on familiar spirits and witchcraft Lee Morgan and Orion Foxwood both LGBTA witches do not even address gender of the familiar spirits in their books but instead prefer the gender neutral it except when recounting anecdotes: respectively A Deed Without a Name and The Faery Teachings. Donald Tyson in Familiar Spirits a Practical Guide for Witches and Magicians “in their essence, spirits do not possess either gender, but when they manifest in human form, they usually manifest either a masculine or feminine outer appearance. The sex they assume is not arbitrary, but in outward revelation of their true nature, so it cannot be disregarded or treated lightly when considering the composition of the familiar.”
Although same sex familiars are not the most common, let’s cover a few: an Leictestershire Cunning Woman named Joan Wilimot 1618’s fairy familiar was in the form of a woman that the master (the coven’s leader? The devil?) had blown into her mouth. (Wilby Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits pg. 61) Walter Ronaldson of Aberdeenshire 1601’s familiar was a fairy man with a shaved beard and white linen clothes. (Wilby 62) Dorset Cunningman John Walsh 1556’s familiar appeared as a man with cloven hooves. (Wilby 63) the preview in Google books stops short of chapter six on sexual relations with familiar spirits. Hopefully I can check with Faery Lizzy or Ioqayin to see if they have that book for more info on homosexuality/bisexuality and familiar spirits. But most significantly, are my conversations with other witches and magicians I highly respect. Oberyn Kunning, Lee Morgan, Grayson Magnus, Ioqayin, FaeryLizzy, Taylor Ellwood, RJ Stewart, Shivian, StoriesandConjure and Orion Foxwood with each same sex familiar spirits were either embraced, a non issue or a curiosity up for debate, but never entirely ruled out.
So I suppose I can conclude with the most significant point the familiar spirit is the pair to the witches own soul. And what exact gender form that companion takes is only relevant but not everything to the equation. Your spirit familiar can be your compliment in any number of ways like on the color wheel where both red and yellow are opposite of blue and it’s arguable that black the absence of color is opposite blue too. Embrace variety and ditch the binary dogmatism in spiritual thinking.
Thanks for the great question. I know I came across contrary but this is a passionate issue for me close to my heart. And maybe if there isn’t already an article on it there, there needs to be.