The Futility of Witch Wars
by Susan Mehegan AKA Morgana Le Fey
4 May 2013
For a moment, think about Witches in early Europe, before the savage persecutions, before narrow religionists decided to declare them evil.
While a few Pagans gathered in small groups for seasonal celebrations and the full and new moon, most Witches were solitary practitioners and Cunning Folk who could be found living alone in small cottages at the outskirts of villages. These were usually wise women who relied on teaching handed down through the generations. They were called on by villagers to provide remedies for human and domestic animal ailments, counseling, and midwifery. While they were quite capable of throwing curses when necessary, they were more focused on helping those in need. The religious aspects of their lives were pretty much private, though we have been able to piece together information about the gods and goddesses they called upon and honored.
The real cause of today’s Witch Wars is the influence of organized religions. As Christians we were taught that our particular sect was the one and only true way and that all others were false and they would end up judged and thrown into the mythological hell/hades for imagined sins. That attitude caused separation and the establishment of over 600 different denominations of Christianity, all of whom have the one and only truth. And it sent the Craft underground where some are forced to remain to this very day.
Part of the problem within institutionalized religion is that there is only one source of enlightenment. It is a book that was compiled from fragments of writings by anonymous men millennia ago. The book has been translated and re-translated, redacted, and interpreted by many men over the centuries so that it is no longer reliable or authoritative. It arose in times and within cultures that simply do not apply today. The original scripts were lost long ago, leaving nothing more than the impressions of translators and interpreters. Even so, it is the single tenuous thread that holds institutionalized religion together.
Witchcraft is experiential. It involves intimate interaction with the Divine and the counsel of the Ancestors. It can also be entirely traditional, with practices handed down over generations and thus need not have any deity connection. One thread that seems to weave us together, however, is our connection with Nature, the one ever-evolving book that man did not write.
The Craft is a constantly developing line of connection that brings us face to face and spirit to spirit with the force from which we came. Because it is experiential, it touches and teaches each individual in unique ways. My own experience has proved to be a connection on a somewhat peer level. Oh, I’m not saying I am equal to the Gods, but when they interact with me it is a collaboration of energies. And while theirs is much greater, both are important in making things happen, so in essence, we serve each other.
The Gods I honor and the Ancestors teach that to serve the Divine is to care for others and build that interconnectedness we all feel. So as to avoid the antiquated influences of institutionalized religion, I try not to use the terms that are associated with them like “worship,” “servant,” “sacraments,” “sin,” etc. But I have no problem with those who do, because I understand that the Gods speak to us in terms we best understand.
Those who are part of a family trad have the benefit of a direct line that passes on tried and true generational experiences. If you are the first in your line, create your own family tradition to be passed on. Since the Craft is evolving and flowing, the age of the tradition is of no real importance, as each inheritor will continue using what works, adding new, and removing those aspects that no longer apply. This is the beauty of an experiential path.
A word about covens: While many require this connection with others who share their beliefs, I find they seldom work in the long run. Often the high priest/priestess seems to become entrenched in his/her position and becomes a conductor of ritual and rules rather than a participant, and their role in mentoring others seems to get lost along the way.
“Contemporary Witchcraft is fluid, and virtually any Witch can start a new tradition, as well as a coven. Smaller ones abound, even one-coven traditions. Some of them are short-lived. Some covens choose to be eclectic, blending various traditions together or incorporating elements of shamanism or other religions. Even within traditions, covens vary in the emphasis given to aspects of the Craft.” — from _The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft, Second Edition _, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
And while it is important that we connect with others like ourselves, there is nothing more powerful than sitting/standing before your private altar and communing one-on-one with the one(s) who set it all in motion. Personally I think Witch Meet-ups can be a more invigorating experience than covens as they are less formal and allow for all to have an unscripted part in the gathering, each bringing their own unique experience to the group. This is an excellent way to find the right mentor for you if you are seeking or simply share recipes and discoveries that have worked for you.
The best thing we can do for one another is to shed that attitude of there-is-only-one-way to believe or experience our spiritual path. This is a holdover from organized religions that will not serve us in our continuing journey. When someone tells you that Witches, Wiccans, or Pagans celebrate this or that way, know that it is how THEY experience their beliefs. It is how THEY are taught. It is obviously the will of the Gods that our roads take different turns, that we are not intended to march in one step and approach life in just one way. We are liberated to follow our hearts, to think for ourselves.
It is not always easy, but when someone says, Witches do this or Pagans do that, you can reply that some do, but each is unique and different. Each hears the Voice of the Wind that speaks to them alone, just as it did for our Ancestors. And when we speak, while it may sound like a generalization, it is simply a reflection of our own individual experience. Listen. You might learn something new that can be incorporated into your own tradition. If you don’t, you have at least become wiser in the ways by sharing what we know.
And always, YMMV.