I have no problem with Wicca.
It's the Wiccans I can't stand!

The time has come when I can hold my tongue no longer.
Every day I see "Wiccans" defile the religion of Wicca, just as "Christians" have defiled Christianity.
I used to be Wiccan. Used to be. It's important to note that I moved on to other things a few years ago. And below are a few of the reasons why I left.
Read, take heed, and honestly ask yourself if you are part of the problem.

What Sucks About Wiccans?

Immaturity | Misconceptions | Personal Gripes | Stagnation


• "Christianity sucks. I quit." So, you want to rebel? You might consider a complete 180, right down to devil-worship and black magic... but you don't have the guts to go that far, since you're still secretly terrified of going to Hell. Hey, Wicca is perfect! It's actually not that evil, but your family doesn't know that. You can creep everyone out and keep your soul safe at the same time!

• "Look at me, I'm a witch!" That oh-so-dangerous leap out of the broom closet, which usually occurs within the first week you buy a book about Wicca. You want to let everyone know about your change of religion, for some god awful reason, especially parents and authority figures. Religious beliefs can't possibly live quietly inside of your own head, they have to be shared! (But you aren't pushy about it, oh no... don't you just hate those Jehovah's Witnesses?) You don your little pentacle necklace and wear it in public, just -itching- for someone to walk up to you and start an argument. Then you'll be able to correct them about dozens of things you've learned word-for-word.... ("Male witches aren't called warlocks!") Oh! Don't you just love the attention you get?

• If you don't want to step out of the broom closet, there are still various ways to stick a toe out the door for each of the people you want to impress and/or frighten. (Like wearing your pentacle -under- your shirt, on a short chain, so it'll slide into view if you shift just right. Or you can wear gothed- or hippied-out clothing and say "Oh, Goddess!" every five minutes. Or you can call your cat a familiar and your cookbook a grimoire [accidentally, of course] ...the list goes on.)

• "Better not tick me off..." Sure, very few "Wiccans" would actually say this, but there are plenty who will gladly imply it. And they'll bind someone they don't like without a second thought -- always to something "for their own good" so that whole threefold thing doesn't apply.

• By the way, did you know that the Wiccan threefold law applies to everyone, whether Wiccan or not? And at the same time, Wiccans won't go to Hell because they don't believe in one.

• "Wicca is a peaceful, tolerant religion... compared to, say, Christianity." Soon you figure out that you can insult your religious suppressors (who are all secretly out to get you) and feel holier-than-thou at the same time! You can blame them for everything from the Inquisition to teenage pregnancy. Impress a group of Wiccans [by saying that you were born on October 31, or that a ghost lives in your house, or that you can see auras (which you secretly suspect might be retinal burn)] and suddenly you're lifelong friends who all have something in common... Christian-bashing. And now when the kids at school make fun of you, it's not because you're fat, ugly, shy, wear braces/glasses, or are part of the wrong clique... it's because they're religiously intolerant, those unenlightened fools.

• "It's a witch thing. You wouldn't understand." You get to feel oh-so-self-righteous by knowing all the little nuances of the unseen world (even though you can't tell us anything about the Qabalah, the Goetia, or the aethyral hierarchy). Your advanced state of enlightenment usually consists of a whole lot of preaching about "balance of light and dark," "karma," "harm none," and anything else that makes you feel more holy than those plebeian mundanes. I cannot count how many times I've asked a Wiccan a question that ended up in a long string of conversation designed to find out if I'm "worthy to know that"....

• Do you have a surplus of rose petals and red candles? Get a clue. There's a reason you don't have a boyfriend, and it sure ain't the quality of your spells. Try dying your hair back to its natural color. Lower your nose and stop preaching. Try smiling for once (smirking doesn't count).

• The "witchier-than-thou" complex. Soon after you become a witch, you ask your mother, "Has anything weird ever happened to you?" And she'll tell you about the time she thought Uncle Herbert was going to call, and, five minutes later, he did! "Aha!" you'll think, "It's genetic!" In a burst of clarity, you suddenly realize that your mother was a repressed witch; your grandmother was a witch; your great-grandmother got burned at the stake in the Salem Witch Trials; and your other relatives were all Celtic, so you should probably start wearing those nifty knot work rings.

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• Oh, about your great-grandmother -- there were no witches in Salem, just a single dark-skinned woman practicing her native religion. And by the way, no "witch" has ever been burned at the stake in America. (For more historical corrections that tend to annoy/anger Wiccans, look here.)

About that Celtic knot work -- most of the Bible-hating Wiccans I know would be horrified to learn that it was famous for being used to fill in the margins of old Christian (yes, Christian) illuminated manuscripts. (And "other stuff, too" -- added to satiate the nitpickers. Note that I've never found any of this "other stuff" to involve witchcraft.) Any "meanings" you've read for certain designs have only been recently invented as marketing/sales tactics.

(BTW, to those Wiccans claiming to be Celtic: it was a culture, not a bloodline. And if you had some Celts in your family's background some thousands of years ago? Big deal. My ancestors invented fire and the wheel, but why the heck would I want to brag about it?)

• "Christianity stole lots of stuff from us, and then they nearly wiped us out!" For some obscure reason, you equate ancient paganism with Wicca. If it had anything to do with nature or females, by gum, it must have been some early branch of Wicca!

Despite the fact that Wicca is only about 50 years old (which means it wasn't even invented until many years after Salem's trials) every fluffy believes wholeheartedly that Wicca is based on a secret religion that's somehow been hidden from the civilized world for thousands of years. (Even the Burning Times left no record of it!)

I can honestly understand the growth of these myths in the 60's and 70's, when the rebellious teens were always in a highly-suggestible state of mind, but you should know better than to be that gullible. For more on the origins of your own effing religion, see the links page. Or read my no-BS History of Wicca page. (Unless you're still content to believe what your Ravenwolf-reading friends tell you to think about history.)

• "Just as long as I believe in the five elements, Wicca is anything I want it to be!" Absolutely NOT! Just as you can't add a green-skinned, three-eyed goddess statue to your communion altar and keep calling yourself "Catholic," neither can you mutilate "Wicca" to mean anything you'd like.

If you'd ever read Wicca's 161 laws, you'd know that you're not supposed to claim Wicca as a religion -- in fact, you're supposed to preach that witchcraft is evil and deny that you practice it. But then you wouldn't be able to campaign for Sabbats off at work or send angry letters to your senators... let alone wear plate-sized pentacles to get attention!

But I don't expect any of this to change your mind. After all, every lonely Wiccan knows that all of that 13-member coven skyclad stuff is totally optional.

• "So you're saying that we should practice Gardnerian Wicca down to the letter? How ignorant! One of the best things about Wicca is that we can be diverse and flexible!!!" Being "flexible" requires a starting point. Try to get some knowledge of what your religion was based on before you start grabbing and tossing like you're at a buffet table.

• "It's called being 'eclectic'!!!" From what I've seen, "Eclectic Wicca" is one percent Wicca and ninety-nine percent "make it up as I go along." Anything that you don't like gets thrown out. Getting spanked with a stick some forty times sounds too kinky? Forget the symbolism, just throw it out. Don't want twelve other people to see you naked? Just go buy a book called Solitary Wicca instead, and never mind all that stuff about a witch's power being blocked by cloth. The Horned God looks too scary? Forget Him, just ignore that half of the religion. Everything aggressive and masculine and dark should be avoided, not revered, right? If you can call yourself a "witch" then you can call yourself "eclectic," too, and be a Wiccan without actually following any of the Wiccan religion.

So you like to throw in some Buddhism and Native American dancing into your religion? Good for you. I actually have no problem with that. But please, please...! If you do this stuff, don't call yourself "Wiccan"! Say you have "some Wiccan influence." Do you want Wicca to become as muddled and corrupted as other religions???

I recall seeing a particularly disturbing picture on a fluffy's webpage: a yin-yang with the caption "Another symbol they stole from us!" This is not a good sign, people.

• "So how am I supposed to know what's Wiccan and what's not?" Read some of Gardner's books. See if they mention anything at all about how to make macrame' and aromatherapy shampoo, eh? And remember: Most "Wiccans" are not practicing Wicca at all.

Like you, they've only read about some watered-down, feel good version of anti-Xian nature-worship that an author is promoting under the title of "Wicca." The author has taken out everything from the original version of Wicca that she doesn't agree with; her readers will scrap anything from her books that they don't think feels quite right; and the people they "teach" will walk away with a completely distorted concept of what Wicca involves. No wonder so many people are convinced that the sum total of Wicca is the Rede and the Five Elements!

If this author knew anything about Wicca itself, wouldn't she mention the fivefold kiss?!? Or warn you about performing the Great Rite with your coven leaders to attain a higher degree? And if you're reading about a religion, wouldn't she explain a bit more about the ancient Gods whose names you've been casually dropping in her five-cent spells? (By the way -- have you ever noticed that the "Old Gods" are any Gods that weren't Christian? Just pick and choose, kids! Then refer to them as if they were all worshipped in this one, common, ancient, hidden religion.)

• "I found this Wiccan book and it's everything I've always believed in! Even the paranormal stuff that Christianity refuses to admit exists!" (Wow, you finally read a book? Maybe two, even?) If Wicca vaguely fits your beliefs, then it must explain everything supernatural and non-Xian, too -- even if the religion itself doesn't say anything about spirit animal guides or Ouija boards or runes.

We all know that Wicca applies universally to everything, so everything must apply universally to Wicca, too! That's why we can put unicorns, dragons, faeries, and various other mythological creatures (which actually exist, and are friendly and helpful despite all the legends) on our web pages. So break out your wiccan I-Ching set, your wiccan Amerindian totem pole, and your wiccan Egyptian ankh, and put 'em all on your altar to Athena (or Bast, or Kali -- any Goddess will do).

• "Never Again the Burning Times!" Oh, get over yourselves. This is a huge Wiccan misconception, those were not even witches being burned.

So what's the real reason that every fluffy has a burning times graphic on their webpage? Quite frankly, I think it's so they'll feel special. It proves beyond a doubt how evil those other religions can be. By golly, as if we aren't oppressed and victimized enough as it is... we're all sure that at any moment, the Xians will point and scream "devil-worshippers!" in our general direction, so we should hold off the furious fundies by somehow changing their brainwashed minds with our "Never Again" glitter stickers.

At the same time, the anti-Xian "Wicca for Beginners!" pages I've seen are just as full of hate as the Burning Times were. Maybe we should cause pause and raise the collective consciousness of Wiccans for once.

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Personal Gripes

• We don't worship the devil. Really, we don't." Two things bother me about this.

1. You can repeat this until you're blue in the face for all the good it does. Silly Wiccans, you're overlooking the fact that anyone non-Xian, by definition, is misguided and worships the devil. [And if you can't see the humor in that, then I will clarify: no, I'm not a Xian.] You're not changing any minds here, no matter how many times you repeat the Rede. Especially if you insist on arguing with the Xians over what a lie their religion is!

2. Some of the most talented adepts I've ever met are left-handers. It's sickeningly arrogant to assume that all witches are, in fact, White Wiccans just like [insert fluffy author here] tells you to be. There are Real WitchesTM who worship Satan. There are even atheist witches who don't believe in karma. The other pagans are sick and tired of reading dire warnings about the threefold law and the ethics of love spells. It's been said a thousand times already, and it still only applies to the Wiccans, so get out of the way -- some people are trying to practice serious hexcraft and blood sacrifice out here.

• Hecate was not a beautiful scantily-clad maiden dancing through the flowers with elves and faeries. She had three heads.

• "As above, so below!" Do you even know where that phrase came from? It was originally found on a Greek burial stone. Not an astrology chart or a karma wheel. A burial stone. Think about it. ("Have fun down there, you lady's man!")

• "I need some thyme for this and some sage for that...." Herbs have been used in witchcraft for thousands of years -- but no one seems to realize why. The origins of this were a) as offerings burnt to the gods, b) to provide smoke from which the spirits could form material bodies, and c) as poisons, balms, or psychedelics (or, in the case of the flying broomstick/phallus, all three at once).

This happy-go-lucky "my love spell needs rose petals" attitude is a far cry from the original stuff. (By the way, if you think that using herbs to heal makes someone a witch, you should probably read this page.)

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• In all of your talk about spiritual growth, there's a good chance you're scared $#17less of actually facing a challenge. You cleanse and ward your house obsessively, create psychic shields, and avoid facing your inner demons with layers of denial. In fact, there's a good chance that you've rationalized every bit of this page as you read it so as not to face what I'm saying.

("This person doesn't know what they're talking about, so I shouldn't take it seriously," "This doesn't apply to me, just those OTHER people," "Ha! They just contradicted themselves, they must be Christian!") And for now a side rant -- You know what?


Anyone who comes to this webpage
intending to snicker at how wrong it is
or to get angry at the Stupid Fundie
is one of the people I'm talking about.

Do I mention crystal-hugging New Age
mental case flakes on this page
a n y w h e r e ? NO.
And yet, people keep mentioning them.
"Agreeing" with me, for God's sake...
-- too dense to realize that
I'm talking about THEM.

[I now return you to your regularly scheduled rant...]

• "Witches don't have any more psychic powers than any other person, we're just more in tune with the Earth." Um... what??? Just because [insert fluffy author here] has redefined the title "witch" for any unambitious preteen to claim, doesn't mean you should scrap the flashy definition that has been around for centuries. There's a huge difference between having mystical abilities and having a religion. Or to put it another way, just because you're Christian doesn't mean you know how to turn water into wine.

I'm also rather sick of the assumption that your religion has to be "nature-based" to be a witch. I don't have religion or respect for nature (I'll choose toilet paper over mosquitoes any day) and yet I'm still a witch ("Gasp! Oh, the heresy!").

• "Magick isn't what Hollywood portrays it as. We don't levitate objects or flash fire from our fingers." Well why the hell not? "Because magick is just a subtle force underneath everything that I can bend to my will, a little... okay, not much, really.... ummm... uh.... Sometimes I dream of the future and stuff..." Fluffy fluffy fluffy. You've been brainwashed into recognizing that everyone's definition of magic has always been wrong, too. It was never anything spectacular, it's just drawing circles on the ground and lighting candles. But if you've subtly threatened someone with how spooky you are, you'd rather not let them know that your version of Wiccan magick involves something that sounds like really fancy prayer.

• "But this so-called 'fluffy' stuff is a step to higher magick!" Have you ever met a fellow Wiccan who practiced high magick? The HP/S of your circle, maybe? No? How about high magick web pages, instead of some Wiccan's rambling about how oppressed they are? Any how-to books on the subject in your local New Age shop? No? Of course not -- they wouldn't sell. Magic takes discipline, and neopagans would much rather be told they're a witch right away (for "worshipping the God/Goddess" or some other non-mystical habit) than through blood & sweat training and lifelong research.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Wiccans can't learn heavy magick; rather, that the Wiccans who know what they're doing are mature. You'll never catch one of these wearing ten pounds of pentacle jewelry and picking arguments with Christians. In fact, you'll probably never even realize that they're Wiccan, at all. They don't let a religion define who they are -- they have better things to do.

Traditional : A dying art in a thriving industry
That Wicca is a popular movement followed by many people of great sincerity, should not be in doubt, here or elsewhere. Unfortunately it is also certain that it is a popularized and diluted form of witchcraft, not the definition of witchcraft as so many of its followers appear to believe."

In an era in which witchcraft has become, to many westerners, as nearly acceptable as Buddhism or Hinduism, it seems redundant to talk about witchcraft as a dying art. In every bookstore, all over the web, even featured on Pat Kenny’s family-fest Late, Late Show (Samhain 2000, RTE 1, Rep of Ireland, 9.30 pm) surely witchcraft is thriving and more, becoming increasingly mainstream and less misunderstood by the day. I could bore you with a list of books by exotically named authors, extolling the virtues of goddess worship and the benefits of magic, (but I won’t.) So then; there can be little doubt that witchcraft is in good shape, practiced and understood by thousands worldwide.

Or can there?

I submit below an outline of the differences between Wicca and Witchcraft, (a cook’s tour of both for our initiate readers) an exploration of the difficulties facing us in the modern world and a brief discussion of the paths open to us. This is but one opinion; any response is more than welcome.


In the first place, it is necessary to differentiate between Wicca, a modern goddess-centric religion and Witchcraft, an ancient and sometimes dark Art. Wicca is a loosely organized religion, centered around the books and theories of Gerald Gardner, and Wicca is the term applied by many people to all forms of witchcraft. Many believe that the word ‘wicca’ is derived from a Saxon word meaning wise; this however has been disputed by both historians and linguists alike.

It is an eclectic religion blending Celtic, British, Eastern and Native American philosophies. The main characteristics of Wicca include the keeping of a ‘Book of Shadows’ and adherence to a ‘rede’ or threefold law; this is a form of Karmic law, which states that should you try to harm anyone, the ill-wish will rebound on you with three times the force. In recent times Wicca has become increasingly politically correct, centering on a philosophy of positive thought and healing light. It is first and foremost a religion, goddess-centric and pan-theistic.

That Wicca is a popular movement followed by many people of great sincerity, should not be in doubt, here or elsewhere. Unfortunately it is also certain that it is a popularized and diluted form of witchcraft, not the definition of witchcraft as so many of its followers appear to believe.

And Wicca is an industry. It has spawned a generation or two of ‘expert’ authors, peddling everything from pre-fabricated spells to secrets of the universe; and with every new publication comes a new layer of misinformation. Even more worrying; spells, sacred names, secrets, herbs and oils and potions are prepackaged, ready mixed and available to any halfling with a credit card. Increasingly every web site has a ‘shop’ attached, or is linked to a whimsically named emporium with a line in bad taste paraphernalia.

But by no means the least irritant in this unholy brew is the arrogance of the breed. I have met with at least three witches, from the two western Irish families and a British family who were haughtily informed by wiccans online, that traditional witchcraft didn’t exist and that even if it did, it was no more valid than wicca. A member of the Clan, from Leinster was roundly abused by ‘a proud witch of two years standing’ for pointing out that witches weren’t actually burned at Salem or many other places, and she was also subjected to a patronizing and almost amusingly inaccurate citing of the Alice Kettler story, (Kilkenny)*(see end)When she protested against the over simplified view that was being pushed, she was told that the other correspondant was an expert, she had read all about Kettler in a book, and she was 'very well read' in all things Celtic.

The practitioner in question holds a BA (hons) from UCD in history; she has spent the last ten years in historical research. But perhaps most importantly of all, she LIVES here; she was born here; she is in short, Irish. Note to Americans and Australians in particular. Even if you spend your adult life studying the Celts and their mythology and Yeats and Kavanaugh and folktales and Irish History, I have a news flash for you; you’re not Irish. You are in fact a guest in our culture and should have a little more respect and humility when approaching several millennia of history. And our education system is one of the best in Europe, far superior to the US or Australian. We tend to know quite a lot about our own society.

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So what then, is witchcraft?

Witchcraft is a form of pagan ritual and knowledge carried forward from ancient times, and although adapted by each generation to suit the times in which they lived, it contains certain truths and erudition that never change. With specific reference to Celtic witchcraft the survival of this knowledge and tradition is easily traced; Too powerful to fight, the peoples’ love for their goddesses was sublimated into a cult of the Virgin Mary in the Christian church; many rituals and traditions surviving under the watchful eye of the parish priest. (notably the August games at Taillte (Tealtown) whose origins lie in the mourning games ordered by the god, Lugh at the death of his foster mother, Tailtu) The veneer of Christianity hid but perversely also preserved the pagan ways, aided by the fact that up to and beyond Elizabethan times Ireland was largely isolated and unlike Britain and Gaul never fell prey to the influences of continental Europe. A rich oral tradition encoded the story of the Old Religion into legend and myth, and the Christian monks were of inestimable help in writing down over the centuries many of these tales, (albeit with a liberal dose of Christian moralizing). The invasion of the English from the eleventh century onwards did eventually result in the destruction of Irish culture, the outlawing of our Brehon laws, the persecution of the Bards and the outlawing of our language, religion, culture, music, and indeed at one point of the entire nation, all this came late enough in our history to ensure that the age-old knowledge was less diluted and polluted than elsewhere. And yet again, persecution aided the Old Religion as the determination of our neighbors to destroy our history induced both the catholic church and the few inheritors of the ways, to preserve it in the teeth of all opposition.

Another contributing factor was the encoding within the landscape itself of the Goddess and her story. From Newgrange to Cnoc Aine, the land itself speaks of the pattern of settlement from earliest times, and the spread of a matriarchal, lunar worshipping religion outwards from Beara in Kerry to the edge of Ireland and across the sea to Britain and Europe. Furthermore it tells the story of the struggle between this religion and the sun-worshipping cults, and their compromise and integration.

So there is the provenance of Celtic paganism and its attendant forms, notably witchcraft. Easy to prove the survival and almost unbroken links between our Celtic present and pagan past, but what of the survival of the knowledge and arts of our ancestors? There are those even today, whose own families bear the threads of the past into the present and are themselves the preservers of the old ways, known as the Few. With the rise of Wicca there has also been a smaller but welcome rise in the followers of traditional witchcraft, a very close cousin to the family witchcraft under discussion in these pages. With respect to the traditional secrecy surrounding these matters, a delicate subject at the best of times, it is permissible to state that there are approximately six families in Ireland who are true examples of hereditary Traditional Family Witchcraft. In each family, there is one in each branch who is a practitioner, so there are usually several in each generation, cousins rather than siblings. As a rule there is one main branch of the family, centering on the matriarchal line, around which all this occult activity centers, preventing it from becoming too widespread and diluted as the bloodline expands. Should circumstances dictate that a practitioner die without issue, or the her family and bloodline is cut short by death, pestilence or violence the knowledge and expertise will be passed to the nearest female blood relative. What lends traditional family witchcraft its more bizarre aspects is, that while the practitioner is initiated into the secrets of the clan, her immediate family, sometimes including parents & siblings may well be almost entirely unaware of this. Or while accepting that their own parent or sibling was possessed of some psychic ability or other they persist in seeing it as a mild gift, an odd little ability that the practitioner seems to have inherited. This has led to generations of hereditary witches being persecuted by the following sentence; ‘you know, you’re the image of your Granny’ On a more serious note, in some cases where the practitioner has been unable to properly initiate her successor into the craft, the unfortunate inheritor is doomed to spend a great portion of her life and certainly her adolescence seeking restlessly, feeling lost, worried by unusual abilities and badly channeled energies… When properly initiated, even if abandoned before any in-depth exploration of her abilities or without a great deal of instruction the practitioner is likely to find her path with greater ease and to find the practical aspects of witchcraft a lot easier than many who come to the craft without much family background; as Celtic culture is extremely ancestor-fixated, the longer the line of witches in one bloodline, the greater the repository of energy at the disposal of the witch.

However many adept and intelligent practitioners have found their way into the craft in recent years, choosing traditional witchcraft and bringing to it fresh energy and perspective. I would be loath to suggest that their contribution is in any way less valuable than that of hereditary witches, rather that each has their strengths and weaknesses.

Accepting then the history of and general aspects of traditional family witchcraft, it remains to examine and compare it to its main rival Wicca. Unlike Wicca it is not necessarily a religion. It can be practiced perfectly well as a Craft or Art rather than as a religion. Many hereditary witches have been devout catholic or Christian in one generation, atheistic in the next and pagan after that. Often there has been a duality of expression, with the natural inclination of the practitioner being towards spirituality rather than atheism, and with the god/desses of the old religion seen as complementary to, rather than in conflict with, the Christian church. Many older practitioners would be horrified to think of themselves as pagan; being firmly Christian, but seeing the use of the old sacred names as rather like saying ‘abracadabra’, as it were.

In the new generation the trend is toward an affectionate and reverent sense of the old deities, each seen as individuals and at the same time, manifestations of the universal power that is. Family traditional witchcraft also enshrines a complex and highly developed philosophy called by different names but often by the Story of the Homeland or The Concept of the Homeland. This is too complex to explain in a short essay but is, roughly, a visualization of the homeland (Ireland) and the sacred Isles surrounding it as representative of the journey of life; drawing on myth, legend, gods and goddesses, archetypes and meditations. This is the spiritual and philosophical basis of traditional family witchcraft and its practical manifestation is spell-casting and summoning, channeling of energy and divination, work with the elements etc, all done in conjunction with a sincere spiritual quest for growth and knowledge.

On a mundane level, the differences between Wicca and Witchcraft manifest themselves as follows; traditional witches do not keep a book of shadows, but a Grimoire, into which is recorded many things, herbal lore and lunar dates, details of ailments, phenomenon, elements, seasons, etc but not magic. Spells and Spell-craft, with rituals etc are not written into the Grimoire but safely encoded elsewhere.

The other glaring difference between Traditional Family witchcraft (and mainstream traditional witchcraft) and Wicca is that traditional practitioners do not adhere to the rede or rule of three but rather to an older rule; do what ye wilt an ye know what ye do. This means that if you are knowledgeable you can impose your will on the world with great power and also, whatever you choose to do you must be prepared for the consequences, and understand them. The system of magic practiced by traditional witches is based on an idea of balance, that life and death are balanced; that when you take you also must give; when you create you also destroy and vice versa. This is a very simplistic stating of the concept but it serves to illustrate briefly the difference between it and the rede.


Where then does Traditional Family Witchcraft stand in the modern world? It is a source of great frustration to family witches that almost everyone thinks of Wicca when they think of witchcraft, and assumes it to be all the same. And, that the principles and ethics or Wicca are applied to traditional witches, when they are in fact very distinct from our idea of ethics. But perhaps most of all it is the militancy of Wiccans that most alienates the Family practitioner.

After centuries of careful and discreet practice, after countless generations of witches refining and extending the knowledge and power of their predecessors, the eruption of modern Wicca onto the scene has come with all the force of the proverbial bull in the china shop; inexperienced and in some cases, downright ignorant acolytes of Wicca run amok through the once secluded glades of Hecate. Spells, like baking recipes are exchanged across the Internet and through New Age publications. People practice for a year and day and on day 367 start campaigning for days off around the winter solstice and the right to wear pentagrams to work. Nowhere is this strange new attitude more evident than in reference to what has become widely known as the Burning Times. In other words, this refers to the medieval, and more particularly Seventeenth Century persecution of Heretics and Witch-hunts. For most American Wiccans, and of course, others, this has become a rallying point as the Salem Witch Trials are re-interpreted not as the tragedy of political machinations, religious fanaticism and land greed that they were but as a holocaust, a pogrom against a religious minority, redefining the victims of Salem as practicing witches who died for their beliefs and also as a distinct ethnic and religious group. That not one of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials was a witch seems to be irrelevant in this reconstruction; as indeed, is the evidence that the accusers were suffering from a form of LSD poisoning because of a fungus on their wheat. This disease has also been proven to have played a role in many other instances of witch hunting and supernatural plagues. Across Europe in the middle ages women were indeed burned at the stake under charges of witchcraft, but these were with few exceptions midwives and herbalists persecuted by the new rising male profession of Doctor. Indeed to get the populace to trust them rather then the midwife, doctors portrayed them in unflattering imagery, giving us the modern picture of a witch; as incompetent, greedy and often sick themselves (hence the green skin) and old-fashioned (wearing the by-now out-dated pointy hat, therefore provincial and rustic and old fashioned).

In the seventeenth century the church began to formulate an idea that there was a church of Satan, just as there was a church of Christ, and the devil had his followers. ‘Witch’ took on a new meaning, as the follower of Satan and the church set out to ‘find’ the unholy church. Naturally not only did they find it but they convinced so many of its existence that idiots across Europe called themselves Satanists and confessed to being his followers. For a full exploration of this phenomenon read Hugh Trevor Roper’s The rise of Witchcraft in Seventeenth Century Europe

Through out all this true hereditary Witches emerged relatively unscathed. They could practice neither their beliefs nor healing, but they could and did protect the knowledge even from their nearest and dearest. Witches really suffered no more and certainly far less than midwives and the local senile Crone.

But this realistic view of our history is unpopular to those who seek a cause and once again the ‘victim’ culture of America rushes to canonize the dead, in order to galvanize the living. Activism has become the single most divisive factor in modern witchcraft and by this I do not mean protesting against the destruction of the earth or writing letters for amnesty international. I mean the militant insistence upon witchcraft being recognized as a world religion, Wicca being accepted as its acceptable form and the very mysteries at its heart being accessible to all, regardless of merit or training. It is an odious from of egalitarianism that wishes to allow the tailor access to the surgeon’s trade, on the grounds that they can both cut and sew. And to those who have spent many years in pursuit of excellence in these Arts, the just-add-Llywellyn instant ‘expert’ phenomenon is depressing and insulting. And for every Wiccan with either natural talent or a genuine appreciation for the craft, there are dozens who deal in misconception and misinformation.

Even those Wiccans who are gifted have glaring misconceptions of the craft, its history and its purpose. Many have fallen so heavily in love with the idea of a Goddess-centric religion, celebrating womanhood, that they fail to realize that witchcraft has its (honorable) secular tradition as well; and because they invest so heavily in emotional terms, coming out to foe and friend alike they tend to react bitterly towards any suggestion that the tenets upon which they have based their life are less than accurate.

The idea of hereditary or traditional witchcraft being privy to secrets, rituals, spells or knowledge not shared by the Wiccan is unbearable to them; some write angrily about traditional witches being unwilling to share (duh!) and others post snippy articles using phrases such as ‘so-called’ hereditary witches and ‘self-styled’ traditional witches. One wonders how they would like to be called ‘amateur witches’ or ‘pseudo-witches’. There are few traditional witches and almost no family witches who would not be horrified at the calls for protests and law suits that abound on American Internet sites. They seem unwilling to stop until they have dragged the sacred Arts out into the florescent light. In fact at times one wonders whether they will be content until they have reduced it to another fast-food for the soul.

So what way forward for the be-leaguered traditional Family Witch, and her cousin-in-arms, the Traditional Witch? By avoiding the Internet and its ubiquitous wicca-ness we run the risk of increasing isolation and dwindling numbers, while we allow –by our passivity- the misconceptions and deceptions of the wiccan industry to bury our proud tradition under its cloak of conformity. By joining the internet, we become in effect part of the vast army of ‘One True Paths’ clamoring for the attention of teenagers and pre- pubescent newbies (O! detested phrase) that surf for net looking for instant coolness. While we dither and debate, day after day our craft becomes more and more defiled and even the tag ‘ traditional witchcraft’ has been high-jacked by those claiming to be traditionals, or hereditaries without much evidence of this apparent, in either their spell-craft, their vocabulary or their understanding of the very tradition they espouse.


So is there nothing of value in the sea of modern publications and websites? Well, there are several excellent traditional witchcraft sites, and clubs (see list below) and for books, there are a couple of excellent authors. Caitlin Mathews, although popular, retains an erudite and well-researched stance on Celtic paganism. Cheryl Straffon is an excellent source for travelogues and guides to sacred landscapes, lively and well written. Some of the Collins gem series are invaluable as pocket consultants. Some web sites are very enjoyable and exemplify the best use of the web, most notable the Witches Web Forum and Witch Vox; as a rule of thumb Pagan rather than wiccan sites are the way to go.


But even if we use the web, in a limited way, there is a clear need for caution. I know some of our younger members will be throwing their eyes up to heaven and groaning, as I am very well aware that many of them are on web sites and discussion forums and newsgroups. However I know that there are limits to the type of thing they will discuss and there are secrets and topics that even the most devout netophile amongst them would not dream of divulging; add to this the possibility of a back lash against this new age militancy when people may very much regret their public avowals of wicca-hood. It is not unheard of for the moral majority to seek out their potential victims on the net. Do we want to throw away years of safety and discretion just to prove a point?

And finally . . . .

There are few things more frustrating than knowing yourself to be right and being unable to voice this satisfactorily, but for the moment at least the way forward is to accept limited contact with wiccan groups, taking care to always distance yourself from their misquotes and misinformation. To explain the basics of traditional family witchcraft is acceptable but anonymity on the web is no excuse for laxity where the code is concerned, besides rest assured, I’ll know who you are!

Be clear on who you are and why you are a witch; do not insult anyone else’s beliefs but feel free to defend the truth as strongly as possible. And please whenever possible make it clear what the historical facts are. For my sake. Think of my blood pressure. Please.


‘Only by overcoming our natural inclination towards solitude can we hope to survive the great vulgarization of our craft’

Eblanna Ui Bhroinn, rep. of The Clan Beirn Noafa, June 2000

*.(Ignoring the fact that Alice Kettler escaped the flames instead allowing her hapless and illiterate maid to burn, that most of the charges brought against her were leveled by a bishop of dubious moral standing and that she herself while almost certainly a practioner of sorts come from no known line, the socio-political factors at work in the Kilkenny of that period are too complex to admit of much clear finger pointing at either Alice or her brother)

Source: (http://www.whywiccanssuck.com/twessay.html)

Cultural Imperialism in Witch Craft
Bigotry in Wicca

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