My coven has a little framed bit of calligraphy hanging by the entrance door to our temple, hung there back in the 1970s I believe, that says “The Lyf so short, the Craft so long to lerne.” It’s Hippocrates by way of Chaucer, but of course it applies beautifully to witchcraft. I found myself thinking about this all week after this article came out, wherein a journalist claims she spent a week learning witchcraft and then made a whole bunch of insulting claims and assumptions about it. I took to Twitter and posted a long rant and this was the result, so I gathered those tweets together (with a few comments added here and there for clarity) to share here.
I just spoke with a filmmaker (from Paris) who’s making a documentary on witches. I mentioned a witch I saw on Twitter who recently admitted to having a crisis of faith, that she didn’t really “believe” in witchcraft anymore, that she deleted all her tweets and no longer wanted to be known as a witchcraft influencer, and it’s been haunting me.
The current explosion of witchcraft on social media paints a rather misleading picture of the depth, complexity and knowledge underpinning a spiritual movement that’s been reinventing itself since the 1960s.
- And there’s nothing wrong with that: outsiders and rebels and outlaws are figures that can inspire us with their courage and confidence. But the notion of persecution is the flip-side of this, and it’s a tricky one.
What I see as the most vexing aspect of the current movement is its general lack of seriousness, and almost utter failure to consider its own rather fascinating history. The seekers and renegades who embraced witchcraft and paganism in the 1950s and 1960s relied largely upon BOOKS to learn about things like folklore, archaeology, comparative religion, the occult and any number of other topics from herbal healing to tarot to sex magic to ecology.
Of course, many people realize it’s a response to misogyny and fascism and environmental degradation (as it was in 1968 when W.I.T.C.H. came on the scene), at least in part, but plenty of people don’t make these connections. And many of the people who are expressing witchcraft as an identity, alas, also don’t offer much depth or context to what they’re doing. The shallow frippery promulgated by the very people claiming or aspiring to be at the forefront of this movement reduces this rich, life-affirming, culturally-evocative, potentially game-changing movement to trendy baubles of clickbait, and makes witches YET AGAIN the subject of widespread mockery, ridicule, disrespect and, yes, probably persecution.
Now, I don’t dispute this journalist did some research to prepare this article. Heck, she even throws in some context here and there. But her foregone conclusion does indeed seem to be that witchcraft, because trendy, must automatically be nonsense. And you know, fair enough. I get it. It’s weird to call yourself a witch. It’s weird to try and use magic or divination to effect change in your life. But millions, heck, billions, of people use prayer or art or manipulation or the mechanics of capitalism to try and do that, too, and, well, here we are.
It’s déja vu all over again. The current crop of books aimed at newly-converted witches is remarkably similar to the explosion of pagan books in the 1980s and 1990s, with a handful of publishers printing books madly to keep up with the demand. Some of them were very good books. Many were derivative drivel, or poorly-written claptrap. The same can be said of the current situation.
Why, when one could learn spells from a colorful website, would someone put the effort into reading a book? Why spend time memorizing correspondences when you could enter a chatroom with a bunch of other witches and argue about the right or wrong way to do things? (Yes, the internet also brought us a new and exciting way to engage in Witch Wars.) Why go to the trouble and spend the time to become knowledgeable when it was possible to simply declare yourself a powerful witch or warlock, or someone descended from occult royalty, or a reincarnation of, I dunno, Isobel Gowdie or Merlin or Morgan le Fay or Marie Laveau? I mean, why bother?
7 thoughts on “Actually, Witchcraft is Hard”
Right on to this article/post. No author name? [pout] Anyway, the article gives a needful caution, just the right lil dram of chastisement for narcissism and exploitation, but does so with real compassion and affection for the naivete that can and does attract some to Wicca. I’m a newly reactivated Witch; I had not practiced since starting grad school in the mid-90’s, though I’d been a Witch for 10 years by then. Why the dropoff? Precisely because “Witchcraft is hard!” It’s not a hobby, nor any kind of casual undertaking. I’m blessed and grateful that my Goddesses and Gods hold no grudges, take no attendance, and always give Their welcome. Thanks for a satisfying, thoughtful piece.
The author is named in the article, and also in the link to the article she wrote.
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Yes! Amazingly accurate!!! I own a witch craft shop and I see this on a regular basis young people coming in dressed all in black Gothic wear wearing a pentagram the size of a dinner plate… walking in the front door & instead of saying hi saying blessed be and telling me they are originally from Salem mass … Insert eye roll here. And I get it, being enticed by the mysticism of it all… BUT in my day it was OK to play around with the The wardrobe and the jewelry and play at being a witch and then go back to your real life and decide that wasn’t for you, but we didn’t have social media for people that decided they were a witch overnight to start posting everything they do and now it’s just a circus. Witchcraft is hard! And to be quite honest at 54 years old and practicing All of my adult life and some years before I still am learning every day and it’s not even the new things that are being brought to light but things from history that I did not know or maybe I did not know where it came from. Now people read a book and they are a witch.
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Yes! Sometimes they don’t even read a book first (which was kind of my point). I’m slightly older than you, been seeing this happen in cycles for years but it’s much bigger now thanks to social media…
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I’m not in the community often enough to have seen the original article that inspired the sh*t storm when it originally posted. But I just tried to read it and couldn’t get past the first few paragraphs. Just too condescending.
I agree completely that witchcraft is hard. Absolutely. I mean, for me, the actual rituals and spells and what-not are easy as breathing. But doing only that would be just lip-service. It would be similar to praying every night to G-d but not really meaning it.
The hard part is the mindfulness. Paying attention to everything. Listening to everything. Recognizing the magic and power inherent in the smallest of things. And then using that or allowing it into my life every single day. It’s too easy to get caught up in the 9 to 5 busy busy and just want to work magic on the weekends “when I’ve got time”. But that’s not how magic works. And it’s a constant effort to keep working with my deities, and to keep connecting to my ancestors, and my land wights, and the old Tree God in front of my house. No matter the time or the day or the month.
And sometimes you don’t feel like doing some ritual or spell. But Right Now is literally the ONLY time you can do it. So you grab yourself up by the bootstraps and get it done because that’s what you need to do.
And then sometimes you have condescending people talking down to you about the faith and spirituality that you literally sweat and cry and bleed for. Acting like, because you’re reclaiming the word witch from people like her, that means that you’re some sort of airy-fairy, conspiracy theory, science denier. Even though magic is just what science hasn’t managed to explain yet. And there are plenty of scientific laws that coincide with magical ones.
But you used the word “witch” so obviously you think you’re Willow Rosenberg and you can float pencils to kill vampires, and you obviously don’t believe in round earth or the validity of vaccinations because… reasons?
Idunno. I think you’re right. Witchcraft is hard. And unfortunately, like the author of that article, some people just make it harder.