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StrontiumDog Started conversation Feb 11, 2004
Very long middle paragraph almost put me off reading this in depth, It has a nice feel to it none the less. I did wonder wether it was a little eurocentric and wanted to hear somthing about shamanism, but maby I should find the entry on that. Split up that paragraph though.
KevinM Posted Feb 12, 2004
Thanks I will split it up when I have a chance to review it and see where the best location to do so is(should be a day or so). In terms of shamanism while its a fascinating subject its generally a matter distinct from witchcraft as such. Shaman's are properly speaking people who work for the benefit of a tribe and as such are a counter force to witches at least in a historical sense.
StrontiumDog Posted Feb 23, 2004
A few thoughts for your grey matter!
Defining witchcraft seems a difficult thing, you refer to it in an historical context, BUT who's history? Many of those described as witches would have defined themselves as working for their group, in the language we have applied to Shamanism this would be their tribe, so what is the difference in that context.
The historical context of Witchcraft in the european hemisphere has almost entirely been defined by Christianity and Christian doctrine. Systemic theory and Psychodynamics would suggest that because christianity has been responsible for many bloody wars and the systematic persecution of those who oppose it's doctrine over the last 1500 years at least (and I think this is being generous to the early christians)that Christianity has appointed the role of the witch to be the opposition, as those who oppose, in response to its own disgust with itself.
I wonder if most real witches would have regarded themselves in this way at all. Personally I feel most witches would have recognised Terry Pratchet's Granny Weatherwax, rather than a stereotypical evil hag. The issue of Wicca is also an interesting one as the roots of this belief may represent fogotten Celtic Lore, which was never written down and which often became intertwined with later christian belief i.e. the legends of king Arthur.
My question is really whether a christian history of the persecution of witches, and christianity's secular descendents of witchcrafts critics can adequately describe witchcraft as they appear to have used it as an icon of what they were not rather than trying to understand what it actually was.
O.k this is a longer epistle than I really wanted to write but the topic you are exploring is an interesting one.
N.B all comments represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended to represent fact or truth, personally I believe that when truth is identified it will be time to visit milliways and watch the end.
Thanks for your patience reading this Strontium dog
KevinM Posted Feb 23, 2004
Two things first Christians contrary to popular belief were not the ones who first demonized the idea of witchcraft(see the first paragraph). The Greeks considered witches evil consider for example Circe. Consider also that the Roman Empire outlawed the practice of magic and in fact accused the Christians of this practice.
The modern notion of a pleasant Godess worshiping religion existing in Europe that was the ones really persecuted by the Christians falls apart very quickly under serious scrutiny. No historical record exists to support such a groups existence. Further a careful examination of the neopagan movement makes it very obvious they are a revival and not a single continuous religion. I covered the more likely explanations of the witch trials and the assorted accusations in the article. If another explanation exists I'd be happy to hear the facts that support it. New Age speculation really doesn't interest me.
StrontiumDog Posted Feb 24, 2004
I whole heartedly agree with you that the new age view of witchcraft is entirely spurious, wish fullfillment rather than any link with an historical tradition. My concern with Cristianity's persecution of witchcraft is more the length of time it has continued rather than the invention of the persecution, from a psychodynamic point of view the persecution could also be interpreted as an ongoing attempt throw off the original unwanted accusation.
There is no doubt in my mind that celtic and saxon tradition in europe were considered by persecutors to be the roots of witchcraft and were the opposing traditions that they wished to do away with. Shamanic traditions were treated in very similar ways by russian orthodox christianity and later the soviet authorities, in some ways Rasputin could be argued to be a Shaman hiding in a cassock. These traditions al have disturbing elements.
Celts were head hunters and they participated in human sacrifice, Saxons were warlike almost to the point of stupidity, and more than one tribe was wiped out by the cousins or even brothers clan's. Shaman have been known to use entrails and parts of long buried corpses as aspects of their rituals. Clearly all of these have unsavoury traditions which we might view with distaste. Christianity has it's own, the inquisition for instance and the outright persecution of the Gnostics. (Probably related to the accusation of Magic)Not to mention the unsavoury practice of beating onself on the order of a superior monk, blind obedience if you will.
From my point of view a historical perspective on witchcraft has to accommodate one more perspective, the intulectulisation of the subject by such as Alistair Crowley etc. It is my belief that this is a quite seperate tradition to the earlier historical persecution of witches by Christians for practising hebalism and engaging in healing ritual etc. This movement emerges with the first horror writers , Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Edgar Alan Poe etc and represents Man's first serious conscious exploration of evil (Rather than unconscious alignment with it), that this has become fundamentaly associated with witchcraft I feel is unfortunate as it muddies an already difficult to describe phenomena and the fact that in the 20th century NAZI mysticism also got dragged into the meltng pot adds to the confusion.
It is my strong belief that there are dark traditions and light traditions within all spiritual trends. Alexander Borgia is a very dark aspect of the Christian tradition for instance, Livia wife of Augustus/Octavian a dark aspect of the tradition of Witchcraft. Clearly st Francis is a light aspect of the Christian, trend, some would argue that Christ himself was a light aspect of the tradition of witchcraft (You have to ascribe to the notion that he was an essene though, which incidentaly I don't) The Use of herbs seem a light aspect of the tradition of witchcraft (Foxglove was used in roman times for heart difficulties- now we distill it and call it digitalis)
As you can tell I struggle to see a distinction between witchcraft and shamanism, or the witch doctor, the psychiatrist or the priest. they all have magic associated with them but choose to describe it in different ways the role they fulfil for the group they belong to remains the same however.
P.S. I am finding this an interesting debate, thanks for taking the time to respond to me, although I suspect that I might be comming accross as too critical, I just like a good discussion.
KevinM Posted Feb 24, 2004
You're right every religion casts its shadow. The word witchcraft can be used in a lot of ways. A number of scholars use it to connotate the dark side of magic. Shamans are at there core priests who practice magick for the benefit of the tribe. A witch is there shadow there opposite. Now most tribes will tell you that the line isn't perfectly clear cut(in Haitian Voodoo for example) because a shaman has to understand the black arts to do his job and a witch has to understand the white arts to do what she wants.
In terms of medevil witchcraft I don't believe it existed. Scattered groups did worship the Devil and practice black magick(as they still do today) and were occasionally caught at it but by in large the charges were created through a number of factors(see article for the list I hate to be lazy but I really don't want to go over it again).
Also realize not all practicioners of magick can be best described as witches at least in the modern age. The lines between white and black have been almost completely erased in modern thought. I tend to see the witch(in a historical context) primarily as a practicioner of sympathetic and other less complex(not necissarily inferior) forms. As opposed to the modern occultist like Aleister Crowley or Elphias Levi who uses complex ceremonies involving the interrelations of all things
StrontiumDog Posted Feb 25, 2004
You have every right to be as lazy as you like it's your article, its my responsibility to read it fully.
I think here there is an interesting difficulty. Although I am a man I have read quite a bit of feminist literature, these days I would describe myself as a post-feminist thinker (among other things). The term witch in your mind seems to be associated with the dark side (To coin a phrase). In my mind a witch can belong either to the dark or the light side, I base this on the argument that the nagative associations of the word Witch were mainly driven by a patriachal view of womens wisdom. I then struggle with the term Shaman as although I am very aware that both men and women are shaman, it my mind it is associated with men more firmly (I am not sure why that is). In my childhood I remember more than one adult in my life talking about white witches. I also wonder if this division into light and dark is not a bit arbitary, as there must be some grey areas too.
As I have been writing this I think I have realised what I find the most complicated aspect of this debate, from my point of view Shaman, witches, midwifes, priests, counsellors and even psychotherapists are very closely associated, essentially performing similar tasks for their communities. In fact for me the words are interchangable (I could probably add more to the list) the division becomes between good and bad, dark and light.
As ever the debate probably rests on a point of view.
KevinM Posted Feb 28, 2004
The word witch can equally mean male and female. Properly speaking its rooted in the old English word for a practicioner of magick(which contrary to some new agers is not annalogous to the word for wisdom although that word is the root of the English wizard).
I use witch to refer to practicioners of the dark arts(and historicly there is a difference although its become increasingly muddled) largely becuase its the original intention behind the word at least I believe. Solitary practicioners traditionaly are aligned with the forces of darkness. Shamans work with in communities for the benefit of the whole. Some witches in the old sense may practice in small groups(13 is of course traditional) but still they generally keep there practices secret from society at large. Even modern witches keep some of their particular rites(particularly initiation) secret.
As far as the line between white and black magick I beleive on exists although most practicioners don't. According to most magickal theory magick is an natural energy its morality defined by how you use it(just we can use fire to heat our home and make our cars run or use it to destroy cities). Personally I believe the energy must come from either God or the Devil so is inherently either good or evil.
StrontiumDog Posted Mar 1, 2004
Ah here lies the difference between us my view is not so clear cut, The 'energy' I believe comes from many sources. Mostly I feel the energy is neutral, but that there are intrinsically good sources and intrinsically bad sources in addition to this.
I believe motivation is a source of energy in itself, therefore good motivation leads to good intent, to good action, to good outcome if things go well, and visa versa.
This also leads me to the conclusion that end's don't justify the means.
Serephina Posted Aug 8, 2004
Interesting discussion i came across it after briefly reading the witchcraft enery. I am an an affirmed with and also a lone practioner. I certainly have no connetion to the devil..nor do i even actually believe in him! And yes...the 'energy' used in magick is in completely neutral..its the same energy that feeds everything and interconnects it..we just tap into it and use it to shape things. True magick would never be used for evil..the only rule with witchcraft s 'an harm it none do as ye will' and to go againt that is 'black' magick and as everything is connected will harm the practioner too.Magock is only a part of being a witch anyway..a general resect for life and nature is the most part..
KevinM Posted Aug 12, 2004
I'll reiterate the point in the article. Wicca is a modern religion with a loose base in historical paganism. It has no complete claim on the word witch and owes itself mostly Gardner and to a lesser extent Crowley. I have nothing against Wicca but confusing it with traditional ideas of witchcraft is a mistake.
Serephina Posted Aug 12, 2004
Only the Gardinarian craft owes that much to Gerald Gardner,who did indeed also owe a little to Crowley..though a lot of that was rewritten witchcraft is far too a pesonal thig to owe that much to anyone! and there have 'always' been the 'hedgewitch' or village wiseman/woman..
KevinM Posted Aug 16, 2004
Yes there have always been shamans, wise women, hebalists and mid wives through out the world. In Europe through most of the middle ages these people were not pagans. They were christians and saw themselves as sjuch practicing hold overs from ancient times. They also had few common denominators and were solitary practicioners. The idea that any modern religious system is a direct descendent of these is lacking in supporting evidence.
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- 1: StrontiumDog (Feb 11, 2004)
- 2: KevinM (Feb 12, 2004)
- 3: StrontiumDog (Feb 23, 2004)
- 4: KevinM (Feb 23, 2004)
- 5: StrontiumDog (Feb 24, 2004)
- 6: KevinM (Feb 24, 2004)
- 7: StrontiumDog (Feb 25, 2004)
- 8: KevinM (Feb 28, 2004)
- 9: StrontiumDog (Mar 1, 2004)
- 10: Serephina (Aug 8, 2004)
- 11: KevinM (Aug 12, 2004)
- 12: Serephina (Aug 12, 2004)
- 13: KevinM (Aug 16, 2004)