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Would you still be a Witch?

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If there were no internet or widespread witchcraft publications, do you think you would still be a Witch? Unless you are a hereditary witch, the chances are, probably not.

Of course I can only speak of myself with that statement, or at least I would be a very different witch to the one I am today. 

I was always out and observing nature as a child, I even communed with, what I know now, was a creature of folklore at a very early age. So there was always something there, but the vast majority of practices I have learnt has come from "modern" witchcraft books and the internet. Of course knowledge of herbology could have been relatively easy to obtain, also direct communications with spirits and ancestors can teach us, but as far as certain practices, charms and rituals goes, I would have no clue about without the internet or the books I've read.

Obtaining information today is easy, but as we all know, obtaining misinformation is just as easy. Acquiring  knowledge demands a degree of wisdom. I feel the question of whether to learn something because we can or to learn something because we should, is something that should be addressed more with the overwhelming amount of information that we have access to. This also implies to the rise in appropriation of other cultural practices.

 

Do you think, honestly, that you would have still found the way to your path without this ease of acquiring information?

I would love to hear your opinions on this and any circumstances that you have learnt about specific practices of witchcraft that hasn't come from modern media.

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Interesting question. I willingly admit that I would be a very different person without search algorithms (plus, 2000s piracy shaped my young mind much more than any formal education, or so I like to think).

For now, for me, witchcraft is a way of relating to the world(s) (a definition so wide and vague it's probably useless to anyone but me at this moment). I found my way there through philosophy and poetry, and now through history, anthropology and ethnography (as well as general witchcraft and magic books of course but they're actually the ones I could do without if I really had to! so really this whole post might be off topic since I'm less interested in "specific practices of withcraft" than in sorcerous worldviews, from which practices, to me, naturally emerge). All sources I could've found without the internet, but its (sadly eroding) serendipity facilitated the process considerably - magically, in a way. And I treasure the informal sources the internet affords us: forums such as this one, conversational podcasts, small blogs... They're the last bastions of serendipity on the corporate internet. They help me think.

As to the question of can vs. should when it comes to "consuming" information, I think anything is worth reading, and that's an important distinction. There are tons of different ways to read. Reading between, of course, but it's also perfectly possible to read against (though, in this day of algorithmically curated "feeds", that practice might be less familiar). I might go so far as to say that reading a bad source is more formative than reading something "good", if you really ponder its failings and shortcomings, constructing a counter-source as you go. That might be the teacher in me talking but there's no better learning tool than correcting an error or expanding on a shortcoming.

So, I believe that it's much more about how you read than what or how much you read (which is an old argument in an old debate). Certain forms of reading are encouraged by the internet as it exists today because they're profitable for corporations: consuming in circles in chambers generated by algorithms for ad profiles (not people). But that doesn't mean that other forms of reading are not possible, even within the mass of information afforded by the contemporary internet. My 2c on the issue in the form of a tip: do everything you can to be a reader, not a consumer. That means being active as you go through information: read with a pencil and paper (or whatever digital annotation tool), underline stuff, write in the margins, journal about what you read, write responses, discuss it with other people, confront your source with others etc. All practices that are alive and well in witchcraft spaces, which makes me very happy. (sidenote: I find the reading and writing practices in modern witchcraft fascinating, it would be such an interesting case study for the sociology of reading.)

But reading is not learning so I'm a bit thrown off by the wording here. I feel like your choice of the word "learn" is significant, what do you mean by it?

2 hours ago, Phagos said:

I feel the question of whether to learn something because we can or to learn something because we should, is something that should be addressed more

 

 

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Well, I'm not a Hereditory Witch, but if I could off been anything before the internet happened I would have been a ShapeShifter.  As a child I would imagine being diferent animals, especially a horse.

But all in all, I think eventually I would have become a witch.  I always had an interest in herbology, horror and fairy stories.   Controling my own destiny and I have a vivid imagination.  And then I saw my first ghost, well that changed everything for me.  I knew there was something else.

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1 hour ago, spectropoetics said:

But reading is not learning so I'm a bit thrown off by the wording here. I feel like your choice of the word "learn" is significant, what do you mean by it?

You've thrown me now by saying "reading is not learning", as we all learn by reading.

But to elaborate on what I said, and now reading it back I realise it is going off on a bit of a tangent to my original question. With all this information at our fingertips it is easy to find out about practices of witchcraft. But just because we can learn about it, I often wonder if we should. Before there was a progression to the way we learnt. You start off with the basics, you acquired more skill which lead to more knowledge, whilst gaining wisdom along the way. If you learnt from someone they would judge whether you were ready to move on. Or if you were self taught, a lot would be trial and error. But with so much information being readily available, you can quite easily jump into the deep end without going through the steps to get there. And I feel this ties in with cultural appropriation as well. Just because we know how to practice something from another culture, do we have the right to, if that information has not been handed down to us. If you are an eclectic witch, then you will think differently on this.

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Hmmm I see what you mean, but I feel like all magical systems have built-in safeguards. A complete beginner could theoretically go through the motions of an advanced ritual in any number of magical traditions after a quick internet search but I don't see how they could be doing much more than that. The pattern they would half-assedly try to copy might simply be unrecognizable, so the system could just not respond, lock them out, or perhaps punish them if it can be bothered. I believe there's an intangible component to any ritual, something I might term authority, that in some traditions you gain through initiation or a special relationship with the spirit world or sacrifice etc, but that is always earned. Same thing for practices that might appear much more pared down and which are as widely appropriated as, say, smudging: I don't believe a bundle of sage would work with you just because you're mimicking something you've read/seen. Who even are you?

So yeah, I think that distinction between reading and learning is fundamental. I'm often guilty of taking one for the other, I think it's commonplace hubris (but hubris nonetheless). Learning is something profound and slow that can be aided by cultivating the right conditions. Ultimately, though, it's a process one has no direct control over, imo. Like digestion or decomposition. To learn something, for me, is to incorporate it in a very literal sense, and so the body has to get involved beyond just moving your eyes across a page; even if it is just sitting with it for as long as necessary (there's a reason behind all those stock phrases).

That's why I just don't believe it's possible to cut corners in magic, no matter how widely you read.

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I whole heartedly agree, but it still happens nevertheless. With social media and the increase in need to share Everything I see it more and more. People recommending practices to others with no history, context, disclaimers or background to said practice. But then my opinion on this comes from a place where witchcraft should still remain secret. If witchcraft had remained as secretive as it once was, then the amount of available information would be very limited, which brings us back to my original question. When I first started I had to hunt for information, the internet was only just becoming available in the home, so there wasn't much there. I scowered my local libraries and became friendly with local "new age" shop keeps who stocked a few books that allowed me to read them in store and take notes. It built my appetite. Perhaps I'm just being too nostalgic and old fashioned.

And I agree, you can not fully learn from reading alone, but it is part of the learning process. For example you read about the highway code and the theory of driving as well as the practical element. You need to know the theory behind the practical. It was both parts that I meant when I said learn.

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23 hours ago, spectropoetics said:

Hmmm I see what you mean, but I feel like all magical systems have built-in safeguards. A complete beginner could theoretically go through the motions of an advanced ritual in any number of magical traditions after a quick internet search but I don't see how they could be doing much more than that. The pattern they would half-assedly try to copy might simply be unrecognizable, so the system could just not respond, lock them out, or perhaps punish them if it can be bothered. I believe there's an intangible component to any ritual, something I might term authority, that in some traditions you gain through initiation or a special relationship with the spirit world or sacrifice etc, but that is always earned. Same thing for practices that might appear much more pared down and which are as widely appropriated as, say, smudging: I don't believe a bundle of sage would work with you just because you're mimicking something you've read/seen. Who even are you?

So yeah, I think that distinction between reading and learning is fundamental. I'm often guilty of taking one for the other, I think it's commonplace hubris (but hubris nonetheless). Learning is something profound and slow that can be aided by cultivating the right conditions. Ultimately, though, it's a process one has no direct control over, imo. Like digestion or decomposition. To learn something, for me, is to incorporate it in a very literal sense, and so the body has to get involved beyond just moving your eyes across a page; even if it is just sitting with it for as long as necessary (there's a reason behind all those stock phrases).

That's why I just don't believe it's possible to cut corners in magic, no matter how widely you read.

 

Are you saying, unless you are taught by a Coven, you are not capable of learning the correct way of performing magic?  

Because that is a pretty elitist statement and I call bullshit on that!

 

 

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3 hours ago, Onyx said:

Are you saying, unless you are taught by a Coven, you are not capable of learning the correct way of performing magic?  

Because that is a pretty elitist statement and I call bullshit on that!

Not at all. No need to be preemptively rude when you're unsure you've understood correctly. As I've tried to explain, what I'm calling authority can come from many sources, and I've cited three that came to mind: initiation into a specific tradition (which, in itself, is already distinct from being taught by a coven); a special relationship to the spirit world (that can be forged in a number of ways, within a group or not); sacrifice (which ultimately means prioritizing your craft - that can simply be time and dedication, sometimes it is more literal). This is just what came to my mind in that moment. What I'm saying plainly now is that I like conversing, not indulging others' projections.

9 hours ago, Phagos said:

But then my opinion on this comes from a place where witchcraft should still remain secret.

I can see a case for this argument, and I respect it. But isn't witchcraft being secret (or hidden I suppose, as the secrecy of magical processes themselves seems to be universal) a fairly recent, highly localized state of affairs (namely: that of the Modern West)? That seems to have all but destroyed the apprenticeship model of training, which turned reading into our primary way of learning. Which isn't necessarily all bad. Here's something I wouldn't apply in my everyday life, but that I believe on a macro level: there's power and efficacy in hiding in plain sight. If the concern with how available information is is the endangerment of the craft, I think it's as protected behind a wall of secrecy as it is behind a stream of "content". But since I believe the craft protects itself, I see no problem with either situation.

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On 4/13/2021 at 7:54 AM, Phagos said:

If there were no internet or widespread witchcraft publications, do you think you would still be a Witch? Unless you are a hereditary witch, the chances are, probably not.

I don't know, maybe......I'm 50 years old. There was no internet and books were limited when I was young. I read Scott Cunningham's Earth Magick and The Spiral Dance by Star Hawk in my late teens, but didn't embrace their Wiccan beliefs. I just found them interesting books in passing. I'm not a hereditary Witch, although my family had some very Pagan practices which I didn't realize until I was much older. I just felt different. I was part of a coven at one point, until they cast me out. They were Wiccan and I was not. I didn't realize they were Wiccan until after I joined them. (The joining and separation happened back in the 1980s. I have no malice towards them, our beliefs were just very different.)

Was I making poultices, practicing spells, watching the moon phases, and using herbalism in my day to day life? Yes. Did I call myself a Wiccan or a Witch? No. So are you a Witch if you call yourself one or are you a Witch by your actions? Truthfully, I really don't know at this point. I just do what I do from day to day. 

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I have seen spirits since I was quite young. I started developing an interest in the paranormal around the time that puberty arrived. I was actively practicing spell work in high school. Class of 1974. All of that predates the internet. I will admit to being somewhat influenced by Dark Shadows. 

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I did not  attempt to be rude, as you say... I think you are a Bitch!  and frankly you should just Shut Up!  

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4 hours ago, Onyx said:

I did not  attempt to be rude, as you say... I think you are a Bitch!  and frankly you should just Shut Up!  

This is unacceptable rudeness, Onyx. We encourage discussion, debate, exchange of opinions and so on. We acknowledge that there are many differences between our paths and viewpoints. The purpose of a forum is to have healthy debate, and the key word here is healthy. Please do not directly insult another member because their views are different to yours. I feel you owe Spectropoetics an apology.

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6 hours ago, Onyx said:

I did not  attempt to be rude, as you say... I think you are a Bitch!  and frankly you should just Shut Up!  

??? lol

Enjoy fighting with your straw man version of my person. Again, I won't indulge anyone's projections.

1 hour ago, Tana said:

I feel you owe Spectropoetics an apology.

Thank you Tana but that's OK, I'll do without. I'm not sure who Onyx is lashing out against but it seems to have very little to do with me and I don't wish to entangle myself with it further.

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Dear Spectropoetic,  I apologize for my insensitive remarks!  Sorry!

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I really enjoy the inter-generational aspect of this forum. It's hard to come by age-diverse communities on the internet so I'm grateful for your perspectives, StanLily and balefire.

Also this, very much:

On 4/15/2021 at 1:38 AM, balefire said:

Truthfully, I really don't know at this point. I just do what I do from day to day.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 4/13/2021 at 5:54 AM, Phagos said:

Do you think, honestly, that you would have still found the way to your path without this ease of acquiring information?

Good question-- the abundance of and ease of access to information online has definitely made an impact on my craft and how I have grown as a Witch. Even so, I think I would still have ended up as one without it. To be fair, my gran instilled in me basic knowledge in witchcraft from early on-- we used to read runes and tarot, we would contact spirits, and she would tell me about various spells, so I would have had some source of knowledge there even without the internet. But even without that background, I think I still would have found my way. I think if you are drawn to a certain path, you will go to whatever lengths necessary to pursue it. And as others have pointed out in this thread, nature and spirits are invaluable as guides and sources of inspiration.

Edited by UnMasked1467
Wanted to add something

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I had heard of witchcraft through video games and my very Catholic dad, and I was obsessed ever since. Then when I got into high school I befriended a girl who was Wiccan and tried to learn as much as I could from her before I ever got to read books or the internet (my dad wouldn’t even let me do enochian angel magick after I tried to make it sound as Catholic as possible).

So I do think I would have managed to find my way without the internet. But it would’ve definitely taken longer, and I would have had more BS info to filter through before I got to my current place. 

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On 4/16/2021 at 8:46 AM, spectropoetics said:

I really enjoy the inter-generational aspect of this forum. It's hard to come by age-diverse communities on the internet so I'm grateful for your perspectives, StanLily and balefire.

Also this, very much:

 

By my actions...I'm a witch and have been for a long time. I'm just not accustomed to referring to myself as one. Granted, I really don't talk to anyone about my practices. This forum is my only online interaction on this topic. I hope this answer helps. 

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Very interesting thoughts. It really illustrates just how much the world has changed in such a relatively short period of time.

These days, seekers will obviously find it easier to research and find information that influences their path,  whether or not it is quality information that they find is different matter.

Here I will be dating myself, but when I was very young and just starting out on my path there was no widespread easily available access to information online. Most households wouldn't even have had access to a computer. There were no smart phones or highspeed internet connections to look something up on a whim. If I wanted to do research I had to do it the old fashioned way, through the bookstore or library. How many books related to witchcraft or anything close to it do you think were stocked in a little town like the one I was raised in? And yet, from a very early age I unquestionably felt a distinct pull in the direction that led me here.

There are sign posts along the road of life for those who are inclined to notice them. There always have been. Those who are meant to find the way will do so without the internet, without books, and I would even go so far as to say without other (currently living) people to influence them. Do all these things make it a hell of a lot easier?  Yes, of course. Am I saying you can learn everything you need to know about witchcraft without any of those things? No not really, I am saying you can find the path without it and from there you will with purpose and conviction seek out that which you need. Not all teachers or guides are manifest in what we tend to think of as the physical realm. At the same time, in my opinion those who are not at all predisposed to notice the 'wayposts' and respond to them will not, even if those signs were bright flashing neon monstrosities. 

Now I know I am beginning to touch on some potentially controversial ideas. What isn't controversial these days anyway, might as well just dive in. Even still, I feel the need to add pre-emptive disclaimers to most of my online interactions lately since being offended is trending.

When you say 'hereditary witch' with the attached context I assume you mean a witch born into a family tradition, but hereditary by definition implies genetic.  One does not need to be raised by one's blood relatives to inherit certain traits from them. Let me attempt to be clear, before anyone decides they want to jump on me about some suggestion that they think I made, I am not making any blanket statements or claims  about nature vs nurture, or red vs gold threads OK? 

Continuing, most likely I myself was influenced early on by fantasy books, shows and movies, but even before the advent of such things as that I am sure budding witches were led onward by an inherent love of the natural world and a desire to learn all they possibly could about it. Even without access to books and written language there are ways to learn. Trial and error, cautious experimentation driven by curiosity, and a deep unspeakable knowing coming from the ability to really listen to ones inner voice as well as the voices all around us. It's in the plants and trees and living things, it's in the earth and coming from those who walked before us. Not every otherwise entirely uneducated village witch, learned in they way of local plants and spirits was raised in a family tradition, that is certain.

In conclusion, yes I absolutely and emphatically believe I would have been a witch without the internet or widespread publications.

 

Solanaceae

 

 

 

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Like a few others, I grew up before the internet and most of today's popular authors weren't even born, yet. No one in my family knew a damned thing about magic and if I spoke aloud about what I knew, I'd have probably been taken to therapy. But I listened to spirit guides...and plants, and the earth around me. They were my teachers.

Would I know to call myself a witch? Probably not. But would I be doing what I'm doing now? Absolutely. So call me what you will.

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Part of me wonders if I would still be on this path if I hadn't been raised Catholic. The Catholic church uses a lot of ritual, and as a young child, I was fascinated by the ritual. I always wanted to be able to see the  priest. I might have been more likely to stay with a mainstream path without that. Or it might have just taken longer.

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I'm family trained, so yes, I would still be a witch.

But even if I wasn't family trained, I think I still would have found my way into witchcraft just the same, and my practice wouldn't be too different. Books and internet aren't the only sources of information available, and without those two, I dare assume people would have come up with other ways to teach, to learn, and to share information.

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