Many people scoff at the practice of Witchcraft. “It’s a scam! A fantasy! it’s not real!”Or so they will tell you. Probe a little deeper into conversation, and they’ll paint a picture of magic and spells that comes from fictional books and Hollywood.
No wonder they scoff at it. I’d scoff, too, if someone told me they could kill someone in an instant with a butchered Latin phrase and piece of wood.
And yet, these are the silly things skeptics are ask me to produce- these fictional feats that even I don’t believe in- and then they tell me that my Witchcraft is fake when I can’t fulfill their fictional fantasies? Come again?
People who practice Witchcraft don’t do anything remotely like you find in Harry Potter or Charmed. We don’t believe we can fly, or that we can shoot lightening bolts with our fingertips, or that we can have all of our worldly desires delivered to us by uttering some clever rhyme by candle light. Of course those things are fiction.
Imagine how confusing it is, from my standpoint, to be told that something I do doesn’t work because I can’t prove something I myself don’t even believe in. I will try to put it into a scenario that you can relate to. Consider this little skit:
Skeptic: Rabbits aren’t real. They don’t exist.
Me: Sure they do. I’ve seen rabbits. I’ve touched rabbits.
Skeptic: Oh yeah? Prove it. Show me the Easter Bunny.
Me: I… huh? (blink blink blink).
Skeptic: The Easter Bunny! If rabbits are real, show me the Easter Bunny right now!
Me: But rabbits… well, they’re not like that… you see…
Skeptic: HA! I just KNEW you couldn’t do it! See? I told you- you’re full of malarkey!
Me: (just shaking my head, at a loss for words) But that’s not even what it’s about.
Skeptic: You have no proof for the Easter Bunny so your belief in rabbits is delusional. End of discussion.
Trite? Yes. But that’s pretty much how the conversation feels from my end of it.
The biggest problem is that words are arbitrary, and what the word “Witchcraft” means to one person is not the same thing that it means to another person. I know what skeptics mean when they say Witchcraft. When they’re talking about proof of Witchcraft, they’re looking for proof of outrageous claims. I know it’s not what I mean. Unfortunately, they think they know what I mean when I say Witchcraft… but then, when they describe the kinds of things I don’t do or don’t believe in, I can see that they generally don’t get my meaning.
I’m not one to argue. I’ve been a Witch too long and I’m not out to convert. I know what I do; that is satisfying enough for me. I know from experience Witchcraft is real, and I can explain it to anyone willing to put images like “the Wicked Witch of the West” out of their heads and listen to a realistic view of the Craft from a practitioner’s point of view.
Much of Witchcraft is actually deeply rooted in nature and science, particularly in psychology. You don’t have to believe in the supernatural; there is enough reality in Witchcraft to see it has some merit. There is some basis in fact when it comes to potions, incense, drumming, chanting, candles and runes. Consider the following:
Herbs: Witches have long used herbs to heal, to make potions, etc., and no one actually doubts any more how herbs effect the body. We understand now the biochemistry involved in making herbs into medicine, or using them as mind- or mood-altering drugs.
Scents: Even if you don’t agree with the field of aromatherapy that just sniffing an oil can cure a disease (I don’t), you cannot deny that scents are one of the most powerful ways to evoke memory and alter mood. Catch a whiff of an ex-lover’s perfume and you may have feelings of love and lust (or revulsion, depending on how you feel about the person) well up. Smell your favorite food and if you might find yourself salivating. The smell of grandma’s cookies baking and you can be taken back to your childhood, overcome with a sense of nostalgia.
Sounds: Like scents, sounds also have a powerful effect on the mind. EEG’s have shown in experiments that certain types of music can decrease neural activity while others can increase it. Think about it this way- have you ever come home from a hard day and put on some quiet music to relax? Ever put on something snappy to psych you up and keep you hopping while doing chores? Then you have experienced this first hand.
Colors: We’ve covered the senses of smell and sound, now we’ll move on to sight. Colors are visually stimulating and have long been used in magic. Red excites, light blue is calming and orange can actually make you hungry (why do you think it’s so popular a color for fast food restaurants?).
Imagery: The use of images and symbols is taking advantage of yet another thing that has a powerful impact on the human psyche. Imagery has been used to manipulate people for every purpose, from political brainwashing to advertising.
Chanting: Words have power. Think of how a moving speech or poem can stir you, or how a child who is continually told he is worthless will grow up believing it. Affirmations, neurolinguistic programming, self-fulfilled prophecies- these things can strongly help you create your own future. One of the first steps in achieving a goal is to convince yourself that you are capable of achieving it.
Meditation: Meditation puts us in a receptive state. It’s a form of light self-hypnosis. Everything above, combined properly when in a relaxed state of consciousness, is absorbed by the mind. It’s like self-brainwashing- harnessing all of these elements to mentally prepare yourself to tackle and achieve goals.
Some skeptics mistakenly believe that knowing how these things work now somehow proves Witchcraft was never real. On the contrary, that doesn’t mean Witchcraft wasn’t real… it simply means Witches were well ahead of scientists. So what if we figured out how it works now? So what if we figured out the rational explanations? The point is, it did work, even before we had an explanation.
Consider what a spell accomplishes on a psychological level alone:
An ancient Witch leads a warrior into a meditative state through chanting (hypnosis), and tells him he is going to be fierce (planting a suggestion), makes a potent brew for him to drink (an herbal stimulant) paints him red (visual stimulation) with the sound of tribal drums beating and steadily working up into a frenzy (building him up for the task).
Or, for a more modern example:
You need to pass a test. You burn an orange candle and meditate on it (stimulates intellect) while burning rosemary (also believed to stimulate intellect) and chanting (positive affirmations, neurolinguistic programming) that you are going to do well.
Does that mean you don’t have to prepare? Of course not… no Witchcraft in the world will accomplish something for you if you’re not actually working for it. But think of the psychological impact alone- of how much more your mind will be up to the challenge after a spell if you are open to such things. Therein is where the power lies. Much of Witchcraft is that it helps increase your odds by setting your mind firmly on your goal.
So what about all the hocus-pocus? The magic? The supernatural?
I don’t know. Maybe there is nothing to it at all. Some people get into the whole metaphsycial aspect of the Craft, even delving into quantum physics, trying to prove how everything is energy, and thought and emotion is energy, and how energy can manipulate energy.
Frankly, that’s all above my head. I believe there may be some things to yet uncover about how this world works. I believe there are still mysteries to magic and spiritual practices like Witchcraft that will be figured out.
But I don’t have to know what these things are now to use Witchcraft. After all, I use the computer and the internet almost daily and have absolutely no clue how they work. I just know when I plug in the right wires and push the right series of buttons, they work.
Just like I know that when I light the candle, burn the incense and chant the need, it works for me. I don’t have to understand how.
Maybe it’s always been just psychological. When it really comes down to it, who cares? As far as I’m concerned, even if Witchcraft is nothing but a placebo effect, it’s helping me mentally prepare to achieve my goals, and in my experience it’s been working for me for the last 20 years. My subjective reality- that is, how I perceive things- has much more of an impact on my life than objective reality. I am a creative-minded person, and ritual touches something deep inside that stirs me, keeps me focused, helps me move towards success. Like many ancients, I don’t need to fuss over the details. It works for me, so I have no intention of stopping.
That doesn’t mean my expectations are unrealistic. Maybe that’s why I feel there is solid evidence that Witchcraft is real– because I look at it realistically. I personally believe Witchcraft has definite limits like just about everything else in reality.
Every Witch I know has some degree of skepticism. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to believe every mystical occult theory and superstition in history just because you believe in Witchcraft. I don’t believe that practicing the Craft makes me omnipotent. It does not make me all-powerful. Just because I believe in Witchcraft does not mean I believe people can walk on water or fly, I do not believe I can turn someone into an unwilling slave at the snap of the finger or a flick of the wand. I do not believe holding the right stone in my ring will stop bullets or cars from hitting me. I do not believe I can levitate things or turn men into frogs or water into wine.
So I don’t blame skeptics for being skeptical to some extent, because I am, too. I do think they are throwing the baby out with the bath water, though. I think dismissing everything about this ancient practice just because some fairytales and folklore about it is obviously absurd is an intellectually dishonest position… like saying rabbits don’t exist just because we can pretty much rule out the Easter Bunny.
What about people who make those fantastic claims that they can do all this supernatural stuff? Well, just because someone claims something, doesn’t mean I have to believe them. Like the skeptics, some believers ideas of how Witchcraft works comes more from fiction than reality. Some people I feel are gullible. They have convinced themselves they have super powers, maybe because they want to feel special. Some people are just lying for attention. Again, it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other. I can believe in the truth about Witchcraft when it comes to some things, and still believe there are elements of imagination and fantasy that are just mistaken.
Clearly, the truth about Witchcraft and some of the elements involved- and their effects- are undeniably real. These techniques have been embraced in one form or another by any doctor who has prescribed an herbal supplement, or psychologist who has used positive visualization as a form of therapy, every advertiser or politician who has used a slogan or made a commercial, and even by every parent who has offered a glass of warm milk and sang a lullaby to sooth a child. Witches are just another group of people, using these techniques in their own way, in a deliberate attempt to bring about a desired change. And the fact is, we were using these methods first.