There’s something inspiring and breathtaking about the art and mythology surrounding Witches flying to the Sabbat. I have long been fascinated with the lore, history, plants, ointment techniques, and rituals involved. I enjoy reading and hearing about others’ otherworldly travels, spiritflights, hedge-riding* and visions. It seems to be a very popular and integral part of what I’m seeing discussed concerning traditional witchcraft.
Yet much of my actual practice happens during normal waking hours, with the only herbal infusion involved being ye old regular earl grey or chai tea. Early-on I discovered that my reality is bizarre enough as it is, without the aid of altering substances. (I suppose you could argue tea and cookies are altering substances, but you know that’s not what I mean.)
What I mean is most of the time, I’m just going about my day – and I’m receiving/sorting/sifting/sending information in a very mundane (to me) sort of way. I don’t need to travel anywhere special (with or without my body) to talk to gods or spirits. I’m not casting circles or invoking deities. Instead I’m just making artwork, or designing, or writing – and I get the spiritual equivalent of a text message – that I can either engage with or ignore depending on my schedule.
(Funnily enough, I get more communication this way than I do with my actual cell phone/living human beings.)
In comparing notes with a few other long-practicing Witches who are also artists, this fully-present mode of working seems to be typical. Upon reflection, it’s not a haphazard thing. Rather, if you have been making art for most of your life, you have trained yourself to enter a kind of receptive yet controlled and very present trance state. Sitting down to make work, the body and brain recognize the task at hand, and switch into “art mode.” Circumstances allowing, the artist taps into various levels of the conscious and unconscious selves. My guide through these places is myself, the self-divine: that which is the thread that interconnects me with everything. Yet, I’m still very much contained within my body, processing the rest of the world around me.
It’s hard to call that state sabbatic in terms of recent definitions/trends, nor is it quite ecstatic either. At least to me. For me, the ecstatic state involves body, mind, and spirit working together outside of the normal experience.
Now there are times where I use music and dance to reach an ecstatic or active physical trance state. However I feel it’s important to note that I don’t enter a trance state in dance just by dancing. And it takes a LOT to get me to a state of pure ecstatic abandonment – which is a good thing considering I need to be fully conscious and reactive in my environment when performing or leading ritual. I need to be the one not only watching out for my physical self, but I have the responsibility of other people: the band, the audience, attendees if it’s a ritual. I have to unlock certain permissions to allow myself to go completely under, but that’s not to say I don’t have incredible experiences in the liminal trance state.
I’m talking about all of this here, because I want to share with others that there’s more than one way to “fly.” That your practice doesn’t have to require you to leave your body to get work done or experiment with poisonous plants (as fun as that is!). Really, in the end, it doesn’t matter which method works best for you, as long as you get the work you need to do done. Similarly, it’s great to have visions while traveling out of your body, but what are you doing with them when you get back “home”?
I have been considering what is the best name for this kind of Witchcraft. I like the words incarnate, and inhabited. But they both seem more connected by definition to a spirit/deity being present in the body. Which technically is true – our own spirits inhabit our bodies, and I do believe that spirit is divine. But I feel that folks may get too hung up on other spirits being present, versus focusing on their own. Embodied is another word that’s almost there. I use it a lot in describing ritual dance experiences, because these are the times where our spirit truly becomes both present and aware of being contained within flesh and blood – and transcending it as well. That seems to be a very special relationship that happens under those circumstances.
So for now, I think the best word to describe it is Immediate Witchcraft. The definition of immediate is “occurring or done at once; instant.” This seems to fit very well for my creative endeavors, as well as the state I tend to be in mentally/physically/spiritually for dance. It also perfectly describes much of the non-physical spellcraft that I do. There are little to no outside needs, tools, or aids required. But there is a catch! Immediate Witchcraft is achieved mainly through years of nonspecific training that builds trust with yourself – so your immediate work is also instinctual and intuitive, nature and nurtured.
But perhaps the most beautiful thing about Immediate Witchcraft – and about being a Witch – is that it’s not about reaching a pinnacle or some level of expert. It is a lifelong journey of growth, learning, and exploring. It is being conscious of time and what is right before you – and behind you. Everything that is immediate is also a momentary conjunction of the past, present, and future. True power comes in waves of grace, in the embrace of the darkness, illuminated.
*It’s really interesting to see how the meaning of hedgewitchery has changed over the last 2 decades. When I was starting out, to be a hedgewitch more commonly referred to be a solitary traditional Witch – ye old village witch, out past the hedges. That you were on the borders of traditions/communities/standard practices. Now people use the term more specifically to referring to “riding the hedge/edge” in reference to spiritflight/visionquests/sabbatic craft.