Yes, I’ve got some feelings about this. I might sound a bit “get off my lawn” about this. My age might be showing. And in true crotchety fashion, I’m going to say it anyway. This post has been brewing for a couple of weeks, but I finally pulled the trigger on it thanks to inspiration from my friend Tempest and her blog that you can read here.
The internet has totally changed the face of Paganism and Witchcraft. This isn’t a good thing and it isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Information is available within seconds, whether that information is valuable is another question. When modern Paganism was born in the middle of the last century folks had to really look for any kind of written information, let alone other people who were practicing. As the movement grew through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, this got easier and easier, as you might expect. Then, cue the internet.
(Pause for dramatic effect)
Thanks to the internet you can find an “expert” with every keystoke. There is always someone who’s done that thing or knows all about that thing. You can’t swing a cat on the internet without hitting a grand-pooba expert in some-magickal-sort-of-thing-or-another. The internet has made the world much smaller. Which has lead to many Witches and Pagans asking if this is a good thing?
In my opinion, easy access to Witchcraft is a good thing. I am actually totally ok with my religion going mainstream. I understand the fears over watering things down or commodification of culture, but those are really small fears. The truth of the matter is that real true power can’t be gained by reading spells on the internet or buying a ritual online. Real true power can only be gained through experience. For me, it doesn’t matter where you begin, but where you go with that.
The problem is with new explorers to the path not knowing fact from fiction and taking anything (or everything) online as gospel. (I mean we do it with everything else, why not Witchcraft or religion?) This creates potential for new seekers to get sucked into the worship of an armchair Pagan “leader”.
An armchair Pagan “leader” is someone who has built up their online persona, they may even totally believe in their online persona, but their experience with the Craft does not live up to their carefully crafted online image. It’s easy to boast about experience, talent, and skill when you never have to back any of that up with IRL proof. I’ve seen many people sucked in to some fancy online persona – the right Instagram images, the fancy ritual, the smart marketing – only to discover a charlatan in Witch’s clothing.Sadly since the beginning of time there have always been charlatans boasting about their powers and trying to take money to share the gifts, but it seems to be even easier because of the access the internet brings.
Flash vs Substance
A leader may be flashy, I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with a little shine. But don’t let a well curated Instagram page fool you. Anyone can take some nice pictures and add some dramatic filters. A fancy Facebook post does not prove that a practitioner knows how to access the magicks that exist in this world. Don’t let the number of online followers influence you.
One of the most powerful, skilled, and talented witches I know has no social media presence and isn’t interested in having one. And yes, I do have irritable feelings about there being “Kardashians of Witchcraft”. I don’t like that in the over-culture and I don’t like it in Witchcraft.
I do understand that for many Witches and Pagans being out of the broom closet isn’t possible, which makes online community invaluable. I just fear the surface of online community being all flash and not allowing or having the space for seekers to find real substance.
Pagan leadership can exist online. You can find skilled and talented teachers that will change your life online. And what you take from those lessons and implement into your ‘real’ life will be what makes it powerful. A leader/teacher/mentor will help you implement their lessons into your day to day. They will have something to offer because they will have been through it themselves and they will encourage you to grow and gain mastery. I’m talking about more than lighting a candle or doing a spell, because there is more to Witchcraft and Paganism than magick.
Whether online or in-person take time to find the right mentor/teacher to work with. Really know who they are. The mentor/mentee relationship can be a powerful and intimate one. Let this relationship develop and make sure that you know who you are dealing with.
I’m overall not anti-internet personality. But I am committed to make sure that new seekers are not taken advantage of or start following a personality. If that makes me old fashioned I’m good with that too.