“Your average witch is not, by nature, a social animal as far as other witches are concerned. There’s a conflict of dominant personalities. There’s a group of ringleaders without a ring. There’s the basic unwritten rule of witchcraft, which is ‘Don’t do what you will, do what I say.’ The natural size of a coven is one. Witches only get together when they can’t avoid it.” — Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad
I remain convinced that Terry Pratchett must know some witches in real life. He certainly has us pegged. Honestly, the main problem with the New and Improved Second Attempt at Restoring the Official Council of Cat-Herds is the lack of self-awareness. It’s all very well to be bossy; we’re all bossy. It’s the lack of realization and apparent surprise at the fact that other witches are not to be bossed. So much so, in fact, that we will react vehemently and negatively to the mere appearance of authority, self-declared, by a small group of people who have nothing more than a half-built website, a fancy and rather presumptuous name, and no real power to do or enforce anything.
An observant person might point out that I am in fact reacting vehemently and negatively to the witchcraft equivalent of Emperor Norton I, that there’s a long history of self-proclaimed “Witch Kings,” “Witch Queens,” “Official Witches” and other self-promotion, and none of them have in fact done us much harm other than being annoying. Yes, I acknowledge all that. Yes, I am. I had actually hoped to ignore them until they went away, and if you are making that choice for yourself I completely respect that.
So, what happened? I was summoned.
Let me explain. About ten years ago, Lady Belladonna (then the HPS of Covenant of WISE, now Archpriestess of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church) introduced me to someone by saying, “She is the person in the Pagan community who says, ‘Aaaaah, bullshit!'” I was charmed. The truth is, I have had some major philosophical disagreements with Bella over the years, and my compulsion for pointing out parlor pachyderms has not always endeared me to the world at large. It is a noble soul who can see and appreciate the value of that even when it occasionally gets directed at her. I also think that if we could all master the trick of openly disagreeing without getting mad about it, the world would be a better place.
In any case, the other day her partner and HP Dusty Dionne sent me a message on Facebook. He said, “You need to go talk some sense into the American Council of Witches.”
I said, “I can hear the Mission Impossible music starting up.” Here’s a witchy secret for you: if you see, know, and acknowledge the nature of a person or other force in the world, and value it, you can ask them to do stuff and often they will. Even the slightly cranky ones.Jason Mankey, the Wild Hunt, and others have discussed the fact that they are both secretive and defensive about it, among other issues. Several people have told me that the reaction to being questioned on their Facebook page is banning the questioner, including Dusty. Admittedly that was after he called them the Witchy Council of Super Friends, but seriously? If you’re going to go giving yourself a name like American Council of Witches, you need to develop a thicker skin. Something on the order of rhino hide. Or, you know, you could try for a name that is a wee bit less pretentious.
Here’s another witchy bon mot: Names matter. Erin Lale covered why the name is a problem. I recognize that their website is full of disclaimers about how they only speak for themselves, and yet the ringing pomposity of “American Council of Witches” says otherwise. If you choose to take on a name like that when you don’t have the community backing to pull it off, then you are going to get crushed like the Fallen Caryatid. I confess to not having much sympathy for you in that case; if you’re as witch as all that, you should know better. Naming is an act of magic. Magic sometimes bites you on the behind. Learn from it, grow, and move on.
I started a Facebook page mainly to see if it could get more “likes” than theirs and for an additional excuse to quote Terry Pratchett; John Halstead‘s response to the sentiment was “don’t tell me it ‘doesn’t speak for you.’ Because, like it or not, it can and it will.”
No. No, it can’t. And the attempt to try is not a reason to refrain from raising a ruckus and saying “those people don’t speak for us.” Rather, exactly the opposite. They don’t speak for me. No self-appointed authority…whether within the scope of the Andersonian traditions, witchcraft, or the Pagan community as a whole…ever will. My voice goes where I say, lends itself where I choose, and nowhere else. So mote it be.